Inspired by a search term that apparently drove traffic to this blog (let’s, erm… not do many others), here are my personal Top Five dumb things creationists say. This is effectively “part 1” – “part 2” is here, and covers the Top Five of the dumbest things creationists have ever said. It involves nostrils and bukakke.
5. “That’s just an example of microevolution, it’s not macroevolution.”
The thing about “macro” and “micro” evolution is that these are terms creationists have effectively made up. They have definitions within evolutionary biology; microevolution being a reference to allele frequencies at a local level and macroevolution being evolution over separated gene pools, kind of like evolution at a species level versus evolution at a genus or family level.
But this usage bears little, if any, resemblance to how creationists use it. They use it as if they’re two different things; and that one can happen, and the other cannot. Yet the only reason that could ever be the case is if certain mutations and allele exchanges within the genetic code were allowed while others weren’t. We know of no such mechanism, and creationists don’t suggest one either.
The reason this is genuinely stupid is that the distinction is arbitrary. It’s malleable. It’s basically an excuse for creationists to shoehorn any glaringly obvious evidence into “microevolution” and still say that their fabled “macroevolution” doesn’t happen. Even clear cases of speciation, where we can demonstrate groups diverging so that they can no longer interbreed, is a case of “micro” evolution. Eventually, what creationists accept as microevolution will merge to be an exact replica of modern evolutionary synthesis.
4. “There are no transitional forms.”
This is literally just a creationist mantra. Repeat it often enough, and they’ll assume it’ll come true.
As with the previous example, this is dumb because it’s yet another example of creationists just making up a brand-new concept because they don’t understand how it’s implementation works in reality. Philosophically speaking, in an evolutionary framework every creature is a transition; a transition between its own parents and its own offspring. In a narrower sense, a transitional fossil exhibits some higher-level feature in partial development or alteration. To a creationist, however, the term means “half-duck-half-crocodile”. So, at least by their own bizarre and ineffective definition they’re right, but trivially so.
What makes it really, really stupid, though, is the fact that there are a metric fuckton of examples in the fossil record. They just pretend those don’t exist.
Everyone knows the response “Goddidit”. It’s a glorious handwave that lets sheer madness happen because you have a supernatural deity fucking about with the laws of logic on a daily basis. “Flooddidit” is the slightly more naturalistically bound cousin of the famous “Goddidit”. For a creationist, there is nothing we can see that can’t be explained by there being some whopping great-big flood four thousand years ago. Even completely contradictory things. The Grand Canyon in Arizona? Flood. The lack of a Grand Canyon in not-Arizona? Flood.
…under cataclysmic Flood conditions, explosive blooms of tiny organisms like coccolithophores could produce the chalk beds in a short space of time.
There is no real logic or explanation behind this stuff. Just… flooddidit.
2. “Evolution is a religion.”
This is a painfully common retort, and can spew from Ken Ham’s mouth almost like it was some automatic Tourette-like reflex that he suffers from constantly. I even imagine him shouting it when waking, in a cold sweat, from a dream where he’s being chased by PZ Myers riding a triceratops.
Now, I’m sure I could go on and on about the linguistic ramifications of treating evolution as a religion, or how if you simply “define” evolution as a religion you can make it perfectly true, but only in a trivial and inconsequential way… but in reality even then it’s still stupid. If you’re going to conflate a branch of scientific study and well-explored theory with mass cultural identity, worship and faith, based around non-falsifiable assertions about the nature of reality, then you’ve broadened your use of “religion” so far as to make it completely useless as a word.
Then again, it makes sense to creationists. They think evolution is a religion because it is an unfalisifiable worldview. And of course it’s an unfalsifiable worldview because evolution is a religion! We know this because evolution is an unfalsifiable worldview…
1. [Insert rant about “religious freedom” here]
Once you’ve totally exhausted all reasonable pathways to proving a point, the last resort is to declare your freedom to believe it anyway. It’s confusing to the reality-based community that this is some kind of virtue, but hey, it’s still technically allowed – even if it is a tacit admission that you really have no fucking evidence at all that it’s factually true. And that’s the problem; when someone is making a statement about reality, something that can be seen, tested, looked at, examined, and should constrain what we expect to see with our own senses, then it’s not up for debate. It’s up for looking at and testing, and seeing if the world conforms to that, but it’s not really questionable.
Yet, this insidious little non sequitur gets creationists so many free passes. They can get their organisations to be tax-exempt via religious ministry, they can pass on their terrible thinking skills to their children based on religious freedom, and they can brainwash and guilt-trip thousands of well-meaning people into into believing absolute crockoduck, and then paying good money for the DVDs.
Creationism shouldn’t be given a free pass on religious freedom grounds. It’s a scam designed to line the pockets of preachers and evangelists. It promotes climate change denial, and encourages parents to trust in magic over medicine, and is forever intertwined with the same misogyny, homophobia and racism prevalent in the Religious Right. It’s certainly not harmless.