Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why do Creationists hate God so much?

Creationists seem to have a very low opinion of God.

From their point of view, God's an egotistical prick who requires you to believe in Her as a Conditio Sine Qua Non for salvation. She's basically a boogiewoman with a few magic tricks up Her sleeves.

Now, depending on how you define the term, I absolutely believe in God. I believe that there's a unifying governing mechanic to the universe; a binding logic, if you will; without which the universe is incomprehensible, and which may, itself, be impossible to obeserve (although I'm not ruling out that this could be measured someday). On occasion, I call that "God." I don't, however, believe in God in the Burning Bush sense of the word; and I certainly don't believe that She's the vindictive asshole that many fundamentalists seem to believe She is: vindictive and merciless enough to condemn the majority of the planet who aren't some specific religion to eternal damnation. Frankly, I fail to see how such a God deserves worship.

But for the sake of argument, let's assume that God is an intelligence of some kind. Let us postulate that there is some intellect capable of creating the universe and all life therein by a sheer force of Her will. What exactly makes the Creationists out there believe that such a being can be summarized with a select few verses of a book?

If God created everything, then Her fingerprints are upon every tree and rock. She's in every sunset and sunrise, everything living and nonliving. Her brushstrokes are in every piece of trash, every building, and every cloud. If God created everything, then the place to find Her isn't in a book; it's in the world you see when you lift your nose out of it. If God created nature, then the place to look for Her is in nature itself. That's where you're going to find God's thoughts, not in a book written by people who have been dead for two thousand years.

Postulating the existence of God, reading the Bible won't tell you what She's thinking; but looking at what She's done so far might give you some insight.

Creationists don't reveal the message God sent, they ignore it. They ignore the one textbook they can possibly know that God wrote (postulating Her existence): the universe itself; in favor of a book which has been translated, re-translated, and re-interpreted time and time again. Postulating the existence of God, they choose to ignore what She actually did, in favor of the world's longest-running game of "telephone" which may describe what She's done. They assume that God's message can be written in a few select lines of text, and won't even consider the possibility that maybe the truth is bigger than the words used to describe it. They make humanity into some kind of special creature and they make God into a two-bit deity with a couple of funky magic tricks up Her sleeves.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that scientists are much closer to having an understanding of God (postulating, of course, that She exists) than any creationist is. At the very least, those who believe in Her certainly have a far higher opinion of God than most creationists seem to. Einstein once said: "I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details." The observant among you will realize that he never once claimed that he already knew Her thoughs. Merely that he wanted to know them. And therein lies the fundamental difference between Creationism and science. Science is humble enough to acknowledge that they don't have the answers; creationism is arrogant enough to assume that they do, based solely upon a book which She might have had a hand in writing.

Now, if we only look at the evidence for evolution, then what do we have? Postulating the existence of God, She's telling us that we're not special or more important than any other living creatures; more than that, She's telling us that we're connected to every living thing on Earth. We're connected to every tree, every plant, every microbe and virus. We're connected to every animal and insect. We're a part of each and every one of them, and they are a part of us.

Extend that a little further; bring cosmology into the mix. Now, not only are we connected to every living creature, but everything nonliving as well. We're connected to every star, every planet, every rock. We're connected to the air we breathe, the water in the streams. We're connected to every single galaxy; every nebula; every piece of trash on the ground; every blade of grass; down to the most insignificant lonely atom in deep space.

If we ignore the book for a second and look at nature, then the one conclusion that we can draw is that God (postulating Her existence) is telling us something far greater than is written in any Bible; indeed, something far greater than its authors could possibly have imagined. She's telling us that we are connected, albeit distantly, with absolutely everything.

Postulating the existence of God; what more profound and moving message could possibly be sent?

Please allow me to introduce myself...

I think it's worth explaining where I got the title for this blog. Something, historically, that scientists have not done well is making what we do cool. We're just not that good at explaining what we do to the proportion of the population that doesn't read scientific journals every day. It's hard for us to connect with the layman and explain to them why what we do is interesting, and perhaps more importantly, why it's important.

One of the great exceptions to that rule is the late, dearly missed, Carl Sagan. Sagan was one of the great popularizers of science. He had a gift to reach out to audiences of all faiths and backgrounds and talk about the wonder he felt when he looked at the universe.

One of my favorite quotes of his is this one:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way'

As he did so often, Sagan summarized what I have always felt about the way creationists approach the universe in one two sentences. Worse than that, creationists seem to feel that because I accept the theory of evolution I either view mankind as a worthless animal, or I view life as meaningless.

Respectfully, if people truly believe that that's what evolution says, they're full of shit.

The number of individual beings which could be standing here in your place vastly outnumber all the grains of sand, on all the beaches, in all the world. You're the inheritor of a genetic legacy which stretches back 3.8 billion years through the eons, and which has circled the center of our galaxy about 20 times. You're the endpoint of billions of generations of births, competitions, wars and deaths, the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that can possibly result in you. Your forbears have survived arguably the single greatest ecological catastrophe ever to hit the planet, when the earliest plants started poisoning the atmosphere with oxygen. Yet, your ancestors learned to use this poisonous gas to produce energy in a way that had never been attempted before; an evolutionary triumph which paved the way for the first multicellular life. Your genetic line has survived floods, freezes and meteor impacts from the skies themselves, preserving this single genetic line through the eons to lend ultimately to you. This is a legacy you share with every living thing on earth, from the largest creature ever to have lived; the blue whale, to the lowlies prion. You share this legacy with the blades of grass between your toes and the trees that gave you shade. You are a thread in a huge, amazing, incredibly diverse tapestry of living things; some of whom have clawed their way our of the seas to survive on land, some of whom remained in the ocean and a few of whom stood on land for a few million years, ultimately said "well, screw this" and marched back into the sea. Once we add cosmology into the mix, not only does this legacy stretch to everything living, but to the non living as well. You share your origins with the stars and planets. The asteroids which hang in space, all the way down to the loneliest hydrogen atom in deep space. All the parts that make you stretch back through the eons and have borne witness to the very birth of the universe. They have seen the birth and death of stars, supernovae, black holes and pulsars. They've seen planets torn to pieces and solar systems form. They've seen galaxies coalesce and skies darken.

The universe is much more grand, more amazing, more beautiful, more elegant and more subtle than has ever been written in any holy book, and you are here, against nigh-incalculable odds to see it all. Just consider that for a moment.

If acceptance of the theory of evolution, or of cosmology, is a sign of low self-esteem, what the hell are the standards for a high one!?