Nye/Ham followup: Kute Kreationist Kwestions!

At the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, Buzzfeed feedbuzzer Matt Stopera asked self-identifying creationists to ask a question to non-creationists. They wrote them on cardboard, smiled prettily and Matt took their pictures which can be seen here.

I thought I’d have a go at answering them, so without further ado:

1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

I can’t answer for Bill, but I’d say that he is because he’s telling them the truth about science – what is known, how it’s known and what isn’t known. The same courtesy is not extended to science by Ken Ham, who not only lies through his teeth about science but also has a history of blaming societal ills (at least as he defines them) on the acceptance of evolution.

2. Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

Well, no. There’s no evidence that there is one – but if it’s something I should be scared of, it’s clearly something I should steer well clear of. No relationship that has fear at its core is a healthy one, with a real entity or otherwise.

3. Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? I.e. trees created with rings…Adam created as an adult.

Well, considering there’s literally no evidence to support that claim, it’s certainly not logical to believe it. As for God creating the Universe & Earth to just appear old, that doesn’t make much logical sense – it just begs the question why God would want to deceive us in that way if he wanted us to trust, love and worship him.

4. Does not the Second Law of Thermodynamics disprove evolution?

For anyone who didn’t take (or just ignored) high school physics (which would be pretty much all creationists who ask this question), the 2LOT can be summarised as “A closed system tends toward disorder.” The question assumes that the Earth is a closed system, i.e. it has no external; source of energy; as a result, populations of organisms cannot become “more complex” (i.e. evolve) because there is no external source of energy constantly entering the Earth-system for organisms to utilise.

Oh, except there is, and we call it THE SUN. That enormous ball of incandescent plasma which has bombarded the planet with radiation for 4.5 billion years. Radiation which powers plants and fungii and microorganisms, which are eaten by animals, which eat each other, which are themselves prey to microorganisms and which are all, without exception, subject to evolutionary mechanisms such as mutations and natural selection (some are subject to artificial selection, AKA selective breeding, which a short way of saying that humans actively evolve animals toward certain ends).

Try this: next time a creationist asks you about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, have a little fun and ask them if they know the First and Third!

5. How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?

Is this actually a serious question? If so, I’d be thinking about remedial English before worrying about how God makes sunsets (do you honestly think God is making purty colours just so you can look at them? Grow up).

Look, OK, I’ll bite: a sunset is the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum refracting through the Earth’s atmosphere/clouds/smog/other airborne particles. Oh, and the bubbles of air in your muffins are made by carbon dioxide which is released by baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) during the baking process – they aren’t carved out by muffin pixies with tiny little pickaxes.

6. If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?

First, they don’t. The formulation of the BBT was done in line with the understanding of thermodynamics. Second, see question four. Then go and ask your high school science teachers if they’ll let you back in for a semester.

7. What about Noetics?

I had to search for this on the interweb. It seems like a neo-spiritual alternative theory of mind. It sounds like unevidenced wishful thinking (or thinkful wishing), like most mind/body dualism. But, gosh, is that a catchy sciencey title!

8. Where do you derive objective meaning in life?

Do I need to? Can’t whatever meaning I derive from my life be completely up to me; i.e. subjective? Does my life even need “meaning”? Can you demonstrate that “objective meaning” even exists and that I need it, much less that it derives from worshipping a deity, whose existence I’d also like to see a plausible case for? This generates more damn questions than it does answers – oh, here’s another: what exactly the heck does this have to do with evolution and creation?

9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?

The truth is that nobody knows for sure (an honest answer, which you won’t get from Ken Ham). There are ideas about the first simple self-replicating molecules forming protective coatings in the early Earth which allowed them to survive longer and reproduce more effectively compared to their neighbours, but the exact mechanism isn’t known for sure. What is known for sure is that you won’t find the answer at Ken Ham’s Creation-Peddling Facility. I’ll bet four hundred quatloos that if/when the answer is discovered, it won’t be a creationist doing the discovering.

10. I believe in the Big Bang Theory…God said it and BANG it happened.

Oh, you’re adorable! But that’s not a question. Go to the back of the line.

11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/huminists[sic]/non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a Creator God but embrance the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

Wow. You do know that a religious person can be a secularist, right? And you do know that “humanist” is derived from the word “human”, right? And the “there” you’re looking for is “there”, not “their”? Another candidate for remedial English.

Anyway, people reject the idea of creator gods because there’s no evidence to support the claim that they exist (no, you can’t use the Bible as evidence that the claims made by the Bible are true) and tons of evidence to support the idea that the universe and its inhabitants formed naturally over a very long time. As for embracing extra-terrestrial intelligent designers, you’d have to look pretty hard to find a non-religious person who actually swallows any of that crap. They’re out there, but they’re more of a minority among non-believers than creationist talking-point-regurgitators like you are in Christianity.

12. There is no in between…the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an “official proof.”

This is referring to Lucy, the most famous Australopithecus afarensis skeleton, found in northern Africa and dated to around 3 million years ago. First, “only a few pieces” is bollocks as the skeleton was 40% complete. Second, if you’d just take your head out of … the Bible, you’d learn (yes, learn! Fear not!) that there are dozens of “in betweens” and the “proof” that humans evolved and that we’re not just related to apes but actually are apes has been “official” for over a century.

13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?

Metamorphosis, for those who don’t get out much, is the process of major physical transformation, common in insects like butterflies and moths as well as amphibians such as frogs. Does it support evolution? That’s a poorly-worded question, but the answer is “yes”. It’s a biological mechanism. It confirms to natural laws as they are understood and does not pose a challenge to evolution.

14. If Evolution is a Theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as fact.

Question mark?

Anyway, the theory of evolution (descent with modification, acted upon by the environment and other factors, leads to diversity within populations of organisms as well as to speciation) is the explanation of the observed fact of evolution (animals are different to their parents; some species are extinct, have left descendants or have changed radically, as revealed by genetics and the fossil record). TL;DR: in science, a theory is the explanation of an observation. The Theory of Evolution is the explanation, supported by evidence, of the fact of evolution. It is testable, observable and falsifiable. It has been tested, observed and has not been falsified (but it could be).

On the other hand, creationism isn’t a theory (it’s barely even a quaint notion). “God did it” isn’t backed up by evidence of any kind. When you can explain literally everything by “God did it”, you explain precisely nothing. All you’ve done is beg more questions, the most pressing being “whence God?” – and if your answer to that is “Always!” then further discussion with you is pointless. The Bible is also not “a theory”, because the Bible is a book (unfortunately it seems that it’s the only book these people ever read, judging by their frequently tenuous grip on English).

15. Because science is by definition a “theory” – not testable, observable nor repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?

First: science is not “by definition a theory”. It’s more than that – science is the body of knowledge of the universe; science is also the methods used to gain that knowledge: observation, data collection, hypothesis, experimentation, theorising etc. Science is a collection of observed data and the theories, supported by evidence, which explain those data. I suspect this person was referring to “evolution” being only a theory, however – so see the previous question.

Second: everyone (including Christians) should damn well object to creationism and/or intelligent design being taught as fact in American state schools simply on principle; the principles you’d appeal to when objecting to the teaching of astrology or alchemy. Creationism is not only not science and unevidenced, it is also an explicitly sectarian religious doctrine and as such violates the Constitution (as has been the judgement in every. single. court case in which creationists have been caught attempting to insert creationism into science classes – not only that, but intelligent design advocates have suffered similar fates, as it was revealed that the intelligent design movement was merely a clumsy rebranding of creationism which employed more or less the same tactics). I suspect many of these creationists are also patriots, which makes me wonder why they’d want to undermine the supreme law of their own country.

16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

Who says “information” (however that is actually defined; it seems to vary between creationists and intelligent design creationists according to their purposes) either does or has to increase during either mutations or the evolutionary process at large? Mutations are simply a minute change to an organism’s DNA, either during sexual or asexual reproduction. Simply, all that is required for evolution to occur is (1) an alteration in existing material (a mutation) and (2) a selection pressure, which will show whether the mutation is beneficial to the reproductive fitness of the individual, detrimental or neutral. If beneficial, the individual’s offspring may inherit it and may themselves enjoy better reproductive fitness than their neighbours. There is nothing that says evolution is necessarily an “increase in genetic information.” I’d like to ask if this creationist even knows the amount of “information” in an apple, compared to a squid or a human, or why we have a smaller genome (3.2 billion base pairs) than a lungfish (130 billion base pairs). Is God really so inefficient that’d he’d stick over sixty times as much “information” in a fancy fish as he needs to make people? Are they just spare parts?

17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?

In other words, why I am I here if not to spend my life in fear of the Hell God made to send people to if they don’t believe he had himself executed in order to spare us from the Hell he made and doomed us to because an ancient ancestor was conned into eating some fruit by a talking snake?

But, seriously, this talk of “meaning” and “purpose” is tiresome. Can we not simply live our lives and try and be happy and decent to each other without there having to be a man behind the curtain or a ghost in the machine? My “purpose” is what I choose it to be. Right now, it’s answering vapid questions. In a few minutes, it’ll be making hot chocolate.

18. Why have we found only 1 “Lucy”, when we have found more than 1 of everything else?

This really is a stupid question (especially because in many cases we haven’t found more than one of everything else – Tiktaalik anyone?). Nevertheless, the answer is BECAUSE WE HAVEN’T FOUND ANY OTHERS YET. Why were you born in your country while most of the world was born in another country? CHECKMATE – AMERICA DOESN’T EXIST!

19. Can you believe in “the big bang” without “faith”?

Yes. Because there is evidence to suggest that it actually occurred, and you don’t need faith if you have evidence.

20. How can you look at the world and not believe Someone Created/thought of it? It’s Amazing!!!

It is amazing. Frequently, mind-blowingly so. It can also be, frankly, fucking horrible. If it was all amazing, all the time, it might be worth thinking about how it came to be that way. But it isn’t. Apart from all the nasty things people do to each other and that nature does to people, nature itself is a serial killer. The world is littered with the bones of countless animals who died for no reason and whose species went extinct. Every day, animals maim and kill and eat other animals just so they themselves don’t die. There are creatures that burrow into other creatures, lay their eggs and have their offspring eat the host alive from the inside and then burrow out of them to continue the cycle. If you’re right, your “Someone” designed it that way – which is hideous.

To answer: I don’t believe this world was created by “Someone” because there’s no reason for me to. The current body of understanding regarding the formation of our universe, our planet and its biodiversity points in exactly the opposite direction: natural causes. The evidence that “Someone” put it all together is contained in one completely unreliable, cobbled-together and infinitely malleable false history written by genocidal warlords.

21. Relating to the big bang theory … Where did the exploding star come from?

Oh, quarterback, you have not been paying attention. First, the big bang wasn’t even the topic of the debate. Second, it wasn’t an “exploding star”. The theory states that all the matter in the current universe was compressed into a singularity of infinite density, which then expanded incredibly quickly and is still expanding at an accelerating rate.

If you were actually wondering what came before the big bang, well, nobody knows (yet)! Considering that our current understanding points to the BB being the beginning of space-time as we know it, there was no “before” the BB because there was no time until after the BB. However, rest assured, if anyone does find out what happened “before” the BB, it won’t be a preacher in a Creationist “Museum” (who’ll probably be too busy aiming his laser pointer at a diorama of Adam, Eve and their pet velociraptor). SPOILER ALERT: I suspect it will be a scientist, just like the guy who invented the nylon in your North Face jacket.

22. If we come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

If America came from Europe, why is there still Europe?
If you came from your parents, why are there your grandparents?
If I just ejaculated on the bathroom floor, why am I still here?

Seriously: look up the phrase “common ancestor”. Your personal family tree isn’t a straight line; neither is evolution.

To sum up: every last one of these people is regurgitating creationist talking points that have been refuted a thousand times – but clearly they still need to be refuted. The majority of the questioners appeared to be young, university-aged people, but clearly someone’s failing them in their education. Not only are they being lied to, they’re being trained not to ask honest questions to seek honest answers, but to try and ask gotchas and reinforce their own ignorance. They’re just like (some might even be) the creationist trolls who appear at science websites and try to win arguments with slick (so they think) rhetoric (which they invariably follow with Bible verses and threats of Hell), rather than enter the discussion honestly and learn something.

Bill Nye was right to debate Ken Ham, because there are normal, intelligent people in the US who still ask nineteenth-century questions.

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