Creationists Think So

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This is an odd title for a posting, but even in the 21st century what creationist think continues to amaze us. The following is from a post by Dan Arel on AlterNet:

Those who reject science frown upon intellectual honesty. Not knowing how something works or happened is seen as a weakness. This week on Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson said the word “somehow” when describing how the origins of life began, saying, “Somehow, carbon-rich molecules began using energy to make copies of themselves.”

Creationists think they “got him!” Tyson, like all other scientists, is not sure exactly how life originated on earth. This is intellectually honest, since a great mystery is still being worked out. Many great hypotheses exist, some of which Tyson went into detail about, but how can not knowing something be a weakness? Surely all of us don’t know a great deal of things; are we all intellectually challenged?

[Links added]

Arel also referenced an item posted on the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News blog by Casey Luskin  shortly after this episode of Cosmos aired. Here’s part of the post:

With 11 of 13 total episodes of Cosmos now having aired, the overall arc of the series is becoming clear. The first few episodes bashed religion and promoted materialism, while of course advocating that life developed by a process of “unguided” or “mindless” evolution. Then, for a few episodes, the anti-religious rhetoric was toned down a little, and Cosmos focused more on simply presenting good, uncontroversial science. But the final few episodes in coming weeks seem poised to ramp up the propaganda to levels not seen before.

This past Sunday night’s episode pushed a naturalistic origin of life and the Copernican principle (the idea that Earth is insignificant in the cosmic scheme) — which is perhaps to be expected. But the episode got surprisingly ideological as well, promoting panspermia, the Gaia hypothesis, and a propagandistic, Star Trek-like picture of the future. According to Cosmos, this last can only be achieved if we embrace an alarmist environmental vision. Our host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, compares skeptics of the current “consensus” on climate change to Nazis.

It’s worth taking these words apart:

  • Bashing religion is supposed to be a fault? Readers, just about everything science does “bashes religion” when “religion” is defined in a certain way. If your religion involves the supernatural, then just about any true statement is going to bash it. Get used to it.
  • “Naturalistic origin of life” is another way of saying “the most likely origin of life.” Better still, “the actual origin of life.”
  • “Advocating that life developed by a process of “unguided” or “mindless” evolution?” The alternative would be what? Magic? Do these people really want to go there?
  • The “Copernican principle” is derided as “the idea that Earth is insignificant in the cosmic scheme.” Is any reasoning person saying otherwise?
  • Promoting panspermia? While I am no fan of panspermia, I count a number of encounters with creationists who seemed to prefer panspermia to naturalistic origins. At least, their argument seemed to go, panspermia leaves the possibility that the god of Abraham was somehow involved. Naturalistic explanations leave this god out entirely.
  • The Nazi comparison? This was more difficult to track down. I cannot record the episodes, and the disk set I ordered will not be available until next month. I watched the 11th episode through only once, and I am going to rely on the Discovery Institute’s version of the program:

What happens next in Cosmos is thus both sickening and immensely hypocritical. Tyson shows scenes of crowds cheering for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. He says, “Human intelligence is imperfect, surely, and newly arisen. The ease with which it can be sweet-talked, overwhelmed, or subverted by other hard-wired tendencies sometimes themselves disguised as the light of reason is worrisome.” Again, the not-so-subtle message is that if you are a skeptic of what he calls the “scientific consensus that we’re destabilizing our climate,” then you are like a Nazi-follower, or perhaps a Holocaust denier.

Actually, Luskin is stretching his interpretation a bit. What narrator Tyson has done is to cite a human frailty, the susceptibility to being duped, and he has illustrated it with a classic case—millions of otherwise intelligent Germans being taken in by some masters of propaganda, the Nazis. People who have been duped by holocaust deniers and those who have been duped by the climate science deniers are not Nazis. They only suffer the same human weakness that undermined intelligent Germans 80 years ago. Of course, Luskin’s job at the Discovery Institute is to stretch things just so much. Enough to get people leaning his way but not so much as to make his pants catch fire.

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