Sideshows

Got up early this morning. We sat and drank coffee and watched the end of the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story “Carnival of Monsters” on UK Gold+1. Very creaky production values but quite entertaining, and a very civilised way to start the day.

Then we flicked over to the Heaven and Earth Show on BBC1, which was staging a small ‘debate’ between a Creationist, a Christian, and Geneticist Steve Jones. *bangs head on desk* It may take me several hours to stop ranting.

It was your typical example of the Creationist planting a few choice seeds of doubt over evolution which, while absolutely unscientific, are impossible to refute in an interview sound-bite. And since the Creationist only has to create specious doubt while the scientist has to summarise and prove the entire theory of evolution in one sentence, it’s really a no-win situation. Thankfully the CofE representative agreed that Creationism doesn’t belong in the science classroom, and Steve Jones chose to step back and argue that belief in divinity and the soul are not inherently incompatible with evolution.

Nonetheless, the Creationist was allowed to get away with all the usual tricks: saying that science is just another “competing” theory equal to any other, that “science” is interpreted through the context of our culture and so is not objective fact, that evolution is science’s version of a “Just So” story (oh the irony!), and this recent favourite – which I still don’t understand – that the mechanism for evolution by genetic mutation is apparently unupported by any evidence (!) and that evolution requires the spontaneous creation of genetic complexity out of nowhere. Apparently. Indeed, although the creationist admitted to not knowing much about genetics, well-informed people had told him that antibiotic-resistant viruses actually have less genetic complexity and therefore don’t prove evolution! I’m no expert myself, but I’m staggered that anyone can fundamentally (or wilfully) not understand the process of natural selection and mutation to this extent. Am I missing something that makes this whole ‘genetic complexity’ argument even remotely logical?

What really annoys me is that Creationists are always pitched against geneticists, yet Creationism by definition refutes not just evolution but also most other branches of science. After all, to say that the Earth and human life are only thousands of years old is contradicted by the evidence of plate tectonics, geology and erosion, radioactive decay and carbon dating, the stratification of fossils and other biological material in a geological context, cosmology and microwave background radiation from the big bang etc. etc. You can’t just cherry-pick evolution as being false without invalidating more or less every other branch of science.

Sigh. Why do I even get sucked in by these things?

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