Monday, 30 June 2008


There just comes a point where trying to argue with believers is like beating ones head repeatedly against a brick wall until such time as bits of brain fly out and the body falls into a state of delirium. It truly is an exercise in futility. The key reason for the disparity comes not from the creationists ability to reason, but what they constitute as evidence differs greatly. Unfortunately in a setting where faith is considered a virtue, the uncertainties of the scientific process will always be a foreign concept. And this is why we see believers trying to discredit Darwin, or that evolution can be linked with unfavourable movements. The lack of understanding about the scientific process and the treatment of science as belief makes appealing to physical evidence as credulous as creationists appealing to the bible.

So-called experts
As science has become almost a universally acknowledged discipline for effectively measuring reality, it's hard to just dismiss all of science without seeming like a complete fool. We won't see people arguing with the theory of gravity as we can both see the effects of gravity and mathematically model the process. Likewise with electromagnetic radiation, while people don't understand the process it's still regarded as a near certainty thanks to being able to witness it's practical application. With sciences that don't directly produce immediate results, it becomes a lot hazier to try and understand for someone who can't directly grasp the evidence. The same process of observation, hypothesis, testing, peer-review and extensive falsification still applies. But because we can't directly witness events that take place over hundreds of thousands of years then for some it seems like a leap of faith.

From there comes the discrediting of certain methods of discovery like radiocarbon dating. We see absurd claims about irreducible complexity, and have to hear about the faith of evolution. Two things stand out to me; firstly that they try and point out things that scientists already know about and have taken into account long ago, and secondly that even if science fails that their explanation is any better.

Yes, there are gaps in scientific knowledge. Yes, there are checks that are needed for various techniques to ensure they are accurate. No, science does not work in certainty, it works in degrees of certainty. Yes, evolution is a theory. Theory does not mean guess. Facts in science are observed phenomena, theories are explanations of the phenomena. And to call something a theory takes a vast amount of testing, empirical data, peer review and falsification. Only after all those checks are exhausted is it called a theory. A theory must explain all the evidence, if it doesn't explain any new evidence that comes to light then the theory must be tweaked to encompass the new evidence, or if the evidence is entirely contradictory to the theory then the theory is discarded and a new theory replaces it. I explained this in my blog post why creationism is wrong.

Do believers honestly feel that scientists with decades of training overlook the flaws of the methods they use? Do they feel that preachers with little to no scientific training have a deep insight to the methods that scientists don't? Or is it simply they are looking for flaws because it hurts the position of the other side? The latter is something that proponents of complementary and alternative medicine thrive on, and to me it seems similar behaviour in this case. The flaws are there, we know they are there and we don't pretend for a moment the system is perfect. We even willingly point out the flaws as the process encompasses it, it's a self-correcting process. Scientists know all this and this is why degrees of certainty are used as opposed to absolute certainty. Science doesn't know everything, the chances of it knowing everything are nigh on impossible; that uncertainty is vital to the ability to comprehend new evidence as it comes to light.

Even if a scientific theory was destroyed by new evidence, what would possess believers to think that it suddenly means their beliefs are validated? If we say all cars are blue, then we see a car that isn't blue, it doesn't mean that all cars are red. It just means that the idea that all cars are blue is false. Pushing beliefs as an alternative to knowledge just shows ignorance of the process. In science new facts are coming in all the time. Most of the time it fills a gap, occasionally it leads us to rethink the way certain mechanisms work. So believers can spend all the effort they like trying to destroy evolution, it doesn't support for a minute the notion of creationism. It is simply creating a false dichotomy and frankly it amazes me that believers focus so much on destroying evolution as opposed to trying to do the science to support their beliefs.

I know it's true, I can feel it
The great disparity of reason is that while all we can ever truly know is based on our own experience, the brain is a poor mechanism for both comprehending and rationalising the extent of the world. They are not finely tuned machines, they are clumsy. The fallibility of man, of memory, of interpreting our thoughts and actions is well established. It's with that the argument to personal experience is not accepted. What can appear real to us is not necessarily so, and even the most sound mind and hardened sceptic is prone to the same shortcomings and limitations that the mind allows.

For the most part, the human mind works on a practical level. We can interpret most input around us with a degree of accuracy. To process all the input we receive is impossible, it's a very selective process. But for the most part we can interpret the normalcy with precise rationality. It's those irrational experiences, those "spiritual" experiences, which are out of the normal that our ability to interpret them is weak. Whether it's seeing a ghost, having a perceived out-of-body experience, or feeling the presence of God, the effect on our physiological and mental state is so profound that in order to explain it we grasp at any explanation possible; most of the time it's something tautological in that it's based on our perceived notions of dualism. i.e. if we are in a Christian society, it's the work of God, a Muslim would see Allah, a Hindu would feel Brahman.
"At the core of every religion lies an undeniable claim about the human condition: it is possible to have one's experience of the world radically transformed. Although we generally live within the limits imposed by our ordinary uses of attention-we wake, we work, we eat, we watch television, we converse with others, we sleep, we dream-most of us know, however dimly, that extraordinary experiences are possible" - Sam Harris (The End Of Faith)
Spiritual experiences do have a profound effect on those who go through it, and that isn't to be taken lightly. It needs to be recognised that such experiences exist and how transforming they can be to the person who has them. But on the same token, appealing to a supernatural explanation is not proof of the supernatural explanation. This is the mistake of appealing to personal experience, that the information provided no matter how much it is believed to be so still has no verifiable motive. An explanation is useless without a mode for which it to work. The explanation has to include a plausible mechanism under which the explanation operates. When proposing that humans look designed by an intelligent agent, saying Goddidit is not a plausible mechanism. It just raises further questions about that intelligent agent. The need for a plausible mechanism is one to best grasp the nature of reality, without a mechanism under which these entities operate is simply giving attributes to the unknown. It's looking at the world in a dualist perspective as proof of a dual nature to reality.

The problem of trying to rationalise a spiritual experience is that we are ill-equipped to properly handle them. Hence why it's so easy to lump them into a category that thrives in irrationality. And the major flaw of personal experience is that it doesn't explain conflicting personal experiences that we see around the world. It begs the question: do we take the Christian's word that it was God or a Hindu's the presence was Visnu? There is a far more mystical object inside of all of us: the brain. We have yet to uncover all it's secrets, it's functionality and the process of consciousness itself. Without understanding the exact processes of how it works, how can we appeal to it as a reliable tool for rationalising the spiritual?

The pursuit of truth
As much as some religious folk are repulsed by science, there is a resignation amongst them that science is the best tool we know to understand this world. While some inject their beliefs into the gaps of knowledge or even outside the bounds of testing, there are those who take the approach of dismissing any scientific concepts as unscientific that don't back their belief. When someone knows in their heart that they are right, of course anything that tells them they are wrong is going to be treated as a threat. For those who want a scientific validation of belief, there is a means of achieving it: do some research. The peer-review system is there for all, and if there is merit to the claim, then it will be accepted by the scientific community. Learning about science isn't tough, there is a wealth of information out there. Picking up an elementary book on geology or biology will explain the process of the age of the earth better than I ever could.

Some of the claims creationists come up with would win the Nobel Prize, not to mention it would validate the beliefs of billions and they would have something more than faith to support their belief. And in the end, solid evidence is what we all want. So I implore those who feel that science does show a young earth to put forward peer-reviewed work into academia. Don't be fooled by Expelled, if there is scientific merit in the paper, then it will be accepted. There are foundations like the John Templeton Foundation that fund research into the intersection of science and religion. Glory awaits those willing to throw their beliefs on the line, though the risk is great. Why try and empirically demonstrate something that successfully propagates now without any scientific merit? Because above everything else we humans have a desire to find out what's true, and at the moment the scientific method is the best tool we have for determining truth.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

An open letter to Ken Ham

Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, the creation museum and all-around nutter. Anyone who has come across Answers in Genesis will attest to what I'm talking about. The ministry itself is a joke, they actually believe that the world is 6,000 years old, that Adam and Eve walked with dinosaurs and that a global flood caused fossils! Now I'm one to think he can believe whatever he wants, but when he fills the heads of little innocent precious children with that garbage, then I start to have a problem. It's sad that thousands of children are going to walk through the doors of his "museum" and now think that science backs their faith. It'll be very disappointing in 20 years time when these children will be parents telling their kids of the flood as if it actually happened. That dinosaurs walked the earth with humans despite there not being a shred of evidence to support it. That science is something that should be shunned, despite all it gives up simply because it doesn't support the bible. And we'll have another generation, possibly in greater numbers than we have now.

Recently Mr Ham was asked to lead prayer at the pentagon. Now he's batshit insane so he can't see how maybe having fundamentalists Christians who preach the rapture in the building where the largest military on earth operates may be a little disconcerting to non-religious folk? Personally I feel very uneasy with the idea of those who believe in the 2nd coming and the apocalypse having their fingers on the button to launch global annihilation. It would be very nice if those folk would say as far away as possible from any position of military dominance, but because of fucks like Ken Ham indoctrinating children it has become not only the norm but a requirement for leaders of the "free world" to believe that nonsense themselves. We saw Bush get elected twice on the back of this notion of working for God. Now as a non-believer my opinions on the parameters of a deity are automatically invalid because I don't believe and therefore I'm wrong (according to anyone who ever has debated with me) but surely an omnipotent and omniscience entity should have no trouble at all doing things for itself. Working through humans? It's almost challenging us to say it's a load of crap. But when we do, it's faith. (again according to anyone who has ever debated me)

It came as a surprise that Ken Ham not only read PZ Myers blog on the topic, but found it apt to respond. Of course he missed the point entirely, and it's odd that he took such issue with wackaloon when there are many more nasty (yet accurate) terms to use. From this is where my letter stems:

Dear Mr Ham,

you are a despicable excuse for a human being that your accent fills me with shame that my country could have produced something as horrible as you. You have absolutely no clue about, well, anything at all. Your lack of scientific knowledge should be a sin on it's own, and your evangelising of biblical scripture as science should worry you as it breaks the 9th commandment.

But Mr Ham. As you know, you are already saved. So you can lie and lie away for Jesus without a ping of guilt. But back in the real world where what we say matters being dishonest is morally wrong, no matter the circumstances. So if I were to state that humans lived with dinosaurs, I'd be a liar. Because it's not a point of view, it's science. And in science we go with the evidence. Using a bible as evidence shows
1) your ignorance of the scientific process
2) your gullibility

Sorry Mr Ham, but in all due respect you aren't due any at all. You make a living out of lying and hoping that others are deceived by your lies. You push bronze aged myth as being more scientifically accurate than the last 400 years of empirical research where the only currency is being truthful; not trying to control others. It's sad that you think it's okay to brainwash children, that it's okay to lie about science in order to fuel your agenda. What you say contradicts every little thing we know about human history and the history of the world. You couldn't be more wrong if you tried.

Maybe if you actually decided to do some research, say, on the very land the museum is built on, maybe you could learn about fossils and inform yourself. Or go to a real museum and ask the guides how certain processes work. Ask about how the grand canyon was formed by expert geologists instead of thinking you know better. Ask about what empiricism means in science. Ask about the historicity of the bible, about how it was written, about what the archaeology and geology say about it. Being all bronze-age about it may win you support and it will definitely bring in the tithes, but all it does is highlight your ignorance.

So the word wackaloon is getting off lightly... if all you can do is claim intolerance, then your position is flawed. Maybe it would have been best to do some scientific research before opening a museum that has as much scientific truth as this months copy of The Watchtower. Maybe all those suckers who paid you to reinforce their delusions deserve a refund, or at least a disclaimer "warning the following is fiction, and any resemblance to anything living or dead is purely coincidental". That way you can still have your museum, you can still take the money of gullible fools, but at least they won't walk away with your crackpot idea that it's science. Wackaloon? 9th commandment-breaking child abuser is a much more accurate way to say it. You got off lightly Mr Ham. Very lightly.

From an Aussie who is trying his best to undo the damage you have done to this country's reputation,

There, it's somewhat cathartic to get that off my chest. In no way is this blog as popular as Pharyngula, I'd be surprised if anyone read this at all; let alone Ken Ham. It is important that those of sound mind actually speak out when lunacy abounds. It's not intolerance, it's damage control. I honestly don't care what he believes, just what he preaches. Just as I don't care about what the catholic church believes, just the ramifications for those beliefs. Same goes for Islam, neopaganism, new-ageism FSMism and anything in between. They are the problem, not the belief itself. Beliefs are only a danger when they are put into practice. Like speaking out on honour-killings and female circumcision is not being intolerant of Islam, speaking out on fundies is not intolerance. They are a threat to the sanity of children. They destroy the credibility that science has taken so long to build. They push a point of view on the world that is obsessed with death and an afterlife. To sit back and take it is not tolerance, it's submission.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

True Scepticism

While browsing my favourite blog, I came across this article... A religious apologist claiming that believers are the true sceptics as opposed to atheists and agnostics. While most of the time the claims of apologists are so inane that I cringe to even glimpse at the inane ramblings, the concept intrigued me enough to warrant a read. After all, as a self-confessed sceptic the area fascinates enough to try and understand what other peoples points of view are. The article itself is very painful to read, the errors are glaring, but overall I had to admire the mettle of the author. It takes balls to put yourself in that position, especially on an area where theists have almost no credibility at all. The whole argument paralleled Colbert's truthiness concept, which to me was hilarious. Trying to convince people that the evidence for God is the absence of evidence, that's impressive.

Did you know the gut has more nerve endings than the brain?

When the smart scientist of the seventeenth century was asked, “Is clear water pure?” he did not go with his gut and answer “yes” or “no.” “The naked eye says yes,” he answered, “but is there an instrument better than the naked eye with which to see?” We need to listen to the scientist who claims that there is, and that scientist is Pascal.

That instrument is the heart. “It is the heart which perceives God, and not the reason"
Now, as much as it's not my place to question what a man who applied gambling as a means of encouraging belief. But what the hell? I'll do it anyway. Just because one man at one point in time said that the "heart" is a tool to perceive God, it doesn't make it true. Intuition isn't a valid mechanism of empiricism, no matter if people are using it to claim God's existence or using it to go to war. It basically amounts to saying "I feel God's presence, therefore God exists". Are warning sirens flashing yet? The evidence of belief is the belief itself manifesting physically. We feel God's presence therefore God must be real, likewise a Scientologist feels the presence of thetans so thetans must be real, correct? No.

Circular logic is at the very heart of this argument. How does one know what they are feeling? Because they believe it. How does one know that their beliefs are real? they can feel it. The real test for something like this is for someone who has never come into contact with the word God feeling it then professing a Christian belief. Now that would be something. These self-affirming arguments are nothing new, it's present across all cultures, it's paying too much credence to our intuition. It's not a valid form of evidence, no matter how much it is asserted as such. It's just playing on peoples desire to believe, trying to marginalise science as not good enough to measure our intuitive unconscious.

The scientist Pascal claims to know a route that will take us over the ice to convincing discovery. It is the refusal to test his thinking that betrays the faith of atheists and agnostics.
Sure, we can test it. We can test just how emotions play out in the brain, which is what we use to process all information. We can test out just how much intuition can play an accurate part in decision making. It's not unknown or unknowable to test our selective unconscious. But it seems that the mystique in alluding to a pattern that "sceptics" have somehow ignored for centuries is a grand enough option for Christian apologetics. Surely it can't be that sceptics don't see intuition as a valid form of evidence, after all it doesn't have any basis from which to go on other than the assertion that one's beliefs are right... Somehow the greatest minds in science for the last 300 years have looked over the only tool we have to measure God... The sirens should be loud and clear by now.

Like hearing the "first cause" argument for the Nth time, this is nothing new. It's not that atheists and agnostics have overlooked it, it's because there is no reasonable basis to use it to prove God any more than to prove Brahman or to prove the non-existence of anything and everything. "I know the world doesn't exist, therefore it doesn't exist". Assuredness in decisions is the opposite of the scientific method and one who actually applies scepticism should know this. What we know is never 100%, so basing our gauge on what essentially boils down to faith is absurd in the extreme. The whole piece was one huge attempt to change the definition of a word that has positive connotations into one that only his view encompasses. Again, nothing new. The way Creationism has tried to masquerade as a science, the way atheism is painted as a faith, all attempts to compete in the world of science and reason we have no. This says it all:
Who, then, is this person? He is not a skeptic at all (someone who, for want of solid reasons, refuses to commit)—he commits. He is not a lover of reason over passion—he chooses the possibilities he cares about because those are the ones he likes. He is not a skeptic who in the absence of evidence withholds belief—he is a believer.
How ironic.

An unseen God
What irks me most about the argument is that it claims that God is essentially unknowable but through faith, then references the material world. As far as we know, every single thing about us operates in the natural world. Our heart is still part of the material world. Our consciousness, our intuition, our decision-making, all part of the natural world. There is nothing to suggest otherwise. What we do can be directly mapped to brain activity, we can measure thoughts, emotions, reactions and quantify it. It's the backbone of psychology and an important part of other disciplines such as medicine. So the argument won't escape the confines of reality that easily. But an unseen God poses much greater theological problems than just being at odds with reality, it dilutes the definition so much that God essentially becomes synonymous with the unknown. And what point is there giving the unknown attributes? How do we know the unknown is all-knowing, all-powerful, a source of morality and free will? How do we know it's an anthropomorphic timeless deity that has always existed? How do we know he's a judge of our soul, which was once corrupted by a snake tricking a woman into eating an apple, only to be overridden by this deity splitting himself into human form and impregnating a virgin only to be tortured and killed on a cross for breaking Jewish law as it's written in the old testament? According to the "skeptic", because we know it to be true.

A more discerning view would be that simply believing we know something doesn't make it so. As much as I would love to be led to the halls of Valhalla by scantily-clad Valkyrie warriors to engorge on boar and mead with Odin, no matter how much I believe it to be true it doesn't make it true. Even if there was some Norse apologist 350 years ago who wrote that the way to detect the presence of Odin was through my heart, affirmation of my faith manifesting in my senses would not make it true even if at one stage that apologist was a sceptic and a scientist who rejected the more traditional "proofs" for Odin. But my knowledge of Norse mythology didn't come from inspiration from Thor handed down to me through my intuition. It came from the material world, from books, from people, from the internet. If I came up with it all independently accurate to the original source with no prior knowledge on the Norse or any other belief for that matter then there may be something credible to it. Just as if someone who had never even heard the concept of God wrote the bible word for word then there might be some credence to intuition.

Is the concept God really without material evidence though? Certainly any read through the bible should give a resounding no. Especially in the old testament, God himself manifested in many ways, directly interfering in worldly events. The 10 plagues of Egypt, destruction of the tower of Babel, countless sieges and battles, global flood, etc. The list could go on. And even in the new testament we see God taking human form only to be killed and conquer death. It paints the very clear picture that God is a personal one who takes great interest in the affairs of others. All of that would leave observable evidence in the material world. Just as the power of prayer would. In reality, the lord may work in mysterious ways, but any shift away from the direct model of cause and effect we know now would be measurable, as would any unexplainable phenomena. A personal God is measurable, a deist one is not. But a deist one would not be the God of the bible, so therein lies the paradox of labelling God as unknown.

True scepticism
It was very crass of Edward Tingley to assert atheists and agnostics are ignoring evidence, that they can't be true sceptics. He is right that no-one can disprove God. It's just like we can't disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Bigfoot. Atheists do know and understand this. While his piece is a nice work of apologetics that is sure to resonate soundly amongst "skeptical theists" it won't be regarded with any credence outside that apologetic circle because he's paid no regard to the whole sceptical movement. He doesn't apply scepticism to his own beliefs, and that is a fundamental error of anyone who claims to be a sceptic; theist or otherwise. In scepticism the principle of parsimony is imperative. Can we explain why people believe in God with such assurity? Yes we can. Can we explain the emotional and spiritual experiences that directly related to God? Again, yes. Can we measure the logical steps that one took to get to that position? Yes. Now we can do all this without the need to create a timeless omnipotent personal God. So using parsimony there would not even be an inkling to place such a being in with no substantial evidence.

When making an argument, a sceptic needs to ensure it's not circular. From facts and evidence we draw a conclusion, it's the scientific principle. But with belief, we have the conclusion then look for evidence to support it. God's the conclusion and the mechanism of discovery, it's just like saying the bible is the word of God because the bible tells us it's the word of God. A true sceptic would ask for real evidence, the words "I believe it" as evidence should not be anywhere near the concept of scepticism. A true sceptic would understand this and strive hard to show that the line of evidence they are presenting has a scientific backing. Carl Sagan's "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" still applies. Even if God is outside the bounds of the material world (which given we are wholly in the material world I would very much doubt), the technique for measuring such an unknown quantity would need some extraordinary evidence to back it. As of now, heart (intuition and faith) doesn't conclusively show God exists any more than it shows 9/11 to be masterminded by the Jews or that we are all trapped in The Matrix, only instead of being a food source for robots, our imaginations provide them as entertainment. People can believe anything absolutely without the need for empirical evidence. The belief in God is no different, and by trying to make it so this apologist is destroying any integrity he's trying to gain as a sceptic.

The writing is fanciful, it's yet another case of an apologetics author trying to use words with positive connotations in a world of reason to show that his position is the only logical one to have. I do hope that his idea will be so far-fetched that readers who believe there is evidence for God will look at it and decide he is wrong. They are the ones who could be influenced, you won't see true sceptics rushing to adopt his point of view. In the end, it's important to understand that it's just his opinion, just as this blog is my opinion. The credulity of the argument lies with the construction of logic and the weight of the evidence used to present one's case. There are things I'm probably wrong about, I'm only human after all. Maybe I should use his logic and believe that this blog is perfect therefore it must be perfect. But alas, that wouldn't be very sceptical of me, not to mention feeding a delusion of grandeur. With everything I say, it should be taken with a grain of salt and personal exploration of the ideas presented is a must as opposed to blindly believing what I write. That strive for objective empiricism is at the very heart of scepticism. Investigate and work from the evidence gathered, it's such a powerful tool for understanding reality. Mr Tingley would be best served in exploring his own ideas with the same critical level as he has dismissing non-belief. I'll let him have the final word.

He could very well believe other things on the self-same basis, but he does not want to. He likes the world that he has installed himself in, and that is what tells us who he is: a lover—a lover of his own life, a believer in the path that his heart has charted for him
I'm calling Poe's law...

Monday, 2 June 2008

Why Creationism is wrong

Okay, this is really an easy target. I've had a few good choices in mind I want to explore, but I've been busy with life so I haven't had a chance to sit down and write anything of substance in recent weeks. This is just something I've wanted to get off my mind and I can do so relatively painlessly.

As much as I loathe to even acknowledge this, despite the overwhelming evidence for common descent and an old universe, there is still a significant push by the religious for their mythology as absolute truth about the world. One thing that shocked me a couple of weeks ago as work was one of the top coders in my office going on a rant about evolution, saying such things as no new genes have ever been observed, that evolution is only a theory, and generally deriding the scientific process. He even tried telling a former evolutionary biologist just how the process works and got it so wrong. This is one of the best programmers we have, yet his religious beliefs (a baptist) got in the way of reason. It disappointed me because I really thought Australia was above this debate, evolution should be a non-issue. But somehow the beast that is creationism keeps rearing it's ugly wrinkled head to the point where instead of working out the practicalities of evolutionary theory we are wasting time and resources debating mythology.

The Cambrian rabbit
Creationists no matter how hard they push for the inclusion of evidence will never find something that will conclusively demonstrate that the world is 6000 years old. It's just simply not going to happen any more. It's important to understand the concept of a scientific theory, for it to be accepted in science it needs to not only explain the current piece of evidence being worked on, but all the evidence in that field. Not only that, but it needs to be compatible with what we know from other fields. As much as the scientific method is working out a jigsaw piece by piece, the collective knowledge forms a picture and when something doesn't fit then it is flawed. This is so important to keep in mind because without understanding why a single piece of evidence won't disprove evolution or prove creationism this whole exercise is pointless. It means that claims like the eye is too complex, even if they weren't true would not disprove evolution nor would it be proof of creationism. All the evidence must be taken into account, the fossil record, patterns in DNA, genes, diversity of life, etcetera.

It was once said that a rabbit in the Cambrian would falsify evolution. But what would really happen? Certainly it would call for a rethink of how the unifying theory of biology works. The fossil record is not the only line of evidence that holds the theory together. As stated above, evolution not only accounts for the fossil record, it accounts for genes, our DNA structure, it is backed by patterns in the DNA, by sequences in our genes. A rabbit in the Cambrian wouldn't take away all that other evidence, a new theory would have to be developed to explain it all. At this point in time it's an absurdity to even consider we'll find a rabbit in Cambrian rocks given what we know about biology, it's purely hypothetical here. Right now the fossil record is 100% consistent with the theory of evolution, just as every other line of evidence is. There are transitional fossils, transitional fossils of transitional fossils, everything lines up exactly as the theory of evolution would predict. It's not only consistent with itself, it is consistent with what we know today about species diversity.

So where does this leave creationism? Even if evolution was to be falsified, it's not automatic that creationism is a better explanation or correct in any way. It needs to stand on it's own merits and explain all that we see today including being susceptible to new evidence as it emerges. After all, that is the process of science and the foundation for our understanding of the natural world. For creationism to be true, the fields of evolutionary biology, geology, plate tectonics, stellar evolution plus many other fields would have to have a significant portion of the current evidence falsified. For the age of the earth, radiometric dating based on decay rates would have to be shown as completely faulty, or use a new technique that demonstrates a young earth. Currently the oldest earthly substance found has been dated to ~4.1 billion years, while meteorites found date to ~4.5 billion years. This is compatible with the age of the sun which is based on the rate of fusion of hydrogen into helium.

For the fossil record, the current record shows a gradual emergence and diversity of species. From the Cambrian explosion, there are fossil records that show from fish to amphibian, from amphibian to reptile, from reptile to bird and from reptile to mammal. It shows the diversity of species, some to the point where we can trace quite an exact path; the horse being a great example of this. All this information would need to either be falsified or explained by any "theory" of creationism. Saying "Goddidit" is not a scientific statement and since it's spoken without any evidence can be dismissed as such. A literal interpretation of Genesis doesn't even work for the formation of the earth, seeing as we know the sun provided the gravitational field from which the earth was formed yet the creation story asserts that the earth came well before the sun and the stars (well we came before some starts but when there's been star formation for ~13 billion years we are bound to be older than some)

It's just so important to understand that with the scientific method Creationism will never ever be accepted. Quite simply it contradicts so much empirical evidence we have gathered. By claiming the world is 6,000 years old, by claiming we were made from dirt and woman from a rib as opposed to a common ancestor, it directly contradicts what we know. And if an idea doesn't explain the facts it can never be classed as a theory. Likewise if it contradicts the data it isn't even a hypothesis. DonExodus2 on YouTube made the great point that the FSM is a better model than Creationism because it as least tries to explain why the data doesn't match a giant spaghetti monster flying around creating creatures, it's because the FSM chances the scientific data to make the earth appear old and that evolution happened. Of course this doesn't mean that the FSM is a valid theory, it's an untestable assertion. Using the principle of parsimony we can explain the process of life without the need for a supernatural being, putting one in there is pointless.

So that's why creationism is a load of garbage. It's pretty obvious stuff, but it seems to be so widespread and propagated without a 2nd thought and it seems that the main cause of that is people not understanding the scientific method. And without that understanding, it would seem a rational thought that evolution and creationism are just two beliefs; one with God and one without. But it's not a belief in the way that religious dogma is, it's a conclusion derived from empirical evidence, and one which is susceptible to change as new evidence comes to light.

Nonoverlapping magisteria
The late Stephen Jay Gould came up with the concept of nonoverlapping magisteria, a means of explaining the relationship between science and religion. It's such an important concept because it demonstrates the place that each institution has and where the boundaries are drawn. If one is a biblical literalist, then yes, their beliefs are going to be contradicted by science. But the bible is not a scientific textbook, it was written at a time by people who knew almost nothing about the universe around them. But taking it literally is absurd, the book was a bronze-age attempt at explaining the world, people who had no scientific training. An assertion made 3,000 years ago that the world was created in 6 days where the earth was created before the sun is by today's standards laughable. If it weren't for religious sensitivity and the idea of sanity in numbers, any individual who would make the claims of a YEC (Young Earth Creationist) would be thrown in a mental institution. Yet because millions believe it, it's become an acceptable worldview at least in the eyes of what we consider sane.

The bible is not a literal account of history, it's allegorical, symbolising the nature of God. Noah's Ark is a fable based on a localised flood, yet in the text it's turned into a story of punishment and redemption. Of course genetics would show that it's impossible for species to rebuild from only two of each animal, there would be no genetic diversity among species. This only goes to serve that the bible should not be read like a history book, and especially not as a science book. There is a wealth of information out there which is empirically observed and verified.

God doesn't have to be incompatible with evolution, why can't evolution be the how for the diversity of life? Just as gravity is the how for the formation of celestial bodies. Most scientists in the US believe in God in one form or another (from personal to pantheist), yet the problem with evolutionary theory is less common than the problem of holocaust denial is in the academic community. I'm going to sound like a broken record on this, but the push for creationism comes purely from believers who have little to no scientific training. There is no controversy with evolution, there is no scientific merit in creationism. The Catholic Church sees no conflict between evolution and religion, the almost unanimous majority of Christian scientists see no problem resolving evolution with their beliefs, the push against evolution is coming from those who don't understand it, those who want their beliefs to be 100% scientifically accurate; so if the science doesn't match their beliefs the science (not their beliefs) must be wrong.

The only other option could be that God made the universe look like it is ~13.7 billion years old, that the age of the earth is really just an illusion. After all, it's God. He can supposedly do anything. This idea has as much merit as it's parody; Last Thursdayism where the universe ends every week on Wednesday and is reset to look like that week had occurred. There is just no merit to do this, and it's ignoring so much of what we are able to piece together just for the sake of maintaining a broze-aged myth as a belief. It doesn't explain why we share DNA and patterns in our DNA that pertain to a common ancestor. It doesn't explain why Aboriginal culture goes back around 50,000 years, why the tracing of our last common female ancestor from mitochondrial DNA goes back 150,000 years. If it were true then God has gone to extreme and elaborate lengths to hide the fact that the earth is recently created. Why include fossils of extinct species? Why include transitional fossils? Why include genetics that just doesn't match the data? The whole idea of creationism is one appeal to ignorance, a very successful one at that where the meme is propagated without a shred of real evidence. So we get logical abortions like the Omphalos hypothesis as lame attempts to resolve an untenable belief system.

And what does it say about God? Does it make him, as Bill Hicks puts it, a prankster? Is evidence purely there to test our faith? Or was it the work of the devil, God being all-powerful but the devil managing successfully to show the universe as extremely old... This is why belief and science should be kept well away from each other. Science is there to understand the natural world around us, it makes no claims on the existence of the supernatural. So to use the supernatural to explain the natural it will be no surprise when that explanation is destroyed by new evidence. But in a society where a majority of people believe in the existence of God without question, painting science as "anti-God" is a sure way to sucessfully undermine any evidence that shows the absurdity of the Creation story.

The case for scientific understanding
Maybe Richard Dawkins has it wrong, maybe he's going about it all wrong. Instead of dedicating so much time and effort into attacking something that people cling onto like a safety blanket, maybe he should spend more time and effort promoting just how the scientific method works. He talks about evidence so much, and he's right. The evidence backs up what he's saying. The problem might just be that people don't know why the evidence is important. We shouldn't say that evolution is incompatible with belief because it's dishonest and polarises the issue. It makes people choose between their beliefs and a scientific understanding of the world. And when belief is such an emotional issue, almost everyone is going to choose their beliefs even if it means ignoring overwhelming evidence. When pushing science as a series of facts it runs the risk of being seen as just another faith, and when it's just another faith it can be dismissed without proper consideration. When there is a society who can't program a VCR, getting them to understand the facts of evolution seems to be one step ahead. Understanding how is the key, it's the basis from which all scientific knowledge is derived. Without it, we run the risk of harming our knowledge base and the future of progress.