In this past week’s God Squad column, Rabbi Gellman addresses “intelligent design”, the term invented by creationists to hide the religious origin and source for their attempts to have their myths taught in the classroom as the truth. (note: the column in my paper was severely chopped in comparison to the one in the link)
The querent this week asked if the Judeo-Christian god created the universe in seven days, where do the dinosaurs fit in. They note that the fossil record shows that humanity and the dinos were separated by “millennia” (a millennium is a thousand years). Of course, the fossil record shows that the dinos and us are separated by many many millennia, around 65,000 millennia aka 65 million years.
Gellman notes that there are various kinds of creationists. The most ridiculous are the young earth creationists (YEC) who believe Bishop Ussher’s claim that the universe was created on October 22, 4004 BC in the evening, etc, etc. There are old earth creationists (OEC) who believe that the universe is older, from just a little older than Ussher’s claim to as old as the current data from cosmology shows, around 14.7 billion years for the universe, and 4.5 billion years for the earth. These creationists also vary in what they believe about evolution. In general, YEC are sure that their god created all the animals as we know them today, all at once. They often also claim that all animals were vegetarians until the magical “fall” of mankind. OEC can vary on how much they think evolution played a part, from none at all, to essentially indistinguishable from an atheist, though they claim that their god started the whole process, very much like a Deist.
We also have a very sad quote from Kurt Wise, Geology Ph.D, who decided that he had to decide either the bible was true or science was, and he threw out science because it dared counter the nonsense in the bible. Alas, this is what fear and arrogance does to people, sure that they will be punished if they don’t believe “correctly” and that they do believe correctly. He’s also as good as our Christians apologists here on the website for not being able to provide one iota of the scientific evidence that he claims supports him. Wise also seems to think he can pick and choose the science he finds to be true. Alas for him, all science is based on the same method. If it works for it all, then you can’t decide which is true and which isn’t. The same science that supports evolutionary theory supports modern criminal forensics, medicine, computers, internal combustion engines, etc.
It’s also great to note that YEC theists and OEC theists are absolutely sure each other are wrong, and both again have no evidence to support their nonsense but are sure that they and only they are the TrueChristians (examples: it’s a sin to be an OEC, per a YEC who is trying to scare everyone, and and Pat Robertson the OEC saying that the YEC position is “nonsense” ).
Gellman correctly notes that this quote from Wise presents a false dichotomy, that one has to accept one or the other fully. He unfortunately claims that one of the possible other answer is “intelligent design”, the idea that some magical force had something to do with how the universe works, e.g. how it is designed. Intelligent design can be either YEC or OEC, because it simply says one can see design in the universe, it does not require evolution as science knows the term. It can also be of any religion, since there is no way to know which god/force, if any, was the creator. It has been cloaked by theists in claims that it could also mean that aliens could be the creator but that does nothing but push the essential problem, who was the original creator, one step back. It is entirely a religious concept, and almost entirely a Judeo/Christo/Islamic concept, no matter the attempts to claim it otherwise. One can see how the claims played out in the Dover case. Even a conservative judge knew the claims of ID supporters to be were lies, nothing more than certain sects of certain religions trying to get their religion forced on everyone.
Gellman takes refuge in claiming that “Darwin’s hypothesis was more theory than scientific fact.” That shows that the rabbi has no idea what those words mean in the scientific context and that he is very unfamiliar with evolutionary theory as it stands today. Darwin, as nifty as he was, got some things wrong. And science, has shown that, not religion. Gellman says that the reason he knows that evolution is wrong is that it cannot explain human consciousness. Alas for the rabbi, his argument depends on the assumption that it will *never* be able to explain it. It also depends on the assumption that if we never find exactly why human consciousness happened, somehow all of the evidence that supports evolutionary theory is wrong. I do hope that the rabbi will stop taking antibiotics since the science used to make them must be wrong and he must believe that they simply can’t work.
He does acknowledge that ID is “more religious belief than scientific fact” because it cannot explain how intelligent design works. It simply says “god/magical force did it”. He claims “each side got some things right and some things wrong”. And this is nothing more than pandering to the theists. There is no evidence that they have gotten anything correct about the origin of the universe by anything other than luck. There is evidence that they got things wrong over and over.
Gellman says that “evolutionists” are right in pointing out the bible isn’t a science textbook. What he neglects to mention that it is also not a history book, and has very little, if anything, unique in it. He claims that the bible is “very old and very young”, that the parts about love and forgiveness are the “young parts” and the parts about a geocentric universe, the earth is flat, and the universe being created 5774 years ago (Jewish calendar) on October 23 at 10:30 AM, are the “old parts”. So we are not to believe them because they are old (not to mention silly), but the new parts are somehow magically true? It seems that the rabbi is not so much Jewish as Christian if we are to believe those new parts, including that new part about the messiah having come and resurrecting.
He says that science has “changed” and that tethering faith to “ancient and discredited science only assures us of an ancient and discredited religion.” Which shows that science leads and religion follows. Unfortunately for the rabbi, there wasn’t science in the bible, discredited or not, only baseless stories about magic and events that never happened, in both the “young” and “old” parts. It is still an ancient and discredited religion.
Gellman says that the creationists and “intelligent design-ites” are right in pointing out the “utter uniqueness of human consciousness – something that appears nowhere else in nature.” Of course, this again assumes that what we know will not change. Rather than saying “yet”, the rabbi thinks that science will stand still, as he seems to think that evolutionary theory has stayed still since Darwin and has not changed. That’s why ignorance is not a good place to start when trying to defend your position.
He makes the common theist claim that our brains can be products of evolution but how we think, pray or forgive cannot be, that they must be some magical thing. Unfortunately, neurological research moves ahead and the theist remains behind, desperate to cling to ignorance to save his belief. He also makes yet more claims that depend on his belief that nothing will change or will be discovered. No, Rabbi, evolutionary biologists haven’t been able to fully describe how forces shape us, but that appears to be just a function of time. They haven’t been able to fully describe things *yet*. Your faith depends on a false belief that we will never find out anything else. That is the classic god of the gaps argument.
Gellman also makes the baseless claim that “the laws of nature explained by evolution are not only insufficient but they are also the opposite of what we truly are as spiritual beings” e.g. the moral human argument for a god. He of course does not say how they are insufficient and how he knows we are “spiritual beings”, a conclusion he has reached based on his belief that we somehow *must* be something “spiritual”, based on his religion, a religion that has nothing to support its claims. He claims that “even ID” gets this wrong and only “faith” gets it right because nothing else supposed explains why we are “at our best compassionate and reflective” while nature is “amoral and bloody”. Humans are certainly amoral and bloody too, as is the Judeo/Islamo/Christian god as described.
Finally, as so many theists have claimed, Gellman claims that the “higher purpose” of our human existence is with his god and that no scientist can begin “to understand or describe” the way to his god. Evidently no other kind of theist can either, which is what they say about their gods too. What this purpose is, the rabbi doesn’t go into details, though his bible does. If his young/old bible is right, this higher purpose could be several things, death with nothing else, a heaven that isn’t that much different from this life, an eternity of endlessly praising this god, or a city of gold and jewels on a new earth. I suppose it depends on how he cherry picks this too: is it just the silly old bible with its silly claims or the shiny new one, with its silly claims? Evolutionary theory may not be able to explain the origin of the human soul. In that no one can show that it exists or agree on what it is or how it interacts with a physical body, etc. that’s not surprising.