Tag Archive | "Creationism"

FF Podcast 016: Ethics of Spoilers and Comment Trolls

Ep 16

This week, we talk about spoilers and whether it’s appropriate to spoil stories and then we talk about trolls and PopularScience.com’s decision to close their comments section.

You may also download the episode file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

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Evolution is Not a Religious Issue

It really irks me that more than one person has tried to disprove evolution to me as soon as I reveal to them that I am an atheist, as if evolution were the reason for my disbelief. People would soon begin spouting nonsense, citing “scientific” articles that they’ve never read, and asking me to view religious propaganda masquerading as legitimate documentaries.

I have had my fair share of creationist indoctrination even during my childhood. One of my earliest recollections of the concept of evolution, if not the earliest, was when I was still about 4 years old. I remember telling my mother that I wanted to be a scientist. She asked me in return if I would still want to be one even though scientists believe that we came from monkeys. She then asked me the very common (and stupid) creationist fallacy, “If evolution is true, why haven’t the monkeys today turned into men?”

To the unsuspecting child, this empty argument would have effectively put the nail through the coffin of evolution. Sadly, this seems to be the case in the Philippines, where the pseudoscience of creationism and misconceptions of evolution are accepted and even embraced by religious and scientific authorities. People in highly influential positions such as parents, teachers, and clerics, whom other people (most especially children) look up to as sources of truth, continue to preach against evolution while hardly knowing anything about it. In most cases, arguments against evolution revolve around citing Bible verses or attacking straw man versions of the theory.

Our current demography

According to the 2000 census, Roman Catholics made up 80.9% of the Philippine population while Muslims comprised 5%, Evangelicals 2.8%, Iglesia ni Cristo 2.3%; Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses comprise 1.3%. [1]

Thankfully, the Catholic Church is more liberal in saying that evolution is compatible with Christianity. In a statement made by the Vatican on February 2009, they further claimed that the concept of evolution predates Darwin, and the concept can be traced to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. More than 50 years ago, Pope Pius himself said that evolution is a valid scientific approach to understanding the development of humanity. [2] This makes me wonder though why, despite the Philippines being almost 81% Catholic, evolution denial is still prevalent among Filipinos.

From my experience, evolution is still treated, even within academic circles, as a scientific principle that can be reasonably doubted. What saddens me the most is the fact that I personally know biology students, graduates, and even teachers who, while seemingly versed in evolutionary biology, continue to dismiss it as false. Equally sad is how many science majors I know repudiate evolution for being “just a theory.” The fact that grossly unscientific ideas like creationism continue to permeate the academe, and that people who are products of our country’s so-called “premier university” keep on spouting nonsense against evolution, makes me seriously doubt the effectiveness of our system of science education.

Evangelicals (also known as born-agains) and Muslims are divided on the matter. However, both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-Day Adventists are clear on their position against evolution. [3] [4] The controversial Members’ Church of God International (colloquially known by their TV and radio show, Ang Dating Daan) has a creationist stance as well. Eliseo Soriano, its leader, stated: [5]

“To believe in the theory of evolution is to believe in accidents, for the theory of evolution can only be explained by accidents that allegedly happened in nature, and perhaps in the brains and minds of evolutionists!”

the ever-savvy Soriano

Clarifying some misconceptions

“According to Darwin, man was not created by God.”

The previous statement came from a history book written by Gregorio Zaide that is widely circulated among elementary schools in the Philippines. [6] Yes, you heard me right. That’s the famous Filipino historian Zaide right there. More of his religious zealotry can be found in the book and this blog article [7] written by a fellow freethinker.

It is a blatant misquotation of Charles Darwin, whose 1859 On the Origin of Species kickstarted revolutionary advancements in evolutionary biology and science, in general. While Darwin eventually professed deism and agnosticism, he never became an atheist. [8] As a biographer of Darwin puts, “one point is abundantly clear, all the surviving evidence contradicts the assertion that Darwin was an atheist.” [9]

“It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist. … I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.” —Charles Darwin in his letter to John Fordyce, 7 May 1879 [10]

“Lenin is quoted as saying that religion is the opiate of the people, but the truth is that evolution is the opiate of the atheists!”

The quotation came from an article published by The Church of God International (Philippines) about evolution and their stand against it. [11] The Church of God, by the way, is affiliated with the producers of Armor of God, a TV show on GMA News TV. Just so you’d know.

Before I proceed on dispelling these obviously distorted straw men, let’s just get things straight. Vladimir Lenin, the Russian communist, did not make an opium metaphor. It was Karl Marx who said that “religion … is the opium of the people.” [12]

Both Lenin and Marx were atheists, communists and evolutionists. Now before you get into thinking that evolution is some propaganda by atheists and/or communists, like what this person in Answers in Genesis thinks, let me tell you: it’s not. Believing in evolution will not make you an atheist (or a communist).

Contrary to what Soriano thinks, evolution is not driven by accidents. Rather, it is driven by natural selection. Natural selection is the process by which certain individuals in a population survive or reproduce more because of certain variants of genes they possess. This eventually creates organisms which are better equipped for their environments as they out-reproduce the competition. Mutations give rise to new variations among genes, and are also subject to natural selection.

To demonstrate this point, I’ll give a common example: albinism, a condition in which the animal is unable to produce any skin pigments. The primary reason why albinism is so rare is that individuals with the condition are heavily pressured in nature not to survive. Albinos will be normally easier to spot for predators, and are usually unsuccessful in finding mates, and thus fail to pass on their albino genes.

Another example would be sickle-cell disease (SCD). Just like albinism, it is a very rare condition, and for a good reason; SCD brings about many life-threatening complications, shortening life expectancy to about 42-48 years. But here’s the catch. While SCD is a rarity elsewhere, it has a high rate of prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is because, in less severe cases, resistance to malaria is displayed by individuals with SCD. This is especially helpful if you’re living in a region where malaria is widespread.

In summary, traits are a result of a continuous non-random process where a species adapts to the pressures of its environment. It is not an accident why albinism is rare. It is not an accident why SCD is prevalent in some parts of Africa. Humanity is not an accident. We have our traits today because individuals who first had them found them an evolutionary advantage for survival against those who don’t have these traits.

It may appear that animals (including humans) are intelligently designed because they’re so adapted to their environments. This is but an illusion of a lengthy natural selection and evolutionary process.

Why is it so contentious?

I think the biggest reason it has been so contentious is that a lot of people think that evolution, just as what people in the Renaissance thought of heliocentrism, is a religious issue. Well, it’s not. The fact that evolution is true doesn’t disprove the existence of any god, just as proving that the Earth revolves around the Sun doesn’t. Disputing creationism (the antithesis of evolution) doesn’t mean that you reject believing in a god as well. In fact, you can still be an atheist and believe that life on Earth was mystically guided by, say, some flying spaghetti monster.

The need to teach evolution and real science

Having recognized the problems, why make a fuss out of it? Why do we need to teach evolution? Why can’t we teach creationism alongside evolution?

The answer is simple: we must teach evolution because it is what evidence-based science tells us to be true; teaching creationism would be a disservice to rationality. People advocating for teaching creationism at schools might as well advocate for equal teaching time for astrology and the horoscope in our astronomy classes, for magnetic therapy in our medicine classes, and for homeopathy in our pharmacy classes.

Our current state necessitates secularism as a tool for preventing unscientific ideas from penetrating society-at-large. We must never commit in our pursuit of equal representation and free speech a most grave fallacy—that all ideas are of equal value. The words of Isaac Asimov still ring true and remain as inspiring as it was more than 30 years ago: “The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”

Evolution is a cornerstone of modern science. As biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, denying evolution is tantamount to denying the Holocaust. [13]

Now if creationists would just apply the same degree of skepticism to their religious beliefs, that would be really dandy.


Notes and references:

  1. Philippines. National Statistics Office. The Philippines in Figures 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.census.gov.ph/data/publications/pif2012_in_CD.pdf >
  2. Irvine, Chris. “The Vatican claims Darwin’s theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity.” The Telegraph 11 Feb. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/4588289/The-Vatican-claims-Darwins-theory-of-evolution-is-compatible-with-Christianity.html >
  3. “Evolution is incompatible with Christianity.” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. “Is Evolution Compatible with THE BIBLE?” The Watchtower 1 Jan. 2008. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.watchtower.org/e/20080101a/article_01.htm >
  4. “The Seventh-day Adventist Church affirms its belief in the biblical account of creation in contrast to an evolutionary explanation for the origin of living organisms and the relationship of humans to other life forms.” “Statement on Creation : The Bible’s Worldview.” Seventh-Day Church. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 23 Jun. 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/statements/bible-worldview.html >
  5. “The Origin of Humankind.” Members’ Church of God International. Eliseo F. Soriano, 28 Feb. 2012. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.mcgi.org/en/topics/blog_articles/the_origin_of_humankind/ >
  6. Zaide, Gregorio F. World History in an Asian Setting. 1994. Quezon City, Philippines: Rex Printing Company, Inc., 2000. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=Kq512SmGMIsC >
  7. The Filipino Freethinkers does not guarantee the veracity of any of the blog post’s claims.
  8. Lamoureux, Denis O. “Theological Insights from Darwin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 56.1 (2004): 2-9. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2004/PSCF3-04Lamoureux.pdf >
  9. “Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?” The Public Domain Review. John van Wyhe, 28 Jun. 2011. Web. Apr 6. 2012. <http://publicdomainreview.org/2011/06/28/was-charles-darwin-an-atheist/ >
  10. “Darwin to John Fordyce.” Darwin Correspondence Project. n.a., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-12041 >
  11. “The theory of evolution remains unproved and unprovable. … Special creation is the more rational.” The Church of God International (Philippines). “Evolution: Fact or Fallacy?” 2002. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. < http://www.cgiphils.org/literature/pdf/evolution.pdf >
  12. Marx, Karl. Introduction. “A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher. Trans. Annette Jolin and Joseph O’Malley. Paris: 7 Feb. 1844. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm >
  13. Rizvi, Ali A. “Are Evolution-Deniers any Different from Holocaust-Deniers, Birthers, or Truthers?” Hufftington Post 24 Sep. 2009. Web. 6 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ali-a-rizvi/are-evolution-deniers-any_b_295254.html >

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The Hermit Crab – A Christian/Creationist Nightmare

Remember that issue about the banana as an atheist nightmare. Ray Comfort from “Way of the Master” uses a banana to prove that God exists which turns out to be a big joke.

It just proved that Mr.Comfort just don’t have the idea what a wild banana looks like. It’s interesting that Ray Comfort claimed that the modern banana was created by God. The banana was domesticated thousands of years ago, and the modern banana was created by humans via selective breeding and cultivation. The bright yellow bananas that we know today were discovered as a mutation from the plantain banana by a Jamaican, Jean Francois Poujot, in the year 1836. He found this hybrid mutation growing in his banana tree plantation with a sweet flavor and a yellow color—instead of green or red, and not requiring cooking like the plantain banana.

Now let us talk about the hermit crab (Elassochirus gilli). Hermit crabs (both marine and terrestrial) are members of the Phylum Arthropoda, Subpylum Crustacea, Order Decapoda. Unlike their crab cousins, these hermits have soft abdominal exoskeletons. Now here’s the problem.

Christian/Creationist like Mr. Ray Comfort argues that life came from a “Great Designer” – someone who can design Mr. Comfort’s banana.

And who is this banana designer? Why…it’s Mr. Ray Comfort’s God of course – the God that you can read in the pages of the Christian Bible.

Now according to the Genesis account, this God created all living creatures (Gen. 1:24) and this God is…ehem…perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), making all his creations perfect. In fact, God pronounced it “very good”.

Let us go back to the hermit crabs situation. Since hermit crabs have soft bellies, they will not survive without having something hard to cover their bodies. That’s why they need empty univalve mollusks shells in order to live.

I have some hermit crabs for pet (both marine and terrestrial) and believe me, without a shell to cover their asses; hermit crabs would die in less than an hour. Some hermit crabs will even kill snails just to get hold of that precious shell.

So what happened?

It seems this “perfect god” forgot to give the poor ol’ hermit crab a shell.

If Christian/Creationist like Ray Comfort and ex-child star Kirk Cameron are right about their God creating every creature living in this planet, then looking at a hermit crab only confirms the notion that this Bible-based god is a dimwit.

What is the purpose of these shells-less creature if having no shell will endanger its survival? Where’s the perfect design on that?

Maybe Mr. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron can provide us the answer using the power of the Holy Spirit…or…we can accept the fact that this Christian creation story is just a myth. There are no hermit crabs in the Judean desert and the writers of the Genesis myth are ignorant of the existence of such beautiful crustaceans.

Pinoy Atheist

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Evolution: The Atheist’s Religion?!?

I’ve been posting on several discussion forums for a couple of years now, some of them have to do with atheism and non-belief, some are just regular hobby related forums (basketball, PC gaming, etc.). Every once in a while some believer will come barging in to the threads and start preaching their religion. As many of you would already know, any mention of atheism leads believers to talk about the Theory of Evolution.

One of my pet peeves is how Creationists claim that Evolution is not scientific; that it is somehow “evil” and that it goes against Christian teachings. In fact, they go about spreading lies and misinformation about it to such a degree that most people don’t understand what evolution really is anymore. It’s a sad fact that  less than half of Americans accept the fact of Evolution. Interestingly, according to this survey, a little over 60% of Pinoys accept evolution as fact. Perhaps it’s because Catholicism does not deny it. However, this may change soon as many American missionaries are more aggressively bringing their Fundamentalist brand of Christianity to our shores.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions being spread about Evolution:

Myth #1: Evolution teaches us that our ancestors were chimps! If you believe in Evolution, you believe your great great grandparents were chimps!

Answer: Wrong. We evolved from the same distant ancestor as chimps, not chimps directly. And in the broadest sense, we are related to chimps (We share more than 95% of our DNA with them). Monkeys are “cousins” of the Human species. But does that mean that WE are chimps ourselves? Of course not. We are human, our parents and grandparents are human, and so on and so forth for thousands of years back.

Myth #2: Evolution is EVIL-ution! Evolution preaches “survival of the fittest”, therefore it’s every man for himself!

Answer: Wrong. Evolution is a scientific theory. It explains how living things adapt to their environment. It does not make claims about morality, nor does it tell us what we should do with our lives. It explains how things are, not what it should be. Claiming that Evolution is wrong because it “teaches us to kill or be killed” is akin to saying that Gravity is wrong because it causes people to get hurt or killed from falling.

Myth #3: Evolution is “just a theory”.

Answer: In scientific terms, a “Theory” is not the same as the layman’s meaning of theory. What this myth is trying to say is that Evolution is just a” Hypothesis”. A Hypothesis is akin to an educated guess. For a Hypothesis to be promoted to a Scientific Theory, it must pass stringent scientific scrutiny, and must be well supported by evidence. Evolution has a mountainload of evidence supporting it, from across several scientific fields (Geology, Biology, Chemistry, Paleontology, etc). All it takes to destroy the Theory of Evolution is one single solid piece of evidence that goes against it. In the more than 150 years since Charles Darwin first published his book “Origin of Species”, none have come up.

Myth #4: Students are entitled to learn Creation as an alternative theory to Evolution. We must teach the controversy!

Answer: The first thing we must address here is that there is NO controversy (at least in the scientific world). Some scientists may disagree on some details, but there is no denying that Evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community. 99.9% of scientists accept it as fact. Besides, if that is the stance they want to take, then we should teach other creation myths from other religions too. I’m willing to bet these Christian Fundamentalists will NOT allow that.

Secondly, Creation does NOT belong in the Science Class, simply because it is NOT science. Creationists are free to teach Creation in Religion Class where it belongs. It is an oft repeated lie that prayer is banned in public schools in the U.S. Students can pray all they want. What’s not allowed is school-sponsored prayer.

Myth #5: Evolution cannot explain how life began, therefore God must have done it!

Answer: Firstly, Evolution does not deal with how life began. That’s like blaming the washing machine for not keeping the lawn trimmed. Secondly, scientists already have a rough idea of how Abiogenesis occurred (nothing final and concrete, admittedly). Thirdly, just because we don’t know yet, doesn’t mean we will never know. And lastly, just because we don’t know how, doesn’t mean God did it. It only means we don’t know yet.

Myth #6: You cannot prove to me that God did not create us. Show me the proof!

Answer: It is almost impossible to prove a negative. As an exercise, please prove to me that fairies/Santa Claus/invisible magic dragons do not exist. You can’t, can you? Also, the burden of proof rests upon the claimant. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Creationists are the ones making the extraordinary claim, therefore, they must be the ones to provide solid proof. So far they have shown ZERO evidence.

And finally,

Myth #7: Evolution is the Atheist’s Religion!

Firstly, atheists HAVE NO RELIGION, that’s why we’re called atheists.

Secondly, just because you accept the fact of evolution doesn’t mean you’re an atheist. Plenty of believers have no trouble reconciling their beliefs with the fact of Evolution. Take Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins as examples of devoutly religious people who accept evolution. Evolution does NOT invalidate belief in a god in general. It only refutes the literal interpretation of Genesis in the Bible (or of any creation story of any religion).

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