Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Father the Creationist

Hi all,

So based on my last few posts you all should already know that my father is a very religious man, his devotion and opinions have fluctuated over time. He began, as far as I can recall, as a more liberal Christian reading the bible metaphorically and understanding things like evolution and the Big Bang Theory. Then he began forming his own theories, or read a few very strange theories... very strange theories. Particularly the works of Sitchen (if you don't know feel free to look up his work... or not... I wouldn't blame you).

Before I tell you about our conversation the other day, I'm going to let you know that my father has a BSc in biochemistry, and until very recently understood that evolution was a natural process which happens, but believed it was God guided. What changed? Well.. first he converted to Catholicism, which really shouldn't have had that affect because the Pope accepts evolution as an enriching reality considers creationist claims to be damaging. So what else could have happened? He has been the victim of several very serious car accidents... perhaps there was some brain damage? My personal theory is that he was re-reading the Bible and fell into the false dichotomy that creationists hope for, either you believe in God or you accept evolution. He also felt that to convert the Bible has to be 100% true... or completely wrong. This is just my theory... I have no idea exactly what happened, but I am left hoping that kind of insanity isn't genetic.

So what kind of conversation did he and I have? Well it started with a discussion about meat. Now I know that my father is a creationist, but when we were talking on the phone I had just finished working on some anthropology homework (which evolution is generally a large part), and I just let a statement slip about how eating meat led to the development of the human brain... you know smaller gut to process the meat, and more energy which lead to a bigger brain (this is simplistic, but you can find more about this theory of the development of the human brain all over google scholar).

So... that's how it started... with me making an innocent remark and my dad coming back and telling me that evolution is statistically equivalent to a tornado going through a junk yard and creating a 747. Now I couldn't leave this alone, and I told him evolution does not work that way. I used the example of six sided dice. If you have 20 six sided dice the chances of getting all sixes is very low, but if every time you roll those dice you get a six and keep it the odds become much better. This is how evolution works, it keeps what is advantageous and gets rid of what is disadvantageous.

My father then went to argue that evolution is impossible because two different species cannot produce viable offspring. Which I said, well you're right about the offspring, but evolution doesn't work that way either. Evolution works within a species and selects for traits which are advantageous for the environment. For instance if you have 2 cats and one cat has slightly longer and thicker hair than the other and it suddenly gets much colder than usual the cat with the thicker fur will have a better chance for surviving, and if that cat finds another cat with long thick fur to mate with it is likely that their offspring would have thick fur. These cats, if separated from their thinner shorter furred cats, would eventually not be able to interbreed, but this takes time.

When that didn't convince him he cited the second law of thermal dynamics. This is the law that states that things naturally progress towards chaos. The one thing that creationists don't tell you is that this law only applies to a closed system. The Earth is an open system, because it gets its energy from the sun and the Earth is also subject to many other cosmic forces. After telling my father this he tried to argue that the Earth is still a closed system despite this *face palm*.

When all of this didn't convince me he tried to tell me that the methods that we have to date things are crap. Taking for instance the dating of the rocks from the St. Helen's eruption. Well we know what the problems were with that, and that was that the wrong method was used. It happens, but scientists are now very careful about applying the proper technique to the stones. When that didn't work he claimed that radiocarbon dating didn't work, and he told me about someone who's tree was struck by lighting, he took the limb which fell off in to be dated and it read to be 200,000 years old. Aside from finding this story to be very suspect, I pointed out that when something is burned, as would be the case in something which has been struck by lighting, the carbon would have been burned off... and that the proper method of dating the tree would have been dendochronology, which is using tree rings to date things.

Then he went on to tell me about the global flood... at this point I really didn't feel like keeping Pandora's box open and tell him that there is no evidence in the geological record to support the flood. He also went on to state that he believed that the Bible was written by God... ouch... I then got off the phone as quickly as I could... making an excuse, because this was too frustrating. Not to mention a few other things that he mentioned about archaeologists and scientists not being willing to publish information that supports the Bible because there is some conspiracy. See, now he was taking pot shots at my chosen field... which I found very insulting.

During the conversation he mentioned a video that explained where he got all that information... so should I offer to watch it, and provide him with a rebuttal much in the same way I did for the conservapedia article on evolution?

Well that's all for now,

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