I’ve been doing a lot of reading, listening, and thinking lately (so I’ve a billion things going through my head), and one of those things has been the creation/evolution debate. I am ashamed to say that I used to be a creationist. “Why ashamed?” you may well ask. Well, as I’ve watched debates (I’m enjoying YouTube so much!) between evolutionists and creationists, I’ve realized some very important things.
- Science and religion do not, indeed cannot, mix. I am sure they can overlap a little (after all, the bible, for example, does mention things in the world such as trees and water and mountains), but they are fundamentally different. They begin at completely different places. Science begins with a hypothesis, which is tested and tested to see if it can be disproved. A hypothesis cannot be proved, but it can be disproved (so my stats professor drummed into me). However, there are probability values that can be assigned to events. The higher the probability, the lower the chance the hypothesis is null and void. If there is no correlation, the scientist starts again. Maybe they will scrap the hypothesis entirely, maybe they’ll edit the hypothesis, or maybe they’ll find problems in the experimental method. Finding no correlation is not failure! (I found that a difficult concept to teach middle schoolers, by the way). On the other hand, religious people start with their text. They make everything FIT that text. For Christians, it’s obviously the bible. If a scientific fact shows the text is wrong, then it is the scientific fact that is wrong! The holy book (substitute hypothesis here) CANNOT be wrong.
- Evolution/Creation debates become, after a while, intensely frustrating. This is because the Christian (and I’ve mostly watched Christians debate, although I’ve seen a Muslim and a Jew debating too) always comes back to the bible, yet never gives evidence that the bible itself is what they call it (the infallible word of god). So, the evolutionist will patiently explain something that you’d think a middle schooler could easily grasp, yet at the end the Christian will say that can’t be true because… the bible. All right. If that is the case, tell us WHY the bible is so, so authoritative and error-free. But, they don’t (because they can’t).
- I’ve come to the conclusion that these debates (and also the YouTube videos put out by pro-creationists) , as far as the Christians are concerned, are intended for one audience, and one audience only: Christians. They give the same arguments over and over. Ken Ham and Ken Hovind are the worst. Both these men really, really seem incredibly ignorant. Further, neither seems to listen. In one debate, an evolutionist will explain something to one or other of these men, yet in the next debate or interview (or tweet or blog), the exact same issue will be raised, with no modifications whatsoever. No attempt to incorporate new knowledge to boost or strengthen their own argument. It’s as if the debate never took place, as if they never heard or learned a thing. I’m not even suggesting they should change their minds, but once an argument has been addressed, you should take the responses into consideration next time you raise that same argument. Anyway, both those men sound as if they’ve memorized chunks of text or ideas just to spout off whenever. So why do they do these debates? As I said, it’s for the Christians. No thinking person could possibly be swayed by what they’re saying (and I am referring to these types of debates; think Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham) – at least not a thinking person who values truth and has some kind of scientifically trained mind. On the other hand, I’m not sure why scientists take part in these farces. Do they hope to reach wavering believers (my best hypothesis)? Surely they don’t think they’ll change the debator’s mind? (Ken Ham, for example, has built his empire on creationism. Even if he knew he was wrong, he would have far too much to give up to admit it)
- The only reason I held on to creationist beliefs for as long as I did was because *I* never listened to the other side. I closed my mind. I knew there were issues, but instead of honestly addressing them, I read creationist literature. I never read anything by an evolutionist, and I am ashamed. I really am. I do believe that many, many Christians are in the same boat; maybe they don’t think there are issues, but they sure aren’t reading books by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens (or Jerry Coyle, Neil Shubin, Sean Carroll etc…). I can’t tell you how many times I was warned about reading books that might destroy my faith, and I can only assume I was not alone in hearing this kind of message. You’re supposed to build yourself up, edify yourself… “Whatsoever is pure… think on these things”. Hmm.
- I am angry. I was duped. I let myself be duped.
- I am grateful for people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitches, AronRa, CosmicSkeptic (who, at the time of writing, is only 18 years old, but is a thoughtful, respectful adolescent who gives me hope for the future). Without those who do speak up, perhaps I’d still be hiding. Who knows?
- The teaching of Creationism (Creation “Science”, Intelligent Design) does not belong in the science classroom. It is not science. It has no relationship with the scientific method. It is not an “alternative view” in terms of science. It is religion. Pure and simple. Take away the bible (re-read number 1 above) and there is NO CREATIONISM. ‘Nuff said.
So, shall I answer my own question (the title of this post)? We got here through natural selection, an amazing, awe-inspiring, yet cruel process. We have no reason other than to fill a niche made by those same processes. And that makes it all the more important to live life to its fullest, to leave the planet in better condition than it was when we entered it, to give the next generation opportunities like we have, to make life for all people (and creatures) the best that it can be (fighting inequities, lending a helping hand, having the courage to stand up for minorities and the oppressed). That is our “purpose”. And when we die? I don’t know, but if it’s like the experience I had before I was conceived, whatever it was/is, has left no mark. Probably just nothingness.
There we go.