Posted by: serrels | May 17, 2010

Scratching the Surface

I was in Canberra a couple of weeks back, visiting some relatives. And in between a gargantuan amount of time spent playing New Super Mario Bros., we managed to peel our arse cheeks off the couch long enough in order to visit the Canberra Botanical Gardens – we being myself, my missus, and a 4×4 full of in-laws.

We had Lunch. I ate approximately 54% of my body weight and precisely 638% of my RDA of cupcakes at the restaurant. I decided to try and walk it off –  through the beautiful gardens, looking at all the ‘plants and shit’ as I so delicately put it.

But, being perfectly honest, walking isn’t really my thing – reading is. And it was for this reason that I found myself so easily distracted by this little guy…

Yes, that’s right, a little sign thing.

There were absolutely loads of these little sign things dotted around the Gardens. Plastered with ‘in-one-ear-out-the-other’ info on trees, flowers, foliage (or is it foilage? Thank goodness for Microsoft spell check) and such like. Being that I’m not clinically blind, and have the power of sight beyond sight, I noticed the scratching on this particular sign immediately, but dismissed it as the work of cider guzzling teenagers. Just vandals, bored, indulging the idle banality of misspent youth. Crazy kids.

But then I took a second look. It was then that I noticed. The word that was so precisely scratched off the sign was pivotal – perhaps the most pivotal word in the entire paragraph.

It was, specifically, a period of time.

But still, I just kept on walking, dragging my heels, slouching my shoulders, trying my level best to look ‘cool’ (extremely hard to do in a botanical garden, but I was giving it my best shot). After roughly a hundred yards of this rubbish, totally uncool walk, I started reading another info sign.

Again with the scratching. Again with the period of time. There was a pattern here, and I was starting to make the connection. I walked on for a bit, and eventually came across a third sign.

At this stage it was clear – even to me – that someone had gone through this park and deliberately scratched out any reference to time, or periods of time, from the information signs dotted around the park.

At this stage I made an assumption – the assumption being that the culprit, the vandal running around Canberra Botanical Gardens with a pen knife or whatever, was most likely a Young Earth Creationist, trying to erase from these helpful little signs any information that dared to suggest the earth’s age could be calculated in ‘millions’ of years instead of ‘thousands’.

I could be wrong. It could have been the dastardly work of someone who just really, really hated the word ‘million’; but I doubt it. The pattern was clear, and from it I deduced that someone clearly wanted to subvert science. They wanted to obstruct learning – they wanted to censor reasoning, and the conclusions that come from said reasoning.

Now I know what you’re thinking – here comes the conclusion where I make a sweeping judgement upon all Creationists, calling them idiots and such like.

Well you’d be wrong.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m perfectly aware that there is a body of research, written by people who know infinitely more about the subject of evolution than me, and they’ve most likely written bloody big books about it as well. Those people may have come to a different conclusion to me, and completely believe that the evidence shows that, yes, the earth’s age can be measured in thousands of years instead of millions.

I would disagree with them, but that’s fine. I don’t object to that – it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

What does bother me, however, is this creepy little vandal running around the Canberra Botanical Gardens, deliberately sabotaging the hard work of others.

Because this is what the evolution/creation debate has been reduced to. It’s not science anymore, it’s not even theology – it’s simply politics. It’s about beating the other guy. And that’s not good for science, it’s not good for progress, no matter what your definition of progress is.

We’re at the stage now where Creationists and those that believe in evolution are so intent on fortifying their own position, mostly by squabbling with each other, that the ability to truly question themselves, or spend time perfecting and evolving their own  theories (like all true scientists should) is lost.

And that’s the real tragedy – the direct result of idiots running around Botanical Gardens with a sharp little knife and a weird phobia of the word ‘millions’.

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Responses

  1. doesn’t it take faith to believe evolution, as much as it takes faith to believe creation…in each theory exists an element of totally unknown. One has hope, the other is just a theory.
    and what makes millions of years, any more correct than thousands of years? Why should anyone have the right to plaster millions of years on everything?
    I think you are far more spiritual, than you would like to believe!
    You have asked the questions many have yet to formulate.
    I enjoy reading your thoughts and theories.

    • They have the right to “plaster millions of years on everything” thanks to the hundreds (if not thousands of) years of research carried out by the scientific community the world over.
      Mindless defacing and vandalisim (wrongly) of educational public property to further the ends of 1 or many individuals can’t be justified under any circumstances.
      Science is not the anti-god that many hardcore fundamentalists believe it to be, it exists mainly to further our understanding of the world around us and ultimately (but not in every case) give us all a better quality of life

      • 🙂

    • Young Earth Creationism has no scientific basis. The Earth is approximately 4.6 billion years old. That’s what the evidence says. How different is claiming the world is 10,000 years old to claiming the Holocaust never happened?

      • Well, it is very different, as there are people alive today that were AT and experienced the Holocaust….when there are NO people alive toda…or even their great-great-greats…that were at or experienced the beginning of the world.

        I think the tragidy is that folks make when the world began such a big issue…when NO one was there and so there is an element of faith on both sides. Where the conservative Christians (I used to be one) go wrong is that they have replaced loving others – which is supposed to be THE evidence of there being a God to the world, WITH judging and arguing the point with others…which to me means theres an uncertainty, and a lack of spirituality & faith on their part in what they believe…as someone who is truly spiritual, confident and assured of their position doesn’t have to be angry and aggressive all the time. (Conservative) Christianity has become a seperatist, angry, “fleshly and not spiritual” section of society…at least here in the USA.

        Thankfully tho…(out of fear of being stoned)….there ARE pockets of gatherings/churches here and there that have the heart to go back to the simple gospel of loving your neighbor as yourself.

  2. Mark 100% agree. I believe in creation. But i respect the fact that you don’t. There is nothing wrong with having a different belief but I believe there is something wrong with ignorance.

    This debate of creation vs evolution or God vs no God, has become a right-fighter match. It’s not even about the topic at hand its who can be most right. There are no winners at the end of right-fighter matches.

  3. Hmm yet another example of stupidity done in the name of Christianity! Just a small example of justifying illegal (perhaps ever un-Christ like) actions under the religious pretense. Possibly a huge leap, but how many crimes, even murders have been acted out under a religious justification. There are way to share ones opinion, this is not it.

  4. Day for a year principle?

  5. Mark, I was up in the Blue Mountains recently and at one of the lookoouts at Blackheath there was a sign that mentioned that Charles Darwin has visited this spot in 1836 – except that someone had scratched out the name of Charles Darwin. It was only because we knew from our reading that Charles Darwin had actually been there in 1836 that we realised whose name it was that had been erased. Sheeesh! Some creationist vandal again!

  6. Thanks for a nice review about vandalism from a suspected “Creationist Fanatic”. Yes, this is a classic example of a “fanatic believer” who is trying to express his/her perspective. We should make the assumption that this person is a Christian with good intentions to teach the world about the real origins of humanity. There are lots of Christian fanatics around -with very strong values- and the world is not a better place because of them. Having strong values not necessarily makes you a good person. However, is this a good example of how bad Christianity is? Does this example justify the conviction that evolutionism is better?

    Firstly, a Christian might not agree with someone’s atheist views, but we would defend the right of any person to express their views and beliefs with respect of property and people. This is a basic Christian perspective, the positive quality in relationships in which you can be tolerant of each other’s perspectives, faults and defects. Christianity is misrepresented if we are not tolerant and loving toward each other. This is a basic Christian value: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. The more closely we are united with God, the more tender and affectionate will be our conduct toward one another. The awareness that there is a God who loves you subdues and softens your heart, and makes you receptive to love and acceptance of others.

    Secondly, there is not just one answer to the mysteries of the universe, but I think it’s better to believe in God than believing in nothingness. One of the most popular forms of this argument is the Watchmaker analogy first used by William Paley in 1794. It says that if you are walking in a field and you find a stone, you can assume that it was formed by natural processes. If you find a pocket watch, however, you can assume that it was made by an intelligent designer. You make this assumption because the watch exhibits intelligent design. It has a spring to give it motion, gears and wheels to transmit the motion, the gears are made of brass so they won’t rust, the spring is made of steel (which is flexible enough for springs) and the front cover is made of glass so you can see the face. It’s obvious that thought and purpose went into the watch. Trillions of years of natural processes couldn’t have created it. Its complexity, purpose and design point to an intelligent designer. Then Paley pointed to the universe and the life within it. It’s much bigger and more complex than a watch and it’s unlikely that natural processes and chance could produce such a complex and purposeful universe.

    The choice is yours and feel free to disagree, but please don’t scratch my car. lol

    • Evidence indicates evolution is as real as gravity. Gravity holds you on the planet whether you “believe” in gravity or not. The evolution of our planet over billions of years is simply fascinating. How is believing it was blinked into existence 10,000 years ago MORE satisfying?
      We have the evidence.
      Radiometric age dating proves the Earth is over 4 billion years old. Fact. That’s all there is to it.

      • I agree with you – but my issue here is that being at each other’s throats only encourages people on both sides of the argument to rally behind their respective arguments, instead of questioning and advancing their own point of view by scientific means.

        Dawkins’ Holocaust deniers analogy (that you mentioned earlier) is an interesting one, it’s a rhetorical shock tactic, but it does make sense, because scientists are constantly having to defend themselves instead of doing what they do best – questioning themselves. Under the current climate they can’t question themselves because it shows weakness and a lack of faith in their own position. That totally sucks.

        But there are some scientists who don’t believe in evolution. That is also a fact, and I can respect that even if I don’t agree with their position; but those same scientists are doing the precise same thing – slinging much at each other instead of refining or questioning their own arguments.

        It’s counter productive, on so many levels. The thing I find interesting is this: if Creationists only had true faith in their own beliefs, and spent time nurturing their own scientific theories, whilst also allowing Scientists who believe otherwise (the vast, vast majority) to question their own theories, and test them accordingly, eventually their own truth would be revealed – because true Science is objective. If Creation is a fact, then true scientists would eventually uncover this by scientific means! And they would do it far more quickly if extremists weren’t constantly trying to subvert the progress of science by scratching out and challenging every discovery they make.

        So, in a sense, by constantly trying to sabotage and disrupt the science that discredits Creation, they are ultimately subverting their own position.

        Weird.

      • I know you know I think you’re a bigger man than I when it comes to tolerance. I repect that hugely, and I repect you.
        Asking scientists to repect the supernatural beliefs of others is too much. I thought Dawkins’ Holocaust Denial comparison was apt, but I can replace it. There are people who still believe the world is flat. Telling a scientist to respect the views of a creatioist is no different to telling him/her to respect the views of the Flat Earth Society.
        The world is not 10,000 years old any more than it is flat. Evolution is behind the changes that have occured in plants and animals on the planet.
        The are people who’ve dedicated their lives to showing us the incredible story of life on this planet. Accepting creationism over science, to me, is tantamount to telling these people they’re stupid, or lying, or both. Is it any wonder they are tired of ‘respecting’ creationists?
        I hope I’m not being too obnoxious but the results are in amigos. What’s left to ponder?

      • Apologies for banging on Marky, maybe I should just start my own blog
        or something.
        See, you’re already inspiring me!
        And I love your cardigans. I can never take the piss out of you properly, I always feel bad afterwards.

      • Hahahaha! I wore a cardigan. I messed up man. I know it’s wrong, but it felt right.

    • Richard, I definitely won’t scratch your car!

      Not deliberately anyway.

      • Also Richard – you should read a book called The Blind Watchmaker, which takes that William Paley analogy and describes how it is false. Worth reading at least!

        Also, that quote was written 50 years before the theory of evolution even came about!

  7. being at throats is not good, questioning is great, i think we should take a leaf out of carl sagans books and try to honestly understand the “other side” good scientists like to be proved wrong, something gets learned.
    in science there actually is no debate re creation vs evolution … in various religions the sky fairies do various fairy things but this has no basis in reality, have a look at other creation myths , they are interesting, funny, wrong. in religion you can make all sorts of stuff up , in science we measure stuff, look at facts develop reasons to explain things etc.
    I think that it is also good to add philosophy on top of science.
    eg : sda say earth 10,000 years or so old,
    science says 4.5 billions years old.
    philosophy says – if u cant tell the difference ans see what is obvious to scientists then god has messed up your brain, naughty god, if the universe is only 10,000 years old then why is god lying to you , pretending to make it look billions of years old etc. again either naughty god or non existent one. shame shame shame

  8. It all comes down to one little word gang…”theory”.

  9. Great post, massive respect for the tone you’ve written this in.

    And Emma, may I point out that its important to understand what ‘Theory’ means in Science. Its not the same as the colloquial use.

    • Thank you Clansi for your comment…however I am well versed on all definitions associated with the word theory which is why my use of it was ” “

  10. This is the most brilliant article I have ever read from this perspective.


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