Thursday, October 01, 2009

Immorality and Young Earth Creationism

Electing a young-earth creationist to make laws is as foolish as getting into a car driven by a drunk.

A member of the studio audience said, in response to an earlier posting:

[Y]our original post seems to imply that believing what young earth creationists believe contributes to death and maiming. Is this what you meant to say? That post was not a post in which I implied that what young earth creationists believe contributes to death and maiming.

This will be the post in which I make that claim.

In that post, explicitly argued that a character trait that defines young-earth creationists is a character trait that people generally have reason to discourage through condemnation because that trait leads to death and maiming. I was not talking about the belief. I was talking about the trait.

The character trait I looked at is a willingness to blind oneself to evidence. The evidence for evolution and for the Earth being over 4 billion years old is so overwhelming that only a person with a morally irresponsible disposition to ignore evidence would not accept it. Assuming only that he has the mental faculties that would qualify him as a moral agent.

THIS is the post in which I say that what a young earth creationist believes itself contributes to death and maiming.

A person cannot contribute to making sound policy on a wide range of matters - some of them being matters of life and death - without an appreciation of the fact of evolution and of an earth that is over 10,000 years old.

He cannot make sound policy on environmental matters, for example, because an understanding of evolution is vital to the understanding of how living creatures interact with their environment. It is even crucial to understanding how humans interact with their environment and, to some degree, how they interact with each other.

Young earth creationists cannot be trusted to make good policy in matters of medicine or medical care. Humans are evolved beings. Our organs are the results of hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Understanding human biology - a necessary component of understanding health issues - requires an understanding an evolved system.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and other natural disasters are currently understood as the results of plate tectonics, which we understand by seeing their effects on billions of years of geologic history. Young-earth creationists blind themselves to the very scientific truths that are being used to understand these phenomena, and thus prevent the death and destruction that they cause.

Agriculture and animal husbandry also depend on an understanding of evolution. We alter the composition of our crops and our herds of animals over time using the same mechanisms that nature uses to alter species over hundreds of millions of years. A person who blinds himself to facts about how natural selection works also has to be blinding himself to facts about how artificial selection works. The only differences between the two are the criteria being used to change plants and animals over time.

Young earth creationists will also ultimately be responsible for the widespread destruction of dozens of coastal cities due to sea-level rise. Their blindness to science made them perfect victims to the propaganda of oil companies who felt that feeding a few more dollars into their bank accounts was more important than preserving coastal cities from destruction. There is a strong correspondence between blinding oneself to the science of evolution and blinding oneself to the science of climate change.

Besides, the science of climate change is a science of what has happened to the Earth's climate over the past 500,000 years in specific, and more generally over the billions of years that the Earth has existed. If somebody has already blinded himself to the facts of an earth that is over 10,000 years old, then he has blinded himself to the facts relevant to climate policy extracted from ice core samples and other evidence laid down hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of years ago.

These failures will lead to policies that will get some people killed and others maimed. They will contribute to the widespread destruction of whole cities in the centuries to come and they will promote sickness over health.

People who do not understand the real world in which we live cannot be trusted to make policy that actually works in the real world.

Trusting a young-earth creationist with the power to make policy is as foolish as getting into a car driven by a drunk. You might get lucky. You might get to your destination unscathed. But you're taking a big risk. It is better to get into a car driven by a clean and (intellectually) sober driver. You still might get into a wreck, but your odds of getting safely to your destination go up significantly.

I am not saying that religious people are unfit for government office. Not only does this not imply that conclusion, that statement is not even true. I will have something to say about that tomorrow.

11 comments:

ZoriN said...

While I don't have any problem with the claim that young earth creationists are dangerous, especially with the fact that their rejection of proof against them requires rejection of science as a whole (although they don't seem to do that), I'm interested in is if this is due to a rejection of the idea that people can compartmentalise their beliefs, like many sceptics do when it comes to their sacred cows.

Other examples of this kinda thing, IMHO would be holocaust denial, 'truthers' and anti-vacc. I'd be interested to know which ones you think are worse and why.

Jayman said...

I think you've gone overboard in your characterization of young earth creationists, especially since they usually don't deny evolution entirely (e.g., they may reject "macro-evolution" but accept "micro-evolution").

(1) Some young earth creationists may be ignorant of the evidence for an old earth and for evolution. People can only study a finite number of subjects in any kind of depth. To condemn such people as immoral would require an argument positing that people have a moral obligation to study the creationism/evolution debate.

(2) Other young earth creationists have looked at the evidence for an old earth and for evolution and found the evidence unpersuasive. It is not obvious to me that this is a moral defect on their part. It seems to be more of an epistemological defect.

(3) One need not believe in evolution to know how animals and humans interact with the environment presently.

(4) Likewise, a doctor can heal the body whether he believes in evolution or not.

(5) On what basis do you apparently believe that young earth creationists are less likely to build sturdier buildings in earthquake zones, to install tsunami warning systems, and to not live near active volcanoes? I've never noticed any significant disagreement on these matters between creationists and evolutionsts.

(6) Young earth creationists don't deny the genetics behind agriculture and animal husbandry (they deny that natural selection can explain all life on earth). Even ancient farmers showed some knowledge of how to alter plants and animals to their benefit.

(7) You might have something with the creationism/global warming denying link but I had a hard time finding any polls that address the subject directly.

ZoriN said...

If they accept micro but not macro, they're even worse, because they accept the principle but deny the logical conclusion, thus clearly they have all the evidence they need to make the proper judgement. A creationist doctor would deny many things accepted in medicine, evolution of bacteria in response to anti-biotics, vestigial organs, imperfect design and that sort of thing.

I agree that the thought that perhaps they've just never looked at the evidence does trouble me, however, as they grow older this becomes less and less understandable, and more of a depiction of how much they cling to narrow-minded doctrine in the face of overwhelming evidence, and people who try to impose their view onto the world, rather than have the world impose on their view, are dangerious, which is what I think Ethicist was getting at.

Well is there any reason why a YEC would accept climate change, given he couldnt' accept the data?

Jayman said...

ZoriN, can you point to a creationist doctor who does the things you talk about? Bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics would fall under micro-evolution, which creationists don't have a problem with. What practical difference does it make whether a doctor believes an organ is vestigial or not? Are there creationist doctors somewhere that refuse to remove an appendix because they believe it is not vestigial? Again, what practical difference does it make whether a doctor believes an anatomical feature is perfectly or imperfectly designed? Are there creationist doctors somewhere that won't treat an illness because everything's perfect as is?

Regarding climate change, there is data from less than 6,000 years ago, right? Though I could not find a poll on the views of young earth creationists on global warming, I did come across some young earth creationists who accept that global warming is occurring.

ZoriN said...

I already discussed the macro/micro distinction.

I think we're all making the mistakes of clumping all YEC together, not all of the accept micro evolution either, I'm inclined to believe.

I have no doubt that they would follow standard medical procedure, if for no other reason than to keep their jobs. However, that doesn't cover a lot of interaction with patients. On issues such sex, especially pre-marital or extra-marital sex, mental disorders, physical deformities, STI's, non-hetro sexuality and so on I wouldn't want to be subject to their bedside manner.

And besides, as part of their degree they must have been subject to information to clarify their falsehoods.

cl said...

I got routed here from Common Sense Atheism, because I was curious to hear the justification for this claim Lukeprog seems to agree with.

I'm no atheist, and I don't know how many calendar years have passed since the singularity, or the creation of Earth, but I do know that the only sustenance to claims of an old universe and old Earth are the assumption that God didn't create them. I expect folks to chuckle and dismiss my position, but I'm dead serious, and willing to defend that position. So, there's a little bit about me, and what I believe. Now..

"The character trait I looked at is a willingness to blind oneself to evidence. The evidence for evolution and for the Earth being over 4 billion years old is so overwhelming that only a person with a morally irresponsible disposition to ignore evidence would not accept it." (Fyfe)

People from all beliefs and walks of life can succumb to the intellectually impairing temptation to prefer comfort over honesty. That somebody doesn't share your conclusion about an issue doesn't render them "morally irresponsible." Also, a YEC Christian could just flip this arbitrary pronouncement right back at you.

"Young earth creationists cannot be trusted to make good policy in matters of medicine or medical care." (Fyfe)

Bah. Don't you cringe with revolt when people say atheists aren't fit to run this country? I do, and I'm not even an atheist.

Bottom line: even if I believed Earth was created yesterday, I could in a morally responsible manner address the issues you claim I can't (cf. Jayman's 3: "One need not believe in evolution to know how animals and humans interact with the environment presently.")

Eneasz said...

Hi cl! Haven't been banned from here due to trolling yet? A pity...

I don't know how many calendar years have passed since the singularity.

Screw you and the horse you rode in on. No one is claiming to know how old the universe is down to the hour. But claiming that it's 6000 years old as opposed to ~15 billion years old is a mistake that is even more absured than claiming that the Grand Canyon is no wider than a human hair. Stop being an ass.

That somebody doesn't share your conclusion about an issue doesn't render them "morally irresponsible."

Oh? I like to drink. A lot. But I have enough moral responsibility to not get behind the wheel of a car when I've been drinking. Hypothetically - if I did not "share your conclusion" that being drunk makes me incompetent to drive, does that mean I'm not "morally irresponsible"? Your own words.

Don't you cringe with revolt when people say atheists aren't fit to run this country? I do, and I'm not even an atheist.

Do you cringe with revolt when people say that 15-year-olds aren't fit to run this country? Yet even a typical 15-year-old (who's paid attention at school) knows more about the natural world than a YEC.

cl said...

Jayman,

If you happen to return to this thread and notice my comment, leave a comment at my blog or drop me an email if you can. I enjoyed reading your comments over at DD's quite a bit.

Esneaz,

That was the first comment I've ever left here. Speaking of trolling, your whole screed is vitriol lacking so much as even a fraction of an intelligent argument, or even an intelligent objection to my arguments. If I ever do post here again, don't accost me with empty invective; if you absolutely must, well, I'll oblige, but do that crap on my own blog where you don't have to pull other people into your own immaturity. Stick to arguments and logic, not emotion.

Eneasz said...

Hello CL. I was a follower of your escapades over at Evangelical Realism, I didn't realize this was your first post here. Hopefully it will be one of the last.

Having seen you in action I already know that it's best to call you out on your BS early and directly. I wouldn't bother to make any sort of argument when replying to you, I was only highlighting your profound lack of integrity. As for your blog, I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Jayman said...

cl, I sent you an email.

Ricardo said...

CL, you are obviously a troll, and I know people shouldn't feed trolls, but as often I can't resist.

"I do know that the only sustenance to claims of an old universe and old Earth are the assumption that God didn't create them."

Study geology and you will know that what you said you know is wrong. Study astronomy and physics and you will know that what you said you know is wrong. You don't need assumptions, you just need equipment. Start with a telescope or a pick and a shovel. You will know that all the belief in the world is not as compelling as the facts of reality.