Why Creationism Horrifies Me, part one: The Puzzle

This morning I found that I had a new email follower from the blog “Adopting James“, an interesting project. Andrew Toy and his wife Sarabeth want to adopt a child, but in the interest of paying for food and bills and all those trivial things they’d like Andrew’s writing career to take off first and have created a blog to further that goal. For all that I disagree with them, I genuinely wish them luck on that.

One of the first posts I read there was “The “Horrors” of the Creation Theory Part 1“, and since I feel strongly on the subject myself I thought I’d write about what are, to me at least, the real horrors of this ideology. Since Andrew and Sarabeth are Christians, and Christian creationism is by far the most common in my country, I will use that as my example. Don’t forget, though, that there are also Muslim, Jewish and Hindu creationists, and likely others of which I am unaware.

Because I think it’s striking, I’ll start by imagining it to be true and looking at the world that implies, and the god that implies. If creationism is true, then God is terrifyingly dishonest, though not technically lying. Let me try to explain. 

Imagine a fiendishly complex, intricate puzzle. We’ll capitalize it, the Puzzle. It incorporates every possible type of puzzle into its structure, all part of the great overall Puzzle. There is a shelf filled with books about the Puzzle available to you, and your team is tasked with solving this massive enigma. This is a project with a deadline decades away, but a deadline there will be no extension for.

So everybody grabs a book and starts reading. Taking their work seriously, they all take copious notes of their book, and carefully examine every detail. Then after everyone’s had a while to study their book and reach a conclusion you call a meeting to discuss findings.

Everyone says their book has provided an answer to the Puzzle. Each person says the good news is that we have an answer already and can focus on other things for the remaining time. But everyone’s answer is different. So you compare notes, and find that all of the books are significantly different, thought they seem to share some qualities in their Puzzle strategy. There is no apparent reason to believe that any one book is more accurate than the others. Since even the most similar books are mutually exclusive, you decide you can’t trust them and set about solving the Puzzle the hard way, each team member working on a different part of the Puzzle. You’ll each work on your own for a while and have regular meetings for discussion.

At your first meeting after abandoning the books, things are confusing. Most of your team’s progress doesn’t seem to have anything to do with one another, some seem to be, hearteningly, very consistent with each other, a few appear to contradict each other, and the general outline you are getting is radically different from anything the books suggested. But during discussion, you find an error someone made, and suddenly where there was a contradiction there is now two separate parts that dovetail nicely. Everyone agrees to show their work and compare notes.

After a few more meetings things are looking optimistic. By showing your work and comparing notes, you not only catch errors early on, but often reading about someone else’s part of the Puzzle gives you insight into your own section. You’re now convinced the books were a red herring and continue on.

Finally, after decades of painstaking work, the deadline arrives. Your team feels confident that they have a solution. Not everything is understood or explained 100%, but all the pieces are consistent with each other and overlap greatly, so you feel that you’ve found the overall answer. You collate and summarize your results and turn them in to, let’s call it the Authority.

And the Authority says you’re wrong.

“But how?” you exclaim, “It all fit together so well! If that’s wrong, then what was the right answer? How could we have possibly found it?”

The Authority patiently explains that the correct solution was found in the seventh book from the right on the shelf. All of your hard work was following red herrings, traps set to lead you down false paths, just like all the other books were. There was no method at all for finding the correct book, you were expected to find it by intuition alone, and know in your heart that you had the right one. But it’s not a lie, the truth was right there in one of the books.

Would you feel that you had been treated fairly, that this was an honest puzzle presented in good faith?

If creationism is true, that’s how God operates. There’s no sense or reason to understanding, you’re simply expected to know, and if you choose wrongly there’s no way to know that you’ve done so. You can only hope that someone who has the right answer will persuade you, even though they cannot possibly offer you any reason to change your mind beyond “Trust me”, and everyone who has one of the wrong answers will be saying exactly the same thing.

It gets worse with young Earth creationism, because in that scenario God is actively lying to us, planting false evidence everywhere, expecting us to believe the right book over our own senses. If you include concepts such as hell and eternal damnation, you have a god who is deliberately sending as many people to hell as possible while still being able to claim “I told you so”. If I actually believed the universe were ruled by such a sadistic monster I’d consider it a moral obligation to revolt.

Anyway, that’s part one. Part two will be about the real world, and the real horrors of creationism. They seem pretty tame compared to this, but they scare me a lot more because they’re, you know, real.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on May 10, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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