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03 February, 2010

Morals, Ethics, and the Creationists Argument Tactics

It baffles me that religious people can so readily and easily claim that without God, Man could not have come up with the moral codes and laws that keep our society from chaos while at the same committing shameless and barefaced lies, deception, falsities, and censorship of dissenting opinions throughout their literature and throughout the internet.

The two tactics most common to Creationists are quote-mining and outright censorship. Quote-mining is the practice of taking quotes from books written by scientists out of context and using them as "proof" against Evolution. Charles Darwin, called the Father of the modern theory of Evolution, is the most common victim of this. There are two passages in particular that are most often quoted by Creationists. These passages are passed around the internet by people who have never read, "The Origin of Species" and never will read the book without ever consider the passages that precede or follow the quote in question.

The first of these outrages fabrications of doubt has to do with the eye. Charles Darwin wrote,
"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree."

What Darwin is doing here is setting up the argument against his theory and in the next paragraph explains that through examination of evidence and reason one could come to the conclusion that evolution of the eye is in fact possible:
"Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound."

The second quote seems very damaging indeed when taken out of context. It is from a letter in which Darwin writes, "often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy."

The entire quote, taken in context, shows Darwin thanking a fellow scientist for confirming the evidence of his theories.

For myself, also, I rejoice profoundly; for, thinking of so many cases of men pursuing an illusion for years, often and often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may not have devoted my life to a phantasy. Now I look at it as morally impossible that investigators of truth, like you and Hooker, can be wholly wrong, and therefore I rest in peace.

Are Creationists merely mistaken about these quotes or are they deliberately taken out of context and preached to lay people for the soul purpose of propping up their unsubstantiated ideas through the use of the terrible fallacy of discrediting their opponents? Often, a religious person has said, "Well, those quotes are used because they get passed around by word of mouth or some other means. They aren't doing it on purpose." But I can't help but scratch my head at the fact that they wouldn't look up the quote themselves to see if it's true. Obviously, the father of evolution undermining his own theory should seem like quite a shock to them. If I heard that Freud was quoted as saying that psychoanalysis was useless, I'd probably look that up just to be sure the person telling me this had the quote right. It's a natural quality of critical thinking to look at information in this skeptical light.

The second fetid pile of Creationist dishonesty is the habit of censorship of opposing viewpoints. On site like Answers In Genesis, don't even try to leave a quote that might shed any doubt on their creationist theories because it will not get approved. Of course, it is their site and therefore their prerogative to do so. Though unethical and telling of their consternation toward anything that might shake their dogmatic beliefs, it is a decision that is rightly theirs to make.

But what about when this attitude of censorship spills out onto public websites that they do not own? What are their tactics and what are the consequences?

The most prevalent example of this is on the popular video hosting site, YouTube, where the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, or DMCA, is used to flag videos that argue against creationism or intelligent design. To avoid a lawsuit, YouTube automatically takes down flagged videos and suspends flagged accounts while an investigation ensues. The only action the account user has is to file a counter notice, which could eventually put the Creationist perpetrator in front of a judge for perjury. For a detailed account of these YouTube battles, see this blog here that I found.

The other YouTube censorship tactic these Creationists are known to use are votebots. The frequency in which a video comes up in a search is through the rating system on YouTube, not on the number of views a video gets. The rating system is a one to five star system, one being poor and five being awesome. Votebots are set up on fake accounts and vote one star on these videos as often as possible. A pattern emerges in which a person might get a thousand good ratings over a period of months and then is suddenly hit with hundreds of one star ratings, bringing down the average rating of the video. It's a vile and underhanded tactic.

Why do these Creationists continue to insist that without God, man is immoral, but have no qualms about committing these deplorable tactics? I personally believe that it is simply that it takes a very warped mind to continue to believe in thinks for which there is no evidence for and much evidence against. (In fact, this is a reason I believe that many conservatives are Christians as well, but that's a different post for a different day). It is the same twisted logic that allows an anti-abortionist to justify to himself that taking the life of an abortion doctor is what God wants, or a terrorist that flying a plane into a building will put him on the fast track to Allah's glory. Morals, supposedly unshakable and universal to all people according to the Abrahamic religions, are actually fluid and capricious if doing things in the name of God.

How is this morality better than the humanist morality that says that each culture and society decides what is best for the survival of its own people? How is this more moral than group morality that says that what is best for the group is best for the individual and that is how these laws and codes have developed? The idea that morals are greater than man (which requires the premise that man is naturally evil and sinful, as explained in a previous post) and that they come from an unerring, benevolent creator is one of the core beliefs of Western religion. And yet, the most fervent and zealous in their ranks are caught the most often in acts of dishonesty and deliberate misinformation.

This is why it is such an insult to hear religious people say, "Atheists have morals because God gave them morals, they just don't know it." It is absolutely absurd that these people call themselves pious and righteous. Hopefully, the world is waking up to this double-think and catching on to the deceit of the Abrahamic religions, Christianity especially. These people are not moral at all an their book has no impact on the morality of the individual members of the church. This begs the question, "What good is religion at all, then, if not for the teachings of morals?" It has yet to be answered.

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