Wednesday, August 29, 2007

AiG Research Essay Contest 2007 winner

Yes, I know, I'm about a month late on this story. But I'm in Arizona, so there's my excuse. Now shut up!

Well, anyways, Answers in Genesis held another essay contest for kids to "refute" some aspect of evolution in some way (accuracy optional). Bay of Fundie deals with this issue, and I will too. However, I'd like to mention that as of the writing of this post, I have NOT read Bay of Fundie's arguments. These refutations are entirely my own. This is to take some of the burden off of the adult bloggers who might be hesitant to attack a (homeschooled) high-schooler's essay. So, this is teen-to-teen. And plus, I feel obligated, I mean, winning an essay contest ON evolution should imply that I know what I'm talking about. So, I'll stop delaying and get to it.

The grand prize essay by Karin Hutson is essentially trying to refute the claim that evolution can account for morality. And evolution is leading to a breakdown of America's youth, yadda yadda. However, quoting is going to be rather difficult because AiG stored the paper as an IMAGE! Which makes text selection impossible. So, I'm going to take standard quoting procedures here, and any mistakes that are made without the little "[sic]" thing are mine. So here is the basic premise of the essay:

Darwin in Descent of Man claimed that if evolution were true, it has altered us not merely physically but morally (Horgan 149). Can Darwinian
evolution adequately account for an uphold human morality? This paper concludes
it cannot. Within a naturalistic worldview that denies absolute truth, morality
has no standards. Ethics then denegrates into fickle opinions and conflicting
preferences. Hence, evolution supports amorality, not morality!


Ok, so, there's the basic premise for the essay. Seems rather straightforward. So, lets move on to the actual essay. It starts out with a description of the Columbine shooting, with one of the shooters, wearing a shirt that said "Natural Selection", asking a girl if she believed in God. She said she did, and he shot her. As sad as that may be, that's a red herring. Mental stability is a much more accurate measurement for determining if someone is going to on a shooting rampage than if that person believed evolution. "Sociopath" or "deranged" is used to describe people who have done this, not "evolutionist".

Lets move on to the next section, "When evolution is taught". This page starts out with the no evidence for "macroevolution". Of course, a trip to Talk.Origins can deal with that. Which also answers that evolution is supported because it works, not because of any worldview that it bolsters. However, she believes the worldview that evolution supports is "Naturalism" (Pssst.. SCIENCE supports naturalism). She then says that the Creation worldview is just as valid as the Naturalism one because they both look at the same evidence, but have different interpretations (such as fossils implying both Noah's flood, and geologic gradualism depending on how you look at it). This is unfortunately wrong because gradualism supports the fact that rock layers do not have homogeneous distribution of organisms, but are stratified by TIME! Flood geologists try to accomodate that, but haven't succeeded much. So, the difference is, one FITS the evidence much better. She then gets to:
If creation offers just as valid answers for life's origin as Darwin, which Evolution Exposed reveals, why is it banned from public schools?

Ignoring the premise which has been dismantled, it's because it's religious. 1st Amendment for the win! If evolution was proved false, you'd still have to show that it was God that did it, not Allah or the FSM (I'd like to see the moral implications of THAT, heh). Anyways, she moves on to slandering the names of some good scientists:
Although our founding scientists--Galileo, Kepler, Newton--experimented from a
creationist perspective (Patterson 20), twenty-first century school officials
unfairly regulation evolution to the classroom as science and creation to
the church as religion.

Well, first thing, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton lived BEFORE evolution was discovered. Second, their line of work had NOTHING to do with creation/evolution. They worked in physics, not biology. Third, they also all believed in astrology; this argument would make more sense for astrology, but would still be wrong. And the twenty-first century school officials are correct in their regulation.

So, we're moving on, slowly but surely, to "...morality is undermined". This starts with how evolution is supposed to explain how morality evolved. She picks the "selfish gene" theory, "reciprocal altruism", and "kin-selection". She then paraphrases Daniel Dennett to say that altruism isn't found in mammals. Unfortunately, I don't have Darwin's Dangerous Idea to check for quote mining, but I highly doubt he would hold that point. I point that Rhesus monkeys care more for each other than humans. Hutson then goes into a quandary about the explanations which account for moral codes. I have a simple explanation for explaining morals, "empathy". I don't steal, because I wouldn't like to be stolen from. I don't kill, because I don't want to be killed. That's a very basic and quite solid foundation for morals. Let's take one case Hutson makes:
One society may believe that "sending airplanes into skyscrapers is evil and
wrong, and another may believe it is pleasing to God an correct (Ramsey, Get
Answers).

Let's apply my reasoning. I wouldn't like it if some country sent an airplane into my skyscraper, so I won't do it to another one. See, it's quite easy and effective. Now, I'm not saying this is a bullet-proof argument or that it ACTUALLY happened. I'm just saying this is a reasonable alternative to having morals come from a divine force. All of the arguments Hutson makes toward the end of this section can be explained by simple empathy except for two, cheating on tests, and marijuana. First, I'd like to know when God said, "Thou shall not smoke pot". It think that's an example of moral decision that society came up with on its own because marijuana is considered harmful. As for cheating, this may just be my perspective, but a test is considered a measurement of your knowledge. If you cheat, you've thrown off the measurement and wasted your time on it. Good job!

Now on to "Response of Evolutionists". Hutson uses a quote from Richard Dawkins when he was told that many people don't accept evolution because they think it leads to a breakdown of morality. He replies, "All I can say is, That's [sic] just tough. We have to face up to the truth". I agree with him. If these people need to be deluded to behave, then that just scares me. Once the delusion is popped, they'll go psycho. If they don't learn how to empathize (which most people learn to do at around 13), they'll be a ticking time bomb. Hutson then quotes R.C. Sproul Jr. who essentially advocates a sort of dualism, where we are more than our genes and nerves. PZ provides a good rebuttal on the mechanical view of altruism. Hutson eventually comes to the conclusion that evolution = nihilism (???) Ok, let's move on to "The Nihilist approach"

Hutson how tries to argue that evolution makes life meaningless, and quotes Sproul (who I'm starting to get really annoyed at) saying:
We either have God with meaningful morality and meaningful lives, or we have no
God, and all of life is meaningless, without any trace of hope.

Now, that's just unjustified right there. Ask a mother if her life was meaningless. Heck, ask Charles Darwin if his life was meaningless. They were not. Both had an impact on the future. That's certainly meaningful. A mother did raised a child, something that could not have been done without her. Darwin came up with his oh so popular theory of evolution. Every evolutionary biologist will attest that his life had a ton of meaning to them. This kind of thinking makes me sick. Hutson concludes this section with:
While evolution doesn't directly cause sin, it's naturalism presents a good
excuse because it denies that morality is universal, that sin is sin, that a
Judge will requite! Hence, studies show moral decline among those who accept
evolution.

Yeah..... and here's anothing thing that empathy explains well. According to the "research" that was cited, morality is not accepting premarital sex. If people are like me, and have empathy deal with their morals, they understand that what goes on in people's bedrooms is none of their business. Heck, I think it's quite immoral to try and control people's intimate lives (there we go with the moral relativism again). So, what makes the commanding nature of God more moral than the tolerant nature of the FSM? Morality still isn't universal even if you have the Ten Commandments (Sorry, I just had an "aha" moment right now).

We now go to "The Creation Answer". Hutson notes that creationism ADDS morality because we come from God. We were made in God's image (who an FSTDTer might say is a xenophobic, genocidal control freak) so we should feel proud and blessed, unlike those darn animals. Ok, I paraphrased, but she DOES say "... a creationist student knows she is fundamentally unlike animals". She also compares it to naturalism and says, "[A creationist student] is not a heap of atoms evolved from a crock-pot of amino acids but uniquely designed by a Creator God". First I say, as opposed to dirt? Secondly, that's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, it took four (or fourteen, depending on how far back you go) billion years to make ME. I find that pretty awesome. More than being a toy of some supreme being who can't even design a decent body. Oh, and here's my favorite part:
Therefore, life is intrinsically valuble. Suicide, euthanasia, abortion, and embryonic stem cell research are no longer ethical dilemmas to debate in an ethics class but utter evils. Human dignity and rights are not mere ideals extolled in word by politicians but worth bestowed on every culture, race, gender and individual.
All life is valuble. However, if that's what she really believed, I would understand that. However, an EXCEPT is kind of missing. All life is valuble, unless you're an adulterer, gay, a witch, a disobedient child, someone who eats seafood, someone who works on Sunday, and so on. In which case, you deserve to be stoned and be sent to hell. There goes the value of life. Hutson moves on to say that creationists know they will be judged and thus act accordingly to get into heaven. I repeat that I am afraid of someone if the only thing keeping them from killing everyone is a ticket into heaven. They haven't seem to have matured to gain that sense of empathy. Hutson now asks the question, will teaching creationism cure us of immorality. And she thankfully answers no. There are still things that could be done, and she also says:
The answer to Fyodor Dostoyevsky's question is no, man cannot be good
without God.

Ok, she just pulled Dostoyevsky out of nowhere. After that initial thought, I think, "Where is there an example where man HAS been good" Without that data point, you have no reliable data to determine whether you need God. I mean, at least SETI has one data point, us, as an example of life, and even that's statistically useless. There are no conclusions you can draw without an example of a civilization that was good. After that, it's apologetics.

Finally, we reach the conclusion. She talks about how in order to spread morality, evolution must be eliminated. Of course, by this time, we ought to know that it's not true. Thanks for sticking through this with me.

[EDIT: I almost forgot an important part. Here's one positive thing about her. I compliment her on her appearance, she does look good. At least that's what I think.]

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