Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Creationism is an X-Risk

So, I'm not a big fan of Creationism. For one thing, it seems like a really silly part of the Bible to stake a claim on. I have read parts (not all) of the Bible for my Early American Literature course. I mean, Moby Dick pretty much requires the Bible to be used as a cultural cipher...the best comparison would be if you are an ancient Israelite who can somehow speak English and you watched Robot Chicken. That's about how confusing it is to read Moby Dick without reading the Bible.

And you know what? There were some great ideas in the Bible. Some bad ideas. Some weird ideas.

But none of them, as far as I can tell, are predicated on the Earth being 6,000 years old or humanity not being descended from previous lifeforms. Maybe this is because I'm an atheist, and thus, don't have to see the whole thing as connected, but there are a load of parts of the Bible that are just fine on their own.

You know the rules: The ones about distributing your wealth to the less fortunate, refraining from gossip and being a dick (to paraphrase) and so on.

Those are good ideas in general.

Saying that our species is only 6,000 years old, and that the Earth was made in it's present form at the same time, well, it is less of a good idea. In fact...it could be a DEADLY IDEA.

How, you might say, could thinking that be a deadly dangerous risk? How could it be an X-Risk?

I'm glad you asked, random internet person!

Let me list the ways...

  1. Plague: Evolution is the basis of modern biology and medicine. Understanding and believing in evolution, plus studying it and using it as a model on the activity of bacteria and viruses, is vital. Without this, we're defenseless against the next pandemic. The Black Death killed 1/3rd of Europe's population and they had no shield against it. If something like that were to come again, we'd at least have a chance of figuring out a cure before it kills 6 billion  people. 
  2. Calderas of Doom: I am living in California, which means that I am used to earthquakes. These are due to plate tectonics. What does this have to do with Creationism? Well, um, the Earth is clearly changing. The force of that change is the movement of our tectonic plates, which creates earthquakes and volcanoes. And that leads us to the Yellowstone Caldera, which is basically a supervolcano. If it went off then the whole world would have a really really bad day. In the Creationist model, we lack the understanding that there is even a threat. Without that understanding, we can't even think of a way to stop it. Not that we HAVE a way to stop it, but we might figure it out in the future because we're aware of the issue.
  3. SPAAAAAAAAAAAACE: Space can kill us. Really badly. The first example is the asteroid impacts that wiped out the dinosaurs (which isn't mentioned in the Creationist model), but you can argue that there's no reason those asteroids aren't 6,000 years old. So, a Creationist can still keep their eyes open for an asteroid and nuke it. But what about all the other ways that space can kill us? Gamma ray bursts, supernova, galactic impacts (okay, that one is a few million years off, so we're safe for now) and other nasties can be chucked at us...and that all requires an understanding the universe that makes it clear that the thing isn't 6,000 years old. So, was the Earth created near the tail end of the universe's creation? If so, then what was God doing the rest of the time? You know, I'm actually interested where this train of thought leads...
  4. Climate: So, climates change. We should all know this by now. Unless, of course, you see the world in a Creationist way...but then you'll get sideswiped by climate change, either the human made or the "natural" kind. Ice ages suck just as much as global warming, and unless you are aware of these threats, you can't prep for them, you can't DO anything about them. This can lead to extinction of other species, which can lead to the extinction of our own. And that's a major drag for everyone involved. 
  5. Hubris: This...this is the most subjective of all the X-risks here. But there is a certain...pride involved with the belief that the world was made for us, by a god who loves us, for the express purpose of us to run and do with as we will. A good person will take a gift and do what they can to make it better...but it is dreadfully easy for even a good person to become careless or conceited when they're showered with gifts. It's important to remember just how precarious and dangerous our home is...and just how much we have to remember to work together to make it better, rather than pull it apart to make it worse. Or, you know, nuke it into oblivion. 

Now, you can be a Creationist and be concerned about plague. You can look out for asteroids, worry about volcanoes and do your best to not bomb Russia into the stone age. But the problem goes deeper than the X-Risks: It goes to the fact that Creationism is backwards. Not backwards in terms of intelligence or smarts (there are smart people who believe in Creationism) but rather backwards in terms of PROCESS.

Rather than looking at evidence, then figuring out what it means to come to a conclusion, Creationism looks at a conclusion, then works backwards to find evidence to support it.

With Creationism, you don't have a changing Earth. No understanding of the colossal timelines that geology and astronomy work under. No concept of how vast the galaxy is, or how dangerous. No realization (until it is too late) that extinction can come for even the most successful species. No realization that climate change can even happen at all, that ice ages are things that can ruin your whole week. No evolutionary understanding of bacteria and viruses.

And...at the end of the day, it's just a date. It has nothing to do with being nice to someone. It has nothing to do with loving your neighbor, or tithing 10% of your income to charity. It has nothing to do actually living by a code of morals and ethics and everything to do with just confirming a bias.

Still, I have to admit, a feeling of pride: I've done it.

I've pissed off, offended and irritated 49% of the American population! Only 150 million to go!