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Yes, I am one of those annoying people who pick movies to pieces. Of course, when the movie is fantasy, I am capable of suspending disbelief to enjoy the movie. In the case of the new movie, Noah, however, that isn’t an option.

The reason being that there are many people who still take the fable as truth – some going as far as to waste their life away on a vain effort to find evidence.

How can I be so sure that the story of Noah arises in the Middle Eastern dreamtime? Because of engineering. Because of biology. Because of earth.

Of engineering.

Engineering is not my field, so I’ll leave it up to others. In short, a wooden boat of such a size defies the known properties of the material and cannot be replicated by engineers.

Of biology

Now into a territory I’m more familiar with, I will need to break this down to many points to show just how idiotic the idea is.

Scale

No boat could be big enough.

It would have appeared otherwise to the all-too-human author at the time, with their limited experience of life that existed at the time of writing in other corners of the world and of all the life that had ever previously existed.

Even assuming all the dinosaurs and mega-fauna forgot to buy their tickets and assuming genus, or even families were the “kinds” described, the line would still have been too long (eg. ranging from the many millions with species down to the many thousands of families – which in turn would require evolution along the lines of Pokemon, that is within a generation or two, to account for all the species today).

Worse than that; the floods would have either been saline or fresh, meaning that the SS Noah would have needed aquariums for all species of the opposing environment.

And this point is a catch-22; if we grant that the waters were saline – in turn leaving the massive per-historic marine reptiles and modern marine mammals off of the ark – well, then this boat needed to carry a year’s worth of water for all those on board.

Fresh flood waters demands tanks big enough for the likes of blue whales and their buddies.

Resources

The problem of thirst isn’t the end of the problem with resources.

We must also consider what we could forgive the writer for not knowing; trophic levels. That is to say, animals eat each other.

To support just the big carnivorous cats and dogs over this period, we couldn’t have just two of every species – but rather whole herds of prey species. These sacrificial herds were never mentioned.

This in turn magnifies the problem of feed for the herbivores, as the prey herds will need vast amounts of food and water to maintain the meat-eaters.

Assuming that the floods were fresh, thereby saving Noah the issue of carrying the water, he would still need to catch hundreds of tons of krill prior to the flood (because the freshening water would have killed them off) to feed however many baleen whales he needed to carry to “evolve” into the species we see today.

As soon as you factor in food, the already absurdly small boat looks even worse.

Breeding

Again, we could forgive an author a few millennia ago for being ignorant, in this case, of limits to viable population size.

Sure, a few breeding pairs of a given rodent might take off in a new environment, but that’s not guaranteed. We only need to look at how many times rabbits needed to be introduced to Australia before they exploded.

When you are talking about a species that may only breed once a year or even longer, the chances that a single breeding pair would suffice to save to species is effectively shot.

And I’ve ignored the problem of inbreeding here, which would have played havoc with subsequent generations.

Having a singly breeding pair of every known species (or genus or family), Noah would have been lucky to have any persist and flourish.

And now the real kicker

To sprinkle salt into the wound, the year on the ark in itself means everything.

Not only would he need to carry all the animals and all the food (and potentially water) to survive the year, but also for much longer. Worse than this, he would have needed to carry tons of seed.

No seedbank (ie. seeds in the top soil) would remain viable for such a period under the flood. Apart from the osmotic pressure – or high salinity – caused by the flood itself and apart from the silt collection from a year of turbulent water movement (remembering that this silt, the creation would tell us, led to all the fossils), the seeds would simply expire.

So, Noah would have needed herds of prey to release after the flood and enough food to support these as well as the herbivore breeding pairs while he reseeded the entire global terrestrial landscape with all the plant life we see today.

None of this is mentioned and must fail the laugh test.

Of earth

This problem is one noted prior to Darwin even learning his alphabet. No-one has found a single example of a fossilised duck mingled with Triceratops.

We could take this further and state that there has never been fossilised evidence of a giant ground sloth being killed by a t-rex, of a human kill of any dinosaur or of pterosaur competing with a large eagle (noting that they share the same niche).

That’s because these species existed in different geological periods.

The flood silt didn’t conveniently cover different groups in sequence. Of everything, the fossil record is both the most damning and easiest to understand to anyone who has any actual interest in reality.

If these ancient stories are true, show me the fossils.

Back to the movie

Sure, it looks dramatic, but with so many plots holes, the story fails before it even begins. Yet, for the true believer, it would, absurdly, be cementing to their faith. This work of fiction will be watched by the faithful as though it were some documentary!

Of course, Russell won’t be shooing off any dinosaurs or else the critics would rip it to shreds.

Which brings me to the crux; there is a way out for the faithful. It is the only way out and one few who want to soundintellectual is likely to mention; magic.

“Oh, the boat would break? God held it together.”

“Oh, the boat wasn’t big enough? God made the animals shrink for the trip.”

“Oh, there wouldn’t possibly be room enough for all the food and water? God ran a meals-on-wheels service.””

“Oh, there’s a problem with salt or fresh water? God made all aquatic life temporarily salt tolerant.

“Oh, two individuals don’t make for a viable population? God again…”

“God… God… God…”

Geeezus! Give up with the mockery of science and admit to placing faith in ancient stories over genuine certainty derived through critical analysis and get on making Adam and Eve Dino parks. If you’re willing to suspend the laws of the known universe to make your story fit reality, you are no longer talking about science – which is all about those laws. There’s nothing wrong with that, just admit it.

I don’t care. Live and let live.

If only they could admit to their warped, magically inclined reality, we could dutifully write it off and stop pretending to take it seriously.

Then, perhaps, I would allow myself to suspend disbelief and watch the epic, yet terribly scripted, movie.

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With the discovery of the early jawed fish, another gap for the creationist god has been culled.

But what irritates me is how the debate usually places evolutionary science on the back foot. As though it has to prove itself against creation myth.

Think about it, the insanity doesn’t lay with being great apes, with whom we share not only most of our genetic make up but also appearance, but that a god supposedly made us and other apes.

What’s with that? In trying to make something from dirt in “thy image”, did “He” get it wrong a shitload of times (yes, look not only at living apes, but other hominids, such as Neanderthals etc).

What about other primates? Was god drunk when he made them, seeing as they are in the same ballpark, but way off? What about oceanic mammals or true seagrass?

What the hell must this supposedly perfect being have been smoking to make such creatures?

It’s shameful that we treat creationists with respect. That we are supposed to think that a god thought it a great idea to make both testicles have a different path to the exit or that chimps and bonobos were a great idea – otherwise obviously very similar to us – is madness.

The recent Nye and Ham “debate” illustrates too much kindness to dreamtime delusions. Stop allowing accommodation to those who want, or need, myth to persist in an age when our developed critical reasoning cannot help but laugh at a talking snake convincing a rib woman to eat fruit…

The problem doesn’t sit with gaps in the fossil record, but instead with people who fail to apply Ockham’s razor when the only alternative is a stoned egotist who failed to mention the benefits of basic hygiene between pages of applauding genocide and servitude (provided you were female or of a different race of religion).

No, in the 21st century, evolutionary science is no longer in a position to defend itself. Creationism is on the back foot. Creationism must provide a convincing argument as to why we should consider it valuable in this day and age. I doubt it has one, hence why it stages this side show with the fossil record.

I mustn’t be the first to discuss this – indeed it isn’t even my own idea – but an alternative explanation for the age of Biblical characters makes far more sense and places a hint of reality to what is quite obviously laden with myth.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I cannot for the life of me remember whom it was that suggested the following to me. It was some time ago and I didn’t think much of it then and wouldn’t have thought much of it even recently had I not taken some time to watch some of the rants of young Earth creationists on YouTube.

However, someone once suggested to me that it is likely that that genealogy described in Genesis is more likely based upon Lunar cycles than solar years and doing the mathematics proves interesting.

There are 12.37 full moons in a year. Taking the Biblical ages of the longest living characters we get the following.

Name Biblical Lifespan (“years”) Divided by Lunar cycle
Methuselah 956 77.3
Adam 930 75.2
Seth 912 73.7
Cainan 910 73.6
Enos 905 73.2
Mahalalel 895 72.4

Which all seem far more likely than the literalists would have one believe in taking the word of the bible as an absolute. I have no doubt that many of the characters actually did live and I wouldn’t be surprised if they lived for as long as the Lunar cycles suggested. What I doubt (for very good reason) the divine inclination and story of Genesis itself – that is to say, the root of the Abrahamic faiths which simply cannot be matched with observation.

I initially planned a post of this nature on my personal and low traffic blog, but trashed it a mere few sentences in.

After reading Sam Harris’s article to the same effect, I became inspired again and completed a new post on the matter – this time upgrading it to New Anthro (because it does have implications for our future).

And then I got nervous and trashed this as well, a few hours before it was scheduled to go live.

Free speech is fundamental and I hate that, in Australia, I am allowing myself to be bullied out of it by a few aggressive and immoral individuals. They dodge standing national laws and demand – through fear and intimidation – that everyone submits to the laws of their personal ideologies.

Now, just as a personal note, I don’t consider myself anything. I’m not a theist, nor am I atheist any more than I am a believer or a nonbeliever of the literal existence of Humpty Dumpty. No-one would ask me to hold an opinion one way or another because the whole idea is absurd. To me, the obsession with deities and “life after death” rate just as high.

That said, I don’t care what anyone else thinks and practices in private. Unlike some nonbelievers (as opposed to unbelievers), I have no interest in pursuing any such individual on their private stomping grounds (please keep this in mind; I am not interested in the debate about religion, nor do I seek to render one mute over another).

It is only when they expect me to play Simon Says with their invisible friends that I go a little like Hulk (that is, foamy at the mouth and growl a bit and not green and shirtless).

Laws based on ‘cos my book says so, are nonsensical and unjustifiable. Even adherents know this or we would still have mass stoning events, slaves and believe handing over women, as though they were a piece of meat, to a mob to be acceptable, to name a few.

I expect moral laws in which one can express themselves openly and honestly to be essential for an ethical and improving society. The right to offend is essential – sometimes the best and/or more accurate ideas come from uncomfortable locations. Let the ideas be weighed and measured by the populous and see it they pass the test.

In one respect, the continual disgust felt towards actions carried out by characters like those of the Westboro Baptist Church stand as a true testament to the increasing morality of the majority. Violent or oppressive behaviour aimed at such people only brings one down to their level. It’s far better to take the high road as a whole and leave such disgraceful attitudes to the ages. It is, after all, beneath one. They’ll eventually fade away if they are ignored.

Such an attitude, I would hope, others would express if someone offends their particular faith. A measure of value and truth is how well an idea stands up to critical investigation, after all. If the faith is so paranoid about such scrutiny, well that’s telling.

It shouldn’t matter if someone breaks religious law when they are not an adherent to that religion. In my colourful life, guess I would have broken many rules applicable to the followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Norse Myth, the Olympian Gods and any other faith brought to the table. I don’t know if that says anything about me really – other than I’m not interested in that particular doctrine.

My values are instead based on national law and empathy.

Nothing can be out of bounds in discussion for an open and free democratic country like Australia. By all means, it can be abhorrent, but not out of bounds. One should not be made fearful of “witch” burning mobs, beheading or other practice some idiot wants to revive from an age before effective sanitation simply because they offend someone else.

Yet drawing a stick figure and giving it the wrong name could lead to violence on the street, burning of flags and threats of terror in lieu of any actual national laws being broken.

That’s not on and politicians, as upholders of the constitution of the given state, should be brave enough to say, “Look, these morons created such media because they knew you would start jumping around like a headless chook. While I think they’re actions were pretty pathetic, you’ve made yourself look pretty silly too in how you’ve reacted. They said ‘jump’ and you did.”

While I’m not interested in following the example of such people, the truth of the matter is nothing more than that; they know how to incite behaviour objectionable in most secular states and let a few unbalanced people fill in the blanks, leaving the rest of us fearful and questioning just whom has moved in next door.

I’m not a fan of undertaking such activities, but I detest feeling like I’m unable to talk about it in fear of hateful retaliation. Through apologetic denouncement of the inciters by politicians and silence by the media and the general public, when we should be unified in deploring acts of terror, hate and reckless vilification, based entirely on religious law, we undo our own constitutions.

Too often we hear paranoid fears over government controls regarding environmental and social regulation (eg. it’s my liberty to smoke, that is, kill myself for corporate profit, if the truth be known), but where is the discussion regarding liberties against personal ideologies?

We don’t see outrage about the above behaviour in such discussions. In fact, the loudest protests for personal freedom tends to come from individuals with an ideological values package which includes many faith-drawn conclusions; eg. anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, anti-equality for sexual preference etc. Where’s the freedom of the individual when we cannot choose aspects of what we do, what we can research and whom we can share our life with?*

If the Hump-Dumptians were out on the streets with signs “Behead all those who scramble eggs”, “death to those who mock aviaries” and other signs to the same effect, with as much hatred and vilification as that seen by other groups, we have the right to protest. While they have the right themselves to protest and to personal lives lived within religious law, they do not have the right to impose such personal laws on the wider community through fear and intimidation.

If instead, the Hump-Dumptians said, “it’s against my faith to eat egg or question the spiritual meaning of birds”, so be it. That’s completely acceptable. In a society of growing morality, the right to dissent needs to persist. Poor choices will eventually be weeded out through articulate and intelligent criticism.

It’s one thing to play a game of Simon Says with your invisible friend and quite another to demand others join in as well or face violence / murder. Such behaviour should not be acceptable and we have the right to say so.

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*Such questions usually return the “floodgate” reply. Again, free and open debate will lead to the most rational conclusions. Censorship and blind taboo do nothing to improve human flourishing.

The more I reflect on what I have learnt regarding the inherent cultural values associated with factual evidence (such as that relating to evolution, climate change etc) and from discussions with others on the subject, I’m drawn to one point which I feel is potentially the most difficult to overcome by those who reject evidence to maintain a favoured view point.

This is a fear of a loss in control supposed by “committed sceptics” of a given subject.

With those who accept the high certainty of such finding, in general, I find they are happy to acknowledge their own shortcomings and prefer to embrace acquisition of high quality information over a need for absolute certainty. This of course can lead to flying off the spectrum entirely (especially where critical evaluation of information is neglected) and into the ether of “anything is possible and thus everything is really unknowable”, which I have also encountered.

On the other hand, I find a panicked reply when reasoned debate fails a committed sceptic.

A creationist once told me he would prefer to be evolved from a wolf then, when he couldn’t counter a reasoned look at the evidence. Most others claim that morality is meaningless if evolution is true.

A committed sceptic once told me that he welcomed the tropical summers of the UK then, when he couldn’t counter a reasoned look at the evidence regarding climate change. Most others talk about the end of the civilised world if it’s accepted as true (eg. initiatives aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will send us back to the Stone Age).

Listen to the language; morality would be lost… society as we know it – the hard won civilizations we have created – will be destroyed; the primary value at heart here is a sense of purpose, of meaning, both personally and communally. If this instinctive meaning to one’s life is “lost” absurd propositions are likely and fatalism inevitable. If X is true, well, all hell will break loose…

Of course it wouldn’t.

We have incredibly strong evidence to support the theory that the universe is more than 13 billion years old and of our genetic relationship with all other life on this planet; of evolved diversity.

We have conducted studies that conclusively demonstrate empathy and altruism in other species. Morality exists not due to divine implantation in our minds and/or soul, but due to increasingly well understood social behaviour which is not unique to our species.

What’s more, our morality is not a written and thus stagnant code hardwired on our brains, as unchangeable as they would be on stone tablets. Instead they are evolving – arguably for the better – with subsequent generations (read, for instance, Mary Wollstonecraft’s essay, The Vindication of the Rights of Woman).

Likewise, climate change is true – it has occurred for reasons understood previously without human influence or consequence, however, this time is different only in that latter points.

Climate change is always punctuated with great changes to species abundance, distribution and regional weather patterns however, so far, life has persisted.

Fatalism and committed scepticism only reduces our potential for effective adaptation. And it is in this point that I feel the concern over a loss of control is unwarranted. It is a misunderstanding control entirely.

Surely we have given up the days in which a daily, weekly, monthly or other pivotal points in time required a sacrifice to ensure the gods favoured us with good weather (for our crops and well-being).

Sure we may laugh, but such events are written even into the stories of the god of Abraham and, within my own lifetime, people in developed countries have turned to rainmakers for help. It is laughable to think such devices enable control over the elements – giving up expected favour or assistance by the gods or other magical methods isn’t to give up control, only a delusion of it.*

On the other hand, we clearly do have control over the global climate. We’re currently and inadvertently conducting such geo-engineering. We have the control on how much heat we wish to trap and what kind of global climate we want.

Thinking about it in this way, imagine in the future that we knew that the axis of the Earth’s spin, the orbit around the sun or solar activity (or a combination of these factors) were to send us into another cold or warmer phase (science has given us the tools to make such prediction). We could alter the concentration of greenhouse gases to ensure we maintain a climate similar to the Holocene, ensuring food production, human well-being and species protection.

We also have the power to control how well we adapt to any unavoidable changes, in advance, if we so choose to acknowledge the projections. The results of our efforts may not even be evident until long after we have handed the keys on to future generations. This demonstrates not only control, but wisdom.

We truly are capable of being masters of our domain. However, we remain victims instead to our own delusions and preoccupation with fatalism. As stated above, the worst fears expressed by committed sceptics are simply unjustified and in truth masked the real fear; a fear in losing control. The reality is, as is so commonly the case, the very opposite. In letting go of false “certainties”, tied to a delusion of control, we can instead own our future.

While I believe if push came to shove, we would battle on under change and persist, however, I would like to think we could instead value real certainty and real control which is already within our grasp.

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*Even if there is a god(s) – which is not the point of this article – we always claim their ways to be mysterious, favouring or ignoring for their own reason, leading us back to same point; it is thus a delusion of control under such “mystery”.

I wish I had read Carl Sagan’s The Demon-haunted World when it first hit the bookshelves some 17 years ago. That said, I doubt I would have got as much from it back then and ultimately, that I didn’t read it back then is evidence enough that I wouldn’t have.

Retrospect is a funny thing.

Sagan laments in the book at the level of uncritical thinking and poorly trained people he had observed in much of his life. He focuses on the US, but does provide evidence from elsewhere and anyone whom has paid much attention would have already observed as much regardless where they are.

The situation hasn’t changed since writing the book and the problem isn’t one unique to the US.

Is it really a problem after all?

Certainly many of us feel it is, however societies are clearly evolving entities / populations. Like a gene pool, ideologies within a society make up an “ideas pool”, which ultimately make or break a society.

It has always been, but is even more so since electronic communication, that ideas share (often more easily than genes) between societies. The evolution of societies is refining, specialising and regardless of what it may appear like, they are becoming less physically aggressive.

The successful are no longer those with the most powerful gods or god-kings, but most clever in securing resources via more diplomatic means. Just look at the falling star of the US and the rising star of China, for instance.

I know there’s more to it and I’m simplifying the various situations immensely. The point is that societies are changing and that change is the result of expression, which amounts from a rearrangement and the removal / addition of ideas within the social pool. The civil unrest throughout the Middle East is a cry for democracy due to the expression of new ideas within the social pool (transferred from other societies).

Critical Scepticism as a Social Idea

Critical scepticism* comes and goes within the local ideas pool just like any gene that doesn’t hinder or enhance the fitness of a species. A bit like the biologist’s favourite example the Peppered Moth, it may be expressed in greater numbers at certain times because of short term conditions, but ultimately, it is an idea that remains in fairly low concentrations within societies.

I suspect we are not, but nature, inclined to be critical of evidence unless we need to. Indeed fiction, either written or presented, demands we forego critical review. Music insists we don’t acknowledge noises emanating from banging skins, vibrating strings etc, but rather focus on the harmony. Love leads us to see those close to us through rose-coloured glasses.

This isn’t to say that we couldn’t be, or shouldn’t be, more critically minded of evidence or that such societies would be any less enriching or creative. Personally, I feel the evolution of society will eventually achieve this higher plateau, as it is increasingly doing racial and sexual equality (admittedly, we are not there yet). However, we are a far way off yet and we have many other refinements to make before societies are well equipped with “nonsense meters”.

Sharing Sagan’s Lament

The reason I write about this now is because many of us share Sagan’s lament. I move among different arenas in my writing on this very bane. I know my readers make up individuals whom share this feeling and also those committed sceptics insisting evolution is false, that vaccination causes more harm than good, that anthropogenic climate change is rubbish, that there are no ceilings to growth that we could reach in our industrial endeavours.

The more I look into such topics, the further I see into the rabbit hole of the committed sceptics. Pick nearly any subject, hit it up on a good search engine and I bet you can find a group uncritically sceptical of it. For one reason or another, they have come to such a conclusion regardless of the weight of contradictory evidence. For a passive example to my Australian readers; just listen to Alan Jones for a while…

Perhaps critical scepticism remains in low concentrations within the ideas pool not only because it doesn’t yet enhance the fitness of a given society, but also because in low concentrations, societies can express various avenues for production that it otherwise could not; think homeopathy and traditional medicine (which has either not undergone strict clinical trials or failed them), the myriad of books on the so-called “Climategate”, Christmas/Easter (ironically as pagan as Christian) and even the types of political propaganda I’ve recently commented on here and here.

For the most part, political stability and profiteering currently favours a largely credulous society. Why should anyone expect education to teach critical thought better when we have this highly productive peak?

The Future Favours Accurate Information

As I said above, I do not think this will always be the case. It’s conceivable that such a critically sceptical and better educated society would be more productive, with the extra kicker of being so without an incessant call for growth. However, to move out of this current peak and to one more humane and better educated, we would first need to correct many disparities. That, I believe, is the key.

In such arenas of debate, it’s clear that evidence hard-won through critical evaluation will not be enough to challenge contrarians. They are immune to it for the most part and likely to be unmoveable in most cases. It’s a dead horse of a debate and I think, while we must continue to share this hard-won knowledge of the known universe, we need to tackle such debates in a different fashion – perhaps evaluating their evidence base, on its own right, without comparison to information discovered via science may be helpful. Teach them to be critically minded by taking their evidence into a serious review.

At the same time, greater focus on disparity is essential. It isn’t enough to work in ejecting outdated ideas from the pool. This needs to be complimented by additional ideas to replace the old ones. In many cases, new ideas alone can be enough to overtake old ones if their expression is dominant to the opposing ideas. Look at the heavy handed ideologies of the dark ages. They were horrible and did great harm to generations, but were ultimately weak when critically reviewed (hence all the executions). Eventually word got out about the challenging and more accurate idea and the dark ages were dead.

Living within the information age, the word is always out and while it may not always seem it, more accurate information is eventually dominant because it simply cannot be broken. Gravity can’t be undone no matter how much one may want it to be a miraculous inspiration. CO2 plays an important role as a greenhouse gas in our atmosphere regardless how much one may wish it to ignore passing longwave radiation. Homeopathy simply doesn’t have any active ingredients (which, in many cases, is a good thing because of the poisons suggested to be within them). The story of smallpox and the clinically proven very low risks involved with vaccination stand stubbornly in the face of the committed sceptics. One can throw a blanket over accurate information, but that will erode in time, not the information.

While there remains valid reason to lament and a constant need to transmit increasingly accurate information, the short term goals are not the same as the long term goals. Hoping committed sceptics will accept their standpoint is evidence-deprived in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence is a pipedream. It won’t happen. Equally, while we live at a point in time when “other ways of knowing” is a serious argument against scientific methodology (arguably Sam Harris built the final bridge between science and morality), we are many generations way from widespread critical scepticism. However, the path isn’t entirely invisible and we know enough about ourselves and our ideas to paved the way forward.

We shouldn’t stop at the lament.

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 *I had to make the point here, seeing as there are groups whom call themselves “sceptics”, that by critical scepticism I mean to actually take the time to learn and understand the topic, evaluate the evidence professionally and if it’s found to be strong, write as much and if not, write as much – preferably within a peer-review process (ie. peers = professionals within the field) to have this new thought critically reviewed. This is a process that refines and improves our knowledge base, as a species, of the known universe and is incredibly powerful and useful to us.

What these self-proclaimed “sceptics”, or as I prefer, committed sceptics, offer is instead a rejection of ideas they feel cannot be correct. They do this without being able to, or without taking the time to, critically review and provide valid and condemning evidence to refute the standing approximation of the truth. This breed of scepticism is validated instead on anecdotal evidence or conspiracy (eg. “the experts are stealing our money”, “the truth is being suppressed by the status quo” etc).

The first one to face the fire is a video nominated by Potholer54 for this years Golden Crockoduck awards. The video us called Darwin’s Intelligent Design, created by WhatYouOughtToKnow.

While I’m certain Peter Hadfield will do an excellent job shredding this nonsense apart, there is one aspect that really annoyed me.

In between mocking tones and general insults, the presenter illustrates just how poorly he understands evolution (obviously). Here, he suggests that as bacteria have such a fast generation rate, compared to our species and we have been observing bacteria for much of the enlightenment, we should have expected to have witnessed their evolution to a “higher form of life” including civilisation, the creation of bacteria -vehicles etc.

No evolutionary biologist expects species to evolve into civilised communities that resemble anything like ours. There is no reason to expect that life should ultimately develop civilisations. Such a trait isn’t “higher”.

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that it is.

It was close to a four billion year trajectory that took simply bacteria to modern Homo sapien. That’s four billion years, which included a wide range of climatic changes, mass extinctions and biodiversity explosions. Even as little as 50 thousand years ago our ancestors where not, by definition, significantly different to other animals experimenting with stone and stick tools.

Almost everything that we pride ourselves as distinctly “human” was invented within the last 20 thousand years, exponentially more so the closer we get to today.

How can this bloke honestly, in good faith, think that a couple centuries of observation of bacteria would again lead a species of bacteria again along the same trajectory to civilisation as it did for our species? Of course he doesn’t, hence why he’s a nominee for Potholer54’s prestigious award (ie. from those who break the ninth commandment).

What bugs me more is simply the sheer human-centred arrogance of the man. Of course, he cannot be held too accountable for his warped world view. After all, he comes from a terribly poor education history, based around an insane idea that we were individually created in some special image of an invisible being more psychotic than the nightmarish stalker who both loves, yet yearns to punish at the slightest whim. In his world view, we are distinctly the end product; a moment of perfection; complete. He cannot help but see evolution as some bazaar process aimed at leading all species to hats, fast cars and the fondue dinner party.

That’s self-evidentially just not so. It was a major list of traits that only very recently appeared within our species that made us, well, us (see Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel, for instance). But his mockery of Dawkin’s shows what he thinks of those who realise where the overwhelming bulk of evidence is to be found. However, there is grandeur in this view (to borrow Charles Darwin’s often quoted line).

It is amazing that a species has develop not only such a self-awareness, but also the imagination, creativity and analytical principles able not only to ask a question, or even visualise abstract results, but to also define methodologies that compel greater confidence in our conclusions. It is easy to write off such things, but awareness in even it’s most basic form is incredible. Even life is amazingly unlikely!

The more one contemplates, the more you cannot help but be amazed by such things. Life is far more wonderful than any fairy story, regardless how much you’re told you’re loved in it.