30 June at 08:52
So. I'm sure you more or less remember me, I used to go to your church. Well, a lot has changed since then, I've lost my religious side, and became atheistic. I realized that maybe I shouldn't just listen to what everybody has told me was true, and so I started first not with evolution but with the history of the bible. I started reading that the writers of the bible weren't even eye witnesses, let alone within decades of eyewitnesses. I started reading the bible more, Genesis 30:27-30 anybody? There were stories that we know are false that people just believe. It gave me reason to doubt. Now, I may be only 15, but I know I shouldn't just believe in a talking donkey. Since then, I've read. I've read a lot, I've studied evolution in and out, from the bad design of the recurrent laryngeal nerve to atavisms to the evolution of DNA, sex, death, movement, everything. I've found a passion of it. I've studied the laws of physics, mostly quantum mechanics and relativity. I've studied the fossil record in and out, looking at transitional fossils such as tiktaalik rosea, and I've looked at our own embryonic state (we develop a tail and an embryo sac..)
All this lead me to believe that there wasn't, couldn't be a god. What I had been raised believing was true, I realized wasn't. I started debating evolution with a pastor from Toledo. Honestly, I've never been more saddened by a person in my life. He's a pastor and he doesn't know anything about his own religion. He says everyone were eye witnesses. He says we have no evidence for macro or micro evolution, he brings up arbitrary ideas such as the laws of entropy, and then he questions me, he says that because I'm 15 I have to copy/paste all my answers to his questions. I met with him in person, and we went over carbon-dating. He says that the formula for half life, (y=ae^kt) must be wrong. He wouldn't tell me why. He told me I was going to hell for not believing in his god, and that his god was the only truth, and that I wouldn't be happy without him. I'm a lot happier now, without a god, than I was with one.
I've been reading your blog, and you seem like quite the intelligent person, who is interested in the same topics as I. It'd be nice to talk to someone as intelligent as you, who won't just say that we should believe in talking donkeys because the Bible tells us to.
Cliff Martin 30 June at 11:29
Thanks for writing, John. I enjoyed visiting with your mom yesterday.
I tracked with your first paragraph. Since you listened to me teach at TCF (I must apologize for passing along a lot of misinformation ... but that is all in the past), I too have developed a deep interest in DNA, sex (well, I've always been interested in THAT!), death, movement, quantum mechanics and relativity, even evolutionary psychology, etc. I understand how the recurrent laryngeal nerve drives the last nail into the coffin of "Intelligent Design". But when you write, "All this lead me to believe that there wasn't, couldn't be a god", I have to say that I have come to radically different conclusions. Surely the findings of science today, which are largely trustworthy, alter the ways we must think about God, and how we define him, and how we understand his involvement in the cosmos, etc. But how do they rule out the possibility of his existence?
I probably think more like you than your pastor friend. But I have not even come close to abandoning my hope that humans have infinite value, that suffering is not meaningless, that justice will prevail in the end, that we are more than chance chemical assemblages moving futilely through an ultimately inconsequential universe. In a way, I reject atheism because I reject its inescapable nihilistic despair. I choose hope. And such hope is, for me at least, richly rewarded and more than worth the risks involved!
But we all must choose. And our choices ought to be intellectually viable. That is why I say I have more in common with you. Fundamentalist Christians are either uninformed of the current state of science (and willfully remain so) or they live with a cognitive dissonance that would for you or me be unbearable. But is this the result of TRUTH, or the result of religious constructs designed in fear and maintained for the manipulation and control of the religious masses? It is clearly the latter, in my opinion.
Before you discard the bathwater, I highly recommend that you reconsider the baby!
As for the debate with your friend; Christians who reject carbon dating do so because they feel they must. They do not understand carbon dating. But they find great comfort in the relative few anomalies in the process which are well understood by scientists, but appear ridiculous to the lay-person. Such people will typically say things like, "no one knows what happened 200 million years ago because no one was there!" So I use a different tack with friends who reject ancient evidence:
I ask them to consider the same basic evidence that first convinced Darwin (and many of his contemporaries) of evolution in a time before much fossil evidence had been discovered, and we knew nothing about carbon dating, radioactive dating, DNA, etc. Darwin (if I'm not mistaken) was convinced by two things: 1) The newly developing understandings of Mendelian Inheritance (which no one denies), but even more so by 2) Biogeography, or the consistent patters of distribution of the flora and fauna throughout the earth, particularly on the islands of the world. These patterns are everywhere consistent with the predictions of evolutionary theory, and are weird to the extreme if we postulate special creation of the species. And this evidence is available to anyone today, requires no dating methodologies, no reliance upon the "witness" of “biased” paleontologists, and can be analyzed by anyone willing to THINK, without the huge learning curve on the front end of DNA evidence.
Ask him what logic can explain why a creator went out to all the islands of the world and proceeded to create life so as to make the earth look exactly as it would if it had been populated by living organisms over 100s of millions of years through the very process Darwin describes.
I have a limited respect for the few (very few) Creationists who actually understand the evidence for evolution and explain it this way: God made the cosmos to appear as though it had evolved (à la the Big Bang) and life appear as though it has evolved (à la Darwin) to find out if we would believe him when he declares that it all happened in 6 days, a mere 6,000 years ago. They make God into a trickster and a deceiver, an insecure person who so fears rejection that he actually sets it up (some sick people actually do that, you know).
Let's talk sometime.