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Christopher "Tanoro" Gray is a web programmer and science advocate especially concerned with resource management technologies, biology, and artificial intelligence. He is a student of epistemology and philosophy as well as an Atheist competent in Christian theology.

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HOME > Tanoro's Blog  >  Creationism, Arrogance, and the Purpose of Debate
Creationism, Arrogance, and the Purpose of Debate
Posted by: Tanoro - Aug 27, 2011 5:57pm

The hospital here in town once served as guest my grandmother, a woman with a rather nasty ailment that needed the local doctor's care. For support of the ill, there was present myself, my mother, and my grandmother's sister, a nurse of decades I've yet to count.

After a brief discussion of small talk over the silence of my grandmother's hospital bed, the topic of politics and who we wished as the next President entered the room. My being an autodidact in the studies of biology and evolution as well the pseudo-controversy of evolution vs creationism, I was compelled to criticize the positions of Mike Huckabee who believes evolution is merely a theory, not a fact. Living in a state where there exists an ugly act bearing Governor Jindal's name legalizing the propagation of creationism in our schools, I felt my point held true and was agreeable in the very home of biological advances in which we were sitting.

To my astonishment, my great aunt revealed that she too was a creationist and declared astonishment of her own at my being a supporter of evolution. Those of us with the homework well done, know also well that evolution explains how life diversifies, not how it began, therefore only he who knows nothing of evolution question it on the grounds of biblical creation. Yet, that is exactly what occurred.

The condescending arguments began when my great aunt marked the moment by glancing at my mother and quipped, "You'd better do something about him." Suddenly shaken, a bit insulted, and worried that I was now addressing a garden variety creationist, notorious for their dishonest statements, appeals to logical fallacies, and the impressive skill at handling compelling evidence contrary to their preconceived notions by placing their fingers into their ears and singing "la la la."

The discussion was disrupted by the entry of my grandmother's nurse, tending to her duties. The three of us parted the room for a nearby waiting room while my grandmother was taken to surgery. I would be later accused by my mother of provoking a follow-up argument, but I felt it necessary to be doubly sure if the person whom I had been addressing really deserved my ear if she offered information or advice about anything in science in the future.

I asked her if she really knew what evolution is and offered a brief, but more erudite, explanation of how it works. Naturally and in typical creationist fashion, she performs the spiderman leap right from the cornerstone of modern biology and into the realms of theology, questioning me quite rigorously on how I believe life was created and whether or not I believe humans descend from apes. I corrected this misstatement by pointing out abiogenesis discusses the formation of life, not evolution, and that humans are classified by taxonomy as apes.

Rather than arguing anything I had to say, she did what most typical and condescending creationists do. She questioned my sources of information, which I revealed to be notable experts in science and biology as well as peer reviewed papers discussing the matters. She then retreated back into her safety zone where she is allowed to believe what she wants to believe, as though quite rudely asserting an implication that I'm suppose to believe as she does didn't call for scrutiny on my part, apart from an apology.

The matter ended there until a recent phone call from my mother criticized me for provoking the follow-up argument. She accused me of looking for people with whom I could argue, being arrogant, and she asserted essentially that its a 50/50 chance that someone else could be right and that I'm wrong. "Let people believe what they want," she said.

I've heard this before. These are the same kinds of bullshit statements made by the apathetic masses who have either no appreciation for knowledge and science or an irrational agenda to cheapen the knowledge we already have in favor of superstition, conjecture, and anti-intellectualism. I'm astounded to hear my mother speak this way.

I will agree with my mother on one bit. I love to debate. This is because I love to learn and share my knowledge. Studying over books and information is a good way to gain knowledge about the world around you, but in order to filter out the bad information, you must be willing to defend it against people who don't believe as you do. You must bear the honesty and credibility of  presenting your position fairly and conceding your argument when it has been defeated. It is in this way, two people who don't hold the same beliefs reach a common position that is more accurate. A step closer to absolute truth has been mutually achieved. That is the entire point and is it that standard to which religiously I hold myself.

Unfortunately, there are those who neither give a damn about truth nor are they willing to defend what want to believe, the anti-intellectuals. To these people, facts and beliefs are the same thing and when they feel compelled to express either one, the rest of us are somehow obligated to either agree or ignore them entirely, for fear of hurting their delicate feelings because they think so highly of themselves that correcting a misunderstanding that might actually be valuable to them is just too much for their sensitive pride. These kinds people, by definition, oppose free expression and free speech. They oppose any kind of criticism, including useful constructive criticism which, to a rational person, would be viewed as a gift.

Anti-intellectuals oppose true intellectual discussion as elitist and arrogant. To them, debate and arguments are always a bad thing, because no one could ever possibly be persuaded to change their mind in the face of overwhelming evidence and reasoning. Therefore, having such discussions must necessarily result in harsh criticism, a notion that is actually their own position projected outward at others.

The fact is that people can be persuaded to change their beliefs if they hold them for rational reasons and convincing yourself that other people cannot change their ways, because you're convinced that you cannot, reveals only an overwhelming inanity on your part. Not only is science built on a foundation of falsifiability where anything we know to be true can be changed at anytime to fit new information, this is also true in courts of law where juries are instructed to refrain from forming preconceived judgments until the evidence and arguments can be assessed. This is the entire basis of reason and there is nothing elitist or condescending about it. It's not 50/50. Either you have a good reason for believing what you do or you're probably wrong.

However, to arbitrarily convince yourself, stubbornly and unwaveringly, that you are right and others have no right to question you when you make a positive claim, that is the true height of arrogance.

This blog is an editorial and contains only the opinions of the author. The author claims no expertise on most topics of discussion and this blog is not to be cited as an alternative for properly vetted journalism or scientific sources.

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