Jan. 23, 2006

Turtles, all the way down

I've been a fan of science fiction writing for as long as I can remember, so it was a sad discovery this morning to see that a favourite author of mine has come out as a defender of creationism. Orson Scott Card's opinion piece can be read on The Ornery American. I got worked up enough to send a response (included at the bottom of this post) but it also got me thinking about the mind-set that is at the root of this debate and reminded me of my favourite joke about religious world views.

Here's the joke: An anthropologist is studying a West Coast Indian tribe and learns that they believe earthquakes occur because a giant turtle, upon whose back the world rests, is shifting its feet. He asks a tribal elder what the turtle is standing on and after a moment of reflection the elder answers "another turtle." The anthropologist decides to challenge this, so he asks what that turtle stands on. The elder's answer is "you can't fool me, it's turtles all the way down!"

To me creationism, in fact any religious mythology, is simply an attempt to compel people to accept that "it's turtles all the way down." Maybe it is, but there's no way to prove it and no reason to force anyone to agree.

Here is my message to Mr. Card:

The theory of evolution has been vigorously scrutinized and refined for over a hundred years. To present it as you do as a blindly defended dogma is a willful misrepresentation. "Intelligent Design" on the other hand is, literally, a copy and paste re-packaging of "Creation Science". Advocates of these beliefs are simply looking for a justification with which to force their promotion.

It's true that the physical sciences can't help us with the deepest philosophical or religious questions, but every one of your points criticizing "Darwinism" (whatever that is) is either factually wrong or a misdirection. It is trivial, although laborious, to show this. Frankly this kind of nonsense has been publicly refuted so often and so well that I'd rather spend that time enjoying the sunny winter day I see out my window.

Orson, in the past I have greatly enjoyed your fiction writing. Sadly your disgraceful contribution to this important debate has destroyed the respect I held for your talents.
For good measure, here is an editorial cartoon I found on the subject that pretty much sums up the logical argument against giving Intelligent Design credibility in schools. Click on it to see a larger version. (I hope none of my readers take astrology/horoscopes at face value...)

Listening to: Lets Push Things Forward by The Streets from Original Pirate Material.

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