My Response to Georgia Purdom, Answers in Genesis

10 Mar

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called Anthropocentrism: All of God’s Special Little SnowflakesI was fortunate enough to have this republished on PZ Myers’ blog Pharyngula as a guest post. (Many thanks to PZ, by the way).  The comments from Pharyngula readers were overwhelmingly positive and for a few moments I felt like my humble little blog was actually relevant and that I was contributing to a larger conversation.

Guess who else wants in on the conversation?  Why, none other than the young earth creationists over at Answers in Genesis.  Apparently, Georgia Purdom read my guest post and had a few things to say about it.  You can read her response here if you like.  I’m not so green at this blogging stuff that I don’t know when you have something to say about someone else’s blog post, you link back to it for your readers.  Naturally, Purdom didn’t link back to Pharyngula or to The Cupcake Atheist.  Wouldn’t want her readers to go clicking around and stumble upon something contradictory, now would we?

Now, when I say my blog is humble, I mean tiny and (with the exception of a few devout readers) mostly irrelevant. I’m still pretty new at this.  Going up against AiG would be (dare I use the analogy) a David and Goliath scenario.  Likewise, trying to persuade Purdom and the young-earthers is a poor use of my time.  If hundreds of years of scientific study, multiple converging lines of evidence and the entire scientific consensus can’t convince them their beliefs are foolish, then Cupcake here doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance.

However, since Purdom expressed such a personal concern about my son’s upbringing and about my ability as a mother I’ll happily take the time to respond.

She writes: “her son asked, ‘Mommy, are we animals?’ To which the mother replied, ‘Yes.’ Then the young boy said, ‘But, Mommy, we seem . . . different.’ Out of the mouths of babes!” As though my son’s observation about humans favors her point.  My son is bright.  Of course humans are different from other animals and, naturally, he noticed.  We have large brains, a capacity for language, art, music, etc.  We are fascinating and complex animals, but animals none-the-less.  From a biological perspective, to insist that humans are anything but animals is lunacy.

Furthermore, why is it dehumanizing to accept that humans are animals but somehow less dehumanizing to believe we are the product of something supernatural? In a previous response to Purdom, blogger Tantalus Prime had this to say: Here is what the The KJV has to say about what humans are: ‘And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.’ So, if claiming man is an animal dehumanizes man, then just what the bloody hell does claiming he is a bag of dirt do? I’ll take being an animal any day of the week.

Well said, Tantalus.  I couldn’t have said it any better myself, so I didn’t.

Purdom continues: “How does knowing that I am a living thing, here and alive, and have a temporary place in the natural world (which is not in any way supreme to animals) give meaning, purpose, and hope in life? It doesn’t! If she really believes that God does not exist and when we die, that’s it, then why bother trying to convince people she’s right?” Knowing that I am a part of the natural world and that I am the product of millions of years of gradual evolution leaves me awestruck.  It is meaningful to be able to trace my origins back through the fossil record and to think I’m here because of time and selection.  Out of the endless set of possible people allowed by our DNA, I’m here.  Ordinary me.  And what makes it even more beautiful is the fact that it is only temporary.  I am transient matter.  How precious my time here on Earth is!  I don’t need supernatural explanations to feel like a part of something bigger than myself.  Every atom in my fragile, temporary body is tied to a 13.7 billion-year-old universe.

And that is flipping awesome.

And, lastly, why do I try to convince people that I’m right?  Are you kidding me?  This question from the representative of an organization whose reason for existing is to try and convince people that a 2,000 year-old book is literally true from beginning to end?  I don’t need to be ‘right.’  I do my best to not be dogmatically bound to any set of ideas.  I am willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.  Unfortunately for AiG, the evidence doesn’t favor their version of reality. If my blog post about anthropocentrism ‘convinces’ someone by turning them on to science and skepticism then yay for me.

In an odd turn, Purdom goes on to ask what I would do if my son were to grow up to be a murderer. ‘But if the Bible isn’t true and humans are animals, then she wouldn’t have a basis for saying what her son did was wrong, because after all, he’s just an animal, and morality doesn’t apply to animals.’ That statement is, of course, wrong and I’m not going to rehash the whole secular morality thing here.  If you like, you can read my recent post about atheism and morality. But the bottom line is that if Purdom needs ancient texts and an invisible space daddy to help her distinguish right from wrong, then that is not morality.

She concludes her post by quoting some Bible passages and with an expression of concern for my son. Her concern is patronizing and unwarranted.

My son is healthy and happy.  He is bright, inquisitive, and affectionate.  He is being raised in a home where he is valued and loved, where his questions and ideas are welcome and critical thinking is encouraged.  He has a mother and a father who spend time reading with him, playing games and doing puzzles.  And yes, we take him to the zoo.

Trust me, Georgia.  The kid is alright.


42 Responses to “My Response to Georgia Purdom, Answers in Genesis”

  1. krissthesexyatheist March 10, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    So…anyways..UR aweswome.


    • Martin S Pribble March 10, 2011 at 6:55 am #

      I think what you’re trying to say Kriss is “Amy is mega-awesome!”

  2. Shelli March 10, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Humans are different than cats, who are different than monkeys, who are different than snakes, who are different than squirrels, who are different than cows. That’s the beauty of being an animal … we’re all different.

  3. Summer March 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I once worked with a man who said that he didn’t like to be open to new ideas because he was afraid they would overcome the belief system he was brought up with, and he didn’t know where that would leave him. (WTF?)

    Sadly, too many people do need someone to tell them how to live their lives. Without that someone, people have to forge their own path through life and think for themselves – and be responsible for themselves – along the way, which can be very scary … Besides, what would the neighbors think?

    Cupcake has already figured out that following the path she creates for herself, though difficult, is much more rewarding than following behind those who are afraid (of God, parents, neighbors, whomever). A fear-based life doesn’t seem to be a happy one.

    And the man I worked with? He ended up in therapy, desperate to learn how to overcome the effects of his upbringing before his marriage, business and life fell completely apart. I hope he found his own path.

  4. andrew March 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    I am not sure what my beliefs are anymore… and its nice to read your blog because it’s a fresh look at everything! I be known you for a long time now and I know your husband real well! But I was disturbed to see you are raising your child with puzzles! Of all things! LOL

  5. Aaron March 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Very well written.

    You won’t be changing any minds at AiG, that’s for sure. It’s the same irrational, dogmatic nonsense every time. But discussions like these are making a difference, especially with those people you deal with on a more intimate/friendship level, who are on the fence, but sort of always felt like something wasn’t right or that church/faith always seemed a bit too silly or childish. And they just needed that nudge, the information, the exposure to better ideas. Keep up the good work.


  6. Gary March 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Dude. That woman. What nerve. But then, aren’t most religious people just so concerned for the souls of other people? For innocent children’s souls in particular? And you can’t comment on that blog. Waste of time.

    Great response Amy.

    • Cupcake March 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

      I’m listening to Michael Shermer’s Why Darwn Matters on audiobook all day today to floss this nonsense out of my brain.

  7. Tantalus Prime March 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Purdom rarely links back to the websites she references. It is especially annoying when she is elusive about the website she references (“An atheist blogger wrote …”) such that you can’t even google it.

    The only reason I follow her blog is to call her out on her more crazy proclomations. Like saying that without a god to tell us how to act we would be a mass of thieving, raping, murderous hordes upon the land. Maybe you Georgia, but I think I have a little more restraint than that.

    Anyway, thank you for following the generally accepted protocol and linking back to me.

    • Cupcake March 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      Greetings, Tantalus. Plus, you’ve been added to my blogroll.

      • Tantalus Prime March 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

        Thank you! I will be adding you to my blogroll as well.

    • Luis V. March 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      Actually Tantalus, if the quote she uses is verbatim you can just copy the text to google, put it in quotations and voila! Again, assuming she used the exact words.

      • Tantalus Prime March 11, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

        Unfortunately she doesn’t always use direct quotes. Her audience is her felloow Bible believers and I believe she has little interest in engaging in discourse. She seems to actively avoid it.

  8. Neil March 11, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    You are dealing with people who are not open to new ideas.
    Openness to experience or as it is sometimes called “Intellect” has been shown by research to be associated with higher IQ scores. Your son is going to be just fine.

    You are encouraging him to be bright. I cannot say the same for those AIG people. They lack “intellect” 🙂

  9. Greg Fish March 11, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    With all due respect, I think your rebuttal to AiG was a bit like swatting a fly with an RPG. I would’ve left it at “Dear Georgia. You’re an idiot.” It’s not like she seems to be able to comprehend anything past that.

    I mean we are talking about the kind of twit who can go from looking into the eyes of another sentient creature and thinking about how bizarre and interesting it is that you share the same genetic past to a murder spree, and believes that without her precious little book, she would be fully justified in slaughtering and raping her fellow human beings.

    Oh well, I suppose with every eruption of stupidity from AiG we find out exactly how much value they place on life. Pretty much none.

    PS: At least you didn’t have to tackle AiG’s ideas of physics. That was a horridly painful task. My brain rebelled at the idea that someone who was once an astrophysicist could be that nonsensical unless he was severely beaten over the head with something heavy by Ken Ham. Repeatedly.

    • jfb March 11, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

      “[She] and believes that without her precious little book, she would be fully justified in slaughtering and raping her fellow human beings.”

      That’s the thing that honestly scares me about people like this. I mean, when was the last time you honestly wanted to murder someone? And not just in a heat-of-the-moment, God-that-guy’s-an-asshole sense, but seriously wanted to kill someone else?

      You get the impression that people like Purdom and Ham are just bursting at the seems to do violence on other people, but just barely manage to keep themselves in check because they’re so frightened of Hell. They’re pathological.

  10. CptKendrick March 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    “I don’t need supernatural explanations to feel like a part of something bigger than myself. Every atom in my fragile, temporary body is tied to a 13.7 billion-year-old universe.

    And that is flipping awesome.”

    I wish I had though of and wrote that. Can I make that my favorite quote? 😉

    • Cupcake March 11, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

      Totally honored if you would use that quote.

  11. Mr Z March 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    You only have to watch two dogs in your home or when they are taken the to dog park to know that animals DO UNDERSTAND morality. The law of reciprocity is alive and well in the animal kingdom. For any person to claim their deity is _THE_ source of morality and then show that they have no idea what morality is, demeans humanity on the whole. “Just an animal” indeed. Google for these stories if you like: dog rescues injured dog on busy motorway, dog saves owner from fire, dolphins save swimmer from shark, and on and on and on. If only it were that Christians acted morally. If only…

    • tfk March 11, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

      Great point!

  12. bbgunn March 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Came here from Pharyngula. Very nice reply to AiG’s Purdom. Ironically, the folks that follow Purdom’s way of thinking eventually will be ‘left behind’ the folks who follow reason and evidence.

  13. David Bunds March 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    There are people who believe passionately in talking snakes, magic fruit and that we are made out of clay. They generally cannot be reasoned with.

  14. Eric Hetvile March 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    Fantastic. Loved it.

  15. Rhamantus March 11, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    Also here from Pharyngula. I’m adding you to my RSS feed because this post is awesome. Actually, your original guest post to Pharyngula made me choke up a bit; it was beautiful, and reminded me why I love biology and science so much. So thank you.

  16. chrispy March 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Hello Amy, inspiring post! I appreciate the fact that dogmatic, immoral, angry, rude atheist sciencebloggers seemingly always allow comments on their blogs, while the morally self-righteous religious folks using their god-given reasoning abilities seem to consistently reject linking and commenting on their blogs.
    If they could only learn to use a mirror…

  17. Qwerty March 11, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    I read your great post on PZ’s blog today, Georgia’s reponse and your response to her.

    In light of the news from Japan about its earthquake and tsunami disaster, the one line of your response to Georgia that stuck out for me was “I am transient matter.”

    Even Georgia is transient, but in denial about it.

  18. Melissa March 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Cupcake, you are flipping awesome. I loved your guest post on Phyrangula. I’ve been checking out your blog a couple times a week since then.

    This response to the quacks is wonderful.

    And I’m glad to see your son is in such a wonderful home.

  19. niftyhumanist March 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

    “How precious my time here on Earth is! I don’t need supernatural explanations to feel like a part of something bigger than myself. Every atom in my fragile, temporary body is tied to a 13.7 billion-year-old universe.

    And that is flipping awesome.”

    Cupcake, this is flipping awesome, too! I found your blog after reading about you on Pharyngula (also a recent find). This post is fantastic – may I quote you? I will provide a link because I hope others will find your blog, too!
    Looking forward to reading more!

    • Cupcake March 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

      Nifty: Glad you liked the post and yes you can use the quote and link back to this site. Thx!

  20. drj March 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    Purdom said:

    “But if the Bible isn’t true and humans are animals, then she wouldn’t have a basis for saying what her son did was wrong, because after all, he’s just an animal, and morality doesn’t apply to animals.”

    Now what on Earth requires me to accept such a silly premise, namely “that morality does not apply to animals”?

    In fact, one should draw the opposite conclusion from the fact that human beings are animals. If human beings are animals, then obviously, morality DOES apply to at least one kind of animal. Duh.

    p1) Morality applies to human beings
    p2) Human beings are one kind of animal.
    c) Therefore, Morality applies to at least one kind of animal

    There ya go! So much for Purdom!

  21. waldteufel March 11, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    Beautifully written response to one of the dimmest bulbs at AiG.
    I came here from Pharyngula, and I look forward to more postings from you.

    Little Prissy Pants Purdom has probably done you a favor, ’cause I’ll bet your
    traffic goes up because of the reportage of her whiny little piece about you.

    Thanks, and keep ’em comin’ !!

  22. monado March 12, 2011 at 1:17 am #

    The message that I’d like people to take from knowing that humans are animals too is that we should respect animals and behave better towards them.

    I once saw a mandrill at the zoo communing with children on the other side of the glass:

  23. Sekhmet March 12, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    My BFF and her husband are atheists. They raised their son, now 21, in a secular fashion. As part of a community, they invested him with a sense of common well-being that reflected their ideas of humans having evolved with a sense of empathy and communal survival. As a consequence, he is now a young man whom I have personally observed to have a set of ethics far in advance of many of his friends who were raised by evangelicals (many involved with the Hillsong group in Sydney’s Hills District). His sense of morals is not developed out of fear of a punishing God – and those who ask “if you don’t believe in God’s punishment, then what’s to stop you from killing people?” exhibit the thinking of a psychopath who is only restrained from killing because he knows he will be punished if he does so. His sense of empathy also prompts him to emulate his parents in working and channelling some of his income to charities involving medical research, animal welfare and care for the aged.

    I have absolutely no fears for your son – I am certain that with your wonderful example of engaging with him and introducing him to the wonders of the natural world around him, and of giving him honest answers, he is going to grow up to be a productive member of the community and someone who realises how very precious our brief span of existence is, and the joy of the evolved self-awareness that allows us to contemplate the universe and our tiny part in it.

  24. Andrew EC March 12, 2011 at 3:43 am #

    I’ve heard Purdom speak, and I’m trying to say this as gently as possible: I think she is mentally retarded.

    I don’t mean this as an offhanded insult. I’m not saying “retarded” in the (totally fair) sense that you might say anyone who believes that the earth is 6,000 years old is obviously a complete moron. No — I mean that literally, Ms. Purdom sounds profoundly mentally handicapped.

    Reading her reply to you does nothing to disabuse me of this notion.

  25. Tim R March 12, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Thank to PZ, I have found your humble little blog and plan to become one of your devout readers. Sounds like you and your husband are doing a great job with your son. Much like Carl Sagan’s parents, who weren’t scientists themselves but continually introduced him to science and wonder.

  26. Melissa March 14, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    As someone who has the pleasure of personally knowing you and your son, I can attest to your post. He is more than alright…he is amazing. And so are you!

  27. Tony March 15, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Could I ask a quick question? How do you encourage critical thinking in your child? I’m trying my best, but it wasn’t something that was encouraged when I was a child – it sor of got ‘switched on’ when I was a teenager. I have 2 young kids (2 & 5) and I can already see religious indoctrination starting to occur from some of my daughters ‘after-school’ clubs – I can’t stop her going to these as all her little friends go.

    • Cupcake March 15, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Tony – I’m going to respond to your question in a readers’ question blog post later on today, if that is alright. I have some good suggestions for you that I think will help.

  28. Charlie March 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Great response. It always stings a little to have your parenting skills called into question, even when you don’t hold the questioner in that high of a regard. Way to stay cool in the face of an unwarranted personal attack.

  29. Robert B March 16, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    Of course Georgia isn’t an animal. She is clearly a vegetable. 🙂

    Well written, also adding you to my reader.

  30. bookworm June 30, 2011 at 1:57 am #

    Hi, late to the party but your contributions and blog are great. Thanks. Being an ex-Christian and ex-theology lecturer myself, and once fully immersed in the evangelical tradition, my only great fear is that my 4 year old, who is ever curious and ever eager to learn, might one day turn out to be a fundy (of whatever religious persuasion)! Hopefully a large personal library and her personal curiosities will help to keep her from that hideous fate.

  31. BiochemistMom December 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    …. REALLY late to this party, but so happy to have ound this blog after running a Google search for GP. It is pretty high in the search results, so rest assured that folks rummaging around the AiG staff will hit on this….

    … also: I raised two children (now 22 and 19) as an agnostic. Never took them to church once. Instead, I raised them both with love, logic and reason. They both turned out to be compassionate, caring and successful adults – the only rule I impressed on them was “Treat others as you would be treated.”

    My kids did receive a fair amount of what I would call “hassle” from fundamentalist megachurch Christian kids, many of whom were on their sports teams, in the Brownie troop, etc. My daughter was told at the age of 6 that she was “going to burn in hell” by our neighbors children. It took a couple of months for her to get over her huiliation by those kids. She’ll never forget their cruelty.

    Best of luck in your childraising; I loved every moment (well, almost) and wouldn’t have changed a thing. Especially the no-church part!

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