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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.

This Year in Crazy (So Far…)

31 Jan

Welcome to 2011, everyone.  We’re one month in and it promises to be as crazy as the last.   There was so much kookiness in January that it is difficult to even know where to begin.

Oh wait.  Yes, I do.  Let’s start with Harold Camping.  He is an 89-year-old, California-based Christian radio broadcaster who prophesied the end of the world in 1994 and failed miserably.  Guess what?  He’s done it again.  According to Camping and his followers, the world is due to end in rapture in May 2011.  That’s right, folks.  We have less than two months left, which is a real bitch because I was planning on attending TAM 9 in July and my husband’s car is almost paid off.

What, might you ask, would lead Camping to try to convince people that the rapture is right around the corner?  The Bible, of course.  He believes the Bible contains the date of the return of christ and that date is May 21, 2011.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  Visit his website for a full dose of crazy:  His flock is out and about turning vehicles into moving billboards for his cause.  His website has a photograph of an actual billboard with the message “Noah Knew. WE Can Know.”

Oh really?  Did Noah predict the end of the world, get it completely wrong, and then have another go at it 17 years later?

What I find most staggering about the whole thing is that the sheeple who follow him have already worked out a solution to protect their beliefs if he fails yet again.  One of his followers was quoted in an MSN article as saying, “If May 21 passes and I’m still here, that means I wasn’t saved. Does that mean God’s word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all.” ( And that really is faith in a nutshell, yes?  People hold to their beliefs even if all evidence points to the contrary?

Speaking of Noah, next on the chopping block is Ark Encounter, aka the Ark Park.  This is a creationist-themed museum/park scheduled to be built in Kentucky.  As of right now, their website indicates they have raised $930,104 of the $24.5 M that Answers in Genesis will be contributing to the project. That’s right.  They are going to spend $24.5 million dollars trying to convince people that an event for which there is no scientific evidence actually occurred.

Think about all the tangible good that could be done with $24.5 M.  Now gently put down that fork you were about to use to gouge out your eyes.

If you haven’t put your own eyes out in frustration and are still reading this, I encourage you to think about what this park actually means in terms of christian faith.  The folks over at Answers in Genesis believe that the Bible is literally true from cover to cover.  They believe literally in the story of Noah, that angry god-daddy was mad at his unruly children and thought that the best solution would be to drown all of his children in a massive flood and start over.

And they believe that this god is good and most worthy of worship.

Let’s imagine an actual human father thought his children were unruly and beyond all hope of discipline or order.  And then let’s imagine he consequently drowned them all in the bathtub.  Would we spend $24.5 M building a theme park for THAT guy?

These two stories were highly publicized and you’ve probably already read or heard about them.  I hope you don’t feel ripped off by this post, like when you turn on your favorite sitcom and realize that the lazy assholes just cobbled together a clip show.

My point in sharing these with you is that I think, to some degree, this craziness works to the advantage of the rational.  I’m not talking about the religious craziness where people hurt themselves or parents pray instead of taking their kid to the doctor.  I certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt.  This type of crazy, however, might be okay.  The more media attention this kind of insane behavior gets, the more laughable religion becomes.

So to Harold Camping and followers and to Ken Ham and all the loony-tunes over at Answers in Genesis I say, keep rocking your special brand of crazy.  And keep the cameras rolling at all times so that the whole world can see.

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