A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called Anthropocentrism: All of God’s Special Little Snowflakes. I 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.