Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Biblical Family Values - Five Uncomfortable Facts (Part 2)

In the next topic of my controversial series, I want to cover the issues of abortion and its close relative infanticide.

My summary: God has no problem with pregnancies being involuntarily terminated, and even if a pregnancy hasn't been terminated, God otherwise has no problem killing young children if it suits his purposes.

This is an uncomfortable fact.

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I have no problems per se with Christians being opposed to abortion. If you don't like or agree with something, you don't like or agree with that something.
The bigger problem I have is when Christians are opposed to abortion because they say "the Bible shows God is opposed to abortion", or that "the Bible shows God treasures little children", or when Christians deliberately inflict psychological or physical harm on those seeking abortions, or when Christians kill abortion doctors.

[Personal opinion: I am neither for nor against abortion - my mind is yet to be made up, though I was stridently anti-abortion when I was a theist. In my estimation, there are salient points on both sides of the equation. However, I do believe that a woman has the right to do with her body what she wishes, provided she is not breaking any laws, and I also advocate for the position that if you don't like abortions, then don't get one]

But here, I want to take you through the Bible to see what it has to say about those topics.

(All Bible passages below have been taken from the NIV translation, from BibleGateway.com, with paraphrasing and emphasis added)

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Part 1: God is not anti-abortion.

I recently had a chat with a person who is clearly on the anti-abortion side of the fence. But imagine the surprise on his face when I told him that God actually advocates abortion.
He told me he didn't believe me, so I got my internet machine out and showed him Numbers 5:11-29 (paraphrased and emphasis added) -
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— then he is to take his wife to the priest...
“‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord...Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”—here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.” 
“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it. 
“‘The priest is...to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. 

I read through the passage with him and he was genuinely surprised. So it seems that even anti-abortionist Christians aren't fully aware of what their own scripture says.

But now for some hard questions from the above passage:

According to the above passage, under what conditions does a woman fail this test? By being pregnant.

How would the husband suspect his wife has been unfaithful

In a culture that was so focused on when a woman was on her period, to the point that a woman who is menstruating is considered unclean (as per Leviticus 15:19-30), any object she touches while she is on her period makes that object unclean, and even touching a woman who is menstruating makes that man unclean, there's really only one way a husband can suspect his wife has been unfaithful - his wife is pregnant. And if she became pregnant without her husband's involvement, then it's grounds to strongly suspect infidelity.

According to the above passage, what indicates that the woman has failed the test? By having her womb miscarry - you can't miscarry if there is no womb to miscarry.

What is another word for an involuntary or forced miscarriage? Abortion.


And remember, the verse I quoted above was not some obscure law that the Israelites made for themselves, it was God speaking directly to Moses!

So abortion as punishment for personal transgression is not off the cards.

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What about abortion as punishment for national transgression? You know, punishment for national-level crimes? It seems God has no problem with that as well. In fact, God obviously considers it just recompense when pregnant women are forcibly mutilated and their foetuses removed (abortion by another method) because the people who it happens to deserve what is coming to them - they are bearing their guilt, after all!

Don't believe me? Hosea 13:16 (emphasis added) -

The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.

So as well as approving little children being murdered by blunt force trauma (for what else does 'dashed to the ground' mean?), it seems God is also OK with abortion, his prophets are OK with abortion (otherwise they wouldn't have passed the message on), and the people who compiled and canonised the Bible were OK with abortion as well - otherwise someone would have tampered with the manuscripts to remove that passage (and believe me, Christians had no problem doing this exact thing).

So why are modern-day Christians against abortion if their God has no problem with it?

Or, the harder question: On what scriptural ground can Christians stand on to claim abortion is against God's plan?

Answer: Not much. The best anti-abortion Christians can do are to find oblique verses like "I am fearfully and wonderfully made", and then try to claim God's plan is for people to live long and happy lives, when scripture clearly shows God has no problem killing people to suit his purposes.

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Further to these Bible passages are little-known passages from the Jewish scriptures:

According to Yevamot 69b:
"And if she is pregnant, until forty days from conception the foetus is merely water"
So even in the first six weeks of pregnancy, the foetus is considered merely water - no rights or protections are inferred or granted.

This brings up a contradiction: according to anti-abortion Christians, a foetus already has a heartbeat at six weeks. Yet God's chosen people say that a foetus is merely water.

How does water have a heartbeat? Something doesn't add up here.


Then, according to mOholot 7:8:
If a woman is in hard travail, one cuts up the offspring in her womb and brings it forth member by member, because her life comes before the life of her foetus. But if the greater part has proceeded forth, one may not set aside one person for the sake of saving another.
What this means that if the mother's life is in danger and the baby is not greater than halfway out of the birth canal, then a late-term abortion (by dismemberment, no less) is permitted.
However, if the baby has emerged more than halfway out of the birth canal, then it is recognised as a person with a right to life.

And according to Mishnah Arakhin 1:4 -
If a woman is about to be executed, they do not wait for her until she gives birth. But if she had already sat on the birthstool, they wait for her until she gives birth.
In short - if a woman is sentenced to death and she is pregnant, the execution goes ahead. Both the mother and unborn baby die.
If a woman is sentenced to death and she is about to give birth, she is required to give birth then be executed.

It would seems from these passages that according to the pre-Christian scriptures, a person is not considered a person (conferring full rights and protections) until they are at least halfway out of the womb.


So not even Judaism, from which Christianity originated and shares a large number of scriptures with, has a problem with abortion or the death of the pre-born (though with caveats).

I think it is blatantly hypocritical for Christians to use Jewish scriptures and concepts when it suits them (such as the 10 Commandments), but then baulk when the same Jewish scriptures and concepts they would otherwise revere (like when it says something wise or profound) says something that is contrary to their opinions.

But the long and the short of all this is either:

1. God changed his mind on abortion so that he was OK with abortion pre-New Testament, but now all of a sudden abortion is evil and from the pits of hell. However, this then clashes with the notion that God is unchanging, is not deceptive and never changes his mind. Or;

2. The Jews had it right when their scriptures (which is claimed to be as divinely inspired as what Christians claim the whole Bible is) sanctioned abortion (under some conditions), thus, Christians do not have the right theology when it comes to abortion.

Which one is it?

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But all of this looks past one very large and looming inconvenient fact:

Anywhere between 15% and 31% of all pregnancies (depending on classification criteria) end in miscarriage - the pregnancy ends through no fault or intentional action of anyone involved.

Since fundamentalist Christians are (very strongly) of the opinion that life begins at conception, then given the incredibly high number of pregnancies that fail, we have no other option but to conclude that God is the most prolific abortionist of them all.

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Part 2: God does not treasure little children.

One: Hard question - how many children does God have to either personally kill, decree to be killed, or oversee and approve their killing, before you start saying God has no problem killing children? One? Two? Forty? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions?

There surely is a line somewhere where you, the Christian who worships the everlasting and eternal God, start to think that your concept of God is wrong.

Let's go through the answers, and prepare to be challenged.

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One child? 2 Samuel 12:15-18 (paraphrased, NIV, emphasis added)
 ...the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground...on the seventh day the child died.

In this passage, God kills a child because its parents sinned. That seems completely fair and righteous.

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Two children? We take the one child from above and add 1 Kings 14:10-12 (paraphrased, emphasis added, NIV text) -
Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel...The Lord has spoken!’“As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die"

So God orders a divine hit on Jeroboam's son...to save Jeroboam's son from dying later on, when God executed Jeroboam's family (via divine hit).

This omnipotent and loving God loved this innocent child so much that he killed the child immediately to stop him being killed later when he kills other people! That makes perfect sense

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How about forty children? Would the killing of forty children help you think God is evil. Then read 2 Kings 2:23-24 -
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.
These children wouldn't have died unless God agreed with the prophet and caused the bears to miraculously appear to maul them.

But this passage raises two questions - one, if God can do anything, why did God need to resort to violence to solve this problem, and two, how would you be being the parent of one of these children and seeing the body of your precious loved one mutilated because God's man on earth had his feelings hurt? Pretty crummy, I think.

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How about hundreds of children? Would killing hundreds of children make you change your mind about God?

Now, with this passage I am being conservative with the numbers, but let's look at God either approving or ordering the deaths of children of the Midianite nation (which would have numbered thousands, thus incorporating at least hundreds of children) in Numbers 31 (paraphrased, emphasis added).
The Lord said to Moses, “Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites. After that, you will be gathered to your people. 
So Moses said to the people, “Arm some of your men to go to war against the Midianites so that they may carry out the Lord’s vengeance on them...They fought against Midian, as the Lord commanded Moses, and killed every man... 
The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps.
Moses was angry with the officers of the army..."Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."

Let's consider what this text describes - God tells Moses to carry out vengeance on the Midianites, and in God's economy, vengeance is shorthand for mass murder - because when God gets angry, people die.
The Israelites kill all the men, they capture all the women and children and then they literally burn their towns to the ground.

However Moses, who is God's own man on the scene, is not pleased - he not only wants the women killed (maybe Midianite woman are irresistible, and sex with foreign women is bad in God's eyes), but he also wants all the boys killed. What the young boys have ever done to deserve being slaughtered, the scripture doesn't make clear, but then the next part is nothing short of human rights violation (if it wasn't already):

Moses commands the Israelite leaders to capture all the young women who have never had sex with a man (because, again, sex must be bad), with the specific wording 'save for yourselves' (which means take as a possession to keep), but the question is, how do the Israelites tell who has ever had sex?

[Some cultural context, first: In Jewish culture, a girl is not considered a woman until she is twelve years and one day old. So we're talking about pre-teen girls here]

By forcibly inspecting the genitals of the young girls. Yes, it's that crude.

This is what should horrify not only Christians, but people who have any sense of decency and morality:

Young girls have just had their mothers, their fathers and their brothers killed by God's chosen people. This was assured. 
Any older sisters who had married and started their own families were also killed by God's chosen people
Their towns and possessions have been burnt to the ground, so even if they were to survive and escape, they now have no home to go back to and nothing of their former life to keep.

The only way these little girls can stay alive is by either submitting willingly to having their vaginas opened and peered in to by the same people who had no problem murdering your family, or by having their clothes ripped off, their legs forced apart and then having a group of lecherous militia men force their vaginas open for crude inspection.

And the end result of this is that those girls who the Israelites who have ever had sex, they die. If they're lucky, they die by the sword. If they're unlucky, they get stoned. If they're really unlucky, they get set alight and left to die in burning agony.

And the ones who don't die, they become sex slaves.

There is no way to white-wash or sugarcoat this. This was a crime against humanity. And Christians worship a God who oversaw and commanded crimes against humanity.

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Now, let's consider the intentional killing of thousands of children. Would the intentional killing of thousands of children, including infants, persuade you that God does not care if children die?

If it does, I have just the scripture for you. Exodus 12. Or if you don't remember the Bible chapter-and-verse, it's the part of the Bible that retells the last plague on Egypt before the exodus.
At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.(Exodus 12:29-30)

There was not a house without someone dead. Literally every family in Egypt had a child die, regardless of their status or rank.
And the Bible proudly says that it was the Lord (i.e. God himself) who did the killing.

However, not only does this passage confirm God has no problem killing children if he thinks it serves a higher purpose (God is the ultimate pragmatist), but the intended effect, Pharaoh letting the Israelites go, was reversed barely two chapters later.

Exodus 12:30 - 

During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested

Exodus 14:5 -
When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!”
And who changed Pharaoh's mind? It was God himself!

Exodus 14:4 -

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them..
So God kills a nation's worth of children to convince the emperor to let his chosen people leave the country, then deliberately manipulates the emotions of that emperor to try get the people that he just let go to come back, but all this is just a ruse so that God can create a natural disaster to kill that emperor's army.

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However, now for the big one - would God killing millions upon millions of children convince you that God does not care about children?

If you're not convinced by now, then you have already sacrificed your humanity to skirt around the cognitive possibility that God could be evil. If facts and logic won't convince you, then there is nothing more I can say, except get a new religion.

But if you have any semblance of decency and humanity left, then read on...

The flood of Noah was a divinely-manufactured natural disaster that was created for the express purpose of killing the entire world.

So, how many people died during the flood? The answer I'm happiest accepting is that of 20 million, given how primitive agricultural practices would have been. 

However, Answers In Genesis give numbers of between 750 million and 4 billion people pre-Noachian flood, and Lambert Dolphin's website gives an approximation of between 5 billion and 17 billion people. To me, these are unbelievable numbers which actually make the problem worse - much, much worse.

Question: How many children would have been drowned in the flood of Noah?

If we go by a figure given the Australian Law Reform Commission, children make up 28% of the population of Australia, a first-world country with a very high quality of life, so I'm happy to use the quoted figure the purposes of this exercise.

Keep in mind, however, that in agrarian societies the percentage of children with regards to the overall population would have been higher given the higher mortality rates - but I'm happy to be conservative and stick with the 28% figure.

Let's run some numbers -

At 28% of the population, and given that virtually everyone in the world at the time of Noah's flood died, we can then work out how many children died.

28% of 20 million is 5.6 million.

28% of 750 million is 210 million.

28% of 4 billion is 1.12 billion.

28% of 5 billion is 1.14 billion.

28% of 17 billion 4.76 billion.

For the flood of Noah, we can reasonably conclude God killed anywhere between 5.6 million and 4.76 billion children.

This is simply horrifying.

But this all overlooks something - if you or I came up with a plan that involved killing even one child, be it deliberately or as collateral damage, we would rightly be called a felon, a psychopath, a monster, or even a war criminal.

But God can seemingly kill upwards of 5.6 million children (by a very conservative estimate) and this is considered the height of wisdom and love.

Give me a break.

Two: God is happy when babies are thrown off of cliffs.

Why else would God inspire someone to write, in his chosen book:
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!
- Psalm 137:9 (ESV text)
Yes, this psalm was written as a lament and a rant against Babylon, but still, either God wanted this in his chosen book, or the people who edited the Bible had no problem with this verse being in the part of the Bible that supposedly is the most worshipful.

But think about it - a baby has been removed from its mother (probably after the mother has been chopped up with a sword), and someone stands over the side of a cliff and drops that baby down.

Or, even more horrifying, the mother has to watch, in sheer terror and heartache, as her baby is dropped over a cliff.


And God's chosen book says blessed is the man who does this.

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Thank you for reading all the way through, and if I have offended you, I'm not sorry. Go get a better set of morals to live your life by.

Stay cool, stay healthy, stay rational.

-Damien

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Biblical Family Values - Five Uncomfortable Facts (Part 1)

I find it deliciously ironic that the most vociferous defenders of the notion of family in western society are Christians. Just a brief glance at background or history of numerous 'family associations' such as Focus On The Family, American Family Association, and yet more (thanks to the Southern Poverty Law Centre website) shows that there is a strong correlation between being a Christian family lobby organisation and being classified as a hate group.

"Damien, you couldn't possibly saying that modern Christians are a bunch of hypocrites when they say they are defending family values when, or even because, they base their beliefs on the Bible! How dare you!"

How dare I indeed. But this is exactly what I am saying. 

More to the point - the idea of 'family values' in the Bible is completely out of whack with modern society, to the point that following the literal reading of the Bible will likely render you a war criminal. Think I'm joking? You won't be at the end.

In this series, I want to highlight how out of touch the Bible is with modern morality, why the Bible is not a book that we should be looking to for good moral guidance, and how to be seen as family-friendly, modern Christians have to gloss over, or hide, a lot of Bible verses that counter the modern narrative.

The first topic I want to touch on is marriage.

The Biblical Idea Of Marriage Is Not What You've Been Told.

What exactly is the Biblical definition of marriage? That, unfortunately, depends on which section of the Bible you read. God's book gives conflicting messages - and if God's chosen book can't get a clear message across, then we have a problem.

The verses where it says "one man and one woman" can be found anywhere, so I don't need to point those ones out to you. It's the others I'm interested in - the ones that clash with the modern commentary. 

These fascinate me because Christians will swear til they are blue in the face that God only wants happy families. Churches run marriage seminars telling you God's plan for a happy marriage, or God's plan for raising children, or God's plan for something else - yet they don't seem to realise that according to the Bible, the only marriage God cares about is one where the man has all the power.


Let's go...

One, nowhere is polygamy prohibited in the Old Testament. 

Exodus 21:10 states "If he (a man) marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights."

2 Samuel 5: "After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him."

1 Kings 11:3 - "He (Solomon) had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray".

And the big one - the patriarch Jacob! Jacob, the man through who Israel literally came to exist, is recorded as having two wives, and furthermore, the Bible explicitly states that Jacob didn't really love the first wife because it was the younger sister he had the hots for - but his in-laws did a switcheroo on the wedding night.

Nowhere does God say to anyone "Thou has too many wives!". The only hint that God had a problem with polygamy was the fear that a man with too many wives would no longer follow God -
Deuteronomy 17:17 - "He (the king) must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold."
So God doesn't have a problem with polygamy per se - he only has a problem with it when the person practising the polygamy doesn't worship him as much as what he used to, which proves that God only cares about one thing: himself!

Second, polyandry, the practice of a woman having multiple husbands, is not permitted. 

There is no rule explicitly permitting a woman to have multiple husbands like there is permitting a man to have multiple wives.

Not even in shared relationships. Deuteronomy 22:22 states, a man who sleeps with another man's wife is to be put to death.


Thirdly, it doesn't matter if you don't love your wife.

Deuteronomy 21:15-16 - "If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he does not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.".

So God is OK with a man not loving his wife, just as long as he doesn't screw the children's inheritance up on account of it? OK. At least the kids are looked after.

Now let's look at Genesis 29:31-34:
When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” 
She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 
Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

So the Bible admits that Leah was not loved by her husband, God knew that Leah wasn't loved by her husband, so Leah did the only thing she knew she could to try win the affection of her husband - getting herself pregnant, all with God's blessing and assistance.

The next time an evangelical Christian tries to tell you that getting pregnant to get the affection of a man is immoral and unwise, tell them that God was more than OK with it in the Bible!

Fourthly, concubines are OK!

What is a concubine, you ask? It's basically a second-class wife, a woman whose sole purpose in the relationship is to be there for sex. It's an exclusive relationship on her part, but no commitment is required on the part of the man. So much for gender equality in God's economy!

And for some reason, God does not explicitly prohibit this practice. God really hates people eating shellfish enough to ban it in Deuteronomy 14:9, and he must hate it when people wear two types of fabric together as per Leviticus 19:19, and don't ever boil a baby goat in its mother's milk (Exodus 23:19), but the practice of taking a woman into your household, making her of lesser status than the other women already in your household, for the sole purpose of having sex exclusively with that one man for the rest of her life, God has little to nothing to say.

Yeah...great...

Fifthly, marriage is a choice - for the man, that is. Not for the woman.

One, the example of Leah and Rachel when it came to Jacob. Jacob was expecting to see his squeeze Rachel behind the veil, but the girls parents forcibly married off Leah instead. Did she get a choice? No.

Genesis 29:21-23 -

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her.
Let's read this for what it is - rape. Leah was not Jacob's choice. Jacob was not Leah's choice. It was her dad's choice. Jacob had sex with a woman he did not choose, and she had sex with a man she did not choose. This is a textbook definition of rape.

Two, war brides are OK. 
Deuteronomy 21:10-13 - When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.
Charming. So when you and your mates are busy killing foreigners (like when God tells you to) and you see a hot foreign girl, after her parents have been killed (possibly by your very own sword!) you are well within your rights to take her home and tidy her up - but give her a month by herself before you get down to business, if you know what I mean.

Again, the woman in the situation gets no choice. Her parents are dead and the only way to stay alive is by being the sex object of the man who was there when your parents were murdered.

Great.

Third, the practice of levirate marriage. Never heard of it? That's because it's pretty much a no-no culturally for pretty much every part of the world at the moment, but for God's people at the time, no issue at all.

Levirate marriage is the practice that when a married man dies and if he was childless, the brother of that man has to impregnate the widow, in order to continue the family name of the dead brother.

And I mean must impregnate her.

If you're thinking this sounds creepy, then yes, it is as creepy as it sounds.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. 
Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfil your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.  
What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also. 
Genesis 38:6-10 

If God is willing to kill you because you didn't fulfil the command, then God must really care about who has sex with whom and where the semen goes.


One other thought I have about this was that if God could miraculously impregnate Mary to conceive Jesus, why couldn't he just get some of Onan's sperm and miraculously impregnate Tamar, rather than putting her through the shame of having to have sex with someone she didn't marry?

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Biblical family values are superior to secular family values? Only if you ignore all the really creepy, immoral, unnecessary, illogical, misogynistic or contradictory passages in the Bible.

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Stick with me, guys, as I will cover other controversial topics in later editions of this series.

Stay cool.

- Damien

Friday, January 18, 2019

Creationists Believe In Evolution As Well

Creationists believe in evolution as well...but not as we know it.

The joy of being an atheist who still goes to church is that you have friends who gravitate towards the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) worldview - both the earth and the universe are 6000 years old and evolution is a dirty word. Bishop Ussher got it right, dagnabbit!

For reference, Creation Ministries International have a PDF available which demonstrates the chronology of the earth according to the Bible.

So why is having YEC friends a joy? Because you can do what I do and constantly probe them with real-world counter-examples to show them how their worldview doesn't line up with what we know about reality.
One question I have thrown out recently is this: If the universe is 6'000 years old and started out at a central point, how come there are galaxies and stars 13'000'000'000 light years away? If those stars travelled 13'000'000'000 light years in the space of 6'000 years, then they travelled 2.16 million times faster than the speed of light, which has some very unfortunate effects on different aspects of physics and cosmology.

The unfortunate fall-out of the YEC worldview is that it makes a person either intellectually honest at best, or hypocritical at worst.
A YEC will accept the findings of, and use the knowledge gained by, sciences such as electrical science (even YECs have to turn a light switch on at some stage in their life), mechanical/industrial science (all the YECs I know drive cars and fly on aeroplanes), geo-engineering science (I've never met a YEC who is afraid to cross a bridge over a river!), medical science (all YECs go to hospital at some stage, for some reason), nutrition and dietetic science (you know, to know how to eat a healthy diet), and every single other field of science except for the three that hit hardest at the YEC worldview:

Paleoecology, cosmology and biology.

Here I want to highlight how, for the YEC worldview to be correct, they need to rely on either magic or on a version of evolution that not even evolutionists recognise.

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Disclaimer: while I don't fully understand the theory of evolution or the exact mechanisms of how it works, I accept that the scientists that have studied the theory accept it.
Evolution has been tested, observed, verified, which meets the fundamental criteria of science.

There are challenges to Darwinian Evolution, just like in any field of science, and every theory, bad or good, should be challenged. But we don't challenge science with pseudoscience - we challenge science with better science, and YECs are yet to produce better science. If they did, it would be science and the argument would be over something else.

Before I get to the crux of this post, I want to challenge those who may think that I am accepting evolution by faith:

If I want to consider and accept any scientific hypothesis, do I have to go to university, get a undergraduate degree, get an Honours degree, a masters, then spend another four years writing a thesis in order to get a PhD, just so I can say I am suitably informed to have an opinion on a subject?

You probably haven't studied microbiology, yet even people who have no tertiary education still know that viruses cause colds and flu and that eating raw chicken is a really bad idea.

Enough said.
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Nature.com report, quoting an academic article from PLoS Biology, that there are approximately 8.7 million species of life on the earth today, which incorporates millions of species of animal. This, bear in mind, is not a forensically accurate figure, but it's the best and most recent answer the Google machine spat back at me - as well as being the one with the most references to actual people at actual universities.

What I want to stress is that the idea of there being millions of species of animal in existence should not be in dispute.

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So, time to do some maths: 

Based on the chronology provided by CMI, the flood of Noah happened approximately 5000 years ago.

5000 years x 365 days = 1'825'000 days. Let's keep this figure in the back of our head.

How many animals were on the ark? This is a hard one because the Bible uses the vague word 'kind':
They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings.
- Genesis 7:14
This to me is more a representation of function (does it walk or fly, how many legs does it have, does it lay eggs or give birth, etc.) rather than taxonomic rank or classification.

How many animals can eight people without professional veterinary experience look after for a year, on a boat with no proper ventilation, plumbing or professional medical assistance? This is a vexed question, so I'm going to be over-generous (and I mean over-generous) and say that there were 2'000'000 animals on the ark, representing 1'000'000 species (two of each animal, thus two of each kind).

To do this, I have strictly equated: 1 pair of animals = 1 kind = 1 species, and have disregarded the seven of each clean animal taken on board for sacrificing, as they were going to be killed at the end of the flood anyway (as per Genesis 8:20). 

One, this makes the maths easier, two, if one kind represents more than one species, then this breaks the classification system for species - the goalpost of 'kind' moves to wherever you want it, creating an equivocation fallacy (you have to be consistent with your terminology to make your argument coherent) and three, if one kind represents less than one of each species (i.e. two million animals represents 10'000 species rather than 1'000'000) then the number of species on board the ark goes down, which makes the conundrum I am about to throw out to you even harder for YEC to stand.

Other assumption I have made: 

1. There was no procreation while on the ark.
2. No animals died while on the ark (either by sickness, attack from other animals, accidental death or old age).
The same 2'000'000 animals that went in to the boat are the same 2'000'000 that went out.


So, at the end of the flood in 3000BC, a boatload of 2'000'000 animals, representing 1'000'000 species, goes out, finds their own patch of turf and get procreating.

Thus, begins the conundrum.

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1'825'000 days ago, we had 1'000'000 species. We now have 8'700'000 species.




To explain this, there are only two hypotheses available to the YEC apologist as to why the number of new species has increased markedly since the end of the flood:

1. God-did-it.

Under this hypothesis, God created millions upon millions of new species after the flood, just as he had created the first million species before the flood.


2. Nature-did-it.

Under this hypothesis, it was nature itself that used a mechanism inherent to all reproductive life on earth to create all the varieties of animals into their species. Not their kinds (I prefer not to use kind because it is such a loosely defined word), but their species.

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So now, to answer the question, which hypothesis makes more sense?

Let's consider first, the God-did-it Hypothesis.

Under this hypothesis, we have to think not only how, but why God created millions upon millions of new species after the Noachian flood.

Because this exposes one of the biggest traps that when defending not only Creationism, but Christianity as a whole - in anything and everything that happens, as well as asking the how question, you also have to find a why component and add it (if it can be found) to every answer - Christians are the ones claiming an intelligent force is either controlling everything, or at the very least is mindful of everything, so an intelligent why has to be added to every explanation from the Christian worldview - if an intelligent why cannot be found, then it defeats the purpose of having an intelligent God.

How? There is only real one option available here to the Christian, which is magic. If God uses special words or special actions to make something exist when that thing didn't exist before, then this is the very definition of magic. And if God uses words to give life to something inanimate (such as dust or clay), then this is the definition of a golem spell
(And remember, what is a miracle in your religion is just magic in the eyes of another religion).

Why? I'm stumped. Why would an intelligent God create 1'000'000 species of animals, tell Noah to build a custom-design boat to for the sole purpose of keeping alive one pair of those species so they can repopulate the earth after a cataclysmic flood, then just go ahead and create new species anyway? And not just a handful here and there, but seven new species for every one already in existence!

If God was just going to magically create new species after the flood, then why did he tell Noah to build a large boat to keep the species alive when he was just going to magically create new species anyway? Couldn't God have told Noah to build a boat just large enough for his family to survive, and not need to take along animals as well? 


The Nature-did-it Hypothesis:

How? Biology has observed a mechanism by which new species are created, which is called speciation.
You, the reader, are free to come up with an alternative explanatory mechanism, but then you start distancing yourself from the best available science.

Speciation occurs via a number of methods, but there should be no doubt that speciation not only has happened, but is happening.

Why? Great question. The simple answer is that whatever lives and has the capacity to reproduce also finds ways to adapt to their environment, to acquire traits, and to pass those traits on to their offspring.

Hang on a second - what is the ability of organisms to inherit and acquire traits and pass those traits on to their offspring called? Evolution

Now, the kicker - how do we get 7.7 million new species to be created in 5000 years?

We have either God-did-it using magic, or Nature-did-it using evolution.

Now, magic sounds pretty lame, doesn't it? So the only hypothesis left, even by virtue of sanity and logic alone (let alone actual real-world scientific data) is Nature-did-it.

[The biggest reason I sour to the idea of magic is lies in the answer to this question: 

In what field of life (other than religion) does magic explain something better than what a naturalistic theory does?

"I don't know how jumbo jets fly!" - magic!
"I don't know why I have the flu!" - magic!
"I don't know why Port Adelaide lost the 2007 Grand Final to Geelong by a record margin!" - magic!

You wouldn't accept magic as an explanation for anything else in life, so why accept it here?]

Now, it turns out that most YECs accept microevolution (you know, the good evolution). Good, so let's work with that.

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But what about those numbers? How do we get 7'700'000 new species in 5000 years? 

To crunch the numbers:

8'700'000 species today minus 1'000'000 species on the ark 5000 years ago = 7'700'000 species in the course of 5000 years.

7'700'000 species / 5000 years = 1'540 species per year = 4.219 species a day.

4.219 species a day, every day, for the last 5'000 years. By the end of each and every week, 30 new species will have formed.

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You know how earlier I gave the figure of 1'000'000 species on Noah's Ark? Let's drop that down to 10'000 and see what numbers we get.

8.7 million species - 10'000 species = 8.69 million species.

8.69 million species / 5'000 years = 1'738 species a year = 4.76 species a day.

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What happens if we increase the number of species on Noah's Ark to 2'000'000?

8.7 million - 2 million = 6.7 million.

6.7 million species / 5000 years = 1'340 species per year = 3.67 species per day.

(Also, how do 8 people look after 4 million animals for a year?)

So whichever way you look at it, Noah's Flood creates a big problem for Young Earth Creationists.

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The Bible tells us that 8 people with no professional qualifications (their only qualification was that Noah was righteous) looked after 10'000, 100'000, 2 million or maybe even 4 million animals, in the space the size of a boat, with no external food supply, for a year. 
The real-world tells us that teams of zookeepers (people with minimum three years university qualification) look after roughly 5'000 animals, over the space of hectares, using sophisticated supply chains.


Belief in a literal reading of the Bible requires you to believe that after the flood, to concord with what science tells us, new species are generated at the rate of 3.67 to 4.76 a day.
The real world tells us that species form in the space of anything to 10 years up to 1'000'000 years.

Something isn't right here.

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Young Earth Creationists could be irrational and say God using magic is the best explanation, but then magic is not a rational explanation.

So the only rational option left is to accept evolution - but accept a version of evolution that is so much faster and rapid than anything observed or reported by actual biological scientists.

But this then leads us to a fatal trilemma for YEC: 
either the science is wrong, the explanatory mechanism is wrong, or the Bible is wrong.

Pick one.

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Until next time, stay cool, stay healthy, stay rational.

And if you find those 30 new species by next week, let me know.

-Damien

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