I spent last night with a bunch of atheist/skeptic/humanists listening to a young earth creationist espouse the following argument:
- I am a designer, I see things which have been designed – I know there could be no other way of building them.
- I see things in nature which even more complex, and would need designing.
- So they too must have been designed.
And that was about the sum total of his argument. He backed it up with telling us all how clever he was, that we wouldn’t understand the complex maths he used in his engineering designs and that neither Richard Dawkins nor Daniel Dennett have any publications on design, whereas he has loads(?) He made many basic biological errors, assuming that things which are common knowledge are mysteries. He even – and I had to pinch myself here – asserted that God had formed the banana perfectly for humans (really, he did!!)
In many ways Prof Burgess could be seen as dangerous for peddling such misinformation, and for undermining the critical faculties of our young – he does teach engineering students. But all I got as the evening wore on was a sense of sadness for him; at one point he said that ‘even a child’ could see that something which appears irreducibly complex must be designed. That had a few of us nodding, a child would certainly think that, just as humanity used to; and he seemed to me to be just like that child, and I felt sorry for him in his ignorance. So sorry, that I was gushing in my praise for his satellite solar array before I asked my question. Forgot to mention – we were treated to a ten minute film of the launch of the satellite he designed it for – so childlike.
Unfortunately things got worse. 3 questions were asked, all from our lot, and he managed to explain why some things don’t appear perfect. You see the world, and everything in it, is perfect. Because God made it. So it must be perfect. Except for the things that aren’t of course, and that’s because of the ‘curse’. We went and ate the apple and got kicked out of Eden and cursed. The apple, by the way, like the banana is perfectly designed, just the right size for the hand, juicy but doesn’t drip etc etc, but back to the story, so: if something’s OK, it’s because god is perfect, and if it’s not OK, it’s because we’re not perfect. Oh dear. And I still felt sorry for him, I genuinely think he believed what he was saying, It must be awful to have to contain the cognitive dissonance –he’s a professor, he must sometimes catch sight of his own stupidity. Sometimes?
But the point of the evening was the chatting to the group of kids in their 20s afterwards. Again, I felt sorry for the older people (any over 30!) they seemed so sweet and naive. But the kids had questions; they made mistakes and listened to the answers; they took us further back in time ,through simpler and simpler things, till we hit the big bang and admitted ignorance. I hope they gained something from it. We were thanked for our attendance, and we all stayed respectful and polite.
Thanks to Malcolm, aimee, Jonathon and Richard and the others, but especially to Morgan for rallying us all. It was a good evening, and the proximity of the Guildhall to the Bishop on the Bridge makes our equanimity in the face of such wilful ignorance quite admirable I think!