I get emails from Christian creationists

March 10, 2019 • 10:45 am

The email below arrived this morning from a retired officer in the U.S. Air Force who had read my critical review of Michael Behe’s new Intelligent-Design book in the Washington Post. (I am, by the way, pleased that virtually all the commenters at the Post accept evolution and reject ID—something I didn’t expect). Re the email: it always surprises me when somebody who doesn’t seem to know much about evolution or biology (or biochemistry in this case) decides to lecture me about The Way Things Are.  Even more presumptuous is that they think they’re going to make me a Christian without knowing much about my views and personal history. But of course that’s what evangelical Christians do.

Read and weep. Please feel free to comment (politely, please), as I’ve told this person that I’m posting his email and will send him the link in a bit.

Professor Coyne

After reading your Sunday Washington Post book review of “Darwin Devolves,” I can only ask you:  you would presume that there is a creator for the wrist watch on your arm, the computer on your desk … why would you not similarly presume that our world, with all its complexity, variety, functionality, and even beauty, that there would not be a Creator—God—for our world … the universe?

Who is the crazier and off-base?  The person who thinks that such variety, complexity, functionality and beauty just ‘evolved’ out of primordial mush (where did the primordial mush come from anyway?)  Or, the person who believes and understands that such characteristics of ‘creation’ could not have come about without design and creation?

How does that logic flow?  Order implies functionality; functionality implies design; design implies intelligence; intelligence implies a Creator?

I would think the clear solution to your dilemma is that ‘evolution’ since the world’s creation is a corollary to the larger plan of creation set in motion by God.  Once the original creation was complete and God’s plan set in motion, evolutionary events and activities take place as part of that larger divine plan.  Heck, the complexity—yet functionality—of genes and DNA that so much of your book review talks about needed ‘design’ for all that to work in some orderly fashion.

And as to your statement about “the Christian belief that homo sapiens is a special creation of God,” it is.  Humans are the only sentient beings, “created in the image of God” (“imago dei”) with both a soul and a corporal body.  Quite simply, God did not promise the cocker spaniel population (or any other creature on this earth) eternal life with Him after their time on this earth is finished.  If anything, the “spark” of life and the inevitability of death for us all should have you at least thinking a little more profoundly.

I offer you the famous quote from Saint Anselm, the father of modern scholasticism: “Lord, let me not understand so that I may believe; let me believe so that I may understand.”

Deo gratias

I could adduce Hume’s principle about miracles about the issue of “who is the crazier and off base” here, but I did that in a response to this person, also pointing out sources of information about how life could have evolved from chemicals. I also asked this person, since he seems to know that there is a Christian God, why that god would work through evolution instead of creating everything de novo, as it so plainly states in Genesis.

But I am vastly amused at his assurance that we have souls but cocker spaniels don’t, and therefore dogs don’t go to Heaven. This, of course, was the deranged conclusion of Edward Feser that I wrote about in 2015. The Argument from Dogs is the silver lining in this cloud of ignorance.

153 thoughts on “I get emails from Christian creationists

  1. I think eternal life for dogs depends on your denomination. When we lost a beloved cat ages ago, our minister told us that “certainly all the animals go to heaven.” That was a UCC minister.

    1. I have had many dogs and cats over the past 30 years. My mansion in heaven would be overrun with them. (This is not my original idea – I can’t remember where I heard it.)

      1. The minister’s comment gave me years of speculation, especially about the size of heaven and the accumulated biomass . . . not just of all humans but now all animals (which would include all animals like arthropods, etc.). And that led me to chuckling that HIlbert’s Infinite Hotel actually had practical use up there. But how does one get about and reunite with all your people and animals? Haven’t figured that out yet. 😉

            1. I would counter that with, those who think armadillos are cute have not seen the destruction they leave behind in your yard. Holes everywhere, big enough you can drop a softball into, left behind from foraging.

              Or the numerous tunnels/dens all over your property.

              Or the damage to homes/outbuildings they will do trying to burrow underneath. For some reason they think burrowing under under buildings is a great idea.

              If all they did was quietly meander through, they would be adorable. The reality is they are highly destructive beasts. There was a time I thought they were cute. Then reality set in. As far as I’m concerned the best thing about armadillos is they do a good job of feeding the buzzards and the crows, as their kryptonite is crossing the highway.

          1. Those who hate armadillos have a special place in hell, I’d think. You may confidently reassure him he won’t have to share the hereafter with armadillos.

    2. A text from my sixth-grader’s literature book (shortened):

      “Parable of True Friendship

      A man was walking with his dog down a long exhausting road. Suddenly they saw an oasis. It has a fence and a gate. The man asked to enter. The gatekeeper informed him that he had died without realizing it, this was Paradise and he could enter, but dogs were not allowed.

      The traveller took his dog and continued the journey. Soon he reached some farm, also with a fence and a gate. He asked to enter and was told he could go in. He asked about the dog and the gatekeeper said that the dog could go in as well. Stepping through the gate, the man asked what place this was. The gatekeeper said it was Paradise. The man said he had been told that the previous place was Paradise. The gatekeeper said that the oasis was actually Hell and its keepers were lying to test people and find out disloyal friends.”

      1. I have to admit, I rather like that. And that’s the problem: the idea of heaven, whatever it would be for any of us, is very alluring. I wish it were real. I love the idea of an eternity of being with who I love (including animals) in a wonderful environment and with no pain or illness.

        I’ve often thought that if I lacked a conscience I could make a fortune if I wrote an autobiography where I died and came back to life. On resurrection, I of course disavow atheism and become a Christian again because while I’m dead I’m shown heaven. Heaven would include pets because people would so much love confirmation that they would see their dead pets again they’d lap it up.

        1. This reminds me of some Twilight Zone (or similar show) episode in which one character (think grandma) plays home movies day and night and another (think young hipster) has to watch them. Gradually the audience discovers that grandma is in her own personal heaven and the hipster is in his own personal hell.

        2. If I lacked a conscience, I’d be one of those psychics that charged people to talk to their dead loved ones or claimed to find missing kids.

      2. That was also one of my favorite episodes on the Twilight Zone. An old backwoodsman was coon hunting with his dog when they both died. The gatekeeper of hell was the actor who for years later played the Maytag repairman.

        1. Yeah, I liked that episode too. It’s called “The Hunt” and I won’t spoil the twist at the end.

        2. A good argument can be made that just about everything you’d need to know about how to live a good and proper life, and what things not to do, you could get from watching Twilight Zone episodes (including even a healthy skepticism about gifts from others, where sometimes “It’s a cook book!”). And that the moral behavior one would glean from Rod Serling, Earl Hamner & company, has so much over the Bible or other religious documents as a source, with the plus that it includes the music by Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith et al.

          Toss in Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, and you get a truly well-rounded life.

          Can the Bible, with its slavery acceptance, witch killing commands, and wacky cosmology, ever stack up to Twilight Zone? I think not.

    3. Heaven is going to be overflowing in the resurrected colonic bacteria, fleas and eyelash mites that go with being human (well 30-odd % for the eyelash mites). One would hope that they’re all neutered, but that’s going to be a bit of a stretch given god’s evident difficulty at handling biochemistry.

  2. I am not sure what it is about the U.S. military in the past many years but it consists almost entirely of religious republicans. Onward Christian soldier.

    1. The demographic likely has less education and fewer employment opportunities than the general public.

      1. My father was a career Air Force officer and you needed college to become an officer. He was a very smart man who had been through Vietnam and was pretty much an atheist when he died in 1977. These evangelicals are relatively recent and I understand had infested the Air Force Academy.

        1. Not all so recent as you think. My time was in the service long ago and it was pretty religious then. I happen to live next door to a retired air force pilot who is very religious, very catholic and that seems to be the type. Of course this is Kansas and you do not have to look far to find them.

          1. Maybe my father was atypical, but there was very little mention of religion in our household. My father was raised Lutheran in Minnesota and had had enough of it forced down his throat that he rebelled. He didn’t believe in indoctrinating us and felt that my siblings and I were smart enough to make up our own minds about religion when we were old enough to really understand. I don’t remember any of my parent’s friends in his squadrons being eaten up with religion or mentioning it, either. Again, maybe my folks were unusual.

            1. It is a big place and has been a long time. I have always been atheist so maybe I notice it more. I do think it is more in your face now than it was years ago.

          1. This reminds me the Wikipedia page of Stephen King:

            “King, talking to high-school students, had said: “If you can read, you can walk into a job later on. If you don’t, then you’ve got the Army, Iraq, I don’t know, something like that.”… King later expressed regret for the remark, saying that he misspoke.”

            1. King was thoughtless though there’s an element of truth in what he said of course. There’s a positive spin to this. Some kids have trouble in high school. They are intelligent but fail to apply themselves. Perhaps they fall in with the wrong crowd, skip school, etc. For many of these, the military is a good place for them. It teaches them structure, pride in their work, etc. I have first-hand experience of this with a relative. This kid might make a career out of it but, even if he doesn’t, I am sure he will do well once he leaves the Navy. I think he chose a much better path than if he’d gone directly from high school to junior college.

    2. Maybe all the browbeating and indoctrination that the Air Force Academy is renowned for is starting to pay off.

    3. Here are my speculative answers to your question. In this country, probably since its founding, patriotism and belief in God (of the Christian variety) went hand in hand. If you were a patriot, you believed in God. If you believed in God, you were a patriot. Both beliefs are mutually reinforcing. Another factor that may contribute to the overwhelming belief in God is that it provides psychic relief to the horrors of war. Despite all the terrible things soldiers see in wartime, there must be a good reason for it. Right? It’s all part of God’s plan. Unfortunately, for many in the military God’s plan doesn’t seem to stave off PTSD.

      1. Yes, I do not know exactly why but part of your ideas also apply. I happen to be a veteran and most of all an atheist but I notice these things. The education mentioned above might also apply but some of the most religious in the military are the officers, the ones with more education. The republicans and the military are almost like peanut butter and jelly.

      2. Despite all the terrible things soldiers see in wartime, there must be a good reason for it. Right?

        I think there needs to be more work there. Specifically, the thesis that most of that suffering is to defend one or more politician’s egos needs some work to counter it.
        After all, isn’t that what the military are for?

      3. I think that makes a lot of sense Historian.

        I don’t know if it’s true, but I remember being told that a condition of acceptance into training for the Navy Seals was believing in a higher power. Could someone enlighten me please?

        1. You might enjoy this article in HuffPo from 2012 about a US military loon written by a pair of loons.

          There’s around 3,000 active USN SEAL + SWCC personnel & there’s no official requirement to believe in a higher power. Though judging by the huge publishing industry material generated by the exploits of Special Forces by these not-very-secretive ex-SEALs, Delta, Rangers etc there’s a fair old number who are god heads or talk as if they are. It might be just the way that some Americans bring God into their conversation reflexively.

          Moving on to US military officers: There is a strong Christian strand woven into US military officer academies that goes back to their formation & it’s still there. It’s viewed by many as part of the tradition.

          Within the US military you will find senior officers who regard Islam as the work of Satan, they mean it absolutely literally & they speak it out loud in those terms. If you are an ambitious cadet, you’ll want to fit in & thus at West Point [USMA] you will attend the prayer breakfasts [multi-faith these days] & nod in all the right places. These US places are ultra conformist compared with the general run of officer training establishments in other nations & you’ll suppress any beliefs or tendencies that get you noticed for the ‘wrong’ reasons such as homosexuality or atheism.

          There is a secular society at West Point & their site says this:

          The United States Military Academy is fully committed to affirmative action and to its policies of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in all programs, and activities without regard to race, color, national original, sex, religion, and sexual orientation. Evidence of practices not consistent with these policies should be reported to the office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.

          I notice the USMA runs courses on diversity related matters & I’m confident that the ship will head off in a more inclusive direction in the future – it already is I suppose.

          In the US mil there is a problem recruiting & retaining quality people & the military realise they can’t keep people by standing still – especially at the low pay & perks offered compared to equivalent civvie street [& civilian contractor!] jobs. For these reasons I don’t think you’ll maintain a sizeable SEAL force if God is an additional requirement

          BUT – I suppose if you’re earning a measly $50k & away training all sorts of anti-social hours then part of selection will be about background stability. A stable marriage & church going might earn you some points if everything else is up to par.

          Here is the USMA Cadet Prayer:

          O God, our Father, Thou Searcher of human hearts, help us to draw near to Thee in sincerity and truth. May our religion be filled with gladness and may our worship of Thee be natural.

          Strengthen and increase our admiration for honest dealing and clean thinking, and suffer not our hatred of hypocrisy and pretence ever to diminish. Encourage us in our endeavor to live above the common level of life. Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never to be content with a half truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy. Guard us against flippancy and irreverence in the sacred things of life. Grant us new ties of friendship and new opportunities of service. Kindle our hearts in fellowship with those of a cheerful countenance, and soften our hearts with sympathy for those who sorrow and suffer. Help us to maintain the honor of the Corps untarnished and unsullied and to show forth in our lives the ideals of West Point in doing our duty to Thee and to our Country. All of which we ask in the name of the Great Friend and Master of all.


          1. “…the Great Friend and Master of all.”

            That’s new. (Meaning, I’ve never heard it anywhere else).

            Sounds very… fraternal. Kinda like Big Brother. Oh dear I’m such a cynic.

            If those guys really believe all that I suppose it’s a plus. Nothing about blindly following orders, at least.


          2. Thanks for that. Very interesting.

            I suppose a lot of what is expressed in that prayer is actually good stuff. The problem for me is invoking a supernatural power and encouraging reverence for “… the sacred things in life” instead of encouraging the development of an inner resourcefulness and strength of character. The sacred things should be things like honesty, trustworthiness, and the bonds of family and true friendship.

      1. Many people who join the military are from the south where people are religious and Republican or they are poor and more likely to be religious. Religion has always had an association with militarism as it helps to have God behind you to do nasty things to your fellow humans. There’s also a connection between militarism and conservatism.

        1. The correlation between religion and militarism disappeared in 20th century Europe and Asia. But you may be right about it still existing in the New World.

          1. There is something to what Paul says. Also, people go into the service at a young age and are easily influenced, that is why the military wants you at that age. Naturally, religion is very good at this influencing business as well and the military has a build in system of Chaplains and churches right on base or post to capture this. They have a kind of command performance for those first few months they call boot camp.

            1. Also, people go into the service at a young age and are easily influenced, that is why the military wants you at that age. Naturally, religion is very good at this influencing business as well

              How does that recruiting manual go? “Give me the boy at the age of seven, an I will give you the man.” Something like that. Which is why military schools abound in turning out fine upstanding characters like the brothel-keeper’s grandson. So effective, they are.

  3. It always dismays me that people make assertion after assertion without evidence and expect that to sway others.

      1. “The demographic likely has less education…”

        If this is what you are referring to it is framed as speculation not an assertion. Quite different to the various statements made in the letter about Homo sapiens being a special creation of god and whether or not dogs have a soul which are offered as indisputable facts.

  4. I always ask them where the god came from, needless to say, there is always onne answer. As soon as you ask them why ‘he’ doesn’t require a cause they tend to go away, since it applies just as simply to a ‘mush of chemicals’.

    1. Agree. That’s about as solid an argument against their nonsense in that genre as you can get. I use slavery in the Bible as the solid argument to undermine their moral contentions. #hobomessiah Enjoy.

        1. It’s reasonably effective. I find it relatively easy to get into the habit of practising regularly.

  5. “Humans are the only sentient beings, “created in the image of God” (“imago dei”) with both a soul and a corporal body.”

    This suggests that his God has both a corporal body and a soul. But, if asked, Mr. Redacted will probably say that it not really the case (because otherwise God’s body should be observable, it must breath, it must ingest nutriments and defecate, etc.). So humans are “created in the image of God” except when they’re not* (i.e., always).

    And the quote from St Anselm is an excellent advice for delusional thinking. If someone believe in the presence of mischievous but invisible faeries in his home, he can “understand” (or “explain”) why he loses so many things.

    * The reverse is far more probable: the biblical God is in the image of humans.

    1. Ah, but Islamic theology has reconciled the disparity between humans physical needs and the incorporeal deity. Theologians developed
      the doctrine of “Bi-la kaifa,” which translates as “without how.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bi-la_kaifa.

      Could Allah sit on the throne? Yes. How: “Bi-la kaifa.” Could Allah take a shit on the throne?. Yes. How: “Bi-la kaifa.”

      BTW,the Islamic theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari (9th-10th centuries) introduced this term. In the Islamic world he is credited as the father of scholasticism and this certainly pre-dated Anselm. I don’t know about Anselm, but Aquinas was certainly influenced by Islamic theology and philosophy.

  6. “Mush”. This alone demonstrates blind dismissal of science. Only someone who has already decided would use a word meant to poke fun at organic compounds. When I was a creationist, I also referred to order, because I knew a tiny bit of one or two talking points related to the science of how things work. It’s easy to be confident when you don’t know what you don’t know. Since this gentleman used the tried and true watch analogy, I recommend The Blind Watchmaker. And WEIT, of course.

  7. One of the many assertions that gave me pause was when the e-mailer averred that St. Anselm was the “father of modern scholasticism.” Anselm was born in 1033, well before Thomas Aquinas. To call him the father of modern scholasticism is quite amusing because he probably is since scholasticism is so medieval and hasn’t changed much, but that’s surely not what he meant. Further, Pope Leo XIII, in the 1879 encyclical, “Aterni Patris,” which is said to have ushered in “Neo-Thomism,” mentions Anselm only once and in passing.

      1. Well, thanks for this. If the sun shines out of god’s fundament (what a marvelously crazy idea — maybe it relates to Divine Afflatus – fundamental weather), I’ll think about joining that church. I noted above that Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari, a 9-10th c. Arab theologian developed the idea of bi-la kaifa, without how. Given that the Christian theologians and philosophers were influenced by Islamic and Judaic ideas,and there is this scatological affinity, I wonder if Anselm had any familiarity with al-Ash’ari, but I’m not going to comb through a bunch of arcane sources to find out.

  8. “God often works more by the life of the illiterate seeking the things that are God’s, than by the ability of the learned seeking the things that are their own”

    Anselm of Canterbury

      1. Sorry to introduce him into the discussion, but someone else who has said, “I love the poorly educated,” is Trump.

        I’ve just been going through the results of a Quinnipiac political poll. Overwhelmingly, those who support and believe in Trump are white men without college degrees. I need to write a post about women saving the USA, though there’s already an article called something similar based on previous polling data from another source.


  9. “Order implies functionality; functionality implies design; design implies intelligence; intelligence implies a Creator?”

    If someone thinks that nature is orderly and that all animals (including humans) are somehow well-designed, they haven’t done much study on the subject…

    And if the utter chaos of nature and poor design of many organisms is the work of some higher power, that higher power is the Elizabeth Holmes of its world.

    1. When I read that part of Mr Redacted’s letter, I immediately thought of Stephen Fry’s brilliant response:

          1. Yes that works – again, specifically in the email notice.

            was that the a href code? And what was it before?

            1. I just copy & paste the URL from my browser address line while watching the Youtube video, thus:


              WP then imbeds the video.

              To NOT imbed the video, just delete the ‘https://’ from the start of the URL, WP then automagically restores the ‘https://’ but shows it as a link rather than imbedding.

              (I find that more reliable than trying to make proper HTML out of it)


              1. I’m talking specifically in the case of the email updates – sometimes it’s an enormous reformatted blank white space, which leaves the text very tiny (iOS mail app). I was puzzled how that happens. There’s nothing to click in that case.

                Your link above was a tidy text-based link.

              2. Is your email app running on iPhone or MacOS computer?
                Is the app called “ioS Mail” or something different?
                Can you post a screenshot of what you’re seeing?

                You have a lot of problems with viewing email notifications from WordPress – there’s probably a setting that would improve things [such as not permitting text to display below a certain size] or a different Apple email app – there’s plenty of alternative apps to try.

            2. First it was the address of the YouTube page. If you’re on a website page it works fine, but it won’t always show up in email depending on the security settings of your email. The second was the embed code, which is usually used to put a video on your own website. I don’t know, but I assume that would be more likely to make it through email security too.

              1. Actually, the HTML that will work in email is severely limited for security reasons. There’s no JavaScript allowed and anything that isn’t really simple formatting or a link will be ignored. In my email client, the links in the email go to my email server to be validated before taking me to their real target. For this reason, I don’t think any embed code will work in email unless it just happens to be a simple link, which most are not.

    2. BJ: Yes, as a former biologist and a human anatomy instructor, I am always amused by anyone who thinks that humans and other living things are “well-designed”. My favorite reply is “you mean the way the food and air pipes cross, so a proportion of the alleged creator’s dearly beloved choke to death on steak each year?” It is simply ignorant to think that creatures have some exemplary design. The reality is, they mostly work barely well enough to survive to reproduce — exactly what one would expect if they evolved. As someone below points out, if there is any design to all this, it’s to provide food for bacteria!

        1. I said the same in a comment about a week ago.

          Thing is, if a bit of food gets stuck on the way to your stomach, you’d have many hours to do something about it before you starve/dehydrate.

          If it gets stuck in your throat you’ve got four minutes.

          That is NOT ‘intelligent’ design!


    1. …when we all know that hell’s reserved exclusively for pugs and chihuahuas…

      how can we be sure that spaniels aren’t Saved? maybe they are, and they’re doing their best to tell us the One Truth, but we’re just not bloody listening…

  10. “Lord, let me not understand so that I may believe; let me believe so that I may understand.”

    Only in the world of theology would that sort of pap be considered profound. A surer path to self deception I cannot imagine, and that’s without even addressing the issue of *what* to believe.

    1. The principle that belief precedes understanding is a recipe for any delusion, superstition, or fantasy that one could indulge.

  11. I would think the clear solution to your dilemma

    Oh hey thanks for the dilemma. Dude is passing out free dilemmas folks. Get yours today.

    1. I regard it as an informal synonym for “consciousness”, so I think that humans have the best souls, but any endotherm has a fair claim to some sort of a soul.

      1. Hard to keep the boundaries. Some endotherms are smart and soulful, some less.

        Some fish, maybe some cephalopods, have a more intelligent gleam than the average squirrel. Souls, probably not, but passing the mirror test counts for something.

        1. I agree that I should not be so bigoted against ectotherms, some of them can qualify. You are right about the cephalopods. Today’s post has an incredible video featuring a cuttlefish eye reflecting its soul. Long ago, I have read a popular book by some Russian marine biologist about octopuses; it was titled “The Primates of the Sea”.

  12. Let us parse:
    “Order implies functionality; functionality implies design; design implies intelligence; intelligence implies a Creator?”

    Order implies functionality – wrong, see below #1

    Functionality implies design – wrong

    Design implies intelligence – it can, but see below #2

    intelligence implies a Creator – wrong, see below #3

    1. drop a set of balls into a bowl, when they settle they are ordered, what is the functionality of that?

    2. It depends on how you define “design”…
    One definition is “an arrangement of lines or shapes created to form a pattern or decoration”. If a drop of oil hits water, there can be an arrangement of lines and colors. Where is the intelligence?

    3. See the status of AI that teaches itself, or, of course, see evolution or biology, or chemistry, or physics

    Extra Bonus: who created his creator?

    1. Hmm, yeah… no… yeah

      I agree with number 1. My example would be a diamond which is a super well ordered lattice of carbon atoms and has no functionality except that which is imposed on it by us.

      “functionality implies design”. This is assuming the conclusion. The point of Jerry’s correspondent’s email is to persuade us that the functionality of biological structures requires design. This is the main point in dispute.

      I disagree with you on point number 2. I think design requires some entity with intent. The patterns that oil films make on water are not design. In fact the link “design requires intelligence” is the only one in the chain that is true, in my opinion.

      “intelligence implies a Creator” If it were true, this alleged creator would presumably have some intelligence which leads either to an infinite regress or special pleading. It also assumes the conclusion.

      The problem I have with your example in point 3 is that AIs manifestly do have creators.

  13. “you would presume that there is a creator for the wrist watch on your arm”

    It is not a presumption, it is a conclusion based on evidence.

    We don’t properly conclude that the wrist watch was designed based on its complexity, we conclude it was designed because we have evidence that the designers exist and that they designed the watch.

      1. And if the watches were subject to natural variation in that mating process, they would inevitably become subject to natural Darwinian selection. At which point wavers of the watchmaker analogy would have to take account of the history of watch replication, since the watch they picked up on the heath would no longer itself be the object of deign, but instead the product of that natural lineage.

  14. I think much more of the history of science should be taught in schools. That way people would know that this business about the creator of the wrist watch etc has in fact been considered before by scientists. Just knowing that much would be a start. It might at least make people adopt a less presumptuous tone.

    The difficult thing for religious people to grasp is that science progresses. Because religion doesn’t progress, and can’t progress, they assume that science doesn’t progress either, and remain happy with St Anselm and Plato.

    The history of science is where the debate with scholasticism occurred and still belongs.

    1. Well said. I agree. Like the study of evolution, the study of history meets the deep interest we have in understanding how we got here, biologically and culturally.

  15. Why is it that creationist think they’ve “got you” when asking where that primordial ooze came from, but don’t turn this same logic inward and wonder where their Gods come from?

    It’s turtles all the way down, I guess…

  16. i have an interesting argument about the existence of god: what if we will see a self replicating robot ( lets say even with dna) on a far planet? do we need to conclude design or a natural process in this case? remember that according to evolution if its made from organic components and have a self replicating system we need to conclude a natural process because it has living traits. but we know that even a self replicating robot is evidence for design. therefore a penguin for instance need design too

    1. After watching Cosmos again, I am rapidly losing optimism that Earthlings will ever know about extra terrestrial life, let alone intelligent life – because I think it’s likely to have evolved and been destroyed by exploding stars before it even started here on Earth. We might have been too late to have a chance at the holy grail of life outside earth…. maybe they left a radio wave footprint…

      1. Chances are some really significant intelligent populations with highly developed cultures were completely wiped out by exploding stars and the like. Sad really. Perhaps we need to build an Unknown Alien Civilization Memorial.

      2. You’ll be glad to know Thyroid you’ve got that back to front in some ways. 🙂

        The universe isn’t even old enough to be a toddler just yet. There’s a lot more universe in front of us to come then the mere 14 billion years that’s already done & dusted – we [life, not our species] have barely started the journey – most life hasn’t even started yet. The chances of chatting away with an unrelated alien life in some distant future are slim because of the layout, dynamics & dimensions of the universe rather than because we’ve missed meeting now dead civilisations. Also slim because complex self-reflective life may be very rare indeed.

        The only fly in the ointment is nearly all the universe is unreachable even if we immediately travelled outwards at the speed of light. If current cosmology is correct regarding the ‘Dark Energy’ expansion of space, then nearly all the stars visible in our telescopes today are beyond our reach for ever. I’m referring to most of the stars outside our gravitationally bound LOCAL GROUP of > 50 galaxies [I can’t dig up the exact distance to the line we can’t reach, but the above is approx true]. After 100 billion more years, even the nearest galaxy beyond our own LOCAL GROUP will be approximately a billion light years away.

        But the good news is…
        ** Our local group of more than 50 galaxies will coalesce into one super galaxy in some remote era [with no stars visible beyond – just blackness]

        ** The smaller stars – the red dwarfs – are reckoned to have a life of 10 trillion years so any red dwarfs out there today have lived less than 1 thousandth of their span so far.

        ** New stars are going to be made for trillions of years – most ordinary mass hasn’t gotten to be a star just yet, it’s mostly hanging about as dust & some of it will be stars yet to be born.

      3. I’ve had time to check now. The video below claims all stars beyond the Local Group are beyond our physical reach even at light speed, therefore we can visit only 0.00000000001% of the observable universe at the absolute maximum. That’s with unlimited energy at our disposal:


        That’s the same as saying 99.99999999999% of the stars we see in telescopes are beyond us. A more optimistic source gives 97%.

  17. If you “BELIEVE” in a God then you have no ability to understand how one could understand evolution or any science as in this area there is just TOOOOOOOO MUCH to believe. People who believe in a God or religion think that “Science” is something we BELIEVE rather than understand.

    1. Yes, I’m frequently saying who cares whether people believe in evolution or not, the question is, do you understand evolution.

  18. “You would presume that there is a creator for the wrist watch on your arm, the computer on your desk … why would you not similarly presume that our world, with all its complexity, variety, functionality, and even beauty, that there would not be a Creator—God—for our world..”

    You do not “presume” a creator for the wrist watch or the computer, you KNOW there is a creator (rather, creators) for said items of technology, and these creators are human. If creationists were consistent in their thinking, they should wonder why we never find watches, computers etc. in places without human presence. By this same logic, the absence of technology of non-human origin implies that a Creator-God either does not exist or, if exists, is unable to create even a watch or a computer, let alone an organism.

  19. “Redacted” is just another human, scared shitless of the fact that some day he is going to disappear into nothingness. It’s all about the hubris, jake:

    It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
    Signifying nothing.

  20. Unfortunately this gentleman is in full comfort zone. His world is complete and his fairytale answer to life is rocking his brain to sleep. No further inquiry needed other than confirm and repell.
    The tradgedy is, and i think this man in general is no fool, he will never know the real truth of how the universe works. His ‘comfort’ makes it seem like smugness but it is fear that keeps him in his cowered position and a deep ignorance that keeps him tethered.

  21. Let us praise the creator of smallpox, polio and malaria and curse those humans who have tried to rid creation of these!

    Deo gratias.

    1. Let us praise the creator of a method of reproduction that will slaughter around 70% of us before we are born because of the flaws in it’s design.

      Deo gratias.

      (Or maybe God just hates foetuses?)

  22. You can take a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink. The evidence is out there thanks to our advances in science, but if it does not fit your ideology or religious beliefs…

  23. Dear Sir or Madam,
    If you were to stumble across a wrist watch lying in a field you would notice it mostly because it stood out so much from the natural world around it, the watch being completely different to the biological structures it was contrasted against. Professor Coyne has devoted his life to studying biology and has realised, as do most who study the subject, that biology does not provide perfection but rather a cobbled-together set of make-dos and mends which do their job in a beautiful but imperfect way. A wrist watch looks designed. A giraffe looks evolved. It is a common presumption of the ignorant, perpetuated by the religious, that biological structures are as perfect as their ‘god’ tells them they should be. The more one learns about biology, the more one recognises the imperfection. I recommend you try to educate yourself a little to avoid future embarrassment. This is meant kindly.
    The flaws in your ‘logic flow’ come thick and fast throughout:
    Order does not necessarily imply functionality. I can order the components of a wrist watch alphabetically but that does not lead to function. Functionality implies some order but not vice versa.
    Functionality does not necessarily imply design. River beds function brilliantly at transporting water to the sea but this does not mean they are designed; they just happen because of disinterested natural processes. Design can of course lead to functionality but that is not what you said.
    Design does not necessarily imply intelligence. I think you meant that the appearance of design (a giraffe for example) implies intelligence. The last time you could have got away with that statement is the late 19th century. Darwin demonstrated that this statement does not hold and that, given enough time, natural processes can lead to giraffes. All the evidence gathered since then (and there are several mountains of evidence now) has supported his theory. Professor Coyne’s ‘Why Evolution is True’ is a good starting point should you have a genuine wish to be educated. Your fear of losing your religion may stand in your way but I encourage you to be brave and face some of the facts humanity has discovered about our wonderful world.
    Given that intelligence can be produced by the same natural processes, it is of course false that intelligence implies a creator. It appears to me that you have got your logic almost exactly backwards. This may be because you started with wishing that your god existed and worked backwards from there. I hope the above will help you see this for yourself.
    Leaving aside a semantic quibble about the definition of sentience (I believe you mean humans are the only sapient organism), you are somewhat misguided. Higher primates, big cats, dolphins, canids, elephants and many other species all show degrees of self-awareness, intelligence, concept of future, sense of morality, and other abilities linked to ‘sentience’. Your statement that ‘humans are the only sentient beings’ makes as much sense as ‘giraffes are the only tall animals’.
    Finally, your quote from Saint Anselm is new to me but is revealing in its stupidity. If your starting point is a belief in an invisible, incorporeal super-being who likes to interfere in your sex life, then any understanding that results might be similarly untrustworthy. Try for understanding first and you might discover something more important and beautiful than belief. Truth.
    Kind regards,

    1. If you were to stumble across a creationist on a page like this you would notice it because it would stand out.

      Hoo boy.

    2. Beat me to it. The watch thing is, of course Paley’s watchmaker argument, which is not, as most people seem to think, an argument that the World is designed, but an argument that it is not designed.

  24. I’m not clear on what the letter writer’s paradigm is. Maybe this would be clear / assumed if I was more familiar with creationism (maybe the reference to God’s plan is a standard reference for young earth creationism, for example, but maybe not – I’m not sure.)

    There are some framings of a creator that I think are likely enough – while I try to stay open minded, my working assumption is that the universe is made of something like math and that the attributes of math / data / information made intelligent life more or less an inevitable part of the universe’s ‘blueprint’. I think if you consider God Ultimate Truth then saying Truth creates all things is technically true and mostly a matter of framing – many would be annoyed by this and find it unnecessarily fanciful or “too cute”, but I like it. On the other hand, if the writer is talking about animals being placed on the Earth fully formed alongside Adam and Eve, that is a totally different schema.

  25. “you would presume that there is a creator for the wrist watch on your arm, the computer on your desk … why would you not similarly presume that our world, with all its complexity, variety, functionality, and even beauty, that there would not be a Creator—God—for our world … the universe?”

    Wow. Straight out of the pages of William Paley, it even has a Wikipedia page. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchmaker_analogy

    And of course that instantly brings up Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. Which, presumably, ‘Name redacted’ has never read.

    . . . .

    “But I am vastly amused at his assurance that we have souls but cocker spaniels don’t, and therefore dogs don’t go to Heaven.”

    Well of course they don’t. We all know that in the universe inhabited by this webpage, it is CATS who go to Heaven. 😎


  26. So instead of having a plausible answer to the review – where is the alternative mechanism that we can test – it is the usual meaningless so called Gish Gallop of making many and irrelevant points that the galloping person likes to write. Because it is short enough, let us go over all of it:

    – Religion has the last decade observably been positioned alongside astrology. Intercessory prayer (horoscopes) do not work [Pew 2006], ‘god agents’ (‘star signs’) are human derived patterns projected onto an entirely natural universe [Planck 2018].

    – Many tetrapod lineages pass tests for self awareness, now it appears it is a capability that may go all the way down the tree to stem fishes. Conversely modern physics has been able to reject ‘souls’ [LHC 2017, c.f. Brian Cox discussing how it came about].

    – Life was like the turtle universe “evolution all the way down” to our sister geoformation that we split from [ https://www.nature.com/articles/nmicrobiol2016116 ].

    – Biological functionality implies function (of course). The tinkering process that clobbers it together from random pieces is already verified to be evolution. And as for the alternative mechanism as we already noted there is none and none is offered by the letter writer.

    – Last but not least “order” or, better, “complexity” is in the eye of the beholder.

    Order can intuitively be generated by a fridge by cooling the innards alongside increasing entropy outside the system. Order can non-intuitively be generated in crowded environments alongside increasing entropy inside the system.

    And as for complexity it has been increasing so far in the history of the universe as galaxies has matured and spawned stars, but we know that trend will eventually reverse. The universe will eventually end up in black hole dispersed heat death as it started under inflation: empty and boring. Not unlike a Gish Gallop text.

  27. There is a utility to the letters one gets from grassroots creationists. They measure the mode of their thinking, and that is by no means rare. The Air Force had (and to some extent still does) a deep core of committed evangelical conservative creationists who imagine their worldview as absolutely true and scientific. They will have been unlikely to have studied much at all of it, not even creationist works, let alone the actual science. But they are completely committed to their tropes.

    Such people exist by the millions in America, and provide the core support group for Donald Trump now. Bear that in mind also, and in no sense underestimate their intensity and collective and disproportionate political impact, far beyond their mere numbers.

  28. “why would you not similarly presume that […] there would not be a Creator—God—for our world … the universe?”

    Which god?

  29. Dear ‘Redacted’, there are basically 3 ways to arrive at functionality, complexity, order, etc.
    1 – random chance: of course the more complex (etc) an object is, the less likely it becomes that random chance is the cause. I think that for highly complex objects, such as watches and chimpanzees, we all agree that it is highly unlikely this was the mechanism.
    2 – design, implying intelligence: the problem here is that it is an empirically observed fact that the designer always is more complex than the designed object. This mechanism is therefore highly unlikely the cause of complexity either.
    3 – the principle of addition, accumulation: it is the principle that keeps an -initially- low degree of functionality/complexity, and goes further (restarts) from there. It is the principle of selection, that can cause really complex and functional objects.
    Note that even a wristwatch had less complex precursors.
    Proposing a necessarily highly complex and functional ‘intelligence’ to explain highly complex and functional objects is begging the question.
    The ‘third’ mechanism is best explained for those lacking any biological knowledge in Dawkin’s “Climbing Mount Improbable”, which I advise you to read for a start.

    1. That is a non sequitur. Quoting Latin is a popular ruse to impress the hoi polloi, but it is not ipso facto a guarantee of wisdom.

      Illegitimi non carborundum. Cave canem.


  30. If something was alive (e.g., a god or designer), but didn’t have a body, then that would be magic. If something had thoughts and feelings without a brain, that would be magic too. I’m not sure how everything started, but I’m sure it wasn’t magic. I’m also sure that your mind is susceptible to mysticism, just like mine used to be.

  31. It’s a bit sad that Paley’s hoary argument has such currency among fundamentalist christians. The letter writer should read at least the first chapter of Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, concerning designed vs. ‘designoid’ phenomena, before getting back to us.

  32. I was brought up learning the kinds of arguments this guy is making, I was a Christian creationist for a long time, so I understand why these arguments make sense to him(I know they don’t actually make sense). It took me years to undo my indoctrination.

  33. Dear Redacted

    Evolution appears easy to debunk when one knows absolutely nothing about it.

    Preachers and creationists who claim to debunk evolution are like a man who looked at a jumbo jet and announced that there are no such thing as flying machines. I mean, come on, it’s obvious, right? A 300 ton man made object cannot fly. He could write a book discussing the physical properties of aircraft that make flight impossible. Maybe he could add a chapter or two on the law of gravity. He could mock aircraft engineers for dismissing his book unread. A person, by pulling select bits of information, could present a convincing case that aircraft cannot fly. But this ignores the totality of the evidence. Thousands of 300 ton jumbo jets take off and land daily.

    Creationists do the same thing. The pull isolated bits of evidence, usually trivial (BACTERIA FLAGELLUM!), mistate scientific knowledge (SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS!) and ignore everything else.

    And they too look like fools or conmen.

    The fact is that the Theory of Evolution is supported by numerous lines of evidence, each of which would by itself conclusively support the Theory of Evolution. These lines of evidence do not contradict each other, nor do they contradict other scientific fields such as plate tectonics.

    These lines of evidence include
    Genetics and DNA
    Comparative anatomy and vestigial traits
    and probably a few others.

    Before you hand wave away the evidence, you have an obligation to examine and understand the evidence in each of those disciplines, and then provide an alternative theory that simultaneously accounts for all the evidence without contradiction. Best get started.

    To fail to do that would be like looking at an airplane take off and saying you’ve proved airplanes cannot fly.

    1. Ok but the evidence for evolution is not quite as easy to access as the take-off of a jumbo jet. It is quite difficult to see evolution in action. Even when we can see it, it happens too slow or we don’t really see all of it. Sorry, I don’t see your jumbo jet argument convincing many anti-evolutionists.

Leave a Reply