Smelling Ararat

The Deluge: A punishment inflicted on the human race by an all-knowing God, who, through not having foreseen the wickedness of men, repented of having made them, and drowned them once for all to make them better – an act which, as we all know, was accompanied by the greatest success. – Voltaire, Dictionary of Theology

I have just spent hours trawling the worldly wise web for information about the origins of life, because it’s nice to know where you come from, isn’t it? In my search I found that a great many sites are concerned with this matter, though often in a rather tangential manner, since their primary aim is not to inform and enlighten, but rather to refute one another. The reason for all this antagonism quickly emerges. Fronts are being drawn and trenches dug between the forces of reason and the ever-expanding forces of arrant nonsense and humbug. Because the web, as the natural home of simpletons, dunderheads, cranks, madmen, conspiracy theorists and axe grinders of every kidney is also the home of the very apotheosis of all these: the ardent creationist.

Apparently roughly half of all Americans, and they ought to know, being so well-educated, believe this simplistic, pseudo-scientific hokum in at least one of its many disguises. And that’s the reason why, whether as “old-school” creationism, “neo-scientific” creationism, “deluge-geology”, “young-earth” creationism or, most recently, “intelligent design”, this ludicrous load of guff that has been fussed-up (as Mark Twain would say) with a whole raft of out-of-context and ill-applied real science for the sake of verisimilitude and plausibility, is currently being touted in one form or another not only by the rabid, but also the moderate political right as the next big thing in public education. There it is expected to throne alongside or even supplant the theory of evolution as a nominally equal, but patently superior form of knowledge.

Who needs unicorns anyway?*

This superiority is by right of its emergence from the reliable mouth of God (the same one who is unable to tell us who Adam and Eve’s sons mated with, if not their mother), rather than from the empirical rigour and critical peer review process of a scientific method that dares to say: “if A, if B, then possibly C”, then “if A, if B, if C, then probably D”, and eventually (with a few caveats and cautions) “if A, if B, if C, if D, then almost certainly E”. Creationists, whose method may be summed up as “if A then absolutely Z”, are either stupid enough or disingenuous enough to suggest that the entire fossil record was laid down, in all its stunningly accurate chronology by a large amount of water slopping about for a few months.

And their miraculous flood is all the more miraculous for having left us not a single human or mammal vestige among all the dinosaur bones, despite their insistence that we all romped around together in Eden. In other words, and this is the crunch, the deluge that they aver to have been brought upon us by our rampant evil, and which destroyed us all, together with all the animals not included in the ‘bill of lading’ (Unicorns, Gryphons etc) as collateral damage, left some curiously high-altitude oyster beds, not one single human skull. Hardly a very successful punitive measure, I’d say, and not particularly dissuasive either if the last 3000 years are anything to go by.

This spurious “science” does nothing to explain the geographic dispersion of species, nor the way the DNA record accurately matches the geological one to support the most precise evolutionary data available, neither does it take into account even a single family of plants. If “in hocus pocus we trust” is to become the new devise of a great nation, then its final demise as a leader of civilisation cannot be far away. This is sad, very sad. I cannot imagine that America saved Europe from the mad pseudo-sciences of the Nazis, at a staggering cost in young lives, just to plunge itself (and us by association) back into the dark ages of superstition and gobbledegook simply because half its citizens have given up on literacy, reason, reflexion and analysis.

The loneliness of the long-distance sloth

Only picture if you will, the humble duck-billed platypus and the tiny fragile marsupial mole sprinting across the crumbling land-bridge to Australia with others of their kind, while generous-spirited Malaysian tigers, foxes, and other predatory mammals give up the pursuit and wave them on through saying: “please, I could not possibly consider you my lunch, not while you serve the higher destiny of exclusively populating an entire continent”. Or let us consider the sloth, a creature so amazingly slow that moss grows on its fur, and a very weak swimmer withal, who has wisely chosen to take the overland route from Mount Ararat in Turkey to Central South America and, having to cross the entirety of Asia, up through Siberia, across Alaska, down through Canada and then traverse the continental US at his absolute best speed of 5 kilometres or 2 miles a day (stopping to eat occasionally and liking a good night’s rest as well as regular periods of metabolic stasis), has yet to reach his destination … if the biblical version of historical time is to be believed. Indeed, even as I write these words, he’s probably negotiating the sleepy suburbs of Albuquerque, Texas.

John Morris, president of the “Institute for Creation Research” in San Diego, and one of the foremost promoters of this rube-fodder as science, insists that “Americans just aren’t gullible enough to believe that they came from a fish.” How right you are, Mr Morris, they appear to be a whole lot more gullible than that.

Edwin Drood

* with a tip of the hat to Julian Barnes: “Not wanted on the voyage”

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