Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Open Letter To Creationists

Dear creationists,

Here’s a couple of interesting things I just learned.

In London, in the 1830s and ‘40s, there were a series of cholera epidemics. The city had no sewers as we know them today; instead, human waste was being flushed into Londoners’ drinking water, giving them cholera thereby. In 1849, a doctor named John Snow figured out that cholera was not spread by “miasma” or bad smells, but by sewage-contaminated water. Naturally, he published papers on the subject and told anyone who would listen, but the medical establishment remained convinced of the “miasma” theory and would not entertain Snow’s idea. Snow’s findings were not accepted until 1866, and as a direct result, tens of thousands of people died of cholera in the meantime.

We move now to Panama, near the turn of the twentieth century. Here, too, diseases ran rampant. Yellow fever and malaria, mosquito-borne illnesses, terrorized the French and later American workers building the Panama Canal. The medical establishment, again, thought that “miasma” was the culprit and that clean-living, morally upright people would somehow be protected from the disease. A Cuban doctor had discovered the mosquito’s role in spreading disease in 1881, and an American doctor corroborated it in 1898, but the American crews came to the Panama Canal in 1904 completely oblivious to the insects’ danger. Hundreds of workers sickened and died until, in the middle of 1905, the canal-builders began a concerted effort to eradicate the mosquito from their area.

I bring these two things up to illustrate the following point. In both cases, the people who believed in “miasma” were not malicious, evil or vindictive. They thought they were right, and were unwilling to even entertain contrary scientific evidence because of this, and consequentially many people died when they could have lived. Remove the deaths, creationists, and this should sound very similar to your own worldview. 

Science, at its core, is an attempt to fully describe and understand the world in the most detailed possible way. It is detailed, thorough and open-minded. And when a pre-scientific method idea runs up against a post-scientific method idea, the post-scientific method idea has always won and will continue to always win, because it is backed by evidence. See: flat Earth, the Sun revolving around the Earth, the Aristotelian theory of the atom, the Four Humors, the luminiferous aether, etc.

That’s not to say that the ancient minds who thought up those (wrong) theories were mentally inferior to present-day man. They weren’t. Both ancient and modern minds were engaged in the same pursuit: to explain a huge, crazy, confusing, wonderful world. Present-day man just has better tools and more experience to draw upon. If you view human history as one long march towards understanding, as I do, it’s not difficult to see ancient ideas as the bottom-most layer of a pyramid. Each successive layer of ideas brings us closer to understanding the world we live in.

You happen to be stuck on a layer that’s thousands of years old and no longer applies. Your layer describes the way that people thought the world worked thousands of years ago. Since then, we’ve found out (through a shitload of trial and error) that the world works differently, and we’ve moved up the pyramid. But you’re stuck with a set of ideas that are as hopelessly out of place in the modern world as a Tiktaalik roseae would be in New York City.

The point I’m making is that it isn’t just you who’s not caught up on your history. At every stage of history, people have resisted every scientific theory that differed from what they previously believed. And pretty much every time, science, progress and ascension up the pyramid have won out. So, just for the sake of breaking the trend, could you fucking well get ahead of the curve for once in our species’ existence? Otherwise, we’ll be dragging your dead weight well into the age of metahumans, and nobody really wants that.


Andy Tisdel

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