Friday, September 03, 2010

The Poverty of the Creationist Imagination

This post isn't going to be about the usual shortcomings in a Creationist's imagination, like their inability to appreciate how long a million years is or how many living things there are on this world. It's about the inherent violence and hunger for power that drives their thinking.

In my experience (your mileage may vary, of course), the typical Creationist looks at science the way Hollywood and Saturday morning cartoons do: To them, science is just fancy magic people use to grab power.

Let's say someone actually invents a shrink ray. Your typical science and tech savvy person will be thinking stuff along the lines of "Does this mean I could install a gaming-quality computer into something the size of a pocket calculator?" at the very least. Others will be thinking of ways of fast transit: If you can shrink a payload's mass, it'll take less energy to transport it, assuming you can unshrink it later.

Your typical Creationist will instead be thinking, "Oh, noes! They're going to shrink the moon and hold it for ransom!"

That's the general illustration. One example I recall was a ban on research into mixing human genes into other species because the Creationists thought stuff along the lines of "Oh noes! They're going to make pig slaves and pig soldiers!" when those of us in the know were thinking of growing replacement human organs in livestock or bacteria that can mass produce vital hormones sick people need.

Another poverty that comes to mind is the Creationist idea that evolution is supposed to be a progression to bigger, stronger, and more badass. Complete bullshit. This kind of thinking is why you have idiots driving Canyoneros on big, flat cities to ultimately visit the corner convenience store, when a bike or *gasp* walking would be much easier. Bigger is not necessarily better. Bigger takes a lot of resources that might have better uses. Stronger doesn't matter if you don't need brute force.

This is especially true with humans. Just look at our civilization today. Our strength as a species isn't brute muscle, sharp claws, or fleetness of foot: It's our ability to cooperate and specialize. We're a brainy species. We can coordinate our efforts in amazing ways by communication. We're plastic enough that we can develop our own specialties to cover the weaknesses of others or enhance their strengths.

If we were as brutal as the straw men they implied, we wouldn't have doctors, and we wouldn't be constantly looking for new ways to improve medicine. When cooperation is your greatest strength, altruism comes naturally. Because we care for our sick, many of them get to grow up to be productive members of society and thus contribute to the good of our species.

This simple concept is often lost on Creationists who treat altruism like some sort of sacred (or profane) disadvantage with no practical value. Because they can't imagine altruism having a practical value, they assume evolution couldn't come up with it, and thus they start spreading their ignorance about evolution favoring individual selfishness. It's projection on a massive scale.

I find the eugenics projection particularly galling. After the fundie eugenicists started getting stigmatized and decided (for the sake of appearances only) that Darwin was right about it being immortal to impose livestock breeding methods on humans, they tried to turn it around, including a popular quote mine where they replace Darwin's disgust for the idea with ellipses, trying to claim that we're in favor of eugenics.

Uh, fellas, don't you know anything about our farming monocultures? You know that urban legend going around about how the modern dessert banana's going to be extinct within X years? There's a grain of truth to that: Seedless bananas are pretty much just clones of one another. At any time, nature could throw just the right kind of blight at the breed, and we'd have to start over from scratch. Aside from the natural altruism we have for our fellow sentient beings, we have a desire to avoid extinction.

Genetic diversity is a hedge against extinction. The more diversity there is, the more likely some members of the threatened species has some gene combination that overcomes whatever catastrophe eventually comes along. Eugenics reduces diversity, and with it, the chances something like a pandemic could cripple or wipe out mankind. Eugenics has a talent for creating stuff that serves a specifically desired function, but it has a bad habit of causing all sorts of problems. Founder effects can make rare recessive defects commonplace through inbreeding. You get livestock that couldn't survive without human supervision. And usually, with those favoring human eugenics programs, all you'd get out of it is a species that appeals to some guy's fetish for clones.

This culturally outdated alpha male craving for dominance and power just stands out whenever I hear a Creationist trying to tell me what I believe instead of actually listening. We've all got plenty of baggage from our simian ancestors, but we have to work past that sort of violent, selfish thinking if we want to prosper as a civilization.

The Creationists I know, however, can only offer strife and anarchy as an alternative.


Chakat Firepaw said...

Pig slaves, ha!

Pigs are a niche market, big busted vixens, skunkettes and catgirls are where it's at.

Bronze Dog said...

I was mostly going for the Daleks in Manhattan reference, but yeah, there'd certainly be a larger niche market for those.

Ryan W. said...

May I recommend we begin rabbit-supermodel combinations immediately?

Bronze Dog said...

I'm beginning to wonder how many furries are going to be coming out of the closet in this thread. ;)

Dark Jaguar said...

"Skunkettes"? I see one very immediate problem with that idea... As for the rest, what's wrong with just a pair of cat-ear or bunny-ear things? Seems to suit Heff just fine, but hey, if you want bizarre things who am I to judge? *judging* (Though personally even elf ears kinda creep me out.) I heard "furry" meant intelligent animal peoples some time ago, so I was all like, Star Fox is "a furry". Then I found another definition... Oh well.

Bronze Dog (I sure hope we two animal nicknamers are safe here by the way :D), I know exactly what you mean. Every single time I mention some amazing technological advancement to certain members of my family, instead of amazing them, the gears just start churning as to how some madman from James Bond can use it for great evil. I mean, it's not like that's a COMPLETELY pointless concern, nuclear weapons are a testament to that, but it all shows this tendency for people to want to stay in the eternal present, whenever that may be, because that's what they know. Everyone's too afraid of the future and it's limitless possibilities because some of them might be worse than what we have now. Well, nuts to that. If there's any point in living it's living for the future, at least as near as I can tell.

Tom Foss said...

...says the talking dog.

Tom Foss said...

And the Dark Jaguar. It's a regular FurCon in here already.

Ryan W. said...

I'm not a furry; I'd just really like my own harem of Viera.

Which, now that I think about it, is just as lame...

Don said...

I actually think that might qualify you as a furry.

Chakat Firepaw said...

Well, if we were to get genetic constructs, it should be obvious what I would want in my harem, (and would want to become if possible). Now if we can just find Charles and Katherine Turner and get them funded we can have some overperfected hermaphroditic cat-taurs.

On the more serious side. The quote I use for my fursona as a Champions character is: "You invented a device that would have people falling over each other to give you millions of dollars in licencing fees and development contracts... and you used it to rob banks of a few hundred grand?" (Shi's a gadgeteer, who funds hir heroics with royalties and licencing fees.)

Chakat Firepaw said...

Oh, I missed answering DJ's concern about skunkettes: The constant/near constant emission of spray is a toon thing, the standard furry design assumption, (and RL skunks share this), is that the spray is completely voluntary and controlled.

Tom Foss said...

I still fail to see the upshot of dating someone who, should she lose control, become frightened, or just get angry at you, can make you smell like rotten meat for days and cause you to bathe in tomato juice.

Then again, I have enough difficulty with the body heat problem sleeping with someone who isn't covered in fur, so I guess there are bigger problems.

Chakat Firepaw said...

Well, if you're really concerned, we are postulating an engineered species: It's not that big a deal to simply leave out the spray glands.

As for fur being too hot... perhaps I can interest you in in someone with less fur and more scales?

Dark Jaguar said...

But then all you have is... what looks like a cat with a white stripe... Eh, I guess I'll never get it, like why kids like Apple Jacks. Besides if you're going for "accuracy", then you don't get breasts except during "season", or sex for that matter. Try to remember all those very human-specific traits.

The fur thing brings up a point, that it's basically going out with the harriest person ever, but apparently that's part of the charm or something. I dunno, I just imagine "against the grain" and cringe.

Chakat Firepaw said...

Well, except for having a completely different head structure, never having digigrade legs and having a _much_ foofier tail.

As for having human traits: That's what being anthropomorphic means.

Dark Jaguar said...

I'll admit when I'm wrong. Clearly I haven't given this nearly as much thought as you have.

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