Saturday, 26 September 2015

Lessons From The Dordogne - Why Are Things Different?

Dordogne Meadow
In case you're wondering where I've been, don't worry - I haven't given up blogging. We’ve been in the Dordogne, South-West France, for a couple of weeks, taking in some of the local culture and history as well as seeing the wildlife. Unfortunately, our gite didn't have broadband and Blogger on Android - well... needs some work.

We were hoping to see the wildlife particularly because it’s different to the wildlife we normally see in the UK. Not entirely different, of course, but different enough to be interesting and certainly different enough to be able to tick off a few more birds, butterflies and wildflowers in my field guides.

But why is it different? I wonder if creationists ever give any thought to this question.

To a biologist, and anyone with even a modicum of understanding of evolutionary biology, the answer to that question is stark-staringly obvious – it’s because the environment is different, so what constitutes ‘fitness’ is different, so the survival value of certain characteristics will be different, so the ecological balances will be different because ecosystems, no less than species, evolve over time.

Geographical diversity is entirely dependent on local environmental factors and how they change. These local factors can include the type of underlying rock strata – chalk, sand, clay, volcanic tufa, etc., – elevation, latitude, average hours of sunlight, average, maximum and minimum temperatures, average rainfall, humidity, human interference, and so on.

Evolution and interaction between species, competition for niches, presence of predator and prey species, and parasite; all these will affect the various ecological balances so each will affect the local biodiversity.

Just like making a cake, the final product will depend not only on the ingredients but on the balance of those ingredients ingredients. A good chef will bake the perfect cake by getting the balance just right every time. This is the difference between a good chef and a bad one.

Creationism, on the other hand, has to ignore this aspect of biology, or at least needs to hold two or three mutually exclusive views simultaneously (admittedly, not normally a problem for religious fundamentalists for whom ignorance of the real world is a deliberate protection against the contradictions that are so obvious to normal people):
  • The magic creator is perfect so everything it creates will be perfectly balance unless it decides to make it imperfect – which would mean it isn’t omnibenevolent.
  • What the magic creator creates can vary a lot and is different everywhere, usually favouring some species more than others – which would mean it isn’t omnibenevolent and doesn’t know what perfection is.
  • The magic creator can only work within local environmental conditions so has to make things which fit in – which would mean it isn’t omnipotent.

And this is compounded by the fact that creationists are obliged to believe everything the magic creator does is for humans, because that’s what it says in the Bible that creationists are trying to shoehorn the real world into, and yet human needs should be universal because, so they believe, humans were created just the once a short time ago.

And yet, outside the remoter parts of Kansas and Texas and maybe isolated villages in West Africa, there can surely be few creationists who don’t accept that you only need to travel a few miles in most cases to find countryside that is subtly different to your home town or village and that the further afield you travel the more different it becomes; that deserts are different to mountains and moorlands and that Africa and South-East Asia are generally different to Europe or North America. Or, to the case in point, southern France is different to the British Isles.

So perhaps, since they believe their magic creator created everything for humans and human needs should be universal, creationist need to explain why their magic creator made so many different ecosystems and made it look they are adaptations to local environmental conditions, and seem completely unrelated to local human needs, even changing abruptly, not when the people change but when the underlying geology changes.

Is this magic creator just an incompetent chef, maybe?


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