Recently I bought a laptop but it came with all these buttons with individual symbols on each button and I simply cannot grasp what they are or what they do, much less which one turns on my laptop. Any guidance?
Hello madderred i have received your question and will attempt to answer to the best of my abilities. To help understand the situation better I sent a an inquisitive letter concerning the subject to my pen pal (the identity of whom I will not disclose for reasons of privacy). After reviewing his responses, I have reason to believe that the symbols on these buttons may correspond to individual letters of what my friend has told me to be ‘the alphabet’.
When grouped together these symbols can convey a great many things, madderred! When strategically grouping the symbols, please be sure to include at least one of five ‘vowels’ you can find printed on the buttons. My friend had also mentioned ‘numbers’ though he did not get into a deep enough explanation for me to fully grasp. I will provide additional information concerning numbers once it becomes available.
“[O]utside the ordered universe [is] that amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the center of all infinity—the boundless daemon sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin monotonous whine of accursed flutes.”—H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azathoth (via iscabhau)
Going to try and dig up some works by my favourites (Wells, Lovecraft, Poe, ASIMOV); those things are hard to find on line, I might have to copy them out myself. -_-‘
That said, reading some of their writings is like masturbating for the brain; it’s a wonder how such enlightening, though provoking shit could have flowed out of their minds and through their quill. Maybe someday I can be wise too….
Ben & Jerry’s announced their newest ice cream flavor which sounds anything but appealing. Schweddy Balls is the best they could come up with. The vulgar new flavor has turned something as innocent as ice cream into something repulsive. Not exactly what you want a child asking for at the supermarket.
The name originated from a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Alec Baldwin as Pete Schweddy, owner of a holiday bakery called Season’s Eatings. “There are lots of great treats this time of year,” Schweddy says. “Zucchini bread, fruitcake, but the thing I most like to bring out at this time of the year are my balls.”
He then explains that he sells popcorn balls, cheese balls, rum balls—balls for every taste—and the ball puns proceed for about four minutes. Ben & Jerry’s chose to go with fudge-covered rum and malt balls for their flavor. The skit culminates in Baldwin stating that “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.”
In the past, Ben & Jerry’s has released controversial ice creams, like a special edition of Chubby Hubby called Hubby Hubby last year which celebrated gay marriage. It seems that offending customers has become an annual tradition for Ben & Jerry’s.
The ice cream is being released in a limited batch, which means it will be distributed nationwide but only for three or four months. If it proves popular, another batch might be forthcoming, but we hope not.
"The name is irreverent," says Ben & Jerry’s spokesman Sean Greenwood. "But we’ve always been about having some irreverence and having some fun … We’re not trying to offend people. Our fans get the humor."
Drugs: “I don’t tolerate the use of them. ESPECIALLY smoking cigarettes (yeah, they’re a drug in my book, and they very well should be considered illegal). This is on a really personal level for me. My 11 year old sister has Cystic Fibrosis, and she fights EVERY DAY just to breathe in fresh air….
“Michael Walsh (61) was sentenced for telling independent candidate Patrick Maphoso to get off his street and that “black people made him sick”.
How the fuck can this be real. What people don’t realize is that their heightened sensitivity about those sort of things (meaningless words lol) is equally to blame for the perpetuation of racism these days. Why can’t people quit insisting that the colour of their skin or who they like to bang makes them different and special; be a human being, don’t be black/white/brown/yellow/gay/straight/etc. Once everyone lets go of the trivial shit shit, THEN we can advance ourselves as a race; note that when I say ‘race’ I mean the human race, not the primitive-ass idea that geography makes us different.
Words are a man-made creation that only have the power YOU give them; quit being childish.
'The Screwtape Letters' is a short satirical essay/story written by CS Lewis, which upon reading, I thought was pretty damn unique! I'd never read anything quite like it.
It consists of a series of thirty-one letters written from an experienced demon, Screwtape, to his younger nephew, Wormwood. The focus is a ‘patient’ of Wormwood, an Englishman living in WW2 era Britain; the older attempts to provide guidance to his junior in corrupting the ‘patient’, and bringing his soul to the Devil.
It delves into the psyche of a religious man, and what sort of things would break him free of his faith! All wrapped in the interesting narrative ‘voice’ of old Mr. Screwtape.
Here is the first letter for y’all!
“MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
I note what you say about guiding our patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïf? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” of “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.
The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real”.
Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy’s!) you don’t realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning”, the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind”, he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic”. He is now safe in Our Father’s house.
You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life”. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is “the results of modem investigation”. Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!”
If you find that this taste of the tale tickles one’s fancy, the rest can be found up in hurr!:
In the past few months, i’ve began collaborating in the creation of a text based adventure game. Being that I’m fairly inept in the intricacies of writing complex code( which is a wonderous yet underappreciated form of art it its own way) i’ve been working as the main writer; my domain being event, locales & interractions!
Anywho here are some exerpts from the early stages of the game!
- A description of an NPC
The man before you sprawls gasping and shaking, tightly curled into a fetal position upon the rough ground. Though you had limited interraction with Cyrus whilst aboard the now obliterated vessel, it pains you to see your peer in this state; the young man, no more than a year or two your senior, is now dying a slow and painful death before your eyes. You note his deathly pale skin; no doubt the lifeblood retreating from his scrawny form, pouring out of some unseen wound. His bony hands are drawn tightly around a spot on his inner thigh. In this state, he bears a disconcerting semblance to a writhing skeleton, wrapped closely in a pale white parchment of skin; a harrowing vision.
- Another NPC :P
The broadly built Captain; once an imposing presence of authority, now lays broken and dying in his place of sanctuary. Behind heavy hands, an injury to his stomach spews blood; spilling between the meaty fingers. The man's face is distorted into a gruesome mask of agony, you can see deep crimson leaking through gritted teeth. He is not long for this world.
- A Settlement
You have entered a somewhat cramped clearing in the mountainside. The space appears to be a rough circle; along the enclosure, there are modest wooden buildings hugging the rocky sides. From the north, a slender waterfall spews forth a foaming, steady flow of water; running down a natural trench along the ground, it comes to rest in a broad resevoir sitting in the middle of the clearing.
- A Mountain Road
You stand in the midst of a winding mountain road. The great mass of stone and earth rises high above, into great peaks above you on the east/western sides. The road continues steadily southeast, down the steep hill; threading itself swiftly around and through the natural shape of the clearing. North; the road climbs the incline before plateauing, at which point you see a man-made arch, marking it as a part of the nearby town.
"John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
Another Asimov piece of writing today; I’m rather liking his stuff, so expect plenty more in the future! >:D
In this one, Mr. Asimov muses about the broad spectrum of what is ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’. A pseudo response to a critical letter he received concerning an essay of his; in which he made some statement about the current state of scientific theories.
Have a gander.
"I received a letter the other day. It was handwritten in crabbed penmanship so that it was very difficult to read. Nevertheless, I tried to make it out just in case it might prove to be important. In the first sentence, the writer told me he was majoring in English literature, but felt he needed to teach me science. (I sighed a bit, for I knew very few English Lit majors who are equipped to teach me science, but I am very aware of the vast state of my ignorance and I am prepared to learn as much as I can from anyone, so I read on.)
It seemed that in one of my innumerable essays, I had expressed a certain gladness at living in a century in which we finally got the basis of the universe straight.
I didn’t go into detail in the matter, but what I meant was that we now know the basic rules governing the universe, together with the gravitational interrelationships of its gross components, as shown in the theory of relativity worked out between 1905 and 1916. We also know the basic rules governing the subatomic particles and their interrelationships, since these are very neatly described by the quantum theory worked out between 1900 and 1930. What’s more, we have found that the galaxies and clusters of galaxies are the basic units of the physical universe, as discovered between 1920 and 1930.
These are all twentieth-century discoveries, you see.
The young specialist in English Lit, having quoted me, went on to lecture me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern “knowledge” is that it is wrong. The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” the implication was that I was very foolish because I was under the impression I knew a great deal.
My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.
However, I don’t think that’s so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so.
…When my friend the English literature expert tells me that in every century scientists think they have worked out the universe and are always wrong, what I want to know is how wrong are they? Are they always wrong to the same degree? Let’s take an example.
In the early days of civilization, the general feeling was that the earth was flat. This was not because people were stupid, or because they were intent on believing silly things. They felt it was flat on the basis of sound evidence. It was not just a matter of “That’s how it looks,” because the earth does not look flat. It looks chaotically bumpy, with hills, valleys, ravines, cliffs, and so on.
Of course there are plains where, over limited areas, the earth’s surface does look fairly flat. One of those plains is in the Tigris-Euphrates area, where the first historical civilization (one with writing) developed, that of the Sumerians.
Perhaps it was the appearance of the plain that persuaded the clever Sumerians to accept the generalization that the earth was flat; that if you somehow evened out all the elevations and depressions, you would be left with flatness. Contributing to the notion may have been the fact that stretches of water (ponds and lakes) looked pretty flat on quiet days.
Another way of looking at it is to ask what is the “curvature” of the earth’s surface Over a considerable length, how much does the surface deviate (on the average) from perfect flatness. The flat-earth theory would make it seem that the surface doesn’t deviate from flatness at all, that its curvature is 0 to the mile.
Nowadays, of course, we are taught that the flat-earth theory is wrong; that it is all wrong, terribly wrong, absolutely. But it isn’t. The curvature of the earth is nearly 0 per mile, so that although the flat-earth theory is wrong, it happens to be nearly right. That’s why the theory lasted so long.
There were reasons, to be sure, to find the flat-earth theory unsatisfactory and, about 350 B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle summarized them. First, certain stars disappeared beyond the Southern Hemisphere as one traveled north, and beyond the Northern Hemisphere as one traveled south. Second, the earth’s shadow on the moon during a lunar eclipse was always the arc of a circle. Third, here on the earth itself, ships disappeared beyond the horizon hull-first in whatever direction they were traveling.
All three observations could not be reasonably explained if the earth’s surface were flat, but could be explained by assuming the earth to be a sphere.
What’s more, Aristotle believed that all solid matter tended to move toward a common center, and if solid matter did this, it would end up as a sphere. A given volume of matter is, on the average, closer to a common center if it is a sphere than if it is any other shape whatever.
About a century after Aristotle, the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes noted that the sun cast a shadow of different lengths at different latitudes (all the shadows would be the same length if the earth’s surface were flat). From the difference in shadow length, he calculated the size of the earthly sphere and it turned out to be 25,000 miles in circumference.
The curvature of such a sphere is about 0.000126 per mile, a quantity very close to 0 per mile, as you can see, and one not easily measured by the techniques at the disposal of the ancients. The tiny difference between 0 and 0.000126 accounts for the fact that it took so long to pass from the flat earth to the spherical earth.
Mind you, even a tiny difference, such as that between 0 and 0.000126, can be extremely important. That difference mounts up. The earth cannot be mapped over large areas with any accuracy at all if the difference isn’t taken into account and if the earth isn’t considered a sphere rather than a flat surface. Long ocean voyages can’t be undertaken with any reasonable way of locating one’s own position in the ocean unless the earth is considered spherical rather than flat.
Furthermore, the flat earth presupposes the possibility of an infinite earth, or of the existence of an “end” to the surface. The spherical earth, however, postulates an earth that is both endless and yet finite, and it is the latter postulate that is consistent with all later findings.
So, although the flat-earth theory is only slightly wrong and is a credit to its inventors, all things considered, it is wrong enough to be discarded in favor of the spherical-earth theory.
And yet is the earth a sphere?
No, it is not a sphere; not in the strict mathematical sense. A sphere has certain mathematical properties&emdash;for instance, all diameters (that is, all straight lines that pass from one point on its surface, through the center, to another point on its surface) have the same length.
That, however, is not true of the earth. Various diameters of the earth differ in length.
What gave people the notion the earth wasn’t a true sphere? To begin with, the sun and the moon have outlines that are perfect circles within the limits of measurement in the early days of the telescope. This is consistent with the supposition that the sun and the moon are perfectly spherical in shape.
However, when Jupiter and Saturn were observed by the first telescopic observers, it became quickly apparent that the outlines of those planets were not circles, but distinct eclipses. That meant that Jupiter and Saturn were not true spheres.
Isaac Newton, toward the end of the seventeenth century, showed that a massive body would form a sphere under the pull of gravitational forces (exactly as Aristotle had argued), but only if it were not rotating. If it were rotating, a centrifugal effect would be set up that would lift the body’s substance against gravity, and this effect would be greater the closer to the equator you progressed. The effect would also be greater the more rapidly a spherical object rotated, and Jupiter and Saturn rotated very rapidly indeed.
The earth rotated much more slowly than Jupiter or Saturn so the effect should be smaller, but it should still be there. Actual measurements of the curvature of the earth were carried out in the eighteenth century and Newton was proved correct.
The earth has an equatorial bulge, in other words. It is flattened at the poles. It is an “oblate spheroid” rather than a sphere. This means that the various diameters of the earth differ in length. The longest diameters are any of those that stretch from one point on the equator to an opposite point on the equator. This “equatorial diameter” is 12,755 kilometers (7,927 miles). The shortest diameter is from the North Pole to the South Pole and this “polar diameter” is 12,711 kilometers (7,900 miles).
The difference between the longest and shortest diameters is 44 kilometers (27 miles), and that means that the “oblateness” of the earth (its departure from true sphericity) is 44/12755, or 0.0034. This amounts to l/3 of 1 percent.
To put it another way, on a flat surface, curvature is 0 per mile everywhere. On the earth’s spherical surface, curvature is 0.000126 per mile everywhere (or 8 inches per mile). On the earth’s oblate spheroidal surface, the curvature varies from 7.973 inches to the mile to 8.027 inches to the mile.
The correction in going from spherical to oblate spheroidal is much smaller than going from flat to spherical. Therefore, although the notion of the earth as a sphere is wrong, strictly speaking, it is not as wrong as the notion of the earth as flat.
Even the oblate-spheroidal notion of the earth is wrong, strictly speaking. In 1958, when the satellite Vanguard I was put into orbit about the earth, it was able to measure the local gravitational pull of the earth—and therefore its shape—with unprecedented precision. It turned out that the equatorial bulge south of the equator was slightly bulgier than the bulge north of the equator, and that the South Pole sea level was slightly nearer the center of the earth than the North Pole sea level was.
There seemed no other way of describing this than by saying the earth was pear-shaped, and at once many people decided that the earth was nothing like a sphere but was shaped like a Bartlett pear dangling in space. Actually, the pearlike deviation from oblate-spheroid perfect was a matter of yards rather than miles, and the adjustment of curvature was in the millionths of an inch per mile.
In short, my English Lit friend, living in a mental world of absolute rights and wrongs, may be imagining that because all theories are wrong, the earth may be thought spherical now, but cubical next century, and a hollow icosahedron the next, and a doughnut shape the one after.
What actually happens is that once scientists get hold of a good concept they gradually refine and extend it with greater and greater subtlety as their instruments of measurement improve. Theories are not so much wrong as incomplete.
This can be pointed out in many cases other than just the shape of the earth. Even when a new theory seems to represent a revolution, it usually arises out of small refinements. If something more than a small refinement were needed, then the old theory would never have endured.
Copernicus switched from an earth-centered planetary system to a sun-centered one. In doing so, he switched from something that was obvious to something that was apparently ridiculous. However, it was a matter of finding better ways of calculating the motion of the planets in the sky, and eventually the geocentric theory was just left behind. It was precisely because the old theory gave results that were fairly good by the measurement standards of the time that kept it in being so long.
Again, it is because the geological formations of the earth change so slowly and the living things upon it evolve so slowly that it seemed reasonable at first to suppose that there was no change and that the earth and life always existed as they do today. If that were so, it would make no difference whether the earth and life were billions of years old or thousands. Thousands were easier to grasp.
But when careful observation showed that the earth and life were changing at a rate that was very tiny but not zero, then it became clear that the earth and life had to be very old. Modern geology came into being, and so did the notion of biological evolution.
If the rate of change were more rapid, geology and evolution would have reached their modern state in ancient times. It is only because the difference between the rate of change in a static universe and the rate of change in an evolutionary one is that between zero and very nearly zero that the creationists can continue propagating their folly.
Since the refinements in theory grow smaller and smaller, even quite ancient theories must have been sufficiently right to allow advances to be made; advances that were not wiped out by subsequent refinements.
The Greeks introduced the notion of latitude and longitude, for instance, and made reasonable maps of the Mediterranean basin even without taking sphericity into account, and we still use latitude and longitude today.
The Sumerians were probably the first to establish the principle that planetary movements in the sky exhibit regularity and can be predicted, and they proceeded to work out ways of doing so even though they assumed the earth to be the center of the universe. Their measurements have been enormously refined but the principle remains.
Naturally, the theories we now have might be considered wrong in the simplistic sense of my English Lit correspondent, but in a much truer and subtler sense, they need only be considered incomplete.” - Isaac Asimov
“The universal opinion over thousands of years that the earth was flat never flattened its spherical shape by one inch.”
“It’s just that an argument based on kindergarten terms is suitable only for kindergartens.”
Asimov effectively tears creationist science a new one. He makes a point that while evolutionary science is based on proving their theory, the counterpoints of the creationist ‘science’ all seem to lie in simply disproving and casting doubt upon the more blasphemous ideas; a pretty desperate way of bolstering your cause, it is.
While he clearly tries to make the essay accessible to a scientific layman, bear in mind the guy was still a Doctor of biochemistry; what he thought was layman appropriate is still pretty out there. :o
Give it a read; hell, give it two! You won’t regret it! ;)
cientists thought it was settled. The universe, they had decided, is about 20 billion years old, and Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. Simple forms of life came into being more than three billion years ago, having formed spontaneously from nonliving matter. They grew more complex through slow evolutionary processes and the first hominid ancestors of humanity appeared more than four million years ago. Homo sapians itself—the present human species, people like you and me—has walked the earth for at least 50,000 years.
But apparently it isn’t settled. There are Americans who believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old; that human beings and all other species were brought into existence by a divine Creator as eternally separate variations of beings; and that there has been no evolutionary process.
They are creationists—they call themselves “scientific” creationists—and they are a growing power in the land, demanding that schools be forced to teach their views. State legislatures, mindful of the votes, are beginning to succumb to the pressure. In perhaps 15 states, bills have been introduced, putting forth the creationist point of view, and in others, strong movements are gaining momentum. In Arkansas, a law requiring that the teaching of creationism receive equal time was passed this spring and is scheduled to go into effect in September 1982, though the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of a group of clergymen, teachers, and parents to overturn it. And a California father named Kelly Segraves, the director of the Creation-Science Research Center, sued to have public-school science classes taught that there are other theories of creation besides evolution, and that one of them was the Biblical version. The suit came to trial in March, and the judge ruled that educators must distribute a policy statement to schools and textbook publishers explaining that the theory of evolution should not be seen as “the ultimate cause of origins.” Even in New York, the Board of Education has delayed since January in making a final decision, expected this month [June 1981], on whether schools will be required to include the teaching of creationism in their curriculums.
The Rev. Jerry Fallwell, the head of the Moral Majority, who supports the creationist view from his television pulpit, claims that he has 17 million to 25 million viewers (though Arbitron places the figure at a much more modest 1.6 million). But there are 66 electronic ministries which have a total audience of about 20 million. And in parts of the country where the Fundamentalists predominate—the so called Bible Belt— creationists are in the majority.
They make up a fervid and dedicated group, convinced beyond argument of both their rightness and their righteousness. Faced with an apathetic and falsely secure majority, smaller groups have used intense pressure and forceful campaigning—as the creationists do—and have succeeded in disrupting and taking over whole societies.
Yet, though creationists seem to accept the literal truth of the Biblical story of creation, this does not mean that all religious people are creationists. There are millions of Catholics, Protestants, and Jews who think of the Bible as a source of spiritual truth and accept much of it as symbolically rather than literally true. They do not consider the Bible to be a textbook of science, even in intent, and have no problem teaching evolution in their secular institutions.
To those who are trained in science, creationism seems like a bad dream, a sudden reliving of a nightmare, a renewed march of an army of the night risen to challenge free thought and enlightenment.
The scientific evidence for the age of the earth and for the evolutionary development of life seems overwhelming to scientists. How can anyone question it? What are the arguments the creationists use? What is the “science” that makes their views “scientific”? Here are some of them:
» The argument from analogy.
A watch implies a watchmaker, say the creationists. If you were to find a beautifully intricate watch in the desert, far from habitation, you would be sure that it had been fashioned by human hands and somehow left there. It would pass the bounds of credibility that it had simply formed, spontaneously, from the sands of the desert.
By analogy, then, if you consider humanity, life, Earth, and the universe, all infinitely more intricate than a watch, you can believe far less easily that it “just happened.” It, too, like the watch, must have been fashioned, but by more-than-human hands—in short by a divine Creator.
This argument seems unanswerable, and it has been used (even though not often explicitly expressed) ever since the dawn of consciousness. To have explained to prescientific human beings that the wind and the rain and the sun follow the laws of nature and do so blindly and without a guiding would have been utterly unconvincing to them. In fact, it might have well gotten you stoned to death as a blasphemer.
There are many aspects of the universe that still cannot be explained satisfactorily by science; but ignorance only implies ignorance that may someday be conquered. To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
In short, the complexity of the universe—and one’s inability to explain it in full—is not in itself an argument for a Creator.
» The argument from general consent.
Some creationists point out that belief in a Creator is general among all peoples and all cultures. Surly this unanimous craving hints at a greater truth. There would be no unanimous belief in a lie.
General belief, however, is not really surprising. Nearly every people on earth that considers the existence of the world assumes it to have been created by a god or gods. And each group invents full details for the story. No two creation tales are alike. The Greeks, the Norsemen, the Japanese, the Hindus, the American Indians, and so on and so on all have their own creation myths, and all of these are recognized by Americans of Judeo-Christian heritage as “just myths.”
The ancient Hebrews also had a creation tale—two of them, in fact. There is a primitive Adam-and-Eve-in-Paradise story, with man created first, then animals, then woman. There is also a poetic tale of God fashioning the universe in six days, with animals preceding man, and man and woman created together.
These Hebrew myths are not inherently more credible than any of the others, but they are our myths. General consent, of course, proves nothing: There can be a unanimous belief in something that isn’t so. The universal opinion over thousands of years that the earth was flat never flattened its spherical shape by one inch.
» The argument of belittlement.
Creationists frequently stress the fact that evolution is “only a theory,” giving the impression that a theory is an idle guess. A scientist, one gathers, arising one morning with nothing particular to do, decided that perhaps the moon is made of Roquefort cheese and instantly advances the Roquefort-cheese theory.
A theory (as the word is used by scientists) is a detailed description of some facet of the universe’s workings that is based on long observation and, where possible, experiment. It is the result of careful reasoning from these observations and experiments that has survived the critical study of scientists generally.
For example, we have the description of the cellular nature of living organisms (the “cell theory”); of objects attracting each other according to fixed rule (the “theory of gravitation”); of energy behaving in discrete bits (the “quantum theory”); of light traveling through a vacuum at a fixed measurable velocity (the “theory of relativity”), and so on.
All are theories; all are firmly founded; all are accepted as valid descriptions of this or that aspect of the universe. They are neither guesses nor speculations. And no theory is better founded, more closely examined, more critically argued and more thoroughly accepted, than the theory of evolution. If it is “only” a theory, that is all it has to be.
Creationism, on the other hand, is not a theory. There is no evidence, in the scientific sense, that supports it. Creationism, or at least the particular variety accepted by many Americans, is an expression of early Middle Eastern legend. It is fairly described as “only a myth.”
» The argument of imperfection.
Creationists, in recent years, have stressed the “scientific” background of their beliefs. They point out that there are scientists who base their creationist beliefs on a careful study of geology, paleontology, and biology and produce “textbooks” that embody those beliefs.
Virtually the whole scientific corpus of creationism, however, consists of the pointing out of imperfections in the evolutionary view. The creationists insist, for example, that evolutionists cannot show true transition states between species in the fossil evidence; that age determinations through radioactive breakdown are uncertain; that alternative interpretations of this or that piece of evidence are possible and so on.
Because the evolutionary view is not perfect and is not agreed upon by all scientists, creationists argue that evolution is false and that scientists, in supporting evolution, are basing their views on blind faith and dogmatism.
To an extent, the creationists are right here: The details of evolution are not perfectly known. Scientists have been adjusting and modifying Charles Darwin’s suggestions since he advanced his theory of the origin of species through natural selection back in 1859. After all, much has been learned about the fossil record and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, ethology, and various other branches of life science in the last 125 years, and it was to be expected that we can improve on Darwin. In fact, we have improved on him. Nor is the process finished. it can never be, as long as human beings continue to question and to strive for better answers.
The details of evolutionary theory are in dispute precisely because scientists are not devotees of blind faith and dogmatism. They do not accept even as great a thinker as Darwin without question, nor do they accept any idea, new or old, without thorough argument. Even after accepting an idea, they stand ready to overrule it, if appropriate new evidence arrives. If, however, we grant that a theory is imperfect and details remain in dispute, does that disprove the theory as a whole?
Consider. I drive a car, and you drive a car. I do not know exactly how an engine works. Perhaps you do not either. And it may be that our hazy and approximate ideas of the workings of an automobile are in conflict. Must we then conclude from this disagreement that an automobile does not run, or that it does not exist? Or, if our senses force us to conclude that an automobile does exist and run, does that mean it is pulled by an invisible horse, since our engine theory is imperfect?
However much scientists argue their differing beliefs in details of evolutionary theory, or in the interpretation of the necessarily imperfect fossil record, they firmly accept the evolutionary process itself.
» The argument from distorted science.
Creationists have learned enough scientific terminology to use it in their attempts to disprove evolution. They do this in numerous ways, but the most common example, at least in the mail I receive is the repeated assertion that the second law of thermodynamics demonstrates the evolutionary process to be impossible.
In kindergarten terms, the second law of thermodynamics says that all spontaneous change is in the direction of increasing disorder—that is, in a “downhill” direction. There can be no spontaneous buildup of the complex from the simple, therefore, because that would be moving “uphill.” According to the creationists argument, since, by the evolutionary process, complex forms of life evolve from simple forms, that process defies the second law, so creationism must be true.
Such an argument implies that this clearly visible fallacy is somehow invisible to scientists, who must therefore be flying in the face of the second law through sheer perversity. Scientists, however, do know about the second law and they are not blind. It’s just that an argument based on kindergarten terms is suitable only for kindergartens.
To lift the argument a notch above the kindergarten level, the second law of thermodynamics applies to a “closed system”—that is, to a system that does not gain energy from without, or lose energy to the outside. The only truly closed system we know of is the universe as a whole.
Within a closed system, there are subsystems that can gain complexity spontaneously, provided there is a greater loss of complexity in another interlocking subsystem. The overall change then is a complexity loss in line with the dictates of the second law.
Evolution can proceed and build up the complex from the simple, thus moving uphill, without violating the second law, as long as another interlocking part of the system — the sun, which delivers energy to the earth continually — moves downhill (as it does) at a much faster rate than evolution moves uphill. If the sun were to cease shining, evolution would stop and so, eventually, would life.
Unfortunately, the second law is a subtle concept which most people are not accustomed to dealing with, and it is not easy to see the fallacy in the creationist distortion.
There are many other “scientific” arguments used by creationists, some taking quite clever advantage of present areas of dispute in evolutionary theory, but every one of then is as disingenuous as the second-law argument.
The “scientific” arguments are organized into special creationist textbooks, which have all the surface appearance of the real thing, and which school systems are being heavily pressured to accept. They are written by people who have not made any mark as scientists, and, while they discuss geology, paleontology and biology with correct scientific terminology, they are devoted almost entirely to raising doubts over the legitimacy of the evidence and reasoning underlying evolutionary thinking on the assumption that this leaves creationism as the only possible alternative.
Evidence actually in favor of creationism is not presented, of course, because none exists other than the word of the Bible, which it is current creationist strategy not to use.
» The argument from irrelevance.
Some creationists putt all matters of scientific evidence to one side and consider all such things irrelevant. The Creator, they say, brought life and the earth and the entire universe into being 6,000 years ago or so, complete with all the evidence for eons-long evolutionary development. The fossil record, the decaying radio activity, the receding galaxies were all created as they are, and the evidence they present is an illusion.
Of course, this argument is itself irrelevant, for it can be neither proved nor disproved. It is not an argument, actually, but a statement. I can say that the entire universe was created two minutes age, complete with all its history books describing a nonexistent past in detail, and with every living person equipped with a full memory; you, for instance, in the process of reading this article in midstream with a memory of what you had read in the beginning—which you had not really read.
What kind of Creator would produce a universe containing so intricate an illusion? It would mean that the Creator formed a universe that contained human beings whom He had endowed with the faculty of curiosity and the ability to reason. He supplied those human beings with an enormous amount of subtle and cleverly consistent evidence designed to mislead them and cause them to be convinced that the universe was created 20 billion years ago and developed by evolutionary processes that include the creation and the development of life on Earth. Why?
Does the Creator take pleasure in fooling us? Does it amuse Him to watch us go wrong? Is it part of a test to see if human beings will deny their senses and their reason in order to cling to myth? Can it be that the Creator is a cruel and malicious prankster, with a vicious and adolescent sense of humor?
» The argument from authority.
The Bible says that God created the world in six days, and the Bible is the inspired word of God. To the average creationist this is all that counts. All other arguments are merely a tedious way of countering the propaganda of all those wicked humanists, agnostics, and atheists who are not satisfied with the clear word of the Lord.
The creationist leaders do not actually use that argument because that would make their argument a religious one, and they would not be able to use it in fighting a secular school system. They have to borrow the clothing of science, no matter how badly it fits, and call themselves “scientific” creationists. They also speak only of the “Creator,” and never mentioned that this Creator is the God of the Bible.
We cannot, however, take this sheep’s clothing seriously. However much the creationist leaders might hammer away at in their “scientific” and “philosophical” points, they would be helpless and a laughing-stock if that were all they had.
It is religion that recruits their squadrons. Tens of millions of Americans, who neither know nor understand the actual arguments for or even against evolution, march in the army of the night with their Bibles held high. And they are a strong and frightening force, impervious to, and immunized against, the feeble lance of mere reason.
Even if I am right and the evolutionists’ case is very strong, have not creationists, whatever the emptiness of their case, a right to be heard? if their case is empty, isn’t it perfectly safe to discuss it since the emptiness would then be apparent? Why, then are evolutionists so reluctant to have creationism taught in the public schools on an equal basis with evolutionary theory? can it be that the evolutionists are not as confident of their case as they pretend. Are they afraid to allow youngsters a clear choice?
First, the creationists are somewhat less than honest in their demand for equal time. It is not their views that are repressed: schools are by no means the only place in which the dispute between creationism and evolutionary theory is played out. There are churches, for instance, which are a much more serious influence on most Americans than the schools are. To be sure, many churches are quite liberal, have made their peace with science and find it easy to live with scientific advance—even with evolution. But many of the less modish and citified churches are bastions of creationism.
The influence of the church is naturally felt in the home, in the newspapers, and in all of surrounding society. It makes itself felt in the nation as a whole, even in religiously liberal areas, in thousands of subtle ways: in the nature of holiday observance, in expressions of patriotic fervor, even in total irrelevancies. In 1968, for example, a team of astronomers circling the moon were instructed to read the first few verses of Genesis as though NASA felt it had to placate the public lest they rage against the violation of the firmament. At the present time, even the current President of the United States has expressed his creationist sympathies.
It is only in school that American youngsters in general are ever likely to hear any reasoned exposition of the evolutionary viewpiont. They might find such a viewpoint in books, magazines, newspapers, or even, on occasion, on television. But church and family can easily censor printed matter or television. Only the school is beyond their control.
But only just barely beyond. Even though schools are now allowed to teach evolution, teachers are beginning to be apologetic about it, knowing full well their jobs are at the mercy of school boards upon which creationists are a stronger and stronger influence.
Then, too, in schools, students are not required to believe what they learn about evolution—merely to parrot it back on test. If they fail to do so, their punishment is nothing more than the loss of a few points on a test or two.
In the creationist churches, however, the congregation is required to believe. Impressionable youngsters, taught that they will go to hell if they listen to the evolutionary doctrine, are not likely to listen in comfort or to believe if they do. Therefore, creationists, who control the church and the society they live in and to face the public-school as the only place where evolution is even briefly mentioned in a possible favorable way, find they cannot stand even so minuscule a competition and demand “equal time.”
Do you suppose their devotion to “fairness” is such that they will give equal time to evolution in their churches?
Second, the real danger is the manner in which creationists want threir “equal time.” In the scientific world, there is free and open competition of ideas, and even a scientist whose suggestions are not accepted is nevertheless free to continue to argue his case. In this free and open competition of ideas, creationism has clearly lost. It has been losing, in fact, since the time of Copernicus four and a half centuries ago. But creationists, placing myth above reason, refuse to accept the decision and are now calling on the government to force their views on the schools in lieu of the free expression of ideas. Teachers must be forced to present creationism as though it had equal intellectual respectability with evolutionary doctrine.
What a precedent this sets.
If the government can mobilize its policemen and its prisons to make certain that teachers give creationism equal time, they can next use force to make sure that teachers declare creationism the victor so that evolution will be evicted from the classroom altogether. We will have established the full ground work, in other words, for legally enforced ignorance and for totalitarian thought control. And what if the creationists win? They might, you know, for there are millions who, faced with a choice between science and their interpretation of the Bible, will choose the Bible and reject science, regardless of the evidence.
This is not entirely because of the traditional and unthinking reverence for the literal words of the Bible; there is also a pervasive uneasiness—even an actual fear—of science that will drive even those who care little for fundamentalism into the arms of the creationists. For one thing, science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpretations, and scientists quarrel among themselves. This is disillusioning for those untrained in the scientific method, who thus turn to the rigid certainty of the Bible instead. There is something comfortable about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful necessity of having to think.
Second, science is complex and chilling. The mathematical language of science is understood by very few. The vistas it presents are scary—an enormous universe ruled by chance and impersonal rules, empty and uncaring, ungraspable and vertiginous. How comfortable to turn instead to a small world, only a few thousand years old, and under God’s personal and immediate care; a world in which you are His particular concern and where He will not consign you to hell if you are careful to follow every word of the Bible as interpreted for you by your television preacher.
Third, science is dangerous. There is no question but that poison gas, genetic engineering, and nuclear weapons and power stations are terrifying. It may be that civilization is falling apart and the world we know is coming to an end. In that case, why not turn to religion and look forward to the Day of Judgment, in which you and your fellow believers will be lifted into eternal bliss and have the added joy of watching the scoffers and disbelievers writhe forever in torment.
So why might they not win?
There are numerous cases of societies in which the armies of the night have ridden triumphantly over minorities in order to establish a powerful orthodoxy which dictates official thought. Invariably, the triumphant ride is toward long-range disaster. Spain dominated Europe and the world in the 16th century, but in Spain orthodoxy came first, and all divergence of opinion was ruthlessly suppressed. The result was that Spain settled back into blankness and did not share in the scientific, technological and commercial ferment that bubbled up in other nations of Western Europe. Spain remained an intellectual backwater for centuries. In the late 17th century, France in the name of orthodoxy revoked the Edict of Nantes and drove out many thousands of Huguenots, who added their intellectual vigor to lands of refuge such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Prussia, while France was permanently weakened.
In more recent times, Germany hounded out the Jewish scientists of Europe. They arrived in the United States and contributed immeasurably to scientific advancement here, while Germany lost so heavily that there is no telling how long it will take it to regain its former scientific eminence. The Soviet Union, in its fascination with Lysenko, destroyed its geneticists, and set back its biological sciences for decades. China, during the Cultural Revolution, turned against Western science and is still laboring to overcome the devastation that resulted.
Are we now, with all these examples before us, to ride backward into the past under the same tattered banner of orthodoxy? With creationism in the saddle, American science will wither. We will raise a generation of ignoramuses ill-equipped to run the industry of tomorrow, much less to generate the new advances of the days after tomorrow.
We will inevitably recede into the backwater of civilization, and those nations that retain opened scientific thought will take over the leadership of the world and the cutting edge of human advancement. I don’t suppose that the creationists really plan the decline of the United States, but their loudly expressed patriotism is as simpleminded as their “science.” If they succeed, they will, in their folly, achieve the opposite of what they say they wish.
[ Isaac Asimov, “The ‘Threat’ of Creationism,” New York Times Magazine, 14 June 1981; reprinted from Science andCreationism. Ed. Ashley Montagu. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp. 182-193. ]