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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

THE ONGOING CREATIONIST DEBATE

I have been following the ongoing creationist vs. evolutionist debate with interest. I am not going to moderate it, nor am I going to get involved other than with this posting. However, I think that I should once and for all state both my personal opinion, and the CFZ's position on the matter.

Firstly the CFZ. Part of our core belief statement reads:

"That Young Earth Creationism, and the popular conception of Intelligent Design are fallacious. Although some of us are athiests, others are deists, but those who believe in God believe in Creation NOT Creationism. We pledge ourselves to combat the disturbing rise in power of those who would teach superstition as scientific fact, and who are also linked to political movements that we believe to be dubious in the extreme."

And it is that last line, which is - to my mind (because it was me who drafted the statement, and bullied it through council) - is the most important. In the past we have published various theories that (to some people's minds) are equally as far removed from the orthodoxy of current scientific belief. However, initial bipedalism (for example) was never linked to powerful political lobbies that stand against everything in which we believe.

But on to me personally. For the first sixteen years of the CFZ's existance I managed to keep my personal religious and political views out of my public persona. But now it is impossible to do so. I am an anarchist and I am a Christian, and my personal belief system is very similar to that of someone like St Francis, (and before anyone accuses me of indulging in autohagiography I'm not doing anything of the sort. I am no saint, nor would I want to be). However, although I believe in both aspects of God (both the alpha and the omega) I see no contradiction in that belief and my belief in evolution or the big bang theory or anything else.

The story of the beginning of the world as described in Genesis is a creation myth originally espoused by nomadic tribes in the Middle East thousands of years ago. The world is not 6000 years old; Satan did not bury dinosaur skeletons in strata to tempt mankind; there is no tooth fairy. Capisce?

(Actually I'm not sure about the tooth fairy)

And as far as my core tenets of belief are concerned, it can be summed up in the following passage from the Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 37-40:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Treat everyone the way you would like them to treat you, and love and respect the earth. Basically, nothing else matters at all....

12 comments:

Retrieverman said...

My ethics tend to follow along these lines: http://home.ptd.net/~rbooks/randy/ihalmiut.html

I do, however, recognize that statement by Jesus to be the most important in Christianity.

Chris Clark said...

On a technicality: surely Philip Gosse, a 19th century naturalist, proposed that God, not Satan, put fossils into rocks. He did this, not to tempt geologists, but because a world showing evidence of the way it could have been formed was in some sense more perfect than one without such evidence (he had a very elegant argument involving Adam's navel which I won't reproduce here). The theory was derided even in his own lifetime, not least by his friend Charles Kingsley.

Of course it was Kingsley in the 'Water Babies' who has Nature (here standing for God I suppose) say to someone who has created a fish: 'Anyone can make things. I can make things make themselves'. Exactly. Anyone can make a planet and drop in false evidence. How much more impressive to create natural laws and let creatures evolve.

As for the Genesis account: which one am I supposed to believe? The one in Ch.1, or the quite different account that begins at Ch.2 verse 4? When I asked fundamentalists this (I used to know some, and very nice people they were), they shuffled their feet and said that it was only a metaphor. Well, of course it is. It's a creation myth, like the Greek, Babylonian etc myths. It is no more a 'theory' than the statement 'there are fairies at the bottom of my garden' is a theory. Creationism should be taught in schools the day I have the right to push the local vicar out of his pulpit and give a 10 minute talk on mechanisms of speciation. The fact that I currently don't in no way infringes on my freedom of speech. And it is entirely right to apply the term 'idiots' to people who take a myth and apply it to purposes for which it was never intended: you might as well try and get racing tips from the Book of Revelations.

As for Creationist input to the CFZ: call me Joe Stalin, but I hope one day to see our serious research published in real journals. This is not going to happen if we have the burden of Creationist associations. There are a thousand Creationist websites who will carry your message. Incidentally, if anyone spots them using crypto material to back their case, contact the original author and let him know: ten to one he knows nothing about it and does not approve. I have found one instance of this already.

Geordie Mike said...

I fully understand your position, Jon, and I'm not interested in protecting the rights of those who simply use Creationism as a vehicle for promoting other causes - some of which, as you say, are distinctly "dodgy".

All I'm arguing for - and remember, I'm not a Bible-bashing fundamentalist Creationist myself - is that the rights of free speech should be protected. If someone believes that the world was created in six days - no matter how nutty it might seem to some - they should have the freedom to say so without being derided or laughed at.

I have consistently said throughout this debate that I am not supporting Darwinism or Creationism. What I am supporting is freedom of choice and freedom of speech.

Oh, and happy birthday, by the way. Jackie sends her regards.

Oll Lewis said...

The whole evolution and creationism debate cheapens both science and religion.

The arguments put forward by both sides are often inaccurate or flawed, of the if X=Y then X must also = Z variety. On the religious side do you really think God wants you to spend endless hours debating how he may or may not have done something (try reading the book of Job for the answer to that one!) rather than just improving the lot of people and animals less fortunate than you. On the science side who cares if a small minority of people believe in something different, just ignore them the way you might if somebody came up to you in the street convinced they were the the king of the frog people or something.

Geordie Mike said...

"Creationism should be taught in schools the day I have the right to push the local vicar out of his pulpit and give a 10 minute talk on mechanisms of speciation".

If schools wish to inform students of how life originated and developed, then that is a legitimate venue for other explanations regarding that issue to be put forward. Church is for spiritual activity. The day that the C of E or any other denomination offers up their places of worship for the debating of how life started and developed, then you'll have every right to push the vicar out of the pulpit if he won't let you have your say. Until then...

Geordie Mike said...

"And it is entirely right to apply the term 'idiots' to people who take a myth and apply it to purposes for which it was never intended".

Except, of course, that the "idiots" you deride wouldn't accept your view that it is a myth at all, and would also disagree that they're applying it in a way that was never intended.

Personally I happen to agree with you on the facts, but I think the fact that you refer to those who disagree with you as idiots is a strong indication that you didn't attend charm school.

What exactly is it about calling people idiots that some academics find so attractive, when a simple, "I disagree with you entirely" would suffice?

Geordie Mike said...

"As for Creationist input to the CFZ: call me Joe Stalin, but I hope one day to see our serious research published in real journals. This is not going to happen if we have the burden of Creationist associations."

Well, why don't you stop seeing Creationism as a burden and try to see it as an interesting but flawed concept that can be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual respect?

I'm not saying that the CFZ is the right venue for this, but then again, if its the wrong venue then whether someone believes in Creationism shouldn't be an issue any more than my religion should be an issue when I do my shopping at Sainsburys.

If a Creationist has something to say about cryptozoology, I won't let my disdain for their opinions on other matters detract me from giving them a fair hearing. I'd also give the committed Evolutionist the same degree of latitude.

Scientists should stick to what they're good at, and refrain from social engineering.

I hope I never see the day when the CFZ denies membership to someone simply because they believe in Divine Creation as opposed to Darwinian Evolution. Worse, to do so simply because we want a greater degree of acceptance from the academic world would be unconscionable.

As I believe that life didn't arise spontaneously - although I do believe that it thereafter evolved - and was initially kick-started by the influence of a deity of some kind, would I qualify as one of the burdensome Creationists you mention?

Geordie Mike said...

"The whole evolution and creationism debate cheapens both science and religion".

I think it depends how its conducted, and whether people can rise to the challenge and engage in dialogue in a civilised manner.

"On the religious side do you really think God wants you to spend endless hours debating how he may or may not have done something?"

I honestly don't know as I can't get inside the mind of the Almighty, but I suspect you're right. What I do think is that God would want those who want to debate such things to be able to do so freely
and without being told that because they hold this or that position they're stupid and not worth bothering with.

"On the science side who cares if a small minority of people believe in something different, just ignore them the way you might if somebody came up to you in the street convinced they were the the king of the frog people or something."

This is probably the most sensible suggestion I've heard in this entire debate. A discreet silence is far more effective and a lot more civilised than name-calling.

Bisto said...

""On the science side who cares if a small minority of people believe in something different, just ignore them the way you might if somebody came up to you in the street convinced they were the the king of the frog people or something."

This is probably the most sensible suggestion I've heard in this entire debate. A discreet silence is far more effective and a lot more civilised than name-calling."

Yes I would agree with this.

I think what got some of us riled on the other post was the debate about whether it should be taught in schools or not. I would be very concerned if the bloke Oll mentions taught kids in a classroom that he was the king of the frog people as literal fact.

Geordie Mike said...

So would I, but I don't think that's what he was suggesting for a minute!

Bisto said...

No but you suggested that teaching some form of Creationism alongside evolution is ok, in fact desirable.

What is the difference between teaching the history of the frog kings, their lineage and influence on society and Creationism? Both are based on (as far as we can reasonably establish) man made stories.

Geordie Mike said...

The problem is that those who say Creationism is merely a story, myth or fairytale are simply expressing an opinion which may or may not be right - or wrong. It doesn't matter - both theories are put forward as valid by those who believe them, and its wrong to restrict the free speech of the "other side" simply because we don't agree with them.

If Creationists should be restricted from promulgating their beliefs simply because Creationism is believed by some to be a "story" or "myth", then Evolutionism should be likewise restricted because Creationists would level the same arguments against it!

If someone wants to believe in the Frog People then they're entitled to. I have the right not to believe what they say and to criticise them if I wish, but I don't have the right to restrict their freedom to speak.

As for what is taught by whom, to whom and where, history has the answer: Every community must decide for itself.