Mon | May 29, 2017

Christianity holding back humanity

Published:Friday | August 21, 2015 | 8:00 AM
Patrick White

A year or so ago, curious about my heritage, I submitted my DNA for analysis. The results showed my ancestors journeyed across Africa and Eurasia, before finally reaching Jamaica to produce me. This was deduced from 'markers', unique DNA on the Y-chromosome, and the mitochondria, a structure in the cell. All males inherit the Y-chromosome from their fathers, who inherited it from their fathers, and so on. Everyone inherits the mitochondria, exclusively through the maternal line.

As expected, the analysis showed my ancestors originated in a small area of East Africa. If this defines the Garden of Eden, we can now say it was a continent away from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the place imagined by the Bronze Age scribes responsible for Genesis.

And this is yet another example of the enormous mountain of fact-based knowledge the Rev Clinton Chisholm must overcome to make a convincing case for biblical inerrancy. How could an omniscient God forget so many important details of creation, including the location of the Garden of Eden?

Unfortunately, none of these flaws matters to some fundamentalist Christians. They are too conditioned to bother with evidence.

We see this disconnect in Rev Chisholm's attempt to associate Christianity with love, unbothered by the thousands ostensibly burned alive for the trumped-up crimes of heresy, and witchcraft, but actually to consolidate church power and enrich already powerful patrons. But even I was surprised he could also ignore the screams of countless Africans, his ancestors and mine, as they were converted, not by love, but through murder, rape and torture.

This disconnect is also visible in his attempt to associate Christianity with important scientists, implying that an affiliation was consequential in their work. Even he should know that all scientists, religious and secular, operate in precisely the same way. They use evidence, not scripture, to motivate and inform their discoveries. And in the handful of cases where scriptures are the motivator, the result is always nonsense like 'Intelligent Design'.

Belief is indeed a powerful self-deluding force. What other explanation can there be for expecting a fact-free rant from an apologist, a Kenneth Kitchen, to refute a widely known archaeological finding? More than 40 years of diligent archaeological search has failed to confirm an Exodus-scale migration through the Sinai. Bluster alone cannot overcome the implication: The Exodus never happened.

For what it's worth, The Theory of Evolution has survived more than 150 years of the most intense scientific scrutiny ever levelled. Its 'central tenets' have not only remained, they are now considered foundational to understanding the biological sciences.

What are these tenets? They begin with recognising mutations occur naturally in all organisms. Those that maintain or enhance an organism's ability to survive are more likely to be passed to the next generation. We refer to this as the ability to adapt, which is part of what we mean when we say a type of organism is 'alive'.

Part of Darwin's insight was to realise nature could use selection to weed out plants and animals with less advantageous mutations. In addition, he realised that over a long enough period of time, the cumulative effect of mutations could produce new species. And this process could lead to humans. These insights are supported by a variety of data, including the fossil record and, more recently, by DNA analysis.

Christianity's divine claims are objectively unsupportable.

At the same time, we allow this religion to interfere with our economy, to thwart reasonable steps towards population control, to irrationally exclude groups of people from participating, and to restrict certain economic activities. We also offer tax abatements, knowing the main beneficiaries are often the clergy, not the poor.

- Patrick White, PhD, is a member of the Advisory Council at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Sciences, and consultant on communications strategy for the CEO of Goodman Networks in Plano, Texas. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and pew_com@me.com.