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Titling

I.

The word “Species” means something. When asked “Does a ‘species’ exist?” you might get tripped up: the taxonomy is itself a human invention, and the traditional definition of a species- a group of creatures bound by their capability to breed- is shakier than one might be comfortable with. But, overall, I think the reasonable answer is that a group of creatures certainly exist, and we have created a word to refer to a rough group of them as an entity.

I’ve presented the argument before that creatures are not “instance” of species, but that instead species are averages of individuals, but that point of view does not eliminate the usefulness of the term “species”.

II.

There is a new series being developed at Panda’s Thumb called Understanding Creationism: An Insider’s Guide by a former Young Earth Creationist. In the first part, the author begins to explain how they sketch out their own taxonomies, separate from mainstream science, in order to explain their world:

Creationists artificially classify medicine, genetic research, and agriculture as “operational science,” and believe that those disciplines function in a different way than research in evolutionary biology. They understand the theory of evolution, along with mainstream geology and a variety of other disciplines, as a philosophical construct created for the express purpose of explaining life on Earth apart from divine intervention. Thus, they approach the concept of evolution from a defensive position; they believe it represents an attack on all religious faith.

This defensive posture is reflected in nearly all creationist literature, even in the less overt varieties such as intelligent-design creationism. It dictates responses. When creationists see a particular argument or explanation about evolution, their initial reaction is to ask, “How does this attack the truth of God as Creator? What philosophical presuppositions are dictating beliefs here? How can I challenge those underlying assumptions and thus demonstrate the truth?” Recognizing this basis for creationist arguments is a helpful tool for understanding why such otherwise baffling arguments are proposed.

Some of it I’ve been exposed to before: the “Microevolution vs Macroevolution” framing rhetorically shifts differences in scale into differences in kind. I’ve seen Ken Ham argue that cosmology is also part of this evolutionist scheme. The borders between and within sciences are gerrymandered into totally new shapes in order to fit the worldview. As a result, I’ve found that small turns of phrase will even accidentally give people’s positions away. Here’s a slightly obvious example, paraphrased from a conciliatory remark from a “Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate” thread”:

I don’t think anybody really “won” the debate. One team left the debate believing that creationism is true, and the other team left the debate believing that the world was created solely by evolution.

Another predictor, for verification: the author’s hometown. Moving on.

III.

 I stumbled across Slavoj Zizek’s The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology on Netflix last week. I’ve occasionally (sometimes accidentally) pulled Zizekisms into this blog- he was a favorite to quote/pantomime in college. He was my default impression of a Continental, to be honest. It was through him that I picked up one of my favorite quotes, apparently from The Soul of Man Under Socialism:

the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so, in the present state of things in England, the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.

In The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Zizek spends time discussing “The Big Other”, the all-powerful abstraction in totalizing ideologies: e.g. “God”, “The Party”, and “The People”. “The People” is sometimes the trickiest to grapple with until examples are presented- various “People’s” regimes were not very popular at all as they clawed into power, and they would issue statements that rhetorically separate the abstraction of “the people” from the particular individuals who are against the regime. All three groups usually demonstrate a sort of paternalistic, fatalist rhetoric. They love you, of course, but they also hate sin, and they regret that you have chosen to sin.

In service of the near-infinite Good that [God/The Party/The People] can bestow if the right ideals are in place, horrible (but decidedly “finite“) Evils are permitted to take place. The calculus still lands them net-positive. Zizek uses this sketch (and a few others) to demonstrate the opposite of the quote usually attributed to Dostoevsky, that “If there is no God, then everything is permitted.” It is precisely when there is a God (or any Big Other) that everything is permitted, or even fated.

The idea appears to be common in evangelical thought that in absence of God, the Atheist must necessarily fill the God-shaped hole in their hearts by turning to some other totalizing scheme, some other Big Other. This framing could find selective evidence in the nominally “Atheist” 20th century regimes.

Since Marx, Zizek argues, the word “ideology” has become pejorative. Our side is simply reality/”common sense”/pragmatic. Their side is fervent, ideological. Religion is what they have, what have is a relationship with God or whatever. This is a dangerous and common bias.

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