Failure to communicate

I’m perfectly capable of having a polite yet spirited conversation with anyone about virtually any subject. I find the discussion tends to be far more interesting when two people seek common ground while exploring theoretical areas of disagreement. The potential to learn something new is far greater as ideas are freely exchanged, not banter dominated by memorized talking points that originated in some book written by somebody else. I write my own books.

But it takes two to tango, as they say. Truly scintillating conversation ultimately depends on having a willing and worthy adversary for a vigorous debate. In any debate of interest both participants will clearly articulate their thoughts that have been steeped in logic and reason, without making appeals to emotion or resorting to regurgitated group-think. Both participants in an intellectual discussion must carefully listen to the opposition’s point-of-view and make a serious attempt to understand it, if they hope to respond with cogent and effective rebuttal arguments. The problem is that in modern society, most people simply assume what another person thinks based on some preconceived label and would rather demonize and demagogue than persuade their opposition. Mere disagreement frequently inspires fits of apoplectic rage, and sometimes, even violence. Don’t believe me? Just look at what’s happened with the Berkeley riots.

Interestingly, a college professor at Fresno State has also asserted that “college campuses are not free speech areas.” The special snowflakes are encouraged to report their fellow students for alleged speech crimes. When did college cease to be a place to advance education and become a place for indoctrination? Another professor at that same school has called for President Donald Trump to be hanged. For what crime? Simply for being elected President?

What good is a college education these days?

Is the purpose of college to teach people how to think, or what to think? The former has value, while the latter can easily be accomplished simply by reading books. Many academics now prefer belittling and marginalizing those with whom they disagree instead of utilizing the lost art of persuasion. With leadership like that shaping impressionable young minds at the university level, it’s no wonder that people in California sent Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters to Congress.

An immortal (and most ironic) line in cinema history was spoken by the underrated great actor Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke when he said: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate,” immediately after viciously striking Paul Newman with a whip, just for making a smart-aleck comment he didn’t like.

What appeared to be a surreal scene dreamed up by Hollywood has become acceptable behavior today, though just as ironic when people who call themselves “Anti-Fa” protestors (meaning Anti-Fascist) are using what could only be described as fascist tactics that would make a Nazi stormtrooper proud — attacking and beating up people who support a political party or candidate they don’t like.

This intolerance for opposing viewpoints has now permeated throughout society. For example, recently I heard a sportswriter on the radio (I think it was ESPN’s former baseball writer, Jayson Stark) say that a person who believes in evolution simply cannot carry on a conversation with someone who believes in creationism. He was supposed to be talking about his new book on “modern” baseball statistics like W.A.R. (Wins Above Replacement) that give a greater measure of a player’s worth than RBIs or HRs for batters or wins and saves for pitchers, and made the comparison between “old school” baseball statisticians who rely on traditional metrics and creationists, implying that a civil conversation with either is simply not possible.

Just for the record, I consider myself to be some form of creationist. To Jayson Stark, I would simply point out that life cannot evolve until it exists. Of course I have observed microevolution (meaning variation within species boundaries), but I don’t find the alleged evidence of macroevolution compelling. But by the same token, I do not believe that people who believe in evolution to explain the origin of new species are all atheists and Communists. I also don’t believe that they worship the Devil, or given the opportunity, that they would eat a puppy. I just happen to think they might be wrong, and I’m always ready and willing to explain the many reasons why, in a civil conversation where we talk about my Big Picture argument.

It takes no real effort to be rude, obnoxious, and dismissive. That is an ability that humans inherit quite naturally. It is much more difficult to maintain one’s composure in a lively exchange, especially if the other conversant becomes verbally abusive with ad hominem personal attacks on his or her intelligence and character. To quote a most appropriate and favorite line from an obscure movie, “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

Of course I must cheerfully concede there is the possibility that the alternative is true – I could be wrong. So I must be willing to listen to the other argument, in addition to speaking. I must honestly evaluate the very best evidence supporting any reasonable alternate point of view. And for that reason, in the past I have written directly to the renowned experts such as Jerry Coyne and Ken Miller, hoping to learn about what I consider the “missing link” in evolution theory — what allows, along with sex, isolation, and time, mutational changes to accumulate and lead to the emergence of a completely new creature. My mind is not completely closed to the concept known as theistic evolution, but it currently makes no more sense than the secular/atheistic version of Darwin’s theory.

My confusion is pretty straightforward. Either the first human being was created by God, or good luck over time allowed mutations to accumulate to the point where apes evolved into humans, and I don’t understand how that could biologically happen. If Darwin’s theory evolution is true, the first human was born of an inhuman animal, produced by sex with another inhuman animal of the same species, or two closely related species (which we may assume by temporarily ignoring the problem of hybridization. In reality, hybrid creatures are invariably sterile. )

Jerry Coyne claims that he can explain why evolution is true, and even wrote a book making that boast in the title. However, in that book Jerry does a poor job of explaining the biology of how evolution could be true. How exactly does the origin of species come from an existing species? If prehistoric apes evolved into Homo Habilis and eventually evolved into Homo Sapiens, did the process begin with matched breeding pairs of prehistoric apes, or did a prehistoric ape mate with something like a prehistoric pig and produce a hybrid species called Homo Habilis, that evolved into humans?

The conventional wisdom is that it was the matched breeding pair theory, but how did evolution pass the natural boundaries delimited by dominant and recessive genes so that nonexistent traits in the ancestral genome became persistent in the descendant’s genome? Apes have fur. Humans do not. Humans can build skyscrapers and fly airplanes. Apes cannot — at best, an ape might learn how to use a stick as a tool or a weapon. Despite the allegedly remarkable similarities in the genome of a chimpanzee and that of a human, the differences are vast, between the two species.

A few of my more hysterical (atheist) critics have rather absurdly claimed that people will get sick and die sooner than necessary simply because I’m daring to ask a few logical and straightforward questions about the theory of evolution. Merely because I don’t believe that sexual reproduction, isolation of gene pools, and lots of time are a viable explanation for the observed world in which we live, and I’m not afraid to say so. How could my thoughts possibly kill people?

Sexual reproduction, isolation of gene pools, and lots of time fail to explain any deeper relationship between turnips and humans beyond product and consumer in my opinion, but according to Richard Dawkins, that’s exactly what the “facts” of evolution theory give us as he wrote:

Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eyewitnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzee, somewhat more distant cousins of monkey, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips…continue the list as long as desired. [bold and italics added for emphasis]

Time (lots and lots of time) is usually credited with the god-like power and cited as responsible for the creation of new species, but there are problems with blind acceptance of such a proposition — why should we simply assume that things that cannot be observed in real time have occurred in hypothetical time? And why is the subject no longer open for debate? Personally, I’d be reticent to question the sanity of another person in the same paragraph where I asserted that humans are literally related through descent, via sexual reproduction, to bananas and turnips.

An atheist doesn’t believe in God. Obviously, I do. Because we disagree, should the one holding the opinion popular with a minority of people be beaten and thrown in prison? Even though I’m in the majority on this particular issue, I’m vehemently opposed to the idea.

Yet Bill Nye (the know-it-all, scientism guy with a bow tie) thinks that people who express skepticism about the most dire warnings of human impact on climate change should be arrested and jailed. Dissenting opinions are not to be tolerated. Naturally, Nye calls his intellectual opposition “climate deniers.”

That is such a…totalitarian attitude. Stalin and Mao would be proud.

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