Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hexagonal ...

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland. Hexagonal basalts. Français : Orgues basaltiques de la Chaussée des Géants, en Irlande du Nord. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Richard Dawkins: Creationism at Giant’s Causeway is Intellectual Baboonism – This headline appeared in the Belfast Telegraph on the 12th July 2012.  It was a response to the news that the Northern Irish branch of the  National Trust was to include an item in their display at the Giant’s Causeway, acknowledging that Creationists held different views on the age of the earth, to that included in the bulk of the display.

This site is dedicated to the view that socially held human beliefs including young earthism, rather than being baboonism, could more accurately be called humanism, if the name hadn’t been already taken for only one of them.

We are social creatures, whose reproductive fitness is greatly enhanced by the formation of strong social bonds. We form these bonds through meme sharing. Our upright stance and lack of hair make the social bonding techniques used by other animals less practical for us.

Dogs bottom sniff, baboons mutually groom, people meme share.

Rather than being evidence of a possibly hostile take over, as suggested by  Richard Dawkins in his 1991 paper “Viruses of the Mind,” the epidemic like spreading of memes is fundamental to our reproductive fitness.

Given how very difficult it is to achieve rational certainty about anything, (see Bertrand Russell Problems of Philosophy  1912) and that we share information as a means of social bonding rather more frequently than for exchanging essential information, it should be no surprise that these memes are not always rationally justifiable.

“We all know that there are absurd beliefs in Soviet Russia.  If we are Protestants, we know that there are absurd beliefs among Catholics. If we are Catholics, we know that there are absurd beliefs among Protestants.  If we are Conservatives, we are amazed by the superstitions to be found in the Labour Party.  If we are Socialists, we are aghast at the credulity of the Conservatives.  I do not know, dear reader, what your beliefs may be, but whatever they may be, you must concede that nine-tenths of the beliefs of nine-tenths of mankind are totally irrational.”

Bertrand Russell Is there a God? Commissioned, but not published by Illustrated Magazine in 1952

Given the widespread nature of irrational beliefs, it is possible maybe even probable that irrational beliefs perform the social bonding function more effectively than rational beliefs.

Bertrand Russell ends this essay, the one in which he introduces the Celestial Teapot as an illustration of the susceptibility of human beings to ridiculous beliefs, not with the rational –  there is no reason to believe – but with the following  irrational  teapotism.

“Man in so far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny.  The responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity”.

Bertrand Russell Is there a God? Commissioned, but not published by Illustrated Magazine in 1952

Demonstrating effectively and almost certainly unintentionally, that even the very intelligent are not immune from holding irrational beliefs when their own social identifier – in this case humanism – is involved.

Update 3/11/2013

I started this blog last April to explore something that had frightened me for years – the inability of people to see problems with their socially held beliefs.  I first noticed this when I was in my mid teens in high school, when I was introduced to scientific creationism, through the Scripture Union.  Good girl that I was, I read the Bible to find out if what I was told was true. I got stuck on the first two chapters of Genesis, and was stunned to find that my fellow Christians had no difficulty believing in the literal truth of both. I still wanted to belong so I tried really hard to believe, I even got as far as trying to believe that the kangaroos hopped off Noah’s Ark and just kept on going until they got to Australia. I eventually realised that if I wanted to keep believing in God, I was going to have to stop trying to fit in with creationists.

I studied biology at University, and it was at this time that I first read Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene.  I noted that when it came to religion, what he said was off, in much the same way as the scientific creationist interpretation of scripture had been, though, to be fair, not to the same extent.

I also noted that Robert Triver’s introduction to – The Selfish Gene – suggested a mechanism, deceiver genes, that had the potential to explain why intelligent people were so unable to see flaws in their reasoning, when it came to their beliefs. .

When I read Bertrand Russell’s – Is there a God?- I was amused but not amazed to find the same kind of irrationalism in this great philosopher, when it came to his own socially held belief,  atheistic humanism.

“Man in so far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny.  The responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity”.

The concluding sentence from a materialistic perspective is ridiculous, if you take away natural forces there is nothing left of man.

It has taken me seven months and 12 posts, to realise that  this claim that was central to Russell’s humanism is also central to Christianity.

A man not subject to sinful human nature, free to work out his own destiny.

That than which no greater can be imagined to exist, by a wise man, who has said in his mind that there is no God.


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