Which is more impressive, evolution or creation?

In a recent discussion with my born-again coworker, he claimed that evolution denigrates god because creating all species in their current forms is more impressive than their having evolved.

I disagree. Strongly.

Consider the distinction between architect and builder.

I have a number of friends in the construction industry. They’re bricklayers and carpenters (some of them are plumbers and electricians too, but let’s leave them out of this for now). Another friend is an architect. The carpenter came straight out of high school and took up his trade. The architect spent four years at college before he was allowed to begin learning his craft on the job. The architect’s annual salary is almost three times what the carpenter makes.

This is because it’s harder to design than it is to build. No one will say that being a carpenter is easy, it’s not. I certainly can’t build things and I’m impressed by the guy who can. That being said, the carpenter is always following instructions. He’s following the plans laid out by the architect. The architect is trained longer and paid more because it’s harder to design than it is to build. The same is true in any field where there’s a distinction between the people who design things and the people who build them. Software architects are paid more than programmers. Town planners are paid more than road crews.

So, clearly, design is hard. Building, while difficult, is not as difficult as design.

Which brings me back to god. Let’s think for a minute about what would have been required if the creation myth were true and compare that to what would have been required if god kick-started the biosphere using evolution.

The creation myth says, roughly, that god created all life on this planet in the forms we currently observe. Google tells me that our best estimate of the number of species alive today is 10,000,000. The number itself doesn’t matter, but I prefer grounding it than using X everywhere.

So, if the creation myth were actually the creation fact, god would have had to design 10m species. Very impressive. Then he would have to go about the bricklayer’s work of building them with the blueprints he’d already created. Not really impressive at all. He could have outsourced that to a bioengineering company and moved on to designing the rest of the life forms in the universe.

So, in the creation myth, the impressive step is the initial design of 10m species.

What about evolution? What’s required there? Well, god still has to design the 10m species that he wants to populate his little lab experiment. So the initial creative step is equally impressive. Although now, he has to go many steps further and figure out how to create a system that will evolve into the creatures he wants. He has to create an initial life form that contains the building blocks that will, in 3,850,000,000 years, become the creatures we know and love today (except for mosquitoes, what the fuck was he thinking there? )

Anyway, the impressiveness of this task is simply beyond human comprehension.

Designing 10m species is impressive. The trouble is that it’s comprehensible to us. 10m species, 300m Americans. We put 30 people on a committee designing each species for a couple years and bingo, the job’s done. However, the intelligence required to predict 3,850,000,000 years of interactions is completely and utterly incomprehensible.

Not only is it a more impressive solution, it’s a much better solution in a practical sense. If god did create (and fix) everything in its current form, what would happen during climate changes? An ice age would result in mass extinctions for which the biosphere would not be able to compensate. With evolution in play, it doesn’t really matter (within limits) what happens to the climate on Earth, nature will fill every available niche and life goes on.

So, evolution is a more impressive solution from the creative standpoint and a more sensible solution from the practical. It still makes me smile that creationists are, in effect, saying “My god is such a small god, he couldn’t possibly have designed something as impressive as evolution. I’m going to cling to my silly little story, written by man, rather than actually trying to understand the beauty of the way he really did it”. Then again maybe the big man upstairs couldn’t find a top notch design course at godversity. Or maybe he flunked? Either way, it’s pretty insulting to god to deny him his props for the sweet system of evolution. The creation myth gives vastly less respect to the creator than does an understanding of the complexity of an evolving biosphere.

It’s trivially easy to see why creationists cling to their myth the way they do. However, the fact that it’s easily understood doesn’t make it less insulting to god.

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