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Pagans on Pilgrimage
Witnessing Tools
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Wendy Wippel

Pilgrimage, defined, is ''a journey made for spiritual or religious reasons''.  Muslims are required to make pilgrimage to Mecca; many Catholics make pilgrimage to Lourdes or Fatima.  Now the atheists (infected, apparently, by pilgrimage envy) have concocted their own pilgrimage.  To evolution’s beginning, the first primeval microbe. (You can't make this stuff up.)

This pilgrimage (for those with no place better to go, apparently) was inspired by a book by Richard Dawkins called The Ancestor's Tale, A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution, which echoes Chaucer's Canterbury Tales by providing multiple individual tales (40, to be exact) which tell the story of individual organisms and the place that they play in the in the creation of the diversity of life. A diversity of life, which obligatorily, for those disciples or Darwin, comes from one single bacterial ancestor.

As Publisher's Weekly's  review of The Ancestor's Tale confirms:

"The diversity of the earth's plant and animal life is amazing—especially when one considers the near certainty that all living things can trace their lineage back to a single ancestor—a bacterium—that lived more than three billion years ago."

That single primeval ancestral microbe is the closest thing to deity in evolutionary biology (despite the paucity of any evidence of its existence). 

Hawkins, in The Ancestor's Tale, traces evolutionary history backwards, starting from humans and finally arriving back at that obligatory single bacterial ancestor.  And fellow Brit, Chris Jenord (a man with apparently very little else to live for), thought it would be a really great idea to bring Hawkins abstract (and completely fictional) journey through time into the other three dimensions. He thought it would be really great idea to translate it into a real-life, geographical pilgrimage.

So Chris took Dawkins book, represented the elapsed time between branches on Dawkins's evolutionary tree as geographical equivalents (e.g., meters) and marked these time-equilibrated distances over the Quantock Hills, a well-known hiking area Southwest of London.   He thus created a rather arbitrary pilgrimage that disciples of Darwin could complete; pretending that the distance covered on foot was an actual journey through time.

Then he set up a website to publicize his idea (and ask for money).

Eureka!  Dawkins got wind of it, calling it "an imaginative and inspiring idea".  Jenord's imaginary "unbeliever's pilgrimage" had hit the bigtime. 

And, unfathomably to me, a lot of other people thought it was a great idea too..

Jenord's merry band of pilgrims (well, at least a small group of the pilgrims assigned to be humans), started their journey in the English town of Kingston St. Mary, their goal,  a spot on Klive beach (on the Bristol Channel) meant to represent that first microbe.  Along the journey other branches of life (again, going back in time) rejoined their earlier brethren as the un-branching of the hypothesized evolutionary tree proceeded.   (About 14 miles total pilgrimage in total.)

They set off, but with one caveat: the supposed duration of this journey (nearly 4 billion years), that Jenord had to plan it on a sliding scale, with one step at the beginning (human development) representing 10,000 years, but steps close to the origin of life representing a hundred times longer .

So it got complicated.  But finally, Jenord's dream realized, they (the 40 "humans") set off.  And with that step (on Jenord's sliding scale) covered "all of human history."

(Am I the only one who thinks the next 14 miles would seem kind of pointless?) 

The "humans", however, continued.  (Their ancestors were still lost out there. Or something.)

Ten minutes down the road the chimpanzees joined them (the chimpanzees being other pilgrims in chimpanzee costumes).

Jerry Adler, author of the Smithsonian article that described the unbeliever’s pilgrimage, said the costumes gave the event "a kind of determined whimsy, like a cross between Stephen Jay Gould and Monty Python". 

Another couple of miles and some costumed "marsupials" joined the party; a little further down the road, the rewinding of evolution reunited the primates and marsupials with their costumed cousins, the "mammals".  Then "reptiles", then "birds", then "amphibians", then "fish” (all, of course, in determinedly whimsical costumes), then "insects", "jellyfish", "plants" and "protozoa" (ditto). 

And finally, the holy grail of atheistic anti-creationism, the primordial one-cell progenitor, the purpose of the pageant metaphorically then celebrated at journey's end on Klive beach.  All the diversity of life metaphorically traced back through time to one metaphorical single organism.  And that was the end of this Ancestors' Tale. And at the bottom of the evolutionary tree taught in every biology textbook.

Because by evolutionary thought, it had to be.  Despite a glaring lack of evidence.

Fortunately, some evolutionists are willing to admit that it's a fantasy: 

The origin of life,

“. . .is one of the big ones in science… most chemists believe as I do, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic earth. How? I have no idea."  ~Whitesides

"We don't really have a clue how life originated on earth by natural means." ~Pigliucci

"What creates life out of the inanimate compounds that make up living things? No one knows. How were the first organisms assembled? Nature hasn't given us the slightest hint. If anything, the mystery has deepened over time." ~Easterbrook

"Traditional understandings of the origin of life are dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy."~Stephen Jay Gould.

"For a long time the holy grail was to build the tree of life…a few years ago it looked in reach….today it lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence. We have no evidence at all the tree of life is a reality." ~Bapteste     

 And others are willing to admit why they still cling to the fantasy:

"That life arose from spontaneous processes "was scientifically disproved… that leaves us with only one possible conclusion, that life arose as a creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God, therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible." ~George Wald, Harvard Professor Emeritus and Nobel Prize winner.

Now we know.

The group that made the pilgrimage, in pictures, are a rather motley bunch of unbelievers: some in disney-esque costumes, some with antennae on their heads, one wearing a bee beard (he named his kid Darwin), on in a disturbing costume consisting apparently of nothing but body paint which very realistically replicated the common ides of dinosaur skin. 

"Determinedly whimsical? (Or, maybe, "Desperately". "Why don't I have a life?”)

Jenord's website, "ThinkAtheist" surveys its membership as to why they left Christianity.  Jenord said, "…er..my science degree? "

Thousands of scientists believe in creation, and many more are willing to admit that the evolution they believe in is far from proven, or even provable.  (And I have two science degrees, a hundred articles in the medical literature, and probably 500 consumer health articles in magazines. So there must be something else involved. )

So that dog won't hunt.  What's the real reason? 

One of Jenord's pilgrims (designated the minstrel of the group), penned a rather predictable ditty describing meteors that killed off the dinosaurs and our ancestors swinging through trees. 

A (deservedly, I admit) obscure group called One Bad Pig (OK, evidence of my misspent youth) had their own version:

"like Charles Darwin, and Carl Sagan, you evolved into a pagan." 

Dr.  Louis More, professor of paleontology at Princeton, among others, has admitted that, "evolution is a faith. A religion."

And even Darwin himself wasn't always sure he backed the right horse:

"Often a cold shudder has run through me, and I have asked myself whether I may have not devoted myself to a fantasy."

What's that verse?

"The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.” Psalm 14:1

No God, just one lonely primeval bacteria.  

At least if you're a fool on pilgrimage.

Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/content/?Bio_Wendy_page">About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Wippel" href="http://www.omegaletter.com/articles/articles.asp?ArticleID=7822">Dress Rehearsal



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