Monday, 30 January 2012

Ugly on the inside.

Last night - during one of my brain's periodic refusals to submit to Morpheus - I watched some fascinating videos by a youtuber called AronRa, whose channel can be found here:

I enjoyed most of AronRa's videos and will watch more, but one of them, entitled Not a happy holiday, was difficult to watch.  Unlike most of his videos this one didn't deal with religion, but was I suppose primarily a thank-you addressed to a lot of people who had offered help to his daughter during the long illness and eventual death of his three-year-old granddaughter.  I've never had any kids, and therefore I won't insult those who have had children and lost them by pretending for a moment that I can understand what they're feeling.  I do not have the experience that would allow me to imagine the grief a parent or grandparent must feel at the death of a child.  But my ability to empathise with another person's pain does not depend on my having experienced precisely what they're going through, and I found AronRa's account of his granddaughter's long battle very, very hard to watch - it is horrible to watch someone struggle with so much grief and be utterly unable to help.

Not surprisingly, I was feeling rather blue by the end of the video... so scrolling down to look at the comments was a very foolish thing to do.

You know what, though? I was so saddened by this video that I truly believed that everyone who viewed it - no matter how vehemently they might disagree with AronRa's views on religion - would have been similarly affected and would have nothing but condolences to offer.  I wouldn't wish what happened to him and his family on my worst enemy; I cannot imagine hating anyone enough to not feel sorry that such a thing has happened to them.

But every time I think I can no longer be surprised by religious people, they find a way to prove me wrong again. Most of the comments I saw - although, to be fair, I shortly felt so sickened I didn't look down very far - were messages of sympathy and condolence. But a few of them (and one would have been too many) were just unimaginably hateful and callous; the comments of a user called michaelw018 - "i'm ecstatic aronra's three year old grand daughter died of cancer" - stick out with particularly glaring prominence in my memory.

You know what, religious people?  What you believe is not fact.  It is not even a reasonable hypothesis.  Pushing it on the rest of us and calling it "morality" and "freedom of expression" - particularly when you act so very badly and actively try to shut the rest of us up when we criticise you - is out of order.  The refusal of some of us to grant you the special treatment you demand until such time as you deserve it is not unreasonable, it is not disrespectful, and it is not personal.  We don't hate your god/s because we don't believe they exist, and very few of us hate you.  Many of us feel contempt for dishonest religious "leaders" who con huge amounts of money out of you by claiming to know what they cannot possibly know, and we sometimes feel baffled and even frustrated by your choice to continue paying them to lie to you.  We don't like it when you tell us a story, call it fact, and try to use it either to restrict scientific advances, misinform our children, judge people for stuff that's none of your business or restrict our freedoms, and we get especially irritated when you do all this and then tell us we're the hateful narrow-minded amoral lying oppressors of freedom.

If I struggle to imagine the grief AronRa and his family are going through at present, I fail totally to comprehend the level of hatred a person would have to feel to celebrate that grief.  I can think of nothing - nothing - that would make me glad at the suffering and death of a small child.  When your religious belief has become so sacrosanct to you that you will celebrate the loss of a child's life because it brings pain to someone who has in general terms criticised that belief... congratulations, you are less than human, utterly repugnant, and a fantastic example of why religion needs to be fought on all fronts.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A slightly scary parallel.

At the weekend I started reading a book entitled The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman (which can be bought here: and is heartily recommended), which has me enthralled - but also worried.

The guy's a serious historian but he writes well for the layman; he's very fluid, and in many ways this book reads more like a novel than like a history book.  I haven't finished it yet, but so far he's been covering the mindset of the shifting ancient Greek culture, the alterations made by the Romans, and the backdrop that allowed Christianity to flourish and eventually displace the classical values of intellectual rigour, observation and the right to question anybody, no matter how highly regarded.

To put it in simple terms, the Greeks and later the Romans had no problem at all with the religions of those they conquered, and in many cases were more than happy to incorporate new gods into their own pantheon. Frequently when conquering a new territory the gods of those they defeated would then take a place in the ritual sacrifices and observances, and thus the new subjects would be free to worship their old gods as long as they were happy to play lip-service to the Roman gods too (declaring there were no gods at all could get you into trouble, but we are talking about a very ancient civilisation working with far less data than we have now. And we can't feel smug about it - we're not that different now).  Observances on holy days was simply part of Roman culture, and by showing deference to the gods one also demonstrated respect for its values and loyalty to the state.

This all worked fine for a long time because almost everyone back then worshiped a pantheon, a group of gods rather than a single omnipotent deity.  To that way of thinking, encompassing a new god or thinking of it as another aspect of one you already believed in was not a problem, and the Romans made a point of being very tolerant of other religions in order to keep the people of their new territories happy.  Where they started to run into trouble was with Judaism and then - even more so - with early Christianity.  Here was a religion different to every other they had encountered in that it acknowledged only one deity, and in fact condemned Roman society and culture for tolerating multiple gods and goddesses.  Some Jews and many early Christians refused to participate in worship to the Roman gods, and many became martyrs to their cause. Early Christianity, through being unfamiliar and alien to Roman culture and religion, was able to at once exploit religious tolerance and condemn those who extended it.  Here too, for the first time, was a religion that claimed reward in exchange for simple faith, not for good actions, and which therefore actively promoted the mindset according to which blind faith becomes a virtue and analytical thought consequently becomes undesirable, even dangerous.

I haven't finished the book yet and I think I'll have to read it twice to fully grasp all the nuances and implications, but this to me demonstrates an alarming parallel to what has happened in Europe over the last few decades.  In Europe, even those nations like the UK that have a state religion are governed largely by secular values of fairness and equality for all (although no one would deny for a moment that we sometimes fall short of these values).  We have experienced centuries of warfare caused directly by intolerance of opposing religions, and as a result we have learned that it is better, safer and more humane to live and let live with people whose beliefs are different than our own.  In recent decades, however, we have experienced an influx from the Middle East, which has included a large number of Muslims... and Islam as a religion, by any objective terms, is several centuries behind the moderate and considered religious mores most European Christians hold dear.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam are very similar in fundamental principles - they worship the same deity, although few devout believers would be keen to accept that. However, for most Christians and Jews (not all by any means, but most) religious mores have taken a backseat to secular values, whether the believer appreciates that consciously or not.  Ephesians 5:22, for example, states "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord" but even among relatively devout Christians in the UK few would try to claim that women are not equal to men, or do not deserve equal freedoms and rights (the segregation in the Jewish temple is an interesting aspect, but again has become - in most cases, the more orthodox Jews provide exceptions - more symbolic than anything else, as both genders are given equal rights under law). Leviticus 20:10 condemns people who cheat on their spouses to death, and we're all aware of the laws against working on the sabbath and fancying people of your own gender.  The point is that almost all Europeans, however strongly they believe in Jahweh and/or Yeshua, are accustomed to the idea that religious law must fit within the secular laws hammered out over centuries largely to protect people against the dogma of others.

Islam, in this respect, has come as quite a shock to Europe.  Any woman living in a British city will be familiar with that small number of Muslim men who stare at our bare heads and unhidden figures with a curious mixture of lust and contempt.  We ourselves are unnerved and baffled by women in ninja suits, and covertly discuss the implications of this dress; I myself think people should be able to wear whatever they like without endangering the safety of others (so in circumstances under which a balaclava or motorcycle helmet would not be allowed, neither should a face-covering hijab), but I struggle with the definition of "voluntary" in such conditions - can a woman trained from birth to believe herself inherently shameful and inferior ever be considered as "choosing" to cover her entire body? We have been introduced to honour killings, child brides, the sort of sexism we have not seen in centuries, and terror threats on a level we have never encountered before.

And because we have learned through hard experience that everyone's better off if we can all respect one another's values, we've done our best to accommodate all this, to legitimise in the name of "multiculturalism" what we would not accept for any reason other than a basis in religion.  We have instituted sharia courts, insisting that they are only there as mediators where people prefer them to conventional law, while failing entirely to consider the fact that under sharia law a man's word is equal to that of two women, and that it will be the man who decides which court a woman is subjected to.  We tread on eggshells to avoid offending Muslims, to the extent that we stifle our own hard-earned and vital freedom of expression (, and every time someone in the Islamic world kicks off and blows something up or executes a journalist or mutilates a woman we are told - effectively - not to judge Islam by what its adherents do. When a group of Muslim men were prosecuted for grooming and raping large numbers of underage British girls, a peer in the House of Lords tried to tell us their crimes were attributable to Western women, who through showing insufficient voluntary interest in these animals forced them to drug and rape children.

The trouble with this, of course, is that the principle of "respecting others" only works if both sides agree to it - which Islam openly and proudly does not. The more exemptions we grant Islam under our laws, the more they demand.

This is exactly the mistake the Romans made; they extended liberality and tolerance to a group of people who had no problem with exploiting the freedom while sneering at those offering it. There are signs that we are beginning to identify and resist this two-faced abuse of our values - the pigs buried on the proposed site of a mosque in Seville, Draw Mohammad Day etc. etc. - but I don't think it's enough, I think we need more people more willing to stand up and say "no, this is wrong and it's not racist, intolerant or "Islamophobic" to say so".  Islam is quite open about its intention of taking over the Western world... last time that happened, Europe sank into the Dark Ages and we lost knowledge and values we have only recently - centuries later - started to regain.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Misogyny is alive and well, but is there an evolutionary reason for the double standard?

I exercised great restraint today in not getting involved when reading a long discussion thread about the manner in which women can expect to be perceived and treated if they leave the house wearing anything more revealing than a muslim ninja suit. Predictably, words like "slut" and "whore" were peppered liberally throughout many of the posts, and I was surprised - and more than a little dismayed - to see that there were even a few women joining in the chorus of "if you wear a short skirt you're asking to be treated like an object" and "women who sleep around are sluts".

It got me thinking about the word "slut", which has always struck me as particularly vile as it's a term applied by the historically powerful gender to devalue the historically oppressed gender; these days, when it comes from a man, you can more or less take it to mean "this woman is bad for my ego because I find her attractive but although I have (or think I have) reason to believe she has sex she has not chosen to do so with me". Basically it's sour grapes; an attempt to devalue an object of desire because you can't have it. (Obviously I'm ignoring examples of rape and sexual assault/abuse here. In those cases, I would guess that "slut" and words like it would be an attempt to blame the woman for ones own actions to avoid feeling guilty about it - but I am aware that there's a world of difference between calling someone a slag and raping her.) Words like "slut" and - more commonly - "whore" are particularly characteristic of discussions with muslim men.  Very, very rarely will I discuss religion with a male muslim and not have to put up with such names, or in many cases some very graphic references to what they guess about my sex life, intended to be as shocking as possible; of course, these attacks say far more about the messed up attitude these men have learned to have towards women than they do about me.  I can't quite imagine what it must be like to simultaneously desire women through normal biological urges (heightened by a lifetime of being told you can't respectably have them) and yet loathe them as dirty, degraded sub-human creatures not worthy of your notice. In any case, a lifetime of conditioning to perceive a woman as intrinsically and by their very nature worth less than you is a handy tool when dealing with one who's inconveniently turned out to be a lot more educated and intelligent than you; obviously whatever she says is wrong because - whatever the appearances to the contrary - she is stupid, so you can call her some names to remind her that she's worthless and disregard it. (A word of advice for any women who ever come up against this attitude; don't deny anything they throw at you. All you'll be doing is feeding the myth that what you choose to do with your sexual partner/s is something shameful. Instead, show them how unaffected you are by their primitive notions of what your behaviour should be, and let them know that their opinion of you doesn't matter just because they think it does. Watch them dissolve into incoherent and baffled rage. Debate over.)

Anyway, all this got me wondering about the difference in attitudes we - even in the modern world, leaving aside the islamic throwbacks for a moment (heck, even the christians have mostly got around to letting their womenfolk wear trousers and go to the shops on their own!) - have towards the two genders. I will argue for a woman's right to sleep with as many people as she chooses (as long as it's safe and not hurting anyone), but even I, when I encounter a woman who openly has multiple partners or who has numerous one-night-stands, will raise my eyebrows before I can stop myself; it seems to be to on some level a built-in response, which says something about the extent to which unconsidered social conventions can influence our thoughts, however irrational and nasty they might be. I won't hold it against her, but I freely admit I will be curious about her and probably wonder what the thoughts and feelings behind her choice might be. Would I wonder that about a male who shagged around? Rarely - in most cases I'll just conclude he's either a flake or just out for fun (depending on how he goes about it) and leave it at that.

Obviously there is a huge cultural influence in evidence here, but I wonder if there might be a more instinctive, evolutionary drive at play too? (I need to make two qualifications here; one, it may well be that someone somewhere's done research and published books and all that either for or against my hypothesis; I haven't encountered it if so, but it's not like I spend my life reading academic papers. If you've come across anything on this topic, please let me know in the comments! Two, you can't get an ought from an is; even if you find my hypothesis credible, this does not mean I am in favour of gender discrimination or that I think I am providing an excuse for it. There are also sound evolutionary reasons for racism; the more thoughtful and informed among us are able to override this instinct with but a little consideration.)

My reasoning on this point is pretty simple.  Evolution, as we know, is all about gene survival; a gene that promotes the survival of its host organism will survive and be passed to the next generation, while a gene that is detrimental to the organism's survival will not be passed on because that organism will not survive to breed. For this reason, a gene that inclines an organism to want to be sure that the offspring it's raising are its own will be likely to become dominant over a gene that causes the host not to care; there are all sorts of mechanisms for precisely this in nature, as anyone who's ever watched an Attenborough documentary will know.

For a woman, there is no issue here; she knows a baby is hers because she gave birth to it - for this reason, it doesn't matter to her genes how many other women the father has sex with.  But to the man, who cannot have this certainty, the number of other men the mother has had sex with does matter; it matters because every additional sexual partner the woman has had reduces the odds of the child the woman has born being his - and therefore, the more partners the mother has had the more likely it becomes that a man is wasting his time and energy raising offspring that do not bear his genes.  If this is the case - and I should point out that I am a complete novice and this is just a guess - it seems reasonable to suppose that a gene or genes causing a man to prefer monogamous women to promiscuous ones might arise and become successful; and the obvious way for this gene to work would be to supply an opposing drive to the simple reproductive one, an opposition to attraction.  Of course with modern options on contraception and modern thought about the actual importance of gene transmission (many of us share Stephen Pinker's sentiment that "[our] selfish genes can go jump in the lake" and remain childless; others even adopt the genes of rival humans!) there's no excuse for this kind of instinct - if it exists - to take precedent over rational thought and basic equality.  I also don't think this alone would be enough to account for the complex emotions and cultural associations encompassed in words like "slut", but it might have provided the backdrop... and it might make it difficult to dispose of, although as I said earlier I don't think that's a reason not to try.

There's no need to detail the link between religion and misogyny because it's well known; but if there is an actual, hardwired evolutionary basis for this particular form of gender inequality, it makes it only more imperative to dispose of this additional, artificial construct that adds the best excuse ever found to treat women as sub-human.

The habitual nature of normal.

The christian colleague I've mentioned before in this blog has come out with a doozy this morning. One of our customers is a property belonging to the Church of Scientology, and said colleague - I'll call her Lily - has just announced that she's not prepared to speak to them because they're crackpots with an insane ideology and belief system.

I don't think many people would deny that scientology is mental - after all, how willfully deluded would one have to be to choose to adopt a religion started by a man who once said "[i]f you want to get rich, you start a religion"? - but I'm always by turns fascinated and depressed by the opinions religious people hold about other religions.  In this case the objection seems to be the proposal that earth has been visited by super-intelligent aliens, as if that's so patently ridiculous as to be self-evidently false.

Here's the thing, though; the mediocrity principle suggests strongly - and the majority of scientists, according to Richard Dawkins (who holds himself an exception), accept the premise - that life in this vast universe is almost certainly not unique to our planet, and may not even be terribly unusual. We do not have definitive proof of this as yet, and because "life" does not necessarily or even probably mean "intelligent life" and/or "life capable of making contact with us" it may never be proven... but nothing we have found so far in the fields of biology or chemistry or any other field furnishes us with even the smallest reason to think we are alone or even particularly "special" by virtue of being alive.  In fact, there is limited (albeit far from conclusive) evidence to the contrary; the "Goldilocks" planet found less than thirty light-years away - on our doorstep on the scale of our galaxy, let alone the universe - and the amino acids found on meteorites, for example.  We don't know how abiogenesis came about, and it is possible that it was an event so chemically and physically improbable as to be for everyday purposes impossible... but with over 100 billion galaxies - galaxies, not planets or even stars - in the observable universe and more than 13 billion years to play with, the virtually impossible can be considered almost inevitable. Even if we were to discover that our planet is in fact the only one in the entire universe to have given rise to life, there would be not the smallest reason to conclude that a supernatural being did it - as a christian would be more than happy to acknowledge if said supernatural being was alleged to have been Shiva or Zeus.  The point is that - at this stage of our research into the nature of existence - the question of "is there other life in the universe?" is not a 50/50 just because we don't know the answer yet, just as "is there in invisible pan-dimensional undetectable magic dragon that eats radio waves in my bedroom?" is not a 50/50 question just because I can't definitively prove that there's not.  Unless the probability of abiogenesis on our own planet was less than one in the total number of planets in the entire universe, it is reasonable to conclude instead that the answer to the question "is there other life in the universe?" is "probably". Aliens are more than possible, in short; they are probable - all that's really up for debate (unless something truly shattering and paradigm-altering is discovered) is precisely where on the continuum from 50.001% probability to 99.999% probability they lie.  Whether there are forms of life intelligent enough to have mastered large-scale space travel, of course, is a different matter, but we know from our own planet that - once life has got a foothold - it is remarkably adaptable and can become immensely varied.  We know that other species such as dolphins, great apes, even some dogs have problem solving abilities. The precise date at which homo sapiens emerged is a topic for debate because it's almost axiomatically impossible to put a date on when one species becomes another for the very reason that an animal of one species does not give birth to offspring of a second species (creationists take note - a monkey giving birth to a human would disprove evolution, not force you to accept it!), but estimates place our species at between 200,000 and 250,000 years old. That's 250,000 years - maximum - between working out to to make a knife out of flint and cloning animals, creating a global network giving access to every bit of information we possess almost instantly from anywhere in the world, and sending a probe out beyond our solar system. Many animals use tools; is it difficult to imagine that - without a rival like humanity to wipe them out - some of them might get as far as we have given a few hundred thousand years? What if the dinosaurs had never been wiped out; might our planet now be occupied not by us but by technologically advanced reptiles?  And with their extra 65 million years to learn and adapt, is it impossible to think that they might not have got round to space exploration more extensive than our own?  In short, extraterrestrial life is - according to most experts - somewhere on the "probable" continuum. The probability of life existing that is intelligent enough to have reached us is less readily assessed, but we know from our own history and achievements that it is certainly not impossible.

Christianity, if you accept all the thousands of factions as a single religion on the basis that they worship the same god and follow the teachings of the same prophet (theoretically, anyway - if you measured the prevalence of christianity by the number of people who actually do follow Jesus' teachings to the letter, the religion would all but disappear), is the largest single religion on the planet.  In Britain, you cannot drive more than a few miles without encountering a monument to it; I spent NYE this year at Land's End, and even on a remote hilltop in a howling gale hundreds of feet above the nearest building on one side and overlooking a cliff into the sea on the other, we found a tiny chapel.  The consequence of this saturation is that christianity and the better-known of its tenets are seen as "normal"; we are so used to them that we regard them through a torpor of familiarity, and rarely do we stop to think about whether they actually make any kind of sense.

Now, I'm not for a moment trying to say that scientology is not completely batshit insane.  All I'm trying to do is point out that it's no more insane - in fact, in reference specifically to the provenance of life on earth, it might well be considered less insane - than the more dominant religions that we've simply become used to.  Christian mythology states that Jahweh created the whole of existence in six days. He then made Adam out of mud, and subsequently Eve out of one of Adam's ribs. So far so familiar.

But let's examine this a little - I'm no scientist, but even a cursory glance at what we know about the universe just using common sense will suffice for my purposes here. I'm using the Cambridge edition of the King James bible, by the way, but if you want to check your own bible you can do so; it may use slightly altered terminology, but the meanings have not been substantially altered since the KJV was written.  I also haven't examined every line, partly because some of them are so vague as to be all but meaningless ("the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" - what exactly does that mean?) and partly because I just haven't the time to go into that level of detail. Again, you're more than welcome to examine the lines I've omitted yourself; it is worth remembering, though, that the bible claims to be divinely inspired, and therefore that any factual error should be of concern to a reader attempting to assess its validity objectively.

Gen. 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."  Mmm-K, pretty simple so far. Except that we know the earth was not the first thing to be "created"; the universe had been around for nearly ten billion years before the earth formed.  Even if you insist that Jahweh created existence you cannot, without sticking your fingers in your ears and singing "lalalalala, I'm not listening!" every time anyone mentions anything modern science has taught us, deny that the bible has got the order wrong. Seriously, if you accept that your car works by burning petrol or that nuclear bombs exist you can't pretend that the bible is right on this point. We also have not one iota of evidence to suggest that "heaven" - any heaven, the Elysian Fields and Valhalla are equally undetected - exists beyond the word of various people of various ages and levels of education, all of whom failed entirely to offer any proof whatsoever of the claim and had motives that might be considered suspect at best.

Gen. 1:3: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." This verse always puts me in mind of the Aboriginal Dreamtime myths, in which animals, plants and rocks were "spoken" into being by the Ancestors. In fact, this way of creating stuff is not uncommon among deities; ancient Japanese and Indian creation stories use the same method, as well as many more. Now, obviously you and I can't speak things into existence (if we could, I'd be a millionaire in possession of every pair of Louboutins ever made) but Jahweh's meant to have special powers so fine, maybe he can.  Two problems with this, though; firstly, Jahweh didn't get around to the "firmament" until Gen. 1:6 and he didn't put lights in it until Gen 1:14, so what was the source of this light?  Was Jahweh just emitting photons himself? Did he leave them lying about the place?  Without the sun or even any stars, how did the herbs and plants mentioned in Gen. 1:11 live? To add to the confusion, Jahweh didn't make the stars until Gen 1: 16, so what was the light in the firmament? As you know, Jahweh also finally got around to the sun at Gen 1:16... except he made two lights then; "the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night" - the sun and the moon, presumably. As any child knows, however, the moon is not a "light"; it simply reflects sunlight, which is why it waxes and wanes. This was known in some cultures when the bible was being written; why didn't those claiming to be inspired by the divine word of an almighty and omniscient god know it?

The rest of Gen. 1 is a couple of days of making animals and a sort of synopsis - a teaser for the rest of the book, perhaps - of the creation of humanity (or of man, anyway, because that's the important part of humanity after all).

In Gen. 2, as everybody knows, Jahweh made Adam out of dust and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life".  As anyone who's ever tried clay modelling, things made of mud aren't alive no matter how much you breath on them... but OK, maybe Jahweh's got magic breath, or the mud back then was magic or something. Later on Jahweh makes Eve out of Adam's rib, which has led to a pervasive but entirely untrue myth that women have one more rib than men - the wide acceptance of which makes even less sense when we remember that my kids will not be born without tonsils just because mine have been removed.  Quite how Jahweh made Eve from the rib is unclear, although our own technology suggests that this might not be as farfetched as it would have sounded to contemporary readers; and you know, whatever - Jahweh's magic, right? And Adam was created with magic breath from magic dust, maybe his rib's magic too.  On the other hand, if Adam and Eve existed and if they were the progenitors of all human life... well, how did the human gene pool become so large? Why do we share so much of our DNA with other animals, even with plants and fungi? Why are all the great apes unable to synthesis vitamin C as a result of the same genetic mutation that originated at the same period whichever affected species' DNA is used to date it?  If it comes to that, what's this "God created man in his own image" bit about? So is Jahweh white, or Arabic, or black, or oriental, or aboriginal, or what?  Is he eight feet tall or three, muscular or slender, handsome or homely?

In this post, I'm only addressing the origins of life on this planet.  To believe the christian version of events, you're required to believe that our planet is the oldest thing in the universe. You have to believe that there's a magic way of speaking that will make things exist that you want. You have to believe in a magic light that doesn't work as the light we're familiar with, and that darkness is an entity in its own right, rather than simply the absence of light as every child knows. You have to believe that the moon emits light, or at least that it used in such a way as to leave no evidence of this; you have to believe it's the same age as the sun, too.  You have to believe that dirt, if formed into the shape of a human being and breathed upon, will alter its composition and come to life. You have to believe that ribs can be magicked into sprouting a whole new person, with DNA different from that of the original rib. You have to believe that all of humnanity, with all our variations and differences, is descended from these two individuals, while simultaneously not believing in those pesky genetic mutations that would explain those variations but also rather awkwardly brings evolution and species divergence into the picture (and no, you can't get around that with "microevolution" - microevolution is just standard evolution over a shortened timescale).  You have to believe that all we have learned from the fields of chemistry, biology, geology, physics and everything else in science is wrong, which as I pointed out means that you have to believe many modern achievements are wrong; if evolution were not real, for example, modern medicine would not work, and if our understanding of physics, chemistry and geology are incorrect then petrol shouldn't exist and we should not be able to generate nuclear power.

To believe the scientologists' version of events, you just have to believe that intelligent extraterrestrial life exists.

Which one seems insane now?

A belief does not become less ridiculous or less stupid by virtue of age or popularity. Just because the christian creation myth is familiar to most of us does not mean it makes any sense whatsoever.  No adherent to any religion has any right to pronounce the beliefs of any other religion crackpot, because by definition if you believe in deities you believe in impossibilities for which there is no proof and for which you have no better evidence than a text or two and a whole lot of habit.