Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Creationism's Threat

Warning:  Strong opinions ahead!

Growing up in the Deep South, one of the many issues I ended up exposed to (albeit not until college) was a pseudo-science called Creationism.  These days it goes by the name Intelligent Design.  Many people don't realize the reason for the name-change.  Simply, Federal Courts ruled that Creationism is religion, not science.  Reading the actual decisions makes this pretty clear.  Science is open to change, based upon evidence.  Creationism is not--by definition it rejects even the possibility it could be wrong no matter what the evidence.

Hence the name-change.  It offers up a perfect example of what Creationists engage in on a routine basis--deceit.  Not the rank and file person on the street has next to no knowledge of biology and feels overwhelmed a changing world.  No, the liars are the leaders and writers and spokespeople of the Creationism movement.  They engage in a concerted campaign to distort facts, studying hard to do so.

Case in point--Piltdown Man.  This was a hoax "discovered" in 1912, an early human fossil or so it seemed.  It had its detractors from the very start and eventually it was exposed as a hoax in the 1950s.  Creationists routinely try to use this as proof of how unreliable evolutionary biology must be.  Now think about this for a moment.  Apply this same standard to all human endeavor.  Think of one subject which has not been the subject of a hoax or a mistake.  If you can think of one, do so more research.  I'll bet money you're wrong.  Error is part of the human condition, which is why protocols exist to check and re-check all scientific findings before they get published in accredited journals.  Creationists sneer at this process (when they acknowledge it) as a way of smothering dissent.  This viewpoint alone indicates how little they understand (or are willing to mention) about scientific journals--the widely diverging views and often-acrimonious debates about all kinds of questions that go on there.  More, Creationists don't bother to talk about the actual standards being used--which are scientific, standardized and offer no impediment to anything that has some evidential backing, even if inconclusive.  Creationists cannot meet those standards, so they attack them.

One could easily write a book about all the different tricks and deceits practiced by the Creationist movement--from cheery picking to deliberate misinformation to ad hominem attacks and straw men, false analogies and non sequitors to a thousand other stunts.  One particular thing anyone playing close attention will notice is how Creationists change the subject whenever an obstacle of knowledge and data lies ahead.

But more to the point, what is this all about really?  Why do they care?  Creationist organizations are nation-wide and often well-funded, doing their best to divert education away from everything current in biology towards...what?

Therein lies the rub.  What are they trying to promote?

It isn't hard to find that out, actually.  A "return to Christian values" by which they mean a certain brand of Fundamentalist Protestantism.  A specific literal interpretation of the Bible (not just any literal interpretation, theirs and theirs alone).  No more belief that we are shaped by our environment in any way--because that would justify society acting to help each other out.  Hence higher taxes to pay for things like feeding the hungry or healing the sick, or cleaning up after natural disasters.  Officially sanctioned prejudice against women, homosexuals and non-Fundamentalist Protestants, as in Judea of Old (or their imaginary version of same--these folks generally know as little about history, theology and Biblical studies as they do about biology).  Legislating norms in the arts.  Banning certain paganistic holidays and practices.  Leading children into prayer by government fiat, specific prayers of a specific religions POV regardless of what those children or their families think.  Theocracy--not overtly as in Iran but more along the lines of Utah or the Soviet Union (in theory the Communist Party was a different entity from the government--it just happened that the leaders of one were identical to the leaders of the other).

Did I mention I'm a Christian?  A quite devout one?  Of course, in the eyes of Fundamentalists I am not because my opinions do not slavishly follow theirs--and they claim absolute authority to make that decision. History shows what happens when Fundamentalists get their hands on things like governments, avoidable tragedies follow.  One--which understandably gets eclipsed amid the shattered lives and all-too-often bloody corpses--is the spiritual loss of direction.  Just as the Pharisees saw the Messiah as a threat to be destroyed, so the Pharisees of our own time see genuine search for Faith as something to be controlled rather than encouraged.

Creationism denies all kinds of truths--but in terms of Christianity, it denies any vision of God's works can possibly be valid save their own narrow one.  In a child, this kind of stubbornness remains understandable, forgivable, little enough to cause concern.  Grown-ups are supposed to be wiser.

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