’Christians’ showing the love. Photo (cc) Jordan Thevenow-Harrison
Ed Darrell has set a tough problem. How do you solve the Texan education crisis? If you haven’t been following this, the Texas Education Authority has forced an employee to resign because she sent round details of a talk debunking Intelligent Design. The TEA has stated it’s neutral on whether or not children should have good education. It’s the latest round of what, in theory, is the argument between Science and Intelligent Design. It isn’t really. Everyone knows that Intelligent Design is second-rate Creationism. However I don’t think the argument is between Science and Creationism either. If it was then the debate would be as dead as phlogiston.
Even the pretence of a debate plays into the Creationists’ hands. This allows them to frame the argument as Science against Christianity. Yet if you look at the arguments it’s clear that this isn’t about Science. It’s about power. It won’t be power over scientists — they’re constrained by reality. It’s power over Christians that’s the issue. Answers in Genesis is quite open about this. Creation matters because it’s about evangelism.
That has to be a problem, because it’s not evangelism to generic Christianity. There are no generic Christians. There are Orthodox Christians, Catholics and various minor sects. In the case of AiG it’s evangelism for a very specific fundamentalist form of Christianity. They state:
The 66 books of the Bible are the written Word of God. The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs. It is the supreme authority in everything it teaches.
Yes, according AiG, the Sun doesn’t cause daylight and could come out at night if God thought it would be useful. There’s a lot said about the inerrancy of the Bible. Sadly there’s nothing about the fallibility of those who read it. Now you may be infallible and know the mind of God. Congratulations if this is the case, but it makes you part of a minority. A few minutes conversation will reveal that most other people don’t have the clarity of understanding that you do.
Indeed, a lot of Christians accept they don’t have all the answers. Most of the committed Christians I’ve met are as honest, decent and charitable as anyone else. Their reaction to the universe is one of awe and humility rather than certainty. I think they make a mistake naming that awe ‘God’, but they seem to consider the mind of God unknowable. When Creationists take the label ‘Christians’ for themselves they presume to speak on behalf of these people. That reveals amazing arrogance, but they have it in good supply.
So how do you debate these people? I strongly suspect you can’t debate them with scientific or historical facts. You can’t debate them using basic logic. They’ve been immunised.
The way I would choose to debate this is to tackle what the creationists plan to do if they win. See the place Sherri Shepherd makes for people who think dates in BC refer to the time before Christ? That is the same space she has for people who don’t share her specific offshoot of Christianity. Will transubstantiation be taught as fact in Chemistry? It has exactly the same amount of evidence as Creationism, so if not why not? It’s not a frivolous question. What Catholics call Christ’s blood, the secular law of Ireland calls alcohol, and it could lead to drink-driving. It’s not just a generic God that’s being put into classes, exactly whose God is it? What role will this God have in the local government and in the law?
The Creationists know exactly what role their God will have in Texas. They know how they plan to deal with anyone who doesn’t share their view of God. The real debate is about who will be allowed to question Authority in Texas. There’s nothing special about scientists, it just happens that they’re at the top of the list as their jobs are based on questioning Authority. The best response for scientists to creationists is to make clear that scientific debate is impossible because creationists have nothing to debate with.
Despite the claims of creationists and the wishes of some atheists, Darwin didn’t prove that God didn’t exist, but what he did do was show that God was not necessary to explain the variety of life. That opens up a lot of questions. Darwin showed that everything could be questioned, including the reasons for the existence of everything living. He showed that the world was not static and there was no necessity to believe in a world where the places of rich and poor were divinely ordained. Despite the recent attempts of an actor fronting a titanic ‘exposé’ of evolution to smear him, he opposed slavery. His work has political implications. It requires a questioning attitude, and that’s not acceptable to people who don’t want to be questioned. That’s why they offer nothing to question and that’s why they want to encourage children to know when to stop asking awkward questions.
If you know what the Creationists want with you, you’ll know why Darwin matters.