What do the Creationists want with you?

’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.


When he's not tired, ill or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

2 Responses

  1. Chris Weimer says:

    Good words, Alun. It’s a scary world we live in, isn’t it?

  2. Mary Rose Liverani says:

    I’m writ­ing a book on Sicily where I idled around for a year in 2006. It’s not schol­arly or aca­demic or spe­cific­ally travel or any­thing much but a per­sonal response to the people I met and talked to, and the places I saw. But if I take your recom­men­ded response to the Creationist debate as a model, I’d say that my hoped for out­come will be the accel­er­ated sec­u­lar­ism of Sicilians and an end to their long­stand­ing, impov­er­ish­ing malavoglia.

    I stumbled on your blog by acci­dent (is there any other way?) and it has been a real joy to read, an immensely informed and ener­gising blend of intel­li­gence, spunk and comedy.

    Tante belle cose