Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why Choose Creationism?

The Secular Web Kiosk has a new article by Jon Jermey titled "Why Choose Creationism?" Jermey argues that Creationism is a symptom of a dying Christianity in the Western World. As church attendance in Christian churches decline, as more moderate Christians go on about their lives taking little thought for how their religion ought to impact their lives, then some have clung to Creationism as a last dying gasp for what Jermey calls "a belief badge."

A belief badge, according to Jermey, is like a Masonic handshake, a way of identifying others in an in-group, is easy to adopt with no strenuous effort required, and can be determined quickly to identify allies or enemies. Simply ask someone, "Do you believe God created the universe?" If the answer is yes, then the other person is a creationist, end of discussion. How the person answers the question has no bearing whatsoever on how he performs at his job or deals with his family. It offers no input to whether he pays his taxes or how much he gives to charity. It simply is an easy marker to identify if someone belongs to the right crowd.

Therefore, Jermey argues, secularists and scientists who have no truck with Creationism ought to ignore it completely, as whether a person espouses creationist ideals is irrelevant to the world at large.

I find myself sympathizing with Jermey's argument to a degree. When I was a die-hard creationist, I recall as a teenager reading a Batman comic book in which an evolutionary principle was casually mentioned off-hand. It was accepted as a given, a well-known fact, the way even most Christians accept heliocentrism with no threat to their faith, unlike Christians of several hundred years ago. When the Batman comic book told its story with the evolution principle behind the scenes, I recall being deeply disturbed. A frontal attack against creationism by an evolution advocate I could handle, as that was a large part of what I studied in my high school science class--why evolution is contrary to the Bible. But when rousing good stories were told with evolution latent, assumed in the background, I began to wonder--what does everyone else seem to know that I don't?

Which brings up the reason that I can't wholeheartedly agree with Jermey's call to ignore Creationism as some harmless badge belief--the impact on education. The Discovery Institute's Wedge Document clearly reveals that it is trying an end-run around the well-established scientific process by avoiding all the messy peer-reviewed research and field testing for Creationism, and just inject their beliefs directly into the science education classes. The stated notion is that if we ground kids in creationism and god belief, they'll be more open to Christianity--or a more committed version of the religion--at a later time. They'll grow up more moral, as the theory goes, and America will become a Christian nation through and through. Creationists assume that this will be far superior to what they see today, in which teachers don't lead kids in Christian prayers and laws that espouse Christian principles such as those denying homosexuals freedoms or those allowing abortions are struck down as unconstitutional.

That's why I don't feel that Creationism is a harmless belief to help Christians identify each other in secret prayer meetings. When Texas School Board members--most of whom have no experience in education--work to throw out reliable science and history textbooks because they are contrary to their cherished biblical beliefs, this affects the children of Texas and other states who purchase the same textbooks. Injecting Creationism into the classroom puts American children at a disadvantage to other more secular countries who hammer the facts into their kids from the beginning. When generations of American children enter the workforce knowing nothing about evolution other than it's all wrong, they will find themselves at a comparative disadvantage to the rest of the world. I would be hard pressed to argue that the United States must be the greatest country in all things, but I can't justify intentionally hobbling children in the name of a religious belief with little to no basis in reality.

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