If You Think Creationism is Bad, Just Wait till You See What’s Next
One argument in particular seems to appeal to all the rational, open minded people out there. The Creationists ask, why can’t we tell both sides of the story? We can teach the controversy and let people make up their minds for themselves.
This sounds nice and democratic and all but the argument has several fatal flaws:
- We don’t teach Chinese in Spanish class because, although Chinese is great and kids should be able to learn it if they want, Chinese is not Spanish. Creationism posits that there are supernatural, unexplainable causes for things and that’s the exact opposite of the scientific method.
- There is no controversy to teach. Among anyone who has actually studied biology or genetics there’s really no controversy. The controversy is between virtually all the experts on one side and a very loud group of non experts on the other. To go back to the Spanish example, would you let someone write the Spanish language text book if they admitted they don’t speak the language, had never spent any time in a Spanish-speaking country, and they disagreed with what native speakers say is the proper grammar?
- We separate church and state for a reason. No one (in the U.S.) ever talks about teaching Hindu creationism or Navajo creationism in public schools. Teaching from one religion’s beliefs and not another’s in discriminatory. Other that counting the warm bodies in the pews, how can we judge which mythical creation story is worth teaching and which isn’t? Some religions have books older than the Bible.
- Creationism is an intellectual dead end. If the conclusion to every mystery is “God did it,” where can we go from there? We certainly can’t discover DNA, decode the genome, create new drugs and therapies, use evolutionary techniques to create computer algorithms, fight drug-resistant bacteria, etc. To beat a dead horse, it’s like a Spanish class where the teacher answers questions about conjugating verbs in the past tense by saying “it’s too hard, it’s unknowable, you can’t learn it unless God reveals it to you.”
The list goes on. There’s one argument I generally don’t like to make, which is the slippery slope argument – that is, if we allow one thing to happen, that will set society on a slippery slope toward some crazy scenario that no one would be happy with. I don’t think creationism in public schools puts us on an inevitable path to the Middle Ages. But let me ask you this: do you really thing the very religious people leading the intelligent design movement will stop at Creationism?
Exhibit 1: Geocentricity. That’s right, the old notion that the Earth was at the center of the Solar System / Universe ( the two were conflated together at the time). There are people actively campaigning in favor of geocentrism, even writing books!
Of course to do so, you would have to throw out hundreds of years of observations, experiments, technologies, etc. I suppose if we’re already doing that in the case of evolution, maybe it’s not so bad. Wow, those Apollo astronauts sure were lucky to get to the moon and back while being so completely wrong about the structure of Universe.
Exhibit 2: The Earth is Flat. You don’t find mainstream churches teaching that the earth is flat but for some Bible inerrantists, it’s a strongly held belief. If the Bible is literal and always true, then when it mentions the four corners of the world, it means that the world is flat and square. I don’t think I have to even mention the problems with this one. But hey, teach the controversy, right?
Exhibit 3: Faith Healing. My guess is that the belief that prayer can heal a person from a sickness or injury is even more widespread than belief in creationism. And in many cases, prayer can be a conduit for things that do have benefits for patients like hope, social support, etc. I certainly wouldn’t throw the chapels out of the hospitals if they help people deal with loss.
But, and this is a big issue, there are plenty of people who profess that faith alone can heal, that modern medicine is a sham or unnecessary. Given the huge gains in life expectancy, recovery from injury and disease, lower infant mortality, etc., I would hate to live in a world where faith healing is considered worth teaching to potential doctors and scientists in school. Faith had thousands of years to cure Polio and make breast cancer survivable.
There are more examples we could give. HIV/AIDS denial in Africa is a particularly nasty one. I’d hate to have the creationist misunderstanding of thermodynamics put into textbooks. If you’ve run across any you’d like to share feel free to post in the comments below. I think the pattern is pretty clear – creationism is a wedge into public schools and public discourse. And they’re not going to stop there.Written by Jason
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