Anti-intellectual Design: The Problem with Creationism

Anti-intellectual Design: The Problem with Creationism

Do you know what the worst thing about the recent Gallup poll on evolution is? It isn’t that 46 percent of respondents are creationists (“God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last ten thousand years or so”). Or that 32 percent believe in “theistic evolution” (“Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process”). Or that only 15 percent said humans evolved and “God had no part in this process.” It isn’t even that the percentage of Americans with creationist views has barely budged since 1982, when it was 44 percent, with a small rise in the no-God vote (up from 9 percent) coming at the expense of the divine-help position (down from 38 percent). Or that 58 percent of Republicans are creationists, although that does explain a lot.

It’s that the proportion of college graduates who are creationists is exactly the same as for the general public. That’s right: 46 percent of Americans with sixteen long years of education under their belt believe the story of Adam and Eve is literally true. Even 25 percent of Americans with graduate degrees believe dinosaurs and humans romped together before Noah’s flood. Needless to say, this remarkable demonstration of educational failure attracts little attention from those who call for improving our schools.

My brilliant husband, a sociologist and political theorist, refuses to get upset about the poll. It’s quite annoying, actually. He thinks questions like these primarily elicit affirmations of identity, not literal convictions; declaring your belief in creationism is another way of saying you’re a good Christian. That does rather beg the question of what a good Christian is, and why so many think it means refusing to use the brains God gave you. And yes, as you may have suspected, according to the Pew Research Center, evangelicals are far more likely than those of other faiths to hold creationist views; just 24 percent of them believe in evolution. Mormons come in even lower, at 22 percent, although official church doctrine has no problem with evolution.

Why does it matter that almost half the country rejects the overwhelming evidence of evolution, with or without the hand of God? After all, Americans are famously ignorant of many things—like where Iran is or when World War II took place—and we are still here. One reason is that rejecting evolution expresses more than an inability to think critically; it relies on a fundamentally paranoid worldview. Think what the world would have to be like for evolution to be false. Almost every scientist on earth would have to be engaged in a fraud so complex and extensive it involved every field from archaeology, paleontology, geology and genetics to biology, chemistry and physics. And yet this massive concatenation of lies and delusion is so full of obvious holes that a pastor with a Bible-college degree or a homeschooling parent with no degree at all can see right through it. A flute discovered in southern Germany is 43,000 years old? Not bloody likely. It’s probably some old bone left over from an ancient barbecue. To celebrate its fifth anniversary, the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, has installed a holographic exhibit of Lucy, the famous proto-human fossil, showing how she was really just a few-thousand-year-old ape after all.

Patricia Princehouse, director of the evolutionary biology program at Case Western Reserve University, laughed when I suggested to her that the Gallup survey shows that education doesn’t work. “There isn’t much evolution education in the schools,” she told me. “Most have no more than a lesson or two, and it isn’t presented as connected with the rest of biology.” In fact, students may not even get that much exposure. Nationally, Princehouse said, at least 13 percent of biology teachers teach “young earth” creationism (not just humans but the earth itself is only 10,000 years old or thereabouts), despite laws forbidding it, and some 60 percent teach a watered-down version of evolution. They have to get along with their neighbors, after all. In Tennessee, home of the Scopes trial, a new law actually makes teaching creationism legal. “No one takes them to court,” Princehouse told me, “because creationism is so popular. Those who object are isolated and afraid of reprisals.” People tend to forget that Clarence Darrow lost the Scopes trial; until the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in 1968, it was illegal to teach evolution in public schools in about half a dozen states.

Kenneth Miller, a biology professor at Brown University and practicing Catholic who is a leading voice against creationism, agrees with Princehouse. “Science education has been remarkably ineffective,” he told me. “Those of us in the scientific community who are religious have a tremendous amount of work to do in the faith community.” Why bother? “There’s a potential for great harm when nearly half the population rejects the central organizing principle of the biological sciences. It’s useful for us as a species to understand that we are a recent appearance on this planet and that 99.9 percent of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct.” Evangelical parents may care less that their children learn science than that they avoid going to hell, but Miller points out that many of the major challenges facing the nation—and the world—are scientific in nature: climate change and energy policy, for instance. “To have a near majority essentially rejecting the scientific method is very troubling,” he says. And to have solidly grounded science waved away as political and theological propaganda could not come at a worse time. “Sea-level rise” is a “left-wing term,” said Virginia state legislator Chris Stolle, a Republican, successfully urging its replacement in a state-commissioned study by the expression “recurrent flooding.”

The group Answers in Genesis, which runs the Creation Museum, has plans to build a full-size replica of Noah’s Ark as part of its Ark Encounter theme park. If that “recurrent flooding” really gets going, you may wish you’d booked a cabin.

Source | (Image © Whoever owns ‘Family Guy’)

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  1. Just Your Everyday, Below Average, Retarded believer in a Creator says:

    To quote Darwin himself, “to suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.”

    Who is man, in all his hubris, paradox, and beauty before the knowledge hidden and revealed within the cosmos?

    Yea, I went to college and I believe in creationism…I also know that natural selection is a theory and though I believe in Higher Intelligence I do not bear the mark of organized religion seared into brain cells. Unfortunately, I cant say the same thing for a lot of darwin lovers who seem to be as prosyletizing as a bible-hugger on a congested city corner “heralding” the end of days.

    From a logical standpoint the laws and design of the universe speaks volumes in the way of intelligent design. Sadly like religion, science can be politicized and natural selection, like the nonviolent and compassionate words of Buddha or Jesus, has too been made to serve heinous policy.

    I don’t see where attacking people of faith’s intellect serves truth. I’ll give you two, reflective of my scientific and “creationist” leanings. 1) The jury is still out on natural selection. 2) For man to have the capacity to intellect means that intellect itself has a place of origin or a source, just as the universe itself has a source when therodynamically seen and proven to be a created thing. Our ability to discover the laws of nature connects us to that universe-creating intelligence as we share our nature with it, and as a result are said to be a species of some degree of intelligence, able to create in proportion of said degree of intelligence.

    Lastly, since we are on the subject of religion via creationism. Is every follower of math a good mathematician? Or savant in history or politics a good politician? Not necessarily, judge a thing by its fruits. As far as I’m concerned people like Jesus or Buddha preached and lived lives of peace, charity, and wisdom…albeit of the sort that the wordly man cannot reason towards save for his heart. Now, to attach mankinds politicization of such people and their ideals is to be dismissive of the truth of their very beings entirely. As a believer in that which is beyond me, I would be limiting myself were I to completely denounce science as a modality for truth seeking. So why close your mind to a belief just because you cannot perceive it as being reality.

    I hope that one day you will day become open to the immaterial parts of nature and their importance within life, if not through religion (in the vein of intellectual perusings), through your vary being; for all of man is not what can be seen!

    • RE: quoting Darwin himself- what he said to endear himself to the skeptical reader is moot considering the 200-years of proofs which have followed his prophetic ideas.

      RE: going to college and believing in creationism: obviously not a science major. Philosophy doesn’t lay the foundation for understanding biology- studying biology does.

      RE: “From a logical standpoint the laws and design of the universe speaks volumes in the way of intelligent design” – No, they doesn’t. 99% of cosmologists and physicists would disagree with you.

      RE: “The jury is still out on natural selection.” – No, it isn’t. 99% of geneticists and biologists agree Darwin’s laws are fact.

      RE: “For man to have the capacity to intellect means that intellect itself has a place of origin or a source,” – Ontological fallacy. No, it isn’t the case- or at least we don’t know that intelligence needs to have begat intelligence. This is a shopworn reductionist drivel that was probably tired in the time of Aquinas. Me urinating in a toilet doesn’t prove that someone urinated to produce the streams and oceans.

      RE: I suggest you actually study science, versus flowery vapid apologetics which you don’t even seem well versed in.

    • You say “I don’t see where attacking people of faith’s intellect serves truth.” I disagree totally and completely. You see, allowing anyone to teach or believe in creationism is a very dangerous road to tread.

      The reason creationism has no place what so ever in schools, is that supporting creationism supports the idea that it’s ok to believe in something with no evidence what so ever. That is not how science works. Science relies on facts and empirical evidence. If we start fostering the idea that you should take something on faith, then your preparing a group of people to be brainwashed and led like sheep to the slaughter, instead of creative thinking, critical thinking skills.

      • Errin-

        Why don’t they allow the theory that unicorns and leprechauns control the weather to be taught in school?

        If they didn’t have anything to worry about they would teach the kids that and let them sort it out. You know, like they do with history vs fairy tales and math vs picking numbers out of a hat.

    • C Reese Nebeker says:

      // judge a thing by its fruits. As far as I’m concerned people like Jesus or Buddha preached and lived lives of peace, charity, and wisdom…//

      Judging religion in general, Christianity and Islam in particular, the tree is rotten; root, branch, and fruit. Killing in the name of ___ is EVIL. Preaching difference and damnation is EVIL. Think not gods exist to bring peace, but a sword. God hates Fags. God hates Women. God repented him that he had made man. God IS evil.

      • As far as I am concerned Jesus didn’t exist.

        I agree that religion is rotten.

        The evidence isn’t that God is evil, but rather that he doesn’t exist…


    • Most religious would now say that the orthodox view on that was always that it was metaphorical, and that only 201th century fundamental biblical literalists would say otherwise.

      I tend to feel that that is bollix. It is easy to go back and fix flubs if you say ‘its metaphorical’. Pity god didn’t delineate any science in his books, only metaphor.

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