Why Fundamentalists Pretend to be Scientists

When you look at the “science” behind intelligent design or the objections to the theory of evolution, one incredibly insistent question keeps banging its head against the wall.  Why?  Why do fundamentalists feel such a pressing need to play dress up with lab coats and diplomas?  I can easily understand why they want to oppose aspects of scientific thought to strengthen the appearances of their world-view.  That makes sense.  What makes me wonder is why pursue the authority science lends when your own source of authority, the Bible, is already so well established and infallible?

As August Pollak points out, the Creation Museum is more embarrassing to the deeply religious who do not fall for this giant load of bull.  And make no mistake, bull it is.  A very motivated bull, as the Guardian observes:

Nothing can dent the designer’s zeal as he leads us gingerly through the labyrinth of rooms still under construction, with bits of wood, and the odd dinosaur head occasionally blocking our path.

That pretty much sums up the fundamentalist’s scientific method.  Start with a conclusion and don’t let anything get in the way of proving it.  Its sophistry masquerading as science.  This method of cosmology is fundamentally at odds with the scientific approach to knowledge:

There is a fundamental contradiction. Faith says that the way to get answers is by revelation, accepting authority, and dogma. Science says that the way to get answers is by examining the evidence critically, testing hypotheses with experiment in the natural world, and by constantly reevaluating and revising our ideas to make them more accurate. It isn’t just that the two arrive at different, conflicting answers—for instance, that the earth is 6000 years old vs. 4.5 billion years old—but that their methods conflict. Scientists will not accept a random idea because someone contemplated and decided a deep “Truth” appealed to him: a kernel of observation and evidence is required.

So what the creationists and the anti-evolutionary theory folks are doing is cleary not science.  Why vie for the scientific mantle then?

Credibility, Authority, and Evangelism.  Simply put, the creationists zeal in pursuing scientific authority reveals that the authority of the Bible is not sufficient for making their case to current and potential followers.  And followers are the primary resource of any organized religion.  In order to speak with an authority to keep current members, and prostelitize potential members, a compelling world view must be presented.  What fundamentalists are saying by pretending to be scientists, is that one cannot make a compelling case for their religion without appealing to a non religious authority.

I believe this is far from the case.

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2 Responses

  1. I have in-laws that are fundamentalists and I haven’t noticed any thinking among them, much less scientific thinking. Thinking is a process of reasoning and, as for me, I don’t give credit for thinking when none has been done.

    My relatives tend to avoid me when it comes to coversations about God. They believe in Guilt, not Forgiveness. And I am quick to point it out.

    They don’t like it when I ask why there has to be a conflict? Evolution is part of Creation and the creative process.

    But alas, any perspective like that would make them responsible for their own self development. They’d rather rely on the excuse that ‘the devil’ is to blame for all the woes and worries in their lives, then learn how to make wise choices. Accountiblity and responsibility for being volitional beings is what most fundamentalists wish to aovid. That’s why none will claim to be the authority over their own minds and the way those minds work, or don’t work, as the case may be.

  2. Excellent work. My last podcast was about this very subject (The Age of Unreason) but I don’t think I managed to structure my arguments as well as you did. Perhaps in a future broadcast I may be able to better tackle the subtext(s) and underlining themes behind what Al Gore has so astutely called “The Assault on Reason”.

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