The Creationist Trap

There’s an interesting post by Cory over at Josiah Concept Ministries.  In the post and the ensuing thread, we can see an old battle taking place.  Cory (representing creationists) is asking scientists to defend evolution, and Elizabeth (representing scientists) is stating that there is no science on their side.  Cory responds by criticizing Elizabeth’s knowledge of scripture, and oh what a mess we have.

Its a very instructive mess.  The first thing to leap out is the “knowledge of scripture” issue:

As a favor to her, I will help her readership by dismantling the logic behind this post, which of course betrays the fact that Elizabeth (can I call you Liz?) has surface level knowledge of Scripture at best. That statement is being kind, actually.

If creationism is a scientific theory, how is scripture in any way relevant?  We are talking science here, where empirical observations and repeatable results are the order of the day.  It gets better.  When coupled with the attacks on evolution as a theory, you can see a clear projection of faith based reasoning to science.  Faith is set in stone.  Science endeavors to find and describe reality.  So even if evolution were utter bunk, hey, no problem.  Find a better theory.

But even getting into that debate, tempting though it may be, is not productive.  The issue isn’t one of epistemic concern about how theories are born.  It is an issue of inserting religion into the science classroom, and the ensuing effects.

Creationism is, bluntly, a religious issue.  Pretending otherwise is completely dishonest.  So called intelligent design is nothing more than apologetics dressed up in a lab coat with a serious expression.  “Buy Christianity”, the actor says.

So don’t get into the debate.  Calls to “defend evolution” are a ploy to get the debate off topic from separation of church and state.  Creationism and its deformed cousin Intelligent Design are firmly nailed to the church.  And the church has no place in biology class.  It has no place in a public school save as an elective for the curious.

But let’s play devils advocate for those Christians who want to force their beliefs on all students in the public school system.  Ok, you win.  Now what?  Imagine an America with anti-gay, abstinence only, creationist, flat earth, curricula.  This isn’t just an issue of how poorly our students could compete in the sciences.  We’d be utterly trashing an entire generation’s ability to handle sex, sexuality, and even reasoning.  When you introduce the idea that faith can substitute for hard facts, all kinds of crazy possibilities open up.

The best way to keep a lid on those possibilities is to nip this in the bud.  Creationism isn’t science.  Its religious belief.  It has no place in the classroom, and no, we don’t need to take its proponents as serious scientists.  Creationists are nothing more than apologists trying to keep the light of reason from shining on their scripture by pulling the wool over the eyes of our students.

And for all that, I really liked how Cory ended his post:

So, if God formed mankind special out of the soil–then that is true.  Perhaps, then, there are intermediate steps (shown by evolution) that are not discussed by the Bible since the Bible isn’t pretending to be a science textbook.  There is truth in it, certainly, and we can’t ignore the truth it contains.  But understanding the mechanics of the nature that God created isn’t sinful, and certainly brings Him glory.

Both for the positive aspect (a creationist making an effort to tackle evolution), and the negative.  This line of thinking is much the same as the medieval logic that posited heaven existed outside the sphere which held the stars.  It is the belief that where science hasn’t reached, religion lives.   But as long as religion relies on arguments from authority and faith, rather than reason and observable reality, there is a gulf that cannot be breached.  Science doesn’t need to fit in the intellectual box religion affords it.  Science is just this:  our attempt to understand and interact with reality.

So when you read about priests accepting evolution, yes thats nice.  But it feeds into a frame that actually weakens our position.  The conciliation of science and religion has no bearing on the creationist debate other than to afford religion a false legitimacy.  And there’s no need to make our opponents arguments for them.  All the more so when our own argument is that rarest of gems: simple and effective.

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