Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In the Beginning

As someone who's not religious, the only people in my social circles who come close to qualifying as "Creatonists" are some of my very much older relatives. (But even when I was an active churchgoer, Roman Catholicism doesn't teach creationism...) So I've been hearing a lot of crowing recently about how Bill Nye laid a smackdown on Ken Ham in their recent "Science vs. Creationism" debate. And a fair amount of irritation at Mark Joseph Stern's contention, over in Slate, that Mr. Nye lost just by showing up.

I'm don't buy into the idea that a couple of people had floated that there is a constituency of people out there who don't have an opinion either way, or don't know where they stand that, and that Mr. Nye could reach and convince them that they need to be advocating for secular science (I think that was the argument being made). And Mr. Nye is especially unlikely to convince anyone who is an active creationist that what they've been taught is bunk, because it's not really about the science, it's about the greater worldview. The video that Slate linked to is instructive because it points to the thing that has motivated every creationist that I've ever met - the idea that there is no workable moral or ethical framework that doesn't rely on divine will.

The issue isn't whether or not the Earth is actually billions of years old, or if there's a tree that's older than Ken Ham. The issue is that people have been taught that if the Genesis account is not a word-for-word literal history of the events that it purports to chronicle, then there is no God, and if there is no God, then I can walk up and stab them, and if no people choose to punish me for it, then I get away scot-free. THAT'S the issue. No amount of carbon-dating is going to assuage the fear that when they grow old that someone will decide to snuff them to save a buck or two and there will be no objective force in the universe that will guarantee punishment for the killer and solace in the afterlife for them.

Mr. Nye wasted his time because it's not about the evidence. It's about not wanting to live in a Universe that isn't fundamentally Just and understanding that the proof that the Universe is fundamentally just is found in a literal reading of Christian scriptures. Science can never make that go away, because it can't provide an objective sense of unerring Right and Wrong to replace it. Assuming you cared to excise creationism from the world, it wouldn't be about proving the biblical account incorrect - it would be about proving it unnecessary.

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