Class Warfare Blog

October 4, 2012

Will Anything Convince Creationists?

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:31 am
Tags: , ,

Most American creationists are anti-evolution. Looking around the world it is hard to find any other country which compares with ours in the number of citizens who believe in a creation story and who oppose the theory of evolution because of it. Granted, a majority of the world’s population are not Christians or Jews, but other religions have their creation myths. There doesn’t seem to be any other Western nation with the population of creationists that we have. We seem to be unique.

Convincing creationists of the validity of evolutionary theory is not my goal. But I devoted a great deal of my life’s time and energy as a science educator and feel that rational decision making is a viable approach to coming to peace with the way things are. And the idea that the Earth is only about 6000 years old really bothers me. (The Bible does not say that. It was a biblical interpretation (one of many, by the way).)

I recently read Thomas Paine’s book “The Age of Reason” (yes, that Thomas Paine, the author of “Common Sense” in revolutionary times) and Paine’s argument against the Holy Bible being an exact guide to reality was that the Bible’s teachings conflicted with “God’s Creation,” God’s Creation being the physical world. This has suggested an approach that might help.

At the date of his writing, the late 1700’s, Paine did not have available much information that is available to us. For example, that of the existence of fossils. When fossils of dinosaurs were first discovered they were mis-identified as being the bones of mythical creatures (giants, dragons, etc.) but are now well known to be the mineralized bones of actual creatures. This suggests an approach to crack into the cognitive dissonance surrounding creationist’s thinking. Along the lines of:

Question Do fossils exist?
It would be hard to answer no, but they aren’t mentioned in the Bible, so I guess this is a possibility.

Question Do you know that the ages of some fossils have been scientifically dated to being millions of years old?
Again, it would be hard to answer no, but I also assume that many people may be ignorant of this basic fact.

Question If God created everything this way, why would he deliberately make it appear something it is not?
Some creationists have tried to answer this question (or its equivalent), but I can’t say how successfully as I am not a creationist. (God is testing our faith?)

I am sure that you can come of with a great many other examples of similar arguments (the age of the Earth is about 4.6 billion years; the age of the universe is about 13.6 billion years, there are 10’s of billions of planets in 100’s of billion galaxies, so one could ask why so many planets, if there isn’t something on them, etc.). The idea being is to create a set of arguments that create so much cognitive dissonance that the two ideas (the creationist’s universe and actual physical reality) could not co-exist.

Why do I care? As I said I devoted much of my career to encouraging people to look at nature and decide for themselves. If one part of one’s brain is completely comfortable with magical thinking, then anything is believable. For example, we are being told by politicians with receipts in pocket from energy company lobbyists, that global warming is a hoax, a myth, while scientists, who also have something at stake (reputations and positions, etc.) almost unanimously say it is real. Who should we believe? If you can’t examine at least some of the evidence (and many do not have the time or the resources) then at least you have to be able to rationally examine the motives and reputations of the people making the claims. This is rational decision making.

And a belief in creationism completely eliminates a commitment to rational decision making.

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