GumbyTheCat recently wrote an open letter to creationists. Here it is.
While I enjoyed it and thought it was almost completely valid, I do have an argument to two of his points: first, that creationists know that the stuff they spout is lies (i.e., that they're deliberately lying); and second, that their blind faith will ultimately push more and more people toward reason.
I take argument with the first point because, as far as I've seen, most creationists/intelligent design proponents do actually believe what they are saying. They truly do--for them, it's not a matter of ignoring evidence, it's a matter of faith. They truly believe that fossils were put there by god to test our faith. They truly believe that the Bible is the literal word of god. They're not saying these things knowing that they are lying (which is Gumby's assertion); they really do believe that they know The Truth, and that they have to spread that truth or they (and those they don't spread the truth to) will go to hell. Of course, that doesn't mean that there aren't some creationists who don't have doubts. But as odious as the tactics and belief system are to me, I don't agree with the "fundamentalist/evangelical-Christian-as-conspirator" theory: I really think that most of them think that they're doing this "for our own good." (I.e., I don't think they're deliberately spouting what they know to be lies in order to brainwash people so they can take over and rule the world and oppress everyone else. They really think things would be better if everyone had blind faith in the big G. As I said, I don't agree with that belief--but I don't think they're doing what they're doing with evil intentions.)
My second argument with Gumby's letter is the premise that continued spouting of creationist dogma will turn more people toward reason. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think the vast majority of people (okay, perhaps I should say Americans, since I don't know a lot about the cultures of other countries or parts of the world) actually don't want to learn more. Science (and a scientific understanding of the world) is hard work. It takes time and effort to really understand what we know, think we know, don't know, and don't know we don't know--and fundamentally, people are lazy. They're not curious about the world; they don't want to think about it or have to try to work things out in their own minds. That is the appeal of blind faith religions: they make all the decisions for you--and even better, they tell you that following those decisions will guarantee you happiness after you die. All you have to do is stop thinking. I can see how that would appeal to a lot of people. And certainly, the creationist explanation of where we came from is a lot easier to understand (and much more appealing to human vanity) than is the scientific explanation. I mean, really, all you have to do is read one book--instead of thousands upon thousands of research articles. Is it any wonder so many people choose that belief? And because a fundamental tenet of that faith is acceptance of what the authority figures tell you, if those authority figures (who don't have any more scientific understanding) tell you that there's no evidence for evolution, or that all the evidence is made up/incorrect/circular, then you believe it (because if you don't, you'll go to hell).
Maybe I'm just feeling pessimistic this morning. But I think that the sheep-like tendencies of people to follow the easy path are not going to just go away if we allow creationists to keep spewing anti-science. I think most of those people truly don't know how (or don't want) to think for themselves...and the only way to combat that is to teach them how to think for themselves, and give them an incentive to do so.
As for how to do that...Well, that's the real question, and I'm not sure I know the whole answer. Certainly part of it has to be better outreach and science education. But part of it also has to be a culture shift. Intellectualism, reason, and critical thinking have to be accepted as positive traits, instead of as "elitist" and overbearing. I have a few ideas about how to fix science education. But I have no clue how to change a culture. Any ideas?
(hat tip to John Wilkins over at Evolving Thoughts for the link)
9 years ago