Update: June 19, 10:56 am: The commenting issues have now been fixed! Yay! So please ignore the first paragraph of the post.
The commenting issues around here remain unresolved. In the past I have been told by the overlords that this was being treated as a high-priority problem. If that is so, then I would hate to see how a low-priority problem is treated. It’s also been pointed out to me that if you read the blog through an RSS feed, then you will have to resubscribe to the blog. Of course, if you are reading this post then you have already surmised that something was wrong with the feed.
Anyway, though I don’t want to return to full-time blogging until the situation with the comments is resolved, I did want to comment on this post from Karl Giberson, over at HuffPo. He writes:
The best way to understand America’s ongoing resistance to evolution — as evidenced in the recent Gallup Poll — is the theory’s failure as an origins myth. Most Americans believe they are created by God, in God’s image, whatever that means; they believe God cares about them and wants them to care for each other. They believe they are called to live virtuous lives and be people of character. They may fall short of these ideals but they believe these profound truths are rooted in their creation story.
There’s a lot wrong with that. Attributing the resistance to evolution to its “failure as an origins myth” is an instance of blaming the victim. It makes it sound like there’s some deficiency in evolution that causes people to reject it. A more reasonable way of making the point is to say that people have absorbed a lot of comforting fairy tales about their origins, and a more realistic account based on copious evidence finds it hard to compete.
The bigger problem, though, is the idea that we need God to tell us to live virtuous lives and to be people of character. It reflects poorly on people who think that way. There ought to be no connection between our beliefs regarding our obligations to one another and our beliefs about how we got here.
The part I really wanted to comment on, however, was this:
Whether we think that the biblically based story of our origins is historically and scientifically accurate or not, we certainly have to admit that it is a beautiful story and that, at its best — with some egregious exceptions — it has nurtured our civilization in wholesome ways.
We certainly do not have to admit any such thing. There is nothing beautiful about the Genesis creation story. That the story is complete fiction both historically and scientifically is the least of its problems.
The main point of Genesis 1 is that humans are the pinnacle of creation. We alone are created in the image of God, and the creation did not become “very good” until we appeared. Perhaps some find that appealing, but personally my opinion of humanity is a bit lower than that. I think Bertrand Russell had it right when he remarked, “If I had omnipotence, and millions of years in which to experiment, I would not consider humanity much to boast of for my efforts.” I’m afraid I find nothing beautiful about the idea that we were created for the purpose of serving God. Moreover, contra Giberson, I would say the belief in this ugly myth has mostly led to disastrous consequences for human civilization. The endless religious conflicts that have destroyed so many lives is one issue, of course, but so is the environmental degradation caused by people believe the Earth exists solely to provide for human needs.
But the real horrors begin in Genesis 2. Whereas Genesis 1 ends with man and woman being created together, Genesis 2 makes it clear that this is not so. The point of Genesis 2 seems to be that women only exist to service the needs of man. We learn that man was created first. Only when it was discovered that man by himself had needs that were going unfulfilled was woman created. There is absolutely nothing in the story to suggest that women have any independent worth or importance. Unsurprisingly, this story has served as the basis for so much misogyny and sexism. Beautiful, indeed.
Then we come to Genesis 3. Here the “profound truth” seems to be that the pursuit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Our natural state is one of total ignorance and sloth, merrily doing whatever God wants without a trace of independent thought. But as soon as we pursue some thing God had told us not to pursue, He comes down on us with His full wrath. God hates it, apparently, when we try to think for ourselves or pursue knowledge. Is that the message Giberson thinks is beautiful?
This is why I react with such hostility to people who say, “Genesis was never meant to teach us science!” as though that solves all the problems. I find the claim dubious on its merits. Leaving that aside, I think it only makes matters worse to argue that the story is purely allegorical, with no scientific or historical merit. As an allegory the story is a complete disaster. Having discarded any notion that the story is true, there is no reason at all to pay any attention to it whatsoever.