Christian Creationists are accusing scientists of being defensive, ignorant, reprehensible, and troubling. They might be right.

The NAS just published the latest version of its book on Evolution and Creationism (free, by the way: Your tax dollars at work) and we are now seeing the trickle of reaction from the largely creationist Christian community turn from a trickle to a drizzle.

I myself think it is a good book, but I believe they made two very important (and closely linked) errors. First, they should not have discussed creationism at all. It should be a book about evolution, with a strong statement about the importance of teaching evolution in schools as an integral part of the life science curriculum (and other curricula). Second, if they are going to discuss creationism and/or religious beliefs, there is no reason to make the overt, rather pandering statement that evolution and religion are compatible. That’s like saying that apples and oranges are compatible. Technically they are in a kind of null sense, but what is really relevant is that the question itself: “Are they compatible?” is not a valid scientific question at all. Whether or not this (evolution, science) is a religious question is a matter of how a particular religion works, how it deals with the social, material, and political world in which it exists, and is a problem (or not) for that religion. The NAS should be busy promoting and guiding scientific research, not pandering to religious people.

Yes, of course, the NAS should be involved very strongly in defending scientific research and education from attacks from creationists. I strongly believe that. Vigorously. With teeth bared and claws extended. But I simply to not believe that every time any introductory level public document or book comes out on evolution that it needs to address the creationist issue. There are two reasons for this:

1) It is the tail wagging the dog. Creationists, in a sense, “win” whenever a text that is supposed to be about evolution also is about creationism. Yes, keep up the vigorous fight, keep up the anti-creationism rhetoric in many different ways, but do not indurate the entire scientific discourse with references to creationism.

2) You can’t use those tests or parts of texts (or videos or other media) that address creationism in a public school science classroom! What could have been a resource for teachers is not because of this added rhetoric. Why? If you need to ask why, then you must not be a science teacher in a public school. Go ahead and ask, we’ll discuss it.

In a sense, putting a reference to creationism (no matter what you say about it, no matter how wrong you say it is) into every book and article meant to teach about or promote evolutionary biology, is pretty much what the wedge strategists want you to do. In a very real way, for creationists, all publicity is good publicity. If you don’t believe that, then you have never had a conversation with a fundie. The very fact of denigration of a religious group or perspective, in the context of Judeo-Christian beliefs and probably more broadly, is a source of great strength and inspiration.

When you attack creationism, you contribute to the martyrdom of creationists. Therefore there is a positive effect for the cause of creationism with each and every attack. Therefore, the attacks must be well thought out and not shotgun-like.

And you know, the reverse is true. Think about it. What fires up the pro-evolutionist activist more than the rhetoric of creationism? With that in mind, I report below comments from a few creationists, reported in the Christian press this morning, for your delectation.

“Why are the evolutionists so defensive?” posed The Creation Museum’s Daid Menton. “If their ideas are so compelling, I would think they would welcome a challenge.”

“Unintended ignorance is excusable. Unwillingness to learn is not,” expressed Director of the Center for Scientific Creation, Dr. Walt Brown. “Preventing students from learning is reprehensible.”

Scientists who wrote the new book say that the evidence for evolution can be “fully compatible” with religion.

However, the Bible says that sin preceded death, whereas evolution implies that death preceded sin. The troubled theory claims that “prehistoric life” existed hundreds of millions of years ago – well before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden some 6,000 to 7,000 years ago. [CBN]

So, you defensive, ignorant, reprehensible troubled evolutionists… put up your dukes!

Comments

  1. #1 Eamon Knight
    January 5, 2008

    “Unintended ignorance is excusable. Unwillingness to learn is not,” expressed Director of the Center for Scientific Creation, Dr. Walt Brown. “Preventing students from learning is reprehensible.”

    So, when is Walt gonna STFU?

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    January 5, 2008

    Second, if they are going to discuss creationism and/or religious beliefs, there is no reason to make the overt, rather pandering statement that evolution and religion are compatible. That’s like saying that apples and oranges are compatible.

    The thing is — creationists’ brand of religion is not compatible with science. I agree with you it’s an apples/oranges thing, but the creationists do not. And, if you notice what happened in Iowa the other day, creationists do have a substantial representation in this country. As such, it’s worth addressing.

    If those who are willing to accept it’s OK for some to have religion but who also accept modern science do not address religion at all, they cede the playing field to the creationists who say “they are trying to take God away from you.” There are enough religious folks out there who would accept evolution if they understood that accepting evolution didn’t mean you must reject your religion. The message needs to be repeated… otherwise, the message of the creationists is what will end up winning over those who do not want to relinquish their religion. And that is a losing prospect for those of us who don’t want to see the USA retreat into the dark ages.

  3. #3 Lorax
    January 6, 2008

    I stated this before, but I think there may have been a real push to include the banality at the end on science and religion being such good friends by the “framing” movers who want to make sure no religious person is offended by the thought of science.

  4. #4 Lorax
    January 6, 2008

    There are enough religious folks out there who would accept evolution if they understood that accepting evolution didn’t mean you must reject your religion.
    In the perfect world? Yes. Here in reality, you have a bunch of unknown (from the religious persons’ perspective) scientists saying “Science and religion….its A.OK!” but then they go to their church and their pastors, whom they know, say “Evolution = hating Jesus and the bible and goin’ to hell.”

    Right its good to try and cozy up to them and state things that are in fact untrue. Science and religion are only compatible if your religion makes NO statements based in reality otherwise you are hosed.

  5. #5 Virgil Samms
    January 6, 2008

    David Menton is working for the Creation Museum now? (roll-eyes) He was once an actual scientist.

  6. #6 Steve Matheson
    January 7, 2008

    Menton a real scientist? A long time ago: his last paper was “High-voltage galvanic stimulation on wound healing in guinea pigs: longer-term effects,” published in Arch Phys Med Rehabil (eh?) in 1995. Whatever scientific accomplishments he can boast after a career teaching anatomy, he’s busily dismantling with ludicrously ignorant propaganda that should make a sophomore genetics student laugh out loud and, more recently, documented lies about the fossil record. Scientist?!

  7. #7 Cecil
    January 8, 2008

    I’m torn on this issue. I think good scientists accept that we cannot turn a blind eye to the influence creation ideas are having in politics and the public as well as their direct attack on science. Still, is a NAS book the right strategy? Maybe it is. Thus far, nothing else seems to be working…

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