Pharyngula

A little sympathy for the snookered

As we all know to our great shame, Ken Ham has this Creation “Museum” in Kentucky. As has been reported before, it’s a thoroughly bogus bit of bunco, with dinosaurs wearing saddles and all the ills of the world laid at the feet of Charles Darwin.

There are a few things you might not know. Like that it’s rolling in dough, with almost $18 million in revenue and $14 million in assets. It’s entirely tax free, which helps, and Ham is a relentless self-promoter.

This one may shock you: public schools are sending kids on field trips to the museum. It’s usually under the guise of an extra-curricular activity by a religion club, the loophole David Paszkiewicz (remember him?) used to take kids from Kearny High School in New Jersey there. But get this remark from an education official in Kentucky:

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross said nothing in state law would bar public schools from visiting, if it were part of “a lesson” on “how some perceived the world’s beginnings.”

You know Ham has friends in high places, and they are warming up to open his brand of nonsense and lies to the schools in that area. More minds, more souls, more money for Ken.

And of course, what is Ken Ham’s big, bold, explicit message? That the only tenable belief is in fundamentalist Christianity and a literal interpretation of Genesis. The crew at Answers in Genesis really detests theistic evolution — you know, that compromise position the accommodationists want us to bow down before. To these creationists, anything less than abject capitulation to Biblical literalism will lead to the collapse of Christian America.

Oh, but wait — I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that this is insane. This is “stupid and crazy and wrong”. You might even be thinking, as I do, that this is dangerous and represents a corruption of education that is doing great harm to our country. You might also feel as I do, that we should not hold back in denouncing this blight of poisonous ignorance in our midst.

You’d be bad if you thought that.

Well, at least according to Michael Ruse, the Discovery Institute’s favorite evilutionist philosopher. You see, Ruse has recently visited the museum, as he wrote to Andrew Brown, and he tried to understand how the creationists feel.

Just for one moment about half way through the exhibit …I got that Kuhnian flash that it could all be true — it was only a flash (rather like thinking that Freudianism is true or that the Republicans are right on anything whatsoever) but it was interesting nevertheless to get a sense of how much sense this whole display and paradigm can make to people

Oh, right. Forget all that stuff about the earth being 6,000 years old, all the diversity of life on earth being packed into a boat for a year, and the adamant belief that atheists, agnostics, and theistic evolutionists are trying to destroy the nation for Satan…we’re supposed to feel for them, and try to understand their psychology. Ruse continues:

It is silly just to dismiss this stuff as false — that eating turds is good for you is [also] false but generally people don’t want to [whereas] a lot of people believe Creationism so we on the other side need to get a feeling not just for the ideas but for the psychology too.

This is what is so awful about the “New Atheists”: they are such horrible, insensitive louts. They can’t overlook the teeny tiny little demand of biblical literalism to see that creationism isn’t quite so wicked. That, at least, is what Andrew Brown dislikes about us.

This is, I think one of the key differences between the new, or militant, atheists and Darwinians like Ruse, just as atheist as they but a lot less anti-religious. The new atheists recoil instinctively from the idea that they should get a feeling for the ideas and psychology of creationists. To them the essential point about believers is that they are stupid and crazy and wrong. So why waste your one life trying to inhabit a mind smaller and more twisted than your own?

See? If only we’d try to see the world through their eyes, we would understand that their beliefs aren’t stupid and crazy and wrong. Or something. I’m not quite sure what. I guess we’re supposed to sympathize with them, and be less critical.

Well, guess what, Andrew and Michael? I do talk with creationists, and I do understand where they’re coming from, and I do sympathize with them greatly. Your assumption that I and other “New Atheists” do not care about the psychology of creationists is false, and I think, counter-productive.

I understand that many creationists are intelligent and sane — they share a lot of values with me, like wanting to be able to think as they please, to raise happy, healthy families, and they are very concerned about their children: they are sure that if their kids aren’t Christian, they’ll be miserable, wretched, and damned to hell for all eternity. I do sympathize with them. I feel great sympathy and sorrow for the fact that they’ve been lied to by deluded con men like Ken Ham, and that they’re living lives driven by an irrational fear…a fear that is reinforced every day by evangelists and fundamentalists and the whole petty shuck-and-jive of religious belief.

I sympathize with their kids, too. These are blameless innocents who are going to be brought up in ignorance, reassured constantly that their foolishness is a virtue, and that learning about this wonderful, beautiful, dangerous, and uncaring universe we live in will lead them to hell. No child should be brought up in fear and darkness.

I sympathize with their fate, because they’re going to grow up just like their parents and spread the fear and ignorance even further. They will want the best for their kids, too, and instead, under the guidance of pious liars, they will wreck those kids’ minds, too. And the cycle will go on and on.

I sympathize with all their secular neighbors most of all. What will happen? They will live in a country where their schools are third-rate, because the creationists will suppress education not just for their own kids, but for everyone else’s, too. They will see their school boards populated with the products of such fare as the Creation “Museum”, and they will get to vote in elections where their options are Insane-Fundie-Wackjob vs. Slightly-Less-Crazy-God-Botherer. And the lesser-of-two-evils won’t always win, because their neighbors all think the fundier, the better.

I sympathize because they are all missing the awesomeness of reality for the awfulness of some narrow Bronze Age theocratic bullshit.

But there are also some for whom I have no sympathy at all.

I have zero sympathy for intelligent people who stand before a grandiose monument to lies, an institution that is anti-scientific, anti-rational, and ultimately anti-human, in a place where children are being actively miseducated, an edifice dedicated to an abiding intellectual evil, and choose to complain about how those ghastly atheists are ruining everything.

Those people can just fuck off.