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In Defense Of Creationists

Michael Brendan Dougherty doesn’t agree with Christians who believe Genesis is a science textbook, but he has a lot of sympathy for them. Excerpt:

So I do not think that Ken Ham–style creationists should get to rewrite biology textbooks according to their very peculiar reading of Scripture. But I admire their bullheadedness. They have gotten lost in the woods while trying to protect the big truths of Christianity: that God created the world, that we are dependent on him, that we owe him everything, and that he loves us even though we are sinful. In the world most of us inhabit, day to day, the world of lovers, wriggling kids, disease, war, and death, the sureness of God’s love is relevant in a way that the details of early hominid fossils never will be, glorious as they are. Have some perspective, people.

In protecting that big truth of creation — that we are all made in God’s image and all endowed with supreme dignity — fundamentalists zealously guard things that follow logically from that. Things like the commandment “Thou shall not murder.” Anti-evolutionists often set themselves against “Darwinian theory” because they deplored social Darwinism, eugenics, and other evils that seemed to spring forth from minds overexcited by the latest theories of man’s origin.

If Ken Ham is getting rich telling things he knows to be false, he’s a shameless fraud. But the bulk of creation’s fundamentalists are deeply sincere. And, better than that, they are willing to be, in St. Paul’s words “fools for Christ’s sake.” They do not live for the world’s esteem. And so when the world next discovers a sophisticated ideology to get around “Thou shall not murder,” I’d rather have one cussed fundie next to me than the whole army of eye-rolling Christians lining up to denounce him.

An excellent point. It brought to mind a Christian family doctor I once met who believes in a literal six-day creation (so much for the claim that you can’t do medicine if you don’t believe in evolutionary biology). I didn’t agree with the doctor on science, and wouldn’t want her instructing my kids in biology or religion class. But I couldn’t hold a candle to her in terms of her service to her community, and the heart she had for the poor. I’d much rather live in a community with people like her than with scientists (and journalists) who are wise on science, but foolish in matters of moral decency.

Take this Scientific American editorial from 1911. Excerpt (emphases mine):

Ever since the late Sir Francis Galton gave us his science of Eugenics, which in its most literal sense means “good breeding,” the scientific students of mankind, the directors of insane asylums and hospitals, criminologists the world over, have been compiling statistics to show not only the danger of permitting the marriage of criminals, lunatics, and the physically unfit, but the effect upon” mankind. Thus, Prof. Karl Pearson, Galton’s ablest disciple, has driven home the necessity of the scientific study of the human race in many a telling statistical comparison and monograph. He has shown that in Great Britain 25 per cent of the, population (and that the undesirable element in England) is producing 50 per cent of English children, and that if this goes on unchecked, national deterioration and degeneracy must inevitably result.

Galton originally worked only with statistics, and in his capable hands, they proved a powerful weapon. After he had enunciated the principles of Eugenics, Mendel’s law of heredity was revived and applied to the problem. Imperfectly understood as that law may be as yet, nevertheless it enables us to prophesy with considerable accuracy what the offspring of animals, plants and human beings may be, not only in the next generation, but in generations to come. Mendelian principles have no doubt long been followed by professional animal breeders in an empirical way, but only within recent years have enough data been accumulated to show that they apply with equal force to human beings. We know enough about the laws of heredity, we have enough statistics from insane asylums and prisons, we have enough genealogies, to show that, although we may not be able directly to improve the human race as we improve the breed of guinea pigs, rabbits or cows, because of the rebellious spirit of mankind, yet the time has come when the lawmaker should join hands with the scientist, and at least check the propagation of the unfit. Prizes have been offered to crack trotters for beating their own record, $10,000 for a fifth of a second, all for the purpose of evolving a precious two-minute horse. Yet we hear of no prizes which are offered for that much worthier object, the physically and intellectually perfect man. Fortunately the need of intelligent legislation on the subject is being driven home by scientific men and Eugenic associations here and abroad. The Eugenics laboratory founded by Sir Francis Galton and the American Breeders’ Association have done much to clear away the popular prejudices inevitably encountered in such educational work and to prepare the ground for legislative action. Some States have already passed laws that show an appreciation of the situation.

This language is familiar, is it not? Whenever you hear someone telling you that we should just “follow the science” in determining laws and priorities for our country, think of the eugenists and the lawmakers, business leaders, and journalists who supported them against the troglodytic fundamentalist Protestants and Catholics. That doesn’t make today’s Creationists right, of course, but neither does being right make the other side good.

UPDATE: I like this from commenter Mohammad:

When the evolutionary biologists encounters a creationist(meant a “literalist” as they interpret the bible literally), their weapon is mockery. When they encounter someone from Intelligent Design camp, however, their weapon in distortion and dishonesty, and then mockery. When I was in the USA, the propaganda against ID influenced me so much that I always thought of ID as creationism in disguise, so I never really read their books or paid any attention. It was in Iran that a biologist friend of mine mentioned the worth of their work to me: “Right or wrong on the issue, they have, however, very interesting points, and much of their work can be squarely regarded as belonging to the realm of science.” She was right! I started reading their works, and at least one point which they made very clear was how Darwinists simplify things so ridiculously, and how things which are fed everyday to unsuspecting people as science are so much more complex, more enigmatic, than the evolutionists would like you to believe. Even if neo-Darwinism is 100% correct, its propagandists don’t render the science or the truth a service by oversimplifying and ideological propaganda.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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