Creationism Is An Attack On Rationality: The Scientists Rally At Last
It has taken the scientists quite a while to wake up to the serious dangers for science and its rational underpinnings of creationism and the ‘theory’ of intelligent design. But now at last this danger – to the scientific community and far beyond – is beginning to be understood and confronted.
It’s taken a long time, but the scientists are at last beginning in numbers to fight back vocally against the attack from the Creationists, those mainly right-wing religious followers who believe despite the evidence that the story of the Old Testament is somehow literally true – and, even more worryingly, that it should be taught in schools. And in this rebuttal the scientists have been joined also by most mainstream churches and religious people – the large majority of whom in the case of both science and religion have until recently mainatined it is enough simply to ignore the creationists’ exotic claims.
But now scientists are seeking the active support of the churches to back evolutionary theory, especially in America, where Creationism and the related ‘theory’ of Intelligent Design have made the most headway.
Disputing creationism is not enough
It is not however enough simply to say that scientists should dispute creationism and intelligent design.
Far more is at stake than ‘just’ the challenge to an explanation of the origin of life on earth – vastly significant though this is.
The ideas of the creationists are, as some have recognised for decades, an affront to rationality. It is said that the President of the United States is a prominent supporter of creationism, or at least a proponent of intelligent design, but we must ask how this can be so when he is also a lawyer.
Lawyers may indeed sustain the view that ‘both sides’ of an argument should be aired, but rarely do they believe this even when one of those ‘sides’ has barely any evidence to uphold it. So what else is going on?
Economics and authority
The position of those who support creationism is usually authoritarian, and often anti-intellectual. This is in many respects evident in the current enthusiasm of some to promote such beliefs in Britain. In the USA, perhaps, this stance is even more established.
Many on the right of politics and religion like certainty. They do not feel comfortable with complex debates about evidence; and they are happier when intellectual challenge is replaced by the logic of big business. In other words, there is a deterministic preference here for authority and authoritarianiam to come together so that all is right with the world. God has pre-ordained the universe and our place in it, and this place is evidenced by our wealth (or not) and our religious observance. It’s an old-established way of thinking. Let there be no more debate!
A chasm between world views
For the vast majority of scientists there is a vast chasm between the exploration of the evolutionary paradigm and the determinism of the religious right. Small wonder then that scientists have been ill-prepared for the creationist onslaught.
And sadly small wonder too that many who might challenge the attack on science have not done so, perhaps for fear that in so doing they might also put at risk the funding of their research. There are significant numbers of wealthy benefactors out there who are comfortable with the idea of a creationist world and their hypothecated place in it.
Perhaps the scientists have failed to appreciate how precarious is the wider understanding of their work. Perhaps they have continued in their research mostly oblivious of the threat to their way of interpreting the world.
Neither of these positions can be seen as any more than innocent or at worst naive. But what is at stake is fundamental. Few people would wish to dispute the entitlement of individuals to perceive the world and all that is in it in their own way. Many however, the scientists amongst them, must now challenge more overtly and vigorously the view that we can dispense with informed debate and rationality. At last this is beginning visibly to happen.