08 May 2010

In case you think it's just me...

I despise creationism. I really do. The reason is that it causes brain rot, and deeply undermines the cause of increasing scientific literacy - a project which I and many others regard as critical to the survival of our species (this serious enough for yiz yet?!?). You may think that just because I'm a Christian Atheist, I want to use creationism as a club to batter the theists over the head with. Far from it - I can do that with the resurrection, but the resurrection is not a threat to science education. Many very sensible and competent people believe in the resurrection, and it does not threaten the scientific enterprise. So the debate there is one about history, and we can have a much more convivial discussion without falling out.

Creationism is different. Most Christian Theists have realised for years that Genesis is not a history or science book. It does not tell us how the world came to be as it is. Most of the stories, from Adam and Eve to Noah and Jacob and Joseph, are legend. Even at the time of Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages, it was clear that Genesis was not "true" in a scientific or historical sense. Nowadays we have a very clear scientific paradigm about how the universe, the Earth and humanity came to be, and it is a *long* story, spanning billions, not thousands, of years.
Yet creationism flourishes in some dingy corners of the evangelical Protestant sector in Northern Ireland. Books by the likes of Ken Ham and Stephen Meyer are prominently placed in the Faith Mission bookshop and at meetings. I even ran across them in the Christian Union at QUB when I was a student many years ago. [Please note: I have no problem with most people who consider themselves "creationists" - in the majority of cases this is purely out of ignorance of both science, the bible, and ancient history, and they are simply accepting what they have been told by some idiot that they don't *realise* is an idiot.]

However, some Theists are fighting back, which is really welcome. The Rev Ron Eldson is a Church of Ireland minister, and has written a very good piece called "Rescuing Genesis from the Creationists" [Link here]. I think he is wrong in his assessment of Richard Dawkins (whom I admire a great deal, and secretly I think Ron does too) and the other "New Atheists", but this paper is an excellent response to the sort of cabbage peddled by the "Intelligent Design" movement, fronted by the creationist organisation "The Discovery Institute" of Seattle. Most of the main churches in Northern Ireland accept that evolution is correct (I have contacted the 4 main churches, and not one of them supports a creationist or "Intelligent Design" position).

I would seriously urge my Christian Theist friends to read Ron's article - even if they don't agree with everything on my blog (horrors!), they will find his paper sensible, articulate and well-informed. Unlike the creationist nonsense that claims that Adam and Eve really existed, or that the Earth is a few thousand years old. Ron is a good man and a fantastic advocate for science within Christian circles.

Happy reading!


  1. SO are we getting the discussion on Tegmark going or not??

  2. Yes! Come on, Graham, you're the school teacher - you have all the time in the world! :-)

  3. Great article. What worries me about this kind of article though - and you made this point - is that the writers feel the need to have a swipe at the "New Atheists". Its as if you can't just tackle what you claim to want to tackle, you have to also defend theism from the atheists.

    To me it greatly diminishes the force. Instead it would be good to see a wholy frontal attack on Creationism. It doesn't matter if some people want to see science replace faith. It doesn't matter if Dawkins wants everyone to deconvert. It just matters that Creationism is bad science and bad theology.

  4. Yep, Ian, I agree. It's almost a shibboleth now - you have to declare that Dawkins is shrill and strident in order to get a hearing when discussing "science and faith". I think it is way past time that intelligent Christians called the creationist fraudsters out, and showed a bit of integrity, as well as backbone.