How To: Think Like a Creationist

7 09 2006

There’s a perversely interesting article on Answers In Genesis written by a creationist about the debate between creationists and evolutionists. Let’s discuss it shall we?

What was happening was that I had learned to teach the students how to think rather than just what to think. What a difference that made to my class! I have been overjoyed to find, sometimes decades later, some of those students telling me how they became active, solid Christians as a result.

And how is one supposed to think?

Even though our human arguments may be powerful, ultimately it is God’s Word that convicts and opens people to the truth.

One is to think what God wants us to think! Maybe because of this way of thinking, the creationist seems to lack a basic understanding of how science works.

‘Facts’ are neutral. However, there are no such things as ‘brute facts’; all facts are interpreted. Once the Bible is eliminated in the argument, then the Christians’ presuppositions are gone, leaving them unable to effectively give an alternate interpretation of the facts. Their opponents then have the upper hand as they still have their presuppositions

To the creationist, scientific evidence is of the same weight as the stories of people who lived a couple thousand years ago. In fact, evidence is of less value because the stories are the word of god (the obvious creator).

Science is not primarily faith based. Science relies on observation, deduction, and evidence to come up with theories to be tested. The existence of god is something that is entirely faith based. Therefore it can not be used as an accurate means of creating theories about the history of our planet. Most sensible religious people understand this. Facts are indeed neutral. True science is unbiased – that is its very nature. If we are meant to take simply old books about supernatural beings as true scientific evidence, how do we reconcile the bible’s word with that of the ancient Greek texts – what does Zeus have to say about this 6 day creation business? What do the most ancient texts tell us? What were Osiris and Isis doing when Jahovah was off creating things?

But wait, the creationist has an answer for those who think truth should be determined apart from the bible:

Truth can/should be determined independent of God. However, the Bible states: ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ (Psalm 111:10); ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge’ (Proverbs 1:7).

Circular argument anyone? Truth can not be determined independent of god because god says so! Evidently these people are too busy praying and protesting abortion clinics to be bothered with such things as, you know, ‘thinking’.

So how do you think like a creationist? You don’t. Thinking like a creationist is self contradictory and therefore impossible.




4 responses

11 09 2006

I am kinda torn on this one. I certainly agree with your deconstruction of their argument but I can’t help but think that they do have some legitimacy in arguing that there are no “neutral facts.” While we can look at disciplines like physics and say that many of those observations and theories are clear-cut representations of reality, I think that in the discipline of biology there is a great deal of interpretation that lends itself to bias.

One can look anywhere in the history of biology and see where the biases of the day lead to certain conclusions that were at the time considered irrefutable fact, and are now seen as gross misinterpretations. Look at how race and ethnicity was described; look at how the biological differences in gender have been described. In studying this issue myself, I was always stunned to see the subtle ways in which prejudice has reared its ugly head.

While evolution is currently seen as the most compelling description of events, I don’t think you can find any serious scientist who can say that evolution is a fact. It is simply a theory. Unfortunately, those people with a clear agenda and a poor understanding of the scientific method then try to exploit this by saying, “Aha! They don’t know it’s true so it must be false.” While science is not based in faith, it is based in uncertainty.

The creationist are quick to say that the human mind is not smart enough to figure stuff out and that G-d’s wisdom is superior, but if that is true then who is to say that the humans who wrote and translated the Bible were infallible, but that the scientists were doomed to failure. Who is to say that it is not the other way around?

I do believe in God, and I do believe that the Bible is a sacred document. But I believe that humans are flawed creatures, governed both by logic and prejudice. Both the Bible and scientific theories were written by humans who were trying their hardest to make sense of the world. I just don’t think that either side can claim perfect neutrality.

11 09 2006

I would say there are many fundamental differences between science and faith. One that strikes me as most relevant to this discussion would be the way in which each goes about solving mysteries.

Science deconstructs. You have a phenomenon, say humanity in this case, and you want to find out where we came from. So you go back, collecting clues here and there, and form a theory based solely on the clues you’ve collected. This, as you may have guessed, is evolutionary theory.

Let’s also be clear here to note that science says you can never prove anything – it is only plausible to disprove hypotheses. This rule is to account for what has been known as ‘acts of god’. Just because something happens one way 678906845759 times doesn’t mean it won’t happen another way on the 678906845760th time. This is understood among scientists. They understand that science is nothing more than educated guesses. Educated, because they come from evidence.

Now let’s look at faith. Faith has set rules that it does not question. Hence the term ‘faith’. In this case it would be the Bible. Creationists take what they see around them and try to make it fit within what the Bible says. In this way most faith based ‘scientists’ don’t need evidence, facts, or observations – they’ve got all the answers in their handy-dandy little book.

In this way one can see that the idea of facts being neutral or unbiased isn’t really part of the question. There’s only one side of the argument that actually uses them.

Your example of race, ethnicity, and gender if nothing else is an example for the validity of the scientific method. Bad scientists made bad claims about things. Others have set them straight. Science is self checking – you can make any claim you like, but if other scientists aren’t able to reproduce your results then you’ll get laughed at.

Where we come from is so hard a question that we do not know the absolute answer. Right now, based on the evidence we have, evolution is our best guess. That will probably adapt as new evidence is uncovered and new technologies become available. The scientist is in a mindset of always exploring, always trying to come closer to knowing the truth.

The creationist is not striving for the truth. The creationist already knows the truth – and is put in a situation of constantly defending their version of the truth against new evidence.

The idea of ‘perfect’ anything is impossible. But as far as the concept of perfect neutrality – I’d have to say that science comes closer than creationists. The scientist is simply trying to explain things – the creationist has an agenda.

13 09 2006

The only thing I would add is that while there are some nut-job creationists who do treat information the way you describe, there are many more people who have faith who also still keep their brains. Creationists may have an agenda, but I hate it that people then assume that all people of faith have to share that agenda or it means that they don’t truly have faith.

Basically the creationists look at the bible and decide that that is the only data they will rely upon when making their theories about the world. This is as stupid in religion as it is in science. You don’t just get to come up with a theory and then reject all new evidence simply because it fails to work within your original theory.

I, and hopefully other people of faith, consider it my job to look at the Bible as simply one source of information; admittedly a very important piece of information, but not my only source. While the words of the Bible may be a fixed data set, the interpretation of those words has fluctuated greatly over the years. As well it should. If there is a God, I would like to think that he gave me eyes, ears, and a brain for good reasons.

Note: I still find it interesting that Creationist Christians are so happy to tell you that the Bible is the literal truth, yet clearly they do not even believe that. What the hell happened to Leviticus? How come they just pitched that one out the window but are positive the Genesis is an exact description of the beginning of the world? Find someone who can answer that one for me.

A final aside, I once heard a very interesting sermon on the creation story of Genesis: If you think about it, different parts of the Bible were given to people at different times. The creation story represents one of the earliest stories recorded and shared by humanity when it was in its infantcy. (Different cultures often have different stories, but creation myths are ubiquitous in nearly every society).

The rabbi said that he thought of Genesis as the “Baby Book” of humanity. It was given to us by God when we were very young so we could understand who we were. But the rabbi went on to point out that the stories we tell young children never have all the details. They are simplifications to help the child simply get the information they need with out feeling overwhelmed or scared. What if that’s what God was doing for us? Maybe he just wanted to give us a nice little bed time story so we would stop bugging him with “why, why, why.” Maybe it is God’s version of “Because I said so, now go to bed!”

14 09 2006

And that’s perfectly fine. I’ve always taken those stories to be exactly what they are – stories.

And as far as you having an agenda, I’m sure you do. I don’t however think it is proselytization though. I’m not talking about all people of faith here – I’m talking about creationists. I understand the difference. Faith figures into the argument in that it is the source of a creationist’s absurd beliefs.

For anyone though, faith represents the point where that person has given up on the ability of humanity to learn. For most, that just means that they believe in a supernatural being. That’s fine. It’s those whose faith affects society that concern me most. Rationality should be the guide in this land – and it says we shouldn’t teach creationism in schools.

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