- An absurd but harmless set of beliefs which may be ridiculed but should be tolerated, or
- a pernicious “mind virus” which must be opposed?
At first sight, Creationism, like “Flat-Earthism,” seems harmless enough. However, consideration of its implications, compared with the beliefs of Mainstream Christianity, leads to the conclusion that Creationism is a dangerous idea. This view explains the existence of a powerful Creationist Movement.
Mainstream Christians have long rejected Creationism and embraced the Theory of Evolution without loss of faith. As the leading Christian Evolutionist Bishop Richard Harries says:
It soon became clear to most thinking people that the earth was not, as it were, simply plonked down ready-made, but that it had evolved gradually over a very long period of time. Indeed historians of science note how quickly the late Victorian Christian public accepted evolution. (Thought for the Day, 2002)
Why, therefore, do Creationists go to such extraordinary lengths to justify and promote their beliefs? These lengths include the construction of an entire bogus science, “Creation Science” (or now “Intelligent Design Theory”), which includes the following absurd theories:
- That the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to open as well as to closed systems.
- That the speed of light had lessened over time.
- That the earth was once enveloped by a vapour canopy.
These are supported by “telling lies for God,” fabricating evidence (such as the obviously fake Paluxy Footprints of men walking with dinosaurs), and twisting contrary evidence.
It has long been recognized that Creationists have a political agenda. Creationism underpins Christian Fundamentalism. Religious Fundamentalism is the belief that religion should control people’s lives to the point where government is indistinguishable from religion. Islamic Fundamentalism and the ersatz religion of National Socialism are prime examples but Christian Fundamentalism and, therefore, Creationism are equally dangerous. The following are typical of pronouncements by Creationists which display their Christian Fundamentalist colours:
- “Since animals are indiscriminate with regards to partners in mating and since men and women are believed to have evolved from animals, then why shouldn’t we live like animals?”
- “As the creation foundation is removed, we see the Godly institutions also start to collapse. On the other hand, as the evolution foundation remains firm, the structures built on that foundation–lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc.–logically increase. We must understand this connection.”
However, these pronouncements do not, in themselves, explain why Creationism is so essential to Christian Fundamentalism. Christian Fundamentalists could just as easily find ways to fulminate, against these actual or perceived evils, using non-Creationist arguments. There has to be something special about Creationism. To understand what this is, we need to examine the distinction between Creationism and Christian Evolutionism. It is so profound that, were it not for the intermediate continuum of muddled thinking, we would be looking at two quite different religions.
Bishop Harries says:
The theory of evolution, far from undermining faith, deepens it. This was quickly seen by Frederick Temple, later Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that God doesn’t just make the world, he does something even more wonderful, he makes the world make itself. God has given creation a real independence and the miraculous fact is that working in relation to this independent life God has, as it were, woven creation from the bottom upwards: with matter giving rise to life and life giving rise to conscious reflective existence in the likes of you and me. The fact that the universe probably began about 12 billion years ago with life beginning to evolve about 3 billion years ago simply underlines the extraordinary detailed, persistent, patience of the divine creator spirit. (Ibid.)
It could be that Creationists see, as Atheists do, that the above view (and Christianity with it) collapses in the face of David Hume’s famous argument published eighty years before Darwin’s The Origin of Species:
How, therefore, shall we satisfy ourselves concerning the cause of that Being whom you suppose the Author of Nature, or, according to your system of Anthropomorphism, the ideal world, into which you trace the material? Have we not the same reason to trace that ideal world into another ideal world, or new intelligent principle? But if we stop, and go no further; why go so far? Why not stop at the material world? How can we satisfy ourselves without going on in infinitum? And, after all, what satisfaction is there in that infinite progression? . . . If the material world rests upon a similar ideal world, this ideal world must rest upon some other; and so on, without end. It were better, therefore, never to look beyond the present material world. (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779)
Hume’s point, without knowledge of Evolution, was that, if, to explain the complexity of life we postulate a Creator, he must be no less complex than life. Therefore, to explain the complexity of that Creator, we must postulate a Creator of the Creator. Then, we must postulate a Creator of the Creator of the Creator and so on, ad infinitum. If, on the other hand, we accept the existence of the Creator as a brute fact without the need for further explanation, then we might as well accept the complexity of life as a brute fact without the need to postulate a Creator at all.
In light of Evolution, Hume’s argument can be applied in a new way. The Bishop’s statement: “he makes the world make itself” becomes the infinite progression: “he makes something that makes something . . . that makes something . . . that makes something that makes the world make itself.”
Evolution, unknown to Hume, provides the satisfaction, in that infinite progression, that he had no means to enjoy; it also allows us to stop at the material world, for every step in the progression, except the first, can be within it. Evolution explains how each step in the progression is more complex than its predecessor. Therefore, the “he,” in the first step, is precisely nothing!
This logical consequence of Evolution is a powerful argument against the existence of a Creator and, if they could see it, would explain the Creationist’s rejection of the theory. It is devastating to their faith. It is equally devastating to the Bishop’s faith yet he embraces Evolution. However, he turns a blind eye to Hume’s argument. If they were seeking only to preserve their faith, Creationists could do the same. After all, they are good at turning a blind eye to things! Therefore, we need to look for some other explanation of what is so special about Creationism. This explanation rests on three pillars of belief:
- God has the same power over the world today as he had when he created it. In particular, he has the power to control people’s lives.
- He has chosen to remain unobservable so he must exercise that power through the agency of other people whom he has chosen for the purpose.
- Those chosen people are the Creationists.
Creation, according to the Creationists, happened over a period of six days. During that period, the Creator was obviously extremely “hands on.” He was clearly “hands on” again during the “Global Hydraulic Cataclysm,” Noah’s Flood. For a scientific observer of either of those events, there would have been incontrovertible proof of God. Is he “hands on” today? If he is, then he must be at great pains to conceal it. Otherwise, the existence of God would be a matter not of mere faith but of scientific proof. (Creationists, of course, say just that. However, they invent the science to fit the faith).
Imagine, for example, that you throw a ball through the air. Disregarding aerodynamic effects, it describes a parabola (Actually, it is not quite a perfect one. It is an arc of a highly eccentric ellipse–an orbit round the centre of the earth, cut by its surface). Moreover, if you throw the ball with the same speed and at the same angle, it will describe the same parabola every time. Its motion is determined by simple mathematics–a natural law. How do Creationists explain this?
One possibility is that God consciously guides the ball through every inch of its trajectory. He has the power to choose any path and speed and different ones each time (he could, for example, make the ball hang stationary in midair) but, in practice, he exercises that power in accordance with a uniform policy. That policy mimics a natural law. Very occasionally, he chooses to depart from the policy. Such departures are characterized as miracles. This explanation would be difficult even for Creationists to swallow. God would, after all, be continuously and consciously determining not only the trajectory of every ball on earth but also the motion of every single atom in the Universe!
Another possibility is that the ball’s trajectory is determined by natural laws which God ordained, as part of Creation, while reserving the power of intervention–as exercised, with a vengeance, in Noah’s Flood. There is, therefore, no conscious guidance of the ball except when God intervenes. On such rare occasions, which are characterized as miracles, the ball could, if desired, hang stationary in midair.
Creationists actually adopt a third explanation, somewhere between but subtly different from the two above, which can be found in one of the central tenets of Creation Science:
Processes today operate primarily within fixed natural laws and relatively uniform process rates but, since these were themselves originally created and are daily maintained by their Creator, there is always the possibility of miraculous intervention in these laws or processes by their Creator. Evidences for such intervention should be scrutinized critically, however, because there must be clear and adequate reason for any such action on the part of the Creator.
According to this, God has, indeed, ordained natural laws as part of Creation. However, these “are daily maintained by their Creator” so God is continuously and consciously determining the motion of all objects collectively but not individually. He can intervene by way of short-term relaxation or variation of the natural laws either universally, perhaps to cause some new form of global cataclysm, or locally to cause a miracle, like the ball hanging stationary in midair. A long-term and imperceptible variation of a natural law has been the lessening of the speed of light.
He remains, therefore, as “hands on” as at the time of Creation but this is not apparent because miraculous intervention is rare. However, he retains complete power to control the world and, in particular, to control people’s lives.
The beliefs of Christian Evolutionists differ in three crucial respects:
- God’s ordination of natural laws was not just part of Creation; it was the whole of Creation, from which all else has evolved.
- These natural laws, once created, are autonomous and continue on their own without having to be “daily maintained” as postulated by Creationists.
- There is no power of miraculous intervention.
The last is subject to a great deal of muddled thinking. Many Christians might believe in Evolution but also believe in miracles. However, their version of the theory is probably “Guided Evolution” in which God, having started the process in the first place, also gives it a guiding nudge from time to time. Therefore, they are not true Christian Evolutionists. Even full-blown Christian Evolutionists still engage in intercessory prayer. If there were no possibility of miraculous intervention, there would be no point in it. As we have observed, however, they have not thought through the logical consequences of their beliefs–otherwise, they would not be Christians at all.
Be that as it may, Creationism admits “the possibility of miraculous intervention” whereas Christian Evolutionism, in principle, holds that “God has given creation a real independence.” Under Creationism, God has the power to control people’s lives. He can do this by miraculous intervention, by allowing local or even global perturbations of the natural laws which, otherwise, he holds fixed. He must use these powers sparingly (or else blow his cover) but he has them nevertheless.
According to Christian Evolutionists, God is not “hands on.” He let go of the world thousands of millions of years ago and it, together with the people on it, has enjoyed an autonomous existence ever since.
God, according to the Creationists, has absolute power to control people’s lives. However, direct use of this power is severely constrained by a self-made policy. In reality, of course, there is no God and, therefore, no divine manifestation is ever observed. Creationists have, somehow, to explain this away. For some reason, they believe, God decided that belief in his existence would be a matter of faith and not of scientific proof. Therefore, he has to make himself incapable of scientific observation. His miraculous interventions are sufficiently rare to escape scientific scrutiny. The vast majority of the time, he controls the world in a uniform manner by holding fixed natural laws in place.
The Christian Evolutionist view is somewhat different. Belief in God’s existence is still a matter of faith and not of scientific proof. However, God is unobservable to science because he has irrevocably relinquished power to control the world and did so a very long time ago.
There would be no point in the Creationists’ God having absolute power to control people’s lives if he did not use it somehow. As we have seen, he cannot use it directly. However, he can wield power over people, and still maintain his cover, by using other people–his chosen people–as his agents. Those chosen people are none other than the Creationists.
The Genesis Story is just one of many “Origin Stories” that have been written and one of an astronomical (but finite) number that could be written. Of the latter, only one is true. It can only be found by scientific method. The probability, that any one Origin Story is true, is infinitesimally small. Creationists, however, believe that the Genesis Story, the Origin Story in which they happen to believe, is the true one. Mere belief in it cannot change an Origin Story from false to true. Therefore, Creationists must believe that they have been specially chosen to believe the one true Origin Story.
Creationists, therefore, have the potent mixture of beliefs that:
- God has the power to control people’s lives, and
- God has specially chosen them to believe this.
Combining the two:
- God has specially chosen Creationists to believe that he has the power to control people’s lives.
It take’s only a small piece of intellectual sleight of hand for them to contract this into:
- God has specially chosen Creationists to control people’s lives.
This, coupled with the belief that God must exercise the power to control people’s lives through the agency of other, chosen people, is the foundation of Christian Fundamentalism, the three pillars of belief mentioned above. On the other hand, if Creationism is abandoned in favour of Christian Evolutionism, all three pillars collapse.
We are now able to decode the Creationist pronouncement, quoted above, as follows:
As the creation foundation remains firm, we see Christian Fundamentalism increase. On the other hand, as the evolution foundation remains firm, the structures built on the creation foundation–religion’s control of people’s lives to the point where government is indistinguishable from religion–logically start to collapse. We must understand this connection.
If we want to attack Christian Fundamentalism there is no better way than building a firm “Evolution Foundation.” As Susan Blackmore says:
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is, to my mind, the most beautiful in all of science. It is beautiful because it is so simple and yet its results are so complex. It is counterintuitive and hard to grasp but once you have seen it the world is transformed before your eyes. There is no longer any need for a grand designer to explain the complexity of the living world. There is just a stark and mindless procedure by which we have all come about–beautiful but scary.
The problem is that this beautifully simple idea is often misunderstood. Perhaps its very simplicity makes people think there must be something more to it, or that they have missed the point when they have actually grasped it. Evolution by natural selection is very, very simple and not at all obvious. (The Meme Machine, 1999)
Evolution ought, therefore, to be taught in schools as an important subject from an early age. In the United Kingdom, the teaching of Evolution is very weak. It is only included in the National Curriculum from the age of 14+ and then only in the following respects:
- That the fossil record is evidence for evolution.
- How variation and selection may lead to evolution or to extinction.
However, although, paradoxically, religious education is compulsory, Creationism has not been taught in British schools–until now. Suddenly, there is an upsurge in the state-sponsored teaching of Creationism. That is what has prompted this article.
Copyright 2002, Richard Green.