“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” William Butler Yeats
There have been seminal events in human history, that, save for knowledge, guts, and skill, or sometimes even caprice, might have gone other than they did, and all we know could now be different.
What if Charles Martel had lost the Battle or Tours? Or Napoleon had prevailed at Waterloo? Or Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium? Or the Confederate States at Gettysburg? What if William, not Harold, had died in the Battle of Hastings?
These climactic events were preceded by extended foreplay. Other results that changed everything followed protracted, if less orgasmic, human interactions. What if Christianity had not become the official religion of the Roman Empire? What if Christendom had actually won the Crusades? What if religion had succeeded in shutting down the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? What if the Protestant Reformation had been stillborn?
If any of these events had occurred, we might now be speaking Egyptian, or French, or German. If those who think our country is based on the Bible had prevailed in setting up our laws, we, like the biblical characters in Sunday school stories, might be living in a land without democracy, a concept not mentioned or practiced in the Bible.
What if Charles Darwin had stuck to his religious studies at Cambridge and not signed on to sail to the Galapagos on HMS Beagle?
If science and critical thinking had not replaced Bronze Age mythical explanations for the origin of things, religious Fundangelicals might not now be building museums of nonsense. There would be no need to attempt to prove that evolution is wrong, that religious mythology is science, that the Earth is only six thousand years old, that dinosaurs lived in vegetarian harmony with humans, and that humans were created from dirt. Everyone would believe that. There would be no reason not to.
We might now be in the dark ages, not opposing a return to them, and there would be no need to oppose the terrorism of this ignorance, and the child abuse of teaching children, that science is wrong and that faith and dogma trump truth.
But things happened as they did, at least in the only universe we know. And things are happening now that could change all that is. Because we know history, we can avoid mistakes of the past.
And therefore we must once again defend civilization against its traditional enemies. The usual suspects are at the gates.
If the American Religious Civil War is lost, everyone will believe those things that our martyrs to truth rejected. Or they will be dead, in jail, or in hiding.
Those who would impose a theocracy upon us will not, as yet anyway, make a visible frontal assault. The plan appears to be a “Wedge Strategy.” A wedge looks like this: ▼.
The idea is to get the little end into the piece of wood and then to tap, or to hammer, the wedge in, like in splitting a log, until the gap made grows wider and wider as the wedge is forced in and the unity of the item into which it is forced is lost.
An axe is a wedge. A guillotine is a wedge. Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID) are wedges. Get the edge in a little bit, and you can then get in more and more, wider and deeper, until the wedge has gone all the way through the log, or the society, dividing, separating, destroying, and prevailing.
Thus, things urgently pressed by fundangelicals, things seemingly harmless alone, are neither harmless nor alone.
Well meaning people have said, often with great passion, that it is wrong to oppose those who hold a Creationist world view. Ideas are sacred, the argument goes, and it is not right for those who accept evolution and scientific laws to ridicule and mock those who believe in creation by a deity. Both sides are part of what such folks understand as “cultural wars.”
It is impossible to describe, or even imagine, just how dangerous this attitude can be. The seeds of Post-Modernism have fallen upon naive and fertile ground.
All ideas are not of equal value or merit. They simply are not. Things cannot be made fool proof because fools are so ingenious. Imagine for a moment a school in which all ideas have equal purchase. A precious godly child’s certainties that the Baby Jesus and Santa Clause are real, and that storks bring babies, should be given equal weight in politically correct public schools as the views of some Camp Quest infected secular child who has other explanations for Christmas, for the disappearance of the milk and cookies, and for the appearance of baby sister.
The ultimate aim of the wedge of Creationism is not to promulgate an alternate scientific theory to Evolution. The aim of the proponents is to promulgate their understanding of the Christian religion and to establish a theocracy. To “Win America for Christ.” Lying when the truth will do is no problem. Knowingly disregarding, distorting, or destroying evidence is also fine, because, in their world view, if the facts contradict the dogma, the facts lose. “Reason” is seen as something harmful that should be avoided. As Martin Luther is said to have observed, “Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason.”
On Memorial Day, May 28, 2007, “Answers in Genesis” opened a sideshow called “Creation Museum” in Northern Kentucky. It cost 27 million dollars and was paid for by the faithful who want the myth taught, to the exclusion of scientific facts, that the earth is about 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs and humans lived at the same time, that the myth of Noah’s Arks is literally true, that all animals were vegetarians prior to the magically created Adam and Eve gaining knowledge of good and evil, and that accepting science instead of this fairy tale leads to all of the perceived evils of the world, including abortion, homosexuality, and, worst of all, Atheism.
People from many different organizations and orientations, believers and non-believers, came from many different places to stand with one mind outside of the gates of the Creation Museum to let the world know that the childish world views being therein vended are not shared by all good people, as the creationists would have the world believe. And the world was there. The press from many nations took note that many people, of many differing views, had, at their own expense, come together to bring a message that wrongheaded and dangerous religious nonsense, while lawful to present, is not something that cannot be lawfully endorsed by the state and that faith in absurd things is not only sad, it is dangerous. “Rally for Reason” let the world know that everyone was not playing in the sandbox of the Arkonuts. See: http://www.edwinkagin.com/RALLY_4_REASON/rally4reason.html.
Please note that this “Rally for Reason,” directed against the Creation Museum, is not the same thing as the later, and magnificently successful, “Reason Rally” on the Washington Mall.
Ignorance is a form of terrorism. Teaching children to accept magical ways of explaining reality is child abuse. Persons so conditioned might, in some future Katrina, spend their time praying that the levees hold rather than getting off of their knees and repairing the levees. Such persons will then see themselves as “victims.” Not victims of their deadly doctrines, but perhaps of some god displeased because they had not killed off the Atheists within their midst.
Belief can create a kind of filter across the stream of information that enters the mind. Imagine that articles of faith are the size of BBs and that scientific facts are the size of marbles. A Fundangelical filter is set to stop anything larger than the BBs. Therefore, the filter automatically permits the BBs to enter the mind but stops the marbles. They simply do not get through. Dare we say that Creationism causes believers to lose their marbles?
The Rally for Reason was wildly successful, far beyond the expectations of the organizers. There was of course criticism and mocking from some who did not think the Rally was a good idea. “Well, why didn’t you go out and protest against the anniversary party for the alien spaceship crashing at Roswell?” for example. “Isn’t creationism so self evidently wrong that you only advertise it by protesting against this museum?”
Yes, of course the idea of aliens at Roswell is dumb. But such is not based on religious doctrine that the proponents want taught in public schools. And the errors of creationism have already persuaded a huge proportion of Americans to reject science for faith, for belief in things hoped for and for the assurance of things not seen. If no objection is made, the faithful can correctly say, to people who make laws, that no one seems to object.
If those who are peddling the snake oil of Creationism, or its womb mate Intelligent Design, have their way, the foundations upon which the Enlightenment, and hence the modern world, are built and sustained will be weakened and perhaps destroyed. The attempt to replace science with superstition endangers the very underpinnings of knowledge. Unchecked and unchallenged, ignorance could wash over us with a fury greater than that of any mere physical tsunami. Our race could, within a generation, be once again in a dark age, gaining knowledge from priests and supernatural revelations. In such a world, as in the past darkness of our species, reason and critical thinking could be punished in most barbaric ways.
All of human history can be seen as people standing in one of two great lines, two queues. In one line are those who, regardless of race, sex, nation, or religious belief, seek progress, exploration, rationality, and knowledge, those who accept objective truths, and who seek to improve the situation of creatures occupying our world. In the other line are those who hold that faith and magic are more important than science and reason, those who seek to repress any contradictions to their beliefs, those who have tried, and who are now trying, to impose their religious views on the people in the other line. They have been successful in the past. They can be successful again.
Creationism is, in a very real sense, ground zero in the American Religious Civil War. This is not simply a cultural war. This is a war for the survival of a way of life and for a view of the universe that can yet take us to the stars. If the Wedge works, if Creationism is accepted by the state as something that can be properly taught as science, then the ARCW will be lost. Everything else that is needed to create a complete theocracy will follow. Truly a “domino” theory. The Fundangelicals realize this.
The battle is not over. It has only been joined. Quite literally, the fate of civilization awaits the outcome.
Which line are you in?
Edwin Kagin © 2012.