Primitive Creationism

One thing I think Ken Ham and Kent Hovind do rather well is to remind us how primitive young-earth creationism really is. They know, even without looking at any evidence, that the primitive God of Genesis 1 and 2 hasn’t got a chance of coming up with anything as advanced as our modern, scientific understanding of biology. Being a primitive invention Himself, He is limited to using only the techniques available to the imagination of unscientific and illiterate people.

Now, Ham and Hovind would never put this principle into so many words, of course. But look at their basic model of how creation works. What’s the principle technique involved? Magic. Say a few words, cast a spell, and poof, it just happens. When you don’t understand something, that’s the first model that pops into your head, at least if you’re uneducated and superstitious. Can’t figure out how that works? Must be magic. What’s lightning? Magic. What causes diseases? Must be bad magic. Where do babies come from? They don’t happen every time you have sex. Hmm, magic must be part of that too.

Of course, “magic” is really just something that happens in your head. The trick isn’t getting things to happen by magic, the trick is to make people think that you’ve done something by magic. That’s where “magic words” come in: you say things that sound mysterious and/or powerful, to get people thinking in terms of magical powers, and then they’re more likely to perceive the consequences as magical. (A lot of that still lingers today in the form of prayer.)

Or you manipulate the imagination in other ways, like creating images or sculptures of the object you hope to achieve. Grab some clay and shape it into the form of a very large, very pregnant woman. It’s magic! Now your wife will get pregnant. Paint some images of hunters chasing down their prey and bringing home lots of meat. Poof! The hunt will be magically successful. It looks like what you want to achieve, so it must have some kind of power to create reality just like it can create thoughts in your head. It’s magic!

Now look at the story in Genesis 1. The people who invented that story knew nothing about molecules or protein folding or electrostatic bonds or heredity or statistics or any of that advanced, modern, science-y stuff. There’s no way they could imagine a God capable of building the mechanisms of life into the actual natural laws of biology, and building life up from a deep and comprehensive understanding of biochemistry. Their God is the product of a primitive imagination that lacks this kind of understanding.

So the God of Genesis is limited to creating via primitive magic, speaking a few magic words, and (in the special case of creating Man) getting as “advanced” as shaping some mud into the form of what He wanted to create before resorting, once again, to primitive magic to produce the complicated stuff like turning mere mud into actual flesh and bone. Simple, straightforward, and entirely within the limits of an ignorant and superstitious imagination. Anything beyond that is too complicated for the old gods invented by men.

Thus we shouldn’t begrudge young-earth creationists their primitive Creation mechanisms. It’s the best they can do, given their myth’s human origins.


  1. Mike de Fleuriot says

    Reading this it feels like kicking cripples, but then I realised that in fact they are cripples, and do deserve to be kicked. And before anyone replies without thinking, the purpose of kicking these cripples is to make them get off their church supplied wheelchairs and walk like normal humans.

    • says

      While I see what you’re trying to say, implying that “cripples” are not normal humans is kind of offensive. What’s even more offensive is using “cripples” (I assume you mean people who are physically disabled)as a pejorative analogy for creationists. I know lots of “cripples”, my atheist daughter is one, and they’re all lot better people than creationists.

    • Tige Gibson says

      If a man chooses never to walk, his legs will atrophy (like an astronaut who has spent a long time in orbit), and it may appear that he is disabled, but his condition is self-inflicted and easily resolvable with some effort.

  2. pipenta says

    And if you have this myth that you want to be science, why you simply build a life-sized model that looks just like a science museum (Well, close enough. The Venus of Willendorf wasn’t exactly realistic, but she got the job done, didn’t she?) and then people come and look at it and, voila, it’s a science! Easy peasy!

  3. Kevin says

    Of course, all religion is basically magic. Lame magic, but nonetheless, it’s magic.

    Look at the Catholic Church’s dogma.

    A magician waves his hands around, says some magic words and “abracadabra”, the cracker is turned into the body of Christ.

    It’s the lamest magic trick ever! At least when someone pulls a rabbit out of a hat, there’s a real rabbit and a real hat.

    And the magician gets his power to turn crackers into Jesus by — well, yes — more magic. A bishop waves his hands, says some magic words and “voila” — a new crop of magicians are installed. Just waiting to turn crackers into Jesus.

    • N. Nescio says

      As anybody who’s had to sit through a Latin Mass, the words you want to be using are “hocus pocus” 🙂

    • had3 says

      That’s not lame, that’s spectacular! Anyone can do a magic trick that’s an actual trick, but to make people believe that a cracker is now not-a-cracker with a couple of words, and get the people to pay you for that; now that’s real magic.

  4. Albert Bakker says

    Well simplicity is paramount to a good theory. The simpler, the better. Creationism is simple, 6 yoms of magic and another yom to hang out. A tame raptor, some water, a boat and pillar of salt. And it is all so glaringly obvious that you only need a banana to prove it.

  5. says

    Very well put! When I read things like this and think about the Bible, it baffles me to no end how all of these smart, well educated people I know can believe in … magic.

  6. Steve R says

    But the authors were Inspired by Gawd, so deeply inspired that they could write in a language that hadn’t been invented yet, that got translated into the ancient languages and had to be retranslated by King James’s board of scholars. Yes, I actually heard that from a Biblical-literalist idiot on a Sunday radio broadcast that I heard while I was too busy driving to tune away from it. His thesis was that there are no mistranslations in the KJV. If better translations are available, they must be wrong, because the KJV is the One True Bible, so it must have been written in English.

    Actually, calling him an idiot is unfair to the profoundly retarded. What he and his ilk are is psychotic. That’s why I’ve given up trying to debate them. At best, it’s like trying to teach a pig to sing. At worst, you could run into a pro, such as a Jesuit, who will make you take days to analyze how he got you to agree to a patent absurdity.

  7. thisisaturingtest says

    It’s not just their science standards which are anachronistic to the point of being primitive- their “history,” and thus their whole narrative, suffers from the same drawback in standards, and in fact hinges on it. I’m currently reading a book called “Gospel Fictions” in which the main thesis of the author (Randel Helms) is the way early, 1st century, non-Jewish Christians turned the Old Testament into something it was never meant to be- a new Book, all about Jesus; a Book, not of history, but of prophecy about him. Actual historical memories of Jesus, the “who, what, when, where, and how” we would today depend on for accurate history, are, in the New Testament, subsumed into creative re-imaginings based on Old Testament “prophecies” about him; and these “prophecies” are, in their circular turn, re-interpreted to fit the “fulfillments” of them in the New. All this is done, and still is done, on the basis of a historical method that values mythology, as it reinforces a theology, over accuracy. The uncomfortable, for Christians, fact is that 21st Christians are stuck with a Bible that was written by people using 1st century standards of history as faith, and vice-versa.

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