The Guardian has a well-done article on British creationism, which looks from here like a low-rent, twee version of the rampant excesses of our American idiocy (We’re #1!). It also looks very familiar, with the same dead arguments and the same old delusions.
We also get new twists on old tropes. Remember the horrible New Scientist cover that we knew was going to be abused by the creationists? It is.
“I am guided ultimately by the parameters that the Bible lays down,” admits John Peet, travelling secretary of the Biblical Creation Society. He estimates that 90% of the congregation at the Chertsey Street baptist church in Guildford, where he worships and where I hear him address the “creation club”, are young earthers. The theme of pastor John Benton’s sermon in the evening is “Genesis and Evolution: Do They Fit Together?” He holds up a recent New Scientist cover, headlined “Darwin was wrong,” as evidence that the scientific base for evolution is crumbling, that the Darwinian tree of life can be uprooted.
I’ve got my copy of that issue, and you dedicated warriors against creationism might want to pick one up soon. One simple strategy to counter that nonsense is to ask if they read anything more than the title, so that you can open it up and show that they are lying about the science.
That cover was a mistake, and it is one more headache for us to deal with it…but as we all know, creationists will misuse anything to suit their agenda. They (and also, unfortunately, many defenders of evolution) like to blame atheism for creationism, too.
Mackay, too, is clutching a copy of that issue of New Scientist when I meet him. This is manna from heaven – the science establishment offering up gifts to the creationists. They also claim that the aggression of the new atheists is helping them. They paint Dawkins as a “recruiting sergeant” for creationism because he links evolutionary thinking with atheism. “He has been a real help to the ministry, ” says Randall Hardy.
Creationists argue that the new atheists are fuelling the dogmatism; Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford and a theistic evolutionary, last week threw that accusation back at them. “Creationists totally misunderstand the Bible,” he said. “Genesis is in the business of story, myth, poetry, metaphor. They [creationists and atheists] feed off one another. The debate has an unreality about it. Those of us who are not fundamentalists can’t find a place.”
Atheism and evolution are linked because science provides an evidence-based, rational account of origins that makes the myths of faith superfluous. If the fact that many scientists have abandoned the crutch of religion makes you flee from reason to embrace the absurdities of the creationists, you weren’t a friend of science in the first place. These are people who claim the existence of a cure makes them love their disease all the more.
As for Mr Harries, I can understand how he can’t find a place — he’s got nothing but vapor wafted about by furiously waving hands to stand upon. Of course the book of Genesis is a pile of metaphor and myth — so is the whole freaking Bible. But a metaphor for what? It’s all very nice to stagger away from the literalist interpretation of the bible — I sympathize, it’s what we atheists have all done — but then we’re left with this curious pile of pages that is a collection of very badly done history, bizarre behavioral proscriptions, uneven poetry, unbelievable fairy tales, and utterly insane politics and prophecy, which people believe fervently and which, even among those apologists who excuse it as mere “metaphor”, is endorsed as a guide to moral behavior and eternal life.
If he finds the debate unreal, think how we people free of the god delusion see it: a minority of lunatics espousing the kinds of silliness described in the Guardian article, which is hard enough for us to believe, with a majority of gawping fish on the sidelines trying desperately to avoid any association with the creationist kooks while averting their eyes from the rational people fighting their battles for them because they know, deep down, that their feeble apologetics for a “metaphor” they believe in makes the bewildered middle-of-the-roaders just as ridiculous as the creationists.