Some of us have known that almost half of Americans are conspiracy theorists all along


I hate to say I told you so, but many of us have been aghast at the idiocy promoted by shady weird organizations for decades. Snopes has a good summary of creationism as a classic conspiracy theory.

Many people around the world looked on aghast as they witnessed the harm done by conspiracy theories such as QAnon and the myth of the stolen US election that led to the attack on the US Capitol Building on January 6. Yet while these ideas will no doubt fade in time, there is arguably a much more enduring conspiracy theory that also pervades America in the form of young Earth creationism. And it’s one that we cannot ignore because it is dangerously opposed to science.

In the US today, up to 40% of adults agree with the young Earth creationist claim that all humans are descended from Adam and Eve within the past 10,000 years. They also believe that living creatures are the result of “special creation” rather than evolution and shared ancestry. And that that Noah’s flood was worldwide and responsible for the sediments in the geologic column (layers of rock built up over millions of years), such as those exposed in the Grand Canyon.

Such beliefs derive from the doctrine of biblical infallibility, long accepted as integral to the faith of numerous evangelical and Baptist churches throughout the world, including the Free Church of Scotland. But I would argue that the present-day creationist movement is a fully fledged conspiracy theory. It meets all the criteria, offering a complete parallel universe with its own organisations and rules of evidence, and claims that the scientific establishment promoting evolution is an arrogant and morally corrupt elite.

This so-called elite supposedly conspires to monopolise academic employment and research grants. Its alleged objective is to deny divine authority, and the ultimate beneficiary and prime mover is Satan.

Creationism re-emerged in this form in reaction to the mid-20th century emphasis on science education. Its key text is the long-time best seller, The Genesis Flood, by John C Whitcomb and Henry M Morris. This provided the inspiration for Morris’s own Institute for Creation Research, and for its offshoots, Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International.

Ken Ham, the founder and chief executive of Answers in Genesis, is also responsible for the highly lucrative Ark Encounter theme park and Creation Museum in Kentucky. As a visit to any of these websites will show, their creationism is completely hostile to science, while paradoxically claiming to be scientific.

There is something about the United States that is very good at fostering wacky obsessions. We’ve been afflicted with a succession of “Great Awakenings” (I hate the name — “Dreadful Paroxysms of Cultishness” would be more appropriate), so the recent unpleasantness of QAnon & Trumpism & militias are just ripples of chaos from enduring poison in our population. We’ve been running a fever for a few centuries that occasionally flares up into a wave of horrid stupidity, and we’ve been in one of those for the last few years.

Just sayin’ — if you’d been paying attention to those of us who’ve been disgusted with the way we treat religious inanity (I know many of my readers have been quite aware), you wouldn’t be surprised at the recent eruption. There’s not much difference between Answers in Genesis and QAnon. Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity is just the worst.

Comments

  1. Marissa van Eck says

    Yes, some of us have known that a plurality that is frighteningly close to a numerical majority of Americans are ratshit bat-shagging insane.

    What do we do about this?

    I would say it only takes about 10-15% uptake of a given idea, meme, or memeplex to make it strong enough to direct, if not crash, the ship of state. If we’re looking at a nearly 50% infection rate, what then?

  2. says

    “Throughout human history, as our species has faced the frightening, terrorizing fact that we do not know who we are, or where we are going in this ocean of chaos, it has been the authorities — the political, the religious, the educational authorities — who attempted to comfort us by giving us order, rules, regulations, informing — forming in our minds — their view of reality. To think for yourself you must question authority and learn how to put yourself in a state of vulnerable open-mindedness, chaotic, confused vulnerability to inform yourself. ”

    Some Alt-Right Edgelord…

  3. says

    In order to believe that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God, you have to be very careful not to actually read it. Surveys consistently show that atheists know more about the content of the Bible than do believers, and Daniel Dennet has famously found that many seminarians lose their faith once they start to study it systematically. Sadly, many of them work as ministers because that’s the trade they have, even though they are secretly non-believers. I wish I could sit some of these people down and systematically take them through the actual content of the Bible, which is riddled with contradictions and absurdities. Actually I would say it is an entire tissue of contradictions and absurdities. But like the church fathers who wouldn’t look through Galileo’s telescope, I’m sure they wouldn’t do thatt.

  4. robro says

    I watched this piece by Kevin Rudd last night about Rupert Murdoch’s role in the current mess we find ourselves including fomenting conspiracy theories and other crackpot ideas through his near monopoly of the news media, all to feather his nest. I don’t know much about Rudd other than he is a former PM of Australia. He has apparently been on the warpath against the Murdoch empire for some time. Rudd may be a scoundrel himself, and religion plays a role in his resume, but Murdoch is a worthy target in my book. He’s the biggest player in a cess pool of media moguls who have been ginning human gullibility for profit and “influence”, particularly in the US and UK.

  5. Matt G says

    I was literally thinking EXACTLY THIS right before I opened this page! I teach science and ask my students a science question each week (question today, answer written on a twenty dollar bill by tomorrow!). I wanted to tie Darwin’s birthday (this Friday) to the now-obvious fact that conspiracy theory is by no means as fringe as most people would acknowledge.

  6. says

    Two decades of “documentaries” about bible secrets, ancient aliens, and the occult history of the 3rd Reich doesn’t help. I just can’t resist any chance to rag on whatever “educational programing” in America has become. It’s probably just another symptom of the deeper disease though.

  7. davidc1 says

    @4 Yeah roop ,he is just starting a new news channel over here in GB ,gb news it is called .
    It’s about time he passed away .

  8. charley says

    My parents in-law have been creationist, right-wing, end times believing, devil fearing, infallible Bible, homophobic nut jobs for the entire 33 years I’ve known them. They do read the Bible – a lot – but they are blind to its contradictions. They are financially very well off and are both intelligent enough to be quite accomplished, so they’re not dumb in an obvious way. They are not isolated from sane people; they just know that these people are all wrong, including a string of preachers who have let them down through the years by caving to some liberal concession. No particular group or cult is holding them; they are free-lance loons who seek out like minds for as long as those minds align with theirs. They crave the love of their family while repelling them with their judgement.

    Once I get past all the sadness and anger they have caused, I am fascinated by them, because I wish I understood people like them, and I just don’t.

  9. whheydt says

    One problem I see is that the Christians took away the wrong lesson from The Great Disappointment.

  10. npsimons says

    Just sayin’ — if you’d been paying attention to those of us who’ve been disgusted with the way we treat religious inanity (I know many of my readers have been quite aware), you wouldn’t be surprised at the recent eruption. There’s not much difference between Answers in Genesis and QAnon. Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity is just the worst.

    Yup, been saying this for years, and every time I bring up that there is a concerning overlap with religious belief and far-right conspiracy theory, all the “good” “left” christains protest.

    I’ve been fighting this bullshit since high school in the 90’s, there’s no gaslighting me on this topic.

  11. Tethys says

    Truth in broadcasting laws would take care of the Mordor Murdoch propaganda issue.

    The rest of the stupid is a direct result of idiot Shrub and his foul administrations successful attempt to “Teach the controversy!”, as if evolution is still an open question.
    No child left behind is a nice name for their policy of removing science, geography, and accurate history from public schools. (Not to mention slashing federal funding for k-12 education).

    It ties in nicely with the antivax homeschoolers system of belief. Chemicals are bad/pollutants! I shall combat covid with herbs and burning myrrh, but not by getting a vaccine, because chemicals!!!

    It’s just a clusterfuk of entitled ignorance.

  12. davidc1 says

    @13 I saw something on the interweb ,someone posted a twit ,or tweet with a long list of
    Chemicals ,and other sciencey stuff in it .
    They asked someone if they would eat them .
    The someone said no .
    The other person then told them it was the chemical breakdown of an Apple .
    Such fun.

  13. microraptor says

    Marcus Ranum @8: Careful, there. It’s not like there’s a shortage of atheists who believe all kinds of garbage.

  14. grimlyfiendish says

    As a Scot, it was nice to see the Wee Free mentioned (Free Church of Scotland), these are people who lock up childrens play areas on a Sunday. However they are the butt of many good jokes, my personal fave is:

    Q: Why are the Wee Free against having sex standing up?
    A: It’s too much like dancing.

  15. davidc1 says

    @16 ,I thought the Wee Free were those tiny drunken thieving mad fighting bastards from the Discworld novels?

  16. Rich Woods says

    @Tethys #13:

    The rest of the stupid is a direct result of idiot Shrub and his foul administrations successful attempt to “Teach the controversy!”, as if evolution is still an open question.

    Just yesterday I was wearing a t-shirt bearing a stylised image of an astronaut standing next to an Apollo lander underneath a bank of film studio lights, with the caption ‘Teach the controversy!’. When I bought it I did so because I thought it was a clever dig at the creationists, but I can’t tell you the number of times people have misunderstood its meaning. I should type up the explanation and just hand out cards.

  17. chrislawson says

    robro–

    Kevin Rudd was a poor prime minister for many reasons, but he is not a scoundrel. And even at his worst he was better for the country (and our Pacific neighbours) than any of the conservative leaders who succeeded him.

  18. davidc1 says

    @20 Or as Spike Milligan used to end his Q series sketches “What are we Going to do now ,What are we Going to do now”

  19. KG says

    but many of us have been aghast at the idiocy promoted by shady weird organizations for decades. Snopes has a good summary of creationism as a classic conspiracy theory.

    Very like Jesus mythicism, in fact.

  20. says

    [blockquote]highly lucrative Ark Encounter theme park[/blockquote]

    Wait really? It’s didn’t implode or is just still a lot with a nice road funded by the state?

    @chrislawson, 21

    Yeah, Rudd didn’t start the shit Australia is pulling now, as far as i know. (New ACCC code.) It’s like they want to roll up the worst ideas of the US and the EU (or some of the member states), then take it to whole new level. I love law and regulation based on unfounded belief and conspiracy theories as much as i love the looneysphere itself. But with the US trying to destroy Section 230, Australia is going to have to take it up another notch somehow.

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