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Among the Creationists

amongtheLet me start by telling you that I am a believer in God and a believer in evolution. I was the latter before I was the former. I found nothing in my faith tradition that required me to takes sides. In fact, Catholicism, through a myriad of scientists/priests, has been on the forefront of much of what passes for new discoveries in the fields of cosmology and evolutionary theory.

I have had a very long interest in the fundamentalist mind and what makes it tick. And make no mistake, creationists are all fundamentalists. I have read seriously in the literature, much of it psychological in content, trying to understand a mind that lives in almost constant cognitive dissonance as a way of being.

The fundamentalist on the one hand pops her coffee cup in the microwave, checks her e-mail via her smart phone and carries on a conversation with her husband about the wonders of gene therapy and how it is really making uncle Sid’s cancer go into remission. But if you suggest that evolutionary theory is the correct explanation of how life changed on the earth over billions of years, she will start telling you that huge swaths of science, covering more than a dozen disciplines is replete with tens of thousands of individuals, millions over the last 150 years, all conspiring together to destroy God through this atheistic lie.

Since this is on its face ridiculous, you see the problem.

In steps Jason Rosenhouse, mathematician, and university teacher,  who has spent years attending creationist conventions around the world as a hobby to tell us all about what makes these people tick. He goes to the lectures, goes to the Creation Museum, talks with the people in lecture halls, theaters, restaurants, and bookstores. He is polite, congenial, and friendly to a fault. What’s not to like about this picture? And indeed, a review of the reviews of the book on Amazon will prove this point. Everyone thought he did a grand job, from his gentle questions to his thoughtful and well-researched arguments picking apart the “science” that passes for creationism. Some suggest he destroys ID arguments better than the biologists themselves.

Only one reviewer touched on my issues with Rosenhouse.

For I did not like the book at all. I started out loving it, then became puzzled, then increasingly angry, and finally, I rushed through the balance in order to set down my objections here.

For Rosenhouse does all that he does quite well, except it’s not what the book purports to be. I was supposed to find “penetrating insights into the psychology of creationists” (Jerry Coyne, Professor of Ecology and Evolution, U of Chicago). He was to “hold up a magnifying glass to the various varieties of this species [creationists]” (Eugene C. Scott, Executive Director NCSE).

Instead I found a goodly amount of chit-chat with some average folk creationists, and that was followed by in depth explanations of why their “experts” were faulty in their science, math and reasoning. No problem with any of that. But then Rosenhouse went further:

When presented with progressive theist arguments that suggested that science and religion were not in opposition, he chose to show us, by his reasoning at least, that the two were incompatible. In other words, he takes issue with those believers, like myself, who are entirely comfortable in a world with both God and evolutionary theory. He tells us that we cannot be comfortable. We are wrong. And he brings up all the reasons why this is so, especially as it relates to pain and suffering in the world. Bit by bit, Rosenhouse picks apart every argument he knows advanced by Progressive believers.

But that is not enough. When Progressive believers urge a conversation between science and religion, Rosenhouse tells us there is no point, because believers bring nothing of value to the table. Since they cannot prove by way of scientific methodology, any of what they claim, they add nothing. In other words, we should all be atheists like himself, albeit his special brand of secularized Judaism. Yes, that is right. After all is said and done, Rosenhouse tells us how incredible it is to be Jewish and participate in all the religious rituals while being an atheist! They are just ever so much better than Christians in their ways.

Do you see what is going on here? Underlying all this “can’t we all be friends” is a very very big amount of condescension.

What is the reason behind saying that the theists arguments for a bond between science and religion is so poor that he can see why creationists reject it? Are we not both on the same side–hoping to keep science in science class and religion in religion class?

He actually makes it clear that for him, like for most New Atheists, there is no such thing as a legitimate progressive Christian, they are, simply Christians who are “trying to catch up”, while at least fundamentalists have the courage of their convictions! In the end, this is no more than the usual clap trap. . . there is only one biblical interpretation and it is the one that allows me to show you how wrong you are. If you try to tell me that there is another way of reading the bible, well that’s just trying to cheat.

Rosenhouse’s beef is not with creationists, it’s with religion period, except as some social occasion to enjoy quaint and archaic rituals that sets one apart from the rest.

I can handle his real issue, but I would have appreciated knowing that’s where he was going. I hoped to learn more about what makes the fundamentalist tick. Instead I found that they were mere pawns in Rosenhouse’s real game.

Rosenhouse remains one of those who cannot and will not see that there may be other ways of “seeing” that don’t involve the scientific method. The refusal to entertain anything that cannot be replicated by way of experiment is a self-imposed limitation, and one that of course is all too circular in implementation.

I did expect better. It’s a good read and a good discussion of the scientific errors in creationism and ID. It is NOT an explanation of what makes a fundamentalist a fundamentalist and how we might work to help them. In fact one fundamentalist may inadvertently pointed out the true futility of the exercise:

“. . .I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.” (pg 213)

Would that Rosenhouse had been as forthright.

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