Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why O Why Does God Need to Fight Darwin?

I have heard of religious people feeling they are in conflict with science, even oppressed by scientists.

A movie called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" starring Ben Stein states part of the argument of religious extremists.

Religious argument
1. Scientists are shunning anyone who believes in the Bible, and kicking them out of universities
2. Darwinism (a scientific theory that conflicts with the bible) in particular has led to mankind's greatest immorality: the Nazi Holocaust of World Wart II

I don't believe this supposed conflict is doing anyone any good, and that it is a "made up" conflict that serves mostly the purpose of the religious extremists.

If you are an atheist, or a Christian of mainstream religions, you may think it is impossible for the religious extremists to actually benefit from attacking science.  After all, science has given us modern medicine, airplanes, cars, heated houses, refrigerators, telephones, computers, and other fancy stuff.  But there is still an advantage to be gained from attacking science.  For example, the "Flat Earth" movement from about a hundred years ago did the same thing.  A few charismatic leaders arose, and began speaking tours, and writing pamphlets casting doubt on the theory that the Earth was round.  Even though the round Earth was a well established fact, these Flat-Earthers attracted a large and growing following.  It got to the point that some actual scientists became worried enough to try debating the point.  But it didn't actually do much good.  In time, the Flat Earth movement gradually faded, although as of 2012 it had about 400 members

We all know about conspiracy theories, and how they can attract followings, like the "Truther" movement that argued the destruction of 9/11 was an inside job, not the result of planes crashing.

I see a similarity between  the "Young Earth Creationists" and these other conspiracy groups, although I feel that Creationists are a much stronger movement with more adherents.  The question is why have they got so many adherents, how did it grow to be such a large movement?

I think we can start by looking at the history of Creationism.  In 1800, almost all Christians were creationists.  but it was not a cult of contrarians, it was simply mainstream thought with no serious challengers among Christians or Jews.  Even Darwin started off as a creationist.  Then in the mid 1800's, Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, which seemed to defy the traditional story of the Bible.  Incidentally, this was not much different from the earlier discovery of the round earth, and the fact of the Earth going around the Sun instead of vice versa. Both those theories seemed to defy the word of the Holy Bible. But while the theories of the flat Earth the the sun going around the Earth both gradually faded, Evolution came in for some stiffer opposition which is still going strong today in the USA.

The particular historical circumstances that made evolution such a battleground may be connected to the US civil war.  One clue is that the centre of Creationism today is still in the Southern US states that supported slavery.  Another clue is that the civil war took place around the same time as Darwin's theory of Evolution.  A third, and more complicated clue, is that an argument of the Civil War was whether or not slavery was the will of God. In the debate about whether or not God accepted slavery, one key point hinged on whether or not every word of the Bible was true.  Because in the Bible, it clearly states that you are allowed to own slaves and allowed to beat them nearly to death. Anti-slavery Christians had to downplay the importance of the literal interpretation of the Bible.  But southerners who supported slavery emphasized the literal truth of every word of the Bible, since it supported their cause of slavery.

Once the US Civil War was over, it seemed pointless to continue debating slavery, but a new bugaboo emerged for the Southern religions to attack with their belief in the concept of "Every word of the Bible is literally true".  The new bugaboo was Darwinism.  So for about a hundred years, a low level conflict continued, with the south fighting for "Biblical Creationism" while the rest of the world moved on to a general acceptance of evolution.  This  "Darwinism" debate found new life with the passing of civil rights laws for African-Americans, which forced all government schools to enroll black students.  Opposition to Darwin and Evolution became the way southern people could attack the government school system, and gave them non-racist excuses to keep their kids out of schools.

The Creationist vs. Darwinist debate took on a life of its own, with many people being able to make a good living off it, much like any of the other conspiracy theories.  But this time the argument had a religious element, a racist element, and a political element thrown in for good measure.

In the end, there is no need for people to give up their Bible to accept evolution.  The Catholic Church has done it already, so have other mainstream churches.  Even the strictest biblical literalists accept the idea that the Earth is round and orbits the sun.  And they also (I think) have given up on slavery, regardless of the words in the Holy Bible.  There is no need for a smackdown between God and Darwin.


1 comment:

  1. You write, 'Then in the mid 1800's, Darwin proposed the theory of evolution.'

    In fact, the 'transmutation of species' had been kicking around for a while as a hypothesis, certainly for at least a decade before Origin. Darwin's notable contribution was in describing the mechanism by which this worked ... 'natural selection.'

    In fact, Darwin sat on his work for quite some time, fearing the repercussions of publishing. It was only A.R.Wallace's concurrent approach to the hypothesis which finally forced him to publish, to establish precedence.