A quick post that’s slightly off topic
I worry about writing anything on this topic because my goal is not to have some sort of focus for a creationist ‘debate’, but I recently saw an article about the construction of an Ark in the Netherlands. (http://xenophilius.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/modern-day-noah-opens-doors-of-ark-creation/) I don’t know what to make of this article – or more to the point, of the subject that the article addresses. There’s nothing I find objectionable about someone building whatever it is that they want to with their money. But I can’t overlook the statement that the “the Dutch creationist and millionaire building contractor Johan Huibers”. What can’t I overlook? “Creationist”
There it is, I’ve done it. I opened the door. What’s so objectionable about being a creationist? Well, it’s not the man himself that I care about. What I do care about is that the purpose of this thing is to serve as some sort of creationist ‘museum’. We already have one of those in the States. It’s located in Kentucky (where else?), but you can check it out right here: http://creationmuseum.org.
I’m not sure how I should phrase this in order to communicate my point best, but I find it to be a severe obstacle to education that these institutions are out there. I have no problem with the religious story of creation (any of them), but there is a problem with the relationship that Churches have with the rest of the world. That is, in order to be tolerant of all religions and to respect the distinction between religion and science, nothing can be said about any claim that has the word ‘religious’ tacked to it.
I think most scientists are OK with the fact that religious questions are outside of the purview of science (most – not all). Whenever there is a discussion about something that cannot be tested scientifically, I’m happy to say, “well, science can’t address that question.” and let it go.
But fundamentalist religions don’t respect that division any more than scientists like Richard Dawkins (Whom I respect greatly even when he is attacking religion – I just don’t think it’s a good idea). I’m talking about creationists that want to make claims about the real world that are testable, but they either don’t want to test these claims or don’t respect the power of a persuasive argument against their position.
Scientists dislike this for several reasons. First, creationists approach the question with the answer in hand and don’t give credence to any non-supporting evidence. Second, scientists think it’s not playing by the rules if you don’t give up a flawed argument (it’s the hardest thing to learn as a science student: you are not your argument. If your argument is wrong, let it go) Lastly, science isn’t going to admit “it’s in the bible” as evidence – and I think this offends fundamentalists.
Why don’t scientists accept biblical truth? Well, because there’s no reason to. Even if everything in the bible happened exactly as it was originally told, the fact that the bible was cobbled together from a handful of oral histories after floating around for a number of years makes that pretty hard to accept as evidence. A court won’t accept hearsay even if it’s only a couple of weeks old. The game ‘telephone’ has as its entire premise that people can’t repeat what they’ve heard just a second before.
OK, I’m ranting here – and it’s exactly what I didn’t want to do, but I teach biology and I have had students come to my class with ideas supported by creationists and creation museums before and it’s very difficult to navigate / remedy.
And one last thing – on a personal note: Just as the mathematicians and astronomers of the 17th century were in awe of the motion of the planets and how wonderfully sensible God’s creation appeared to them, there really are a lot of scientists who marvel at the beauty of God’s creation in setting life in motion to follow the elegant rules of evolution over time.