Every cult has its sacred literature. We’ve written before about the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) when they celebrated the 50th anniversary of theirs. See ICR Celebrates 50 Years of Creation Science. It was a memorable occasion, because The Genesis Flood is credited with starting the creation science movement.
Unfortunately for the celebrants, in the past fifty years ICR’s creation science has produced nothing — literally nothing! — in geology, biology, genetics, medicine, pharmacology, petroleum exploration, mining, agriculture, or any other useful field. As far as we can tell, the record of accomplishments of creation science during the past half-century is indistinguishable from that of astrology.
Now we see the same thing happening at another creationist cult — the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).
The Discoveroids have just posted this at their blog: Time Flies: Darwin on Trial Twenty Years Later. Yes, dear reader, the Seattle cultists are celebrating their own founding text. Besides a video, which we haven’t looked at, their entire post consists of a single paragraph. Here it is, with bold font added by us and their links omitted:
It launched the modern intelligent-design movement. Had it never been published in 1991, you wouldn’t be reading this news site right now. Even liberal reviewers — such as Publishers Weekly — were forced to concede the power of its argument, with PW commenting that “This cogent, succinct inquiry cuts like a knife through neo-Darwinist assumptions.” It’s Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial and we celebrate its twentieth anniversary this coming week.
This must be a great occasion for the Discoveroids. Strike up the band! Let the parades begin! Their Seattle headquarters must be awash with congratulatory messages and elaborate floral bouquets flooding in from all over the world.
What can we say about this momentous event? Nothing, actually, that we haven’t said before. For example, see Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design, and also Intelligent Design, the Great Incongruity.
But as scientifically educated people rush to comment on the differences between Johnson’s cultish writing and Darwin’s Origin of Species, it’s important that we head off the expected creationist response that “Darwinism” is every bit as dependent on sacred text as their movement, so what’s the difference? Nya, nya, nyaaaaaaaa!
We don’t expect to persuade the creationists of anything, but there’s quite a difference between a foundational science paper and a foundational cult text. Creationists, being religious fanatics, are aware that their founding texts must be accepted on faith, which they freely bestow because of their reverence for the cult’s founder and their emotional commitment to his beliefs. It would be utterly crushing for any cult if it were established that their founder had said, on his deathbed: “I lied my butt off! My followers are fools! Har-de-har-har!”
Because they’re so aware of the precarious place their cultish texts hold, they assume that if they can injure the reputation or sincerity of the founders of “competing cults,” then their own will emerge triumphant. Thus the endless claims that are seen on creationist websites that Darwin recanted on his deathbed.
What cultists fail to realize is that science doesn’t operate like religion. If Moses had denied the divine origin of the Ten Commandments on his deathbed, that would have been devastating for his followers; his word was the only authority for their belief. But acceptance of a scientific theory doesn’t depend on anyone’s testimony. It’s based on whether the theory is a successfully tested explanation of verifiable data. Recantations are meaningless (as are declarations of faith).
The all-time classic illustration of religion’s failure to grasp the nature of science is when Galileo was threatened with torture and forced by the Inquisition to reject the solar system (see Recantation of Galileo). The fanatical churchmen of that day actually thought that would put an end to his work. They literally didn’t grasp that anyone could make the same observations that Galileo made and come to the same conclusions. It was a catastrophic blunder, one which they have since realized and attempted to remedy.
No one — not in Galileo’s time and not now — pays any attention to Galileo’s recantation as bearing on the question of whether the earth orbits the sun. The only effect of the recantation is that it provides an unforgettable example of the enormous forces of ignorance with which we have to contend. It’s also a fine example of why church and state should be forever separate.
Getting back to the fantasy of Darwin’s deathbed recantation, even if the man had gone insane in his final days and actually did renounce his scientific work, it would have absolutely no effect on the value and acceptance of that work.
A scientific theory can survive even a sincere renunciation by its originator (although no such event is known to have happened), while a religion would collapse under similar circumstances. This is because a scientific theory is based on objectively verifiable evidence, not the support of its founder or anyone else. Creationists understand none of this. They revere their own cultish scriptures, and they endlessly attempt to discredit what they imagine are the “cultish” scriptures of science.
So we congratulate the Discoveroids on the 20th anniversary of their founding scripture. And we want to assure them that no one is working on any false mythology that Phillip Johnson recanted on his deathbed. (He’s still very much alive, by the way.) It won’t matter whether he eventually does or doesn’t recant. His work speaks for itself, and the institution that exists in his shadow — the Discovery Institute — is an eloquent monument to the value of that work.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.