We’ve touched on this subject in several earlier posts. Today we’re gathering much of that into one convenient place, so we can easily refer to it when necessary. This is going to be one of our weekend political rants, so feel free to ignore it.
Your typical, walking-around, everyday creationist has no idea about the consequences of his belief system. He probably imagines that it’s pure niceness, and it will assure him a happy afterlife. How wonderful that must be for him. But by definition, the typical creationist knows nothing. The leaders of today’s creationist movement, on the other hand, have very different ideas.
In one of our earliest posts, Discovery Institute: Enemies of the Enlightenment, we discussed the preference of the Enlightenment — particularly the Scottish Enlightenment, for reason over authority. This is a big problem for creationists — whose views are exactly the opposite, hence their fanatical opposition to science. The same tyrannical preference for authority is responsible for the tension between economic freedom and various forms of state-controlled economies, but our focus in this blog has always been on science, so we’ll try to stick with that (although we may not succeed).
The results of the Enlightenment were a civilization based on reason, liberty, science, and free enterprise — all of which were manifest in the American Revolution and Constitution. Most people were delighted — but not all people. Would-be tyrants, theocrats, Grand Inquisitors, Marxists, fascists, and other assorted despots are nostalgic for the pre-Enlightenment days when men lived in ignorance and poverty, and they unthinkingly obeyed authority. The clash between those who praise and those who oppose the Enlightenment is the engine that drives most of the political and cultural unrest in the modern world. It’s definitely at the core of the modern creationist movement, even if their followers are (and always will be) clueless.
The creationists are on the wrong side of history — their movement today is literally a counter-revolution against the Enlightenment — and that’s why we oppose them. For the same reason, we also oppose Marxists, fascists, and theocrats of every variety. Although here we mostly talk about creationism, it’s just one aspect of a much greater struggle. In The Infinite Evil of Creationism we said:
Creationism is being used as the front for a coordinated, multi-pronged assault on every worthy human accomplishment. It provides a handy base of exploitable ignorance, which is manipulated to wage a deliberate and relentless campaign against reason itself — and reason is the fountainhead of everything that makes human life worth living.
In the US, today’s creationists are largely — but not exclusively — found in the Republican party. That wasn’t always the case (see Creationism and American Politics). A generation ago, creationists were mostly Democrats, and like their hero, William Jennings Bryan, they weren’t conservative at all. They were progressives, and they were the heart of the Democrat party — which still retains those views.
That was the situation until Richard Nixon’s southern strategy, which brought the South into the Republican party, which has now inherited a large part the William Jennings Bryan constituency, along with Bryan’s creationism, populism, progressivism, and his anti-intellectualism. They are not friends of liberty or the Enlightenment. It is no longer the Republican party of Barry Goldwater, for which your Curmudgeon is nostalgic.
Today’s Social Conservatives, a large part of the Republican base, tend to be very close to Bryan in their thinking, although they somehow manage to retain — at least superficially — the old Republican beliefs in a small central government. But that’s mostly ceremonial. In practice, they don’t seem to take those ideas very seriously. It’s difficult to imagine what men like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin — or Goldwater — would have in common with such people.
Today’s Democrats, although they no longer espouse creationism as a political goal, have not abandoned Bryan’s progressivism and populism. Indeed, having been freed from concerns about ever again winning the South, they seem to have moved even more toward the left. But we shouldn’t overlook the obvious similarities between an intelligent designer of the biosphere and an all-powerful (but loving and benevolent) state that plans and controls the economy. In that sense, both American political parties are creationists. The Democrats, at least superficially, favor evolution, but somehow it’s been forgotten that Darwin was raised on — and his theory is consistent with — Adam Smith’s ideas about free enterprise.
So we have a modern paradox. Creationists are authoritarians, and although they’re a significant portion of today’s Republican party, in all important respects (if one considers liberty important) their goals are compatible with those of the leftists; but in the US the creationists are so confused they think their ideas are conservative. They aren’t conservative, of course — not in the Enlightenment sense — and the only way they can harmonize their theocratic vision with America’s Enlightenment-inspired Revolution is by revising history so that the beliefs of the Founders are distorted beyond recognition. That’s the reason for so much of the revisionist history we see, for example: Discovery Institute: Usurping the Fourth of July.
Looking at the big picture, it’s irrelevant what dogma politicians use to achieve their authoritarian goals. They’re all eager to be tyrants, and if the principles of the Enlightenment are abandoned, it doesn’t really matter to the citizen what his masters’ ruling doctrine is.
Okay, this little essay is wandering all over the place, so we’ll have to end it here. We’re still focused on creationism, but we should never forget that it’s only part of a much larger, far more important struggle. And it’s not one that we can be certain of winning.
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