The news drought continues, so your Curmudgeon’s mind is wandering. Forgive us, dear reader, but we’re drifting into uncharted waters here. We hope, however, that this speculative essay is at least tenuously on topic.
There are all kinds of creationists — a topic we’ve discussed before — see Creationists: Ignorant, Stupid, Insane, or Wicked. Most are merely ignorant, and a few are deranged. The others know better than their drooling followers, but they have motives. Among those with motives, it’s possible that some are sincere, but most are charlatans who see their ministries as an easy way to make a living.
And there are a few we haven’t described before. They have a different motive. Like those without scruples, they advocate creationism (or intelligent design) while almost certainly knowing it’s scientifically absurd, yet they do so anyway because they think a lie — or what they probably consider a harmless fiction — is morally justified if it results in a greater good. They consider themselves to be the wisest of all.
Although no one knows his motives, everyone’s most likely example of this is the late William F. Buckley, Jr. — see So Help Us Darwin. Buckley was no fool, but he probably justified what he did as a noble lie for the greater good.
This is a perverse form of utilitarianism. We can refer to such people as idealistic creationists. They believe that their kind of religion is beneficial to society, even if they, in their wisdom, are aware that some of its teachings are false. But can a moral system based on falsehood ever be a good thing? We don’t think so. A brief glance at history informs us that it’s impossible to calculate the evil that has been done in the world by those who tell themselves that a little bit of evil is justified by the greater good.
Would it really be a better world if everyone truly believed that bad conduct would inevitably result in the Lake of Fire? Maybe. But that approach demands the existence of a celestial record-keeper who imposes grotesque punishment after death, and it also involves a multitude of relatively trivial rules about harmless private conduct. Such rules are often ignored, which discredits the whole package. It’s an intellectually indefensible system that has never worked. Only the most mindless can totally accept it, and it makes hypocrites out of everyone else. Is that the greater good?
A non-mystical behavior code limited to criminal conduct upon which virtually all could agree would be just as effective — probably more so — if people could actually see that the consequences.of criminal behavior were swift and certain. Unfortunately, the existing system doesn’t serve us well. It suffers from lax enforcement and jail terms that are often waived or too brief. Everyone is familiar with the phenomenon of repeat offenders.
Is there a system that might serve as a better example? Possibly. Consider the American military (but don’t be misled by Hollywood’s common depiction of them as savages). If you were given the choice of walking around at night, alone and unarmed, would you prefer to take your stroll at a military base or in some large civilian city? The choice is simple. Military bases are almost always safe. Why?
The answer is simple. It’s because criminals are civilians. The military almost never accepts them — see An Arrest Record Could Keep You From Enlisting, and also US Military Enlistment Standards. For military personnel who do commit crimes, a dishonorable discharge is almost certain to follow.
Could the whole country be a criminal-free zone, analogous to a military base? Yes, but it wouldn’t be easy. The idealistic creationist’s method of trying to persuade everyone that mythology is real obviously isn’t the answer. It never was. One possibility is placing violent criminals in prison permanently. Another possibility, perhaps a better one because it’s far less expensive, is exile — assuming there were some place to send them. It would have to be a very big Devil’s Island — but somewhat more humane, of course.
Don’t misunderstand us. We are not recommending how society should be transformed into Utopia. All we’re doing here is telling you what exists, and why things are the way they are. We’re also saying that science-denial for the greater good isn’t the answer, nor is any other form of idealistic nonsense. If you’re looking for someone to propose rules for changing society, you’ve come to the wrong place. You need a politician, or a sociologist, or maybe a community organizer. Those occupations are way below your Curmudgeon’s pay grade.
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