Although an outright ban on creationism in Scottish schools wasn’t enacted, the situation seems to have been resolved in a reasonably satisfactory manner — see Scottish Parliament Doesn’t Ban Creationism.
But now that things have subsided, look what appeared in The Herald of Cambuslang, just outside Glasgow — the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. It’s a letter, a very strange one, titled Leading Enlightenment figures were creationists. The newspaper has a comments section.
That’s a disturbing title. The masthead of this humble blog attests to the high regard your Curmudgeon has for the Enlightenment — particularly the Scottish Enlightenment, which (quoting from the linked article) “… asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason.” Yet here we have a letter claiming that the Enlightenment’s leading figures were a pack of drooling creationists.
Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is Lesley. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!
So the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) has called for a ban on teaching creationism as a scientific theory. They are concerned that it may be mentioned in religious classes. In England, the teaching of creationism is prohibited in schools. They say we must catch up with England.
Yes, that’s what they said. It obviously bothers Lesley. He tells us:
Research into the lives of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment will show that nearly all of them were Christian (a notable exception, being David Hume). Not only were they Christian, they were profoundly Christian, being profound thinkers, and bible Christians at that.
That’s not a remarkable claim, considering that the Age of Enlightenment, according to Wikipedia, was the era from the 1650s to the 1780s. But it’s doubtful that any of the major players in the Enlightenment literally believed everything they read in the bible. No educated person thought the Earth was flat since the work of Eratosthenes in the third century BC. And no one thought the Earth was the center of the universe since Galileo — who had his horrific encounter with the Inquisition in 1633 — see the Galileo affair. Nevertheless, because the central teachings of the Christian faith are unaffected by the Earth’s shape and location, belief in Christianity continued — although the Church’s absolute authority over all knowledge was gone.
But look what Lesley says next:
They were in fact creationists.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It’s difficult to think of the key figures in the Enlightenment as creationists — not the kind of science-denying creationists we know today. They certainly weren’t young-Earthers — not after the work of James Hutton, a key figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. According to Wikipedia, Hutton is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Geology.” For his claims about the age of the Earth, he was accused of atheism. That aside, Enlightenment thinkers may have been creationists by default, because Darwin didn’t publish his theory of evolution until 1859. Anyway, here’s the next thing Lesley says:
Our own Hugh Miller (1802-1856), who knew a great deal more about evolution than Darwin did, crossed swords with Darwin with his book In The Footsteps Of The Creator.
Wikipedia has an article on Hugh Miller. He was a geologist who thought the Earth was old, but considering that he died before Darwin published his theory, it’s doubtful that he “crossed swords” with Darwin over anything of significance, if at all.
Then Lesley mentions James Clark Maxwell, a great physicist who was also deeply religious. Creationists often mention him, but nothing in his scientific work is based on scripture, so his religious views are irrelevant to his scientific work. Also, he was a contemporary of Darwin, not a figure in the Enlightenment, so he’s out of place in Lesley’s letter.
Then, imagining that he has somehow made a convincing case for creationism, Lesley concludes his letter with this:
Are no future generations of Scottish children to be allowed the knowledge or understanding of their ancestors? Probably not. The SSS are at work on our education system.
Aaaargh!! No one wants to suppress knowledge of the Enlightenment. Quite the opposite. But claiming that the Enlightenment’s intellectual legacy leads us to creationism is the opposite of what actually happened. So Lesley’s letter is beyond absurd.
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