We’ve written about this before, for example The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science, but we herewith offer some additional thoughts.
The people who wrote Genesis weren’t stupid. They did the best they could with the naked-eye observations available to them in a limited area of the world. It’s not surprising that they thought the world was flat, covered by the dome of the sky, and that everything in the heavens revolved around the Earth, which “obviously” was in the center of the universe. Scripture preserves their views — see The Earth Is Flat! and also The Earth Does Not Move!
Those long-ago authors didn’t have what we now know as the scientific method. Oh, sure, the ancients knew a lot. They blundered around trying different things, and they developed agriculture and metallurgy adequate for their needs. What we now call the scientific method wasn’t formally described and accepted until the last few centuries. It was natural for the ancients to attribute anything they didn’t understand — lightning, disease, etc. — to the mysterious actions of deities. Their way of “explaining” things that were otherwise inexplicable is now recognized as a fallacy we call God of the gaps.
When scribes in the days of the Babylonian empire wrote down their society’s ancient myths and speculations about the world, which eventually found their way into Genesis, they were doing the best they could to describe and explain things. The bible also includes the ancients’ views of politics (monarchy was all they knew) and ethics, which accepted the then universal practice of slavery.
Despite its inevitable flaws, the bible is a valuable work. It reveals the thinking of our ancestors, and it contains a lot of wisdom which is still worth studying. That’s also true of the Iliad and other works from past. But as a science text, the bible fails catastrophically, compared to what we’ve learned in the last few centuries. This is not a condemnation of the ancients. They did the best they could, and — unlike today’s creationists — they didn’t reject good information when it was available.
There’s a lot we still don’t know, and we frequently correct our beliefs whenever new observations indicate that such corrections are necessary — see Wikipedia’s list Superseded scientific theories. Learning to reject one’s incorrect ideas is, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of science — but it’s essential.
So what can we say in defense of those among us who — contrary to all currently available evidence — insist on clinging to the “science” in myths transcribed by the ancient Mesopotamians? We can’t think of anything to be said in their defense. Fanatically adhering to the useless, demonstrably false beliefs of ancients is what astrology buffs do, and they are correctly regarded as a pathetic fringe of the modern world. So it is with creationists.
But let us be clear. We have no quarrel with religions that don’t reject reality, and that includes a number of mainstream Christian denominations — see the National Center for Science Education’s list of Statements from Religious Organizations supporting evolution. It’s fine with us if someone uses religion to supplement his understanding of reality, but not as a replacement for reality. It’s a subtle, but vital distinction, which eludes the creationists. This is their problem, and we shouldn’t let them make it ours.
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