Understanding the Creationists

From the earliest days of this humble blog, which is primarily about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, we’ve written about the reasons for our opposition to creationism — see Enemies of the Enlightenment, and also The Infinite Evil of Creationism. We’ve tried to make it clear that our opposition isn’t to religion, per se, nor even belief in some miracles — see The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Miracles.

Our concern is for preserving the Enlightenment and the benefits it has brought us. Despite our tolerance of them, creationists always claim that those of us who advocate science are at war with God and morality. We’re not aware of that as the actual motivation for any scientist, despite some intemperate things a few may sometimes say in their understandable exasperation.

We think the underlying conflict is very much like one we have experienced before. Consider the transition from humanity’s original way of life, hunting and gathering, to the subsequent improvement provided by agriculture and the domestication of animals. It wasn’t easy. For millennia there were battles between societies that practiced the traditional way and those that adopted the new way. History is filled with such accounts. Societies whose culture and accomplishments we admire were continuously at war with what they described as barbarians — those who retained the old nomadic ways of hunting and gathering — and of course, pillaging.

If a barbarian who regarded himself as a great hunter wandered into an ancient city, with its markets and merchants, where abundant goods were available, his abilities were of no use at all. The skills and rituals he learned as he grew to adulthood, and of which he was proud, were meaningless in an urban society, where he was regarded as hopelessly ignorant. He must have felt such attitudes as an assault on everything he valued. Antagonism was inevitable.

Echos of this ancient transition to urban society can found in the tale of Adam & Eve, who acquired forbidden knowledge. They were expelled from the Garden, where their existence is nostalgically recalled as effortless, and condemned to till the soil — “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.”

Historical accounts of conflicts between urban and hunting societies are numerous. We all know about the barbarian invasions and the fall of the Roman Empire. Probably the last significant time this conflict occurred was in the American West, where the newcomers, with their farming and ranching, were opposed by the original inhabitants of the land, whose culture was based on the virtues of a hunting society. The old ways don’t yield easily to the new, in spite of what we now see as their overwhelming advantages.

As it was with the conflict between the ancient culture of hunter-gatherers and the new culture of farmers and ranchers, so it is with our new methods of thinking now firmly established as a result of the Enlightenment, of which science is but one — albeit the most outstanding — example. The old way of thinking was the foundation of earlier societies. All their values are rooted in pre-Enlightenment modes of thought. Although followers of the old thinking live among us, and benefit from science, history teaches that old ways don’t easily yield to the new. As the hunter resented the city-dwellers, so too does the creationist resent the scientist.

And so, dear reader, although we must be vigilant and uncompromising in order to preserve what we have won, perhaps we can allow ourselves some sympathy for those still trapped in the past — who, like a bewildered hunter wandering through a Babylonian marketplace — must surely feel lost in a strange new world. Nevertheless, when the barbarians are at the gates, we gotta do what we gotta do, and of course we can never have sympathy for the charlatans who prey upon their followers’ confusion.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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32 responses to “Understanding the Creationists

  1. Mike Elzinga

    I suspect that people like Ken Ham, the ID/creationist crowd, the TV evangelists, and the traveling faith healers don’t really give a damn about the Enlightenment.

    Give them the hopeless, the poor, the sick, the fearful, and the ignorant as prey; then they can make lots of money without having to know anything about the Enlightenment and science.

    And in the US, they are protected by the Constitution. Who among them needs modern science except for the private jets they get to travel on?

    Every society has had its parasites; our parasites just happen to be more ironic and unnecessary in the light of history.

  2. Isn’t it odd that so much money is made from taking from the poor. Not only religions, but other social movements, and businesses (even legal ones).

  3. michaelfugate

    If one believes in an agent god, then one wants to know what said god did or does. This is where the conflict lies; no believer knows. Many say they know, but they don’t.

    Scientists have proposed descent with modification to explain organismal diversity – it works well. The strategies of the opposition are played out time and again – through history and in every personal interaction. KevinC has done just that since his arrival. 1) Start with something that looks like science – a vague hypothesis or prediction, claim that it is an alternative; 2) when that doesn’t, work pull out philosophy, logic, reason, accuse people of misunderstanding and misrepresenting; 3) when that doesn’t work, shift to an unrelated topic especially one that scientists haven’t resolved (e.g. abiogenesis, exact evolutionary sequence); 4) when that doesn’t work, shift to personal attacks – bias, close-mindedness, excluding data, etc.; 5) when that doesn’t work, shift to straight up religion – accuse everyone who opposes you of atheism, anti-theism, pro-Islam, etc.; 6) when that does work, threaten with judgement by said god, smiting on earth, eternity in hell, etc.

    The only reason anyone opposes evolution is religion. This doesn’t mean that all religious people oppose evolution or that there is necessarily a conflict between science and religion. In spite of KevinC initial comments, his sole reason for his anti-evolutionism is that he believes it conflicts with his understanding of what his god did or does – that’s it. He has nothing but intuition?

  4. docbill1351

    My view. Creationists are but a subset of the overall authoritarian mindset. Think “homeowner’s association.” A bunch of people who tell you when to paint your house and what color, who tell you to replace your raggity basketball net, to fix your gutters, to mow your lawn. They’re constantly picking on you because they can, under the guise of “maintaining the value of the neighborhood.” Sure, not all HA’s are like this but stay with me!

    The authoritarians, whether Christian nationalists, Dominionists or whatever, are like Puritan buckle-hatted busybodies who want their nose in everybody’s business (except their own) and want you to conform to a set of made-up, illogical “laws” that can change on a whim. These folks are simply after praise, adulation, obedience and the power to make that happen.

    Take the Disco Tute (please!). What do they want, really? Do they want ID taught in schools? Well, not according to them and, furthermore, what could be possibly taught other than sowing doubt about evolution and science in general? No, it’s simple. They want to stay in business and that business is making money for themselves. There are no young and up-and-coming Tooters. Once the old guard retires they’ll close their doors.

    If you look at creationists in particular, they all have one thing in common: they’re all cranks and crackpots. Every last one of them. They’re all societal misfits. They all have a screw loose that would make you change seats on a bus. They’re contrarians (Klinkleklankle) who find some solace among birds of a feather. Who else would put up with them?

  5. To my mind, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” is a phrase modern creationists tend to ignore. If any enterprise is the very antithesis of hard work producing results it is not creationism. All they seem to do is criticise the hard work of others. They’ve never developed their own research program, very rarely collect their own data, analyse and publish in a recognised journal. No, all they feel they have to do is find a comfy armchair, pour themselves a lemonade and sit back and criticise the work of everyone else, complacent in the self-perpetuating knowledge that they’re winning the battle and the demise of evolution is merely a few years away (as it has been, of course, for about a century). I don’t know what the equivalent term is the US is but in Australia they’d be a bunch of ‘bludgers’ and in the UK, ‘skivers’.

  6. Of course I meant “If any enterprise is the very antithesis of hard work producing results it IS creationism.”

    Proofreading and wine just don’t go together.

  7. Gary the Different, I know what you mean. I’m away from home, with only a smartphone and once again under the influence. Otherwise I’d be replying to this bilge.

  8. Kevin says: It is easy for anyone to disprove evolution. Except when you have a couple of Bud Lights, then it’s super hard.

  9. michaelfugate

    The part that baffles me is how people who believe in a god who is omnipotent also believe that the very same god could not have made a universe where evolution was the norm? Why could a god who is supposed to have created organisms which replicate themselves naturally without any divine assistance not have been able to create organisms which change over time?

  10. docbill1351

    Kevvy the C-minus slurred:

    Gary the Different, I know what you mean. I’m away from home, with only a smartphone and once again under the influence. Otherwise I’d be replying to this bilge.

    There, fixed it for you. Thank me later.

  11. @michaelfugate
    “Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small.” – Galileo

    To the degree that the Earth and the universe is designed for life, to that degree it has no need for supernatural action to produce life.

  12. michaelfugate

    Yep. Why would humans presume to tell a god how it could or could not make things? It is the old is/ought divide. Science can tell us what is, but not what ought to be. Creationists tell us what they believe ought to be and think that is what is.

  13. docbill1351

    Nobody, he lamented, understands equilibrium. That’s the key to everything. It became clear during my 6th or 7th graduate course in physical chemistry when it all came together and my brain exploded. It’s all equilibrium – the balance of life, the movement of energy, everything, life and the universe. Only after you come to that will you find 42.

  14. Christine Janis

    “I don’t know what the equivalent term is the US is but in Australia they’d be a bunch of ‘bludgers’ and in the UK, ‘skivers’.”

    They are like the lilies of the field: they toil not, they only spin

  15. docbill1351 reveals the TRVTH:

    It’s all equilibrium – the balance of life, the movement of energy, everything, life and the universe.

    Oh, wow, man! I grok!

    …but, don’t bogart the joint, man! That really bums me out.

  16. Our Curmudgeon waxes all Whiggish as a historian when he writes about

    the American West, where the newcomers, with their farming and ranching, were opposed by the original inhabitants of the land, whose culture was based on the virtues of a hunting society. The old ways don’t yield easily to the new, in spite of what we now see as their overwhelming advantages.

    This is over-simplified to a dangerous degree, and a more accurate account would scarcely illustrate the principles of the Enlightenment.

    The “newcomers” were aggressive invaders, and what the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas “opposed” was a program of genocide aimed against them. They had no choice, unless you imagine that beneficent settlers were compassionately endeavouring to share with them the “overwhelming advantages” of arable agriculture and livestock rearing, but they perversely refused to embrace the innovation.

    The annexation of the West, in the name of Manifest Destiny (and doesn’t that smack of oogity-boogity?) is a very ugly chapter in human history, and we can learn nothing from it if we insist on whitewashing it with a myth—as, for example, Reagan notoriously did in a particularly egregious speech in 1980:

    It is impossible to capture in words the splendour of this vast continent which God has granted as our portion of His Creation.

    From which one can only conclude, among the many mysterious ways that God works we must include the granting of Winchester repeaters to his favoured white people but only bows and arrows to the darker ones.

    No argument from me on the point that the outcome was inevitable—but not because of the play of Enlightenment ideals. It was the absence of rational restraint which unleashed, in this sad history, the primitive rule of ‘the strong do whatever they wish, the weak suffer whatever they must.” That it could not have been otherwise, given human greed and fallibility, does not make it an episode to celebrate.

    The progress of human Enlightenment is not a steady, upward climb (such is the Whiggish view), but can be (and, too often, has been) slowed or reversed by our baser instincts. And, as most here will agree, our contemporary crop of Creationists openly endeavour to thwart human enlightenment, and to do so even by dishonest means. We must counter them with honesty in all things, whether data, reasoning, or accounts of history.

  17. anevilmeme.

    Off topic, but I’m fascinated by the nearly identical modus operandi that the anti-gmo & anti-vaccine movements share with creationists. Same arrogant disregard for evidence, same cherry picking and making stuff up, same shrill attacks, and same habit of making a buck off it, really quite similar top to bottom.

    Also Bud Lite? Well that would explain a lot.

  18. Megalonyx complains: “This [Curmudgeon’s reference to the American West] is over-simplified to a dangerous degree”

    It would have to be, but it does represent a clash of cultures, of the kind I had been discussing. I actually thought of mentioning that it may be the only such clash where there is some sympathy for the hunter-gatherers, but then I’d have to speculate why that is — perhaps because it’s so recent, and those who lost are still among us, or maybe because it’s stylish these days to be self-critical. Then I shrugged and decided not to bother with that issue. But it’s fun to think about.

  19. Our Curmudgeon speculates:

    maybe because it’s stylish these days to be self-critical

    What do you mean self-critical, Kemo-Sabe? The perpetrators of the Wounded Knee Massacre are long gone.

    Unless…were you there!?

  20. Incidentally, you can see this rural vs. urban clash within the Bible itself, particularly between the warring accounts in the histories – specifically Judges and 1 and 2 Samuel through 1 and 2 Kings. If you’re reading for context, it ain’t even subtext.

  21. Megalonyx taunts: “What do you mean self-critical, Kemo-Sabe?”

    What I’m clumsily trying to say is that every human society is the result of migrants from elsewhere moving in to replace the original inhabitants — except for a few isolated exceptions like the Native Americans, who arrived here to find what was originally an uninhabited land, and maybe the Pygmies, who have more or less always occupied the same area. (But I may be mistaken about the Pygmies, about whom I know virtually nothing.)

    Anyway, all people inevitably glorify their history and disparage their opponents, sometimes with expressions like “Promised Land” or “Manifest Destiny.” But I’m not aware of any society that kicks itself in the behind and feels guilty for its success the way Americans do.

  22. michaelfugate
  23. Our Curmudgeon observes:

    I’m not aware of any society that kicks itself in the behind and feels guilty for its success the way Americans do.

    Indeed! So it’s really no wonder that, overseas, the stereotype of a typical American is of someone painfully-introverted, soft-spoken, self-deprecating, endlessly apologetic, bereft of even a scintilla of national pride, sensitive to local customs, anxious not to offend, profoundly humble, keen to ingratiate with his mastery of the local language, immune to jingoism, possessed of deep knowledge of world history, &c. &c.

  24. Dave Luckett

    Curmudgeon says: “But I’m not aware of any society that kicks itself in the behind and feels guilty for its success the way Americans do.”

    There’s us down here. The last government but one issued a formal apology to the Aborigines for their dispossession, the wrongs done them, and for our occupation of nearly all of the continent. Fair enough, for all the good it did.

    Seems I can’t attend any public event without going through a welcome-to-country ceremony which is to emphasize that this is Aboriginal land. The last time it happened was for a SF convention in a four-star hotel in downtown Perth. I found myself wondering what would happen if a group of the local Aborigines set up camp in the lobby and pursued their traditional lifestyle there. I think we would fairly soon find out whose land it is.

    But there. I’ve always been a bit of a cynic.

  25. “the only such clash where there is some sympathy for the hunter-gatherers”
    Not really: see the Bedouins, Touaregs and San people.
    The reason why is also well known: Rousseau.


    It’s not so much contemporary self-criticism. Religious folks in the Middle Ages were also very good at it – the entire concept of sin revolves around self-criticism.
    The noble savage myth and thus the sympathy for Native Americans reflects the unease people feel caused by the Industrial Revolution and all technological developments. As a result people are totally disinterested in the downsides of those cultures. For instance precious few people talk about female rights in Native American tribes 200 years ago.

  26. Kevin C:
    If you have recovered from the affluence of incahol, would you mind answering a couple of questions so I (we) may better understand you?

    If so:
    How old is the planet Earth?

    Is the Bible inerrant and meant to be interpreted literally?


  27. See you all on judgement day! (enlightenment day to you ignorant atheists).

  28. Where does it say that life on Earth is not related by common descent? Or that species are fixed? Or that there is no variation over generations of the heritable traits of populations?

    Why must one be an atheist to accept the obvious?

  29. michaelfugate

    Given how hot it was in California the last few days, the Lake of Fire will seem like a holiday….

  30. skmarshall,
    I’m quite recovered. Thanks

    Earth just celebrated her 4,500,000,000th birthday last year.

    Yes, the Bible is inerrant and meant to be interpreted literally but not literalistically. Do you know the diffeeence?

  31. The difference is: I interpret literally, you interpret it literalistically.

  32. Yes, I do… Thanks for replying.