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Revision as of 03:34, 24 January 2019
Creationism, especially young-earth creationism was intentionally ignored for most of the 20th century, while creationists patiently waited for the shame of the Scopes Monkey Trial to fade from living memory. However, in that time there were a number of landmark court cases regarding church-state separation which would eventually prohibit creationism and/or the mandatory religious practice and promotion from ever making a comeback in US public schools. These cases included:
- Everson v. Board of Education (1947)
- McCollum v. Board of Education (1948)
- Engle v. Vitale (1962)
- Abington School District v. Schempp (1963)
- Epperson v. Arkansas (1968)
- Lemon vs. Kurtzman (1971)
- Stone v. Graham (1980)
- Wallace v. Jaffree (1985)
- Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
- Lee v. Weisman (1992)
- Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (2000)
- Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001)
Creationism was forced to rebrand itself as “Intelligent Design” to circumvent these rulings. Intelligent Design increased in popularity until the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005) ruling, which declared that Intelligent Design was a form of creationism, and therefore banned from schools. Since then, creationists have been pigeonholed back into the lunatic fringe, where they occasionally engage the public to recruit enough members to keep the flame alive in hopes of trying again years from now, once the Dover Trial fades from living memory.
This guide will not list refutations of individual creationist arguments and talking points, because that would be redundant work. The Talk.Origins Index of Creationist Claims has an organized, cataloged collection of highly-polished refutations to creationist talking points, written by scientists for you to use at no cost. Instead, this guide will explain techniques for dealing with creationists, and explain the motives which drive them; these are important considerations which are not being adequately discussed in non-theist literature.
Strangely, creationism is mostly an American phenomenon. This is even stranger, since American science education is among the best in the world; this is why students from all over the world travel to study at American universities. The crux of the problem is that this scientific training only extends to science majors; non-STEM students and the general population have poor science literacy. Fighting creationists is only a symptomatic treatment of a larger societal disease; reforms in science education are necessary, and these reforms must be tailored for a popular audience.
- 1 Techniques for Dealing with Creationists
- 1.1 Only Argue with Creationists in Front of Small Groups
- 1.2 Force a Stalemate
- 1.3 Make Themselves Look Ridiculous
- 1.4 Use the Entire Conversation to Set Up a Powerful Conclusion
- 2 The Psychology of Creationists
- 2.1 A Non-literal Genesis Has Dire Theological Implications
- 2.2 Genesis Keeps People from Believing
- 2.3 Creationists Want to Imprint, Not Convert
- 2.4 Creationists are Empowered -- Not Repelled -- by the Backlash Against Them
- 2.5 Darwinism is Perceived to be a Precursor to Atheism
- 2.6 Creationists Haven't Decided What to Believe or Teach
- 2.7 Creationists are Cranks
- 2.8 Creationists are “Pot-committed”
- 3 References
Techniques for Dealing with Creationists
If confronted with creationists, use the following plan-of-action as a template to work from, until you can develop your own personal style. You should discover what does and does not work for you, but experience has shown that the below-listed best practices should not be ignored.
|If you don’t have a strategy, you end up being a part of someone else’s strategy.|
Only Argue with Creationists in Front of Small Groups
It’s impossible to win a large, public creationist debate, because by simply agreeing to a debate, you acknowledge that their views contain some quantum of merit. However, creationists must still be engaged and publicly challenged, because we need to reach out to sheltered members of the religious communities, who would otherwise never open a science book.
Force a Stalemate
Religious debates can never be “won”, because there is no victory condition -- there is no way to definitively verify anyone’s claims, because theologians have no labs. Furthermore, creationists admit that their views are both unprovable and “inaccessible to the scientific method” because the creation was an impossible-to-replicate, one-time event from the ancient past. Besides, conducting a true debate is impossible, because the Creationists seek a platform, not a dialogue. Creationists don’t want to talk to you -- they want to talk at you. This is because creationists are used to sermons, where questions are not permitted, and everyone but the speaker is socially obligated to passively listen and comply.
Instead, employ the Smiting Shepherds strategy, and get the creationist to talk to you for as long as humanly possible; each minute of their time that you consume is a minute they cannot spend indoctrinating a young person. This is easy because religious debates are tangent-rich environments which can easily drift into discussions about history, philosophy, psychology, morality, biblical criticism, medicine, astronomy, biology, linguistics, economics, and politics with little to no effort. For best results, be sure to incorporate the following:
- If miracles are cited as proof, cite the miracles of other religions. This sends the creationist off-script, heedlessly entering error-likely situations where they will misspeak in ways which erode their credibility and/or can be capitalized upon. At worst, disproving the other miracles bogs down the creationist with an additional task.
- Ask the creationist to define every term. In addition to taking up more time, defining things imposes limits, which is a great value when arguing against the clergy.
- Always ask for evidence. In the end, all faith is blind, because faith, by definition, is belief on insufficient evidence; if there were proof, there would be no need for faith. Creationists and apologists are aware of this dilemma, and will try to escape the need for evidence with lengthy arguments about the criteria needed for something to constitute evidence. This will help you eat up their time.
Make Themselves Look Ridiculous
While making jokes at the creationist's expense will win friends and influence people, this will be turned back against you by framing you as disrespectful and mean-spirited. Recall that the goal is to keep the clergyman talking for as long as possible, because by holding them to their own declarations about biblical authority, they can be made to take on absurd, indefensible positions. Allow the clergyman to place themselves into no-win scenarios where they have to argue against their own positions to stop from digging themselves deeper. This can be achieved by steering the conversation towards one of creationism’s funnier beliefs, such as:
- There were no carnivores in the Garden of Eden, because this was before the introduction of sin, and the wages of sin is death. Therefore, everything was a herbivore, since there was plenty of “green herb” to eat. The 6” serrated fangs of T.Rex were allegedly intended to shred cabbages and pierce rind fruits (e.g., cantaloupes, watermelons).
- The Noachian Flood explains most, if not all geological phenomena, notably:
- The flood created coal deposits by uprooting and adiabatically compressing all of the world’s vegetation. The Old Testament authors were not fully aware that plants were lifeforms, which is why Noah made no attempt to save any of Earth’s plant lifefrom being crushed from the weight of thousands of feet of seawater.
- 10,000 years is a short period on geological time scales. If the Genesis flood occurred, there should be a worldwide sediment layer, which is absent. However, creationists claim such a layer exists (despite all evidence to the contrary) and that it explains fossil stratification by citing:
- The relative ability of different creatures to struggle to escape the flood’s massive sediment deposits. More complex creatures were apparently better at clawing their way out.
- A direct relation between biological complexity and buoyancy, despite that no such relationship exists.
- An organizing of fossils by the receding floodwaters, exactly unlike what occurs in the aftermath of any other flood or tsunami. The flood swept away the rest of humanity, yet no one was in any low-lying valley, or swept into the sea, or was on the same elevation as any of the allegedly still-existent dinosaurs, or was involved in any other situation that would cause human skeletons to appear in lower strata.
- All radioactive dating methodologies are invalid, because decay rates are not constant. The decay rates of all the Earth's atoms were altered due to the effects of neutrino interactions. This explanation is uncritically accepted without proof, or without any description or discussion as to how neutrino emissions alter decay rates, despite the Nobel Prize-winning consequences of such an explanation. Given the neutrino’s incredibly small absorption cross-section, this is probably the only physical explanation which is less credible than a miracle. Other creationist groups maintain that the Noachian Flood somehow “reset Earth's radioactive time clock,” without explaining how a flood could alter the properties of all the nuclei of all the atoms comprising the Earth’s crust. The creationists also make no effort to explain why the flood would have also affected lunar and Martian rock samples, which also agree with a 4.5 billion year-old Earth.
- Our experience has shown that this argument is popular because creationists are convinced that decay rates are “all made up” because “you can’t determine if an atom has a billion year half-life without observing it for a billion years.” This ignores the fact that observing the decay of a billion atoms for one year is effectively the same, because of Poisson statistics. Always bring this up, because it frames the creationist into arguing that mathematics is false.
- The Law of Inertia is invalid. Creationists ignore and oppose Newton's First Law (i.e., the Law of Inertia), by claiming that the constancy and regularity of planetary motion is not due to the absence of external forces, but is direct evidence of a supernatural external force.
- The Cambrian Explosion disproves evolution. The Cambrian Explosion was a period in Earth's geologic history (~570 MYA), when many new lifeforms first appeared. Creationists interpret this period as the Creation Week from the Book of Genesis. Though creationists now begrudgingly acknowledge the existence of simple Precambrian lifeforms, they maintain that the biblical account remains accurate, since these fossils are of neither reptiles nor mammals. God then progressively created more and more sophisticated animals, in a deterministic fashion which entirely, coincidentally, and precisely mimics the end results of evolution via the natural selection of inherited traits.
- Creationists are often confused about the mechanism of natural selection, which they perceive to be a circular argument. This is due to the erroneous popular interpretation of “survival of the fittest” as meaning “only the strong survive,” which implies that only survivors are fit, and fitness is determined by surviving. However, biological fitness is actually determined by an organism’s ability to reproduce; “survival of the fittest” actually means “those who produce the most babies the quickest will endure.” Rabbits and gerbils are fundamentally weak creatures, yet they persist, through numerical superiority.
Use the Entire Conversation to Set Up a Powerful Conclusion
While the true goal is to waste as much of the clergy’s time as possible, if other people around, you need to cause the creationist, and creationism, to lose face at the end of the show to end. Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do, provided that you do the following:
Learn About Science
Clergymen typically have little to no scientific training, and even fewer clergymen have made original contributions to any field of study. As a result, most creationists are just literary critics, since that mirrors their training. Creationists merely scan the scientific journals for any professional disagreements to fuel non-sequitur arguments.
Ask the creationist to explain creationism to you; this will tie them up for several hours. You can then tie them up indefinitely by making follow-up visits for “clarification” because you are “confused” by what you’ve read and heard elsewhere; e.g., the Talk.Origins Index to Creationist Claims. (It should go without saying that you should not mention visiting this site; it is (in)famous in creationist circles, and you will blow your cover.)
For best results, you need a basic working knowledge of astronomy, geology, and biology. Introductory-level college textbooks for each of these subjects should be available at your local public library; and if not, talk to the librarian about an inter-library loan. If you live in a rural area without convenient library access, write or call the nearest university or community college, and ask the department secretaries what introductory texts they use. While textbooks are expensive, used copies of previous editions can be purchased at a nominal cost. While reading three introductory-level textbooks may sound like an insufficient science education, it doesn’t take much to throw creationists into a spin; we have personally been told by creationists that “there’s no gravity in space,” and hung them up by asking what keeps the moon bound to the earth, and the earth bound to the sun.
To keep the clergyman lured in, only cite the natural sciences. There is tendency among Christians to perceive social sciences as subversive and morally compromising. Additionally, it would be useful to have a basic working knowledge of Biblical studies and counter-apologetics. In particular, creationists tend to make heavy use of design arguments.
Lure the Creationist into Going Off-script
Contrary to popular belief, the clergy has no advantage, no inside track, no superior abilities, or sublime knowledge. Ministers are only successful if people want them to be; no preacher can succeed without a following. Much of the zeal shown by creationists and the extremely devout is borne from insecurity. In their inner thoughts, they know there is something illegitimate about belief; they have doubts, and spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to suppress these doubts. This is why preachers constantly admonish believers to keep their faith strong, and bury critical thinking habits and feelings of uncertainty beneath a mountain of faith, traditions, and fear. The clergy only appear skilled and superior because they rehearse and polish all of their talking points. They must work from a script, because their training does include the technical and critical thinking skills needed to devise real-time responses to new scientific arguments. With a little bit of science reading and imagination, you can knock creationists off-balance, and watch them loose face as they flounder before the small group. Don’t humiliate them in private; this will only waste future opportunities and reveal yourself as a troublemaker.
There are two ways to challenge a creationist:
- Deny the validity of the assumptions which they base their arguments upon, or
- Accept their assumptions as valid, but use them in unintended ways to form your own conclusions.
The situation determines which approach to choose. Ideally, you need to alternate between both approaches, to continually off-balance the opponent by denying them the chance to adapt and recover.
If the creationist begins to verbally attack and/or defame you, it means you’re winning. Ad hominem arguments are always the last-ditch defense of the losing side. In particular, pseudoscientists will often label skeptics as being “closed minded” for their unwillingness to accept shoddy data, sloppy methodology, and academic dishonesty.
End by Discussing the Philosophy of Science
- Begin with, and stay focused on, the “big picture.” This avoids dangerous misconceptions which will create more problems (e.g., economists keep luring the country into investment bubbles because they don’t understand exponential growth).
- Always provide context.
- Emphasize conceptual understanding.
- Proceed from the more familiar and concrete, to the less familiar and abstract.
- Recognize and address misconceptions. Rather than arguing points, demonstrate situations where the misconception fails; counter-examples are more effective than examples. For example, simply dropping a rock and a paper ball is more effective than explaining how they will fall at the same rates.
- These simple demonstrations are a huge advantage, since a creationist counter-demonstration, if even possible, would “tempt the Lord thy God” (LUK 4:12). Creationists can claim that humanity was created via breathing into a dirt-mannequin's nostrils, but they cannot explain the mechanism by which that works, and they surely cannot replicate it in real time. The best the creationist can do is to coax you into stopping, but since science encourages simple demonstrations, they have no power to do so.
- Please note that this technique doesn’t work on young children (i.e., Grade 3 and below), because their maturing brains do not understand conservation; i.e., they can’t tell that balling up paper doesn’t affect its weight.
- Use plain language. Reducing jargon will not “dumb down” the material, because it allows the students to grasp the core concepts without having to stop and translate everything in to their own terms. When the jargon is unavoidable, explain the etymology of the word to help make its concept stick. Place special emphasis on how the jargon differs from its common usage, as shown in Table 1.
In particular, creationists and psudeoscientists are prone to using “it’s just a theory” as a thought-terminating cliché to dismiss ideas, arguments, or entire fields of study which they do not agree with. This has power because there is a general misunderstanding as to what does and does not constitute a theory. Take time to explain this to the small audience, not the creationist; assume control of the conversation, and use it to explain the philosophy of science. While this may make the creationist angry, their anger only reveals their desire for power, which can be used to frame them as repressive.
As shown in Table 1, a model is a mathematical representation or computer simulation intended to explain or predict observed phenomena. A theory is a particularly powerful model which has been extensively tested and verified, leading to a high confidence of its validity. Theories are not opinions. Theories, like gravitation, atoms, relativity, evolution, pathogenesis, plate tectonics, etc., are models with evidence so overwhelming that everyone who has studied the issue has come to agree with that conclusion. It’s this consensus that allows theories to be taught. Arguments only exist were evidence is weak; No one dismisses gravity as “just a theory.”
Science is successful because it learns from its mistakes, via a built-in error-correcting mechanism, in the form of hypothesis testing. A theory’s predictions are compared against careful observations of reality. When theory matches observation, it reinforces the confidence in the theory. When a theory doesn’t match observations, it indicates that the theory must be modified, improved, or discarded. The history of science is littered with once-revered discarded theories (e.g., geocentricism, miasma, at least six versions of atomic theory, etc.) This has a number of interesting consequences:
- No theory can be proven to be true. Only falsifiable theories are valid; that is, a theory must contain self-imposed limits which explain when and how the theory can fail. A valid theory must predict what will happen, and it must be able to predict what will not happen. Non-falsifiable statements yield no valuable information, since they are all circular arguments, tautologies, or Catch-22’s (e.g., “this towel will dry quickly unless it remains damp”). Because of this need for falsifiability, theories can only be proven false. A successful theory is just the best theory available at the time; as a more exact, useful or powerful undiscovered theory may still exist. Science cannot uncover the truth, but it can discover what is not-false, and not-false functions as truth in every way. Scientific truths are always “true until proven false”; unlike religious truths, which are eternally true, and therefore, non-falsifiable. Astrophysics is accepted as a mainstream science because it makes falsifiable predictions which are verified through rigorous observation, and can be confirmed through collaborations with other sciences (e.g., astrophysicists discovered helium inside of the sun before chemists discovered it on Earth.) Astrology is not accepted as a science, because while it makes many falsifiable predictions, the overwhelming majority of them are wrong. Creationism makes no falsifiable predictions; as a result, creationism is “not even wrong” because it is so incomplete and ill-defined that it can’t be used to make any predictions of any kind. While Creationism can never be disproven -- it can also never be proven, never grow, and never progress. This great variety and disparity of the world’s religions is also attributable to the fact that religion has no error-correcting mechanism to confirm dogma; there are no experimental theologians. If a creationist tries to dismiss anything as “just a theory," ask why the Theory of Creationism is not equally discredited; their only way out is to admit that creationism is not even a theory, since it makes no predictions. Alternately, show how scientific methodology influence non-technical disciplines (e.g., does music theory imply the non-existence of music?).
- All scientific theories converge and mutually reinforce one another. They must, or they would be used to invalidate each other, which would mean that all scientific developments since the 1700s, and their applications, would just be an amazing series of coincidences. The fact you are reading this electronic document is proof of electron theory’s validity. In that same vein, chemistry supports biology and geology, physics supports limnology, etc. Because of their arbitrary nature, there has been no real convergence on faith propositions; if anything, religions have only splintered further.
- Science is never finished, because the answers uncovered by the search for not-false inevitably lead to more questions, which in turn leads to more exploration, and more progress. While science is thus incomplete and incompletable, the results it generated in the process are both rewarding and fruitful.
- The inability to disprove is not a proof. When a clergyman or creationist states that you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, ask for what kind of proof they seek -- specifically, what would that proof look like? If they cannot give a quick response, it demonstrates that they have no basis for their beliefs; they are the philosophical and scientific analogues of a man who built his house upon the sand. While atheists have never disproved the existence of God, they’ve never had too, since the believers bear the burden of proof. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Besides, how does one disprove the existence of any God? The Christians believe that other gods (Zeus, Ra, Odin, etc.) don’t exist, but have nothing to back this claim.
- By definition, science must be useful. Creationists accomplish very little with their science; they have made no progress, and their results cannot be applied to further the development of medicine or technology. While there are many "creation scientists," there are no "creation engineers." When the conversation reaches its head, ask creationists to demonstrate the predictions their theory will make. Experience has shown that the creationist will cite biblical prophecies, but these described past events, or are cryptic references to one-time end-times events. Regardless, most prophecies predict things that were bound to happen anyway (e.g., earthquakes, war, moral decay, etc.). Prophecies never mention anything explicit or specific.
- Creationists are prone to making false dichotomies, in that they assume that Darwinism and creationism are the only viewpoints, and that anything disproving Darwinism de facto proves the validity of creationism, and vice versa. However, disproving Darwinism would only disprove Darwinism; it would say nothing about the validity of creationism, or the validity of some not-yet-conceived third option.
|Table 1: Comparative Word Usages|
|Term||Everyday Meaning||Scientific Meaning|
|Model||Something you build (e.g., a toy airplane).||A mathematical representation or computer simulation intended to explain or predict observed phenomena.|
|Hypothesis||A guess or assumption.||A proposed, unconfirmed model to explain observations.|
|Theory||Speculation.||A particularly powerful model which has been extensively tested and verified, leading to a high confidence of its validity.|
|Bias||Distortion or political motive.||Tendency towards a particular result.|
|Critical||Extremely important or involving (negative) criticism.||Right on the edge.|
|Deviation||Strangeness or unacceptable behavior.||Change or difference.|
|Enhance/Enrich||Improve.||Increase or add more, without necessarily making things better.|
|Error||Mistake.||Range of uncertainty.|
|Negative feedback||Poor response.||A self-regulating cycle (e.g., engine governors).|
|Positive feedback||A good response or praise.||A self-reinforcing cycle or “vicious circle.”|
|State (n.)||A place or location.||A description of the current condition.|
|Trick||Deception or prank.||A clever approach.|
|Uncertainty||Ignorance.||A range of possible values around some central value; a measurement’s “give or take.”|
|Values||Ethics or monetary values.||Numbers or quantities.|
The Psychology of Creationists
Before dealing with creationists, you need to understand why they believe in creationism. While it’s easy to write creationists off as being stupid or brainwashed, that is not the case; complex problems never have simple answers.
A Non-literal Genesis Has Dire Theological Implications
As discussed previously, reading the Bible is a tricky endeavor, regardless of the version, since there are several different types of stories and lessons interlaced throughout. These stories fall into four categories:
- Explicit Devotional Program Instructions. Explicit commands to perform concrete acts (e.g. "Thou shalt not steal").
- Implicit Devotional Program Instructions. Commands given in figurative, non-literal terms (e.g., “turn the other cheek”).
- Direct Suggestions. Explanation of the expected mindset via allegories. These are especially important; as the crux of Protestantism is that all Biblical events are allegories for the reader's inner life.
- Reverse Suggestions. Biblical allegories which reinforce the negative psychological consequence of belief (e.g., those involving animals, demons, and disasters). These provide the believer with feedback to make sure they are “on target.”
However, it is unclear how to determine which passages fall into which category. While some passages are literal, others can be explained away to make the stories more believable -- but what drives this “selective literalism”? How can anyone tell what is real, and what is a metaphor? For example, some Christians take the story of Noah’s Ark literally, while others view the story figuratively. Which group is correct? -- and what criteria do priests and biblical scholars use to determine the status of a given passage or story?
This is problematic, because if the events of Genesis are not completely, literally true, and there was no Garden of Eden, and no Fall of Man, then there would be no Original Sin, and Christ would have died in vain. The selective literalists draw lines to breakup this line of reasoning, but these lines are arbitrary, and therefore meaningless. A literal Genesis is the only true way to stop this problem, by immediately halting this line of reasoning before it can start.
Creationists refuse to compromise with the scientific community since “it seems completely incongruous that He would use evolution as His method of creation,” since evolution is inconsistent with:
- God’s omnipotence; since God is all-powerful, he would be capable of creating the universe in an instant, rather than having to spend eons.
- God’s omniscience. The fossil record is filled with extinction events, misfits, evolutionary cul-de-sacs, and other evidence of poor planning. The very essence of evolution, the natural selection of random mutations, is neither planned nor directed.
- God’s love. The fossils record shows that Earth has always been a harsh world, filled with storm and upheaval, disease and famine, struggle for existence, and violent deaths. No loving God would be this inconsiderate to his creatures.
- God’s purpose. If God’s purpose was the creation and redemption of man, it seems incomprehensible that he would waste billions of years in aimless evolutionary meandering before doing so. Why would God even bother the hundred-million-year reign and eventual extinction of the dinosaurs? What greater purpose did the dinosaurs serve?
- The grace of God. The struggle for survival in the physical world fits perfectly with the notion of salvation by works, which is contrary to Calvinist interpretations of Christianity, where salvation comes through grace alone.
- God’s image. No organism is considered to be “more evolved” than another, because evolution is not an upward or goal-directed process. Humans are not the pinnacle of evolution, since bacteria also evolve, and have been doing so longer than humans have. Man is just another beast. Creationists claim that because of this “Evolution offers man ‘freedom’ from right and wrong, while the Creator God demands accountability form his creation,” without stating how they reached this conclusion.
Darwinism implies that death and suffering always were, and always will be, an inescapable part of human existence. Evolution exemplifies and demonstrates what Christians fear the most: that the universe is a morally neutral place.
Genesis Keeps People from Believing
Genesis contains 40% of the Bible passages which people take issue with. In particular, the following percentages of the population reported taking issues with the following potions of Genesis:
- Contradictions (22%).
- Mistakes made by the Biblical authors (18%).
- The age of the Earth (10%).
- The Bible contains too much death and suffering (6%).
- Science has disproved the events of Genesis (5%).
- Miracles do not occur (2%).
- There was no Noachian Flood (2%).
Therefore, convincing people that the events of Genesis were real is a high priority, since it is a root cause of many de-conversions and missed conversions.
Creationists Want to Imprint, Not Convert
Childhood religious influences imprint themselves on the mind, permanently influencing how a person thinks. This explains the paradox of how 50% of the creationists who eventually quit attending church will still believe in creationism. Imprinting is a higher-value activity than converting adults, because:
- Adults have more experience to draw upon, and they’ve learned more “misconceptions,” which must be unlearned with “discrepant events,” (i.e., demonstrations with unexpected results which definitively prove that their preconceptions were false). However, most evangelists take a “shotgun” approach, spreading the word of God to as many people, over as many media as possible, rather than working with individuals.
- Sudden conversions are usually environmentally-induced (e.g., brought on by peer-pressure or the desire for conformity when isolated from competing influencers), and will fade as soon as the subject is removed from that environment.
As a result, only 3-16% of those converted by evangelists will remain religious; the rest will relapse, especially those who were not fully-imprinted as youths. Young people are unusually prone to crises of faith because they are constantly confronted with new experiences which result in dichotomies between their values and life experience, forcing the re-evaluation, twisting, or abandonment, of those values to make their worlds congruent again. Insufficient imprinting makes religious ideas easier to discard; this is why 90% of de-converts rejected the Bible prior to going to college; ~40% will lose their faith in high school, and ~44% will lose their faith in middle school, and ~6% are already gone while they’re still in elementary school.
The failure to imprint has caused the prominence of US religious institutions to decline by every metric. Between 1978 and 2008, the percentage of the population that were church members dropped from 70% to 65%; Bible literalists decreased from 40% to 30% of the population, and Bible skeptics grew from 10% to 20% of the population. While the LDS/Mormon church has seen some growth, it has been negligible compared to the rise of non-belief. Only 1 in 4 Americans will attend mass on a typical Sunday. By their own admission, the Southern Baptists, the largest born-again sect, are baptizing at the same rate as they did 50 years ago, when the US population was half of what it is today. Creationists must imprint their ideas into the minds of the youth, because any other course of action would be insufficient to mitigate the existential threat facing Christianity.
|Why do intelligent people believe? They believe by default. Unless a rational world view is shown to be an attractive alternative to superstition, the momentum of orthodoxy may never be stopped.|
In general, fringe groups of all types will target certain population subsets, which experience has proven to be the most susceptible to imprinting. Those who join fringe groups are typically:
- In a transitional period, which renders them lonely, afraid, and too caught up in their own situation to detect any deceit. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The grieving.
- Recent graduates or flunkies.
- People who have recently moved and/or started at a new school.
- Those undergoing a breakup and/or divorce.
- Usually from normal, functioning families.
- Demonstrate no aberrative or abnormal behaviors. While 5-6% of fringe group members have psychological problems, the remainder only suffer from the diagnosable, treatable, and temporary depressions that eventually affect everyone (e.g., personal losses resulting in a transitional period, career trouble, age-related sexual dysfunction, etc.).
- Well-educated. Educated people tend to have greater social concern (i.e., idealistic tendencies), which is exploitable. Creationism’s worst crime is the diversion and burden it has placed on our society’s best minds, who must place future progress on the backburner to keep mankind’s previous achievements from eroding away.
- Naïve, curious, trusting, and/or child-like, because they are easier to persuade and manage. Insubordinate, disobedient, self-centered people are weeded out, because they are more trouble than they are worth.
- Indecisive. They are neither strong nor confident, and seek others to depend on and make decisions for them.
- From well-to-do families. Since groups need money to survive, they target and cater to the rich.
- Risk-takers, since these people tend to accomplish more.
- Typically introduced to the group by a friend or relative. Most recruits are found by the group; recruits do not seek fringe groups out, nor do they respond to ads.
- Unaware they are joining a fringe group.
Creationists are Empowered -- Not Repelled -- by the Backlash Against Them
The Bible warns Christians that they will be persecuted (2TIM 3:12), because Jesus expects his followers to be able to endure tribulations (JOH 16:33). As such, any efforts against Christianity or creationism only reinforces and validates their faith. Instead, devalue faith on a conceptual level.
Darwinism is Perceived to be a Precursor to Atheism
Science can say nothing about the existence of God, because science describes nature, and not the supernatural. Clergymen originally accepted this notion, and embraced Darwinism as an enhancement of Christian theological themes. Darwinism only traumatized the laity, as Darwin seemed to challenge the inspiration and veracity of the Bible (i.e., the creation myth), which was perceived as degrading to human dignity and the notion of the human soul. This lead to increased tension between science and religion, which ultimately came to a head in 1860 at the British Association in Oxford, when Bishop Samuel Wilberforce debated the issue with Thomas Huxley. Wilberforce “largely disgraced himself in the eyes of the audience and left a firm impression that the whole clergy was opposed to Darwinism,” setting the scene for the world today.
|He who doubts is condemned.|
The only true Christian argument against evolution is that it bears some superficial resemblances to Hinduism, or sun worship (since the sun ultimately powers all biological processes). However, in order to combat atheism, the clergy needed to link atheism to something in order to make it tangible, since atheism is the religious equivalent of having “clear” as your favorite color. Christians chose to link Darwinism to atheism because:
- Darwin was a de-convert. Darwin rejected God and became an atheist following the death of his children. Darwin had 10 children; but 2 died very young, and he was extremely close to his daughter, Annie, who died at age 10. (Such losses were common in the Victorian era.)
- Darwinism is easily linked to atheism, since only 9% of biologists believe in a god that plays an active role in the world. All the other topics which Christians vocally campaign against -- homosexuality, abortion, pornography, divorce, etc. -- existed well-before Darwinism, so there is no way to demonstrate a causal link without ignoring all of human history.
- Scientists are perceived as secretive, and therefore, untrustworthy. Despite the fact that science operates through the share of data and information, scientists are perceived as secretive because many of them work on industrial and military projects, which are bound with non-disclosure agreements.
- Many believers cannot imagine themselves as nonbelievers, so they seek ulterior motives for atheism. This is why Christians are prone to assuming or positing various ad hominem arguments to explain atheist beliefs and behaviors (e.g., they are just atheists are sinners, troublemakers, have authority issues, are arrogant, cold, angry, stupid, blind, limited, “simple,” hurt, disappointed, etc., ad nauseum).
Creationists Haven't Decided What to Believe or Teach
Creationists simply want to be in control, even though they have no idea what to do once they come into power.
The Scopes Monkey Trial inadvertently shattered Fundamentalism, since the Fundamentalists could not agree on a set of common goals to help them recover from the humiliation they suffered during the trial. In particular, they could not agree with whether to engage with or separate from popular culture, until evangelicalism finally won in the 1950s. While Fundamentalists have decided to engage the public, they’ve never decided on how to go about this. Anger is a major part of all Fundamentalist religions, as Fundamentalism maintains control via the fear of retribution. However, Christian Fundamentalists are unsure how to direct this anger, since they view the world through the lens of their religion, and cannot see themselves, their religion, or anything else objectively.
|When all technical jobs have left and America become a service and information economy, when technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; people to caught up in horoscopes and crystals, who don’t have their mental faculties about them to distinguish what feels good and what’s true, and we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.|
Creationists want to be taken as seriously as any other science, and to be taught alongside, or in lieu of, science in all schools. Yet, creationists freely admit that creationism is unprovable and “inaccessible to the scientific method” because it was a one-time event that happened in the past, which is impossible to replicate in a lab. Creationists wish to maintain their unscientific attitudes; rather than engaging in open-minded investigation to figure out how nature operates, they continue to throw their hands up at the first glimmer of mystery, say it is beyond understanding or comprehension. This only teaches youths to be ignorant on technical matters, and not to question those in authority; in other words, to embrace feudalism.
Within the last 50 years, there has been a tendency for creationists to abandon their historical position that God is a hands-on participant in all cosmic and earthly events; God is portrayed as passively supervising Nature. Since God merely watches Nature from the sidelines, he is absolved of responsibility for the consequences of any “Acts of God,” like earthquakes and tornadoes, which are now natural phenomena, and not supernatural wrath. Even though creationists believe that God retains the power to forestall such natural disasters, God “works in mysterious ways,” and thus escaped criticism or blame for allowing these tragedies to happen. It is no coincidence that creationism assumed this new position exactly when science began to provide concrete, verifiable explanations of these natural events. This change-of-heart was not motivated by a newfound acceptance of science, but as a necessary evil to remain relevant in an increasingly educated society.
While Conservatives exist to resist societal change, in favor maintaining the status quo in hope of eventually restoring the by-gone “good old days,” these “good old days” are an imagined, idealized past which do not correspond to any historical period. For example, 17th century England, “the Golden Age of Puritanism,” was a time rife with superstition, astrology, and witchcraft. Spiritually, it was hardly a consistent age, let alone a golden age. This same idea applies to many other places and eras. If True Christianity is measured according to high standards of orthodox beliefs and consistent behavior, then there were never any Christians; not even Christ would qualify.
|Fundamentalism isn’t about religion, it’s about power.|
Since creationist audiences tend to be Fundamentalists, creationist doctrine must be tailored to fit their worldview. Fundamentalism is a set of prescribed thinking patterns and behaviors based on strict and legalistic interpretations of holy texts, to the point of immunity from the influence of any evidence that contradicts their beliefs. Fundamentalism is exclusive, in that individuals and groups see themselves as the only true believers, or at least most righteous and accurate. Fundamentalism is often parasitic, using force, coercion, ostracism, or political power to impose its beliefs, even at the expense of lost or ruined lives. The use of control and force is designed to raise obedient, unquestioning and fearful children, who will not be tempted to challenge powerful authority male figures later in life. These children are conditioned to rely on external authority for moral choice, and to distrust outsiders. In many ways Fundamentalists fear love the most, because love unleashes passions and bonds that defy their carefully constructed edifices to keep followers trapped and enclosed. These cultures of fear depend upon narrations, vivid imagery (especially about atmospheres), and verisimilitude to convince audiences. This enables the Fundamentalists to play upon pre-existing fears and concerns; they rely on presumptions more than facts; they need to dramatize and sensationalize to maintain continual state of alertness in their audiences.
Creationists are Cranks
- They consider themselves to be geniuses, because it is strangely a rational behavior, due to the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Likewise, everyone with contrary views is considered ignorant, stupid, dishonest, or fueled by other base motives. They consider being ignored a victory, as this is perceived as having un-refutable arguments. Any retaliation reinforces the notion that they are battling scoundrels because...
- They exhibit paranoia and persecution complexes, which synergistically fuel one another in a vicious circle. Being refused to speak at conferences or to publish in respected journals is perceived as a conspiracy against them by the established hierarchy of "high priests of science" who fear their orthodoxy overthrown -- and not due to errors or general low-quality of the creationist's work.
- They focus on attacking the greatest scientists and the best-established theories (e.g., Einstein’s relativity; Darwinian evolution). Like the fox to whom the grapes are sour, they declare what any greater fellows accomplish is bad, the performance of their duty defective, and it aims are contemptible.
- Typically, they do not address the consequences of those theories being false (e.g., those challenging Einstein can’t explain how nuclear reactors work. This is important, as reactors were designed, constructed, and operated for decades under the assumption that relativity is true).
- They work in isolation, outside the closely integrated channels through which new ideas are introduced and evaluated. They do not send their findings to the recognized journals, and if they do, they are rejected for legitimate reasons, usually due to being unable to write well enough to meet publication standards. Reputable scientists are usually unaware of the creationist's existence until they receive widespread publicity through non-academic channels, unless the scientist collects crank literature as a hobby. (Like B-movies, these self-published, self-reviewed, and self-edited books and journals provide a guilty pleasure.)
- They tend to write in neologisms (i.e., a complex jargon of mostly self-coined terms and phrases). While is not damning per se, in that science and engineering frequently use neologisms, the scientific use of these terms have rigorous definitions, whereas crank neologisms are undefined, poorly defined, or used in a way which is contrary to their common or technical usages.
Creationists are “Pot-committed”
Creationists have succumb to what psychologist Philip Zimbardo termed “Not-Me Syndrome” (The Illusion of Personal Invulnerability). People tend to ignore direct evidence that they’ve been cheated simply to avoid the pain and shame of admitting to themselves that they’ve been cheated. As a result, creationists perpetuate or create new falsehoods to give themselves the appearance of having been right all along. Creationists and apologists aren’t trying to convince others; they are trying to convince themselves.
In a changing and varied environment, following and copying the old ways is not enough; those who can adapt their ways always hold the advantage. Religions must change when its culture changes, or the religion loses its influence and the ability to propagate; religions must evolve to maintain their fitness. This has always been the case with Christianity, and the origin of Christianity itself -- the Jews needed to merge with the Zoroastrians to survive the Babylonian captivity, as evidenced by the adoption of Babylonian myths into their own religion (e.g., the story of Noah was adapted from the much older Epic of Gilgamesh). To meet this end, massive upheavals of personal and societal values occur; and moral issues will disappear, as demonstrated by how few pastors preached against birth control in the last 10 years. Creationism is one of these “sunset values” -- a passionately regarded viewpoint or value, which gains much of its intensity from the fact that it is about to disappear or be changed forever. Like the setting sun, such values make a flamboyant show at the end. 
In 2010, 52% of young Christians reported that they wanted to pursue science-related careers as adults, but only 1% of youth pastors/workers have bothered to address any scientific issues, to the point that a significant portion of young Christians are convinced that their churches are anti-science organizations, as seen in Table 2. These youths view opposing fundamental, curiosity-driven science for the sake of boosting church attendance as “eating the seed corn” (i.e., forsaking future bounties to solve near-term trivialities) and an active, wanton rejection of God’s gift of the ability to reason. Additionally, many young people are all too aware that many of their friends, relatives, or even themselves would not be alive today without antibiotics, pacemakers, and the rest of medical science; and many more would be made wretched without their eyeglasses.
We live in a post-Christian era, where Christianity no longer plays a significant role in shaping our culture. To be a devout Christian is to participate in a counterculture movement, and many of the old ways were not designed for such a counterculture era; they were borne from a time of Christian dominance, or at least of a favored status. Creationists are fully aware that they are a fringe group, and that if they do not win mainstream popularity within this generation, everything they value will soon be reduced to a footnote in history books. Creationist zeal is fueled by the knowledge that they are running out of time. This is compounded by a Christian tendency to be culturally short-sighted, in that they are unable to tell where their Christian principles end and where their cultural perspectives begin.
|Table 2: 2011 Barna Group Survey of American Christians, Ages 18-29|
|Completely True of Me||Completely or Mostly True of Me|
|Christians are too confident that they know all the answers||17%||35%|
|Churches are out of step with the scientific world that we life in||12%||29%|
|Christianity is anti-science||9%||25%|
|I have been turned off by the creation vs. evolution debate.||11%||23%|
|Christianity makes complex things too simple||9%||20%|
|Christianity is anti-intellectual||8%||18%|
Science is moving forward. Even the largest, most influential megachurch in the country isn't powerful enough to stop or even slow the progress being made in Europe, South Korea, China, and India. Science, and the proliferation and propagation of its ethos and worldview, is beyond religion’s ability to stop or even influence on a global scale, because religion provides little to no guidance that a rational person could not have devised on their own.
Ironically, American conservatives have become so preoccupied with mitigating secular cultural influences that they have ignored their own secularization -- politics and wealth are now their primary tools. By seeking to protect themselves, they have lost themselves. This is one manifestation of a large trend where by Conservatives become so preoccupied with defending certain points that they will ignore the defense of other points. This allows Conservatives to be manipulated into performing any action or assuming any viewpoint; since Conservatism defines itself as the resistance to cultural changes, culture is neither uniform nor monolithic; culture can be pushed or pulled in any direction to provoke equal and opposite reactions from conservatives. This is no different than controlling one’s reflection in the mirror.
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