Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Banning the Creationism vs. Science Dichotomy.

 State and Church stand together: In the UK the state church and the non-conformists can do business with one another. Here Rev Mark Tall of Norwich Central Baptist church talks with the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James. See here.

I’ve been reading reports that teaching “creationism” is to be banned in the UK’s publicly funded schools. According to UPI:
The government released a new set of funding agreements last week including clauses which specifically prohibit pseudoscience…….The funding agreement defines creationism as "any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution," and goes on to note that this idea is rejected not only by the scientific community but most mainstream churches as well.
Strictly I’d classify myself as an “Intelligent Design creationist” (or an “IDiot” as evangelical atheist Larry Moran puts it!) but I’m certainly not a fan of the two kinds of creationism which this ban is probably targeting. These two kinds of creationism are:

ONE) The creationist “science” of the Biblical literalists who push for a 6000 year old Earth/Cosmos. These people have in effect an anti-science agenda and this agenda is all too apparent in the flawed premise concepts with which they interpret scripture; in particular the ideas of mature creation and the bogus distinction between observational and historical science. This in turn leads them to mangle well established science such as the speed of light and cosmic ages.
Relevant links:

TWO)  The creationists of the North American Intelligent Design movement who in most cases accept that the Earth and Cosmos are very old. They have, however, raised some interesting and worthy challenges to evolution. (Although I must qualify that by admitting that I'm no biologist). Nevertheless, I believe that the underlying philosophy/theology driving North American ID is flawed; for instead of using their critique of evolution as a basis for enhancing theories of natural history they have by and large opted for a god-of-the-gaps dualism whereby the black-box-intelligence of God makes good what they claim to be failings in evolutionary theory. UD poster V.J. Torley is typical of this breed. This has led them to embrace a culture that is very anti-evolutionary and anti-public-academic-establishment, perhaps even “fighting” alongside YECs and rightwing politico-fundamentalists as allies. They have mostly ended up criticizing science and seldom being constructive. However, having said that I must add that Granville Sewell has recently posted a UD entry where intelligence is acknowledged as a process with a history rather than a catch-all-black-box; this is the first time I have seen something like this, so things might be looking up! But otherwise these creationists have muffed their opportunity in my opinion.
Relevant links:
The big problem with both these kinds of creationism goes right back to a point I picked up from Ken Miller when I first started studying the ID movement; that is, both versions of creationism proceed with an a priori background philosophy/theology that takes for granted a God vs Nature dichotomy. The consequence is that it casts the whole question of Divine intelligence into a science vs. theology mold, inadvertently helping to reinforce the old idea of science warring against religion. Theology (and Christianity) will be harmed if this dichotomy creeps in by the back door into the UK’s schools under the guise of “creationism”. Ironically it might thereby play into the hands of evangelical secularists. So, because of this I'm for the ban myself.
Banning bad science and pseudo-science is one thing, but there is another aspect to this affair that is more disturbing. Right wing Christians have above average association not only with creationism (in the two senses defined above) but also with anti-taxation, anti-public domain, antigovernment and gun lobbying groups, not to mention the paranoia of the conspiracy theorists.  So perhaps not surprisingly we find the paranoiac vision of the Christian right, which is inclined to imagine malign intelligences with evil intent working behind the scenes, has a rather sinister outcome: They are starting to think about the violent overthrow of the state. Well, at least according to PZ Myers’ blog! Check out his links:
In fact we read:
I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren. (Republican Bobby Jindal at a conference hosted by the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a group led by Christian activist Ralph Reed)
I wonder what he means by “hostile takeover”? Now here are some guys who have quite a clear idea about just what that means:
The worrying thing is that they are probably armed to the teeth with no shortage of ammunition!

The formation of North America was triggered by a taxation dispute spurred on by a genuinely democratic vision (and based on Christianity) that traces back to the English civil war. Moreover, European migration to America was often encouraged by ideologues with a vision of setting up a mini heaven-on-Earth as they reacted by escaping interfering governments and religious persecution (God help you if you were thought of as a “heretic” in one of these "heavens-on-Earth"!).  In fact my own church, Norwich Central Baptist, was historically against the British government’s war with the American colonists; not a surprising stance given that Norwich’s Baptists had been persecuted by church and state in the seventeenth century.  The legacy of all this today is that some people in North America have still yet to grow out of the bitterness and habits of mind engendered by the conflict between the state religion and dissenters. The creationism issue is, perhaps, in part a memory of this bitterness in as much as it represents high hostility against the government funded academic establishment.

Other relevant links:

Both Cameron and Obama are openly Christian, but that won't convince the hyper non-conformists who will likely see them as malign influences, perhaps even Satanic!

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