It’s been a while since Neil’s “Fine Tuning” post that let us know of the latest strategy the Creationists are employing to get their particular interpretation of Genesis into secular classrooms. But I did promise that I would address the issue, even if 3 or 4 blog-centuries have passed already. Really, though, what’s going on with all of the fights over science and religion is much, much larger than any particular current emphasis upon getting Creationism in the classroom.
What is at stake is the nature of Truth itself – how one defines Truth, how beliefs are separated into True and False, indeed an entire worldview, a way of thinking that includes a person’s faith but is larger than it, is the real issue in all these battles.
For centuries Theology was considered to be the “Queen of the Sciences.” It objectively still is, of course, but that’s another post. Ahem. Theology, with her handmaiden Philosophy, were the source of all knowledge, the arbiters of all claims to truth or fact. Of course, these disciplines were pretty much occupied with determining how a person could know that there is a God, and then explaining what that God is like and what this means for human beings. Science, such as we might think of it was therefore not in existence – natural processes were in place because God made the world that way. We’ll never understand them, and to try is to attempt the sin of Adam and Eve – the real Original Sin – of trying to gain knowledge that belongs to God alone.
It really is as simple as the ignorant defending what is comfortable in the face of progress. Nothing new here, really. It’s a story repeated throughout human history. And we’re all familiar with at least the broad strokes of Western history, with the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment, the Church – at least the hierarchy – kicking and screaming the entire way.
But something interesting happened in this war between Science and Religion. It was a long time in coming, but it took effect rather decisively in the 1920’s and the battles taking place at Princeton Theological Seminary, battles that gave birth to the modern Fundamentalist Movement with its Five Fundamentals, each one a response to perceived false teaching at PTS.
Science won completely, kicked Religion’s butt. And now the key to understanding what’s going on in this country is to know that Science and Religion no longer fight any battles. Religion has left the game. What’s happening is a fight to have certain ideas, concepts, theories and assertions accepted as scientifically valid and other theories and ideas declared invalid.
The whole of Creation Science is a declaration that scientific standards – empirical, reproducible data coming from a double-blind study with a randomized sample and published in a peer-reviewed journal – are also to be applied to the Christian Bible and the Christian faith itself. Truth, then, becomes wholly subject to the scientific method and the idea that the most important thing is that something happened, that its tangibility, substance and happening-ness are beyond dispute.
Creationists aren’t fighting because they’re stupid, ignorant or just hate Richard Dawkins. They’re fighting because they have taken the scientific method and made it their worldview, their Arbiter of Truth. They have elevated this method and its standards above God himself, for any claims about God must be subjected to the rigors of the scientific method and found to be either true or false depending upon whether one can prove them – that the world was indeed created in 6 days, or that the Red Sea parted for the Hebrews, or that Balaam’s donkey literally spoke to him. Within this worldview, to deny the historicity of the story about Job, or Jonah living inside a fish/whale for three days, is to divest them of any meaning or value they may have, because historicity is Truth itself, containing within itself all value, all meaning, all claim upon a person to believe as a Christian.
Once we get past the fact that something in the Bible happened, we’re through with it. Anything that comes after must be tied to the historical happening of the event, or to the person that tradition claims wrote the book. That’s why so much conservative preaching and teaching is going to a couple of verses and finding a moral or two to give to people. There just isn’t much else to work with, once all truth is exhausted by merely believing that a certain event happened.
What is exceedingly perverse about this situation is how this very Western and scientific worldview is applied to the holy writings of a mystical Eastern religion. There is no room for the idea that the ancient Hebrews had a fundamentally different worldview than us – unless it’s that God managed to get the “truth” through even though their worldview was so different. Terribly egocentric, this view, because the assumption is that the present worldview is the correct one.
So the depth of the problem presents itself to us: to stop the fighting we must change the worldview of millions of people, a worldview that gives them comfort, that provides meaning for them and that, honestly, provides the living for a lot of very wealthy and powerful people. The task is, for the next generation or so, hopeless. Indeed, the only thing to do is to continue what is being done now, blocking efforts to redefine science and fact to placate America’s religious conservatives.
Sanpete mused a while ago about the divide that exists between Lefty and Righty Christians, how it seems wider than the divide between Christian and non-Christian. The more I look into this, the more it seems that Left Christians and Right Christians are developing separate religions, both of them focused upon the person of Jesus Christ, and both of them quite jealous of their status as “true Christianity.” Liberal Christians have a completely different way of looking at the world than conservative Christians. Worldviews tend to bend every other influence to fit within, and religion is hardly exempt from this. If the conservative worldview is different from the liberal, then conservative Christianity will be no less different from liberal Christianity.
I wonder what the differences will be like a couple of generations from now.