Sunday, 30 September 2007

Creationism v. Evolution: Why I Don't Care (A Rant)

Perhaps it is about time that I make my views on this clear. There may be a few of you who are reading this not because you know me but because you've found your way through external sources likely don't care all that much, but then I don't suppose that you actually exist at the point of writing this. If you do exist, I'm pleased indeed and ask that you show this to all of your friends, if you think it's worth it.

Those of you who do know me have occassionally asked or wondered aloud about this, but I doubt I've given a straight or complete answer. One of my housemates asked the other day, and I gave something similar to the following answer. Having discussed it aloud with them, I figure I can broadcast it to the world, provided the world listens. (I know; there's a gap in the chain of reasoning. Watch me not care.)

I have posted a link, called "A Rather Upsetting Turn of Events," or something like that, under my Interesting Links section. This will take you to a newspaper article concerning the Rally of Reason, a protest against the Creation Museum in Cinncinnatti (did I spell that correctly)? That museum has exhibits of the Garden of Eden, with naked human children frolicking with dinosaurs, a model of Noah's ark and an explanation of how the Grand Canyon was formed by the Deluge, and other literal interpretations of Genesis. The Rally of Reason consisted of scientists and Christians who disputed the literal interpretation of Genesis protesting in front of the museum on the grounds that it a) would corrupt the minds of their youth and b) gave Christians a bad name as silly and ill-informed.

I should note that I have been unable to find evidence for this, but if I recall correctly, a little while earlier an Evolution History Museum was protested by a group of Christian activists.

My immediate response to this was that the Creation Museum was being silly and giving Christians a bad name, and that the protesters were being silly and giving non-Christians and liberal Christians a bad name. Overall, I think that protesting about someone else's freedom of expression is both idiotic and ironic.

Upon examining that response, I've come to understand that maybe the Creationists have a point and aren't completely ridiculous, and that the 'Reasoners' should be worried about the spread of misinformation, provided that Creationism is misinformation.

It is in the wake of this event that I more firmly articulated, to myself, my opinion of the Creationism v. Evolution Theory debate. That opinion is that both are true and that which is 'truer' is utterly and completely irrelevant. To claim that you know which is true and which is false is gross arrogance, and we all know where pride takes us.

Here's my reasoning:

To all of our knowledge, the scientific explanation is usually quite good at predicting phenomena in the physical and natural universe. Science is a really good heuristic device, and, used as such, we can talk about a theory being 'true.' By true, I mean that it accurately models what will happen in the future, so far as the physical world is concerned. Evolution theory helps us understand the on-going changes in organisms; we can hardly deny that evolution is at work today. Looking at the fossil record improves our understanding of the process, and therefore is useful and 'true' within the scientific heuristic. At this point I am not claiming that it is historically true (ie. that it actually happened in the past) that all life evolved from micro-organisms. I'm just saying that it is useful to discuss evolution as true when we make predictions.

To all of my knowledge, ethics, morality, and spirituality do not exist in a void, but within a context. For Christians, part of this context is the Old Testament. The Genesis myths (note that I do not mean myths in derisory sense, but in the sense that they are actually meant--if you don't know what that sense is, go look it up) explain spiritual and social realities to us: that we are fallen, true goodness is inaccessible without God, that God punished sinners and rewards believers, etc. It is obviously a more complicated picture than that; I'm just giving examples. In this sense, the Creation account(s) are true. Here 'true' means 'has meaning that is relevant in reality.' At this point I am not claiming that it is historically true (ie. that it actually happened in the past) that all life forms were created as they are now in the Garden of Eden some 6000 years ago. I'm just saying that it is useful to discuss Creation as true when we make moral decisions.

To all of my knowledge, we will never know which is historically true. Of course, we will never 'know' in the same sense that God is forgiving, just, omniscient, or even extant. So, you may say, if you are willing to take one on faith, why not take the other?

For a while there, I had believed that both were historically true; Genesis explained the whys and the whos and evolution explained the whens and the hows. This, I think, is a fairly moderate and fairly common stance among the average non-vocal Christian. Vocal Christians tend to lean toward a strict Genesis account. Non-religious people, of course, more than lean toward the evolutionary account. I thought this was a perfectly reasonable synthesis, a perfectly pious synthesis, and a perfect safe one, too.

Then I realized that even this had some holes. While I was inclined to say that forcing a literal interpretation on the Bible was limiting God, a lot of the old poets (read Donne) point out that not allowing for a literal interpretation was what really limited God: must God bow to science? Here, of course, we enter the delicate dance of spinning the truth and arguing both sides and other forms of sophistry. The notion of the best rhetorician taking the prize of Truth disturbs me, so I refuse to participate. They could be right; I could be right; who's to judge? That is, how am I to know, in this world and not the next, which is true? Looking at the Bible doesn't seem to help here, since what I'm concerned about is the proper interpretation of the Bible. It would be working in circles to try and get that information from the very thing I'm trying to learn to read. I needed another way.

What eventually occured to me was that historical truth was irrelevent. I would never be able to know what is Truth in this case. I do know, however, everything I need to know to work with. If I want a prediction in physical phenomena, I'll turn to the heuristic of science. If I want spiritual and moral lessons, Genesis (and the rest of the Bible) will contain those answers, as will fervent prayer. I really don't need anything more. If I tried to assert one account or another, one interpretation or another, it would be akin to asserting some detail about God that God himself hasn't revealed (ie. whether He speaks in metaphors or literal truths). It is when you make an assertion at all that you are limiting God and robbing Him of His mystery. This, of course, is pride. I would like to avoid pride.

So this is where I sit: both creationism and evolution theory are useful, and therefore 'true'; anything else is irrelevant to my life and I actively refuse to care or commit. In doing so, I become that much more comfortable with the mysterious nature of God and surrendering everything, even my curiosty, before Him.

After this realization, I really began to understand why I felt that both the Creation Museum and the Rally for Reason were silly and destructive. They made assertions they had no right to make. If everyone had this feeling of pious apathy, there would possibly be less conflict and more harmony, and really, is that not one of Christ's primary lessons--peace?

I suggest that you seriously think about this. Come to your own conclusions--don't let my rhetoric persuade you of an untruth.

After all, I have no right to assert even this lack of commitment as right.

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