David French, a conservative commenter who also blogs here at Patheos, thinks we (“the secular Left”) pay waaaaaay too much attention to Creationists:
… I look at this obsession as a symbol of leftist ignorance of Evangelical culture. Yes, if you ask most Evangelicals what they believe about the age of the earth and the origin of the universe, they’re going to side with the more literal interpretation of the Genesis story. But I would describe this as a “soft” or low-priority belief. Whether the Earth is a few thousand years old or several billion isn’t fundamental to their understanding of the Bible, the world, or their faith. It’s simply their default position.
French thinks we should ignore Creationism because most Christians just don’t think very much about it. But there are many, many problems with that:
1) There are members of Congress — presidential candidates, even! — who are very vocal about their Creationism. Hell, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee is full of them! We should expect our elected officials, certainly those who make decisions about science, to know some basic facts about the subject. But too many Republicans don’t. Why? Because they’ve been told by their religious leaders that evolution is somehow ungodly. Because they don’t think evolution and their religious beliefs are reconcilable and, in their minds, science must lose that battle. We should all be terrified by that kind of thinking.
2) French doesn’t seem to care that the majority of our country isn’t scientifically literate. I do. A 2012 Gallup poll found that 46% of Americans were Creationists (and 32% accepted God-guided evolution, for which there’s also no evidence):
These are people who either don’t know or don’t care about evolution. These numbers include people who are educators, who sit on school boards, who make policy decisions that involve science — and they are ignorant of the most basic scientific principle.
It’s hardly surprising that a staunch conservative would revel in an uneducated populace, but the rest of us have higher expectations for the decision-makers in our society.
3) We are still fighting court battles today over the teaching of evolution in public schools. The Dover decision came down less than a decade ago. We just saw this week how South Carolina Republicans tried blocking a young girl’s attempt to make the Wooly Mammoth the state fossil — you think the age of the fossil being millions of years old had nothing to do with their objections? We still see state after state grappling with the illogic of having school districts teach “both sides” of the evolution “debate.”
If Creationism was a low-priority issue, then this wouldn’t be happening. These battles would not have to be fought. Unfortunately, because too many Christians take their unscientific beliefs seriously, they try to force their ignorance upon others.
Simply put, the fact that so many Christians believe the age of the universe can be measured in the low thousands is indicative of their ability to think rationally elsewhere. If they can’t accept incontrovertible evidence in favor of evolution, of course they’re more likely to accept bullshit in other areas of life, whether we’re talking about “death panels” or President Obama being a Muslim, or Sarah Palin making a great Vice President.
If French thinks Creationism is a non-issue, it must be because he’s unaware of how our country handles science-related issues. When our elected officials and religious leaders accept Creationism, even if they deem it “low priority,” they’re guilty of spreading bullshit and we should call their judgment into question. French, however, is appalled that anyone would even ask presidential candidates about their understanding of evolution (“Really CNN? A question about evolution in a presidential debate?”)… which shows you how much he gives a damn about science. We will not be able to tackle scientific issues as a nation if the majority of us are willfully ignorant about how it works — or if we think promoting good science goes against our religious beliefs.
If Creationism is a non-issue, then where are all the evangelical pastors telling their congregations to support the teaching of evolution? They wouldn’t do that. Not because they don’t talk about the issue, but because they know their congregations would revolt and scream “heresy” if they did. (And, of course, because they don’t understand evolution either.)
The “secular Left” isn’t too obsessed with Creationism. The problem is that not enough of us are angry enough when evolution comes under attack. Conservative Christians are the leading promoters of this brand of scientific ignorance, and since they’re not going to come to terms with reality anytime soon, it’s the rest of us who must be vocal advocates for it.
This is too important an issue to just let slide.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Mike for the link)