A derogatory and inaccurate term coined in 2013, “Cognitive Creationism” is making a return in 2021 among the crossroads of race, science, atheism, and religion. (That term describes people who “accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain” — in other words, people who believe genetics does not influence intelligence.)
A person going by the pseudonym “Shuichi Tezuka,” writing in the new Journal of Controversial Ideas (which is itself controversial), used the term to take aim at anthropologists like Holly Dunsworth who do not believe that IQ is genetically determined.
Adam Shapiro at Religion & Politics explains the situation:
What Dunsworth and other critics call a dangerous reprise of racist (and often sexist) tropes corrupting scientific research, Tezuka likens to the creationist practice of rejecting scientific truths because the results are morally or ideologically distasteful.
Shapiro notes that labeling left-leaning scientists as “Creationists” in their fields has become an easy way to dismiss their concerns on topics like racial and social justice. Similarly, when liberals talk about reparations for Indigenous people, one anthropologist claimed it was a way of “prioritiz[ing] the religious values of Indigenous people over the need for scientific research.”
Do those ideas qualify as Creationism, even metaphorically? It’s a stretch, at best. You can disagree with the scientists in question, but you can’t pretend their analyses are devoid of facts like everything at the Creation Museum. So that insult definitely stings when hurled at those who are committed to both science and justice.
In both of these instances, “creationism” becomes a powerful rhetorical term. At a time when the politicization of science-based public policy has led to overly broad platitudes about “belief in science,” and at a time when increased awareness of historical and current inequities and wrongs have raised fresh questions about systemic racism, this trend towards labeling opposing viewpoints as “creationism” combines these two political issues in a way that stretches the limits of what counts as “religious” identity.
It’s not like the researchers in question are sacrificing scientific accuracy for cultural acceptance (or, dare I say it, “wokism”). They’re using data to show how the truth is actually more compassionate and empathetic than the lies we’ve been told. That’s an incredible addition to our knowledge base. (If you want to learn more about why race is a cultural, but not biological, construct, I highly recommend Adam Rutherford‘s How to Argue with a Racist: What Our Genes Do (And Don’t) Say About Human Difference.)
To put it more bluntly, “anti-racist” science isn’t anything like Creationism. Debunking outdated and racist “scientific” ideas isn’t devoid of science; it’s embracing science. Historian of American Creationism Adam Laats puts it well:
“It would be wise to use a broad, inclusive definition of the term. That is, all kinds of beliefs should be considered ‘creationist’ if they harbor at any level an idea that life likely resulted from an intelligent source.” Laats says that his definition “leaves plenty of room for non-religious creationists,” but it doesn’t seem to include those who question the reductionism of complex cultural identities to one’s genome.
The irony is that even though the people at Answers in Genesis dismiss racial justice issues, they don’t use Creationism alone to do it. The simply act like race doesn’t exist and that they don’t “see” color. One AiG representative told Shapiro,
“We are all related. The biblical perspective that we are all one biological race or of “one blood” (Acts 17:26) is confirmed by recent scientific studies of the human genome.” From this “one blood” perspective, Looy asserts, “racism is a sin.” AiG’s creationist anti-racism is predicated on two notions: that race is biological, and that mental, moral, and other cognitive differences among races are insignificant. Anti-racist scientists disagree with the first claim; IQ-hereditarians with the second.
The fact that actual Creationists are racist in one way, while some non-religious people use outdated science to justify even more blatant forms of racism, suggests that the ideals of conservative believers and “anti-woke” atheists are actually merging. As much as they believe they’re on opposite sides, they’re actually both groups of people who resist social change in the name of what they believe is factually correct. Both sides are dead wrong.
Anyone can be guilty of letting prejudice cloud their reason, even unintentionally. The way to fight this, no matter your background, is to employ a healthy dose of logic and empathy for others. No one’s worldview, whether it is actual Creationism or secularism, exists in a vacuum free from biases. It is extremely important to always keep science’s, or pseudoscience’s, effect on real people in mind.
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