Monday, January 17, 2011

Creationism and Blind Faith

In an earlier post I talked about possible definitions of religious faith. I mentioned that it makes no sense to believe something regardless of (or in spite of) the evidence. This is so self-evident that I shouldn't even need to mention it. However, the examples below will show that this form of belief is prevalent in creationist circles.

One infamous case comes from Richard Dawkins' article on creationist Kurt Wise. He's a fairly prominent guy in the YEC community, having helped develop the creationist pseudoscience of baraminology (the study of "created kinds") and served as a consultant for AiG's creation museum. Here's what he has to say about his faith:
"...if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand."
Wise isn't a stupid man in terms of raw intelligence – he has a PhD from Harvard, after all. So why does he believe in YEC if it isn't true? This comment tells us the answer: due to his blind faith, he would believe in YEC no matter what set of evidence we had.

Todd Wood is another great example. Like Wise, he also has a PhD and did work in baraminology. In a 2009 blog post, he wrote:
"Evolution is not a theory in crisis. ... There is evidence for evolution, gobs and gobs of it. It is not just speculation or a faith choice or an assumption or a religion. It is a productive framework for lots of biological research, and it has amazing explanatory power. ... It works, and it works well.
... It is my own faith choice to reject evolution, because I believe the Bible reveals true information about the history of the earth that is fundamentally incompatible with evolution. I am motivated to understand God's creation from what I believe to be a biblical, creationist perspective. ... Please don't idolize your own ability to reason. Faith is enough. If God said it, that should settle it."
To Wood it doesn't matter that evolution really, really looks like it's true. The Bible has to be true, and therefore anything that contradicts it is false. It has been so thoroughly cemented in his mind that no barrage of evidence can dislodge it. Notice how his use of the word "faith" makes it both distinct from and opposed to reason. This is the very definition of blind faith. But surely these are just individuals with unusual ideas. This can't be the norm for creationists, can it?

How I wish it wasn't. But this viewpoint can be found buried within the Institute for Creation Research's list of tenets:
"The creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus all theories of origins or development that involve evolution in any form are false. ...people are finite and scientific data concerning origins are always circumstantial and incomplete..."
Keep in mind that the ICR claims to be a center for scientific research. Scientists should never let dogma get in the way of the facts, yet here the ICR is setting Genesis on a pedestal as infallible. They're not stating it as bluntly as Wise and Wood, but the implication is that even if the scientific data points to evolution, their faith takes precedence. ("Biblical, Accurate, Certain" is also proclaimed proudly at the top of each page. They really seem like a lost cause.)

Finally we come to the statement of beliefs of Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International. The lists are identical because because AIG and CMI started as one organization and split in 2006. At the very end, they state:
"By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information."
That's right. They're literally defining the evidence for evolution out of existence. Someone who accepts this statement of faith would likely be so deeply and fundamentally biased that they could never be convinced their position was wrong.

There's a common theme in all of these faith statements: humans are fallible, but the Bible isn't since it's God's word, therefore we can ignore all evidence that doesn't fit with the Bible. They're right about one thing: we are fallible. However, their delusion rests in the idea that faith is somehow exempt from this fallibility. The assumption that the Bible is God's word is far more tenuous than that piles of verifiable, objective scientific evidence are correct. This fact should ring clear as a bell in their heads, but due to their frankly awe-inspiring level of bias, they wave it away without a thought.

As Dawkins said in his article, there seems to be "no sensible limit to what the human mind is capable of believing, against any amount of contrary evidence." That's why this brand of faith is so dangerous: bad ideas that can't be rooted out are just that much more likely to spread.

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