Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My History with Young Earth Creationism

I picked up Jerry Coyne's book Why Evolution is True a few days ago, and I plan to write about it a little at a time here. But before I do so, I want to talk a bit about my background with creationism and evolution.

Having been raised in an evangelical Christian home, it was only natural that I was also raised to believe in the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story. However, as far as I can remember, I was not exposed to either evolution or explicit young earth creationism (YEC) until around the age of ten.

Our family downloaded a lecture by YEC Kent Hovind. He presented a lot of information promoting YEC and criticizing evolution and the Big Bang, and I was completely fascinated by it. I had my dad print out a thick stack of his lecture slides, and I read through a lot of them. I was genuinely excited to have "evidence" to back up what I believed, which was generally the right idea—it just never occurred to me that it might all be nonsense. It's embarrassing to think about now, because Hovind is a total crackpot, to the point where even other YECs tend to avoid his arguments. (He's also a conspiracy theorist and is currently in jail for tax fraud—those aren't reasons that his creationism arguments are wrong, but they are reasons to examine them even more carefully.)

We didn't talk about evolution much at the Christian school that I went to, except to refer to it dismissively in passing. I think it was in sixth grade that we took a field trip to the Museum of Creation and Earth History, which I remember for its themed rooms—one for each day of creation—and not much else. I do recall my seventh grade life science teacher comparing the likelihood of evolution to a tornado in a junkyard assembling a Boeing 747 (a heavily flawed analogy quite common with creationists). We also read a chapter on the origin of life (which isn't actually part of evolution) in Lee Strobel's book The Case for Faith in my twelfth grade apologetics class, but that's about it.

At some point in that final year of high school, out of pure curiosity, I searched online for information on evolution and discovered the TalkOrigins archive. I was amazed at how completely it dismantled Hovind's claims and others, and though I didn't accept evolution right then and there, it did instill serious doubts about creationism. I left the issue alone for a while, but eventually I picked it up again, and after a great deal of research (of creationist as well as evolution sources), I rejected creationism and accepted evolution. There's still a lot I don't know about evolution, but I'm learning—and it helps that quite apart from its relation to creationism, it's a genuinely fascinating topic in its own right.

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