I’ve been a student of history for the last 20 years. While in the Peace Corps, I completely fell in love with my first history book: Thomas Costain’s The Conquering Family, and close to 200 books or recorded lectures later, that love still burns. From ancient Greece to Jared Diamond’s Collapse, from a study of the Roman Empire to the history of United States, I am utterly hooked. I’m not bragging, nor do I consider myself a scholar, but do I like to think I am, at least, passingly familiar with human history. It is apparent that there are paths which humanity follows and patterns which stand out and lend me a certain viewpoint.
My view of history goes something like this.
Humanity is a shackled mass crawling out of the swamp of our own ignorance. The water swirls about our waist and the mud keeps sucking at our feet. It holds us down, dragging at us like a ball and chain, slowing our march forward. The going has been hard, and the steps we have taken were slow and often erratic, but we have progressed. Most of us do little to help that progress. We just live our lives,unable or unwilling to take a larger part. In fact, so many of us are unable to even see that a larger part exists. Though, most of us do not aid our advance much, neither do we hinder. We simply allow the mass to drag us where it will and are blissfully ignorant of the journey.
But there are individuals within our jumble of humankind that strive to drag us out of ignorance. Many of them have made small efforts, some have made large, but some, a very few, have singlehandedly carried their brothers and sisters vast distances forward. To these people we own an unending debt of gratitude, and this cannot be understated. These men and women of science have saved so many us from the lives of brutish squalor. Progress occurred because certain people of science strove to cut the webs of superstition and understand the world as it really is, not how wish it would be. The very best of these people have singlehandedly redirected our course through history. They have trashed our decaying world-view and presented us with a better, more beautiful one which we have wrapped our future around. They have shown us the elegant complexity that comprises the natural world. They have shown us such wonders, and standing on their shoulders, we see so much. Standing atop the life work of Newton, Darwin and Einstein, our children no longer drop like leaves in the fall. Our elderly live long and productive lives. Education in science and art has lifted us out of the slime and wiped us off and shown us the beauty that surrounds us. The world is now a brighter place. Life is good.
This is a direct result of science, not superstition. This situation has been brought about by humans standing up and using science not kneeling down in worship to a vengeful god. None of this happened because somebody sacrificed a goat, or scared demons away with prayer bells or swung a dead cat over their head. And none of it happened because someone prayed. Ever!
The swamp is getting shallower, the ground firmer. We know so much now, but it is a single bucket of sand on a beach of potential knowledge. There is still so much to learn, so much that is necessary for us even maintain our way of life let alone improve it. Especially now as water and energy shortages loom ahead, and climate change and rapid population growth lurk around the corner. The future will be harder and our light may dim. Still, we must go on. We cannot stop our progress, for the danger grows greater if we hold here now. To survive, we must continue our advance. We are multitudes, and technology and science are the only things that keeps this vastness alive. With nearly seven billion people on the planet, we cannot return to the ignorant past. We cannot descend back into the murk. It would be the height of folly to turn our backs on the single thing that can save us from the hazards we have created, science.
Yet, there are some among us who would drag the mass of humanity back into the swamp of ignorance, back into the mud from which we have so recently escaped. Change has come too fast for them and change and science bring a complexity, and complexity makes them uneasy. Their primate brains do not understand it and they are afraid. They want to simplify, to discard the knowledge that should be our inheritance and pick up the superstition we had left beside the trail. They want to return to a mythology where God created the earth 6000 years ago and did it all in six days, where there are no plate tectonics and the great flood accounts for all the coal and oil on Earth. They demand a return to their superstition not only for themselves, but for the whole of humanity. They push for a return to a simpler time, forgetting or ignoring the brutishness and squalor that used to be the rule rather than the exception.
They will lead us to our doom.
Although most modern Christians don’t fall into this group, there are many who do. These Young Earth Creationists are today’s intellectual terrorists, sowing distrust in science and knowledge, replacing it with myth and superstition. Though, wallowing in ignorance, they remain cunning. They have marketed themselves well for the masses. Disguised as reasonable critics, they seldom voice their most extreme beliefs in public. Catch phrases like intelligent design, teach the controversy, and irreducible complexity echo through their arguments. They hide behind the fear and unease they themselves stir up. They play off the fear ever-present in their less fanatic cousins, questioning their faith with lines of thought running something like this. Belief in God means a belief in the Bible. Belief in the Bible means the Bible is a literal truth, not metaphoric truth, that everything within it is absolutely factual. People of true faith must believe that the creation stories in Genesis are true exactly as written. Therefore, any true Christian must believe the world is 6,000 to 12,000 years old.
I’m not making this up. If you have doubts please go to their websites to see for yourself. Try one of the largest and most fanatical, Answers in Genesis. Or here. Whatever you do, do not miss the world’s largest black hole of reason and knowledge, The Creation Museum. This is a 27 million dollar, 70,000 square foot facility dedicated to the proposition that Adam and Eve shared the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs. These groups abound in the ignorance so common in the true fanatics. For an excellent review of the museum try A. A. Gill’s witty Vanity Fair piece on his trip to Kentucky’s Museum . And it’s not just Kentucky. A Young Earth Creation museum lies just 200 miles away from here in Glendive, Montana. They are spreading.
In addition to the dinosaurs living in perfect harmony with Adam and Eve, these people believe a range of unscientific nonsense. There are too many examples for a complete list so just a few will have to do.
Dinosaurs were vegetarian before the fall of man. In fact, all carnivores ate plant life because before the fall there was no strife in the garden. Personally, I find it impossible to picture the great T. Rex eating leaves and berries with those six inch jagged teeth.
The majority of the fossils we have found have been from the great flood. You see it’s hard to explain how some of the fossils are often buried under thousands of feet of sediment. The reason that the more primitive fossils are found in the deepest layers is that they weren’t capable of fleeing to the high ground with the more advanced animals. Huh? Not a single dinosaur made it to the tops of the hills, but all the big mammals did???
All the coal and oil deposits on earth today were made in the flood buried under the sediments washed down from the hills.
The Grand Canyon and every large canyon in the world was formed by the runoff from the flood. Running to where you may ask? Apparently there are huge reservoirs under the earth that the water sprang out of and returned to. Understand that these subterranean seas would have to be several times the volume of all the terrestrial oceans combined.
This is a child’s nonsense. It ranks as poorly thought out as modern day geocentrism (The ancient theory of the sun, moon and universe orbiting the Earth). By the way, geocentrism also used to be a promoted plank of Biblical literalism but seems to have been somewhat abandoned in the last 30 years or so, just 400 years behind Galileo. Mind you, Biblical geocentrists still exist, and this in an age where we have sent probes to other planets and to the further reaches of our solar system.
Taken together, the young earth creationist belief system is no truer than astrology or alchemy, just more dangerous. Is there a difference between this and Allah’s promised 72 virgins for any Islamic fanatic strapping a bomb to their chest and killing women and children in a marketplace? Only in the level of violence, but keep in mind, Young Earth Creationists are a group of people who are certain that God is going to severely punish the United Sates for condoning abortion and allowing homosexuality. They are certain that God created AIDS (without evolution, there is no other possibility) to kill Gays. The fact that it also kills the same children they don’t want aborted has yet to be explained satisfactorily. They believe the only reason that our nation is the richest in the world is because God is on our side, and we stand or fall by his will alone. I know this viewpoint. I was raised with this, hearing it constantly. You can be quite certain that when the times turn bad, an increasing number of these people will believe that God is punishing the nation for its sins. Young earth Creationists will believe this because for ages they have been primed not to trust to science or humanity. They have been programmed to trust in a minister’s interpretation of a bronze age myth. They have been long prepared for belief in absurdities, violent absurdities. Their distrust in any scientific truth and worship of a god who murdered, by their own admission, virtually every man, woman and child makes them dangerous. They lack faith in truth and exhibit a willingness to bypass a mountain of evidence looking up the dimmest of clues that may possibly justify their mythology.
When our economy collapses because we continue our fall from scientific preeminence, they will not blame themselves or their war on the one thing that kept us ahead. They will blame the sins and permissiveness of this nation. We can see this by the bombing of abortion clinics and the slaying of family planning doctors while fanatics protest military funerals because our nation doesn’t prosecute gays. As things turn worse, as jobs become scarce when science flees from our shores, as our standard of living falls year by year, the population of fanatics will climb. Increasing numbers of people will believe in anything that will give them hope, give them some illusion of control. They will look for scapegoats and patsies, and they will blame our decline on the things they most hate and fear, and they will take action. This has already happened many times in the past and will happen again. At times, history is depressing reading.
After the homosexuals are dead or hiding, there’s always those eternal victims of persecution, the Jews.