Friday, 24 January 2014

A former creationist comments on the forthcoming Bill Nye / Ken Ham debate

By now, everyone who keeps half an eye on the evolution-creation debate will be aware that science educator Bill Nye will debate YEC apologist Ken Ham on the subject "Is creationism a viable model of origins?” Personally, I think this is a bad idea as any debate with the YEC charlatans gives them the legitimacy they crave but do not deserve.

Former creationist David MacMillan has commented on the debate at the Panda's Thumb blog, and hopes that some good comes from it:
I hope Nye can cut through the accumulated falsehoods and teach about the actual evidence. I want people to be free to learn, free to understand, free to explore the fantastic mysteries of the universe without being tied down to phony dogma that wasn’t even part of Christianity until the last fifty years.
That's something that many YECs simply don't grasp - the view of reality that Ham and other science denialists peddle wasn't even normative for Christians until the mid-20th century, when the reheated views of Seventh Day Adventist George McReady Price peddled by Whitcomb and Morris infected evangelical Protestantism, and sadly, my faith community, the Christadelphians.
MacMillan notes that he used to be part of the YEC community in a fairly significant way:
This debate is more than academic for me. I grew up steeped in creationism. I was home-schooled with creationist curriculum, my family took us to creationist conferences, and I was deeply proud that I knew the real story about evolution and the age of the earth. I was taught there was absolutely no way the universe could be explained without creationism. Evolution was a fairy tale based on faith; creation was good science. I was taught that Christianity wasn’t consistent without creationism – that all “Bible-believing Christians” rejected evolution and long ages in favor of a six-day creation and a global flood.
My proudest teenage achievement was mowing lawns to earn $1000 so I could help build the Creation Museum. My donation earned me lifetime free admission, a polo shirt, and my name engraved in the lobby. I wrote back and forth with many prominent creationists and hotly debated origins with anyone who dared argue in favor of evolution. On two occasions I even wrote featured articles for the Answers In Genesis website – a high honor for Teenage Me.
I’m writing all this because I don’t know many people who were as far into the creation science movement as I was and came out of it. After graduating high school, I went on to college and got my bachelor’s degree in physics. Despite four years of physics, it still took me a long time before I actually came to understand evolution, geology, and cosmology. Now, I’m always learning, always finding out new information, always excited.
Because so much of what I’d been taught was flatly false, I had to relearn practically everything about biology, geology, and the history of science. I’m amazed by the amount of evidence I systematically ignored or explained away, just because it didn’t match creation science.
Bill Nye may not understand just how difficult it is for people who were raised like me to abandon creationism. Creationism isn’t just one belief; it’s a system of beliefs and theories that all support each other. We believed that unless we could maintain confidence in special creation, a young planet, a global flood, and the Tower of Babel, we’d be left without any basis for maintaining our faith.
MacMillan's point is one that defenders of mainstream science sometimes forget. No matter how many times the perversions of science that the YECs peddle are taken apart and exposed as fraudulent, until the theological issues can be resolved, the mental shields will simply kick in and prevent the YEC from even thinking that YEC could be wrong, as they perceive the world in terms of YEC versus atheism.

Christianity is based not on a young earth or special creation, but rather on the Risen Christ, and that is independent of the age of the Earth or the mechanism employed by God to bring about the diversity of life on this planet. Furthermore, the idea that Adam's sin introduced physical death into this world is one that certainly was not normative for our community, as I've pointed out before. While I cannot speak for the other faith traditions nor advise them on how to reconcile evolution and Christianity, for our community, the fact that early Christadelphians argued that physical death was part of the original creation, coupled with our historical rejection of Original Sin shows that our theology is unaffected by evolution.