Wednesday, 17 February 2016

YECs: being corrected or contradicted does not mean you are being persecuted.

Many special creationists in our community need to take to heart Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”A related sentiment that pops up in online debate is, "when one is used to privilege, equality seems like oppression." Over the years that I have been involved in the creation-evolution debate, I have seen more than enough of special creationist behaviour to realise that too many of them confuse persecution with losing their privileged status as the sole arbiters of how the creation narratives are interpreted, or with having those interpretations challenged or refuted. In short, rather than accept that their views have been shown to be false, these special creationists are quick to claim victim status.

I saw a particularly egregious example of this recently in an online debate, where a special creationist seriously claimed to be persecuted by evolutionary creationists. The special creationist was quickly corrected by another commenter who noted that persecution was being killed for one's faith, and not having someone disagree with views expressed in debate. It would be harder to find a clearer example of Emerson's adage than the piteous lament made by the YEC. More to the point, the fact that evolutionary creationists in our community are being harassed and even excommunicated makes the claim by that special creationist of persecution frankly offensive.

Ignoring the outrageous claim that YECs are being persecuted in our community - a point that the person responding to this ably refuted, the YEC poster made the usual special creationist mistake of failing to comprehend the phenomenon of Divine agency, that is, conflating the divine intention to create with the mechanism employed. Recognising that evolution is God's mechanism of creating no more denies God's power than recognising that atmospheric physics and developmental biology explain how God brings rain on a parched land or forms an infant in the womb.

The slur about evolutionary creationists 'falling into humanistic thinking' is of course an outrageous allegation offered without any evidence. Christians have accepted evolution not out of any 'capitulation to humanism', but because the evidence overwhelmingly supported it, and this acceptance stretches back to the beginning:
Darwin’s cause in America was championed by the thoroughgoing Congregationalist evangelical Asa Gray, who set himself the task of making sure that Darwin would have “fair play” in the New World. Let us be clear right away that this cannot be dismissed as capitulation to the social pressure of academic peers. To the contrary, Gray had to take on one of the most influential naturalists in America at the time to maintain his viewpoint – none other than Louis Agassiz, a Harvard colleague who vitriolically scorned Darwin’s theory. But Gray was not alone. Many of his countrymen, associates in science and brothers in religion took the same stand. And indeed even those who ultimately remained unimpressed with if not hostile to Darwin were quite prepared to admit that evolution had occurred. It is surely not without significance that Christian botanists, geologists, and biologists – that is to say, those best placed to see with clarity the substance of what Darwin had proposed – believed the evidence supported an evolutionary natural history. [1] (Emphasis mine)
The reason believers such as myself accept evolution is because the evidence for it is overwhelming, and one is obliged to accept the universe as it is, not how one wishes it would be. No amount of appealing to personal interpretations of the Bible or credal statements will make evolution go away. Ultimately, this is about intellectual honesty, a point ably made by W.F. Barling over fifty years ago:
The real issue before us is whether (to use two much abused terms) “creation” and “evolution” are contradictory, or complementary, explanations of God’s activity as the Maker of all things.
Traditionally, we have vigorously declared them to be contradictory. Now, a growing number among us are not so certain that this is so. What is not generally realized is that this section of our community is not an organized, self-confident group bent on converting the remainder to a new opinion, but a number of perplexed individuals, deeply loyal to the community, desperately anxious not to offend those who do not share their anguish—let alone transfer it to their minds—but who feel that they must be intellectually honest. What they ask of their brethren and sisters is not a change of viewpoint but a change of attitude. None would rejoice more than they if incontestable evidence were finally produced to warrant the most literal acceptance of the opening chapters of Genesis. Meantime, what they seek is not approval but tolerance. If a repudiation of the notion of slow change as God’s method of creation is demanded of them, then their loss to the community is inevitable. [2] (Emphasis mine)
The claim made by the YEC in the original post about being persecuted "for our precious faith" is risible nonsense. What we are seeing here is someone whose views have been contradicted, and is facing the loss of his special creationist privilege cheapening the concept of persecution in order to claim victim status.

In passing, it is worth noting that evolutionary creationists do not disfellowship special creationists, do not run series of articles in the leading magazines attacking special creationism, and do not travel the word slandering and misrepresenting special creationists. When it comes to the power differential in our community, it all runs the way of the special creationists, who have not been backwards in using it to abuse evolutionary creationists. One would hope the original poster - and other dogmatic special creationists of similar mind - would choose their words with more humility and tact in the future.


1. Livingstone D.N. “Darwin’s Forgotten Defenders” (Eerdmans 1984) p xi-xii
2. Barling W.F. "Letter: The Origin of Man" The Christadelphian (1965) 102:463–464.