I think now is a good time to introduce the Edinburgh Creation Group, seeing as I’ve just come back from one of their talks. I got involved through the Humanist Society, which had some copies of their leaflets, including this amazing piece of reading (notice how both Communism AND Capitalism are both a product of evolution, as well as student debt and STD’s, apparently). Basically each week someone with a scientific background will give a presentation on how science fits into religious interpretation in one way or other. Often several of our members will go to listen to the talk, and then ask awkward questions at the end, which is often quite a good way to get into the nitty-gritty of creationist theory which doesn’t come up in normal conversation.
Previous weeks’ talks have been on very fundamental things like “geological proof for the global flood” (apparently, trees can survive a year underwater) and “the cosmos: hallmarks of design?” (or how much of a coincidence life on this planet is, which when you think about it, is really a statistical certainty), which are easily disputable, but in the last few weeks I must admit that the talks have been very much geared towards a Christian audience, in that they already assume the existence of God, or they make no premise about evolution or creation, so there’s really nothing to dispute from my point of view. Tonight’s talk, for example, was just on Persian history and how it fits in quite well with what the Bible says in the Old Testament, supposedly proving that we should treat it as a historical document. My one question at the end was whether the speaker, Dr Mark Woolmer, thought that what we know is true about the Bible lends authority to the things that are harder to believe, like the miracles. He said yes. Surely that’s like saying that Harry Potter’s all true, just because it mentions real places like King’s Cross Station? The logic doesn’t follow.
In any case, there are a few things I’ve learned, thought about, or gained a new appreciation for during this series of talks, the last of which is happening next week (a new series will begin next semester):
First of all, although I was aware of the dogma of the Fall of Man in Genesis, I never knew that so many creationists think it has real, physical consequences in the real world. When I was a Catholic, people didn’t talk about the Fall like it was something that’s still happening, but like it happened in Genesis but has since stopped. Many of the creationists I’ve met believe that the fall means we are all genetic degenerates, and we will continue to degenerate until Christ comes again to save us. It might be easy to dismiss this, as life expectancy has consistently risen in the past rather than declined as you might expect, but it’s strange that this view isn’t more common among Christians, seeing as it’s necessary to explain a multitude of things from a creationist point of view, such as how we now have more than one blood type if we’re all descendants of two people (according to Dr Marc Surtees, a member of ECG with degrees in Zoology and Geology, and who owns a shop on Leith Walk, Adam and Eve were both A+. B, O and rhesus negative blood types are all degenerations which mean you’ve lost one, two or all of the proteins on your blood cells, which is only compatible with religion if you believe in a physical degeneration of humankind).
Another big point I’ve made to the group is that if all of this evidence is true, and science really does point to the Bible being true, then why aren’t we seeing a mass exodus of scientists converting to Christianity? The answer, I suspect, is that what’s been presented to the group is actually bad science, and that science actually doesn’t support the Bible and Christianity. I’m no scientist and I can’t dispute it very well, so that I leave to the more qualified, such as Dr Richard Dawkins, who I must say does a good job, on the whole.
Thirdly, I have a newfound respect for creationists, such as Dr Marc Surtees from the ECG, who actually think about their beliefs and why they hold them. As a humanist I find this much more palatable than the everyday Christian who doesn’t know why they believe, and doesn’t really even know what they believe. Many Christians nowadays see the Genesis story as a giant metaphor that didn’t really happen, but shows how much God loves us. But if Adam and Eve didn’t really exist, and original sin and the Fall didn’t really happen, then Jesus came to Earth and sacrificed himself for a nonexistent sin to save us all from nothing, so if you don’t believe in Genesis as it happened, they you undermine the entire Christian faith. So if you’re going to be a Christian, be a proper one.
One thing that does annoy me about Dr Marc is that he himself has said that when his science clashes with his religion, he always chooses his religion. So effectively he’s saying he chooses his unfounded beliefs over his rational knowledge. And this isn’t unique among creationists, either. Some people would rather believe what a book tells them than what they discover themselves. Ok, science isn’t perfect and it’s always being revised, but just because religion doesn’t change, that doesn’t make it better or more reliable than science. In fact I’d say it makes it much worse, outdated and old-fashioned. But that’s just me.