Creationism and Evolution… and Environmentalism
Earlier this week Bill Nye, the famous Science Guy, and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis debated evolution and creationism at the Kentucky Creation Museum. During the debate each presented evidence for their claim that creationism is, or is not, a viable scientific theory. Yes, that means that Mr. Ham actually presented evidence that the world is only 4,000 years old and Mr. Nye pointed to the trees, rocks, ice layers, and starlight that are much, much older.
This is an old debate and Nye and Ham didn’t change anyone’s view. Whether a Christian believes in evolution or creationism has little to do with evidence and more to do with politics. A recent Pew Research Center study found:
Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).
“Evolution is a special kind of issue,” Yale’s Dan Kahan wrote on his Cultural Cognition Project blog. “The position you take on it is an expression of who you are in a world in which there are many diverse sorts of people and in which there is a sad tendency of one sort to ridicule and hold in contempt those of another.”
In other words, it’s not a question of evidence, it’s a question of your place in society. You don’t want to be an evolutionist in a conservative, Texas town, and you don’t want to be a creationist in San Francisco’s Castro. No one wants their neighbors to think they’re a heathen.
The fact that creationism is a Republican party platform and nothing can really change that is sad for a number of reasons. But because this blog focuses on the environment, I’ll discuss why it’s sad for environmentalists.
The creationist argument relies on the belief that Genesis should be taken literally. A literal interpretation of the Bible–or any ancient text–is a scary thing. People can, and have, used the Bible to support slavery, gender inequality, and acts of hate. They can, and have, used a literal interpretation to support clear-cut logging, unregulated mineral extraction, development over natural resources, and other harmful environmental practices.
A literal interpretation of the Bible supports simple dominion over the Earth. We can take what we want because we’re special. Christian environmentalists have to look beyond the Bible’s language to the overarching goal of protecting God’s creation. We are humble servants, not rulers.
After watching the debate, I’m left with one feeling: let’s let our faith evolve. The lessons in the Bible are profound and bring comfort to many people. We can have faith in the power of those lessons without needing every biblical word and fact to be true.
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