Sunday, January 27, 2008

Students at the Creation Museum

I took my Sociology of American Religion class to the Creation Museum as the final, and fanciest, field trip of the term. The students ranged from incredulous evolutionists to of-course creationists. Most of the students were religious, and most believe that God created the world. They accept old-earth evolutionist views because that is what they have been taught. Even the creation-confident were mostly very skeptical of the museum's view that all of Creation is only 6000 years old.

What struck me the most about their reactions, though, was that most of them had never really thought about how creation and evolution relate to one another. They simply accept both as true, without trying to reconcile them. The stronger Christians were inclined to accept the museum's version of how creation worked, because it is the only elaborated theory they have ever heard. The more secular-minded students were inclined to reject the museum's argument, because they accepted the museum's contention that the only alternative to their view was the materialistic atheism of "human reason."

I think the polarization of this debate has been very bad for critical thinking. When you sit down and think about the possibilities, there are dozens of ways to reconcile creation and evolution, and thousands of middle pathways on any particular empirical mystery between the two extremes.

I think the weakest part of the Creation Museum argument is the idea that the universe must have been created in about 4004 B.C. Most people believe in creation. Most scientists will accept that there are alternative theories about how old the universe is, from very very old to unimaginably old. It is not hard to reconcile creation, even biblical creation, with an old or oldish universe. Without the Procrustean bed of Bishop Ussher's dating scheme, I think most creationists and evolutionists could come to a broad common ground.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe Stephen Jay Gould suggested a compromise on this issue with his "separate spheres of influence" for science and religion, but like most compromises, it just seemed to piss people off.