Last night I went to a talk at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church. The talk was sponsored by the Kentucky Association of Science Educators and Skeptics, a debunking organization focusing on paranormal and creationist claims. One of their number, a geologist, had visited the Creation Museum. His talk was mostly a simple slide show of what he saw at the museum. His commentary was, of course, critical, and he was preaching to the choir in this setting to this audience.
I was dissatisfied, though, because the criticism didn't really engage the substance of what the museum offered. The sheer fact that they taught young earth creationism and rejected evolution was reason enough to bemoan their ignorance. In the Q and A session I sent up a written question, asking for a good specific example of what was wrong with young earth creationist geology. The speaker offered the example of Kentucky limestone. He said that limestone is made in clear coastal seabeds piling up sediment over a long time.
Here, I think, is where we can see the disconnection between the creationist and evolutionist arguments. The creationist can readily concede that one way limestone can be made is by sediments piling up in clear coastal seabeds over a long time. But they also contend that another way would be in a sudden calamitous flood. In the museum they show pictures of major geological changes made by the Mt. Saint Helens eruption in a matter of weeks.
What the creationists object to is the flat, unreflective assertion that the evolutionists' proposed theory is the only possible way to explain what we see in nature. Until the evolutionists offer a rebuttal to that critique, they have not answered the creationists' objection.
The event at the UU church was mostly a testimonial among believers. In addition to the geologist and the KASES organizer, two biology professors had been recruited for the panel. With their usual fair-mindedness, though, the UU panel also included a Presbyterian minister, head of the local interfaith alliance, as the token theist. He made what I thought was the most penetrating comment of the night. He thought that lying behind the passion on each side of the creation/evolution debate was a deep emotion: each side feared the other. One of the scientists objected to this characterization, contending that he didn't fear the creationists, just their ignorance. I can't help but think that this attitude -- that the other side disagrees with us only because they are ignorant, fearful, and dogmatic -- will not help.
Indeed, attending an evolutionist testimonial service shows the knowledge class -- which thinks of itself as the embodiment of reason, logic, and open-mindedness -- at its most fearful, dogmatic, and close-minded.