Science and Fundamentalism

Nice essay by Connor Wood at Science on Religion, about the Nye-Ham debate. Though he’s a PhD candidate in religion and science, he’d been putting off paying much attention to this debate.

The reason I didn’t get too excited about this religion-science hubbub in Kentucky was because I knew it would be, er, incredibly frustrating. Ken Ham is wrong. Pathetically so. I do not respect his beliefs (although if I met him personally I would try to respect the man). I don’t respect his beliefs because they are false beliefs, and demonstrably so. The people who think the world was created in six days six thousand years ago are Just. Plain. Wrong. That is not what happened. By hinging their beliefs in Jesus, their sense of meaning in life, and their connections with the past on this ludicrous cosmogonical error, creationists are doing more and deeper damage to the life of the spirit in this age than any Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett could ever do for them.

Wood goes on to explain “why fundamentalism exits” — fundamentalism, in the sense of today’s meaning of literal interpretation of the Bible, didn’t exist before the 19th century’s ascendance of science into the realm of meaning; it was a reaction to the raw reading of science as noticing that there is no “meaning” to the universe. And people cannot stomach that.

His conclusion is that both sides need to adjust their stances.

So are you one of those who thinks religion is stupid, and science is great? Wonderful. Keep it to yourself. Every single time you post a comment anywhere that perpetuates this war, any time you snark to a religious person about how science makes his or her worldview obsolete, you are bringing our culture one step closer to epistemological shutdown. And that means we all lose.

Or are you a religious person who believes evolution is wrong, and that the world is 6,000 years old? Stop. Seriously, stop. You’re making a fool of yourself, and you are making a fool of your God. So stop giving the T.H. Huxleys and Richard Dawkinses fodder for their ugly rhetorical cannons. I’m sorry, dinosaurs did not live at the same time as humans. The mountain of evidence against this claim is greater than Everest. Stop believing false things. And who wants such an insecure and brittle faith that the knowledge of mankind’s peripheral position in the great vastness of the cosmos shudders you? If your faith is strong, you can look down the barrel of 14 billion years and not blink. Be strong. Accept that the universe is more complex and strange and unexpected than can be written in a few verses of Genesis or Daniel.

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