I was raised Catholic, by a Catholic mother and a Protestant-turned-Catholic father. I attended Catholic schools until I was a sophomore. I was taught by nuns, read my Catechism, and received A’s in religion every year I took it. And at no time during any of my schooling, or in my family, did one person ever say “The Earth is only 10,000 years old.” No nun, no priest, neither of my parents ever told me that creationism was real.
It’s a fable. How do I know this? Because in the book of Genesis, there are two completely different versions of how the world came to be. The sequence of events is different, the name for God is different, even the settings vary: water versus desert. The story of creationism reminds me of “The Little Mermaid.”
In the original story, the mermaid is never named, she suffers excruciating pain in order to try and win the love of the prince, and in the end, she throws herself into the sea, becoming a daughter of the air. In the Disney version, the mermaid is named Ariel, she suffers no pain, and in the end, she wins the prince thanks in no small part to a singing crab.
Creationism is the Disney version of how the world began. It’s six days (or seven, depending on which version you believe) of magical weaving, a bearded white man in the sky, and things just appearing. No Big Bang, no science, no violent upheaval.
Evolution makes sense. Primordial ooze, tetrapods, prehistoric art, dinosaur tracks, the La Brea Tar Pits-all these amazing things point overwhelmingly to evolution. My favorite book on evolution is “The Beak of the Finch” by Jonathan Weiner. Weiner writes about two biologists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, whose work showed that among Darwin’s Finches, natural selection occurs so quickly, one can witness it.
When Charles Darwin first encountered these birds, the species were so distinct, he thought they were different birds. The finches had adapted to their food supplies; in other words, each species of finch had evolved a unique beak. And they had done so in a very short period of time. Darwin’s finches are living proof of evolution.
Why then do so many flock to the Creation Museum? Why do so many of our conservative politicians want creationism taught in school as science? Why did Paul Broun, a Republican representative from Georgia, call evolution, the Big Bang theory, and embryology “lies straight from the pit of hell?”
All I have is an opinion, based on speaking with creationists, and based on our son’s experiences with creationists at school. No, it’s not taught there, we just have a lot of fundamentalist Christians in town, and their children learn early that the Bible is “it.” I believe it’s fear. One of the things creationists often cite as “proof” that evolution is evil, or wrong, is the belief that if we evolved from apes, this means we are no better than apes, and this leads to violence, suicide, abuse, addiction, all sorts of awful behaviors. A less serious argument I have heard is “If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” We won’t even get into that…
Creationism is an easy way to cling to morality, fake or otherwise. If God made us, then we are automatically moral. If we evolved, we have to work at being better people. Many of the fundamentalist Christian creationists I have met are extremely sanctimonious and judgmental. They believe they have the moral high ground, simply by virtue of their beliefs. Evolution means their act, their facade, is not quite as protected as it might be if creationism was real. And that scares creationists to their very core.
Science is wonderful. Think about it: billions and billions and billions of years ago, in the depths of space, particles collided. Dust became stars, black holes formed, super novas, planets, and on this planet, this blue speck in the darkness of the universe, life began. Slowly, awkwardly, painfully, violently, life began.
I believe in evolution because it makes perfect sense. But is there room for God in evolution? Of course there is, and I am not referring to “intelligent design.” The men who wrote the Bible were trying to describe things they did not understand. This is why, in the story of creationism, the moon is a light, not a reflective rock. A lack of scientific comprehension doesn’t necessarily mean God didn’t have a hand in all this. My own kind of goofy theory is this:
First, there was nothing but darkness, an ethereal being, and a lawn chair. The ethereal being was bored, and tired of all the nothing. It plopped down in the lawn chair, and taking two minuscule shiny things, flicked them together. Then it sat back to watch the show.
I told you it was goofy. Do I believe that? I don’t know-it makes about as much sense as some white dude yanking out a guy’s rib, and making a woman. But the difference is creationists have the hubris to try and convince other people what God did, what God meant. How do they know what six days is to God? Maybe six days is six hundred million years. But to admit their hubris, to admit they really haven’t a clue, is to admit their “morality” is not a divine gift.
I want to end this with three links, links to two parks and a cave. Places to experience the wonder and beauty of evolution, places to experience the majesty of history, and to teach the next generation about our amazing planet.
(Reprinted by permission from me from Poking At Snakes)