Sundays With The Christianists: A Biology Textbook To Take On The Ark With You
As we mentioned last time, our current textbook-shaped object, Biology For Christian Schools, by William Pinkston, takes a pretty novel approach to science, telling students that if scientists' conclusions "contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them." And so, since the Book of Genesis quite clearly states that God created life, the universe, and everything in six days, and since all those "begats" in the New Testament's genealogy of Jesus only add up to four thousand years or so, it only stands to reason that everything about modern evolution and geology must be a lie. This creates (haha!) certain difficulties for the textbook author, since the correct answer to so many questions is "God did it," but the book still has to be more than a single page. And so we get a lengthy chapter about why biological evolution is impossible, and the Book of Genesis is literally true -- but it really does all boil down to hand-waving and attempts to shoehorn some bits of science into the biblical narrative.
This does not mean, however that Biology For Christian Schools simply pats students on the head and tells them that they don't need to know anything about evolution. In fact, Pinkston is quite insistent that Christians need to know about evolutionary theory so they won't look too foolish when they reject it. For instance, Pinkston at least acknowledges that dinosaur fossils are real, not illusions buried by Satan to fool people -- the fossil record is evidence of real plants and animals that are now extinct. The real Satanic plot is, of course, evolutionary theory itself:
It is wrong for a Christian to ignore Satan’s workings against Christianity. It is also wrong for a Christian to discredit not only himself but also the Lord by making rash, unfounded accusations. Because Satan has used evolutionary theory effectively against Christians, they should know what they believe concerning this theory. Too many Christians, however, are willing to say, "The Bible is true, and evolution (whatever it is) is false," and leave it at that...
Other Christians in a misguided attempt to "be ready" pick up a few ideas, misuse them, and thereby show their ignorance, thus bringing reproach to themselves and their Lord. Christians should know not only what they believe concerning evolution but also what evolution is, before they try to condemn it.
On the very next page, Pinkston brings reproach unto himself and God by lying about what evolution is. Consider this description:
Biological evolution deals with the beginning of life (usually by some form of spontaneous generation) and proposes that simple organisms give rise to more complex organisms, which, in turn, produce even more complex offspring.
We have to hand it to Pinkston here -- the book's first chapter includes a discussion of how the concept of "spontaneous generation" was disproved by the scientific method, so when he casually tosses it into the very definition of biological evolution, he signals to readers that the entire theory is based on discredited science (which, of course it isn't). Good one!
Pinkston then explains something he calls "the philosphy of evolution," which is where the wheels really start to come off:
The idea that all things are progressing toward a future perfection is the philosophy of evolution. This theory teaches that things are currently improving. The evolution of man’s knowledge and the evolution of human society are given as examples of this type of evolution. There is, however, good reason to doubt that the increase in complexity (the evolution) of technology, governments, and the like is actually an improvement. What is a good definition of "improvement"? For example, the United States Federal Government has evolved (has become bigger and more complex), but many feel it was better when it was not as big and powerful.
We see what he did there. Needless to say, while this description may sound like simplistic popular conceptions of evolution, the only people who think that evolution is a process toward "perfection" are Christianists who want to beat up on a straw Darwin. Pinkston then imagines the thoughts of a typical "evolutionist":
He might look at how far man has progressed, smile with approving pride, and say, "From chemicals in some prehistoric swamp to a living, thinking, rational being has been a long, slow process. How fortunate things just happened to work out this way. And what about the future? Who knows? Man has come this far; in time he will reach that great perfection toward which he is headed."
Presumably, the evolutionist then cackles about his colleagues at the Academy who said he was mad...MAD! for tinkering in realms where man should not intrude, and then tells his hunchbacked assistant to pull the lever. Actually, that's pretty much where the next paragraphs go:
When asked about God, an evolutionist may say, "The god-myth was a fine thing that has helped us in the past and is still useful for some less intelligent humans. Primitive peoples needed a god-myth to explain their existence and the apparent design and unity of the world around them. Before man had evolved enough to be able to accept the responsibility for what he was, man needed someone else to blame or praise for himself and nature... The concepts of heaven and hell were useful in evolving our society."
Now, however, this evolutionist is ready to pronounce, "God is dead. That is, man no longer needs the concept of God. Since humans now realize that evolution is perfecting man, the concept of obedience to a creator-punisher-rewarder is, in fact, getting in the way. People who believe in these god-myths and in the old-fashioned morals demanded by the god-systems are now standing in the way of 'scientific progress.'"
Which, of course, goes "Boink."
In a sidebar, we learn what the inevitable results of this evolutionary philosophy (which doesn't exist) must be. Anyone who accepts evolution as scientific will, obviously, conclude that:
Just like "evolutionist" and "Darwinist," "scientism" is a very useful coinage, in that if you see anyone using it, you can tell at a glance that they're a creationist.
The section closes with a brief word on why "theistic evolution" is Bad. The idea that evolution is real but is God's way of bringing about creation may be attractive to Christians who don't want to be laughed at (seriously, the book does suggest this), but it is pernicious -- and worse, unscientific:
The Bible teaches that God created by direct act. A person who believes that God directed evolutionary processes is a theistic evolutionist and is in error. When the Bible states one thing and, in an attempt to be scientific, a person believes something else, he is setting up scientific theory as more authoritative than the Word of God.
People who do not believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God choose what parts they want to believe and ignore those passages they do not want to believe. If it is permissible to disbelieve the Biblical account of creation, then one might disbelieve other parts as well. He might dismiss God's condemnation of sin and the need of the atonement of Christ's blood because these doctrines do not appeal to him. A person who rejects any portion of the Bible has placed himself above the Bible. The Bible is accurate in everything, or it may as well be accurate in nothing.
What's impressive about this passage is that it so efficiently encapsulates the motivation behind a decades-long effort to refashion and water down the teaching of science in American schools -- the worry that seeing the first book of the Bible as an allegory will lead to wholesale atheism and, of course, moral depravity. Never mind that the vast majority of Christians don't seem to have a problem with evolution -- that simply means that they are not very good Christians.
That certainly seems like a compelling reason to ignore science.
Next week: The very, very compelling evidence for Creationism (Spoiler: God said so)
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