Friday, February 14, 2014

Harmless Nonsense?

William Saletan opines that creationism is merely harmless nonsense:

But Nye came with a bigger agenda. He wanted to convince the viewing audience that creationism was a threat to science, technology, and prosperity. At this, he failed. Creationism, as presented by Ham and his colleagues, is a compartmentalized myth. It doesn’t prevent its adherents from functioning as ordinary people or as scientists...
You can be a perfectly good satellite engineer while believing total nonsense about the origins of life. That doesn’t mean we should teach creationism in schools or pretend it’s a scientific theory. But it does mean we can live with it as a compartmentalized fetish. Believe whatever you want to about monkeys, Noah, and the Garden of Eden. Just don’t let it mess with your day job.
The problem with Saletan's analysis is that creationism isn't really just a "compartmentalized fetish" in his words.  It's a world view, an imagined reality, to use a Harari phrase.  Yes, creationists can function pretty well in society, and as long as want to maintain that in the privacy of their own minds, they can be pretty functional in most situations.

But they don't.  They have repeatedly used their political influence to impose their views in a wide variety of social contexts, from teaching creationism in schools, to gay civil rights, to global warming. Even if creationism is the only aspect of this constellation they adopt, and it rarely is, there is a long history of creationist efforts to control the teaching of biology in the schools.

Even more dangerous, in my view, is the attempt to create (or recreate) a world where faith trumps evidence.