Monday, October 08, 2012

Congressman calls evolution lie from 'pit of hell'

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Georgia Rep. Paul Broun said in videotaped remarks that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are "lies straight from the pit of hell" meant to convince people that they do not need a savior.

The Republican lawmaker made those comments during a speech Sept. 27 at a sportsman's banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell. Broun, a medical doctor, is running for re-election in November unopposed by Democrats.

"God's word is true," Broun said, according to a video posted on the church's website. "I've come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

More here.

A couple of weeks ago I was writing about how I don't understand the penchant for many fundamentalist Christians to elevate, by way of repetition and emphasis, homosexuality above and beyond all other sins.  This week, actually for many years at this point, I'm not understanding the fundamentalist urge to pit evolution against creationism.

The problem, as I see it, is that declaring one or the other to be the correct understanding of reality is like bringing apples and oranges to a gun fight.  That is, the two points of view come out of radically different philosophical systems; it makes complete sense that different approaches to knowledge would reach different conclusions about the nature of the universe.

Science, of course, as a foundational assumption, limits its view of reality to that which can be verifiably observed.  Creationism, the American fundamentalist Christian version of it, at any rate, on the other hand, assumes that all important information about the nature of reality is contained within the Bible.  And I don't say this in any way to denigrate creationists: theology is a branch of the overall philosophical point of view known as metaphysics, which often attempts to understand, in a rational way, that which cannot necessarily be seen.  Science once existed underneath the metaphysics umbrella, but pulled away once it embraced super-empiricism as a ruling ethic.  But metaphysics continued as a philosophical field, and is legitimate if only because intensely intelligent people over the centuries have continued to work in the metaphysical tradition.

I mean, you can argue science versus metaphysics, and countless philosophers have done so for many years.  But to put scientific conclusions in contention with metaphysical conclusions, without first addressing the fact that humanity has arrived at those conclusions using totally variant systems of knowledge, just makes no sense at all.  That's why "teaching the controversy" about evolution in a biology class misses the point entirely: in science, there is no controversy.  Consequently, the "controversy" is inappropriate for a science class.  Philosophy class, yes.  Comparative religion class, sure thing.  Social studies, you bet.  But not science.  Teaching creationism in a science class is like teaching ballet in an auto mechanics class.  Just a really bad idea.

Time and again, however, fundamentalist Christians inexplicably feel like they need to gird themselves in the armor of God and do rhetorical battle with the heathens of science, never seeming to realize that going toe to toe with the scientific method is a non sequitur.  Again, this is not to trash creationists.  They may very well be right when all is said and done.  I don't know.  Indeed, as Hamlet said, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophy."  I mean, that's the whole point of metaphysics, after all.  But when scientists say that this is what the physical evidence appears to indicate, they've definitely got a point.  To counter with something like "the Bible says differently" cannot possibly erase the conclusions of science; rather, from a metaphysical point of view, one must say that there is likely more going on than meets the eye, while granting what the eye actually sees.

Or something to that effect.

So why is all this so important?  When science is trashed so often and so consistently, it serves to undermine our culture's belief in the importance of science, which leads to less funding and less learning.  Whether you're a creationist or not, I think we can all agree that science, as a philosophy for understanding physical reality, has accomplished many great and wondrous things for the human race.  Now is not the time to go backward as far as science is concerned.

But here we have sitting members of the US Congress calling science a lie "from the pit of hell."  That is, to embrace science is to be in league with Satan.  Things are getting worse, folks.