March 7, 2005

An Interesting Take on Creationism and Culture

Go over to Spiked on Line and read Joe Kaplinsky's essay on "Creationism, pluralism and the compromising of science. - 'The trouble with 'teaching the controversy'." Good Stuff.

Among his many interesting points, he notes the success of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code as indicative of today's climate of "unprecedented elevation of conspiracy theory and rumour-mongering over expert knowledge." I had wondered why The Da Vinci Code was so popular. This is as good an explanation as I've heard.

I also like this observation,

The fact that the creationism controversy has bubbled up again is a symptom of a more general problem. What legitimacy creationism does seem to enjoy today comes from pluralism, not Christian fundamentalism. There are plenty of well-directed responses from professional scientists against Christian creationism. Yet when the Thomas Sweeney, spokesman for the new Museum of the American Indian, told the Washington Post's Joel Achenbach that the scientific hypothesis that the Indians entered North America via the Bering Strait had been excluded in favour of Indian myth, and Gerald McMaster, a deputy assistant director, explained that 'Anthropology as a science is not practiced here', who dared challenge them?

Kaplinsky's point is that the resurgent strength of creationism is, in significant part, a reflection of a non-theological cultural phenomenon: relativistic pluralism.

But scepticism towards science does not just come from traditional Christianity. Liberal relativism has been important in creating a climate in which creationism is tolerated.

He ends his essay:

Christian creationism is a specific problem for some biology teachers, students and parents. Anybody who cares about elevating reason over dogma should also be concerned. But when creationism can come dressed up as 'critical thinking' it should be clear that it isn't just Christian fundamentalists we need to worry about - it's a whole dumbed down education system.

Good stuff.

I do have one quibble. Relativistic pluralism may have had its start in liberalism. But it is now embraced by the broader culture. It is not exclusively a liberal position these days. In discussions with unsophisticated conservatives, it is common for them to break off argument by saying, "You have your believes and I have mine." This generally happens at the very moment that I am trying to ascertain the factual basis of their believes. Also, with the exception of a few diehard disciplines, postmodernism, which is the source of much relativistic pluralism, is dead. See "The Myth of the Postmodern University" over at Leiter Reports. Its now nearly a year old but is still a good summary.

Posted by Duane Smith at March 7, 2005 10:29 AM | Read more on Evolution |

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