Saturday, June 02, 2007

Creationism vs. evolution

A Creation Museum recently opened at Petersburg, Kentucky, USA. As the name suggests, it's a place that enshrines Creation, i.e, the story of Genesis in the Bible, as THE explanation for how the world came into being.

As's Gordy Slack reports, the Creation Museum dismisses evolution as the driving force of natural history and posits instead that:

1. The world was created on October 24, 4004 B.C at 9 a.m., which makes the planet not more than six thousand years old, as opposed to the billions of years put forth by scientists.

2. History should be divided into the "Six C's:" creation, corruption, catastrophe, confusion, Christ, and the final C, consummation, "which isn't given much time or space in the exhibits because there still isn't consensus on just how the apocalypse will come down or who goes to heaven and when," says Slack.

3. Evolutionists got it all wrong. Humans and dinosaurs existed in the same time frame, and didn't evolve 60 million years apart. There's absolutely no evidence for this, but so what? "They all had to exist at the same time because they were all made on the same day," says one of the museum's founders.

4. Before the Fall, all animals were vegetarian, so there was no predator or prey in the Garden of Eden. And plants didn't have thorns either, because they had nothing to be defensive about. The Great Flood was responsible not only for scattering the fossil record everywhere but for the world's present-day topography. The Grand Canyon, for instance, is supposed to have been carved in a matter of days as the floodwaters receded away.

5. God himself dispersed Noah's descendants throughout the world by introducing new languages, thus the tumult. "The ensuing C--for--Confusion theme is represented through a gritty and menacing back alley postered with newspaper headlines about the rise in abortion, drug use, homosexuality and teen suicide."

"At the ribbon cutting, Ken Ham, the rugged-faced CEO and president of Answers in Genesis, the nonprofit ministry that built the museum, tells an enthusiastic crowd that the Creation Museum will undo the damage done 82 years ago when Clarence Darrow put William Jennings Bryan on the stand in the famous Scopes trial in Dayton, Tenn. 'It was the first time the Bible was ridiculed by the media in America, and that was a downward turning point for Christendom,' Ham says."

Broadway revival
As it happens, playing on Broadway today is a revival of the play inspired by the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial, "Inherit the Wind," written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. It stars Christopher Plummer as the Darrow stand-in Henry Drummond and Brian Dennehy as Matthew Harrison Brady, the Jennings Bryan character.

The Scopes Trial came about when a young teacher in Dayton, Tennessee was sued in court for teaching evolution in public high school. It became, by broad consensus, one of the great courtroom battles of the century as the agnostic Darrow rose to John Scopes' defense and the Bible-thumping Jennings Bryan took up the cudgels for the prosecution.

Both were spectacular orators, with Jennings Bryan himself having been a three-time nominee for President of the Democratic Party (yep, the Democratic Party; now it's the Republicans that count Christian fundamentalists as their power base).

Scopes lost the case and was fined $100. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for the Creationists; Darrow, denied by the judge every opportunity to present scientists who could vouch for the soundness of Darwin's evolutionary theory, decided as a last-minute gamble to put Jennings Bryan himself on the stand as a Bible expert. The resulting interrogation, done al fresco because the overheated courtroom could not accommodate the mammoth crowd, is still regarded as one of the finest demolition jobs ever done by a trial lawyer on a hostile witness.

Clarence Darrow cross-examining William Jennings Bryan during the 1925 Scopes Trial (photo: Smithsonian Institution)

The linchpin of Darrow's assault was Jennings Bryan's insistence on the immutable truth of the Bible. The Bible was to be interpreted literally, exactly as it was written. Darrow pounced on this and asked the most knotty questions: When the Bible said Jonah was swallowed and then regurgited by a whale after three days, how was that possible? Did Joshua really shoot an arrow at the sun and made it stand still? If Adam and Eve were the first people on earth and Cain was their first son, where did Cain get his wife? Since the Bible said the sun was made only on the fourth day, how was evening and morning like in the preceding three days?

With each new stab by Darrow, the hollowness and ignorance of Jennings Bryan's position became more and more apparent. By the end of it, the stentorian orator had been exposed as a sham, and Jennings Bryan would die only a few days after the trial, a shrunken, broken man.

(The best book on the trial and its implications is Edward J. Larson's "Summer For the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion." I asked a friend to buy me a copy from the US a couple of years ago, and reading it cleared up one big myth for me: that Darrow had asked Jennings Bryan to explain how the serpent moved and looked like before God sentenced it to crawl on its belly for corrupting Eve. Oo nga naman, paano ba? But no mention of it in the book, so it was probably a later embellishment.)

Titanic encounter
The play "Inherit the Wind," first performed on Broadway in 1955 and earning Tony Awards for its stars Paul Muni and Ed Begley, fictionalized this titanic encounter of law, faith, science and ideas into what the New York World Telegram & Sun hailed as "a tidal wave of a drama." A 1960 movie version saw two superlative actors, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, slug it out onscreen (see their climactic showdown on YouTube here). And now Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy, two of Broadway's top-tier thespians, are engaged in the Big Brawl.

Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy in the new Broadway revival of "Inherit The Wind" (photo: Sarah Krulwich/NYTimes)

At the heart of the Scopes trial, and "Inherit The Wind," is the question of freedom to think for one's self, to arrive at empirical certainties free from the dictates of blind faith or received wisdom. Faith itself is not the culprit, but its triumphalist, intolerant practice. Scopes, you could say, was an unexpected Galileo, persecuted for proclaiming plain truth to obscurantist power.

BRADY: Is it possible that something is holy to the celebrated agnostic?

DRUMMOND: Yes! The individual human mind. In a child's power to master the multiplication table there is more sanctity than in all your shouted "Amens!," "Holy, Holies!" and "Hosannahs!" An idea is a greater monument than a cathedral. And the advance of man's knowledge is more of a miracle than any sticks turned to snakes, or the parting of waters! But are we now to halt the march of progress because Mr. Brady frightens us with a fable? (Turning to the jury, reasonably) Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You've got to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man behind the counter who says, "All right, you can have a telephone, but you'll have to give up privacy, the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote, but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline! (Thoughtfully, seeming to look beyond he courtroom) Darwin moved us forward to a hilltop, where we could look back and see the way from which we came. But for this view, this insight, this knowledge, we must abandon our faith in the pleasant poetry of Genesis.

BRADY: We must not abandon faith! Faith is the important thing!

DRUMMOND: Then why did God plague us with the power to think? Mr. Brady, why do you deny the one faculty which lifts man above all other creatures on the earth: the power of his brain to reason. What other merit have we? The elephant it larger, the horse is stronger and swifter, the butterfly more beautiful, the mosquito more prolific, even the simple sponge is more durable! (Wheeling on BRADY) Or does a sponge think?

BRADY: I don't know. I'm a man, not a sponge. (There are a few snickers at this; the crowd seems to be slipping away from BRADY and aligning itself more and more with DRUMMOND)

DRUMMOND: Do you think a sponge thinks?

BRADY: If the Lord wishes a sponge to think, it thinks.

DRUMMOND: Does a man have the same privileges that a sponge does?

BRADY: Of course.

DRUMMOND: (Roaring, for the first time: stretching his arm toward CATES [i.e., Scopes]) This man wishes to be accorded the same privilege as a sponge! He wishes to think!

[Applause. The sound of it strikes BRADY exactly as if he had been slapped in the face]

"You have but a dim notion of it who have only read it," wrote H.L. Mencken of the real Darrow's spellbinding performance. "It was not designed for reading but for hearing. The clangorousness of it was as important as the logic. It rose like a wind and ended like a flourish of bugles."

This was in 1925. Strike one for Darwin and enlightenment then. Today, there's the new Creation Museum--and recent polls showing that "40 percent of all Americans would feel at home with the views put forth" by this museum.

I wonder how we Filipinos feel about Creationism versus evolution. Your thoughts?

[P.S. Clarence Darrow was an agnostic, not an atheist. But this post is for you, Benj.]

[photo 1: Monica Lam]


lateralus said...

I thought it was going to be about me.

And you tied me up with the Creationism Museum. I wouldn't touch this topic with a 10-mile pole. It's too absurd.

gibbs cadiz said...

haha, something about you talaga!? pipe down, genius. :)

Ken said...

Nice. Sana pala napost mo 'to noon pa. Hahaha. This is my topic kasi sa argumentative paper ko. My paper would have been more persuasive.

Herman Cummings said...

The Coming End of Current Creationism!

On or before August 15, 2007, a book is scheduled to be published. It’s
title is “Moses Didn’t Write About Creation!!”, written by Ephraim. The
“Big Bang” and evolution theories, plus the doctrines of current creationist
factions, shall be exposed as being in error.

After fifteen years, the truth of Genesis will finally be available to the public,
blowing all previous (false) attempts to explain Genesis "out of the water".
This book will be the most notable biblical authentication since the Dead Sea
Scrolls. The ignorance of Creationism and Theology about Genesis “come
to life” for all to see, and the theories of secular science will see their last days
as being credible explanations of our origins and prehistoric past.

It is also the only book to explain the events that lead to the Extra-Celestial Civil
War, also known as “the war in Heaven”. Comprehensive coverage of the war
is given, when it ended, and how it affected the 4+ billion year history of our

Herman Cummings
PO Box 1745
Fortson GA, 31808

Annamanila said...

There is just too much in this post to digest -- maybe some to regurgitate.

I just love that dialogue between drummond and brady.

So you're an agnostic, too? I try and try to have faith and envy people the certainty of their beliefs. But ayaw talagang mag-hit ng chord inside.

I am sorry masyado ako overwhelmed and underequipt to begin to make a synthesis or even just an informed (let alone polished) comment that your brilliant post deserves. (Maybe I come back later?)

Mike Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gibbs cadiz said...

hi KEN, hehe, so what was your final grade? :)

hi ANNA, nope, am not an agnostic, more like a lapsed catholic. but i've no problem with either agnostics or atheists. i admire them for at the very least sticking to their this case, it's the beauty of the argument that gets me. hehe, sorry kung nahirapan ka magbasa -- i myself had a hard time shaping this piece, and i had second thoughts many times about actually writing it. but i had too many ideas and opinions in my head that i just had to give form to. kaya ayan, super-long blog. :)

MIKE TYLER, you're spam, so to the trash you go. scram!

joyfulchicken said...

Creationism makes no sense at all, but Eve is kinda hot, so I guess I'm on the fence right now.

Prudence said...

Interesting post you've got here. I've been reading Ayn Rand lately, so this really caught my attention. No, she didn't write about creationism vs. evolution. She champions the use of logic and reason and she had interesting comments about how people of the faith use their beliefs such as "original sin" in explaining why we live like we are today. Good, good post! I wish I could read something more like this :-)

I'll say that I'm also a lapsed Catholic. However, Ayn Rand might get mad at me for that. As she said, through the speech of John Galt, the middle ground is always evil. But, honestly, I just can't make that decision yet. But one thing is for sure: I value my mind and reason.

gibbs cadiz said...

hi PRUDENCE, thanks for your comment! am glad the post is something that interests you. you've just made it worthwhile for me to continue with 'difficult' topics like this. :)

rmacapobre said...

creation museum or judeo-christian museum .. they seem to be trying to disassociate themselves from religion when thats exactly what it is about .. religion

Prudence said...

Discussing the origins of our race and the way people usually use reason as opposed to faith are worthwile pasttimes than talking about Paris Hilton's wardrobe...although, I can be pretty guilty of that sometimes. Hehe. But still, I would prefer reading posts like creationism vs evolution and championing the use of logic and reason over superstitions.

Herman Cummings said...

The Book That Should Worry Humanists

Title: Moses Didn’t Write About Creation!
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: PublishAmerica (August 6, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1424182204
ISBN-13: 978-1424182206
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches

A new brand of creationism, which atheists and (other) creationists
are not familiar with is "Biblical Reality", which is better known as
the "Observations of Moses".

This "Old Earth" brand of creationism puts forth the view that
combines a seven 24-hr day week of original creation (Exodus 20:11),
with a separate “six 12-hr days of revelation” given to Moses
(Genesis 1:2 – 2:3). The pseudo discrepancy between the “sixth day”
in Genesis chapter one and in chapter two is explained as chapter two
being the beginning of modern mankind (Adam & Eve), and chapter
one as being an earlier species of prehistoric mankind in an earlier
restoration period, more than 60 million years ago.

Biblical Reality is defined as the "ordained marriage" of Biblical
Truth, and Scientific Reality. Think of Biblical Truth as the
“correct” literal interpretation of Scripture, and Scientific Reality
as “That which has been discovered and analyzed to be of true
historical existence. That which has been observed to be a real
occurrence or phenomena, whether or not it can be explained.”
For example, the discoveries of the extinctions of life on Earth
in what has been determined to be 245 Million BC (dimetrodons)
and 65 Million BC (dinosaurs) is accepted as Scientific Reality.

Biblical Reality teaches that there are no “creation accounts” in
Genesis, and that “Moses Didn’t Write About Creation!”. What
is actually being said is “Moses wrote about Restoration”. Before
the advent of “Biblical Reality”, no faction of creationism could
explain both the “first day” of Moses and the “Fourth Day”, all
being 24-hr days, without either denying literal interpretation or
“redefining” the scriptures.

The “six days of Moses” in Genesis chapter one are actually six
consecutive (12 hour) days in 1598 BC that God revealed to Moses
(on Mt. Sinai) from the ancient past. Each day was from the first
week of each of seven different geological eras in “biblical order”.
The only day of Creation Week which Moses saw was the
“Fourth Day”. Creation Week was 168 hours, in 4.6 Billion BC,
according to the geologist.

Herman Cummings

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