Thursday, 11 October 2012

Conspiracy Road Trip: Creationism




It is worth bearing in mind that this film is intended as entertainment and not as a reasonable examination of the issue of conspiracy theories in general or Creationism in particular.  The format is set up as a head on collision of conspiracy theory proponents versus reality, not something that has a reputation for generating more light than heat.

So yes, it is poor quality, car crash, reality TV.  No we didn't expect to learn anything new from it but we thought the program makers might.  And it is just possible that some religious and non religious viewers might just learn something about how to oppose creationism in the UK.  Perhaps we can even learn something about how some Creationists actually manage to escape their mental chains and give up the denial of most of science, it does happen.

It is also worth noting that the program correctly lumps in Creationists among other conspiracy theorists. 

Anyway, lets step back a moment and put things in perspective. 

Remember the three key arguments that Creationists are trying to present:
  1. This is Science versus Christianity. Science = Atheism. Creationism = Christianity.
  2. The science is wrong or at least debatable. A scientific controversy exists. 
  3. Lets be fair and cover both sides. 
The first two are simply untrue and so the third doesn't arise. Let's also acknowledge that creationists are extremely well known for being almost magically immune to logical, evidence based, scientific reasoning. 

So no, we didn't expect Creationists, who believe Creationism because it has been presented to them as a part of their identity and faith, to be swayed by evidence. After all they did not reason their way into their position so it seems very unlikely that will reason their way out of it.  Or, more precisely, they reasoned their way in to their beliefs because a very friendly and supportive group of people believed it and expected them to believe it too.  With a brief nod in passing to “evidence” in as much as they were vaguely aware that Creationist leaders tell them all the scientists are wrong so there were two sides to choose from then rush headlong to the position that cements their position within the supportive group and thank their lucky stars that they escaped that horrific science conspiracy with their live for Jesus intact.  If you think I’m exaggerating, I must tell you that I have heard Richard Dawkins quoted (accurately) along those lines at a creationist recruitment event in a none creationist church, and it went down very effectively.

It is predictable but always interesting to see how science based arguments were just like water off a ducks back to the Creationists.  Several of them were given pause for thought when a couple of the scientists revealed they were Christians, although Creationist leaders would simply say that these people are not proper Christians. Yet more doubt slipped in when some of the Creationists saw how some of the other Creationists were treating their intended “enemies”.   

At one fascinating point (47 mins in) two young girls seem on the point of a self-revelation but both fall back on the Creationists greatest defence, and their most actively used recruitment tool: point one above. They thought that they had to choose between faith or science.

If the film makers had at this point taken the group to an evangelical church who accept the science, and allowed them to speak with fellow believers then perhaps they would have made another choice.  I’m not asserting this out of thin air.

Work by Bob Altemeyer speaks to how exposure to less fundamentalist faith groups is a route out of fundamentalism (Skeptic in the Pub audiences are always very disappointed to find this out).  A recent paper about creationist beliefs in Glasgow university where all 7 creationists who gave up their creationism explained that the main reason for their change in view was that they found a way to reconcile their faith with their belief also gives us some hope.

If the program makers genuinely wanted to convince Creationists to change their stance, the evidence shows us there is a better way to attempt this.  Some opponents of Creationism might learn from this too and think twice about buying into the Creationist claim that this is a battle between atheists and Christians.

I think it might be a question of perspective.  Here are a few slides from a recent talk I did to try to illustrate my point;





If that is the true situation then we can pull back and look at the bigger picture here in the UK;


1 comment:

  1. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE A MORE SERIOUS VERSION OF THIS PROGRAMME,AN OPEN INVITATION TO LEADING CREATIONIST,TO ATTEND A TOP UNIVERSITY,THE ONE WHICH IS UNDENIABLY TOP DOG IN A SPECIFIC SCIENTIFIC FIELD(LITERALLY A NOBLE PRIZE WINNERS WHERE POSSIBLE)THIS IS AN UNDENIABLE MARK OF EXCELLENCE THAT EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS,SUBJECTS TO BE DISCUSSED CHEMISTRY,EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY,GEOLOGY,PALEONTOLOGY,WITH PROPS(THE TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS,THAT DO NOT EXIST WOULD BE A START ! ),WITH STUDENTS EXPLAINING WHAT IS FACT AND WHAT IS FICTION,THE PROFESSORS COULD STEP IN AS NEEDED,HAVE INDEPENDENT CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS ADJUDICATORS,THE CARNIVAL BARKING OF SOME CREATIONISTS WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED,SIMPLE STATEMENTS OF FACTS AND THEORY,THE REASON FOR STUDENTS EXPLAINING IT ? BECAUSE THESE WILL BE THE NEXT GENERATION OF SCIENTISTS WHO WILL THRILL US WITH THEIR DISCOVERIES,UNIVERSITIES ARE FIGHTING FOR CUSTOMERS LIKE ANY BUSINESS,IT WOULD BE A MASSIVE BOOST FOR THE UPTAKE OF SCIENCE COURSES,IF THIS SERIES OF DEBATES SETTLED THE ENDLESS DENIALS OF THE FACTS FRO THE SAKE OF RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE,I HAVE DYSLEXIA THE SPELLING IS SPELL CHECKED,THE GRAMMAR IS THE BEST I CAN DO,I HAVE BEEN AS CONCISE AS I CAN,I HOPE THIS MAKES SOME SENSE.

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