Why the Creationists Must Fight Evolution

The Huffington Post’s surprising posting on July 2nd of what all liberals probably regard as Creationist propaganda can at least open the door for an acknowledgement of how deep and serious this issue is for Creationists, and why their intuition – as often – is more deeply right than they may know.

As many biblical literalists maintain, evolution says there is no plan (or Planner) for life; it’s random, just one damned thing after another, everything passing and changing (except maybe things like sharks, horseshoe crabs and cockroaches).  Nothing’s permanent, nothing is special, including us.  They contrast this with the story saying God – who created the whole universe – created us as the center of his concern, and gave us dominion over everything on earth.  Or as Ann Coulter so characteristically put it:  “God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.’”  With or without the moral vulgarity, it’s hard to beat a story that says the Creator of the whole universe made it for our benefit, and loves us as a Heavenly Father. 

Ann Coulter

To many, these efforts by the Creationists are the last desperate gasp of a religion born within an ancient and naïve picture of the universe as a completely local affair. In what’s called the “three-story universe,” Earth was flat like a pizza. Heaven was “up” above the firmament, which was made of rock – the Greeks had their strongest god holding it up.  Hell was “down,” and was a place of hellfire and brimstone – as anyone could see just by watching the awful stuff shooting out of volcanoes. 

 This is the worldview within which the heavens could open, and a Voice proclaim that Jesus was His son, in whom he was much pleased, or within which Jesus could “descend” to hell.  When that worldview died, so did the literal coherence of the religions born within it.  Seen in this light, some of the Creationists’ most hysterical claims – Adam rode a dinosaur? – make perfect psychological sense, as a desperate attempt at “bargaining” that could let them believe their salvation story could still be credible in our modern world.  In Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s “Five stages of loss” model, bargaining is the last stop before falling off the cliff of deeply held beliefs that are no longer tenable.  We’ll make almost any bargain to avoid the desperation of having no story to make sense of our lives, losses and loves. 

(Credit: Michael Paukner's "The Ancient Hebrew Conception of the Universe".

There is also a deeper dimension — ancient, poignant and now sad — to the denial of evolution.  Religious thinkers in the Western Bible-based religions have known for over two thousand years that if Chance is given any role AT ALL in determining things, then God has no significant role.  This was the core of the Greek philosophy of Epicureanism, which held that we can plan and work, and accomplish some good things, but nothing and no one controls events, for Chance has its way with us all. 

The Jews used the word “apikoros” (“Epicurean”) as a term for the most vile apostasy. But long before Epicurus (341-270 BCE), Greek mythology had proclaimed the goddess Tykhe (Chance) as sovereign of all the gods, “for she alone disposes all things as she wills.”
Epicureanism – meaning the worldview that gives Chance that kind of “sovereign” role – has always been the mortal philosophical enemy of our biblical religions.  Evolution is just the latest widely accepted perspective that gives Chance an essential role in how life came about and continues to change. 
At stake for the Creationists is a fundamental question: Is God in charge of history, or does Chance play a role?  If Chance plays a role, then God is not in charge.  And if God is not in charge, why bother?  The Creationists’ intuition is correct: the contest between the “God of history” and Chance is a win-lose scenario.  But it does seem very clear (at least to most scientists) that Chance is a fundamental quirk: in the evolution of life, religions, and our many understandings of the symbol “God.”

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About the Author

Davidson Loehr is a former musician, combat photographer and press officer in Vietnam, owner of a photography studio in Ann Arbor, and a carpenter. He holds a Ph.D. in methods of studying religion, theology, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of science, with an additional focus on language philosophy (The University of Chicago). From 1986 to 2009, he served as a Unitarian minister. He is the author of one book, America, Fascism & God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher, (Chelsea Green, 2005). Now retired from the ministry, he is building a platform to become involved in national discussions of religion, science and culture. His book in progress is The Rise of Secular Religion in America.

  • Lin Foote

    This is a good brief statement to support its title. Some folks may not like leaving out free choice, but in the long term look at change through mutations and natural selection, chance certainly dominates.

  • Remus

    Excellent article.

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