There is an appeal to creationism for certain people: it lies in the ability to submit to a myth without reflection, debate or real understanding. But the ultimate goal in promoting it as a point of legitimate pedagogical inquiry appears to be to coerce the obedience of a superstitious civic collective under a socially and politically regressive leadership.
And now it’s being used in this election cycle to counter intellectual and academic freedom in educational institutions.
Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson have both expressed their support of creationism and denial of evolution, with Carson attributing the teachings of evolution to “the Adversary”, Satan. Carson has promised that, if he becomes president, he would make the US Department of Education withdraw federal funding from institutions that show “extreme political bias”.
Carson’s example of “extreme political bias”? One lone professor who asked students to write “Jesus” on a sheet of paper and stomp on it. Carson omitted to add to his inflammatory account that the professor used the exercise to prove to his communication students that stomping on the word “Jesus” would be a marked example of a failed intercultural communication strategy.
There are legitimate ways to discuss the Bible critically and aesthetically; in the academic context, that can take the form of courses in literature, philosophy, comparative religion and even law. Like other scriptures, biblical stories are exemplary texts of literature that promise many benefits for the alert reader. But there is no valid reason to use creationism where more rigorous methods of scientific inquiry are superior.
The Republican presidential candidates’ public obsession with creationism , though, isn’t really about education. It’s about cementing their Christian credentials with the influential evangelical voting block by announcing their opposition to all that is not heterosexual, Christian and not “ speaking American ” — whatever that means.
It can be a winning strategy: a 2014 Gallup poll showed that 42% of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form 10,000 years ago. And a 2014 Pew Research Center poll of American voting behavior found that 78% of white evangelicals voted for Republican candidates, while only 20% voted for Democratic candidates.
The Republican obsequiousness to creationist philosophy might not be as anti-science as much as it is good politics: being pro-creationism often appears to be pandering to a conservative base – a way to whip up intellectually regressive policies to win the “culture wars” and, more importantly, elections.
However, while the right-wing secret handshake of creationism may appeal to a certain base, the future president will have to represent a vast, heterogeneous population in an increasingly globalized world. Letting go of the false sense of superiority – of religion, race, sexual orientation, nationality – might prove to be a decent first step in speaking to the world, and having the world listen in.
The Bible provides one explanation for the origins of the earth from one world religion, so it is bigotry to tell all Americans – or indeed the world – that everyone should believe in the Christian creation myth. Perhaps worse, Republicans’ using the public education system to proselytize hows a dangerous willingness to disregard science and logic in the service of defending the “rights” of a right-wing cohort feeling increasingly besieged .
No one is telling Christians that they can’t believe that the Earth is a couple thousand years old and was created in six days, if they want. But there’s no need to teach everyone else’s children a myth when there’s science to explain our origins – unless the goal is to make sure everyone grows up believing what they’re told, rather than what their eyes can see.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015