July 19, 2013

PAST THE AGE OF RETIREMENT:

Why I'm a creationist (Virginia Heffernan, 7/11/13, Yahoo News)

[A]t heart, I am a creationist. There, I said it. At least you, dear readers, won't now storm out of a restaurant like the last person I admitted that to. In New York City saying you're a creationist is like confessing you think Ahmadinejad has a couple of good points. Maybe I'm the only creationist I know.

This is how I came to it. Like many people, I heard no end of Bible stories as a kid, but in the 1970s in New England they always came with the caveat that they were metaphors. So I read the metaphors of Genesis and Exodus and was amused and bugged and uplifted and moved by them. And then I guess I wanted to know the truth of how the world began, so I was handed the Big Bang. That wasn't a metaphor, but it wasn't fact either. It was something called a hypothesis. And it was only a sentence. I was amused and moved, but considerably less amused and moved by the character-free Big Bang story ("something exploded") than by the twisted and picturesque misadventures of Eve and Adam and Cain and Abel and Abraham.

Later I read Thomas Malthus' "Essay on the Principle of Population" and "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin, as well as probably a dozen books about evolution and atheism, from Stephen Jay Gould to Sam Harris.

The Darwin, with good reason, stuck with me. Though it's sometimes poetic, "The Origin of Species" has an enchantingly arid English tone to it; this somber tone was part of a deliberate effort to mark it as science and not science fiction--the "Star Trek" of its time. The book also alights on a tautology that, like all tautologies, is gloriously unimpeachable: Whatever survives survives.

But I still wasn't sure why a book that never directly touches on human evolution, much less the idea of God, was seen as having unseated the story of creation. In short, "The Origin of Species" is not its own creation story. And while the fact that it stints on metaphor--so as to avoid being like H.G. Wells--neither is it bedrock fact. It's another hypothesis.

Cut to now. I still read and read and listen and listen. And I have never found a more compelling story of our origins than the ones that involve God. The evolutionary psychologists with their just-so stories for everything ("You use a portable Kindle charger because mothers in the primordial forest gathered ginseng") have become more contradictory than Leviticus. Did you all see that ev-psych now says it's women who are naturally not monogamous, in spite of the same folks telling us for decades that women are desperate to secure resources for their kids so they frantically sustain wedlock with a rich silverback who will keep them in cashmere?

Sigh. When a social science, made up entirely of observations and hypotheses, tells us first that men are polygamous and women homebodies, and then that men are monogamous and women gallivanters--and, what's more builds far-fetched protocols of dating and courtship and marriage and divorce around these notions--maybe it's time to retire the whole approach.

Posted by at July 19, 2013 5:26 AM
  

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