More on teaching creationism | Bleader

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More on teaching creationism

Posted By on 05.01.12 at 02:02 PM

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One durable theory of human origins
  • One durable theory of human origins
Looking over the comments that follow my Monday Bleader post on the teaching of evolution and creationism in Tennessee, I see some readers objecting to the idea that creationism be taught as a science.

I hope the earlier post isn't giving the impression that I think it should be. What I wrote, putting my thoughts into the mouth of the governor of Tennessee, was, "I want every graduate of the public schools of Tennessee to understand the theory of evolution and why people believe in it and the theory of creationism and why people believe in it. Science and faith are the twin foundations of America and our kids deserve to be as thoroughly grounded in both as their country is."

In other words, if science and faith can give such extremely different answers to fundamental questions, we cheat children if we don't explain to them the wellsprings of those answers. I doubt if my last post would have occurred to me if I hadn't just read a review of the new book When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God, by T.M. Luhrmann, a psychological anthropologist.

The reviewer wishes Luhrmann had tried to explain the insistence of most evangelicals on biblical infallibility—there being "nothing inherently conservative in a dynamic prayer life." But it's a minor complaint. That dynamic prayer life is the focus of the book, and reviewer Molly Worthen is impressed by the arduous training required to attain it: "Luhrmann compares the 'sophisticated expertise' required to hear God's voice to the training that a sonogram technician needs in order to distinguish the outline of a fetus from a fuzzy black-and-white haze: it is a matter of 'training perception.'"

And when, despite this acquired skill, God's "presence fades," to evangelicals "it means God has decided that your faith is so strong, you don't need constant proof." As Luhrmann puts it, "The concept of spiritual maturity allows people to reinterpret a disappointment as, in effect, a promotion."

My secular readers might wonder, how can we reason with such people? I suppose that on some matters—and creationism is probably one of them—you can't. As Worthen writes in conclusion, Luhrmann has helped to explain "why the carefully reasoned arguments that the 'new atheist' writers mount against religion often fall flat. The most convincing 'proof' of religion is not scientific but psychological. There is no way to undo the conviction of believers that God himself told them he is real and his story is true."

It's not enough for students to be told that creationism is rooted in faith and Americans who believe in it do so on faith. They should know what faith is. Unlike many secular Americans who scratch their heads, they should get faith. Some will be seduced by its certainty. And some who step outside it to think about it will never return.

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