When I used to read things or hear things about creationists and all the totally illogical arguments for their position, I would laugh. Sometimes I would get angry at how stupid these people clearly were. How could they seriously not understand, for example, that us being related to “monkeys” does not preclude monkeys from still existing? I chalked it up to wilful ignorance and a church that filled their heads with fluff instead of substance. I feel differently now.
Recently, Bill Nye debated Ken Ham, a celebrated creationist about the merits of evolution over intelligent design. (Here is the video of that exchange). There are many who believe these debates do nothing but legitimize creationism by putting it on an equal footing with evolution, and that’s an interesting point. But not one I’m going to dwell on at the moment.
At the debate, a writer for BuzzFeed asked self-identifying creationists what questions they would ask Bill Nye to make him reconsider his position. This is the result:
(You can see all 22 pictures here.)
So the answer to this guy’s question is obviously, “Yes”. Yes, it is illogical to think trees erupted from the ground at the age of 87. Yes, it is illogical to believe that the first man was actually, well, a man.
The questions still drove me crazy but this time, I looked beyond the questions. I looked at the faces of the people holding these silly signs. They look nice, kind, funny. They look like they could be my friends, my mother or…me. And it made me sad.
These people have been misinformed. They have been neglected. How is it possible that these people, who all presumably went through a public school system, can be lacking such basic critical thinking skills? These people are not stupid – they truly don’t understand that they are missing major pieces of information. That in this world, like it or not, there exist some facts. That not everything can be debated just because you want to debate it. That 1+1=2. End of story. There are natural laws and fossils and evidence and measurable facts. There is a lot of skill in being able to deconstruct an argument or a statement and then critically analyze what is in front of you. It should be a skill we all learn. Whether we use that skill to assess claims on the back of a bottle of diet pills, or to follow a linear argument to a certain conclusion, we would all be better off for having that skill. Does it mean we would all agree? No. But it would certainly heighten the quality of the conversation. And then maybe all those nice people wouldn’t look so dumb.