The Case for a Creator, Chapter 1
We pick up where we left off, with self-proclaimed former skeptic Lee Strobel interviewing a rural Appalachian community whose inhabitants were violently resisting the teaching of evolution. As we’ll see, Strobel believes a person can be fully justified in advocating creationism. Yet it seems improbable that these isolated, deeply religious communities were thoroughly acquainted with the complicated philosophical and scientific arguments he deploys later in the book. Their staunch rejection of science was not based on any detailed knowledge of the subject matter. Rather, the real reason for their anger was laid out, albeit unintentionally, in several different interviews:
“The books bought for our school children would teach them to lose their love of God, to honor draft dodgers and revolutionaries, and to lose their respect for their parents,” insisted the intense, dark-haired wife of a Baptist minister… [p.9]
The preacher… turned to the crowd and held aloft a book titled Facts about VD. “This is gonna turn your stomachs, but this is the kind of book your children are reading!” [p.15]
And a local businessman:
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “If Darwin’s right, we’re just sophisticated monkeys. The Bible is wrong. There is no God. And without God, there’s no right or wrong. We can just make up our morals as we go. The basis for all we believe is destroyed. And that’s why this country is headed to hell in a handbasket. Is Darwin responsible? I’ll say this: people have to choose between science and faith, between evolution and the Bible, between the Ten Commandments and make-’em-up-as-you-go ethics. We’ve made our choice – and we’re not budging.” [p.11]
As you can clearly see from these quotes, the primary reason these West Virginians were so upset about evolution is not because they believed it was incorrect – though they certainly believed that – but because they disliked what they saw as the consequences of teaching it. They preferred to choose their belief, and their children’s beliefs, based not on what is true but on what they wanted to be true.
The residents were also enraged that anyone might want to study Christianity any way other than devotionally, as that businessman goes on to say:
“Listen to what Dynamics of Language tells our kids,” he said as he quoted an excerpt from the textbook: “Read the theory of divine origin and the story of the Tower of Babel as told in Genesis. Be prepared to explain one or more ways these stories could be interpreted.” He tossed the well-worn clipping on the table in disgust. [p.11]
Horrors! Children might learn in school about alternative interpretations of religion? Why, those wicked school administrators even wanted to teach them facts about STDs! What’s next – teaching them to question and think critically? How could any self-respecting Christian community permit that?
One would think that, at this point, a rational, hard-nosed journalist would point out that the possible social consequences of a scientific theory have no bearing on whether that theory is true. Strobel does not do this. Instead, he seemingly underlines and excuses his interviewees’ fears with the following incredible assertion:
Darwin’s theory of evolution… meant that there is no universal morality decreed by a deity, only culturally conditioned values that vary from place to place and situation to situation. [p.16]
Leave aside the evolutionary biologists who are Christian. (We’ll get to them later.) Strobel’s astonishing claim is that evolution being true would rule out not just Christianity, but all possible beliefs about God. As an atheist, I have to admit I’d be greatly pleased if that were true, but it just doesn’t follow by any conceivable chain of logic. Why would evolution rule out a deity who creates through evolution and who also decrees a universal morality for humans? Strobel doesn’t say.
But the lunacy about evolution and morality isn’t over yet. In the next installment, it will become more ridiculous still.
Other posts in this series: