The Left’s Strange Obsession With Evangelical Creationism

The Left’s Strange Obsession With Evangelical Creationism April 7, 2014
No one thinks about creationism more than the secular Left.

I’ve been reminded of this fact while watching leftist coverage of Fox’s series “Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey.” With each body-blow to young-earth creationism,lefty writers cheer like WWE fans watching a compilation of John Cena highlights. Here’s Mother Jones, for example:

To be a Young Earth creationist is to hold a truly unique place in the history of wrongness. These religious ideologues don’t just deny human evolution; their belief in a universe that is only a few thousand years old commits them to an enormity of other errors, including many beliefs that fly in the face of modern physics.

Last night’s episode of Cosmos, devoted to explaining the nature of space, time, and the speed of light, presented a stunning case in point. For as host Neil deGrasse Tyson explained, if creationists were right about the extreme youth of the universe, then we wouldn’t even be able to see the vast majority of the stars in the sky. The Hubble Space Telescope? Not a very worthwhile investment.

As a lifelong Evangelical (actually, I grew up in a quite fundamentalist church before leaving after college ultimately to join a Reformed denomination), I look at this obsession as a symbol of leftist ignorance of Evangelical culture. Yes, if you ask most Evangelicals what they believe about the age of the earth and the origin of the universe, they’re going to side with the more literal interpretation of the Genesis story. But I would describe this as a “soft” or low-priority belief. Whether the Earth is a few thousand years old or several billion isn’t fundamental to their understanding of the Bible, the world, or their faith. It’s simply their default position.

I’ve never been a young-earth creationist, and I have not once encountered serious push-back or anger from fellow Christians, just curiosity. It’s something to talk about once we’ve exhausted, say, our analysis of why the Southeastern Conference is the finest college football conference in the land (but really, can that topic ever be exhausted?) To be sure, a small number of Christians fiercely and zealously defend the young-earth position, but their influence is vastly overstated by secular journalists who need them more than the church does. In fact, in 45 years of life I can remember exactly one in-pulpit presentation of the young-earth position. By contrast, I can remember countless statements to the effect that a position on the age of the earth isn’t an indispensable element of the Christian faith.

One suspects that the Left hopes to find the magic scientific bullet that will cripple faith and expose the faithful as fools. If they hope to accomplish this, I suggest they change topics. I can think of few better (short) expressions of overall Evangelical belief about the creation than Mike Huckabee’s response when asked about evolution in a CNN debate in the 2008 election cycle. (Really CNN? A question about evolution in a presidential debate?) Watch his response and ask yourself whether the show “Cosmos” or any other triumphant discussion of the speed of light or any other scientific proof of the earth’s age is ultimately relevant to a Christian’s faith in his Creator:

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  • AntiFred

    I had no idea that the scientific method was a leftist ideology.

  • Mark Alien

    Those darn Leftists are at it again? Psssst….When will they learn to stop using so many facts in their theories? It confuses so many evangelicals

  • Dorfl

    I don’t think you get why creationism/intelligent design/whatever-they’re-calling-it-these-days is a problem. I don’t actually care whether a person who accepts creationism has it as a low- or high-priority belief, whether it’s fundamental to their understanding of the bible or whether science education would somehow cripple their faith*.

    The problem is that a person who accepts creationism is scientifically illiterate. In a society that depends on science for its day-to-day functioning, it’s not a good thing if a large part of the population lacks a basic understanding of that science.

    * I’m not sure why anyone would think it could to that. Most Christians accept evolution. Creationism is much more a culturally American thing than it’s a religiously Christian thing.

  • Playful Lutra

    The issue is not the beliefs of the fundamentalists. The issue is their desire to impose those beliefs on others.

    Too many times we have seen where the pseudoscience of creationism is pushed in the public and educational sector as equal to established science. This has huge implications to our advancement as a society.

    Isaac Asimov wrote: Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

  • GubbaBumpkin

    I find the Republican obsession with voter fraud to be “strange,” because investigation after investigation has shown voter fraud to be almost nonexistent.

    But Young Earth Creationism? It exists, and its proponents are attempting to push it on the population in general. Congratulations to you if you are not a part of that effort, but to be unaware of its existence is rather odd.

    Currently in the news:

    Bryan College in Dayton Tennessee may lose several of its faculty because it has decided to enforce a “statement of faith” on them. Apparently you are unaware, or unconcerned with this.

    In South Carolina, a third grader suggested that the Columbia Mammoth be designated the state fossil. The resulting bill was blocked by Creationist legislators. The measure eventually passed, but with a statement that “Section 1-1-712A. The Columbian Mammoth, which was created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field,…” Again, the oddest part is that you are unaware, or unconcerned about this.

    CuriOdyssey, a science education center in San Mateo, California placed a warning on a poster advertising an educational exhibit: “This program may discuss the topic of evolution.” The oddest part about this is that you are either unaware, or unconcerned, with this.

    Although we are living in the 21st century, a sizable number of public school districts have faced controversy when it has been discovered that creationism was being taught in their science classes. Numerous other public schools have avoided controversy only because their creationist teaching efforts have not come to light. The oddest part is that you are either unaware, or unconcerned, about this.

    Creationism, mostly advanced by Evangelical Christians in this country, exists and has created problems. The only thing that is “strange” is that you apparently never read the news.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    (Really CNN? A question about evolution in a presidential debate?)

    Several prominent candidates, mostly Republican, prefer to get their scientific knowledge from an ancient book which states that bats are a type of fowl, that rabbits chew their cud, that insects have four legs, that you can breed animals with stripes and speckles by putting sticks near their watering trough, and that there was a global flood, rather than from actual fact-based science books, and you do not consider this to be important or relevant? Maybe you think they should have asked him questions about SEC football instead.

  • Donalbain

    When people who reject the scientific method (as creationists do) sit on Congressional committees that directly deal with science, that is a major problem. When people who reject the use of evidence come to positions of power, that is a major problem. When creationists try to teach lies in school science lessons, that is a major problem.

  • paizlea

    Is it safe to assume, then, that you have no problem keeping religious ideas like young earth creationism out of science education and public policy?

    As a member of the “secular Left,” I can say that most of us wouldn’t think twice about your unscientific beliefs, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many on the Christian Right are trying to cram those beliefs down society’s throat.

  • Nemo

    It’s not hard to figure out why. When you argue any religious or political issue, people often go right for the other side’s weaknesses. Kinda like how you strike a mugger in the crotch rather than in the knife. That’s why just about any atheist can tell you what Kent Hovind or Larry Craig got themselves in trouble for years after most people forgot about them. And that’s why most of the Christians on here know about those times when Dawkins said something stupid like how you should always mock people. Also, both the atheist movement and the Christian conservative movement do feed off of each other. Since young earth creationists are simultaneously the more vocal part of the latter, and more of a liability, is it any wonder for the focus on them?

  • I trust that you agree that the First Amendment prohibits the teaching of any creationist nonsense in public schools.

  • Zeke

    Which is it?

    most Evangelicals …..side with the more literal interpretation of the Genesis story


    a small number of Christians fiercely and zealously defend the young-earth position

    All polling shows the answer is the former. The goal is not to expose the faithful as fools. Just this particular virulent and dangerous strain of evangelicals that should be disqualified from any position in public service that requires rational thought.

  • David French

    Both are true. Most Evangelicals side with the more literal interpretation. Only a few really care. It’s not that difficult to grasp.

  • Sterling Ericsson

    Actually, that’s not the reason for the focus at all. The reason why liberals have been focusing on young earth creationism is that there is a significant amount of political power that that group has obtained over the years and is now trying to directly wield in politics.

    The many recent attempts to get young earth creationism taught in schools as science and the fact that many politicians, including those on the House Science Committee, openly say they believe the Earth is only 6000 years old are all examples of this political push. It is this sort of thing that liberals are fighting against and one would think rightfully so. This goes beyond involving religion in government, this is an attempt to outright push pseudo-scientific misinformation onto the masses.

  • gimpi1

    I can’t speak for “the left,” but I object to young-earth creationism for several reasons:

    Firstly, it’s wrong. Facts are facts. You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. (And no, willful ignorance is not a valid opinion.)

    Secondly, because it seems to lead to very destructive beliefs, such as a belief that our resources are virtually limitless since God gave us all we need (and those resources such as oil or coal didn’t form out of plant material over millions of years), or that, because of Christ’s imminent return, we don’t have to concern ourselves with the environment.

    Thirdly, it leads to a tendency to mistrust science, such as the anti-vaccine movement or faith-healing. People, including dependent children suffer greatly because they don’t use modern medicine to treat easily treatable conditions, or get diseases that they could have easily prevented with a vaccine.

    Fourthly, it can generate an almost paranoid mistrust of science, education and the modern world. I understand that’s only among the most extreme, but the paranoid belief is out there, and it is dangerous. People are choosing to “shelter” their children by keeping them grossly uneducated. That’s not sheltering, that’s abuse.

  • gimpi1

    If they vote based on that belief, they can be a danger to the environment. They can refuse to deal with resource problems because they don’t accept how those resources developed. They can cut funding to science that they don’t approve of, no matter how valid and necessary it is. They can ignore environmental problems because they don’t accept an evolving environment. I care if they believe things that simply aren’t true. And, they do.

  • TheSquirrel

    A “soft or low priority belief”.
    If that’s the case, then drop the belief. It’s already been proven wrong.

    Is the obsession on the left so strange when you concider the right is trying to teach this garbage to our children?

  • ernestmiller

    Sure would be nice if this was just about the secular left. Turns out, some of the religious left believe that young earth creationism is blasphemous, biblical idolatry that is turning millions away from the true message of the bible.

    And, although this might be a “soft” belief, it has surprisingly hard consequences. How many Republican Party leaders are willing to come out and say that creationism has no place in the classroom? Or, do you belief that this isn’t a concern and that Christians should feel persecuted because creationism is not permitted in the public classroom?

    Perhaps it is mere coincidence, but disbelief in man-made global warming tracks closely with those who have been taught that a huge anti-religious scientific conspiracy has been ongoing since Darwin’s time to undermine the bible with evolution. Call me crazy, but opposition to even acknowledging global warming seems an awful hard consequence for such a “soft” belief.

    This isn’t secularism vs. religion. This is adherence to a severely flawed version of biblical interpretation vs. truth. Keep blaming creationism on secularists and you’re just

  • BT

    I can’t quite agree that it’s a “soft”‘belief. As a progressive living in an evangelical culture, I frequently felt I had to hide evolutionist views. I’ve been told I’m not a real Christian, am jeopardizing our children, and have no faith. I’ve had people pull children out of youth groups because I wouldn’t let creationism be taught as rigid dogma.

    No, it’s not soft and it’s not harmless.

  • it’s not that significant if it can’t even get passed in the Bible belt. As a force beyond that, it’s non-existent. Essentially, it’s the same thing they tried to do with “Dominionism,” inflate a few incidents of it in the public sphere into a massive threat.

    Plus, it tickles atheists fancy to feel superior to creationists as well as see them as some looming threat they need to repress.

  • Unah

    Wow. I have no idea what you are trying to say here. Growing up evangelical, evolution was equated with atheism and the devil. There has only recently been a shift in thinking on this issue towards evolution. I have found that most evangelicals resist accepting the term ‘evolution,’ even though that is a concept many ultimately accept. There is only one truth on this issue, and evolution is that truth. A literal 7 day creation is fantasy. The radical fundamentalists may be few, but they are completely embraced, and defended by other conservitave Christians. The left has every right to be concerned about creationist junk science because there is a constant battle to have this foolishness taught in public science classrooms. Conservative Christians who may not fully accept creationism are siding with the radicals because their default position is to support anything labeled Christian, no matter how ignorant or dangerous it is. In this country most Christians are too lazy to care about truth. All they care about is a man in a suit, with a bible in his hand, but they are too deaf to hear the poison in his tongue. As a Christian, I side with the left on this issue. Creationist belief and support is something to be very concerned about.

  • Unah

    The fact that someone tried to get it passed proves that this is a significant issue. If there were 12 states that tried and failed to prevent girls from attending school, I hope people in this country would consider that a significant issue. There have been 12 states that have tried to either undermine the teaching of evolution as fact, or attempted to open the door to creationist teaching. When we have any politicians on the House SCIENCE Committee that don’t believe in science, that is significant. When we have politicians stand up and call evolution ‘a lie from the pits of hell,’ that is significant. The idea that atheists are gleefully picking on Christians because they believe the earth is 6000 years old is a paranoid idea. Atheists do not care about what Christians believe nearly as much as Christians care about what atheists believe. Atheists and sane Christians, like me, do not want to hear about creationism at all, and we certainly do not want our children taught that there is any legitimacy in it either.

  • Someone is trying to get California split into six different states. That’s on the ballot too, by a big tech guy no less. Just because some people back resolutions doesn’t mean they have a chance in heck to be passed.

    And come on, atheists are all about caring what Christians believe, or they wouldn’t show up on a Christian blog the moment creationism is mentioned. It’s so much of their identity to worry about them that atheism would probably collapse if Christians were no longer even a moderate social force.

  • Jim Bales

    Mr. French writes:

    “Watch his response and ask yourself whether the show “Cosmos” or any other triumphant discussion of the speed of light or any other scientific proof of the earth’s age is ultimately relevant to a Christian’s faith in his Creator.”

    At Mr. French’s request, I watched the response of the Reverend (and former Governor) Huckabee to the question, “Do you believe literally that it was done is six days and occurred 6,000 years ago?” His response was “I don’t know.” It is not hard to make the effort to learn what we have elucidated about the age of the universe and the process of the origin of the species. The only way one cannot know is by choosing to be ignorant.

    Many have responded to Mr. French’s post.

    Just as I acquiesced to his request to “Watch his [Huckabee’s] response”, I ask Mr. French to extend to his readers that small courtesy of responding, point by point, to the specific replies in this comment thread.

    Mr. French once wrote:

    “I … instead to offer a middle ground framework for dialogue and resolution. Rather than fit within the low/high or high/low framework, I propose something more akin to high/medium – a high view of scripture combined with a view of science and history that recognizes their astounding achievements while still aware of their profound limitations.”

    By directly addressing the specific concerns raised by in the comments to this post, Mr. French can recognize the “astounding achievements” of history and science, and then identify those specific limitations of science and history he finds “profound”. I, for one, cannot think of a better way for Mr. French to demonstrate that he is committed to open dialog rather than scoring debate points against “the secular Left”.

    Should Mr. French choose to remain silent — or should he choose to answer with broad generalities rather than directly addressing the specific concerns of his readers — then we will know that Mr. Frenchbears false witness. I think better of Mr. French than that, and am confident that he will directly address the specific concerns raised by GubbaBumpkin, piazlea, Donalbain, Playful Lutra, and the rest.

    Jim Bales

  • Jim Bales

    swordcrossrocket writes:

    “And come on, atheists are all about caring what Christians believe, or they wouldn’t show up on a Christian blog the moment creationism is mentioned.”

    Atheists believe it is wrong for Christians to use the force of government to impose their beliefs upon others. Perhaps swordcrossrocket will explain precisely why they believe otherwise.

    Jim Bales

  • Unah

    California trying to split into different states is not the same thing as multiple states trying to pass legislation that undermines the teaching of reality in a science class room. Some of these things did, in fact, pass. Having warning labels on science textbooks that say evolution is ‘only a theory, and not fact’ has passed in some of those states. This type of label keeps people ignorant about what a scientific theory actually is.

    Please don’t hold up an internet troll on some random blog as an example of what any group of people actually think. You could go to any blog where evolution is being taught and see all kinds of rude Christians making all kinds of ignorant and inflammatory comments. Atheists absolutely do not care what other people think about religion. Of course, if there is an open forum, like you find on the internet, there will be atheists who are going to give their opinions, some of which are probably harsh. Get a thicker skin.

  • Unah

    Me too. I don’t know where this author lives, where Evangelicals don’t really care about creationism. I actually have the opposite problem from you, though. I’m usually the one pulling my child out of children’s church because of creationist teachings. I don’t mind the bible stories being taught, but I object to the snide anti-science comments that get added to the lesson.

  • Unah

    Who cares what they believe. Lots of people believe crazy things. How do they vote? That is the issue here. Do they vote for politicians who call science ‘a lie from the pits of hell,’ or do they vote for politicians who embrace and promote science? There are people in this country that believe different types of rocks have magical powers, but these people are not trying to get this taught in science classrooms. If they were, the left would be concerned about them, hopefully you would too. I don’t understand why you are having trouble grasping the problem here.

  • BT

    I think you seriously help your child deal with modern realities when you draw the line this way.

    When I teach, I do not allow snide comments to pass without challenge from me.

    When my son heard comments like that, we made it a point to discus them.

    One suggestion – one thing we’ve learned about living in a Christian community is the difficulty involved in living alongside those with whom we have serious disagreements. We are the lone progressives in a very warm community that accepts us. One of my best friends is a serious tea party type.

    While we have disagreements that run from sea to sea, they have also taught me how to accept those with whom I differ.

    What about leaving your kids exposed to folks like that but providing better guidance from within your own family?

    Depends on your situation and your child of course. I can only say I think it’s been beneficial for us. Your results may differ 🙂

  • BT

    As dominionism is one of the ideologies driving the tea party, I wouldn’t classify the coverage of it as overblown at all. If anything, the linkages between folks like North, Huckabee, Perry and the new apostolic reformation etc are under reported.

    To me, calling it overblown is similar to saying creationism is a soft belief.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    Would you like to play Show and Tell with your special definition of atheism?

  • wfraser11

    Its not strange to be disgusted with intentional proselytizing ignorance in the form of evangelical creationists.Bizarre article by an ignorant writer.