January 5, 2006

God, As Revealed to....



GETTING OFF ON THE CLUB FOOT: SPIEGEL Interview with Evolution Philosopher Daniel Dennett

SPIEGEL: Professor Dennett, more than 120 million Americans believe that God created Adam our of mud some 10,000 years ago and made Eve from his rib. Do you personally know any of these 120 million?
Really? Let's see, there are currently 300 million Americans. The Spiegel's blunt assertion to which Dennet utterly agrees would mean that one in three American men, women, and children hold to the literal story of Creation -- mud, 10,000 years, case closed. One would assume that everyone would know someone at that ratio. But the number itself seems more opportunistic than true.

I suppose that if you looked mostly at children who were still of the age when the Tooth Fairy is their own personal cash machine, and added them to hard-core evangelicals you might be able to bump the real number up, but I still don't think you get even a sizable portion of 120 million. At any rate, I'd hope the discussion would only cite the beliefs of adults, but maybe the Darwins are so threatened they have to pour in some kids to get to scary numberland.

The bald assertion certainly gets the interview off to a big bang, but I for one find it hard to credit it as the cold, hard statistical fact these two want to pound on in their paranoia.

Indeed, if there is any basis for this number at all it would seem to be derived by lumping together young Earth creationism, old-Earth creationism, day-age creationism, theistic evolution, neo-creationism, Jewish creationism, and a few others. Creationism, it would seem, is a house of many mansions, and I suppose the could all add up in the mind of a Darwin to a big, bad threat.

While I accept that a few Christian denominations require their members to swear to the Biblical Creation story on, well, a stack of Bibles, the last time I checked there were any number of churches that had no such requirement, Catholic and Protestant. It is my impression that for most Christian faiths you need to believe in one God and Jesus Christ as His only son to belong. The Unitarians are a bit sketchy on those two things, but hey what's a heaven without some Unitarians in the mix to spend eternity telling everyone else they're still not quite sure?

Of late, I've been attending a wide variety of Christian Services around the greater Seattle area, and there doesn't (so far) seem to be a great deal of rancor within the various denominations. Neither have I stumbled across one that insists on believing in Biblical creation stories or getting out, but I suppose that could come up on any Sunday. I'm sure there are a goodly number of Christians that do believe in the literal truth of the Bible and who handle doubters and snakes with equal aplomb. But 120 million?

I think that says much more about the rigid belief set of Dennett and the Spiegel than American Christians. Of course, I could be wrong. But then again so could Dennett. For while Christians firmly believe they have been touched by the Spirit of God in Christ, Dennett just as clearly believes he has been "touched by some noodly appendage."
UPDATE: AN email alerts me to this Dennett sighting --Darwin. Destroyer of God , which reminded me he'd made a previous appearance on this site in 2003 with The "Brights:" Smug, Self-satisfied and Stupid.

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Posted by Vanderleun at January 5, 2006 1:05 PM | TrackBack
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I am an evangelical Christian (well, Pentecostal, but near enough for a Darwinist not to know the difference), and I know loads of others, and I've never met anyone who believes the story of Genesis as a literal piece of history (it's extremely profound, in fact, but there's no space to explain it here). I don't even know any Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that (I know several, and they are the most literal Biblical interpreters around).

I would have an easier time believing some of the Rationalists of the world were as smart as they claim to be if they had even the slightest clue what Christians actually think.

Tiresome adolescent gags like the 'noodle monster' tend to make me think the average liberal/libertarian is a pretty dim bulb. After all, isn't the first step of wisdom knowing that there are things you don't know?

Posted by: Kip Watson at January 5, 2006 8:58 PM

I laughed at the flying spaghetti monster the first time I saw the reference, (the writer was mocking some Kansas school board), but I think the real genius was his follow up graph linking disappearance of pirates with the rise of global warning.

Now, I have to wonder at Mr. Watson's remark about not ever meeting anyone who took the story of Genisis literally, because when I was growing up in the midwest, I knew several who indeed took the bible completely literally. They also had things to say about me being Catholic too, but that's a different story.

Posted by: Eric Blair at January 6, 2006 6:35 AM

I know a few literalists, but we agree to disagree on Genesis. It's hard for me to get my head around a literal interpretation given that there are two very different creation stories.

I think the leftist confidence that Christians are Bible thumping boobs is fueled, in part, by deceptive polling. It's impossible to accomodate much theological nuance in a "yes" or "no" question. My guess is that many devout Christians would struggle to articulate a coherent position on the truth of Scripture. I know that I would. And so when confronted with a black and white polling choice, we take the one that seems most true.

Posted by: Old Dad at January 6, 2006 8:41 AM

Australia's a very different country to the US, but come to think of it, when I was a kid Christians were different. Perhaps I did know some kids whose families were literal creationists then. It was a long time ago, anything's possible...

Likewise the anti-Catholic prejudice - that was shocking. I remember asking "What's a Dooley, Dad?" when I was about seven. He wouldn't answer me! (in Dad's defence he wasn't the one using the term)

And having returned 'to the fold' in recent years, my expereince - while fairly broad - is strictly contemporary.

Posted by: Kip Watson at January 6, 2006 1:45 PM
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