The American Interest
Religion & Other Curiosities
Published on November 7, 2012
Creationism on Capitol Hill

The online periodical Huffington Post had the following story on October 10, 2012: Paul Broun, a Republican congressman from Georgia, made a speech at a Baptist church in which he affirmed his creationist convictions. Broun is a doctor and on the basis of this claimed to speak “as a scientist” (if only he were right on the scientific status of the medical profession—I have well-founded doubts). He reiterated the standard creationist views: We do live on a “young earth” (I still like this poetic phrase, however absurd its cognitive assumption), about nine-thousand years old. It was created in six days, as recounted in the Book of Genesis. He dismissed the prevailing views on the age of the earth (very old, sorry to say), along with the theory of evolution and embryology (Broun of course is also against abortion), as “lies straight from the pit of hell”.
I don’t know the congressman. Perhaps he really believes this nonsense. It is also possible that, like so many other politicians from both sides of the aisle, he says whatever he thinks his audience of the moment wants to hear—I would assume that he was not booed at the Baptist venue of his speech.  All of this would not be all that remarkable, except for the fact that Broun is a high-ranking member of the House Science committee.
The Huffington Post story reminds us that this august body also has (or as the case is now, had) as another member Todd Akin, Republican from Missouri. This is the gentleman who drew media attention by asserting that women cannot conceive in cases of “legitimate rape”. To be fair to Akin, he did not mean that some rapes are morally legitimate. As he later explained, he meant cases where women were really raped in terms of legal definition, as against cases where they only claimed to have been raped after the fact. Perhaps Akin had in mind the old Southern habit of “hollering rape”, of which I take it he disapproves.
Why did the Huffington Post report on this matter? I will speculate that what we have here is an ideologically congenial case that bundles together a set of common left-liberal prejudices—against Republicans, Evangelicals and the South. These are the stereotypical characters in the nightmares of American progressives—a grand conspiracy to take control of Washington and clamp down on their genitalia. H.L. Mencken, in his journalistic coverage of the 1925 “monkey trial” in Dayton,Tennessee was the granddaddy of this particular worldview:  Go south and west of Baltimore, and you are in the land of the Yahoos.
I would not for a moment dispute the characterization of the views expressed by Messrs. Broun and Akin as grossly superstitious. But I believe in equal treatment of all superstitions, on both sides of the aisle. Thus the same individuals who sneer at the beliefs of Bible-thumping Republicans believe that all differences between men and women are social conventions, that an eight-month embryo is as much a part of the mother’s body as her appendix, that racism can be abolished by the government allotting privileges by way of racial quotas, that wealth can be distributed without being produced, that homicidal regimes can be influenced by moral persuasion… Need I go on ?

Let me suggest a nonpartisan generalization:  Superstitions abound all over the political map. It is an interesting question which superstitions are more harmful to society.

  • Howard

    Otherwise intelligent people believe things convenient to their ideology no matter how absurd factually

  • http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com Peter Jessen

    This is a good topic to deal with an old but relevant Berge question that all such superstitions have to wrestle Jacob-like at the foot of the ladder they wish to climb to power: “what is an acceptable model of development?” He has said that after studying the two major competitors, capitalism and socialism, “I came down clearly on the side of capitalism as the only viable model of development.” His basis: the “weight of evidence.” His summary statements include “capitalism has lifted millions of people from dehumanizing misery, and “no socialist revolution has ever fulfilled its promise.” I believe he has also said “capitalism has brought more people out of poverty than any other system”. And he has evaluated by which provides more in a “calculus of meaning” and less in a “calculus of pain.” The key is the term “acceptable model,” and thus the question of “acceptable model” could be put to education, job creation, housing, hunger, and any one of a multiplicity of public policies.

    So how do we deal with the other creation myth, that which will now be followed with more zeal that young earth and have far more damaging influence than waking up progressives in the middle of the night with nightmares caused by the rumble of the four horseman of the conservative apocalypse in their dreams: socialism reborn, no-growth pursued, and protect the new Madonna with child, Mother Earth and her sun the environment, regardless of whatever human sacrifice/human collateral is necessary?

    In Berger’s “Pyramids of Sacrifice,” he notes the layers of pyramids, each with its own “new” creation theoy, each belonging to a different pyramid, each built over the preceding one, all under the great pyramid of Chulula, each with its own myths (“scientifically” held), each with a new set of concrete “cognitive defenses” against the older view (covering the older in the hope they don’t escape), each a platform of sacrifice to the new creation myth, which, in Chulula’s case, is continued in Mexico in the human sacrifices of poverty and drug cartels laid before the long term both pre-Columbian and post-Columbian gods of “centralized power.” What new sciences will be suggested to justify or inspire people to bow down to the “myth of growth” or the “myth of revolution” in their human sacrifice models?

    Corey Booker, Black Mayo of Newark, on Bill Maher’s show a year or so ago, following Bill’s anti-growth, anti-material things rant, said to Bill, “so you would have no growth.” Yes. “So you would condemn the people in Newark to perpetual poverty.” Bill said no but stuttered and stammered, and then Cory added, “and you would condemn the people of Africa to perpetual poverty.” Maher had no comeback other than saying “no” and letting the sound just drift away. But Bill is on air not to understand but to enable the true believers to keep the faith while also trying to convert the “heathen” to his gods. Berger, on the other hand, seeks to “understand the causes of underdevelopment and finding strategies to overcome it, but without landing in the dead end of leftist ideology.”

    This is a long way to engage my own thoughts in the after math of the recent election. The question before us is “quo vadis” President Obama and the leftist true believers in a creationing of a “young earth America” that is transformed by their policies, as they bow before the key creation myth of the left, the creation of a centralized government by progressives for the betterment of all (I’m tempted to say “the gooderment” of all).

    What if the 2nd term of the President continues the drumbeat away from the essence of modernism, as Berger has outlined it, “the gigantic shift from fate to choice,” such that in areas as industrial policy, ownership, health care, contract law, property rights, etc., the shift is more and more to the “cognitive elite” whose superior understanding leads to more policies designed to reduce choice and replace it not by fate but by government fiat?

    As Berger points out, contrary to Marxist thought but in keeping with sociological findings (sociology’s “debunking”aspect), “the wealthier a locale is, the more left-leaning it will be.” And there are fewer more leftist enclaves more wealthy than the political elites’ bedroom communities surrounding Washington, D.C. (among the richest and most elite counties in America).

    Thus, rather than the single instances of individuals (Broun, Akin – the list goes on), proclaiming their “science” primarily to the wind, we have the science of “class, race, gender” becoming more and more progressively pushed against individual choice. When Berger ends his essay by listing young earth creatives who “believe all differences between men and women are social conventions, that an eight-month embryo is as much a part of the mother’s body as her appendix, that racism can be abolished by the government allotting privileges by way of racial quotas, that wealth can be distributed without being produced, that homicidal regimes can be influenced by moral persuasion,” we indeed have new creationisms, new myths, new sets of “bad faith” that they would spread beyond capital hill to every hill and dale across this land.

    2014 will either be the beginning of the end of their turning back modernity to their choices alone, not freedom of others to chose on their own, or the end of their beginning ascent for who knows how many decades of human sacrfices on their policy pyramids before they too wind up in an Icarus-ian fall.

  • http://www.martinbermangorvine.com Martin Berman-Gorvine

    It’s certainly true that many “left/liberals” have many of the fallacious beliefs Mr. Berger lists. Coming out of the milieu, I am well aware of and very frustrated by people who think “that homicidal regimes can be influenced by moral persuasion.” But his list of all these supposed views is a caricature no less than “left/liberal” caricatures of knuckle-dragging creationist racist yahoos.
    Also, I would note that Mr. Mencken was not exactly an apostle of modern-style left-liberalism, he merely was the first to express some prejudices that exponents of this world view would come to share.

  • Gary Novak

    As Berger points out, the concept of “legitimate rape” is perfectly legitimate—if it refers to cases of real rape rather than cases where the “victim” cannot join Edith Piaff in singing “Je ne regret de rien.” Ex post facto “rapes” based on regret are not legitimately called rape. Akin’s sin was to use pregnancy as a criterion for ruling out legitimate rape—if you got pregnant, it wasn’t really rape. Mourdock lost the Senate race in Indiana for holding that abortion is immoral even in cases of rape. Romney endorsed abortion in cases of rape. Not wishing to make a responsible judgment, Akin simply denied that legitimate rape victims ever need abortions. Such bad faith does not deserve to be in the Senate.

    One might think that the left used “creationism on Capitol Hill” this year the same way liberal Thomas Frank (“What’s the Matter with Kansas?”) claims Republicans used social wedge issues in Bush’s 2004 re-election—as a distraction from more important economic issues. But there’s a difference. Frank claims Republicans knowingly deceived the simple folk of Kansas. (As Marxists used to say, capitalists must be good Marxists to succeed as well as they do.) But the leftist prejudices Berger lists are not concocted as opium for the masses by liberals who must be realists to succeed as well as they do. They are “the opium of the intellectuals” (Raymond Aron) who believe their own propaganda.

    What Ernest Becker (“The Birth and Death of Meaning”) called “hero-systems”—cultural meanings which allow us to “stage self-esteem”—have been historically only loosely constrained by reality. “Whole societies have been able to persist with central beliefs that bore little relation to reality.” But . . . “One of the terrifying things about living in the late decades of the twentieth century is that the margin that nature has been giving to cultural fantasy is suddenly being narrowed down drastically.” Becker was thinking of nuclear war, but it’s reasonable to ask if fantasies about the just distribution of wealth that is not first created are given a wide margin by nature in a global economy.

    The fantasies of Akin and Mourdock were recognized as such by a majority of the electorate. The fantasies of Obama are shared by a (slim) majority of the electorate and are, therefore, arguably more harmful.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    Here in California we have proof positive that the superstitiousness of the pagan Roman religions prior to Christianity are still alive and well.

    The recent Nov.6 election produced a new Los Angeles County ordinance that requires male porn stars to wear condoms under surveillance of a newly created porn police squad to protect the public health. This law has passed in a social culture that is always worried about the restoration of conservative “theocracy” and the invasion of private bedrooms by the police.

    Re-elected for District 27 in the California State Senate was environmental crusader Fran Pavley. She especially advocates for clean up of perchlorate from groundwater. Perchlorate is a natural salt also used as an accelerant in rocket fuel because of its high oxygen content. Chemically, it is one molecule of chlorine and four of oxygen (i.e., oxygenated chlorine). It does not cause cancer nor is it a poison. In very high concentrations it can cause educational deficits in unborn and infant children by blocking iodine to the thyroid gland. This can be cheaply remedied with iodized salt. Perchlorate is regulated at 6 parts per billion (a teaspoon in a swimming pool). When perchlorate at 62 million parts per billion was found on the ground surface in a creek bed in Dayton Canyon in the City of Calabbasas an emergency was declared. But a rainstorm beat the bureaucrats to the cleanup site and washed away the perchlorate. It was never found because dilution is the solution to pollution. Nonetheless, California is spending mega millions of dollars cleaning up low-level perchlorate sites with no demonstrable benefit every shown to public health. The entire country of Chile drinks naturally perchlorate-laced water at levels deemed unsafe in the U.S. with no greater birth defects or mental retardation. Both Republican engineering companies that build treatment plants and Democrat environmentalists have found a jobs program based mostly on exaggerated superstition. And politicians love to protect women and babies so what results in the social construction of groundwater pollution.

    Then there is California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2004 – also called the Cap and Trade Emissions Trading Law – that kicks in on Jan. 1, 2013 to mandate industrial reduction in air pollution on the basis of health (not aesthetics or enhanced view property values). Cap and Trade will initially transfer $1 billion a year in a modern version of a Roman tax farming scheme to low-income communities adversely impacted by air pollution. Among these communities are Oxnard, Oakland, and National City, all next to the ocean with much cleaner air and ocean views than agricultural Fresno or Bakersfield or the industrial City of Commerce or City of Industry in Los Angeles County. But, of course, this legislation is supposedly based on science produced from California’s finest state universities (that also depend on the revenues for their sinecures).

    Ancient Roman rulers were deemed superstitious because they thought they could divine their fate based on the entrails of chickens or whether a chicken crossed their path. Christianity vanquished such superstitions and led to the science of genetics made famous by Gregor Mendel. But California Gov. Jerry Brown puts down critics of global warming tax farming because he says science is on his side.

    Reportedly in the Christian Gospel of Matthew 16:3 Jesus said (paraphrased): “You know how to interpret the weather and climate change, but you do not know how to interpret the signs of the time.”

  • http://www.spiritualityandhistory.com Rev. Thomas Pullyblank

    Well said, Dr. Berger! As a liberal Christian, one of the most frustrating hypocrisies I encounter among other liberals is the smug conviction that only religious superstitions are invalid.

  • Pingback: Berger on Broun and Equal-Opportunity Superstition « I Love You but You're Going to Hell

  • Bruce Russell

    Hmmm. Mocking the idea of a supernatural out-of-nothing Creation apparently assumes that the best science yields the deepest and most accurate conclusions about reality. Remember that the Bible declares a New Creation that is even more incomprehensible than the original one. Could it be that even our best modern instruments leave us captive to severe spiritual myopia? So the earth appears very very very old. Does that mean that it is necessarily very very very old? The witnesses say that Jesus rose from the dead. Does that mean that he rose from the dead?

  • Michael McKegney

    I second the comments of Martin Berman-Gorvine above. Mr. Berger’s penultimate paragraph is a gross caricature of the beliefs of most liberals. What’s the point of such caricature? You surely know better, Mr. Berger!

  • Peter Barlow

    Dear Dr Berger,

    As you say, which superstitions are likely to cause more harm? Believing that the earth is 6,000 years old is not harmful to anyone. And, if the holder of such a belief is on a science committee, why is that a problem? I though liberals and thus liberal institutions such as “The American Interest” were in favour of diversity. Well, there you have diversity. One can believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, and still be a fully functioning, capable scientist. The only point at which it might become a problem is if one deliberately cancelled research programmes on the grounds that they were unnecessary, because we already know how old the earth is.
    It may seem odd, nowadays, that an educated man would believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, but note that the word is “believe”. Thus, all he is saying is that data proposed to support a contrary belief are insufficient for him to change his belief. This is what modern liberals and many scientists say all the time, when presented with data that support views contrary to theirs — they do not accept that the data are sufficient to warrant revising their beliefs. We are not talking about knowledge here.
    By the way: a quick check via Google will result in several articles that describe the background to the Scopes trial. It was a put-up job, largely by the ACLU, and the teacher in question was a straw man. The real target was William Jennings Bryan, and the trial was successful in discrediting (and, to an extent, killing) him. Hardly a cause for celebration, one would think.

  • John Barker

    American teachers are now being urged to teach critical thinking. This movement will last until students actually start criticizing anyone’s beliefs about anything.

  • mike wachocki

    Michael, If these are such caricatures then why do liberals defend them so? Are are you speaking of classic liberals, unlike the ones who claim the title today?

  • mike wachocki

    Oops! Or please

  • steve

    All Christians (and that includes Obama) are necessarily Creationists. No Christian thinks that the Earth pre-dated God.

  • Jagneel

    The members of the science committee believes in creationism! I bet at least 90% of elected GOP elected members believe or say they believe (same thing) some form of creationism e.g. ‘Evolution is just theory’ ( but these idiots don’t know that gravity is a theory too.)
    I’ll never even consider voting for GOP. Why? One word Evolution. Rejecting evolution means rejecting scientific method, period. Is there any wonder that a significant portion of
    GOP doesn’t believe in science, economics, or arithmetic for that matter?

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    The ancient Roman creation story of a female wolf suckling two human infants seems more anthropologically plausible than the Judeo-Christian story of Adam and Eve. If evolution has any credence it would seem to me that somewhere in evolutionary history that animals were the nurturers or at minimum the models for humans to copy to learn how to catch fish, find foods, etc. On the other hand there isn’t a biologist or chemist I have spoken with who tells me there are any credible species links for humans and genetic evidence often runs against evolution. There are no certainties, least of all in science. It’s turtles on backs of turtles all the way down as they say.

  • Jagneel

    Wayne L.
    Yes, you got it. All the reputable scientists from all the reputable institutes and universities in all over the world are in conspiracy to promote evolution even though they it is a hoax because they want to deny Christians their fairy tale. Since there are in certainties, we should accept flat earth theory along with geology, alchemy with chemistry, astrology with astronomy, and let the kids decide, ..equal time,..,they are just theories..
    The biologist and chemists you speak to must from “born-agian-Christian” type of universities.
    Evolution theory is as solid a theory as anything else in science. Modern Biology is centered around evolution. You can’t reject evolution in isolation.

  • http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com Peter Jessen

    Both Mike McKegney and Martin Berman-Gorvine nicely illustrate one of the harms (costs) that Berger talks about, which Pulleyblank so effectively clarifies: “As a liberal Christian, one of the most frustrating hypocrisies I encounter among other liberals is the smug conviction that only religious superstitions are invalid.” Jagneel gives an excellent example of this: “I’ll never even consider voting for GOP. Why? One word: Evolution “

    Having “lurked” long on this blog, it is exchanges as these on “Creationism on Capital Hill” that encourages me to jump back in, as it is an excellent example of answering Berger’s call for folks to engage in a “contestation of ideas” to bring to bear his column ending question, “which superstitions are more harmful to society” to an earlier question of his: “what is the best model of development?” (another form of creationism on capital hill). Thus we have two forms of creationism, physical/physics and social/governmental, both wishing to create a reality, both subject to what Berger refers to as “Reality is of course…until further notice” (ellipses are his).

    It is also, in my view, a call for us to consider “signals of transcendence” that can help us better develop policies that are devoid, to the extent possible, of harmful superstitions in order to contest knowledge in a way to enable avoid harm, not creating harm.

    Are there not two creation debates impacted by Berger’s question, (1) beginnings creationism (physical, earth, universe, seen in the evolution of life debate) and (2) the social change-make haste slowly vs. revolution debate (which impacts on how to deal with the environment, global warming, etc., which are further impacted by the evolution/life debate). The myths / superstitions / ideologies of these two creationisms are too often presented as absolute and immutable, not open to change given new discoveries, for the “answers” determine who gets political power, a question in turn that depends on “who’s science?”

    A key issue in the creation of life evolution debate is regarding whether or not there is a “missing link” between us and the long chain of beings that crawled out of the primordial ooze. In a word: species to species evolution vs. evolution within a species (the specious “I’m not a monkey’s uncle” of Bishop Wilberforce vs. the 3 stooges of film comedy fame and their often used: “I’m a monkey’s uncle”).

    Ditto the climate change/global warming debate: few doubt that climate change exists nor that we have global warming and global cooling. The real debate is the degree to which it is man made (anthropogenic). The “it’s almost all man-made” opens the political creationism argument that man can thus fix it rather than learning how to respond to it as non-anthropogennic (the old adapt or die argument). Global warming and its cousin environmentalism has ushered in the most powerful superstitions behind the contemporary political debate about development, for whoever controls the power to attempt fixing will have the greatest point of power: centralized government control, being able to determine how this climate idea is viewed and fixed, ushering in a whole set of environmental superstitions dealing with air, water, and soil, thus giving justification regarding how trillions of dollars will be re-distribued dollars in subsidies (industries, research complexes, non-profits), tax levels and other purposes. This is a really rich vein of superstitions at play, examples of what I also view being what Berger refers to as acting in “bad faith”

    Berger’s insightful question, which superstitions are more harmful to society?, underlies the troubling public policy debates (think legislation, man made). It is superstition/ideology that renders some legislators and researchers either unable (subconscious) or purposefully and consciously unwilling to attempt to find common ground (the dreaded “compromise”). Berger advocates not the 50-50 compromise, but rather what he calls a “middle position” worthy of enabling what Berger labels as the best synthesis of the major contestation of ideas of the 20th century: socialism vs. capitalism (see his “Pyramids of Sacrifice” and “The Capitalist Revolution”), and how to “make haste slowly” from there, what he labels “humane democratic capitalism” in his recent memoir, The goal, simply enough: least harm to individuals and their habitats.

    Berger offers a helpful set of analytical tools, including what he calls the calculi of meaning and pain, for use in ascertaining which are the most appropriate levels for policy development and implementation that will thus do least harm (see Berge’s “Between Relativism and Fundamentalism: religious resources for a middle position”).

    When we review the topics of the penultimate paragraph, some see central issues that need to be debated, others see caricatures (meaning not debate, which is a way to deflect conversation about changing them so as to hold on to views unchanged). How do those of us in the religious (or “caring” community if “religious” is too strong) contribute to the discussion of how the contemporary focus seems to be centering on creating a new “man made” “new normal” (which could also be called a caricature). Are not Berger’s five examples illustrations of superstitions hindering finding the appropriate middle ground? Are they not hindering the needed dialogue and compromise for the common good that leads to policies that do least harm?

    E.F. Schumacher (in “Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered” ), urged the use of the term “appropriate” level (national, regional, state, county, city/town) for policy development and implementation. How do we use federalism to create and implement government programs (whether social, environmental, developmental, or regarding governance) that do least harm?

    Whether we discuss “superstition” and “ideology” or exchange ideology for superstition, isn’t the dominant contestation in the policy arena today between the superstitions/ideologies that favor centralized control (more government) on one end of the contestation spectrum and those on the other end favoring decentralized control (less government)? For instance, on the Obama administration’s “reguations.gov” website, 6,125 new regulations and notices were posted over the last 90 days (68 a day). On Friday alone: 165. Is this the governing model to get around the grid lock and the polarization that opened in this country in 1968, and has been particularly engaged since 1972, at the expense of the middle? How do we make “course corrections” (to use a NASA term) if the answer is strictly that of the left or that of the right, neither of which is scientific though both use science to bolster their case?

    To repeat from above, Berger has a wonderful phrase to apply to the creationisms under discussion: “Reality is of course…until further notice” (ellipses is his). Let’s look at the five he lists:

    “all differences between men and women are social conventions” – this is the superstition that the physical differences between males and females have no impact on personality, preferences, and behavior, ignoring much of what has been learned from social science (sociology, anthropology, psychology) and “hard” sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, neurology, physiology, etc., and various hyphenated combinations.

    “that an eight-month embryo is as much a part of the mother’s body as her appendix” – here we have one idea that life begins at conception whereas the other superstitition is that life begins only after birth, and thus an advanced “embryo” is a mere piece of flesh, like a skin tag, for the woman to determine how to dispose of it, abort or birth (ignoring the father’s role in the disposition decision, hence Bill Maher’s joke that conception begins at erection). Both superstitions ignore the key empirical that there comes a time when the “embryo” in utero would still be a viable baby outside the uterus if removed, whether by birth canal or caesarian. The two key superstitions preventing finding “the middle,” are: (1) late term abortions, where the viable “embryo” within is brought into the birth canal, has its brain sucked out, and then delivered dead; (2) botched abortions that result in the viable “embryo” becoming a baby outside the body being set on a shelf to die rather than be allowed to live, as not doing so would shatter the superstition/myth that the aborted “embryo”/body is not a human being but a woman’s skin tag that has been removed.

    “that racism can be abolished by the government allotting privileges by way of racial quotas” –Government policies have yielded poor education, poor jobs, and poor housing for African Americans (indeed “minorities” now often refers to other than African Americans, further exacerbating institutionalized governmental racism (think Detroit, Newark, South Side L.A.), causing harm to whites at the same time. The weekly column at http://www.theminneapolisstory.com illustrates this in depth.

    “that wealth can be distributed without being produced” – Maggie Thatcher probably said it best: it works until you run out of other people’s money. Hence Russia and China reversed course from their 100 million deaths experiments and are now capitalist. This is part of “social creationism.” NYT, 11-8-12: “Long retired, ex-leader…Jiang Zemin asserts sway over top posts [arguing] that [China] has stagnated under a decade of cautious leadership by Mr. Hu…who favored more traditional socialist programs and allowed gargantuan state-owned companies to amass greater wealth and influence [creating] a slowing economy and rising social discontent.”

    “that homicidal regimes can be influenced by moral persuasion” – here we have the central debate between the mythologies of defense: don’t need it vs. need it. A key question here would be: how would the “perfect” societies of Europe and Scandinavia been able to evolve as they did without the protection of the American nuclear umbrella? The same question is relevant today, including applying it to Eastern Europe. And what happens to the USA if the defense budget is slashed as some currently advocate, to a future of technological warfare (drones vs. boots on the ground or at sea or in air)? It also raises the entitlement question as nearly a third or more of of the budget (depending on who you read) goes to unfunded pension and health care liabilities.

    Berger concludes: “Need I go on?” What would make a great addition to this contestation would be to have followers of this blog submit 2-3 examples of how their view on how either or both forms of “Creationism on Capital Hill” (physical and social) do harm or prevent harm.

  • Jesus Herman Christ

    This is an intrepidly silly conversation, and the leaps of moral relativism in both the initial article and subsequent comments are specious at best.

    So much time and thought is being wasted on the comforting myths of millennium gone by desert nomads.

    You should not be looking any further than Thomas Jefferson to answer theses questions. We have the freedom to believe whatever silly superstItions we wish. We do not have the freedom to let those beliefs endanger or cause harm to others.

  • Jagneel

    Peter, Why do Christians get so worked up by evolution but not by the second law of thermodynamics or relativity or proof of Poincare’s conjecture etc. When someone says,”evolution is just a theory” you know everything about that person. He is an idiot, not any plain harless idiot, but a very special kind of idiot. He’s a republican, doesn’t really believe in science, thinks that God is an American, a republican (from the south, god’s part of usa) antiabortion, pro-capital punishment, anti-guncontrol, He wants to cut taxes for the rich and benefit cuts for the middle class, wants poor to send money to rich televangelists, drives a gas guzzeler, is against conservation, and is against bilingual education (after all, English was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for us, and the Bible, god’s word,is in English )
    Jesus didn’t evolve from no monkey. All scientific laws were suspended for a backward desert tribe 2000 years ago. God creates various species like mushrooms on earth (ref. Simpsons episode).

  • Richard Tasgal

    You could make an even stronger case that there is widespread slanted treatment of superstition: Much or most alternative medicine (homeopathy, chiropractic, Chinese medicine…) is in conflict with things we know about the body, based on a very hard to deny amount of scientific evidence. The supporters of these disproven ideas tend to be educated and liberal, and are rarely subjected to the same degree of scorn.

    And alternative medicine, unlike creationism, gets enormous amounts of money.

  • http://www.peterjessen-gpa.com Peter Jessen

    Thank you, Jagneel. You laid out an excellent description of what Bergers calls “stereotypical characters” that fits into what Berger calls “a set of common left-liberal prejudices—against Republicans, Evangelicals and the South.” And certainly, where there is smoke, there is fire, so that you have indeed laid out what few would deny are the held views of SOME who call themselves Christians and/or Republicans.

    Here is an example of a Christian who is a Republican who was a U.S. Senator, Mark O. Hatfield, who provides evidence counter to your claim. What a difference the USA would be had Nixon taken him as his Vice President as originally planned. The site is (www.markohatfield.org).

    The site contains key pieces of legislation that the proposed. Note that two major co-sponsors with him on various bills were two Democrats: Mike Mansfield (Senate Majority Leader) and George McGovern (who was the Democratic Party Presidential candidate in 1972). Key pieces are those dealing with war (Senator Hatifield never voted for a single appropriations bill that included the Vietnam war, was one of the firsts to support the Arab countries in the Middle East dispute, and most significantly, in my view, to our discussion here about domestic issues, his legislative proposals for neighborhood government. The documents are from the Congressional Quarterly (which published every thing spoken or submitted to the record in the Senate).

    Thus, consider these:
    2 on Peace in the Middle East: http://www.markohatfield.org/html/middle_east.html
    5 on the Vietnam War: http://www.markohatfield.org/html/vietnam.html
    4 on Neighborhood Government: http://www.markohatfield.org/html/neighborhood_government.html
    His swearing in speech: http://www.markohatfield.org/html/swearing_in_and_farewell.html

    I feel compelled to respond, as you have offered an example of the contestation of ideas that Berger calls for that calls for a resonse, although I do so recognizing that I’m at a disadvantage, as (1) I don’t know your cognitive map, especially what your goals, norms and strategies (short and long range) are regarding these caricatures (although your cognitive assumptions about Christians and Republicans are clear: abominations), as well as not knowing your religious or philosophical or political framework within which you are writing (it would appear to be non-Christian and far left liberal; correct me if I am in error); (2) I don’t know what country you are writing from and how that might be an influence on your thinking; and (3) I don’t know what the stressors are that have triggered such an interpretation of Christians and Republicans. In other words, what are you really angry at? As much of what you state is factually untrue, your anger has to be caused by some other stressor than Christians and Republicans. The issue is not that it is wrong for you to be angry at or fearful of Christians and Republicans, but whether or not the anger and fear is justified.

    You have presented great caricatures (what Berger called stereotypical characters”). The micro-polling as a result of the recent elections shows that there are many Christians and Republicans who share your views, rendering your descriptions incorrect. As one of my favorite senators used to say (Daniel Patrick Moynihan), you are entitled to your opinion but not to your facts. And here is where we have the first of two big problems. First, stress caused voters on both sides to distort reality. Both sides offered absurd characterizations of each other, as each side held counter descriptions of each other.

    Secondly, too many on both sides are being deceptive in their own minds. Each truly believes the other is evil, as they trust and believe their perception rather than the actual facts (see reference to micro-polling). The harm that Berger refers to (or costs) comes from the mismatches with reality that cause and drive the problems. As Jim Billington wrote in his1980 book, “Fire in the Minds of Men,” “political revolution is the secular religion of our time,” hence, “the story of people in the grip of ideas and beliefs,” including those who still practice “scientific Marxism.” The path of these revolutions has always led from “their original dream of transcendence and glory to…totalitarian tyranny,” One might say that the “fire in the minds” of Christians and Republicans that you speak of “speaks to fantasies and mystical longings…that will not readily be extinguished,” all of which could just as easily be said the same for you. For more discussion of Berger’s “contestation of ideas” within the context of theories of justice, see my http://www.theminneapolisstory.com/solutionpapers/45bTheoriesOfJustice.htm.

    So, what is the answer to the question, “what is the best model of development? What do you think about the answer Berger has suggested: “humane, democratic capitalism?” How do we get out of the dilemmas blocking answering these questions for all in a valuable and positive contestation of ideas dealing with different view of describing a desired “pedantic utopia”? Why not hold what the Germans held after World War II to try to help provide wide ranging input into the rebuilding era from all sides or stake-holders, non-partisan academies? Berger has written of this in the 1986 book, “Confession, Conflict & Community”. Berger’s Chapter is “The Concept of Mediating Action.” I’ve outlined how this might work in the USA to a couple of others, but so far I have not had any takers. The Germans called these academies “Evangelical Academies” (might as well have said “Protestant Academies” or “Mediating Academies” or “Non-Partisan Academies”). Incidentally, evangelical there meant “Protestant,” which is different in meaning that what it means to the more outspoken USA evangelicals).
    In science, evolution is still considered a theory but the best one available at this time regarding the origin of life and the change over time within species (there is still a missing link for those who believe in cross-species evolution).

    How would you handle this stereotype/caricature; that the South during both slave days, reconstruction days and jim crow law days, was the party of the Democrats who then transplanted plantations from the South to the North and became the party of big cities and their inner city ghettoes?

    After reviewing the Mark Hatfield web site (www.markohatfield.org), do you still believe/perceive Christians and Republicans as you outlined?

  • Gary L

    Superstitions abound all over the political map. It is an interesting question which superstitions are more harmful to society.

    To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, the reality-based community cannot bear very much reality.

  • http://spiritualityandhistory.com Rev. Thomas Pullyblank

    The religious superstition of one particular group of desert nomads says that the Creator saw the good in all the Creator’s creation. This set of idea leads to the possibility of a deeper respect for all life, human or otherwise. The secular superstition of progress says that all technology advances for the benefit of humanity. Since its inception 200 years ago, this set of ideas has led to the extinction of several dozen species, the near-extinction of several hundred others and opens the possibility of catastrophe for our own. Which set of ideas is wise? Which is folly?

  • Tennwriter

    Bigoted secular quasi-rationalists annoy the student of history, science, logic, and revelation. One could argue science with these people, but ‘one cannot reason someone out of an idea they were not reasoned into’. While the author’s limited point is correct, he’d be wise to not publish the results of his brainwashing with pride.

    Darwinists, don’t you dare claim the holy name of Science for your fish guts, your hoaxes, your illogics, your ignorances, and your gov’t funded anti-Science agenda.

  • teapartydoc

    I’m a doctor who double-majored in Biology and Chemistry in college and took double the number of Biology courses required for my degree. I received an A+ in the capstone evolution course that was populated by seniors and grad students as a junior. I also ceased to believe in evolution as an explanation for the origin of the universe and life during those years. If you are going to accuse me of being stupid about something, it would be most helpful if you could explain to me exactly what it is I’m missing. You see, the problem is that we know pretty much exactly what constitutes the most basic foundations of living things and we can mix and match the elements any way you see fit under any circumstances, and cannot duplicate what we see as life. If we are unable to do this one simple thing, how are we supposed to believe that it happened spontaneously? Are you now going to tell me I need to have faith that this is so?

  • Jagneel

    Peter, During the writing of my earlier post my tongue was firmly in the cheek.
    Look, which economic model or which policy is better is open to debate and open to change as circumstances change. For example, Austerity when unemployment is, say, 5% may be a good economic policy but politically less sellable and bad economic policy at unemplyment rate 8% but politically appealing.
    Scientific theories, after sufficient testing become facts.
    germ theory, gravity, evolution etc. are facts as much as anything can be fact. Science builds new theories on old. DNA evidence shows that evolution happened and happens is a fact but how it happened/happens, science will continue to fill holes. You have misunderstanding about the “missing link”. It’s like this: you find a missing ” _” link between ” ___ _____” now you have “___ _ ___” two missing links (hard to explain on iPad). ‘Either all the scientists are in some conspiracy or ……’ (Read my previous post). It is hard take any argument seriously from someone who does not accept scientific consensus. It is hilarious, that some religious people believe all kind of mumbo jumbo- talking snake, Adam and even. Hell, heaven what not- but when it comes to science suddenly they turn agnostic, and they contort themselves to find holes, missing arguments. Only if they were that inequistive about their faith. Everyone cannot be expert in everything. You have either to defer to experts who have spent lives studying a subject or believe some blowhard on talk radio or a politician or some reverand. I can think of only two reasons to doubt an expert. Financial motives (don’t trust environmental theories from experts employed by oil companies) or religious motives (evolution ). It’s possible that new theory will overtake evolution theory like Relativity theory took over Newtonian mechanics but that does not mean bible is true.
    Laws of universe were not suspended for resurrection to happen. Even if they were and Jesus literally rose after death, it doesn’t mean his teaching are true.
    I come from a very religious country, and I understand people need a way relate to the infinite unknown.
    Read Christopher Hitchens’ ” God is not great”

  • Pingback: Prosumerzen's diary of the world Creationism on Capitol Hill

  • Darryl Boyd

    I gotta believe anyone posting a single 1700 word comment on a 500 word blog post is seriously overthinking things. Which I suspect is how most superstitions get their start.

  • Anna Keppa

    As long as “progressives” continue to believe in the utter superstition promoted by its Creator as “Scientific Socialism”, they will have no reason to sneer at Christians, and especially those among them who mistakenly deny Evolution.

  • Jagneel

    Teapartydoc:
    Whatever number of courses you might have “taken” in biology, chemistry ..weren’t enough. Who knows you might even have doctorate from ..Glenn Beck U. Or you, like Sarah Palin, have been educated beyond you capacity for analytic thought.
    Understand, even gravity is just a theory and people are still working out its mysteries. Even if the whole science turns out be false, dream come true for all tea baggers and these yahoos down south,, it doesn’t mean Bible is true, which like any fairy tale, it isn’t.

  • Jonathan Brezon

    I would point out two things. First, Mr. Berger does not a single example of a real person who is one of those “same individuals who sneer at the beliefs of Bible-thumping Republicans.”

    Secondly, Mr. Berger minimizes Congressman Broun’s ignorance as just saying “whatever he thinks his audience of the moment wants to hear,” which he might not really believe himself. I would urge Mr. Berger to consider the implications of thousands of Congressman Broun’s supporting believing what Mr. Berger himself characterizes as nonsense.

    Lastly, I would dispute “that wealth can be distributed without being produced” is a mere superstition. Would not the example of the empire’s throughout history indicate the contrary. Mr. Berger’s other examples of left superstitions may well be wrong, harmful and misguided; but Mr. Berger does not argue that, instead he resorts to the meta-strawman of ‘superstition’.