Politics and Religion

540834_4650006896749_766650854_nSome time in the next few months, TTA Press will be publishing Flux 2, part of an irregular series of supplements given away free to Interzone and Black Static subscribers. Flux 2 contains my piece, “The Bigfoot House”, a story about the science fiction people actually believe.

But let’s leave Bigfoot out of it for now. The inspiration for the piece was a phenomenon called “Creation Science”, currently widespread in the US and gaining ground elsewhere. Creation Science seeks to provide, through accepted scientific methods, evidence that Darwin was wrong, evolution is nonsense, all species were created individually, and the total age of the Earth is somewhere around 6,000 years (though this last can vary, depending whose account you’re reading). These things must be true, and therefore provable by science, because they’re in the Bible. Or one interpretation of it, anyway, which may not be quite the same thing.

Anyone with a vague notion of scientific method will realise this is not, in any sense, science, for the conclusions are pre-ordained, and anything which contradicts them disregarded. Nor is it a religious movement of any great pedigree. Creation Science found its feet in the 1960s, and has been quietly gnawing away at the bedrock of reality ever since. It’s worth a visit to some of the CS websites, which offer impressive-looking refutations of accepted scientific dicta, often in language of intimidating technicality. You could, in fact, be reading a science book, and the chemistry and physics, I’ll admit, are way beyond me; but once we hit the geology or palaeontology, or read the in-brief summation of “findings”, it becomes pretty clear they’re doing exactly what they accuse evolutionists of: being selective with the facts, bending the truth, and, when all else fails (which is most of the time), simply making stuff up.

None of this would matter a damn – you’re entitled to believe what you want, after all – except that Creation Science has become a significant political issue, especially in education. In some states, your child can be taught Creation Science in school, not as part of a religious studies programme, but as if it were a genuine science class. (They call it “teaching the controversy”, or “balanced treatment”.) Furthermore, you will be paying for this out of your tax dollars, whether you want to or not.

Its appeals to the young are obvious. Firstly, it’s simple (a hell of a lot simpler than evolutionary theory, anyway). Secondly – oh, great! Dinosaurs have somehow worked their way into the mix! I don’t remember any in the Bible, but it seems they were around, and, even better! So were we! Just like Jurassic Park! In fact, Creation Science places human beings absolute dead centre of everything, which is sort of comforting, isn’t it? Unlike those dreadful, cringing evolutionists, who make us all seem rather less important and really aren’t a lot of fun at all. What’s more, in this “us and them” scenario, the smallest child can now consider himself smarter and better-informed than the entire scientific establishment. And that just has to feel good, doesn’t it?

Creation Science, like its counterpart, the cult of the Last Days, takes a tiny part of the Bible, least relevant to daily living, and elevates it to a prime position in the whole belief system. Why? Is it simply a case of the tail wagging the dog? Or is it something sneakier? A bit of conjuror’s misdirection, possibly?

I’m not a Christian, and I don’t intend to debate the historicity of Jesus. The gospels were written many years after the events they describe, and include, it seems to me, a wide variety of different elements: some obvious folk motifs (the wedding at Cana, the cursing of the fig tree), some teaching, some history, and the kind of stories that inevitably accrue round any charismatic figure. Nonetheless, a clear picture of Jesus does emerge, and it’s an interesting one. Here’s a man who spent his time with peasants and fishermen, sinners and tax collectors (then a more hated breed even than today); who saved an adulteress from a lynch mob; who told a rich man to sell what he had and give his money to the poor; who threw the money lenders out of the temple; who instructed us to love our enemies, and love our neighbours as ourselves. This is not, I would venture, the kind of role model the Creation Science lobby actually wants, or even cares to think about.

But perhaps they should.

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