Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Prove It

The people who believe in the fundamentalist interpretation of the bible say that God created the world in six days and that he did it about 6,000 years ago. Period, the end, that’s it, and anything else is heresy. Others less rigid have granted that the biblical definition of a “day” is fluid and that it could have been longer than our 24-hour day, and that there is room for interpretation of fables and mythology. However, they still think that the Creation story as depicted in the book of Genesis should be taught in schools and given the same weight as the theories that were first postulated by Charles Darwin and followed up by other scientists.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with teaching the biblical story of Creation in the public schools. However, I do have a problem with teaching it along side evolution in a science curriculum because it doesn’t belong there any more than the warp theories of Zefram Cochrane. It isn’t because I’m anti-religion…or anti-Star Trek. It doesn’t belong in a science curriculum for one very simple reason: science deals in provable facts, and so far, no one has been able to provide any factual, evidentiary proof that the Genesis story of the creation of the universe took place. When they can do that, then we’ll talk about teaching about Adam and Eve in Biology. (The same goes for Cochrane’s theories in Physics.)

The argument from the fundamentalists is that there’s no real scientific proof of Darwin’s theories, either. Actually, there is a lot (and PZ Myers has a lot of fun proving it), but that’s just a diversion from the real point: can anyone scientifically prove the story in Genesis? They also come up with a lot of circumstantial evidence (and unintentionally hilarious bits of humor) and they call it “Intelligent Design,” but in the end, they say you have to fill in the yawning gaps in their theories with faith in God. That’s fine for theology, but it’s not science.

Scientists will debate the finer points of evolution and come up with ideas about the origin of life and the universe. Some may say that Darwin was wrong. That doesn’t prove Genesis or “intelligent design” right. Even if they scientifically eliminated every plausible explanation for how life began and evolved, it doesn’t mean that fables and legends are right.

It’s not hard to understand why humans crave a simple, supernatural explanation for the origins of the world and life. It’s comforting to think that we are nestled in the loving arms of an infinite creator and that he provides all the answers for the unknowable things, all the disturbing realities, and that there is something solid in this world that can be relied on. Frankly, I envy people who can be so sure in their faith that it overrides their natural human curiosity to discover what lies beyond Genesis. It’s one less thing to think about in this crazy world.

But I think that the fundamentalists who are demanding that creationism be taught in a science curriculum are doing a disservice to their faith. The stories of Creation in many cultures are a rich and telling testimony to the people and the civilizations that create them. Listen to the fascinating tales of adventure and character in the Apache or Australian aboriginal histories and you are swept up in the intricacies of their imagination; you wish you were there when it happened. To subject the Genesis story to the cold and harsh light of scientific analysis takes away the wonder and the teachings of how our culture, for lack of a better word, evolved. It should be examined not for its scientific merit but for its beauty and the revelations it contains about the wonderfully complex and maddening Creation that is humanity. And until someone can prove that God truly did create this universe in six days, leave Genesis as proof of humanity’s greatest ability: the power to wonder where we came from. You can’t do that in a laboratory.