James D. Watson, one of the scientists awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, makes an interesting comment in his book DNA: The Secret of Life:
“With its direct contradiction of religious accounts of creation, evolution represents science’s most direct incursion into the religious domain and accordingly provokes the acute defensiveness that characterises creationism.”
I have noticed that many religious people are unhappy with evolution. Some go so far as to describe it as atheist, or even see it as a false conspiracy imposed by biased “scientific materialists.” Another view is that it represents an attempt by scientists to undermine religion. Something similar was expressed by mcclaud in the comment:
“. . . for a long time during and after the period when evolution became a popular, well-accepted theory, the scientific community spent some time trying to disprove the literal definitions of the Book of Genesis. So far as to paint the people who did not comprehend (and thus fully accept) evolution as ignorant fools.”
Now, scientists don’t go around trying to prove or disprove all those bronze-age creation myths. Nor are they interested in making members of the general public appear like idiots. They are too busy investigating the real world. If some religious people feel this way it is because of the defensiveness referred to by Watson above. If these people find that their beliefs conflict with the modern accepted knowledge about the world then surely the sensible thing to do is examine those beliefs and consider changing them.
Changing ones beliefs is not something to be ashamed of. Scientists do it all the time – adjusting or even abandoning pet theories because of new evidence which contradict them. This self-correcting mechanism of the scientific method is one of the things which makes it such a powerful way of investigating and understanding reality. (Contrast this with the “proud” claims by some supporters of Biblical creationism who see the fact that their ideas have not changed in 2000 years as some sort of virtue!)
No, there is no attack by the scientific community on Biblical creation myths and their adherents. But there is an attack, and a well funded one, on science by proponents of creationism and intelligent design. Surely the scientific community has a right, in fact an obligation, to defend itself against this attack? Humanity has a right to insist that the ideals of enlightenment prevail over attempts to impose religious mythology on society.
Should we teach creationism?
Humility of science and the arrogance of religion
Intelligent design/creationism I: What is scientific knowledge?
Intelligent design/creationism II: Is it scientific?
Intelligent design/creationism III: The religious agenda
Intelligent design/creationism IV: The religion – science conflict
Intelligent design/creationism: Postscript