Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's all get along!

I want to preface this by saying that I'm not a regular reader of World magazine. In fact, I know next to nothing about that publication. Every now and then (like now), I hear something about an article they published on creationism or ID. They recently published a piece about Stephen Meyer (naming him "Daniel of the Year"), and as part of that coverage Marvin Olasky wrote a short item called "War and Peace: Fighters of Darwinism Should Remain Civil with Each Other." I didn't read anything else in that issue, but that subtitle caught my eye.

His basic point? That's a good question. He starts off with this claim:
Daniel in the Bible lived in peace when possible and fought when essential. That's the combination we seek in our Daniels of the Year. They focus on God and His creative process. They do not spend valuable energy attacking each other on secondary matters, such as how long God's process took.
He asserts that how God created is one of the "secondary issues that divide Christians," but the bulk of the article is just a list of books Olasky recommends (including the inaccurate Darwin Myth). According to Olasky, "WORLD's editorial policy is to pitch a big tent: God's design rather than purposelessness."

Uh huh. Big tent. I've heard that before.

I suppose some of you might be thinking that here's where I go off on why creationism is important and why the age of the earth is a central issue and not "secondary." I am a young-age creationist after all! Surely I think that the age of the earth is a critically important issue, right? Yes, I do think that, but that's not what I want to talk about. There's a far deeper issue here that I think is far more troubling.

See, I've heard this argument about getting along time and again from every corner of the creationist/ID camp. I heard it when I posted The Truth About Evolution. I heard it when I was invited to join a collaborative creation research effort some seven years ago. I heard it when I protested creationist editorial misconduct three years ago. I heard it when I posted my review of The Darwin Myth. "Let's not attack each other! We're all on the same side, right? Let's just fight those Darwinists."

Let's think more deeply about this whole "let's all get along" argument. Don't worry about secondary issues, I'm told. We don't need to squabble about unimportant details. Instead, let's focus on the more important issues. But who gets to decide what is less or more important? I certainly agree that we can't get all our ducks in a row when it comes to origins. Even in conventional science, we're just beginning to understand the basic molecular workings of cells. Why should we creationists be expected to do any better?

That's what bothers me the most. I'm not asking for the impossible. That really would be unreasonable. I'm asking for serious scholarship, responsible treatment of information, and a respect for reasonable conclusions regardless of what propaganda purposes they might serve. Don't make up stories about people or engage in really shoddy research. Why is it that basic accuracy is considered to be "secondary" and therefore unimportant? Especially when accuracy is well within our grasp?

"But Todd! You don't understand! Darwinism is causing people to become atheists! We have to do something!" OK, I don't necessarily think that's true, but even if it were true, please explain exactly how misrepresenting evolution is going to help? How do you fight falsehood with more falsehoods? When you ignore the accuracy of the information you present, what do you think that says about you, the positions that you advocate, and the Saviour that you serve?

"But Todd! You don't understand! This is war! We have to do something!" OK, let's go with the warfare metaphor for a minute. Don't you want to arm your warriors with the absolute best weapons available? What happens when someone goes off to war with broken weapons and ineffective armor? They get the tar beat out of them, that's what happens. So why would you send anyone into the culture war with anything less than the absolute best information available?

"But Todd! You don't understand!" No, actually I do understand. I understand that scholarship is hard work and not very much fun. I understand that not everyone is cut out for it. I understand that arguing is very alluring and even fun for some. I understand that getting in the public eye makes it look like we're making progress, when we're not. I understand that the "big tent" is little more than a leaky tarp held up by a couple of twigs. I understand all too well.

I also understand that treating evolutionary biology and the history of evolutionary theory accurately and with respect tends to get people's attention. I also understand that research and scholarship are essential if we are ever to break the cultural deadlock that we're stuck in. And I understand that the "let's all get along" argument is too frequently used as nothing more than a lame excuse for lazy, sloppy work.

So please, I'm begging you, let's quit whining about getting along, and instead let's start dealing with real issues. Who knows? You might be surprised at how well we can get along when we make truth our mutual goal.