Creationism is interesting not because it has any scientific value, but because it gives us the opportunity to look at the results of misguided intelligence first-hand.
To become a creationist is simple: you decide to believe that the Earth was created exactly as described in the Bible. Then, you bend everything else to this premise using all your intelligence and skill. If someone doubts the premise, you just say: “It was God that told us so! God is bigger than you! So, shut up and listen to the beautiful story I created from that premise.”
Let’s just look at an example. In the wake of the infamous debate between Nie and Ham, Anna Lloyd explains “Why science is irrelevant to my belief in God“. This is a very interesting text, because it shows in a very blunt way the true nature of creationism: it is not a scientific theory at all, but rather a refusal to apply the scientific method to study reality. There would be nothing seriously wrong with that if the conclusions weren’t scientific conclusions: the Earth is so and so, created so and so. Why? Because I say so. Or rather: because God says so. To whom? To me through ancient texts written by God through man. Why should we believe it? Because I say so.
“Here’s where I differ with Nye and many others like him — I believe the Bible to be true, without question. I believe it was written supernaturally by God through men. Does that make logical sense to a human? No. Why believe it?”
Yes. Indeed. Why?
Well, we won’t get far if we don’t engage with her ideas. She actually explains why she prefers the Bible to the scientific account of things. She says:
“If there’s anything that’s been proven throughout history time and again it’s that people are imperfect. We mess up, we misunderstand, we skew, we distort. If the thing by which we test our world [i.e., Science] is imperfect, then how can we expect the results to consistently be true?”
So, science is imperfect. She then chooses to believe God’s word as stated in the Bible. Who wouldn’t? If only we could be certain that the Bible is God’s word…
Let’s get back to a situation in which neither of us has decided if we should believe the Bible or rather prefer the scientific account of things that tells us the Bible cannot be literally true.
Are we choosing between divine logic and human logic?
No, we are choosing between two human accounts of things.
We don’t see God anywhere. We just see a book which seems a rather odd collection of ancient myths and we see a tradition of human followers who believe this book to be divinely inspired. But that could just be imperfect humanity for you: messing up, misunderstanding, skewing, distorting and making it all sound as divine words.
(Also, don’t forget: a still undecided person has to choose between many different and incompatible sacred books. This reeks of humanity believing something for all the wrong reasons.)
In the other hand, we have science. Is science just another set of sacred beliefs? No! Science just says: humans are imperfect — we mess up, we misunderstand, we skew and we distort everything, even when we are acting in good faith. We are not divine — not by a long shot.So, science (which never denies being a human creation) tries to compensate for all those faults by studying them and applying a very strict method to overcome them.
Science doesn’t expect scientific knowledge to be sacred or “consistently true” — it is tentatively true, or better: it is truer than “knowledge” we would get if we didn’t apply the scientific method. The scientific method is a method that can help us escape the very thing that Anna describes: humans mess up, humans misunderstand, humans skew, humans distort — more: humans are animals with strong evolutionary skills that are not fine-tuned to know the world accurately (as they would be if a God had created them by plan), but rather fine-tuned to survive (as if we were created by nature by surviving). That’s the reason why we need to compensate for failings. If only a God had made us more perfect and ready to understand the world without having to go through all the pain of science…
So, why so many people choose to believe the Bible as a literal account of what happened in the past? The reason is our very human tendency to believe what makes us feel better. Reason is hard and tentative and doesn’t give us ready-to-serve answers that promise eternal life. Science just promises to try harder everyday to discover the truth, whatever it is.