I have just finished listening to a radio debate between creationist Kent Hovind and evolutionist Massimo Pigliucci. This debate was absolutely fascinating, and it can be downloaded in MP3 format from http://www.sermonaudio.com
Note that when I refer to creationists in any of my posts, I’m referring to those who advocate the idea of a six thousand year earth. I’m not referring to Christians in general, who might indeed call themselves creationists (ie, that the universe was created by a god) but who do not necessarily hold onto the Young Earth view.
I must be honest and say that I don’t take Kent Hovind seriously at all. His arguments are appalling, and are without any scientific basis at all. However, during this debate I realised his one strength: his ability – within a debate – to counter his opponent quickly, with both wit and confidence. As a debater he is pretty slick.
Why are creationists so popular? Why are their debates hailed by their followers as huge successes even though they grossly misinterpret science and evolution? This is the question that I thought about while listening to this debate, and a few thoughts came to mind. This article is quite long, so I will post it over two consecutive posts.
I believe creationists are successful because they appeal to our unquestioned assumptions and beliefs. Each one of us carries a complex array of overlapping beliefs from our culture and upbringing. These beliefs shape the way we interpret the world around us. Many of these beliefs remain unquestioned, and some of them – without us realising it – may be entirely wrong.
Most individuals have incomplete and unquestioned beliefs of what evolution actually is, and how science works. Hovind repeats these beliefs, and so reinforces them in the minds of those who follow him. For example, he stated that science is built around observation and experimentation, and argued that macroevolution is not a science because it does not meet these two criteria. This view of science is probably held by most people, but it is incomplete. I’m glad that Pigliucci added hypothesis testing as a third characteristic to Hovind’s list. Hypothesis testing is the most important part of science, and evolutionary theory is a science simply because it makes predictions that can be tested; and it passes these tests with flying colours.
The other two reasons why I think creationists are so successful will be covered in a second post.