September 2003

Creationist Controversy

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

Did you know that the Grand Canyon was formed in a matter of only weeks, or at the most, months; that all of the earth and space were created in one day and the atmosphere in another single day; and that it is not unreasonable from a scientific point of view to believe that all the plants were created in one day?

“Creation science” can explain all this for you. And this movement has become very politically powerful. It has claimed to have taken majority control of 2200 school boards in the United States and is demanding that its point of view be taught as a scientific theory in schools on an equal basis with the theory of evolution. Although creationists are agreeable to teaching evolution in science classes, they demand that it be taught as only a theory, not fact. However, the creationists commonly teach creationism as fact, rather than theory.

This month the Humanist Study Group viewed a two-hour PBS videotape called “In the Beginning…The Creationist Controversy,” an excellent explication of both the creationist point of view and the evidence for evolution. This tape can be obtained in some public libraries, for sure in the one in Murray city. It contained the main arguments of the creationists and a wealth of evidences for evolution.

Creation scientists are now attempting to use a “scientific” approach in promoting their views. There is no evidence for evolution, say creationists. There are no intermediate transitional forms, as between a fin and a foot, or a forelimb and a wing or scales and feathers of birds.

Creationists are claiming that most scientists follow a closed-minded orthodoxy of thought where they see what they want to see and reject any alternative theories to evolution arbitrarily. The scientists are a “priesthood” which does not allow deviance from the one true theory. Darwinism is the creationist myth of our culture.

Creationist advocates have an Institute of Creation Research, which attempts to reconcile science and religion. They say it is scientifically sound to accept the idea that the earth was created in seven days. The first three days were as described above. The “firmament” of the Bible was the atmosphere. The sun, moon and planets, including the solar system were created in the fourth day; the things that flew and swam in the fifth; the land animals in the sixth; and God rested in the seventh. This explanation, they contend, is not unreasonable from a scientific point of view. As long as this interpretation is not anti-scientific, its reasonable. If all things came from one place, as hypothesized by “orthodox” scientists in the Big Bang theory, there would be homogeneity in the sun, moon, stars and planets; but instead there is a great diversity. It is known that the comets, for instance, Halley’s, are very young, indicating they were created in a short time. This fact suggests that the solar system is only about a million years old. Other information doesn’t rule out the interpretation that all of these phenomena had a creator. Therefore, it is scientifically feasible.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God brought sin and death into the world. Evolution denies this fact. Without the concept of sin, people feel no sense of responsibility for their actions, and society will disintegrate into a chaotic immorality. Evolution, the creationists declare, takes the moral significance away from life.

Noah’s flood is of central importance. Most of the extinct creatures whose fossil remains we have discovered died in the flood. Others were unable to adapt to life after the flood. Strata of earth and rocks were formed over a short period of time. In the Grand Canyon, which is very large, stretching over several states, the layers were laid down when part of Arizona was uplifted, sending a great rush of water laying down various layers. The Canyon was carved in weeks or perhaps months. The word “catastrophe” should be becoming a more accepted word in geology than it is, since it explains some geologic “episodes.”

Humanists can readily see the logical fallacies of creationists. This tape does a good job of presenting the compelling evidences for evolution. Here are just a few of them:

If you take a close look at the details of the Grand Canyon, you see that the life forms in the lower strata are less well developed than those farther up. You can see evolution taking place all around us as life forms change. We even help it along ourselves in some cases, as in the selective breeding of animals like horses, cows, and dogs. There is a good deal of fossil evidence for transitional forms, as in the changes found from reptiles to mammals and the transitional fossils of pre-humans. All of life is based on a common biochemistry. All of life shares a common basic anatomy. There are certain useless anomalies in fossils that would not occur if all life were created by an intelligent creator, for example, pigs with two toes that touch the ground and two that don’t, birds and bugs with wings that can’t fly, and human males with nipples.

Creationism causes many problems for scientists, mainly in the waste of time they have to spend refuting it. Unfortunately, many scientists do not take this problem seriously; they just ignore creationist claims. There would be many fewer people among the general public believing erroneous creationist claims if more scientists, especially science teachers in college and high school, would do a more adequate job of teaching evolution.

The tape says there are certain things we can learn from evolution: that there is change, that science has nothing to say about the existence of God, that there is no evidence of a world-wide flood, and that creationism is racist because it puts forth only the myth of a particular culture as the truth while it rejects the creation myths of all other cultures. It is the job of science to help allow as many parties as possible into the dialogue about creation but to see to it that no one view commandeers discussion.

And A Good Time Was Had By All…

…Well at least by 27 of us. We enjoyed each other’s company, wine graciously provided by Earl, Flo, and Rolf, good food, and some exciting entertainment. The only thing that wasn’t great about our Annual Summer Social was the light attendance.

The Board is concerned and would like to hear from you as to why you did not attend.

Here are some pictures from the affair.

Rolf Kay, Master of Ceremonies
Flo Wineriter and Mary Schultz
James Lee
Kathryn Kling and John Chesley
Joyce Barnes

Thanks to Richard Garrard

Circumstances in Richard’s life conspired to have him make a decision not to carry on as Editor and Publisher of The Utah Humanist and as a chapter board member. He submitted a letter of resignation to both positions. The board reluctantly accepted the letter and wishes him well. Over the past three years Richard has taken The Utah Humanist to heights that it may never again achieve. Wayne Wilson and Flo Wineriter agreed to assume the responsibility for production of our monthly publication until someone else steps forward.

Richard also vacated a 2-year position on the board. If anyone is interested in serving the rest of his term, please talk to any member of our chapter leadership.

The “Real” Political Struggle

Gore Vidal has written an impressive fictional history of our Great American Experiment that covers several volumes. Here is an excerpt describing one of Franklin Roosevelt’s Cabinet meetings taken from The Golden Age, the last book in Vidal’s series.

“Those rich boys daydream about vast armies and navies conquering all the seas and lands while we humble folk think of boys that we know-sons even-dying in a process that benefits no one but the international banks and their lawyer-lobbyists. The real political struggle in the United States, since the Civil War, has been between the peaceful inhabitants of the nation with their generally representative Congresses and a small professional elite totally split off from the nation, pursuing wealth through wars that they invent and justify and resonate for others to die in.”

Joyce Barnes

Member Spotlight

If her husband John hadn’t accepted a position with Hercules, Joyce Barnes may never have come to Utah and the state would have been the poorer for it. Life is full of such fortuities. Indeed, if John and his fraternity brothers at the University of Wyoming in Laramie hadn’t come calling at the Sigma Kappa sorority house at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley looking for dates, Joyce and he might never have met. But they did, and Utah is richer for it.

Joyce Barnes

Joyce grew up in Colorado. On graduation from high school, she went to the University of Northern Colorado on a piano scholarship and played for spending money at weddings and funerals. She married John in 1951 and moved to Clovis, New Mexico, in 1952 where she student-taught while John was in the army; then to Laramie in 1953, where she couldn’t teach because she was married to a “transient,” i.e., a student, but earned her own degree in Colorado; then to Denver, where she taught third grade for three years; and finally to Salt Lake City in 1961, where she worked for the Granite School District until her retirement in 1993. She taught music at Central Junior High for three years and then requested to work in special education with the disabled. While working and raising two daughters, she earned an M.S. in special education from Utah State University, after which she was soon transferred to the district office where she developed the curriculum for special ed. A few years later she became Granite School District Director of Student Support Services with a staff of 500 and a budget of $30,000,000. She soon earned an Ed.D in public school administration in a new program at BYU, where she had the novel experience as a Unitarian of signing the student code and living in a dorm, but slipping off campus for a cup of coffee.

Upon retirement, she became a mediator privately and for court adjudicated divorce and family conflicts. She’s a volunteer mediator for Juvenile Court. She’s served as adjunct faculty for special ed at the U., USU, and SLCC. She has served as chair of the Legislative Coalition for People with Disabilities and serves as a member of the East Valley Advisory Board for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation. As a self-professed political junkie, she serves as Voter Service Chair for the League of Women Voters, arranging debates and preparing voter guides and finding it hard to remain nonpartisan, and as the Utah representative for the Children’s Advocacy Network, advocating to state and federal legislators for both gifted and disabled youth and adults. She is one of six national trainers of school administrators and support staff for the Council of Special Education Administrators and has been trained by the Utah Humanities Council to lead workshops on how to raise a non-racist child, but the only taker in Utah so far has been the South Valley Unitarian Church. Oh, and she’s also a trustee of Humanists of Utah. See, isn’t Utah lucky that John went with Hercules?

–Earl Wunderli

Religion on Trial

~Book Review~

Religion on Trial
by Chester Dolan
Mopah Publications

The author is 88-years old and this book represents the summation of his life’s critical study of world religions. The more than eight hundred thinker-writers whose quotations appear in Religion on Trial have chosen to defend the negative side of propositions about religion. Quoting from the preface: “In the creed-bound atmosphere in which we live today, effective dialectic is suppressed. Very few people understand or dare relate the salient truths about religion. Such neglect gives religion the stranglehold it has over malleable, unreflective minds everywhere.”

Each chapter deals with a specific subject, making it an ideal reference book as well as an excellent read on mysticism and superstition.

–Flo Wineriter

Ethics for Everyone

~Book Review~

Ethics for Everyone: How to Increase Your Moral Intelligence
by Arthur Dorbin

Ethics has a high priority on the list of humanist values and here is a book that will increase every humanist’s understanding of ethics and making moral choices. In Ethics for Everyone: How to Increase Your Moral Intelligence, written by Arthur Dorbin, DSW., you will learn the basics of ethical theory plus how to increase your ability to think about and discuss ethical dilemmas. This sensible, practical book provides thoughtful discussions of twenty-one tough real-world ethical questions. The author is a Leader Emeritus of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island and Professor of Humanities at Hofstra University. His book is an easy read of a tough subject.

–Flo Wineriter

Jesus as Brother

~Book Review~

Jesus As Brother
by Phillip Griffin, Ph.D.
Galde Press, Inc

The basic theme of Dr. Phillip Griffin’s book is the unrecognized evil that undermines American democracy. That unrecognized evil is triumphalism.

Triumphalism is the belief that one religion is essentially superior to, and is divinely ordained to, supercede and replace all others. The evil that faces American democracy in general and American Christianity in particular is the unrecognized element of triumphalism. It infects America’s churches and schools, its political and economic institutions and its popular culture.

Griffin wrote that Harold Bloom was one to first use the awkward-sounding term in his 1992 book, The American Religion, “The American religion moves towards the twenty-first century with an unrestrained triumphalism.” Griffin wrote this book to make a radical statement about the “Christ” of Christianity. His thesis is that the unique quality of Jesus is that of an entirely different order of person from the popular “Christ.” Jesus as Brother is the brother of every person, of whatever race, gender, or heritage.

This makes a family of all humanity, each person due the same respect and advantage.

To segregate any portion of humanity as less worthy than others violates the example and teachings of Jesus.

This segregation is the root of the evil of triumphalism, which infects our American culture. Christianity in America has assimilated triumphalism from the Puritans down to the mainline churches today and their multitude of branches and twigs. The equality of all citizens, which is enshrined in our historical documents, is undermined by this evil belief. Greed and arrogance flow into our domestic and global policies from the poison of personal, political, and denominational triumphalism.

Christianity owes to America a vision of Jesus as brother that is not obscured by triumphalism so that our culture is not infected by triumphalism. Christian triumphalism is the root cause of the erosion of our social conscience.

In the past, triumphalism sanctified the conquest, subjugation, and extermination of less powerful human beings by adherents of American triumphalistic religion. Enslavement of imported Africans and deliberate decimation of the native population was one of the ways in which triumphalism was expressed in America in the past. Currently, the triumphalistic attitude is manifest in other ways, most grievously in the acceptance as “normal” a dysfunctional economic system that produces great extremes of hereditary wealth and hereditary poverty. Typically the mainline churches accept poverty, homelessness and economic exploitation as inevitable, and charity as the “normal” way of dealing with them. The hungry need food, but hungry children need a way to escape a future of hunger.

This normalization of poverty is part of the culture of Christianity, but is it compatible with the way Jesus lived and taught? Jesus placed his priority on mutually respectful and nurturing relationships between people. For us as individuals and as a society, this way of life is a valid source of hope that we can improve the America of the future.

This review originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Humanist News and Views, a publication of the Humanists of Minnesota.