Please see the general introduction to Parts 2 - 4 HERE.
Chronologically, Part Four picks up roughly when Part Three left off, but focuses on two specific related areas of science—the age of the earth and the theory of evolution. It begins in the early 1600s, with the first comprehensive frontal attack by Frances Bacon on the Aristotelean-Church deductive approach to learning—making deductions from too little information and the absence of efforts to add to that information—the approach used throughout medieval scholasticism, which put doctrinal concerns at the center of everything. Instead, Bacon called for an inductive approach to learning. In his utopia, he urged the adoption of highly systematic state-sponsored research programs to study reality at the ground level in order to build up to sounder general principles.
From the 1660s onward, over the next 200 years or so, long-buried cultural insanities were very slowly brought to light by developments in understanding the true age of the earth, the proper recognition of what fossil shells actually were and, beginning shortly before 1800, amazing new fossil finds. It slowly became progressively clearer that the six days of creation in the Xtian holy book, and the 6,000 or so years since that creation, simply did not allow enough time for the geological record that was emerging, even under the day-age interpretation (with a day being as a thousand years). The ever-accumulating evidence also slowly revealed that Noah’s Flood, even if something like it occurred, could not be regarded as sufficient—and later was seen as entirely inadequate (and a limited, local flood at most)—as an explanation for much of anything geologically or geographically.
Part Four tracks these early advances in geology and the excruciatingly slow rise of doubt in the biblical scenarios, and then shifts to a focus on the evidence slowly accumulating about evolution. Evolution could only occur on a planet much, much older than the one in the Xtian holy book. Despite a well-argued case, Darwin’s theory of evolution, published in 1859, took many decades to be fully accepted because there were doubts and questions about whether “natural selection” could actually drive evolution and, especially among ordinary people, because Darwin’s view did not incorporate any role for a divine providence. But key developments in and after the first quarter of the 20th century, including the re-discovery of Mendel’s 1865 work on the genetics of peas, advances in statistical analysis, and the discovery of chromosomes and the structure of DNA, left less and less room for doubt except as to the details of exactly how natural selection works. More recent discoveries in geology, paleontology, biology, genetics, statistics, and molecular biology—which I summarize in a table—have fully excavated this once almost totally-buried cultural insanity, in the process overwhelming any possible viability to the mythological biblical accounts of the creation of the earth and its various life forms, as well as the story of Noah’s Flood.
And that makes it all the more remarkable that there are still believers in the inerrancy of the Xtian holy book—lots of them, albeit with many different interpretations of that inerrancy—yet, somehow, very few believers in the heliocentrism that is all but explicit in the book of Joshua. So I took a look at two of “young-earth creationist” books, one about the Grand Canyon. The many failures in the book to explain Grand Canyon geology within the biblical timeline, abetted by Noah’s Flood, may not be initially obvious to the scientifically illiterate. But, on top of all the problems with their explanation within the Grand Canyon—some of which I identify—the processes they use to explain the canyon utterly fail to produce results that are true to reality when applied in other geological contexts. In this manner, it is remarkably easy to demonstrate, using only reason and rudimentary scientific knowledge, how their explanations for the Grand Canyon are concoctions of pure fantasy, with no basis in science. That leaves us with the conclusion that young-earth creationism and/or the denial of geologic time is a cultural insanity.
Finally, I proceed to show some of the harm done to human fulfillment done by this cultural insanity in today’s society. And here we find a subculture’s cultural insanities have run amok, doing considerable damage. These concluding sections show how crucial areas in many sciences, and even the fundamentals of some sciences, must be disregarded, discounted or denied to maintain a cultural insanity that rejects geologic time. I also consider just some of the serious negative effects that advocates of young-earth creationism (and “intelligent design”) have had, not only on the children of the believers themselves, but on vast numbers of other students in our K-12 educational systems, and on our society. A major outcome of the continuation and assertiveness of this cultural insanity has been to substantially reduce scientific literacy as well as the development of human potential in many areas of science across much of our society.
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Parade of skeletons (for comparative anatomy) at the National Museum of Natural History, Paris.
(This was Georges Cuvier's realm.)
Photo by Jeff Koon.