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(DV) Pfaltz: A Shriek in the Wilderness







A Shriek in the Wilderness
by Minna vander Pfaltz
April 26, 2005

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I ran across a website with an intriguing name, A Voice Out of the Wilderness, and went to investigate. This is a site of the Creationists and bills itself as a scientific website. Indeed, it is full of information, though one would hardly call it science. On this site I discovered the world is 4,000 years old. That is an absolute certainty. Four thousand years. Now. . .the Creationists (even though they are Christians) base their pseudoscience on the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the written record of the Jews written long after the Exodus from Egypt, led by a typical hero (cf. Otto Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero and Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces) who eventually got lost in the desert. Christ didn't get lost in the desert; the Buddha did not get lost in the woods; but Moses got lost, but good. However, here the Creationists have a problem: their conception of the genesis of the world is that it is only 4,000 years old, yet they base their science on the Old Testament of the Jews and, in the Jewish calendar, this year (2005) is the year 5765. Not only is this discrepancy not explained, it is not even considered. Nowhere is there mention of the Jews and the length of time they consider their nation (which is not the same as the world) to have been in existence. Nor is there anything but total disregard for the written record of the Shang Dynasty in China, considered the first "nation" of China, which dates from around 5,000 years ago. There were little isolated kingdoms before the Shang and they, too, left written records. But, you know, it is only fair that their doctrine be taught in schools as science, alongside mainstream accepted science, all things being equal.


A great many mainstream science-believing people give out a hue and cry about Creationism and its belief that it is a science and must, must, MUST be taught in the science curriculum in schools because of fairness. As they should. Creationism could be taught within the Creationists' religious milieu except for one thing: Christianity is evangelical and believes, like Mohammad, that all the world must believe like them. No threat of "or else." But no thought of allowing freedom, either. Freedom is multilateral, pluralistic. It is not formed of great generalizations, for any generalization breaks down the more intimate and precise and detailed the application. For example, all people who have broad, flattened noses are black. Not so but if the general observation is held to, Asians and Australian Aborigines are black. This holds both for Christianity and Creationism: not all Christians are Creationists. The Creationist Christians believe, it seems, in a conceptually consistent, coherent universe, yet the world of immediate daily experience is not identical (consistent, coherent) with the world of the biologist, the chemist or the physicist. Each of these worlds is a construction relative to human interests. Human interests are not all the same. These various views of the world exist simultaneously and yet do not disturb the whole, do not impose themselves on the others. Indeed, without them, the whole would be a different thing. With imposition of one view over another there would be the tyranny of only looking out of one window in a multi-windows room, all others being boarded up.


But the hue and cry of more rigorous intellectuals -- that Creationism is unfounded, poor science -- misses the point of Creationism and the extremities of religious intolerance: why is it being propounded? Why is it being forced, by law, onto the rest of the American world (to begin with)? Their agenda has been made quite plain: dominate and destroy. But there is more to it than this.


What is it, then, that these Creationist Christians are doing? Quite simply, they are running away. They are running away from a world they perceive as being chaotic, from a world they maintain is in apocalypse. There are innumerable changes occurring within society and within the environment -- in the entire world -- and these people are unable to cope. They find this to be an attack on their world, their conception of the world, their religion. This chaotic world -- which may not be chaotic to some -- runs counter to their idea of what should be and, more importantly, what should not be. Instead of becoming more flexible, they become more rigid, damning all that they find disagreeable. Piece by piece. Especially science. Because science is responsible for the mess we are in. The mess they are in. And, most important, God did not create evolution. All heterodoxies must be eliminated as abominable of God. If everybody doesn't see the light, believe as the Creationist Christians do, the world and its evil ways is still a threat. So, like the Medieval Church and witch hunts, the Creationist Christians are on a crusade to rid the world of evil believing that evil lurks outside and once the outside has been purged all will be well. The changes in the world, the chaos and instability that creates confusion must be apprehended. Like a criminal.


The first thing to do, then, is become intolerant, rigid and demanding. All in an attempt to keep their world intact. No further encroachment of the tolerance of heterodoxies must be allowed. All -- all is outlaw. There is no such a thing as Robin Hood, that is, a good outlaw, an outlaw with morals and ethics and a good heart. This is a stance of selective ignorance in the name of protectionism: only this exists, not that. Ignore it. Simply preach that it doesn't exist. Over and over until the cows come home or the crows alight. Indeed, ignore it long enough and it will go away. The Qing Dynasty believed in this doctrine in the 19th century when British gunboat diplomacy burst upon their shores. The Qing lost, big time. The Japanese Bakufu of the Tokugawa Shogunate practiced this in the face of US gunboat diplomacy too. They lost big time. But people in denial are one-eyed in a world of blind men. You know how it is . . . if you ignore that volcano long enough it will not erupt any more. I know it because I believe it. I have faith. Although in slightly perverted form, this is a form of mind over matter which, in itself, is a highly perverted form of a factor in Quantum Mechanical theory; however, to some extent this can be found in the philosophers of the 17th and 18th and 19th centuries who considered reality, the world, to be no more than humanity's conception of it. Just an idea. That is, nothing is really real. Even our senses lie. This of necessity leads to: we cannot prove that our bodies, and thus the world, exist; we must believe that they do. This is faith too. Because of this state of affairs, we are necessarily ignorant of the world because we can only allow certain kinds of knowledge into our system. We do not exist beyond our sensual-experiencing bodies. Since we create the world we live in, since we create ourselves, as it were, why not create the world we want when we want it? Thus, Creationism: it creates a needed world, a needed belief . . . and it feels it must impose it on everyone else because of an inner fear that they are wrong -- and fear is what motivates this type of thinking. If everyone adheres to their doctrine, then they cannot be wrong, right? Fear and anxiety will be eliminated . . . but only if you eliminate all of the knowledge and thinking -- heterodoxies -- that offer up alternatives to the word (and the world) of God. These things are impurities.


This step in intellectualism seems to me to be an attempt to return to the noble (ignorant) savage stage, a Romantic idea if ever there was one, perpetrated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This ignorant (noble) savage is supposedly happy and morally uncorrupted -- because civilization corrupts. Knowledge, too, it seems, according to the Creationists, corrupts. Better to be ignorant. Look at what happened to Adam and Eve when they ate of the Tree of Knowledge? Mein Gott! We must return to the pristine pure reality of ignorance that God in his infinite wisdom gave us in order to save ourselves. That is, we must destroy all that we are in order to save ourselves . . . which sounds eerily similar to the practices of the military in Vietnam and Iraq. When you have destroyed everything, you have nothing, not even yourself. But the Creationist Christians believe they are better than everyone else, that they know better, and so it is necessary to return everyone to a state of ignorant savageness in order to put the world back on the right track. Is this not a kind of megalomania? Is this not fascism? It is exactly what one would expect to find at a time when the State is in crisis, according to Ernst Cassirer (The Myth of the State). At such times of chaos and instability, of change, there is an increase in myths and fantastic beliefs in order that order be somehow, mystically restored. Often a demand for rigid state control is passed off as the only means to salvation. Thus, the Creationists are right on time. All they are doing is trying to save themselves. Politically and religiously! . And in their great magnanimity, they are willing to extend their saving grace to all humankind. They are doing so progressively, though education (and legalization). Take this, it's good for you. Bitter medicine is good medicine.


Instead of advancing the state of humanity, though, Creationism prefers to take us backwards in time to a time when the world was a mystical, unknown place, a place populated by a single God and a whole bunch of ignorant people. There is a problem here, though, in that there was not a single God until quite late in the order of the world, about 5,760 years ago. There was pantheism long before the single God -- who is actually three identities. Long before the Judeo-Christian monad (that is three) the world was a mysterious, unknown place and every thing had a god in it that made it do things to those early humans. Even the Judeo-Christian God is a god that does things to humans and, though He gives humanity the panacea of free will, there is only determinism, also an older philosophical tendency in the intellectual history of humanity, though it is a major tenet of Christianity. Better to be determined -- fated -- than running wildly about in chaos not knowing what it is you're doing or what it is that's happening or where it is you're going. The ancient Greeks, those heathens, believed in fate. So that the Creationist God is only a subsumation of the pantheistic god system because, like the pantheistic system, the world (God's will) is still acting on humanity, humanity is not doing anything of its own accord. It is passive. Doing what you're told is so much easier and bereft of responsibility than making up your own mind. And, of course, God said so.


While the Creationists are running after their ideas, spewing their fear everywhere like a broken water main, the world is still moving on toward its unknown, unknowable end. Delving into the romantic past will not change this. Forcing a doxy on the majority of the people is an idea reminiscent of Inquisition hysteria and Savonarola's burning books he'd never read. But he'd heard about them. Increase Mather first brought this brand of systematic justice to the New World.


However, there is another point to consider: the Creation Scientists base their science on the first few paragraphs of the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis. But, more to the point, they are Christians so they believe that "in the beginning was the Word." And that word is said to be God. Literal exacerbation of a metaphor creates an ever blossoming ulcer that oozes the life out of itself. In mythological times, the power of the word was all embracing and without bounds. The word, first spoken by humans, was magical; it appeared that words can do things, make things happen, make the world accord with the wishes of humanity. To know your true name was to have power over you. You can neither utter the name of God nor use His name in vain -- bad things will happen to you. (If they don't right away, that's because God's waiting for a more opportune moment to smack you down. Which is giving unto God human characteristics.) The word is all-powerful. The word is God. God, then, is not an anthropomorphological Being but a concept, an attempt to give voice to experience, to the consciousness of the world outside, external to the self of those early humans (ignorant savages). If we follow this line of reasoning and couple with it the regressionism of Creationism to invoke to the ignorant savage state once again, we discover that the end result will be that of no-speech; a time of consciousness of nothing, not even ourselves; a time of just us existing, like the animals. There would be no idea of nothing. And, of course, everybody would be happy. Happy, happy, happy scrabbling for a living, hunting for food and hoping (if that is the right word for the fear and anxiety attending the hunt) that there will be food. (Agriculture was a scientific technological addition and, therefore, not in God's plan.) Happy, happy ignorance. Thrust on us by a feudal, fascist God in his Leibnizean benevolence, perhaps a moment when He (?) forgot himself. The best of all possible worlds. With no understanding of the world, with this outcry against and ignoring of the findings of science and philosophy that have given humanity its comfort and complacency, there will be no understanding of the world we live in. We will be back to relying on a god to tell us what to do because we are not free though we are willful. We will be moving back to sacrifices in order to make the world do right by us. A time when the world is out of control -- and so too humanity. Right back to where we are now. In the beginning, religion was the mind's searching for a meaning to the world, to life because life in its totality was chaotic, without sensible meaning to people. Animals have no problem coping. Since the beginning of human life, there have been innumerable meanings. Some have died, some have changed, some have continued on; all existed side-by-side, though sometimes not pleasantly. Religion has been there all along because it is the meaning of a different world, a different entity; science is interested solely in the immediate physical world and does not attempt to deal with the inner workings of the mind (except those Harvard scientists who believe they can deduce the workings of insanity from dissecting dead brains). Religion is a philosophy of life meaning.


Why is the Creationist Christian doctrine in denial? And it is in denial. It denies science (and the knowledge and technology) that has brought comfort and complacency, that has brought the ability to communicate to very many more people than would have been possible without such technology. Would they have been able to do this without these additions to language (lots of "the words")? Would the Creationists give up these advancements as they so cavalierly give up science and knowledge? I doubt it very seriously. Take away, for instance, electricity and what have you got? No way to communicate other than by word of mouth and Ben Franklin's postal service. No modern auto-transportation. No heat, light or means to cook. No protection during thunderstorms or lightning storms, because Ben Franklin's science brought about lightning rods. No. No way, Jose. They'll keep the advancements and conveniences while throwing away the means. Thus, the Creationist Christians are similar to those environmentalists who will not wear leather because it's cow murder but will eat beef.


They are in denial, too, because they believe all of the science and knowledge will erode -- nay, destroy their religion (if not their faith). Their argument is familiar and repetitive, like the ubiquitous broken record. The Church said it about Aristotelian systems, Arabian medicine, Copernicus' discoveries, Galileo's discoveries, Newton's discoveries, Luther's thinking . . . and these new-fangled ideas have had no effect at all on the Judeo-Christian ethicomoral climate. None. Darwin and Spencer, too, were damned. Of course, Darwin still is -- erroneously. Darwin was not an evolutionist, he was a transformist; Spencer was the evolutionist. He wasn't the first, either. Evolution was propounded by 17th and 18th century philosophers, all devout believers in God. Nevertheless, the ethicomoral system of Christianity has not been affected in the least.


Or is the real problem that science (and evolution) threatens their faith? How weak their belief! How absurd. Their God made everything on the earth. That includes cell mutation, which accounts for many diseases as well as healthful advantages. God did not create a static world in which nothing ever, ever changes. If so, how to explain the behavior of viruses and bacteria? Surely they've not been waiting in the wings until the right time to step forward and claim their own! Why does Creationist Christianity create a static world? Indeed, by maintaining a static world, that God created a full-blown, fully-developed unchanging world, is to maintain that they, the Creationist Christians, know God's will/plan/mind, which they also claim is unknowable. Are they, then, playing God? No. They are trying to establish stability.


This, of course, leads us right back to fear of chaos, fear of the unknown. A time when nothing made sense. . .and some idea was thought up to explain the unexplainable. Better by far to be a passive participant than an active agent. God help you if you show any initiative, any original thought! You could make a mistake that way. Mistakes are disallowed in God's world.


What we, those of us who allow of science and knowledge -- which does not include the ruling Neo-conservative clique -- what we should be doing is showing these Creationist Christians a great deal of pity -- and then help them discover freedom and self-determination, as well as the difference between science and theology. It is counterproductive to complain about them and damn them. That is akin to proving they are right: we are godless creatures or else we would not speak thusly. How to do this? One road is, perhaps, to discover their basic assumptions, discover what they mean by "science" (especially theirs) and proceed gently, using their methodology, to learn 'em. And asking questions such as "If the world is only 4,000 years old and you base your entire belief system and science on the Jewish text called the Old Testament, how is it that the world of the Jews out of which Christianity sprung (thought up by a Jew) is 5,760 years old?"


Until then, as the Creationists sink sadly into the yawning chasm of the earth as it opens up beneath them taking us with them, they will be spouting the same doctrine that put them in their precarious position to begin with because that is all they know, they will have thrown out all knowledge but their belief, their idea, their concept. Did God invent the wheel? They will never understand why God is doing this to them, why they are being so severely punished because -- they've been good, haven't they? (Enter the witch hunt: there is evil among us!) In their frantic attempt to concretize the world into stasis, they will be no more effective than the passengers counting the deck chairs on the Titanic.


In attempting to hold onto a meaningful world, Creationism is squeezing the life out of it. Indeed, Creationism is squeezing the life out of itself, like that morning hand its tube of toothpaste. For it is common and vulgar and debasing to search for the truth (proof) of a religious belief. To make it a real entity, a human historical event is to rob it of its power. Religion is, after all, a metaphor. Metaphors are not concrete and, contrary to literature teachers, cannot be reduced to a meaning because metaphors express an experience, a feeling -- which does not come in bits and pieces but in one great totality. The extraordinariness, the phenomenalism and supramundanity surrounding the belief is the most important element, not its actuality. Making of the belief, the metaphor, the spirit an object is to lessen it, to make it mundane. Dogma may be mundane but religious belief is not: life is more than us, more than we can conceive. By proving the literalness of the Biblical metaphor they are destroying themselves, creating a Tower of Babel.


Perhaps we should let them.


Minna vander Pfaltz is a freelancer who is forced to make a living at something less edifying than writing. She can be reached at for comment.


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