Monday, May 23, 2005

Ignorance is bliss

And, apparently, something to be celebrated - or at least promoted in a "museum." Sunday's Kentucky Enquirer fills us in:
Soon, visitors to [Ken] Ham's still-unfinished Creation Museum will experience his view: that God created the world in six, 24-hour days on a planet just 6,000 years old. ...

Undaunted by considerable opponents, Ham's Answers in Genesis ministry is building a $25 million monument to creationism. The largest museum of its kind in the world, it hopes to draw 600,000 people from the Midwest and beyond in its first year. ...

"People will get saved here," Ham says of the museum. "It's going to fire people up. If nothing else, it's going to get them to question their own position of what they believe." ...

"It's a foundational battle," he says, his Australian accent unmistakeable. "You've got to get people believing the right history - and believing that you can trust the Bible."
Ham is something of a one-man creationist campaign, an example of how far ignorance and fanaticism can take you: His Answers in Genesis website claims to get 10 million page views a month; his "Answers...with Ken Ham" radio show is on more than 725 stations worldwide; his newsletter goes to 120,000 people; Creation magazine has 25,000 subscribers in the US. Then there are the talks, the books, and the DVDs. So more exactly, it's a measure of how far ignorance and fanaticism and a fat bank account will go: His ministry has a budget of $14 million a year.
In waging a culture war, Ham has a large number of potential foot soldiers.

Gallup polls since 1982 have consistently shown that about 45 percent of the U.S. population believes that God created humans in their present form sometime within the past 10,000 years.
Which means, sadly but not surprisingly, almost half of our population lives not only in a state of ignorance but in a state of willful ignorance, a deliberate rejection of science and knowledge. It's not often mentioned, but should be, that to embrace creationism is not only to reject evolution, not even to reject all of biology, it's to reject astronomy, which also posits an ancient Earth and an even older universe. It's to reject archaeology, which uses dating methods which depend on radioactive decay, our understanding of which, again, depends on an old Earth. It's to reject chemistry and physics, which underlie the methods used by astronomy and archaeology to reach their conclusions. It's to reject the entire enterprise of science. It is, that is, to reject knowledge per se, to reject learning per se, to reject trying to understand the world.

I've argued before that when people feel stressed, when they feel their personal world (i.e., the society around them) doesn't make sense or is changing in ways they don't understand, they tend to reach back for the seeming safety of old, familiar ideas, to try to recreate an imagined time when things were in what seemed to be their proper order. That is, they become conservative. And the more stressed, the more uncomfortable with the changes, they become, the more conservative they become, unwilling to face what I have previously called "the terrifying prospect of change."

So am I saying that half of my fellow citizens have been scared and confused into turning their backs on knowledge? Yes - that's exactly what I'm saying. That doesn't mean I know what to do about it except to fear that it will get worse before it gets better and to hope that, as others have done before us, we will survive it and maybe even come out better at the end.

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