Creationism as a Mental Illness

I missed the “debate” between Bill Nye and Ken Ham on Creationism versus Evolution. I read an article recently in which Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson praise Pope Francis for saying Christians should accept evolution, and the article mentioned the terms Observational vs. Historical science, which I had to look up. Here a post that helped me understand what they were talking about –

Dear Mr. Ham: You Can’t Have It Both Ways

“Philosophers of science certainly recognize differences between historical sciences and what Ham is calling ‘observational sciences’ (we often use terms like ‘nomothetic’ to describe sciences like chemistry and physics). The main difference is simply that historical sciences like geology and evolutionary biology try to reconstruct the past, while other sciences like chemistry aren’t especially concerned with any particular time period. Whenever one tries to reconstruct an event that has happened in the past, the direct evidence base will be limited. By definition, historical events have already happened and we won’t be able to go out and have a look at them.

For Ham, the differences run much deeper; he wants to treat the conclusions of observational science as fundamentally different from those of historical science. In particular, he’s willing to accept the former but wants to question the latter. As he said multiple times throughout the debate: We weren’t there to see what happened, so we could be wrong.

Historical science, it would seem, involves collecting evidence to build a model of events that occurred in the past, which Ken Ham dismisses with the argument that “We weren’t there to see what happened, so we could be wrong.”

 There is no debating THAT. In fact even if we WERE there, a mentally healthy person understands that it is still not possible to KNOW the truth, that our perceptions and our cognitive abilities for interpreting those perceptions are limited, unless you happen to be God. Therefore, the scientific method is used to try to improve our ability to “guess right”. If “guessing right” is not your agenda, but rather, “pretending to be right”, then you are either incapable or unwilling of approaching the question of what is true with sincerity. You don’t WANT to know what is true, you want to PRETEND something is true. You want to pretend that you are God, and capable of knowing the truth. Science, then, becomes your enemy, and the methodology of seeking the truth in the evidence becomes extremely problematic when the evidence contradicts your truth –

Observational vs historical science

For Ken Ham and other Young Earth Creationists, however, things are much different. As Ham freely admitted several times during his debate with Bill Nye, his starting point is that his literal reading of the Bible is an unerringly accurate representation of the world. He starts with an interpretation about the world– that a global flood ravaged the Earth and must account for the details of life history and the Earth’s surface, for example– and constructs a force-field of Biblical inerrancy around it. Any observation that is inconsistent with the interpretation is explicitly rejected. It bounces right off. Observations don’t tell Ken Ham that his interpretation is wrong. Ken Ham’s interpretation tells him that the observations are wrong.

Are the “knowers of the truth” even capable of understanding the dishonestly of this morality? I suggest they are not. They are trapped within a cognitive process that begins with the denial of reality to embrace the orgasmic rush of divine infallibility, and they neither comprehend nor care about the earthly consequences of pretending that they are God. The arrogance of certainty feels much better than fear of the unknown, and reason has no more impact on them than it does on any other addict who just wants to get high. They have no idea how mentally ill they truly are, because they have never experienced mental health.

If we, as a society, allow this disease to go unnamed and untreated, it will continue to spread through our school systems, with devastating consequences for which there will be no easy or quick fix. We, as a society, must find the courage to call this illness what it is, and recognize that allowing it to spread under the protection of religious freedom will destroy our democracy. I am not suggesting we outlaw religious beliefs, but neither can we afford to ignore the consequences of this mental illness. Teaching Creationism as Truth is a form of unintended child abuse, and unless we deal with it as such, and protect the children from the spread of this disease, both the children, and our nation, will suffer the terrible consequences.

Ken Ham thinks he won that debate, and maybe he did, for having Creationism treated as a theory, instead of as a mental illness. Once again I would like to honor Pope Francis, for having the courage to challenge Christians to give up their addiction to the Fruit of divine infallibility. This is not really about the choice of evolution or creationism, it is about a cognitive process enforced in early childhood that suffocates young minds, forcing a divorce from reality to suppress evidence contradicting their Truth. It declares war against the process of seeking the truth. This is a mental illness that propagates ferociously, and if we ignore it much longer, climate change will be the least of our problems.

Creationism as a mental illness – Part 2