Advertisement

If Only Biblical Literalists Really Were Literal

Craig V. Svensson (The Scientist, January 26, 1987) claims to be a biblical literalist. Those of us who spend some of our spare time combating the obfuscations of creationism wish heartily that this claim were true, for the literal words of the Bible are much more compatible with Darwinism than is the pseudoscientific bilge of creationism. The fact is that fundamentalism cannot get by without hundreds of nonbiblical canons for which there is no authority but the word of scientifically illiterate

By | March 9, 1987

Craig V. Svensson (The Scientist, January 26, 1987) claims to be a biblical literalist. Those of us who spend some of our spare time combating the obfuscations of creationism wish heartily that this claim were true, for the literal words of the Bible are much more compatible with Darwinism than is the pseudoscientific bilge of creationism.

The fact is that fundamentalism cannot get by without hundreds of nonbiblical canons for which there is no authority but the word of scientifically illiterate evangelists. For example, Svensson says that, according to Genesis, animals were to reproduce only "after their kind." The word only does not appear in the Genesis text. By putting it in his sentence (although quite correctly not in quotes), he has changed the commonplace observation that offspring resemble their parents into a divine injunction. One cannot erect the simple sentence, "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind…." into a scientific principle without adding detailed commentaries on the meaning of the word kind and the intention of the author (or the Holy Spirit).

It is clear that comparative vertebrate anatomy was not a preoccupation of the author. Animals are classified according to their habitat (water or land) or method of locomotion (creeping, swimming, flying). Further confirmation of this tacit taxonomy is found in Leviticus 11:13-19, where the bat is listed as a fowl. A few verses later, one finds the glaringly incorrect statement that rabbits—hares and coneys—chew the cud!

The real solution to the creation-evolution controversy is simply continued dialogue. I am confident that most creationists are sufficiently rational to see the inconsistency of explaining away explicit biblical claims that rabbits chew the cud, while insisting that the much vaguer statements about the air being filled with fowl after their kind must be accepted as statements of precise scientific principles.

Whatever decision creationists come to, I hope they will cease taking advantage of the scientific ignorance of the decent people they have enlisted in their quixotic assault on reason. This assault may prove to be a mistake, since it has provoked a great deal of rational scrutiny of their claims. One should remember the effect that scientific errors can have when proclaimed as the necessary consequence of religious authority.

Although I consider fundamentalism a delusional system on a par with astrology, I would very much like to keep this opinion to myself. I shall do so as soon as the fundamentalists stop trying to wreck science education in America.

—Roger Cooke
Dept. of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Vermont
16 Colchester Ave. Burlington, VT 05405

Advertisement

Follow The Scientist

icon-facebook icon-linkedin icon-twitter icon-vimeo icon-youtube
Advertisement
Ingenuity
Ingenuity

Stay Connected with The Scientist

  • icon-facebook The Scientist Magazine
  • icon-facebook The Scientist Careers
  • icon-facebook Neuroscience Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Genetic Research Techniques
  • icon-facebook Cell Culture Techniques
  • icon-facebook Microbiology and Immunology
  • icon-facebook Cancer Research and Technology
  • icon-facebook Stem Cell and Regenerative Science
Advertisement
CEM
CEM
Advertisement
NeuroScientistNews
NeuroScientistNews
Life Technologies