LEAD LETTER OF THE WEEK

Creationist thought unreliable

November 11, 2012 

A correspondence thread began when The Sun News reported Bill Nye’s opinion that creationism is damaging U.S. science. Raymond Kocot responded (Oct. 8) with the creationist view that the theory of evolution is not experimental and therefore not scientifically valid. In his zeal to attack evolution he also merged the creation of living organisms from inert materials (to which evolution does. not pretend to apply) with the subsequent development of species (which, of course, it very successfully explains).

Charles LeTan’s letter (Oct. 20) lampooned this creationist “thesis,” which amused some readers but may have confused others. Daniel Merrritt (Oct. 25) then contributed additional creationist ideas, focusing on the book of Genesis which, he said, if successfully challenged (by evolution), means the Bible cannot be depended on.

In the creation story in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 the following events are described: first creation of living creatures (verses 20-26), then creation of man and woman (27-28), and finally creation of plants and trees (30-31). In the alternate creation story in Genesis 2 the same events are described but in a different order: first creation of man (verse 7), then the creation of plants and trees (8-9), then the creation of living creatures (19-20), and finally creation of woman (21-23).

Biblical scholars think divergence from an original creation story occurred in the pre-literate era. Defining a written text that they hoped would prove ecumenical and satisfy all the tribes of Israel, the compilers of Genesis apparently chose to include two versions, even knowing full well that they contradicted each other. So these writers, 2,500 years ago, knew their book was imperfect, and that they could not certify either story to be the exact words of God. Nevertheless, today’s creationists believe otherwise.

Daniel Merritt should tell us which he believes is false: Genesis 1 or Genesis 2. While we are waiting, unless you have the verses of Genesis 1 and 2 already in your head, why not take five minutes to read through them again. Do you see two separate stories that differ in several major aspects? If so, do you conclude, as Daniel Merritt says you must, that the entire Bible is unreliable? Or do you think, as I do, that what really seems unreliable is “creationist thought.”

Bill Nye was addressing the sad fact that although 95 percent or more of the U.S. population who possess degrees in science or related subjects accept that Darwin was correct, this view is not shared by almost half of the U.S. general public, because of an inadequate level of science education and the attempts by religious fundamentalists to make sure it stays inadequate.

In a coincidence, Mr. Kocot’s letter was printed on the same day that the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to John Gurdon of Cambridge, England and Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto, Japan. A few years ago, using just four gene vectors, Yamanaka was able to convert regular skin cells back into “induced pluripotent stem cells,” which are the full equivalent of embryonic stem cells from a blastocyst. Professor Yamanaka left California to work in Japan around the time that President Bush was forbidding the use of federal funds for stem cell research (which was widely interpreted as a sop to his fundamentalist supporters).

So, at least in this instance, Bill Nye’s view is substantiated.

The writer lives in Myrtle Beach.

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