(The picture is from Fail Blog.)
Creationists are up to their old tricks, lying about Charles Darwin and distorting history to make it seem like slavery, genocide, and religious intolerance bloomed after (and because of) the theory of evolution. It’s not true. Clear evidence—from the god-sanctioned genocides in the bible to Martin Luther’s verbal vitriol against Jews and women to Hitler’s pious Christianity “doing God’s work”—gives creationists the lie.
And then there’s their giant rhetorical failure: the latest creationist argument is that belief in evolution leads to bad actions; therefore evolution must be untrue (or if it is true, we should pretend it isn’t). As PZ Myers points out,
Darwin could have been a baby-raping cannibal and it wouldn’t have affected the validity of his arguments one whit. That Darwin was actually a fairly conservative British gentleman who was also an abolitionist and advocate for fair treatment of all races (although, admittedly, not equality of all races) similarly doesn’t affect the status of his theory, but does allow us to comfortably celebrate the man, and not just the work.
Here’s my take on the religious belief that drives creationist distortions:
It’s brain pollution. The adult part of the brain is contaminated with beliefs imposed in childhood by parents and others. That’s one reason why it’s bad to treat religion with too much respect nor mention any doubts: we reinforce the entrenched point of view.
However, the ordinary religious person is not stupid: rather, it’s as if they have a deep-seated fear of Friday the 13th or love of a certain lullaby. Or they’re used to eating with a fork / chopsticks or driving on the left / right side of the road. It’s a habit. It’s part of the community. It’s not rational and will not be helped by insults. “Damn braces, bless relaxes.” And a relaxed person will listen more. Besides, I wouldn’t insult a friend who had a deathly fear of, say, heights.
Changing religious attitudes might be helped by gentle ridicule of the beliefs; discussions of the fruits of religion (if atheism causes orgies, then belief causes massacres); or straightforward appeals to reality: “I see no evidence” or “I believe in it as much as you believe in the Hindu religion and its sacred texts.” Or if you can be more blunt: “Jesus is as real as Paul Bunyan or Santa Claus.” (Claus image from cracked.com)
Finally, some people want a comforting certainty and they will always search for one. It’s best to offer an alternative belief—perhaps in the value of life and our environment. Every time I slap a mosquito I’m conscious of ending a 4-billion-year journey. Or help them to tackle the problems of the here and now. Protecting species from extinction while giving every person a fair slice of the pie, security of person, equality before the law, and a productive life will be a challenge as great as any crusade.