The Blog from the Pit of HELL

God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says. – U.S. Representative Paul Broun (R-GA)

My office and office-mates. The big guy hogs all the space, and tends to eat people if they get too close. [Credit: Gustav Doré, illustration from Dante’s Divine Comedy]
Some days I think all this Creationist stuff is overblown, and will just wither away on its own. After all, I can go days without interacting with a single Creationist (knowingly at least, since I don’t tend to have that kind of conversation with my librarians or coffee shop baristas). However, all too often I’m reminded that Creationism is a big deal in the United States, and some important authority figures accept it. Broun is a member of the House Science Committee, which (as its name suggests) makes some important decisions about research and the funding thereof. (Phil Plait has a lot more to say about Broun’s blatant failure to uphold the Constitution, especially the separation of church and state in the First Amendment.)

I admit, I take this kind of thing personally. Broun and his compatriots obviously think very bad things about me, my friends, and the work we do. They don’t just disagree or think we’re wrong, they think we’re literally in league with Satan. The work we do—researching, writing, and teaching others about how the Universe works—is evil in their eyes. Broun’s explicit statements that science education is all built on lies aren’t harmless. I hold education to be one of the most noble undertakings in human society, yet here we have an elected official trumpeting ignorance while slandering those who work to increase and share knowledge.

In a fairly early, awkwardly-written blog post, I outlined the “Creationist’s Trilemma“: the three main possibilities for a scientist who doesn’t follow their young Earth views.

  1. Scientists are frauds. In this view, the evidence is actually in favor of the young-Earth Creationist view, but because we’re evil, we suppress this for whatever reason: either to gain power and prestige, or because we’re actively working in the Devil’s service. (If that’s the case, I’ll tell you right now that Satan doesn’t pay very well.) Since scientists are far from a monolithic group, I find it hard to believe anyone could say we are working together to advance a single agenda, so the conspiracy argument doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny.
  2. Scientists are fools. If we had our eyes open, we’d recognize the truth, bu we are led astray by our arrogance or deceived by someone else (the Devil or God). I suppose this is a kinder view, since it lets us scientists work in good faith. However, it’s also a really insulting view: scientists have labored hard over centuries to achieve our modern level of knowledge. The theories of evolution and the Big Bang are built on (both literal and figurative) mountains of evidence. If the Universe itself is deceptive, then that leads to unpleasant theological conclusions: either the Devil is powerful enough to change the appearance of the cosmos (in opposition to the goodness of God’s creation), or God is messing with us. Creationists, before you accuse scientists of being fools, let the idea of a deceiver God sink in a moment.
  3. Scientists are faithful. In other words, grant us the courtesy of accepting that our goals are to understand the Universe, that we are neither engaged in a conspiracy to lead people to Hell or simple tools in the hands of a deceiver. Ethan Siegel has an eloquent post about the evidence for the Big Bang, and why—far from being a lie—the Big Bang theory represents the best of our knowledge about the Universe we inhabit. In fact, his blog, and my blog, and the blogs I link to are devoted to a faithful explanation of the evidence for this view of life and the Universe.

Since Mr. Broun firmly believes in the first option, I know it’s unlikely I or any of my colleagues will change his mind. We’re evil in his eyes, so nothing we say can be trusted. However, the optimist in me thinks that not every Creationist is like that. After all, with people in power who work against education, our biology and physics textbooks are often toned down by fearful publishers. Teachers don’t cover evolution to avoid “controversy” (or because they are themselves Creationist), or they teach a highly caricatured version. In other words, despite the fact that real information about science is out there, students—and adults—aren’t getting it. The fault lies with people like Mr. Broun, but the responsibility to fix the problem lies with us.


17 responses to “The Blog from the Pit of HELL”

  1. […] take it personally when idiot politicians call me and my fellow scientists evil liars. My latest post at Galileo’s Pendulum explains why: Broun and his compatriots obviously think very bad things about me, my friends, and […]

  2. What is really scary is the fact that there is a well organized political movement by the so-called “Christian right” to remake the US into their version of a Christian country by electing “believers,” first by taking control of local school boards and town councils and then moving on to winning higher offices. This movement has at times been known as the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition, and their complete mixing of politics and religion is quite frightening. Contrary to their assertion, the US was not specifically established as a Christian country but as a pluralistic one. Scientists are sometimes reluctant to get into the political arena, but the more power this movement gains, the more important it becomes for all who oppose this fundamentalist agenda to become politically involved as well.

  3. Mr. Broun’s position, sadly, is all too common. I have encountered it far too many times as I have grown up, in the classroom where I have taught, from family members, and others. I try to tell them they are wrong, that scientific inquiry does not necessarily conflict with Christianity, just with a ridiculously narrow criterion, the literal interpretation of a single part of the Bible.

    I admit that I am a man of faith, but I am also a man of science, both in mindset and in training as a chemist. To me the denial of the truth of the physical universe is tantamount to blasphemy. After all, if one is making the a priori assumption of creation through a divine power, the scientific truth found within that creation must be respected.

    I do not believe in the least that you or your colleagues are colluding with Satan, and people like Mr. Broun scandalize the faith through spreading this “false gospel” of literalist garbage. Keep spreading the truth about our universe, dear friends.

    1. Plenty of people of faith (all faiths!) are also people of science, which is another reason why the “evolution and cosmology are from Hell” argument is patently absurd. The Catholic Church and mainline Protestant Christian denominations officially accept both evolution and the Big Bang (though I suspect the current Pope regrets his predecessor’s statements about evolution); the Dalai Lama famously is open to modern physics ideas. My own father is a science-literate Presbyterian minister.

      I think people of faith who accept science are likely the ones who are most damaged by Creationists, since the literalists would happily push them out of their faith communities.

      1. Nathan Crawford (@doc_crawford) Avatar
        Nathan Crawford (@doc_crawford)

        Too true! That is also why we people of faith who are literate must take a stand for the truth. Acquiescence to the literalists, just to remain part of a particular community, is as bad as agreeing with them IMO.

      2. I wish more people understood this! I’m Catholic, but have absolutely zero problem with the big bang theory, evolution, quantum theory, etc. In fact, I accepted those long before I came to my faith. Anyway, glad to see any kind of post that understands the value of both science and religion.

  4. “We’re evil in his eyes, so nothing we say can be trusted. However, the optimist in me thinks that not every Creationist is like that.”

    And you’re right to be optimistic. I (and several of my best friends) were taught that evolutionary biologists were lying atheists growing up, but were curious enough to get outside the bubble and explore the evidence. It promptly changed our minds- we understood that reality is what it is and can’t be ignored. I always try to remember that this really happens. Just not in the middle of a debate when defenses are up…

    1. You’re right. I think there will be a generational shift, which is part of the reason why the hard-core Creationists are doubling down right now. (Was there a single Republican primary candidate this year who openly embraced evolution?) The same generational shift is also happening with kids and 20-somethings who can’t understand their parents’ homophobia. The big difference, however, is that the homophobic education is at home, while anti-evolution education may also be at school.

  5. […] Scientists and science-minded people, who were quick to refute Broun’s claim, received unexpected confirmation today that hell is not the source of science. […]

  6. Linda Lucas Walling Avatar
    Linda Lucas Walling

    Well said!

  7. […] should program, or Programming is Hard? Both! U.S. States Make Opting Out of Vaccinations Harder The Blog from the Pit of HELL The US Congress Anti-Science […]

  8. Evolution is a hell of a theory, but as far as the Big Bang theory is concerned, to hell with it!

  9. Marten, doe alsjeblieft niet zo dom *facepalm*

  10. Kees, laat je niet zo kennen. Of heb je echt zo weinig gevoel voor humor? *smiley*

    1. I appreciate conversation in the comments, but as I don’t read or write Dutch, I can’t moderate your discussion. Please keep comments in English, or transfer to another site. Thank you!

  11. […] forms. When elected officials and school boards attempt to undermine science, or consciously equate scientific knowledge with evil, I tend to take that kind of thing personally. My mission (inasmuch as I have one) is to share the […]

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