I would like to stand by Virginia Heffernan, a Harvard-educated, former staffer for the New York Times, Slate, Harper’s and The New Yorker, and now a national technology correspondent for Yahoo News, who recently wrote a column entitled, “Why I Am a Creationist.” Because of her stance, she has received derisive and mocking criticism from those who believe she’s an idiot for believing in the Bible.
For example, Gawker writer, Hamilton Nolan, wrote that Heffernan’s attitude
“would be charming coming from, say, an eccentric aunt who lives in the wood and sells dreamcatchers and has a really good heart. But from a writer who presumably would like her opinions about technology— a thing made with science!— to be take seriously at some point, the admissions are troubling.”
(This coming from a person who writes for a website whose top stories for today include, “Topless Miley Cyrus Photos Surface Online” and “Does GQ Know It’s Got a Boob Hanging Out on One of Its Articles?”)
And, of course, the main way that atheists and secularists seem to communicate to the world today is through the use of crude, ad hominen attacks, so she is being called every name imaginable. One Twitter user (@canesandbucs) wrote, “[My] new faith is that Virginia Hefferman is a clueless c**t. That, I can believe in.”
So in this article I would like to explain to the Nolans and the @canesandbucs of the world why the Word of God should take precedence over science.
Every era had its “scientists” who thought they were on the cutting edge of the latest intellectual pursuit, yet they were entirely wrong! In fact the heroes of history were those who used the Words of the Bible to counter the foolishness of their “scientific” endeavors. Let’s just look at a few examples of how science (a word that means “knowledge”) failed when it wasn’t tethered to the Word of God.
The first example that comes to mind is the “science” of the Enlightenment rationalists. Jefferson, Hume, Kant, and Voltaire were the most intelligent men of their day, but their scientific pursuits led them to believe in polygenism–otherwise known as “scientific racism.” This was a theory that supposed that the ancestral lineages of the different races were separate, therefore making them unequal, or even sub-human. This led to comparisons between the races based on their physical attributes and mental capabilities. As a result, these men of science, who rejected the authority of the scriptures, would contribute to the abuse of the darker races.
David Hume, who relied on nothing higher than reason for his knowledge, ascribed this lofty role to the purposes of science:
“The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.”
Yet Hume used his science and learning to conclude:
“I am apt to suspect the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complection [sic] than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences . . . such a uniform and constant difference could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not made an original distinction between these breeds of men.”
Immanuel Kant, who would define Enlightenment thought, in part, as the ability to think for oneself, made this scientific observation:
“The Negroes of Africa have received from nature no intelligence that rises above the foolish.”
The Enlightenment emphasis on reason and science would be embodied in the work of Voltaire, who said this about the black race:
“Their round eyes, their flat nose, their lips which are always thick, their differently shaped ears, the wool on their head, the measure even of their intelligence establishes between them and other species of men prodigious differences. If their understanding is not of a different nature from ours, it is at least greatly inferior.”
Even Thomas Jefferson, the greatest of all Enlightenment scholars, who loved to learn about chemistry, astronomy, geology, and natural history, and was a great collector of seeds, plants, and animal and bird specimens, wrote this scientific description of the black race in his Notes on Virginia:
“The first difference which strikes us is that of colour. Whether the black of the negro resides in the reticular membrane between the the skin and scarf-skin, or in the scarf-skin itself; whether it proceeds from the colour of the blood, the colour of the bile, or from that of some other secretion, the difference is fixed in nature . . . They secrete less by the kidneys, and more by the glands of the skin, which gives them a very strong and disagreeable odor. This greater degree of transpiration renders them more tolerant of heat, and less so of cold, than the whites.”
The description is much longer and includes words such as “pulmonary apparatus,” “principal regulator,” and “expiration.” Jefferson also thought that blacks were inferior to whites, not only because of the way they looked and smelled, but also because he observed they had no ability to plan or give forethought to their actions, were easily aroused sexually, and had less ability to learn or reason.
Based on their “scientific” views, the Enlightenment rationalists were RACISTS.
The National Academy of Science was even led by a scientific racist. Samuel George Morton, the Academy’s president in 1849, wrote Crania Americana, which was a book on phrenology, that is, the attempt to develop a racial theory based on the measurement of skull size. Morton would describe the black man in this way, which was similar to the Enlightenment thinkers:
“Characterized by a black complexion, and black, woolly hair; the eyes are large and prominent, the nose broad and flat, the lips thick, and the mouth wide; the head is long and narrow, the forehead low, the cheekbones prominent, the jaws protruding, and the chin small.”
Morton’s disciples, George Gliddon and Josiah Nott, would write Types of Mankind (or Ethnological Research) which would be used by southern slaveholders as a scientific justification for slavery.
Yet there was a group of Christians who opposed the science of the Enlightenment scholars because it was in opposition to the Word of God. They argued that polygenism was wrong because the Bible teaches that all races came from a single source. They based their belief on Acts 17:26 which declares:
“From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth.”
The Ethnological Society of London would form for the express purpose of battling against scientific racism. Their motto, “ab uno sanguire” which means “from one blood” was based on the Acts 17:26 concept that all races were descendants from Adam and Eve (monogenism) rather than from many parents (polygenism).
The Ethnological Society’s members were also members of the Clapham Sect, the group that worked with William Wilberforce to overthrow slavery in the British Empire. They would inspire William Lloyd Garrison, the American abolitionist, and Frederick Douglass, whose speech given in 1854 at Western Reserve College was entitled “Claims of the Negro Ethnologically Considered.” In this speech, he asked that men would consider the truthfulness of a theory based on its impact on humanity. He used the Bible to fight against polygenism:
“Which of these answers [yes or no to monogeny] is most in accordance with the facts, with reason, with the welfare of the world, and reflects most glory upon the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Author of all existence, is the question for consideration with us. On which side is the weight of the argument, rather than which side is absolutely proved. It must be admitted . . . that, viewed apart from the authority of the Bible, neither the unity nor diversity of origin of the human family can be demonstrated.”
We now consider Frederick Douglass to be a hero. Do a Google search of “Frederick Douglass school” and see all of the schools named after him! Douglass was on the right side of history because he trusted in the Bible, rather than in science.
This scenario could be played out over and over in history. Medieval “science” was based on Aristotelian philosophy. It was this science, untethered to the gospel, that Galileo was opposing. Francis Bacon developed the scientific method in order to counter Aristotelian philosophy. He believed in a science that was tethered to the scriptures, and it blessed the world.
In fact, the Scientific Revolution was birthed out of a love for the Word of God. Creationism hasn’t hurt humanity! Some of the greatest blessings came from men who were motivated by a desire to overthrow the Aristotelian view that something could be spontaneously generated out of nothing. Louis Pasteur was motivated by this anti-evolutionary view and gave the world pasteurized food. Joseph Lister (a member, incidentally, of the Ethnological Society of London) would give the world antiseptic surgery, saving countless lives, as a direct result of using creationist principles.
On the other hand, some of the most gruesome offenses against humanity came as a result of science that runs free without constraints. Francis Galton, a relative of Charles Darwin, would try to apply evolutionary principles as found in plants and animals to humans. It was Galton who coined the term “eugenics.”
This evil science would be often be implemented through compulsory methods and force. In Nazi Germany, euthanasia and genocide would be used as tools to accomplish the eugenic goal of purifying the Aryan race. Millions would suffer under the scientific truth of eugenics–which was based on Darwinian evolution rather than the Word of God.
Many people can mock creationists for their stance on biblical authority, but creationism hasn’t harmed anybody, while science, running free and wild, with no higher authority holding it accountable, has been the cause of massive human suffering.
I want to encourage Virginia Heffernan, and let her know that she’s in good company when she claims to be a creationist. Some of the most brilliant minds of history were creationists. Isaac Newton, the father of modern science (and physics and calculus) was a creationist. Robert Boyle, the father of chemistry, and John Ray, the father of biology, were both creationists. Louis Pasteur was a creationist.Thomas Jefferson was a creationist. (Remember this line?: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are CREATED equal, endowed by their CREATOR with certain inalienable rights.” This part of his beliefs blessed humanity!) I could go on and on . . .
Keep standing fast upon the Word of God, Virginia. It has always been on the right side of history. You won’t go wrong when you rely on the scriptures as the highest form of truth.