Fundamentalism, science and mob rule


It’s not enough for Christian Fundamentalists to keep their own compatriots ignorant of science; now they want you to be ignorant, too. And they are bringing their traditional technique, mob rule, to a movie theater near you.

The producers of a widely acclaimed British film about Charles Darwin’s life have revealed that they cannot find an American distributor for the film because it is “too controversial.” Not the substance of the film Creation; that’s true and that, of course, is the problem. The movie reveals that Charles Darwin could not reconcile his scientific discoveries with the Bible, and like millions of people since, was forced to conclude that the religion he was taught is directly contradicted by scientific discoveries.

In many ways this movie represents a more critical challenge than the scientific facts of evolution. Religious fundamentalists fear evolution, but for a very specific reason. If evolution is true than the Bible is not, and Fundamentalists will not, cannot, acknowledge that.

If this conflict sounds familiar, that’s because it is. As I wrote in When it comes to science, religion is always wrong:

The “debate” over evolution is almost an exact recapitulation of the “debate” over Galileo’s demonstration that the sun is at the center of the solar system, not the earth. The Bible had located the earth as the center of the entire universe, to literally represent the role of man as the center of God’s concern. When it became apparent that the earth wasn’t even the central planet in our little solar system, religious authorities felt compelled to prevent anyone from learning the truth.

If it became widely known that the Bible was wrong about something as straightforward as the location of the earth within the universe, then it might be wrong about anything. Church leaders reacted as conservatives often do; they attempted to suppress knowledge…

What is particularly frightening for Fundamentalists about this movie is that it focuses specifically irreconcilable aspects of science and the Bible. Darwin was not irreligious. He was a religious man who could not reconcile the tenets of his faith with the scientific discoveries he had made.

What’s especially frightening for the rest of us about the Fundamentalist reaction is that it is no longer enough for them to make sure that their compatriots, and especially their children, never hear the scientific truth. They are exerting their political power to make sure the rest of us don’t hear the truth.

Fundamentalists could easily avoid the film, and they could ensure that their children do not see the film. They don’t want anyone to see the film and they plan to exert political and economic leverage to punish anyone who makes it possible for others to see the film.

Don’t get me wrong. They are well within their political rights to speak out against anything they want to speak out against. Nonetheless, it is chilling when any group tries to exert political power to suppress the truth.

As I have written before, over the last two millennia, religion has opposed science on many different occasions. And every time religion has opposed science, regardless of the topic, religion has been spectacularly wrong, every single time. Evolution is no different. Religion has never vanquished science and it isn’t about to start now.

Religious efforts to suppress scientific facts are harmful to society. Those efforts make our children ignorant and prevent progress. They make us the laughingstock of the world. Most countries are trying to solve contemporary problems. Americans are still fighting about issues that were definitively settled 200 years ago.

Hopefully, Americans who care about the truth will step forward and bring the movie to this country. It is up to us to resist the public promotion of ignorance.