Update: I am advised that the video linked below won’t be up for much longer, so if you want it, grab it now.
Once in a while an analogy comes along that deserves wide dissemination. I got one such this afternoon on the Ohio Citizens for Science list, and I’ve got permission to quote it from Joe Hern, its author. Joe was musing on the video of Michael Schermer interviewing Georgia Purdom, creationist geneticist at AIG. (I don’t know how long that URL will be good, so grab it if you want it.) Joe, who IIRC is a former YEC himself, captured the creationist mindset perfectly:
The psychology behind why Creationists seem to make up stuff that fit their theology is best understood by recognizing precisely how we feel when we see a magician pull a rabbit from its hat in a magic show. We do not need to know how it works to “know” it is not really magic. We do not entertain ideas that we may be ‘missing’ a step in our epistemology. We would roll our eyes at anyone who insists to us we are not thinking critically to accept that there may be true magic involved. The key component of this thought process is that we ‘know’ we do not have to look into it… it’s a foregone conclusion that there is no magic involved.
To the creationist, this is the exact same thought process. They ‘know’ God is real, that what he wrote is literal, and there is no reason whatsoever to even begin to entertain the idea that the ‘evidences’ for evolution are really evidence. It’s a foregone conclusion that such ‘evidences’, regardless how intellectual or damning they sound, are “simply” ways man makes data fit their own ideas, as Dr. Purdom stated.
She said it best when (the only part in her talking with which I agreed) she said that once a Christian moves away from the scriptures in one area (the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, etc) then it is a slippery slope to using the same kind of logic about Mary being a virgin and giving birth or Jesus rising from the dead. I will add other biblical claims as well, such as the miracles of Jesus, his divinity, and the existence of God himself. In fact, Dr. Purdom’s point is one used by many former Christians (now atheists) who wonder why some Christians believe some of the stuff in the bible, but ignore other aspects of it. Nonetheless, Dr. Purdom goes the opposite direction by saying one must accept that evolution is not real since it’s already a fact that the virgin birth and Jesus’ resurrection occurred. “Clearly” there is no issue with agreeing that Adam and Eve began the human race ~4000 years ago.
That really is what we’re up against: presuppositionalist thinking vs. evidential thinking, in Purdom’s terms. As I remarked in my AIG creationists on the jury post last week, for creationists evidence is not a means of testing presuppositions: evidence must be interpreted so as to corroborate them or one will fall into apostasy. Therefore any ‘interpretation’ of the evidence that doesn’t corroborate them is a false and mistaken interpretation, and to accept such a false interpretation is to risk one’s salvation and that of one’s children. (For more on creationist fears in this respect see here and here.)