Jason Rosenhouse has been banned from the state of Tennessee, by Christ.
OK, maybe not. But his accounting of a conversation between him and approximately five avid Christians (three teenagers, two older women) while the lot of them stood in line for sandwiches at an ID presentation is titillating, disheartening, and illuminating all at once. In particular it underscores how florid ignorance and backwater arrogance are often joltingly enmeshed in the over-Jesused mind, as I propounded last month, much to the apparent chagrin of a number of Christian and ID bloggers.
One of the two women Jason confronted is perhaps the embodiment of my hypothetical but archetypal “little lamb”; such well-meaning, suspicious, numbingly close-minded people are everywhere, especially but not only in the American South. They’re unfailingly polite, more so as a group than my Greater Boston homies, until you start messing with the divinity and historicity of the Bible, however obliquely (as when lending factual support to evolution or an old Earth).
I haven’t been moved in my days as a Southwest Virginia resident to up and hammer people with biology and geology when start talking to me about the need for a relationship with the Lord — and this has happened more than once, most recently outside an Exxon station — but anyone who washes up at a creationist circus like the one staged by the DI in Nashville is fair game.
I have only recounted a small portion of the things we discussed. Several things were clear. First, that the two women did not have the slightest interest in anything I was saying. Second, that they had complete and total confidence in every word in the Bible, and regarded it as utter impertinence to challenge them on any such point. Third, that they had very little concept of what science is or how scientists approach their work. And fourth, that they tended to view me as an object of pity, and generally behaved very condescendingly toward me.
Many creationists appear to have effectively had portions of their brains removed. Being pleasant and calm is the best way to hold a conversation with them or anyone, but in the end people challenging deeply ingrained religious dogma are very, very unlikely to be regarded as anything other than agents of evil and lies, or at best, deluded. Some fundies look at atheists with a mirror image of the pity and quiet derision non-Christians often harbor for creationists; that’s how far apart people are, and it speaks to the uniquely effective and nefarious nature of early childhood indoctrination coupled to fear, warped tradition, false promises, and a multifaceted hijacking of underdeveloped intellects.
It’s ironic, of course, that parents’ ability to thoroughly and often irreversibly program young children’s minds with practically anything is very likely a prominent by-product of evolutionary psychology, given that in the right context (“Don’t eat that plant, it’s poison; don’t mess with that pot of boiling water, it’ll scald you”), such stern and insistent directives have clear survival value.