Recently, while preparing a review of the movie Noah, knowing that the Christian Right had their collective noses bent out of shape by the movie, I sought to gather some background on creationism. And so, I thought, what better place to go than the website that bears that name Creation.com. And what a fascinating visit it turned out to be.
Now, I should think that there are those of you who might have only a foggy remembrance of the creation story from the Judeo-Christian Bible (JCB). Be that as it may, you should know that there are almost as many variants on the JCB creation story as there are translations of the original Hebrew text with subsequent variants in Greek and Roman which then underwent further translations into many languages running into the hundreds.
At any rate, in summary it goes something like this:
"The Book of Genesis (from the Latin Vulgate, in turn borrowed or transliterated from Greek γένεσις, meaning "origin"; Hebrew:בְּרֵאשִׁית, Bərēšīṯ, "In [the] beginning") is the first book of the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) and the Christian Old Testament.
The basic narrative expresses the central theme: God creates the world (along with creating the first man and woman) and appoints man as his regent, but man proves disobedient and God destroys his world through the Flood. The new post-Flood world is equally corrupt, but God does not destroy it, instead calling one man, Abraham, to be the seed of its salvation. At God's command Abraham descends from his home into the land of Canaan, given to him by God, where he dwells as a sojourner, as does his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Jacob's name is changed to Israel, and through the agency of his son Joseph, the children of Israel descend into Egypt, 70 people in all with their households, and God promises them a future of greatness. Genesis ends with Israel in Egypt, ready for the coming of Moses and the Exodus. The narrative is punctuated by a series of covenants with God, successively narrowing in scope from all mankind (the covenant with Noah) to a special relationship with one people alone (Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob)."
And so, I thought, this is a fairly complicated story, with an even more complicated provenance. What a fine opportunity should be presented on such a site as creation.com for a) getting the story all sorted out, b) unravelling that provenance, and c) making the case for why the Creation Story to which they adhere is THE one. To say that I was disappointed would be to put it mildly. Of course the site goes over a [particular version of the story http://creation.com/whats-this-all-about] asserting very strongly that it's the right one among many creation stories, because, donchaknow, it is just Right.
It should be noted, however, that not only are there numerous variants of the creation story appearing in the various translations of the JCB, but beyond that there are a ton of wildly different creation stories in multiple cultures around the world. Creation.com doesn't appear to spend any time on them (although I suppose that if I spent more time on the site I might find some text dealing with that reality.) However, explaining and justifying their approach to how the Earth and all of its species, including us, got to where we are, beyond some pretty tenuous assertions referring to a particular JCB text in particular English translation, is not creation.com's primary concern.
Their primary concern, rather is to attack science and scientists. For example, on the Home Page three of the four articles that are prominently linked do this directly. The first is a personal attack on Richard Dawkins. The second deals with the findings of one James Hutton, according to creation.com sometimes referred to as "The Father of Geology." They were made over 200 years ago in the North of Scotland. The article attempts to re-interpret to make them to fit into the Noah's Flood story. As yes, assertion, assertion, assertion.
The third makes the case that "geologists are biased" in holding to the "Old Earth" position, when it is obviously (sic) the "Young Earth" position that is the correct one. Why? Because God, in the version of the JCB to which they constantly refer, tells us that that is the case. The fourth leading article sets forth the "Christian origins" of Mother's Day. Betcha didn't know about that one, did you? Me neither. But creation.com does use its interesting history to tell its readers that it is the time for them "to find their way back to God" (as they imagine God to be, of course). (Of equal interest is an article entitled "Winning the War," that is winning the supposed "war on Christianity." We don't have time to go into that one here.)
Again, the arguments of the anti-science articles are based on the "Word of God" as set forth in the version of the JCB to which they adhere. For creation.com this happens to mean the so-called [King James Version. Yes indeed, this particular English translation of the Bible (there were a few others done during the course of the 16th century) represents the "inerrant word of God" donchaknow.
The problem with it as the "inerrant word of God" is that it was actually translated from various sources in several languages and then written down, by a committee. The project was undertaken at the behest of the English ruling class which, following the death of the childless Elizabeth I, accepted the collateral claimant to the throne James VI of Scotland as her successor, as James I of England. After the religious wars in England in the 16th century, won by the protestant Church of England, the English ruling class wanted to do the best they could to make sure that such wars would not return. And so for one thing, 47 theologians and scholars were commissioned to create the translation that would become the standard book for the Church of England (of which, conveniently the Monarch was the Head, and still is, for that matter). It is the one (of many) that came to be known as the "King James Version."
47 men with a collective ear for "God's word?" Hmmm. And of course there were many other translations that had been done over the centuries from the original Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin texts, the first in English having been done about a century earlier by one William Tyndale. Couldn't his, or any of the others for that matter, have been the "inerrant word of God?" Ah well, we'll never know, will we?
Creation.com also deals with the Noah's Flood story and it is extremely irritated by the movie version of it, which is markedly different from theirs. That there are at least 500 Flood legends/myths in cultures around the world, and who knows which if any of them represents historical reality, doesn't seem to concern the folks at creation.com.
OK. So creation.com bases its attacks on science and scientists on a book written by a committee of 47 that creation.com describes as the "inerrant word of God." They thus come to the conclusion that both the creation and the flood stories in The King James Version are true historical representations. We do not have the space here to go into why this is patent nonsense. Many whole books have been written on that subject.
But let me leave you with one thought on why the Christian Fundamentalist Right and their Republican allies cling so heartily to these myths as representing that "inerrant word." Because if those words are not, then the whole bunch of carefully selected rules for human behavior that they have plucked from their version of the JCB, trying to force them, through the use of the civil and criminal law, on our nation as a whole, do not represent the "inerrant word of God" either, even if that argument were an appropriate one in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and non-religious democracy, which of course it isn't.
One more "last word," which I cannot resist. If you would like to know the "inerrant word of God" describing the other end of the human saga on Earth, take a look at rapture.com. It is equally, if not more, entertaining.
This column was previously published on BuzzFlash@Truthout, URL: http://www.truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-fascinating-bedlam-of-creationism
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books, and is a regular columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, The Greanville Post, and The Planetary Movement. He is also the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy. Dr. Jonas' latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.