Sunday, March 27, 2016

Is Creationism Harmful to Children

I have said on a couple of occasions that I don't consider Creationism Child Abuse, an example is my post "Is Creationism a form of Child Abuse?"  I still stand by that, but an article about the Ark Park certainly made me think. Recently the Boston Globe paid a visit to little kennie ham's ark ministry, the article is "Noah’s Ark, dinosaurs, and a theme park".  It's loaded with the usual contrasts between what kennie and his 'Hamians' say and what the real world says.  I did enjoy a couple of small points, for example:

". . . the Ark Encounter will host between 1.4 million and 2.2 million visitors in its first year . . ." 
Why I find this enjoyable is simple.  Since the announcement of the ark park the visitor estimate has been bounced all over the place.  Now, logically, and this was true for kennie's Creation 'Museum', the first few years usually the highest attendance.  After that it tends to slowly, or in some cases not so slowly, reduce down.  In fact in recent years the Creation 'Museum' is said to be in financial difficulties due to low attendance. (Kentucky’s ‘Creation Museum’ in Financial Trouble Due to Declining Attendance (VIDEO)).  So since the most recent estimates from kennie say about 1.2 million annually, other estimates, from people without a vested interest in the ark park (Hunden Strategic Partners in Chicago), said:
"estimated in the first year the park would receive roughly 325,000, with a peak attendance in the third year around 425,000, declining to 275,000 after that." (Source)
Which is roughly in the neighborhood of the Creation 'Museum' which took one month shy of three years to reach 1 million visitors.  I wish I knew what kennie's original estimates for his 'museum' were, I wonder if those estimates were as inflated as his ones for the ark ministry seem to be.  Another interesting point is:
"Science educators likely see that low and steadily decreasing number [of Creationists who follow little kennie's line] as good news. Ham isn’t so happy with this trend, which he blames on “evolutionary indoctrination through the public education system, secular museums, and much of the media.”
Ham sees AiG’s role as stopping the downward spiral. He wants to show people that all of the seeming impossibilities of Scripture can be scientifically reconciled with a little creativity." 
"With a little creativity" is such a fascinating phrase.  On the one hand you have what kennie and his followers calls the ultimate authority, and yet he needs to use creativity to get people to accept his version.  Do those two seem diametrically opposed to you?  They do so to me.  Which is why I do not consider kennie to be a Biblical Literalist, but a Biblical Revisionist.  He cherry pics from the Bible stories he likes and then he embellishes them to the point of unrecognizability.  For example, here is a photo from my visit to the Creation 'Museum':
Little kennie, in a effort to justify his position that humans and dinosaurs co-existed had to explain what dinosaurs ate.  So this little gem, they were all vegetarians.  Of course there is no evidence to support any of this, but kennie can't leave a question unanswered.  A couple other favorites is his rationalization of where Cain's wife came from and how animals were geographically dispersed after the ark landed.  Here is the explanation why Cain was able to marry his sister:
 All the Bible says about Cain's wife is a mention of the Land of Nod, east of Eden.  Little kennie took it from there and concocted this explanation.  As for biological geodiversity, that is how similar organisms exist in many part of the world, he dreamed up log rafts:
Doesn't he have a great imagination?  See why I refer to him as a Biblical Revisionist more than a Literalist?  He's not interested in what the Bible says, he's much more interested in what he claims it says.

OK, back to the Globe article.  This is the part that had me thinking about whether or not Creationism is harmful to kids:
"But is creationism is harmful to children? Compared to the risk of anti-vaccination pseudoscience in causing physical harm, the answer is no. More worrisome is the harm to children’s intellectual growth. Everyone at AiG was incredibly kind and seemed well-meaning, and the same goes for many creationists — but even people with the best intentions can end up, well, harming children who are paying attention.
Pete Enns, biblical scholar and author of “The Evolution of Adam,” sees creationism as harmful because it sets children up either to experience a crisis of faith or to become unflinchingly rigid about their own faith and closed off to their own human development. Both are tragic, he says."
There are more ways to harm children than what is considered abuse.  I had discussed how Creationism is a poor basis for many careers.  I mean aside from places like little kennie's Answers in Genesis (AiG) or the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), how many places are willing to hire an astrophysicist who insists the speed of light is a variable so we really have no way of knowing how far something is from Earth.  The article mentioned that little kennie likes to bring up the fact he has hired some people who hold PhD's, but in reality, how much actual scientific knowledge have those PhD's managed to pass on?  Has anyone seen a single actual scientific paper referenced from places like AiG and ICR!  As the writer said:
"People at my evangelical church used to talk the same way [as kennie and his pet PhD's] about celebrities who became born again — as if people of such caliber somehow legitimized everything we believed."
I know there will always be some who get their education and then turn on the subject to support their religious beliefs, but they will never be in the majority or even mainstream within those fields. The fact they have a degree in no way legitimizes their belief set.

What I hadn't considered was the inevitable reaction once they start learning the reality of the world around them.  They might have some sort of crisis in faith, or they might become so rigid they become a caricature of a theist, like little kennie.  I'm not sure I agree with the article that the crisis in faith is a tragedy for most folks.  I think whether or not it is a tragedy depends on the person more than anything else.  As we mature we discover many things that were told to us by authority figures that were later found to be untrue.  From childish things like the truth about Santa or even how your life will go.  Think about what you were told as a child about how your life was going to go?  Even as a teenager in HS or an adult in college.  How has that all worked out?

If you are like most people, things haven't followed any pre-explained path.  I never expected to serve 20 years in the AF, get into IT, or end up living in Ohio.  What I am trying to say is that you LIVE your life, you deal with things as they change, no matter what they are.  What was it John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you are making other plans."  If a 'crisis' in your faith cripples you, then my only suggestion is don't subject any other child to the beliefs that hurt you!  But in all honesty, you have to get over it eventually.  I'm not sure you can consider discovering the faith you were raised in wasn't what you were taught it was as a reason for PTSD, but even that degree of a problem can be overcome.

As for the other reaction, the significant rigidity that can result.  I can't consider them tragic figures.  But I do feel a level of pity for the people they come into contact with or, God forbid :-), any children they might become responsible for.  But they do have to freedom to shut down the functioning parts of their brain.  My only objection is that they do not have the right to force me to belief as they do.  Which is why I object to pretty much everything little kennie does.  As I have said before, his idea of religious freedom is to let him believe as he wishes and let him force everyone else to believe as he does as well.  That's not religious freedom, that's more a form of religious tyranny. 

You really should consider how long various religions have had control over people's lives and how all that turned out.  Look at history . . . not the history kennie and any of his pet 'creation historians' try and sell you in the Creation 'Museum' Gift Shop, but actual history.  Religious tyranny is not some panacea that will solve all the world's problems! 

So there we have it, yes, creationism can be harmful to both adults and children, but how harmful is really up to the individual.  Without a doubt it damages potential career paths, at least until the individual overcomes their belief system, like the many theists who made incredible scientific advances.  Theists are capable of great things, but they simply have further to go because of that extra hurdle they have to overcome.  Little kennie sees that hurdle as an absolute limit, luckily most folks don't accept that.

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