What Can, and Should,
Dr Colin Groves
The response of scientists (including archaeologists and anthropologists, why not!) has been varied: apathy when creationism does not affect them; derision when presented with writings by 'creation scientists'; outrage at news of creationist attempts to meddle with high school curricula; nervousness when creationism appears to impinge on their own territory. Only a few have taken a pro-active stance, attending meetings and reading creationist writings (thereby risking severe brain damage). It is a great mistake to ignore the threat: it will not just go away, it must be countered.
Three books dealing with creationism from the Australian perspective are Bridgstock & Smith (1986), a collection of short sharp responses to creationist claims; Price (1990), which focuses on the political agenda behind the movement; and Plimer (1994), a no-holds-barred expose', which is also extremely funny, and I am happy to say became a best seller. The late Barry Price (who was hounded with legal action even on his deathbed by creationists because of his book) was a Catholic; and the fears of religious students that creationism might equal the totality of the Christian religion itself will be put to rest by Frye (1983) or Campbell (1989).
With 'creation science' there is no science, in archaeology or anywhere else; and along with science vanish the arts, the humanities, tolerance, and political freedom itself. Barry Price's (1990) book (see especially chapters 12 and 13) catalogues the full horrors. Archaeologists, anthropologists and the rest want to be free to pass on the fruits of their research to students and the public; creationists want to deny them that right. Students want to study and learn what interests them; creationists would fail them in their exams unless they toe the creationist line. Teachers want to pass on the full excitement of modern scholarship to their students; creationists haul them through the courts if they do. University libraries want to stock their shelves with books and journals of the highest intellectual quality; creationists protest this and, as a fail-safe policy, instruct their followers exactly how best to deface volumes with offending passages. Aboriginal people want to rediscover their past; creationists want to take it away from them. And, armed with creationist rhetoric appealing to 'science', religious fundamentalists take new heart. Theatres want to put on plays and films that depict life in its variety, and many viewpoints; fundamentalists, because they have now been assured that 'creation science' is on their side, take new heart in their call for censorship. Christians and non-Christians alike want to worship, or not, in their own ways and according to their own beliefs; creationists want them all to conform. The constitution underwrites democracy, secularism and pluralism; creationists demand a theocracy. The general public tend to have little understanding of why all this is simply wrong; even though the majority of fundamentalists are impervious to rationality, students by and large are not, and we can hope to arm them with sufficient understanding to avoid falling prey to creationist fantasy. Scientists, but most especially archaeologists, are in the front line; we, not the artists or the politicians, are the ones with ammunition to stem the tide of creationist rubbish, and relegate it to Monty Python's Flying Circus where it belongs.
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