Skip to main content

The Talking Snake Takes the Cake

By Undercover agnostic ~

What would it take for young earth creationists to finally close their holy books and wave their white flag of surrender to the fossil record- their silent, but deadly, adversary?

I asked myself this question as an article from my msn homepage, titled: “Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins,” captured my attention. The teaser for the story asserted, “Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history.”

Inspired by Peter Boghossian’s book, Manual for creating Atheists,” I used this blurb as a springboard to try my skills as a street epistemologist. I linked the story to my Facebook post, with the following question: “Please forgive me if I step on any toes, but I have an honest and sincere question: How can Christians continue to hold to a “literal” understanding of the Bible’s creation story in light of the sea of fossil evidence which tells a completely different story?”

The very question came as a shock to many of my Christian friends, who have only known me as “one of them”- a right wing, republican, Bible thumping fundamentalist. Because I haven’t publicly “outed” myself as a nonbeliever, I don’t think they saw my question coming. To admit that I no longer believe in seducing reptiles and magical elixirs, clearly put the “army of God” on the defensive. I imagined CODE RED alarms going off and lights flashing as the emergency troops gathered their loaded weapons and prepared for battle. Over the course of a few days, ONE HUNDRED comments appeared, virtually all attempting to destroy the threat my question posed. Well, actually, in the very beginning there were a couple of sane friends who admitted, matter-of factly that, duh… Of course the story is a myth, but quickly bowed out of the conversation once the bullets started flying. After that I was on my own to fiend off the zealots.

Responders attacked the scientists, accusing them of deliberately lying and manipulating evidence to give the impression life could happen without God. Some mocked them for constantly “changing their minds” and concluded that we should be wary of all truth claims made by scientists. On the other hand, I was told that we SHOULD believe the Bible because it never changes. Others hastily dismissed the evidence, claiming that it is flawed because of the inconsistent carbon 14 dating and potential fossil contamination. One suggested, that God put the fossils in the ground for us to discover because nothing is impossible with God! Evolution was dismissed as a mere theory, believed only by people who have been taking “crazy pills.” Some insisted that evolution is a lie that Satan uses to turn people away from their creator.

The majority believed that the geological record supports evidence for the worldwide flood, Noah’s Ark, and a young Earth, justifying the Bible’s claim of inerrancy. Those who insisted on a literal rendering of our origins, explained that Genesis was meant to tell the story of Creation, not be a textbook on it, thus excusing the parts that don’t match up with science. The most popular defense for “knowing” the Bible is true was the Bible’s own claim of its divine authorship. Since the Bible says the Bible is true, who are we to say otherwise?

I can’t summarize every comment, as it would take too long, but in addition to criticizing the scientists, the scientific method, the evidence and evolution, and defending the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, the only other ammunition was to question my motives and imply that my tone was accusatory and offensive. Additionally, interspersed among the highly passionate responses, were also book recommendations and You-tube links designed to give me the “real” truth, and a few private messages from sincere believers offering to meet with me to “answer” my questions, as if they personally held the keys of knowledge that unlock all mysteries.

The most frustrating part of this dialogue was not that they disagreed with me or that they came on the attack with such force. It was that they continually “liked” each other’s ridiculous and absurd, arguments, as an act of solidarity, while refusing to even acknowledge any points I was trying to make. The magic tree and talking snake were winning the votes, because apparently snakes used to have legs and voice boxes, so the story is entirely plausible! My only goal was to get folks to question the “literal” nature of the story—a first step in creating a wedge between faith and reason.

After about 30 comments, I interjected my first response.
"... We confidently trust science in every other area—i.e. medicine, technology, etc. but demonize it in this area because it challenges our worldview. When I asked how Christians can hold on to a "literal" interpretation of the Bible's creation story, I was admitting a dilemma that I am currently faced with, because the scientific evidence seems to contradict every part of the creation story. So, either I need to adjust my interpretation of Genesis, to be less literal and more poetic or symbolic, in order to leave room for the evidence-- or simply reject evolutionary science, as a big lie, which most fundamental Christians do. But, unfortunately the scientific evidence, to me, is so compelling that I can't so easily reject it, leaving me in a conundrum.”

I had hoped for at least a token, “I understand what you are saying. I’ve asked the same questions myself.” But my words were dismissed without so much of an acknowledgement, while remarks, condemning all evidence that conflicts with scripture, continued to flood in with proverbial mutual “high fives” from fellow warriors. One friend defensively stated that it didn’t matter if he didn’t understand all of the facts of the creation story, because he was still going to worship God and believe in him. I brought the focus back to my original question.

“I'm not suggesting that one should stop believing in God. I’m merely trying to reconcile the Genesis account of creation, with empirical scientific evidence, which tells a different story. I’ve always been a creationist/Intelligent Design proponent and I readily dismissed evolution as a “misguided” attempt to explain our origins without a creator. But this past year, I read a book by Jerry Coyne, called, “Why Evolution is True” and it completely changed my perspective. I read another by Lawrence Krauss “A Universe from Nothing”, and several from Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett. Having actually looked at the evidence for myself, and not just hearing Christians debunk it, I can no longer simply tuck all of this information away in a different compartment of my brain, (cognitive dissonance) in order to hold on to my cherished beliefs.
I can be skeptical of the scientific method, and hold loosely to the findings, knowing that there is always room for error. But I think it would be terribly arrogant on my part to assume that the 99.9 percent of scientists in the fields of biology, paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, anthropology, and others, who support evolutionary theory as the only explanation that can fully account for observations in their field, are ALL WRONG.”

Again, I was surprised to not get even one sympathetic response. Some refuted the 99.9 percent, by saying that the stats are rigged in order to bolster evolution, but none admitted that they had ever read actual books on evolution. After the 90th comment, I was ready to close up the thread. I didn’t want any more book recommendations and I certainly didn’t want to hear more propaganda. I tried to get in the last word with my final post, appealing to reason, by showing how ridiculous the creation story is, if read outside of the Bible.

“Again, Thanks everyone for your comments. I just have one final thought to end this thread. If the Biblical creation story were found in ANY other book, would we assume it was true? Would we have any logical reason to accept it as fact? NO WAY! Why? Because it's an assault to reason. It's like being forced to admit that Little Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs, are historical narratives. We know these stories aren't true because they contain talking animals, who act like humans and this doesn't happen in the real world. If we insisted these fairy tales were literal facts, people would think we were nuts. Yet our creation story has similar elements. There's a magical utopian garden with a tree in the middle, whose fruit offers immortality; There's also a villain- a talking serpent, who tempts the protagonists to eat the forbidden fruit: Then the characters are banished from the garden while flying creatures holding flaming swords guard the entrance so that the two guilty lovers can't return to eat the magic fruit again. The ONLY reason we would ever defend such a story is because it happens to be in "our" sacred book. And if I call into question the absurdity of reading it as a " literally true" story, I'm the one who is regarded as naive and misinformed. I think the reason the stakes are so high is because it's assumed that the infallibility of scripture is being threatened. That is a real possibility, but as many of you stated, in various ways, the truth that "God created" is the "real" message, regardless of one's interpretation of events. If we only accept a Young Earth Creation position (YEC), then we are automatically forced to ignore, reject, dismiss, discredit, discount, debunk etc. tons of amazing scientific evidence and discovery. I know the scientists are imperfect but they can't ALL be wrong. Okay. I've said my peace. I sincerely hope you still love me. ☺“

I bowed out gracefully, while the conversation continued for another 10 comments without me. While I was pleased with my final appeal to reason, in the end, they still dug in their heels, refusing to budge, with their white flag of surrender safely tucked away within the pages of their holy book. I even gave them a way to at least tentatively accept my proposition without having to reject the Bible or God, by suggesting a nonliteral interpretation (which several, unwittingly argued for, anyway, in their defense of the Bible). But, I think the stakes are too high to give in, even on this point. They understand, well, the ramifications of letting go of a real Adam and Eve. The entire motif of Creation, Fall, and Redemption collapses, as does the notion of sin bringing death to the human race. Nonetheless, I love the fact that I created such a firestorm! Never, have I gotten 100 comments on a Facebook post, even after visiting all 7 continents, cycling 400 miles across ND, trekking in the Andes Mountains and fishing piranhas on the Amazon River! At the very least, I’ve given food for thought and the conversation isn’t over. Perhaps the snake should get the last word. Excuse me? What’s that? I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. Speak up…hmm.. that’s weird! He’s not saying anything! Maybe Balaam’s donkey, or the Three Pigs can shed some helpful insight.