The Greatest Show on Earth
I spent fourteen years, pre-kindergarten through the twelfth grade, in science classes and mandatory Wednesday morning chapel services that proclaimed contemporary science a grand lying scheme in the service of the devil, to dupe the masses into thinking that God did not create the world in seven days ex nihilo, and therefore the creation narratives (two of them, as it turned out) in the Book of Genesis could not be trusted as a literal account of the creation of the world, and, therefore, the Holy Scriptures themselves were suspect, and, therefore, they could not speak authoritatively for all matters of human life and conduct, including, most gravely, whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of God, the propitiation for our sins, and the bridge across the abyss separating man from God, so that we might not be cast aside at the Day of Judgment and cast into the fires of hell for all eternity.
The pseudo-science we were fed was powerful stuff, complete with pseudo-archaeology (evidence in the fossil record that men and dinosaurs walked the earth together), pseudo-chemistry (carbon dating was wholly unreliable in its every permutation), pseudo-geology (Tectonic Theory did not account for the shape of the earth nearly so well as did the Noahic Flood), and pseudo-literary philosophy (although the original autographs of the scriptures were lost to time, the small number of textual discrepancies among the diasporic successors proved beyond a shadow of a doubt their congruence with the originals.) I bought all of it hook, line, and sinker, at least until freshman science, philosophy, and Biblical studies courses effortlessly laid bare the bad logic (appeals to authority alone and circular reasoning, chiefly) that undergirded what was then called Creation Science and what is now called Intelligent Design.
Would that Richard Dawkins had been introduced to my reading life sometime around the fourth grade! His newish book on evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth, a polemic made for the layperson, is a direct and intelligent reckoning with the ways in which the ignorance of 19th century American fundamentalism continues to bedevil science. Check out the first couple of paragraphs:
Imagine that you are a teacher of Roman history and the Latin language, anxious to impart your enthusiasm for the ancient world — for the elegiacs of Ovid and the odes of Horace, the sinewy economy of Latin grammar as exhibited in the oratory of Cicero, the strategic niceties of the Punic Wars, the generalship of Julius Caesar and the voluptuous excesses of the later emperors. That’s a big undertaking and it takes time, concentration, dedication. Yet you find your precious time continually preyed upon, and your class’s attention distracted, by a baying pack of ignoramuses (as a Latin scholar you would know better than to say ignorami) who, with strong political and especially financial support, scurry about tirelessly attempting to persuade your unfortunate pupils that the Romans never existed. There never was a Roman Empire. The entire world came into existence only just beyond living memory. Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Catalan, Occitan, Romansh: all these languages and their constituent dialects sprang spontaneously and separately into being, and owe nothing to any predecessor such as Latin.
Instead of devoting your full attention to the noble vocation of classical scholar and teacher, you are forced to divert your time and energy to a rearguard defence of the proposition that the Romans existed at all: a defence against an exhibition of ignorant prejudice that would make you weep if you weren’t too busy fighting it . . .
The excerpt continues at Times Online.