Creative Writing

Donna Kossy. Strange Creations: Aberrant Ideas of Human Origins from Ancient Astronauts to Aquatic Apes. Feral House, 2001.

Robert T. Pennock. Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Bradford/MIT Press, 2000.

Modern scientific interpretations of human evolution clearly leave many people feeling dissatisfied, and in the United States in particular, groups calling for equal time in schools for the teaching of Biblical creationism. These books offer sceptical looks at this phenomena from various perspectives.

Diana Kossy, in her book, shows that creationism is just one of a large variety of fringe and pseudo-scientific accounts of human origins, to say nothing of the literally thousands of tribal creation myths around the world. There could never be enough time in the world to give equal time to them all. Kossy takes a look at a few from Western society. Some, like creationism itself: and various ancient astronaut theories, simply reject modem science almost entirely. They try to construct world views which isolate humans from the rest of the natural world. ET-origin theorists may, unlike creationists, accept the evolution of the rest of the natural world, but cannot accept human evolution as the product of natural forces. Kossy shows that these theories, though using superficial science fiction imagery, constantly refer back to Biblical literalism and occultism.

Other 'strange creations' may broadly accept evolution but will put their own spin on it; examples are the various racist origin theories and, in a more scientific frame, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century obsession with eugenics. Here Kossy shows that Nazi eugenics and racial theories were more extreme versions of ideas current across much of the Western world rather than something alien and unique. The 1896 publication Might is Right by 'Ragnar Redbeard' reads just like one of Hitler's more frenetic speeches

Kossy makes clear that virtually all the aberrant ideas of human origins are united by their reactionary character, and nearly all are motivated by a hostility to modernity, progress, human equality, science and intellectual freedom, either in part or as a whole. They involve notions of purity (a pure race, a pure humanity, pure religion), removed from the 'contamination' of the natural world. The exception, which looks rather out of place here, is the aquatic ape hypothesis, which hovers on the borderline between fringe and controversial science. Yet Kossy argues that even here it is ideology and mythic quality rather than evidence which underlies support for the idea.

Robert Pennock, who writes as a philosopher and Quaker concentrates his attention on creationism, pointing out the many different varieties of the belief, with the various schools often barely on speaking terms. Unlike other critics of creationism who have tended to biologists and have conducted their arguments in terms of biological detail, Pennock challenges creationists both old and new on broader philosophical grounds. He demonstrates just why creationism is not and cannot be science. His arguments against invoking supernatural or quasi supernatural agencies as answers to scientific questions are most cogent and should be read by supporters of ETH ufology. He makes it clear that such theories can explain everything and therefor explain nothing. He also accuses the creationists of bad theology, reducing God to a scientific hypothesis, and in fact of being devotees to precisely the kind of scientism of which they accuse their enemies.

One of Pennock's most original arguments is to include a discussion of linguistic evolution and transformation, contrasting that with "Biblical linguistics" based on the Tower of Babel. This allows both a rather more dispassionate discussion but also allows him to point out that "creation science" is not just opposed to evolution but to the whole of biology, physics, astronomy, geology, linguistics and you name it.

Pennock devotes much of his attention to a newer version of creationism, called Intelligent Design Theory or 'Theistic Science' an analogue of Aryan Science or Proletarian Science no doubt giving especial attention to the writings of the American lawyer Phi lip Johnson, one of the main movers in this field.

Despite Johnson's use of euphemisms and quasi-scientific language, Pennock demonstrates from Johnson's own writings, that his attack is not only against evolution, but the whole edifice of contemporary science, 'scientific naturalism'. This argument basically says that events have natural physical causes, and that it is possible to study them and make intelligible deductions and controlled observations and experiments on them, and we do not invoke God, or gods (or ET's with magical technologies, or boggarts) as solutions to scientific questions.

Johnson and his allies are not motivated even by even scientific concerns, but by social and political issues. In particular by a reactionary social and political agenda. Johnson is not only opposed to secular science, but secular law, seeking to establish a Bible centred law, In other words the desire is to overthrow republican democracy and replace it with some form of theocracy.

These arguments have tended to be seen as an internal problem of the United States, however with our Glorious Leader's enthusiasm for sectarian cultural ghettos (oops, I'm sorry 'faith-based' education) we are likely to find this sort of thing surfacing in Britain. - Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 76, November 2001.

1 comment:

Simon said...

Does Kossy address the theory that "Might Is Right" is actually a satire of Social Darwinism, its pseudonym hiding someone with far-left sympathies like Arthur Desmond or Jack London? I'm reading MIR right now and frankly it's ridiculous enough a text that I'm entertaining the possibility.