This post features Dr. Rod Kennedy’s cousin Boudreaux. As Rod says,
“Boudreaux is my imaginary interlocutor. His is from the bayou of Louisiana and possesses an earthy wisdom but also a brutal certainty about everything. He always says what he thinks and is never conscious of contradictions. He judges me and makes me think, but he is the perfect foil for my own arguments.”
In a debate about evolution, my cousin Boudreaux, when pushed in a corner, will smile and say, “If God wanted to create the world in six, 24-hour-days he could have.”
He has amazing confidence in this remark, and it has stayed with me ever since I first heard it. It has challenged me, provoked me to doubt my own faith, and even scared me at times.
There are millions of Boudreaux-like believers all across the country. These believers are passionate and sincere. They reject out-of-hand and with no discernible evidence the idea at the heart of mainstream biology – evolution. They make up a veritable army of creation warriors determined to fight for the idea of a six, 24-hour day creation. And fight they do.
Boudreaux and believers like him make up a battalion of sometimes-gentle souls who want to dismiss science and evolution with a statement of what God could have done. On the surface, this claim sounds powerful and true. Boudreaux is determined to live in the safety of a community of believers content that species leaped suddenly into time and space at the word of God’s command. Even after all these years Darwin—who claimed that we descended, with modification, from an endless chain of ancestors—is just too startling for believers like my cousin. And these believers are equally unhappy with the idea that the earth is old enough to have made time for evolution and its remarkable adaptations that matched species so perfectly and beautifully to their environment.
But the ideas of an old earth and evolution have never stood on firmer ground. While creationists revel in claiming that evolution is only a theory – without defining what “theory” means for scientists – Boudreaux and company are stuck with proposing a hypothetical situation of what God could have done, and not evidence (or at least, meaningful evidence) that God created the world in six, 24-hour days.
But Boudreaux does not much care that he cannot substantiate his claim. He and his battalion of believers are much more interested in suggesting that those who defend science and believe in evolution are godless atheists who want to destroy our public schools, poison the minds of our children, and undermine and destroy not only faith in God but American values. Gleefully mixing faith and patriotism, Boudreaux is trying to hold on to an age of innocence, a veritable return to a pristine Garden of Eden.
But Boudreaux is inviting us into a trap. Rather than looking for knowledge and truth within our emotions, or in simple slogans, or in a mythical garden, we should be joining science and scientists in the everyday scrupulous, difficult search for the best explanations.
Boudreaux is afraid of science because it is revolutionary, because it has and will upend traditional ideas about our world and – most frightening – our faith. Out of fear, Boudreaux and his fellow believers take the fallback position of suggesting what God “could have” done.
This argument is so lame. Even worse, perhaps, it is boring.