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Pop-culture Evolutionism

The ship’s rudder is locked

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Published: 18 March 2021 (GMT+10)
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Creation scientists (and science writers) normally spend most of their time engaging with the ‘hard science’ of the day—or at least whatever is passing as such at the moment. In my opinion, however, it has never been the hard science that has packed the biggest punch in the everyday life of the average person. Instead, it is the popular retelling which filters down to us from every direction: television, books, movies, video games, and so forth. None of these references need be particularly accurate; the important thing is, they instill in the minds of average people that evolution is a given. It’s beyond question since it gets repeated so often. In other words, it acts as a form of subtle brainwashing.

What makes this ‘pop culture evolution’ so particularly damaging to society is that it is essentially immune to correction, since few people bother criticizing media on their science, when they are not scientific media. Even if they did complain, the damage has already been done. The movie has been made and cannot be changed. I’d wager nobody walked out of the theater in disgust when watching Jurassic World just because a scientist drops the line,

“ … the [dinosaur] soft tissue is preserved because the iron in the dinosaur’s blood generates free radicals, and those are highly reactive. So, the proteins and the cell membranes get all mixed up, and and uh… act as a natural preservative. DNA can survive for a millennia that way.”1

This is of course a discredited theory (iron has certainly not been demonstrated to be capable of preserving soft tissue for “millennia”), but no matter. In the movie, it is stated as a plain fact by a scientist. Sure, it’s ‘just fiction’, but the impression left on the audience is the same regardless. It inoculates them against one of the most powerful evidences against evolution and millions of years!

Evolutionary psychology is another very serious offender in this regard. Despite the embarrassing and tragic history of lobotomies being done on people under the false premise of an ancient ‘lizard brain’ sandwiched inside our more highly evolved human brains, the idea of the “old brain” keeps getting repeated even in more recently-produced textbooks. One textbook produced in 2010 reads,

“The innermost structures of the brain — the parts nearest the spinal cord — are the oldest part of the brain, and these areas carry out the same functions they did for our distant ancestors.”2

Is the above quote ‘science’? No, it’s simply an assumption being made based on an evolutionary worldview. But since students read it in a psychology textbook, they will take it for granted. Some of those students may not even be science majors! They will take this evolutionary thinking with them into whatever field they eventually wind up in. And the cycle of misinformation will continue. Maybe some of them will wind up becoming self-help tutors in the world of business, and will continue repeating this ‘old brain’ canard in their lectures, like we see here:

“Rather than using our more primitive Old Brain thinking, we teach people how to use their New Brain to be more successful. Through our book, consulting services, presentations, and content, we help business leaders learn management and organizational skills to create a powerful, engaging work environment that drives personal as well as business performance.”3

Indeed, while lobotomies are no longer being performed, the evolutionary idea that we have a reptile brain with added parts is not going away any time soon. It cannot, in fact, since all mammals have brains, and nobody is arguing that the brain has evolved multiple times independently (convergently). At least as recently as 2015, articles were still being written comparing reptile brains to human brains, in order to draw out alleged evolutionary inferences.4 The authors rhetorically ask, “…is the reptilian brain really just a mammalian brain missing most of the parts?” But another paper from just last year answers that question with a resounding “no”!

“A widespread misconception in much of psychology is that (a) as vertebrate animals evolved, “newer” brain structures were added over existing “older” brain structures, and (b) these newer, more complex structures endowed animals with newer and more complex psychological functions, behavioral flexibility, and language. This belief, although widely shared in introductory psychology textbooks, has long been discredited among neurobiologists and stands in contrast to the clear and unanimous agreement on these issues among those studying nervous-system evolution.”5

This cycle of misinformation is a vicious one, since the popular level evolutionism necessarily cross-pollinates with the more formal scientific side. After all, scientists are human beings just like the rest of us, who also grow up consuming popular media and being influenced by it. What, then is to be done?

Over the past 60 years, the modern creationist movement has had many delightful successes and has achieved much by way of refuting evolutionary falsehoods and giving hope to Christians looking for solid answers. I think now, as we see our world and our culture changing at a rapid pace, it would be good for all of us creationists to think strategically about the goals we hope to accomplish in the future. Is it possible to have any positive impact on the culture at large, or is the culture simply too far gone? If such impact is possible, how could it be achieved?

It is my opinion that the ‘ship of culture’ is not likely to be turned around in the near future by any amount of effort on the part of diligent creation scientists to refute the scientific falsehoods of evolutionism. After all, the modern creation movement6 can be largely traced back to the efforts of Henry Morris and John Whitcomb, which date back to 1961 with their publication of The Genesis Flood. Yet the ubiquitous preaching of Darwinism in the culture has proceeded unabated since that time, largely without paying the slightest attention to anything creationists have said. As the media landscape has developed in the direction of greater and greater Internet and technology usage, creationists have adapted. Whereas in the early days one had to rely on paper printouts, overhead transparencies and physical books, now creation apologetics content is freely available in great supply online. But still, the mainstream culture is largely not listening. In my extensive experience attempting to reach out to skeptics directly, I have found that very few of them are even willing to read an article for free, if they see that it is from a creationist organization. “Don’t you have any information that is not from such a biased source,” they’ll ask, not understanding that all sources on the topic of origins will be biased in one direction or another. They hold it against creationist organizations that we openly admit our Statement of Faith, while continuing to naively think that secular science journals, textbooks, and so on are purely objective.

I have no easy answers to this difficulty, but I do want to invite you to think about these topics constructively. How might creationists more effectively engage with people in the 21st century? How might we realistically convince more of the world’s atheists and agnostics (a group that is growing enormously in the ranks of younger generations) to take a second look at biblical Christianity? One suggestion is that creationists think more about how they might have a constructive influence on the people who are in a position of power in our culture: the media producers. C.S. Lewis once commented that one of the most powerful things Christians could do to influence culture is to incorporate Christianity into fiction, rather than only attempting to preach it directly. This would allow truths of the Christian worldview to sneak past “watchful dragons”—those mental gatekeepers which are hostile to Christ—and thereby change people’s hearts and minds in a less confrontational way.

Some Christians may reply that it is not our job to convince people, but only to preach the truth and to let God do the rest. And I will readily agree that we cannot fully control the results of our efforts—but does that mean we shouldn’t think about how to strategically and persuasively present our message to people? Not at all. Jesus told His followers to be “wise as serpents” when engaging unbelievers (Matthew 10:16), and the Bible repeatedly commends evangelists and disciple-makers who used thoughtful means of persuasion (Acts 18:4, 28). God tasked humans with the Great Commission, and I think this implies that God wants us to do our best to present the truth in the way that will win over as many people as possible (without compromising the message). “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6).

References and notes

  1. Jurassic World Film Transcript, jurassicpark.fandom.com/wiki/Jurassic_World_Film_Transcript Return to text.
  2. Walinga, J., Introduction to Psychology - 1st Canadian Edition, opentextbc.ca/introductiontopsychology/chapter/3-2-our-brains-control-our-thoughts-feelings-and-behavior. Return to text.
  3. Press Release: Using Old Brain Thinking? The New Brain for Business Institute Launches Book, Website and Consulting Services to Help Leaders Succeed, inlandempire.us/using-old-brain-thinking-the-new-brain-for-business-institute-launches-book-website-and-consulting-services-to-help-leaders-succeed. Return to text.
  4. Naumann RK, Ondracek JM, Reiter S, et al. The reptilian brain, Curr Biol. 2015; 25(8):R317-R321. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.049 Return to text.
  5. Cesario, J. et al, Your Brain Is Not an Onion With a Tiny Reptile Inside, Current Directions in Psychological Science 29 (3):255–260. doi:10.1177/0963721420917687 Return to text.
  6. Note, I do not mean to agree with liberals who assert that young earth creationist beliefs are a recent phenomenon, as they are the historic position of the Christian church. Rather, I refer to the reactionary movement in western culture which exists as a response to the influence of Darwinism, and attempts to rebut it. Return to text.

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