I guess nothing gets my goat more than a person who first creates a straw man characature of the beliefs of someone they disagree with, and then knocks it down with disdain. This tendency annoys me because it is the way so many Protestants behave in respect to Catholicism: “Oh, you Catholics all worship Mary and we know the Jesuits take a blood curdling oath of mindless obedience to the Pope and one day he’ll tell them to kill all the Protestants and they will…”
When doing apologetics work I always stress that Protestants should take the trouble to find out what Catholics really believe. Then if they disagree, fine, but at least they disagree with what Catholics really believe rather than what they think Catholics believe. The second position actually takes some humility, some curiosity, some mental work and some gracious patience and some genuine open mindedness. The other position is simply ignorant bigotry–whether it comes from an obviously ignorant bigot, or someone who is educated and culturally sophisticated.
To put it another way, it’s just as easy to be a snob about hor d’oevres as it is about hot dogs.
Let’s consider the idea that all creationists are trailer trash fundamentalists who think dinosaurs helped make the pyramids 3,000 years ago. Now I was actually brought up by fundamentalist creationists, and went to Bob Jones University where they taught us a young earth version of fundamentalist creationism. This was just about the most extreme form of fundamentalist creationism. I don’t think they believed that the dinosaur bones were planted in the ground by God to give the earth the illusion of age, but they did believe in a universal flood that made the climates what they are now and accounted for sea shell fossils on mountaintops and so forth.
My point is, they were just about the most extreme fundy creationists, but none of them argued that the earth was only 3000 years old and nobody thought the dinosaurs helped build the pyramids. They had a world view and a scientific explanation for how things are which (given their prior assumptions) was consistent. Where they had problems explaining their explanations stretched credibility. However the same things can be said of evolutionists: given their prior assumptions, their conclusions are consistent, and when their theories don’t have facts to support them their explanations also stretch credibility.
But those who hold to creationism are not all of the most extreme sort. There are many ‘theistic evolutionists’. These are people who believe that the theory of evolution explains some of the mechanics of the development of the natural world, but they believe God started it and controlled the process. Some believe his interaction was constant, some think it was sporadic. Some think he didn’t interfere at all, but simply set it all going.
My point is that there are a whole range of creationist viewpoints from the most wacko fundamentalist ones to ones which are very credible, and which stick to the facts and dont’ go further than science allows them to go one way or another. Indeed, every Catholic should be a ‘creationist’ inasumch as we must believe that God created the heaven and the earth. A Catholic may believe in the theory of evolution, but he may not believe that it happened by random accidents. He must also believe the creator God.
Before one blames Sarah Palin (or anybody else) for being a kooky fundamentalist creationist it might be less embarrassing if we stop and do the homework and try to discover just what she does believe and how much she has promoted her own views in state schools. On the other hand, we could just take the lazy route and believe what the journalists write about her.