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Evolution Defenders as the "Help-Rejecting Complainer"

An email correspondent commends to me a surprisingly humane and measured op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education ("To Teach Evolution, You Have to Understand Creationists").

Surprising because of the topic: What to do about "creationists." Historian Adam Laats considers the context of the culture war, with "evolutionists" raging at the continued existence of some half of the population that disagrees with them on "evolution."

I put these terms in quotes because, as ever with many public commentators, Laats doesn't define what he means by them. They are used in a variety senses. But Laats is right that if you're a supporter of Darwinian or any evolutionary theory, raging against the bogeyman "creationism" doesn't help your cause. On the contrary, endlessly banging on the harsh dichotomy of "evolution" versus "creationism" actually hurts you in winning people to your side. Setting it up that way seems in many people's minds to force a choice between religion and science, a false choice in reality, but one where for most Americans science is at serious disadvantage:

As it stands, scientists' blundering hostility toward creationism actually encourages creationist belief. By offering a stark division between religious faith and scientific belief, evolutionary scientists have pushed creationists away from embracing evolutionary ideas. And, by assuming that only ignorance could explain creationist beliefs, scientists have unwittingly fostered bitter resentment among the creationists, the very people with whom they should be hoping to connect.
What's the alternative? Laats observes, "The notion that only the ignorant can oppose evolution does not hold water." That's kind of him. What I wish he'd said more clearly is that for those concerned to persuade the public in favor of an alternative to genuine creationism, the most viable option would be to offer a view that's science-based, supportive of an evolutionary picture of life's history -- the "what happened" -- while allowing an alternative understanding of the "how" or "why it happened."

Such an alternative understanding would be, for example, intelligent design which rejects Darwinian blind churning in favor of evolution by design, purpose and direction. Understood this way, defenders of evolution -- properly understood -- have become their own worst enemy by spurning what could be their best friend: ID.

They complain about ID even as they reject the help it could offer in bringing about the reconciliation they seek. Perverse, don't you think?

Psychologists have a term for this kind of individual, who poses unique challenges to friends, family-members and mental-health professionals alike: he is the "Help-Rejecting Complainer." Physicians would call this person the "Difficult Patient."