Evolution and witches.
The national museum of Kenya has one of the most extensive and important collections of fossils showing the evolution of humans. Much of this is due to the work of paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey.
For instance in 1984 Leakey discovered the most complete skeleton of Homo erectus available. The skeleton is 1.7 million years old. In addition they have skeletal parts of Australopithecus anamensis which is thought to be the first species to walk upright. These are about 4 million years old.
Of course the Bible nuts deny any of this can be true since the earth is only a few thousand years old and evolution didn’t happened. In fact they say it couldn’t happen since the Bible gives a different account of the origins of humans.
So what do fundamentalists do when faced with evidence contrary to their collection of fables? They demand the evidence be removed, hidden, put in the closet where no one can know it exists.
Fundamentalist Christians in Kenya are demanding that the museum, now closed for renovations, put these exhibits in less accessible locations because “the Christian community is very uncomfortable” according to Bonifes Adoyo of Christ is the Answer Ministries. Adoyo, who calls himself a Bishop, said: “Our doctrine is not we evolved from apes and we have grave concerns that the museum wants to enhance the prominence of something presented as fact which is just one theory.”
Bishop Adoyo promises that Christians will inundate the museum with protests, letters, phone calls, etc., in order to force them to move the exhibit.
The gutless bureaucrats at the museum say they have the responsibility to show their artefacts it is “tricky when you have religious beliefs on one side, and intellectuals, scientists, or researchers on the other, saying the opposite.”
Interesting concept. We have one large group of people who study the origins of humanity and have piles of evidence that they want to put on display. On the other side we have the followers of a magic man in the sky who have no evidence merely a book claiming to be written by the magic man. And it’s hard for the bureaucrat to decide what to do.
Should we apply this sort of equivalency to other issues? Perhaps the main hospital in Kenya can get rid of surgery because some people in Kenya believe in magic workers who cast spells to cure people. And this becomes necessary because other magic workers cast curses that make people ill.
Now we all know that people have the right to self defense. If someone is trying to harm you then you have the right to use what force is necessary to stop them. So what if you believe the person harming you is a witch? And they are using spells to do so?
Hundreds of people every year in Africa are murdered by mobs of people trying to stamp out witchcraft. They believe, and the Bible supports them, that these witches are evil and in league with Satan. They believe the witches cast spells on them which curse them, make them ill, cause them bad luck, or can even kill them. Since they religiously believe the witches have supernatural power they have only one recourse to prevent this harm and that is to kill the witch. It’s self defense in their eyes.
And I can assure that these people really do believe in witches. I saw one soccer (football outside the US) match where a small cat ran onto the field. Both teams stopped playing to chase down the kitten and surround it. Then then stomped on the kitten killing it. They said such a cat appearing at the match was no doubt a witch sent to curse one of the teams. In a local village a monkey wandered into the area. The villagers cornered it in a tree and killed it. They said it was a witch and they had to kill it.
In South Africa alone several hundred “witches” are killed every year. One of the more recent incidents was near Kokstad in the Eastern Cape. A woman there was stabbed to death by a mob who said that she was a witch. In Umlazi an elderly couple was stabbed to death and then burned as witches. Not that long ago the provincial minister of education refused to enter he office claiming that a witch had cursed it. That was the “ministers of education”.
A 15-year-old girl in Timbavati was thrown out of school on the charge of being a witch. She is described as suicidal as a response and tried to take her own life three times.
Magdale Ndila of Tanzania is 80-years-old and lucky to be alive. She awoke to find a mob surrounding her. “I tried to get up couldn’t. Suddenly I felt a terrible pain and I realised my right hand had been cut off. It fell to the ground. I screamed in pain. My daughter was next door and heard me, but she was too scared to come as she knew I was being attacked. I was struck again on my other hand and then I felt blows to my head.” She says: “The reason whey they attacked me was because they thought I was a witch.” The BBC reports there are around 100 witch killings in Tanzania every year.
Now on the one hand we have intellectuals, scientists and researchers who say that there are no witches. On the other hand we have religion and the Bible. Gee, it’s a tricky situation. Hard to decide what to do. We have an obligation to protect people from being killed but we also have to respect religious beliefs and its hard to pick between the two.
Now would modern Western Christians fall for this sort of thinking? Fundamentalists do all the time. Rev. Pat Robertson has, on numerous occasions, argued that sinful people bring a curse upon the community. Prominent minister Jerry Falwell said of the terror attack on 9/11 was because “we make God mad.” He said that the lack of prayer in government schools and abortion was responsible “ I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
Robertson said of the attack: “Well, why its happening is that God Almighty is lifting his protection from us.” Why? Because schools don’t force students to pray and read the Bible. Once a year private groups sponsor “Gay days” at Disneyland and Disneyworld. Robertson warned that allowing this to happen could cause hurricanes, tornadoes, terror attacks and “possibly a meteor.”
When the voters in Dover, Pennsylvania voted out of office the fundamentalist who pushed creationism on the schools Robertson warned them that God would lift his protection of the city.
The museum in Kenya is trying to put both claims on the same plane. This is what fundamentalists in the US want. This is what the advocate of torture and hater of the Bill of Rights, in the White House, wants.
They have a superstitious, mystical claim to knowledge. And they argue that all claims are equal. So they want creationism taught in science classes. They want their mystical beliefs used as the foundation for law. And they argue absolute and total relativism. All claims should be treated the same no matter how absurd, how irrational, how superstition they may be.
But where do we draw the line? Once we admit the irrational into the legal system and allow faith to replace evidence we are on a very slippery slope indeed. Are the witch killers in South Africa merely defending themselves from evil? If, as so many fundamentalists argue, Jehovah will inflict disasters on nations that are tolerant of gays then what must we do to stop people from being gay?
Certainly the Westboro Baptist Church people say that being tolerant of homosexuals is the cause of every disaster that befalls America. Do we incarcerate them? I’ve heard many fundamentalist ministers advocate just that? Do we execute them? I’ve heard others say that.
At one fundamentalist rally I attend I had a couple from this major Baptist church tell me that the then current drought in California was the result of there being too many gays in the state. I thought that bizarre and asked them if one could then control the weather by moving homosexuals around by bus. If a state had floods would bussing in homosexuals cause a drought and end the floods, etc. They actually said that they thought that work. This is the magic believing mind at work. It the same sort of mentality as witch hunters.
I know fundamentalists well having been one of them. They are magic minded. They will go as far as they think they can now and go even further when they think that possible. This mentality is dangerous to Western civilization, dangerous to individual rights, and dangerous to freedom in general. We need to stand up and say “NO” when they demand to bring superstition and fantasy into the public sphere. We must defend their right to be irrational but when they want to control others via the state that is going too far.