Virginia Heffernan was once a high-profile tech and culture writer for the New York Times. For this reason, she is taken seriously. Yesterday, she wrote an essay entitled "Why I'm a Creationist." It amounts to a very specific guide as to why Virginia Heffernan should no longer be taken seriously.
Let us stipulate up front that it is perfectly "okay" to be a creationist, in the sense that everyone is entitled to freedom of religious beliefs and the right to be an ignoramus, which we all are in our own special ways. That said, it is not really "okay" to be a creationist technology writer, any more than it is okay to be a drunk schoolbus driver. It's the mixing of incompatible pastimes that causes the problem.
Heffernan's creationism is not of the heavy Bible-thumping variety; rather, it is (based on her own explanation) of the dreamy, borderline hippie variety, predicated on a general disinterest in the non-poetic language of science and an attraction towards a good story to explain things, underlying "scientific facts" be damned. She refers to her love of technology as "trippy," in contrast to those elitist scientists who "denigrate religion, fear climate change, and think most people—most Americans—are dopey sheep." Heffernan considers herself a poetic populist, you see:
I like most people. I don’t fear environmental apocalypse. And I don’t hate religion. Those scientists no doubt see me as a dopey sheep who believes in angels and is carbon-ignorant. I have to say that they may be right.
Okay. Virginia Heffernan is a science-phobic angel-believing climate change skeptic. She just said that. That is what she just said. We are not saying you're a bad person, Virginia, but you should probably expect that, from now on, when people read your musings on, say, the future of internet communications, they might stop, in a moment of gathering doubt, and recall that you are a science-phobic angel-believing climate change skeptic, and that therefore your dedication to facts is somewhat in question. This could, and should, erode your credibility, in the eyes of those elitist readers who value things that are based on "evidence." So kudos to you for being brave enough to admit to your own hilarious prejudices again common sense.
Heffernan's blase, artsy attitude ("I still don’t know right from wrong when it comes to carbon. All I know is one side of these debates seems maybe slightly more bloodthirsty and opportunistic than the other—but now I can’t remember which one") would be charming coming from, say, an eccentric aunt who lives in the wood and sells dreamcatchers and has a really good heart. But from a writer who presumably would like her opinions about technology— a thing made with science!— to be take seriously at some point, the admissions are troubling. Even worse is the fact that her creationism is hardly based on anything, except for its pleasing literary quality. At least if she'd been raised by dirt-farming Arkansas fundamentalists she'd have a decent excuse. (Creationists who have never had the benefit of a quality scientific education have a plausible explanation for their beliefs. Well-educated people who are still creationists have lost the plot somewhere along the line.) Instead, she has this:
When a social science, made up entirely of observations and hypotheses, tells us first that men are polygamous and women homebodies, and then that men are monogamous and women gallivanters—and, what’s more builds far-fetched protocols of dating and courtship and marriage and divorce around these notions—maybe it’s time to retire the whole approach. All the while, the first books of the Bible are still hanging around. I guess I don’t “believe” that the world was created in a few days, but what do I know? Seems as plausible (to me) as theoretical astrophysics, and it’s certainly a livelier tale.
Why not just write, "I fundamentally do not understand the scientific method or its implications," and leave it at that? Ah— wouldn't be poetic. That is one mistake that Virginia Heffernan would not make.
[Yahoo News. Photo: Getty]