I watch Real Time with Bill Maher obsessively. Some of my friends find this strange, because I’m at odds with a lot of his political beliefs. But I watch it because it’s the most intellectually honest political show on television. Yes, at times there will be the occasional politician or political strategist on the show trying to bullshit you, but for the most part, it’s a lively discussion about politics moderated by an opinionated person who doesn’t try to hide the fact that he’s opinionated.
And Maher is extremely opinionated on the evolution/creationism controversy. To him, if you believe in creationism, you are automatically an idiot. Even when militant atheists like Richard Dawkins try to soften their message with things like “some of the most brilliant scientists and philosophers believe in the Bible”, Maher is pretty blunt on the subject. You believe in creationism? You’re a kook. Full stop.
This is the part where I tell you, straight up, that I think creationism is stupid. I fully endorse evolution as empirical, scientific fact. And yet, I have a close friend who believes in creationism. Who believes in the Bible in its literal interpretation. He was born in rural Georgia, to a religious family.
“Aha!” you might think. And you aren’t wrong. But keep reading.
We were roommates in college. And we hung out a lot. He got me into lifting weights and keeping a regular exercise schedule. I was able to get him to play video games and also got him started in investing in equities and bonds. We were both huge fans of our school’s football team. It took some time getting used to his thick, rural drawl and we’ll never see eye to eye on the subject of swearing (I’m a huge fan, he’s basically a Mormon), but we got along as well as two people from completely different backgrounds could.
He graduated (with a significantly higher GPA than me, by the way) with a degree in electrical engineering from one of the top engineering schools in the country, and an offer in hand from one of the largest cable manufacturers in the country. By any measure, he is an intelligent, hardworking, and trustworthy person. And he’s a great friend to have.
If you met him on the street, you probably wouldn’t be too impressed with him. But you’d be guilty of a gross misjudgment. In twenty or so years, he’ll be the millionaire next door, with a wife and impeccably raised kids and you’d never even know. Because you were too busy judging him by his accent and his beliefs.
Being deeply religious does not make you a stupid person. It doesn’t make you a bad person. And it certainly doesn’t make you a person worthy of contempt and ridicule. And there are a lot in the media who, sharing Maher’s prejudice, ridicule and poke mean-spirited fun toward people like my friend. Who look down on people like my friend.
You don’t have to believe in evolution to develop a more efficient transformer. You don’t have to believe in evolution to be an engineer. Or rocket scientist. Or any other profession that requires a lot more intelligence, discipline, and hard work than the average journalist who sneers at those who believe in Creation has.
Because when it comes to living our daily lives, both evolution and creationism are equal in the fact that they both count for jack shit.