The thrust of this blog has been a review of the complex circumstances resulting in Agincourt’s creation. Engaged for ten years on this project, I have a pretty good idea from whence it came and what it means — mostly to me; you’ll have to share your own experience. During the last few weeks and also at a studio critique about fifteen years ago, I encountered a very different understanding of the word “creation” and what it has increasingly coming to mean in public discourse.
A couple weeks ago I passed through the student union at my place of employment, where a few student groups were in the process of setting up a gauntlet of tables along a principal corridor, hawking various things, including ideas. One of them was a student geology club that has a sale each year (just before Christmas) of mineral specimens that might make interesting stocking-stuffers. I habitually stop to consider their assortment of geodes, which I’m gathering for inclusion in a stained glass window for the bathroom. This year’s crop were small and mostly colored artificially, so not of much interest. Not wanting to seem dismissive about their display, I lingered a little longer than my interest level justified, and then asked a casual question. Be careful about casual questions; they often provoke answers well beyond your comfort zone.
“Is it possible to be a Young Earth geologist,” I inquired, more rhetorical than actual inquiry. “Yes!” one of them chirped with gusto, “Both of us are.” I teach at what purports to be a major research institution, at which I understand there to be supporters of Donald Trump, so it ought not to have surprised me to find the followers of Bishop Ussher hereabouts as well. But it did. I blinked several times, swallowed hard, smiled meekly, and spun toward the nearest exit, lest I engage in actual discussion about our views on Creation. What I took away from that brief experience was the nagging question of my retirement from Higher Learning, because there is clearly something else going on here.
Bishop James Ussher (1581-1656)
For those unacquainted with the good bishop, James Ussher was Primate of All Ireland in the Church of Ireland, Irish counterpart to the Church of England (i.e., under the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury). And it was he who undertook to calculate the actual moment of Creation, determined after considerable deep reading of the Old Testament and other ancient sources to have been:
nightfall on 22 October 4004 BC
Many say that it was more specifically at 6:00 p.m., though I’m not certain in what time zone. At any event, it was a Saturday and clearly God had little else to do and may have been bored silly. I’ve had Saturdays like that myself. The questions in my mind manifold:
To what degree, for example, is Creation Science present in greater Agincourt?
Has it become an issue in public discourse? That is, has someone stood at a School Board meeting to demand equal time for Intelligent Design in the curricula of the public schools?
Is it even remotely possible that baker of wedding cakes or fixer of leaky pipes or purveyor of annuities brought suit to remove themselves from commerce with those who support the Theory of Evolution?
The foundation for these questions actually emerged as the result of a Second Year design studio, where I had been invited to review a design project. Philippe d’Anjou, a Québécois fellow faculty member of fifteen years or so ago. Philippe had assigned a project to create a space for the contemplation of the skull of Lucy, the purported Missing Link in the evolutionary chain. These were group projects as I recall, with perhaps two student in each group, and their models were large enough for a single person to sit within and focus their attention on Lucy’s cranium.
The solutions were lukewarm at best; half-hearted; non-committal. In other words, they sucked big green ones, by and large. Not all of them were dismal but the majority were. During a break in the festivities, I asked Philippe if I might ask a general question of the students. “How many of you,” I asked naively, “don’t support the Theory of Evolution?” Two thirds of their hands were raised with pride and no hesitation whatsoever. “Well, Philippe, there’s your problem.” He looked at me quizzically. “You might as well have asked them to design spaces to contemplate a hard-boiled egg.” Philippe, you’ll recall, is French Canadian and comes from a place where Creation Science may still be living beneath a rock.
On the book of faces I subscribe to the feed from a group called “Theist-Atheist Discussion—Please be nice,” which, of course, means that very few are civil in their exchanges. I don’t linger in those discussions, and indeed rarely contribute to them, because it can get quite nasty. But I stay subscribed because it is sobering to be reminded how widespread ID has become in 21st century thinking. And how frightening I find it on the eve of the Age of Trump.