In the short-term, creationism isn’t nearly as dangerous as other stupid beliefs, like anti-vaccination or global warming denialism, but the long-term damage it does to critical thinking has the potential to be devastating.
Given this, we’d like to think professionals aren’t prone to this sort of idiocy, but hey, this is the United States. A timocracy is not a meritocracy, and there’s zero correlation between relative skills or talents and the amount of money or influence one possesses.
The latest from the ranks of the so-called “professionals” to join the creationists is apparently Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who, while giving a speech at his granddaughter’s high school graduation on Thursday hinted that he believes in creationism.
During the speech, Scalia told the graduating class of 2015, ” you should not leave Stone Ridge High School thinking that you face challenges that are at all, in any important sense, unprecedented.”
He added, “Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so, and I doubt that the basic challenges as confronted are any worse now, or alas even much different, from what they ever were.”
Before I give Scalia the benefit of the doubt, this isn’t the first thing bit of religious weirdness he’s dredged up. In 2013, he said he believes the devil is a “real person.”
If Scalia’s statement seems odd, that’s because H. sapiens has cooking for about 1.8 million years now, with anatomically modern humans, or Homo sapiens sapiens, having been around for 200,000 years. Evidence of culture goes back to cave paints at least 40,000 years old, and culture wasn’t restricted to anatomically modern humans: there’s evidence Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or the Neanderthals, had culture, too (the H. sapiens subspecies, not your Teabagger uncle).
Now, it’s possible Scalia was talking about “urban humanity,” — that is, humans who settled cities. There, his estimate isn’t wrong; the oldest continually inhabited settlement is often said to be Damascus, in Syria, and it’s been inhabited for about 9,000 years. I mean, he’s only 4,000 years off.
So he’s got some wiggle room. Given previous performances, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a creationist.