Journalist Virginia Heffernan stunned many of her fellow reporters when she penned a piece last week entitled, “Why I’m a Creationist.” The reporter, who has had a successful career at The New York Times and Slate, among other outlets, is now the center of the ever-intense evolution vs. creationism debate. Currently, she works for Yahoo!, the outlet through which her faith-based proclamation was made.
Before we get into the nasty comments that have been thrown her way, let’s first look at what she said in the article. Heffernan began by announcing that she’s like most Americans: She doesn’t fear global warming and doesn’t hate religion. Then, she said, “at heart” she’s a creationist.
Heffernan admitted that this admission would be tough to understand for many of her compatriots in media.
“In New York City saying you’re a creationist is like confessing you think Ahmadinejad has a couple of good points. Maybe I’m the only creationist I know,” she said, touching upon the fact that it is rare for people in the city to hold such a viewpoint (one that many Americans in other areas of the country would actually agree with).
From there, Heffernan moved on, describing the process through which she became a creationist. Here’s how the explains the beginning of her journey:
This is how I came to it. Like many people, I heard no end of Bible stories as a kid, but in the 1970s in New England they always came with the caveat that they were metaphors. So I read the metaphors of Genesis and Exodus and was amused and bugged and uplifted and moved by them. And then I guess I wanted to know the truth of how the world began, so I was handed the Big Bang. That wasn’t a metaphor, but it wasn’t fact either. It was something called a hypothesis. And it was only a sentence. I was amused and moved, but considerably less amused and moved by the character-free Big Bang story (“something exploded”) than by the twisted and picturesque misadventures of Eve and Adam and Cain and Abel and Abraham.
Later I read Thomas Malthus’ “Essay on the Principle of Population” and “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, as well as probably a dozen books about evolution and atheism, from Stephen Jay Gould to Sam Harris.
As for the latter, Heffernan said that she has never been quite sure why the book has been credited with debunking creationism, especially considering that it is not, in her view, a book about creation.
After years of reading and taking in data, stories, theories and information, she concluded in her Yahoo! piece that the stories that involve a higher power creating human beings are the most compelling. She even charged that evolutionary psychologists have become quite contradictory in their claims, noting that their theories have changed markedly over time. In contrast, the Bible, Heffernan says, remains coveted and highly read.
“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,” she said. “As ‘Life of Pi’ author Yann Martel once put it, summarizing his page-turner novel: “1) Life is a story. 2) You can choose your story. 3) A story with God is the better story.”
The reaction to these proclamations, of course, has been met with angst on the part of some who are stunned — and who patently disagree with the journalist’s views on the matter. In fact, The Christian Post recently reported that Heffernan has become “a lightning rod for ridicule “ over her public stance on creationism and God.
Take, for instance, a recent critique delivered by Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. In his lede, the writer proclaimed that Heffernan’s article, “amounts to a very specific guide as to why [she] should no longer be taken seriously.” The excoriating rebuke continues, with the journalist’s credibility being called into question:
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.
Slate’s Laura Helmuth also got in on critique. While Helmuth said that she was trying to sympathize with Heffernan, she expressed immense confusion and disagreement over the journalist’s creationist admission. The Slate writer wasted no time in dismissing Heffernan’s views, concluding, “Creationism is magic and evolution is facts.”
“Heffernan is a talented writer who sometimes writes about technology, which is made by science and not by angels,” Helmuth sarcastically wrote. “This essay can’t be a good career move.”
Heffernan has defended herself, though, getting into a Twitter spat with some who accused her of intellectual laziness (you can see the back and forth here). One Twitter user (@canesandbucs) wrote, “[My] new faith is that Virginia Hefferman is a clueless c**t. That, I can believe in,” copying the writer in to be sure she saw the offensive message (she inevitably re-tweeted it).
But Heffernan has continued to hold her own.
Earlier this week, the technology writer tweeted an old video and news story that shows President Barack Obama essentially outlining his own beliefs in support of creationism back in 2008. At the time, during a CNN debate, Campbell Brown asked the then-candidate, “Senator, if one of your daughters asked you — and maybe they already have — ‘Daddy, did God really create the world in 6 days?,’ what would you say?” Here’s Obama’s response:
“I’m trying to remember if we’ve had this conversation. You know, what I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it, it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and that I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live — that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible. That, I don’t presume to know.”
Watch the video, below (at the 2:20 mark):
Heffernan’s admission has, once again, set off debate about a highly politicized and theological subject — one that continues to rile both sides. While her views may not be mainstream in journalistic or science circles, Gallup found in 2012 that 46 percent of the nation accepts the creationist view of human formation; only 15 percent of those surveyed believe that God played no part in the process.
So, clearly she’s not alone in her views.
Heffernan’s article and the subsequent debate come during a time in which people are, once again, heavily debating the subject. Evangelist Ray Comfort recently released a film entitled, “Evolution vs. God,” in which he challenges evolutionary theorists.
What do you think about the Heffernan’s views on creation? Do you believe her credibility has been compromised? And where do you stand on evolution? Take the poll, below: