As some of the least reasonable of the State Legislators of Pennsylvania continue to push passionately for Creationism to be taught in public schools, it becomes clearer and clearer that many people simply are unable to distinguish passion from reason. And to be honest it is not an easy distinction to make.
Pascal, urging us to faith in the face of reason tells us “the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” And indeed he is right insofar as there is certainly no logical reason to believe in a benevolent and just god. Horror abounds. It always will. We’ll never know why. So only faith is left, reason be damned. Pascal’s presumption is that the dull dispassionate head is unable to grasp the deepest beauty of our apparently brutal universe. The head is too blunt to distinguish the glory of God’s mysteries from the arrogance of humanity’s theories.
But perhaps it is otherwise. Perhaps the distinctly human mind has a passion of its own of which the passions of heart are but a shadow. Courage, Kindness, Loyalty, Respect, even Love, all depend on will directed by reason. A lion is neither kind nor unkind when it kills. Nor is it courageous or loyal when it fights to the death. A lion never loves. The passions of animals are mere instincts, barely passions at all.
It is only the human mind that allows us our human passions, and our hearts provide the surest path to our greatest human passion: reason. But the mindless reason of the heart is fickle, ambivalent, transitory. Our hearts are easily seduced by illusions our minds know to be false. Today’s love is, well, today’s love. Today’s creationism is, well, today’s creationism. So Pascal is wrong. The heart’s reasons are blind, whereas reason has its passions of which the fickle heart is unaware.
That is the single most important trick in teaching too. The recalcitrant mind, once changed, changes the person; the heart delighted, however, is delighted only momentarily, a wilting blossom. But still one must capture the heart to teach the mind. And the mind taught will then expand the passions of the heart. The deepest passions thus flow perpetually through both the reason of heart and the heart of reason. Passionate reason so exceeds reasonable passion. Creationism is but an unreasonable momentary delight, and, in a public science class, a hurtful one at that.
Creationism in science class is blind passion, ersatz reason. So don’t do it Pennsylvania. Please do not let your passions cloud your reason. Creationism in public school biology classes will only hurt those who would become genuinely reasonable scientists. You will only hurt those whose reason would bring them to pursue passionately cures for cancer, AIDS, and all myriad of birth defects and mutating viruses that only make sense from the perspective of evolutionary biology. Creationism in a biology class will hurt Pennsylvania and the world. One of the world centers of medical research is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And I am certain there are no scientists working in the multimillion dollar Hillman Cancer Research Center at University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute who believes in creationism. Thank God for that!