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Creationist Ken Ham is coming to Belfast this week to argue that evolution theory is scuppered by such marvels as the discovery of carbon 14 in diamonds. The academy must be quaking before the prospect of having to concede that the Bible is a more dependable source of knowledge than all universities put together.

The interesting thing for me in this clash between creationists and the uppity new atheists like Richard Dawkins is that they actually agree on something; They agree that the Adam and Eve story is history. One says it is accurate history and the other that it is inaccurate history, but both assume that it is to be read as history and judged by whether it is accurate as such.

Now, I would have thought that the talking snake was a clue to another way of reading it; that it is myth or fairytale. I just assume that even our earliest literate forebears had noticed that snakes don’t talk.

And, of course, just to read it as myth does not deprive it of meaning. It may indeed be rich in meaning.

All that stuff about man wanting the knowledge of good and evil – Adam didn’t eat the fruit of the tree for its taste.

And then the discovery of nakedness, the emergence of self consciousness. That must have been a potent moment in the development of the mind.

But the core message seems to be: Don’t listen to women. Especially, don’t listen to women who talk to snakes!

So it is a sexist message and it is a message that is redolent of suspicion of the natural world.

And another thought. Recent research in Northern Ireland by Queens University for Channel Four shows that Protestants are falling behind Catholics in educational attainment. Could this be anything to do with the fact that evangelicals in these schools are teaching children to mock their own science departments and to laugh at the theory of evolution. What university’s science department is going to employ a researcher who would rather look into the Bible for answers than down a microscope?

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