The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Evolution/Creation Thoughts from a Thoughtful Christian

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 26, 2010

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a very vocal advocate for good science education (including evolution).  They also know that I am an unapologetic skeptic in all things, including religion – I am, in fact, an ardent atheist and non-believer in all things supernatural (god being one of those things).  However, despite my philosophical position, I count among my friends & acquaintances many religious people: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Mormons.  I do not like the idea of defining skepticism to equate with atheism, because I’ve known too many religious people who are good skeptics in most areas, and I’ve known too many atheists who have absolutely gone into the deep end of the woo pool.  It just smacks too much of a false dichotomy to make such an argument.

That said, what I’d like to do is introduce you to a colleague of mine… let’s call him Fred (not his real name).  Fred and I know each other because we’re both science educators and we’ve worked together in various capacities before.  Fred is also a very devout evangelical Christian, and he is on a journey of investigation regarding skepticism, creationism & evolutionary science.  When I recently posted to an email list we both frequent, Darwin’s Bulldogs, about an anti-evolution letter in the local paper, he spoke up about the letter & writer.  His story is very poignant and quite reminiscent of what I like to call a “thoughtful believer” who is attempting to balance what he was once told (“brainwashing” he calls it) in church versus the truth he now knows.  I think his story is best told in his own words, so with Fred’s permission, I now share those words with you here…

Having grown up in very conservative  churches with a “strong faith,” yet having a scientifically inquisitive mind, I was immersed in YEC [Young Earth Creationism] for many years, even trying to convince others using some of the so-called arguments based on the Bible and Christianized science that I had at my disposal.  As I have gone through my own evolution toward embracing evolution as revealed by the evidence, these Christianized arguments make me a bit ill in their display of uneducated bias, blind “faith,” and inability to see past assumptions that “we” are convinced simply MUST be true in order to have a valid belief in God. This comes out strongly in the last part where the evolutionary “archeaologist” will have to either embrace the bones as evidence for his “hoped for” link in the descent of man, or as a creationist who will see them as the APE THAT THEY ARE.  No evidence given… no attempt to consider that maybe there is room to really CONSIDER the evidence one way or the other… just the confident (arrogant?) proclamation that they are from an ape.  This is followed by the Christianized theology that only mankind is made in the image of God, not apes.  What does THAT mean?  We Christians tend to throw that “image of God” thing around as though it’s a trump card, and I’m more and more convinced that not a one of us has a CLUE what it really means (notwithstanding the legitimacy of the Biblical statement itself of course!).  Yet there is a tendency of smug assurance that the “image of God” is really understood, and that WE KNOW WHAT IT MEANS AND WHAT IT DOES NOT MEAN, so case closed.  No evidence needed.  The Bible is clear, and we know exactly what the Bible means, so why work hard to figure out what in fact is real as revealed by nature and open for ALL to see?
So, the confident assertions are made, and evidence is irrelevant.  Actually, evidence is not known nor understood, and this basic stupidity pertaining to science is one of the main reasons why so many of us Christians say such stupid things and don’t have a clue how ridiculous it all is to thinking, educated (in science) skeptics.
Yet, perhaps the worst part of the article is the supposedly smirk-inducing little statement “So a pig made a monkey out of an evolutionist.”  A Christian SHOULD be trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ I would think, and to generalize an attitude about evolutionists like this based on a single act of impropriety is not only to demonstrate that you are out of touch with the reality of human ambition, but it also alienates and marginalizes anything else you might say in terms of trying to bring a convincing argument to the table that will lead others to some greater “truth.”  It clearly demonstrates that you are deeply deluded if you think pointing out someone’s bad behavior in some way argues against the evidence of a whole body of knowledge or otherwise supports your presuppositions of truth.  “Ah ha!  A slippery event took place in history in this discussion, therefore my unsupported opinions must be true!”  What kind of foolishness is this?  Who in their right mind would give any credence to such “argumentation”?  The Jesus that I see in the Bible sure didn’t act that way or think that way.
Hopefully I’m not boring anyone with what is so obvious, but I think I understand the psychological mindset of those “Christians” writing these things, and unbeknownst to them it does not actually reflect “Christ-like” thinking, and it really irritates me to see this “raising the high banner of faith” which is done with noble intent, but is actually raising a red flag that says “I’m an idiot” to the world of folks who embrace reality, and have gone through the effort of figuring out a bit of what that reality is as revealed by observations of nature.
Yes, you did send the article on Bruce Waltke [an evangelical scholar “expelled” from his seminary for accepting evolutionary science].  Incidentally, I heard a talk from him about 15-20 years ago that helped shape some of my understanding of the beginning of Genesis.  It came as a surprise to me to see that he had this kind of trouble, and unfortunate as you mention.  Scholars like him are needed in the seminaries, but alas, the old uneducated presumptions regarding the “nonegotialbles of the faith” keep truth from having the balancing impact it needs to have on the millions in the church indoctrinated in YEC and other nonsense.  Having gone through so many iterations  of “belief” myself, I know the power of wrong thinking, and how systemic it is in a person’s life and world view.  Christians just CANNOT see that they are marginalizing themselves into not just irrelevancy, but actual disdain, becoming completely ineffective in “spreading the gospel” to the world, which is the whole point as encouraged by the New Testament.  We couldn’t be doing a worse job if doing a BAD job was in fact the goal!  Unfortunately, the ONLY thing in my observations that can turn this around (as in for me), is education.  Yet it is scientific education that we Christians are most fearful of, so we resort to Christianized science… pseudo-science. .. and we preach to the choir and feel really good about ourselves as we actually are erecting roadblocks to the acquisition of the “truth” that we are committed to delivering to “the world” that “needs to be enlightened”!  But alas, there is such momentum in the Christian community in line with the kind of science we ASSUME is consistent with scripture that it is almost impossible for those so steeped for decades (those in authority) to actually embrace what the Bible (in my opinion)says, which is that truth can be found from nature, and it encourages us to embrace this knowledge from nature.  Well, on it goes…
Just FYI, since you asked, you have total freedom to repost anything I write if you think it might be helpful in some way.  I’ve been in “the church” all my life right up to the present time, and it is only in the ongoing transformation of my own thinking through studying science that I am able to see more clearly how we Evangelical Christians have taken what has been handed down to us essentially without question, and eventually we just about reach the point of no return on this.  Those that fired Waltke undoubtedly agonized over it because of his standing etc, but truly believed that they HAD to draw the line somewhere on “truth,” and went with their convictions and principles (commendable? ), and the wake of destruction is self-perpetuating, and SO obvious to folks like “Darwin’s Bulldogs” who have no felt reason to fear or doubt the amazing story of evolution as it unfolds.

2 Responses to “Evolution/Creation Thoughts from a Thoughtful Christian”

  1. GreatPost said

    Great post Matt. Thanks for the insight of your friend.

    One thing I have noticed and respect in my experience specifically with Judaism (including the orthodox movement) is that they have no problems with evolution, the big bang, or a 13.7 billion old earth. As being someone who was brought up with creationism crammed down my throat (in the south), I realized that mainstream Christianity just swallowed alot of what they had been told and were passing it down to the next generation with everything resting on “blind-faith”.

    As a critical thinker and a science lover that just doesn’t work. Once I pulled myself out of the situation and was able to see it at a distance, I was amazed at the pseudoscience that tries to be pushed in the creationism movement. I mean, this group can be absolutely brutal and close minded.

    In Judaism, I respected the fact that they support the advancement of science and feel that science will prove their beliefs, they don’t have to “make science up” to feel comfortable with where they stand. It was pretty eye opening as in my naive youth I had assumed all “the big 3” (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) had believed in young earth.

    Anyway, thanks for the time you take on a regular basis to keep this blog up to date and strengthen both critical thinking and science education.

  2. Joanaroo said

    I’ve always said if God supposedly made man in his image, then he sure must have low self-esteem. The way people are acting in the current events of the world, I wouldn’t want people to believe I had anything to do with making them! I believe in evolution, but just saying.

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