Diversity of opinion embeds the human experience of knowing, or trying to know. Politics occur because citizens differ on how best to run the nation or state. But there are limits to diversity. We don’t get to make up our own minds on whether gravity will work or if Stop signs mean what they say, and we don’t let everyone have their own opinion when it comes to scientific research. The moment we utter the word “science” we enter into the categories, methods, and peer-reviewed work of scientists, like Gregor Mendel (pictured). Which is one reason creationists struggle, and Jason Rosenhouse, in his book Among the Creationists, chronicles some of the elements of the rhetoric of creationists that mean they will continue to struggle if they choose to operate outside science as if they are doing science.
When I see someone in the Christian faith disrespect scientists, I walk away grieving for their listeners. I know too many (non-Christian) scientists and professors and professional researchers and, while there is the exceptional quack and ideologically-driven scholar who corrupts evidence in order to mediate an ideology, my experience has been one of observing widespread professional integrity and consensus scholarship and critical interaction with the evidence by the best in the business. When a wide array of scholars tell me the universe is 13.5 billion years old, or when they tell me Lucy holds some secrets, or when they show a scattering of studies that all come to the same conclusion, I don’t think “conspiracy,” I think “conclusions.” Too many creationists gravitate to conspiracy when they ought to be moving toward conclusions. For some there is too much at stake, and not enough truth at stake.
Why do you think so many in the conservative Christian community are suspicious of the scientific community?
The problem I see here is that science is not politics. The either-or and the Us vs. Them and the Believer vs. Unbeliever approach, which leads far too often to one side developing its own rules and words and definitions and rhetoric, will not win the day. We don’t vote on an equal basis for the age of the universe. What has to be discussed, for instance, in an intelligent forum is the Age of the Universe, and the Earth, and of hominids and humans — how such determinations can be made, what kind of evidence there is, what various scholars have concluded. These things are open to scientific gaze, and until the creationist can sit down with the mainline scientist and discuss evidence, the creationist will struggle. So pick up Edward Larson’s Evolution, know that the man is a Christian, and watch him sort out the major discussions … and those who do so will struggle less. Hold that, they may well struggle more with what they have been taught, with what they assume the Bible says, but they will emerge with a more robust faith and a more robust perception of our world, and be closer to the truth.
Take, for instance, the fossil record (Rosenhouse’s 11th chp). At the Creationism’s Mega-Conference in Lynchburg, Rosenhouse listened to Emil Silvestru contend that “such geological evidence as we have entirely supports the young-Earth-hypothesis” (56). Silvestru’s contention was that there are “no transitional forms” in the fossil record. But Rosenhouse trots out just a speck of the evidence for transitionals bridging fish to amphibians, amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to mammals, and ape-like creatures and hominids to humans.
Silvestru struggles because he fails to explain existing evidence for transitional (stem mammals) and offers counters that can be explained better in other ways: most fossil-bearing rocks are sedimentary” because it is in water that fossils survive. On land animals don’t survive as fossils … difficulties dating and splicing together transitional forms do not call evolution into question, but too many creationists jump from a specialized problem to castigate the larger theory.
Then he listened to Phillip Bell who made the logical, necessary, slippery slope connection between evolutionary theory’s lack of meaning and purpose and nihilism, fatalism, suicide, etc.. Creationists operate far too often with a “colossal disrespect” for scientists. This is a struggle, too.
Rosenhouse has a dense chp “On Information,” an expertise of his, which led him into a dispute with Werner Gitt about degrading information in mutations. Some creationists struggle in assuming they know a subject or when they transfer one kind of “information” into another theory of information. Then a chp on “Movies and Television.” Carl Kerby teaches young adults to listen to and watch movies with a critical eye, and so also does Jack Cashill. Cashill discussed (at an Intelligent Design conference in Kansas City in 2002) the movie Rope and then High Plains Drifter and High Noon in light of the moral code called the Hays Code. Cashill connected communism to Darwin by way of atheism and Marx.
Rosenhouse: the “sheer viciousness of so much anti-evolution rhetoric” (70).