All you need is love?

I had an odd experience last week, when I was part of a panel discussion on Islam and Evolution at Hampshire College.

As part of my presentation, I argued that Darwinian evolution counts against the notion of a supernatural designer, even though it does not strictly imply that there is no theistic God. And I made it pretty clear that I was representing a naturalistic, nonreligious point of view.

I didn’t know exactly what to do with one of the questions afterwards. A man from the audience asked me if I had any children. I said I didn’t, upon which he nodded knowingly and said something about “love.” I don’t remember his exact comment, but the implication was I had to be deficient in the love department, and that I was taking an overly analytical approach to religion. If I had children, presumably, I wouldn’t be so skeptical.

I doubt that. But then I would, wouldn’t I? The whole love business is one of those unanswerable objections—not because it makes a good point, but because quite literally, there is no answer I can give that could satisfy the questioner.

I shrugged it off, and in a minute we went on to another question. Still, there’s something odd about the whole experience. This isn’t the first time that a believer responded to my skepticism by suggesting that I must suffer from some emotional deficiency, though this is the most public incident so far. There is something curious about how, knowing practically nothing about me, some people have felt free to jump to conclusions about some personal lack. I don’t know if I can do anything but shrug this sort of thing off.

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About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University