Sunday, February 10, 2013
I thought I had taken away religion’s ability to disappoint me, but I found out last night that I was quite mistaken.
For a variety of reasons, my family (now a family of 4!) has been attending a Quaker meeting fairly regularly. Quakers are generally on the liberal end of the Christian spectrum, so last week when they announced that this week was billed Evolution Sunday, I was excited! The theme was that faith and science need not be adversaries. Fair enough, I thought. After all, there are certainly aspects of cosmic history that science hasn’t yet discovered, including how the smallest of cells managed to self-replicate, allowing life to finally form from whatever was first around. And of course, how those first cells came to be in the first place. While inserting an answer of “We don’t know, therefore God” is lazy thinking, at least it’s an answer that science hasn’t already embarrassed the way it has good portions of Genesis, Noah’s ark, etc..
The speaker was a biology professor from my alma mater George Fox University. I had heard great things about him from my friends who had science majors at Fox, and since he is a Quaker, figured we’d be in for some pretty good science talk, if not flavored with Christianese. Instead, he treated science like a board game you only play when the power goes out.
His first mistake was admitting that he doesn’t really care about the evolution vs. Bible discussion, and only agreed to speak because the pastor “caught him in a weak moment.” Ok….. He confessed that his stance is that he is a creationist, but that the methods of creation are “unknowable.” Therefore, it’s ok with him when new students have various forms of beliefs on creation, because as long they believe in God the Creator, what they believe about creation is just a “debatable detail.” Of interest, the existence of God, with is neither testable or provable, is the only essential component.
Now, I’m far from a scientist. I hated the subject when I was little, but have become much more interested in it since becoming convinced that nature is probably all we’ve got. I know enough to know that science has curb stomped nonsense like young-earth creationism, and yet here’s someone who absolutely knows better letting young earthers off the hook because it’s a “debatable detail.” Except that it’s not debatable, at least not scientifically.
Most of his talk was his own biography, the biography of Christian scientists before him, a brief mention of atheist Sam Harris (I suspect he forgot to delete that slide from a prior talk where he wasn’t being so polite), and finally a plug for a science association he’s a member of. His one bit of red meat was recounting a phone call he received from a parent who thought that if one wasn’t a 7-day and young earth creationist, they were going to hell, because THE BIBLE SAYS SO!!! His response was that the sun wasn’t created until day 4 according to Genesis, so the prior 3 24 hour days would have existed how? He didn’t get into how plants, created on day 3, managed to live without the sun, but hey, how much can an atheist ask for in church?
I’m frustrated about this because education is supposed to cure ignorance, not pat it on the back and tell it it’s still a decent person. And here, in a church of all places, a guy who knows better was coddling ignorance. How is the church supposed to grow out of its generational love of anti-science if even the scientists won’t rid them of their bad information? And how am I, as a seeker, supposed to take this place seriously if this is as close as it gets to smart religion?
A few points of personal responsibility: it’s not anyone’s job to fulfill me spiritually. It’s not the church’s job to cater to non-believers. My disappointment is because of my own incorrect assumptions about what would be said on “Evolution Sunday.” That said, the most spiritual fulfillment I can find these days is watching Neil Tyson talk about the universe on the YouTube, which makes me think this journey might not be worth the effort I’m putting into it.