Few idiosyncrasies are more perplexing than the ways people connect science and religion. Widespread rejection of evolution, to take a familiar example, has created a crisis in education, and it now appears that biology texts might be altered to satisfy anti-evolutionary activists in Texas. Many on the textbook commission believe their religion is incompatible with scientific explanations of origins — evolution and the Big Bang — so they want textbooks with more accommodating theories and different facts.The thawing that Karl mentions does not immediately seem self-evident, given that there are many more stories about townsfolk or school boards being indignant about the teaching of evolution than there are stories of acceptance of it. I certainly hope that he is correct that the seminaries are becoming more open to the idea of acceptance of evolution because the large anti-evolution organizations and their followers sure aren't. These are becoming increasingly insular in their attitudes and teachings and are becoming, as Waltke wrote and as Karl reminds us, "a cult." I am still exploring the possibility that this YEC viewpoint constitutes a heresy.
Understandably, many thoughtful and well-educated people, believers and non-believers alike, find this unacceptable. Most of these critics emphasize that informed religious belief — even conservative evangelicalism with its insistence on an inerrant Bible — can accommodate modern science, including evolution. Leading Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke made this argument recently and was driven by theological gatekeepers to resign from his seminary. But Waltke was immediately snapped up by a similar seminary, indicating that partial thawing has begun even on the frozen waters of fundamentalism.
For this article, though, he focuses on the "new atheists," who seek the purging of religious belief from society. These include Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and P.Z. Myers, to name a few. Each has vocally argued that people that practice science cannot have religious sensibilities and be credible scientists. To this, Karl writes:
There is something profoundly un-American about demanding that people give up cherished, or even uncherished, beliefs just because they don't comport with science. And the demand seems even more peculiar when it is applied so indiscriminately as to include religious believers with Nobel Prizes. What sort of atheist complains that a fellow citizen doing world-class science must abandon his or her religion to be a good scientist?I am of two minds about this. Those of us that are theistic evolutionists argue that examination of the natural world is perfectly compatible with an understanding that God is the author of that world and that his power is demonstrated through the interworkings of it.
Having said that, we, as theistic evolutionists, are a little bit over a barrel in the sense that while we accept that God is the creator of that world, we do not accept all interpretations of how that world was created. We argue that those who believe that religious belief is damaging to a complete understanding of science are wrong. Yet we also argue that those who hold to a young earth creation position to the exclusion of other interpretations of scripture are also wrong and are damaging to the very same cause of Christ. While we might, on the surface, be okay with people holding that particular viewpoint, deep down we are not okay with them teaching it to other people, especially in the context of the public schools or home school curricula. Put simply, we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want people to have plurality of thought, but we want, at the same time, for them to abandon their "cherished" belief in young earth creationism. We seek to convince those adhering to a young earth position of their error of their ways and are exasperated when they simply ignore the evidence that we provide them.
I believe that those that choose to educate their kids at home in recent earth creationism have the individual right to do so. It simply means that they will be inadequately prepared for college when they do get there. It may also mean that they have severe crises of faith, such as that by Glenn Morton. I would recommend that anyone that teaches their children the YEC point of view at least ought to read that account. They might not agree with it but it might give them an inkling of what they are up against.
The same cannot be said for the public schools. Here, the teachers have an obligation to teach the best science that is available because the kids are a captive audience. True, some parents can remove their children if they find that what they are being taught is objectionable, but most parents don't have the wherewithal to do that.
An additional consideration is that if creationism is taught alongside old earth science, it might backfire in a very bad way. The vast majority of young earth creationism arguments don't hold up to even the most cursory examination and this would give an enterprising science teacher the opportunity to, after demolishing the arguments, say, "just how stupid are those Christians, anyway?"
It may very well be that the best way that we can show that there is a way of following after Christ and accepting the findings of modern science is to be the best Christians we can possibly be, without arrogance or condescension but acting in love and humility of spirit. Then we can let the science speak for itself. This does not mean that we should sit idly by while untruths are taught. Indeed, I think it is our obligation to correct those misstatements, but we should respond to those teaching them in love and kindness, lest we, too, become "a boorish bunch of intellectual bullies"
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