Monday, November 30, 2015

The Discovery Institute Reports on Why College Students Leave the Faith and Fails To Ask the Important Questions

According to a story in the Religion News Service, more people are turning away from the faith because of their belief that science and religion are incompatible.  Tessa Rath writes:
In the report, Are Young People Losing Their Faith Because of Science?  John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, which is the international hub of the intelligent design movement, highlights the challenge young people face dealing with matters of science and faith. For helpful information and resources, download the report here.
I am always just a hair suspicious when I read things by John West because the DI has a noticeable and biased slant on this kind of news against evolutionary theory.  You have to sign up for the newsletter Nota Bene to get the report but can unsubscribe at any time, the site reads.

The report really isn't a report, in the formal sense.  It is more of a boiled down summary of one, with some references to previous research.  It begins with an anecdote about one Jesse Kilgore, who grew up in an evangelical environment and then, in turmoil because of what he was taught in a biology class, committed suicide:
Jesse had been raised in a devout evangelical Christian home, and his
father served as a military chaplain. He enjoyed defending his faith to his
friends and acquaintances. However, in the last months of his life, Jesse had
been hiding a deep secret from his father: A college professor had
recommended that Jesse read atheist biologist Richard Dawkins’ book The
God Delusion, which argues that science refutes belief in God. The book left
Jesse devastated.
In the days following Jesse’s suicide, Jesse’s father learned that his son
had revealed his growing inner turmoil to a few selected friends. In fact, just
an hour before he took his own life, Jesse confided in his uncle, Rich May:

He started telling me about the fact that he had been taking this biology class and as a result there were a lot of things that really challenged his belief and kinda shaken him and made him lose his faith in what he believed in. [He] specifically mentioned, too, that his professor recommended that he get The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
This story is absolutely tragic, but I suspect that there is considerably more to the story than this, especially since the young man had made references to suicide before he encountered Dawkins or evolution.  Furthermore, as the Sensuous Curmudgeon reports, Kilgore was a young earth creationist and probably hit some pretty hard walls when he got to college.

This brings into sharp focus the possible reason that many people might be leaving the faith when they get to college and to some very important questions of the young adults that are leaving the church that West never gets around to asking, such as:
  • Were you taught that the earth was created six thousand years ago?
  • Were you taught that evolutionary theory was wrong and misguided?
  • Were you taught that there was a world-wide flood that destroyed all life on earth?
  • If you were taught young earth creationism, how did it affect your faith when you found out that there is no scientific support for it?
There are probably some other questions that could be asked, but these would give a good indication of the backgrounds of some of the kids that leave the faith, and whether or not (as I believe), young earth creationism played an important role in that decision.

Much of what the “report” purports to say has already been written and there is really nothing new here that hasn't been known about the faith “fall-off” for some time. It is unfortunate that the Discovery Institute never saw fit to ask the important questions about why this is happening.

1 comment:

  1. The assumption of the report is that "Science" causes young people to lose their faith, and implicitly, science also caused Jesse Kilgore's suicide. This presupposition will not allow someone from this perspective to ask the important questions about why this happens.

    The real problem is the crisis of faith that occurs when young people emerge from the sheltered greenhouse of the pop-evangelical subculture into college, where they find evidence that some of the core "Truths" they were taught in Sunday School and Youth Group are not true but untrue. Their inchoate intellectual abilities are unable to distinguish the biblical truths that comprise historic Christianity from the cultural lore of modern "scientific creationism", an innovation of the last century and a half or so. And out goes the baby with the bath water.

    The real tragedy is that this crisis of faith is so utterly unnecessary.