Fascinating. A very interesting article.
I see this in the lives of the Christians (mainly YEC) in my community. It is so ingrained in them that science is in conflict with Genesis, that they disengage not only from evolution, but from science in general. This leads to a general distrust of science (and scientists) and a willingness to accept all kinds of pseudoscience instead.
It’s also why I find it disheartening when ridicule is used as a tool to argue against YEC. It re-enforces for them that scientists aren’t to be trusted when in most cases they’ve never had a good discussion with someone who can present the science to them accurately.
The flat earth community is absolutely fascinating from the perspective of an armchair psychologist. It isn’t surprising that flat earthers also believe in a whole swath of other anti-scientific conspiracy theories, such as anti-vax or 5G nonsense.
It is very difficult to not respond in kind to the insults YEC’s hurl at the scientific community. When you are told that you are knowingly telling lies to the public by someone who demonstrates a near perfect ignorance of the science under question it is hard not to get your hackles up.
I get it.
However the reality is that most YEC have, for a variety of reasons, never looked at the science. For the most part they aren’t the ones lobbing the insults.
When one of these folks does attempt ask questions, if the first thing the face is ridicule, their opinion of scientists is a self fulfilling prophecy.
The reality is that there is a relatively small few on both sides of the debate who are obnoxious. However the majority (scientists & YECs) get tarred with the same brush. I often see real questions from YEC ridiculed, because it assumed they are part of the obnoxious group, when in reality they are just stepping out to try to understand, within the context that if they accept they are wrong, they are calling into question their entire world view.
We are far off Patrick’s article at this point.
Totally agree. I don’t know about others in the scientific community, but in my experience scientists tend to have a hair trigger by default. We are quick to jump on problems we see, and tend to be confrontational in a professional sense. It gets really interesting when undergrads are first exposed to this environment. Some flourish and some don’t.
However, this confrontational and brusque demeanor translates really poorly in the public realm. Add in a lack of personal skills on the part of the scientist and you can end up with a very bad look. Science shouldn’t be about emotional responses and interpersonal impressions, but we do have to remember that it is human beings who are involved in this process.
So yes, keep reminding us to exercise patience and peacefulness. It is something we shouldn’t forget.
Indeed. I teach science at an Evangelical Christian University, but I spent 25 years doing research at Washington University St. Louis. I’m used to the rough and tumble of a competitive academic environment. I have to make a conscious effort to keep things toned down. Being a woman just adds to the situation. Students seem to expect me to be more nurturing than my male colleagues. I’m not. The majority of my students come from YEC backgrounds and have never been taught why people think evolution is true. A lot of them have great questions and are really eager to learn.
I just realized my previous comment could have implied that it was scientists not YEC’s lobbing insults. What I was trying to say was that there is a vocal minority of people from all sides who lob the insults. The quiet minority then gets tarred with the same brush as being obnoxious.
I think another part of of the challenge is that scientists often assume non-scientist have a lot more knowledge than they actually do.
Personally, despite a university degree, and a secular education I don’t believe we ever studied evolution (I didn’t take biology at senior high school levels).
My wife remembers a single short section from high school and that’s it.
My son, starting in his second year of university, who took a similar path through high school as I did, also never touched on evolution.
My daughter who did take grade 11 biology this year, had a short section on evolution, but it was cursory, and outdated in many respects.
When I recently argued with them that we didn’t evolve from monkeys, none of them believed me, until they googled and found me correct. I don’t think they are unusual in the general population. (The well known t-shirt showing evolution from monkey’s to human was really their some total of knowledge about the topic).
I have many colleagues just like yourself whom I respect and enjoy working with. The boomer generation may have been taken aback by women being just as forward and aggressive as their male counterparts, but I would like to think the gen-xers on down have a healthier attitude towards their female peers.
It also sounds like you have a front row seat to the real world intersection between religion and science. It’s good to hear your experiences and stories.
Do you find that you have to get involved in the religion-side questions themselves? I recall being very interested in the tensions shown in the Paul Allen-funded “Evolution” series on PBS, when they visited some Christian colleges and talked to students, parents and professors about it. Professors in that show generally seemed to have gone all the way in to the belief questions, explaining why they found evolutionary theory consistent with faith. But I can sort of imagine that becoming very difficult, because it exposes rifts within Christian thinking that may be just as difficult to bridge as the evolution/creation rift itself. And that cannot be great for relations with parents, who in many cases seemed to be terrified that their children were going to lose their religion in the course of getting an education.
Blunt as I am liable to be, were I a biology professor, I would probably just say that the question of how somebody resolves this with any particular set of supernatural beliefs is not what I am here to answer. And at a Christian college I’d be acutely aware that if I didn’t stop there, I’d be liable to have protesting parents on my front lawn within a week.
I got my degree from a very small nominally Presbyterian private liberal arts college. We were required to take a semester of religious studies. I chose the 100 level New Testament course, and to my surprise it was a very objective and grounded course on the history of the early Christian movement and what the New Testament was trying to say. In fact, the professor went as far as requiring us to use the term “Jesus of Nazareth” instead of using the Christ moniker in order to accommodate non-believers and people of other faiths. Having grown up in a standard conservative christian household, that was a new experience for me.
Needless to say, no one will ever describe it as a Christian school. However, several of my professors in the biology department were Methodists, and happened to attend the same church. Since it was a private school they didn’t feel any restrictions when it came to expressing their own views on religion and evolution. What they said in those discussions is almost identical to what I hear christian scientists say in these forums and elsewhere. I really doubt they would have been able to say the same things at the Nazarene college one town over, but I have always respected their ability to take the issue head on and humanize the debate.
I managed to get a PhD in Molecular Biology without studying evolution outside of one passing reference to it in my undergrad freshman Bio 101 class. But that was a long time ago. I sit on my state’s committee that reviews science education at state colleges/universities. One of the things we require for Biology classes is some exposure to evolutionary theory.
Definitely. One of the Gen Ed core objectives is “develop an understanding of how to integrate science and a Christian worldview” and I address that head on. I try to help students reach their own way of doing that, even if it isn’t my way of doing it. If a student decides on YEC, I just want them to understand the issues involved and why mainstream science disagrees. I try not to talk about my own beliefs in class because I don’t want students to feel like they have to agree with me. But if a student asks directly, I will answer and I don’t hedge. My dean and the other higher ups are supportive. I know they have gotten few angry emails and one student filed a formal complaint a few years ago. The only reason I know about the complaint is because per university policy I had to be informed, but I was never asked to respond and never heard anything more about it. It didn’t even come up at my promotion interview. I do tend to tread lightly with parents and alumns. I am honest about what I believe and what I teach, but I am diplomatic and try to keep things peaceful - much like we’ve been discussing about how to talk to non-scientists.
Sexism in science even from the students. Sorry to hear that, but glad you seem free to say who you are.
Thanks. Honestly, my colleagues and the university administration has been wonderful. The students are young and tend to come from pretty conservative backgrounds. They’re learning.
Yeah, I think that’s all one really can do. People who are in the habit of “choosing what to believe” can opt out of accepting science, but they do need to know that they are doing it. Most people cannot sustain that kind of “deliberate disbelief” indefinitely, though some can. I see it in politics more often than in regard to science.
I’ve started investigating another science-religion conflict. Psychology. I didn’t know there was so much animosity from Christians towards some types of psych. Some groups have even recommended only seeing psychologists that are also Christian. Seems dangerous. Been reading this book:
The overlap of Christianity and physics is rather small – mostly related to the age of the earth. The overlap of Christianity and psychology is huge. Both are concerned with behavior, thought, motivation. What Christianity has traditionally seen as demon possession is understood by psychology to be mental disease.
There’s a lot of potential for conflict.
I completely understand that approach, but I have taken a different one. I frequently have talks at the beginning of semester in which I explain my own position that accepts both science and the Christian faith. I’ve felt that it is important to let students know what I think. My Baptist university is rather atypical in that many of our students come from other faiths (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and others, I am sure) and many without a particular faith. So I explain clearly my position, but reassure them that their own personal faith or doctrinal beliefs will have no bearing on their success in my class. I’ve had perhaps around 3 conversations with students over 17 years that have wanted me to clarify further outside of the classroom, but have never had an issue with parents. I do not recall my colleagues in the department having parent issues in this regard, either - so this lack of friction may just be a product of the environment.
Your approach sounds like a good one, especially given your diverse audience.
I’m not sure how common it is, but I’ve met several people from “Charismatic” traditions (e.g., Assemblies of God) that were openly hostile to the ideas and practice of psychology.