How Christians React to the Religion-Science Conflict

Yes, exactly. For us NOT to be descended from them requires that our last common ancestor with any old world monkey wasn’t a monkey. But if the last common ancestor of old world and new world monkeys was a monkey, that simply can’t be.

I am trying to conform most of my usage of colloquial terms to cladistics. It’s a bit harder for some, e.g., “fish,” than for others, but it just makes sense. And I’ve always sort of thought that the non-inclusion of humans in the word “ape” was just a ridiculous sort of human exceptionalism, as we are so very obviously apes in the fullest sense. Yes, we have our weird specializations, but so do the others. Gibbons don’t go around claiming they are no longer apes because they have those amazing arms. Good people, those gibbons. So, yes, as far as I am concerned not only am I descended from monkeys, but I am a monkey, and some monkeys are even descended from me.

I gather that that sort of talk is regarded as toxic to relating these topics to religious people of a certain stripe, but I don’t think there’s any mincing about it. If one were to insist that we are NOT descended from monkeys, and justify that statement however one does, and then one of these creationists asked what that mysterious common ancestor of us and monkeys was, one would still ultimately have to admit that it was awfully doggoned monkeyish, and they’d be just as unhappy with the idea of being descended from some ancient monkeylike creature as they would with the idea of being descended from a monkey. So what would be the point of trying to avoid it?


Interestingly there’s a similar sort of problem with the distinction between humans and animals.

Oddly enough most of the people who would protest that humans are animals, would have no problem admitting that humans are mammals(creationists have stated as much on this very website). Or multicellular eukaryotes.

Somehow there’s something bad implied by the terms ‘animal’ and ‘monkey’, that aren’t reflected by the terms ‘mammal’ or ‘eukaryote’.

I remember when I was about 12 years old I had a disagreement with my grandfather about whether humans were actually animals. I didn’t know anything about cladistics, evolution, or definitions at the time, but I argued simply on physiological grounds that humans should be considered animals. We are made of cells, flesh, bones etc. - we eat and breathe to survive, have two sexes and so on. He didn’t accept the arguments.

Curious side note: In Danish, the word for ‘mammal’ is ‘pattedyr’, which literally translates to “breasted-animal”, making the connection to the animal kingdom harder to ignore. But I do find that generally in Denmark, people have no problem with the fact that humans are apes, monkeys, animals, or cellular organisms.

1 Like

You know, as a passionate vegetarian child (yes, I was much more annoying than any modern vegan) I was constantly pointing out our commonalities with other animals to people in the course of arguments. I learned that most of my peers believed that animals had a sort of organ that we don’t, called “meat.” They actually believed meat was a kind of food-for-people which animals grew, distinct from muscles or organs, as though animals had been provided for the purpose of being eaten by us.

Long before I had any really meaningful exposure to evolutionary concepts, animal physiology was something that really showed me that we shared a great deal with other creatures. It seemed to me that if we were so very different from cows and sheep, one wouldn’t expect cows and sheep to have pretty much an identical set of internal organs to ours. Why should they have lungs like ours, for example, if we aren’t related?

And I can’t say I ever considered that depressing. I never thought it detracted from human feeling, or the importance of our lives to us, or anything like that. I have never understood why it’s so depressing to some people. It’s sort of lovely, actually. And the diversity of creatures is so interesting, so inspiring, so full of great things to be curious about. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why anybody would be sad to be a mammal, an animal, or a monkey. Monkeys are marvelous; what’s more, we know they are real, which cannot be said for a lot of other accounts of where we come from.


What are they learning? That their conservative backgrounds are wrong? If so how do you know their conservative backgrounds are wrong?

They are learning that they need to respect me for my knowledge and experience, and that they don’t get to treat me differently than they treat my male colleagues. They are learning that I will hold them accountable and that no, I’m not a soft touch because I am a woman. They are learning that not all women fit the stereotype that they grew up with.


When interacting with the general public I try to use genetic relationships to help illustrate these points. Specifically, chimps share more DNA with humans than they do with gorillas and other apes. If chimps are apes, then we are apes, too.

Ook! :wink:

Never had the discussion, not aware that such a discussion can happen, and hostile to every attempt. Without some sort of personal connection, it’s nearly impossible to get past that barrier. Sometimes, if I am patient, I think I have gotten through to them. It’s not what they say/write in response, but the comments they do not respond to that might have gotten through to them. They will never admit if they agree, of course, which is why I think those non-responses are important.

I do use good-natured ridicule, but I try to be mostly respectful. It’s possible to build a sort of personal connection even on the FB groups, but getting through to them takes time (weeks or months of repeated encounters). You can build up a sort of trust with repeated encounters (and a lot of patience).

Now back to the article …

Those with low science identification (“I’m not good at science”) tended to perform worse than those with high science identification (“I’m good at science”), as would be expected. And it didn’t matter whether they were Christian or non-Christian, or whether they were reminded that religion and science are compatible or incompatible. Furthermore, those who rated themselves as good at science spent more time on the analytical reasoning tasks. Thus, disengagement occurred, although not because of religion but rather lack of interest in science.

Ridicule is certainly not a good way to get someone to engage with a topic. If pays to listen to what they say and learn what does engage them.

You know, I’m 58, I live in a relatively “liberal” city, and I think that most of my peers still have to learn that one. I think sexism breaks down by a series of agonizing stages because people are liable to stop on a variety of waystations along the path. “I don’t hold discriminatory attitudes toward against women; I revere them!” is one common formulation, for example, which turns out to be a good deal less positive in practice than it might sound to the one who says it.

I have concluded, after a long time at this, that the times I was most sexist were the times when I thought I had abolished sexism from my mind entirely. Now I just consider myself a work in progress, and I try to scrutinize my own behavior and attitudes more carefully.


That is wisdom!

1 Like

I’m 56, so we’ve had similar generational experiences. We grew up during a time when everything was changing. Title IX was introduced in 1972. I remember watching Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs in the “battle of the sexes.”. I never had to face the overt sexism of the 50s and 60s. It’s more subtle now and harder to recognize. I think we’re all works in progress.

1 Like

Yeah, strange days, eh? What I am now finding rather disorienting is that after a few decades of people adjusting to the idea that male and female gender archetypes are ridiculous and that people should just be themselves and be judged as people, not as “men” or “women,” those male and female archetypes are sort of reasserting themselves in the form of people assigning themselves a gendered archetype which is not traditionally associated with their biological sex. While I am all for people’s right to do what they think is best for themselves, I cannot help but think that there is an element of this which is “Men! Do you think you’re not G.I. Joe? Maybe you’re really Barbie!” and vice versa. Call me a curmudgeon, but I feel like this is backsliding.

I liked the idea of a world where we were trying to abolish gender-role “boxes.” Now it seems as though people want to assert the reality of the boxes, and insist that you’ve got to choose a team. This irks me. I have never made a very good G.I. Joe, but frankly, I’d be even worse as Barbie.


Yeah, I find that is very often the case. Part of it, as I have learned when talking to people with whom I have some other social connection and hence a bit of an “in,” is that there are some really strange assumptions at work.

I have probably mentioned my fundie acquaintance who didn’t believe the NT said anything about handling snakes until the passage was pointed out to her. Once my wife was in a conversation with her where it emerged that she had been surprised to learn of Darwin’s personal difficulties with separation from the Christian religion. It seems that she had always understood that the PURPOSE of evolutionary theory was to destroy religion. She had not understood, bless her Biblical-literalist-who-doesn’t-read-the-Bible soul, that evolutionary theory was developed to address problems in biology.

But there is part of the problem. If people believe that: that evolutionary theory exists BECAUSE it is a way of attacking Christian faith, well, how can they possibly think any productive conversation can be had?


That’s probably because the main passage supporting that, Mark 16:17-18, is not in the earliest manuscripts and is universally bracketed off in most Bibles, sometimes not even included, and in my experience pastors rarely preach from it. So it’s easy to miss. (Similarly with the episode of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery in John.)


I encounter this belief all the time. I always introduce the topic of evolution by asking my students “Tell me what you know about Charles Darwin.”. Inevitably one of them will say “He was an atheist out to destroy people’s belief in God.”. Then I launch into a discussion of Darwin’s life and work. Every semester students list this unit as one of their favorites on my course evaluations.


Really? I think it’s in all of mine, and not bracketed. I know that the New English Bible has a sort of footnote to warn you that this last bit is dodgy. The NEB also sets the woman caught in adultery passage outside of the gospels with a note about where it’s usually found.

In the case of my fundie acquaintance, I am sure it is simply that she hadn’t read the gospels at all. She certainly would never own a modern scholarly translation. In fact, come to think of it, I think her church may have been one of those King-James-only churches where they think all subsequent English translations are heretical.

And yet you have many of the Christian’s who are around Peaceful Science who are former YEC’s (including myself).

One of things I thing that is hard for those who have not grown up in YEC “culture” to understand, is the extent to which YEC is ingrained in the basic world view. In my experience it’s not specifically taught that often, or even discussed. It’s simply assumed as a fundamental truth. Like many assumptions we grow up with, when surrounded by people with similar assumptions, they have not been deeply thought about. Thus when you “attack” YECism your are not attacking a carefully reasoned position, you are attacking a fundamental assumption in their world view.

People don’t generally react well to their fundamental assumptions being attacked. You can only broach this kind of conversation effectively when you are trusted.


I’m sure that’s true. What I’ve never quite understood is how these assumptions manage to migrate from the child’s brain into the more mature version. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t more than ten years old when I first realized that biogeography (though that’s not the word I’d have used) made the idea of all modern land species being descended from creatures carried on Noah’s Ark ridiculous. The idea of all the marsupials high-tailing it to Australia was something of a nonstarter, and if I’d known a bit more about the distribution of animals I’d have realized that that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Do you think that most YECs actually do realize that, but just keep squashing that voice down? Or do you think that they’re sufficiently lacking in curiosity to just go with it? I’m sort of inclined toward the former, as it would help account for the extreme rage and hostility that I get from those quarters.

1 Like

As someone who grew up in Australia, this was very obvious. And it was also pretty obvious that Australian aboriginals had been in Australia long before the time of Adam and Eve.

1 Like

Certainly long before Bishop Ussher’s Adam and Eve!


Yes. And whether Ussher’s dating was correct was a question that came up and was not really answerable. Joshua’s GAE does open up additional possibilities.