How Christians React to the Religion-Science Conflict

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.

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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.

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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.


I think there’s the full range of reasons. I held the YEC position in tension with the many problems I could see with it for more than 30 years. It takes a fair amount of energy to challenge to ones basic assumptions, and I quite simply had some much going on in life that it wasn’t at the top of my list to resolve. From conversations I have with many of my YEC friends, this would be the case for many of them. Interestingly, the problem of marsupials high-tailing it to Australia was never something that crossed my mind.

Others truely see it as an impossibility that the literal interpretation of the Genesis they use could be incorrect. They would assume to believe otherwise would be to reject the Bible & God.

Others, simply aren’t curious, and really don’t care one way or the other as it has no impact on their life.

There are probably other reason’s as well.

Given this, the best bet is to start with understanding where they are coming from before trying to point out where they are wrong.

Also, I think a lot of non-YEC’s involved in these “debates” assume that groups like AiG have significant influence. In my experience, very few of the YEC’s around me would have read anything from AiG, and many wouldn’t even know what they are.


Thanks. Very interesting. It certainly is the case that I find in “real life” that there are lots of creationists, but that they aren’t very committed and certainly haven’t spent a lot of energy trying to resolve any of these issues. That’s very different from the online world, in which people like that hardly ever turn up and participate in discussions about these things.

I cannot claim that I was a good critical thinker when I was young, and I faced the same first-in problem that many people exhibit: that once I’d “learned” something that was wrong, it was harder to un-learn it than it would have been to learn the truth at the beginning. I loved Erich von Daniken’s books, which seemed to me then like a very credible scientific treatment of their particular topic, and it wasn’t until I was hit over the head with a lot of contrary info that I realized that those books were quite silly.

But living things always really interested me. I always wanted to know where they came from and how they got to be how they are. I have never been able to look at an ape without seeing a cousin – never. The story of Noah’s ark certainly fascinated me, and I wondered whether it could be, but things like those marsupials convinced me that it could not. Of course, now knowing of the fossil record going back some 500+ million years, and something of phylogeny, I have other reasons, too.

But I cannot imagine what it would be like to just “accept” the Noah’s ark story, whether it was true or not; how does one know what to accept, after all, unless one knows the reasons therefor? No biologist has ever answered one of my questions about evolution by telling me that I just have to accept their account as told. Nobody has ever told me that evolutionary theory is infallible. And if they did, I’d think they were nuts – even if they were right about the underlying biological question. To me, the reasons for thinking something is true aren’t just support for a story – the reasons ARE the story. Answers without explanations would never satisfy me, and that’s what I find puzzling about acceptance of such things as Biblical stories.

But, you know, I also know a lot of people who just find the origins of living things a completely unexciting topic. But I don’t get that. If someone wants to tell me what his third-favorite therapsid is, and why, I am all ears.

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I happen to know where you can find some of the “snake handler” churches. My cousin like to tease me about going to visit (“You go first, Cuz!”). :wink:

We have some of those here, too. A brief portion of my childhood was spent in Mount Vernon, WA, a meth-and-chaw town if there ever was one. I got out quickly, but my younger brothers were there for a few more years, and while they never did visit a snake-handling church they did go to some speaking-in-tongues churches. The stories are hilarious, though they do remind one that we are always closer to some sort of yawning cultural abyss than we think, and there are always people trying to drag us in.

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