If there’s one recurring argument out there that really cheeses my wheels, it’s the intelligent design vs. the evolution debates of late. I don’t quite know why one side is attacking the other, since they’re both so far removed from each other. Not one element seems to line up as far as evidence, philosophy and rational thinking will take you.
It seems that, the only way to make an argument against either side is to throw a straw man arguments at your opponent hoping the opposing side will burst into flames, since both sides refuse to deal with the core arguments of the other. Allow me to illustrate:
Science side: Everything I’ve uncovered shows that we, as a species, are the result of a hugely complex system that evolved over billions of years. And billions of years before that everything was born from a single point of space and energy. A “Big Bang” if you will.
Intelligent Design side: What about all the stuff you haven’t uncovered yet? You can’t prove that the stuff you don’t know didn’t come from God!
Science side: B-but, I didn’t even mention Go…
Intelligent Design side: Let me stop you right there, you are talking about things I have no interest in and therefore reject as being a part of my reality. God created everything, this is what I KNOW!
Science side: How do you know? Can you come up with a single piece of evidence to support this claim? Can you write it down in an equation and predict a real-world outcome, to backup a statement like that? I have no interest in things that can’t be measured, therefore I reject your reality. I don’t yet know what created everything, but I’m going to keep looking.
Intelligent Design side: STOP LOOKING, God exists! I KNOW IT! Be humbled by my knowledge. You can’t measure Love, but it exists, you can’t measure pleasure or pain… or time! The earth is 6,000 years old! And to deny THAT is to pay for, and stamp, a one way ticket to H. E. Double hockey-sticks!
Science side: Why are you yelling at me? And what’s this business about time? You can’t expect me to belie…
And so on… You get the picture. The arguments are coming from completely separate worlds. People can speak the same language but completely misunderstand each other, because the context of the arguments is so far removed from each side’s experience. One’s life is based on careful observation, record keeping and patience, while the other is based on tradition, obedience and emotion. To both parties, the world they live in is absolutely real, and the other’s is a work of fantasy and delusion. The irony is both sides fear the other is leading our whole species toward certain doom by corrupting the minds of our youth.
Now, I must admit, I do lean toward the science side of the spectrum, but I also remember my days as a born-again christian (seems like a lifetime ago); as much as I hate to admit it, the religion side has a point when viewed from their perspective. Join me there for a moment please, this will all make sense in the end.
Narrator: Meet Joe Christian. He’s an average man, with a good job 2.5 kids and a loving wife. He’s thankful for the level of comfort he enjoys in his life and shows his thanks every Sunday in church with his family. His church community has frequent fund raisers and gives their time and money to charity on a regular basis. Joe’s family and his community is running in a beneficial way for the rest of the people in this world, and as long as he walks the strait and narrow, works hard and only asks questions when necessary, Joe will have a long and happy life.
One day Joe meets Charles at a bus stop. Charles doesn’t go to church, doesn’t have a family and lives very successfully as a scientist at the local chemical plant. Just on a whim Joe strikes up a conversation with Charles by asking him how his walk with the Lord is going. Charles looks back astonished at the friendly yet forward question and answers honestly, by saying “I don’t believe in God, so my walk is going rather smoothly, a little quiet at times but not too bad over all.”
Joe now has mixed feelings, how can Charles say he doesn’t believe in God? To Joe, who never questioned his religiously peppered education or his place in society, and who lived a pretty privileged life, God was responsible for everything he held dear. That’s like saying he doesn’t believe in air, or light. It doesn’t make any rational sense. So, what should he do with this information?
- He can follow up with Charles and ask him to clarify his statement.
- He can end the conversation and forget about everything.
- He can get offended with Charles and try to teach him a thing or two about God, to try to show him a little humility.
No matter what the outcome, the damage is done. Joe’s faith has been shaken with one simple statement from an outsider. Now if Joe starts to investigate further into this matter, he’s going to have way more questions crop up than answers, those questions lead to talk, and then more and more people in his community will be asking questions that the church can’t answer. The church will eventually lose is members, and the members will lose their common bonds and all the good they did in the past will cease. All because, one person asked too many questions.
Thankfully most good creationists aren’t like Joe, in that the fear they have for their immortal souls keeps them from digging too deep into the control mechanisms of the Church, and most of them can go on living somewhat fulfilling lives, never knowing, and never wanting to know a more complex and beautiful world. It’s this fear that keeps them in check, and it’s this fear that makes them respond with anger when challenged.
If a person is going to be receptive to an argument from the side of science, then they will have already dealt with some serious doubt and would be on the fence with their faith already. In a world where faith is seen as a blessing and a strong character trait, there aren’t many who have the courage to make it that far down the rabbit hole of science, without running screaming back into the blissfully ignorant and comforting arms of the church.
For me, looking back, I remember a time when I was certain God was watching over us all, and I took comfort in “knowing” all rhetorical questions had absolute answers. I thought I knew it all. But I see now, that the world is much larger and more intricate than I ever imagined. I finally understand the power of unanswerable questions. Take, for instance, the question “Is there a God?”. The only suitable answer to this question for me now is … stillness. I find a lot of comfort in that reflection.
I think you have to be a certain kind of person, if you’re going to be a scientist. Or a science enthusiast. You need to have a rare and innate curiosity, that most people lack. These precious few are the ones keeping our progress running forward instead of backward. The depths of science shrouds the true intentions of our actions to the people who live very surface lives. This seemingly enigmatic existence scares the hell out of a lot of people and leads to conspiracy and rumor.
What’s the point of debating with group of people who have no intention of listening? I think we need each other; with each debate both sides walk away with a clearer understanding of what they’re fighting for. So, we fight to hone our own skills, but if we intend to win the battle of science vs. ignorance, we need to remember that we aren’t dealing with people who want to learn. Therefore the dance steps need to be different when dealing with these arguments. They attack because they feel you are contradicting everything they believe to be true. You seem like irrational fools when compared to the awesome power of a deity they’ve deluded themselves into seeing everywhere.
I know, nothing irks me more than some some low-brow chuckle-head laughing at my “arrogance” (book smarts), thinking he’s out witted me with a non sequitur God bomb, when in truth he’s only proven his own limitations. It doesn’t make him evil, or crazy. Just limited… held back and misguided, and standing up for what he believes to be right.
A battle of wits is best won in even tones, not loud retorts. It’s not up to us to change their minds or educate them, just plant a single seed of doubt and see if it takes root.