Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Christians Can Support Evolution

The principle of the separation of church and state is one that I have come to value as one of the fundamental ideals that has contributed to the advancement of our society. Falling within this principle is the current struggle between those that would teach evolution in or public schools and those that would teach creationism. I’ve seen the arguments for both sides and frankly, I don’t really see how there can be an argument any more. Even a minimally rational person should be able to see there is no rational thought behind teaching creationism or intelligent design in a science curriculum. This ongoing debate shakes my faith in the idea that most people, deep down, are basically rational beings.

But every time I start to lose hope, something always turns up that renews my faith in people. This time, I came across The Clergy Letter Project. More than 12,000 Christian clergy across the United States have signed a document declaring that science and religion can peacefully coexist, and that rejection of the theory of evolution is to embrace ignorance.

Now, I don’t know how significant 12,000 signatures are. A quick look at the Census Bureau’s website told me that there are more than 396,000 clergy in the United States, and many denominations didn’t report their numbers. But it still gives me a warm fuzzy. My hope is that someday, there won’t be any high school biology teachers like mine who chose to skip over the chapter on evolution. She explicitly told us she didn’t believe in it and refused further discussion.

The Faith of an Atheist

I’m reading The Reason for God: belief in an age of skepticism by Timothy Keller right now. It’s fairly coherent argument for Christianity. I’m three chapters in and while the arguments so far are not particularly persuasive, it is the first apologetics book I’ve read so far that has given me some food for thought about the nature of belief.

Keller’s foundation for his arguments, however, demonstrates that he completely misunderstands the nature of disbelief. In the introduction he states, “All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really just a set of alternate beliefs.” I’ve found this line of thinking to be pretty common among theists. I’ve read several times that it takes more faith to be an atheist than it does to believe. This is utterly ridiculous of course. My hypothesis is that since theists hold their beliefs to be self evident, they just can’t comprehend how someone could reach a different conclusion. My basis for this hypothesis is only personal experience; I was once a Christian too.

For a meaningful dialog to exist between theists and atheists, I think it would be helpful for theists to understand that doubt is not just another belief. I can really only speak for me, but I’d be willing to bet most atheists could identify with what I’m saying when I say I have examined the arguments claiming God exists, and I find them lacking. There is no convincing evidence for the existence of God. This equates to a lack of belief in God, not a belief in a lack of God. Until a theist can truly understand this, he does not know how to argue his case with me.

Let’s try to put it in a way that most (though not all) people can relate to. I don’t believe in fairies. There is no shortage of information about the existence of fairies. There is literature going back thousands of years that profess the existence of fairies. I find the idea of fairies appealing but quaint. There is no physical evidence or tenable argument for the existence of actual fairies, therefore I conclude that fairies do not exist. If you can identify with this line of reasoning, replace “fairies” with “God” and you’ll see where I’m coming from. If you can’t identify with this line of reasoning, then a dialogue between us would be useless.