Politics and religion don’t mix, as the old saying goes. Apparently, neither do science and religion, according to recent court cases involving creationism and evolutionism.
The cause for anxiety over all of this is obvious: These subjects push our “cosmology buttons.”
You may not be familiar with the term, but trust me, you have a cosmology.
A cosmology is simply this: What you think makes the universe work. It’s your view of reality, your model of what forces are or are not at work in the cosmos.
Creationism and evolutionism in their pure forms could not possibly be more diametrically opposed cosmologies.
One says we’re not alone; the other assures the opposite.
One says we’re in a created/directed universe; the other says we’re here and sustained by natural forces.
Both are faith-based in this sense: No homo sapiens were around for “the beginning.”
An oft-quoted study cited in a 1998 Nature magazine article titled “Leading Scientists Still Reject God” compares similar surveys of scientists’ beliefs from 1914, 1933 and 1998.
Members of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of thought and policy leaders in science education, were asked if they believed in a personal God (someone who interacts with man). Only 7 percent answered affirmatively, with 21 percent unsure and 72 percent answering “no.”
With Gallup polls consistently showing more than a 90 percent belief-in-God rate among Americans at large, is there any wonder that these differing worldviews conflict so much?
Parents feel that their children are being taught a worldview different from their own (they are), that they don’t have other options in public schools (they don’t) and that they can’t as taxpaying customers have any say in their children’s curriculum (they can’t).
On the other hand, science teachers feel like they are being harassed (they are) to present old theories of origin (correct) just to make people happy (again right) – which they believe is bad science and even harmful in the long run by teaching “things that are not so.”
At an intelligent design conference in Spokane a few years ago, I was surprised to see the diversity of personal beliefs by leaders of the “I.D.” movement.
Most did not believe in a literal biblical account. They have tried, with spotty success, to promote I.D. as pure science.
Their approach is really mathematical: “What are the chances that undirected natural forces can produce all we see?”
Can this be presented without religious overtones? I’m skeptical.
But can you teach evolution without religious overtones?
As a geology student at the University of California, Riverside, in the 1970s, I discovered that science was not any more open to diverse ideas than an established religion or political party. In fact, there are many similarities between today’s science establishment and the medieval church, with its defensive posturing and heresy concerns.
There are fundamentalists, evangelicals and the old-school orthodox. There are evangelistic societies (like the N.A.S.) whose purpose is to spread truth, and pamphlets with nice pictures to persuade potential converts (National Geographic and Nature).
There’s even a founding prophet: Charles Darwin. If you were to go to the Field Museum in Chicago, you would see a bust of Darwin, with a first-edition “Origin of Species” reverently displayed beneath him (as “The Word”).
As a professional religious person, I know a place of worship when I see one.
Evolutionism is a faith-based theory of origins, just like creationism, and as such it is adhered to with religious fervor. For science teachers who believe in Darwin, to teach anything else is heresy.
For my fellow Christians, imagine it this way: Say you are a professor at a Lutheran seminary and you’re told, “Teach Hinduism as a viable alternative.”
It would grate against everything you felt, against everything you were. It would be like teaching that the Earth was round, “though a number of people hold that it is flat.”
So what we have here is not a science-versus-religion conflict. It’s a religion-versus-religion conflict.
It’s hard to find tolerance when so many cosmology buttons are being pushed.