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Thursday, 13 August 2009

Evolution vs Creationism - A personal view

My attention was drawn today to a video where a group of Atheists and Agnostics had visited the Museum of Creationism. On the whole, everyone was polite, opinions were exchanged and everybody went about their business. But it set me to thinking. What was the point of it?

Having an honours degree in Natural Sciences and having majored in Evolution and Geology, you might think you could guess which side of the fence I sit on, but you might also be wrong. Who knows - I certainly don't. And this really is my point. I believe the only thing I know for certain is that there is a great deal of stuff I don't know and I certainly wouldn't presume to try to impose my beliefs, opinions, faith or lack thereof upon anyone else. I get very perplexed by evangelism, on both sides of the debate. Consider Richard Dawkins, a true evolution evangelist, who I noted recently, takes great delight in any piece of evidence which, in his opinion, disproves the evidence of God. I find this just as distasteful as somebody knocking on my door and wanting to convince me to follow their particular brand of organised religion.

Why can't we have it both ways? Scientific types like myself like to be able to prove their hypotheses, find hard evidence that their suppositions are correct and it could be argued therefore that the lack of any hard evidence would disprove the existence of God. But the whole point of Faith is to not need evidence, just to believe. As Douglas Adams said (and I am paraphrasing heavily here because I can't be bothered to look up the quote) if God did something to prove he existed to all the doubters, he would disappear in a puff of logic, which would rather defeat the whole object of the exercise.

What I think I am trying to say here is why can't we have it both ways. At school when I was a child we were taught Religious Knowledge and we were taught Science. We were not given beliefs or opinions, we were given information, and it was up to us to decide what we believed.

My closest personal friend is an Anglican Priest. She jokes about converting me and I joke about turning her to the dark side. But they are jokes, because we have respect for each other and in particular, she respects that I don't really know what I think/believe and she doesn't presume to try to tell me what I should think or believe. She works as a Hospital Chaplain and has to deal with some really dreadful things. What she does and how she lives her life is an example to us all, but it doesn't mean we have to agree with her beliefs, just respect them.

So there, I think I found my conclusion. Let's all just respect each others opinions.


C. Beth said...

I enjoyed this post, Frances.

I have this general rule in my life--it's useful to talk about controversial issues (evolution, religion, politics) with two kinds of people: those who are trying to establish their beliefs and want input, and those who disagree with me but just want a civil discussion. It's NOT useful to talk about them with someone who is set in their beliefs and wants to "convert" me. Similarly, it's NOT useful for me to try to "convert" someone who isn't looking for any type of "conversion"!

I guess what I'm saying is, I don't have a problem with "evangelism" (of any non-hateful belief system) if it's being done to those who are seeking. I have a problem with evangelism that is done to those who AREN'T looking for answers.

The Twitter conversation I had with my sister was good. We agree on evolution and disagree on religion. We both have great respect for each other, so we're able to have good, civil discussion.

Great, thought-provoking post! Sorry my response was so long! :)

Fannyfanackapan said...

Thanks for the comments. I agree wholeheartedly. I really enjoyed reading the exchange between you and your sister. It was engaging, thoughtful and respectful of each other. Similar to the kind of exchanges I have with my Anglican friend. It is being beaten over the head with other peoples opinions I don't like. Yay for respectful and though provoking debates.

beckiwithani said...

Great post! I'm glad you enjoyed Beth's and my discussion on Twitter, and that it inspired you to write this.

I agree with Beth that trying to convince someone of one's beliefs, whatever those beliefs are, is useless unless they are already "seeking."

Every rule has its exception, though! There is one place where I think that scientists must vociferously make their arguments ... even if the listeners don't want to hear it. And that's in the area of science education. In the U.S. especially (but the trend has been getting stronger in the U.K. as well), creationists fight to have their beliefs taught ... in science classes. They're welcome to believe what they want, but I have a problem with religious beliefs - which are contradicted by the data! - being taught in science. Let them have their beliefs taught in religion classes (along with other beliefs) or, as they are at my school, in general humanities classes. But science is the only thing that should be taught in science class. And unfortunately, this means that scientists often have to argue with fundamentalist religious folks!

Strange Mamma said...

Good post. I too watched some of the video. I have to say, I didn't make it through all of it, it was late and the hubby and I got talking. This has been a source of much discussion in our house.

I think the hardest part for me is that, as a Christian, I feel like I can't really talk openly about what I believe because I am seen as hating people or imposing my belief on others. I know this isn't how you meant it, Fanny, I don't have any patience for the door-to-door types. I believe faith like all of life hinges around relationships. But then I'm left with a dilemma, how do share what is a big, important, wonderful part of my life to those that I want to foster closer relationship with, without those words coming into it.

If my belief includes the concept of sin, that does not mean that I hate people. I really don't understand that correlation. I don't believe I'm better than others, just the opposite, I feel like I'm in the same boat and here I've discovered a life line, but if I try to tell someone else what I believe I've found, I'm imposing or hating them.

Sorry for the rant. All that being said, I was really disappointed that the only thing people could say in support of Creationism was that 'you have to believe in God'. I know lots of Christians who believe in God and who don't believe in Creation. I also know of people who don't have any kind of faith who don't believe in Evolution. And I really do believe that both of those things need belief because there is no 'proof' either way. But that's a post I should probably do myself.

Anyway. I really enjoyed your post, Fanny. I'm glad to hear other people are thinking about these things and interested in real discussions where all parties and all beliefs are respected and, dare-say, loved. I know I kind of talked about other things though so if you don't want to keep this post up, no worries.

Fannyfanackapan said...

Thanks for all your comments. Becki - absolutely agree with your points regarding science classes. Fortunately we do not have that particular problem in the UK.

Strange Mamma - Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion and I understand your concerns. My good friend the Anglican Priest also has this worry sometimes, but she handles it very well, particularly because as a hospital chaplain, she often ministers to people of many other faiths.

The evolution/creation debate is something we have discussed many times. My feeling is both have a place in our beliefs.