Restating the Problem
More than a third of Americans no longer believe in science or giving the “experts in their field” their due respect. This is different from the period from the Middle Ages until the post-World War II era when science was still trusted and was giving great hope to the vast majority. Science has not changed. People have. One of the impetuses of this change came from within the (Christian) religious community. While the religious distrust in science may be centered in the idea of evolution, which started in the mid nineteenth century, the first challenge came with the concept of the age of the earth in the eighteenth century.
Today, there is two-way cross pollination between the conservative Christian community and the conservative political community, so now there are plenty of people who are non-religious but who are conservative, politically, who have adopted the conservative Christian anti-science stance. There are also plenty of politically conservative ideas that have been adopted and made dogmas by the conservative Christian community, but that’s another story.
“Science,” as I’ve stated before, unlike the religious or political groups, is not a well-defined social group with a well-defined agenda. Science is the process of seeking knowledge about reality. This pursuit is powered by the “scientific method,” which is looking objectively at the evidence within reality, and making rational conclusions based on that evidence. When this process is given up, there are significant consequences to a society. I mentioned the 350,000 people who, unnecessarily, died from COVID, because they did not trust the experts, but listened to TV personalities, pastors, or Facebook friends instead.
For two thousand years, the Christian church has relied on two main sources of truth. Finding truth in the vast mundane parts of life comes through the cognitive process of evaluating the evidence of reality. In some select areas, truth comes from the written sacred texts, the Bible. When there is a conflict between what is observed, and what is interpreted from the texts, then one of them must be misinterpreted. Effort must be made to reconcile the differences.
In the case of the age of the earth, the evidence is overwhelming that the earth, and the cosmos are very old. I want to discuss that evidence starting in the next article. But when there is a refusal to reconsider the interpretation of the texts, even when the evidence from reality is overwhelming, then the tendency is to make it a moral issue. The “scientists have an agenda to destroy our faith.” “Do you believe the Bible, God’s word, or do you believe the humanistic scientists?” Then, the next step is to create a false narrative that the scientists are corrupt, trying to deceive the public for the sake of money or power, which is not true. Finally, they grossly misrepresent the scientists’ evidence. By the way, while the Bible says nothing about the age of the earth, I counted almost 500 verses that deal with truth, the sin of lying, being a false witness, and deceit.
An Illustrating Parable
Parables are a good tool for finding the forest when lost in the trees. It is also a good tool for showing us the benefit of trees, when lost in the forest.J. Michael Jones
Parables are a good tool for finding the forest when lost in the trees. It is also a good tool for showing us the benefit of trees, when lost in the forest. It is a way to step out of the familiar, with all its connotations, and use the unfamiliar to reveal principles, otherwise lost. That’s why I think Jesus used them so well. I want to share a parable to illustrate what is going on. I’ve shared this one in one of my podcasts, but I can’t remember if I’ve shared it here. If so, I regret the redundancy.
Pretend for a moment that there is a verse in the Bible, say in the psalms, that says, “God so painted the sky red to show us the redemptive power of blood, as he had instructed the Hebrews through Moses to paint their door frames, so the angel of death would pass over them.”
Throughout church history, this verse was taken at face value, without much written into it. But then, when the church felt threatened, it started to say, that real believers took this verse literally. That the sky was red, all the time.
To the non-religious and to the Christian who believes that God writes truth, not only in the words of the Bible, but in the observations of reality, they observed that the sky is blue. The scientists can use a very objective device that measures color, called a spectrophotometer. It gives actual numbers that correspond to a band of color on the spectrum. The sky is blue most of the time. It does dip into other colors, which are also measurable, with certain atmospheric phenomena. Iron-rich dust in the stratosphere can give a red color of the sky, especially in the tangential light of a rising or setting sun.
No, the Biblical literalist then insist, “The Bible says the sky is red, so it is red. Stop believing your own senses and be a person of faith.”
The skeptic says, no, we depend on evidence and the evidence is clear that most of the time the sky is blue. The Christian skeptic would argue, “Wait a minute. That verse is clearly not to be taken literally because it is inconsistent with observable reality.”
The Biblical literalists then raises the bar. “You are either on God’s side, who says the sky is always blue, or the side of the devil. You cannot be a true believer, or even a good person if you reject the Bible. If you reject the fact that the sky is always red, you are also rejecting the fundamental principle that we are saved by the blood of Christ. The red sky is real and a metaphor of that red blood of redemption. Furthermore, if you reject any part of the Bible, soon your kids will be dabbling in homosexuality and getting abortions because they reject the whole Bible.” (this is an argument I heard from one of Ken Ham’s “scientist’s” young earth lectures).
The skeptical Christian throws up their hands, “Wait a minute! The Bible never says that the sky is red all the time. The Bible never said anything about abortion. You are taking a poetic verse and building a whole subculture around it, furthering your engagement in the culture wars, and for no good reason.”
The Biblical literalists, because they have no real evidence from reality proving that the sky is always red, moves beyond the moral argument and presents a pseudo-science argument. “The spectrophotometer that the scientists are using is flawed [there is no evidence of that]. It can’t be trusted.”
In the next step, the Biblical literalists used the spectrophotometer to try and prove the sky is red. While the sky is always measured at noon, they wait until a very violet sunset occurs and measures the sky’s color. They mark the test as “taken at noon” not as a lie—in their thinking—but because it is still noon in Japan, although the test was done on America’s west coast. To them, because they are working for God, the end justifies the dishonest means.
Next, the Bible literalists create a narrative that the scientists not only have an agenda of destroying God’s church, but have financial interests of spreading the lie that the sky is blue.
The next big argument that will occur, I predict, will be extra-terrestrial life. Just like with the age of the earth, the Bible says nothing about this. In case you are not following the Perseverance Mars rover, it has recently detected a very high concentration of organic materials with layers of sedimentary rocks in Jezero Crater. We will not know the final answer until these sample are brought back to earth in 2033. Organic materials can be produced by non-living processes, but these are very suspicious for being the byproduct of living processes, such as bacteria. But those who insist that there cannot be life outside of earth, calling such ideas as “unbiblical” will once again declare war on science and the scientists, who are doing honest work.