Thursday, 28 October 2010

Intelligent Design

Sometimes I think I’m ridiculously naive. I presume that most people in the world believe the same things I do; that they value honesty, hard work, kindness and intelligence. I think that everyone wants a fair society where the vulnerable are cared for and everyone believes they have a responsibility to their families, their community and the world. All too often I realise that I’m making ridiculous assumptions and though the majority of my friends have the same values I have (after all, I've chosen them to be my friends) these things are far from universal.
A lot of what I believe stems from my faith. I think the basic ideas that Christ taught (or people say he taught if you prefer) are good ones to live your life by. Where I start to disagree with my fellow Christians is when they start to believe every word in the Old Testament is the absolute literal truth. It feels like their world view and mine collides and I get annoyed at what I see as the hijacking of Christ’s name to support ignorance and intolerance. No doubt they would think I was subverting the message but you know what? They’re wrong and I’m right!
I’m used to having to defend my liberal stance on contraception, divorce, gay rights and other social issues but yesterday I was totally dumbfounded when I met two creationists.
As you know, I’m tutoring in a local school. One of the other tutors is a new father and yesterday we were discussing his new baby with a parent. He mentioned how strong his week-old baby’s grip was and I mentioned the theory that back in the days when we were tree-dwellers babies needed to be able to hang on to their mothers. At this point the mother said
“I don’t believe in evolution, I’m a Christian.”
I managed to reply,
“I am too, but I do believe in it.”
before the other tutor said,
“I don’t believe in it either.
I was dumfounded. I literally did not know what to say. Fortunately she then said,
“If we’re descended from monkeys how come we can’t use their blood for transfusions?”
So I was able to reply with a bit of common sense and say,
“We’re not actually descended from present day primates. It’s more that we’re distant cousins descended from a common ancestor. Our DNAs have changed so much over the millennia that we’re not compatible with each other.”
At this point another teacher raised the issue of the fossil record and the mother said it was too early for a debate and we moved on but I was left amazed. I’m also a little horrified that a man who believes that the world was created exactly as it is now and that fossils are a trick by God to test our faith is teaching science to primary school children.
I’m in favour of being open-minded about people’s beliefs but I’m clearly not a relativist and I’m also very confident that the scientific proof is there. It might be called The Theory of Evolution but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have huge amounts of evidence supporting it. I don’t understand why people’s faith isn’t strong enough to survive scientific ideas that counter the literal interpretation of the Old Testament.
I realise I’ve ranged over a few different ideas here but I want to end with a little scene from this morning. Imagine me and (yet) another tutor being presented with a child who refused to believe in the existence of wolves...
Photos, video, internet articles, eye-witness accounts and books; none of them were enough to convince him. I think there’s a message in there somewhere!

1 comment:

  1. I went to a convent school and alongside R.E. we learnt about evolution and lots of 'unchristian' things like contraception, sex before marriage etc. Education was not selected according to what was considered Christian. I am no longer Christian but actually I find evolution deeply flawed. There is little enough evidence for it as we all believe it - some scientists also dispute things about it, you just don't hear too much about them; it certainly is not accepted fact (for instance Stephen Jay Gould opposes Richard Dawkins in some things). For instance if we all went to live in a extra cold climate, we would not be able to survive it. The ages it takes to adapt and change our genes to evolve so we could survive would take too long - we would all be dead before it happens. My daughter thinks the changes have happened before the event - so those who were already with suitable mutations would survive the big freeze while everyone else would die and then pass on the genes best suited to the new climate. In any case there are problems with the fossil record - nothing has ever been shown to have changed into a different species; only to have changed as a species - that is the missing link we are all waiting for. So I think evolution is pretty much a fairy story too - along with the creation story of the bible. I find it strange how the bible has something for everyone - it can support anyone's claim and then contradict it. You can use it to both condemn or support slavery or war for instance. Some things even liberal Christians choose to take literally (how conveniently convenient) and yet others do not pick and choose and take it all literally (this is where the Christians start bickering in most unchristian ways - as they can not even find peace among themselves and are most un-united). I do not accept the bible as a religious gospel truth but neither do I take the theory of evolution as gospel truth either. It is just a theory and has never been proven- that is why it is called a theory and not a fact. What I find remarkable is how many people scoff when people say they don't believe it - why should they? There is no more evidence for it than the bible version. The dangerous thing is, that educated people spread it as fact when it is no such thing - and stop looking for answers; Darwin himself continued to believe in God and saw his theory as not having all the answers. So really no, I don't find the creationists as laughable and reprehensible as you do as I think both sides are wrong and neither superior to the other in that. I do not know the answer to who made the universe and why but I don't pretend I do. That is the danger from the religion of science and the christian religion - they are both false prophets. Unfortunately they both have their share of bigots and they both think they have the answers. I don't personally worship at either altar. There are other view points too. I'm personally just as horrified by your taking evolution for granted, (it is just a nice idea that we might like the sound of but as a theory it doesn't have as much weight behind the arguments as you might think) as you are by the creationists - although I would also share your concern about that. How can you teach when your mind is so closed? Both sides have a lot in common - they are dependant upon faith rather than fact.


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