Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ever have company show up in fancy clothes and the house is a mess?

That's what it's like to get linked by Rachel when I've had no deep thoughts for weeks. Her readers are interested in weightier issues than curse generators. Whoops.

They're here because Rachel re-posted something I wrote back in November about visiting the creation museum. As I read it again, I realized I'd never followed through on my promise to give some of my creation/evolution backstory. It begins thusly:

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When I was in third grade, my teacher tried to teach us the concept of rhetorical questions. "It's a question that has no answer," she said, "like 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg?'" I didn't get it. "The chicken came first," I said, "because God made the chicken, and the chicken made the egg." Simple deductions by a simple child who became a simple adult.

Well this threw the teacher into a rage the likes of which I've never seen from an elementary school teacher. She canceled the lesson plan for the rest of the week to teach about the importance of evolution. The problem was that she wasn't much of a scientist. The crowning statement, which I've always remembered, was her explanation of the evolution of lizards into birds: "Birds used to be lizards," she said, "and we know that because if you talk to someone who's eaten rattlesnake they'll tell you it tastes like chicken."

The obvious, unavoidable conclusion that I drew from this was that anyone who believed in evolution must be an idiot. Plus, she embarrassed me in front of the whole class, and I wasn't about to take that. So I started reading every book I could find on "Creationism." There's actually a lot of good literature out there that shows weaknesses in classic Darwinian theory. And I read it all. It's part of what shaped a love of science in me... every time we got to a new unit in science class I'd think "Ah, so this is what that chapter of [Creation Book X] was about."

So when I got to high school, my teachers had no chance. I didn't have a school board on my side, but I embarrassed the teachers if they taught evolution. There are just too many easy jabs that completely tie somebody up. One got so mad that he flipped out and brought in three feet of science books. "Micah," he said, "each one of these books is about evolution." And I asked "Do any of them explain blah blah blah? Because that seems like a dealbreaker." Class laughs, teacher livid, evolution unit canceled. Lesson learned: just because the books exist doesn't mean your teacher has read them.

I was out of college before I realized that the creation theory I'd held earlier in life had some significant logical flaws. But the sad thing was that in every debate I'd ever had on the subject, not one person had ever brought them up. Not one evolutionist had ever bothered to try understanding my side enough to see the weaknesses in my position. They just had silly straw-man arguments mixed with a lot of "Christians are stupid bible-thumpers that don't understand science."

What I realized was that most people don't understand evolution any more than they understand creation. They take the thing by faith. Their faith is in "science" (or, more accurately, scientists) instead of "the Bible" (or, more accurately, Bible commentators), but it's just as much a blind faith as the most rabid fundamentalist. They're just a different kind of fundamentalist.

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My friend Tim chastised me last month for being cynical, since cynicism is a product of pride and disdain. He's right, of course. But corner-dwellers and fundamentalists of all stripes make me incredibly frustrated. It's not hard to find a position opposite your own; if you've only ever considered your own worldview it just means you're lazy. Faith doesn't mean running forward with your eyes closed, it means putting your trust in something or someone that you've found to be trustworthy.

Trust is an incredible commodity. A fundamentalist (no matter what their spiritual, religious, or political persuasion) can't truly trust, because they can't really imagine reality being different from their expectations. To attack the popular metaphor, sitting down in a chair (or turning on a light, or whatever) isn't really faith until you've had the chair break to pieces under you.

Faith is when you've had a chair collapse under you but you still sit down into it. Faith is when you have seen first-hand the ugliness of life but still believe that God can bring beauty out of it, because that is what God does. Again and again and again, that is what God does.

And so my faith does not dictate that the world is thousands of years old, or billions. I'm completely comfortable with either a young or old earth. But if it could be conclusively proven tomorrow that the universe was "young," that still wouldn't force people to put their trust in God. A relationship with the Creator cannot ever be fully explained or understood; it must be experienced.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

2 comments:

Rachel H. Evans said...

Good post, Micah. And thanks for your willingness to share on my blog!

e.e. said...

A fabulous post. I came to you from Single Venus.

Thanks for sharing!