[I was incredibly impressed by the testimony of PasserBy11 in the thread Are dinosaurs the real reason young Christians in college desert their faith.
He had the opposite journey that I had in some respects. I have to say however I can so relate to the effect of bad behavior in the Church and the friendship and warm welcome that some can receive in atheist and agnostic circles relative to the judgmental and presumptuous abuse some parishioners subjected me to when I struggled with my questions. (When I say atheists and agnostics, I’m not referring to the internet variety like PZ Myers, that’s almost a whole nother species. These were people I know personally.)
Some may argue, “Sal why are you defending this guy?” My response, I’m not defending his final conclusion, I am saying, for the creationist community, even though the choice of what people accept is true is theirs, the creationist community might consider where they can do better in light of what PasserBy11 is saying. If the creationist community believes there is no room for improvement, and is unwilling to even consider that some of the ways the conduct business are hurting their own cause, well that’s already a problem…
Let me say this. When I had creationist college students dealing with doubts, I tried to answer them. When they wanted to hear a contrary opinion, I referred them to PZ Myers website. I was confident the bad behavior by PZ Myerists would be quite convincing to creationist college students. I can say the strategy works incredibly well.
The behavior of some creationists isn’t exactly welcoming of questions and expressions of doubt, instead, sometimes abuse and ridicule. I don’t mind getting in the face of someone like Nick Matzke for his sophistry, but I don’t treat sincerely expressed reservations about creation or ID with ridicule or contempt.
You’ll see in this account the way that PasserBy11 was persuaded to his current view. That is something creationists would do well to consider, imho, vs. pointing fingers and saying “who are you sleeping with?” when someone expresses sincere doubts about the Christian faith and the doctrine of creation.
I welcome comments of the variety, “In light of what PasserBy11 has said, creationist can improve the way they do business by ….”
Comments of the variety, “PasserBy11 is obviously not understanding…..” That won’t be consistent with the purposes of discussion, it might make you feel better, but that’s not why I’m hosting this discussion.
For example, one could say, “it seems that to many, common descent looks strongly in evidence, why is that? And why do humans perceive or misperceive the evidence this way?” That is a constructive comment. [FYI I gave examples of how to deal with this issue as best as I could when dealing with questions raised by Nick Matzke. See: Two faced Nick Matzke.]
There is a time for everything under the sun, and I think this is a time to confront and a time to console. In this discussion, I encourage us to be welcoming to PasserBy11, not so much to dissuade him, but to consider hyppothetically, what creationists could have done differently if we had the chance. ]
I was reared as a fundamentalist Baptist in the Upper Midwest. On Sundays, my family attended Sunday School and Bible Study, paired with morning and evening services, respectively. (Both of my parents taught SS classes, and my father led the morning Children’s Church service.) Wednesday night meant both Bible Study and Prayer Meeting, and some Thursday evenings found me participating in soul-winning and visitation events with my father. The church took a firm stance on Biblical literalism and inerrancy, distancing itself even from the GARBC, which it called “hypocritical” and “left-leaning.”
I also attended the church-run school, complete with daily Bible Studies and Friday Chapel services, for the first nine years of my education. I was pressured during all of that time to become either a pastor or missionary, just as the girls my age were pressured to become the wives of pastors and missionaries.
One could say that, as a youngster, I had a little bit of Bible — or at least a particular pastor’s interpretation of it — thrown my way. 🙂
After four years of a public education at the local high school, however, I was leaning more toward Literature or Biology, and my decision to ignore the “warnings” of my church and to attend a public Division II university, also in the Upper Midwest, had nothing to do with evolution. On the contrary, I was a staunch YEC who had read Gish, Denton, et al, and as an eleventh-grader had written a research paper proposing that the Genesis Flood had ultimately been responsible for exterminating the dinosaurs.
While earning a B.S. in Zoology, I never once heard a professor or fellow student badmouth a Creation Scientist, as we called ourselves in those days. Everyone always answered my questions patiently, attentively, and seriously. After graduating, I worked as a TA for some Comparative Chordate Morphology dissection labs before transferring to the Communications department (and eventually finishing my M.S. with them).
I want to point out that evolution wasn’t the only reason I walked away from my faith. Here are a few others:
* Comparative folklore / mythology / religion
* Scholarly approach to Old and New Testaments
* Personal experience with agnostics and atheists practicing humility, compassion, and moderation without fear of suffering supernatural disfavor
* Personal experiece with self-proclaimed Christian men abusing their wives, with self-proclaimed Christian parents abusing their children, and with self-proclaimed Christians acting so un-Christ-like
But evolution was one of the most important to me, mostly because of my childhood fascinations with — geek alert! — taxonomy and paleontology. And after studying both Scientific Creationism and evolution in pretty detailed fashion, this former Born Again Christian honestly concluded that a Dobzhansky paraphrase was in order: Nothing in Biology makes more sense than evolution, at least at the level I was studying it. While dissecting cats, sharks, salamanders, etc, I personally never saw common design; instead, I saw descent with modification, a concept supported by the ideas outlined in “Origin” — comparative anatomy, biogeography, artificial selection, homology, etc.
Naturally, this change in my worldview forced me to reject a literal interpretation of some passages of Genesis, but I still attended a more modern Baptist church for two years before finally walking away from it all (for the reasons listed previously). That was twenty years ago, and it was a move I’ve never regretted.
Since then, endogenous retroviruses, human chromosome 2, and the prediction and discovery of Tiktaalik have all provided additional support for evolution. The details and mechanisms will undoubtedly be revised over and over again as new facts are uncovered, but the ideas that populations change over time, and that all life on Earth is descended from a single common ancestor (or a small number of common ancestors), are most likely here to stay.