now you're stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it

i was gearing up for some sort of assault on ye olde evolution and evangelical christianity topic again. but then i read this and i got cold feet. why, you ask, would a call for submissions to a blog site get me pale and clammy over writing about this issue? i'm not sure exactly. i want to try to think this through "out loud": I figure of the 4 to 6 of you that read this blog regularly that many, if not most, of you come from or at least are familiar with the fundimentalism that I was raised in. [This is not a fundi-bashing party; nor is my motive for bringing up evolution aimed at tearing down fundimentalism. I learned a great deal from my stint in baptist and grace brethren schools that I do not regret. Many of the things that I do regret from that upbringing have nothing at all to do with biology or science.] Despite going to a public high school and being taught a variant of evolution [a really bad variant, I now know], I didn't begin to question my fundi upbringing until college. As happens with so many "smart" christian school kids, I thought my anti-evolution knowledge was unassailable. I read Ex Nihilo (magazine). I knew Ken Ham's arguments against paleo-hominid evolution. I memorized the chapters in the book of Job that describe what I still take to be dinosaurs walking amongst ancient Semitic tribes (e.g., "behemoth" and "leviathan"). But when I learned real biology, not the stuff we were being fed in high school, I realized that my christian education had no response. It had been working at the level of crude generalities. Once I started seeing specifics in college, my "christian" biology mixed with some Lamarckianism I learned in public school seemed hollow, if not patently fake. In undergrad I majored in archaeology and took numerous geology, anatomy, and history classes. The more I read and the more classes I went to, the more I realized that I was given almost an entirely different story in christian school and in my public high school than I was getting when I read the "experts." I tried very, very hard to bring those two worlds together. Because my faith itself was getting stronger through college thanks to InterVarsity and some really challenging leaders and peers, I often opted to just compartmentalize what I knew about the Bible and what I knew about science/social science. Never the twain shall meet, right? Sad to say, I even took this attitude into graduate school at Ohio State. Here I was, studying prehistoric archaeology, taking classes on very detailed, high level evolutionary theory, and attending Xenos. I even helped counsel high schoolers who were struggling with the same issues--making science and the scriptures work together. But I never figured out how to make them make sense together in my own life. I hope I helped those kids just hang in there. Honestly, I think the average person doesn't need to know how to synthesize these two worlds. I mean, think about it. On a given day, how many times to you wonder if you have the same DNA as a chimp and if that means you are genetically programed to behave just like a chimp? [This isn't to say that some of you don't behave like chimps--I know some of you too well. And you do. Behave just like a chimp. But that's immaterial.] These issues shouldn't pester people. But here I am with three years of undergrad/grad anatomy and genetics under my belt and as I walk around I sometimes try to see "behind" a person's skin. I like to think of what your skeleton must look like. What your muscles move like. How your teeth fit together even with your mouth closed. It's sick. I know. I promise not to do it anymore when I'm talking to you. Sorry if you feel violated. :-) I'm rambling. My point is that even though this issue is important to me if nobody else, it is seemingly impossible to bring together concepts of evolution and evangelical christianity in any non-Frankenstein sort of way. I think the reason this is goes back to the long history of the relationships between science and evangelicalism and because of the odd background assumptions that representatives from both camps bring into dialogues with one another. For instance, both evolutionists and evangelicals approach this thing antagonistically from the get-go. The one side assumes that they're going to get the Bible cracked over their heads. The other side assumes they're being asked to give sympathy to the devil or face marginalization. So the whole thing is a chess match: one side gets voters to say you can't teach religious theories so the other gets a sticker put on textbooks saying evolution is "just a theory" (hoping that people interpret "theory" as story made up to scare children instead of scientifically deduced principle matching available data). Even when you do see real data being presented as an argument against evolution (e.g., Behe's irreducible complexity cascade) it's done in a fashion resembling old-style natural theology (therefore, since blood clotting is irreducibly complex, God made all life in one go ex nihilo). This isn't science as much as an object lesson in brinksmanship. You fashion your best argument, I'll knock it down; and vice versa. So what am I attempting to do, exactly? I won't be able to convince those of you supportive of young earth special creation because evidence alone isn't enough to change a tightly held belief like that. Nor will those of you sympathetic to naturalistic evolution be suddenly converted to evangelical christianity. There is no logical extention, as far as I can see it, from natural selection to evangelical faith. When gearing up to write something that pulls on both worlds--the naturalism one and the super-naturalism one--I know that I must inevitably fail because I'm not getting down to the core issue. What is the core issue? I think it's that both sides have made faith claims and don't see how they can compromise on issues of science (good) without likewise compromising their faith (bad). And even if there was a way I could show at least the evangelical side that there is a way to accept evolutionary theory (the real thing, not some mocked-up, christianized version) and still remain true to evangelical christianity, I'm not sure that it will help anyone. Or that anyone will even care. Unless (!) there are those of you out there who, like me, had a time where your christian version of science came up against another version of science and you experienced a crisis of faith. If there are those of you out there--who like I do--want something that stands up to the tests of scientific truth and christian truth...then maybe we're getting somewhere. But I have to stress that it's not easy to synthesize this stuff. I've been listening to lectures and reading books about all of this for about 5 years on my own and now almost a full year in grad school again at Notre Dame and I still don't feel like I have an iron-clad answer. Nothing good enough to submit to Tangled Bank, anyway.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


One thing that I love about you is that you are always chewing on pic picture events and concepts. When I read this post it made me think of our time in the fruit of the vine with the homeless and the kids. try not to laugh too hard when you see this article, but what if one of our buddies rolled up to see us with this?



4/19/2005 1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess i don't see where accepting evolution and having faith in a creator is a problem. i mean, isn't it easy to synthesize the two by adopting the thought that we are simply discovering the methods by how god creates?

cmon, dude! you can go anywhere in your faith-mobile!


4/19/2005 9:50 PM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

The water was warm til you discovered how deep...

4/20/2005 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


trouble in berkeley. student steals prof's laptop. now is in huge jeoprady.


forward the lecture to 48:50 on the real player link. i feel for this student.


4/21/2005 8:13 AM  

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