culture wars

In Search of Truth


At times over the years I have been a part of discussions on human origins and the ongoing debate between the scientific and religious communities. This is of course not simply a two-sided debate (see my post on binary thinking here) -- there are multiple scientific theories, biblical interpretations and opinions -- more than enough to choose from. The debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ken Ham in February 2014 was an unfortunate parade of two extremes, and an excellent example of asking the wrong questions. The one thing these two gentlemen and the camps they represent have in common, however, is this:

They are seeking the truth.

So in that same pursuit, I say to the creationist community:

Good science and good scientists are not necessarily out to disprove anything; they are seeking the truth. You trust them to vaccinate your child or treat your ailing parent, based on what they have learned through research. You trust them to provide you with what are now basic services (electricity, running water) as a result of advances using the scientific method. And yet, when it comes to delving into our distant past, whether the age of mankind or the planet he inhabits, you become defensive and fearful. Fearful that what you believe to be true will be undermined, and -- worse yet -- the foundations on which you have built your life will crumble. I would humbly suggest that we're asking the wrong questions. Perhaps the right question, or at least one of them, is not "Is the Bible true or not?" but "How should we read and interpret the Bible?" If only all of life's answers were Yes or No.

To the scientific community I would say:

What if we were to let go of the notion that all reality -- all truth -- had to be or could be proved? What if some things simply surpassed our understanding? What if the inexplicable were to be placed in the category of Someone who knows better than we do? To quote 17th century French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal, what if "the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of"?

In his book The Language of God, scientist Francis S. Collins brings these two worlds together in a masterful way. Also check out his organization, BioLogos.

"Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality." - Carl Sagan

Chewing the Meat and Spitting out the Bones: How to Learn from Just About Anyone

It would be interesting to know just when this tendency started in our culture, but it goes something like this: if I am going to learn from someone, I must believe everything they believe. So often I hear remarks such as, "Yes, I agree with that, but..." and what follows is a distancing from the person who spoke the morsel of truth. For example, a politician may have a particularly insightful opinion on a specific subject, and many are afraid to admit they agree for fear of being mistaken for a supporter of said politician. Why can't we just learn what there is to learn, no matter its source?

I would be hard pressed to name a single politician, preacher, or pundit whose opinions I agree with 100%. That does not keep me from gleaning where I can. This is much of what critical thinking is: learning to chew the meat and spit out the bones. I would go as far as to say that it is possible to learn from those whom we generally consider our adversaries. Corrie ten Boom said our critics are the "unpaid guardians of our souls".


To use another analogy, I learned many years ago the principle of drinking from a diversity of "wells". If I drink from the same well continuously, I am more likely to have a skewed world view and an unbalanced perspective. Whether we're talking about news, business advice, teaching methods, or spiritual principals, it is important to absorb information from a variety of sources in order to have a well rounded perspective. Then we form our own opinions based on the information we've gathered.

Couldn't our culture benefit from a good dose of critical thinking, with a dash of humility?