There’s a poll at the bottom of this post. Take a second to leave your answer to this question, or elaborate in the comments:
How do you respond to anti-Christian rhetoric?
Here’s why this question is on my mind. Last week, I read several encouraging articles about the relationship between science and religion. First, I saw the AP’s followup interview with Martin Gaskell, the Christian astronomer who settled a religious discrimination lawsuit against the University of Kentucky. Though most of the article focused on the lawsuit and reactions to it, it ended with this great comment from Gaskell:
He said he wants to work to encourage more Christians to enter the sciences. “One thing I feel really strongly about is that we need to convey to students that the scientific questions are not all settled,” he said. “If all scientific questions were settled I think science would be rather dull, because what I like doing is research and solving unsolved problems.”
Second, friend-of-ESN Jimmy Lin shared a link about the AAAS seminar “Evangelicals, Science, and Policy: Toward a Constructive Engagement.” Inside Higher Ed also picked up the story, and included this great anecdote about a scientist discovering common ground with evangelicals:
A little more than five years ago, when James J. McCarthy was invited to attend a meeting of prominent scientists and evangelical Christians, he had his doubts.
McCarthy, the Alexander Agassiz professor of biological oceanography at Harvard University, wondered if he would be locked in a dead-end argument over the age of the planet — one in which no amount of scientific evidence he could marshal would ever trump faith in a biblical interpretation of a young Earth.
IHE fails to note the irony that McCarthy holds a chair named for the son of Louis Agassiz, who himself is a controversial figure in the history of science and religion. After a 2005 meeting with evangelical Christians on the topic of climate change, McCarthy’s attitude toward evangelicals was transformed.
“We found that each side of the table had far more in common than ever, ever imagined,” McCarthy said Friday, adding that it quickly became clear that the scientists and evangelical Christians shared what he called “a genuine reverence for life on this planet.”
Unfortunately, my excitement about these articles was quickly diminished.
I should have known better, but I decided to take a look at some of the blog posts critical of Gaskell and the AAAS, and I made mistake of scrolling down to the comments section of the various articles. Blog posts by the usual suspects — Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne — as well as comments equating all religion with “superstition and myth” and all religious believers with “fundamentalists” led me to spend way too much venting to my wife.
This anti-Christian rhetoric seen in the links above has little in common with sincere discussions of religion, science, and philosophy. While they have written more thoughtful stuff elsewhere, in these posts Dawkins, Myers, and Coyne simply mock religious believers, and never slow down to consider or understand positions different from their own. Their posts exemplify the worst kind of “debate” — which, sadly, Christians often participate in, too.
I have a very hard time resisting the urge to respond in kind. Ever since my first encounter with online discussion groups — waaaaay back in the days of Usenet — I’ve often taken part in inflammatory, sophomoric arguments. (If you can believe it, some of my worst flame wars dealt with that oh-so-controversial topic: comic strips.) Thankfully, I’ve gotten much better about restraining myself, but it’s still a struggle for me.
In another post, I’ll describe my three primary concerns with anti-Christian rhetoric in the sciences, but for now, I’d like to hear from you.
How do you respond to anti-Christian rhetoric? Take a second to answer the poll, and leave your further thoughts in the comments below.