by Jessica Place
As a twenty-something liberal with a college degree and ironic glasses, I’m a podcast fanatic. One of my new favorites is a science and religion podcast called Oh No Ross & Carrie. The titular Ross and Carrie are two skeptics who do undercover investigations into religion, the paranormal, and alternative medicine – for example, they spent 6 months becoming Mormons, tried acupuncture, and took their dogs to a pet psychic. But my favorite episode so far involved their trip to a creationism museum.
Ross and Carrie are not trained scientists, so when they went to the museum they took along their friend Don Prothero, a professional paleontologist. He could barely contain his rage at the pack of half-truths and all-out lies that made up the museum’s “scientific” information. Their tour guide even told Don (without knowing his profession) that paleontologists have no evidence to support the theory of evolution. Don could not contain himself at this insult to his field, and proceeded to give the tour guide a whole litany of evidence supporting the theory that he and his colleagues universally accept as scientifically sound.
But despite his frustration, Don the paleontologist told Ross and Carrie that he understood why people like their tour guide are willing to continue denying scientific evidence. “It’s simple,” he says. “They’re taught that if the universe is more than 6,000 years old, then Jesus doesn’t love you.”
He’s right. When it comes to fundamentalist Christianity and the Bible, it’s all-or-nothing. If the “inerrant word of God” is flawed when it comes to scientific fact, then it must also be flawed when it comes to the idea that God loves us. Tearing out one brick brings the whole house crashing down. As a recovering fundamentalist myself, I can attest to the fact that this experience is nothing short of devastating.
Scientists, along with dedicated humanist laypeople like Ross and Carrie, are doing their part to make sure that people understand how scientifically flawed young-Earth creationism is. “The universe is more than 6,000 years old, and here’s why,” they say. But the rest of the job is up to us. We need to make sure that after conservative Christians encounter this information, they can turn to us to hear, “And even though these facts contradict what you’ve been taught about the Bible, Jesus still loves you, and here’s why.”
Without the theological information they need to supplement the scientific information, conservative Christians are left with only two choices: to conclude that scientists are lying, or to conclude that their faith is a lie. So in order to hold onto God, anti-intellectualism becomes a pillar of the faith, and denial of the theory of evolution becomes its cornerstone.
This is a theological problem that requires a theological solution. For all his superior knowledge, Bill Nye will never win a debate with Ken Ham, because they’re having two different conversations. Dr. Nye (or as you may know him, the Science Guy) is talking about science, while Ham is talking about theology.
Which is where you come in, dear reader: Ken Ham and his creationist cohorts are, for the most part, terrible theologians. While the mighty Bill Nye can’t take him down, you definitely can. We are equipped with the theological toolbox to help people see that they do not need to abandon reason in order to keep Jesus. For all of the Oh No Ross and Carries out there doing the good work of telling people that the universe is more than 6,000 years old, we need podcasts, blogs, and books by young theologians like us that follow up with, “and Jesus still loves you. Here’s why.”