I am in the middle of reading The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, an interesting book that lays out a fairly succinct argument in defense of evolution. Full of studies, statistics, and information, Dawkins walks through the various elements of the theory of evolution from fossil records to carbon dating to what the word theory means in a scientific context. Some of it is information I already knew, but what I like about this book in particular is that occasionally it mentions the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) arguments that are used in an attempt to discredit whatever information is being laid out. For example: The chapter I am in currently is discussing "The Missing Link". What does that mean exactly? Do we really have gaps? Where are those gaps and what does that tell us about fossil records? Can we accurately look at the fossil records and make the types of claims that Darwin and his successors have used concerning the origin of the species? Having grown up in an environment where YEC was paramount and facts were ignored if they didn't line of with a YEC way of thinking, I find this type of book useful. I began to reject YEC in my late teens. I knew that a young earth didn't match archaeological data. Yet there was a part of me that was afraid to explore further. I knew one could believe in an old earth and God, but the two seemed incongruous. If the earth itself, and every species on it, formed on its own for millions of years, what did that mean about God? I knew this kind of questioning would not lead to a deeper belief in God so I left it alone. It wasn't until my late twenties that I actually started to read books about evolution or science books that just assumed evolution was fact.
One area where my husband and I often have disagreements is this very subject, which is surprising because this man claims to believe evolution is true. From my perspective it seems that, although he understands there is a lot of science to back up evolution, enough of the church has weaseled its way in for him to be very skeptical of it. "I'm a skeptic," he claims, followed by something like, "It's only a theory, not a law." Here's the thing about skepticism. I absolutely believe you should question everything, particularly things that you have been taught that have very little evidence. You should seek out that evidence and if there is none, move into the category of I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true. But if there IS evidence to back up a claim, then, at the very least, it needs to be moved into the this-is-plausible category. At the very least. A few days ago my husband started ranting about carbon dating and how scientists had been wrong about the age of the Earth because of it. Woah woah. Slow down buddy. Scientists didn't use carbon dating to determine the age of the Earth. Scientists use radiometric dating, not carbon dating to determine the age of things older than 12,000 years old. Carbon breaks down at a faster rate than uranium and can only be used to date relatively young things. Radiometric breakdown can be tested and is proveable. We know how long it takes to break down. It isn't a guess. If you had the right tools, you too could watch and estimate this on your own. That is what makes it into a scientific theory, which then makes it a fact. Because in science, theory is a homonym. It has more than one meaning. It does NOT mean guess work. It means that someone had a hypothesis and then they proved it using measurable data that was then peer reviewed and tested by other independent parties. With this information in hand, knowing all the facts about how it works, I have reached the conclusion that the earth is therefore roughly 4.3 billion years old as scientists now estimate. They didn't make a guess, it isn't a hypothesis. But to hear my husband talk about it, you would think it was a bunch of idiots sitting around holding rocks and going, "Yeah, that rock seems really old. I'm going to guess it's a billion years old." And that's the YEC pseudo-science creeping in. You aren't a skeptic, you're a Christian who doesn't accept scientific facts. That thing about carbon dating is straight out of the YEC handbook, so don't act like you know all about science when you are still using Christian pseudo-science talking points.
Is there science I am skeptical about? Sure. The multi-universe hypothesis is interesting and has some mathematical data behind it, but as of yet, it is nothing more than an interesting guess. Therefore, it goes into the I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true category. Technically a hypothesis is never 100% proven as there could be some variable that the experiment has not encountered that could render it untrue. That is what I love about science though. It is always open to being proved wrong. Sure, the scientific community might fight against it sometimes, but a good scientist should be open to continued peer review and testing. We all know there were a number of scientific "theories" from yesteryear that were treated as fact even though they often had very little evidence and couldn't be repeated by another independent party. Take the maternal impression theory that concluded that a mother's thoughts created birth defects. There was absolutely no experimental support and was rendered obsolete by genetic theory, which has a mountain of data to support it. The Azoic hypothesis, which was at the time considered fact, stated that marine life couldn't exist below 200 fathoms. This was quickly disproven in 1850 with the discovery of Conocrinus Iofotensis.
The Bible is not open to being proven wrong. It claims to be 100% right and demands it's followers find ways to prove it. They work backwards. Instead of coming up with a hypothesis and then trying to prove it, they give you the "fact" (the Bible is true) and then force you to find a way to prove it. And this is nearly impossible. They use archaeology like a weapon. See, Ur is mentioned in the Bible and we found the city of Ur, therefore the whole of the Bible is true. See, Solomon's temple is mentioned in the Bible and since we can see the remnants of Solomon's temple, all of the stories in the Bible about Solomon are true. No one could have possibly made them up after the fact. There's no way Solomon lied about his father in order to make himself more important sounding and to give him credence to take over the throne even though he didn't have royal blood. Mount Olympus is a real place and people really did once worship Zeus. Does the fact that it exists and had devout followers, make it true? A Christian would tell you of course not. Don't be ridiculous. I was even taught that the people back then didn't really believe in the Roman and Greek pantheons. But that isn't true. I've read several historical contemporary accounts and people really did believe. They were convinced that this is how life came to be and it is no wonder they rejected the Christians only-one-god claims when they first started shopping their religion around. For years archaeologists believed Troy wasn't real because it was in The Illiad. That is until they discovered the remnants of Troy. Does that make The Illiad true? I don't think there is anyone out there who thinks it is. It's just a story that happens to use a real place as a way to anchor the story to our world.
I honestly think my husband is in the same place I was at one point. I was interested in science, but scared to learn more about it as I feared it would drive me further from my faith. I knew enough to sound like an idiot and definitely made the carbon dating argument at one point. My husband did not like it when I corrected him on this fact and immediately jumped into the "I am a skeptic" mantra, trying to make himself sound smart by rejecting science he doesn't understand. I would give him a pass on this if I saw him actually studying and trying to understand the science. For example: We watched The Cosmos together and instead of looking up some of the information he didn't understand or wasn't sure about, he just pronounced that he didn't think something was true based one....what...his armchair science degree? He claimed he already knew all about this and he didn't deem the science to be factual. I on the hand read articles, studies, research papers, journals, in an effort to understand the concept I wasn't understanding. I didn't accept the science blindly, but I also didn't reject it out of hand simply because it didn't match up with my religious views. If you really are a skeptic, then you should also be a seeker of knowledge. This may mean that you, just like science, need to be open to change. This does not mean you will lose your faith, but it may mean you have to admit that science does actually have some answers and they may not align perfectly with your holy book.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.