At the end of the book Why Darwin Matters, Michael Shermer presents the reader with an abbreviated list of things scientists disagree on. He does this because within the Creationist/Young Earth community there is the false teaching that science bars C/YE from the conversation by saying “you must believe exactly as we do to be heard.” Of all the lies C/YE folks spout, this is the most offensive to me as a former believer.
In science, to have a “place at the table,” your science must be sound: Provable and Reproducible. I don’t have to like it. Other scientists don’t have to like it. If you spend any time at all researching it, you will find that there is a whole lot more scientists disagree on than listed in Shermer’s book.
There is a group, however, that does put others out of the so-called inner circle based on non-conformity to that group’s belief. This is the reason I find the claims of discrimination by C/YE so offensive, because, if you haven’t guessed yet, it’s Christianity. (I suppose it’s almost all religion, but I deal with Christianity on this blog.)
Let’s just imagine for a moment that I decide to go back to my old church this morning. I show up in my Sunday best and everyone who knew me and is now freaking out about my Atheism is so excited that I’ve suddenly had a change of heart. They come up to me, so happy to see I’m a believer again. Then I inform them, “No, I’m not. I’m still an Atheist.”
Yeah, that would cause all sorts of weird looks.
“OK. If you’re an Atheist, why are you here?”
“Well, because I kinda miss it. I miss seeing people give me fake smiles on Sunday morning while I know their world is actually going to hell. I miss the music. I especially miss teaching the kids in Sunday School. In fact, I was going to see if I can teach Sunday School again.”
“Uh, I don’t really know if that’s possible.”
“Well, what would you teach the kids?”
“Pretty much what I teach my own, starting with Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit.”
“Carl Sagan? The great astro-physicist. He made the original TV series Cosmos. The one Neil Degrasse Tyson just remade. In his book The Demon-Haunted World he presented a series of steps to test truth claims. I teach it to my kids so they can use it to test any truth claim people present.”
::A momentary blank stare before recovery::
“It’s a book about demons? So the test is to figure out if the claim is demonic?”
“Uh, no. The book has nothing to do with demons it has to do with science and reason.”
“So what would you teach them?”
“I’d teach them to reason through the truth claims of the Bible.”
“The Bible is all true.”
“Well, then, let’s have a Sunday School class that truthfully teaches kids how to test that.”
“I think you’ll have to talk to a pastor or something to get approval.”
“So you want to teach a Sunday School class?”
“You’re a member of the church?”
“Yes. I was baptized last year at Easter.”
“I was told you are now an Atheist. Has that changed?”
“Nope. I’m still an Atheist.”
“But you want to teach Sunday School?”
“Yes. I think that children should be taught how to think and reason before they are taught what to believe. So I’d like to do that.”
“Uh-huh. Um, and how do you propose to do that?”
::Whip out my Skeptic Vol. 22 No. 1 (the one with Bill Nye on the cover) and turn to page 65 where Sagan’s “kit” is laid out in a manner children can understand.::
He reads the page then starts to hand it back.
“Oh, there’s another page. There are ten points.”
He glances at the second page and returns the magazine.
“Well, that’s all very interesting but Christianity isn’t science.”
“I know. But it is a truth claim.”
“It’s more than that. You once believed so yourself.”
“Yes, because I didn’t have the tools to think through the truth claims. Once I had them and exercised them I became an Atheist.”
“Yes, you’re an Atheist, and I’m afraid I can’t just let you teach Sunday school.”
“Because we are trying to teach our kids about Jesus.”
“That doesn’t answer why I can’t teach Sunday School. If the truth claims are true, then there is nothing to worry about. You can even have other adults in the class to make sure I’m not just indoctrinating them into Atheism.”
“I just don’t think this is a good idea.”
“Because this is a church and there are certain things we believe and to be a Sunday School teacher, and really, even to be a member, you must believe them.”
I’m not trying to bash my old church, this same conversation would take place in any church. Even liberal churches aren’t going to let an Atheist into a Sunday School class to teach the kids to question whether Jesus was even real in the first place. All but the most liberal churches would never allow someone like me to join. Besides, I couldn’t join, at least not if I wanted to be honest.
Churches meet in sessions to determine what sorts of things people must believe to be a part of the congregation. There are certain and exact things a person must lay claim to before they join a church. There is a list of these things the person usually must read or at the very least reply to verbally.
Let’s take for example my baptism which was the way I became a member of my old church (I’m doing this by memory so I’m not exactly accurate). The first question asked is “Do you trust Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” Today I would have to answer “no.” I do not even believe in Jesus as a person. I haven’t found any incontrovertible evidence that he ever lived let alone did anything the Bible claims.
Thus ends my attempt at baptism.
Thus ends any hope of joining the church.
I, and all other Atheists, have been barred from membership to this exclusive club based not on any sort of scientific facts, but based on a system of belief laid out and agreed upon by the leaders of the religious community.
The reason Creationists/Young Earth believers think that scientists bar them from the table is for the same reason they believe Atheism is a religion. Because that is how they do things themselves. “We bar people who don’t agree with us, therefore you are barring us because we don’t agree with you.” While there is a logical fallacy that describes this, I can’t remember it’s name and I’m study sociology this term, not philosophy, so you get the sociological view.
In sociology there is something called ethnocentrism. This is the judgment of another culture based on your own culture. The C/YE person comes from a shunning culture. When someone in their church becomes an Atheist the vast majority of people will shun them. Sure there might be one or two people who will try to witness to them, but, outside family relations, no one in church wants to get too close. Atheism might be contagious. (Note: it is.)
The Christian looks at the rest of the world through the lens of their specific Christian culture. When they meet an Atheist, they believe that Atheism is that person’s faith because their culture teaches them that everyone has a faith. They judge the Atheist based on their Christian culture. When they attempt to be heard in the scientific community using science that has time and again been disproved and they are rejected, they judge the scientific community based on their Christian culture which rejects people based on their beliefs.
OK, now that I’ve made my sociology teacher cringe with my very lame use of the term…;)
This is how people are when they can’t think beyond what they’ve been told their whole lives. This is true across all cultures. Of course, who can blame them? If people have the same experience as myself and other Atheists, the experience of basically being shut down every time they ask a question from their earliest days, they are going to learn to play by the rules, or they are going to be cast out.
Creationists/Young Earth believers are “cast out” of scientific communities because their science is not sound. There is no organized plot against them. If they could present provable facts, science would love to listen. But they haven’t produced anything more than the opinion of: “Hey, look around at how organized everything is, it must have had a designer.”