WORLD VIEWS CONT'D
You'll recall in an earlier post I noted that while atheist scientists have absolutely no problem embracing Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, only about half of the US population accepts it, and only about a quarter of evangelical Christians do. These same scientists are astounded at these numbers, but it has been suggested that the only ones who should be surprised are the atheists themselves. Why is that so?
The answer relates to "world views", more particularly, the difference in the world view of atheists as compared to Christians. It really should be no surprise that an atheist would love Charles Darwin and the Big Bang Theory, even if the atheist knows absolutely nothing about science. This is because Darwin and the Big Bang actually provide a "creation story for atheists."
Imagine it's 1700 and you're a freethinking skeptic, a "closet" atheist. You probably wouldn't have announced that publicly, but let's say the word got out, at least to some of your close friends. One of the things they would have said to you is, how do you explain the world? Where did it come from? What possible explanation is there other than that God, or some god-like force, created it? Of course, in 1700 the skeptic wouldn't have had a very good answer. Most likely, he or she would have automatically been skeptical of the skepticism. Moreover, everyone else likely would have ridiculed the skeptic, if for no other reason than that he or she didn't have any good explanation for where the world came from, except via a creator God.
So imagine, then, what "gifts" Charles Darwin, the author of the theory of evolution by natural selection, and Father Georges LeMaitre, the Belgian priest who formulated the Big Bang Theory, have brought to your garden variety atheist? Suddenly, the atheist has a plausible scientific explanation for how the world began and how life emerged! Of course the atheist will embrace these ideas, even if he or she knows absolutely nothing about science. The atheist doesn't need to know any science, merely that someone has developed a plausible explanation for how the world might have emerged without resort to god-like power.
After all, at the core of the atheist's world view is the idea that there is no God, and there never has been a God. What we see is all the result of natural processes unrelated to a god-like agent.
What does the average religious think about this? Well, the starting point is the religious person's worldview. Irrespective of the details, that person's world view likely includes the following key elements:
- God pre-existed the world
- God created the world
- The world does have a purpose, one created by God.
Notice how I said "religious person". This religious person might be Christian, or he might be an adherent of any number of other religions, but the key element is that the person believes there is a transcendent God. The person might be Christian, but for this purpose, it really doesn't matter. At a minimum, the person will be skeptical of Darwin and the Big Bang Theory. Now the person may decide he or she can reconcile religious beliefs with this scientific explanation, but it will require some work.
Now let's take this a step further and add in a few additional details, especially those found in the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis. A practicing Christian already believes that he or she can rely upon the testimony of the Bible, including Genesis. Genesis, however, seems to imply several additional key things:
- God directed the creation of the universe over a seven day period
- The first humans were created within the seven day window.
So now the Christian must reconcile not only the idea of a pre-existent God who directed the creation of the universe, he must deal with a clearly laid out scheme of creation that supposedly lasted seven days. Thus, the average religious person, much less the average Christian, must do a fair amount of "reconciling", something the atheist doesn't have to do.
If you've ever taken a psychology course, or merely read some popular psychology articles, you're probably familiar with a concept called "cognitive dissonance." That's a fancy term for the idea that it's extremely difficult to hold two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. When confronted with two seemingly contradictory ideas, the average person decides that one idea may be okay, but the other idea definitely must be discarded. Everybody does this. Therefore, confronted with the "cognitive dissonance" of alternative #1, the world sprang forth out of nothing and life seemingly evolved to what we have today, and alternative #2, God pre-existed the world and directed its creation to what we have today – is there any surprise about what different people embrace?
- The atheist embraces Darwin and the Big Bang
- The religious person is at least skeptical of Darwin and the Big Bang narratives.
Thus, it should be not the least bit surprising that atheists love Darwin and the Big Bang Theory, and the religiously inclined, Christian or otherwise, are at least skeptical.
So from the outset, before one gives the first thought to science, it's likely that atheists will be highly receptive to Darwin and the Big Bang, but Christians and other religious people will have to overcome skepticism … and it actually doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the actual science, but lots to do with world view. In our next post, let's explore this further.