“Questioning Darwin” – Perpetuating Stereotypes and Misinformation

HBO's Questioning Darwin Documentary HBO’s documentary Questioning Darwin   questions Christian belief instead of Darwin
From Questioning Darwin, an HBO Documentary

The IMDB storyline synopsis of HBO’s recent1  documentary  ends with the statement, “the film takes a balanced look at this 150-year-old debate.”  It appears the film wants to take a balanced look, and they certainly had the opportunity, but if they were trying to achieve a balanced look, they failed miserably.  Either the writers are so steeped in anti-Christian evolutionist doctrine that they couldn’t see their own bias, or they willfully withheld important data that is relevant to the discussion. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both.

If they were seriously trying to present objections of those who “Question Darwin” why have they chosen to only present the case from the point of view of Bible believing Christians (of which I, of course, am one)? Such objections stem primarily from the fact that evolution is in direct contradiction to Biblical teaching. But that is not the only source of objections.  Why did they not also present the case of scientists who do not believe in evolution from a scientific point of view? Surely the existence of scientific objections to Darwin is not a newsflash to the writers of a documentary on Darwin. There is an entire site highlighting the hundreds of scientists who have signed their names to the statement:

” We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

The site is Dissentfromdarwin.org and you can look up all the scientists who dissent yourself.  Instead, the picture that is painted is that only fundamental, Bible believing Christians who,  as the narrator tells us,  “… believe their Bible is the Word of God, the ‘literal truth’ …”2,  don’t believe in Darwinian evolution. That only Christians object to Darwin is clearly not the case and so that is a  misrepresentation.  The fact that they have omitted any reference to any scientific objections to Darwin points to what this documentary is really about: questioning Christians who question Darwin.

Without speaking to those responsible for this production, one  can only speculate as to their motives. But based on what they choose to include (statements from Christians without any investigation as to whether they might be true)  and what they chose to omit (objections from scientists who disagree with Darwin’s theory), and the amount of time they spent explaining how Darwin arrived at his theory vs. the amount of time spent showing Christians who “question Darwin,” the motives seems clear: to present Christians as slightly irrational, slightly backwards, science rejecting people whose opinions should not be taken to seriously in this matter. Unfortunately,  too often Christians provide ample fodder for this distorted view.

A pastor3  is shown saying,  “If in the bible I were to find a passage that says 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible, I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”  Brother, I understand what you’re saying.  It is incumbent on the reader of the Bible to investigate further to work out apparent contradictions so as to resolve the contradiction and understand what the Biblical writer was saying. (Of course that clarification was not in the documentary.)

For instance, Jesus while standing in the magnificent temple that took 46 years to build  is quoted as saying, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2.19) This was clearly misunderstood by his audience, the Jews. (As it would be by anyone in that context who didn’t know Jesus.) Thankfully John, the writer of the gospel explains what he meant – that he was referring to his body.  So Jesus was in essence saying if you kill me, I will physically raise this body and make it live again in 3 days, which is proof of my claims. A prediction and a promise he made good on that first Easter Sunday by his resurrection from the dead.

So I understand the pastor to be underscoring the importance of working out apparent contradictions – though he chose, in my estimation, a poor example to illustrate the point. Arithmetic statements by nature and design leave little room for interpretation; and as such don’t illustrate the broad (though clear) range of meaning that verbal statements may convey, particularly when set in various contexts. So while his point is valid, it was used by this production to stereotype Christians as following blindly without a rational basis. As I state in What is Rational Faith Part 2, Christian Faith does not require a blind leap of faith.

From there, the depiction of Christians gets worse, with a Professor  accusing Christians of lying to children because they teach as truth what’s taught in the Bible; things that contradict evolution such as creation and a young earth. His exact  statement was:

“If the only way you can get your beliefs to persists is to lie to children – which is what creationists do about the age of the earth and things of that nature, if that’s the only way this thing can persist, it’s now worth it, it should disappear.”4

Clearly,  instead of looking at scientists today who “Question Darwin” and how they view Darwin’s theory against today’s evidence, the writers chose to channel the accusations of the new atheists, who accuse Christians of child abuse for teaching them religion.5   Instead of looking at the scientific questions, they chose to look at how Christians interpret the Bible, apparently appalled that Christians can take Genesis “literally”6, and even more appalled that such an approach can be persuasive, noting:

“Creationism – the fastest growing branch of Christianity – not just here in the United States but worldwide.”

That fact is only surprising (and disconcerting) to those who have bought into Darwinism lock, stock and barrel.  While the program does an admirable job of correctly articulating Christian views – since they directly quote Christians, and even shows scenes from Ken Ham’s Creation Museum – still  it is quite apparent that they mean to question those views. With their disdain for the views of those who doubt Darwin apparent, their refusal to show scientists who doubt Darwin gives the show a strong appearance of suppressing the evidence.  This point is underscored by the fact that they had comments from former college professor Dr. Jobe Martin, who has published evidences against evolution in titles such as Incredible Creatures that Defy Evolution (I-III), but you don’t see any of his evidences; he provides history and commentary on Darwinism and its effects. Yet as philosopher of science and Intelligent Design advocate Dr. Stephen Meyer put it,

“For every evidence based argument for one of Darwin’s two key propositions, there is an evidence based counter argument.”7

You won’t see any of the counter arguments to Darwin in this documentary however.  In fact to the contrary,  Darwin is presented as a hard working, state of the art (even if it is 19th century art) scientist who worked tirelessly to gather evidence for his theory.  We are told of all the specimens he examined and the correspondences he had with other scientists.  Darwin no doubt considered himself an objective researcher. (We’re supposed to believe that too.)  We’re led to believe that his conclusions were valid based on all the research he did, however the documentary never bothers to mention or even question if the research that he conducted supported the conclusions he jumped to. The evidence suggests his research did not support his conclusions.

The documentary makes clear however that he suffered  greatly at the loss of his favored daughter Annie, and couldn’t understand why there should be evil in the world.  Outspoken creationist, Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis  graciously offers that if his theology professors had told him the source of evil was sin – not God, it may have changed his perspective.  What is more likely the case, (since as the documentary tells us, Darwin once intended to be a clergyman)  is that  Darwin knew what the Bible said about the cause of evil, but didn’t care. It appears Darwin  was determined to reject God in spite of the Bible’s explanation of evil in the world.

The documentary further wants you to believe Darwin let science direct his thinking, not his (anti-God) theology; and that he reluctantly came to the conclusion that evolution is true. We are supposed to believe that he was objective about it all because he is quoted as saying: Continue Reading

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What is Rational Faith? Part 1

The Scopes monkey trial, popularized by the decidedly pro-evolution 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind” has been described  by one historian as:

“Lasting just 11 days, the trial became a showdown between faith and reason…”1

The charge to be adjudicated: that a teacher by the name of John Scopes had taught Darwin’s theory of Evolution in the classroom, an act  which, at the time, was illegal. (My how things have changed.) The goal here is not rehash the trial, or discuss perceived winners and  losers. The reason for bringing it up is to point out how it is commonly described: “a showdown between faith and reason.”  This “showdown” has been raging at least since that trial, which began July 21, 1925. Some would locate the origin with Galileo’s 17th century dispute with the church over whether the earth went around the sun; or the sun went around the earth.

Plato

Some would take it all the way back to  the early Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle who lived a few hundred years before Christ. The point in bringing up the “showdown”: there is a strong, vocal faction aptly represented by the likes of atheist cheerleader Richard Dawkins, who believes that faith and reason are at odds and are irreconcilable.

In a documentary  called “Enemies of Reason”, Dawkins states: “There are two ways of looking at the world through faith and superstition, or through the rigors of logic, observation and evidence;  through reason. Yet today, reason has a battle on its hands. I want to confront the epidemic of irrational superstitious thinking.”2

Dawkins wants to confront “the epidemic of irrational superstitious thinking.” A noble goal insofar  as he correctly identifies that which is superstitious. Problem is he doesn’t. He has a tendency to group that which is true with that which  is myth. And so one of my goals is to confront the epidemic of irrational atheistic thinking that winds up getting labeled as “scientific”.

Richard Dawkins

If you think such atheists (and scientists for that matter) are always the objective, logical,  followers-of-the-evidence-wherever-it-leads type of people that they like to portray themselves as, you’re in for a rude awaking – as will  be evident in posts to come. Some of the other reasons for this site:

  • To show that the Christian Faith is rational – using the tools  Dawkins specified – logic, observation and evidence.
  • And to point out that those claiming that the Christian faith is not rational –  are often themselves basing it on incorrect a priori assumptions from their own faith – typically atheism – and not what they claim – logic,  observation and evidence.

For those atheists and others who don’t realize that they too are following a faith (that’s a whole other discussion), “rational faith” is a  contradiction in terms. As you would expect from someone who is the author of a site titled  “Rational Faith” I obviously disagree. But in order to demonstrate that the Christian faith is rational, I’ll need to define exactly what is meant by rational faith.   Which I will do, but with this first3 post let me start by defining what rational faith is not. As a point of reference, consider the following definition of  “Faith and Rationality”  as it appears in Wikipedia as of this writing:

“Faith and rationality are two ideologies that exist in varying degrees of conflict or compatibility.

Rationality is based on reason or evidence.
Faith is belief in inspiration, revelation, or authority. The word faith generally refers to a belief that is held with lack of, in spite of or against reason or evidence. Although the words faith and belief are sometimes erroneously conflated and used as synonyms, faith properly refers to a particular type (or subset) of belief, as defined above.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of views regarding the relationship between faith and rationality:

  1. Rationalism holds that truth should be determined by reason and factual analysis, rather than faith, dogma, tradition or religious teaching.
  2. Fideism holds that faith is necessary, and that beliefs may be held without evidence or reason, or even in conflict with evidence and reason”

Clearly this perceived tension between faith and reason is a common and widespread misunderstanding. Many it seems, believe that “faith” and “reasoned, rational thought” are mutually exclusive. That one must “believe”  in spite of what reason or evidence tells you. Or as some suggest, when going to church, check your brains at the door. By extension, many believe that  faith and science are also at odds – that you can not be a good scientist if you have faith in God; and that true believers in the Christian faith  are necessarily antagonistic toward properly applied science.   All of these are incorrect and to understand why, we must go back to goal, the point of faith and reason. What is goal of reason? And of Faith?  The goal of reason is to identify truth. D. Q. McInerny, author of Being Logical states:

“The whole purpose of reasoning, of logic, is to arrive at the truth of things.”4

What is the goal of faith, speaking  specifically of the Christian faith? The Christian faith is all about knowledge of the truth. Jesus says he came to testify about the truth (John  18.37), that he in fact is truth (John 14.6); that the truth will set you free (John 8.32); and that knowledge of the true God, and Jesus (who is  truth) leads to eternal life (John 17.3).  So in other words, the point of the Christian faith is to identify and know the truth – ultimate truth; and according to Jesus once you properly identify and  properly respond to that truth (by believing), God is pleased to grant you eternal life.  But don’t be distracted by the promise of eternal life. The point  I’m making is that the goal of reason and faith are the same: to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. (And in passing, the goal of science is also to  arrive at truth5 – but that’s a discussion for another time.)

If the goal is the same, why is it then, that so many think that faith and reason are at odds? If  reason and faith are both striving for the  same goal – truth – those following either discipline should arrive at the same destination – at least in the areas to which both disciplines  address themselves – such as ultimate truth.  And that is precisely my point and my firm belief, and one of the motivating factors behind this blog  – to show that both faith and reason, properly understood, guide you to the same place – the true God, creator of the universe, the God of the souls of all mankind.

Thus my main problem with the statement above from Wikipedia and all others who see varying degrees of conflict or incompatibility between faith and reason is that such an  understanding mistakenly casts the two as opposites in an either / or proposition.  In that light, you either have reason OR you have faith –  not both. Atheists like Richard Dawkins try to drive that point home. This blog is to demonstrate that those who think rationally not only have good reason to trust in  rational thought, but also have good reason to trust in the Christian Faith – because it is a faith based on evidences and confirmed by reason, and so it is a wholly rational faith (no pun intended).

This leaves us with a lot of questions such as: If Science and Faith have the same goal – truth – why do many see them as being at odds? Are there different types of truth? Do science and faith lead to the same kind of “truth”? If the Christian faith is so rational, why are so many scientists atheists? If Christianity is “rational” and “reasonable”, why does so much of what Christians believe seem to be in conflict with what scientists and the world at large believes? All good questions but too much for one blog post. So we’ll have to return to these  issues in the days to come. For now, let me answer the initial question of what rational faith is not with this summary:

  1. Rational Faith (or faith properly understood) is  not in conflict with reason; faith and reason are not contradictory – they are complementary
  2. Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive
  3. Faith and reason are not an either / or proposition; they are a both / and proposition; they work together; not against each other
  4. Faith is not reliant solely on “authority” or “revelation”; it is strongly based in evidences of various types

Now we’ve seen what rational faith is not. Next we’ll see what rational faith is.


Duane Caldwell posted 3-2-2014 | print format  | Part 2


Notes

1 10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America Episode 7: Scopes: The Battle Over America’s Soul TV series Documentary, 2006
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2 Dawkins, Richard Enemies of Reason Documentary, 2007
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3 First written at any rate, though I wound up electing to post select pieces of evidences ahead of this post so they would be available for my atheists acquaintances on their first visit
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4 McInerny, D.Q.  Being Logical, A Guide to Good Thinking  New York: Random House 2005, p. 19
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5 That science is ultimately concerned with truth is a point rarely discussed, but is acknowledged when necessary, as in this response from a writer for Scientific America who states:

“Let’s understand one thing loud and clear; science is concerned with the truth. It really is.”

Ashutosh Jogalekar  “Creationists  are wrong. Science is actually concerned with the truth” 7/19/13 “The Curious Wavefunction” blog on Scientific American

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) takes it a step further stating the point of science is to measure theories against absolute truth; implying the goal is to discover elements of truth that are not known.ICR “The Foundation of Science Is Absolute Truth” accessed 1/28/14

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