If you follow me on my Facebook page, you would have seen that this week that I declared this week, “Ask An Anthropologist” week. I thought it would give us a chance to get to know each other, and provide an opportunity to answer questions that I get asked pretty frequently.
I got asked a question that I have been asked in the past, is slightly difficult to answer, and deserves more than a quick sentence of a Facebook page- “How can you believe in God if you believe in evolution?”
And so, I’ve decided that my response would be better as a blog post.
I always feel that this question says more about the lack of understanding, or perhaps the limited scope of understanding of the asker, as opposed to my own belief or lack of beliefs. I also think this is a loaded question that is meant to somehow force me into a discussion of whether or not I think ‘God’ exists, which is not information that I divulge so easily.
I don’t think you can’t cherry pick science. I don’t accept that whatever I can take advantage of is okay, but that which challenges my current knowledge and belief is not okay. I accept cell phones, televisions, computers, email, prosthetic legs, radios, gardening, domesticated pets, airplanes, thermometers, ibuprofen, Nike running shoes, sirens, calendars, watches, skyscrapers, and microwaves. All science. I accept the scientific processes by which those innovations were achieved. I accept the definition of theory and law. I accept evolution. Evolution does not require blind faith. I can see it, view it, test it, note it, learn it, and talk about it. And even better, if I challenge it, and discover that my understanding was lacking, or that I was wrong, my entire moral center is not broken. In fact, my world and point of view is made greater. And furthermore, it happens whether I “believe” in it or not.
First, science does not exist instead of ‘God’. In my eyes, if there is a ‘God’ or ‘Gods’, science is probably more of what they would want religion to be- explorative, curious, enlightened, informative, exciting, open to possibilities and impossibilities, and a space where there is room for everyone- an existence that does not seek to exclude, but to explain. Admittedly, I’m biased, but not ‘god‘-less. I will admit that part of this debate is the fault of science and its development during the ‘Age of Enlightenment,’ but that is another story for another day.
This is a really difficult question for me to answer because usually any one that is asking me this already thinks they know the answer. They aren’t seeking understanding, enlightenment, a peek into my soul or even “Truth”. They usually want corroboration. I think it is ridiculous that science and religion can’t coexist. Both are fundamentally seeking understanding of existence and being- just using different methods. Where I think science wins is that it doesn’t labor under the false and ridiculous notion that this journey towards enlightenment can’t change, or that it looks and exists in the same way every where in the universe. I find that kind of attitude to be highly egocentric, and I’d like to think that if there is a ‘god’, this being would be above human emotion and pettiness such as the need to be “right,” controlling, biased, inflexible, etc.
Do I believe every person of religion represents the bad parts of religion? No. But when I’m asked questions like this, it is clear that the asker believes that every scientists exists within a vacuum of opposition towards one’s spiritual beliefs.
A few weeks ago, I recall an article that someone posted to their Facebook page that proclaimed that ‘science had proved the existence of god’ or some nonsense like that. I was not offended by the article, which upon reading the first paragraph, was clearly pseudoscience. I was offended by the readiness by which the people that participated in the thread were ready to take this article for face value. My guess was that no one even thought to actually read and question the article because the headline said it all!
This is neither a failure of science or religion, but a failure of critical think skills A.K.A. education. We have millions of years of data. If you want to make a case for whatever load of bullocks that you are seeking to confirm, you’ll find it. The snake oil recipe is out there.
But, in the same way, if you are seeking knowledge, learning, edification, information that has value and expands your wisdom, you’ll find it. However, you must not be afraid to be wrong, to question, to fail or to imagine a world that is not the one that you live in or take comfort in. And that takes bravery and dedication. For me, science is the discipline that seeks to understand how it is wrong, so that it can grasp and fully comprehend how it is right. Whether is a scientific undertaking or matters of the soul, I find this approach to be much more informative than simply searching for an ideological cosigner.
So, here my answer to the question, “How can you believe in God if you believe in evolution?”
“Because the existence of one does not simply negate the existence of another, even if it may alter my understanding of the other.”
What do you think?!
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