Thursday, January 2, 2014

Personal Preference, Reality, and Dealing with Knowledge

I'm an American, and have been paying attention for the last several decades. The way many Americans insist that evolution is Satanic is hard to miss. That's why I'm not "shocked" by this week's news.

Even so, I was impressed at how many folks in this country apparently said "that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time." The survey results made more sense when I looked at a more detailed report, and I'll get back to that.

Here are the two options in that survey:
"...U.S. adults saying that humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time, or humans and other living things have evolved over time."
(Pew Research Center, via Business Insider (December 30, 2013)) [emphasis mine]
Overall, about one third of folks responding said that life hasn't changed since the beginning of time.1 I'm in the 60% who don't agree.

Religion, America, and Assumptions

"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise, there wouldn't be religious people."
- Doris Egan
By Doris Egan's standards, I'm not a 'religious' person. I've been over this before:
I'm a Christian, and have been for as long as I can remember. I'm also a Catholic: a convert, who became a Catholic in large part because what I believe has to make sense.

I've known Catholics who aren't particularly sensible, and non-Catholics who are: but those are individuals, and almost another topic.

Because I am a Catholic, I have to take Sacred scripture seriously. That's literally Catholicism 101: Check out Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-133.

Believing that the Bible is God's Word is most emphatically not the same as assuming that the Almighty looks like the man Michelangelo painted, or that the Bible was written by someone with an American viewpoint. (October 17, 2013; October 19, 2011)

I recommend the following resource for Americans interested in learning what the Bible is, and what it is not:
  • "Understanding the Bible"
    Mary Elizabeth Sperry, Associate Director for Utilization of the New American Bible, USCCB
Here's why I don't consult the Bible when my computer acts up:
Moving on.

"Evolution: The Religion of the Antichrist"

The Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 didn't set the tone for American discussion of evolution, but I think it firmly established the perception that "Christian" and "ignoramus" were synonymous.

Sadly, quite a few American Christians seem dedicated to maintaining that perception.

For example, earlier this week, someone drew my attention to a sermon: "Evolution: The Religion of the Antichrist."

Thus Saith Anonymous

There's nothing unusual about someone assuming that evolution is evil. I grew up in an area where radio preachers fervently exhorted their listeners to reject evolution, communism, Catholicism, rock music, and other 'Satanic' plots.

What made this particular one stand out was that it's on a website devoted to "Sermons in plain English on Catholic dogma, doctrine, and devotion." Interestingly, this "sermon" was delivered by that prolific commentator and correspondent, Anonymous: "The preacher's name is withheld by his request."

Living With Reality

Like everyone else, I have personal preferences. But I'm savvy enough to realize that what I like or don't like will not change the universe.

I believe that God created and is creating everything. I'm also quite certain that it's okay to learn about what God created: even if that means learning something new. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 279-289, 301)

That's because "the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God." (Catechism, 159)

My faith doesn't require an interest in science: but it's not threatened by knowledge, either.

Getting a Grip About "Believe"

I don't "believe in" evolution, the way I "believe in" God. That would be silly: with catastrophic consequences in the long run. Idolatry is a bad idea, no matter what a person substitutes for God. (Catechism, 2113-2114)

On the other hand, I "believe in" evolution the way I "believe in" Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Einstein's theory of general relativity.

I think it's silly to assume that because creation operates with rational physical laws, a rational creating God cannot exist. That odd notion became fashionable around the middle of the 19th century, and we've been dealing with the craziness ever since.

As for the notion that creation doesn't change, that's just not so. We're in a "state of journeying," and that's a good thing. (Catechism, 302)

I think part of the problem many Americans have with evolution, among other things, is that the default spiritual style of this country is rather Calvinistic: and I've been over that before, too.

Finally, I find hope for my country in what didn't make the headlines. Although about a third of Americans desperately cling to an antique worldview, the percentage is much less among the young, the educated, the non-WASP, mainstream Protestants - and the Catholics.1

Related posts:

1 Survey: One of out three Americans think evolution doesn't happen. I am not making this up.
"A Shocking Number Of Americans, Especially Republicans, Don't Believe In Evolution"
Lauren F Friedman, (December 30, 2013)

"A third of Americans reject the idea of evolution, a new Pew Research Center poll has found, including a majority of white evangelical Protestants (64%) and Republicans (57%).

"That means one in three Americans would agree that 'humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.'

"This is embarrassing given overwhelming evidence that evolution is real (more on that below).

"What's particularly disturbing is that the share of Republicans who don't believe in evolution has dramatically increased from 46% in 2009.

"Here are the findings:..."

(From Pew Research Center, via Business Insider, used w/o permission.)

(From Pew Research Center, via Business Insider, used w/o permission.)

(From Pew Research Center, via Business Insider, used w/o permission.)

(From Pew Research Center, via Business Insider, used w/o permission.)


Bagsy's Soapbox said...

Hi Brian, enjoyed your post. Usually do. I am a bit like you, I am an Australian Catholic with similar interests in the Sciences, once was an Industrial Chemist but Catholic in my scientific interests.
I confess I have not studied my religion as closely as you, but have a quite rational belief in an intelligent Creator God which is supported in my view by the sciences

Brian H. Gill said...

John L,

Thank you!

And sorry about taking so long to find and clear your post. That's embarrassing.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.