Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Evolving Conflict

Douglas Wilson, author of "Why & What?", invites us, "Imagine you are mistaken about everything you hold dear. Suppose you woke up one morning and realized that your long-held, day-to-day views of nature, social values and self were obviously mistaken..."

Not likely. Yet that is exactly what we Christians expect of the non-Christians we meet. If we are bold enough to present some kind of a Christian worldview, we expect that others should gladly ditch their cherished notions, the worldview that they have believed holds back chaos and evil, in an instant.

Nowhere has my family seen this more clearly than in our work as volunteer docents at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This is a thorough-going secular, evolutionist institution. We knew that going in, and chose to work in the space exploration section so as to avoid having to teach against conscience.

Nevertheless, we have had plenty of opportunities to trumpet the strength of Western science as it rests on the flexibility of the scientific method, and to ask our fellow-workers (even the curators) to apply it equally to evolutionary concepts as well as to competing theories. The scientific method means that we begin by acknowleding that we do not have the whole picture and we must remain open to the new possibilities indicated by new evidence - even if they seem to support an opposing theory.

Because of our hard work learning, engaging visitors, innovating new approaches to the displays, and because of our genuine interest in our co-workers, museum staff and volunteers are willing to listen to us. They are even willing to take cautious steps toward doubting their evolutionary foundations.

However, the recent revival in court of the Creationist/Evolutionist conflict over the Dover School District policy of characterising all proposed scientific systems of origins as theories, we are facing new hostility. And some of that hostility rises from the tactics of Christians who visit the museum.

Several well-meaning Christian groups give guided tours of the museum, teaching the students they lead to mock evolutionary ideas. While this may be a fun way to build rapport with a group of students who come together for a short time, it makes a poor witness. The museum has recently released an advisory on how to deal with such Christians. Many volunteers plan to use mockery in return.

What many of us have failed to realize is that this is not a scientific debate. It is not even a rational debate. The evolutionists at the museum are, at best, ill-informed about the Intelligent Design position. Their reaction is purely emotional.

We would do well to remember that we are asking them to consider that everything they hold dear is wrong. If we would have them hear our facts, we must address their fear first.

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