“Yeah, well like they say, it takes as much faith to believe in science as religion.”
I had just been suckerpunched. After spending the last several minutes explaining evolution and its relevance to the history of our species I was hit between the eyes with that old one-liner. Even worse, there was no time to respond. Given that I was a guest in an evangelical home on Christmas and dinner had just been set I simply replied “I don’t think that’s true at all.”
Asserting that science is just as much a religion as Christianity must be one of those things that Christians like. It is a comment lobbed into a conversation that is meant to neutralize the opponent by shifting the conversation away from actual evidence. If science requires faith then it is a religion in competition with Christianity and, therefore, false.
The science that is being compared to religion, of course, is anything that threatens cherished Christian interpretations of the universe. The science of evolution cuts to the heart of these beliefs because it specifically undermines traditional ideas about our place in the nature. Given all this baggage it is not surprising that some people like to pick and choose, buffet style, what scientific ideas they find acceptable and which are better left under the heating lamps.
But my scientifically-rooted understanding of nature has nothing to do with faith. Instead it is based upon observations, comparisons, and intertwining lines of evidence that are open to revision as new discoveries are made. In other words, tangible things that others can also examine. I am not going to argue that I am entirely objective, I am not a robot, but the method of making arguments based upon scientific evidence is just about as far from faith-based assertions as you can get.
I don’t regard evolution as true because it is what I would like to be true or because I believe I have had a personal experience with a transcendent force. No, I am so fascinated by evolution because of the overwhelming evidence for it. There is solid proof, from prehistoric bones to the intricacies of genes, and these natural facts fuel our ongoing discussions of evolutionary theory.
I don’t want to believe in evolution. That concept makes no sense to me. The only reason it even comes up is because the idea of evolution threatens religious sensibilities to the point where science becomes cast as a rival faith to undermine its credibility. Having someone tell you that it takes faith to “believe in evolution” is akin to being patted on the head and told “It’s ok, you can believe in something that’s wrong if that’s what you really want.” Once an evangelical has regurgitated the argument there is almost no talking to them. It is a put down meant to shut down communication, and it often does.