When I was six years old my grandma introduced me to the joy of reading. After school each day she would get a book- most often a book we had read before- and we would sit down and read together. Whether it was Where the Wild Things Are or The Hardy Boys, I was always reading at grandma’s house. One of my favorite books was a collection of the well-known Aesop’s Fables. I remember one short fable in particular that I loved: The Crow and the Raven. In this story a crow is jealous of a raven. As the story goes, the crow wants to be like the raven because the raven was known to attract the attention of men with good omens. One day, two travelers are walking down the road and they hear a caw. Expecting to see a raven they turn around to discover what the omen was. Finding a crow instead they turn around disappointed and continue on their way. Aesop’s point? Those who assume a character that does not belong to them, only make themselves ridiculous.
I can’t help but apply this fable to current trends in church culture. It’s becoming increasingly popular among evangelical Christians to challenge and intentionally contradict scientific theory because their worldview does not allow for anything other than a ‘literal’ interpretation of the biblical text. Later I hope to blog about some of these interpretations, but for now let’s take a look at the outdated, and in my mind unnecessary, obsession with using scientific ignorance as arguments for God’s existence.
When I say ‘scientific ignorance’ I mean two separate yet connected ideas: 1) Primarily, I mean that which science has yet to explain. That is, the mysteries of the universe: black holes, dark energy, dark matter and the question of intelligent life elsewhere in our universe. 2) by ‘scientific ignorance’ I also mean, more cynically, religious people’s distrust in scientific discovery and inquiry. As I mentioned, I want to address point two more directly in latter blogs, so lets take a closer look at point one.
It should come as no surprise that there is still a lot humanity doesn’t know about our world and the universe. In fact, many of the important questions are still unanswerable, despite thorough scientific inquiry. For instance, it is understood by the scientific community that all the billions of stars, planets and galaxies that can be seen today make up just 4 percent of the universe. You read that right- 4 percent. The other 96 percent? Well it’s made of stuff astronomers can't see, detect and at this point, cannot even comprehend. “Aha,” we say, “Now that sounds like God to me!” Maybe we even get a smug grin on our face as we ask the scientist to explain THAT.
What I am describing to you is generally referred to as, the ‘god of the gaps.’ That is, a gap in scientific knowledge is used as evidence for the existence of God. It’s been a popular defense for God’s existence since Newton himself.
However, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a well-known astrophysicist, offers a harsh critique of this ideology:
Ouch. And he’s right! When we try and make an unsearchable, infinitely mysterious, omnipotent God to be what science does not yet understand, we inevitably make a smaller god than the one presented in the biblical text. Yes, God is ineffable, but that does not mean that any or every mystery in the universe is God. Our God is bigger than that.
Christians have for far too long cawed at any unsuspecting traveler. We want to have all the answers to all the questions. We want to pretend to be something we’re not, and we want God to be something he’s not. You see, contrary to what you were probably taught, the Bible does not have all of the answers. Of course it has truth, in fact, it has the Truth. But the Bible does not and will not explain quasars. Just like in Aesop’s Fable, the moment we think of ourselves other than what we are is the moment we make ourselves look ridiculous.
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