There was a recent televised debate between Bill Nye, ‘The Science Guy’ and Ken Ham the proprietor of the Creation Museum in Kentucky (nuff said). Intriguingly they both have engineering degrees, however this is where the similarities end. Bill Nye, as you might infer from his title, is a rational scientist and believer in the theory of evolution. Ken Ham is a bible literalist and fervently believes that the earth was created 6000 years ago by the hand of God. He also sincerely believes that Adam and Eve actually existed and that there was a universal deluge and Noah and family were saved due to God’s providence.
Nye and Ham are both experienced communicators. Each was allowed an initial five minutes to outline their respective views followed by a more in depth exposition of 30 minutes. Questions inevitably followed. Ham’s views are probably out there on the fringe and not endorsed by most Christians in the West, outside America. The advance of science has left its mark on theological thought, not only among sophisticated theologians, but also on many ‘simple believers.’
There are those in the scientific fraternity who think that debate with the fundamentalists is pointless. There is no use arguing with those so steeped in religious dogma that they are no longer able to perceive established scientific evidence, in spite of all the empirical data.
So what is the point? Well the point is, as long as the fundamentalists remain the lunatic fringe with no impact on our lives, then there is no point; enlightened folk can snicker on the side-lines. The point becomes a problem when the lunatics break out of the asylum and start impinging their views on the sane. In the civilised West this shouldn’t be a problem and frankly it is not except in the United States. This most powerful of nations is a mass of contradictions, especially when it comes to science and religion. Suffice to say that religion, science and politics are a complex and volatile mix. The fundamentalists want ‘Creation Science’ taught on the biology curriculum as a valid alternative to evolution. Now you could argue that ‘Creation Science’ has a place on the religious curriculum. Placing the word science after another word doesn’t make it so and theology has no place on any science curriculum, but the creationist voice is a strident one and has serious political backing, especially in the southern states.
At last scientists in the US are starting to realise that they must engage the creationists not only in the classroom, but in the political arena, and indeed any arena which counts. This is not about changing the minds of the fundamentalists, this will never happen. It is about influencing legislature and more importantly the wider viewing public. Let us be clear. This is really important as it will affect education and minds of the young. This is definitely worth fighting for, don’t you think?
Anyway, the respective views can be summed up by the answer to a question put to both Nye and Ham at the end of the debate: “What would it take for you to change your mind?”
This sums up the fundamental difference between theology and the scientific method and this is why theology should remain, just that.