I was intrigued by the following data that I came across in a little article entitled, "Poll watch" in The Week magazine, 5/2/2014, page 15: "Americans' skepticism of science is growing. 51% doubt that the universe was created by a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. 42% doubt evolution, 37% doubt climate change is real and caused by man, and 15% question the safety of vaccines. (Associated Press/GfK)"
Of course, I recognize that polls can be a bit deceptive. They can be skewed by the way the questions are posited, as well as the fact that they usually require a simple yes or no, with no room for any subtle nuances in between. But I'll accept these figures as reasonably accurate.
Also, the polls fail to tell us the "whys." Why do so many doubt the Big Bang, evolution and climate change? Why do any doubt the safety of vaccines? Are the doubts due to religious conviction? To alternative scientific (or anti-scientific) views? Or just plain ignorance?
I fear that, while all of these may be factors, the last question is most likely true of much doubt. Anyone who has ever watched Jay Leno's little "Jay Walking" segments has seen people who appear to be quite normal demonstrate astonishing ignorance. And a few weeks ago Jon Stewart on the Daily Show showed a map of the world on which were pinned all the various places Americans had supposed were the location of Ukraine, a country that is frequently mentioned in the news. It was to be found in many places on every continent, the Indian Ocean and even in the state of Iowa. (I'd be a bit worried about Russians invading Iowa.)
I also recognize that these large percentages are influenced by the religious convictions of many who were polled. There are many who feel that some of these data contradict the Scriptures, and even more who aren't sure that they do, but are afraid that they might. And in my experience, I have found many people who show little signs of religious conviction on other matters, still claim to believe in a 6-day creation or doubt anything about evolution or climate change.
So how would I, as an Evangelical Christian, as one who accepts the Bible as true, answer the poll? I can't say for sure without seeing the actual questions, but here are some thoughts (which I suppose would totally frustrate the poll-taker):
The Big Bang: I believe, and have for as long as I can remember that God - the God of the Bible - is the Creator of the universe. Whether He did it in six days, 6,000 years ago, or whether creation began 13.8 billion years ago with a gigantic explosion is a question mainly concerning how long it took Him. The Big Bang theory has for many years seemed to me the simplest way to understand the origins of the universe. And taking the first chapters of Genesis metaphorically I have little problem reconciling the two accounts.
Evolution: I have been "evolving" in my understanding of this subject. It seems certain that evolution occurs on some scale, though I am convinced that it does not hold the answers to all questions involving the millions of species and variations of plant and animal life. On the smaller, "micro evolution" scale it undoubtedly occurs: bacteria and viruses evolve immunities to antibiotics; fossil evidence shows gradual changes in many species. But how far "up the ladder" this occurs is still unclear. Transitional fossils are rare. And of the many matters for which it cannot account, the greatest is the humanity of man - our uniqueness. We are God's unique creation.
Climate Change: I can't understand why so many doubt the fact of climate change, other than the propaganda put forth by a small but vocal minority of scientific "experts." And even more, I can't understand why so many Evangelical Christians seem to hold that any belief in climate change is heresy. It seems to be a well established fact. The only questions really are these: to what extent is global warming caused by man, are we capable at all of preventing it or at least slowing it down, and how do we prepare for the consequences? And shouldn't those of us who believe that God left us this earth to take care of, be concerned about doing so?
Vaccines: I don't even want to get into this one. I have a few acquaintances who fear vaccines, but the consequences of ignoring their safety are far worse than any supposed consequences of receiving them. I know; I was around in the days before many of these vaccines!
I have lived a long life; I have known many people, believers and unbelievers, educated and uneducated; I have pastored churches; I have taught in college. And while no particular group has a corner on ignorance (the above poll brings this out) I fear the most for my fellow Evangelicals. In many of them I have found almost a pride in ignorance.
Scientific knowledge is, by many, perceived as the enemy of faith. I understand, of course, the difficulty many have in reconciling science and the Bible, especially in the theories of origins. But as has been said many times, all truth is God's truth. Where there appears to be disagreement, there is a need to reexamine whether we have got all our facts straight, whether what we claim to believe is biblical or what we claim to believe is science.
We have nothing to fear - and we have no need to pride ourselves in our ignorance.