Last week, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens, a physics professor and history professor at Eastern Nazarene College, respectively. The authors take evangelicals to task for being anti-intellectual, anti-reason and anti-science. Their evidence:
— Evangelicals doubt man-made global warming,
— Evangelicals believe that gays can “pray away” their homosexuality.
— Evangelicals believe Earth is only thousands of years old and that men lived alongside dinosaurs.
— Evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage.
Given how often they are made, it’s worth analyzing these charges.
With regard to man-made global warming, the accusation that all skeptics are anti-science is despicable and, indeed, anti-science. The list of prominent scientists who dissent — including the scientist widely considered the dean of climate science in America, Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — is so long that there are entire websites that feature their names and credentials: There’s a Wikipedia page titled “List of Scientists opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming” and a website called PetitionProject.org.
The authors of the Times op-ed piece, like virtually all other left-wing intellectuals who comment on the subject, dismiss all skepticism regarding the Al Gore hypothesis that humanity is headed toward a worldwide apocalypse due to heat resulting from man-made carbon emissions. This is a reflection on these intellectuals’ politics, not on their commitment to science.
With regard to “praying away” homosexuality — if it is indeed the normative evangelical position that all gays, with the right faith, can cease being sexually attracted to the same sex — that position is wrong. But to the best of my knowledge, that is not the normative evangelical position; evangelicals believe that no more than they believe that prayer alone will end any undesired physical condition.
At the same time, the opposite position — the position of nearly all the liberal intellectual world — that everyone’s sexual orientation is fixed is a position also driven by ideology rather than by science. Society has a huge influence on how people act out their sexuality, including the gender of person with whom they choose to be sexual. Human sexuality — especially female — is far more elastic than the intellectual community admits. And the widespread liberal belief that, all things being equal, it makes no difference whether a child is raised by a mother and father or by two fathers or two mothers is hardly rational. On the issue of homosexuality, the intellectual left is just as driven by ideology as evangelicals.
With regard to those evangelicals — and for that matter, those ultra-orthodox Jews — who believe that Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that there either were no dinosaurs or that they lived alongside human beings, my reaction has always been: So what? I believe that Earth is many millions of years old, that “six days” is meant as six periods of time (the sun wasn’t even created until the third day, so how could there have been any days before then?) and that dinosaurs preexisted man by millions of years.
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