Answering questions from young people
Often, young people start questioning their faith in high school as they develop independence and are exposed to different ideas. Rather than discouraging this, we should help them develop critical thinking skills and show them that the Bible can hold up to serious questioning.
KD wrote in (edited for length and clarity):
I am a high school senior. I have several questions regarding your beliefs. I would very much appreciate it if you were able to read and respond.
- Compared to the general public, scientists are far less likely to believe in a deity, and a negligible number express belief in creationism. [She gave several survey statistics]. How do you explain this discrepancy? Furthermore, do you think scientists intentionally lie about the age of the Earth, carbon-dating, etc.? If so, what would be their motivation? Are they evil or simply misguided?
- Surveys consistently show that the most religious states in the country are Utah, Mississippi, and Alabama. Utah is a haven for Mormonism, while AL and MS are well-known for their poverty, obesity rates, low levels of educational attainment, high teen pregnancy rates, etc. The least religious states tend to be Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. These states tend to do quite well. VT has had the lowest crime rate for several years in a row now. MA ranks first in education by nearly every metric, has the lowest teen pregnancy rate in the country, and has a higher development index than not only the other states, but all of Europe as well. NH has the lowest poverty rate in the nation. To put it simply, there is a strong inverse correlation between wealth (or education) and religious belief. This trend is observed in both countries and individuals, as well as states. Why does God bless the heathens with prosperity when those who call out to him suffer?
- I am a huge fan of Carl Sagan. As a graduate student under Professor Harold Urey (also an atheist) he helped substantiate the hypothesis that amino acids evolved into organic molecules in a sort of “primordial soup” thus beginning life on Earth. What is your opinion on this scientific hypothesis?
- In my town, most people are not fervent believers. Almost everyone I know comes from a Catholic or Jewish background; I know only one or two Evangelicals and three or four creationists. When, in my sophomore year, my English teacher asked who in my class believed in creationism, every single person said that they supported evolution. Yet they are all without exception very kind and intelligent people, whom I consider my friends. When I was a creationist, I imagined atheists and mainstream scientists as emotionless, robot-like people who sought to remove the beauty and meaning in life. However, when I read Professor Sagan’s writings, he struck me not as a cold, heartless robot, but as a gentle and eloquent human. His knowledge that emotions were evolutionary instincts and brain chemicals did not preclude him from feeling them. I read about other atheist scientists, such as Richard Feynman, Erwin Schrodinger, Niels Bohr, Linus Pauling, etc. Again, they did not seem to be “working for the devil” at all; they were simply intelligent men who happened to be nonbelievers. Bohr was a member of the Danish Resistance who helped save many people from the Nazis. Does he deserve the same fate as Hitler? I remember one story in particular. After Carl Sagan’s parents passed away, he wanted desperately to be able to see them again. In his book Demon Haunted World, he writes of how he would dream about them and often hear their voices (which he attributed to auditory hallucinations). Following his death, his daughter reported many of the same feelings about him. Sagan (and those other scientists I mentioned) were good people who improved the quality of life for all of us and loved their family as much as any Christian. Do you believe they are currently burning in Hell in unspeakable agony? Will they later be joined by my friends and family, to be tortured for eons and eons for thought crimes?
Lita Sanders, CMI-US, responds:
Thanks for writing in. It’s exciting that you’re thinking critically about these issues. Asking questions about the faith when I was in high school actually led me to place my faith in Christ when I was 16.
- Majority vote (even the majority vote of people who are thought to be smarter than average) does not determine truth. And if you look back to the founders of several areas of science, they were Christians who believed that what they were doing was for the glory of God. For instance, Isaac Newton, who was perhaps the greatest scientist who ever lived, wrote more about theology than about science. Today, creation scientists continue to make valuable contributions. For instance, the inventor of the MRI scanner, Dr Raymond Damadian, is a biblical creationist. Professor Stuart Burgess is a mechanical engineer who was recently awarded Britain’s highest mechanical engineering award for designing the bicycle chain for the UK’s Olympic team (allowing them to sweep the medals in the cycling category for that year’s Olympic games). So people can make valuable contributions to science whether they are creationists or evolutionists.
- Regarding your second question about the inverse relationship between religiosity and economics: your question is actually really simplistic and doesn’t take all the data into account. Most of the prestigious universities started out as religious institutions. One could argue that the prosperous, less religious states are still reaping the benefits of their prior religiosity, while other economic realities keep Southern states in a comparatively worse situation. Think about it: it has taken half the country 150 years to recover from the Civil War and the economic power in the US is now rapidly shifting southwards. There were more millionaires in Mississippi than in New York City in 1861, and there was far more steam power in the southern states than in the northern states when the war broke out. So there’s more than one way to interpret the facts. Also, when people attempt to turn countries into atheistic utopias, millions tend to die, as we can see happened in multiple countries throughout the 20th century. Actually, the best indicators for not ending up in poverty on an individual level are 1. Graduate high school. 2. Get married (after graduating high school) 3. Don’t have children outside of marriage 4. Stay married (don’t lose half your resources by divorcing). Obviously, all those are things Christianity would encourage. And the obesity statistics have been questioned lately when some pollsters realized that people in Mississippi and Alabama were more likely to be truthful about their weight than people in other states.
- The Miller-Urey experiment did not prove what it set out to prove and what we have learned about the cell since then makes it even more impossible that life arose from a primordial soup. See Why the Miller–Urey research argues against abiogenesis and the related articles. Random chemical reactions can produce random chemicals. And simple reactants can combine, randomly, to produce slightly more complicated products. But so what? There is no method for polymerization, which requires an absence of water, no method for producing multiple required yet complex biomolecules (i.e. several amino acids, ADP, etc.), and no way to encode information into the impossible-to-produce long-chain polypeptides, polynucleotides, and polysaccharides. Life requires information. Miller-Urey cannot give us that. And the chemistry of life is single-molecule specific, very much unlike the mass-action chemistry in the abiotic world (see the subsection titled Dirty, mass-action environmental chemistry in Life’s irreducible structure—Part 1: autopoiesis).
- No one would deny that atheists and people who practice other religions can do kind things, can be loving people, and it should disturb us that people who we think of as “good people” might spend an eternity in Hell. I wrote an article called Why would a loving God send people to Hell?, and I would ask you to read that thoughtfully. The existence of Hell shows that we have a righteous God who cares about justice. The existence of salvation through Christ shows the extent God goes to forgive sin and just how loving He is.
Also, consider the effect that gatekeeping has on ensuring that scientists continue to be majority evolutionist. If a student wants to have a career in science, he or she knows that it is necessary to keep quiet about creationist beliefs or face reprisal. This pressure does not let up once someone graduates. Read one scientist’s account of being pressured to resign his position after it was found out that he was a biblical creationist. Notice: the issue wasn’t the quality of his work, but his beliefs!
You ask whether scientists are intentionally lying or if they’re misguided. I don’t think that it’s as simple as them lying. We all have preconceived notions that affect our thinking, and when one thinks that practically all scientists are evolutionists (especially if they want to remain in their scientific careers), that can be a very strong motivator. Also, the question of where things came from is a historical question that is notoriously difficult to answer. The reason for this is that history only happens once. Thus, operational science (the type we can do in the laboratory today) is what almost all science focuses on. Yet, historical science is where the debate is. It is not that scientists are lying, not at all. It is that most scientists have a historical framework based on evolutionary assumptions and this colors their thinking.
I hope you continue asking good questions, but I would also challenge you to be as skeptical of skepticism as you seem to be of Christianity. God is big enough to take your questions, but I found that when I subjected atheism to the same sort of questioning, it crumbled rather quickly. I pray that the God of truth will lead you into His truth through Jesus Christ.