Science Deniers

The other day someone posted a comment with a picture – the picture attached to this thought – and said something like, “This gas/oil company has always used a dinosaur as its symbol. Think about it.” So, I thought about it, and I do, indeed, remember these gas stations. They are still around, by the way, although the closest one to me is 75 miles away in Swedesboro, NJ. You might not think about the raging debate over science when you look at it; I never did. The symbol is Dino the Brontosaurus (actually, a sauropod), and was chosen by the founder of the company in 1916 because it was widely accepted that the oil we pull from the ground is what remains of dead things, and dinosaurs, having lived and died millions of years ago, are a big part of that. Big whoop, right? I never thought about it. Until 1985.

I was a part-time student pastor in Garnerville, NY, and a full-time student at Drew Theological Seminary. To stay off of welfare, I worked a number of other jobs; substitute teacher, construction, whatever I needed to do. It was on the job working construction that I came in contact with my first young-earther. They believe, among other things, that the earth is just over 6,000 years old. This is based on literally counting of days in the Bible. Before you gloss over that idea as crazy, here is a fun fact: recent surveys tell us that over half of all Americans believe the earth is 10,000 years old. Yes – 10,000. The idea that the earth is so young was a common belief in the Christian world until Charles Darwin crashed the party and showed them differently. And remember, there are still school districts fighting to teach Creationism alongside Evolution in science classes. We haven’t come very far on this issue, it seems.

How did we get to this place? How is it that so many people refuse to believe in science? I think part of the problem is the way we have been taught, that science is a conclusion, not a quest. A big reason we have had almost 90 million cases and over a million deaths in this country alone during this pandemic is the wide refusal to accept the science. And to understand that science changes as new facts are discovered. It’s called the (drumroll please) scientific method. Think about the campaign to keep information about the dangers of tobacco use quiet, or the refusal to admit that human beings have been a dominant factor in the death of the climate; these and many other arguments are fueled by scientific denial. The phrase “but what about?” has kept us from working harder to solve social ills, believing that God is in control and will make all our boo-boos go away. More fake news. God has given us responsibility over the earth, and we are mucking it up.

It is perfectly fine to make decisions based on theology; I do it all the time. When I see people who are hungry, I ask what God wants me to do, and the answer is to feed them. When people are homeless, we help. When the poor are being abused, we stand up with them. But when my car breaks down, I don’t wait for Jesus to come along and fix it – he’s not a mechanic. I don’t ask God to move the hurricane; I move. Science doesn’t disprove God; science is the way God set the universe up! Science shows us the rules by which God created. Gravity is a real thing, made by God to keep us from flying into the atmosphere. Pictures released this week from the James Webb Telescope are showing us images from 200 million years before the big bang. Science is estimating that the universe is between 13-18 billion years old. With a b. And the lunatic fringe? They think the telescope is a giant death laser. Seriously.

I believe in God, and that God made all the stuff these images are showing us. I also believe that science is the vehicle by which we can see God’s glory. I can hold two ideas in my brain at one time. And so can you. Share this with your fundamentalist friends; maybe it will change their minds. Or not. 

Prayer – We thank You, God of infinite possibilities, for the glory of the universe, the many galaxies, and the dinosaurs in the ground. Amen.

For a better explanation, ask my wife – she knows a lot of science stuff.

The Carina Nebula