Science

How I Answered Science Questions When I was a Baptist Pastor

intelligent design

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is…I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, the world I was a part of was insulated from secular science. I rarely had someone ask me a science question and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately, literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it.
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

We had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in many Evangelical circles. I have no doubt that if I was still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum so they could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored  were insulated from the world. Many of the children were home schooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially a wicked secular college. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

rod and staff science book

Rod and Staff Publishers 8th Grade Science Book

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five of those years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks, books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher.  My wife and I also home schooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our younger children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

The few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says…

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says…

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands of churches and pastors who hold similar views. We are one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific fact. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

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Frozen Embryos: If Life Begins at Conception

3 day old human embyro

Three Day Old Human Embryo. Why He Looks Just Like his Father.

According to anti-abortionists life begins at conception. At the very moment the sperm and egg unite, a new life is created. Anti-abortionists are intractable when it comes to their position. Life begins at conception…end of debate.

Let me tell you a story……

This story takes place at the We Make Life Possible Fertility Clinic.

Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl through in vitro fertilization. Her baby girl is one month old . Sue stopped by the Fertility Clinic to show off her newborn to the Clinic staff.

While Sue was at the clinic, a huge explosion rocked the place and the clinic was engulfed in flames. Later speculation on World Net Daily, suggested a supporter of Barack Obama was behind the attack.

John, named after John the Baptist, a pro-life activist, happened to be passing by the clinic when the explosion took place. John went running into the clinic hoping to perhaps save someone from the fire.

John had been to the We Make Possible Life Fertility Clinic before. His wife Patience had problems conceiving, and not wanting to wait on God to open her womb, John and Patience went to Clinic. While the treatment was successful, Patience miscarried a few months into the pregnancy.

John knew the Clinic stored hundreds of fertilized eggs (embryos) in a freezer. As he rushed into the Clinic, John saw Sue huddled in a corner with her newborn daughter trying to get away from the fire. John thought, “Surely I should save these two.”

John thought for a moment, asking himself What Would Jesus Do? Suddenly, he realized the fire was going to destroy all the frozen embryos. John told Sue and her baby Sorry, maybe Jesus will come rescue you, and he rushed to the freezer where the frozen embryos were stored. Through John’s heroic effort, hundreds of frozen embryos were saved. Sadly, Sue and her newborn daughter were burnt to death.

Who among us would fault John? After all, he acted according to the greater good. Who wouldn’t save two hundred lives at the expense of two lives?

The above story follows the logic of the life-begins-at-conception viewpoint to its illogical conclusion.  There is no difference between two hundred embryos and Sue and her baby. Life is life. It makes perfect sense for John to save the frozen embryos and not Sue and her little one. Surely John would be praised for saving the two hundred embryos, right? If the clinic is unable to reopen, perhaps the frozen embryos can be put up for adoption. After all EVERY embryo is a life.

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The Charles Darwin Day Resolution

 

darwin day

The American Humanist Association reports:

Today United States Representative Jim Himes (CT-4) introduced U.S. House Resolution 67, also known as the Darwin Day Resolution, which would recognize Charles Darwin’s birthday, February 12, as a national day to celebrate science, education and humanity.

“Charles Darwin’s discoveries gave humankind a new, revolutionary way of thinking about the natural world and our place in it. His insatiable quest for knowledge and decades of meticulous observation and analysis opened new pathways for advancements in biology, medicine, genetics and ecology,” said Rep. Himes. “Without Darwin’s contributions to science, philosophy and reason, our understanding of the world’s complexity and grandeur would be significantly diminished.”

This is the fourth year that the Darwin Day Resolution has been introduced. For the past two years, it was introduced by former U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) and was also introduced by former U.S. Rep. Pete Stark (CA-13) in 2011.

The American Humanist Association worked closely with Rep. Himes, his staff and other members of Congress to introduce this resolution. The resolution is co-sponsored by Representatives Matthew Alton Cartwright (PA-17), Stephen Cohen (TN-09), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Mike Honda (CA-17), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan S. Lowenthal (CA-47), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Adam Smith (WA-09), and Jackie Speier (CA-14).

“With climate change deniers and others with anti-science views threatening our planet, there is an urgent need for our politicians to openly voice their support for scientists and science education,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We are grateful to Rep. Himes and the resolution’s co-sponsors for their recognition of Charles Darwin’s contributions to science and humanity.”

HOUSE RESOLUTION 67

Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2015, as ‘‘Darwin Day’’ and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FEBRUARY 2, 2015

Mr. HIMES (for himself, Mr. SCHIFF, Mr. POCAN, Ms. DELAURO, Ms.SLAUGHTER, Mr. HONDA, Mr. COHEN, Mr. FOSTER, Ms. LOFGREN, Ms.NORTON, Mr. CARTWRIGHT, and Mr. SMITH of Washington) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

RESOLUTION

Expressing support for designation of February 12, 2015, as ‘‘Darwin Day’’ and recognizing the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.

Whereas Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by the mechanism of natural selection, together with the monumental amount of scientific evidence he compiled to support it, provides humanity with a logical and intellectually compelling explanation for the diversity of life on Earth;

Whereas the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is further strongly supported by the modern understanding of the science of genetics;

Whereas it has been the human curiosity and ingenuity exemplified by Darwin that has promoted new scientific discoveries that have helped humanity solve many problems and improve living conditions;

Whereas the advancement of science must be protected from those unconcerned with the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change;

Whereas the teaching of creationism in some public schools compromises the scientific and academic integrity of the United States education systems;

Whereas Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol of scientific advancement on which to focus and around which to build a global celebration of science and humanity intended to promote a common bond among all of Earth’s peoples;

and

Whereas February 12, 2015, is the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin in 1809 and would be an appropriate date to designate as ‘‘Darwin Day’’: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) supports the designation of ‘‘Darwin Day’’;
(2) recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.

While this resolution stands no chance of passing, it is encouraging to know that there are Representatives that have a good understanding of the natural world and the importance of science.

See International Darwin Day website for more information.

Questions about HB 597

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.  Published September 7, 2014.

Dear Editor:

Almost a hundred years after the Scopes Trial, Christian fundamentalists continue to demand creationism be taught in public school classrooms. Whether through young earth or old earth creationism or their gussied up sister intelligent design, fundamentalists want to teach theology in place of sound science. Publicly, they appeal to the American sense of fairness. Teach the controversy, they say with fingers crossed behind their back. Except there is no controversy. Court after court has ruled that creationism has no place in the public school classroom.

Yet, despite almost a century of litigation and scientific advancement, fundamentalists in Ohio are attempting once again to have their peculiar theology taught as a valid scientific theory. On July 29, Ohio Republican representatives Andy Thompson and Matt Huffman introduced House Bill 597 (HB 597) that would subtly pave the way for creationism to be taught in the science classroom.

HB 597 states “The standards in science shall be based in core existing disciplines of biology, chemistry, and physics; incorporate grade-level mathematics and be referenced to the mathematics standards; focus on academic and scientific knowledge rather than scientific processes; and prohibit political or religious interpretation of scientific facts in favor of another,”

While the defenders of God and creationism will quickly point out that the bill does not mention creationism, its language opens the door for teaching the non-controversy “controversy”. Representative Thompson’s recent statement concerning the bill leaves little doubt about the objective of his bill. Thompson stated, “I think it would be good for [students] to consider the perspectives of people of faith. That’s legitimate.”

If Thompson is speaking about a high school philosophy or world religion class I would agree with him. I have long supported high school students being required to take a class in philosophy and world religion. In a world religion class students could learn about the various creation myths and how best to interpret and understand them.

However, fundamentalists don’t want their beliefs reduced to a chapter in a world religion textbook. They don’t want just a seat at the table; they want to be the only seat at the table. Their belief system demands certainty, exclusion, and fidelity. In their worldview, there is no place for open, honest discussion about religion and creationism. In their mind, there is one true creation story and that story is found in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3.

Creationists want students taught that Genesis 1-3 is the Christian God’s blueprint for the creation of everything. The universe is 6,000 years old, and according to creationist hero James Ussher, the earth was created the evening before Oct. 23, 4004 B.C. Everything that biology, archeology, astronomy, and geology tells us about the universe contradicts the creationist story. If we want our children and grandchildren taught sound science then we must make sure that creationists are not permitted to sneak their theology into the classroom. Theology belongs in the church and home, not the public school classroom.

Let’s hope reason and science rescues Ohio students from HB 597.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney

 

God and Global Warming

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. Published May 28, 2014.

Dear Editor:

A recent letter to the editor stated that the main reason for global climate change and the escalation of global temperatures is that this is how the Christian God wants things to be. The letter writer is not concerned one bit about climate change because God is on the job. We can collectively take a big sigh of relief knowing that the Christian God is in complete charge of the weather.

I wonder if people who make an argument like this understand the implications of their argument. If God is in control of everything, if he is the first cause, if he is the sovereign ruler of all, if there is nothing that we can do to stop the Christian God from doing his thing, then God must then bear the responsibility for everything that goes on in the world.

Katrina, Sandy, every hurricane, every typhoon, every mudslide, every forest fire, every natural disaster, must be laid at the feet of this micromanaging God. Since God is perfectly working out his will in the affairs of the human race, he then is accountable for war, starvation, disease, and death. If God is as the letter writer says he is, then God is culpable for everything that happens.

Of course, most fundamentalist Christians will object to what I have written here. They will say that humans have free will and that the bad things that happen are the result of humans exercising their free will. Wait a minute, I thought God was in charge of everything? Isn’t it God that gave humans free will? There is no way for God to avoid culpability since all power, authority, and control, rests with him.

This kind of fatalism is of no consequence if it is kept in the church house. If someone wants to believe that there is some sort of divine puppet master controlling their life, I couldn’t care less. But, when this kind of thinking bleeds into public policy, the result can be catastrophic.

The world doesn’t have the luxury or the time to just sit back and let God do his thing. Global climate change, along with ever-increasing global temperatures, is the greatest threat we face today. Doing nothing is not an option. As temperatures and seas rise, costs are sure to soar as global climate change disrupts growing seasons and forces the mass relocation of millions of people. As competition for earth’s dwindling, finite resources increases, affluent nations will turn to war to maintain their standard of living.

Our best days may be behind us and thinking that God is going to deliver us or is working out his plan only makes things worse. Why? Because it breeds inaction. Why worry about global warming? The rapture is just around the corner. Most global climate change deniers are also right-wingers religiously and politically. What is it in right-wing ideology that keeps people from seeing the world as it is? Answering this question would take more words than the Crescent-News allows.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney