Internet Monk: a comment from an evangelical vertebrate paleontologist
My previous post was about pastors responding to a question about evolution. One of the readers’ comments was from a Christian paleontologist.
Here’s the comment (emphasis added by me):
You guys rule — it was a joy to read through these answers from such different Christian traditions and find such humility and realism regarding a subject that is the source of so much wholly unwarranted conflict. This quote can maybe stand as representative: “I am a pastor and a theologian, not a biologist. As such, I could not debate the individual claims of natural science on the merits of each, because I lack the resources to do so.” If only every Christian had that kind of humility.
OK, cards on the table: I am an evangelical Christian who takes the bible seriously. I am a frequent worship leader at my church, and have been a frequent preacher in previous churches. I have in the past described myself as a “fundamentalist” — not a term I would ever use now, as it has connotation that it didn’t have 20 years ago, at least here in the UK, but it’s not so much that my beliefs have changed as that my understanding of that label has “shifted”. Anyway, that’s who I am.
And with my other hat on, I am a publishing palaeontologist, specialising in the sauropod dinosaurs. (My publications are available from the site linked above; my most recent paper is on the generic separation of the African dinosaur “Brachiosaurus” brancai and the American type species Brachiosaurus altithorax).
As you can imagine, I have Christian friends who think I am sell-out for working in the field of evolutionary biology, and scientist friends who think I am a deluded idiot to be Christian; but I am far from alone — off the top of my head I could name another half-dozen practicing Christians within dinosaur palaeontology alone. Why do we so rarely hear from them? For a very sad reason: because the atmosphere in vertebrate palaeontology towards Christianity is poisonous, thanks to the efforts of creationists on one side and Dawkinsites on the other. If I could get just one message to the world’s creationists, it would be this: please have the same humility as Joe Boysel, and recognise that your knowledge of the scripture does NOT entitle you to make pronouncements on science. No, not even if you’ve read a couple of Duane T. Gish paperbacks. Would you try to tell a lawyer his job after reading Honest Bob’s Big Book Of Law? No? Then please have the humility not to try to tell palaeontologists their job from a position of similar ignorance. All you’re achieving is poisoning the well for those of us who would otherwise be in a position to engage with atheists and agnostics in our science.
Sorry if that ended up sounding a bit ranty. Let me finish by returning to my main point, which was how nice it was NOT to hear that kind of uniformed dogmatism from the Gangstas. Thank you, guys.
Grace and Peace