Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Falling off a motorbike

I expect this will be my last post on the late William Provine. Here's an arresting clip:

In the video he says:

Oh, I was a Christian but I never heard anything about evolution because it was illegal to teach it in Tennessee.

All that changed when he studied biology at the Chicago U:

I read that book so carefully, I could find no sign of there being any sign of design whatsoever in evolution and I immediately began to doubt the existence of a deity. 

i) It's puzzling to hear him say he never heard of evolution when he was growing up. If, say, he was attending a "fundamentalist" church, then you'd expect him to hear about evolution, since opposition to evolution is a defining feature of fundamentalism. 

Perhaps he just means he wasn't exposed to the "science" of evolution in school. When he took high school biology, evolution was ignored. 

Still, that's not what he says. 

ii) It's striking that he doesn't say he lost his faith because evolution conflicted with Genesis, but because it conflicted with design.

iii) It's naive for him to suppose that a secular textbook would even consider design in evolution. 

iv) But now to my main point: he grew up in the South; I grew up in the North. He grew up in the 40s-50s, I grew up in the 60-70s.

I can't recall a time when I hadn't heard of evolution. That was taken for granted by the pop media and general culture when I was a kid. I can't remember I time when I wasn't aware of evolution. The idea of evolution was something I subconsciously picked up through cultural osmosis.  

Conversely, in the churches I attended as a kid, I don't recall the creation/evolution issue ever discussed. I don't recall a single sermon on Gen 1-2. (I'm not saying that's a good thing.)

At some point, on my own, I became cognizant of a potential conflict between the two. 

The point, though, is that evolutionary theory could never have the shock value for me that it had for Provine. It was never a thunderbolt that knocks your socks off. 

Growing up, I had a casual knowledge of evolution and a casual knowledge of Genesis. But it was only after I became I Christian that I was motivated to think deeply about either one. 

In a sense, that took a lot of the psychological friction out of the issue. Because Provine apparently had no warning, it was like riding a motorbike on a hot day without a shirt. If you have an accident, there's nothing between your bare skin and the pavement. You leave skin behind as you decelerate. 

But for me, there was that preparatory "space". Just by knowing ahead of time about evolution, before I became a Christian, the conflict didn't precipitate a crisis. Even though I didn't have great answers at the time, advance knowledge of the conflict protected me from the raw sudden impact in a way that Provine wasn't spared. 

For good or ill, our upbringing is so influential. It predisposes us to view issues in a certain way. 

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