What started out as a publicity stunt to attract tourists to their small Tennessee town quickly became a frenzied, historical showdown. A local group agreed to prosecute John Scopes, a high school science teacher who acknowledged that he taught evolution, and he was convinced to agree to the plan.
Word spread quickly and, smelling the chance to be part of something significant, two famous lawyers of the time swooped in: well known fundamentalist politician William Jennings Bryan volunteered to prosecute and Clarence Darrow, an equally well known defence lawyer and agnostic, volunteered to defend the teacher.
And so the now infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 became an example of the blind opposition some people have to science – religious types often in the lead. I say that because at one point in the trial Darrow called Bryan as a witness and grilled him for an hour on his understanding of how the biblical story worked (transcript here). Bryan’s answers were muddled and simplistic and he finally settled on a, I believe it because I believe it kind of answer.
In spite of that exchange, the prosecution predictably won the trial and Scopes was fined one hundred dollars. A few days later Bryan died in his sleep. Science continued to be science and fundamentalism had begun to lose its way.
The only kind of science I liked growing up was science fiction but unfortunately Star Trek was more entertainment than biology or chemistry. I took both of those in high school and hated them as much as I hate dumplings (quite a lot). On the other hand, I liked grade 9 general science. (I forget the teacher’s name but I’m hoping to think of it before the end of the blog.)
Anyway, the teacher was tall, middle aged, slightly balding, and dressed perpetually in dark framed glasses, short-sleeved white shirt, and armed with a pen in the breast pocket. He was nice, considering he was a science teacher, and he made the subject quite interesting. (Still no name.) Ironically I discovered a few years later that he was actually a christian who attended the local Alliance church. And I remember thinking, How cool is that? A teacher who believes in both science and the Bible!
dumb and dumber
Covid-19 has brought an ugly subject close to the surface: science versus everything else. You hear it inferred in soundbites all the time. Democrats (Liberals) believe we should follow science and listen to the scientists. Republicans (Conservatives) believe we should prioritize the economy and listen to business. And of course there are the religious ones who suggest that, while science and economics are fine, the important thing is that we have sinned and need to pray for help.
Problem is, they never seem to have much interest in each other. In many of these situations I have seen entire interviews go by where science is repeatedly mentioned as the answer; in others it is barely acknowledged and treated as an inconvenience.
I don’t think I’ve heard anybody say anything like, Let’s give science all the tools it needs, then open the economy carefully, and pray that God will give us wisdom and guidance. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
But incredibly, even in the 21st century, science is being asked to sit on the sidelines while men in suits do the important work of civilization. These are the same men who benefit from the science of blood pressure medication and incognito browsing while at the same time denying climate change. In their view of things, conspiracy theorists who concoct random ideas are more reliable than scientists whose lives are dedicated to learning objective truth.
Anti-science shows up all over the social food chain: armed buffoons gathering at state and provincial sites to protest the shutdown because they don’t like it and churches all over the continent desperate to resume gathering because they are covered by the blood of Jesus. Why even a theoretical Spaceforce has been given a large chunk of the federal budget because it’s allegedly the future of war, while desperately needed healthcare spending right now is deemed too pricey.
There was a ruling a couple of days ago by the Wisconsin Supreme Court which struck down the state’s attempt to restrict people from congregating. The plaintiffs felt that the pandemic was being overstated by the medical experts so they sued for the right to move freely without face masks. In other words they are willing to contract the virus and spread it to others who don’t want it. Why? Because personal freedom is their god and science is an inconvenient side-dish.
Speaking of gods, President Trump, who depends exclusively on evangelicals to get re-elected, declared awhile ago that Sunday, March 15 was to be a national day of prayer against Covid-19. Guess what? The virus began to climb almost immediately after the country prayed and has continued to escalate wildly since then.
Not to be outdone, wealthiest faith healer Kenneth Copeland tried to eradicate Covid when he literally (and crazily) blew the ‘wind of God’ out of his own mouth and into the world (and immediately fell on the camera crew). Then just a few days ago, fairly wealthy pastor Paula White declared, ‘…no more delays to the deliverance of Covid-19. No more delays to healing and vaccination.’
There seems to have been a delay. We’re all still waiting. Maybe God uses the same poor internet provider Cheryl and I have.
let it be
Galileo and Newton are examples of early scientists whose intentions were to glorify God through their discoveries – with varying acceptance from the church. Darwin has been belittled for decades by conservative christians, yet he accepted the beauty and mystery of a ‘God of Nature’ and ‘First Cause’. Today, Francis Collins of the original Human Genome Project, is the most well known of a long list of outspoken, faithful christians not willing to separate faith and science anymore.
For many christians, it feels like there has been a struggle between science and religion and there are too many people whose faith has been lost because what they learned in church couldn’t match what they learned in university. And it just doesn’t have to be.
I honestly can’t figure out why but I suspect it’s because we have made a book into a god. Many evangelicals in particular are convinced that the Bible is somehow a religious book, history book, and science book all rolled into one but that’s not how it is written.
The Bible is the story of God’s relationship with people and the coming and work of Jesus. Science is our exploration of the handiwork of God which satisfies the natural curiosity he gave us. I can’t find out who, but I recall someone writing that God reveals himself through the book of his Word (Jesus) and the book of his works (creation).
Science doesn’t threaten God or the Bible, it only threatens a privatized version of it. In fact, science enhances the wisdom of the Bible and glorifies the God of all things. They naturally compliment each other if we choose to let them.
Religion isn’t science but it’s not not science.
As for the Covid prayers and prophecies that have already been offered, I’m guessing they might be answered closer to 2021 or 2022, depending on how the science goes.
Oh, and I thought of it: pretty sure his name was Mr. Green.
Psalm 19 (NIV)
So let’s practice combining observation and praise:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.