Some Truth Is God’s Truth?

Why do self-identified conservatives have such a seemingly strong aversion to science?

It’s something of a provocative question, I’ll grant, but it sure seems to be the case. These days (though not always), political conservatives reject anthropogenic climate change, despite overwhelming evidence of its existence. They object to raising taxes, even to close a deficit they argue is alarmingly large and argue instead that tax cuts bring in revenue, again rejecting the overwhelming evidence (and historical precedent) that indicates otherwise. They propagate stereotypes about the long-term unemployed and the poor who rely on the government’s safety net that statistics indicate are simply untrue.

For religious conservatives, it’s a similar story, except the objection to science is even more strenuous. The rejection of evolution comes with institutes and studies and counterfactuals. Children in Christian schools tend not just to be taught the harmonized creation story of Genesis 1-3 as a literally historical account of the universe’s origins, but also are given arguments against evolution – usually reliant on incomplete, inaccurate or misunderstood information about what evolution actually is and argues for. Similarly, there is the rejection of history and the creation of an alternate reality in which America’s founders were all born-again Christians and the Constitution does not enshrine a separation between church and state.

I’m painting with a broad brush, so I should pause to say that I recognize not all conservatives are this way. Some conservatives identify as such for other reasons. Others hold to the label even though I’d consider them moderates or even liberals. And no person is so monolithic in thought that they can truly fit perfectly into such broad categories as “conservative” or “liberal.” One can be a conservative, in other words, and still believe in evolution, climate change and tax increases (though that last item is becoming increasingly hard to maintain these days).

But in the conservative circles I was raised, that sentence was untrue. Climate change was a hoax, evolution was the devil’s attempt to write God out of our public schools, atheistic historians had distorted and sublimated the history of our country to a secular-humanistic agenda, and government was an insidious, nefarious force that threatened liberty at every turn and enslaved its citizens in a cycle of dependence.

Part of my journey (descent?) into liberalism was based on the fact that science led me there. The evidence that climate change exists, that sometimes tax increases and expansion of social services are exactly what we need to become a better country, that evolution is a plausible and convincing theory for the world’s origins – this evidence led me away from the closed-loop mindset of many political and religious conservatives, who reinforce their own sets of “facts” by simply dismissing anyone outside their groups as biased, wrong or evil. (I’m looking at Fox News and A Beka Books here.)

One of the biggest assumptions with which I was raised was that homosexuality was a choice. Unnatural. An abomination. Gay activists promoted an agenda to dupe our children and win acceptance in society so they could destroy marriage and thus the moral center of our nation and ring in a new era of libertinism.

So when Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennslvania, reviews the current state of research (h/t Justin Lee) on sexual orientation and wonders why evangelical media haven’t reported any of it, my (somewhat snarky) response is: Why would they start now?

In fact, even as someone whose views on sexual orientation have changed quite a bit over the past 10 years, some of Throckmorton’s summaries of scientific findings come as news to me:

  • There is no evidence of correlation between having a gay partner and experiencing childhood abuse.
  • More than 80 percent of gay men and women reported experiencing no sexual abuse in their lives.
  • Men and women in mixed-orientation marriages do not experience a change in sexual identity.
  • There are “clear structural differences” found in the brain among those reporting different sexual orientations.

All truth is God’s truth, or so said Arthur F. Holmes. Further, science is nothing more than the study of what we can measure – that is to say the study of the world God has given us. As such, what science teaches us is nothing more than what God has revealed to us.

Of course, God reveals himself in many ways – through the Bible, through his Son, through the Holy Spirit. Sometimes these things seem contradictory, as when God’s revelation in nature appears to contradict his revelation in scripture. That’s the point at which we have a choice to make. We can simply reject out of hand one of the contradictory items, or we can look for ways in which we might have misunderstood the aims and message of what we are interpreting. God is perfect, after all, but we are not.

The Bible calls homoerotic behavior “unnatural” and “an abomination.” Science is disputing the first, which must lead us to question the second on the assumption that God considers his creation good, not abominable. In which case, we must resolve  these seemingly contradictory facets of God’s revelation. That requires a lot of work, and it might require a change in how we see God, read the Bible or understand our own lives.

Contradiction and complexity make for uncomfortable theology and disappointing politics. Far easier to ignore, reject or distort, rest assured in the knowledge that we are right, they are wrong, and we need not think anymore about it.

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