Last week, the New York Times published an opinion piece by Karl W. Giberson and Randall J. Stephens — a physics professor and a history professor at Eastern Nazarene College — that takes evangelicals to task for being anti-intellectual, anti-reason, and anti-science. Their evidence:
Evangelicals doubt man-made global warming.
Evangelicals believe that gays can “pray away” their homosexuality.
Evangelicals believe the earth is only thousands of years old and that men lived alongside dinosaurs.
Evangelicals oppose same-sex marriage.
It is worth analyzing these charges, given how often they are made.
With regard to man-made global warming, the charge that all skeptics are anti-science is despicable and indeed, anti-science. The number of prominent scientists who dissent, including the scientist widely considered the dean of climate science in America, Richard Lindzen of MIT, is so long that there are entire websites that feature their names and credentials. You can find two of them here and here.
The authors of the Times op-ed piece, like virtually every other left-wing intellectual who comments on the subject, dismiss all skepticism regarding the Al Gore hypothesis that humanity is headed toward a worldwide apocalypse because of heat resulting from man-made carbon emissions. This is a reflection on these intellectuals’ politics, not on their commitment to science.
With regard to “praying away” homosexuality, if it is indeed the normative evangelical position that all homosexuals, with the right faith, can cease being sexually attracted to the same sex — that position is wrong. But to the best of my knowledge, that is not the normative evangelical position; Evangelicals no more believe that than they believe that prayer alone will end any undesired physical condition.
At the same time, the opposite position — the position of nearly the entire liberal intellectual world, that everyone’s sexual orientation is fixed — is also driven by ideology rather than by science. Society has a huge influence on how people act out their sexuality, including the sex with whom they choose to be sexual. Human sexuality — especially that of the human female — is far more elastic than the intellectual community admits. And the widespread liberal belief that, all things being equal, it makes no difference if a child is raised by a mother and father or by two fathers or two mothers is hardly rational. On the issue of homosexuality, the intellectual Left is just as driven by ideology as are evangelicals.
With regard to those evangelicals — and for that matter those ultra-orthodox Jews — who believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and either that there were no dinosaurs or that they lived alongside human beings, my reaction has always been: So what? I believe that the earth is many million years old, that “six days” is meant as six periods of time (the sun wasn’t even created until the Third Day, so how do you quantify a “day” before then?), and dinosaurs preexisted man by millions of years. But what real-life problem is caused by people who believe otherwise? Does it affect any of their important behaviors in life? Do they not take their children to doctors? Do they oppose medical research? Do they reject the discoveries of scientists that affect our lives? No. Not at all. Are there no evangelical or ultra-orthodox Jewish doctors? Of course there are, and apparently they are very comfortable learning and practicing science. Compared to the many irrational beliefs of secular-left intellectuals — good and evil exist even though there is no God, male and female are interchangeable, international institutions are the hope of mankind — evangelical irrational beliefs are utterly benign.