In all things, answer fear with love.
Just before Darwin’s birthday (February 12, also Lincoln’s birthday), enthusiastic science spokesperson Bill Nye publicly debated Ken Ham (Creation Museum founder) about the merits of science, particularly evolution.
It’s no surprise that Bill Nye won (as the NCSE explains). Nye exposed Ham’s flawed thinking and made clear Ham doesn’t represent most Christians.
What’s surprising is a side story that bloomed concurrently. At the debate, a Buzzfeed staff member photographed creationists with their handwritten questions for the ‘other side.’
The photos expose the very human face of creationism. Look again, without the questions.
These are real people with real questions. People with lives, smiles, brains… and curiosity.
I give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re actually interested in answers. Unfortunately, they’ve been handed mostly condescension via the internet.
But one blogger (Ethan Siegel, StartsWithABang) raised the standard by answering with kindness, sincerity, and science. (Read his stellar [*ahem*] response here. Thanks to TheBlaze for bringing Siegel to my attention.).
Maybe the photographees will never read the answers. But someone with those questions will. So I’m grateful for Siegel’s tone.
Please note: I’m not saying that people who make a career of undermining scientific progress don’t occasionally need a swift kick in the pants, or to be singed with searing, enlightening rebuttals. Sometimes what’s needed is a hailstorm of political-legal action, or a maelstrom of sharp-tongued truths. AronRa is a great example of the latter in his Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism, and the NCSE of the former. Neither of these tactics is my specialty, but I appreciate them.
I resonate with Siegel’s response because he honed in on the rawness, and perhaps without even knowing it, the fear underlying many of the questions. These people are not stupid; they’re ill-informed, and many fear their worldview is at stake. That’s a scary feeling.
If you want to reach people with truth, avoid:
- exacerbating fears and negative emotions. We need more bloggers, vloggers, educators, politicians, and peers to personally reach out with love and sound science. This requires preparation, and luckily there are resources for those in creationist crosshairs.
- mocking and alienating anyone who asks sincerely, who’s interested in truth, who might become an ally or at least gain understanding and common ground.
With just a little more intellectual freedom and caring guidance, the people who asked those questions could become science’s new advocates. Look again. Seen through a discerning lens, the folks who thought they were asking rhetorical, unanswerable questions are revealed to be probing the cutting edge of science. How can we describe physics “before” the big bang? How did life begin, and where do we draw the line between life and non-life? How about between humans and other hominids? These are questions with scientific merit. Let’s not shrug them off. Let’s share the answers.
Oh, and I love this person’s enthusiasm for nature (below).
The world is amazing. On that we agree.