On Science and a Bit of Faith

Earlier today I forwarded to family and some friends here in Louisiana, from whom I get the occasional e-mail of a conservative nature a piece on [Ars Technica](http://arstechnica.com) that [summarized a recent Pew Trust study](http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/07/public-trusts-scientists-not-their-conclusions.ars) of the difference between public belief in scientists and science in general and the divergence that occurs on particular topics. In response, my dad asked me if I considered myself to fit in any of the categories. I wasn’t quite sure of his question, and so I ended up writing this:

> Which categories? Scientist? Perhaps. I sort of work under the same rubric. (More on this in a moment.) Independent? Probably. I’m not a conservative (who apparently believe that the answer to everything is big churches and big business) nor a liberal (who believe the answer to everything is big government and big dreams).

> I’m not a scientist, per se, but I certainly operate from an evidence-based approach to investigating the world, which often puts me in conflict with some of my fellow humanists who wish to bend the world to their particular point of view. This is not as ideological, in terms of secular humanists or liberal ideologues as you might want to believe. Some of my fiercest arguments when I first got here were with Barry Ancelet who wanted to paint everything in south Louisiana as Cajun, when in fact large chunks of Cajun culture are clearly African. (The smaller chunks that were German or Italian had slowly come to be acknowledged as Cajun studies matured.) And now the African dimension of the story is slowly becoming part of the discussion, which makes things a lot more complex but also potentially a lot more confusing.

>In general, I don’t like it when anyone tries to boil down things to something simple just because thinking about complex stuff is hard. Some things are simple. Keep them simple. Some things are complex, let’s keep them complex. Evolution at the so-called micro level is demonstrably true and everyone in the U.S.A. knows at least one person saved by it. Evolution at the macro-level is also demonstrably born out by what we know of the archeological record. Science seeks to describe the world as we know based on things we can know. Sometimes those things are simple and obvious. Sometimes they are complex and take a long time to get a grip on.

> I do what I do for the long term good of my fellow travelers in this world. This is not the way to advance oneself quickly in a career, but I take, on faith, that my task is to be humble before creation and not to imagine myself better than it. There are moments when I feel God in my life, or at least think that I do, and I embrace them. Once upon a time I questioned what was true and what was simply a byproduct of being raised Christian. Now I don’t worry about it. I accept when I feel God’s grace and I don’t worry whether it’s simply psychological or is in fact a moment of transcendence. Some may believe this makes me a poor Christian, and they would probably be right. I don’t think that Jesus Christ was actually the son of God. Instead, I think he was, as the historical record would seem to indicate, a Sadducee who saw the potential for good in more people than traditional Judaism would allow and that he recognized the power of love. What he did and the things he said were profoundly true then and are still now. I think in the years that followed a number of people, for various and probably good reasons, needed to simplify the story to make it more easily told and Jesus was transformed over time to become something as powerful as his message. I no longer worry if such a point of view puts me at odds with others, because I find that I pay less and less attention to what people say — I’ve seen too many Godly men and women do unethical and/or immoral and sometimes evil things — and I pay more and more attention to what people do. I like hanging out with Gerard Olinger not because he is a faithful Catholic but because he is a profoundly good man. I like and respect you not because you are Christian but because you are a profoundly good man trying your best to do the right thing in a world where all too many others try to take shortcuts. I try to do the same myself.

>That is a long answer to your short question. You caught me a post-lunch contemplative moment.

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