Has the Faith/ Science debate really shifted?

A recent article in Christianity today discussed how the end of Young Sheldon also reflected a change in the Faith/ Science debate, and the previous tone and substance of the discussion has changed. I have mixed thoughts on the subject. While I think we have made progress, it still seems contentious and divisive. However, with Dawkins calling himself a “cultural Christian” and a lessening of the rhetoric in part, perhaps it is true. Society itself seems more divided however, and perhaps church culture has moved the tribal markers from science to politics, sexuality, race, and environmental issues, crowding such things as evolution out. What are your thoughts?


I haven’t really watched either show (OG or Young), so I’m just going off the great article you linked.

From what I am seeing, it isn’t so much that the Faith/Science debate has shifted. I think it is more about priorities, which is reflected in the article. Is the Faith/Science debate worth ruining relationships over? Absolutely not.

On a personal note, my mother asked me if I would go to church with her on Mother’s Day a few years ago (I’m an atheist, for those who may not know). I immediately said yes, without hesitation. When your mother asks you to go to church on Mother’s Day you say yes. Period. No questions asked. I was proud that she would ask me, and I sensed that she was proud of me for going. That’s how families work, and should work, IMHO.


I haven’t seen the show either, but the portrayal in the article makes me think of Edith and Frank Shaeffer – or at least what little I’ve read about them. Even though Frank is an atheist after being raised in a Christian home, he has expressed respect for his mother and seems to retain at least a cultural sentimentality about some aspects of faith.

Hearing that someone like Dawkins enjoys hymns was a surprise to me, probably just because of all the years I spent in environments that viewed him as public enemy #1. But it makes sense. It also makes me think about how negatively “cultural Christians” can be viewed in some evangelical circles, while they may not realize just how much the cultural entrenchment of Christianity in the US is owed to more middle-of-the-road, “cultural” Christians rather than those on the fringes.


There are faint signals about a change in the attitudes especially among young people, teenagers and young adults. Perhaps these signs point towards a more general change. As you comment, the society seems to be more divided. Even at the global level, there seems to be a growing polarisation within societies, which is a worrying development. Whatever is changing may be restricted to one or few groups in the society. In other groups, the direction of change may be the opposite.

There seems to be opposite development among
young men vs. young woman;
those stressing the need to act to reduce climate change and loss of biodiversity vs. those that prioritize the short-term needs of local and national economy;
political groups of the ‘right wing’ (both traditional right-wing and populist parties) vs. political groups that stress more humane treatment of the poor, immigrants, nature;
those valuing scientific findings vs. those relying more on other sources of information and knowledge;
urbanized young people vs. rural young people; etc.

What happens at the level of societies is something that only time will show us. An increase of nationalistic and protectionistic tendencies (harder attitudes towards the ‘others’) seem inevitable as the number of potential immigrants increases but this does not necessarily predict the future of the Faith/Science debate. Things could go to a very bad direction, with increasing violence, or change towards better after some turbulences.

  • I’m still trying to figure out what the heck “a cultural Christian” is. I suspect Marjorie Taylor Green would qualify herself as one, since she affirms that she is a Christian Nationalist.
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News to me. From my online experience I assume most angry atheists are former believers from highly restricted, fundamentalist denominations. What they have to say online often centers on science but it is rarely from a truly informed science POV. It just seems like a way to disparage what they left and assume to be true about where they’ve . Low fruit with little substance.


In my eyes, it is a recognition that we have cultural biases that are a product of the dominant religion within that culture. For example, cultural Christians may have a knee jerk reaction to the concept of polygamy, but such practices are common in some Muslim countries. We all celebrate Christmas, even us non-believers (and also joke about “Festivus for the rest of us”). I’m sure there are issues Dawkins would have a different opinion on if he grew up in a predominately Hindu country.


It may have changed from the science end but I am less convinced about the Biblical Christian end. I was given a book written by one of our clerics who came over from the states and one of his sections was specifically anti evolution as being a force for the devil. I think that the church as a whole is probably more sympathetic but I guess there will always be the extreme fringe., as in all groups


Unfortunately, it appears to me that the church is still moving retrograde in respect to science. In the church of my youth, it was quite acceptable to hold that the earth was ancient, and that dinosaurs never co-existed with humans, so long as macro evolution was rejected. Now, there is no denying the grassroots sway that YEC has in the evangelical church, and acrimony which has coalesced around a range of social-economic issues with scientific inputs.


It would seem that Macro Evolution is no longer a thing. Evolution is single cell to Humanity, Wherever you go animals are defined by their evolutionary heritage. As with YEC, it would seem to be all or nothing. All this DNA stuff is only to prove common ancestry…


Scientists see it as “All this DNA stuff is only to understand the history of life”. It could have turned out very differently if we found multiple domains of life that used different genetic systems, as one example. Even Darwin left the question open:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”–Charles Darwin, “Origin of Species” [emphasis mine]

Personally, I think it would be pretty amazing if there were multiple starting points for the ancestry of all living species, if humans weren’t related to all other life on Earth. From what I can see, there is no philosophical or ideological need within science for universal common ancestry. It just so happens that this is where the evidence led.

It is also worth noting that multiple origins of life is still on the table. There are many working hypotheses about different starting points for life that coalesced into a single population that eventually gave rise to LUCA (last universal common ancestor).

Like many disagreements in life, there are times where one side may not fully understand where the other side is coming from, or how they got there. I think this is the case in many disagreements about universal common ancestry.


But… why, if one system works would you use any more?

Put it this way, from an incredulous angle

Not only is the make up of each creature the result of a cosmic fluke, so is the language itself… The whole DNA structure beggars belief as something that could just appear out of nowhere. Of course there is similarity! There is one basic system of construction. It proves nothing!. It’s like comparing languages that have the same letters in them. Welsh written is a reverse, they made it up from phonics and it breaks virtually every rule of vocabulary. Because they all use the same letters do they come from a common source? Frankly, I do not care about the mathematical formulae. People looked for and found a code in the bible that does not exist.
Common ancestry is trying to prove something that the processes of Evolution cannot achieve. It is not just about similarities it is about the differences as well.


There are plenty of other threads where we all argue about this subject, but I don’t think it is appropriate for this thread. @jpm has started a great conversation about the debate itself and how people see each other with respect to the debate. The reason I responded to your post about common descent was to let you know that it isn’t a dogma within science. In fact, if someone discovered evidence for a separate line of ancestry it would be one of the biggest finds of the century, and probably win the discoverer a Nobel. If I made the discovery I wouldn’t be able to sleep due to the excitement of presenting the evidence.

I understand that you disagree with how science has interpreted the evidence, but I think you should also understand that scientists didn’t decide ahead of time that universal common ancestry was true. If there is a debate between Faith and Science, then we should at least understand where each of us are coming from.


I’ve have also never seen the show. I’ve seen a. Few episodes of the one with the blonde chick in it they befriend m. 2-5 episodes. But that was years ago and ever seen anymore since then.

I think the general concept has shifted as far as every year more Christians are open to evolution. I think young earth evolution is not as common. But that the debate has shifted more to old earth and evolutionary creationism. Even here many believe that God somehow guided evolution. But there is not really any more of a scientific argument for that than forming earth creationism. It’s just more socially accepted and it’s less ignorant of science. But it’s not any more scientific really and relies on theology all the same .

Out of the loop so I had to look up Dawkin’s comments.

dawkins comments

The Oxford biologist and author of The God Delusion, expressed concern after seeing Islamic Ramadan lights on a street that once featured Easter lights.

“I call myself a cultural Christian. I’m not a believer, but there’s a distinction between being a believing Christian and being a cultural Christian. … I love hymns and Christmas carols, and I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos. … We [in the U.K.] are a “Christian country” in that sense. “

Dawkins then told Johnson that he’s “horrified” to see Islamic holidays and mosques taking the place of Christian feasts and cathedrals in Europe.

If I had to choose between Christianity and Islam, I’d choose Christianity every single time. It seems to me to be a fundamentally decent religion in a way that I think Islam is not.


Based on his comments, someone with an anti-Muslim bias?

That’s a good way to describe it… in some Christian circles it becomes kind of an insult against anyone who is deemed less fervent than the one making the judgment, but it’s a lot broader than that.

I would tend to agree with this, as well as with the idea that we are getting more polarized, or maybe it just appears that way since the loudest voices are often the most extreme. I like to hope that’s how it is with YEC, but many who don’t subscribe to it are probably feeling less and less comfortable with admitting that in an evangelical church.

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As humans, we have a need to belong to some group. As Christians, we have a need to belong to a church or comparable group we can call ‘us’. There is also an underlying hope of mutual love and harmony in the church where we belong. These needs and hopes make us avoid behaviors that set us apart from our reference group. If there are loud voices telling that ‘you must … to be a good follower of Jesus’, standing against such voices is demanding because that may cause transgressive disagreements and set us outside of the accepted reference group. That could mean social pressure to ‘repent’ from our opinions.

It is easier to just be a lamb and follow the leader. What we may not note is that we do not necessarily follow Jesus if we just follow the leader of our group like a lamb.

It is an alarming signal if there is hard social pressure against those who tell their disagreeing interpretations. It speaks about a poisonous atmosphere in the community, with underlying unhealthy (sick) features in the church, congregation or society.

building and maintaining a healthy atmosphere in a community (church) demands active work and sometimes standing against the loudest voices or leaders. I liked the ideas in a book with the title ’ A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing’. The aim of the book was against abuses of power, sexual abuses and spiritual abuses but the same rules should work against oppressive voices in the Faith/Science debate.


I wonder how he’d react to the fact that studying evolution has brought people to God.