Science is the evangelicals' trophy wife?


(David Heddle) #1

I wrote a blog with this title which I won’t link unless asked, but the lead in the post is this:

Science is the Evangelical Trophy Wife

In many evangelical circles, science has become a trophy wife. Put her front and center, and show her beauty in, say, the form of Hubble nebulae photographs, with the requisite Psalm 19:1 caption, but do not ever let her speak, for she is likely to embarrass you. Her theological utility is only in the pleasant optics, not in the substance.

I am wondering what others think, if anything, about this charge? Fair, unfair, pointless?


(Stephen Matheson) #2

I think the metaphor is apt, but the image is just too demeaning to women, at least for me.


(David Heddle) #3

Hmm. Well, I’m not sure I understand. Beauty contests are demeaning to women, in my opinion. But comparing something to a beauty contest, or using beauty contests metaphorically, I’m not seeing how the “demeaning” aspect transfers. Trophy wives, unfortunately, exist, and the fact that they are demeaning is sort of a feature of the metaphor, not a bug. At least for me.


(Stephen Matheson) #4

Yeah, I know. It just made me cringe. YMMV.


(Laura) #5

If I’m understanding you correctly, the more pertinent aspect of the metaphor is that of a status symbol. I don’t particularly care for the term either, though I wouldn’t say it’s an unfair charge necessarily, except all evangelicals are different and using “science” as a status symbol is a common among all kinds of people, especially anyone who’s trying to sell you a dietary supplement.

“She is likely to embarrass you” – why? I guess this part of the metaphor doesn’t make sense to me because using science as a status symbol is usually an attempt to sound more well-read and knowledgeable than you really are – whereas objectifying a woman is not?


(David Heddle) #6

“She” is likely to embarrass you because when she opens her mouth she will talk about the fossil record, radiometric dating, the big bang, the cosmic background, accelerated expansion, etc. This is not what some evangelicals want to hear. But if you just sit there and show emission nebulae, no problem.


(Laura) #7

So in that sense, “she” is far more knowledgeable than “you” are. I guess since “trophy wife” is a demeaning term, that’s not really the image most people would have for it, but I could be wrong.


(Mitchell W McKain) #8

I think this is absurd.

Science has nothing to do with evangelicalism. And evangelicalism certainly has nothing to do with science. Frankly the evangelicals are the sector of Christianity which has been most stubbornly resistant to accepting the findings of science – though this is largely because of some hijacking by fundamentalists.

This forum is a sign that many evangelicals are turning away from the insanity of the fundamentalists and accepting the realities of science.

Yes. And it is even more insulting to science.


(David Heddle) #9

The point (that I guess doesn’t work-- my bad) is that the evangelical does not recognize or acknowledge that the trophy wife (science) as more knowledgeable, even though she is. The same could be true in the non metaphorical case.


(Laura) #10

So science is viewed as a superficial status symbol or treated as such, when that’s not what science is for at all. In that case I think the metaphor makes sense, though I still don’t care for the term.


(Laura) #11

I think that’s the whole point. Evangelicals only want to objectify science, rather than treating it as it’s supposed to be treated.


(David Heddle) #12

No it isn’t in any manner insulting to science. I can appreciate Elle’s concerns but your comment is off the mark. Many people on here comment about how they are criticized in their own evangelical circles because of their views on evolution. You even write “the evangelicals are the sector of Christianity which has been most stubbornly resistant to accepting the findings of science” which is in agreement with what I am saying.


EDIT: less “hot” language


(Stephen Matheson) #13

Oh, no, I disagree. The metaphor is clearly designed to show how evangelicals misuse science, the way a woman in that position is being misused. It’s not remotely insulting to science. My problem with the illustration is just that it’s raw and harsh, in an era when evangelicals have installed and empowered emblems of misogyny and misuse that are not metaphorical but concrete. I find that (speaking personally and only for myself) distracting and just not worth the cost.

To @heddle: I don’t mean to denounce your metaphor (or you). I just think it’s “too soon.”


(David Heddle) #14

No worries. I have great respect for this forum. If I missed the boat on this metaphor, I expect nothing less than to be told!


(Jay Johnson) #15

@heddle, I think the metaphor is apt, but like all metaphors, it has its limits. Everyone is looking at it from the angle of the Trophy Wife, but that’s where the metaphor breaks down. If you look at it from the husband’s angle, it makes more sense. The evangelical (husband) has divorced his first wife (YEC) in order to marry science (a younger, more attractive woman). All of his old friends at church cast sideways glances at the couple and think, “Ah, what a fool! He just married her out of his own pride and vanity, to show off how rich (smart) he is!” And, when anyone tries to get to know her, she doesn’t even speak English! Nothing but facts and formulas come out of her mouth – a completely foreign language!

Framed this way, I have no problem with the metaphor. It’s not about the woman. It’s about the husband and how others react to his new bride.


(Phil) #16

I appreciate your attitude regarding the reception of your metaphor, which though apt, is cringeworthy. It is interesting how we see things in light of current culture. Given the recent news of sexual abuse through the years by clergy in protestant churches and the poor handling by the SBC, I think we are extra sensitive to those issues as we should be. Maybe science is really just the red-headed step child, though perhaps that is offensive to step children, women and the Irish, all at once.
Your point of science being embraced as long as it illustrates your point is a good one however.


(David Heddle) #17

Ha! So I completely blew it!

It was supposed to be more like this. The YEC evangelical (the husband) has no respect for science, but will use science only to the extent that it presents pretty pictures than can be captioned by Ps. 19:1. He has no interest in what his “wife” has to offer of substance.

There was no divorce in view.

Clearly I need to stick to writing about physics! I should have known, given my worst-selling-novel experience. (I am tempted to by a $0.99 copy of my novel, but I suspect it will make a round-trip from my house, i.e. my wife is selling off my copies.)


Edit: TYPO


(Randy) #18

Thanks. I think your metaphor made me think. Here are some other metaphors that your example prompted in my mind–not because they are the same, but because carrying them illustrated to me our faults:

  1. The American flag–only, while all wrap themselves in it, we like it till we remember that history of slavery and crushing Indian independence, etc (this would be a relatively undesirable icon)
  2. Christ Himself–we like certain aspects, but forget his submission, nonviolence, and liberal views, especially if we are “far righters” (one of my best friends in med school reminded me that Christ was like him–a Marxist).

(Jay Johnson) #19

No, I have an overactive imagination. haha

Edit: In my formulation, perhaps a “mail-order bride” would’ve made more sense, anyway. “Nothing but facts and formulas come out of her mouth – a completely foreign language!”


(Mitchell W McKain) #20

Is heddle suggesting that evangicals are taking something like the medieval attitude that theology is the queen of the sciences and therefore the natural sciences are in a subservient position?

That sounds like a description of the creationists and as an evangelical I would be insulted by the implication that evangelicals are in the same category even if statistically this is the sector of Christianity which has been most resistant to accepting evolution.

The original inspiration of the evangelical movement is still good and is well worth rescuing from this fundamentalist anti-rational anti-science element which has hijacked it.