Science is the evangelicals' trophy wife?

(Randy) #21

I think he meant not evangelical so much as fundamentalist, cultural Christian–one for all the wrong reasons.

If I understand it correctly, his point is that we can all get stuck in a rut and use anything we like as a tool–but if it’s for our own desires, we ignore the details that contradict ours. Sort of like picking and choosing. Weren’t all the Communist Bloc countries named “such-and-such People’s Democratic Republics” at one time?

I know I liked to read my own YEC books at one time and use the science that “tickled my ears.”

But this can always lead us to learning the truth. For example, many of us on this forum (including me) found science to be a strict master. S(he) didn’t let me use just the parts I wanted. I had to be consistent–and in doing so, my own understanding of the world evolved till I realized the truth about older earth and evolution.


PS–you would probably know more than I about this, but the picking and choosing isn’t just limited to Christianity–Scientology; Islam (Bucaillism; other branches with even weirder things like numerology) are interesting forays into other discussions.

(Steve Schaffner) #22

My conclusion based on reaction here: accurate or not, it doesn’t work as a metaphor because readers get so caught up with the image’s possible meanings, connotations, implications, and current role in real-world events that it distracts from what you were trying to convey. Metaphors are generally meant to illuminate a thought, not trigger a tangent.

(Mitchell W McKain) #23

Ah! This is probably a case where my different origins is making it more difficult for me to understand.

(To remind people. I wasn’t raised theist, let alone Christian or evangelical. So I started with science as my a-priori filter in reading the Bible and listening to evangelical teachings.)

Sure, I am well aware of this and have encountered it in many religious groups (Islam definitely) and yes in other subjective ways of thinking like in alternative medicine. My familiarity with this in a diversity of groups is probably another reason I found the mention of evangelicalism in the OP a little confusing.

(David Heddle) #24

True dat. Any metaphor (or joke) that requires a defense or explanation is by definition an EPIC FAIL.

(Randy) #25

Thank you for the inducement to think.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #26

Maybe its just me as a fellow physicist but I think the analogy is very fitting. The fact that the concept of a trophy wife is morally repugnant is how I also feel about how many evangelicals use science.

(Mitchell W McKain) #27

But… which evangelicals would those be?

(Randy) #28

(erased because I only wrote useless meandering :slight_smile: )

(Christy Hemphill) #29

For the record, I love your metaphor.

(Christy Hemphill) #30

I’m not seeing it. Maybe it would work better if she wasn’t a wife, just a hot date for an evening.

Incidentally, my desk is a pile of cognitive linguistic books at the moment and I’ve been reading up on metaphor and human cognition for the last couple months. When you have an extended conceptual metaphor like this one (in other words, it’s a metaphor presented to help a person understand and reason about a more abstract concept by using a more familiar one from daily life), not all aspects of the “source domain” are conceptually mapped onto the “target domain,” just the elements that are pertinent to the metaphor.

So in this case for the metaphor to work as David is describing, what is mapped would be the attitudes and behavior of the man, onto Evangelicals who dabble in science when it is convenient. You would not map the attitudes and behavior of the woman onto science, because that is not what is put in view. (That maybe could be degrading to women or science, but if that’s what you are doing, it’s mapping the metaphor in an unintended way.)

Just mapping the man onto Evangelicals who co-opt aspects of science is a very effective metaphor. They have a tight knit club of similar-minded fellows with an agreed on code of behavior. You can bring science around when her beauty can impress the club within the club’s established rules, but she needs to keep her mouth shut lest she reveal something about her own worldview and background that makes the group uncomfortable. Some of the club may be uncomfortable with her presence at all. The relationship with her is not one of equals. She doesn’t have the right to challenge the man’s decisions or outlook on life. He is not committed to her for the long haul, she could be thrown to the side and replaced with some other idea that strikes him as more beautiful in the future. It’s not the whole package he’s interested in, her history, her accomplishments, her future potential; it’s optics and the degree to which he can cash out those optics for points with the people whose opinion he cares most about. The group might be impressed in some ways that he can get access to the world she represents, no matter how manufactured and superficial the relationship may be. The group may hold him up to outsiders and say, “You think we are all a bunch of social outcasts who can’t get a beautiful woman like her to give us a second glance, but look, So-And-So brought Science to the annual banquet. We’re legit.”

(Stephen Matheson) #31

I think you are saying “not seeing it” about my comment (about me, personally) that I found the illustration demeaning and cringeworthy. The rest of your comments unpack the metaphor and show what I thought immediately too: that it’s “very effective.” And it is.

I was just calling “too soon” with no expectation that others would (or should) agree. For me, FWIW, I would have done something like this: “evangelicals frequently treat science the way an old leering super-rich guy treats the woman he sees as his trophy wife.” It still contains that troubling illustration, but gets the attention off of her and casts her accurately as a person who has been commodified.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #32

Nearly all of them. Let’s start with some that are a bit more scientific:

Reasons to Believe:
This is an organization that regularly proclaims all scientific studies continue to affirm their particular creation model (as every apologetics organization claims while cherry picking studies). This is a particiarly striking example where the trophy wife is brought out but not allowed to speak (i.e. the trophy wife- the actual scientific paper does not even say anything like what the evangelical proclaims) where Ross says:

“The first of these theorems, in fact I’ve got the theorem right here… The singularities of gravitational collapse and cosmology by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. And if you go to the last couple of paragraphs it says that ‘if mass exists and general relativity reliably predict cosmic dynamics, then space and time must be created by a Causal Agent who transcends space and time.’”

Here is a link to the paper:

Perhaps one could point out where the paper actually says this… because it doesn’t.

Another example is when Ross reads a more recent paper by Borde, Guth and Vilenkin as seen here where Ross says:

‘It does end with a conclusion we can all understand which is the following: any universe that expands on average throughout its history has a spacetime beginning and implies a causal agent outside space and time who creates space, time, matter and energy.’

Here is a link to the second paper:

Remarkably enough, this paper too doesn’t say this at all. In fact the authors actually ask what can lie at this boundary and propose:

What can lie beyond this boundary? Several possibilities have been discussed, one being that the boundary of the inflating region corresponds to the beginning of the Universe in a quantum nucleation event

If one just simply took Ross’ word for it, one might think that this space-time theorem actually says anything about a Causal Agent that is outside of time that creates all space, matter and energy. But again, it doesn’t. @sfmatheson has written extensively on his blog about Reasons to Believe and graciously at one point characterized them as doing folk science instead of lies.

Other Evangelicals
Another nice recent example is from Fox & Friends as they recount that paper based upon 600 base pairs:

A nice sample of the comments will suffice despite the fact that Fox & Friends completely misunderstood the paper and its implications.

The YEC community:

But don’t let scientists actually speak–otherwise you might find that half of these are bald faced lies and the others are incredibly misleading/cherry picking/etc.

Let me know if you want some other examples of parading out our trophy wife (science) but not letting her dare speak when we have our minds already made up of what she must say.

(Laura) #33

Yeah, that makes it clearer to me – probably it’s just the particular phrasing that was tripping me up.

Yeah, this is a good way to explain it – and it’s not just science that’s treated this way – for me it was movies, music, other religions, anything – all of it must be filtered through the Christian-ish explanatory filter put in place by the powers that be, before children could ever be exposed to it.

(Robin) #34

Heddie…that is something of an interesting statement. I suppose that science (as generally defined) is less of a trophy wife than a beloved crazy aunt…part of your family but a bit hard to define since her last stroke. Still has lots of good days though…

Science does contain moments of great beauty. Nothing wrong with those nebulae photos…nothing at all…But those nebulae photos do more than speak of science to many. After all, to some of us they spoke as much of a Creator as of the vastness of things… And at one point in the brief history of time, science was occupied by people who had some sort of religious faith, or at least respect for it. It may still be so, but that is hardly what is trumpeted about.

Science has led to all sorts of wondrous improvements in our lifestyles but then it has been used to do other things, such as the construction of nuclear weaponry. In the hands of the ever-wobbly human race, this is a bit like handing a loaded pistol to a two-year-old.

Science has also been used to proclaim and to prove nonbelief by some. This is an over-reach in one direction which has prompted an overreach on the other side. This is where the charge of “evangelical trophy wife” may be just as incendiary as an opposite assertion.

(Laura) #35

Ha! That’s an interesting view too. It does line up with what I’ve often seen on the conservative side of things (perhaps especially conservative homeschooling), which is kind of a rose-colored imagining of the “good old days” – whether science, history, religion, education, etc., the old-fashioned is sometimes spoken of as inherently virtuous, and many things are considered to simply have been better in previous eras.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #36

while we’re having fun with these things personified … I can see science getting its dander up about just which one is the “crazy aunt” to be embarrassed about here.

But hey! Far be it from me to step into the middle of family dynamics.

(Robin) #37

I don;'t mean to demean science or even homeschooling…but I am glad you liked the analogy to some extent…

I was never homeschooled but ended up doing articles on the issue for local newspapers. I also know a couple at church who have homeschooled their children. Dedicated and intelligent people, and concerned parents. A coworker who is completely secular – also homeschooled.

I ended up more impressed with that “lifestyle,” although it sounds exhausting – if done right…

If it is a way of promoting only one view of science, then I do not know…But as for science and evangelicals — I actually AM evangelical. I think science is amazingly complex (cannot really define it as one thing, such as one’s beloved crazy aunt, I suppose). And yes, both sides of the issue can “love science” when it confirms a pet preconceived belief, and then “hate” it (however you define it) when it does not…

In that sense, science can be everyone’s trophy wife…or beloved crazy aunt