I recently spoke with a friend who is a fundamentalist young Earth creationist. I’ve known him for quite a few years and we get along great, despite our diametric views on religion and science. We’ve had plenty of discussions about religion, science, God, theology, and the bible and they’re always enjoyable because neither of us takes the points and counterpoints personally and we really listen (mostly) to each others’ views, even if we disagree. We also tend to toss in some humor to the mix to keep things light.
We started talking about science and the age of the Earth again with another friend, though it was really late and we didn’t get into anything in great detail, but one of his comments (which he’s made before) is a common one that I find exasperating. The comment was something along the lines of "We all have the same facts. However, depending on our worldview and our assumptions, we reach different conclusions."
My response was basically that the difference wasn’t a worldview or the starting assumptions. The difference was that science looks at the facts and then tries to come to a conclusion (theory) while religion starts with the conclusion already established and tries to make the facts fit. He denied that was the case (radiometric dating was the point of contention in this particular instance). Before we got any further, it was time to call it a night because we were on the verge of falling asleep anyway.
What struck me as I thought about the exchange was that creationists, fundamentalists, and other groups that deny evolution or the age of the Earth, cherry pick science in much the same way that they cherry pick from the bible.
They’ll trust science when it comes to medicine, happily going to the doctor for a prescription or to the hospital for surgery. They’ll trust science when it comes to the manufacture and operation of cars, trains, and airplanes when they want to go to work or on vacation. They’ll trust science when it provides them with a television signal or allows them to download new music for their iPods. They’ll trust science when it provides them with an inexpensive abundance of biologically improved crops, meat, and dairy products for their backyard barbecues.
They’ll trust and depend on science when it comes to the manufacture of their footwear, clothing, homes, automobiles, medicine, televisions, computers, appliances, cell phones, and a myriad of other things that don’t conflict with their fundamentalist theology… but if there’s a conflict, science is suddenly a flawed methodology where facts are interpreted differently due to worldviews, preconceptions, and baseless assumptions.
It’s hypocritical and it’s an insult to the scientific community. To be so cavalier in dismissing some of the most well-supported scientific theories in the history of science, yet depend upon science for their entertainment, convenience, and sometimes even their very survival, seems to me an irrational position at best.
But I suppose that’s what cherry picking is all about.