Why Don’t We Have Christian Meteorology?
Ancient civilizations used to believe that when a storm or a flood or an earthquake destroyed a village, it meant the gods (or one god in particular) were angry with that village. They would consult their holy men to discern what they had done to provoke the calamity, and he would prescribe the correct penitential path for the community (hint: it usually involved giving something up which benefited the holy man). As one of the Old Testament prophets once asked, “When disaster comes to a city, has not Yahweh caused it?”
The seafarers who threw Jonah from their boat did so because they shared the belief that gods make storms and that they send them to punish people for doing bad things.
Today because of modern science we understand that storms are caused by the collision of high pressure and low pressure atmospheric systems without any discernible correlation to the activities of the villagers below. We also understand that tectonic plates move beneath us in ways which cause volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and even tsunamis. You’ll be hard pressed to find any well-educated, civilized folks still denying the basic principles of either meteorology or tectonic plate theory.
Another quirk of the ancients was that they would devise clever poetic stories to explain in the most simplistic terms the origins of the many diverse species of living things around them. One story told of how snakes went from walking on legs to slithering on their bellies because they disobeyed a deity. Another told of the same god fashioning humans out of handfuls of dirt before he had even begun to create vegetation.
Thanks again to modern science, today we have a much more detailed understanding of how the human species developed and evolved from other species of the animal kingdom. Our understanding of the variability of genes and the advantages of environmental adaptation have given us a great deal of useful knowledge about how to treat diseases and perhaps to improve the quality of our own lives.
But curiously enough, despite the many developments of the biological sciences, a significant portion of the population of the United States rejects the basic principles of the very same sciences from which they derive so much benefit.
According to Gallup, slightly more Americans now believe in Creationism over evolution than did 30 years ago (and by that they mean a “young Earth,” literal six-day creation). About half of all Americans believe that whatever the Bible says about the origin of the species and of the planet must be accepted regardless of what the almost universal scientific consensus teaches us (the handful of detractors are all, coincidentally, evangelicals and fundamentalists).
This is amazing, especially since over those same 30 years we’ve moved far beyond simply collecting and analyzing fossils and geological layers to mapping the human genome and cross-referencing it with a broad spectrum of other animal DNA. Whatever reservations about common ancestry we had fifty or a hundred years ago have pretty much melted under the bright light of ongoing research.
But public opinion in the U.S. hasn’t budged, except for a slight increase in evolutionary denial. Why is this? Why have American Christians pushed back so hard on the basic principles of this scientific discipline? And why haven’t they pushed back like this on others?