Scientific thinking... and difficult child 1

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by Marguerite, Sep 25, 2007.

  1. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Before I get started, I want to be clear - I am not trying to start a religious debate, nor am I trying to upset anyone who holds different views to my own. However, if you are going to be easily upset by someone who is a Christian and an evolution student, then do not read any further. My concern however, is not this specific debate but rather - how to discuss this with my son, who I feel is blindly ignoring his background, his very basic way of thinking, in order to fit in socially.

    Now on to the issue - difficult child 1 has been going to girlfriend's church for 18 months now. He also has shown tendencies in the past of "channelling" his girlfriends (the best way to describe it). By this I mean he takes on their characteristics, their interests and their belief systems fairly thoroughly.

    When difficult child 1 became more interested in going to church I was pleased because we tried to raise our kids into the Christian faith. However, we also taught our kids to make up their own minds, to really think about things and to really KNOW what they believed. All opinions should be able to be substantiated. Although in matters of faith, this cannot be analysed or made subject to scientific reasoning, since while faith and science do not clash (in my opinion and in the way I was taught) there is also no meeting point for science and faith. It is as if they are on totally different axes of the universe.

    difficult child 1 began going to girlfriend's church which is a bit more - well, odd - than most. I have noticed an increase in this kind of 'different' thinking recently in our churches. I have friends who argue with me about things which I never felt were a point of conflict before - creation and evolution, for example. I was taught about evolution in Sunday School (and shown there was no conflict), I later studied biology at uni and even did a detailed course in evolutionary theory - at no time did I feel any conflict except with a few apparently off the wall oddities who saw my studies as reason to evangelise at me.

    Now I find that difficult child 1 has embraced creationism. Now while I don't really mind what he believes, I find it very hard that he has come to this point through logic, commonsense and reasoning - not after living in a household of scientists and biologists. He has been raised with the understanding that there is no conflict between evolutionary theory and faith and now is making himself unpleasant to agnostic and atheist friends by evangelising inappropriately. Again, this was also something we discussed as part of him learning social skills - he simply isn't good enough at reading people to know when this sort of evangelism is doing harm, rather than good. In our book, if someone asks you about your faith and opens the door for discussion, you can witness; but not otherwise. Some people may choose to do so and maybe they have a gift for it; but if your ultimate aim is to share your faith with someone then you don't beat them over the head with it by sharing when they really don't want you to. husband & I both know from experience it doesn't work for us; we've seen that it also does not work for difficult child 1.

    For a while difficult child 1 would ask me a question, often from a creationist point of view, as if (I thought) trying to balance the argument. I would explain the question in a more scientific way and also try to frame the religious implications to help him find the balance. I have been careful to not say, "You must believe the way I do, or not be considered a member of the family" or anything else so ridiculous, but I did say to him, "When you are presented with an apparent contradiction, I want you to independently research the various answers thoroughly before you make up your own mind. Please do not, ever, simply blindly believe what someone else tells you to believe. You must believe what YOU believe."

    He stopped asking me questions months ago. I get on great with him although he doesn't talk much. He seems relaxed and comfortable with us although it's hard to tell - he's usually only home for about two days a week, if that.

    Yesterday I found a copy of "Creation", an Australian edition of what appears to be a mostly US-based publication, judging from the addresses on the correspondence pages. As I read it and saw people who think like I do described in some pretty nasty ways (apparently not only are we deluded, we are actually deliberately distorting truth as part of some world-wide conspiracy of science to delete faith from the world and so win it over for Satan). It read like a tobacco company propaganda sheet discussing the myth of cancer's link to smoking. Then again, maybe I'm being too harsh on the tobacco companies. Frankly, the language was emotive and presented in a very misleading and biased way. I am open to reading creationist literature, I read anything. I then think about it, analyse it, often check out the quotes and references for myself and them come to my own conclusions. But this - I couldn't believe the way it was directed. I remember being shown anti-communist propaganda (ironically by the same Sunday School teacher who showed us how well evolution fits the Bible) and got the same feel of rhetoric with little or no actual information in it. And with this publication - it's the same. I can't point to any actual RELEVANT information, but the emotion it is presenting is almost overpowering. I remember getting to the end of the anti-communism leaflet and saying, "But what really is wrong with communism? This doesn't say!" and getting a very stern (but equally uninformative) lecture. I wasn't about to espouse communism, I just wanted to know - something about it was as fascinating as a cobra sneaking up on a mongoose - there was some unspoken horror and I wanted to better understand it.

    I asked difficult child 1 if he ever read this magazine. He said, "Yeah, a few times." His tone of voice indicated he was comfortable with it.

    My concern now is this - he still needs me and husband a great deal to help him with his life, with his social skills etc. But if he feels ANY acceptance of the way this magazine talks, then how can he respect a word husband & I say? And how can I talk to him about any of this?

    I know for him, evolution vs creation is merely something he has hung his wagon to because his girlfriend has. He believes in creationism utterly - because she does. (Note - I am distinguishing between creation and creationism - I define "creation" as "God created stuff, in his own way" and "creationism" as ""God created stuff exactly as described, literally, in Genesis - no arguments, no variation, no analogy, no parable, no allegory")

    I don't want to argue with her about it -difficult child 1 deliberately raised the subject in her presence once, after I'd asked him not to. For her, I think her faith is too tightly bound in this distinction, where I know his is not. I know he is serious about her, planning a life together - and I have known successful marriages where one was a creationist, the other was evolutionist. No problem.

    But if he (or she) thinks that either husband or I are deliberately distorting truth, or liars, or agents of Satan - then how the -whatever- can they ever respect any other word we say to them? How can I talk to him about this?

    The church in which I grew up taught me there was no conflict. I have seen a considerable increase in the last two or three decades. I have had friends who previously were liberal thinkers who now consider me a heretic for sticking to my scientific viewpoint happily with no apparent conflict.

    So how do I talk to my son, if he considers this of me?

    Any ideas?

  2. Marg,

    I have had an experience of living with a family member who thought everyone else in the family was on the wrong path and ultimately doomed. This was my great grandmother. She and my step great grandfather were part of the founding members of what I personally consider to be a cultish religion. It is still around, very fringe (but big), and totally intolerant of others outside the belief system. Ironically I currently work with two people who subscribe to this religion.

    Basically this religion believes that is a certain number of people who will make it to heaven. This number is very small. In order to have a fighting chance to be one of that number you have to live a very restricted life - no kind of celebrations of any type, socialize only with church members, and there are serious and potentially life threating medical treatment restrictions. (difficult child would have died after his accident if we had adhered to this religion). Members must go out in the world recruiting new members at least once a week, if not more often. Nonbelievers are considered to be under the sway of Satan.

    All this being said - and my great grandmother lived with us - we were able to make it work. We simply did not discuss religion - ever! She did not partake of our holiday and family celebrations (but she would usually get herself a plate of our celebratory food afterward). I think that we were able to make it work because of our love for each other. We didn't challenge her and she didn't challenge us.

    Obviously my great grandmother was up in years :smile: Surely that brings on a different level of maturity than a young, passionate person might have.I trust that your difficult child knows of your love for one another, and I think that will see you all through. I would hope that this is a passing phase that will, at the very least, ebb and flow in its intensity. I know how reassuring religious beliefs can be for people, and I always try to keep this in mind as I negotiate in our world. Hopefully his friends can do the same...
  3. Star*

    Star* call 911


    - Ahhhh i could sum this up.....

    You can lead a horse to the river of life, but you can't make him drink.

    Yeah....I'll go with that

    I had a much LONGER and poignant view of this, but erased it. I think this says it all.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks, 1DaaT & Star.

    It's hard to really define my concerns - but I guess it boils down to this: I want him to be happy, and for him especially, this means being true to himself. I don't think this is what is happening at the moment. I do not want to see him make a thorough commitment in life which at a later stage will bring him unstuck emotionally and spiritually.

    For those who think the way this magazine does (and the way girlfriend seems to, at the moment) their faith is so inextricably wound up in what I consider to be false and misleading beliefs in stuff that really is irrelevant to matters of faith, I'm concerned that if/when they ever wake up and smell the coffee, they will feel obliged to throw away their faith with these misconceptions. Scientists I've worked with have done this - husband & I spent some time talking to some zoology professors at various departmental events and found their attitude was, "If I can't work in my chosen field of palaeontology and evolution theory without being bombarded and made to feel guilty, then where would any faith fit in my life?" They were surprised when we told them that for us there never had been any conflict - it seems the only Christians they ever heard from were the ones who attacked them for "deliberately and viciously publishing lies".

    It was only a year ago, maybe less, that difficult child 1 thought he was heading to university to study zoology and animal behaviour. I'm wondering now if he threw away that dream because he was influenced by others. I remember the first time I was attacked by Christians because I was studying Zoology. I was totally taken aback, I'd never encountered this conflict. And as firm as I thought I was in my chosen direction, it shook me. I really did question my own motives and finally realised - the person who had been speaking to me really had no authority (certainly not the authority he claimed) and was acting under his own motivation. And at that time I had the benefit of diverse opinions to share this with. I don't think difficult child 1 has this right now, I think he's totally brainwashed because he's so utterly subsumed into this particular group.

    At some stage in the future, he may wake up from all this and think he has to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I feel I need to make it clear to him - husband & I DO know what he is going through here, it IS possible to have faith and still believe in evolution (regardless of what he is being told) and he CAN talk to us, we will not try to change his beliefs - only make him test his own beliefs and ideas properly, to be certain they are his and not simply what he is told they should be.

    When we grow up being told what to believe, at some stage we often go through what I call "the adolescence of faith" where we stop taking what we have been told at face value, and begin to question everything. We sometimes at this point can become turned around 180 degrees from the position we previously held, purely out of rebellion. If you ever survive this and come back to a belief system at all, it is with knowledge and better understanding. Some people never experience this; some do, and never come back. And I have seen it happen in a number of different faiths.

    I'm still reading my way through this magazine. Interesting. I'm concerned that the only way the authors of this magazine can do what they do, is to distort their definitions of the thing they fear. I don't think this is deliberate, i think they just fear it so much that they refuse to educate themselves about it. Because they fear it, it is therefore bad. Because it is bad, it is untrue. Because it is untrue, it is from Satan, the Father of Lies. Because it is from Satan, they should not inform themselves about it. because they are uninformed, they do not understand and fear it.
    It doesn't matter what the issue is - it is having difficult child 1 surrounded by that logic, which is so alien to everything he has been raised with, that scares me. All tolerance, all intellectual curiosity, all balance is discouraged. The world is a bad place to be feared and therefore we must make ourselves apart from it.

    I am reading this literature provided by this narrow viewpoint. He will not read my literature. I have written articles on evolutionary theory - he used to be proud of me for this. He used to brag about it to his friends. Now he is silent. In this, I see a part of him being silenced and what THAT is doing to him is what scares me.

    I'm a big girl, I don't care if people think I'm evil because I believe in evolution (although it's not so much a belief, as an acceptance of the information presented at least as far as I accept any information presented in a scientific way - it's always subject to constant scrutiny and healthy scepticism). I'd rather my son were not being told that his parents are evil, though. And I do worry about what my son is having happen, inside his own head, with all the confusion this could be causing for him - and he is too afraid to talk to me or husband about it.