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My So-Called Bedouin Life

What if evolution is just a theory? SoMA's editor bravely followed the implications of this possibility wherever they led—and wound up living in a tent.

By John D. Spalding

When people ask me, “John, what’s the hardest part about your new Bedouin lifestyle?” they’re surprised I don’t complain about the cold. Our goatskin tent is a lot warmer than you’d think. Nor is the hardest part sleeping on mats, raising toddlers without the benefit of medicine, or even the constant ridicule—after all, there aren’t many families leading primitive lives by choice in this part of Connecticut.

No, the hardest part is the constant moving. You just can’t squat anywhere in the suburbs for long before a homeowner spots you in his or her backyard. The camels give us away every time.

But such is my life now that I’ve rejected evolution science. Once I said no to Darwinism and yes to Christian creationism, it was just a few logical steps before I was living in the woods and milking my own sheep.

It all started when the Cobb County school board in suburban Atlanta started placing stickers on science textbooks warning high school students, “Evolution is a theory, not a fact.” That’s when it hit me. Do I really want to conceptualize the origins of life based on a notion that is just a theory—riddled with holes and supported with all sorts of flimsy scientific hemming and hawing? Uh, no—especially not when Genesis offers a simple, unambiguous account of how God created a three-tiered universe in six days.

Oh, scientists try to hide the speculative nature of evolution. They’ll tell you that every shred of published scientific evidence supports the idea that life on earth evolved over billions of years, and that no other explanation comes close to explaining the evidence as well. They'll even go so far as to call evolution a fact. But they will also admit that, according to scientific method, nothing in science can be absolutely proven. So even if it’s unlikely that evolution will ever be rejected, it is technically (and here’s science’s Achilles’ heel) a theory. Evolution could still be wrong. If scientists were to discover, say, a 500-million-year-old toaster oven among some eurypterid fossils, then evolution theory would collapse.

You laugh, but consider this: In the 20th century, Einstein devised a theory showing that an object’s mass increases as it approaches the speed of light. Experiments eventually validated Einstein’s work, thus challenging Newton’s second law (law!), which assumes that mass is constant with acceleration.

Granted, Einstein’s equations mean almost nothing for objects traveling less than the speed of light, and engineers still use Newton’s Laws in virtually every design they create. But just because a scientific theory is good enough for scientists and engineers doesn’t mean it’s good enough for me, the Cobb County school board, or a multitude of Americans who would like to see creationism taught alongside, if not instead of, evolution.

As a source of knowledge, science is a self-correcting process, open to testing and change. The Bible, however, is not. Given the choice between science and the absolute, inerrant word of God, is it any wonder why George W. Bush, the leader of the free world, has said that the jury is still out on evolution? (Frankly, I think it's a shame that our kids are taught the theory of gravity without being offered an alternative. Isn't there an airtight biblical explanation for why things fall down rather than up?)

Scientists, and even some theologians, are also fond of arguing that there’s no conflict between scientific and religious claims about the origins of life. Science, they say, explores questions concerning proximate origins—how one thing arose from another: the solar system out of gas, one species out of another species. And religion, they say, deals with questions concerning ultimate origins—what underlies the entire system of the universe, its basic ground or principle. I have just one question: Where in the book of Genesis do you find a distinction between scientific language and religious language? Nuff said.

But why did I become a homeless shepherd? First, because all of science and technology depends on theories—e.g., medicine is based on germ theory; computer-chip technology on quantum theory. And second, because creationism rejects the most fundamental theory of all the physical and biological sciences; the idea that the universe develops over enormous stretches of time and that living organisms descend with modification, interacting on all levels and producing new forms of life. This concept goes far beyond any notions related to evolution or Darwin. It informs every science from astronomy to zoology, including astrophysics, biochemistry, botany, chemistry, geology, geophysics, as well as microbiology, meteorology, paleontology, and physics.

So, if all technology and modern conveniences rest on a fundamental scientific theory that creationism repudiates, I sure don’t want to be anywhere near science’s house of cards when it comes down! And even if our vast scientific and technological edifice doesn’t crash by itself, the introduction of creationism into science education would deliver a devastating blow.

“To counter the central theorem structuring [the] sciences and to insert into their midst a set of alien theses unrelated to all other theories in these fields, would bring about a systematic destruction of American science far greater than that engineered so fatally by Stalin in the name of Lysenko on Soviet biology,” wrote the late University of Chicago theologian Langdon Gilkey in “Creationism on Trial: Evolution and God at Little Rock.” “As leading scientific groups, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have realized only slowly, such laws [requiring the teaching of creationism alongside evolution] could well cripple American science for generations.”

Friends have said, “Hey, John, why don’t you just believe in intelligent design? That way you can start using a microwave and showering again.” But intelligent design is even more speculative than evolution! Intelligent design proponents accept all the scientific data behind evolution; difference is, they say that only God as omniscient creator could account for the whole complex universe. But that claim isn’t even a scientific theory. In science, the only way to evaluate a theory is to come up with testable hypotheses, and intelligent design does not offer a single testable hypothesis. (Now there’s a textbook warning sticker for you: “I.D.—it’s not even a theory.”) Intelligent design is just 18th-century natural theology (a slippery slope to deism!) all gussied up as science.

Sure, there are drawbacks to my new life, not just the days I spend trying to obtain fresh water without the use of hydraulics. For example, I live with total uncertainty about everything I used to accept with certainty. Does the earth really revolve around the sun? I don’t know. That was Copernicus’ theory. But it’s not in my KJV or NIV.

In exchange, however, I live with one, unshakable certainty that’s far more sustaining than any theory ever could be. It’s the certainty that when I gaze up at the night’s sky and I see the lights flickering in the firmament, I know I am beholding the very dome of heaven, behind which God controls everything happening here on our fine, flat earth.


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John D. Spalding is the editor of SoMAreview.com and the author of A Pilgrim's Digress: My Perilous, Fumbling Quest for the Celestial City.

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