1) Chosen Beliefs/Opinions. Some beliefs and opinions are the product of choice. Such opinions are held primarily because the believer chooses to believe them. There may exist little or no evidence for what is believed. Logic and deduction are not essential to this kind of opinion. The believer believes what he/she believes, or holds to their opinion because they wish to believe it.
2) Evidence-based Beliefs/Opinions. This second type of opinion entails such things as data, reasoning, verification. The believer has been persuaded by certain facts, empirical evidences, and rational thought processes. The thing believed, or the opinion held, may not at all represent the believer’s preference or inclination. In fact, he/she may have been persuaded against their predilection.
Which type of belief/opinion is the more easily dislodged? that is, from which type of opinion is a person more easily persuaded to accept an alternate view? Support your answer.
o Chosen beliefs/opinions
o Evidence-based beliefs/opinions
Now it is true that most opinions actually fit into a continuum spanning these two extremes; our convictions and beliefs are often a combination of choices and evidences. To be honest, my own belief in God is partly a choice, and partly evidence-based. Honest skeptics may admit to choice playing a role in their atheism. While it would be interesting to go down that trail sometime, that is not the purpose of today’s post. Rather, I have been thinking lately about what I consider a very entrenched opposition to evolution (both cosmic and biological) among American evangelical Christians, including, it seems, the majority of my friends.
Over the past 15 years, my studies have changed my opinions about origins. Until the early 90’s, I believed in Young Earth Creationism. As a Bible-believing Christian, that was my natural inclination. It was my choice. Oh yes, I had “evidence” as well. But when it occurred to me that 95% of my reading on the subject was from other Young Earth Creationists, and that the vast majority of scientists rejected Young Earth Creationism, I thought it wise to consider the other side of the argument. This process led to the persuasions I now hold: the universe is billions of years old, our earth is likewise billions of years old, life on this planet rose slowly over billions of years through natural processes now well understood, and all living things on earth share a common descent. These views were not the product of choice. Though some of my friends respond to me as though I chose to become an evolutionist, nothing could be farther from the truth. I simply found the evidence for slow evolution of the cosmos, and of life on our planet to be overwhelming and undeniable. My acceptance of Big Bang cosmology and of evolution falls entirely into category number 2: Evidence-based.
Having arrived at these conclusions, I have found that the realities of an ancient universe and common-descent evolution are not only compatible with my faith, but actually help to provide satisfying answers to many difficulties and enigmas. And when factored into theology proper, eschatology, bibliology, and Christian living, they 1) compel us to rethink many traditional theological assumptions and 2) lead us to understandings that are both fascinating and practical. I long for a community of believers who can share with me the excitement of discovery, and who can help in the process of re-evaluating traditionally held Christian concepts.
For these reasons, over the last two years or so I have been attempting to open minds of Christian friends to these possibilities. I have had almost no success. Instead of opening minds to possibilities, I have been viewed as attacking their opinions. The questions I ask, and the ensuing discussions usually lead to boredom, disdain, or anger. My opinions often fly in the face of the way they have chosen to think.
ANSWER to the QUIZ QUESTION
It is far easier to dislodge evidence-based beliefs than it is to dislodge chosen beliefs. You might have thought otherwise. I did. I might have thought that evidence-based opinions would be more firm, less flexible than beliefs not founded upon evidence. My experience has shown the opposite to be the case.
It has recently dawned upon me (I’m a bit slow!) that the intransigence typical of Young Earth Creationists is due to the fact that theirs is a category 1 belief/opinion. People are not persuaded of Young Earth Creationism by a balanced review of the evidence. No one is. (No one believes in Young Earth Creationism unless they are predisposed to such an opinion by their religious convictions. I do not know of a single person anywhere who arrived at Young Earth Creationism by merely looking at evidence. Rather, it is an opinion born of choice.) And category 1 opinions are extremely difficult to dislodge. People will sometimes become defensive and enraged when you try.
So I am facing a conundrum. I am motivated to prepare my friends for what I consider an inevitable paradigm shift, and to develop a community of believers who will study the Bible with me from an evolutionary perspective. But I am having no success. And I risk alienating my own friends if I continue. So I am asking my readers to weigh in. Should I continue to prod, to provoke, to challenge? Or should I lay it down, and look instead for a community already open to such discussions? And how might I find other evangelical Christians who understand evolution, and care about its implications? Where would I look? Any ideas?