Among the Creationists: What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Early next year, Jason Rosenhouse, associate professor of Mathematics at James Madison University, will publish Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line with Oxford University Press.

Rosenhouse, a believer in evolutionary theory, was puzzled—as am I, admittedly—that so many Americans still insisted that God created the world and human beings 10,000 years ago precisely as described in Genesis (in December 2010, Gallup reported that a staggering 40% did).  In the hopes of understanding why, Rosenhouse began attending Creationist events around the country.  In fact, Rosenhouse did so for ten years.

What he discovered challenges the conventional characterizations of Creationists as uninquisitive Bible-thumpers; rather, Rosenhouse encountered Creationists of many stripes and, through congenial discussion, learned their views could enrich his own, even if his belief in evolution remained intact.

Rosenhouse’s approach exemplifies the laudable objective of mutual respect that figures like Richard Dawkins sorely lack (see my Commentary posts on Dawkins here and here).  Rosenhouse did not become a Creationist in his journeys, and I speculate that he did not convince any Creationists that evolution was valid.  But I admire Rosenhouse’s genuine attempt to understand and treat with respect views different from his own.

Read OUP’s description of the book after the jump.  Also, read Rosenhouse’s brief description of his book here.

Why do so many Americans reject the modern theory of evolution? Seeking answers, mathematician Jason Rosenhouse became a regular attendee at creationist conferences and other gatherings. After ten years of attending events like the giant Creation Mega-Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia, and visiting sites like the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, and after hundreds of mostly friendly conversations with creationists of varying stripes, he has emerged with a story to tell, a story that goes well beyond the usual stereotypes of Bible-thumping fanatics railing against coldly rational scientists. Through anecdotes, personal reflections, and scientific and philosophical discussion, Rosenhouse presents a more down-to-earth picture of modern creationism and the people who espouse it. He also tells the story of his own nonbeliever’s attempt to understand a major aspect of American religion. Forced to wrestle with his views about religion and science, Rosenhouse found himself drawn into a new world of ideas previously unknown to him, arriving at a sharper understanding of the reality of science versus religion disputes, and how these debates look to those beyond the ivory tower.

Features

  • Compellingly describes the experiences of a scientist immersed in the culture of creationism
  • Disucsses difficult questions related to science, religion, philosophy and theology in a style that is more inviting and readable than standard academic treatments, and that emphasizes anecdotes and personal reflections.

Such an open-minded approach sounds remarkably refreshing after breathing the mocking, stultifying air of Dawkins’.

—DRS, CLR Fellow

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