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.