Subject: My Story Newsgroups: talk.origins Date: 15 January 2003 Message-ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
A lot of creationists I've spoken to seem to think that one day I just abandoned the Bible, or that I decided to rebel and go my wicked way for whatever reason. The only way anyone's going to understand is if I post my story. Since I already typed it out onto a message board yesterday, it's simple enough to paste it here too. It's long, so you might not be able to read it all at once. It's kind of embarassing how long it took me now that I look back on it but at least I am where I am today.
I have been raised as a Christian, I wouldn't call it overly fundamentalist, cause my parents did listen to rock music and such. I showed an interest in animals from a very young age partially because our first house had a big back yard that had lots of lizards, snails with big shells, toads, frogs, earthworms, birds, squirrels, even snakes sometimes.
I liked to explore the yard and find these animals and sometimes I'd catch and hold some legless lizards (or maybe they were baby snakes) that would sit in my hands and flick their tongues out, and little anoles that would change color right before my eyes.
I always liked to watch "animal shows" on Discovery Channel and PBS and National Geographic, where I could see even more animals and learn about them.
When I got to be a little older I found out the people who studied them were called biologists, and I wanted to be a biologist too. Since around first grade, when someone asked me what I was going to be when I grew up, I would always say "A scientist" or "a biologist studying animals".
My parents never really had a problem with phrases like "dogs are related to foxes". Maybe because this didn't seem so far fetched. They also didn't have a problem with there being an old earth, though this was never really crystallized, it just wasn't considered important.
I listened to a lot of creationists on tv when I was growing up, mostly because they talked about "science" and I was always drinking up everything I could that mentioned science. In seventh grade (second grade of Jr. High) I was fascinated when I saw Carl Baugh on tv with a human footprint that supposedly had a trilobite embedded into it. I kind of shake my head at this now but I didn't think a Christian leader would deliberately lie back then. I thought the fossil was real and he had evidence that humans were around a long long time ago. I didn't fully understand at that time that he was using it as evidence of a young earth.
He was also kind of appealing in some ways cause he talked about how he had evidence that dinosaurs might have been around as recent as 4000 years ago and he even claimed there were eye witnesses of dinosaurs more recent than that. Lies, dirty lies, but that's how it was. I thought it'd be really cool if dinosaurs were still alive somewhere.
I didn't really fully understand the scientfic method nor did I understand that eye witness testimony is not considered to be a good source of information.
It was also in seventh grade that I was taking a life science course. It was here that I got my first exposure to the nested hierarchy. We were told about the Kingdoms: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, Animalia, and lots of phyla. It was the phyla that gave me a good first understanding of what would help me to accept evolution later. In animals they started out with sponges, went up to jellyfish, etc. This was also my first exposure to Euglena, which seems to show both protozoan and algae traits. It all seemed like it fit together, but at the time I was a creationist and I just thought God created them separately. Evolution was barely touched on, never explained. Rare mentions of "this evolved" but no support for that, and no explanation of how evolution worked.
We watched a laser disc one day that casually mentioned evolution, I challenged my teacher on that saying that I thought things were created, not evolved. She just told me that the video said that was how it might have happened. When I told her that humans weren't animals, she got me to concede that scientifically, we do belong in Animalia. She didn't help me quite as much as I needed it but I have to thank her because she did help me to grow in the right direction. She was very sweet and always answered questions I had.
I was having severe problems at school with the other kids at this time, cussed at, spit on, having every single book stolen from my locker, having assignments stolen, being threatened with death, being beaten up. Rumors were flying that I had been involved in all kinds of things that weren't true and people hated me for things I'd never done. So I went into home school to recover my sanity. I'm glad that I did, it helped a lot, the only thing that was really lacking was in the science area, but to be honest I don't think I was getting much better education in evolution in public schools other than the casual mention they gave it now and then.
When I chose to take biology in home school, I did learn a lot of good information that was true, but I also had to write a paper on why evolution was wrong. The section I had to study from contained a lot of worn out arguments like the "second law" thing, and "goats don't give birth to lizards". It was basically Hovind-level crap.
I didn't agree with everything they said but I wrote the paper. I asked my mom if it was right for A Beka to make us write it with that position rather than deciding for ourself one way or another, and she just asked me if I would rather have gone to public school and be forced to write that God didn't create anything. Of course I said no to that.
One thing I had a serious problem with was that they firmly declared that there were two kingdoms, plants and animals. I knew from my earlier class that this was wrong. I knew that bacteria and protists and fungi were in different kingdoms. This was my first dose of skepticism regarding creationists.
I began to gravitate toward Hugh Ross, I listened to him a lot, and I actually did learn some stuff I didn't know before about the Big Bang and such through listening to him. I had never really been a YEC before, but Ross helped me realize that I was an old earther. One time the nosy yuppie neighbor who didn't approve of home school started trying to ask me what I was studying in school, I stunned him silent parroting things about dimensions and time. He never asked about it again. That's one of my fondest memories.
Hugh Ross was appealing because he made it seem like it was ok to accept science, that science and the Bible really could come together. His version of science was warped, but it was a step in the right direction. It took me a long time to completely get over what I'd been taught watching his program.
The next time evolution really came up was when I was 19 and just starting college and in a Christian chat room at coolchat.com. I debated atheists a lot and often they'd try to use evolution as a proof of atheism. I would use some of the tired old arguments we defeat every day here, and often I would win because they weren't equipped to answer them. They confused abiogenesis with evolution, and I did too, and I was able to defeat them when I showed them that it wasn't proven. One day one of the atheists (nicknamed Drexl) from Scotland came in that was a little better informed, we liked to spar with each other, we were pretty much evenly matched. He too linked evolution to atheism but he is the one that eventually led me out of the dark of creationism.
He gave me a page that debunked Carl Baugh, and other creationists, and the page also made the case for evolution of theropods into birds. Drexl casually mentioned to me that people at the newsgroup talk.origins would be able to answer any questions I might have.
I studied the page, it made me realize that Baugh wasn't quite honest, I didn't believe him anymore, and I learned to be a lot more questioning and skeptical regarding my sources, and I knew for a fact then that I was an old earther and not a young earther after reading the site's debunking of flood geology (which I'd never heard of before in that term). I began to refer to myself as an old earth creationist.
I wasn't ready for talk.origins and wasn't sure how to get there either, so I forgot about it for then, I wrote a question to the person who authored the page and got a nasty response back in the harshest filthiest language, which reinforced the idea that evolutionists and atheists were evil. That killed that.
I didn't get close to accepting evolution again until I took my second biology course in college. Again, I was presented with the nested hierarchy that I'd learned back in seventh grade. It felt familiar and I was excited to study it in more detail.
This was also the first class in which I was told how evolution works, that it works on populations, not individuals, how natural selection works, how genetic drift works, how sexual selection works. How alleles change frequency in populations, how sympatric and allopatric speciation work, how polyploidy works etc. More than anything though it was the nested hierarchy I'd learned back in seventh grade, when it was expanded into such detail in this college course, it was very hard to deny that the organisms were related through common descent.
I didn't know how to deal with it, it was all making sense, all the puzzle pieces were fitting together! I tried not to think about it, I couldn't handle it so I blocked it out for a while.
I went on summer vacation, I was watching animal planet on tv, and Gorillas in the Mist came on. I watched the movie, watched the gorillas. Suddenly that biology class came back to haunt me. I had to know! I couldn't deny it anymore, I couldn't compartmentalize anymore, I had to know if there was any truth to creationism at all.
I reminded myself that a true scientist has to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
Drexl's words from years ago came back to me "The people at talk.origins will answer any questions you might have." I was scared.. things were falling apart, I wrote to creationist organizations, Hugh Ross' site no longer had an e-mail address for questions, so I wrote to AIG and other places like it. I wrote some serious questions, I got answers back that were full of lies and I knew they were lies because of what I'd learned in school. So I finally got up the courage to contact talk.origins, I wrote "This is my last resort" in the subject line, and they helped me.
I got some helpful and polite letters from the regulars (completely unlike the caustic person who answered my inquiries to the site that had been given me long ago), I found ways to debate and ask questions of both sides, soon I came around to believing that God guided evolution and then chose the first hominid that was fully human to be Adam and then the story went from there. My interpretation of the days of Genesis was still day-age (a carry over from Ross). I had no problem with abiogenesis, because if God could guide biological evolution then God could just as easily guide the formation of life from chemical precursors. I was still awfully literalist, but I was making progress. I was debating with creationists of both the young and old earth persuasions, I began to refer to myself as a theistic evolutionist.
Things were going great, though I fought with some feelings of guilt and such sometimes, overall there was a tremendous release, I could finally watch my favorite tv shows on Discovery without saying "no that's not true".
The next step was I actually read Genesis again. I saw that the serpent looked like it was cursed to go down on its belly and eat dust. "But wait," I thought, "When did snakes appear in the fossil record?" I studied it, I asked questions about it, and found out they appeared in the Cretaceous, long before humans. This certainly threw a wrench into my literalist machinery. I then took the entire account of Genesis as symbolic. When I did, I began to discover meaning in it that was lost to me before. I think the phrase of not having seen the forest for the trees applies very well here.
I was probably around 23 1/2 by the time this happened. I'm 24 now.
I've learned more and more as time has gone on, I fully accept science now and I'm very grateful to everyone who helped me along the way. I'm just glad if I can help anyone else even a little, so that's why I'm here and at other places online that deal with evolution.
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