According to a 2006 national poll, 42% of Americans have faith – genuine, and heartfelt faith – in the theory that the truth about the 9/11 terrorist attacks has not been told. A large number of these believe the attacks were somehow orchestrated by George Bush, or at least by shadowy elements in the U.S. government.
The “9/11 truth” movement has all of the elements of a cult-like belief system. It employs the reverse scientific method whereby one starts with the theory, and then cherry-picks the evidence to fit that theory. Members of the cult drink from the same well, and limit their exposure to mainstream thought.
I won’t go into a lengthy description of all of the shortcomings of the argument. Others, particularly Popular Mechanics in its Debunking the 9/11 Myths: A Special Report, have already done so ably and well.
What I do find astounding is that so many equate their beliefs to those of Christians. There is an otherwise excellent article in Scientific American, Fahrenheit 2777, on why temperatures did not need to reach the melting point of steel to cause the failure of steel columns in the World Trade Center buildings. The author pointedly lumped conspirational theorists and holocaust deniers in with those who believe in Creation.
Admittedly, Christians believe in an omnipotent and personal God, a God who set in motion the events that led to life, the universe, and reason. We believe that God exists, that He is personal, and that He cares for a universe He created. And yes, we see in Creation evidence of His design and care. For many of us, our interest in science is based on a desire to know more of our Creator by knowing more about His creation.
But that is where the comparison stops. While there will always be some who hold to views contrary to evidence – they seem to have the mistaken belief that God is so fragile that He must be defended from the truth – the vast majority of Christians believe that our understanding of what He accomplished must be consistent with what is real, what is true. After all, we recognize that our Creator is “The Way, the Truth, and the Light”.
Some would equate Christian belief to that of the mental patient who believed the world rested on the back of a giant turtle. When confronted with the illogic of her belief – if, after all, the earth must rest on something, and that something is a turtle, then on what does the turtle rest? – she responded that the turtle rested on the back of an even larger turtle. When pressed on what that turtle rested upon, she responded with confidence, “It’s turtles all the way down!”
It’s an old story, but apt. Once you decide that your government is so evil that it would do anything to justify war and power, then it’s easy to find the rest of the turtles. A plane didn’t hit the Pentagon, they say – a missile did. But a plane and crew and passengers are missing. Well, they must have been snuffed out and destroyed by the conspirators. A controlled explosion caused the collapse of the towers, they claim. But we saw planes fly into them. Never mind, they tell us. It was all part of the conspiracy. No simple explanation will suffice when there are turtles to be found.
There is a reason for such addle-minded nonsense. When you strip away belief in what is true, calling it a lie, it’s easy for a lie to be accepted as the truth. All truth is relative, we are told. Your truth can be different from my truth. And if your truth is based on assumptions that, addressed individually, fail to pass scrutiny, that’s all right because the whole is more true than the totality of its parts.
Contrast that with Christian belief. The best and simplest explanation of how the universe and life came into being is that it was set in motion – that it was not all happenstance. I remember the roasting I took in university in my freshman year from my atheist professor who took it upon himself to convert me to atheism. I had made the mistake of letting him know of my Christian beliefs privately, and thereafter he mocked my beliefs in front of the class at every turn.
On one such occasion, I responded with a question. Since he clearly believed there was no eternally existent God, I asked, in what did he believe: eternally existent energy, or eternally existent matter? There was an uproar as my fellow students started to shout me down, but he bellowed for silence. To their surprise, he upbraided them, then said “Of course he’s right. We cannot avoid the fact that something had to be eternally existent. Every law of science confirms that. And to answer his excellent question, I respond that I don’t know. Having already dismissed an eternally existent God, I think there must have been eternally existent energy. But I don’t know.” Turtles all the way down.
Is Christianity against scientific reason, scientific inquiry? Why would it be? There is no element of Christian doctrine or belief that is inconsistent with what is known about our universe. In fact, it takes a willing suspension of belief to assume that everything in the universe happened through chance, and that chance alone accounts for the complexities of the millions of species that reside on the earth.
But what about evolution? Do we not know that species evolve over time, changing their characteristics in response to external conditions? Of course. Most Christians will grant that species change. Where we disagree is with the notion that they crossed species boundaries as they did so. There is no evidence – scientific or otherwise – that they did so. Only a theory, based on a prior assumption that there is no God.
Do I know how God set in motion the circumstances by which life in all its richness came to be? No, I don’t. But the results are knowable to anyone who cares to explore them. That is the essence of scientific inquiry – to know that which is knowable by hypothesis, inquiry, and observation, never pre-supposing the outcome. To be true to itself, the scientific method should not reject the possibility that we are only observers of a tapestry of Another’s making. Nor should Christians reject that which is learned through scientific inquiry if it is conducted with the purpose of knowing all that is true. No more giant turtles.
Earl Blacklock is a Canadian writer who has a passion for telling little-known stories to illustrate Christian truths and principles.
Read more in this series:
- I. It’s turtles all the way down
- II. More turtles all the way down
- III. Honey I shrunk the universe
- IV. Science continues to advance – sort of
- V. Why I’m a Climate Change Skeptic