Ah, my old friend- how I’ve missed you, during the summer when I was away, searching blindly for reasons to groan and smack my head into a desk. This was the first slide of the first lecture of my first class this week, when school began again and I strolled on in wearing a shirt with Psalm 33:12 printed on it.
First off, ten points to you, original artist, for correctly explaining what a scientific theory is, and minus twenty for turning 2 billion people into a comically outdated stereotype. But my beef is not with the artist; my problem here is with the otherwise quite likeable professor who decided that this was a great kickoff to a physical science course.
Yes, you read that right: physical science. Like rocks, and atoms, and the solar system, and all that jazz that has absolutely nothing to do with evolution (a life science) whatsoever. He even admitted to it himself, once he saw the way some of our eyebrows hit the ceiling, that the joke was completely unrelated to the topic we were there to learn.
Now let’s play a little game, and then I’ll go into more detail about why this whole situation ran right up my admittedly short nerve. I want you to look at that picture above and mentally redraw it. Instead of a guy we’re all supposed to assume is a Christian, picture instead a Muslim woman with a hijab or burka, or maybe a Buddhist monk. Now suddenly I bet some of you are cringing. And yet, my (as I said, otherwise likeable professor) decided that this was a perfectly acceptable first slide for his class.
Now to a more detailed explanation of why I got really irritated by this. There are three specific reasons, which I’ll go ahead and list one by one.
First, there is the religious aspect. Does anyone really think we’re supposed to picture this old white dude in a shirt and tie as anything other than a Christian? Because if you do, buddy I’ve got a bridge to sell to you. And of course, everyone knows that no other religion on earth apart from Christianity has ever had any sort of conflict with science… <shuts off sarcasm function>
Second, like I said, this is a foundations of physical science class; exactly nothing we will discuss at any point in the semester deals with evolution or religion, and yet here is this poorly disguised jab at people solely because of their religious beliefs gracing our very first lecture. This joke was so out of place and jarringly off-topic that it effectively erased any doubt in my mind that it was not a deliberate attempt to demean Christians, whether they are creationists or not. Even the professor, after admitting that we wouldn’t actually be discussing evolution, then admitted that it was “maybe a little offensive” but, of course, not intended to offend anybody.
Thirdly, and this is perhaps my biggest bone to pick with this, foundations of physical science is not a science major class. It is an IDS course, mandatory attendance for everyone regardless of major assuming they actually feel like graduating at some point. That means that, myself excepted, almost nobody in that room was actually a science major. They came because they had to, and on their very first day they had their faith and personal opinion denigrated and turned into a punchline about scientific ignorance.
What difference does it make if an art major, or a business major, or an education major (like the friend of mine who was sitting right next to me at the time) is a creationist? Here’s a hint, your answer looks a lot like a big round hole. Am I creationist? No. Am I Christian? Absotively-posilutely. And I’m studying paleontology, where it is more or less a job requirement to believe evolution is real. But it makes not one single little bit of difference if someone who’s never going into the field of science disagrees with me on that, and besides, what are the real odds that joke was directed specifically at creationists and not just at Christians in general?
You’ll be getting a big round hole again.
No one I’ve ever met who deliberately makes fun of Christians for being Christian has ever even tried making that distinction, and even if they did, you know what? It would still be offensive and I would still get nerved up about it. So what if another Christian is a creationist? They’re still my brother or sister in Christ and I’ll still stand up for them when someone comes along who would rather accuse them of ignorance than spend any time getting to know who they’re making fun of.
Because that right there is the only thing that’s really truly ignorant.