The Gall To Ask

I was the first of my high school friends to discover REM.  I think I was the only one to really be interested in REM, in fact, but I was definitely the first.  I thought that was really special, particularly when I saw something on MTV which said REM was a favorite among college students.  “See,” I thought, “I listen to music at a college level.”

Toward the end of my high school career, REM released a song called “Man On The Moon”.

This song would continue to get radio time throughout my college career.  It always disturbed me, particularly during my college years.  I think some of that disturbance is that I felt this song was different from the REM songs I had loved before.  But I know some of it is due to the line “Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask”.

That line is obviously a reference to Charles Darwin of On The Origin of Species fame, and the “asking” there is obviously Darwin’s willness to question the generally-accepted idea of divine creation.  This willingness is called “gall”, which amounts to brave or courageous or any number of idealistic things.

And I don’t suppose that really a problem.  I don’t want to be a knee-jerk theist, hating everything which is not on my side or my team.  I do wonder, though, why one person’s willingness to question generally-accepted ideas is called gall and viewed idealistically while another person’s willing to question generally-accepted ideas is regarded as stupidity or wickedness.

Let me give you an example of the latter which I recently found in Lee Strobel’s The Case For Miracles:

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Strobel records the “theater” Hitchens performed, theater based on Hitchens’ apparent belief that no one could question science (or, more accurately, the materialistic worldview).  I found something similar in the movie Prometheus (which I went to see at the very first showing the Thursday night of its release):

The scientist (whose name I have forgotten but who doesn’t act all that scientific later in  the film when he taunts the obviously dangerous alien creature he encounters) clearly doesn’t think much about people discounting three centuries of Darwinism.  He apparently didn’t have a problem with Darwin and all his followers discounting millennia of creationism.

I suppose something on a much smaller scale happened when I went with my daughter’s kindergarten class on a field trip to the nearby Lawrence Hall of Science.  As we stood in the parking lot of the hall, one of the other father’s, a Russian expatriate, gestured at the building and said to me in broken English, “I thought you no like this.”

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The fact of the matter is that I don’t have any problem with science.  i don’t gravitate toward it much; it was never my favorite subject in high school and it still doesn’t do much for me today; I’d rather engage in philosophy or literature.  But I’m not the least bit -unscientific.  I don’t even see science as a threat to my faith.  What I have a problem with is the generally-accepted idea that science can explain everything and/or science is the only thing which can explain and make sense of reality.  And I believe I should be able to challenge that generally-accepted idea without being called a “science denier” or any other silly and untrue name.  I believe I should be able to challenge that generally-accepted idea without theatrics or the sarcastic thumbs up or the “wooo” or any other lowly way people try to avoid thoughtful debate  I believe challenging that generally-accepted idea is gall, the same gall Darwin was praised for.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  Or, what’s gall for one is gall for other.  You can’t praise Darwin for questioning what was generally-accepted and then blast others for doing the same.  Rather, you have to allow the questions (all of them) to take you where they do.