The fool's quest?
I got a text message this morning that sent me down the rabbit hole of public commentary and reviews of my recent books The Quest: Exploring Creation's Hardest Problems and The Fool and the Heretic. I don't really recommend reading a lot of reviews of your own work because inevitably you start doubting your basic ability to communicate ("Why would they think I meant that?!"). You also start squabbling with the reviewers in your head ("I'm not wrong, you are!"), and it can spiral pretty quickly. On the other hand, I think it's highly instructive in ways that people don't intend. Consider this not so much a rebuttal as a reflection on the state of communication in the creation/evolution debate.
The biggest thing I notice is that everyone frames their reception of my work in terms of their own experiences. I guess that's obvious, but with a work as personal as The Quest, the reviews can meander off and become a review of me as a person. Wow, that's awkward. And that's my lesson I learn: You reap what you sow. I spent years sowing discord and chaos with my attitude, and what should I expect in return? Young people: Learn from me. Be gracious and kind and love your neighbor. You can have all knowledge and all faith, but without love, it's nothing.
On the other side of the debate, evolutionists read it and keep talking about how dogmatic I am. That reaction is genuinely baffling. I've written the most non-dogmatic creationist book ever, so non-dogmatic that I'm actually a little queasy thinking about it. It's one thing to have an open mind, but it's another thing to let just any old thing wander in there and make itself at home. I genuinely worry that my work will be misconstrued and turn people away from creationism, which is the opposite of why I wrote it. (To be fair, any creationist book has the possibility of driving people to evolution, just like evolution books can drive people to creationism. The human mind is a funny thing.)
Amidst all that anxiety and uncertainty, it sounds shocking to hear people gripe about my dogmatism. Who, me? And then I read more and I see phrases like "Back when I was a young earth creationist..." or "The creationists I've encountered are like ...." Then it becomes a lot clearer. Because their experiences lead them to perceive creationists as dogmatic, that's just what creationists are. Whatever I say, no matter how emphatic and sincere, is filtered through the lens of creationist dogmatism.
The most telling comments go something like this: Why bother doing that creationist pseudoscience when the real quest is theological? Yeah, sorry, your biases are showing. How someone could be that self-UNaware fascinates (and amuses) me. And they call me dogmatic!
On the other hand, I can also sympathize with that dismissive reaction. I find some ideas so preposterously wrong that anytime I see them, I become so distracted that I find it hard to learn anything. For example, when John Walton tells us that Genesis 1 has nothing to do with material origins, I'm just done. It's such an outrageous assertion, I'm sort of speechless, and I start daydreaming about other things like how I need to load the dishwasher when I get home tonight.
So as I read those outraged reactions to my own work ("Such a smart guy, why would he waste his time on this?"), I try to remember how I react in similar circumstances and what it must be like for them.
And then there's the reaction that is unfortunate and unwarranted no matter how I try to sympathize: "Wood says x, but he doesn't explain it so it has no explanation and he's just making it up." That's sometimes accompanied by "Wood is a liar" or "Wood is delusional" or "Wood is a buffoon." Those assertions may be true or they may not, but I assure you that you don't have enough information from a book or youtube video to make that judgment. Those aren't thoughtful judgments. They're just insults. They should be beneath us. Unfortunately, the internet rewards that kind of rubbish, but we should all strive to do better.
So those are my thoughts this morning. Thanks for the reactions. I'm glad someone is looking at my work. Now I have to get back to new research and new frontiers, which interests me more than anything else. What will God show me today?
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.
Have you read my book? You should check that out too!