Roar’s Comment Editor Emilia Sandoghar writes about a chance encounter with a woman who didn’t believe in evolution and the importance of accommodating the views of our polar opposites.
It’s noon on a Thursday and my way to the library got interrupted by my empty belly craving an over-priced avo-toast at a cashless café called the Good Life Eatery, which of course, is a chain. That’s London for you. My cough from four weeks of neglecting my body has caught up with me and I’m feeling weirdly vulnerable; the kind of vulnerable that makes you open up to old ladies who chat you up at the neighbouring table. It is exactly this kind of vulnerable that led me to talk to Kathy from Minnesota.
The benign look in her eyes and her attentive manner while observing my spastic movements, in an attempt to untangle my scarf from my over-stuffed bag, made me pause. Despite the surge of guilt, when I remembered how many weeks have passed since I’ve last called my grandparents, I felt weirdly drawn in by her calmness. As I placed my laptop on the table, about to face the debacle supposed to be my dissertation, I smiled at her. Kathy and I started talking about where she’s from, what I’m doing in London and how pretty the Fall is. She was reading a book called The Holy Spirit.
Usually, I would have written her off as a wacko right there and then. I grew up in the household of a physicist and a higher education consultant – go figure. But I think in order to understand the world fully, you have to understand those you disagree with.
Perhaps it is especially important for our generation to understand those who do not believe in evolution. Even though Kathy handed me a Bible and gave me a DVD, which I have yet to watch, she didn’t try to missionize me like Jehovah’s Witnesses. I don’t know whether Kathy belongs to a sect. To my question about whether she believes in medicine, she said yes. According to Kathy, “religion can co-exist with science, but evolution, that’s not science.” I remained respectful and told her that I think very differently to her, to which she responded that I might just have to find the religion that’s right for me.
Sure, sometimes I feel so lost that having something to believe in seems like attractive emotional stability. The prospect of heaven and my spirit taking on an eternal life would certainly alleviate some of the weight of my existential, purpose-seeking thoughts.
Talking to Kathy was a humbling experience because it reminded me of the importance of understanding those who live the world through a different ideological lens. Whether science is an ideology is a longer topic of discussion, but for now, I will settle on the fact that, while science is certainly my religion, Kathy believes in another one. In fact, Kathy is not the only one – a YouGov study in 2010 actually exposed that 9% of respondents in Great Britain believe in creationism rather than evolution, while 13% are unsure.
In a world where constructive conversation cannot be expected to be held by politicians, it is up to us as citizens to accommodate each other’s views and search for solutions, even with those who are our polar opposites.