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Cross-cultural conversations hard to create

by Evan | Oct 11, 2017
You think you are an open-minded person, and then someone points out one of your many rigid opinions. Happens to me all the time.

Did it to myself the other night in a social setting. Met a highly educated 30-something man and later overheard him saying that "they" have found human remains buried along with dinosaur remains. I wish I could have seen my reaction, but I think I kept my astonishment somewhat in check. I asked him a little aggressively who "they" were, and he said something about scientists and the Flood, but by then I had regained my manners and was able to just let it go and change the subject. 

Among the CreationistsLook, I've always known many Americans believe what he believes. In fact I just finished David Rosenhouse's Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line. Prof. Rosenhouse is an atheist who has a hobby of attending creationist conventions and taking tours of the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. His book reports many conversations with people who deny human evolution, and he carefully considers their worldview, their criticisms of science and why they feel threatened by the heirs of Charles Darwin. The guy amazed me. 

I don't run in creationist circles, and it was bracing to hear a person sitting next to me give the dinosaur/flood line to two teenagers in the same matter-of-fact tone I might use to tell them that roughly 20 million Russians died in World War II. You know, gee-whiz stuff you didn't learn in school. 

After I regained those runaway manners, I thought about the famously growing political divide in our country and how Republicans and Democrats reportedly don't talk to each other about politics. Did I change the dinosaurs subject that night because I didn't want to spoil the party, or because I thought it would be a futile, unhappy conversation for both of us? I don't know, but I realized not for the first time that I am part of the problem -- someone with a lot of long-held understandings about life that I wish millions of wrong-headed Americans would wake up and share with me. Do you feel the same -- or are you able to talk easily with people across the culture chasm? If so, how do you do it?



EvanEvan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.

2 comments

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  1. Evan Davis | Oct 18, 2017
    Good question. Maybe a starting point is to see whether there are facts on which people can agree. Sometimes, though, I think facts are tools we use to justify pre-formed beliefs. There are so many deep divides along non-factual lines -- things as basic as what it means to be a good human being -- and so many people who gain by widening these divides. Anyway, I guess that's something to research -- where are people having such conversations, and how are they managing it? 
  2. Sharon Pugh | Oct 17, 2017
    Sadly, we no longer have enough respect for one another to listen. I know I am guilty of this. However, when the "facts" are no longer considered the facts, how do you discuss any thing?

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