The Question of Open-Mindedness on WMHT Public Television

John C. Rankin

In 1998 I was a panelist on WMHT Public Television in Albany, New York, discussing the twentieth anniversary of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series. I had invited Dr. Sagan to address my first planned Mars Hill Forum in 1991-1992, and he was interested in the intellectual freedom I celebrated to pursue any question he wished. But then cancer intervened, but before his death, he sent me a inscribed copy of his final book.

One co-panelist onWHMT was the delightful president of Siena College, a professedly theistic evolutionist, except that he continually ratified what I said. The other two panelists were scientists who believed in macro-evolution.

Toward the end of the conversation, I asked the biologist what preceded the Hot Big Bang. He said that he does not get into such questions as a scientist (even though it is a scientifically logical concern). So I said that as a theologian I am open-minded, vitally interested in any and all questions – theological, scientific, otherwise – as a mark of intellectual curiosity and openness. I asked him if he were likewise open-minded, and he did not answer. He was not pleased with the question.

Any honest person – if he or she is intellectually and ethically free – is always glad to be posed the toughest questions, and go where the evidence leads. This is an intrinsically biblical confidence. In the debate over creation and evolution, there is little real communication, and it oftentimes descends into pettiness. The Gospel is open to any and all avenues of intellectual pursuit.