What is the “elephant in the living room”?
Let’s say you recently moved into a new neighborhood and the couple next door invites you over for dinner, along with other families in the immediate area in order for everyone to get to know each other. When you arrive, you begin to mingle with other couples and watch all of the kids running around in the backyard. Then, the last couple arrives and the husband is wearing swimming goggles, a snorkel and fins. You start to smile and anticipate hearing interesting comments from the other couples regarding this very odd situation. However… no one says a word! In fact, the whole evening goes by without as much as a single comment from anyone! The whole time you are wondering to yourself, “Am I the only one seeing this? Why isn’t anyone saying anything?” You want to say something, but you don’t want to be the only one and you keep thinking that at any moment something will happen that will make sense of the whole situation… but that time never comes!
This general situation has been referred to as the “elephant in the living room” scenario. It’s a phrase that isn’t used as much anymore, so the younger generation isn’t as familiar with it. It describes a similar situation in which there is an elephant in the living room, but no one is acknowledging its presence, even though it’s quite impossible not to notice.
The connection for us is that even though the evidence for creation is overwhelming, it isn’t being acknowledged by the scientific community in general (at least not publically).
God’s Word has a lot to say about this situation and one of the clearest passages is found in Romans chapter 1:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Rom 1:18-20)
We can be confident that everyone knows that God exists, not because of our own take on things or fallible opinions, but because God’s Word tells us that this is the situation. (Yes, it’s very true that many people say that don’t believe in God, but they actually know that He exists… they have simply chosen to reject that knowledge and are no longer able to think clearly. It would helpful to continuing reading all the way through to the end of the chapter to get an even better understanding of this. (See one of our other articles on atheism for more detail.)
I ran across a very interesting interchange a while back and it will help illustrate the phenomenon we are discussing. This was an interview in The Ledger (a Lynchburg, VA newspaper) between a newspaper reporter (George) and a molecular evolutionary biologist. They were discussing the complexity of information found in living creatures:
Columnist: “Do you believe that the information evolved?”
Biologist: “George, nobody I know in my profession believes it evolved. It was engineered by genius beyond genius, and such information could not have been written any other way. The paper and ink did not write the book! Knowing what we know, it is ridiculous to think otherwise.”
Columnist: “Have you ever stated that in a public lecture, or in any public writings?”
Biologist: “No, I just say it evolved. To be a molecular biologist requires one to hold onto two insanities at all times. One, it would be insane to believe in evolution when you can see the truth for yourself. Two, it would be insane to say you don’t believe evolution. All government work, research grants, papers, big college lectures—everything would stop. I’d be out of a job, or relegated to the outer fringes where I couldn’t earn a decent living.”
Columnist: “I hate to say it, but that sounds intellectually dishonest.”
Biologist: “The work I do in genetic research is honorable. We will find the cures to many of mankind’s worst diseases. But in the meantime, we have to live with the elephant in the living room.”
Columnist: “What elephant?”
Biologist: “Creation design. It’s like an elephant in the living room. It moves around, takes up space, loudly trumpets, bumps into us, knocks things over, eats a ton of hay, and smells like an elephant. And yet we have to swear it isn’t there!”
This very well sums up what goes on quite often in academic circles. This was further borne out in the documentary entitled, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, by Ben Stein. If you haven’t seen it, and most people haven’t, I strongly urge you to rent it soon and watch it. It’s very captivating and very powerful done. You will be amazed at how the scientific community actually reacts to any hint of belief in purposeful design. This disdain comes not on the basis of academic credibility, but as a result of personal bias. It was actually in the theaters when it was originally released, but as I travel the country, I am shocked how few people have heard of it and even fewer have seen it.
As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions at about this article or any other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. We'd love to hear from you! You can even arrange a FREE ENGAGEMENT or seminar at your church, school, conference or camp.
Author: Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)