Creationist Fears, Creationist Behaviors

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Andrew Gumbel, a correspondent for the London-based Independent, attended the recent intelligent design show trial in Topeka. His write-up at LA City Beat is recommended reading. Although he develops several good themes in his essay, there is one point in particular I would like to highlight.

Another manifestation of the misdirection of the ID movement is the ludicrous notion that high schools are the appropriate venue for intricate debate about the finer points of evolutionary science. Any public school science teacher will tell you it’s already a minor miracle if a 16-year-old can accurately summarize The Origin of Species, or pinpoint the Galapagos Islands on an atlas. Raising questions about the cellular structure of the flagellum is unlikely to exercise most students until grad school.

The only reason for raising such questions before state education authorities is not to deepen the scientific understanding of teenagers but rather to sow deliberate confusion. It is about denigrating mainstream science as biased against religion – which it is not; it merely regards questions of the supernatural to be outside the realm of scientific inquiry – and by extension bringing God and open avowals of faith into the public school system. (Emphasis mine.)

Many authors have correctly explained that the testimony of ID proponents in Topeka only criticized evolution. Indeed, in an effort to allay concerns that the rejected proposals were written to mandate the teaching of creationism, John Calvert articulated this point numerous times directly. Until Gumbel’s article, though, media coverage has failed to identify the desire by ID creationists to confuse the public. In other words, Gumbel is one of the first journalists to point out that, to an intelligent design creationist, the whole point of criticizing evolutionary theory is to criticize evolutionary theory.

It is important for advocates of science to recognize this strategy because there is a clear link between the beliefs creationists hold, the threats to those beliefs that they perceive from verified science, the fear they have from those threats, and the reactions to those threats that they make. Several points and implications about this understanding of creationist strategy merit mention and they will be developed below the fold.

Creationists Aren’t Stupid

When the transcriptions from the Topeka hearings are made public, the sheer volume of logical inconsistencies in the testimony between ID creationists and even in their own statements will strain credibility. For example, Charles Thaxton and many other creationists testified under cross examination that science should not be restricted to natural explanations, even while they refused to admit that they wanted (or in some cases saying that they didn’t want) supernatural explanations included in science classes.

It is tempting to ridicule these creationists, dismissing them as hayseeds and not giving them a second thought. But this dismissive attitude overlooks the motivations that drive them and prevents genuine understanding of the issues creationists consider pivotal regarding evolution and the methods of science. Obviously, something is influencing their decisions and it isn’t a lack of intellectual stature. John Calvert was a successful oil and gas trial lawyer. William Harris is a successful nutritional biochemist. Charles Thaxton retired from a career as a chemist. These are not careers that tolerate problems with cognition.

An optimal strategy for science advocates must presuppose nonscientific motivations in creationists, motivations that deserve more strategic consideration than simply being dismissed as the result of stupidity.

Creationists Are in Fear

To understand why creationists fear evolution, it is necessary to consider three things. First, many creationists believe that the Bible must be taken literally, though this literalism is typically ad hoc. (They interpret literally when literalism serves their purposes and they interpret metaphorically or symbolically when it does not.) Second, one must consider the concept of salvation, specifically Christian salvation. (No other religious belief will do.) According to the fundamentalism that gives rise to creationism, all morals, values, ethics, and behaviors in which Christians should engage are derived from these two beliefs.

The final key to understanding creationist fear is to know that they engage in absolutism. In other words, to not believe in the account of the creation in the Bible is to not believe in talking snakes, to not believe in worldwide floods, to not believe in the geocentric model of the solar system, to not believe that rabbits chew their cud, etc. (Note that this is not to imply all modern creationists hold all these beliefs as absolutes; for example, creationists today have found ways to overlook the geocentrism that a truly literalist approach would necessitate.) By way of their absolutism, if they can’t trust the Bible with regards to (insert issue of concern here), then there is no reason or justification for their religious values whatsoever.

Naturally, these arguments sound absurd to anyone who recognizes the parallels between the arguments supporting Middle-age geocentrism and the arguments supporting intelligent design, especially anyone who recognizes that Christianity did not end with Galileo’s research. Nevertheless, this absolutism leads to fear and this fear leads to irrationality and unconventional behaviors.

Or, as reporters were asking KCFS members by the second day of testimony, ‘Why are these creationists saying the things they do? I thought they were Christians.’

ID Avoids Tough Questions

Yet more needs to be elucidated about creationist fears before the implications of this model can be discussed. Consider the following true story. A few months ago, I attended a Sunday-school course on creationist responses to evolutionary statements, which was being put on by the Creation Science Association of Mid-America. (This is the group that wrote the now infamous standards from the 1999 fiasco, for which Steve Abrams told Steve Case he was the sole author.)

One thing that was interesting about the creationist’s arguments was the certainty with which he held his YEC positions. As anyone who has read Robert Pennock’s book Tower of Babel knows, there is a great diversity of creationist thought in the US. So, I asked the obvious question:

‘Sir, there are forms of creationism other than YEC, such as OEC and ID creationism. How can you be so certain about the age of the earth when it appears to be a legitimate controversy within the creationist community?’

His answer was, ‘All those other forms of creationism allow for the possibility of an old earth. If death entered the world before the fall, then there is no need for Christian salvation. That is why YEC is true.’

While religiously arrogant, this creationist was also refreshingly direct about his motivations. He was explaining that the threat he perceived to his beliefs was not just from evolution, but also from any of the sciences that require (or even accommodate) an old earth. And although this creationist was rebelling against the fact of the 4.5 billion-year-old earth, his argument prototypes many of the claims made by those whose beliefs contradict the findings of verified science: creationism is an obvious area of conflict, but there have been others. Galileo’s heliocentrism and whether rabbits chewed their cud were both, in their day, equally controversial due to contemporary Biblical literalists. Regardless of the controversy, efforts to suppress scientific investigations at best delay the inevitable enlightenment. Eventually, believers have to rethink their theology in the light of new scientific understanding.

What does it mean to be made in God’s own image if humans evolved from ape-like ancestors? If organisms, species, and indeed entire phyla died and went extinct before humans appeared, what need have we for a salvation based on the idea that human sin gave rise to death? Why can some Christians decide what women should do with their own bodies when the God of the Bible chooses to let people make their own decisions? Why are abortion and stem-cell research, but not in-vitro fertilization, forms of murder? And if common sense and research both demonstrate that no one – no one – chooses their own sexuality, what are we to make of religiously-fueled homophobia?

Now consider intelligent design in the light of these questions and in the light of the point Gumbel was making: even though there is no scientific evidence for intelligent design, nor is there any forthcoming, the purpose of intelligent design creationism arguments is to give certain believers a plausible reason to not ask the ‘tough questions.’ Yet these creationists know that science is an amazingly successful method of finding things out about the world. So, to provide believers a crutch for their faith, they seek to gain the legitimacy of science to support their beliefs. They believe in intelligent design and, for it to be legitimate, call ID creationism science. Odd as it may sound, for a creationist, for something to be nonscientific is for it to be irrelevant or unimportant.

Consider, when sympathetic, non-scientific journals publish what little passes for faux empiricism – itself riddled with secondary source citations passing for proof, quote-mining, and distortions of elementary physical and biological understandings – these articles are celebrated as groundbreaking and revolutionary. Without exception, there is a shortage of peer-reviewed studies supporting intelligent design creationism, though there is a wealth of promises that such will be forthcoming. The arguments from the creationists themselves are no better. If viewed as an attempt to generate an alternative scientific framework, the intelligent design arguments are incoherent at best and lies at worst. There is no, nor will there ever be, any theory of intelligent design.

But viewed in the theological model of evolution fear I am proposing, these arguments become purposeful. The ID creationists aren’t trying to advance science or educate kids about a legitimate controversy in science or subject their ideas to peer review. The reason intelligent design creationists criticize evolution is to criticize evolution. To those creationists who are in fear of evolution, this pseudoscience provides them a surrogate for faith – they can believe in a God that science has, through its purported failures, confirmed. As the testimony in Topeka demonstrated, examples of creationist duplicity in the service of simply criticizing evolution abound.

Forrest and Gross, in their book Creationism’s Trojan Horse, make the argument that intelligent design creationism is an attempt to change the fundamental belief systems of our society. This understanding is not inconsistent with the fear of evolution model I am proposing.

ID as Political Opportunism

The ID creationists engage the psychology of fear described above, convincing themselves that their faith is not simply misplaced but that they are an embattled minority. Thus, the faith that creationists place in their theology becomes the delusion that evolution is supported only by a worldwide conspiracy of scientists and liberal media. This delusion leads creationists to claim that intelligent design, which has no testable model – the sine qua non of a useful scientific theory – proposed, cannot get published due to this worldwide conspiracy.

Even pastors fall victim to (or utilize, as the case may be) this fear. Consider Jerry Johnston who, in his 13 April 2005 sermon on intelligent design, told his congregation that Genesis was a book under attack that need to be defended by the faithful. Notably, in the same sermon, he openly admitted that the people who trained him in divinity school advised not to teach from Genesis literally. The possibility that Pastor Johnston’s faith might have been misplaced and that there was not a worldwide conspiracy of scientists and theologians whom he must have respected was not discussed.

That the creationists are in fear, that this fear leads to absolutism, and that absolutism leads to irrationality about belief, has been previously described. One creationist, testifying at the standards committee meeting in Derby, exemplified this irrationality terribly:

… if we cannot as a state even put a sticker on a book that says macroevolution at least is not a fact, it is just a theory, then that is – then you are telling my, my children that everything that we have taught them as a family is wrong.

The political implications are intuitively obvious. Politicians know that fear is a powerful motivator, far more so than reason. Politicians, and others who fail to place sufficient priority on science education, may find this population of people who are in fear due to a lack of scientific understanding tantalizing. They recognize that, for example, it is far easier to marginalize those who have abortions than it is to marginalize scientists than it is to marginalize couples who cannot have babies on their own. To marginalize abortion and stem-cell research, not in-vitro fertilization, as forms of murder gains them favor with their uninformed constituency, even while it leaves that constituency ignorant of embryonic biology.

But why stop at just embryos? In for a penny, in for a pound: those same politicians also tell that constituency about the worldwide conspiracies against intelligent design, the evils of evolution, how it is impossible to be a legitimate Christian and to be pro-choice or pro-science, that God calls them to be absolutist in their dealings with those who hold differing views about murky ethical issues like Terry Schiavo, etc. When things are good for politicians who do not care about science education, things are good for religious leaders who propagate ancient and wrong understandings of the observable world, and vice-versa. Thus, religious leaders make pacts with those politicians to continue to market these incoherent theologies in exchange for political favors.

For these lies, for the crime of abandoning their charge to lead responsibly, indeed for failing to even read the proposed standards over which creationists held hearings in Topeka in the first place, the voters who lack scientific understanding reward these politicians with continued terms in office and political approval. Needless to say, it is unlikely that politicians like these will be enthusiastic about taking steps to improve the understandings of science in their constituency. To do so would be to remove the fear of the scientific issues involved.

So, what science-advocacy strategies does this fear-based model of intelligent design suggest?

Deny Creationists Martyrdom

In order to be a martyr, there must be a general recognition that the cause for which one suffers is a cause worth suffering for. Absent that recognition, the toil is wasted and unworthy.

Attempting to achieve martyrdom, ‘expert witness’ Roger DeHart openly admitted – indeed, seemed rather proud of – being reassigned for teaching non-science while he was a science teacher charged to teach science. Similarly, Nancy Bryson let it be known that she was appearing as an ‘expert witness’ at the risk of her science career. William Dembski said that his career was in ruins due to his advocacy of intelligent design. He made this claim when even a cursory review of the facts will demonstrate that he failed to address the claims of those who took the time to review his work critically and that his problems are perfectly explained by his lack of collegiality in this and other regards. In other words, none of the hardships these creationists describe as due to their beliefs are worthy toil.

Someone can leap into the path of an oncoming train, somehow defending their belief that things fall up when dropped, and die for those beliefs. While such commitment may be deserving of respect, it does not make that death any more than a senseless waste. Similarly, that creationists have endured hardship may be reason for those of goodwill to respect those creationists. Nevertheless, the violation of their charge to educate students in science or teach people about actual philosophy when hired as philosophy instructors or help a congregation to make sense of God in a world with a dizzying pace of scientific progress remains nothing more than a violation of their respective charges. Specifically, the cause of denying verified science is not and cannot be worthy toil, especially when those creationists choose – despite the evidence – to believe that one cannot be a Christian and endorse verified science.

Respect those who hold these beliefs, possibly, but do not excuse them. They are not martyrs. They are in fear and they have misplaced their faith. They tilt at windmills and the hardships they endure are nothing more than the fruits of their own self-deceit.

Don’t Confuse the Public

Gumbel’s article made the point that it was ludicrous to present highly technical arguments to high schoolers under the assumption that it would stimulate their interest in science. The same is true for the public at large. Michael Behe cites the absence of a described evolutionary ascent of the blood-clotting cascade as evidence of design in debates. Only a small percentage of Americans would be convinced of evolution by reviewing the clotting cascade’s technical details that refute Behe. Similarly, Jonathan Wells offers the phylogeny produced by a limited dataset as evidence that molecular phylogenies are unreliable. Only a small percentage of Americans would be able to understand the technical arguments involved, process what the literature really says and how Wells misrepresented it, and recognize Jonathan Wells for the liar that he is.

Arguing pseudoscience with science in an audience comprised of those unfamiliar with the science involved will lead to confusion. Gumbel’s article cited prestigious journalists who found the claims of the creationists convincing. (In their defense, they only found them reasonable on day one of the trials. After they heard what science actually had to say that first day, their questions to scientists became on days two and three, ‘Okay, how is what this creationist said (bullcrap).’)

Or consider letters to the editor. David Berlinski wrote to the Wichita Eagle itemizing nine ‘controversies’ about evolution, the gist of which was to convince the reader that doubting evolution was justifiable academically. In point of fact, the answers to those questions were shockingly simple: a freshman biology major could have answered them. Unfortunately, the response that was printed in the Eagle rebutted Berlinski point-by-point, only describing in the final sentence the violation of the accepted process whereby scientific conclusions are legitimately overturned that was implicit in Berlinski’s letter. Most of the people who don’t know the science involved probably read Berlinski’s points and thought them logical and valid.

In each of these cases, the average citizen is implicitly told that the process the creationists use to argue their case is a valid one. In other words, by participating in these forums of equal-time (or equal-space, in the case of letters to the editor) as creationists, we do exactly what the CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said it would be doing if one of its members agreed to participate in the recent circus in Topeka, ‘Rather than contribute to science education, [our participation] will most likely serve to confuse the public about the nature of the scientific enterprise.”

True understanding of science, to a level sufficient to judge ID creationism arguments in an equal or truly balanced format, takes time and effort. While it is important to let citizens know that the scientific community has engaged the arguments of creationists on their (absent) merits, it is inappropriate to legitimize the Hardball-style debate or point-counterpoint letters to the editor that the creationists desire above all else.

Remember, the creationists aren’t trying to advance a scientific case. The creationists aren’t trying to educate the public. As Gumbel has pointed out, the creationists are trying to confuse the public for non-scientific reasons. They argue against evolution for the sake of arguing against evolution. When Berlinski asked his questions, he succeeded in making evolution seem less well-verified than it actually was. When Jonathan Wells lies in front of audiences, he succeeds in making evolution seem less well-verified than it actually is. Being accurate, representing science, and educating the public is just not what these guys have in mind. That’s why Wells lies and that’s why Berlinski asked freshman biology questions.

This is also why the Kansas boycott was a resounding success. We denied them the opportunity to confuse the public about the nature of actual scientific revolutions. In this, we denied them legitimacy in the eyes of the public, fighting non-science arguments with non-science (but science-supported) strategies. Importantly, we engaged the public, even while we boycotted the proceedings. Indeed, we staffed a media-relations table one floor below the trial and most journalists took advantage of the opportunity to hear from scientists what science really had to say on the issues.

KCFS recommends similar strategies whenever creationists try to confuse the public. Don’t answer non-science with science. However convincing your argument might be to someone fully trained in your field, you won’t win with a general audience. Instead, have scientific support ready, but use process-oriented rather than outcomes-oriented approaches in fighting creationism. This has worked very well in Kansas and we recommend it to other states.

Develop Alliances

This essay has attempted to describe the irrational fears that lead creationists to disregard the evidence, be deceived by corrupt politicians, engage in unconventional behaviors, and confuse the public. In this strange milieu of scientific, religious, and political concerns, science advocacy that uses only science arguments simply will not be successful. Not, that is, without a unified, multifaceted front in which educators, scientists, politicians, and theologians who can stand together and make sense to people who may not know the science involved but can understand arguments based in intellect, reason, and well-placed faith.

Real evolution advocacy happens in day-to-day life. It happens when doctors explain to their patients that since the 1930s, animal research has been required to bring drugs to the market and that such research makes no sense without evolution. It happens in political discussions, as citizens learn the actual science that underpins the contentious issues being debated or supports sound policies. It happens when theologians remind creationists that God calls them to take responsibility for their beliefs and that well-meaning believers have had to reexamine their theology in the light of verified science many times throughout history. It happens when those who understand evolution advocate for it daily without embarrassment, recognizing it for the non-controversial component of essential biology education that it is.

All this is to say, intelligent design creationism has received the broad creationist support that it has – despite the unrecoverable conflicts between forms of creationism – precisely because they have a big tent strategy. To successfully advocate for science, Christians who desire strong science education should not make concessions to creationists that non-theists or those of other religions would find objectionable. Similarly, when a feature of the creationist testimony in Topeka was that evolution and modern science is incompatible with any form of legitimate Christian faith, it is politically unastute for non-theist advocates of strong science to make that very point themselves, at least without regard for creationist fears this essay has described.

Rather, to alleviate the creationist fears, all advocates of science should work together to establish mutually acceptable terms for science education. The cause of science advocacy is a big-tent issue, one which citizens of any creed or religion can endorse.

This essay has attempted to describe a new way of looking at creationism – as a fear of evolution and its perceived impact on beliefs. To the end of ameliorating creationist fears, advocates of science will hopefully undermine the strategies of the creationists better, inaugurating another era of American scientific success and returning America to her rightful place as a world leader in science.

Bio and Grateful Thanks

Burt Humburg is a graduate of and lab assistant at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He will begin a residency in internal medicine at Penn State University – Hershey Medical Center this summer. He is a former board member with Kansas Citizens for Science and he attended all three days of Topeka creationist testimony.

This is his first submission to the Panda’s Thumb and he wishes to thank those in Kansas Citizens for Science, Pennsylvania, and who author the Panda’s Thumb who contributed to the development of this essay.

EDIT: Included Johnston link above that I originally forgot to include. 2nd graf of “ID as Political Opportunism”

204 Comments

Mr. Humburg,

After reading all that you had written here, I can only say that you have posted a truly wonderful article. As your maiden voyage onto PT, I can honestly say that I look forward to more from you in the future. Congratulations.

Charles Thaxton and many other creationists testified under cross examination that science should not be restricted to natural explanations,…

This sentiment has also been expressed across the national airways and cable channel several times by Bill O’Reilly; who takes every opportunity to credit himself as a former high school history teacher “looking out for the rest of us.” With that kind of irrational thinking regarding science, I rather be looking out for myself.

Wow.

A most outstanding piece, Mr. Humburg.

Second, one must consider the concept of salvation, specifically Christian salvation

IMO this is the key concept motivating most Christians. “Eternal Life”. Would there even be any Christians if their religion did not promise them immortality? And is there really much difference between this and the Darwinian survival instinct?

What is the most selfish thing that someone could possibly ask for? A billion dollars? Nope, immortality trumps everything. Even if they spend a lifetime doing charitable things, they’re still probably doing it for the perceived reward of immortality. So it could be argued that most people ultimately come to their faith through extreme selfishness!

Thank you very much, Mr. Humburg. I’m very glad that we’ve been able to get so much informed commentary on this entire episode by people like you who’ve attended the hearings in Kansas. For make no mistake: ID proponents are motivated, well-funded, and coordinated, and they revise their message and political strategy based on events such as these. Because this is a national fight – today Kansas, tomorrow Pennsylvania – it’s crucial that those of us interested in maintaining good science standards learn about and disseminate their message and strategy as widely as possible, the better to counter it with the truth.

I think the evidence would suggest that most people come to their faiths through their families and through their upbringing. For example, I was born into my faith and I haven’t left it, though it’s demonstrably changed as I’ve learned.

I disagree that Christianity represents selfishness or whatever, but I’m running a test right now and I don’t have time to support my argument.

More later, maybe.

BCH

when a feature of the creationist testimony in Topeka was that evolution and modern science is incompatible with any form of legitimate Christian faith, it is politically unastute for non-theist advocates of strong science to make that very point themselves

This is an important point. In the view of this nontheist, evolution - or any other aspect of science - may very well be incompatible with certain religions. How people of these different faiths reconcile these incompatibilities is not my concern, and none of my business. But it’s not OK to go redefining science and teaching flat-out falsehoods in order to make those incompatibilities go away.

After the Kansas fiasco, do we have any “new” thoughts from the Dover school board?

Thumbs up, Burt.

kdn

jeffw Wrote:

What is the most selfish thing that someone could possibly ask for? A billion dollars? Nope, immortality trumps everything. Even if they spend a lifetime doing charitable things, they’re still probably doing it for the perceived reward of immortality. So it could be argued that most people ultimately come to their faith through extreme selfishness!

I agree completely.…and I must also concure that the posted essay was excellent.

tytlal Wrote:

After the Kansas fiasco, do we have any “new” thoughts from the Dover school board?

Frankly, living not 50 miles from Dover, I wonder if the Dover school board had any “new” thoughts in their lives. However, there has been no more news aside from the primaries which included elections for the school board on Tuesday. I have not yet heard the results of that yet.

Here’s the latest update. Interestingly, it’s falling out along strictly party lines. All the republican nominees favor “intelligent design”; all the democrats oppose it.

interesting, maybe, but certainly not surprising.

ID is, after all, a political movement, supported by republicans mostly just to increase their power base.

I don’t restrict myself to so-called “natural explanations.” I don’t even know what that means. I’m open to anything. But many of the events that people claim occurred did not occur. A deity did not turn dust – poof! – directly into two elephants (one male and one female). The first two organisms to live on earth that were fairly similar to today’s elephants were born by their mothers in much the same way I was born by mine.

Methusehah didn’t live to be 969 years old. Whether we call the claim “science” or “non-science” isn’t important to me. In fact, I think we should avoid that distinction in most contexts. But Methuselah didn’t live to be that old.

A lot of people think they have been abducted by aliens. But they are mistaken.

A lot of people think that the space, matter and time that we associate with the known universe is about 6,000 years old. But it’s not.

Some people think Elvis is still alive and doing stuff. But he is probably not.

I don’t know the series of events that resulted in the first self-replicators being on earth. But a really smart extraterrestrial probably did not use a high-tech device to turn dust directy into those things. It is logically possible that an extraterrestrial did that. And I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open. But for reasons I don’t want to get into now, it probably wasn’t an extraterrestrial who did that.

When someone says that he or she favors “intelligent design,” my response is always the same: “Which event(s) on earth did the designer(s) cause? For example, did a designer turn dust directly into two elephants (one male and one female)? And what evidence, if any, suggests that a designer did what you think it did?”

Some people say: “Cells are too complicated to have come about with the special intervention of a divine being.”

Well, I’m more complex than any cell. And I was born by my mother. So, apparently fairly complex things come into being without a designer turning dust (or “nothingness”) – poof! – directly into those things.

Excellent essay! I have thought for a while that the fear aspect of the debate is pivotal and too often overlooked. I said before (http://chugg.net/rants/rant.shtml?rant_ce.shtml) that the Creationism debate is three pronged, Scientific, Political and Emotional. The scientific part is settled, but the other two remain fruitful for the creatioists. And the emotional is really the most important, IMHO. Political plays on emotional and may apply to conservative opportunists, but the debate boils down to emotion (note, I’m not denigrating emotion as an issue, I’m just pointing out it’s role).

I also think that if creationism is to be put to rest or at least re-marginalized the key is the emotional aspect. If someone feels that they have to choose between their faith and science, faith will always win. The goal I think is to find a way to defuse the emotional mine field around evolution (and science in general). Until then there will be a ready market for what the professional creatioinsts are selling.

“(note, I’m not denigrating emotion as an issue, I’m just pointing out it’s role).”

well, let me be the devil’s advocate then (pun intended), and say that I want it on record that I AM denigrating emotion as an issue in this. It’s become abundantly clear that the debate is about nothing other than subjective interpretation on the part of the religious right. In fact, i think we have spent considerable time here on PT pointing out that ID has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with “emotion”.

so yeah, I degigrate emotion as an issue… so much so one could consider me to be emotional about it.

“they have to choose between their faith and science, faith will always win.”

science never forced anyone to choose. it was their own interpretations that are forcing them to choose, nothing less, nothing more.

They are selfish because they don’t WANT to make that choice, but instead would rather maintain their erroneous interpretations and force the rest of us to accept them.

Mainstream christianity accepted evolutionary theory decades ago. Shall we change the rules to accomodate those that chose to be left behind?

Is this the true meaning of “no child left behind?”

Well, I don’t mean to throw cold water on the Amen Choir’s praises of Burt’s essay, but the honest truth is that it could (and should) be challenged at several points.

I’d love to critically examine those portions of the essay that looks very much like armchair psychoanalysis (for example, the claim“Creationists are in fear”), but that will just have to wait for another day.

However, one flaw that ~won’t~ wait, is Burt’s obvious conflation of the terms “Intelligent Design” and “Creationism.” I agree with Mike Gene’s observation that “How we label things and how we describe things do shape our perceptions”, so let me offer Gene’s corrective article regarding the phrase “Intelligent Design Creationism”:

http://www.idthink.net/back/idc

There is one good thing about the term “Intelligent Design Creationism.” Those who use the term to make sense of this debate give themselves away as being biased and incapable of considering this debate objectively.

—Mike Gene

If someone feels that they have to choose between their faith and science, faith will always win. The goal I think is to find a way to defuse the emotional mine field around evolution (and science in general).

The emotional mine field is nearly 100% laid down by creationist “leaders”, i.e., preachers and politicans who have found it a useful way to manipulate their followers (by telling them scary stories about “materialists”).

Defusing that mine field is impossible when the minelayers are left unassailed. A combined strategy of diminishing the stature of the individual minelayers (e.g., by pointing out their dishonesty and hypocracy), showing that the “choice” between faith and science is a false choice presented only to manipulate and confuse people, and showing that the abandonment of the science is (and always has been) impossible should be effective.

That’s essentially what I see happening here at this site (trolls notwithstanding).

but the problem, FL, is that there has never been anything objective about this debate presented from your side.

the wedge document clearly states the legal and political strategy behind changing creationism to ID…

you have just been duped into believing that there is any real substance behind that.

Just like Ruse noted about Dembski.

You “true believers” in ID are just dupes, that the rest of us would just laugh at if there weren’t politicians involved in using you as well.

oh, and i’d love to hear your own “armchair pyschoanalysis”… not.

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Apropos of Burt’s excellent maiden effort, I’ll be so immodest as to quote myself from a year ago almost to the day:

I am beginning to understand that the core motivation driving the supporters of such proposals is fear. Not fear for themselves — they are too strong in their faith to be corrupted by evolutionary science. It is fear for their children and in particular, fear for their children’s souls. There is a genuine belief that accepting an evolutionary view of biological phenomena is a giant step on the road to atheism, and in learning evolutionary theory their children are in peril of losing salvation. Given the beliefs they hold, this is not a silly fear. From their perspective, atheism is a deadly threat, and evolution is a door through which that threat can enter to corrupt one’s child. No amount of scientific research, no citations of scientific studies, no detailed criticism of the Wellsian trash science offered in “teach the controversy” proposals, speaks to those fears. If one genuinely fears that learning evolution will corrupt one’s children and damn them for eternity, scientific reasoning is wholly irrelevant.

RBH

I’m familiar with Mike Gene and I’ve heard the argument that ID != IDC before. I reject that bit of rhetorical legerdemain for the following reason:

Creationism is any sort of God-did-it explanation of origins. IDC, OEC, YEC, flat-earth, and theistic evolution are all forms of creationism. In this sense, I am myself a creationist, though I am not an anti-evolutionary creationist.

It is true that science can detect intelligent agency, but to do so presupposes either such a familiarity with the designer’s methods that the diagnosis of design is clear (c.f., 9/11) or that the diagnosis of design is confirmed by asking questions of the designer that go on to explain and predict other findings (c.f., archaeology).

The blood clotting cascade sure looks like it evolved. And whether it did or not, it obviously is not one of those former cases of design, where to question the reliability of the design diagnosis is foolish. Thus, to confirm design scientifically, one must do what scientists do when they confirm design scientifically: they ask questions about the designer.

Such as: * Who was the designer? * Why did the designer design? * How can we determine other instances of design? * How many design interventions have there been? etc.

ID creationists defer answering those questions to “theology.” The failure to answer these questions 1) seriously detracts from the credibility of the design diagnosis and 2) firmly plants ID into the realm of IDC.

BCH

Mike Gene makes me laugh, FL. Here’s a quote for Mike Gene to chew on.

There is one good thing about the term “Intelligent Design Creationism.” Those who object to the use of the term give themselves away as being biased and incapable of considering this debate objectively.

—- Steve U.

If you or Mike Gene can explain why a theory that proposes that some alien beings “somehow” designed and created all of the “complex” life forms that ever lived on earth is not “creationism”, then please do so now.

I would especially enjoy it if Mike came here and defended his statement. It’s always more interesting to hear from the “masters” rather than the slaves who merely recite their masters’ scripts.

But Mike Gene won’t come here and explain his statement because he’s wrong, he knows it, and he’s too cowardly to face the truth.

That’s okay. Someday he can attempt to explain his comment in a court of law. How do you suppose that will turn out, FL?

Incidentally, can you really consider me to be “armchair psychoanalyzing” when I’ve been trained to psychoanalyze?

Granted, it’s not my area of expertise, but it’s not like I flunked my psych rotation.

BCH, MD

Pay no attention to FL, Burt, unless you have spent some time checking out his ramblings for the last few weeks or so.

He makes even less sense if you don’t.

Toejam, “science never forced anyone to choose. it was their own interpretations that are forcing them to choose, nothing less, nothing more.” Agreed on both counts, my point is that telling them they are just wrong is not likely to change many minds. Recognizing that people hold these (misguided) beliefs for real, personal reasons gives a much better chance. Afterall, the more “elitest scientists” scorn these guys the more it plays into their persecuted mindset.

SteveU, agreed also and well put. Frankly I think that a lot of literalism builds a sort of house of cards where everything works as long as none of the beliefs are questioned. But, when one belief is questioned, the whole sense of self is threatened. And people can get pretty wacky in defending that sense of self. So while the chioce is completely false, I think we have a better chance getting people to see that if we approach them respectfully. Note, this DOES NOT apply to the minelayers! They deserve all the derision and ruthless debunking in the world.

FL posts:

However, one flaw that ~won’t~ wait, is Burt’s obvious conflation of the terms “Intelligent Design” and “Creationism.”

Okay. But which event(s) that occurred on or near earth did the designer(s) cause? Did the designer cause the existence of some organisms and/or some parts of some organisms? If so, which ones? And what evidence do you have for that? Remember, lots of fairly complex things have been born. That’s how I got here.

Now I’m a little confused. Phil Johnson proudly claims the creationist label, but Mike Gene says we can dismiss, out of hand, the arguments of anyone using the term ID creationist.

And from various posts, I had formed the impression that FL himself was a biblical literalist, i.e. an unapologetic creationist, valiantly carrying the ID banner here at Panda’s Thumb.

Perhaps he’ll clear it up for me.

Mr. Mayr is very helpful for me to show how Darwinism is, at the end of the day, incompatible with Christianity.

Says who.

You? Who the hell are *you*?

There’s a back and forth here going on that I don’t want to stoop to. I want to answer Heddle’s question as best as I can, but I don’t want to get embroiled on the locker-room stuff going on here of late.

I think it is rare to find someone who is able to take a religious view against homosexuality and not be religiously homophobic. Those people do exist, clearly, but they are the rarity. Rather, what is far more common is to see people like Jerry Johnston openly advocate hatred of homosexuals as a political instrument.

I don’t want to be ethereal here so let me be plain. On or before the day I attended Johnston’s sermon, gays and lesbians and their friends had decided to be silent for a full 24hours in representation of the silent adversity faced by those who are not out of the closet. Independent of what one’s religious beliefs are about homosexuality, the fact that gays who are not out experience silent hardship and emotional pressure cannot be debated. It would be like me refusing to speak for 24 hours in deference to creationists who silently believed that evolution was false: it’s something anyone independent of belief could do to recognize the adversity.

Jerry Johnston prayed to God (see the writeup in my essay above), apologizing that as Christians they lacked the political power to crush that simple promotion of awareness.

There is religiously-fueled homophobia in the world and it wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of people who were so did so thinking they were being Godly when they act this way.

In closing, I will only say that to consider admonitions against homophobia as having NT validation is for you to hold that Jesus was not competent to talk about the things that mattered. (Please remember that Jesus mentioned the topic all of ZERO times. He did have things to say about liars and injustice, however.)

Nuff said on this topic. You may go back to your feces flinging.

BCH

“Think about that one, Sir Toe. And kudos again on being so perceptive.”

I did think about it; er that’s why i called you on it. as to being perceptive, compared to yourself, evidently, a bowling ball is more perceptive.

you yourself pointed out your infallibility to lenny:

Second, after so many intro questions, you said:

lenny:Sorry, FL, but I simply don’t believe that you are infallible.

Excellent! We finally agree on something, Rev. (On the other hand, I don’t recall ever making such a claim in the first

but you claim to be infallible when deciding that ID is the answer to both science and religion.

you run circles around yourself.

again i ask you, a question to add to the que of questions you refuse to answer, like how can you claim that ID answers scientific questions, when it demonstrably does not:

“if we actually replaced science with psuedo-christian religious philosophy, as they seem to want, would they even be able to exist in that society for long? what practical applications would arise from replacing the scientific method with religious postulations? Has ID ever produced a shred of practical theory or application? nope.”

congratulations on being the textbook case of denial based on fear so eloquently described in the other thread.

how’s that for perceptive?

Burt wrote

Nuff said on this topic. You may go back to your feces flinging.

I concur with the “feces flinging” remark. It’s getting deep in here.

RBH

oh please.

David H

Regarding ceremonial law. When people bring up this issue, they frequently mention things like mixed fiber garments and dietary laws (no shellfish, no cheesburgers- I’m sure you can do the list better than I can). Your answer was pretty standard relative to that of others with a biblical inerrancy standpoint. One OT law that seems not to have been overturned in the New Testament is against the charging of interest on loans. Nobody has ever given me a cogent answer about why Christians don’t have a problem with it despite a straightforward biblical proscription. Care to take a crack? (and apologies to all, this feels way off topic to me).

Burt wrote a comment that concluding that there was “nuff said on this topic.” But since he didn’t write anything substantive, I am not sure why he bothered.

Oh, he did say something quite silly:

to consider admonitions against homophobia as having NT validation is for you to hold that Jesus was not competent to talk about the things that mattered. (Please remember that Jesus mentioned the topic all of ZERO times. He did have things to say about liars and injustice, however.)

In other words, the bible should be pared to just a few pages: the collective sayings of Jesus. The whole notion that God spoke through the prophets and that the writers of the gospels and epistles were inspired must be tossed out. Then, and only then, when we have a NT with no admonitions against homosexuality to we have a “real” bible worthy of the honorific holy.

Jesus did talk about hell more than anyone else in the bible. Hell as a place where unbelievers are punished forever. When we pare the bible down to just the sayings of Jesus, can we toss that part out too? It is so…out of character for him.

Doug T

One OT law that seems not to have been overturned in the New Testament is against the charging of interest on loans.

It’s a tough question, but one that was tackled nicely by John Calvin (one of the two greatest post-apostolic theologians, along with Augustine, IMHO), and I refer you to searches on “Calvin and usury.” In short, Calvin argued that the prohibitions against usury applied to the poor: we should not give money to the poor and try to make a profit. He wrote a great deal on this, you can read him and decide if you buy his arguments. I could do no better that parrot what he wrote.

So you admit that Jesus didn’t think homosexuality was a big deal?

BCH

Exactly the opposite. It is impossible for Paul to teach something in the bible that conflicts with Jesus, and Paul wrote against homosexuality.

I think the creationist disregard for evidence often affects the way they read the Bible.

1. Nothing in the Bible suggests that it would be impossible for Paul to teach something in the Bible that conflicts with Jesus. In point of fact, Paul says that some of what he says is his own opinion, not from any other source. Why would Paul say that? Why would a student of the Bible ignore the point?

2. Paul wrote against temple prostitution, and he wrote about both heterosexual temple prostitution as well as homosexual prostitution, if in fact his words can be construed accurately to be against homosexuality. Some scholars question that. Paul preached hard against promiscuity – in all things, in all people.

Paul also wrote against marriage.

Now, if we were to be consistent, and take all of this stuff literally, we’d be in the same position as the Shakers. Mr. Heddle is not of the Shaker persuasion, however – so our question should be, why does Mr. Heddle do what he accuses the rest of us of doing, pick and choose parts of the Bible to emphasize, sometimes with disregard for the rest?

3. Jesus spoke not a word against homosexuality recorded in scripture. Not even in the Apocrypha.

4. If we’re interpreting Paul’s use of the word “unnatural” as disallowing homosexuality, we have a lot of explaining to do now that we know homosexuality is not uncommon among hundreds of other animal species (not to mention that it is virtually required in some plants).

5. When claims that Paul spoke against anything come from those who twist scripture to claim that Jesus affirmed the literalness of the flood and creation stories, since we know that Jesus did neither except in passing in longer comments against divorce and the end of time, we might be justified to dismiss the claims about Paul as similarly twisted or ill-informed.

6. Jesus talked about money and economic justice more than any other topic. Hell on Earth is poverty, and Jesus preached against it. Hell on Earth is sickness, and Jesus preached against it. Applied evolution has given us the green revolution to combat poverty and medical miracles that promote healing. To the extent that creationism calls those things evil in its haste to disavow Darwin (who was a good and just man), creationism is blasphemous. And that’s wholly apart from whether Paul intended to condemn homosexuality.

I’d comment to Heddle, but Darrell summarized my thoughts nicely. I endorse his rejoinder, especially its organizing thesis that Heddle is allowing his preconceptions about the Bible to affect the way he reads it.

While I don’t want to criticize him on this point - because one observation of the psychology of learning and creativity is that we are able to understand only that which we already half-know - I do think he’s making some assumptions about the God-breathed aspects of the Pauline NT that might not necessarily be valid.

BCH

Heddley does a little twirl:

“The whole notion that God spoke through the prophets and that the writers of the gospels and epistles were inspired must be tossed out”

uh, just a couple of posts before that, you essentially threw out the entire OT as of no value in answering the questions i posed.

so which is it, eh? Is it “the bible” or just a collection of random texts?

do you even know yourself?

Bah! On this board, scientists find the Bible supports evolution, creationists find that it does not. On other boards, bigots find Biblical support for bigotry, homophobes find Biblical support for their visceral disgust with homosexuality, while homosexuals find Biblical endorsement of their orientation. Apparently we could change the name of the Bible to the Giant Golden Book of Congenial Ambiguities. It seems to say anything anyone wants to believe.

In this respect, the Bible sounds just like ID and anything else that means everything and its opposite and therefore can’t be wrong even when it’s wrong. Are you people feeling all right?

“It seems to say anything anyone wants to believe”

Exactly, why do you think it’s been around for so long?

now that we know homosexuality is not uncommon among hundreds of other animal species (not to mention that it is virtually required in some plants).

And at least one species of lizard.

Henry

(Oops, left out some punctuation from the above.)

Re “[…] now that we know homosexuality is not uncommon among hundreds of other animal species (not to mention that it is virtually required in some plants).”

And at least one species of lizard.

Henry

FL quoted scripture:

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 men are without excuse. Rom. 1:20

Exactly. Darwin observed and described some of that nature. Creationism asks its followers to hit the delete button on FL’s e-mail from God – sadly, creationists of all stripes (including especially IDists), hit that delete button.

Yes, if you want to put it in religious terms: Evolution describes what is seen in nature, the “invisible” qualities of God manifested in creation. It’s not necessary to claim “God did it” in order to make the observation. But denying the observation is, in religious terms, a denial of God, as well as a denial of evolution.

Which is why creationism is bad religion and should be abandoned by Christians.

It is impossible for Paul to teach something in the bible that conflicts with Jesus, and Paul wrote against homosexuality.

So what. When did Paul become infallible.

the entire aim of ID **is** nothing but religious apologetics, and they are indeed just lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Which is not true, nor did I even suggest such a thing.

Hey Heddle, this is the part where you step in and tell FL that he is wrong when he says ID is not religious apologetics. Do something useful for a change.

Hey Heddle, I’m still waiting . … . .

the entire aim of ID **is** nothing but religious apologetics, and they are indeed just lying to us when they claim otherwise.

Which is not true, nor did I even suggest such a thing.

Hey Heddle, this is the part where you step in and tell FL that he is wrong when he says ID is not religious apologetics. Do something useful for a change.

Hey Heddle, I’m still waiting . … . .

lenny, Heddle says he’s done with us. something about “getting a life”.

which means you might have to wait a few days before his inevitable return.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 21, column 2, byte 908 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

The whole notion that God spoke through the prophets and that the writers of the gospels and epistles were inspired must be tossed out.

Umm, he Davey, most Christians have ALREADY tossed out the idea of an inerrant Bible that was dictated by God. Do try and keep up, would you?

Does the word “biblidolatry” ring any bells for you, Davey … ?

lenny, Heddle says he’s done with us. something about “getting a life”.

which means you might have to wait a few days before his inevitable return.

My questions will be here waiting for him.

Just like Sal, and FL, and Nelson.

I’m a very patient person.

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This page contains a single entry by Burt Humburg published on May 20, 2005 2:17 PM.

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