Report on the 2005 Creation Mega Conference, Part Three

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As should be clear from the previous entries in this series, I am providing an account of the conference presentations that I attended, in the order in which I attended them. I attended nine talks at the conference, out of forty that were available (not counting devotionals). I mention this because a commenter to one of my previous entries rattled off a list of talks he challeneged me to provide scientific refutations to. Sadly, most of the talks he mentioned were ones that I did not attend. Such scientific content as there was in the talks I did attend was of such low quality that I am not optimistic about what was presented in the remaining sessions. I will discuss some specific scientific assertions made in the talks as I go, but the only one that I am planning to go into great detail on is the one by Werner Gitt, entitled “In the Beginning was Information.” That will come in part five of this series.

Now, back to the conference!

Monday, July 17. Afternoon.

Carl Kerby's talk was followed by a two hour lunch break. I fled the classroom, emerged into the humid Lynchburg weather, and went searching for a place to eat lunch. I eventually settled for a nearby Mexican restaurant. Ordered a fajita burrito. It was really, really, good. Felt better.

I finished lunch with more than an hour and a half to spare before the next talk. Since I was close to my hotel, I decided to relax there for a while before going back to campus. Got to the hotel, went back to my room, laid down the bed. Grew contemplative.

I am often asked why I do this. Why would I spend so much time, and a not inconsiderable chunk of money, hanging out with people whose views I obviously have little respect for? Actually, I often ask myself the same question. There are a couple of reasons why I do it, with no one reason taking precedence over another.

Partly my interest is as a journalist. Especially for those of us who live in the red states, the pernicious influence of religious fundamentalism is a simple fact of everyday life. Someone has to keep an eye on what these folks are doing and saying.

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it. Nonsense has to be confronted. A short drive from my home, some two thousand people are gathering to listen to a series of frauds and charlatans impugn the characters of my colleagues and tell lies about what scientists believe and why they believe it. How could I live with myself if I didn't do what little I could to challenge it? Frankly, I think it should be a requirement of every science PhD program in the country that students attend a conference such as this. Let them see first-hand the ingorance, the anti-intellectualism, the anti-science propaganda, the anti-anything that doesn't conform to their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible attitude. Maybe then people on my side of this would wake up, and stop acting like it's a waste of time to pay attention to these folks.

Partly I think I can do some good. In other conferences of this sort that I have attended there have always been opportunities to ask questions after the talks. Merely by asking a polite but challenging question I knew I could count on having a large crowd around me afterwards. In those forums you have a chnace to plant a few seeds. Merely by letting them see a calm, patient, articulate (if you'll forgive the immodesty) defender of science you can do a lot to undo the stereotypes the speakers are presenting. I have no illusions about how much good one person can do, but imagine if my challenging question was followed immediately by another, and another. These people crumble when their arrant nonsense is confronted with simple common sense. (Incidentally, you can read about some of my experiences at past creationist/ID conferences here and here. Both links are in PDF format. The first article appeared in Skeptic, the second in BioScience.)

Yet another reason is anthropological. From the time I've been old enough to think about these things, religion has always struck me as pretty silly. And fundamentalist religion of the sort being preached at this conference has seemed downright delusional. Yet I am also aware that most people do not agree with this view (well, not the first part anyway). A commenter to one of my previous entries suggested that perhaps I am searching for something. Indeed I am. I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I've tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists. My hostility towards religion has only grown as a result. But most people have come to a different conclusion. So I keep searching. And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.

And let's not overlook my last reason. I enjoy it. I like seeing poeple who are fired up about big questions, and I like a good argument. And since having the Earth open up and swallow them whole doesn't seem to be an option, I might as well engage them.

Enough contemplation. Back to the conference.

My choices were “How to Defend the Christian Faith in a Secular World,” by Ken Ham in the basic track, and “Rocks Around the Clocks: The Eons That Never Were,” by Emil Silvestru in the advanced track. Having had my fill of Ham, I elected for the rocks.

Big mistake. Silvestru's talk was a typical creationist snow job. Look! Here's a tree buried thorugh many layers of sediment. Look! Here are some preserved dinosaur eggs. Look! Here's a Sequoia fossil in the Arcitc. In most cases the examples went by far too quickly to digest what their importance was supposed to be. Frequently the logic seemed off. For example, why are preserved dinosaur eggs supposed to be a problem for evolution? If I understood Silvestru correctly it is supposed to be because for an egg to be preserved, it must be covered in sediment very quickly. But preserved dinosaur eggs come from all over the world and are from roughly the same time period. Such rapid burial could only have been caused by a major catastrophe. And this catastrophe would have had to be global to explain the distribution of eggs. So Noah's flood is real. QED.

I am open to the suggestion that I have misunderstood Silvestru in some way, because the argument as I currently understand it is just too dumb. These eggs may date to the same geological era, but they surely were not literally buried during the same few days. And it's not as if the globe was pock-marked with droves of dinosaur eggs. It was not at all clear why several local “catastrophes” could not explain the data Silvestru was attributing to a global event.

And those multi-layer tree fossils are likewise a big nothing.

But mostly I didn't pay too much attention to Silvestru, since he was uttering one howler after another every time he brought up evolution. For example, he argued that the rates of evolution as documented by the fossil record spell the death knell for the theory.

In the notes accompanying the lecture Silvestru expresses the point this way:

Thus the Archean represents 47 percent of the Earth's age, the Proterozoic 40 percent and the Phanerozoic the remainder of 13 percent! Yet it is during the Phanerozoic that the vast majority of evolution is claimed to have unfolded, with human evolution (the most complicated of them all!) taking the shortest time of all! There is definitely a strange correlation between time and evolution since our planet is believed (by evolutionists) to have taken a quarter of its entire age before the first form of life evolved, 62 percent of its age all it accommodated was single-celled creatures (protozoans) but then it surely caught up with its completely random goal, evolving the absolute majority of all known life forms in just 13 percent of its age!

I'm not kidding.

Then creationists wonder why we don't take them seriously.

I've been staring at my screen for about five minutes now trying to decide if its worth trying to correct everything that's wrong with that paragraph. I think I'll follow my mathematical instincts and leave it as an exercise for the reader.

There were other howlers as well. He opened his talk with the assertion that there were basically two models for the history of the Earth: The creation model, which is based on science, and the evolution model, which is mased on natural laws. You figure out what that means.

He then argued that we must test these models against the evidence. No problem with that. An example of a prediction made by the Creation model is that we will find no transitional forms in the fossil record. By contrast, evolution predicts that we will find many such forms. Wow, I'm still with him. And then he simply asserted that there are no transitional forms and so the Creation model wins.

!!!!!!

Enough of Silvestru.

Next up was Phillip Bell in the Basic track discussing, “Ape Men, Missins Links, and the Bible,” and Douglas Kelly on “The Importance of Chronology in the Bible,” in the advanced track. I went Basic this time. It was after Bell's talk that I worked up the nerve to confront the speaker after the talk. Stay tuned!

To Be Continued

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Last weekend in Lynchburg, Virginia, the first ever Creationism "Mega Conference" was held, designed to both shed light on the lies of evolution and stand as a bulwark against "Intelligent Design," which some of the more hard-core creationists take iss... Read More

206 Comments

I’m truly enjoying your reports here, Jason.

That said …

Jason Rosenhouse Wrote:

Frankly, I think it should be a requirement of every science PhD program in the country that students attend a conference such as this. Let them see first-hand the ingorance, the anti-intellectualism, the anti-science propaganda, the anti-anything that doesn’t conform to their idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible attitude. Maybe then people on my side of this would wake up, and stop acting like it’s a waste of time to pay attention to these folks.

IMO facts and logic are immaterial to the subject at hand – the alleged invalidity of common descent, an old Earth, an old universe, and so forth. Rather, the pertinant matter is the fear of losing one’s “Christian” lifestyle by adopting such ideas as scientifically supported. Remember that these people are generally fearful of this world; reminding them of facts, suggesting that they’re only grains of dust in the grand scheme, doesn’t address this root cause.

Hence, a PhD candidate isn’t going to have any scientific advancement achieved by engaging with YECs. It’s a waste of time; you can’t fight fear with facts and logic. You’re dealing with demogogues here: Ham, Sarfati, and the rest all play to these Christians’ fears of losing their faith, which is everything to these people.

IMO the proper route is to address the fear. Acting calmly in the face of adversity tends to calm the fears of others. You spoke of “planting seeds.” If done patiently and calmly, with no expectations of results, IMO you’re most likely to see the fear dissipate, the mind engaged, and the eyes opened. Beyond that, we can expect nothing more.

I fled the classroom, emerged into the humid Lynchburg weather, and went searching for a place to eat lunch. I eventually settled for a nearby Mexican restaurant. Ordered a fajita burrito. It was really, really, good. Felt better.

Glad to hear your trip wasn’t a complete bummer.

It’s interesting you bring up the issue of what you are doing in creationist territory in th first place, and I accept your reasons on face value, but might I suggest there is one more that you did not mention…

I too have spent a fair bit of time, online mostly, discussing and debating with creationists, fundamentalists, and pseudoscientists of all stripes. As you say, it can be fun to argue about such things from time to time.

But at one point I sat back and thought more deeply about my motivations for engaging in these debates. I found that, if I was being honest, it was because it made me feel superior knowing that I was right and that all these idiots are completely wrong.

Now, before all you creationists and IDists leap in and say “Aha! Told you those evolutionists were all arrogant bastards!”, I’ve got news for you.… you do it too. Oh, you pretend it’s solely your humble duty in the glorification of God, but that’s not the whole truth, is it?

(It’s most obvious when you get those “witty” one-line zingers that both sides are more than happy fire out.)

It’s part of human nature, people want/need to be validated, be it be their spouse, their peers, or simply by like-minded people. It may be obvious to you, but it was a bit of an eye-opener to me when I realised how selfish some of my motivations were in engaging in the debates.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing for one thread. On with the show!

I sat through an hour of a creationist panel discussion on cable access TV this morning that included Bill Dembski.

To be charitable, there were a couple of interesting points made, including one panelist’s opinion is that YEC is on the way out - being replaced by a more “sophisticated” presentation of creation (I guess he meant ID).

(They also complained that if the conference had been about “How to Pray for your Pet”, they would have had a lot bigger attendance!)

He even singled out AiG (without naming them) as doing a huge disservice to the creationist movement because they villify any Christian who is not a young-earther.

But anyway, I sometimes wonder where these guys leave their brains in the morning. They got on to a discussion about abiogenesis - specifically attacking the biological sciences because they haven’t even come close to showing how life could have come from non-life (or a “rock became a walking rock” as their chief-sloganeer put it). Therefore it obvious that naturalistic life-from-non-life must be impossible.

Duh! These guys want both sides of the argument. What do you think will be the first thing out of their mouths if we ever create new life…? “See! All that proves is you need a creator to create life!”

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it.

I’m glad you evolved that way, rather than evolving only to survive.

I am open to the suggestion that I have misunderstood Silvestru in some way, because the argument as I currently understand it is just too dumb. These eggs may date to the same geological era, but they surely were not literally buried during the same few days. And it’s not as if the globe was pock-marked with droves of dinosaur eggs. It was not at all clear why several local “catastrophes” could not explain the data Silvestru was attributing to a global event.

Wow, awesome refutation.

Actually, the hypocrisy is amusing. Jason whines when creationists supposedly speculate, but then he turns around writes this as if he knows that a specific epoch of the Mesozoic suddenly experienced several local floods—since rapid burial is the only way to preserve eggs.

I’m not kidding. Then creationists wonder why we don’t take them seriously. I’ve been staring at my screen for about five minutes now trying to decide if its worth trying to correct everything that’s wrong with that paragraph. I think I’ll follow my mathematical instincts and leave it as an exercise for the reader.

That’s rich. More glib smugness from the intellectually-anointed Jason.

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

You want refutations? Give a creationist argument, and I’m sure we can find you a refutation of it, if you aren’t able to yourself.

By the way, do you have any training in biology?

But please allow some time for the refutation to appear. Sábado Gigante is on.

rapid burial is the only way to preserve eggs.

I’m not so sure. I heard that the best Chinese 100 year old eggs are buried quite slowly but with great care. ;}

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Excellent report, but I noticed a few typos.

challeneged me which is mased on natural laws.

I’ve listened to some of the MP3s of the talks, its very sad the poor logic of these kinds of fundamentalists / evangelicals. I would recommend faith-affirming and science-filled books like Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by geologist Keith Miller or Finding Peace with Science by biologist Darrel Falk to all these folks.

As Protestant Christian Mark Noll wrote in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the main problem seems to be there isn’t one.

Phil P

Thanks for the report Jason, it’s really appreciated. Your masochistic foray is ironically Christ-like of you - you suffer so we don’t have to, like those bloggers from NewsHounds.us who watch Fox News all day long.

Hence, a PhD candidate isn’t going to have any scientific advancement achieved by engaging with YECs. It’s a waste of time; you can’t fight fear with facts and logic. You’re dealing with demogogues here: Ham, Sarfati, and the rest all play to these Christians’ fears of losing their faith, which is everything to these people.

Yes, but the problem is that too many scientists, science students, and other rational people dismiss creationists as a minor, harmless bunch of fringe nutters. They aren’t. They’re part of a well-financed, well-connected political and ideological movement with a plan for the future of the country, and they have a LOT of grass-roots support from people who don’t know any better than to believe what they say about science.

If it does nothing more than show some of these young scientists how vital it is that scientists engage in public outreach on a regular basis, it’ll be worth it.

The reason for differentiating between science and natural laws is to facilitate the theft of credibility that science has acquired though it’s systematic approach to natural laws. And so it would seem that these people have no regard for natural laws or their own.

You know Jason. The image I have you sitting in the audience forcing yourself to watch creatobabbler after creatobabbler reminds of a scene in “Sleeper”

Thats the scene where they are showing Woody Allen footage of Howard Cosell. Afterwards Woody is told that the current belief is that prisoners were forced to watch tapes of “that man” for hours on end as form of a torture.

Woody Allen agreed.

I don’t know how you put up with such torture.

KR, In an earlier post you mentioned that Humphreys proposes that the half-lives of radiogenic materials like U decreased by many orders of magnitude during the flood. THe flood lasted about one year. This vast decrease in half-life explains why so little helium is found in the rocks examined by Humphreys, correct?

And Humphreys explains the flood waters protected Noah from the radiation.

But such a decrease in half-life would mean that the Earth’s heat flow increased by a similar amount.

Can you explain with a heat flow ~70Mwm-2, that’s 70Megawatts per square meter why the oceans weren’t a boiling cauldron, much less vaporized?

Is that specific enough a refutation for you?

Hint: Your preacher can’t help you.

I predict a resounding silence from KR on any specific objection.

And I predict a glib avoidance of ANYTHING that has to do with the talk.origins site; there’s far too much damaging evidence there for him to attempt deal with (there’s only so much cognitive dissonance that even a creationist can deal with).

Partly I feel morally obligated to do it.

I’m glad you evolved that way, rather than evolving only to survive.

A sense of moral obligation helps societies to function.

The only ‘refutation’ Jason makes is linking to Talk.Origins, the savior of cut-and-paste laymen.

Such ad hominem arguments are the savior of scumbuckets.

Market for confirmation>>market for information.

Or, is it >>>>?

In my opinion, while you’re doing the rest of us a great favor, what you’re doing is not good for you; get away from that conference.

Albion Wrote:

Yes, but the problem is that too many scientists, science students, and other rational people dismiss creationists as a minor, harmless bunch of fringe nutters. They aren’t. They’re part of a well-financed, well-connected political and ideological movement with a plan for the future of the country, and they have a LOT of grass-roots support from people who don’t know any better than to believe what they say about science.

This isn’t a matter of facts or logic here – more specifically, not a matter of the physical data and the scientific framework used to explain and further discovery of those data. You seem to believe that it is; after years of discussing this online with numerous Creationists, I’ve come to the conclusion that presenting facts and logic doesn’t do the trick, but you seem to insist otherwise.

Albion Wrote:

If it does nothing more than show some of these young scientists how vital it is that scientists engage in public outreach on a regular basis, it’ll be worth it.

The likely Creationist response is simply to ignore them, much as they’re doing now. Again, in the face of fear, facts and logic simply don’t penetrate.

Dear Jason,

I attended the Mega Creation conference too. My experience was similar and different. I interacted with lots of very nice people who have a lot in common with me. They pay taxes and too much for gas like me, they have kids who sometimes misbehave like me and they are trying to grapple with the meaning of life like me, even if they have a completely different way of going about it. My largest problem is the spouting of inaccurate science by these people just because so-and-so at the some YEC conference said so. I know the vast majority of the folks at a conference like this are not scientifically trained, but I met a few people who are and they sincerely want to know how the world works, even if they have a rather small trough of options for how it works.

All in all, I think it was a useful venture for me, even if I got thoroughly tired of being called a “compromiser.” Yes, I was flummoxed, angered and even gobsmacked at some of the bad science I heard, but I view these folks with a little more sympathy than you do. My angst is reserved for the professional scientists who lead them this way and ought to know better.

That’s what I think.

MB

“From the time I’ve been old enough to think about these things, religion has always struck me as pretty silly. And fundamentalist religion of the sort being preached at this conference has seemed downright delusional. Yet I am also aware that most people do not agree with this view (well, not the first part anyway). A commenter to one of my previous entries suggested that perhaps I am searching for something. Indeed I am. I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I’ve tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists. My hostility towards religion has only grown as a result. But most people have come to a different conclusion. So I keep searching. And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.”

Me, too.

I am trying to understand why things that seem obvious to most people (that there is a God, for example), seem obviously wrong to me. Over the years I’ve tried praying, reading the Bible, studying theology, talking to believers, attending religious services, and reading more books and articles than I can list attempting to prove that God exists.

WHY? If you can identify what has motivated you to want to believe that God exists, you’re much of the way toward understanding why many people take the additional step and embrace that belief.

And I keep thinking that one day it will suddenly become clear to me what it is that people find appealing or plausible about the theistic view of the world.

Easy answers, validation of their egotism, and a basis for rejecting the belief that they will cease to exist in a few years. The latter is quite explicable in terms of evolution. Like other evolved critters, we are built to prolong our existence, increasing the chances that the genes that built the phenotype (us) will be propagated. Unlike other evolved creatures, we are planners who build models of the future which we use to prolong our existence (lacking other useful features like acute senses, armor, strength, and piercing weaponry). An accurate model of our future includes our inevitable cessation, but the knowledge of an inevitability cannot aid in overcoming it; in fact, it tends to bring the inevitable closer, because our avoiding danger is largely based on the illusion that we can prolong it indefinitely (notice how people say things like “You’re not going to die”, “he escaped death”, “smoking will kill you”, etc., when the process of living kills you). No one way of resolving this is more rational than another. Some people live dangerously, some live cautiously, some commit suicide, and some convince themselves that they’ll live forever on some cloud. In the view of Sartre (one of those suicides), “life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal”. This is also the view of many of the religious, but their solution is to deny that it’s an illusion.

Oops. Somewhere along the line I seem to have reified Sartre’s talk of suicide as an existentialist statement of will into his actually committing suicide, but he didn’t.

Like Jason, I too was thinking about what is so important about religion that it makes people cling to it. Perhaps it’s the childhood. When you are a child, you live (or you should live) without much worries. Your parents give everything you need to you. They protect you from harm, they even grant you wishes that you are unable to fulfill by yourself.

Then you grow up.

Suddenly you are in a world that, by large, doesn’t care about your existence. You have to work to make your wishes come true.

So, is it a coincidence that people tend to view God as a heavenly father? Someone who does the same things for adults as adults do for kids? Someone who provides the good things and protects from bad?

If this view is true, then it explains much about the evolution-hating. Because what evolution says could be basically boiled down to this:

“Noone will help you. To be one of the fittest, you have to work for it. It won’t come for free.”

It’s eminently possible that this view is incorrect, but that is really not important here - the important thing is whether it LOOKS like a correct interpretation, since that’s what average person cares about.

On the basis of egg burial, one major point is missed it seems in these arguments, and that sequential layers of fossils and fossils buried in clastic sediments in a single series. In the case of eggs, there are sites in Mongolia and Argentina dating into the Late Cretaceous where in the same slope, one right above the other, eggs and nests and nests of them are found, some with bones and entire animals located around them. Sites such as Liaoning in China, Auca Mahuevo in Argentina, and Ukhaa Tolgod in Mongolia, show sections of fossils preserved in non-flood sediments, but rather volcanoclastics, in this case ashes that do not occur in submarine environments. The layers of fossils right atop another don’t stop there, but they don’t seem to garner much attention in the debate against a global flood. Regions such as the US midwest Western Interior Seaway show frequent advances and recessions of a great seaway, showing marine fossils on top of terrestrial fossils atop marine fossils.… I’ve used the successive layers of fossils in arguments before, it usually makes them stop and think.…

Actually, the hypocrisy is amusing.

So is the continuous refusal of creationist/IDers to answer any direct questions that are put to them.

Just like you.

May I ask what “TS” stands for, does it have anything to do with T.S Eliot? I want to know because, as far as I am concerned you have stolen my initals.

Let me get this straight; the flood, that global megacatastrophe, carver of canyons, raiser of mountains, was able to preserve a fragile egg.

This flood was amazing - it was simultaneously powerful enough to re-shape the world and not destroy delicate objects. Quite remarkable. Of course, the flood was able to do this, because in fundie land, it had to do this.

I want to know because, as far as I am concerned you have stolen my initals.

That doesn’t speak well of you.

So, it is only the FUNDAMENTALIST Christians who accept all of these as “literal truths”. Most other Christians reject some or all of them.

The vast majority of Christian denominations teach one or more of those doctrines. The Incarnation–the doctrine that Jesus Christ was God incarnate–and the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example, are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian teachings.

Liberal Christians and their apologists routinely refer to all or most other Christians as “fundamentalists.” It’s a lazy and dishonest piece of rhetoric.

Qetzal says: “I have a hard time with the notion of Christians who don’t accept the deity of Christ.” But there have always been Christians who did not buy into the trinity, and there are loads of ‘em today. (Harnack’s History of Dogma provides a run down of the ancient opinions.) By the same token, by the way, there are and have long been plenty of Buddhists who in effect interpret the Buddha as the supreme God, though Buddhists don’t like to use the word God anymore than the Romans liked to refer to their supreme ruler as a king.

Of course a believer is entitled to assert that only those who accept the divinity of Christ are Christians. That’s not my department. Looking at things descriptively, it appears that Christianity doesn’t have a definable essence. The various sects and churches that describe themselves as Christian share some family resemblences in terms of such elements as sacred narratives, theological themes like mediation and atonement, rituals, and perhaps even styles of feeling but if there’s a single core to this tangle of threads I don’t know what it is. Like other human institutions with a long history, Christianity is not so much coherent as stringy.

It would be interesting if the PT software could muster a chart to show how often a thread succumbs to a small p i s s ing match (no names need to be mentioned to anyone who’s read this far).

The bandwidth of reader tolerance is narrower than some individuals/factions upload capability. A number of subthreads which had yielded a fair quota of facts seem to have been cut off here by a religious/atheist brawl which squeezed other participants out - just about exactly as it aborted more promising dialogs in the previous installation of Jason Rosenhouse (remember him?)’s adventures.

Finding such patterns statistically, where a small subset of participants comes to monopolize an earlier diversity of posters and produces rapid thread death, would probably be easier than presenting the analysis in clear graphics. Likewise, identifying the perps would be much easier than categorizing the topics which correlate with this syndrome, though recognizing the latter might be more useful.

A relatively small database could hold all the most frequent versions of “you lie, loathsome heretic!”; my formal prediction in making this hypothesis is that positive hits will strongly correlate with the logorrheic fever currently weakening the Panda.

I know neither whether the fabled Bathroom Wall is functional again nor whether any bricks thereof are reserved for habitual hairsplitters, but if repairs there would relieve excesses here, let us all pray & sacrifice according to individual inclination that the appropriate deus ex machina manifests soon.

Or, to put this a bit less pompously: the best clubs have good bouncers.

The vast majority of Christian denominations teach one or more of those doctrines.

True.

The vast majority do not accept them all. Only the fundamentalist ones do.

Many Christian denominations don’t accept any, or only accept one or two.

The Incarnation–the doctrine that Jesus Christ was God incarnate–and the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, for example, are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian teachings.

That depends entirely on which Christians you ask.

You’d be in for a surprise.

Liberal Christians and their apologists routinely refer to all or most other Christians as “fundamentalists.” It’s a lazy and dishonest piece of rhetoric.

Umm, no —- “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names). The principles of “The Fundamentals” are literal belief in the afore-listed thingies.

Most Christian churches did not historically, and do not now, accept the literal truth of all (or even most) of the afore-listed thingies.

Hence, they are not “fundamentalists”.

Lenny, I’m clearly unqualified to argue over religion, but I have a hard time with the notion of Christians who don’t accept the deity of Christ.

The UCC is arguing over the matter even as we speak.

The UCC is arguing over the matter even as we speak.

More specifically, the UCC (United Church of Christ, which has 1.3 million members and is the 20th-largest Christian church in the US) has NEVER required any of its ministers to assert the divinity of Christ. Recently, a “conservative” member has begun a movement to require this. That effort has met heavy opposition, and it probably will not pass.

The UCC also does not assert or accept a literally inerrant Bible, or the physical resurrection, or the virgin birth, or salvation by faith alone, or the Second Coming. They view Heaven and Hell as symbolic and allegorical. And they refer to the Bible as “a” word of God, not as “the” Word of God.

The fundies, of course, don’t accept UCC as Christian. But then, fundies don’t accept the Catholic Church as Christian, either. Indeed, they don’t accept ANY non-fundie church as Christian. (shrug)

And no, I’m not a UCC member.

Lenny, I’m clearly unqualified to argue over religion

As is everyone, since nobody alive knows any more about god than anyone else alive does. ;)

But what we are discussing here is simply what various Christian churches do or not believe. And that is a simple matter of asking them.

You will quickly find that a very large portion of Christians simply do not accept most (or even *any*) of the beliefs that are being ascribed to them by some of the folks here.

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that most of us here get our exposure to Christians through the Internet, and specifically, through anti-fundamentalist parts of the Internet. Since the fundies are the loudest of the “Christians” here, and sicne they also repeatedly make the arrogant and self-righteous claim to be The Only True Christians™(c), I suppose it is natural to simply assume that ALL Christians accept what the fundies accept.

‘T’ain’t so.

The fundies are a tiny lunatic fringe within worldwide Christianity. Most Christians, worldwide, think the fundies are just as nutty as everyone here does. And most Christians, worldwide, have no gripe at all with any of modern science. Only the fundies do.

So, for those who want to yammer on and on about “science and religion are incompatible”, it might behoove you to specify just what “religion” you are referring to. They are not anywhere near the same. Despite what the fundies here keep telling you.

On the negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence/education:

Oddly enough, in the US, Buddhists tend to be much more well-educated than the general population.

They also tend to have higher income levels than average.

Lenny Flank:

That depends entirely on which Christians you ask.

No, it doesn’t. They are standard, mainstream Christian doctrines regardless of which Christians you ask.

Umm, no —- “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names).

You, especially, seem prone to throwing around the word “fundamentalist” when referring to any group of Christians other than liberal ones.

the UCC (United Church of Christ, which has 1.3 million members and is the 20th-largest Christian church in the US) has NEVER required any of its ministers to assert the divinity of Christ.

I’m not sure why you think this claim is relevant (the issue is whether the divinity of Christ is a Christian doctrine, not whether a denomination requires its ministers to assert that doctrine). Even if it were relevant, the UCC is a minuscule denomination, comprising only 1-2% of all American Christians, so even if the UCC flatly rejected the doctrine that Jesus Christ was divine, that would tell us precisely nothing about how prevalent the doctrine is amoung Christians in general.

I’m with Lenny on this one, having had to put up with lots of different flavours of Christian over the decades. The UK has a well established tradition of its Christian clerics not believing in many of those things. Unitarianism started here because of that sort of disbelief in the silliest bits of the religion (Newton being one of the earliest to reject the trinity - which was something of a problem while being at Trinity). The more extremist believers went to the US and possibly raised further extremists leading to the fundamentalist outbreak of the last century.

Anyhow:

(1) literal inerrantness not being regarded as true goes back before christianity was even invented - to jewish scholarship. The idiocy of literalism is very new and must be a tiny minority view indeed.

(2) I think the idea of a virgin birth was rejected by more than accepted it on some survey of clerics in my life-time (pre-internet).

(3) the deity of Christ has been discussed and is certainly questionable though I’m not sure of the balance of belief for that.

(4) ditto the physical resurrection of Christ.

I’m far too hazy on where majority verdict is for (5) and (6) unfortunately. However, I am sure that the locals don’t generally believe in the extreme literal version of (6).

(the issue is whether the divinity of Christ is a Christian doctrine, not whether a denomination requires its ministers to assert that doctrine).

(sigh)

Learned your semantic sophistry from the fundies, didn’t you.

The UCC is a Christian church (the name, United Church of Christ, should have been your first clue).

The UCC does not assert the divinity of Christ.

So whether that is, or is not, a Christian doctrine, depends on which Christians you ask. To the Southern Baptists, it is. To the UCC, it’s not. If you ask a Southern Baptist “is the divinity of Jesus a Christian doctrine?”, he will say “yes”. If you ask a UCCer, “is the divinity of Jesus a Christian doctrine?”, he will say “no”.

So whether it is or not, depends on who you ask.

See how easy this is?

Of course, you can continue to wave your arms and declare that they’re “not really Christians”. Me, I’m not so arrogant or self-righteous as to declare who is or isn’t a “True Christian™(c)”.

You, though, apparently share that trait with the fundies.

But then, you seem to want to equate “Christianity”, or even “religion”, with “fundamentalist Protestantism”. Oddly, that is ANOTHER trait that you share with the fundies. …

the UCC is a minuscule denomination, comprising only 1-2% of all American Christians

Well, for comparison, American Jews make up approximately 1.4% of the US population. I woudln’t consider that “miniscule”. Also, the UCC is almost as large as the Episcopalian church (which holds about 1.7% of US Christians), and is larger than the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Assemblies of God. I don’t consider that to be “miniscule”. It should also be noted that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which at 24% is the single largest denomination in the US, and the Southern Baptist Convention, second largest with 16%, *NO* denomination in the US has as much as 10%. Most hang between 1 and 3 percent. So if the UCC, at 1.3 percent, is “miniscule”, so indeed is nearly every OTHER denomination.

, so even if the UCC flatly rejected the doctrine that Jesus Christ was divine, that would tell us precisely nothing about how prevalent the doctrine is amoung Christians in general.

There is no such thing as “Christianity in general”. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations, sects, and groupuscules, and they all believe different things. Which is, after all, why they ARE different denominations, sects and groupuscules.

There is nothing about which they all agree. Nothing.

You, especially, seem prone to throwing around the word “fundamentalist” when referring to any group of Christians other than liberal ones.

I’ll repeat once again:

Umm, no —- “fundamentalist” refers to those who accept the principles of “The Fundamentals” (notice the similarity in the names). The principles of “The Fundamentals” are literal belief in the afore-listed thingies.

Most Christian churches did not historically, and do not now, accept the literal truth of all (or even most) of the afore-listed thingies.

Hence, they are not “fundamentalists”.

“Not fundamentalists”?

Not.

N-O-T.

Not

Know what the word “not” means?

Lenny Flank:

I’m about to stop responding to you again, but here’s one last try to get you to focus on the issue in question and to stop parading irrelevancies and nonsequiturs.

Well, for comparison, American Jews make up approximately 1.4% of the US population. I woudln’t consider that “miniscule”.

I would. I have no idea why you think 1.4% isn’t a minuscule fraction of the population.

Also, the UCC is almost as large as the Episcopalian church (which holds about 1.7% of US Christians), and is larger than the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Assemblies of God.

I have no idea why you think these observations are relevant, either. None of those denominations by themselves are representative of American Christians, and even all four of them combined comprise only a small fraction of the American Christian population.

It should also be noted that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which at 24% is the single largest denomination in the US, and the Southern Baptist Convention, second largest with 16%, *NO* denomination in the US has as much as 10%.

Again, this observation is completely irrelevant to the statement I made about the maninstream nature of the doctrines being discussed. But since you raised the RCC and the SBC, I will use them to illustrate the point: The RCC and the SBC combined comprise about 42% of American Catholics, and they both assert the doctrines of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as do most other large Christians denominations and sects. As I keep telling you, those are absolutely standard, mainstream Christian doctrines.

SEF:

From the generally well-researched and reliable website religioustolerance.org.

On the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ:

From about 80 CE to the present time, most Christian faith groups have taught that Jesus was conceived by his mother Mary, while she was still a virgin …

Various polls have found that about 80% of American adults believe in the virgin birth of Jesus.

On the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

For almost 2 millennia, the Christian Church has taught that Jesus was crucified, died, and was bodily resurrected (i.e. returned to life in his original body) three days later. This has long been one of the church’s foundational beliefs…

The site references polls by Barna Research and Harris that found that between 85% and 95% of American Christians believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It also cites a 2002 survey that found that only 12% of British Church of England clergy do not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The RCC and the SBC combined comprise about 42% of American Catholics, and they both assert the doctrines of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as do most other large Christians denominations and sects.

Well, as you said;

None of those denominations by themselves are representative of American Christians

Here, let me repeat the part you snipped and didn’t respond to:

There is no such thing as “Christianity in general”. There are literally thousands of Christian denominations, sects, and groupuscules, and they all believe different things. Which is, after all, why they ARE different denominations, sects and groupuscules.

There is nothing about which they all agree. Nothing.

If you want to wave your arms and decide who are the True Christians™(c) and who aren’t, well, feel free. It’s not a game that I find any use for. (shrug)

This has long been one of the church’s foundational beliefs

Um, which church.

There’s more than one, ya know.

From the generally well-researched and reliable website religioustolerance.org.

Facts, schmacts.

ts:

Huh?

Don P, you keep resorting to what Americans believe (probably ignoring anything other than the US in that) rather than addressing that I was talking about the UK - the example I know better (and the more mature older culture with a better appreciation of reality vs fantasy, like the jews). You also only address the items I said I didn’t know but implied were more likely to be believed. The first 2 are not believed by very many people - 1 in the whole population, and 2 within the clergy. The sort of people who believe in 1 tend to also believe in the tooth fairy and be many years away from being allowed to vote or drive a car or do anything which requires a better appreciation of reality than watching cartoons on TV.

I almost forgot this, having bothered to look it up. While you are talking about the size of sub-sects or cults of Christianity within the whole thing and the typical size of those (and the Jewish contingent) being in the vicinity of 1% after the few big leaders, the UK 2001 census got 390,000 out of 52,000,000 claiming to be of the Jedi faith. That’s quite a respectable 0.75%. (I also find personal significance in the places which came highest.)

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nu[…]t.asp?id=297 http://www.statistics.gov.uk/census[…]ank/jedi.asp

It could be the fastest growing faith of its time … :-D

Don P Wrote:

ts:

Huh?

I was referring to Lenny’s attitude.

the UK 2001 census got 390,000 out of 52,000,000 claiming to be of the Jedi faith.

IIRC, I remember seeing an interview with Lucas where he says that he modeled the ideas of the Jedi by distilling the basic tenets of seveal different religions (including Judeo-Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism and Buddism) and melding them all together. Jedi is, in essence, the core of several religions that have been stripped of all their theistic symbolism.

SEF:

You said “I’m with Lenny on this one” and Lenny was most definitely not talking solely or mainly about Christianity in the UK.

Christianity in Britain is now so weak and uncommon that I don’t think it can be considered representative of Christianity even in the developed world, let alone globally. Even if most remaining British Christians rejected every one of the doctrines being discussed, that wouldn’t really tell us anything meaningful about the beliefs of Christians in general. The evidence I cited earlier suggests that, amoung British clergy at least, belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is still very common.

the beliefs of Christians in general

There is no such thing as “Chrsitanity in general”. There is NOTHING about which they all agree. Nothing.

Not a thing.

Zip.

Zero.

Zilch.

Nothing.

Where in the world did you find a decent burrito in Lynchburg?

Note that this question remains unanswered. This is yet another case of Darwinists discussing trivia while avoiding the truly important issues.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on July 23, 2005 2:13 PM.

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