Defusing The Religion Issue: Taking John West to task for distorting the positions of Scott and Miller

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by Jeremy Mohn

My friends and fellow Kansans Jeremy Mohn and Cheryl Shepherd-Adams (a KCFS Board member) have a nice website/blog called “Stand Up for Real Science” that deserves wider attention. I really like their motto: “Critically Analyze All Theories—Teach the Actual Controversies”

Today Jeremy’s post, Defusing the Religious Issue, takes Discovery Institute fellow John West to task for distorting via quotemine (surprise!) positions held by NCSE’s Genie Scott and by biologist Ken Miller, author of Finding Darwin’s God.

I’d like to post the entire article by Jeremy here. I encourage you to visit Jeremy and Cheryl’s site, and even if you comment here you might drop by there and leave a comment. (By the way, patrons of our discussion forum, After the Bar Closes, will find the first couple of comments there interesting.)

—Jack Krebs

The Discovery Institute’s Dr. John G. West, recently gave a lecture in which he claimed that supporters of REAL science are promoting religious instruction in public school science classrooms.

Public schools are certainly allowed to hold objective discussions of competing religious beliefs, in relevant courses, but that’s not what the defenders of evolution are proposing. They are pushing one-sided, really, religious indoctrination with the clear intent of changing the religious beliefs of students, not just the science beliefs, but changing and molding the religious beliefs of students.

-Dr. John G. West

If what West said is true, it would seem to expose a startling hypocrisy on the part of evolution proponents. After all, it is normally the supporters of evolution who accuse their opposition of seeking to promote a specific religious view. Such an accusation requires serious consideration and a close examination of the evidence.

Unfortunately, West’s lecture was full of insinuations but empty when it came to concrete evidence.

In his talk, West repeatedly claimed that Dr. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), encourages science teachers to promote one religious view over others. To support his accusation, West cited an article written by Scott entitled “Dealing with Antievolutionism.”

According to West,

She recommends that science teachers use science classroom time to have students read statements by theologians endorsing evolution. That’s right, science class should be spent reading and discussing statements by ministers and theologians. She’s quick to point out, however, that only theologians endorsing evolution should be assigned … but I guess that’s not promoting a particular religious view in her mind.

Not surprisingly, in order to make this point, West had to completely ignore the context provided in the article. It turns out that Scott offered the above activity as an example of how one teacher makes students aware of the diversity of religious attitudes towards evolution.

Here is what Scott actually wrote:

Teachers have told me they have had good results when they begin the year by asking students to brainstorm what they think the words “evolution” and “creationism” mean. As expected, some of the information will be accurate and some will be erroneous. Under “evolution,” expect to hear “Man evolved from monkeys” or something similar. Don’t be surprised to find some variant of, “You can’t believe in God” or some similar statement of supposed incompatibility between religion and evolution. Under “creationism” expect to find more consistency: “God”; “Adam and Eve,” “Genesis,” etc. The next step in constructing student understanding of concepts is to guide them towards a more accurate view. One goal of this exercise is to help them see the diversity of religious attitudes towards evolution.

After one such initial brainstorming session, one teacher presented students with a short quiz wherein they were asked, “Which statement was made by the Pope?” or “Which statement was made by an Episcopal Bishop?” and given an “a, b, c” multiple choice selection. All the statements from theologians, of course, stressed the compatibility of theology with the science of evolution. This generated discussion about what evolution was versus what students thought it was. By making the students aware of the diversity of opinion towards evolution extant in Christian theology, the teacher helped them understand that they didn’t have to make a choice between evolution and religious faith.”

So instead of promoting a particular religious view, as West contends, the purpose of the activity was to make students aware of the wide range of religious views concerning evolution, including some views that are compatible with it.

Not content to stop there, West continued:

Dr. Scott further recommends requiring science students to go out to interview clergy in the community … but not if the community is what she calls conservative Christian, because then the intended lesson, that evolution is okay…uh…with theology, that theology endorses evolution, might be undermined.”

Again, West misleadingly distorted what Scott actually wrote:

A teacher in Minnesota told me that he had good luck sending his students out at the beginning of the semester to interview their pastors and priests about evolution. They came back somewhat astonished, “Hey! Evolution is OK!” Even when there was diversity in opinion, with some religious leaders accepting evolution as compatible with their theology and others rejecting it, it was educational for the students to find out for themselves that there was no single Christian perspective on evolution. The survey-of-ministers approach may not work if the community is religiously homogeneous, especially if that homogeneity is conservative Christian, but it is something that some teachers might consider as a way of getting students’ fingers out of their ears.”

As should now be evident, West consistently failed to acknowledge the stated purpose of the activities and, in so doing, managed to make it seem as though Scott is encouraging teachers to promote one particular religious view over others. In reality, the instructional activities described by Scott were intended to address a common misconception: the notion that religious people must reject evolution in order to hold on to their faith.

So, upon closer examination, West’s accusations against Eugenie Scott turn out to be egregiously false. Scott does not encourage the promotion of religious views in the science classroom. She merely offers her help to science teachers who are looking to defuse the religious objections to evolution that originate outside of the classroom so that authentic learning can take place inside of it.

Pointing out that the diversity of viewpoints among religious people does not equate to promoting one viewpoint over another. That is a simple fact, one that West tried hard to obfuscate.

Representatives of the Discovery Institute claim that they really want students to learn more, not less, about evolution. If they really meant that, they would be supporting such attempts to defuse the religion issue because students are much more likely to learn about evolution when they can approach it without the fear that doing so will automatically lead them to reject their religious beliefs.

Unfortunately, this was not the only misleading part of West’s lecture. He also used a quote from Dr. Kenneth Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God, to blatantly misrepresent Miller’s viewpoint concerning evolution and the development of human beings:

Even the self-professed theists among evolution proponents tend to be less friendly to traditional religion than one might think. Let’s take Ken Miller, who is usually cited as a traditional Roman Catholic by the news media. Yet he insists in his writings on evolution that it’s an “undirected” process and that the development of human beings was “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”

I happen to own a copy of Finding Darwin’s God, and the text quoted by West is not reflective of Miller’s view. Miller does not believe that intelligent beings capable of knowing their Creator are an “afterthought” or a “minor detail” in evolution.

The following long excerpt provides a clearer view of Miller’s beliefs:

So, what if? What if the comet had missed, and what if our ancestors, not the dinosaurs, had been the ones driven to extinction? Or, to use one of Gould’s metaphors, what if we wind the tape of life backwards to the Devonian, and imagine the obliteration of the small tribe of fish known as rhipidistians. If they had vanished without descendants, and with the them the hope of the first tetrapods, vertebrates might never have struggled onto the land, leaving it, in Gould’s words, forever “the unchallenged domain of insects and flowers.”

No question about it. Rewind that tape, let it run again, and events might come out differently at every turn. Surely this means that mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might as well have left us out. I agree.

What follows from this, for skeptic and true believer alike, is a conclusion the logic of which is rarely challenged–that no God would ever have used such a process to fashion His prize creatures. He couldn’t have. Because He couldn’t have been sure that leaving the job to evolution would have allowed things to work out the “right” way. If it was God’s will to produce us, then by showing that we are the products of evolution, we would rule Him out as our Creator. Therein lies the value or the danger of evolution. Case closed?

Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies leading to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. What does not follow is that a perceived lack of inevitability translates into something that we should regard as incompatible with a divine will. To do so shows no lack of scientific understanding, but it seriously underestimates God, even as He is understood by the most conventional of Western religions.

Finding Darwin’s God, p. 272-273

Miller summarizes his position on the following page:

Can we really say that no Creator would have chosen an indeterminate, natural process as His workbench to fashion intelligent beings? Gould argues that if we were to go back to the Cambrian era and start over a second time, the emergence of intelligent life exactly 530 million years later would not be certain. I think he is right, but I also think this is less important than he believes. Is there some reason to expect that the God we know from Western theology had to preordain a timetable for our appearance? After 4.5 billion years, can we be sure he wouldn’t have been happy to wait a few million longer? And, to ask the big question, do we have to assume that from the beginning he planned intelligence and consciousness to develop from a bunch of nearly hairless, bipedal, African primates? If another group of animals had evolved to self-awareness, if another creature had shown itself worthy of a soul, can we really say for certain that God would have been less than pleased with His new Eve and Adam? I don’t think so.

Finding Darwin’s God, p. 274

Clearly, Miller’s theological views are more nuanced than West would have his audience believe. While Miller does not believe that human beings were the inevitable outcome of evolution, he does believe that God intended to create beings that were worthy of a soul. It is therefore false to claim that Miller’s views are “less friendly to traditional religion than one might think.”

Ironically, after maligning Eugenie Scott for encouraging instructional activities that defuse the religion issue, John West demonstrated exactly why such activities are necessary.

People like him are working hard to make sure that the fuse stays lit.

125 Comments

One thing you’ve got to love about the Dishonesty Institute: They’re consistent. They lie, then they lie some more, then they lie again.

West is a member in good standing of the Dishonesty Institute’s Ministry of Disinformation, Agitation and Propaganda, along with Luskin, Crowther and ex-scientists Dembski, Behe and others.

It’s the most dreaded prospect of all to the Literal Creationists- what if they actually started letting the science teachers teach Creationism in the classroom? Since we of course can’t mandate that they all be Christians of the Literal Creationist variety, or Christians at all, then we now have a bunch of non-theologians teaching theology. Which means, they can teach all kinds of weird stuff about religion.

They complain that they can’t teach religion in the classroom, and then complain when religion is actually shared in the classroom, because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of what religion is. A shame they don’t also accept cloning- it seems that would make the Literal Creationist crowd most happy at all- if everyone was just exactly like them.

I’d to point out that it’s really “Teach all the controversies,” not “Tach” all the controversies. Since I’m not the actual author of this post I can’t fix that right now, but we’ll get it fixed soon.

The issue with religious folks and quote mining is that it is actually the way one goes about studying religious texts. No rational person can possibly believe that the bible as a whole provides a coherent and consistent picture of a harmonious universe ruled by an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, caring god.

The only way to read the bible and hold this belief is to quote-mine the hell out of it. You have to skip over the enormous number of “inconvenient” parts and take snippets out of context.

If you don’t realize this about religious folks, their behavior will continue to drive you crazy. It’s the only way they know how to approach anything larger than a sentence.

I actually saw that lecture broadcast. The guy actually seemed quite reasonable. He said that evolution was indeed a theory and that that was just fine. He said that it should be taught in public schools and that that was just fine. He even seemed to admit that there was a lot of evidence to support evolution and he didn’t seem to have a problem with that.

However he did keep implying things that were just plain wrong. For example, he kept stating over and over that religion and evolution were fundamentally incompatible. He obviously knew about people such as Miller and others, but he completely discounted their perspective. It was the same old “my religion is the only right one” routine. The fact that other religions disagreed with his was not considered relevant.

He also pulled out the old “scientists have been wrong about things before” routine in order to argue that the consensus view should not be the only one taught in schools. However, he made no distinction between high school and university level studies, which is of course a critical distinction.

He even tried to pull the old “Darwin turned into an atheist before he died” routine to try to explain away the fact that such a religious man could come up with the idea of evolution if the two things are so incompatible.

He brought up three questions that he wanted addressed in the old “teach the controversy” routine. Stuff like random mutations and macroevolution, etc. I don’t think that the questions that he raised are quite the problem for evolution that he thinks they are.

Overall he came across as very sincere and knowlegeable, but he was obviously very biased in some very fundamental ways.

Actually, Jack, our slogan is “Teach the ACTUAL controversies.” No biggie, though.

I would also like to pass along a link to West’s lecture that was shown on Book TV:

http://www.booktv.org/program.aspx?[…]PlayMedia=No

In my original blog post, I included a link to West’s lecture on an ID-friendly blog. However, the Book TV version includes the Q&A where West repeated and amplified the distortions that he made in his prepared remarks.

I encourage readers to listen for themselves!

Paul Burnett Wrote:

One thing you’ve got to love about the Dishonesty Institute: They’re consistent. They lie, then they lie some more, then they lie again.

And, it seems, that every time they open their dirty mouths they self-taser themselves intellectually.

As I commented on another thread, I have yet to meet a fundamentalist who isn’t totally screwed up in his education and ability to process information properly, no matter what level their “educations” are purported to be. It’s hard miswiring due to their indoctrination.

Oh well, if we just keep displaying their spastic brain-farts, maybe the public will begin seeing them as the mean-spirited clowns that they are, always have been and always will be. The public has seen so much of it with the G.W. Bush administration that they beginning to show signs of rejecting it everywhere. We can still hope.

I just listened to part of West’s presentation at CSPAN, and I cannot believe what he is saying. For instance, he is claiming that Judge Jones stated that the correct religious interpretation is that evolution and religion are compatible.

That just borders on either incompetence or reckless disregard for the facts.

They complain that they can’t teach religion in the classroom, and then complain when religion is actually shared in the classroom, because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notions of what religion is.

Which is a point that I make in my World Religions class whenever a student laments about the lack of prayer in public schools: “Do you really want your kids learning about religion from their science teacher?” I think the implications of that scenario terrifies them.

Add this to the growing pile of evidence that the DI is abandoning the “ID is science just like evolution” tactic in favor of “religion is already being taught, so it’s only fair to teach our religion too.”

IDers and classic creationists have been using that shell game for years, but would always revert the “ID is science” with each new audience. This time, with “Expelled” and all, it looks like they are staying with “plan B.”

IANAL, so I can’t dispute the encouragement I received that “plan B” is just as easy to shoot down in court, but I still get a little nervous when the fuzzy concepts of religion are emphasized over the no-brainer fact that ID is completely science-free.

On that note, one thing is consistent with the recent “ID is science, but don’t teach ID, just ‘critically analyze’ evolution” approach. That is that, for all the quote mining of Scott and Miller, I have no clue from the above excerpts what West thinks happened in lieu of evolution. Does he agree with Behe that life has a 3-4 billion year history and that humans share common ancestors with other species? Without hearing his lecture, I’m willing to bet that he says nothing about the implied better (or next best?) theory.

It’s important to show how IDers misrepresent evolution, of course, but don’t stop there. Get them to elaborate on their alternatives, and internal disagreements if any. If they try to evade the questions, that’s yet more evidence that their goal is to mislead, not inform.

I watched this “Darwin Day” crap that the DI and Johnny boy put up this past week on CSPAN. It is notable that the DI cut off the press Q&A afterwards, which were, with the exception of several obvious plants in the audience, generally skeptical of the Dumbass’s claims. I don’t have a transcript, but here’s one question that he struggled with: “shouldn’t we teach the scientific consensus?” He said he agreed, but the he wasn’t for “uncritical” support of “dogmatism” and that we should teach consensus as well as “thoughtful criticisms” of the consensus. Bullshit. To juxtapose “thought” and DI in any discussion is to endorse lies. If there are “thoughtful criticisms” to be taught, it needs to be part of the consensus as well. Can we, after all, not have consensus views and criticisms of scientific hypotheses simultaneously? Sure, just look at string theory, or hormone replacement therapy, or fossil fuel alternatives to name but a few. What lazy ass Johnny boy wants is a shortcut around doing science and then, being too cowardly to engage with the scientific community, insert his minority viewpoint into the classrooms. Shame on him!

Chayanov:

Which is a point that I make in my World Religions class whenever a student laments about the lack of prayer in public schools: “Do you really want your kids learning about religion from their science teacher?” I think the implications of that scenario terrifies them.

The way I see it, so long as I’m giving tests in my physics classes, there will always be prayer in schools. :)

What if a teacher was teaching evolution (and not creationism), but was giving assignments to be familiar with what religious leaders said against evolution? I think it would be clear the point was introduce a religious viewpoint. I don’t see how this is any different. Science class should teach science only.

wad of id:

It is notable that the DI cut off the press Q&A afterwards, which were, with the exception of several obvious plants in the audience, generally skeptical of the Dumbass’s claims.

You know, didn’t the “Expelled” folks recently have a screeing where they did exactly the same thing afterwards? They held a “press conference” and then the only people allowed to actually ask questions were the plants throwing out nothing but softballs.

Here’s a link about it… The Search for Truth, God and Braver Scientists in ‘Expelled’

I don’t have a transcript, but here’s one question that he struggled with: “shouldn’t we teach the scientific consensus?” He said he agreed, but the he wasn’t for “uncritical” support of “dogmatism” and that we should teach consensus as well as “thoughtful criticisms” of the consensus. Bullshit. To juxtapose “thought” and DI in any discussion is to endorse lies. If there are “thoughtful criticisms” to be taught, it needs to be part of the consensus as well. Can we, after all, not have consensus views and criticisms of scientific hypotheses simultaneously? Sure, just look at string theory, or hormone replacement therapy, or fossil fuel alternatives to name but a few.

Yes, string theory is a perfect example of a legitimate scientific controversy. Too bad the Disco Institute and their cronies are still stuck in the mid-19th century. I think points like this should be made more often when discussing these issues with the press.

What lazy ass Johnny boy wants is a shortcut around doing science and then, being too cowardly to engage with the scientific community, insert his minority viewpoint into the classrooms. Shame on him!

Essentially, they are trying to reverse the scientific process. They wish to assert their “Truth” and then cherry-pick, or just plain make up, evidence to fit with it. In addition, it is worth noting that they not only wish to reverse the scientific process but others such as textbook content, etc. They want to insert their ideas into science texts as accepted scientific fact, but they haven’t even gone through the process of proposing any hypotheses yet!

And then, of course, there is the Wedge Document which outlines the real reason why they’re doing all of this in the first place. It’s about much more than science - the Disco Institute and IDM wish to, in their own words, “see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral, and political life.

In other words, folks, they want it all - they basically wish to use ID-creationism as a tool to promote theocracy in the United States (and beyond).

This is why I share the Wedge Document so much whenever I talk on this topic. It is very interesting to see the reaction of most people when they see some of the information in the Wedge.

As for Johnny’s lies… well, I guess the only thing I can say is that “bearing false witness” isn’t really lying if you’re doing it in the name of God, right? ;)

Like Jeremy, I have a copy of Miller’s book Finding Darwin’s God.…and it seems very clear (even with all those “nuances” or extra details) that Miller does a stellar job of proving exactly what West said of him.

For Miller, the origin of humanity human existence is a matter of “lucky historical contigencies” (that means historical ACCIDENTS, nothing less) as Miller himself pointed out.

When you look at Miller’s extended paragraphs, as Mohn does, it turns out that you’re reading what Miller himself is actually believing. He’s actually NOT denying those things at all.

Rather, near the very end, Miller claims (WITHOUT taking time to rationally justify that claim) that what Miller believes is “not incompatible” with the divine will.

(Which would mean that God is directing an undirected process, a rational contradiction which evolutionists simply haven’t resolved.)

Meanwhile, Genesis 1:26 makes ABSOLUTELY clear that there was nothing “lucky” nor “accidental” about the origin of the first humans.

God deliberately created humanity, God directly created the first humans, not via naturalistic evolution but by His own supernatural actions (Gen. 2:7 and Gen. 2:26). Even Jesus affirmed and quoted the Genesis record of Adam and Eve’s creation. (Unlike Miller.)

Therefore, John West’s assessment turns out to be correct, even when you quote Miller paragraph by paragraph and in detail. West tells the documented truth, as it were:

Even the self-professed theists among evolution proponents tend to be less friendly to traditional religion than one might think.

Let’s take Ken Miller, who is usually cited as a traditional Roman Catholic by the news media. Yet he insists in his writings on evolution that it’s an “undirected” process and that the development of human beings was “an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”

Long story short, Ken Miller has clarified the issue by proving that evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Thanks Ken!!

FL

FL Wrote:

Meanwhile, Genesis 1:26 makes ABSOLUTELY clear that there was nothing “lucky” nor “accidental” about the origin of the first humans.

Does Michael Behe approve of your reading of the Bible as a science text?

Also, do you consider the origin of individual humans (new souls and all) design actuation events, or just the same old “microevolution”?

As an occasional AP Bio teacher I have to disagree with Dr. Scott. West shows that it is far too easy to misunderstand the exercise as denouncing someone’s religion in science class. Even the most extreme luddite religious beliefs need to be respected in a public school, and the concept of diverse religous beliefs regarding evolution can be handled on a brief sentence. Sure, West is being deliberately dishonest, but I can easily see students, parents, and admins coming away with the same impression. A science class is not the place to discuss religion, other than to briefly put science in context with religion in a NOMA sort of way. Very briefly. Science class time is precious, and needs to be used for science education.

I’ve been around this block with FL before, and don’t intend to spend much time on it. I will point out that FL is a Biblical literalist, but neithe Miller nor Catholics in general are. Miller’s views are incompatible with FL’s brand of Christianity, but not with all Christian perspectives.

A question for FL:

In your view, are Christians required to reject the idea that God is responsible for our existence if it can be shown that chance played a role in making us who we are?

If so, then it appears that the chromosome theory of inheritance is also incompatible with Christianity. After all, the sorting of chromosomes during meiosis I is a process affected by the “random” interactions of spindle fibers and centromeres.

If you accept that the chromosome theory of inheritance is accurate, then you already accept that every human that has ever existed is the result of an undirected process.

BTW, FL, Genesis 2 only has 25 verses.

FL: Meanwhile, Genesis 1:26 makes ABSOLUTELY clear that there was nothing “lucky” nor “accidental” about the origin of the first humans.

God deliberately created humanity, God directly created the first humans, not via naturalistic evolution but by His own supernatural actions (Gen. 2:7 and Gen. 2:26). Even Jesus affirmed and quoted the Genesis record of Adam and Eve’s creation. (Unlike Miller.)

The Troll is back, claiming (yet again) that his supposed “literal” interpretation of the Bible is scientific. It’s not only not scientific, it isn’t even a literal reading of Genesis since both accounts of creation in Genesis 1 & 2 contradict each other. Here is the literal text which outlines the contradictions…

First Account (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

Genesis 1:25-27 (Humans were created after the other animals.)

“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image.… So God created man in his own image.”

Second Account (Genesis 2:4-25)

Genesis 2:18-19 (Humans were created before the other animals.)

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

======================

First Account (Genesis 1:1-2:3)

Genesis 1:27 (The first man and woman were created simultaneously.)

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Second Account (Genesis 2:4-25)

Genesis 2:18-22 (The man was created first, then the animals, then the woman from the man’s rib.)

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them.… And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”

FL’s response to this? He claims the Bible (as he reads it) is 100% true and infallible, yet when confronted with contradictions like those above, one among many many such contradictions, he cites sources external to the Bible that bascially say “there are no contradictions.” Well, if the Bible is “100% accurate” as he claims, then why should anyone have to cite any source outside of the Bible?

FL means “literal” to be “my interpretation is the one Truth and therefore I’m on God’s side.” Anyone who disagrees (Christian or otherwise) is on the side of evil, in his eyes.

You know, I seem to recall the Taliban taking a similar “literalist” stance on the Koran…

In any case, I have posed the following questions to FL on another thread. He either cannot or refuses to answer these questions…

1. Who wrote the Bible?

2. When and where was it written?

3. What was the original language of the Bible?

4. Why are there un-canonized books of the Bible (such as the Gospel of Thomas, etc)?

5. Why do we have different versions of the same books of the canonized Bible?

6. Why is the Catholic Bible different from the standard KJV?

Jack Krebs Wrote:

I’ve been around this block with FL before, and don’t intend to spend much time on it. I will point out that FL is a Biblical literalist, but neither Miller nor Catholics in general are.

Nor is Michael Behe. That does not mean I approve of how he misrepresents evolution, but only to show how literalists under the big tent make excuses for Behe, yet never for Miller, even though neither offers any hope to vindicate any of the mutually contradictory fairy tales promoted by various “kinds” (e.g. YEC, OEC) of literalist.

FL said: “God deliberately created humanity, God directly created the first humans, not via naturalistic evolution but by His own supernatural actions (Gen. 2:7 and Gen. 2:26). Even Jesus affirmed and quoted the Genesis record of Adam and Eve’s creation. (Unlike Miller.)” So, the Biblical account(s) of creation are true because the Bible says so. They are true because Jesus said so. Why should we regard Jesus as an authority? Because the Bible says we should. Why should we listen to what the Bible says? Because it says we should, or else. So, why should we bother doing science, FL? We could just go back to living as Bronze-Age goat farmers, right? Get your staff and sandals ready, FL.…

I may have posted this before, but I had a one-to-one discussion about this issue of the role of chance with FL at the KCFS forum, which you can read at http://kcfs.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=419

Even though, as Jeremy points out, there is nothing inconsistent with Christian theology that events that look like chance to us are in fact within the domain of God’s providence, but FL is so wedded to his belief in special creation and the rest of the Genesis story that he can’t see the inconsistencies in his position, nor, again, can he accept other Christian viewpoints as valid.

Admins,

We need a way to handle trolls like FL. Some don’t like to leave his drivel go unchallenged. The lurkers might misunderstand the lack of response to such drivel. And others, like me, like to read the point by point by rebuttals. So that we can present science better in the water cooler conversations or when buttonholed in the airport by these lunatics. Removal or ban of such posts raises gleeful cries, “censorship. what are you afraid of?” kind of jeering.

But these trolls and their follow-ups derail the discussion of the thread.

Have we tried designating a thread as the standing “den-of-trolls” thread? May be even an existing one like the http://pandasthumb.org/archives/200[…]ng-to-b.html ?

Move the posting by FL and the follow ups it generates to this thread. Leave a message here saying, “FL babbled incoherently here, the posting and responses have been moved to this thread” with a clickable link.

Thus trolls don’t go unchallenged, trolls are not censored either, and the people interested in it can follow it easily. And the main topic of discussion does not get derailed.

Another technological solution would be to create two tags, “troll” and “response-to-troll” and tag postings from FL and his ilk, and the responses they generate. Give regular readers buttons to “hide/show trolls and responses-to-trolls” so that they don’t see them. The admins can do the tagging once or twice a day.

Both solutions put some extra load on the admins, and we should find a way to balance the load.

I see that poster FL has escaped over to this thread, still not answering any of the questions asked by poster MattusMaximus.

David B. Benson:

I see that poster FL has escaped over to this thread, still not answering any of the questions asked by poster MattusMaximus.

That’s because FL can not answer them, so he’s jumped ship to a new thread.

And yet, he claims that he doesn’t like derailing threads.

Everyone: sorry I fell for the bait, but I just couldn’t let the circular reasoning go… I do really appreciate all the sophisticated discussion otherwise. Cheers

Stanton:

David B. Benson: I see that poster FL has escaped over to this thread, still not answering any of the questions asked by poster MattusMaximus.

That’s because FL can not answer them, so he’s jumped ship to a new thread.

And yet, he claims that he doesn’t like derailing threads.

So let us put him back in that thread. Let everyone see how many times he says the same thing again and again, how many times he dodging questions.

Divalent writes,

The issue with religious folks and quote mining is that it is actually the way one goes about studying religious texts. No rational person can possibly believe that the bible as a whole provides a coherent and consistent picture of a harmonious universe ruled by an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, caring god. The only way to read the bible and hold this belief is to quote-mine the hell out of it. You have to skip over the enormous number of “inconvenient” parts and take snippets out of context. If you don’t realize this about religious folks, their behavior will continue to drive you crazy. It’s the only way they know how to approach anything larger than a sentence.

While it is true that some “religious folks” do study their scriptures by atomizing those texts and focusing with laser intensity on particular passages, it is silly to generalize this to “religious folks” as a whole. Such statements may make the die-hard, evangelical-atheist cheering section hoot and toss popcorn in the air and exchange high-fives, but are intellectually nowheresville.

It is a fact there are many “religious folks,” some scholars and some not, who do not skip over or soft-pedal the nasty bits in the Bible. Take someone as widely-read and theologically conservative as C. S. Lewis, for example. Lewis devotes long passages of his book Reflections on the Psalms (1958) to discussing the cursings in the Psalms; he refers to these as “diabolical” and “terrible” (21) and says he is sure

that we must not either try to explain them away or to yield for one moment to the idea that, because it comes in the Bible, all this vindictive hatred must somehow be good and pious. (22)

I could go on but won’t, for brevity’s sake. My point: the claim that quote-mining is “actually the way one goes about studying religious texts,” the way all “religious folks” read their Bibles or other sacred texts, is demonstrably false.

Religion is an extremely diverse phenomenon about which no sweeping generalizations, whether flattering or dismissive, are particularly useful.

Sincerely,

Larry Gilman

Further ADMIN suggestion:

How about a specialized thread for honest non-trolls who have honest questions about evolutionary concepts, details, research, etc.? You know, for average Joe non-scientists who have real questions that they would like to ask some of the experts here.

As a layman myself, who is probably above-average conversant with evolutionary science, I sometimes have a real question, but it may not fit into an active thread at the time.

And I can certainly understand how a true seeker-after-knowledge might be put off by (deserved) rough handling dished out to the dishonest trolls who show up occasionally. A first-time or occasional lurker might even see an apparently serious point or query from a known troll responded to with insults and vituperation, not realizing that PT posters have learned the hard way that the guy never really asks honest questions, seeking education. The honest questioner might then be reluctant to jump in with the sharks, or fear being considered stupid.

The usual threads serve their purpose, discussing current news. And some require some pretty specialized expertise to follow. But there seems to be no appropriate place for the casual non-expert to get a little explanation from the experts. Even if many of the responses were just links to TO and a little friendly comment, they could be of great service to the general public (and yes, sometimes to the middle schooler trying to do his research the easy way for his report on dinosaurs). Here’s what I envision: a smart kid in a “Christian” school, using BJU materials, who dares to think that maybe all those scientists aren’t complete idiots or Satan’s minions, and would like to hear what they have to say about the “facts” he’s being taught.

What do you think?

Stanton Wrote:

Beyond making ham-handed, unsubtle hints that what believing ONLY what they believe is the only way into Heaven?

Actually very few of them these days require that one believes exactly what they believe, only that they denounce “Darwinism.” As I wrote above, many YECs and OECs make excuses for each other, and IDers generally make excuses for all of them. In fact it would not surprise me if some IDers have admitted that many “Darwinists” will “get to heaven” too. Behe (Catholic opponent of evolution) would likely say that Pope John Paul II (Catholic proponent of evolution) is now in heaven.

Mike Elzinga Wrote:

My own position is to stop being polite and start asking the hard questions about their dogma.

Not sure what you mean by “hard questions,” but as you know most of them these days can’t even answer the simple questions regarding the age of life and common descent. Questions that people like Gish, Ross and Behe have no problem answering (although I strongly suspect Behe wished that he had joined the “don’t ask, don’t tell” chorus from the beginning).

Whatever questions we ask, we should avoid taking the bait by asking about the designer’s identity, whether there is or isn’t a designer, or make unnecessary reference to the Bible, Christianity, etc. Even getting into detail about evolution only gives them more facts and quotes to take out of context. The more we keep it on cold and dry “whats” “whens” and “hows” (proximate, not ultimate causes) the harder it is for them.

Frank J:

The more we keep it on cold and dry “whats” “whens” and “hows” (proximate, not ultimate causes) the harder it is for them.

I have several times asked how they imagine the design was implemented. The only person to attempt an answer did not realize that design and implementation are different processes. I suspect that most have never given the matter any thought.

Richard Simons Wrote:

I have several times asked how they imagine the design was implemented. The only person to attempt an answer did not realize that design and implementation are different processes. I suspect that most have never given the matter any thought.

I don’t even ask about the “how” of implementation, but merely the most basic “where” questions, such as whether in vivo (common descent) or in vitro (life from nonlife), and “when” questions, such as when the last such event occurred in our lineage.

IIRC Behe has admitted that the design itself existed since at least the origin of the universe, but the closest he has come to a clear answer of the latest implementation was the origin of the malaria parasite.

Compare that to FL (a literalist, unlike Behe) who is the only one so far to answer my question (whether he understood it is another question), and actually admitted that each human conception is a design implementation event. I can hear the DI folk pulling their hair out behind closed doors: “No! no! no! never admit that anything that can be observed in real time is one of our elusive ‘discontinuities’.”

Frank J Wrote:

Not sure what you mean by “hard questions,”…

I no longer get into any religious questions or science questions with them or debate them in any way. I found out long ago that this is just what they want and that they can wrangle endlessly about stuff they just make up.

Normally I simply tell the ones that come to the door that I am not interested. If they persist, then I demand something impolite and hard, such as; given centuries of sectarian warfare and the proliferation of mutually suspicious sects, produce the evidence that theirs is the one true sectarian dogma and that the proselytizers themselves have any insight into the mind of a deity. I simply make it clear that, if they cannot produce such evidence, then they have nothing interesting to say. I then refuse to take any tract they try to hand me as they take their leave.

For the ones who write to the editor of our local paper trying to push ID or creationism, I have responded with letters that simply point out how they have been taken in by the political tactics of the ID/Creationist movement (which I outline), and I then point out the complete lack of any research and evidence on their part that supports their claims.

We seem to be in a lull in this activity for the moment, but these people were flooding the letters-to-the-editor section of our local paper during the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns (the editor is a born-again type). There are only occasional probes in the local paper, but they look pretty stupid.

Certainly in the past, these fundamentalists seemed to have some kind of arrogant expectation that they should be allowed to make claims without any accountability whatsoever. And other people, either out of politeness or because of uneasiness about the implications for their own religious beliefs, wouldn’t challenge this expectation or demand to see evidence for the “credentials” of the fundamentalists.

Even now, after Dover, people are still uneasy about asking the kinds of questions that need to be asked of these fundamentalist claims. The conservative religious element in the community around here still avoids these questions. Even the more moderate churches are reluctant to challenge the fundamentalists.

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This page contains a single entry by Guest Contributor published on February 25, 2008 8:12 PM.

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