How reviewers sometimes tell as much about themselves as about the book

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I generally do not think authors should comment publicly on book reviews, but this spring I came across two reviews of a book that I coauthored, which had somewhat divergent viewpoints and were written by reviewers who were put out by our treatment of religion. Both reviewers, to some extent, project their own views onto us, but for very different reasons, and I thought that this interesting divergence called out for a brief response.

The book in question is Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by me and Paul Strode. A review in Science Education by Adam Shapiro, now a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, begins with this enigmatic niggling:

From its very title, Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) embodies a confusion. If by failing, the authors mean that creationism is a theory with no intellectual merit, then why is evolution not “true” or even “successful”? Suggesting that the important thing about evolution is that it “works” is tantamount to accepting a distinction between “methodological naturalism” and “metaphysical naturalism” that inadvertently echoes the arguments of intelligent design advocates. On the other hand, the rhetoric may be intended to evoke controversies in schools, where there can be no worse condemnation than the word “fail.” But in this formulation, especially for students, failing and working are hardly mutually exclusive options. The contrast is a weak one, and hence the book’s purpose is obscured.

Dr. Shapiro must be the only person on earth who thinks that the title of that book is murky. After such an inauspicious beginning, his review had nowhere to go but up, and I had the impression that he mostly liked the book but was simply put off by the title. Indeed, he liked best the parts of the book (written primarily by my colleague, Paul Strode) that dealt directly with evolution, and he writes,

But of special value is the discussion of recent developments in evolutionary theory, explained in nontechnical language, which does show how evolution works and continues to work.

I assume I will not be the only reader who is at least mildly amused by Dr. Shapiro’s use of the locution, “evolution works.”

Dr. Shapiro also appreciated our debunking of intelligent-design creationism, but he takes us to task for not recognizing that Darwin worked by analogy as much as did Michael Behe. Here he is flatly incorrect: We do not criticize Behe for using analogy, but for using an inapt analogy. It is a good and interesting point that Darwin reasons by analogy, but Darwin draws an analogy between artificial and natural selection – that is, between two means of selecting organisms – whereas Behe draws an analogy between organisms and manufactured objects. Behe’s analogy may not obviously be inapt, but we show in the book why it is inapt.

What concern me most about Dr. Shapiro’s review, however, are his incorrect characterization of our position on religion and his questioning our qualification to write on religion (which is a topic for which I was primarily responsible). In his concluding paragraph, he writes,

This book contains some excellent explanations of evolutionary science and valid refutations of creationism and intelligent design hypotheses. The prose is clear and accessible, and it is well researched, drawing from many cutting-edge scientific sources. Yet one of the “Thought Questions” at the end of the introduction poses [sic] comes off as ironic: “Citing an authority to support a contention is called an appeal to authority. When is it appropriate to accept the word of an authority and when not? Who can fairly be called an authority? Can you give examples of people who may be authorities in one subject but not in another?” (p. 13). While the authors’ biographies justify their claims to authority in science, their pronouncements on religion are much less authoritative.

Dr. Shapiro holds a very recent PhD in the history and philosophy of science; if I wanted to be catty, I might ask just how authoritative his review of a book on science might be. More pertinently, however, had Dr. Shapiro done his homework, he would have found that I am not completely ignorant of religion and have written a book and occasional articles on science and religion, presented a paper to the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, and coauthored an encyclopedia article on unbelief among scientists (see also an update here).

Some of Dr. Shapiro’s criticisms seem to me to be correct – maybe in fact we should have made more clear whom we mean by biblical literalists, for example. But I disagree that we have distorted anyone’s position, and the following is simply a misreading of what we actually wrote:

The authors insist that they believe that science and religion can be reconciled. Certain religious beliefs, such as in a young earth, are obviously wrong and in conflict with science, but they believe ultimately that religion and science need not be in conflict. The reconciliation, however, seems to come wholly at the expense of religion. As long as “religion” is reduced to an inward personal sense of spirituality that makes no claims about the material world, its workings, or how knowledge of the world is to be found, then religion and science can peacefully coexist. Regardless of the validity of these arguments, one must wonder how well this view can appeal to a presumably religious audience for whom religion means nothing like what the authors describe.

I do not know whether Dr. Shapiro is projecting his own views onto us, but, in contrast to what he says, we cite with approval the spiritual journey of the evangelical Christians Stephen Godfrey and Christopher Smith, the authors of Paradigms on Pilgrimage, who modified their literalist views as they learned more about science and higher criticism, in that order, but who remain evangelical Christians. Despite what Dr. Shapiro says, we never claim that religion must be “reduced to an inward personal sense” of anything, and (also contrary to what Dr. Shapiro charges) we do not give religious advice, except perhaps when we state that a religious belief that contradicts known facts is wrong.

Finally, and with respect, I recommend that Dr. Shapiro reread the box on page 57; surely he will realize that our comment, “According to the logic of the biblical literalist, pi must have been equal to 3 in the days of Solomon,” was meant satirically.

Some will be surprised that a more fair and indeed more favorable review appeared in Christian Scholar’s Review. The author, Michael Buratovich, is a biochemistry professor at Spring Arbor University, a Christian university affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. Professor Buratovich is also a member of the National Center for Science Education, its journal’s associate editor for cell and molecular biology, and evidently an evangelical Christian. Professor Buratovich also reviews Jerry Coyne’s splendid book Why Evolution Is True and advises that

both books are fine representations of a solid mainstream defense of evolutionary theory against Creationism and ID theory. While not all of their defenses are equally convincing, both books are highly readable and user-friendly. Those who desire more details should read the Coyne book, but those who want more of a response to ID theory should read Young and Strode. If you are really interested in the mainstream scientific response to challenges to Neo-Darwinism, read both books.

Professor Buratovich too is troubled by our discussion of religion and projects onto us a view which we do not promulgate. He apparently believes in an objective moral code; he takes us to task for our attempt to show how morality may be an evolved trait and argues that neither kin selection nor computer programs and theoretical constructions like Tit for Tat or the Prisoner’s Dilemma can

explain the existence of transcendent moral standards. If such standards do not exist, then is Mother Teresa really a better person than Adolph Hitler? Is rape or torturing babies for fun always wrong? Is moral progress possible? If objective moral standards do not exist, then the answer to all these questions must be no, and we are left with absurdities. The abolition of slavery and Jim Crow laws in the United States under such moral relativism is not moral progress but only moral change. If we are not willing to accept such absurdities, then we must explain the existence of objective moral standards.

He is, of course, correct that we have not explained the existence of morality. And, as far as I know, there is yet no answer to his questions. But, before we can “explain the existence of objective moral standards,” we need to establish their existence in the first place, and (also as far as I know) neither Professor Buratovich nor anyone else has succeeded in doing so. Professor Buratovich’s appeal to objective moral standards thus amounts to a God-of-the-gaps argument; in a way, our section on the evolution of morality is an attempt to show that moral standards may well not have been imposed from without, but that morality may have instead a biological origin. That there are still gaps to be filled in does not justify a God-of-the-gaps argument, however, and we present an argument to suggest that morality cannot have been decreed by God.

I was more concerned by Professor Buratovich’s claims that our book is aimed at non-Christians and especially that we make “digs” at Christianity. In fact, as we note, the book is aimed at anyone with $21.95 to spare or, more seriously, at anyone who wants to know more about the successes of evolution and the failure of creationism. Since many Christians may need to understand precisely those matters, I want especially to discuss Professor Buratovich’s unfounded charge that

Young and Strode, however, have written a book for non-Christians and they simply cannot help making digs at Christianity. For example, they characterize biblical higher criticism as a “careful, dispassionate effort to deduce the origin, age[,] or veracity of various sections of the Bible” (21), but higher critics of the Bible are often anything but objective, and anyone who has ever listened to Elaine Pagels or Bart Ehrman can testify to this. Some of their [Young and Strode’s] digs are also undocumented and gratuitous. For example, they write: “[T]he Hebrew Bible consists of several discrete, interwoven threads that tell inconsistent stories” (22), but never cite a single example.

Pagels and Ehrman can defend themselves. It might have been a good idea for us to have cited some examples, but it frankly never occurred to me, because I thought that the documentary hypothesis was generally considered established fact outside fundamentalist circles. Two examples will suffice: Genesis 1:1-2:3 tells a completely different creation story from Genesis 2:4-2:25, and no amount of finagling can reconcile them. Likewise, in Genesis 6:19 and thereafter, Elohim (God) tells Noah to take two of each kind into the Ark; then Adonai (Lord) says seven pairs of each “clean” animal; then we learn that Noah took two of each kind whether clean or not, as Elohim commanded him. It almost reads as if Adonai and Elohim are having an argument, with poor Noah caught in the middle, but in fact it is simply two traditional tales woven together by an unknown editor (Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? See also “Questioning authority” here).

I first thought that Professor Buratovich, in calling us anti-Christian, was conflating his evangelical Christianity with all of Christianity. But in a short, private correspondence with me, he argued that

I do not think that the term “Christian” has maximum elasticity. To be a Christian means that you believe certain things that were promulgated by apostolic preaching. If you do not believe those things then you cannot be called a Christian. Otherwise the term Christian or follower of Christ has no meaning.

In other words, if I understand him in context, his interpretation of Christianity is the Only Right One, and others who purport to be Christians are not true Christians. I am sorry, but I could not help but think of the no true Scotsman fallacy when I read that paragraph.

At any rate, the documentary hypothesis (or higher criticism) is no more anti-Christian than it is anti-Semitic, yet I once had a rabbi who used to say, “Higher criticism is higher anti-Semitism.” He was wrong and parochial, just as Professor Buratovich is wrong and parochial. Indeed, a former Anglican bishop and prolific writer, John Shelby Spong, in Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism states flatly that the documentary hypothesis is almost incontrovertible and considers it tragic that so few worshipers even know about it. I do not mean to sound sarcastic, but it is frankly more tragic when someone knows about the documentary hypothesis and uses it gratuitously against authors with whom he is generally friendly, but, in his words, he apparently “cannot help making digs at” them.

Acknowledgments. Glenn Branch, Michael Buratovich, Adam Shapiro, and Paul Strode have read and commented on this article. Thanks also to the editors of Christian Scholar’s Review for permission to post the Buratovich review; the editors of Science Education were not as agreeable.

118 Comments

Shapiro continues the grand tradition, which I would encourage, of shooting himself in the foot. Multiple times, apparently.

“I generally do not think authors should comment publicly on book reviews,…” I agree.

A very thoughtful and well written article. I appreciate that you made the effort and made this public comment.

Wait a minute. He considers calling scholars “dispassionate” and objective a dig? Here in the sane world, that’s called a compliment, because that’s how scholars are supposed to approach their subjects.

the following is simply a misreading of what we actually wrote

No, it isn’t. Instead it looks to me as though you are the one misreading what he has written. He’s not paraphrasing you but making his own (quite correct) point when he says:

The reconciliation, however, seems to come wholly at the expense of religion. As long as “religion” is reduced to an inward personal sense of spirituality that makes no claims about the material world, its workings, or how knowledge of the world is to be found, then religion and science can peacefully coexist.

Religion is irrelevant because it has to be regarded as wrong whenever it conflicts with reality (which is nearly all of the time!) and all that any honest “religious” person is left with is an unjustifiable sense of the warm fuzzies (caused by their own personal brain-farts).

is Mother Teresa really a better person than Adolph Hitler?

That’s actually quite a tricky question - but not for the reason he imagines. They are both evil abominations for their crimes against humanity. Hitler may have had more scope but Mother Teresa’s victims were tortured more unnecessarily and with more worldwide public sanction - because of the religious angle.

Matt,

One of your best pieces of criticism that have been posted here to date. Seems like Shapiro is doing his utmost to be a young Egnor in training. As for Buratovich, I find his reasoning with regards to religion as doctrinaire as some commentary left here from his co-religionists.

Appreciatively yours,

John

To compare both and to declare that they were evil, but of vastly different degrees is most disingenuous. Mother Theresa never did advocate for the extermination of Jews, homosexuals and “mental defectives”. Hitler did in his “Mein Kampff” and then, years later, had ample opportunities to do this to these very groups.

I am not condoning Mother Theresa’s religious views nor how she treated those whom she was trying to convert. But it is definitely most inappropriate to compare her with Adolf Hitler:

SEF said:

is Mother Teresa really a better person than Adolph Hitler?

That’s actually quite a tricky question - but not for the reason he imagines. They are both evil abominations for their crimes against humanity. Hitler may have had more scope but Mother Teresa’s victims were tortured more unnecessarily and with more worldwide public sanction - because of the religious angle.

[Dr. ShapiroBuratovich:] If we are not willing to accept such absurdities, then we must explain the existence of objective moral standards.

One could use a parallel argument against QM, with equal impact - which is to say, no impact at all. Some attributes of the universe appear absurd. That’s the way it is. Just because you don’t like that won’t change it.

In fact Dr. ShapiroBuratovich’s position is far more absurd than the position he argues against. The idea that morality is a human construct is pretty reasonable. Yeah it might turn out to be wrong, but its not exactly radical. OTOH his “ought/is” argument (the universe must be constructed the way we think it morally ought to be constructed) is pretty batsh*t crazy.

eric said:

The idea that morality is a human construct is pretty reasonable. Yeah it might turn out to be wrong, but its not exactly radical.

While the idea that morality is absolute in the same way that the laws of physics are presents, shall we say, some difficulties.

I will argue that ethics does have some basis in logic. Obviously, if I don’t like being stepped on and think it wrong, then it is logically inconsistent for me to think it right to step on somebody else.

Alas … there is also the counter-logic, which I used to see quite a bit in the military: “Somebody stepped on me, so it’s only fair for me to step on somebody else.” It’s a mindset associated with strongly hierarchical organizations.

It is pertinent that I point out that I (Ray Martinez) am a Protestant Evangelical, Old Earth-Young Biosphere Creatorist-species immutabilist, Paleyan IDist, British Natural Theologian.

Shapiro: “‘Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)’.…The contrast is a weak one, and hence the book’s purpose is obscured.”

Its Shapiro’s criticism that is obscure and pointless, making much ado about nothing. The message encased in the title of Matt’s book is clear, logical and legitimate. Shapiro produced much verbiage (in the much edited quote) that cannot be “cashed out.”

Matt: “Dr. Shapiro must be the only person on earth who thinks that the title of that book is murky.”

That’s exactly what I said.

Matt: “Some of Dr. Shapiro’s criticisms seem to me to be correct – maybe in fact we should have made more clear whom we mean by biblical literalists, for example.”

Very objective and honest admission by Matt. Such an admission strengthens his entire argument and credibility.

Shapiro: “The authors insist that they believe that science and religion can be reconciled. Certain religious beliefs, such as in a young earth, are obviously wrong and in conflict with science, but they believe ultimately that religion and science need not be in conflict. The reconciliation, however, seems to come wholly at the expense of religion. As long as “religion” is reduced to an inward personal sense of spirituality that makes no claims about the material world, its workings, or how knowledge of the world is to be found, then religion and science can peacefully coexist. Regardless of the validity of these arguments, one must wonder how well this view can appeal to a presumably religious audience for whom religion means nothing like what the authors describe.”

If Shapiro’s representation of Matt’s argument is accurate (which I strongly suspect that it is indeed accurate) then this particular criticism is spot-on.

Biblical Creationism, of course, makes claims about reality, the world, species. We accept the religious explanation: species owe their existence in nature to the power of the Biblical Theos operating in reality.

Of course Matt denies the charge of Shapiro.

Did Matt say that religion makes scientific claims about reality; specifically, how species appear?

I haven’t read his book, but I doubt that Shapiro imagined this particular criticism.

Biblical Creationism, of course, makes claims about reality, the world, species. We accept the religious explanation: species owe their existence in nature to the power of the Biblical Theos operating in reality

That’s a claim about reality.

Now c’mon people … you’re really NOT going to feed the Ray Troll, are you?

If you must, at least think it over for a second: “Does this REALLY make any sense?”

Eric: that’s actually Buratovich, not Shapiro.

You’re also a delusional nut who is quite intellectually challenged too. Think most at PT would concur with my harsh, but accurate, assessment. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that you and Slimey Sal Cordova were related.

Wheels said:

Eric: that’s actually Buratovich, not Shapiro.

Thanks for pointing that out! (And Matt, thanks for correcting my post.)

MrG said:

eric said:

The idea that morality is a human construct is pretty reasonable. Yeah it might turn out to be wrong, but its not exactly radical.

While the idea that morality is absolute in the same way that the laws of physics are presents, shall we say, some difficulties.

I will argue that ethics does have some basis in logic. Obviously, if I don’t like being stepped on and think it wrong, then it is logically inconsistent for me to think it right to step on somebody else.

Alas … there is also the counter-logic, which I used to see quite a bit in the military: “Somebody stepped on me, so it’s only fair for me to step on somebody else.” It’s a mindset associated with strongly hierarchical organizations.

If you want to have some “fun,” take a look at “The Ultimate Proof of Creation, Part 3” by the child PhD, Jason Lisle (who frequently concocts a reason in his talk to refer to himself as Dr. Lisle).

He tries to “anticipate” and caricature every possible “objection” to his arguments about where morality comes from.

This is one of the more rapid-fire examples of demonizing and vilifying by a creationist of anyone who doesn’t hold his sectarian beliefs.

Guaranteed to make you snicker.

MrG said: If you must, at least think it over for a second: “Does this REALLY make any sense?”

He’s got a legitimate point;* ‘divine’ revelation can be about anything - factual claims, moral claims, heck even musical taste. Religions based on divine revelation can thus cover the entire gamut of subjects too. The counter-claim (religions should not discuss X) is just silly when you think about it. Its tantamount to saying you know what the gods wouldn’t talk about with their followers.

I haven’t read Matt’s book so I won’t claim he tries to put this fence around religion. But that argument does pop up. Gould’s NOM is a well-known example.

*And sometimes the ball falls on the green zero.

eric said:

*And sometimes the ball falls on the green zero.

As in “a stopped clock is exactly right twice a day.”

Mike Elzinga said:

Guaranteed to make you snicker.

The prospect actually fills me with a certain dread: “ANOTHER poke in the eye.”

While the idea that morality is absolute in the same way that the laws of physics are presents, shall we say, some difficulties.

This relates tangentially to your statement, but those interested in how moral judgements have been empirically tested might want to check out Hausers talk from Chicago last year.

http://darwin-chicago.uchicago.edu/[…]s/Hauser.mov

interestingly, there appears to be be little influence of the specifics of race, religion, or any classification one can think of wrt to how moral judgements are formed.

not even pyscopaths show a marked difference!

differences appear to come in the actions that are taken, instead.

It’s quite an interesting talk.

and yes, I’m completely ignoring the current controversy swirling around Hauser’s work on animals, since it’s not relevant.

Shapiro: “I do not think that the term ‘Christian’ has maximum elasticity. To be a Christian means that you believe certain things that were promulgated by apostolic preaching. If you do not believe those things then you cannot be called a Christian. Otherwise the term Christian or follower of Christ has no meaning.”

Matt invoked “No True Scotsman” in response.

In a previous post I rejected and accepted some of Shapiro’s criticism. In this case I must agree with Shapiro again.

“No True Scotsman” is a defense of subjectivity. For anyone to assert that a claim of Christianity is exempt from normal evidentiary support, the same and its motive could be seen as an attempt to protect wolves in sheeps clothing.

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter.”

—Adolf Hitler (1922)

As we can see, anyone can claim to be a Christian.

Ray Martinez (anti-evolutionist)

truthspeaker said:

Biblical Creationism, of course, makes claims about reality, the world, species. We accept the religious explanation: species owe their existence in nature to the power of the Biblical Theos operating in reality

That’s a claim about reality.

Isn’t that what I said?

RM

MrG said: As in “a stopped clock is exactly right twice a day.”

Well, your analogy has the disadvantage of implying that he’s guaranteed (probability = 1) to be right at some point. In my analogy the probability he’ll be right is high given some very large number of trials, but its never unity.

But we digress. :)

Ray said:

Shapiro: “I do not think that the term ‘Christian’ has maximum elasticity. To be a Christian means that you believe certain things that were promulgated by apostolic preaching. If you do not believe those things then you cannot be called a Christian. Otherwise the term Christian or follower of Christ has no meaning.”

[.…]

Apologies; I incorrectly ascribed the quote to Shapiro. The quote belongs to Professor Buratovich.

RM

As we can see, anyone can claim to be a Christian.

and judging by the fact that there are over 40K sects of xianity, and growing daily, “anyone” does.

you really don’t understand the point of the Scotsman’s fallacy, there, Ray.

Isn’t that what I said?

obviously you didn’t understand his response. Try reading it again.

Hitler is probably the most successful Christian on record. Sure, lots of popes and priests ordered or advocated the murder of Jews, but Hitler took it to a whole new level.

Ichthyic said:

As we can see, anyone can claim to be a Christian.

and judging by the fact that there are over 40K sects of xianity, and growing daily, “anyone” does.

you really don’t understand the point of the Scotsman’s fallacy, there, Ray.

Isn’t that what I said?

obviously you didn’t understand his response. Try reading it again.

I agree that someone has misunderstood. Your bluff is called.

Ray Martinez

truthspeaker said:

Hitler is probably the most successful Christian on record. Sure, lots of popes and priests ordered or advocated the murder of Jews, but Hitler took it to a whole new level.

You believe Hitler?

Truthseeker: I just obtained contolling interest in a bridge in Brooklyn, looks like a cash cow, hurry up and email me if you want in.

Ray Martinez

His treatment of the Jews is in line with Christian teachings and centuries of Christian tradition. He was just more organized and more efficient. Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies was obviously a big influence on him. Hitler was no less Christian than King Ferdinand of Spain or Edward I of England.

John Kwok replied to comment from truthspeaker | August 18, 2010 11:10 AM | Reply | Edit

MArtin Luther did not conceive of or orchestrated anything as fiendish as the Shoah

No, he just called Jews murderers and devil-worshippers, and advocated expelling them from Christian-ruled lands. Not as fiendish as the Shoah, but pretty damn close.

Not even remotely close. He did not engage in a systematic policy to destroy Jewish property and to kill Jews. Hitler’s Shoah was a carefully designed, deliberate attempt at wiping out European Jewry. No matter how pathetic and despicable Martin Luther’s rhetoric was, he did not undertake any action(s) which bore even a remote resemblance to the Shoah:

truthspeaker said:

John Kwok replied to comment from truthspeaker | August 18, 2010 11:10 AM | Reply | Edit

MArtin Luther did not conceive of or orchestrated anything as fiendish as the Shoah

No, he just called Jews murderers and devil-worshippers, and advocated expelling them from Christian-ruled lands. Not as fiendish as the Shoah, but pretty damn close.

harold said:

Ray Martinez -

No, you didn’t understand.

I asked for a “straight”, as in “honest and complete” answer.

I specifically asked if Christians who accept evolution go to Hell (an alternate way of putting it would be “do all people who accept the theory of evolution go to Hell, no matter what else they do”). You answer does not include the word Hell, nor does it even contain the word “yes”. In my view, it is not a “straight” answer; it is not an answer that an honest man would have produced. It is a weaselly answer full of “plausible deniability”.

However, it does seem to imply that they go to Hell.

Now, using language that cannot be otherwise interpreted, do they go to Hell or not?

I see that I am being slandered as a troll and will be censored, so this is my last reply. Intelligent people recognize that these measures are caused by anger and the inability to refute anything that I say. If anyone wants to continue any of these conversations without the fear of moderator censorship then please navigate over to the Talk.Origins Usenet (Google Groups) where I am a regular contributor and where there are no moderators to save the skins of Darwinists.

As for Harold’s question:

Any Christian who rejects the Biblical explanation of life (Creationism-ID), while siding with the explanation of life that all of Christ’s enemies (= Atheists) accept, defend and promote (Darwinian evolution), is deceived and going straight to hell.

Its actually very simple: In order to go to Heaven you need to kiss God’s ass, not Darwin’s and Dawkins’s.

The world, in every aspect, exhibits ID.

Ray Martinez (anti-evolutionist)

I see that I am being slandered as a troll and will be censored, …

No, you are being characterized as a troll, and you are not being censored but rather moved to another forum that is not moderated and where all sorts of off-topic discussion are permitted.

… so this is my last reply.

OK, then I will let this comment stand.

John Kwok said:

Not even remotely close. He did not engage in a systematic policy to destroy Jewish property and to kill Jews. Hitler’s Shoah was a carefully designed, deliberate attempt at wiping out European Jewry. No matter how pathetic and despicable Martin Luther’s rhetoric was, he did not undertake any action(s) which bore even a remote resemblance to the Shoah:

truthspeaker said:

John Kwok replied to comment from truthspeaker | August 18, 2010 11:10 AM | Reply | Edit

MArtin Luther did not conceive of or orchestrated anything as fiendish as the Shoah

No, he just called Jews murderers and devil-worshippers, and advocated expelling them from Christian-ruled lands. Not as fiendish as the Shoah, but pretty damn close.

Wasn’t it Jesus himself who said that if you are merely angry with someone, that was the same as murdering him? By that standard, Martin Luther was certainly a forerunner of the Holocaust.

SLC said:

Dale Husband said:

Ray said:

John Kwok said:

Sorry Ray, but see my latest post. Hitler did believe in one supreme Deity. He was neither an atheist nor an agnostic, but instead, had much in common with the equally delusional likes of yourself, Sal Cordova and others who believe in an activist version of Jehovah.

Hitler was an Atheist. No real scholar denies.

You are conveniently forgetting that Hitler portrayed himself however necessary to get elected by a Christian nation. You have bought the propaganda of the Nazi Party.

Ray Martinez

Stuff it, you lying bastard! Adolph Hitler was raised a Roman Catholic in his original home country of Austria, and there is no record that he formally left the Catholic Church. If you know of such a record, produce it. Both the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches (including that founded by Martin Luther, who wrote a whole book calling for Jews to be persecuted) have a long history of anti-Semetism.

I am somewhat reluctant to get into yet again a discussion about Hitlers religious views. However, once more into the breach.

1. There is absolutely no question that Hitler, in all his public statements and public writings professed to be a believing and devout Roman Catholic. I daresay that I am unaware of anything known to be authored by him that in any way, shape, form, or regard refutes this.

2. On the other hand, there is evidence that in private, Hitler was contemptuous of religion in general and Christianity in particular. This is greatly based on the information in Table Talk, which is in much dispute by historians. However, according to Albert Speer, Hitler once told him that he considered the adoption of Christianity by the German populace to be a mistake and that Shintoism would have been a better alternative. Hitler was a great admirer of the Bushido concept in Shintoism, and considered that religion a much better religious choice for a warlike people. This would seem to indicate that he really didn’t take Christianity very seriously.

The bottom line is that Hitlers’ religious views, such as they were, are obscure and we will probably never know the truth. His admiration for Shintoism would seem to indicate that the appellation pantheist might be the closest thing that accurately describes his religious views. There is no evidence that he was an atheist in the sense that he totally rejected all religions.

That would certainly explain why Hitler was willing to ally with Japan, despite the Nazis’ adherence to racism, including contempt for all (other) non-white people.

I’m not condoning Luther in the least, especially when his rhetoric did inspire acts of vandalism and murder against Jews in Western Europe for centuries. But it wasn’t until the World War I Turkish genocide against Armenians did Hitler have a real-life model to base his Shoah on:

Dale Husband said:

John Kwok said:

Not even remotely close. He did not engage in a systematic policy to destroy Jewish property and to kill Jews. Hitler’s Shoah was a carefully designed, deliberate attempt at wiping out European Jewry. No matter how pathetic and despicable Martin Luther’s rhetoric was, he did not undertake any action(s) which bore even a remote resemblance to the Shoah:

truthspeaker said:

John Kwok replied to comment from truthspeaker | August 18, 2010 11:10 AM | Reply | Edit

MArtin Luther did not conceive of or orchestrated anything as fiendish as the Shoah

No, he just called Jews murderers and devil-worshippers, and advocated expelling them from Christian-ruled lands. Not as fiendish as the Shoah, but pretty damn close.

Wasn’t it Jesus himself who said that if you are merely angry with someone, that was the same as murdering him? By that standard, Martin Luther was certainly a forerunner of the Holocaust.

The theology of Ray Martinez seems to be entirely based on circular reasoning/begging the question.

He knows he was predestined to be saved (unlike Calvin, who couldn’t be sure).

All people who are predestined to be saved (i.e. only Ray Martinez) accept his particular interpretation of the Bible.

How does he know his interpretation is correct? Because he is predestined.

How does he know he is predestined? Because his interpretion is correct.

[…] I thought that the documentary hypothesis was generally considered established fact outside fundamentalist circles. […] (Richard Elliott Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? […])

.

I read Friedman’s book twenty five years ago, part of my continuing self-education in everything “scientific”. I was generally unsatisfied with his breezy treatment. He simply described the DH claims, and gave no real reason to believe them. So as was my practice, I delved into his references and then some more, and was greatly disappointed.

There was one running assumption behind everything I read that I found no reason to believe whatsoever, and many reasons to doubt. To wit, our Biblical author/authors were “of course” suffused with modern literary sensibilities, and wrote in a way that attempted to communicate in accordance with these stylistic conventions.

If you make that assumption, then of course the DH, or something like it, becomes quite necessary. But I don’t make that assumption, because I’ve found it leads to all sorts of strained readings of texts remote from our own concerns.

As one example, I am quite sympathetic to Julian Jaynes The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. By positing an extremely different mental universe for numerous classical writers, Jaynes argues that large parts of classical texts read (in comparison with standard interpretation), not just differently (that is automatic) but much more sensibly (which is the surprise).

As another example, ancient Egyptian writing frequently jumps back and forth between first and third person. Why? I have no idea! But it would bother me if Egyptologists applied Strunk and White standards of good [sic] writing to dissect these texts into multiple authors.

Writing conventions, like pictorial conventions or musical conventions, are evolved societal creations, and scholars who blithely ignore this are almost certainly writing gibberish. I’m thinking of the (apocryphal?) story of the anthropologist who concluded that a certain tribe was color-blind, because they had the same word for red and yellow shades. Well no, they weren’t.

Until the academics address these kinds of questions, I give their conclusions zero credence.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Just Bob said: And he had to answer to no-one. What would Luther have done with such power?

I find it somewhat frightening to think of what *I* would do with such power. “Thank Bob I’m a nobody!”

a former Anglican bishop and prolific writer, John Shelby Spong, in Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism states flatly that the documentary hypothesis is almost incontrovertible and considers it tragic that so few worshipers even know about it.

Uh, why is Spong even considered a Christian? Just curious.

John Selby Spong is considered a Christian because he says he’s one, (when very severely pressed, and without further specification), and because his church, the American Episcopalian, has not excommunicated or declared his views anathema, although there have been grumblings from time to time about his heterodoxy.

Spong is, from what I can understand of what he says, a very weak deist verging towards agnosticism who remains within the fold of the Church for reasons that can only be guessed at. Personally, I am not much inclined to charity when guessing those reasons, but that’s just me.

MrG said:

I find it somewhat frightening to think of what *I* would do with such power. “Thank Bob I’m a nobody!”

“Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast

The little tyrant of his fields withstood,

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,

Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country’s blood.”

- Thomas Grey, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

To return to one of the points in the original post, it probably won’t come as a surprise to discover that the relationship between ‘moral standards’ and Darwinian theory is something that has been a concern since publication of Origin of Species.

When I get round to writing a paper on the popular reception of Darwin in Australia, it will be seen that the relationship between evolution and morality in this country is complicated by the presence of the Aboriginal peoples. One all-too-easily drawn implication of Darwin’s theory was confirmation of the prejudice that Aborigines were a doomed primitive race, rightly to be superceded by more evolved European colonisers.

Fortunately, this view was contested both by those who saw Social Darwinism as a reason to reject evolution entirely, and by (albeit fewer) scientifically-minded folk who did not believe that evolution had moral implications.

One of the best examples of the latter type can be seen in an article from 1889 published in a Brisbane newspaper. The anonymous author stresses that scientific theories do not have implications outside of their own domain:

Those who tell us that the logical outcome of the theory of Evolution would be the deliberate extermination, either actively or by neglect, of those unfitted for the struggle of life might just as well tell us that the logical outcome of the law of gravitation is that we ought to be continually falling downstairs.

They then explain what they see as the central issue: that people have misunderstood evolution to be teleological:

The misconception is still very common that Darwinism is an exposition of an aim and a purpose in Nature, and it is upon this misconception that these ethical considerations regarding the position of man - a being conceived as capable of furthering or opposing divinely appointed ends - in respect of the theory of Evolution are based.

The fault for this misconception may lie with Darwin’s writing style, but if we ignore some unfortunate phrases we can begin to see that the theory of evolution leads to a seeming paradox:

That phrases indicative of assumed design and intention may be gathered here and there from the writings of Darwin need not be denied, but all such are simply instances of the literary use of current phraseology, and are no doctrinal deviation from the great central thesis that ‘every cause engenders a process which again works onward towards another process’ - a thesis which neither affirms nor denies that there may be ‘some far-off Divine event to which the whole creation moves’.

To resolve this paradox (TOE has no intention, but God might have a plan for creation) it is necessary to split the theory of evolution from evolutionary history. In other words, while the theory necessarily cannot shed light on design and intention it doesn’t follow that there is no design and intention.

That the theory of evolution neither ‘affirms nor denies’ should not be read as evolution has nothing to say about God. The theory must be silent, but the world can speak volumes. This looks very much like a version of NOMA to me.

And speaking of NOMA, our author continues:

If, therefore, we eliminate from the theory all idea of purpose, we place it on a plane which at no point touches the domain of duty; the basic conception of duty being consciously-willed co operation with the Divine aim.

Of course, this all depends on the reader being Deistic in outlook, but it does show that people have been working towards reconciling a traditional Christian moral position with evolution for slightly longer than such things have been discussed on the Internet.

John Kwok said: …it wasn’t until the World War I Turkish genocide against Armenians did Hitler have a real-life model to base his Shoah on:

Not really. The very term “concentration camp” was invented and implemented by our good friends, the British, in their genocidal response to the Boer War over a century ago. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second[…]ration_camps_.281900_-_1902.29

Dave Luckett said:

John Selby Spong is considered a Christian because he says he’s one, (when very severely pressed, and without further specification), and because his church, the American Episcopalian, has not excommunicated or declared his views anathema, although there have been grumblings from time to time about his heterodoxy.

Spong is, from what I can understand of what he says, a very weak deist verging towards agnosticism who remains within the fold of the Church for reasons that can only be guessed at. Personally, I am not much inclined to charity when guessing those reasons, but that’s just me.

I understand all that. I just wish he’d be more intellectually honest and stop calling himself a Christian. The moment I decided that Jesus would never return and that the Bible was not the Word of God, I dropped the Christian lable and never looked back. I’m not calling Spong a fraud, but I am saying he is totally inconsistent.

I understand all that. I just wish he’d be more intellectually honest and stop calling himself a Christian. The moment I decided that Jesus would never return and that the Bible was not the Word of God, I dropped the Christian lable and never looked back. I’m not calling Spong a fraud, but I am saying he is totally inconsistent.

The “return of Jesus” (Jesus? wouldn’t the eventual returnee have to be Christ? (ref. St. Paul)) Anyway, just want to point out that the concept of “return” as well as the concept of “Word of God” both are enigmas, esoteric concepts, not literal references. That controversy is older than the Bible and well established long before 325 BCE.

WRT. Ray Martinez; I’ve ‘known’ him for something like ten years. Don’t waste words and effort on him; he suffers from an atrophied and petrified brain. It seems he has abandoned the production of his opus magnum that was touted as the ultimate nail in the coffin of evolution (based on an “Eureka moment” of his). But I believe he still claims to be writing a book.

Rolf Aalberg said: It seems (Ray Martinez) has abandoned the production of his opus magnum that was touted as the ultimate nail in the coffin of evolution (based on an “Eureka moment” of his). But I believe he still claims to be writing a book.

Riiight - so’s Dishonesty Institute Fellow-Traveler Paul Nelson - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_N[…]t)#Biography

I just wish he’d be more intellectually honest and stop calling himself a Christian.

Who gets to decide who is or isn’t a Christian? If John Selby Spong defines himself as a Christian, what business is that of mine?

RWard said: Who gets to decide who is or isn’t a Christian?

Prof. Buratovich’s reply is: “To be a Christian means that you believe certain things that were promulgated by apostolic preaching.”

But I agree with Matt. While that sounds like a very resonable criteria on its face, it hides the Scotsman.

For outsiders, I think the only reasonable tack to take is the one you advocate (what business is it of mine…). That defaults to accepting self-identification. To be sure, outsiders including the government have an interest in detecting frauds (for instance, to prevent tax evasion), but disagreements between sincere believers over who is or is not Christian are not our business.

True, the British did invent concentration camps. But they did not undertake as official state policy, a genocide aimed at one their religious and/or ethnic minorities. It was the Turkish Ottoman Empire that has the despicable distinction of being the first government ever to have as its official state policy, an organized campaign of genocidal extermination (And if anyone here should point out King Leopold of Belgium and his treatment of the Congo, please note that he regarded the Belgian Congo as his own personal fiefdom.). This is a sad, unfortunate, fact of recent Turkish history which the Turks still stubbornly refuse to acknowledge and apologize for:

Paul Burnett said:

John Kwok said: …it wasn’t until the World War I Turkish genocide against Armenians did Hitler have a real-life model to base his Shoah on:

Not really. The very term “concentration camp” was invented and implemented by our good friends, the British, in their genocidal response to the Boer War over a century ago. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second[…]ration_camps_.281900_-_1902.29

eric said:

RWard said: Who gets to decide who is or isn’t a Christian?

Prof. Buratovich’s reply is: “To be a Christian means that you believe certain things that were promulgated by apostolic preaching.”

But I agree with Matt. While that sounds like a very resonable criteria on its face, it hides the Scotsman.

For outsiders, I think the only reasonable tack to take is the one you advocate (what business is it of mine…). That defaults to accepting self-identification. To be sure, outsiders including the government have an interest in detecting frauds (for instance, to prevent tax evasion), but disagreements between sincere believers over who is or is not Christian are not our business.

Quite so, and you’re right to reason that from this the only criterion is, effectively, self-identification. By this criterion, and by the criteria I described, (acceptance by a recognised Christian church and so on), both John Shelby Spong and, ludicrously, Adolf Hitler are Christians. But to say that they practised the same religion seems to me to imply that the word “Christian” is, for the purposes of that statement, functionally meaningless. Is it always?

I think it’s reasonable to ask whether other criteria might be applied, but I agree that it’s very difficult to propose them without invoking the Scotsman. You could define by the various Creeds, which add up to much the same thing, bating a word or two, but by these most likely Adolf would still be a Christian and Bishop Spong wouldn’t be. I don’t think that would satisfy.

I think most people would add some sort of behavioural or at least ideal behaviour criteria. A Christian practices mercy, charity, kindness, gentleness, and justice within those bounds. By those criteria, Adolf is right out. Then again, we have seen so many self-proclaimed Christians here who are merciless, uncharitable, unkind, rude and unjust. Not to mention willingly and invincibly ignorant, and proud of it.

I don’t know what the answer is. I can only remark that most words that refer to any cultural institution or practice are polyvalent. They mean what the receiver takes them to mean, which is a fact that bedevils all communication in words. I can only propose that the definition being used should be stated as closely as possible in advance, or any further discussion becomes pointless.

I don’t know what the answer is.

I do, but I think most here rather think it a bit premature to abandon the concept of religion in its entirety.

Dave Luckett said: I don’t know what the answer is.

Perhaps there’s a parallel here to biological arguments over whether two critters are “different species” or just “variants of the same species.” In that case a parallel solution may be in order: don’t bother attempting to come up with a single, bright-line definition. Have multiple definitions available and use the one most appropriate for the issue you’re discussing…and, also in parallel, recognize that any classification scheme is just that. It doesn’t change reality, its just a crib sheet to help humans make sense of reality.

Wherever you choose to draw the species line, its still true that all the different sects have descended with modification from one or a few common ancestors. They are not distinct kinds arising from separate creations. :)

Creatorist - aka Ray Martinez Wrote:

If anyone wants to continue any of these conversations without the fear of moderator censorship then please navigate over to the Talk.Origins Usenet (Google Groups) where I am a regular contributor and where there are no moderators to save the skins of Darwinists.

As for Harold’s question:

Any Christian who rejects the Biblical explanation of life (Creationism-ID), while siding with the explanation of life that all of Christ’s enemies (= Atheists) accept, defend and promote (Darwinian evolution), is deceived and going straight to hell.

This morning on Talk.Origins I asked Ray a more detailed question about who he thinks is going to heaven or hell. No answer yet, but I second Ray’s invitation to watch how he performs in an unmoderated forum.

Frank J said:

Creatorist - aka Ray Martinez Wrote:

If anyone wants to continue any of these conversations without the fear of moderator censorship then please navigate over to the Talk.Origins Usenet (Google Groups) where I am a regular contributor and where there are no moderators to save the skins of Darwinists.

As for Harold’s question:

Any Christian who rejects the Biblical explanation of life (Creationism-ID), while siding with the explanation of life that all of Christ’s enemies (= Atheists) accept, defend and promote (Darwinian evolution), is deceived and going straight to hell.

This morning on Talk.Origins I asked Ray a more detailed question about who he thinks is going to heaven or hell. No answer yet, but I second Ray’s invitation to watch how he performs in an unmoderated forum.

For what ten years of Raywatch may be worth: Watching goldfish in a bowl would be more meaningful.

Rolf Aalberg said: For what ten years of Raywatch may be worth: Watching goldfish in a bowl would be more meaningful.

Actually, depending on the elaboration of the bowl and the goldfish, that can be entertaining and even stimulating. However, using that metaphor, dealing with Ray Troll is like watching a bowl with one fish in it, and it’s dead.

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