I’ve probably mentioned before that I have somehow ended up on the mailing list of the wackos at Christian Worldview Network, a group of fundies who are so hardcore they can honestly be said to be living in a different world, not only from most of humanity, but most other Christians as well. These people are old school, “turn or burn” fire-and-brimstone Biblical literalists. Their newsletters excoriate such movements within contemporary Christianity as the “emergent church,” in which pop-pastors like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen preach like motivational speakers a form of inoffensive I’m-okay-you’re-okay soft religion that the Worldview Network crowd considers appallingly watered down. (And from a Biblical standpoint, you’d have to say they’re right. Scripture really makes it clear that God is a vindictive, hateful bastard who loves to kill people, and that refusal to accept his divine “love” will get your ass fast-tracked to hell in a turbocharged handbasket.)
Occasionally, one of their articles will catch my eye, and one titled “The Limits of Human Reason”, by some nincompoop improbably named Israel Wayne, had me chuckling the instant I saw it. In it, you will see the feeble justifications of fundamentalist misology laid bare. It’s quite obvious these are people who simply do not know how knowledge works, and their flawed (to put it politely) thinking is exactly the sort of thing that feeds the absurd rhetoric you hear from fundies who want to argue, for instance, that evolution and creationism are simply two different “worldviews” and thus both should get equal time in class.
The whole theme here is that human reason is untrustworthy because everybody’s ideas are skewed through their worldview. Bask in the following for a thoroughly riotous example of burning stupid.
For example, let’s say that you are with a team digging for dinosaur bones in Alaska. You come across some fossilized remains of a duck-billed dinosaur laying in a certain rock strata. An evolutionist on the team says, “Ah! This dinosaur is from the beginning of the Triassic period! That means this dinosaur is about 858 million years old!”
“How do you know?” you ask.
“Oh that’s easy, you can tell from the rock layers. You date the fossil by the surrounding strata.”
You turn to a creationist who is also part of the team and ask him for a second opinion.
“I’d say this dinosaur is less than 4,500 old and was probably buried during or shortly after the flood of Noah’s day.”
You scratch your head. “How can your assessment be so contrary to your evolutionary colleague?”
“Well, he is using General Revelation, and interpreting it through his worldview, which excludes Special Revelation, but I am using a mix of both observable facts and the recorded history of Someone who was around in the beginning. Namely…God.”…
So you can see that the “facts” do not always speak for themselves. Our presuppositions affect the way we perceive and interpret reality.
I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing at all of that. (A creationist part of a paleontological dig? Uh-huh.) Exactly how much absurdity can be packed into a single argument? Clearly a lot, if this is any indicator.
One tiny little detail that this dimwit Wayne is missing is that of evidence. You see, scientists don’t just find stuff in the dirt and pronounce it to be one thing or another by fiat. There are any number of ways a paleontologist would know how to identify a dinosaur bone he’s dug up, and all of them involve recourse to bodies of evidence available to the scientific community at large, gathered and collated and verified over a process of study spanning years and years.
How does a scientist know the age of the rock strata in which he’s digging? Wayne, being an idiot, thinks it’s just a wild guess the scientist pulls out of his ass, filtered through his “presuppositions” and “worldview,” whereas in reality, that strata has been subjected to a number of reliable dating techniques. (Not to mention there is a complex, advanced field of science called geology dedicated to such study.) There are probably other samples of fossils of the species unearthed already on record, too, which have been tested and dated and fit into their appropriate position in history through such advanced disciplines as cladistics, taxonomy, etc. In other words, in science, “worldview” is irrelevant and filtering your findings through whatever “presuppositions” you might have is already known to be an improper way to go about determining your findings, and is in fact why there is the whole process of peer review in the first place.
In short, science recognizes — better than this fool Wayne, to be sure — that people are prone to inaccurate, prejudiced thinking, and has self-correcting methods in place to guard against such thinking producing untrustworthy results. And these self-correcting methods are, sadly for the creationists, what keeps their pseudoscience out of the club, by catching out people who think that the purpose of science is to validate their “presuppositions” and “worldviews” in the first place.
What does the creationist have in place to ensure that he’s not off-base in his babblings about floods, a young Earth, and his god? None. (Which is why you don’t tend to see those people wasting everyone’s time out on legitimate digs either. For one thing, they wouldn’t have passed muster scientifically to qualify for such a team in the first place.) All he has are his bizarre, invented concepts like “General Revelation” and “Special Revelation,” which Wayne capitalizes as if they were actual terms referring to something real. The evolutionist in the above story could easily trounce the overconfident babbling of his creationist “colleague” simply by sending the fossil sample back to the lab to see what the evidence actually showed.
When talking about the conflict between science and faith, fundies like Wayne always leave out little details like evidence, independent confirmation of facts, concepts like falsifiability — in other words, all the proper methods of determining facts that science actually does employ. And they leave those things out because religious pseudosciences like creationism do not have those methods at their own disposal. Or, when they do employ them, the findings tend not to jibe with their precious “presuppositions.” Creos can whine all they like, but when the findings come back from the nuclear dating labs, the results of that fossil will, in fact, be 251-199 million years (the actual date of the Triassic period, not 858 million, as Wayne could easily have found out if he’d devoted two seconds to Googling the topic — or maybe such a basic fact-checking process was beyond the limits of Wayne’s reason) and not 4,500.
Time and again, Christians who want to stamp out evolutionary biology education through bogus “academic freedom” bills and what have you always come from the same false premise: that there’s no such thing as a fact, that everything is all just “worldviews” and “beliefs” and “opinions.” It’s postmodernism in a nutshell. They ignore entirely the voluminous body of work that actually exists, either out of sheer pig-ignorance or defiant contempt, and then they wonder why science is so willing to lend its support to the evolutionary “worldview” and not their invisible-magic-man-in-the-sky one. That the former is backed up by mountains of independently verifiable evidence and the latter is only backed up by an ancient holy book, lunatic conspiracy theories and petulant hand-waving is hard to get through their skulls.
Sure, facts in science are provisional, always subject to disconfirmation should compelling new evidence arise. But that is far, far different from Wayne’s asinine misrepresentation of the whole process as being one of “everyone just makes stuff up based on their worldview.” That may certainly be how religious pseudoscience does its busin
ess; it is the polar opposite of how real science goes about its own.
Can Wayne get sillier? What do you think?
Because an unconverted man has a rebellious heart, he choses to reject the clear Revelation of God. Autonomous man has listened to the voice of the serpent and cut himself off from the only certain source of truth. In our apologetic method, we must remember that we will not be able to “reason” someone into the Kingdom of God. The problem isn’t that they don’t have adequate information or reasoning capabilities, but rather they have “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
I believe in the military this is what is known as a “target rich environment.” One hardly knows where to begin.
Let’s just settle for cutting to the chase, which is that Wayne all but admits that Christian faith is an irrational process. Truth is redefined, not as that which one can confirm and verify through the scientific method, but simply as that which comes from God. A believer cannot use reason to persuade the unbeliever because reason is, in fact, a hindrance to understanding truth and not the proper method to use in its pursuit. God, we are told, gives us reason (why, since it’s so useless, he would bother is not explained, but then logical consistency is not these people’s strong suit), but ultimately the only way to know the capital-T Truth is through emotions, by cutting through to the “rebellious heart” of the unconverted man.
Well, I can only say that, if surrendering my rational mind in favor of being stupid on purpose is the only way for me to appreciate the “Truth” of Christianity’s God, then I can only wonder what possible value this “Truth” can have, given that only irrationalism will reveal it. And why would this God give us minds if, in Ben Franklin’s hilarious phrasing, he wished us to forego their use? What kind of idiotic God would bestow reason upon his creations, only to require that we dispense with it utterly in order to know the great “Truth” of his existence and our salvation? What value can such salvation have, if you have to be a moron first to receive it? Why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven surrounded by a bunch of remedial clods?
Israel Wayne has essentially handed science and atheism the whole debate here. By admitting to the open irrationalism of his religion, by freely testifying that you have to disdain reason itself, to refuse to demand evidence for claims, simply to not think at all in order to receive this “Special Revelation” into your “rebellious heart,” then he’s basically conceded his whole religion is pure emotionalism and wishful thinking, stupid from the ground up and stupid from the roof down on the other side. And if I have a “rebellious heart” towards anything, it isn’t Israel Wayne’s imaginary sky-friend. It’s the stupidity I’m told I must embrace to believe in it.