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Nov 26 2012

Creationist distortions of science

Answers in Genesis, that awful creationist organization, has a couple of tactics that they use to argue that they’re doing Real Science and the real scientists aren’t.

  1. They set up a dichotomy: you have to choose between God’s word and Man’s reason. God’s word is obviously perfect (because they say it is), while Man’s reason is flawed and prone to error. Therefore, all true accounts of the history of the world will take into account the “primary evidence” found in the Bible. This is a theme throughout their museum: they present two views, one derived from the book of Genesis and the other from scientific research, and tell you you have to choose. I imagine it works for the usual yokels whose brains short-circuit at the idea of questioning God, but for me, it just confirmed that the Bible is bullshit — I choose reason and evidence every time.

  2. They claim that all science involves interpreting the data, and that they use the exact same data that all scientists use — they just interpret it through the lens of a biblical worldview, while secular scientists interpret it through the lens of an evil, fallen, Satanic worldview. So which do you choose? Of course, they’re lying: the creationists throw away 99% of the evidence — everything that contradicts their predetermined conclusion — and the only bits of scientific observation they actually use are those where there is some ambiguity or potential for willful misinterpretation.

  3. They claim that there are two kinds of science: observational and historical science. The only respectable kind of science, they say, is observational: where an eyewitness is present to actually see the results. Anything where you try to interpret past events is not subject to repeatable observations, therefore it can’t be determined, and should be rejected in favor of eyewitness accounts — especially God’s eyewitness account from the Bible.

Every one of those arguments is complete crap. But they do love to state them with definite authority, as if these are actual fixed laws of the universe that must be accounted for in any science, rather than post hoc rationalizations by charlatans trying desperately to put a false front of reason over their superstitions.

I want to address their third argument, though, because Ken Ham has been throwing it around lately.

Ham quotes Jerry Coyne dismissing the value of theologians in determining scientific truths (as Ham usually does, though, he declines to actually link to the article he’s supposedly rebutting — at least he does Coyne the courtesy of naming him, I’m usually just referred to as some “atheist professor from Minnesota”). And there it is, in flaming great display, the creationists’ peculiar understanding of how science works.

Coyne’s comment raises a couple of issues that are common with secularists, and I thought it would be good to address them. First, he confuses observational (or operational) science and historical (or origins) science. By claiming that only scientists can determine the origin of the universe, he is implying that it can be discovered through repeatable, testable methods—but it cannot.

No, Coyne isn’t confused at all. Scientists are fully aware of the difference between studying, for instance, changing allele frequencies in a population of fruit flies right now, and using historical evidence to infer changes in allele frequencies (actually, phenotypes) in extinct populations. What we deny, though, is that we can’t study those through repeatable, testable methods. Every lagerstätte is a sample of the species of an ancient world, and paleontologists are constantly making hypotheses, testing them against existing data, and seeking out new data to confirm or disprove their ideas. Physicists can aim their instruments at a series of stars and test their ideas about their makeup and history. These creationist kooks want to pretend that in the absence of scientific tools to study the past, they are therefore free to make up any story they want, and it’s just as valid as one founded on hard-earned evidence.

But if they reject the idea that we can know anything about the past by observing the present, what’s the alternative? Ken Ham continues:

Historical science is really just the process of trying to figure out what really happened in the past based on evidence existing in the present—or based on primary source of information. And you know, the best place to start is with an eyewitness account, or our assumptions may lead us in the wrong direction. Coyne’s assumptions are evolutionary, and he clearly does not see Genesis—the only record of an eyewitness account of our origin—as authoritative.

Right. The only stuff that counts is eyewitness accounts. “Were you there?” is their mantra, and it reflects a terribly naive understanding of science.

First of all, eyewitness accounts are the worst kind of evidence. What real scientists prefer is measurement or the collection of recorded data via known, well-calibrated instruments. I assure you, the scientists at the LHC aren’t putting on goggles and standing at a window looking at protons colliding — they’re storing many terabytes of measurements via sensitive instruments from every event. Even in my admittedly mushier work where I do use my eyes directly to watch developmental events, everything is recorded and stashed on a hard drive so I can later extract precise timings and measure intensities of probes.

Secondly, everything, not just the historical sciences, are inferential. All of our senses are flawed and impose biases on our observations — you may think seeing is believing, but ask any psychologist, and they’ll tell you that your brain is very easily tricked, and that any memory you might have of an event is largely a reconstruction. Ask any physiologist, and they’ll explain to you that your eyes are not cameras, but elaborate processing devices that filter visual information and pass it back to a cortex that further deconstructs and reassembles the patterns of light that fell on the retina into a model of the world around us. We repeat observations using multiple modes precisely because you can’t trust what your eyes tell you to be an accurate model of the external world.

Thirdly, and most obviously, why should we believe Genesis is an eyewitness account of our origin? Were you there, Ken Ham, when God wrote the book? What reason do you have for believing that a god wrote it, rather than teams of Jewish scribes…scribes who weren’t witnesses of the creation? You can bet Coyne doesn’t see the Bible as an authoritative account, nor do I; those of us who have studied the history of the Bible know that it was the product of humans, that it evolved over time as additions and revisions were made, that we can look at the text and see evidence of multiple authors in multiple eras, that its translations differ, that it contradicts itself in many places, and that the accumulated weight of objective evidence demonstrates that it was not poofed into existence by a supernatural being, but has a much more prosaic and earthy origin.

But, oh yeah, I forgot: Ken Ham rejects all historical sciences, even history itself, by claiming that they cannot determine anything. This is a belief he needs to hold in order to cling to his fatuous idea that the Bible was written directly by a myth wiggling the hands of the prophets.

I just wish he’d be consistent and admit that he believes the Bible is true in every word because he has faith, rather than trying to abuse science and redefine it to accommodate his preconceptions. He just lacks that much faith.

54 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    lagerstätte

    Your use of an umlat proves that you are a commie, and therefore all your arguments invalid.

  2. 2
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Science: Even those who say it isn’t valid claim they’re doing it.

  3. 3
    cervantes

    My friend Festus states that he personally observed Ken Ham buggering a goat.

    There you have it, an eyewitness account. Must be true. And it can’t be refuted by any post hoc reconstruction of Mr. Ham’s whereabouts and activities.

  4. 4
    thomasmorris

    Genesis—the only record of an eyewitness account of our origin

    Wait, doesn’t pretty much every religion have its own origin story? I’m sure many of them claim to be “eyewitness accounts.”

    But of course, only Christianity and the Bible count.

  5. 5
    Poggio

    Let’s face it: Falsifiability and induction are concepts that are completely alien to the malfunctioning religious brain. It’s like they’ve never considered the development of natural philosophy since Bacon’s Organon as valid. Hell, even the darling of religious empiricists, Berkeley, rejected Ham’s brand of strict empiricism. I guess being an idiot pays well for him.

  6. 6
    Sastra

    I just wish he’d be consistent and admit that he believes the Bible is true in every word because he has faith, rather than trying to abuse science and redefine it to accommodate his preconceptions. He just lacks that much faith.

    No, even when creationists defending creationism (or theists defending God) do invoke faith, they do so in an equivocating way, using it as a deepity. A casual use of the word equates “faith” with ordinary pragmatic reliance, something we are sure about not because we couldn’t possibly be wrong from a logical standpoint, but because we are sure enough — the reason and evidence point that way. All that the word “faith” indicates is a lack of infallible certainty.

    The second meaning of the word “faith” is of course the religious one, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. You make a deliberate leap not only beyond but against the evidence if need be because you’re committed to a foregone conclusion.

    Creationists (and theists) who admit they’re using “faith” for their conclusion usually go back and forth between meanings of the words. At first it looks like they’re agreeing that they’re not making sense. But then they start playing the first definition, the non-religious “all beliefs are faith beliefs because they are all uncertain therefore they are all equally uncertain so everything is a matter of opinion” and now they’re babbling on like rampant pomo relativists. Rational conclusions turn into tribal commitments. Choose your side.

    Tricksy. That’s why theists so often sound like relativists. They’re so in love with the concept of faith that they work it as a profound deepity which explains the entire world, slipping back and forth between faith as a special way of knowing for insiders and faith as the ONLY way of knowing for everyone — faith as divine certainty AND faith as scientific caution. Whatever works at the time. Pretend you don’t see the difference. In fact, don’t pretend — really BE that confused.

    The Bible is true because faith tells us so. Faith is faith but faith is reason, too. It’s all gathered together into a big, sloppy mess. Fuzzy thinking. In religion. What a surprise.

  7. 7
    chigau (違う)

    Which Bible?
    Genesis is an “eye-witness” account?

  8. 8
    coleslaw

    What do the people who believe that

    [h]istorical science is really just the process of trying to figure out what really happened in the past based on evidence existing in the present—or based on primary source of information. And you know, the best place to start is with an eyewitness account, or our assumptions may lead us in the wrong direction

    do when they are asked to serve on a jury? Do they acquit the accused unless there is eyewitness testimony implicating hir, or do they claim a religious exemption from having to “analyze what really happened in the past based on evidence existing in the present”?

  9. 9
    SteveV

    Astronomical observations are eyewitness accounts – the finite speed of light ensures this.
    Astronomers can answer that “were you there?” question with an emphatic “YES, I WAS!”

  10. 10
    jeroenmetselaar

    Humans are lousy observers, useless for reliably storing unaltered data and don’t get me started on relaying that stored data.

    If you want to base all your knowledge on eyewitnessesesesss* you might as well give up and flip a coin for everything.

    (*I gave up trying to spell that, sorry)

  11. 11
    wildwilly1111

    Nit: Those are a few tactics, not a couple…

  12. 12
    rq

    I always want to ask these people, “Were you there?” when god did that whole creation thing, but I guess it’s enough for them that god says he did it. (I guess their personal relationship with god makes him a reliable witness and completely believable.)
    Thus making them, once again, inconsistent in their demand for ‘eye-witness’ evidence.

  13. 13
    iknklast

    There’s also a glaring error in point one, which I notice because my husband is a historian and this sort of thing makes him see red. Primary sources – the Bible is only a primary source in the original document. Which we don’t have. All we have are copies of copies, not dating back to Moses or whoever it is that wrote Genesis. This does not constitute a primary source, and an English translation, which is likely what Ken Ham is using, is even further from a primary source, since English wasn’t even a language when the Bible was written (by Moses or by a group of Jewish theologians, either way. None of them would have written in English). I realize they think it is all the words of God, but this is a poor use of the concept of the primary source.

    But then, I don’t think creationists are much fonder of proper historical methods than they are of proper scientific methods. They do history the same way they do science. Go as the Bible. If it conflicts with the Bible, it’s wrong.

    Summary: Ham doesn’t know science, and he doesn’t know history, either.

  14. 14
    chigau (違う)

    Moses wrote an eye-witness account of his own death.
    Neat trick, that.

  15. 15
    growlybear

    Bodie Hodge, one of Ham’s minions, visited Grand Rapids, MN during October at the invitation of one of the local fundamentalist churches. He put on a two day show of “lectures” about evolution from the AIG perspective. Some of these were done at a local hotel and I attended the one on dinosaurs (and dragons too since those are real in Ham’s world). The second day of talks was done at the local community college using the campus christian student group as a cover for gaining access to the school auditorium. I attended one of those talks along with a number of college faculty. The presentations were done in a slick fashion with PowerPoint slides and all, but there were some very odd things.
    1) The presentations were at a middle school level of complexity at best. Apparently AIG assumes (correctly), an audience that won’t feel condescended to by this rather childish style.
    2) Questions were not allowed, but at the college, faculty insisted and Hodge had to allow a few at the end of his talk. At least one faculty with strong religious leanings objected to the questioning. One faculty member took the opportunity to use her question time to apologize to the community members in the audience for having to allow such a dishonest representation of science and evidence to take place in an academic setting (even though it had no official college endorsement or support other than allowing use of the space which they were required to do).

    A week after the AIG visit, the college faculty organized a counter presentation with the disciplines of biology, geology, chemistry and physics represented. There were religious folk in the audience and they were allowed to ask all the questions they wanted to and received direct, honest and respectful answers. The presentation level was definitely not middle school so there was some misunderstanding among the AIG supporters.

    The overall attendance at any of the AIG sessions was less than 200. There efforts to sell lots of their childish books was probably not very profitable and given the number of churches in town, a sign that not everyone in the pews was interested. Some reason for small hope.

  16. 16
    beccamauch

    I can’t understand why the pro-evolution forces don’t point out to the anti-evolution forces that though science can have errors and is only right a part of the time that is better than the alternative of perfection. The only claim that creationism can make is that it is perfectly wrong all the time.

  17. 17
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    You are mistaken, beccamauch. People are always pointing at how the use of science can be self correcting. Creationists interpret that as meaning that scientists just cannot make up their minds.

  18. 18
    carlie

    All of our senses are flawed and impose biases on our observations — you may think seeing is believing, but ask any psychologist, and they’ll tell you that your brain is very easily tricked, and that any memory you might have of an event is largely a reconstruction

    Heck, just ask two on-field referees who have different calls on the same play.

  19. 19
    Becca Stareyes

    I’ve always liked ‘If I said I was, then what?’ Granted, they’d still take ‘God’s’ account* over mine, but it at least forces the argument onto ‘why do we believe eyewitness accounts, and what does one do when two conflict’. Which… hopefully the bystanders get something about critical thinking out of it and any children primed with these questions do have to think about them. (Adults have probably made up their minds.)

    Though I have to remember the astronomical argument: my colleagues in cosmology have seen back to 300,000 years after the Big Bang, so yes, they are there. We all are there right now, but our eyes can’t spot it without tools.

    * Or as others have noted, a document that is presented as God’s words, but even a YEC has to admit it was recorded by a human hand, then translated (perhaps several times) into modern English, never mind all the work historians have done tracing the origins of the Old Testament. I know the typical fundamentalist argument is that their preferred translation was inspired by God so that it’s the most perfect English translation of God’s Word. (Still doesn’t answer why there’s so many translations, not to mention the scholarly work debating about what the heck some passages were talking about.)

  20. 20
    otranreg

    rather than teams of Jewish scribes…

    What, like the A-team? Fuck, yea.

    I can’t wait for ‘The Payot Squad’ to hide from justice and offer help to everyone who’s loaded with parchment and no one to write on it.

  21. 21
    Donovan

    I was speaking with a creationist trying the “we both use the same evidence” argument who was also a mechanic. I told him I was a better mechanic than he and I could prove it. I pointed to a car and said the only thing wrong with it was the battery. He laughed and mentioned some part I had never heard of. So I demanded he respect that we are both looking at the same evidence, a car, but he’s looking at it through mechanic’s eyes and I see it through my magic eyes. He laughed and agreed that it was a stupid argument, but I didn’t sense he grasped the insult I had given him, that any half-brained nut job can look at a broken car and can know what’s wrong, without his years of experience and training and without the need to look under the hood or try various tests.

  22. 22
    ah58

    Actually isn’t a lot of cosmology and eyewitness account? We can directly observe things that happened billions of years ago due to the time it took for the light to get to us.

    Oh, I forgot that Ham’s trickster god magicked the light already in transit, so it only appears it’s been traveling billions of years.

  23. 23
    Glen Davidson

    By claiming that only scientists can determine the origin of the universe, he is implying that it can be discovered through repeatable, testable methods—but it cannot.

    No one claimed that only “scientists” can determine the origin of the universe. The point is that only proper, intellectually honest, methods and contextual knowledge, such as we find in science, will yield meaningful results.

    Ham wants BS to be considered the equal of science, but carefully makes an intellectually dishonest charge of elitism rather than to deal with what proper methods and the proper data with which to start are.

    and he clearly does not see Genesis—the only record of an eyewitness account of our origin—as authoritative.

    Uh-huh, try telling the court that Enuma Elish is an eyewitness account. Not even bullshitter Ham thinks that it is, of course, only because it doesn’t contain the myths that he’s bought into.

    Glen Davidson

  24. 24
    raven

    2.They claim that all science involves interpreting the data, and that they use the exact same data that all scientists use — they just interpret it through the lens

    As PZ pointed out, this is a lie. They toss 99% of the data and distort the rest. They mostly very carefully avoid learning any science because then they might not believe in gibberish and end up in hell.

    AIG and Ken Ham claim the only science is eye witness observational science. Were you there?

    Were you there when Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead?

    No one alive today was. So how does he know the bible writers didn’t just make it all up? Were you there when they wrote the bible?

    In point of fact, we have multiple lines of evidence that the bible including the NT is mostly or all fiction. The gospel accounts conflict among themselves in many ways. Parts of the NT are known to be forgeries.

  25. 25
    slatham

    Repeatable methods:

    Actual science: look for analogs or homologs, do the same tests, measurements, evaluations and try to understand variation in results … ask new questions and then apply science to those.
    AiG ‘science’: read, er, cite the bible and then say whatever damn thing Ken Ham says … rinse, repeat.

    To me, the real difference is that actual science makes predictions and then actually goes out to test them. AiG can’t do this because nearly all predictions will show how useless projections of mythical accounts are for explaining the future.

  26. 26
    Eamon Knight

    This is a theme throughout their museum: they present two views, one derived from the book of Genesis and the other from scientific research, and tell you you have to choose. I imagine it works for the usual yokels whose brains short-circuit at the idea of questioning God,

    …which pretty much gives away the scam: they implicitly admit that “Man’s reason” has it basically right, as far as the evidence in the rocks and stars is concerned. You’re only going to seriously look at YEC if you already give the Bible some a priori weight as a source of evidence (ie: the aforementioned “yokels”). Which is fallacious, of course: Genesis shouldn’t be (and historically wasn’t) rejected as evidence a priori, any more than it should be taken as infallible and definitive. It’s only one piece of data among many, and over time we’ve come to realize that ancient literature — sacred or profane — shouldn’t have probative priority over physical evidence.

  27. 27
    madknitter

    Coyne’s assumptions are evolutionary, and he clearly does not see Genesis—the only record of an eyewitness account of our origin—as authoritative.

    Even if one is not using modern exegetical methods to determine who wrote the Bible and when, according to Rabbinic tradition, Genesis was written by Moses, who himself was not an eye witness to the accounts given therein. There were no “Biblical eye witnesses” to those events. The Bible’s account of creation is no more authoritative than the one found in the Epic of Gilgamesh (which is a pretty good read on its own).

    Mr Ham has, as usual, his head firmly implanted in his nethermost parts.

  28. 28
    raven

    This is a theme throughout their museum: they present two views, one derived from the book of Genesis and the other from scientific research, and tell you you have to choose.

    This is one of the more obvious lies of creationists. It’s false dichotomy.

    There aren’t just two world views.

    There are dozens, hundreds, thousands, or billions depending on how different they are before you consider them different world views.

    The Moslems have their own, for example. Even the xians differ among themselves by a lot. The majority of xians worldwide don’t accept AIG’s world view.

  29. 29
    scenario

    Is there any book in the bible that starts something like, my name is AAA, I work for King BBB as a CCC and this is what I saw?

    None of the books in the bible even pretend to be eye witness testimonies.

  30. 30
    chigau (違う)

    scenario
    Most of the prophets “eye witnessed” their visions.
    For whatever that is worth ;)

  31. 31
    Eamon Knight

    @29: Actually Acts starts out rather like that, as do some of the Epistles IIRC, and Revelation (of course, if that last was an eye-witness account, then the author was on some serious psychedelics at the time). And the author of John’s Gospel, at the very end, identifies himself a character in the narrative (though the provenance is dubious).

    Yeah, pedantic and not really relevant to the issue at hand, but still.

  32. 32
    raven

    And the author of John’s Gospel, at the very end, identifies himself a character in the narrative (though the provenance is dubious).

    Especially since John was the last gospel written and very late, long after jesus was dead.

    It’s also the least biographical and most theological of the gospels.

    The chance that it was written by John are about zero.

  33. 33
    Glen Davidson

    Actually, even if you believe what the creationists claim about the Bible, by no means would even the “original account” (let alone the copied and redacted versions) count as “eyewitness testimony” at all, rather it would be testimony by the defendant or, possibly, the prosecution. It’s the presumably biased claim by the one who made the questionable claims in question in the first place, not the (we hope) unbiased testimony of a bystander who just happened to witness what was happening.

    Suppose that some sort of supernatural does things like make worlds, commit genocide, and design life to appear evolved, this Yahweh bozo might be an incompetent deity who’s just good at PR, after all. Some other god or goddess really did all of the work, and was put in a dungeon in order to keep Yahweh’s claims in the running, for all that we know. Or, far more likely, ancient stories told around the fire about mysterious spirits mucking about in the world were adapted to the power claims of priests and their favorite suck-ups, like king David.

    Ham’s either too stupid to know what an eyewitness is, or he’s too dishonest to care.

    Glen Davidson

  34. 34
    thisisaturingtest

    From AIG’s “Statement of Faith”:

    By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record.

    This is their fallback position that makes even their argument “that they’re doing Real Science and the real scientists aren’t” redundant (and unnecessary, also, too!). By this basic position, they make all of science, history, and anything else that doesn’t fit their narrative completely irrelevant by imposing their own specious standard for what’s relevant and valid. And how can you argue with someone whose most basic position is “nothing you can possibly say, no evidence you can ever present, can ever be right unless it agrees with me”? This doesn’t even rise to the level of circular argument, which at least gives some artificial appearance of motion in moving from premise to conclusion, then right back again, and so on, round and round. This is just stand-in-one-place, stamp-your-foot, childish “nuh-UH!!” argument.

  35. 35
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Wouldn’t it be easier to list bits of science which creationists have not yet distorted?

  36. 36
    mnb0

    “Were you there?”
    I must admit that Dutch creationists are smarter than this. I haven’t met any yet who asked me this question. Such a pity. Fortunately there is lots of creacrap left to amuse me with. Like this little gem: “God can create new species tomorrow if He wants to. Or do you think he is out of practice?”

  37. 37
    raven

    “God can create new species tomorrow if He wants to. Or do you think he is out of practice?”

    God isn’t even here any more.

    He lost all interest in us after his two attempts to fix his own mistakes failed, the Flood, and the auto-murder.

    The deity is now 50 million light years away on Kpax IV, communing with his new favorite creatures, giant squids swimming in methane seas, and supervising their sex lives. God’s hobby seems to be watching eveyone’s sex lives. Must be boring being the only one of his kind in heaven.

  38. 38
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    iknklast

    The Bible itself was never an original document. It’s an anthology which contains other anthologies as well. A lot of which is based on written versions (note the plural) of versions of oral traditions chosen for propaganda value.(And probably stuff created to seem like it was an older document from an oral tradition.)

    Yeah, its annoyingly horrible, head-desker for any sensible historian.

  39. 39
    unclefrogy

    take me for a fool but I was under the impression that adam and eve were the characters in the story not the authors of the story.
    That it was written by someone else later to tell us what happened that they were not there. Noah did not write it either. so who was this witness? Were you there when they wrote it. By there “logic” no one should believe anything unless they see it with their own eyes.

    In deed they show little faith by trying to use science and logic at all to justify their belief. It would be more consistent and simpler to just say that they believe and that all of the pre-history we find was just all made that way by god for some reason we do not know and it just does not matter at all. Only the story matters and only the faith matters because god/jesus is the resurrection and the light. It would be simpler than piling irrationality upon irrationality, the way they do it it just comes off like some kind of con job that they are trying to keep going at all costs.

    other wise it sounds too schizophrenic.

    uncle frogy

  40. 40
    Eamon Knight

    @39: I think the claim is that God is the eye-witness, and then dictated it to Moses, the traditionally-attributed author of the Pentateuch (except the bit about his funeral, which is an appendix by presumably Joshua).

    Of course, making God the eye-witness leaves the whole account rather suspended upon thin air, doesn’t it? Challenge the Mosaic-authorship theory (for which there is no evidence apart from subsequent references to it in the Bible), and it all comes crashing down. And that’s a good reason right there to challenge Christianity itself: because allowing memes about Biblical authority to float unexamined in the culture provides fertile soil for Ham’s lies to take root in. (Granted, that the better-educated forms of Christianity reject such simplistic historicity).

  41. 41
    Hank_Says

    Yes, well – expecting a creationist to be consistent regarding the weight they place on faith/evidence (instead of, you know, being a creationist and switching it up as the situation appears to demand) is about as likely as Ham packing up shop and buggering off back to Queensland to live a life of quietly-enraged-at-everything anonymity.

  42. 42
    Pierce R. Butler

    cervantes @ # 3: … he personally observed Ken Ham buggering a goat.

    Ssshhh! Ham’s cheating on his piglets…

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    (Granted, that the better-educated forms of Christianity reject such simplistic historicity).

    …and even better educated archaeologists reject almost everything in this collection of fables as fictional history.

    I’m sure you were about to add that.

  44. 44
    Kevin

    1. You’re really going to make me download an ad blocker with those STUPID scrolling ads. Fuck all, they’re annoying. And I have no interest in the Pimsleur approach to learning a new language.

    2. It occurs to me that the claim that Genesis was dictated from god to Moses is easily disproven. Merely ask, “why then, doesn’t it say, ‘In the beginning, I created the heavens and the earth.’”?

    Why would god continue to refer to himself in the third person, and claim knowledge of events that he obviously could not have known about. For example, the whole exchange between Eve and the serpent occurred out of his sight — otherwise, he would have intervened, right?

  45. 45
    judithsanders

    One might ask why God has filled the Earth with tons of misleading evidence for evolution and a planet that is billions of years old.

  46. 46
    Cosmic Teapot, not the Antichrist.
    And the author of John’s Gospel, at the very end, identifies himself a character in the narrative (though the provenance is dubious).

    Especially since John was the last gospel written and very late, long after jesus was dead.

    It gets worse. The early church father Tertullian apparently didn’t know chapter 21, he wrote that ‘Johns’ gospel ended with chapter 20!

  47. 47
    qwerty

    After reading all these comments, what I don’t understand is how there was an eyewitness to the origin of the earth when mankind didn’t exist until the sixth day?

    This is the question I’d like to ask the Hamster, but I am sure he’d have some kind of bullshit answer.

  48. 48
    eddarrell

    Man’s word vs. God’s word?

    Um, do they really believe that? I don’t think so.

    I say that because, for those of us who studied some Christian history, and general history, and history of science, we recall that the traditional Christian view of science was that the world and all the stuff in it were made by the Hand of God — regardless the precise methods God used, it all is God’s creation and reflects God’s will because it still bears the fingerprints of God so to speak.

    And that’s important to understand Darwin and many of his colleagues. A lot of “naturalists” of the 18th and 19th century were preachers, or priests, or in other ways associated strongly with science. Studying nature was a natural thing for a country preacher, who really had about six days of unstructured time, and frequently had long walks through nature to parishoners’ or congregationists’ homes. It’s not a coincidence that Darwin’s teachers in geology were preachers, nor that Lyell was close to the church, nor that Darwin himself thought he was shooting for a clerical post.

    Understanding the Bible was one thing — but they understood that the Bible was corrupted by human interference. It was, after all, just Man’s words of human experience with God, opposed to the ultimate, Second and infallible Testament of God — nature. Genesis may or may not be correct, after 5,000 years of interpolation and fireside polishing of story telling technique. But the rocks! The rocks are from God, and do not lie. Understand the rocks, and we understand God’s intentions, much more purely than any words written down in scripture . . .

    Choosing between Man’s views and God’s? Science is the direct line, in that old Christian view.

    Give us that old time religion, indeed.

    Funny how, to exalt their own views, modern Christians need to make God’s direct testament in nature subsidiary to their own views. It’s the opposite of what they claim to do, of course, and if given a choice and the understanding of the processes, probably the opposite of what they’d choose to do, if they’d think about it for a minute.

    Of course, thinking requires reason.

    There it is in Romans, written that the truth is plainly in sight for anyone to see . . . but they go back to their man-inspired words.

    It’s like the old joke of the family’s African American chauffeur being denied entrance to the family’s church, and weeping on the steps, he is stunned to find God seated next to him. “What’s wrong?” God asked. “Thirty five years I’ve served that family, and thirty five years I’ve tried to get in to that church — and still they deny me!”

    “Tell me about it!” God said. “I’ve been trying to get into that church for two millenia, myself!”

    There are no fundamentalists in the infectious disease and cancer wards, I hear.

    God’s word, as revealed in nature, or Man’s reason, twisting scripture. They even screw up their own choice.

  49. 49
    Eamon Knight

    @48: Actually, I think they do believe that. On the whole, these people are no more interested in learning from their own history than they are from the natural world.

  50. 50
    nathansmith

    A question.

    Have any of you ever been concerned that a large subset of the atheist population that is so willing to associate itself with the authority of science; would relate with the religious community in a manner that behavioral science suggests is neither effective nor healthy?

    One need not exert more than a few clicks of the mouse to view a near-limitless supply of web pages filled with language that, to the trained scientist, clearly indicates the potential to — if not the likelihood of harming the recipient.

    The greatest irony of such personal attacks is not that they are of bad form, but that they are very much able to trigger an autonomic threat response that mitigates the ability of the recipient to use their cognitive faculties in order to respond effectively.

    There is all-too-often displayed amongst the ‘new atheist’ crowd a certain personal devotion to science that seemingly renders an individual therein unable to recognize the corrupted, hybrid paradigm that comes from mixing personal and emotional motivations with legitimate subject matter.

    In the realm of interpersonal relationships, attaching one’s self to a widely-respected, external authority creates a destructive imbalance between people who are in fact equal for the sake of their humanity and personal dignity — at the very least.

    Lastly, there is also the issue of how the personal preferences of human beings finds its place within evolutionary science. After all, religious people continue to both survive and to thrive in great numbers to this very day. Insofar as the natural world is ‘concerned’, utility wins the day regardless of how it is derived. Therefore, a little more respect toward religious people would be an appropriate way to honor their having been selected along with everybody else; whilst providing the atheist or scientist something to show for in the way of consistency with their fearsome cognitive prowess. If that is too much to ask for, then perhaps these individuals could simply consider acting as if they know and believe what they claim to.

    Best Regards,

    Nathan

  51. 51
    shadow

    Ham’s either too stupid to know what an eyewitness is, or he’s too dishonest to care.

    I favor both scenarios. A little of column ‘A’ and a bit of column ‘B’. Whatever helps his bottom line.

  52. 52
    John Phillips, FCD

    Nathan, I’ll treat them with the same respect they treat me and others who don’t fit their narrow world view. FSM, they don’t even treat fellow believers from different sects with much, if any, respect. Listen to a Protestant talk about an RC and vice versa and you’ll see exactly how far that respect goes. Not to mention that it is only the fact that the enlightenment and secularism has largely blunted their powers, at least in the West, that they are still not burning witches and unbelievers.

    Look at Uganda to see what respect Xians offer those who they perceive as ‘different’. I.e. their proposed imprison or kill the gays bill, when they still have strong political power. BTW, those Ugandan laws had help in being crafted by right wing US Xians and politicians from K street. In other words, cut the bullshit, you’re aiming your complaints at the wrong crowd, or is that projection I smell.

  53. 53
    Nick Gotts

    nathansmith,

    One need not exert more than a few clicks of the mouse to view a near-limitless supply of web pages filled with language that, to the trained scientist, clearly indicates the potential to — if not the likelihood of harming the recipient.

    [citation needed]

    The greatest irony of such personal attacks is not that they are of bad form, but that they are very much able to trigger an autonomic threat response that mitigates the ability of the recipient to use their cognitive faculties in order to respond effectively.

    [citation needed]

    There is all-too-often displayed amongst the ‘new atheist’ crowd a certain personal devotion to science that seemingly renders an individual therein unable to recognize the corrupted, hybrid paradigm that comes from mixing personal and emotional motivations with legitimate subject matter.

    [citation needed]

    In the realm of interpersonal relationships, attaching one’s self to a widely-respected, external authority creates a destructive imbalance between people who are in fact equal for the sake of their humanity and personal dignity — at the very least.

    [citation needed]
    However, if you’re right, then attaching oneself to the (alleged) omnipotent creator of the universe is clearly the most extreme example possible.

    Therefore, a little more respect toward religious people would be an appropriate way to honor their having been selected along with everybody else – Nathan

    This is a clear example of the fallacy known as the appeal to nature: that whatever is natural, is inherently right or good. Fraudsters, thieves, Nazis, child abusers and serial killers have also been “selected along with everybody else”.

    BTW, Nathan, have you taken your concerns up with the large proportion of religious believers who hate and fear atheists, regard them as necessarily immoral, consign them to Hell, etc.?

  54. 54
    Brian Forbes

    You know, your position is very logical… that is until you have a supernatural experience (such as an NDE, or a man that knocks you off your horse and makes you blind). Then the arguments seem foolish. Why? Because you have special knowledge. God has given me special knowledge. It wouldn’t convince you if I tried to tell you about it, but it is enough for me to see what you’re saying is foolish. My story wouldn’t convince you, but a more convincing experience is that of Don Piper. Look it up. Ian McCormack’s story will work too.

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