Michael Behe is a professor at Lehigh University. He’s also a crank, marginalized and mocked and belittled in academia, and regarded as an ignorant ideologue. But he’s still holding his position and he’s still allowed to express himself. That’s the principled position we hold in academia — he’s allowed to speak even stupidly, and we’re allowed to fire back.
That’s not the way creationists work, though. Bruce Waltke is apparently a respected Old Testament scholar who used to work at the Reformed Theological Seminary. Not any more, though. He made the mistake of speaking in a BioLogos-sponsored seminar, saying that you could be a Christian, you could even believe the Bible was inerrant, and you could also believe in evolution. He was promptly shown the door, but not because what he said was irrational and incoherent, but because evolution is a proscribed subject.
But while Milton insisted that this provides for “a diversity” of views, he acknowledged that others are not permitted. Darwinian views, and any suggestion that humans didn’t arrive on earth directly from being created by God (as opposed to having evolved from other forms of life) are not allowed, he said, and faculty members know this.
This is a tough one for me. The article is full of opinion from loons affiliated with BioLogos and the Templeton Foundation, organizations that I think are dangerous because they willfully poison science with superstition, so it hurts to agree with them at all, especially since they only endorse the compatibility of religion and science as a tool to smuggle lies into the search for truth…but they are right to condemn the closed-mindedness of these theologians.
Of course, I also have a tiny amount of sympathy for the theologians. Their beliefs are so ridiculous (and I include the beliefs of Waltke and the followers of BioLogos and Templeton) that any introduction of reason and evidence-based thinking risks inducing the meltdown of the elaborately rickety structure of their belief. The RTS should be reassured, though: BioLogos and Templeton both show that at least some people’s stupidity can perennially persist even in the face of facts that show they are wrong.
James F says
Prof. Waltke, as quoted in the article:
If more evangelical theologians promoted this view, especially people as respected as Waltke, it would be a huge blow to creationism – I would argue a far more damaging one than any of us scientists could deal. More power to Prof. Waltke.
Insightful Ape says
All I can say:
Pass the popcorn.
Glen Davidson says
What? I thought they wanted to teach more, and were only concerned that we were promoting dogma one-sidedly. That ID only needs to be allowed a voice, and would be content to simply compete in the free market of ideas (their censorship notwithstanding — huh, guess that should have tipped me off).
More seriously, they can teach their dogma and hire only people stupid and/or intellectually dishonest to believe it. And Behe would never have gotten tenure if Lehigh knew he was going to be a major crackpot down the road.
With those caveats down in electrons, who cares? The real point is that ID/creationism can only survive wherever it stamps out real science, and it has no chance in any free marketplace of ideas.
One wonders if Waltke really understood how needful it is to stamp out and censor any opposing viewpoint in most religions. I am sorry for him, but there really is no honor among thieves, or most committed theists.
Glen Davidson says
Uh, made a dumb mistake, here’s better:
This is the poorly knitted sweater of a few weeks ago. If you pull one loose end, the whole thing unravels (in a FUNDIE’S words). That is why no strings can be pulled.
But, it is clear from the bible that the earth does not rotate on its axis or revolve around the sun. Yet, even the Catholic Church has admitted now that it does (in the late 1990’s). So, doesn’t the rest unravel now? I think what is so offensive is not the loonie claims, but the refusal to investigate further, for fear of what we might find.
See the problem is that he wasn’t at a university, where diversity of opinion is if not always appreciated at least expected. You expect to have different viewpoints and you expect to be able to argue about them, in public, via publications or panels or whatever.
But he was at a seminary which is not a university. A seminary is a trade school for pastors, not an institute of open learning and exploration. Dissent is neither expected nor tolerated when it comes to the theology of a seminary – you toe the line of the religion that sponsors the seminary or you expect to walk.
I’m surprised that Waltke stuck his neck out like that. Part of me wonders if he was intentionally making a political statement, but I suspect that it might be more that he didn’t quite realize the implications of making a statement like that in a forum that was being posted to the Internet. Theologians jump through a lot of hoops to justify their beliefs to themselves, and the little snippet that set off this bluster didn’t really give him the chance for the nuance and justification and qualifications that theologians usually publicly give when they make a statement like that.
I wonder how long before some accommodationist will claim that this is proof that accommodationism works. After all, they got someone like Waltke on board, right?
But it’s even more clear that even with all the nice, welcoming, fluffy BioLogos-talk, some people will still reject evolution, and will still cast others out for their belief in evolution.
They’re very zealous God-of-the-Gaps worshipers, but at least they acknowledge evidence at hand. You don’t see guys from Templeton parading around a million year old fossil and crowing about how it proves Noah’s Ark, or setting up big plastic replicas of The Flintstones to illustrate how Genesis was literally true.
You can have a serious conversation about engineering or astronomy or pharmacy with these guys. But you can’t do that with a lunatic band of luddites that refuse to acknowledge even discussing what evolution is (even in a discussion littered with Jesus-y buzz words).
The Theologian ejected for acknowledging evolution was ejected for recognizing tangible, verifiable evidence. I can at least comprehend a religious scientist waving off the distant past or the unexplained middle steps of a process as “God” because he can’t wrap his brain around distant or minute events. I can’t comprehend a theologian living in a word with stem cells and cloned sheep and metric tons of fossil evidence and family planning available at the genetic level, refusing to even discuss the fundamental theory behind why you look like your parents.
Damn. Saw Behe’s name there in the very first sentence and jumped to the conclusion that it was him that got the shove. Should have realised that:
Michael Behe != evangelical scholar
Yeah, me too. I was getting all giddy. Then I was disappointed.
I wish Waltze luck, since he seems to have at least more than one brain cell working.
Errrr, weren’t the creationists fierce advocates of ‘equal time’?
Oh right, I forgot: “equal” time for THEIR ‘myths’!
#11: Meant to add:
Now it’s OUR turn to demand “TEACH THE CONTROVERSY” ..
(Well.. not quite… of course)
Perhaps Professor Waltke’s new friends at Bio-Logos and Templeton will find him a new job at a less deranged institution.
Apols for off topic.
Anyone catch this bit of nonsense from Deepak Chopra? A demonstration of primate cleverness proves there is a divine intelligence in the universe. Only in the twisted mind of Deepak.
Brownian, OM says
From the article:
He’s gonna name names! No more jobs for them, and no more delivery from Hop Sing’s!
See PZ, the fundies don’t like accommodationists either…
I wrote about this last week. It’s disgusting to see the way the field of Higher Education seems ready to defend Waltke, let alone care what RTS does. Here’s my post:
Bruce Waltke, meet Rick Colling. He taught at Olivet Nazarene University, not a seminary. He doesn’t any more, having finally resigned under pressure after having been removed from teaching intro biology and having his book barred from use in classes.
Let the seminaries fire their version of accomodationists and let the whole world see them for what they are – power hungry, narrow-minded bible thumpers intolerant of a smidgen of difference.
No matter how much the seminary gussies up its excuses with words like
eventually people will see the reality of their wishing for an iron-fisted rule.
What really got to me was the phrase:
Baloney. These bastards will come down hard on anyone disagreeing with the in-crowd power structure but would be happy impugn the veracity of any scientist who might happen to have a fact on his side.
I have some sympathy for a man who worked hard for an organization that was willing to throw him out for a minor disagreement but I think he is better off without these jerks. We would all be better off without these jerks.
Jillian Swift says
Expelled: No intelligence allowed
Tom Coward says
Michael Behe may continue as a tenured faculty member at Lehigh, but somehow I get a sense that he is a bit of an embarassment to them. Check out this disclaimer on the University’s website: http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/news/evolution.htm
Waltke got off easy. In times past he would have been burned at the stake as an apostate or heretic.
What happened to Waltke is pretty common in fundie circles. They are always having purges, witch hunts, and wars among themselves. Tolerance is a bad word to them.
Old post on persecution of normal people by fundie religious kooks. The list is out of date, need to add Dawkins in Oklahoma.
The fundies declared Chapter 51, Moral Bankruptcy decades ago.
As a former student of Bruce Waltke, I’m amazed to the point of shock that any institution pretending to credibility anywhere in the Christian academy could ever ask him to leave. Leave?? I barely ever had the courage to ask him a question! I’ve since dropped Christianity, but I’ll always respect Waltke’s formidable knowledge and information base. Asking Bruce Waltke to leave for doctrinal variance is like asking God to leave for doctrinal variance.
Off topic: Guess who are responsible for the sex abuse scandal rocking the RCC:
'Tis Himself, OM says
So fundies feel “teach the controversy” only works in one direction.
I wholly endorse LeftAhead’s (#24)comments. I took 2-3 courses from Waltke at Dallas Theological in the late 50’s, long before I gave up on religion, but I vividly recall him as one of the most insightful, intellectually honest, knowledgeable-in-his-field, scholarly, and all-round good persons I have ever encountered. From the little I have found about his career in the ensuing years, it appears that those characteristics still apply.
When the fundies kick out people like that (see #23) . . . words fail me.
Umm no. Falk is being diplomatic here. They aren’t pioneers, they are martyrs.
Cthulhu, it’s been 2,000 years. One would think the xians could think of something better to do.
At least they haven’t been thrown to the lions. Yet. In these degenerate secular times, the Sierra club, Greenpeace, and the ASPCA would be all over them.
Well look at it on the bright side. Many of my close relatives were born into the Xian Reformed church.
AFAIK, none of them are still there. IIRC, they all left that church as soon as they could
@#9 Yes, I almost wet myself when I saw Behe’s name. BUt I guess it’s not Xmas yet. I’m trying to decide if “evangelical scholar” isn’t a contradiction in terms?
@#9 Yes, I almost wet myself when I saw Behe’s name. But I guess it’s not Xmas yet. I’m trying to decide if “evangelical scholar” isn’t a contradiction in terms?
I personally hope that Prof. Waltke is correct, and evangelical Christianity becomes nothing more than a marginalized cult.
Now why does that remind me of David Frum speaking truth to Republicans about their recent misguided tactics and getting booted out of a conservative think tank? I guess tolerance and listening is only OK when they’re the ones doing the listening.
Sorry, I’m having editing problems.
I guess tolerance and listening is only OK when they’re the ones doing the talking and we’re the ones listening.
The case of Prof. Waltke sounds like a ship leaving sinking rats.