Creationist Wisdom #428: Preacher-Engineer

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina. The title is Debating evolution is beneficial.

We don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), but we’ll do it in this case. The letter-writer is Rev. Charles D. Pollak, who signs his letter like that, to which he adds Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired). We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

The letter begins by referring to an earlier column by Brian Hicks, a contributor to the Post and Courier, probably this one: Creationists eschew Darwin, then try to make their message evolve. It’s about the “teach the controversy” situation in South Carolina that we’ve been writing about. The rev was upset by what Hicks’ wrote, and he says:

In a recent column, Brian Hicks once again attacked “religious fundamentalists” while extolling scientists who, according to Hicks, all agree with Darwin’s theory of evolution. They don’t, of course.

He [Hicks] ridicules the very idea that students might gain from debating arguments for and against Darwinism. In this, he demonstrates a woeful misunderstanding of the value of such intellectual pursuits used successfully by Plato and Socrates and countless educators throughout the past several millennia.

Aaaargh!! The Socratic method of education, which is common in law schools, has nothing to do with the mind-destroying experience of debating with a creationist. Then the rev tells us:

I have an engineering and scientific background and am a full member of Sigma Xi, the honorary fraternity of research scientists and engineers. I also commanded a nuclear submarine for four years. Today I am an Anglican priest. So I believe I can speak with some authority on both scientific and religious matters.

What a résumé! Let’s read on:

It is clear to me that there is nowhere near the disconnect that rigid bigots on both sides of Darwin’s theory display. In fact, there is much more compatibility between science and religion that someone like Hicks apparently understands.

You didn’t miss that, did you? The rev thinks the scientists who don’t yield to Oogity Boogity! are bigots. We continue:

Scientists have been wrong in the past, and the most eminent always seek new answers to age-old questions.

Yeah, yeah. We’ll skip his examples. That’s supposed to get you thinking that the “Darwinists” are likely to be wrong today. There’s no evidence that they are (indeed, all the evidence supports them), but even if such evidence were found, it wouldn’t do anything for the creationists — they’ve been wrong and evidence-free from the beginning. Here’s more:

Religionists have also been wrong in the past. One famous example: The church fought Galileo after he began teaching that the planet Earth revolved around the sun, rather than the reverse. And, of course, Galileo’s observations today are universally accepted.

That was surprisingly even-handed. Well, creationists like some aspects of the Galileo story — they imagine themselves in his place, being persecuted by the Darwinists. Moving along:

We as a people would be best served, and our children best educated, if we debated these matters in a fair and reasonable manner. Let me recommend two books for skeptics: “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel, a former atheist and Yale-trained lawyer who examines the legal evidence for Christianity’s beliefs, and “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, another former non-believer who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, and who became convicted by his intellectual pursuits of the truth.

Don’t hold your breath expecting the rev to recommend of a couple of science books. He doesn’t do that. Hey — does he seriously expect that Strobel or Lewis will find their way into a science class? Maybe he does.

Did the rev really command a nuclear sub? Maybe he did, but we’d rather not think about that. And now we come to the end of his letter:

Those who wish to suppress debate, in our schools and elsewhere ought to be resisted with all the strength we possess. Suppression of debate leads inexorably to government takeover, to fascism. Rather, I say, “Let the debate begin, and may the real truth be revealed.”

Suppression of debate! Government takeover! Fascism! O you evil Darwinists!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #428: Preacher-Engineer

  1. It defies logic — why would he suppose that his background as a Navy captain and Anglican priest makes him any more qualified to discuss evolution than the average man on the street? It’s the equivalent of me, a retired science teacher, thinking I’m qualified to discuss the operation of a nuclear submarine.

  2. @ Pope Retiredsciguy: Yes, your teaching qualification does not enable you to discuss nuclear submarines–but your Papal Infallibility actually qualifies you to captain one, if Your Holiness so desires.

    What’s the point of having power if you keep denying yourself the exquisite pleasure of abusing it?

  3. Has the learned gentleman even read the story (by C.S. Lewis himself) of his conversion? Apparently not or he would not have said “C.S. Lewis, another former non-believer who taught at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, and who became convicted by his intellectual pursuits of the truth.” It was not his intellectual pursuits that led him to his faith. It was more a feeling of being separate from his fellows. Once the wall of his agnosticism cracked he went “whole hog” or as he put it “in for a penny, in for a pound” on what seems like a whim. (Basically he said, “Gee, if I swallow the fact that God exists, I might as well swallow all of the other clap trap in the Bible, too.)

    Hardly a compelling treatise on finding god through intellectual pursuits.

  4. I need a favor from those of you who read the entire letter, not just the excerpt above. Does he mention “God After Darwin” by John Haught, “The Language of God” by Francis Collins or “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth Miller? From the except alone I am 100% convinced that he is aware of all 3 books, and ~90% convinced that he has read at least one of them.

    Lewis is no longer here to defend the quote mining, but he had no problem with evolution, and probably would accept it even more strongly in light of the increased evidence since his time. Strobel is still here, but apparently sympathetic to the ID scam if not part of it.

    The reason I ask that favor ought to be obvious. If he conveniently omitted those 3 authors, while touting the 2 others, it is because he knows that they completely undermine his “noble lie.”

  5. Update: I withdraw my request, as I tortured myself to read the letter. Thankfully it was a short one. But unfortunately, as I expected, he censored himself by omitting the 3 authors who make a case for God and that ID/creationism is bogus pseudoscience.

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    The Reverend advises:

    “Those who wish to suppress debate, in our schools and elsewhere ought to be resisted with all the strength we possess. Suppression of debate leads inexorably to government takeover, to fascism. Rather, I say, “Let the debate begin, and may the real truth be revealed.””

    The Rev. Charles D. Pollak, Captain, U.S. Navy (Nuclear Half-Wit Half-Life, Retired) does have a point. A society is always grievously harmed by a refusal to engage in public debate.

    In 1729 Ireland, when many were going hungry and even starving to death, there was little public debate over a proposal put forth by a gentleman of that era:

    “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”

    Yet stewed, roasted, baked, boiled, or fricasseed, all sincere public debate on these culinary options was stifled! Which is all the more shameful since there was no hint of motivation by personal gain on the part of the gentleman. In fact that earlier writer ended his own modest proposal:

    “I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavoring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of my country, by advancing our trade, providing for infants, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to the rich. I have no children by which I can propose to get a single penny; the youngest being nine years old, and my wife past child-bearing.”

    It is mean spirited and undemocratic to now refuse the Admiral his own modest, indeed simple, request to allow US citizens the right to engage in the public debate over creationism which could secure their own spiritual welfare without resort to fascist government interference.

  7. Ceteris Paribus: “It is mean spirited and undemocratic to now refuse the Admiral his own modest, indeed simple, request…”

    That helps me restate the mind-blowing irony I point out above: By conveniently not mentioning the aforementioned 3 living authors, the reverend is refusing his own request.

    In 17 years of following the “controversy,” one of the most consistent and fascinating ironies I have found is how anti-evolution activists whine for more “debate” in science class – where it does not belong with or without the religion connection – yet by being selective with facts and quotes effectively censor a debate where it is perfectly legal and appropriate. This point is most dramatically illustrated when one asks them simple “what happened when” questions about their theory, and refuse to let them keep the “debate” on their terms (long-refuted “weaknesses” of “Darwinism,” bait-and-switch between proximate and ultimate causes, etc.). Biblical activists retreat to Omphalism, and ID peddlers simply evade with tooth and nail.

    Why they do that is simple. Those in on the scam, if not their clueless trained parrots, do not want a debate, but want to mislead impressionable students by feeding them misleading sound bites before they properly learn the science.

    By the way, the reverend, despite his fondness for religion, is probably not a Biblical literalist, and would probably concede at least “4 billion years of common descent” if asked. But he would not often volunteer it.

  8. SC, you’re way too friendly today. Perhaps Aaaargghh has lovingly put his snout in your neck, rounded off with a good wet lick?
    The relevant question is this. If our reverend-commander recommends Strobel and Lewis for the debate on Evolution Theory, would he also recommend it for aspiring commanders of nuclear submarines? Iso instruction stuff written by experts? These two authors have as much to do with the first as with the second subject, you see.

    @Frank J: are you seriously requesting creationists (whether of the literalist kind or not) to be fair, honest and integre?

  9. Yes, let’s have an open discussion of creationism vs. evolution.

    First item on the agenda for discussion is evidence gleaned from observation of reality supporting the idea that all living things were created by Yahweh as opposed to another deity, say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    There being no evidence brought forward, we move to the next item on the agenda — any evidence supporting creation having been carried out by any deity at all.

    There being no evidence brought forward, we move on…

  10. @Cardinal Megs: I certainly appreciate your confidence in my infallibility (misplaced though it may be). However, I really don’t think you (or anyone else) want me in charge of a nuclear submarine with twenty or so missiles, each with a dozen or so independently targetable thermonuclear warheads.

    Or maybe you do…

  11. mbno: “@Frank J: are you seriously requesting creationists (whether of the literalist kind or not) to be fair, honest and integre?”

    Of course not. But most evolution-deniers on-the-street are honest, if self-deluded. My point is to never confuse them with anti-evolution activists who are not honest. The rev has all but completed the “speciation” to full-blown activist. When we ask people like that questions instead of (1) assuming what they believe, and (2) letting them control the terms of the debate, the ~half of the public that is neither committed evolution-denier nor science-literate enough to appreciate evolution, will see the sleazy double standards that the activists demand, and how they play “heads I win, tales you lose” word games.

  12. jimroberts

    If alternatives to evolution of living things are to be debated, we should debate whether Elohim created first plants, then birds, fish and marine mammals, then land animals, with humans last among these; or whether, on the contrary, JHVH created plants, then a man, then land animals, then a woman.

  13. Yesiree, we all know that debate leads to truth, especially in the sciences. It works so well in the lab – “Looks like spleen” “No, it’s obviously thymus.” No way to settle that one except for a good debate!

  14. The whole truth

    “Let the debate begin, and may the real truth be revealed.”

    Begin? The “debate” has been going on for thousands of years. The moment that a god/creator was first suggested/asserted by a human being to another human being is when the “debate” began (on Earth), and ever since that moment god pushers have believed and asserted that their particular version of god(s) and “truth” can be and is proven, via “debate” (actually, just bald assertions), to be the only god(s) and truth. Evidence, shmedivence, who cares, as long as I (or we) WIN the debate!

  15. jimroberts: “If alternatives to evolution of living things are to be debated.”

    The obvious question is, if an alternative is supported by evidence, why are its advocates so reluctant to debate an advocate of another alternative, and so obsessed instead with “Darwinism”?

    If fact, Biblical anti-evolution activists do occasionally debate the hopeless differences among themselves (old-earth, young-earth-heliocentric, geocentric, etc.), but are not happy about it. IDers – the “fittest species” of anti-evolution activist – avoid such internal debates at all costs, even when Biblicals throw the occasional stone at them. Why? They know that the evidence can support at most only one of those mutually-contradictory alternatives, but they want rank-and-file advocates of all of them under their anti-science big tent.

    So which, if any, of those mutually-contradictory alternatives do IDers find convincing? A hasty read of the media’s take would suggest Ham’s “heliocentric YEC,” but even those few IDers who seem to lean that way never ever take advantage of the opportunity to support it on its own merits. That alone strongly suggests that if they do believe it, it’s “on faith in spite of evidence that they know refutes it.” But nearly all IDers do (quietly) concede billions of years of life. Some even clearly concede common descent. More importantly, the ones who appear to deny common descent are very vague about it, and never, ever challenge the ones who concede it.

    Given that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence I would say that the claim that most IDers privately know that evolution is right, but would never dare admit it is not extraordinary, and has all the evidence it needs. Yes it’s also possible that most IDers are closet YECs, or even closet flat-earthers, but those would be the extraordinary claims.