AIG: You Want Proof? Here It Is!

It rarely gets any better than this. It’s at the website of the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis, the on-line ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo), the ayatollah of Appalachia.

Their new article is God’s Character. It’s the first in a series of seven essays. But it’s not exactly new. They say they also posted it three years ago. It must be good, because it has withstood the test of time.

The author is John C. Whitcomb. He and Henry Morris (1918-2006), the founder of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), wrote The Genesis Flood — which started the modern biblical creationist movement.

Whitcomb’s article begins with this introductory paragraph:

If we turn to the Bible as our highest authority in every area (including how we defend the Bible itself!), we will discover that we can appeal to no greater authority than God Himself. If we had to appeal to another authority to prove what God said, then God wouldn’t be our ultimate authority.

Nothing circular about that! It’s all downhill from there, but we’ll give you some excerpts, with bold font added by us, and numerous scripture references omitted:

How can we help people believe that the Bible is true? The answer may be surprising to many. It is not by scientific, archaeological, or historical evidences, important though these may be in their proper place. It is not even by fulfilled prophecy! It is by sharing with others — based on our own knowledge of Scripture — the matchless character of the God who ultimately wrote the Bible.

We haven’t run across that specific argument before, but it’s important, because ol’ Hambo’s creationist enterprise depends upon it. Let’s read on and learn about the “matchless character” of the deity who recently destroyed the Earth in a worldwide Flood:

Only the Holy Spirit can convict sinners and change hearts. We “sanctify” God by relying on His own Word and His Spirit to convince people about His unsurpassable qualities, including His holiness, wisdom, love, and truthfulness.

Okay. Whitcomb continues:

What does this have to do with knowing that the Bible is true? Our main role is to honor the Author of the Bible by our own lives and words. You may not have heard of this as “evidence” before, but it is extremely important for Christians to realize. Through our Bible-enriched words and our changed lives, we give evidence of the truth of the One who inspired the Bible and says it is “living and powerful.” If our individual lives do not exhibit Jesus’s transforming power, why should anyone believe that His words had the power to create the universe?

Are you following this, dear reader? Please do, because it’s very important. Here’s more:

Whenever God’s love is reflected through a believer’s life and words, unbelievers will recognize something genuinely divine. They will sense that the God of Scripture is real, and they will be convicted about the truth and power of His Word.

Ah, so that’s why ol’ Hambo is so persuasive and convincing. Moving along:

How does this work in practice? When unsaved people living in spiritual darkness observe God’s special self-sacrificial love at work, they will be deeply affected by seeing something they have never experienced. A powerful example is a loving relationship between a Christian man and his wife, and between Christian parents and their children. Another example is the deep love displayed within a local church.

Now you know how it works. Another excerpt:

This love cannot be explained or experienced apart from the true and living God, who created every human being with a mind, a soul, and a conscience that can know Him and see Him in His Word.

Verily, that’s the only explanation for the work of ol’ Hambo and the others at AIG. Here’s the end of the article:

The bottom line: God Himself vindicates His Word as people see Him honored in His Word and in the lives of His children.

So there you are, dear reader. All your wretched life you’ve been looking for proof, and there it is. Now go forth, and doubt no more. Oh — what about the other articles in the series? We assume the first was the best, so we may not bother with them.

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

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47 responses to “AIG: You Want Proof? Here It Is!

  1. Emotions are not valid tools of cognition.

  2. Whenever God’s love is reflected through a believer’s life and words, unbelievers will recognize something genuinely divine. They will sense that the God of Scripture is real, and they will be convicted about the truth and power of His Word.

    Because that will be a true miracle. (Assuming Whitlesscomb means “convinced.”)

    Seriously, no matter how virtuous a believer may be, that has no bearing on how humanity came to exist or how old the planet Earth is. Believers just seem to assume that if living by the moral precepts of the Bible (as cherry-picked by fundamentalists to avoid nifty stuff like God’s command to wipe out the Amalekites down to the last infant) leads to virtue, then its claims about everything must be true. Or to put it another way, they take it on faith.

  3. waldteufel

    This little puff piece is really one of Hambo’s miracles of stupid and smarm. What to say?

    His deity is really one of the most murderous, petty, deceitful, racist and generally nasty characters in all of fiction. It’s a good thing for us all that this god of Hambo’s exists only in the fevered imaginations of the gullible droolers, some of whom shuffle mindlessly through his “museum,” each leaving behind a little pile of shekels for Hambo and his coterie of kooks.

  4. “Whenever God’s love is reflected through a believer’s life and words, unbelievers will recognize something genuinely divine”

    Interesting argument to take though, because if he is right I have never met anyone touched by God’s love, despite the many 1000’s of people I met during my life.

  5. Ceteris Paribus

    Whitcomb says: “When unsaved people living in spiritual darkness observe God’s special self-sacrificial love at work, they will be deeply affected by seeing something they have never experienced.

    Amen. At the State Fair there was this feller what had a tent show on the Midway, where he advertised that he would prove the power of God to put back together a lady that had been sawed right in half with a cross-cut saw.

    And he did. Right in front of our own eyes, he put that lady in a box, and sawed that lady in half, and spun around the two pieces of that lady for us to witness. And then Shazaam! got her put right back in order, top and bottom, front and back, just like she wasn’t even short a drop of blood. He did!

    You should look for that feller at your own state fair, or maybe even better, go visit Creation Museum. I hear they have many more such wonders on their big midway down there.

  6. If we turn to the Bible as our highest authority in every area (including how we defend the Bible itself!), we will discover that we can appeal to no greater authority than God Himself. If we had to appeal to another authority to prove what God said, then God wouldn’t be our ultimate authority.

    It’s turtles all the way down.

  7. waldteufel

    “It’s turtles all the way down.”

    Amen.

  8. waldteufel

    In addition to the untold millions of men, women, children, unborn babies, little lambs, and fuzzy little kitties that Hambo’s righteous and loving god murdered when he left the water running in Noah’s time, he intelligently, lovingly, and cheerfully designed and created cancer, polio, diabetes, smallpox, rabies, malaria, HIV, . . . . all the way down to bad breath.

    Oh, wait! Those nasty things aren’t the fault of Hambo’s god, they’re the result of our living in a fallen world! That’s why Hambo’s god had to send himself down to earth to sacrifice himself to himself in order to fix something he could have fixed by snapping his blood-soaked fingers. Now it all makes sense. Please put your love offering in the box next to the door as you leave.

  9. Every time I read the preachings of of a man like Whitcomb, exhorting us all to just believe on blind faith, I think back to all those believers of Jim Jones. They followed his exhortations to believe him on blind faith, and drank the cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

    No, I think it is the more rational thing to do to think for myself.

  10. I know a number of atheists who live admirable, loving lives. I know a few gays and lesbians who are equally models of virtue in their relationships with others. When living in the middle east, I became friends and colleagues with muslims who were very devout, honest, and virtuous. So, if when a Christian behaves in an admirable way, it proves the existence of god – what does it prove when others behave in equally admirable ways? Why in the world would anyone – other than a Christian apologist – think that only Christian fundamentalists can lead happy loving lives?

  11. “(Assuming Whitlesscomb means “convinced.”)”
    You assumed wrong! I knew John quite well during my YEC days of long ago. Plus, I can speak the language: John said “convicted” because that is the word that is usually used for “God getting hold of a person”. In most contexts, it refers to being “convicted of sin”. But sometimes it is used to indicate being “strongly convicted of the truth.”

    I’m the ex-YEC to whom Dr. Janis referred in a comment under the Discoveroid article of yesterday.

  12. Remember, the first step in believing is well, believing. The last step is also believing. You just can’t beat old time, big tent sermons when it comes to logic defying, make the hair on the back of your neck stand up crazy statements.

  13. Casual readers may think that Whitcomb is praising the Bible as the ultimate source of wisdom. They’d be right. But although John Whitcomb lost his ability to distinguish the two many decades ago, when he stands at the ICR or AiG lectern, what he REALLY means is “Look to the Bible for the answers—but look to US to tell you what the Bible means.” Despite popular myth, Young Earth Creationists do not differ from all other Christians in demanding an “ultra-literal reading of the Bible.” No. There are multiple “literal readings” for so many passages of the Bible and, frankly, with few of them are YECs like Whitcomb consistently ultra-literal. Just like the other YECs, Whitcomb will abandon that “literal” reading whenever it is inconvenient and, to his credit, when the context doesn’t call for it and he knows it. He and any Biblical scholar or layperson worth their leather Bible knows that most languages are a complex mixture of literal, paraphrastic, idiomatic, poetic, and more “ic” type adjectives than I can pull out of my head in the wee hours of the morning. No, a “literal reading” is NOT the the ultimate distinctive of the Young Earth Creationist movement. All evangelicals tend to favor literal readings of the scripture the vast majority of the time. What distinguishes Whitcomb’s literal interpretation is that his is God’s interpretation. And all others are to be ignored—if not also despised.

    What Whitcomb and most YECs are really about is maintaining a particular TRADITION that developed with “their”, the True Church’s, complex history which includes the translation choices of the King James Bible and which accompanied the “chosen and true” European Reformation piety movements which migrated to the colonies and experienced all that those proper pilgrims and virtuous pioneers experienced in the New World. Whitcomb WANTS you to believe that his tradition is only “traditional” in being the oldest and most genuine version of the True Church, right back to the traditions of the first century apostles and Jesus himself. It ignores the traditions of the Roman Catholic church, the Episcopal church, and any other American religious tradition which doesn’t share the same Great Awakening, the heritage of the Dunkards and Tunkards and so many other ethnic church movements, and the defensively appropriate Fundamentalist reaction to The Christian Century—-that entire religious genealogy which separates the Bible Belt America religious pedigree from all mongrel others and that kept “the apostle’s truth” from being misled by every other Christian group that fails by not quite being “us”. In other words, while it SOUNDS like Whitcomb is emphasizing the Bible as the ultimate standard— and that’s because he is—in practice it ACTUALLY means “The correct literal interpretation of the Bible is the one WE were fortunate enough to be born into and smart enough to defend!. So as long as you make our interpretation your interpretation, you are on the right track. Anything else and you are a ‘compromising Christian’. Or worse. “(“You demonically-inspired, wolf among the sheep, evil heathen, false teacher, atheist poser!” And sometimes they even say what they REALLY think of me!)

    And that explains why Young Earth Creationists so disdain the views of virtually every other Christian. It may SEEM like it is a matter of who is interpreting Genesis the most literally. But it isn’t. I can use a variety of legitimately literal interpretations/translations to justify Old Earth Creationism, Gap Theory-ism, Progressive OEC, Proclamation Creationism, Evolutionary Creationism and more. No, for the committed YEC, there is only ONE permissible set of Bible interpretations: the correct one. Ours. (That is, John Whitcomb’s interpretation….which is Ken Ham’s interpretation…..which was the Apostle Paul’s interpretation. And all personally approved by Jesus, of course.)

    If you are following me so far, you now understand why a YEC organization like AiG or ICR is so very different from an Old Earth Creationist/Progressive Creationism ministry such as Dr. Hugh Ross’ *Reason to Believe*. Ken Ham looks and sounds like an Old Testament prophet . Hugh Ross sounds like Mr. Rogers: “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Ken Ham says, “Not on your life!,”

    My apologies to Dr. Seuss:
    “I am Ken Ham. Ken Ham, I am.
    I do not like Old-ECs around Ken Ham.”

    (Sorry. Couldn’t resist. But now you can understand why Ken Ham does not work and play well with others.)

    Since several readers have asked for my insights from having been part of the YEC movement long ago (and personally knowing John Whitcomb Jr. and the “creation science” movement he and Henry Morris spawned with *The Genesis Flood* in 1962), I wanted to make that key point: YECs talk a lot about the centrality of the Bible. But what they really mean is “as long as you interpret the Bible our way.” It is NOT necessarily a more literal interpretation than everybody else. In fact, it is, all too often, a LESS INFORMED literal interpretation than all the others. And it is these nuances which explains why Old Earth Creationists, Gap Theorists, and virtually all of the other origins viewpoints which Christians hold are not held so tightly and angrily as do the Young Earth Creationists. YECs may use the word “literal” more than everybody else, but don’t let that fool you. Their interpretations are NOT necessarily more literal. Just more dogmatic. With YECs, it is “us” against “them”. And that explains why when a YEC like John Whitcomb or Ken Ham are confronted by the equally literal (or even “more literal”) alternative views of other kinds of Christians, they condemn them with terms like “compromising Christian” and even “Atheist!” (Despite being a retired seminary professor, evangelical minister, and Bible translation consultant, I’m called “atheist” more than any other epithet whenever I dare question or debate a Young Earth Creationist. And they refuse to believe that my literal interpretation could be just as literal —or non-literal—as theirs.)

    I’m providing this introduction partly as a preface to future comments where you may see me correcting this widely held myth that YEC-ism is all about “literalism” —-with all other Christian origins positions based on less-literalism. Like so many popular perceptions, with most YEC leaders it is both an over-generalization and usually downright wrong. Explaining it may require some basic understanding of linguistic and cultural realities and the messy business of translating one language to another, where a “literal” reading of an English Bible may take one far from the “literal” reading of the Hebrew text of Genesis, as just one kind of example.

    So if any of my future comments sound more like a Ripley’s Believe It or Not as I debunk these and various related myths about fundamentalists and evangelical Christians, I assure you, it is entirely intentional.

  14. It is believing, believing and more believing hoping at some point it will turn to truth because it has been believed so hard!

  15. Well, @bibleandscienceforum, that was a massive “comment”, but a most well-written and insightful one.

    It is indeed interesting how various Christian movements and schools form each their own tradition of Bible interpretation, and their ability to distinguish that particular interpretation from the Bible itself is often lost altogether.

    To the devotees of any particular tradition of exegesis, their interpretation IS the Bible, and they are unable to accept that other traditions of exegesis can possibly be really “sincere” (instead the competing interpretations are biased, influenced by false/Satanic philosophies, mired in wordly corruption and compromise, represent attempts to “explain away the plain teaching of Scripture”, etc. etc.)

    The likes of Ken Ham, for instance, will dismiss all interpretations that tend towards Old Age creationism as a damnable “compromise” with “evolution” (to Ham the cover-all term for anything from Big Bang cosmology and standard geology to Darwinian evolution proper).

  16. bibleandscienceforum clarifies—

    “YECs talk a lot about the centrality of the Bible. But what they really mean is ‘as long as you interpret the Bible our way.’”

    Yes, that has largely been my experience also. But remember that up until fairly recently, the RCC held very sternly that Scriptural interpretation was the exclusive domain of its highest echelons and its ecumenical councils for resolving interpretational disputes. This pervasive impulse to plant a pennant declaring, “Our version alone, and no other, is The Trvth™!”, besides revealing an underlying insecurity (for why else would such an exhortation be necessary?), is the main reason there are upwards of 40,000 recognised varieties of Christianity worldwide.

    On a different tack, is it just my imagination or is John C. Whitcomb shaving dangerously close to the salvation-through-good-works hairline, “good works” being the setting of an example? Isn’t it supposed to be salvation through faith alone?

    Curmy, was it a slow day yesterday that we’re now dissecting sermons? Just wondering.

  17. @bcf: “What distinguishes Whitcomb’s literal interpretation is that his is God’s interpretation.”
    How does this distinguish? About all fundies I have ever met have kept up this attitude, plus a few liberals as well.
    Christians usually are just smart enough these days not to debate each other in the presence of non-believers, but that doesn’t mean they agree.

  18. @bcf: “I’m the ex-YEC to whom Dr. Janis referred”
    Could you tell us a bit more about what she quoted:

    “at least some of the Discoveroids know evolution is real and are just in it to milk credulous creationists for money”
    I have suspected this since long, since some IDiots are simply too intelligent for theri own good. But for a non-American outsider like me it’s impossible to get reliable direct information.

  19. bibleandscienceforum says: “I’m the ex-YEC to whom Dr. Janis referred”

    Welcome to this humble blog. But more importantly, welcome to the world.

  20. Con-Tester points out that there are 40,000 recognised varieties of Christianity worldwide. Of course, there are innumerable other religious traditions as well, all (or most) of which proclaim to be the “one TRUE religion”.

    And yet, there is but one reality that can be confirmed by direct observation. Seems like a simple choice to me.

  21. Pope RSG tells us—

    “And yet, there is but one reality that can be confirmed by direct observation. Seems like a simple choice to me.”

    Well, that’s because Your Wholeness’ head is of a good sort, unburdened by such contrived sophistries as postmodernism, noumena vs. phenomena, or manipulative group-think maltreatment of this sort, (which, in truth, shortens my fuse alarmingly).

  22. >”at least some of the Discoveroids know evolution is real and are just in it to milk credulous creationists for money”
    “I have suspected this since long, since some IDiots are simply too intelligent for theri own good.”
    >

    One way to get to the heart of the motivation for the original founders of The Discovery Institute is to look at their history. The Dishonesty Institute started out as a think-tank for regional transportation policy. But they soon found that that topic didn’t exactly charm the dollars out of donors’ pockets. It was a few years later before somebody hit on the idea of exploiting an untapped niche of the political right: the Christians and others who favored conservative “values” but weren’t necessarily amused by Ken Ham’s antics and circus side-shows.

    By the way, we’ve all been waiting for the “Discovery Institute” to finally come up with anything approaching a real “discovery”. Although the name has fit nicely with their origins-truth mission, those from the Pacific Northwest know that “Discovery” was the name of the ship which first explored Puget Sound. That name from history seemed to fit the new transportation planning and lobbying organization, long before the first “Discoveroid” sound-bite lie was newly minted.

    Professor Tertius

  23. >”Welcome to this humble blog. But more importantly, welcome to the world.”

    Thank you very much. However, my not-necessarily so fond days of YEC-dom were back in the distant 1960’s and 1970’s—-so the welcome to the world of tangible evidence is appreciated but comes somewhat belatedly. On the other hand, getting the bad YEC taste out of my mouth has taken most of the years since.

    Nevertheless, the contract on me issued by the dark overlords of the “creation science” underworld continues to this day. So I must continue to hide within the catacombs of the Internet. And thus my pseudonym:

    Professor Tertius

  24. >”Con-Tester points out that there are 40,000 recognised varieties of Christianity worldwide.”
    >
    That 40,000 figure is usually based on the number of identifiable Christian GROUPS (i.e., recognized denominations, fellowships, and other official affiliations.) That does not necessarily mean different “varieties of Christianity” in any significant sense. Most such designations have more to do with shared history and/or ethnicity than unique doctrinal variety per se. For example, Swedish immigrants to America had their own denomination separate from the Norwegian immigrants until their eventual merger, when they realized that they shared not only virtual identical doctrines but similar histories and cultures. (Nevertheless, the old-timers told me that the merger was a very big deal and not a totally peaceful one. Thus are the peculiarities of Homo sapiens organizationalis.)

    So while it is certainly true that Christianity manifests itself in great variety, the actual number of doctrinal varieties is not as varied as the oft-quoted but rarely cited 40,000 figure. What I find much more interesting is that some denominations and fellowships will slyly over-emphasize some minor distinctive just so that they can have some semi-unique identity to be proud about. For example, I used to guest lecture at a seminary which was founded by a relatively small fellowship of churches which descended from Old German Anabaptists but which was doctrinally difficult to distinguish from the majority of fundamentalist churches. So the vast majority of their students came from other denominations. Yet, every student had to take a course on the “unique” distinctives of the schools doctrinal and cultural heritage. What did those “outsider” students decide after finishing the course? As one Mennonite student told me “The only real difference is that they wash feet literally as well as figuratively and a truly bona fide baptism requires three dunks, not just one. So I’m just two dunks away from being part of the in-crowd!” But the Methodist sitting next to him objected: “No, somebody in the class actually asked that question! And the prof said you don’t get credit for the one dunk you got at your own church. You’ve gotta get the requisite three dunks all at one time!”

    Keep that anecdote in mind the next time you see that 40,000 varieties of Christianity figure. Those are not 40,000 different interpretations of the Bible …..but more like humans doing what humans like to do: forming different groups with shared identities, also know as communities.

    Professor Tertius

  25. docbill1351

    This is the Money Quote:

    But what they really mean is “as long as you interpret the Bible our way.”

    And it’s not just the Tooters. Having lived in Oklahoma for nearly two decades and the rest of my time in the South I have observed all too many “churches” that operate on this principle. Grab a Bible and a 501 and you’re a church. Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.

    Old Hambo is a 100% purely distilled version of this “philosophy.” He tells you how to interpret the Bible. You don’t have to think about anything. Just listen to Hambo and do what he says.

    Then, take Louie “don’t cast aspersions on my asparagus” Gohmert … PLEASE! His interpretation of “Biblical principles” is correct. And Michelle Bachmann has her interpretation, so does Phyllis Schlafly, and Albert Mohler and Steve Green – basically every evangelical blowhard out there has his own personal interpretation.

    The only thing they have in common is wanting to tell you how to run your life. Sure, Michelle Bachmann is all in favor of a small government: her and her husband, to be exact. Nothing else needed.

    Recently Steve Green (Hobby Lobby) advocated the mandatory teaching of a 4-year Bible course in public high schools, not that he’s a theocrat or anything. “It’s not about religion,” he actually said. But, you know, he might inadvertently be telling the truth. It’s not about religion, per se, that’s just the vehicle, chariot, if you will, they use to obtain power and control.

    So, yeah, it’s fun to laugh at the antics of the Tooters, but we keep an eye on them as well.

  26. DocBill1351 wrote: “Grab a Bible and a 501 and you’re a church.”

    And the 501c3 paperwork is actually entirely optional! As long as you meet the very general requirements of a church, the Constitution keeps the government off your back. (Of course, the Bible is entirely optional also. As long as you appear “religious” and go through the requisite motions on a regular basis [weekly is preferred], you’ve got the rights and privileges of a church, including exemption from paying sales taxes and property taxes in most cases.)

  27. >”This love cannot be explained or experienced apart from the true and living God, …”

    That, and dopamine.

    And welcome BASF/Professor Tertius. Your insight on Whitcomb and the early YEC is quite interesting.

  28. I will refer to Bibleandscienceforum as Professor Tertius.

    You do realize that wandering onto this blog and hinting that you have first-hand stories of the intellectual dishonesty of big-name creationists, is like wandering into a den of crack addicts and hinting that you have crack in your pockets.

    You think we will ever leave you alone now? No, we will claw at your pockets for da crack… da crack

    I’m a student, if I may say so, of the history of creationism, so I’m familiar with most of the prominent figures of the 1960’s and 70’s. I read Ronald Numbers’ The Creationists and Henry Morris’ History of Modern Creationism and, not feeling that either answered all my questions, I read dozens of old-time creationist books going back to the ~1920’s. If the books were historically significant, but obscure and hard to obtain, I sometimes bought them off Amazon (I have autographed editions by Rushdoony and Arno C. Gaebelein, and some really incredibly kids’ books and graphic novels!), and sometimes I haunted the libraries of Christian colleges to xerox or scan the full texts of obscure books. I have dozens of creationists books scanned in PDF form on my hard drive, so I can dig up embarrassing creo quotes on the fly, and now I can immediately shut down any argument creationists might strike up with me.

    A part of the reason why I did so this to form my own historical hypotheses independent of Numbers’ or Morris’ opinions, and partly to answer historical questions like, “This creationist idea [e.g. Second Law of Thermodynamics makes evolution impossible] is so utterly ridiculous, who first concocted this ridiculous idea and when did they concoct it, and did they know they were lying?”

    And an additional reason was because I was infuriated by statements like, “Charles Darwin invented racism” or “Darwinists are to blame for forcible eugenics.” I suspected that if you compared evolutionist and creationists books from the same historical era against each other, you would find that creationists were always more racist, more pro-eugenics, pro-fascist, etc. than were evolutionists of the same historical era. So I had to look up the contemporary creationists texts, and indeed, that certainly was true.

  29. I thank you all for the warm welcomes. I’ve not checked for forum rules/guidelines to discover if a question about Ken Ham should be posted elsewhere—but might I ask if the “historical science versus operational science” [sometimes “observational science”] dichotomy which Ken Ham & Co. constantly whines about is derived from a Ernst Mayr’s lecture complaining about various trends in evolutionary biology?

    I have no difficulty eviscerating AiG’s false dichotomies but for the first time I finally saw a YEC provide a semi-citation for this one. (Ham even used it in the Bill Nye debate.) A blog by Dr. Josh Harnett cites Mayr as follows:

    “Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science—the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain. —Ernst Mayr, Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, Lecture 1999, ScientificAmerican .com, 2009.

    I’m no evolutionary biologist, but as I ponder the quotation outside of its full context, Mayr’s claims seem rather reckless if not downright bizarre. I can think of lots of appropriate experiments and even a few laws.

    Can anyone help me out with this?

    Professor Tertius
    [An ex-YEC activist from long ago living even now under the Witness Protection Program. Hambo cyber-snipers hope to cash in on the bounty. Dr. Purdom tracks me through Gmail Alerts. (Hi, Georgia!) She did not like my “unkind” remarks about AiG’s new baraminology project. Also, she didn’t appreciate my suggested motto:
    “Think baramins….because it takes all kinds!”]

  30. So to conclude, since I know some of the history of creationism from the 1960’s and 70’s, perhaps I may be able to triangulate Professor Tertius’ identity, but I can’t guess it off the top of my head.

    Now to address Tertius’ point here.

    Whitcomb WANTS you to believe that his tradition is only “traditional” in being the oldest and most genuine version of the True Church, right back to the traditions of the first century apostles and Jesus himself. It ignores the traditions of the Roman Catholic church, the Episcopal church, and any other American religious tradition which doesn’t share the same Great Awakening, the heritage of the Dunkards and Tunkards and so many other ethnic church movements, and the defensively appropriate Fundamentalist reaction to The Christian Century—-that entire religious genealogy which separates the Bible Belt America religious pedigree from all mongrel others and that kept “the apostle’s truth” from being misled by every other Christian group that fails by not quite being “us”. In other words, while it SOUNDS like Whitcomb is emphasizing the Bible as the ultimate standard— and that’s because he is—in practice it ACTUALLY means “The correct literal interpretation of the Bible is the one WE were fortunate enough to be born into and smart enough to defend!. …Anything else and you are a ‘compromising Christian’.

    Right. The Evangelical/Fundamentalist engages in a vast game of “begging the question” (in the original meaning): he refers to his doctrines, of very recent vintage (like Penal Substitutionary Atonement, concocted 1500 years after Jesus was dead) and his Protestant Bible (also edited, with books thrown out for theological reasons, a mere 500 years ago) as being “God’s Word”. But, what is the evidence God exists? “It’s in God’s Word.” What is the evidence that God spoke any words? “God’s Word says so.” What is the evidence God’s words are in the Protestant Bible and were preserved without error (when we know for certain there were interpolations, insertions, forgeries and copying errors) and not at all in the different Bibles of the Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Christians etc.? “God’s Word. God’s Word. God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word God’s Word.”

    Oh. OK. So you just keep saying it until it becomes true. This is the fallacy of “begging the question” in the original meaning: assuming what you need to prove. In the above, for example, John Whitcomb baldly states that we know his interpretation of the Protestant Bible is the one-n-only God’s Word, and his evidence for it is God’s Word, and his evidence for that is… God’s Word and… ad infinitum.

    Everyone can see this circular logic, which led to the presupoositional theology (Whitcomb is a presuppositionalist, like Ken Ham; Henry Morris, not so much), a doctrine that says, to paraphrase Ken Ham, “All logic is circular, but our circular logic is the best circular logic.”

    (An assertion that contradicts its presuppositions, because the standard by which you judge which circular logic is the “best” circular logic must itself be a standard external to all the logical circles. If it isn’t, we need not care what you call “best” logic; and if it is, your major premise is contradicted, since you presuppose non-circular logic, then claim all logic is circular.)

    This invocation of relentless and unremitting “question begging” by the Evangelical/Fundamentalist reminds me of police officers’ “Code of Silence” when one of their colleagues has been caught breaking the law: never give an answer to any direct question. There is no logical distinction between the relentless and unremitting “question begging” of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist and the corrupt cops’ “Code of Silence”: it is simply a refusal to answer the relevant questions, and an attempt to exhaust your opponents.

    One thing that strikes me as markedly different between Evangelical/Fundamentalist rhetoric and Catholic writing is that Catholicism is historical, whereas Evangelicals/Fundamentalists are ahistorical or anti-historical. The Catholic will admit that his doctrine comes at least partially from tradition, that that tradition was revealed over time, that certain ideas originated with specific people at specific times (e.g. St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas), and that the Church is regarded as an authority and the Pope is infallible when he invokes the doctrine of papal infallibility (which is rare).

    Evangelical/Fundamentalists, by contrast, systematically pretend that their ideas have no history and never evolved. They pretend that their doctrines go straight back to God himself and never changed over time and are not attributed to specific people concocting new ideas at specific times.

    Take one example: Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Anyone who is accosted by a fundie will be greeted with this doctrine first— indeed, one card I was handed by a fundie proselytizer took just three sentences to “prove” that I and my kid (whom I was holding at the time) deserved an eternity of torment by fire in Hell and we had it coming to us. Yet this doctrine was concocted nearly 1500 years after Jesus’ death; the idea is barely 500 years old. They say it comes straight from God.

    Another example: the Canon. Just 500 years ago Martin Luther was throwing out the Epistle of Jude because it contradicted Luther’s invented theology, and Protestants were still arguing about the historicity of Esther and the Book of Judith.

    Another example: the subordination of Jesus to God the Father in the Trinity, crystallized when the Western Church (without consulting the Eastern Church) added the filioque clause to the Nicene creed, which made Jesus not subordinate to the Father, while the Eastern Church considered Jesus and the Holy Ghost both subordinate. That “little” change accelerated the schism between the RCC and the Eastern Orthodox Church. But Evangelical Fundies (e.g. Rousas Rushdoony) will tell you with a straight face that the filioque clause was always there, all “true” Christians believed it already, they just wrote it down a few hundred years late!

    It’s a war against history.

  31. Responding to Diogenes 4:54pm comments:
    Good to meet you. And that YEC rubbish about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics making The Theory of Evolution impossible drives me crazy as well. I also would have ranked the “Nazis, Hitler, and the Holocaust blamed on Darwin theme” as among their most nauseating, while the Ben Stein movie EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed (the most ironic movie title of all time!) drove home the myth, complete with the loud marching of goose-stepping boots. Those of my Christian brethren who obsess on the “Darwin was a racist and loathed Africans” learn from me that Darwin and his entire family heavily financially supported American Abolitionist ministers to where they were the #1 donors nearly every year. When Darwin died, pulpits throughout America [not all but many] praised Darwin as (1) the man who helped us to know how God went about creating such wonderful diversity in nature, and (2) a great humanitarian who cared for the wretched plight of the enslaved black man. (Rev. Henry Ward Beecher comes to mind.)

    I’ll respond to some of the other topics when I return to my office. But I should clarify one point:

    Dr. Christine Janis referred to me as “prominent” in the early “creation science” movement. While I became reasonable well-known internationally among Biblical scholars (not the general public) just a few years later, during my YEC days I was more of a humble “rising activist speaker/debater” who, thankfully, left the movement before my much more productive, significant, and less sectarian scholarship made me a recognized name in my field. I cringe to recall some of my “YEC fans” referring to me as John Whitcomb’s eventual successor. [I can hardly believe that I publicly shared that. Even years later. Oh the shame…..]

    Professor Tertius

  32. I, too, am glad Professor Tertius has decided to comment here and I find what he has to say fascinating.

    However, I will reserve further judgment until I see a good pun run or two. 🙂

  33. “[I can hardly believe that I publicly shared that. Even years later. Oh the shame…..]”
    Shame? What shame? When it comes to YECery I can hardly think of anything better than an eventual successor coming to his senses! Only Ol’ Hambo himself becoming an atheist could top you. For me it was easy: never baptized, got raised and educated secularly. No chance that I would become a creacrapper (an idiot yes, an IDiot no way). No my dear Third Prof, I have to reproach you here. A man who manages to overcome such an obstacle doesn’t have any justification for shame. You have my admiration.
    And like Diogenes I want to know everything you know. So thanks for the origin of the Dishonesty Institute! Such bits of knowledge can be very, very valuable next time I meet an IDiot.

  34. mnb0 says to Professor Tertius: “So thanks for the origin of the Dishonesty Institute! Such bits of knowledge can be very, very valuable next time I meet an IDiot.”

    You may get some additional insights from something I posted a few years ago, when this blog was just getting started: Discovery Institute — An Insider’s Tale.

  35. Professor Tertius asks for help debunking Ernst Mayr’s claim that evolutionary biology is “historical science”, and therefore is somehow suspect.

    We would just say that forensic science would then also be “historical science”, and it’s trusted enough by the courts to convict all manner of criminals of all manner of crimes.

    There are so many independent means by which science has developed the historical geologic record that I’d practically need to write an entire textbook for an introductory course in the subject to explain it all here. Suffice to say that Mayr’s and Ham’s claims differentiating between “experimental” and “historical” science are just smokescreens to obfuscate the truth of evolution.

    Creationists try to throw doubt on the key method used by science to determine the age of the earth, rocks, fossils, etc. by suggesting that the decay rate of radioactive elements may have changed in the past, thus making radiometric dating useless. However, there is not one iota of evidence that the laws of physics have changed over time, which would be necessary for their claim to be true. In fact, a Ph.D. physicist who used to contribute regularly to this blog (Gabriel Hanna) pointed out that if radioactive decay rates were not constant, there would be no nuclear power plants.

    I don’t have the time right now to research it, but you can find much on the subject by searching the web for “radiometric dating”, “cross-cutting relationships”, and “geologic time scale” for starters. (Please forgive me if you are already well-grounded in the subject.)

  36. “We would just say that forensic science would then also be “historical science”, and it’s trusted enough by the courts to convict all manner of criminals of all manner of crimes.:

    Certainly. I like to ask YECs if Hambo would be consistent with his “Were you there?” logic if an arsonist who burned down the Creation Museum were caught on video at the scene, found with a Walmart receipt for the empty gasoline can found nearby, and his hands smelled like gasoline. Seeing how “the present CANNOT tell of the past”, surely Hambo won’t cooperate with the District Attorney, will he?

    But I shared the Ernst Mayr quote because I found a YEC using it to justify a certain denigration of historical science in comparison to “operational science.” The citation was botched by the YEC, no surprise there, so I wasn’t sure I could find the primary source. Late today I found this:

    “This article is based on the September 23, 1999, lecture that Mayr delivered in Stockholm on receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science.”
    TITLE: Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought

    Here is the relevant portion….and to be fair to the context, I provide a generous three paragraphs:

    Darwin founded a new branch of life science, evolutionary biology. Four of his contributions to evolutionary biology are especially important, as they held considerable sway beyond that discipline. The first is the non-constancy of species, or the modern conception of evolution itself. The second is the notion of branching evolution, implying the common descent of all species of living things on earth from a single unique origin. Up until 1859, all evolutionary proposals, such as that of naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, instead endorsed linear evolution, a teleological march toward greater perfection that had been in vogue since Aristotle’s concept of Scala Naturae, the chain of being. Darwin further noted that evolution must be gradual, with no major breaks or discontinuities. Finally, he reasoned that the mechanism of evolution was natural selection.

    These four insights served as the foundation for Darwin’s founding of a new branch of the philosophy of science, a philosophy of biology. Despite the passing of a century before this new branch of philosophy fully developed, its eventual form is based on Darwinian concepts. For example, Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science – the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.

    For example, three different scenarios have been proposed for the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous: a devastating epidemic; a catastrophic change of climate; and the impact of an asteroid, known as the Alvarez theory. The first two narratives were ultimately refuted by evidence incompatible with them. All the known facts, however, fit the Alvarez theory, which is now widely accepted. The testing of historical narratives implies that the wide gap between science and the humanities that so troubled physicist C. P. Snow is actually nonexistent – by virtue of its methodology and its acceptance of the time factor that makes change possible, evolutionary biology serves as a bridge.

    See entire address at:
    Ernst Mayr lecture

    Now I could perhaps understand his statement “Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science” and the somewhat negative “not in the lab” characterization if Dr. Mayr had been lecturing in 1899—–but in 1999 I think of evolutionary biology has very much empirical and involving the laboratory for all sorts of experiments and even replication of past fruit fly evolution and perhaps some flavobacteria feasting on nylon in a surprisingly few generations.

    So now that I have the full context of Mayr’s remarks, I’d like to understand why he gave the YECs a bone to chew on and play with. Mayr certainly didn’t make the distinction sound as bad as Hambo would, but I sure wish he hadn’t given them the encouragement and something to dishonestly quote-mine and obfuscate.

    I’m not an evolutionary biologist so I need an experts wisdom on this.
    Professor Tertius

  37. Professor Tertius expands on the 40,000 varieties of Christianity—

    “That 40,000 figure is usually based on the number of identifiable Christian GROUPS (i.e., recognized denominations, fellowships, and other official affiliations.) That does not necessarily mean different “varieties of Christianity” in any significant sense. Most such designations have more to do with shared history and/or ethnicity than unique doctrinal variety per se.”

    I think the salient point here is less the magnitude of the differences in customs and practices between various groups, and much more their impressive number and diversity. Though likely flavoured with local cultural and ethnic influences, those religious customs and practices are largely based on Scriptural interpretations, and it is telling that essentially the same source material should have such wide interpretational latitude — all the more so when one considers its alleged ultimate origin. It’s likely true that many groups, perhaps even the majority, differ marginally among themselves. Nonetheless, those differences suggest that interpretational disagreements can be divisive, contrary to its ostensible goal of harmony and unity. More than that, there are several major traditions that differ irreconcilably on certain foundational issues, e.g., their Christology and eschatology.

    BTW, that figure originates here (first paragraph).

  38. In the same way, Newton made physics a distance science. Before Newton, physics applied only to the properties of sub-lunar objects. Newton extended the reach of gravity, inertia, and so on to those places where no one had been (other than God).

  39. @Third Prof: “The citation was botched by the YEC”
    Thanks to the extensive information SC keeps on providing the default position is here that any citation provided by any creacrapper is botched until proven otherwise. It was my first thought when you brought up Mayr.

    “Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science”
    Cosmology (Big Bang and stuff) is a historical science too and it’s an integral part of physics. I think the distinction of historical and experimental science does make sense, but obviously the two are hopelessly intertwined. We can safely rely on Ol’Hambo and others for misrepresenting the whole thing.

    “why he gave the YECs a bone to chew on ”
    He probably didn’t. Again the default position is that YECers botch, misquote and misrepresent. It’s rather simple. You can dig up a fossil or an archeological artefact only once. Same for observing a supernova or doing a CSI. If you screw it up there is no second try.
    Of course science has addressed this since long.

    “The testing of historical narratives implies that the wide gap between science and the humanities that so troubled physicist C. P. Snow is actually nonexistent .”
    I agree on that one; see my remarks on cosmology. This is of course not what YECers, dishonest as they are, want to get from it, so they ignore it.

    Thanks, SC, for that link. Two witnesses are always better than one.

  40. bibleandsciencefor a/k/a Professor Tertius says: “So now that I have the full context of Mayr’s remarks, I’d like to understand why he gave the YECs a bone to chew on and play with.”

    No one whose words get quote-mined and used out of context ever intentionally gives the creationists anything. One can go crazy trying to purge his writings of everything a creationist might seize upon. Merely calling some feature of a cell a “mechanism” can send them into a frenzy (“he said mechanism, and a mechanism must be designed …”).

    I’m not certain what Mayr was trying to say, but I’d guess that he was crediting Darwin for enhancing biology with the tools of historical science (with which he was familiar from his study of geology).

    As for the validity of historical science (whether criminology, climatology, cosmology, etc.), one can frame an hypothesis about the historical cause of something (e.g., the butler did it), and then investigate whether the evidence supports the inherent but often unspoken prediction that all data will be consistent with that hypothesis. That’s the “lab experiment,” so to speak.

    Regarding the theory of evolution, I’ve said before that what gets tested is the prediction that all the evidence, including every fossil ever found, will fit the theory. It would only take one fossilized Pegasus or Precambrian rabbit to cause serious problems.

  41. Tertius, note always where the creo quote-mine of Mayr stops. It stops (as anyone could predict, from past experience with creo quote mines) right before Mayr starts talking about testability and falsifiability of historical hypotheses. The creo quote miner snips off that part of the quote, and then tells his church audience that Mayr agrees with creationists that evolution is untestable, unproveable and non-falsifiable, while Mayr in fact said the opposite. The assertion that evolution is non-falsifiable is central to Ken Ham’s bogus philosophy of science, but that claim derives from the creationist literature, not from the scientific literature.

    At any rate, the creationist cannot honestly cite Ernst Mayr as the source for his phony distinction between real science and historical science anyway. The quote from Mayr is from 1999, decades after creationists had started blathering about a distinction between “real science” and “historical science.” Ken Ham made this claim in “The Lie: Evolution” in the 1980’s (that claim made up practically the entire book) and Henry Morris made it before that, I think in the “textbook” “Scientific Creationism.” Debater Duane Gish in the 1970’s and 80’s often said that evolution was scientific, and it was a theory, but insisted it was not a scientific theory. Go figure. Anyway, the fake distinction between real science and historical science originated in the creationist literature.

    Moreover, I dispute Mayr’s contentions that 1. Darwin invented “historical science”, and 2. Evolutionary biology is strictly a historical science where experiments are not appropriate. Both false.

    On 1, it’s been pointed out above that geology and paleontology were historical sciences long before Darwin published “Origin.” This raised NO philosophical objections at the time, nor claims that geology and paleontology were not “real sciences.” Additionally, there were historical hypotheses in cosmology: the Nebular Hypothesis goes way back, and Descartes had hypothesized that the Solar System began as a swirling vortex. However, despite “natural philosophers” posing countless historical hypotheses, some long before Darwin, no one made any philosophical distinction between real science and historical science, until creationists started making that distinction because they were losing and they were envious of science’s authority. This includes Mayr: again, the quote from Mayr is from 1999, decades after creationists had started blathering about a distinction between “real science” and “historical science.”

    On 2, of course evolution is not strictly a historical science where experiments can’t be done. Mayr was probably thinking that you can’t do an experiment where, e.g., you start with Eohippus and evolve it into a racehorse. True, but some evolutionary processes are reproducible: e.g. Lenski, in his E. coli experiment, froze the bacteria at intermediate stages of evolution and showed that some evolutionary transitions were reproducible. Also, Joe Thornton has also published many papers on the method of Ancestral Sequence Resurrection (or Reconstruction) in which the nucleotide sequences of ancient genes are inferred by evolutionary methods, then synthesized, expressed, and biochemically tested in the lab.

    There is an entire field called experimental phylogenetics, in which populations evolve while we observe them, and then later phylogenetic methods are applied to the final populations to test if the methods can reconstruct the population’s observed history (they can). Also, obviously natural selection, neutral drift and speciation have all been observed and measured in the lab and in the wild, and natural selection can be turned off in the lab, in mutation accumulation (MA) experiments.

  42. Thank you for your excellent replies to my question. By the way, I probably should have used an emoticon to flag the whimsical, tongue-in-cheek reference of a bone thrown to YECs. You are correct: Nobody sets out to give the denialists more fodder.

    I also considered but changed my mind and left out mention of the fact that Mayr was nearing a century old at the time of his remarks. I’m already reaching an age where I find myself a bit more bombastic in my manner of speech when I wish to make an exaggerated rhetorical point and I’ve wondered if Mayr might have been doing likewise. He had to have understood that evolutionary biology involves a great deal of empiricism and The Theory of Evolution is tested (and made subject to potential falsification) on a daily basis. And YECists are sure to exploit any strong statement that they can remove from its contexts and nuances and use for their own propaganda purposes.

    I find the Mayr quote interesting because it is, in my experience, one of the rare instances where the denialists’ claims of phoney distinctions between “operational science” and “historical science” are attributed to an evolutionary biologist. As has already been emphasized, YEC activists have been promoting this false dichotomy (where “historical science” is considered inferior science) for decades before Mayr’s lecture.

    I get the impression that the AiG staff have a pep rally prior to every interview and video where the “creation scientists” are reminded to be sure to include the “kinds of science” soundbite. Dr. Georgia Purdom always says it so robotically—and with an especially annoying implied shaking-her-finger at the opposition as she scolds, “He didn’t even mention the important distinction between historical science and observational science!” How dare he!

    Sometimes they speak of “observational science” and sometimes of “observational experimental science”. I’ve always wished I could interrupt them and ask them to explain how evolutionary biology does not involve observation! (Or any science for that matter.) But I think part of their strategy is to exploit the general public’s naivete in assuming that observation always involves “experiments” which in turn always involve test tubes and beakers in a stereotypical image of a laboratory with bubbling potions. So anything outside of that mental image doesn’t seem sufficiently “empirical” to the science-illiterate.

    Yet, I would also like to interrupt them and ask why observations and experiments even matter if the same people who promote “creation science” have to sign their organization’s “Statement of Faith” where they agree that all such observations and experiments will be ignored if they conflict with that particular ministry-founder’s Bible interpretations. (The actual wording states that the Bible trumps everything else—but we all know that “the Bible” really means “Ken Ham’s religious views” when an AiG staffer is involved. Yes, if Georgia Purdom were a ventriloquist’s act, we’d always be able to notice Ken Ham’s lips moving.) [Does Google’s Gmail Alerts bot scan this site? I certainly hope so. I’ve not said hello to Dr. Purdom yet today.]

  43. Prof. Tertius,

    as you have hinted about telling stories about the intellectual dishonesty of big-name creationists, I’d be much obliged to you for any hyperlinks you could provide to any forum where you told such stories, no matter how old.

    And if a bunch of YECs attacked you back and called you atheist, so much the better. I do read that kind of thing, even if very old. Doc Bill does also. If the link is currently dead, I often look up old threads on the Wayback Machine and I take screenshots.

    I am reminded of the legendary throw-downs between ex-YEC Glenn Morton and CMI leader Jonathan Sarfati at TheologyWeb some years back. Morton was a working geologist and posted geological evidence against a global Flood, while Sarfati (who posted as Socrates or Socratism) went hysterical and refuted the evidence by calling his opponent Glen Moron. Sarfati was so obnoxious to everyone that he was banned from TheologyWeb, even though that forum is run by YECs. Unfortunately I didn’t save those knock-down drag-out fights. Morton eventually deleted all the threads he started, because he soured on anti-creationism since he felt the evidence he had compiled was providing fodder to New Atheists (heh heh) and that made evidence a bad thing. Alas, TheologyWeb posts are not archived at the Wayback Machine because they use robots.txt. I should have taken screenshots of all that; it was golden.

    But such fights between big names, and first-hand stories, are golden to me, and I do read them.

  44. P.S. Dr. Georgia Purdom, if you’re reading this, please tell Ken Ham that Diogenes challenges him to a debate. I would say this on his Facebook page, but when I write on creationists’ Facebook pages, they usually ban me.

  45. Diogenes wrote: “I’d be much obliged to you for any hyperlinks you could provide to any forum where you told such stories, no matter how old.” I posted a lot on Amazon under various YECist and IDer book reviews. That is where I met Dr. David Levin and Dr. Christine Janis. Perhaps Christine remembers which threads those were on. (I recall one thread that Dr. Levin started reached the 10,000 comment limit and he had to start an extension of it.) I also posted a lot on ChristianForums in the Creation/Evolution forum or whatever. Sorry, I used a variety of usernames on various forums so I’m not easily found. Of course, most of my posts were about theological implications of The Theory of Evolution and matters of Genesis Hebrew exegesis. I love to torment YECists by showing them that Noah’s flood was regional and that Genesis 2:7 clearly describes abiogenesis, just to name a few of my favorites.

    I’ve collected lots of notes for a book on the history of YECism. Most of my “big name” anecdotes involved Morris, Whitcomb, or Gish. I made my exit long before the Morris dynasty “evolved” from granddad’s……well….. granddad Morris’ “work”……but I predate the Internet-based mega-ministries so I don’t have many stories about Ham, for example, other than his litigation and other infamies in his past.

    I have to be careful about my favorite stories because many of them could easily betray my identity, and frankly……..I always thought I would save the best anecdotes for a book and avoid giving away my very funniest stories too early.

    I suppose one reason I never finished the book—besides the fact I have other tomes of a much more scholarly variety under contract but currently late to press—is that I wanted to end the YECism book in an upbeat way, perhaps even having a great deal of material on how best to reach the “YEC-challenged” and science-illiterate individual. (I’m trying to come up with a pleasant euphemism for “brain-encased-in-lead and immune to evidence” or a least a technical term made up of the associated Greek morphemes for that.) I don’t just want to make fun of YEC leaders activists, even if they deserve it. I’d like to encourage compassion for the victims of YEC-ism and provide useful strategies for helping them find their way out of the brain-washing and the lie-fests.

    By the way, while reading through SC’s excellent archive of old articles, I found that he made a comment about the Dover Trial which so very well harmonizes with my viewpoint: SC basically said (if I may paraphrase) that if the expert witnesses for the plaintiff had all been hard-core atheists, the Dover Trial might not have had such wonderful results in being such a slam-dunk victory for science and against IDism. I totally agree.

    And for that reason, I always appreciated Dr. Eugenie Scott’s approach while directing the NCSE: she always emphasized that her goal was to encourage excellence in the science classroom. She didn’t get side-tracked on other issues (such as anti-theism) and she was happy to cooperate with anyone who promoted good science. I got the impression that she understood that sometimes the best way to get through to anti-evolutionists is to let evolution-affirming theists address their theological and philosophical obstacles. For that reason I always thought it would be great if I could join up with an evolutionary biologist in a tag-team debate against a pair of YECs (e.g., Ken Ham and Ray Comfort, even though the thought also nauseates me.) YECists have the advantage of a rapport with their Christian audience but someone like me can neutralize much of their strategy. In terms of biblical hermeneutics and exegesis, I can shred their claims that the Bible and The Theory of Evolution are in eternal conflict and I know the science well enough to know when I had best defer to a professional. [I was actually a science professor before I moved over to the humanities side of the campus. Yes, I’m being purposefully ambiguous here for reasons of anonymity.]

    I’m very serious when I say that the Biblical text says nothing to deny The Theory of Evolution. And, of course, that also explains why a great many evangelical Christians have no conflict with evolution.

    The anti-evolution problem in the U.S. today is basically a theological conflict problem, obviously, and that is where I’m best equipped to help protect science education in this country. And because recent surveys show evangelicals underrepresented in the sciences, it is imperative that people like me speak to evangelicals in their own language. Most have no idea how they are being lied to by the millionaire origins ministry entrepreneurs. They also have no idea how much of their understanding of the Bible is shaped more by tradition than text. On that topic, I have Facebook pages at “Professor Tertius” and the Bible.and.Science.Forum.

    If evolution-affirming Biblical scholars and scientists work together, we can be especially effective in reaching the young people who have serious questions about the anti-science atmospheres of their church backgrounds. Not all of them consider Ray Comfort an intellectual heavyweight. (Gasp.) But the worst way to reach them is to give them any impression that affirming The Theory of Evolution is affirming atheism. (Otherwise, they’ll think that Ken and Ray were right all along.) They face that obfuscation tactic all of the time from AiG, ICR, et al so we must reassure and explain to Christian America that science doesn’t make or evaluate theological claims. We have to start from the beginning and explain what science is, why it matters, and how it works. Likewise, we have to teach them what The Theory of Evolution is not as well as what it is.

    You see, I had to learn about evolutionary processes entirely on my own. Even though I had plenty of science courses through high school and even ten hours of biology in college, I had almost zero classroom background on The Theory of Evolution. We lost entire generations in America (especially in the Bible Belt) because, I assume, evolutionary biology was considered too controversial and not worth the hassle. I fear that it may not be all that much better today. I had to teach myself, and looking back, because my truth trek was pre-Internet, it was a lot more difficult than it should have been. I was on my own.

    Diogenes, if you ever get that debate with Ken Ham, I would love to see it made a team effort, as in Team Curmudgeon versus Team AiG, and I’m fully prepared to tackle Ham when he brings out his tagline, “I’ve got a book.” My reply to him is, “Unlike you, I’ve read that book and have managed to get past what cherished traditions say about it. How about we look at the scientific evidence and the scriptural evidence and follow all of that evidence wherever it leads—-instead of following where your favorite traditions lead?

  46. bibleandscienceforum a/k/a Professor Tertius says:

    … I wanted to end the YECism book in an upbeat way, perhaps even having a great deal of material on how best to reach the “YEC-challenged” and science-illiterate individual.

    A noble goal, but other than your scriptural approach, which I’ve never considered, I regard the goal of “reaching” them to be hopelessly unattainable. That’s why I always advise against debates. The leaders won’t change, and the followers aren’t moved by presentations of evidence.

    The crux of my approach, so to speak, is ridicule, which can be a powerful tool. The eventual goal, which I certainly can’t accomplish alone, is that creationism will be marginalized to the point where it’s regarded the same way that astrology is today. Given the nature of the true believer, who is at the core of every cult, I don’t think more can be accomplished. Always remember that even after they were disgraced, people like Swaggart, Haggard, and Bakker still had followers.

  47. The Curmudgeon wrote:
    >”A noble goal [breaking the spell of Young Earth Creationism], but other than your scriptural approach, which I’ve never considered, I regard the goal of “reaching” them to be hopelessly unattainable.”>

    I have no delusions of wiping out the sad blight of Young Earth Creationism in my lifetime, but I’ve had some great successes online with (1) individuals through one-on-one dialogue, and (2) many on-the-fence inquirers who sincerely care about evidence. But in every single case I had to deal with the major obstacle first: tradition-bound interpretations of the scriptures which YECs assume absolutely forbid them from affirming an old earth or evolutionary processes. The results are rarely immediate, but if someone feels that they have “permission from God” [by my showing them that traditional interpretations of various scriptures are not reflective of what the Biblical text actually states], both scientific evidence and scriptural evidence begins to turn them around. (By the way, I’ve found that I can’t always predict which person can be “reached”. I’ve had some subjects remained hardened, despite my having thought that they were open to evidence and reason, and I’ve had those who I thought just needed help with a few scriptures but they remained hardened despite my best efforts. But when I can conduct those one-on-one dialogues on an Internet public forum, I’m still educating third-party onlookers. So I never consider my efforts wasted. Plus, it helps me continually to hone my strategies, delivery, illustrations, and objection rebuttals.)

    >”That’s why I always advise against debates.”

    While I rarely say never, I generally agree. The Ham-Nye debate was largely two lectures interacting not all that much. And the science-illiterate public assumes from it that “creation science” deserves the attention of scientists. (However, I did find it fascinating that Ham almost completely avoided the kinds of pseudo-science rubbish he preaches to his own choir. He focused almost entirely on “I have a book” and therefore, the scientific evidence simply didn’t matter to him as much as “I believe in God like a good Christian should.” I won’t accuse him of a sudden outbreak of honesty. No, I think he knew exactly what he was doing: pitching deep-pockets, fundamentalist donors for his $76 million Ark Park (which, by the way, will eventually be his PTL-like downfall, a financial ball-and-chain once his YEC clientele within vacation-driving distance have made their one visit.)

    >”The leaders won’t change, and the followers aren’t moved by presentations of evidence.”

    Some are. Not a big percentage but they are out there and I’ve had my share of successes. But the young people are definitely in my cross-hairs. They have questions that neither their parents nor Ham & Co. can answer but I can. (It generally boils down to just a few scriptures and concepts which are the obstacles.)

    >”The crux of my approach, so to speak, is ridicule, which can be a powerful tool.”

    I may surprise some of my colleagues by saying that I agree. (However, I don’t personally have to do any ridiculing because others generally do it for me—and I like to take advantage of the “good cop; bad cop” approach.)

    I don’t believe it is necessary in every case but I will say that for me during my YEC-activism days of long ago, the derision helped fan the flames of my own doubts about the integrity and due scientific diligence of my senior YEC colleagues (especially Drs. Gish, Morris, and Whitcomb.)

    >”The eventual goal, which I certainly can’t accomplish alone, is that creationism will be marginalized to the point where it’s regarded the same way that astrology is today.”
    >

    No doubt about it. And I keep reminding my Christian brethren of the historical track record of Christians leaders who tell scientists that they are wrong: Within a couple of generations they always end up in “retraction mode.” What is retraction mode? (1) “That wasn’t the entire Church telling scientists that they were wrong. It was just some Christians at the time speaking for themselves;” and (2) “The Bible itself had never explicitly denied that scientific theory/law/concept.” But people in general, Christians included, fail to learn from history. Many Christians were wrong about Copernican heliocentrism. They were wrong about the antipodes. They were wrong about Africans having no souls because they lived south of the equator—and therefore suitable as beasts of burden. (That one was a minority view for sure among Christian theologians—many fought it vociferously from the other side—but the integration of junk science and junk hermeneutics has always fascinated me. I could easily write a separate chapter about how science-illiterate Christians of centuries ago came up with that one.) So the current Christian denialism towards The Theory of Evolution and billions of years of earth history is yet another in that not-so-proud tradition of adamant Christians being on the wrong side of scientific reality. Yet, whenever I point this out to YEC Christians who know about that sad history, they reply with “Yes, but we are not wrong about evolution and the age of the earth! This is different because the Bible definitely denies evolution and deep time!”

    >”Given the nature of the true believer, who is at the core of every cult, I don’t think more can be accomplished.”
    >

    I think most people would have called me a “true believer”. (And I still am, depending upon what belief we are talking about.) Same with Glenn Morton, of geology ex-YEC fame.

    > “Always remember that even after they were disgraced, people like Swaggart, Haggard, and Bakker still had followers.”
    >

    True, but the difference in before and after numbers of followers was in orders of magnitude. So I consider it worth my effort. And I used to have troubled undergrads (and even a few grad students) from YEC homes and churches come to my office—because I was known on campus as an evangelical—and they shared their personal internal conflict. Today’s “true believer” can be next year’s evidence-seeker and the next decade’s ex-YEC. (Yes, it is often just that slow.)

    As one would expect, we form our assessments of various people groups based upon our experiences with the most vocal of their numbers. The “average person” in any such group is usually far more mellow and even downright reasonable than their leaders and most strident activists. Most of their friends may not even realize that they are YECist. They are not the blabbering idiots of Internet forum debates. They aren’t posting “Amen!” comments at AiG. They aren’t buying all kinds of baraminology books. [Sorry.] I know that these people can be reached because I’ve been reaching them. And I figure that for every ex-YEC who has contacted me to tell their story and thank me for a particular essay I wrote five years ago that their friend forwarded to them three years ago, I figure that there are bound to be more “success stories” I never hear about.

    You are certainly correct in saying that scientific evidence alone is not enough for the vast majority of YECs. But if I can spend some time dissembling their tradition-bound scriptural obstacles, I have a good chance getting through to them. It’s rarely overnight but in a lot of cases I’ve initiated a “thaw”. (Of course, with many others, I’ve hardened them and caused them to dig in all the harder.)And once I’ve convinced a Young Earth Creationist that (1) their position has more to do with traditional interpretations instead of what the Bible actually states, and (2) once they understand that at least some of their “scientific presuppositions” were wrong, and (3) once they realize that origins issues are NOT at all central to the Christian Gospel, at the very least they now are a generally “harmless” neutral civilian in the Great War. What do I mean? In the short term, at least, that person won’t be renouncing all “creation science” concepts and may continue to personally believe that the earth is young, but they are now more likely to say, “I just don’t think origins positions should be something Christians fight about. It is not an essential of the Gospel message.” and they will no longer be sending donations to YEC organizations like AiG. They don’t get angry when their son gets interested in reading Dr. Hugh Ross on old earth scientific evidence or when their daughter talks about what they read at Biologos.org. They are also much more likely than before to say to their neighbor, “I’m not a scientist. I don’t know the age of the earth and I don’t know whether animals evolve or not but I do want my kids to get a good science education and now about all of that stuff.”

    For me, if I can bring a YEC to that neutral position, I’ve done a good deed for society. Yes, I could wish for more. But if I can let some air out of the tires of the YEC money machine, I will have hastened the extinction of an endangered species that mucks up the entire ecosystem. And no matter what junior is told at the church youth group, if Dad or Mom at the dinner table tell junior, “Most of the world’s Christians have no conflict with evolution. I find the entire topic overwhelming because I don’t know all that science stuff but it isn’t something Jesus worried about and we shouldn’t either. Don’t let the youth pastor scare you away from examining the evidence for yourself—and then perhaps explaining it to me. You’ll need to understand it for biology class anyway.” I’ve heard Christian parents describe that very conversation from their own home. I’m thankful for small victories. And the more we can inoculate people from YECism, the more progress we make in building up “herd immunity”. That is, peer pressure can work in both directions. I know of churches which have had bad experiences with ardent YECists trying to “evangelize” among the flock to where the church leadership took deliberate steps towards de-emphasizing rigid origins theology and discouraging reckless proof-texting. I’ve helped various church elders come over from the dark side to where they are still undecided about the science but they followed through and made sure that their church no longer supports YEC ministries financially. And they no longer believe that “evolution=atheism” and that “Affirming The Theory of Evolution equals becoming an atheist.” That’s a win in my book.

    Professor Tertius