Creationist Wisdom #576: Dave & David

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in one of these Gannett newspapers that doesn’t reveal its location, but from their weather report we’ve determined that it’s the News-Press of Fort Myers, Florida. The letter is titled Teaching evolution, creationism. It’s the third item at that link, so you’ll need to scroll down to find it. The newspaper has a comments section.

This one is a bonus, because when you scroll down to it, you’ll see that there are two letters under that same headline. Neither writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, so we won’t embarrass or promote them by using their full names. The writer of the first letter is Dave, and the second was by David. Excerpts from their letters will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go, starting with Dave’s letter first:

Vic Boberg … displays a great ignorance of the difference between proven science and scientific theory. … His “proof” consists of his personal testimony that, “I have science to back me up.” Pardon me, but I’m not impressed.

Both Dave and David are responding to an earlier letter in that newspaper by Vic Boberg, titled Creationism in schools. Vic wrote:

[T]here is no rational intelligent person on Earth that can support the position of creationism. I say this without fear or reservation because all creationists have to support their position is the bible, a book of legends, superstitions and secondhand parables, written thousands of years ago by men who thought the earth was flat and the sun and stars revolved around the earth and had no idea what caused sickness or that germs even existed.

Vic really aroused the creationists! Dave says:

Millions of people, most of whom are average or above average in the intelligence department, believe in Creationism.

Why are we skeptical about that? No matter, let’s read on:

I know a person who has an IQ of 136, who earned a degree in chemistry from an Ivy League university, who defended the existence of God via the abundant evidence of His creation in a philosophy class taught by an avowed and famous atheist. This person earned an 80 in the course. If Mr. Boberg’s statement were true, this person would never have been accepted into the university in the first place.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! One guy got a B in a philosophy class, and that proves creationism is true. This is the rest of Dave’s letter:

If evolution and creationism are taught as theories (which they are), and students are required to defend their beliefs in a logical manner (which they should be), then our schools will be doing their job properly. Forcing one theory or another down students’ throats arbitrarily and teaching them as facts is fraudulent!

Now we get to the second letter, the one by David. He says he feels “compelled” to respond to the Vic Boberg letter, and he tells us:

Boberg obviously has no bible knowledge. If he did he would know the bible was not ‘written thousands of years ago by men who thought the earth was flat and the sun and stars revolved around the earth and had no idea what caused sickness or that germs even existed.’

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! If you’re wondering about bible passages saying exactly those things, see The Earth Is Flat! and then The Earth Does Not Move! As for the germ theory of disease, there’s no mention of that at all in the bible, or of any organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. Here’s more:

About 4,700 years ago in the Bible (Jobe 26:7),”God stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the Earth upon nothing.” Or 2,700 years ago ( Isaiah 40:26) “God sits upon the circle of the earth.” God informed mankind the world was round and hung in space thousands of years before scientists made that ‘discovery.’

We mentioned those passages in the two posts to which we just linked. They’re ambiguous at best, and even if they meant what David imagines they do, they’re clearly contradicted by dozens of other passages which David conveniently ignores. He continues:

The book of Job also explained diseases, circulation of blood and other scientific facts not to be realized by man for centuries.

David cites no such passages, because his claim is obviously nonsensical. Moving along:

Science consists of theories. Theories that often are found to be false. (Remember when scientists told us we had nine planets?) What is considered scientific fact today may be scoffed at tomorrow.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Pluto still exists, but its recent reclassification as a dwarf planet somehow proves that scientists are idiots! Another excerpt:

On the other hand, not one of the multitude of nature facts given in the bible has ever been proven wrong. And they never will be. God made this planet and certainly knows much more about it than do scientists.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! And now we come to the end:

Boberg has nothing to hang his hat on but ignorance. It is a shame that individuals such as he control our educational system and our government. No wonder our schools, and our nation, are in such disarray.

Your Curmudgeon is grateful to Dave & David for a great addition to our collection.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #576: Dave & David

  1. “… not one of the multitude of nature facts given in the bible has ever been proven wrong …”

    Leviticus 11:20: “All flying insects that creep on ALL FOUR shall be an abomination to you.”

    Is it horribly impolite to point out that insects actually have six rather than four legs?

  2. HK – I am sure that the text refers to those insects that are missing 2 legs, and thus would be an abomination!

  3. H. K: Fauskanger says: “Is it horribly impolite to point out that insects actually have six rather than four legs?”

    Before the sin of Adam & Eve, they had four legs. Then the serpent lost his legs and they were transferred to the insects.

  4. Evidently Dave doesn’t know the Bible as well as he thinks he does. Book of Jobe?? (I checked; he spells it that way in the original — “About 4,700 years ago in the Bible (Jobe 26:7)…”)

    To his credit, he gets it correct in a later passage (“The book of Job also explained diseases…”). At least the spelling. Probably not so much about the Bible explaining about diseases, etc.

    You have to wonder — how many yahoos reading Dave’s letter fully agree with him? Probably 90% 98% of our population have absolutely no idea of what constitutes a scientific theory, and that evolution by natural selection fits the definition, but biblical creationism does not.

    A scientific theory is supported by huge amounts of evidence, and contradicted by none yet discovered. There is no evidence supporting creationism, while it is contradicted by all evidence discovered thus far.

  5. Correction — it’s David who spelled the Book of Job incorrectly, not Dave. I missed the transition.

  6. ”God stretches out the north over the empty place, and hangs the Earth upon nothing.”
    Can someone explain to me how this is relevant to the the shape of the
    Earth or the motion of the Earth?

  7. Our Curmudgeon explains:

    The writer of the first letter is Dave, and the second was by David.

    Well, maybe so–if they really are two separate people. “David” might just be a sock-puppet for “Dave”…

  8. @Rsg, I’m happy to return the favour.

    “A scientific theory is supported by huge amounts of evidence, and contradicted by none yet discovered.”
    We all here understand what you mean, but you’re actually saying here that Newtonian mechanics is not a scientific theory anymore. I beg to disagree.

  9. Actually the ‘the germ theory of disease’ although not supported by the buyBull was more supported by the jews then the xtians. As there is a Hebrew custom to ‘wash your hands to be clean’,and the ‘awful son o’gawd’ says in his incredible ignorance that there is no reason to wash your hands, and no I don’t remember the exact passage.
    It speaks volumes when lowly sinning man knows more that the idiot gawd.

  10. mnbo wrote: ““A scientific theory is supported by huge amounts of evidence, and contradicted by none yet discovered.”
    We all here understand what you mean, but you’re actually saying here that Newtonian mechanics is not a scientific theory anymore. I beg to disagree.”

    Newtonian physics isn’t actually “contradicted” – it has become a subset of Relativity Theory. Very few things are affected by the difference. Newtonian Physics applies to what we do in our lives and to such esoteric tasks as space flight. Yeah, technically there is a problem because of the need for a term that is of the form 1 – v/c where c is the velocity of light and v is the a body in motion. the v/c term is so tiny that it is immeasurable in virtually all situations.

  11. Is it horribly impolite to point out that insects actually have six rather than four legs?

    Not impolite. Just a little naive on your part.

    It is a viewpoint based upon cultural myopia. We are all guilty of this at one time or another. When we don’t understand another culture–but think we do–we often assume that they are terribly “wrong”. Imagine an anthropologist of another culture of the distant future unearthing one of our newspapers and saying, “What a primitive and unscientific people! When they heard heavy rains pounding on their roofs at night, they actually claimed that it was raining cats and dogs! They actually thought that common domesticated animals could be found in clouds.”

    Many don’t realize that people from other cultures would laugh and point at you for actually thinking that “an insect has six legs” when “Everybody knows that insects have 2 striders, 2 climbers, and TWO legs!”

    This is just one of many types of linguistic confusions which I cover routinely, both in articles and in the classroom. Does it really seem likely that an ancient people dependent upon agricultural sustenance and ever fearful of the next plague of locusts wiping out their food supply would never have noticed how many legs/appendages/limbs/etc. such insects have? They were capable, after all, of counting to six.

    How many legs does a grasshopper have? It depends on the culture and the language involved. Some may count 2 “jumpers” and 4 “walkers”. Some refer to six appendages. Indeed, some languages have had no word for bodily appendage, at all. A culture may not even have a word for leg. Instead, it might have a word for foot and the “scope” of that word ends just above the knee.

    Yet, we face similar confusion in our own culture. We distinguish between fingers and toes. Yet in our medical literature, phalanges refer to both fingers and toes. In the classroom I usually explained such “mapping phenomena” in terms of Venn diagrams on some display medium.

    Semantic domains differ between languages, especially those of different language families. Nomenclature often differs because classifications of common things differ between cultures. That is why semantic mappings between the lexemes of different languages are often not one-to-one.

    This complaint about ancient texts–and making fun of their imagined ignorance of an obvious “fact”—is seen in the popular complain “The Bible [actually, just the KJV] says that a whale is a fish” when ignoring the fact that ancient Hebrew was not English. To render the “exact” meaning of the closest ancient Hebrew word for fish would require clumsy, overly wordy English translations that required lots of burdensome phrases in place of single words, such as “fin-equipped, aquatic creature”, a description which entails not just piscatorians but cetaceans as well. (And to make matters even more complicated one may find that the semantic domains of a particular Hebrew word may have “broadened” by the time of the post-exilic literature of the Old Testament, so that the “fin-equipped” aspect was no longer required. So even some renowned Biblical scholars err when treating particular Hebrew words as having rigid, unchanging definitions despite the fact that the Old Testament texts span many many centuries. A word like awful has a very different meaning today [opposite meaning, actually] than at the time of the Shakespeare or the King James Bible. Yet, that is a mere four centuries of time span.)

    When I was still teaching undergrads, I would even give classes of non-majors some of the popular and traditional “Bible errors” compilations where the two aforementioned examples are always cited. Students were often surprised and always entertained to learn just how ignorant were many of the traditional complaints. By the end of the course even the poorest students began to understand why the “Bible contradictions” academics write about at such length are usually quite a different list than so many of the best known but entirely lame entries on websites like the Skeptics Annotated Bible.

  12. At this point I will encounter a determined mocker on some forums who will say, “You are just making excuses. Or are you just expecting us to believe that all Bible translations are flawed?”

    No, I taught linguistics and religious studies (and the History & Philosophy of Science, early on, for that matter) enough to know that some people won’t believe facts no matter how they are presented. Whether one prefers to call them “flawed” or “imperfect” is not my concern. What is fact is that, despite the assumptions of so many people, language translation is not a one-to-one substitution of words, phrases, and inflections in some sort of mathematical process where an unambiguous algorithm in the minds of translators produces a perfect transformation of a source text into a 100.0% equivalent text in the target language. Most language translations of a text are a complicated set of complex compromises of which accuracy of rendering is prioritized right alongside appropriate style, concise wording, appropriate observance of cultural implications, and avoiding the implying of potentially confusing connotations in the target language which did not exist in the source language–to only name a few! That’s why English Bible translations provide so many different “equivalents” of a single Bible passage, because each translation committee strives to achieve its own particular mix of laudable but usually competing objectives.

    For example, the NASB translators prided themselves in “rigid literality”, the NIV committee in “dynamic equivalence”, while gender-neutral versions seek to reflect recent changes in Modern English and contemporary culture. Some paraphrases step outside and beyond translation alone in order to capture more of the nuances and connotations along with the denotations which may accompany the foreign elements of a long ago and very different culture. For these and many other reasons, when people ask me to recommend “the best possible Bible translation”, I recommend using many Bible translations.

    Those who are interested in a more in-depth treatment of the “insects don’t have six legs”, the “whales aren’t fish”, the “rabbits don’t chew cud”, and the many other traditional complaints which so many people assume are “Bible errors of science” can find my articles on the various BSF Facebook pages as well as on my blog. (Indeed, many of those have appeared in countless forums over the years and I’m far from the only scholar who has bothered to address them online. Even before the Internet my students found it not all that difficult to debunk them. Google makes it quite easy.)

    For those who wish to wrestle with a much more substantive Bible incongruity, try something like the census at the time of Quirinius’ governorship.

  13. If there is a clade “fish”, which contains sharks and tuna, then whales are fish. As are giraffes and ostriches.

  14. Prof Tertius, one of my favorite passages where the modern understanding startles Bible readers is Song of Solomon 2:12:

    “The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.”

    Nowadays English speakers disambiguate “turtle” with the compound “turtledove,” which etymologically means “dove-dove.” The confusion arises merely from a difference in two periods of English usage, but it illuminates the even more drastic contrasts you mentioned with the original biblical languages.

  15. Retired Prof says:

    “turtledove,” which etymologically means “dove-dove.”

    Darn! I always thought it was a transitional species, like crocoduck.

  16. One thing which irritates me is the insistence that some people have in ignoring obvious hyperbole in the Bible in speaking of the whole Earth.
    1. Noah’s flood covering the whole Earth
    2. The whole Earth suffering a drought in the time of Joseph in Egypt
    3. Goods from all the kingdoms in the Earth brought to king Solomon
    4. The devil showing all the kingdoms of the Earth in tempting Jesus
    5. Jews from all the nations of the Earth in Jerusalem for Pentecost

  17. TomS says: “obvious hyperbole in the Bible in speaking of the whole Earth.”

    Some of your examples may be hyperbole, but probably not the temptation of Jesus. It’s not very impressive if the devil merely offered him the nearby kingdoms.

  18. Millions of people, most of whom are average or above average in the intelligence department, believe in Creationism.

    And I’m sure millions who are below average do too. So what?

    Once upon a time, most people believed the earth was flat and at the center of the universe. That didn’t make it true.

    Science consists of theories. Theories that often are found to be false. (Remember when scientists told us we had nine planets?) What is considered scientific fact today may be scoffed at tomorrow.

    But the planethood of Pluto, of course, isn’t a “theory” at all; it’s a matter of classification. And people who know anything about science don’t “scoff” at Pluto’s having once been considered a planet, because they understand that science evolves (pun intended) based on new evidence. Creationism, by contrast, evolves (there's that word again!) to get around legal and political reverses.

  19. @Cynic: sorry – Newtonian mechanics is totally contradicted by the famous Michelson and Morley experiment. It predicts a variable speed of light (in fact M&M designed the experiment to demonstrate it), while the experiment found a constant one.
    The correspondence principle says something different – if we make certain assumptions we can derive Newtonian mechanics from relativity. The simplest example is the Lorentz factor. Assume it’s one and you get back Newtonian mechanics for a body with a constant speed, ie s = vt. So if Newtonian mechanics is a subset of relativity that means that there are experiments that …. contradict it.

    “Very few things are affected by the difference.”
    Irrelevant for my point. One thing is enough. And possibly there are more than you assume – the GPS system in your car, for instance. It wouldn’t work the way it works according to Newtonian mechanics.

    http://physicscentral.com/explore/writers/will.cfm

    Some more:
    http://www.livescience.com/48922-theory-of-relativity-in-real-life.html

  20. @Third Prof: “This complaint about ancient texts–and making fun of their imagined ignorance of an obvious “fact”—is seen in the popular complain ….”
    I don’t mock the ancient people for this one. After all according to Dutch (my native language) the whale (walvis in Dutch) is a fish (vis) as well.
    I mock literalists for it. Hence I only use SAB against them. Against sensible christians (who even in the kingdom of creationism called USA are in the majority) it’s totally useless. Even a biblical ignorant and an amateur on History of Antiquity like me can easily see that at least 90% of the comments are just silly.

  21. There’s a guy named Larry in Fort Meyers who is reading these letters and thinking, “I’m creationt Larry, this is my creationist brother Dave, and this is my other creationist brother Dave.”

  22. Dave Luckett

    I also see that one of the other two whose name-saint is Daffydd of Wales puts the Book of “Jobe” at 4700 years old. If it were that old (but it isn’t) it would be the oldest part of the Bible by about two millennia, older than Homer, older even than the epic of Gilgamesh. He probably means 2700 years old, which is more reasonable, but nobody knows when it was written. Or where, or by whom, either. Certainly Our Correspondent doesn’t.

    At any rate, anyone who reads Job cannot help but be struck by the two voices in the text – the plain prose of what is clearly a folk-tale and the extraordinary poetry of the speeches embellishing it. But literality? Does whichever of the Daves this is think that the Lord God actually unclasped the belt of Orion? Or that life is a breath of wind? Can’t he tell when he is reading poetry? It would appear not.

    Prof Tertius is perfectly correct to imply that there is no particular point in picking off odd bits of text in the Bible for scientific accuracy. Bats counted as birds and whales as fish, the value of pi implied by the circumference of Solomon’s great cauldron, the number of legs on a cricket, the pillars holding up the earth (and God seated on the vault of the sky), whether the stars fall to the ground, all of that and much more can be pointed to as factually inaccurate, and all of it can be avoided by the literalist by various shifts – mistranslation, metaphor, special pleading. On the other hand, literalists also like to take metaphor as literal, like God spreading out the heavens. The author was clearly thinking of the sky as like a tent, but it’s convenient to rope that in as a reference to the expansion of the Universe – a fact that was inconceivable to the writer. But to understand that, you have to read more than a bit here and there.

    Give them their due, at least some of the Bible writers were shrewd observers of nature. But for the OT ones, at least, the Universe consisted of a flat disk of land on which they lived, surrounded and somehow supported by an endless ocean, the whole under a dome that arced above their heads, like a bubble, on the inner surface of which the heavenly bodies moved. The rest was water, the watery chaos out of which God had fashioned this construction.

    I suspect the Dave or David – I can’t be bothered to go back and check which one it was – has not actually read the texts he refers to. Very few literalists have. In their “Bible study” groups they are fed blank assertions with “proof texts” – brief snippets in one translation – and are not encouraged to read all of it. Reading all of it, especially all of it in several translations coming from different points-of-view, especially with a concordance and a reference in hand, tends to erode belief in literality. If you don’t read the whole thing, it’s easier to cling to the notion that it’s all literally true. Or all false, for that matter. Most people don’t bother, and who can blame them?

    Mind you, there are some like Gleason Archer who have read it all – in the original, no less – and who manage to remain literalists. They’re rare, but they exist. Extraordinary, but there are always outliers to any population.

  23. Re the date of the Book of Job –
    There is a common belief among “conservatives” that the Book of Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. There is a character named “Job” in the Book of Ezekiel 14:14-18. Wikipedia, in “Book of Job”, says
    “The language of Job stands out for its conservative spelling and for its exceptionally large number of words and forms not found elsewhere in the Bible.[21] The 12th century Jewish scholar Ibn Ezra concluded that the book must have been written in some other language and translated into Hebrew, and many later scholars down to the 20th century looked for an Aramaic, Arabic or Edomite original; but a close analysis suggests that the foreign words and foreign-looking forms are literary affectations designed to lend authenticity to the book’s distant setting.[22]”
    and
    “it is generally agreed by scholars that the book comes from the period between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE, with the 6th century as the most likely”

  24. Mind you, there are some like Gleason Archer who have read it all – in the original, no less – and who manage to remain literalists.

    Sadly, Gleason passed on quite a few years ago. Nevertheless, he remains my favorite “absent-minded professor” of all time. (I say that in the most fond-reminiscing sort of way.)

    When we were both working on the West Coast [Gleason was at Fuller back then], we both attended a region Society of Biblical Literature conference and Gleason wanted to talk about doing a joint paper for the annual AAR/SBL meeting. We were talking about some deep exegetical matter as we walked up to a soda machine. Gleason said, “My treat!” and put his coin–a single dime would do it back then—into the slot and he tried to lift up the lid so as to reach inside. [Yes, a pop machine looked more like a waist-high dishwasher back then….and had circulating cold water inside, chilling all of the glass bottles almost completely submerged inside.] The machine didn’t seem to work. Gleason kept talking about his exegetical point as he proceeded to beat on the top of the machine harder and harder. It was starting to attract attention from everybody around. But Gleason gave that little thought and continued to multi-task. So finally, I stepped up, stopped him, and said, “Let me see if I can help, Gleason.” I gave it a try, but the lid was still securely latched and would not budge.

    I said to Gleason, “Perhaps your dime is bent…or it is a Canadian coin.” I pushed down on the coin return rod at the top of the lock mechanism. Sure enough, his coin spilled out at the coin return. I picked up to look at it….and it sparkled in the light and looked more brassy than the expected dull metal color of a dime. Gleason made a face at the same time I did. He chuckled uncomfortably, “Oh, wrong pocket! Sorry about that.” He had forgotten that he brought with him a few of his most priceless ancient coins of ancient Israel to show colleagues at the conference. Gleason said, “No wonder that dime seemed so heavy. It’s gold ya know.”

    I think everybody from those days has a favorite Gleason Archer story.

  25. Before I even get to Davy and Davey, Vic the guy on our side wrote:

    [T]here is no rational intelligent person on Earth that can support the position of creationism. I say this without fear or reservation because all creationists have to support their position is the bible…

    I hate to admit it, but that’s exactly why we are losing in the “court of public opinion” (a majority favors teaching both sides, even many who accept evolution) despite winning nearly every legal case.

    First, there is no “the” position of creationism, but several mutually contradictory ones. Second, in part because of that, the most devious “creationists” – the ID peddlers – do not rely on the Bible at all. In fact their only clear position on it is that it’s “silly” to read it as a science text. Certainly ID peddlers are politically sympathetic to Biblical literalists, and never directly refute any of its claims, But that’s not the same as what YECs and OECs do, which is to cherry pick evidence and say “see, it confirms my version of Genesis!.”

    If anyone wants to object with Dembski’s 2010 “Flood” nonsense, sorry that’s not the same thing. Dembski, in obvious pandering to his seminary bosses, merely said that it’s good to take a literal Flood “on faith” despite the fact that there’s no evidence for it.

    IDers don’t want people to read the Bible too closely, because they know that its origins stories are absurd – and mutually contradictory to boot. If IDers have a book, it’s ironically the “book of evolution,” meaning not just Darwin’s famous book, but all publications since. The catch is that one must read it specifically to quote mine to promote unreasonable doubt.