Creationist Wisdom #588: The Rev’s Evidence

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in The Recorder of Greenfield, Massachusetts. It’s titled The case for intelligent design: Gill pastor sees faith supported by evidence. The newspaper has a comments section.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today we’ve got a preacher — Gary Bourbeau, pastor of the Gill Congregational Church, which seems not to have a website. Excerpts from the rev’s letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Isn’t it interesting that the debate over intelligent design (creationism) and the theory of evolution (naturalism) continues 150 years after Darwin?

Interesting? Perhaps, if one is a psychologist. For us, it’s merely a source of amusement. Anyway, the rev says:

Science has spoken on this issue, but not all of us believe it has spoken coherently.

Whoa! Brave words indeed. We assume the rev’s letter will be a model of coherence. Let’s find out as he continues:

Many on the “science” side often speak more philosophy and opinion, and are determined to not at least consider the view of those who espouse the position that there is plenty of evidence to support the view that an intelligent creator is the cause of all that exists.

Yeah, science is just a bunch of philosophy and opinion. The rev says he’s got “plenty of evidence,” and we’re eager to learn about it. Let’s read on:

I would like to present three pieces of evidence that support the existence of God, as set forth by the biblical, Judeo-Christian view, and to plead the case for the evidence supporting the plausibility (necessity) of a creator. If there is a God, which I believe there is (faith supported by evidence), then it make sense He has revealed something about Himself and his character in the laws governing the universe and our existence.

We’re listening, rev. Tell us what you’ve got. Here’s the rev’s evidence:

First, let’s look at the cosmological argument, which, simply stated, says: Whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe has a cause.

Note that the rev says “whatever begins to exist. That probably excludes god. The rev is playing with a stacked deck. He continues:

Ironically and uncomfortably for the naturalist, Genesis and science agree on the above statement. “In the beginning God created … let there be light.” Almost every scientist agrees with the big bang explanation for the beginning of light, time and matter.

Where is this going? The big bang is the rev’s evidence for god? We’re about to find out:

Many scientists have shifted toward the Intelligent Design explanation through modern discoveries within creation, than have shifted away. The more we have discovered, the more God seems to be the explanation, rather than discounted, due to those discoveries. By the cosmological argument, we can logically infer that the Cause is all powerful beyond anything in the human experience, since He is outside of all that exists.

Yeah. Okay. Here comes the rev’s second piece of evidence:

Next is the teleological argument. The Greek “teleo” means end or purpose. This states that the order and design of the universe makes it likely, indeed, necessary, that a wise and omniscient God exists. Since the cosmos is ordered to a precise degree of physical properties and values, from the galaxies to the atom and its parts to the periodic table, it appears to be ordered to a specific purpose. The fine-tuned balance of these laws and the vast amount of information contained in the DNA molecule, speak loudly of the wisdom of the Creator.

Uh huh. The universe exists and things are what they are — therefore god. Nothing new so far. We’re coming to the rev’s third chunk of evidence. Maybe it’ll be something we haven’t seen before:

Last, let’s consider the moral argument for the existence of God. Remember, my purpose here is not to attempt to “prove” God, but rather to explore some areas that support His existence, and reveal some characteristics that would identify His nature. Some things are right and some things are wrong. There is good and there is evil. Every time we use “should or should not” and “ought or ought not,” we appeal to an objective standard.

[*Groan*] Nobody wants to be assaulted, raped, murdered, robbed, cheated, etc. Since everyone agrees, that’s the objective standard. What’s so complicated about it? Why must we resort to Oogity Boogity to know how we should behave? But the rev doesn’t see things that way. He says:

We all make judgements in every area of our lives every day. We know that cruelty, hatred and selfishness are undesirable, and kindness, love and generosity are desirable. There has to be a source beyond ourselves that informs us as to what constitutes those ideas. The logical, remaining step is to acknowledge that if there is a moral law, there is a moral lawgiver.

That’s it? The big bang, the laws of nature, and morality? Are you convinced, dear reader? Anyway, that’s the rev’s evidence. Here’s how he ends the letter:

Taken together, we see an all powerful God, who is both wise and good.

Maybe so, but the rev hasn’t made much of a case. Nice letter, nevertheless.

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

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16 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #588: The Rev’s Evidence

  1. Rev. Bourbeau preaches

    –the teleological argument. The Greek “teleo” means end or purpose. This states that the order and design of the universe makes it likely, indeed, necessary, that a wise and omniscient God exists.

    So the end state of the universe–as planned by a ‘wise and omniscient God’–is the universe as we find it today, in June 2015? And to get to this state of perfection, that self-same wise and omniscient God had to to first create and then drive to extinction the 99.9% of all life forms that have ever existed on our minute spec of the cosmos?

    And–having achieved this fine-tuned perfection of the universe in which we are privileged to find ourselves in June 2015, the ‘wise and omniscient God’ will doubtless continue the universe in precisely this perfectly privileged condition forever and ever, right?

    I mean, if there were some future condition of the universe significantly different from the present condition (say, without the Earth), that would make the Teleological Argument look utterly asinine.

  2. Stephen Kennedy

    The Teleological Argument does look utterly asinine. The fact that the entropy of the Universe is constantly increasing guarantees that at distant points in the future it will have conditions that are significantly different than the ones we see today.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    The logical, remaining step is to acknowledge that if there is a moral law, there is a moral lawgiver.

    Now we need a lawgiver to have morals? How the heck is that a thing, and logical at that? Casey and Klingy and Hammy wouldn’t even be that dumb, would they?

  4. Dave Luckett

    SC, I think I should tell you that I have just used your excellent answer to the moral argument for the existence of God (” Nobody wants to be assaulted, raped, murdered, robbed, cheated, etc…”) over at Panda’s Thumb BW, to correct a similarly clueless authority addict. I acknowledged your authorship, of course.

    Congratulations, it would appear that you are an internet meme. FWIW.

  5. Of course, the fact that no individual (and no society) has ever wanted various crimes committed against them has been a textbook shortcoming of the traditional “layperson” Moral Argument for God for a very very long time.

    What makes it all the more interesting has been the discovery of cultures which never had any concept of deities (or ever creation stories)–yet, said cultures nevertheless had their own set of “moral laws” just as everyone and common sense would expect. Moreover, an even more obvious flaw in the “street version” of the argument is the fact that, despite the Rev’s claim, cultures don’t all agree on what is right and wrong. Here’s what he said:

    We know that cruelty, hatred and selfishness are undesirable, and kindness, love and generosity are desirable.

    Sorry, Rev. Actually, we don’t know that. These are not “universals” in all cultures! For example, selfishness is considered a sign of strength in many cultures–and kindness, love and generosity are seen as weaknesses, although distinctions are usually made based on closeness of kin, etc. Some cultures consider hatred for an enemy entirely appropriate and a virtue expected of every good warrior, while other cultures may look down on hatred as a distracting emotion that makes a warrior less effective. Therefore, the Rev. needs to get around more and broaden his knowledge of the diversity of human cultures.

    In fact, Christian missionaries have often learned these lessons quite abruptly when telling Jesus’ story in cultures which laughed and reacted with their equivalent of applause and high-fives when they first heard the story of Jesus’ betrayal. They assumed that Judas was the hero of the story! After all, Judas fooled everyone and was able to enrich himself by turning traitor. They consider him a very clever tactician and the obvious winner. (Perhaps they’d even make him chief.) Now, whether or not they consider his actions a virtue or a vice is far more nuanced according to the individual culture’s standards, so I won’t try to parse the details here, but the Rev.’s summary statements about the Moral Arguments for God likewise need to be much more nuanced. (He’s not completely wrong. There is an argument for God based on morality. He just doesn’t grasp and describe it all that well.)

    The Rev. has probably never lived in a culture where there was no Judeo-Christian heritage. If he could go back in time and visit pre-Christian Europe or the Roman Empire prior to Constantine, he would not find the “universal standards” of virtue and vice nearly as obvious as he may think them to be today.

  6. This Moral Argument is closely related to descriptions of the Imago Dei , where human morality is considered among the special distinctions of the descendents of Adam which set them apart from all other creatures. (I referred to what has also been called the Adamic race rather than just “people” because Genesis applies the endowment of the Image of God to Adam’s line only, even while mentioning other non-endowed “creatures.” I’m careful to not apply modern terms anachronistically and thereby confusing the topic. Some examples of non-Image-of-God creatures would be the Nephilim and “the Sons of God”, as well as those among whom Cain apparently found a wife. Indeed, the Noah’s Flood pericope opens with the observation that the Adamic line had intermarried with non-Adamic lines and that this brought great wickedness upon the land so that God had to destroy them and preserve just one “pure in all his generations” Noah and family.)

  7. P.S. I ended up saying more about what the Moral Argument for God isn’t than what it is. Without going into details, the traditional version claims that the Image of God endowed to the human race gives us much more sophisticated senses of morality than any other animal. It is also considered to explain why humans make appeals to morality to justify choices and actions.

    A traditional example has been Hitler invading Poland. Hitler didn’t tell the truth and say, “I invaded Poland because I want the land for Germany and I knew that we have the military might to do it without any serious opposition from anyone.” That would have been the truth but Hitler instead concocted an official justification that appealed to morality: “Germany has responded to a dastardly attack by Polish fiends who provoked their neighbor unjustly. Plus, they’ve been harassing German peoples within their borders and we are morally bound to protect them!” Proponents of the Moral Argument for God point out that, in actual fact, Hitler had created a phoney “border incursion” using corpses of German executed “criminals” that had been dressed in Polish military uniforms. Yet, because humans expect moral justifications for such an invasion, Hitler concocted his scenario and propaganda to make Germany appear the victim of a crime and therefore justified to invade and “protect innocent Germans”.

    This argument also claims that if humans were not endowed with the Image of God, Hitler and other evil people wouldn’t have wasted time and effort concocting “moral justifications” for their atrocities.

    If anyone sees some similarities here to Jason Lisle’s Ultimate Proof of God , you are correct.

  8. @Porfessor Tertius,
    If one accepts the story of Jesus as true, then Judas is a needed and highly necessary person. He had a very important job to do. He had to betray Jesus in order that the prophecy would be fulfilled. Now you may say I am wrong, no problem as I quit any and all religion way back at age 14, 53 years ago, so my memory of the story may be off a bit. Just my 2 cents worth (due to inflation it is now $0.00000032617)

  9. Dave Luckett

    The prophecy of Judas’s betrayal, if it were such, is found in Zechariah 11:12-13. You have to read from vs 4 to the end of the chapter to realise that it’s actually got nothing to do with Judas or Jesus. It’s Zechariah inveighing on the separation of Israel from Judah, and describing their fall. This was not prophecy, either, mind. Both those events had already happened before Zechariah’s time.

    The passage about thirty pieces of silver uses a traditional reference. Thirty pieces of silver was the specified price for a person gored by an ox, mentioned at Exodus 21:32. Zechariah is merely implying by allusion that he (or the nabim, or Hebrews generally) have been injured as if by a beast, and that any payment offered is tainted, as coming from the same source, in a complex figure that is rather like an editorial cartoon in prose.

    Judas’s betrayal of Jesus only amounts to telling the Temple authorities where they could find him more or less alone, and designating him by the famous kiss. (The latter, by the way, shouldn’t have even been necessary. It seems very odd to think that nobody in the arresting party of Temple police knew by sight the man who’d instigated the riot in the outer court and had twice been ejected from the Temple. But that to one side.)

    After that riot, the Temple authorities had very good reason to nab Jesus, and almost certainly would have done it anyway, Judas or no Judas. Judas made it easier for them, perhaps, or they would have had to put Jesus under surveillance, but that’s about all it amounted to. So the twin ideas that Judas was prophesised and that he was essential are, shall we say, difficult to make out on closer inspection.

  10. Dave Luckett

    Oh, and the Exodus reference is to a slave gored by an ox. Zechariah is implying that he is a slave, or that all the nabim are, or all Hebrews. That is, a slave of Yahweh.

  11. Professor Tertius says: “the traditional version claims that the Image of God endowed to the human race gives us much more sophisticated senses of morality than any other animal. It is also considered to explain why humans make appeals to morality to justify choices and actions.”

    It’s far more complicated, of course. In my quick response to the rev’s letter, I mentioned only the most obvious things — like the universal fact that no one wants to be murdered, etc. When it comes to optional things, like charity, societies and individuals exhibit a range of diversity, and I left out ambiguities like the Euthyphro dilemma: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”

  12. The rev ought to get together with this fellow.
    Washington Post May 28
    “Canadian Edgar Nernberg isn’t into the whole evolution thing. In fact, he’s on the board of directors of Big Valley’s Creation Science Museum, a place meant to rival local scientific institutions. Adhering to the most extreme form of religious creationism, the exhibits “prove” that the Earth is only around 6,000 years old, and that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.”
    “Unfortunately, Nernberg just dug up a 60-million-year-old fish.”
    “I’d better call a paleontologist” Edgar said to others familiar with him.

  13. The Rev says:

    Many on the “science” side often speak more philosophy and opinion

    Then The Rev proceeds to use… philosophy and opinion (cosmological argument, teleological argument and moral argument) as his “evidence”.
    Well played, Rev. Well played.

  14. Meh, disappointing, if not boring. Gary found the only interesting bit:

    “Many on the “science” side often speak more philosophy and opinion”
    I’d like to know who on the science side does not often speak more philosophy and opinion, according this Not So Good Rev.

  15. Even if all of the good reverend’s arguments were true (they aren’t), they touch only on the creation of the universe. None of them address the question of how long the universe has existed; none touch on the question evolution vs. creation; and none even explain how we can know the Bible is the literal “Word of God.”

    Apparently the Reverend believes that unless one embraces the Bible, or at least the Pentateuch, as literally true, one rejects the existence of God. Where’s his “evidence” for that?

    Finally, the Rev declaims,

    Many scientists have shifted toward the Intelligent Design explanation through modern discoveries within creation, than have shifted away.

    Leaving aside the grammatical confusion here (does he mean “more scientists” or “many more scientists,” or did he just tack on that final clause without considering how it would affect the rest of his sentence?), he’d be a lot more convincing if he named even one scientist who has “shifted” toward creationism. C’mon, Reverend, give. Just one.

  16. It is late that I arrive, but I rejoice that others have found the confusion very strong in this one Obi-Wan. I wish to point out that his implied belief that those who have not read his bible sorely lack morals and gods insults many humans. What does he think happened to the 10,000 or more other gods that have been alleged to run around? And how does he suppose the world’s Hindus, for example, will survive another week without pillaging, raping and murdering each other?