The Latest from the Discovery Institute

Things have been strange at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog. Hambo gives the creationists what they want, but we can’t figure out what the Discoveroids are doing, or who they think their audience is. What we found there today is typical. Fortunately, it’s brief. The thing is titled Nancy Pearcey Urges Inconsistent Materialists: Love Thy Body. It has no author’s byline.

What? You never heard of Nancy Pearcey? She’s a Discoveroid fellow. Here’s their bio page for her. She’s a professor at Houston Baptist University, a bible college. We visited that venerable institution’s website and found her faculty write-up. She’s a Professor of Apologetics.

We’ve written about Nancy’s contributions to Discoveroids’ blog before — see Discoveroids: Gimme That Old-Time Theocracy, and also Discoveroids: Evolution Is Self-Refuting.

Okay, you know what we’re dealing with. Here’s what the Discoveroids have for us today, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

On a new episode of ID the Future [link omitted], author and professor Nancy Pearcey draws on her new book Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality to explore two inconsistencies she sees with philosophical materialists.

It’s tempting, but we’ll avoid joking about the book’s title. Here’s the Amazon listing for Nancy’s book. Go ahead — poke around and see what you think of it.

This is the rest of the Discoveroid post:

One inconsistency [of materialists] is their unlivable claim that “we have no free will.” [Huh?] The other is the materialist credo to take our cues from nature — except when it comes to the male or female sexual makeup of one’s body.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. It’s essentially nothing, but typical of what the Discoveroids have been posting lately. Presumably it pleases their generous patrons, so that’s all they need to do — but we still miss Casey.

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22 responses to “The Latest from the Discovery Institute

  1. I’m not sure what the professor of apologetics is trying to say. First, what is an “unlivable” claim. Second, I guess her phrase about relying on “cues from nature” about the male and female makeup of one’s body has something to do with gender preferences. I assume that, since she’s a professor of apologetics and not natural history, she’s never been outside and seen male ducks humping each other.

  2. Michael Fugate

    Is there a group more hell-bent on genetic determinism and lack of free will than those against marriage equality and minority rights? They prate on and on about the complexity of the human brain, but believe gender is completely determine by a tiny bit of genetic material? That the brain might have different influences during development? Reading the Bible isn’t going to help here.

    The abuse cases arising among the clergy and others are more about power than anything else. Rape has been used to humiliate and subjugate for a very long time. Nothing to do with sexual attraction – but highly correlated with hyper-masculinity, polygamy, and patriarchy.

  3. “[Huh?]”
    Never has this been more justified. I’m a materialist and have no problem with free will, though Nancy very likely has a huge problem with the way I approach the topic.

    “except when it comes to the male or female sexual makeup of one’s body.”
    And this deserves another Huh? When it comes to this I totally take my cues from nature as well. So WtH is she talking about?!

    So I clicked the link. Most important point: she qualifies for the gallery of creationist hotties. Then there is a lot of nothing and somewhere at the bottom we find the link to a podcast I’m totally not going to listen to.

  4. Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality[…] but we’ll avoid joking about the book’s title […] Go ahead — poke around

    I see what you did there, inadvertently or not.

  5. @Abeastwood suffers from doubt: “what is an “unlivable” claim?”
    I suppose it’s a claim that makes you drop dead as soon as you make it.

    @MichaelF skillfully hits a sore spot: “Is there a group more hell-bent on genetic determinism ….”
    Indeed, as far as the concept makes sense (which is not far at all), nothing is more deterministic than divine design with a purpose (read: plan for mankind).

  6. I, too, miss Casey Luskin

  7. Michael Fugate

    And why if they believe in free will, they aren’t libertarians rather authoritarians I have no idea. Isn’t one’s behavior in their view between that person and their god not between that person and a religious prig?

  8. Ah. The superstitious life. What’s not to like ?

  9. Just to mention – I know that they have way out of this, but it should be amusing to see whether the creationists can explain it:
    Free Will vs, Original Sin

  10. Steven Thompson

    The problem with free will is that if our decisions are dictated by our prior mental states (our desires and beliefs, which in turn are dictated by our inherent nature and experienced environment), then in what sense are we more “free” than any piece of clockwork? Conversely, of our decisions are not so dictated, then in what sense are our decisions “ours,” rather than just random things that happen while we’re in the area? This question permeates Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler, where some survivors of the Holocaust abhor explanations of Hitler’s actions (since they seem to exculpate him from responsibility for his actions), while others insist on finding influences that more or less forced him to act as he did (since otherwise, anyone might “freely decide” to do anything — perhaps the filmmaker who made a nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust will just freely decide to make a ten-hour exercise in Holocaust denial).

    It does not seem to me that rejecting materialism solves this problem (it did not seem so to Martin Luther, either). A nonphysical soul does not make the issues of cause and effect (or lack thereof) go away.

    Jerry Coyne has, in various blog posts, asked why some philosophers try to square the circle with “compatibilism” — the idea that our decisions can be free even as they are determined by our prior internal states, when it’s obvious that all our decisions trace back to a chain of causation going back to the Big Bang. Obviously, of course, a chain of causation going back to the Big Bang can produce no other result except that these philosophers produce these arguments, but Coyne is not entirely satisfied with that answer. He has explained that he believes in “responsibility” but rejects the idea of “moral responsibility,” and also has called the Catholic Church’s response to priestly sexual abuse “reprehensible,” which sounds rather like ascribing moral responsibility to the bishops. These tensions in his position illustrate what Pearcey means by calling the rejection of free will “unlivable;” you can logically reach that position but [a] you can’t make decisions on the basis that all your decisions are predetermined and [b] you probably can’t react to other people’s decisions on the basis that they can’t help it and bear no moral responsibility for them.

    Note that while Pearcey’s implied position on free will is called “libertarianism,” it is not the same as and does not imply political libertarianism. That people can (in some sense) freely choose what to do does not make all choices equally good or wise or in accord with reality, and does not automatically imply any position on how and when force may be used to encourage or coerce some decisions or discourage others.

    Also, a tiny bit of DNA can account for whether or not one has, e.g. cystic fibrosis, and if one does, “identifying” as not having cystic fibrosis and insisting that a single nucleotide can’t override one’s own felt identity is not likely to work out well. The amount of DNA causing your body to express on physical trait rather than another is not a very reliable guide to how important or hard to modify that particular trait is.

  11. I know what unlivable means. I felt that way about life after Casey left. I’ve had counseling for years. I’m still getting over the loss.

  12. Free Will vs. Divine Foreknowledge and

  13. I think by “unlivable”, she means something akin to ‘you cannot live your life using this paradigm.’

    I believe she’s wrong in this (just as many Christians are wrong about Atheism and Morality). A Determinist can live their life, guided by their life experiences, knowledge of consequences of their acts, etc, just as easily as a believer in Libertarian Free Will (or a Compatibilist). They just give up the illusion that ‘I could have done otherwise.’

  14. Once again: Discover a (supposed) weakness in the opposition without explaining how one has a solution.

    Is that a way to live?

  15. @MIchaelF really enjoys hitting that sore spot: “why, if they believe in free will …..”
    They usually are when it comes to economics. They combine it with authoritarianism regarding religion, ethics and above all sex of course.

    @StevenT: ” if our decisions are dictated …..”
    If. Note that science is not about things dictating other things, science is about finding the best explanations. My approach towards free will is 100% scientific (or at least I try – I’m fallible too). No physicist says that gravity dictates that things are falling downward. It doesn’t make sense.
    On a more abstract level: by using the word “dictate” you try to disprove free will by assuming total determinism. That’s a form of begging the question.

    “Jerry Coyne has, in various blog posts, asked …..”
    Why am I not surprised? Because JAC is guilty of a very similar fallacy. He defines free will as something immaterial, postulates that he’s a materialist and concludes that free will doesn’t exist. He’s a quack philosopher, even worse than Richard Dawkins.

    “a chain of causation going back to the Big Bang can produce no other result except that these philosophers produce these arguments.”
    Worsening the mistake doesn’t make it any better. In fact this is the atheist version of the Cosmological Argument. It’s typical for Coyne and co’s inconsistency that they accept a version of a theist argument as soon as the conclusion suits them while refusing to question it. So much for atheists being more rational.
    Lots of theories in natural sciences are not deterministic but probabilistic. So there is a damn good reason to doubt the most important presupposition of the argument against free will: that a good neurobiological model of the human brain and mind necessarily must be as deterministic as Newtonian Mechanics. This is a presupposition that free will deniers try to hide as fanatically as the worst apologist. At least Ol’Hambo is totally clear about his favourite presupposition.
    Ol’Hambo beating Coyne, who could have thought. He didn’t like it when I told him so, so in the end he banned me on my own request.

    My approach is simply waiting until neurobiologists have formulated a consistent and coherent theory and reached consensus about it. Then we can try to find out if a meaningful usage of the phrase free still is possible. That it will be quite different from theological meanings is an open door.

  16. I never cease to be surprised at what a big deal apologists make about free will — a concept never mentioned once in the Bible, and of zero interest to its authors.

  17. But if one is going to restrict one’s theology to what is mentioned in the Bible, consider that the Bible has nothing to say, whether positive, negative or neutral about evolution. Let alone such a detail as a barrier between micro- and macro-evolution.
    It doesn’t mention creation from nothing. (Except if one counts 2 Maccabees as being in the Bible.) Rather, Genesis 1 says that the beginning of God’s creation begins with there being water.
    Etc.

  18. Apologists have to make a big deal about free will, to absolve their god for all the terrible things that humans are capable of. The doctrine has been cunningly kneaded and worked into shape by successive church fathers, over centuries, and kept theologians, amateur and professional alike, busy with exegesis.

    Free will is also useful to explain the absence of evidence for the god. He doesn’t want to confirm his existence, one way or the other; no, it’s up to us to accept everything on faith, and woe betide you if you don’t.

    This raises some interesting problems.

    Characters in the Bible got to witness miracles, so we’re told, which kind of cancels out the free will part: if you witness something genuinely supernatural- seas being parted, people raised from the dead, that sort of thing- you have no choice but to believe in divine agency. Now, apparently, we have “free will”, but strangely, no reliably documented miracles, despite the claims of theists.

    More curious claims that cancel each other out: men are responsible for the evil men do; but at the same time, the fundies tell us Lucifer has true dominion over the world, over the weak and ungodly. If we’re ultimately responsible, then Lucifer has no real power; in which case, why invoke him? And if he is responsible, then we’re merely puppets doing his bidding. In which case: why claim we have free will to begin with?

  19. Miracles are signs of lack of design.

  20. Michael Fugate

    But the book has plug from a DI minion
    “Pearcey’s analysis shines … She turns the tables by showing that it is secularists who reject the physical world and the body. How? By exalting consciousness or feelings above the body. They want to choose their identity, no matter how much it conflicts with physical reality.”
    –Richard Weikart, The Stream

    Clueless as usual – who believes this stuff?

    Also, is there a conservative apologist who wasn’t once an atheist, materialist, Darwinist, etc.? It is like the witless protection program – we take your mind and give you a pre-recorded tape of your “past”.

  21. @Michael F

    “Witless Protection Program” could be a working definition of fundamentalist Christianity.

  22. Michael Fugate

    And talk about a lack of “free will” – these people have none; they are automatons for “Paul” or “the OT Patriarchs” or a bastardized post-modern “Christianity” of YECs – not Jesus.