Friday, June 24, 2011

Cloistered Academics vs. Christian Punks

The Irony of a Cloistered Academia

I have recently been hammering it out with a couple Young Earth Creationists on Network Norwich (See the discussion thread found here). One of the issues I touched on was the YEC claim that because “we were not there” we are unable to disprove the YEC view that the cosmos was created a mere 6000 odd years ago. Here is an edited version of what I wrote in response to this view:

Science and repeatability: We need to get this straight as a matter of principle: No experiment is ever exactly repeatable as in principle it may be subtly modified by the effects of time, place and circumstance. Interestingly, Jason Lisle of AiG exploits this fact with his Anisotropic Synchrony Convention “solution” for the start light problem and yet here is a YEC telling us that experiments are for all practical purposes repeatable! All experiments are ultimately plagued by the “You weren’t there” syndrome and the “water under the bridge” effect of time passing. If YECs can grasp this they might have a little more humility about so called “operational science” which only differs from evolutionary science in degree and not in fundamental quality.
The canard about us not being a witness to something actually applies to every theoretical construction we conceive; not just ancient history, but to the whole of science. Viz: I wasn’t present for the testing of the laws of physics so how then do I know they are valid? We weren’t present at the writing of the Bible so perhaps its makeup had nothing to do with God’s choreography of events. The “You weren’t there” argument, if pressed, ultimately erodes our confidence in the whole of God’s revelation. Fundamentalist attempts to distinguish between “operational science” and history is an arbitrary construction that tries to stop the nihilist rot, but ultimately fundamentalism subverts science by undermining the information which the grace of providence has pleased to send us from the cosmos. (See: "Beyond Our Ken")

The motive behind the “You weren’t there” argument is to undermine the historical sciences. But the YECs want to have their cake and eat it; they won’t challenge physics (Unless you’re AiG's Jason Lisle, or a geocentrist) because that would really make them look silly and so they attempt to make an artificial and sharp demarcation between testable science and untestable science.

Interestingly enough PZ Myers tackles this same issue in response to Ken Ham congratulating a child for using the “You weren’t there” quip that Ken’s ministry teaches its following to use. PZ Myers’ excellent response, for which I’ll give him full marks, can be read here. Also of interest is PZ’s post here which makes the likely point that the Bible’s perspective (at least in the early OT) is in fact one of a flat earth and a geocentric cosmology. This perspective is valid for arcadian man but industrial age ultra-literalists have used it to delude themselves and marshal a gathering of gullible “punk” followers by exploiting the latter’s disaffection with the agnosticism of an ironically cloistered academic establishment.

It is very appropriate that Ken Ham relates the story of a child challenging the scientific establishment with the quip that his Ministry had taught the child, for really it is a child’s argument; one that’s easy to remember and understand and yet one that can leave even scientifically literate adults baffled for a moment as they grope for a simple one-liner riposte. As is so often the case children’s questions probe things that adults have long taken for granted and forgotten why they know them, but as soon as a little thought is applied the question crumbles at the touch. That this “you weren’t there” argument is so easily and uncritically swallowed by AiG’s gullible clientele is far from a recommendation for the mentality of that organization’s following. It reveals that shrewd fundamentalist ministries like AiG are based on a financial platform largely supported by scientifically illiterate punks who are disaffected with the profane academic establishment. AiG’s high profile has little to do with academic expertise, but instead exploits what the academic establishment refuses to give, and that is faith.

STOP PRESS 26/06/11
In this post PZ Myers tells us about to Ken Ham’s response to the above matter. Without engaging PZ’s very reasonable criticism of the “you weren’t there” quip, Ken and his correspondents put a very dark spin on the matter. They achieve this by piling on the emotive anti-superlatives: “Atheist attack”, “vile blogs” “shake their fist at God”, “an attack of the enemy”, “viciously attacking a little girl”, “instrument of Satan”. “How low they can go?”

And yet there is no attempt to engage PZ’s points and instead we get a tirade of deep, deep (self) righteous indignation. However, this response is not unexpected for it is inextricably bound up with their world view which tells them “If you are not with us you are against us; if you are against us you are against God, and if you are against God you must be evil”. The consequence is that these people have a very dark view of those not with them. Even Christians are treated with a deep suspicion if they don’t follow the YEC line and they will genuinely believe that such Christians are engaged in some kind of deep seated sin and compromise with Satan. I know because I have met many Christian sect members in my time; they look at you sullenly unable to establish normal cordial human relations with outsiders because they see them as at best apostate and at worst Satan’s scheming minions. I myself have been accused by the members of these sorts of sect as a “lover of lies”. No surprise really because they just cannot conceive that somebody can reject their position and still have a good conscience. They see the behavior of outsiders in a jaundiced light and therefore readily read the slightest criticisms as an ad hominem attack. They have no compunction about implicating outsiders  in heinous sin and yet they will put on a great show of (self) righteous indignation at trivial name-calling. Their consequent outlook on the world is a kind of pathological group think; for any reasonable and sane person could hardly construe PZ’s response as “viciously attacking a little girl”.

Polarisation passion feeds. Passion polarisation breeds. Polarisation is passion's cause, for crusade and holy wars.

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