Saturday, August 02, 2014

Intellectual Depravity

Would you trust your intellectual problems with this man?

The screen captures below from Ray Comfort’s Facebook page have provided PZ Myers’ readers with much amusement. The fact is, this Facebook material is evidence of the intellectually rundown state of Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalist thought plumbs some intellectual lows and Comfort is certainly in one of those lows. For me it is very disquieting that for many a gullible Christian Comfort is the cutting edge of Christian thought. Part of the reason for this is that Comfort is not the sort of guy who is likely to be discouraged by his own manifest ignorance; his unquenchable self-confidence has done much to promote the cause of a plastic and epistemically arrogant Christianity. In fact for the kind of Christianity Comfort represents epistemic arrogance may well be thought of as just how an authentic confident faith should look.

Comfort’s faux pas over gravity is not the only dubious statement in these Facebook entries. The date of the Book of Job is uncertain; my evangelical IVP commentary says this about the Book of Job:

Uncertainty also shrouds the question of date. There is no direct references to historical events which might assist in dating the book.

It goes on to say that:

A. B. Davidson argues cogently that the reflective atmosphere of the book (of Job) and the knowledge of distant lands in it exclude a date earlier than the age of Solomon. He maintains that the probabilities favour the age of the captivity of Judah (597 BC). The suggested dates vary between 600 and 400 BC.

Ascribed by Jewish tradition to Moses, 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 date for a variety of reasons.

As for the discovery of the spherical Earth, that too is surrounded with uncertainty, although if Wki is to be believed there are hints that the ancient Greeks were aware of it at about the same time of the conjectured date of Job:

Early Greek philosophers alluded to a spherical Earth, though with some ambiguity. Pythagoras (6th century BC) was among those said to have originated the idea, but this may reflect the ancient Greek practice of ascribing every discovery to one or another of their ancient wise men. Some idea of the sphericity of the Earth seems to have been known to both Parmenides and Empedocles in the 5th century BC, and although the idea cannot reliably be ascribed to Pythagoras, it may, nevertheless have been formulated in the Pythagorean School in the 5th century BC although some disagree. After the 5th century BC, no Greek writer of repute thought the world was anything but round.

If this is right then the concept of a spherical Earth was doing the rounds at about the same time the Book of Job was written. Therefore if indeed Job 26:7 refers to a spherical Earth floating in space there is no reason to appeal to anything other than historical normalcy to explain the Biblical reference. Comfort appears to have the sort of dualist faith that needs to find supernormal divine activity as a source of testimony to God. The idea that God is immanent and sovereign over a cosmos with or without the supernormal is not sufficiently comforting for Comfort’s garish and brash faith; his kind of faith needs the promotion of miraculous novelty such as God literally telling the writer of Job, in some miraculous revelation, that the Earth hangs in a void. But in actual fact it is not even clear that when the author of Job penned 26:7 whether or not he had in mind a picture of a spherical Earth that floats in space; the language is too ambiguous to determine that.

The Bible is a history of man’s struggle with the concept of God, a story managed by God’s sovereign will for the express purpose of revealing to us the way of salvation. In that story it is clear that the views of the author of Job were consistent with the cosmology of the day, a cosmology that was largely based on direct observation with little appeal to theory; this is also true of the book of Genesis.

The last three paragraphs of Comfort’s second Facebook post really hit rock bottom: Gravity is no less invisible in space than it is on Earth; both on Earth and in space gravity manifests itself through the motion of bodies.

Comfort’s scientific incompetence really shows when he talks of “evolutionary professors… gasping fish as they try to think of any evidence to back their unscientific belief”. I suspect these professors were lost for words at Comfort’s utter stupidity and couldn't think of how to even begin to explain things in a way that this anti-science buffoon could understand.

As I proposed here it seems that Comfort is absolutely clueless as to the role of evidence and how it fits in with the scientific endeavor; seldom do we proceed from evidence to theory; much more often we proceed from theory to evidence See also here.

Ray Comfort is as bad as the news gets for Christianity.

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