Tuesday, February 28, 2017

History? No, more like Hamstory!

This man has a  rather distorted view of young earthist
history and he's trying to pass it on to others.
As I said in my last post, the 1960s saw a reactionary Christian response as Christianity became increasingly marginalized from the intellectual establishment. I think I'm right in assuming a causal link: By the 1960s that marginalization seemed to have reached a threshold which triggered a contrarian revival in Christian gnosticsm and the anti-science philosophies of Genesis literalism. In connection with the latter I wrote the following in this post:

That the resurgence of Genesis literalism is a recent phenomenon is in fact effectively admitted by fundamentalist theme park manager Ken Ham himself where in a blog post entitled “Happy Reformation Day” (31 October 2013) he applauds the reference to the 1960s YEC rival as “The Creation Reformation”. Prior to the sixties there was only a low background of Genesis literalism, a background found among the more extreme Christian sects like the Adventists, the Amish, the Jehovah's witnesses, the Plymouth brethren and I guess numerous marginal fundamentalist Christian sects in North America*. Since the rise of science YEC was never mainstream.

The general picture I have sketched out here is of young earthism reviving in the 1960s against an otherwise marginalized background of Genesis fundamentalism. After the scientific and industrial revolutions the wide spread Genesis literalism of more primitive times went into decline, particularly among science savy Christians and Christian academics. I don't think this general historical picture is contentious; even Ken Ham would accept it, although he would express it the emotively charged terms of "compromise". 

However, even though Ham accepts this general view, it is starting to look as though he is presiding over an organisation which has been distorting the history of young earthism: In particular this distortion entails minimizing the role that Seventh Day Adventism and Adventist George McReady Price played in influencing the young earthism which came out of the 1960s. This distortion is starting to come to light in a web article on the Biologos web site by researcher Ted Davis. This article is entitled:

Ken Ham's Alternative History of Creationism.

It can be read here:

The question of Adventist George Price's role in the 1960s YEC revival has been raised before, particularly in a book called "Reason and Faith" by Christian authors Roger Forster and Paul Marsden. Let me quote a little more from my post which I've already linked to:

We often hear Christians referring to believers like James May (JM) and Andrew Holland (AH) as fundamentalists. However, I think you will find that JM and AH are part of a recent recrudescent trend that kicked in only in earnest from the sixties onward. This YEC trend is, in fact, more extreme than most Christians who identified themselves with R A Torrey’s twelve volume series published between 1910 and 1915 entitled “The Fundamentals”, a work that became the manual of the early 20th  century fundamentalists. In their book “Reason and Faith”, evangelical Christians Roger Forster and Paul Marston comment as followers on the original fundamentalists:

“A few points are worth spelling out in more detail here. First, by Morris own admission [That is Henry Morris a founding father of modern YEC], most founding fundamentalists accepted either the age-day or the gap-theory form of creationism and he [Morris] can cite none who were young-earth creationists….. Orr (1844-1913), who contended for a moderate Calvinist form of historical evangelicalism in Britain and America …asserts: ‘The Bible does not profess to anticipate the scientific discoveries of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Its design is …..to reveal God and His will and His purposes of grace to men, and, as involved in this, His general relation to the creative world….Natural things are taken as they are given, and spoken of in simple, popular language, as we ourselves every day speak of them.’” (P329)

Forster and Marston go on to trace a link between contemporary YEC and Adventist prophetess Ellen G White through the Adventist YEC apologist George McCready Price:

“What we find then, that Price’s [YEC] appeal was to his fellow believers in the prophetess Ellen White, to some Lutheran pastors without scientific training and to the very occasional irascible person with scientific training. The bulk of critics of evolution did not accept flood theory. Even the famous lawyer/politician William Jennings Bryan, who led the abortive attack on evolution in the infamous Scopes trial, or Tennessee Monkey Trail as it became known, was (by Morris’ own admission) an age-day theorist who rejected Price and accepted orthodox geology” (P331)

JM and AH will try to make out that they stand in the best traditions of the mainstream faith, but they actually have a more natural affinity with the pre-scientific days of the faith or to sectarian and cultic Christian figures.

The foregoing tends to confirm Davis research as to the importance of Price in recent young earthist history. According to Davis Ham's organisation are loathe to acknowledge the role of Price in their history.  Let me quote the conclusion of Davis article: 

Why do Ham and company go to such lengths to create an alternative history of creationism in which Price and the Adventists don’t receive proper credit? Is it because (like those Christians mentioned by Morris) they don’t want their movement associated with a Christian sect that is sometimes viewed with suspicion? Perhaps that is part of the picture, but I think there’s a much bigger reason behind it. The tangled history of modern creationism threatens the simplistic, highly inaccurate narrative AiG hammers into their followers: that Young-Earth Creationism is, and always has been, the “zero-compromise” option for all devout believers in the authority of the Bible. The real story, as we have seen, is much more complicated than AiG’s rhetoric indicates. The fact that Ham and AiG are so blatantly twisting the facts here, and are so critical of those like Duff (and Numbers) who are trying to set the record straight, does not reflect well on the credibility of their organization 

Davis' article is well worth a read: He shows that Henry Morris readily acknowledged his indebtedness to Price. In the light of Davis article I thought I'd do a little research of my own.

On page 330 of Reason and Faith Forster and Marston also provide evidence of Price's influence on Morris:

In actual fact it would seem that the origins of modern young earth creationism may be traced back to Ellen White (1827-1915), a prominent early leader and prophetess among Seventh-day Adventists. In her character studies 'Patriarchs and Prophets' she had written of the geological efficacy of the Flood, burying immense forests which turned to coal. As a young man, Adventist George McReady-Price (1870-1962) read these and although untrained in any area of science, began in 1906 (though mainly in the 1920s) a series of books advocating a form of Flood geology in which all strata were laid down in the Flood. Morris admits: 

"Almost the only writers to advocate literal recent creationism during this period, however, were to be found among Lutherans and Seventh-day Adventists - no doubt partly because their respective founders, Martin Luther and Ellen G White, had taught six-day creationism and a world wide flood.

On page 332 of the same book we find quotes by Henry Morris:

[Price's] tremendous  breadth of Knowledge in science and scripture, and his beautiful writing style made a profound impression on me when I first began studying these great theme's, back in the early 1940s.

In 1959 'almost all Christian colleges and seminaries' were going along with the evolutionary creationism of the Christian  American Scientific Affiliation, and 'the few who still rejected theistic evolution were either teaching progressive creation or ignoring the issue via the gap theory'

In my copy of Whitcombe and Morris' book "The Genesis Flood" George McReady Price's name appears four times in the index as follows:  

Price,  George McCready, 184, 185, 189, 211

On page 184 above there is further evidence of Morris being impressed by Price: Viz:

Long ago George McReady Price made an extensive study of areas of this type around the world. He discussed these in many books written by him on the general theme of deluge geology. Although his examples were very impressive and well-documented, his writings were largely ignored by geologists, ostensibly because of his largely self-made geological education.

Young earthists like Price are rightly largely ignored in the professional scientific journals of the academic establishment, just as Christian geocentrists and flat-earthers are rightly ignored; these movements are anti-science after all. (See here,  here, and here. However, if one is making a special study of these subjects in relation to religious belief that's a different matter). In the above quote written by Morris in the early 1960s we can see the precursors of right-wing antiestablishmentarianism being put in place; specifically the prototypes of the divide between private operators and the publicly owned and funded academic establishment. But what is particularly ironic is that according to Davis Price has not only been ignored by this academic establishment but AiG are now also largely ignoring Price!  In fact Davis claims that: 

....Ham and company go to such lengths to create an alternative history of creationism in which Price and the Adventists don’t receive proper credit

According to Davis Price's name can only be found nine times in the whole of the AiG website; that's in spite of the fact that Price was so influential upon to Henry Morris who in turn was so significant to the 1960s young earthist revival through the book "The Genesis Flood". To check out Davis conclusion I looked through a series of web articles by AiG writer Terry Mortenson on what he calls "The Scriptural Geologists". Links to these web articles can be found on Mortenson's introductory article here:

Title: British Scriptural Geologists of the First Half of the Nineteenth century
Link: https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/historical-setting/

As Price lived 1870-1962 Mortenson, by only considering the first half of the nineteenth century, neatly provides a pretext for not mentioning Price: But why not? Given that Morris was so influenced by Price you might expect him to at least get a mention, but not so; neither Price nor Morris are mentioned. By strictly keeping his terms of reference focused on the first half of the nineteenth century Mortenson is avoiding what seems to be an embarrassing connection for AiG.  Below I list the Genesis literalists that Mortenson documents:

Granville Penn 1761-1844  * George Bug 1769-1851 * Andrew Ure 1778-1857 * Henry Cole 1792?-1858  * Thomas Gisborne 1758-1846  * Rev Samuel Best 1802-1873 * George Fairholme 1789-1846 * James Mellor Brown 1796?-1867 * Fowler De Johnsone  * John Murray 1786?-1851 * George Young 1777-1848

Mortenson says of the above: 

Largely overlooked by modern historians, the scriptural geologists in Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century tenaciously defended Genesis 1–11 as a reliable historical account.

They are overlooked because they don't hold a significant place in the history of Christianity during the first half of the nineteenth century. They are the rearguard of the old pre-scientific order as they attempt to recast that order in the new scientific paradigm. And even today after the 1960s revival of Genesis literalism, as Ken Ham admits, young earthism is in a small minority among Christian academics. Also, it is very telling that none of the above "scriptural geologists" appear in the names index of my copy of "The Genesis Flood". That's most likely because Whitcombe and Morris research efforts were not based on the these "scriptural geologists". In fact it is quite likely that Whitcombe and Morris had never heard of them. In the first halve of the nineteenth century British Christianity was very much part of the establishment and yet in spite of that the above names have been ignored; this is strong evidence of their lack of historical significance among the Christian mainstream. They have been dragged up by Mortenson in order to divert AiG's attention from Price and the Adventists and this has the effect of conveying a false impression that AiG owes its credit mainly to these "scriptural geologist". It is important to stress "AiG's attention" here: Clearly AiG are not fooling people like Biologos. This diversion is about AiG trying to convince itself that it doesn't have any roots in Ellen White's Adventism. But in comparison with Morris and Price the "scriptural geologists" do not have a significant place in the historical canon of modern young earthism let alone the Christian mainstream. Of course, an AiG fundamentalist is unlikely to see establishment neglect of the so-called "scriptural geologists" as an outcome of historical proportion; rather they may well see it as willful and sinful neglect by secular historians and "compromising" Christian academics and portray this neglect as part of their mythical narrative of  conspiracy and persecution. 

In a blog post entitled "My Parents are to blame!" and dated 10th January Ken Ham complains that Mortenson's work on the scriptural geologists has also been ignored; well, for reason already given AiG research must accept its place: Fundamentalist research doesn't qualify as being on a par with professional academic science and should only be studied if one is engaged on a project to research fundamentalism itself.  In the said post Ham writes:

In regard to Duff’s somewhat sarcastic and at times demeaning language (really invoking ad hominem attacks on me), what I specifically wanted to comment on was the false accusation that what we believe at AiG had its roots in the Seventh Day Adventist movement with Ellen White.

Actually, what I believe concerning God’s Word beginning in Genesis is a result of my parents training me to stand boldly, uncompromisingly, and unashamedly on the authority of the Word of God. My parents hated compromise and did their best to uphold and honor the authority of God’s Word without in any way knowingly compromising God’s Word with fallible ideas of man. I was a creationist interested in teaching God’s Word in Genesis and opposing evolutionary ideas before I ever heard of Henry Morris or any others that Duff mentions who had an interest in the topic of origins, the Flood, and other issues in Genesis.

Dr. Duff is just following the distorted historical analysis of the openly agnostic, apostate Seventh Day Adventist historian, Ronald Numbers (whom he refers to in the article). Young-earth creation is not a novel view invented by Seventh Day Adventists. It was historic Christian orthodoxy until the 19th century when the millions of years myth was popularized by atheist and deist geologists (and some professing Christian geologists who ignored Genesis), as is documented in the first three chapters of Coming to Grips with Genesis. In the early 19th century, most of the church quickly compromised with millions of years, but the young-earth “scriptural geologists” at that time raised biblical, geological, and philosophical arguments against those old-earth ideas and reinterpretations of Scripture, as The Great Turning Point documents.

Duff also incorrectly implies that Adventist George McCready Price invented the young-earth view and that it was merely modified by Whitcomb and Morris (authors of The Genesis Flood). But Price most definitely did not. He was interpreting the geological record using “biblical glasses,” just like the scriptural geologists did and as modern young-earth creationists do.

Here Ham has not only completely missed the point but he also betrays his distorted grasp of history. Firstly, there ought to be no suggestion that young earthism is a novel idea invented by Seventh Day Adventists; rather Adventists, through people like Whitcombe and Morris, helped to popularise it. Nevertheless, there clearly has been a marginal sectarian background of  Genesis literalism since its 18th-19th century demise and Ham was presumably in touch with the ultras of this background via his parents. That in itself proves little and is a distraction from the main point: That point is that the Seventh day Adventists via Whitcombe and Morris became a significant factor in the 1960s revival of young earthism. As Ham points out using his usual spiritual ad hominem (Ken Ham is a liberal user of spiritual ad hominem)":

In the early 19th century, most of the church quickly compromised with millions of years,...

...thereby effectively admitting to the histiorically marginal status of the so-called scriptural geologists. Ham says that he got his beliefs from his parents - quite possibly true as there is always a background of fundamentalist ultras to be found as Morteson's articles suggest. But so what? That doesn't change the fact that it was Morris and by implication Price who were  highly instrumental in the 60s revival of young earthism. In the light of this we can see that the following statements by Ham are either false, misleading or distortions:

FALSE CLAIM BY HAM: ...the false accusation that what we believe at AiG had its roots in the Seventh Day Adventist movement with Ellen White.

MISLEADING CLAIM BY HAM: I was a creationist interested in teaching God’s Word in Genesis and opposing evolutionary ideas before I ever heard of Henry Morris or any others that Duff mentions who had an interest in the topic of origins, the Flood, and other issues in Genesis.

HAM'S DISTORTED STRAWMAN (BORDERING ON THE FALLACIOUS): Duff also incorrectly implies that Adventist George McCready Price invented the young-earth view and that it was merely modified by Whitcomb and Morris (authors of The Genesis Flood). But Price most definitely did not.

Did Price play an important role in the the young earthist revivals?  Price most definitely did!

I think we see here how modern Christian fundamentalists, through their insistence on anti-science concepts such as young earth, geocentricity and flat earth, have been rejected by both Christian and non-Christian academics alike and thereby these fundamentalists have backed themselves into an anti-establishmentarian culture. This in turn has made them a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy theorism, so-called "libertarianism"** and Trumpkinism - an extreme example being professional Christian conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Fundamentalist "science" doesn't deserve to position itself as something on a par with contemporary mainstream Christian academia. It is, in fact, a throw back to pre-industrial Christianity. 

* I found out later that the Jehovah's witnesses are not young earth although anti-evolution. As for the Brethren and Amish I haven't been able to get final confirmation either way.

** Libertarianism, so called, which affects to be the enemy of "oppressive big government" is a close relation of conspiracy theorism: For those marginalized fundamentalist communities and those disaffected with liberal government it is all too easy to start imagining government as the seat of malign Machiavellian conspirators. But I'm as cynical about phrases like "Small government libertarianism" as I am the "Dictatorship of the proletariat"; they are slogans used by disaffected & marginalised idealists, slogans which are then easily exploited by the power hungry as they elbow aside their retinue of starry eyed idealists and place themselves on the seat of power. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Christian World Views. Part 1: Meanwhile, back in the false dichotomy zone...

The recent moderate sized tsunami of antiestablishmentarian feeling in Western societies has picked up many evangelico-fundamentalist Christians and carried them along with it. This is not surprising really: Since the industrial revolution Western Christianity has, in stages, become more and more culturally marginalized, most notably during the 1960s; During that decade Christians at last woke up to fact that the Western intellectual establishment could no longer be identified as even nominally Christian. By way of a reactionary protest there was among some Christians a revival of young earthism, fideism and a generalised form of gnosticism stressing an inner light "baptism" of gnosis (often identified as "Baptism of the Spirit"). This was effectively an anti-intellectual, anti-reason reaction against the intellectual status quo. These reactionary Christians were  saying "You've rejected us, but we don't need your profane reason, we have our own holy knowledge". They stressed the special "supernatural" revelatory element of Christianity either in the form of scripture or as gnosis, sometimes both. This pair of revelatory mediums were contrasted over and against mere profane human knowledge. In many ways this imposed revelation vs human knowledge dualism was one of the keynote assumptions in the weltanschauung of the new antiestablishmentarian Christianity.

But  there was a telling sign that this claim to privileged spiritual knowledge was not entirely without spiritual pathology: The relations between the gnostics and the scripturalists were often tense. The scripturalists, who made emphatic claims about endeavoring to follow God's Word down to the last jot and tittle ("The whole counsel of God") were often very suspicious of those claiming to have an inner-light encounter with the divine, an encounter which often appeared to short cut the scriptural route to sacred knowledge. In return the gnostics thought the scripturalists to be lacking a full gospel experience of God (I suspect that systematic personality differences between these two groups had a bearing on these mutual suspicions). The gnostics might claim that theirs was a Biblically based experience and that there was no tension between inner revelation and scripture, but the strongly reformation identifying scripturalists were not always convinced. For a start gnostic Christians often betrayed a troubling fideist skew to their thinking; for there was one thing that the scripturalists prided themselves on and that was not having given up on reason, at least what they thought of as reason; to them the Bible was a kind of "axiom" on which a superstructure of sacred reason was to be constructed. But it seldom to occurred to them, however, that in order for scripture to be interpreted in the first place, this huge highly complex "axiom" necessarily makes myriad calls on a rich cognitive and cultural complex of innate assumptions - it is the latter which has hidden up in it a very human looking axiomatic base. But blind to this truism the scripturalists pressed on claiming that their's was a world-view in which reason mattered; but, they claimed, it was "Bible based reason" and therefore all but beyond contradiction. So they thought: Scripturalism has given us the curious Genesis literalists who use the Bible as a sacred "axiomatic" starting point and then go on to conclude that the cosmos is a mere 6000 years old cosmos, or that whole cosmos rotates around the Earth (geocentrism) or that the Earth is flat. In order to gain a kind of intellectual parity with the profane academic establishment the scripturalists will say that their's is an equally valid intellectual exercise, an exercise based on the same set of data protocols, but instead those protocols are accounted for by a narrative derived from a Biblical starting point, rather than a profane "secular" starting point. So they think.

It is undoubtedly true that one's world view influences how one superimposes a coherent theoretical narrative on the myriad protocol "facts" and experiences which bombard us daily. But where the scripturalists (and also many gnostics) err is in their claim that the Bible is their starting point. No; their starting point is a Western world view and not a Biblical world view - after all, they are not first century believers, they are 21st century believers and they see the Bible through a 21st century cultural lens. As the saying goes, one can't see one's cultural prisms without great effort, but rather one effortlessly sees through those prisms.  

I would propose that there are two major cultural prisms found among Western Christians through which they see the world. The background assumptions of their world view are taken for granted and in most cases are taken on-board without serious thought. Both of the topics below, which deal with material far more fundamental than fundamentalism, have been on going and relentless themes in my blogs and really I'm just summarizing what I have already said elsewhere.

The Error of Scripturalism
In evangelico-fundamentalism the Bible is taken to be literally God's Word rather being the medium or channel through which sacred meaning is quickened. The Bible is “God’s word” only in as much as it is a conduit for information about God’s personality and salvation; it is part of the divinely managed signalling medium through which revelatory information passes to the recipient and takes root in his/her psyche. As I have pointed out many times before natural language, such as we find employed in the Bible, doesn’t contain meanings; rather it solicits meaning by way of connotation. That is, it triggers meaning in the cognitive association complex of the reader, an association complex that is a function of various cognitive traits, cultural influences, and histories. But it is actually very difficult to escape a way of talking about natural language as if words literally "contain" meaning. They don't contain meaning; meaning is generated by the recipient as a result of those words impacting is his/her psyche. Psychologically speaking we are often conscious only of the cognitive output of meaning. Our conscious mind gets delivered the text packaged along with its meanings; we are in effect seeing the back end of an unconscious process rather than the front end and therefore it appears as if meanings have emerged out of the words rather than our cognitive complex generating those meanings. I often hear sermons where it is remarked that it is possible to get so much meaning out of scripture; what is in  fact happening here is that so much meaning is being put into scripture

This whole process, if it is to deliver theological truth, only has a chance of doing so if it is under immanent divine management from start to finish. Unfortunately as a rule Western Christians often have a “natural forces” vs “divine interventions” view of God’s relation to his world. They therefore find the immanence of God difficult to take on board. Because of God’s intimacy with his created order the Bible is organically jointed to the rest of creation and transmits and delivers information like any other signalling medium in God’s world.

Of course, the process of Biblical information delivery can, and clearly does, go wrong (as does any other signalling system) at any stage along the transmission line especially at the destination where interpretations are proactively generated. Therefore the Bible doesn’t deliver certainty. Trouble is, the insecure conspiracy theory touting fundamentalist mentality is liable to feel that anything less than 100% truth equates 100% error – a position which we know to be untrue. Information carrying signals need not return the statistics of certainty to convey information; e.g. we can’t be absolutely certain when we board an aircraft that it won’t be involved in a major crash, but nevertheless we consider the safety statistics of air travel to convey information about high reliability, and this we regard as useful information.

We can see that fundamentalist theme park manager Ken Ham is light-years away from understanding just how natural language works when he says this in one of his blogs:

Compromising Genesis with evolution and millions of years undermines the authority of the Word, because this involves taking ideas from outside of Scripture and forcing those ideas into Scripture. When they do this, Christians are making themselves (fallible man) the authority over God’s (infallible) Word! Basically we’re saying that we know more than God and that we can reinterpret and edit His Word to adjust it to man’s ideas. But a Christian should never knowingly compromise God’s Word.

What Ken fails to see is that meaning is ultimately sourced in the recipient. i.e. the reader.  Meaning doesn’t exist inside the symbols of the transmitted Biblical text: Meaning is an extrinsic property rather than an intrinsic property of the Word. As such the Word is a trigger of meaning and therefore it is fallible (wo)man that assigns meaning – but it is an infallible God who manages this highly complex process of meaning delivery. The irony for Ken Ham is that in a sense meaning always comes from the reader - that is, the profane human agent! But that agent must be rightly primed in order to make the right interpretation. Of course, I don’t expect the Ken Ham's of this world, who so often look for clear grounds to file charges of heresy, to ever understand this. Anxiety over epistemic insecurity will likely mean that fundamentalists will continue to use fallacious and extravagant claims about following scripture to the letter without compromise. Such claims are a common way in which fundamentalists parade their piety to themselves and intimidate other believers. Scripturalism is based on a false dichotomy: that is the Word as revelation vs Man's thinking: It's a false dichotomy because Scripture is a seamless part of the rest of God's creation.

Some links on the nature of language:

The God vs natural forces dichotomy 
I have aired this dichotomy many times over on this blog.  I'm of the opinion that it is the single most important covert philosophical paradigm explaining why many Christians, particularly the de facto intelligent design community, bulk at the concept of evolution. The basic idea here, I submit, goes something like this: If  "natural" law and disorder processes of physics contain sufficient information to generate life then that means natural forces did it and it follows that God  intelligence didn't do it. Therefore we want to believe that natural forces didn't do it, but instead  intelligence did it. The basic dualism underlying this thinking, thinking which sets God against the very "natural forces" he has created, becomes clear among de facto IDists who are very explicit about rejecting the possibility that "natural forces" somehow contain the informational wherewithal to evolve life. See below for a list of American continent IDists who think along on these lines

Casey Luskin: See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/mind-gaps.html
Kirk Durston: See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/deistical-god-of-gaps-thinking.html
Vincent Torely: See  http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/soft-core-science.html
Gordon Mullings: See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/melencolia-i-part-3-sharpening-focus.html
Robert Marks: See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/the-nature-of-intelligence.html
Cornelius Hunter: See http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/once-more-unto-breach-dear-friends.html
Luskin, Ewart and Marks: See: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/intelligent-designs-2001-space-odyssey.html

See also the ill-conceived explanatory filter which is the epistemological expression of de facto ID's "intelligence-of-the-gaps" thinking: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/idists-heres-another-fine-mess-theyve.html

Fundamentalists are not so strong on this dichotomy as are the IDists, because they often invoke theological paradigms to contradict evolution - such as their view on the relation of the fall to physical death. However fundamentalists also, from time to time, display this instinctive culturally based dualism. See for example fundamentalist Jason Lisle here:


That this dichotomy is fundamental to Western thought is suggested by the fact that atheists often show signs of holding to a similar paradigm. Evangelical atheists feel obliged to prove at all costs that evolution must be the outcome of known law and disorder processes; if they think they can show this then they feel justified in claiming that the origin of life dispenses with a need for God in favour of "natural forces".  Richard Dawkins, for example, has remarked that evolution allows him to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. That, I suspect, is because he views the whole question through a dualistic prism whereby the "natural forces" inherent in law and disorder explanations are contrasted over and against the old divine magical explanations where God just speaks stuff into existence with a few mighty words (Abracadabra!). So, just as de facto IDists believe that a gap in law and disorder explanations must be filled with intelligent agency, atheists, conversely, believe that in filling the gap with a "natural" law and disorder account must mean there is no need for God intelligence to have done it! The dichotomy is common to both sides of the debate!

* By law and disorder I'm referring to the two contrasting mathematical tools we have to describe the universe, namely algorithms and statistics. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Atheist "Guest" Post

As I don't have anything to post just at the moment I thought I would hand over to a "guest" poster, namely evangelical atheist P Z Myers; after all, he gets lots of hits on his blog and so he might add a bit of verve to my blog (I can live in hopes). I know I've said it before but  P Z Myers vs. The US's We-don't-do-things-by-halves Christians is one of the best cynical-wise-cracking-straight-man vs cloud-cuckoo-land-dreamer acts since Sid James and Tony Hancock! There are enough boarder-line...err...shall I call it "bizarre"...Christian ministries in the US to keep Myers wise cracking until kingdom come. Anticipating whether or not the latest kooky Christian goings-on can get Myers any more gob-smacked, outraged and derisive than he already is, is first rate humor!  So let's sit back and enjoy the show. 

I have sad news, everyone. Ken Ham has finally blocked me on Twitter, so now I’m getting all the humorous Answers in Genesis news second hand…like this glorious announcement. The Ark Park has a new exhibit! It’s a diorama showing the wicked antediluvian humans putting on gladiatorial games, with dinosaurs.

That is so damned Biblical that I think I shat out a prophet while I was laughing so hard.
Although, I have to admit that it is amazingly cinematic. Imagine how much better the gladiator scenes in HBO’s Rome or that Spartacus series would have been if they’d occasionally brought a T. rex into the arena.
It also reminds me of the fabulous (in all meanings of the word) Jim Pinkoski, he of pygmies and dwarfs fame, who invented this spectacular scene for the end of his Noah’s Ark comic book in which fallen angels mounted on dinosaurs attacked the Ark to prevent it from sailing.

Religion just means that you get to make everything up.
 My Comment: Hahahahahah! Hahahahah! Well, I suppose that's why AiG rates as a kind of Disneyesque theme park!
Myers, by the way, is not nearly as "evil" as the serious minded and humorless believers who are the subjects of his derision make out - they are identifying his criticism and, even worse, his mocking of them with criticism and mocking of God. Myers seems to be the epitome of a stable moral family man who is a critical - very critical, in fact - pillar of society. Yes he's very abrasive and he would no doubt think of someone like myself a complete and utter gumby for being a believer, but that doesn't make him a blasphemer or immoral. If anything he's doing the Christian world a service by showing what some of us cranky Christians look like from outside. He might even be an instrument of the Almighty! After all, as the saying goes, the Lord moves in mysterious ways!

By way of disclaimer: I have to admit that my version of Christianity is hardly argued from an idealistic/passion/partisan/conversion/polemical position but rather from a tentative/research/exploratory/experimental position - that to me is my interpretation of what it means to be a devout God-seeking pilgrim and not a gnosto-fundamentalist one. No wonder I'm making heavy weather of evangelicalism!

Relevant Link: http://quantumnonlinearity.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/some-light-relief.html

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The Trump Victory Part 2: Anti-Establishmentarianism

...but they all understand him! 
This picture is from: 

The Western intellectual elite are heart aching about the election of Donald Trump on a minority vote. I can hardly blame them. In the UK we might feel that "Brexit" was a bit of jolt, but it hasn't rocked the governing establishment. The genteel quasi-aristocrats who have been the mainstay of stable British politics for many a year are still in charge and even though many of them are not entirely comfortable with the Brexit vote they respect the poll and are getting on with making the best of a bad job; it all looks just how a healthy democracy should operate. Not so the US; if the UK is in choppy waters the US is in the midst of a storm.  

In his first days Donald Trump is proving to be a dishonest tike who will not concede a point; e.g Lost the majority vote did we? No! The election was rigged! Small numbers at the inauguration? Dishonest media! All the popularity polls are negative? Fake news! This man shows a worrying tendency to be unwilling to cope with the world of reality beyond his spin and "alternative" facts. Why doesn't he just accept these results, get on with the job and prove to us that he's not such a loser after all! No! To an "alpha" male with his ego "reality" is what he thinks it should be!  We are all hoping that he isn't so ego driven that he attempts to corrall people into his fantasy land by recourse to force, the last resort of the incompetent. Trump's politics is the gut-reacting emotive politics of shoot first and ask questions afterwards. In spite of all this, however, I'm not happy about banning Trump from a full-blown state visit to the UK: If in the UK he gets treated like a president he just might start behaving like one. We can but hope. I'm clutching at straws I know, but straws seem to be the only thing one can grab now-a-days!

Recently I overhead a radio program where an American academic was analyzing the accession of Trump to the presidency. I heard him suggest that America is in the middle of culture war where Donald Trump is a blue collar millionaire who speaks the emotive language of passion and polarization of his class. This highly charged language connects with a large slab of the population who distrust the established elites and instinctively regard Trump's demagoguery as much more genuine. Of course that demagoguery sounds even better if you feel disaffected and alienated. The constituency that Donald Trump appeals to was referred to by Hilary Clinton as a basket of deplorables - well, we now know that was not the wisest piece of campaigning on Hilary's part, but I think we know what she means, and so did Donald's fans: It confirmed to them that the elite establishment is a thoroughly conceited and snobbish clique: The EU may well have suffered from a similar reaction to their perceived irrelevant elitism. But it is not likely to occur to the Trumpkins that stuck-up elitism is a universal human failing; push out one lot of snobs and you may get another lot who are a lot, lot worse.

As political incorrectness is now de rigueur we may as well categorise, label and identify some of Donald's constituency: In the culture war that is now the US Trump is depending on the support from a miscellany of traditionalists, southern baptists, cloud-cuckoo-land fundamentalists, quack prophetic ministries, conspiracy theorists, anti-establishmentarians, anti-intellectuals, rust belt workers disaffected by the economic fluctuations of globalism, pseudo-libertarians, the KKK, crypto-fascists, misogynistic rolling coal alpha males - the list could go on, but all of them want to roll the clock back to simpler times.  Now, as I have a special interest in Christian fundamentalism I thought it appropriate that I should focus on this particular sub-constituency to exemplify the "culture war" theory.  I need look no further than my favourite young earth fundamentalist, AiG theme park boss Ken Ham. In a Facebook post dated 3 February he writes the following: 

The left wing secular media is doing to Trump what they've done to Answers in Genesis for years--false accusations, lies, misinformation, censorship, and more.
And the left wing protestors are involved in what secularists did to the Ark Encounter--false accusations, ad hominem attacks, lies, and more.
Notice how the left that's falsely accused Christians of intolerance for years are some of the most intolerant people on the planet. Left wing media and protestors want free speech as long it's their own speech and their own views--they want to censor real free speech.

This all fits in so snugly: It's easy to see why Ken Ham is one of those establishment hating "deplorables"; that establishment, particularly its academic wing, have fallen into the heinous sin of criticizing, mocking, and  even worse, ignoring Ken Ham's young earthist anti-science project. So it's not surprising that Ham looks to be a Trump supporter. It is clear that Ham identifies with Trump's own experience of being on the receiving end of the status quo's contempt and sees Trump being handled in a way that he himself has first hand experience of.  So, sleaze or no sleaze Trump is the champion that Ham is cheering on. Notice Ham's particular gripe though, namely the demon "left wing media". In fact in my experience of anti-establishmentarian culture it has a tendency to group together a large swath of its opponents under the appellation "lefties"; in particular, the pseudo-libertarians may even go as far as to call anyone "socialist", whose vision of government is larger than theirs!  But I think Ken Ham will find that it is not just the "left wing" which opposes his "you-weren't-there" anti-sciencism: Let's recall that fundamentalist Pat Robertson and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly have criticized young earthism and see it for what it is: An anti-science project.

Regarding fundamentalism's anti-sciencism:  It is probably relatively easy to keep together a small handful of tame young-earthist scholars such as we see at Ken's AiG: Keeping them in place is achieved by both the carrot and the stick.  Carrot wise their reputations, careers and social loyalties have been forged in the relatively small fundamentalist community; in fact so small that one finds the names of the same scholars cropping up again and again in connection with young earthist apologetics; they are big fish in a small pond. As for the stick one only needs to look at the heavy duty spiritual threats that Ken Ham is capable of directing at those who he labels as "compromisers". If one is a timid Christian lacking in spiritual confidence that can have an intimidating effect. 

Of course, establishment academic science is a far bigger field than young earthism, where the latter tends to concentrate on undermining the assumptions of current science and the assumptions of cosmic epistemic integrity which make science possible. Keeping a world-wide and disconnected clientele of established scientists reading from the same hymn sheet would be a far harder task if it wasn't for cosmic epistemic integrity keeping them together. In contrast the small number of fundamentalists have no settled cosmology  and can't agree on some very basic science: Viz:  whether  the world is flat or geocentricwhether the cosmos is old but the earth is young earth, whether the sun should be considered a star or not, whether cosmic integrity can be disposed of, whether the cosmos is just a facade etc. Fundamentalist "science" is a mess! My conclusion is that God's creation has an observational integrity which keeps most established scientists in harmony. To explain this feat of organisation away, fundamentalism is tempted by conspiracy theorism 

End Notes: 

1. KenHam, perhaps buoyed by the victory of his political champion, has recently had the confidence to spell out his scrambled anti-science version of natural history based on a literalist interpretation of the Bible: 

Bible's history has the earth formed before the stars -- evolution is incompatible with Bible.
Evolution belief has birds formed after dinosaurs. Bible's history has birds formed before land animals (which includes dinosaurs). Evolution and the Bible are incompatible.
Evolution belief has fish before fruit trees. Bible's history has fruit trees before fish. Evolution is incompatible with the Bible
People cling to naturalistic evolution -- it's their (false) basis for determining their own morality and reject being subject to their Creator.
Christians who add evolution to the Bible are making man's word infallible and God's Word fallible! No! It's the other way around."

2. Below is the link to another fundamentalists who has been backed into the Trump supporting camp: