17 February 2008

Creationist Thinks I'm an Idiot! (My First Link!)

OK, to be fair, he didn't say I was an idiot. In fact he was not rude at all, and he was good enough to link to me, so I'm going to return the favor, as the more links you get, the more likely people are to stumble across your blog.

Collin Brendemuehl thinks my post about Guillermo Gonzales losing his tenure case" shows my wholesale intolerance for creationism.

I'd like to respond specifically to a couple of Collin's points.
I don't know that situtation but would comment on Hanley's attitude -- that those who accept special creation might best be limited to teaching at Chrisitian undergrad colleges. So much for liberty.
I teach at a Christian undergrad--well, we're not really Christian, but we are church affiliated. It's a good gig, and the prayers before every big college function don't bother me at all. And it's not that I would ban creationists from the public universities--I don't care if someone who believes in special creation teaches political philosophy, French literature, theater, art, exercise science, history, economics, etc. But not biology, because creationism isn't scientific. Remember Michael Behe at the Dover trial? He admitted that to fit his views into the realm of science, science would have to be redefined broadly enough to call astrology scientific. Michael Behe said it! Should we allow astrologers to get tenure in astronomy departments, even though they can't get published in scientific journals?

If these secularists got their way, the evangelical who accepts special creation would not be allowed into the public arena to teach astronomy, practice medicine, or even be certified to teach in high school, let alone college.
I can't speak for others, only myself. I find it hard to understand how a doctor could not believe in evolution, but I don't think it would necessarily affect their performance. As long as my kids' doctor is good to them and resolves their problems, I don't care what his beliefs are. He could practice voodoo in his spare time, believe the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle, and that God will be returning to earth next year in the form of a giraffe, and I wouldn't care. And as for teaching, it all depends on what they want to teach. Creationism has not proven itself as a science. If it does, then I'll shut up and allow it to be taught as science, but since creationists refuse to follow the scientific method that every other scientist follows, I'm not going to hold my breath.

And I certainly wouldn't ban creationists from the public arena. Although I would go to school board meetings and vigorously argue against them, I would stand beside them to protect their right to speak. Because freedom of speech is more important than teaching biology properly. And I have no problem with Collin having a blog to speak for creationism. That is the uncommon liberty of which I speak--the liberty to speak openly about things that are demonstrably wrong. But that doesn't include the right to get whatever job you want, despite being unqualified for it.

A final comment: I don't get why creationists are afraid of evolution. Evolution says nothing about the origins of the earth, or of life itself. Evolution only explains how life changes and develops across generations. I know Christian biologists who accept evolutionary theory, and Christian ministers who do as well. Evolution does not disprove God! It says nothing about God at all. Accepting as the basis for argument that God created the world, because mutations happen evolution would occur unless God perpetually intervened to prevent it. Yet I've never heard anyone argue that God would find it important to do that.

For the record, I'm not an atheist. I won't put the red "A" on my blog. I'm skeptical, dubious (skipping church this morning, I'll admit, although I take my kids most weeks), even agnostic, but not an atheist. Having grown up in a conservative church, I understand Christian beliefs from the inside, and I try to take them seriously. Mocking people for their beliefs is no way to debate an issue--in fact, as ironic as it is, the atheists who mock Christianity are only preaching to the choir.

11 comments:

Mike said...

Why are creationists afraid of evolution? Because they have an emotional need to believe that not only is there a god, but that that god wanted humanity to be just the way we are. The realisation that we are the product of our environment, a product of chance events (mutations, surviving meteorite impacts, etc), isn't warm and cuddly enough.

James Hanley said...

Mike,

I agree with you. But I would add that, from a theological perspective, an omniscient God could just set the whole thing in motion, never to intervene again, and humanity would still turn out to be just the way he wanted it to. God's omniscience would allow him to set the initial conditions of the universe to produce any specified outcome.

Of course most of the Christians who are theologically sophisticated don't get their panties in a wad about evolution--it's primarily those who aren't sharp enough to either figure out evolution or understand theology. And I think your comment applies accurately to those people.

James K said...

I think some christians tend to be averse to evolution for two reasons:

1) Biblical literalists have to argue against anything that contradicts a particular translation of the bible. When your theology is based on that house of cards you spend a lot of time shoring and propping.

2) As discussed by Dawkins in The God Delusion, natural selection offers a convincing rebuttal to the Argument from Design one of, if not the, best argument for some divine presence. If biology can be emergently complex, then perhaps other phenomena, or even the whole universe, can be as well. What place does that leave for God?

Johanna Hanley said...

Hmmm. What would an atheist choir sing?

Anonymous said...

'Of course most of the Christians who are theologically sophisticated don't get their panties in a wad about evolution--it's primarily those who aren't sharp enough to either figure out evolution or understand theology.'

That really is a ridiculous comment. Understand theology? whose? Which branch? There is nothing to 'understand' in theology past a thought exercise and acting as if some theology has an answer over the rudimentary is absurd.

Likewise the 'sophisticated' theologies you speak of create even more problems in regards to evolution than they address.

The reason some Christians don't gettheir panties in a wad over evolution is simply the fact they have accepted the bible as less than ideal and it poses no impediment to their learning science.

James Hanley said...

Perhaps I wasn't as clear as I could have been. I didn't mean anyone needed to know a specific theology, but that some people lack the ability to think thoughtfully (if I may phrase it that way) about theology.

Your comment that:

"Likewise the 'sophisticated' theologies you speak of create even more problems in regards to evolution than they address"

makes absolutely no sense to me. It's a huge generalization, but with absolutely no supporting argument.

And, while you're free to post anonymously here, I've never respected people who are so afraid to stand up for their arguments that they won't even use at least a first name.

Anonymous said...

'"Likewise the 'sophisticated' theologies you speak of create even more problems in regards to evolution than they address"

'makes absolutely no sense to me. It's a huge generalization, but with absolutely no supporting argument.'

So essentially you want a comment of some book length to address the myriad of problems associated with theology and evolution based on the off the cuff comment above?

It's also not a generalization. None of the theology your speaking of is in any way logically sound and as above creates direct conflicts with the natural world, scriptures, or both. In some it puts a human in the untenable position of the first souled human being born to souless parents. Others presume a 'special' appearance for humans with only the vaguest understanding of evolution itself. The first human is a somewhat arbitrary distiction of a continous unbroken chain. There is no first 'human' per se but rather a population of organisms.

Likewise it appears there where many 'human' types in existence. No theological argument comes close to addressing even these basic points.

'but that some people lack the ability to think thoughtfully (if I may phrase it that way) about theology.'

Ohhh,think thoughfully about theology? While you of course have this ability? You are an egotistical sort aren't you over there at Adrian college.

Maybe to many people give it any credence as a legitimate topic at all outside of a thinking exercise.

'And, while you're free to post anonymously here, I've never respected people who are so afraid to stand up for their arguments that they won't even use at least a first name.'

Well your respect is not something I aspire to, I don't have a log in name and I could easily add a name but given you couldn't confirm it in any event what possible difference could it make?

I mean seriously like four people read this blog and me makes five.

I know your name and that doesn't mean I respect you or your arguments.

Call me Barney if it makes you feel better.

James Hanley said...

Barney,

Please re-read my response. I didn't say that you can't think thoughtfully about theology. I said "some people." That absolutely was not directed at you, as I don't know your thinking ability yet.

But in response to your latest post, let me say this:

(A)This time you gave some support for your claim, particularly in paragraphs 4 and 5. Although I'm not wholly convinced, I can see where you're coming from. Instead of making "absolutely no sense," it now makes some sense. Thank you.

For myself I don't think those theological approaches create problems for evolution, although evolution may still be problematic for those approaches.

And all I really meant to say was that people who don't need to wrap God up tightly in a perfectly controlled definition are able to recognize that, being omniscient, God could work to create humans in whatever way he wanted--spontaneous generation, magical transformations from bunny rabbits, or even evolution. I guess what I mean by "sophisticated" was simply, able to let God be God, and not pretend that we wholly understood what he has done and how, which leaves the door open for accepting scientific evidence as valid without threatning our understanding of, or faith in, God.

(B) Re: " I don't have a log in name and I could easily add a name but given you couldn't confirm it in any event what possible difference could it make?"

OK, it's true that I couldn't confirm who you are, and even a blogspot.com ID wouldn't help with that. But if you consistently call yourself Barney, then you're identifying yourself as the same individual each time you post, and in an online environment, that's all I ask for. And I invite you to keep posting--as you note, I don't have too many readers, so I want to keep all that I have.

I'm not so arrogant that I would ban you, or tell you to go away, just for disagreeing and arguing with me. I believe in open inquiry--everything is a valid topic to discuss, and anyone is opent to intelligent criticism, even me. It's the same standard I use in my classroom. All I ask is that you identify yourself consistently, and that you provide support for broad claims, as you did in your second post (again, same standard I use in my classroom).

Sure, I demand that people think hard and make the most thoughtful argument they can. If that's arrogant, then so be it.

Anonymous said...

'And all I really meant to say was that people who don't need to wrap God up tightly in a perfectly controlled definition are able to recognize that, being omniscient, God could work to create humans in whatever way he wanted--spontaneous generation, magical transformations from bunny rabbits, or even evolution. I guess what I mean by "sophisticated" was simply, able to let God be God, and not pretend that we wholly understood what he has done and how, which leaves the door open for accepting scientific evidence as valid without threatning our understanding of, or faith in, God.'

I can accept this line of thinking. But I would posit your last line is a shallow form of thinking. Without threatening our understanding of God? We have no understanding of God or even evidence of such a beings existence. We have alot of thinking done by humans on the attributes such a being might have but we have no understanding.

Now faith we can have without question.

'Sure, I demand that people think hard and make the most thoughtful argument they can. If that's arrogant, then so be it.'

Fair enough.

This is Barney:-)

James Hanley said...

"I would posit your last line is a shallow form of thinking. Without threatening our understanding of God? We have no understanding of God or even evidence of such a beings existence."

Uh, yeah. You caught me on that one--must have been typing faster than I was thinking. I think I meant to say "belief" in God (as distinct from faith). Because I agree with you, we don't really understand God, or know empirically that there's a God to understand--which is part of the reason why evolution doesn't have to be threatning to our beliefs.

I think I'll have anothe cup of coffee before I write anymore.

Anyway, I'm just working on my blog today as an excuse to avoid either grading midterms or working on my departmental budget--the very unrewarding parts of the academic life.

Anonymous said...

I like you James and have enjoyed talking with you.

I hope your semester goes well.

Barney