Monday, August 24, 2009


Fooling With the Bible

Stultorum infinitus est numerus. (Ecc. 1:15)
There is a Letter to the Editor in the Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser that is all but biblical in the proportion of foolishness it packs into a small space. It comes in response to an article by James Evans, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church, recommending the Clergy Letter Project and not only contradicts the experts in science but those who have, presumably, some expertise in theology.

But The Sensuous Curmudgeon has already gone over the letter in detail and there is no need for me to repeat that. I actually saw the letter early this morning and might have beat the Curmudgeon to it (as I'm learning, not an easy task) but I got interested in the fact that the letter writer, although he proclaims that "credible scientific minds are ... producing evidences where Intelligent Design must be considered by necessity," not only trotted out such standard ID fare as "irreducible complexity" and the Cambrian "explosion" but included this:

Dating of materials recovered from the Mt. Saint Helen's volcano in the 1980s return carbon dating of thousands of years..

That, of course, makes no sense unless the writer is pushing young-Earth creationism ... which he neatly confirms at the end by asking Pastor Evans how, if you "eliminate the first 11 chapters of Genesis as fact, what basis does he use to justify salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ as factual?" Apparently the correct answer is to squeeze your eyes as tight shut as you can, jam your fingers knuckle deep in your ears and hum Rock of Ages as loud as you can.

But not long ago no lesser an ID light (and who could be lesser?) than Casey Luskin was chiding a local school board that it would amount to "confusing students [to include] discussion of intelligent design with material that promoted young earth creationism as fact." And the Discovery Institute has long protested that only young-Earth creationism is banned by the Supreme Court case of Edwards v. Aguillard and, therefore, ID is not.

On the other hand, we've known for a long time that IDeologists try to maintain a "big tent," as explained by Phillip Johnson:

I have consistently said that I take no position on the age of the earth, and that I regard the issue as not ripe for debate yet. I have also rejected all suggestions that I should denounce the YECs ...

But somewhere, in the back of my mind, I seem to remember some ID advocate saying he was an "agnostic" about the age of the Earth (I think in the bogus Kansas "hearings" by the then creationist-majority Board of Education).

While not quite as undirected as evolution, this may indicate just how contingent my posts here really are. In looking for a reference to the "agnostic," I found this article by William Dembski, where I noted the following ambiguity. Dembski makes this plea for "understanding":

In place of [Stephen Jay] Gould's [Non-Overlapping Magisteria] design theorists advocate a very different principle of interdisciplinary dialogue, namely, COMA: Completely Open Magisteria. It is not the business of magisteria to assert authority by drawing disciplinary boundaries.

But in what sense can you have "interdisciplinary" dialogue when you deny there are such things as "disciplines"? And, in what sense can you have dialogue when, as Dembski says: "I don't think the rules of science are inviolable."

In other words, to Dembski and the IDers, a "dialogue" consists of being able to call yourself and your beliefs whatever you want while saying "We don't need no steenkin' rules!"

And they wonder why they don't get no respect in academic circles ... or any other place that values even minimal honesty.


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Dembski is another person who has clearly never actually read what Stephen Jay Gould actually wrote about NOMA. Dialogue and discourse require at least two parties (an I and a You for genuine non-instrumental dialogue as Martin Buber would put it). Conflation (what I'm calling his "COMA") makes dialogue an impossibility. Ken Miller has noted the adaptation and perversion of the postmodern perspective by proponents of intelligent design -- this seems particularly egregious.

Dembski goes on to say, "Within the culture of rational discourse, authority derives from one source and one source alone -- excellence." I wonder if "excellence" is a code word when used in this context?
I wonder if "excellence" is a code word when used in this context?

No doubt ... and he probably captured it exactly in his acronym.
I have consistently said that I take no position on the age of the earth, and that I regard the issue as not ripe for debate yet.

Actually, the problem is not that the "age of the earth" issue is not yet ripe for debate; the problem is that the expiry date for debate passed long ago.

I also got a kick out of the acronym. Are these guys really so clueless that they have no idea how ridiculous that acronym makes them look?
I had intended to snide upon it in my original but it was late and it slipped by. Dembski does seem particularly prone to projectile irony.
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