Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Secular Bigots

In his sermon on Sunday morning, my pastor, Gary Brady, made mention of the rise of secular bigotism.

Definitions from Dictionary.com:
Secular: (1) Of or pertaining to worldly things or to things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; temporal: secular interests. (2) Not pertaining to or connected with religion.
Bigot: A person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

As an example, he quoted Anthony Flew on Richard Dawkins. Professor Flew, a life-long atheist, created some stir a few years ago by espousing deism. He has criticized Richard Dawkins for inadequate research and poor reasoning: "An academic attacking some ideological position which he believes to be mistaken must of course attack that position in its strongest form. This Dawkins does not do in the case of Einstein and his failure is the crucial index of his insincerity of academic purpose and therefore warrants me in charging him with having become, what he has probably believed to be an impossibility, a secularist bigot." (quoted in The Telegraph).

It was interesting to come across another example of such bigotism only today. Angus Kennedy, a Christian geologist, has written an open letter to the editor of Earth Science Ireland protesting the ill-informed and hostile attitude that were expressed in three articles that appeared in the Spring 2008 issue. The relevant paragraphs from his letter are:

In talking with you previously, I said that I was a Christian and a creationist. I became a Christian before I went to Glasgow University where I studied geology for four years (1975–79). I recall my first palaeontology lecture given by Dr James Lawson. His opening statement was to tell us that ‘though we knew the Bible said that “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”, well, it didn’t happen like that!’ This upset me somewhat, but I accepted what was being taught, as at that time I didn’t know science based creation apologetics existed. Surprisingly, at the end of my studies I had not lost my faith, but I had rationalised the concept of long ages and evolution with the Genesis account by reasoning that God must have used evolution as a means of creation. This was the situation until I came across a copy of Whitcomb and Morris’s ‘The Genesis Flood’ five years later. I found their arguments in favour of a young-earth creation compelling. Since then, I have followed the subject with great interest.

Within the issue in question, Paul Lyle’s comment in his Chairman’s remarks ‘Just when we think that things cannot possibly get worse, along comes news that there is an active lobby putting forward a creationist view of the origin of the Causeway lavas–and wanting equal status with the scientific explanation in any future Visitor’s centre. Elsewhere in this issue you will read what we think about this!’ set the partisan tone against creationism which was greatly amplified in the two other articles.

In the Stratigraphic Commission’s article, the openly hostile comment, ‘The young-Earth creationists’ view of Earth history is quite simply wrong. It is a manifest untruth.’ belies their sop, ‘It is no attack on Christianity … to say that the Earth and its rocks stretch back to ages far greater than those claimed by the young-Earth creationists.’

Their view that had Archbishop Ussher ‘lived today and had access to the wealth of contemporary scientific knowledge, he would have seen the Biblical texts in a very different light.’ could just as easily be said of Darwin–had he lived today and had access to the wealth of contemporary scientific knowledge (e.g., still no (undisputed) missing links, nor any sign of finely graduated series of fossils linking phyla; so-called living fossils showing no change over the assumed millions of years hiatus between their fossil occurrence and the present; and developments in microbiology which show the sheer complexity of the cell), he too would almost certainly have seen his theory in a different light!

Has the Commission no thought for taxpayers such as me when they opine, ‘We do not question the right of creationists to hold or expound their views. We do, however, profoundly disagree with any suggestion that creationist views should be given significant space in publicly funded museums, visitor centres, school science lessons or science textbooks.’ Is it not somewhat ironic that Christian taxpayers find themselves in the position of funding atheistic evolutionary propaganda, whilst at the same time being denied any opportunity of publically putting forward their views–is this not censorship in another guise?

Tom Mason’s opinion piece, written to counter his perceived ‘local shift towards irrationality.’ descends rapidly to the level of a diatribe. I am surprised that such an ill-thought-out article could come from a man in his position and be printed. His statement ‘There remains, however, in the spectrum of both Christianity and Islam, fundamentalist minorities seeking the conversion of everyone to their belief systems, sometimes still advocating alarming violence to do so (the Inquisition and Jihad). I see this as a scary consequence of irrationality, and a stubborn lack of acceptance that others are equally entitled to hold diametrically opposing views to theirs’ unjustifiably conflates creationists with the Inquisition and Jihad, and appears to impugn creationists by implying that they would use force against those of opposing views. Is Mr Mason’s polemic not an indication that he too holds a stubborn lack of acceptance of others?

In expressing his view that science is ‘reason versus irrationality’, and belittling creationists as being both irrational and ignorant, and who are also deluded by a ‘god-given belief that [creationists] know better than others’, he appears to arrogate to himself an unassailable ├╝ber-knowledge which he denies to the Christians’ omniscient Creator God (whom he also denigrates as ‘a god of ignorance’). That his knowledge is not certain nor unassailable is given away by his comments regarding scientific knowledge–it ‘changes on a daily basis’, and, ‘we place before our audiences’ [sic] scientific facts and try to explain them as best we can’. He frequently cites the need to infer and interpret the facts (i.e., trust me, I’m a scientist).

The putative evolution of the eye is more involved than suggested by Mason, with no clear path from simple to complex. Amongst evolutionists, the matter is so murky and involved that some suggest that eyes independently evolved at least 40 and as many as 65 times! The biochemistry of even the simplest conceivable ‘light-sensitive spot’ is going to be already horrendously (and probably irreducibly) complex, and no-one has come close to suggesting a credible biochemical pathway for its alleged evolution.

Mason rounds off his bald assertions regarding eye evolution with the non-sequitur that creationists can be easily countered as they know nothing about the topic! I beg to disagree. Creation science articles that I read have been written by bona-fide scientists, many with multiple degrees, and in many disciplines–e.g., biology, biochemistry, astronomy, mathematics, physics, geology etc.–and yes, ophthalmic science in the case of the eye’s alleged evolution. They do know what they are talking about.

It is a travesty for Mason to try to impugn creationists with his offensive assertion that ‘The god-given belief that you know better than others leads not only to intellectually impoverished intelligent designers but also to the aberrant psychology of jihadists and suicide bombers. They are two faces of the same coin …’

I wish to keep this letter as brief as possible, so I have avoided lengthy treatments of the scientific evidences against evolution and for creation. Creationist arguments are certainly cogent and not as misrepresented in the articles in question. An open-minded look at the creationist position on the web would confirm this. I can recommend CreationOnTheWeb.com and a browse through their FAQs section.

I will mention that in the years since I left university, a number of things that I was taught as axiomatic appear to have been overturned, for example:
* ‘High-grade’ metamorphic minerals have been found forming within hydrothermal piles on the ocean floor–not scores of kilometres down in the crust.
* Large-grained plutonic bodies can cool quickly–grain size is not dependent on cooling time, but on other factors, such as number of crystal nucleation centres and volatiles.
* Fine sediments and clay laminae can be laid down rapidly from flowing water–mudstone and shale do not require still waters and long periods to accumulate.
* Graptolites are not extinct!
* I have read the late Professor Derek Ager’s book ‘The New Catastrophism’–he recognised that sediments world-wide were laid down rapidly in catastrophic events, not in the uniformitarian slow and steady way postulated by Hutton and Lyell. All well and good from a creationist world-wide Noachian deluge point of view, as he had to grudgingly admit, but he couldn’t let go of millions of years and was thus reduced to positing that the time not seen in the actual rock layers was represented by untold periods of quiescence between layers. Layers that appeared for all intents and purposes to have been laid down contiguously.

Having studied both uniformitarian evolutionary geology and creation science apologetics, I am satisfied that the geological facts fit the young-earth creation model best. I consider that the eye-witness account given by the God of the Christian Bible (‘the only true God’, and his incarnate Son Jesus Christ–who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’) gives a more logical basis for the order we see in creation and purpose to our lives. We may look at the same facts–the rocks and fossils–but our underlying presuppositions are different, therefore our interpretations are different. For evolutionists to insist that they have science on their side is for them to ignore the difference between operational science–dealing with measuring tangible things in the here and now (how the world works if you like) and historical science–trying to find out what happened in times past when none of us were present. The first employs fundamental principles and repeatable measurements and experiments and has led to the breadth of modern technology we see today. The second relies on extrapolation of measurements (no matter how exact these measurements are), constructs (like the geological column), assumptions, and interpretation (no matter how scanty the evidence). Evolutionists would say I have faith in some imaginary being I can not see, ditto the evolutionist–he has faith in his interpretation of the remains of material things he did not witness at first hand–how they were formed, how they lived, how they died, how they were preserved, or the time-frame involved.

May I suggest that rather than reinforce an exclusive and singularly evolutionary point of view, why not open up your publication to debate with creationist scientists and test their mettle?

Finally, in defence of myself against evolutionists, I am not ignorant, violently threatening, peddling untruths, not a naked ape, nor evolved.

(Full article: CreationOnTheWeb.com)

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