Monday, April 28, 2008

Frustration

Why do scientists their supporters get frustrated and annoyed with creationists, Intelligent Design advocates, and their ilk?

DagoodS offers a perspicacious analogy:


It is frustration borne out of deliberate embrace of willful refusal to inform oneself. Past experience has demonstrated these advocates have a complete lack of empathy for any argument that does not exactly conform to their own limited view of the world; therefore I do not expect them to understand the comparison. Perhaps a lurker would like to know.

Imagine I wanted to discuss Christianity. Only I use the derogative term “Xian” because… well… because I simply want to be derogatory, I guess. And within the discussion, it soon becomes apparent while I know the terms “Roman Catholic” and “Protestant” I have no clue as to the depth of history between the two, nor the differences which each embraces. It becomes clear I have not read Luther or Calvin, or Eusebius, or any book whatsoever on systematic theology. I don’t know what a Christian… oh, excuse me... an “Xian” means by inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration, canon, free will, sovereign, incarnation, atonement, substitution, faith, grace, or a plethora of other words.

I’ve never read the Bible. I have no intention of reading it in Greek or Hebrew or Aramaic or Coptic, either. In fact, it becomes obvious that the ONLY source of my understanding of Christianity comes from reading The God Delusion — written by an atheist.

Yet I continue to insist on discussing the topic as if I have a remote clue as to what I am talking about. Not only have a clue, but as if I am an authority on it! And every time anyone dares to question my depth of understanding of Christianity… er… ”Xianity” I simply engage my standard tactic:
  1. Google-whack the topic,
  2. Make sure I ONLY use non-Christian sources on the topic,
  3. Ignore completely anything any Christian says on the topic,
  4. Repeat what the non-Christian sources say about Christianity.
Every time a new topic comes up, I repeat the exercise.

After a bit of this useless discussion, perhaps… just perhaps… one could understand why people who hold to evolution appear to have some animosity. We bend only so far. I have asked and asked and asked Christian after Christian after Christian what books on evolution they have read, written by scientists, against creationism. Do you know, in three years of asking, I have only met one (1) Christian who has done so? One.

Here it is, a prevailing view of scientists (and by “prevailing” I mean 95% of ALL scientists and 99.9% of scientists in biology) and these people want to claim to have knowledge on the subject without ever having read a book on the topic? Oh, that’s right — they read something on the internet…

Give me a break.

[More excellent work from DagoodS, the author of this essay, can be found on his blog, Thoughts from a Sandwich — ed.]

8 comments:

  1. Good Dog, man, where the heck are you finding the time to write all these posts? :D

    You totally, totally nailed it on this.

    When I was fundie, I didn't feel particularly compelled to look this stuff up: it was patently obvious to me that (macro-)evolution was a ridiculous joke: the arguments for it clearly didn't hold water for even a few seconds.

    ...of course, this was because the arguments presented were strawmen that had nothing to do with what anyone was actually saying. So of course, the arguments one makes up for the opposing side can be as ridiculous as you choose them to be. It wasn't until I encountered talkorigins.org—which happened shortly after I admitted to myself that I was agnostic, and so was willing to look at alternative explanations—that I began to realize that I had been blatantly lied to. Over and over. That the actual arguments being put forth by "Evolutionists" had nothing to do with the ones being so easily torn down by Creationists.

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  2. You totally, totally nailed it on this.

    I wish I deserved the credit, but DagoodS of Thoughts from a Sandwich totally nailed it.

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  3. Er, right. Sorry.

    I had actually read DagoodS' article already, but hadn't been following the comments. And, apparently, my eyes glazed over on your introductory citation. :\

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  4. To add something that is obvious. His analogy is perfect to the extent that it address those specific times we are talking to Christians about Christianity without knowing anything, or bothering to learn anything, about Christianity.

    This, of course, has no bearing on questions of God's existence, per se. Christians could try to use an analogy like this to blast atheists who refuse to address esoteric, minutiae in theology, when all we are interested in is whether it is rational to believe in god.

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  5. Chris: That's precisely why I'm uninterested in, and rarely discuss, theology. I'm quite well-informed about apologetics, however, and feel on substantially firmer ground.

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  6. I have read some theology and I just want to bang my head against the wall.

    When I read apologetics, I sometimes do.

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  7. Good post - sorry it took me so long to read it! As a theologian, I totally agree (BTW - I am not an ID proponent). I try to inform myself before I go into something.

    Chris; sometimes those minutiae in theology are about the rationality of believing in God. For example, Plantinga's expression of the ontological argument is a powerful statement that belief in God is as rational as disbelief; but if I had $5 for every time I mentioned it and got the response "Anselm's Argument? Wikipedia says ..." I could give up my day job. There are important, if subtle, differences between the various Ontological Arguments - minutiae, but important minutiae.

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  8. [S]ometimes those minutiae in theology are about the rationality of believing in God.

    Strictly speaking, atheists classify work establishing belief in God as apologetics; we classify work that presumes belief in God as theology.

    Plantinga's expression of the ontological argument is a powerful statement that belief in God is as rational as disbelief...

    I assume you're referring specifically to Plantinga's modal ontological argument, which is a lousy argument. It would be more direct if he were to simply assert, "The existence of God, properly defined, is not logically contradictory."

    Rationality entails more than the absence of contradiction; if a moderately clever schizophrenic can rationalize his paranoid delusions, the accomplishment does not seem especially impressive in the apologist.

    ...but if I had $5 for every time I mentioned it and got the response "Anselm's Argument? Wikipedia says ..." I could give up my day job.

    First, Plantinga is not very famous even within Christian circles; his lack of fame is not surprising given the poor quality of his work.

    Second, Wikipedia's article on the Ontological argument is pretty good.

    There are important, if subtle, differences between the various Ontological Arguments - minutiae, but important minutiae.

    Note that "important minutiae" (thanks for the Latin lesson!) is almost an oxymoron. The differences between the various ontological arguments really aren't important: They all — including Godel's and Plantinga's — depend on defining God into existence.

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