Sunday, 28 July 2013

YECS: don't compare yourself to Galileo. Unlike you, he had evidence on his side.

Ken Perrott, who blogs at Open Parachute has a splendid post on the use of the Galileo Gambit by science denialists and crackpots. The argument as used by denialists boils down to "I must be right because I am the member of a brave minority coming out against the oppressive orthodoxy of consensus". As Perrott notes, this is false:

  1. It relies on the fact of being in the minority, of opposing the consensus, as being “proof” of correctness.
  2. It implies that because the user of the fallacy is in the minority and opposing the consensus then the user is correct. In  other words – “bugger the evidence, I must be right because I am coming out against the consensus.”

What the denialist - be he a climate change zealot or special creationist - fails to do is demonstrate that his position is a better explanation of the facts than the consensus view. Instead, you see posturing, claims of persecution, censorship and anything other than peer-reviewed data that supports their position. As Perrott notes:
The real lesson from Galileo is not to oppose the “establishment” or current scientific consensus – but to rely on evidence. It was this argument of his, which today most of us accept and see as almost self-evident, that describes Galileo’s real contribution to the progress of science.
As Perrott curtly - but correctly - notes in his conclusion, the Galileo Gambit is for losers, a point YECs should be reminded of each time they claim to be right but fail to provide the evidence to back up their position.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Reading Genesis through Ancient Eyes

Special creationists and the New Atheists are far closer to each other than they would care to realise in how they approach the creation narratives. Creationists reject mainstream science because it contradicts a literal reading of Genesis 1-2. Conversely, the New Atheists dismiss the Bible because they know that a literal reading of the creation narratives is unsustainable given what we know about biology, astronomy and geology. In both cases, the New Atheists and the special creationists have demonstrated their abysmal understanding of contemporary OT scholarship which shows that such a naive common-sense reading of the narratives was alien to the original readers of the creation narratives.

I have said it many times, and will continue to say it: the only way to understand the creation narratives is to read them through ancient Near Eastern eyes:

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Peter Williams - New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts

One of the foundations of my faith in the God of the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Needless to say, a non-theist is perfectly entitled to assert that I have the burden of proof. I do - the burden of proof belongs to the person advancing the extraordinary claim, and any believer who argues otherwise is deceiving himself.

The first burden is to demonstrate the essential historicity of the gospel narratives. Demonstrating this does not prove that the resurrection occurred. What it does do is demonstrate that the claim the gospels were written by those who had first-hand information about the events has credibility. Here's Peter Williams:

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

"We're all atheists - I just believe in one fewer God than you" - rebutting the oldest atheist joke

One of the more vacuous quotations from atheists is this aphorism from Stephen Roberst: “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” 

Another variation, attributed to Michael Shermer is "Christians today might say, I don't believe in Zeus, that was a silly superstition. Yet for many people that was a real god. So it turns out there are 10,000 gods and yet only one right one. That means we're all atheists on 9,999 gods. The only difference between me and the believers is I'm an atheist on one more god." This argument is popular, but superficial and ultimately useless.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Evangelicals and the 'Flat Text Society' - how not to read Genesis

C. Ben Mitchell argues that evangelicals treat the canon as a 'flat text', that is, reading it without any regard to context or genre. Needless to say, this guarantees exegetical imprecision:
More often than not, words are stripped of their brilliance and turned monochrome by our decontextualization. They are flattened by our isolation from their surroundings.  The sheer ubiquity of words in our culture tends to strip them of their texture. 
This reality has led many of my students to read the words of the Bible the same way they read the words of a blog or the words of a text message on their cell phones.  Words are words.