Thursday, 27 February 2014

Freedom is the freedom to say 2 + 2 = 4. Unless you are a fundamentalist...

This image has been doing the rounds over the past few days:

Fundamentalism in a nutshell. The disturbing part of this image is that since the mid-20th century, this line of thinking has infected our community, displacing an intelligent interaction with the best of modern scholarship with a reflexive disparaging of any branch of scholarship that threatens a hyper-literal fundamentalist reading of the Bible. 

Denis Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (4)

Part 4 of Denis Lamoureux's excellent series on Biblical genealogies can be found here, along with the PDF handout. Here, Lamoureux looks at the genealogies of the patriarchs, and once again reminds the neophyte not to read ancient genealogies through modern eyes. Thousands of years and a vast cultural chasm separate the ancient Near East from our world, and the amateur ignorant this fact who naively and arrogantly privileges this view will simply contribute to the growing pile of eisegesis that blights contemporary Christadelphian 'scholarship.'

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Fossils, Fundamentalism, and the Closing of the Christadelphian Mind

Over a century ago, C.C. Walker, the second editor of The Christadelphian, on contemplating the continuity in the fossil record between extinct large birds, and contemporary birds. did what many in our community today would regard as unthinkable. He admitted that if this was proven, then our understanding of the creation narrative would have to change. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Following the witness of creation no matter where it leads

At God of Evolution, Tyler Francke targets one of the rhetorical devices employed by science denialists in the Christian church, that of implying evolution is a belief:
Do you believe in evolution?” It’s an incredibly common question in the church today, and at first glance, it may seem perfectly straightforward and innocent enough. 
But it isn’t. Because, unfortunately, it is informed by a presupposition that is completely and utterly false. You see, the underlying assumption here is that accepting evolution is merely a matter of personal preference, along the lines of “Do you like Taylor Swift?” or “Are you a fan of ‘The Walking Dead’?” It implies that there is no objective truth in the matter to speak of, which reduces it to a toss-up, a question of “belief” and personal choice: “Do you choose to believe in this story, or do you choose to believe in this other story?” 
We don’t do this to other scientific questions. We don’t ask people if they “believe in” gravity, or ultraviolet light, or atoms and molecules, or exoplanets, or germs. But, for some reason, we think evolution is a different animal. 
Well, it’s not. There is enough evidence for evolution by common descent to fill libraries and museums all over the planet (and, in fact, it does). The evidence for the ancient age of the earth and universe is even stronger; indeed it is — quite literally — written in the stars

The Scandal of the (Fundamentalist) Christadelphian Mind

My recent post on the origin of Cain's wife has attracted a comment from someone called Tracey (no last name) who has taken exception to the argument. She has not stated whether she is a Christadelphian or not, but internal clues such as the admonition to privilege the AV for reasons of 'sound doctrine' suggest that she is, and if that is the case, its is a cause for great concern the sheer concentration of fundamentalist arguments in her post. A correction of its many errors is indicated, if only to show everything that is wrong with the fundamentalist, anti-intellectual instantiation of Christadelphian theology that has become depressingly common in our community.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Even some conservative theologians agree that Cain did not marry his sister

One of the ironies of the evolution-creation debate is that the fundamentalists, who pride themselves on reading the creation narrative literally are in fact guilty of selectively applying this exegetical metric in order to preserve their view of Genesis from contradiction. Evading the clear teaching of Gen 1:6-8 that  the Earth was covered with a solid firmament separating waters above from waters below is perhaps the classic example [1-2] of this gross inconsistency in fundamentalist / YEC interpretation of the creation narratives. The other is the allusion to the existence of people at the time of Adam and Eve.

The return of the ancient camels

Old Testament scholar Michael Heiser also weighs in on the recent story of camel domestication in Israel. Understandably, he's a little tired of the monumental ignorance of those who think that this is a brand new story which somehow refutes the historicity of the Biblical narratives:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Fundamentalism, science denialism and the culture of fear

Although Evangelical Christianity and Christadelphians have significant theological differences, there are strong cultural and sociological parallels, particularly in their response to the fact of evolution, and in general, anything that is perceived to threaten evangelical identity. This Evangelical mentality can be seen in all its ugliness below:

Denis Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (3)

Part three of Denis Lamoureux's series on biblical genealogies can be found here. This time, he looks at the Sumerian King List. This information can help explain the impossibly long life spans of those in Genesis 5 and Genesis 11. Presentation is here. PDF is here.

For those who came late. Denis Lamoureux is associate professor of science and religion at St. Joseph's College in the University of Alberta, and speaks with a unique blend of authority, having studied theology and evolutionary biology to PhD level in both cases.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

There are no fundamentalist atheists, but the New Atheists are unreasonable and evangelical

Atheism strictly speaking is simply a lack of belief in a god. That's it. Christians who persist in calling atheism a religion are wrong. To invoke a well-worn cliche, atheism is a religion in the same way that bald is a hair colour, or not collecting stamps is a hobby. Christians need to stop peddling this idea as it is demonstrably wrong.

However, the same arguably does not apply to atheism as ideology, which in its New Atheist guise shares the same evangelical zeal, triumphalism and intolerance of criticism as the fundamentalist Christians it despises. Thomas Wells, writing at 3 Quarks Daily from a decidedly atheistic perspective, zeroes in on the failing of his fundamentalist colleagues:
This new atheism isn't nearly godless enough for me. Its proponents seem somewhat obsessed with the quite unremarkable fact that God doesn't exist. Indeed, it seems so central to their identity - they seem to substantially organise their lives around it - that I find it hard to tell the difference between them and religionists.  
Certainly one can't distinguish them straightforwardly in terms of 'unbelievers' vs 'believers'. These atheists are believers. They hold very strong religious beliefs - about the existence of God, the divine nature of the universe, the proper interpretation of sacred texts, and so on. The fact that they are all negative in content doesn't mean that they aren't powerful religious beliefs. After all, negative beliefs are central to many religions (e.g. that there is no more than one god, or, in some versions of Buddhism, that there are no gods). 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Camels had every right to be in Genesis

"Camels Had No Business in Genesis", shrieked the headline in a recent science article in the New York Times. John Noble Winford tells us that:
"Camels probably had little or no role in the lives of such early Jewish patriarchs as Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, who lived in the first half of the second millennium B.C., and yet stories about them mention these domesticated pack animals more than 20 times. Genesis 24, for example, tells of Abraham’s servant going by camel on a mission to find a wife for Isaac. 
"These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”
Needless to say, this article promoted the usual sophomoric banter, but little substantive comment about the question of whether the reference to camels in the Bible is a flat out anachronism. Turns out that things are not quite as simple as our atheist friends would like us to believe.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Denns Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (2)

Part 2 of Denis Lamoureux's six part series on Biblical genealogies can be found here. This time, he focusses on the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke and argues that they are primarily theological in nature.  Lamoureux also has a PDF handout to accompany his lecture which can be found here.

Monday, 10 February 2014

800,000 footprints discovered in Norfolk, UK

Via the ABC:

Footprints left by ancient humans 800,000 years ago have been found in Britain, the earliest evidence of such markings outside Africa. 
Researchers discovered the footprints, which were left by both adults and children, in ancient estuary mud at Happisburgh in Norfolk in eastern England. 
The only older footprints found so far are at Laetoli in Tanzania, at about 3.5 million years old, and at Ileret and Koobi Fora in Kenya at about 1.5 million years, researchers said. 
"This is an extraordinarily rare discovery," Nick Ashton of the British Museum, who led the research team, said. 
The find came at an archaeological site that has yielded several previous discoveries of stone tools and fossil bones, including mammoth remains. 
The researchers found the prints at low tide when waves washed away much of the beach sand to expose the silt below. 
"At first we weren't sure what we were seeing but as we removed any remaining beach sand and sponged off the seawater, it was clear that the hollows resembled prints, perhaps human footprints, and that we needed to record the surface as quickly as possible before the sea eroded it away," Dr Ashton said. 
The group of early humans that left the footprints appeared to have consisted of at least one male and several smaller people believed to be females and youngsters, the researchers said. 
"They are clearly a family group rather than a hunting party," Dr Ashton said.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Denis Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (1)

Dating the Earth by summing the genealogies is considered by YECs to be a reliable guide to dating the Earth. They are of course wrong. Even before the advent of radiometric dating, 19th century geologists recognised that the Earth was much older than 6000 years. Radiometric dating merely confirmed the fact of an ancient Earth.

The problem with using the genealogies to date the Earth is that in so doing, YECs are reading the genealogies as a 21st century human being would do, and there is no justification for doing this. Denis Lamoureux (whose term evolutionary creationist I have employed to describe my position) has begun a six part series on the meaning of Biblical genealogies. Part 1 is here.

Why Bart Ehrman is good for Christianity

Many conservative Christians would disagree strongly with the opening title as they see Bart Ehrman as    representative of 'godless, anti-Bible higher criticism', or some other equally hysterical term. That's a shame because apart from being one of the best NT textual critics alive today, Ehrman when read intelligently acts as a catalyst to spur Christians into a more intelligent, less fundamentalist way of reading the Bible.

Accommodationism versus the Imperial Atheists

Evolution denialism is a huge problem for any society as it is a proxy for a distrust of science and a lack of critical thinking skills, both of which retard the growth of modern society. The question of why this is a problem and how to resolve it have split defenders of modern science into two groups, the accommodationists, who argue that Christianity and evolution are compatible, and the New Atheists who argue that religion is the source of the problem, and evolution denialism will only vanish when religion withers away. The debate has been protracted and acrimonious, with biochemist and anti-accmmodationist Larry Moran opining as long ago as 2006:
For the record, here's what it means to be a Neville Chamberlain Atheist. It means you're happy to attack Intelligent Design Creationists like Micheal Denton (Nature's Destiny) and Michael Behe (Darwin's Black Box) for mixing science and religion. But, you don't say a word when Ken Miller (Finding Darwin's God), Francis Collins (The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief) and the Rev. Ted Peters (Evolution from Creation to New Creation) spout equally bad religious nonsense in the name of science.  

The Neville Chamberlain Atheists object when Behe talks about intelligent design but mum's the word when Ken Miller talks about how God tweaks mutations to get what He wants. Hypocrisy is a strange thing to be proud of.
He must be joking, right?
Eight years later, the disagreement continues, with astronomer Phil Plait exhorting scientists to defend science and refrain from needlessly attacking religion,  mathematician Jason Rosenhouse voicing his opposition to Plait's position, and Moran unapologetically pushing the hard line by commenting approvingly on Rosenhouse's post and ending with:
I hope Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and Simon Conway-Morris are listening. They are not on my side in this war. 
Claims that evolution is opposed to Christianity may well play well in the New Atheist echo chambers, but as a strategy to wean Christians away from the poison of special creationism, it is frankly stupid. The real issue here, as Moran admits, is the New Atheist desire to exterminate Christianity. If the average undecided Christian sees the evolution-creation debate as a proxy war between theism and atheism, one can hardly blame them for objecting.

The Nye-Ham debate summarised in one image