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Saturday, 1 January 2022

How not to Prove All Things

A few days ago, I ran across a collection of Christadelphian fundamentalist essays on a somewhat eclectic range of subjects, whose main unifying theme appears to be areas where fundamentalist theology come into collision with the modern world. One long, rambling article attempted to cover evolution, but unsurprisingly failed to engage the scientific evidence for evolution, taking refuge in that old fundamentalist standby, the appeal to the "shifting sands of science" trope. Amusingly, the anonymous author used that exact phrase,

Science is changing all the time. What may be considered today to be scientific fact may turn out to be rejected in years to come. It is therefore very difficult to see how any faith can be placed in the shifting sands of current scientific thought.

telegraphing to any halfway informed observer that they were completely ignorant of the epistemological basis of science, and why the tentative, provisional nature of scientific truth, where things are held subject to potential falsification by new evidence is exactly why science is so powerful. Any attack on evolution that fails to examine the evidence, offers as justification a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of science, and spends most of its time on a long rambling fundamentalist distortion of the relevant Biblical texts is automatically wrong.
    That is however not what really caught my eye about this collection of articles. What caught my attention was an article on archaeology and the historical context of the Bible. While this subject is not one that I cover at the website, one paragraph in the essay caught my eye as it neatly encapsulated the poverty of thought and utter surrender to fideism that underlies the mindset of those who wrote this collection of fundamentalist essays:
We cannot learn anything useful from archaeology. If the evidence tells us something which supports what the Bible says, then we have learnt nothing – we already knew it to be true. If the evidence tells us something different to the Bible then again we have learnt nothing, since we must reject the evidence. If the evidence adds to the account of scripture in a complementary way then using it in our understanding is adding to scripture, an idea we have already rejected. Emphasis mine
We must reject the evidence. Fundamentalism in five words. If the evidence falsifies the worldview then you reject the evidence.  Replace 'archaeology' with 'science' and you have the same fideistic approach to the subject that characterises fundamentalist attacks on evolution. This is sadly not a parody of fundamentalist thought but the real thing. Inculcating impressionable young people with this material is simply priming them for a crisis of faith when one day they actually look at the evidence rather than blindly rejecting it and realise their fundamentalist faith is a house of cards that will fall at the slightest touch.
    The collection of essays bears the title Proving All Things, but all that is being proven here is that by starting with your conclusion and automatically excluding all the evidence that bears upon your subject, you can prove anything, and if you can prove anything you have really proven nothing.


Thursday, 17 June 2021

Evolution and creation - a reading list

I have often considered writing a book on evolutionary creationism from a Christadelphian perspective and for a Christadelphian audience, but a number of good friends have advised me against that. Given the number of excellent books on the subject that already exist and the relatively few Christadelphian-specific theological points that such a book would make, there is much wisdom in that advice. Besides, as the author of Ecclesiastes noted, of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. What I believe is useful is providing a selective bibliography of books which I have found helpful.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Even more ancient hominins from Europe

Two recently published articles caught my eye today. One reports on the analysis of Initial Upper Palaeolithic human remains from Bulgaria that showed recent Neanderthal ancestry [1], the other reports on the analysis of a skull from the Czech Republic which showed the individual to have been one of the earliest people in Europe following the expansion out of Africa [2]. Dating between 42,000 to at least 45,000 years, it is worth noting that we have here yet more evidence for the antiquity of modern humans far outstripping the ~6000 years limit given by a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

Monday, 10 May 2021

The Case of the Missing Isotopes - The Ultimate Proof of an Ancient Earth

Given that the Earth is around 4.5 billion years old, we would not expect to find any radioactive isotopes with short half-lives in the crust of the Earth as they would have long since decayed away. Conversely, if the Earth really was six thousand years old, then we'd expect to find these short-lived radioactive isotopes as insufficient time would have passed for them to have decayed away. When we examine the Earth's crust to look for short-lived radioactive isotopes, apart from those naturally made, we find no short-lived isotopes, just what we'd expect if the Earth was ancient.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

The NIV mistranslation of Genesis 2:19

The order of creation in Genesis 2 differs from that of Genesis 1. Genesis 2v19 informs us that after creating Adam, God then created the animals and later created Eve. In Genesis 1, the order is animals, then humans. This has been long recognised by the scholarly community. However, if you read the NIV you would not see that as Genesis 2:19 has been deliberately mistranslated in order to 'harmonise' both creation narratives.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

The people who can trace their ancestry to before Adam

Cheddar Man, found in 1903 in a cave in Somerset is Britain's oldest complete human skeleton, having been dated to 9100 years of age. Not only does he bear eloquent testimony to the reality of human existence well before the 6000 year figure fundamentalists assign to the creation of Adam, he also has living relatives not too far from where he was found. The fundamentalists belief in universal  human descent from two people created no earlier than 6000 years ago is difficult to reconcile with these facts.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

How a 10,000 year old basket (and the whole archaeology of Neolithic and Chalcolithic Palestine) falsifies the fundamentalist belief in a Seven Thousand Year Plan

The Israel Antiquities Authority has announced the discovery of a 10,500 year old woven basket in the Judaea desert. Discoveries both of human artefacts and human remains that are older than six thousand years pose a fundamental challenge both to the the belief that humans are only six thousand years old and the concept of a ‘seven thousand year plan’. Given the prevalence of both of these ideas in the Christadelphian community, it is worth spending a little time looking at the archaeological evidence that rules out both these ideas.