Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Get Aboard the Beagle, Tennessee!

Charles Darwin's Beagle.

So far, 321 congregations have signed on to celebrate Evolution Sunday on February 11th. Four of those congregations are from Tennessee'

Providence Baptist Church
Cookeville, TN
The Rev. Millissa M. Roysdon

St. Raphael Episcopal Church
Crossville, TN
The Rev. Ann Markle, Rector

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, TN
The Rev. John Shuck

Pleasant Hill Community Church
United Church of Christ
Pleasant Hill, TN
Donald B. Clark

I bet there are many more congregations in Tennessee who will participate. Let your favorite clergyperson know about it and suggest that s/he sign the letter!

A friend of mine sent me this (from a version by Atheists of Silicon Valley):

Are you a Christian?

You are a fundamentalist Christian if...

1) You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

2) You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

3) You laugh at polytheism, but you have no probem believing in a Triune God.

4) Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees.

5) You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

6) You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (a few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesman sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

7) You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs--though excluding those in all rival sects--will spend Eternity in an infinte Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

8) While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

9) You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

10) You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history--but still call yourself a Christian.


  1. Why is it that the search for "little loopholes" in the farce of Darwinian evolution is wasteful, but searching for "little loopholes" in classical, orthodox Christianity is held up as a model for intellectual honesty?

    Darwinianism (microbe-to-man) was fine in an age that preceded molecular biology. How anyone can hold it after even a cursory study of intracellular complexity is beyond me.

  2. I think Evolution Sunday is a wonderful idea. This has always been an important issue for me. I believe it is important for intelligent, reasoning Christians to stand for science against ignorance and superstition. So many non-Christians tend to equate Christianity with ignorance, thanks to fundamentalists and their continuing shrill objections to modern science, in particular evolution. Reasoning Christians have to make it clear to the world that being a Christian doesn't make you an idiot.

  3. Mystical,

    Can you name one time when I've been unreasonable?

    Apart from Darwinian dogmatism, can you explain why scientific investigations into phenomena which seem to contradict currently dominant scientific theories about the origin of life and the cosmos should be labeled as unintelligent, unreasoning, ignorant, and/or superstitious?

    As someone who studied science - albeit only at the undergrad level - I had one thing hammered into my skull: science is a discipline which disproves theories by repeatable experimentation. If there are repeatable experiments that weight the table against a particular form of evolutionary theory (essentially, the molecule-to-man thesis), then isn't it particularly unreasoning, closed-minded, and dogmatic to label those who question the scientific evidence as ignorati?

  4. I tried to leave a comment and I got it cut off - blows. Anyways I agree with some of Chris' idea's about evolution being challengable - but for me the ends don't equal the means to get there - basically - I don't believe it. I think it is cool that others wanna celebrate it - their choice.

    I go with tried, then tested, then proven true - evolution still hasn't been tried.

  5. Chris, with all due respect, if you think that the Genesis is a literal story of the creation of the world, and if you reject evolution, you are being both unreasonable, and, to be blunt, ignorant. I don't know of any polite way to put it. I have little patience with fundamentalist Christianity and its hostility to evolution. This was what turned me against religion when I was in my teens, when I mistakenly equated this kind of anti-scientific ignorance with all of Christian religion. What I later came to realize was that ignorance correlates with fundamentalist religion, but not religion per se. Having come to realize this only makes me even more appalled at the dumbing down of science and religion that comes out of fundamentalist Christianity.

  6. And to think I expected something other than ipse dixit. As Dávila put it, "Truth is so subtle that it never inspires as much confidence as an erroneous thesis."

    Let's be very clear about something: I rejected Darwinian evolution before I embraced 6x24 hr Creationism. I would never consider myself a competent geologist or physicist, but I fared reasonably well in biology and chemistry. And the irreducible, interdependent complexities at the intracellular level left me baffled as to how anyone could believe the molecule-to-man myth. As if "billions and billions of years" were a more scientific substitute for "And God said..."

  7. I really believe it doesn't matter whether you or anyone else takes a mythological story literally prior to rejecting science, or if the rejection of science came first. The problem that I see isn't with what you believe or how you came to believe it. The problem is a societal one. I am disgusted by the whole fundamentalist assault on reason and science that plagues American society, as manifested by repeated attempts at diluting the science education of American youth, or by such things as the absurd de facto censorship of at least one IMAX movie mentioning evolution that has taken place in certain parts of the South, or the selling of books with unscientific theories about the formation of the Grand Canyon in a National Park Service bookstore.

    The other big problem, as I alluded to, is that it just makes Christianity look really, really bad--like a religion of morons. I bought into the whole thing myself when I was growing up; I was raised in a fundamentalist church, and to my young mind being a Christian was equated with having certain views about the Bible and science. It was this that led to my crisis of faith as a teenager when I realized that I could not embrace ignorant notions about the creation of the earth. It is really a shame how so many young minds are being poisoned by this kind of indoctrination of ignorance within fundamentalist churches.

  8. Again, IpseDixical Seeker, you paint with a broad brush. Disagreement with an older scientific theory on the basis of emerging scientific evidence can only be condemned as irrational by someone who has made the previous theory an unassailable dogma.

    I'm sorry that you grew up in an irrational, anti-intellectual "fundamentalist" environment. But that's hardly a reason to caricature as ignorant those who have questions about the scientific basis for evolution based upon science.

    Religion can - and should - have dogmas. But science?

  9. I am not opposed to "disagreement with an older scientific theory on the basis of emerging scientific evidence". I am opposed to disagreement with an older scientific theory on the basis of ignorance. I am even more opposed to it when those who oppose science have a theological ax to grind.

    Giving a "scientific" veneer to what is at best pseudo-science, especially but not limited to when it is associated with a religious dogma, is my objection. This is specially true when promulgators of pseudo-science are engaged in active efforts at dumbing down science education, as fundamentalists in places like Kansas and George keep trying to do, or when IMAX theatres in the Bible Belt are afraid to show scientific movies that mention evolution lest they offend the fundamentalist sensibilities of the region. The societal dangers of this kind of ignorance are not something I take lightly.

    Yes, it is true, this is a hot button for me, because I firsthand know how ignorant religion poisons the human mind. I also know that this association between many Christians and opposition to evolution has given the impression to many reasoning Americans that to be a Christian is to be an idiot, and it doesn't make Christianity look very good. It is really hard to explain to people that, no, actually, the Religious Right doesn't speak for all of Christianity.

    That's why I think "Evolution Sunday" is a great idea. It is important to get the word out--all Christians aren't a bunch of anti-intellectuals. You can be a thinking Christian.

  10. Seeker sez: "I am opposed to disagreement with an older scientific theory on the basis of ignorance. I am even more opposed to it when those who oppose science have a theological ax to grind."

    I hope you'll limit your claims to omniscience enough to grant my claim of my own motivation for abandoning Darwinian evolution (namely, on scientific grounds). It was done before my conversion, when I was a pantheistic neopagan - no stake in the pentecostal theology I grew up under (and - like you - was reacting against). I've stated - in brevis - some of my objections to evolutionary theory. So far, I haven't seen anyone on this blog putting forward scientific evidence to corroborate the theory. It is simply assumed true. That means, epistemologically, that an appeal to authority is happening rather than experience.

    Seeker sez: 'Giving a "scientific" veneer to what is at best pseudo-science, especially but not limited to when it is associated with a religious dogma, is my objection.'

    I couldn't agree more, which is precisely why I reject the pseudo-science of macroevolution.

    Seeker sez: "I firsthand know how ignorant religion poisons the human mind."

    And there are about 6 million Jews who know how a Christianity bent to the most current iteration of "science" poisons not only minds, but lungs.

    Would you be willing to admit that as often as people have a religious axe to grind against certain scientific theories, it's equally true that other people have a moral-volitional axe to grind against religion?

    Let's be clear: the IMAX theaters choose not to play the movies because of money. That's the only "religious backlash" that comes from Christians. It's not like you'll have Christian Fundamentalist strapping bombs to themselves and taking the place down. The worst you get is a nasty letter or a boycott. Hey - we deal with that, too.

  11. The IMAX theatres refused to show the movie because they didn't want to piss off the Religious Right in the South, thus meaning that those who wanted to see it in those areas were unable to do so. The fact that this happened in the South shows just how culturally damaged much of American society is, and how powerful the Religious Right is in, effectively, brainwashing large swaths of the population there. That is the point of my concern. Thanks to fundamentalism, we have a culture of ignorance in the US, especially, unfortunately, in the Bible Belt. The very fact that this happened is a tragic commentary on what is going on in this country.

    I said it before, and I'll say it again, because it is such an important point--you don't have to be an idiot to be a Christian. Trying to explain this to atheist or agnostic acquaintances is often a difficult task, unfortunately.

  12. I agree with Chris on the debateable claims of evoluntionary theory - and one who looks closely and doesn't 'believe' the scientific claims as the end all, be all - I think that's legit - if it has some reasoning with it - and I think Chris does a good job of that.

    But I also agree with the point Mystic Seeker is saying - religion, when an un-thought out one, can be ridicoualy dangerous - mainly due to people being in fear of 'God' and in some senses 'their leaders'. One of the facts about our faith is that most people within churches aren't taught in depth about the scriptures they use - they just accept the teachings 'as is' - even if they might not weighted carefully.

    We might not have terrorists but we did have a Jim Jones and the Catholic priesthood problems with sexual indiscretions - and this was bad enough. The main problem in the Jones (and with the Priests) camp seemed to be lack of knowledge of the scriptures - as to question what their leader was saying - this was avoidable but served to us as a lesson - we have the right to both read and question what we see as 'non-scriptural' - then we need to speak against it. I think Mystical has a problem with these same idea's and I can't say I disagree at all - I have seen some of this 'herd' mentality and I have seen some people who follow these scriptures do some zany things. And if you say these aren't the faith's problems - I think we need to start takinf responsibility and not 'pass this buck'.

  13. Here's an exerpt directly from World Book Encyclopedia:

    "Although evolution is called a "theory," this term does not mean that evolutionary biology is guesswork or is not supported by evidence. In science, a theory is a set of ideas based on observations about nature that explains many related facts. The theory of evolution is supported by evidence from many scientific fields. When a theory is supported by so much evidence, it becomes accepted as a scientific fact. Almost all scientists consider the theory of evolution to be a scientific fact."

    "Many people, however, reject the theory of evolution because of their religious beliefs. They believe the theory conflicts with the Biblical account of the Creation, which they interpret to mean that all forms of life were created essentially as they exist today."

  14. On the flip side, here's a noteworthy argument in support of Intelligent Design.

  15. Last post on this, I promise:

    Society -

    There's always the problem of epistemology and presuppositions. If postmodernism has done one good thing, it's this: it's shown that none of us come to a subject/object tabula rasa. Instead, we are a complex mix of axiomata, often hierarchical and contradictable in arrangement. To be a reasonable person, one would need to attempt to reduce the contradictions by examining what is actually axiomatic, and streamline the hierarchies. The fewer axiomata that one has, the better (as the rest of one's convictions are then better tested and supported by reason and evidence).

    A chief reason that I lost interest in science as a career was that little interest was given to how we know what we know. The entire field - and its supremacy over every other form of human inquiry - was held up as the model for free, unflinching inquiry; yet if any questions were asked concerning scientific evidence that contradicts predictions made using evolutionary theory then I was shut down or mocked (rarely was there even an attempt to address the question). I figured that if I was going to have to deal with dogma, I might as well study philosophy and literature (where dogma is helpfully explored).

    And it's ironic that people who cavil at orthodox Christianity (especially when they accuse it - or its proponents - of unthinking dogmatism or circular reasoning) most often have a hoarde of dogmata and axiomata of their own. However - because they are their own - they are somehow unassailable? I'm willing to give a coherent and rational defense of the historic Christian faith to anyone who asks it. Unfortunately, there are few who are honest enough about their own unexamined convictions to reasonably examine mine.

    In short, it is no less biased to say that only believers in macroevolution are rational than it is to say that only those who believe in a resurrected corpse are Christian. As a scientist, one should be allowed to openly question macroevolution (the orthodoxy of naturalism) but will need to make their case. As a Christian, one should be allowed to openly question literal readings of the resurrection (the orthodoxy of confessionalism) but will need to make their case. Intellectual honesty and openness demands nothing less than absolute clarity on these issues.

    Bobby -

    I appreciate Way of the Master for their evangelism techniques. They also helpfully point out how most people hold to evolution by appeal to authority (the same epistemological process that Creationists use when appealing to the Bible) - i.e., relatively blind faith is what most people use in constructing their belief about our origins. However, Cameron & Comfort's evidence isn't always up to par.

    If you want real scientists presenting well-argued and rigorously examined reasons to doubt macroevolution, go to I have to admit that a good bit of their stuff is over my head, but they have an Average Joe section that's quite understandable to those without a BS in a natural science.

  16. It is a mischaracterization to suggest that defenders of science believe that existing paradigms are "unassailable" dogmas. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Aside from the fact that scientific models do change all the time. We also know that some theories that challenge existing paradigms are simply crackpot notions. From Velokovsky to Lysenko to fundamentalists who reject evolution, examples abound in the history of science of crackpot pseudo-science practitioners that accused scientists of being stubbornly attached to their "unassailable" dogmas. Critics of science have to do better than just whining, "But they won't listen to me!"

    Thomas Kuhn pointed the way to the way that science develops new paradignms through the process of scientific revolutions. All paradigms are not interchangeable. I believe there is a concept of verisimilitude that plays a role in this. It is possible that someone might accuse modern scientists of clinging to their "unassailable dogmas" by some pseudo-scientific crank who objected to the heliocentric model of the solar system. Is the heliocentric model "unassailable" in its particulars? Of course not. Copernicus didn't get everything right, but the basic model of the earth revolving around the sun is not likely to change any time soon. Those damn, dogmatic scientists and their heliocentric dogma!

    It's a forest for the trees problem. Evolution can be debated in its particulars as well--for example, does speciation occur gradually, or does it happen through rapid bursts known as "punctuated equilibria" (Eldridge and Gould's theory)? But the fact of evolution holds regardless of those particulars. Similarly, the Big Bang is accepted as a fact, but the dating of the universe, the speed of expansion, the existence of dark matter or a cosmological constant--these all influence the particulars of the model. That's what happens in what Kuhn describes as scientific problem solving within a given paradigm. Some anti-evolutionists point to scientific debates withina given paradigm as proof that the paradigm itself is flawed; this is just one of the many ways in which anti-evolutionists just plain don't get it.

    I've seen some of the tired old arguments against evolution that fundamentalists read in their tracts and then regurgiate verbatim because they don't know any better. The claim that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, for example, is a misinformed and misinformed old canard, but that doesn't stop it from being repeated over, and over, and over, and over again. But that's what happens--fundamentalists read these arguments against evolution somewhere and take them as gospel truth (no pun intended), and then pass them along, so that this kind of crap just takes on a life of its own.

    It is problematic because those who oppose evolution are not dispassionate. They are actively involved in promoting their views because their fundamentalist religious faith is so threatened by it. Because they have placed themselves in the trap of equating bibilical literalism with their faith, their faith becomes a house of cards that will collapse if science contradicts anything that they take literally in the Bible. Thus it is so important for them to attack science, water down the science curriculum in schools, and thus create a society of ignorant drones. To them, the very integrity of the faith that they hold so dear is at stake, and so they take out their insecurities on society as a whole. And the rest of society has to pay the price.

  17. Funny thing is I have Hugh Ross' site also as a link and I rarely ever visit it - but it does show we have that as a commonality Chris - and yeah - tonnes of the stuff on that site are way over my head.

  18. Chris, the web site you pointed me to is a faith based think tank. I really think it is necessary to separate religion and faith from science, as faith really shouldn’t play a part in the scientific discovery process. I do think faith plays a role in how we use our scientific knowledge. New debates emerge all the time as what we learn from science continues to expand and often pushes our ethical boundaries. But by mixing their faith with the scientific process, I find their conclusions suspect and prefer to rely on purely scientific resources for the truth of evolution.

    Here is another excerpt, this time from the Gale Encyclopedia of Science, another credible, respected source, not a Wikipedia type thing: “Evolution is a theory. As such it must have evidence to support it, and, if new evidence appears to overthrow it, then a new theory must be formulated. The amount and quality of evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming. Any evidence requiring a totally new theory would have to be staggering in its scope and strength. The new evidence that has been forthcoming supports the theory of evolution and merely fine tunes scientific understanding of the mechanisms involved.”

    What I’m trying to say is that I don’t see much dispute about evolution in the scientific community and again, as World Book Encyclopedia points out, “almost all scientists consider the theory of evolution to be a scientific fact.” This is quite a conspiracy if nearly every respected scientist and reference resource in the country is behind a theory that Chris says is a wasteful farce. Sorry, but I’m going with the scientists on this one. Finally, I completely agree with Mystical Seeker’s well articulated last post and assessment; society will pay a price if we allow ourselves to attack science on religious grounds.

  19. I just dropped in to visit after reading the piece about the good Reverend in today's paper. Though I like much of what I see, I found this list to be offensive, puerile and demeaning.

    Personally I believe that fundamentalists are like the believers Paul talks about in Romans 14:1-13. Their weakness of faith makes them unnecessarily restrict their world view and behavior. And what does Paul say to more mature believers regarding these people? Read the verses yourself, but be aware there is none of the smugness so obvious in whoever wrote this insulting piece.

    Though I am clearly more conservative than the good Reverend, I enjoy this blog, and extend an invitation to all to visit my own at God's blessings.

    Best Regards,
    Bill Bright
    Erwin, TN

  20. I agree with Chris; it seems that anyone seeking for problems in traditional, orthodox beliefs is hailed as an intellectual and a freethinker, while anyone seeing for weaknesses in "progressive" paradigms is labeled fundamentalist and dim-witted.

    I feel that most of the debate over evolution is due to confusion over its factual and theoretical aspects. Put simply, it is a fact that evolution of the species has occured. On the other hand, it is purely theoretical that these changes were brought about by random mutations filtered through natural selection. This aspect of evolutionary thought is not only unproven but probably unprovable.

  21. Hi Bill,

    Thanks for checking in. I look forward to viewing your blog.