If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Someone round here is deluded, and it isn't me

I’ve been looking through some e-mail correspondence with creationists, undertaken before I realised how quite how impervious they are to rational argument. I can't say I wasn't warned, you'll get nowhere with these guys, they said; and they were right, but I've had to learn for myself. The term "psychotic" - detached from reality, unable to recognise its own delusions, liable to project its own weaknesses onto those who criticise it (typically: "evolutionists have an agenda, creationists seek only the objective truth") without seeing the irony - has proved useful in trying to understand them. One correspondent provides a couple of excellent examples of the syndrome.

Neo-Darwinism is all you have left but it stands before a precipice and many of us believe that the scientific community will have to face up to the truth about evolution within about 15 years.

Yeah, right. So Darwinian theory is that close to collapse ... and when it does, science will embrace a theory that says 6,000 years ago, roughly, a geocentric universe was formed, without form and void, its principal component being water. Dimensions not given. Source of energy to prevent said water freezing also not given. A firmament, or dome-like expanse, of unspecified construction was then made to "separate waters from waters". Tricky, given the spherical nature of the earth but maybe it was flat back then. No sooner had other waters then been separated from land, than, despite the resulting climatic chaos, plants were found growing everywhere, in soil which normally takes centuries to form, limestone made from the shells of dead molluscs although no living ones had yet been created, but hey. Then, a sun was created, around which presumably the earth is now in orbit, although what it was in orbit around prior to this is not clear. Ooh, and some stars. Tiddly little things aren’t they, and you could see them all at once, even the ones thousands of light years away.

Yes, I can just see that happening. Scientists are such intelligent people, they only need to have their Darwinian blinkers taken off and they’ll see the truth. Roll over Daniel Dennett. I shall ask the scientists of my acquaintance how likely they think it is. Including the lovely Christian lady I had dinner with recently, who teaches biology and had absolutely no idea that evolution ought to be a problem for her, was staggered when I started quoting Henry Morris, didn’t know people still thought like that - I bet she’ll be surprised.

Fifteen years and Darwin will be done for, he reckons. Let’s hope creationism’s dead and buried long before that. I know which grave I'd prefer to dance on; not that Darwinism has to be true; my pitch is that creationism cannot possibly be, because truth makes sense and the Bible isn't stupid. Mind you, the Rapture could happen before either of them keels over. Should have happened in ’88 but someone forgot to tell God (Remember Eighty Eight Reasons Why Jesus will come in 1988, a best seller in America?)

And from the same correspondent, this little gem, in reply to my challenge about Rowan Williams’ "category mistake" comment

I would hardly expect a biblical opinion to come from the liberal wing of Anglicanism (Episcopalianism) which Dr Williams clearly represents! But if the Dr had to face Jesus tomorrow, would he seriously tell him to His face that Creationism should not be seen as an "alternative theory to evolution"? (Because, that is, biblical creation is merely an allegory whereas evolution is "good science" - which is presumably what Dr Williams meant – that is, if the quote is accurate [it's near enough - Snake]). I do not think that the archbishop would dare make such a comment in such company.

My correspondent doesn’t know what an allegory is and no contemporary interpreter of Genesis uses the tool, to my knowledge. It got shoved in the back of a drawer and forgotten back in the Middle Ages. But that little error pales into insignificance beside the quite breathtaking chutzpah of the rest. First, Rowan Williams is a "liberal" - not a terribly accurate designation - and THEREFORE cannot be expected to venture a Biblical opinion. The weight of prejudice behind that would sink the QE2. So "liberal" scholarship is never Biblical other than by accident?

Second, it is assumed that, face to face with Jesus, Rowan Williams would shrivel into a corner, pleading for mercy and repenting of his error; that there is no defensible case, that evolution will be revealed on that last day as heresy - oh please! Why should Dr Williams not dare to state the facts of the matter? Let me speak for myself, I’ll face Jesus and tell him how I combated the creationist menace in His name and hope that compensates in His eyes for some of the other things I really should be ashamed of, but I am in danger of slipping into point-scoring now. What disgusts me is the suggestion - frequently encountered in creationist literature - that "sceptics" (we're all lumped together in the creationist's mind) don't mean what they say, they lack integrity, it's some kind of trendy pose. What Williams says publicly he doesn't truly believe, and couldn't possibly say to Jesus. Knowing just a little bit about Rowan through the friend of a friend, I'd say this: if Rowan Williams doesn't have integrity, nor does anyone else on the face of this planet.

Had my correspondent been interested in rational debate, rather than casting aspersions at one whose briefcase he is unworthy to carry - and I do not claim to be any worthier - he might have attempted to analyse the concept of a category mistake. This would have entailed refuting the view that it is inappropriate to put scientific documents alongside the book of Genesis as though they are any more comparable than Jane Austen and the local bus timetable - both valuable in their way, but useless in the one case for telling me when I can next get a bus to Middlesbrough and in the other for providing satire on early nineteenth century bourgeois society. That’s what a category error looks like. Williams, as fine a Biblical scholar and theologian as Britain has produced in a generation, knows this. My correspondent either does not or has no interest in discussing the matter; yet he presumes to know how Christ will judge Rowan Williams.

Finally, I am accused of nursing "hatred" in my heart, and I need to reflect on this because I am obviously very angry, with which I deal by indulging my sarcasm: but by whom, or by what am I so incensed? And is anger the same as hatred?

I hate stupidity, especially when it is paraded as truth and presented in the name of Christ. I hate it because it makes God look stupid and weakens the Church’s witness. I get angry when intelligent people - my correspondent is one such, I try not to waste my time targeting the obvious morons out there - are wilfully stupid and won’t listen to reason. Sometimes that spills over into anger at them, but this is wrong and I try to rein back. The "psychosis" insight helps here - you don’t get mad at psychotics because they can’t recognise their own delusions. There may be nothing you can do to help them, until they admit they need help. But sometimes they can be a danger to others, and those others need to be protected, as I seek to protect God’s people from creationism - yes, yes, I’m angry all right. But do I hate creationists, as opposed to their ludicrous ideas? May God forgive me if I do. I feel desperately sorry for them. I long for their deliverance.

Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. When that starts happening we may see some progress. But only on the basis that one of us round here needs help, and I’m not the one who’s psychotic. I can offer a process through which the matter could be settled once and for all if anyone’s interested, but I’m not holding my breath. There’s too much at stake for creationists: they can’t possibly be wrong. There were dinosaurs on the ark. Crocodiles were created vegetarians. The earth was made first then the sun, 6,000 years ago, ish. If you can’t see it, you can’t see it.


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