Whose are the burning pants?
In 1994, Australian geologist Ian Plimer published "Telling Lies for God", a scathing attack on creationism. It sounded interesting but proved to be out of print; my copy was kindly sent to me by the author himself (damn, didn’t ask him to sign it) and I’ve enjoyed it hugely. AnswersinGenesis took issue with him, ever so slightly; I believe there was a lawsuit at some point, but that’s history. Its website features a huge, point-by-point "rebuttal" of Plimer. Promised myself and indeed Ian that I would work through it. I had my secretary print off a hard copy so that I could more easily compare it with the book. It runs to 60 pages. Wow, he did upset them, didn’t he.
Perhaps only an anti-creationist anorak such as yours truly would even consider setting himself such a task, but I’m using it partly to test my view of creationism as psychotic. Have any of Plimer’s substantial charges against creationism really been rebutted? I’m going to guess they fault him on details and small factual errors - the John Mackay style that I experienced in Clitheroe - but don’t address the main points at all. Let’s see. Suffering as I do from high blood pressure I will have to take the AIG document in small bites [!] but I’ve made a start and will post on this from time to time.
Provocatively, Plimer calls creationism a "cult"; I prefer to speak of a sectarian mentality, but Plimer writes out of his Australian experience where the situation may be more polarised than in Britain. AIG objects to the word of course, but then declares "Creationism is simply the historic, evangelical, orthodox view of the Church, which has become more and more unpopular". For an article seeking to refute the charge of lying, to come out with this one early in the proceedings is pretty rich. Creationism depends on the notion of a "literal" reading of Genesis in a sense of the word which did not exist until modern times; it also seeks to defend the Bible on the basis of up-to-the-minute science so by definition it cannot be a historic doctrine. It has a history, part of the fundamentalist movement which is essentially a modernist reaction to the despised Enlightenment. To call the Protestant Reformers "creationists", for example, is simply anachronistic. Besides, what exactly are AIG’s credentials in declaring the content of evangelical orthodoxy? The evangelicals I know and the evangelical groups I have contacted are extremely wary about associating themselves with YE creationism, many of them saying, or words to this effect: this is not a core doctrine, and evangelicals are free to affirm it or not. The Church in its wider sense (which AIG regards as apostate, and the feeling is mutual) disowns creationism entirely. So much for it being "orthodox".
The other point I’ll pick up in this post is the earth’s flatness. Plimer says "flat earthism is a basic concept of biblical cosmology", offering a range of quotations to justify this, one might have thought, fairly uncontroversial assertion. AIG’s "rebuttal" runs to a few lines, referring the reader - assuming he has got this far, there cannot be so many as dogged as me, surely? - to the "clear-cut arguments in our literature, showing that flat-earthism was never biblical, nor was it widely held by Church fathers". Plimer is then accused of not knowing his Hebrew: well, excuse me, I don’t know Hebrew either but like Plimer I can look it up and my understanding is as follows. The "firmament" created on Day 2 need not necessarily have been solid, and the Hebrew word can mean "expanse". But the root meaning is "dome", and domes are solid: if the Genesis firmament is - heaven forbid! - a metaphorical one, the basis of comparison is still with a solid hemisphere, and that assumes a flat earth (see my early posting "Mummy mummy what’s a firmament").
What creationists won't acknowledge, of course, is that they have an axe to grind. They NEED the Bible not to have taught a flat earth, so they must find alternative interpretations for verses that seem clearly to point that way. For the rest of humanity nothing is assumed, it is not a matter of "scepticism", but of weighing the evidence. I am free to conclude either that the Bible teaches a flat earth or that it doesn't, nothing is at stake for me given my view of Scripture; but for creationists, everything is at stake, so they know in advance what the Bible can and cannot possibly say.
Plimer offers a number of killer arguments for Biblical flat-earthism which AIG ignores. Maybe its refutation of them is to be found in their literature, but if they are so devastating it would have been pertinent to reproduce them here. This much I know: NOWHERE in Scripture are we taught that the earth is a globe. The shape it isn’t - flat - is one issue, but might not the word of God, if its purpose is to convey some rudimentary science, have instructed us as to the shape it is?
More to come. I feel my blood pressure rising and I’m only on page 6. Another 54 to go.