Darel Rex Finley in 888

Twisted Excuses

2010.01.29   prev     next

A  couple posts ago I made an analogy that identified two different camps that have to resort to twisted excuses to explain why their position has so many discrepancies with the evidence. Those two camps are:

  • the young-earth scripturalists, who speculate that the speed of light may have been different in the past, and that this may somehow explain why our planet seems to be about four billion years old, when it’s really a mere six thousand years old, and

  • the evolutionists, who speculate about undiscovered mechanisms and wildly improbable mutations in order to keep their theory firmly established as scientific certainty.

Both of these camps are trying to force the evidence to fit what they were taught to be undeniable truth — trying to preserve a generations-old worldview from the dismaying possibility that it might be wrong.

Now I want to add a third camp to this list: the ID proponents (or typical ID proponents, anyway).

William Dembski, very likely the foremost figure in the ID movement, openly disagrees with the young-earth scripturalists, and makes clear his reasons why, which are pretty much the same as my own:

[Proposing that distant galaxies are an illusion or projection is] one approach [to preserving young-earth scripturalism]; the other is to monkey with the law of physics, in particular the speed of light, or try to get some sort of fix with general relativity where things distant from the Earth appear much older, but the Earth itself is much younger. But it’s always trying to do some sort of end-run around the plain reading that ... nature seems to be giving you. —“Unbelievable?” interview

But, like most ID proponents today, he then turns around and makes twisted, tortured “theodicy” excuses for the “evils” of this world:

Is the evil in the world actually purposeless? I mean, that’s the issue, isn’t it? Christian theology has, right along, taught that we have brought the evil on ourselves, that we are complicit in the evil we experience. Traditional, classical, Christian theology has always taught that the evil that we experience in the world, both natural and moral evil, has come through the sin of Adam and Eve.

Now, to modern and postmodern ears that sounds absolutely crazy. And in fact, that’s a big part of my book: trying to make that reasonable within the contemporary mindset.

But if we are, in fact, complicit in the evil that we experience, then there is purpose to the evil, because God uses that evil to, as it were, draw us back to Himself. If God constantly put out the evils that happen in the world — if you think of evil as a fire. There are lots of fires out there. Auschwitz. The Killing Fields. [The] Fort Hood [massacre]. But if God constantly put them out, or prevented them from happening, it would not allow us to understand that we are the ones who have— that we have evil in our hearts, and that it is the evil in our heart that is bringing about all these fires.

So God’s purpose with the evil is to put out, as it were, our disposition to start fires, not just the fires. And in fact, He needs evil, as it were, to bring us to our senses, to help us to understand what we did when we rebelled against Him. —“Messenger Insight” interview

Doesn’t Dembski see that he’s engaging in a virtually identical force-fit of the evidence to what he was taught, earlier in his life, to be undeniable truth? What if original-sin theodicy sounds crazy because it is crazy? What if the only thing that makes doubting original-sin theodicy particular to the “modern” and “postmodern” periods is that before those periods you easily could have been killed for bringing it up?

I can come close to agreeing with Dembski on some of his above points. I think that being burned by fire is not purposeless; it teaches us to be very careful with fire. Even the death of innocents can send us a powerful message about what we should be doing to reduce the chances that the tragedy will be repeated.

But what does being punished for the sin of Adam and Eve teach us? Nothing? That we’re screwed? That the Christian God has a really sick sense of “justice?” And tell me again: how do we even know that the story of Adam and Eve is true? (Irrespective of whether or not we were designed.)

Our World, Unrevised

Overwhelming evidence, unrevised by twisted excuses, clearly tells us that this planet is about four billion years old, and its universe is about fifteen billion years old.

Overwhelming evidence, unrevised by twisted excuses, clearly tells us that random mutation and natural selection didn’t, and probably can’t, generate the complex mechanics of the myriad lifeforms all around us.

And overwhelming evidence, unrevised by twisted excuses, clearly tells us that we have been put here to compete, challenge, change, experience, enjoy, love, hate, feel, fight, persuade, take, provide, control, submit, attack, defend, create, destroy, write, criticize — and in general to have exciting, interesting lives.

What if “evil” is as much a myth as the 6,000-year-old Earth, or the Darwinian evolution of complex adaptations? What if “evil” is just an ultra-serious term — badly freighted with religious baggage — for that which we individually dislike, and wish to control? What if Hitler needs to be stopped, not because he is “evil,” not because our God commands us to fight against “evil” — but simply because he is highly destructive, and we don’t want to be destroyed today?

And what would a world without “evil” be? How would that world work? Has Dembski even seriously attempted to answer that question? I propose that any attempt to answer it will result in either a maze of contradictions, or a sterile world in which nothing happens at all — a mere painting of a world that doesn’t really exist, anywhere. Because it can’t.

 

Update 2010.03.09 — added “original-sin” in two places

Update 2012.11.21 — grammatical correction at “could have been killed”

 

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