Friday, July 20, 2012

DfE labels evangelical Christians ‘extremist’


There’s been a bit of a hoo-ha over the past week about new free schools which have supposedly been licensed to teach ‘creationism’. It is a synthetic fuss, whipped up by the National Secular Society (NSS) and the British Humanist Association (BHA) which has been ably dissected by the Ecclesial Vermin (amongst others).

There is a good piece by Alan Judd in the Telegraph about why some free school applications fail.

That is ‘good’ in all respects bar one. Mr Judd tells us: “I help the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, with the vetting of free schools.” And then has this to say about faith-based applications:
The trouble is, as always, when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s evangelical Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews. Such applications need careful vetting, not because there shouldn’t be far-out religious and ideological beliefs, but because the taxpayer shouldn’t pay to propagate them – and because children should be able to participate in a wider society without having their horizons narrowed by fundamentalism.
Please note that this is a senior adviser to the Secretary of State for Education, involved in the vetting of applicants, who equates ‘evangelical’ with ‘totalitarian’ and ‘segregationist’, thereby writing off an entire corpus of Protestant theology and our nation’s history with murderous regimes and sectarian bigotry.

Certainly, there are one or two extremists who term themselves evangelical. But every denomination of every religion has its fanatics and extremists. Consider the outrage if Alan Judd had written:
...when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s Catholic Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews.
or
...when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s totalitarian Christians, Sunni Muslims or segregationist Jews.
or
...when it’s taken to extremes, whether it’s segregationist Christians, totalitarian Muslims or Orthodox Jews.
It is astonishing that he chose to qualify ‘Muslims’ and ‘Jews’ with adjectives of political oppression or separatism, but for Christians he singled out a distinct theological movement. It is evidence of a prejudicial mindset which some might term 'Christianophobic'.

If he had written (say) ‘sectarian Christians, totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews’, that would have shown impartiality. But he didn’t. And by choosing to disparage a particular branch of Christian theology, the DfE is pandering to the aggressive, extremist secular-humanist agendas of the NSS and the BHA.

One wonders what the personal religious beliefs of Alan Judd are.

Surely, in light his manifest prejudice against evangelical Christians, we ought to be told.

Evangelical Christians are used to this sort of treatment in Iran, where they are routinely portrayed as being 'corrupt' and 'deviant' like the Taliban. But research by the Evangelical Alliance suggests that they are (quite literally) a broad church, essentially unified theologically upon penal substitutionary atonement, justification by faith, the authority of Scripture, and the priesthood of all believers, but rather disparate on the politics of poverty alleviation and such social issues as abortion and homosexuality.

Evangelical Christians believe that Jesus died for our sins, and rose again from the dead. But this is not mere belief in a doctrine: it is inspiration to active involvement in society. A significantly high proportion of them tend to be trustees of registered charities, members of a political party, or serve as school governors.

Evangelical Christians also beat the national average for serving as councillors for their local authorities and as court magistrates. Astonishingly, a mammoth 91 per cent turned out to vote in the AV referendum (compared to 42 per cent nationally). 81 per cent of evangelicals do some kind of voluntary work at least once a month, contributing a total of around half a million hours each week to their communities. There is substantial evidence that they are more likely to be active in public life, making a huge investment of unpaid time and energy in the voluntary and community sector, in education and health services, in politics and in the trade union movement.

So it is no surprise that evangelical Christians are applying to establish their own free schools. Without 18th-century evangelicals, there would have been no movement towards state education at all.

So please, Mr Judd, do not conflate evangelical Christians with totalitarian Muslims or segregationist Jews, for the singing of Shine, Jesus, Shine ought not to be equated with those enemies of liberal democracy who seek to impose sharia and blow us all to kingdom come.

124 Comments:

Blogger NamromMit said...

This is one of the best articles I have read on this site.

20 July 2012 at 10:42  
Blogger MrTinkles said...

Yay...I'm an extremist!...no longer a flabby liberal!

Seriously though, you wonder what's going on here. Is it that he really believes evangelicals are extremists?

Or is it that he has no idea what the term evangelical means?

20 July 2012 at 10:52  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

David Blunkett said the same a few years back when talking about terrorist threats : conflating "far right evangelical Christians" (!!!) with Muslim extremists like Hizballah.

The ignorant, evangelical fervour with which evangelical Christians are castigated, ridiculed, maligned, , marginalised & misunderstood would be funny if it weren't so downright abusive & prejudicial towards some of the most socially active, philanthropic members of our society

20 July 2012 at 10:55  
Blogger The Justice of the Peace said...

Evangelical Christians also beat the national average for serving as councillors for their local authorities and as court magistrates.


Perhaps you could name your source please?

20 July 2012 at 11:19  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Interesting in the context of the debate about anti-Catholicism in the thread below.

I find I am content to celebrate the work done by my evangelical brothers and sisters, as aptly described in the article. True, I think they're quite wrong on Creationism (soft or otherwise), but then Our Lord did not appear to make grasping fundamental principles of Physics and Biology the measure by which He would take stock of our achievements (something, I am daily grateful for). In the measures He did provide: feed and clothe your brother, love God with all your heart, the evangelical wing of the Eternal Church sets an example that is often to the shame of those of us who consider ourselves to be a part of the "mature" and "considered" Church (in whatever denominational flavour you prefer).

20 July 2012 at 11:21  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

JP:

http://www.inspiremagazine.org.uk/news?newsaction=view&newsid=5609

(Just from a brief Google - HG may have had a different source).

20 July 2012 at 11:23  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Interesting - it appears to be a statistic derived from working out the proportion of evangelicals vs. the proportion of the population as a whole who are Magistrates or Councillors. As Stats-bods will know, this is a very silly way of measuring things. Obviously, not just a grasp on science that is lacking.

Still, the AV marker is a reasonable one - and as I said, some of those measures have greater cosmic significance than others.

20 July 2012 at 11:29  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Mr Tinkles said: "Seriously though, you wonder what's going on here. Is it that he really believes evangelicals are extremists? Or is it that he has no idea what the term evangelical means"

I suspect the latter, Mr Tinkles. One might have thought that with all the emphasis being given to religion, and particularly extremist religion, in the public sphere at the moment, someone would have figured out the value of religious education. If one is going to deal with religious belief systems, one ought to know how they actually work. Unfortunately, those with the most to say about religion, and Christianity in particular, are all too often those who understand it the least; it's like someone who can wire a plug giving their opinion on how to fix the Large Hadron Collider.

Being a theologian and observing public discourse like this is a bit like being a physicist and watching Star Trek.

20 July 2012 at 11:38  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

20 July 2012 at 11:39  
Blogger Galant said...

Whilst Cranmer's tongue might be firmly tongue in cheek for it, the line, "...the singing of Shine, Jesus, Shine ought not to be..." is yet another caricature of Evangelical faith. "Happy clappy" Christians with music focusing more on simple emotion than theology. To some extent it's true. Yet on the other side of things, we find that the Evangelical church is leading the Church world wide in the production of worship music, such that a few times a week I can lean out of my window and hear songs written by modern, Evangelical, 'worship leaders' being rehearsed and sung inside the Roman Catholic church opposite. I wonder if Evangelical Christians are not the most misunderstood branch of the Church in existence today. Perhaps a little too much denominational snobbery going on?

20 July 2012 at 11:42  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Could someone define 'Evangelical Christianity' as it seems to mean different things to different people?

20 July 2012 at 11:47  
Blogger Flossie said...

I think the truth is that in the past, atheists and the like could take us or leave us, when we were middle-of-the road, non-judgmental generally nice people who did good deeds and proliferated in the caring professions, never making any trouble.

The rise of evangelicalism, with Bible-believing Christians who are not afraid to pronounce loudly on moral issues, is a threat to them. Therefore they must be labelled 'extremist' so that they can be reviled and opposed.

I don't think it's denominational snobbery. 'Happy clappy', while not my cup of tea at all, appears to be attractive to a lot of enthusiastic young people, who are even more of a threat than old fuddy-duddies like me.

20 July 2012 at 11:54  
Blogger Gerard Stubbert said...

Part of this confusion is deliberate. The self styled "creationist" seek to portray themselves as mainstream Christians, and seek to equate anybody who accepts that God created the universe accepts their nutty version that the universe was created on 26th October 4004 BC, in the evening - is that Ur time or Armagh time I wonder?

We should abandon their misleading description of themselves and call them what they are - swivel-eyed young universe nutjobs.

20 July 2012 at 12:06  
Blogger Galant said...

"Could someone define 'Evangelical Christianity' as it seems to mean different things to different people?"

There's a bit of debate on that, which I think Cranmer summarised pretty well. I think the main thing is an attempt to authentically reproduce simple, Biblical Christianity without necessary attachment to a tradition (although tradition need not be excluded). It an attempt to get to the heart of the Christian faith and live it.

20 July 2012 at 12:11  
Blogger Galant said...

With regards the "creationists", if I may, I'd ask people to consider holding off on their broad-sweeping insults and denigrations. It's un-loving and un-Christian.

This issue is a complicated one, and I'm not just talking about the science.

Most Christians have problems with evolution because they have a high view of Scripture, and in questions of contradiction they side with Scripture. It's not that they don't appreciate or value science, it's that they don't necessarily trust scientists when so much of what is put forward as science is also put forward as being anti-God - atheistic. So when you've got someone who is atheistic and antagonistic towards your faith, who is putting out science which seemingly undermines your faith, then I think it's understandable that some might not want to simply accept what they're being told.

Additionally, the nature of the science of evolution and the Big Bang Theory is such that the historical, unrepeatable aspect of it lends itself to being open to question or interpretation.

All this considered, and the fact that the science is so expansive that the average person can't understand it all but must take most of what they're told at face value - and I think it's rather childish, un-Christian and reprehensible to insult people, most if not all of whom, have genuine questions and good-hearted intentions and desires.

More listening, teaching and exploration please - less insulting.

20 July 2012 at 12:26  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Flossie - the rise of Evangelicalism really got going in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door. I think you mean the rise of Christian fundamentalism, which began life as an 'ism' in the late 19th century in response to growing liberal, modernist and revisionist trends.

Also, Evangelical does not mean happy clappy. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is about as far from 'happy clappy' as it's possible to get, yet is still evangelical. All those dour, "Forgive me Lord for I have smiled", ban-theatre-and-Christmas Puritans of cariacature were also Evangelicals.

'Evangelical' comes from the Greek Eu Angelion, which means the Good News, i.e. the Gospels, so in one sense all Christianity is Evangelical (with the possible exception of very liberal Anglicanism - who knows where those ideas come from?).

Evangelical as a classification was used originally to distinguish those who followed Scripture Alone (i.e. Protestants) like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli etc., from Roman Catholics, who in addition to Scripture have the Tradition of the Church. In England, the Church of England contained (and still does) Evangelicals (like His Grace, Latimer, Ridley and Hooper) and Catholics (like Gardiner and Bonner), and various shades in between.

Common factors amongst Evangelicals are things like: Sufficiency of Scripture, an emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for human sin, preaching, prayer and the need for personal conversion and experience of God's Grace (being born again).

Beyond that, Evangelicalism is an extremely broad group: Charismatic Evangelicals tend to emphasise revivalism and the direct and continuing work of the Holy Spirit (e.g. talking in tongues, faith healing, and other 'happy, clappiness'), Conservative Evangelicals tend to place a very high value on Scriptural teaching and atonement for sin, Liberal/Open Evangelicals place more emphasis on moving with the times. These groups form a spectrum; they are not absolute. Evangelicals include Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and a dazzling array of independent Churches.

Most fundamentalists are Evangelical but by no means all Evangelicals are fundamentalists - remember George Carey? Fundamentalism itself is not a euphemism for 'liable to commit acts of terrorism'; it describes the attempt to define Christianity in terms of things which must be believed for someone to qualify as Christian - the Nicene Creed is an example of fundamentalism.

This sort of basic theological comprehension is evidently too much for the likes of Mr. Judd, who at one stroke dismisses a vast and kaleidoscopic Christian tradition as a tiny and extremist sect.

20 July 2012 at 13:04  
Blogger Flossie said...

Phew! That shut me up, didn't it? Let us say that the Man on the Clapham Omnibus's view (as opposed to that of Mr Judd)is that 'Evangelical' equates to 'Happy Clappy'.

20 July 2012 at 13:10  
Blogger Albert said...

Rather extraordinary to find this kind of stuff in print. If he had been speaking on the radio - being harassed by John Humphreys or someone, I would have assumed he mis-spoke, but in a written article, this kind of thing is unacceptable.

For the record, I think creationists are extremists. But I note two things:

(i) Not all Evangelicals are creationists.
(ii) Creationism is a kind of exegetical extremism. Politically, the term "extremism" is connected with violence. There is no such connotation with creationism.

These comments are totally out of place. He should apologise.

20 July 2012 at 13:31  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

The views of the man on the Clapham Omnibus I can live with; Mr. Judd, however, is acting in an expert capacity when he is clearly not an expert, advising Michael Gove on which religious beliefs are acceptable and which are not.

Having Mr. Judd advising the Government on religious matters is like having someone with a D in GCSE Triple Science advising the Government on nuclear safety. I had hoped Michael Gove, with all his talk about improving educational standards, would have known better.

20 July 2012 at 13:33  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Darter Noster

Really your saying the label doesn't mean terribly much as there appears to be as many variations within what you define as a protestant movement as there is between it and other protestant cults. The point is spreading the correct message and this is where an absence of a common doctrine becomes a problem.

Terribly confusing, I'd say.

Surely the Apostles and early disciples were evangelists? Aren't all Christians called to be active in transforming the world and spreading the Gospel? I'd say Catholics are evangelists too.

20 July 2012 at 13:33  
Blogger Darter Noster said...

Dodo:

Absolutely - Evangelical is a term which encompasses a vast array of Christian beliefs and practices.

In much the same way, the term Catholic also encompasses a vast range of possibilities. Evangelicals are Catholics and Catholics are Evangelicals.

Evangelical, like Catholic, has become much narrower in common parlance, and both terms are commonly used to describe particular groups within Christianity; there is nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that, especially in an official capacity like Mr Judd's, we have to be very careful how we use them and very clear about what we mean by them.

But, however one defines Evangelical, it doesn't mean what Mr. Judd is taking it to mean.

20 July 2012 at 13:49  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Great. It appears I have a few other epithets I can add to my personal moniker now.

As well as being an intolerant, homophobic, racist, hateful, denying, extremist, islamaphobic bigot - I can now add "swivel-eyed nutjob" & "exegetical extremist"!

I think you have to be an "exegetical Houdini" to avoid the conclusion that God didn't create the universe & populate it with life. It's not just Genesis 1 & 2 you have to ignore (chapters of scripture the Lord Jesus seemed more than happy to quote from authoritatively) but pretty much parts from every other book of the canon of scripture.

But if inspired scripture isn't really your thing, maybe the apostles creed:

"I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth"

Or the Nicene Creed:

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible."

Or the 1st of the 39 articles:

"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible."

Creationist & proud :o)

20 July 2012 at 14:06  
Blogger Nick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

20 July 2012 at 14:12  
Blogger Nick said...

The irony is that people who express these kinds of theophobic views come across as authoritarian and intolerant themselves. It doesn't surprise me that such views exist - it just reinforces the need for those of religious faith to hold on to their beliefs more firmly. Frankly, the more I hear of this kind of bigotted atheistic cant, the more it makes me want to affirm my own faith. In other words, its time for the Church to show some B@lls and speak out against these views with some conviction

20 July 2012 at 14:14  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Ah, the origin of the universe again. What ho !

The Inspector too has his doubts about the ‘right’ explanation. I mean really, something out of nothing via a process called a ‘big bang’. Of course, it’s true isn’t it ? Ah, not quite - everything points to that being the start, but we just don’t know for sure. Did it happen without divine or any other command. Well, if it didn’t, it would be the first and only occurrence when a process failed to adhere to the law of cause and effect.

That’s true you know. NOTHING happens unless something causes it, ask any scientist. And while you’re asking him that, do inquire as to whether they’ve located the tremendous amount of missing mass in the universe, the so called ‘dark’ stuff. If he says he hasn’t found it yet, ask him another. Why is he so damn sure his idea on the beginning of the universe is so spot on...

Ah, to be in the fifth form again...

pip pip !

20 July 2012 at 14:23  
Blogger Galant said...

Quoting Stott, "John Stott’s short book Evangelical Truth is his exposition of the “principle tenants” of evangelicalism.[1] He starts with a concern that the term “evangelical” has been misunderstood and confused with other positions.[2] His chief task initially is to show how evangelicalism is not the same as fundamentalism, as he offers ten differences between the two theological positions. In general, Stott finds evangelicalism to be a more positive statement of Christianity in almost every respect compared to fundamentalism. Stott then goes on to define evangelicalism as the Trinitarian Gospel of Jesus Christ (Christological, biblical, historical; or theological, apostolic and personal).[3] The first essential is revelation from God. Stott says that evangelicals must first defend the Word of God as “infallible” special revelation.[4] The next essential is the cross of Christ, seen in how evangelicals defend justification by faith. Stott finds this second emphasis on the cross to be the “hallmark of evangelical Christianity.”[5] Lastly, Stott writes about the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. While he argues that the Holy Spirit has been the “neglected” member of the Trinity, Stott still argues that the Spirit has an active role for evangelicals. Stott’s definition of evangelicalism goes to the heart of the Christian faith and connects with the early theology of the church in understanding the Trinity."

From here: http://unityintruth.com/?p=28

20 July 2012 at 14:44  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Great man, Stott. A Paul of the modern age, and already sorely missed.

20 July 2012 at 14:49  
Blogger Albert said...

Rebel Saint,

My comment about exegetical extremism was not about belief in creation (how can a Catholic deny that?), but in creationism. I.e. the kinds of viewpoints that attempt to take Genesis 1 literally, as a kind of accurate natural history. God made the world in 6 days, evolution is a false description of the history of the world, the world in only 6000 years old etc.

20 July 2012 at 15:23  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

Dodo,

"a protestant movement as there is between it and other protestant cults."

I wondered when you'd get around to restating your negative views about Protestants.

To be fair , being protestant does not automatically make up into a cult or a cult member. I am not sure Belfast or Carl Jacobs would think of themselves as being in a cult.

20 July 2012 at 15:29  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

@ Albert,

I always thought creationism was slightly more sophisticated than that. Wasn't there a court case a couple of years ago about teaching it is school as they tried to argue it was a science theory and the other side got the courts to say it went against America's constitution of separate Church and state, as it was a religious teaching and not a science one (or is that something else)?

Actually I'll google it, but would appreciate your thoughts anyway.

20 July 2012 at 15:33  
Blogger Albert said...

Paul,

I wasn't meaning to say that creationism was all of those things all of the time. Some creationists are clearly young earthers. Others are not, but they deny evolution on scriptural grounds. An interesting discussion would be over whether proponents of Intelligent Design are creationists.

The point I would want to make would be that schools should not teach theological opinions as science (any more than science should be taught as theology or philosophy). The Bible is a not a scientific textbook. Apart from being bad science, it is bad theology arising from an anthropomorphic view of God - the very thing the Bible is against.

It's useful to see what pre-modern Christians thought about the relationship between evidence and exegesis. Here's Augustine:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth…about the motion and orbit of the stars...about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge they hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics…If they [non-Christians] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our Bible, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow.

And here's Aquinas:

Since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation, only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it, if it be proved with certainty to be false; lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.

Wise words, in my opinion. Augustine is also helpful exegetically, insofar as he shows a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 & 2 is not just wrong, but impossible. That such great thinkers could say these things before science showed Genesis is not literal history is significant, and for those who are troubled by science, reassuring.

20 July 2012 at 15:53  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

Good old google. I misplaced Creationism as being Intelligent Design , which is an offshoot of creationism.

From Wikipedia :

"Intelligent design (ID) is a form of creationism promulgated by the Discovery Institute. The Institute defines it as the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, presented by its advocates as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" rather than "a religious-based idea". The leading proponents of intelligent design are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank and believe the designer to be the Christian deity."

20 July 2012 at 15:53  
Blogger Paul Twigg said...

@Albert,

I think our posts have crossed, as I've just looked this up- I was indeed thinking of Intelligent Design specifically in my earlier post, but couldn't think of the name.

I agree that religious texts shouldn't be taught as science or visa versa. I do think that the philosophy of science would be a good subject to teach as well.

20 July 2012 at 15:58  
Blogger Albert said...

Paul,

I do think that the philosophy of science would be a good subject to teach as well.

I completely agree. If that were done, people would be far less dim-witted when it comes to religious matters, and naturalism would no longer be thought of as the 'default' position for society. It would enable people to evaluate science, while still being open to questions of meaning and morality. It would undermine the alleged choice between science and religion. It would mean that wikipedia would not include such silly lines as:

certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection

Whether natural selection is "undirected" is a philosophical question - a metaphysical one. Here the author has slipped from science into philosophy and shows himself to be in the same intellectual category mistake as the creationist.

But there's not much hope of philosophy of science being taught in schools any time soon. Secularists have much too much to lose from it, and much too much to gain from keeping such information from young minds.

20 July 2012 at 16:16  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

All sections of society are demented in their own way, to varying extremes.

20 July 2012 at 16:46  
Blogger Galant said...

Albert - not sure I understand your point about natural selection being "undirected".

Are you simply saying that to talk of such things is to move into the realm of philosophy, or are you saying something more about the scientific understanding of natural selection itself?

20 July 2012 at 16:48  
Blogger Albert said...

Galant,

It depends on what is meant by being "undirected". Darwin knew of pigeons being bred for particularly purposes. That selection was clearly directed. In that sense, natural selection is undirected. But that is not the sense in which God directs creation (if he did he would be a kind of large pigeon fancier, rather than God).

We could say that God directs the universe insofar as it follows laws. Laws of nature are not explanations, they are largely descriptions of observed regularities. What is the explanation for those regularities - on atheism, there is none. Theism says they are directed by a mind - and this mind, we call "God".

So science simply observes and describes the patterns of behaviour found in nature. Whether or not nature's behaviour needs a cause outside of itself, is not a matter science can answer. Thus, all talk of natural selection being undirected, is unscientific. We would only know if nature were not directed if we knew that nature was all that existed. But that is a philosophical question, not a scientific one.

20 July 2012 at 17:13  
Blogger Anna Albion said...

Hi Guys,

I think that there is a creator G-d, look at the wonderful universe around us.

20 July 2012 at 17:13  
Blogger Galant said...

Albert - Thank you. I think this issue brings us right into the issue of what is science and what motivates are pursuit of it?

The quote you shared seems to illustrate something rather well. That is, a scientist engaged in observing the physical world notes the facts of what he or she sees, however, scientists do not stop there. They being to look for mechanisms, they begin to ask, "How?" and "Why?" As soon as questions are asked, then answers are presupposed, and yet, answers can come in any form, not just physical. So it is, that the very act of questioning opens up the doors to philosophy or perhaps, is the foundation of philosophy itself. So do we then say that science itself is, and can only be, fact finding? Collectors of data?

20 July 2012 at 17:26  
Blogger graham wood said...

To dub 'evangelical Christians as "extremists" is an obvious slur and without the slightest justification.

Here is a quick test of the claim:

How many 'evangelical' Christians (or any others) have been indicted in our courts over the years for violent behaviour, or for verbally abusive language, or displaying posters at demos with such words as "Kill all infidels" & etc, and needing to be restrained by riot police?

20 July 2012 at 17:28  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Yes Anna. The is definitely an order to things. Here’s a nasty word, ‘hierarchy’ - Everything fits into it, no matter how humble or great the organism is. The only creature who doesn’t is man himself. The sole exception. A bit of a thicko is man, as he lurches about the place plundering that order, nature, as well as killing his brother. It’s almost as if man was created by an intelligence, to have mastery over the planet. Surely not, as that would suggest we are here for a purpose...

20 July 2012 at 17:41  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Good Lord, Bred in the Bone !

How, why, and from where ! Not humanity, though the question applies equally, but that erstwhile bottle washer in chief who hast returned...

20 July 2012 at 17:46  
Blogger Shacklefree said...

Galant said, "Most Christians have problems with evolution because they have a high view of Scripture".

No! Christians who have problems with evolution do so because it is bad science. The evidence is overwhelming that evolution BY CHANCE is not scientifically credible.

20 July 2012 at 19:39  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Scientists just love predicting intelligent alien life. It has to be, the chances are overwhelming they tell us. Not one shred of evidence has come to light. Yet they quite happily slam the door of creation to that of intelligent design. Still, aliens are the flavour of the month. Have been since those tawdry B movies from the US from the early fifties. Oh, there’s the evidence then, science fiction writers...

20 July 2012 at 19:51  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

Inspector General, what an old die hard...

I have been busy in the midst of the battle, in the spirit of the matter.

A spirit in matter is involution, which is why we turn the matter upside down and inside out, looking into the matter from all angles

20 July 2012 at 20:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Er yes, that’s it Bred in the Bone. One finds the matter is best viewed from underneath with it's legs slightly apart, if one follows what you are saying...

{AHEM}

20 July 2012 at 21:12  
Blogger Mr Veale said...

Mr Judd defines Creationism as

"essentially, the assertion that the universe is not evolving but was created much as it is by a single deity and centred on us".

That is a reasonable, if rough, definition of Young Earth Creationism. So it should be clear that Creationism is not part and parcel of Evangelicalism. The "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy", a conservative evangelical statement of belief, refused to take a stance on the issue, despite pressure from Young Earth Creationists like Henry Morris.
"Saints and Sceptics", an evangelical organisation I am helping to build, had to work hard to produce a good, robust definition of an evangelical. If you follow the links on this page - http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/about-us/what-we-believe/

- you should be more enlightened than Mr Judd. I do not know of any evangelical Confession or Document that insists on Young Earth Creationism. Journalists, and government advisers, would be well-advised to read JI Packer and Thomas C Oden's "One Faith."

G Veale

20 July 2012 at 21:14  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

{AHEM} Er, yes I only stick my head up my arse, to see what the Government are doing.

Oh, I say, they don't call it Big Brother for nowt!!

20 July 2012 at 21:52  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Inspector @ 19.51 says, 'Scientists just love predicting intelligent alien life. It has to be, the chances are overwhelming they tell us. Not one shred of evidence has come to light.'

What cannot be denied is the sheer volume of credible witness statements, photos and videos of strange appearances. If the body of evidence ever develops to the stage where there is concrete proof of alien life, a great deal of religious thinking may need to be urgently reviewed.

This communicant notes that the Vatican has already hedged its position in this regard and concedes that extra-terrestrial life may be a possibility. Copernicus, it would appear, is a lesson learned.

20 July 2012 at 22:07  
Blogger Preacher said...

Life on this Planet is so complex when studied closely that logically there had to be a Creator.
Contemplate for a moment the complex sequence of events of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, entailing metamorphoses where the creature in the pupa becomes a 'soup' of its components. Then reforms completely as an unrecognisable different form.
Now don't ask how?, ask Why?.

Anyway I guess that by modern standards, Jesus would have been classed as an extremist & a radical. Suits me to inherit His mantle.

Blessings. Preacher.

20 July 2012 at 22:50  
Blogger Albert said...

Galant,

So do we then say that science itself is, and can only be, fact finding? Collectors of data?

No, I would go further and say that they should construct theories and hypotheses to explain the data they collect. Their assumptions for these explanations should be naturalistic, for it to remain science.

But more light would be shed on this is we returned to the old way of referring to a scientist: a natural philosopher. Science is just a branch of philosophy. It's methods and assumptions need to be challenged and investigated. Above all, scientists who stray into other areas of philosophy as if they were still doing science should be challenged, and if they still don't check themselves, ridiculed.

20 July 2012 at 22:58  
Blogger Mr Veale said...

Creationism actually encompasses a complex spectrum of views.

Anyone interested - and you need a lot of free time on your hands - could do worse than start here:

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Evolution/index.html

20 July 2012 at 23:23  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Albert:

On the money as usual. There's a great essay I'll try and dig out that suggests that Creationism does not owe its origins to a failure in scientific knowledge, but rather to an absence of philosophical debate that renders both sides unintelligible to each other.

21 July 2012 at 02:37  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thank you for highlighting this man's hubris, Your Grace.
By what standard and through whose favour, one must ask, has he risen to advise the Big Brother of Education?

What a horrible place Britain is. If we have any "Free" schools, then I'm a Dutchman.

-----
That said, thank you Mr. Darter Noster for setting the record straight on "Evangelical."

I can only reiterate that we owe the first development of our education to schools set up by Christian Romans, then to those run by Insular Christians. In England, the greater establishment came with Theodore and Hadrian (AD 668 ff), through whom we helped preserve the Greek education that was falling into disuse as Romans power decined.

And then there was Alfred (AD 848-99): who, after 871, saved our carefully nurtured civilisaton from destruction by Vikings. He helped us to preserve word-use under the influence of the Word, to the Glory of His Truth: and in English.

After the damage inflicted by the Normans, it was again our own Christian monks who preserved our language and literacy against foreign destruction --- until such time as we began again to emerge into our own. It took so long: to Magna Carta and beyond, until after Chaucer and the first Reformation (Wyclif (ADc1330-84)), when Henry V (rAD 1413-22) began to use English as the official language, once more. Like those early Christians, he knew he had to speak to us in our own language, if he wanted our cooperation and understanding.

After nearly 700 years of relative freedom, who now will rescue us from the predations of the Neu Pagans? For that they are, to whom words (in any language) are merely a smoke and mirrors act... bubbles of "aery nothing"** to be used purely for the glory of liars, tricksters, powermongers, and tyrants. Our self-appointed masters now turn all words against us, and they presume to rear our children in their perverted image.

And we let them.

Thank you again, Your Grace, for providing a platform that seeks to clarify the prevailing dynamics.
___________________

PS: I must say "...Kingdom Come" looks very attractive, compared to the here and now rag-bag.

21 July 2012 at 05:45  
Blogger non mouse said...

** Citation cont'd...
Theseus:
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to aery nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination
...
How easy is a bush supposed a bear.
(MSNV.i.12-22)
____
I use the reference to argue that the "poet's pen" parallels "Our Masters' fictions."

And further, as Anne Barton points out, "[...] while it is certainly possible to mistake a bush for a bear, one may also err as Theseus does by confounding a genuine bear with a bush. The second mistake is, on the whole, the more dangerous." (Foreword to MSN 253).
__________________________
**Shakespeare, W. A Midsummer Night's Dream. The Riverside Shakespeare. General Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. 2nd. ed. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1997; 256-283.

21 July 2012 at 07:13  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "It’s almost as if man was created by an intelligence, to have mastery over the planet."

But what sort of monster would deliberately create a biological system containing so much pain as part of its natural mechanism?

21 July 2012 at 08:46  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

The church I went to as a child was held by a very evengelical CofE vicar.
He preached against evolution.
In other words, he told deliberatre LIES in public, andused his office to do it.
In fact, that was the start of my journey top atheism - his telling of that lie woke me up to what else might not be quite right with (his) religion, and then, later all religion.

Evangelicals, like those who seem to have infiltrated the National Trust, and who try to push cretyinism (oops "creationism") in schools are deliberatre liars.
No.
We don't want them, any more than any other religious liars, bet they RC, muslim or communist!

21 July 2012 at 08:49  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

On your knees, Souris ,to kiss the feet of the Norman invaders who enriched the English language and made it the sumptuous and splendid vehicle for communication that it is today.
The bush /bear
fact/fiction
is a continual topic of often heated debate amongst poets who are as divided, militant and belligerent as the Chritians on this site.
If Galileo had written his treatise in verse about the earth moving he may have been spared the Inquisition.I will leave you to ponder this as you keel your pot on this Sabbath's morn.

21 July 2012 at 08:57  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Tingey:

Liar has a specific meaning, and one which, remarkably, you don't appear to understand. Stones in glass houses and all that.

21 July 2012 at 09:18  
Blogger Albert said...

Tingay,

In other words, he told deliberatre LIES in public, andused his office to do it.
In fact, that was the start of my journey top atheism - his telling of that lie woke me up to what else might not be quite right with (his) religion, and then, later all religion


I would have thought an Anglican clergyman preaching against evolution would be pretty unusual. What was he positively preaching? After all, there are gaps in our grasp of evolutionary history and difficulties that can be quite properly discussed - there wouldn't be much for evolutionary biologists to do if there weren't.

But with regard to your predicament, I refer to my earlier quotation of St Augustine.

Have you ever investigated the lies atheists have told?

21 July 2012 at 09:27  
Blogger Albert said...

Cressida,

If Galileo had written his treatise in verse about the earth moving he may have been spared the Inquisition.

He also would have probably got away with it, if he hadn't put the Pope's arguments into the mouth of a fellow he called "Simplicio".

21 July 2012 at 09:29  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

DanJ0 said ...

" ... what sort of monster would deliberately create a biological system containing so much pain as part of its natural mechanism?"

The answer to the existance of physical and moral evil are contained within scripture and have been debated by man since the beginning of time.

I don't suppose your particular 'bible', written by JS Mills, deals with this topic. Got your arguments all neatly laid out and ready, have you?

21 July 2012 at 09:39  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

What sort of monster would do that, Dodo? Why create a system of evolution by natural selection which relies on predation and all the pain that causes our fellow animals? It's diabolical.

21 July 2012 at 09:53  
Blogger Albert said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

21 July 2012 at 10:07  
Blogger Albert said...

Well obviously, God is not a Millsian utilitarian. The reason God uses evolution is known only to him. However, it strikes me that a good God choosing to create, may choose to permit that universe to participate in its own creation (in the sense of creating new forms). Such a God may not wish to "interfere" with it, because to do so would be constantly to undermine the nature of the things he has created.

Secondly, to quote from Aquinas:

As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

The process he chooses enables creation to participate in the act, without its nature being undermined. It permits evil, this is true, but so that from the evil, God can produce good.

Whether I'm on the right lines or not, I don't know. But it seems to me that it is sufficient to deal with Dan's objection. It's also worth noting that this is entirely consistent with how he behaves in Christ: from the evil of crucifixion, he produces the good of salvation.

21 July 2012 at 10:09  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

What do you think, Dodo? Is this monster not bound by some sort of cosmic doctrine of double effect? Or is it all just one of those 'mysteries' that cause the reality carpet to look a bit lumpy?

21 July 2012 at 10:31  
Blogger Albert said...

Anyone who uses the term "bound" in relation to God, shows he is not an atheist, as he cannot be talking of God.

21 July 2012 at 11:03  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Dodo, it seems like you're doubly-blessed today. Unlike most Christians, you seem to have two would-be saviours trying to save you from your just deserts. Though both are failing so far, I'd say. ;)

21 July 2012 at 11:13  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Albert @ 10.09, what an excellent quote, 'As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.'

Only recently this communicant was both chastised and scourged by Messrs Dodo and AIB for having the temerity to suggest, in the context of St Augustine's doctrine of Just War, that man could use evil to do good.

If God in his infinite goodness can allow evil, and out of it produce good, why cannot a man made in the image of God do the same?

QED.

21 July 2012 at 12:49  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

bluedog

Because God is God and man is man. God can do no evil - it contradicts His nature.

Permitting evil to exist and permitting the universe to unfold and giving man free will within it, is not God actively initiating evil.

As I read Genesis, God's creation was good and complete until evil came along from a source other than man or God - Satan.

Christians understand that both physical and moral evil entered the world from this source not God, and that from this a greater good comes - man being joined with the Godhead through Christ.

QED?

21 July 2012 at 13:57  
Blogger Albert said...

Not quite Bluedog. It is one thing to permit evil, it is quite another to do evil.

21 July 2012 at 13:58  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Our man Dodo seems rather quiet on this. Perhaps he has something to say about the responsibility of the so-called Prime Mover in doing this version of the creation?

21 July 2012 at 17:05  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Or perhaps a Garden of Eden version suits him more than some sort of evolutionary one?

21 July 2012 at 17:07  
Blogger non mouse said...

Yes, Bluedog and Albert... that is a good quote from Augustine, explaining the Christian paradox.

As Chaucer and Milton both illustrated, we are the Fallen part of Creation. However, we continue to exercise free will. Like Satan's Angels and Adam and Eve, we take the consequences.

Our will nowadays involves strutting about on hind legs, surveying our own creation. It's easy to see what strange, pathetic, animals we are if ... god-like ... we look down on a busy street from a high building.

And yet (or perhaps "so"), He redeems us for Sacrificing his Son to Men. Still exercising oblivion, we're slow to learn, even as we sacrifice all other life to our material ends.

I amuse myself by wondering if that's why we're stuck out here so far away from anything we might recognise. We only get to destroy one tiny, beautiful, planet. We're a sublime example of Damage Control through Multiplication.

21 July 2012 at 18:14  
Blogger Alissa1989 said...

I can't believe Alan Judd said that. Initially I was outraged to be classed with a totalitarian or segregrationist anything. Then I realised he doesn't know what the word means. Should he really be advising the Government??

DanJ0: it does seem against the character of God (as seen in the Bible) to create using evolution, which involves so much pain and early death, to animals as well as humans. This was one of the questions that bothered me when I was considering becoming a Christian.

21 July 2012 at 18:40  
Blogger Albert said...

I don't see how evolution is more cruel than nature, per se, but perhaps, I'm missing something.

But if one accepts that the cruelty of nature is consistent with God's goodness, then surely the fact that by evolution, God is able to bring more good from the cruelty of nature (in the form of new creatures, species diversity etc.) hardly makes evolution a problem. It surely makes the problem of evil less of a problem than we've already got.

In addition, evolution explains a great deal about why bits of us and other creatures don't work terribly well. Much harder to deal with if you believe in immediate design and creation.

21 July 2012 at 19:23  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

Genesis does not contradict science.

For me there is not necessarily a contradiction between evolution and a belief in God creating a specific and perfected man and woman. Nor is there any necessary contradiction between the idea that evolution could halt and be perfected at any given moment.

I believe in an omnipotent God.

21 July 2012 at 19:33  
Blogger non mouse said...

All this focus on death and suffering... But then, that's precisely the problem that Evangelism addresses.

As Titus pointed out: "Unto the pure all things are pure" (1:15,16), and so it can be argued that death is not necessarily a bad thing. Some who suffer inordinately, and are purified thereby, may pray for death to come. His Grace knows all about that.

And for atheists: they profess that (in)human existence ends purely with decomposition of the flesh... So, why should death signify? In any case, it is not chemically or bio-chemically an end. What's so bad about a change of (bio-)chemical state? Why should they care?

Presumably we all still know that Hamlet meditated on the subject thusly:
[...] to die, to sleep----
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep----
To sleep, perchance to Dream---- ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause; [...]
(Hamlet III.1.59-67*)

For we who accept the Good News, our pause leads to the conclusion that 'it all depends.' If some who "die" consciously or existentially pass into a situation of greater evil: that's because they chose evil while "in earth." We hope that Evangelism will help all to modify their choices before the "dust" decomposes.

And any who accept the Gospel and successfully avail themselves of Redemption? Deo Gratias they move to a better place, and loved ones left behind "in earth" hope to join them in good time. These heirs will act accordingly, because such death is "devoutly to be wished" --in a happier sense than Hamlet's.

Any government is therefore at least misguided --in preventing people from treating earthly existence as a path towards Eternal Life. And men like Judd corrupt Education into false evangelism.

__________

Shakespeare, W. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Riverside as cited above. 1189-1234.

21 July 2012 at 21:01  
Blogger non mouse said...

PS: I mean "Eternal Life in Christ," of course not a place full of wine and harems.

So, with St. Paul,I say -- "Let not then your good be evil spoken of:/ for the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness. and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. 14:15-16).

21 July 2012 at 21:10  
Blogger Albert said...

Non mouse,

As Titus pointed out: "Unto the pure all things are pure" (1:15,16), and so it can be argued that death is not necessarily a bad thing.

Difficult, I think. St Paul says:

For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
[26] The last enemy to be destroyed is death.


So death is the enemy - the last enemy in fact. There is nothing good in it. Nothing at all. It may be that God uses death in the same way as God uses all sorts of evils that he permits (cf. the earlier quotations from Augustine/Aquinas), but in itself death is the enemy.

21 July 2012 at 21:45  
Blogger bluedog said...

Albert @ 19.23 says, 'I don't see how evolution is more cruel than nature, per se, but perhaps, I'm missing something.'

The missing link is the certainty that evolution is nature. And nature is exceeding cruel.

Is this natural cruelty evil or is it God employing 'tough love', to use a modern idiom?

21 July 2012 at 22:06  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

bluedog

Can you think of another way God might have created a universe with intelligent life where man could learn its workings through science and still be left with choosing between deism and atheism?

21 July 2012 at 22:25  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

*deism, theism and atheism*

21 July 2012 at 22:26  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Alissa: "DanJ0: it does seem against the character of God (as seen in the Bible) to create using evolution, which involves so much pain and early death, to animals as well as humans. This was one of the questions that bothered me when I was considering becoming a Christian."

Yes. It seems to me that non-human animals are a problem in a number of ways. It would be better if Descartes was correct that animals are mere automata but if there were any doubt in the past then recent long term studies with bonobos show that at least some species of non-human animal are thinking, feeling, emoting, and planning beings capable of sophisticated communication. Moreover, dog owners surely know that their canine companions dream when they sleep even without neuroscience giving us more evidence. Most species may not be moral agents like we are but they must surely feature in a moral assessment nonetheless. As Jeremy Bentham said: The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? If evolution by natural selection was put in place by a Prime Mover in order to create our species then it is directly responsible for all that suffering. The harm is deliberate and intentional, not an unintended consequence.

21 July 2012 at 22:41  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Dodo @ 22.25 asks, 'Can you think of another way God might have created a universe with intelligent life where man could learn its workings through science and still be left with choosing between deism and atheism?'

You tell me, old buddy.

21 July 2012 at 22:51  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

""We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time"
(Romans 8:22)

The whole animate creation, all living beings, all created things are in a condition of pain and disorder, groaning and death. Everything which we see, every creature which lives, is thus subjected to a state of pain and death.

Why?

The theological theme in the bible
is creation was cursed because of man and sin.

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned"
(Romans 5:12)

Free will has consequences and God permitted this and willed good to come from it.

21 July 2012 at 23:05  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thanks for the chance to explain, Albert @ 21:45. I don't dispute what you're saying.
However, I think it depends on what we mean by "death/Death."

You see, I'm really suggesting that while "in earth" we are already "in death" (because of the Falls) ... and that our casing of clay is by way of an urn.
"Dream of the Rood" uses this imagery to good effect, where we see men unwittingly imitate God: by creating an "earth-urn" for the eternal "Lord of Victories":
Ongunnon him þa moldærn wyrcan
beornas on banan gesyhðe; curfon hie ðæt of beorht stane,
gesetton hie ðæron sigora Wealdend
(65-67, my stress).

By the same token, we have His Grace's "In the midst of life we are in death..." and the corollary "O Lord God ... deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death" ("At the Burial of the Dead").

My thought, then, extends the Christian Paradox, wherein Christ has already defeated Death. Through His Way and Cross, we too have a chance to rise from the Dead... through the gate of physical mortality (death), and into Eternal Life. In that sense, I cannot see the gateway of Redemption as a bad thing!!

So I think your quotation refers to Death (capital D) - which is that motivation to evil (AKA Satan) which caused our fall from Life... and which continually tries to separate us from God. That is what we deal with through the DfE and Judd.

Once God's purpose for us is fulfilled, and Christ has come again: men will suffer no more death of any kind. We too will have "give[n] up the Ghost" and will know: "It is finished" (St. John the Evangelist, 19:30).

21 July 2012 at 23:08  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr DanJo @ 22.41, this communicant is a country boy and lives very close to nature. The longer he lives, the more he understands that many animals other than domesticated companion animals such as dogs and cats are capable of highly evolved social behaviour, both as individuals and in groups, that could be described as 'human'.

Indeed it is often said by good horsemen that if you want to know what your horse is thinking, it's what you are thinking.

When theologians put man on a pedestal and above the rest of God's creation in the animal kingdom, they may be guilty of an extraordinary conceit.

21 July 2012 at 23:14  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Bluedog. If the body of evidence ever develops to the stage where there is concrete proof of alien life,

Some alien scat would do it for this man. One can learn an awful lot from analysing faecal matter you know. Might well have a go myself sometime {AHEM}...

21 July 2012 at 23:15  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

bluedog: "Indeed it is often said by good horsemen that if you want to know what your horse is thinking, it's what you are thinking."

I'm pretty sure horses have a well-developed sense of humour, and I'm being completely serious there.

21 July 2012 at 23:20  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Whatever the truth about the nature of our reality is, and allowing for the fact that there may be what we call a god, I think some people jump through hoops to see the nature of the god they want.

21 July 2012 at 23:26  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. But what sort of monster would deliberately create a biological system containing so much pain as part of its natural mechanism?

Good. Excellent question dear boy; shows you are using your inquisitive mind. It’s a question not asked nearly enough. What is in it for God.

The pain you speak about. Do you mean it as part of the life cycle for animals, including ourselves. Or perhaps the pain in being human. In the former, is it not a transitory sense, usually associated with death. One believes that this type of pain is extended only when humans get involved. Doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons...

21 July 2012 at 23:31  
Blogger non mouse said...

PS again: not that John said all that, of course. Inferring that we must follow Christ, I quote only John's rendition of His words.

21 July 2012 at 23:37  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "In the former, is it not a transitory sense, usually associated with death."

Non-human animals don't tend to die of old age. They are usually eaten, or starve to death. They also suffer through ongoing things like parasites, and disease. Clearly, lots of animal species suffer mentally in advance too. There's an evolutionary purpose in experiencing fear.

It's curious that such an emphasis is put on the suffering of Christ on the cross even though he, as a facet of god, must have been aware of the duration in advance and clearly had none of the fear that the rest of us have about the unknown and what physical death is like.

The actual pain aside, which god appears to have designed in itself for us and for other non-human animals, it sounds like a bit of a breeze to me. Of course, there's presumably the associated mysticism to take into account too which Christians speculate about, but hey.

21 July 2012 at 23:48  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

At least humans can assess how long the pain is likely to last for which may help tolerate it in many cases. An animal which is not self-aware must experience pain as an immediate and potentially never-ending thing. That's quite horrible.

21 July 2012 at 23:50  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

DanJ0 said...
"Whatever the truth about the nature of our reality is, and allowing for the fact that there may be what we call a god, I think some people jump through hoops to see the nature of the god they want."

A reasonable statement and a good starting point to consider the theological basis of each faith. Not just by their flawed and, at times, evil histories. Nor, indeed, to judge the merit of particular faiths by the those you meet.

21 July 2012 at 23:51  
Blogger non mouse said...

Mr.bluedog: as you know I support all arguments about the intelligence and spirit of animals.

I once knew a horse who wanted to show me how clever he was. He started playing football with a small plastic bucket... he ran it all around for a while, then brought it to a stop beside me and gave me this funny look: "See what I can do?"

As for the little Chorgi... I'll say again that she was God's little angel--- to remind me of the meaning of goodness. I don't care what any theologian says!!!

22 July 2012 at 00:05  
Blogger The Way of Dodo the Dude said...

DanJ0 said ...

"It's curious that such an emphasis is put on the suffering of Christ on the cross even though he, as a facet of god, must have been aware of the duration in advance and clearly had none of the fear that the rest of us have about the unknown and what physical death is like."

I can't believe it! You, at a stroke, have dismised the suffering of all martyrs - religious or otherwise - and devalued the death of Christ!

Can you imagine knowing you were to be stripped, whipped and publically humiliated? To endure hours of mental and physical cruelty? To hang on a cross in agony, being mocked and die one of the most painful deaths known toman?

Knowing all this was in front of you and you could avoid it; simply walk away? In my experience, most people have no fear of death. They fear the manner of their death. And here one's worst fear is to come true. And you suggest such prior awareness makes it somehow bearable!

In truth, few us have the courage to freely accept the route of the martyr.

(And, beforeyou say it, I know their are fanatical martyrs who kill and maime and people have and are being martyred by religious fanatics)

22 July 2012 at 00:10  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. You make too much of pain. Where are these animals being driven insane by it ? Parasites are not noted for pain inducing qualities. Quite the opposite, they tend to blend in with the hosts physiology. it’s in their interests that the host remains healthy. Disease will bring an animal down, and maybe incapacitate them. It also acts as a cleansing agent that improves the stock by dispensing with the weak, and prevents over population.

Clearly, lots of animal species suffer mentally in advance too.. Nothing clear about it. In the wild one can appreciate an animal is conscious where it is in the food chain. But ‘suffer’ ?

The gospels tell us that the human side of Christ was terrified and fearful of what was to be his fate.

An animal which is not self-aware must experience pain as an immediate and potentially never-ending thing. An animal that is not self aware would experience pain but would only in the immediate. It would view the pain as an incapacity that threatens it’s ability to survive. There is no evidence to suggest that animals think ahead other than what they do through instinct or association. In other words, they cannot imagine anything as complex as next week or the possibility that any pain they are experiencing would continue until then.

22 July 2012 at 00:45  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "You make too much of pain."

You make too little of it. Let's not move on too much from the context of this: that the process of evolution by natural selection is red in tooth and claw, and that one interpretation of creation is that the process and the resulting bodies have been designed by god. The notion of design and purpose is rather important because teleological reasoning is used in debates regarding morality, and in particular, sexual morality. I'm just running along with this as I go but it seems quite hard to square perfect love with a design which is red in tooth and claw and not only results in systematic pain but also systematic loss of potential.

22 July 2012 at 07:17  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

As for the detail about pain etc, I'm not trying to equate the minds of non-human animals with us. It seems to me that there's a spectrum of complexity there, and some aspects of our minds are shared attributes.

I'm not suggesting that non-human animals understand time the way we do but I doubt time just unfolds moment by moment for them either. Young children don't understand time like adults do either, making the notion of next week pretty much incomprehensible when rationalising with them.

I'm sure most dog owners will tell you that their dogs anticipate. They have high-level memory, afterall. Some of them become neurotic as a result. Yet they don't necessarily anticipate specifically, which is why leaving a pack animal like a dog on its own all day is rather cruel since they usually suffer separation anxiety.

Cat owners will probably tell you that cats anticipate what their packing a suitcase means. They have memory, they record experiences, and triggers are not just direct, bodily ones. My family's cat used to punish us for going away when we came home from holiday. I don't think I'm just anthropomorphising there.

"It also acts as a cleansing agent that improves the stock by dispensing with the weak, and prevents over population."

You've switched to a pure form of utilitarian thinking. But what about the individual animals? Don't they matter? Afterall, the higher-functioning animals experience pain as individuals. For sure, we can see how evolution by natural selection works and its advantages for the species and the system as a whole.

22 July 2012 at 07:34  
Blogger Elwin Daniels said...

A thoughtful and incisive post on Evangelicals and systematic bias, your grace. However I must address the common error repeated here by many communicants that opposition to Darwinism by many (not all) Evangelicals is fundamentally due to a 'literalist' (i.e. plain) reading of Scripture. There is that, it is clear from a plain reading of the NT that its writers accepted Genesis as history, not myth or allegory. However.....

There is a large body of hard scientific evidence against the pseudoscience of evolutionism which is systematically ignored, misrepresented, denied and suppressed. For a start, the Cornell geneticist John Sanford's excellent book 'Genetic Entropy: the mystery of the genome' which eviscerates neo-Darwinism's only putative creative mechanism, or Stephen Meyer's 'Signature in the Cell' which examines the nature of specified complexity in DNA and concludes that Darwinian mechanism fail fundamentally.

Dawkins refused to debate Meyer when both men were on US book tours, on the grounds that 'he's a creationist' fullstop. The truth is that Meyer's argument is unanswerable, and it is based 100% on science fact.

Yes, Darwinism and Evanglelical Christianity are fundamentaly incompatible at the most basic level. Dawkins and co know this but try to play it down when they are working with useful fools within the church. of course you can still be Christian while holding to thiestic evolution or some other error, but why would you want to? To avoid being called names?

PS more people should read Origin of Species. Darwin frequently uses terms like 'Imagine...belief...who can be so rash as to doubt...may we not believe? ' etc to make up for his lack of evidence. It is a book of dreamings, imaginings, excuses and a few lame and unoriginal observations used to make huge leaps of faith.

Theistic evolutionists who dare to name the precious Name, hear this challenge. You may as well be hanged for a creationist sheep as a resurrectionist lamb!

22 July 2012 at 08:17  
Blogger G. Tingey said...

Elwin Daniels:
"There is a large body of hard scientific evidence against the pseudoscience of evolutionism which is systematically ignored, misrepresented, denied and suppressed."
LIAR
DELIBERATE LIAR
NOT TRUE

Meyer's so-called "argument" is based on completely false assumptions.

"Origin of Species" is a justly famous book.
BUT it was published in 1859, 102 years & 8 months ago.
Unlike the big book of BigSkyFairy-stories, science moves on, and evidence accumulates.
Darwin made predictions and suggestions, and evidence accumultated to confirm his suggestions. He had, at that time, no means of knowing the mechanism for inheritance, which also provides the cause & reason for mutations.
But we DO KNOW NOW - and you don't want to ook at that, do you, you want to stick with the original 1859 text, not what we've learnt sine.
Why not, idiot?
We know a lot more about biology now than we did then, as we do in Physics - would you use a "Pricipia Mathematica" as a current Physics text?
No.
You have made the standard mistake, probably deliberately, give your previous lies.

LOOK IN THE TELESCOPE SEE THE MOONS OF JUPITER ....
Evolution is a proven fact.
Grow up, and live with it.

22 July 2012 at 08:57  
Blogger Albert said...

Bluedog,

The missing link is the certainty that evolution is nature. And nature is exceeding cruel. Is this natural cruelty evil or is it God employing 'tough love', to use a modern idiom?

Well, as I am part of this nature, I am jolly glad that God created this kind of nature. If he didn't, I wouldn't exist. So this kind of reasoning seems to me to be a complaint that God made me.

22 July 2012 at 09:53  
Blogger Albert said...

Elwin,

a plain reading of the NT that its writers accepted Genesis as history, not myth or allegory.

That raises three questions:
1. Is it true that NT writers thought that? - you haven't provided any evidence.
2. What if the internal evidence of Genesis 1 indicates it cannot be taken as history? I think Augustine and Origen make a very strong case against a historical reading - simply by looking seriously at the text.
3. Even if NT writers did take it as history, and that could be intelligibly grasped from the text, were NT writers correct in doing so? If one accepts that Genesis 1 is not literal historical truth this may be because one does not think the Bible is authoritative on non-religious matters, like science. How does it help then to bring the NT? The same principle will still apply.

22 July 2012 at 10:03  
Blogger Albert said...

Before someone makes a joke about my last sentence to Bluedog (that they frequently complain God made me/Albert!) let that last sentence read "God made us."

22 July 2012 at 10:05  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0.
You seem unable to square the issue of pain with a loving creator. Though personally, one wonders if God is as loving as we make Him out to be, but that’s another thread.

One just cannot perceive pain as a punitive notion. There is no call for it to be that. It is primarily a warning device that everything is not as it should be. And agreed, the higher animals would have no problem accepting that in their unconscious. We must also be careful and not attribute human pain to animals. It appears that amongst the most sophisticated of the kingdom, ie brain size, pain is not left behind when it comes to development.

The interaction with animals of whom it is their lot to be in with human company is quite fascinating, and worthy of in depth study. Have actually met a cat that cried when it did not get it’s own way, in her case, not being let out of the house on demand. The owner was a woman who was separated, and a somewhat strung suspected blubber, and would not risk the cat being out when she herself was going out. On a visit to do some light DIY for her, there it was, one tearful cat...

But what about the individual animals? Don't they matter?

Used to keep mice. Now, mice have pathetically little in the way of resilience when it comes to disease, which always brings a wry smile when contemplating their use in medical research. A healthy fancy mouse can knock out around sixteen pups in one go, with a few less in the wild state. Viewing the mother after birthing is quite intriguing. It looks like she assesses which mouse is a potential goer and which isn’t. The latter get ate. So no, in the great scheme of things the individual unit does not matter, but the genus does. One cannot help but appreciate the same logic must apply to mankind too.

22 July 2012 at 11:11  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "You seem unable to square the issue of pain with a loving creator."

It's not just pain. It's the ruthless nature of evolution by natural selection. The lives of animals are, to borrow part of a phrase, nasty, brutish, and short. There's also welfare considerations. I'm not a utilitarian, despite the loose attribution sometimes applied to me here, but there's a lot of truth in it when regarded in a broad-brush way. We naturally seek pleasure and avoid pain. When one looks at love, pleasure is a significant component in there. I'm not just talking about sensory pleasure, of course. If I were a perfect loving, omnipotent being interested in consciousness then evolution by natural selection would not be my chosen route to creating it. If anything then the literal interpreation of creation in the Bible seems more consistent but of course many Christians see that as a bit medieval these days, preferring to read it allegorically, and recognise the descriptive and predictive power of the theory of evolution by natural selection.

"So no, in the great scheme of things the individual unit does not matter, but the genus does. One cannot help but appreciate the same logic must apply to mankind too."

Yes, I've seen some of your views there already I think. So-called 'social darwinism' is usually pushed onto we atheists even if the fit is often quite poor.

22 July 2012 at 11:59  
Blogger bluedog said...

Mr Albert @ 09.53, it is not obvious how you are able to construe the question, 'Is this natural cruelty evil or is it God employing 'tough love', to use a modern idiom?' as a complaint.

You had commented, 'I don't see how evolution is more cruel than nature, per se', and then 'but perhaps, I'm missing something'. My own observations were by way of emphasising that nature and evolution are one and the same process (q.v. 'per se'), in so far as your comment, 'perhaps I'm missing something' implies tentatively that they may not be.

May I cautiously suggest that we probably agree but with differing degrees of conviction?

Like you, I'm jolly glad I'm alive.

22 July 2012 at 12:06  
Blogger Albert said...

Yes Bluedog, I think I wasn't clear. I am saying that God's act of creating a nature like this one is not evil - even though that nature occasions evil. The irony of problem of evil arguments is that they complain of harm done to goods (e.g. people/animals) that wouldn't be there without the evils they are complaining about.

I think you and I agree.

22 July 2012 at 12:19  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. It's not just pain. It's the ruthless nature of evolution by natural selection. The lives of animals are, to borrow part of a phrase, nasty, brutish, and short.

Have to vehemently disagree. It is nothing of the sort. Where is the ‘nastiness’ ? Of course, being predated upon is unlikely to come up as their number one joy in life, but it happens to man too. Even in this country, go to the wrong area and you could be mugged, knifed, shot. Or climb a mountain, each time you do that, there is a chance you might not be coming back alive.

Nothing wrong with brutal. You yourself are brutal in your condemnation of Dodo. But of course, that’s alright because you are doing it...

As for short. Each animal apparently has a certain number of heartbeats in it’s lifetime. A fast beater, like the shrew, lives life at a frenetic speed. Maybe it packs in as much in 24 hours of it’s life as we do in a month. One can imagine interviewing the shrew, if the little bugger hangs around for long enough, and be told he prefers it like that.

The Inspector is a keen follower of nature programs. On condition they are not about the ‘sexy’ animals – Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs, Elephants, Dolphins ,Whales, etc. You know the type, the ones that make the family want to go “Ahhhhhh”. Program producers are forever looking at new ways to present the usual stuff. How about an Attenborough special. “Nature’s most Miserable Animals (Man excepted)”. It would be interesting if they could get enough footage for even 30 minutes !

22 July 2012 at 12:41  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. Just an aside, but has it ever occurred to you that for creation as such, there is only ONE way it can be done, and this is it. We are so fortunate to see it at work...

22 July 2012 at 12:46  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "Of course, being predated upon is unlikely to come up as their number one joy in life, but it happens to man too."

No. The "nasty, brutish, and short" is a part of a quote from Hobbes describing man in a hypothetical State of Nature. That's about competition, not predation. We don't need to live like that. However, carnivores have no choice since they're part of a system which relies on predation and their survive is dependent on eating prey animals.

"Nothing wrong with brutal. You yourself are brutal in your condemnation of Dodo. But of course, that’s alright because you are doing it..."

I'd rather that didn't happen, actually. I'd rather scratters didn't burgle homes either but if one of them tries to burgle my home then they can expect my foot on their throat. It's the same sort of relationship there.

"As for short. Each animal apparently has a certain number of heartbeats in it’s lifetime."

Roughly so, in species terms. They don't usually use them up though, do they? Unless they're cared for or maintained by humans. Depending on the species, they're lucky to reach sexual maturation before being killed by predation.

22 July 2012 at 12:54  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "Just an aside, but has it ever occurred to you that for creation as such, there is only ONE way it can be done, and this is it."

That's rather unimaginative. How about a Garden of Eden scenario with no death? Obviously there would be no births either, and we'd all exist to worship forever the powerful being who set it all up, but hey. It could work.

22 July 2012 at 12:58  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. You are observing nature from the cossetted position of being a human. You are expressing an empathy with it in as much as you would not like to be subject to the rigours of it yourself. Had for arguments sake you been born a shrew, you would be completely oblivious to it all and would surely accept you lot, but let’s say you were an informed shrew. You would view humanity and the way we go about our lives with disdain, surely, and rejoice that you are a shrew.

That ‘nasty, short and brutish’ quote was originally applied to the primitive human condition, especially Neanderthals, as one recalls. Interestingly, scientist re-appreciation of those types suggest that this was not the case. However, the quote can be today applied to some of the peoples of sub Saharan Africa, sadly. Perhaps, all things considered, they would be better off as shrews...

22 July 2012 at 13:06  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0.That's rather unimaginative. How about a Garden of Eden scenario with no death? Obviously there would be no births either, and we'd all exist to worship forever the powerful being who set it all up, but hey. It could work.

Although the actual mechanics are not available to us, as a Christian, one would not disagree with that statement as descriptive of heaven. Assuming we prove ourselves worthy of that spiritual existence while here as mortals.

22 July 2012 at 13:10  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector, I'm not saying that animals don't experience a sort of eudaimonia when they live according to their ethology. At I'm sure horses enjoy running and grazing, and dogs enjoy running in packs with an alpha male in charge. However, they could do that to varying degrees throughout their natural lifespans if it weren't for predation and scarcity of resources. As such, their welfare is much reduced by their environment and they usually end up in the jaws of a predator, starving to death, or dying in stages from disease or accidental damage, well before their natural lifespan.

22 July 2012 at 13:11  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector: "That ‘nasty, short and brutish’ quote was originally applied to the primitive human condition, especially Neanderthals, as one recalls."

As I recall, it was a hypothetical state used by Hobbes in Leviathan to underpin his description of how a legitimate society should hang together. I don't think he intended it to be taken as a historical fact. Rather, it was his view of the fundamental nature of man if he were not to live in a society of other people. It's to be compared John Locke's state of nature, in Second Treatise of Government which is rather more optimistic as a description of the nature of man.

22 July 2012 at 13:17  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. The Inspector has re-read our communication to see if he has missed anything. He hasn’t. He must report to you that you display a pre-occupation with pain, which is but a small part of existence. But then, you do tend to do pre-occupation fairly well, don’t you think...

Sure others would agree...

22 July 2012 at 15:51  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

Inspector, I'm being very civil with you here and engaging in polite debate. Don't go spoiling that, hey.

22 July 2012 at 16:15  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

DanJ0. Good grief, so you are ! One is greatly honoured that you deign to have a ‘civilised’ exchange with the Inspector of all people. You have made this long time admirer of your work from afar, an intensely satisfied creature this day, and let no one tell you otherwise :->

22 July 2012 at 18:20  
Blogger Shacklefree said...

G Tingey,

How does looking at the moons of Jupiter prove that evolution across the species barrier is a fact? We can accept that evolution within species occurs because of the evidence of animal and plant breeding. If you want to prove evolution across the species barrier you'll have to do better than looking at the Big Sky moons.

22 July 2012 at 20:40  
Blogger Owlb said...

Coud you please tell me "There is substantial evidence that they are more likely to be active in public life, making a huge investment of unpaid time and energy in the voluntary and community sector, in education and health services, in politics and in the trade union movement." Where is the evidence that evangelical Christians are active in the trade union movement in Britain?

28 July 2012 at 02:39  
Blogger Luther said...

"Albert said...For the record, I think creationists are extremists. But I note two things:(i) Not all Evangelicals are creationists.(ii) Creationism is a kind of exegetical extremism."

I note your point about the difference of 'violence' and its involvement. However, you have to accept that if you regard 'creationism' as an extremist view then you also have to regard 'evolution' as an extremist view. Why? Because there are no other proposed views. You cannot simply label those who hold to the one you disagree with extremist because you do not hold to it - it can be no more extreme than its polar opposite, evolutionism.

21 August 2014 at 12:08  

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