Why is the debate over design theory so often so poisonous and polarised, 2? (A: sadly, blood libel.)
|March 12, 2012||Posted by kairosfocus under Culture, Atheism, Science, worldview issues/foundations and society|
Last time around, last May, the heart of the answer was:
. . . if clever but willfully deceptive rhetors — Ms Forrest, B, with all due respect; sadly, this means you — can get away with strawmannising and dismissing design thinkers as “Creationists in cheap tuxedos,” where it has already been firmly fixed in the public mind by other clever rhetors — Mr Dawkins, CR, with all due respect; sadly, this means you — that Creationists are “ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked,” and that such are fighting “a war against science” and want to impose “a right-wing theocracy” (presumably complete with Inquisitions and burnings at the stake) then we can be distracted from the issues on the merits and be lured into burning ad hominem- soaked de-humanised creationist strawmen.
That’s how we come to the way a priori evolutionary materialism is now often presented as if it were the defining essence of science, “science” in this sense being taken for granted as the defining essence of “rationality.”
That unfortunately still remains the case, cf. here the first several UD weak argument correctives.
But now, almost a full year has passed and this month we have a carded professor Dawkins New Atheism US tour, complete with a “Rally for Reason” in Washington DC, and at Ft Bragg NC where that leading New Atheist figure is to appear at the “Rock Beyond Belief” concert after the audience has been warmed up by the band Aiden, which is the source of the vampire clergy song that has been called the atheist anthem.
If we look at a June 2007 George Barna survey, we will learn that:
Most atheists and agnostics (56%) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam.
Given that radical Islam essentially denotes Islamist terrorists and their ideological supporters, and that there simply is no Bible-believing Christianity-based movement responsible for thousands of instances of murderous terrorism across the world, this patently unjustified hostility needs to be explained. This, in a context where we must always bear in mind that the favourite name-calling taunt of radical evolutionary materialist atheists is that design thinkers are simply “Creationists” hiding in cheap tuxedos.
Which, is what makes this directly relevant to the design theory debates.
Obviously, if design thinkers are being smeared as “creationists,” we had better understand why this is a smear.
A first step is an observation by Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch in response to this survey:
I used to think that this [alleged] moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam was the province of just a few fanatics, a tiny minority of extremists (many of whom write to me regularly; hi guys), and was just a small and irrelevant distraction in the defense against the global jihad. However, a profusion of books published in 2006, some of which enjoyed great success, convinced me that it was more than that. These were not so much the atheist apologetics mentioned below, but books about the looming threat to the U.S. Constitution posed by “Christianism” — most notably, Chris Hedges’ American Fascists. It became increasingly clear to me that this moral equivalence was actually an immense obstacle to the anti-jihad resistance, as it focuses attention and energies on a fantasy instead of on a real threat, and often characterizes the genuine threat as a creation of the unscrupulous Christian theocrats as part of their nefarious plan to overturn the Constitution and launch a new Christian Crusade against Islam.
Tom Gilson’s comment is also apt, and revealing on the fundamentally irrational and ill-informed hostility involved in that mischaracterisation of Christians (where IslamIST radicals are not even representative of most Muslims!):
The comparison to radical Islam is rather bewildering . . . Other than a very, very tiny fringe slice of “Christianity,” the only aggression from Christians on America has been expressing our opinions and voting. Fears of a Christian “theocracy” ignore the fact that Christians were the originators of religious freedom in the world, and that our methods have been thoroughly constitutional and democratic . . . And we scary believers, according to the survey results, have some nasty habits, like volunteering, voting, giving money to charitable causes, helping the homeless . . . .
Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has said, “if you can ever make any major religion sound absolutely ludicrous, chances are you don’t understand it.” These systems don’t grow up and develop guided just by simpletons, and it’s wrong to make them seem idiotic–even if they contain major misunderstandings . . .
All of this came back to mind recently, when I had occasion to revisit the initial wave of smears made against me by the circle associated with one of the hate sites in the penumbra surrounding UD. Last June, I had commented on the rising tide of pornography, and its impact, featuring the following statistics from Pink Cross Foundation (of former porn so-called “stars”):
I noted that these shocking statistics, the evidence that suggests that porn paid for a good slice of the roll-out of broadband Internet, and further information that suggests that over half of all US Divorces are influenced by the impact of porn, were grave causes for concern. On evidence that porn materials often promote the notion that what used to be called unnatural acts are the ultimate form of sexual pleasure, I pointed out that this suggests a radical homosexualist agenda (which, is a descriptive term for an ideology we should contrast to people who may have, or struggle with same sex attractions) that seeks to desensitise our civilisation to such acts and the morally questionable lifestyles dependent on them.
This is what I said:
In addition, I believe porn is designed to benumb our consciences and to get us used to what used to be called unnatural acts and especially sodomy; behaviours that are often demonstrably unhealthy and in some cases warning-label deadly. (Cf. here and here, caution. Also cf here for FAQs, here on theological issues and for legal agendas and stratagems, here.) If more and more men and women are addicted to porn that glamourises such acts — even between men and women — it breaks down the moral, modesty and ick-factor sensibilities that prevent or reduce practice of such behaviours and the promotion of the “mainstreaming” of perversions (cf. Webster’s 1828 on def’n.) of sexual appetites that rely on such acts. In my opinion, as fair comment, such is probably INTENDED by the promoters of the porn industry, so-called.
In hot retort, one of the associates of one site (who seems to moderate another of the hate sites and who runs a site of his own with “NSFW,” highly questionable photos) stated, in relevant part:
If more people spent their Sundays at home watching porn, there’d be less money in the coffers of those houses of hate and ignorance called churches. That could only be good for the world . . . . You are the most sanctimonious, lying, misogynistic, homophobic, willfully ignorant, unintentionally hilarious scum of the earth windbag on the interwebs.
That highly unusual word, “coffers,” points straight back to the lyrics of Hysteria, AIDEN’s so-called “atheists anthem.”
Remember, in the video, the below — which I annotate — is being sung by a vampire clergyman, standing in a graveyard (I understand of US service-members):
Love how they burn your synagogues
Love how they torch your holy books
Filling coffers [–> offerings are blood-money] with your grief
Filling coffins with your misery [–> you are war mongers]
Faith holding outright criminals safe [–> your clerics promote and protect war criminals who on the excuse of the US etc being attacked have invaded countries in the ME, and by extension, generally corrupt right-wing theocratic fundy politicians and officials . . . a highly misleading and poisonously loaded stereotype]
This is just the world we live in [–> as in, this is subject to change by the new atheist revolution of the “brights” which “we” represent]
In short — and pardon my having to be direct, even at the risk of being distractively accused of argumenum ad hitleram, we need to stop, think and see what is going on — in this song, we are here seeing big lie slander propaganda tactics of the worst (blood libel) sort; a technique which always works by playing on hysterical, ill-informed fears and bigotry, leading to stirring up of polarisation and hate by projecting dehumanising, demonising slanders unto the scapegoat group. (And remember, this key word, coffers, showed up nearly half a year before there was a debate here at UD that raised the issues.)
What is saddening, is that as long ago as five years past, it was documented that the majority of atheists believed this sort of hateful bunk.
But, there is a deeper root.
Perhaps the best (and, inadvertent) illustration of the root problem I know is from a modernist clergyman in my homeland, writing a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks:
The human tragedy in USA has also served to bring into sharp focus the use of terror by religious fanatics/fundamentalists. Fundamentalism or fundamentalists are terms that are applicable to every extreme conservative in every religious system . . . . During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of these faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as ‘liberal’ revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith . . . They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals. [Gleaner, Sept. 26, 2001.]
What is happening here is that over the past 200 years or so, there has been a cultural conflict in our civilisation that reached a tipping point about 100 years past, when defenders of traditional orthodoxy in American churches took a stance on the fundamentals of the Christian faith as they saw them. They lost control of the key institutions of the mainline protestant churches and were driven out to the fringes. This was then multiplied by the public relations fiasco that is commonly called the Scopes Monkey Trial [and no, Inherit the Wind is propaganda, not accurate history], leading to the fundamentalists being branded as anti-science. (BTW, most fundamentalists at that time were some form of old earth creationists or other.) Subsequently, it became all too easy to use what had by and large become a term of abuse, to tag IslamIST radicals and the like as also “Fundamentalists,” a practice that has now been given a veneer of scholarship.
In a toxic atmosphere like this, it is then all too easy to simply brand and stereotype any theistic thinker who takes a scriptural tradition seriously as an irrational anti-scientific, dangerous terrorist or would be theocrat; never mind the truth that Islamist terrorists are not even truly representative of most Muslims.
When it comes to the anti-science smear, it is worth calling attention, again, to Nancey Pearcey’s classic article on how Christianity was actually a science starter, not a science stopper:
Most historians today agree that the main impact Christianity had on the origin and development of modern science was positive. Far from being a science stopper, it is a science starter.
One reason this dramatic turn-around has not yet filtered down to the public is that the history of science is still quite a young field. Only fifty years ago, it was not even an independent discipline. Over the past few decades, however, it has blossomed dramatically, and in the process, many of the old myths and stereotypes that we grew up with have been toppled. Today the majority view is that Christianity provided many of the crucial motivations and philosophical assumptions necessary for the rise of modern science.
In one sense, this should come as no surprise. After all, modern science arose in one place and one time only: It arose out of medieval Europe, during a period when its intellectual life was thoroughly permeated with a Christian worldview. Other great cultures, such as the Chinese and the Indian, often developed a higher level of technology and engineering. But their expertise tended to consist of practical know-how and rules of thumb. They did not develop what we know as experimental science–testable theories organized into coherent systems. Science in this sense has appeared only once in history. As historian Edward Grant writes, “It is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.”. . . .
The church fathers taught that the material world came from the hand of a good Creator, and was thus essentially good. The result is described by a British philosopher of science, Mary Hesse: “There has never been room in the Hebrew or Christian tradition for the idea that the material world is something to be escaped from, and that work in it is degrading.” Instead, “Material things are to be used to the glory of God and for the good of man.” Kepler is, once again, a good example. When he discovered the third law of planetary motion (the orbital period squared is proportional to semi-major axis cubed, or P2 = a 3), this was for him “an astounding confirmation of a geometer god worthy of worship. He confessed to being ‘carried away by unutterable rapture at the divine spectacle of heavenly harmony’.” In the biblical worldview, scientific investigation of nature became both a calling and an obligation. As historian John Hedley Brooke explains, the early scientists “would often argue that God had revealed himself in two books—the book of His words (the Bible) and the book of His works (nature). As one was under obligation to study the former, so too there was an obligation to study the latter.” The rise of modern science cannot be explained apart from the Christian view of nature as good and worthy of study, which led the early scientists to regard their work as obedience to the cultural mandate to “till the garden”. . . .
Today the majority of historians of science agree with this positive assessment of the impact the Christian worldview had on the rise of science. Yet even highly educated people remain ignorant of this fact.
That ever so many highly educated people are ignorant of what should be a commonplace and easily recognised fact, tells us that a powerful factor is at work that is suppressing recognition of the truth. We do not have to look too far for it, the myth of the anti-science, irrational religious establishment that hinders liberty, progress, and science is all around us.
That is bad enough. And, it cries out for correction in the name of basic respect for the truth and fairness.
But when we begin to see blood libels building on it, it is high time for all decent people, on all sides to unite to stop the hysterical madness.
Because we know where such libels too often lead.
Enough is enough, Mr Dawkins and co.
Then, having laid such unworthy and dangerous smears aside, perhaps, we can begin to actually deal with the issues being raised by design theory on the merits. END
F/N & U/D: The theocracy fear is a bit off-topic for this blog, so let me just link on that subject, here. A balancing view on the fundamentalism issue (in a Caribbean context) is here. The first principles of right reason issue is addressed here.