Re: Full disclosure (was Grand Canyon Tears America Apart )

From: Robert Schneider <>
Date: Tue Jan 20 2004 - 11:15:13 EST

I would add to what Don said a point I'm sure has been made before on this list: the most effective speaker for the side that critiques and exposes the weakness in the YEC arguments will be someone who throughout his/her presentation makes an explicit Christian witness. The audience has to see that there are two Christian perspectives on the meaning of creation that are an essential part of the conversation, even when the focus is on science. This person needs to make his/her Christian witness in a calm, reasoned, respectful manner that reveals the love of God in Christ in the person, a devotion to Holy Scripture as a different interpretation and understanding of Scripture is presented to the audience, and a demeanor that reveals the fruits of the Spirit.

Bob Schneider
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein
  To: John W Burgeson
  Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 10:57 AM
  Subject: Re: Full disclosure (was Grand Canyon Tears America Apart )

  Burgy wrote:

  "What I do call for is for mainstream science to pay more attention
  to the YEC arguments, by "welcoming" them into the discussion (in
  moderation, of course), and publicly refuting them in discussion."

  A problem with this approach is that you're unlikely to effectively refute "informed" YECs in a public discussion. YECs will bring out their technical arguments, scientists will present technical reasons as to why those arguments are invalid, but the public will just see two sets of experts that disagree on technical details. Unless a member of the audience is unusually well informed and can follow the arguments, he will have little reason to change his mind. Furthermore, it's often the YEC who's the more practiced and effective debater, as debating skills are usually of secondary importance for scientists.

  There's no substitute for careful consideration and evaluation of the scientific evidence of the sort one should engage in when taking a geology course. Limited public discussion cannot cover enough territory to settle anything.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: John W Burgeson
    Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 11:51 AM
    Subject: Full disclosure (was Grand Canyon Tears America Apart )

    Thanks for the added conversation on my proposal. We are probably not
    really very far apart on this.

>>The "campaign against Velikovsky" (~50 years ago) had a different
    1st, V's claims were novel, unlike those of YECs, which have been weighed
    in the balance
    & found wanting numerous times. 2nd, some of V's critics apparently
    never read _Worlds
    in Collision_ with any care before reading it. (~ 30 years ago I wrote a
    paper for
    Pensee, a journal publicizing V's ideas, in which I examined his physics
    claims & found
    them wrong but not quite as absurd as some critics had suggested.
    Unfortunately the
    journal went broke after accepting the paper but before it could be
    The "martyrization" of V would have had less effect if the initial
    critques of
    his work had been done more carefully - & from an interdisciplinary
    standpoint. (...The interesting thing was that the historians &
    archaeologists there all knew that his history was baloney but thought
    that physicists had found
    support for his claims, while as a physicist I knew that his physics was
    wrong but
    had thought that maybe some of his historical claims had some

    I remember having exactly the same reaction, George. Thanks for pointing
    out the differences (above), with which I do agree.

>>But I suppose your point is that the use of economic leverage by the
    community to keep V's stuff from being published was wrong & conferred
    "martyrdom" on
    him. I don't agree that there's anything wrong in principle with using
    such economic
    leverage. (Cf. strikes, the Birmingham bus boycott, &c.)>>

    I do not claim that it is "wrong" in the sense of being an immoral
    action, but I do claim that it was, in V's case, wrong pragmatically; it
    gave his ideas more credibility than they deserved. Not among the
    scientists, perhaps, but among other people who could all too easily see
    the "heavy hand of orthodoxy" trying to squash him and so reacted in a
    direction the "squashers" did not anticipate.

    As one who participated in the 60s Civil Rights movement, I think I see
    your point but don't really see its applicability. The 60s issue was one
    of deep immorality promoted by governments; this one does not have that

>> 1st, YEC is "marginalized" only relative to the scientific community.
    As you have pointed out ("They are winning"), in the larger society, &
    especially conservative Christian churches, it is mainstream. >>

    True enough. Good point.

>>2d, YEC hasn't always been marginal for scientists: It became so
    gradually as scientific evidence for an old earth &
    evolution accumulated. De-marginalizing it scientifically would mean
    going back to ~1800.>>

    I don't think I called for this. I don't see, really, how it could be
    done. What I do call for is for mainstream science to pay more attention
    to the YEC arguments, by "welcoming" them into the discussion (in
    moderation, of course), and publicly refuting them in discussion. The
    current strategy is to ignore them, and it is that strategy which is
    leading to their gaining adherents outside the scientific community.

>>3d, "marginalizing" YEC may give them a _plausible_ reason to declare
    as martyrs but that is not the same as a _legitimate_ reason. >>

    Of course. But when you can claim a "plausible reason," as they do, and
    have that reason accepted by many, as obviously happens, it does no good
    at all to stand outside and say the reason is not "legitimate."

>> & 4th, the "who is to say" argument assumes a relativity of truth that
    neither scientific societies nor the
    govt is bound to accept, nor should they. Keith's post makes this point
    very well.>>

    I'm not sure of your point here. I replied to Keith separately.

>>The 1st Ammendment says that the govt can't make an establishment of
    but it says nothing about govt agencies recognizing some scientific
    theories as better
    than others. Again I refer to Keith's excellent post. If the govt can't
    make any scientific distinctions then the CDC has to accept the theory
    that diseases are caused by invisible demons on the same level as the
    theory that they're caused by viruses or bacteria. >>

    You are arguing against a view I don't hold and have not argued.

>> scientific organizations should be able to express their displeasure
    what's on sale & use their influence to keep bad science from
    masquerading as good.>>

    Maybe. You reify "scientific organizations," which bothers me. A PERSON
    is always able to do this, of course. I'm not altogether convinced about
    any organization ought to do so (of course, they are not so prevented,
    nor should they be). But I may not have though this part through.

> 2. Have you read FRACTURE?


    I presume you read my review. Maybe I did not praise it sufficiently.

>>Of course evidence for an old earth & universe & for evolution should
    presented, & areas (such as the origin of life) that "orthodox" science
    hasn't dealt
    with adequately should be acknowledged. This could certainly include
    putatively scientific YEC claims & showing the massive problems with
    them. & of course
    students shouldn't be _forced_ to accept one view or another, though they
    can be
    required to understand the theories & evidence on tests. But this
    material should
    certainly _not_ be presented in a "some say this, some say that, you can
    make up your
    minds" manner.>.

    We are in massive agreement here. Except I assert that the word "could"
    in your second sentence above ought to be replaced with the word
    "should." That is the core of my argument.

>>Furthermore, if YEC views are "presented as what they are," teachers
    will be
    free to critique them, & it will be very hard to keep them from sliding
    over into
    ridicule of the biblical creation accounts if they want to. & I think
    all Christians
    should be concerned about that.>>

    Yes, that is an exposure. I think it is an acceptable one.

    I had earlier said: " c. The education arms are (usually) competent to
    give them the exposure
> they deserve. d. Their exclusion today is one case of the
    marginalization I speak of."

>>I'm not sure if you mean "case" or "cause" here.>>

    Sorry. Cause.

>> Either way, I repeat what I said above: YEC got marginalized
    scientifically by an accumulation of scientific
    evidence & the development of scientific theory. >>

    Yep. But that is hardly a responsive comment to what I said.
    I had written:" e. By ignoring the YEC view, credibility is given it that
    it does not deserve."

>>No. This may provide grounds for claiming "martyrdom," as noted above,
    but there is no way it can be said to give "credibility." Is phlogiston
    theory made credible today by the fact that no one (outside history
    classes) teaches it?>>

    You set up a straw man here, my friend. If there was no YEC "cause,"
    there would be no problem. There is no "phlogiston cause," therefore
    there is no problem. But to be complete, I could have written: "e.
    Because the YEC position is widely taught, by ignoring the YEC view,
    credibility is given it that it does not deserve."

    Sometimes you have to remember previous parts of the argument. <G>

    I had also written: " f. By ignoring the YEC view, the case against it
    is never taught."

>>The case for an old earth & evolution should be taught. If you want
    teachers to
    add "therefore the earth isn't young & life didn't appear suddenly," it's
    OK with me.>>

    No. Simply saying that does no good. The YEC arguments should also be
    discussed -- and refuted.

>>In reality evolution has been, & to some extent still is, either
    ignored or
    (more likely) downplayed in many public schools. There are plenty of
    teachers who have
    no problem with evolution itself but are nervous about teaching it
    because of the flak
    they'll get from YEC parents &c. This returns to the point about
    While YEC is marginal - & properly so - in the scientific community, it
    is not marginal
    in the communities in which many public school teachers live & work.>>

    Yeah. That IS a real problem. It is my assertion, however, that
    pretending it does not exist is making the problem worse, not better.

>>Finally, on the general question of the best way to counter YEC claims.
     I agree
    that giving a movement plausible reasons to claim "martyrdom" may give
    them publicity &
    appear to give their claims more credit than they deserve.>>


>> But I also think that one should not place undue faith in the liberal
    idea that if ideas are freely & openly
    discussed, the truth will always win out. (Here I don't use "liberal" in
    a pejorative Limbaughish fashion but simply as a designation of a classic
    position.) While such exchanges of ideas are very valuable, there is no
    guarantee that truth will emerge from them. >>

    Here it is (finally) where you and I have a potentially serious
    disagreement. If the essentials of Mills' ON LIBERTY are not valid for
    our society, then you are right, and perhaps we can muddle along anyway.
    I happen to think (strongly) that they ARE valid, and that to the extent
    we modify them for one or another issue, we are the poorer for it.

>>This is especially the case when a relatively uninformed public tries
    to debate a technical subject, & even more so when the material for one
    side of the debate is supplied by people with a clear ideological agenda.
     That applies to laissez faire capitalists who want to deny global
    warming as well as to YECs.>>

    Could not agree more. It is the thesis of FRACTURE that "full disclosure"
    is the only possible answer to this. It is ONLY those issues which are
    "supplied by people with a clear ideological agenda" that are of interest
    here. The author of FRACTURE analyzes three of these groups, the
    Sojourners, The Religious Right and the Berrigan Brothers. The
    application of his arguments could just as well been applied to the YEC

>>A democratic society depends to some extent on the belief that the
    electorate can make intelligent decisions about issues if they are
    discussed openly. But in a scientific & technological world that will
    work only if the electorate has some basic scientific understanding of
    the world. & that means that education in good science, and its
    distinction from bad science, is essential for the long term viability of
    such a society. (It is, needless to say, a necessary but not a
    sufficient condition.) >>

    We end on a note of agreement. What I see as key in the above is your
    phrase "and its distinction from bad science." That distinction is NOT
    being made today, and I am reminded of a popular bumper sticker I saw
    many times last year in Denver:

    "What am I doing in this handbasket?"

    Burgy (Review of THE FRACTURE OF GOOD ORDER)

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Received on Wed Jan 21 11:15:01 2004

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