Re: Skepticism - its uses and abuses

From: Mervin Bitikofer <>
Date: Thu Dec 15 2005 - 07:59:05 EST

I write this as a continuation of the thread below -- but also as a
response to Randy Isaac's ASA neutrality clarification.

Snippet from Don Winterstein's post:
"Jesus certainly seemed to encourage unquestioning faith. This aspect
of his teaching continues to nag at me: If you have childlike faith in
Jesus, aren't you likely also to have childlike faith in Joseph Smith,
etc.? The Apostles, of course, quickly became aware and taught that you
don't believe just anybody (e.g., I John 4:1). "

I was not intending in my previous posts to attempt a resurrection of
YEC scientific arguments. I think it quite possible that an
organization such as the ASA in their neutral and impartial evaluation
of evidence will draw a conclusion that could seem to outsiders a
departure from neutrality. But how many impartial judges, when they
become aware of a great body of evidence in a case (and scientists are
aware of much evidence) are going to remain undecided? I wasn't
trying to defend YEC science (or even necessarily their theology --
although I don't write off the all theological aspects of it as easily
as some others here do.) I was only objecting to the blanket
attribution of false motives and deceitful or (willful) ignorance to
some in particular whom I think may be in honest disagreement. There
may be many YEC who have intentionally used deceit and are deserving of
the charge -- I don't question that either. But to imply that these
false motives are universal to that camp is, I think, to make the
accuser guilty of their own accusation.

In light of the above, I'm afraid my continued thoughts below will be
misconstrued as an attempt to throw more fuel on the YEC "scientific
conspiracy" fire. So I will give this assurance up front, that my
questions are here aimed more at the evolutionary "philosophy", and
metaphysical conclusion that seems for many to follow so hard on the
heals of (or perhaps precede?) their science. I am treading a fine line
here -- freely throwing in my voice with that aspect of YEC argument
that raises questions about where science stops and religion begins. I
think this a very live and valid challenge, and certainly not one
monopolized solely by YEC but by many other Christians. So, once
again, I do accept (at least for myself) that young earth /science/ has
ceased to be a scientifically viable consideration.

I agree with Don, that the Bible throws a lot of exhortation towards the
"unquestioning acceptance" model of apprehending Truth, but it also does
tell us to question and not accept just everything. And it 'nags' at me
too that the former seems to 'win out' over the latter if one just
attempts a 'proof-texting' approach to deciding an argument. One of the
passages that ought to leave just about all of us squirming
uncomfortably begins at II Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when
men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own
desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away
from the truth and turn aside to myths." How many of us will hang
around among a group of folks if we feel at significant odds with their
teaching? And we may have valid reasons for finding a different
church/discussion group/Bible study/whatever... Our Spirit-led
intuitions may be telling us that the Truth is not being promoted among
that group and we wish to find a different one where it is. But then
how can we be so sure that we aren't just surrounding ourselves with
people that will say what "our itching ears want to hear"? When this
natural polarization happens, is it a harmful 'narrowing' of our vision
that prevents us from seeing and hearing God's truth? Or is it the
painful (but predicted) division predicted by Jesus himself where his
word of Truth separates brother from brother and father against son?
Religious conservatives will see the latter happening, while culturally
sensitive pluralists (castigatingly called 'liberal') will adopt the
former view. YEC will invoke this "itching ears" passage to attack the
scientific establishment itself. And while (again!) I don't think their
conspiracy message captures enough truth to convincingly bring down
evolution, I do think that all establishments (including science) are
well warned about our collective capacity for self-deceit. This is one
aspect of this debate that ought to be appreciated as a positive
contribution (yes -- even from those 'dreaded' YEC!) [Is there
beginning to be some humor in my apparent need to frantically
disassociate myself from 'them'?] When YEC accuse the keepers of
scientific literature of shutting them out, and thus creating the
self-fulfilling prophecy that YEC literature isn't to be found in
peer-reviewed journals, I don't doubt that such "loose conspiracy" does
happen -- on many fronts. Exceptions will probably prove the rule on
this. Science probably has a slight bit more immunity to this problem
than the associated philosophies and religions. I think the 'loose
conspiracy' accusation begins to carry immense weight when addressing
evolutionary philosophy in the guise of science that so permeates our
educational system. And just because I think YEC or ID people may have
their own 'itching ears' issues won't prevent me from acknowledging the
valuable contributions they do make in the form of challenges to a vast
establishment. (And yes -- positive contribution can come in the form
of 'tearing down', even in the absence of presenting alternative or
better hypotheses). Demolition workers earn their wages just like the
builders do.

My point is that this 'itching ears' possibility is a potential
destabilizer for any kind of group commitment to a perceived Truth.
Obviously we ultimately have to move beyond it to settle on the "Truth"
that matches God's created reality. At some point we worship the
Creator among and surrounded by those who, with us, acknowledge that
Truth. My question is does that ever happen on this of the grave? Or
are we assigned the lot of always doubting and suspecting our own
itching ears while we are here?

Received on Thu Dec 15 08:06:48 2005

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