Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Sat Aug 25 2007 - 14:34:12 EDT

Thanks for giving the link. It demonstrates that Avalos doesn't understand
Christian ethics or Christian history -- or for that matter, ethics and
history in general.

For example, Avalos says this:

*Christianity is actually founded on moral relativism that is even more
chaotic than secular systems of ethics. Ephesians 2:15 tells us this about
what Christ did to the Law of Moses: "by abolishing in his flesh the law of
commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in
place of the two, so making peace." In fact, from a traditional Jewish
viewpoint, Christianity is founded on systematically destroying God's laws
as revealed to Moses, and so speaking of a Judeo-Christian tradition is also
akin to speaking of a Capitalist-Marxist tradition.*

If Avalos weren't so serious about this, it would almost be amusing that he
engages in the same sort of willy-nilly proof-texting as religious
fundamentalists. There are many ways to understand the relationship between
the Gospel and the Law, but no responsible Christian interpreter is as
antinomian as Avalos is here. At the very least, Avalos seems to be
ignorant of the many rich streams of Christian thought that wrestle with the
Gospel-Law relationship in ways that are not in any sense relativistic or
antinomian. I wonder, for example, if Avalos has read Frank Thielman's
recent study "Paul and the Law" (http://tinyurl.com/2jgm7k). Indeed, I
wonder if Avalos is aware of the depth of the entire Christian tradition on
the Gospel-Law relationship. Somehow, I doubt it.

This is only one of the many clunkers and recycled chestnuts in Avalos'
article. As another example, he picks on R.A. Torrey -- who is not even a
contemporary creationist of the sort Avalos supposedly is doing battle --
for the following statement:

*Even today I could almost wish that all the babies born into families of
wicked influence might be slain in infancy, were it not for the hope that
some concerned Christian will carry to them the saving gospel of the Son of
God.*

In context, Torrey is trying to understand the OT's "holy war" passages, and
is suggesting that perhaps in some sense it was better for some of the
Canaanite infants to die young rather than to be raised in a context in
which they would surely have worshipped Baal. We can reasonably debate
whether Torrey's approach to these passages is a good one, but notice that,
contrary to Avalos' argument, Torrey is not in any way advocating abortion,
infanticide, or genocide. Even the out-of-context- quote Avalos provides
makes clear that Torrey is *not* advocating infanticide, but rather is
expressing the hope that concerned Christians will share the gospel with
everyone.

Moreover, none of this has anything at all to do with Torrey's views about
creation. What Avalos is really arguing here is that any view that
incorporates the perspective of an afterlife is morally abominable. This,
again, is an old atheist chestnut -- the promise and/or threat of an
afterlife makes people less attentive to things in this life, less sensitive
to suffering, etc. And again, it's a fundamentalist-style argument that
relies on extremes. True, some people who believe in an afterlife use that
belief to justify or support evil actions. But, as an empirical matter, it
simply isn't true that all, most, or even an appreciable percentage of the
afterlife-believing population do anything of the sort. Indeed, the
evidence might suggest that belief in an afterlife can encourage people to
act *more* compassionately in this life. And of course, many, many
atrocities have been perpetrated by people who believed their actions in
this life carry no repurcussions for them beyond the grave.

As one last example of Avalos' embarassingly shallow treatment, take a look
at the summary tables at the end of his article. Avalos compares Nazi
ideology and the Bible as follows:

   Nazi Ideology Anti-Judaism YES YES Homosexuality condemned YES YES
Genealogical
purity demanded YES YES Life unequal in value YES YES Whole groups devalued
YES YES Genocide permissible YES YES

He claims this table applies not only to the holy war passages in the OT,
but to the whole Bible, including the NT. Of course, he makes no effort at
all to understand how Jews and Christians actually read and understand
scripture. His is a kind of cherry-picking literalism that not even the
most fundamentalist of Christian exegetes would employ. With regard to the
Christian understanding of the Bilbe, he completely ignores the primacy of
the Cross, and he seems blind to the socially leveling influence that
Christianity has actually had in history.

With regard to the Jewish understanding of the Bible, one can only
describe Avalos' tables as alternating between incoherent and anti-semitic.
Let's be clear about what Avalos is saying concerning the Jewish scriptures
and, by implication, the Jewish tradition that is based on those
scriptures: he is arguing that Judaism is equivalent to Nazism! Let that
really sink in if you are at all tempted to think Avalos' approach here is
reasonable.

Avalos' concluding paragraph is a fitting summary for this mess of an
essay. He says:

Creationist ethics are based on the whims and claims of people who tell us
they know what God wants. Scientific ethics, as imperfect as they may be, at
least can demand verifiable evidence that violence in self-defense is
necessary. Theistic violence, on the other hand, often relies on the
unverifiable belief that a supernatural being said we had to sacrifice human
life.

It's hard to know where to begin with a passage like this. Avalos seems to
equate "creationist ethics" with some radical form of divine command theory
tied to an even more radical interpretive framework that would allow for
random prophetic utterances without any normative framework. Once again,
Avalos displays his ignorance of the variations of religious ethics, which
often incorporate at least some limited type of natural theology in addition
to the divine command. Avalos further ignores the idea that the divine
command itself, in the Christian tradition, is not given at the whims of
some people at any point in history, but is normed by the commands and
actions of Christ -- in particular by the Cross -- and by the canonical
scriptures.

Avalos' notion of "scientific ethics" in this concluding paragraph is
equally baffling. There is no serious, sustained school of thought
concerning "scientific ethics." There are some interesting, recent
proposals concerning how evolution might have conditioned ethical thinking,
but no ethicists, religious or secular, outside of perhaps a very small
minority of die-hard reductionistic materialists, conceive of ethics as a
science of the same sort as, say, physics or microbiology.

In fact, if Avalos' notion of "scientific ethics" is correct, then not only
religious ethics, but *every* system of ethics employed by *all* people
throughout *all *of human history must be scrapped. Not just divine command
theory and natural law ethics, but also eudaimonistic virtue ethics,
consequentialism, and social contract theory must go by the boards, because
*all* of them involve normative judgments that are not reducible to
falsificationist "science." And that, at the end of the day, is Avalos'
real argument -- an argument in favor of a reductionistic materialism and
against anything that stands in its way.

On 8/25/07, PvM <pvm.pandas@gmail.com> wrote:

> Aha, I notice that I forgot to add the link to the complete article.
> What I posted was just the introduction
>
> http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Genocide.cfm
>
> I apologize for the omission
>
> On 8/25/07, PvM <pvm.pandas@gmail.com> wrote:
> > I was somewhat surprised to read about the seven steps by Luther.
> > Furthermore, David's response seems to do a disservice to Avalos's
> > arguments. Is ad hominem the only response possible here?
> >
> > On 8/25/07, David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com> wrote:
> > > It seems to me that Avalos and his other atheist fundamentalists are
> > > out-fundamentalist-ing the religious fundamentalists. Apparently,
> anyone
> > > who rejects the Dawkins line that God as portrayed in the OT is merely
> > > petty, mean, etc., must be a supporter of genocide. Rubbish.
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > On 8/25/07, Michael Roberts <michael.andrea.r@ukonline.co.uk> wrote:
> > > > A quickie response.
> > > >
> > > > I have never been impressed with the alleged bloodline running from
> Darwin
> > > > to Hitler, and from what I have picked up about Wiekart I am not
> > > impressed.
> > > >
> > > > Historical attitudes by Christians to others over history have often
> been
> > > > wicked eg Luther on Jews and many others.
> > > >
> > > > However a quick look at Avalos indicates an equally unimpressive
> argument.
> > > > To say Torrey (a TE not a creationist) Safarti and Craig support
> genocide
> > > > is not accurate as they were seeking to understand the OT.
> > > >
> > > > I haven't time to do more.
> > > >
> > > > Michael
> > > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > > From: "PvM" <pvm.pandas@gmail.com >
> > > > To: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" <asa@calvin.edu>
> > > > Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2007 6:01 AM
> > > > Subject: [asa] Creationists for genocide
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > > Professor Hector Avalos, Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa
> State
> > > > > University has recently finished "Creationists for genocide"
> which
> > > > > explores the link between ethics, the holocaust, Darwinism and
> Luther.
> > > > > An interesting reading with some challenging positions.
> > > > >
> > > > > <quote>
> > > > > One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands
> that
> > > > > it is meant to be a system of ethics. That is why the assault on
> > > > > evolution has always included a lengthy history of moral judgments
> > > > > against evolution. Perhaps none of these judgments has been more
> > > > > accusatory than the idea that Darwinism led to the Holocaust. Such
> an
> > > > > idea is trumpeted in many creationist venues, including books and
> > > > > blogs. A prime example of this accusation today is found in
> Richard
> > > > > Weikart's From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics,
> and
> > > > > Racism in Germany (2004).[1] Weikart is a member of the Discovery
> > > > > Institute who has devoted his career to elucidating the supposed
> > > > > immoral consequences of evolution.
> > > > >
> > > > > For Weikart, the materialistic basis of evolutionary theory is
> > > > > responsible for the devaluation of human life in general. In
> > > > > particular, the idea of the survival of the fittest leads to the
> > > > > devaluation or extermination of those considered "unfit" in
> society.
> > > > > Death becomes a good thing insofar as it helps the species rid
> itself
> > > > > of unfit organisms. The principal goal of all such
> anti-evolutionary
> > > > > moral arguments is to show that creationism, especially in its
> > > > > Judeo-Christian form, is a superior moral system.
> > > > >
> > > > > Aside from exposing the historical flaws found in the work of
> Weikart,
> > > > > this essay demonstrates that the defense of genocide, infanticide
> and
> > > > > "eugenics" by creationists actually has a very venerable and
> lengthy
> > > > > tradition that precedes Darwin. In fact, the most blatant defenses
> of
> > > > > genocide ever penned are still to be found among creationists.
> Some of
> > > > > these defenders of genocide include Reuben A. Torrey, the famed
> > > > > fundamentalist apologist, William Lane Craig, Jonathan Sarfati, an
> > > > > Australian Young-Earth creationist with a Ph.D. in chemistry, and
> > > > > Glenn Miller, an American business executive who fancies himself
> to be
> > > > > a biblical scholar.[2]
> > > > > </quote>
> > > > >
> > > > > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
> > > > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > > > >
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
> > > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> >
>

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Received on Sat Aug 25 14:35:05 2007

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