Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

From: Michael Roberts <>
Date: Sat Aug 25 2007 - 17:37:03 EDT


You are demonstrating a high level of vacuous thought here, which I haven't got time to respond to.

Michael----- Original Message -----
  From: PvM
  To: David Opderbeck
  Cc: Michael Roberts ; AmericanScientificAffiliation
  Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2007 9:59 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

  On 8/25/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
    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" ( Indeed, I wonder if Avalos is aware of the depth of the entire Christian tradition on the Gospel-Law relationship. Somehow, I doubt it.

  Your doubt at most shows the weakness of your argument not that of Avalos's. I find it fascinating how people tend to respond to criticism by resorting to the adhominems such as 'no responsible Christian interpreter'.


    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:

  Why should the creationist be contemporary when Avalos's argument is that this kind of thought predates Darwinism?

      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.

  Aha, surely your accusation of out of context quote fails since it is, as you state, not out of context. Furthermore, a more careful reading of what Avalos wrote shows that he refers to Torrey as a 'defender' of the kind of genocide found in these examples.

    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

  You seem to be missing Avalos's argument then. Love those strawmen...

    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.

  And yet we see how Avalos is documenting a Christian thought process which if not condones, surely understands the concept of genocide and how these thoughts precede Darwinian theory.

    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.

  So he ignores thing although he is right to point out these similarities? Surely analogies do end at a certain level, but this is in response to the somewhat irresponsible arguments by Weikart. All Avalos is doing is showing how genocide and Christian and Judean thought on these matters precedes Darwinism.

    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.

  Love them strawmen. Accuse Avalos of anti-semitism, surely that's going to make his arguments go away. Never mind whether or not there is some level of veracity to Avalos's arguments... It's much simpler to make it go away by distracting from his arguments.

    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.

  Another nice non sequitur. Whether or not the science of ethics is of the same level as say physics, is irrelevant. There is quite an extensive scientific literature on the concept of ethics, ignoring this is just irresponsible.

    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."

  I love these strawmen...

    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.

  Yes, let's redefine his argument in the same manner Avalos shows how creationists get to redefine the interpretation of 'ethics' and avoid having to deal with Avalos's arguments.

  Nothing to say about Luther's statement? I wonder why?

  Avalos's argument is about the flaws in Weikart's arguments but somehow David seems to know better. Fascinating...

    On 8/25/07, PvM <> wrote:
      Aha, I notice that I forgot to add the link to the complete article.
      What I posted was just the introduction

      I apologize for the omission

      On 8/25/07, PvM < > 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 <> 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 <> 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" < >
> > > To: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" < >
> > > 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 with
> > > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > > >
> > >
> > >
> > > To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> > > "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
> > >
> >
> >

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Received on Sat Aug 25 18:19:38 2007

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