Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Aug 28 2007 - 15:45:34 EDT

I hesitate to jump into this thread in which no one has covered himself with glory, but a few comments are in order.

It's quite obvious that one can justify genocide (in modern terms) from "the Bible." (I leave other religions to fend for themselves.) All one has to do is point to stories like the extermination of the inhabitants of Jericho or Ai in Joshua. (Whether or not those are historically accurate is beside the point now. If they aren't accounts of what really happened then they're statements about what a later writer thought should have happened. For a modern application we need only remember the common equation America = Promised Land with what seemed to some its natural corollary, Indians = Canaanites.

I.e., if one regards the Bible as a collection of religious or moral "timeless truths" which are all of equal value, then examples of the extermination of populations are as timeless & as true & as important as "love your enemies" or I Cor.13. It is a quite different matter if we recognize that scripture, especially when understood christologically, gives a quite different picture of itself. Concepts like "God is love," kenosis (in the ethical setting in which Paul presents it in Phil.2) & progressive revelation, which can be seen as implications of such a christological reading, point in a direction rather different from that of the stories of Jericho or Ai.

Is that simply a subjective reading of the Bible? Only if coherence is regarded as purely subjective, because the first way of reading the Bible is self-contradictory & the second isn't - or at least needn't be.

Further on the supposedly "timeless" character of biblical truths in the first way of reading scripture: Opposition to any progressive or "evolutionary" aspect of revelation (& thus the Bible) is of a piece with belief in a static creation beloved of anti-evolutionists. While not all "creationists" (in the popular sense) are, by any stretch, in favor of genocide, they have, at the very least, a problem with texts like those in Joshua that those who recognize something progressive about revelation don't. (& by "progressive revelation" here I'm not referring just to increase in the amount of information conveyed but to changed understanding of the divine character & will - to a qualitative change in revelation if you will - something necessitated if God accomodates revelation to changes in people.)

Having said all that about the Bible, I have to add that the statement that "that science provides a less subjective ethics because it is based on evidence" is manifestly false. Science not only fails to provide a "less subjective ethics" but fails to provide any ethics at all. Providing ethics is quite outside the proper bounds of science.


----- Original Message -----
From: "PvM" <>
To: "David Opderbeck" <>
Cc: "AmericanScientificAffiliation" <>
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:51 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] Creationists for genocide

> So far the only incoherence comes from you my dear friend. If you
> beleive that it is possible to bild a genocidal ethics from the facts
> of evolution then I encourage you to present you argument.
> The problem with your 'arguments' are that you ignore what Avalos and
> I are telling you. Of course people can use the Bible to create an
> 'ethic' against genocide, and they can use the same bible to create an
> ethic for genocide. It's because the bible cannot provide us
> guidelines as to what is just and unjust genocide.
> The problem is that opposing sides can both find support in the bible
> for their positions, which can create conflict when scarce resources
> are involved.
> I suggest that we have a serious discussion as to Avalos, lest we want
> to resort, like David, to the creation of irrelevant strawmen.
> So let's, for David's sake, clarify what is already obvious, even
> though he has chosen to make our private discussion public without
> consulting me. A minor ethical infraction but still
> 1. The bible fails as a foundation for many ethics because it lacks an
> objective standard and can be used to argue either side.
> 2. The lack of such a standard can lead to conflict where both sides
> appeal to the bible or similar texts to support their actions an
> positions. Countless examples exist to varying degrees.
> 3. Avalos argues that science provides a less subjective ethics
> because it is based on evidence. Does this mean that science cannot be
> abused either? Of course not.
> 4. During WWII, the German State Church, the majority of Christians,
> supported the Nazis in their actions, while a small minority, the
> Confessing Church, opposed it, mostly based on church-state separation
> considerations. In other words, the examples cited by David, show that
> opposing sides can appeal to the same bible to support their claims.
> 5. Does this mean that popes and others cannot speak out against
> genocide? Of course not, but if they claim that their opposition comes
> from biblical considerations then they have a real problem to deal
> with, as history has so often shown.
> Does it matter that David believes he can formulate an ethics of
> genocide based on evolutionary theory, even though he has yet to do
> so? Not really.
> Until David at least understands Avalos's arguments, David's
> objections remain founded in his own strawmen.
> Simple.
> So why is it so hard to address these issues raised by Avalos? Perhaps
> because as Christians we realize that they may cause discomfort?
> Should we avoid such discomfort by rejecting Avalos's claims as
> atheistic etc? So far I have found the level of reactions on ASA quite
> interesting.
> In Christ
> Pim
> On 8/28/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
>> At this point, Pim, all I can do is laugh. You are yawning at Pope John
>> Paul II as an example of a Biblical ethic against genocide? You seriously
>> deny that it's possible to build a genocidal ethic from the facts of
>> evolution? You make the statement that "reasonable is a subjective
>> standard at best," and I'm employing a strawman when I use it to question
>> your position using your own words? You have dug yourself into such a deep
>> hole in this discussion that you've become incoherent.
>> On 8/27/07, PvM <> wrote:
>> > On 8/27/07, David Opderbeck <> wrote:
>> > > Just time for a few quick responses:
>> > >
>> > > 1. I can claim the Bible forms a foundation for rejecting genocide,
>> even
>> > > when some people have read it to support genocide, because that is a
>> > > verifiable historical fact. Pope John Paul II arguably did more to stop
>> > > genocide (as perpetrated by atheists in the Soviet Union with the
>> presumed
>> > > blessing of Darwin as filtered through Marx, BTW), than any other figure
>> in
>> > > human history. John Paul II's ethics were thoroughly Biblical, and I'm
>> > > pretty sure he was aware of the problem texts Avalos cites.
>> >
>> > Yawn, those are such irrelevant statements of what you believe and
>> > appeals to authority. Avalos seems to be quite correct here, there is
>> > no real good standard for what is just based on biblical teachings.
>> >
>> > > 2. Yes, I claim the text of nature can be read to support genocide. Do
>> you
>> > > deny that? If so, why is your intepretation more reasonable than mine?
>> >
>> > I surely deny that. As far as your question is concerned why is an
>> > interpretation that the bible supports genocide less or more
>> > reasonable than one which claims it does not?
>> >
>> > > Isn't the fact that we can reach differing interpretations of the same
>> text
>> > > conclusive evidence that the text is worthless as a source of norms? Or
>> >
>> > It surely makes it hard to claim that it can form a source of norms,
>> > worse, it can form a great source of conflicts.
>> >
>> > > does that logic only apply one way? Or, could it be that the
>> possibility of
>> > > differing interpretations is an invetable result of the human condition
>> and
>> > > the variability of all complex texts, which does not necessarily render
>> > > every potential reading equally valid?
>> >
>> > How does one establish which reading is more 'valid'? wishful thinking?
>> >
>> > > 3. "Reasonable is a subjective standard at best?" Are you claiming
>> that
>> > > there is nothing objective at all about reason? On what basis, then,
>> should
>> > > anyone accept Avalos' and your claims about how best to interpret
>> scripture,
>> > > or about any conclusions of science? Is this just some kind of
>> Foucaultian
>> > > knowledge/power thing? Or is it that you're restricting "reason" in
>> > > positivist fashion to that which is empirically verifiable?
>> >
>> > Nice strawman.
>> >
>> > > 4. Before you "sigh," read what I'm writing. The Darwin=genocide claim
>> > > stands if we apply your and Avalos' Biblical hermeneutic to the text of
>> > > nature.
>> >
>> > Nope, just because you make this claim does not mean that it stands.
>> >
>> > > As I reject that hermeneutic, I reject Darwin=genocide as an
>> > > absolute, necessary progression.
>> >
>> > Sigh.
>> >
>> > So much objections and still missing the point
>> >
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Received on Tue Aug 28 15:47:04 2007

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