Re: [asa] Breaching the dam

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Thu Oct 11 2007 - 15:59:07 EDT

Jim -

I agree - when YECs (to focus on that) we're talking to are the rank & file of conservative Christian churches who have not given a great deal of thought to the issues & don't have a lot invested in them but who have simply been told by their pastors & other leaders that Christians should reject evolution & believe in a young earth. But things are different when we're dealing with YEC cadres like the RATE leaders, Ham, Morris &c. They are possessed of invincible ignorance about the issue & won't change short of a miracle, & they are the ones who continue to mislead the former group. What is necessary with the cadres is unqualified & uncompromising refutation of their errors.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Jim Armstrong
  Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007 3:25 PM
  Subject: [asa] Breaching the dam

  I don't know if this resonates with this discussion or not, but it seems time to sing one of my favorite songs again (different lyrics). This is the way it seems to me.

  Much of the discussion at the participant interfaces on this listserve invokes rational argument, even though individual perspectives may have much deeper heart-felt roots. But a conversant drawn from a more representative audience away from this list more often than not brings other important context to the discussion, a lack of expertise in any of the disciplines (whether science or theology), an absence of routine use of critical thought (and a resultant disposition that leans more on heart than reason), a well-entrenched worldview that has accumulated over many years through trusted information sources and personal reflection, a community that shares and from time to time reinforces/rehearses those perspectives, and a natural resultant distrust of any voice which speaks in significant contradiction to those heart-felt positions.

  In short, this represents a pretty significant barrier when offering an alternative insight which appears to erode a faith-based or miracle-based understanding. That barrier in its essentials is woven of robust stuff: comfort, intellectual and emotional inertia, and that outer layer comprising a variable measure of mistrust. Well, that's a pretty formidable impediment and it is not well configured to be receptive to the language and tools that are used routinely on this listserver among ourselves.

  Romance! Romance and patience! That's what is really required in essence, the assets any would-be suitor worth his/her salt would bring to bear.

  The patience part is the easier part to articulate (though the practice of it is of course another matter). It is unrealistic to expect any worldview component to change quickly, particularly a high-implication one like YEC vs OEC. At a critical moment, that change may come abruptly, but one can't ignore the time involved in the process of truly hearing worldview-incompatible ideas, ruminating about them, and even letting them rest for a while. More often than not, it seems to be more an experience of "dawning", some gradual awareness that something has changed in our way of looking at things.

  Patience commends the jam jar lid removal approach, firm, and steady, however slow the movement. Give good information; constant, reliable, and most importantly, "hear-able". The timing involved in any resultant change in understanding is then in the sands of the hourglass, or the hands of the Holy Spirit who illumines from within - the constant teacher and compass [my bias that such matters as are discussed here are at least from time to time truly consequential in a larger sense]. As a teacher, we are occasionally privileged to be present at a discernable "aha" moment, but not often, however satisfying that may be.

  The romance (hear-ability) part is trickier. In essence, we have to find a communication mode and configuration that is matched to the receptors of our counterpart conversant(s).

  Trust is difficult to build in a short time (unless already established). The starting point is anything that brings the speaker and audience into rapport:
      - engaging and informal style and dress (when appropriate); humor without sharp edges; very careful about softening confrontation
      - kinship in devotion - I think one of the most powerful connectional elements between the Christian community and folks like Francis Collins and Denis Lamoureux are their personal testimonies that establish a foundational link with their conversant(s).
      - sense of shared stewardship - in this case as expressed in the speaker's choice and commitment to a particular career path
      - kinship in appreciation of beauty - appreciation and demonstration of the beauties of nature and within our disciplines establish more common ground.
      - avoidance of any sense hard sell or discounting, which distance; in the work of my organization, we use a catch phrase, "inform, not persuade", saying something like, "Our/My purpose is to inform, to invite you to consider; not to persuade you to change your mind on our/my say so alone.
      - Acknowledgment of difficulty of the seeker task of discerning who to believe when things get technical. Some may relate to the role of the Holy Spirit as an internal compass, helping discern among alternatives.
      - Help illuminate (carefully and considerately) the bases for differences in beliefs/understandings among good and devout people.

  Clarity is of course also crucial, that is clarity from the audience point of view.
      - carefully frame explanations, use crisp visuals, minimize technicalese except when the terms are already in the public discourse.
      - eschew labels for groups or movements - they carry baggage and are generally less helpful and less mnemonic than basic explanations
      - seek connections to things familiar to the audience (image, analog or metaphor)
      - sound (and current!) foundations for facts

  Alternative (two book) model
      Creator/Creation relationship - Creation "good"
      Two "books" (revelations) with different kinds of information and different languages.
         - no language or translation difficulty with the second book
      We are gifted with curiosity and a discovering mind.
      The universe seems to be clearly discoverable, and Scripture teaches that we can learn of the Creator via the natural world
          - wants us to know stuff
          - has made nature so that it behaves consistently and understandably (progressively over time). That's why we can remarkably describe how many natural things behave in the form of mathematical laws.
          - implications? - God apparently expects us to look and question and explore and find and discuss and incrementally understand Creation, ...and by implication, the Creator as well.

  I apologize for the basic nature of some of these items. I hope it does not cloud the basic notions in productively talking with individuals or groups about some of the sensitive subjects discussed here on the ASA listserver.

  Any other thoughts y'all might add to this?

  JimA [Friend of ASA]

  Jon Tandy wrote:

    I think it's a bit precarious arguing against the invocation of "miracle" when presenting this to a popular Christian audience. "You're a Christian, and you don't believe in miracles?" they will ask.

    I believe we need to be clear in such discussions that as Christians, we believe in the possibility of God doing miracles which are beyond any human explanation. The point here, though, is truthfulness. It is disingenuous to say "science proves" Young-Earth Creation, when in the end it's not science that proves it, but rather some highly contrived and speculative miraculous events that are neither witnessed in the scriptural record nor by any observable evidence. If you want to believe that "God did it" in a certain way, and ignore the scientific evidence, then at least be honest and admit this is a purely theological conclusion. I don't believe God is going to condemn a person who is ignorant of the scientific facts and simply chooses to believe a theological assertion of God as Creator. However, lying about what science actually "proves" is not something a Christian should do. If one is going to claim a scientifically verifiable explanation (or even invoke an unproved hypothesis), then there needs to be a forthright acknowledgement of the scientific evidence or lack thereof.

    It seems that the popular presentations of RATE is where this really becomes a problem, even though the technical volumes admit the scientific difficulties.

    Jon Tandy

      -----Original Message-----
      From: [] On Behalf Of George Murphy
      Sent: Thursday, October 11, 2007 5:36 AM
      To: Randy Isaac;
      Subject: Re: [asa] Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 6 & The End

      Like others, I agree with Randy's evaluation. I would point out though that the reliance on "divine intervention" - i.e., miracle - has been clear in this most recent phase of YEC claims even before the RATE project began. In Starlight & Time Humphreys had to say that God somehow brought about an enormous expansion of space during the creation week. As I've said before, natural processes plus a miracle = a miracle as far as scientific explanation is concerned. Humphreys' cosmology and the RATE project (together or separately) are precisely, without remainder, in the category of the famous "Then a miracle occurs" cartoon - i.e., they are a joke as far as science is concerned.

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Randy Isaac
        Sent: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 11:19 PM
        Subject: Re: [asa] Denver RATE Conference (Thousands...Not Billions)_Part 6 & The End

        Most of all, note the reliance on "divine interpretation." This is perhaps the clearest statement yet from ICR/CRS that known scientific concepts are not consistent with the young-earth position. In my article, I focused on the deception of those who claim RATE concluded that science has shown the young-earth position to be credible while the actual technical report states clearly that there are unresolved problems that cannot be solved by any known scientific process. I did circulate my article to the Creation Research Society board of directors prior to publication, with no response. It is now interesting that DeYoung essentially admits that the young-earth advocate cannot close the loop with science but needs to fall back on "divine intervention." In so doing, he has been truthful in reporting the failure of RATE to settle the issue of the age of the earth scientifically. If the audience left the conference thinking that RATE had demonstrated the scientific feasibility of a young earth, then that was merely what they wanted to hear--they were told factually that "divine intervention" must be invoked.


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Received on Thu Oct 11 16:06:08 2007

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