A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF GOVERNMENT

When I get a particularly thoughtful comment, even when I disagree, I make an effort to highlight it. Because I think discussion healthy, I do my best to encourage it.

What follows is a comment with which I happen for the most part to agree. The comment came during a debate at this post, DEBATING THE ETHICAL FOUNDATION OF GOVERNMENT. Note that I corrected the misspelling of Dominionism, and I provided a link to Wikipedia for a definition.

Russ White says:

Just wanted to point out one thing… In reality, there are many types of Christians in the world, and Christian theology can be divided along multiple “bright lines.” For instance, is salvation through some form of works, or all through grace? Are people elected before they are born because it’s God’s will, or because of God’s knowledge, or not at all?

One of the various dividing lines is over Christianity’s relationship with the Government. How should Christianity, as a whole, relate to government? There is a school of Christianity (represented by the Quakers, for instance), that believes Christianity should have nothing –absolutely nothing– to do with the government. There is another school –Dominionism its various flavors– that believes Christianity should be government. Here we find the Roman Catholic Church pre Vatican 2, for the most part –the Church should crown kings.

There is another school that says government should be founded on Christian principles because these principles are the closest to the real situation we find ourselves in, and therefore are the most likely to actually produce a working society. Not a _perfect_ society, not a “Christian utopia,” just a _working_ society. The best humans can actually do given their fallen and imperfect nature.

This just happens to be the school of Christianity I belong to (and the school I think Tom belongs to).

I’m not trying to build “utopia” of any sort, because I don’t think such a thing can be built by humans. Communism, socialism, fascism, and even, in some forms, capitalism (specifically the versions that don’t admit God), are all trying to build a perfect utopian world. They do this by trying to correct what they see wrong in people. For instance –people don’t always care for the poor in their midst. Socialism tries to solve this by forcing them to care.

The school of Christianity I live in says, “you can’t force people to care –you’re just going to make things worse!” Socialists and communist reply, “humans are plastic, infinitely bendable to the will of the state.” In other words, “I can make people take action, even if I can’t make them care!”

So in the real war, the Christians where I live aren’t on the side of the “utopians.” We’re on the side of those who believe there is a limited amount the government can do, and that limit, in reality, is rather small. That when you step over the line a little, you wind up stepping over the line all the way, simply because you must in order to support the little point at which you’ve already stepped over the line.

Take, for instance, the government’s statement that you must be able to unionize. Simple enough, right? Well, now that the government has declared it a “right” to unionize, someone has to control the conditions under which a union must be form. Those rules, as a matter of course, can be gamed, so they must be made ever more complex to cover situations no-one ever thought of, and must be enforced. This one rule –that everyone has the right to unionize– must be defended and upheld by a forest of rules, each of which must be enforced. Each of these must, in turn, by supported by another forest of rules, each of these which must be enforced. Thus the government creeps from a single idea to the point of telling companies and employees everything they may, and may not, do.

If you believe you can make society a “little better” with a “little utopianism (socialism),” then you will easily slide to “I can make society a lot better with a lot of utopianism.” Unless you can identify the specific line you won’t cross, and the specific reason you wont’ cross it (other than “no reasonable person would go there,” because people aren’t reasonable), then don’t go down that path in the first place.

There is no “little” government without a lot of humility about what our limits are as humans. The problem with socialism and communism is they don’t believe we have limits as humans. In Christianity, particularly among creationists, we believe humans have limitations, and we know what those limitations are.

Russ

Note that the limited government Russ describes requires two things from each of us. The first is self restraint. When the use of the force of government cannot be morally justified, we must restrain ourselves from trying to use the government to get what we want done. The second involves the willingness to accept personal responsibility. We must each assess our personal gifts and voluntarily contribute the use of those gifts to the welfare of our fellows.

What is not required, however, is that we act solely as individuals. In fact, I believe God both wants us and designed us to work in fellowship with each other. Why do I believe this? We have an example. In the America that once was, Americans readily — without the force of government — took it upon themselves to work with others to satisfy the needs of their communities. Check out THE RIGHT OF FREE ASSOCIATION. Here I reference Alexis De Tocqueville, the author of that classic work, Democracy in America.

The spirit that Tocqueville described still exists in America, but we do need to revive and renew it.

P.S. – With respect to his comment, I have one minor point of disagreement with Russ. Whereas Russ identifies himself as Creationist, I do not. I will readily agree that God created us. Nonetheless, I have the same problem with Creationism that I have with the Theory of Evolution. Scientists have no way to test either theory.

Even if we take Genesis literally, we must remember that the Bible is not scientific treatise.  God intended that the Bible could be understood by people without any scientific training. Hence, while the Bible makes it crystal clear that God created us and why, the Bible says little that addresses how God created us.

About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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48 Responses to A CHRISTIAN VIEW OF GOVERNMENT

  1. Sherry says:

    There’s one difference not mentioned: Utopians believe that all people are born inherently good. Christians know that we are all born with a sinful nature so we cannot, in this life, be perfectly good. No matter how hard the progressives try they will never achieve that Utopia in their lifetimes.

    • Russ White says:

      Yes, that’s what I was getting at with the bit about creationism and our fallen imperfect nature. Of course you can be a Christian and full of pride,, but the correct position for a Christian to take is –I’m a human like all others, don’t give me too much power, either!

  2. Russ White says:

    There’s also a couple of words missing here: “the conditions under which a union must be form.” I meant to insert the word “able,” in there. :-)

    As for creation –it’s an interesting discussion, but in the end, I think Genesis must be read as saying God specially created humans around 6,000-10,000 years ago. I don’t think you can go much farther back than that given the record of the Scriptures.

    The difference between Creationism and evolution is one is a scientific theory based on a biased view of the information available that can’t be tested. The other is based on an eyewitness –and the key point in all eyewitness testimony is whether or not you trust the witness, not whether or not you can recreate the original “scene of the crime” effectively…

    • Citizen Tom says:

      Russ

      If you want to believe God created the universe in seven days, I don’t see any harm in it. You may even be right. I just wonder why we need to take the story that literally.

      What I find repugnant is that either side of the creation/evolution debate would insist upon making the issue a matter of public policy. What I find in the debate between creationists and evolutionists is yet another bit of proof that we are not born inherently good. When we cannot possibility know the answer with absolute certainty, why otherwise would we insist that others believe our answer?

      Does the Bible date the earth? I do not think so. Instead of telling us what we want to know, I think Bible just tells us what we need to know.

      Consider words of the Apostle Peter. Consider how God views time.

      2 Peter 3:8
      But do not forget one thing, my dear friends! There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same.

      My guess is that Peter spoke to these words.

      Psalm 90:4
      A thousand years to you are like one day; they are like yesterday, already gone, like a short hour in the night.

      The Bible does contain genealogies. Using that information, I suppose we could try to date the age of mankind from the time of Adam, but I doubt God intended we use the genealogies for that purpose.

      When Moses wrote Genesis, Moses had access to whatever information God wanted him to have. God spoke directly to Moses. So what did Moses write about Creation? He wrote a short story for a Bronze Age people. He wrote enough to provide the beginning of a surprising tale. That’s the story that explains how Jesus saved us after we fell from grace. What the Bible says about His Son is what I believe God wants us to glean from the Bible.

      • Russ White says:

        I think we need to begin by separating the different pieces out. There is the age of the Earth (related to the age of the universe, but not necessarily the same things), the age of man, and how man came to be.

        On the first question, I think there is a ton of evidence in either direction. There’s no way to perform a scientific experiment to determine the age of the Earth. Every possible method we’ve ever come up with is flawed in one way or another –and I would guide your attention to John 2 as an example of where our thinking can go wrong. Everyone knows that wine takes time, particularly good wine –years and years, in fact. Yet Jesus here shortcuts the entire process in a few moments. Anyone tasting that wine would think it was old wine, not new. This should clue us in about our observational abilities, how they match reality, and how we perceive time verses how God does. God could create the universe and the Earth with “apparent age.” In fact, I suspect he did, because no other option fits the patter, nor makes sense. So, let’s leave the age of the Earth to one side as unresolvable.

        On the second question, the only evidence that men existed before between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago is based on our rather poor understanding of the first question. No human records go back that far in any culture anyplace anytime. The Bible goes back around 6,000 years, give or take, based on the genealogies. India, China, Babylon, and Egypt all claim something like 10,000 year histories, or thereabouts. Given the unreliablity of these secular histories, and the flexibility to have up to around 10,000 years in the Biblical record, I don’t see a problem here –so long as you don’t accept evolution as the path through which God created man.

        Which leads us to the third question –did God use evolution to create man? I think the most reasonable answer is a resounding no! There are two sides to the problem. The first is there’s simply no way to get the Scriptural record to accord with evolutionary theory. The orders are wrong, the theological problems are almost insurmountable, and our current experience of the world tells us it just ain’t so. On the other side, evolution is a failed theory. It only explains anything by explaining everything –every difference is a result of evolution, and every similarity is a result of evolution. If a theory explains every possible outcome with equal ease, then it explains nothing at all. Further, evolution doesn’t explain the fossil evidence, nor the genetic evidence, nor the reality we see around us today (after all these centuries of breeding dogs, why haven’t we created a new species??).

        So I think it’s safe to say evolution is a dead proposition.

        By the way, this entire question of evolution verses creation has a huge impact on worldview, and thus on the moral basis of government.

      • Russ White says:

        I also wanted to comment on your concept of the context of Genesis… Do you think God inspired Moses to write Genesis only for those who would understand Christ –after the Incarnation and Resurrection? Would Genesis, then, be a “dead letter,” to Israel?

        I don’t think this is the way God works –Genesis had definite meaning to the Israelites (who weren’t dumb –don’t get trapped in chronological snobbery!). There is a specific purpose to Genesis, but that purpose needs to be put in context of Israel, not Christians. The question at hand was –why did God choose Israel to bring out of Egypt, and why was the specific land in question chosen?

        The answers given in Genesis are because of Abraham’s faith (and God’s choice), and because this land was created, from the beginning, in a sense, “for Israel.”

  3. 2 Points.

    Christian view of government. I became more Conservative and improved my Christian apolgetics studying American history, government and politics in two grad schools. The Founding Fathers were informed by their Christian worldview and particular beliefs. They used their abilities as rational men to create a government that fit The People as they were. I share their wisdom that men are capable of great evil and will use power wrongly, if allowed to do so. Thus, limited government under the Rule of Law is the way to go for a People with a consensus Judeo-Christian worldview. The role of Christians in government is to do what every other individual does. Promote your ideas on issues and put them to a vote. Compete in the marketplace of ideas. Majority rules.

    The Bible isn’t science. The Bible is history from Genesis 12 to the end (except for Job which is dropped in without a date time stamp). For a super view of Genesis as science, though, read the several books by Gerhard Schroeder (sp?) – MIT physics professor emeritus and Hebrew scholar. He dispels many conflicts with his knowledge of Hebrew and science – especially the physics of the Big Bang. Really great stuff.

  4. Pingback: THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE | Citizen Tom

  5. Citizen Tom says:

    Russ – Because we are proud, we each tend to overstate the value of what we do. So when the experts, using a bunch of complex equations, confidently state the age of the universe, we applaud and congratulate them. We have only the faintest idea of what they are talking about. However, since these experts like each others work, we go with the flow.

    When we look at the universe, we have only one point of view, that of the earth. We can only guess at the extent of creation. The Big Bang Theory says the universe is about 15 billions years old. Is that right? Could be. On the other hand, 15 billion years may only be the time since there was a big bang in our corner of Creation.

    Even if our corner of the universe had a beginning, God is eternal. What has He been doing with all that time?

    Did we evolve from a primordial soup? I don’t know. I have a fairly decent education in science, including Biology, and I was taught the Theory of Evolution. At one time I believed it. Then I experienced two strange revelations. First, I noted that not everyone believe the theory, but the disbelievers were mostly silent. Second, when I heard people like Carl Sagan expounding upon the theory, I saw that these people responded angrily when they were challenged. Why the anger? Why not pity? After a bit of reflection I realized the answer. Even though no hard proof existed, for political reasons our leaders had promoted the Theory of Evolution from a theory to a scientific law.

    Is The Theory of Evolution a dead proposition? No, but politics does not make for good science. It just confuses matters.

    Consider again the argument you offered with respect to Jesus changing the wine to water. If God sees nothing wrong with changing water to wine, why should we let it bother us if he changed apes to men? The Theory of Evolution proves there is no God? How so?

    Anyway, since JAB suggested that I look into Gerald Schroeder, I looked up his website. Check out my latest post, THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE. If nothing else, I expect you will find Schroeder’s work more interesting than anything I might say on this subject.

    • Russ White says:

      I’m going to reorder your comments somewhat…

      “Is The Theory of Evolution a dead proposition?”

      The theory of evolution is a dead proposition _scientifically_ at this point. It’s still quite popular culturally, but as a scientific theory, it’s dead.

      “So when the experts, using a bunch of complex equations, confidently state the age of the universe, we applaud and congratulate them. We have only the faintest idea of what they are talking about. However, since these experts like each others work, we go with the flow.”

      So you would accept the word of an expert on what the age of the universe is, bending all you believe around the word of that expert, but you don’t trust the word of an expert on the best form of government? If you’ll bow to the expert in one case, why not all cases?

      Because you don’t think Creation is all that important. I would challenge you to rethink your view of the importance of Creation.

      Let me pose a challenge:

      Think through all the evidence you have for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua). For every piece of evidence you can offer against the Creation account being literal, I can offer precisely the same evidence against Jesus actually having lived, or his claims while he was alive.

      “Moses didn’t know what we know today.” Neither did Peter or Paul, or the Romans. So if you can argue that God provided Israel with a “just so story,” a creation account that wasn’t designed to be “science,” I can claim the same thing about the Gospels. Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, it’s just they didn’t really know what death looked like. After all, the Gospels aren’t meant to be science, and the folks back then didn’t have sophisticated heart monitors to determine what real death was.

      “The Bible isn’t meant to be science, so we shouldn’t draw scientific conclusions from the creation account.” Then we shouldn’t draw scientific conclusions from the Gospels, either. In reality, Jesus didn’t turn water to wine, because that’s not scientifically possible. It was all just a sleight of hand to make people believe in him.

      The problem I’m illustrating is you can’t separate Genesis from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John this way.

      “Consider again the argument you offered with respect to Jesus changing the wine to water. If God sees nothing wrong with changing water to wine, why should we let it bother us if he changed apes to men?”

      For several reasons.

      First, the problem of death. The Scriptures are quite clear that two types of death came about during the fall –physical and spiritual. If physical death were not a part of the fall (physical death existed before the fall, in the case of God changing apes to men over a number of generations), then why did Jesus need to die physically, and be resurrected physically? Couldn’t he have just died spiritually? And yet there’s a strong emphasis on the death of Jesus throughout the writings of the apsotles –the _physical_ death of Jesus. Paul doesn’t say, “so Jesus died spiritually for our sins in the Garden, and he was resurrected spiritually three days later.”

      Second, the problem of the actual Creation narrative itself. There were, in fact, other creation stories that posited men were created from various animals, or by a mating between various gods, or something along those lines. These stories were all perfectly acceptable to the people who lived in those days (and even to people living in our day). The question then becomes –why would God lie about how he created men? If existing stories were already acceptable, then he wasn’t trying to “fit into” the other cultures so the readers would “understand.” There are only three possible explanations for the way the Creation narrative is actually written.

      1. God lies, and hence we shouldn’t trust him with our salvation, either (one of the points Paul makes in Romans).
      2. The Bible is a book of lies written by men, in which case we shouldn’t trust any of the Scriptures, not just the Creation narrative –which means we can’t trust that Jesus was raised from the dead, either.
      3. The Creation narrative is factual, and any observations which intersect with what we call “science” must somehow be dealt with.

      Third, the problem of the Fall itself.

      “The Theory of Evolution proves there is no God? How so?”

      The theory of evolution is based on naturalism –“since no God exists, this must be the way things happened.” Reading evolutionists literature, you find just this sort of statement all the time.

      “God tasked Moses to provide Him an introduction to the Israelites. The people that Mose wrote for knew nothing of our modern science; they knew nothing of the Theory of Evolution. Instead of the worship government and science, the Israelites risked the worship of wood, stone, and metal idols in the shape of men and animals.”

      So you think that if God asked Moses to write Genesis today, he would tell Moses to write about the big bang? That he lied the first time, but would tell the truth now because we know so much more? That really doesn’t make any sense to me…

      I would point out that very few people think Moses just sat and wrote any longer –he worked from source documents. There is a specific structure to the book of Genesis that clearly indicates there were other books Moses was working from –books written by Seth, Shem, Jacob, Easu, Isaac, Joseph, et al. Moses had eyewitness sources, just as we have eyewitness sources in the form of Mark (Peter), Matthew, John, and Luke (who says he interviewed the eyewitnesses).

      Genesis isn’t a fable, or a myth –and if you make it a myth, the entire Bible goes with it.

      • Citizen Tom says:

        Russ – I did not really intend to debate this, but I suppose it is my own doing. So I guess we both may as well enjoy it. :grin:

        1.

        Is The Theory of Evolution a dead proposition?

        If it is popular culturally, that makes it pretty hard to call it dead. Is it dead scientifically? The fact is that we have currently have no way of scientifically proving how life began. Moreover, no scientific theory on the beginning of life has any practical affect on our daily lives. What The Theory of Evolution does do is provide a framework — a logical construct — into which we fit much our knowledge of biology. Will we be using The Theory of Evolution to do that ten years from now? Unless someone comes up with something that the biologists like better, we will.

        2. Would I accept the word of an expert on what the age of the universe?

        Russ, go back and read what I said again. Does it sound like I take the experts very seriously? When these experts come up with an age for the universe, isn’t there an obvious question, like “so what?” It is an interesting bit of information, but there is nothing I can do with it. So long as God is in charge of it, what difference does it make whether the universe is 15 billion or 15 thousand years old?

        3. Your challenge.

        When we consider the Bible, we each prove its Truth in our own way. When I first accepted Jesus as my savior, I did not accept him because of any careful analysis of the Bible. That in fact I began to do afterwards.

        So why then did I accept Jesus as my savior? I began to see how Jesus makes a difference. Because my wife had accepted Jesus as her savior, I saw the difference in my family. Because some of my neighbors and coworkers had accepted Jesus as their savior, I saw the difference in their lives. Because the Founders of this nation and Western Civilization had once accepted Jesus as their savior, I saw that we live in a different world.

        What we are debating constitutes 31 verses in the Bible. Are those verses significant? Yes, but they say what God did. They do not say how He did it. I concede God created man, but I don’t know he did it. Does Genesis actually explain that? Then why can’t we create our own universe?

        Consider that in Genesis 2 Moses provides the story of Adam’s and Eve’s creation. Does Genesis 2 merely expanded upon the creation of human beings? I suppose so. However, Genesis 4 contains a puzzling anomaly. When Cain is forced to become a wanderer, he worries that whoever finds him will kill him. Who would that be? Was Adam the first homo sapiens or the first man with a soul? I don’t know, but item 5 here looks interesting.

        Look also at Genesis 6:1-2. How do you explain those lines?

        As JAB pointed out, the character of the Bible changes at Genesis 12. From that point on we can at least put God miracles in a more familiar context. Prior to that, I can accept that God did exactly what Genesis says He did, but how? That I don’t know.

        4. “The Theory of Evolution proves there is no God? How so?”

        What science requires to progress is orderly and reproducible relationships between causes and effects. Because Christians believe in an orderly, God created universe, Christians began to look for relationships between cause and effect. All The Theory of Evolution does is hypothesize a cause and effect relationship. The theory does not argue for the nonexistence of God or prove the Bible is not true. Some people, however, do use the theory to either argue for the nonexistence of God or to argue the Bible is not true, but that is just a misapplication of science.

        Do miracles exist? If the answer is yes, then what does science have to say about miracles? By definition, miracles cannot be accounted for by science. That’s why an event like Noah’s flood leaves scientists straining for answers. We cannot make miracles — one time events — fit into a pattern of cause and effect. We can only on faith accept as a matter of fact that Noah somehow or another did what the Bible says he did.

        Because it is based upon miracles, that’s why Creationism is not science. Creationism stipulates causes — miracles — for which the tools of science have no valid utility. Thus, even though Noah’s flood may have been a worldwide event, we have trouble recognizing the “evidence.”

        5. So you think that if God asked Moses to write Genesis today, he would tell Moses to write about the big bang? That he lied the first time,….

        Russ — Just because I don’t know how God did what he did does not mean I disbelieve the Bible. When I run into verse that leaves me uncertain, I accept the fact I just do not know.

        Consider your notion that Moses worked from other books. Maybe he did. Maybe he did not. I don’ know is the best answer I have. All I know for certain is that God spoke directly to Moses. That is, after all, exactly what the Bible says.

        • Russ White says:

          I’m going to group these arguments a little…

          “Is it dead scientifically? The fact is that we have currently have no way of scientifically proving how life began.”

          We do know it wasn’t evolution, however. While theories of origin are hard to prove, this one is pretty easy to disprove. Where are the transitional fossils? Why doesn’t the genetic evidence even come close to the supposed fossil evidence? Why didn’t flight develop only once? Why didn’t the eye develop only once? There are far too many holes in this thing for it to be taken seriously as a scientific theory.

          As for “when something comes along to replace it,” something already has. What’s replacing evolution as a scientific theory is evolution as a religious theory –the belief that some god or another directed evolution. A return to the theories of pagan Greece (and evolution originated in Greece, not with Darwin). It will be just as effective at casting doubt on Christianity as the current theory does.

          “What The Theory of Evolution does do is provide a framework — a logical construct — into which we fit much our knowledge of biology.”

          “All The Theory of Evolution does is hypothesize a cause and effect relationship. The theory does not argue for the nonexistence of God or prove the Bible is not true.”

          Can you name one thing about biology that evolutionary theory has accurately predicted? It didn’t predict the fossil record correctly –there are no transitional forms. It didn’t predict the genetic tree correctly –it doesn’t come close to matching a “tree of life” based on similarities in body plan or function. It didn’t predict speciation –all these years of breeding dogs to the most extreme in sizes and shapes, and it all falls apart in a generation or two in the wild. And even with intelligently guided processes, no new species! The only “new” species humans have ever bred have been sterile. If nature can do it unintelligently, then why can’t man? If God shaped the species through evolution, then why can’t man?

          “Moreover, no scientific theory on the beginning of life has any practical affect on our daily lives.”

          Yes, it does –because it crucial for the moral basis of society. If survival of the fittest is true, then societies ought to be designed to promote the survival of the fittest, in order to promote the survival of the species. Isn’t one of the two key tenants of Darwinism survival of the fittest?

          When you try and mix Christianity and survival of the fittest, you must say, “the fittest really didn’t survive, what God chose survived.” In other words, God didn’t really know what he wanted to make, so he played around while making it, trying a little of this, and a little of that, ’til he finally stood back and said, “just right!” God is like Goldilocks in this theory. And if God’s like Goldilocks, he’s not omniscient. And if God’s not omniscient, he’s just a really smart person driving the universe down a road he really doesn’t know where ends. He’s a really skillful driver, but he’s not really in control of the road itself.

          You would believe in such a God? I wouldn’t. Is this the God the Bible describes? No.

          “What science requires to progress is orderly and reproducible relationships between causes and effects.”

          Which is one of the most effective proofs against evolution, and against atheism.

          “Because it is based upon miracles, that’s why Creationism is not science. Creationism stipulates causes — miracles — for which the tools of science have no valid utility.”

          Neither is evolution in your definition, then. Science is what is observable, evolution has never been observed (nor can it be replicated to be observed), so evolution is not science. Which leaves me with a question –why would you accept the creation narrative of another religion over what a book you claim to have been inspired by God says?

          “I concede God created man, but I don’t know he did it. Does Genesis actually explain that?”

          When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7

          Would it have hurt so much for Moses to have said, “After a thousand years of life, God took a great ape, stood him on his back legs, and breathed the spirit into him, and called him Adam, the first man??”

          No, it wouldn’t have.

          “Then why can’t we create our own universe?”

          Because we’re not God.

          “As JAB pointed out, the character of the Bible changes at Genesis 12. From that point on we can at least put God miracles in a more familiar context.”

          So you would just lop off the first 12 chapters of Genesis, and call the job done? Why do as Martin Luther did, and lop of the book of James, because it doesn’t seem to fit in some way? Why not do as Thomas Jefferson did, and lop out all the parts that seem wrong to you? Or the Jesus Seminar, and host a party to vote on what Jesus really said?

          If you’re saying all textual problems stop at Genesis 12, you’re wrong. If you’re saying we can just ignore parts of the Scriptures as myth, then you can ignore all of the Scriptures as myth.

          You don’t get to choose which books are in the Bible, God does.

          “Does Genesis 2 merely expanded upon the creation of human beings?”

          Within the structure of Genesis, chapter 2 is a different toledot, a a complimentary explaination of the same thing God explained once already. It provides details not seen in the first telling, and tells the story from man’s point of view, rather than God’s.

          I can ask the same question about the New Testament, by the way –why are there four Gospels with apparent contradictions? Did Judas hang himself, or thrown himself to the ground so his “guts burst forth?” Every argument you make against Genesis 1-12 can be, and has been, made against the rest of the Scriptures. If you accept these arguments against Genesis 1-12, then you should just go ahead and toss all the Scriptures out, because none of it is realiable.

          “However, Genesis 4 contains a puzzling anomaly. When Cain is forced to become a wanderer, he worries that whoever finds him will kill him. Who would that be?”

          The other children of Adam and Eve, or Adam himself. And did you forget that Satan was wandering the Earth in the form of a snake at this point? That there are other creatures of which Cain could have been thinking about here?

          “Look also at Genesis 6:1-2. How do you explain those lines?”

          There are a number of explanations for “those lines.”

          “Russ — Just because I don’t know how God did what he did does not mean I disbelieve the Bible.”

          The problem is that God says how he did it. So either God lied (which means God can’t be, and shouldn’t be, trusted), 12 chapters of the Bible should never have been included (which means the Scriptures can’t be, and shouldn’t be, trusted), or 12 chapters of the Bible are written in the form of a myth on which we cannot base any idea of how the real world operates (which means original sin is a myth, and Jesus lied, so we cannot and should not trust Jesus, and also opens the question of what else is simply myth because it contradicts “science”).

          You have one of four choices, but believing Genesis 1-12 is a myth and yet the Scriptures are accurate and God is to be trusted, simply isn’t one of them.

          Russ

  6. Citizen Tom says:

    Russ — Almost forgot to respond to your comment on Moses. Note again that I said that Mose wrote for a Bronze Age people. The Israelites were not stupid, but they still did not have our education.

    I view the Bible largely as a history, the story of what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do to redeem us. Each book of the Bible was written by a certain man to a particular audience. Thus, we can only understand what the Bible has to say to us after we understand what the author intended to say to his intended audience.

    God tasked Moses to provide Him an introduction to the Israelites. The people that Mose wrote for knew nothing of our modern science; they knew nothing of the Theory of Evolution. Instead of the worship government and science, the Israelites risked the worship of wood, stone, and metal idols in the shape of men and animals.

    It was a different time, a different people, and different challenges. The Israelites had only five books. We have many more, but people remain basically the same.

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    Russ –

    1.

    Is it dead scientifically? The fact is that we have currently have no way of scientifically proving how life began.”

    We do know it wasn’t evolution, however. While theories of origin are hard to prove, this one is pretty easy to disprove.

    Keep the following in mind.

    a. If we read too much into the Bible, we will eventually find our interpretation in conflict with new scientific discoveries. For example, the Bible does not say the earth is at the center of the universe.
    b. If we discard what the Bible says explicitly, we risk disobedience to our Creator. For example, God condemns homosexuality, but some Christians deliberately choose to pretend that scripture does not matter.
    c. I don’t object to the traditional interpretation of Genesis. Is it correct? I do not know.
    d. I believe God created all things. What we are debating is whether I have to accept a particular interpretation of scripture. Because scripture itself admonishes us not to either add or subtract from the holy text, we have to interpret scripture with care. Because it risks subtracting lines, even the interpretation that says I don’t know is risky. Therefore, we each have to examine our own hearts.

    When I was in graduate school, I occasionally attended guest lectures. At least then some universities were not too restrictive about who they allow to give a presentation. Well, the presenter, an engineer, tried to explain to us that because of entropy The Theory of Evolution was thermodynamically impossible. He was flat wrong. On the other hand, some advocates for The Theory of Evolution act like the theory is a proven fact, but it clearly isn’t. In spite of all the official hoopla, The Theory of Evolution remains nothing more than an interesting theory.

    People spout lots of nonsense on both sides of the creationism/evolution debate. Because it is a complex subject, to deal with all the issues you raised appropriately, I would have to devote this blog to the subject and do more research than I have any interest in doing. That is why I referred you to another web site.

    2.

    Can you name one thing about biology that evolutionary theory has accurately predicted? It didn’t predict the fossil record correctly –there are no transitional forms. ….

    When I don’t claim to be a defender of The Theory of Evolution, what is the point of forcing me to defend it?

    Scientists do not prove their theories by proving all the other theories wrong. What they do is provide proof of their own hypothesis — if they can. Others test that proof and either accept or reject that proof. Can you provide scientific proof for Creationism?

    Don’t bother trying. You cannot. Because Creationism presumes a miracle as the cause, Creationism is not science; it is religion. Similarly, when the exponents of The Theory of Evolution insist without proof that that theory is true, The Theory of Evolution becomes a religion.

    3.

    “Moreover, no scientific theory on the beginning of life has any practical affect on our daily lives.”

    Yes, it does –because it crucial for the moral basis of society…..

    Here is the definition of Social Darwinism.

    Social Darwinism

    Theory of social selection that attempts to explain the success of certain social groups. Based on the laissez faire doctrine with heavily racial bias, it interprets ‘survival of the fittest’ concept to mean that only the best adapted (those already well off) survive the ‘natural conflict’ between social groups and thereby enhance the survival capacity of the remaining society. Popular in the 19th and 20th century Europe and USA and embraced by the Nazis, it has nothing to do with the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) or his theory of natural selection, and precedes the publication of his book ‘Origin Of Species.’

    http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Social-Darwinism.html

    Think through the contorted logic. We are naturally scoundrels. Nonetheless, because God gave us each a conscience, we want to justify our evil deeds. Yet Christian societies work better. It is the Darwinian defective societies that are full of Nazis.

    4.

    When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7

    Great! So explain it. You cannot, and neither can I.

    Does that passage exclude the possibility of The Theory of Evolution. I don’t know. Eden has come, and, for the time being, Eden has gone, and only God can recreate it.

    5.

    So you would just lop off the first 12 chapters of Genesis, and call the job done?…

    Martin Luther did lop off the Book of James, but where I have proposed to lop off part of the Book of Genesis. Consider the meaning of the word heresy.

    heresy
    n 1: any opinions or doctrines at variance with the official or
    orthodox position [syn: unorthodoxy, heterodoxy]
    [ant: orthodoxy]
    2: a belief that rejects the orthodox tenets of a religion
    [syn: unorthodoxy]

    Effectively, you have charged me with heresy. Yet we both concede God’s role in the creation of man, the flood and so forth. We both concede that miracles happen. Whereas you insist upon the doctrine of Creationism, I just say I don’t know how God did it, and I concede The Theory of Evolution as a possibility. Is my interpretation of Genesis too broad or yours too constrained?

    6.

    You don’t get to choose which books are in the Bible, God does…

    Who is talking about which books? Who is talking about calling any portion of Genesis a myth? What we are talking about making sense of a book thousands of years old.

    Because the Bible can be difficult to grasp, different interpretations are inevitable. Because it describes events and a period totally outside of our experience, that must be particularly true of Genesis 1-11.

    Consider why we pray before we read scripture. We do so hoping our Lord will illuminate the text for us. If He has blessed you with more understanding than others, that is cause to be thankful and patient with others.

    Think of 1 Corinthians 8:9

    But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

    Have I chosen the right verse? Which of us has this liberty the Apostle Paul refers to? You or me? Neither?

    Sometimes we can only do our best, substituting prayer for knowledge.

    • Russ White says:

      Again, reordering things a bit…

      Scientists do not prove their theories by proving all the other theories wrong. What they do is provide proof of their own hypothesis — if they can. Others test that proof and either accept or reject that proof. Can you provide scientific proof for Creationism?

      This is a logical non-sequitor. Let’s continue to tease this non-sequitor out a little…

      Because Creationism presumes a miracle as the cause, Creationism is not science; it is religion. Similarly, when the exponents of The Theory of Evolution insist without proof that that theory is true, The Theory of Evolution becomes a religion.

      So, in your argument, Creationism can’t ever be proven because it’s not provable –but evolution could be proven through science, because it’s testable (I suppose this is your line of reasoning?), so it might or might not be a religion.

      The first thing I want to point out here is that you’ve automatically defined faith as “that which is not provable,” or even better, “that which is not rational.” By doing this, you’ve said, “whatever science says must be true, the rest I accept on faith.” You’ve laid down a foudation for “the God of the gaps.” Faith is not unreasonable, and God doesn’t just exist “in the gaps of what science cannot explain. We often look at “scientific truth” as somehow “different” than “ordinary truth.” We hold “scientific truth” up to some higher standard, believing it to be “more true,” than other “truth.” But it’s not some form of “higher truth,” certianly not higher than revealed truth from God himself.

      Back on the main line of reasoning –what is the theory of evolution? There are two possibilities:

      1. Evolution can mean “things change.” Bird beaks get longer and shorter, people get taller and shorter, hair color changes, etc. Wow. Who knew?

      2. All life and species of life came about because of random mutations over long periods of time through the filter of survival of the fittest.

      The second _is_ a religious theory, and unprovable in the same way Creationism is. Why is it religious? Look at the terms carefully –what is the filter? Survival of the fittest. What most evolutionists don’t understand is “the fit survive” is a moral and religious statement through and through. The language slight of hand here has made the filter seem like a trivial thing, but it’s not. It is not only a self referencing (violently circular) tautology, it is also a moral foundation for all life.

      To get to “Christian evolution,” you must take “survival of the fittest,” out, and replace it with “God chose.” But once you do this, you’ve destroyed evolutionary theory at its root. Essentially, the choice isn’t between believing a scientific theory or not, it’s between trying to integrate two religious systems or not.

      “If we read too much into the Bible, we will eventually find our interpretation in conflict with new scientific discoveries. For example, the Bible does not say the earth is at the center of the universe.”

      Go back to here for a moment:

      When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Genesis 2:5-7

      “Does that passage exclude the possibility of The Theory of Evolution. I don’t know.”

      Yes, it does –not only that specific verse, but the entire Genesis narrative does. Take, for instance, the order of creation; it makes no sense from an evolutionary standpoint. Why would God give Moses a story that’s clearly so wrong on so simply a point, when he could have simply had Moses reorder the verses and make it right?

      There is a vast difference between saying God is wrong in facts and saying God didn’t give us all the facts. In the creation story, evolution must, necessarily, claim that God gave us the wrong facts. There’s no way around that.

      Your counterclaim seems to be that God didn’t ask Moses to write a scientifically reliable book –he was just trying to get the Israelites to stop believing in the pagan creation myths that were causing them to move into idolatry. This is what I think you mean here:

      “What we are talking about making sense of a book thousands of years old.”

      I agree that you must be careful, and exegete the text with the full knowledge that you could read it wrong. But what you’re proposing is God replaced one inaccurate story of creation (the pagan ones) with another inaccurate story of creation. If this is true, then we could just as easily say God told the Jews Jesus was God himself just to get them out of the Greek culture. It’s not “true” in the modern sense of the word “truth,” it’s just something God said to make a point and drive things in a particular direction.

      Is that a valid way of looking at God?

      Science says men don’t rise from the dead. The Bible says men do. Which do you believe? “Science” says men “evolved” through “survival of the fittest,” via the apes. The Scriptures say God created men directly from the dust of the Earth. Which are you going to believe?

      What I don’t think you see is how deeply incompatible these two stories of the origin of man actually are –you want to accept both. What I’m saying is you can’t accept both. It’s just not possible, because they actually represent two different religious systems.

      “Effectively, you have charged me with heresy.”

      I think you’re assuming on my definition of “orthodox.” I don’t think you have to be a creationist to be orthodox in your beliefs about Christ. I think trying to mix evolutionary theory (in the species through survival of the fittest sense) with Christianity weakens the depth of your Christian faith, and leaves you with very little to stand on apologetically –just as mixing Bhuddism with Christianity would, or mixing Islam with Christianity would.

      Russ

      • Citizen Tom says:

        Russ — Why are you working so hard to find a difference of opinion? No two people agree a hundred percent.

        I don’t stand for The Theory of Evolution or against Creationism? Before I will agree with either theory, I insist that people use what I think are the right tools to prove their case. If you are satisfied with different criteria….

        When science assumes a logical relationship between cause and effect, what relationship can there be between miracles and science? If you are going to prove Creationism is true, I believe you will have to use something other than the scientific method. Where God is concerned — when we speak of the spirit of man — science is not relevant.

        Are there other methods that provide logical proof? Have you considered them?

        Here an example of the problem of interpreting Genesis 1-11. Consider Genesis 2:5-7, specifically this verse.

        7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

        God breathed? Really? He could, I suppose, but God is a spirit. So why would He bother? Why the word “breathed”? The ancients understood the relationship between life and breath. Therefore, the author is making use of poetic license, a form of language inappropriate to science, but wholly appropriate to explain the value of what He gave us. He gave us the breath of life.

        Where does the poetic license end? When the author of Genesis 1-11 does not appear to have been focused on conveying a technical understanding of God’s methods, how can we gain such an understanding from that passage? You think you know. Okay, but I am under no more obligation to share your conclusion any more than you are mine. That, however, does not mean I have reach the opposite conclusion. I believe God created us, but I also remember one of the lessons from the Book of Job. God knows we do not understand His methods, and the Bible does not exist to teach us His methods.

        From the Bible, we are suppose to learn the wisdom of loving and obeying God. When God performs a miracle such as the one that gave us the gift of life, the technical details of how He did it matter less than the fact He loved us enough to do it. Because He loved us while we were still sinners, we love Him.

        • Russ White says:

          Russ — Why are you working so hard to find a difference of opinion? No two people agree a hundred percent.

          Not because I’m “heresy hunting,” but because:

          1. Evolution is a religion.
          2. Mixing Evolutionary faith with Christian faith weakens Christian faith, and leaves you open to attacks for which there is no defense.

          When science assumes a logical relationship between cause and effect, what relationship can there be between miracles and science?

          Because there still must be a cause (really two causes) for each miracle. Don’t try and separate out “scientific knowledge” as some special form of knowledge with its own rules, etc. “Scientific knowledge” is really just empiricism, in the end, and empiricism has its own limits in discovering truth.

          God breathed? Really? He could, I suppose, but God is a spirit. So why would He bother? Why the word “breathed”? The ancients understood the relationship between life and breath. Therefore, the author is making use of poetic license, a form of language inappropriate to science, but wholly appropriate to explain the value of what He gave us. He gave us the breath of life. Where does the poetic license end?

          Let me play devil’s advocate using your argument.

          God raised Jesus from the dead?” We know dead people don’t, and can’t rise (science has proven this!), so this must be a bit of poetic license within the “Gospel Genre.” Therefore we know that Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, God just used the concept of Jesus rising from the dead to make a moral point to people who expected this sort of thing, and didn’t have the scientific knowledge to know better.

          Would you accept this argument? Why not? Let me point out, from the beginning, that every argument you make against this “devil’s advocate” view I can apply directly to your view of Genesis. You can’t jump from one figure of speech (in this case an anthropomorphism) to saying, “the entire narrative is a figure of speech.” without risking the same argument being applied everywhere in the Scriptures –you’ll just cut off the limb you’re sitting on.

          The bottom line is –did God tell the truth, or not? There are four choices:

          1. God was just creating a myth to accommodate the knowledge level of the people he was talking to. In other words, the ancient people were “too dumb to understand,” so we should expect God’s myth to be factually incorrect –and perhaps even factually incoherent in modern terms.
          2. God was making a moral point rather than a “scientific” one, so he didn’t need to tell the “scientific truth.” There are two sorts of facts in the world –“scientific” facts, and “moral” or “religious” facts. These two sorts of facts or truths sometimes overlap, and sometimes they don’t –but when science proves some fact to be true, it overrules any language to the contrary in the religious realm.
          3. God said something, but Moses turned it into poetry based on his knowledge of other near eastern creation myths –hence Genesis 1-2 aren’t really what God said in the first place.
          4. God was inspiring Moses to write prose –but God doesn’t lie, even in prose.

          Those are, as far as I know, the only four choices you have (there are variations of each one, of course, but these are the four “roots”). Choose whichever one you like –but be careful in your choice –the unintended consequences will come back to bite. :-)

          Russ

  8. tony salmon says:

    Tom,

    Here’s a shock. I agree with nearly everything that you wrote above, and what I don’t agree with is not worth disputing. The confusion on this issue, both among scientists and religious people, is the difference between fact and theory, between historical reality and a useful construct, between what we know and what we can only make enlightened guess at, both in science and in religion.

    Being both a scientist and a religious person, you have obviously given this a lot of thought. I would only add Karl Popper’s definition that a theory can be “scientific” only if it is ultimately subject to falsification (if it is false). The “theory” of evolution is a scientific theory because it is subject to falsification and/or corroboration through scientific methodology (logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.). On the other hand, most of our most profound religious knowledge (such as creationism, miracles or even God’s existence) is not subject to falsification or corroboration through any rational scientific epistemology, so by definition, such religious and metaphysical concepts are not science. Although genuine religious truth should not be “irrational” and scientifically disprovable, it exists in a realm of knowledge and understanding, of truth, that scientific epistemology often has little purchase in either advancing or falsifying. God gave us the boons of both grace and reason to understand our existence, but God also made us limited creatures.

    • Russ White says:

      I would only add Karl Popper’s definition that a theory can be “scientific” only if it is ultimately subject to falsification (if it is false). The “theory” of evolution is a scientific theory because it is subject to falsification and/or corroboration through scientific methodology (logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.).

      Okay, a simple test: Lay out one experiment that would convince you that evolution is false as a scientific theory. If it must be scientifically falsifiable to be a valid theory, then there must be at least one experiment available to actually falsify it.

      Can you describe this experiment?

      Russ

      • Citizen Tom says:

        Tony, before you answer, make certain you fully consider the point of Russ’ question. If, without an appropriate test of the hypothesis, its advocates have insisted The Theory of Evolution has already been proven, then they are guiltily of posing a religious belief as science. Therefore, to answer Russ’ question, you must be able to point to laboratory test that otherwise would have proven it false.

  9. Citizen Tom says:

    Russ – The Theory of Evolution only becomes a religion if we insist upon making it a religion. That happens when people attach an agenda which has nothing to do with evidence.

    Scientific knowledge is a special form of knowledge with its own rules. Look up the definition of empiricism. Science is not empiricism. Empiricism is phony science. Empiricism is what the advocates of The Theory of Evolution are using to “prove” their hypothesis.

    The Gospels do contain parables, and it is quite clear when we depart from parable to literal fact. Good grief! Why do you think we have four Gospels written from four different points of view. God wanted us to have no excuses for not believing that Jesus had literally died and been resurrected. Moreover, thousands died refusing to recant the truth of the resurrection.

    Yet if I don’t agree with your point-of-view, I am calling God a liar? :roll: Good grief! And you don’t think God doesn’t have to talk down do us. Compared to Him we are not idiots?

    In Genesis 1-11, we have a portion of a story that covers how long? Relative to the time period covered and the significance of the tale, can you imagine a better example of brevity? Because nothing more is said than that which had to be said, the brevity lends itself to leads understanding. We know only that which is important was said. Yet because of that brevity, we must have so many questions.

    Compare the account Genesis 1-11 to this. Joe is a policeman. Joe walked into a room. Joe saw a man. The man attacked Joe with a crowbar, and Joe pulled out his weapon and shot the man. Joe left the room.

    Who did Joe shoot? Did the man die? What room? What did Joe shoot the man with, his gun? How many doors did the room have? Which doors did Joe used? Was Joe on duty? ………..

    We know what happened, but we know almost nothing about how it happened. What we know, however, is the important part. Joe killed a man in self-defense.

    • Russ White says:

      Russ – The Theory of Evolution only becomes a religion if we insist upon making it a religion. That happens when people attach an agenda which has nothing to do with evidence.

      Define the word “evolution” as a theory for the origin of species without referring to “survival of the fittest” and I’ll believe you.

      Scientific knowledge is a special form of knowledge with its own rules. Look up the definition of empiricism. Science is not empiricism. Empiricism is phony science. Empiricism is what the advocates of The Theory of Evolution are using to “prove” their hypothesis.

      To quote someone else, since you apparently won’t believe me.

      Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or traditions. Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empiricism

      Just because science has rules for obtaining knowledge within empirical bounds doesn’t mean knowledge gained through the scientific process is “special.” Truth is truth, no matter from where that truth derives. There is only one truth, not many truths. If the facts presented by two different truths don’t agree, one of them is false.

      Okay, let’s back up.

      1. The creation narrative given in Genesis 1 and 2 contains references to facts, such as the order of creation (light before the stars, plants before the sun, man created from the dust of the ground, etc.).

      2. Your claim is these assertions about how God created are not facts based on three arguments (as best as I can tell):

      And you don’t think God doesn’t have to talk down do us. Compared to Him we are not idiots?

      God must use figurative language to talk to us, because we’re all so dumb. To this assertion I make a simple challenge: what’s the difference between God saying, “I created man from the dust of the Earth,” and God saying, “I created man from an ape?” Why would God assert he made man from the dust of the Earth if he really made us from apes? Do you really think any man, at any time in history, ever, wouldn’t have understand the simple statement, “I made Adam from an ape?”

      The Gospels do contain parables, and it is quite clear when we depart from parable to literal fact. Good grief! Why do you think we have four Gospels written from four different points of view. God wanted us to have no excuses for not believing that Jesus had literally died and been resurrected. Moreover, thousands died refusing to recant the truth of the resurrection.

      The creation narrative is some sort of literature (technically genre) where facts don’t matter. The problem is the creation narrative is clearly not some sort of literature where facts don’t matter.

      Further, even in the parables the facts are not in dispute. Jesus didn’t tell parables that couldn’t have happened, or that contained information contrary to all facts known to man. Jesus didn’t say, “there was once a man with four eyes and sixteen legs…” No-one ever said to Jesus, “that parable is meaningless, because those things couldn’t ever happen!” All the facts in all of the parables of Jesus are plausible –they all accord with circumstanced that could really exist in the real world.

      So this argument fails on two counts.

      And, finally:

      God didn’t give us all the details

      As illustrated in your story.

      Compare the account Genesis 1-11 to this. Joe is a policeman. Joe walked into a room. Joe saw a man. The man attacked Joe with a crowbar, and Joe pulled out his weapon and shot the man. Joe left the room.

      Suppose I said that I investigated, and found Joe isn’t a policeman, never has been a policeman, and there was no crowbar in the room in question. Do you still think the story represents the truth? Since the point is about whether or not Joe acted in self defense, does it really matter what facts might be right or wrong in the story you’ve given? Or are you asserting that facts don’t matter, so long as the message is successfully communicated?

      Saying “God didn’t give us all the details,” is a completely different problem than saying, “God told us the light was created before the stars, but the stars must have really been created before the light –because science says so.” Or even, “God says he made Adam from the dust of the ground, but we know God created Adam from an ape.”

      Again, the point is not to call you a heretic. The point is not to make you mad. The point is that you’re cutting off the branch you’re sitting on to make a space in the tree for a second religion to be pruned into Christian belief. The point is to make you think through your assertions and consider them in the light of arguments that go beyond the “special scientific evidence.”

      Russ

      • Citizen Tom says:

        Russ – Did you read your own definition? Here is a short one.

        empiricism
        n : the doctrine that knowledge derives from experience [syn: empiricist
        philosophy, sensationalism]
        http://dictionary.die.net/empiricism

        Scientists employ the scientific method.

        scientific method
        n : a method of investigation involving observation and theory
        to test scientific hypotheses

        Empiricism covers only that portion that relates to observation. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method.

        Because of what is involved. God and his Word provide poor subjects for the Scientific Method. Consider the ramifications of this statement.

        I am not accustomed to saying anything with certainty after only one or two observations.”—Andreas Vesalius (1546)

        At best, the Creation Story provides one observation. Believe me, no scientist would be please by the sparsity of data in that account. Undoubtedly, many have already prayed for God to repeat the experiment.

        The object of science is to develop increasingly better models of real world processes. This is an iterative process. What is one of the biggest hindrances to this progress? When we make bad assumptions, we base further progress upon an unsound foundation.

        Consider one reason science did not begin to progress rapidly until the last several centuries. People did not believe the universe is orderly. They believed either a capricious God or whimsical gods magically altered the properties of the things in their world. Therefore, they fatalistically accepted their inability to understand what they experienced.

        Christians, however, generally do not believe God is capricious. Therefore, we define a miracle as an extraordinary event, one of those rare occasions when God breaks the rules he has applied to His Creation.

        Within the Creation story, God performs numerous and astounding miracles. As a scientist, my tendency is to wonder to what extent God broke the rules of His own Creation. I presume that like the artist He is that He broke the minimum number. Yet because it is God’s Creation, all I know for certain is that He did what He, and He did it His way.

        Anyway, even though I have enjoyed the discussion, I have other things I must do, and I expect you do as well. Thank you.

        Onward Christian soldiers. Monday will be here soon.

        • Russ White says:

          To repeat:
          Empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.

          Science is based on observation, and gaining knowledge through observation is called empirical study. Don’t confuse empiricism the epistemological method with empiricism the philosophy –completely different things.

          Within the Creation story, God performs numerous and astounding miracles. As a scientist, my tendency is to wonder to what extent God broke the rules of His own Creation. I presume that like the artist He is that He broke the minimum number. Yet because it is God’s Creation, all I know for certain is that He did what He, and He did it His way.

          God doesn’t “break the rules of his own creation” in order to create anything –not even a miracle.

          So thought of, the natural laws offer no threat to special divine action. Miracles are often thought to be problematic, in that God, if he were to perform a miracle, would be involved in “breaking,” going contrary to, abrogating, suspending, a natural law. But given this conception of law, if God were to perform a miracle, it wouldn’t at all involve contravening a natural law. That is because, obviously, any occasion on which God performs a miracle is an occasion when the universe is not causally closed; and the laws say nothing about what happens when the universe is not causally closed.

          Plantinga, Alvin (2011-10-26). Where the Conflict Really Lies : Science, Religion, and Naturalism (pp. 82-83). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

          Yes, I have other things to do, as well –right now, sleep. But I want to emphasize that the point on my end of the discussion is not to call you a heretic, or any such nonsense.

          Russ

  10. tony salmon says:

    Russ said:

    I would only add Karl Popper’s definition that a theory can be “scientific” only if it is ultimately subject to falsification (if it is false). The “theory” of evolution is a scientific theory because it is subject to falsification and/or corroboration through scientific methodology (logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.).

    Okay, a simple test: Lay out one experiment that would convince you that evolution is false as a scientific theory. If it must be scientifically falsifiable to be a valid theory, then there must be at least one experiment available to actually falsify it.

    Can you describe this experiment?

    Tom said

    Tony, before you answer, make certain you fully consider the point of Russ’ question. If, without an appropriate test of the hypothesis, its advocates have insisted The Theory of Evolution has already been proven, then they are guiltily of posing a religious belief as science. Therefore, to answer Russ’ question, you must be able to point to laboratory test that otherwise would have proven it false.

    Tom,

    As you know, I don’t make a religion out of science any more than I make a science out of religion. Evolution is a “theory” subject to disprovability, which is what makes it science. If I were to view Evolution Theory as an absolute truth that I accept on “faith,” rather than just viewing it as the most generally accepted scientific theory that current empirical evidence and experimentation (the scientific method as you put it) has, to this point, confirmed rather than falsified, then I would be making Evolution Theory into a religion rather than a science. The scientific data supports it right now, but real scientists are sceptics by definition. Who knows what the theory will be tomorrow? As you well know, it is the nature of scientific progress to build on both our successes and our mistakes.

    Like most such big theories in science (physics, cosmology, etc.) evolution will probably ultimately be falsified in some ways, corroborated in others, and transformed into a new theory that will also be the subject of falsification. On the other hand, our most profound religious epiphanies we come by through grace and faith. Refer to the biblical passages on your doubting Christian namesake – in religious belief, faith and grace trumps empirical evidence. In this culture, in this time and country, we are very much creatures of the age of reason, but if someone desperately needs to rationally and literally prove his religious beliefs about the religious truth in the Bible, maybe he lacks faith and should pray for grace instead.

    Russ,

    Sorry, not qualified – are you? Despite thousands of dedicated scientists who would love to get the Nobel Prize for scientifically disproving (or even “evolving”) the theory of evolution, perhaps you will be the one to do so.

    However, my meager understanding of the science is that reams of fossil evidence and amazing leaps in the area of genetic science have only confirmed the theory rather than falsifying it. I don’t, however, know that there is one big experiment that has or every will once and for all turn this scientific theory into a scientific falsehood or a scientific fact. I’m not sure that one can design such an experiment for any number of other scientific theories (the Big Bang comes to mind), but there are many forms of scientific method of corroboration and falisification. Experimentation is just one of them. It was mathematically elegant, but it was not until years after Einstein proposed them that the technology developed to corroborate and disprove parts of his theories of physics through experiments. Were Einstien’s theories not science just because no one could think of an experiment at the time he came up with them?

    Or perhaps the sciences of genetics and fossil study have already disproved the theory of evolution but the high priests of Darwinism have been secretly persecuting those heretics just as Galileo and Copernicus were persecuted by the Church. Maybe Dan Brown will write a book about it – he could call it “The Russ White Code”. ;-)

    • Russ White says:

      1. You defined what science means, and now you’re saying “oops, sorry, no longer true, you don’t need a falsifying experiment to prove it’s science.”

      2. That you don’t know about the evidence disproving evolution doesn’t surprise me –but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, even in the “peer reviewed journals,” etc.

      http://www.creationresearch.org/index.html
      http://scienceagainstevolution.org/

      And there tons and tons more out there. CRSQ and TJ are good journals to subscribe to. Oh, ICR also has several magazines of use, as well –and the RATE project, which is one excellent piece of scientific work.

      3. Maybe you should watch the movie Expelled to get a sense for why you’re not hearing anything about it. That movie only covers a few of the cases, not all of them –I’ve read about many, many more.

      I don’t, however, know that there is one big experiment that has or every will once and for all turn this scientific theory into a scientific falsehood or a scientific fact.

      Not the way it’s currently defined. Think about this:

      1. Similarity in form and structure between two animals that are supposedly related “proves” evolution.
      2. Similarity in form and structure between two animals that are not supposedly related “proves” evolution.

      A theory that explains everything –no matter what the evidence actually is– isn’t scientific. A theory for which there is no falsification method is not science, either.

      However, my meager understanding of the science is that reams of fossil evidence and amazing leaps in the area of genetic science have only confirmed the theory rather than falsifying it.

      The fossil record in no way supports evolution –where are the transitional fossils? There should be thousands of them, not one or two –and the one or two that exist today are under strong challenges. The ones that have been found in the past have all been reclassified, been shown as fakes, or discarded for some other reason. For instance, the “horse story” so widely published is total bunk –even scientists who specialize in evolution are out arguing with museums to try and get them to take that “just so” story out of their displays.

      The DNA evidence shows mice are more closely related to men than apes (there was some evidence otherwise, but that was without “junk DNA,” but now “junk DNA” is no longer “junk,” and the evidence has reversed itself). How come we’re evolved from apes structurally, but from mice genetically?

      And what about the recent finds of soft tissue in dinosaur bones that appear to have cellular structures –in fact, some of it looks like marrow and blood? Is it just a “good accretion,” as the evolutionists are saying, or is it what it actually appears to be, marrow and blood? How could marrow and blood survivie millions of years on a fossilized bone?

      The solution for “meager knowledge” is to read, to dig in and learn, not to argue that you don’t have the knowledge to know for yourself. Seek alternate sources, compare, contrast, and struggle with it. Listen to all sides, not just one side, and decide for yourself.

      Just like in government, the solution isn’t to leave it to the experts, but to find out what you can. None of us can know everything, but we can all learn a little more than what we know now.

      Russ

  11. Russ White says:

    By the way, I do need to move on from this conversation. Not because I think there’s nothing more to talk about, but simply because I really need to get other things done. It’s been a good conversation –you’ve actually driven me to do some research and refine and restate some arguments.

    Russ

  12. tony salmon says:

    Russ said,

    1. You defined what science means, and now you’re saying “oops, sorry, no longer true, you don’t need a falsifying experiment to prove it’s science.”

    Not even close to what I said. Russ, I’ve noticed that your favorite rhetorical ploy is to flagrantly misquote the other side’s facts and reasoning, and then to engage the straw man you’ve created. Well, to paraphrase a line from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, since there ain’t no rules for this knife fight, I guess you can utilitize whatever devices you want here in the blogosphere, as long as we all realize that’s what’s happening.

    As for the rest, you simply prove my point. You apparently feel that Evolution Theory has been properly and scientifically falsified by supposedly credible scientists in supposedly serious “peer review” scientific journals and by supposedly sound scientific methodology. (And you apparently believe that Creationism has been proven in much the same way). If that is true, then Evolution must fit Popper’s definition of a “scientific” theory because it is not only falsifiable, according to you, it has already been completely debunked by these supposedly credible scientists. It’s all on the Internet and somebody published it somewhere so it must be true, even if the vast majority of the scientific establishment is conspiring to keep it a secret.

    Or perhaps both the scientific establishment and your creationists have it all wrong. Maybe we actually came from little green men who decended from outer space, mated with our ape ancestors, and when they occasionally returned, we mistook them for gods. Poof – the answer to all our questions on both religion and anthropology. Just google it. You’ll get lots of affirmation from supposedly serious scientists. Books have been written supporting this “Ancient Astronaut” theory. TV shows have been made. There is probably even a museum for it somewhere.

    The only reason that it is not the mainstream scientific theory is because all those serious scientists are secret Stalinists and have conspired against putting it in our socialistic public museums and against teaching it in our socialist supported universities. They know that the real truth will set us free from their intellectual domination. All the establishment science departments in the credible colleges and universities are ploting against us. We don’t need years of scientific study, serious practice in highly technical areas or any advanced degrees to have an expert opinion. We have the internet. We can become instant experts on anything. Our opinion on anything at all is just as credible as these so-called establishment “elites”.

    We should forget all that hard work and study in science, government and law. We should disregard those who have achieved acclaim in teir specialize fields. All the knowledge that we need to perform brain surgery, write all the laws, run the economy, solve all the mysteries of the universe and affirm all our preconceptions can be gotten through a search engine in a couple hours of surfing the web.

    Personally, however, I’ll leave that to you. Although I think that some scepticism of people who call themselves experts is healthy in all things, I still think that I will let credible doctors operate on me when I when I need surgery.

    I think that I will leave it to more knowledgeable experts to falsify, corroborate or modify by credible scientific methodology what is by far the dominant scientific theory on the origins of species. Maybe you’ve done it Russ. If so, I’ll await your Nobel Prize and applaud with genuine enthusiasm.

    Anyway, although not much has been accomplished by it, I too have enjoyed the discussion. I particularly have enjoyed the discomfort of my brother (who actually holds advanced degrees in science) in trying to play both scientist and right wing religious political zealot. Tough line to walk there, but I admire the effort Tom. Later.

    • Russ White says:

      I wasn’t go to answer, but this is nonsense, and I must call you on it.

      Not even close to what I said. Russ, I’ve noticed that your favorite rhetorical ploy is to flagrantly misquote the other side’s facts and reasoning, and then to engage the straw man you’ve created.

      Let’s review what you said and see who’s right.

      I would only add Karl Popper’s definition that a theory can be “scientific” only if it is ultimately subject to falsification (if it is false). The “theory” of evolution is a scientific theory because it is subject to falsification and/or corroboration through scientific methodology (logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.).

      You are claiming that a theory can only be scientific if it can be falsified here.

      I don’t, however, know that there is one big experiment that has or every will once and for all turn this scientific theory into a scientific falsehood or a scientific fact.

      And here you’re claiming that not all scientific theories are falsifiable.

      And then you accuse me of misrepresenting your case –which is absolute nonsense. You said one thing, I challenged you on it, and then you said another thing which contradicted what you said in the first place.

      If you’re going to accuse someone of something, then make certain they’ve actually done what you’ve accused them of. But I’ve long noted that it’s a favorite tactic of liberals to accuse others of what they, themselves, are doing –if you can’t win the argument, resort to ad hominim attacks while you’re running away.

      For instance, you then go on to build a straw man of my statements:

      You apparently feel that Evolution Theory has been properly and scientifically falsified by supposedly credible scientists in supposedly serious “peer review” scientific journals and by supposedly sound scientific methodology. (And you apparently believe that Creationism has been proven in much the same way).

      Do you even read what other people write? What I have actually said is this:

      1. “Evolution” has two meanings.

      2. One meaning is clearly religious, and therefore outside the “scientific” realm just as much as creationism is. Neither Creationism nor Evolution in this sense are falsifiable scientific theories.

      2. The second meaning, as a scientific theory, is falsifiable. There are a number of subclaims within this second meaning of the theory. Some of these subclaims stand, others have been clearly disproven. It so happens that the ones the first definition of evolution purports to stand on are the ones that have been clearly and totally falsified.

      Your next argument, if you can even call it an argument, is “the majority of experts agree…” The majority of experts once agreed that QM was total bunk, and Einstein was just shy of insane. The majority of experts once agreed that the Earth was flat, and that if you sail far enough, you’ll fall off the edge. The majority of experts once agreed that some races are inferior to others, and should be kept in subjugation.

      These were all scientific opinions, based on observations of the real world. You’ll say they were all religious, of course, because you apparently believe that you can have your own facts as well as your own opinions.

      You consult the opinion polls to determine what truth is, and I’ll consult real measures of truth. When the majority opinion states you can jump off a tall building and fly, feel free to try it, because, after all, the majority must be right.

      The rest of your screed is back to emotional bomb throwing, quite typical of a liberal backed into a losing position.

      Russ

  13. tony salmon says:

    Lit a fire under you did I Russ? Calm down now. Take a deep breath. That’s right breath. Ok, here is what you wrote about what I wrote about what you wrote:

    Let’s review what you said and see who’s right.

    I would only add Karl Popper’s definition that a theory can be “scientific” only if it is ultimately subject to falsification (if it is false). The “theory” of evolution is a scientific theory because it is subject to falsification and/or corroboration through scientific methodology (logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.).

    You are claiming that a theory can only be scientific if it can be falsified here.

    I don’t, however, know that there is one big experiment that has or every will once and for all turn this scientific theory into a scientific falsehood or a scientific fact.

    And here you’re claiming that not all scientific theories are falsifiable.

    Now read again what you quoted from me: ” logical conguency or error, experimentation, empirical evidence, etc.” Experimentation is just one tool of in the scientist’s took box. For example, Copernicus did not need a grand experiment to prove that the Sun did not revolve around the Earth. He disproved that theory through observation, geometry and mathematics. Evolution theory is subject to falsification (and corroboration) through all these methods in the scientific epistomology. Perhaps there is also an experiment as well – it would seem that genetics would be an obvious area where some experiment might be devised to disprove evolution theory. Maybe they have already tried and failed. That would not be news, but it would seem that we would have all heard about it if they had succeeded in completely debunking Evolution.

    As for the next item in your tantrum above, I agree that the conventional scientific wisdom is almost always wrong, or at least it is almost always not completely correct and all incompassing. In fact it would, by definition, be unscientific to think that a scientific theory is absolutely and completely right (or for that matter to believe the fundamental knowledge of everything can be ultimately achieved scientifically – that makes science a religion and takes a leap of faith that is not scientific). As I said, some scepticism is not only healthy, it’s necessary in order to be a rational person. However, in my humble view of the world, it is the height of foolishness (and not very conservative, I might add) to ignore all the conventional wisdom and expertise. As Tom said, scientific knowledge is iterative and cumulative, but it also evolves through inductive insights and deductive reasonings that are subject to falsification.

    And that brings us nicely to the last of your little huff. Why on earth do you care what I think about the Theory of Evolution? I have repeatedly stated that I don’t know what I am talking about. Neither my graduate, nor my undergraduate education and training was in science. Currently, I fly airplanes for a living. I love reading about science and watching science programs on the tube, but to your average high school advanced placement science student, I would be considered a science imbecile. I could come up with a dissertation of data defending Evolution that I copied from the Internet or picked up from TV or cherry picked from books, but why on earth would you waste your time reading it? Like you, I’ve got opinions about everything, but unlike you, I try not to publish them to everyone unless I at least have some superior expertise to impart on the subject and unless I think that there is something be be gained by the effort.

    Since I have no reason to believe you know what you are pontificating about on Evolution (and because your scientific reasoning appears dubious), you are not going to convince me that the establishment scientific view on the origins of species is completely wrong, nor should you let me convince you that your crackpot ideas are wrong either. However, even if one of us did manage to persuade the other or perhaps someone else wasting their time reading all this nonsense, what good would that accomplish? We would just have one more person who doesn’t know what he is talking about because he or she listened to people who didn’t know that they were talking about. It seems to me that the viral spread of such ignorance is more destructive than helpful.

    Ultimately, my friend, the only reason that I am indulging in this strange discourse is not to expound my grand opinions on profound fields (not even the ones that I do know something about) to the poor misguided masses. Nope, instead it’s for the pure amusement of challenging you and Tom’s other readers that they should not take seriously any of us folks with allegedly informed opinions on everything, but real credentialed expertise on nothing. Even if someone really did want to get a wise, authoritative, methodically reasoned opinion on a complex, profound topic, then a blog like this is the last place they should look for it. On the other hand, if you want affirmation of what you already believe about everything and everyone that you disagree with, you’ve come to the right place, and I apparently have served as a perfect foil for you to do just that – just angrily label me a liberal and dismiss me. Hah!

    Whoops – I’ve probably upset you again Russ. Sorry. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

    • Russ White says:

      Nope, instead it’s for the pure amusement of challenging you and Tom’s other readers…

      In other words, you post simply to get emotional reactions –to attempt to control other people through emotional manipulation. And here I thought liberals were the ones who wanted honest open discussion, and were rational rather than emotional? I thought liberals were the ones who were tolerant? Guess not.

      At any rate, when we’re at the point where all you have to offer is emotional bombs rather than reasoned discussion, there’s no point in continuing to talk.

      Russ

  14. tony salmon says:

    Please don’t project your demons on me Russ. I was joking about the deep breathing, and had no idea that your emotions were so easily, how did you put it, “manipulated.” I certainly have not gotten my feelings hurt by your, what did you call them, “emotional bombs.” I can’t speak for, what did you presume to label me, “liberals”, but I certainly try to be tolerant of other’s feelings. If yours are hurt, then I, and I mean this sincerely, do apologize.

    Perhaps some day we’ll meet by chance over a cup of coffee and solve all the problems of the world while no one is watching. Please, no hard feelings.

    PS

    Hey, you didn’t think what I said was “well reasoned”? Maybe I should feel hurt. Now we’re even buddy.

  15. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony and Russ – Sort of interesting to watch you two go at it. Since I try to respond to the interests the people who comment here, I will do a post specifically on this issue. What you two demonstrate quite well is the subject is rife with freedom of religion/conscience concerns. Since I fail to see how either of you can cite proof for either theory, I fail to see how teaching students that either theory is proven does not constitute religious instruction. What I find particularly troubling is that Tony does not have sufficient confidence in own knowledge to actually argue for his belief that evolution is science. Nonetheless, he still insists upon forcing that belief upon other people’s children as science. If that sort of busybody nonsense does not constitute an excellent case for limited government, what does?

    Russ – Thanks for the links.

    Tony – If you want to offer up a website in line with your views (self proclaimed ignorance?), you are welcome to do so.

  16. tony salmon says:

    Tom wrote:

    “What I find particularly troubling is that Tony does not have sufficient confidence in own knowledge to actually argue for his belief that evolution is science. Nonetheless, he still insists upon forcing that belief upon other people’s children as science. If that sort of busybody nonsense does not constitute an excellent case for limited government, what does?”

    All the things that I am ignorant of fills libraries and museums around the world brother. Pedagogical authority is just one more thing. One more topic I will leave to the experts (like you?) to propound on I suppose. Besides, who needs schools anyway when we can proclaim ourselves know-it-alls on everything without the need of them?

    I’ll have to think about the website idea. Perhaps the humility of admitting the limitations of one’s knowledge and expertise to opinionate on all things would be refreshing in the blogosphere, but judging from what I have seen here, I doubt it will catch on. Stupidity is indeed a virus and we are all carriers here.

    How bout another poem:

    God Is Indeed a Jealous God

    God is indeed a jealous God
    He cannot bear to see
    That we had rather not with Him
    But with each other play.

    Emily Dickinson, c.1864

  17. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony -You just doubled down? You are not just a self proclaimed ignorant busybody; you are a profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody?

    Given that you are so enormously ignorant, what makes you think you have the capacity to determine which self proclaimed experts we are suppose to trust? You don’t, of course, but you are too foolish to admit it.

    No wonder our government is so messed up. :roll:

  18. tony salmon says:

    Your favorite governor wanted for the government to probe women’s vaginas. It’s not whether we have know-it-all busybodies in this mix, it just seems to me to be a dispute about over what to be a know-it-all busybody about. Anyway, sorry, you get the last word Tom. It’s your know-it-all busybody blog after all. God bless back atcha bro.

  19. tony salmon says:

    Oh one more thing, our system of government has always been wonderfully messed up.

  20. tony salmon says:

    Tom,

    I’ve been thinking about it, and you probably think it sort of mean spirited and hypocritical that I come on your blog just to criticize you and others for having an opinions on your blog. I don’t intend to be unfair.

    Lately, however, it seems to me that there is an ever increasing coarsening of the political rhetoric by both sides the likes of which I have not seen in my lifetime.

    As an example, is it morally and intellectually honest to say that our president is a Socialist? A
    Communist? A Fascist? Is it fair to compare Obama to Stalin or Hitler, both of whom murdered millions? Or is right to use such superlative language, as Newt often does about everything, in saying that Obama is the “most” dangerous President in American history? Was it fair for the other side to use the same sort of references with President Bush? How much damage do we do to our honor if we perpetuate such overstatements and outright falsehoods? How much should we even listen to the increasingly outlandish rhetoric from pundits and politicians from both parties, and even from each other, before we have an ethical obligation to call them, and each other, on it? To say, as Mr. Welch did at the McCarthy hearings, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

    I would like to think that we are all finally coming to that point because, within the echo chambers of blogs, the Internet, 24 hour news and entire networks dedicated to becoming increasing more high pitched and sensational in order to get our attention, I believe the corrosive language is eroding away, as Lincoln called it, “the better angels of our nature” and making it impossible to incrementally change things, even in ways that most of us can agree would be better.

    I’m not aiming this at you or your blog in particular or at Republicans in particular, but at all of us who may be guilty of it. Nor am I interested in trading jabs as to whom is most to blame for it or in debating specific allegations or conspiracy theories? I do hope, however, that you might make the idea of a return to civility, to stepping away from the impulse to demonize the loyal opposition, and to toning down the dishonest hyperbolic rhetoric, a topic for further discussion. No expertise is required to have an opinion in such a discussion – we all should be experts on how to act decently.

  21. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – Thank you for the peace offering. I will happily accept that. The rest of it? No.

    Is there a problem with civility? Perhaps, but the problem with civility actually has relatively little to do with rhetoric and almost nothing to do with Obama. The Federal Government does things. State governments do things. And local governments do things. And what they are doing is way too much. Because our government has exceeded the bounds of its authority, our government has become a problem. What our government has become is too costly to our liberties and our property.

    Look again at the subject we just debated. Consider it as just one very minor example. What did you do when Russ adamantly defended his religious belief? How did you treat him? What did you expect him to become angry about? And how did you defend The Theory of Evolution? Supposedly, The Theory of Evolution is science. With the help of government, do you have the right and obligation to make certain the children of your fellow citizens learn this science? Why, and why would you expect the people who object not to be angry and to object angrily?

    Anyway, I need to get on with my post.

  22. tony salmon says:

    Please correct me if I am reading you wrong. It sounds to me that what you are saying is that, because you believe so strongly in the riteousness of your political and religious ideology, then it is moral and ethical to act with uncivility, to react angrily and uncivilly. I don’t want to put words in your computer, but does that also mean that it is also ethical to shout exaggerations, half truths, unsubstantiated accusations and even outright lies at those who disagree with you and your riteous cause? Have you really become so dogmatic in your beliefs that this has become a holy war for you in which any and all slanders are not only fair, but sacred? Should every simple disagreement, every civil objection, to your dogmatic view incite an angry response? Do the ends of what you believe to be a holy cause justify such harsh means? Will even these questions (which are not meant with any malice, but rather no small concern) illicit a defiant and angry response? I sincerely hope not.

    Because you asked, I have read back through my exchange with Russ. Never once was anything that I wrote designed to illicit an angry response (I’ll admit to some colorfull metaphors, the use if irony and wry humor sometimes perhaps), but I instead tried to rationly impeach his underlying reasoning, his argument and the intellectual authority of his point of view, not him as a person, not his character. I don’t know him personally, but my guess is that he is a decent person. I Was continuously amazed at Russ’s emotional attachment to his opinions and his caustic responses where It seemed important to attack me personally or to “pigeon hole” me (as you like put it) into some category of the enemy so that I could be dismissed. But I am the one to be ashamed and considered intolerant because he was angry? It seems, if I am reading you correctly, that as long as I disagree with Russ’s position, no matter how reasonable the manner, Russ (and you I suppose) should see it as a challenge to your core principles and therefore will always react as if personally insulted?

    Does that mean that the only practical purpose of your blog is as an Internet pep rally to incite your team to the holy war against the ideological nonbelievers, and reasonable objection will always be treated rudely, like you would treat someone who heckles your team coach or even your preacher? And if that is the case, would you prefer that I not post anymore because the static is hurting your team vibe?

    The odd thing here is that, notwithstanding your strong feelings about getting rid of public education (which I never even discussed here), you and I seem to agree that as long as it is presented as a scientic “theory”, rather than some religious dogma, Evolution Theory is indeed a “scientific” theory. (By the way, as a scientific theory, I never said that Evolution has been nor am I sure it even could be “proven” – as a scientific theory, it could only be falsified or corroborated by scientific methodology to the point of being increasingly accepted, but it could never be completely proven). Don’t you think that therefore, no matter where you educated your children, you would do your age appropriate charges a disservice if they were not taught a leading theory in the scientific world? Basically that is essentially all that I was telling Russ, but when I challenge what has become a religious dogma to him, I am being mean and Russ is entitled to feel harmed and respond angrily?

    If you indeed determine to take up this topic further or to argue that Creationism is not science, I imagine that you will fair better, but don’t you fear that, if any challenge to this sacred ideology should meet an angry response, then eventually your side must continually shrink, eventually even you could be thrown out of your camp for such heresy, kind of like how southern gospel churches are always getting theologically mad at each other and splitting to form another church down the road?

    Personally, I think that, like me, the majority of Americans are starting to tire of the noisy rhetoric. The problem is that, very often, nations are destabilized and taken over by angry and highly motivated ideological minorities. I can only hope that the center is beginning to once again hold here.

    I am concerned and curious about your answers to all this.

  23. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – A little while back you wrote this.

    Ultimately, my friend, the only reason that I am indulging in this strange discourse is not to expound my grand opinions on profound fields (not even the ones that I do know something about) to the poor misguided masses. Nope, instead it’s for the pure amusement of challenging you and Tom’s other readers that they should not take seriously any of us folks with allegedly informed opinions on everything, but real credentialed expertise on nothing. Even if someone really did want to get a wise, authoritative, methodically reasoned opinion on a complex, profound topic, then a blog like this is the last place they should look for it. On the other hand, if you want affirmation of what you already believe about everything and everyone that you disagree with, you’ve come to the right place, and I apparently have served as a perfect foil for you to do just that – just angrily label me a liberal and dismiss me. Hah!

    Now, without offering anything specific, you have just called me a liar.

  24. tony salmon says:

    Tom,

    You completely lost me. You don’t think that what I wrote aptly describes not only this blog, but most blogs? You really think that people come here to get a “wise, authoritative, methodically reasoned opinion on complex topics” in 500 words or less? You really consider yourself and others expert on all the topics that are expounded upon here? Other than a few stray ney sayers like me who wander into your blog now and then, you don’t really see the vast majority of the dialogue here as self affirming?

    Honestly brother, I would never call you a liar, but if you really believe these things, I worry that you may be deluding yourself in some ways, including into believing that I am somehow meaning to challenge your integrity (which I have always looked up to) when I only think that I am just stating the obvious.

    You have a fine blog here Tom. It does what blogs do, and I respect the work that you put into it. It gives opinions and some facts, and sometimes, rarely, the posts even rise to the level of manifestos.

    But you are a scholar, Tom. Do you really believe that anything on blogs like this rises to the level of an authoritative, well researched, scholarly treatise that works through a methodically reasoned argument that fully analogizes and distinguishs both the supporting and opposing data of all the broad topics involved? It took more words for me to just say that than anyone would want to read on a blog. Do you genuinely believe that people should come to your blog in order to research and formulate the basis of their fundamental opinions on substantive fields such as morality, economics, government and law? Don’t you see how dangous it would be if they actually did, if they actually are?

    Because the default reaction here seems to view my intent is to be insulting, I just want to emphasize that I am being absolutely sincere in this and that my interest is concern, not malice. Indeed, this reaction to sincere, objective disagreement should just confirm what I have just said about blogs. Simply because I am challenging you and your readers not to take the opinions on yours or any blog, including my opinion, more seriously than they should does not mean I am calling you a liar.

    As you know, at one time my opinions were the Republican mainstream. I formed them through study and some meditation, and I have modified them the same way, but most of those opinions are essentially the same. The opinions in columns and blogs like yours sometimes challenge my opinions, and this serves to incite questions and ideas for further study, but shame on me and shame on you or anyone else here if they actually change a profoundly held belief just because of something that they read on a blog.

    Unfortunately maybe that is exactly what has happened, and that is one reason why the the GOP has moved so far away from me to the extreme right. Below is a link to a David Brooks column that aptly describes this phenomenon. Please weigh Brooks’ opinon for what it is, just as we should weigh any column, like we should weigh the opinions this blog or any other.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/opinion/brooks-the-possum-republicans.html?_r=1&ref=davidbrooks

  25. tony salmon says:

    I also want to also point out that in my earlier post, I also never called you a liar. I simply and sincerely asked the question of how far should someone be allowed to go in castigating oposition, how much anger, hyperbole, exageration, or outright slander should be allowed before we consider it uncivil and call them on it. That is not calling you anything, that’s just asking honest question that should be of genuine concern to all of us.

  26. tony salmon says:

    Sorry, I know that I should probably let this go, but I feel the need to add one more observation. I keep insisting that my attitude here is one of perplexity and concern, but you keep saying that it is accusatory. Perhaps it should seem to me that it is you that is calling me a liar.

    Don’t you think that it is more than ironic that it has come to this point where we can’t even have a civil conversation about being civil to each other? :-)

  27. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony – We were discussing a topic. Considering the context and your own admissions, did I err in calling you profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody? Then why didn’t you answer the question?

    Given that you are so enormously ignorant, what makes you think you have the capacity to determine which self proclaimed experts we are suppose to trust?

    Why did you change the subject?

    Now, after you already admitted you came to this blog just to amuse yourself by laughing at the expense of myself and my readers, you shifted to accusing me of helping you to coarsen the debate. Sorry, when I have enough of my own to take to the foot of our savior’s cross, I do not see any reason to take on your guilt too.

    If you want to know what this blog is about, please read this page.
    http://citizentom.com/about/

    Since my focus changes over time, I suppose I should update my about page. However, it is good enough for the moment. Instead, I will just point out what I wish most people thought obvious. As citizens of a great republic, we have both the right and the obligation to take an interest in public policy. That includes sharing our beliefs and opinions. What I do here is foster and participate in such discussions. I try not slam others just for expressing differing opinions.

    If you are interested in learning from one of my sins, please read this post.
    http://citizentom.com/2007/07/01/reviling-christian-fundamentalism/

  28. tony salmon says:

    Tom wrote:

    “Given that you are so enormously ignorant, what makes you think you have the capacity to determine which self proclaimed experts we are suppose to trust?”

    I did not answer this question because I did not think that you were serious. Once again, you are a scholar Tom. If you were writing a research paper, a dissertation or a treatise on a complex and profound topic, who would you trust to reference?

    Sure experts disagree, sometimes vehemently, but if they really are considered credible authorities on a given topic, then they don’t just get to make stuff up. Wouldn’t you give an expert’s opinion more weight if he or she had more education, more experience and more acclaim in his/her field, if they referenced actual data, and if they made a more reasoned cogent argument? I’m not sure why this is even an issue. God provides knowledge in the form of grace in some areas, but God does not normally make one a neurosurgeon that way. It is rational to be skeptical even of which neurosurgeon that you get to crack open your brIan, but I would hope that you are not going to pick some uncredentialed visitor on your blog to perform that operation just because they affirmed your layman’s preconceptions on the subject.

    Tom wrote:

    “Now, after you already admitted you came to this blog just to amuse yourself by laughing at the expense of myself and my readers, you shifted to accusing me of helping you to coarsen the debate.”

    You are stretching my words and meaning far beyond my original languag or intent and you hearing a meaning from them that is far more callouse than actually comes from me. If it helps, I am usually smiling with some enjoyment when we have these discussions, but I am not diabolically laughing with malicious hysteria. Do you really imagine me such a monster? When did I achieve this transformation in character in your mind?

    Finally, if we vote we probably should have some interest in issues and the position of candidates and hopefully be modestly informed, but it is not a prerequisite. Because most people work hard for a living, being very informed on everything is somewhat of a luxury that few can afford. That is why we have representative government. That is what we and our representatives listen to experts.

    Although there is a right, I must demure when you say that there is an “obligation” for us to share our beliefs and opinions, especially upon complex topics on which we have little or no authority of knowledge and expertise. Democracy is messy though, and I recognize that we need to know what our candidates think and to let them know our interests. There is also practical benefit in joining together with like minded individuals in order to protect those interests. Politics is not bean bag, and it is not a perfect system.

    On the other hand, the issue that I am interested in is when should our ethical responsibilities temper what we have a perfect right to do? When does it go to far? When Is it wrong to wildly opinionate on a deep subject for which we have only shallow or no knowledge? At what point should it shock our conscience to hear (and even perpetuate) embellishments, exagerations, half truths, and even outright slanders and lies just because they come from our team? As strongly held and principled as we may think that our core opinions are, can they really be that solid if they cannot be challenged without an angry vicious response? Can the protection of what we believe is sacred ever justify judging, demonizing and castigating the character of our brothers and sisters for simply disagreeing? (When I think about this, I am always reminded that Jesus was crucified for heresy, for disagreeing with what the current religious establishment claimed was sacred).

    I’m not pointing fingers here, Not at you Tom, or your blog or your contributors. It seems that we have all been guilty to some extent at some point. However, this appears to be getting increasingly more shrill and that worries me. I’m not asking that you or anyone’s faction unilaterally disarm. I’m just asking the question as to when such weapons only self inflict more damage to our souls than it hurts the opposition.

    I would like to continue this discussion, but it seems that you are tired of it. I will take a look at your sights and leave your blog …, I was going to say “in peace”, but I’m not sure that that is the point. Let’s just say I will leave it more unanimous without my dissenting observations for a while. I’ll take a look at the sites you provide. Peace to you though brother.

  29. Citizen Tom says:

    Tony –

    I did not answer this question because I did not think that you were serious.

    If I was not serious, why would I have asked the question?

    I guess you really have not thought about the problem. I suppose you are still too burned up about being called a profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody.

    When I used that phrase, profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody, I did not laugh diabolically with malicious hysteria. I did not even smile with some enjoyment. I just wanted you to consider the problem associated with your ignorance — ignorance you openly and readily admitted. Here’s why. When we vote, we pick the “experts” who run our government. When we task our government — run by those “experts” — to do things about which we know very little, we ask those “experts” to do stupid things. Very stupid things.

    I will finish the post I promised in a couple of days. Probably post it Sunday evening. I will expand upon this issue then.

  30. tony salmon says:

    It would seem that the issue of civility is not something that you don’t care to indulge me in.

    “profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody” pshaw!

    I don’t get “burned up” by name calling bro – skin’s gotten pretty thick with age, but you got to do better than that. It would help if it were not so strangely redundant and it actually were at least a little funny, but instead it’s just a little lame. How bout comparing me to Stalin or Hitler, now that would demonstrate some true over-the-top zealotry to the cause.

    You seem to not know the difference between just claiming not to know everything about everything and “willful ignorance”. Willful ignorance is when pride makes one think that they don’t have to actually know much in order to have an opinion on everything. For example, do you think that such silly derogatories really demean my admitted humble ignorance in many complex areas of knowledge or that it instead spreads the willful ignorance of the person resorting to demeaning another to make himself out to appear more knowledgeable than he is? Like I said such ignorance is a virus, but it can be contained if we chose not to be so contagious and willfully infect one another.

    I’ll leave you to figure it out. Got a trip the next few days with some all nighters. You really worry me these days. You might consider not taking me, or yourself, so seriously. It’ll give you wrinkles and grey hair – whoops, too late. I’ll be thinking about you and check back sometime later.

    “profoundly ignorant self proclaimed ignorant busybody” Snort!

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