Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Contrasting comments from fundamentalists at a science denialist Facebook group

Sometimes, even fundamentalists will get things right. One commenter at a Christadelphian science denialist Facebook group recently pointed out the need to always "examine ourselves and ask why we are feeling, thinking, or reacting in a particular way" and noted that those "who will never admit error, who are always right, who never concede will seek to tarnish and deride their greatest threats." I agree. Self-examination is always important, particularly when one is emotionally invested in a view and therefore at risk of ignoring the evidence that falsifies that worldview. Unsurprisingly, that Christadelphian science denialist Facebook group is notorious for having people who fail to heed that message of self-critical examination and "who will never admit error, who are always right, who never concede will seek to tarnish and deride their greatest threats".

Of course, anyone familiar with the evidence for evolution and against the fundamentalist distortion of the Bible stubbornly maintained by evolution denialists in our community would be familiar both with such rants, and the reasons why they are gross misrepresentations of what evolutionary creationists in our community really believe, making a response to the above comment unnecessary. Still, there is benefit in beating dead horses, if only for pedagogical purposes. Furthermore, if it helps rescue people from fundamentalist bondage, it will be more than worth the effort.

Misrepresentation 1: "don't accept the Bible ... dilute the truth ... argue the Bible away as poetry"

Behind such histrionic assertions is the classic fundamentalist false dilemma: either one reads the creation narratives as a literal account of material origins, or one reads it as an anaemic poetic metaphor. Apart from the fact that the fundamentalist fails to recognise he has the burden of proof in justifying reading the creation narrative as a literal account of material origins, [1] it ignores the fact that there are many ways in which Genesis 1 can be interpreted other than as 'poetry'.

The absolutist, intolerant traits that characterise fundamentalism (and which were noted by Wizgell in the first part of the quote above), that is, the desire to 'tarnish and deride their greatest threats' are plainly evident when they accuse evolutionary creationists of not accepting the Bible or diluting the truth simply because they do not accept their fundamentalist distortion of the narratives. [2] Furthermore, their absolutist insistence on YEC and flood geology not only marginalises evolutionary creationists, but OECs who reject a global flood, a view which was normative for our community up until the mid-20th century, and which is still present today in many areas.

Misrepresentation 2: "don't trust God ... call into question the Almighty himself"

Apart from the gratuitously offensive nature of such quotes which slander fellow believers who, as W.F. Barling noted 50 years ago in his wise reflection on this subject, are "a number of perplexed individuals, deeply loyal to the community, desperately anxious not to offend those who do not share their anguish—let alone transfer it to their minds—but who feel that they must be intellectually honest" [3] again, no evidence is ever offered for such allegations other than the crime of failing to agree with the person making them.

In fact, given that the natural world is just as much a revelation of God as the Bible, the fundamentalists who deny the unambiguous witness of creation which attests to the fact of an ancient, evolving world are the ones who are not trusting that Divine witness, and placing their faith in the wisdom of men, namely uninformed, unreliable, human distortions of the creation narratives.

Misrepresentation 3: "believe the Bible is fallible"

No evolutionary creationist believes the Bible is fallible, so again, the fundamentalists are merely slandering their opponents. We regard it as a reliable witness to God's plan of salvation. However, we do not believe it is a science textbook, and recognise that God accommodates finite human thinking by framing his message in a way that can be understood by that audience. As C.C. Walker wisely noted, when gently responding to a fundamentalist who claimed that belief in a 'spherical Earth' denied the power, inspiration, and authority of the Bible, "Moses’ testimony was given to Israel in what might be called the infancy of the world, when men did not know the extent of the earth, let alone that of the sun, moon, and stars." [4]

Misrepresentation 4: "teach fundamentalist scientific Clap Trap"

No evolutionary creationist teaches "fundamentalist scientific clap-trap". They however acknowledge that common descent and large-scale evolutionary change is overwhelmingly attested by multiple lines of evidence. As evolutionary biologist T.R. Gregory notes:
Over the past 150 years, [Darwin's] initial list has been supplemented by countless observations in paleontology, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, molecular biology, and (most recently) comparative genomics, and through direct observations of evolutionary change in both natural and experimental populations. Each of thousands of peer-reviewed articles published every year in scientific journals provides further confirmation (though, as Futuyma notes, “no biologist today would think of publishing a paper on ‘new evidence for evolution’ ... it simply hasn’t been an issue in scientific circles for more than a century”). Conversely, no reliable observation has ever been found to contradict the general notion of common descent. It should come as no surprise, then, that the scientific community at large has accepted evolutionary descent as a historical reality since Darwin’s time and considers it among the most reliably established and fundamentally important facts in all of science. [5]
The only people who are teaching 'fundamentalist clap trap' are the militant YECs, to a person without any formal relevant scientific training in evolutionary biology or palaeontology, who teach demonstrably false nonsense such as a young Earth and evolution denialism.

Misrepresentation 5: "challenge the authenticity and/or accuracy of God's word"

By now, one can see that the misrepresentations are effectively variations on the same theme, making a detailed response both repetitive and tedious. Once again:
It is hard-line, inflexible Biblical literalism which causes people to question the accuracy of the Bible, by creating internal and external contradictions which are entirely a function of literalism.

Misrepresentation 6: "seek to deny that the Bible is infallible"

See point 3

Misrepresentation 7: "deny the power of God"

No evolutionary creationist denies that God could have created the world in six literal days. In fact, God could have created the entire universe instantly. However, the witness of the natural world tells us otherwise. It tells us that the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, the Earth is around 4.6 billion years old, and common descent is a fact. We do not deny the power of God. We marvel at the intricacy of an ancient, evolving creation.

Misrepresentation 8: "say that the Bible is inaccurate"

See points 1-7


As a rule, when people resort to misrepresenting and demonising their opponents, it is a sure bet that their position is at best untenable. Certainly, the evidence against YEC, evolution denialism, and Biblical literalism is overwhelming. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 reminds us to test everything and hold to that which is true. Those who inculcate that spirit of intellectual honesty and humility have long ago conceded the reality of the evolutionary origin of the diversity of life, and the evidence which shows that a fundamentalist reading of the creation narratives makes them contradict each other, let alone the witness of the natural world. Conversely, those who put human wisdom above the witness of both books of divine revelation increasingly become more strident, shrill, and intolerant as it becomes increasingly apparent to them and others that their position is untenable.


1. See for example Walton J "The Lost World of Genesis 1" (2009: IVP Academic)
2. Fundamentalists in our community are particularly hostile towards mainstream Christianity which makes their acceptance of a reading of Genesis 1 that owes everything to Evangelical Christianity (and ultimately the visions of Ellen G. White) ironic.
3. Barling W.F. "Letter: The Origin of Man" The Christadelphian (1965) 102:463–464
4. Walker C.C. "Is it 'Wrong' to Believe that the Earth is a Sphere?" The Christadelphian (1913) 50:348
5. Gregory T.R. "Evolution as Fact, Theory, and Path" Evo Edu Outreach (2008) 1:46-52