Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sam Brownback: Creationist schwaffler and spinmeister

Let’s just deconstruct his New York Times creationism column.

He begins by talking about “belief” in evolution:

In our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days.

This is one of the most disingenuous ploys of creationists. Frankly, you do not “believe” in evolution like you do in creationism.

Did Galileo “believe” in a heliocentric solar system theory? Did Newton “believe” in his theory of gravitation? Of course not.

Next, there’s this illogical false dilemma:
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

Actually, of course, many people, including professional theologians, believe in some sort of theistic evolution that has plenty of room for macroevolution without considering it to rule out a divinity, etc. Note carefully the word “exclusively,” used (and I’m sure quite deliberately) to set up this false dilemma.

And, of course, “materialistic” is a four-letter word in this scenario.

Beyond that, we see the old false dichotomy between microevolution and macroevolution. The only thing missing is the word “kinds.”

Then, going beyond evolution to cosmology, Brownback talks about "facts," without talking about the actual facts, to avoid either huge lies or huge pants-crapping about the Big Bang and the date of the universe.
Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.

And, he stops there and never mentions a single cosmological fact.

He then concludes with a diktat of faith thrown out as supposedly having empirical support, but again without listing any facts.
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order.

What if man's likeness IS unique? So is that of a giant squid, or a planarium. As for the “likeness and image” of Genesis, theologians still have no consensus on what that even means.

Note: The author of this post has a graduate divinity degree. Please do not try this at home.

Cross-posted at The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly, my arts and philosophy blog.