Monthly Archives: November 2014

Professor Tertius’ Laws of Presumptuous Pontification

“Woe unto him who pontificates outside his fields of expertise!”

— First Opinions 2:19

In forum venues throughout the Internet I’ve often posted the serious errors in matters of history, linguistics, and religious studies facts one often hears from scientists and/or media celebrities like Richard Dawkins, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye when they speak outside of their fields of expertise.  Dr. Tyson got himself into significant embarrassments in both the Cosmos series and various speaking engagements as his repetition of popular myths, factoids, and deceptive (or worse) quote-mining caught up with him. Bill Nye remains oblivious to why Christians react negatively to his bumbling attempts to critique various scriptures. Sadly, such casually told “misinformation and disinformation” often ends up in the published works of these popular teachers of science, and yet, regrettably, without footnote citations where their often questionable and even downright erroneous claims about history and ancient literature could be further scrutinized.

Speaking erroneously, yes even borderline preaching, outside of our respective field(s) of expertise is not the monopoly of young earth creationists, former hosts of children’s TV programs and documentaries, or very entertaining evolutionary biologists. It happens to all of us, at one time or another, because it is a human foible, not solely the pathology of a particular sectarian group. (Of course, the big problem for YECists like Ken Ham in this regard is that he has no field of expertise for which he can speak and teach with any likelihood of making sense!)

[My remark about Ken Ham is not some “cheap shot” merely to make a joke. I’m quite serious. Ham has no exceptional training in any field of science nor much of any training in Biblical studies, a reality which will come as no surprise to those familiar with his articles, books, and videos. He admits “I’m not a scientist” but if one presumes to declare wrong the entire science academy, the world’s elite professors in university departments of geology, biology, physics, and astronomy,  you’d better be prepared to explain why someone so woefully uninformed, uneducated, and unfamiliar with the basic terminology and principles of science has any credibility, not to mention any compelling evidence of having somehow figured out what a planet full of top scientists got wrong.]

Being very self-conscious of my own embarrassing track record of having been a young earth creationist speaker/debater back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, having presumptuously lectured so defiantly against the science academy in the fields of biology, geology, physics, and astronomy at a time when my C.V. was not as well-rounded in those topics as I should have been, my public confession on behalf of all reckless pontificators is experientially appropriate.  At that time, so long ago, I held a lowly (Assistant Professor) but respectable position in a respected “secular” university science department on a perfectly respectable, tax-payer-supported university campus–but not in one of those fields obviously relevant to the “creation science” targets of my denialism. Accordingly, even to this day I remain all too vulnerable to criminal charges, prosecution, and conviction for serial violations of…

[1] Professor Tertius’ First Law of Presumptuous Pontification:
When a scholar takes action to pontificate upon and/even denigrate some concept from a field of scholarship in which said scholar does not have significant knowledge, training, and experience, he/she produces an equal and opposite reaction from the scholars who do.

Some readers will notice that Professor Tertius has recently expanded his obviously narcissistic while eponymous law to emphasize not just the pontification, not just the confident declaration of opinion, and not even just the recklessness of casually speaking (preaching?) outside of one’s fields of knowledge, training, and expertise. I’m flagging the galling presumptuousness of which we are guilty when we, the uninformed, without the requisite compelling evidence and analysis which might have a ghost of a chance of surviving peer review within the academy, claim either (1) to have made a notable observation or even a discovery which the world’s top scholars of the relevant fields of the academy have overlooked, or (2) to have “proven” the aforementioned academy in error or somehow deficient and in need of our correction, expertise, or tutelage. To capture that human malady to which we are all vulnerable in those two ways, the Laws of Presumptuous Pontification serve as a “reality check” when we (hereafter the Pontificator) think ourselves more insightful, better informed, or even more honest or less “biased” than the scholars of the relevant fields of the academy (hereafter, the Pontificatee(s) regardless of whether or not said scholars are present to witness the Pontificator’s violation.) The individual proofs of the corollaries to the First Law are left as an exercise for the student.

Corollary #1 to the First Law of Presumptuous Pontification 
The greater the presumptuousness of the pontifications violating the First Law, the more oblivious is the Pontificator and the more obvious is the violation to the Pontificatee(s).

Corollary #2 to the First Law of Presumptuous Pontification 
The presumptuousness, smugness, and pride of the Pontificator varies inversely proportional to the square of the ignorance of the Pontificator in the relevant fields of scholarship and directly proportional to the cube of the amusement and laughter of the Pontificatees when present to witness said violations. ** [See Footnote for proposed revisions.]

Corollaries #3/#4 to the First Law of Presumptuous Pontification {1978 version.} Also known as:
Professor Tertius’ Zeroth Law of Universal Presumptuous Pontification {1997 AAPPS revision.}
There is no immunity or exemption from Professor Tertius’ First Law of Presumptuous Pontification, neither in reference to the individual scholar nor to the relevant field(s) of scholarship. {Some textbooks use this alternative version:  All scholars and fields of scholarship within the academy are governed by Professor Tertius’ Laws of Presumptuous Pontification.}

Corollary to Professor Tertius’ Zeroth Law of Universal Presumptuous Pontification {1997 AAPPS revision}
Religious Studies, Political Studies, and Sexological Studies are not exempt from Professor Tertius’ First Law of Presumptuous Pontification. As legitimate academic fields within the university academy, established facts do exist within them and the uninformed opinions of violators of the First Law do not trump or hold equal credibility.

(In other words, just as denialist rants against the The Theory of Evolution do not matter to the evolutionary biology academy, opinions denying the data/evidence, theories, and laws of academic fields relevant to Biblical Studies are ignored by the Biblical Studies academy. Likewise, the enormous expertise gap between the knowledge and judgments of the academy and the average “man on the street” exists for every field of the academy.)

[2] Professor Tertius’ Second Law of Presumptuous Pontification:
Presumptuous pontifications concerning Professor Tertius’ First Law of Presumptuous Pontification are not exempt from the First & Second Laws of Presumptuous Pontification even if presumptuously pontificated by Professor Tertius. ***  [See Footnote.]

In a future blog edition, I do plan to review some of the most egregious and public violations of the First Law of Presumptuous Pontification in the preachy, misbegotten tangents of Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye. After all, for years now Professor Tertius has posted thousands of comments, forum posts, blogs, and articles focused entirely on the atrociously ignorant pontifications generated by the millionaire entrepreneurs of the origins, mega-ministry, industry of “creation science.”  Yet, in doing so, I do realize that I’ve contributed to the popular misconception that ignorant and presumptuous pontification is the singular talent of “creation scientists” even though that industry hardly has a monopoly on ignorance and bloviation. The rest of us deserve at least a little bit of credit–or equal time if you will.

My own embarrassing history of violations has and will be an ongoing theme of the Bible.and.Science.Forum so I don’t feel hypocritical in flagging these very human foibles in others. (Plus, nowadays when I go out on a limb of the bloviation tree and risk yet another violation, it doesn’t count because behind my back I have my fingers crossed.)

Bill Nye declares, “The moon is not a light!”  
Drat! How did Hebrew exegetes and theologians miss that one?
Thank you, Bill!

If Professor Tertius’ First Law of Presumptuous Pontification is ever amended to include a Three Strikes Law, the Dawkins-Tyson-Nye triad just might become my cellblock neighbors as we serve out our life sentences with no credit for time already served. Even though their foibles deserve their own individual, in-depth reviews with documented examples in some future blog edition, I will go ahead and mention a personal favorite because I often use this one in lecture appearances. I’ll call it…

Bill Nye the Science Wise Guy

I’m amused by how many times Bill Nye has smugly declared an “obvious error” in Genesis 1, shaking his head while lamenting, “The moon is not a light!”  Yes, ladies and gentleman, Mr. Nye has discovered a previously unpublished (so apparently undiscovered) lexicographic “rule” in English [we won’t confuse him by mentioning that Genesis was written in Hebrew] which demands that every light be an original light generator or original source. Sorry, Bill, The Oxford English Dictionary disagrees with you. So does Joe at my local Sears store when he asked me how many lights I wanted in my special order, front-entrance door for my house. [For centuries now, a “light” has been a common synonym for a window pane.]  Oh, I ordered a sky light also! Yet, the same Bill Nye, who would fail an English vocabulary test on this word thinks he’s found a problem which Classical Hebrew lexicographers and Biblical Studies professors have somehow missed! Yet, he wonders why audiences in Bible Belt states packed full of those laughably uninformed young earth creationists chuckle when Mr. Nye proudly declares, “The moon is not a light!”  Much like the YECists who continue to spout the same erroneous definition of a scientific term or to quote the already discredited quote-mine from Darwin’s classic tome, Bill Nye proudly repeats his “The moon is not a light!” factoid at press conferences and TV talk show appearances. He and the lavishly approving host laughs at those silly, clueless creationists and affirms Bill’s alleged “obvious error in Genesis” while congratulating his brilliant insight. Such scenes are painfully and awfully close to being analogous to Kent Hovind praising Ray Comfort for destroying the The Theory of Evolution in a single blow with his latest video.

Though I am haunted mainly in my dreams, there is, technically speaking, no Statute of Limitations for violations of the Laws of Presumptuous Pontification. Fortunately, in my case those embarrassments were long before the Internet, although its ARPANET predecessor was underway and I eventually had civilian access for a time–another bizarre but very real chapter in the life of Professor Tertius–and no videos, to my knowledge, survive to be used against me. So if any dastardly YECist just had an extortionistic thought to possibly foil and bleed Professor Tertius, even while he is in hiding under the WPP [Witless Protection Program], all audio recordings as well as the cerebral cortex memories of the surviving witnesses of my appearances on the “creation science” lecture circuit have been duly erased by our operatives.

Yes, the ex-YEC underground is quite powerful and we are everywhere. Yet even we ex-YECs are not exempt from Professor Tertius’ Laws of Presumptuous Pontification. You might even say we wrote the laws.
[According to the Journal of the American Academy of Presumptuous Pontification Studies in their “Papers & Proceedings of the 157th Annual Conference of the American Academy of Presumptuous Pontification Studies” (Vol. 157, no.4 [2014]) the plenary session voted to delegate to the AAPPS Standing Committee the task of determining the details of a new draft of “A Proposed Revision of the Revised Amendment for Corollary #2 to the First Law of Presumptuous Pontification.” Scholars have long recognized the limitations of the inverse-cube relationships for both the amusement variable “a” and the laughter variable “v” and the obvious fact that the derivative of the functions eventually approach a limit as said amusement and laughter functions parallel the frustration and grave-concern functions of Pontificatee.]
{A preliminary proposal to appoint a committee to reconsider the re-examination of the published papers and policies of the AAPPS for re-publication in the light of appropriate gender-inclusiveness in all presumptuous pontification, papers, and proceedings was approved and proposed for postal dispatch to all academy members for a final vote.}

[I thank Dr. Douglas Hofstadter for challenging me and indirectly inspiring the discovery of the <em><strong>Laws of Presumptuous Pontification</strong></em> when he asked me an interesting question about my Biblical Studies research during a coffee & cookie speaker’s reception so long ago. Fortunately, Hofstadter’s casual question did not require divulging my last remaining contaminations of YECism to the Visiting Professors standing around us, including the academic journal editor who would, years later, play an important role in recommending an important collaboration and lucrative foundation grant which made my most important publications possible. Plus, in that same conversation, Dr. Hofstadter joked about some semi-esoteric ideas which are much more widely recognized today because of his Pulitzer Prize winning book. Strangely enough, that conversation of no more than three minutes, tops, also challenged me to reconsider my differences with Kurt Godel, and–as the saying goes–the rest is history. We are all beholden to the academy in non-polynomial complete networks of countless vertices and edges. No discovery or epiphany is solely our own.]

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HOLIDAY ASSIGNMENT: Explain the dimensions of the MOLTEN SEA in as few words as possible!

For years I’ve had to field the silly claim that “The Bible says Pi=3” and/or “The molten sea in 1Kings 7:23 has erroneous dimensions.” Both are mind-numbingly silly and not only the mathematics-challenged screw it up badly. (I’ve seen some mathematics journal articles get it wrong and some get it right–as well as at least one ACM SIG journal!– and for the most fascinating of reasons in both instances!) It is an example that reminds us that not only young earth creationists have cognitive dissonance. If someone is determined to prove YECs or the Bible “wrong” no matter what, they will! (At least, in their minds they will.)

I have lectured on this fun topic in a number of venues over the years and I found this interesting: If I am dealing with a scale model of the molten sea (a water vessel of great size in the Temple grounds) or a simple diagram, nobody has ever denied the 10 cubit diameter and 30 cubit circumference. Nobody challenges the 1 Kings 7:23 description because they can see it before them! (And to call it “erroneous” is not pedantic. It is flat outright wrong.) But on Internet forums, many are determined to prove me wrong. And I must be wrong, obviously, because this is seen as a creationist and/or a “Biblical” claim!

And just as creationists will declare everything about evolution wrong, so do many declare the Bible or any other religion-related text wrong: every time! Everything in it just surely has to be wrong! Of course, as an occasionally-grouchy professor, I must grade answers right or wrong by the factual content, not by the ideology or passion of the student, all regardless of their hurt feelings or dashed perceptions. In Biblical studies, just as in the sciences, data/evidence matters. It always matters.

So I was thinking: What could be written in the fewest ASCII characters to show that the 10 and 30 are not erroneous descriptions? (Readers, feel free to email me your own answers to this challenge.)

So I’ll try:

1) 9.55 * 3.14159 = 30.002 {diameter x Pi = circumference if we presume a perfect cylinder.}

2) The Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy held by Ken Ham et all (and a great many evangelical Christians) has NOTHING to do with PRECISION. Only TRUTH. (I won’t go into the details of how Ham would define it. Another time.) Moreover, general approximations in the description of a very large (and hard to measure because it is taller than a man) water basin/tank are NOT “errors”. The author of 1Kings was telling the reader that the “molten sea” was 10 cubits across and 30 cubits circumference. He had no reason to care about the fractional amounts and neither would the reader care. (And how would the fractional amount be expressed in ancient Hebrew, many centuries before the birth of Jesus?) And EVEN IF the molten sea were a perfect cylinder, 10 and 30 cubits respectively are certainly permissible and correct descriptions of a 9.55 cubit and 30.002 cubit vessel that is about 7 1/2 feet tall!

3) The text tells us that the molten sea is flared like a tulip. So the top, out-of-reach rim could have been EXACTLY 10.00 cubits across and the description would still be perfectly valid–and reasonably precise! The text does not tell us where the diameter and the circumference were measured. In any case, even today we often round numbers to the nearest whole. That doesn’t make us wrong or in error–just approximate.

Those who are familiar with my academic career will be humored by a statement made by a commenter under the Sensuous Curmudgeon blog for 11/26/14 under the Ken Ham article. He insults my academic acumen and what aspirations I might optimistically pursue–or not. It would be fun to answer him by a factoid from my CV, but that risks betraying my identity. And that is something those of us ex-YECs hiding away in the WPP (Witless Protection Program) cannot do. So I challenge my readers to (1) find the insulting reader’s comment in that section under the aforementioned blog, and (2) explain why it made Professor Tertius’ belly “shake when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.” I can’t say at this point what the grand prize will be for the reader first to email me the correct answers to this challenge. But the funniest entries will be shared on this blog and the BSF email newsletter community for sure!

One other memory comes to mind. A very long time ago I was speaking at the University of Chicago (sponsored by the Beinecke Foundation, if my aged mind is holding up) and posed this molten sea problem to the faculty and grad students present. I can still remember the results because of their interesting pattern: 40% of the esteemed faculty who were present correctly debunked the claim of “an error defies Biblical inerrancy doctrine” in the text but 60% of the students got it right. Yes, for the faculty the performance was 40/60 and for the doctoral hopefuls (and some Masters and a few undergrads were present, to tell the truth). The Internet hadn’t emerged yet, so hecklers were few. One student initially objected but soon “got it”.

One more thought: As my TA (Teaching Assistant) reminded me so many years ago, Pi=3 is not a wrong answer, even if the Bible or some other ancient text had said so. (The Bible says nothing about Pi but let’s imagine.) Pi=3 and Pi=3.14 and Pi=3.1415926 are all false statements. The different is precision/accuracy in terms of significant digits. [Yes, I fully admit that I’ve committed the heinous sin of treating “precision” and “accuracy” as synonyms when they do not mean the same thing. I don’t want to pursue yet another tangent, plus while teaching overseas I discovered those terms are used in opposite ways depending on where I was!] Yes, Pi=3 is pitifully poor in getting useful answers and Pi=3.14 is much better, but both are “wrong” if people get as pedantic and passionate as we all do when opposing whatever is our own particular “ignition point” issue: evolution, young earth creationism, global warming, Ken Ham or the Bible.


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BIBLE 101: Old Testament & New Testament. Why two?

A comment on another blog forum wrote: “I just know that Ken Ham’s not supposed to wear clothes woven of two different materials.”

Just to demonstrate that I actually can behave like a real professor and write something didactically edifying [Translation for beginners: “I can learn ya all kinds a’ stuff!”]….here goes:

Ken Ham is only prohibited from mixing two kinds of fabrics in his clothing iff (i.e., “if and only if” in mathematical proofs) he is a citizen of ancient Israel where these symbolic “pledges of allegiance” (in terms of various rules which had great significance and meaning for the Children of Israel but which are lost on us today) are an outward demonstration of his loyalty to YHWH and the nation as a whole. All of these Torah rules are part of the national constitution of the Children of Israel and they are part of the Sinaitic Covenant (i.e., a contract) between YHWH and the descendants of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. (Jacob later on took the name “Israel.” See Genesis.)

The reason one sees B’nai B’rith on synagogues today is because of this very significant covenant between the Jewish people and God. They are the “Sons of the Covenant” even today because they pledge themselves as they enter adulthood (some do it later on in their lives) to be loyal to that same national covenant of Ancient Israel. The ceremonies are call bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah

Is Ken Ham Jewish? I don’t think so. Therefore, he has no reason to pledge himself to obey the “Old Covenant”, aka the “Old Testament”. “Testament” was a common English word in 1611, so the KJV Bible helped preserve that archaic word in our language and culture. But I tell students to think of it in more modern jargon: The Old Contract, the name of the first part of the Bible. The Old Contract applied just between those two parties: YHWH (God) and the Children of Israel. Do all contracts apply to everybody? No. Contracts apply only to the associated parties to the contract.

As a Gentile, Ken Ham has chosen to pledge himself to the “New Covenant”, aka the “New Testament”. In more common language today, he is a “signer” to The New Contract, a contract between God and both Gentiles and Jews. That is, the message of the New Testament is “whosoever will may come.” In other words, Jesus said that he came with the Good News (in Old English, “Godspell”, which today we pronounce as “Gospel”), a contract which both Jews and Gentiles can choose to “sign”. That is, they can pledge themselves to meet the provisions of the New Contract.

Unfortunately, many people, both Christian and non-Christians, don’t understand these basics which are “RS101: Intro to the Bible” in any university Department of Religious Studies. In other words, these are facts.

So when you hear somebody chiding some Christian for “being hypocritical by forbidding adultery but eating shellfish and wearing a cotton-and-rayon blend shirt”, the Christian is certainly not being hypocritical but the person making the accusation just proved their ignorance of one of the most basic aspects of the Bible: its division into “Old Contract” and “New Contract”. (I’m not using the word “ignorance” as an insult. It is simply a statement of fact. We are all ignorant of lots of things but informed about others.)

Once that simple fact of the Bible’s natural division is understood, you can also see that–just as my home mortgage contract might have some provisions which are virtually identical to your home mortgage contract–it shouldn’t be a surprise that some rules apply to both of us. But not all do. Likewise, the Old Contract in the Bible prohibited a citizen of ancient Israel from wearing blended clothing but the New Contract has no such rule. Why the difference? In ancient Israel, the “pagan neighbors” wore blended fabrics as part of their allegiance to their gods and goddesses. It had ritualistic meanings. The Children of Israel were forbidden to worship or recognize foreign gods in any way. So for a citizen of ancient Israel to wear blended fabric, they were breaking God’s covenant (i.e., contract) with Israel, by declaring their defiance of the Torah Law and YHWH. To wear blended cloth, eat shellfish, or cook a calf in its mother’s milk (another pagan ritual of worship among the neighboring nations), that person was guilty of treason!

As with any other field, whether it be biology or geology or religious studies, when people who are ignorant of the field start making accusations and bombastic statements, they generally sound foolish to anyone who is well acquainted with the subject matter. That’s why Bill Nye (and Richard Dawkins and Neil Degrasse Tyson for that matter) makes huge tactical errors when he starts pontificating on the Bible instead of focusing only on science when he addresses Christian audiences, whether in debates or in TV interviews. Frankly, when I listen to Nye, Dawkins, and Tyson, they sound nearly as foolish as Ken Ham when they speak outside of their fields of expertise. Each tends to blubber the most absurd, and often myth-plagued nonsense, when speaking on the Bible, history, and philosophy. At times they even quote-mine and fall into Arguments from Personal Incredulity fallacies. Christian audiences know this, and that is why many quickly assumed Bill Nye a fool when he made claims about Biblical studies topics. Once you’ve convinced a young earth creationist that you are ignorant of the Bible and telling howlers, your credibility is gone to teach them anything about science. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Can you blame them? At times, Bill Nye sounded just as foolish to the YECs in the debate audience as Ken Ham sounded to Bill Nye.

As an educator (retired), I’m an equal-opportunity critic of nonsense. Opinions on subjective matters is one things. Data/facts are another.

{I hadn’t intended to write another essay tonight but this is an important item of factual information that I needed to address. I hope that readers will find it helpful for understanding Bible topics. If the natural division of the Bible into two parts is not correctly understood, a great deal of unnecessary confusion results.}

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“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Yes, YECers have raised taking scripture out-of-context to a veritable art form. The “Professing themselves to be wise” passage is one of their favorite clubs, always adaptable to the whatever/whoever foe of the moment. So you can imagine their consternation when I preemptively deploy their own Bible quote-mining tactics by throwing their overused passages at them before they have a chance to throw them at me. When I’m observing YECer ignorance and their denials of evidence in an origins debate forum, I point out the evidence from God’s creation which they are ignoring—but which REAL scientists do not—-and I invoke the Apostle Paul’s testimony before they’ve barely begun to hiss, spit, and sputter:

You YECs call it “creation science” but the Apostle Paul called it “science falsely so called”. Your arrogance in denouncing and contradicting the countless loud and clear answers which the Creator has placed throughout his creation is explained so well by the Apostle Paul himself: Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools!

Then I usually finish with a few choice excerpts from the Old Testament book of the Bible which has the most to say about fools:

The authors of the Book of Proverbs described your folly long before “Lying for Jesus” became the favorite sin of “creation scientists” and their gullible sheep. Those wise ones of long ago rebuked you as “the fool who scorns instruction” and “the fool who mocks those who would try to teach him.” Indeed, those great sages prophesied the sorry state of so many Ken Ham-adoring young earth creationists: There is no hope for the fool who loves his folly.

Yes, I can say from personal experience that few things make YECers madder than hitting them over the head with their own favorite condemnation scriptures, followed up by the countless proverbs exhorting fools to abandon their folly:

So I exhort you, dear creationist, to abandon your folly and your ‘science falsely so called’ and remember that no liar shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite your mind-numbing displays to the contrary, ignorance is not a Fruit of the Spirit. Repent ye creationists now before it is too late, when the foolish shall be brought to judgment. “Let he who has ears, let him hear!”

And if I’m feeling particular snarky, having grown too exasperated by YECist denialism, I can’t help but chide them further:

Dear creationist, if you TRULY believe God created everything, then why has that Creator so obviously filled his biosphere with mountains of evidence for evolution and for billions of years of earth history? Is he a liar and deceiver (who therefore endorses your ubiquitous “Lying for Jesus” tactics)—or has he so generously provided in that creation such clear and detailed answers to our questions about that spectacular panoply of life, that only a fool could ignore them? After all, if you creationists consider the Creator to be the Ultimate Designer, the First Cause of Everything, then that very evidence which the Creator put there testifies to what should be your only logical conclusion: the Creator DESIGNED the laws of physics in such a way that life on planet earth was inevitable, and so that those same laws of physics would adapt living things to changing environments and diversify life in that biosphere so magnificently. The Psalmist said, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God…” But creationist, are you listening? Every item of evidence, anywhere in the universe, including the biosphere, is an answer from the creator. Will you listen to what the heavens—and the earth—-are telling you? The huge pile of observable evidence for evolution: God created it. I believe it. That settles it.

No, these tactics aren’t for everybody. But for me, as an ex-YEC from long ago, I speak to them in their own language. For most young earth creationists, that is the only way to reach them.

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Professor Tertius’ Quotable Quotes for Young Earth Creationsts

“All joking aside, I want to get strictly serious for a moment. While I admit to making a lot of jokes about what clearly are the most cherished beliefs and heartfelt, personal convictions of young earth creationists, the fact remains that nobody has more convictions than Kent Hovind. In fact, few non-creationists even come close.” — Professor Tertius

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Translating Genesis: Just a few words translated more carefully can make a huge difference!

Seeing how many have written and said enjoy these Bible-related and creationism topics—and valid and interesting observations in the process—I’ll mention yet another observation on these tangents: I get annoyed at Young Earth Creationists for thinking that a text has only ONE “literal interpretation.” The popular use of the word “literal” has drifted from what a linguist means by “literal”. And creationists go ballistic when I tell them that there are often MANY literal interpretations for just about all of the controversial statements in Genesis 1 and 2. Of course, when they insist that theirs is the ONLY truly literal interpretation of each pericope, they usually ignore the fact that “the plain and natural, simple reading of the text” can depend upon the particular English translation. If one is working from a “literal reading” of the Hebrew text of Genesis, the “literal interpretation” can be quite different.

For example, if one adopts a “plain and natural reading” of the Hebrew text of the Noah account, it is hard to come up with anything but a REGIONAL/LOCAL flood, not the GLOBAL one favored by Young Earth Creationists. After all, the Hebrew text refers to a flooding of Noah’s ERETZ, that is, his “land”, “country”, or “region”. There is no mention of ERETZ in the plural (“lands”) and even today in modern Hebrew, nobody assumes that ERETZ YISRAEL means “the planet of Israel” or “Planet Israel.” It is always read as “Land of Israel” or “Nation of Israel.” Thus, if I read Genesis LITERALLY, I will understand Noah’s flood to have destroyed all Imago Dei descendents of Adam— not every hominid (and NEPHESH creatures in general) worldwide.

In fact, I used to have my students import the Noah chapters of Genesis into a word-processor using the King James translation (or even sometimes other translations if sufficiently literal in translation approach) and then doing global replacements on the following words:

earth ===> land
heaven(s) ===> sky
mountain(s) ===> hill(s)

All three of these translations of the underlying Hebrew words are valid. But when the student reads the KJV account of Noah’s flood where “land”, “sky”, and “hills” appears instead of “earth”, “heavens”, and “mountains”, he/she discovers that their “simple, plain, and natural, LITERAL reading of the Biblical text” leads them to assume that Noah’s flood was restricted to Noah’s region, the only “world” Noah knew.

If I really want to irritate every Young Earth Creationist within earshot, I will tell them, “I prefer to interpret Genesis literally and work from a plain, simple, natural reading of the Hebrew text. Therefore I follow both the scriptural evidence and the scientific evidence to their natural conclusion: The Theory of Evolution is our best explanation of the diversification of life on earth. Moreover, “Let the waters bring forth [living things]…” and “Let the land bring forth [living things]….” (in Genesis 1) and even “God formed the human one from the dust of the ground” (in Genesis 2:7) are all references to ABIOGENESIS (biological life from non-living ingredients, the very definition of abiogenesis.) No matter how much they protest, I tell them that my interpretations are LITERAL because I’m using a “literal meaning” for each word as defined in the Hebrew lexicon.

No, I’m not claiming that readers down through the centuries could have consulted the Hebrew text of Genesis and predicted the eventual publication of The Theory of Evolution. I am saying that someone can affirm The Theory of Evolution while also maintaining literal interpretations of Genesis. Convincing the skeptical of that claim would take far more space than what is available here. But I am quite serious. (Yes, believe it or not. I’m totally serious. I’ve posted generously on this topic on various forums. Dr. Janis, who first invited me to subscribe to this blog page, has seen some of my essays on this topic. So this is not the first venue where I’ve discussed this idea.)

My purpose in doing that is not to convince anyone that “the Bible had it right all along.” Nor am I pursuing Science-and-the-Bible concordism for concordism’s sake. No, I want to reach the many Christians who are constantly at war with science and explain to them that such conflict is entirely unnecessary.

I’m sick and tired of the YEC peanut gallery, the infamous origins-ministry millionaire entrepreneurs (e.g., Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind et al) and concerned for the many thousands of sincere but science-illiterate and gullible “creation science”-endorsing pastors who are manipulated into whipping millions of Christians into a frenzy of anti-science nonsense that is neither scriptural valid nor scientifically valid. Whatever one thinks of the Bible and its teachings, if I can convince Young Earth Creationist Christians that they can affirm the Bible while also affirming the scientific method and following the evidence wherever it leads, their silly war on science (and The Theory of Evolution in particular) can be ended.

Quality science education in America today is only safe if a large percentage of the population is not bent on destroying it. And while I appreciate what Biologos is trying to accomplish in that regard, I believe their present strategies will not be successful in reaching fundamentalist Christians (for reasons beyond the scope of this modest post.) My approach is to convince fundamentalists that the Bible does not contradict or denounce abiogenesis nor The Theory of Evolution. And I can do so even while using literal interpretations of the Hebrew text. For the most part, Christians who oppose The Theory of Evolution will not be won over by science-education alone. First they need to be convinced that modern science and the scientific method does not pose a threat to their faith—-only their extra-Biblical TRADITIONS.

Duane Gish despised me, Henry Morris thought I asked too many [embarrassing] questions that he didn’t want to address, and John Whitcomb considered me a traitor. But quite a few rank-and-file YEC-ists have decided that perhaps a evolution-affirming Christian might not be so dangerous after all. And if such people remain Young Earth Creationists but they decide that evolution and billions of years is just a secondary matter of personal opinion, they are far less likely to send donations to build the “Ark Park” and are far more likely to oppose local school boards and even state legislators who try to sneak “creation science” and ID into science classes at their schools. I’m a pragmatist. Once they can safely be open-minded about the science, they are far more likely to actually investigate and learn about the evidence that supports it. Even if they remain allegiant to their church’s traditions, their children will be at greater liberty to pursue science majors in college and eventual science careers. I can draw parallels to the American civil rights movement.

Commenter’s Corner

A commenter once responded to one of my articles: “I’m confident that people like Ken Ham will never debate you.” True enough. I so wish he would. He is nearly as ignorant of the Bible as he is of Science. And he prefers that his audiences assume false dichotomies. He insists that one must agree with his Young Earth Creationism *OR* be an atheist “evilutionist”. Whenever he is forced to admit the existence of Christians who disagree with him, he labels them as “compromising Christians” who are tools of Satan. But most of his followers are not so extreme because many of them have friends and family who are Old Earth Creationists, Gappers, and even Framework Hypothesis advocates and Days of Proclamation-ists. So I think Ham is becoming less and less willing to debate any Christians who his audience would refuse to categorize as demonically manipulated. Even his condemnations of ID advocates and the Discovery Institute have to be pitched carefully because he risks losing the many Young Earth Creationists who are also DI and ID fans.

While I generally agree with the advice that scientists never debate a Young Earth Creationist, I would make an exception for myself—not only because I want to shred him on both scientific AND Biblical grounds, but because I spent years in the movement during its early days [The Genesis Flood was published in 1962] and I know all the tricks, dodges, quote-mines, and mantras. I know how to compete with Ham for the approval of his own choir. Christian audiences are sensitive about hypocrisy and Ham is vulnerable from many directions. (Perhaps I could be a last minute substitute for some scientist who Ham has agreed to debate. If he saw me walk onto the platform and he pulled out, even his own fans would consider him a chicken.)

Another commenter wrote: “As for your strategy – I am all for multiple attempts. Yours doesn’t need to collide with SC’s.” Exactly. Before Dr. Eugenie Scott’s retirement, I would have loved to have partnered with her to do a tag team debate against Ken Ham and one of his resident staff “creation scientists.” Perhaps Dr. Georgia Purdom could protect his flank. She’s probably still sore at me for making fun of their much hyped “baraminology” project. I told her, “When it comes to putting together a good baraminology project, I guess it takes all kinds.” Hey, my turn-of-phrase is no more lame than baraminology is. They should be accustomed to bad jokes.

Another commenter wrote wrote: “God wouldn’t allow the translators from Hebrew and Greek to make erroneous or even ambiguous translations, would he?” Excellent point. And it is yet another fundamental of Introductory Linguistics that that is the nature of human languages. They nearly ALWAYS involve ambiguity and translations inevitably involve trade-offs. And when the Young Earth Creationist fundamentalists try to argue otherwise, I quote from the Apostle Paul himself: “We see through a glass but darkly.” Moreover, the same apostle talked about the MYSTERIES of the Gospel. This is just one of many topics where YECs are actually in defiance of the scripture they claim to honor more than everybody else.

It’s gotta be hard living in the “creation science” camp nowadays. You’ve not only got the REAL scientists laughing at you. You’ve got the Biblical literature scholars at both the evangelical seminaries and the secular universities shredding your exegesis. And you’ve even got the evangelical Church historians exposing the embarrassing fact that your movement didn’t really begin with the apostles after all. It started with Seventh Day Adventist prophetess Ellen White, got polished up in semi-scholarly clothes by George McReady Price, and “sanitized for your protection” by Grace Brethren Old Testament professor John Whitcomb Jr., carefully removing all SDA references so that nobody would accuse him of plagiarizing from a “cult.” Then, if you are going to invent the new “creation science” field of “flood geology”, you gotta have a water specialist. Fortunately, John had met Henry Morris, hydrologist-engineer extraordinaire, at a fundamentalist Bible conference. The rest, as they say, is history! The circus has been on the road ever since. (In this case, the circus and the side show is the same thing.)

Now if some doubter comes along, let’s say someone like Ken Ham, and asks, “Were you there?”, I might just turn to him and say, “Yes. Yes I was.”

Another commenter wrote: “If nothing else, they will needle the hell out of Ham. LOL. Perhaps that is where I should publish my prophecy that Ken Ham’s “Ark Park” will be his financial doom: the YEC PTL (for those who remember Jim Bakker’s downfall.) Seriously, I don’t see how Ham could possibly sustain both the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, even if he raises the $150 million he said he needs to complete the latter. Once all of the home schoolers and die-hard YECs within driving distance of both tourist destinations have spent one vacation there (within no more than seven years), they will fail to produce their own operational revenue stream and Ham will have to subsidize them from the sale of his wacky DVDs and books (and “member” tithes and offerings.) Special bail-out donations will allow him to complete his fiscal years for a while but eventually the deep-pockets will tire. Long-term, I think the Creation Museum will limp along. But if it ever completed, the Ark Park ruins will eventually become a monument to the YEC Golden Age and highwater mark. (And the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate will be considered the beginning of the end, not because Nye won but because Ham lost. Something like 86% of ChristianityToday readers polled gave the win to Nye in recognition of Ham’s “emperor has no clothes” performance. Indeed, I thought it notable that Ham did not make much mention of the usual brand of “creation science” pseudo-science he normally babbles on about at his various webpages. Instead, he simply reached out to potential donors who can save his Ark Park dream by saying, “I have a book!” That draws laughs from non-YECs but to the faithful that is a proclamation of purity. Instead of creation science, there was only reminders that AiG alone stands up for the Genesis text in its only truly literal interpretation. As Ham said, “It is a matter of Biblical authority!”)

Professor Tertius and the Bible.and.Science.Forum wants to hear from you! Comments appreciated below. At the present time, the professor can’t promise to respond to every comment but we do read all of them!


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Adam & Noah Do NOT Represent Genetic Bottlenecks!

In my blog post about Adam, Eve, and Noah, I should also have mentioned that because neither Adam’s descendants nor Noah’s descendants were the only hominids on the planet during their respective lifetimes—and that this idea is well supported, even with a LITERAL interpretation of the Genesis texts—-these non-YEC interpretations of Genesis have no conflicts with science because there are ZERO genetic bottlenecks. That is, the Image of God was a unique “spiritual characteristic ” of a particular lineage, but it presented no problem for genetic diversity. That is, there were plenty of other hominids on the rest of the planet which was not deluged in the Great Flood, and that would even explain why the NEPHELIM (the giants in the land) are mentioned both before and after the Flood! After all, if they lived outside the ERETZ (land) of Noah, the Nephelim and all other hominid “tribes” were, taken all together, just as diverse as ever. No genetic bottlenecks!

Yes, YECs get themselves into a lot of tight corners. But those who read the Hebrew text carefully realize that YECs don’t have the only possible interpretations of the Biblical texts. In fact, they don’t even have the only possible LITERAL interpretations of the Genesis texts!

[I try not to get them more upset than is necessary, so I’ll say this quietly: They don’t even know what the word “literal” means. In fact, for a given Bible passage, there can be multiple LITERAL interpretations. Why? Because Biblical Hebrew is much like English: Words can have more than one “common definition.” The idea of “one, simple, natural reading, literal interpretation of a Bible passage is a MYTH—because each of the individual words and even groups of words can have more than one “literal meaning.” Classroom exercise: What is the “literal interpretation” or “literal meaning” of the English word RECORD? Think about it. How many “literal meanings” can you find? Even in a sentence it might have multiple or ambiguous definitions/interpretations. Do you see why YECs get so cranky? They want simple ideas in a very complex world.]

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Jason Lisle’s “Ultimate Proof of God” Book: Embarrassing

I will be presumptuous and dare to speak on behalf of the entire evangelical Christian academy and emphasize this: Most of us are just as nauseated and dumbfounded by Jason Lisle’s “ultimate proof” rubbish as everybody else. Please believe me when I say that while his nonsense is certainly echoed by some within the fundamentalist Christian camp, most evangelical Christian scholars are NOT impressed by his play-to-the-peanut-gallery antics. A few years ago I read his Ultimate Proof of God book and realized that it all boiled down to “The universe can be studied and it makes sense. If God hadn’t created it, we wouldn’t be able to do that. Therefore, I have proved the existence of God.” Give me a break! (Some readers may think I’m exaggerating. No I am not. The book is just as shallow as the argument sounds.)

I always told my students that flawed “arguments for God” are usually very counter-productive because when their flaws are so obvious, they basically become arguments AGAINST the existence of God. I cite Lee Strobel’s books as prime examples. I completely understand why someone might read THE CASE FOR CHRIST and come away thinking, “Is that really the best a Christian can do in making a case for the Jesus of the Bible?” My answer is a loud NO. But I had low expectations from the beginning, because as with most mass-marketed, best-selling, pop-level Christian books, the author is neither a Biblical scholar nor an historian. For the most part, the best evangelical Christian scholars are virtually unknown to the average pew-sitter. They are busy writing weighty tomes of a much more sophisticated and technical nature and their academic conference papers eventually reach the peer-reviewed academic journals. The general public may get all excited about Strobel’s books but the evangelical academy does not. We are busy doing what all scholars do: collecting and analyzing the evidence, publishing explanations of the data, and scrutinizing the research of our academic peers. (Of course, the best evangelical scholarship appears in the same peer-review journals as the work of “secular” university religious studies professors, historians, and Ancient Near Eastern Studies scholars. Many of my colleagues earned their PhDs at the same elite academic institutions as their peers at the world’s top universities. And if you examined our C.V.’s, you would find that many of us spent many years on the faculties of those top schools and even held tenure there.)


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Young Earth Creationists Get Very Confused & Disagree Themselves

When one-on-one with a YEC, I often take this little stroll:

Do you affirm The Theory of Evolution?

“No! I don’t believe in no primordial soup!”

That would be ABIOGENESIS, not evolution, that you are talking about.

“No! I absolutely deny abiogenesis!”

So then, you reject Genesis 2:7: “And God formed the man from the dust of the ground.”

“I don’t reject that! I said I reject abiogenesis.”

So do you agree with the idea that humans are made from the dust of the ground?

“Yes! The Bible says it. I believe it.”

That passage says that biological life (the man) came from non-living material (the dust of the ground), right?


Life from non-life is abiogenesis. You just agreed with abiogenesis and that, in fact, God himself included abiogenesis in his Divine Will for this planet.

“No! Abiogenesis is an idea from the pit of hell, just like evolution.”

I don’t understand how you can agree that Genesis describes life from non-living ingredients but then tell me you reject abiogenesis because it is an idea from Satan.

“Of course you don’t understand. The unspiritual can’t understand those things which are spiritually discerned.”

Yes. You win.

You see, YECs have a number of such “wildcard answers”, replies which can “solve” any contradiction to be found in their claims. YEC answers of this type are the equivalent of the old joke about “Goldschmidt’s Universal Equation Solver: Multiply Both Sides of the Equation by Zero.”

Now how can a survey be worded to capture the views of a YEC? It’s like trying to nail Jello to a wall. Yes/no survey questions won’t get you very far.

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Did Adam & Eve Only Have Sons? And Were Adam & Eve the Only Hominids at the Time?

QUESTION:  Did Adam & Eve Only Have Sons?

No.  The idea that Adam & Eve had three sons and no other children is a popular myth cultivated by those who haven’t read Genesis 5:4.  The Genesis text says that Adam and Eve had many OTHER sons and daughters in its genealogy section. It only names three of the sons, but that doesn’t negate the existence of the other sons and daughters.

QUESTION:  Were Adam & Eve the Only Hominids at the Time?Furthermore, although a forbidden hermeneutic among YECs, some Christians who have read the early chapters of Genesis very carefully have realized that, in fact, (1) Genesis doesn’t actually state that Adam and Eve and descendants are the only hominids.  It says that they are the only creatures endowed with the IMAGO DEI (“The Image God”), which theologians have said for centuries is largely a set of SPIRITUAL and spirit-related attributes, because God is a spirit, not a biological organism. So, technically, that means that there could be other hominids, even other Homo sapiens perhaps (?) but just not ones which have the Imago Dei attributes in them.

Now, before you complain that that sounds far-fetched, ask yourself if there are OTHER HOMINIDS mentioned in Genesis.  If you say no, then what of (a) the wife of Cain, who he may have found in some other area, even though Adam & Eve aren’t said to have had other children until perhaps later, and (b) there surely had to be more than a few siblings for there to be people who inhabited the city that Cain built after the murder of Abel.  Furthermore, (c) a mark was put on Cain to designate him as a murderer so that others would not kill him.  Now if the only hominids in the area who might kill Cain were the brothers and sisters of the murdered Abel, does it really seem likely that Cain would have to be MARKED so that the avenging brother or sister would know which one was Cain?   Yes, there LOTS of little clues of other hominids outside of the lineage of Adam and Eve.  They just can’t have the IMAGO DEI endowed upon them or whatever that means.  (Actually, theologians have debated for centuries exactly what “The Image of God” means. They usually say it involves having “a will” and “emotion” and “a sense of conscience; the ability to distinguish right and wrong, though not until after they failed the fruit test.”  Some even say it includes the attribute which makes man inclined to worship and seek out a connection to god/gods/God.)

Lastly, if you still don’t think there could be other non-Adamic hominids in the area, (d) what about the mention of “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men”?  These have been variously interpreted through the centuries, but one hypothesis is that the “sons of God”: were non-Adamic hominids (the Nephilim) who were larger and strong than the Adamic descendants who had the Image of God.  After all, in many ancient cultures, there is a tendency to call larger and strong individuals (or even entire tribes) “sons of God”, meaning they are like one would imagine the children of gods to be!  Accordingly, “the daughters of men” could refer to the Adamic females, who being smaller and more petite would hardly be a disincentive to those great big “sons of God” tribesmen!   Indeed, the Genesis text says that the sons of those “hybrid” unions were “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”

I could write much more on these topics (and I’ve spent years doing so, in fact) after careful studies in the Hebrew Tanakh.  The general public forgets that even though the YECs have very narrow, and selectively literal, interpretations, other Genesis readers approach the text without insisting on imposing traditional baggage into it. Indeed, one can even take a VERY literal interpretation of Genesis and see the early chapters entirely compatible with the Theory of Evolution and even suggest that Adam was born to a mother in the conventional—and that what was unique about him was that God decided to endow him with the Imago Dei, and that attribute was passed on to Eve and all descendants, including those who had non-Adamic ancestors.  Accordingly, for example, Cain (an Adamic human) married a wife from another area (a non-Adamic human, and therefore, no Imago Dei), but their children might be assumed to have inherited the Imago Dei from their father.

Now before you think that interpretation is too far-fetched, be aware that IMMEDIATELY after the strange verses which tell of the strange couplings between Adamic descendants and the NEPHILIM “giants in the land”, we see the beginning of the Noah story. And how does the Noah pericope begin? The text says, “But Noah was pure in all of his generations.”   Now the text there is tricky and so translations very in how to render the Hebrew words.  But I appended above one of the traditional translations—-and we obviously are prone to wonder: What did it mean for Noah to be PURE IN ALL OF HIS GENERATIONS?  Some think it refers to a kind of “racial purity”, a mixing of the “Sons of God” and the “Daughters of Men” to where there was intermarriage between Adamic and non-Adamic creatures. In other words, those humans who had the Image of God in them were taking mates who were NOT endowed with the Divine Image!   So perhaps it is saying, “Noah had a 100% blood-line of only Adamic ancestors.”

Yes, the racist implications have caused that translation variant to fall into the background in recent years—-but some believe that is the best way to understand the Noah text.  Indeed, the PREFACE to the Noah’s Flood account seems to be saying that all of those hybrid marriages had produced a lot of unruly giants, unable to relate to God and have good ethics—-because, after all, they weren’t endowed with the Image of God within them!—–and so the Great Flood was sent by God to wipe out all of those “hybrid humans” and start over again with a “pure” Noahic lineage which was the Adamic lineage.

Now if that is not startling enough, the Nephilim also seem to reappear AFTER the flood.  How could this be?  Well, I”ve got another bombshell for you.   Nothing in the Hebrew text describing Noah’s Flood says anything about the ENTIRE PLANET EARTH being covered by water. Instead, it keeps talking about a flood of the ERETZ, the Hebrew word for “land”, “nation”, “country”, or “region”.   IN FACT, even the KJV Bible usually translates ERETZ as land/country/region except for in the early chapters of Genesis!  Why?  Actually, even the KJV Bible was largely COPIED (often word for word) from prior English Bible translations—-and the ERETZ=”earth” rendering in the early chapters of Genesis was already established and expected.

Now here’s another bombshell: Translating ERETZ as “earth” is not necessarily an error or a poor equivalence.  You see, in 1611, the English word “earth” did not bring to mind “planet earth”!  Instead, the first meaning that would come to mind for “earth” was “soil” or “dirt” or “the opposite of sky”.  That is, “heaven and earth” was really an idiom for “everything”.  That is, “heaven and earth” carried the idea of “sky above and earth below”—-and that idiom is like using our word for UNIVERSE today.  To them, earth and sky were the totality of their “world”.

So the problem with the KJV 1611 translating ERETZ as “earth”  is that in King James’ day, that “earth” made people think of “dirt” or “the ground” and not a big spherical planet orbiting the sun. But today we do!  And that makes it a very misleading translation today.  [And now you know why most modern translations play it safe by using the word “earth” but also have a footnote at the bottom of the page saying, “or LAND.”] Likewise, YECs see Noah’s flood “covering the earth” and they think “covering planet earth!”, but in 1611 AND in ancient Israel with the word ERETZ, a flood covering the ERETZ was simply covering the ground! Indeed, when the Old Testament refers to “the circle of the earth/ERETZ”, it does NOT mean what the YECs try to claim: “It’s referring to spherical planet earth”. No! The ancient Hebrews didn’t think that way.  They had a very good way of conceptualizing the ERETZ:  “the circle of the ERETZ” is that CIRCLE we call the HORIZON. That is, if one stands in place and rotates 360 degrees, you are looking at a circular horizon bounding a big disk of ERETZ (earth)!  Accordingly, when reading the Noah’s Flood story, it never claims “planet earth” was flooded. It says “everything under the sky” [yes, that circle of the earth again…all the way to the horizon.]

Indeed, if God wanted to tell Noah that a huge flood would cover his ERETZ and all the other ERETZ lands around his country, the text could have used ERETZ in the plural! But it doesn’t.  Now we begin to see why there’s no evidence of a global flood from geology:   There’s no evidence of a global flood in Genesis either!

As you can imagine, YECs hate me when I explain this to them—-and since I’m an ex-YEC anyway, one who used to speak at their conferences and church events and even debate scientists but later renounced YECism, I now have to use a pseudonym and remain in the WPP (Witless Protection Program, for ex-YECs who would be shot on sight.)

Now….you gotta feel sorry for the young earth creationists out there. Think about it.  They not only have all the evidence of modern science weighing against their global flood. The Hebrew Bible scholars come along and show them that the Hebrew text has NO EVIDENCE for a global flood!  So they are screwed by both science and their own scriptures!   No wonder YECs are so cranky. They have everybody—the Bible included—telling them that their favorite and most cherished traditions have no Biblical support!

Some say that a major YEC donor whose identity shall remain nameless promised the late Drs. Gish and Morris that he would triple the bounty reward promised for my “silencing”.  But you just can’t believe everything you hear. (But using a pseudonym on-line can be a very wise idea, just the same.)

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The April Fools Day Massacre: When “Creation Science” Suffered Its Worst Public Humiliation

Yes, in the 1970’s, I was known as a speaker/debater for the “creation science” movement.

While some of us naturally “outgrew” the movement as we actually came to grips with the contrary evidence—both the evidence from science and the evidence from the Biblical text itself—there were those, like Dr. Frank Tipler of Tulane University, who seemed to go further and further towards Looneytown. Not just for a visit. I mean….. as a final destination.

It started innocently enough. Some of us Christian academic types started camping out in the Looneytown square only on the weekends, that is, attending only as regular audience members, and then as “special guests” to be introduced at the beginning of the program, and eventually as featured speakers at the “creation science conferences” weekends, Saturday and Sunday only, but always returning to our respectable professor jobs at our respective public universities, Bible colleges and seminaries during the week.

Yet, Frank Tipler was different. He didn’t just like it there. He really loved Looneytown. And not just on the weekend. Tipler was among those who liked it there so much that he finally got a store front on Main Street itself, bought a condo, and ran for City Council. Eventually, as an honored citizen, he became eligible for a YEC Lifetime Achievement Award, also known as……well…….uh….. Sorry, I’m just too polite to say it. But do you remember the Woody Allen movie where his character and Diane Keeton’s character take their “mentally disadvantaged” friend to the town that is hosting the friend’s convention? I’ll always remember the “Welcome!” banner stretched over the city’s Main Street.

Thankfully, as a cocky, young professor who lectured and debated for the “creation science” cause during the 1970’s, I never really felt at home at that destination, even in what would eventually become the sprawling and luxurious suburbs of modern-day YECdom. [Wow, I sure can milk a metaphor for all its worth.] While at least initially I was warmly welcomed by Looneytown residents, for me it soon became a “Nice place to vi$it but I wouldn’t want to live there.” After all, the full-timers appreciated my helping with the pep rallies and joining the Looneytown Pledge of Allegiance, but asking questions, especially the wrong questions of the town fathers, eventually got me into a lot of hot water.

{{Author’s Note: I’m a retired Christian minister, professor, and Bible translator. My writings about “creation science” are meant to skewer the deserving mega-ministry leaders who exploit others, not the rank-and-file young earth creationists who are their prey. As a member of the “creation science” movement long ago, I have specific people in mind—both then and now—and they know who they are. This is NOT a denegration of Christians in general, nor fundamentalists in particular, nor the Bible or anyone’s faith in Jesus Christ. This is about exploitation, dishonesty. and greed and the leaders and opportunists who serve that unholy trinity.}}

The April Fool’s Day Massacre

The story of my final speaking appearance as a “creation science” speaker and debater is rarely mentioned openly among YECs today. And the strangest aspect of the story is that my final “statements” were not even at the pulpit when I had control of the audience and the microphone. Mostly, I just sat back and watched the events unfold—-almost like it was an assassination in slow motion. Of course it was. Because that is exactly what it was. Almost surreal. But real, nonetheless.

I sat. Yes, nervously. I wondered: How would my plan play out? Would all of my people correctly carry out their assigned role at the proper time? Would anyone lose their nerve? At the last minute, would even one of them rationalize, “Everyone in the audience is an innocent bystander. They came here for some encouragement. And just a pleasant time after a long work-week. And the entire day has been so calm and uneventful. Is it right to have them suddenly jolted into witnessing the “nasty business” and the very rude awakening that is about to happen?”

I anxiously counted each of the seven as they took their places near the audience microphone in the center aisle. But where is #7? Where could he be? The plan could get by without #2 and even #6…..but not #7. Not without #7! Yet just as I was about to panic, #7 walked swiftly to his assigned spot….carrying of all things a coffee and a doughnut! Are you crazy, #7?! Everybody knows you can’t bring food and drink into a church’s carpeted sanctuary. Everybody knows that! Even the dullest creation scientist knows that! But nobody seemed to notice.

And as if on cue, each of the seven took out the piece of carefully prepared paper which I had given each of them. Good, they were rehearsing their question, going over it one last time. Perhaps the plan would work out perfectly after all. Hadn’t we practiced just the night before in this very building? Hadn’t we discussed and rehearsed contingency plans in case the creation science speakers started to realize too quickly what was happening to them? I realized how fortunate I was in seeing *The Dirty Dozen* on TV the week before. Having the seven memorize the contingency plans by poetic verse was a great way to make sure everyone remembered what to do. Yes, there was room for some errors here and there……even for someone to lose their assigned paper and forget their question entirely. But to make this my final swan song as a part of the “creation science” movement, I wanted to give my long-time colleagues, the founders of the movement, a shellacking they would never forget. Yes, if nobody lost their nerve…and if they all stayed on script….and if they carefully read aloud the questions I had written for them, “creation science” was going to die in the kind of systematic, ruthless yet surgically precise way that I had carefully planned for it—and the way in which they were NEVER willing to try and debunk the theory of evolution. Yes, I knew that “creation science” would have to be shot and killed many times. Like any other lifeless zombie, it keeps coming to life and seeking out the gullible, those slow enough to stumble, and fall before it, and be overrun even though it could barely maintain a slow walk. Yes, I couldn’t kill it forever in just one night. But I could still enjoy watching it die, knowing that it would come back to life in another place, but just a little bit weaker than before because of my efforts.

After all, nobody deserved it more than creation science did. And I wasn’t going to feel an ounce of remorse. I was about to kill the scourge which had only a little to do with creation and absolutely NOTHING to do with science——all so that future minds might live in freedom and dignity. And a lot less confusion.

My mind drifted to the audience. Would anybody panic? Would anybody run? Would there be a mass stampede for the exits, all fearing that perhaps their entire religious faith was about to be demolished just as easily? Would the organizers cut power to the microphone and mounted speakers? Would the conference organizers realize what was happening before it was too late? Would they call an end to the Q&A session after the first two questions? Most of all, would they suspect that they were about to witness a carefully plotted assassination—and that the target was the guest of honor: “creation science”?

Each of the seven kept reviewing the scripted question I had assigned to him. I felt as if I had personally smelted the lead in each bullet and then passed them out with each pistol. The plan, at least at first, was that I would be considered just an innocent by-stander, just another speaker on the platform. Yet, I knew that my older colleagues would soon figure out that the plot had my fingerprints all over it from the beginning.

Today, so many decades later, the mega-ministry websites dare not speak of it. The average rank-and-file “creation science” buff has never been told of it. But among the millionaire origins ministry entrepreneurs who lead the creation science industry today, rumors about that dark day are spoken only in hushed tones. They were very young then and only know of it from the old ones. The younger, third generation YECers and YECist opportunists (and the IDers) who came along after the premiere of You-tube wonder if “The Massacre” really happened at all. Today the few surviving old ones speak only in a few carefully measured words, as their faces turn ashen gray and their voices grow weak and trembling. They warn the younger ones, the Jason Lisle generation, not to be so sure of themselves: “After all, it could happen to you too. You just never know. We were too reckless. We were so sure of ourselves. We thought evidence and reason could never find us. We dared allow an open microphone for the Q&A. No master of ceremonies to post as look-out. No screened questions submitted in index cards in advance. Just expect it to go as planned. Doesn’t the audience all love us? That was our hubris.”

Those who’ve actually talked to the old ones, those who survived the carnage that night, compared all of their first-hand accounts and still wonder: “Could it happen again?”

“Was the body count really that high? Was Dr. Gish literally knocked off of his horse in mid-Gallop? Was that night really the reason why all of the major names in the “creation science” mega-ministry world today are never allowed to travel together nor all scheduled to appear at the same creation conference on the same day?”

As for me, I educated my way out of the embarrassment of “creation science” before the Internet and ubiquitous video cameras preserved an indelible record of my foolishness. Unfortunately, the legacy of that bloody confrontation forced me to change my name, to undergo plastic surgery to change my appearance, and to enter the Witless Protection Program for “criminal” ex-YECs. (Those of us who have brazenly left the “family”, who have dared to emphasize disloyal, forbidden words like “evidence” and “logical thinking”, and have publicly testified against the millionaire origins-mega-ministry entrepreneurs, we have angered those mob bosses to the point that they put out the ultimate “hit” against us: declaring us “compromising Christians” and even “not a TRUE Christian at all.” Ken Ham repeats those two criminal counts often on video—-because he knows that somewhere out there, I am watching. He wasn’t at the Massacre. But he has promised that he won’t be taken down so easily. After all, Answers in Genesis has a security staff budget that Morris and Gish could only have dreamed of. He even has plain clothes security walking every room of the Creation Museum. What he doesn’t have are answers to any of my questions challenging his “creation science.”)

Yes, I was forced to adopt my “Professor Tertius” pseudonym** and constantly change proxy servers, lest the YEC “enforcers” track me down using all of that incriminating C-14 residue left in my wake and the two mobile RF-tracking units which Don Hambo, Don Ray Comfort, and the other YEC-mafia bosses held a rare “creation science inner sanctum” meeting in order to finance and staff. The enormous parabolic antennas on flatbed trailers pulled by full-size, diesel-fueled semi-tractors use state-of-the-art tracking technology and triangulation techniques to react with a moment’s notice in order to locate the secret short-wave transmitter/receiver unit which I use in order to get my daily marching orders from the infamous WWEAC headquarters. (As all evilutionists know, WWEACT stands for the “World Wide Evil Atheist Conspiracy Triad”, which is also known by the motto: “Like, ya know, WE ACT like we scientists have all of the answers and stuff!” The Atheist Triad, of course, stands for the three central pillars of our world-wide conspiracy: the lies of Evolution, Abiogenesis, and Zombies. Heck, you can’t have an evil triad without at least a FEW zombies in it. Get real! Otherwise you’d just have science and evidence and……well…. ya know, all that boring stuff! And boring stuff like real science and real evidence just ain’t all that scary.)

Of course, back in those olden days of yore, Ol’ Hambo was just a young pup still learning to herd kangaroos in Australia. Yet even today, as head mafioso and De Facto if not De Jure Mayor of the City of Looneytown, Ol’ Hambo and YEC leaders around the world will never forgive me for what eventually became known as the April Fool’s Day Massacre. After all these years I think it is high time for me to tell my side of the story, so that the facts can be salvaged from the gross exaggerations and obfuscations which always confuses the memories of legendary events.

It was a fairly typical weekend in Looneytown for most folk. But for me, I was reaching my limits of tolerating my colleagues’ pseudo-science, reckless proof-texting, misuse of evidence, and pathological dishonesty. You see, for once or twice a month I had been coming to town to lecture on the great “creation science” struggle against the evil evolutionists and atheist scientists of the world. But backstage and privately, I had been asking the City Fathers of Looneytown increasingly pointed questions, both damning and quite embarrassing for my senior colleagues. Dr. Duane Gish and Dr. Henry Morris, together with the local parson, Dr. John Whitcomb Jr., became increasingly dismissive of my questions and what they called my “nit-picking over scientific details” and “minor matters of citation.” I became increasingly disturbed by the pathological lying, because to share an untruth accidentally and unknowingly is one thing, but once one has been fully informed of the truth and yet continues in spreading error, that ignorance degenerates further into dishonesty. For me, one of the last straws was the shoulder-shrugging rationalization, “The evolutionists lie all the time! Why are you only worried about our honesty and not the atheists?” My answer was a simple one: “Because as a Bible-affirming Christian I get identified with YOU and not THEM. So what you do reflects upon me and all other Christ-followers. Secondly, if we truly follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, we should base our conduct on the standard of truth and virtue which Jesus taught, not what somebody else allegedly happens to be doing.” But my colleagues’ misuse of scientific terms and concepts kept getting more outlandish and all the more misleading. Their misuse of scripture was not much better. Plus I saw inconsistency and contradiction growing like a fungus on deadwood. Deceptive quote-mining started to become a weekly spectator sport, with the reckless use of the ellipsis becoming a kind of quotation wildcard, able to transform any excerpt into a statement, or even an entire position, opposite of the author’s original intention.

I was reaching my limit. Looneytown had always been quite quirky and its leaders a bit reckless, but the average citizen was almost always well-intentioned and generally law-abiding by the standards of the surrounding county. The local parson, John Whitcomb Jr., by now had became a politician and raging demagogue much like the city bosses. Speaking invitations, appearance fees, important deep-pocketed donors, and the growing pride which comes with exalted positions can change a person, and gradually they did. Not so much the average person walking the streets, mind you, but the city fathers took on more of the “city slicker” strut and the “big city” arrogance which comes with bigger, more plush offices and the adulation of larger, adoring and enthusiastic crowds. Book signings began. Tribute banquets were held. Made-up awards were awarded to one another. (Very reciprocal, you know.) And all with a passing of the hat, mind you! “After all, those evil evilutionists are just behind us! Coming ever closer! They are monsters, you know! Why…..all that we hold dear will soon be a distant memory. They will kill us all! And they want to burn all of the Bibles! But you can stop them. You can stand up for all that is good… sending to us now what WE hold dear!” [HINT: It rhymes with “dollars”.]

By that time in the 1970’s, after asking my insightful but all too embarrassing, backstage questions about “creation science” to the Founding Fathers of the city of Looneytown*** over many weeks, Duane Gish and Henry Morris had dismissed me with a few final shrugs and their all too lame rationalizations. So I was pondering whether I should cross the Rubicon as I watched Dr. Gish at the pulpit continuing to use a discredited quote-mine, of which just two weeks before he had promised an audience-member, “Yes, I suppose you are right about that. I will make sure that that error is corrected in the next edition of my book.” If he was admitting an error and promising to remove it from the next edition of his book, why was he sharing it with a new audience, so soon thereafter, as if there was nothing wrong with it? I had witnessed the last compromise which I was willing to tolerate in silence. I would end my association with the “creation science” movement in a public confrontation of fact against failed fantasy which they would never forget—though they would try.

At the bigger conferences, there were audience Q&A periods after each individual speaker and a final Q&A of the entire speakers’ panel in the plenary session at the end of the day. For that last session I arranged for my confederates in the audience to be seated nearest the audience microphone so that they could be first in line to ask, one-by-one, the kinds of questions which my senior colleagues had tried so hard to ignore, dodge, belittle, and obfuscate. At the appointed time, as unanticipated surprise denouement, the celebrity “creation scientists” of the YEC elite would have no choice but to address these incriminating questions, each asked by its own member of the audience at the microphone:

(1) “Dr. X, you spoke at length and gave examples of how modern science is hopelessly flawed because of the use of uniformitarian thinking and methodologies. You kept deriding the idea of “using evidence collected in the present to understand what happened in the past”. Yet virtually every one of the arguments and evidences you gave us for a young earth were based on those very same uniformitarian methods—– and you even calculated direct extrapolations from present-day rates, such as when you used a modern-day population formula to establish the years since Noah, and the age of the oceans based on a rate at which the dissolved salt increases in seawater. You did likewise with the moon’s distance from the earth and many other examples in your “99 Evidences for a Young Earth.” I don’t understand why uniformitarianism is bad for other scientists to use but perfectly fine when “creation scientists” use it. Isn’t that hypocritical?”

(2) “Dr. Y, you said that you have superior answers to what happened in the beginning because you have an eye-witness who was there. You said that that eye-witness was God. But later you said that Moses wrote Genesis many centuries after the fact. So then Genesis is NOT the report of an eye-witness, is it? Moreover, Moses in Genesis doesn’t even say, “God gave me this first-hand report which I recorded here at the beginning of my scroll.” And because Moses doesn’t preface the seven-day outline at all, how do we know that it isn’t some other type of literary genre, such as a parable? How do you know that Genesis 1 is not a poetic parable meant to teach us that God is the Creator and that he has sovereign control over each of the six domains of the world which the pagan societies neighboring the Land of Israel assigned one-by-one to various gods and goddesses? Why shouldn’t I listen to the many Biblical scholars who have explained that historical context to me, especially when it makes so much more sense?”

(3) “Dr. Z, you made fun of modern science for allegedly saying that “everything came from nothing.” You said it was ridiculous. Yet, for many centuries you and many other Christian theologians using the Bible have taught EX NIHILO as your doctrine of creation. EX NIHILO means “out of nothing”, so why do you make fun of scientists if you are saying that they speak in the same EX NIHILO “out of nothing” terms as you do?”

(4) “Gentlemen, you made fun of abiogenesis, which means “biological life from non-living ingredients”. Yet, at least four times in Genesis 1 and again in Genesis 2:7 we see biologically living creatures described as coming from non-living ingredients. The Biblical texts say, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life…” and and “Let the land bring forth plants…” and “Let the land bring forth living creatures…” In all of those scriptures, life came from non-living ingredients, water and soil, and that also complies with the definition of abiogenesis. Whether or not a CREATOR was involved in making all of that happen is a THEOLOGICAL issue that science doesn’t address because the scientific method has no tool or procedure for detecting deities, let alone determining what they do. So aren’t you just complaining that science fails to be theology and simply doesn’t take a position on whether there was a creator? Are you implying that you wish to change the definition of science to be more to your liking?”

(5) “Gentlemen, you made fun of ‘molecules-to-man’ evolution. Let’s put aside for the moment the simple fact that the theory of evolution only deals with changes in living things over time and NOT the origins of the first living things. Genesis 2:7 says, “And God formed the human one from the dust of the ground.” Some translations use the Hebrew word as a name and call him “Adam” but no matter how you translate it, it is talking about a man. And “the dust of the ground” is clearly just molecules from the earth’s crust. So Genesis 2:7 clearly speaks of a molecules to man transformation of some sort. It doesn’t say whether it happened quickly or took billions of years. So why do you deride the “start with molecules” and “end up with the human body” idea from science when this scripture so explicitly describes a molecules-to-man transformation?”

(5b) “In fact, I asked my Hebrew professor at seminary about this and he said that Hebrew culture and language in general are far less concerned about tense and time considerations than English. He said that we should read Genesis 2:7 and not put ideas into the text which aren’t there. He says that the text is simply saying “dust of the ground” got formed into a human body and God wanted that to happen. Any arguments about time spans and processes are not answered by the text. What say you?”

(6) “You said that scientists have hijacked the word ‘science’ and that it’s original meaning was just ‘knowledge’. But if you change the meaning of ‘science’ to just ‘knowledge’ then our knowledge of Aesop’s Fables, for example, becomes science and scientific knowledge! Are you saying that you want to expand the definition of “science” to mean EVERYTHING that we know? If you do that, then what becomes of the scientific method? Haven’t you made the meaning of science meaningless if you get your way?”

(7) “Finally, gentlemen, you said that we can’t know what happened in the past based on evidence collected in the present. Are you saying that you don’t use that methodology in your daily life at all? Or are you saying that you apply that to every area of your life but not in your use of science? After all, if you drive home after work and find smoldering embers and ashes where your home once was, do you not assume that it burned down in your absence? Or if someone broke into your house, would you tell the prosecutor that he can’t use the defendant’s fingerprints found all over the inside of your house because ‘evidence collected in the present can’t be used to explain the past?'”

Ahhh….fond memories. By the time my 7th confederate’s question was clumsily and barely addressed, tempers were on the edge, you could cut the tension with a knife, and the audience was very very quiet. How was I to interpret the silence? What were the average audience member’s conclusions? I don’t know. And before I could think another thought, the pastor of the host church seized the microphone at the sound console at the back of the church sanctuary and announced, “That brings our Question & Answer session to a close. We will take a ten minute break before we return to the sanctuary for a few announcements, a closing hymn, and our final benediction.” Then a great roar welled up from the audience, as he each turned to their neighbor and said “Wow! I don’t know what to think about what just happened! Do you?”

The speakers on the dais quickly huddled. Yes, some of the speakers immediately recognized some of these questions as those which I had been asking them privately, and they scowled at me appropriately. The other speakers were delightfully unaware—-yet dazed, as if a carcass they had thought long dead, and which they had danced around so blissfully and carelessly for years, had suddenly come to life when they had least expected it. And that filthy beast had somehow eaten them alive, but they knew not who or what to blame! “It must have been another of those evil atheist conspiracies! Clearly, those dastardly denizens of the deep had planted undercover evolutionists in our midst!” At the height of their confusion, while they were trying to regroup among themselves during the the short intermission—and before the Founding Fathers of Looneytown could “finger me” as the shooter—-I silently made my escape into the night though the fire exit behind the choir loft and baptistery. Along with my seven assassins, we leaped into the back of our awaiting Volkswagen Minibus, its engine revving, and Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission Impossible Theme” playing loudly on the 8-track tape player inside. I left Looneytown for the last time that evening, never to return. And I went to the desert on a horse with no name and it was good to be out of the rain. But in Looneytown, they still remember my name. Oh its good to be out of the rain. It truly is.

As an ex-YEC, I’ve quietly lived out my years in the Witless Protection Program, never knowing if around that next street corner, the next time the elevator door closes behind me, or the next time a stranger at church asks me for the time while holding an extremely large Bible that could double as a violin case, I may at last see my score settled by a disgruntled young earth creationist. (And believe you me, the last person you’d ever want to run into is a young earth creationist without his gruntle.)

At last my story is told. And now you know why this legendary event became my last participation in a “creation science” conference. Yes, there have been rumors that one of the “creation scientists” on the speaker’s panel managed to utter some sort of semi-cogent collection of random, sciency-sounding words that the home-team, friendly audience was willing to regard as an answer to one of my questions. But that is all they are. That is all they’ve ever been. Just rumors. And nothing more.

I have been “on the lamb” ever since, hiding from the “creation scientists” of the younger generation, the “Were you there?” You-tubers of a new kind of “creation science” cult: Big on sound bites and slogans; not so big on evidence and logic. Yep, they are pretty much the same as the old ones.

And they too will try to avenge the bloodshed and unholy carnage which was The April Fool’s Day Massacre.

Now some will surely ask me if at least the general gist of my tale is actually true. They will ask if there was at least a modicum of exaggeration. They will ask if I really was a speaker/debater in the early “creation science” movement. They might even ask if I truly do have to use a pseudonym online. They will ask if I have used satire to make a point. They will ask if there really are “creation science” leaders who would like to get even with me and silence me. They will ask if a shockingly large percentage of what I have just shared is all too true. They will ask if I will EVER finish my story that has gone on seemingly forever.

The answer to all of those questions is an unreservedly, definite yes.


** FOOTNOTE: As the elusive “Professor Tertius”, I have become the “Dr. No” of the villainous ex-YEC underground. (Cue the James Bond theme music here) Yes, I tried “Dr. Gnosis” for a while, but I had to give it up when too many YECs didn’t realize that it refers to one their stupidest quote-mines from the Bible: “The GNOSIS, the science so-called.” Yep, they didn’t even KNOW that GNOSIS referred to KNOWING a religious secret KNOWN only by first century cult members, not science in any sense of our English word. [Ironically, in my serious writings I’ve often called YEC-ism a modern-day Gnosticism and have explained several reasons why that word is a very appropriate description.] Of course, even those who did get the fact that it had a connection to the Bible didn’t realize that the Apostle Paul was referring to a first century religious cult known as “Gnosticism”, which had infiltrated and posed a threat to the early church. But despite the claims of Ol’ Hambo and other un-knowing YECs, it had nothing to do with modern science nor even with the ancient kind! (One of the drawbacks of having a lowbrow opponent to roast is that most of the good word-play goes completely over their heads. They don’t even know that you’ve insulted them, although they look both ways, realize that others are snickering, and then start getting angry over it.)

*** FOOTNOTE: When I write that Dr. Gish and Dr. Morris were the “Founding Fathers of Looneytown”, I don’t want to give the impression that they were the very first leaders there or the first inhabitants of that distinctive municipality. It actually began as just a post office at an important crossroads with a few scattered homes and shops forming an easy not-to-notice community while driving cross-country, at least at least in the old days. Pseudo-Science Way headed due south through there and crossed a dirt-road that was little more than a footpath known as Proof-text Road. Gish & Morris had each been taking their very similar travelling medicine shows through the area and decided that what was then called Looneyville Corners would be a good place to stay and exploit permanently, for all they could get out of it. (After all, there weren’t even any schools or libraries in that county, and the citizens were good, ethical people but very trusting and poorly educated.) So even though others had helped settle and organize the area, it was these two Founding Fathers who actually incorporated it as a city and “put it on the map” so to speak. For years thereafter, Gish and Morris each took turns as Acting Mayor even though nobody ever stopped to ask them, “Who put you guys in charge?” Initially, Gish and Morris didn’t even charge anything for their services. They would simply ask the good people of that place to collect their “love gifts”, also known as “a freewill offering.” [For those who don’t speak Fundamentalist-Christianese, a “love gift” is a tactful way to say “donation.” After all, to speak of money is crass, ya know. (You do know that, right?)]

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