Monthly Archives: April 2015

An Open Letter to Young Earth Creationists Who Predictably Misrepresented the News about “Lucy”

The following webpage will likely not last long once its ignorance has gone viral:

Scientific “Facts” Keep Getting Reversed

So, if necessary, I may later on simply add some of the most comical excerpts here for the entertainment of Bible & Science Forum readers. Meanwhile, the remainder of today’s blog is an email I sent to Cowboy Bob Sorensen after a correspondent notified me of the aforementioned rant filled with science and history ignorance. In the interest of time, I’ve not bothered to convert the raw email text into a richer format nor have I included any footnotes about the historical facts I reference. However, anyone who has taught or taken courses in the History & Philosophy of Science Department at any major university is already familiar with these basics of a typical History of the Scientific Method or similar type of course.

(Feel free to add your own comments about the “science reversals” rubbish. After all, my response here is in no way exhaustive of the profuse errors.)

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Cowboy Bob Sorensen & other Young Earth Creationist Science-Denialists:
(cc: friends & colleagues)

Yes, as one would predict, Cowboy Bob Sorensen and many other Young Earth Creationist propagandists have confused the “Lucy” fossil ( 288-1) as the name of an entire species —so they think the entire “transitional form” (Bob’s term) is “about to be shelved!” I guess the few hundred other Australopithecus afarensis fossil finds around the world don’t count. Right, Bob?

I would love to hear the infamous “Cowboy Bob”explain why a stray fossil bone from another specimen getting washed into the collection of fossil bones labelled 288-1 somehow constitutes a change (“reversal” he calls it) in science! LOL. (And what about all of the other Australopithecus afarensis fossil collections catalogued over the years, which I understand number around a couple hundred, which do NOT have any stray fossil bone among them?)

But what is especially funny with Bob, did you all notice that he has converted his entire article of text into a quasi-graphic using php code that he thinks will make it impossible for people to copy-and-paste his nonsense so as to quote from it? LOL. Clearly, even Bob knows that he needs to be able to hide, retract, and deny his erroneous claims when they catch up with him. So he doesn’t want it to be too easy for people to cite his rubbish and tell others about his ignorance. (Too late. It is all recorded at the Bible.and.Science.Forum.)

Incidentally, his “unreliable, changeable science” tirade is another great example of how, because Young Earth Creationists like Bob never bothered to learn what constitutes modern science, they mine their examples of “wrong theories” from before modern science was developed! The “Philogston Theory” is a great example of why Science is so much more reliable than classical philosophy when it comes to understanding natural processes. Bob’s blunder is so ironic in what is actually one of the great confirmations of the value of the scientific method that I think I will write a few articles for my blog showcasing his ignorance.

The reason “phlogiston theory” survived for a while–despite the experimental evidence against it—was because it was first proposed BY A PHILOSOPHER AS A PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPT. The philosopher Johann Becher (in 1669, before modern science was fully defined and established as the foundation of chemistry) claimed that all substances contained three kinds of earth: the vitrifiable, mercuriable, and the combustible. If that sounds a lot like Aristotle’s FOUR ELEMENTS philosophy, then you understand how Becher was a very traditional philosopher steeped in the ancient philosophies of the Greeks and Romans. He was NOT a scientist (then called “natural philosopher”) and he had limited interest in experimental verification of his claims. It was a follower of Becher, Georg Stahl, who actually coined the name “philogston” a few years later in his writings about Becher’s philosophy.

It was during Stahl’s lifetime that SCIENTISTS started heavily criticizing Becher & Stahl’s “Philogston Theory” because those early pioneer chemists were adopting the scientific method (and thereby establishing chemistry as an actual SCIENCE) and they started TESTING various claims made by the traditional philosophers who had preceded them.

What did scientists find in testing Becher’s & Stahl’s “Phlogston” philosophy? They discovered that the ash of organic materials like wood and leaves weighed LESS than the original material—while the calx (what we know as the oxidized product) of metals was HEAVIER than the original material. So scientists effectively DESTROYED the “Phlogiston Theory of Philosophy” from the start! (Sorry, anti-science propagandists. You lost again. As the Bible reminds us, the liar shall not prosper. His sins will catch up with him.)

No doubt Bob will claim that I’m just manipulating the words “philosopher” and “scientist” to “protect the religion of science”—but the facts are against that objection. You see, when scientists published and demonstrated to Georg Stahl that actual experiments involving careful weighing of the materials and resulting ashes totally destroyed “Phlogiston Theory”, Stahl didn’t care. Stahl’s wrote that he considered phlogiston an IMMATERIAL “PRINCIPLE” rather than an ACTUAL substance. In other words, Stahl emphasized that his was the philosophy of METAPHYSICS, not Science! If one isn’t dealing with material substances, one isn’t a scientist! Stahl repeated what Becher had claimed: phlogiston was a fundamental “principle” and not necessarily applicable to the material world, the realm of Science, in actual experiments.

Indeed, Stahl was also saying that “Phlogiston Theory” was ancient “elemental philosophy” in the tradition of Aristotle and could not be expected to be falsifiable under the scrutiny of scientific experiments. In other words, “Phlogiston philosophy” was never any sort of “established scientific fact”, despite Bob Sorensen’s misrepresentations.

It is true that a few early scientists who still wanted to embrace traditional philosophy in various ways, such as Joseph Priestly, tried for a while to resurrect phlogiston and somehow make it scientifically legitimate. They failed and the entire Science academy recognized that failure. Pioneer chemist Antoine Lavoisier (in the 1780’s) did exhaustive studies on all sorts of metals and other substances and managed to explain (using the scientific method) that OXYGEN was the scientific response and answer to what philosopher’s had tried to imagine with their phlogiston theory of philosophy. No scientist was EVER able to develop, let alone publish, a valid scientific theory of phlogiston.

So either Bob Sorensen was totally ignorant about the FACT that phlogiston was a theory of philosophy that was not subject to falsification testing because it wasn’t rooted in material processes *or* Bob just plain lied and assumed his science-illiterate audience would buy into it. I leave it to readers to decide.

Of course, Bob is not alone in this dishonest strategy built upon an ignorance of both science and history. Notice that Ken Ham in the Bill Nye debate complained that “modern science” has been “hijacked” by scientists! Ham reasoned (LOL) that because the Latin word SCIENTIA meant “knowledge”, the allegedly “correct definition” of science was simply “knowledge”. (In linguistics we call that the “etymology=lexicography” fallacy. The history of a word long ago has no necessary bearing on how a given culture chooses to define it today. Yes, Science is knowledge but in the field of science it is knowledge which is based upon the scientific method of falsification testing.) By Ham’s definition of “science=knowledge”, astrology and homeopathy are “science” because each involves a collection of known ideas—regardless of their validity or being subject to falsification testing. Yet, Ken Ham knows that he must obfuscate the meaning of Science so that he can try and taint the scientific method with the errors of errant philosophies which preceded it.

Thanks, Bob. You’ve given me some more great material for demonstrating the vapid nonsense of creationist propaganda against valid science. You will be featured in an upcoming Bible.and.Science.Forum blog. Meanwhile, I suggest that you spend some time reading the Book of Proverbs. It has a lot to say about the fool who mocks instruction and the simpleton who refuses to learn.

Also, Bob, I suggest that you read up on Australopithecus afarensis so that you can consider doing what Christ-followers are called to do in this situation: Post a retraction on your webpage explaining to your readers the many factual errors of your propaganda piece. Explain to them that the extra bone fossil that was found within A SINGLE SPECIMEN numbered 288-1 (the first collection of fossil remains of an Australopithecus afarensis which is informally known as “Lucy”) and that that extraneous ancient baboon fossil has absolutely no impact on the significance of Australopithecus afarensis as an ancient species nor on anything discovered thus far about the evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens. Moreover, even if not a single fossil had ever been found of ANYTHING on the planet, The Theory of Evolution would be just as confidently affirmed by scientists because of the voluminous evidence of many different types (especially the NESTED HIERARCHIES observed for generations and more recently verified on the molecular level as well.) You should also confess to your readers that you were ignorant of the fact that “phlogiston theory” was a PHILOSOPHY and was NEVER confirmed by the scientific method and adopted by the Science Academy through peer-review. It was a continuation of ancient “philosophy of the elements” in the tradition of Aristotle’s Four Elements and some of the first chemists of modern science soundly shredded Becher’s failed philosophy as easily falsified by scientific experiments. So when you claimed that “phlogiston theory” was once “established science” and assumed to be a fact among scientists, anyone who doesn’t share your ignorance of history will think you a liar.

Using lies as one’s anti-Science propaganda may seem like a useful strategy for a while—but it will always catch up with the propagandist when a reader chooses to check the truth for themselves. The question every denialist-propagandist should be asking themselves is whether their behavior reflects well on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the reputations and credibility of those who claim to be his followers. Sadly, even though the Bible itself in no way justifies what you are doing, many readers will incorrectly assume that the Bible somehow condones such conduct. That is why I have to waste time explaining and exposing such whoppers and those of other creationist science-denialists. In no way do I want your behavior and claims to be associated with Biblical Christianity or with true Christ-followers in any way.

Science-Denialists, I hope you will all change your ways, eliminate your pathological dishonesty, and remedy your appalling ignorance of science and scriptures. In fact, even if you are truly that ignorant of science and history, you shouldn’t be surprised when the average reader has difficulty imagining such appalling ignorance and naturally assumes that you are simply committed to dishonesty. Either way, it is profoundly sad for all.

Professor Tertius
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(c) 2015. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum at Gmail.com.
All rights reserved. Email us at Gmail.com address for permissions on reposting and publication.

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Evolution-Denialism: It’s About Feelings, Not Just Facts

An HBO video clip entitled “If the Bible said 2+2=5 provoked strong reactions on all sorts of Internet forums.  As one Facebook origins discussion group commenter wrote: “That’s the level of intelligence we are dealing with!”   Not really.  At most, intelligence is only a secondary factor.Yes, most evolution-denial arguments are mind-numbingly stupid. Yes, evolution-deniers tend to be less educated, certainly less science-literate, especially in the “hard sciences”. Nevertheless, science education alone rarely solves the problem as the sound bite in the HBO clip should make very clear. Ultimately, science denialism is never about facts. It’s about feelings. Wherever you find denials of science, you will find fears of the implications of that science. And because the denialist is ideologically driven, he/she usually assumes that scientists are ideologically driven. So the when the average Young Earth Creationist is asked why she denies evolution, she will often respond with the Argument from Negative Consequences fallacy: “The scientist wants to use evolution to remove God from our society.”

I have found it very interesting to probe further when someone (usually a creationist) expresses all sorts of suspicions and even contempt towards scientists. I’m amazed how often they will say something like “Scientists always think they know everything!” I respond with, “Really? I’ve known a great many scientists, both in academia when I was a professor and in industry, and from knowing them as colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Not once have I ever heard a scientist say or even imply in any way that he/she knew everything. Considering that they would be out of a job if ever they thought all science discoveries had already been made, your statement would defy common sense.”

So I would inevitably ask the person: “Can you name the scientists who think they know everything? And where did you meet them and what was the context where their know-everything claim arose?”As one would imagine, the people who make such statements rarely have any personal experience in the sciences, whether in academia or industry, and most of the time I have to push them to get an answer—and it all comes down to their reacting to some public statement, video, or article where a particular agnostic or atheist scientist (their description) of the celebrity variety (think Richard Dawkins or Neil Degrasse Tyson) made a condescending statement that they took as a personal insult to their religious views and intelligence.

One soon realizes that the people who say “scientists think they know everything” are the kind of people who don’t make such declarations as pronouncements of fact but as expressions of their emotions. So I’ve found that rather than attack the ridiculous nature of the statement (which even they will often admit is factually incorrect, even if reluctantly), I make more progress by addressing the FEELINGS which explain and dominate their position. Those who affirm The Theory of Evolution and billions of years and who try to explain the scientific terms and details to the uninformed tend to be individuals who are direct-to-the-point people who consider one’s feelings about a scientific concept irrelevant at best (and moronic at worst.)

So when dealing with the evolution-denialist, the educator often faces a cross-cultural experience and a clash of personality types. Therefore, when dealing with evolution-deniers, we should never forget that, even though explaining the actual science is very important, it is rarely the cause of their denial. We must always look for the real obstacle: the denier’s feelings. Whether those feelings are based on fear that their much cherished religious traditions are in danger or because they fear that the science may have moral-ethical implications they consider harmful to society, you will rarely find that scientific or logical arguments explain their opposition. As a result, scientific and logical arguments rarely remove that opposition. Accordingly, you will rarely find denial of the science without opposition to the science.

That is yet another reminder that denialism will never be solved by information alone. I deliberately chose the word “solved” to emphasize that, in general, we should try to oppose and remedy the wrong ideas, not the individual. Obviously, that can be difficult to do. For most denialists, we must address the feelings before the facts will make any difference to them.There’s nothing new or especially profound in what I’ve written. Nevertheless, educators and those who care about science education should never lose sight of why Americans are divided on the science of origins. Unfortunately, for every creationist determined to confuse evolution with atheism, there seems to be a nearby atheist or even an rabid anti-theist determined to reinforce that false equivalence. This only serves to bolster the creationist view that The Theory of Evolution is ultimately a declaration of war rather than an incredible thorough and useful explanation of how life on earth diversified into such a wonderfully complex and beautiful biosphere.

Like all conflicts involving large groups of people, reason calls for knowledgeable and tactful ambassadors, who know how to bring the various parties together on the basis of what ideas and values are shared in common.  (For example, everyone agrees that knowledge and education are important.) Instead, the very same “celebrity spokesmen” for science who are best known for fighting against Young Earth Creationists on The Theory of Evolution are also outspoken critics of the Bible and even theism in general.  Ask any creationist who represents The Theory of Evolution in the contemporary debate on the world stage and they name Richard Dawkins, Bill Nye, and Neil Degrasse Tyson.  Ask any creationist who champion’s atheism, ideologically-driven science, and anti-Bible rhetoric, they cite Dawkins, Nye, and Tyson.  (The fact that some or all of the aforementioned call themselves “agnostic” when pressed doesn’t matter. Creationists hear “atheist”, especially when Dawkins comes across as anti-theist and the other two use much of the same rhetoric–or, at least, to a Young Earth Creationist they sound the same.)

As if they were trying to make things worse, Dawkins, Nye, and Tyson all have appalling track records for pompously pontificating outside of their fields of training, expertise, and experience.  (See Professor Tertius’ Laws of Presumptuous Pontification.) Each has recklessly displayed their ignorance of history, philosophy, religious studies, and–most unfortunately of all in terms of having any kind of credibility with creationists–Biblical studies. In so many of those instances, their ignorance was at its worst when engaged in one of their most petty, ideologically-driven, entirely unnecessary tirades concerning topics upon which creationists are far better informed. Creationists responded much as most people do in such situations: “If this arrogant elitist can’t even get his facts straight about ____, why should I trust what he says about evolution and origins?”

Who within the science Academy exhibits the knowledge, the charm, and the rhetorical skills of an ambassador?   Who can and does stand for the very best ideals of the scientific method in seeking out explanations for our world and conveying that understanding to the general public without taint of ideological agenda?

Nobody.
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(c) 2015. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum at Gmail.com.
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“Why doesn’t Professor Tertius deal with the ‘Jesus Never Existed’ debate?”

Why don’t I?  For the same reason why I don’t spend my time debating the people who claim that the following issues are “important controversies and worthy of debate”:

“Chemtrails are a secret and dangerous government program to control citizens.”

“AIDS is a germ-warfare creation of the government, which is withholding the cure while eliminating the targeted groups.”

“The World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition using ‘super-thermite’.”

“The Apollo 11 moon landing was an elaborately staged, government hoax.”

I’ve had people tell me that each of the above claims is “well-known among top scholars.” In fact, proponents for each theory listed various “experts with valid PhDs” who could provide “overwhelming evidence” for their claim.  Fans of each of these claims (and many others like them) can point to Internet websites and discussions forums filled with people who enthusiastically support their favorite conspiracy theory. What they can’t point to is widespread agreement from the Academy, the scholars who settled these questions long ago.

Yet, the fact that, at least, 99 out of every 100 professors in the relevant fields of study at universities throughout the world have little regard for their claim, call it utterly unsubstantiated by the evidence and clearly untenable, that doesn’t faze them in the least.

So, seeing how that’s also the case with the “creation science” of Young Earth Creationist origins mega-ministries, why do I spend my after-hours researching and writing on YECism’s claims of a 6,000 year old world and denials of The Theory of Evolution?  Of all of the best-known common conspiracy theories, the YECist claims that “science has been hijacked” (Ken Ham’s words) by evil atheist scientists (aka “evilutionists”) fascinates me above all the others. Moreover, as a retired educator, I like to develop and experiment with various approaches to educating the general public, including the naysayers, about the ways that evolutionary processes diversified life on earth and about the massive piles of evidence which tell an absolutely amazing, thoroughly gripping story.

What does all of this have to do with the “Jesus never existed” debate?  A lot.  To summarize my reactions whenever someone presumes to tell me, “Leading Biblical scholars have proven that Jesus never existed. No such man by that name founded or inspired the Christian religion”, I find myself recalling (if not actually quoting out loud) renowned agnostic scholar of Christian history and texts, Dr. Bart Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

“These [Jesus never existed] views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land one in a bona fide department of biology.”

Of course, much like the “true believers” in 9/11 controlled demolition theories who have lists of physicists, chemists, architects, metallurgists, and even structural engineers who have published detailed “proof”, the Jesus Mythers have their favorite experts, some with valid PhDs in relevant fields. The fact that their memorized list of scholars (chosen not for their academic caliber but solely for the fact that they happen to say what they want to hear) represent less than 1% of the Academy does not phase them in the least!  And in that regard they remind me of every Young Earth Creationist “creation science” fan I ever met. (The only significant difference is the “creation scientists” can muster much longer lists of scholars who agree with them–and still can’t reach 1% of the Academy.)  After all, find a rabid Internet YEC and a rabid Internet Jesus Myther, and you have found a pair of ideologues whose agendas are as angrily driven as they are fanatical. The “creation science” uberfan will sometimes admit it. And so will the Jesus-denier.

We all know the next line of the script, whether it’s a Young Earth Creationist or a Jesus Mythicist: “Truth is not determined by majority vote!”  No, it isn’t.  Scholarship is not settled by Arguments from Authority.  The Academy reaches conclusions–and publishes textbooks–based upon compelling evidence and analysis.  Ideas that survive peer-review and impressively compel the consensus of the Academy win on their own merits.

Of course, when such an idea–whether it be “Evolution never happened and the world is young.” or “Jesus never existed!”–fails to survive peer-review due to inadequate evidence and an appalling lack of compelling analysis, that’s when the peanut gallery of the Internet whines about bias and world-wide conspiracy theories. (You can also expect additional complaints of “The burden of proof is on the other side!” After all, that’s a whole lot easier strategy than refining your hypothesis, gathering more evidence, and writing much better papers which win over the scholars of the Academy to your hypothesis.  Needless to say, if they really wanted to understand how the prevailing consensus already met the burden of proof, there’s textbooks and libraries aplenty–and yes, even Internet resources to bring them up to speed. Even so, cheer blocks aren’t known for investing time and effort learning from anyone but the home team. After all, strawmen make easier foes. And you can make your own in less time with even less effort.

Nobody is stopping Jesus Myth scholars from researching and publishing their claims. Indeed, I used to sit through a few of their papers at the annual AAR/SBL Conference when I felt like getting away from conference crowds. (Meeting rooms are assigned on the basis of likely audience size. The American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature joint conference attracts professors and other scholars from universities, graduate schools, and other academic institutions from all over the world in numbers as high as 10,000+. The best papers fill the largest auditoriums with standing room only spilling into the hallways.)

Just as “creation scientists” and IDers can earn acceptance for their ideas by publishing overwhelming evidence and compelling analysis, Jesus Myths have every opportunity to win over the historians and religious studies scholars of the Academy.  After two centuries of Jesus Myth scholarship, the Jesus-deniers have enthusiastic followers on Internet chat rooms and discussion forums but are still barely on the radar where it actually matters. Yes, they get some media attention—for the same reason that “Man Bites Dog” gets more coverage than “Dog Bites Man.”  Even so, to call them a tiny minority on the “fringe” of the Academy would be a generous dose of recognition.

My late colleague from the University of Nottingham, Maurice Casey, used to put it very simply: “The Jesus Myth position is the view of extremists and demonstrably false. It was settled by all measures of evidence long ago.” and “If the Jesus deniers have a case to make, they will have to do a lot better than what we’ve seen up to now.”  Considering that “up to now” covers about two hundred years, I’m not holding my breath. Nor do I give it much more thought than I give most other conspiracy theories from other types of fringe denialists.  But evolution-deniers? Now that interests me.

Meanwhile, fringe denialists find enthusiastic fans on-line and there’s money to be made selling books to the general public and getting an agent to arrange a speaking tour. And cable TV news networks just love to stage those “hard-hitting” six-minute debates. (It doesn’t pay much but it’s great publicity.) The public’s fascination with fringe scholarship rarely wanes. It worked for 9/11 controlled demolition conspiracy theories. It worked for “creation scientists” and Intelligent Design IDers.  It’s working for the “Jesus never existed” club.

That said, there’s little more that I need to say. I give the Jesus Mythers the same challenge I give Ken Ham and Ray Comfort: Good scholarship wins out through peer reviewed publication, not Internet discussion forums and pep rallies.  Come back when you’ve got a much, much better track record from peer-reviewed, compelling arguments based upon evidence.

Of course, “true believers” always claim “….but my pet theory is not just another conspiracy theory. Mine is really true!”  Right.  You bet.

“As to debate invitations from Creationists and Jesus Mythicists?”

“Remember: Just Say No.  (It would only encourage them.)”

Meanwhile, everybody knows that doctors found a cure for cancer long ago—but the Cancer Industrial Conspiracy realized just as long ago that doctors and the medical mega-industry can make much more money treating cancer, right?  I saw it on the Internet.  And I can quote famous M.D.s and medical industry CEOs who gleefully declare how much money they’ve made for shareholders. Connect the dots. Everybody knows it’s true. It’s one big conspiracy. Again.

(c) 2015. Professor Tertius & the Bible.and.Science.Forum
All rights reserved.

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Expelled Indeed: No Evolution Allowed

Some conflicts fester for a long time but I can’t ethically share them with the general public until the headlines appear. And here it is:

As I’ve said so many times:
Where’s Ben Stein whenever another one of my evolution-affirming colleagues actually gets “expelled”?

I checked them. Not one of Ben Stein’s alleged examples of expelled academics panned out.  I wish I could say the same for yet another report of an intolerant Christian school discovering that one of its professors dares to think evolution-affirming thoughts! The Nazarene school obviously has a vested interested in hiring only those who believe in God as the Creator. But for school administrators to speak of “godless evolution” is to misunderstand the very nature of science. Professor Oord does not believe in godless evolution, just evolution.  After examining the evidence, he simply chooses to believe that God created evolutionary processes in order to diversify life on earth.

I’ve never tried to catalogue the many ostracized and/or terminated evolution-accepting professors from the half century since The Genesis Flood (1962) launched the “creation science” movement.  But if I did, I would entitle my tome:  “Expelled Indeed: No Evolution Allowed”  and add the subtitle: “Christian Schools Continue Their Anti-Evolution McCarthyism, Purging All Darwinian Defectors from Young Earth Creationism.”

One might think that Professor Thomas Oord would be protected by tenure. Not really. An overwhelming majority of professors at fundamentalist schools and nearly as many at evangelical schools have no tenure. Most have no hopes of tenure. And even at the Christian institutions which make some provision for a type of tenure, employment security remains limited.

1) Even at Christian schools where tenure does apply, the employment contract requires the employee agreeing to remain fully in compliance with the doctrinal statement (often called “Our Statement of Faith” or something similar) and must be annually reaffirm it by signature.   The doctrinal statement of many schools explicitly declares the school’s position on creation and sometimes even the age of the earth so, for legal purposes, there is little “legal wiggle room” for the professor to accuse the school of unlawful termination.

2) Many Christians schools are considered affiliate, extensions, or even legally-owned entities of the church or Christian denomination/movement/fellowship which founded, operate, and/or govern the institution. Accordingly, they may require all faculty to be ordained by and/or otherwise subject to the governance of that church or denomination.

3) While the word “tenured” is frequently used in relation to the “most secure faculty” on such campuses, in my experience the word “tenure” rarely appears in writing, whether in faculty handbooks, employment contracts, or even in the conversations of any administrators of the institution.  The word simply designates the Christian school quasi-equivalent considered analogous to faculty tenure at secular universities.

4) Even where this is not explicitly stated in an employment contract, most ordained professors at nearly all Christian schools take advantage of Parsonage Allowance tax exemptions available to Christian ministers. Each time they take advantage of such provisions and file a federal tax return, they are legally acknowledging their accountability to church leaders, both inside and outside the classroom. As a result, even their unexpressed personal beliefs may be considered subject to the dictates of their religion and therefore be fully relevant to their employment and accountability to the school administrators designated by church leaders. After all, for professors especially, they are considered to be teachers of the religion, and religions are not confined to classrooms.  Thus, their employment status is very similar to that of a pastor of a church.

The Bottom Line

1) In this type of context, a terminated professor at Christian institutions may have few legal options, regardless of the financial health of the institution and even if the word “tenure” appeared in his employment documents.  U.S. Courts are reluctant to ignore the Constitutional implications of attempting to overrule the decisions of a religion’s leaders maintaining the “purity” of their members.  And unless it can be legitimately argued that the professor had no way to know that his statements defied or conflicted with “church authority”, he probably has little hope of successful litigation.

2) Even if a terminated professor somehow succeeds in litigation, simply by “rocking the boat” he may have very little hope of finding similar employment at some other Christian institution, even at those schools which are very tolerant of his views on evolution and the age of the earth.  Submission to authority and willingness to sacrifice as a servant of Jesus Christ and Kingdom is not valued but expected. So one’s employment chances depend entirely on how badly another school wants the dissenting professor.  Very highly esteemed and well-known Biblical scholar, Dr. Bruce Waltke, found employment at another seminary within hours of his termination.  Most Christian college and seminary professors have little hope of such offer, especially when so many qualified academics vy for every faculty position.  (Keep in mind that many schools hire only those from within their own denominations and/or doctrinal positions.)

There’s much I could say about the hypocrisy of Ben Stein’s EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.  Yet, after complaining about it for years, I see no need to repeat the obvious.   Of course, despite my frustration and disappointment, I do agree that a privately-funded institution should continue to be protected by the religious freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.  I also must agree that employment contracts issued by religious institutions should be at liberty to enforce the maintenance of their religious beliefs and objectives.  Even so, the ignorance and dishonesty which festers, and seems to be growing exponentially, within a so-thoroughly discredited “creation science” movement harms everyone–and only serves to undermine the proclamation of Jesus Christ’s teachings over topics which are not at all central to the Great Commission.

Far too many Christian institutions remain mired in the cherished but relatively recent “creation science” traditions of Young Earth Creationism.  Both the scriptural evidence and the scientific evidence so clearly tell the story of evolutionary processes diversifying life on earth over billions of years.  The Theory of Evolution neither affirms nor denies the existence of God because the scientific method has no tools or procedures for investigating outside of natural processes. Science is not theology. Modern science, by definition, cannot make theological statements because it has no means to do so.

Any Christian who truly believes that God authored both the Bible and the universe should be willing to accept all of the evidence provided by both.

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Imagine If Evolution-Deniers Tried to Debunk Language Evolution

Today’s blog is rough and rambling. In other words, it is much like all my others. I consider such imperfections a privilege of advanced age. Sometimes I write in rough ASCII and then don’t feel like beautifying it with nice attributes for publication. I can live with that. 

Would the same lame arguments applied to deny biological evolution be trolled about while denying LANGUAGE EVOLUTION?

How about we have some fun? Take any popular anti-evolution slogan, illustration, or mantra from traditional creationist denialism and apply it to language evolution.

e.g. “Hitler and the Nazis believed in language evolution.”

“They believed that the Dutch language evolved from German long ago. One must judge the language evolution worldview by its fruits: The Nazis invaded the Netherlands and soon began deporting Jewish people to death camps.”

“Hitler was actually Austrian. But because Austrian German evolved from something Nazi linguistics professors called High German, Hitler called himself a German.”

“Grimm’s Law is grim indeed. Nazi professors at German universities believed in Grimm’s Law and genocide followed.”

** OPTIONAL EXPLANATION & MORE EXAMPLES **

We all know that languages change over time. In fact, one can easily find “language genealogies” and “family trees” of language families showing, for example, how Indo-European languages developed. PIE (Proto-IndoEuropean) vocabulary can be reconstructed to some degree from the study of the Latin and Greek and Germanic languages descended from it [to name a few] and Latin evolved into the Romance languages, including Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and French. An understanding of language evolution can provide many analogies for better understanding biological evolution. But would “creation science” deniers of the theory of evolution make the same kinds of errors if they chose to deny language evolution? Consider this obvious analog to some of their favorite biological evolution DENIALS:

“If The Theory of Language Evolution” were true, imagine that two Latin speaking parents happened to give birth to a Spanish-speaking child. What are the odds that elsewhere in their village or region, two other Latin-speaking parents just happened to ALSO give birth to a Spanish-speaking child—–and not a Portuguese-speaking or French-speaking child—-so that the Spanish-speaking children could grow up, look for a mate, and decide to marry and reproduce, and thereby produce more Spanish speakers?!”

Also: “If the English language evolved from German, why are there still German speakers today?” “And if the Danish language came from German, why are there still German speakers.”

Would they also argue: “My professor claims that the ancient epics of Homer were originally oral traditions circulated thousands and thousands of years ago and eventually preserved in Greek texts which are displayed in countless museums today. So the discovery of Greek being spoken today in one relatively small areas of Europe today TOTAL EMBARRASSED the world-wide conspiracy of linguists who insist upon The Theory of Language Evolution!

We would even hear: “I have a friend whose neighbor’s cousin is a professor and says that the British Museum has literally thousands upon thousands of ancient texts which are hidden from view in basement storage and they only let carefully screened scholars who are already part of the linguistic elite of university academy admission to look at SOME of them! Sometimes they will also allow doctoral students and an occasional masters-level student have access—but ONLY if a full-fledged member of the linguistics priesthood writes a letter of ‘recommendation’ (i.e., admission.) In reality, the lowly student needs the letter so that gate-keepers of the Shrine to Linguistic Evolution will know that a fellow member of the Language Evolution Conspiracy has properly indoctrinated that student and can vouch to the student’s loyalty to the RELIGION of language evolution! ”

“It’s called ‘language theory’ for a reason. It is only a theory.”

“Grimm’s Law isn’t really a law. It is just a guess. It is merely an opinion from the High Priests of Linguistic Evolution.”

“Pig Latin can’t be a real language because pigs can’t talk!”

This article would have been a fitting blog for April Fool’s Day. But on the other hand, every day in the Young Earth Creationist evolution-denying world is much like April 1.

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