7.  Further Dialogue With Mr. X 

[Web links were not present in my original reply to Mr.X since he does not have ready access to the Internet.]          

 

April 7, 2006

 

Mr. X,

 

The following comments were written in response to your last letter to me.  Selected statements from your letter are in bold.  My replies are in regular type. 

 

“I am sorry you consider me to have less than ‘half a brain…’”

 

Let me first clarify a mistaken assumption on your part.  I did not say that you have “less than half a brain.”  I said that I was impressed that Ferrell could get anyone with half a brain to believe his nonsense.  That is not the same as saying everyone who believes it has half a brain.  The point I was trying to make was that even those with average comprehension skills should, if they made an honest effort, be able to see how shoddy Ferrell’s arguments actually are.  On the other hand, I am sure that some individuals with excellent cognitive abilities readily swallow what he says as the gospel truth.  However, in order to do that they must either fail to check the accuracy and veracity of what he says (i.e., take his word on faith); or, if they do seriously investigate the validity of what he has to say, they must purposely ignore their own findings.  In other words, smart as they may be, they fall for Ferrell’s line of bull because of intellectual laziness or because their faith-based mindset does not permit them to recognize his line of bull for what it is.  

 

I suppose I should not have been so impressed by Ferrell’s ability to con his audience.  Many individuals, regardless of their intelligence, blithely accept whatever they are told, without question, so long as it jibes with their ideological presuppositions.  Even lofty levels of intellectual aptitude do not necessarily serve as an antidote to blind acceptance when religious indoctrination is involved.  After all, many of the members of the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult were accomplished computer operators.  But that did not stop them from falling for a ridiculous con job by a certifiable nutcase.    

 

I most certainly do not think you have less than half a brain.  From the examples of critical thought evidenced in your responses to me, I would not let anyone accuse you of having any thing less than ¾ of a brain.  Just kidding!!  I really think you are one of those reasonably sharp, but religion-blinded, people who have not allowed themselves to devote their full mental capabilities to an open-minded assessment of the situation.  Unfortunately, until you do, you will, when discussing evolution, continue to do a convincing impersonation of someone who actually does have only half a brain. 

 

“…your faith is in the wrong place.”

 

Faith is like a placebo.  It may make an individual feel good, but the effects have nothing to do with the intrinsic efficacy of the product.

 

My faith is not in the wrong place.  My faith is not to be found anywhere, because it is nonexistent.  Faith is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.  As someone who considers himself to be a critical thinker, I do not accept anything on faith.  To my way of thinking, faith is what people turn to when they want to ignore the facts or are too lazy to investigate them. 

 

I do, however, have trust and confidence that is based on experience and tangible evidence.  I have trust that my wife will continue to love me tomorrow because it has been my experience that she has done so for the last forty years.  I am confident that the sun will shine tomorrow because the historical evidence (and my experience) indicates that it will most likely do so. Likewise, I am reasonably certain that the Jonestown flood occurred in 1889 because there is a great deal of well-documented evidence that indicates it was an actual happenstance.  I do not, on the other hand, believe in Noah’s worldwide flood simply because the hand-me-down oral history of some pre-scientific, Bronze-Age desert nomads claims it happened.  Particularly when all the geologic and paleontological evidence shows that it most assuredly did not happen.  (See here.)

 

That’s the difference between faith and trust/confidence.  Faith is a belief in something without having any convincing evidence to back it up. Even worse, it is often belief in something (like creationism) in spite the existence of unequivocal evidence to the contrary.  (Or, as Mark Twain once so cogently remarked, “Faith is believing in what you know ain’t true.”)  Trust and confidence are attitudes assumed because they conform to experience and reliable evidence.  If you are satisfied in believing simple-minded feel-good stories on the basis of faith, that is your prerogative.  Personally, I do not consider faith-based thinking to be a productive and intellectually honest way to deal with reality.  Your reference to Hebrews 11:1 only further demonstrates that faith is wishful thinking based on imaginary evidence.

 

Faith is junk food for the mind.  It satisfies the craving for easy answers but is devoid of essential elements that nourish the intellect.

 

Before leaving this subject, let me also confirm that I am not a stranger to hope.  I have hope that outcomes that affect my life will be favorable for me.  However, I do not pretend that if I beg hard enough, I have a chance of persuading some undecided supernatural mastermind to make it turn out that way.

 

Religion thrives on faith.  Science prospers on doubt.   

 

“Before I leave the world of religion, I want to give God the credit for any wisdom, talent, providential happenings and wealth that I have…”

 

The list of personal accomplishments mentioned in your letter is quite impressive.  How unfortunate that you cannot allow yourself to take the full credit you are due for the hard work and diligence that led to those accomplishments.  How sad that you must attribute them to the intervention of some invisible Godfather in the sky instead of recognizing that they became reality because of your own initiative.  Of course, religious institutions do not want people to take full credit for their own accomplishments.  If there is no need for people to grovel in subservience before an entity that (they have been conned into believing) controls every aspect of their lives, there is no need for a church to act as an intermediary with that entity.  No groveling, no church. That’s why they discourage individuals from attributing their personal successes to their own efforts.  You play their game very well.    

 

On the other hand, this attitude also provides people with an easy excuse for failure when they mess things up.  Make a mistake or bad decision that has deleterious effects on your life and simply chock it up to “the will of God.”  No need to take individual responsibility for your actions.  Just attribute your self-inflicted “bad luck” to the implementation of “God’s mysterious plan” or, better yet, blame it on the influence of that perennial scapegoat, the Devil.  One who lives under the illusion that some supernatural entity is controlling all aspects of their lives can neither take full credit for their own accomplishments nor acknowledge full responsibility for their mistakes.  This last aspect is one of the factors that help make God worship so appealing to the masses.             

 

“…the majority of Americans are evolutionists [creationists] and must outnumber the believers in the literal 6 day[sic] Creation of the world, (what would you say Jack, perhaps 20 to 1?)”

 

(Note: People who accept the theory of evolution are not “evolutionists” any more than those who accept gravitational theory are “gravitists.”  The term, “evolutionist,” is used by creationists in the pejorative sense to give the false impression that the theory of evolution is analogous to religious dogma and that those who accept it are followers of some kind of philosophical belief system.  Unlike creationism, the theory of evolution is not religious dogma.  It is a scientific explanation backed up by an immense body of empirical evidence.  (See here.)  Those who accept it do not do so because they arbitrarily choose to “believe in” some nebulous religious doctrine or another.  They accept it because it is the best (and only) scientific theory in existence that explains the diversity of life on earth.  It is for this reason that I enclose “evolutionist” in quotation marks when I use the term in what follows.)         

 

No, I would not say 20 to 1, because, unlike you, I actually checked the facts before commenting on a subject.  According to the latest Gallup poll that was published on the subject on 3/8/06 (see attached summary), only 12% of Americans accept the strictly scientific explanation that evolution occurred exclusively by naturalistic means.  Even if the so-called “theistic evolutionists” (who are in reality closet creationists for all intents and purposes) are not counted, still more than half (53%) of Americans are dyed-in-the-wool, Bible-thumping creationists.  So no, I would not say the ratio is 20 to 1 in favor of those who accept the strict scientific concept of evolution.  Including the “theistic evolutionists” on the creationist side where they belong (particularly those who believe that God has intervened at various points during the course of evolution), the ratio is more like 1 to 7, with creationists being in a considerable majority.

 

In your letter, you linked society’s ills to the behavior of  “evolutionists,” apparently because you were under the mistaken impression that they constituted a large majority the population.  Presumably, you were of the opinion that, if there were only more creationists around, things would be vastly improved.  Well, as it turns out, there are actually more creationists than evolutionists (considerably more if theistic evolutionists are properly categorized as creationists).  So, in accordance with your approach to this issue, we should actually be blaming most of society’s ills on the behavior of those who reject naturalistic evolution for religious reasons since they are in the majority.  Playing by the rules of your own blame game, I am now justified in redirecting all those derogatory comments about “evolutionists” in your letter to creationists, since they make up the bulk of the population.  With this modification (substituting [creationist] for “evolutionist”), I am now in agreement with much of what you have to say.       

 

Your treatment of this subject serves to emphasize how little regard creationists have for the facts.  Instead of properly examining the evidence beforehand, you went off half-cocked with a line of argumentation that is unsupported by factual evidence.  I surmise that someone in your religious circle of friends gave you this erroneous information about the ratio of evolutionists to creationists in the U.S.  If so, from now on you should be a bit more circumspect about what they tell you.

 

“The challenge for you is to tell me how believing in evolution can help me to help my country and those around me better than I am doing or have done.”

 

First, it is not my intention to entice you to believe in evolution.  As discussed above, the theory of evolution, like all scientific theories, is not a belief system.  It is a scientific explanation.  The theory of evolution is presently the only scientific theory, consistent with all the evidence, which adequately explains the development and diversity of life on earth.  Evolution is not something one believes in any more than nuclear physics and atomic theory are things one believes in.  Belief is often predicated on personal preferences and usually has the elements of faith and emotional commitment associated with it.  And belief often pertains to the favoring of one particular concept over other reasonable alternatives.  There is no viable scientific alternative to evolution, not one; and it is substantiated by numerous and diverse lines of evidence. The theory of evolution is a scientific explanation that one either should decide to accept, or not to accept, based on how well it makes predictions and accounts for the evidence.  Virtually every scientist in the world accepts it.  The fact that most lay people in this country do not accept it has absolutely nothing to do with its scientific validity.  Science does not establish the validity of its theories by holding popularity contests among the lay public.

 

Second, nobody should have to twist your arm to try to persuade you to accept a scientific explanation (like the theory of evolution) that is so firmly established by decades of research and so well-corroborated by science libraries full of supporting documentation.  If you do not see the value or logic in accepting (and gaining a better understanding of) a theory that is endorsed by virtually the entire scientific community worldwide, there is very little I can do to make it acceptable to you.  A person should want to familiarize himself/herself with an overarching scientific theory, like evolution, out of intellectual curiosity alone.  What’s wrong with learning for the sake of learning and expanding one’s knowledge about how nature actually works?  That should be incentive enough. 

 

Your question refers specifically to evolution. You could just as well ask the same question about “believing in” plate tectonics or atomic theory. The answer would be the same.  You seem to be insinuating in your letter that a person cannot be a responsible and productive member of society if he/she is an adherent of the theory of evolution.  If that is what you were driving at, you have failed to make your case.  I am not sure, on a personal level, how your “believing in” any scientific explanation might impact your life one way or the other – particularly since you are not a working scientist.  Nonetheless, in the bigger scheme of things, a wider acceptance of evolution (and other scientific concepts in general) by the U.S. population could have beneficial ramifications. 

 

Studies by the National Science Foundation show that only about 25% of the American population is scientifically literate.  Although our colleges generally do a good job of graduating capable scientists, most Americans do not graduate from college.  As a consequence, most Americans receive what is normally only a mediocre science education at the high school level.  (You can raise your hand now Mr. X as a perfect example.)  Is it any wonder then, that American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small)?  Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.  It should not come as any surprise then, that most Americans are also proponents of biblical creationism, a religious ideology that was scientifically laid to rest over 100 years ago.  It should also come as no surprise that belief in creationism is inversely correlated with the level of education. (See the Gallup poll results.)  Indeed, ignorance is the creationist’s best friend.

 

Stated succinctly, young-earth creationism (YECism) is anti-science, pure and simple.  YECism not only runs counter to the basic tenets of the biological sciences.  It stands in stark disagreement with other branches of science as well; including geology, physics, and, astronomy – the accumulated findings from all of which show conclusively that the earth is some 4.5 billion years old.  One cannot be a believer in YECism and, at the same time, be an advocate for quality science.  You wonder how it could help your fellow citizens if you were to see the light and accept reality of evolution.  Well, you might become one more voice in the growing chorus of concerned citizens who are calling for improvements in the way science is presently taught in this country.  Instead of badmouthing evolutionary biologists and their work as you do now, you might encourage some young person to pursue a career in that discipline. Who knows, that person might even someday discover a method for curing cancer or viral infections using their knowledge of evolutionary processes.  Perhaps, if you were to become an adherent of the theory of evolution, you would speak out against the YECs when they threaten to further hinder science instruction through their attempts to introduce their pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo into the science classroom.  Maybe you would become a staunch advocate for increasing science teacher’s salaries so as to attract more qualified personnel into science education.  The possibilities are endless.

 

Regardless what effect the acceptance of evolution might have on your relationships with others, it is critical that something must be done about improving the quality of science education in this country.  Emerging countries like China and India place a much higher premium on science than we do in this country.  Unlike the situation in the U.S., they do not consider belief in anti-science dogma (like creationism) to be a virtue.  They recognize that, in this increasingly more scientifically and technologically oriented world, a well-educated work force and science literacy are the keys to their future economic prosperity.  As a consequence, they are rapidly increasing the number of graduate level scientists and engineers.  In this country, those who diligently study the sciences are often ridiculed as being intellectual snobs and nerds.  (Those who pursue careers in evolution-related fields are sometimes even accused of being in league with the Devil.)  When they take their jobs, they normally receive salaries that are inferior to those for other professions such as law and business administration.  In China and India scientists and engineers are respected as vital contributors to the future success of the nation, and they are compensated accordingly.  In those countries, scientists are often admired as popular role models for children.  In our country, it is predominantly air-headed pop stars like Brittney Spears and Michael Jackson who fill this role. If we do not get our act together and improve science education in this country soon, the developing countries will eventually come to dominate us in the fields of science and technology.  If you think it is hard to find a “Made in the U.S.A.” label on merchandise now, just wait until the Asians surpass us in scientific and technological expertise.  While I have nothing against learning a new language, I am not real keen on the prospect that it will become a requirement for future generations of Americans to speak Chinese so they can converse with those in control.

 

“The Average American Evolutionist’s [Creationist’s] life is a financial disaster.”

 

If you are trying to make the point that an acceptance of evolution leads to financial ruin, I am afraid that you are once again barking up the wrong tree.  As stated in the Gallup report (and as noted in a number of other surveys) belief in creationism is inversely correlated with level of education.  The more education one has, the less likely he/she is to believe in the myth of creationism and the more likely he/she is to be and adherent of the theory of evolution.  That being the case, let’s see how the level of education relates to such things as income and poverty.  As shown in the attached “Education Makes a Difference” graph from the U.S. Census Bureau, income is (not surprisingly) positively correlated with level of education.  In other words, since “evolutionists” are generally more highly educated than creationists, they normally make more money than creationists.  Now making more money may not necessarily be synonymous with financial success.  However, I think it would be difficult for even a creationist to argue that falling into poverty represents a positive financial outcome.  When we look at poverty, as it correlates to education level, we find (again not surprisingly) an inverse relationship.  (See the attached “Poverty area householders were less educated.”)  Therefore, the evidence shows that it is far more likely for the creationists (who in general have lower education levels and incomes than “evolutionists”) to be in financial dire straights and for “evolutionists” to be in a relatively better financial condition.  So, like the other anti-evolutionist inferences in your letter, once we change “evolutionist’s” to [creationist’s] in your statement above, it does actually have a certain ring of truth about it.

 

“The average American evolutionist [creationist] has failed in at least one if not more marriages…”

 

Hmm.  Looks like your inference that “evolutionists” divorce more frequently than creationists is also off the mark.  As seen in the attached “Divorce rates among Christian groups” from the religioustolerance website, “Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and for Atheists and Agnostics.”  Since essentially all creationists in this country are conservative Christians, it follows that it is the creationists who have the highest divorce rate in the country.  The fact that the percentage of atheists and agnostics is considerably higher among scientists than the general public and that scientists are predominantly “evolutionists,” also works against your argument. 

 

“The average American evolutionist [creationist] has made more kids than they[sic] can afford, or worse yet, out of wedlock causing a great burdon[sic] on taxpayers to educate and care for them all.”

 

Consider the following statement from the Population Reference Bureau:

Women's access to education, health care, family planning, and employment all affect family size. Studies show that women who have completed primary school have fewer children than those with no education. Education is key because educated women are more likely to know what social, community, and health services, including family planning, are available and to have the confidence to use them. In addition, women with more education have more opportunities outside the home and can see the benefits of education for their children. Women who achieve a relatively high level of education are also more likely to enter the labor force before they marry or begin childbearing, and ultimately to have smaller families than women who marry in their teens. This trend is evident in almost every country where data are available. As the chart "Women's education and family size" shows, women with a secondary school education have substantially smaller families than women with less education.

According to this report, women with lower levels of education have more children than those who get more schooling.  And, once again, which group generally has the lower levels of education?  Yep, that’s right.  It’s the creationists.  As usual, your statement that “evolutionists” have higher rates of fertility is not supported by the facts.

Now consider the following excerpt from an article in the Christian Science Monitor entitled, “Where single moms are the norm”:

Take Baltimore. More than 3 out of 4 residents who gave birth there in the past 12 months were unmarried, according to census estimates. That was tops among America's 40 largest cities and three times the rate of Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, which ranked near the bottom of the list.

Income and education levels probably explain much of the difference, experts suggest. For example, Baltimore ranks among the 10 large cities with the lowest median household incomes and the smallest share of residents with college degrees, according to census estimates. Austin and San Francisco rank near the top in both categories.

Baltimore also has one of the highest proportions of African-American residents. Historically, unmarried black women have given birth at much higher rates than unmarried whites, demographers point out. While that rate has fallen dramatically since 1970 - and risen even more dramatically for whites - African-American women are still twice as likely to give birth out of wedlock than are their white counterparts, according to a study last year for the National Center for Health Statistics.

According to this source, the strongest predictors of out-of-wedlock births are low income, below-average education, and being a black American.  These are not characteristics that pertain to the “average American evolutionist.” Certainly the first two are far more descriptive of your “average American creationist.”  Again, switching creationist for “evolutionist” in your statement is entirely justified by the facts.

“The average American evolutionist [creationist] is a slave to his football or other teams[sic] sports, the entertainment industry, his apetite[sic] and will waste his life watching others entertain him.”

I was unable find any definitive information on the religious beliefs of those who watch football games and other team sports.  However, since they make up most of the population, it is reasonable to assume that most of the viewers are creationists.  Unless you can produce evidence to the contrary, it is also reasonable to assume that you have nothing to back up your inference that team sport viewing is primarily a pastime of “evolutionists.”

Be that as it may, the top spectator sport in this country is now NASCAR.  It has some six million viewers and continues to grow in popularity.  Here we have some demographic information pertaining to the viewers that is relevant to your statement.  The following excerpt is taken from “God Speed- NASCAR, A Theological Analysis” by Michael Fotta:     

To explain further examples of Christ and NASCAR we might look at the makeup

of fans…. 56% of all NASCAR fans earn less than $40,000 a year and 71% received one year of college or less. The southeast has the largest concentration of fans and races with 22 out of 39 events in this geographical region, this ‘Bible-Belt’ concentration explains to some degree the Christian enthusiasm that is prevalent in everyday life.

 

Based on these characteristics, the typical NASCAR fan (and owner and driver) is far more likely to be a creationist than an “evolutionist.”  So, if the most popular spectator sport in the country is an accurate indicator, you have once again incorrectly directed your critical comments at “evolutionists” when they should have been aimed at your fellow creationists.

 

“His carelessness makes him also a slave to the politicians who will waste his money on foolish and useless things…”

 

It is not the “evolutionists” who were the major backers of the current crop of money-squandering politicians.  These wild spenders were voted in largely by conservative Christians who are predominantly backers of creationism in one form or another.  In case you were on some other planet at the time, let me assure you that the republicans who are in power now did not pander to “evolutionists” during the last elections.  They kissed up to the so-called Religious Right whose obsequious drones voted for them in droves.  That’s helps explain why, in spite of what his science advisor told him, we have a president who appears to think so-called intelligent design is a valid scientific topic.

 

“The average American evolutionist [creationist] destroys his own body and will be a burdon[sic] to society with the poor health and earlier death that he is causing himself.”

 

Do you have any definitive evidence that the average “evolutionist” consumes more “…greasy burgers, artery clogging pork, coffee, and booze…” than the average creationist?  I didn’t think so. In fact it is those who are on limited incomes (a characteristic more representative of the creationists than the “evolutionists”) who are reported to consume the most fat- and calorie-laden junk food. (See here.) 

 

Later in your letter, you say, “It is the life of Christ that has inspired me…” If that is the case, then why wouldn’t you want to model your diet after that of Jesus?  From the stories in the Bible, there is every indication that he would have drunk wine and eaten various types of meat, including fish and lamb.  (See the attached “Was Jesus a Vegetarian?’)

 

Luke 24:41-43 says that Jesus ate broiled fish.  In Matt. 14:15-21 and 15:34-38; Mark 6:35-44 and 8: 1-10; and Luke 9:12-17, Jesus is said to have multiplied small amounts of fish into large quantities in order to feed thousands of people. Why would Jesus make fish available for these people to eat if he thought there was some prohibition against eating the meat or if he thought it was unhealthy for them to do ingest it?  Your arguments against eating all forms of meat seem a little fishy to me.

 

“The average American evolutionist [creationist] drinks booze which is the biggest destroyer of life in the nation and the world.”      

 

I assume that you are once again trying to make the case that, since you think there are more “evolutionists” than creationists, “evolutionists” must consume most of the alcoholic beverages sold in the country.  Since your demographic facts are in error, your conclusion is also most likely in error.  Unless you can provide some data to show that “evolutionists” drink a greater proportion of the alcohol consumed in this country, your argument lacks substantiation.  

 

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking causes 1 in 5 deaths in this country each year.  And according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004, smoking (responsible for 18.1% of deaths) is the leading cause of death in the U.S.  Poor diet and lack of physical exercise account for 16.6% of deaths, whereas, alcohol causes 3.5% of deaths.  (See the attached, “Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000”)  If by “biggest destroyer of life,” you meant “causative factor in death,” your inference that alcohol is the biggest culprit is, as usual, in error.   

 

Medical authorities agree that there is no safe level for use of tobacco.  However, it is a much different story regarding alcohol.  There is a considerable, and growing, body of medical evidence that shows moderate drinking has a number of beneficial health effects.  The introduction to “Alcohol and Health” prepared by Potsdam State University of New York reads as follows:  

Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer's disease and the common cold. Sensible drinking also appears to be beneficial in reducing or preventing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney stones, digestive ailments, stress and depression, poor cognition and memory, Parkinson's disease, hepatitis A, pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), angina pectoris, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, gallstones, liver disease and poor physical condition in elderly.

While it is regrettable that some people cannot control their drinking habits (alcoholics represent approx. 7% of the U.S. population), it is becoming clear that moderate use of alcohol can be beneficial to one’s health.  Your attempt to paint alcohol consumption in a completely negative light is one-sided and not representative of the facts.

“Jack, you should promote prohibition…”

Why would I want to prevent responsible drinkers from consuming a beverage, that in moderate quantities, promotes good health?  That sounds to me like a rather unchristian thing to do. If you want to deprive yourself of the health benefits of alcohol, that’s fine.  Nonetheless, I see no reason why I should go on a campaign to deprive these benefits from others.

Looking at the subject from a biblical perspective, there doesn’t seem to be common agreement on whether Jesus drank wine or not.  Like so many other topics in the Bible, people seem to be able to cherry pick passages and interpret them to fit whatever opinion they might have on the matter. (That’s the advantage of a guidebook, like the Bible, that is rife with ambiguity.  It comes in handy for supporting just about any position one might choose to take.)  Ecclesiastes 9:7 encourages us to eat, drink (wine), and be merry.  Amen to that!  I think I will pick that one as being authoritative on the subject.

Instead of advocating for an outright ban on alcohol consumption, you should be urging people to drink sensibly to improve their health.  If you want to campaign for a complete prohibition on something detrimental to health, make it tobacco consumption.  Tobacco usage has very serious health consequences and no redeeming value whatsoever.

The average American evolutionist [creationist] is a waster of the nations resources and a filler of landfills due to his extravagant and carnivorous ways.”

Yep.  I agree. Since creationists are in the majority, they must be contributing most to this problem.  Do you have any facts that would prove otherwise?

“Since the average American evolutionist [creationist] is in debt, how much can he do for the people around him or the nation in general?”

Good point (after the revision).  Since “evolutionists” are in the minority and since creationists, as a rule, are financially less well off, the creationists most likely are responsible for most of the country’s debt.  I don’t know precisely what creationists can do to benefit society in general.  Perhaps obtaining a good education so that they can get a decent job to improve their financial situation might be a step in the right direction.  In the process of getting a good education, maybe they will also discover why creationism is bunk.  One can only hope.

“Probably almost half of my shop earnings goes to charity, education, etc. to raise our country higher.  Obviously this is not inspired by any evolutionary belief.”

The implication here seems to be that “evolutionists” think only of themselves and have no compassion for their fellow man.  Such an attitude is not only wrong it is insulting.  I too could boast about how much money my wife and I contribute to charity each year, but I don’t see any value in having this exchange turn into a bragging contest.  It is just as gratifying for “evolutionists” as it is for creationists to share their good fortune with those who are less fortunate in our society.  Contrary to what you may have been told, creationists do not have a monopoly on generosity, compassion, and morality.  One of the most generous men in the world today is Bill Gates, an agnostic and most certainly not a biblical creationist.  Self-described atheist, Ted Turner, donated one billion dollars to the United Nations.  Obviously their generosity is not inspired by any “creationary” belief.

Regarding the broader subject of morality, a recent study published in the Journal of Religion and Society shows that there is a direct correlation between the degree of religiosity in a particular segment of society and the extent of societal dysfunction.  The more religiosity, the more dysfunction.  (See the attached abstract and conclusion pages from “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.”)  The following excerpt is of particular significance with regard to our current discussion:

There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, martial and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach the European norms…

So, before you go tooting your horn about how morally superior creationists are, you would be well advised to acquaint yourself with the facts.

“He [the “evolutionist”] has no moral obligation to anyone (including his nation) because who is going to say what is moral?”

The laws and regulations that govern our society largely define what is moral and acceptable behavior.  If you think there is no inherent obligation for anyone to abide by those manmade laws and regulations, just ignore them and you will quickly learn who sets the standards and what the consequences are for disobeying them.  The laws, mores, and customs that currently govern our societies were developed through the inter-personal experiences of our ancestors.  It does not take a god to figure out that, if we all went around poking each other in the eye with a stick every time we got mad at someone, a harmonious and smoothly functioning society would be impossible to maintain.  Our current laws (which define what is legally and morally acceptable) are the outgrowth of countless generations of our ancestors struggling to determine how we should behave to make society operate in a harmonious and cohesive manner. 

In order to entice people to abide by the prevailing laws, some clever priest once conceived of the idea of attributing his tribe’s rules to the work of a supernatural lawgiver.  To make this deceit work, however, he had to con his people into thinking if they didn’t obey the law, they would incur the unmerciful wrath of their all-seeing god.  And if they dutifully followed the law, they would be rewarded with a blissful afterlife.  It worked then, and it works today.  I just hope that those who are still being held in check by this con job don’t ever lose their religion.

“You Jack would get along with him [Stalin] and the Communist State.”        

Nah.  I don’t particularly like the company of mass murders, no matter what their political or philosophical affiliation.  There is another reason I would not have seen eye-to-eye with Stalin.  He was an anti-evolutionist, just like you.  To quote from the Web article "Creationists, Hitler and Evolution" –

 The creationists are apparently unaware of the fact that Stalinist Russia rejected Darwinian evolution as "bourgeois" and instead embraced the non-Darwinian "proletarian biology" of Lysenko and Michurin (a disaster from which Russian genetics and biological sciences has still not completely recovered).

 Many prominent scientists were arrested and perished in the Gulags because they tried to refute Lysenko’s pseudo-science by pointing out the evidence that clearly contradicted it. If you creationists get your way, our science programs (and possibly scientists) would suffer the same fate as that of the Russians’ programs. Remember, those who remain ignorant of history, are bound to repeat it.

“Go to China right now and find believers in prison or worshiping God secretly in homes, you would have no problem spreading your beliefs there.”

I am afraid my beliefs favoring such things as freedom of religion, free press, and free speech would not go over too well with the Chinese authorities.  While I am not an adherent of any particular religion myself, I respect the right of those who hold such beliefs to practice them so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others.  There is no justification for the Chinese to persecute the members of any religious organization so long as they are operating within the law.  This is another reason why we need get our act together to improve science education in this country.  If we fail to keep pace with the Chinese in science and technology, the time may come when they are in a position of power to tell us what we can, and cannot, believe.  You think you’ve got problems with the “evolutionists” now.  Just wait till the Chinese start calling the shots.

“I may have dishonored Christ by writing this way…”          

Considering the lack of any hard evidence for Christ’s current existence, I don’t think you have much to worry about.  However, assuming that he is still hovering around somewhere, I am sure that he would have greatly approved of your attack on the “evolutionists.”  After all, in a parable, he is said to have instructed his followers to murder those who rejected his teachings. (See Luke 19:27)  Your approach is mere child’s play in comparison.  Does kind of make you wonder how this fits in with his supposed turn-the-other-cheek demeanor though, doesn’t it?   

“And even though you Jack have chosen to be His enemy, He will take you back in an instant.”

I have not chosen to be anyone’s enemy.  I am simply using my critical thinking skills (which according to you believers are God-given) to evaluate the available evidence and come to, what I consider to be, a logical conclusion based on that evidence.  Furthermore, I would not want to be “taken back” by anyone who considers logical thinkers to be their enemy.

“I would love to steer you in His direction; just ask me.”     

Why should I spend my time listening to anything you have to say in support of your religious beliefs?  After you sent me Vance Ferrell’s  “Other Evidence Against Evolution – Book Three,” I prepared a rather lengthy critique of the first chapter to demonstrate why Ferrell’s arguments were seriously flawed.  I sent you hard copies of the introductory page and the summary page and included a floppy disk that contained my complete rebuttal.  When you handed me your latest epistle, you made no effort to rebut any of my criticisms of Ferrell’s work.  In fact, you made absolutely no mention of them. You also returned the disk and said that you didn’t have any way of looking at the material on it.  Do you mean to tell me that your church does not have a computer that can read floppy disks?  Do you expect me to believe that you were unable to find your way to the public library to use one of their computers to read the disk?  No, Mr. X.  I think you did not look at the material on the disk because you did not want to be bothered with it.  If I had given you some information on a disk that I said proved evolution was a fraud, I’ll bet you would have found a way to access it.  Am I right, Mr. X? 

Creationists are like little children who do not want to hear bad news.  They stick their fingers in their ears, jump up and down, and shout nah-nah-nah-nah at the top of their lungs so that they can’t hear it.  If you want to remain ignorant of the problems with Ferrell’s screed against evolution, that is your prerogative.  But if you can’t be bothered to read my critiques, why should I take the time discuss any Bible related matters with you?

“Remember, if you are right, it makes no difference. But if I am right, it is all the difference in the World.”

If I am right, it most certainly does make a difference.  If I am right, that means that it is possible to use our senses and logic to gain insight and propose useful explanations about how the world operates. In other words, if I am wrong, then all of science is wrong.  On the other hand, if you are right, then you should have no trouble breezing through the simple Bible study project that follows.

The resurrection is a core tenet of Christian doctrine without which Christianity, as we know it, would not exist.  If the resurrection actually occurred, if you are a believing and trusting Christian to whom the truth has been revealed, and if the Bible is truly God’s vehicle for describing this momentous occurrence to humanity, then you should have no trouble developing a detailed and coherent sequence of events as requested by the following Easter Challenge: 

 

Please begin at Easter morning and read to the end of each book – begin at Matt. 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20-21.  Also read Acts 1:3-12 and 1Cor. 15:3-8.  Then, without adding a single detail not contained (or omitting one that is contained) in these accounts, write a single, harmonious, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension; paying particular attention to what happened first, second, etc.; who said what to whom and when; and where these things happened.

 

Can you address this straightforward challenge in a manner that demonstrates you are right about the truthfulness, coherence, and reliability of the Bible?  If not, that is even more justification for me not to take you up on your offer to “steer [me] in His direction.”  What I am asking you to do should be very easy for you to accomplish if the Bible is as coherent and perspicuous as you seem to think it is.  Please sit down, open your Bible, and read the passages indicated above.  Then write the narrative on your own in your own words.  You shouldn’t have to rely on outside assistance for a task that, if the Bible is the consistent and inerrant word of God, should be easily accomplished by any reasonably intelligent person who reads it.  If you need an occasional break from this challenge, I have also attached a few biblical contradictions and inconsistencies  for you to ruminate on.   While you are involved in this project, think hard about the quality and validity of the evidence on which the very essence of Christian theology (and creationism) is based. 

I find the verses in question to be inconsistent and contradictory.  To me, they appear to paint a very confusing picture that raises daunting questions about whether the Bible is the product of an omnipotent and omniscient God and whether the resurrection actually occurred.  If you can produce an internally consistent account, then I will be forced to reconsider my current position.  However, if you are unable to do so, then I will continue to consider my skepticism to be justified on the grounds that the resurrection cannot be clearly authenticated from what is written about it in the Bible.  And if you can’t produce a harmonious account of an event as doctrinally significant and widely attested as the resurrection from pertinent verses in the Bible, then why should anyone believe anything it has to say about something as briefly touched upon as the creation of the universe?

(I hope you do not respond to this challenge by falling back on that hackneyed apologetic excuse that different witnesses often give incompatible accounts of the same event.  If you do, I will have to remind you that the Bible is claimed to have been composed under the supervision of a perfect being.  How could a perfect being be satisfied with any mistakes in a narrative that was being composed under his direction?  I would also have to remind you that if different witnesses give incompatible and mutually exclusive information about the same event, then some of those witnesses must be giving erroneous descriptions. Is the Bible wrong about some things?  If it is, then what criterion does one use to decide when it is right?)   

You appear to suffer from the delusion that my knowledge of the Bible is rather rudimentary and that you will be able to present some evidence, hitherto unknown to me, that will bring me around to your way of thinking.  Just to set the record straight, I attended a fundamentalist church during my youth and am, therefore, well acquainted with all the “convincing” arguments put forth to substantiate the inerrancy of the Bible.  I have read the Bible from cover to cover (many passages ad nauseam) and possess a number of books that discuss the Bible from both the positive and negative perspectives.  Now, of course, the Internet can also be used to gain further insight into the reliability (or lack thereof) of Good Book.  (See, for example, “Formation of the New Testament Cannon” by Richard Carrier.)

Current biblical scholarship shows that the stories about Jesus were passed around by word of mouth for nearly a half a century after his death before they were finally committed to writing by someone referred to as Mark, the first gospel author.  (The first Pauline epistles are thought of have been written somewhat earlier - about 20 years after Jesus’ death.)  The other gospels were written even later - about 90 C.E.  It is highly unlikely that any of these authors actually witnessed the events they wrote about – in fact, they do not claim to have done so.  Instead, they were in the business of modifying oral narratives about Jesus’ life to suit their own particular religious agendas.  Of course these guys weren’t the only creative writers reinventing history to suit their needs.  A number of other epistles and “gospels” (such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel according to the Hebrews) were produced by other Christian propagandists as well.  It wasn’t until the fourth century C.E. that Christian leaders finally got their act together and picked those writings that they decided should be included in the Bible.  In the process picking their favorites, of course, a number of other commentaries were rejected – primarily because they didn’t agree with the religious agenda of the pickers and choosers.   

What I have concluded from my studies of the subject is that the Bible is a collection of ancient myths, war stories, legends, laws, poems, religious propaganda, etc. that gives every indication of having been created solely by the hand of man.  I find the Bible to be riddled with contradictions, inconsistencies, and supposed miraculous events that fly in the face of what is now known from science today.  (Surely, if the Bible were divinely inspired, God would not allow such problems to originate and persist.)  Even if there were any truth inherent in the original manuscripts, it is impossible to know what they actually said, because none of them are now in existence.  All manuscripts before the invention of the printing press had to be copied laboriously by hand. And, as might be expected, there are thousands of textual differences between the copied manuscripts that are now available for study. To quote from the introduction to the recent book, “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman:

And yet, for almost fifteen hundred years these manuscripts were hand copied by scribes who were deeply influenced by the cultural, theological, and political disputes of their day.  Both mistakes and intentional changes abound in the surviving manuscripts, making the original words difficult to reconstruct.

…many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes – alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.

With all these intentional modifications, redactions, and copying errors, it’s anybody’s guess what the originals actually said.  Since a number of the biblical stories are deliberate fabrications or erroneous reproductions of original narrations, the Christian doctrine derived from them rests on very flimsy underpinnings.  Contrary to what some Christians appear to believe, the Bible did not suddenly materialize in its final form shortly after Jesus’ death.  Instead, sections of it were pieced together, miscopied, and purposely modified over several centuries by self-serving religious propagandists who were not above “massaging the data” to fit their needs.  Its contents were written in superstitious and pre-scientific times when embellishing and inventing facts were considered to be acceptable methods of recording history.  Certainly, to quote scripture as it appears today as if it were an original, accurate, and verbatim statement inspired by an infallible deity, completely ignores the capriciousness of first-century story tellers, the error proneness of ancient forms of document reproduction, and the critical findings of biblical scholarship.       

If you were planning on “steering [me] in His direction” by reciting scripture to me, you would be wasting your breath and time.  As far as I am concerned at this juncture, biblical scripture is evidence for the truth of Christian doctrine like passages from “Twas the Night Before Christmas” are evidence for the truth of Santa Claus. Until and unless you successfully complete the challenge above and satisfactorily address the Bible contradictions I have included with this letter (by means of a written communication), I will neither read nor respond to any more of your apologetics.  If the Bible is all you claim it is cracked up to be, I can’t imagine why you would see that as an unreasonable condition on my part.               

Freethoughtfully,

Jack DeBaun

Return to A Frank Dialogue with Mr. X