Guess the author

I came across these paragraphs, excerpted from an essay about possible conflicts between science and a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Your job is to guess (no Googling!) whether the author was:

a. a sociologist

b. a liberal, non-literalist theologican

c. a creationist

d. an atheist scientist

e. a non-theological religious scholar

f. none of the above

NO GOOGLING!

The Bible seems to teach that there was a global flood in the days of Noah.  This was the universal teaching of the Fathers of the church.  Though not directly linked to the issue of the age of the earth, one’s position on the historical nature of the Flood and its extent are still important.  The response one gives to this question will indicate important core religious ideas.

The sorts of issues that flow from the idea of a global flood are critical to a religious believer.  What will control the biblical exegesis of the Christian? Will they forever be engaged in an exegesis of the moment? Later in this essay we will suggest an answer to these questions.  For now, it is sufficient to make one simple point.  Every Christian from the founding of the church until the advent of modern science believed Noah was a real person.  The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs.

Modern naturalistic science has found no room for a flood, global or local.  Many Christians, even those otherwise quite conservative, suggest the Noah story is a myth.  It contains important theological truth, but no history.  The church was wrong. Noah never existed.

This is a serious move for the church to make.  Do the considered opinions of scientists now have the last say in important religious matters that touch on history? To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient. If a Bible story contains details that are contrary to science, then the Bible story is a “myth.” If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.

UPDATE:  Answer goes up at 11 am CST Sunday, Feb. 21

69 Comments

  1. Joe Fogey
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I’d go for a creationist, on the basis of these sentences:

    “What will control the biblical exegesis of the Christian? Will they forever be engaged in an exegesis of the moment?”

  2. Richie P
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Erm…. Interesting. I reckon it’s either d or e.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not a creotard (there is certainly nothing in there to indicate any literal belief in Creation). In fact the word “seems” in the opening line indicates that the person is almost certainly not a religious fundamentalist, as they would just say “the bible says X- so X is true”.

    I am also confident that a liberal theologican would have never write something like

    “If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.”

    It could be a socialogist I suppose, but I reckon the other two options are more likely.

    It is either a religious scholar with a penchant for skepticism, or an Atheist author with a tinge of sympathy towards religion.

  3. Richard Prins
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    I’m guessing a or d, based on the last, somewhat cynical, sentence. Though f is always a possibility. :)

    • NMcC
      Posted February 21, 2010 at 3:35 am | Permalink

      I would say d, the atheist scientist, on the grounds that the whole exercise would appear pointless otherwise.

  4. Thanny
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    On a normal interpretation, I’d guess a sociologist, but my “trick question” sensors suggest that it may be an atheist scientist.

  5. Don
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Moistly likely e.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Agreed.

  6. Occam
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m game. In order of decreasing likelihood: f > e > c.
    f because I can’t quite pin down the agenda, so the Null hypothesis would be to assume none hidden.
    e because I can sense familiarity with the scriptures, but not of the formal theological kind. Exhibit: Noah. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs. Quite an amalgamation. It’s more complicated than that.
    Unless…
    Unless the writer is sophisticated enough to know his argument is weak, and therefore to try to keep it simple: “venerate Noah as a saint”. Yes, Noah was never formally canonized. Therefore:
    cThere is something faux-folksy about the style. I’m biased, because I spent last Saturday night skimming through Paul Nelson’s online papers at the Discovery Institute, and here’s a whiff of that same insincere simplicity. Particularly this bit: “If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.” I noted quite a few “logical explosions” of the kind in Nelson’s writing, so the author might be someone of that ilk.

    Applying a little reverse psychology on Jerry, my final bet is c.

  7. bueller007
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I go for c), with the caveat that this person probably claims to be an “ID advocate” who is agnostic with respect to the age of the earth and the literalness of Genesis.

    No dyed-in-the-wool young-earth creationist or ANY atheist would even bother raising these bullshit points.

  8. Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    I’ll guess d, but one who is either a former Christian or who had some religious education.

  9. Insightful Ape
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    While I am not taking a shot at the answer I’d like to point out that the same bull is parroted in the Koran-basically plagiarized from the bible. And since the infallibility of the Koran is the pillar of the Islamic faith, Muslims overwhelmingly believe to this day that Noah existed and the flood did happen.

  10. Carl
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I would have to say d. sounds like someone who is secular but still being nice towards religious doctrines.

  11. Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    Hmm…I guess the question is, why would Jerry ask us this question. If it is indeed from a creationist, then there would be a bit of shock value as the author seems to be quite aware that the flood doesn’t square with “naturalistic science”. But it would make sense as a screed against the strategy of accommodating the religion to other social factors.

    In a way, the creationist angle is the only one (besides “none of the above”) that stands out from the rest of the pack. It’s difficult to see how the views of the non-theological religious scholar and the sociologist would be much different. This particular excerpt doesn’t seem to contain a scientific argument, so I’m not sure why it would be of much consequence if it came from an atheist scientist. On the other hand, a liberal, non-literalist theologian may be arguing against using any of the Bible as an accurate historical account.

    However, as the focus of the article seems to be the hypocrisy of tossing Noah but accepting Abraham, I’m going to put my (virtual) money on creationist.

  12. Richie P
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Okay, I’m starting to have a change of heart now. I reckon it could be a ID advocate now. Damn this is a toughie!!

  13. MadScientist
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Does ‘Bling’ count as Google? Not that I’d waste time using it.

    I’d say a sociologist because of “The response one gives to this question will indicate important core religious ideas.” (though theologians may say such things too)

    I would also expect people who study religion not to make a statement like this:
    “The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs.” I don’t know about the Orthodox churches, but the catlick church has never treated Noah as a saint in my lifetime, so that’s why I’d say it can’t be a theologian.

    • Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that’s a telltale technical slip. Noah is venerated/celebrated as a “patriarch” in the Orthodox church, but not as a “saint” exactly. So the commentator is probably not a religious scholar or a theologian.

      Anyway, it’s an interesting puzzle.

      • Occam
        Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        … probably not a religious scholar or a theologian.
        …and a goy to boot, so what can we expect? :)

  14. Anthony
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to agree with MadScientist and go with a sociologist. I will even stick my neck out and name one: Rodney Stark.

  15. edivimo
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    “Every Christian from the founding of the church until the advent of modern science believed Noah was a real person.”

    This quote betrays him(her): a creationist. It makes an unverifiable claim of the old times, when christianity was allegedly united.

    “To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient.”

    This denotes the cannard “secular people doesn’t believe in the bible because they don’t want to boey rules”, and the next paragraphs follows an attack against the weak no-literal christians. That reinforce the creationist author.

  16. TheBlackCat
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m putting my guess down as b before I read any of the comments.

  17. Rev. Reinard
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to guess c. a creationist just because of the use of the phrase “naturalistic science”. Anyone else on that list would know that that phrase is redundant.

  18. Peter Karim
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Tried to proceed by elemination.

    d is out. Because for a scientist “Modern naturalistic science” is a pleonasm.

    c is out. 4 paragraphs with no bibbel quotes

    b is out. too much focus on history.

    So I am left with a and e, luckily they are not mutually exclusive.

    Funnily you can replace Noah with Adam (and flood with man’s creation…) and the essay still makes sense

  19. Flea
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    My pick: a (a particularly shallow a)

  20. gillt
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    If true, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of St. Noah.

    All the options are possible, which makes the challenge interesting… except for the last option which is possible but not interesting.

    “naturalistic scientist” is a bit redundant which increases the chances it wasn’t written by an actual scientist. However, Postmodernism has invaded sociology so we can’t rule it out.

    I’ll make an assumption and say the atheist scientist is in the “hard” sciences.

    “Later in this essay we will suggest an answer to these questions.” at least has the guise of academic scholarship.

    “The Bible seems to teach…” isn’t a caveat fit for a creationist.

    sociologist and non-theological religious scholar are not mutually exclusive.

    Considering the above I’m narrowing it down to a,b, or e, leaning toward liberal, non-literalist theologian.

  21. HP
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I tried several literal string searches on Google, and they came up empty. So, googling won’t help. Still, I’m going with (d), on the basis that it would not otherwise be a notable quote.

  22. paul01
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    “Though not directly linked to the issue of the age of the earth, one’s position on the historical nature of the Flood and its extent are still important.”

    The author thinks the age of the earth is important, and the historicity of Noah of similar impoortance. I am guessing OEC.

  23. Anthony
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Good one Jerry. I now know who it was. Damn you, I thought I was on the money too. :-)

  24. Wayne Robinson
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I’d go for “e”, provided it means non-believing religious scholar (such as Bart Ehrman). It can’t be a sociologist, because I can understand it, and it’s written in clear concise English.

  25. Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to choose none of the above, and guess that it was an accommodation that wrote this.

    • Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Actually after reading the comments, I now think it was probably a Christian ID proponent that wrote this, because they appear to have written unfavorably about the Catholic church.

  26. Divalent
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I go with “creationist”. As someone else pointed out, the use of the term “naturalistic science” (without scare quotes) is not a term a rationalist would use in ordinary conversation. Further, he raises the possibility that our scientific understanding of the impossiblity of a literal Noah’s flood without immediately dismissing it. That seems to imply he believes there is a reasonable chance science could be wrong about it.

  27. Wayne Robinson
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Bugger it,
    I’m wrong. They’re Young Earth Creationists. The quote seemed to be something almost reasonable that someone like Paul Nelson would say and write.

  28. newenglandbob
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I go for ‘none of the above’ – it is probably a stand up comic or a politician from a non-Abrahamic religion country.

  29. littlejohn
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Too poorly informed for a scientist, but too well-informed for a creationist. It’s got to be a trick, or the question wouldn’t be here.
    I’m going for creationist and I’ll venture a name, too: William Jennings Bryan. Sounds like that era.

    • Occam
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      You’d be surprised. If you read the transcript of the cross-examination of Bryan by Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Trial, you’ll see that Bryan was less of a literalist than modern YEC kooks. Also less of a weasel, perhaps for being less literate.

      • littlejohn
        Posted February 22, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        Well, yes, I’ve read Mencken’s account. And I was wrong about Bryon, but I did nail the category.
        And Bryon certainly was a creationist, which is all I implied.
        I think most people would be surprised at what a liberal thinker he was in politics. A true progressive.

  30. Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I guess what I wonder from that is why religion has any say on historical matters? Stick to angels dancing on the head of a pin, it makes for a much more lively theological discussion than trying to figure out where all the water went and how a boat could fit all nostril breathing animals.

  31. bsk
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    My immediate guess would be sociologist. Seriously, only sociologists and literary theorists use the word “exegesis”.

    However, it does seem to be criticising the church for “giving in” to science, so I can’t rule out the biblical literalist.

  32. Matticus
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I guess: E

  33. Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    I can’t place it, but it sounds like someone trying to be objective about the history of biblical interpretation, so I’d assume it was a philosopher (i.e. none of the above) or a non-theological religious scholar. But, depending on the context, I can imagine anyone writing this. It could even be cherry-picked from a creationist.

    *Waits for the answer.*

    • Posted February 21, 2010 at 4:54 am | Permalink

      The more I look at it, the more I get little vibes that it’s a creationist – the context is going to be an attack on those dastardly moderate Christians with their ever-so-flexible hermeneutics.

      *But still waiting patiently.*

  34. JamesK
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m going with “e” though I agree saying Noah is a catholic saint is sketchy.

  35. George
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Two authors – c and e

  36. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    It contains important theological truth, but no history.

    Apparently a “theological truth” is a falsehood.

    • ChrisF
      Posted February 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      The line about “theological truth” struck me as well. It sounds like something Alister McGrath might say. So, (b) a liberal, non-literalist theologican?

  37. Posted February 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Am I the first to suggest Dawkins?

    • Flea
      Posted February 21, 2010 at 4:19 am | Permalink

      oh! I was not aware there was another Dawkins…

      • littlejohn
        Posted February 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        He’s obviously referring to Bill Dawkins, my plumber. Nice fellow, but needs to pull his pants up a bit.

  38. piero
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    “To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient”

    This suggests to me that the author is a creationist.

  39. Cliff Melick
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    C – for a whole host of reasons.

  40. Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    The style looks like Mano Singham’s (an atheist scientist).

  41. Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    To me it sounds to fair-minded to be from a creationist, and not opinionated enough to be from a religious scholar. I’d say it’s the sociologist.

    My second guess would be the atheist scientist, and my third choice would be “none of the above”.

  42. eyeDclare
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    My guess is creationist based mostly on the last paragraph. I’m sniffing some snide sarcasm:

    “…scientists now have the last say in important religious matters that touch on history?”

    “To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient.” (I’ve heard the word “convenient” a lot in discussion with a creationist friend.)

    putting the word myth in quotation marks

    “If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.” (The word “allowed” makes me think s/he’s implying the historian or scientist thinks they are superior to Christians which is another theme of creationists)

  43. Jamie
    Posted February 20, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    You may all laugh but this sounds exactly like Kent Hovind to me. I can think of no reason at all that Jerry would post a selection of his here, nevertheless I vote ‘C’.

  44. Evolution SWAT
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I guess b.

  45. Susan
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I think it’s Darwin and Wallace so doesn’t thatmake it f.

  46. SaintStephen
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 2:57 am | Permalink

    It’s either b or e, and I’m going with b.

    IMO, anybody who would say “modern naturalistic science” has to be a theologian (which is misspelled as “theologican”, btw).

  47. Steve
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    The suspense is killing me!

  48. Posted February 21, 2010 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    E. The specific person I have in mind is the (now retired) mining geologist and former YEC Glenn Morton, who accepts all the evidence for an old Earth and for evolution, and who really lays into the YECs, but *also* believes that there was a real Noah and a real Flood – though just who Glenn thinks Noah was and where and when the Flood happened may surprise you.

    (I haven’t Googled, and haven’t found the passage cited in the post. The link I’ve given was one I already knew where to find.)

  49. DavidB
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    I’m going to go with e, but it could be a complicated double or triple bluff. Maybe Richard Dawkins???

    My main reason for choosing e is that the way the word ‘exegesis’ is used strikes me as a theological term-of-art, but the tone of the piece is wrong for a ‘liberal’ theologian or a creationist.

    Also the reference to pre-christian ‘saints’ suggests some degree of theological knowledge. Christian theologians do indeed regard Noah and a few other Old Testament figures as ‘sanctified’.

  50. FrankN.Stein
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    Really hard to say without knwoing the rest of it. The excerpt is just a starting point that doesn’t relly say much about the direction the whole thing takes.
    An atheist scientist might see the described developement as a chance for the chruch to change their methods, while a creationist can start from that point to describe the dangers of modern science.

  51. Posted February 21, 2010 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    My choice would be b. This looks more like a theologian to me.

  52. Posted February 21, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I’ll vote for creationist, and add: rather YEC and/or IDiot one.

  53. DavidB
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Whoever wrote it, the sentence ‘Modern naturalistic science has found no room for a flood, global or local’ is very careless. Local floods are commonplace, and any ‘scientific’ interpreter of ancient myths might well invoke some local or regional flood to account for the Noah story.

    I Googled the phrase ‘modern naturalistic science’, and it does seem to be used mainly by Christian propagandists, including ID’ers.

  54. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Not exactly a fun game on this side, as there is too little to make a test or even place likelihoods, say on word counts.

    [Chooses linear #1 - a mapping, spins random number generator] Random outcome 30 % #2, so b it is.

    • Occam
      Posted February 21, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      With a Fog index of 9.92 and a Lexical Density of 52.82%, this excerpt ranks below the average theological, philosophical, or scientific text. Paul Nelson’s texts at Discovery have an even lower Lexical Density (46-49%) but occasionally a higher Fog index. No time for serious statistical work, but randomly selected creationist-cum-pseudoscientific texts of comparable length and import match this rough pattern. Visual inspection of Word Clouds generated from these texts tends to support this impression. So, c. But there’s something not quite kosher here, to judge by the Word Clouds: as if it was co-authored or co-edited. (I’m growing a giraffe’s neck for sticking it out so far; waiting for the chop.)

      • Posted February 21, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Occam, that’s the name: Paul Nelson! Maybe not alone, which could explain the Δ you observe.

  55. Richie P
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Ken Ham possibly? I reckon it’s going to end up being somebody stupid like that.

  56. David Ratnasabapathy
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The first sentence, “The Bible seems to teach that there was a global flood…” lets us dismiss c, d and e (Creationist, atheist scientist and non-theological religious scholar). The Bible doesn’t “seem” to teach a global flood. It does teach a global flood; and these groups admit it.

    Paragraph 2 describes the historical position of Christianity and implies that it has weight. This rules out b, the liberal non-literalist theologian. Paragraph 3 also rules out the liberal theologian. The phrase “Modern naturalistic science” is typically used to disparage science, which isn’t completely characteristic of a liberal theologian.

    That leaves “a”, a sociologist. But sociologists (the bad ones) use words like “narrative” and “paradigm” and “praxis”; the good ones are scientists, and are already ruled out. Also, bad sociologists can’t write plain English. So it can’t be a sociologist.

    So, f. None of the above.


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