Giberson tries to clarify the causes of creationism, but just gets deeper into the muck

Last week, (formerly Uncle) Karl Giberson wrote a piece for PuffHo that, in essence, blamed the persistence of American creationism on the stridency of New Atheism,—a stridency that, he argues, forces religious people to choose between God and evolution. He also made two statements, both wrong. In the first, he argued that my book was like other New Atheist books in calling for such a choice:

But suppose that [Marco] Rubio decided to pursue these questions in more detail and, not knowing any actual geologists, went to a well-stocked bookstore and purchased a cross section of popular science books explaining evolution, the Big Bang, and the age of the earth. In all likelihood the authors of these books would be some of America’s most vocal and anti-religious atheists — Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Daniel Dennett, Vic Stenger. And the books would argue with a suspicious passion that belief in God must be rejected if one is to take science seriously. Some of the books would have titles like “God: The Failed Hypothesis. “

Of course my book says nothing about having to reject God if you want to accept science. That was annoying. But Giberson then told a bigger whopper:

Even a diligent search would turn up but a few books explaining how contemporary scientific ideas can be understood within the framework of traditional Christianity.

I would almost classify this as a bald-faced lie, for there are elebenty gazillion books trying to reconcile science and traditional Christianity, and Giberson has to know this. (This is what Dan Dennett calls “faith-fibbing,” something to which Giberson has admitted before.) I’ve read many such books, and the University of Chicago library has huge shelves full of accommodationist tomes.  Among them I find only a few books claiming that science and Christianity are incompatible.  I called Karl out for his willful ignorance, for misleading people about my book and, above all, for blaming the persistence of creationism on strident atheists.

Perhaps stung by my criticisms here, Giberson has tried to clarify his ideas in yet another PuffHo piece, “Young earth creationism is a threat to American survival.” (He notes that he may not have been clear in his first post, but it is of course a writer’s duty to be clear.)  Yet his “clarification” only makes things worse.

But first let me acknowledge that Giberson did retract what he said about my book—though he doesn’t retract his misstatement about the paucity of accommodationist books. In an addendum, he says this:

I also note, as a clarification of my previous piece, ‘Marco Rubio’s Fiscal Cliff,’ that I did not intend to imply that Jerry Coyne’s excellent book, ‘Why Evolution is True,’ is itself hostile to general belief in God. My point was that Coyne is a highly visible crusader for atheism.

Fine, but if that was his point, why didn’t he say it?

But that’s trivial. What’s more important is Giberson going off the cliff about creationism again. This time, though, he argues that (as implied by the title of his piece, it’s a threat to American survival. How is that?  Will our country really go down the tubes if only 16% of Americans continue to accept naturalistic evolution?  Karl explains:

I worry a lot about people who believe the earth is a few thousand years old, for example. I don’t see how they can possibly think clearly about the issue of energy. If the earth is 10,000 years old, then there is no such thing as fossil fuels. The oil in the ground could not have originated from fossils laid down 4,000 years ago in Noah’s great flood, which is what young earth creationists believe. Fossil fuels, in this view, are not the result of hundreds of millions of years of organic change. Their origin is a mystery.

Knowing how our planetary fuels originated should inform deliberations about the best price for gas, the optimal EPA targets for fuel economy, and the level of subsidy for alternative fuels. And geologists are a critically important part of this conversation.

This, of course, is completely wrong. Much as I decry creationism, I can’t bring myself to say that it prevents people from thinking clearly about the issue of energy. How much oil and fossil fuel we have is a fact regardless of how those “fossil” fuels were formed.  They’re finite, even if God made them, and nobody is saying that God is going to give us more. And learning to deal with those limits doesn’t depend on your belief on how fuels were formed.

Now other religious perspectives may be problematic here, including the idea that humans have a right to plunder out planet because God made us his stewards. Similar irrationalist thinking may lead people to deny global warming.  But those are problems not of creationism, but of its root cause: religion.

Much as I’d like to see Americans accept the truth of evolution, I’d like even more to see them reject religion. For creationism is only one symptom of religion, and there are many other symptoms far more pernicious. I needn’t list them here, since we all know them: many are instantiated in the doctrines of Islam or Catholicism. Compared to throwing acid in the faces of Afghan schoolgirls, teaching creationism to high-school students is trivial.  Creationism kills nobody.

I want Americans to learn good science, but trying to eliminate creationism without eliminating religion is like trying to cure smallpox by applying wet rags to the forehead: it alleviates symptoms but the disease remains. If Karl were to write an honest piece, he’d admit that.

What he does instead is to continue blaming the persistence of creationism on those who attack creationists (read: strident atheists like Dawkins and me). In other words, Giberson echoes Nicholas Wade’s misguided piece in this week’s science section of the New York Times.  Giberson:

I have spent decades deep inside American evangelicalism. When I first engaged the origins controversy I thought the solution to the problem of anti-evolution was simple: provide evidence and people will change their minds. False things should be easily trumped by true things. And today I find many of my younger colleagues wading into this controversy with the same naïve optimism.

But after decades of huffing and puffing and blowing on the straw house of creationism, it still stands. If anything, creationism has only become more popular, even while the evidence refuting it has grown steadily stronger.

Why might that be?  (Actually, I don’t think creationism has become more popular; statistics show it remaining steady over the past few decades). According to Giberson, because we attack people like Marco Rubio who espouse creationism!

We will never resolve the issue of widespread scientific illiteracy if we simply attack public figures that reject evolution or an ancient earth. That does nothing but steel the reserve of those propagandists who make their living undermining science. The young earth creationist worldview is couched in a larger theological framework that takes “spiritual warfare” seriously. . .

Last year I published “The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age” (with Harvard University Press) examining the structures of authority within evangelicalism and how they empower what looks like a confident rejection of mainstream science. These and other books from people like Chris Mooney and Michael Ruse (both atheists) are our attempts to raise the right sort of alarm about broad cultural currents in American society. Assaulting public figures who express these cultural currents turns them into heroes.

ORLY, Karl?  Have attacks on creationism turned exponents like Ronald Reagan, Marco Rubio, or the many Republicans who deny evolution, into heroes? (I won’t say anything about Mooney and Ruse raising “the right sort of alarm”; these men are accommodationists who only enable creationism.) Remember this moment from the Republican presidential debates before the 2008 elections?

Tancredo, Huckabee, and Brownback heroes? I think not. They may be heroes to Republicans because of their moronic and antidemocratic views, or their fervent professions of belief in Jebus, but not because they deny evolution.

Giberson ends like this:

We should be worrying about the more than 100 million Americans who think the earth is 10,000 years old and trying to figure out how that happened. Rubio is simply an expression of that large problem and attacking him is nothing more than the proverbial assault on the messenger.

I worry more about the 92% of Americans who profess belief in God. If you’re looking for the answer of why so many Americans think that the Earth is 10,000 years old, the answer lies in that 92%.  I’m not exactly sure why Americans are so religious, though I suspect it’s because the U.S. is more dysfunctional than the egalitarian and caring societies of Europe.

But it doesn’t matter.  There is only one way to get rid of creationism, and that’s to get rid of religion—at least those brands of religion that are inimical to science. (And remember that even adherents to “mainstream” faiths are wary of evolution. Despite the Catholic Church’s official acceptance of evolution, for instance, 27% of Catholics believe that species were created by God and have remained unchanged ever since.) Sadly, nearly all brands of religion are inimical to science, even if their adherents won’t admit it.

I would be delighted if Giberson would admit that the root cause of creationism is religion, and not just fundamentalist or evangelical religion. And while he’s admitting that, perhaps he should examine his own beliefs.  Since Giberson is so wedded to scientific evidence, why on earth does he remain an evangelical Christian? Why does he have “faith” about Jesus when there’s not a whit of evidence for Jesus’s divinity, or even the existence of a Christian God? This cognitive dissonance is unseemly for someone who thinks that America is doomed unless its citizens start becoming more rational about our world.

 

67 Comments

  1. Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    “We should be worrying about the more than 100 million Americans who think the earth is 10,000 years old and trying to figure out how that happened. Rubio is simply an expression of that large problem and attacking him is nothing more than the proverbial assault on the messenger”

    This is ridiculous. Rubio is part of those willfully ignorant 100 million and showing that he’s wrong is exactly the same as saying those 100 million are wrong. It’s not an attack, it’s telling the truth. It’s a shame when someone like Gibberson evidently buys into the martyr complex of Christians who want a free hand to tell whatever lies they wish.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      As I commented on another post, Rubio is not ignorant, wilfully or otherwise, about this – he knows exactly what the right answer is. He avoids answering the question directly because he’s trying to appeal to the ignorant 100 million.

      We should be attacking Rubio for putting himself forward as a leader while being economical with the truth. But we should also be trying to reach the 100 million to explain why we know the real age of the Earth.

      And those two things very closely related.

      Mike.

      • gbjames
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        How do you know that Rubio isn’t willfully ignorant?

        • NoAstronomer
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

          Because he waffled on the answer. If he honestly believed the Earth is only 6,000 years old he would have said so.

          Instead he dodged the question because he knew that saying so would make him look like an idiot.

          Mike.

          • gbjames
            Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

            A believer might waffle, too, being embarrassed to admit believing in what educated adults generally consider a silly idea.

          • NoAstronomer
            Posted November 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

            (replying to my own post to avoid excessive indentation)

            @gbjames

            I would contend that anyone who is too embarrased to admit believing what educated adults generally consider a silly idea doesn’t truly believe that idea.

          • gbjames
            Posted November 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know… that would mean that one could never be embarrassed by one’s beliefs.

    • RF
      Posted December 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      I’m not really up on what criticism JAC has written of Rubio, or what remarks Rubio has made that prompted the remarks, but criticizing someone who endorses a point of view is quite different from shooting, or “assaulting”, the messenger. The whole concept of “messenger” refers to someone who is simply relaying information, and is not promoting any ideological point of view.

  2. Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This is actually a very commonplace conservative tactic. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been told homophobia exists because of gay pride parades. It has nothing to do with thousands of years of patriarchy (endorsed unanimously by monotheistic religions)…

  3. gbjames
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    sub

    • jimroberts
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      sub

  4. truthspeaker
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    “Even a diligent search would turn up but a few books explaining how contemporary scientific ideas can be understood within the framework of traditional Christianity.”

    Even if that were true, that would be the fault of Christian scientists, not non-Christian scientists. If a non-Christian scientist tried to write such a book, he would be pilloried by Christians, and rightly so. We non-Christians don’t understand Christian ideas and are not qualified to try to reconcile them with reality, and it would be condescending for us to attempt to do so.

    • Christian
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      But aren’t some accommodationists like Ruse doing exactly that?
      If I remember correctly he has been criticized by JAC for doing this “reconciliation work” for the theists while he himself still remains an atheist.

      But it’s true, if I were a believer I would sure ask myself why this guy doesn’t convert if he thinks that these “reconciliations” he espouses are so compelling. Apparently they’re not so convincing after all but somehow they’re supposed to be good enough for me.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      That may be the truth as you see it, but the facts (as of 2010) are clearly problematic for your truth:

      “The Pew Forum on Religious Religion and Public Life released a survey on religious knowledge today. Atheists and Agnostics scored higher on it than anyone else, closely followed by Jews and Mormons, all Christians, Protestants and Catholics, were far behind.

      That’s overall, but when you get into specific religions it does show a startling lack of basic knowledge by practitioners.”

      And:

      “Why are Atheists and Agnostics better informed? The Los Angeles Times quotes one of the researchers who has a theory:

      “American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

      “These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.””

      Also interesting is that Black Protestants and Latino Catholics scored at the bottom of the survey.” [My bold]

      Also interesting here: specifically some of Marco Rubio‘s constituents would be Latino Catholics, I assume. (His parents are Cuban, he is catholic. Ref: Wikipedia.)

      In comparison atheists could likely hold forth on the general subject and the specific ideas of religion.

      Agreed on the condescending part though.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

        You’re right, of course.

        I guess what I meant is a Christian scientist would be more likely to understand what Christians themselves believe “traditional” Christian beliefs to be, and would be more qualified to present scientific knowledge in such a way as to be compatible with them. She would certainly be more credible than a non-Christian scientist, because she actually shares those beliefs.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          Agreed.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        OT, but more than half of the protestants didn’t know which the founder of their religion was!

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

          “who”.

        • Christian
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          And I guess it looks even worse if you take out the Lutherans (because they obviously have an unfair advantage) :D

          • RF
            Posted December 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            I wonder whether there are any Lutherans who think that their denomination (and Lutheranism is a denomination, not a religion) is named after Martin Luther King.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          To be fair, I’m sure many of them consider Jesus to be the founder of their religion. Isn’t the whole point of Protestantism to cut out the middlemen of Church history and hierarchy and go directly to the source?

  5. Ray Moscow
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I still don’t see how those who cling to belief in a ‘Creator’ can reject at least dilute form of Creationism. The only question is the form of Creationism that they hold.

    Creationism is not an aberation of theism — it’s an integral part of theism.

    It’s simple to see in Christianity: just look at the creeds, e.g., the Nicene Creed:
    ‘We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.’

    Among educated Christians, you’ll find many arguments about what ‘maker’ means, and how the texts are not meant to be taken ‘literally’, but it all comes back to Creationism.

    • Christian
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Among educated Christians, you’ll find many arguments about what ‘maker’ means, and how the texts are not meant to be taken ‘literally’, but it all comes back to Creationism.

      I always wonder how they figured that out. Apparently the authors of the biblical texts knew a lot more than we would expect of bronze or iron age people. They just expressed themselves clumsily so that subsequent generations took their writings literally, not noticing what the authors “really” meant.
      Yeah, that must be it.

    • Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      exactly, Ray. Theism requires creationism. It is a relationship between how ignorant and/or how afraid the particular creationist is and how ridiculous his verion of “creation” is.

      This is why I find little difference between types of Christian. They all have the same ridiculous claims pouring from their mouths.

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

        All who believe in a religion, have to discount evolution. There is not one SDB (single deity-based) religion that can successfully align or coexist with the theories and facts of evolution. It’s akin to balancing a shovel on the tip of its handle: momentarily, you could pull your hand away, and take a picture, but really, there is no permanence, substance, or meaning to any attempted accommodation between SDB-religions and evolution.

        (SDBed, as apart from some “way of living” (e.g. some forms of Buddhism, etc) so-called religions.

  6. thd
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    What about Obama?
    Has Obama’s agnosticism on the age of the universe yet been discussed on this blog?

    “Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?

    A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.”

    That’s basically the “I’m not a scientist, Bro!” position.

    He does personally believe in evolution though.

    • Rhetoric
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Classic Christian.

      The OT is all allegory and rules just for Jews, except for the parts that are literal (obviously). The NT is all literal (except for the parts that aren’t!).

    • Gary W
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Has Obama’s agnosticism on the age of the universe yet been discussed on this blog?

      Yes, that statement of Obama’s is awful. Maybe not as bad as what Rubio said, but still awful.

      But they’re politicians. Dissembling is part of their job.

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. If he said much in another way, he’d be accused of cloaking his Muslim beliefs!!

        A reminder: in the 1930s, the State of California elected an atheist governor, Culbert Olson. He was raised a Mormon, became an atheist at age ten.

        He was also a unrepentant racist.

  7. NoAstronomer
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “how contemporary scientific ideas can be understood within the framework of traditional Christianity.”

    Except that there is no belief set that can reliably be defined as ‘traditional Christianity’. Therefore this sentence I took the quote from has no relevance whatsoever.

    Mike.

  8. Chris
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    The most annoying part of this whole ‘strident atheism is the cause of creationism’ is that the timeline so obviously falsifies it. Atheism didn’t really ‘rise’ until 9/11, with a big boost from the Internet, the God Delusion, etc. It’s a recent phenomenon, possibly still in its early stages. Yet creationism, as Jerry notes, has been holding steady for decades. So atheism simply •can’t be• the cause of creationism.

    • RF
      Posted December 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Atheism is a recent phenomenon? Do you want to rephrase that?

  9. eric
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    We should be worrying about the more than 100 million Americans who think the earth is 10,000 years old and trying to figure out how that happened.

    We know how. How is blatantly obvious. Dr. Gilberson just refuses to see it. Carl, since you can’t seem to see the writing on the wall, here’s how:
    1. They open their bible.
    2. They read genesis.
    3. They listen to their pastor.
    4. Their interpretation of #2, and #3, both tell them the earth is around/less than 10,000 years old. That species were created separately, by God, in pretty much the form they have now.
    5. They therefore believe the earth is 10,000 years old, evolution is a lie, etc.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, for probably 99% of creationists, bible and pastor are the how behind creationist beliefs.

    Now, like NoAstronomer, I don’t think the above applies to Rubio. Rubio’s ‘how’ goes more like this:
    1. Determines constituents include many creationists.
    2. Chooses to keep statements about a divisive issue as neutal as possible so as to retain as much public support from both creationists and noncreationists as possible.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      To considerable astonishment, Pat Robertson recently came out against YECiannicalism.

      • Christian
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        Heh! The Hamster must be fuming because this means even ole Pat considers his Park to be bogus.

        • Hempenstein
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Good point! I’d love to see them dueling over that.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted November 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          Yup, Hammy the pig rapist is indeed all a twitter over Robertson’s “defection”.

          http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/au/hocus-pocus

          because donchya know, Theistic Evolution starts with T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for POOL!!!

        • Mark Joseph
          Posted December 2, 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

          Tom, the “Sensuous Curmudgeon,” discusses this in amusing detail at:
          http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/answers-in-genesis-rebukes-pat-robertson/

          Best line: “This kind of food-fight is inevitable, of course, because unlike science, religion has no rational mechanism for dispute resolution. In matters of dogma where there’s no evidence for a belief, it’s all about faith. That always leads to factions and fanaticism.”

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Ironically the article got the age of the universe wrong. (Perhaps a typo on a rounded figure, but anyway.)

  10. Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    §

  11. Kevin
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Well, creationism might not directly kill people, but creationists have been known to pray their children to death rather than get them $4 worth of antibiotics, or insulin for Type I diabetes.

    The farther to the right of rational one’s religious beliefs are, the more likely one is to behave irrationally in other areas.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are full-on YECers, refuse blood transfusions, even if they’re life-saving. So…they die. Happens all the time.

    Christian Scientists prayed my great-grandmother to death. I watched them do it. Those fuckers I hate with a white-hot passion.

    But the difficulty in defining “religion” as the problem is that the distribution curve is so broad. My parents are garden-variety liberal Episcopalians. They wouldn’t think for a second that the Genesis stories are literal. Nor that Ussher’s hypothesis with regard to the age of the Earth (and universe) is correct. And I got plenty of antibiotics as a kid.

    Moving the Overton window by attacking creationism seems to me to be far more productive than attacking the entire range of all religions.

    Karen Armstrong’s Allah-who-doesn’t-do-anything isn’t a threat to science. Ken Ham’s dinosaur-riding Jesus is.

    • Sastra
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      I think the problem with this position becomes clearer when the relationship between religion and pseudoscience is pointed out. Religious claims about reality are based as much on reason, evidence, and experience as they are on ‘faith.’ Faith is simply an overt commitment to subjectively validate what you learn and interpret from reason, evidence, and experience. It’s protection, an immunizing strategy.

      In pseudoscience, this same commitment is simply more covert. But it’s equally intellectually dishonest.

      The distribution curve for pseudoscience is also very broad. It runs from exaggerated but harmless claims about vitamins to seriously deranged assertions about psychic powers, talking to the dead, and YEC.

      You could certainly attack them one by one — go after alien abductions but leave 9/11 conspiracy theories alone, say. But it’s hard to justify doing so on the principle that going after the ones which aren’t as “extreme” isn’t productive. When it gets right down to it, the common fallacies and errors in thinking which bind them all together ARE the problem. Not the individual results. They’re a crap shoot.

      Find the root cause. Don’t say homeopathy is “okay” as long as it isn’t supposed to be used for cancer or anything serious.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        I agree with this. Well said, Sastra.

    • Posted November 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      Criticising the very concept of faith, that is, belief without evidence, is the way to open the Overton window wide enough to let in the fresh air so we all can breathe better. The liberal faith-heads will appear not so liberal without their fundamentalist brothers and sisters, so focusing on the nonsense of religious faith right from the start is more comprehensive and consistent than only having the fundies in target range.

    • Gary W
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      But the difficulty in defining “religion” as the problem is that the distribution curve is so broad. My parents are garden-variety liberal Episcopalians. They wouldn’t think for a second that the Genesis stories are literal.

      Do they think that faith is a legitimate basis for belief? Then they’re part of the problem. I agree with Sam Harris that “moderate” Christians are enablers of fundamentalism. If it’s okay to believe through faith that God wants you to love your fellow man then it’s okay to believe through faith that Allah wants you to hijack planes and fly them into buildings.

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

        It is exactly why the USA has difficulty in imposing its will in Afghanistan, Iraq, or any other theocracy: Those indigenous Muslims ultimately believe that the US’s ultimate goal is to further Christianity.

        If the situation were reversed, that’s what they would do!!

  12. Posted November 30, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    “How much oil and fossil fuel we have is a fact regardless of how those “fossil” fuels were formed. They’re finite, even if God made them, and nobody is saying that God is going to give us more.”
    Unfortunately some people are saying exactly that or something that amounts to it. Much to my surprise, I’ve heard YECs denying that those resources were limited and explicitly saying that God would provide oil to men until the Apocalypse. That’s the thing: the flipside of YEC is belief in the imminent end of the world. But yes, that is absolutely one more argument in favor of targeting religion as a whole instead of just creationism.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      That’s the Dominionist viewpoint.

      Ronald Reagan appointed James Watt as Secretary of the Interior. He was a Dominionist. He fully believes that Jesus will come when the last tree is felled and the last drop of oil is burned.

      He did not do his job very well.

    • thd
      Posted November 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      The abiotic oil thesis is, as far as I can see, not motivated by religion, but falls into the domain of secular conspiracy theory and pseudoscience.

      But abiotic oil certainly would fit into the young earth creationist framework. I hope that no creationist reads this. I surely don’t want to give them any ideas.

      The much larger problem is that oil scarcity and peak oil have unfortunately not even been grasped or fully taken into consideration by governments and secular institutions.

      The political debate about energy is mired in magical thinking across the political spectrum.

      • Gary W
        Posted November 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        The much larger problem is that oil scarcity and peak oil have unfortunately not even been grasped or fully taken into consideration by governments and secular institutions

        “Peak oil” seems to be one of those vacuous buzzwords, like “sustainability,” that lacks a clear accepted meaning. There doesn’t seem to be any expert consensus about the size of global oil reserves or future demand and supply. Claims that we’re on the verge of a catastrophic oil shortage go back at least as far as the 1970s, forty years ago, so people have learned to take them with a grain of salt.

        • Posted December 1, 2012 at 5:35 am | Permalink

          I see you still haven’t learned about exponential growth. Too bad.

          b&

          • Gary W
            Posted December 1, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            I’m not sure why you think uttering the words “exponential growth” is any kind of rebuttal to what I wrote.

        • gbjames
          Posted December 1, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

          “There doesn’t seem to be any expert consensus about the size of global oil reserves…”

          Ergo, no problem!

          • Posted December 1, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

            Plus, of course, there actually is consensus, of under two trillion barrels. The lack of consensus that Gary’s referring to is whether it’s closer to 1.3 Tbbl or 1.6 Tbbl or the like.

            Gary’s also likely to suggest that maybe we should include tar sands and other very low quality reserves in that figure, completely overlooking the expense and waste and inefficiencies involved in exploiting them. But, hey! Technically, they’re oil and they’re in reserve, so we should think of them as no different from Brent sweet crude!

            The problem isn’t that all the world’s oil wells are going to suddenly run dry all at once. The problem is that it’s already getting more and more expensive to extract what oil’s left. Long gone are the days when you had to be careful with your pickaxe in Texas lest you set off a gusher; Deepwater Horizon had a wellhead as far below the waves as Denver is above them, and then they had to drill through more rock than Everest is tall to reach the oil — and there’re plenty of wells out there in production today that’re even more desperate.

            And it’s only going to get worse, not better.

            And not only our transportation systems but all of modern agriculture is utterly dependent right now just on petroleum, but on cheap petroleum. Sure, in theory, we can even turn coal into crop fertilizer and tractor fuel…but do you have any idea how insanely expensive that would be? And there’re limits not only to the amount of coal in the ground, but we’re already way past any sane limits to how much carbon we should be pumping from the ground into the atmosphere.

            Chew on that for a bit….

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Gary W
              Posted December 1, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

              Your claims of consensus are simply false. There is no consensus on the size of reserves of even “conventional” oil, let alone unconventional reserves (shale, tar sands, etc.). There is no consensus regarding future costs of oil production, since that depends in part on the rate of advances in production technology, which no one can predict. There is no consensus regarding future demand for oil, since that depends in part on the rate of advances in efficiency, which no one can predict. The single largest use of oil is for motor fuel, and we already have automobile technology that can increase the efficiency of oil consumption in automobiles by a factor of 4 or 5 compared to the current average efficiency.

              • Posted December 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

                Yes, you’ve tried to make the point before that we’ve got several times as much oil as all the experts think we do.

                Do us a flavor, and provide your citations.

                How much oil do you think we have, and how do you know that number to be correct?

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted December 1, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

                Yes, you’ve tried to make the point before that we’ve got several times as much oil as all the experts think we do.

                I have not said, and do not believe, that “we’ve got several times as much oil as all the experts think we do.” I just told you that there is *no* expert consensus regarding the size of oil reserves. There is no agreement among “all the experts” on this point.

              • Posted December 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

                Then give us your high and low water marks.

                What’s the highest figure from an expert you trust, and the lowest figure?

                b&

  13. Posted November 30, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    “a stridency that, he argues, forces religious people to choose between God and evolution.”

    Good. Make them choose.

  14. Posted November 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Of course atheits are not causing YECsim. It really got going in the 1960’s with “The Genesis Flood” and then ICR was formed. It has always been a strong force within the evangelical subculture. If Giberson is right, the more vocal the atheism, the more active the YECsim. The opposite is true – activist atheism took off when the towers came down; it was a resonse to fundamentalism and did not cause the motivate reasoning. Geesh.

  15. WML
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    JAC,

    Regarding the duty to be clear, please keep in mind that while anyone who is familiar with your writings ought to know that you are a person of good will, some people who stumble upon posts like this in which you refer to getting “rid of religion” will not recognize that you advocate getting rid of religion by promoting stable societies peacefully and not through religious persecution (the historically common way of getting rid of religions).

    I was relieved that you de-avuncularized Karl. Whenever I see his last name in print, the word gibberish comes to mind.

  16. Kevin
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    “fervent professions of belief in Jebus”

    Wahey! It’s time for the favorite drinking game of the followers of Charles Fartwind.

  17. will
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Ok, he’s definately not advocating evolution now, but this counts as progress for Pat Robertson:

    “You go back in time, you’ve got radiocarbon dating. You got all these things, and you’ve got the carcasses of dinosaurs frozen in time out in the Dakotas. They’re out there. So, there was a time when these giant reptiles were on the Earth, and it was before the time of the Bible. So, don’t try and cover it up and make like everything was 6,000 years. That’s not the Bible. … If you fight science, you are going to lose your children, and I believe in telling them the way it was,” – Pat Robertson

  18. Posted November 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    These people asking us to take on YECs but not worry about Creationists in general are essentially asking us to join a theological battle on their side.

    Rather missing the point of atheism, aren’t they?

  19. Thanny
    Posted November 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Karl is closer to being correct about the energy situation.

    The limited quantity of fossil fuels is not an independent measured fact about the world. It’s an inferred fact from the model of how they were created, couple with some statistics.

    There are many among the religious right who claim that oil is *not* a fossil fuel, and is in fact being created continuously by some other process, and therefore cannot run out. Add in the well-correlated lack of belief in global warming, and Giberson’s point becomes all too salient.


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  1. [...] first HuffPo piece. It is unclear whether he now recognises it, as Jerry Coyne points out in his response to Giberson’s second kick at the can. Indeed, raising the spectre of America’s decline is scarcely the point. Karl’s problem [...]

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