Oh dear. Uncle Karl Giberson, formerly of BioLogos, and someone I thought had long since stopped osculating the rump of creationism, is back again at PuffHo with a spirited defense of Americans’ right to be ignorant about evolution.
Four days ago Greg Mayer reported on the inanities of Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida who made the following creationist statement in an interview with GQ:
I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
There was strong pushback from writers, including Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan, and even conservative columnist Ross Douthat, who argued that identifying conservatism with anti-evolutionism is a losing strategy:
But the goal of Christianity is supposed to be the conversion of every human heart — yes, scientists and intellectuals included — and the central claim of Christianity is that the faith offers, not a particular political agenda or an economic program, but the true story of the world entire. The more Christians convince themselves that their faith’s core is identical withthe modern innovation of fundamentalism, and in direct conflict with the best available modern biology and geology, the less attainable that goal and the less tenable that central claim.
(I’ll ignore Douthat’s false claim that the idea of a young earth, or creationism as a Biblical claim that’s literally true, is a “modern innovation.” That’s just wrong, no matter how many times you cite—as does Douthat—St. Augustine on literalism.)
Enter “Uncle” Karl Giberson (who is about to lose his affectionate nickname)—the one person willing to defend Rubio’s ignorance. In a piece at PuffHo, “Marco Rubio’s geological cliff,” Giberson excuses Rubio’s ignorance and then blames it on—wait for it—us atheists!
He first claims that Rubio is honestly ignorant rather than wilfully or deceptively so:
We need to step back and ask how these “controversies” might be adjudicated by conservative religious people who are not members of the scientific community — people like Rubio. What does evolution, the Big Bang and the age of the earth look like to lay people who are not investigating such questions from a scholarly perspective?
(I am giving Rubio the benefit of the doubt here about his honesty. I have no reason to believe he was lying to GQ in the interview. In fact, what little I know about Rubio suggests that speaking truthfully is probably important to him, although not without its political challenges.)
I wouldn’t be as charitable as Karl. Is there any intelligent person out there who doesn’t know the scientific consensus on the age of the earth, and that it’s about 4.6 billion years old? If there is such a person, then he’s either lying about the issue or, if genuinely ignorant, is too ignorant to hold an important elected office. It’s not hard in this day and age to find out how old is the planet on which we stand.
But then Karl goes on to show how easy it is for intelligent people to believe in a young earth. All you have to do is listen to what religion says, and simply stop your ears and go “nah-nah-nah-nah” when science speaks:
For starters, it is simply not true that “all educated people accept evolution, the Big Bang, and the great age of the earth,” and only ignoramuses think otherwise. Groups like Answers in Genesis, the Discovery Institute and the Institute for Creation Research aggressively market the impressive academic credentials of their staff scientists. The Discovery Institute has compiled a list of hundreds of scientists with Ph.D.s who “dissent from Darwin.” Answers in Genesis has a former college biology professor on staff and publishes a “peer reviewed” journal. One of America’s best-known anti-evolutionists is tenured in biochemistry at Lehigh University. There are entire universities — Liberty, Bob Jones, Patrick Henry, Cedarville — where faculty sign faith statements rejecting evolution.
Correction: I believe Michael Behe of Lehigh University, as do most of the Discovery Institute people, accept that the earth is old. But Karl continues:
Answers in Genesis spends $20 million a year assuring conservative Christians that evolution, with its ancient earth, is a decaying fossil of a theory, that scientists are abandoning it, and that the evidence is clearly on the side of the biblical story of creation. They also argue that evolution and an ancient earth contradict Christian beliefs and undermine the authority of the Bible.
This is what people like Rubio are likely to hear in their churches, read in their Christian literature, learn in their Christian schools, consume in their Christian media.
Well what the hell do they hear in their science classes, or on television or in the newspapers? Do they limit their education to the “Christian media”? If so, then then have no right to hold elected office—indeed, to be considered “educated people” at all! Karl, what are you thinking: that an “educated” person can be called such if he listens only to religious authorities?
But of course this is not the fault of those religious people who lie about the age of the earth, or their minions who choose not to learn about what science tells us. No, it’s those bloody atheists who turn Christians off to science!:
But suppose that 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. “
This is bullshit. There is nowhere in WEIT, for instance, that I say that belief in God must be rejected if science is to be taken seriously. Elsewhere, but not in my book, I’ve argued that belief in a theistic God and science creates cognitive dissonance, but what Karl says about WEIT is simply a lie, and I call on him to retract that claim.
And doesn’t Giberson know that there are plenty of straight science books, or books by accommodationists like Ken Miller (a Catholic) or even Francis Collins (an evangelical Christian), that accept both evolution and an old earth?
Finally, Giberson loses all claim to the title “Uncle” by telling this 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.
That is about the biggest falsehood I’ve ever heard come out of Karl’s mouth. For every book by someone like Stenger claiming an incompatibility between science and faith, there are at least two dozen showing how faith and science are compatible. Here are some of their authors: John Polkinghorne, Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, Ian Barbour, John Haught, Ken Miller, Francisco Ayala, Francis Collins, Nicholas Humphrey, and so on and so on and so on. Believe me: I’ve perused the shelves of the University of Chicago Library for “science and religion” books, and the vast majority are acommodationist ones. And I’ve read all of the authors cited above. Books claiming incompatibility of the two areas are very thin on the ground.
Karl, you must retract your entire column or you will no longer be called “Uncle.” That was a very bad piece of journalism, full of misrepresentations—deliberate or otherwise. And you should be ashamed, after all your work trying to convince Christians to accept evolution, that you now excuse the ignorance of those Christians, blame it on atheists, and argue that there aren’t many books reconciling faith and science. All of those claims are, pure and simple, falsehoods. You should know better.
h/t: Doc Bill and Kink