Monday, August 5, 2013

Unbelievable Indeed

Faith as Pseudoscience...

Last week Justin Brierly hosted on his radio program (and podcast) Unbelievable a much anticipated episode addressing Young Earth Creationism versus its more sensible alternatives.  Does the Rock and Fossil Record Point to Noah's Flood or Evolution? ought to be finished science, but biblicists clinging to long supplanted theories of geologic catastrophism hold out hope and continue throw around a lot of sciency chaff to impress the faithful.

Young Earther and Intelligent Design proponent (?) Andy Macintosh's commitment to his conclusions marks his efforts as pseudoscience - choosing facts to fit beliefs.  His primary tool appears to be an "argument from incredulity" - a PhD chemist can't imagine a complex idea from outside his discipline so therefore it couldn't happen.  For example, he apparently regards bird feathers as both irreducibly complex and obviously unrelated to reptile scales.  If Professor Macintosh had studied the literature with an open mind (or spent 30 seconds entering the Google search terms: evo devo scales feathers fur) he'd understand that the study of evolutionary development has long offered credible postulates for the expression variously of scales, feathers, and fur over time.  The most accessible paper served up may be Which Came First, the Feather or the Bird? American Scientific, March 2003.  

Professor Macintosh's opponent in the discussion was Cambridge paleontologist Robert Asher, who did his best to defend a more scientific view of biological origins and development.  It was a tough and testy slog.

On a much more rewarding note, I just listened to Krista Tippett's uncut interview with David Montgomery (author of The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood) for the 1 August 2013 On Being episode titled Reading the Rocks: Flood Stories and Deep Time.  Haven't listened to the produced podcast, but the raw dialogue is sometimes more fun.  Tippett's is the other religious podcast I enjoy regularly (I listen to Bill Craig's Reasonable Faith podcast too, but primarily because it irritates me so).

UPDATE: Ouch! The follow on episode was much worse and horribly sad. The mountain of flawed thought processes required to resolve Professor McIntosh's cognitive dissonance must be an extremely heavy burden. Ironically, his fideist biblicism is a greater threat to Christianity than any angry atheist. And to think he was once a scientist. Poor fellow. It's quite sad actually, but do let's keep this man away from the science classroom!

Artist's impression of the world's most ancient bird species, Aurornis xui, from

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

From the front of the queue to the "read it" shelf...

I finished Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth last evening.  I bumped it to the top of my "to read" list after the shabby treatment Aslan received on Fox.

There is little in Zealot not already covered by White, Frederiksen, or even Ehrman, but Aslan has a very engaging story telling style so the The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth feels more accessible.  

UPDATE: The plot thins...