The Case for a Creator: Authorities

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 2

In the second chapter, Strobel spends some time telling us how he only became an atheist because he was thereby freed from “having to abide by those pesky rules of ethics and morality” [p.25]. I’ve already addressed this point, but I’ll add that this claim casts further doubt on Strobel’s claim to have once been an atheist. The reasoning he attributes to his past self lines up perfectly with Christian apologetic stereotypes, but is entirely dissonant with every atheist’s deconversion story that I’ve ever read or heard of.

No person I’ve ever known has become an atheist just because they wanted to live a life of hedonism and debauchery. What would be the point? If you’re determined to sin, you can do it perfectly well from within the church, as we have countless examples to demonstrate. None of these renowned hypocrites ever claimed to be atheists either during or after their misdeeds. In fact, you’d arguably be better off staying a Christian, since that faith promises forgiveness to those who repent their transgressions.

The imputation of deliberately insincere, bad-faith motives to atheists is a common theme in “ex-atheist” Christian apologists. I strongly suspect that at least some of these stories are fabricated in retrospect for the benefit of their believing audience – “I became an atheist because I wanted to rebel against God!” is a suitably shocking and lurid claim likely to conform to readers’ preconceptions and sell books. On the other hand, it’s also possible that it’s only that subset of atheists, who deconvert for bad or irrational reasons, who are more likely to convert back to Christianity.

But there’s a different assertion in this section that also merits skepticism:

My approach would be to cross-examine authorities in various scientific disciplines about the most current findings in their fields. [p.28]

Note: authorities. Not just qualified, practicing scientists whose professional interest is the topic in question (although several of Strobel’s interviewees don’t even meet that bar, as we’ll see), but authorities – a term which implies a preeminent degree of achievement and expertise recognized as such by other workers in that field.

In earlier books like The Case for Christ, where the topic is early Christian history and theology, Strobel could legitimately claim to be interviewing authorities. After all, most of the people interested in that topic are Christian believers themselves, which is undoubtedly why they chose to pursue that line of work. But in this book, it is most emphatically not the case.

What Strobel tries hard to cover up is that the vast, overwhelming majority of scientists working in these fields – genetics, paleontology, developmental biology, taxonomy, and so on – firmly support the theory of evolution, and soundly reject the creationist alternative that he pushes in this book. To get around this problem, Strobel engages in a highly selective form of cherry-picking, interviewing some of the very few scientists who have given their support to creationism. (In fact, as we’ll see, there are so few that he interviews one of them twice.) Like pseudoscientists of all kinds, he engages in this tactic to create the impression of a raging scientific controversy, when in fact, the scientific community and the published literature are all but unanimous in support of the mainstream consensus, and most of the dissenters are motivated by clearly discernible ideological reasons. I’ll note some examples as we go along.

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