The Case for a Creator: Intellectual Incuriosity

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is about the Big Bang and the cosmological argument, and we’ll get to those. But I wanted to begin by highlighting an incredible, and telling, statement by Strobel in the opening paragraphs of the chapter.

It seemed to me that the beginning of everything was a good place to start my investigation into whether the affirmative evidence of science points toward or away from a Creator. At the time, I wasn’t particularly interested in internal Christian debates over whether the world is young or old. The “when” wasn’t as important to me as the “how”… [p.94]

The first bizarreness is that Strobel calls this an “internal Christian debate”, as though only Christians were interested in how old the universe is, or as though only Christianity had the right to weigh in on that question.

But more importantly: Why on earth is Lee Strobel not interested in how old the world is? I thought this book was about science. And to quote Strobel himself from chapter 1:

“Science,” said two-time Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling, “is the search for the truth.” [p.28]

Clearly, Strobel is not interested in “the search for the truth” – since he proclaims himself to be uninterested in one of the most important questions in cosmology – which means, by his own definition, that he’s not really interested in doing science.

How can this intellectual incuriosity be reconciled with this book’s stated purpose? Where is the bold, fearless exploration of cutting-edge scientific discoveries? Where are the interviews with the experts so they can give scintillating descriptions of the amazing truths that their research has uncovered? Why does Strobel suddenly decide he doesn’t care what science has to say on just this one point?

If you’re tuned in the politics of the ID movement, you already know why this is. It’s part of the strategy concocted by ID’s godfather, Philip Johnson, who wants to build a creationist “big tent” that includes both hardcore young-earth creationists and more moderate old-earth varieties. To this end, Johnson has consistently refused to take any stand on the age of the earth, so as to alienate none of his potential allies.

That’s clearly the strategy Strobel is following here as well, which is why he treats this as a minor, irrelevant side issue, rather than one of the major and most significant discoveries in the entire field of cosmology, which it is. For the record: The universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old, as determined to high precision by probes like NASA’s WMAP. This is not a triviality, but a momentous scientific discovery, and it’s shameful how Strobel tries to dance around it.

But this episode shows something else important. For all that Strobel claims to be in favor of science, the truth is that he’s only interested in science that supports what he believes. If science comes to conclusions that are politically inconvenient, he’ll sweep them aside without a second thought. This is a lesson worth keeping in mind in later chapters.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    It’s nice to know that even creationists have their version of accomodationists…

    I’m actually somewhat serious. Trying to pretend that the question of the Earth’s age is some trivial side issue, instead of a question of enormous importance that cuts directly to the heart of creationism… simply in order to avoid an internal fight? It reminds me a lot of atheist accomodationists trying to pretend that the question of religion’s plausibility and/or harm isn’t really relevant to our conversations with believers… simply in order to avoid a fight with believers.

    If you want to set aside a divisive argument for the sake of peace, a case can sometimes be made for that. But do it honestly. Say, “I think we should set aside this divisive argument for the sake of peace.” (And then we can all fight about whether that’s a good idea or not! ;-) ) But don’t pretend that important questions aren’t important, just so you can avoid talking about them.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    The first bizarreness is that Strobel calls this an “internal Christian debate”, as though only Christians were interested in how old the universe is, or as though only Christianity had the right to weigh in on that question.

    Perhaps the reason that Strobel is only interested in an “internal Christian debate” in this context is because Strobel only cares about presenting his case in an entirely Christian perspective? I believe that a careful reading of the text makes it clear that this is the primary goal of Lee Strobel: he is building a case for Christianity using primarily Christian ideas which will then be read and consumed primarily by other Christians. “Non-Christian” facts or ideas need not apply.

    Now I know what apologists mean when they talk about presupposition: one must presuppose that one is right, and then one should ignore all evidence which contradicts one’s presupposed internal belief. Then, one should claim openly that all of the evidence was searched objectively (even if it wasn’t), and that one has an open mind to opposing evidence (even if one doesn’t). Sigh.

  • Richard P

    “is the search for the truth.”

    I have come to the conclusion that when Free thinkers and religious people talk about the search for truth they mean different things. I heard a great piece about how scientists go thru the steps to create a theory.
    # Ask a Question
    # Do Background Research
    # Construct a Hypothesis
    # Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    # Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion (create the theory).

    But I find that most religious people think that you design a theory and then look for evidence that suggests confirmation of the theory and ignore the rest. It is no wonder there is so much confusion between the skeptic world and the religious world.

  • Austin

    I took it to mean that if you were looking at whether or not the evidence points towards a Creator, why would you care if the evidence proved a young universe or and old universe, as long as it was clear that SOMEONE put it there?

  • Alex Weaver

    Strobel suffers from duplocephaly. There’s a total shocker.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Alex: He’s got giant Lego blocks in his head?

  • Alex Weaver

    Yes. The key words being “block” and “head” and the phrase referring to a pathological absence of intellectual curiosity, especially when coupled with an inability to cope with subtlety and nuance.

  • TEP

    I think a lot of religious belief is simply based upon intellectual laziness. It takes effort and will to truly understand the universe. Religion provides a means of pretending that one understands what one really does not, and thereby eliminates the need to do all that hard thinking – one’s curiosity is suppressed with a lovely little ‘just so’ story, which gives the believer an excuse to not think any further about the matter. It’s simply a way of convincing oneself that one understands the universe, without having to do any of the work required to actually understand it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Perhaps the reason that Strobel is only interested in an “internal Christian debate” in this context is because Strobel only cares about presenting his case in an entirely Christian perspective?

    Ah, but this book is not – at least in theory – an explicitly Christian book. (It is, but you know what I mean.) Strobel’s stated purpose is to examine the scientific evidence that points to the existence of an Intelligent Designer, nothing more. Given that he claims to be so interested in science, it’s highly suspicious that his interest suddenly seems to peter out right at this point.

  • CSN

    Incurious basterds.

  • Reginald Selkirk
  • Thumpalumpacus

    Given that Strobel accepts the story of the Garden of Eden, his intellectual dullness doesn’t surprise me at all. That story is a clear warning to not pursue knowledge.

  • Nes

    Without wider context, which I do not have access to, I had interpreted that the same way that Austin at #4 did. However, it still seems odd to leave out the question of the age of the Earth since that could help inform your question of whether there is a creator or not. For example, if the weight of the evidence leaned towards a young Earth it would cast doubt on the Big Bang Theory.

  • Danikajaye

    On Reginalds link:

    Part of the confusion is due to the changing face of evolution as they (Atheists) evolve their arguments into new claims as science disproves the old ideas … … Their primary goal is to remove God so when one argument fails, an alternative version is formed. … … When I refer to atheism I am assuming that the reader understands that I am referring to those who are in rejection of the truth and will not be persuaded in the face of any evidence.

    GASP! How dare they! How dare these “scientists” alter their ideas to account for new data! Don’t they realise your supposed to cling to the same old ideas for centuries and then when contradictory evidence is presented you’re supposed to stick your fingers in your ears and sing “LALALALALALALA!” at the top of your lungs?

    Atheists reject the truth in the face of evidence? Who has that nice picture with the pot and the kettle?

  • Seomah

    Reginald, that article is impressive:

    Natural selection and micro-evolution are facts of science but do not in any way challenge the Bible – nor do they support evolution.

    Microevolution does not support evolution… ’nuff said.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Seomah: The comments are better: “SoSayethTheSpider says: I just want to know where the author took biology so I know not to send my kids to that school”.

  • http://www.extheist.net Janus Grayden

    It’s not surprising that Strobel feels as if he can determine what’s important and what’s not. After all, isn’t “Intelligent Design” the practice of choosing which facts you would like to present and which ones you would like to ignore? Once that mentality is established right out of the gate, then it’s a small saunter to determining what’s worth mentioning and what isn’t.

    You can’t expect to get a place at the scientific table, so to speak, while you’re completely sweeping major scientific breakthroughs under the rug. If you want to be taken seriously by the scientific community, you have to play by the rules. You can’t take things a la carte and piece them together to fit a preconceived notion and then complain when everyone criticizes it.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    How can this intellectual incuriosity be reconciled with this book’s stated purpose?

    I’m not a Strobel fan, but I think you misrepresented his statement you cited: he just said that how was more important than how long ago. That doesn’t mean he’s “not interested in the search for the truth” as you claim.

    The universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old, as determined to high precision by probes like NASA’s WMAP.

    I respect Johnson’s reluctance. Science changes all the time, and I think you’re a bit overconfident – as usual. It could very well be that the universe is actually older, or younger.

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    cl “Science changes all the time, and I think you’re a bit overconfident – as usual.”
    “Approximately” is overconfident?

    “It could very well be that the universe is actually older, or younger.”
    Is 6,000 years probable?

  • Alex Weaver

    Atheists reject the truth in the face of evidence? Who has that nice picture with the pot and the kettle?

    Are you referring to this?

  • Pingback: Daylight Atheism > The Case for a Creator: A Universe Not Made For Us


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