The Case for a Creator: Credential Inflation

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 10

Chapter 10 of Case, which concerns human consciousness and the brain, is an interview with J.P. Moreland, a Christian philosopher and theologian. Like many of Strobel’s other interview subjects, Moreland is not a scientist and has no scientific credentials to speak of – this despite Strobel’s initial boast that he’ll be interviewing “authorities” [p.28] in the relevant fields.

I’ve already pointed out how Strobel tries to put a positive gloss on his interviewees’ backgrounds to make them seem more like scientists, but his attempt to inflate Moreland’s academic credentials is particularly hilarious:

Moreland’s science training came at the University of Missouri, where he received a degree in chemistry. He was subsequently awarded the top fellowship for a doctorate in nuclear chemistry at the University of Colorado but declined the honor to pursue a different path. He then earned a master’s degree in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary and a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Southern California. [p.253]

Amazing! So now everyone who has an undergraduate degree in chemistry is a scientific authority. Who knew?

This is the final interview of the book, which is fortunate for Strobel, since he’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel at this point. If the book had gone on any longer, he’d probably be reduced to claiming that some Bible-thumping Christian theologian is a scientific authority because he learned Newton’s laws in high school. And please note, even if Moreland had been a master chemist, that field is still completely irrelevant to the subject of this chapter! Why is it that Strobel couldn’t find even one actual neuroscientist who was willing to speak to him?

This credential inflation is a direct and necessary consequence of the ideological straitjacket that Strobel has forced the text into. Throughout this book, it’s clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t conduct adversarial interviews; he only seeks out people who already have the same opinions as him, so the “interview” is just a matter of asking the right questions to give them an opportunity to regurgitate those opinions. This approach rules out interviewing more qualified people who genuinely do dissent from the orthodoxy in significant ways, such as the philosopher John Searle, who’s quoted in the beginning of the chapter as follows:

“You can expand the [computing] power all you want, hooking up as many computers as you think you need, and they still won’t be conscious, because all they’ll ever do is shuffle symbols.” [p.248]

The problem, in Strobel’s eyes, is that even though Searle dissents from the mainstream view of consciousness, he’s not an evangelical Christian. (He’s actually an atheist.) Therefore, he can be quote-mined, but no more than that; he must be kept at arm’s length and can’t be given the opportunity to express his actual views. This restricts Strobel’s potential interview subjects to the very small set of people who are not only orthodox evangelical Christians, but are willing to put that belief ahead of their scientific research. It seems that there’s no one at all in the field of neuroscience who fits that description, which is why Strobel is reduced to interviewing a Christian theologian with no scientific credentials and trying to pass him off as an authority on the brain.

Lastly, I want to point out the curious fact that, according to Strobel, Moreland was offered a fellowship to get his Ph.D, but turned it down in order to attend seminary. Why is that, I wonder? Is it remotely possible that he realized succeeding in the field of chemistry requires actual, concrete results… while being a theologian tends to be a cushy job which makes few demands on its practitioners and has no objective measure of success? Such is the intellectual waste produced by the non-subject of theology, a field of inquiry possessing not a single piece of verifiable data. Countless minds, many of them quite brilliant and perfectly capable of producing something of benefit to humanity, have been squandered in the idle and futile speculations of religion.

Other posts in this series:

Book Review: 1491
The World in the Dark
The Strange Tale of Rose Marks
The Pope's Laudato: So Close And Yet So Far
About Adam Lee

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