25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 12)

25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid (Part 12) July 27, 2016

The trough of stupid arguments sloppeth over once again, so let’s put on our hazmat suits and dive in. You can begin the list here. We’re now well past 25 arguments and still going.

christianity atheism arguments

Stupid Argument #39: Were you there?

This may be Creationist Ken Ham’s favorite line to infect students’ minds. In Job, God says, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Ken Ham paraphrases this into a challenge to the scientist that summarizes what science knows—about evolution, about the Big Bang, or about anything that happened in the past. Ham’s challenge is, “Where you there?” The implied evidence-free conclusion is, “Because if you weren’t, God was!”

Ham proudly wrote about nine-year-old Emma B. who took Ham’s advice and attacked a museum curator’s statement about the age of a moon rock with “Were you there?”

Biologist PZ Myers nicely deflated Ham’s anti-science bias with a gentle reply to Emma B. Myers noted that Ham’s “Were you there?” is designed simply to shut down discussion and is a question to which you already know the answer. He recommended instead, “How do you know that?” which is a question from which you can actually learn something.

“Were you there?” is a variation of the more general question, “Did you experience this with your own senses?” To Science, this question lost significance centuries ago. The days when Isaac Newton used taste as a method to understand new chemicals are long gone. Modern science relies on instruments to reliably provide information about nature—from simple instruments like compasses, voltmeters, Geiger counters, and pH meters to complex ones like the Mars rovers, Hubble space telescope, LIGO gravity wave observatory, and Large Hadron Collider.

Not only is Ham’s question irrelevant, not only does it attempt to shut down discourse rather than expand it, it can be confronted directly. If Ham wants to play games, he needs to expect the same:

Ken Ham: “You say there was no six-day creation? Well, Smart Guy, were you there?”

Atheist: “Why yes, as a matter of fact I was there.”

Ham: “No you weren’t!”

Atheist: “Oh? How do you know? Were you there?”

To rebut this ridiculous claim, Ham would have to use (shudder!) common sense, a tool that he doesn’t want introduced into the conversation because it is devastating to someone who wants to imagine a 6000-year-old earth, men rising from the dead, and a god who desperately wants a relationship with us but is apparently too shy to make plain his existence.

And if direct observation is so important to Ham, I wonder how he validates the Creation story—was he there?

(This ties in with Stupid Argument #6: Creationism.)

Stupid Argument #40: Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.

This argument is an attempt to wriggle away from Bible verses that are unpleasant or that contradict each other. “Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones” is advice from Josh McDowell’s New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (page 48). McDowell makes clear that difficult isn’t the issue at all—it’s contradictions that are the problem. They’re not difficult to understand, only to reconcile. For example, the epistle of James says that salvation is by works but Romans says that it’s by grace. The trick, McDowell tells us, is to find the interpretation that you like in the constellation of competing verses, bring that one forward, and either ignore the others or reinterpret them to be somehow subordinate or supportive of your preferred interpretation. That’s not quite how he puts it, but that’s what he means.

The quest for the “clearer” passage has become a quest for the most pleasing one.

The mere existence of what McDowell euphemistically calls “difficult” passages is an unacknowledged problem. How could verses conflict in a book inspired by a perfect god? If conflicting verses exist, doesn’t that make the Bible look like nothing more than a manmade book? How could God give humanity a book that was at all unclear or ambiguous? What does it say that 45,000 Christian denominations have sprung up over varying interpretations of a single holy book?

And no, “I’ll just have to ask that of God when I see him in heaven” won’t do because the Bible has no purpose except to be clear and convincing to people here on earth. (This argument is discussed in more detail here.)

See also: Five Christian Principles Used to Give the Bible a Pass


Stupid Argument #41: Appealing to polls to resolve scientific issues.

Polls of the population can be interesting and informative—percent of prison population that are atheists vs. Christian, fraction of Republicans vs. Democrats who are Christian, gender mix of Christians or atheists, the biggest issues troubling voters, the most/least religious parts of the country or world, how many Americans think the end times have arrived (41 percent, by the way), and so on.

The problem arises when polls are used to drive government policy. Public opinion should make no contribution to the scientific facts used to guide policy. Of course, elected officials must answer to their constituents, but the opinions of non-scientist constituents still count for nothing on any question of science. Politicians make policy, and scientists give us science’s best approximation to the truths of nature. “We should do nothing because acknowledging climate change is scary” is a policy option, but “Climate change is a hoax that can be ignored” isn’t.

Creationism in public schools is another area where science steps on toes. Americans are embarrassingly clueless (or willfully so) about evolution. 42 percent accept strict Creationism (God created humanity in the last 10,000 years), and an additional 31 percent accept guided evolution (evolution was tweaked by God). (Acceptance of evolution rises with education, which highlights the nonscientific agenda behind Creationism, but that’s an aside.)

Answers in Genesis said about this wide public acceptance of Creationism, “Although the vast majority of Americans desire both creation and evolution taught in school, the evolutionary naturalism worldview dominates, revealing a major disparity between the population and the ruling élite.” No, the disparity is between a population that to a large extent accepts the agenda of conservative and religious leaders on one hand and science on the other. Nonscientists don’t get to invent science.

The Discovery Institute tried to give a veneer of scholarship to the debate with its “Teach the controversy” campaign. If we’re talking about science, why can’t we present claims of both sides and let the students decide?

I wonder if they’ve thought this through. How would such a science class be graded? Would pastors be brought in to grade the tests of students who don’t like evolution? Would an answer, “I feel that the answer is …” automatically be correct? And how many “controversies” do we teach—does only the biblical idea of Creation get to come in, or are we throwing the door open to humanity’s hundreds of origin myths?

Texas governor Rick Perry put it this way, “In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

Oh? And which one is right? How do you know? If you already know, why don’t we just teach that one instead of wasting class time teaching both?

“Teaching the controversy” isn’t what we do in science. We teach science in science class, not discarded theories like astrology, alchemy, or Creationism. And, of course, within science, there is no controversy! This is a manufactured issue, and polls of citizens do not make science.

Continued with part 13. Find the complete list in one place here

“Who is the right god?” is like asking,
“What is the last decimal digit of pi?”
There are ten possible answers and none of them are right.
— commenter Greg G.

Photo credit: Garry Knight, flickr, CC

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  • MNb

    “I wonder if they’ve thought this through.”
    I’ve tested this and the answer is no. “Teach the controversy” goes two ways. Creationism taught in science class? Then Evolution Theory taught at all Sunday Schools. That’s a win for science, because creationism can be taught in half an hour – if the teacher stretches the topic.

    In the mean time another popular apologist “argument” can be thrown into the dustbin: the argument from consciousness.


    Nobody here will be surprised of course, but betting on the right horse always feels good.

    • Robert, not Bob

      Anyway, the whole tactic is a lie. They have no intention of teaching science, parallel to Creationism or not.

      • MNb

        Of course. I never succeeded in making that deal.

    • Interesting. Does the article say that this is a consensus view or that this is simply an appealing new theory?

      • MNb

        I have only glanced through the article, but it seems to be something new.

  • Michael Neville

    The creationists argue that the Bible is exempt from “were you there” because it’s the Word o’ Gawd™, it says so right in the Bible. Of course this is special pleading, so the argument contradicts itself. Also the Bible does not claim that Genesis is eye-witness testimony.

    • MNb

      As it’s a silly game we’re playing we just can continue: were you there when the Bible was written down? Were you there when god created everything?

      • Robert Templeton

        They put all of their ‘faith’ into the ‘fact’ that Gawd was everywhere all of the time – which covers all such queries completely – except for those points in their own book where Gawd doesn’t seem to know what just happened or where certain people are. But, you know – Were You There?!

        • ickytheologist

          Even as a kid, I wondered how an omniscient being (not that I knew the word then) would have to SEARCH for Adam and Eve.

        • Or that he’d have to send scouts down to Sodom to validate the rumors he’d heard.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Kinky…maybe yahweh had checked out the scene personally, but wanted someone without his kink to confirm he wasn’t just “askin’ for it”

        • MNb

          OK. They may have their faith.
          I put my trust in quantum fields. They are everywhere all of the time as well. And unlike Gawd those quantum fields are not hiding. They are ….. observable!

    • Cygnus

      Creationists are stupid by design.

      • Greg G.

        Some of them call their kind of stupid “intelligent”.

        • Cygnus

          Creationists by any other name would be as stupid as they are, by design.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          They call the object of their fetishistic worship ‘intelligent’.

          The one who used the same access for both breathing and food, put a recreation area next to the septic works, and made the eye with a blind spot and a retina that’s prone to peel off.

    • Myna A.

      because it’s the Word o’ Gawd™

      Or Son-O-God?

      • Brilliant! (Like your new swirly avatar.)

        • Myna A.

          Thanks, Bob! Needed a wee change, I think.

          The comics, for any who might not know, are from the old National Lampoon publication in the early to mid seventies. They had one entitled, The Ventures of Zimmerman, as well. In one, they had Zimmerman meets Son-O’-God. Michael Neville’s comment reminded me of them.

  • JedRothwell

    Years ago a fundamentalist asked me: “How do you know there was a big bang? Were you there?!” My response:

    “Yes, and so were you. The big bang is still happening. The universe is still expanding, and radio noise from the big bang is everywhere.”

    I don’t think he was expecting that.

    Along similar lines, these people are sometimes surprised to hear that biologists think humans and other species are still evolving, and you can observe evolution in real time with species such as the AIDS virus. As Faulkner put it, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    • Yes, and so were you.

      Another angle: all the matter and energy that composes your body was present at the Big Bang. You’re just a particular arrangement of a tiny subset of that material.

    • Jim Baerg

      “This rock is 3.56 billion years old”
      “How do you know? Were you there?”
      “I wasn’t, but the rock was & it can tell us if we use radiometric dating”

  • Herald Newman

    The whole “were you there” is such asinine crap. People like Ken Ham believes that Jesus rose from the dead. Was he there? Hell, even the authors of the gospels don’t claim to be witnesses to the resurrection.

    Why would anybody think the “were you there” is a good reason to believe, what would otherwise be considered, superstitious nonsense?!

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      It’s another xtian thought-stopper

  • Cygnus

    “25 Stupid Arguments Christians Should Avoid”
    Make it 2,000 stupid arguments,but there ain’t any other kind of Christian arguments.

    • Greg G.

      Bob is well on his way.

      • Cygnus

        I know.

  • Sophia Sadek

    Back when humans were riding around on dinosaurs, Fred Flintstone was there.

  • RichardSRussell

    “Teaching the controversy” is in fact appropriate for college-level courses in history of science or philosophy of science. But those aren’t themselves sciences, they’re metasciences — learning about learning, if you will — and anyone with a lick of exposure to the concept of developmentally appropriate education knows that you don’t start 3rd-grade arithmetic students off with analytical geometry and pre-calculus, you work your way up to them, and take your time doing it, to make sure the groundwork is properly laid to provide adequate context.

    Same deal with science. When you’re in middle school and high school, you’re just learning how science works and what it’s found out so far. You don’t get into the deep philosophy of anything while kids are still driven more by hormones and their general disposition toward seeing the world in terms of black and white rather than shades of gray. Appreciating nuance is a hallmark of adulthood.

    • smrnda

      On teaching ‘the controversy.’ To accurately present that, you have to tell students whether there really is a controversy or not. Certain areas of science are far more settled than others. If there isn’t really any controversy among experts, then pretending their is is deceptive.

      • Michael Neville

        The “controversy” consists of a bunch of people who want to teach science versus a bunch of people who want to teach a narrow interpretation of a 2500 year old creation myth some Hebrew priests stole from the Babylonians.

      • RichardSRussell

        As you’ll recall, I said that philosophy of science and history of science are really subjects that aren’t age-appropriate until you get to a more sophisticated college-level audience. By that time, they’re supposed to have a solid grip on the scientific method and the overall findings of science.

        What they’d need to learn about “controversy” is how and why they arise. Is there such a thing as continental drift, and how would we test competing hypotheses? If relativity is so good at explaining the very large, why does it seem to break down when discussing the very small? Are ulcers caused by stress or a gut-dwelling bacterium? Does it really make a difference if doctors wash their hands between patients? All of these were controversial at one time or another. What was it that made them scientific controversies, and how did real scientists go about trying to resolve them?

        Such a curriculum could then turn to questions such as how we can evaluate the real-world effects of leaded gasoline, smoking, CFCs, overuse of antibiotics and fossil fuels, GMOs, etc. And once again we would have established a scientific context for such evaluations.

        That nicely sets the stage for turning at last to creationism, UFOs, psionics, water dowsing, astrology, pyramidiocy, and similar “suppressed sciences” (as their advocates would have it). But you don’t lead off with those.

        • Kodie

          Right, they want to present something of a debate to school-age children, and the idea that they’re smart enough to arrive at the right conclusion is really stupid. They’re really malleable at that point, and I also think “skeptical” to a point of anything their authorities try to tell them. I work around children and the things that come out of their mouths about politics, for example. I am pretty sure they are not coming up with any original ideas, but forming opinions based on whatever they hear around the house and discussions they hear adults having. In the current political atmosphere, and the kinds of kids I know come from liberal homes, it’s not really difficult for a kid to make fun of Trump, but they mostly don’t seem to be exposing themselves for their own interests and becoming informed, they’re too young to be on the internet pursuing as much information as they can (most of them are too young, anyway) but rather forming opinions one way or another based on nuggets and bytes and whatnot.

          So you want to bring presenters into schools, or trust teachers to present both stories fairly and thoroughly as they can, and then let students “figure out which is true”, that’s not educating. Facts of science aren’t like interpretation of literature, and to some extent, even the interpretation of a novel read in English class, when tested, must cover the material discussed in that class and not really open to the child’s personal interpretation, like The Great Gatsby was about this guy named Nick who was induced to have hallucinations by an alien pod. Art is an expression of themes, and that doesn’t mean there aren’t underlying or less prominent themes that could be discussed, but they have to come from the book, they can’t just be a different story entirely.

          Anyway, what I think creationism has going for it, after all, is public schools just don’t teach science very well. It seems like a lot of ID proponents and creationists claim to have gone to public school, but were snagged by the hook that it looks like atheist indoctrination, who obviously weren’t educated enough by their science classes to resist such idiotic ideas. If I give it a lot of thought, I was taught over and over and over again certain things like photosynthesis and the structure of a cell. As we progressed in school, the same topics were introduced, but were presented in a more complex way. To me, this makes science super boring, and we weren’t required to take science after 10th grade, so I didn’t, and that’s when they introduce elementary chemistry and physics. Biology and geology were the primary subjects repeated for 10 years, and I think the balance of it was biology, but I don’t remember evolution coming up more than once, and that was in a sub-chapter about Darwinism vs. Lamarckism. Or whatever. The age of the universe and the earth came up a lot more, as we made annual visits to the local planetarium, but not how we know that. How one-celled organisms evolved to more and more complex life was maybe never discussed, so it appeared to be/could be intelligent design, if you see what I mean. Like, all of a sudden, there were crocodiles and sharks, etc. Most, or at least half, of what we learned at the planetarium was constellations and Greek mythology, but not why that was important either. The scientific method itself was instructed rarely. We were taught what we needed to know for a test, and from any person who doesn’t know how we know that stuff, it is like being indoctrinated to know what they want you to know, to defeat what you learned at church.

          For most people who are already going to church and learning the opposite/alternate version of this science, it’s pretty much taken for granted that public schools do present “the controversy”. We don’t need the schools to respect churches and teach what these kids already believe or are encouraged to believe. I don’t think schools, at least in my experience, do any better job at presenting scientific material to young students than a church does at presenting its own doctrine, which does make people who attended public schools only weakly resistant to creationism during school years or afterwards. For a culture that seems to delegate entire responsibility to schools to educate children, it’s no wonder they become disappointed in it. To me, there is no real excuse why 12 years of mandatory imprisonment of children for the purpose of educating should allow anyone to graduate so stupid. I know about development levels, but to me, school was so stale, and so repetitive. We had to go over material already learned just to pass the time, in my opinion. It was basically, introduce an elementary junior version of everything, and then an intermediate version of all the same stuff, as if several subjects had to be crammed into one year at a time, because next year was something else. When you run out of material, just repeat another round of intermediate American History and basic anatomy. The age-old question “when am I ever going to need to know this?” is apt. I don’t, and you don’t. You might like to, but it’s excessive in scope and shallow in knowledge passed from the elders onto young and growing minds. I mean, American History and anatomy are important overall topics, but how are so many adults so ignorant about them? Because in school, they just don’t go very deep.

          That’s what I mean, it’s repetitive and you memorize what you’re taught for tests, to eventually graduate, but little about the demonstration of process or philosophy that would enhance the education to make subjects become more alive and comprehensible. I think adult graduates of public schools are just as susceptible to ID-belief or creationism whether or not they grew up in a church-going household, whether or not that belief they grew up with accepted or denied evolution. When they start with the idea that public schools are atheist indoctrination factories, it just strikes that kind of chord for them. They heard about evolution, were expected to accept and repeat it for a test, and that’s about it.

        • RichardSRussell

          … like The Great Gatsby was about this guy named Nick who was induced to have hallucinations by an alien pod.

          I would totally read that book! 8^D

  • Kodie

    Re: #40 – Interpret difficult passages in light of clear ones

    Sure, I get it. A lot of what I understand from others posting stuff from the bible, isolated passages are pretty clear. I mean, they make sense in English. If we take it that the entire book was written by god, and this is one of the things in it, and it makes sense in English, then do that thing, right? The problem isn’t interpreting difficult passages so much as it is inherently difficult to reconcile clear passages with other clear passages, again, if we are to take it as a given that the book was written by god. Another thing that is difficult is understanding if people were all getting the same stories passed around to them, how they came up with a contradictory new reading of a rule, unless they were just defining their preferences as a society.

    Which is basically it. It’s not difficult at all. Humans keep taking the idea of a phantom invisible immaterial agent in their lives, and attributing objective expectations of this master, without any fear or irony, make up what they want to believe is true, what will be good for their society or just their own irrational peeves and superstitions, at the time they are creating that particular passage or book of the bible. Like, they have little ability to rule or control a population without the claim that these directives have come from god. Why are they in direct contradictions to previous directives? It’s just like it is now – make up what you think it happening, emotion-driven and superstitious, sell it to any willing audience (or unwilling, depending on how much violence you require to force beliefs to be accepted). I solidified my atheism on noticing the practice that even current Christians are starting with a belief in a supreme being of some sort, with very little to go on, and deciding what to believe based on what makes the most sense to them. Asking “why?” about any question, and then trying to make it reasonable by claiming god has his reasons. Science can’t answer every question!!!! Only “god” can answer them, sure sure… Only it’s not god, it’s whatever the person forms up as the perceived flaky reason, and the decision to “not overthink it”. Is that a really satisfactory answer? As long as the person can move on and it doesn’t nag at them, it served the purpose, I guess. Why does god let so many people starve to death? Why does god allow the guns of mass shooters to operate? In the sense that there’s an overwhelming amount of bad sad news in the world, and so very little one person can do about any of it, and that life must go on, deciding not to worry about it is a mere psychological trick, it’s not actually an answer.

    • RichardSRussell

      In the sense that there’s an overwhelming amount of bad sad news in the world, and so very little one person can do about any of it, and that life must go on, deciding not to worry about it is a mere psychological trick, it’s not actually an answer.

      “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
      —Edmund Burke

      • Kodie

        Is it more “nothing” or more “a little” to lay a token at a shrine and cry with some stranger for a little while? I don’t know the purpose of it, I guess it provides some recognition, some comfort or acknowledgment, like a formal grave or monument, and a little more than thoughts and prayers, but to me it’s something people do when they don’t know what else to do, and then feel like they’ve done more than nothing.

        In essence, I wouldn’t give religion a terrible grade on the “nothingness” of their efforts, though. As I mentioned, life must go on, people don’t really often have the luxury of throwing themselves into a project, but they feel bad about it, they feel bad about not being able to do more, but they need to get back to productive work. That even goes to the intentions of comforting platitudes people say to each other at funerals, for the families can’t afford to grieve forever, either.

        The nothing getting done is a habit of an idea that we don’t have control over what happens, that these things just happen occasionally and we don’t have control over it. Where we don’t really have control over natural disasters that happen suddenly, or terrorist plots, can we do anything about mass shootings? People there believe whatever statistics they want to believe support their ideologies about guns. Protesting and writing to your congressperson takes a lot of time and conscious effort, as does studying the causes and putting those efforts and protests in the right place to make an effect, where buying a teddy bear on the way over, not so much. I mean, think about it, there are a lot of things people can do to get as active as possible on a cause, but if their efforts are misplaced, they might as well not have. Religion is nothing but a psychological trick that just happens to work to get people who fall off the horse back on as quickly as possible. I mean, there is nothing you can do about the past. There are a lot of tragedies in life we really can’t do something about.

    • Have you seen a Chick tract? It will make a statement and then give a footnote with a Bible verse to back that up. So, yes, the Bible (may) say what he wants it to say. But he makes this clear, step by step, logical argument only by ignoring any passage that contradicts it (which novice readers won’t know about anyway).

      Liars for Christ.

  • Kodie

    Re: #39 – Were you there?

    Nobody was there. These people believe stories invented by people who didn’t know fuck-all about anything. The only evidence that it happened is a book that starts in a world where nobody is. Who passed that story, Adam? Adam told the story about how one day he became as an adult and then his rib was taken and made Eve? And all the rest? Funny how the stories all center on a narrow location of the globe, not shared with or inspired in continuity anywhere else. Meanwhile, as human exploration of our world and universe provide finer and finer knowledge of what did happen and when and how we know, the bible is just not a trustworthy source of information. Even if there’s a god, I am confident the bible stories are myths like all other myths we’ve heard about. There is nothing to distinguish it except popularity. Instead of countering “were you there?” with “were you there???”, I think “you’re so fucking uneducated” is a more precise retort.

  • Kevin K

    Re #39.

    It is exceedingly rare that you can answer a “were you there” question with a “yes”. However, it is not necessary for one to actually be present in order to obtain enough information to form an educated opinion.

    If “were you there” was the perfect antidote to inquiry, then no murderer would ever be convicted unless there was an eyewitness. If a lawyer asks the detective “were you there when the murder occurred”, he’s likely to reply, “no, but we have DNA evidence that your client was there, gunshot residue on his bloody shirt that contains DNA evidence of the victim, footprints that match shoes found in his closet that also had traces of the victim’s DNA on it.” The end result is a conviction.

    “Were you there” is pretty much the creationist’s version of the Chewbacca defense.

    With the question of evolution, we may not have been there (and if we had that would … guess what … INVALIDATE the theory of evolution), but we have plenty of evidence. The fossil record, DNA evidence, piles and piles of it all pointing in exactly the same direction…that life evolved on Earth from simple single-celled organisms to more-complex ones, punctuated here and there by catastrophes that nearly made us being “there” moot, because we wouldn’t be “here” to question it.

    Even the inception of the universe…we may not have been “there”, but we certainly have all of the evidence we need to demonstrate that it was an all-natural event, that it occurred billions of years ago, and that our temporary position as sentient beings able to make sense of it all won’t last very long (in cosmologic terms).

  • Akira625

    What bothers me about the proponents of the whole “teach the controversy and let the kids decide” mantra is that they fail to realize that the students are not qualified to make those kind of decisions. Those decisions are handled in the peer review process by those who’ve already received the proper education, and are working in the relevant scientific fields. How are kids supposed to make an informed decision when they only know the basics of science?

    • Worse, what they are in effect proposing is an environment where there are no right or wrong answers. Grading becomes impossible. If a student feels strongly about an answer, it must be correct (for that student).

      And I thought it was the conservatives who complain about postmodern thinking …

      • MNb

        Perhaps I’ll write a lengthy answer tomorrow, but here is my short comment: The Donald being the conservative candidate shows that conservatism and postmodernism are compatible.

        • I’d be interested in that. Postmodernism is a favorite conservative bogeyman as I’m sure you know.

        • Kodie

          There was something like 46 other candidates during the primaries, and they were almost all like another, when it comes down to it. That’s why they all lost. The majority voted for all of them over Trump. The problem was they were all individual people and their votes were too spread.

          Now that the anti-Hillary candidate is Donald Trump, most of them support him. They are willing to let their values and standards and expectations in a president be altered greatly. This should be the best season of all time, if you want to post new topics. Conservative Christians justifying voting for Hitler – a gold mine!

        • MNb

          Actually I don’t know, probably because conservatism in The Netherlands is not the same as in the USA.

          From Wikipedia: “postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies, and various tenets of Enlightenment rationality, including the existence of objective reality and absolute truth, as well as notions of rationality, human nature, and progress.”

          “Conservatism as a political and social philosophy promotes retaining traditional social institutions in the context of culture and civilization.”

          Philosophical and political ideas change over time, while keeping their labels. Though I consider myself to be a radical left I could argue that I’m a conservative, like many if not most environmentalists. “Save the rainforest”, especially if its the environment of indigenous people with their traditions, cultures and civilizations, is a conservative slogan. From what I’ve read Jill Stein’s Green Party seems to have many conservative views. Objecting nuclear energy is conservative.

          Since 1980 or so political dividing lines increasingly have become blurred. The traditional Dutch social-democratic party PvdA has incorporated so much neo-liberalism that my son doesn’t recognize it as a left wing party anymore. It’s easy to pinpoint this: leader Wim Kok “shaking off ideological feathers”. Something similar applies to Tony Blair’s Labour Party.

          American conservatism has changed since WW-2 as well. The conservatism of Eisenhower and Goldwater has little in common with the views of GOP candidates of the 21st Century. I think this change became clear with Reagan. The best example of postmodernism in Reagan’s administration is that he at one hand stressed that leftists are the big spenders while he (the same for Bush 2nd) is responsible for the biggest deficits in American history. The grand narrative and the ideology (of which a balanced budget is an important part in traditional conservatism) don’t count anymore.

          Ol’ Hambo from AIG displays the same attitude. Of course he’s not a pure post-modernist. But he has taken over the distrust of the grand narrative and ideology (as he sees it) of science, let alone Enlightenment rationality. Saying that your interpretation of scientific evidence depends on the ideological lens (of whatever term he uses – I’m too lazy to look it up now) you use is an example of post-modernism. Of course subsequently saying that the Biblical lens is the only one humans should use is not. But that’s how philosophies and ideologies develop – taking over what you can use and neglecting the rest. “Teaching the Contoversy” is another example. Never mind its hypocrisy and dishonesty (which I think unavoidably results from postmodernism); the argument is based on the assumption that there is no way to determine which view is correct and which one isn’t if they conflict. And that’s postmodern. As a result IDiots can argue that you and I are conservative (for wanting to keep IDiocy out of science class) and they are progressive. It’s just not the kind of progress you and I would like to see.

          This way conservatism and postmodernism are compatible. Postmodernism maintains that backward and mad views are as justified as sensible ones. The Donald is the most extreme variation – he manages to contradict himself in one and the same incoherent sentence.

          That The Donald has so much success is due to scared citicizens. The way for instance Ol’Hambo and The Donald have incorporated postmodernism in their conservative views allows them to appeal to those fears. Combine this with the failure of the left (whether you call them liberals, social-democrats or socialists) to formulate political views that deal with those fears (Bernie Sanders being a notable exception) and you understand the political mess in the western countries these days.

          Two Dutch comedians nolens volens have predicted this development:


        • Greg G.

          I think the “save the rainforest” person would prefer the term “conservationalist” rather than “conservative” just to make the distinction.

        • MNb

          Undoubtedly. I only gave it as an example to show how the meaning of ideological labels can change.

        • what I’ve read Jill Stein’s Green Party seems to have many conservative views.

          She seems to have many anti-science views as well.

          Objecting nuclear energy is conservative.

          You’re saying that objecting to nuclear power is a conservative thing? In the US it’s a liberal thing—one of several things on which I split with many liberals (also: anti-GMO, anti-vax).

          The best example of postmodernism in Reagan’s administration is that he at one hand stressed that leftists are the big spenders while he (the same for Bush 2nd) are responsible for the biggest deficits in American history.

          It’s not “liberals love to tax and conservatives hate it” but rather that they each like to spend money, just on different things. Liberals in the US would love to cut back on defense spending, for example. (Perhaps due to random-walk good luck, this is the only thing out of Trump’s mouth that I’ve noticed makes some sense. He’d like to have the West share defense chores more equally and not have it so much on the US.)

          Saying that your interpretation of scientific evidence depends on the ideological lens (of whatever term he uses – I’m too lazy to look it up now) you use is an example of post-modernism.

          In today’s post, I argue that Greg Koukl embraces postmodern thinking (“We all have our worldviews!”) without realizing it.

        • MNb

          “You’re saying that objecting to nuclear power is a conservative thing?”
          Given the Wikipedia definition yes. There is no doubt that the politicians who call themselves conservatives these days all promote nuclear energy while leftists like me oppose it. My point is just to show how the content underneath a label can change. That’s crucial for understanding how contemporary conservatism can incorporate post modernism.

          “rather that they each like to spend money”
          You’re referring to hard facts. Alas they are irrelevant for my analysis, which is about how people wearing a certain label see and present themselves and how the content that label refers to can change over time.
          If anything this specific fact supports my analysis. Saying something negative like “they are the big spenders” and then doing it yourself is only possible if you dismiss all grand narratives and ideologies – like post modernism promotes.

          “In today’s post, …”
          It didn’t escape me and I referred to it in my comment. So you obviously got my point.

      • Pofarmer

        That’s kind of the basis for the
        Hobby Lobby decision.

    • Argus

      teacher: Kids, there are two competing ideas about gravity.

      1. Verified scientific data (Einstein, et. al.)

      2. invisible pixies that keep things from floating away.

      Which do you like best? Class: Pixies are cool!


  • Pofarmer

    Thought this might sort of fit here.

    Why is God always punishing us? Can’t we ever get an atta boy? Thursday night lighting took out nearly all of our electronics. Two tvs. Two x boxs. Internet, direct tv and more. This is actually the second strike in two weeks. The first one wasn’t as bad. I found out about it after my wife was at work. My wife comes home and says to my boys, “Maybe God wanted us to watch less TV.” Why couldn’t it be “I bet God wanted us to have better stuff.” We are getting an upgraded soundbar. Upgraded DVR. Better TVS etc, etc. Is negative reinforcement all God knows. I just can’t or don’t want to get into the mindset of always worrying about what is displeasing to an entity that can never affect me directly.

    • MNb

      Proverbs 13:24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
      The more god punishes you the more he loves you. Pray for more punishment!

    • God works in mysterious ways.

      Make sure you have a surge protector (and remember that they do wear out after a while–there’s a finite amount of some chemical that changes to absorb a surge of energy, and it gets used up).

      Reminds me of the early days of lightning rods. Some people (rightly, IMO) said that if God wanted buildings to get hit by lightning, then by golly it’s not Man’s place to interfere.

      And, of course, you could say that if Man could thwart “God’s will” with a simple copper cable, God’s will couldn’t be all that powerful.

  • Argus


    There is an old old hymn called: “Where You There When They Crucified My Lord?”

    That would be a big noooooo…soooooo

  • Argus

    Given the many versions and edits of the canon, one could argue that there are no “clear” passages in the Bible since any of them could have been changed or rely on some context to which we no longer have access.

  • Argus

    “Appealing to polls to resolve scientific issues.”

    My only comment is to paste a great lyric by folk singer Todd Snider

    They say 3 percent of the people use 5 to 6 percent of their brain
    97 percent use 3 percent and the rest goes down the drain
    I’ll never know which one I am but I’ll bet you my last dime
    99 percent think we’re 3 percent 100 percent of the time.

    64 percent of all the world’s statistics are made up right there on the spot
    82.4 percent of people believe ’em whether they’re accurate statistics or not
    I don’t know what you believe but I do know there’s no doubt
    I need another double shot of something 90 proof, I got too much to think about.

  • #39: Speaking of creationism, if god created all of the animals then had Adam choose one as a helper (before finally resorting to creating a lower life form) that would have taken years to perform, not a day. Add in all the known extinct animals, and the number of animals just skyrockets.

    #40: Actually affirming the use of bias confirmation.

    #41: It’s the same tactic drug companies use. Advertise to potential customers who will then demand their doctor subscribe them that drug.

    We need equal time in math to teach that 2+2 also equals 5.