Fooling Evangelicals with Pseudoscience

Fooling Evangelicals with Pseudoscience September 28, 2011

Albert Mohler antagonist, Karl Giberson, has some excellent thoughts on why evangelicals so warmly embrace pseudoscience (e.g., creationism):

Why have evangelicals been so ready to reject the generally accepted conclusions of the scientific community on global warming?

I want to suggest that the reason has nothing to do with climate science per se, but derives from the generally dim view that many evangelicals have of science and scientists — views that make it hard to distinguish credible science from fake challengers.

One of the strategies employed most effectively by evangelicals in their crusade against evolution, which does pose real, although soluble, biblical and theological problems, has been to undermine the entire scientific enterprise. If science is a deeply flawed, ideologically driven, philosophically suspect enterprise, then why should anyone care if almost every scientist supports the theory of evolution? If the scientific community is just a bunch of self-serving ideologues with Ivy League appointments, then we can ignore anything it says that we don’t like.

via Karl Giberson, Ph.D: Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting Pseudoscience.

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  • Pretty much. If science doesn’t match the fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture, then the scientists have an “agenda.”

    • You are wrong Travis.
      “a great many men and women have a dull, hurt, angry sense of being oppressed by the sciences. They are frustrated by endless scientific boasting. They suspect that… the scientific community holds them in contempt. They are right to feel this way.” With Darwin’s theory of evolution as a point of departure, he takes scientists to task for their antireligious assumptions and explores the conflict between the scientific community and those with firmly held religious beliefs.”

  • Patrick

    ….Or maybe it is because global coolin… I mean acid rai… I mean global warmin… I mean climate change is just plain silly. Tony and I live in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. How’d they get there? Icebergs weren’t here (warm), then they were (cold) then they weren’t (warm again). Haven’t we been experiencing “climate change” for a zillion years or so?

    I wonder, what is the “right” climate the earth should have?

    • Charles

      Patrick, your the classic example of an irrational ideologue. Rather than listen and study data you have already reached your conclusions.

      Science is data driven. It is a search for understanding and truth. There is no right climate. There is an attempt by scientists to understand man’s contribution to cause and effect of our existing climate. When/if we understand that contribution we can implement policy to minimize our negative effect on our planet. Aren’t we are called by our creator to be good stewards (a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something) of the earth? ..or are we to contribute to its destruction?

      • Patrick

        Unlike Al Gore and others, I am a conservative, which means I don’t need others to tell me to take of the environment, I do it as a matter of course. (Also unlike him, I don’t buy huge homes or yachts, but ’tis another story.)

        Data isn’t stagnant, it changes. Which scientists do I believe: the ones in the 70s who said the earth was cooling, the ones in the 90s who said it is heating, or the ones today who (conveniently) say its changing? Or maybe the ones who say we have no clue if the earth is heating or if man has anything to do with it are right?

        Didn’t global warming cause the icebergs to recede? (I swear I didn’t leave the AC in my minivan running…)

        • Educated Person

          As I already said, warming or cooling is not the issue; change is. That change has been increased by humans. This position is agreed on by scientists (and the definition of science is the position agreed on over time among scientists and labs in different parts of the world responding to the same facts – thereby removing their opinions and seeing if they all agree on response to the facts). Thus, you still have no idea what you are talking about. You have made it clear you have an opinion, it is just not informed.

        • Patrick
          • Educated Person

            Ok, thanks for not listening. It was fun talking to a brick wall.

  • Educated Person

    Patrick, you are an idiot. Global climate change has been increased greatly over the past 100 years due to human activity. Look it up, if you know how to read. It is a scientific consensus.

    Tony, I’m glad that in all your infinite wisdom you made a post which was breaking news in science and religion conversations 40 years ago…

  • Frank

    Well said Patrick! The only idiots are the ones who believe that we have anything but a marginal impact on our climate so far. That’s not to say that we couldn’t do real damage in the eon to come.

    Our earth has been through hot periods and ice ages all before the industrial age.

    Science is valuable but science can be dead wrong at times. I mean recently there is evidence that particles can exceed the speed of light. If proven to be true, everything we know about physics and our universe would change dramatically. So much for scientific law!

    • Educated Person

      If you would have read anything I read so far, which you apparently did not, the issue is not assurance. Science is not guaranteed. It corrects itself over time as people from various places add to a scientific agreement. That is something being personally annoyed cannot overcome.

      • Frank

        True, I stopped when I saw the idiot comment. Might want to tone that down if you want to be taken seriously.

        As I said at best it’s a marginal, irrelevant change, if at all. Certainly not enough to affect policy. All that being said we are called to be good stewards of our environment so we should work hard to care for the earth.

        My point is that science is not absolute and requires as much faith as any religious or spiritual belief yet people talk about it as fact, which it is not and criticize others for not believing the so-called “fact.” It’s intellectually dishonest and shameful coming form someone who calls themselves a Christian.

        • Educated Person

          1. See that American Pragmatists. If you are not willing to see your thoughts through, you are an idiot. It does not matter if you want to go from A to M, you need to evaluate each step needed between. I imagine that includes ceasing to listen to opponents…

          2. As I have been saying all along, and I work in a somewhat well-known science lab, the change is not minor and that fact is agreed upon by the scientific community. If you want to speak with conspiracy theorists or Republican candidates for president, fine, but that fact is a starting point for educated conversation in all academic circles.

          3. You are right, science is not certain ( as I already said). It is unique in that it has a method that lets individual bias be filtered out in favor of the actual facts which scientists come to agree upon. I think it is this point which you fail to feel the magnitude of…

          “It’s intellectually dishonest and shameful coming form someone who calls themselves a Christian.” ~If that is you describing yourself, then I agree.

          • Frank

            Thanks for confirming for everyone what I already suspected of you. For someone who thinks they are so smart you certainly don’t show it. And you call other people idiots! Yah!

          • Patrick

            How’s that hockey stick chart working for ya?

  • Educated Person

    I fail to see why treating the earth better is a stick in you people’s craw, whether you think humans are speeding up global warming or not…

  • ChrisM

    I wonder if there’s any modern-day application of the intellectual resistance that the Western Church of the 13th Century faced with the reintroduction of Aristotelianism versus what the Evangelicals face today in ignoring science? If Evangelicals can look back and have no problem with Aquinas embracing that philosophy by reconstructing his Augustinianism to factor it in (I can’t fathom an Evangelical saying, “Aquinas was wrong in thinking that the senses can be trusted and data can be utilized.”), then perhaps it can be demonstrated that the concern over some of science’s current assertions should likewise not be feared?

    • Educated Person

      Aqiunas married his theology to science, and most of that work is plainly false now and has been for hundreds of years…

  • Patrick

    Going back to what Giberson wrote: “The tragedy is that nothing within the faith commitments of evangelicals requires the adoption of these various knowledge-denying views. There are authentic and contributing evangelical Christians within every knowledge community.”

    So if you disagree with him, you aren’t voicing an opinion but ‘denying knowledge.’ But if you agree with him, you are ‘authentic and contributing.’ Isn’t that a little . . what’s the word . . . intolerant?

    • Educated Person

      There is a baseline required for honest conversation.

  • Educated Person

    @Frank and @Patrick, See my description of scientific knowledge, see how your posts react to me talking about it, then ponder what kind of activity you are engaged in; based on your responses I bet you would not be willing to ponder God as a real fact, you would just assert it and be offended by challenges. But that is the stance of someone ready to stand in a corner as their faith collapses around them. Be bold and take some stances, not by denouncing facts, but by embracing truth and seeing what you can still assert with that truth in hand. That is real theology. That is what I do.

    • Patrick

      I haven’t read anything you wrote after proving your incapacity for argument by calling me an “idiot.” Not worth my time.

      • Educated Person

        Well thanks for making all those posts against me after apparently not reading anything I wrote…even though you responded to what I wrote…and even though I explained philosophically why someone taking your view could be called an idiot. Thanks for being a mess of cognitive dissonance.

      • Frank

        Patrick anyone who feels the need to use the word “educated” in their name clearly is not. You are correct… “not worth my time.”

    • Frank

      Well you certainly prove the fact that humans are experts at deceiving themselves. Well done!

  • Educated Person

    @ Tony Jones: why the hell do you write for these people uninterested in facts available to the public?

  • Patrick

    Tony, I’m sure you have a deeper meaning to this. Help me understand why it matters whether evangelicals (or Catholics?) believe in pseudoscience? I’m Catholic and think global warming a sham but don’t think one has anything to do with the other. What am I missing?

    • Honestly, it’s the evolution-creation question that drew me to this article. I am completely baffled about how many of our fellow Americans still believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old. So much for your Ice Age, Patrick.

      • Lock

        young earth belief is not the dominant belief among Christians and more specifically Evangelicals. to think so is to be out of touch.

        you will find some that are young earth, but that is the exception. Most people don’t have the time to hammer through these issues.

  • simon

    The trouble with the fundies on this point is that they are “partly right”. Science is driven by various agendas set by the corporates who sponsor research programmes, the funding bodies, the journal publishers and the communities of scientific practice in which science is created. Medical research for example is so heavily driven by big pharma that we have reached the point where funding for the next erectile dysfuntion pill dwarfs the funding of the five biggest killers of the under 5’s. A similar point may be made in respect of research with a high tech military application. I appreciate this is not the point the fundies are making . Similarly the way in which the cycle of funding, publishing, consensus and counterconsensual innovation works is often driven by the egos of scientists who quite rightly want to make a name and a career for themselves. Noone got tenure by publishing “everyone was right for the last 25 years in my field.”

    Like the knowledge of God, there is no pure access to the truths of the world – just a series of better and better stabs at it from mostly well meaning scientists who are steered towards the science that the money is interetsed in.

  • EricG

    It is fascinating that the far right religious types adopt a fairly strong form of postmodernism in their approach to science: e.g., it is all agenda-driven, conclusions of authorities cannot be trusted, etc.

    I think it stems from their foundationalist approach to authority with respect to religion. The Bible (or their interpretation of it) holds all authority and cannot be challenged. When they are confronted with other bases for knowledge they need to deconstruct them to preserve their approach to the Bible. This holds true even when the science doesn’t challenge their Biblical views on a particular issue, because it is a more general philosophical issue for them.

  • DanS

    The reason folks reject global warming is because a number of scientists reject it. Brief example here:

    Key graph: “The SPM focuses only on the past fifty years – not carefully defined. Thus, it ignores a vast body of scientific evidence that prior warm periods equal to or greater than the current period existed and that the historical warm periods are unrelated to atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). The main body of the AR4 explains these omissions by claiming the past warm periods were not global. Yet, according to the most comprehensive, reliable data available, satellite data, the current warm period is not global. It is concentrated in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere, above 35 deg N.”

    There is no denial of “warming”. What many question is the alarmism, whether human activity is the primary cause and whether huge government spending projects will have any measurable effect.

    I’m old enough to remember the alarmism about the coming ice age and the birth of “Earth Day”. So that alone makes me skeptical. Add to that the big bucks boondoggle that “Green Energy” has become…yeah I don’t trust the science establishment. Call me a child of the 60s.

    But Gilberson is adept at missing the point. He refuses to see the connection between naturalistic assumptions and the interpretation of data. When the starting point of “scientific” inquiry into origins is that every event must, always, and without exception be explained as the result of natural cause and effect, many of us who believe in the physical resurrection and the virgin birth find it odd to insist events related to origins might have causes that go beyond nature. For one who claims to believe in the resurrection to insist on purely naturalistic causes for origins is schizophrenic, and that must be considered before one even looks at the data. That is the elephant in the room that most TEs dance around or avoid altogether.

    • Melody

      You’re right, these studies are only recent. But my dad (who, ironically, is in the “Global warming is a hoax” crowd), told me that when he was a young boy growing up in Mississippi (in the 1940s), it snowed more often because not nearly as many people drove petroleum vehicles. It’s so obvious that humans are at least partially responsible for global warming. We don’t need opportunists like Al Gore to tell us this. (See, conservatives? We don’t all follow him like sheep.) How anyone fails to make this connection is beyond me.

      • Patrick

        But what about the places where it is snowing more now and people are using that as an example of man-made climate change? What is obvious to me is that the earth’s climate has been, is and will forever be changing.

        I go back to my first question: what is the climate supposed to be without man? With that answer you can establish if man is causing the earth to cool, er, warm.

        • Melody

          The point is, we should be preserving and nurturing it, not hastening its destruction by driving gas-guzzling Hummers and Escalades. Nothing makes me angrier than people who say “The Bible says it’s gonna be destroyed” as an excuse to be wasteful and irresponsible. If the Bible says the earth will be destroyed, it will be because we as humans failed to take care of it.

          • Patrick

            I’m a conservative, so I have always tried to leave as little mark on the earth as possible. We simply don’t know that people are causing the earth’s climate to change. If big SUVs pollute too much, then yachts and trucks and trains need to go, too. And worse, my minivan!

  • Frank

    Tony I have a serious question: if Christians believe in the actual physical resurrection of Jesus, something that goes against everything science knows about life and death, something that no one has any evidence that it’s even scientifically possible, then why would it be so extraordinary to believe in creationism?

    Personally I see no conflict between science and faith. Either we do not have full understanding of science or the timeline of the bible, or both.

  • Carl

    Haha, Educated Person makes me laugh. What an ironic name.

  • Matt Flinner

    I think the Scriptures give us, not only the duty to be stewards, but HOW to be stewards. If we are good stewards and are obedient to Scripture on this issue, then the whole global warming/climate change will take care of itself. Plus, it may be wise just to be on the safe side. I would rather know 50 years from now that we were too cautious than not cautious enough.

    • Melody

      That’s exactly how I see it. I realize we can’t control everything, and only time will tell how things work out. But we can certainly improve how we do things, and hope for the best.

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  • Patrick

    For all those who trust the infallibility of science, it turns out the hockey stick chart is accurate – just for reasons global coolin…, er global warmin…, er climate change folks might not like. The number of scientific retractions is waaaaaay up. Clearly, we need the government to step in and regulate them!!

    • Scot Miller


      First, I’m not sure anybody trusts “the infallibility of science,” and if someone does, it’s only because he doesn’t understand the nature of science (or the nature of inductive reasoning), which leads to probable conclusions. In fact, it’s the very idea that science can be fallible and self-correcting that gives scientific conclusions their authority.

      Second, I’m not sure you read the article you referenced or if you’re just being ironic when it comes to the increased number of scientific retractions. The number of retractions may be “waaaaaay up,” but the number of retractions is still incredibly small. Here’s what the article actually said:

      But over the past decade, retraction notices for published papers have increased from 0.001% of the total to only about 0.02%.

      The question is whether these problems are more extensive… perhaps as many as 1-2% of published papers.

      The point of the article isn’t that scientists make things up, but that there is greater awareness of the fact that scientists make mistakes (intentionally or inadvertently). That’s the whole point of having peer reviewed journals. The credibility of the journal depends on its publishing verifiable research. (And some people would prefer to differentiate between article retractions based on scientific fraud and scientific mistakes.)

      The fact is (a href=”” target=”_blank”) there is solid agreement in the scientific community that (1) climate change is a fact, and (2) human actions contribute to climate change .

  • Patrick

    My point was irony. If you extrapolate the trend in that graph, the number of invalid reports will be epic. Kinda like the global warming hockey stick graph (since publishing, ahem, revoked).

    I don’t doubt many scientists agree climate change is a fact (of course it is, been changing for millennia). I ask all who believe in this silliness: what is the temperature of the earth supposed to be? Then we can determine if it is cooling (as we were told by scientists in 70s) or warming (as we were told in the late 90s) or changing (as we are told now).

    But even if we “know” it is occurring, who has the authority to say THIS period of cooling or warming or whatever, will be bad when the earth has been doing that forever?

    My only point in all of this is, before we pass a lot of silly laws demanding we change our ways (and greatly harming the poor) we should allow for the chance that everybody might be wrong in their assumption and wrong in their solutions. (Oops, never mind. I forgot that after 2009 it is too late anyway:

    • Scot Miller

      We need to be clear about two different kinds of issues: empirical/factual issues, and normative/policy issues. Science investigates empirical/factual issues by investigating evidence (usually from observations of nature or from various experiments) and proposing hypotheses or theories to account for the evidence. Scientific disputes arise when new evidence doesn’t fit the accepted theory (paradigm), leading to better theories with greater explanatory power. The issues of (1) climate change and (2) human responsibility for climate change are factual issues. The factual dispute then hinges on dealing with factual evidence and theories to explain the evidence. As it turns out, the vast majority of the scientific community has agreed that (1) climate change is a fact, and (2) human beings do in fact contribute to climate change. Until there is better evidence, it is reasonable to accept these facts as the case. This part is settled (just as the theory of evolution is a settled scientific fact concerning the origin of species; the scientific disputes about evolution concern the mechanisms of evolution, not whether evolution is the case).

      When you raise the question of passing “a lot of silly laws demanding we change our ways (and greatly harming the poor),” you are raising a normative/policy question. That’s a different kind of issue. Global warming and human involvement in global warming are facts; the question is what do we do with those facts. It may be the case that we should do nothing and continue to behave as we always do, or it may be the case that we need to change our actions. But the fact of climate change (caused by human action) doesn’t change because some people have an ideological commitment to small government or free markets or whatever.

      If it is “silliness” to believe human beings contribute to climate change, then what what is the factual, scientific evidence upon which you base this conclusion? Try to get other people to investigate the same evidence and convince them to change their minds. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the scientific community about global warming can’t be separated from the entire web of other scientific beliefs, and the explanatory power of climate change appears to have won the day, which is why so few scientists question climate change.

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