A Missing Link

Last night the United States was treated to a debate between two men who represent two extremes of thought about the momentous question of human origins. Bill Nye (popularly known as “The Science Guy”) is an atheist who is far more sanguine about his scientific objectivity than would be borne out by the facts. In particular, he in his debate statements he made a claim that any kind of evidence that suggested that fossil layers were not infallible might lead him to question evolution. Of course, if he had been more sensitive to worldview and paradigm matters, he would have phrased his self-judgment differently and more modestly. He would have been quicker to admit that some of what others consider evidence he rejects because of interpretation, and he would have more honestly admitted that he was just as dogmatic, with at least as little reason, as his debate opponent, who would be fairly immediately considered dogmatic by many.

This is not to say that Ken Ham, the founder and curator (of sorts?) of a Young Earth Creationist museum in Kentucky, was a clearcut winner either. He did have perhaps the most obviously true line of the night when he stated that one could be a Creationist and be a good scientist at the same time. This line would not have been necessary in other countries with less provincial science cultures than our own. Perhaps Mr. Ham may not be the best example of Christian scientists, but he is certainly sincere and passionate in his belief. Of course, it ought to be noted that the age of creation was a contentious matter even in the fourth century AD [1] and that his views are as much a matter of forced interpretation as that of his debate partner. Certainly neither of them was even close to an unbiased person, if such a person even exists (which I consider highly doubtful, if not impossible).

I must freely admit that I like debates. Often it may be judged that I like debates more than is probably good for me, and I am probably at least a little too quick to insert myself into debates where it is not strictly necessary or even helpful. I like debates enough that I have spent a great deal of my free time reading about debates and even helping to judge them, aside from my own considerable interest in participating in them. One of the most notable facts of debates is that a great deal about the course of such debates depends on who is allowed to speak. There is a delicate balance that one seeks if one is framing a fair debate. Too many debate participants and there is a difficulty in getting to hear enough to have a substantive conversation about anything, as anyone who watched the 2012 Republican Primary debates (all 500 of them) can attest to. On the other hand, there can be too few debate partners, where there is major territory missing because the extremes are present but not anything else, which was the case last night.

Often there is a strategy involved in choosing who is allowed to be a debate partner and who is not among a set of options. If, as is the case with evolutionists and young earth creationists, the two sides are extremes of an argument, it makes sense for the two extremes to debate in the absence of any third parties that might be able to demonstrate the possibility of middle ground that would tend to discredit both extremes. It is for this reason that extremists of one stripe tend to be at least tacit allies of other extremists because of the way in which having an extreme to compare oneself to allows one to paint oneself as the least of the evils very easily. It is more difficult to engage in this sort of triangulation if one has a genuinely moderate and sensible alternative that points out just how extreme one really is in relief. For this reason extremists of all kinds tend to attack moderates, in order to push for the conflicts that they seek that force people to make radical choices of who to support in the absence of other alternatives when the center cannot hold and the extremes crush the mean.

It is often in the case of public discourse that there is a missing link between the full possibilities and the available options that one sees and hears. Often one must fill in the links for oneself, by being able to fill in the missing pieces and examine the evidence that is not presented and ask the questions that are not dealt with. This is a difficult task, since our minds are prone to dealing with what is visible and not wrestling with what is not, but all too often in life we are led into difficulties because we judge only on what can be seen and not on the unseen alternatives that are never even shown as available to choose from. To imagine what is not shown is a skill that might help us to avoid the many false dilemmas we face in life, including the false dilemma of young earth creationism and evolutionism [2].

[1] See: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/book-review-the-confessions-of-st-augustine/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/the-california-science-center-the-intelligent-design-movement-and-me/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/a-friendly-critique-of-the-intelligent-design-movement-thus-far/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/some-thoughts-on-the-scientific-and-theological-implications-of-intelligent-design/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/reading-berlinksi-in-cambridge/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/mathematical-proof-that-theres-no-such-thing-as-a-free-lunch/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/the-pseudoscience-of-naturalism-a-popperean-analysis-of-biologys-most-dangerous-assumption/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Musings and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Missing Link

  1. Pingback: Reasonable Doubt | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Audiobook Review: The Invisible History Of The Human Race | Edge Induced Cohesion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s