Thursday, July 14, 2011

Adrian Miller, and a comment about comments.

Spammers a fond of making comments on blogs, particularly to old posts, and they seem to avoid moderation queues. It is much effort to go digging through the comment sections of old posts to delete spam. So, I altered the settings to the comments for “Stones and Bones” to allow unmoderated comments for 4 days following a post, and then all later comments are referred to a moderation queue.

I never made a point to explain this in the past, and it has now tangled two recent comments. One was a request for information/opinion prompted to a newspaper’s on-line discussion of creationism and evolution in schools.

The second was from Rev. Adrian Miller, a vicar in Norwich Diocese, GB. Miller is a Young Earth Creationist, and I have written 2 posts regarding his article "Why Won't Creationists Just Give Up?”. These were the Saturday, May 28, 2011 post, “When the crazy goes mainstream,” and Rev. Adrian Miller, Part 1.” Miller’s reply followed the latter.

So that I don’t need to mess around with moderation, I’ll pull Rev. Miller’s comment to the front, extend the open comment period, and request that the conversation continues in this thread. At the same time, I have “Part 2” about ready. This will extend my argument that the Bible is not supportive of science denying YECism.

Rev. Miller’s comment:
Thanks again for reading my article and taking the time to respond to it.

There was a time I was intimidated by evolutionist dogma, but after I studied evolution as part of my first degree, I realised how much philosophy is involved and how the evidence lends itself to widely different conclusions. I've simply sought to be open and honest in my search for truth.

What you've written doesn't cause me to doubt that I have good ground for my views on origins. You seem to have taken my headlines, written your own articles under them in my voice and then argued against yourself. I don't recognise my thinking in what you've said.

For example, I don't hate Darwin - in fact I admire him in many ways. I think his theology was faulty and I disagree with him on some points, but that's not the same thing.

When I mention revelation in knowing, I am not talking crazy - I am standing firmly in mainstream orthodox Christian tradition. A fully formed Christian epistemology accepts that we know some things through data coming via physical senses (empirical epistemology), we know some things through the use of our reason (rationalist epistemology), but there are also certain things we can only know through God revealing them (revelational epistemology). A key text would be Hebrews 1:1-2 - In the past God spoke through prophets and now He speaks to us through Jesus.

In fact, to adopt a view that accepts a Christian epistemology and yet is uncritical of science founded on a non-Christian epistemology is inconsistent - I would feel crazier doing that than adopting the consistent worldview that I am working with. The point of my article was to call Christian thinkers to engage deeper in conversation where there are disagreements, so that we might all be thinking consistently.

If you really want to rid the world of creationists, the way I see it, you have 2 choices. You can shout as loudly and intimidatingly as you can, which will cause a lot of those who are undecided about the issues to avoid creationism because they don't want to be victim to that. Or you can take us seriously, understand the philosophical issues that we're dealing with and give us sound reasons why our philosophical foundations are shaky. The latter is a more challenging route but would be more effective. No need to call us crazy.
3:41 AM PDT

My reply;

First, I have labeled these as clearly as I can to avoid the confusion you, Rev. Miller seem to have had. Earlier I had merely (and I thought clearly) quoted you and one of your “headline reasons” to reject science followed by my counter argument. That “headline” was that you reject science,
”Because we recognise the importance of revelation in our approach to knowing.”

The first part of my reply was largely devoted to the Tanakh sections that taught that in the biblical revelation you claim as True™ (or at least the parts you acknowledge) the physical creation is a “revelation” co-equal with textural accounts. I am arguing within your claims of truth here, Rev. Miller. For the moment we are accepting the biblical revelation as true and it is you who is ignoring it. My position might be more clear if I point out that it is easy for priests to edit, change, or delete a text, and currently impossible for anyone to edit stars, oceans or mountains. In that respect, I fully agree with the Bible stating that “Truth (emet, or “certainty and dependability”) springs from the earth …” Psalm 85:11.

If you are so confused on how to parse my use of English, how did you manage biblical Hebrew?

Next, I have no idea what you might have been taught about biology, geology, or any other science. Even had you been one of my undergraduates, I would not know what it was you thought you had learned. Otherwise, all my students would have received ‘outstanding,” and graduated Summa etc… (A few did, but only a few). At the moment, I am only discussing your fragmented acceptance of some of the Bible as revelation, but not all. So, if you want to provide some of these ‘evidences’ we can address them. I cannot be expected to know them implicitly.

The “talking crazy” is a significant issue that we ought to clear up. I was a professor of psychiatry for a number of years. Around 1982, I helped found a professional seminar on Religion and Psychiatry. It was attended monthly by students and faculty of the Medical College of Georgia where I was a professor. It was also attended by a number of clergy, with a surprising range of faiths and sects. Our students included Hindus, Jews, various Protestants, Catholics, Agnostics and Atheists. We had clergy participants from the Southern Baptists (of course), but also rabbis, Catholic, and Russian Orthodox priests, Unitarians, and unaffiliated evangelical ministers as well. We had two primary goals; to teach the medical residents that merely being religious was not de facto insane, and to try to teach the clergy some basics about psychiatry. If I could summarize this in a single sentence, “It is not insane to believe ghosts exist; it is insane if they often visit you.” You might be amused that a few students actually rediscovered their religious faith participating in our seminar.

So, Mr. Miller, I have been taking religions quite seriously (even yours) perhaps longer than you have. I don't know if you personally are crazy, the alternatives are in some ways worse.

EDIT 15 July: I corrected a few typos, and tried to clarify some sentence structure.

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