I don’t have HBO so I couldn’t see it, but Crooks and Liars has posted a clip from Alexandra Pelosi’s (yes, she is the daughter of the new Speaker of the House and creator of Journeys With George [“Cheeto?”]) new documentary series on American evangelical Christians called Friends of God, featuring conservative Christian figureheads like Ted Haggard and the folks over at AiG. The clip is actually from the section of the documentary dealing with evolution and creationism, and the impression is similar to that given by the excellent documentary Jesus Camp. Ken Ham and Buddy Davis are showing telling children the same lies that are so prominently available all over their website (as well as various books, PC software, and DVDs) i.e. the world is less than 6,000 years old, man and dinosaurs lived at the same time, the Noachian Flood is where we get all our fossils from, Hominid ancestors like Neanderthals are really people dispersed from the Tower of Babel, etc. In case you missed the link before, go here to have a look at them in action: http://www.crooksandliars.com/2007/01/29/the-evangelical-war-on-science/
The bit featuring Buddy Davis and his straw-man argument about “dinosaur” not being in the Bible is particularly telling. And I quote:
Buddy: …how come we can’t find the word “dinosaur” in the Bible? Can I look in the Bible and find the word “jet airplane”?
Buddy: No, it’s a brand new word. Can I look in the Bible, boys and girls, and can I find the word computer?
Buddy: It’s a brand new word. And the word “dinosaur” is a brand new word too.
Davis’ argument falls flat because, just like dinosaurs, computers and jet planes did not exist during the timeframe that the Bible covers, so there is no reason for them to be mentioned in it. The assertion that the Behemoth in Job is a dinosaur is entirely wrong, the passage “his tail swings like a cedar” more likely referring to the beasts reproductive organs than a tail, the word translated “swings” perhaps actually meaning “extends.” I’ll repost an old analysis of the claim in the next day or so for your enjoyment. For those of you not steeped in paleontological history, the word “dinosaur” (meaning “terrible/fearsome/formidable lizard/reptile”) was coined by Sir Richard Owen 1842 when some of the fossils previously thought to be products of the Biblical Flood were recognized for what they actually were. Previously, fossils were considered to be frozen lightening bolts, the tongues of snakes, things that grew biologically in the earth, and at least in one case, the fossilized scrotum of an “Antediluvian giant,” later revealed to be part of the femur of a Megalosaurus. Take a look at the fossil that gave rise to such a preposterous notion here, and for a good overview of one of the most important scientists in all of history, Nicholas Steno, read The Seashell on the Moutaintop by Alan Cutler.
In any case, just to put Davis’ expertise on paleontology and evolution in perspective, I remember hearing that he had found “unfossilized” dinosaur bones in Alaska, but then the trail went cold. If true, the discovery would be fascinating and shed light on a lot of issues about dinosaurs, fossilization, and taphonomy (how things are buried and preserved), but Davis seemed to want to take the credit and do none of the footwork in following up on the discovery. Frustrated with the lack of information, I e-mailed AiG directly about the issue and was sent a clipping from one of their magazines, stating:
It was our hope, because of the “remarkable” preservation, that these bones might contain some ancient organic molecules. To date, our tests have not been able to confirm the “unfossilized” hypothesis. Twenty of the bone samples were analyzed in Russia for collagen. Only four showed positive results. We became suspicious of these results when we were not able to confirm them with tests made by other labs. One report from a reputable laboratory in the United States told us the samples they tested were “extremely degraded”. Some of the bones have also been tested for DNA. The results were inconclusive. From our results thus far, the bones should not be referred to as “unfossilized”. [emphasis original]
The Bureau of Land Management reports that the Alaskan bones are fossilized, but all of their pore spaces have not been filled in with rock, making many of them lightweight. They also report that no DNA had been discovered in the bones, but because of their condition, they might be good candidates for it. Until further testing can prove otherwise, the Alaskan dinosaur bones should be referred to as “fossilized.”
John H. Whitmore
Given this revelation, one would expect an honest, Christian organization to be forthcoming with something of such importance to their claims, or at least change the information on their website to reflect such a development. I guess they never got around to it, as the biography for Buddy Davis still says he discovered unfossilized bones in 1994, as well as citing the bones as unfossilized in this article, referencing the same note by Whitmore I just shared with you saying the bones should not be considered unfossilized! Either they’re holding out hope for dinosaurs within the Bishop Ussher timeline, lazy, or dishonest (I’ll leave you to be the judge).
Back to the clip, I found this quotation from a young woman to be especially interesting:
Pelosi: What do you think of people like me who believe in evolution?
Girl: Well, um, I’m not sure if you’ve maybe studied all the facts exactly right, and um…
Pelosi: So you think I got a bad education.
Girl: No, I’m not saying that at all, I’m just saying…
Pelosi: It’s ok, it’s ok, I won’t take it personally
Girl: Ok, I’m just saying the school system is probably pretty biased towards evolution, as most public school systems are. At least mine was. And, um, they tend to just show you one side of the story…”
Ah, the good old “Teach the Controversy” nonsense. I find it interesting that creationists and IDers have so much to say about the public school system and the separation of church and state, yet they only stand up for the right to preach their religion in classrooms. I have yet to encounter a creationist saying that along with evolution, we should teach creationism as told in the Bible, as conveyed by Buddhism, as conveyed by Hinduism, etc. Why not invite the other faiths under the “big tent”? The girls first comment is also important to note, the overall attitude of “If you believe in evolution you must not have looked at all the evidence” (just as I would say if you believe in a historically accurate 6-day creation event you haven’t looked at all the evidence). Can anyone look at all the evidence? I’ve been reading at a breakneck pace for 9 months now, reading as many creationism and intelligent design books as ones on evolution and I still have yet to find anything compelling about any form of creationism, and yet there is still so much more to learn. Even in evolution, there are so many aspects to understand that I can’t possibly be an expert on them all, so even if I devoted the rest of my life to the study of evolution (which will come naturally), there would still be lots I didn’t know. What aggravates me most is that many creationists read a creationist book or two, go to a creationist lecture, assuming that just because the person speaking/writing is a Christian they must be telling the truth and have accurate information. In order to understand evolution, you need to read books by evolutionary scientists just as one needs to read creationism books to make sure an accurate view of the other side is obtained, and yet many people fall short here. I have to admit, however, that scientists are far better at giving concessions to creationists, spending lots of time thinking about, debating, and refuting their claims whereas creationists often cannot be bothered to do the same.
Personally, I wish I could spend less time dealing with creationism but I think it’s important as both a Christian and evolutionist to confront the issues raised by those who think they have a corner on the absolute-truth market. It’s not so much about evolution; if they had any actual data to support their claims I’d be all for debate. No, rather it’s about the spirit of the debate, where we can not question, investigate, or even think outside the box that God made for us to be in, essentially going through the Fall all over again by trying to gain knowledge. Indeed, in mythology too there has been a high price paid of intelligence, the titan Prometheus chained to a rock to have his liver eaten by an eagle every day for daring to illuminate mankind. Perhaps some creationists have convinced themselves they’re actually doing science, perhaps others don’t investigate the issue and take it on faith, but what worries me is the idea that it’s more important to save people than to tell the truth. If you’re saving someone by telling a lie, then what good are you doing? What will happen on the day that person finds out that what they based their faith on was just a trick for “their own good”? The constant references to spiritual warfare worry me as well, many people translating that into real-time warfare and condemnation of people who disagree, convinced they’re right because they’re for God and anyone who is against them must also be against God. I would love nothing more for this issue to go away, but I know it most certainly won’t. To some it is a divisive issue in the church best avoided, but I think it is important to confront so that we can have reform and speak in truth to those who care to listen. I have never agreed with the idea of letting Christians proceed with being hateful, bigoted, or dishonest just because we share a religion. No, in fact, if anything right now there needs to be reform in the church because the “virtues” of judgement, hate, and blinding literalism have gotten to the point where Christianity resembles the Pharisees of the New Testament more than what Jesus ever envisioned. In any event, I have a feeling that there are many people (like myself) in the middle on this issue, acknowledging evolution for what it is but not losing faith because of it, but such people are often marginalized by the super-conservative and super-liberal, but if there is hope for greater understanding between faith and science it lies with these people.