Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Response to When is logic illogical

There is a common problem we see with many Adventists as they talk about Genesis.  They assume if you do not accept the literalistic six days of creation then you don’t believe in God’s involvement at all. One would think that with the theory of Theistic Evolution that would not be a problem (“Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to religious belief and interpretation” Wikipedia). It incorporates the divine supernatural activity of God in the direction of evolution. But most Traditional Adventists find it easier to create the straw man argument. That argument is that of naturalistic evolution where random chance and life from non life is the only explanation offered against their literal view of six day creation. That is why so many of them such as Clifford Goldstein and David Read so commonly present the opposition to their literal creationism as Seventh-day Darwinians or Darwinians respectively.  As this blog has pointed out in a previous article both of those terms are inaccurately used. Seventh-day Darwinians without even having a definition! Even when frequently used by Clifford Goldstein, he can’t be bothered to define his own term, it simply is meant as a slam against his opponents. Not based upon what they believe or espouse but upon his distortion of their beliefs. That is why his opponents are never mentioned by name or their statements are ever quoted.

This atmosphere in the Adventist media has pervaded the dialog so when Bruce Justinen wrote his response to my article “the need for logic” he presents logic as opposed to the supernatural. This technique allows them to buttress their literal creation story as supernatural and if you don’t accept their traditional literal version of the creation story you don’t accept anything supernatural. This is how Bruce expressed it:

For some, this is not good enough, they must know.  So they hypothesize, they imagine, they fill in the blanks, they logic that which it is not subject to logic.  “The fiery furnace, Jonah and the great fish, the sun moving backward, the axe head floating ...”

The Straw man arguments are logical fallacies, but they are a frequent method of manipulation…at least until the fallacy is pointed out and then it is clear that the logic of their position is in fact not logical but a fallacy stated as a fact. The art of propaganda is to keep repeating something long enough that people then accept it. But merely repeating a lie does no one any good. It does not lead to a good discussion and it certainly does not lead to any sort of reasoned argument and will never lead to a satisfactory conclusion.

But the original question is not is there or was there supernatural activities. The very term theistic evolution should disabuse someone of that idea.  That it does not, shows that their position is not based upon logic but upon misinformation. The use of misinformation is contrary to a well reasoned argument (logic). Let us remind ourselves of the definition of logic:
1. the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference.
2. a particular method of reasoning or argumentation: We were unable to follow his logic.
3. the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.
4. reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn't much logic in her move.
5. convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness: the irresistible logic of the facts.

That the logical principles should be overlooked because one claims supernatural beliefs is perhaps one of the strangest arguments one could make. As Bruce wrote:

What I think he fails to see is that logic has not been cast aside by.  It is that Adventism has always chosen the logic of the Supernatural over the logic of science.   We simply turn to the Supernatural.  If I may paraphrase Webster “not subject to explanation by Me...or anyone I know.”

“But as Christians we make choices as to what we will believe.  We realize we do not have all of the information – all of the time.  The Bible does not claim to give us all of the information on Creation or a host of other subjects, it gives us what it gives us, there may be more, there probably is – a lot more.  I don’t know.  And there lies the conundrum – I don’t know.”

First there is no logic of the Supernatural. We can’t study the supernatural we study what others have said about the supernatural and with logic we make inferences of possible relationships between the natural and the supernatural. Theistic evolution supposes supernatural activity that correlates with the physical evidence on the planet and the visible universe.  Thus life is still produced by God but the technique used is not that assumed by traditions.  As science learns more we have redefined our interpretations, as we see evidence which makes our previous belief seem less probable.  God is not removed but his methods of activity are interpreted in less traditional ways.

If Christians were more logical they would see that their interpretations of the Bible have indeed changed through time as people learn more. As Bruce says he does not know. When one does not know something the logical thing to do is not to simply stand on the traditions but to acknowledge that there may in fact be other methods of interpretation of the Biblical stories. So as he says the Bible does not claim to give us all the information on Creation so why do so many Christians feel that their traditional interpretation is the only possible solution. If they don’t know, if their answers are clearly inadequate why not allow for the possibility of other methods of interpretation and other theories of origins.

The false logic of only accepting the tradition of a literal 6 day creation or young earth creation and then distorting other Christian theories of origins is the problem.  The discussion gets nowhere because one side is trying to use logic and the other refuses to use logic, pretending that they are, but in fact treating their beliefs and traditions as if those things represent logical arguments. This is not to say that this is the problem of all Christians, for there are people working in Creation Science or Intelligent Design or Theistic Evolution, all these can work on understanding the Creation yet none of them have or are likely to present a scientific theory of origins, since each has to use the supernatural and the supernatural is outside of our investigative processes.

We can’t just resort to supernaturalism as a belief on origins because then we have nothing more than a series of religions each with their own supernatural origin beliefs. To make the case that way we would have to prove our particular belief to be the only possible religion and once we have proved our religion alone is right then we would submit that are particular belief is the correct view of supernatural origins. Our logic then will be used to set forth our particular religion or denomination or church as the correct and only true and verifiable belief. That is a losing task, and it deflects from God to a religious tradition which is usually simply a group of narrowly accepted interpretations.

We will ultimately get nowhere if we ignore sound reasoning and following logical explanations for our beliefs. To ignore the scientific evidence is not logical or persuasive, we must do better, and we must, as Bruce said admit we don’t know and if we don’t know we can’t exclude options and possibilities and alternative explanations. Right now our church is at that threshold…will they be humble enough to go forward and seek to progress in understanding or go backward and assume that only our tradition is the acceptable belief for our church and its members.

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