Saturday, 14 February 2009

The phenomena of false knowledge

Lately I've been a little bit interested in the phenomena of the false body of knowledge. This is to do with things that are commonly accepted by those who are accepted by society, endlessly repeated and generally thought to be true... but in fact totally false.

An example of this kind of thing would be what perhaps you were taught in school about Columbus. I'm fairly sure I remember being taught in all seriousness that many people of his day warned him against trying to sail round the world westwards ... because he'd come to the edge of the earth and fall off it. Total tosh; the spherical nature of the world had been known for centuries. His detractors advised him against trying to reach India by going west because they said he'd not have enough resources to make it. They were right; and as it turned out he got no further than the Americas (which neither he nor they knew were there).

With all the "Darwin Day" propaganda in the West in recent weeks, there's been plenty to think about on this topic. I recently read an article in a Christian journal about the body of false knowledge to do with the "science versus religion" conflict. It is widely believed that the rise of modern of science was opposed by Christianity, because it threatened the Christian church's authority. As the world was progressively explained by science, the magical explanations of Christianity would lose their power to convince intelligent people.

Absolute drivel. In fact, modern science was an endeavour that grew out of the Christian world-view of Europe and particularly Britain, and a great number of its pioneers were very committed evangelical Christians. The Bible has never taught that the processes going on in the world are inexplicable magic, and the investigation of the second causes involved, through science, is in total harmony with the Bible's teaching that God's "ordinary" works in the world go forward in an orderly way - he is a God of order. The doctrine of Christian theism (as opposed to pantheism, or atheism) provides a basis for believing in order in the universe: that's why science grew in the world where and when it did.

The article I was reading was explaining just how the "science versus religion" conflict myth arose. Interestingly, it did not come up until the scientific revolution was over a century old. It arose after the publication of Darwin's theory of evolution, which campaigning atheists of his time took as the perfect propaganda tool. (I think they were misguided; in my opinion Darwin's theory fits better with deism than with atheism, though I agree it fits better with atheism than traditional Christian theism). In order to advance their cause, these propagandists invented the "church versus science" myth, and very zealously propagated it. Soon, a body of false knowledge had been constructed. Scholars referred to each other round in a circle, instead of to the evidence. One book claims the learned opinions of the author of another book of the same mind; round and round it goes. The endless repeating, without proof, of the themes and claims involved elevated them to the status of received wisdom. And so the myth has persisted down to this day, and is a favourite dog's-breakfast-of-nonsense that you'll find cooked up by your local friendly village atheist.

Darwin week has brought out a good deal of false knowledge, especially from the BBC. In each such case, only a little consulting of the evidence would get rid of some of this nonsense. But on this particular subject, each expert likes to assure us that nobody sane disagrees with them, and it's beneath their contempt to discuss the question. So, consulting each other and not the evidence, the false knowledge goes round. For the record, and for those whose goal is to think instead of mindlessly repeat atheist propaganda...
  • Every expert says so, but in fact creationists do not and have not (in the last century and a half at least) believed in the fixity of species. That is, no creationist I know of has ever taught that the Genesis chapter 1 "kinds" are identical with species in the modern classification system, so that there is no variation of any kind from one generation to another. Exactly where the limits of evolution (by which I mean modification-with-descent) lie is a matter of debate; but that the limit does not lie at the species level is totally uncontested. This despite every last expert and his dog in the secular BBC and press repeating this falsehood ad nauseum over recent weeks.

  • The "intelligent design" movement is not a sophisticated "God of the gaps" argument. No ID theorist I know of argues that "we don't understand this stuff, therefore it's God". "ID" is an attempt to positively, not negatively, identify the signatures of intelligence. That is, what does the characteristic work of intelligent agents look like? Yet, the "experts" endlessly tell us that ID theorists claim that the simple lack of knowledge of a mechanism in itself means we've identified intelligence... they don't.

  • Mainstream creationists do not teach that Genesis and the whole Bible should be interpreted "literally", where "literally" means anything akin to "without respect to literary genre, metaphor, poetic elements, etcetera". Creationists teach that Genesis in particular and the Bible in general should be interpreted according to the original author's intention, which is discerned using grammatico-historical exegesis as guided by the rules of interpretation supplied in the Bible itself. We believe that the Bible teaches a supernatural creation in six days when rightly interpreted, not when interpreted by a dunce whose mental circuits with the ability to detect different types of literature have been knocked out.

  • The oft-repeated statement that there are no scientists in relevant fields who don't accept Darwinism is a straight untruth. Check out the 700+ PhD scientists who've signed the Discovery Institute's statement expressing their skepticism of the claims made for Darwinism. Often the person making this claim, when pressed, ends up in the "no true Scotsman" fallacy... no scientist who they respect doubts Darwinism... and the Darwin-doubters automatically lost their respect..

  • Creationism as a theological position is not a recent novelty imported from America, not did it originate with the Seventh Day Adventists. (This claim is mostly repeated with the unspoken implication that the Seventh Day Adventists are a heterodox group (for the most part, they are), and so it's a guilt-by-association argument). No. Spend twenty minutes in your local theological library and check out the works of mainstream Protestants from the Reformation onwards. "Young Earth Creationism" as it's come to be called, is the position from the recovery of a Bible-centred Christianity at the Reformation downwards. Go on, check it out for yourself - don't just absorb and repeat the so-called experts' circular talking points.
Glad I got that off my chest! :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really helpful. Not overstated, and a good range of examples. How does 'false knowledge' overlap with 'urban myth' I wonder.