Mike Adams has three “Letters to a Secular Nation” over at townhall.com (so far), and I thought today we might take a look at the second.
Sam Harris says it is well known that “the beliefs of conservative Christians now exert an extraordinary influence over our national discourse – in our courts, in our schools, and in every branch of government.” The key word is “now,” which is inserted to create the false impression that we are a nation moving away from secularization – perhaps even towards a theocracy.
It is difficult to imagine how anyone with an IQ above room temperature could imagine that we are not becoming an increasingly secular society – witness, for example, the accelerated and largely successful efforts to remove prayer or any mention of God from the classroom.
In his haste to re-frame Harris’s point into something he can argue against, Adams seems to have overlooked the fact that he hasn’t actually contradicted anything Harris said. It’s entirely possible for conservative Christianity to have an extraordinary influence in schools, government and the courts at the same time as we see increasing secularization in various parts of society. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that at least some of the secularization is a reaction against the belligerent dogmatism that we see pushing conservative Christian beliefs in government institutions against all evidence and not infrequently against the law and the Constitution.
Nor does it help that those who complain the loudest about “increasing secularization” seem to have the most trouble sticking to the truth. It is perfectly legal to pray in schools, and students can mention God all they want (and if the school gives them any trouble about it, the ACLU will be happy to step in and explain the First Amendment to the school a little more clearly). The only thing that’s illegal and unconstitutional is for the school to use its position of authority to tell children when and how to pray—which is a protection that believers ought to appreciate, since it means you’re not going to have, say, a Baptist child being taught to pray to the Virgin Mary by Catholic teachers, or to submit to Allah by a Muslim.
It’s ironic, then, that Adams quotes an unnamed man “who attended [high school] several decades ago when prayer in schools was still legal.” Clue time Mikie: ever hear of “Meet Me At the Pole”? Prayer still is legal in school, in all 50 states. Anyway, here’s the quote:
He also claims to remember when students put their shotguns in their lockers and went hunting after school. Perhaps his best question was this: “Why is that we have more violence in schools years after we took the guns out of students’ lockers? Do you think that has something to do with us taking God out of our schools, too?”
The false assumption is that God has been taken out of “our schools.” It’s true, God does not show up in public schools, just like He does not show up anywhere else. And yes, if I were a Christian, I’d be concerned about the godlessness of life in general. Godlessness, however, is a reference to the absence of God just like hairlessness is an absence of hair. America isn’t any more godless today than it was in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, because God didn’t show up back then either.
Adams says that Harris
ignores the true reason why so many people reject the position that life on earth has evolved entirely through a natural process. That reason, of course, is a lack of fossil evidence supporting the notion that evolution explains variations between, not just within, species.
Speaking of having trouble sticking to the truth. The fossil record looks exactly what we would expect a fossil record to look like if species evolved via descent with variation from common ancestors. Creationists have to set up contrived and unrealistic demands in order to manufacture any standards that the evidence can’t meet. And even then, evolutionists keep finding predicted transitions that, according to the creationists, shouldn’t be there.
What’s a creationist to do? Well, one thing they try to pull is to claim that, when a transitional form is found between species A and species B, that just shows that there are now two new gaps: the gap between A and the transitional form, and the gap between the transitional form and B. But here’s the trick: Adams claims this is an example of “Darwinists” being dishonest!
The problem is compounded by the dismissive tone of atheists like Richard Dawkins. After years of hearing that gaps in the fossil record account for the reluctance of many to embrace Darwinism he attempted an extraordinarily dishonest sleight of hand. He argued that the presence of some intermediate life forms would actually increase the number of gaps to be explained. Thus, Dawkins tried to turn the absence of evidence into support not refutation of Darwinism.
Well, no Mikey, the intermediate forms are evidence, they’re not an absence of evidence. See, it’s not evolutionists who are claiming that the evidence is missing—that’s a creationist claim. If you’re going to call that “dishonesty,” make sure you assign the blame where it truly belongs.
Adams does have one valid point, however: he quotes Harris as claiming that if 53% of Americans are creationists, that means half of our neighbors believe the universe is only 6,000 years old. Harris is incorrect: many creationists (including a number of leading ID advocates) are old-earth creationists. But as Adams himself says, that’s really a side issue.
But, of course, the question of when the earth was created cannot be addressed until we answer the question of whether there was a Creator. That is really the central issue. Once it is resolved, we may argue over the issue of when the creation took place.
Adams has it exactly backwards, by the way: we already have plenty of scientific evidence which gives us reliable estimates for the age of the universe, so “when” is a question which has already been addressed, and given a reasonably accurate answer. There is no evidence, however, for a supernatural Creator—that part, at least, is an open question at best. People may superstitiously ascribe the cosmos to an invisible and ineffable Creator, but there is no real-world evidence linking that proposed “cause” to the observed effect.
Adams closes with a pseudo-objective pose:
The purpose of this series of letters is not to advocate prayer in public schools. Nor is it to advocate the teaching of creationism in public schools. But I will question why so many professors assign Sam Harris in public university classrooms.
Is this open-mindedness, or merely paranoia? I’ll leave that question as an exercise for the reader.