Opinions on faith and life

A Tale of Two Attitudes

2007-10-02

I’ve been deep into the arenas of the creation/evolution debate as well as the male supremacist/egalitarian debate, and there is a surprising similarity between the two. Normally I compare the rhetoric of male supremacism with that formerly used by churches to condone slavery in America, but the evo/YEC (young earth creationism) debate is current. Here’s what I have at the moment:

Claims of Evolutionism Claims of Male Supremacism
refuse to debate any more because it would give legitimacy to the opposition refuse to debate at all because it would give legitimacy to the opposition
anyone who rejects evo is “not a real scientist” anyone who rejects m.s. is a heretic
evo is the “orthodox” view held by all respectable scientists m.s. is the “orthodox” view held by all “church fathers” and theologians
the presumed “natural evolution” trumps observation the presumed “natural order” trumps grammar and context
we control all the textbooks and schools we control the translations and seminaries
YECs want to take over and replace science with religion egalitarians want to take over and exercise authority over men
YECs are anti-science egals are anti-Bible
we will not allow criticism of evo we will not allow criticism of m.s.
we must stop all opposition at any cost ditto
we are not interested in dialog or understanding, but domination ditto

Comments

Refusal to debate one’s opponents is one of the first signs of a failed argument (another being inconsistency). You can simply claim victory and belittle your opponents with one stroke. This is especially telling when such debates have rarely happened at all, as is the case with the m.s./egal debate. How is anyone to judge whether the other side has a legitimate argument unless they are first heard?

Then there is the “herd mentality” tactic. An appeal is made to what “everyone” knows or believes, as if this amounts to fact or proof. The evil twin of this is to make a blanket condemnation of all holding the opposing view. This can include rejecting a view on the basis of other, unrelated views held by the opponents, for example “Anyone who believes X must also believe Y, and we all know Y is ridiculous (or heretical)”.

Another common fallacy is an appeal to authorities or long-dead experts but only consulting those who support our position, while at the same time forbidding the consultation of equally qualified experts who disagree. When experts disagree, appeals to them as a “final word” are fallacious. It is easy to claim “all experts agree” when one has first disqualified anyone who does not hold the “orthodox” view. This is an especially important point on the question of m.s./egal, because the group being silenced is inherently disqualified from having a voice in the debate.

What is reasonable to one person may be ridiculous to another, even where experts on a topic are involved. Evo believes it is reasonable to insist that naturalism be presumed before any argument about God can begin, but this effectively guarantees that God will not be found. Likewise, m.s. insists that male priority must be presumed as “God’s natural order”, such that its “proof” is also guaranteed. For example, Adam must be superior because he is male and was created first, even though there is nothing in the Bible that gives prior existence as an automatic claim to superiority (in fact, God frequently chose the younger over the older). It also does not hint that Adam represents all men or that Eve represents all women.

Related to the tilted playing field of prior assumptions is the unfair advantage of having control over the opponent’s ability to be heard. This has been the case with evolutionary theory, and also with Bible translations and even the “official” versions of original language documents. So the dictionaries used by translators cannot be guaranteed to be free of bias, and in turn the bias is perpetuated by the translators who rely on the dictionaries. Flaws in the basic tools of translation are frequently kept out of sight by the seminaries, so that future generations will probably remain unaware of them as well. The deck is stacked.

There is also the issue of judging the opponent’s motives, another classic logical fallacy and diversionary tactic. Evolutionism believes that any small allowance given to YEC is a slippery slope to replacing science with myth, and will stop at nothing to prevent it. Likewise, m.s. believes that women must be kept in place behind men or heresy will surely run rampant (frequently tied to the ordination of homosexuals for example). Both evo and m.s. assume without warrant that their opponents are out to destroy order and reason, to upset the “natural order” of things.

So in our quest for dialog on the issue of comp/egal, we must be aware of all the factors that war against it and do everything to prevent it. People cannot dialog on an uneven playing field. And many insist on this tilted venue or they cry foul because it isn’t tilted in their favor. As long as evos believe naturalism is neutral, the game is rigged. In the same way, as long as m.s. believe God has placed all males over all females for all time and that this is an obvious “plain reading of scripture”, we will never resolve the dispute.