Opinions on faith and life

Tu Quoque, Or Not Tu Quoque?

2012-05-23

That is the question! I refer to the fallacy by that name which essentially means you too and is also known as the fallacy of appeal to hypocrisy. It is a diversionary tactic in debate, and it is a fallacy not only for that reason but also because the opponent’s alleged guilt is no proof of (or excuse for) our own. For example, if the point on the table is whether A is a hypocrite, A cannot claim innocence by accusing B of being a hypocrite. It appears most frequently with the overused phrase pot, meet kettle; if one meanie calls another person a meanie, the second person cannot escape the charge just by accusing the first of the same. Both may be hypocrites, but if the question is whether the second person is mean, that accusation stands or falls on evidence and not the character of the person making the accusation.

This is, in my opinion, one of the most formidable obstacles to discussion in the world today. People either don’t know or don’t care what the original or present point is, but focus instead on whether they feel that the person opposing them has the right to do so. And from there the accuser is psychoanalyzed and vilified as mean or negative. I’ve been in many online and off-line venues over the years without finding exceptions to this observation. In fact, some who read what I just wrote may have already committed the tu quoque fallacy by accusing me of doing the psychoanalysis and vilification. It becomes an endless game of mutual condemnation because nobody appeals to objective standards that are applied to everyone equally. Meanness, agenda, or other accusations are meaningless without an impartial definition or standard to appeal to. Instead, everyone uses their own personal rules, and rarely do they live under the ones they make for others. We all do this.

That said, I’d like to comment on an appeal to détente on the creation war (old-earth creationism or OEC vs. young-earth creationism or YEC). I honestly appreciate the intent to offer an olive branch, but as long as the double standards and straw men still fly around, how can that happen? We should not be satisfied with a grudging admission that our opponents might just be Christians after all, because as a veteran of many such wars I can testify that a tiny percentage actually considers their opponents lost anyway. The real war is over which view is logically, scientifically, and theologically consistent, and which is false, dangerous, and unscientific. But even more than that, it is over the slander and mockery professing Christians hurl at each other. And make no mistake, neither side has an advantage in that department. I am a YEC who has attempted to comment in that blog in the past, and I can testify to the anger and derision in which YECs are held there.

I intended to skim the main article and comments before going back to read more slowly, but I had to stop in the first pass and point out something early in the comments that clearly illustrates what I see as essentially holding up the peace dove and then throwing it into a cage. In the comment by Deb on Mon, May 21 2012 at 09:41 pm, she posts a link and excerpt to something with the mocking title The Flintstone Doctrine. This utterly ruins any chance for peace or even a short cease-fire; does mocking and misrepresenting YEC views constitute an appeal to dialog or understanding? I hope nobody thinks so! You cannot call for peace and civility while holding a dagger behind your back. The title alone betrays a condescending attitude, and the content is filled with straw men or very outdated arguments YECs today don’t even use (not any YECs I know or associate with, at least; and let the OECs be honest and admit they have their own town drunks as well).

I will comment on the points in the list:

(1st) --- Why is this a Flintstone statement? Are they calling God Fred Flintstone? Did he forget how he made things when he told Israel that the reason to honor the Sabbath Day (does Yom mean epoch there too?) is because God made the earth in six days? Those silly, troglodyte Israelites, thinking God meant solar days!

(2nd) --- Yom, when combined with an ordinal (day the first, day the second, etc.), always means a literal day, not an undefinable period of time, regardless of how yom is used in those 58 other contexts. Had the ancient Hebrews wanted to specify literal earth days, I wonder how the OECs think that could be done, especially when in addition to the ordinals we have the repeated phrase, evening and morning. Three indicators--- day, number, and evening/morning--- and somehow it can’t mean literal solar days. Clearly the burden of proof is on those who insist that these three factors are to be lightly dismissed.

(3rd) --- Anyone claiming to know science surely knows that it is limited to that which can be observed or repeated--- which puts history, especially PRE-history, out of its realm. It is forensic evidence that investigates single past events, and when the evidence is disputed, no rational or fair person should make a verdict anyway. As I will show for the 5th point, you can prove anything you want if you calibrate the machine to your preconceived conclusions. Do real scientists mock others for views nobody can prove with science? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

(4th) --- Who ever says that Death of animals is a moral equivalent of death of men? Not one YEC I’ve ever heard of. Not one. What we actually say is that the Bible states that death entered the world by means of sin, so before sin there was no death. Right there in Genesis three, without the need to interpret or guess, it says that God cursed the earth because of Adam’s sin; the NT speaks of all of creation groaning and writhing as it awaits our redemption. It also says that as soon as God finished creating, everything was very good; I defy anyone to justify nature red in tooth and claw as very good. Again, no YEC is saying anything close to animals being the moral equivalent of people, but only that it is God who said there was no death before Adam sinned. It can only be an a priori dedication to old ages being scientific that requires forcing them into the pre-sin world.

(5th) --- I’ve discussed the issue with dating methods before. Briefly, it’s a matter of calibration: though both a room thermometer and an oven thermometer use degrees F or C, they are calibrated very differently because of the known/expected range of temperatures to be measured. But what is a scientist to do when the SCALE is unknown? Trial and error, using a WIDE variety of scales, not presuming beforehand what the correct range must be. This is not done with any measurements for ancient materials; very long ages are presumed before any measurements are taken. What a coincidence that they should confirm the presuppositions, eh? This is a tautology (and an example of confirmation bias), not a scientific experiment.

(6th) --- Too bad YECs don’t believe that Satan probably planted the fossil evidence (there are a few souls, God bless ’em, who say this, but to make such extremes representative of the YEC view is another fallacy: sampling bias). What we do say is that the fossil record is evidence of the natural sorting action of rapid water movement. The majority of fossils are found in sedimentary rock, meaning rock laid down in layers by water and silt. Fossilization requires rapid burial such that scavengers cannot scatter the bones, and global flooding is a solid explanation for such conditions being evident around the world in approximately the same strata. Thus the small marine organisms are found in the lowest layers, while larger land animals would be found trying to reach higher ground.

(7th) --- [BTW, I’m using ordinal numbers; does that mean this is the seventh block or epoch of points? Why not?] Adam and Eve were created as adults. That tricky God! They looked for all the world that they were, like, 25 or so, when they were really only made a few minutes ago! Or do OECs actually believe they were created as babies whom God nursed and fed and raised to adulthood? (How do you OECs like this sarcasm? But be careful not to fall into tu quoque here!) OEC neglects to specify how exactly the universe would look if young, but again the standard evolutionary cosmology must first presume its scale before examining the details. And it isn’t just YECs who have begun to abandon the Big Bang theory; there are plenty of atheist and OEC scientists turning from it (and largely toward the plasma theory), because of all the bypassing needed to keep the BB alive. This is the problem with hitching all your horses to a theory that itself keeps evolving; you may have to eat your words tomorrow--- well, unless you own the schools, the media, the prestigious science boards... then you can pretend your theory just evolved again and you were never wrong.

(8th) --- All science research done by evos/OECs is true then? Just because you declare it so? Again, there are plenty of real scientists who have proven otherwise; there is much political posturing and ego-protecting going on in the science community. Climategate, anyone? NASA (Never A Straight Answer)? Big Pharma? Yeah, we trust them all, because they wear the priestly garments (white lab coats) and are thus infallible and unbiased and above reproach. You might even call them gods since they trump anything the Bible says. (And then you might wonder why some YECs question your salvation!)

(9th) --- As with the previous point, there really are cowards and sell-outs among scientists; it is naive to deny this. If you want to keep your job and funding and reputation, you dare not diss Darwin. Try it sometime, if you’re a scientist and you don’t believe me.

(10th) --- Dinosaurs average the size of a chicken, and why presume the animals were all adults? It would make much more sense for them to be very young, since a year would pass before they could leave the ark. And since we find many dino bones in the fossil record, it seems obvious that most of them died in the Flood. As for the oft-leveled mockery about all the kinds of dogs for example, remember that they all are the result of selection from wolves; there was no need to have every single breed of dog on the ark. (Re. selection: to select is to choose a subset of what already exists. It does NOT create new items, but instead reduces the available set. Thus selection works against evolution, since undirected selection over time will reach equilibrium; that is, there will be no net gain but only a continual shrinking of the available set [e.g. the gene pool]).

(11th) --- Science, the real empirical kind, cannot prove that people did not exist at the same time as dinosaurs; it is only evo/OEC which MUST decree they did not.

(12th) --- Are OECs/evos really that ignorant about the need for sharp, gynormous teeth for eating things like melons or pineapples? Maybe they think the dinos were like the comedian Gallagher who opens them with a sledgehammer.

(13th, 14th) --- While there are plenty of misogynists among YECs, there are also plenty of them among OECs and even atheists; this point is just a gratuitous smear.

(15th) --- Back atcha, OECs. Even if you grudgingly allow YECs to be Christians, you certainly do NOT allow them to be intelligent and to simply disagree with you. You judge and mock and condescend to anyone who doesn’t swallow OEC without chewing.

(16th) --- Not all evos may be atheists, but not all atheists are evos either; there are some such as Dr. Michael Denton who don’t know what to believe, but it isn’t Darwinian evolution. And though we are not to judge salvation by what people believe about this, we can certainly raise our soteriological eyebrows at people who so thoroughly despise their opponents as to slander and revile them with such relish.

(17th) --- And if you believe that pond scum evolved into philosophers, I’ve got beach-front property on the moon to sell you!

Want dialog? Drop the snooty attitude, the lies, the sneers, and the barely-concealed condemnation. There will be no peace or even a temporary truce until then. If it’s science you want to appeal to, then stick to that, and learn where its boundaries lie. You might also want to give the Bible a little more respect--- not to mention people you don’t want judging your salvation. You might consider treating your blog visitors as a little better than something you dug out of your ear, and asking them individually what they actually believe instead of jumping to wild conclusions and reacting with evo talking points.

I realize you think all of that is what only YECs do, as you continually parade the worst examples as the norm and paint every YEC with the same brush. But try just for once to hold yourself to the standards you use on YECs; try and put yourself in the shoes of your despised opponents for a change. Try and at least admit that it takes some backbone and conviction to swim against such an overwhelming tide--- NOT of science but of just so stories and arrogant priests who consider themselves infallible. It’s easy to go with the crowd, and apparently fun to look down on the ones who don’t. But don’t wonder why some YECs question how anyone with the Holy Spirit can treat fellow believers that way.


ADDED: There are good sources for related discussions on my Resources page, but here are a couple for convenience:

Science Against Evolution topical index

How Accurate are Carbon-14 and other radioactive dating methods?

4 Comments

SaberTruth

It would be helpful if you could cite examples where you believe people have misinterpreted what the text states pertaining to P/S. Personally, whenever I’m inclined to use the "God wouldn’t do that" argument, I consider myself on unstable ground if there is no objective standard upon which to justify it. For example, we know God wouldn’t send people to eternal torment without just cause because scripture is replete with the importance of us making that choice. We also have God’s explicit statement against such a thing in Ezekiel 18 at the very least. So if we say that God would not be involved in any P/S, we would find various passages that either teach against it or fail to teach in favor of it. Since I see teachings that support P/S and none that forbid it, I don’t see P/S as something people made up. And that being the case, we then have to look deeper to see when and where it happens. If it is the idea of substitutionary sacrifice that one might object to, then we would have to throw out almost the entire Bible. Even animal sacrifices would be at odds with our conscience in that case. But if it’s strictly the idea of human sacrifice that’s the problem, I agree--- when the human has no choice. But in the case of Jesus, he himself volunteered to do so, and nobody thinks that self-sacrifice is anything but noble. God, though a trinity, has only one will; otherwise God would be three. This is a primary principle that I hold as the strongest argument against hierarchy in the Godhead. And if that is true, then it is also impossible for one Person to have sacrificed another Person by force. Since Jesus is God and contains "the fullness of deity", then it is God who sacrificed himself, and he did so on our behalf. This is a noble, loving act. Therefore, I see Jesus’ sacrifice as not anger at the human race, but compassion. Separation from God is not an act of anger on God’s part, but simply giving people what they want: to be away from God. This is why God’s offer of reconciliation through Jesus is an offer of a gift rather than a forced or compelled "election"; not even God would dream of trying to force anyone to love or reconcile with him. So while some may see God as angry, I don’t see that at all. Yet this lack of anger does not mean redemption didn’t require payment. And when the payment is God Himself, we can rest assured it was enough for how ever many souls would ever choose to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection for the purpose of reconciliation.

Muff Potter

I too reject OE and Evo.  But don’t pop any champagne corks anytime soon because I’m also heretic in that I reject the doctrines of original sin and penal substitution.

SaberTruth

 Depending on what you mean by "original sin", we might not be that far apart at all. Here are some things I’ve written before that touch on that and the penal/substitution issue: Calvinism and original sin Can sin be inherited? Original sin revisited Blue genes Roots of the faith There are many references in the NT to Jesus’ death being a sacrifice for sin which involved the payment of a penalty or ransom for us (e.g. Rom. 3:19-26, Heb. 2:16-18). Can you elaborate on what you understand the penal/substitution view to mean and why you disagree with it?

Muff Potter

RE: Penal SubstitutionI can no longer acquiesce to a theology which is at odds with my conscience as a human being made in the image of God.Simply because it’s touted as orthodoxy since the time of Augustine doesn’t make it so.Whether we want to admit it or not, we all carry our own presuppositions to the Biblical text where they find resonance or non-resonance.If I presuppose an angry God at the fall, the model [penal substitution] fits perfectly. Each gear meshes with precision and the conclusion is inescapable. Jesus had to be executed in order to satisfy the demands of a legal system [Anselm of Canterbury had it down to a science] presided over by a just and holy God.In my own case and from a different starting point, I began to see the fall of humankind not as an event from which a penalty must be exacted, but from the vantage point of a horrified and heartbroken parent who sees his kids make a terrible mistake and who watches the dire consequences as they’re set in motion.The Old Testament is rife with instances of human sacrifice and with God’s extreme displeasure at the practice. To then turn around and say that the Almighty orchestrated it in the New Testament with the horrific death by torture of his beautiful son, is a contradiction I can no longer buy into. I now lean toward the Christus Victor approach with regard to Soteriology.