Posts Tagged With: Logic

Reclaiming Science: Stop the Abuse

We often equate science with facts and laws of nature, therefore we tend to hold writings couched in scientific lingo in high regard. To a fault we have become too trusting and forget that people write or say these things and people have agendas (purposefully or not). Yes, this is going to be one of those critical thinking posts (I know, it doesn’t quite fit with the theme of the site anymore, but I still occasionally touch on these topics).

Not that the abuse of science is anything new, but it seems to me like it’s becoming more prevalent. With technology so pervasive, we think we know science and trust anything that sounds vaguely like it. That can be a mistake. Take this article on “Finding Israel’s First Camels.” Innocent sounding enough, isn’t it? But very quickly we see an agenda materialize when we read, “Their findings further emphasize the disagreements between Biblical texts and verifiable history.” So is this on an archaeological find or a theological debate?

Reading further we don’t really learn about claimed “disagreements” other than, “archaeologists have shown that camels were not domesticated in the Land of Israel until centuries after the Age of the Patriarchs (2000-1500 BCE). In addition to challenging the Bible’s historicity, this anachronism is direct proof that the text was compiled well after the events it describes.” This is quite the statement and one would expect serious proof, yet the authors of this report don’t do this. The careful reader will note that they base their claim on the assumption that they have found the oldest camel remains.

The rational reader then will ask, “How could they possibly know they have found the oldest remains?” Well, they cannot, but these finds support their particular view of the Bible, so why bother with logic? Amazingly, this article actually waves a couple of red flags on its own:

“In all the digs, they found that camel bones were unearthed almost exclusively in archaeological layers dating from the last third of the 10th century BCE or later…The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers probably belonged to wild camels…the origin of the domesticated camel is probably the Arabian Peninsula…In fact, Dr. Ben-Yosef and Dr. Sapir-Hen say the first domesticated camels ever to leave the Arabian Peninsula may now be buried in the Aravah Valley. [emphasis added]”

Almost? Probably? May? And so they did find “earlier” remains that are “probably” wild?

Wow. This is the “science” that leads to the proclamation that “the Bible’s historicity” is challenged?

I don’t think the Bible has much to worry about here (and others have pointed out that the researchers above have ignored other research outside of Israel). My goal here isn’t to start a fight between “believers” and “non-believers,” but to show that conclusions couched in science or coming from scientists doesn’t mean we should not test their claims. Often, as with this example, it is not that hard. Another recent example was the recent Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham spectacle, portrayed as some great intellectual moment between science and religion.

It was more between two people who promote the “science and religion” aren’t compatible myth, albeit from different ends of the spectrum. One thinks science can’t see into the past (Ham), the other thinks science too dumb to detect design (Nye). Funny, I look at the Sun and see it as it was eight minutes ago and archaeology and forensics detect design every day.

These are the best we have to debate serious issues? They are not, but serious doesn’t sell.

We should be concerned that science and theology are so easily hijacked. Those who are well-schooled in the issues often don’t want to jump into the fray, they have better things to do. We cannot, however, give up on science, critical thinking and flushing out those who abuse these things and other higher fields of learning such as theology. We’ve let the few, the entertaining, and the media take over our learning for far too long.

Pope John Paul II said it best with, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”

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Scholarly Debate

Bias, agenda and lack of critical thought. These are the things one wants left out of studies of history, theology and science. It doesn’t always work out that way. Take the current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov/Dec).

In reading the letters concerning “progressive” versus “conservative” scholars, one begins to see a pattern emerge. This isn’t about whether or not the conservatives or evangelicals are scholarly enough, it’s about more people listening to them than the progressives or liberals. It seems the latter two are upset they aren’t getting enough attention so they try to discount their opponents.

There are many stellar scholars out there, but there’s a Christianity-wide (all people-wide?) problem with critical thinking and sound theological study that is not limited to any one group. Just look at some Seane Freyne’s comments in the same issue. His belief that Jesus wasn’t born in Bethlehem is based on a “sense.” He follows that with a very uncertain sounding explanation.

Instead of debating who the real scholars are, maybe everyone should return to basic critical thinking. And when someone disagrees with you, first determine if your theory is sound before claiming your intellectual superiority.

Categories: Bible, Critical Thinking | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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