The immorality of conspiracy theories

Undeception has an interesting article (Why the debate over creationism matters) on the creationism controversy – pointing our why the debate is important for Christians. The article makes three points about the damage done to Christianity when Christians support creationism/intelligent design (ID).

“1) A faith that demands the rejection of mainstream science in order to legitimize its teachings is automatically, unavoidably suspected to be out of touch and irrelevant.

Just think if Christians were identified as those who deny a spherical earth or a heliocentric solar system — ridiculous, huh? Verily I say unto you, despite what you’ve heard, these beliefs are no more ridiculous than a belief in creationism, and even share the same source: namely, reading the Bible as though God had revealed the intricacies of the cosmos to the authors of Scripture without due recognition of genre and cultural contextualization.  . . . .”

“2) Maintaining creationism entails at least the implication of conspiracy and/or bad motives on the part of both unbelieving and believing scientists.

Just as distasteful as kowtowing to the crowd is suspecting every fringe conspiracy theory scenario to be true. The victim mentality is another dreadful byproduct of dispensational apocalypticism. This is the ultimate source of the idea that Christians and Christian beliefs are the outcasts of society; that we are forced into the catacombs of science like ICR, AiG, or the Discovery Institute, where, by the grace of God, the real work is being done underground, shielded from the persecutions of peer review.

If I may hazard my own conspiracy theory, it’s sometimes hard not to believe that the bigwigs in those creationist organizations know better, but I’d say that the minions generally just trust their non-scientist pastors, who themselves generally trust the blather of non-scientific organizations like those I just listed. I tend to believe that if most Christians really thought about what they were saying about the thousands of believers who work day to day within the sciences going about their jobs from an old earth or evolutionary perspective, they would realize how unjustly they’re treating their fellow believers. Creationists/ID advocates are telling the vast majority of believing scientists working within the relevant fields that either they’re idiots (”Uh, hello! A creationist geologist I heard said that the speed of light has slowed over time. Get a clue!”) or they’re pawns of peer pressure, their own ambition, or (and?) Satan.

Many creationists and ID advocates would have you believe there are thousands of Christians keeping the faith and not bowing the knee to “Darwinism”. But there’s no data to support this claim; in fact, a Newsweek article in 1987 cited a study that claimed only 700 out of the 480,000 American scientists working in the earth or life sciences — those who deal directly with the data touching evolutionary theory — were still fighting the mound of evidence in favor of creationism. That’s 0.0014%, an amazing minority of scientists that makes up a small percentage of even believing scientists. This doesn’t make evolution correct, but it does suggest that creationism hasn’t done a good job convincing scientists who spend their lives researching this stuff. It also makes for a grand conspiracy indeed, probably requiring more than a few backroom deals brokered through cigar smoke by a cadre of mustache-twirling villains. The specific numbers I quoted, of course, are also easily dismissed as a conspiracy to suppress the truth. How convenient.

3) Crucial for a faithful, accurate interpretation of Scripture is learning to read it as it was intended rather than holding it captive to one’s own presuppositions about it.”

I think the second point is extremely important. It seems to me that creationsists and intleligent design (ID) proponents catch themselves in their own moral trap when they are forced to advance a conspirancy theory to “explain” why these ideas have no scientific traction or support. They end up attributing dishonest motives to honest scientists and educator – hardly what we normally consider as a  Christian attitude.

Undeception finishes his post with the following comment:

“In short, I don’t want Christianity’s credibility to be tied to the mast of any sinking ship. Trust me when I say that creationism is a sinking ship, and everyone outside the evangelical/fundamentalist bubble knows it. Don’t worry: you’ve still got time to board a lifeboat! But first, do help me untie our faith’s credibility from the mast.”

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13 responses to “The immorality of conspiracy theories

  1. “But first, do help me untie our faith’s credibility” -what would that be? (And this is an honest question)

    I was thinking the other night, a dialogue between Dawkins and Hitchens on the future of religions as they would like it. Hitchens would be sad if religions would evaporate completely (something that won’t possibly happen I think) because he then would not have anyone to make fun of!

    But I associated more with Dawkins view, and this is something I had been thinking for some time before I heard his opinion: if organized religions all of a sudden stop providing reasons for discrimination, violence, sexism etc etc (through various scripture interpretations, manipulation of the uneducated masses etc); if they stop abusing science and embrace it; if they are relegated to a cultural/social activity where you go to church, sit down, socialize, listen to some potentially inspiring psalms without the need to believe in fairy tales; if they stop absorbing today’s huge amounts of resources; then it would be probably acceptable 🙂 Or am I missing something here?

    [ Damn, this went a bit off track… Hmmm, good work Ken 🙂 ]

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  2. Oddly, Stavros, I was thinking about acupuncture as a metaphor for religion recently. It’s a totally pointless alternative medicine, from all I can tell – a more effective placebo than an oral placebo pill simply because it affords the patient time and touch and a caring ear. But the needles are not the effective part, in fact they provide a risk of infection, and apparently a very small risk of a collapsed lung (if Orac at Respectful Insolence is anything to go by). You can see the parallels between acupuncture and religion almost immediately – the effective aspects of religion are the bonding and touch it affords people, not the mumbo-jumbo. Cut the mumbo-jumbo out and you have something quite innocuous and lovely.

    Interestingly enough, my workmate is a trained ‘acupuncture practitioner’. I asked him a little about his career before joining the world of ‘media monitoring’, and he advanced the conspiracy theory that ‘Western medicine’ is ‘ethnocentric’ and will not accept medical knowledge from other cultures. I didn’t really know where to start. I smiled, nodded, and now I’ll try to avoid the topic for my job’s sake. I don’t know how people can sustain belief in conspiracy theories.

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  3. “…if Orac at Respectful Insolence is anything to go by…”

    Ahah, another Orac fan.
    I like his blog very much. One of my favourites.

    This is just a general broadcast to anybody interested in the billion dollar medical rubbish industry.
    quackwatch.com is a terrific resource to poke around in.
    Homeopathy, aromatherapy, reiki healing, TT, acupuncture etc.
    It’s all there.

    “I smiled, nodded, and now I’ll try to avoid the topic for my job’s sake.”
    How about a little guerilla warfare in the workplace?
    The best way to prick the delusion bubble on acupunture is to reveal the history of it and how it became popular in the West.
    The best article I’ve found so far is…
    http://www.csicop.org/si/9609/china.html

    I’ve given this article to several of my friends at work with very positive results.

    Print out a copy and leave it in a place where your workmate is sure to find it.
    Deny all knowledge of it if confronted.

    If you’re really sneaky, you could always alter the title a bit to make it appear more “acupuncture friendly”, increasing the odds that your collegue will start reading it.
    Just an idea though.
    🙂

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  4. [off-topic]

    Ken:

    Does the ‘search’ box on your blog only search your articles, not the comments to them? (I’m having trouble trying to re-locate a thread.)

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  5. All 3points listed are fallacious:
    1. Creationists actually *do* support modern science – just not modern pseudoscience.
    2. “conspiracy and/or bad motives”? No. I would not attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
    3. “reading Scripture as it was intended”. That is what creationists do. It is the liberal who twists Scripture in fantastic ways to support whatever is politically correct at the moment.

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  6. Ross,

    1. They do reject evolution out of hand, whilst incredibly ironically accepting things coming from areas of science whose work depend on an evolutionary understanding…

    2. Believing in creationism is stupidity…

    3. They have no way of determining exactly how it was intended (prove your claim…), they read it literally, despite other Christians telling them this is not how it was intended to be read…

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  7. A faith that demands the rejection of mainstream science in order to legitimize its teachings is automatically, unavoidably suspected to be out of touch and irrelevant.

    I agree. Any religion that rejects the discoveries of modern science is doomed.

    Unfortunately for religions, any religion that accept the discoveries of modern science is admitting their god fairy was an unnecessary invention.

    Ross wrote: Creationists actually *do* support modern science – just not modern pseudoscience.

    Ross, if you really think evolutionary biology is pseudoscience, then you owe the entire scientific community an apology.

    Anyway, Ross, thanks for providing strong evidence for an idea I have. My idea is Christians are the most hopelessly stupid people in human history.

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  8. @ Heraclides:

    O don’t think the search looks at comments. However, I think the google search I set up (Openparachute search) does. See if that helps.

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  9. I should have thought to just use google myself… duh. Thanks for that.

    Must check out how to set up personalised search pages, it’d be a good thing to add to my webpages.

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  10. Another useful site – if you’re interested in the peculiarities of pseudoscience – is “Improbable Science” at http://www.dcscience.net

    Ross @#5 – how, exactly, do you decide what’s pseudoscience & what’s not? (If the answer is ‘because I don’t accept its outcomes’, or ‘it doesn’t match my beliefs/perceptions about the world’ – think again.)

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  11. Alison, pseudoscience covers any hypotheses that are not subject to the scientific method. i.e. not subject to repeatability and not falsifiable. Some have argued that, for example, evolution would be falsified if a rabbit was found in pre-cambrian rock, but I would expect this to be imaginatively explained away.

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  12. I would expect this to be imaginatively explained away

    So you really have no idea about the predictions made by evolutionary theory and later confirmed? Are you seriously considering evolution to be a pseudoscience?

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  13. It rather looks that way… 😉

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