ATTENTION: I have written a final edition that supersedes all other previous editions. Please view this new edition of the review to see my latest research and updated arguments. Thank you! The new review can be found HERE.
This is a revised review of David Marshall's book called The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Responding to the Emerging Challenges to god and christianity, which was published in 2007 by Harvest House Publishers. I've decided to deconstruct this entire review and start from scratch (though I will include pieces of the old review) in order to better refute the idiocy of David Marshall.
For those of you who do not know, the tussle between me and David has been going on for close to a year now (today's date is 9-30-08 and I originally wrote him on an Amazon.com forum in January of 2008 asking him what he thought of my review) and he has failed to acknowledge his many errors that I have pointed out to him. David is a classic apologist; he seems to like to use the same tactic with his book that apologists use with the bible: "It doesn't mean what it says, it means what I say." Well, suffice to say, this tactic doesn't work well with the bible, and it has failed to work with Marshall's book. I have documented many of his errors during our debates on the amazon.com forums on my blog (not to mention his lies). Just type "David Marshall" in the search field and all of the posts (they are many!) I've written about it should come up.
In this revised review I will attempt to make my arguments more thorough and detailed so no amount of wiggling and apologetics can save his pathetic arguments. I think that I tried to hurry and finish the original review too fast and that detracted from many of my arguments. I have been doing a lot of studying and because of this my knowledge and understanding of this entire battle between theists (or the claims of the supernatural), and atheism (or the claims of rationality and scientific enquiry), have broadened tremendously. With this new perspective and knowledge I will now begin with my revised review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism.
So, please sit back, relax, and I hope you enjoy the destruction of David Marshall.
Chapter 1: Have Christians Lost Their Minds?
In this chapter Marshall attempts to prove to his readers that faith is "not blind," and that christians do have evidence for their faith. Marshall's target in this chapter is Richard Dawkins,who doesn't look kindly on faith, who thinks faith is held "not only in the absence of evidence, but in the teeth of evidence."
Marshall doesn't agree, though, and goes through and quotes what a handful of christians, the bible, and other theologians have said about the definition of faith and that Dawkins must be wrong simply because no theists agree with Dawkins' definition! Marshall says on page 21: "...McGrath is right. Great christian thinkers across the centuries, and up to the present, no more agree with Dawkins's absurd definition of faith than do McGrath's theological friends." How silly. Unfortunately, some of Marshall's later arguments get even more absurd than this as I'll prove later.
Marshall says that "[i]n the christian sense, faith (emphasis in original) means courageous trust in an object one has good reason to see as credible" (page 27).
I see a few problems with Marshall's definition. One is his use of the word "reason." What "reasons" do christians have for their beliefs? As I've explained elsewhere, all so called "evidences" for god are nothing more than "god of the gaps" arguments and are not actually evidences for anything. This is why I would consider Dawkins' definition to be more accurate. Christians may have reasons for their beliefs - they wish to subscribe the workings of their god to plug the gaps in our knowledge of some aspect of the universe or of humanity, but these reasons are in no way a form of evidence. Many christians also very often disbelieve things in spite of the overwhelming evidence; one example would be evolution. The second problem is that "courageous trust" actually undermines his argument because "trust" is not synonymous with knowledge. I may trust that someone is telling me the truth, but I might not actually know they are. However, if I have them on video confirming what they are telling me, or have some other hard evidence, then I have knowledge of what I am being told is true, and do not need any form of trust or faith to believe.
However, some christians do view the bible as their evidence, but again, there are problems with this alleged "evidence."
Why don't I feel the bible as a form of "evidence" is a worthwhile answer? Because the bible, it's been found, is a collection of stories written by many different people (and changed countless times in the process) from an age when they didn't know as much about the world as we do now. I also do not understand how so many christians can believe what they do when their god has so many attributes which don't make sense when you look at the world. god is said to be, among other things: self-sufficient, self-existent, omnipotent, loving, immutable (never changes), eternal, omnipresent, and merciful (Source: www.allaboutgod.com/attributes-of-god.htm).
With all of these amazing attributes you'd think there would be less suffering in the world, and god would not allow his creations (which he is supposed to love) to roast in a fiery hell for all eternity. I also think it's a contradiction to claim that god can be "self-existent" and "self-sufficient" when the universe cannot (according to theists). They want to have it both ways. The universe needs to have a cause, but their god cannot! This is just plain dumb, not to mention hypocritical, because the universe is here and we all know it's here. Postulating some god (whom we have no evidence for and have never seen) does nothing to fix the problem of "where" the universe came from, if it indeed had a beginning in the first place, which scientists are in the process of working on and may have a good answer in the future. Even at this point in time they have some good theories (and I'm using the scientific definition of a theory, quoted from Isaac Asimov, which is "a detailed description of some facet of the universe's workings that is based on long observation and, where possible, experiment. It is the result of careful reasoning from these observations and experiments that has survived the critical study of scientists generally." Asimov continues, "For example, we have the description of the cellular nature of living organisms [the "cell theory"]; of objects attracting each other according to fixed rule [the "theory of gravitation"]; of energy behaving in discrete bits [the "quantum theory"]; of light traveling through a vacuum at a fixed measurable velocity [the "theory of relativity"], and so on.") about the nature of the universe, but I won't delve into that here since I've written about it fairly extensively in the past.
Other than the "argument from evil," the failed attempts to pass off "intelligent design" as science (they've even failed to find evidence of this "intelligent design" in the first place), the illogical "first cause" arguments, contradictions in the bible, problems with reconciling the evil god found in the bible with the "loving" god that so many christians refer to, among many other problems, are all reasons god is so highly improbable, I think it's safe to say there is no god - at the very least the christian god. But there is no reason to repeat all that here and the above reasons are only the very tip of the iceberg regarding the many problems with this supposed "evidence."
Something that many theists don't seem to understand is that their claims of god, or of god using evolution to create all life cannot be even remotely possible until they can prove the supernatural. Theists take for granted their belief in an immaterial world when it has not been proven. There have been no scientific findings in support of the supernatural (Please see my two posts detailing this fact: Evidence Against the Supernatural, Part 1 and Evidence Against the Supernatural, Part 2 ). Because of this, theists are jumping the gun and evoking the supernatural without even proving it exists first! Talk about presumptuous.
As a side note, I found another definition of faith by Marshall to be ironic: "Faith means...not believing poorly evidenced claims, but 'sticking to what you have good reason to think is true, in the light of difficulties'" (page 30). If Marshall wants to use this definition then I would suggest he gather up all the faith that he can because all of these "difficulties" have caused even very devout religious men to fall to their knees when they finally realize that their beliefs are like a deck of cards - they look good, and they seem impressive, but the slightest little breeze and those cards will tumble. I think science has been like a hurricane towards religious faith. Such notable examples are John W. Loftus, Robert M. Price, and Dan Barker. These "difficulties" are serious problems and having faith does not make them go away.
In an attempt to make it clearer, my point is that what theists actually have are reasons for their beliefs, but these reasons are in no way a form of evidence. For example, I may have a reason why I believe a family member was cured of cancer; perhaps I believed that I rubbed my lucky rabbit's foot and the cancer disappeared several weeks later, but this is in no way evidence that this is what cured them. The same with all arguments for god. Theists may believe the universe is finely tuned, they may believe god answers prayer, they may think they "feel" god's presence, but these beliefs do not validate the existence of god.
At one point, on page 21, Marshall goes through and lists what the christians, Justin Martyr and Origen, have said about faith, claiming they think that christians are to have reasons for their beliefs:
"Justin Martyr wrote, 'Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions.' Origen...argued that there was good evidence (in archaeology, history, miracles, and prophecy) that the Christian faith was, in fact, reasonable."
Sorry, but it seems that Origen also stated the following, shunning any and all evidence:
"We admit that we teach those men to believe without reasons" (Source: Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, page 396).
It's clear that even Justin Martyr shuns evidence for his beliefs since he said:
"...this should now be obvious to you - that whatever we assert in conformity with what has been taught us by Christ, and by the prophets who preceded Him, are alone true, and are older than all the writers who have existed..."
Justin Martyr's argument summed up is not one of inquiry and evidence, but one of blind faith that the scriptures are true, and that's what he used as "evidence", when he never checked the reliability of such writings to begin with. According to Richard Carrier:
"You can read Justin's two apologies back to front and never once find any other methodological principle or source of his faith [other than the scriptures]" (Source: Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, pages 354-355) [emphasis in original].
Despite Marshall's attempts to use the bible to claim that belief through faith makes use of evidence, the fact is that the bible overwhelmingly condones the "blind faith" that Dawkins speaks of, including the belief that one need not do research to check to make sure what you're reading or learning is true.
Such passages that speak of "blind faith" are:
1 Timothy 6:3-4: "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and the constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain."
1 Corinthians 15:11 Paul says, "...this is what we preach, and this is what you believed."
2 Corinthians 5:7: "We live by faith, not by sight."
Luke 1:18-20 tells how Zechariah asked god: "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man an my wife is well along in years." Because he questioned god, he was punished by being made a mute.
Romans 1:17 it is said that "The righteous will live by faith."
All above bible verses are from the NIV; more evidence for the lack of fact checking and inquiry and proof that the bible teaches "blind faith" I recommend Richard Carrier's book Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed, chapter 17.
After Marshall's lack of logical reasoning in trying to define faith, he goes on to accuse Dawkins and others of having "faith" in the scientific method. Marshall writes that "one must trust the mind," and that we must have "trust in our senses" (page 27). He says on page 29 that "[s]cience is always based on at least three kinds of reasonable but fallible faith: trust in the mind, in the senses, and in other people. None of these can be proven - to use mind to prove mind is to argue in a circle. And the senses might be wrong."
I would actually agree with this, but Marshall neglects to see the other side of the coin. If we cannot trust our own senses to give us an accurate picture of the world then how in the hell can a theist use his "fallible" mind and senses to see design in the world? I could just as easily accuse Marshall of the same error.
But regardless of all this philosophical nonsense, the fact is that our minds are all that we have in determining the truth of things. Having said that, the scientific method is one of the most useful forms of gathering evidence and determining, as close to reality as possible, an accurate picture of the world and how that world functions.
The scientific method that so many theists mock has a pretty good track record of curing diseases, extending our lives, and making our lives easier and more comfortable (too bad religion cannot boast of such an impressive resume) and based on all these facts, it seems that this method works rather well, so why shouldn't we trust it? After all, all of the things the scientific method has produced is a testament to it's effectiveness and truth. If it was not based on truth it wouldn't be as effective in curing diseases, creating new technologies, etc. To put it plainly, if science wasn't discovering the truth of things, it wouldn't work!
A related point is the fact that a hypothesis can be tested. For example, the transitional fossil Tiktaalik roseae was found when paleontologists went looking for a "predicted" intermediate form between the fish-like organism, Panderichthys and the tetrapod-like organisms, Acanthostega and Ichthyostega in sediments from the most probable environment (rivers) and time (early Late Devonian). Because of the excellent powers of the scientific method their hypothesis was confirmed (Source: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/04/tiktaalik_makes_another_gap.php) and they found this excellent example of a transitional fossil right where they thought it would be.
Despite what Marshall says, faith is often used as is described by Dawkins' definition: belief without evidence, and there is some proof of this. Why is it that every religious person I have ever debated, when I've shown their "reasons" for belief to be illogical and incorrect (as far as scientific knowledge), do they retreat into the corner and play the "faith" card? I believe it, and that's that, is their response in a nutshell. That is not having any reasons for your beliefs. That's just belief for the sake of belief. So it would seem that many christians' use of faith matches the common definition (faith is a "firm belief without logical proof" - Oxford Desk Dictionary & Thesaurus), and not the one which Marshall and other christians want to use.
There is still another problem with Marshall's argument, however. It's true that many theologians have expressed their belief that faith doesn't mean "without evidence" but many have throughout history, or at least felt there were no good reasons for that belief. If Marshall wishes to argue his idea of faith using various theologians who hold that position, then I think it's completely justified to hold the position that faith means "belief without evidence," and oftentimes "in the teeth of evidence," to use Dawkins' phrase, because many theologians have come to that same conclusion.
Such theologians who have espoused this kind of faith are Søren Kierkegaard, Tertullian who said, "just because it is absurd, it is to be believed...," saint Peter Damian, Martin Luther, Manegold of Lautenbach, and Walter of St. Victor (Source: The Non-Existence of God, by Nicholas Everitt, pages 3, 4, and 7).
So, let's recap. David Marshall has failed to show how faith uses "evidence," though if I were to grant him that part of his argument, I would say that the "evidence" he cites is seriously lacking. Also (in my opinion), a large reason that Dawkins defines faith as he does is because so many christians believe in spite of all the evidence against their beliefs, some of which I briefly covered earlier. Science does not rely on faith anymore than any other human endeavor where you use your senses (which would include everything!). Science relies on evidence that can be tested, checked, and confirmed while religion's claims violate all the laws of nature and because of this (making the very rational assumption that the laws have always been the same - even if they did change there has been no evidence brought forth proving this) there is no evidence that any of their supernatural claims took place.
Ultimately, attempting to redefine faith as Marshall has done is disingenuous. Despite whether or not the definitions are correct, the entire point is that there is not a shred of evidence in favor of theists' beliefs. Faith without evidence? Faith with evidence? Who cares? The "evidence" is non-existent to begin with.
Since I've finished refuting his major claim I want to address two more things he says in this chapter. Marshall is talking about the story of doubting Thomas, which is "often cited to prove christianity demands blind faith" (page 17).
Next, Marshall goes on to say that in this passage, Thomas did get evidence:
"There are several problems with taking this passage as a general repudiation of critical thought. First, jesus did give Thomas - and the other disciples - enough firsthand evidence of his resurrection that they were willing to die for him.... Second, jesus often did miracles, calling them 'signs,' (which even skeptical historians often admit) show strong evidence of historicity. In the very next sentence (usually omitted by those making the case for blind faith), John explains that the signs jesus did were recorded 'so that you may believe that jesus is the christ' (John 20:31)."
Beginning the next paragraph Marshall says, "Is it rational to believe things on the basis of human testimony? It'd be a pity if it weren't because, as Samuel Johnson put it, most of our knowledge is based on 'implied faith' in other people" (pages 17-18).
Taking this entire non-coherent passage in context, Marshall is arguing that the bible can be truly trusted and that because it is an example of "human testimony" we can trust what is written, even though these passages were written by very superstitious men and we have no way of knowing (unless archaeology discovers an older chapter John that does not that have passage) if this story was an original to John or was added decades later. Either way, you still have to applaud Marshall for abandoning any and all rational thought in order to believe that a man rose from the dead (while using as his source a book that has been continuously changed throughout time).
I also think that Marshall is implying that all people must rely on faith to some degree, even when dealing with what scientists tell us, by referring to the bible, when he says, "...most of our knowledge is based on 'implied faith' in other people." This is a very flawed way of looking at things, though, because the faith that one must have in the resurrection (and many other parts of the bible for which evidence is either nonexistent, or contradicts what's said in the bible) and the "faith" Marshall claims is used when one is listening to scientists are two totally separate kinds of beliefs. In regards to the bible, there is little to no evidence corroborating what is told (plus it implies accepting the supernatural when there is no evidence), while what scientists claim can be confirmed by looking at the evidence yourself if you so choose. The point is that in one instance, the evidence is available, while in the other it's not - or the evidence is lacking or nonexistent.
Now, the second problem with this passage is a bit confusing. Either Marshall is claiming that the "signs" jesus did are true and is accepted by "even skeptical historians." Or, he is saying that the "signs" jesus did are proof of his resurrection. Or, maybe these "signs" are accepted as "proof" of jesus' historicity by even "skeptical historians?"
Either way, it's pure nonsense. I can't think of any "skeptical historians" who would actually think that jesus did any magic or was a historical person - if they did how could they be considered "skeptical"??? To top it off, one must prove the supernatural before any magic or miracles can take place. And David Marshall wonders why Richard Dawkins takes jabs at christian beliefs...
They're just plain crazy that's why.
The second issue is that Marshall has mislead his readers about Richard Dawkins on pages 19-20 saying:
"When both men [theologian Richard Swinburne and Richard Dawkins] appeared on a TV show, Swinburne attempted, Dawkins says, to 'justify the Holocaust.' This is an ambivalent phrase. It could mean showing why Hitler was right to kill Jews. It could also mean, (as Swinburne meant), the far different and difficult task of asking why god may have allowed the Holocaust. Dawkins leaves the two potential meanings tangled, then ends with the borrowed quip, 'May you rot in hell!'"
While reading this Marshall makes it appear that Dawkins was the one who said "May you rot in hell" to Swinburne on the TV show, but the fact of the matter is Dawkins did no such thing.
Dawkins recounts this story on page 64 of The god Delusion:
After quoting Swinburne trying to "justify suffering in a world run by god" Dawkins says,
"This grotesque piece of reasoning, so damningly typical of the theological mind, reminds me of an occasion when I was on a television panel with Swinburne, and also with our Oxford colleague Professor Peter Atkins. Swinburne at one point attempted to justify the Holocaust on the grounds that it gave the Jews a wonderful opportunity to be courageous and noble. Peter Atkins splendidly growled, 'May you rot in hell.'"
Clearly Dawkins was referring to the fact that it was Aktins who said such a thing, not Dawkins, but that is very hard to decern from Marshall's book. However, Marshall does say it is a "borrowed quip," which could imply that Dawkins did not actually say that, but Marshall does not make that very clear at all in the text.
But what disturbs me is Swinburne's seemingly uncaring attitude and Marshall apparently defending such a statement. Their horrible and cruel deaths at the hands of a racist/antisemitic mob were a good chance for them to be "courageous and noble"??? Dawkins was perfectly justified in 'borrowing' that quip.
Chapter 2: Are Scientists Too "Bright" to Believe in god?
This second chapter starts off with a brief section on the subject of science and christianity. Marshall says on page 37,
"Early scientists were mostly zealous Christians. If the Bible teaches us to close our eyes to natural wonder, why did modern science arise among a church-educated elite steeped in such anti-intellectualism?"
First of all, the relationship between science and christianity is complex and there were periods when christians did pursue limited scientific inquiry, however, I wouldn't say that modern science arose among the "church-educated elite."
The fact is that christianity inherited science from the Greek and Arab world and it seems to be a fact that science did suffer under christianity. To quote Richard Carrier, a Ph.D. on the subject of the history of science:
"...[O]ne claim that cannot be sustained is that Christianity 'encouraged' science. Had that been the case, then there would not have been almost a thousand years (from roughly 300 to 1250 AD) of absolutely zero significant advances in science (excepting a very few and relatively minor contributions by Hindus and Muslims), in contrast with the previous thousand years (from roughly 400 BC to 300 AD), which witnessed incredible advances in the sciences in continuous succession every century, culminating in theorists whose ideas and findings came tantalizingly close to the scientific revolution in the 2nd century AD (namely, but not only, Galen and Ptolemy). You can't propose a cause that failed to have an effect despite being constantly in place for a thousand years, especially when in its absence science had made far more progress. Science picked up again in the 1200's precisely where the ancients had left off, by rediscovering their findings, methods, and epistemic values and continuing the process they had begun" (Source: http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/science-and-medieval-christianity.html).
Another fact that must be realized is the scientific inquiry that christians did do was in complete contradiction with their theology. They adapted their theology in order to embrace scientific discovery. To quote Dr. Carrier once more, continuing from the above quoted paragraph:
"Sure, this was done by Christians, but only against the dominant grain, and at first only very slowly, and only by redefining what it meant to be a Christian in a way that would have been nearly unrecognizable to the Christians of the first four centuries, and was diametrically the opposite of what Christians of the early middle ages would have tolerated. A fair example is the treatment of John Philopon in the 6th century, possibly the only innovative 'scientist' (if he can be called that) in the whole of Christian history before the 13th century: he was branded a heretic and everything he did in the sciences was effectively ignored. Though he wasn't condemned for being a scientist, he was condemned for thinking for himself in matters of theology, precisely in his effort to make science and religion compatible. But by opposing exactly that process, the Church killed any prospect for science under its watch for nearly ten whole centuries. You can call it collateral damage, but it's damage all the same. An accidentally dead Iraqi is still a victim of war, and so was medieval science a victim of Christianity."
Even after the half-hearted acceptance of scientific knowledge, there were still many christians who fought against scientific ideas that went against their theology (and nothing has changed since). However, many christians simply used science as a "handmaiden" to theology. The sciences "should be studied for the light they shed on Scripture and theological problems..." but this is hardly what I'd call a scientific mindset; a state of mind that allows the evidence to point where it may, personal preferences, theology, and opinions be damned. This was not the view of many theists during the middle ages.
In order to qualify the first accusation, many very conservative christians sought to condemn and attack the work of Aristotelian natural philosophy even in the thirteenth century because they "were still concerned about the impact of Aristotelian thought..." (Source: Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction, page 39).
Marshall, on page 38, seems to claim that christianity was responsible for the scientific advancement, when he says,
"The rise of science marked no sudden break in history. Like other accomplishments of Christian Europe, it grew slowly like a tree from roots deeply entangled in the humus of the so-called Dark Ages."
As I showed above (by quoting Carrier) this was not the case. Christians actually contributed little to actual scientific inquiry. But, how could it possibly have been any different when many theologians simply used science in an attempt to confirm their preconceived beliefs?
Like the more modern Creationism and Intelligent Design propaganda, where you have theists pretending to perform real science, what's taking place is not actual science (as defined by following the evidence only), but a mere attempt to force your beliefs to conform to the evidence. That's not getting at the truth; that's simply trying to hang on to your beliefs despite the mounting conflicting evidence. It was the same in the past, and it's the same today with the anti-evolution nut jobs and even those who have once again distorted their beliefs so they can claim their god guides evolution.
So all in all, the so called "conflict thesis" is not completely accurate in that religion constantly battled all scientific inquiry, however, it's also not true what many christian apologists, such as David Marshall, tell you about the history of science and religion, in that the church helped science along. The truth is actually somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Though many don't realize how advanced ancient science really was, therefore they lack the understanding of how much science actually suffered because of christianity (Source: Personal communication via email with Dr. Carrier dated 4-15-09).
Now that I have that out of the way, the rest of the chapter is Marshall explaining seven "non logical" reasons why he thinks scientists don't believe in god:
1. Hostility to Religion
Marshall claims that there is hostility to religion in universities and quotes Huston Smith, George Marsden, and an anthropology professor Marshall had, confirming his hypothesis, though he gives no actual examples of this happening except for the case of Richard Sternberg.
The case of Richard Sternberg occurred in 2004 when, as an editor of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, he published a pro-intelligent design article by Stephen C. Meyer. Afterwards claims of harassment ensued; he was "lied about, and kept from doing research..." according to Marshall (page 42). Well, there is much more to this story (as well as some pure bullshit) that I uncovered when I looked into this. Well, don't hold your breath. This isn't the first or last instance of David Marshall lying through his teeth.
The following is from the website www.pandasthumb.org (actual page: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/08/sternberg_and_t.html#comment-44545):
Sternberg and the “smear” of Creationism
By Andrea Bottaro on August 22, 2005
One of the items in the list of offenses Richard Sternberg claims to have suffered at the hands of his Smithsonian colleagues and the “Darwinian orthodoxy” after the publication of the Meyer paper is the accusation of being a “Young Earth Creationist”. However, the record shows that, at the time, the accusation was hardly a purposeful smear aimed at unfairly tarnishing Sternberg’s reputation, but a reasonable conclusion based on the available information. More below.
The claim that Sternberg was a Young Earth Creationist stemmed in large part from the discovery that Sternberg has been, for several years, on the Editorial Board of a Young-Earth Creationist newsletter, the “Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group” (OPBSG). Baraminology is a Creationist pseudoscientific version of taxonomy, which focuses on the supposedly unabridgeable differences between organisms to identify the Biblical “created kinds”. The Baraminology Study Group (BSG) has seat at the Young-Earth Creationist William Jennings Bryan College in Dayton, TN, and as far as I can tell it includes, besides Sternberg, only Young-Earth Creationists. A requirement for BSG Society membership is that one must be “a Christian accepting the authority of the Bible … in all areas” (Sternberg is not a Society member).
Since the Meyer-Sternberg affaire broke out, Sternberg has defended himself from the accusation by claiming that his role on the OPBSG Editorial Board was that of a “friendly but critical outsider”. The BSG’s Todd Wood has issued a letter supporting Dr. Sternberg’s assertion to the extent that he (Sternberg) is “not a young-earth creationist” and “does not accept the young earth position” (no comment was made on other forms of Creationism).
While Sternberg could have acted as an outside critical reviewer for the BSG under various roles, he was officially on the Editorial Board of OPBSG, and also actively contributed to the BSG proceedings. For instance, in 2001, Sternberg participated in the “Discontinuity: Understanding Biology in the Light of Creation” conference at Cedarville University. In his presentation there, he argued that process structuralism (a theory, which Sternberg adheres to, about the origin of biological types that aims at understanding “laws of form” underlying morphology, independent of the historical process of evolution) “provides a ready-made, although as yet incomplete, theoretical foundation for baraminological thinking”, and that “Some structuralists are striving to establish a “rational systematics”… that would reflect the ‘Plan of Creation’.” His talk drew an unreservedly enthusiastic review by an attending Young-Earth Creationist, writing for the “Creation Science Dialogue”. [Incidentally, Sternberg’s take on structuralism sounds a little peculiar to me, as I have always known most major structuralists to definitely accept evolution by common descent, although they disagree with mainstream evolutionary theory that evolution’s historical process, via contingent mutation and adaptation, can reveal how morphology originates. I would have a hard time fitting baraminological theory, which argues for independent supernatural de novo creation of organisms, within the framework of structuralism as it is generally intended. But I am not an expert on structuralism, anyway. Perhaps someone can add to this in the comments.]
Also, right before the Meyer paper was published, Sternberg was the sole author of another paper in OPBSG, presented at the Third BSG Conference “Discovering the Creator”, held at Bryan College. In the abstract, Sternberg argues for a fundamental discontinuity in the fossil transitional forms of cetaceans:
Second, whereas the basal cetaceans are arranged in a complex map-like way to each other, they are only weakly connected to the basilosaurids-dorudontids [extinct primitive cetaceans - AB], and strictly discontinuous with Mysticetes and Odontocetes [moderns cetaceans - AB]. Serious logical problems with the interpretation of “Pseudocetes” as transitional forms are briefly presented.
The lingo and conclusions of the paper are indistibuishable from those of bona fide baraminologist material.
It is therefore hardly a surprise that, when Sternberg was involved in overseeing the publication of the anti-evolution paper by Meyer, people simply assumed that his connection with baraminology was more than that of a “friendly but critical outsider”. (Meyer is himself a Creationist who rejects the evidence for common descent and, as a faculty of Palm Beach Atlantic University, affirms “that man was directly created by God”.)
One may legitimately argue whether the best form of “friendly outside criticism” a scientist can provide to baraminologists is to help them hone their pseudo-scientific methods and arguments about the impossibility of evolution, and thus reinforce their cranky beliefs, as opposed to unequivocally taking the scientific position of arguing for the evidence that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, that a world-wide flood never occurred and that the fossil and molecular records are definitive evidence that biological species changed across time. Perhaps Sternberg did that as well, and the record of such criticisms was expunged from publication of the various BSG conference reports (in which case, Sternberg should have realized his “friendly criticism” was not as welcome as his apparent endorsement).
The issue remains that as the Meyer paper scandal broke, Sternberg’s participation in the BSG proceedings in the relevant public record appeared, for all intents and purposes, genuinely and unconditionally supportive.
Based on the information emerged later, one can accept Sternberg’s and Wood’s word, and agree Sternberg is in fact not a Young-Earth Creationist - I for one am willing to do that. However, in asking for fairness from his colleagues in this respect, Sternberg should reciprocate in kind, and cease making false accusations that the claim he was a closet Young-Earth Creationist was an “outrageous rumor” and a willful attempt to smear him, as opposed to a straightforward and reasonable inference from the overwhelming available evidence in the summer of 2004.
In his dealings with the baraminologists, just like in his mishandling of the Meyer paper review, Sternberg can trade the accusation of being an outright pseudoscientist with that of simply being a scientist with exceptionally bad professional judgement. He can’t however just blame his colleagues for taking his own words and actions at face value.
Acknowledgments: Thanks to Gary Hurd for pointing out material and sources, and Nick and Wes for suggestions.
I also found a statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington about this topic as well. It can currently be found here: http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html
The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councillors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml), which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.
We have reviewed and revised editorial policies to ensure that the goals of the Society, as reflected in its journal, are clearly understood by all. Through a web presence (http://www.biolsocwash.org) and improvements in the journal, the Society hopes not only to continue but to increase its service to the world community of systematic biologists.
Wikipedia.org also has some good information on this subject:
Peer review controversy -
In June 2004, a paper by Stephen C. Meyer advocating intelligent design was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer reviewed scientific journal edited at the time by Sternberg, fulfilling, in part, a goal of the intelligent design movement since its inception. Meyer serves as the Director of the Center for Science and Culture, part of the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. According to an article by the Society of Academic Authors, Meyer said the article grew out of a presentation he made at a conference attended by Sternberg, at which they discussed the possibility of a paper for society's journal.
The issue of the Proceedings in which the Meyer article appears was to be Sternberg's last before stepping down having resigned in October 2003. Sternberg's decision to publish Meyer's paper and the method by which it was done prompted widespread controversy, ultimately resulting in the journal's publisher deeming the paper inappropriate for publication on the grounds that its subject matter represented a significant departure from the journal's normal content and stating that it did not meet the scientific standards of the journal. They stated that Sternberg went outside the usual review procedures to allow Meyer's article to be published, and that the paper was published "without the prior knowledge of the council, which includes officers, elected councillors, and past presidents, or associate editors." The Biological Society of Washington's president, Roy McDiarmid called Sternberg's decision "a really bad judgment call on the editor's part."
Sternberg disputes the publisher's statement and claims that, after the controversy became public, unnamed groups attempted to pressure the NIH to fire him and efforts were made to remove him from his role of research associate at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. The result of the latter, he claims, was that "it was made clear to me that my current position at the Smithsonian will not be renewed." Sternberg filed a claim that afterward he was "targeted for retaliation and harassment" for his religious beliefs at the Smithsonian. The claim was rejected in August, 2005 on the grounds that Sternberg was not actually an employee. A report issued by Republican intelligent design advocates Mark Souder and Rick Santorum echoed Sternberg's claims about his treatment at the Smithsonian, but no action has resulted. The report was described by Steve Reuland as containing "extreme dishonesty", for claiming that "the Deputy Secretary [of the Smithsonian Institution]’s statement completely failed to address the central question of whether the harassment and discrimination identified in the OSC report took place", when the "things that the Smithsonian inquired about – Sternberg’s office space, access to collections, status as a Research Associate, etc. – were the very things that the alleged harassment and discrimination consisted of." The Discovery Institute often cites the Souder report as evidence that Sternberg specifically, and design proponents in general, are victims of persecution, and the Sternberg peer review controversy has become one of the examples of discrimination often cited in the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns.
Another good piece on this subject can also be found at scienceblogs.com, by Ed Brayton.
Creating a Martyr: The Sternberg Saga Continues
The Discovery Institute is promoting a new report from a conservative Indiana Congressman about the Sternberg affair. For those who don't recall, Richard Sternberg was the editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a journal loosely associated with the Smithsonian Institution, when they published the now-infamous paper by DI Program Director Stephen C. Meyer. This is very important for their PR campaign to position themselves as victims of persecution, but the facts of the case simply do not support the conclusions of the report.
Though the DI says that "The House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources has issued its official report" on the matter, this does not appear to be an official report of that committee. Rather, it appears to be a report from the staff of the committee to Rep. Mark Souder only. The report is hosted on Souder's website, not the committee website, and there is nothing to indicate that it is an official committee report.
The report has two parts: the report itself and an appendix, which contains the evidence upon which the report is based, primarily emails and letters from Smithsonian administrators, staff, Sternberg himself and the NCSE staff. If you take the time to read through the appendix, which is quite large, it doesn't take long to figure out what is really going on here. Comparing the evidence in the appendix to the conclusions in the report leads one to several conclusions:
1. What little ill-treatment Sternberg may have gotten (in fact, all of the comments expressing distrust and anger at Sternberg and urging his dismissal were made not to his face, but in private emails that he never saw) was largely self-inflicted, the result not only of his violation of procedures in regard to the Meyer paper, but in regard to several other instances of professional malfeasance and prior examples of poor judgement as PBSW editor.
2. The evidence does not support the conclusion that Sternberg was discriminated against in any material way. At absolute worst, he was greeted with professional mistrust and anger on the part of some of his colleagues, who were upset that his actions in regard to the Meyer paper brought disrepute to the Smithsonian and to them as associates. Disapproval and criticism, of course, are not the same thing as discrimination nor are they a violation of his civil rights.
3. Sternberg has grossly exaggerated several alleged instances of "retaliation" in the early days of the scandal. In particular, he claimed that he had his keys taken away, his access to the Smithsonian's collections taken away, and lost his office space. In reality, the keys and office space were exchanged as part of larger museum changes and he retains the same access today that all others in his position have.
4. The accusations, in particular, against the National Center for Science Education - that they conspired with Smithsonian officials to "publicly smear and discredit" Sternberg - are not only not supported by the evidence in the appendix, they are completely disproven by the emails contained therein.
5. All of that leads to the only possible conclusion: that this is a trumped-up report orchestrated by political allies of the Discovery Institute, particularly Rep. Mark Souder and former (I love saying that) Sen. Rick Santorum. They have put out a report that simply is not supported by the evidence and was designed, intelligently or otherwise, to support the disingenuous PR campaign that includes the attempt to position themselves as victims of discrimination.
Before we even look at these specific points, let's first review what we know about the situation that precipitated the entire controversy, the publication of the Meyer article, The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories, in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. We know that Sternberg was the editor of that journal and that the last issue for which he would be editor was the August, 2004 issue, the one in which Meyer's article appeared; his editorship was up after that issue, as was predetermined. We know that the Meyer article was on a subject that was inappropriate for the journal's normal focus, which is systematics. A few weeks after the article was published, the council of the Biological Society of Washington published a statement which said:
The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history...Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.
We also know that Sternberg went outside the normal peer review procedures for the journal. Again, from the council's statement on the matter:
Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process.
Sternberg claims that he handled the entire review process because none of the associate editors were qualified and because he was the most qualified. On his webpage, he wrote:
Since systematics and evolutionary theory are among my primary areas of interest and expertise (as mentioned above, I hold two PhDs in different aspects of evolutionary biology), and there was no associate editor with equivalent qualifications, I took direct editorial responsibility for the paper.
But this simply was not true. Systematics (the study of taxonomy) is the subject of the PBSW and it is the subject of Sternberg's expertise, but it is not the subject of Meyer's paper. The primary subject of the paper is the Cambrian explosion and, ostensibly, bioinformatics as it pertains to the origin of the higher phyla. This is not the focus of Sternberg's research, nor does it have much of anything to do with systematics other than an obligatory discussion of how many phyla and sub-phyla originated during the Cambrian. The most appropriate reviewers, then, would be paleontologists. Among the associate editors at the time (and still today) was Gale Bishop, an expert in invertebrate paleontology. There were three other specialists on invertebrates among the associate editors as well, including current PBSW editor Stephen Gardiner, Christopher Boyko and Janet Reid, all specialists in invertebrate zoology (the Cambrian fauna was almost entirely made up of invertebrates). Yet Sternberg felt no need to let any of those people, all more qualified than him on the subject, even look at the paper, or even make them aware of its existence. He may not have been under any formal obligation to send the article to someone with a specialty in Cambrian paleontology, but that is both the professional and the ethical thing to do.
Nor was this the first time Sternberg's handling of a controversial manuscript an issue. There is also mention in an email from Frank Ferrari (p. 20) that this was not the first time Sternberg had published a substandard article after initially not following normal review procedures. Ferrari says:
What is troubling is the implication in the article that the manuscript was peer-reviewed. I doubt it was, based on my experience with Sternberg and the infamous Nizinski manuscript, which Sternberg also wanted to publish and also insisted had been peer-reviewed. Prior to publication, I asked him who reviewed the Nizinski manuscript, but he would not give me any names. When I insisted that the manuscript be reviewed internationally, the consensus of 4 international reviewers was rejection (sadly, Sternberg published it anyway).
There were also concerns raised in the emails in the appendix over complaints concerning his handling of numerous manuscripts during his tenure as editor of the PBSW. One colleague reported having emails from the authors of 17 different papers complaining about Sternberg's handling of their manuscript submissions.
Now, why is all of this particularly important in regard to this one paper? Because professional ethics would have demanded that this situation be handled with more transparency, not less. Sternberg knew that the Meyer paper - any paper advocating ID, for that matter - would be highly controversial (indeed, he admits as much on his webpage). It would be doubly so because of Sternberg's close connections with the ID movement and with Meyer specifically, indeed his close connection to the material in that specific paper. In October 2002, a conference called RAPID (Research and Progress in Intelligent Design) was held at BIOLA. This was a closed conference, only ID advocates were allowed to attend (Wes Elsberry was specifically refused admission for that reason).
At that conference, not only did Sternberg present a pro-ID paper, but Meyer presented on the exact material that went into the paper that was eventually published (see the full schedule here). It seems rather obvious that this conference was probably where the scheme was hatched to get this paper, which would otherwise almost certainly be denied if not sent to a friendly editor in a position to approve its publication without input from the journal's other editors, into the Proceedings. Indeed, Meyer has said as much, in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. That article requires a subscription, but this report says:
According to the article, Meyer "said he had chosen the journal because Mr. Sternberg attended a conference where Mr. Meyer gave an oral presentation advancing the same arguments. The two discussed the possibility of publishing the work."
So what does all of that tell us? It tells us that Sternberg had numerous complaints and problems over his handling of manuscripts, his decisions to publish substandard papers, his bypassing of normal peer review process and his decisions to publish papers despite negative peer reviews. It tells us that the paper almost certainly should never have been published. That much has been admitted by the BSW Council, who also point out that had the associate editors seen the manuscript, they would have rejected it as inappropriate as well. It tells us that Sternberg, despite knowing that the publication of this paper would be very controversial, indeed knowing that if it was reviewed by the associated editors or by other competent paleontologists at the Smithsonian it would almost certainly be rejected, conspired in advance to make sure it would slide through, and kept secret his connections to the author and the ID movement throughout the process.
Sternberg has attempted to argue that all of this is okay because, technically, he had the authority to do it. But having that authority does not excuse the professional and ethical misjudgments. If you know that the publication of a pro-ID paper in a Smithsonian journal is going to cause an outcry, and you have close ties to the ID movement and to the author of this paper specifically, the ethical thing to do would be to recuse yourself from handling that paper and allow someone without those personal and professional ties to the author and subject of the paper to decide whether it should be published. We know, because the BSW Council has told us, that the paper was inappropriate for the journal and that, had it gone to the associate editors, it would have been rejected. Sternberg knew that as well, and despite the obvious conflicts of interest inherent in the situation, he secretly shepherded the paper through to make sure it got in. This is flagrant breach of professional ethics that brought disrepute to the Smithsonian. Is it really so surprising or unjustified that he was subject to a few rude comments and treated brusquely by those who were embarrassed by his actions?
The emails in the appendix reveal much more than that, however. They also reveal that Sternberg was guilty of a good deal more malfeasance at the Smithsonian. For example, Marilyn Schotte (who is, I'm told, a close friend of Sternberg's) reports in an email (p. 27) about Sternberg's lack of responsibility in taking care of Smithsonian resources:
With regard to Rick's sense of responsibility as a Research Associate at NMNH, I know that he kept hundreds of specimens from the USNM collection in his office for a couple of years despite repeated requests from the curator-in-charge and the Collection Manager to return the specimens to the collection. He finally returned the majority (which he was not currently working on) and moved the remainder, a small collection into a temporary office. After six months of his absence from the museum, I returned all specimens back to the main collection and noted that 10-12% of them needed alcohol, so they were not being properly curated. I also saw overdue notices from the NMNH library on Rick's desk, unopened. He had over 50 books and periodicals checked out and ignored repeated requests to turn them in or renew them. After the third recall notice and a prompt from me via email, he returned a book needed by someone else and told me that he "notified the library staff about the others." The next day I queried the staff about those remaining overdue books and was told that Rick had contacted no one, and that the books and periodicals were still overdue.
Not exactly the way to endear oneself to one's colleagues or to the management of a museum. Improperly handling specimens is a cardinal sin in a research institution like this. And in fact, the problem gets worse. In an email from his supervisor, Jonathan Coddington, Sternberg was informed of just how irresponsible he was in handling Smithsonian materials:
At the request of SI libraries, we recently attempted to find and return your more than 50 overdue library books, but several dozen apparently are still missing. If, perchance, you have removed those from the building, please return them immediately as we insist that all SI library books remain on the premises. If not, where are they? We have checked WG-9 and Brian's old office. You are welcome to check books out from our libraries, but they should remain in your designated workspace.
My only other concern is that your old IZ work area seems to contain specimens from other institutions (Univ Miami?), but we have no records of an incoming loan in your name. For obvious reasons, we like to be aware of non-SI material in the building, so please clarify the status of these specimens with Marilyn and/or Vic. If they do belong to another institution, the transaction should be recorded in our transaction management system.
So in addition to all the problems regarding his tenure as editor of the journal, and the questions surrounding the Meyer paper, there were also numerous problems with his responsibility as a Research Associate at the Smithsonian. Again, is it any wonder that he engendered some hostility from his colleagues?
In addition to that, the emails contained in the appendix provide powerful evidence that Sternberg vastly exaggerated, at the very least, the extent of the alleged retaliation in the aftermath of the controversy. For instance, he claimed that he had his keys, his office and his access to the collections taken away; none of those claims were true and all are clearly contradicted by the emails in the appendix. In fact, even before the article was published, Sternberg -- along with many other staff members and researchers -- was informed that he would be moved to different offices because of a reorganization of the vertebrate and invertebrate zoology departments. In an email in July of 2004 (p. 36), Sternberg is informed, along with several others, about this reorganization and told that they would have to move offices.
Sternberg was moved twice. First, as a part of the larger reorganization that involved a couple dozen people. In fact, they remodeled a room just to make sure he and another RA still had offices and workspace. Sternberg knew about and agreed to that move in July of 04, before the paper was even published, so there is simply no way to pretend that it was done in retaliation for anything. The second move, from invertebrate zoology to vertebrate zoology, was at Sternberg's request and he remains there to this day. As far as the keys are concerned, Sternberg had a master key, which would have gotten him into anything, including private offices. As part of a larger crackdown on lax security, master keys were restricted to those who really should have them, and RAs certainly did not qualify. But Sternberg still has access to everything he ever needed access to for his research, which was never limited in any way.
The report makes a big deal out of the fact that one SI staffer in particular, Rafeal Lemaitre, was strongly arguing that Sternberg should have his access removed and appeared to be very hostile to him. But as the emails show, his repeated requests for Sternberg to be punished were refused by his superiors, who in fact finally just told him to stop making such a big deal out of it. But given that Lemaitre is the curator of the very specimen collections (crustaceans, specifically decapods) on which Sternberg worked and with which he showed such a lack of responsibility, is it really so unjustified that he would show hostility toward Sternberg? And remember, having a colleague not like you or criticize you is simply not an instance of discrimination.
The report also makes a big deal out of the fact that there was discussion in the emails of whether Sternberg should be asked to resign and that people raised questions about his religious views. But given that he had just snuck in a paper that argues for a religious rather than scientific explanation into a scientific journal attached to the Smithsonian, those are hardly unreasonable questions. No one ever so much as suggested that his religious views could or should be grounds for anything; in fact, the emails in the appendix explicitly argue against that. The report seems to think that the mere fact that questions were asked about an obvious aspect of the situation, that this amounts to discrimination even if no actual action was ever taken against Sternberg at all. While there was much discussion of the situation, about what improprieties had taken place and about what they might do about it, including some discussion of whether they should ask Sternberg to resign his position, in the end nothing at all was done to him. The administration ultimately concluded that there was not sufficient cause to take any action toward Sternberg, and none was ever taken.
In fact, when his term as Research Associate was up, he was offered the opportunity to continue as a Research Collaborator. The report claims that they demoted him from Research Associate to Research Collaborator in retaliation, but the evidence is firmly against this conclusion. The fact is that his term as a Research Associate ends in 2007 (and would have ended with or without this controversy) and he does not have a sponsor to gain renewal of that position. His sponsor for the original RA position died 2 weeks after his last appointment began and sponsorship then fell, by default, to the department supervisor, Coddington. But now that that RA appointment is expiring, he needs a new sponsor to get another such appointment and there is no one willing to be his sponsor. In reality, a large number of RAs were converted to RCs recently, not just him.
The difference between an RA and an RC is that an RA works more closely with Smithsonian staff, which is reflected in the fact that they have a staff sponsor. Sternberg no longer has one. This is not discrimination; he is being treated exactly like anyone else who doesn't have a sponsor. They nonetheless offered him the opportunity to continue his work there as a Research Collaborator, a position with still allows him to have an office and full access to the collections he needs to do his research. I'd say that's pretty generous given his track record of irresponsibility in handling their books and specimens. But there simply is no discrimination there. Richard Sternberg to this day has the same access to the same collections that all people in his position have. Aside from being treated rudely by some colleagues, much of which was clearly justified, absolutely nothing actually happened to him.
Now let's look at another set of false accusations in the report, those made against the National Center for Science Education. The report claims:
NMNH officials conspired with a special interest group on government time and using government emails to publicly smear Dr. Sternberg; the group was also enlisted to monitor Sternbergs outside activities in order to find a way to dismiss him. In cooperation with the pro-evolution National Center for Science Education (NCSE), Museum officials attempted to publicly smear and discredit Dr. Sternberg with false and defamatory information.
Not only is this claim not supported by the emails in the appendix, it is flatly contradicted by them. The emails that Genie Scott exchanged were full of admonitions to Smithsonian personnel not to do the things they are now accused of conspiring to do. She urged them not to attack his religious views so as not to make him a martyr. Genie repeatedly tells them to focus solely on the questions of impropriety and see whether they can be proven. She also tells them that Sternberg should not be judged on the basis of his religious views or his creationist views, but solely on the basis of his work as a scientist. She says (p. 32):
On the other hand, his creationist views should not be the main focus of the criticism. First, if he can do good standard science, that's all we care about. Newton did pretty good science, and had some pretty nutty additional ideas about reality, too. So if he keeps the nut stuff out of his basically descriptive work, that's fine. His science should stand or fall on its own.
And in a follow up email she wrote:
I guess the big question is whether he is a good enough scientist to remain there. If his non-creationist work is good, then I think he deserves the job. If not, and if others are let go under the same circumstances, then let the chips fall where they may. But none of us are after this guy's job. That isn't the point of this exercise, in my opinion.
In addition, she urged them to focus not on his views but on the real questions of impropriety surrounding the publishing of the Meyer article and his poor judgment:
If there are repercussions for von Sternberg from the article, they should be because of his poor judgement in publishing it (your comments about editorial "fairness" are well taken). Therefore, this incident should be handled carefully, I believe.
Clearly, she is urging great caution and arguing that they should not consider his views at all, but only his professional behavior, in handling the situation. The section of the report dealing with the NCSE, beginning on page 22, in fact contains not a shred of evidence, indeed not even an accusation, in support of the claim that the NCSE had, along with Smithsonian officials, "attempted to publicly smear and discredit Dr. Sternberg with false and defamatory information." Despite the vastly overblown accusations contained in the executive summary, the report itself only alleges that an SI official asks Genie Scott to send them any further information they find about his associations with creationist groups and that their "talking points" were distributed widely at the SI and became part of their response. There is not so much as a hint of any "false and defamatory information" or any attempt to "publicly smear and discredit" him by the NCSE. Like so much else in this report, the evidence just doesn't support the rhetoric.
We should note that some of the content of those emails is disputed by Sternberg, as one would expect. Many of the situations come down to "he said, she said" and we have no way of knowing for certain which side is telling the truth. But given that we know that none of the actual instances of retaliation that Sternberg alleged in the beginning (the loss of keys, office space and access to the collections) ever took place, and we have strong evidence that Sternberg did improperly go outside the normal peer review process to sneak a substandard and inappropriate article in the journal on his way out the door, this certainly casts serious doubt on Sternberg's veracity. And given that so many of the claims found in the journal's conclusions are not only not supported by the evidence, but flat contradicted by it, that certainly casts serious doubt on the objectivity of the staffers who created the report as well.
We should also note that the fact that the paper was substandard, poorly reasoned and full of questionable claims has been well-established. A lengthy and detailed critique of the paper was published at the Panda's Thumb, written by Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke and Wesley Elsberry. They were hardly alone in their critique. The paleontologist Ronald Jenner likewise criticized the quality of the paper, saying that it reads "like a student report" and calling it "an inadequate review" because "readily available papers that depart significantly from his conclusions are omitted without excuse." The Discovery Institute promised a detailed, 6-part response to the first critique, but never got beyond part one; it seems even they aren't terribly interested in defending the validity or quality of the actual paper.
Update: Let me add one more thing. It seems to me that it's awfully difficult for a guy who showed up in the place every few months after hours when everyone was gone, and who was so disconnected from the others at the museum that he didn't even know who his supervisor was, to claim a "hostile working environment." He and the staffers who made this report seem to believe that having others not like you or judge you for your unethical behavior is discrimination.
As you can see from the massive amount of information about this topic Marshall was being very deceptive (or, depending on how you see it, spreading an outright lie) about claiming Richard Sternberg as a victim. Though, just as he accuses scientists of not doing proper research, he is once again being a hypocrite for not doing proper research himself on particular subjects.
You can currently find more information about this case, and other false martyrs for religious driven politics, here: Expelled Exposed, created by the National Center for Science Education.
2. & 3. I think Marshall's second and third claims are similar so I will handle both of them at the same time.
Self-imposed Limitations and Bias Against Miracles
For self-imposed limitations Marshall says, "The scientist must bracket considerations not relevant to his research. This means assuming god does not spike the petri dish..."(page 45).
On bias against miracles Marshall says, "[Miracles] are not reproducible, and therefore offend what many see as the core of the scientific method" (page 45).
I think Marshall's problem is that he is upset that the scientific method, by default, rejects the supernatural. I would also say that part of the reason that science rejects the supernatural is because there has been no evidence of it to begin with. Plus, scientists (according to some, though this is not a view I personally hold since religion makes scientific claims about conception, life after death, the nature of the universe, etc. so religion should be investigated scientifically since it wished to tread on science's turf to begin with) "practice methodological naturalism, where they use naturalistic assumptions to understand the world but make no philosophical commitment as to whether the supernatural exists or not. Scientists don't exclude god from their hypotheses because they are inherently atheistic or unwilling to consider the existence of god; they simply cannot consider supernatural events in in their hypotheses. Why not? Because...once you introduce the supernatural to a scientific hypothesis, there is no way to falsify or test it" [emphasis in original] (Source: Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters, by Donald R. Prothero, page 11).
I do not agree with these two hypotheses of Marshall's because some scientists do not feel that religion and science try to answer the same questions and therefore, they do not overlap. The late Stephen Jay Gould is one very good example of this viewpoint. Some others feel that there has been no evidence of the supernatural and because of that they simply reject it altogether until there is definitive proof. One example is Richard Dawkins.
(Please see the links in the earlier part of this review for two papers on the supernatural for more information on this topic).
4. Doubt Instead of Discernment
I do not understand this idea. Scientists do not reject the supernatural because they cannot understand it. As I just noted, science is sometimes unable to test such things as miracles and so they rightly reject them since they are untestable. Some also reject the supernatural due to a lack of evidence.
5. Faulty Information
In his fifth reason Marshall slightly criticizes religious people who spread "faulty information" (like intelligent design and other anti-science/religious propaganda) and due to these false attacks against science, lose their faith. While I'm happy to see a theist reprimand some of the liars in his flock of fellow believers I think Marshall is being a hypocrite because he is guilty of the same thing that he condemns. He uses the irreducible complexity argument [page 74] with the eye, when talking about "parts" and "structure" (a main claim in intelligent design), in his book which has been handily refuted, and is nothing more then a "god of the gaps" argument.
On page 46 Marshall says that "[f]ew scientists take the time to become experts on god...How much time does an 80-hour work week leave to study arguments for the historical jesus, talk to missionaries..." This is somewhat true, though for those who have studied the "evidence" (once again I use that term very loosely) for theism they find that there is no true evidence to speak of. Personally, I've done a lot of research into the arguments for and against god, jesus, the resurrection, the supernatural, etc. and I have not been convinced. In fact, it caused me to disbelieve even more. I don't doubt the same would happen to most scientists if they did study theology (if they wanted to waste and kill brain cells that is).
On page 47 Marshall says that "[s]cientists who take a radical stance against religion often reveal an ignorance of that which they speak about."
This is certainly possible but even though the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are not theologians it doesn't mean they don't have at least a basic grasp of religion and it's claims.
I think many theists want to disassociate themselves from the murderous, speaking-in-tongues, snake handling, and illogical religious fanatics that the "new atheists" often write about and so they often say, "You don't understand my religion. That's not what I believe!"
This is just a cop out. The truth is that the bible is christianity and what the bible says is what christians should believe. Just because some religious individuals want to distance themselves from the atrocities done because of their religion's beliefs doesn't do anything to make the the teachings of christianity any different. In this case it's simply that religious individuals are following their evolutionary given conscience and following the morals that society and nature have instilled in them. The simple reason for this is because no god has ever been proven, so where else is a person going to get their morals from? Where else (besides the bible) is a christian going to get a sense of what christianty teaches about slavery, women, and morals in general? A priest? How would this be possible when this priest, a simple human being like yourself, is in the exact same situation as you? Without any proof of god dictating the rules, how does this priest (and other theists) decide what is "good" and "bad" in the bible, and which rules do they choose to follow? It's a fact that many priests don't tell their congregations the truth about the bible and its contents. Because of this, many are mislead into thinking christianity is a loving and peaceful religion, when nothing could be further from the truth.
I'm sorry to say, though, that while not every single believer falls into the category of the despicable religious right fanatic who wishes to instate the ten commandments as law, all religions are inherently false, and their claims for the supernatural do not stand up to scrutiny. Regardless how each individual views their own religion it does nothing to change the fact that religious beliefs have inspired people to murder and commit other horrible acts, and that these beliefs are false.
As Sam Harris so accurately puts it:
"And yet, it is merely an accidence of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts, while, it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window. And so, while religious people are not generally mad,their core beliefs absolutely are...
In fact, it is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions. Consider one of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith:
...That the Body and the Blood, together with the soul and the divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly, really, and substantially present in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, and there is a change of the whole substance of the bread into the Body and of the whole substance of the wine into Blood..." (Source: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris, pages 72-73).
I'd also like to add the fact that I think it would be nearly impossible for anyone, Dawkins included, to touch upon every single theological position so Dawkins focused on the more viral, fundamentalist religious belief that often causes many problems. There are possibly hundreds of variations of religious belief - everything from a literal belief in the bible to belief in a deistic god. Now, do theists really expect someone to discuss every possible belief that someone might hold? It's absurd to say the least.
Dawkins is well aware of the many good and decent religious individuals in the world and the good things religion has done. But he also isn't blind to the fact that religion has done much harm throughout history, and understands that much of this harm is caused by religious fundamentalism, so he rightfully dedicates much of the book to this topic.
At the end of the chapter, on page 49, Marshall says, "Scientists who become theologians, such as Polkinghorne, know how dynamic and intellectually challenging god-study can be."
This sentence just cracks me up. I guess it could be considered "intellectually challenging" to dream up more lovely (but false) attributes of your god and how he supposedly does things in the world for which there is not one shred of evidence.
That makes just about as much sense as saying, "Scientists who become theologians, such as Doctor Dolittle, know how dynamic and intellectually challenging it can be to try to talk to animals and attempt to create psychic links with them."
Chapter 3: Does Evolution Make god Redundant?
This is an interesting question...
I think it all depends on who you ask. In my opinion, if you just took evolution by itself, I would say no. However, if you took all of the evidence against god's existence, including evolution, then I would say yes. I see no evidence of a god, therefore I don't see any point in believing that hogwash.
There is a large problem, though, when theists try to square away their beliefs with modern day knowledge. Let's look at this rationally. Theists since the beginning of religion have more than likely taken all, if not a great majority, of their holy books literally, that is, until science started discovering various facts about the world and then things started to change.
No more do you have theists believing that the earth is flat as they say in the bible; no more do theists interpret the bible literally (well some do still - these people are scary); they have decided to claim that the bible is full of allegory or parables. Scientific truth is gaining ground on religion. The fact that theists must reinterpret their supposed "holy" book is absolute proof of this. If the book was "holy" I don't see how or why it would need reinterpreting!
Another idea related to this is the question: What is religion? My Microsoft Encarta Dictionary defines it as: "people's beliefs about and worship of deities."
Now, if religion is the belief about deities then whence do these beliefs come from? The bible. It was man's only guide about what to believe for centuries so why don't theists follow it like they did back then? The answer is science. Because science has eroded religious belief so much theists must adapt their beliefs to the real world or risk looking like fools (or more so than they already do).
Some might also include authority, such as a priest, as a source of information, but what can this mortal know that you cannot? Priests are given too much damn respect. These human beings - who are no different than anyone else - dole out "advice" on religion as if they have a pipe line straight to their imaginary friend. Give me a fucking break. They're a bunch of con men (who sometimes use their positions of authority to take advantage of innocent young boys and girls!) who lie about what the bible says and about what religion is.
Get this straight people: The bible is christianity. Anything less is a distortion, due to the advancement of science, because there is no other source for one to get any kind of insight (no matter if it's true or not) into their belief systems.
Because of these facts, any christian who accepts evolution is a hypocrite.
But, let me get to what Marshall says in this chapter.
Marshall uses this chapter to give his opinions on evolution and religion, and to point out what he thinks "the New Atheists get right" (page 53). He begins with talking about the book called Icons of Evolution, written by the intelligent design advocate Jonathan Wells. He mentions how on amazon.com the reviews for the book contained "angry reviews by scientists..." (page 51). He uses this example to show the "contentious" nature of evolution but I think the criticism of Wells is completely justified. The reason is because each of his "icons of evolution" have been shown to be false by scientists who do not have an agenda. It is a fact that Wells is a fellow at the Discovery Institute (which is a pro-creationist/intelligent design group), and Wells' bias against evolution due to his religious beliefs is well known. In an article Wells wrote called Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D., he says, "Father's [Sun Myung Moon's] words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."
On page 53 Marshall, in a refreshing display of admiration, says that Charles Darwin, despite his being bad mouthed by many theists, was a "humane man" and was a "remarkable naturalist; well read, cautious, observant, informed, and aware of contrary evidence and weaknesses in his theory."
The rest of the chapter has Marshall telling the reader how he thinks the "big picture Darwin described may be true," though I would say definitely - not maybe - with the mountain of confirming evidence that comes from a variety of fields such as paleontology and genetics.
On page 58 Marshall says, "If you were to survey the plant, animal, fungi, and various microbial kingdoms in 1850, you would have found an endless variety of complex and strange creatures, like the dodo. With a good microscope, you would uncover layer beneath layer of intricacy. As you observed workmanship and the relationship of parts, along with motion, adaptability, and grace (a cat climbing a roof, a fir swaying in a winter gale, a spider spinning a web), design (emphasis in original) would seem writ large across the fabric of life. Whether Darwin's theory succeeds or not, the mechanism he described gives a plausible account of how certain things could have developed (given the first life)."
I think Marshall is attempting to make a case for intelligent design here, but either way, at least he isn't like some theists who take the bible literally and all "kinds" were created at once.
Although, maybe I spoke too soon...
On pages 55-56 Marshall says, "One could write a history of the human race, utilizing the deepest psychological and anthropological insights, based on the first three chapters of genesis. It's not hard for me to believe that god speaks through genesis. The question is, What does he mean to tell us about origins?"
I do not see how genesis could possibly tell us anything about origins since, for one, the bible seems to be a mix of a variety of myths that were already being spread at the time. For example, the creation story seems to be borrowed from various Egyptian myths (Source: 101 Myths of the Bible: How Ancient Scribes Invented Biblical History, by Gary Greenberg, pages 11-19). Another reason is because the bible doesn't describe anything about a slow development of species, as evolution tells us today, but all animals being created at once, except for man and woman, whom were created separately.
Genesis, not to mention the entire bible, has serious flaws regarding its scientific accuracy (not to mention countless other contradictions). For example, in genesis it says that god created light on the first day but there was no moon, stars, or sun until the fourth day.
Chapter 4: Some Riddles of Evolution
In this chapter, Marshall's purpose is to explain to his readers various "problems" that confront evolution and the search for the origins of life. It seems that he tries hard not to bring his religious bias into the discussion, but it also seems that he can't quite help it:
"I am not making a 'god of the gaps' argument. Not that there is anything unscientific about such an argument" (page 68).
He continues to say, "Gaps in the power of a hypothesis to explain facts need to be filled, and some wounds in the surface of nature may be too large for anything but god" [emphasis mine] (pages 68-69).
Marshall explains how he has read both sides of the arguments for and against evolution and the origin of life.
He quotes Daniel Dennett, in his book Breaking the Spell, as saying that mutations in DNA don't happen once in a "trillion copyings," which makes Marshall wonder how if these countless mutations were supposed to have crafted all life that we see, why don't we see more changes taking place? He also says, "...[I]t's extremely hard to find mutations that make an organism more complex and fit" (page 69).
This makes me think that Marshall doesn't understand evolution.
On pages 72-73 Marshall is discussing why we do not see large changes in organisms today:
"...The human race is thought to have passed through a 'genetic bottleneck' of some 10,000 individuals before leaving Africa. Even if our evolving population was a hundred times larger on average, that means the numbers alive today are a hefty proportion of the pool from which all these changes are supposed to have come. In 40 million years, a hooved wolf is thought to have evolved into a slinky crocodile-like aquatic beast, then into sperm, humpback, killer, and blue whales, living in small numbers and having few calves.
Evolution doesn't know its work is done. It doesn't know it shouldn't turn us into whales, teach us to eat grass like cows, or to glide like flying squirrels. For any direction evolution might take, given all it achieved when numbers were small, one might expect hundreds of useful mutations in every generation, fitting us for many new tasks.
Where are those mutations?
We might expect innovations to show up first among athletes. They specialize in new 'adaptive roles': throwing a screwball, tackling punters, holding feet still while swimming upside down to music. What mutations have appeared to help out? Did Gaylord Perry have special sweat glands on his hands that allowed him to throw a spitball without artifical lubrication? Did Pele' have mutant bone structures on his forehead that let him send a 'header' into the goal? A web between fingers and cow-like skin on the hand might allow a baseball player to catch balls without a glove - and find and find reproductive opportunities in every major league town...
Has a new generation of gifted sportsmen and women emerged from the radioactive grounds of Chernobyl in recent years?"
All this makes me truly think that Marshall does not understand evolution. First of all, I do not understand his comment that "[evolution] doesn't know it shouldn't turn us into whales, teach us to eat grass like cows, or to glide like flying squirrels."
The whale and squirrel comment, as well as his other one, about it being "extremely hard to find mutations that make an organism more complex and fit" make it seem that Marshall has not one damn clue about evolution. Evolution has no foresight to "know" to turn us into anything.
Evolution is a random process which does use many mutations, which do cause changes in organisms, but it seems that Marshall is asking these mutations alone to create new adaptations. This is not how evolution works. The mutations are random (and most are actually neutral, not harmful) but what changes humans (not to mention all other species) is natural selection. Natural selection is what acts upon these mutations casting aside ones that do not make an organism "fit" to live in a particular habitat or survive against predators.
Yes, there are many mutations (as Marshall points out for the human population on pages 71-72) that have occurred to the human species over time, and he seems to be wondering why, given the large population of humans today, don't we see any more mutations taking place in humans with his absurd baseball analogy.
In this incoherent bit of rambling about a topic he seems to know little about, Marshall seems to have forgotten that evolution relies on selective pressure, and long stretches of time. First of all, men playing baseball professionally has only been happening since about 1871 (Source: http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0875086.html), and if you fast forward to modern times it's only been about 137 years since then, and with macroevolution taking so long (thousands to millions of years) it's completely insane that Marshall could even entertain the idea of sportsmen evolving adaptations as he foolishly describes. Ignoring that fact, you still have to realize the survival factor. What in the world would a hand with "cow-like skin" on it be good for? What reasons would evolution have in crafting such adaptations? The goal of evolution is the survival of the organism, not some silly game! Therefore adaptations for survival would be favored over some redundant traits for a baseball game.
On his statement about not seeing drastic changes, the answer is simple. Life on this planet has been around for several million years. Just because us humans, with our short life spans, cannot actively see changes in form of different animals, doesn't mean it didn't happen. After all, we do have fossil evidence for the changes in the forms of various species. Why is it that the fossil Tiktaalik roseae is a fish which has almost identical bone structure as the modern human shoulder, forearm, and hand? This is a clear adaptation in form from fish to land dwelling animals. The same goes for human beings.
Another fact that Marshall seems to be forgetting is the fact that natural selection doesn't have as much to do anymore because of human technology. The medicine, the temperature controlled houses, etc., all allow humans to basically force their surroundings to adapt to them, and not the other way around. Even though large changes in humans have not been seen for several million years, doesn't mean there are no changes taking place. There is on a genetic level. For example, in the January, 2008 issue of Discover magazine there was an article titled "Human Genome Reveals Signs of Recent Evolution." You can read about it here. A quote from the article is the following: "More then a hundred sites in the genome showed strong evidence of recent selection, including genes that affect muscle tissue, hair, hearing, immune-system function, skin pigmentation, sense of smell, and the body's response to heat stress."
Marshall makes another error when he assumes that large changes will occur in very large populations. Earlier he said, "For any direction evolution might take, given all it achieved when numbers were small, one might expect hundreds of useful mutations in every generation, fitting us for many new tasks."
It almost sounds as if he is talking about the concept of genetic drift (I came to this conclusion since, during a debate with Marshall and one of his ignorant defenders, it was claimed that genetic drift is what was being referred to and Marshall agreed with his defender), which wouldn't help his case any since "effects of such non-selective factors as random genetic drift and founder effects on overall evolutionary change can be amplified and particularly pronounced in especially small populations" [emphasis in original] (Source: The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What's Real and Why It Matters, by Ardea Skybreak, page 30).
So it seems that Marshall was wrong, not once but twice, since for one, due to human technology natural selection doesn't have as much of an effect on the human population in this day and age and because of this there are no real reasons for humans to continue to evolve as Marshall incorrectly speculates. Two, genetic drift has profound effects mainly on small populations, and as everyone should know, the human population is currently in the billions - anything but small. As I said before, I think it's pretty clear that Marshall hasn't got a clue regarding evolution and this is just more evidence pointing to that fact.
Yet another error of Marshall's in his understanding of evolution is the fact that species going thousands to millions of years with very little to no change is not uncommon. Some examples are the horseshoe crab, cockroach, crocodiles, and ginkgos, among many others. It's not as if seeing no changes in a species for long periods is some anomaly. That's just how evolution works.
As far as the origin of life goes, scientists are working on it, though as Marshall points out, there are disagreements among scientists about the probability and the mechanism through which the first life came about. These disagreements are not reasons, however, to bring any "god of the gaps" arguments into the picture. Of course, Marshall assures us that this isn't the case when he says:
"I am not making a 'god of the gaps' argument. Not that there is anything unscientific about such an argument" (page 68).
Of course, as we saw in my review of chapter 2 it is unscientific to bring god into the picture because there are limited ways that scientists can test such a claim. I say "limited" because there have been many studies done on prayer and none show any results whatsoever. This proves that either god is non existent or reality has proven the bible wrong again because even the bible says:
Matthew 21:21: "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (NIV)."
Mark 11:24: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (NIV)."
On pages 63- 64 Marshall quotes Richard Dawkins from his book, The god Delusion, as saying the following:
"...Dawkins does offer arguments against Intelligent Design. But he seems to resent the idea of a challenge. The following quotes both appear on page 125:
(It must be said that Marshall did not present the full quote presented by Dawkins, which I think makes the reader of Marshall's book miss the point that Dawkins was making, but the quote from Marshall's book with the missing part in bold will be presented.)
The creationists are right, that if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin's theory. Darwin himself said as much: 'If it could be properly demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.' Darwin could find no such case, and nor has anybody since Darwin's time, despite strenuous, indeed desperate, efforts. Many candidates for this holy grail of creationism have been proposed. None has stood up to analysis.
"...Indeed, it already has wrecked intelligent design theory, for, as I keep saying and will say it again, however little we know about god, the one thing we can be sure of is that he would have to be very very complex and presumably irreducibly so!"
Dawkins makes the same point that I often make: If theists cannot even prove their god exits, then their hypothesis fails horribly, and they are left only with more "god of the gaps" arguments to throw at science which proves nothing. If history is any indicator, these gaps will be filled at some point in the future.
In Dawkins' book he begins a new section called "The Worship of Gaps" where he makes the next quote that Marshall uses:
Searching for particular examples of irreducible complexity is a fundamentally unscientific way to proceed: a special case of arguing from present ignorance.
Then Marshall continues:
"A hundred or so words, and a subject subtitle, separate these two statements. Were irreducibly complex organs to be found, Dawkins admitted in the first, evolution would be ruined. He quoted Darwin as saying the same...and implicitly challenged [emphasis mine] critics to find such organs. A few sentences later, he said the search for evidence both he and Darwin admitted would overthrow evolution is 'fundamentally unscientific'."
First of all, Dawkins did not challenge anyone. He simply said that, even since Darwin's time, no one has been able to show - scientifically, or with evidence - that there are any such "irreducibly complex" organs. All examples given have been shown to be false up to the present. That's no challenge whatsoever. Dawkins was just explaining how no one has been able to present any evidence for irreducible complexity.
Second, it is unscientific to attempt to plug gaps of knowledge with acts of god as Marshall clearly wants to do:
"Gaps in the power of a hypothesis to explain facts need to be filled, and some wounds in the surface of nature may be too large for anything but god" [emphasis mine] (pages 68-69).
As I said before, god cannot even be proven! So how in the hell can that possibly be an answer???
Marshall tries to give an added twist to the "irreducible complexity" concept by claiming that the answer of Dawkins' that half an eye is better then no eye at all, "answers the wrong" riddle. Marshall says "the question isn't what happens when half the complete structure is missing. The question is what happens when half its parts are missing. What good is an eye without an optic nerve? (page 74) "
Well first I must ask, what is the difference between "structure" and "parts"? I see no difference here, and I feel that Marshall is simply playing word games, just as he did with the definition of faith.
According to information I found on the TalkOrigins.org website, an eye doesn't have to have an optic nerve in order to function, and there are animals who have cells without a nerve (Source: www.talkorigins.org / Index to Creationist Claims, Claim # CB301), so an early stage in human eye evolution most likely didn't "need" an optic nerve to help with sight.
Marshall claims that irreducible complexity is an objection to evolution that should be heard, yet I must disagree because every claim of irreducible complexity has been shown to be false.
At the end of the chapter, on page 77, Marshall says:
"Biology doesn't provide a knockout blow for or against god."
No it does not, but as I argued at the beginning of my review of chapter three if you take all the evidence as a whole then it does begin to cast doubt upon belief in a god. True, many theists accept that god guided evolution but they are also being hypocrites because their supposed holy book says nothing about evolution.
Just as in the past science will continue to erode religious belief into the future until there is no more reasons to believe. "god of the gaps" arguments can only take someone so far until they just have to admit the obvious. So, all in all these "problems" are no real barrier to truth and as I said science will likely discover the answers in the future.
Note: I have recently added an addendum to this chapter of the review. It is a separate post debunking other silly claims made by Marshall in this chapter. It can be found here.
Chapter 5: Did god Evolve?
This chapter has Marshall attempt to convince his reader that the evolutionary idea of god being a creation of human beings "fails badly" (page 79).
He cites Daniel Dennett's book, Breaking the Spell, which focused much on these ideas.
While attempting to shoot down the idea that humans did not create god he doesn't really give us any alternative. Of course, obviously, since he is a believer he wants to believe that god is real. He insists that "[i]f inconsistency shows all religions are false, what should we think when scattered tribes agree in so much detail about god? Shouldn't that make us suspect that one religious idea is true" (page 89)?
I consider this an extremely weak argument. According to some researchers, like Acharya S. (also known as D.M. Murdock), author of the very controversial book The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold, she thinks that religion ultimately evolved from sun worship. The historian Will Durant, in his magnum opus series The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, argues also that primitive peoples first worshiped the sun and later on dead ancestors, and these in turn evolved into gods.
I think this is a very plausible idea, and according to Durant the Egyptians worshiped the sun, which they called Ra (Source: Our Oriental Heritage, page 198).
If human beings all had similar experiences with seeing the sun as some kind of god (since people all across the world can easily see it), as many lines of evidence seem to suggest, then with most humans having similar psychology with a habit of personifying things, etc., then I think it's entirely plausible for the sun to be the first "god" that humans worshiped.
This subject is not my expertise, however, Marshall doesn't really give any other arguments against this theory than that. The truth of the matter is that there is still no evidence for any god, so ultimately this argumentation is pretty much pointless, but there is some evidence, such as various archaeological finds, that depict the sun, so we know the sun was very important to early civilizations. Though, we may never know exactly what human beings first worshiped (Durant speculates it might have been the moon), but with this evidence, we can make educated guesses that are surely more probable than "Religion is true. Deal with it" like Marshall seems to do.
Here is one such artifact (it represents Hathor with the sun):
Even if this "sun worship" concept turned out to be false, just because large groups of people believe the same thing doesn't make it true. I could use the same argument for the existence of aliens. Many people claim to see similar kinds of aliens, spacecraft, and the same procedures supposedly done on them after being abducted. Using the same argument Marshall makes with god, does this mean that aliens are real because so many people across the world agree on the details of these stories? Of course not. A much more logical and plausible reason for the similarity in stories and beliefs is because these stories were somehow (travelers passing through could pass stories along, TV in the modern age, groups moving to other areas, thus passing along their stories, etc.) passed along from person to person and culture to culture over time. Similarities in beliefs and stories don't make god any more true than those aliens so many people believe in.
Another large problem with Marshall's argument that the concept of god is universal is that it's false. Now, it is true that throughout the world many of the ideas about different gods are very similar, but there are also vast differences. For example, not all theisms believe their god/s to be all powerful, some are considered evil, or immoral, some think that their god/s are remote, while others are close by. Some gods are also not eternal, but are born and then die. Not all gods in all theisms are considered creators. Some gods are disinterested in the daily affairs of humans, unlike the christian god. Another problem, too, is the fact that a great majority of theisms are actually polytheistic (believe in more than one god), and not monotheistic (believe in one god), as is christianity. In fact, monotheism is a fairly recent invention in the realm of religious belief (Source: Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker, by David Eller, pages 14-15).
On page 82, however, Marshall claims that due to various supernatural experiences there must be something to all of this religious belief. Of course, as I've shown with my two posts on the supernatural this claim is not valid.
"But this can't be the whole story even of 'primitive' belief. What about out-of-body experiences? Miraculous cures? Answers to prayer?"
He insists on page 83, though, that it's not his intention to "argue such experiences are real. It's that primitive man must have had them, too."
I don't really see how this helps his case. If indeed primitive man had these experiences then it is more evidence in favor of the evolutionary idea of religion: If man had various experiences he could not explain he, therefore, developed gods to explain it and later on tried to appease the "gods" by practicing rituals, etc.
Chapter 6: Is the Good Book Bad?
This is another interesting question, much like the one asked in chapter three, about whether or not the bible is "good" or "bad." Again, as with my answer in the third chapter, I'd say it depends on who you ask.
The bible, as Marshall confesses (page 110), is a jumble of many different books all rolled into one. This causes the bible to contradict itself and this is where the problems lie.
There are both good passages that speak of love, kindness, and then there are those passages that speak of murder (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21), rape and incest (2 Samuel 13: 11-14), infanticide (Hosea 13:16), slavery (Exodus 21:1-5 & 21: 20-21), and the list goes on.
Marshall wishes to discount all the bad, while reminding everyone of all the good. He mentions the story of Abraham sacrificing his son to god, which Dawkins leads us through in his book The god Delusion and reacts in horror at such an immoral story. However, Marshall considers this a story of progress (page 100) since god no longer wants to accept human sacrifice, but this is untrue, as Marshall sort of admits.
He says, "True, as Dawkins points out, there are two later instances in the Old Testament of men promising to sacrifice the first living thing they see when they come home from war... (page 100)" however god himself demands a sacrifice again as early as Exodus:
Exodus 22:29-30: "Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. You must give me the first born of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers from seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day (NIV)."
There are also more than two instances of sacrifice that took place after this supposed story of progress. Here are the other two:
In 2 Kings 16:3, a king sacrifices his son, though it does say, against the wishes of god, but a sacrifice does take place. The same happens in 2 Kings 21:6.
I also do not understand how this could be a "turning point in history" (page 100) when god doesn't explicitly demand that sacrifice be stopped until Deuteronomy 12:31:
"You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods." (NIV)
Marshall attempts to dismiss the findings of evolutionary psychology which shows that there is some kind of innate moral sense that human beings seem to follow, and this is why so many christians pay attention to all the good, kind verses in the bible, and ignore the bad, though Marshall considers these findings to be "doubly astounding" (pages 102-103).
Marshall's rebuttal to this argument is what is 'astounding.' He says,
"The criteria by which christians read the bible is supposed to be a mystery? Note the first six letters of the word christian: C-H-R-I-S-T. That christians see the life of jesus as the interpretive principal by which to read the bible shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone... (page 103).
He also claims that "moral awareness is universal" and "has always been a theistic dogma. The first man and woman, genesis says, came to know good and evil" (page 103).
This confuses me because first of all, jesus isn't exactly a beacon of light to always be followed.
In Matthew 10:34-36 jesus says, "You must not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son's wife against her mother-in-law; and a man will find his enemies under his own roof."
This passage could either be interpreted as jesus inspiring violence, or causing division among family members, either of which isn't exactly a good moral concept to follow.
In John 3:36 jesus says that all unbelievers will suffer in hell and that "god's wrath rests upon him."
In John 5:14, jesus heals a crippled man, but says to him that he should "leave his sinful ways, or [he] may suffer something worse."
Reading this in context it seems pretty apparent that jesus thinks that the reason all people who are crippled in some way is because of sin. How nice of him to talk down to disadvantaged people in that way.
In Matthew 10:24-25 and Luke 12:47 jesus apparently has no problem with slavery, and in these two passages, jesus not only thinks that slaves are never above their master, but in a parable, jesus recommended that a slave be "flogged severely" if they don't follow their master's wishes.
Even many christians believe that jesus accepted slavery. One example is reverand Thomas (Thornton?) Stringfellow who wrote, in his 1856 book, A Scriptural View of Slavery (I've also seen it titled Scriptural and Statistical Views in Favor of Slavery), how "...Jesus Christ recognized this institution as one that was lawful among men, and regulated its relative duties... I affirm then, first (and no man denies) that Jesus Christ has not abolished slavery by a prohibitory command; and second, I affirm, he has introduced no new moral principle which can work its destruction..."
In Luke 19:27 jesus says, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - being them here and kill them in front of me."
In Luke 14:26 jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple."
In Matthew 19:12 jesus doesn't seem to care if a man castrates himself "for the sake of" getting into heaven:
"For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother's womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it." (NKJV)
The passage could be interpreted in this manner since the church father, Origen, is said to have castrated himself because of this verse (Source: The End of Biblical Studies, by Hector Avalos, page 52). I wonder how many men nowadays would like to follow this recommendation? Not many I'd suspect.
Luke 12:51-53: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." (NIV)
In Matthew 25:31-46 jesus explains how anyone who does not follow him should "depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" [NIV] (Source: Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, page 78).
Second, I don't see how "moral awareness" could be a good phrase to call the acceptance of slavery and subjection of women (1 Corinthians 11:8-9 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14 for example). Among these "moral" people they also think it's OK to murder their children if they talk back to you (Deuteronomy 21: 18-21), that it's OK to sell your daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7-8), and the penalty is death for the crime of kidnaping. That's a little extreme I think (Exodus 21: 16).
Yeah, real moral.
As I said, there can be found both good and bad taught within the bible, but again, how do christians choose which ones to follow? Marshall's attempts at a rebuttal fail tragically because they do not even begin to answer the question. How do christians choose between many of the good and bad sayings in the bible or even of jesus'?
Marshall also seems to not understand the concept of an evolutionary origin for morals. On pages 102-103 he says:
"In The Selfish Gene Dawkins admitted that 'we should not derive our values from Darwinism, unless it is with a negative sign.' More recently, an interviewer asked whether we should obey our 'selfish genes,' and Dawkins replied, 'Scientific facts about the world do not translate into moral shoulds.'
But sometimes this goes out the window as Dawkins seems to suggest that evolution may furnish an objective criteria by which to judge morality. If morality, like sex, derives from evolution, then science should find universal values that cross geographical, cultural, 'and also, crucially, religious barriers.' Harvard biologist Marc Hauser used Internet surveys to ask people of different or no religions how they would resolve certain moral dilemmas. Hauser found that regardless of religion or lack thereof, people agreed that one shouldn't sacrifice an innocent person for the convenience of others, and that one should save a drowning child. From this, Dawkins (and Hauser) concluded, 'We do not need God to be good - or evil.'...I find the argument doubly astounding" (This is where he begins his discussion of following jesus for morality).
On pages 104-105, Marshall says, "Dawkins and Hauser seem to see morality as one more bit of data about the evolution of a particular species. I may feel it is immoral to let a child drown. But if I see that feeling as an accidental product of evolution, like my appendix, what if I want it out? And if I'm late for work, and the child belongs to a competing race - threatening not just jeans, but selfish genes - it's hard to see how evolution furnishes any argument for saving her."
"One could conclude, as some have, 'So evolution gives us guilty feelings when we steal candy from children. Now that I understand the blind forces that produced this emotion, and the fact that it has no transcendent value, I'll take what I want.' Evolution doesn't help at all.
Dawkins mires us in an even deeper problem, from which the bible rescues us."
I find Marshall's discussion about the evolutionary concept of morality to be extremely ignorant. He doesn't seem to understand that, as he quoted Dawkins, "Scientific facts about the world do not translate into moral shoulds," and that the process of evolution - natural selection/survival - does not equate to good moral standards and that's not where we get our morals from to begin with. Marshall seems to be confusing the actual process of evolution itself, with the fact that the process created the innate morals we seem to follow. We don't follow the evolutionary process (which created the morality); we follow a byproduct of that process. Just because something is sometimes done in nature, doesn't mean that's what the evolutionary sense of morality dictates humans do regarding "right" and "wrong."
Once again, another mistake by Marshall. His idea of "selfish genes" also seems to be mistaken. Dawkins didn't mean that genes are "selfish" as is the more common definition of " seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others," but something else. In his book, The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, Robert Wright explains this well:
"[T]hose genes that are conductive to the survival and reproduction of copies of themselves (emphasis in original) are the genes that win. They may do this straightforwardly, by prompting their vehicle to survive, beget offspring, and equip the offspring for survival and reproduction. Or they may do this circuitously - by, say, prompting their to labor tirelessly, sterilely, and, and 'selflessly,' so that a queen ant can have lots of offspring containing them. However the genes get the job done, it is selfish from their (emphasis in original) point of view, even if it seems altruistic at the level of the organism" (page 162).
Another mistake of Marshall's is he doesn't seem to understand the research into our morality.
In his book, Moral Minds, Marc Hauser does a good job of explaining this process of how people seem to choose, without consciously understanding why they chose a particular answer, the same answers regardless of not only religion, but other differences. The entire point is that the process is near instantaneous and a person is unable to rationalize why they chose a particular answer. This is the entire point, which Marshall seems to miss. If it is 1) instantaneous and a person cannot find a rational reason for his choice and 2) the same or similar answers are given across a spectrum of individuals who have vastly different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, etc. then where are these moral decisions coming from? Because there is no evidence of a god, and the bible is a mixture of "good" and "bad" ideas about morality, then the only option left is that the process of evolution crafted some innate sense of morality.
Here is an example of a moral dilemma which highlights this innate process. If 5 people came into a hospital all needing organ transplants but no donors were available would be it moral to kill one man waiting in the waiting room to save all five? No.
Here's another. A train has lost it's breaks and is heading on a track that 5 hikers are walking on, while a side track one hiker is walking. If the conductor switches the train to the side track and kills the one man would that seem morally OK? I'd say yes, but again, why? As Mark Hauser said, "If you said 'no' to the first question and 'yes' to the second, you are like most people I know or the thousands of subjects I have tested in experiments. Further, you most likely answered these questions immediately, with little or no reflection. What, however, determined your answer?" He goes on to say how usually morality says that killing is wrong so how does it somehow "feel right" to kill in the second scenario but not the first? Some innate moral processes seem to be at work and we cannot consciously figure out why we feel about a particular scenario the way we do with the standard morality that we are taught in society or through religion. So where are these principals coming from? That is the question that the science of evolutionary morality is attempting to answer (Source: Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong, page 32).
His claim that evolution doesn't help at all is also ignorant because it's been shown that evolution seems also to have crafted our sense of altruism. From the January, 2008 issue of Discover magazine:
"For years, lacking evidence to the contrary, most scientists had assumed that altruism is unique to humans. Sure, other primates groom each other and even share food, but this kind of helping could be chalked up to selfish motives - either to benefit close relatives who share their genes or to get an immediate reward. In June, however, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology reported the first experimental evidence of spontaneous altruism in chimpanzees, toward both non related chimps and humans.
In one experiment done with semifree-ranging chimps in Uganda, a chimp struggled to open a door locked by a chain. The researchers wanted to see if a second chimp would release the chain to help the first get food. Three-quarters of the time, the chimps in a position to help did just that. 'The crucial thing here is they help without any expectation of being rewarded, because they don't benefit from their helping,' leading researcher Felix Warneken explains.
The pattern showed up in a similar experiment with chimpanzees and humans: When a person with whom they had no prior relationship struggled to reach a stick, the chimps handed it to the person even when it required climbing up to a tall raceway. The chimps helped people just as often as 18-month-old German toddlers did in a similar set up involving a person struggling to reach a pen.
'The main finding is that humans and chimpanzees share altruistic tendencies,' Warneken says. In terms of evolution, he adds, this similarity suggests that the two species' common ancestors has these inclinations before culture developed.
And that tells us something about human nature.'There's a widely held belief that humans are selfish in the beginning and only through socialization do we turn into somewhat altruistic individuals,' Warneken says. This work suggests our nature contains the seeds for both types of behavior.'"
As can be seen, nature seems to have designed our capacity to do both good and bad. So to say following the evolutionary concept of morality will make you only care for your "in group," as Marshall suggests, is false as these findings do much to prove. Marshall also seems to suggest that our innate moral sense doesn't help because we can too easily rebel against those instincts and there is nothing concrete about them. I would agree that, just like many instincts humans have, we often rebel against them, but at the same time he has no real argument here because believers and non-believers are in the same boat. Believers have no concrete morals either, and with each individuals' choosing of the scriptures they follow (whether the "good" or the "bad"), there surely are no absolutes with religion. Due to each person's ideas, moral sense, upbringing, etc. they choose what morals they want to follow. Believers are not immune to this dilemma at all. The fact is that all people choose to follow the rules of society and cooperate or they don't. It's also a fact that religion often inspires individuals to rebel against that moral sense to murder others, and despite religion, there are many believers who are known to have lied, cheated on their spouse, stolen, and committed other immoral acts. Given these facts it's all too clear that religion does nothing to solve the problem of rebelling against the morals and rules of society.
On page 105 Marshall makes another astounding claim. He claims that the bible teaches us to love all people, and not just our "in group" as is often suggested. Marshall says, "Dawkins' most astoundingly wrongheaded reading of the bible may be his claim that care for others is only meant for a 'narrowly defined in-group.'"
I would have to disagree. True, the bible does have those kind passages (as I've mentioned before) but it also contains verses that clearly show the concept of group privileging.
For example, in Genesis 24:3-4, when Abraham seeks to find a wife for Issac, he instructs his servant as follows:
"I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Issac." (NIV)
There are even specific injunctions against allowing certain ethnic groups to join the Israelite community:
Deuteronomy 23:3: "No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation." (NIV)
Even certain passages proclaimed that a particular group of people are privileged with land:
Deuteronomy 7:6: "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." [NIV] (Source: Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, pages 137-138).
So, as can be seen, it seems that Marshall doesn't have a very good grasp of the newer science of evolutionary morality, and the bible does, in fact, speak of privileging the in-group. Yet another error by this christian about his own bible. The bible has failed to 'rescue' us as Marshall ignorantly suggested.
Later, on page 108, Marshall makes one of the most absurd claims I've ever heard about the bible. He claims that the bible stands for "racial unity" and that "all are one in jesus christ."
"With a few kindly allies such as Confucius, the bible taught us racial unity. It has always been a theistic dogma that humans are alike in nature and dignity as the image of god. In one of the earlier old testament documents, Job said, 'If I have denied justice to my menservants and maidservants...what will I do when god confronts me?...Did not he who made me in the womb make them?' (Job 31:13-15 NIV). Paul wrote, 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female; for you are all one in jesus christ" (Galatians 3:28). Augustine thus rebutted Aristotle: Whatever society may do to us, no one is a slave by nature."
Marshall's claim that "With a few kindly allies such as Confucius, the bible taught us racial unity. It has always been a theistic dogma that humans are alike in nature and dignity as the image of god," is just insane. If this were true the bible would not condone and regulate slavey! The bible would not have been held up as proof of a divine rule which places African Americans in chains as slaves.
Many christians used the bible to justify slavery. A few examples:
"The slave should be resigned to his lot, in obeying his master he is obeying God... "
- Saint John Chrysostom
" ...slavery is now penal in character and planned by that law which commands the preservation of the natural order and forbids disturbance. "
- Saint Augustine
It seems that Augustine wasn't always on the side of freedom after all....Marshall had said earlier: "Augustine thus rebutted Aristotle: Whatever society may do to us, no one is a slave by nature."
(Source for above quotes: http://atheism.about.com/library/weekly/aa112598.htm - article by Austin Cline, titled, Christianity and History: Bible, Race & Slavery)
[I think it may be a slight misquote on the part of Austin Cline. The Augustine quote is mostly quoted as saying, "slavery is not penal in character..."]
Circa 600 CE: Pope Gregory I wrote, in Pastoral Rule: "Slaves should be told...not [to] despise their masters and recognize that they are only slaves."
13th century CE: Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) accepted the teachings of the ancient Greek Pagan philosopher, Aristotle, that slavery is "natural."
1452/4 CE: Pope Nicholas V wrote Dum Diversas which granted to the kings of Spain and Portugal the right to reduce any "Saracens [Muslims] and pagans and any other unbelievers" to perpetual slavery.
1548 CE: Pope Paul III confirmed that any individual may freely buy, sell and own slaves. Runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners for punishment.
1629 to 1661 CE: Pope Urban VIII in 1629, Pope Innocent X in 1645 and Pope Alexander VII in 1661 were all personally involved in the purchase of Muslim slaves.
1519: Bartholomew De Las Casas, a Dominican, argued against slavery. "No one may be deprived of his liberty nor may any person be enslaved" He was ridiculed, silenced and ignored.
(Source: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_slav4.htm, or, Edward C. Rogers, "Slavery illegality in all ages and nations," (1955). Online at: http://medicolegal.tripod.com/)
As for the "racial unity" claim that is purely false since the above quotes tell a different story and the bible verse that Marshall quotes is talking about slaves anyway!
In my New English Bible it says in Job 31:13-15: "If I have ever rejected the plea of my slave or of my slave-girl, when they brought their complaint to me, what shall I do if god appears? Did not he who made me in the womb make them?"
I wouldn't really call that racial unity when someone can find one little passage talking somewhat kindly about slaves, though I think the kinder thing to do is to let them be free. Of course the bible does say that if you beat them and knock out a tooth in the process, and then they can go free for compensation for the lost tooth (Exodus 21:26-27).
If that's an example of "racial unity" then I guess letting blacks on a bus (even though they had to sit in the back or be arrested) is an example of racial unity too. At least you let them on the bus with whites right? Wrong! Any idiot who makes a stupid rationalization like that should be beat.
Another biblical passage which proves that christianity is not a religion of inclusivity is 2 John 10:11 which says, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [of jesus'], do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." (NIV)
Now, here is an attempt by Marshall in one of our discussions on the amazon.com forums (see screenshot below) about his errors, and you see he insults me again by claiming I cannot read. I clearly understand that he is claiming the passage somehow caused people to see others as equals, but my point, which Marshall was blind to obviously, was how in the world could that passage possibly do such a thing when it's not talking about equality at all?!
This is a perfect example of the spurious readings of the bible that so many christians of guilty of, in the past, as well as in the present. As I've explained already, how do christians get morality out of a book that clearly gives you mixed messages? It obviously wasn't the bible that led to the realization of the equality of man, since christians for centuries thought otherwise. The fact is that society was being influenced by a variety of factors (the enlightenment, activists, etc.) and finally realized that there is such a thing as equality. Then, once they came to this realization, christians dug through their bible to find any verses that seem to say such things, and then claim it said them all along (even if the verse says the complete opposite!).
In reality, this just proves my entire point about the bible and morality.
NOTE: I have written a more in depth rebuttal to several of Marshall's claims about slavery and the bible in a second addendum called A Refutation of The Truth Behind the New Atheism: Addendum II - Slavery, The Bible, and Christianity
As far as Marshall's other complaints you see there in the screenshot, they are false as well. I did understand the passages in both instances. Just go to those parts of the review and look at my arguments (see Chapter 4: Some Riddles of Evolution). It is Marshall who clearly doesn't understand evolution as I prove.
Marshall's next task is to prove that the bible does not demean women.
He says that "two old testament books bore the names of women - Ruth and Esther..." and that the bible speaks kindly about women:
He quotes a few passages (1 Corinthians 7:5; Ephesians 5:25-28; Proverbs 31:30) [page 109] but there are just about as many passages speaking down to women (if not more) than speaking highly of them.
Some examples of the former:
- 1 Corinthians 11:8-9: "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."
- 1 Corinthians 14:24-35: "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
- 1 Timothy 2:9-14: "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship god."
- 1 Timothy 2:11-14: "A women should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner."
- Ephesians 5:22-24: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the savior. Now as the church submits to christ, so also wives should submit to your husbands in everything."
- Genesis 3:16: "To the woman he said: 'I will greatly multiply your sorrow and conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.'"
- Colossians 3:18: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord."
- 1 Peter 3:1: "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives..."
I don't understand the apologists' thought process when they comb through the scriptures trying to find at least one little verse that actually doesn't seem demeaning or hateful towards women. When they find it they throw it in your face claiming that the bible actually does say to treat women kindly, but they have theistic blinders on and are ignoring the demeaning passages, and this also goes back to the subject covered about morality. With all of the contradictory passages how does one know which one to follow? Marshall has yet to provide a coherent answer.
Chapter 7: What Should an Atheist Do About Jesus?
This chapter attempts to refute the several claims about jesus that the "new atheists" often tout about the lack of evidence for a historical jesus and that jesus' life corresponds to many other, older, gods and prophets.
On page 117 Marshall begins to make his case that the gospels are historical:
"The gospels do three things to disarm all such criticism. First, they pass strict historical interrogation with flying colors. Second, they portray a person who convinces those with the most acute insight into human nature that, as M. Scott Peck put it, 'no one could have made up the man described.'..."
I must strongly disagree with this assessment. It is a fact that buddha said many similar things as jesus (as well as their both being tempted by devils, he was born of a virgin or through a spirit, etc.).
- Buddha: "Consider others as yourself." (Dhammapada 10.1)
- Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Luke 6.31)
- Buddha: "Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like radiant gods." (Dhammapada 15.4)
- Jesus: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6.20)
- Buddha: "If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words." (Majjhima Nikaya 21.6)
- Jesus: "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." (Luke 6.29)
Not only are the stories of jesus and buddha similar but stories of jesus run parallel with many other, older, stories of gods and prophets of other civilizations.
Such examples are:
1. Baal is taken prisoner.
2. He is tried in a hall of justice.
3. He is tormented and mocked by a rabble.
4. He is lead away to the mount.
5. Baal is taken with two other prisoners, one of whom is released.
6. After he is sacrificed on the mount, the rabble goes on a rampage.
7. His clothes are taken.
8. Baal disappears into a tomb.
9. He is sought after by weeping women.
10. He is resurrected, appearing to his followers after the stone is rolled away from the tomb.
(Source: The Christ Conspiracy:The Greatest Story Ever Sold, by Acharya S., page 204)
A prophet named Zarathustra is said to have had a divine birth, he was tempted by the devil, and he finally ascended into heaven after being consumed by a flash of lightening. The Greeks believed this story to be historical and this story was being told hundreds of years before the supposed birth of jesus (Source: The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage, by Will Durant, page 364).
It's also been shown that the gods/prophets Mithras had a story circulating about him in which he participated in a "last supper" or "sacred meal," just as jesus did; Adonis, Dionysos, and Osiris are said to have been killed, buried, and resurrected, just as jesus is said to have been (Source: The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ?, by Earl Doherty, pages 15-16).
The Roman god Romulus is also said to have many significant similarities to the jesus tale. Such examples are, among several others:
1. Both were incarnated gods (Romulus descended from heaven to become human and die).
2. Both became incarnate in order to establish a kingdom on earth (for Romulus, the Roman Empire; for Christ, the Kingdom of God, i.e. the Church).
3. Both were killed by a conspiracy of the ruling powers (Christ, by the Jewish and Roman authorities; Romulus, by the first Roman senate).
4. Both corpses vanished when sought for (in the earliest and canonical Gospels Christs' tomb is found empty).
5. Both appear after their resurrection to a close follower on an important road (Proculus on the road to Alba Longa; Cleopas on the road to Emmaus - both roads 14 miles long, the one leading to Rome, the other from Jerusalem) [Source: Not the Impossible Faith: Why Christianity Didn't Need a Miracle to Succeed, by Richard Carrier, Ph.D., page 33].
Another blow to the 'jesus is like no other' argument is a tablet that was found in mid 2008 tells of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days. The text dated from the late first century B.C., before jesus' supposed birth.
Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley, said, "Some Christians will find it shocking — a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology — while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism" (Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/05/africa/06stone.php?page=1).
These are not the only similarities between the jesus story told in the gospels and several other mythical characters whose stories were told throughout history. As you can see there is nothing original about jesus.
Marshall's second claim about the gospels "pass[ing] strict historical interrogation with flying colors" is absurd. I agree that there are several verifiable historical incidents that occurred in the bible but a large portion of it has been shown to be un historical.
For example, John the Baptist was most likely not a real person since there is no non biblical account of him, except for an interpolation in a work of Josephus [Antiquities B.18, chapter 5, section 2] (Source: Biblical Errancy: A Reference Guide, by C. Dennis McKinsey, page 198).
The Exodus does not appear in Egyptian records and there are no traces in the Sinai that one would expect from forty years of wandering of more than half a million people. Other archaeological evidence contradicts it, showing that the Hebrews were a native people (Source: The Counter-Creationism Handbook, by Mark Isaak, page 215).
The rest of Marshall's "evidence" regarding the gospels' accuracy are just plain silly. He claims that "[n]ot only were the gospels written while eyewitnesses were still alive, they sound like eyewitness reports" (page 119).
I do not understand this since each gospel has many discrepancies between them. The three synoptic gospels are very similar but they 'diverge frequently' even after they tell a very similar story. However, the gospel of Mark is missing the first two chapters in Matthew and the first chapter of Luke.
Even the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "In the arrangement of the common matter the three gospels differ very considerably up to the point where Herod Antipas is said to have heard of the fame of jesus." The similarities are said to be due to each writer copying from a primary source. Not that each one is written independently (Source: Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of the Christ, by D.M. Murdock, pages 4 and 30-31).
The resurrection is said to be one of the most important stories in the bible because it is when jesus comes back to life and is said to return sometimes in the future. Even the resurrection accounts differ to a great degree.
Here are the discrepancies:
What time did the women visit the tomb?
* Matthew: "as it began to dawn" (28:1)
* Mark: "very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun" (16:2, KJV); "when the sun had risen" (NRSV); "just after sunrise" (NIV)
* Luke: "very early in the morning" (24:1, KJV) "at early dawn" (NRSV)
* John: "when it was yet dark" (20:1)
Who were the women?
* Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
* Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
* Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
* John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
What was their purpose?
* Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
* Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
* Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
* John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?
* Matthew: No (28:2)
* Mark: Yes (16:4)
* Luke: Yes (24:2)
* John: Yes (20:1)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
* Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
* Mark: One young man (16:5)
* Luke: Two men (24:4)
* John: Two angels (20:12)
Where were these messengers situated?
* Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)
* Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)
* Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)
* John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)
What did the messenger(s) say?
* Matthew: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (28:5-7)
* Mark: "Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (16:6-7)
* Luke: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (24:5-7)
* John: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (20:13)
Did the women tell what happened?
* Matthew: Yes (28:8)
* Mark: No. "Neither said they any thing to any man." (16:8)
* Luke: Yes. "And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest." (24:9, 22-24)
* John: Yes (20:18)
When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
* Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)
* Mark: Yes (16:10,11)
* Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)
* John: No (20:2)
When did Mary first see Jesus?
* Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)
* Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)
* John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)
Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
* Matthew: Yes (28:9)
* John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)
After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
* Matthew: Eleven disciples (28:16)
* Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
* Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to eleven (24:13,36)
* John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
* Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead). (I Corinthians 15:5)
Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
* Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
* Mark: To two in the country, to eleven "as they sat at meat" (16:12,14)
* Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
* John: In a room, at evening (20:19)
Did the disciples believe the two men?
* Mark: No (16:13)
* Luke: Yes (24:34--it is the group speaking here, not the two)
What happened at the appearance?
* Matthew: Disciples worshipped, some doubted, "Go preach." (28:17-20)
* Mark: Jesus reprimanded them, said "Go preach" (16:14-19)
* Luke: Christ incognito, vanishing act, materialized out of thin air, reprimand, supper (24:13-51)
* John: Passed through solid door, disciples happy, Jesus blesses them, no reprimand (21:19-23)
Did Jesus stay on earth for a while?
* Mark: No (16:19) Compare 16:14 with John 20:19 to show that this was all done on Sunday
* Luke: No (24:50-52) It all happened on Sunday
* John: Yes, at least eight days (20:26, 21:1-22)
* Acts: Yes, at least forty days (1:3)
Where did the ascension take place?
* Matthew: No ascension. Book ends on mountain in Galilee
* Mark: In or near Jerusalem, after supper (16:19)
* Luke: In Bethany, very close to Jerusalem, after supper (24:50-51)
* John: No ascension
* Paul: No ascension
* Acts: Ascended from Mount of Olives (1:9-12)
(Source: Dan Barker's article called Leave No Stone Unturned: An Easter Challenge For Christians, from http://ffrf.org/books/lfif/?t=stone)
These many discrepancies in the bible pose a real problem for christians, but if you're like David Marshall, you can just ignore them and have faith that the bible is true and tells you accurate history.
Marshall claims that the gospels have been shown to have early dates; that they were only written about "40 to 70 years after the events they describe" (page 118).
He claims that this is not a large gap and people could still have remembered the events and written them down. To make his point he mentions a family get together.
"I just attended my uncle's fiftieth wedding anniversary, at which stories were not circulated, but told first hand, about events that happened six decades ago" (page 118).
First of all, the dates for Mark are accurate according to my source (Marshall says that the gospel of Mark was written about 40 years after the fact), but the other gospels were written between 37-100 for Matthew; 50-100 for Luke; and 65-100 for John (Source:Who Was Jesus? Fingerprints of the Christ, by D.M. Murdock, page 59). Second, these large gaps of time leave much room for many errors and myths to develop. In fact, it is known that myths can begin to develop just days after an event (forget 40 to 100 years!).
In Robert M. Price's book, Jesus is Dead, he recounts a few myths developing shortly after events took place.
Price recounts the story of Sabbatai Sevi, who was a false messiah in the 17th century.
"Gershom Scholem speaks of 'the sudden and almost explosive surge of miracle stories' concerning Sabbatai Sevi within weeks or even days of his public appearances....
Letters from December of the same year related that Sabbatai 'command a Fire to be made in a public place, in the presence of many beholders...and entered into the fire twice or thrice, without any hurt to his garments or to a hair on his head. Other letters tell of his raising the dead."
"Twentieth-century African prophet and martyr Simon Kimbangu became another 'living legend' against his own wishes. One group of his followers, the Ngunzists, spread his fame as the 'god of the blacks' or 'christ of the blacks,' even while Kimbangu himself disavowed the role. Legends of Kimbangu's childhood, miracles, and prophetic visions began within his own generation"(pages 36 -37).
Even if it was shown that myths did not affect the stories of jesus (which I think they very well did with the several similarities between other gods and prophets) how in the world does Marshall know the stories are accurate? All he says on this topic is that they "sound like eye witness reports" (page 119) and gives some answers as to why, like the bible gives details about actual places, and that the stories just sound authentic (page 119). Sorry to say, but these arguments are completely pathetic. This proves nothing.
I think it's also hypocritical of Marshall to insist that stories being circulated for such long periods could be counted on as reliable since Marshall himself has admitted the fact that myths can develop quickly and distort a story (Source: From the comments section of my amazon.com review of David Aikman's The Delusion of Disbelief).
One last problem is that none of the many copies of the gospels found through archaeology are exactly the same (though most errors are minor, like spelling, missing a word, etc.); each gospel has been added to and changed around countless times. One example is Mark 16:1-8, which is the earliest version of the resurrection story. In the earliest and best manuscripts the gospel ends where women discover the empty tomb, and an angel tells them that the disappearance of the body means that jesus has risen. Later on a scribe adds Mark 16:9-20, which speaks of his disciples seeing jesus after he has risen (Source: Jesus is Dead, by Robert M. Price, page 4).
With stories being added to as this example shows how can anyone be certain that what they're reading was not exaggerated or made up to make the story more appealing?
Now that I've cast doubt upon the reliability of the bible and it's accuracy I want to continue tackling other claims that Marshall makes.
Next, Marshall tackles the "jesus myth" theory, which I already covered at some length, showing similarities between jesus and other characters.
Though, as you can probably guess, Marshall is not convinced at all by these myths but offers absolutely nothing in the way of a rebuttal! He simply says:
"Many efforts have been invested in finding legends that look like jesus. The search has come up spectacularly empty. The failure of informed, intelligent scholars to find any parallel that is even remotely believable is really a success..." (page 123)
He goes on to say that just because some stories are similar doesn't prove they were borrowed from other ones (page 124). This is true, but how else can one explain the virgin birth and resurrection of many other saviors throughout history, even ones that predate jesus, like Zarathustra, as I showed at the beginning of this chapter?
Marshall says that these claims need evidence:
"That is a historical claim, which requires historical evidence. Stolen money can be traced by serial numbers. But how do we know if an idea or pattern of action has been borrowed from an earlier source" (page 124)?
It can be difficult to tell if an actual historical person came first or the myths, or if they somehow became intertwined over time, but just pretending that these many similarities do not exist is hardly any refutation of them. Judging from Marshall's lack of evidence (instead he relied on argument from authority, and just plain rejection of evidence) about these similarities not being significant, I have to agree that the myths are at least partly accurate and it's possible that jesus was nothing more than a myth. I cover this claim in another post I did called Evidence Against Jesus' Existence if you'd like to read that.
On page 125 Marshall is being a hypocrite when he says of Richard Dawkins:
"Dawkins' argument against the gospels is based on an appeal to authority..." but Marshall includes no real evidence (archaeological, historical) about why the gospels are truly accurate or even why all the similarities of various prophets/gods are meaningless. I, however, have shown the gospels to be contradictory, the bible contains many errors, and even scripture was added to and changed throughout time, which leaves anyone who's mind is not clouded with faith to see that the likelihood of a majority of the stories in the bible taking place is slim indeed. And then there is the subject of miracles. Marshall is still in a precarious position because the supernatural has still not been proven to exist. Even if these stories were found to be accurate it doesn't prove that the miraculous stories recounted in the gospels ever took place.
I should note a counter that I've encountered from Marshall regarding the many similarities of the various gods. He says that because none are exactly like the gospels, that means none were borrowed from earlier sources [talk about moving the goal post!]. How stupid... The main points of each story is woven through many other myths. Such main points are the virgin birth, resurrection - often within three days, gaining many followers, becoming crucified, being tempted by the devil, etc. These similarities are the focus of people who study the "jesus myth," not that an older god completely mimics everything that happens in the gospels.
I think exact, cookie cutter stories (which is what Marshall is asking for) would be impossible since stories change over time and depending on the region and religion that has borrowed the elements of a story, things will tend to get deemphasized or changed around a little. It is absurd of him to ask for such "proof." He is simply asking for something which would pretty much be impossible due to a variety of factors. After all, the many similarities are very striking to begin with without having to be exact copies of the gospels.
Marshall has once again failed to account for these many similarities.
Chapter 8: Is Christianity a Blessing?
In this chapter, Marshall tries to counter all of the bad acts attributed to christianity and educate his readers about many of the good things that christians have done. He mentions missionaries in India, how christians helped to end slavery, and how christians "invented the university" (page 149).
I won't deny that much of this is true. There have been many christians who have helped people around the world, but I also don't deny the fact that throughout history christianity has not always been a force for good. I insist that christianity has done more harm than good when you compare the good with the bad.
Marshall begins his chapter talking about India and how christians educated men and women, gave medical training, and ended the caste system.
Something Marshall does not address, though, is the fact that many missionaries go to a country with the main purpose of converting the natives to christianity.
An article by Stephen Knapp talks about when he went to India in 2002 for the "'North East India Janajati Faith & Culture Protection Forum.' This conference took place on the 14th and 15th of December, 2002. It focused on the increasing threat in India's northeast regions of the loss of its culture and traditions because of the number of conversions that are taking place, often by questionable tactics. I and the other delegates were there to give lectures and presentations on the benefits of the local and Vedic culture of the region."
He tells of a group of "militant Christian insurgents" who "come in and terrorize the people and force them with threats to pay high taxes to fund their cause, or with death if they do not convert to their religion. This is called "gunpoint conversions".
Marshall mentions that Gandhi was inspired by jesus for many of his beliefs (page 138) and that Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi. Though, it is true when Marshall confesses that "[i]t would be unfair to ascribe Gandhi's teachings part and parcel to jesus..." He is right. One large influence to both men (maybe even more than christianity?) was the anarchist Henry David Thoreau's essay called On the duty of civil disobedience (though originally called Resistance to civil government), which advocated the concept of non-violent resistance.
Martin Luther King Jr. also read the essay by Thoreau, as a student in Atlanta, and said,
"Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times. This was my first intellectual contact with the theory of non-violent resistance" (Source: Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction, by Colin Ward, page 65).
On the subject of missionaries again, they have not always been a force for positive social change.
In Rwanda priests, nuns and even bishops were indicted and a great many were convicted (by war crimes tribunals) for being directly responsible for the senseless slaughter of thousands of innocent Tutsis. One priest even burned down his own church to kill hundreds of Tutsis who had taken sanctuary there. Two priests were sentenced to death in 1998 for their roles in this genocide and two Benedictine nuns who supplied gasoline for the burning of Tutsi civilians sheltered in their church fled to Belgium where they were later convicted of complicity to murder.
“Sister Maria Kisito, who received 12 years, and her Mother Superior, Sister Gertrude, who received 15 years, were convicted of aiding in the slaughter of some 7,000 people who sought refuge at their convent in southern Rwanda. Prosecutors argued that they called in Hutu militiamen to drive people out of the convent knowing they would be killed, and later provided gasoline that militiamen used to set fire to a garage in which about 500 Tutsis had taken refuge.” (Washington Post, June 9, 2001)
In the end nearly one million civilians were butchered.
After James Cook's visit to Hawaii in 1778 christians came in and stole their land.
The missionaries did everything possible to destroy the ethnic Hawaiian culture, from banning all Hawaiian religious practices, walking barefoot, and even banning a faultless sport like surfing. Christians [according to the Hawaiians] are said to have introduced the mosquito into Hawaii in the hopes that this would force the natives to wear more clothes. Only in modern times has pride in Hawaiian art, song, dance and religion been revived.
In Burma and Thailand the american baptist Paul Lewis sterilized more than 20,000 Akha Hill Tribe women in Burma’s Eastern Shan State alone. This was done secretly, and blood was stolen from these women for resale, taken during the sterilization procedure. More than 3,000 of the women died.
“There would be no traditional practices, songs, or dances at all now, possibly something would be allowed at Christmas. The woman who practices the traditional knowledge and medicine for the village was stopped. She was told that it was evil and that she could no longer treat people’s illnesses. In the name of their religious beliefs, and quite in contradiction with the spirit of those beliefs, the missionaries are eradicating Akha culture in village after village.
In China, in 1900, few know that this rebellion was directly a reaction of the Chinese people to the Christian missionaries who swarmed into the country in order to convert the poor, illiterate, and defenseless Chinese. The rebellion was of course suppressed by the countries that were patronizing the converting missionaries.
India's first major contact with Christianity began when Vasco da Gama, from Portugal, landed with gunboat and priests in 1498… The newcomers were not only merchants but also devout Christians ordered by the Pope: "... to invade, conquer, and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracens (Moslems who fought against the Christian Crusaders in the middle ages) or Pagan...."
Hindus were forced to convert or faced torture and death. Thousands had to flee Goa in order to keep their culture and religious beliefs.
The historian Gaspar Correa described what Vasco da Gama did, thus:
"When all the Indians had thus been executed, he ordered them to strike upon their teeth with staves and they knocked them down their throats; as they were put on board, heaped on top of each other, mixed up with the blood which streamed from them; and he ordered mats and dry leaves to be spread over them and sails to be set for the shore and the vessels set on fire... " Before killing and burning the innocent Hindus he had their hands, ears and noses cut off.
Francis Xavier, a Jesuit Priest, came soon after Vasco da Gama, with the firm resolve of uprooting Hinduism from the soil of India and planting Christianity in its place. His sayings and doings have been documented in his numerous biographies. Francis Xavier, wrote back home,
"As soon as I arrived in any heathen village, when all are baptized, I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to be broken to pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done." The Church had a special way of dealing with converted Hindus who were suspected of not observing Christian rites with appropriate rigour and enthusiasm, or even of covertly practicing their old faith: “…the culprits would be tracked down and burnt alive.”
Xavier called for an inquisition, recorded by historians as being more horrendous and barbaric than any prior to that. Thousands were tortured mutilated and killed. Thousands had to flee Goa in order to keep their traditional culture and religion.
It is recorded that between 600 and 1,000 Hindu temples and shrines were destroyed, but many consider these numbers to be on the conservative side.
Many types of brutal torture were employed by the Inquisitors, such as mutilation of body parts, fire torture and drownings. The details of this torture are too ghastly and horrid to contemplate for any sane human being.
”Children were flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their parents whose eyelids had been sliced off to make sure they missed nothing. Extremities were amputated carefully, so that a person could remain conscious even when all that remained was a torso and a head.”
No body knows the exact number of Goans subjected to these diabolical tortures; low estimates put the number in the tens of thousands, high estimates are in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even more. The abominations of these inquisitions continued from 1560 until a brief respite was given in 1774, but four years later, the inquisition was introduced again and it continued un-interruptedly until 1812 — the inquisition in Goa wend on for over two-hundred and fifty years. At that point in time, in the year of 1812, the British put pressure on the Portuguese to put an end to the terror of the Inquisition and the presence of British troops in Goa enforced the British desire (Source for above text on missionaries: http://www.burningcross.net/crusades/christian-missionary-atrocities.html).
Missionaries in Africa also spread their religious propaganda, often at the risks of millions, that condom use is a sin. They also tend to spread inaccurate information about contraception and STD's; not to mention withholding accurate information about these subjects (Source: Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, pages 33-34). This tragic occurrence is hardly helping the natives and definably doesn't help the spread of the deadly virus.
America was also stolen from the natives by christians. When Columbus arrived, on every island he went to, he would place a cross in the natives' land and declared ownership of it. In addition, the ritual Requerimiento was declared that told of the spanishs' "right" to claim the americas as their own because of the "assertion that God, through Saint Peter and his Papal successors, held authority as ruler over the entire Earth, and that the Inter Caetera, (a Papal Bull of 4 May 1493 by Pope Alexander VI) conferred title over the Americas to the Spanish monarchs."
The Requerimiento also required a statement to be read to every native Columbus and his band of thieves came across "informing them of the truth of christianity and the necessity to swear immediate allegiance to the pope and to the spanish crown. After this, if the indians refused or even delayed in their acceptance (or more likely, their misunderstanding) of the Requerimiento, the statement continued:
I certify to you that, with the help of god, we shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the church and of their highness. We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their highness may command. And we shall take your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict him. (Source: American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, by David E. Stannard, pages 65-66).
On Columbus' second visit to the "new world" that is when the true carnage began. After Columbus and his men enslaved, murdered, and raped, 50,000 natives had been killed in a few months time (Source: American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, by David E. Stannard, page 70). The horrible cruelty inflicted upon the natives by Columbus, the Conquistadors, the viruses brought to the "new world" which infected and killed many, and early american settlers all contributed to wiping out about 100,000,000 natives (Source: American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, by David E. Stannard, page 151).
So called "peace treaties" were often signed with the natives once settlers arrived and were often broken:
"On...occasions indians were enticed into visiting the settlements on the pretense of peace and the sharing of entertainment, whereupon they were attacked by the english and killed. Peace treaties signed with every intention to violate them: when the indians 'grow secure upon the treatie,' advised the Council of State in Virginia, 'we shall have the better advantage both to surprise them & cutt down theire Corne.' And when at last the indians retaliated strongly...'released all restraints that the company had hitherto imposed on those who thirsted for the destruction or enslavement of the indians.' Not that the restraints had ever been particularly confining, but from now on the only controversy was over whether it was preferable to kill all the native peoples or to enslave them" (Source: American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World, by David E. Stannard, page 106).
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg regarding christians who go to native lands with their sole intent to force their beliefs upon the people there.
Other than the usual list of the Crusades, the Inquisitions, witch hunts, in which "hundreds of thousands" were put on trial and persecuted; many were put to death, all because of the passage in Exodus 22:18 which says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," and the silly superstitions that religion fostered (Source: The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, page 820). One also cannot forget the reformation. Even in modern times, christians don't necessarily behave any better.
Dr. Barnett Slepian (an abortion provider) was murdered at his home by an anti-abortion supporter, James Charles Kopp. On Friday, October 23, 1998, Slepian had returned from the synagogue and was preparing soup in his kitchen when he was shot in the shoulder through a window. He died a few hours later. Kopp fled, but was arrested in France and extradited back to the US. He was tried and convicted of second-degree murder in Buffalo, New York and is currently serving a 25 years to life term of imprisonment.
On January 29, 1998, Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who worked as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, was killed when his workplace was bombed. Eric Robert Rudolph, who was also responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, was charged with the crime and received two life sentences.
December 30, 1994 John Salvi, who was an anti-abortion activist, murdered receptionists Lee Ann Nichols and Shannon Lowney in an attack. Salvi was later found dead in his prison cell with the official report stating that Salvi's death was a suicide.
June 29, 1994, Dr. John Britton and James Barrett, a clinic escort, were both shot to death outside of another facility in Pensacola. Rev. Paul Jennings Hill was charged with the killings, received a death sentence, and was executed September 3, 2003.
On March 10, 1993, "a Rescue America participant, Michael Griffin, shot Dr. David Gunn outside the doctor's abortion clinic" (Source: The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, page 106).
A "small but radical [group called] Army of God has targeted abortion clinics and been involved in kidnapings, bombings, and shooting deaths. According to many reports, they have even been linked to the 280 anthrax threats that hit abortion clinics in October following the September 11,2001 attacks.
The poisonous mentality of this group was demonstrated when Army of God supporters met on January 21, 2001, in Bowie, Maryland, for its fifth White Rose Banquet. 'During the event, numerous speakers called for violence against abortion clinics, approved of murdering abortion providers, and made jokes about killing homosexuals,' reported Church & State. Chuck Spingola complained, 'Now, these people [gays] are vile folks...If you deal with these people long enough, you understand the wisdom of god when he says they should be put to death.' Reverend Michael Bray, who served a six year sentence for his involvement in abortion clinic bombings, was also awarded the title of 'chaplain' during the event" (Source: The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, pages 9-10).
Something that isn't touched upon in Marshall's book, but something I wanted to add, is the fact that so many religious individuals get into a murderous rage when a woman decides to make a very difficult decision and abort her unborn baby with the help of a doctor. While, if a woman has a miscarriage (even days before the birth of the baby), these people do not call for god's death and blame him. They rationalize it away: "Well, god just decided, for reasons unknown to us, to take our baby up to heaven with him." It is horribly unfortunate when such an occurrence happens but these people completely ignore the truth: god is a murderer. In fact, he is the largest abortionists in the world since approximately 50% of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, usually without a woman realizing that she was pregnant, while 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage (Source: Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, page 38).
More proof that religious beliefs can affect behavior is seen in the following sad cases of horrible child abuse:
A family of strict Jehovah's Witnesses, Larry and Constance Slack, were about to leave for a special night out for dinner, on November 10, 2001, when Constance could not find her jacket which contained her wallet and credit cards. The parents asks the children to help and look and apparently, "the children were not trying very hard...[and that is when] Larry picked up a three-quarter inch cable, and gave the youngest, eight year old Lester, a few thumps on the buttocks and leg.
But, that didn't seem to help. The problem was that dirty clothes were scattered all over the house, and twelve year old Laree, who was responsible for the laundry, had not done her job. So, using the same cord, Larry gave Laree four or five hits, until she tried to squirm away. Then, Larry told the two teenage boys to tie her, face down, to a metal futon frame. He gave her thirty-nine whacks to the back, counting, as he later explained, because he wanted to adhere to the biblical edict of forty lashes minus one. He then handed the cord to Constance, who added twenty wallops.
Laree started to scream, so Larry ordered the boys to bring him a towel, and he stuffed it in her mouth. He tied a scarf around her head, securing the towel, and then tightened the scarf with a stick, as with a tourniquet. He removed her shirt, and told the other children to pull off her pants as he prepared to administer thirty-nine more strikes. Constance followed by adding twenty. But things just were not going right. Laree's back was bleeding; so Larry turned her over, and administered the final thirty-nine smacks. Laree died within an hour of being checked into the hospital" (The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, pages 48-49).
The bible actually sanctions the use of a whip for punishment: In Proverbs 23:13-14: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die [Well I guess the bible was wrong about that, huh?]. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death." (NIV)
Another horrible act of child abuse occurred in 2001 when the 29 year old mother, Sabrina Wright, who lived in Manhattan, murdered her four year old daughter due to drowning because she had been trying to exorcise the child of demons (Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/nov/15/news/mn-4544).
On November 22, 2004 Dena Schlosser, a mother of an eleven month old girl, Margaret Schlosser, used a knife to chop off her baby's arms because "Schlosser had heard God commanding her to remove her baby's arm and then her own."
I think these stories are more than enough to show that religion is, more often than not, a force for evil and a bad influence upon morality - and I documented this throughout a period spanning several hundred years and up to present day.
As for the abolition of slavery, I agree that some christians did have a hand in helping the movement along, but I argue that their influence was minimal throughout most of the world. It was actually enlightenment ideas of equality (though some during the time of the enlightenment, such as David Hume, who wrote a piece titled, Negros...Naturally Inferior to the Whites..., argued the opposite) with essays by such writers as Denis Diderot called Who Are You, Then, to Make Slaves..., for example, who argued against slavery (Source: The Portable Enlightenment Reader, edited by Isaac Kramnick, pages 629 & 640), and various other factors that finally lead to a changing of morals, which realized that keeping other human beings as slaves was wrong.
The fact is, as I mentioned earlier in my review of chapter six, many church leaders condoned the practice of slavery and used the bible as proof of divine right to place african americans into slavery. In fact, the bible never once rejects slavery but condones and sanctions it.
According to my reading about the abolition movement, the main force which drove it were not christians but "Black resistance to enslavement" and "Black resistance was the most important of these factors" (Source: http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761570452/abolitionist_movement.html).
I think without the moral guidance of the enlightenment as a spring board to equality slavery may not have been abolished as soon as it had been.
It must also be said that the original colonists in the "new world," who were christians, owned slaves and participated in the "triangle trade" (Source: The Complete Idiot's Guide to American History, by Alan Axelrod, Ph.D., pages 40-41). I already discussed the horrible treatment of the colonists towards the indians when they arrived to the "new world" earlier in the review of this chapter.
Other than these stains upon the past of christianity, many christians, as I noted earlier, are highly hateful towards homosexuals due to the verse in the bible, which says “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (Leviticus 20:13, NIV).
Just as the "new atheists" have continuously been saying, it is a fact that theists are inspired by their beliefs and commit most of the atrocities I've told here because of those beliefs. These beliefs themselves is what makes religion so dangerous, as Sam Harris pointed out in his bestseller, The End of Faith.
More unethical actions done by religious individuals is that now a days, christians and other categories of theists (including some muslims), are propagating many "lies for jesus," or "allah" in muslims' case, to protect those beliefs from erosion caused by scientific discovery.
As I've told earlier in this review about the early christians who destroyed great learning centers, such as the library of Alexandria, and even today you have christians lying about the facts of science and history since they cannot actively stop people from learning (with the exception of their children - many fundamentalist christians home school their children and feed them bad history and science). In fact, later on in Marshall's book he is guilty of one of these: lies about history and his claim that evolution caused the Holocaust and that atheism was responsible for communism, both of which are false.
Ever since 1961 with the publication of John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris' The Genesis Flood creationists have been attempting to give credence to their beliefs ever since - often by doing is what is often called pseudoscience.
During this crusade they have tried to get their pseudoscience, called creationism, taught in schools under the deceptive name of intelligent design after creationism was deemed illegal due to the separation of church and state in the court ruling Edwards v. Aguillard from 1987. After this they failed again in a variety of legal battles, most notably Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al. in 2005.
As I mentioned before, not only are many theists trying to subvert science, but also history. Many "Reconstructionists," such as Stephen McDowell and David Barton, claim through a variety of deceptive tactics that the united states was actually founded as a "christian nation" and that because of this prayer and creationism should be allowed and taught in schools. In reality, the "Reconstructionists" are just another prong in the attack by religion to get those things (prayer, bibles, keeping "under god" in the pledge of allegiance, etc.) reinstated in schools since court rulings took them out due to a breach of the "separation of church and state."
Of course, the truth is that prayer is allowed in schools; it's just that mandatory prayer lead by a teacher is considered against the constitution. Students can pray all they want on their own. I remember once during my high school years many students of various beliefs (christians, wiccans, etc.) in their own circles praying due to some event (my memory is very hazy of this event but I think it was something tragic that happened).
More recent events include the molestation of children by many catholic priests; the use of the vote (the unethical power of a majority) to make it "illegal" for homosexuals to get married. This despicable act is due to many theists' beliefs about homosexuals due to the bible.
These many acts that I've recounted are by no means the end of the atrocities and bigotry that religion often causes. It is for this reason that I strongly argue that religion has done more harm than good when looking throughout history as a whole.
Chapter 9: Or a Curse?
This chapter has Marshall attempt to do damage control and tries to make the atrocities that christianity is responsible for less severe and blame them not on the teachings of christianity but other social influences. For example, he says of the inquisition: "The Inquisition seemed to have three sources: political expedience, Roman precedent and theological rationalization" (page 159). On page 156 Marshall says, "The claim is that there's something in this faith, when taken seriously, that leads to the murder of the innocent. The charge demands honest consideration."
Marshall's second statement is pretty ridiculous. As I showed in the last chapter, most of the atrocities I told of were done precisely because of the bible and individuals' beliefs.
He mentions Henri Dunant, a "devout Calvinist" who started the Red Cross, showing how religion can do some good. Well, this is true, though there are many Red Crosses all over the world and one was also formed in america by a woman named Clara Barton who was, according to the wikipedia entry, a “Deist-Unitarian.” And that "her actual beliefs varied throughout her life along a spectrum between freethought and deism. In a 1905 letter to her friend, Norman Thrasher, she called herself a 'Universalist'" (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Barton#Religious_beliefs). I don't consider this anything special since even non-believers started a branch of the Red Cross. This proves that religion is not needed for good works to be done.
On page 160 Marshall says, "Why blame jesus when people do the opposite of what he taught?"
I have to wonder about this quote of Marshall's about jesus. It seems when one reads the bible that jesus did sanction the inquisition, though this is obviously fiercely disputed by theologians since they don't want their supposed "meek and mild" founder to be blamed for such heinous crimes. But one cannot ignore the verse in the gospel of John 15:6 in which jesus says, "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." (NIV)
Another book of the bible that seems to have been an inspiration for the inquisition is the book of 2 Peter, in which the bible seems to give support to the idea of killing heretics. The author "was anxious to hold together the infant christian community in the light of christ's failure to return in the lifetime of his hearers. Those who interpreted this failure in ways perceived to threaten church unity were, accordingly, labeled heretics...One of the first written condemnation of heretics was from Irenaeus of Lyons, who attacked the Gnostics in Against Heretics. Saint Jerome declared that anyone against the church was by default with Satan, and as such has relinquished the right to life" [emphasis mine] (Source: The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, page 385).
So it does seem as if the bible and jesus did help to sanction the inquisition.
Another fact that many seem to forget is that jesus came "to fulfill" the law, not change it. Matthew 5:17-18 states: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (NIV). Reading this in context it seems that jesus' job was not to change biblical law, but help to impose it - this would include the laws regarding slavery, subjection of women, and jesus' proclamation that all unbelievers will roast in hell and should also be burned for not following him, just like what happened during the inquisition. This would also do well to refute Marshall's silly argument from chapter six that jesus is what christians follow for morality.
Marshall tackles the burning of witches and says that even "skeptics such as Thomas Hobbes and Jean Bodin advocated the killing of witches..." (page 161) and says that "unbelief by itself doesn't automatically check such impulses [against singling out minorities as scapegoats]" (page 162).
This is true, but I argue that if it weren't for religious belief being so pervasive and religion's stifling of rational thought, such beliefs might have had a harder time in gaining steam.
It must be noted, though, that neither Bodin nor Hobbes murdered any witches and gave their feelings life, unlike the superstitious religious individuals who took any odd happening as a sign that a witch is casting spells and then blames it on an outcast(s) in the village and has that person (or group of people) killed.
Next, Marshall begins to talk about the supposed hatred of jews that is said to be "integral to church doctrine" [quoting Sam Harris], though Marshall disputes this and says that a reading of the new testament teaches us to "love everyone" (page 163-164). If only Marshall read his bible more often...
One disputed passage in the new testament is Revelation 2:9: "...I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." (NKJV)
So to say that the new testament says to "love everyone" is plain false...and there are other passages that I can point to in support of this fact.
Obviously there is some confusion about how such an anti semitic message became part of christianity but there is no denying that it is there, despite the fact that jesus was supposedly jewish and preached to jewish people (according to Marshall, page 164).
Even Marshall admits two other instances in which there is a message speaking of anti semitism (page 164) so clearly the bible has been an inspiration for anti semitism. Even though he says this, he seems to contradict himself when he says, "If you can read anti-Semitism into the New Testament, you can read it into anything" (page 164).
Wondering how such a message got itself placed into the bible is still no defense for the cruel actions taken against the jews by christians throughout history. The message is there; who cares how it got there? It obviously motivated some of the most cruel atrocities in history (ie. the Holocaust).
The fact is that the church supported Hitler (as did most christians):
"...a concordat was signed between the Nazi government and the Catholic Church in 1933. The collusion between the Protestant churches and the Nazi regime was even closer, helped by an anti-Semitic tradition in German Protestantism. Resistance came not from the established Protestant churches but by the breakaway Confessional Church, led by pastors Martin Niemoller [who Marshall uses as one example, page 166] and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. These dissidents are justifiably held up by Christians today as shining examples of principled resistance to Nazism, but the fact that they had to leave the established Church to lead this resistance is no cause for Christian celebration" (Source: Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, by Julian Baggini, page 84).
Within Article 21 of that concordat the nazi party seemed to want to inculcate christian beliefs for future generations (this also contradicts Marshall's claim about Hitler hating christianity - more on this below):
Catholic religious instruction in elementary, senior, secondary and vocational schools constitutes a regular portion of the curriculum, and is to be taught in accordance with the principles of the Catholic Church. In religious instruction, special care will be taken to inculcate patriotic, civic and social consciousness and sense of duty in the spirit of the Christian Faith and the moral code, precisely as in the case of other subjects (Source: http://ffrf.org/fttoday/2002/nov02/carrier.php).
Marshall attempts to dispel the claims against pope pius XII and counters that he helped many jews and saved "at least 700,000 [and possibly as many as] 860,000" from the Holocaust and that these are "hardly negligible numbers" (page 167). A problem with this though is Marshall admits that this is "disputed" (page 167) and I would surely call 700,000 to 860,000 "negligible" since it's been estimated that six million jews perished in that nightmare called the Holocaust (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocaust).
More 'disputed' evidence from Marshall about pope pius XII's involvement in helping jews is that "[w]hile documents have not been found, many church officials say he instructed them to aid jews to escape the Holocaust" (page 168). If this hearsay evidence is all that Marshall can come up with then I don't think he has successfully refuted the claims against "Hilter's Pope."
On page 168 Marshall tries to refute the claims by Richard Dawkins, and others, about Hitler being christian, and says that Hitler was not a christian because he wanted to 'destroy christianity.' "In fact, the percent of SS troops who belonged to the Catholic Church plummeted during the war. While six percent of university students studied theology in 1933, when the Nazis took power, that figure fell to only two percent by 1939. If the Nazis were so pro-Christian, why did young people stop studying Dawkins' favorite subject?"
What Marshall neglects to tell his readers is the apparent confusion about Hitler and his personal beliefs. There is evidence that anyone can site to support either position: if Hitler was pro or anti-christian (in fact, it seems that some of the anti-christian remarks often attributed to Hitler are false). To this day no one knows for sure and who knows if anyone ever will.
One thing is for sure, Marshall is being dishonest in not telling his readers the whole truth.
The fact is that Hitler made statements that could support both positions. Some of the pro-christian statements made by Hitler are the following:
"The Government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, are creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life. . . .
The National Government regards the two Christian Confessions as the weightiest factors for the maintenance of our nationality. They will respect the agreements concluded between them and the federal States. Their rights are not to be infringed. . . .
It will be the Government's care to maintain honest co-operation between Church and State; the struggle against materialistic views and for a real national community is just as much in the interest of the German nation as in that of the welfare of our Christian faith.
The Government of the Reich, who regard Christianity as the unshakable foundation of the morals and moral code of the nation, attach the greatest value to friendly relations with the Holy See and are endeavouring to develop them. "
-Adolf Hitler, in his speech to the Reichstag on 23 March 1933
"In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that, as in the past, so in the years to come He would give His blessing to our work and our action, to our judgement and our resolution, that He will safeguard us from all false pride and from all cowardly servility, that He may grant us to find the straight path which His Providence has ordained for the German people, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right, never to falter, never to yield before any violence, before any danger. . . . I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty. . . . If Providence had not guided us I could often never have found these dizzy paths. . . . Thus it is that we National Socialists, too, have in the depths of our hearts our faith. We cannot do otherwise: no man can fashion world-history or the history of peoples unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence. "
-Adolf Hitler, in a speech at Wurzburg on 27 June 1937
Even in Mein Kampf Hitler expressed religious ideas when he wrote, "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord" (Source: Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, page 313).
More religious wording is expressed again in Mein Kampf: "To bring about such a development is, then, nothing else but to sin against the will of the eternal creator" (Source: Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, page 161).
Another fact is that the church supported Hitler, as I stated before. Here is some visual proof:
Below: Hitler signing his autograph for an obviously christian fan
Below: Hitler meeting with a Catholic Cardinal
Another fact is that "Gott Mit Uns," which translates to "God is With Us," can be seen here on Nazi belt buckles such as the ones that Nazi soldiers wore into battle. [Through subsequent research I have discovered that the Nazis did not wear these belt buckles. They were only worn by the German Army, not Hitler’s personal army, the SS - 2-21-11]
Below are three Nazi pin badges prominently featuring the christian cross and church (Source: http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm):
Here, too, is a Nazi coin featuring the swastika and the church. This would seem to imply the intertwining of church and state, which would be a very non-atheistic thing to do (Source: http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm):
I was also able to find a German Lutheran Church Gazette honoring Hitler from 1939 (Source: http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm):
It also seems, from this statement by Hitler, that he did not look kindly upon atheism:
"We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out. "
-Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on 24 Oct. 1933
Even other Nazis seemed to share this same belief regarding christianity:
"We have a feeling that Germany has been transformed into a great house of God, including all classes, professions and creeds, where the Fuhrer as our mediator stood before the throne of the Almighty. "
-Joseph Goebbels, in a broadcast, 19 April 1936
From a Lansing, Michigan newspaper called the Lansing State Journal, the February 23, 1933 issue includes this news brief regarding Hitler (Source: http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/unknown/hitler.html):
HITLER AIMS BLOW AT 'GODLESS' MOVE
Chancellor's Forces Seek the Catholic Support for Latest Campaign
BERLIN, Feb. 23 (AP)--A campaign against the "godless movement" and an appeal for Catholic support were launched Wednesday by Chancellor Adolf Hitler's forces. They struck at two of his formidable opponents in the March 5 elections, the first at communists and the latter at the allied Catholic parties.
Meanwhile five more persons were killed and scores were injured Tuesday night in the incipient civil war which has been waging since Hitler's rise to power. This brought the number of deaths in political clashes since the first of the year, when Hitler began negotiations for the chancellorship, to about 70.
A campaign against the "godless movement" was announced by Bernard Rust, nazi commissioner for education and culture in Prussia, in an address Tuesday night before students at the technical university here. He said the details would be revealed in the next few days. In his speech opening the campaign for the reichstag and Prussian diet elections, Hitler attacked communists for the spread of atheism.
An appeal to Catholic nazis was printed Wednesday in Hitler's Voelkischer Beobachter, assailing the Catholic centrist and populist parties. It recalled the papal encyclical of January 9, 1928, which admonished priests to serve the religious interests of the nation and not to affiliate with political parties. Hitler, himself, is a Catholic.
Nazis invaded a centrist campaign meeting at Trier but were repulsed after a stiff fight. Several persons were injured at Kiel and Opladen in nazi-reichsbanner clashes.
Since it's pretty clear that Marshall [mistakingly] thinks an "argument from authority" is an effective piece of evidence, I'll use one of David Aikman's statements in his book to help prove my case; someone Marshall obviously looks up to. Even Aikman says that Hitler's beliefs are "open to interpretation" (page 95, The Delusion of Disbelief), when he seems to agree with Dawkins on being indecisive on exactly what Hitler believed.
At the end of the chapter Marshall sums up as follows:
"What should we conclude? Not that any belief system is harmless. Every group of believers or unbelievers who gain power, especially a monopoly of power, oppresses: polytheists, atheists, christians, muslims, Hindus and yes, buddhists. No successful ideology is free from the shedding of innocent blood. So what's the problem - ideology or human nature?" (pages 171-172).
I agree with this to a point, but I feel that Marshall is trying to put the blame on human nature and not on the beliefs that people hold. As I showed in the review of the last chapter, beliefs can have enormous effects on people. Marshall cannot dispute this fact, and the many instances I cited of this happening is absolute proof of this.
I also do not agree at all with his claims about atheism causing deaths. I shall deal with this bullshit claim in chapter 11.
Chapter 10: What About the "American Taliban?"
In this chapter Marshall attempts to ease the fears brought about by the likes of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Michelle Goldberg, and others, about the "apocalyptic myths" of christians who are out to murder people and turn the united states into a theocracy.
I agree, as Marshall says, that these people are only a minority (page 174) but they are extremely powerful politically and have much influence. This is a fact. Even though Marshall discounts these two books [American Fascists and Kingdom Coming] (pages 173-174) as being radical I think they are very good depictions of the fact that this very powerful minority is working to place christianity at the center stage of american life and are trying hard to break the wall between church and state. Several members of the religious right have obtained high positions within government. For example, "[t]wenty-two conservative congressmen have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns, and a Patrick Henry graduate works on Karl Rove's staff" [at least when this book was written] (Source: Kingdom Coming, page 3).
Books I recommend on this topic for further reading are:
The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker; American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges; and Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg.
I'll talk a little more about this subject later on.
Marshall begins by berating Richard Dawkins for not noting his "uncertainty" about a "damning quote" by Pat Robertson in the body of the text, and instead leaving it as a footnote and says, "...how many readers trouble to read footnotes?" (page 175)
Once again another pointless attack upon Dawkins by the idiocy that is David Marshall. Who cares where or how Dawkins decided to place the information about his uncertainty? He was being honest and up front with his sources of information.
Next, Marshall claims that Dawkins did not use an accurate quote for Robertson: "Second, if the quote is so typical (and Robertson does say some very foolish things), why not offer one known to be accurate" (page 175)?
If Marshall would have read Dawkins' footnote closer he did, in fact, use an accurate quote of Robertson (page 239 of The god Delusion). Dawkins used a quote which he checked the authenticity of on the website Snopes.com, in which Robertson said of a gay pride march in Florida on The 700 Club, on August 6th, 1998:
"I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in god's face if I were you" (Source: http://www.snopes.com/katrina/satire/robertson.asp).
Even this Snopes.com article admits that the satirical Hollywood Dateline article, which had the false Robertson quote, said that the article seems very genuine and fooled many people. Another fact that lead many to believe the article was true is that Robertson has said similar things in the past.
Here is a screenshot of the webpage Dawkins cited:
If Marshall could get past his biases against Dawkins maybe he could see the fact that Dawkins was up front with the information he had and noted his uncertainty and even provided the Snopes.com article which also said that the Robertson quote Dawkins used was untrue. Dawkins was simply saying that he found two sources and he was unsure of which one to trust.
But, instead of honesty all Marshall can see, it seems, is dishonesty and bad scholarship.
On pages 176-177 Marshall says of Dawkins' interview with Michael Bray, friend to Paul Hill who murdered two people outside an abortion clinic, that "[i]n a predominately christian country...Dawkins finds one christian terrorist who killed two people" (page 177). Marshall claims that with Dawkins' use of such an extreme example it is an "admission of how hard it is to find american christians who are also terrorists" (page 178).
It sounds as if Marshall is saying that because Dawkins could only find 'one christian terrorist' the many books on the religious right are over exaggerating. Well, Dawkins didn't interview the several other 'christian terrorists' that I recounted in my review of chapter eight. As I said before, I would not say these people are a majority, but they do have influence and do harm people because of their beliefs. This fact cannot be denied.
On pages 178-179 Marshall attempts to refute the data that Sam Harris cited to show that states with higher rates of religion are worse off than ones that do not. Marshall claims that Harris is implying that religion causes murder, which that's not really what he was getting at. The studies he cited mentioned how many forms of social well-being are better off in states and countries that have lower levels of religion, including murder rate (which is the only topic Marshall attempts to refute), charity, life expectancy, adult literacy, educational attainment, gender equality, etc. (Source: Letter to a Christian Nation. by Sam Harris, pages 43-46).
But what Harris clearly says is this: "Of course, correlational data of this sort do not resolve questions of causality - belief in god may lead to societal dysfunction; societal dysfunction may foster belief in god; each factor may enable the other; or both may spring from some deeper source of mischief. Leaving aside the issue of cause and effect, however, these statistics prove that atheism is compatible with the basic aspirations of a civil society; they also prove, conclusively, that widespread belief in god does not ensure a society's health" (page 45).
Marshall does say that even Dawkins admitted that "correlative evidence is never conclusive" but the citing of these studies is simply showing that the often used claim that religion is needed for a society is false, since countries with lower rates of religion seem to be better off, over all, than countries that have high levels of belief.
It may be true that religion does not cause murder rates to spike, but the point is, as I said, that atheism does not automatically lead to a breakdown of society, which was the ultimate point of Harris and Dawkins, and these studies do much to prove this.
Starting on page 179 Marshall attempts to debunk the claims of the many christians who want a theocracy. Marshall claims that despite his visiting "over 300 fellowships around the world, almost all evangelical, of many affiliations...[i]n four and a half decades, I don't think I've ever heard a christian pastor advocate theocracy" (pages 179-180).
He also claims to have taken a few polls during his travels to find out how many christians felt that "america does not need a constitution. The bible provides the best specific rules for a legal system in a christian country" (page 180).
Of the "58 people who answered [his survey] not one agreed. Over 90 percent thought, on the contrary, that the constitution should be interpreted more strictly" (page 180).
Other questions he posed to christians are the following:
"How should the bible apply to public policy?...How does the old testament legal system apply today? Most agreed with the statement, 'The old testament legal system was for a particular period in history, and should not be applied wholesale to modern america.' Some were dissatisfied with the choices I offered and wrote in alternatives such as, 'The old testament law was fulfilled in christ, and its principals, though not necessarily its specific, historically limited consequences, are still very applicable."
"True, a large majority at Cedar Park (42 percent) agreed that 'the government should favor christian belief.' (Only two at the Presbyterian church thought so.) But that would be the status quo in England. Cedar Park is at the forefront of opposing same-sex marriage in Washington state. Yet only 20 percent of these highly committed believers agreed that homosexual acts should be prosecuted. (Far fewer of the evangelical Presbyterians did.) Although Dawkins interviewed an american christian who thought adulterers should be executed, no one in my survey even agreed that 'witches should be put to death, as in the old testament."
"The claim that american democracy hangs by a thread - and is kept together by secular termites holding hands - appears greatly exaggerated. Out of 42 statements on the survey, the most popular was the claim that 'america was founded on christian principals'" (pages 180-181).
In Marshall's tiny little survey he apparently didn't interview and poll the christians who said the following:
"For forty years we have wandered like the children of Israel. In homes and schools across our land, it's time for christians to take a stand. This is not a nation established on the principals of buddha or hinduism. Our faith is not islam. What we follow is not the koran but the bible. This is a christian nation" [emphasis mine].
- This quote is either attributed to former Alabama supreme court judge Ray Moore or D. James Kennedy. On page 26 it's difficult to tell exactly who the quote is attributed to.
"The republican party of texas affirms that the united states of america is a christian nation, and the public acknowledgment of god is undeniable in our history. Our nation was founded on fundamental judeo-christian principals based on the holy bible."
- The 2004 Texas republican party (page 27)
"christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for jesus christ - to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That's what christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the gospel. And we must never settle for anything less...
Thus, christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land - of men families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the kingdom of christ."
- George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy's coral ridge ministries (page 41)
"The Mayflower Compact was the first draft of the united states constitution."
- D. James Kennedy (page 43)
This claim about the Mayflower Compact is, of course, a lie as I've shown in my review of David Aiman's book The Delusion of Disbelief. This religious document is in no way the first document of the united states, and the founding documents were not based upon it either.
"James Leon Holmes, a former president of Arkansas Right to Life appointed by Bush to the u.s. district court for the eastern district of Arkansas, was notorious for penning articles denouncing birth control and female equality. A 1997 piece for an Arkansas catholic publication that he co-wrote with his wife argued that, in marriage, 'the wife is to be subordinate herself to the husband' and that 'the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man.' It went on to decry feminism for ushering in 'artificial contraception and abortion on demand, with recognition of homosexual liaisons soon to follow" (page 172) [And I wonder where they got these ideas from??? Yes, the bible, once again]
All above quotes were taken from Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg.
"god in his providence has given to us a christian nation, and it behooves us as christians to prefer and select christians to rule over us."
- chief justice of the u.s. supreme court, John Jay (page 58, from American Fascists, by Chris Hedges)
"The wall of separation between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history; a metaphor that has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should frankly and explicitly abandoned."
- justice William H. Rehnquist, in the court case Wallace v. Jaffree, 105 U.S. 2479 (1985), page 154, Fundamentals of Extremism, by Kimberly Blaker.
"One day, I hope in the next ten years, I trust that we will have more Christian day schools than there are public schools. I hope I will live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools.The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
- Jerry Falwell, from America Can Be Saved! Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 1979, p. 52-53
"Modern U.S. Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the founders had in mind in the First Amendment of the Constitution.... [W]e must fight against those radical minorities who are trying to remove God from our textbooks, Christ from our nation. We must never allow our children to forget that this is a Christian nation. We must take back what is rightfully ours."
- Jerry Falwell, from a March 1993 sermon (reported in Church & State, May 1993, p. 14)
"The humanist West is our modern throne of iniquity, framing mischief by enacting laws. We must return to God's law. We must work towards a true Christendom. Thy kingdom come, O Lord!"
- R.J. Rushdoony, from the Fall 1996 edition of The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, page 158, Kingdom Coming
"When the founding fathers said 'One Nation under God,' they made the decision that they would submit to what God had put forward in his law."
- David Gibbs, a graduate from Falwell's Liberty University, from Kingdom Coming, page 159
Of course, anyone not ignorant of history should know that the national motto was originally, "E Pluribus Unum" or "from many, one." It wasn't changed to "In God We Trust" until 1956 (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_God_We_Trust).
"Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."
- The Wedge Document, written by the religiously motivated Discovery Institute
Some of the other goals of the Discovery Institute as stated in the Wedge document are as follows:
"To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God."
"To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."
"To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science."
(For more information about the Wedge document, please see my comments about their attempts to do damage control after their true religious motives were exposed with their paper called The Wedge Document: So What?)
"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that's what we need to do, to amend the Constitution so it's in God standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family." [emphasis mine]
- the 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee
"You and I can bring the rule and reign of the cross to America."
- Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of the 2,000-member Hope Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland; Justice Sunday II , August 14, 2005. (Source: TheocracyWatch.org)
"In his book, and especially when speaking at the 1993 Biblical World View and Christian Education Conference, Morecraft discussed with relish the police power of the state. His belief in the persecution of nonbelievers and those who are insufficiently orthodox is crystal clear. Morecraft described democracy as "mob rule," and stated that the purpose of "civil government" is to "terrorize evil doers. . . to be an avenger!" he shouted, "To bring down the wrath of God to bear on all those who practice evil!"
"And how do you terrorize an evil doer?" he asked. "You enforce Biblical law!" The purpose of government, he said, is "to protect the church of Jesus Christ," and, "Nobody has the right to worship on this planet any other God than Jehovah. And therefore the state does not have the responsibility to defend anybody's pseudo-right to worship an idol!" "There ain't no such thing" as religious pluralism, he declared. Further, "There has never been such a condition in the history of mankind. There is no such place now. There never will be."
- rev. Joseph Morecraft, pastor of the Reconstructionist Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Marietta, Georgia; as quoted by Journalist Frederick Clarkson (Source: TheocracyWatch.org)
"In winning a nation to the gospel, the sword as well as the pen must be used. Democracy is a heresy against God!"
- Rousas John Rushdoony, considered the "father" of the Christian Reconstructionist movement
I could quote many more individuals but I see no point in it. This is just a small sampling of the christian right's agenda.
Some of these individuals making these statements are (or at least were) in powers of authority where they can change laws or punish people for things they feel are wrong, all based off of their religious beliefs. Again, it is true that these people are in the minority but they are well financed and often have much power and influence over our government.
Marshall's little poll proves nothing. He had, what, a total of a few hundred at the most take his survey (if even that - he doesn't give a total number)? After all, even some of those Marshall surveyed were wrong about this country being based on "christian principals" as I've proven in my review of David Aikman's book.
Even one of the "founding fathers" disagrees with the statement about "christian principals":
"In [Jefferson's] autobiography, he wrote that an amendment to the statute [of the first amendment] referring to jesus christ as the source of religious liberty was 'rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the jew and the gentile, the christian and mohammedan, the hindoo and infidel of every denomination'" (Source: Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, page 32).
Therefore, despite Marhall's silly little, non-scientific poll it's a fact that a minority does wish to turn this into a "christian nation" despite Marshall's denials (and as we've seen several times already, more times than not, Marshall denies things even when a mountain of evidence contradicts his beliefs anyhow).
I'd also like to address a bit of a strawman argument by Marshall about these books talking about the "christian nationalists." Marshall claims that these books attempt to convince people that "american democracy [is hanging by] a thread - and is kept together by secular termites holding hands." This is an exaggeration. Even in Michelle Goldberg's book, Kingdom Coming, she says in the back of her book (in the paperback edition containing an additional epilogue) how:
"Some of my book's critics have accused me of hyping the possibility of a theocracy. That was never my intention - America is certainly not about to morph into some version of Margaret Atwood's dystopian Gilead. What I've attempted to describe in Kingdom Coming isn't an imminent theocratic takeover but a slow, often subtle, but ultimately profound change in our country's life and government. [emphasis mine] One aspect of such change has been the influx of members of the religious right into the federal bureaucracy. Bush hasn't brought about a theocracy by filling the government with Christian nationalists and conservative ideologues, but he has greatly elevated the role of faith in policymaking, and downplayed reason, evidence, and expertise" (pages 216-217).
Some more proof regarding the take-over attempts by the religious right/ "christian nationalists" is their strategy to circumvent the courts, and place judges there who will be sympathetic to their cause. The above quotes of those few judges strikes me as proof of such a possibility. Michelle Goldberg explains this very clearly in Kingdom Coming:
"Having won control of two branches of the federal government, christian nationalists view the courts as the last intolerable obstacle to their palingenetic dream. Believing america to be a christian nation, they see any ruling that contradicts their theology as de facto unconstitutional, and its enforcement tyrannical. They're convinced that they must destroy the judiciary's power to liberate themselves. A series of outrages - the Lawrence v. Texas decision, Terri Schiavo's death, the filibuster of Bush's judicial nominees - has stoked their sense of crisis."
"The entire christian nationalist agenda ultimately hinges on conquering the courts. A remade judiciary could let state governments criminalize abortion and gay sex [for more information please see this post]. It could sanction the reinstitution of school prayer and the teaching of creationism and permit the ever greater christianization of the country's social services. It could intervene on the right's behalf in situations like the Schiavo case. It could intrude into the most intimate corners of americans' private lives [Please see the link I just referred to]."
"To take just one example, if the supreme court overturned Roe v. Wade, it could undermine the ruling Roe was based on, Griswold v. Connecticut. That 1965 decision, which struck down bans on birth control for married women (extended to unmarried women in 1972's Eisenstadt v. Baird), was the first to infer a right to privacy from the constitution. If the court ruled that no constitutional right to privacy exists, states would again have the latitude to make contraception illegal."
"Without Griswold, some states might ban birth control pills, which many evangelicals consider abortifacients, since they can interfere with the implementation of a fertilized egg. That prospect would have been far-fetched just a few years ago, but recently contraception has been under attack nationwide. A rash of christian pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for both the morning-after pill and for ordinary oral contraceptives - 180 such incidents were reported in one six month period in 2004." In fact, one christian pharmacist in Texas refused to fill a rape victim's prescription for the morning-after pill. This pharmacist was quoted as saying, "I went in the back room and briefly prayed about it...I actually called my pastor...and asked him what he thought about it" (pages 155-156).
The final subject that I will cover in this chapter is Marshall's accusations against Richard Dawkins for not wanting christians to raise kids. I've actually debated Marshall about this very issue and despite all of the damning counter evidence he still insists that Dawkins doesn't want parents to teach kids religion.
This, of course, is very clearly false since Dawkins refutes this silly claim right in the chapter where he is talking about religion and "child abuse," in The god Delusion on page 327, "If, having been fairly and properly exposed to all the scientific evidence, they grow up and decide that the bible is literally true or that the movements of the planets rule their lives, that is their privilege. The important point is that it is their privilege to decide what they shall think, not their parents' privilege to impose it by force majeure."
More evidence against this silly claim comes from an interview that Dawkins gave from The Guardian, from February 10, 2003:
Interviewer: "'I tell him I've been thinking about his point that children should not be defined by religion, and that I have a solution. Why not ban religion till you're 18? I expect him to be delighted by my initiative, but he looks horrified.
Dawkins: "Oh no. I don't want to lay down a law that says when you get a driving license, you can call yourself anything you like. It's a consciousness-raising issue.' "
Dawkins also says, '"I think I would abolish schools which systematically inculcate sectarian beliefs.'
Interviewer: But you've still got parents infecting the kids with their dogma, I say, playing devil's chaplain.
Dawkins: 'Well, I wouldn't want to have the thought police going to people's homes, dictating what they teach their children. I don't want to be Big Brotherish. I would hate that'" (Source: http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Media/2003-02-10guardianprofile.shtml).
Proof of Marshall's immense stupidity regarding Dawkins' opinions are these recent discussions I've had with him about it at the amazon.com forums:
Despite Dawkins stating very clearly what he means Marshall is completely blinded by his bigotry and cannot see what's right in his face. No matter how much evidence I present Marshall still insists he is right. Talk about arrogant and stupid. They don't get much dumber than this boys and girls.
It's very apparent that Marshall has tremendous faith, which surely matches Dawkins' definition, that Marshall believes so much that he is right about Dawkins' opinions he believes it "not only in the absence of evidence, but in the teeth of evidence."
But let me get to specific claims that Marshall makes against Dawkins now in the section titled "The Case Against Letting Christians Raise Kids" which is found on pages 184-186.
As I've already proven this section's title is bullshit.
Marshall starts off this section very badly when he comments on a story which Dawkins relates in his book The god Delusion about a boy who wore a t-shirt to school which read "Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white!"
The school told the boy that he was not allowed to wear such a shirt and the boy's parents sued the school under the banner of "freedom of religion" and won the case.
Marshall accuses Dawkins of being a hypocrite when he "accuses a group of muslims of a 'tendentious lie.' Indeed, that's about the kindest comment he gives on theistic religions... So why is a 12-year old american boy guilty of a 'hate crime' for a frankness that earns a British professor fame and fortune?" (page 184)
This accusation is so ridiculous it doesn't really need any comment but, once again, I wanted to highlight some of the moronic things Marshall says in order to prove how stupid and out of touch with reality he is.
All Dawkins said is that the god of the old testament is evil (among other colorful adjectives) and said that islam is a lie. This isn't hate speech - for anyone who isn't disconnected from the real world these are facts. The boy's t-shirt called certain individuals "sinners" based on how they were born and how they live their lives.
Marshall's point is pointless because religion is false, with it's empty promises of an after life, false belief in miracles, and it's cookie cutter origins. There is nothing original in any religion; they all pretty much borrow from each other. If religion isn't inherently false, then prove god exists; prove there is an afterlife. While the boy's t-shirt represented undeniable lies, and bigotry. Homosexuals are not "sinners", and abortion isn't necessarily "murder", but that's debatable (a brain doesn't even begin to develop and heart doesn't beat until about 18-21 days, so I think that that would be the maximum cut off date for an abortion, in my opinion, but I am pro choice and it's ultimately the woman's decision, along with her partner's (Source: http://www.abortionfacts.com/literature/literature_9438MS.asp ).
I'm also wondering if that was some kind of racial slur with the shirt saying "Some issues are just black and white," though that could just be referring to the boy's belief that he is absolutely right, which he absolutely is not. Hell, the only truthful thing on there is that islam is a lie, but that's the same for all religions. But, I doubt Marshall would be as accepting of the shirt as he seems to be if that t-shirt had said that christians are sinners, or that christianity was a lie, because it's the same thing, and I'm sure Marshall would be calling that "hate speech" in a heartbeat.
But, something that bothered me was the fact that Marshall didn't seem to have a problem with the hateful t-shirt, going as far to say, "But is this really 'hate speech'? The shirt calls certain behaviors wrong, and a certain belief false. Why define the expression of such views has 'hatred'? If the constitution doesn't let us say something is wrong or false, what good is it?" (page 184)
Marshall also makes another slip up when he wrongly claims that the t-shirt would "violate the teachings of apostle Paul, who said christians should speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)" [page 184].
The fact is that Paul condemns homosexuality:
"Because of this, god gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Romans 1:26-28, NIV)."
Seriously. I think this christian should read his bible more often.
On page 185 Marshall makes another error about Dawkins' opinions:
"Dawkins is more broad-minded: he thinks children have a right to be indoctrinated into thinking [religions are] all evil, no matter what their parents say."
Bullshit. Once again, Marshall is in complete denial about Dawkins' opinions.
After this bout of delirium that afflicts Marshall it appears it affects him again when he says of Dawkins:
"Similar hypocrisy is more ominously on display later in the book. Dawkins represents James Dobson...as the 'sinister' modern-day equivalent of the Jesuit who said, 'Give me the child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man.' Driving through Colorado, Dawkins spots a bumper sticker that reads, 'Focus on your own damn family,' laughing in agreement. But mulling it over, he ponders, 'Maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents (see chapter 9).'"
"Having read some of Dobson's books and listened to him on the radio over the years, I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their (nonabusive) parents. On the contrary, his listeners (among whom Dawkins is obviously not one) often hear him encourage parents to be intimately involved in the lives of their children. Dobson is precisely about focusing on our own families."
"By contrast, in the final sentence of the line quoted, Dawkins admits his own intention to 'focus on,' or intrude in, other peoples' families. He develops this idea (as promised) in chapter 9...."
"What happened to 'focus on your own family" (pages 184-185)?
This accusation is just absurd. As the quotes I've given prove, Dawkins does not want to "intrude in" to anyone's families. He simply recommends that parents respect their kids' minds and let them make decisions on their own about what they are to believe. As he even said in The god Delusion, he doesn't care if a child ends up believing in religion, as long as they made the choice to believe and not because they were indoctrinated at too young of an age where they did not know what they were being taught.
Dawkins says, "If, having been fairly and properly exposed to all the scientific evidence, they grow up and decide that the bible is literally true or that the movements of the planets rule their lives, that is their privilege."
As can be seen, Dawkins is saying that children, no matter what they end up believing, should believe it because they made the decision, not because it was forced upon them by their parents.
Again, even in the interview Dawkins does not want to intrude into peoples' families as he says in the interview I quoted:
"Well, I wouldn't want to have the thought police going to people's homes, dictating what they teach their children. I don't want to be Big Brotherish. I would hate that."
This is no more of an 'intrusion' than a caring friend recommending to you that you not allow your child to watch a scary movie, due to a fear that they might get bad nightmares, and are thinking about the best interest of the child. But this in no way implies a forcefulness, or a demand. It's simply a recommendation. These quotes of Dawkins makes this very clear, but so many theists wish to read more into it.
I'm also confused about what Marshall means when he says, "Having read some of Dobson's books and listened to him on the radio over the years, I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their (nonabusive) parents."
Where did Dawkins ever say he thought Dobson wanted to kidnap children? Marshall provides no quote and a careful reading of The god Delusion turns up nothing like what Marshall is saying. Though, I think Marshall is saying that Dawkins' use of the quote, "Give me the child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man" is implying that Dawkins thinks Dobson wants to kidnap children. Of course, even a quick glance will turn up nothing of the sort in The god Delusion. The quote Dawkins used ("Give me the child for his first seven years...") was from the book The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, edited by Kimberly Blaker, which quotes Dobson on page 7. But even Dawkins clearly explains what he means by this quote at the beginning of the paragraph where Dobson is quoted. Dawkins says, page 177 of The god Delusion:
"Religious leaders are well aware of the vulnerability of the child brain, and the importance of getting the indoctrination in early." Right after this sentence is when Dawkins begins with that old Jesuit saying, "Give me a child..."
So, as can be plainly seen, Dawkins was talking about the need for religious leaders to indoctrinate kids early so they do not question what they are being taught. This has nothing to do with kidnaping children in any way.
I've shown that 1. Dawkins does not wish to intrude in peoples' families and 2. Dawkins never says that he thinks Dobson wants to kidnap children.
So, what is the significance this quote of Marhsall's when he says, "I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their (nonabusive) parents?"
It seems as if Marshall is saying that Dawkins is being a hypocrite because he wants to take kids away from their parents (it seems that the footnote Marshall quotes from The god Delusion is used to back up this assertion). However, this is entirely false with the quotes I've provided.
I would also like to discuss the footnote that Marshall seems to take as evidence that Dawkins wishes to kidnap children, or keep children from being taught religion by their parents, which can be found on page 177 of The god Delusion: "...Maybe some children need to be protected from indoctrination by their own parents (see Chapter 9)."
Now, since Dawkins never once says he doesn't want kids to be taught religion by their parents (in fact he explicity says the opposite) what does "protected" mean in this footnote? Other than the indoctrination, Dawkins also discusses the psychological damage that can occur to children (even continuing into adulthood) by the horrible threats of hell by citing the experiences of Jill Mytton (pages 321-322 of The god Delusion), who actually runs a group who seeks to help those still struggling with the psychological damage from the cruel fears of hell instilled in them due to religious indoctrination. In Mytton's words:
"If I think back to my childhood, it's one dominated by fear. And it was the fear of disapproval while in the present, but also of eternal damnation. And for a child, images of hell-fire and gnashing of teeth are actually very real..."
So clearly, "protected" means to protect children from this horrible form of indoctrination by instilling dreadful fear that possibly causes psychological problems later on in adulthood (I think this is the most logical answer after a careful reading of The god Delusion), and not that children shouldn't be taught religion by their parents.
It seems that these many theists who make this charge against Dawkins aren't very careful readers. Maybe they're not as Bright as they'd like to think.
Whether or not my interpretation of the "I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their (nonabusive) parents" quote is correct (what else could it mean? Why put it there if Marshall's only [false] claim against Dawkins was that he was being a "hypocrite" for intruding on peoples' families?) Marshall has completely disregarded all forms of critical thought with these accusations of Dawkins wanting to intrude into peoples' families. Even with the direct quotes proving otherwise, Marshall is being a close-minded asshole about the whole issue.
Even after debating Marshall about this supposed error, he as never once explained what he meant by that quote ("I doubt he has ever advocated taking children away from their [nonabusive] parents") so I'm suspicious about Marshall's denials. Either I read it correctly and Marshall just doesn't want to admit it, or I'm wrong and Marshall just hasn't bothered to explain what he meant. If I was wrong, wouldn't it be the most logical thing to correct someone? Not just say, "You're wrong?" But Marshall never does try to correct my supposed "error" in reading this passage.
Either way, Marshall's other main claims about Dawkins are completely and utterly false.
I also find Marshall, with his claim that Dawkins wishes to keep children from learning religion (which isn't even true to begin with), to be hypocritical because christians have advocated violence and even used violence in an attempt to convert people to christianity.
For example, in the middle ages, a christian by the name of Duns Scotus advocated the forced baptism of all jewish children. The main argument used was that salvation of souls takes precedence over the rights of parents. Forced conversions also have taken place. One instance was on August 27, 1998. Indigenous catholics in Mitziton, Chiapas took 23 evangelicals hostage and threatened to eject them from the community if they did not convert to catholicism (Source: Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, pages 202 and 204).
To sum up, I'd say that Dawkins was incorrect to say that people like Ted Haggard and the pastor who runs a Hell House, Keenan Roberts, are "mainstream in today's America" (The god Delusion, page 320). However, I think in trying to argue with Dawkins Marshall took it too far in the other direction, and implies that there is no real threat from christians at all, and it's just, as he said earlier, "greatly exaggerated." As I've shown, there is an element, a politically powerful and oftentimes influential, element that does exist, and I've given several examples of this and it's potential dangers.
Chapter 11: Can Atheism Make the World Better?
Before I begin I think it's vitally important to define some of the terms that Marshall will be using in this chapter.
Atheism is often defined as a hatred or rebellion against god, anti-religious, or synonymous with liberalism. It is none of these things. These definitions are often given by theists who simply haven't got a damn clue what they're talking about. To prove my point let's go back to its original greek roots and see what atheism really means.
a = "without" or "not"; theos = "god" (Source: The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, page 1)
Due to this, atheism is a negative; a lack of belief, and has no independent ideology of its own.
To further prove my point, if atheism was inherently anti-theistic why is it that so many atheists are indifferent to religion? If atheism was another word for liberal, why is it that many christians are liberal, or even democrats, even though in this day and age often times a liberal is an atheist while a republican is a christian? Of course, these are artificial and with the mixture of people with various beliefs taking up any one of these political positions it proves that political affiliation has nothing to do with what you believe religiously.
Atheism is also not the same thing as evolution. Even the stupid author of this book believes in evolution (at some level), so clearly it's not purely atheistic. There are many religious faiths that accept evolution as a fact. Evolution also does not automatically lead one to atheism; if that were true the well known biologist Kenneth Miller would throw down his catholic faith and declare himself an atheist (not to mention countless other religious individuals).
There are many people who claim that this is not the proper definition of atheism; they often cite modern dictionaries which define atheism as a "belief that god does not exist" (Source: The Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus, American Edition, 1997). There is a large problem with this though. This is a country where christians, or theists of various kinds, are the majority, and in this culture a belief that god exists is pretty much taken for granted; about 90 percent of the people believe in this, no questions asked. Therefore most companies (including publishing companies that publish dictionaries) also take for granted that god is real. But god has never been proven and in order for someone to deny god's existence, "he" must be proven to exist to begin with [the word denial is defined as a "rejection" of something - The Oxford Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus]. Because god has not been proven, atheism is not a rejection or rebellion; atheists simply have no belief in god, therefore the Greek definition would be the most accurate. If theists want to use the dictionary definition then prove god exists, until then, I'd appreciate it if everyone stopped using that silly definition.
In biological terms, evolution is "the process of change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms from one generation to the next" (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution).
"Social Darwinism is a theory that competition among all individuals, groups, nations or ideas drives social evolution in human societies. The term draws upon the common use of the term Darwinism to refer to various evolutionary ideas and ideas of "survival of the fittest (also, refer to "The Gospel of Wealth" theory written by A. Carnegie) ", regardless of whether or not they are related to Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection which explains speciation in populations as the outcome of competition between individual organisms for limited resources" (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Darwinism).
"Communism is a socioeconomic structure that promotes the establishment of an egalitarian, classless, stateless society based on common ownership of the means of production and property in general" (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist).
"Nazism, a short name for National Socialism, refers primarily to the ideology and practices of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party under Adolf Hitler; and the policies adopted by the government of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, a period also known as the Third Reich" (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism).
As I begin to discuss Marshall's arguments please keep these definitions in mind.
This chapter is essentially trying to prove how atheism, or godlessness, can lead to a breakdown in society and cause a proliferation of immorality. These arguments sound somewhat familiar since I recently finished a review of another book called The Delusion of Disbelief, by David Aikman, which seeks to make the same point. Several of Aikman's arguments are used by Marshall so I won't go into too much detail on some issues since I already went to great lengths going into much detail in the other review. No sense in repeating myself.
On page 190 Marshall makes his goal clear:
"What have atheism and Darwinian ethics done for the human race in general? Are there signs that, once freed from the 'delusions' our ancestors suffered under, the human race will breath a big sigh of relief and finally make progress? Or does the 'death of god' mean, as Dostoevsky warned, that 'everything [including Gulags] is lawful?'"
Marshall begins trotting out his suspects that he will use to convince us that atheism and the godless philosophies of Marx, Nietzsche, etc. drove the "unibomber," Ted Kaczynski, over the edge by "leaving his head full of hopeless philosophy" and lead to his belief that "[t]here is no morality or objective set of values" (pages 191 & 192).
On page 192 you see where Marshall is heading with this line of argumentation:
[Citing Chase] "The same narrow focus on value-free science that led Nazi concentration camp doctors to commit atrocities encouraged many of these well-meaning scholars to cross ethical lines."
Of course, as we've seen throughout the entire book, Marshall fails to cite any actual evidence for many of this claims, and the same applies to his claim that this is what drove Kaczynski to his crimes.
Even if this was the case, this is a fairly isolated incident and Kaczynski seemed to have been psychologically unhealthy; before his trial for his crimes a court-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed Kaczynski as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia so clearly he had some emotional problems (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unabomber).
Another point is that these philosophies that Kaczynski studied did not tell him to go murder people; he read these ideas and for some reason was influenced negatively and it may have been due to his psychological problems.
But, despite all this speculation, all this really means nothing since the argument is moot anyway. god has never been proven. The "morals" in the bible were thought of by men, and carried out by men. Attempting to say that there must be a god to legislate morals is a completely ass backward assumption because men created the laws that are said to be from "god" in the first place! Whether or not theists like it, it is a fact that there is no god [if it's not a fact, then prove it] and men must fend for themselves as far as morality goes (with some exceptions; many studies seem to show that humans have some kind of innate morality, judging by the work of Marc D. Hauser, author of the book Moral Minds. He cites studies which show how people answered moral dilemmas without having a conscious reason as to why they chose that particular answer. Despite the variety of individuals with varying religious beliefs, and other opinions, each person gave roughly the same answer. Therefore, it's been concluded, just as Steven Pinker argued in his book The Language Instinct that evolution crafted some innate "rules" of language, so too did evolution craft some innate "rules" for morality which are independent of the socialization of religion and societies).
This, however, by no means implies that without religion society will fall apart. There have been some studies done to show that highly atheistic societies are just as healthy socially - if not maybe a little more so, but that's open to debate - than theistic ones. But this proves, absolutely, that religion is not needed for morality.
I went into more detail in my review of David Aikman's book, but I will quote Zuckerman for brevity:
"If this often-touted religious theory were correct - that turning away from god is at the root of all societal ills - then we would expect to find the least religious nations on earth to be bastions of crime, poverty and disease and most religious countries to be models of societal health."
"A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries - those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics - are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations - wherein worship of god is in abundance - are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor and destitute" [Zuckerman, 2006] (Source: 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a god, by Guy P. Harrison, page 296).
Another fact is that religion is no defense against immorality. This has been proven with the many instances I showed in my review of chapter eight. Not only is religion not an effective defense against atrocity but often times religious beliefs play a direct role in dictating someone's behavior [ie. the father who whipped his daughter with a cable because the bible said that a punishment required forty lashes and she ended up dying].
On pages 194-197 Marshall begins with his claims that evolution is what caused the Nazi atrocities. Marshall says:
"What caused the holocaust? Simple. Having rejected christian morality, some of Darwin's followers derived their ethics from evolution with a positive sign" (page 194).
This of course is plan false. What happened in Germany was a product of christian anti-semitism along with the Nazi's need for a reason to murder jews due to their anti-semitism. Ernst Haeckel may have argued for social darwinism, but his ideas were a perversion of Darwin's. Darwin did not ever advocate that his ideas be applied to society.
Another fact is that I would consider evolution to prove the concept of racism to be false simply because evolution, through genetics, has proven that all people are not really that different from one another and that, for the most part, all differences are truly skin deep, so through that logic racism has no scientific basis whatsoever.
So, judging from the evidence, it actually seems that it was due to christianity (at least partially) that the racism and anti-semitism flourished.
I've covered this claim in another post I did called Hitler, Nietzsche, and Evolution which goes into a bit more detail on this issue.
Beginning on page 197 and going through 200, Marshall attempts to claim, using David Aikman as his source, that the "anti-god culture" influenced Stalin and says that atheism is what caused these horrors. The problem is that Marshall is redefining atheism to suit his purposes. Atheism is not "anti-god." For whatever reasons these men (supposedly) hated god for it wasn't because of atheism. A point that needs to be made here is that communism is anti-religious, not atheistic. Some may quibble over this distinction but it is a vitally important one, as I said in the beginning of this chapter. Theists attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and claim that because communism banned religion (though sometimes used it to it's advantage) it must mean it's atheistic, but this isn't the case.
More "evidence" Marshall points to in order to prove atheism caused communism is that "communist parties announced the death of god on billboards, chalkboards, radio waves, and blank walls. Secret worship services in homes, forests, and caves were forcibly broken up, along with the faces of many who attended [...] Children of religious parents were kidnapped and taught atheism in truly 'Darwinian' state orphanages. None of that counts against the atheist record, according to Dawkins, because in some undefined sense these crimes were not 'for the sake of atheism'." (pages 197-198).
I would agree with Dawkins simply because, as stated already, how can a negative influence someone? Marshall is apparently not very gifted philosophically, or logically, because if he was he would understand that atheism is a negative and nothing more, so how can one be influenced by such a thing - or lack of a thing I should say?
Why would Marshall refer to 'Darwinian orphanages'? Evolution is not atheistic, as I pointed out before, so if evolution was taught to these children, I wouldn't say they were being "taught atheism." I also don't see how it's even possible to 'teach' atheism. True, someone can be taught the arguments for and against god, evolution, the atrocities committed by religion and other arguments that might lead someone to atheism, but in reality, someone could just as easily be convinced there is a god by going through the same process. So, I do not think it is even possible to 'teach' atheism; what you're actually teaching is science, history, philosophy, etc. What path these subjects might cause a student to take, that's a different matter all together.
It must also be pointed out that the reason communism was anti-religious was due to communist ideology itself. After the communists gained power they found that religion wasn't going to wither away as easily as they originally thought, so they began to initiate anti-religious campaigns. By doing this, they thought perhaps they could force people to give up their religious beliefs and help the "classless society" to develop, as was required of marxist doctrine. It was their attempt to initiate this phase of socialism by forcing religion out of the communities and gain this "classless society," and had nothing to do with atheism itself (Source: The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, edited by Tom Flynn, page 621).
More evidence that it was not religious persecution taking place is the fact that the Purges that took place included not just religious individuals, but even regular citizens as well. From Robert Conquest's The Great Terror: A Reassessment, he quotes the following on page 258:
"A recent Soviet comment on the purges is that as against the argument, sometimes met, that the purges were largely confined to party officials, 'they hit everyone - doctors, intellectuals, peasants, atheists, priests, industrial managers, diplomats, former private business men.' In the Butyra, Eugenia Ginzburg's cell mates were, as she puts it, 'a much broader section of the population' than in the 'special block' in Kazan: 'There were many peasants, factory workers, shop girls, office clerks'" [emphasis mine].
Given all this evidence, it clearly was not any form of religious persecution that was taking place if the communists were also going after ones who shared their godless views. As stated above, it was purely for ideological reasons that certain people were targeted - not because they may have held religious beliefs.
On page 200 Marshall mentions that atheism was the cause of the October revolution and other communist atrocities, yet still never mentions how atheism - a purely negative concept - can have any affect upon an individual.
It's clear, then, that this is just another attempt by theists to smear atheists and to try to counter [badly I might add] the laundry list of atrocities that their religion is responsible for. Unable to respond to the long list of charges, they attempt to distort history, but after looking at all of the evidence it seems their claims are based on nothing but their own fertile imaginations.
More evidence as to the vacuousness of this claim is the fact that when I challenged Marshall to prove to me just how atheism - a negative - could influence an individual he fell completely silent. Well, maybe silent isn't the best word, but all he did was spout his usual argument from authority and claim that because he and Aikman say it's true (and they know more about the subject than I do) then it must be true, without one shred of proof how atheism could influence someone! What ludicrous bullshit.
Here is part of the discussion on this topic that I posted earlier in this review:
As can be clearly seen he never once made an argument for his position.
At this point I'd like to say something directly to this weasel:
You sit there on your high horse talking down to everyone about how much you know about communism, but when you're challenged on it, you go completely silent. Instead of argumentation all one gets from you is your self righteous attitude and no counters to the arguments set forth. Citing ones expertise without backing shit up is cowardly...not to mention bullshit. I honestly don't think you can argue against my objections.
Do not "Sir" me you fucking liar. Talk is cheap. Put up or shut the fuck up.
Now I feel better...
Pages 203 to 206 have Marshall complaining about the "sexual revolution" that has taken place and blames this for causing single parent families (claiming that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, "can be seen as the mother [hence responsible - Ken] of the single-parent house hold," because she preached sexual liberation, page 204).
Also on page 204 Marshall makes an absurd statement:
"Harris blames america's high rates of abortion, teen pregnancy, and sexually transmitted disease on christianity. This is like blaming him for the fact that americans still believe in god! If the bible says, 'Do not commit adultery,' it is absurd to blame it for what happens when people do just the opposite!"
Once again another claim made without any evidence. The reason Sam Harris blames christianity on those issues is because of the very obvious fact that many christians preach that it is a sin to use condoms (and sex itself is a sin) and teach abstinence-only courses which do not teach kids about having sex safely. This is a large reason for the teen pregnancy and STD's, which is pushed by many religious groups.
From the book Kingdom Coming, by Michelle Goldberg:
"Most research shows that abstinence-only programs don't do much to stop teens from having sex. Some do succeed in helping kids delay losing their virginity... Any health benefits, however, are negated by the abstinence movement's relentless anticondom message, which seems to dissuade teens from bothering with protection when they do have sex. According to research by sociologists Peter Bearman and Hannah Bruckner, teens who take virginity pledges - a key component of many abstinence programs - have sex an average of eighteen months later than those who don't. But Bearman and Bruckner also found that in the interim they're more likely to have oral or anal sex, and that when they do lose their virginity, they're less likely to use condoms and to seek treatment if they contract STDs."
"In 2005, Texas sponsored a study of the abstinence programs Bush pioneered in the state and later made a model for the nation. High school students, it emerged, were more sexually active after taking chastity lessons, although researchers attributed this to the fact that they were getting older rather than to abstinence education itself, which seems to have little effect one way or the other."
"So if the aim is to prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence programs don't work" (page 137).
But the real truth behind all of these abstinence-only programs is religious in nature, and has nothing to do with safety.
Pam Stenzel, an abstinence educator, said it best, when it comes to expressing what these programs are really about. Not about trying to save teens from STD's, since these programs don't teach anything about safe sex. Stenzel said at the Reclaiming America for christ conference in 2003, "AIDS is not the enemy, HPV is not the enemy, and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy god and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from god, is the enemy. I will not teach my child that they can sin safely" (Source: Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, by Michelle Goldberg, pages 135-136).
According to the studies touted by Sam Harris, that Marshall didn't see much merit in, as it so happens, there seems to be higher rates of teen pregnancy, STD's, and abortion in places where there are large concentrations of conservatives in many states and countries (Letter to a Christian Nation, by Sam Harris, page 44). Again, not that this means for a fact that christianity is causing this, but it is true that these abstinence-only programs are often pushed by religious conservatives. Maybe it shows a link; maybe not.
On page 206 Marshall makes a comment that reeks of contempt.
"Never mind abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. I'll tell you what bothers me most...How many children can't use the word Daddy or Mommy [emphasis in original] because their parents are too 'liberated' to bother making a house?"
"Too liberated?" I think this is a theistic code word for "slutty."
On page 205 Marshall quotes, none other than a Focus on the Family member, Glenn Stanton from his book Why Marriage Matters as saying that marriage is the "relationship that best provides for the most favorable exercise of human sexuality...and the proper socialization of children."
Yeah, like I'm going to trust some religious fanatic who argues against same sex marriage with half baked ideas about why a homosexual couple cannot raise children (Source: http://www.focusonthefamily.com/about_us/profiles/glenn_stanton.aspx - In his bio it said: "His newest book is Marriage on Trial: The Case Against Same-Sex Marriage and Parenting [InterVarsity Press, 2004] which addresses why same-sex marriage and parenting are not good ideas"). I don't doubt that it's a bunch of right-wing propaganda anyhow.
I've brought up this "too 'liberated'" quote to Marshall in the past and something interesting happened. At first he attempted to brush it off, saying that he feels sad that children cannot be raised by both parents, though it sounded more like contempt to me with that phrase, "too liberated to bother," which from his religious background, it's not surprising. But later on when I challenged him about the quote again he outright denied ever saying anything like this. Here is proof. Of course, if Marshall is truly worried about divorce, maybe he should become an atheist because according to a study done in 1999 by the christian sociologist, George Barna, atheists have the lowest divorce rate:
- "Born Again Christians": 27% chance of divorce
- "Mainstream Protestants": 24% chance of divorce
- "Atheists and Agnostics": 21% chance of divorce
On page 206 Marshall says,
"In conclusion, I see no evidence that the world will be better off without god."
I think Marshall might want to look into the issue more closely and take off his theistic blinders and maybe he will be able to see reality for what it is. A word to the wise: The world already is without a god. Always has been...
Chapter 12: Consilience
The last chapter was Marshall summing up and expressing his feelings about the "new atheist" movement and science. He claims that science cannot answer all our questions (page 209) and that an atheist response of, "Just wait, it will!" is futile since no one can refute a prediction about the future.
He says that there are so many gaps in our knowledge and that they may be filled in the future (page 210), and says that "...when you simplify theories, you must not leave too many facts lying around unreconciled. Many of the most natural questions not only show that scientific explanation leaves 'gaps' in our knowledge, but often that they become more profound the more we learn. They beg deeper reconciliation" (page 211).
Yes it's true that no one can predict the future and we don't know for sure where scientific discovery will lead us next, but if history is any indicator, science will continue to fill gaps in our knowledge and further debunk religious claims. Of course, Marshall is right that often times the more science learns even more questions pop up that need answering. But again, questions that need answers are not resolved simply by throwing theistic nonsense at it. In fact, how do theists come to the conclusion that religion can answer questions better than science? Religion sure hasn't fared well in that department over the last several hundred years. The fact is that these many "gaps" are continually being filled. Maybe they will fill them all? Maybe not? No one can know for sure.
Despite Marshall's nonsense, life shows signs not of being "created" but of evolving, even to this very day (though the changes are very slight as I noted before).
On page 209 Marshall says,
"But a consilience that leaves some of the melodies of life out is too simple - 'mono-tonous' in the literal sense. That, it seems to me, is the problem with atheism. It's not that it doesn't explain anything. Rather, it can't explain everything."
First, Marshall is once again misunderstanding what atheism is. It is not a ideology, a method, and it is for sure not a method of finding out about the world. That is what science is for. But I completely disagree with Marshall that atheism is "monotonous" since life does not need magic in it, or every single question to be answered, for life to be fulfilling. In fact, the many questions of life is one of the things that make life interesting: What will you discover today? This is one of the things that science helps us do. I think if we knew everything about the universe through some god life would be boring since there would no longer be any discovery.
I think life is even more amazing and there is more than enough 'magic' in the world through an atheistic viewpoint because nature did its own creating, all through the blind eye of natural selection.
I don't have much else to say about this chapter. It was mostly Marshall doing his usual rambling and talking nonsense.
I think this book should have been named "The Opinions (or Lies) About the New Atheism" because throughout this 200 page book David Marshall doesn't really do anything to counter the claims of the so called "New Atheists." In some cases he outright distorts the truth so to call this the "truth" behind the new atheism is just a plain farce. This is especially true in his chapter in which he accuses atheism of being the cause of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century. On other occasions he makes his case by evoking a "god of the gaps" argument, which is no argument at all.
I'd like to say a quick word about the logical fallacy of an "argument from authority." These claims do nothing to support a case (as Marshall is obviously unaware of) because people's opinion's do not prove something to be true. Actual evidence must be cited (along with an authority's opinion) at the very least for a claim to even be relevant. I agree that there is a point in which citing experts can be a good argument, but when that's all you do, and you don't cite any actual evidence for a claim I think that's when people run into trouble and Marshall is guilty of this often as was seen throughout this review.
To give an example of the problem with citing experts without any evidence to back up your claims, let's say an opponent of mine and myself are debating the topic of evolution: Is evolution true? Let's say I cite ten experts who confirm my belief that it's true, while my opponent cites ten experts who say it is false. Who is deemed the "winner" in that exchange? Or even more relevant, let's say I am able to find 20 experts who agree that evolution is true, while my opponent is able to cite only sixteen? For the sake of this argument, does my larger number of experts prove that I win? No! The evidence must be sufficient (not to mention be logical), regardless of any experts' opinion. This is why I do not put much stock in arguments from authority without any actual evidence. Authorities can be biased, or just be plain wrong. The actual evidence must be weighed despite experts' opinions.
This book was horribly argued. Even though in some places it seemed that Marshall was trying to be open minded and fair, I got a feeling he wasn't being sincere because due to his beliefs he wants it all to be true - he needs it all to be true. Religion is nothing but a superstition which, throughout history, has done more harm than good. In this day and age it even makes people distort the truth for its cause. While religion and those who are religious have done good things throughout history I would say that the bad outweighs the good and religion is a stain upon the human race that should be rubbed out if we are to prolong our species and our sanity into the long future ahead.
I'm positive that I've done an excellent job of showcasing the ignorance and stupidity of the jackass that is David Marshall. Yes, I think it's fair to say that he is very much a DUMBASS!