Some thoughts on anti-religious indoctrination

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Throughout academia there are many thoughtful educators. There are also those who have agendas to indoctrinate their students through uncritically accepting and adopting their personal philosophies.

Anti-Religious Indoctrination

So, what is indoctrination? Indoctrination is defined as: “to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.”
This definition serves well for understanding anti-religious indoctrination – the presentation of ideologies that are set to challenge traditional theistic thought and values, even when couched in seemingly neutral and subtle ways. Typically one assumes the use of indoctrination within the context of religion, politics and the military. However, popular culture is suffused with anti-religious indoctrinating material whether it is through newspapers, TV shows, documentaries, out- spoken celebrities or popular books. There is an inherent assumption that people who believe in God or question naturalistic evolution are irrational. This attitude has permeated popular culture.

The retired law professor, Phillip Johnson, in his book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds, recognized that treating questions about certain issues respectfully is good pedagogy whereas stifling questions through intimidation and appeals to authority is a form of indoctrination. This is what is occurring throughout North America from the starting point of education systems (e.g., kindergarten) to the graduate level (PhD).
Examples of Anti-Religious Indoctrination

Anti-religious indoctrination is beginning at earliest levels of North American educational systems; at the elementary school and even kindergarten levels. The GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered) activists have made some serious advances in the public school systems in an attempt to challenge and transform traditional theistic morality on such issues. Old Testament scholar, Michael Brown indicates that: “Pro-gay books are being read in elementary school classrooms, teachers are being mandated to use gender neutral language, gay activists have been welcomed in the White House, and young evangelicals see no problem with same-sex marriage.” The inroads have been made into mainstream culture and are being deeply absorbed into the educational system where by kindergarten students are being taught terms such as gender queer and queer theology. There has also been a dramatic increase in the use of pro-gay books in elementary school classrooms including titles such as: Two Daddies and Me; Oh The Things Mommies Do!: What Can Be Better Than Having Two?

Another form of anti-religious indoctrination involves the conflation of the philosophical interpretation of scientific theories with scientific methodology. In more technical terms, the conflation between metaphysical naturalism with methodological naturalism. Evolutionary biologists of the highest rank such as Stephen J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Jacques Monod and George Gaylord Simpson have been guilty of this when they have declared that humanity’s purpose is illusory from their personal interpretations of evolutionary biology.

A commonly associated mantra includes the regurgitation that the ultimate purpose of life is to pass on our genes. Such a naturalistically rooted sentiment is repeated at all levels of education. Typically it seems to be repeated in high school and university classrooms, particularly in biology classes by secular educators.

Its contemporary formulation can be found in Richard Dawkins’ book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’ contention in his book is that an organism merely acts as a vehicle to copy genes to subsequent generations via a Darwinian selection process. It is a gene centric view; everything must ultimately bow down to the transferring of genetic information. Obviously, this in and of itself says nothing about the meaning or purpose of life. Dawkins himself seems to contradict this view in chapter 11: “We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.” This flies in the face of genetic determinism that many proponents of Neo-Darwinism adhere to.

A third form of anti-religious indoctrination includes the denial of truth. This is common at the university level. The remnants of the “death of God movement” are still rearing their ugly heads in faculties of theology. When you couple this with postmodern epistemology, a number of professors of theology have made declarative statements akin to “there is no truth.” Anyone who understands anything about logic will realize that such a claim is literally self-refuting since it contradicts what it sets to establish, i.e., it unwittingly claims there is a truth; through the affirmation that there is none. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that such professors may not last too long in faculties of traditional Christian theology. Who knows what such theologians truly believe.

The concept of truth is fundamental to theological reflection. The removal of it places the act of analyzing truth claims associated with the Christian faith (or any faith for that matter) on the same level as deciding which McDonald’s meal you prefer.
Such agendas are made clear when such professors subsequently speak of the resurrection of Jesus, as not being any “less real” if it had been solely experienced in the minds of the disciples as opposed to something that had objectively happened to Jesus. This position is clearly rooted in Kierkegaardian existentialism. Kierkegaard expounded a form of fideism whereby experience was elevated over reason. Kierkegaard went much too far with his emphasis on the experiential dimension while attempting to eradicate the rational element of the faith. Nevertheless, faith and reason are more intimately involved than that and neither should be compromised over the other. Traditionally the two have operated harmoniously.

How to know Recognize Anti-Religious Indoctrination
First, whenever an educator is adamant of pushing an ideology on their students as if it were commonsensical and widely established (despite it obviously not being so, such as the inexistence of God). Students should be alarmed when an educator makes such claims without substantiating it with good arguments and evidence.

Second, whenever an educator denies truth, as was previously discussed, this should suggest an anti-religious agenda may be at work. This includes denial of well-established laws of logic which are necessary for any scientific endeavour let alone communication. The laws of logic cannot be proved but must be presupposed, without this communication would be literally impossible.

Third, the expounding of moral relativism, related to the second reason, it is a form of truth denial, e.g., moral truth. An important distinction between subjective and objective truths must be made. Subjective truth is based on internal preferences whereas objective truths are based on the outside world and cannot be altered based on our desires, regardless of how much we wish. Moral relativists deny objective truths and reduce everything to the subjective level of internal preferences then proceed by rationalizing them. For obvious reasons such a view put into practice will have devastating consequences.

Fourth, the propounding of scientism. It is commonplace particularly in the university setting for professors to pin science against religious belief and even sometimes philosophical reflection. Scientists who do this unwittingly are expounding philosophical or even a-theological positions of their own. As the philosopher Peter van Inwagen explicates: “When it comes to classifying arguments, philosophy trumps science: if an argument has a single “philosophical” premise (a single premise that requires a philosophical defense), it is a philosophical argument.”

Fifth, the relentless exposition of materialistic and naturalistic ideologies while mocking religious and supernatural concepts. Whenever an educator begins to mock anything to do with the supernatural, realize some sort of indoctrination is at work.

Sixth, the presentation and defense of liberal ethical ideas such as abortion, homosexual marriage and euthanasia. If your child is being exposed to this at a young age, approach the educators and the school administration. Typically, any dissent from these ideas are stifled and met with vitriol. So much so that ironically the once suppressed have become the suppressors. There has been attempts to silence dissenters with fear tactics. This does not create greater understanding and is poor pedagogy.

How to Counteract Such Indoctrination
There exists a wealth of resources to counteract each of these methods of anti-religious indoctrination. It is important to read as widely as possible from differing viewpoints on issues pertaining to truth, relativism, the existence of God, religion, evolution, creation, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and science in general in order to gain a nuanced and balanced perspective. It is vital to understand what you stand for and what you stand against. This is a proper first step in countering attacks against what you believe.

Students can challenge indoctrination by asking their professors simple but logical questions. Greg Koukl refers to this as the Colombo tactic: “[going] on the offensive in an inoffensive way by using carefully selected questions to productively advance the conversation. Simply put, never make a statement, at least at first, when a question will do the job.” By doing this one can gather more information from them, reveal inconsistencies and leaps in logic through solely asking appropriate questions. However, just one or two questions might suffice to get the instructor and the students thinking. For example, if educators are speaking about evolution, ask them to define what they mean by such a term since it has several different meanings which are more often than not conflated with one another.

Parents and older students should be vigilant of educators who deny truth (alongside other forms of anti-religious indoctrination) if consistent, they will not be able to discern the difference between the grade of A and F. I believe it is absolutely important for students to question educators (in a respectful manner) when they present unwarranted conclusions. The implications are great if such conclusions remain unchallenged. Why should a democratic society remain silent about the anti-religious indoctrination of students in the schools we fund through our tax dollars? Equipping young minds to ask the right questions is essential. Phillip Johnson pointedly stated in his book the Right Questions: “the questions I am asking are the ones they should be asking, and that their education to this point has prepared them to ask the wrong questions [instead of] the right ones.”

Al Kimeea’s Hammed & Unsophisticated Sophistry

Earlier this week I decided to Google my name alongside that of Ken Ham and Bill Nye to see what sort of response, if any, was generated by the piece I wrote, titled “Nuances missed in debate over creationism” for the Toronto Star on February 10th, 2014, regarding the Ham/Nye debate on creation and evolution.  I found 3 different commentaries/inclusions, so, I was happy to see that my piece did generate some discussion. One author simply quoted my piece at the end of an article on his website. Another author, Harold Rathlou, responded to my piece on February 14th, indicating his dissatisfaction with the two debaters and opting for a third option which seemed to be pantheism. The third author, who goes by the pseudonym al kimeea, wrote a rather trite response on his blog, quackademiology.com. It contained more vitriol than substance as seen through the use of ad-hominem attacks in the form of pejorative descriptors such as “Sophisticated Theologian”, “nascent Doctor of Tall Tales”, “someone [who’s] playing bagpipes”, “attempting to appear wise” and a “fledgling papist”.  Such ad-hominem fallacies reveals more about al kimeea’s ill-conceived notions than my actual position.

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I would simply like to expose the weaknesses of the blogger’s argumentation.  Let me address the author’s comments one by one. I will quote his responses to my original article and provide counter responses below them in bold font.

“Let’s be clear, the debate failed to deliver the answer Ventureyra wanted – doG did it on the sly.”

I didn’t want or expect a particular answer from the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. The purpose of my opinion piece for the Toronto Star was to show the common reader that this is not the epicenter of scholarship or thought in academia with respect to the field of science and theology. It is neither a depiction of reflective audiences of creation-evolution dialogues but representative of just one out of a series of other typologies (such as independence, dialogue and integration).  I’m very well acquainted with both their positions, I just happen to disagree with them for scientific, philosophical and theological reasons.  There’s nothing in my position or that one can gather from my piece that I believe that God created in either a secretive or deceptive manner. Simply because I don’t hold a literalist view of Genesis does not signify this.  I just have no good reason to read the two narratives in Genesis (Genesis 1:1-2:3; 2:4-25) in a non-figurative manner.

I  argued precisely contrary to the claim that “God did it on the sly,” when I list certain signposts to creation/design including the universe itself, the laws of physics and chemistry, the first replicating system/organism and consciousness – it seems to me that such phenomenon is more coherent under a theistic framework than a naturalistic one.  So, rather than being “sly” it would be evident to many who choose to follow the evidence wherever it leads.  Nonetheless, these issues are a matter of great debate among systematic theologians, atheistic and theistic philosophers who specialize in the philosophy of religion.   

I can’t help but point out that the field of natural science and theology is a burgeoning discourse with the potential for valuable new discoveries, insights and possible practical and social implications.  Despite popular caricatures that the two great fields are at odds with one another, the two have had much to say one another in mutual cooperation throughout history. Today, just as historically, the two disciplines have much to offer one another. In relatively recent years, ever since the 1960s, a number of peer-reviewed journals devoted to the dialogue have sprung into existence including: CTNS: Theology and Science Journal, The European Journal of Science and TheologyZygon: Journal of Science and Religion and the most recent journal titled Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences. Indeed the field is growing and gaining interest from scholars of a variety of disciplines who are attentive in participating in this blossoming interaction.

The media was not involved in setting up this event, they merely report on it. It was arranged by Ham at his Ark Park because Nye said teaching children Creationism is harmful to them and society as a whole.

I never stated that the media was involved in the setup of this event.  My claim still stands that the media prefers hype over substance.  Debates revolving around evolution such as one in 2009 over the viability of Intelligent Design between William Lane Craig (PhD philosophy, PhD Theology) and Francisco Ayala (PhD Biology, PhD Theology)  who are top thinkers in their respective fields never received such media coverage and exposure. The YouTube video of well over 2 million hits for the Ham/Nye debate exemplifies this, in comparison to the only two thousand and something hits of the Craig/Ayala debate.  My point is that the larger lay population is not aware of this and that it’s time they hear of other viewpoints beyond the stereotypes in mainstream media.

“This fella doesn’t seem to realize Ham just knows in his heart that the earth is aboot 6000 years old – a YEC who most certainly does take the BuyBull literally as do42% of Americans as of 2005. Add another 18% with a more nuanced view that involves life evolving “over time through a process guided by a Supreme Being” and, of course, the timeline becomes a major sticking point.”

Again, I’m pointing this out for the larger audience in case they get the wrong impression that you have to believe in a young earth/universe in order to be a consistent Christian which couldn’t be further from the truth, as I have already explained regarding a non-literal reading of the book of Genesis. Contrary to the allegation, I do realize Ham’s beliefs and motivations.

Ventureyra glosses over anything Nye may have said and shows, again, his ignorance of what Ham is about. It isn’t the laws of physics and chemistry or any scientific indicators of any kind – these are anathema. Ham is all Biblical authority, nothing else. Authority which our Catholic scribe is here attempting to describe as scientific signposts.

I’m not glossing over anything Nye is saying. In a short piece that is supposed to be less than 300 words, I am limited in what I am able to write.  I stated that Nye presented good evidence for an old earth of 4.5 billions of years and a universe of 13.7 billions of years. Nye has the evidence here.  I know that Ham holds his narrow interpretation of Scripture over everything else, that’s not the issue.  The issue is that there are so many better ways to argue for creation/design and that Ham misses the boat with his whole approach.  Ham is far from being a biblical scholar. I let the biblical scholars argue about how to interpret ancient texts in their original language. The majority of biblical exegetes would take issue with Ham’s position.  So, in order to have a fuller picture, from a science-theology standpoint one must take into account what the biblical exegetes, theologians, philosophers and scientists say in order to have a well-grounded picture of how to interpret the origins and emergence of particular phenomenon in the natural world.    

“Ah yes, the God of the Final Gap anally coughing up creation, re branded all science-like as let there be light The Big Bang. With this argument, Ventureyra reveals himself to be an Old Earth Creationist, like very many liberal Christian cultists who bleat a very similar non-literal reading of the BuyBull. Unlike most Christians Ventureyra has probably read the whole Bibble. Since he is a Sophisticated Theologian, he likely applies the Augustinian “get outta jail free card” – all nice things in the Buybull are true, while all the hatred, violence & genocide are metaphorical.”

This is not a God of the gaps argument at all.  Science alone does not get you to a sound argument about God; it is the use of scientific evidence in a philosophical premise of an overall argument that builds the case for God’s existence.  For example, something like the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA)  which states that: 1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. 2. Universe began to exist. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause, accomplishes this. This argument is hotly debated in peer-review philosophical journals among philosophers of religion. Moreover, the same is true for atheism, namely that a scientific model or theory on its own cannot justify a certain belief system like atheism or theism, it is once you couple it with a philosophy that you have an argument that can be used to support the particular worldview.

The evidence for big bang cosmology would be used to justify the second premise but nowhere is this seen as a god of the gaps argument; it is a sound argument where the conclusion follows logically from its premises. The onus is on the one who disagrees with the argument to demonstrate which of the premises is faulty and why. 

I deny the allegation that I am an Old Earth Creationist just because I accept modern scientific findings.  Here’s a shocker – I even accept universal common descent.  I don’t take issue with the findings of modern science, if anything when conjoined with sound philosophical argumentation these present very reasonable arguments for God’s existence which for the time being are more plausible than their denial.  Below are several arguments that favour Christian theism which depend on the best scholarship from theology, philosophy, science and history:

the fine-tuning argument:

the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism:

 the Leibnizian cosmological argument:

the origin of information:

Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument:

J.P. Moreland’s argument from consciousness:

Historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:

Al Kimeea’s view of Augustine’s position regarding scriptural interpretation is overly simplistic and fallacious.  As Augustine recognized, the task of any serious theologian or thinker for that matter is to use proper hermeneutics (an adeqaute mode of interpretation).  Contrary to what al kimeea may be aware of, the bible is not one singular book but rather a “library” of at least 66 books (Protestant bible), 73 (Roman Catholic bible) and 78 (Eastern Orthodox bible) – all containing 27 New Testament (NT) books with varying numbers of Old Testament (OT) books since the Catholic and Orthodox OT contain deuterocanonical texts.  Moreover, the bible contains a number of different literary genres; law, history, wisdom, prophetic, gospel, epistles and apocalyptic. Not all texts are meant to be interpreted in the same manner and all have many different layers of understanding.

It’s interesting that later I am lumped together with non literal “liberal” Christian cultists since I don’t dispute the modern scientific calculations of the age of the earth/universe. To my understanding, OECs are not necessarily liberal. The designation of liberal, conservative or traditional depends more on the overall view one takes upon doctrinal issues.  It is worth pointing out here that, the Christian theist, in this particular case, is free to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. As Augustine pointed out that God could have created the universe and organisms with certain potencies to allow for evolutionary change. Indicating that the Genesis creation narratives allow for a number of different interpretations, such that one can adopt a number of different views regarding creation and evolution.  Notice that Augustine made this interpretation over 1,400 years before Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – so it is silly to think that Christian theism is in a retreat from such a position.  This is more of an in-house Christian debate.  As Alvin Plantinga, the esteemed philosopher of religion, has pointed out, that for the atheist, there is only one game in town: naturalistic evolution.  So, you have to feel sorry for the atheist since the options are so very limited.   

“Ham’s “valid points”, neither of which offer any evidence for Creationism, are almost nonsense. Being a good scientist depends on being able to say “I don’t know” and, when evidence mounts, “Hmmm, seems my idea is wrong”. Good scientists don’t assign supernatural agency to things they don’t understand, regardless of their field of study. While the various meanings of evolution may be conflated, I’ll bet quatloos to doughnuts it isn’t good scientists doing the conflating.”

Ham’s point that Creationists can be good scientists still stands, not only because there are examples of Creationists who have both contributed much to science historically and contemporarily but also because of the relevance to the debate. Here’s a historical example: William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) with his work on the mathematical analysis of electricity and his formulations of the first/second laws of thermodynamics. Here’s a contemporary example: Raymond Vahan Damadian who invented the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner.  The illustration of such is especially relevant to the discussion because it addresses Bill Nye’s concern that America may fall behind in the technological race due to much of the population’s views on evolution.  As al kimeea kindly pointed out that Nye believes that teaching children Creationism is harmful to them and society.  This point shows that claim’s fallacy.  The point is that regardless of one’s views on evolution, one can still perform fruitful science, particularly in technological advances. The correlation between belief in biological evolution and society’s technological advancement is lost on me.  This is not to say I support the teaching of 6 day creation in science classrooms – I do not.  But it should be mentioned that if we look at biological systems as being designed and we mimic such designs, this will be of greater aid to technological advancement, as opposed to looking at these systems as emerging through blind processes as the materialistic scenario of evolution entails (from the perspective of the blind-watchmaker synthesis).  Perhaps the converse is more harmful to technological advance, namely the view that a blind materialistic process can account for much of the beauty and comprehensibility we see in nature. We don’t use principles of blind-materialistic processes to advance technology, rather we implement purposeful intentional design plans. Steven Fuller, a sociologist and philosopher of science, has made the point that scientists that see the universe and biological systems as the result of purposeful design are more likely to resolve difficulties in science, as has been demonstrated historically regardless of if there truly exists a designer or not.  It’s also worth mentioning that there is debate among scientists and philosophers over whether a correct interpretation of neo-darwinism necessitates a blind-watchmaker view or not. A helpful introduction to this would be the dialogue between Jay Richards and Alvin Plantinga.

As an aside, there was controversy over Damadian not receiving the award for the nobel prize for his contribution to the invention of the MRI scanner – noted philosopher of science, Michael Ruse  in his 2004 article,”The Nobel Prize in Medicine—Was there a religious factor in this year’s (non) selection?” states

I cringe at the thought that Raymond Damadian was refused his just honor because of his religious beliefs. Having silly ideas in one field is no good reason to deny merit for great ideas in another field. Apart from the fact that this time the Creation Scientists will think that there is good reason to think that they are the objects of unfair treatment at the hands of the scientific community.

Let’s hope that there has been no discrimination based on Damadian’s religious views that has been going on.

Scientific advancement is predicated on what scientists actually know, while admitting ignorance at certain stages, allows them to re-examine and correct the mistakes in their hypotheses, experiments, observations, models and theories – to the point where they can either augment on or discard invalid theories.  Knowledge is what fuels scientific advancement, not ignorance, contrary to what al kimeea may have you believe. It is that quest for knowledge and understanding that undergirds all intellectual endeavours. 

Scientists allow for all kinds of things in their presuppositions whether they are naturalists or super-naturalists. The truth is that many scientists don’t even realize their own presuppositions particularly in contemporary times. Scientists that viewed the universe of the handiwork of God were the progenitors of modern science; this is attested again and again throughout history. While, I admit that science in and of itself remains neutral on the question of God, as was above-mentioned, science can be used to fortify premises in philosophical argumentation for God which is a completely separate issue.

Good working scientists do indeed conflate the term evolution when reaching a lay audience, quite different to how they specify the term in its context in peer reviewed articles. For whatever reason this is done, I don’t know, nonetheless, it has the tendency to be misleading and sloppy. 

“What we have here is someone playing bagpipes while attempting to appear wise and open minded by adopting a middle position regardless of the evidence either speaker may have supporting their argument. Truth be told, the good Doctoral Candidate has no more sophisticated evidence than the Creationist. It is quite possible Ham wouldn’t even consider the fledgling Papist a Christian.”

I must say that although al kimeea has clearly demonstrated a lack of open-mindedness to views other than his own, it sure looks like his brain has fallen out.

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If there is any level of inexperience it is on the one who accuses me of such. The author indeed seems to possess an extremely limited understanding and scope of the science-theology dialogue, opting out for the most popular of options – that of supposed conflict, as is held by both scientific materialists and biblical literalists (just like Ham and Nye). This is evidenced by al kimeea’s naturalistic presuppositions. Well, at this point one may interject and say “well everyone is allowed to their own opinion.” Yes, I agree in a democratic and pluralistic society this is correct, everyone is indeed entitled to their own views and opinions but when they are so obviously flawed, one must be prepared to be called upon it.  Al kimeea must go back to the drawing board and really investigate his/her own presuppositions and attitude towards differing worldviews.  So, for someone who has a bias towards science and reason, it is not evident at all.  It seems that al kimeaa is more committed to scientism and a form of verficationism that collapsed in the 1960s because of its incoherency.  Just as his comment that Ham perhaps may not consider a Roman Catholic to be a Christian, more fittingly, many of al kimeea’s more learned skeptics would perhaps consider al kimeea’s line of argumentation as rather infantile.

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