Sunday, May 22, 2005


The Flat Earth Canard

Over at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, they're up in arms about a May 19 letter written to Nature by University of Houston evolutionary biologist Dan Graur titled,"Who has designs on your students' minds?"

"'Intelligent designers' are not the only minority bullied into submission by the scientific establishment," wrote Graur. "The vast majority of flat-Earthers … cannot publish their studies in respectable journals" either.

At Discovery, them's fightin' words.

Addressing this canard was seen as so important, the Jonathan Wells, was pulled in from the field where he was examining fossils from the Cambrian Explosion to pen this answer:

Like many of his colleagues, Graur delights in comparing critics of Darwinism to believers in a flat Earth. According to the standard story, Christians used to believe for biblical reasons that the Earth is flat. When modern science demonstrated that the Earth is actually a sphere, that belief became a legitimate target for ridicule. Now, since modern science has likewise demonstrated the truth of Darwin's theory (so the story goes), critics of Darwinism are just as silly as flat- Earthers.

But the story is totally false. It was pure fiction until it was turned into a phony historical claim by late-19th century Darwinists who used it to slander Christians.

The spherical shape of the Earth was known to the ancient Greeks, who even made some pretty good estimates of its circumference. Christian theologians likewise knew that the Earth was a sphere.

True enough. The spherical shape of the earth was known to the ancient Greeks and to Christian theologians.

But, we're not being asked to go back to the Greeks, are we? We're being asked to go back to the Bible, and there is ample evidence that the Biblical world view was that the world was flat. Hardly a day goes by in Kansas that we don't hear about the "science" of the Bible.

Now, Wells will argue that he doesn't want to teach the Bible in science classes. He will even argue that he doesn't want to teach intelligent design, either. All he wants to do is teach the "controversy over evolution" -- of course he wouldn't use the word evolution, he'd say "Darwinism" or "Neo-Darwinism."

There are two fundamental problems with that argument.

First, we know that the "teach the controversy" ploy is merely the tip of the Discovery Institute's Wedge Strategy to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Once they get the tip in... well you know what happens next.

Here's how Philip Johnson, the father of intelligent design put it in an interview published in 2000: "So the question is: "How to win?" That's when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing", the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters."

The second problem with the "teach the controversy" argument is that most of its proponents want to teach the Bible in biology classes. At four public hearings held around the state of Kansas in February, virtually no one spoke for intelligent design. Nearly everyone who opposed the pro-science draft written by the majority of the standards committee said quite directly -- and at least they were refreshingly honest about their beliefs -- that they were Christians, and they wanted their children to be taught the biblical story of Genesis.

They don't want to know about Zeus and his thunderbolts, Dr. Wells. They don't care about the science of ancient Greece. They want that old time religion. They want the "science" of the Bible. All of it: The young earth. The flood. Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs through the Garden of Eden.

It's not just the flat earth. It's not just the sun revolving around the earth. It's the whole package. The wisdom of the ancient Greeks goes way back in human history, but those who demand that we teach a literal interpretation of the Bible want to go back in time much further than that.

Some of them are honest about what they believe. Some conceal their beliefs in public and hammer on a wedge.


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