Friday, October 30, 2015

Can Ideas Have Consequences?

This past weekend, more than 1,500 people attended the National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, NC. The theme was "Ideas Have Consequences." Among the speakers was Discovery Institute Fellow Paul Nelson, who gave three separate presentations to highly engaged and enthusiastic attendees. His first session was a premier screening of Living Waters: Intelligent Design in the Oceans of the Earth, in partnership with Illustra Media. This beautifully filmed and wonderfully narrated documentary shows marvelous examples of design in dolphins, turtles, salmon, and whales.

The crowd of over a hundred at the screening thoroughly enjoyed the film. In the Q&A session afterward, Dr. Nelson received many positive comments and excellent queries about current evolutionary explanations for the origin of Cetaceans, how to promote Illustra films, and what people can do to encourage discussions on the evidence for design in nature and the shortcomings of materialist philosophy.
There is more. I read it all and I don't understand any of it. I don't understand how ideas can have consequences, unless you are using the definition "a conclusion derived through logic". I think that actions based on ideas can have consequences.

The only thing that makes sense of this nonsense is that it is produced by The Discovery Institute. How dare they use the URL

Christian Apologetics really are the worst. Their writings are total word salad. They make Sarah Palin look good. I dare you to read Dave Armstrong.

Duping theologians:
In 2012, atheist philosopher Maarten Boudry committed a Sokal-style hoax against a theology conference[12] by submitting an intentionally absurd abstract, under an anagrammatic pseudonym,[13] that was promptly accepted.[14] Conference abstracts are not subject to peer-review, so getting this sort of material under the radar isn't as difficult as it might seem - and should a conference be desperate for the numbers, they might just accept any old rubbish to fill the slots. Yet, even a casual read-through of Boudry's abstract shows it to be clearly a load of nonsense. The opening sentences form a semi-coherent screed about Darwinian evolution:
In the Darwinian perspective, order is not immanent in reality, but it is a self-affirming aspect of reality in so far as it is experienced by situated subjects. However, it is not so much reality that is self-affirming, but the creative order structuring reality which manifests itself to us.
Boudry even managed to shoehorn Dawkins' name into the abstract, too, suggesting that we should "reframe our sense of locatedness of existence within a the space of radical contingency of spiritual destiny"[sic] — which is, somehow, contrary to Dawkins' own assertions. The lesson to draw from this? sometimes, "expertise" really means "using big words," and it doesn't take much to impress people who are eager to have their own views reinforced no matter what. As Jerry Coyne noted:
I defy you to understand what he’s saying, but of course it appeals to those who, steeped in Sophisticated Theology™, love a lot of big words that say nothing but somehow seem to criticize materialism while affirming the divine. It doesn’t hurt if you diss Dawkins a couple of times, either.

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