And Now for a Few Words on Theocrats

The Dropping Well, Knaresborough, Yorkshire: with castle ruins. Line engraving by J. Walker, 1798, after F. Nicholson.

The thing to remember about the Founding Fathers is that the country they rebelled against had a state religion. That state religion served the myth of the divine right of kings, defending and justifying the British monarchy. The American Revolution was as much against the state religion as the monarchy that religion justified. The separation of church and state is at the very heart of the creation of our nation. That’s why the separation of church and state is in the very first amendment to the Constitution. That’s why Article VI of the Constitution provides, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Which takes WC to a couple of articles WC’s brother-in-law thoughtfully provided to WC.
In a religious pamphlet called “Reaching Out,” the nice folks at Grande Ronde Church argue for a literal interpretation of the Bible. In Issue 111, for example, in an article called “The Bible and Science, Do Fossils Disprove the Bible,” creationist author Denton Ford argues for a Noachian interpretation of fossils and geology. By “Noachian,” WC means that the creationists think all geological evidence on the planet today is the result of Noah’s flood.

There were two specific arguments in this article. The first was that a fossil find had been discovered that was obviously the result of a catastrophic flood. The article offers that as proof of Noah’s flood. But planet-wide, there are catastrophic floods that bury critters every day. The article’s argument is a nice example of fallacy by omission, sometimes called “stacking the deck.” There have been millions of catastrophic floods in the world’s history. Finding one of them doesn’t prove anything about the Biblical Noah’s flood.

The second argument involves fossilization. The author points to Mother Shipton’s Cave,1 which contains a spring that produces highly mineralized water. If you put an object in water flow from the spring, the water is so rich in sulphate and carbonate that the object will be encrusted – “petrified” – in a matter of days. From that, the author argues that fossilization can be a quick process. But that’s not fossilization; it’s encrustation. In fossilization, the organic materials in dead plants and animals are mineralized, replaced by inorganics: silicates, carbonates or sulphates. The waters of Mother Shipton’s Cave coat the surface of an object with minerals. The internal structure of the encrusted plant or animal is left untouched. Encrustation is a completely different process from fossilization. Mr. Ford’s example doesn’t involve fossilization, and so proves nothing about the speed at which fossilization can occur.

Second, there are fossils all over the planet, in areas where there is no evidence of highly mineralized waters. The author’s argument ignores the general case and focuses on a special case, another fallacy.

Third, Mr. Ford ignores all of the collateral evidence in support of the age of fossils: radioactive dating, layers in the strata and the half dozen other indicia of the true age of the earth. Another example of fallacy by omission.

WC doesn’t mind that Mr. Ford wants to ignore 99.9% of geologic time to bring a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible to support his beliefs. That’s his First Amendment right. WC doesn’t even mind that Mr. Ford is wasting paper and energy publishing his pamphlets in support of his beliefs. That’s also his First Amendment right.

But when Mr. Ford and his fellow Christianists want to make their silly beliefs the state religion or the United States, or use WC’s tax dollars to force school students or anyone else to be brainwashed in their silly beliefs, well, they cross the line and interfere with WC’s First amendment rights. Those busy, busy Republicans in the Idaho state house want to coerce all students into “silent prayer.” They want “an employee of a public college, school district, or charter school may pray at any time he is otherwise free to engage in personal conversations or other personal conduct.” As is usual with this crowd, they’ve included a vigilante clause, allowing anyone who thinks their “silent prayer” rights have been violated to sue. It sounds innocuous enough, but teachers are role models for their students, and it is all too easy for religiosity to slip into the curriculum.

To WC, the Christian Bible reads like a religious tract written by ignorant, if pious, goat-herders, who saw the events immediately affect them as impacting the entire planet. Claiming they were inspired by God and that their book is inspired by God, that every word in it it is strictly true, is unflattering to the authors and their claims of an omnipotent, omniscient God. Making it, even indirectly, a part of public school curriculum is a betrayal of what the founding fathers of this country were trying to accomplish: a separation of church and state.

Besides teaching nonsense.

1 The oldest tourist attraction to charge a fee in England, operated since 1630.

4 thoughts on “And Now for a Few Words on Theocrats

  1. So well said. Much better than I could have said it. And although historical circumstances may differ from country to country most of what you wrote applies equally in Canada as well because, gosh, silly ideas are not constrained by borders. With your permission then I should like to share this blog post to my FB page?


  2. I don’t know who Frances is, but his/her comment today was hilarious.
    I laughed out loud.
    Another great post.


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