Religious Nutter Alert: Hal Lindsey

Flipping channels on a Sunday evening, one is bound to encounter some religious nutter asking his (rarely is it "her") flock for money. This evening, I couldn’t help but notice the irony as Hal Lindsey, religious nutter extraordinaire, stated:

I couldn’t help but notice this week the speed with which events unfolded in the Middle East that concur with [insert favorite End Times prophet]’s prophecy of the End Times.

Okay, I paraphrased a bit. But Hal, the author of The Late, Great Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon remarked heavily that the violence in the Middle East is evidence of the "end times" and that the apocalypse is due any day now.

And then he asked for donations for his "ministry." What a freakin’ con.

Afarensis posted a short bit on Tim Lahaye, author of the Left Behind series, recently, noting that LaHaye was interviewed by Newsweek about his doom and gloom predictions regarding the current situation in the Middle East. Apparently, Newsweek also interviewed Lindsey for a future cover story < clicky>. From Lindsey’s site:

NEWSWEEK Q: Is the success and survival of the United States based on its support of Israel

Answer #4 I believe one of the reasons God has protected the U.S., despite the fact we have driven God from the public forum in our country, is because we have sought to protect Israel’s right to exist in secure borders.

"God" has been "driven from public forum?" If only it were true, I wouldn’t have to delete 5 or 6 channels from my television every time the power goes out and I have to re-program the television and VCR (I’m a rabbit ear kind of guy… spending more time in books than television). If it were true, we’d not have to worry about forced prayer in schools being shoved down the throats of non-christians in Delaware; or ‘end-times’ warnings from religious nutters on CNN, MSNBC, Newsweek, etc.; nor would we have the superstitious trying push pseudoscience as legitimate curricula in science classes.

NEWSWEEK Q: Will the West need to defeat Islamists for Israel or must radical Islam continue in order for the prophecy to be fulfilled?

Answer #5: I believe the hostility of Fundamental Islam over Israel’s return and re-possession their ancient homeland and Jerusalem is predicted to be the driving force that ignites Armageddon.

But be sure to send your tax-deductible donation to Lindsey’s "ministry" before the armageddon. Nutjobs like Lindsey and LaHaye have been predicting armageddon for centuries based on the limited perspectives of a few Bronze Age and Early Iron Age religious and political elites who were interested in creating and maintaining a system of propaganda to manipulate their followers and citizens. As long as there are credulous people, there will always be those willing to take their money in exchange for the secrets to surviving the apocalypse.


Dr. Bill Lucas: A "Cracked Up" Pseudoscientist

Silkworm at Defending Science is in the trenches with CORR (Christians for Origins and Religious Research), and he hammers their lead speaker, Dr. Bill Lucas. According to Dr. Lucas’ resume, he holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from William and Mary and is a “professor” of physics at Catholic University in Washington D.C.

This is one of the more interesting points that Silkworm decimates CORR, a student organization on the Wichita State campus in Kansas. Silkworm writes of his confrontation with Lucas at a CORR meeting at Wichita State in which he and another attendee demand the good doctor come clean with his credentials. Apparently, Catholic University doesn’t acknowledge his “professorship” and that’s not all. The good doctor claims to have presented one or more papers at an AAAS function, which is flatly denied by AAAS Executive Director David Nash.

Also challenged are Lucas’ claims to have 40-60 peer-reviewed papers (apparently it’s about 4-6) and the overall bunk that was presented at the June 15th meeting. I’ll quote Silkworm:

Lucas claims that the Earth radiates energy and so loses mass and gravity, while at the same time expanding. So, Lucas claims that the Earth loses energy and so loses mass. This is a prediction his “Divine Force” makes and he made several statements to back it up. One of them that was people in Biblical times lived so long because the intense gravity of the Earth kept more oxygen close to the surface, and said that the gravity now when a maximum life expectancy is 100 years is 1/9th that of in Biblical times when ages of 900 years are reported in the Bible. He also used this very bad geology: [image of mid-oceanic ridges].

Good work, Silkworm! Keep it up!

Review- Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life

Quite by accident, I discovered Alister McGrath’s book, Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, as I was browsing the stacks of my university library for another title. Having read much of the work of Richard Dawkins, my curiosity overcame my general disdain for theological writings and I promptly added the text to the pile under my arm & checked them out with the librarian.

McGrath begins his critique of Dawkins with very favorable words, citing how he “devoured with interest and admiration” Dawkins’ earlier series of books, which McGrath characterizes as “brilliant and provocative.”

Dawkins’ brilliance, it would seem, is limited in McGrath’s view to matters concerning zoology and biology but somehow less luminous for matters that concern McGrath’s beliefs with regard to religion and God. Indeed, the work seems to become more of an apologetic attempt to defend Christianity’s honor from the big, bad atheist.

McGrath criticizes Dawkins as well as Robert Ingersoll for asserting that “Darwinism is necessarily atheistic.” In his criticism of Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker, McGrath goes so far as to deride Dawkins for failing to include the word “God” in the index! This, he posits, is due to the Darwinian world that “Dawkins inhabits and commands” and that Dawkins “eliminates God altogether” in his work that is subtitled, Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. Many who have read the work have commented that Dawkins doesn’t so much “eliminate” God as he simply demonstrates that “design” is not necessary to explain the universe. McGrath is critical of Dawkins’ position that one must either accept Lamarckism, God, or Darwinism, but, since the first two fail as explanations, only Darwinism is left. But Dawkins, in the very quote that McGrath includes on the same page, states: “life in the universe is either Darwinian or something else not thought of.” Clearly, Dawkins isn’t saying that Darwinism is the only choice, but rather stating that Lamarckism and God do not offer viable explanations. To date, the Darwinian explanation along with its modern improvements provides us with the only viable explanation, though there may be “something else that is not yet thought of.”

McGrath further criticizes what he sees as Dawkins’ “absolute dichotomy between either Darwinism or God.” This assumption is reached by McGrath in spite of the statement “either Darwinian or something else not yet thought of.” Perhaps Dawkins does assert elsewhere that God doesn’t exist because Darwinism discredits him, though it isn’t apparent in the material cited by McGrath, who is critical, too, of Dawkins’ decision to choose an analogy that McGrath claims not to be “typical of the Christian tradition,” which is Rev. William Paley’s watchmaker analogy, popularized in his book Natural Theology. McGrath spends several pages exploring the history of this analogy, which are quite informative as we learn that Paley probably lifted his theory from naturalist John Ray of a slightly earlier time. However, Dawkins is right to criticize Paley’s work, regardless of McGrath’s opinion of its outdated nature, since it has been popularized by the pseudoscience of intelligent design (Dembski 2003). Admittedly, the Dembski article comes some years after The Blind Watchmaker, and others in Christianity may have “already rejected as inadequate” the watchmaker analogy, but it was and is still popular with certain influential fundamentalists of Christianity.

McGrath concludes at this point that “Dawkins’ atheism is inadequately grounded in the biological evidence,” yet he fails miserably in demonstrating this conclusion. Not one shred of actual biological evidence is discussed though it is thouroghly examined in The Blind Watchmaker as well as the earlier The Selfish Gene and, certainly, in The Ancestor’s Tale of Dawkins’ more recent work. McGrath seems content to say that the biological evidence Dawkins discusses cannot support his atheism, but he utterly fails to support the statement. Instead, McGrath is focused on the philosophical points that Dawkins involves himself with and refuses to digress on anything physical or tangible.

One of McGrath’s main criticisms of The Blind Watchmaker comes in his assertion that Dawkins’ Biomorph Programme is a “flawed” analogy that succeeds only in demonstrating the need for a creator to design the universe. Dawkins describes a computer program that was designed to take a target phrase and evaluate successive generations of 28 randomly ordered letters. It took the program only a few generations to get to the target phrase, “me thinks it is like a weasel.” The intervening generations were compared by the program to the target phrase and letters that were correct were correct and those that weren’t were allowed to mutate.

McGrath correctly points out that evolution hardly begins with a “target” of progression, but that wasn’t the point of the demonstration. McGrath also points out that the demonstration itself, including the computer and the program, were designed. True enough, but, again, this is irrelevant to the demonstration since the goal of the program was to demonstrate the process of cumulative selection as opposed to random selection.

Obviously it is that we need not “posit a God explanation” as implied by Dawkins’ work that really offends McGrath as it does many other Christian apologists. On page 58 of his book, McGrath poses the question, “[s]uppose we concede this point; what are its implications?” But McGrath doesn’t appear willing to answer the question. No exploration of existence without a god or creator is discussed. And, yet, he freely criticizes Dawkins for his alleged failure to take the “logical steps to conclude” the lack of necessity for a god. Other readers of Dawkins “brilliant and provocative” work would disagree and find that he very logically reaches the no-god conclusion. McGrath, however, simply goes on to enjoy a very informative discussion about Thomas Aquinas’ secondary causality argument.

Invoking the 13th century CE view of theology by Aquinas seems only to have the point of illustrating the “God did it” argument, which McGrath asserts is logical since whatever science might say about the world, God could have made it that way, either directly of through “secondary causality.” I find this a bit of a cop-out from McGrath; particularly since the argument is concluded with the statement “there is no way that Aquinas’ approach can be described as a post hoc attempt to defend Christianity in response to a perceived threat from the new science of evolutionary biology.” This is the same Aquinas that advocated heretics be “separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death ( Summa Theologiae 1265-1272 II:II 11:3). Mentioning Aquinas’ opinion of heretics isn’t simply a device of character assassination. Aquinas was obviously moved to defend his religious beliefs from new paradigms that were emerging. Contemporaries like Roger Bacon was advocating empiricism and opposed the immorality of the church, so Aquinas didn’t need evolutionary biology to prompt him to basically assert that no matter what the Bacons of the 13th century discover, it is all evidence of the glory of God.

McGrath’s inclusion of the “God did it” argument is almost juvenile, particularly with his conclusion that, since Aquinas pre-dates Darwin, it obviously must be a valid argument because he couldn’t have been attempting to refute Darwinism. Indeed, the inclusion of a self-validating argument that appeals to the wisdom of ancients like Aquinas presents precisely the failure he accuses Dawkins of: no logical progression. Where is the support for the claim that Dawkins fails to show a creator isn’t necessary? Is it in the words of a 13 th century CE theologian? Is it in the notion that no matter what science discovers about the universe, that’s the way God planned it?

Undeniably, a god or supreme deity cannot be excluded, but the sheer number of gods and deities that mankind has now and in the past makes pinning one or more down as the actual god of creation an impossible task, particularly since no god has ever been observed, nor is there any good evidence for one. A god can be assumed and speculated, but to suggest any specific deity is needed to explain the existence of the universe is intellectually dishonest. Particularly in the manner McGrath does, such as with capitalization of the “G,” which personalizes his deity with the very European notion of the anthropomorphic old, white guy formally known as Yahweh.

Citing Aquinas provides McGrath with no more credibility than if he cited the Flying Spaghetti Monster (and I challenge him to demonstrate that one has more evidentiary support than the other). Aquinas’ discussion of secondary causality is thought-provoking, but for the critical-thinker –the reasoned-thinker- the thoughts that are provoked in such discussions often include who caused the causer? Indeed, an infinite chain of “causers” becomes apparent, suggesting not one god, but an infinite number of gods that must be present in the universe. And, in a universe populated with an infinite number of gods, should we not expect to see more of them than stars, which are finite in number? What use would such a universe have with mere humans and other life forms? Particularly if each of the infinite number of gods were equally omniscient and omnipotent.

The logical conclusion that there is a god must also include that there are many gods, and that logic fails even for theologians. Dawkins’ assertion, therefore, is the true, logical choice: there simply is no necessity for a god in the universe. For a universe that is capable of creating a god, is certainly capable of creating itself without one.

Dawkins’ Engagement with Theology

McGrath refers to Dawkins “engagement with theology” as “superficial and inaccurate,” deriding Dawkins as often resorting to “cheap point scoring” on the subject of religious belief. McGrath quotes Keith Ward (1996) who characterizes Dawkins criticisms of religion as “systematic mockery and demonizing of competing views, which are always presented in the most naïve light” and McGrath criticizes Dawkins “tendency to misrepresent the views of his opponents” calling this “the least attractive aspect of his writings.” It would seem that McGrath finds that Dawkins’ characterization of faith to be the misrepresentation in question, though he fails at demonstrating how Dawkins is wrong. He says he’s wrong, but he doesn’t show why.

Faith as Blind Trust

“Faith means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence (Dawkins 1976: 198). McGrath asks, “why should anyone accept this ludicrous definition?” The first question the reader should ask in response is, “why is the definition ludicrous?” Perhaps it can be found in McGrath’s next query: “what is the evidence that anyone – let alone religious people – defines ‘faith’ in this absurd way?” For McGrath, this is, perhaps, one of the more offensive positions Dawkins has taken, and he criticizes in rapid-fire:

  • Dawkins offers no defense of this definition
  • The definition bears little relation to the religious sense of the word
  • No evidence is presented that this is of a religious opinion
  • No authority is cited
  • McGrath doesn’t accept the definition
  • McGrath has yet to meet a theologian that takes it seriously
  • The definition cannot be defended from any official declaration of faith from any Christian denomination
  • It is Dawkins own definition
  • It is a definition constructed with Dawkins own agenda in mind
  • The definition is represented as characteristic of those Dawkins wishes to criticize
  • Finally, McGrath is worried that Dawkins really believes faith equates to blind trust ( McGrath 2005: 85)

It is at this point that McGrath’s readers may be following with bated breath in anticipation of a definition of faith that defies Dawkins’ own. Instead, we get one, single definition from a 19 th century theologian that focuses on “the heart and emotions,” but fails to contradict Dawkins.

[Faith] affects the whole of man’s nature. It commences with the conviction of the mind base on adequate evidence; it continues in the confidence of the heart of emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in the consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct (McGrath 2005: 86).

Of course, evidence adequate for the mind is often not the same as evidence that can actually be quantified or qualified. An assertion easily supported by noting the number of tarot readers, psychics, homeopathic healers, faith healers, UFO buffs, believers in alien abduction, and so on, that exist in modern society. It would seem that these people all have “faith” in the claims that are presented to them. I wonder if McGrath would suggest that there is evidence for tarot or alien-abduction. Perhaps.

The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition 1989) provides the following definitions for faith:

Belief, trust, confidence.

1. a. Confidence, reliance, trust (in the ability, goodness, etc., of a person; in the efficacy or worth of a thing; or in the truth of a statement or doctrine).

b. Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.

What is revealing is McGrath’s failure to show the evidence that exists in even the most simple matters of faith that exist for Christians: there is trust that Jesus was God incarnate; there is reliance in the doctrine of original sin; there is belief that an afterlife awaits those in good-favor; belief in immaculate conception; belief in resurrection; belief that Jesus walked on water and drove demons out of people and into swine. But not one shred of evidence exists to support a single matter of faith with regard to any of these.

Which brings us back to the question that all rational readers of Dawkins’ God should have asked: why is the definition of faith as blind trust ludicrous ?

McGrath, through Dawkins’ God, succeeds only in revealing his extensive knowledge of the philosophies and theologies of antiquity as well as expressing his disdain for atheism and the audacity of atheists, particularly Dawkins, that dare formulate opinions about the universe that exclude his particular god. There is no surprise that McGrath and other Christians (or believers of any religion or superstition where “faith” is required) would refuse to accept Dawkins’ definition of faith, since it points out the elephant in the room: there simply isn’t a shred of evidence to support the core beliefs of Christianity outside of a doctrine largely written by Bronze Age authors. This alone supports and provides the authority for Dawkins’ characterization of faith.


Dawkins, Richard (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dawkins, Richard (1986). The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton.

Dembski, William (2003). Intelligent Design, Entry to Lindsay Jones’s Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd edition, found on the web at:

McGrath, Alister (2005). Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Ward, Keith (1996). God, Chance and Necessity. Oxford: One-World.

NEW: Richard Dawkins Interviews Alister McGrath

Does Scientism Exist?

The topic of “scientism” keeps coming up in conversations with both those who criticize the rigorous demands of the scientific method as well as through a short monograph on the internet (Menton 1991) with the title, Carl Sagan: Prophet of Scientism.

Interestingly enough, the term scientism exists among scholarly references and refers to the notion that science and the scientific method can be used to explain all that can be observed or experienced in the universe. This is consistent with logical positivism, which holds that there is an objectively knowable universe.

However, a different use of scientism has been co-opted, which implies that there are those within science that are to be derided as extremists or, at the very least, alarmists who reject critical thought and reason by denying “both the special revelation of truth and the existence of a sovereign, supernatural and external being (Menton 1991).” The assumption here is that science generally accepts the supernatural and spiritual “revelations” as valid methods of obtaining truths.

More often than not, the sources of these implications and assumptions originate with theistic proponents of creation mythology. Some, however, tactically avoid the direct association with creation and supernaturalism as if to provide plausible deniability if directly called on either to produce evidence or supporting references. It is, after all, difficult to logically prove that which cannot be tested, and the intellectual and educated theist wisely avoids this. The tactic, instead, appears to be to assert that there is a subculture called scientism, which is a moral and extremist faction of real science.

The overall thesis of this assertion seems to suggest that scientism as an extremist faction of science is somehow a danger to society, perhaps with its rampant atheism and certainly with its naturalistic and materialistic views of the universe.

Menton’s paper on the subject made Carl Sagan the focus of the anti-scientism movement (as it were). Menton accuses Sagan of being a “prophet” of scientism, which implies very clearly that the author believes this to be a new form of religion. Menton’s opening paragraph makes the unsupported claim that Sagan’s work consisted of “only a tissue of empirical science covering a great bulk of improvable speculation liberally laced with Sagan’s own philosophical and religious views of life.” Menton then states, very plainly, “Sagan’s religion […] is ‘scientism.'”

Menton’s article is short and falls even more short in delivering any support for either his claim that Sagan was a representative of a religion or that this religion of “scientism” actually exists. Menton’s derision of Sagan’s work goes little beyond merely stating that it is speculative and supported only be a “tissue of empiricism.” He does, however, criticize Sagan’s position (Cosmos 1996) that evolution is a fact and that it really happened. Menton is unconcerned with the enormous body of evidence that exists to support Sagan’s assertion and seems only interested in attempting to negatively affect Sagan’s credibility in the matters of science. In doing so, Menton invokes the words of Harlow Shapely, an apparent one-time professor of Sagan, who is alleged to have said, “some piously record, ‘In the beginning, God,’ but I say in the beginning hydrogen.” Menton then vastly oversimplifies Shapely’s contention by concluding that Shapely is suggesting hydrogen + time = H. sapiens as if the complex processes and mechanisms between hydrogen and civilization came about in a few days. I’m not sure what specific creationist beliefs Menton has, but it is interesting to note that he rejects the hypothesis that hydrogen, many billions of years, and untold energy can result in the universe as we know it. The irony is that he probably has little difficulty accepting that a mysterious, supernatural entity can speak the world into existence –complete with people in just a few days!

Menton mines several quotes from Sagan’s Cosmos, which he takes from their original contexts and juxtaposes with new a new context –the one of an atheistic scientist attempting to convert the masses to become godless heathens. Menton’s deception isn’t very subtle. He quotes Sagan from a 1980 newspaper article as saying, “I feel in order to survive we someday must be able to give up our allegiance to our nation, our religion, our race and economic group and think of ourselves more as just a temporary form of life under the creation of a power beyond our comprehension.” Menton cites the St. Louis Globe-Democrat as the source but immediately follows the quote with “Sagan concludes that if man is to worship anything greater than man himself, it should be something which amounts to the pagan worship of nature,” to which Menton follows with another Sagan quote mined from Cosmos (p243): “Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. And yet the Sun is an ordinary, even mediocre star. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars?”

Perhaps Menton truly believes that Sagan’s position was that the sun should be worshipped and that a pagan religion was necessary. But a look at page 242 of Cosmos and reading on through 243 reveals the context of Sagan’s words. The chapter these pages reside in is titled The Lives of Stars and Sagan is describing the power of a star on the community of planets from which one is lucky enough to be able to support life. He was noting that the power of the sun did not go unnoticed to man and the footnote that was attached to the quote was this: “The early Sumerian pictograph for god was an asterisk, the symbol of the stars. The Aztec word for god was Teotl, and its glyph was a representation of the Sun. The heavens were called the Teoatl, the godsea, the cosmic ocean.” The very next paragraph that follows the quote begins with, “The Galaxy is an unexplored continent filled with exotic beings of stellar dimensions.”

Even Menton couldn’t have missed the literary devices of metaphor and hyperbole which Sagan effectively utilized to convey the enormity and power that a star has, even a “mediocre” one such as our Sun.

Menton was again disingenuous with Sagan’s words when he quoted UFO’s: A Scientific Debate (Sagan & Page 1972, p.xiv): “[s]cience has itself become a kind of religion.” Menton inserts the period that follows “religion” as if that is the end of the thought, leaving the reader with the impression that the “prophet of scientism” has spoke and the movement begun. But to add context and truth to the eight words quote-mined by Menton, it is important to note that “religion” is punctuated with a trailing comma and the sentence completes with, “and many pronouncements cloaked in scientific attire are blandly accepted by much of the public.” Clearly Sagan and Paige (the co-editor Menton so conveniently omits to credit) are providing an introduction to the thesis of the collection of articles to which they are the editors of in UFO’s, which is that science must contain skepticism and critical thought in order to balance the pop-culture appeal that it has attained.

What then is the purpose of criticizing notable figures of science with charges of “scientism” and of starting a “religion?”

For the theistic apologetics of creationism and it’s guise under the form of “intelligent” design, this question’s answer lies in an agenda to justify beliefs and promote doubt among believers. Indeed, the much talked about “wedge strategy” dictates, among it’s goals, to seed doubt among lay persons regarding the validity of the science behind evolutionary processes in order to further the creationist agenda.


Menton, D. N. (1991). Carl Sagan: Prophet of Scientism (Get the Facts). Retrieved 13106, from Missouri Association for Creation, Inc.:
Sagan, C. (1986). Broca’s Brain. New York: Ballantine Books.
Sagan, C. (1996). Cosmos. New York: Ballantine Books.
Sagan, C., & Druyan, A. (1997). The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. New York: Ballantine Books.
Sagan, C., & Page, T. (1972). Introduction. In C. Sagan & T. Page (Eds.), Ufo’s: A Scientific Debate (p. xiv). New York: W W Norton & Co Inc.

‘Intelligent’ Design in Utah

The Utah State Senate ammended a bill on Monday Jan. 23 that mandates what a teacher can say about the origins of Homo sapiens in the science classroom. Essentially, they’ve made is unlawful to fail to say that “not all scientists agree about the origins of man” with regard to evolution. They don’t mind if the teacher implies or even states that the *lesser* species on the planet evolved from a common ancestor, but humans are somehow set aside from the rest of the matter on the planet. “…a teacher could teach how an alligator was formed through evolution, which is not prohibited by law until the teacher starts to address how man was created.” From this article:

No *reputable* scientist believes man just popped into existence. Moreover, the disclaimer the Utah Senate requires science teachers to state, “not all scientists on which theory is correct” is misleading to the point of being a lie. Sure, scientists disagree. And some even believe Adam and Eve were the first two humans. But how many of these “scientists” are in a discipline related to evolutionary sciences (geology, biology, anthropology, etc.)? Pitifully few.

However, the Utah Legislature is an example of anthropocentric thinking and perhaps magical thinking. We see ourselves as separate and removed from the world and destined for another plane of existence. Thus, our time here, in this reality, is limited. Rather than live our lives as if *this* world, this life, was all we have, we are holding out for something better. The lesser species may have evolved, but the anthropomorphic gods we believe in have more love for the human species -we get to go to a “special place” when we die. As long as we believe.

Man is but a brief instance in the history of life on this planet.

Life has existed for hundreds of millions of years -man for perhaps 250,000, probably less. One is left to wonder: did god exist before man? I doubt it.