Skeptics Society Apology Illustrates Christian Virtue
Some evolutionists leaped onto a press release from a group named PEER last December that claimed national park rangers at Grand Canyon were obeying some new policy under pressure from the Bush administration that did not allow them to claim the canyon was millions of years old (see 01/11/2007, bullet 2). This was supposedly related to sales of the young-earth creationist book Grand Canyon: A Different View in park bookstores (10/14/2004).* PEER’s claim got mention in Science magazine, though the journal did note that the park denied it.
The online newsletter of the Skeptics Society, eSkeptic, had also parroted this claim but then gotten taken to task for it by readers. A former park ranger’s blog, parkrangerx, said on January 16 that “this story just won’t die” and explained again why the story was unfounded. Michael Shermer, president, decided to investigate. He explained that “in our eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more),” he had taken the PEER press release at face value. “Embarrassed and angered” after calls and emails to PEER and its executive director Jeff Ruch, he found it was an unreliable source:
PEER is an anti-Bush, anti-religion liberal activist watchdog group in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay. On one level, that’s how the system works in a free society, and there are plenty of pro-Bush, pro-religion conservative activist watchdog groups who do the same thing on the other side. Maybe in a Hegelian process of thesis-antithesis-synthesis we find truth that way; at least at the level of talk radio. But journalistic standards and scholarly ethics still hold sway at all levels of discourse that matter, and to that end I believe we were duped by an activist group who at the very least exaggerated a claim and published it in order to gain notoriety for itself, or worse, simply made it up.
After this, Shermer apologized for printing the story without checking up on it, and said “Shame on us.” But he added, “But shame on you too, Mr. Ruch, and shame on PEER, for this egregious display of poor judgment and unethical behavior.”
We congratulate Shermer for acting like a good Christian by testing all things (I Thessalonians 5:21, Philippians 4:8) and not bearing false witness (Exodus 20:16). We say this tongue in cheek, of course, because Shermer lost his childhood faith under the tutelage of a Darwin bulldog professor in college (06/01/2004), and now treats Christians and creationists like unscientific fools (11/29/2001). Last week, the Darwin bulldog rag Nature also had a moralistic editorial about the need for ethics in the laboratory. It portrayed the myth of the honest scientist in the white lab coat, claiming that misconduct is rare and must be guarded against by some unspecified standard of honesty: “It is here in the laboratory – not in the law courts or the offices of a university administrator – that the trajectory of research conduct for the twenty-first century is being set.” I.e., shape up, scientists, if you want to keep the government off our backs.
Though Shermer illustrated diligence in getting the facts straight and hastening to apologize, is this behavior not inconsistent with his core beliefs? He denies that the Hegelian process is worthy of “journalistic standards and scholarly ethics” for finding the “truth”. Yet, to quote Pilate, what is truth? To a Darwinist, whatever exists arose through competition and power, a Hegelian process. Truth, then, is relative. Absolute truth is incomprehensible to an evolved brain fully described by the motions of its constituent atoms. It is not just incomprehensible; it is inconceivable.
Why do the editors of Nature and eSkeptic know intuitively the difference between right and wrong? They use the vague words ethics and trajectory and misconduct but you know what they’re talking about. They don’t mean some kind of wishy-washy Hegelian ethics that could some day be orthogonal to today’s moral trajectory. Moral relativism would not make any sense. They speak with conviction, assuming absolute morality and honesty are eternally valid principles. If not, then let them admit that “for now, our culture values honesty, so let’s all go with the flow till it changes.” If they said that, they would have to admit that some future society might deem it ethical to burn all the back issues of Nature. As philosopher Greg Bahnsen teaches, one cannot choose the consequences of one’s world view, and the place the materialists’ plane is headed is not where they want to land. Don’t let a materialist think he can get off at Chicago and change planes when his ticket is only valid for Boston. (Our apologies to Bostonians; this is the illustration Bahnsen used.)
Shermer talks materialism, but uses his soul. He acts as if truth has external existence. He shows that the pursuit of truth is a value in and of itself. His actions, therefore, echo his childhood memories of Ten Commandments and other absolutes he abandoned in college. Now, however, he is a committed evolutionist and anti-creationist. He has substituted old values for new ones. If he were consistent, he would join PEER and do whatever he could to stamp out the creationist competitors, even if it involved lying and terrorism. That is the way things get done in Darwinland.
If his pretensions of journalistic ethics are part of a surreptitious ploy to catch Christians off guard (like terrorists stealing and using American weapons), then he is being consistent, and we can discount his apology as a ruse. (One piece of supporting evidence for this theory is that he did manage to sneak in a smokebomb that millions of years is science, and the creationist view is pseudoscience: he referred to Vail’s book in the inspiration section along with “other books of myth and spirituality.”) But if he was really sincere about apologizing for a breach of ethics, then he needs to apologize for another: theft of intellectual property. We cannot allow the pro-evolutionary materialistic skeptics to borrow a little Christianity when it suits them.
*Footnote: Interested in learning more about the creationist view of the Grand Canyon? Want to have a lot of fun doing it? Tom Vail, the author of the book Grand Canyon: A Different View, is leading a 3-day raft trip in August, and you can sign up here: see Creation Safaris.