Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Boyne's thinking just won't evolve

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 12:00 AMPatrick White

Times must really be rough for Ian Boyne and his fellow Christian apologists. They cannot explain why more than 2,000 years of prayer and piety have failed to produce even a single identifiable benefit.

They cannot even explain why secular nations, those wasting the least of their resources on religious activities, are the world's economic powerhouses, while religious nations, those supposedly blessed by God, are typically like us, economic basket cases.

And if these were not enough, they must feel increasingly disappointed that scientific and archaeological findings continue to cast doubt on the historicity of their sacred book, the Bible, particularly the Pentateuch. After roughly 100 years of concentrated archaeological search, there is not even a scintilla of corroborating evidence for the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the Sinai, or the conquest of Canaan.

Against this backdrop, it is not surprising to see Mr Boyne retreat to the safety of the fantasy world of theology to make his case for the existence of God.

Boyne's 'proof' is based on a novel interpretation of the concern we typically have when a fellow human is murdered vs our general indifference to the slaughter of even large numbers of farm animals. Boyne attributes this difference to our implicit acknowledgement that humans are a special creation, in the image of God. He reasons if we are indeed this special creation, God must certainly exist.

However, it doesn't take much reflection to see this reasoning is self-referential, and therefore worthless. God is implicitly responsible for our indifference; the indifference exists, so God exists.

Yet, this is what passes for theological scholarship! This must certainly be why, over the centuries, we can point to nothing that theology has contributed to human development. That anyone would consider stealing from nothing, as Boyne asserts, is perhaps the very definition of absurdity.

But, just for fun, let's pretend that what Boyne presents was worth discussing. What is the case for thinking our indifference is even unusual? My guess is most kindergartners know humans are not plants. We cannot survive by eating dirt, and standing in the sun. Children might not understand why, but they know people survive by killing and eating other organisms, or the products of organisms.

It would, therefore, be most unusual to expect an adult, unencumbered by theology, to believe 'specialness', or any other hooey an apologist may propose, explains why we are indifferent to the slaughter of farm animals. Common sense would tell them it is about the reality of survival.

This brings us to the limitations Mr Boyne sees in 'Darwinism', the sham religion he projects on anyone with the intellectual capacity to understand and embrace Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Actually, what is interesting about this projection is it shows even apologists attach toxicity to the religious label they otherwise defend. Why else would they use it to mock their critics?

Indeed, when was the last time someone from the scientific community mocked apologists by mischaracterising their activities as 'scientific'?

That said, it is understandable apologists would view the Theory of Evolution as threatening to their political and economic hegemony, especially here. If the Genesis six-day creation has no better claim to historical truth than obeah, or Zeus, what is the basis for believing God inspired it, or any other part of the Bible?

In the roughly 150 years since Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace independently formulated the Theory of Evolution, a veritable mountain of supporting data, spanning almost every aspect of the biological sciences, has been collected. Surely, apologists must know this mountain cannot be overturned by evidence-free supposition. If it were, it would be sensible to debate whether 2 plus 2 is really 4.

Yet, the harsh reality is they have to try. There is no real alternative, if the Bible is to be regarded as 'truth'. Good luck with this quest, Don Quixote!

- Patrick White holds a doctorate in engineering and led research groups at Bell Laboratories and Bellcore (Telcordia). Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and rasta49@me.com.