Pharyngula

Strobel. <gag>

Uncritical journalists piss me off. Uncritical religious people piss me off, too, but it’s their natural state at least. When the two converge, as they typically do on the religion pages, I turn purple and start shredding newsprint (which is why I usually avoid reading the religion pages). Today, the Star Tribune has an interview with Lee Strobel.

Q You mentioned Darwinism. Do you question the theory of evolution?

A Evolution is defined as a random, undirected process. But even scientists say the universe had to begin somewhere. Then you look at genetics, cosmology, physics and other fields. From there we can extrapolate that there had to be an immaterial, powerful, intelligent cause to the universe coming into being. The evidence defies a coincidental explanation. And random, undirected evolution precludes a creator calling the shots, so there’s an intellectual disconnect for me. Also, Darwinism offers no explanation for human consciousness. The gaps in science point to a creator.

Strobel is one of those dead-boring, dishonest apologists for Christianity, but if he’d confined his remarks on the religion page to just their shared delusion, I’d let it slide…but as usual, these guys can’t help but babble about stuff we can evaluate.

No, that’s not how evolution is defined, except maybe by creationists. If that kind of mangled nonsense is acceptable, I’m going to define Christianity as the belief that people are too stupid to think. Strobel can’t complain; he gets to invent definitions and pretend they’re accurate, I get to invent definitions.

I know genetics, and there’s nothing in it that can be extrapolated to suggest the existence of ghosts. I’ve read enough physics to see that there is no evidence there for his super-being, either. Well, except for the stuff that proves the existence of Hanuman, the monkey god. (I don’t need to tell you what that is, of course, just as Strobel doesn’t need to spell out how he derives Jesus from physics.)

That a guy desperate to find scientific evidence to support his tribal superstitions has an “intellectual disconnect” isn’t evidence for much of anything. Especially when he’s saying that his evidence for a god is that he’s uncomfortable with the fact that science doesn’t provide evidence for his belief.

“Darwinism” isn’t about consciousness. He might want to consult a neuroscience text instead.

Oh, man…God of the Gaps. Don’t you love a theology that makes shrinking ignorance a heretical assault against the gods?

In one short paragraph, Strobel upchucks all that amazing creationist stupidity, and what does the interviewer, Pamela Miller, do? Moves on to ask him what he believes about Christ. Even if I were disposed to care about Jesus, I wouldn’t consider the views of a demonstrably ignorant fraud to be worth considering.

Pamela Miller, I know you’re writing empty-headed fluff, and you must know it, too. But if you ever hope to write something more substantial, you might want to try engaging your brain in an interview, and actually question the assertions of your subject.

Comments

  1. #1 JoeB
    May 20, 2006

    It reads like one of those interviews I used to do in high school when I was required to. You know, list of questions, no intelligent deviation or questioning based on the response given to a question.

  2. #2 Caledonian
    May 20, 2006

    Most personal interviewers neither intend nor desire to make their subjects look like idiots. At the very least, it would tend to produce a negative reaction that would result in their having less material to work with when the deadline comes due.

    Everyone acts according to their perceived self-interest.

  3. #3 George
    May 20, 2006

    “All who seek him will be given an opportunity to find him.”

    How convenient!

    “When I was an atheist, I had a strong problem with rage. I was angry a lot and drank a lot.”

    The atheism made me do it!

  4. #4 John Pieret
    May 20, 2006

    Stobel, along with Gordon Robertson, son of Pat Robertson, is participating in an online “Da Vinci Code” critique that actually is a Sony Pictures marketing tool. While he didn’t get paid for his article on the site, his own book on the subject is mentioned at the Sony Pictures site and there is a link to Stobel’s own website which also humps his book. Strobel spent the past week on Hank Hanegraaff’s Bible Answer Man radio show in a mutual “the sky is falling” fest of book marketing, without once mentioning his advertising connection with Sony. Didn’t I once read something about “Mammon”?

  5. #5 Zeteo Eurisko
    May 20, 2006

    >> Uncritical journalists piss me off.

    This is an especially relevant comment, considering that Strobel is famous in the Christian community for being a hard hitting Chicago journalist who brings to bear his journalistic intensity to his every apologetic research endeavor.

  6. #6 frank schmidt
    May 20, 2006

    What really annoys me is the misuse of the word “random.” Has anyone ever thought to Strobel or other science-deniers whether they have life insurance?

  7. #7 Jeb
    May 20, 2006

    Uncritical? How can you say that? With comments like:

    “I had the usual questions — How can there be a loving God and a hell? How can Jesus be the only way? If Darwinism is true, isn’t God out of a job?”

    Sorry, but that is logic utilized to the max.

  8. #8 quork
    May 20, 2006

    “When I was an atheist, I had a strong problem with rage. I was angry a lot and drank a lot.”
    .
    The atheism made me do it!

    Why of course it did! Just ask the Rabbi Avi Shafran, he’ll tell you that:


    One who sees only random forces behind why we humans find ourselves here is ultimately bound only by his wants. With no imperative beyond the biological, a true atheist, pressed hard enough by circumstances toward unethical or immoral behavior, cannot feel compelled to resist. Why should he?

    Atheism, in the end, is a belief system in its own right, one in which there can be no claim that a thieving, philandering, serial murdering cannibal is any less commendable a member of the species than a selfless, hard-working philanthropist. In fact, from an evolutionist perspective, the former may well have the advantage.
    .
    To a true atheist, there can be no more ultimate meaning to good and bad actions than to good or bad weather; no more import to right and wrong than to right and left. To be sure, rationales might be conceived for establishing societal norms, but social contracts are practical tools, not moral imperatives; they are, in the end, artificial. Only an acknowledgement of the Creator can impart true meaning to human life, placing it on a plane above that of mosquitoes.

  9. #9 Greco
    May 20, 2006

    Only an acknowledgement of the Creator can impart true meaning to human life, placing it on a plane above that of mosquitoes.

    Therefore, not only atheists are evil, Jains, most Buddhists and Shintoists are evil too.

  10. #10 Charlie Quimby
    May 20, 2006

    I have not yet kicked in any walls in front of my wife and kid, so I guess I haven’t reached the threshold required to embrace faith. What Strobel describes is not an intellectual journey resultinf from rigorous questioning. It’s the story of many who couldn’t handle life through the mind.

  11. #11 Mike Fox
    May 20, 2006

    > “The evidence defies a coincidental explanation.” –Lee Strobel

    And, yet, it doesn’t.

    … anyone here read “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”? The coin flip seems to defy coincidental explanation, but every flip has a 50/50 chance.

  12. #12 impatientpatient
    May 20, 2006

    I’m going to define Christianity as the belief that people are too stupid to think.
    *******************************************************

    Laugh out loud funny!!

    For years I have heard the spouse go on about there being no intelligent life on this planet. I think he might like this quote.

  13. #13 MegaTroopX
    May 20, 2006

    Only an acknowledgement of the Creator can impart true meaning to human life, placing it on a plane above that of mosquitoes.

    That’s so sad. I mean really sad, not the sarcastic sad.

    So many people kneeling, hat in hand, for an invisible being to give them something so basic and fundamental as meaning.

    There really is no intrinsic meaning, so our challenge is to go out and make our own.

    It’s what makes us human.

  14. #14 Dave Puskala
    May 21, 2006

    Strobel is well known for stringing together old, long-refuted creationist arguments. The lies in his book “The Case for a Creator” would have made a nice point to start the real questioning of Strobel.

  15. #15 Phil
    May 21, 2006

    I disagree that it’s a journalist’s job to be critical. A journalist is supposed to be objective (inasmuch such a thing is even possible)

    I don’t defend Pamela Miller here (that lede is nauseating, e.g.), but it’s hardly her job to ‘criticize’ a Christ-Psychotic while interviewing him; it’s her job to present that nut-job’s particular views as accurately as possible (it’s an interview, not an article about the evidence Xianity). Readers can make up their own minds about whether Strobel is cuckoo-bananas or not — as PZ has done.

  16. #16 Scott H
    May 21, 2006

    “. . . citing research and experts that he says prove Jesus’ life and death were precisely as the New Testament describes.”

    Then perhaps he can explain how Jesus could have been born on two separate occasions, more than 10 years apart.

    According to the book of Matthew, Mary and Joseph were married in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great (d. 4 BC) and didn’t move to Galilee until after their sojourn in Egypt.

    Luke, on the other hand, has them marrying in Galilee and arriving in Bethlehem only in response to the census of Quirinius — which occured in 6 CE.

    Given the huge discrepencies between these two stories, it’s not even logically possible for the birth narrative to have happened “exactly as the New Testament describes.”

  17. #17 Bronze Dog
    May 21, 2006

    A journalist is supposed to be objective (inasmuch such a thing is even possible)

    Which is exactly why they need to be critical.

  18. #18 Zeno
    May 21, 2006

    I wonder if Strobel gets gentler treatment from contemporary journalists because he used to be a journalist himself. In fact, being a journalist is his major schtick today, pretending to be just trying to get to the bottom of the story when he’s really just another Christian apologist. And he can write better than most.

    I actually read most of The Case for Christ, which was given to me by a deluded acquaintance. It was quite funny to see one early Christian writer being taken seriously in Strobel’s book although elsewhere he is dismissed as a buffoon and gossip-monger. I wrote up a couple of quotes here.

  19. #19 Kagehi
    May 21, 2006

    A journalist is supposed to be objective (inasmuch such a thing is even possible)

    Imho, this is one of the **major** problems with journalism. it presumes that blathering idiocy is of equal worth and benefit to the public as verifiable facts and accurate data. In point of fact, 500 idiots claiming that a lie is true is far less useful than one person telling the truth, and a damn sight more destructive to the public the media is serving. We need less, “I might as well just sit here with a tape recorder and let them talk.”, journalism and more investigative. More to the point, we need honest investigation, not the unfortunately common form that mixes a vain attempt to “find” experts, with a complete refusal to question the validity of the statements of those they eventually find. Truth takes work. Journalists, by emphasising the idea that they must be “objective” are by definition being told, “don’t think”, “don’t verify, beyond checking to see if the same group your nut came from agrees with him”, “don’t look past the surface” and finally, “don’t try to correct you interviewees definitions or information, even when they might be completely wrong.”

    I just read something recently about this artificial bias with sexual preditors. What we hear on advertisements, news specials etc. is, “Evil sexual preditors are running around all over the place, trying to get your kids.” What we don’t hear is that sexual solicitation, of the sort that gives us, “1 out of 5 children are solicited online”, includes everything from real predation to one of their friends asking them which boy they like and if they have made out with them yet. And then there is the interesting statistic that shows that such people are about five times “less” likely to commit the same crime again, unlike murderers, more general rapists and thieves.

    On one hand we get the “truth” of statistics and opinion of groups that have taken reasonable paranoia and turned it into dishonest and insane paranoia, complete with legislation, on the other we have the actual facts. The press only reports the former, because the later would require… you know, actual work, research and unobjective analysis of the statements being made by certain groups. The result being that the general populous becomes more and more uninformed, more and more paranoid and the real dangerous nuts, like evangelicals, find a lot of these idiots flocking their direction out of fear of some horrible Biblical disaster that isn’t any more looming now than it was during any other point in US history where paranoia and stupidity reigned.

    Its beginning to iritate the hell out of me. I even see it here occationally, and not from the right wing fruit loops that drop in to babble.

  20. #20 Karey
    May 22, 2006

    “Strobel, who calls himself a multidenominational Christian, has been a hit in the evangelical world, partly because his personal story is so dramatic. In 1981, the Chicago Tribune legal affairs editor jettisoned his adamant atheism and converted to Christianity.”

    Exactly what is so dramatic about that? Its positively mundane to change your religious beliefs around to fit with your spouse.

  21. #21 Phil
    May 22, 2006

    A journalist is supposed to be objective (inasmuch as such a thing is even possible)

    Which is exactly why they need to be critical.

    ???? It’s an INTERVIEW. The point is to present the views — no matter how odious, or factually challenged, or disturbing — of the subject being interviewed, not to criticize or correct.

    ———————————-

    “Imho, this is one of the **major** problems with journalism. it presumes that blathering idiocy is of equal worth and benefit to the public as verifiable facts and accurate data. In point of fact, 500 idiots claiming that a lie is true is far less useful than one person telling the truth, and a damn sight more destructive to the public the media is serving. We need less, “I might as well just sit here with a tape recorder and let them talk.”, journalism and more investigative.”

    Yes, but this is an interview — not an investigative piece.

    “Journalists, by emphasising the idea that they must be “objective” are by definition being told, “don’t think”, “don’t verify, beyond checking to see if the same group your nut came from agrees with him”, “don’t look past the surface” and finally, “don’t try to correct you interviewees definitions or information, even when they might be completely wrong.”

    If Miller HAD corrected the blatherings of her subject she would have been doing her readers a disservice. The interview is not about her, or facts, or anything else other than the views of the person she’s interviewing. Why is that so hard to fathom?

  22. #22 Ginger Yellow
    May 22, 2006

    I love the way he tries to prove that the supposed randomness evolution of is antithetical to teleology, and hence wrong, by pointing to physics as proof of teleology and true. If only there were some part of physics that had some randomness in it. Any part at all.

  23. #23 PaulC
    May 22, 2006

    “Evolution is defined as a random, undirected process.”

    No, it’s not. It is no more or less random than the stochastic process that gets the air out of a hole in a beachball.

    “But even scientists say the universe had to begin somewhere.”

    No they don’t–they might say it did according to the best evidence, but not that it had to in some self-evident sense.

    “Then you look at genetics, cosmology, physics and other fields. From there we can extrapolate that there had to be an immaterial, powerful, intelligent cause to the universe coming into being.”

    Um, no we cannot.

    “The evidence defies a coincidental explanation.”

    No scientist, to my knowledge, has offered a coincidental explanation. “Genetics, cosmology, physics and other fields” all assume highly correlated processes with repeatable outcomes.

    “And random, undirected evolution precludes a creator calling the shots, so there’s an intellectual disconnect for me.”

    Are you sure that’s the only one?

    “Also, Darwinism offers no explanation for human consciousness.”

    It doesn’t explain how my thermos keeps coffee hot and lemonade cold either.

    “The gaps in science point to a creator.”

    That’s an astounding conclusion to reach based on series of entirely inaccurate statements.

  24. #24 Bronze Dog
    May 22, 2006

    The gaps in science point to a creator.

    Considering that those gaps are the only reasonable place a creator could be hiding, I suppose they might actually point where to look. Their presence, however, does not in any way imply that a deity is actually hiding in them. As far as we know, the only things hiding in the gaps are Minovsky particles and clever applications of i.

    Of course, the gaps are shrinking as we learn, and most of the ones Cretinists like to ramble on about are falsely manufactured, or were filled in over a century ago.

  25. #25 Carlie
    May 22, 2006

    Merriam-Webster has “fair” as a synonym for “objective”. Fair does not mean giving anyone a bully pulpit; is it fair if I see one of my kids break a glass, then listen to him lie about it, nodding and giving him his forum?
    I’m sure there’s a better example of this, but hopefully you get my drift.

  26. #26 Chris
    May 23, 2006

    Winston Churchill once stated that he refused to be neutral between the fire brigade and the fire.

    There’s a school of journalists that seem to regard it as a professional obligation to be neutral between fire brigades and fires, between truth and truthiness, between science and pseudoscience…

  27. #27 Deb
    May 28, 2006

    The trouble with interviews which go unquestioned is that the average viewer thinks what they are hearing is true.

    Unbiased means one doesn’t indulge one interviewee’s opinion over another’s. It doesn’t mean to just let inaccuracies and falsehoods go unchallenged as that subject’s opinion.

    What is that saying, you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts?