Dr. Hugh Ross is full of shit.
Sure, he’s obviously a smart guy. He knows a lot about science—Astronomy, Mathematics, etc… But he’s also a creationist, a biblical literalist, and what’s worse, he’s trying to support the one with the other.
Last night I went to a debate sponsored by CFI and Reasons to Believe: “What’s right and wrong with Christianity?”, taking place at Tenth Avenue Church. Dr. Ross took the “right” side and spoke first, basically blathering on about how modern science fit so well with the biblical creation story, therefore it has to be true. Humans are so unlikely, what with our big brains with no survival value, therefore we must have been designed. Christianity is unique, therefore etc… And so on.
All this delivered at a well-rehearsed breakneck pace, too fast for the audience to do more than go “wait… what?” before moving on to the next bible verse or pretty graph or inspirational urban legend. It was dizzying, frustrating, incredibly condescending, but really not that surprising. I didn’t know Dr. Ross, but I’d read and heard similar “christianity is right and other religions are wrong neener neener” arguments before and, honestly, theists never come up with anything really new.
Which is actually okay, for his usual audience. Because even though last night the people filling the pews were mostly atheists and skeptics, I had the definite impression Dr. Ross was only used to preaching to the choir. Everything he said was designed to appeal to Christians, to reassure them that their beliefs were right. There was nothing there for nonbelievers, or even believers of other faiths. In fact, he kept using loaded terms, like “atheist scientists,” that implied a definite us-vs-them attitude. I’ve seen that before, too, in that creationism vs evolution debate a few years back.
Brian Lynchehaun (who I remember from Skepticamp), addressing the “wrong” side, didn’t go into historical truth or scientific truth, though he easily could have. His speech (much shorter, less rehearsed) dealt with the morality of Christianity; his thrust was that the Bible was not a perfect moral code. In fact, it wasn’t even an especially good one. Its commandments are inconsistent, and its elevation of faith is dangerous because it leaves you open to a whole slew of scams that wouldn’t work on skeptics.
This is what happens when you don’t keep religion and science separate: leave the door open for God or mysticism in your theories and you’re opening a Pandora’s box, because there’s no end to what you can put in. You say Jesus’ body was never found? Maybe the apostles took him. Maybe the Pharisees took him. Maybe he rose from the dead. Maybe he was beamed up by time-traveling Christians out to clone a Messiah 2.0. Mr. Lynchehaun did point out that “God” as an explanation is no less silly than “superpowerful little green men.”
But Dr. Ross isn’t even doing that. He doesn’t respect science, he’s just whoring it out to service his pre-existing beliefs. He’s wrapping the bible in a white lab coat to give it extra prestige for his ignorant flock, thereby twisting and demeaning both spheres. And it’s ironic that he and his audience even want a reason for believing in Christ. What it tells me is that, if they seek (pseudo-)scientific justifications for their faith, then it’s probably a pretty weak faith to begin with, and they’re willing to grab at any straw to hold their house of cards together*. Frankly, I’d have a lot more respect for Christians if they just appealed to simple faith to defend their beliefs. They’d still be wrong, sure, but at least I’d respect the honesty.
(* Apologies for the mixed metaphor)