Chris Hallquist, fundamentalism, and prejudice against Christian apologists
Chris Hallquist has replied to my concerns about fundamentalism in his submission to my “Why they don’t believe” series. He does so in the article “Intelligent design, creationism, and fundamentalism: a reply to Randal Rauser.” So far as I can see, he doesn’t take issue with my point that fundamentalism is more about an orientation than a specific set of beliefs. But he does take issue with a few other points.
To begin with, he responds to my claim that he has offered an unjustified and sweeping rejection of ID by clarifying what he means by ID:
“I mean the ideas of the people who actually call themselves Intelligent Design proponents, not what those people would like the term to mean.”
So what are those beliefs held by those individuals? Surprisingly, Chris doesn’t say. He does claim that ID is “largely just rebranded creationism” but then he immediately undercuts this statement by admitting that Michael Behe is not a creationist. Nor, for that matter, is William Dembski or Stephen Meyer or David Berlinski. Indeed the only major proponent of ID who is also a creationist [where creationist = young earth creationist] is Paul Nelson.
Hallquist also doesn’t explain in what sense atheist and philosopher of science Bradley Monton (who, I pointed out, is an advocate for ID) holds “an idiosyncratic definition” of intelligent design. Needless to say, it is quite difficult for the reader of Hallquist to know whether Monton’s definition is idiosyncratic when Hallquist has provided neither a general definition of ID nor Monton’s idiosyncratic deviation from that definition.
The fact is that ID is not “rebranded creationism”, and the person who suggests it is merely shows their ignorance of both. It would be accurate to say that many young earth creationists who were frustrated in their attempt to get creationism taught in the public school then redirected their efforts toward getting ID taught in the schools. Barbara Forrest has done some good work identifying these historic connections. But that is completely irrelevant to the definition of ID. The fact is that creationism is traditionally committed to the following:
(1) the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible
(2) the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11
(3) the direct fiat creation of all major animal species
(4) creation in six 24-hour days approximately 6-10,000 years ago
(5) a worldwide Noahic flood
While Paul Nelson may hold (1)-(5), none of the other major advocates of ID listed above hold them all. And Monton and Berlinski would reject all five.
So then what is ID? The core idea is stated simply. ID is the view that appeal to intelligent or agent causal explanations is a legitimate part of natural science. Hallquist claims that Francis Crick wasn’t an ID theorist because he wouldn’t have accepted the title. What Hallquist ignores is the fact that the leading proponents of ID understand Crick’s panspermia thesis that he proposed in his book Life Itself to be an exemplar of reasoning by ID principles. Is Hallquist saying that ID proponents don’t even know how to discern when their own definition of ID is satisfied in the work of another person? What is more, doesn’t he know that Dembski argued that SETI research also conforms to the principles of ID?
Next, Chris writes:
“There’s nothing wrong with imputing “intellectual and/or moral failings” to people who are actually guilty of them. Surely Randal would have no problem imputing such failings to Holocaust deniers. Or would he have a problem saying that young earth creationists are generally either ignorant or dishonest?”
Nice rhetorical move there! Juxtapose the young earth creationists with Holocaust deniers! To answer Chris’ question, I’m not in a place to say that young earth creationists are generally dishonest. Nor am I in a place to say they are generally ignorant. Rather, I think they are generally wrong. But people who are generally wrong can be well aware of the correct views and the evidence for those views. They just fail to draw the right conclusions.
Chris then quotes me as follows:
“When I read Chris’s statement that the arguments for God’s existence which Tom Morris (a top-flight philosopher) summarized are “obviously very bad”, or when Chris writes without qualification of the “ignorance and dishonesty of Christian apologetics”….”
In response Chris insists that:
“I do not claim that all Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the stuff that currently dominates Christian apologetics.”
I’m thankful for the qualification, at least at first blush. But then I look again and think all this provides is an excuse for Chris to continue to broad brush. What does it mean to say “it’s generally true” that “Christian apologists are either ignorant or dishonest”? Does Chris have hard evidence that this is generally true, or is he merely going on his impressions to fuel his prejudices?
Since Chris already invoked Holocaust deniers, perhaps I can take a somewhat less inflammatory analogy of racial prejudice. Imagine that Buzz makes a sweeping statement about Mexicans being ignorant or dishonest. I protest this unjustified statement and then Buzz replies:
“I do not claim that all Mexicans are either ignorant or dishonest without exception… but I do think it’s generally true of the work that currently done by Mexican immigrants.”
Obviously this wouldn’t be a satisfactory response. Whether you’re saying all Mexicans are ignorant or dishonest or whether you’re saying most are, you still need to provide hard evidence to justify your claim. The same goes when you replace “Mexicans” with “Christian apologists”.
So what evidence does Chris supply? He closes off by noting three specific Christian apologists: Josh McDowell (whom Chris calls an “ignoramus”), William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga. I’ll leave aside the broad swipe at McDowell and focus on Craig and Plantinga. I don’t accept that Craig is dishonest in the way Chris has argued (and I’ve interacted a bit with him on that in the past). As for Plantinga, Chris doesn’t even suggest that Plantinga is really ignorant or dishonest. Instead, he simply notes that Plantinga doesn’t hold Chris’ view of evolution. But even if we granted that McDowell, Craig and Plantinga were all demonstrably ignorant or dishonest, that wouldn’t justify Chris’s conclusion that generally Christian apologists are ignorant or dishonest.
To get a sense of how outrageous Chris is being at this point, imagine if Buzz replied to our concerns over his racial prejudice by pointing out three specific examples of Mexicans he believes to be ignorant and/or dishonest. Even if Juan, Julio and Mario are ignorant or dishonest, it doesn’t follow that generally Mexicans are ignorant or dishonest.
In conclusion, I am not persuaded that Chris has adequately addressed my concerns over latent fundamentalist categories in his thinking.