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The BCSE And The Recycling of Anti-Christian Mythology

(This article was first published on my blog in January 2007, and examines how the BCSE routinely borrow arguments from the world of campaigning atheism to argue against supernatural religion - giving us more data about their real identities and motivations).

A great deal of the BCSE's discussions and output are religious or quasi-religious - protestations of "religious neutrality" aside.

I suspect that some of BCSE members are simply philosophically naive - they really do imagine that a hard materialist approach to science is "neutral" or "value free". For others, though, and particularly in the leadership, this is less so - as we've seen in the many quotes in which BCSE leaders explain their motivations quite explicitly (see here and here for a couple of examples).

This Article

In this article I want to talk about the question - "Is the earth flat?".

Hmmm....

The fact that the earth is not flat has been known for over 2,500 years. In fact, in 276BC, one astronomer (Eritosthenes) made a calculation of the size of the earth, to within an impressive degree of accuracy (either within % or 17% of the modern value, depending on the question of how his units translate to modern ones).

And contrary to modern mythology, nobody tried to dissuade Christopher Columbus from travelling round the world because of the danger of falling off the end. Columbus' critics and Columbus both acknowledged that the earth is spherical - but protested that the world was too big for him to reach his intended destination by sailing west. As one author writes, "The common impression that Columbus proved that the world is round is completely destroyed when one realizes that he probably never sailed farther west than Cuba, falling far short of circumnavigating the earth." (http://www.creationresearch.org/creation_matters/97/cm9711.html)

That the earth is not a flat piece of land is also implied in the Bible. Indeed the book which may be the very oldest book in the Bible states that the earth is suspended in space:

[God] stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing. - Job 26:7 - http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job%2026:7&version=50

(Aside - skip if you like...

Some critics of the Bible allege that the phrase "four corners of the earth" in Revelation 7:1 implies that the earth is a square. This isn't very convincing - modern people regularly use this expression, without implying any such thing; it is obviously a figure of speech. One writer says, "Actually, the reference is to the cardinal directions: north, south, east, and west. Similar terminology is often used today when we speak of the sun's rising and setting, even though the earth, not the sun, is doing the moving. Bible writers used the "language of appearance," just as people always have. Without it, the intended message would be awkward at best and probably not understood clearly." ( http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/3842#6)

Some understandings of the book of Revelation give a much simpler answer - namely that the verse in question should be translated "four corners of the land", but the correct interpretation of Revelation is obviously a bit beyond the scope of this article.)

But...

Despite these facts, though, it is a staple of atheist propaganda to allege that:

  • "The Bible teaches a flat earth", and/or that
  • "denial of Darwinism is akin to believing in a flat earth!" .

Constant repetition of these myths leads to many accepting them at face value. But as we have already seen, knowledge of the earth's true shape is very ancient - and never contradicted by the Bible. Where, then did the "flat earth" myth first originate?

In fact, this myth ought to have been "dead and buried" a long time ago, because in 1991 Jeffrey Burton Russell published the authoritative work, "Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians" , answering just this question.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inventing-Flat-Earth-Columbus-Historians/dp/027595904X/

Publisher's Synopsis:

Neither Christopher Columbus nor his contemporaries thought the earth was flat. Yet this curious illusion persists today, firmly established with the help of the media, textbooks, teachers, and even noted historians. This is Russell's attempt to set the record straight. He begins with a discussion of geographical knowledge in the Middle Ages, examining what Columbus and his contemporaries actually did believe, and then moves to a look at how the error was first propagated in the 1820s and 1830s and then "snowballed" to outrageous proportions by the late 19th-century. Russell also discusses why we allow this error to persist. Do we prefer to languish in a comfortable and familiar error rather than discover the truth?

Notice just when the error really began to accelerate - the late 19th century. Why was that? One creationist writer explains:

"The two people that Russell holds most accountable in accomplishing this are John W. Draper and Andrew Dickson White. While not indicating any sympathy with creationists, Russell very convincingly argues that the motivation of these two men and others was to demonstrate how foolish Christian leaders were to oppose evolution. The masterful lie was that earlier church leaders had also opposed the belief in the spherical earth, despite overwhelming evidence for it. By linking the earlier fictional event to the debate of the time, it gave the appearance that science, reason, and logic were on the side of evolution. The truly sad thing is that this totally fabricated history persists even today, as evidenced by the oft-stated comparison of creationists with flat-earthers. Given the exposure of the truth, it is nothing short of shameful when our critics attempt to tie that albatross around our necks." (http://www.creationresearch.org/creation_matters/97/cm9711.html)

Did you get that? The real reason why the "flat earth" myth persists is because of a deliberate and deceitful effort by Darwinists to propagate it in order to discredit Christians. The truth about the earth was known and accepted - until Darwinists set off on an anti-Christian propaganda campaign to muddy the waters.

... and the BCSE

Of course, you know where we're going next, don't you? Where else do we find the "flat earth" myth, that staple of atheistic propaganda, being peddled - but on the BCSE's website and in its forums?

Exhibit A: Here's the BCSE's "For Teachers" page, written by Dr. Peter Hess of the American NCSE:

... the flat earth implied by the Bible...

http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/ForTeachers

Exhibit B: Here's George Jelliss, BCSE member, atheist and member of the Leicester Secular Society:

"The so-called intelligent design theory should not be taught in biology lessons for the same reason that the flat earth theory is not taught in geography and the earth-centred universe theory is not taught in astronomy, and the phlogiston theory is not taught in chemistry, and the caloric theory of heat is not taught in physics."

http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?p=364#364

Exhibit C: One (anonymous) BCSE sympathiser wasn't satisfied with this, but takes it a step further - questioning of evolution is not only like flat-earthism, but Holocaust denial!

What is remarkable is that in our own time even the fact of evolution is vociferously denied by a Luddite minority. Intellectually (though not morally comparable), this to me seems akin to Holocaust deniers, or flat earthers.

http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?p=3153#3153

When one considers the Darwinian basis to the theory of eugenics which inspired the Holocaust, such ignorance is truly amazing.

This quote provoked Roger Stanyard to produce one of the trademark tirades which followers of the BCSE forum will be familiar with. This ties in with our demonstration last week of the utter failure of the BCSE to provide anything even resembling documentation or proof of its various bizarre claims about Christianity and theocracy (because, of course, again the documentation from Stanyard is missing):

Hitler looks like a moderate liberal compared with the largest financial backer of the Intelligent Design movement - Howard Ahmanson - he was on the board of the Chalcedon foundation for 25 years and provided it with finance. See our wiki on Rushdoony, the extremist who set it up. He was a close personal friend of Ahmanson as well.

Let's have a look at what Ahmason and Rushdoony have actively promoted -

1. killing children who are lippy or disrespectful to their parents.

2. killing adulterers

3. killing blasphemers

4. killing people who commit idolatory [sic]

5. killing women and girls who have sex before marriage.

6. apostacy

7. criticising or disagreeing with their religious opinions.

8. abolution [sic] of democracy.

9. formation of a theocracy (with them in charge)

10. Reintroduction of slavery.

http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?p=3283#3283

Maybe we'll say some more of this in other places. There are plenty of quotes floating around the BCSE forum and website where Stanyard and other BCSE members admit that they don't actually have any evidence that Howard Ahmanson is even involved in funding the Intelligent Design movement in the UK (much less in killing people who disagree with him!!), and that their attempt to tie him in is speculation that they're still trying to find the proof for...

Anywhere, back to the BCSE's promotion of the "flat earth" myth. Here's Louis, a BCSE member, interacting with Ian Lowe (censorship mine!):

Ian,

I agree with what you've said. The one caveat I have is it really depends on HOW IDC is being taught. Like I alluded to above, in a truly comparative comparative religious education class, IDC has a place, as does flat earthism and any quantity of religiously inspired bull****.

http://community.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?p=4416#4416

The "the Bible teaches a flat earth" myth was also peddled by another BCSE member and atheist to me in a private e-mail, but I'll spare his blushes. He knows who he is!

Conclusion

I find it quite revealing to note what kind of arguments the BCSE resort to in order to support Darwinism.

If there were compelling answers to the questions which proponents of "intelligent design", creationism" and other theories were putting, then it wouldn't be necessary to resort to straw-men. I have searched high and low, though, and the BCSE website still lacks any kind of interaction with the crucial issues. No credible explanations of why the fossil record supports discontinuity, not Darwinian gradualism. Nothing to tell us why the fossil record shows sudden and not gradual appearance of life. Nothing to explain how life could ever, contrary to all known science, arise out of non-life - and be self-reproducing life too! And so on. The silence, as they say, is deafening.

Even more revealing, though, is just where the BCSE do obtain their straw-men from - the stock cupboard of discredited atheist propaganda.

The lack of knowledge of the BCSE over the issues on which they present themselves to the public and to MPs as experts on is well and truly shown up by this. This is the same picture as we saw in the "alien research" debacle - the BCSE routinely don't even bother to do the smallest amount of homework to check up on how "the other side" rebuts their arguments. It takes a matter of seconds with Google's help to discover the flat earth facts above - yet the BCSE appear totally unaware of them!

Long discredited myths (invented by Darwinists!) are trotted out as a matter of course.

My view is that Darwinism is intellectually a dead horse. Its day is gone. It can still be flogged by those who wish to, but not to any great purpose or effect. The reason why the atheist branch of Darwinism's defenders have to resort to such means is... because that's all they've got left.

David Anderson

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