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The Almighty Buck Idle Science

Creationist Bets $10k In Proposed Literal Interpretation of Genesis Debate 1121

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-would-darwin-do? dept.
HungWeiLo writes "A California man who believes the literal interpretation of the Bible is real is offering $10,000 to anyone who can successfully debunk claims made in the book of Genesis in front of a judge. Joseph Mastropaolo, the man behind this challenge, is to put $10,000 of his own money into an escrow account. His debate opponent would be asked to do the same. They would then jointly agree on a judge based on a list of possible candidates. Mastropaolo said that any evidence presented in the trial must be 'scientific, objective, valid, reliable and calibrated.' For his part, Mastropaolo has a Ph.D. in kinesiology and writes for the Creation Hall of Fame website, which is helping to organize the minitrial. It's also not the first such trial he's tried to arrange. A previous effort, known as the 'Life Science Prize,' proposed a similar scenario. Mastropaolo includes a list of possible circuit court judges to oversee the trial and a list of those he challenged to take part on the evolutionary side of the debate."
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Creationist Bets $10k In Proposed Literal Interpretation of Genesis Debate

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  • What are the claims? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:33AM (#43299725)

    For someone who's not too familiar with the Bible, what are the claims up for grabs in this challenge, aside from creating the earth in 7 days and 7 nights, Adam & Eve, and the talking serpent?

    How can anything be disproved if one must first accept that Genesis is the inspired word of an omnipotent deity? And if that's not an accepted fact, then isn't the "disproof" the fact that it was written by man?

  • sounds simple enough (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xicor (2738029) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:36AM (#43299749)
    honestly it wouldnt be too difficult to debunk a ton of the stuff in the bible... as long as you are talking to a SANE judge, and not a bible thumping lunatic
  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:38AM (#43299759) Homepage

    True, but that's the most glaring one. Also, if you can't make it to chapter two without a discrepancy, what hope is there for the rest of it?

    Biblical scholars (as opposed to the nutjob putting up this award) theorize that the books of Moses are assembled from at least three traditions. This becomes more clear when looking at the original Hebrew - the words used for "God" change where in English they are translated into the same word. As a Catholic, disproving the Bible means little to me since it is only a part of my faith, not the whole foundation of it. Protestants however must frantically fight to prove the book entirely correct because of their subscription to the sola scriptura heresy which separates them from Catholicism.

    To me, Genesis is a collection of myths with a spiritual truth to be discerned from them. They are instructive stories, not a literal chronicle of events.

  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @12:41AM (#43299769) Homepage

    The original language is quite clear that the creation of the two was simultaneous. Indeed the very word for "God" is different in the two chapters because they are drawn from two different oral traditions. They were not originally meant to form a narrative together.

  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:09AM (#43299883)

    Do you have any reference for that? Which word in the original implies simultaneity?

    In regards to your second point - the word for "god" (lowercase g) is the same word in both chapters - . However, Genesis 1 uses the word alone, whereas Genesis 2 uses it in conjunction with the name of the god in question - . A comparison of transliterations might be "In the beginning, the god created the heavens and the earth" (Gen1) "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the god Yahweh made the earth and the heavens." (Gen2). They're both using the same word, just Genesis 2 is a little bit more explicit. The term for "god" in Hebrew was like a title. Referring to someone either by their title ("Yes, Officer, I do know I was speeding") or by their name ("Yes, John, I do know I was speeding"), or by the two in conjunction ("Yes, Officer John, I do know I was speeding") are all equally valid, and all refer to the same person.

    Genesis 1 and 2 are obviously different accounts (they're both describing the same event, after all) but that doesn't necessarily mean they're contradictory.

    Chapter 1 [mechon-mamre.org]
    Chapter 2 [mechon-mamre.org]

    Also, for what it's worth, I don't agree with the arguments for a literal interpretation of Genesis (few outside the US do), but I do believe in Biblical inerrancy.

  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmgxmichael (1219692) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:11AM (#43299893) Homepage

    To make that claim is to profess that you do not understand what sola scriptura is. I was born in a Baptist family, a family which believes every word in the Bible is literally true and cannot begin to fathom the very possibility that any of it was false. When I did, my faith flew apart until I converted to Catholicism some years ago.

  • by black3d (1648913) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:27AM (#43299951)
    Unfortunately he's set the rules so that he can't lose. He's not saying he'll prove Genesis is true. He's saying you have to prove it isn't. It's virtually impossible to disprove things the previously didn't happen. "Prove the sun wasn't originally a giant marshmellow", etc. You can prove it *isn't*, but there's no manner of proving it *wasn't*. He's aware of the fact that science is all about discovering new knowledge, and the language is science is about proving things. Unlike the popular opinion amongst religous folk that "scientists think they know everything", the facts couldn't be further from the truth. It's them who think they know the answers to everything, where science is saying "we don't know, but we'll keep on discovering more."

    It's because scientists aren't fraudsters like this guy, that the only response to such a marshmellow statement is "We can't prove the sun wasn't ever a giant marshmellow, but there's no evidence to suggest that is the case." However, to nuts like this guy, to them that's practically an admission that "you can't prove the sun wasn't a giant marshmellow, and this book I've got here says it was.. so it must have been!". Replace "giant marshmellow" with every claim in Genesis. It's exceedingly difficult to prove a prior negative. So difficult in fact, that he's $10k confident that nobody can disprove the non-events.

    It'd be nice if someone put up a counter-offer of "$10 million to anyone who can PROVE a deity exists". While equally unprovable, as none exist, the issue we run into is the "judges". See, the people arguing "for" a deity would fall back on exactly the acknowledgement of science that we can't know everything, and don't. They'd say "how did the Universe come into creation?". "We don't know, we have nothing provable, but we have some good theories". "If you by your own admission you don't know, then you can't explain where all the wonder of the universe comes from.. we can.. blah blah blah". Judges: "Those theists make some good points, and the atheists don't have any solid ground to stand on." This is one of the fundamental flaws with the majority of the population - they want to have an answer for everything, to make sense of everything, and can't take "we don't know" as an answer. When presented with "We don't know.. yet" or "An all-loving zombie did it!!!", they'll go with the zombie.
  • Re:Easy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:36AM (#43300001)

    Do you have any reference for that? Which word in the original implies simultaneity?

    In regards to your second point - the word for "god" (lowercase g) is the same word in both chapters

    You...you can't be that stupid. You're using a computer, so...you're punking us right?

    Here's a protip: Genesis was not written in English. Capital letters in the sense that we know them did not exist at the time it was written. You're literally using a translator's errors as your evidence for Biblical "inerrancy" (which I'm pretty sure is a made up word. Infallibility is the word you are looking for).

  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Streetlight (1102081) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:50AM (#43300073) Journal
    There are people who believe that women have one more rib than men. After all, Eve was created from one of Adam's ribs. The fact that that is not true and easily proven but some fundamentalists absolutely reject simple observation and refuse to believe normal men and women have equal numbers of ribs. Scientific observation - counting the ribs of a man and a woman by touch - is the work of the devil.
  • by fearofcarpet (654438) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:52AM (#43300083)

    This isn't a scientific question, it isn't in a scientific arena, and any scientist thinking they can 'win' the debate/bet is on shaky ground. Not because the science is bad, but because it isn't about science at all...

    And that is the trap that many people fall into, particularly the more science inclined, who get sucked into arguments with people whose minds are not open to change. It's like trying to dig a hole in water. Science/religion is a false dichotomy; you don't see mathematicians trying to disprove Shakespeare. Yet somehow it makes intuitive sense to many people that science should have to defend its methodology in the context of the bible, presumably because it was there first. (To be clear, I mean people on both sides of the non-debate--plenty of science-minded people feel a reflexive obligation, that I have never understood, to disprove religious accounts of history.) But we also can't escape the fact that some religious elements view science as an evil (in the biblical sense) force that undermines the word of God.

    I look at it like Star Wars. Darth Vader (the church) started out as a good guy, eventually having Luke and Lea (science, which was originally fostered by the church to understand the world God created). But when Vader became evil (pick your religious atrocity) it was up to Luke and Lea to team up and stop him, with Luke eventually killing him... but not before turning him back to the light side (we're still waiting for the rational wing of the Christian faith to marginalize the fundamentalists.) At the end of the day they were both Jedi of sorts, but they were pitted against each other by the Emperor and had no real reason to hate each other. Vader even wanted to rule the galaxy as father and son, which was a nice sentiment, but also highlights how they could have worked well together; it really wasn't in either of their best interests to fight. Look at all the collateral damage: the wage slaves on the Death Star, the poor, uneducated moisture farmers that got sucked into the rebellion, even the Hutts.

    I happen to be a scientist and have worked with plenty of rational Christians who still take the old view of science as trying to better understand God through empirical observation of the natural world. So I know they exist. But I'm not holding my breath for the Christian Taliban to realize the futility of arguing with people who aren't arguing back.

  • It's a trap. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ayars (875441) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @01:59AM (#43300125)

    It does no good to debate these people; any evidence against their position is considered inadmissible.

    You can point out that chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis tell different and incompatible creation stories: they'll claim that you must read them with the guidance of the holy spirit to truly understand them. Been there, done that.

    Genesis says we're all descended from Adam in about 4kBC, and we're also all descended from Noah in about 3kBC (since the rest of mankind was destroyed in the world-wide Genesis flood.) You can bring in the roughly 10k years of Egyptian genealogies which make no mention of Adam, or Noah: they'll claim (without the slightest sense of irony) that the Egyptian genealogies are merely ancient writings of suspect provenance and uncertain accuracy. Been there, done that too.

    You can bring in the entire science of geology, which gives zero evidence for and an entire scientific discipline worth of evidence against a world-wide Genesis-type flood: they'll bring in some mouth-breathing "geologist" who got a degree from one of the all-too-numerous fundamentalist "universities" to argue that the question isn't really settled yet, there's still scientific debate. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

    You can point out that Genesis 1 is a poem. Instead of rhyme in sound, it rhymes in idea --- just like most other ancient poetry --- with day 1 corresponding to day 4, day 2 corresponding to day 5, 3 to 6, and then day 7 as a finale. You can point out that nobody takes Shakespeare's sonnets literally: "Ah," they say, "But this poem comes from God!" Yes, BTDT too.

    Arguments from biology abound, of course: 5k years is insufficient time for one man's genes to diverge into the breadth of human genetic diversity seen today; you can't fit two of every species of insect in an ark, let alone the rest of the fauna; analysis of mitochrondrial DNA puts "Eve" at orders of magnitude before 4kBC; and then there's the whole fossil record of course. All the evidence in the world makes no difference: evidence does not change non-evidential belief.

    And you're supposed to convince a JUDGE? That's the trap. Judges are pretty good at determining legal questions; they're about as good as a coin-flip when it comes to scientific questions. We bring in scientific evidence, this nincompoop argues legal blather, which will the judge best understand? If he was serious about the bet being fact-based, he'd offer to have the bet be settled by someone trained in determining the truth or falsity of factual claims. There are such people: they're called "scientists".

    When I say "been there, done that", I mean just that. I was raised in a fundamentalist sect, and had most of my education in church schools. I spent 25 years being indoctrinated (it didn't stick, apparently) then 15 years trying to bring the church into the 20th century, and the last 5 years taking what is apparently the only productive approach. Here's the approach, for those who haven't figured it out yet: JUST LEAVE THE POOR IDIOTS ALONE.

  • by Pseudonym (62607) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @02:02AM (#43300149)

    Yeah, but they all suffer from a post-Enlightenment bias in favour of science and facts and stuff like that. To get to the real root of the matter, we should ask a 16th century Christian theologian.

    For it appears opposed to common sense, and quite incredible, that there should be waters above the heaven. Hence some resort to allegory, and philosophize concerning angels; but quite beside the purpose. For, to my mind, this is a certain principle, that nothing is here treated of but the visible form of the world. He who would learn astronomy, and other recondite arts, let him go elsewhere. Here the Spirit of God would teach all men without exception; and therefore what Gregory declares falsely and in vain respecting statues and pictures is truly applicable to the history of the creation, namely, that it is the book of the unlearned.
    -- John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis

    Hmm. Looks like Calvin was a postmodernist liberal or something. Clearly we need someone with an earlier, more authentically Christian opinion. The 5th century seems early enough; no pesky modern science then.

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.

    With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about [the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation.
    -- St Augustine of Hippo, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis

    Nope, clearly a wishy-washy accommodationist who has been blinded by modernist thinking. Clearly we need to back a couple of hundred more years. Surely third century theologians took Genesis literally.

    For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? And again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.
    -- St Origen of Alexandria, quoted in De Principiis IV

    It looks like every single major Christian theologian before the 20th century, with the possible exception of Basil the Great (and even then it's only a possible exception), who saw fit to write on the topic, thought that Genesis 1 was at least partly allegorical. In this "trial", pretty much all of Christian history is going to have to file an amicus brief on behalf of science.

  • Re:Easy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @03:55AM (#43300639) Journal

    No faith needed.

    Not quite that simple. [youtube.com]

  • by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @04:31AM (#43300791)
    You're assuming that he's basing it on the "current political situation" and not the substance of relative defining texts. Islam is demonstrably more evil because the Quran contains imperatives for violence like "take them and kill them [infidels] wherever ye find them" in surah 4:89 among many. The New Testament (which supersedes the Old thus avoiding all the violent prescriptions therein according to many Christians, despite that the New Testament itself is contradictory on whether it does or doesn't supersede) at its most violent stops short of commanding believers to kill. There are times such as in Romans 1:32 where sinners are called out as 'worthy of death' but it doesn't command believers to kill them. (Though things like that were nonetheless used to justify killings, such as the mob murder of Hypatia.)

    I'm running out of time and have to go to work so I will toss out a couple other things in passing: in addition to being demonstrably more evil in imperative prescriptions of violence, the Quran is more evil in its explicit misogyny. I don't have time to dig up the exact surah, but I recall one that gives men an explicit pass on beating their wives. The New Testament treats women as second class citizens, mostly telling them to sit down and shut up, but it never goes as far as saying you can and should beat them up.

    Lastly, the Quran is demonstrably more evil in that it has encouraged a culture of child rape since many Muslims still see Muhammad's having a nine year-old wife as not just acceptable, but an example of holiness since everything he ever did is supposed to be holy. So yeah, tell it to all the raped little girls that Islam isn't more evil.

    Disclaimer: I am an atheist.
  • Re:Easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @07:24AM (#43301375) Journal
    Thinking their beliefs are stupid while not thinking any less of the person who believes them is not bigotry.

    Well then, hand me my bigot badge, which I'll wear proudly.

    Yes, I do think less of people who lack the critical thinking skills to observe the glaring internally inconsistencies in the ancestors' fairy tales to which they so desperately cling.

    We all want a purpose in a meaningless world, and most of us don't really like the idea of dying all that much. "Made of meat" doesn't give you a pass on Intro to Logic, however.
  • Re:Easy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @07:36AM (#43301423)
    Or... you are just a bigot yourself.

    I belonged to a Baptist church with an openly gay pastor, and it was in the South, and one of the largest churches around.

    The part that makes you a bigot is the negative stereotyping that doesn't hold true with even the most limited scrutiny.
  • Re:Easy... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robthebloke (1308483) on Thursday March 28, 2013 @08:11AM (#43301617)
    Well, I live in the UK and in the last year we've had http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20415689 [slashdot.org]>this and this [guardian.co.uk] as the two biggest church news stories of the year. Whilst the majority think that the church *should* move with the times, and should allow women bishops, and should allow gay people into the church. The church (of england) as an organisation, still [b]actively discriminates[/b] against women and gay people. They have finally allowed gay clergy, it comes with the caveat that they must remain celibate (which is not equality in any sense of the word). When I see women bishops in the Church of England, a female pope in the vatican, and gay people openly welcomed into the church, will be the day that I stop pointing out the bigotry that exists within Christianity.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday March 28, 2013 @10:08AM (#43302523) Homepage Journal
    Longevity prior to the Flood is easy to explain away: there hadn't been much time for imperfections to accumulate in the human genome. About sixteen and a half centuries in, there was a huge population bottleneck, allowing harmful recessive mutations to fix themselves [wikipedia.org] in the genome.
  • Re:First clue (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 28, 2013 @10:30AM (#43302759)

    The man has a Ph.D. in kinesiology. According to the Chart of Woo [blogspot.co.uk], that's at the corner of Quackery Bol. and Pseudoscientific Bol.

    Just because two words sounds related, "kinesiology" and "applied kinesiology" for example, it doesn't mean they are the same thing. Applied kinesiology is bollocks, kinesiology is science.

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