‘One long ad hominem’?
Published: 17 March 2012 (GMT+10)
We often receive email that is critical in nature. When people write in with constructive comments and criticism, we appreciate that, because it allows us to examine where we are able to improve. But often, the criticism is personal rather than constructive.
Then in the second feedback below, Isaac E. from the United Kingdom writes in response to Nuclear physicist embraces biblical creation: Jonathan Sarfati chats with Dr Jim Mason, wrongly doubting high qualifications.Owen H.:
Wow. One long ad hominem instead of responding to the actual tenets of this alternative to creationism. It’s a big world out there, and a bigger God than can be contained in your supposedly biblical theology. The views in this article—as well as the self-righteousness tone—are among the reasons I am no longer an evangelical. Christian, yes. Evangelical, no. (Though apparently this distinction is lost on you.)
Thanks for writing in. However, I think you misunderstood some fundamental things in the article.
First, I don’t understand where you see the tone as ‘self-righteous’. It would have been helpful had you pointed out a place where the language conveyed that sort of tone. Of course, even if the tone was self-righteous, I would hope that you wouldn’t let a fallible human being’s shortcomings determine your theology, but rather the teaching in Scripture. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be able to be certain of my position at all if my basis was my own mind and my own reasoning, because I know how fallible I am—rather, I am absolutely confident in the teachings of Scripture—perhaps you mistook that confidence for self-righteousness.
I agree that God is bigger than could be contained in theology—there are aspects of Him that finite human beings can never hope to understand. But theology seeks to systematize what He has revealed about Himself, and what He intends for us to understand.
I gather you don’t think that our theology is biblical; again, it would have been helpful for you to let us know where you think that it is the case. However, I fail to see how much bigger we could claim God to be—we proclaim an infinite yet personal, omniscient, omnipotent, totally sovereign God who created the whole universe in six days.
I find it interesting that often people who say that God is “bigger” than something use that as an excuse to deny what God has proclaimed about Himself. It should never be about what God might do, or can do etc., but rather about what He has said. Otherwise we would be free to attribute anything of our own reasoning upon God. If He took the time to inspire authors to give us His Words, then we should be confident that He has given us everything that we need to know about Him. So one has to be careful about deriving a view on what one thinks God might be like and then searching the Scriptures (often out of context) to find a passage to suit. Whenever searching the Scriptures, passages should always be viewed in context of the surrounding text and the Bible’s big picture. That is what we have always tried to do.
Furthermore, it is rather unreasonable to expect one article to respond to all of evolution—we have a whole site, filled with over 8,000 articles, responding to evolutionist arguments, and showing the damage evolution does to the Christian worldview.
As for ad hominem, it is an expected attack on an article that deals with people—and indeed, we most often deal with arguments, not people. However, in this case, these are claiming to be evangelical Christians in an attempt to convince evangelical Christians that believing in evolution does no harm to the faith. But the article shows that they are not what most people consider to be evangelicals. Rather, they are universalists, mystics, and syncretists. Christians have a right to know this, and as it is well-substantiated, it is not an ad hominem attack. For instance, it would not be an ad hominem for someone to say of me that I’m a creationist author, educated in conservative evangelical schools and largely influenced by that school of thought. And anyone who reads my articles has a right to know from which viewpoint I’m coming so that they’re more informed when they make a decision about whether or not to listen to what I’m writing. It is unethical for someone to claim to be something they’re not for the purpose of gaining an audience under false pretenses, and we felt an obligation to bring this to light.
I have an A-level in physics and I already understand many of the reasons for which Jim Mason, supposedly a doctorate in physics, is wrong. Of course carbon 14 is found at some quantity in diamonds, it depletes logarithmically so the number of carbon 14 in a sample will never reach zero. Many of the facts he still accepts could not have been discovered in the first place unless these other facts which he disregards were not assumed and then proven by usage. I am astounded at how stupid this entire thing is.
Dr Jonathan Sarfati replies:
Dear Mr E.
This just shows that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. An A-level, really? If you knew more, you would realize that it’s not a matter of the number of C-atoms going to zero, but below the detection threshold. The following calculation might be too advanced for someone with just an A-level, but it’s from a link in the article Diamonds: a creationist’s best friend:
“Many people think that radiocarbon dating proves billions of years. But evolutionists know it can’t, because 14C decays too fast. Its half-life (t½) is only 5,730 years—that is, every 5,730 years, half of it decays away. After two half lives, a quarter is left; after three half lives, only an eighth; after 10 half lives, less than a thousandth is left. In fact, a lump of 14C as massive as the earth would have all decayed in less than a million years.”1
I.e. even down to the last atom would be well below the detection threshold.
Also, there is no “supposedly” about Dr Mason’s doctorate. One should be considered innocent until proven guilty, including charges of inflating qualifications. His bio documents his doctorate and publications. For more on this sort of charge in general, see Creationist qualifications. We also don’t know what “facts” you are talking about that require evolutionary ages. In reality, long ages are irrelevant to real science, including nuclear physics.
Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D.
- The earth’s mass is 6x1027 g; equivalent to 4.3x1026 moles of 14C. Each mole contains Avogadro’s number (NA = 6.022x1023) of atoms. It takes only 167 halvings to get down to a single atom (log2(4.3x1026 mol x 6.022x1023 mol–1) = log10(2.58x1050) / log102), and 167 half-lives is well under a million years. So if samples were really over a million years old, there would be no detectable radiocarbon left. But is this not what we find, even with very sensitive 14C detectors. Return to text.
Of all the accusations which people may bring against you in their attempts to denigrate your ministry, the suggestion that you would indulge in ad hominem attacks would be the hardest to justify or sustain. I value you for your impartiality and devotion to speaking the truth. This is what we should expect of anyone who loves God's Word and would seek to defend its inerrancy. You are indeed a beacon of light in a dark world. May the Lord continue to pour His blessings out upon you.
My PhD physics professor in college was the first person to clue me in to the fact that science and the Bible do not contradict themselves. I now see how brave he and other open-minded professors I had were. That was over 20 years ago. Our culture has become more rude and dogmatic in those years. Thank you for standing up for truth! Also, I received my copy of Creation magazine today, it looks GREAT! My children are reading it in preference to other activities. Thanks for publishing a fine magazine that is interesting to all ages. God bless you!
Keep up the good work. You guys are doing an excellent job....well written, thoughtful articles. Thank you and God bless you.