I came across these paragraphs, excerpted from an essay about possible conflicts between science and a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Your job is to guess (no Googling!) whether the author was:
a. a sociologist
b. a liberal, non-literalist theologican
c. a creationist
d. an atheist scientist
e. a non-theological religious scholar
f. none of the above
The Bible seems to teach that there was a global flood in the days of Noah. This was the universal teaching of the Fathers of the church. Though not directly linked to the issue of the age of the earth, one’s position on the historical nature of the Flood and its extent are still important. The response one gives to this question will indicate important core religious ideas.
The sorts of issues that flow from the idea of a global flood are critical to a religious believer. What will control the biblical exegesis of the Christian? Will they forever be engaged in an exegesis of the moment? Later in this essay we will suggest an answer to these questions. For now, it is sufficient to make one simple point. Every Christian from the founding of the church until the advent of modern science believed Noah was a real person. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs.
Modern naturalistic science has found no room for a flood, global or local. Many Christians, even those otherwise quite conservative, suggest the Noah story is a myth. It contains important theological truth, but no history. The church was wrong. Noah never existed.
This is a serious move for the church to make. Do the considered opinions of scientists now have the last say in important religious matters that touch on history? To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient. If a Bible story contains details that are contrary to science, then the Bible story is a “myth.” If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.
UPDATE: Answer goes up at 11 am CST Sunday, Feb. 21
70 thoughts on “Guess the author”
I’d go for a creationist, on the basis of these sentences:
“What will control the biblical exegesis of the Christian? Will they forever be engaged in an exegesis of the moment?”
Erm…. Interesting. I reckon it’s either d or e.
I’m pretty sure it’s not a creotard (there is certainly nothing in there to indicate any literal belief in Creation). In fact the word “seems” in the opening line indicates that the person is almost certainly not a religious fundamentalist, as they would just say “the bible says X- so X is true”.
I am also confident that a liberal theologican would have never write something like
“If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.”
It could be a socialogist I suppose, but I reckon the other two options are more likely.
It is either a religious scholar with a penchant for skepticism, or an Atheist author with a tinge of sympathy towards religion.
I’m guessing a or d, based on the last, somewhat cynical, sentence. Though f is always a possibility. 🙂
I would say d, the atheist scientist, on the grounds that the whole exercise would appear pointless otherwise.
On a normal interpretation, I’d guess a sociologist, but my “trick question” sensors suggest that it may be an atheist scientist.
Moistly likely e.
I’m game. In order of decreasing likelihood: f > e > c.
f because I can’t quite pin down the agenda, so the Null hypothesis would be to assume none hidden.
e because I can sense familiarity with the scriptures, but not of the formal theological kind. Exhibit: Noah. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs. Quite an amalgamation. It’s more complicated than that.
Unless the writer is sophisticated enough to know his argument is weak, and therefore to try to keep it simple: “venerate Noah as a saint”. Yes, Noah was never formally canonized. Therefore:
cThere is something faux-folksy about the style. I’m biased, because I spent last Saturday night skimming through Paul Nelson’s online papers at the Discovery Institute, and here’s a whiff of that same insincere simplicity. Particularly this bit: “If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.” I noted quite a few “logical explosions” of the kind in Nelson’s writing, so the author might be someone of that ilk.
Applying a little reverse psychology on Jerry, my final bet is c.
I go for c), with the caveat that this person probably claims to be an “ID advocate” who is agnostic with respect to the age of the earth and the literalness of Genesis.
No dyed-in-the-wool young-earth creationist or ANY atheist would even bother raising these bullshit points.
I’ll guess d, but one who is either a former Christian or who had some religious education.
While I am not taking a shot at the answer I’d like to point out that the same bull is parroted in the Koran-basically plagiarized from the bible. And since the infallibility of the Koran is the pillar of the Islamic faith, Muslims overwhelmingly believe to this day that Noah existed and the flood did happen.
I would have to say d. sounds like someone who is secular but still being nice towards religious doctrines.
Hmm…I guess the question is, why would Jerry ask us this question. If it is indeed from a creationist, then there would be a bit of shock value as the author seems to be quite aware that the flood doesn’t square with “naturalistic science”. But it would make sense as a screed against the strategy of accommodating the religion to other social factors.
In a way, the creationist angle is the only one (besides “none of the above”) that stands out from the rest of the pack. It’s difficult to see how the views of the non-theological religious scholar and the sociologist would be much different. This particular excerpt doesn’t seem to contain a scientific argument, so I’m not sure why it would be of much consequence if it came from an atheist scientist. On the other hand, a liberal, non-literalist theologian may be arguing against using any of the Bible as an accurate historical account.
However, as the focus of the article seems to be the hypocrisy of tossing Noah but accepting Abraham, I’m going to put my (virtual) money on creationist.
Okay, I’m starting to have a change of heart now. I reckon it could be a ID advocate now. Damn this is a toughie!!
Does ‘Bling’ count as Google? Not that I’d waste time using it.
I’d say a sociologist because of “The response one gives to this question will indicate important core religious ideas.” (though theologians may say such things too)
I would also expect people who study religion not to make a statement like this:
“The Catholic and Orthodox Churches venerate Noah as a saint with the other patriarchs.” I don’t know about the Orthodox churches, but the catlick church has never treated Noah as a saint in my lifetime, so that’s why I’d say it can’t be a theologian.
Yeah, that’s a telltale technical slip. Noah is venerated/celebrated as a “patriarch” in the Orthodox church, but not as a “saint” exactly. So the commentator is probably not a religious scholar or a theologian.
Anyway, it’s an interesting puzzle.
… probably not a religious scholar or a theologian.
…and a goy to boot, so what can we expect?
I’m going to agree with MadScientist and go with a sociologist. I will even stick my neck out and name one: Rodney Stark.
“Every Christian from the founding of the church until the advent of modern science believed Noah was a real person.”
This quote betrays him(her): a creationist. It makes an unverifiable claim of the old times, when christianity was allegedly united.
“To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient.”
This denotes the cannard “secular people doesn’t believe in the bible because they don’t want to boey rules”, and the next paragraphs follows an attack against the weak no-literal christians. That reinforce the creationist author.
I’m putting my guess down as b before I read any of the comments.
I’m going to guess c. a creationist just because of the use of the phrase “naturalistic science”. Anyone else on that list would know that that phrase is redundant.
Tried to proceed by elemination.
d is out. Because for a scientist “Modern naturalistic science” is a pleonasm.
c is out. 4 paragraphs with no bibbel quotes
b is out. too much focus on history.
So I am left with a and e, luckily they are not mutually exclusive.
Funnily you can replace Noah with Adam (and flood with man’s creation…) and the essay still makes sense
My pick: a (a particularly shallow a)
If true, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of St. Noah.
All the options are possible, which makes the challenge interesting… except for the last option which is possible but not interesting.
“naturalistic scientist” is a bit redundant which increases the chances it wasn’t written by an actual scientist. However, Postmodernism has invaded sociology so we can’t rule it out.
I’ll make an assumption and say the atheist scientist is in the “hard” sciences.
“Later in this essay we will suggest an answer to these questions.” at least has the guise of academic scholarship.
“The Bible seems to teach…” isn’t a caveat fit for a creationist.
sociologist and non-theological religious scholar are not mutually exclusive.
Considering the above I’m narrowing it down to a,b, or e, leaning toward liberal, non-literalist theologian.
For what it’s worth, I tried several literal string searches on Google, and they came up empty. So, googling won’t help. Still, I’m going with (d), on the basis that it would not otherwise be a notable quote.
“Though not directly linked to the issue of the age of the earth, one’s position on the historical nature of the Flood and its extent are still important.”
The author thinks the age of the earth is important, and the historicity of Noah of similar impoortance. I am guessing OEC.
Good one Jerry. I now know who it was. Damn you, I thought I was on the money too. 🙂
I’d go for “e”, provided it means non-believing religious scholar (such as Bart Ehrman). It can’t be a sociologist, because I can understand it, and it’s written in clear concise English.
I’m going to choose none of the above, and guess that it was an accommodation that wrote this.
Actually after reading the comments, I now think it was probably a Christian ID proponent that wrote this, because they appear to have written unfavorably about the Catholic church.
I go with “creationist”. As someone else pointed out, the use of the term “naturalistic science” (without scare quotes) is not a term a rationalist would use in ordinary conversation. Further, he raises the possibility that our scientific understanding of the impossiblity of a literal Noah’s flood without immediately dismissing it. That seems to imply he believes there is a reasonable chance science could be wrong about it.
I’m wrong. They’re Young Earth Creationists. The quote seemed to be something almost reasonable that someone like Paul Nelson would say and write.
I go for ‘none of the above’ – it is probably a stand up comic or a politician from a non-Abrahamic religion country.
Too poorly informed for a scientist, but too well-informed for a creationist. It’s got to be a trick, or the question wouldn’t be here.
I’m going for creationist and I’ll venture a name, too: William Jennings Bryan. Sounds like that era.
You’d be surprised. If you read the transcript of the cross-examination of Bryan by Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Trial, you’ll see that Bryan was less of a literalist than modern YEC kooks. Also less of a weasel, perhaps for being less literate.
Well, yes, I’ve read Mencken’s account. And I was wrong about Bryon, but I did nail the category.
And Bryon certainly was a creationist, which is all I implied.
I think most people would be surprised at what a liberal thinker he was in politics. A true progressive.
I guess what I wonder from that is why religion has any say on historical matters? Stick to angels dancing on the head of a pin, it makes for a much more lively theological discussion than trying to figure out where all the water went and how a boat could fit all nostril breathing animals.
My immediate guess would be sociologist. Seriously, only sociologists and literary theorists use the word “exegesis”.
However, it does seem to be criticising the church for “giving in” to science, so I can’t rule out the biblical literalist.
I guess: E
I can’t place it, but it sounds like someone trying to be objective about the history of biblical interpretation, so I’d assume it was a philosopher (i.e. none of the above) or a non-theological religious scholar. But, depending on the context, I can imagine anyone writing this. It could even be cherry-picked from a creationist.
*Waits for the answer.*
The more I look at it, the more I get little vibes that it’s a creationist – the context is going to be an attack on those dastardly moderate Christians with their ever-so-flexible hermeneutics.
*But still waiting patiently.*
I’m going with “e” though I agree saying Noah is a catholic saint is sketchy.
Two authors – c and e
“It contains important theological truth, but no history.”
Apparently a “theological truth” is a falsehood.
The line about “theological truth” struck me as well. It sounds like something Alister McGrath might say. So, (b) a liberal, non-literalist theologican?
Am I the first to suggest Dawkins?
oh! I was not aware there was another Dawkins…
He’s obviously referring to Bill Dawkins, my plumber. Nice fellow, but needs to pull his pants up a bit.
“To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient”
This suggests to me that the author is a creationist.
C – for a whole host of reasons.
The style looks like Mano Singham’s (an atheist scientist).
To me it sounds to fair-minded to be from a creationist, and not opinionated enough to be from a religious scholar. I’d say it’s the sociologist.
My second guess would be the atheist scientist, and my third choice would be “none of the above”.
My guess is creationist based mostly on the last paragraph. I’m sniffing some snide sarcasm:
“…scientists now have the last say in important religious matters that touch on history?”
“To a secular person, Noah’s disappearance looks very convenient.” (I’ve heard the word “convenient” a lot in discussion with a creationist friend.)
putting the word myth in quotation marks
“If the Bible story is fortunate enough to be unverifiable, like that of Abraham, it is allowed to function as history.” (The word “allowed” makes me think s/he’s implying the historian or scientist thinks they are superior to Christians which is another theme of creationists)
You may all laugh but this sounds exactly like Kent Hovind to me. I can think of no reason at all that Jerry would post a selection of his here, nevertheless I vote ‘C’.
I guess b.
I think it’s Darwin and Wallace so doesn’t thatmake it f.
It’s either b or e, and I’m going with b.
IMO, anybody who would say “modern naturalistic science” has to be a theologian (which is misspelled as “theologican”, btw).
The suspense is killing me!
E. The specific person I have in mind is the (now retired) mining geologist and former YEC Glenn Morton, who accepts all the evidence for an old Earth and for evolution, and who really lays into the YECs, but *also* believes that there was a real Noah and a real Flood – though just who Glenn thinks Noah was and where and when the Flood happened may surprise you.
(I haven’t Googled, and haven’t found the passage cited in the post. The link I’ve given was one I already knew where to find.)
I’m going to go with e, but it could be a complicated double or triple bluff. Maybe Richard Dawkins???
My main reason for choosing e is that the way the word ‘exegesis’ is used strikes me as a theological term-of-art, but the tone of the piece is wrong for a ‘liberal’ theologian or a creationist.
Also the reference to pre-christian ‘saints’ suggests some degree of theological knowledge. Christian theologians do indeed regard Noah and a few other Old Testament figures as ‘sanctified’.
Really hard to say without knwoing the rest of it. The excerpt is just a starting point that doesn’t relly say much about the direction the whole thing takes.
An atheist scientist might see the described developement as a chance for the chruch to change their methods, while a creationist can start from that point to describe the dangers of modern science.
My choice would be b. This looks more like a theologian to me.
I’ll vote for creationist, and add: rather YEC and/or IDiot one.
Whoever wrote it, the sentence ‘Modern naturalistic science has found no room for a flood, global or local’ is very careless. Local floods are commonplace, and any ‘scientific’ interpreter of ancient myths might well invoke some local or regional flood to account for the Noah story.
I Googled the phrase ‘modern naturalistic science’, and it does seem to be used mainly by Christian propagandists, including ID’ers.
Not exactly a fun game on this side, as there is too little to make a test or even place likelihoods, say on word counts.
[Chooses linear #1 – a mapping, spins random number generator] Random outcome 30 % #2, so b it is.
With a Fog index of 9.92 and a Lexical Density of 52.82%, this excerpt ranks below the average theological, philosophical, or scientific text. Paul Nelson’s texts at Discovery have an even lower Lexical Density (46-49%) but occasionally a higher Fog index. No time for serious statistical work, but randomly selected creationist-cum-pseudoscientific texts of comparable length and import match this rough pattern. Visual inspection of Word Clouds generated from these texts tends to support this impression. So, c. But there’s something not quite kosher here, to judge by the Word Clouds: as if it was co-authored or co-edited. (I’m growing a giraffe’s neck for sticking it out so far; waiting for the chop.)
Occam, that’s the name: Paul Nelson! Maybe not alone, which could explain the Δ you observe.
Ken Ham possibly? I reckon it’s going to end up being somebody stupid like that.
The first sentence, “The Bible seems to teach that there was a global flood…” lets us dismiss c, d and e (Creationist, atheist scientist and non-theological religious scholar). The Bible doesn’t “seem” to teach a global flood. It does teach a global flood; and these groups admit it.
Paragraph 2 describes the historical position of Christianity and implies that it has weight. This rules out b, the liberal non-literalist theologian. Paragraph 3 also rules out the liberal theologian. The phrase “Modern naturalistic science” is typically used to disparage science, which isn’t completely characteristic of a liberal theologian.
That leaves “a”, a sociologist. But sociologists (the bad ones) use words like “narrative” and “paradigm” and “praxis”; the good ones are scientists, and are already ruled out. Also, bad sociologists can’t write plain English. So it can’t be a sociologist.
So, f. None of the above.