Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lee & Me

The idea of writing this blog post has given me some pause.  See I have on many occasions mentioned that I find former journalist and current Christian author Lee Strobel to be deeply dishonest and I thought a short post to clarify my motivations for that was in order.  However, I really don’t want this blog to become just another cog in the great internet hate machine with post after post about how much everything and everyone sucks.  I decided that this blog was worth writing for two reasons though.  Firstly, to simply call someone dishonest and never explain why makes me no better than those anonymous online commentators who seem to think that simply calling something “gay” is a fully formed argument.  Secondly, I am very strongly against groupthink; and that is the main reason I have the “The Christian I am not” tag on this blog.  If someone in your group – albeit family, ideological, religious or political – does something you strongly disagree with and instead of voicing your disagreement you keep your head down and go with the crowd then you lose all right to complain when a critic tars you with the same brush.

So why Lee Strobel?  He seems like a nice enough guy after all.  Looks like the kind of man who pays his taxes, obeys the law and he is probably a good husband and father, the kind of man who (and this is just a wild guess) doesn’t kick puppies.  Yet this man – nice fellow as he may be – manages to be more dishonest than all the other Creationist speakers out there.  See a Creationist like Kent Hovind (even though he is in jail for tax evasion) will tell you right off the bat who he is (a Young Earth Creationist), what he believes (The Earth was created 6000 years ago in 6 literal days) and why he believes it (because that’s what the Bible says).  Not so with Mr Strobel.  He pretends to be a skeptic, a man of science just looking for some truth.

Now let’s say I make that very same claim.  I tell you I’m a skeptic regarding the efficacy of so called Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).  I tell you that as a skeptic, I am going to do an investigation to see which side has the proof – Science based medicine or CAM.  However, in my investigation I do something really weird though.  I don’t speak any medical professional who disagrees with CAM.  I don’t visit any medical schools or pharmaceutical labs to speak to the many experts there who are supremely knowledgeable in the field.  In fact I ignore pretty much all doctors, surgeons and pharmacists and the only person with a medical degree I actually speak to is someone like Dr Oz who is fully and vocally in support of CAM.  For the rest of my investigation I speak only to shamans, acupuncturists, herbalists, reiki masters and homoeopaths and report their claims uncritically.  In fact in lieu of actually finding out for myself, I instead let the CAM crowd tell me what the scientifically based medical community believes and why they are wrong to do so.  At no point in my investigation do I give actual medical professionals a chance to respond to these claims.

Now if at the end of my investigation I claim that after thoroughly investigating the matter I have learned that CAM is actually the best possible way to treat illness and that the science based medical community is actually a sham designed to keep you sick, would you take me seriously?  I hope you don't!!  Why should you, its clear that I started out already convinced about CAM and that the whole “investigation” was just a sham since I clearly only picked “experts” who were guaranteed to give me the answers I wanted!  So no, you shouldn’t take hypothetical medical investigator me seriously at all and you shouldn’t take Lee Strobel seriously either.

In his series of “The Case for ….” books he does pretty much exactly what hypothetical medical investigator me did and nowhere more outrageously than in “The Case for a Creator”.  In this book he pretends to play a skeptic looking into Creationism and Evolution but exclusively talks to those in the “Intelligent Design” community and presents their views uncritically.  See I could still make excuses for hypothetical medical investigator me – maybe I’m really gullible, maybe I have no idea how to properly investigate something – but there is no way to excuse Lee Strobel.  He used to be a very successful journalist before he became a pastor, he knows how to investigate, he knows how to properly report in a balanced fashion but he chose not to.  That is what makes him so immensely dishonest in my view.  See I'm not calling him dishonest because he has a view that differs from mine.  I call him dishonest because he knows how to properly investigate a viewpoint to see if it's true but despite pretending to do so, in reality he bends over backwards to ensure that he does no such thing.  No wonder he gets nominated for the Golden Crocoduck award (awarded for the biggest breach of the Ninth Commandment in pursuit of the Creationist cause) every year!

For anyone interested in a piece by piece dissection of The Case for a Creator, there is a very informative one here.   For those who are interested but don’t like reading and with about 2 hours to kill, here is an excellent critical analysis of the Case for a Creator video:

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