As We Populists Like to Say

Over the last few weeks, a couple of epic comment threads have broken out here, and they have been revolving around the proposed view that I don’t know what I am talking about. In these cases it had to do with my idea that entropy and evolution are inconsistent, and also my lack of suitable respect for the whole climate change fiasco. The charge has been made that I am not appropriately respectful of the world’s experts. The charge has a certain weight, and so let this be my answer, let this be my apology — a cri de coeur, as we populists like to say.

Let me treat these in ascending order of importance.

First, look at the shape the world is in, and consider the fact that is run by experts. That should rattle us all right off. One wag has noted that an ex is a has been, and a spurt is a drip under pressure, and so there’s that. An expert consultant is someone from fifty miles away who brings a briefcase. Experts can always be hired to testify in court cases, for either side. There should be some leeway for the dubious.

But this does not mean that I am dismissive of genuine expertise. There is such a thing as genuine expertise, and it is held by a distinct subset of those who run the world. One of the distinctive markers of someone who is genuinely educated in his field is that he is humble. He knows how little he knows in his field — and his first impulse is not to demand that laymen confess how little they know in his field. He knows that there are people inside his field who have just memorized the passwords and the codes, plug and chug experts, and that there are people outside who are merely intelligent. He would rather talk with the latter.

Those experts who demand that everyone outside bow down are not really experts. They are priests of the hidden mysteries, and they want us to approach them suitably abashed. They are not really experts, but rather priests and posers, hiding behind jargon. Of course, every man who is truly learned should be treated with dignity and respect. But every high altar dedicated to the great task of crowd control and keeping people in their place needs to have a dead cat thrown at it from time to time, and I have a pile of dead cats right here.

Second, I know that my views on a number of subjects are outliers. I am a pastor, mainly, and yet as a contrarian I think that entropy is not consistent with evolution, I think that the outcome of the Civil War gave us Roe v. Wade, I think climate change is a con being run by power-grabbers, I think that people eat because they are getting fat, not that they get fat because they are eating, I think that the antebellum South was not accurately portrayed by the abolitionists, I think that God created the world six thousand years ago, and I think Beowulf was a work of Christian apologetics. I believe such things without having obtained the appropriate paper credentials authorizing me to say or even think such things. Whenever this is objected to, part of the response is to return to the first point made above.

Another part of the response is to note that I usually have the support of particular individuals from within the guild, who, when they write on these same subjects, are treated with the same contumely that I am. Apparently credentials weren’t the issue. What the establishment wants is compliance, not credentials. The credentials are just a tool they use to get compliance, so long as it works. When it doesn’t work, they don’t give up their insistence on compliance. They are the enforcers of Orwell’s “smelly little orthodoxies.”

Third, we have to remember that for those of us who are seeking to maintain an integrated worldview, disciplines overlap. A mathematician walks into a breakfast diner and orders three eggs over easy, and he gets two eggs back over hard. He remonstrates with the cook, who is standing right behind that little window where they push out the plates. He says that he ordered three eggs. If the cook replies that he is the trained professional, and that he has been slinging hash for lo, these thirty years, he is missing the point. At this moment, his expertise and the expertise of the mathematician overlap. He knows how to cook, but the mathematician knows how to count.

Order must be maintained, of course, and boundaries should be respected. But a border can be crossed from two directions. We need to learn that many of the clashes we have over issues like this are the result of scientists refusing to stay out of political science, and mathematicians venturing into theology. Many times I am accused of going back in the kitchen to harass the cook when all I am doing is sitting at the counter, counting my eggs. One of my eggs is the egg of being very well read in political theory, and the other is the same in theology. If I had a third egg it would be the egg of runaway metaphors. I can do that one too.

Fourth, I have been chided for not entering into respectful dialog with my intellectual adversaries. This is another objection that has to be divided in order to consider it in two aspects. One of the things I have sought to do, when given the privilege of debating various individuals — from Christopher Hitchens to Gordon Stein — is to be respectful, prepared, winsome, and affable. And by winsome, I don’t mean grinning at people through a fence of teeth. I mean loving them. Jesus said to love your neighbor, and He defined who that was — the person in front of us. He didn’t say anything about loving idolatrous abstractions like statism, socialism, feminism, and so on. And I don’t. I hate them with a perfect hatred, and I hope it shows.

Some people are surprised by this affability in person, because they think my writing is quite different from this. They think it is different for the very good reason that it is different. When I am writing for thousands of people, I am not responding to a dinner invitation from Smith, or a suggestion for a tête-à-tête over a beer with Murphy. In those circumstances, I would be as gracious as all get out. Let your speech be gracious, the apostle says, seasoned with salt.

But in this space, I am trying to rally the troops. I want us to man the barricades. Our structures of government are riddled with corruptocrats, and the need of the hour is for us to go into a full Kiev. We can have a discussion at this level when they repent of their coercions. When they put down the guns — with which they enforce their childish perspectives on political science and theology — then we can talk.

The imposition of same sex mirage on states that don’t want it is not an invitation to dialog. The outlawing of perfectly innocent objects like incandescent light bulbs was not a suggestion that we listen to one another’s points of view. The pillaging of the wealthy in the name of “fair-sharing” is piracy and plunder, pure and simple, and not a request for constructive interaction. If I might alter the saying of Chairman Mao, their wickedness comes out of the barrel of a gun. These people are framing mischief with a law. When the foundations are destroyed, what shall the righteous do?

When will you all wake up? When the National Cathedral gets its own SWAT teams?

When we are simply talking, and it is just an exchange of views, I actually believe that I am pretty patient. I hear people out. I do listen to them. This has been my goal at least, and I would be attentive to any admonition that warned I had been personally irritated by somebody. Let your speech be gracious, said the apostle . . .

But when in this space I write on the encroaching tyranny, I am not attempting dialog at all. I am telling people that the thugs in power are tyrants, and that the experts who testify on their behalf are shills. If you want me to stop doing that, then put down the guns. Stop fining bakers, for pity’s sake, because they don’t want to bake a homo-cake. And don’t even think about fining me for writing homo-cake in a blog post. If you want to discover the trouble our republic is in, go find a mirror and look in it.

And last, related to all of this. “I have more understanding than all my teachers: For thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:99-100). The word of God is a skeleton key. It opens every room in the house. There is no way to appeal to this passage without sounding arrogant, and I get that. In this modern age, drilled as we have been by the catechisms of the experts, it even sounds arrogant to us when the psalmist says it. We flinch when we read the words. We are postmodern Christians, and we belong to the Grand Order of the Milquetoast. It is a problem passage for us. “Who is to say?”. . . etc.

But I would rather embrace the problem passage than make my peace with this problem world.

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Don Smith
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Don Smith

I wish I had said all this. Not able to write this, I remain very thankful to both understand and concur with every word. Thanks.

Roy
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Roy

Very well put. On most of these subjects the argument has already been framed. Tough to legitimately address an issue when the game is rigged beforehand.

Brandon
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Brandon

The last paragraph in this post is the reason I read this blog. No other evangelical blogger I’ve read would go there. Thank you Doug for being willing to say and defend the truth of scripture even when it makes you look like an arrogant d-bag. Also, +1 for effectively fitting the word “homo-cake” in a paragraph.

JC
Guest

I would hope in my case it is clear I am merely a gentleman insulting someone un-accidentally and more over with my tongue thoroughly chewed too.
Was my response in-kind not thought through enough or too well thought through?
Respectfully and also quite ironically-
JC

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

The world is most emphatically not ruled by experts, at least not in the United States.  If we were, it would be illegal to use corporal punishment on children, vaccinations would be mandatory, junk food would be illegal (or at least greatly limited in quantity), regular medical exams would be mandatory, schools wouldn’t use standardized testing, tobacco would be banned, and there wouldn’t be fights over teaching creationism in public schools.  Here in America, a complete moron who thinks the moon landing was a hoax and President Obama was born in Kenya gets to cast a vote in November that has the… Read more »

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Just to clarify, I do not myself believe that everything on my list above should be enacted into law; I have enough libertarian tendencies to think that people should generally be free to make their own choices.  I merely point out what the world would look like if it really and truly were run by experts.
 

timothy
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timothy

Tis a gift to be simple tis a gift to be free, tis a gift to get to reply number three…
 
                                                                                                                                                 
where Mathew has yet to hijacked the thread…..(:
                                                                                                                                                 
Thank you for bearing these burdens Pastor Wilson..we appreciate it down here in the cheap seats.
 
Grace and peace.

John Rabe
Guest
John Rabe

Waaaaaaaaaah! (Just holding his place until Matthew N. Peterson gets here.)

RFB
Guest
RFB

Timothy,
THAT made me laugh…

timothy
Guest
timothy

“I merely point out what the world would look like if it really and truly were run by experts.  ”
 

                                                                                                                                                That’s interesting.  I presume you are aware of, and reject the  Christian doctrine of a fallen world and the results of following false gods.
 
 

wtrsims
Member

JC, in reference your “A Response, to a Response, to my Belated Response to Pastor Doug Wilson” to offer the following chain of progress for our metaphorical 3-D Printer: a 2-d printer (Homo neanderthalensis) a type writer (Homo florsiensis) a pen and paper (Homo erectus) a quill with ink (Homo habilis), In what ways are you suggesting that a supposed homo habilis is to homo sapiens sapiens as what an ink quill is to a 3-D printer?  Your stretching the analogy so as to allow a progression through steps busts the analogy.  You have to assume that hominids have gotten better, or… Read more »

soylentg
Member

Pastor Wilson, you are indeed a true master wordsmith and truth be told I envy your skill.  They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, however more and more often when I write down what I consider to be a witty turn of phrase, I have to stop and wonder if I inadvertently stole it from you.
                                                                                                                                                                         Thank you for your time invested in trying to rally the troops, even when faced with the daily specter of infiltrators attempting to drown you out..

Thursday
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Thursday

Dear sir: None of this changes the fact (yes, fact) that you were rewriting the second law of thermodynamics from your armchair.

Eric the Red
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Eric the Red

Tim, you’re right that I don’t  believe in a fallen world as you define, it, and I think all gods are false, including yours, but I don’t see what either of those has to do with whether Doug’s contention that the world is run by experts is true.

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

It’s not that you weren’t kind when you interacted with Christopher Hitchens, but that part of being kind is, on non-ultimate matters, keeping an open mind that they might actually be right. Also, are you sure you haven’t been reading “rallying the troops” as requiring people to bow down, rhetorically problematic responses to idiots (they’re scientists, not rhetoricians, and their opponents mischaracterizations of their demeanor, as not actually being experts, but being “experts”? Or that they aren’t actually treating crackpots like crackpots, but you just can’t judge? Or that even if they don’t treat people who disagree with them well,… Read more »

Sara
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Sara

“But in this space, I am trying to rally the troops. I want us to man the barricades. Our structures of government are riddled with corruptocrats, and the need of the hour is for us to go into a full Kiev. We can have a discussion at this level when they repent of their coercions. When they put down the guns — with which they enforce their childish perspectives on political science and theology — then we can talk.” Okay. It’s important to know who you are writing to and why. But if it is God’s kindness, His goodness, that… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

If you rallied the troops with “I don’t know if climate change is happening, but if we fight it, don’t do it like that.” I wouldn’t have a problem. Or if you said “Evolutions is false, Scripture says that. But if you want to get real arguments against it, talk to my brother” I wouldn’t have a problem. (Unless you started pronouncing in the name of Jesus things that are dependent on your reading of the complex historical situation.) But that’s not what you’re doing. You’re saying “That stuff is false, and it’s so obviously false, on their terms, that even I can see it… Read more »

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

And Thursday’s criticism is exactly correct.

timothy
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timothy

Eric,
 
I was just checking my assumptions is all; thank you for verifying. Is it also your opinion that we just need the right experts?

Roy
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Roy

As to whether the world is “run” by experts, that may be an issue of semantics (at least for me). But I’m pretty sure that most of these hot-button arguments have been framed by experts. Surely some shame on us for allowing it to happen. But now we have what we have.

Matthew N. Petersen
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Matthew N. Petersen

We need to learn that many of the clashes we have over issues like this are the result of scientists refusing to stay out of political science, and mathematicians venturing into theology.

Sure, take their political science or their theology to task. But not their science and their mathematics. The same thing applies in the other direction: They’re qualified to critique your science, but not your theology. But if they are uncharitable to you, it isn’t a justification for a lack of charity to them.

Ben Bowman
Guest

There is making a point and then there is making a difference. I think what pours the gravel in some Christian’s gravy is that they think you are more interested in making a point. You also don’t jive with what has been presented as “pastoral behavior.” And by that I mean avoiding terms like “homo-cake.” You write with passion, wit and sarcasm (which is the sixth love language.) But not everyone picks up on that. 
 

J. Edgar
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J. Edgar

I’m enjoying the remarks of Eric the Red (a chap with whom I think I might have a lot in common), Thursday, and Mr Petersen (whom I used to know many years ago). 
If only the world actually WERE run by experts. The gods forbid that the populists, the “contrarians,” the demagogues gain any more control.

Lawrence
Guest
Lawrence

The “experts” are the people who are good at framing the discussion in ways that empower them to get whatever it is that they happen to want. They are the political class – power, Wall Street – money, Hollywood – glory. Each forms a cozy alliance with a supporting cast (Researchers, Scientists, Ecclesiastics, Professors, Media ) who give “legitimacy” to whatever cause it is that gets them what they want.  Pastor Wilson has a way of helping people see through this as very few can. The saddest part is how some can’t see it, even after it has been put… Read more »

Tim Mullet
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Tim Mullet

Matthew N. Peterson, I suppose you have just verified my claim.  You are against being dogmatic in non-ultimate issues.  You said, ” It’s not that you weren’t kind when you interacted with Christopher Hitchens, but that part of being kind is, on non-ultimate matters, keeping an open mind that they might actually be right.”  Being dogmatic involves coming to a settled conviction that something is true beyond a reasonable doubt correct?  Certainty beyond a reasonable doubt is the level of certainty required to execute a man.  So a person who comes to a certain conviction of truth, i.e. certainty beyond a… Read more »

Kimberley
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Kimberley

Pastor Wilson, don’t you know that salt is bad for you?! All the experts agree that we need to consume less ;)

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

Timothy, I wouldn’t frame it as having the right experts so much as the right methodology.  Even with the best experts using the best methods they’re not infallible, and more information could always come in tomorrow.  But as I said, that’s the way to bet.

B Martin
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B Martin

I am always intrigued when people are surprised that Pastor Wilson preaches.

Eric the Red
Guest
Eric the Red

In other words, if someone says, “I believe in science,” what they’re really saying is that they accept the scientific method as valid, and not necessarily that they accept the findings of any one particular scientist.  And the scientific method has the advantage of being self-correcting over time.

Sara
Guest
Sara

“You write with passion, wit and sarcasm (which is the sixth love language.) But not everyone picks up on that. ” Ben,  some of us do pick up on that and simply do not believe it serves the lost very well.

Ben Bowman
Guest

And why is that Sara? 

Sara
Guest
Sara

As I said in another comment above, if it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, how much more can our kindness impact others, in person and in our writing.

Stewart
Guest
Stewart

I prefer to call “science” what it is…..natural philosophy. 
 
 
 

Matthew N. Petersen
Guest
Matthew N. Petersen

Tim: If you really do have the expertise to be dogmatic, it’s fine to be so. (But don’t whine if your opponents are dogmatic, by calling it demanding that others worship their view.) But if you are clueless (and though Pr. Wilson has the qualifications to make theological arguments about evolution, and political arguments about the best response to Global Warming; he’s clueless about the science in either case–he changes the second law of thermodynamics from his arm chair, and doesn’t know the first thing about statistics), better not to be dogmatic.

Ben Bowman
Guest

I don’t know Doug personally, nor am I in his church but I have seen his sermon’s and debates and I have read much of what he writes and I have found that the tone he often writes with is in line with the kindness of God. In fact I would say that he is much easier on people than Jesus was. Jesus used to just call people hypocrites or fancy tombs. Not kind things to say but it probably wouldn’t have been true kindness to not say them. All that said I understand why you would feel this way… Read more »

Stewart
Guest
Stewart

 
Mathew, see Acts 4:13. 
 
 

timothy
Guest
timothy

Sara,
Sometimes God’s swift kick in the butt leads to repentance.When Paul was blinded, it was not pleasant for him.
 
Besides that, Pastor Wilson is kind and patient and long-suffering. The evidences of the Holy Spirit are there in spades. God is using him to great effect. He is a ‘divider not a uniter’ in the sense that The Word is a divider–splitting families and all that.
                                                                                                                                                
 
                                                                                                                                                
 

Matthew N. Petersen
Guest
Matthew N. Petersen

Pr. Wilson: The error was that you took “randomness” to have its usual English definition, when in fact it doesn’t. That said, who gives you the authority to judge that you’re right till we refute you? You’re a beginning student, and have no business demanding answers to your refutations. You may ask questions, but your questions are just that, questions, and you need to treat them as such. Till then, you’re just speaking dogmatically about things you know nothing about.

Matthew N. Petersen
Guest
Matthew N. Petersen

Oh, you’re right Stewart. I know Jesus, so I can talk about Shakespeare without reading Shakespeare. Or mathematics without knowing the first thing about mathematics.

Tim Mullet
Guest
Tim Mullet

Matthew which is it?  This?  ” It’s not that you weren’t kind when you interacted with Christopher Hitchens, but that part of being kind is, on non-ultimate matters, keeping an open mind that they might actually be right.” Or this? “If you really do have the expertise to be dogmatic, it’s fine to be so… But if you are clueless… better not to be dogmatic.”

Rick Davis
Guest

On the nature of Pastor Wilson’s rhetoric consider this:    “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of a (relatively speaking) low tax burden, albeit one that we believe to be unjust because Parliament does not have the power to tax in the king’s name colonies who have separate charters from said monarch and therefore are their own governments and not represented by Parliament? Howbeit we do see that they may have a small point as tax money collected by Parliament did help to field the army that defended these colonies from… Read more »

David Douglas
Guest
David Douglas

Well, Matthew, I’m a chemical engineer and know a thing or two about the second law and a few things about biochemistry.  I saw nothing wrong with his use of the concept, either with the macro observation dQ/T nor with the more general underlying observation of tendency to randomness.  I would be interested in knowing what was wrong.  As for you, your response is that Dr. Minnich (sp?) said (when you were in high school) the 2nd law argues for a diversification of species…..To which you might (now) wonder whether he is an expert in the 2nd law.  As I… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Rick Davis Thank you for the new word: “elenchus”

JC
Guest

Wesley I will respond when I get a moment (my first child is merely 2 weeks old) – I do find it bad form that Pastor Wilson has (more obviously with 2 tangent posts) ignored my reposte but enjoyed the fruit of our original argument.

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Stewart.
 
Excellent!

Jonathan James
Guest
Jonathan James

Matthew, my expertise is in English literature.  Occasionally I run across a student (or even a colleague) who insists Shakespeare is rubbish.  Now, I can respond in one of two ways.  I can show him why he’s wrong, pointing out to him the many beauties of Shakespeare’s plays, which is quite a difficult thing to do.  Or I can, much more easily, demand he shut up, insist that he’s a beginning student who has no business demanding answers and he couldn’t possibly understand Shakespeare because it’s so far out of his depth.  Which do you suppose is more valuable?  Which,… Read more »

Rick Davis
Guest

Also a couple of quotes from Chesterton seem appropriate here:    “To smatter the tongues of men and angels, to dabble in the dreadful sciences, to juggle with pillars and pyramids and toss up the planets like balls, this is that inner audacity and indifference which the human soul, like a conjurer catching oranges, must keep up forever. This is that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity… if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly. ”    “Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously. The latest fads of culture,… Read more »

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Mathew.
What are your credentials? phd? Masters? Post-Doc? research scientist? Working Engineer? what papers have you written? original research?
 

timothy
Guest
timothy

@Rick

“Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously. The latest fads of culture, the latest sophistries of anarchism will carry us away if we are uneducated; we shall not know how very old are all new ideas…The educated man will always care too much for complications, novelties, the fashion, the latest thing. The uneducated man will always be an intellectual dandy.”
 

This!.