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.