Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cowherd & Gervais

Two stories that illustrate the contemporary conviction that faith & reason are enemies

1. I was listening to Colin Cowherd's sports-talk radio show yesterday morning. There was a survey asking people if they'd rather have a Starbucks or a McDonalds in their neighborhood. A good portion of people said they'd prefer to have a McDonalds. Cowherd suggested that people answering 'McDonalds' simply didn't understand the question. If the question were 'Where would you rather get a snack,' McDonalds would be a fine answer, he said. But if the question is which one you'd rather have in your neighborhood, it HAS to be Starbucks! Why? Because if there's a Starbucks in your neighborhood it means you live in a richer, smarter, more reasonable place. In contrast, if you live near a Mcdonalds you live in a cheaper, dumber, more religious place. Reasonable intellectuals were contrasted with religious zealots.

2. Later in the evening I was watching The Daily Show and Jon Stewart was interviewing Ricky Gervais. Gervais was commenting about his 'moron' friend who actually believes the story of Noah's Ark. He tried to inform his friend that there are 4 million species, but his friend just responded that the ark was really big. So, once again, it's the reasonable vs. the religious. Now, whether you think the Noah's ark story is fact of fiction doesn't really matter, in this case, since it has been scientifically demonstrated that, if it is a true story, only 16 thousand different 'kinds' of animals would be necessary and it has been reasonably shown that the ark had plenty of room for that number of animals.

Since the enlightenment, many have been trying to put faith & reason at odds with each other. It's hard to make it through a half hour of media, these days, without hearing attempts to re-enforce this principle. But it's simply a modern myth. Christianity (the 'religion' being targeted in both of these illustrations) is based on historical realities, the testimony of skeptical disciples, and argumentation. Faith, Biblically speaking, is not a blind leap against reason, but a step of obedience because of reason.


Aaron Perry said...

Hey Matthew,

I agree with the overall thrust that faith is for dummies is very sad and ill informed.

Can you give more details about the ark having plenty of room for 16,000 animals?

matthew said...


My point in the post is, of course, not dependent a the youth earth / global flood paradigm that I, personally, embrace. But even if someone rejects the global flood version of the Noah story, it can't be on account of 'not enough room on the boat'

There are 2 important questions
1. How many animals would have been necessary to allow for what we see today
2. How big would the boat have needed to be to carry the above animals.

In regards to the 1st question, the mistake Gervais made was assuming that today's definition of 'species' was the same definition as the biblical 'kind.' Dr. John Woodmorappe has tallied that 16,000 individual animals had to be aboard to account for today's variation (not the 4 million Gervais cited).

So was the ark big enough for this? The ark was the equivalent of 522 standard railroad stock cars. The median size of the animals is less than that of a sheep. Each standard stock car could hold 240 sheep. If aminals were kept in cages with an average size of 20 x 20 x 12 inches, the 16k animals would only occupy 14.4 stock cars. If you insist on insects being on the ark and put them in 4 inch boxes, you could put a million insect species into 12 more cars. We're talking less than 20 out of 522 cars necessary for the animals. Those are the minimal necessary (doable) requirements.

So the ark simply can't be rejected on 'space' issues.

Aaron Perry said...

Thanks for the explanation. What strikes me in it is all the ways one has to add to the text--a number of animals; development of cages and boxes; a consideration of animal sizes assuming debated dating for the era--to defend it. In the end, it's a question of hermeneutics--how do you read? With this in mind, I think both Gervais and Woodmorappe make the same hermeneutical error because they read the text the same way. One seeks to defend; one seeks to condemn. Both live in the enlightenment where its veracity is based on its ability to meet forms of scientific criteria.

matthew said...

I see your point (though I am sure many would object to the idea that Woodmorappe is part of the enlightenment in any way!), but I somewhat disagree.

While the Bible is not a book of reason, that is not b/c it is unreasonable. The Dr. is simply responding to those who claim it is unreasonable.

Now, a Christian, like yourself, might object to reading the story as a literal historical occurrence. But that's a very different thing than dismissing the story b/c one thinks it is impossible and moronic.

I don't think reason can ultimately, by itself, result in faith. But I do think reason can get in the way of it.