James J. S. Johnson | pgs. 9-11 | link
Staying on Track Despite Deceptive Distractions
James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D., always produces funny articles. This month’s does not disappoint, talking about Red Herrings and Straw man arguments. The trouble is, Johnson’s examples of these arguments from the evolutionary debate (or whatever he calls it)… aren’t straw men or red herrings. For those who care, this dismissal of an argument because it is allegedly fallacious is in itself a fallacy. But never mind about that, what does he say?
He spends much of his three page column talking about WWII allied camouflage techniques, as it happens. He also mentions the tale of Katherine von Bora, Martin Luther’s wife, who apparently escaped a convent by hiding “behind barrels of herrings”. Whether they were red or not is not discussed, and I don’t actually think that that example even counts towards his point.
As for the arguments he claims to be fallacious:
At a recent scholars’ conference in Fort Worth, this writer challenged a theistic evolutionist to stop using red herring arguments when the evolutionist disagreed with the Genesis record. The evolutionist claimed to be a Bible-believing Christian, yet he was “willingly ignorant” of the Noahic Flood and of the Bible’s chronology data. Instead, he substituted a uniformitarian tale of eons of “deep time” (relying on radiometric dating), ultimately relying on unbiblical methods and concepts promoted by two deists of prior centuries, James Hutton and Charles Lyell.
How exactly the argument was a red herring is not well explained, and Johnson does not go on to explain the reaction to his challenge. Where the “willingly ignorant” quote comes from – it sounds more biblical than anything the person actually said – is not stated.
He then moves on to straw man arguments:
A “straw man” argument is a common ploy used by evolutionists. The real controversy is evaded—dodged—by substituting a caricature that evolutionist polemics can easily knock down. In origins controversies, straw men arguments produce more heat than light.
For example, consider how some Big Bang proponents argue against the Genesis record’s young-earth data by dodging behind the assumption that the Genesis genealogies are “open,” not “closed.” The open genealogy theory claims that the genealogies in Genesis 1-11 contain gaps, stretchable into huge numbers of years, enough to accommodate human evolution (and “geologic time” theory) timescales. But this is a straw man argument.
Er – how? How does that fit the definition? Where in that is a caricature of the opposing point of view that can be knocked down? Unless, of course, Johnson is being all meta, and is actually talking about what he himself is writing. He then quotes another source:
A common argument against young-earth creationism is that gaps exist in the genealogies listed in the fifth and tenth chapters of Genesis. The old-earth proponent assumes that if gaps exist, then one cannot claim to know an approximate age of the earth based on biblical data. As a result, they say we must rely on extrabiblical sources to discover the age of the earth.
He then continues:
As Dr. Jonathan Sarfati has shown, there is no good reason to impute any gaps to the Genesis genealogies. However, the open-versus-closed controversy is itself a red herring distraction, because it employs a straw man counterfeit, in lieu of the Genesis record’s actual data—as ICR has demonstrated previously. Bottom line: the Genesis record (from Adam to Abraham) provides event-to-event timeframes, each measured in literal years, and those timeframes connect sequentially together like adjoining links in a gapless chain.
The problem here is that while he may, at least in his own mind, be proving this position incorrect, that doesn’t make the position a straw man argument.
God provided inerrant biblical chronology information in our Scriptures (i.e., in Genesis, one of the Mosaic books that Christ Himself regarded as perfect), so whether the genealogies are open or closed is irrelevant to the question of the age of the earth (as applied to the Adam-to-Abraham years). Accordingly, the open-or-closed genealogy question is a needless distraction.
He just doesn’t get it, does he?