60 Uncomfortable Seconds for Dr. Andrew Parker


In his recent interview in the Metro’s ’60 Seconds’ column on August 4th, Dr. Andrew Parker – a biologist from Oxford University – could have been forgiven if he’d expected a pretty easy ride.  It’s a free paper, it’s a quick interview, it’s bound to be a cake-walk, you might think.  But you might well be wrong…  especially given that his new book is titled ‘The Genesis Enigma: Why The Bible Is Scientifically Accurate’ and claims that Genesis matches the history of the universe so accurately it could only have been written with divine intervention.

As it happens, the interviewer eschews the soft-ball questions you’d expect to find in a quick interview like this, and really pulls no punches – producing what is actually a highly entertaining read.  A few highlights from the article include:

When asked by the Metro (M) if this was another case of religion masquerading as science Dr Parker (P) responded:

P:  Not only is the sequence of events in Genesis scientifically correct but some of the events themselves are really quite precise, which would have been impossible for a human to know at that time. You have to conclude that either the author made extremely lucky guesses or something strange was going on: divine inspiration.

M:  That’s a massive leap, isn’t it?

The interviewer then pushes on specifics:

M:  You say the second ‘Let there be light…’ refers to the evolution of the eye but you edited out the rest of the line, which clearly refers to the Sun, Moon and stars. There’s no mention in Genesis of the evolution of the eye.

P:  Um, OK. I’ll probably have a look at this in more detail again. The first page of the Bible doesn’t spell out the eye but it doesn’t spell out any of the science in detail.

M:  Your argument seems full of holes.

And then there’s the excellent exchange:

P:  If you want to say it’s 100 per cent evidence for God, no. With this book, there might be indirect evidence – it’s the strongest evidence for the existence of God I’ve come across. I’m not sure how you would describe it.

M:  Flawed.

It’s a great example of the light, casual media showing a genuine journalistic streak, rather than politely soft-balling easy questions to a guest. You do have to ask yourself, if Andrew Parker is getting taken apart so easily by the Metro, what would Dawkins or Hitchens do to him!

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  1. #1 by Yorkshireskeptic on August 15, 2009 - 14:55

    Hilarious and uplifting! Maybe the skeptical mindset is starting to become more widespread in mainstream culture?

    Great to see a new UK based skeptical blog and society as well, your article on ‘Where Swine Flu Meets Bullshit’ is one of the funniest skeptical articles i’ve read anywhere! Educational and entertaining!

    Keep it up! 🙂

  2. #2 by Paulie on August 17, 2009 - 22:12

    How can he call himself a Doctor? Shouldn’t he be a little more discerning and intellingent than the rest of us?

    He should be ashamed of himself.

    Bloody funny all the same, what a burk!

  3. #3 by Colonel Molerat on August 20, 2009 - 19:33

    “M: Are science and religion irreconcilable?
    P: The atheist movement argues that with science there’s no more room for religion. So you either have faith in religion with no rational backing whatsoever or you follow science – and science dictates there’s no room for God, which isn’t true. There are things beyond our realm we can’t solve with science.”

    I think this is one of the biggest problems in public perception of the scientific worldview. Science doesn’t dictate that there is no room for gods – this is exactly how the ‘god of the gaps argument fits’.

    Just because a religious explanation can fit though, doesn’t mean it is the answer – the gap is constantly getting smaller as our knowledge expands, and religion is constantly having to adjust its claims accordingly.

    Dr. Parker is right about either following science or following religion ‘with no rational backing’. There is no rational point in believing in gods. It is completely extraneous. All science does is point out that it is not needed. I, for one, find it very silly to fill the gap with irrational claims. Why not wait until you know the truth, rather than guess wildly?

    He says that there are things beyond our realm that we cannot solve with science. Perhaps we can’t for the moment, or perhaps we never will. Either way, if science can’t solve them, then random postulation never will.

    The religious worldview needs more patience, curiousity, and, sometimes, acceptance that we may never know.

  4. #4 by Barbara on August 26, 2009 - 01:33

    I listened to the 2nd podcast as I do to all podcasts, interested but ultimately sleep will come. And it did zzzz.
    But always one for the underdog, I felt the mocking (to a playground bullying level) of Dr Andrew Parker to be most undignified. I was religious in my teens. I could have squared my beliefs with the bible as my A level sciences progressed. But I was totally turned off religion by a meeting which showed a film mocking evolution. Their sneering attitude was reminded to me by your podcast. Obviously in a different direction. You mocked things unnecessarily in Genesis. It was written thousands of years ago; it is a creation story, a poem, and every culture has one, don’t they? It can’t be scientifically accurate but it can fit with your scientific knowledge if you have religious faith. Molerat is too clever for me.
    I agree with you all but don’t like your contempt. It is fine for the atheist but will just raise hackles amongst the undecided. I am as sneering as any of you about religion, but sometimes I have to hide it. I’m not sure it is always bad and I think if I opened the eyes of some of my friends it would do them or their families harm.
    Blundering in with your atheist views is akin to the Christian missionaries demolishing ancient traditions to impose their beliefs. I am sure there are no gods or spirits but am not convinced that persuading others of my conviction is the way forward.

  5. #5 by Mike on August 26, 2009 - 08:29

    Hi Barbara

    As a creation myth, Genesis is a fascinating work. It is an invaluable insight into bronze age culture, and in common with the mythology of many other cultures, it features a number of entertaining yarns about heroes and monsters. I have a huge amount of respect for the Bible as a piece of mythology, much as I do for the Iliad and the Odyssey. If you’re interested in looking the Bible from this perspective I can recommend the work of Dr Robert Price.

    However, a key difference is that no one is claiming Homer’s Odyssey is a historical work. No one is claiming it represents an accurate, or even metaphorical, view of science or the real world. This is not the case with the Bible, which many people (including Parker) attempt to shoehorn into a scientific framework in order to try and prove a point about their god. In doing so, not only do they devalue and damage science, they also devalue the Bible – which like I said is a fascinating work when viewed as a piece of mythology or cultural anthropology.

    There are no sacred cows. If you are going to make claims that X is scientifically accurate, or accurately reflects science, then other people are going to check your work. If X doesn’t do what you claim then you will be called out over it. It doesn’t matter if X is a free energy machine, a quack holistic cure, or your holy book. No sacred cows. If you claim it is science and it’s not, we are going to point that out.

    Mike

  6. #6 by Marsh on August 26, 2009 - 09:10

    Hi Barbara

    I understand your concerns, but I think Mike summed up my position pretty much too. The only think I’d add/point out is that Parker isn’t someone who’s just getting along with his daily life with these beliefs – he’s publishing books telling the world the Bible is a work of science, and he’s doing media interviews to forward this position to the general public. Without voices of dissent (and, sometimes, reasonable mockery), we run the risk that his assertions go unchecked and people buy into his theories, eroding the belief in science.

    As for our mockery or derision, I’d like to think we stuck firmly to addressing his work and his interview – nothing was personal or spoke of him as a man. That’s where we draw the line, I believe. Personally, I think the greatest respect you can show someone is not to pussyfoot around where they’re wrong, but to drop what doesn’t work and move on. If they persist with palpably false claims after being proven false, then it’s them that are mocking you.

    Marsh

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