Friday, September 6, 2013

#695: Norman Geisler

Dallel Gates, a faculty member at the Atlantic Christian School, once wrote a paper with legendary creationist Andrew Snelling for Answers Research Journal but seems to have done little else of significance. So instead we’ll give the slot to one of the most significant creationist apologists working today and present to you: Norman Geisler.

Geisler, an apologist, author, and co-founder of Southern Evangelical Seminary, describes himself as a “moderate Calvinist”, which pretty much means that he rejects the less marketable doctrines of Calvinism, not that he is particularly “moderate” in any sense of the term. He was, for instance, deeply involved in the drafting of the Chicago Statements, which asserts that the Bible is inerrant, literally true, and historically accurate from Genesis to Revelation, that those who do not believe this are off to hell, and in particular that the theory evolution is false (it is discussed here; Geisler is apparently the guiding hand behind the video discussed here). And that pretty much sums up the role and significance he attaches to science, reason, evidence and rational inquiry. He did team up with Bob Cornuke for Cornuke’s infamous excursion to Turkey to find Noah’s ark. That doesn’t really count as inquiry.

As an apologist Geisler is at least aware of the Problem of Evil, and his solution, in a nutshell, is “[b]ut if it’s evil, then there must be a standard for good. If there is a crooked line in this world then there must be a straight line. If there is a straight line then there must be God.” He’s even written a book about it.

Geisler somehow happened to end up as one of the witnesses at the Arkansas creationism trial back in 1982. During his pre-trial deposition, he was asked if he believed in a real Devil. Geisler answered “yes”, citing Scripture. On the question whether there was evidence other than scripture, Geisler replied “Oh, yes. I have known personally at least 12 persons who were clearly possessed by the Devil. And then there are the UFOs […] they represent the Devil’s major, in fact, final attack on the earth.” To the obvious follow-up question of how Geisler knew there are UFOs, his answer was “I read it in the Readers Digest.” (The conversation is recounted here.) Again, rational inquiry isn’t quite his forte.

Geisler has nonetheless written an almost endless row of books. A recurring theme is the attempt to argue that science, skepticism, or atheism, are just religions as well, so their evidence is no better than his by default. Not that Geisler would recognize anything having to do with science if it stood on him, and you don’t really get your arguments concerning skepticism from someone who thinks that Readers Digest has demonstrated the existence of Satanic UFOs.

Diagnosis: Counted by many as one of the most serious and respectable of the fundie apologists (yes, he is actually frighteningly influential) Geisler’s intellectual status is nevertheless clearly not far superior to the mental powers of Kent Hovind. I have no doubt that his apologetics is pretty much as good as fundie apologetics get, though.

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