Commentary – Rinker Column Misguided

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Dear Editor:

The article by H. Bruce Rinker, Ph. D. about the unarguable necessity for a belief in evolution is a primer on how to write sophistry. Many of us are used to the sophistry commonly found in verbal discussions with those around us who are unable to clearly articulate proofs of their belief systems, but for a man of science to graphically produce such illogical dogma is rare and refreshing. I commend his courage for his wry attempt to foist nonsense on the readers of the Star Sentinel.

Despite his protestations of having a degree of understanding of Christianity, the statement that other religions, such as Judaism and Islam are well regarded pathways to the Divine equal to Christianity, belies Dr. Rinker’s virtually complete misunderstanding of the faith he claims. This is, simply, error. Jesus says there is one way, not two, three, or four.

Dr. Rinker begins his screed as all arguments written by zealots begin, with a denunciation of those who may disagree, those he denigrates with the statement that they would view him as someone to be burned at the stake for heresy. As a scientist, I’m sure he can produce proof that twenty-first century non evolutionists have done this or at least have threatened him in such a way. No? Well, then, how scientific is such a statement, filled with emotion and feeling, but devoid of substance?

Rinker writes of substantial flaws in fundamentalist approaches to Scripture, but what of those of us who are not fundamentalists, who espouse a conservative Reformed view of Scripture? Those who also find evolution an exercise in illogic and make believe? I am a scientist. I hold a doctorate from an accredited university, as does Dr. Rinker. How will he dismiss me? I reject evolution in favor of a simple belief in what the Creator clearly says in his word, as do fundamentalists, my brothers and sisters in Christ. I marshal no arguments, I refuse to battle on his flawed battlefield, but rely on Christ and his word, the true science, for vindication.

Dr. Rinker condemns the belief in “intelligent design”. What of those of us who do not promulgate that explanation of creation? What if we are not creationists at all, at least in the pejorative sense his sort uses the term? This is the straw man thesis: set out parameters defined by yourself and criticize those who do not follow that which you have framed as their thought process. This is not scientific analysis, it is sophistry.

Much of the remaining article consists of the tired arguments of Dr. Rinker’s hero, Stephen Jay Gould, whom I met and spoke with a few decades ago, where these same bromides were presented in a much more engaging fashion, without the venom against others Dr. Rinker demonstrates. There is no originality in Rinker’s version, no fresh look at the issue, from what consists of just another belief system.

Hidden in the body of the article, Dr. Rinker trots out Ronald Reagan as an example of the illogic that he believes consumes people of faith. Aha! There it comes. Now it is clear that Dr. Rinker is writing polemically, not scientifically. He attacks a politician, not a scientist. His polemic is political posture. From that realization, the arguments Dr. Rinker marshals for his belief system become much clearer. It explains the sophistry as just another attempt at the well-worn method of winning by attacking and demolishing your opponents’ supposed leader, the Saul Alinsky approach to political discourse. Dr. Rinker refines the method: add arcane terminology and rank snobbery to befuddle rather than to try to educate.

That’s okay. In a non-Christian post-modern world, all’s fair in love and war, I suppose.

It just shouldn’t be called science.

-Michael W. Ridenhour, Au.D.
Roanoke