Friday, September 03, 2010

Doug Groothuis Bans Me

Wow, Doug Groothuis has banned me from his blog for writing the following, which he refused to publish:

I think this excerpt shows why, for non-Christians, C. S. Lewis's philosophy is regarded as deficient.

Lewis didn't know anything about evolution. He didn't understand that what he called "morality" is a fact about human evolution; that we are programmed by evolution and culture to regard certain behaviors of others as acceptable and other behaviors as less so. Once this is understood, Lewis's confusion simply vanishes.

He calls this "pugilistic, pugnacious, and pernicious propositions."

Students of Groothuis should be aware: he does not tolerate any kind of dissent. If I were you, I'd look for another teacher, one that respects the give-and-take necessary to acquire knowledge.


The Atheist Missionary said...

Welcome to the club of those who have been blocked by groothuis' narrowmindedness. He is god's gift to atheism:

The Daily Fuel said...

A badge of honor, if you ask me, being banned by Groothuis.

Tellingly, Groothuis ends his frenzy of alliteration by explaining the ban in terms of the banned's use of "pernicious propositions." Indeed, well-reasoned objections are pernicious to dogma or religious belief, so well done!

Finally, if you want a dissection of Groothuisian hypocrisy, look no further than this post, which I published on my blog in response to one of the usual sanctimonious tirades by Groothuis on his idea of civil discourse.

His students would indeed do well to look for a different instructor (I hesitate to call Groothuis a professor since demeanor has more to do with a person's standing and attitude than a simple title).
Have a nice labor day.

AL said...

"pugilistic, pugnacious, and pernicious propositions."

Painfully pretentious prose.

Perplexed Person said...

"we are programmed by evolution and culture to regard certain behaviors of others as acceptable and other behaviors as less so. Once this is understood, Lewis's confusion simply vanishes."

I think this can be understood only after someone can explain why -I- think that foul language by others is fine, while my twin brother thinks it sucks. We were raised in the same house and have the same culture. Sure, we may have had different influences in our life. (Is "environment" different from "culture"?)
I don't see how evolution has anything to do with it either. Sure, maybe my brother has some genetic mutation that causes him to hate foul language, but wouldn't that be impossible to prove?

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Dear Perplexed:

1. Even identical twins haven't had the same experiences.

2. If you want to know what "evolution has to do with it", read Darwinism and Human Affairs, one of the most profound books of moral philosphy ever written.

Blake Stacey said...

I'm amused that such a bland statement on your part provoked such a strong reaction.

Blake Stacey said...

The Atheist Missionary:

Wow, Groothuis takes Signature in the Cell seriously? Snicker.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure "programmed by evolution and culture to regard certain behaviors of others as acceptable and other behaviors as less so" is strictly an accurate statement.

I mean, I'm no believer, but this statement will probably raise the ire of any anthropologist.

It is unclear to what extent evolution impacts more nuanced notions of behaviour in a culture. Very little of "acceptable behaviour" is truly cross-cultural.

We need to be wary of evolutionary psychology boosterism -- it doesn't seem to be well-grounded in research that doesn't just reach a presupposition about How People Are. (Where, in most cases, People is defined as some tiny subset of the undergrad population in the US or Europe.)

AG said...

Actually, People is defined as Psychology undergrads in the Western Hemisphere in the most prestigious universities

Anonymous said...

I got banned today too. He really doesn't like anybody to disagree with him.

I was upset when he implied that my wife should have died rather than have an abortion. Really weird Christian morality that.

He is, of course, funded by the gullible so his job is dependent on keeping people afraid.

Chris P

I went to his presentation in Denver for some students where he regurgitated Meyer's talking points about ID. He was very evasive. Of course the "Witnessing" by a student that followed the talk kind of blew holes in the "It's nothing to do with a Christian God" argument.

When I saw him at the Castle Rock ID conference I overheard him talking to Meyer and other people - lot's of "Jesus" talk.

I'd have thought that a professional philosopher could have stood his ground on his own blog.

He must not like people who program in APL.

Blake Stacey said...


When one says "programmed by evolution and culture" without drawing any dividing line — that is, without specifying what's down to evolution and what is due to culture — I don't think the shortcomings of Evolutionary Psychology really enter the picture.

Of course, as a physicist by training, I'm professionally bound to agree that psychology is not the study of human beings, but rather the study of the twenty undergraduates who showed up to get extra credit or a candy bar. :-)

Joel Reyes Noche said...

The link in your post ("banned me") no longer works.

Perplexed Person said...

To expand on my previous comment, I'd like to ask:
Which is more evolutionarily advantageous? Using foul language, or not using foul language?

I guess we can find out in a few thousand years.

But no matter which side wins out, we can say, "aha! survival of the fittest!"

What kind of theory is that, in which any outcome proves the theory?

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Dear Perplexed:

All I can say is, your nom de plume is well-chosen. Perhaps you should read some books on evolutionary biology (like Futuyma) and get back to me.

Pseudonym said...

Just as a quick aside: Most Christians over the age of 20 understand that C.S. Lewis was a storyteller, not a philosopher.

Miranda said...

Jeff, your response to Perplexed reminds me of a story I once heard:

A rabbi was travelling with his wagon driver. One day he noticed the driver was sad and asked why.
"I'll tell you rabbi," the simple man answered. "Everywhere we go, you always get such big honors. The whole town comes out to see you, everyone treats you like a king and I get shunted into the corner and ignored. Just once I wish it could be for me."
"Well what do you want to do about it?" asked the rabbi.
"The next town we come to," the driver answered, "we'll change clothes. I'll say I'm the rabbi and that you're the driver."
"But that's absurd," countered the rabbi. "These people aren't just coming out to honor me. They ask me important questions in Jewish law. The minute they ask you a question, they'll know you're not the real rabbi!"
"Trust me I can make it work," persisted the driver. "Just let me have the chance."
So they went to the next town, the rabbi driving the wagon and the driver in the back sitting in the rabbi's clothes. They got to town, everyone came out and treated the driver royally. There was a community dinner and then after the dinner the local rabbis came out with their Talmuds and said "Now, Rabbi, we have some questions."
"Ah ha!" said the rabbi to himself as the driver sat at the table with them. "Now he's done for!"
The driver listened to the first question and took the Talmud in hand. For a moment he squinted at the page and then shook his head in frustration.
"With such simple questions you come to me?" he shouted. "This one is so easy my wagon driver could answer it. Driver, come over here and tell these people what they need to know!"

Gareth McCaughan said...

Miranda, you think referring someone to a book is like saying "that's so easy my wagon driver could answer it"? Do you think that every time you see someone say "you should read up on this"?

Perplexed, environment is part of culture in this sense; in any case, your example is surely no more favourable to Lewis's explanation of moral judgements than to Jeffrey's. And would you care to give some actual instances in which "any outcome proves the theory"? It didn't look to me as if anything Jeffrey was saying was intended as proving (or offering support for) evolution.

Miranda said...

"Do you think that every time you see someone say "you should read up on this"?"

No, not every time, and not with everyone.

The Daily Fuel said...

Going back to the original topic of this post, Groothuis's ban of Prof. Shallit: If Prof. Shallit were to apply the same standards that Groothuis uses to ban people, Miranda's joke would never have seen the light of day. That is how fickle and ridiculous The Constructive Curmudgeon blog has gotten over the last couple of years.

AL said...

But no matter which side wins out, we can say, "aha! survival of the fittest!"

What kind of theory is that, in which any outcome proves the theory?

What makes you think this is "proof" of the theory? Evolutionary theory isn't substantiated in this way. If scientists thought the whole of evolutionary biology was backed up solely by "survival of the fittest" always being observed, it would be a weak field indeed. But this isn't the case.

First of all, a general sense of "survival of the fittest" is technically falsifiable, contrary to your suggestion that it isn't. If all organisms on the planet were immortal and equally sexually fertile, the concept of fitness would have no meaning. We don't observe this, of course, so we consider the concept substantiated.

Second of all, no reasonable evolutionary biologist would claim to be able to predict specifically which alleles will prevail in a population 1000 years into the future, let alone predict what the fitness landscape will look like. You might as well claim that the theory of plate tectonics is a ridiculous theory because geologists can't tell you exactly where every continent will be in a million years, but whether the continents drift east or west, north or south, they move so every outcome "proves" the theory, right?

Evolutionary biologists can reasonably make shorter term predictions, which they routinely do all the time. A population of bacteria subjected to an antibiotic will see a greater frequency of resistance traits in subsequent generations. If you observed the opposite, then we have a problem and a possible falsification.

Miranda said...

I respect Jeff for allowing my unfriendly comment to be posted.

Curt Cameron said...

Ahh, now it makes sense, that Lewis didn't know anything about evolution.

A couple of years ago I heard Francis Collins interviewed, and he mentioned that Lewis's Mere Christianity was a turning point for him. Well, Collins is obviously a smart guy, so I owed it to myself to read that book.

You remember Andy Kaufman? Every time I'd watch him on stage, I would get embarrassed for him. That's how I felt reading the book: "surely he's not about to say THAT?!? NOOO, Lewis don't go there! AAAAAAHHHHH!"

I could make it only about 2/3 the way through the book - it was downright shameful. What a lame piece of work. Near the end it just started droning on and on about how a "good Christian" should behave, and I gave up.

Now that you mention that Lewis didn't know anything about evolution, I guess it makes more sense. Now the question becomes how Collins was swayed by it.

Andrew said...

Wasn't he a speechwriter for Agnew?

Anonymous said...

CS Lewis? Yech!! Master of the non-sequitur, ignorant hack. But he gets some credit in my book for his reaction on learning Tolkien (another stuck up retchworthy yuckmeister) was planning to extract a book out of his marginal ramblings on Middle Earth, "Oh no! Not another fxxxxxg elf#@$%*!" So CSL did have a sense of humour after all.


Anonymous said...

Could you PULEEZE fix your blog so the date on which comments were made is shown, instead of just the time of day? Who cares what time of day a comment was made on, if one cannot tell what day that time of day is on?

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Sure. Done.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Groothuis (since he doesn't have a real doctorate, Dr. is misleading) is what you call an academic hack.

His ideas are even ridiculed by other fundamentalists and his former students.

It seems likely that he's delusional. He actually believes that his ideas are sophisticated and compelling.

Let's be careful not to use Mr. Groothuis as an example of Christianity or fundamentalism.

It would be better to just make fun of him, ignore what he says and engage more compelling, intellectual, arguments for Christianity.

Jeffrey Shallit said...


According to the info I have, Groothuis indeed has a Ph. D. from the University of Oregon.

I doubt very much he is "delusional". Deluded, perhaps, and misguided, but no need to insult his mental competence.

John Stockwell said...

I too, was banned by Dr. Groothuis.

He has left a lot of my posts up, however,
he doesn't really seem to want to learn
anything about science. He doesn't want
to hear opposing views.

I have speculated that he is on the
take in some way from the Discovery
Institute. This may not necessarily
be monetary remuneration, but I do
think that the last thing that the
Disco'tute wants is to have an honest
discussion of intelligent design to
appear on a partisan's blog.

I still try to post on his blog, just
to remind him that I am still around.