A geologist, trying to be nice to religious people, not only deals fast and loose with rock, but rolls into circular reasoning.

Geomorphologist David Montgomery believes science and religion can get along, as long as religion gives up any claim to epistemic truth about the world.  His new book, The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, was given friendly air time on Science Daily with no critique or rebuttal.  The article makes it clear that Montgomery views science epistemically superior to the Bible at the outset: “The purpose is not to tweak people of faith but to remind everyone about the long history in the faith community of respecting what we can learn from observing the world,” he said.  By drawing a contrast between himself and “people of faith” he denies the use of faith himself.  By “observing the world,” he presumes “people of faith” are not accustomed to doing so.  In short, if he can get “people of faith” to receive their revelation from geologists, he is willing to patronize them.

The article informs the reader matter-of-factly that the earth really is millions of years old, there was no universal global flood (which is impossible, in Montgomery’s view), and the Noah’s Flood story got its start in Mesopotamian myths.  This is nothing new, of course – skeptics have been claiming this for two centuries.  Montgomery, though, tries to put forth a kinder, gentler kind of scientific superiority complex: he allows that religious myths might have gotten started with half-truths: e.g., global flood myths based in local floods.  He even mentions some large local floods: a Tibetan flood, the Channeled Scablands of Washington, and islands that experienced devastating tsunamis.  By acknowledging that evidence for a “folk tale might be reality based,” he tosses a few scraps from the science table to the religious puppies.

In fact, one of his goals in writing the book was to improve scientific literacy among non-scientists.  Example: “He noted that a 2001 National Science Foundation survey found that more than half of American adults didn’t realize that dinosaurs were extinct long before humans came along.”  Another of his altruistic motives is “to coax readers to make sense of the world through both what they believe and through what they can see for themselves, and to keep an open mind to new ideas.”  He said, “If you think you know everything, you’ll never learn anything.”….

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