Thursday, March 04, 2010

A Confederation of Doofuses

Jerry Coyne, always a barrel of laughs when he strays away from biology, has perhaps his most breathtakingly stupid post ever. (No small feat.) The subject of the post is to mock a Christian response to the killer whale that recently killed its trainer at Florida's Sea World. In a post entitled  Christians want orca stoned to death Coyne writes
But one group feels otherwise. The Rightly Concerned website, an arm of the religious, right-wing American Family Organization, has called for not only the execution of the orca, but death by stoning. Why? Because the Bible says so:
No Jerry, nobody is calling for the whale to be stoned.

Now I am no fan of the American Family Organization (or, for that matter, any para-church organization) but Coyne is just nuts. Read that story in full. It is unambiguous that the message was not that the animal should be stoned. The message, drawing upon bible verses quoted, was this: The first time the Orca killed it should have been destroyed. The second time, it should be destroyed and the owners should be held accountable.

You can agree or disagree—but it is neither a controversial nor a religious stand.

Now to make this a confederation of doofuses, as the title suggests, we have to include some of the choice comments from Jerry's erudite readers. Many of them deal with a misconception of literality and and the utterly fatuous, tiresome charge of cafeteria Christianity (choosing which Old Testament laws to obey and which to ignore). The latter topic has been dealt with a number of times on this blog.

Below are some of the comments, at the time of this post. Following each comment is a score from 0 to a maximum of 1.0 Coynes. All spellings are preserved from the actual comment.
Wait a second. The holey scripture says nothing about whales. Wouldn’t that be “interpretating” the bible to apply the ox rule to the whale? And isn’t interpreting the holey book, rather than taking it literally, which the source of our moral decay?

Score: 0.8 Coynes. Complete misunderstanding of the relationship between biblical interpretation and literality. Plus, it has the proper unwarranted air of intellectual superiority—essential for receiving a high score on the Absolute Coyne Scale.

This is the point. The loons who claim to be reading the Bible literally really aren’t. They’re projecting their own interpretation on the words and calling it literalism.

The law is specifically about oxen. Anyone who uses it to apply to dogs or cats or killer whales is reading something into the text that isn’t there. There is no such thing as a real Biblical literalists – just people who pretend to read the book literally while smuggling all kinds of their own personal self-projection into the text.
Score 0.83 Coynes. An even slightly more awry conception of the literal hermeneutic than the previous comment.

Besides, how do they know Yahweh didn’t make the whale kill the trainer to enact his wrathful vengeance against those who keep large, intelligent, wild animals as slaves? Oh wait, their god doesn’t condemn slavery.

“Literal” is only literal in so far as it’s convenient for their imposition of control. I’m reminded of the quote that goes something like, “It’s amazing how often the ‘will of God’ matches the will of the believer.”
Score 0.78 Coynes. An appeal to the all-encompassing "how do they know God didn't want that to happen" argument and a gratuitous (and incorrect) suggestion that God condones slavery. (Another topic dealt with at length on this blog, most recently here.)

Do these people eat pork? Do they wear clothing of mixed fabrics? Do they light fires or do any of a number things traditionally prohibited on the sabbath?
Oh, they only follow some of those hundreds of rules. Oh. Okay. Never mind.

How do they decide again? It’s all in God’s book. It takes a lot of balls/guts/hutspa to pick and choose amongst the various rules one claims were given to them by the creator of the universe who could flood or salt-pillar or bear-maul or otherwise smite them for not following. Sorry, don’t get it. How are we supposed to take their brandishing of these rules seriously when they don’t take these rules seriously themselves. Jots and tittles indeed.

Score 0.95 Coynes. Combines the unwarranted air of intellectual superiority with a signal that the commenter knows the bible better than the Christians he criticizes. The commenter should read and ponder Hebrews 7:12.

Finally, we close with an intelligent, spot-on comment:
Sorry guys, but this post contains 2 grave inaccuracies:
Firstly: The AFA doesn’t demand the whale to be stoned.
From their bible excerpt, they conclude:
“So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death.“
I think it is neither fair nor accurate to claim that they demand stoning.
Score: 0.0 Coynes. Be careful though, you could be dangerously close to being declared  a faithiest.

UPDATE: Additional comment:

Somehow the desperate cry rings over the planet again:
Too many xians, too few lions!
Score: 0.94 Coynes. Jokes at our expense are more than acceptable, in fact they are welcomed. But they must be funny. This one hasn't been funny for centuries. Lacking originality or humor in your mocking of Christians will always get you a high Coyne score.

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