6/18/2007

LEE STROBEL'S 'CASE FOR A CREATOR'

Lee Strobel is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former self-described ‘atheist’ who converted to Christianity. Strobel has written a number of books in which he ‘investigates’ faith-based claims and the impression he attempts to give is that he is an objective investigator!

However, in ‘The Case for a Creator’ Strobel not only lacks objectivity, he ‘stacks the deck’ in a way that can only be regarded as intellectually dishonest.

CONSIDER:

1# Strobel’s interview subjects are ‘cherry-picked.’

Most of them are not practicing scientists. All of them are proponents of intelligent design, which is widely regarded as pseudoscience.
(1) Strobel does not grant ‘equal time’ to scientists who accept evolution, even though they vastly outnumber ID advocates in the scientific community. (2, 3)

2# Strobel’s contrived counter-arguments are misleading.

When Strobel interviews ID advocates like Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe and Jonathan Wells he poses what are supposed to sound like tough-minded challenges, but they are actually ‘straw man’ arguments, distortions of evolutionary biology that virtually no one in the field actually agrees with, and thus easy to debunk. His ‘experts’ oblige him by knocking down the ‘straw man’ he provides!
(4, 5, 6)

3# Strobel fails to ‘connect the dots’.

A good journalist would tell you that virtually everyone he interviews has been financially compensated by a right-wing think tank,
the Discovery Institute (DI). (7) A good journalist would tell his largely-Christian readership that one of his interviewees, the phony biochemist Jonathan Wells, is a ‘Moonie’: a member of a cult (the ‘Unification Church’) founded by a self-styled ‘Messiah’, the Rev. Sun-Myung Moon. (8) Why doesn’t Strobel mention these facts? Clearly, he doesn’t want his cherry-picked experts to be closely scrutinized by the book's intended audience!

4# Strobel leaves out the real science.

The specific arguments made in his book against evolution have been refuted by legitimate scientists, but Strobel doesn’t present this evidence. Since many of these arguments have been around for nearly a century and are throughly discredited, failing to report this amounts to journalistic fraud.

As a science teacher, I’m committed to the integrity of science. As a Christian, I’ve been taught to tell the truth as I see it. I believe that both my vocation and my faith requires me to speak out when someone trashes science and bends the truth. I invite anyone who reads this to investigate Strobel’s book for themselves and see if what I have written about Strobel is true.


(1) Wikipedia: "List of scientific societies rejecting intelligent design"

(2) National Center for Science Education: "Project Steve"

(3) "Results of the Four Day Petition: A Scientific Support For Darwinism"

(4) Humburg, B. "Jonathan Wells: Who Is He, What is Doing and Why?"

(5) Matzke, N. "Evolution in (Brownian) space: a model for the origin of the bacterial flagellum"

(6) Otto, J. and Petto, A. "Design and Its Critics: Yet Another ID Conference"

(7) 'Fellows' of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture

(8) Wells, J. "Darwinism: Why I Went for a Second Ph.D"

11 comments:

Ian said...

In his first book in the series, The Case for Christ Strobel interviews people who attack the Jesus Seminar (one of the leading voices in liberal Christianity) and people who half-heartedly disagree with those people. He never interviews anyone from the Jesus Seminar, despite the fact that half the book is spent attacking them. SO much for "balance".

In the second book, The Case for Faith Strobel breaks from his pattern of presenting "two sides" when he gets to creationism - he just interviews Dembski, and takes him on his word that "the other side says...". At that point I threw away the book in disgust. :)

While he keeps claiming to be a "journalist" and creates the illusion of balance, Strobel's idea of "balance" is reminiscent of Fox News.

QEDlin said...

Ian - many words railing against Strobel's lack of objectivity, then you just can't resist emulating him with a drive-by shot about FN: more than kills yours

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Hi, Ian! I haven't read Strobel's other books myself, but if I hear you right, you're saying, in effect, that there is a consistent failure in his books to fairly represent the views of others.

Qedlin, why would Ian's reference to 'Fox News' automatically mark him as not objective? Even if, for sake of argument, we agreed that this was so, what bearing would that have on the general argument than both Ian and I have made with respect to Strobel's failure to report 'both sides'?

I mean, I have no problem with Strobel if he's going to say, in effect, that he's writing a work of unabashed advocacy and that he chooses not to consider evidence that conflicts with his faith-based worldview.

The trouble is, he doesn't do that. Instead, he wants us to believe that he's essentially behaving as an investigative journalist who has considered all the available evidence, and has made conclusions on same, when in fact he has manifestly failed to do that. As a journalist, he knows better and I think any attempt to pretend otherwise is dishonest.

What do you think? If you'd like to defend Strobel or argue some other position, I encourage you to do so.

Blake Stacey said...

Looks like your blog is off to a good start!

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Thanks, Blake! Welcome! Obviously, this thread is part and parcel of the 'take the challenge to the pews' strategy that we've talked about.

I'm open to suggestions about other items we could examine here along those lines! Hope to see you again here soon!

Richard said...

...the phony biochemist Jonathan Wells, is a ‘Moonie’: a member of a cult (the ‘Unification Church’) founded by a self-styled ‘Messiah’, the Rev. Sun-Myung Moon...

I don't think this relevant, as one could also say...
...science teacher Scott Hatfield is a 'Christian" : a member of a cult (the 'Christian Church') found by a self-styled 'Messiah', Jesus of Nazareth...

If if don't find the latter relevant as to someone's argument, I can't find the former relevant either.

I am open to discussion that one's religious beliefs can inform their scientific opinion, perhaps along the line that one's non-evidence based reasoning has caused them to promote non-evidence based science.

Can't argue with the 'phony' comment though.

Ian said...

When I read The Case for Christ I was pretty ignorant about theology, and I didn't know any of the players, I didn't know what the Jesus Seminar was. However, in The Case for Faith Strobel steps onto my turf. Even five or six years ago when I read it, I knew what ID was and who Dembski was. And once I saw the dishonesty in the chapter where he interviewed Dembski I saw through the whole charade. I haven't gone back to The Case for Christ, but I suspect that if I did I would see the position of the Jesus Seminar terribly misrepresented (my memory says as much, but I'd have to look at the book again).

Strobel's portrays himself as something other than he is. As Scott says, this is dishonest.

Qedlin, if you believe that Fox News is "fair and balanced" then yes, you probably will see Strobel's presentation as balanced. In all honesty though, I can't see how either Fox News or Lee Strobel are "fair and balanced".

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Richard, your point is well taken if you are saying, in effect, that there should be no privileged belief systems in evaluating truth claims. I've got no problem with that! That would be a good topic for another thread, and it would be pretty easy to produce many examples in which believers effectively privilege their beliefs, making it difficult to have any sort of discussion about the nature of belief, or whether or not it can be justified.

However, that's not where I was going for on this thread. Despite some of its rhetoric, Strobel's book is essentially marketed to Christians. His lack of candor regarding Jonathan Wells speaks volumes. He wants to use the arguments of Jonathan Wells, but (knowing his audience) he doesn't want them to know anything about what motivated Wells to pursue his second degree.

In other words, while Wells' arguments should most certainly not be rejected just because he's a Moonie, Strobel's decision to not 'come clean' about his background is, given his intended audience, deceptive.

Ian said...

There's a problem with going on memory from 5-10 years ago...you can make mistakes. I mistakenly thought that Strobel presented two sides of issues - in fact, he presents the "other side" (based on quotes, etc.) and lets his interviewees rebut the arguments. I took a look at The Case for Christ and I realised it's far more slanted than I remembered. Unbiased observer? Yeah, sure.

Zeno said...

Strobel abandoned his journalistic even-handedness when he embarked on his series of "Case" books. Although he seems to be presenting both sides of each issue, the fix is in from the very beginning. For each God-related issue, the strongest pro arguments are marshaled against the weakest anti arguments. It's a sham.

I wrote a post about Strobel's The Case for Christ after a devout friend pressed a copy upon me and urged me to read it. I did. Ugh.

Link

Scott Hatfield . . . said...

Zeno: Thanks for your comment and your informative link!