Join us for Part 3 of our interview with Rodney Meldrum, wherein we discuss his beliefs regarding the Book of Mormon Heartland model.
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This is like a serious discussion on how many mice it actually took to pull Cinderella’s carriage.
The irony, and perhaps the appropriateness, of the starfish story, is that starfish are evolved to spend tidal cycles out of the water. So, they’re good. They don’t need an ignorant (and I use that term in the literal sense, not the pejorative) savior. When a starfish is torn from it’s chosen surface, it rips suction cups from the body. It is then thrown into the surf, without time to anchor, and is beaten by the waves. It is now at high risk for death.
So, when we assume we know what is best for another, we had better not be ignorant of their circumstances, needs, and characteristics.
I stopped listening at the age of the earth part of the discussion. Other than exploring abnormal psychology, why should I care what this guy thinks? Moreover, I could get more entertaining answers to John’s questions by asking a random selection of waffle house customers.
Rodney Meldrum’s arguments are all too familiar to me, and I’m a Never Mormon. One of his most lethal mistakes is not actually knowing what he’s talking about, especially not what he’s arguing against.
Following the “debate” over the science of our origins is one of the strongest things that prompted me to skeptically examine my own faith, and to find it unsatisfactory. (More to it than that, but not relevant here) Around the turn of the century I was in community college and had just taken a few philosophy courses such as Introduction to Logic. I knew what logical fallacies were. Then I started delving into various flavors of Creationism.
What struck me time and time again was the inability of the Creationists to accurately describe what “evolution” even meant, let alone how it actually worked. I realized I could not trust them to describe the thing they rejected, leaving me no reason to put stock in the reasons they gave for believing their own version of events.
What’s more, I found that scientists from virtually any field kept discovering ways in which Creationism of almost any stripe short of completely hands-off Deism simply couldn’t work, or couldn’t claim to work better than non-theistic ideas, in their field of study. Geology, biology, physics, it didn’t matter; they’re all part of the same web of knowledge. There are too many things we’d have to be wrong about, things we can easily demonstrate to be true, for Deep Time, conventional non-Flood geology, or biological Evolution to be incorrect.
All of this was before I ever knew about Mormonism. I think it can’t be emphasized enough that Mormon Creationism is simply one sect’s flavor of a broader, inter-connected web of American Protestant Creationism. I known Mormon doctrine issues are the main thrust of this podcast, but treating it in isolation is sometimes unhelpful.
Creationism in the US today is a cultural phenomenon more than a religious one, which is how so many religious traditions have come to cite each other’s arguments (or simply steal them without attribution). There’s a big, thick book on the topic called “The Creationists” by Ronald L. Numbers which has sections devoted to the Mormon church (pg 339), the moderating influence of James Talmage, communication between Church leaders and non-Mormon Creationist George McCready Price, and Bruce R. McConkie’s book on Mormon Doctrine, but importantly places it within 150 years of context where it belongs.
Though it tends to be insular and self-referential, it’s important for us to understand that the anti-Evolutionist Mormonism you see today is merely the Mormon facet of a larger Protestant current and is in no way unique to or derived from the LDS church and traditions. Baptists, Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even some radical Catholics make the exact same arguments about how a literal Adam and Eve are necessary or the whole of Christianity falls apart, no Book of Mormon or Joseph Fielding Smith needed. They all make the same arguments about why science has to be wrong. They all draw on the same list of zombie arguments against evolution. Anti-evolution Christians of all stripes constantly borrowed from and reinforced each other; they read each other’s work, they promoted each other’s ideas, they did not all independently arrive at their anti-Evolution beliefs in the vacuum of their own doctrine.
Finally, I’d like to point curious readers to the TalkOrigins.org archive. It’s a great collection of discussions about science and evolution, in response to the kinds of arguments Creationists publish by the dozen. There’s a comprehensive index with brief rebuttals and in-depth responses about things like how we know evolution happens or why Noah’s flood would be physically impossible. And the sad part is that even though some of it was written more than 20 years ago, every bit of it is still useful because Creationists make the same debunked arguments today. Nothing Meldrum has said about evolution here is novel, it’s the same garbage misunderstand that anti-Evolutionists have been shoveling longer than I’ve been alive. Find the Index to Creationist Claims and play “Meldrum Bingo” if you have the time!
If you made it to the end of this comment, give yourself a pat on the back! And huge thanks to John and the entire Mormon Stories crew for tackling this behemoth of an interview. (We’re pretty sure the Behemoth wasn’t a dinosaur, btw.)
Example of the ego of the “righteous” Mormon male – a covert jackass
It is rather unfortunate that Dean Sessions’ disillusionment with physics happened while being overwhelmed with its mathematical underpinnings. Three quick thoughts: you might be surprised to learn that the person most responsible for the development of the big bang model was a Jesuit priest. There is also a very, very big difference between “vacuum” and “nothing” although at first glance there might not appear to be a difference to the layman. Last, scientists argue and disagree all the time although those arguments might not spill over into the general public.
I would recommend reading the entirety of Chapter 10 of Hawking and Ellis’ s book, and especially the concluding paragraph:
“The creation of the Universe out of nothing has been argued,
indecisively, from early times; see for example Kant’s first Antinomy
of Pure Reason and comments on it (Smart (1964), pp. 117-23 and
145-59; North (1965), pp. 389-406). The results we have obtained
support the idea that the universe began a finite time ago. However
the actual point of creation, the singularity, is outside the scope of
presently known laws of physics”.
Supernaut, great comment. I too was influenced by the historical issues, inconsistencies and truth claims made by the Mormon church. However by far and away the biggest “aha” moment and the greatest wedge between my worldview and the faith of my childhood is the reality of evolution. It, as Daniel Dennett toned, it’s not just a theory, it’s a complete change in thinking about our reality. Evolution to a great extent, provides a paradigm shift in understanding and comprehending where Homo-Sapien Sapiens (Leakey’s term) really, truly belong in the scheme of things. There’s a beautiful paradox of realizing the insignificance of our species, no different or special than an omeba, a tree, an amphibian, or a dolphin, living on an insignificant planet, in an insignificant ho-hum galaxy in an insignificant neighborhood in the universe, and such thinking is actually quite liberating, and puts razor focus squarely on my shoulders to make my little corner of time, space and relationship to others, meaningful.
I’m also glad you mention the “overlapping magesterias”, or the differing fields of knowledge that would have to not only be wrong, but seriously wrong in order to begin to support a creationist worldview. We’re not talking just about biology, but paleontology, molecular biology, genetics, anthropology, biogeography, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, ecology, geology, physics, virology, medicine, and the list continues. All, and I mean all of these fields rely on, contribute to, and confirm evolutionary theory (and I mean theory in the scientific definition) over and over again.
The organized efforts to thwart everything “evolution” relies on language and reasoning that only has to float barely above the bias of the listener, and general population that revels in faith over reality, and this is discouragingly effective. However I have to agree with the faithful, the seriousness of the Adam and Eve needing to being literal, the fall literal, leading to the need of a literal Savior. I’m not sure how the more liberal minded believers square that circle, aquiescing the ridiculousness of a literal Garden and fall, but squarely on board with the literalness of the life of Jesus. Go figure.
Isaiah’s teaching were mostly contained on the small plates. They were placed in for a wide purpose. Could not have been modified plates were finalized at the time of Mosiah allegedly. Can’t be how it was described
He does not convince. This is a return to a view that really has already been well debunked. It smacks of desperation. Someone might remind him that we have fossil bones that are not “rock” and they have been dated to much older that the 7,000 year mark. And some are human remains.
On the issue of creationism vs evolution. Creationists start with the fundamental notion that the Genesis account is correct. Then they try to find evidences to prove the notion. Science, when done correctly, proposes a hypothesis and then does everything to prove it wrong. Only when every reasonable attempt to prove it wrong fails can the hypothesis be regarded as potentially correct. And then there after, independent corroborating evidence is needed, preferably found and presented by competent peer review.
I’m about 2 hours in so far but I have to take it in chunks. Long rant below:
Meldrum said Europeans coming the New World had an “evolutionary” view of race that allowed them to mistreat the natives they met and the Africans they brought. Is he intentionally implying that Europeans coming to the New World had “evolution” as the underpinnings of their racist outlooks, or does he just not understand that Darwin didn’t publish any of his ideas until years after the US Civil War?
The prejudice of European racial superiority long predate serious evolutionary scientific concepts. Arguably they arose from the cruelty of Europeans inflicted first upon Native Americans and then later on imported African slaves, all of whom the Europeans regarded as sub-human while systematically subjecting them to all kinds of abusive practices. Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English colonizers had absolutely cruel, inhumane, and violent attitudes towards their slaves. Writings from well before any Darwinian scientist already asserted as an established fact their supposed “inferiority” to the “white” races, and nowhere more virulently than in the colonies where slavery was practiced.
It seems pretty likely to me that such ideas germinated in order to justify the harsh conditions that slaves had to be subjected to in order to keep them from rising up and asserting their human dignity; harsh conditions including daily torture, murder, humiliation, and every conceivable evil to force their labor. US slave autobiographies and contemporary writings from French Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) give the curious reader all the horror stories they could ever want, and the European enslavers were instilled with all kinds of poisonous worldviews to justify inflicting them. If you’re daily confronted with your friends, loved ones, and authority figures of every stripe regularly displaying cruelty to people who don’t look like you and you’re told it’s good, just, and correct, are you likely to view the victims with empathy or are you likely to become more racist than you would have otherwise? Are you going to entertain the idea that it’s wrong to treat other humans this way, or are you going to internalize the brutality-as-morality narrative?
The truth is that European racism and pseudoscientific views about ‘race’ were already long in the tooth before Charles Darwin collected his first beetle.
If Meldrum isn’t just honestly slipping up and confusing his timeline, he seems to be rhetorically trying to link European racism with “scientific racism” via evolution while reversing the causality of it. This is, of course, an old Creationist tactic but here he seems to think time travel had something to do with it since he asserted that the Europeans came over with their “evolutionary” views and thus racist behaviors.
I own a copy of Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ (1988 edition). In it, he’s very clear that we don’t know what there was “before” the Big Bang. We can’t know. Our way of knowing would be science, but for very practical reasons we have no science that can examine things that happened before Time itself, let alone before space and matter and energy. He never says the Universe came from “nothing.” It doesn’t take long to get into this with the book: starting around page 7 and through page 9 he lays out his summary of the scientific consensus: that Time started at the Big Bang, and if there is a “before” the Big Bang then whatever happened there can’t influence anything that happened after. That’s not the same as saying the Universe came from “nothing.”
And as John and Carah pointed out, even if he did say that (in a later edition, maybe?) it’s not “the consensus” just because Stephen Hawking said it. He’s a popular public figure, but in his field he was just one of hundreds of thousands of practicing scientists. His peers had no reason to agree with him just because he sold a lot of books and was on the cover of Time magazine. In science, it doesn’t matter WHO said it. What matters is “does this idea explain things better than what we have right now?” Which brings us to another of Mr. Meldrum’s mistaken ideas about how science works!
He has asserted that a cabal of gatekeepers (in more words) prevent working scientists from realizing that their existing knowledge is tainted by anti-Christian atheists who control access to funding. Another old Creationist trope. I just want to point out that this assumption shows his lack of familiarity with science (as a practice) quite clearly.
Scientists are professional skeptics; they do not take things on faith and if an existing explanation does not work in their experiments, they are more than willing to overturn the existing explanation.
The catch is: the new idea has to WORK. Other scientists have to be able to get the same results, or design new experiments that can tell the difference between the old consensus and the new results. And scientists publish their findings as a way to show their work so that others can examine the validity for themselves, design their experiments, and either confirm or challenge the new claims.
It should be pointed out that Meldrum’s ideas had their time in the sun; for nearly 2,000 years the default view of the World in the West was a biblically-informed one. It was “the consensus” of its day. But it was usurped by non-Biblical ideas because the new ideas worked better than the Creationist ones. And this was not for lack of trying by the Creationists! They had every motivation to do the work and prove that their model of Earth and its life was superior, right from the get-go. For 200 years they have been given the chance to show that their Biblical models produce better results, make better predictions, and generate more new knowledge than the non-Biblical alternatives. We have 200 years of increasingly obvious failure of Genesis-derived worldviews to explain the world’s features and processes. Deep Time and Abiogenesis and Common Descent won out because they worked, and Creationism doesn’t. Not because Stephen Hawking or Charles Darwin or the NSF pronounced it to be, but because time after time the literalist view of Genesis just didn’t work.
It would be crazy to see the vast amount of work being done day-in and day-out and believe none of these rigorous investigators can notice some sort of obvious fundamental flaw in the status quo consensus view; they have to use that view every time they design an experiment, and each experiment is a new independent test on the accepted claims, maybe in competition with a hot-shot new theory one of the investigators has.
People become scientists for many reasons, but usually it’s because they’re deeply curious people who are interested in the world around them. They are passionate in finding out how things work, uncovering new knowledge, and bringing our understanding into greater clarity. The joy of discovering something new that none of our contemporaries understand, to witness something for the first time, to unlock a mysterious process that’s baffled the world, is a powerful motivator for scientists. Historians often remark about a similar feeling when they stumble across a previously unknown document that no human has laid eyes on for maybe hundreds of years.
Far moreso than those who work to “harmonize” science into pre-existing religious concepts, the scientists who simply don’t let religion steer their work are iconoclasts. The easiest way to become a famous scientist is to prove your respected scientific predecessors wrong (but again, yours has to work better than theirs). The idea that the vast majority of working scientists are either incompetent to discover that their consensus is built on fake data, or that they are somehow cowed into going along with the Big Lie, is utterly laughable.
Isaac Asimov (PhD chemist, biochemistry professor at Boston Unirvesity School of Medicine, penned some books too) wrote an essay called ‘The Relativity of Wrong’ about how scientists know that all their knowledge is imperfect, but also that science builds on facts that have demonstrated themselves true time and again to expand its own frontiers. His analogy was a young student who pointed out that people had been wrong before, especially about the shape of the Earth (flat vs. round) . His response was that when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When they said he Earth was a sphere, they were also wrong. But if the young man thought that “Earth is flat” is just as wrong as “Earth is a sphere,” he was wronger than both of them put together. Obviously the “spherical Earth” is closer to the truth (the planet’s someone lopsided on top and wider around the middle than pole-to-pole). So it is with science: we don’t claim to have the Truth, but we can show our work to demonstrate that we’re closer to it now than we used to be.
The mounting evidence for a round Earth overtook the idea that the Earth could be flat. So it is with an Old Earth, and a common origin for all life on that Earth.
Meldrum’s arguments are akin to arguing that those who believe the Earth is round will one day be proven wrong because Earth is actually a cube. Just because there is some uncertainty about some things in science today doesn’t mean there’s enough wiggle room to be wrong about the Earth being round (or billions of years old). Or, for the physicists in the audience, arguing that since there are discrepancies between experiments to measure the mass of a Helium-3, it can actually be massless because scientists can’t agree on what the true value is.
Oy, only 2 hours in and already spawned another long rant. Maybe I should get a blog or something!
BTW, my credentials are equal to Mr. Meldrum’s. I’m a former ISP technician, not a scientist or a degree-bearer. Before the pandemic I’d be crawling underneath people’s houses and scaling utility poles in the rain, not teaching classes, selling books, or hosting conferences about big questions of science/religion.
Sorry, I flubbed a date of my own in the previous comment. Darwin published ‘On the Origin of Species’ in 1859, two years prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, but many years after the racialization of slavery and the accepted attitudes about race it spawned.
I’m listening to The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, narrated by Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward on my Audible app. Try Audible and get it here: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B002V086LM&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006
Listen to some real science. This episode should be shared widely as a dandy representation of what a whole bunch of people think is truth in 2022. And see how clearly stupidly leads to hate.
Stupidly leads to hate.
Maybe I missed this but In reference to all the arrowheads supposedly found at Cumorah were they steel arrowheads? My guess is they are obsidian and flint just like the ones found all over America. Are we supposed to believe the lamanites exterminated nephites piercing their steel armor with obsidian arrowheads? I
Where I live in Arizona arrowheads are everywhere from all ages. All that means is there have been all kinds of people here for thousands of years. That’s a stretch to attribute some arrowheads at Cumorah to at least 230,000 (see Mormon 6) fallen in battle.
I have to assume the Nephites took at least a couple lamanites out with them? Maybe they were really bad at self defense. If they had steel armor I’m assuming they had steel arrowheads?
Even if those frugal lamanites picked the battlefield clean where did they stash a quarter million sets of armor? They couldn’t have scattered that far after the battle. That was only 1600 years ago. Those tricksters.
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