Part 10: Conclusion
From the evidence presented in this essay it is evident that the Watchtower Society does not understand science or how it is practiced. The Society constantly misrepresents issues and misquotes scientists, especially when it comes to evolution. It seems to feel that keeping its followers in ignorance about science issues that conflict with its agenda is the best way to keep them convinced of the truth of the Bible and of its claims to spiritual authority. Honest persons will not accept the Society's methods of argumentation.
The magazine Technology Review, February/March 1992, published an article on page 5, entitled "Looking for a Few Hungry Samurai." It gave general advice to moonlighting authors who might want to write articles for the magazine, and offered a few suggestions on how an author could make his writing a success:
Don't preach to the converted. Readers want to know your opinions, even those with strong political implications. But it's important to assume that readers are intelligent skeptics who don't already agree with you -- otherwise, why bother to write? -- yet who are willing to be convinced. The key is to present enough material, including a fair rendering of opposing viewpoints, so that readers can decide for themselves. "The best way I know of persuading you of anything," says MIT physicist Philip Morrison, "is not to plead with you to trust me, not to invoke authority in general, not even to call upon some expert, but to show you just what it is that persuaded me."
The Society's 1967 book Qualified To Be Ministers gave excellent advice on page 199:
Be very careful to be accurate in all statements you make. Use evidence honestly. In quotations, do not twist the meaning of a writer or speaker or use only partial quotations to give a different thought than the person intended. Also if you use statistics, use them properly. Statistics can often be used to give a distorted picture.
This is good advice for those writing on any topic, and should give food for thought to any who read the Society's writings on science. The Society has violated every piece of the above advice, in a way similar to that practiced by scientific creationists. Their methods have been well summarized:296
Louis Agassiz, one of the last great scientific creationists, wisely admonished his fellow scientists to "study nature, not books." The modern creationists, however, study books, not nature. Specifically, they study the Bible and the books of scientists; their research effort is devoted to making their beliefs about the empirical world consistent with the former and to searching the latter for appropriate quotations to use (or misuse) in their campaign against science and evolution. Creationist tracts and books never scientifically examine the nature of the creation in which they believe, for all they can state about creation and its results are fiat assertions and personal speculations. Instead, they claim that if evolution is false, then creation is true, and then try to demonstrate that evolution is false.
Scientists rarely analyze creationist publications for the purpose of correcting the errors and enlightening the public because of the time such activity takes away from their research, because of the necessity of being familiar with creationist arguments as well as science, and mainly because to answer every argument and correct each distortion would require the scientist to write much more and explain things in much greater detail than the creationist. The creationist relies to a large extent on the sheer volume of distortions, facile arguments, and superficial explanations to achieve the desired end of confusing the reader and on suggesting antiscientific implications that remain in the reader's memory, rather than on persuading the reader with convincing arguments and evidence. Lay readers are particularly vulnerable to this technique for they generally have an inadequate reference base to evaluate the claims, even if they are skeptical.
One journal that reviewed the Creation book said about Jehovah's Witnesses as individuals:297
What is unfortunate is that these nice, sincere individuals are usually not aware that their own literature, all published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Brooklyn, New York, frequently transgresses all the rules of honesty that individual Jehovah's Witnesses idealize. Indeed, an examination of their publications reveals that the Watchtower Society has a habit of misquoting or misrepresenting scientific, linguistic, and historical sources to an extent seldom seen among well-established sectarian groups. Most Jehovah's Witnesses do not have the time or the required scientific and scholarly training to verify each reference. The following are only a few of numerous examples of misrepresentation of scientific and scholarly sources.
It said that the Creation book "is one of the most consistently blatant misrepresenters of scientific viewpoints."
The December 15, 1991 Watchtower, on pages 22-24, discussed the situation faced by Galileo when he was up against the Catholic church. It said of the Catholic church hierarchy,
Galileo's new ideas... challenged their reputation and power... As biographer L. Geymonat points out in his book Galileo Galilei: "Narrow-minded theologians who wanted to limit science on the basis of biblical reasoning would do nothing but cast discredit upon the Bible itself." For selfish reasons stubborn men did exactly that.
Is it not evident that the Society wants to "limit science on the basis of biblical reasoning"? Is it not clear that the Society's misrepresentation of science casts "discredit upon the Bible itself"? Unless the Bible makes a direct statement on a "scientific" subject it would be wise to take scientists seriously, or risk taking on the position of Galileo's tormenters, looking foolish, or discrediting the Bible. Subscribing to certain Bible interpretations merely because they have become traditional does no one justice. Playing loose with truth, as the Creation book perfectly illustrates, opens the door to ridicule, as the following opinion by author Alan Rogerson shows:298
A long acquaintance with the literature of the Witnesses leads one to the conclusion that they live in the intellectual 'twilight zone.' That is, most of their members, even their leaders, are not well educated and not very intelligent. Whenever their literature strays onto the fields of philosophy, academic theology, science or any severe mental discipline their ideas at best mirror popular misconceptions, at worst they are completely nonsensical.
On a computer news network, one person, replying to a Witness who tried to explain that Creation did not mislead people, said:
The JWs and I simply have different notions of Christian responsibility toward truth. A Creationist who writes a book and quotes scientists has the responsibility to ensure that he does not misrepresent the quoted people. Some of the excerpts offered in this group have included strong protests from the quoted scientists, who were angered at the suggestion that they endorse the creationist ideas of the JWs.
I believe that Christianity includes a duty to insist on careful attention to all details, to ensure that all quotes and citations of authorities are accurate and in keeping with the intent of the authors -- in sum, to ensure that everything reasonable is done to prevent misleading people. It is clear to me from both official Watchtower publications and statements by JWs on the net that the JW religion has no such devotion to truth; instead of taking responsibility for misleading people, everybody denies that those quotes are misleading. Instead of offering people a chance to review intended quotes before publication, Watchtower writers chop quotes out of context and select only certain phrases.
No group of people will ever be 100% perfect in what they publish; but the reaction to some of the more glaring errors mentioned during the last few weeks speaks volumes. In some cases, it is claimed that there isn't really an error at all. In others, no response is given at all -- nothing.
I believe the actions of the Watchtower, and the reactions we've seen here (both refusing to accept blame for some problems, and complete silence on others) are not appropriate for Christians; this is one of my basic philosophical disagreements with the JWs. As it seems unlikely we can resolve our differing opinions about Christian responsibility, further discussion is probably worthless.
Another person on that computer news network said:
Concerning the JW book against evolution and for a literal Genesis creation: I have both the bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics, although neither is really needed to determine that just about every mathematical reference is the JW book is bogus. Some are just plain wrong, some are wrong because the author just didn't know what he was talking about, and some are wrong because of apparently deliberate deception.
In its back page advertisements, the Society's 1988 book Revelation -- Its Grand Climax At Hand!, describes the Creation book thus:
Life -- How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? has been described as the finest science book for building appreciation for life and its complexities. It completely demolishes the teaching of evolution and irrefutably demonstrates the existence of an almighty Creator.
Compare the Society's boasting with the exchange that took place between a defender (not a native English speaker) of the Creation book and a critic:
"Have you read the little blue book Life -- How Did It Get Here, by Evolution or Creation?"
Do you consider this little disingenuous, flawed and deceptive piece of crap a scientific source? I think the JW tract you are referring to has been taken apart thoroughly in this forum already...
"It's a brief, comprehensive introduction to the evolutionary questions in an easy-to-read-form."
Read "it's a brief, sparse introduction to trumped-up, so-called evolutionary questions aimed at a scientifically illiterate audience."
"As such it doesn't go too far to individual cases, and thus successfully maintains the view to evolution in entirety."
And it tends to ignore significant details when they do not fit with the agenda of the writer(s)...
"How about that?"
It shows how little you understand. The pamphlet makes no meaningful statements about evolutionary theory. It presents a silly, bonehead caricature of the science and then rips that to shreds.
Many people believe that there are ways to harmonize Bible-based religious beliefs with science. For example:299
Dr David Ride, a highly respected evolutionist in the Australian scientific community... points out:
as a scientist and a Christian, I see no threat by science to Christianity but, rather, a challenge: a challenge to theologians to make known to scientists the position of modern theological scholarship on creation, and a challenge to scientists, like myself, to express the position of science on evolution in such a way that it is clear that it addresses questions that can be examined by scientific methods, but does not deny the reality of other issues and truths about which science says nothing...
Similarly, a Christian botanist recently asserted in the Uniting Church's journal 'A belief in god as creator, and an acceptance of evolution are in no way alternatives. I do not believe in evolution, nor in gravity. They are facts of life. I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. That is worth believing!'
Creation 'Scientists', a vocal minority of religious fundamentalists who believe that any scientific observation which appears to contradict a literal interpretation of the King James version of the Bible is in error, epitomise the worst sort of irrationality that can result from confusion of religious and scientific concepts. They cannot or will not see the differences between the material and spiritual components of the universe. Because the Bible, which they regard as representing the infallible word of God, appears to provide statements about the nature and time of origin of the material world, they (e.g. Morris, 1974a) declare that the truth of these statements is part of an all-or-nothing package involving belief in God. In other words, they hold that to accept the concepts of evolution (which they regard as a refutation of the Biblical account of Creation) automatically involves rejection of God.
In reality it means nothing of the kind. Because the concept of evolution is one of science, it can have no bearing on the reality of a spiritual God, miracles or any other supernatural phenomena.
As well as misusing the Bible, Creation 'Scientists' ' declaration that one either accepts the literal truth of every word of the Bible (as they interpret it) or one rejects God represents the worst possible sort of blackmail. The aim of this extraordinary threat is to intimidate Christians into blindly accepting Creation 'Science's' views as the only way to accept God. This kind of ideological threat would have been more at home during the thirteenth-century Inquisition than in the twentieth century. Surely people may find God in many different ways and as surely it is the right of no-one to deny to someone else acceptance of God simply because they do not like that person's understanding of science. The Creation 'Scientists' ' declaration is not only illogical; it is an intolerant and un-Christian point of view.
In any case, unlike the Creation 'Scientists' who have lost much of their grip on reality because of their sworn allegiance to accepting no evidence from the world that does not support the absolute inerrancy of the word of the Bible..., most Christians find no difficulty in accepting the concepts of evolution as well as the Genesis account. Their faith, unlike that of Creation 'Scientists', does not involve determining for God the limits of His powers. They acknowledge the possibility that God may have created and guided the evolutionary process. In this perfectly sensible view, evolution may well have been God's method of Creation. As many deeply religious people have pointed out, it says nowhere in the Genesis account precisely how God created and it would seem more than just a bit presumptuous to declare that God was not allowed to create life by whatever means He chose.
How, after all, if God did use an evolutionary process to bring about His Creation could he have explained to the human transcribers of the Bible the intricacies of molecular genetics as part of this creative process, even if he had wanted to? Neither the human transcribers nor the intended audience for the Bible had any of the vocabulary or any of the essential concepts to comprehend, let alone write down, even the most elementary description of cellular biochemistry, amino acid sequences, messenger RNA, self-replicating nucleic acids, population genetics and so forth. If God's method of Creation was the same complex evolutionary process which we are just beginning to understand (all of us that is except Creation 'Scientists'), the only thing God could have said that the people of the time would have understood was, 'I created life'. The important message being conveyed was that God was the Author of the Creation; that concept humans needed to understand and this was a perfectly adequate means of conveying that understanding. The 'how' and 'when' of Creation are by comparison trivial matters and, because of the complete lack of an adequate vocabulary, were probably best explained in mythical terms. Had the descriptions been literal, they could not have been written in any language known to men for the next 3000 years (the Yahwist account including the story of Adam and Eve was probably written in the time of Solomon (Hyers, 1983)). What then would have been the purpose of providing the Bible with a literal account of God's methods of Creation if it could not have been understood for another 3000 years?
Modern discovery of the mechanisms and reality of evolution could be our first real glimpse into the mechanisms devised by God to bring about His Creation. In this view, the phenomenal complexities involved in the evolution of life would be one of the most stunning manifestations of God's power rather than, as Creation 'Scientists' conclude, a refutation of the whole concept of God.
One author well described the mind set of fundamentalists where the Bible is concerned, and its results.300 "What is most singular about the creationist viewpoint is its superficiality and lack of scholarship." Because of its position on Genesis and the Bible as a whole, "biblical fundamentalism proceeds as if no one else had written anything about the Bible in the last 130 years..." In their self-righteousness fundamentalists pass judgment on everything in sight, trying to force others to accept their religious views. The authoritarian attitude they convey carries "associations reminding one of much terrible history. Little wonder that many evolutionists overreact, drop their scientific cover, and chant in unison, 'There is no doubt...' Little wonder that the alternative to evolution seems to be 'intellectual barbarism.'"
In view of the tremendous difficulties involved in harmonizing the findings of science with a literal interpretation of every word of Genesis, would it not be wiser for the Watchtower Society to humbly acknowledge ignorance of how God created, and concede that evolution or something that looks like evolution was God's method? This would be far better than attempting to distort evidence in at attempt to make it fit with ideas on which Genesis makes no explicit statements. When it comes right down to it, the evidence for either completely materialistic evolution or for fundamentalist style Biblical creation is so voluminous and so confusing that "belief" in either one is necessarily a matter of faith, and will be determined by other factors. In any case, it should be unacceptable to honest persons to know that they have been misinformed, or for them to misinform others. The Society's 1974 book Is This Life All There Is?, on page 46, gave good advice:
Knowing these things, what will you do? It is obvious that the true God, who is himself "the God of truth" and who hates lies, will not look with favor on persons who cling to organizations that teach falsehood. (Psalm 31:5; Proverbs 6:16-19; Revelation 21:8) And, really, would you want to be even associated with a religion that had not been honest with you?
The Bible says that its author is a God of truth, and it would seem that a passage from James Moffatt's translation of Job 13:7-12 is applicable to the Watchtower Society's methods of dealing with facts:
Will you bring unfair arguments for God? Will you tell lies on his behalf? Will you be sycophants of the Almighty? Will you be special pleaders for God? Will it be well when he probes you? Can you deceive him like a man? No, he will punish you, if you are sycophants of his in secret. Should not his majesty cause you to shudder? Should not the dread of him seize you? Your maxims crumble like mere ashes, your arguments collapse like mounds of clay.
296 Laurie R. Godfrey, ed., op cit, p. 220.
297 Free Inquiry, vol. 12, No. 2, p. 28, Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, Buffalo, New York, Spring, 1992.
298 Alan Rogerson, Millions Now Living Will Never Die: A Study of Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 116, Constable, London, 1969.
299 D. R. Selkirk and F. J. Burrows, editors, Confronting Creationism: Defending Darwin, pp. 15-16, New South Wales University Press, Kensington NSW Australia, 1988.
300 William R. Fix, op cit, p. 225.