“Prove it. Show us the evidence. What peer reviewed papers do you have that prove God exists?"
I've had this conversation several times in the past few years with atheists who seem to think that it is a killer argument.
Clearly if we can’t peer review God, then he must not exist.
Peer review is of course a good idea. After all if a cancer specialist comes up with a wonder drug for curing cancer it should not be up to the personal opinions of journalists, politicians or even the clergy to determine whether it might actually work. We would want some of her fellow scientists to peer review her paper.
But peer review is a limited idea. Just because something is not peer reviewed it does not necessarily mean that it's not true. And peers can often get it wrong. They can be subject to the same groupthink, societal pressures and cultural prejudices as the rest of us. When the emperor’s peers reviewed his new (non-existent) clothing, they all saw that they were wonderful, beautiful and grand. It took a non-peer child to point out that the emperor had no clothes.
This past week our culture has had an enormous emperor’s clothes moment.
Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose (pictured, above) have put out a video that shows their ‘research’ over the past year. In order to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the peer-review system because of the cultural prejudice and bias within the academic system, these left-wing academics conducted a fascinating experiment. They submitted a number of spoof papers to academic journals for publication. Much to their astonishment seven were accepted.
These included one paper entitled Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon which argued that dog parks are “rape-condoning spaces”. In the video (see below) Boghossian, Lindsay and Pluckrose tell us that this particular paper was considered "excellent scholarship" although the reviewers were worried that they did not respect the dogs privacy!
Another hoax paper was entitled Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism and included a reworked section of Hitler's Mein Kampf.
The most incredible and shocking was a paper entitled A Feminist Approach to Pedagogy which made ‘privileged’ students (ie white) sit on the floor and wear chains. If they objected to this treatment, they should be told they were only objecting because they were privileged!
This incident tells us a great deal about our contemporary culture. But it also contains some valuable lessons for the Church.
The General Culture
Postmodern culture is now our elitist culture and permeates through the general culture. The dumbing-down of society has not occurred among the working class as much as it has among the academic classes. It is the literary and arts establishments who are post-modern. It is a culture, as Nicholas Cofnas of the University of Oxford points out, of “hate, ignorance and pseudo philosophy”. By using language which only the ‘initiated’ can understand they set up studies in universities, paid for from the public purse, which feed a narrative that declares "only the experts can see this – if you can’t see it you are not an expert".
If you don't believe me, see this extract from the ‘dog parks’ paper: "Dog parks are microcosms where hegemonic masculinist norms governing queering behaviour and compulsory heterosexuality can be observed in a cross-species environment"!
Universities are increasingly becoming monoversities – where only one philosophy, one worldview is permitted. Many departments are staffed by those who share the same presuppositions and who would never question the new orthodoxy. If you dared, for example, to state that you believe being a woman does have something to do with biology, you would find yourself sent for re-education. If you denied the patriarchy and think that The Handmaids Tale is not history then you will need to take a bias training course. Likewise if you dare to say or even think that ‘white privilege’ and systemic racism’ are not the cause of all that’s wrong in the world, you will be hounded. In many Western elitist universities you need not bother applying if you don’t accept the basic doctrines of cultural Marxism.
As our three intrepid researchers point out, social grievances are now being put ahead of objective truth. What are known as ‘grievance’ studies (such as feminist, gender studies, race, cultural, sexuality and Queer studies) result in what the researchers describe as “absurd and horrible ideas” being made sufficiently politically fashionable so that they are then validated at the highest level. These grievance scholars then greatly influence if not determine educational curricula and dominate politics and the media.
The Church Culture
Before we laugh too loud perhaps we need to take the beam out of our own eye? Some preachers and church leaders could teach our post-modern academics a thing or two about how to speak gobbledygook! Often on the same subjects that our cultural elites espouse.
What passes for ‘academic research’ in some Christian circles is laughable (which is not to say that academic research is unimportant but it is to say that we should not be fooled by poor academic research or by what is just foolishness in the guise of academic research). In terms of preaching I have heard meaningless waffle being lauded as deep and profound, just because the speaker had a reputation for being deep and profound. And which of us has not read ‘Christian’ teachers seeking to explain away what the Bible plainly says, in order to fit it with the zeitgeist of the wider culture?
Jesus was and is different. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law." (Mark 1:22). Perhaps we should follow his example?
As for a peer reviewed God? Since he is without peer, there is none that can review him. Can you by searching find out God? (Job 11:7)
Let the Holy Spirit have the last word.
"Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become 'fools' so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: 'He catches the wise in their craftiness' and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'" (1 Corinthians 1:20)