Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, January 03, 2011

Peer Review and Tin-foil Hat Theology

issues Hebrew expert, Michael Heiser, claims to have a high regard for peer review. He noted this in a post in which he smuggly explained why he doesn’t respond to amateurish, ill-informed apologists like James White who bring criticisms against his heretical views of the word elohim,

The Psalm 82 paper was also prompted by criticisms posted in 2009 by Alpha and Omega Ministries (AOM). That I really don’t consider these criticisms serious is indicated by the fact that they have existed on the web since 2009 with no online response on my part (though many have emailed me the link and asked me to respond). Rather than engage people on the internet on these matters, my choice was to submit my views to public peer review at an academic evangelical conference (and I’ve actually done that several times now at ETS in a piecemeal sort of way via other papers).

He further reiterated his commitment to the high scholarly peer review process of academia when he offered his admonishment to my critical remarks I had left in a comment,

Hey Fred, maybe you’re unfamiliar with the way scholarship works – scholars go back and forth all the time, critiquing each others views. But after you’ve been through the literature and those substantive interactions for years, you really *can* recognize when a critique comes along that is uninformed. AOM’s fits that description, and the content (by its own wording) shows that this is an issue they lack familiarity with. That isn’t the case with peer-reviewed work that goes back and forth. If I get labeled as arrogant for saying “this argument goes nowhere” or “this argument shows the one making it is under-informed” so be it; I’m not afraid to tell the truth when an argument is lame. It is a disservice to others to pretend it isn’t, that it has equal merit with respect to another argument. Shading the truth isn’t a virtue.

Oh yes. I was sort of clueless about how real scholarship works, so thanks for straightening me out there, Mike.

Well. Being a big believer in the peer review process that Michael Heiser claims he is, I have to confess my surprise and confusion upon seeing Michael's name listed among 20 "experts" on one of those tin-foil hat, conspiracy potboilers.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine brought in some books she was getting rid of. She asked me if any of them interested me. One of them was thick and the title screamed at me:


According to the title page, twenty experts were going to offer their advise on how I could overcome such frightening issues as nuclear Armageddon, nanotechnology, cloning and eugenics, transhumanism, the wars in the Middle East, and the Antichrist.

My interest was piqued. I certainly was curious, so I turned the book over to read who some of these twenty experts were and can you believe it? There, nestled among the names of such individuals as American Voice Radio Network host, Dr. Gianni Hayes, nuclear war survivor expert, Shane Connor, and RaidersNewsNetwork founder and supplier of discounted survival gear, as well as the editor of the book, Thomas Horn, was Dr. Michael Heiser.

I did a double-take. Michael Heiser? The academic editor for Logos Bible software? [Let me say that again in case you missed it: the ACADEMIC EDITOR for Logos Bible software] Contributing to a "theological" conspiracy book? I was left a bit bum fuzzled. I mean, after that blistering pronouncement about how great the academic peer review process is and how he only submits his material to the finest, peer reviewed scholarly journals, why would he contribute to a New World Order, end-times conspiracy book? Does Michael think that Pentecostal preacher and KJV-only wacko, Joe Chambers, is an academic peer? I find that hard to believe seeing that Chamber's bookstore carries some of Gail Riplinger's stuff.

His article is titled Panspermia: What it is and Why it Matters.

The article provides the basic definition of what panspermia is, the idea that all life on earth began in outer space. He briefly outlines the various theories of panspermia like simple bacteria from other planets being the evolutionary building blocks for life on Earth to advanced ETs physically coming to a prehistoric Earth and creating life. Once he defines the particulars of panspermia, Heiser philosophizes as to what should be our response as "Christians" if "proof" of panspermia was ever demonstrated. For example, if extra-planetary microbes were for sure discovered, or ETs encircled the Earth in city sized motherships.

Of course, according to Mike, the worst response to that possibility comes from biblical, young-earth creationists who are simple-minded in their whole reading of Genesis 1 to begin with. They don't realize that the Hebrew syntax allows for alternative readings of the creation week other than a literal, 24-hour week of time. He even mentions in a footnote that while he was a graduate student, he attended a "conservative reformed" church in Wisconsin where many Ph.D.'s scientists were actively involved and none of them were brainless, young earth, literal creationists.

After he blasts young earth creationists, IDers, and even the random, natural selection Darwinians, he explains that Christians should not worry about discovering intelligent ETs in UFOs out there in the galaxy, because evangelicals are all wrong about what makes mankind unique; that being, created in God's image.

Being created in God's image does not mean men are necessarily the only intelligent beings in the entire universe. If we understand the Hebrew, we are "in God's image" in that mankind is God's imagers, or better, representatives for overseeing the Earth. Since no other beings both terrestrial, as well as extra-terrestrial have been given this unique status on this planet, the existence of Klingons or Wookies presents no theological problems for Christianity. It is important to note that Heiser doesn't get into any discussions about man's sin, Christ's death, or eternal life as it relates to the potential ETs.

To be fair, Mike doesn't come out and say he believes in aliens, just that the Church faces a real, scientific possibility of panspermia being proven. And that is where he concludes his article. Really.

I should also point out that Heiser lists this article contribution under popular, non-fiction rather than published peer reviewed articles, but still. I would think a guy who argues for such a high premium on academic credibility and wishes to be taken seriously as a Hebrew scholar who presents for the Evangelical Theological Society meetings wouldn't want to be anywhere near an outfit that publishes books advocating the existence of Stargates.

But what do I know as a blogger hack. I guess I'm just unfamiliar with how scholarship works.

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Blogger The Squirrel said...

Seems like Heiser is a loony buffoon. If the earth is ever encircled by city sized motherships, I'll re-evaluate then.


1:58 PM, January 03, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Keep in mind that he is the academic editor at Logos Bible Software.
Don't know what that tells me about their management.

2:01 PM, January 03, 2011  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Well Fred to me it means that "peer review" can only come from people with secret decoder rings.

7:48 PM, January 03, 2011  
Blogger DJP said...

The Dufflepuds are all peer-reviewed.

11:38 AM, January 05, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

If any of you all are left scratching your heads over what a Dufflepud is, you would do yourself a favor and Google it.

11:46 AM, January 05, 2011  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Fred this is just another treacherous time that has sprouted to wage war against the truth. I think these people are preaching a false Gospel. Their Jesus Christ came to deliver them from all those weird things you just mentioned. Their Jesus didn't come to give them righteousness for their filthy rags. It's a false Gospel that is connected to a false system of conspiracies. It's possible their are some real Christians decieved in this system but I don't see how they could remain their without divine discipline to put them back on the right track with God.

10:15 PM, January 05, 2011  
Blogger Heresiarch said...

Don’t leave the case for panspermia without factoring in carbon’s business partner, silicon. The two work jointly to manufacture viruses and bacteria in interstellar space.

5:39 PM, January 10, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Heresiarch says
Don’t leave the case for panspermia without factoring in carbon’s business partner, silicon.

I am leaving the case for panspermia because it ain't how God created. Has nothing to do with how silicon and carbon work.

5:18 AM, January 11, 2011  

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