Monday, March 02, 2009

On taking away in fine print what is stated in bold type

As I'm sure you can tell, if you've been following this blog for the last few days, I am pretty exercised over various behaviors by people associated with the organization known as Answers in Genesis (AiG).

When Mr. Looy first announced how AiG had "corrected" its revision of Charles Spurgeon's sermon so that they included a footnote that included a reference to the original text, I didn't look at the revised page. I simply "took his word for it" and said I was pleased that they had noted the change.

But the more I have thought about what he said they have done, the more I thought I should look directly at what, exactly, they did . . . to see it for myself. And now that I have looked at it and thought about it, I've become upset over the deception inherent in what they have done. It's just plain misleading (at least). Though I think it would be more accurate to call it dishonest.

Consider how they present the amended portion of the sermon. Can you see the substantive changes?

I can't.

But they are indicated. Kind of.

Oh. You say you are like 99% of all the people I know who rarely if ever take the time to read endnotes--especially endnotes that are referenced immediately after an obvious direct quote from Scripture--and, more particularly, a Scripture with which you are very familiar?

That's where the deception comes in (my opinion). It's like the online ads that imply--in standard-size print--that something is free . . . but then, in small print, below the response button, declare that, by pressing the button, you are agreeing to pay a $4.95 monthly "delivery charge" to be charged to your cell phone. . . .

"Hey! Wait a second!" --It's in that fine print where you'll find all the information you'd really wish you'd known.

So it is here, on the AiG website: the fact that this conservative Christian icon [Spurgeon] was clearly not a young-earth advocate: hidden, "below the fold," as it were. Way below the fold.

Internet advertisers who engage in such practices when it comes to financial transactions: such people can expect to be prosecuted for fraud.

I wonder if AiG and those who are aware of their behavior in this matter should think of their revisions in a similar light. Is it equivalently fraudulent?

Read the modified text and those portions of text closest to the portion that has been modified:
In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.a Our planet has passed through various stages in creation, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, when man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator initially created the world as a chaotic mass on the first day of creation. It was entirely without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Spirit came, and stretching his broad wings, bade the darkness disperse, and as he moved over it, all the different portions of matter came into their places, and it was no longer “without form, and void;” but became round like its sister planets, and moved, singing the high praises of God—not discordantly as it had done before, but as one great note in the vast scale of creation.
Can you see the alterations? Do you have any idea how it may have been altered? Would you be alarmed enough by the endnote marker to scan down to the end of the article in order to figure out where and how the alterations were made? I mean, really: Would you scan down there based on an endnote attached to an obviously unmodified direct quote from Scripture?

Yeah. I didn't think so.

Frankly, considering how this passage appears in its original context, I doubt I would scan down to read the endnote anyway--and I'm notorious (notorious with my wife, anyway!) for reading endnotes and footnotes and all such "scholarly" apparatus. She "never" reads those things; I "always" do.

But, honestly, I didn't even see the endnote marker the first time I read this passage . . . even when I knew it existed (i.e., yesterday morning, after people had told me the note existed and after I decided I wanted to see the note in context). It simply doesn't pop out at a reader.

But there is more I "have against" AiG in this context.

I believe they are disingenuous, at best, in indicating what exactly they have modified. Please: read the endnote and tell me what, exactly they did. Where did the indicated emendation take place?


(a) [We do not know how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, when man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion. He allowed the inward fires to burst up from beneath and melt all the solid matter, so that all kinds of substances were commingled in one vast mass of disorder; the only name you could give to the world then was, that it was a chaotic mass of matter; what it should be, you could not guess or define.] Bracketed text removed from the sermon. As brilliant as Spurgeon was, even he did not understand the age issue. –Editor
And, of course, they didn't note how and where and what specific text they added in its place and/or substituted in certain other places.

No. I think for full transparency, they should have provided in-line notes right at the spot . . . or, if they really believe endnotes are so fair, then let them add their notes at the end, and let Spurgeon speak honestly for himeself.

He was no young-earth, 6,000-year-old-earth, creationist. . . . but you'd have to be quite the detail-oriented scholar to know it from the way they have modified his sermon!
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