Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The return of Frosty
Remember Frosty Hardison from last week? He's the guy down in Federal Way, just south of Seattle, who objected to An Inconvenient Truth being shown in the schools his kids attend. Hardison objected to the film because it didn't give equal time to his religious view that global warming is the result of God's will that man's reign on Earth end in a fiery holocaust. Three school board members used Hardison's complaint to ram through a requirement for the schools to stop showing the film unless they balance it with equal coverage of the corporate climate skeptic stance. In an case, Hardison's views will remain unrepresented in the Federal Way schools disrict.

Hardison's story was picked up by the Associated Press and widely published and blogged about. The story had three things going in its favor. First, stories about censorship or attempted censorship by school boards usually involve both sides of one of the fundamental divisions in our society. Free speech is not the exclusive property of the Right or Left. Both sides claim to support free speech and both are willing to make an exception to protect people from certain types of speech. The Left's hypersensitivity about identity and politics is more than matched by the Right's hypersensitivity about sex and religion. Everyone has an opinion in these conflicts and their opinions are all the more inflamed when children are involved.

Second, the story involved a celebrity. Yes, the celebrity involved was Al Gore. But, for a man who is universally viewed as boring, Gore stirs amazingly strong feelings in people.

Third, Hardison provided reporters with a dynamite quote:
"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old.

Bloggers, myself included, loved picking that statement apart. What does the Al Gore-condom equation mean? Are teachers really the only people who belong in schools? Assuming he really meant teachers and students, what about janitors and cafeteria workers? If former Vice Presidents of the United States have no place in our schools on film, do they have a place in textbooks? And where did he get the figure 14,000 for the age of the Earth? Great stuff.

Hardison is enjoying his moment in the sun and has wasted no time in taking advantage of his fame (or infamy). Last week, he posted a two-page manifesto of his opinions online, and has added to it so that it is now six pages in length. He's also engaged at least on blogger online (and I'm insanely jealous that it wasn't me). Over at The Greenbelt, Hardison introduced himself like this:
Hello all. Frosty E Hardison here. Yeah it’s really ME!

For those of you that have ever spoken to a reporter for and entire 45 minutes, only to have the most controversial things plucked out of the conversation to be published to sell papers? This is what you should expect.

From this introduction, you would think that Hardison's about to claim his ideas were misrepresented by the press. That's not the case at all. The Al Gore-condom equation is clearly something he thinks is clever and is proud of. He repeats it in his manifesto. He also defends the 14,000 year age of the Earth.

Those of us who questioned his figure of 14,000 did so because it is so far out of line with most young Earth creationists. The youngest figure bandied about by YECs is usually Bishop Ussher's date of 4004 BC, which became popular in English Protestant circles in the mid-seventeenth century. Ussher calculated that date by adding up the lives of the patriarchs in Genesis, working through the rest of the history from Jacob to David, and finally matching an event in the Davidic kingdom with a an event that has been dated through other sources.

Bishop Ussher's figure has been unfairly held up to ridicule over the years. As an act of Biblical scholarship, it was an impressive accomplishment. He made no guesses in his work; every year in his count was justified, given the assumption that the Bible was a true and accurate history. Unfortunately, even in Ussher's day, there was evidence that human history required more years than that to act out. In particular, it was known that Egyptian history went back further than the traditional date assigned to the flood.
Allowing that some extra centuries might have gone unmentioned in the Old Testament, some YECs take a safer track of saying the Earth is six to ten thousand years old and not committing themselves to a specific date. This brings us back to the question of Hardison's 14,000-year figure. In both his manifesto and in his comments at The Greenbelt he now appears to answer that question.
On something as simple as the age of the earth? I can do the math, the lineage provided in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 that give the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matthew recorded Joseph's lineage, while Luke gave the family tree of Mary) places us at what right about 12,000 years today?

Ahhh. He read the New Testament to get the date!! Of course, he's the first person in the history of the world to do that and that's why he is the only one using that figure. I'm a god-hating, liberal secularist, but I own eight Bibles and, what's more, as an intellectual egghead, I can look up a reference. Neither of the genealogies Hardison names mention actual years. They are both of the "Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob" style of genealogy. What's more, using the standard archaeological method of assuming an average of twenty-two years per generation (from birth of parent to birth of heir) the twenty-eight generations from Jesus to David in the Matthew genealogy total 616 years, which is four hundred years shorter than the date usually given in archeology and Biblical tradition. So, if Hardison's only Biblical evidence for his date comes up four hundred years shorter than tradition, where does he get his extra eight thousand years?

Hardison's theology is as bankrupt as his science (as taken on by The Ridger). Still I wish him no ill will. He's having fun with his moment in the sun--and he should. He sounds like a lot of socially conservative libertarians I knew in Alaska. As long as we avoided current events, we were generally able to be loyal friends and good drinking buddies. And we did avoid those things in the name of friendship.

For every god-hating, liberal secularist, like me, who has attacked Hardison, I'm sure an equal number of socially conservative libertarians have written their support. I hope that support doesn't go to his head and they don't convince him to run for office. When I was a bright young thing in Alaska, my political mentor said to me, "Don't run for office unless you are willing to have the entire press corps climb up your ass with a microscope." Even if there is nothing up there for them to find, it won't be comfortable having them look. Stay home with your wife and kids; be content writing cranky letters to the local paper and school board. To those of us who find meaning being gadflies to the powerful, you're already a hero.

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