One interesting facet of growing up in the Seventh-day Adventist church was the pyramid schemes. Amway’s pots and pans were well-represented in the kitchens of my childhood. One particularly vivid pyramid-scheme memory is of the family friend who took her dying mother on tour across America. Her ailing mom acted the part of the stooge while our friend sold you not only the new miracle cure, Xango Juice, but also a fantastic business opportunity. For a one-time registration fee, you could sell Xango Juice yourself!

Adventism, of course, has no monopoly on affinity fraud. But the sheer scale of the issue in the Adventist church makes a person wonder. From the $40 million Davenport scandal in the 80s, in which pastors who recruited their local members to “invest” received kickbacks, to the $3 million “rice export” scam two years ago in Florida, there seems to be no end to what Adventists will believe.

Which leads me to this gem of absolute credulity.

The Finaeus Map, or, How I Learned to Stop Thinking and Love the Crazy

This was shared on Facebook by an Adventist pastor who lives and works in the Pacific Northwest. Rather ironic, as that half of the Pacific Ocean and most of North America are missing from this map.

Reading the caption, I discovered that this map shows global warming to be a hoax and disproves evolution. This magical power lies in the fact that it shows Terra Australis, referred to in the post as Antarctica, “before it had ice.” Antarctica must have been ice-free when the map was made, because “the mountains and coastline of Antarctica were not discovered until very recently with the use of ground penetrating radar.” This contradicts the “evolutionists” who “believe the continent has been covered by a mile thick ice sheet for millions of years.”

I am going to leave aside the idea that an ice-free Antarctica five hundred, or even five thousand, years ago would present a problem for the anthropogenic climate change model or the theory of evolution. Let’s assume that if someone can prove there was no ice in Antarctica 500 to 5,000 years ago, these are both dead in the water.

That said, has anyone actually looked at this map?!

If I gave you a map that covered the town you lived in, but also another town you were unfamiliar with, how would you judge how accurate that map was? You could just look at the part of the map you know. If they do a good job mapping your hometown, it would be fair to assume that the part of the map showing towns you don’t know is also accurate.

Not only is my hometown missing from this map, so is most of the continent it rests on.

Most of North America, most of the Pacific Ocean, part of the Indian Ocean, all of Australia, and the tip of South America are gone. Siberia stretches right around to Greenland, and Mexico is attached to China. You could not use this map to prove that Europe is north of Africa. It happens to be true, but we don’t know that just because this map says so.

As for “Antarctica” itself, even a casual glance should tell you it is mapped two or three times larger than it should be. And a careful inspection will show you that the coastline doesn’t match that of Antarctica either. In real life, Antarctica barely crosses the Antarctic Circle. In the Finaeus map, “Antarctica” reaches nearly to the Tropic of Capricorn. In the real world, the Tropic of Capricorn passes through São Paulo, Brazil. That’s a difference of nearly 3,000 miles, further than the distance from LA to NYC.

Yet here we have an Adventist pastor, a man in a place of spiritual authority, who has dozens of not hundreds of parishioners who respect his word as second to the Word of God, promulgating the idea that this map can tell us something about what Antarctica looked like three hundred years before humans ever set foot there. And people are praising God for this wonderful discovery.

I would like to say this is the most ridiculous thing I have heard from an Adventist all year, or even just this week. Unfortunately, neither of those statements would be true.

Just the day before, I was involved in a heated discussion as to whether or not a woman who was found by a physician to be pregnant, but whose husband was in another country, had cheated on her spouse. I was of the opinion that this represented marital infidelity. This was not well received, as that particular story is well known among Adventists and is widely regarded as a miracle. No, I am not referring to the virgin birth of Jesus. This reputed “miracle” occurred in 1943. The evidence of the miracle is that the pregnant mother told her son, who later became an important Adventist theologian. Most Adventists accept it at that.

I have never been a member of a church other than the Seventh-day Adventist church, so I am unable to say with any certainty that Adventists are more gullible than the average Christian. But really, do we need to compare to an average to know there is a problem here?

In the end, I feel that many Adventists, and Christians in general, consider humility to be accepting any word from an authority. Whether it’s the pastor who says global warming is a hoax, the theologian who considers his mother’s pregnancy a miracle, or the family friend selling Xango juice, we feel like we would be out of place to question these claims for ourselves.

But I believe that true humility is understanding that our gut feelings can be wrong, and so can the gut feelings of a trusted friend. Only science can tell us if Xango juice cures cancer. Only science can tell us who the father is. And only science can tell us whether or not Antarctica was frozen over the past 500 to 5,000 years. Of course, I could be wrong. But there is more than just a gut feeling behind my belief that we shouldn’t trust gut feelings.

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