Thursday, July 27, 2017

Disabled vet on transgender troop ban

https://thefederalist.com/2017/07/26/disabled-combat-veteran-speaks-out-on-trumps-transgender-military-ban/

Does skeptical theism entail moral skepticism?

I will comment on this essay:

Maitzen, S. (2013) The Moral Skepticism Objection to Skeptical Theism, in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK.,ch30.

A Google search on the term “child torture” retrieves the following case among others: in 2010, four-year-old Dominick Calhoun of Argentine Township, Michigan, died after days of being beaten and burned by his mother’s boyfriend. “I’ve been doing this a long time, and this is the worst case of child abuse I’ve ever seen,” said the local police chief; “in all respects, he was tortured.” Dominick’s grandmother reported that “burns covered his body” and that his brain was “bashed out of his skull.” A neighbor told police he heard Dominick screaming, over and over again, “Mommy, make him stop.” Dominick’s crime? Wetting his pants.1

Where was God while this was going on? Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing, and morally perfect God stand by and let someone torture Dominick to death? Atheists of course reply, “Nowhere: there is no God in the first place.”

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Transgender troop ban

https://www.axios.com/pence-bannon-pushed-for-transgender-troop-ban-2465917198.html

"Kristin" Beck

A retired Navy SEAL Team 6 hero who is transgender had a message for President Donald Trump after he announced the US military would bar transgender people from serving.

"Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy," Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, told Business Insider on Wednesday. "Transgender doesn't matter. Do your service."

Beck is not just your average service member. Born Christopher Beck, she served for 20 years in the Navy with SEAL Teams 1, 5, and, eventually, the elite 6. She deployed 13 times over two decades, including stints in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. She received the Bronze Star award for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat.


i) To begin with, a "transgender woman" is a biological male. But the logic of trangenderism is that "transgender men" (i.e. biological females) should be able to serve in elite forces. However, the fact that a "transgender woman" (i.e.. biological male) can be an effective Navy SEAL hardly means a "transgender man" can pull it off. Men and women have dramatically different physical and psychological aptitudes. For instance:


ii) In addition, I assume Beck wasn't on hormone therapy during his time as a Navy SEAL. But if, to be a "transgender woman," he must undergo hormone therapy, that will impair his speed, strength, and stamina. He'll no longer perform at peak ability, compared to his normal, untransitioned self. 

By the same token, would Beck have been a successful Navy SEAL if his parents put him on puberty blockers during adolescence? 

Same problem with the Bruce Jenner comparison. Think "Caitlyn" could still win the decathlon if he underwent hormone therapy? Not to mention hormone blockers as an adolescent boy. 

"Being transgender doesn't affect anyone else"

Tell that to the biological girls and women who are now getting creamed in competitive sports by "transgender females". 

Charlie Gard and the Experts

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/22/opinion/sunday/charlie-gard-and-the-experts.html

Moses was humble

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Num 12:3, NIV).

That's a prooftext for critics who deny the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Surely it's oxymoronic for a humble man to brag about his humility! 

1. To begin with, to be "humble" is ambiguous. That can denote two different things:

i) A humble attitude

ii) A humble condition

The first definition refers to a psychological state whereas the second definition refers to an objective state. For instance, we sometimes talk about people who rose from humble origins. That doesn't ascribe humility to them in the sense of a modest, self-effacing attitude. Rather, that makes a statement about their background. Their lowly circumstances. 

In the traditional Book of Common prayer, supplicants frequently refer to themselves as "humble servants". That's not, in the first instance, a claim about their state of mind. Rather, that's an acknowledgement of their dependent, subordinate status in relation to God. 

So the word has different connotations

2. More to the point is the implied contrast:

i) The immediate context is the difference between Moses and his siblings (Num 1:1-2). Unlike Miriam and Aaron, Moses is not ambitious. Not power-hungry. Doesn't seek prestige. 

ii) Lying in the background is the history of Moses as a reluctant prophet (Exod 4). Moses makes every excuse he can think of to evade the leadership position that God has thrust him into. So Num 12:3 is just a way of saying Moses lacks ambition, in contrast to his self-seeking brother and sister. He never wanted the job. He's the leader in spite of his decided preference to take a backseat. 

"More humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" is simply hyperbole. 

Is every promise fulfilled in Christ?

http://www.alankurschner.com/2017/07/26/is-every-promised-fulfilled-in-christ-a-reply-to-thomas-schreiners-supersessionist-covenant-theology/

Must purported revelation pass a moral test?

I'm going to comment on this essay:

Morriston, W. (2013) The Problem of Apparently Morally Abhorrent Divine Commands, in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK.,ch10

Morriston is an atheist.

If God is morally perfect, there must be many things that could not be commanded by him, and it might seem to be quite easy to name some of them. William Lane Craig, for example, says that it is absolutely impossible for God to command rape (Craig et al. 2009, 172) or to command us to eat our children (Craig and Antony 2008). David Baggett and Jerry Walls say that it would be impossible for God to command us to “rape and pillage hapless peasants in a rural village of Africa” (Baggett and Walls 2011, 134).1

“Absolutely impossible” may somewhat overstate the case. Circumstances matter, and an imaginative philosopher might perhaps conjure up a world in which God is morally justified in commanding someone to do these things. But even if such a world were genuinely possible, it would bear little resemblance to the actual world. As things actually are, commands like these do not pass moral muster and cannot reasonably be attributed to God. As Robert Adams rightly says, “purported messages from God” must be tested for “coherence with ethical judgments formed in the best ways available to us” (Adams 1999, 284). If someone were to cite a “message from God” as justification for rape or pillage or eating children, we would rightly conclude that he was a charlatan or a madman.

Should this moral test be applied even to biblical reports of divine commands?2 This is a serious issue, because the biblical record contains a number of divine commands that are – on the face of it – every bit as morally objectionable as those mentioned in the first paragraph. Among the most worrisome passages are those in which God is represented as mandating the extermination of a large number of people.

Adams (1999, 284) quotes with approval the words of Immanuel Kant: “Abraham should have replied to this supposedly divine voice: ‘That I ought not to kill my good son is quite certain. But that you, this apparition, are God – of that I am not certain, and never can be, not even if this voice rings down from (visible) heaven.’” On the other hand, Adams also says this: “The command addressed to Abraham in Genesis 22 should not be rejected simply because it challenges prevailing values. . . . Religion would be not only safer than it is, but also less interesting and less rich as a resource for moral and spiritual growth, if it did not hold the potentiality for profound challenges to current moral opinion” (Adams 1999, 285). Despite this qualification, one is left with the strong impression that Adams does not believe that God has ever commanded anyone to sacrifice a human life.

These biblical justifications raise new and troubling questions. Are the reasons stated in the terror texts worthy of a perfectly good and loving God? Would commanding the Israelites to kill large numbers of people be a morally acceptable way to prevent them from adopting “abhorrent” religious practices? Would it be morally acceptable to punish the Amalekites of Samuel’s day for what a previous generation of Amalekites had done to a previous generation of Israelites?

At the very least, those who deny that there are serious moral errors in the Bible must show that it is not unreasonable to believe that the biblical rationale for each problematic command is consistent with God’s perfect goodness. In making this demand, we are not asking anyone to read the mind of God. But we are asking that everyone read what the terror texts say about God’s actions and about the intentions behind them, and consider whether it is plausible to suppose that they accurately represent the actions and intentions of a God who is perfectly loving and just.

Imagine a pastor who is concerned about a local atheist organization that has lured some young people away from his church. He prays for divine guidance, and comes to believe that God wants his church to be the instrument of divine justice. Fresh from this “discovery,” he tells his congregants that God has a special mission for them: they are to stop this spiritual infection in its tracks by killing those atheists. Many church members are skeptical, but the Pastor reassures them by pointing out that “our life comes as a temporary gift from God,” that God has a right “to take it back when he chooses,” and that God also a right to commission someone else “take it back for him.”

Such a high degree of skepticism about what God might command is surely excessive. The immoral content of the pastor’s “revelation” is a perfectly good reason to reject it. This reason is, of course, defeasible, but in the absence of overriding evidence confirming the veridicality of the pastor’s “message from God,” we should regard it as a matter for the police.21

I suggest that we should approach the terror texts in the Bible in somewhat the same way. By our best lights, they are morally subpar, and this gives us a strong prima facie reason for believing that they do not accurately depict the commands of a good and loving God. This reason is defeasible, but unless overriding reasons for accepting the terror texts can be produced, they should be rejected.

This raises a number of issues:

i) Morriston's position is paradoxical. On the one hand, Christians have reason to believe that humans sometimes have reliable moral intuitions, although our moral intuitions are fallible. On the other hand, a consistent atheist ought to be, at minimum, a moral skeptic. According to naturalism, our moral opinions are hardwired and/or socially conditioned. But there's no presumption that socially conditioned mores are objectively right or wrong. If, moreover, our moral instincts were programmed into us by a mindless, amoral natural process, then there's no reason to think they correspond to objective moral norms. Indeed, it's hard to fathom how there can even be objective moral norms, given those background conditions. 

So even if there could be a moral criterion for assessing particular religious claimants or competing religious claimants, that could never rule out religion in general, for moral realism is parasitic on theism. 

ii) Since, moreover, it's demonstrable that our moral sensibilities are often arbitrary, given the fact that different cultures frequently have different social mores, it follows, even from a Christian standpoint, that we need to make allowance for the very live possibility that what we take to be moral intuitions or moral certainties simply echo our social conditioning, and if we were raised at a different time or place, our moral sensibilities might be very different. 

Although Christians shouldn't be wholesale moral skeptics, unlike atheists, a degree of skepticism regarding our prereflective moral sensibilities is warranted and even necessary. Our moral sensibilities need revelatory correction or confirmation.   

iii) It's possible to confirm or disconfirm a religious claimant on grounds other than morality. Having confirmed a religious claimant on grounds other than morality, you can use that as a benchmark or moral criterion to evaluate another religious claimant. But for reasons I've given, I seriously doubt you can do that from scratch. I doubt you can jump straight into a moral test. I think we lack independent access to consistently reliable moral intuitions. What we're pleased to call moral intuition is very hit-n-miss.   

Indeed, critics who object to OT ethics ironically illustrate that very point. OT writers don't share their outlook. OT writers don't think the allegedly "abhorrent" commands are derogatory to God's goodness. So what's the standard of comparison to referee competing moral opinions?

iv) Abraham's situation is different from a messenger. God spoke directly to Abraham. That's disanalogous to a "purported message" from God, which obliges second parties who were not the immediate recipients of the purported message. It's one thing for me to obey a divine command if I hear it direct from God–quite another to obey a reported divine command. 

v) In the case of Pentateuchal injunctions, although the divine commands were mediated through a messenger, the Israelites had overwhelming miraculous evidence that God spoke to and through Moses. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dunkirk: “English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted, bleeding sons.”

http://www.dennyburk.com/dunkirk-english-fathers-sailing-to-rescue-englands-exhausted-bleeding-sons/#more-34333

Calvinism is the worst theodicy–except for all the others

Churchill's quip reminds me of Calvinism and its critics. Here's a fascinating extension of Peter van Inwagen's theodicy:

God has a criterion for salvation. And he has a policy of enforcing it that goes as follows: If a creature meets the criterion for salvation, then admit him to Heaven. Otherwise he will end up in Hell. In creating a chancy world with free creatures and orderly laws of nature, God risked creating people that would not meet that criterion. For all we know, that is his plan and this is the world he created. And for all we know, just as it is not determinate that there is a minimum number of horrors required to realize the divine plan, it is not determinate that there is a minimum cutoff for satisfying the criterion of salvation. For any person in the indeterminate range that God saves, he may just as well have saved a slightly worse person who is also in that range. But this is no moral flaw of God’s, because – given that the criterion of salvation is indeterminate – it is not possible to always satisfy the proportional justice principle. In practical sorites situations, moral agents must arbitrarily discriminate between points in the series. For all we know, God faces a practical sorites in his plan of salvation. So, for all we know, premise (6) of Sider’s argument is false. p408.

Sullivan, M. (2013) Peter Van Inwagen's Defense, in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK,ch27

How's that supposed to be an improvement over what freewill theists find objectionable in Calvinism? Basically, salvation and damnation are the result of getting lucky or unlucky.

Antitheodicy

I'm going to comment on this essay:

Trakakis, N.N. (2013) Antitheodicy, in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK.ch25

Trakakis takes the same antitheodical position as David Bentley Hart:


Perhaps that's a reflection of the apophatic orientation in Eastern Orthodox theology.

What's interesting about this is how antitheodicy is the polar opposite of Calvinism. In Calvinism, everything happens for a particular reason. Every event makes a contribution to the whole. There's a blueprint for history, where each event is coordinated in a part/whole, means/ends relation. 

Even though most freewill theists believe in theodicy, there's a tension in their position, because they wish to avoid making God complicit in evil. Carried to a logical extreme, this results in the antitheodicy. 

Although he doesn't mention him, Berkouwer is a good illustration of this outlook. Early Berkouwer was a Reformed theologian, but he drifted. Late Berkouwer was a modernist theologian and antitheodicist. As I recall, Philip E. Hughes reacted in the same way. There are informative parallels between objections to Calvinism and objections to theodicy. The position of Trakakis et al. is a reductio ad absurdum of freewill theism. 

Roman Catholic Doctrinal Inventions (and cherry-picking support for them)

Please share these videos with your Roman Catholic friends, either on Facebook or wherever you tend to find them. Dr. Robert Godfrey provides excellent summary statements of prevalent Roman myths, in the context of what Roman Catholic apologists are always telling us, in a couple of very short summaries.

The Inventions of Rome Part 1: Godfrey directly addresses Roman Catholic apologists here: especially the myth that Rome is fundamentally unchanged, with an unbroken tradition for 2000 years. He calls this notion "fundamentally untrue and historically inaccurate".Godfrey traces the various historical phases of the Roman church through history, and how it has changed at various times.



The inventions of Rome Part 2: A look at "development" and how Rome invented "The Eucharist".



Rome "cherry-picks" what early church writings say, that seem to support its later doctrines. But when you look at them more broadly, that language is used very loosely, and the early writers can also support Lutheran and Reformed doctrines. If Rome's story about itself is "fundamentally untrue", as Godfrey says, and as I thoroughly believe, then calling it out, in any period, is a necessary duty of Christians in any age.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Comparing and contrasting Christianity and Islam

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEz-3O_1Hj8&t=3110s

Machine Gun Preacher

I'm going to comment on this essay:

Oppy, G. (2013) Rowe's Evidential Arguments from Evil, in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK, ch4.

Oppy's argument centers on this real life example:

The girl’s mother was living with her boyfriend, another man who was unemployed, her two children, and her 9 ­month old infant fathered by the boyfriend. On new Year’s Eve all three adults were drinking at a bar near the woman’s home. The boyfriend had been taking drugs and drinking heavily. He was asked to leave the bar at 8:00 p.m. After several reappearances he finally stayed away for good at about 9:30 p.m. The woman and the unemployed man remained at the bar until 2:00 a.m. at which time the woman went home and the man to a party at a neighbour’s home. Perhaps out of jealousy, the boyfriend attacked the woman when she walked into the house. Her brother was there and broke up the fight by hitting the boy­ friend who was passed out and slumped over a table when the brother left. later the boyfriend attacked the woman again, and this time she knocked him unconscious. After checking the children, she went to bed. later, the woman’s 5­ year old girl went downstairs to go to the bathroom. The unemployed man returned from the party at 3:45 a.m. and found the 5­-year-old dead. She had been raped, severely beaten over most of her body and strangled to death by the boyfriend. (Russell 1989, 123, drawing on a report from the Detroit Free Press, January 3, 1986)

Before delving into the details, I'd like to make some general observations:

i) Cases like this pose a psychological dilemma for Christian philosophers and apologists. A clinically detached philosophical response seems to be heartless. Yet that's the nature of philosophical analysis. It requires critical detachment. If you're going to throw these examples at Christians, don't turn around and blame us for presenting an unemotional analysis of a heart-wrenching case. 

ii) In addition, they pose a prima facie dilemma. To present a justification of divine permission might seem to justify the evil itself. Yet condoning divine permission is not condoning the permitted evil. 

However, atheism has a corollary dilemma. Atheism must say these things happen for no good reason. Tough luck, kid! That's the kind of world we live in. Deal with it!

iii) A male philosopher or apologist is at a disadvantage when discussing female victims of horrendous crimes. Where the perp is male and the victim is female, it looks bad when a male philosopher or apologist presents a theodicy. It would be better for male philosophers and apologists to substitute male-on-male examples, and female philosophers or apologist to use female examples. 

iv) Although Oppy's example is appalling, and intentionally so, it doesn't budge me an inch towards atheism. In a godless universe, human life is worthless. The alternative to Christian theism is moral and existential nihilism. Whatever the difficulties posed by the problem of evil, atheism is hardly the answer. Indeed, atheism is evil. 

If there is to be a justification for the suffering of the five­-year-­old girl, that justification surely must be in terms of goods for her.

As I noted earlier, if there were to be a justification for the permission, by an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good god, of the rape, torture, and murder of five­-year-old girls (if there were an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good god), that justification would surely have to be in terms of goods for the five­-year-­old girls in question.

Unfortunately, Oppy never bothers to explain why any justification must be in terms of goods for the victim. Is that a general principle? Or does Oppy have other, unstated caveats in mind, such as the innocence of the victim? 

For instance, suppose Pol Pot was brutally murdered when he was five years old. Would justification for divine permission have to be in terms of goods for little Pol Pot? I'm not directly comparing the little girl to Pol Pot. I'm just probing Oppy's rationale. Is this meant to be a sufficient, universal principle–or does it require other qualifications for the argument to go through?

However, if squaring Theism with the distribution of intense suffering in our universe is taken to require the postulation of an afterlife in which there is compensation for that intense suffering, or the postulation of fallen angels who inflict that intense suffering upon us, or the postulation of goods beyond our ken that provide justification for permission of the distribution of intense suffering in our universe by an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good god, or the like, then, the distribution of intense suffering in our universe does turn out to favor naturalism over Theism, since this increase in the theoretical commitments of Theism merely adds to the initial advantage that naturalism has over Theism on account of theoretical commitments.

It's unclear why Oppy is so dismissive regarding the relevance of eschatological compensations. He's appealing to simplicity. But if eschatological compensations are required for a moral universe, then that's a necessary increase in theoretical commitments. An amoral universe may be ontologically simpler, but that has no category for moral evils. 

Yes, we have come to recognize that slavery is intrinsically wrong, and that homosexuality is not intrinsically wrong, and so forth

Does this mean Oppy's argument is predicated on moral realism? If so, the onus is on him to explain how naturalism can underwrite moral realism. 

I think that nothing could justify rape, torture, and murder of five­-year-­old girls; and I think that nothing could justify inaction in the face of rape, torture, and murder of five-year-old girls other than inability (on grounds of lack of power, or knowledge, or the like).

i) He's bundled two distinct propositions into one claim, but how does the proposition that nothing could justify rape, torture, and murder of five­-year-­old girls entail the additional proposition that nothing could justify inaction in the face of rape, torture, and murder of five­-year-­old girls other than inability (on grounds of lack of power, or knowledge, or the like)? Or is that meant to be an entailment relation? How are those two propositions logically related? Clearly he thinks they are inseparable in some sense. 

ii) On the face of it, it's hard to take him seriously. There are many hotspots around the world where child abuse is rampant. But Oppy isn't jetting around the globe to protect kids from rape, torture, and murder. There are many opportunities for him to do so. Take the movie Machine Gun Preacher, based on a true story:


If Oppy really believes that inaction is unjustifiable in the face of horrendous crimes against children, why does he sit behind the safety of his laptop? 

iii) Suppose I take the position that the action of the machine-gun preacher was admirable. This doesn't imply that I think it's obligatory for everyone who's able to intervene in the same way. We have a variety of social duties which must be counterbalanced against each other. 

Oppy might object that God doesn't have the same limitations. However, much of his argument is predicated on his presumptive analogy between what's permissible for man and what's permissible for God. 

Howard ­Snyder says: “Given that intervention and non­intervention have massive and inscrutable causal ramifications, and given that the unforeseeable consequences swamp the foreseeable ones, we have just as much reason to believe that the total consequences of non­intervention outweigh the total consequences of intervention as we have to believe that the total consequences of intervention outweigh the total consequences of non­intervention. Thus, we should be in doubt about whether we should intervene” (Howard ­Snyder 2009, 38)

Synder makes a very important point, although it seems to jumble together considerations that need to be sorted out:

i) Divine intervention to prevent evil has massive, causal ramifications. 

ii) These are divinely foreseeable (unless Snyder is an open theist), but humanly unforeseeable. Therefore, it's reasonable for Christians to make allowance for the fact that God may very well have good reason not to intervene more often, for reasons inscrutable to shortsighted humans.

iii) But by the same token, because human agents are necessarily shortsighted, we don't have the same responsibility to take unforeseeable consequences into account. For that matter, both action and inaction have unforeseeable consequences. Our duty is to act on the best available information. 

As Howard ­Snyder (2009, 43f.) observes, Theists may well suppose, for example, that God has instructed humankind to prevent suffering in general, and that God permits a lot of it precisely because he intends for us to try to prevent it. (So, somehow, I would not stand between the five­ year ­old girl and her deepest union with God were I to intervene to prevent her rape, torture, and murder.)

There are situations where, if I had foreknowledge or counterfactual knowledge, I might refrain from intervention if my action, while beneficial in the short-term, did greater harm in the long-term. 

Decapitation strike

I'm going to comment on something a friend posted on Facebook. He's welcome to my comments. He said:

One of the biggest problems with modern apologetics and some other Christian activities is that there's too much of a focus on atheism. Atheists are still just a very small percentage of the population. Because of their disproportionate influence in academia, the media, the web, and other contexts, they warrant more attention than their percentage of the population suggests they should get. But they shouldn't be getting nearly as much attention as they're typically given. 
Focusing on America, since that's where I live, the vast majority of Americans believe in the existence of God, but most have a highly deficient view of him. They don't think about him much, and they research the subject even less. To the extent they do think about him, they view him as morally too permissive and religiously too pluralistic. It doesn't take much thought or research to arrive at that sort of view of God, and that kind of God accommodates their preferred lifestyle. The degree to which their view of God resembles them is suspicious. "You thought that I was just like you" (Psalm 50:21). They'll take traditional Christian beliefs, like monotheism, the virgin birth, and Jesus' resurrection, and mix them with other beliefs that are non-Christian or even anti-Christian. Their views aren't particularly coherent, consistent, thought out, or well researched. But they aren't atheists. So, why is there such a focus on atheism when Christians are talking about apologetics, academia, our political opponents, etc.?

To some degree I think he answers his own question. There's greater focus on atheism because secular progressives, in relation to their numbers, have vastly greater influence on law and public policy. Most Americans aren't opinion makers or policymakers. It's the political class that enjoys that distinction.

Because atheists dominate so much of the media, education establishment, as well as state and Federal gov't, they impose change from the topdown. A rudder is only one small part, yet it controls the direction of a supertanker.

Targeting atheism is a decapitation strike. The best way to win a war is to defeat the leadership, not the foot-soldiers. Put another way, we might call it trickle down apologetics. 

In addition, most of us lack direct, mass access to the general public. Although it would be very beneficial to educate the unchurched on Christian theology, it's not like we have a platform on which to reach them. So it's easier to attack pernicious ideas, and hope readers disseminate the material. 

Table games

There are plenty of things that evolution explains quite well that creationism struggles with.  For example, why are there australopiths?  Why not make humans extremely distinct from the mammals?  Why even make primates at all?  Evolution explains primates as the distant relatives of modern humans, and australopiths fit in that model very well.  Creationism (of any stripe) doesn't really explain that very well. 
http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2017/02/is-genesis-history-q.html

i) One problem is the question of coherence. If humans were extremely distinct from mammals, we wouldn't be human. 

ii) Let's take a comparison. Humans like to play games. Some games are very different from each other, viz. chess, Go, Backgammon, roulette, Yahtzee,  scrabble, Monopoly, Mahjong, pool. 

You also have different games that use the same deck of cards, viz. Poker, blackjack, Bridge, Baccarat. Finally, you have variations on the same game, viz. seven card stud, five card draw, Texas Hold'em, Omaha High. 

What accounts for the similarities and differences? On the one hand, humans like to play very different games. That accounts for dissimilarity.

On the other hand, humans like to explore the range of possible variations within tighter limitations. Consider how many different card games we could devise if we restricted ourselves to the same deck of cards. 

There are different ways to illustrate intellectual creativity. One way is through dissimilarity. Inventing things that are very different from each other. Another way is through similarity. In a way, it's a greater challenge to produce interesting variations with fewer options. 

One creationist explanation for the spectrum of biological similarity and dissimilarity is a demonstration of God's creative ingenuity. And that's something which human creativity mimics.