Astronomer Martin Gaskell is suing the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination. Evolution News & Views sums it up well (emphasis mine):
Perhaps the most interesting detail Oppenheimer reports concerns the “smoking gun” in Gaskell’s case: the text of a 2007 email from UK staffer Sally Shafer to two colleagues:
“Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk with,” Ms. Shafer wrote, “but potentially evangelical. If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department Web site.”
To this gem, Gaskell’s attorney, Francis J. Manion, said: “I couldn’t have made up a better quote. ‘We like this guy, but he is potentially Jewish’? ‘Potentially Muslim’?”
Bingo. Apparently committing evangelical Christianity disqualifies a scientist from employment at the University of Kentucky.
Yet again, the popular myth that current scientific authorities are “scientific” and “objective” while followers of Jesus are the ones with a worldview is shown to be false. Even though Dr. Gaskell was not interviewing to teach evolutionary theory, and even though he’s stated that he “accepted standard evolutionary science,” he was (gasp) “potentially evangelical,” and therefore someone to be avoided. Sounds like the scientific authorities are the ones interested in propagating their godless worldview without incident, while Dr. Gaskell just wants to teach Astronomy, doesn’t it?
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: astronomy, colleges and universities, Creationism, evolution, intelligent design, science, university of kentucky
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
You can’t put honesty in a test tube.
“Science” doesn’t say anything—scientists do.
Those are a couple of the illuminating conclusions we can draw from the global warming e-mail scandal.
“You mean science is not objective?” No, unless the scientists are, and too often they are not. I don’t want to impugn all scientists, but it is true that some of them are less than honest. Sometimes they lie to get or keep their jobs. Sometimes they lie to get grant money. Sometimes they lie to further their political beliefs. Sometimes they don’t intentionally lie, but they draw bad scientific conclusions because they only look for what they hope to find.
Misbehavior by scientists is more prevalent than you might think. A survey conducted by University of Minnesota researchers found that 33% of scientists admitted to engaging in some kind of research misbehavior, including more than 20% of mid-career scientists who admitted to “changing the design, methodology or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source.” Think of how many more have done this but refuse to admit it! (The researchers said as much in their findings.)
Outright lies and deception certainly seem to be the case with “Climategate.” The exposed e-mails reveal cherry picking; manipulating data; working behind the scenes to censor dissenting views; and doubting what the measurements say because they don’t fit their pre-determined conclusion. Matt Drudge headlined this yesterday as the “Greatest scandal in modern science.”
I actually think there is another great scientific scandal, but its misrepresentations are not quite as obvious. In this scandal, instead of outright lies, scientific conclusions are smuggled in as philosophical presuppositions. Such is the case with the controversy over the origin of life and new life forms. Did natural forces working on non-living chemicals cause life, or is life the result of intelligent activity? Did new life forms evolve from lower life forms by natural forces or was intelligence needed?
Dr. Stephen Meyer has written a fabulous new best-selling book addressing those questions called Signature in the Cell. Having earned his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science, Dr. Meyer is at the top of the science food chain. In our August 8th radio interview, he told me he’s been working on his 600+ page book—which isn’t short of technical detail—for more than a decade.
What qualifies a man who has a Ph. D. in the “philosophy of science” to write on the origin of life or macroevolution? Everything. What some scientists, and many in the general public fail to understand is that science cannot be done without philosophy. All data must be interpreted. And much of the debate between Intelligent Design proponents (like Dr. Meyer) and the Darwinists (like Oxford Professor Richard Dawkins) is not a debate over evidence—everyone is looking at the same evidence. It’s a debate over philosophy. It’s a debate over what causes will be considered possible before we look at the evidence.
Scientists look for causes, and logically, there are only two possible types of causes—intelligent causes or non-intelligent causes (i.e. natural causes). A natural cause can explain a geologic wonder like the Grand Canyon, but only an intelligent cause can explain a geologic wonder like the faces of the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Likewise, natural laws can explain why ink adheres to the paper in Dr. Meyer’s book, but only an intelligent cause can explain the information in that book (i.e. Dr. Meyer!).
How does this apply to the question of the origin of life? Long after Darwin, we discovered that “simple” single-celled life is comprised of massive volumes of DNA information called specified complexity—in everyday terms, a complicated software program or a really long message. Richard Dawkins admits that the information content of the “unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoeba” would fill 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia!
What’s the cause of this? Here’s where the philosophy comes in. Dr. Meyer is open to both types of causes. Richard Dawkins is not. Dr. Meyer’s book explains why natural forces do not appear to have the capacity to do the job, only intelligence does. However, Dawkins and his Darwinist cohorts philosophically rule out intelligent causes before they look at the evidence. So no matter how much the evidence they discover points to intelligence (as a long message surely does), they will always conclude it had to be some kind of natural cause. In other words, their conclusion is the result of their philosophical presupposition.
While Dawkins has no viable natural explanation for life or the message contained therein, he says he knows it cannot be intelligence. That philosophical presupposition leads to what appears to be an unbelievable conclusion: To believe that 1,000 volumes of an encyclopedia resulted from blind natural forces is like believing that the Library of Congress resulted from an explosion in a printing shop. I don’t have enough faith to believe that.
“This is a ‘God of the gaps’ argument!” Dawkins might protest. No it isn’t. We don’t just lack a natural explanation for “simple” life—1,000 encyclopedias worth of information is positive empirically verifiable evidence for an intelligence cause. Consider the cause of the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, for example. It’s not merely that we lack a natural explanation for the book (of course we know that the laws of ink and paper couldn’t have written the book). It’s also the fact that we know that messages only come from minds. Therefore, we rightly posit an intelligent author, not a blind natural process.
Why is it so hard for Dawkins and other Darwinists to see this? Maybe they refuse to see it. Maybe, like global warming “scientists,” they have their own political or moral reasons for denying the obvious. Or maybe they’ve never realized that you cannot do science without philosophy. As Einstein said, “The man of science is a poor philosopher.” And poor philosophers of science may often arrive at false scientific conclusions. That’s because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: Darwin, einstein, evolution, faith, Frank Turek, global warming, intelligent design, matt drudge, philosophical presuppositions, richard dawkins, science, TownHall
Lutheran leaders have approved a statement that has been described as being a move “toward a more welcoming view of homosexuality.” According to the AP:
Delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, approved a “social statement on human sexuality” that acknowledges differing views on homosexuality. It says the ELCA is strong enough to accommodate such differences.
The session discussing this statement was set to commence at 2pm on August 19th. Just at this time, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis and hit the convention center and church at which the ELCA was meeting. According to Fox9:
The Minneapolis Convention Center has sustained approximately 1,800 square feet of roof damage and has some water damage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holding its national convention at the center at the time of the storm. About 2,200 people were registered for the convention. People inside the Convention Center were taken to a safe location, and there were no reports of injury.
Pastor John Piper, who lives in Minneapolis, shared some controversial thoughts concerning the tornado in his blog entry from August 20th. He starts by setting the stage for the meeting of these two seemingly unrelated entities (the tornado and the convention):
A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.
The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.
According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.
The eyewitness of the damage continues:
This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.
The time: 2PM.
The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.
After then laying out the scriptural case for the importance of the issue the convention was discussing and God’s sovereignty over nature and seemingly random events, he concludes:
The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.
How remarkable! John Piper, one of the preeminent voices in Evangelicalism today, soberly pronounces a natural event to be a warning from God concerning the goings-on at the convention! Could this be true?
A speaker at the convention joked concerning the tornado’s timing, “we trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work.” Rather than joking about it, perhaps time should be spent in prayer to the God who actually listens and actually (in reality) acts in our current time and space, seeking His divine will and voice.
The larger question here is worth pondering. While the scriptures clearly portray God as sovereign over His creation, speaking through natural means, modern day thought both in and out of the church has relegated God to the sidelines. Reggie Kelly said it well when he stated concerning the Tsunami Disaster from a few years ago:
The ready explanations of modern geological science seem more plausible than the biblical view of nature as an agent of moral judgment under an unlimited divine sovereignty. After all, it is well known that seismic activity of this kind is a commonplace in the greater history of the planet, and is especially predictable in the area around the Pacific Rim known as ‘the ring of fire’. So is the recent tsunami disaster of the Indian Ocean simply another instance of blind brute nature ‘acting up’ according to well known natural laws? Such naturalistic explanation may appear to exonerate God from implication in the seemingly undistinguishing carnage of ‘nature’s fury’; but it would be a loss far greater than the tsunami disaster if the world-view of ‘scientific naturalism’ should prevail to rob the modern world, and particularly the church, of the significance and impact of such a costly judgment and prophetic statement of greater judgments to come.
What does God have to say about these and other issues? Have we as a church “graduated” from seeking His counsel and expecting Him to speak through some means, to going our own way, confident in our own understanding? Have things so substantially changed in the last three thousand years, that God no longer controls the weather, nor does He speak through it?
Whether or not the sovereign Lord was speaking through this particular natural occurrence, let’s hope Mr. Piper’s words serve as a gut-check to all of us that God is in fact in charge even of the wind and the sea, and his message to all is (as it always has been) … repent.
Posted in News, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: America, convention, creation, evangelical lutheran church of america, God, homosexuality, john piper, judgment, lutherans, Reggie Kelly, science
I was practically screaming at my television set as I watched this. I don’t usually get so carried away when scientists say things that are intellectually dishonest. Actually, I guess I’ve come to expect it after many hours of watching NOVA and Steven Hawking. But this time, I couldn’t contain myself.
This was an episode of Naked Science on the National Geographic Channel that aired on Sunday, July 26th. The show’s thesis was that, new scientific evidence is suggesting that human beings had somehow made their way to the Americas thousands of years earlier than archeologists once thought. And these humans were not the hairy knuckle dragging cave men that your high school textbooks might suggest, but rather highly intelligent sea-faring engineers of amazing skill.
For the most compelling evidence of this they turned to J.M. Adovasio, PH.D, who is the director of Mercyhurst Archeological Institute. Adovasio is excavating an archeological site at Medocroft Rock Shelter, 35 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He and his team have been peeling this excavation site back layer by layer for the last 33 years. Each layer is carbon dated for age and they are able to record their findings for each chronological snapshot of time like flipping through the pages of a history book.
It was thought that the first Americans arrived on the continent 13,500 years ago, but when Adovasio reached the 13,500-year mark he kept digging. He describes what he was finding as, “unprecedented materials”. After another year of digging, they found an artifact that would “re-write the history books”.
Adovasio himself holds up a small black rock that appears to be polished in a slightly triangular shape. He twiddles it back and forth in this fingers holding it close to the camera and declares, “This very delicate tool is the oldest form tool from the site. It’s slightly older than 16,000 years.” Then the host says with confident assurance, “This find suggests that there was human life in North America 16,000 years ago…BECAUSE IF THERE WAS A TOOL – THERE WERE PEOPLE.”
This rock is SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE worthy of REWRITING THE TEXTBOOKS that human beings lived in America much earlier than previously thought. They were certain that people must have been there because tools don’t just make themselves. Could they observe the people who were there? No. Could they touch them or talk to them? No. The remnants of one of their tools was evidence enough. “…IF THERE WAS A TOOL – THERE WERE PEOPLE.” Its as simple as that.
It would be one thing if they found a typewriter or a bicycle or a computer chip…but they found – a rock…a polished rock. This little black rock is considered watertight scientific evidence that people were there because, “…IF THERE WAS A TOOL – THERE WERE PEOPLE.”
Wait…Are you telling me that that little triangular rock couldn’t have just kind of evolved that way? Don’t you think it’s feasible that the water or weather or something other than an intelligent human designer could have contributed over thousands of years to the slightly triangular shape of this rock? Yet there is no dispute from the scientific community. The evidence is conclusive – “IF THERE WAS A TOOL – THERE WERE PEOPLE”. Any moron could make such a simple deduction…right?
Now I’m no scientist, but I see a little bit of hypocrisy here. If a tiny, black, triangular rock, is scientific evidence that intelligent people must have made it, what are we to think about the trillions upon trillions upon trillions of atoms that make up our planet, each with electrons spinning with the synchronization of a Swiss watch around a nucleus made of protons and neutrons, like a self contained solar system?
What about the unbelievably complex design of our bodies that employ the aid of over 200 muscles just to take a single step?
What about the human eye, which is so elegant that scientists still don’t fully understand how it works? It completes 100,000 separate functions in a single day and it even conducts its own maintenance work while we sleep. It has automatic aim, focus and aperture adjustment. It even provides color and 3-D images and it can automatically function from darkness to bright light instantly. It can discern over 10 million color hues, including 500 shades of grey alone and can take in more information than the largest, most complicated telescopes ever invented.
What about our skin which contains in ONE SQUARE INCH; 4 yards of nerve fibers, 600 pain sensors, 1300 nerve cells, 36 heat sensors, 75 pressure sensors, 100 sweat glands, 3 million cells, 3 yards of blood vessels and 9000 nerve endings which send messages to our brain at speeds of up to 124 mph?
What about our brains, which only weigh about 3 pounds and yet contain 12 billion cells each of which is connected to 10,000 other brain cells, making 120 trillion connections. The brain stores so much memory data that by the age of 40, it would take the Empire State building full of computers just to store the same amount of information. It generates more electrical impulses in a single day then all of the world telephones put together, yet it uses less energy than a refrigerator light.
What about the DNA molecules in our bodies – the most complex molecules in the universe. Their code is so unbelievably elaborate that if you typed out all the DNA code in your body, it would create enough books to fill Grand Canyon 40 times.
What about bacteria such as E. Coli, which is equipped with a propulsion system, complete with a motor, rotor, stator, drive shaft, bushings, universal joint and flexible propeller; 40 moving parts in all, made solely from protein molecules. The ion powered motor can rotate at up to 100,000 rpm, can reverse direction in only 1/4 of a revolution and has an automatic feedback control mechanism. In spite of it’s enormous complexity, its size is only 1/100,000 of an inch (1/4,000 mm) in width.
Of course I could go on and on and on talking about the wonders gravity and magnetism that science still cannot fully explain, the flawless rhythm of the solar system, the perfect balance of nitrogen and oxygen in earths atmosphere that makes life possible, the amazing order in nature that forms a self supporting system of life, reproduction and disposal. But is any of this necessary? The scientific community is holding up a triangular shaped rock as conclusive evidence of intelligent (human) design.
Now I’m not asking any scientists to fall on their face and confess Jesus as Lord, all I am asking for is a little bit of honesty and humility. If there is a tool than simple logic suggests that there must have been a person who fashioned it and if there is an amazing world full of incomprehensible wonders of design then maybe, just maybe it’s possible that there is a designer. No wonder Psalms 14:1 says, “The fool saith in his heart there is no God”.
Posted in Philosophy & Science Tagged with: America, Archeological, evolution, evolutionism, humans, intelligent design, national geographic, North America, NOVA, science
Science is a somewhat ambiguous word. Often, it is taken to mean the interpretation of empirical evidence indicating a phenomenon, physical effect or biological function. Modern society, to a certain extent, is based heavily on the idea that we should shape our function and everyday living by scientific finding and fact. However, this was not always the way of things…
As an introduction, I would like to say, that it is the way of Man to struggle to believe what can be proved by hard fact. Man is, for the most part, a disbelieving being. While we are children, we are told fairy tales and have facts hidden from us that may be detrimental to our long-term character if discovered too soon (imagine the horror of a two year old finding out the real ‘facts of life’). It is in our youth that we begin to ask questions about what we have heard and we shed the old ‘childlike belief’ for a more rational explanation of things.
Unfortunately, we do not naturally retain a good amount of ‘childlike’ faith and this must be regained through self-examination and grace, but that is not the issue here.
It is also the nature of Man to be in disagreement with one another. Socio-psychological perspectives change our ideas greatly and one man argues from his rational thought process only to be ‘beaten down’ by the ‘trump card’ of scientific observation. In our modern culture, it is almost always the case when discussing the existence of God that the conversation turns to some question on the origin of man. Here, expectations, which are often unrealistic, are placed upon the man who uses a purely reasoned argument instead of a purely empirical one. Regrettably, this can lead to the ‘unscientific’ side appearing weak on fact or, as some insensitively put it, disillusioned.
We sympathise with those who feel ‘blinded by science’ and want to take a chance to re-evaluate the idea that arguments based on scientific evidence can be used as a trump-card against philosophical or ‘reasoned’ arguments, or as Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist once put it, “The great tragedy of Science — the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”
The Meaning of Meaning
Ironically, the meaning of meaning is complex. Even in the root origin of the word, semantics or the study of meaning means ‘significance’[i]. For example, when Pilate asks Jesus “What is truth?” [ii], he is asking a semantic question i.e. what should I understand to be the meaning behind the word truth?
Language is nothing but a common schema of words, symbols or actions attached to associated meaning. To demonstrate, if I were to look at an apple on the table and say it looked ‘scrumptious,’ the meaning would be obvious to somebody sitting on the other side of the table that knows the same language as I do. However, one of the great problems that we face in a ‘global village’ world is the language barrier. A recent study showed that there are only 328M English-speaking people in the world, but it also appeared at the same time as the one millionth word mark was surpassed by the English language[iii]. Clearly, the English language is a ‘common schema’ that is not so common.
This creates a problem for us as people who need to communicate and classify things. We have different definitions of words because our language is complex and our understanding of the definition of a word changes both our interpretation of the word and how we apply the classification of the word to our own lives. Continuing in the same stream, let us ask the following question of ourselves, “What do we understand by the word science?”
We will look at this question in three parts:
- We will explore the literal meanings of science
- We will explore the wider usage of the word science
- We shall look at two ‘branches’ of science and particularly at one, which has less value accounted to it in our culture.
As we have already discovered, and deduced from conversations and debates, Science is generally taken to be the empirical basis on which natural processes stand – that is to say, evidence defines Science. Rightly so. Excepting Proto-Indo-European origins, all western usages of ‘Science’ can be traced back to variations on ‘Knowledge.’[iv] Later we will deal with two distinct ‘branches’ of the term, but for now, we will take Science to be the knowledge of some natural process.
Biology, physics and chemistry are the three foundational disciplines of Science. In these areas of study and experimentation, we divine the natural processes and systems behind everyday life through empirical testing and then make an interpretation of them based solely on the findings of our experimentation.
Of course, interpretation and evidence are unhappy bedfellows. They do not go well together at all, one is highly subjective and the other highly objective. It is possible that our perception of the evidence before us is entirely misguided by our individual bias, or as Aristotle puts it, “it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.”[v]
However, it is also admissible to say that we may eliminate our bias and regard all data in an experiment only for what it is. Although it is not generally an accepted view, it is none the less possible, but remains entirely in the hands of those qualified to obtain accurate evidence through experimentation.
In the light of Aristotle’s writings, we are presented with an interesting issue in the definition of science. The science, of which we have thus far spoken, the knowledge of natural process, is not the only usage of the word. Let us turn to an overview of some other usages.
Findings in a recent study[vi] conducted at Reading University (UK) places the oldest words in the English language to be: I, We, One, Three and Five. The earliest English speakers often had trouble asking for two cups of sugar from their neighbours (i.e. “Do you have two cups of sugar.”) In addition to the difficulties experienced by Anglo-Saxons when baking cakes, the study also demonstrates that words change their meaning over time.
As previously stated, Science is quite a narrow concept in our culture, but the concept has a far wider historical usage than is often accredited it. Let’s look at some examples.
‘Conscience’ is a compound word used to describe the idea of knowledge of right and wrong of some kind. ‘Ideology’ has the ‘science of ideas’ listed as one of its usages. Ironically, ‘sciolist’ is the name given to someone with a superficial knowledge of academic matters but has the same Latin root as Science. For Kant, Aesthetics is the science, which treats the condition of sensuous perception i.e. the knowledge of senses.
Surely, unable to deny our own narrow concept of Science, we should attempt to come up with a more diverse classification of the term.
Next time, we will take a look at a better classification of the word Science.
[i] The word ‘semantics’ is taken from the Greek word ‘semantikos’ meaning ‘significance’ and ultimately, from the Greek word for ‘sign.’
[ii] John 18:38 – Pilate’s intention in this verse is debatable.
[v] Bekker Number: I.1094b24
Posted in Philosophy & Science Tagged with: biological function, biology, conscience, debate, empirical basis, experimentation, freedom, global village, Jesus, Knowledge, natural processes, science, semantics, Sigmund Freud
Guardian – 50% of Britons do not believe in evolutionism while only a quarter say it’s definitely true. Ironically, the results of the ‘Rescuing Darwin’ survey also reveal that 25% believe evolution is only ‘probably’ true.
The survey was conducted by ComRes (http://www.comres.co.uk/) whose clients include several of the biggest British banks, the BBC and the General Medical Council.
10% of British people felt that Young Earth Creationism was the best theory and a further 12% chose the idea of Intelligent Design. However, one critical voice from the academic world, James Williams (Sussex University) responded to the results, “Creationists ask if people believe in evolution. Evolution is a theory and a fact. You accept it because of the evidence. What the creationists have done is put a cloak of pseudo-science to wrap up their religious belief.”
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: creation, Creationism, Darwin, evolution, evolution darwin, evolutionism, Guardian, intelligent design, James Williams, science, theory of evolution, young earth
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org
My friend David has a knack for cutting through the smokescreens people throw up when they’re trying to avoid making commitments, be they commitments to God or to other people. Last week, with one comment, he blew away all the smoke that a young agnostic was hiding behind. It was a demonstration of tremendous insight, and it required some courage to say.
For several weeks David was teaching through a series on Christian apologetics, which involves providing evidence for the truth of Christianity. In addition to the biblical mandate to provide such evidence, David thought it would be wise to do so because 75 percent of Christian youth stop attending church after age 18. Many of them abandon the church because they’re bombarded by secularism in college and they’ve never been taught any of the sound evidence that supports Christianity.
Last week, after David finished a presentation refuting the “new atheists”—Dawkins, Hitchens and the like—a young man approached him and said, “I once was a Christian, but now I’m an agnostic, and I don’t think you should be doing what you’re doing.”
“What do you mean?” David asked.
“I don’t think you should be giving arguments against atheists,” the young man said. “Jesus told us to love, and it’s not loving what you’re doing.”
David said, “No, that’s not right. Jesus came with both love and tuth. Love without truth is a swampy, borderless mess. Truth is necessary. In fact, it’s unloving to keep truth from people, especially if that truth has eternal consequences.”
David was absolutely right. In fact, if you look at Matthew chapter 23, Jesus was more like a drill sergeant than he was like Mister Rogers.
But the young man would have none of it. Without acknowledging David’s point, he immediately brought up another objection to Christianity. David succinctly answered that one too, but again the kid seemed uninterested. He fired a couple of more objections at David, who began to suspect something else was up—something I’ve noticed as well.
I’ve found that the machine-gun-objection approach is common among many skeptics and liberals. They throw objection after objection at believers and conservatives but never pause long enough to listen to the answers. It doesn’t matter that you’ve just answered their question with an undeniable fact—they’ve already left that topic and are rattling off another objection on another topic as if you hadn’t said a word. They don’t really seem interested in finding answers but in finding reasons to make themselves feel better about what they want to believe.
After all, a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs.
David recognized that’s exactly what was happening in his conversation. So after the kid fired off another objection, David decided to end the charade and cut right to the heart. He said, “You’re raising all of these objections because you’re sleeping with your girlfriend. Am I right?”
All the blood drained from the kid’s face. He was caught. He just stood there speechless. He was rejecting God because he didn’t like God’s morality, and he was disguising it with alleged intellectual objections.
This young man wasn’t the first atheist or agnostic to admit that his desire to follow his own agenda was keeping him out of the Kingdom. In the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul revealed this tendency we humans have to “suppress the truth” about God in order to follow our own desires. In other words, unbelief is more motivated by the heart than the head. Some prominent atheists have admitted this.
Atheist Julian Huxley, grandson of “Darwin’s Bulldog” Thomas Huxley, famously said many years ago that the reason he and many of his contemporaries “accepted Darwinism even without proof, is because we didn‘t want God to interfere with our sexual mores.”
Professor Thomas Nagel of NYU more recently wrote, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.”
Certainly the new atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have problems with cosmic authority. Hitchens refuses to live under the “tyranny of a divine dictatorship.” Dawkins calls the God of the Bible a “malevolent bully” (among other things) and admits that he is “hostile to religion.”
It’s not that Hitchens and Dawkins offer any serious examination and rebuttal of the evidence for God. They misunderstand and dismiss hundreds of pages of metaphysical argumentation from Aristotle, Aquinas and others and fail to answer the modern arguments from the beginning and design of the universe. (Dawkins explanation for the extreme design of the universe is “luck.”)
Instead, as any honest reader of their books will see, Hitchens and Dawkins are outraged at the very thought of God. Even their titles scream out contempt (god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The God Delusion). They don’t seem to realize that their moral outrage presupposes an objective moral standard that exists only if God exists. Objective morality—as well as the immaterial laws of reason and science—cannot exist in the materialist universe they attempt to defend.
In effect, they have to borrow from a theistic worldview in order to argue against it. They have to sit in God’s lap to slap his face.
While both men are very good writers, Hitchens and Dawkins are short on evidence and long on attitude. As I mentioned in our debate, you can sum up Christopher’s attitude in one sentence: “There is no God, and I hate him.”
Despite this, God’s attitude as evidenced by the sacrifice of Christ is: There are atheists, and I love them.
Posted in Philosophy & Science Tagged with: atheism, christianity, christopher hitchens, Frank Turek, God, Jesus, morality, rebellion, richard dawkins, science, sin, TownHall
Smithsonian Magazine’s Brian Switek had the following to say with regard to the Ida fossil being described as “the missing link” by many:
Is Darwinius important to understanding primate evolution? Of course! It is an exceptionally preserved specimen that could do much to aid our understanding of adapid evolution and paleobiology. The grand claims about it being our ancestor, though, can not be upheld as true. The researchers simply did not do the work to support their case, and even if their language was more reserved in the technical paper they have gone hand-in-hand with the History Channel to create an aura of sensationalism around the fossil. I hardly think this is a responsible way to conduct or communicate science, flooding the media with poorly supported claims, but as reported in the New York Times some of this paper’s authors care more about marketing than about good science;
“Any pop band is doing the same thing,” said Jorn H. Hurum, a scientist at the University of Oslo who acquired the fossil and assembled the team of scientists that studied it. “Any athlete is doing the same thing. We have to start thinking the same way in science.”
This is a shame. I would have hoped that this fossil would receive the care and attention it deserves, but for now it looks like a cash cow for the History Channel. Indeed, this association may not have only presented overblown claims to the public, but hindered good science, as well. As Karen James has suggested, the overall poor quality of the paper and the disproportionate hyping of the find make me wonder if this research was rushed into publication so that the media splash would occur on time. The paper tried to cover so much, so quickly, and contained so many shortfalls that I honestly have to wonder why it was allowed to be published in such a state. Perhaps we will never know, but I am sickened by the way in which a cable network has bastardized a legitimately fascinating scientific discovery, with the scientists themselves going along with it every step of the way. I can only hope that Darwinius will eventually receive the careful analysis it deserves.
We are clearly blessed to have such a well-preserved fossil to aid in our understanding of biology and human origins, but let’s be patient in our search for truth. When someone like Switek, who it should be noted makes evolution a focus in his writings for the Smithsonian, argues that “the grand claims about [Ida] being our ancestor […] can not be upheld as true,” and “the researchers simply did not do the work to support their case,” we should be careful not to extrapolate scientific truth from the fossil prematurely, particularly as it relates to any sort of “final verdict” on human origins.
Posted in News, Philosophy & Science Tagged with: apes, evolution, fossil, humans, hype, ida, missing link, science, smithsonian, television
President Obama has overturned the restrictions on the federal funding of stem-cell research that were set in place by the Bush administration in August 2001, when President Bush limited funding because of “fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science.”
President Obama showed his lack of concern for these “fundamental questions” when he made these statements:
Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values…
It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda — and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology…
Promoting science ‘is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient.’
Restrictions from the Bush administration on stem cell research allowed scientists to work with stem cells which were not obtained through the exploitation or destruction of human embryos. Those restrictions are now lifted:
“The president is, in effect, allowing federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research to the extent that it’s permitted by law — that is, work with stem cells themselves, not the derivation of stem cells,” Varmus said in a conference call with reporters Sunday.
While conceding that “the full promise of stem cell research remains unknown” and “should not be overstated,” Obama nevertheless expressed hope that the order will help spur faster progress in the search for cures to afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and spinal cord injuries…
Researchers highly value embryonic stem cells because of their potential to turn into any organ or tissue cell in the body. Stem cells have this ability for a short time. A few days before the embryo would implant in the uterus, it starts to develop into specific cells that will turn into skin or eyes or other parts of a developing fetus.
When the embryo is 4 or 5 days old, scientists extract the stem cells and put them in a petri dish. With the removal of these stem cells — of which there may be about 30 — the embryo is destroyed.
Several polls from different sources indicate that the majority of Americans were in favor of these restrictions being lifted. Scientists are hoping to use stem cell research to eventually develop treatments for people with diabetes, cancer, spinal injuries, and many more debilitating conditions, which garners support from many Americans. However, the ethics involved in embryonic stem cell research are questionable. Some opponents of the bill have this to say about stem cell research:
“Advancements in science and research have moved faster than the debates among politicians in Washington, D.C., and breakthroughs announced in recent years confirm the full potential of stem cell research can be realized without the destruction of living human embryos,” House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Sunday.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, said the Bush policy imposed proper ethical limits on science.
“My basic tenet here is I don’t think we should create life to enhance life and to do research and so forth,” Shelby said Sunday. “I know that people argue there are other ways. I think we should continue our biomedical research everywhere we can, but we should have some ethics about it.”
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America [says this]: “President Obama’s order places the worst kind of politics above ethics. Politics driven by hype makes overblown promises, fuels the desperation of the suffering and financially benefits those seeking to strip morality from science.”
President Obama set his “ethical limits” at using stem cells for human cloning. Such cloning, he said, “is dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society or any society.” One might ask, since he has made such clear statements about science not being limited by ideology, why he sets the limits at human cloning as wrong and dangerous? Once the value of human life has been removed and disregarded for the sake of “scientific progress,” why couldn’t the same argument he is making for “science” eventually be used for what many now consider unethical boundaries?
Scientists in Nazi Germany performed many experiments on Jews in concentration camps in the name of advancing “science,” some of the results of which have been banned from being used or taught in the medical community, because of the unethical way in which they were performed. Yet many of their “experiments” were in order to find treatments and cures for diseases, which is the same argument being used for the justification of embryonic stem cell research. The Nazi ideology had so far dehumanized the Jewish people in the German culture that these horrific experiments were allowed and encouraged.
How far have we fallen as a culture, when the majority of Americans (according to some polls) no longer consider these helpless embryos as human, and their lives can be taken simply to bring possible benefits to those who are stronger and have voices that can be heard?
Posted in News, Revolution & Justice Tagged with: Barack Obama, embryo, George W. Bush, Holocaust, nazis, polls, pro-life, science, stem cell research
What if the atheists are right? What if our Universe, the Earth, mankind, and you and I all exist by mere chance? What if, as Carl Sagan put it, “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” and with nothing beyond the physical universe, Richard Dawkins was correct in stating “we are on our own in the universe…. humanity can expect no help from outside”?
Point 1: If the Cosmos is all there is, then all that is will die.
“Earth has been habitable for 4.5 billion years and only has a half billion years left.” That’s the conclusion of Pennsylvania State University professor James Kasting. According to Professor Kasting, “Astronomers always knew that the oceans would evaporate, but they typically thought it would occur only when the Sun left the main sequence – that will be in five billion years. However, my calculations show the oceans may evaporate much earlier.”
What will happen after our planet can no longer support life? Professors Peter Schröder and Robert Smith predict that “In a few billion years, the Sun will fuse the last of its hydrogen into helium, turn into a red giant and expand to 250 times its current size.” Initially, there will appear to be hope for the now lifeless planet we call home, as the gravitational pull from the Sun will be loosened, enabling the Earth to widen its orbit and escape being enveloped by the Sun. However, this widening orbit will cause a “tidal bulge” on the Sun’s surface. This bulge will “lag just behind the Earth in its orbit, slowing it down enough to drag it to a fiery demise.”
Tens of billions of years later, according to astrophysicists, “the sun will have shrunk to a white dwarf, giving little light and even less heat to whatever is left of Earth, and entered a long, lingering death that could last 100 trillion years—or a thousand times longer than the cosmos has existed to date. The same will happen to most other stars, although a few will end their lives as blazing supernovas. Finally, though, all that will be left in the cosmos will be black holes, the burnt-out cinders of stars and the dead husks of planets. The universe will be cold and black.”
“By the time the final chapter of cosmic history is written—further in the future than our minds can grasp—humanity, and perhaps even biology, will long since have vanished. Yet it’s conceivable that consciousness will survive, perhaps in the form of a disembodied digital intelligence. If so, then someone may still be around to note that the universe, once ablaze with the light of uncountable stars, has become an unimaginably vast, cold, dark and profoundly lonely place.”
Is this really our great hope? That all that we know, all that we love, all that we are… may live on one day as nothing more than a faint and distant memory, drifting aimlessly through a cold, dead nothingness? If “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” then what else IS there to hope for? Since there is no God, there is no outside force to intervene. We, the Earth, and the Universe will ultimately share the same fate… death.
Point 2: If atheism is true, then man’s search for meaning is in vain.
Psychoanalyst and Nazi concentration camp survivor Victor Frankl spent the later part of his life developing a psychological technique he termed logotherapy, which he developed by studying his and his fellow prisoners’ psyches during his years in concentration camps. His work was focused on “the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning,” which he detailed in his book Man’s Search For Meaning
How essential is this search of meaning to man? Frankl summed up his findings by saying that “this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man,” and yet if, as William Lane Craig points out in his book Reasonable Faith, “mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe,” what ultimate meaning could there be in the existence of anything or anyone? Perhaps one could say that they have “influenced others or affected the course of history,” but while their life “may be important relative to certain other events… what is the ultimate significance of any of these events? If all these events are meaningless, then what can be the ultimate significance of influencing any of them?” If there is no God, there can be no meaning.
This is why many atheists compare man’s search for meaning to questions like “what is the meaning of a cup of coffee?” To distinguish ourselves in any ultimate sense from an inanimate object is nonsensical, we both simply exist, neither one having any ultimate reason for existing, and neither holding any more inherent value than the other, which brings me to my next point.
Point 3: If there is no immortality and no ultimate moral authority, then all things are permitted.
Humanist philosopher Richard Taylor points out in his book Ethics, Faith, and Reason that “to say that something is wrong because . . . it is forbidden by God, is . . . perfectly understandable to anyone who believes in a law-giving God. But to say that something is wrong . . . even though no God exists to forbid it, is not understandable. . . . The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone.” The only way that something can be wrong in any real and objective sense, is if a God exists to declare it to be so.
If there is no God, and we have no ultimate moral authority to turn to, then what possible right could any of us have to declare anyone or anything wrong? We simply exist, and prefer one thing or the other. Truly, there exists a more or less consistent set of moral laws that we all subscribe to (a point we will explore later), but with no binding moral authority, choosing to acknowledge and behave according to these rules is nothing more than a valueless fact. Ghandi chose to follow these rules, Hitler didn’t. Is Ghandi a better person for doing so? Only in the sense that the majority of our species have decided it to be so. Was Hitler wrong for killing six million Jews? Most would say yes, but what of the minority of people that would say no? If God does not exist, then moral judgment is nothing more than opinion.
And what of injustice? If there is no God, the only punishment that can be given to someone that desires to do evil is in this life. There is no ultimate justice, only the hope that to some extent evil will be punished and good will be rewarded through government, society, etc… As insufficient as these entities are in combating and punishing evil, what happens when even they are taken away as a hindrance to evil? Consider the story of Christian missionary Richard Wurmbrand, who was tortured for his faith in the prisons of communist Romania, as he reflects on the beliefs and actions of his atheistic torturers:
I often asked my torturers, “Don’t you have pity in your hearts?” They usually answered with quotations from Lenin: “You cannot make omelets without breaking the shells of eggs,” and “You cannot cut wood without making chips fly.”
I said again, “I know these quotations from Lenin. But there is a difference. When you cut a piece of wood it feels nothing. But here you are dealing with human beings. Every beating produces pain and there are mothers who weep.” It was in vain. They are materialists. For them nothing besides matter exists and to them a man is like wood, like an eggshell. With this belief they sink to unthinkable depths of cruelty.
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward for good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I heard one torturer say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.
— Richard Wurmbrand: Tortured for Christ
19th Century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyovski explored the impact of atheism in his work The Brothers Karamazov. At one point, a character recounts the statements of one of the brothers:
“Let me …. tell you another little story, this one about Mr. Ivan Karamazov himself, an interesting and characteristic story, I think. Well, not more than five days ago, in a company consisting mostly of ladies of our town, he solemnly declared, in the course of a discussion, that there was nothing on earth to force men to love their fellow men, that there was no law of nature that a man should love mankind, and that if there was love on earth it did not stem from any natural law but rather from man’s belief in immortality. And here he added parenthetically that if there was any natural law, it was precisely this: Destroy a man’s belief in immortality and not only will his ability to love wither away within him but, along with it, the force that impels him to continue his existence on earth. Moreover, nothing would be immoral then, everything would be permitted, even cannibalism. He went even further, finally asserting that, for every individual — people like us now, for instance — who does not believe in God or immortality, the natural moral law immediately becomes the opposite of religious law and that absolute egotism, even carried to the extent of crime, must not only be tolerated but even recognized as the wisest and perhaps the noblest course…”
“Just a minute!” Dmitry shouted unexpectedly. “I want to get it straight: crime must be considered not only as admissible but even as the logical and inevitable consequence of an atheist’s position. Did I get it right?”
“You’ve got it right,” Father Paissi said.
In her essay Existentialism and Dostoevsky, Katharena Eiermann summarized Ivan Karamazov’s contention as, “if there is no God, everything is permitted.” Wurmbrand’s atheistic torturers understood this tie between God, immortality, and morality, and with no outside entity to stop them in this life, they were left without any fear of punishment, and the result was seen in the 18 wounds to Wurmbrand’s neck, back and chest he showed to the U.S. Senate upon his return to America. If atheistic evangelist Richard Dawkins was right in declaring that belief in immortality was “dangerous nonsense,” and thus that there is no immortality and no supernatural creator, then are not all things (including the acts performed by these Communist torturers) permitted?
Posted in Philosophy & Science Tagged with: atheism, meaning, Richard Taylor, Richard Wurmbrand, science, The Cosmos, The Earth, The Sun, Victor Frankl, VOR Series: The Basics, WIlliam Lane Craig