October 2009


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CIRM is the CA agency that oversees the distribution of 3 billion dollars for stem cell research in CA.  The agency was created by constitutional amendment via a ballot initiative in the 2004 election.  From its inception, it has directed most of its energies and funds to promoting embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).  It seems, however, that they have finally caught on to the fact that ESCR is not the most promising area of stem cell research.  Of the $230 million in grants awarded to 14 institutions yesterday, 10 of them were for adult stem cell research (ASCR).  Good.

HT: Wesley Smith

Darwinian evolution entails more than just the concept of one species changing into another over a long period of time.  It involves a fully naturalistic process: natural selection working on random genetic mutations, genetic drift, etc.  If Darwin’s theory of evolution is scientifically sound—meaning the naturalistic processes it invokes are fully capable of producing life and all of its many variegates—then adding God to the equation is superfluous.  It would be like providing a scientific account of water boiling by saying water will boil at time t1 when X amount of heat is applied to Y amount of water at Z altitude, but then adding that fairies are also involved in the process.  If naturalistic processes are adequate to explain why water boils, then not only is there no need for the fairy hypothesis, but there is no room for it.  The same is true of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  If the theory is scientifically sound, and naturalistic processes can fully account for all of life, then there is no need for, and no room to fit God into the picture.  In other words, if Darwin’s theory is scientifically sound, positing a theistic form of evolution is superfluous.

One might say, however, that naturalistic processes are not fully adequate to account for all of life, and this is why one must add God to the equation to make it work.  To make such a claim, however, is to admit that the scientific theory itself is not sound on its own.  It requires some outside supernatural force to patch it up.  Here’s the rub: If Darwin’s theory of evolution is not adequate in itself to explain the data, why should we feel compelled to fit theism into the picture?  Let’s face it, the only reason a theist would postulate a theistic form of evolution is if he was convinced that the evidence for evolution was so compelling that intellectual honesty demands that he reconcile the scientific evidence with his theistic belief.  But if Darwin’s theory of evolution lacks the evidence necessary to make it a sound scientific fact, what compelling reason is there to reconcile the theory with theism?  If Darwin’s theory is not sound in itself, it doesn’t need God to shore it up.

For further reading see my article titled “Theistic Evolution: The Illegitimate Marriage of Theism and Evolution

I’ve come to learn that while money cannot buy happiness, a lack of money can purchase a lot of misery.

I’m late to the game on this one, but I just discovered some great statistical information regarding changes in the religious identity of Americans between 1990 and 2008, as well as a great interactive online chart visually displaying the information.  Here is some of the most pertinent information:

  • Those who claim to have no religious affiliation (called “Nones”) have grown in every state since 1990. 
  • The west and northeast coasts dominate the no religion category.  VT comes in 1st with 34%.  CA ranks 15th with 18%.  MI ranks last with 5%. 
  • Non-Christian religions have grown in all but 6 states since 1990. 
  • Protestants have diminished in all but 4 states. 
  • Catholics have diminished in all but 20 states. 
  • Catholics have increased in CA from 27% in 1990 to 38% in 2008. 
  • The northeast has the highest percentage of Catholics (RI has 46%).  CA ranks 5th with 38%.  AL ranks last with 6%. 
  • The south is mostly Protestant (AL has 80%).  CA ranks 45th with 35%.  MA ranks last with 26%. 
  • CT has the most non-Christian religious adherents (8%).  CA ranks 6th with 5%.  Wyoming ranks last with 1%. 
  • For those who simply don’t know what to say their religious identity is, OR comes in 1st place with 7% (compared to 2% in 1990), and DE last with 2% (in 1990 they were ranked 1st with 6%).  CA has 5%.

The beliefs of Nones was broken down further:

  • 51% believe in a deity of some sort
  • ~24% believe in a non-personal God
  • ~27% believe in a personal God
  • ~36% are agnostic (~19% hard agnostics, ~17% soft agnostics)
  • ~7% are atheist
  • 22% of 18-29 year old are Nones

Closed Mind2It’s common for those who reject the Christian worldview to accuse Christians of being closed-minded.  Often this retort comes on the heels of a Christian’s outspokenness about his/her beliefs.  How can you respond when someone tells you you’re being closed-minded, or that you need to be more open-minded?

The first thing you ought to do is ask the person what s/he means by such terms.  S/he could mean one of several things, so we should not presume to know the answer.  In fact, s/he may not even know exactly what s/he means, and our inquiry may force him/her to think it through for the first time.  The truth of the matter is that those who use such terms often sling them blithely at anyone who disagrees with their point of view,[1] never stopping to think about what exactly it is that they mean.  And since the accusation is usually effective at silencing their opponents they continue to use it over and over again as the trump card of choice when discussing religion with “right-wing, fundamentalist wackos” such as ourselves.  If we can respond thoughtfully to his charge, not only will we rescue ourselves from a distasteful allegation, but we may disarm him/her from using this unfounded charge on other Christians in the future.

While there are several ways people define closed-mindedness, typically it is a label given to anyone who comes to a conclusion on a controversial matter, and believes that conclusion is true to the exclusion of all others.  We are told we must be open-, rather than closed-minded, which means we have an intellectual obligation to remain “on the fence” of all divisive issues, never taking a definitive position, and never claiming that one position has more merit than another.  There are a few ways to respond to this understanding of open- and closed-mindedness.

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IdaIt wasn’t many months ago that a fossil named Ida graced the cover of every magazine and was the talk of all the news channels.  There was a media blitz over what some called the “fossil that changes everything.”  Extravagant claims were made about it being an ancient ancestor to humans, and proving beyond doubt the truth of evolution.  Of course, many saw through the hype and exaggerated claims right away.  It’s no surprise, then, that upon further study scientists are reporting that the claims were wrong.

While arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, I think there are times that an argument from silence must be reckoned with.  For example, in discussing whether Matthew 28:19 originally read “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” or “in my name,” some Trinitarian scholars argue that the latter is original.  “In my name” does not appear in any extant manuscript, so what is there basis?  One reason is Justin Martyr’s silence on the passage.  In one of Justin’s work he was arguing for “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” as the appropriate baptismal formula, and yet he never once appealed to Matthew 28:19 for support as we would expect for him to have done if Matthew 28:19 originally read “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  Since he did not, it stands to reason that Matthew 28:19 did not read “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” in Justin’s day (or at least in the manuscripts he had access to), but rather “in my name.”  While this is an argument from silence, it is a strong argument nonetheless.

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