January 2012


The Best Schools interviewed leading Intelligent Design theorist, Bill Dembski.  At one point he was asked, “You have stated that ‘design theorists oppose Darwinian theory on strictly scientific grounds.’ But then why is the ID movement so heavily populated with religious believers? Could we not expect more of the scientific community to support ID if your statement were true? Why do the majority of the world’s leading scientific bodies oppose ID and claim that it does not qualify as science?”

This is a valid question, and I’m sure it is on the minds of many people who are interested in the debate.  I like Dembski’s answer:

As for why religious believers tend to be associated with design, I could turn the question around. If Darwinian evolution is strictly scientific, then why is that field so heavily populated with atheists? In one survey of around 150 prominent evolutionary biologists, only two were religious believers (as I recall, Will Provine was behind this survey). I see a scientific core to both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. And I see no merit in questioning their scientific status by the company they keep. The character of the proposals that both approaches make is what really ought to count.

 

HT: Uncommon Descent

When dealing with an empiricist who wants evidence that God exists, and yet thinks evidence—for it to be considered evidence—must be empirical in nature, ask him the following question: “What kind of empirical evidence could possibly be given for an immaterial being such as God?”  If they say “none,” then point out that they are asking for the impossible.  What would it prove, then, if you cannot deliver?  Nothing.  It just proves that the wrong question is being asked.

Insisting on empirical evidence before one will believe in the existence of God is like insisting on chemical evidence of your wife’s love for you before you’ll believe she loves you.  One cannot supply chemical proof for love, and neither can one supply empirical proof of God’s existence, but that does not mean either is false.  The problem is not a lack of evidence for God’s existence, but an arbitrary restraint on the kind of evidence the atheist is willing to accept as evidence.  That is what needs to be challenged.  Empirical evidence is not the only kind of evidence one can appeal to in support of a claim.

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For many famous historical figures, a distinction often needs to be made between the man and the myth that surrounds him.  This is no less true for Charles Darwin.  While the mythical features of a man are often later creations by others, in the case of Darwin, he created some of his own myths through his autobiography.  In his book The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin, Benjamin Wiker takes a critical look at the historical Darwin: the man, the myth, and his contribution to evolutionary theory.

Wiker documents several myths have arisen regarding Charles Darwin and the theory of evolution:

  1. That Darwin thought up the theory of evolution.  The notion that animals in the present evolved from earlier forms was not a novel idea.  The idea can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosopher Lucretius in the 1st century BC, and it was particularly in vogue among the intelligentsia in Darwin’s day.  In fact, his very famous grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, wrote a widely acclaimed book titled Zoonomia (1794) in which he laid out his own theory of evolution more than 60 years before Charles wrote On the Origin of Species.  In medical school, Darwin studied under a radical evolutionist by the name of Robert Grant.  He also read the works of other evolutionists.  Darwin did not come up with evolution.  He merely popularized the theory by providing a plausible, naturalistic mechanism by which it might work, backed up by some empirical observations.

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In honor of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday, a meeting of the minds took place to discuss the state of cosmology.  New Scientist[1] reported on the events of the night, one of which was a talk delivered by famed cosmologist, Alexander Vilenkin, describing why physical reality must have a beginning.  But first, a little background is in order.

For a long time scientists held that the universe was eternal and unchanging.  This allowed them to avoid the God question—who or what caused the universe—because they reasoned that a beginningless universe needed no cause.[2]  They recognized that if the universe began to exist in the finite past that it begged for a cause that was outside of the time-space-continuum.  As Stephen Hawking told his well-wishers in a pre-recorded message, “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”

Scientific discoveries in the early and mid-20th century, however, forced cosmologists to the uncomfortable conclusion that our universe came into being in the finite past.  The scientific consensus was that the origin of our universe constituted the origin of physical reality itself.  Before the Big Bang, literally nothing existed.  The universe came into being from nothing and nowhere.  This sounded too much like the creation ex nihilo of Genesis, however, and seemed to require the God of Genesis to make it happen.  As a result, some cosmologists were feverishly looking for ways to restore an eternal universe.

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In the latest edition of Philosophia Christi[1], Jerry Walls argues that no Christian should be a theological determinist.  What is a theological determinist?  It’s someone who believes that God’s sovereignty extends meticulously to every aspect of the world, including human “choice.”  The problem with determinism is that it eliminates human freedom since there are factors external to humans sufficient to determine our choices, such that we could not do otherwise (or even want to do otherwise since even our desires are the product of God’s sovereign acts).

Most theological determinists are compatibilists.  Compatibilists think determinism can be reconciled with free will: If one acts according to their desires, then their choices are free.  But this is a veneer.  At best this shows that we may feel like we our will is free, even though it is not.  The fact remains that both our desires and our choices are determined by God wholly independent of our own volition.  It should be no surprise when our desires match our actions when God has determined both.  Given theological determinism, there can be no freedom of human will, despite attempts by some to evade the obvious.

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I’m excited to share with you that this blog finally broke the 1000 page-views-in-a-single-day barrier (my previous best was 909).  More than half of those views were to my post on the NT quotations in the Church Fathers.

Thanks to all for your continued readership, and for sharing my posts on your own blogs, Facebook, and Twitter!

Have you ever heard it said—or said it yourself—that if all the Bibles and Biblical manuscripts in the world were destroyed tomorrow, we could reconstruct all but 11 verses of the NT from the writings of the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers alone?  Recently, while listening to an interview featuring NT textual critic, Daniel Wallace, I learned that this claim is demonstrably false.[1]  Unfortunately this has been repeated in one form or another by many individuals, including prominent NT textual critics.

Apparently this misinformation began to circulate widely in 1841 with the publication of Robert Philip’s memoir of John Campbell titled The Life, Times, and Missionary Enterprises of the Rev. John CampbellThe Life contains a written anecdote of Campbell, who was rehearsing a story told to him by Reverend Dr. Walter Buchanan pertaining to the research David Dalrymple conducted into the church fathers’ citations of the NT.  According to Campbell, Buchanan and Dalrymple were both in attendance at a literary party when someone raised the question: “Supposing all the New Testaments in the world had been destroyed at the end of the third century, could their contents have been recovered from the writings of the three first centuries?”  No one had an answer.  According to Campbell, two months later Dalrymple contacted Buchanan and reported to him that he had taken up the question raised at the party, researched the writings of the church fathers, and had an answer to the question.  According to Campbell, Buchanan told him that Dalrymple told Buchanan he discovered that all but 7 or 11 verses (Dalrymple could not recall the exact number) of the NT were quoted in the early church fathers.

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I would highly recommend that you watch the video clips at http://www.massresistance.org/media/video/brainwashing.html. They are from a documentary showing how elementary and junior high kids can be indoctrinated to believe homosexuality and same-sex marriage are morally acceptable (something the film extols as a virtue). If you think homosexuality is wrong, but that the issue of homosexuality is a private matter that isn’t going to hurt anybody so we should just sit back and do nothing, you need to watch this video. The gay rights movement has gone beyond the “just leave us alone to do what we want to do in the privacy of our own homes” days and into the day of approval advocacy. They are not content to be allowed to live how they want to live–now they want to make sure that you approve of their lifestyle as well. It’s too difficult to change adults’ minds, so they are targeting the young.

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Naturalists struggle to fit consciousness into their worldview because it seems obvious that consciousness is not material in nature.  Various attempts have been made by naturalists to account for consciousness.  One of the strangest explanations is offered by philosopher Daniel Dennett.  His solution is to eliminate consciousness so that it does not require an explanation at all.  He does so by claiming that consciousness is not real, but an illusion.

Of the myriad of ways one might go about showing why Dennett’s solution does not work, I think Greg Koukl has offered the most straightforward and clearest critique.  Koukl points out that in order to recognize something as an illusion, two things are required: (1) the presence of a conscious observer who is capable of perception, and (2) the ability to distinguish between what is real and what is illusion.

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Several months ago the Discovery Channel aired a television series featuring Stephen Hawking called Curiosity.  Whereas in his book The Grand Design Hawking claimed that God is not necessary to explain the origin of the universe given the existence of physical laws such as gravity, in Curiosity he argued that God could not have created the universe because there was no time in which God could have done so:

[D]o we need a God to set it all up so a Big Bang can bang? … Our everyday experience makes us convinced that everything that happens must be caused by something that occurred earlier in time.  So it’s natural for us to assume that something—perhaps God—must have caused the universe to come into existence.  But when we’re talking about the universe as a whole, that isn’t necessarily so.
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Evolutionist, Jerry Coyne, has written an article in USA Today promoting the idea that free will is an illusion.  After several paragraphs of attempting to convince his readers that they have no free will, Coyne raises the question of justice: Why punish people if they did not freely choose to do bad?  His answer: “But we should continue to mete out punishments because those are environmental factors that can influence the brains of not only the criminal himself, but of other people as well. Seeing someone put in jail, or being put in jail yourself, can change you in a way that makes it less likely you’ll behave badly in the future. Even without free will then, we can still use punishment to deter bad behavior, protect society from criminals, and figure out better ways to rehabilitate them.”  But wait, what is this talk of “should”?  That presumes some sort of rational or moral obligation, but both are impossible in Coyne’s world since we have no ability to choose, and obligations cannot be met by those who lack the ability to choose to fulfill them.  We can’t decide how we will respond to criminal behavior.  Physics determines that for us.  I may be determined to respond by refusing to punish anyone’s bad behavior or rewarding anyone’s good behavior.  It’s not within my control, nor Coyne’s.  We are just puppets on the strings of physics.

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