Apologetics


The Scientific Collapse of MaterialismA lot of people think that science has proven that the material world is all that exists – no God, no angels, and no souls.  The problem is that science can never be used to justify the belief that the material world is all that exists (materialism, naturalism).  Science is a tool that examines the workings of the physical world.  Of course, if the material world is the only thing your tool examines, it is the only thing your tool will see.  But it doesn’t follow that what your tool examines is all there is to examine.  Edward Feser compares science to a metal detector.  It would not follow that since the metal detector only finds metal objects in the ground there are no treasure maps buried as well.  A metal detector is not capable of finding paper.  It is only geared toward finding metal objects.  Its success in finding what it is geared to find – metal objects – in no way serves as evidence that non-metal objects do not exist.  Likewise, the success of science in discovering the workings of the physical world in no way serves as evidence that there is no spiritual world.

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NWUScientists at Northwestern University claim to have found two sets of genes that may contribute to male homosexual orientation, but estimate that it only contributes about 40% to the chance of someone developing a homosexual orientation.[1] The other 60% is determined by environment, which includes social factors. This is consistent with what researchers have said all along. Sexual orientation cannot be determined entirely by biology. Nature plus nurture together most likely contribute to same-sex attraction.

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[1]Sarah Knapton, “Being homosexual is only partly due to gay gene, research finds”; available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/10637532/Being-homosexual-is-only-partly-due-to-gay-gene-research-finds.html; Internet; accessed 25 March 2014.

Brendan EichEarlier in the week it was reported that three of of Mozilla’s (the people who make the Firefox browser) board members resigned when Mozilla co-founder, Brendan Eich, was appointed as CEO of the company.  Why?  Because Eich gave $1,000 to support California’s Proposition 8 in 2008, a ballot initiative that sought to define marriage as an institution exclusive to male-female pairings.  His appointment as CEO so irked the dating site, OkCupid, that users attempting to login to the site received this message: “Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.”

Now, it’s being reported that Eich has “resigned.”  Surely he wasn’t tired of the job yet.

Apparently some in the gay rights movement think that those who think natural marriage is the only valid form of marriage don’t deserve a job. As Todd Starnes writes, “Why not demand that those who oppose gay marriage relinquish the right to own property? Why not take away their right to vote? Why not take away their children? Why not just throw them in jail? Why not force them to work in chain gangs? Why not call for public floggings? Or better yet, let’s just strap them down on gurneys, stick a needle in their arm and rid the world of these intolerant anti-gay bigots once and for all.”This is the face of liberal tolerance.  Where is the uproar?

is-change-really-possible

Is it possible to change one’s sexual orientation? The gay community would say no. So do major psychological organizations. And that’s the perception one gets from the media as well. You might be surprised to learn, however, that a lot of research has been done in the area of sexual orientation therapy, and many people have experienced a lasting change in their sexual orientation. When it comes to the question of whether change is possible, the data, not political correctness should be determinative. So what is the data?

The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health followed ~10,800 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 22, recording various bits of information over time, including sexual attraction. The findings regarding sexual orientation were published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2007.[1] Researchers found that 81% of females who reported same-sex attraction at age 16 reported opposite-sex attraction at age 17. Similarly, 61% of males who reported exclusive same-sex attraction at age 16 reported opposite-sex attraction just one year later. Only 25% of those boys who continued to experience exclusive same-sex attraction at age 17 reported same-sex attraction at age 22. Seventy-five percent of them had gained opposite-sex attraction over that five year period. All of this without any therapy, faith-based or otherwise.

These findings were in line with an earlier study, conducted in 1992 by the National Health and Social Life Survey. They found that three out of four boys who self-reported as gay at age 16 no longer did so at age twenty-five.

When it comes to same-sex attracted adolescents, at least, one is more likely to gain heterosexual attractions than keep their same-sex attractions. Change is not only possible, but more likely than not. In fact, 3% of the United States heterosexual population claims to have experienced same-sex attractions in the past (either exclusive, or bi-sexual), which is roughly the same amount of people who presently describe themselves as gay or bisexual.[2] The likelihood of change is so great that, in the words of Dr. Whitehead, “Ex-gays outnumber actual gays.”

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overheadIf what’s being taught in church goes over your head, it’s either the fault of the speaker or our own. If the speaker is not communicating complicated concepts in ways that are understandable to the uninitiated, then shame on him. But if he has done his due diligence to make it as understandable as possible, but we give up on the message simply because it is unfamiliar to us, then shame on us.

The solution to the problem of things going over our head may not be for the messenger to dumb down the message, but for us to do our due diligence to raise our heads higher. Let’s raise the bar intellectually. Discipleship requires that we move on from milk to solid meat. We cannot rehearse our spiritual ABCs year after year and think we’ll ever grown in the Lord. We need to challenge ourselves theologically and intellectually to become better disciples of Jesus. So raise your heads high, and so far as it is within your power, do not let another message go over your head.

Like spilled milk, it only takes a few seconds to spew utter nonsense from one’s mouth. Clean up, however, takes much more time.

In a sound bite culture like ours, most people don’t have the patience or interest to listen to the evidence and follow the logic of a rebuttal, and thus nonsense passes for common sense.

Multiverse 2Scientists differ among themselves regarding the scientific status of multiverse theories. Some, such as George Ellis, don’t think multiverse theories are testable, and hence not scientific. Others, think multiverse models are (or could be) testable, and hence are scientific. Many Christian apologists have sided with Ellis et al and rejected the multiverse as a valid scientific theory on the grounds that it is not testable. Some, including myself, have argued that multiverse theories are not based on the evidence, but ad hoc theories invented by cosmologists to get around the theistic implications of fine-tuning in physics.

Jeff Zweerink from Reasons to Believe wrote a short article addressing the scientific nature of and foundation for multiverse theories. He argues that some multiverse models do make testable predictions (even if we are currently unable to test those predictions empirically), and thus should be “included in the realm of scientific investigation (while stopping short of taking a firm position on the demarcation question –whether multiverse theories qualify as scientific).

More importantly, he argues that at least some multiverse theories are based on other scientific findings, and not invented whole-cloth for the purpose of answering the fine-tuning problem:

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In 2004 Michigan added an amendment to their constitution clarifying that marriage is only between a man and a woman. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled the amendment unconstitutional. Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette, has asked for a stay on the ruling.

This is the sixth state in the last four months to have their marriage laws ruled unconstitutional: Michigan, Texas, Utah, Kentucky, Texas, and Virginia.

Most discussions of religion entail foregone conclusions in search of anything resembling justification.  The goal of the participants is not to discover truth, but to leave the conversation with the same beliefs they came with.  We can do better.  Our beliefs should be properly justified – not just asserted based on what we would like to be true – and our desire for truth must outweigh our desire to be right.

“I don’t think, I know.”  We’ve all heard this, and most of us have probably uttered this phrase ourselves a time or two.  But when you think about it (no pun intended), this phrase represents a misuse of language.  It sets up a contrast between thinking and knowing, wherein “thinking” denotes uncertainty and “knowing” denotes certainty.  While this may reflect a popular connotation of these words, denotatively speaking, neither has anything to do with certainty.

“Think” is a description of what the mind does.  It describes the mind’s activity.  Knowledge is “justified, true belief.”  Certainty is not part of the definition, and thus certainty is not required for knowledge.  To know something only requires that we have adequate justification.

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The latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (March/April 2014) has an article detailing 50 people named in the Bible, both great and small, that have been confirmed archaeologically. It’s not an exhaustive list, but very informative. Read all about it at BAR.

In a matter of just two weeks, three states have had their constitutional amendments that recognize a man and woman as being essential to a marital relationship struck down in whole or in part as unconstitutional.  First, Kentucky was told they had to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as marriages in the state of Kentucky.  Then, Virginia’s constitutional amendment recognizing natural marriage as the only valid form of marriage was struck down.  Now, on February 26, federal Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ constitutional amendment that recognizes a man and woman as being essential to a marital relationship is unconstitutional.  Like Virginia, however, the ruling does not go into effect immediately.  Judge Garcia determined not to enforce his ruling until two similar cases are decided by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Judge rules KY must recognize out-of-state SSMs

Seventy-five percent of Kentucky voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that recognized the necessity of opposite-sex partners for a marital relationship.  No other union was recognized as a marriage, which would include same-sex marriages solemnized in other states where same-sex marriage is recognized.

On February 12 United States District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the state of Kentucky must recognize the relationships of same-sex couples who had their marriage solemnized in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, as marriages. He stopped short, however, of declaring Kentucky’s marriage law unconstitutional. For the time being, Kentucky is “only” being required to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legitimate marriage; they are not (yet) required to solemnize same-sex marriages in their own state.

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No evidence equals atheismWhen you ask an atheist why they are an atheist, it’s not uncommon for them to respond, “Because there is no good evidence that God exists.”  If that is their only justification for atheism, they have made a gross logical blunder.

In the case of genuine dichotomies (such as God’s existence: God exists, or God does not exist), the lack of evidence for A is neither evidence against A, nor evidence for B.  In order to conclude that A is true or B is true, one must have positive evidence for the truth value of A or B.  The absence of evidence for both A and B simply means that we must suspend judgment.

Applied to the debate over God’s existence, even if one wants to argue that there is no good evidence for theism, it does not follow that theism is false, and it certainly does not follow that atheism is true.  To conclude that theism is false one must present positive arguments against theism.  Likewise, to conclude that atheism is true, one must present positive arguments for atheism.  Atheism is not the default position in the absence of evidence for God’s existence.

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declineEarlier this month the Guttmacher Institute released the latest abortion figures (for 2011), which revealed that the number of abortions in this country have once again began to decline despite the continued growth in population.  In 2011, there were 1.06 million abortions – a 13% decline from 2008.  The 2011 abortion rate also declined 13% from 2008, with 16.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44.  Compare this to the 1981 peak of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women.

There has also been a big shift in the way women procure abortions.  In 2008, 17% of all abortions were performed via chemicals (such as RU-486).  As of 2011, that number increased to 23%.

There are also fewer abortion providers (4% fewer than 2008) and abortion clinics (1% fewer than 2008).

See Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2011 for details.

EFCIn 2011, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable commissioned a survey of 2,049 Canadian adults age 18-34 who attended church as a child on a weekly basis to see how many were still active members of the Christian church. They found that:

  • Only 1/3 were still attending church on a regular basis
  • 1/3 no longer identify as Christian
  • The primary reasons cited for abandoning the church were hypocrisy, judgmentalism, exclusivity, and failure.

We must do better at living out our faith, and preparing our young people with good theology and apologetics.

The details are contained in Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to Church. It costs $15 to download, so I didn’t download it. But if any of my readers want to do so, and wish to share some additional details or insights of the report, I welcome you to do so.

See http://hemorrhagingfaith.com/ for more information.

What are your thoughts on this message?  Agree or disagree?  Is atheism a religion?  Why or why not?

atheism not religion

UPDATE: February 13

Now that I’ve heard from you and interacted a bit with your answers, here are my thoughts on the message:

I think the message and image is powerful.  I agree with the message too.  Atheism cannot be meaningfully identified as a religion.  This might seem like a no-brainer for some since atheism lacks belief in a deity, but belief in a deity is not a sine qua non of religion.  Think of Buddhism, for example.

The best reason for rejecting the claim that atheism is a religion is that atheism is nothing more than the belief that God does not exist.  There is no other content to atheism.  For something to qualify as a religion, not only does it need a set of beliefs, but it needs to contain positive beliefs.  Religions typically involve rituals of some sort, and provide answers to questions about origins, what’s wrong with the world, morality, meaning and purpose, and what the future holds.  Atheism does not address any of these elements.

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think more feel lessToo many people in our day think with their feelings.  “Feeling-speak” is so pervasive in our culture that the vast majority of us talk about what we think in terms of what we feel.  For example, one might say “I feel that Christianity is true” rather than “I think Christianity is true.”  Feelings are wholly subjective and have no truth value – they cannot be true or false.  They just describe our psychological dispositions.  Thoughts, however, do have truth value.  They purport to describe reality, and the description is either true or false.

Since our ideas and beliefs have truth value, let’s be intentional about speaking in terms of what we think rather than what we feel.

Lack of FaithHe who makes a claim bears a burden to demonstrate the truth of his claim.  Theists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God exists, and atheists have a burden to demonstrate their claim that God does not exist.  Nowadays, however, it’s common for atheists to claim that the theist alone bears a burden of justification.  They try to escape their own burden of justification by redefining atheism from a “belief that God does not exist” to “the absence of belief in God.”  Since only positive beliefs can be defended, they are off the hook.  All the pressure lies with the theist.

While I think their attempt to redefine atheism is intellectually dishonest, let’s grant the validity of their redefinition for a moment.  Greg Koukl observed that while it’s certainly true atheists lack a belief in God, they don’t lack beliefs about God.  When it comes to the truth of any given proposition, one only has three logical options: affirm it, deny it, withhold judgment (due to ignorance or the inability to weigh competing evidences).  As applied to the proposition “God exists,” those who affirm the truth of this proposition are called theists, those who deny it are called atheists, and those who withhold judgment are called agnostics. Only agnostics, who have not formed a belief, lack a burden to demonstrate the truth of their position.

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I don’t know how I missed this news story, but on December 20 U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby declared that Amendment 3 in Utah’s constitution – which defined marriage as between a man and woman, and the voter’s passed in 2004 – is unconstitutional.  Same-sex marriages began immediately.  Utah appealed to the SCOTUS for a stay, which was granted by Justice Sotomayor on January 6.  In the 17 days before the stay, ~1300 same-sex couples were married.

Then, there’s Oklahoma.  Similar story.  On January 14, Judge Terence C. Kern of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled that Oklahoma’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it is based on a moral disapproval of homosexuality and has no rational basis.  In light of what happened in Utah, however, Judge Kern stayed his own ruling.  It is almost certain that Oklahoma will appeal the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO – the same court where Utah’s appeal will be heard.

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