May 2008

Not good. An underhanded attempt to legalize euthanasia in CA has passed the House, and now goes to the Senate where it will probably be approved as well. The governor is likely to sign the bill.

Essentially the bill requires that doctors advise terminally ill patients with a life expectancy of one year or less, how they can be placed into a drug-induced coma and then dehydrated to death. If a physician is unwilling to advise their patient of this option, they must refer them to a physician who will. Go here for more details.

This is a half-step towards assisted suicide or euthanasia in this state.

Atheists, and unfortunately even some theists, think belief in God is irrational. I beg to differ. Given the maxim that effects require an adequate cause, and no effect can cause itself, theism makes the best sense of the world. The beginning of the universe (effect) begs for a Beginner (cause), the design of the universe (effect) begs for a designer (cause), and the moral law we intuit (effect) begs for a moral law giver (cause).

Indeed, theism is much more reasonable than atheism. Is it more rational to believe the universe popped into existence out of nowhere completely uncaused, or that it was caused by a powerful and intelligent mind? Is it more rational to believe the intricate design and incomprehensibly balanced fine tuning of our universe happened by chance, or that an intelligent agent designed it for a purpose? Is it more rational to believe moral values exist inexplicably or as the result of evolution, or that they are the product of a moral law giver? In each case, the latter seems to be the more reasonable position prima facie. The only reason to deny these conclusions would be if atheists could provide good evidence that would overwhelm our prima facie intuitions. Not surprisingly, they have not done so.

Apologetics is a person-specific enterprise. We are not trying to convince some generic Joe Blow, but specific individuals we encounter. Our apologetic should be tailored to meet the needs of the person we are dialoguing with.

For example, when someone tells you they don’t believe in God, the first thing you might do is ask them why. Their answer will help you to better direct your response. If the lone reason they reject the existence of God is because of the problem of evil, it won’t do much good to hit them with every offensive apologetic argument for God’s existence, beginning with a cosmological argument. No. You need to go straight to a defensive apologetic, showing the logical consistency between theism and the existence of evil.

If the reason they do not believe in God is because they do not believe there is any evidence for God’s existence, the first thing you should do is ask them what sort of evidence they are willing to accept. For example, the atheist might respond that he would believe in God if you could show Darwinian evolution to be false. In such a case your apologetic to this individual would revolve around this issue, as well as general science and faith issues.

Such a question also prevents you from running into the situation in which you offer argument after argument, while the atheist just folds his arms in response each time, saying, “I’m not convinced.” What you’ll find is that some atheists are not prepared to accept any sort of evidence for God’s existence, because they have unreasonably high expectations of what constitutes evidence. What they want is evidence that carries with it “absolute certainty” of its truth. This standard is too high, and unfair. Most of what we believe to be true we believe without absolute certainty. There is no reason to hold belief in God to a higher standard. Belief in God is warranted if His existence is more likely than not, given the evidence. Probing the atheist in this way will help you set reasonable expectations.

In an article published yesterday at Townhall, Frank Turek writes about same-sex marriage and how it will affect society. Not only did Frank advance a nearly-identical argument to the one I have been advancing here on this blog (a secular, rather than religious argument), but he brought to my attention a pro-homosexual advocate who has written a book opposing same-sex marriage for many of the same reasons.

In his book, The Future of Marriage, David Blankenhorn argues that “Across history and cultures . . . marriage’s single most fundamental idea is that every child needs a mother and a father. Changing marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would nullify this principle in culture and in law.” Blankenhorn sees this as a problem.

Why? It’s not because people will stop having children. It’s because the parents will not be tied to the children as they are in a marriage. Dissolution rates of non-married parents are 2-3 times greater than married parents. And the social ills resulting from broken families are enormous.

I couldn’t agree more. And I am glad that a pro-gay Democrat is making this argument. It shows that one does not need to be religious or morally conservative to see why same-sex marriage is not good for society. Marriage is about children, but same-sex relationships are not about children: they are about the couple themselves.

Blankenhorn recognizes that there is a difference between allowing homosexuals to engage in homosex and establish lasting relationships with each other, and officially recognizing those relationships as an example of marriage.

Here’s a couple of quote-worthy statements from Turek. Turek on why the legal recognition of same-sex couples is detrimental to the institution of marriage:

“There’s no question that liberalized marriage laws will help change our attitudes and behaviors about the purpose of marriage. The law is a great teacher, and if same-sex marriage advocates have their way, children will be expelled from the lesson on marriage.”

Turek on the notion that marriage is not about children:

“Well, if marriage isn’t about children, what institution is about children? And if we’re going to redefine marriage into mere coupling, then why should the state endorse same-sex marriage at all? Contrary to what homosexual activists assume, the state doesn’t endorse marriage because people have feelings for one another. The state endorses marriage primarily because of what marriage does for children and in turn society. Society gets no benefit by redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships, only harm as the connection to illegitimacy shows. But the very future of children and a civilized society depends on stable marriages between men and women. That’s why, regardless of what you think about homosexuality, the two types of relationships should never be legally equated.”

I am told that Christian apologist, Os Guinness, thinks we should replace religion-speak with worldview-speak in the public square. The reason? Religion is something you may or may not have, but everyone has a worldview. Some worldviews simply have a supernatural element to them while others do not.

The advantage of worldview-speak over religion-speak is that it prevents non-religious folks from claiming the high ground of rational neutrality; as though we are hopelessly biased by our religious presuppositions, but they remain objective. Are religious people biased? Of course, but so are non-religious (secular) folks. No one is epistemologically neutral. We all bring certain presuppositions to the task of knowing, and use them to interpret the world. Having a religious worldview makes us no less objective than those with a secular worldview. We can no more dispense with our worldview than can the secularist, and indeed, we need not do so. While it is wise to consider a question from the perspective of a worldview different than your own, we are not required to do so in order to be rational.

I think Mr. Guinness is onto something.

Why do governments involve themselves in the regulation and promotion of marriage? Are they interested in promoting romantic love? Are they interested in personal happiness and fulfillment? While romance, personal happiness, and fulfillment may be part of marriage, these are not the reasons government involves itself in the marriage business. They regulate and promote marriage because they have a vested interest in the production and socialization of children. Children are needed for the perpetuation of society, and those children need to be properly socialized so they can be productive members of society. Heterosexual couples, and heterosexual couples alone are capable of delivering on these government interests, and thus their relationship has been privileged, promoted, and regulated by the government.

Apart from children there is no reason for the government to sanction or regulate any private relationship in any official capacity, including same-sex relationships. Seeing that same-sex relationships have nothing to do with the purpose for which civil marriage is enacted; therefore, same-sex relationships are not entitled to the benefits of marriage. They may enjoy the same love and commitment heterosexual couples enjoy, but they are not equally situated to heterosexual couples because they cannot produce children. Their relationships do not serve the same function in, and for society, and thus there is no need to officially recognize their relationships anymore than there is a need for the government to officially recognize friendships. As important as we might deem these relationships to be, they do not need, nor do they deserve the same sort of social support as marriage.

How We Got Here, and What We Can Do About It

The reason our society has come to give official recognition to same-sex relationships in varying degrees is because we have redefined the purpose of marriage so that children stand at the periphery, rather than the center. Marriage is now being defined in terms of love, commitment, and personal fulfillment rather than children. Given this redefinition it is no wonder we have considered it “only fair” to extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

We will only succeed in saving marriage to the degree that we can restore a cultural understanding that marriage is fundamentally about children. Unfortunately, most Christians have bought into the cultural redefinition of marriage themselves, which is why many have been fooled into believing that so long as we retain the exclusive use of the word “marriage” to describe our legally recognized relationship, we have succeeded in preserving the historic definition of marriage. While this may preserve the form of marriage (one man, one woman), it does so only at the expense of abandoning its purpose (procreation and socialization). Given the fact that the historic form of marriage is logically tied to its historic purpose, if we cede that purpose we have no further basis on which to argue for its form. It does us little good to fight over who gets to use the “M” word to describe their legally recognized relationship unless we also fight to reclaim the historic purpose of marriage, and its exclusive right to legal recognition and social support.

For a fuller treatment, including answers to the most common objections, see my article “I Now Pronounce You Man and Man?”: An Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage

If there was ever a time when there was nothing, then there would be nothing still, because nothing has no potential to become something.  Out of nothing, nothing comes.  And yet there is something, so we know there has never been a time when nothing existed. Something must have always existed, but what is that something?

We know the universe exists, so maybe it is what has always existed. But there are several reasons to think the universe is not eternal. One such example is the thermodynamic properties of the universe. The energy in the universe is finite and increasing toward entropy. If the universe were infinitely old, we would have reached a state of entropy an infinite time ago. And yet we have not reached a state of entropy, therefore the universe is not infinitely old. It began to exist a finite time ago.

If the universe has not always existed, what has? Given the maxim that every effect requires an adequate cause, and nothing is self-caused, that which has always existed must be the causal explanation for the universe coming into being a finite time ago. What could have done so? Given that whatever caused space, time, and matter to begin to exist cannot itself be spatial, temporal, or material, we are limited to two possibilities: abstract objects, or an unembodied mind.

Since abstract objects are causally impotent by definition, they cannot be the cause of the universe, and thus are unlikely to be that which has always existed. That leaves us with an unembodied mind as the eternal something. This makes sense. Not only are we are intimately acquainted with the idea of minds creating things, but it also makes sense of the design and order we see in the universe. An intelligent agent is best explains why the universe is as it is.

Since an eternal, non-spatial, immaterial, intelligent mind is what most mean by “God,” it is best to conclude that God is that which has always existed. He is a necessary being, who contains within Himself the sufficient cause for His own existence, as well as the existence of everything else.

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