March 31, 2010
Posted by Theosophical Ruminator under Naturalism
, Odds & Ends
Here’s another attempt to explain the Biblical plagues without reference to the supernatural: global warming and a volcano eruption. It’s always funny to me how—in an attempt to avoid the supernatural—people appeal to explanations that are so implausible that it takes more faith to believe them than it does to believe the Biblical account that God was responsible.
For example, how is it that Moses’ could have known in advance that a plague of frogs would be produced by global warming? What’s even more unbelievable is the fact that each of the natural phenomena just-so-happened to stop when Moses said it would stop. And how is it that each of the ten plagues happened one after another, and never simultaneously? Who do they think they are trying to kid?
The National Geographic Channel will air a program on this April 4 (Easter day).
March 31, 2010
Posted by Theosophical Ruminator under Apologetics
Atheists are fond of comparing belief in God to belief in Santa Clause, claiming that belief in one is as justified as the other. But the two beliefs are not analogous at all. There are plenty of positive rational reasons to believe God exists (the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, the origin of life, consciousness, the existence of objective moral values, etc.), but the same cannot be said of Santa. Indeed, when it comes to Santa’s existence, not only are there no good reasons that favor his existence, but there is plenty of evidence against his existence. If Santa exists we would expect to find his home in the North Pole, or have empirical evidence of flying reindeers or elves, and yet despite all the expeditions of the North Pole, we find none. Furthermore, we have widespread evidence from both credit card receipts and personal testimony that the gifts appearing under millions of Christmas trees were purchased by regular human beings from retail stores, not made by elves in Santa’s workshop. Finally, our knowledge of physics proves it impossible for one man to travel the globe in the amount of time allotted to Santa, carrying the number of gifts he would have to carry to supply gifts to all those .
Comparing belief in God to belief in Santa Clause may be rhetorically effective, but it is logically fallacious. As Paul Copan wrote, “To place belief in Santa Claus or mermaids and belief in God on the same level is mistaken. The issue is not that we have no good evidence for these mythical entities; rather, we have strong evidence that they do not exist. Absence of evidence is not at all the same as evidence of absence, which some atheists fail to see.”
I think it is also worth pointing out that while virtually everyone abandons their belief in Santa Clause even prior to reaching adulthood, the same cannot be said of belief in the existence of God(s). The vast majority of people continue to believe in God(s). Why is that? Apparently they recognize that the grounds for believing in the one are not at all comparable to the grounds for believing in the other. Belief in God’s existence is rationally justified, while belief in Santa is not.
Paul Copan, “The Presumption of Atheism”; available from http://www.gospelcom.net/rzim/publications/essay_arttext.php?id=3
; Internet; accessed 13 February 2005.
March 26, 2010
Posted by Theosophical Ruminator under Resurrection
Christians have long observed that the Gospels do not record the actual resurrection of Jesus. The Evangelists record and describe Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection appearances, but not the resurrection itself. Why? The most likely explanation is that none of the early Christians observed the resurrection event. If they were making up stories as some skeptics suggest, however, surely we would expect for them to have invented an elaborate and glorious story describing how Jesus rose from the dead. It is counter-intuitive to think they would fail to describe the cornerstone event of their religion if they were fabricating stories. The fact that they do not report and describe Jesus’ actual resurrection lends a lot of historical credibility to their story.
While the Bible never records/describes the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel of Matthew may provide us with a very good approximation of when the event occurred. Matthew began his account by depicting the women on the way to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning (Mt 28:1). In verse 2 he switches scenery to the tomb itself, describing what is happening at the tomb while the women are on their way: “Suddenly there was a severe earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descending from heaven came and rolled away the stone and sat on it.” Why did the angel open the tomb? Could it have been to let the recently resurrected Jesus exit the tomb? If so, then Jesus was probably raised from the dead early Sunday morning, perhaps between 4:30 and 6:00 a.m.
March 22, 2010
I just love Greg Koukl! In his most recent issue of Solid Ground he provides a wonderful response to a challenge atheist Michael Shermer likes to lodge against theistic moral objectivists: “If there was no God, would you still be good?”
Shermer expects an affirmative answer from his theist detractors. If theists would be good even without God, he reasons, then God is not necessary for morality as the theist claims. While this is a clever rhetorical device, it misses the point entirely. The theist’s argument is not that one must believe in God to behave in ways people generally consider “good.” Our argument is that if God does not exist, there is no such thing as “goodness” at all. As an individual or as a culture we might prefer to help a grandmother cross the street as opposed to running her over with our car, but neither behavior is morally superior to the other. All human acts are just molecules in motion, and the last I checked, neither molecules nor motion come in “good” and “bad” varieties. Morality is not a quality of matter, but of mind.
March 22, 2010
Posted by Theosophical Ruminator under Apologetics
I just finished reading an article in The Guardian by Oliver Burkeman regarding the changing face of evolutionary theory. He discusses a book by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (What Darwin Got Wrong) that challenges the coherency of natural selection. Fodor notes that Darwin assumed natural selection “selects for” specific traits in an organism. He finds two problems with this. First, natural selection is a mindless, blind process, so it cannot “select for” anything.
Second, there is no way to determine that a specific trait was “selected for,” rather than merely “selected.” Traits are correlated together in an organism, and thus one cannot single out a specific trait to say “X was selected for by natural selection.” Not every trait is adaptive, and thus not every trait will be “selected for.” Some will merely be selected by default. For example, why think the Cheetah’s spots were “selected for” by natural selection? It very well could be that the Cheetah was selected by natural selection because of its speed, and its spots were merely “selected” in the process – coming along for the ride if you will. Organisms qua organisms are selected, not specific traits.
March 22, 2010
In the human genome, only 1.5% of our 3.2 billion base pairs of DNA codes for proteins. For a long time evolutionists though the other 98.5% was “junk” DNA: DNA that was preserved in the genome, but had no function; the byproduct of billions of years of aimless mutations. Over the past seven years, however, scientists keep discovering more and more function for this “junk.” For example, it has been discovered that ~90% of our genome codes for RNA products. Junk DNA also:
- Regulates DNA replication
- Regulates transcription
- Marks sites for programmed rearrangement of genetic material
- Influences the proper folding and maintenance of chromosomes
- Controls the interactions of chromosomes with the nuclear membrane
- Controls RNA processing, editing, and splicing
- Modulates translation
- Regulates embryological development
- Repairs DNA
- Aids in fighting disease
And now, biologist Richard Sternberg has brought my attention to a very interesting find related to a specific kind of “junk” DNA called Short Interspersed Nuclear Elements (SINEs). SINEs are mobile DNA that can insert themselves in various locations within the genome, and are thought to be functionless according to evolutionary biologists.
The rat and mouse are said to have diverged from one another 22 million years ago. Since that time, each is thought to have experienced hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of SINE insertion events. Given so many insertion events, we would expect for the location of SINEs to be very different in the mouse genome than in the rate genome (in the same way we would expect a moon that split in two 22 million years ago to evidence a very different asteroid bombardment pattern on its surface). And yet, when we compare the location of SINEs in the mouse and rate genomes this is what we find:
They are virtually identical! This is not what we would expect from a degenerative process like mutations and random insertions over millions of years. We would expect radical divergence, not a nearly-identical pattern. While the SINE sequences are not the same in the rat and mouse genomes, the placement of the SINEs is nearly identical (and they are concentrated in gene-coding regions of the genome).
How do we account for this pattern? Can it be the result of a degenerative process? Surely not. Patterns are indicative of design, and hence purpose. Contrary to the expectations of evolutionary biologists, SINEs do have purpose and function, even if we are only beginning to understand them.
Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
(New York: Harper One, 2009), 404-7.
March 20, 2010
Posted by Theosophical Ruminator under Logic
I recently heard a preacher repeat the oft-cited aphorism, “A man who has an argument is always at the mercy of a man who has an experience.” This is quite true as an anthropological observation, but I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing.
The aphorism was quoted by the preacher in the context of those who doubt the reality of Spirit baptism and glossalalia. I am inclined to agree with him in one very real and practical sense. No matter what argument someone might present to me against glossalalia, the fact of the matter is that I have experienced it for myself and, thus, I know it is real. But the blade can cut both ways. What about the Mormon who claims to have received a “burning in his bosom” confirming the truth of the Book of Mormon? Should the Mormon trust his experience over sound reason to the contrary? I imagine the preacher would say that in this case, reason should trump experience. But why should the aphorism apply to us, and not to the Mormon? To the Mormon, his experience was equally as real as our own. If we can reject arguments that contradict our experience, why can’t the Mormon?
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