POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Gospel Centered - A Metaphor from Physics

There is a basic equation in Newtonian Physics that describes the force of gravity acting between two masses.  It looks like this. Hopefully this will give flashbacks to science classes of days long ago. If you have never seen such a thing...well, you're welcome.

The G is known as the gravitational constant. It is what it is because of the way the universe is.  God made it this way, it is observable and makes our equation work.  One thing to notice about the law of gravitation is that it is what we call an inverse square law.  The masses “m1 and m2” are on the top and the distance between them “r” is squared on the bottom. This means that “the further” away the two masses are from one another the weaker the force. If you want to stay strong in gravity, put things close together. Additionally, the masses on the top influence the equation by their size. The more massive, the stronger the pull on the other object. This is why our earth goes around the Sun by the way.  The massive Sun exerts a strong gravitational pull upon our tiny planet so we “orbit it.” Kepler had more to say about how this works, but for our purposes this level of detail will suffice.

There is a parallel here for centering our lives on God and the gospel.  The thing that is largest in your universe is what influences you the most.  The strongest gravitational pull that the human soul knows is worship.  We are drawn to what is most massive in our souls.  We worship that which is the biggest deal to us, we are drawn in by our affections.  For the follower of Jesus we must worship and make God himself most massive in our universe.  Furthermore, we need to stay close to him day by day. Stay close to the most glorious, mighty and massive one and we will be strong in our walk with him.  Drift away or place some idolatrous false worship at the center of our souls and we court disaster. 

So what things are BIG in your life? Be honest. What do you fear to lose the most? What do you find your security in? What would you fight to hold on to?  These will be the things you are tempted to make into idols—things you worship.  List them. Pray that GOD would be bigger in your life than these.

Keep God the center in your life by the gospel!  But how do we keep close? God has graciously given us means of grace: Scripture, prayer, corporate worship the sacraments, work and witness to aid us in keeping close in following after Jesus.  By these spiritual practices we grow. 

Yet perhaps most the most important truth is that Christ pulls us all the way in. He is so massive in glory and importance that we are pulled fully into Him. We become one with Jesus by the Spirit, unified with Him, and this bond in the gospel is the strongest tie that binds.  We belong to Christ and our lives are spent learning, growing and living this out.

A small guide for wrestling with issues of creation and science

The beauty of the Christian faith is that it is based in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is not arbitrary mythology but the story of God throughout human history redeeming the world through his appointed one Jesus Christ.  As such followers of Jesus have and will remain concerned with the truth about God, about our world and what God has done, is doing and will do in history.  Furthermore, it was from a Christian view of the world as the creation of an intelligent God which gave fertile ground to the rise of modern science.1 Christians and the civilizations in which they have traveled have thought of science as studying God’s created order and “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”2  As such, science has been done by and among people of Christian faith for hundreds of years.  This has resulted in a unique dialogue that has sometimes had tensions. 

Out of the intellectual developments in Europe there came certain non Christian philosophical movements (deism, agnosticism, atheism) which were at complete odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  These were not new ideas but a revival and expansion on ancient debates which have gone on for some time.  It was in this ground of conflict between competing worldviews and philosophies that a “war between science and religion” was put forth. 

Over the years enlightenment rationalism and secular thinkers have attempted to fashion an image in the public consciousness that faith and religion were at war with science seeking the demise of free inquiry.3  This view that science is the domain of agnostics/atheists has been reignited a bit as of late by the so called “New Atheists” such as Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett.4

While there is no war between science and faith they are indeed dialogue partners in our learning and understanding of our lives and place in the universe.  In this essay I want to layout in brief some of the issues and tensions associated with the science of origins and cosmology (the study of the cosmos on a macro level) and the truth of the Christian Scriptures.  This will by no means be complete as neither space nor time permits such a study in an entry of this size.

One point of note before we jump in.  I did my bachelors degree in Applied Science with a minor in Physics.  I have been around the scientific community.  Furthermore, I am two thirds of the way complete in a Master’s degree in Applied Apologetics which is focused on articulating and defending the Christian faith in the market place of ideas.  Even with my training, the issues raised by biblical studies, the sciences and the theology of the church are not simple issues to wrestle with.  In fact, there are many competing views of how such integration of science, the Bible and our theology should come together. This is among Christians who love Jesus, hold to the authority and infallibility of the Bible.  As such this debate and discussion is an “open handed issue” for us.  This means that excessive dogmatism about some of these issues is not helpful in our learning and growing in our understanding of science and the Word of God.   Finally, let me be very clear.  Science is the study of God’s creation with a desire to learn, serve the good of others and enjoy the world God has made.  Scientism is the idea that knowledge is only gained through empirical, scientific inquiry and such knowledge is superior to all other human discourses. I find this to be false both biblically and philosophically.  There are many things which are real and true which cannot be proved through scientific method.  The laws of logic, mathematics, ethical truths, metaphysical beings such as God, angels and demons, the fact that we are not trapped in the matrix, or that I did not eat breakfast today cannot be proven by empirical scientific methods.  We should love to study the revealed things of God in creation but we should never trap ourselves in the small world of materialism; that matter is all there is to everything.  Scripture uses the harshest of terms for worshipping the creation rather than the creator.  All of our scientific study should be for the glory of God and the good of others, anything less is not worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What follows is some key issues surrounding the debate and I will close by describing briefly some of the positions held by Bible believing Christians along with some recommendations for further reading.  OK, jumping in.

Key Issue—How Do you Read Genesis 1-2

There are many different ways that believers understand the early chapters of the first book in the Bible. One thing we must agree upon is that the book of Genesis is inspired by God, teaches us the truth about God and man, that it was written to ancient peoples and it would have held meaning for the original audience.  Furthermore, Jesus himself quoted from the early chapters of Genesis as reality (Matthew 19:1-9) as did the apostle Paul (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Timothy 2).  With these things in mind, there is some diversity among scholars who study Genesis in how it should be read.

First, there are those who treat it as a truth teaching myth.5 I find this problematic due to the New Testament’s direct references to Genesis accounts.  There are others who see Genesis 1 as ancient Near Eastern poetry giving us a literary framework to teach us the theology of creation thematically and it was not intended to treat issues of science or chronology. This view would also hold firmly to the historical nature of Adam/Eve in Genesis 2 and the fall of Genesis 3.6 Others argue that Genesis 1 is speaking of assigning function to the creation as God’s place of operations and not about material mechanisms at all. This view does not require the mythologizing or denial of the historicity of an actual Adam.7 Finally, there are others who see it as a narrative telling us exactly how God created the world which takes the chronology to be an unfolding of “days.”8

Key Issue—The Age of the Universe

Associated with the reading of Genesis is the age of the earth and the universe.  If one thinks that Genesis 1 unfolds precise chronology it leads one to certain conclusions about the age of the earth. Putting together the genealogies of the Bible, as has been done in the past, places creation at roughly six thousand years ago.9  This would be the case if the days of Genesis 1 are strict solar days which modern people understand to mean one rotation of the earth.  However, we must ask the question if there might be biblical and scientific reasons to believe that the earth and the universe are much older. Biblically speaking, if Genesis 1 is not speaking of chronology then making such inferences would be unwarranted and dubious.  Furthermore, if there are good scientific reasons to think the universe is older than six thousand years we may need to look carefully at our interpretation of Genesis.  So where have Bible believing people landed on the question of the age of the universe?  First, those who hold that Genesis 1 is a chronological unfolding fall into young earth and old earth varieties.  The young earth person takes “day” to be one revolution of earth, the old earth person would take “day” to mean “age” or unspecified period of time. One final group of those who hold to an older earth/universe see an unspecified time after Genesis 1:1 where the long periods of time observed scientifically could take place. In this view, the chronology of the six days can still be normal days. Second, those who hold to literary framework or functional view of creation in Genesis 1 feel no reason to be bound to a young earth hypothesis. They hold that a proper reading of the ancient text does not demand any such thing. Finally, one thing which is largely agreed upon by Christians and secular thinkers regards the appearance of human beings in history.  Human beings, as we now exist, came about on the earth in the area of thousands of years ago.  Most Bible believing Christians who do not mythologize our first parents hold to a recent creation of human beings in the image and likeness of God.  How the first humans became humans is addressed by the next key issue; the role of human origins and the issues raised by biological evolution.

Key Issue—The Question of Origins

Let it be clear that the term “evolution” simply means to change over time.  Furthermore, we do observe that biological creatures do change due to environmental conditions in which life exists. Some have called this micro or horizontal evolution; change within certain kinds of creatures.  We see this readily in the biodiversity found on our planet.  It is quite another thing to say that the universe came into existence, uncaused, from nothing.  Additionally, the teaching that life spontaneously generates from inorganic materials when fortuitous conditions arise, that RNA and DNA systems with built in information transfer capacities arise without any sort of intelligence, and that simple amino acids arise and morph into functionally folded proteins without any design or cause is quite a different idea. These ideas, some would call macro or vertical evolution, has given Christian thinkers/scientists and some secular scientists pause over the years. Even atheistic scientists such as Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins have even suggested panspermia, the idea that basic life was seeded from other planets, as a “solution” to the problem of life arising spontaneously on the earth. Of course this just moves the location of the problem geographically and solves nothing.

There are several contemporary views that Bible believing Christians hold in relation to the question of origins and evolution.  All Christians believe God is the creator of the universe and life with its various latent capacities.  From this point it can get complicated. First, there are Christians who find no reason to biblically accept the theory of evolution and reject it in toto (don’t believe a lick of it).  There are also Christians, many trained scientists, who find no good scientific reason to accept a naturalistic version of evolution.  Some hold to an evolution guided by God and have rightly been challenged because the theory of evolution simply requires “no God.”  Some have accepted evolution as the means or secondary cause which God built into his creation as the way he would create the biodiversity and humanity we see today.  Putting some of this together in list form reveals the diversity of Christian thought on the matter. I have also listed some authors in each camp for you here in the list.

  1. There are young earthers who read Genesis 1 chronologically that reject evolution (see Kurt Wise, Faith, Form and Time)
  2. There are old earthers who read Genesis 1 chronologically that reject evolution for scientific reasons (see David Snoke, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth)
  3. There are old earthers who read Genesis 1 chronologically that accept some forms of evolution with progressive creation (see Hugh Ross, Creation as Science)
  4. There are old earthers who read Genesis 1 thematically who accept forms of evolution (see edited work by Keith B. Miller, Perspectives on an Evolving Creation)
  5. There are old earthers who read Genesis 1 thematically/functionally who are quite neutral on evolution (could take it or leave it depending on the scientific evidence, see John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One)

All those who accept forms of evolution and wish to remain committed to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture hold the following in some form or another. Though God used evolution to bring about the body plans of the first humans, God breathed into them the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) and made them in the image of God, distinct from their animal ancestors. I am not saying this is true, this is simply what is articulated to hold both evolution by natural processes and the teaching of the Bible.  I think the science of evolutionary biology is still a young discipline and as we learn additional things about the information involved in cellular life there will be further discussion.  Additionally, two great fronts of scientific investigation involve consciousness/brain matters as well as the complexity genetic information and expression. These will be at the forefront of discussions in future as we wrestle both biblically and scientifically with what it means to be human.10

Key Issue—Relating Special and General Revelation

In Christian theology we speak of both general revelation (God revealing himself to us through nature, conscience and design) and specific revelation (God speaking to us through Jesus Christ and the Scriptures).  On all matters to which the Scriptures speak, the written Word of God is the authority in our lives. However, through the study of nature using God given rational capacities, truth from general revelation may require us to re-think our current understanding of the biblical text. A case in point might help a bit here.  Looking at every day appearances, it seems that the sun rises and the sun sets.  It seems the Sun travels across the sky each day. There is nothing “wrong” about this understanding and you will likely hear it from the evening news weatherperson and read a similar description in Psalm 19.  Yet we now understand, due to the careful study of general revelation, that the earth rotates on roughly a 23.5 degree axis and each day/night results from this rotation. Some Christians in the past might have thought, and understandably so, that the sun rose and the sun set. The Bible uses this sort of phenomenological language but we should not use these passages to argue that the sun goes around the earth. Clarity brought from observation and general revelation has helped us to better understand what certain parts of the Bible are actually teaching.11 As we learn more about the age of the universe and developmental biology, it may cause people to rightly re-think a wooden reading of Genesis.Finally, we need not place things in someone’s way of considering the gospel of Jesus Christ by marrying oneself to a certain scientific paradigm.  Such would be unnecessary and unwise and perhaps cause us to read a certain view into the Bible ourselves.  We should remain humble and hold to the clear teachings of Scripture and remain open in debatable matters.  So what IS essential?

Give me the down, down!

In closing I want to be very clear and remind us the purpose for which God gave us the Holy Scriptures and the Genesis account. They do not intend to give every truth that can be known.  They make no such claim.  However, they are given to us to reveal who we are, who God is and how God has purposed to redeem his people and all things through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the central figure and subject of the Bible’s teaching. When coming to the doctrine of creation, we should make some things very clear.  The Word of God wants to communicate to us that:

  • God made all things and is the rightful owner and sovereign ruler over them.

  • God made human beings in his  image, unique among all creatures to know and worship God. We are responsible to God for how we live and steward creation under his rule.

  • God made all things for his purposes and redeems all things through Jesus Christ.

We might say that Genesis 1 and 2 hold the true accounting of creation and all THAT GOD DID but makes no effort at all to explain HOW (in terms of contemporary science) God did ALL THAT. As we learn through good science (not atheism smuggled in as science) we will discover wonders about our God and his infinite wisdom. I am also sure there will be secret things that remain with God alone (Deuteronomy 29:29) to keep us both humble and desiring to learn.

End Notes

  1. See Stanley Jaki, The Savior of Science and Thaxton and Pearcey’s The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy for more on this thesis.
  2. This statement has been attributed to Johannes Kepler, a Christian scientist and one of the fathers of modern astronomy.
  3. The two most seminal works from this point of view would be John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Science and Religion and Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology.  
  4. Harris recently completed his PhD in neuroscience at UCLA, and has written a couple of books bashing faith.  Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist from England whose book The God Delusion laid out his diatribe against religious belief.  Dennett is a philosopher at Tufts University and his book Breaking the Spell sought to explain religion as a biological phenomena and artifact of evolution. For a witty response to the idea that atheism has the corner on “Science” see mathematician and philosopher David Berlinski’s The Devil’s Delusion—Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions My review of the latter work is found here.
  5. See Robin Collins’ “Evolution and Original Sin” in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith B. Miller
  6. See Meredith Kline’s “Space and Time in the Genesis Cosmogony” available online at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1996/PSCF3-96Kline.html. From Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 48:2-15 (1996).
  7. See John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One for his view which he describes as one of “Cosmic Temple Inauguration.”  In his view Genesis 1 describes the one true God inaugurating the cosmos as his place of operations.  Walton provides an excellent summary of his view on pages 162-168 of this work.  On the issue of Adam, Walton is clear that his view sees Adam as an archetype of humanity but this does NOT eliminate that Adam could be an historical figure and biological individual.  See footnote 5 from page 71. In Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton’s A Survey of the Old Testament, Walton does seem to hold to an historical Adam.
  8. Various Christians hold this view but disagree strongly with each other on other matters. In this group you would find young earth creationists, old earth day-age theorists and those who hold that a long period of time could exist after Genesis 1:1 and before the 6 chronological creation days.
  9. See discussion in Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears, Doctrine-What Christians Should Believe, p 94.
  10. An interesting recent work, Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves by James Le Fanu tackles how our immense learning in these fields has actually led us to a deeper sense of mystery and an openness to discuss views of humanity without the harsh materialism and scientism recently common in our intellectual culture.
  11. See Richard Pratt, He Gave US Stories, p 38-39.

Sam Harris is "Uncomfortable"

It doesn’t take much religion to get Sam Harris’ shorts all up in a bunch. It appears that someone having faith in God is making him “uncomfortable” again. I’m not sure why he can’t live and let live - his worldview would tell him that all beliefs are by-products of blind, physical processes operating according to routine natural law. What’s it to him if someone is religious?

This time someone is going too far once again. Harris must speak out! Barak Obama, has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health and Sam Harris is uncomfortable and is letting the world know in the NY Times. Now why is this so troubling? Collins is not some crazy creationist, he doesn’t even take the route of intelligent design. He is a full card carrying evolutionist after all. He is also a fantastic scientist and was the leader of the Human Genome Project. So why does this bug Mr. Harris so much? Well, Collins believes in God and is not really in the closet about it. Shocking!

Harris acknowledges Collins’ impeccable credentials, listen to his own words:

PRESIDENT OBAMA has nominated Francis Collins to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health. It would seem a brilliant choice. Dr. Collins’s credentials are impeccable: he is a physical chemist, a medical geneticist and the former head of the Human Genome Project. He is also, by his own account, living proof that there is no conflict between science and religion. In 2006, he published “The Language of God,” in which he claimed to demonstrate “a consistent and profoundly satisfying harmony” between 21st-century science and evangelical Christianity.

So why the big problem for Harris. It seems he does not like that Collins is not an atheist just like him! For Harris and those who think “Science=atheism” simply do not want a divine echo around anything they call “science.”

Again, hear his words as to why he is so uncomfortable with Collins’ appointment. The closing words of his essay read as follows:

Francis Collins is an accomplished scientist and a man who is sincere in his beliefs. And that is precisely what makes me so uncomfortable about his nomination. Must we really entrust the future of biomedical research in the United States to a man who sincerely believes that a scientific understanding of human nature is impossible?

If we are honest, Harris is being a bigot - he is uncomfortable with Collins because he believes differently about the nature of life and the universe. He seems to want a world where people like him can discriminate as the high priests of materialism adjudicating between who is worthy to do scientific inquiry. To be honest, I am hopeful that the Times will provide a counter opinion for his bigoted view of Dr. Collins and his abilities.

On Terminators - Why we fear our Robots...

There is a literal avalanche of literature and film treating the subject of robots, robot wars and the rise of the machines.  There are technologists, philosophers and futurists who love to talk about our “mind children” and how we will evolve into our own creations.  The most recent Terminator installment seems to carry on this long tradition of wondering just when our toasters will tire of their carbon based masters and rise up against us.  The Cylons chasing the Battlestar, the machines plugging us into the Matrix and the machines chasing around Sarah and John Connor all reveal something quite insightful about our relationship to machines.  We are afraid.  Why is this?

We present ourselves in modern technological society as intelligent world shapers who through our technology will solve problems…even save the world. If we let Science run free and unhindered by luddite concerns or ancient ethical systems, we’ll create wonders with our ingenuity.  Yet we are still afraid.  Futuristic technology has its optimists and pessimists for sure. For examples, one only has to look as far as Ray Kurzweil’s wonderful immortality or Bill Joy’s fear of the gray goo

Apparently, a philosopher right here at Rutgers University, has been musing about whether robot warriors (aka terminators) will be our salvation.  H+ magazine recently interviewed said philosopher about the promises of robot based warfare, which is very much a reality today in some sense.  The interview is quite interesting in that it discusses how robots might make the  military more moral in its warfare.  One particularly interesting section is commentary on the work of Georgia Tech’s Ron Arkin in making super-moral, or more moral robot soldiers:

Robots might be better at distinguishing civilians from combatants; or at choosing targets with lower risk of collateral damage, or understanding the implications of their actions. Or they might even be programmed with cultural or linguistic knowledge that is impractical to train every human soldier to understand.

Ron Arkin thinks we can design machines like this. He also thinks that because robots can be programmed to be more inclined to self-sacrifice, they will also be able to avoid making overly hasty decisions without enough information. Ron also designed architecture for robots to override their orders when they see them as being in conflict with humanitarian laws or the rules of engagement. I think this is possible in principle, but only if we really invest time and effort into ensuring that robots really do act this way. So the question is how to get the military to do this.

So here is a scenario where our terminators could be programmed to “turn on us” if they don’t think the people are acting according to “humanitarian laws” (whatever those are and whatever side defines them). Interesting enough the famous laws of Robotics created by Issac Asimov read as follows:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Many of you may remember that these laws were the subject of the film, iRobot (the book also contains the laws, but the film does not represent the book).  The movie gives an interesting view on machine consciousness and how the three laws just might lead the robots to take over…for our own good of course.  Mechanized warfare is here and here to stay.  There will be robot warriors of some form or another, but the moment we think they can improve on human beings is the moment we forget that we are their creators.  As such, we are afraid - for bad gods we will make.

Mankind once feared its capricious pantheon of gods, now we fear ourselves and the work of our own hands.  We fear someday that they will be like us and rise up against us like our ancestor Cain.  We know our sins will follow us into them and even John Conner may be unable to save us.

Is this inevitable, no.  Is the pride of man such that we will likely create technologies which will continue to bring carnage and destruction on the earth - yes, very likely. Humanity has been telling itself that it needs to shake free of sophomoric ideas of sin and depravity, yet they remain in us. Checks and balances are needed because humanity is wicked. I am by no means a Luddite, but I do think we should give more care to that which we create. 

We are not gods and we know it, so we remain afraid.

Ida - Missing Link or Missing Data?

Some of you have probably heard the hype about the new fossil named IDA that is being given press releases and parties in New York and London.  Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion of evolution here at this point as I have friends of all opinions on the matter (theistic evolutionists, Intelligent Design friends and even some creationists - gasp! update: and atheistic evolutionary friends)

What I do want to comment upon is doing good science.  Science is a slow, peer reviewed process that relies upon other people confirming so called “scientific breakthroughs and finds.”  So rather than throwing parties for Ida that include politicians and filmakers declaring this the greatest scientific find ever, one wonders why this is done before others review the paper.  Afterall, the sensationalist claims being made by those who have been studying Ida are not agreed upon by other paleontologists.  Yet maybe they are just haters that don’t want these other paleontologists to be rock stars.  This quote from an entry from the Wall Street Journal is insightful as many may not even find this to be “the missing link>”

Scientists won’t necessarily agree about the details either. “Lemur advocates will be delighted, but tarsier advocates will be underwhelmed” by the new evidence, says Tim White, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “The debate will persist.”

It seems religious zeal is at work by declaring this squirel sized extinct monkey the missing link to our long lost uncle. The scientific community can do better…

In Tags

Dawkins and Myth

It is amazing how the most strident critics of theism can believe some pretty amazing things as well. I think if we all stop and look at where we believe we come from you can find all sorts of interesting stories.  For me, I'm a rather simple guy and believe that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is pretty good stuff.  Of course, those that disbelieve in a creator (suppress the truth of a creator I might say) have some pretty interesting stories of their own.  Usually disproved ideas like "spontaneous generation" or fun sci-fi stories like "the aliens made us." If you like both of these stories you will love Melanie Phillip's account of Richard Dawkins' views  Enjoy!

For example, I put to him that, since he is prepared to believe that the origin of all matter was an entirely spontaneous event, he therefore believes that something can be created out of nothing -- and that since such a belief runs counter to the very scientific principles of verifiable evidence which he tells us should govern all our thinking, this is itself precisely the kind of irrationality, or ‘magic’, which he scorns. In reply he said that, although he agreed this was a problematic position, he did indeed believe that the first particle arose spontaneously from nothing, because the alternative explanation – God -- was more incredible. Later, he amplified this by saying that physics was coming up with theories to show how matter could spontaneously be created from nothing. But as far as I can see – and as Anthony Flew elaborates – these theories cannot answer the crucial question of how the purpose-carrying codes which gave rise to self–reproduction in life-forms arose out of matter from which any sense of purpose was totally absent. So such a belief, whether adduced by physicists or anyone else, does not rest upon rational foundations.  

Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. Leave aside the question of where that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself come from, is it not remarkable that the arch-apostle of reason finds the concept of God more unlikely as an explanation of the universe than the existence and plenipotentiary power of extra-terrestrial little green men?

Touche! Ms. Phillips.  I love the little green men who created me!  Seriously, if you watch any sci-fi (and I confess that I partake quite a bit) you will see that many humans have placed their greatest HOPEs and FEARs in the existence of ET. He will either save us or destroy us...maybe because some believe he made us.  Hmm...as a follower of Jesus I have "placed my hopes in the living God, who is the savior of all people" - I'll just watch movies and TV shows about ET. 

Full story is available at the Spectator.  Is Richard Dawkins Still Evolving?

Geeky Quotes of the Day

Here are a few geeky quotes that made me laugh today as I was scanning back through David Berlinski's book The Devil's Delusion - Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions.

On certain flavors of inflationary cosmology

During the 1980s, the physicist Alan Guth argued that the early universe was characterized by a period of exponential inflation. Very soon after it blew up in the first place, it blew up again. When suitably blown up, it stopped blowing up.  The Stanford physicist Andre Linde carried this idea a step further in his theory of eternal chaotic inflation.  Universes are blowing up all over the place. They cannot stop themselves.

Berlinksi, 122

And on the reductionism and evolutionary psychology of Steven Pinker:

When Steven Pinker writes that "nature does not dictate what we should accept or how we should live our lives," he is experssing a belief--one obviously true--entirely at odds with his professional commitments.

If ordinatry men and women are, like Pinker himself, perfectly free to tell their genes "to go jump in the lake," why pay the slightest attention to evolutionary psychology?

Why pay the slightest attention to Pinker?

Either the theory in which he has placed his confidence is wrong, or we are not free to tell our genes to do much of anything.

Berlinski 178

Amen, and Amen. 

Virgin Births...

Apparently, a shark in my home time of Virginia Beach, VA has undergone a process known as parthenogenesis. Apparently once in a very rare blue moon some animals who reproduce sexually have a baby without a male involved.

See article Shark "Virgin Birth" Confirmed National Geographic online. Apparently the Komodo dragon has been known to go solo a few times as well. Both weird and interesting stuff...

I Love and Hate Brain Scanning

For those of you who know me realize that I maintain a keen interest in both science and technology as well as related philosophical issues surrounding both.  This morning I wanted to comment a bit on both Love and Hate as it is the subject of some recent research regarding the brain and brain scanning technology in particular.  Of such technology I am both a lova and a hata...let me explain.

On October 29th, Reuters UK reported the following story - Thin line between love and hate? Science knows why. The article shows how reductionism tells us little or nothing useful for our lives.  The article recounts some research of the brain activity of people who are looking at images of people they hate.  The subjects brains were active in an area similarly active when you have that loving feeling. Here is a quick excerpt that summarizes the research.

Brain scans of people shown images of individuals they hated revealed a pattern of brain activity that partly occurs in areas also activated by romantic love, Semir Zeki and John Paul Romaya of University College London reported on Wednesday.

"This linkage may account for why love and hate are so closely linked to each other in life," the researchers wrote in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One.

I found this article to profoundly communicate nothing that is actually useful to human beings.  The subject of brain scanning is interesting because it demonstrates what parts of our brains are active when we experience certain thoughts, emotions, etc.  Now, if you were to simply watch brain activity over time you would know absolutely nothing about the human condition.  What this sort of research relies upon is real world configurations and information from human persons.  If you just watched electrical activity in the cortex, you would not know jack unless a person said - "I'm really angry right now."  With such feedback, or stimuli (showing you pictures that really hack you off) the researcher sees the resultant brain state and then makes a ridiculous error in reductionism.  Just a side note, the philosophy of naturalistic reductionism has been covered here before so I'll just refer you to that little ditty, but what I want to get at today is that there is much more to love, hate than brain chemistry.   

The scientist looking only at brain chemistry eliminates all human elements to his subject by making an identity statement between the brain state and that which is described by the human being.  If someone is praying and a certain brain circuit is firing the reductionist thinker says "That is God" - of course the "That" is nothing but biochemical reactions and surely not "God."  Similarly we think that a brain circuit = hate or love for that matter.  This is a profoundly hollow view of human experience. 

In fact, resultant brain states give no real useful information to a human person. For someone to know that their brain chemistry corresponds to certain emotions gives them zero help in understanding, controlling, guiding, shaping their own minds and souls.  For instance, the reductionist view sees the human person only as a material being which is subject to cause and effect relationships in matter.  Love or hate just are responses to external stimuli like seeing pictures of people you despise.  What are you going to do about it? When you think about it, this view eliminates the existence of a separate "YOU" altogether. You are your brain and that is it.  Contrary to this view, the mind has demonstrated a perplexing ability to act upon its material substrata.  This is true in our self-conscious reflective experience and fleshed out in recent studies in neuroplasticity which show that the mind can actually change the brain's physical make up by mere thinking.  Furthermore, as a theist I might add, it is also interesting that the mind of God influences our thoughts and brains as well.

Back to the reductionist view. I remember in college I had a professor in a class on information transmission who made what I found to be a very obtuse statement.  He said something like "What is love - it is nothing, nothing but I/O" - in other words "love" was not real, but rather a material phenomenon of sensory inputs and glandular outputs. I remember thinking - there is more to love and life than that.  Now, philosophically I believe that the soul is inextricably joined with the body; so I reject a harsh dualism in favor of a more holistic one.  So it seems to me that the mind plays out in the medium of the brain/body and their exists a correlative power that minds may have over "brain matter" and a reciprocal power that the body has on the mind.

By simply saying that brain patterns = SOME MOOD, EMOTION does really nothing for me.  It is fascinating technology to be able to watch neuron behavior - I do love that. It is great science in and of itself.  Yet to say that hate/love/prayer/joy/compassion IS JUST a brain state is profoundly ridiculous based on an assumed philosophical leap into the darkness of naturalistic faith.  It has so little information to actually help anyone with the way they live (save the case where someone may need to temporarily and artificially alter brain states through drug therapy to stabilize a person). I for one find there is much more we can say about love and hate but this requires us to venture into the world of objective values, ethical truths and human agents which can reflect and act upon them.  This sort of thing my friends, you simply will not find in your own brain, but they are indeed found in the mind and character of God.

The Devil's Delusion - A Refreshing and Witty Polemic

David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion - Atheism and Its Scientific Pretentions (New York: Crown Forum, 2008)


Every now and again I come across books which do two things.  They provide great food for thought and they make me laugh out loud.  It is a very rare convergence of events but nonetheless there are some authors out there which succeed at uniting the horns of thought and humor in my life. This summer I just finished reading one such book, one The Devils Delusion - Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions by David Berlinski.  For those of you who are not familiar with him Berlinski is a sort of rogue academic who is involved with the work of the Discovery Institute (shhh...they are involved with intelligent design...shhh). Slate recently did an interesting piece on him if you want some background on the man described in that article as "a critic, a contrarian, and—by his own admission—a crank"

He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton has taught at numerous institutions of higher learning and has published books on Mathematics and the history of science.  He is a bit of a rogue because he is a skeptical secular Jew who most recently has been writing against the overconfident reach of the the Darwinian establishment.  He also is an American academic who lives in Paris...which seems to point to "rogue."  I don't think he is too much of a troublemaker but he is a bit punchy and mischievous in his writings.

The book is another work which addresses the arguments of militant (perhaps obnoxious?) atheists such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet and the now infamous Richard Dawkins (aka Dick to the Dawk). This book, however, has a particular idea in its cross hairs; the idea that only atheism can lay claim to being "scientific" as well as some of the more ridiculous things atheistic thinkers claim in the "name of science." It seems that the likes of the new atheist posse have big love for him as well.  From Slate:

The atheists, meanwhile, can't stand him: According to Daniel Dennett, Berlinski exudes a "rich comic patina of smug miseducation"; Richard Dawkins implies that he may be wicked to the core; and blogger-ringleader P.Z. Myers has called him a "pompous pimple" and a "supercilious snot." 

How nice of these fellows! In reading this book I can see why they might find Berlinski a bit maddening.  For one, he is spooky smart, erudite, irreverent towards their cause and quite pithy in his deconstruction of their cherished religion of scientism. Quite frankly, I have found Berlinski to be quite adept at the lost art of polemics.  With a society that is either too squeamish to oppose any ideas or is so ridiculously uncivil in dealing with opponents, a nice intelligent polemicist is a treat to read. 

In this review I will summarize the book's argument using many of Berlinski's own words.  I will then share some of the things I enjoyed in Berlinski's book as well as few times where I felt him just a little bit unfair - well, ok, maybe only one time.  I also have a few questions for Dr. Berlinski which I will ask here in closing.


In beginning his book, Berlinski provides a great preface that summarizes succinctly his aims in writing.  He quite frankly wants to call the scientific hegemony on its bluff - that it, and it alone can answer all of life's questions...if given enough time of course. In addition, he wants to dismantle the belief that religion is bankrupt as a system of understanding things which science seems hopelessly empty in addressing.  In his own words:

No scientific theory touches on the mysteries that the religious tradition addresses.  A man asking why his days are short is not disposed to turn to algebraic quantum field theory for the answer.  The answers that prominent scientific figures have offered are remarkable in their shallowness.  The hypothesis that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents has been widely accepted by the scientific community.  Figures as diverse as Bertrand Russell, Jacques Monod, Steven Weinberg, and Richard Dawkins have said it is so.  It is an article of their faith, one advanced with the confidence of men convinced that nature has equipped them to face realities the rest of us cannot bear to contemplate.  There is not the slightest reason to think this so.

While science has nothing of value to say on the great and aching questions of life, death, love, and meaning, what the religious traditions of mankind have said forms a coherant body of thought. The yearnings of the human soul are not in vain.  There is a system of belief adequate to the complexity of experience.  There is recompense for suffering.  A principle beyond selfishness is at work in the cosmos.  All will be well.

I do not know whether any of this is true.  I am certain that the scientific community does not know that it is false. (Berlinski, xiv)

So Berlinski's task is simple - show that science is full of itself and overstates its case against religion all the while making some pretty impressive leaps of faith of its own.  The book covers a diverse range of topics from philosophical arguments for God from Thomas Aquinas and others, to a rebuttal of Richard Dawkins' sophomoric argument against God's existence related to "complex entities", to some dense chapters on the standard model of quantum physics and the infinitely inventive purveyors of string theory.

I found Berlinski to be quite well read on the subjects he treats and seemed to skip around within them with both a feeling of delight and ironic skepticism.  Now on to a few things that I really found enjoyable in the book.


I found many things enjoyable in The Devil's Delusion the first being his calling the almost infinite arrogance of certain thinkers to account. In recounting the words of chemist Peter Atkins, Berlinski exposes this posture: 

Peter Atkins is a professor of physical chemistry at Oxford, and he, too, is ardent in his atheism. In the course of an essay denouncing not only theology but poetry and philosophy as well, he observes favorably of himself that scientists "are the summit of knowledge, beacons of rationality, and intellectually honest." It goes without saying, Atkins adds, that "there is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence." Science is, after all, "the apotheosis of the intellect and the consummation of the Renaissance." (7)

So much for that old fashioned human virtue known as humility. Additionally, he exposes the way that some scientists (after all, Berlinski is quite the fan of science) present their views as the only admissible discussion in any human affairs.  What Berlinski has found in reading the literature of science is that some men have created a new religion and one that demands all people submit to its tenants of the faith.  Again and again he shows that many times science has attempted to flee from certain ideas (such as design, God, morality, human uniqueness in the universe, big bang cosmology, etc) by cooking up strange explanations to avoid the obvious.

The second enjoyable aspect of the book is that it is extremely funny.  Now, I will say that you might need a bit of a background in the sciences to understand just how funny some of his prose actually is...but nonetheless the humor is transparent enough in most places for even the uninitiated reader.  Let me just drop some of his lines in for your enjoyment as well...

On the fact that "religion is the source of all violence and carnage" Berlinski has this to say:

It is religion, Christopher Hitchens claims, that is dangerous, because it is "the cause of dangerous sexual repression." Short of gender insensitivity, what could be more dangerous than sexual repression? (18)

In the same chapter, he brings one of the more blunt uses of humor when speaking of the heinous atrocities invented by atheistic thinkers and certain creations of modern scientific understanding. This was in some commentary he made on the words of physicist Steven Weinberg:

"Religion," he affirmed, "is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things.  But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion (italics added by Berlinski) In speaking thus, Weinburg was warmly applauded, not one member of his audience asking the question one might have thought pertinent: Just who has imposed on the suffering of the human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the forumula for Zyklon B, heavy artillary, pseudo-scientific justification for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons? If memory serves, it was not the Vatican. (21)

Touche! If you are interested in a few more pithy quotes click the "continue reading" link at the end of this review. So let me move on to my final enjoyable aspect of the book; his exposing of the naive positions of the likes of one Sam Harris.

Harris has the habit of reducing things to simple rants and platitudes.  A quick reading of his "letter to a Christian nation" will suffice to show that he does not treat serious subjects with much rigor.  Perhaps he is just writing out of field and we need to show him charity.  Yet Berlinski is right to call him on much hot air.  One example is the atheistic treatment of human sin and behavior.  It is quite common for Harris and the like to present smart people as good people and that if we only could get rid of religion all people would live in perfect harmony.  Here is Berlinski calling them on this nonsense:

I am under most circumstances the last person on earth to think Richard Dawkins a Pollyanna, but in this case I defer to his description.  Why should people remain good when unobserved and unpoliced by God? Do people remain good when unpoliced by the police? If Dawkins believes that they do, he must explain the existence of the criminal law, and if he believes that they do not, then he must explain why moral enforcement is not needed at the place where law enforcement ends.

To the scientific atheists, the ancient idea that homo homini lupus--man is a wolf to man--leaves them shaking their heads in poodle-like perplexity.  Sam Harris has no anxieties whatsoever about presenting his own views on human morality with the enviable confidence of a man who feels that he has reached the epistemological bottom.  "Everything about human experienc," he writes, "suggests that love is more conductive to human happiness than hate is." It goes without saying, of course, that Harris believes that this is an objective claim about the human mind.  

If this is so, it is astonishing with what eagerness men have traditionally fled happiness. (34, emphasis in original)

Yes, human beings are more complicated than simply thinking we will all do right and good with one another once we have studied brain and biology. Some of the smugness and confidence of these men is amazing in light of the 20th century carnage brought about by atheistic regines (Stalin, Mao, Khamir Rouge).  It needs to be called out.

One finanl chapter is worthy of note. Chapter 8 - Our Inner Ape, a Darling and the Human Mind does a masterful job and explaining and demonstrating the actual difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.  The chapter is worth the price of admission and is a needed argument in light of the atheistic mantra than human beings are nothing special in the universe.  I tell my own kids that you don't see alligators, or chimps for that matter, launching a mission to Mars.  The difference between man and ape is massive and Berlinski gives a great treatment of this subject.


Now, there are a few problems with the book and a puzzle I find in Berlinski himself.  First, there are a few places that he seems a bit unfair to his opponents.  Now, I know, Sam Harris is a big boy and can take it but it does seem he gets thrown into a bit of a guilt by association argument in aligning him with holocaust denying David Irving. Though Harris' views that the Jewish people's beliefs and actions could have brought on their suffering, making him an ally of source with Irving seemed a bit unfair (see Berlinski, 28). 

Finally I have one question for Dr. Berlinski.  Why don't you go ahead and leave the skeptical place in your views about God and come on over to the team.  He defends theism masterfully, seems to understand the biblical message and spent quite a bit of time in the book making a pretty good case for the theistic arguments.  There is a place for skepticism, in seeing through things.  But as CS Lewis once said, if you see through everything you lose your ability to see.  So I hope Dr. Berlinski would accept that which he seems to have some good knowledge thereof.  That there is a God, who created us in his image, who orders the moral universe and to whom we will give an account. 


Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit.  I particularly enjoyed the discussions of various scientific theories as I still remain a huge fan of the scientific enterprise.  This is no anti-science book, but rather a book which will not allow the smuggling of atheistic philosophy into the room by putting a lab coat on its back.  Science is the empirical study of repeatable causes, it is not the sum of all knowledge and human experience.  All of us have some sort of faith commitment from which they launch into daily life. Some trust in the creator, others trust that they themselves will solve every problem and explain away all spiritual reality and every mystery when science is given enough time.  I find such an existence absurd and quite boring.  Science from a theistic perspective is quite fascinating and I commend the young minds of the world to take up science and give glory to God.


Appendix - A few More Berlinski Zingers.

In speaking of the confidence some have in certain quantum mechanical theories, Berlinski again is a bit of a meddler:

It has not, however, explained the connection between the quantum realm and the classical realm. "So long as the wave packet reduction is an essential component [of quantum mechanics]," the physicist John Bell observed, "and so long as we do not know when and how it takes over from the Schrodinger equation, we do not have an exact and unambiguous formulation of our most fundamental physical theory."

If this is so, why is our most fundamental theory fundamental? I'm just asking. (94)

In sticking with the "science functioning for some as a religion" Berlinski actually produces a "Catechism of Quantum Cosmology" which I found ridiculous and wonderful.  Just so you can catechize your own children (found on pp 104, 105)

Q: From what did our universe evolve?
A: Our universe evolved from a much smaller, much emptier, mini-universe. You may think of it as an egg

Q: What was the smaller, emptier universe like?
A: It was a four-dimensional sphere with nothing much inside it. You may think of that as weird

Q: How can a sphere have four dimensions?
A: Asphere may have four dimensions if it has one more dimension than a three-dimensional sphere.  You may think of that as obvious

Q: Does the smaller, emptier universe have a name?
A: The smaller, emptier universe is called a de Sitter universe. You may think of that as about time some one paid attention to de Sitter.

Q: Is there anything else I should know about the smaller, emptier universe?
A: Yes. It represents a solution to Einstein's field equations. You may think of that as a good thing.

Q: Where was the smaller, emptier universe or egg?
A: It was in the place where space as we know it did not exists. You may think of it as a sac.

Q: When was it there?
A: It was there at the time when time as we know it did not exist. You may think of it as a mystery

Q: Where di teh egg come from?
A: The egg did not actually come from anywhere. You may think of this as astonishing.

Q: If the egg did not come from anywhere, how did it get there?
A: The egg got there because the wave function of the universe said it was probable.  You may think of this as a done deal.

Q: How did our universe evolve from the egg?
A: It evolved by inflating itself up from its sac to become the universe in which we now find ourselves.  You may think of that as just one of those things.

Now you are ready to sing the hymns of the new world order and your kids can report for confirmation.  He is not trying to make light of the hard work of theoretical physicists, bu the is saying that they appear to be saying a bit of nothing disguised in mathematical flair that has no experimental connection to the observational world...and it is funny.  Let me close this section with his quote about the continued and multiplied musings of string theory.

In the end, string theorists argued that the extra dimensions of their theory were buried somewhere. At each point in space and time, they conjectured, there one would find a tiny geometrical object know as a Calabi-Yau manifold, and curled up within, there one would find the extra dimensions of string theory itself.  It was an idea that possessed every advantage except clarity, elegance, and a demonstrated connection to reality. (119, empahis in original)

Ok, I must have a weird sense of humor because once again I had a chuckle at those lines.

Evolutionary Just So Stories

Do you want to read the sort of thing that people are writing about and calling it science these days.  Science was once a way towards empirical knowledge based upon testing sound hypotheses with reproducible experiments.  This article entitled Bisexual Species: Unorthodox Sex in the Animal Kingdom - Homosexual behavior is common in nature, and it plays an important role in survival. The story begins with an account of "gay penguins" and moves into a discussion on the evolutionary value of same sex animal behavior. 

It appears in Scientific American and seems to be a pack of speculation, just so stories and the bizarre reading of human behavior on to animals.  Of course humans now look to animals to see what is acceptable behavior.  If you can find some sort of creature doing it somewhere then it becomes plausible for human beings. In fact, if you want to justify just about any sexual configurations - just look to the Bonobos - as they seem to be real freaky primates.

This, for whatever it is, is not the scientific method I learned as a student of science...Of course I was in the Physics and Applied Science departments - not in evolutionary psychology or ethics.  In this realm, anything can be explained by such story telling.  Just make up a story as to why an animal does such and such and how "it might aid survival." We can do this any time and the animal will not be able to refute the thesis.  They can't speak for themselves.

Here is just a sample of some of the just so stories found here.  I have added the emphasis in the text.

Such behavior seems to ease social tensions. In Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape (University of California Press, 1997), Emory University primatologist Frans B. M. de Waal and his co-author photographer Frans Lanting wrote that “when one female has hit a juvenile and the juvenile’s mother has come to its defense, the problem may be resolved by intense GG-rubbing between the two adults.” De Waal has observed hundreds of such incidents, suggesting that these homosexual acts may be a general peacekeeping strategy. “The more homosexuality, the more peaceful the species,” asserts Petter Böckman, an academic adviser at the University of Oslo’s Museum of Natural History in Norway. “Bonobos are peaceful.”

In some birds, same-sex unions, particularly between males, might have evolved as a parenting strategy to increase the survival of their young. “In black swans, if two males find each other and make a nest, they’ll be very successful at nest making because they are bigger and stronger than a male and female,” Böckman says. In such cases, he says, “having a same-sex partner will actually pay off as a sensible life strategy.”

This seems to be some very strange logic at work...I am saying nothing here about human sexuality - though it seems that this article is more about this than mere animal behaviors in their natural habitats.

Dick Dawkins in the hizzouse...

OK, the style and flow of this may be a bit raw for some...but it is quite creative.  This video is apparently being debated on the net - Is this a slam against atheists or believers?  One cannot know, but one can laugh.  Rated POCBlog PG-13.

(HT - Uncommon Descent)

Dawkins NOT Expelled

Apparently Richard, I am an atheist, I am smarter than you and wish I could be the theists worst nightmare, Dawkins slipped into a recent pre-screening of Ben Stein's documentary Expelled.  For those not familiar with the upcoming release here is a super trailer for the film.

The Discovery Institute Press release has all the details about Dawkins' crash of a screening in Minnesota.  Interestingly enough, it appears Dawkins might believe in design after all...only by aliens.  This thesis is actually becoming quite popular today. Really.

Here is the release:

(206) 292-0401 X107

Richard Dawkins, World’s Most Famous Darwinist, Stoops to Gate-crashing Expelled
by Bruce Chapman, www.evolutionnews.org

Like many films im pre-release, Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is being selectively screened around the country to develop a buzz.

There is a growing fear by the producers that Darwinists may be trying get into the showings to make bootleg copies (for the Web?), possibly in hopes of damaging the commercial value. Others may be crashing because they want to trash it before it even gets reviewed by the media. P.Z. Myers, who was not let into a showing last night in Minnesota, probably falls in the latter category.

Amazingly, the best selling Oxford scientist/author Richard Dawkins also crashed a showing of Expelled in Minnesota last night and he not only was let in, but introduced at the end of the showing.

Dawkins apparently acknowledged that he had not been invited and did not have a ticket. A sophomoric side to his ideological is thus revealed.

Dawkins, understandably is nervous about this film, among other reasons because Ben Stein has him on camera acknowledging that life on Earth may, indeed, have been intelligently designed, but that it had to have been accomplished by space aliens! This is hilarious, of course, because Dawkins is death on intelligent design. But it turns out that that view applies only if it includes the possibility that the designer might be God.

Myers, of course, relished being expelled from Expelled, but objective observers know that Myers is the most vociferous advocate of expelling Darwin critics from academia. Not from movie pre-screenings where he wasn’t invited, mind you, but from their jobs. Too bad the film doesn’t show (and I wish it had), his promotion of advice to attack teachers and professors who dare question Darwin’s theory. The whole point of Myers is that he is a take-no-prisoners, crusading atheist scientist who has made it his purpose in life to harass people who disagree with him. Dawkins turns out to be his buddy and mutual admirer.

Frankly, I wish the producers would have a special pre-release screening for the Darwinists who are interviewed in the film — and invite some of the rest of us who have seen their depredations up close. We’d be glad to debate right there.

Among other things, I’d like to read some of the Darwinists’ statements and charges back to them and ask them to defend themselves. One of the most preposterous is that the well-funded’ Discovery Institute is funding this film! ( 1-They seem to have far more money available to them than we do, and 2-We are saving our pennies for the upcoming Broadway musical comedy, Darwin’s Folly.)

I have to say something else, personally. I have been sandbagged by one TV and documentary crew after another. So have Discovery-affiliated scientists. The interviewers all say they just want to understand the issue. Going in, they are quite clear about definitions, for example, and only start using Darwinist definitions of our positions when they report. They never provide questions in advance and even if they say they will stick to science questions and public policy, almost all sneak in questions about personal religious beliefs. Then, of all the footage, guess what gets on TV or in the documentary?

So it really is pathetic of Dawkins, et al to complain that when they were interviewed for Expelled they didn’t know that the film was inherently unfriendly. These are interviewees who received pre-agreed questions, signed release forms after the interviews were conducted, and actually got paid for their time.

I am getting more excited about Expelled myself and can’t wait to see the finished version. I suspect I’ll wish that the film was twice as long and had twice as much from Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, et al. From what I already have seen, they really expose themselves as the anti-intellectual, bullying poseurs they are — small men who above all are afraid of a fair contest.



Moms Designed to be Moms

Shocking, ground breaking new research announced in the New York Times.  Read the shocking news here - Maternal Instinct Is Wired Into the Brain

Creation Confusion...On Science and New Creations

This past week

Renewable Energy News...

BusinessWeek has a couple of interesting articles on renewable energy sources.  The first is about China's investment in wind and other technologies which are growing at a massive rate. The second is about processes to create biodiesel from certain types of algae...the title is pretty pithy as well - Here comes pond scum power.

In the same vein I saw a new wind turbine design that looks pretty interesting if it actually works.  It is called the Maglev wind turbine - see graphic below and click here for a description  of a company who is actually working on this.

There will be a day where we will not be a world dependent on petroleum resources for energy.  Some people will also get rich in the process of developing and deploying new technologies...economic opportunity and environmentally friendly sources of energy sound like a good marriage to me. 

As one who is moving to NJ next year, this one sounds cool, but perhaps a bit far fetched. 

Will Dr. Wise Consider me Mr. Foolish?

This coming January I will have the wonderful privilege of studying with a very unique scholar with a unique name.  January 14-18 I will be in Louisville, KY to take a class simply entitled "Origins" taught by Dr. Kurt Wise.  This is a class I have looked forward to for several reasons.  '

First, I did my undergraduate studies in Applied Science and Physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  I became a follower of Jesus during my sophomore year at UNC in the middle of my studies in the hard sciences.  The questions surrounding the Scriptures view of history, science and the nature of the cosmos became important for me at this juncture as well as my interests in Christian Apologetics. During my studies at UNC I immersed myself in some young earth creationist literature for a brief season but over time evolved to more of an old earth, recent Adam creationist yet firmly maintaining that the first 11 chapters of Genesis were a trusted, though not comprehensive, view of human creation, sin and early migrations.  I would say I have stayed somewhat abreast on the discussions between theistic evolutionists, progressive creationists, intelligent design theorists and literary framework views.  The interesting thing about my upcoming class is that Dr. Wise is in fact a young earth creationist...and one of considerable intellectual talent.

Dr. Wise did his undergraduate studies in geology at the University of Chicago, a masters in geology at Harvard along with a Ph.D. in Invertebrate Paleontology, also at Harvard University.  His doctoral work was actually supervised by the late Stephen J. Gould, quite the proponent of various evolutionary explanations of life.  Wise has even drawn the attention and disdain of the high priest of the new atheism Richard Dawkins who said the following of Dr. Wise:

Wise stands out among young earth creationists not only for his impeccable education, but because he displays a modicum of scientific honesty and integrity.

And then of course the following: 

Kurt Wise doesn’t need the challenge; he volunteers that [that he is a six day, young earth creationist who believes the Bible), even if all the evidence in the universe flatly contradicted Scripture, and even if he had reached the point of admitting this to himself, he would still take his stand on Scripture and deny the evidence. This leaves me, as a scientist, speechless. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have a mind capable of such doublethink. It reminds me of Winston Smith in struggling to believe that two plus two equals five if Big Brother said so. But that was fiction and, anyway, Winston was tortured into submission. Kurt Wise—and presumably others like him who are less candid—has suffered no such physical coercion. But, as I hinted at the end of my previous column, I do wonder whether childhood indoctrination could wreak a sufficiently powerful brainwashing effect to account for this bizarre phenomenon.

So I have the upcoming privilege of spending 8 hours a day for five days with this highly credentialed scientist and young earth creationist.  My biggest question is whether Dr. Wise will consider me Mr. Foolish if I do not accept the 6 day creationist conclusion...and will I care.  I look forward to the reading and discussion ahead and will enjoy engaging all of these issues in the coming weeks as I do the reading...and he did just assign some reading.  He did go to Harvard after all. 

For those interested here are the books on the list for my class in Origins:

  • Miller, Keith B., editor, 2003, Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 528 p.
  • Ross, Hugh, 2006, Creation as Science: A Testable Model Approach to End the Creation/Evolution Wars, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 291 p.
  • Wise, Kurt P., 2002, Faith, Form, and Time, B&H, Nashville, TN, 287 p.

Intelligent Design - Behe vs. Colbert and Getting Expelled

Biochemist and intelligent design proponent Michael Behe was on Colbert Report recently.  Not much depth here, but it is fun and I'm glad Behe went on.  Just a few seeds put out there cannot hurt.  Most Americans don't think as much about science so having this on Colbert probably exposed some people who normally are not asking certain questions. Here is a link to the 5 minute video

On a similar topic - Intelligent ID the Future interviews Walt Ruloff, executive producer of the coming documentary Expelled

The Physics of Christianity

Well, I took the book The Physics of Christianity with me on vacation in late July looking forward to a refresh of some of my undergraduate course work at UNC Chapel Hill and to see how a contemporary Physicist integrates his scientific work with the doctrines of the Christian Faith. Let me be honest up front that I only got about half way through the work and was tracking with it at a level of investigation to review the book here on the blog. To be frank, I simply didn't finish the book...as it got more and more bizarre as I read on and we ran out of vacation time.

It begins with some big claims that all of the discoveries of modern physics confirm the Christian narrative and its categories. The existence of God as the first cause of the universe, the triunity of this God and beliefs such as the resurection of the dead and eternal life. All fine and dandy. What followed was a pretty approachable discussion of some modern physics. General relativity, quantum mechanics and the standard model for particle physics were all on the docket. I will say that for the uninitiated it will be difficult reading. I did 3 years of a BS in Physics before switching to Applied Computer Science and I found the reading accessible. I kept thinking...you need at least some basic understanding of physics and an analytic mind to follow this.

After the general introductions the book just started getting odd. The singularity at the beginning of this universe, the singularity at the end of this univers and the singularity which began the "multiverse" becomes "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" - The quantum reality of the multiverse and tunneling theory become the means by the multiverse Jesus walks through walls and rises from the dead. Most bizarre was that the resurrection and eternal life become us uploading into supercomputers buried deep in bedrock safe from nuclear blasts. We'll live forever singing Kum Ba Yah in the matrix. No kidding. And I thought being banished to Chiron Beta Prime would be a ride.

Here is an example of someone fully trained and convinced in his own field (Physics) and wandering around in one he clearly does not understand (theology). I applaud Tipler's boldness and zeal and certainly his theories are very interesting if you are a fan of sci-fi. Yet the Christianity of this book was unrecognizable once Tipler's theory of everything had its way.

One final note - here is a full review of the book by Canadian Journalist Denyse O'Leary - something I am unable to do as I did not have the time to finish the work as vacation was a bit short this summer. I wish Tipler the best in his efforts to integrate Physics and faith - a much needed enterprise.  I would only suggest having some theological dialog partners and perhaps reading a few simple catechisms along the way.


Frank Beckwith has an interesting post over at First Things regarding atheist Richard Dawkin's assessment of Harvard trained paleobiologist Kurt Wise.  What is interesting is that Dr. Wise is a professor at Southern Seminary (I am currently at Southern taking a class) and a young earth creationist.

What is interesting about the Beckwith piece is that he takes to task Dawkin's lament about Wise "wasting" his talents as human being and intellectual.

Beckwith rightly calls into question Dawkin's lament of Wise in light of his atheism.  In an atheistic worldview there is no "proper use" of human faculties at all - people just do what they want with no warrant or "ought" that people could be held to.  Perhaps Dawkins does not like that Wise does not believe as he does - but an atheistic worldview has nothing to offer human beings in terms of normative function.  There is simply nothing we ought to conform to.  Now in terms of a biblical view, one can certainly waste the gifts and talents given by God.  It seems like Dawkins is stealing the cookies off the theistic shelves.