Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Darwin's Dilemma

We have had the privilege over the last two evenings to have, on Monday evening, Dr Stephen Meyer join us on the nearby university campus to lecture on his book Signature in the Cell and take Q&A, and then last night Dr Jonathan Wells and Meyer showed the here pictured DVD, Darwin's Dilemma, and then took Q&A from the audience again.
Overall, one might say it was a pivotal moment for ID at this university. True, there's a long way to go, but whereas it seemed like a pack of wild dogs was barely restraining themselves from cussing William Dembski out the first time he came here, though he acquitted himself well in the exchanges despite being one-on-alot and suffering from a cold and from the lack of a moderator, this time around the Darwinians in attendance mustered little of any substance in response to the points made by Meyer, Wells, and the DVD.
Now, this time around, the IDEA Club (who invited the ID guys) was wiser and had assigned moderators to make sure that the pandemonium surrounding Dembski the 1st time would not be repeated during the Q&A sessions. So, what should any reasonable and smart scientific-type person conclude from the fact that each questioner would get limited time to ask a question and probably only one follow-up? Well, you've gotta make your question count! So, did our Darwinian friends do so?

Eh, not so much.
Let's take last night's DVD showing Q&A for a great example of Darwinian futility.
Question 1: Professor Vic Hutchison was the first to raise his hand (beat everyone else by a few minutes, literally) and asked why the DVD quoted Valentine and Morris in support of their position. Um, that's your question, really? If I were Meyer and Wells, I would have smiled broadly. (In fact, Meyer told me later that he was more or less chuckling on the inside.)

Question 2: One of those guys who's always showing up for these kinds of events (you know the type) (oh wait, I'm one of those guys! Crud. Except he's in his 50s) asked about the ID answer to the presence of ERVs in mammalian evolution (which is, for the uninitiated, AFTER the Cambrian explosion) (oh yeah, the DVD was about nothing but the Cambrian explosion). He was allowed far too many followups by the moderator, and acted offended and squelched when he was told no más, to the point that he got up, gesticulated wildly for a moment, then walked out. Good riddance to irrelevant questions and their questioners.
M&W's answer was, among other things: How do you build the new proteins, new protein folds and higher body structure; we don’t think viruses can account for that.

Question 3, my favorite, was asked by one Ola F (unless I misunderstood) who is apparently a prof of behavioral ecology at the university: Why did the DVD neglect to mention Hox genes and the fact that tons of organisms share the same genes, aka housekeeping genes?
I've noticed this about Darwinians, especially around here - they have some favorite buzzword/catch-all answers they like to throw out, and whenever someone mentions them, they dissolve into laughter and booyah pwn3d!-type reactions. It's sad and funny at the same time.
Anyway, I was laughing -again- b/c the presence of such genes doesn't give evidence for Darwinism over ID at all - the Designer put them there!
Further, why would anyone think it's a challenge to ID that many organisms share similar genes? Don't Windows 98, 2000, XP, and Vista share a lot of similar code?
On top of that, the DVD addressed that very question, comparing it to the similar form of automobiles since their invention 100 yrs ago.
Meyer correctly pointed out she's begging the question.
Wells steps up and says:
-Without those genes, we're not alive. There's a reason organisms share them.
-Hox genes' effect kicks in AFTER the formation of the body plan (I'll take his word for it on this one).
-And they're just on/off switches, telling the body whether to insert an eye/leg/antenna at a given part of the body.
The questioner then whined about "Why should humans share genes with other organisms like an oak, a bird, other more primitive organisms?" That question cracked me up b/c she was implying some sort of arrogant species-ism. And she's acting, again, like she or anyone else can access the mind or motives of the Designer, which ID has taken pains to say that they can't do. So, overwhelming evidence is...where?
I later asked her what she thought was so strong about her citing the presence of Hox genes, and her response was precisely that - why would a Designer put them there? I patiently explained that the Christian position explains their presence just as well. She sort of lost her composure at that moment, started literally snapping her fingers near my face (which I did find sort of distracting, to be honest) and began ranting about how God couldn't possibly be the answer b/c He just poofs things, or how she could posit a Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Then "so I guess your God loves prokaryotes far more than you since they were around for billions of years!" and "if God loves these organisms, why do they go extinct so often? Huh? HUH?" Amazing.
I knew when she mentioned the FSM that she had nothing, and pressed her - that's irrelevant, and how do you know anything about the FSM? She then gave me a mini-lecture about how she has faith in God, but not THAT God, and then escaped. A professor of behavioral ecology at a major state(-funded) university.

Ironically, these were the most challenging questions of the entire session. A massive opportunity for the Darwinians to bring an intellectual beatdown of two pillars of ID, missed and missed badly.
Briefly, questions 5 and 6 were from acquaintances of mine, both solid and frequent attenders of these kinds of events, one a solid member of the local atheist club.
Question 5: The DVD said "designers" and "designer". Which is it?
While that's a technically relevant question, how is that any challenge?
Question 6: Your DVD assumes the normally-accepted geological time scale. Was this an intentional jab at YEC?
As if YEC-ists don't know what's what with respect to the ID movement. I, as a YEC-ist, simply see ID as a useful internal critique of evolutionary naturalism. ID grants naturalism and Old Earth and the usefulness and interpretability of the fossil record and all sorts of other freebies to Darwinism, then is still able to spank it soundly as a viable viewpoint. Tells me quite a lot about the internal strength of the worldview, and it's why I take an interest in this topic despite the fact that I differ with ID on age of the Earth and the utility of the fossil record.

After the formal Q&A and after Professor Ola F suffered her meltdown at my hands, my friend Biggs and I engaged Prof Hutchison in convo. He went on for some time about irrelevant topics - whether he believes in God (he does, for reasons we can't figure out), whether there are religious ppl who support Darwinism (which we know, obviously), and why ID gets so much support from Christian churches (irrelevant ad hominem). I later asked him how he knows what is true and he responded that he knows that which he accesses thru his 5 senses and thru experiments on material in the lab. I asked him how he knows, then, that it's true that one accesses truth successfully thru one's senses. He simply repeated himself. I tried to ask the question a different way, and he begged the same question the same way. Wow. And he'd had the gall to say "I've read your arguments, and they're not any good". Reading is not the same as understanding, Prof Hutchison.

Meyer's closing point was strong and trenchant - Darwinians have long been relying strongly on the "it's not science" argument to bolster its case. When the question turns away from "is it true?" to "is it in conformity with our ad hoc strongarming the rules to suit us?" it's a sign the Darwinian club is in trouble.

(HT: CharlesRansom at the IDEAClub for live-blogging the event and jogging my memory in certain places)
(Many thanks to Dr Meyer for giving me a copy of his book when I told him I was interested in this topic partly b/c I'm a Godblogger. He said "well, you're a member of the media!" Haha, right, sure I am. But I'll enjoy the book, for sure. He was a very nice and enthusiastic guy, and after an exhausting day still went out to eat with a bunch of us afterward.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Last Tuesday-ism

Last Tuesday-ism is occasionally used as an argument against Christianity (like here), especially Young Earth Creationism, especially the kind that I generally argue, where my answer to why geological structures appear to be really old is b/c God created them, like Adam, with a certain appearance of age to the natural eye. Adam was formed and created as a fully-grown man, not a zygote. Similarly, I figure it's a good explanation to say that God created the world to look old when studied from the standpoint of unbelieving naturalistic "science", using limited methodology, knowledge, breadth of vision (ie, we can't look back very far; indeed we've recorded even less), and instrumentation, and when attempting to, as it were, prove God wrong.
But since God actually did create it more recently than many billions of yrs ago, we'd expect to see inconsistencies in any worldview that expresses the billions of yrs belief. And indeed we do. Exhibit A - evolutionary naturalism.

Anyway, the skeptic asks how this position is distinguishable from last Tuesday-ism, and the answers are manifold. Remember, we take the question from the Christian worldview, and in that worldview, God doesn't lie, and He does communicate truth. That's the fundamental axiom; w/o that, we argue (and quite successfully) that there's no way to know anything about anything. So, as I said in the ERV thread above, if God is lying to us, then we have no way to discover truth. About anything.
Basically, this is an alternative worldview, much like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so it needs its own structure and framework to be constructed by the questioner. Who is God and how do you know? How do you know God created the world last Tuesday? How can you trust the passage of time? Are all of your remembered (but completely fabricated) relationships and experiences worth anything? If so, how do you assign value to them and how do you justify that assignment?
Can you really trust airplanes, boats, drinking water out of the tap, flu shots and vaccines, ibuprofen, food, sex, your parents, given that nothing you remember about them is real? I mean, you have a whole life of work ahead of you here.
By the way, if you want to go on the fascinating but flawed "prankster/evil god" argument from there, first demonstrate how you can reliably know anything about that god.

I'd like to turn the question back around to the skeptic now. How do YOU know last Tuesday-ism isn't true? Maybe the universe exploded (out of nothing, caused by nothing, of course) into existence last Tuesday and everything we observe now in the world, galaxy, and universe coalesced in that time, and by some improbably bizarre set of circumstances (sound familiar?), the Earth and life have come together since then. And yes, evolution has taken place in that short time. Natural pressures and natural selection have determined that human beings would exist, believing by and large that the world is many billions of yrs old, b/c if they didn't believe that, then they'd commit suicide out of despair (well, that's the scientific community's best guess, though we haven't -yet- figured out a way to study that part of our past, but we're working on it. And until then, it's a fact, not a theory). So up to this present time, the human population has been shaped by these pressures and selection to express the "Earth is billions of yrs old"-belief gene in most cases.
You may scoff and say, "That's improbable! Astronomically improbable!" Wait a second. Isn't that precisely what you say about the way you already think the Earth and all life on it came into existence - thru astronomically improbable events? Further, when challengers to Old Earth or at least to evolution challenge you and contend that the odds against life appearing on Earth are simply too vast to comprehend and to attribute to mere chance, don't you respond with "well, improbable it may be, but that's the way it is"?
So that's my answer to you - improbable it may be, but that's the way it is. After all, what's the difference in probability between astronomically improbable and astronomically improbable?
Now, prove me wrong.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A grab-bag at ERV

I've been enjoying myself again over at ERV, maybe more than I should. Boy, do they hate me!
ERV's commenter-minions' inability to grasp most points is rivaled only by their familiarity with vulgar obscenities, but the gap is closing.

#69, ph42 -

But "I don't like it" is YOUR entire reason for rejecting every other religion besides your own.

How would you know that? You've never asked me.
Just FYI, I reject other religions for the same reason I reject naturalism - they're internally inconsistent, so I never even have to ask the question whether they correctly represent reality.

#70, Tyler DiPietro -
If you read them with a little care, you'll see that they're the same. My paraphrase is meant to summarise.

you still haven't explained how the inductive conclusion of common descent based on the evidence is dependent upon such a notion.

I don't see what's so hard about this. Let me repeat myself from above.
Thing is, we've got two competing explanations - common descent vs God did it. I'm looking for an argument why the former is better than the latter. What I see here, though, is some pretty serious violations of the normal and oft-proclaimed Darwinian scientist principles - we accept what we observe. You haven't observed common descent. You didn't observe these ERVs come to be. You don't have a time machine. What you do have is some pretty big assumptions, and assumptions that are tied to naturalism. On the other hand, the alternative - God created them that way - is obviously a non-naturalistic answer. It's a theistic, supernaturalistic answer. So I look at your answer and say that you've arrived at your conclusion through inconsistent means - you say usually that you accept what you observe, but in fact a great deal of this you haven't observed.

#71, ph42 -
Nature exists. This is obvious from any observations of the real world, and your determination to deny it makes no difference.

1) I don't deny nature exists. Your foaming hatred of anything Christian is getting in the way of your reason. Seriously, take a deep breath, go for a jog, have a glass of wine or sthg, then come back and let's talk.
2) How do you know your cognitive faculties are reliably aimed at producing true thoughts, if nature is all there is? If you're a bunch of chemical reactions, much like a shaken-up can of Coke? An animal evolved from a lower primate? A bag of molecules in motion? What's special about the human brain?

Nothing beyond nature has ever been conclusively demonstrated to exist.

Demonstrated by what means? What means do you accept to demonstrate things exist?

Many people claim to have seen supernatural things, but their claims are mutually exclusive

You do realise that mutually exclusive claims do not necessarily mean that both are wrong, but simply that both can't be right?

#72, Optimus -
love that Rhology says, "Just b/c you refuse to accept it b/c you have an a priori commitment to naturalism isn't my problem," and then defines naturalism as "an approach to philosophical problems that interprets them as tractable through the methods of the empirical sciences or at least, without a distinctively a priori project of theorizing." (Whatever that last bit of mangled English means.)

1) The "mangled English" is from a philosophy encyclo, in case you can't see hyperlinks.
2) And I'd fully expect an entry like that to be EXPRESSING a view, not pointing out its obvious weaknesses. This is in fact a problem for YOU and also illustrative of the kind of reductionistic thinking in which you engage. Naturalists, who say that only the natural exists, make a big deal out of demanding evidence for all questions. And yet what they never stop to think about (and which I'm trying to help you see) is that there's no way to get evidence that evidence is a good way to discover truth, beyond circular inductive "well, it's always worked for us!"-es.

#73, Reed -
By acknowledging that your god can do whatever the fuck he wants, you've admitted there is no evidence which we could perceive that your god couldn't create.

Correct. It is in fact my position that the God of the Bible created everything. It is perfectly distinguishable from last Tuesdayism b/c lT-ism is absurd; if God is lying to us, then we have no way to discover truth. About anything.
It's very helpful in understanding our world. Even if I granted that it doesn't say anythg about science (which I don't grant), there's far more to real life than science, and the Bible has tons to say about the human condition, society, morality, love and hate, good and bad, etc.

I do invite you to explain why your revelation is more believable than the revelation of hank.

How does the philosophy of hank account for the existence of the universe and of the laws of logic?

You say "naturalism is bunk", but it is objectively a better way to make predictions about the universe than appeals to ancient superstition.

Not if it's false.

Naturalism gives us vaccines and cars and airplanes and space ships. "god did it" doesn't give us shit.

No, scientific endeavor and study gave you those good things, and while naturalism cannot solve the problem of induction or justify the operation of physical laws into the future, Christianity does both. God holds the world and physical laws in the state they're in now, reliably and consistently so that things like airplane flight, ships' buoyancy, and vaccines work. How does naturalism ensure that those will be reliable one second from now? (Hint - it doesn't.)

#74, DJD -
If facts have to be interpereted through a worldview, they can't be used as evidence for that worldview.

Good question, but hopefully you've been paying attention when I've more than once referred to seeking internal consistency in worldviews.

even if you say "everything is evidence for God", then all that means is "evolution is evidence for God"

You have no evidence that evolution occurred in the way you say it did. You can't observe it. Your own ppl say the fossil record is useless in determining that question (and Gee's argument is sound). Further, God has told us how it went down; I see no reason to trust your pitiful "evidence" that begs the question for naturalism.

#75, Tyler DiPietro,
yeah it is, the fact that something "works" is predicated on it having some correspondence to reality.

I call assumption.
1) Science has gotten many things wrong when it thought to have nailed the cause for some event. Only to discover later it had it wrong.
2) If Joe Caveman runs away from a tiger, it could be from any number of reasons. Sure, it serves to keep him alive, but maybe he thought he was playing hide-and-seek with it. Or he wanted it to give him money, and he believes that the tiger will give it to him if he runs away from it at full speed and climbs a tree. The list could go on and on for these conceivable defeaters for this idea.

#77, Stephen Wells -
You read the whole Bible, that's nice. I told you exactly where to read; if you miss it AGAIN, that's no one's fault but yours.

but nowhere does it actually specify what a "god" is, what the origins of a "god" are, or how a "god" does what it supposedly does.

1) John 4:24, and all those other psgs.
2) God has no origin. He has always been. Isaiah 40-44.
3) He does it supernaturally. That's all throughout the Bible. Colossians 1.
Seriously, if you're gonna argue, don't use this willful ignorance. Who are you trying to impress?

Monday, September 21, 2009

If life has no meaning, then no meaning has truth

A Facebook acquaintance had posted a status update recently, expressing doubt that there's really any point to all of this.
Here is our PM exchange:

Me -> acquaintance
I recall that we talked a few years ago about Jesus, and I'm just wondering what you've thought about with respect to Him over these last few years, related to your recent status update. If there really is no point, what's stopping you from turning to Jesus?
If you say that you don't think He exists, I'd offer two thoughts:
1) When was the last time you asked Him whether He exists with a truly open heart? Only you know the answer to that.
2) If there's no point, are you really worse off repenting of your sin and putting your trust in Jesus than staying an agnostic or whatever?

(I say #2 just as a thought exercise, I am convinced that Christianity is the only rational worldview and has more than enough solid argumentation in its favor.)

Anyway, I'd love to talk if you want.


Acquaintance -> me

Yeah man I have done tons of research into religion. I find that the actual purpose to Jesus' teaching is that we all have a connection to the divine. The problem is that religion has been misguided into a ruleset to control the population. I invited jesus into my heart many years ago and only found that the bible was not a great translation of the original stories and that half the story was deemed unfit by the council. it seems that there may have been a conspiracy to hide information from the masses from the beginning. I understand that this may be far fetched to you as you are comfortable with your religious views. However, my research has expanded far beyond simple faith and now has left me feeling that the world is so far gone from real truth that we are doomed to face the inadequacies of our mistaken worldview.

Me -> acquaintance

We talked about this approx 3 yrs ago, and you gave me the same answer, heavy on the conspiracy theories and devoid of much of any factual basis. The misguidance and partial misuse of a system doesn't make the system wrong, it could be true but twisted by people, meaning that the truth is there to be found.
You're probably confusing translation with transmission, b/c for one thing, translating from Greek and Hebrew to English is very straightforward. And seriously, I mean no disrespect to you; rather, I'm pleading with you. If you don't even know the word to describe what you're trying to say, shouldn't that tell you that you don't have nearly enough info to make a decision about a topic that's so important as your eternal soul?

You apparently prefer to deceive yourself thinking all of this foggy gobbledygook when you yourself just admitted that life has no meaning. If life has no meaning, then truth has no meaning and there's no reason to seek truth. Indeed, there's no reason to complain that life has no meaning. So why do you do it?
You do it b/c you know that you've done wrong and that you are liable to answer for your lawbreaking before God, but you don't want to dwell on it b/c it makes you feel too guilty and you don't want to repent before Jesus.

Actually, my religious views as you call them don't make me very comfortable at all in a lot of ways, b/c they remind me that I have a long, long way to go if I am to be like Jesus. Indeed, I'll never get there until I die, when God will make me like Him, but it won't be b/c of anything I've done.

Anyway, why would anyone (indeed, SHOULD anyone) hold to a worldview that they know bereaves them of any meaning in life when they could have a different worldview that DOES provide meaning? You might answer "Well, I don't think that other one is true", but if life has no meaning, so what? Your worldview is the ultimate "So what?" May the Lord have mercy on you for that.


Sad, so sad is the lost state of this person and so many others.
See also here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Atheists wrangling about morality - it's just funny

A CFI commenter named 'theclapp' has succumbed to the temptation to debate with me about certain things related to morality and atheism. He doesn't know better yet. ;-)

Anyway, he asked me to take our discussion elsewhere, I offered my blog, here we are. The thread in question deals with whether an atheist rapper is right or wrong to make offensive statements and slurs and epithets against homosexuals in his rap lyrics. The whole thing just makes me chuckle at the large-scale display of cluelessness. They have no grounding for any moral statement they make, but that doesn't stop them! No sir. Morality of one? Why the hail not just throw out some touchy-feely subjective "I don't like this (oh, and I also don't like lobster 'cause it tastes funny)" type of statement and see if anyone will swallow it? It generally goes unchallenged b/c most US and UK atheists hold to a vaguely biblical ethic, but what possible answer would they have if they were to encounter some actual diversity of opinion?
So here is the summation of my interaction with theclapp:

Original post: Should atheists, and those involved in the "atheist movement" (which overlaps the humanist, skeptic, freethought, etc. movements), be concerned if an avowed advocate for atheism expresses such views? Should atheist organizations withhold support, and individual atheists who disagree turn their backs?

Another question: If someone does not rely on tradition or religious authority to form ethical views, are there any good reasons (besides "I find it yucky") to be so virulently homophobic?

Rhology: You act inconsistently with your atheism when you make moral judgments of any kind that you expect or imply should be or are normative for anyone else. I also chuckle when I see atheists engage in moral debate like this - it’s all “I like chocolate ice cream” vs “yeah? Well, I don’t”.


Rhology: Let me ask you guys a question.
How do you know when something—anything—is true?

theclapp: Like everyone, I have certain axioms that I believe to be true without proof. One of them is that I exist. One is that I can learn about reality via my senses. And one that I’m debating, but having a hard time putting into words, is that truth does not exist, only consistency. I cannot say that X is true, only that it appears consistent or inconsistent with other axioms, theorems, and hypotheses, which (hopefully) are consistent with reality.

Theists like to ask atheists “how can you talk about morality when you have no objective reference for it?” (by which they mean, a deity, usually their deity, usually the being portrayed in the Bible). “If you have nothing objective to rest your theories on, then it’s just ‘what I like’ and ‘what I don’t like’.” I object (hah) to this on a couple of points. First, I rest my theories on observed reality, which is as objective as I can get. Second, as I don’t accept the Bible as divinely inspired (much less dictated, as some have claimed), it has just as much (or as little) legitimacy as any other document created by humans.

So here’s the thing. I value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (among other things). I have *observed* that others do too. I have *observed* that slamming an entire class of people frequently leads to a general decrease in the life, liberty, and/or happiness of said class, and occasionally in the person doing the slamming, to boot. I have *observed* that sometimes when people slam groups that don’t contain me, occasionally they get around to slamming groups that *do* contain me. So when people go around slamming homosexuals for no good reason, or for demonstrably false reasons, I object, and I question what good can come of it.

So, in a nutshell, I object to homophobia, especially loud, obnoxious, and unfounded homophobia such as Charlie’s, out of selfishness.

Rhology: It’s good of you to concede that. With some ppl, it’s like pulling teeth. Now, you do realise that most atheists deride Christianity as being “w/o proof” too. So even on your own views, your worldview is on the same level as mine, founded on no proof. (I don’t agree with that, but I’m talking about the implications of YOUR views here.)

Your 2nd paragraph commits the naturalistic fallacy. Let me suggest you look that up, and get back to me.

I value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

And maybe my ethic makes depriving you of those things morally obligatory and praiseworthy. So, which of us is right, and how can we know?

So when people go around slamming homosexuals for no good reason, or for demonstrably false reasons, I object, and I question what good can come of it.

1) Maybe, to me, “atheists are &*^*^&%*%ing pieces of &^*&^&*^” is my idea of doing good to them.
2) Maybe, to me, insulting people spontaneously is a good reason precisely b/c it’s spontaneous and arbitrary.
3) Maybe, to me, ripping ppl on false charges is an expression of love
You might say “you’re messed up”, but that’s what I’m saying to you at the same time. So, who’s right and how can we know?
See, on Christianity, it’s easy to say you’re wrong and to explain how I know it, and I have an objective standard to tell me right from wrong. I want you to explain how, on atheism, that’s possible, b/c I’ve never seen how it is.

theclapp: You said “your worldview is on the same level as mine, founded on no proof”. Well, sort of. As near as I can tell, the actions and values of most atheists and humanists have a higher probability of being consistent with reality than the actions and values of some Christians. (You may or may not fall into that group.)

I skimmed the Wikipedia article on the naturalistic fallacy, and I don’t see where I committed it. I didn’t say “good => natural” and I didn’t say “natural => good” and I don’t think I tried to “draw ethical conclusions from natural facts”. I said I try to remain consistent with reality. I stated my values. I stated that Charlie’s actions conflict with my values and why, and that ergo I would not “support” him. I even stated the foundation of my values: base selfishness.

That said, and on further thought, I suppose I must grant you your initial assertion: it boils down to what you value and why, or as you put it “I like this” or “I don’t like that”. And so I guess the great question is: So?

Regarding your points 1, 2, and 3: You’re free to believe that, of course, but in my opinion such behavior is inconsistent with what I know of the core teachings of Christianity, and by observation such behavior frequently leads to other behavior and actions that go against my values (i.e., however indirectly, they threaten me and mine, including the society I live in), and ergo by both your values (or what I assume as your values) and mine, you shouldn’t do that.

As far as “right” and “wrong”, I agree that neither of us can know, but I disagree that we can’t reasonably extrapolate from observed cause to unwanted effect, and discuss why we do or don’t want such things.

As far as Christianity having an objective standard, in a way, you do: you have a book. The book says certain things. You can act in ways consistent or inconsistent to those things. You can argue and interpret your book in many ways.

But *shrug* there are lots of books. In the end, *you* decide. The Bible can guide you, but *you* make the call:

“No one’s finger is on the trigger [metaphorical or literal] but your own. All the talk-talk in your head, all the emotions in your heart, all the experiences of your past — these things may inform your choice, but they can’t move your finger. All the socialization and rationalization and justification in the world, all the approval or disapproval of your neighbors — none of these things can pull the trigger either. They can change how you feel about the choice, but only you can actually make the choice. Only you. Only here. Only now. Fire, or not?” —Eric Raymond. I don’t agree with everything Eric says, but I think this is an excellent point.

So anyway, you say: “I have an objective standard to tell me right from wrong.” And, from my point of view, it’s as “objective” as any other book written by humans. But Christians accept, as an axiom, that the Bible came from the Christian God. This is not an axiom that I am prepared to accept.

*Since you appear to realize **all** of this*, it puzzles me that you continue to bang your head against atheists and humanists, when you already know from the very beginning that your core axioms differ significantly from ours, and that until you resolve that fundamental difficulty, you will make *exactly zero progress* in changing minds. (... on the other hand, I’m doing it too, by talking to you, like a moth to a freakin’ candle, so I suppose it shouldn’t puzzle me *too* much.

Rhology's final comment on this: I’m glad you feel that way. Moving on.
Don’t rely on wikipedia. Here’s what I mean: it is said to apply to any attempt to argue from an “is” to an “ought,” that is, to argue directly from a list of facts to a claim about what ought to be done.

I don’t think I tried to “draw ethical conclusions from natural facts”.

Of course you did.
You said this in #14 - “I value life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (among other things). I have *observed* that others do too.”

I even stated the foundation of my values: base selfishness.

Now, can you tell me whether base selfishness is right or wrong? How do you know?
If you can’t, the fact that you don’t live like you don’t know whether your basic moral presupps are right or not tells me that you don’t value atheism either. It looks like there’s no reason why one would believe atheism beyond simple personal preference.

as you put it “I like this” or “I don’t like that”. And so I guess the great question is: So?

Go back and read the original post and answer So? for me.

You’re free to believe that, of course, but in my opinion such behavior is inconsistent with what I know of the core teachings of Christianity

So? I was asking whether it was right or wrong. Apparently you can’t tell me.

such behavior frequently leads to other behavior and actions that go against my values (i.e., however indirectly, they threaten me and mine, including the society I live in), and ergo by both your values (or what I assume as your values) and mine, you shouldn’t do that.

That’s not the case if I actually blv the things I said I blvd up there. So, just pretend I blv those things. Am I wrong?
And don’t play games. Don’t say “well, it’s wrong for ME”. That is a 100% meaningless statement. Morality is not the dealings with the question “What do I do?” It’s “what SHOULD I do?”

As far as Christianity having an objective standard, in a way, you do: you have a book.

Exactly. A book that doesn’t change, written by a God Who doesn’t change. This is a way in which Christianity has a far superior metaphysics than atheism.

there are lots of books. In the end, *you* decide.

No, God’s existence and communication is my starting point.
In one sense, yeah, I *recognised* its truth, but that doesn’t seem to be what you were saying.

They can change how you feel about the choice, but only you can actually make the choice. Only you. Only here. Only now. Fire, or not?

There’s one more question after that, and you posed it. Let’s say I fire. And the person hadn’t done anythg wrong. As you said, So?

it puzzles me that you continue to bang your head against atheists and humanists, when you already know from the very beginning that your core axioms differ significantly from ours

Yeah, that’s what alot of ‘classical’ apologists don’t seem to realise. But what I’m doing here is showing you the idiocy and poverty of the atheist axioms. If you can’t justify anything about the answers to these questions I’m asking, if you’re going to be consistent, you next have to ask yourself whether, even if atheism is true, one is obligated to believe it. And if not, what that means.
In fact, I already dealt with that very question recently. I encourage you to drop-kick atheism, b/c it’s idiotic.

So, it's up to theclapp now if he'd like to comment here.

Seeking the truth at the Center for Inquiry

Now, to be fair, I don't think DagoRed is a member of the CFI or has any controlling influence on them, but I pause here to note what he said in response to my good faith attempts to engage some atheists in thoughtful conversation on their own turf. You know, asking critical questions, replying to what they say and trying to get to the most rational conclusion. Stuff that atheists give lip service to all the time - finding evidence, parsing arguments, finding the truth.
Well, in my experience, many atheists just want Christians to shut up and want to keep their own religious faith close to the vest rather than engage.
Best if we simply ridicule and poke Rhobology (sic) (#13) with pointy sticks. He is a dull, boring, and VERY tedious fundagelical apologist troll who posts all over the place, and is simply looking for material to post at his own blog (he has already posted some slander about CFI). He has no interest in what we have to say. He is merely trolling for comments from nontheists that he will twist, warp, and caricature in a post on his own blog.
When you have nothing, it's best just to slander someone. And notice that I didn't twist, warp, or caricature what he said. I generally prefer to quote ppl as-is and let the product speak for itself. Congratulations, DagoRed, you've spoken.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

You get that cross down this instant!!

The Center for Inquiry blog posted an article with a rather offensive title that I found strange, so here are my thoughts. Until today, I'd always thought that an organisation with the name "Center for Inquiry" would be a science society, but I started to be suspicious when the Oklahoma U CFI invited Dan Barker to speak in November. Barker is no scientist - far from it - and certainly no philosopher of science. But, as it turns out, CFI's mission is "to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values." Oh, well that explains Barker. Anyway, on to the comments on the article:

From the Christian side of the aisle...a different perspective.
Why is it your or anyone else's business whether a private enterprise puts up a cross? No one is forcing you to go shopping there. If my local grocer put up a bunch of "worship Satan NOW!!!!" posters, I'd tell the mngr it was lame, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and hope he'd change his mind. If he wouldn't, I'd go to a different grocery store if it irritated me sufficiently.
I don't understand how putting up a cross demonstrates "disrespect (to) those without religion or those with minority religions". Shall I then think that any positive expression of naturalistic materialism or secular humanism or whatever it is you hold is automatically a disrespect of my own worldview? Not that I mind if you disrespect my worldview; you're wrong, but whether my worldview is "disrespected" doesn't send me running to the nearest newspaper. Why the oversensitive inconsistency?

You said:
Who wants to (shop) where someone else's faith is being pushed down your throat?

1) Apparently you don't. So go shop somewhere else. Let this guy try to make it in a marketplace where he has to compete with others, who might not have crosses in their stores. If you think you can do better, open your own store, and make sure none of your products contain the word "cross" or "Jesus" or "Jesús". Whatever you want.
2) How is hanging a cross on the wall shoving his faith down your throat? I suppose ABC News' showing the Pope's visit to the White House is shoving Romanism down your throat too.

Does this mean that a manager who lacked belief in the supernatural would be less qualified to manage the store?

You should know as well as I do that they were almost certainly referring to the man's Christianity-based integrity, sense of fair play, and honesty.

"If the Jews feel offended, They should, thats called guilt"

He might have been referring to the whole Christ-killer thing, true. And why not?
Matthew 27:24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

"Christ-killer" is not a Christian invention; it's a Jewish invention. Of course, the Romans share responsibility with the Jews for the immediate, physical occurrence of the execution of Jesus. But,
Romans 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
John 10: 17 (Jesus said:) “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”

In the grand scheme of things, *I* killed Christ b/c He chose to give Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice, an atonement for all the lawbreaking I've done. All the believers, Jewish, Roman army, and other Gentile, through history receive this benefit and thus also share in this (propitiated) guilt.

I'm not personally offended by the crucifix

Well, you seemed sort of bent out of shape that it was "shoving faith down (your) throat".

how inappropriate everyone might find it if above the service desk were a statement pushing a lack of belief in a god.

Then everyone who found it inappropriate would be free to shop elsewhere, wouldn't they? If it's YOUR property, you have the right to post whatever you want, and statements about faith and worldview are not indecent like a pornographic image would be. So, no, that wouldn't be inappropriate. Maybe you could start an atheist grocery store.

since the store is taking government funds to open a location downtown.

ISTM a lot of private enterprises take gov't funds for similar things. Maybe you should petition your gov't to add a proviso in future business dealings to that effect. But it's still a private enterprise.

Afterall, what business wants to display something in a very prominent place that may offend a minority of its customers(?)

This one. And if it thrives long-term in the very competitive and difficult grocery business, the answer to your question would be "a successful one".

Overall, it sounds like you were kind of desperate for material for today's blogpost, and spiced it up with a pretty offensive title. Why not try a little more tolerance in the future? It's good for those ulcers too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More with Burk


IF my presuppositions are true, THEN I can appeal to an objective standard for discerning good from evil. That's all I was saying.
I'd point to
1) your position's inability to give us an objective standard, and
2) the fact that you thus over and over again borrow from the Christian worldview when you make value judgments and act like they're supposed to be normative for anyone else and create some sort of obligation

as evidence against your worldview and for mine. Your actions indicate my view is right.

your own desires (selected readings and teachings from your tradition)

That's up to you to prove. What precisely have I left out (since you said I "selected")?
How do you know that I'm slapping makeup on my own desires? How do you know much of anything about me, or my desires? Are you my secret admirer (whom I've always suspected I had, but never knew for sure)?

I doubt you want to defend supernaturalism as being subjectively true, to the taste of the person doing the wishing.

Right, I don't. Interestingly, you are apparently defending your moral value judgments as being subjectively true.
I just think it's funny who ends up playing the postmodern relativistic card.

by way to desired consequences

Back up. On what basis do you argue that desired consequences are the basis of morality?

there is no objective good to appeal to- just our desires, which each person has in equal measure

How do you know that?

God himself has evolved with our cultural progress,

Um, God is timeless and immutable.
Maybe you mean our UNDERSTANDING of Him has evolved, but that's hardly the same thing. Further, the Bible's been around for 1000s of yrs. Hasn't really evolved. In fact, atheists frequently refer to Xtianity as "Bronze Age". Can't have your cake and eat it too, my friend.

this god has been made in our image, and reflects our wants and needs,

So, a God Who is so vast as to be incomprehensible in His fullness and Who convicts me of constant sin and breaking of His law, rendering me totally unworthy for any good thing, to say nothing of eternal life in Paradise, no matter what my actions end up being (b/c they always turn out for selfish evil anyway) is somehow a product of my desires, eh?
Again, how do you know that? Did you do a survey? When? Whom did you survey?
What makes you think humans dig a God Who delights in eternal self-glorification and eternal abasement of the puny man before said God?

Now, Constitution, you do realise that the Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution? Just like all the Constitution? 10th Amendment?

Now, you being a Christian, one would think that love would ring a bell, but whatever!

Sure it does. But love is not given by force. You still haven't responded to my original point about force vs generosity. Are you planning to do so?

I was simply trying to align your emotional reactions to mine, as have all the leaders in history.. Ghandi, MLK, etc. There is nothing objective about it.

So you don't know that Gandhi or MLK were doing good things, do you? That one would be justified in taking up common cause with them.
I'm sure you realise the stupidity of appealing to emotion in the face of lack of evidence. Wouldn't you be quick to criticise evangelists who try to ramp up ppl's emotions and then bring them to a crushing crescendo with a booming altar call, to see thousands rush the altar in tears? Yeah, I think you would. But apparently your distaste with that approach is reserved for viewpoints you don't like. When the shoe's on the other foot, you're full speed ahead. Why?


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sola Scriptura Debate - 1st Rebuttal

Thanks to David for his opening statement, in which he held to proper etiquette and did not rebut my own opener. Now each of us has free rein to comment on anything said by the other.
His statement seems best organised into divisions, so I will respond to each in its section. Interestingly, David ran afoul of some of the pitfalls I warned against. He wasn't supposed to and didn't take my opener into account, so it's not like he took the "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" approach, but it's instructive to see the predictable nature of the Sola Ecclesia argumentation. By my count, he stepped right into #1, #2, #4, and #9, plus two I forget to mention.
But first, let's ask the fundamental question. We both (are supposed to) agree that Scripture is a rule of faith; we are debating whether it is the only one. Has his opening, position statement presented a credible alternative? Tradition? The EOC? No, he spent half of it discussing the Canon of Scripture, something his own church isn't decided on, and 2-3 short paragraphs describing his position. These paragraphs are light on exegesis and supporting argumentation; apparently we are supposed to fall prostrate before the awesome clarity of Matthew 16:18 and 18:18. Interestingly, aren't those two passages found in...Scripture? If, as he says, "Scripture forbids that Scripture be interpreted individually", how is anyone to come to those passages and figure out that EOC is the right church and infallible interpreter, out of the dozens in the world? This is a fideistic, circular approach - trust The Church® because The Church® says so, BEFORE you attempt to interpret Matthew 16 & 18 to find whether Scripture actually supports that position. Appealing to Scripture with one hand while telling me I can't interpret it correctly is disingenuous. Finally, this isn’t only my problem. EOC teaches that Scripture and Tradition are on a par; what makes him think that ANY statement, in Scripture OR in Tradition (including anything EOC says, since for him that is by definition Tradition) can be interpreted individually? How is he, the EO layman, supposed to understand it? He's cut the throat of his own position.

David makes much of the idea "that Sola Scriptura would have been impossible for the first several hundred years of Christianity", but what does that prove? Remember, I said in my opener that SS is the rule of faith during the normative state of the church. If you want Sola Scriptura, you have to have a Scriptura, obviously. I'll let David deal with the initial answers in my opening statement (there are at least 4 already) and move on here.
I would like to reiterate that EOC has no settled Canon of Scripture. Since I bet he'll disagree, I would like to ask David when the EOC settled the Canon of Scripture, how he knows that, whether he knows it infallibly (and if so, how), and why luminaries such as priest and published author Kallistos Ware say that "most Orthodox scholars" disagree with the Councils' of Jassy (1642) and Jerusalem (1672) calling the Deuterocanonicals genuine parts of Scripture.
In point of fact, while there is no doubt God made His Canon known to His church, there is no reason to think that "The Church" needed infallibility for that. If that is indeed his contention, where has this infallibility been found? "Oops" is not a valid excuse for an infallible interpreter, but EOC has made mistakes and experienced internal dissension throughout her history. One good example would be errancy (David) vs inerrancy (quite a lot of Church Fathers). Further, this infallibility is unprovable, since (ask any knowledgeable Orthodox) its seven great œcumenical councils are sort of recognised, a posteriori, to be the truth since the church as a whole eventually moves towards acceptance of their dogma. Hmm, where have we heard that before? Why is David so quick to critique the Sola Scripturist view that this is how the Canon came to be known, when the exact same process occurred, on his own view, 7 times over? And how can that give anyone confidence about EOC's hold on the truth - their retroactive declaration of their own decisions as infallible?

Now, in reference to Canon1 and Canon2, it just makes sense. God knows what He wrote, but sent no "golden index" to tell us what He wrote. But again, the same problem exists for EOC and for me - can David provide a golden index of infallible, authoritative teachings from the EOC? Again, ask an EO-dox sometime how he knows that the Second Council of Nicæa was an infallible, œcumenical council. He'll tell you that the council took place, and then the results came to be accepted by the church over the course of time. Just how is that any different than what I'm saying? The only difference is that he's supposed to be a believing Christian, a theist and supernaturalist, who believes that God has spoken and that we can figure out what He said. If one were inclined to ask an Orthodox for a Canon of infallible authoritative teachings from God, he'd say the same thing.

He would like to know how we know that Canons 1 and 2 match now. We trust our omnipotent, loving God to make His self-revelation known to His people. There is little reason to think this would require that His people be infallible. Indeed, did He not successfully make His Word known to the Old Testament people of God? And what was their infallible interpreter? The Sanhedrin which put Jesus to death? The Sadducees who denied the resurrection in the Eschaton?

We further know it through the impossibility of the contrary. If God has not spoken clearly, sufficiently, and in a way understandable to people, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for neither today nor tomorrow do we know anything about God, eternal life, atonement, sin, judgment, resurrection, or moral law. Indeed, I'd argue we have no basis for ANY objective epistemology or metaphysics. Such an idea is certainly unlivable, and if one is inclined to argue that its unthinkability is a crutch for weak-minded people, I simply respond that if God did not speak, there's nothing right OR WRONG with being weak-minded.

No one denies that Scripture quotes extrabiblical sources, but what exactly is that supposed to prove? This merely shows that the authors considered the quotations true. Do EO councils never quote from external sources, such as individual church fathers or smaller, previous councils? Does David think that makes those individuals or non-œcumenical councils infallible by virtue of their citation? The indictment is even stronger on that count against EOC, since often these councils cite individuals as though they are supposed to carry some weight, some authority. If the biblical authors do that at all, it is infrequent; rather, they tend to use them as illustrative and as cultural context to help communicate.

David talked a lot about the Canon. Can he give us a Canon of ALL authoritative, infallible tradition from EOC? Is it infallible? If not, how is he in a better position?

He cites 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6 - if you read closely, you will see that 3:6 refers back to what Paul had already discussed in his two letters - the Gospel and his instructions with respect to the church. We'll have to see if David can overcome the pitfall I mentioned in my opener.

His exegesis of 2 Peter 1:20 is surprisingly, but typically, bad. Interpretation of a prophecy received by an individual church member, is not in view here; rather the emphasis is on the means of God's inspiring the text. Peter says that the prophetic word is yet more certain than his own eyewitness experiences, and goes on to tell us that "no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God". I forgot to include this one in my opening pitfalls.

Yes, the faith was once for all handed down to the saints. Yet EOC has introduced many novel concepts, such as theosis, beliefs about Mary, and communication with dead people by bowing down to images of them, and called them authoritative teaching. But how do new concepts equal "once handED down"?

We'll have to see whether David can show us some halfway-decent exegesis of Matthew 16 and 18 to justify his circular allegiance to the church, and hope that he'll do better than, say, shoehorning an idea of authority into 2 Timothy 2:15. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Jesus (and Paul) held EVERYONE responsible for properly understanding God's revelation. Jesus told us why many, however, reject what is clear:

Mark 4:10 - "To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that 'WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.'"

John 6:45 - "It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me."

Rejecting the Word of God as sufficient and sufficiently clear is merely a sign of the impending judgment on those who prefer to trust the machinations of man and love manmade tradition.

(Word count: 1597)

Monday, September 14, 2009

And why not? It worked in Blazing Saddles.

Burk Braun has asked some rather simplistic questions of me over at Dr Eric Reitan's blog. Apparently he doesn't know of my deep-seated hatred for all non-white people. I've tried, here, to correct that misapprehension.

0bama's continuation and furthering of Dubya's wrongheaded policies show me he's not interested in change at all, for one thing. And thus he's a liar. And "saving" the car industry and fat cat bankers is not "change" either - it's continued pandering to his fat cat lobbyist and union friends.
But he's gone way further than that, with his $800 billion "stimulus" pkg, and his continued insistence on the public option health insurance. Terrible idea.

Oh, I guess health care- the prospect of helping take care of your brother seems repulsive and hate-able, is that it?

What is about liberals and confusing generous, charitable donations with higher taxes? I see it everywhere I turn. Biden was talking about this during the VP debate and I couldn't believe how stupid he was to say it.
More importantly, if the gov't forces me to pay more taxes to pay for 0bamacare, there is not even the opportunity for charity, for love, for neighborliness (as Biden is fond of saying). Forced "charity" is not charity at all. If I don't pay my taxes, all of them, the IRS will try to force my employer to garnish wages. If I get around that, they'll send the police to arrest me. If I resist them, they'll have authority even to kill me! It has nothing to do with Xtian love or moral obligation.

think well, etc

That's just the thing. He DOESN'T think well. If he did, I'd appreciate it.
Is it really too much to ask that a man like the President, if he claims to be a Christian and trumpets it when he can, could get at least the most basic of beliefs correct? No need to "bathe" me; just show some evidence you know what you're talking about. Just a little.

But as you probably could tell from the last election results, others can.

Unlike apparently you do, I don't think truth is found thru counting noses.
My guess is you are now disregarding the polls that show high and growing disapproval with Chairman 0bama, b/c it's inconvenient for you.

What is your image of a politician? Who among us is better suited? Rick Warren?

Rick Warren, while by no means a great thinker or great man, would be a hell of a lot better President than 0bama.
My image of a politician, anyway, is a slimeball who virtually always lies, in order to get re-elected. My vision of what he SHOULD be, however, comes from the Constitution.

Could have fooled me, since every other word was "god".

Actually, I count one (1) "God" in there. Maybe you quoted the wrong part of the invocation?
And an invocation is a (worthless) tradition service; it's not his inauguration or anything of any value or that would give any insight to the man's actual character.

So tell us, what do you really have against him?

He's black. So I hate him, with a white-hot (if you'll pardon the pun) hatred.
You probably didn't know that all my ancestors were members of the KKK, including my parents. My 3-yr-old daughter has already set fire (voluntarily) to all the dolls she had that had skin that wasn't perfect lily-white. I'm a proud papa.

How do Obama's lies stack up against any president's of the last generation?

I didn't like Dubya either. Or Clinton. But 0bama's policies are much worse than either.
And he's black. Did I mention that?

How is his personal life, beliefs, and example a problem, other than not being in your particular sect of Christian doctrine?

You mean his constant covering-up of his relationship with Bill Ayers and ACORN? And his evident 20-year-old agreement with Jeremiah Wright and subsequent "I don't even know that guy"s?
And the fact that he's black? Already, that's a terrible example. I can't stomach the fact that my children will see a black person in a position of authority and think that could be acceptable or OK.