The Absurdity of Something Arising Without A Cause

The king of skeptics, David Hume, taught that we cannot be certain of even common things that happen around us. He claimed that even when one billiard ball hits another, we cannot be sure that the first caused the movement in the second. But even Hume once said “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as to say that something should arise without a cause.”

To deny that effects need causes is to undermine most everything we know. We would hope no one would assert so absurd a proposition as to say things are happening around us without any cause whatsoever. However, this is exactly what some atheists are saying. They try to say that sub-atomic particles appear from nowhere without a cause, therefore we cannot be sure that the entire universe may have arisen from nowhere without a cause. Even Hume would not assert such a claim. Hume did say that after all the mental games we play, the next morning we must put the game back in the closet and go live a common-sense life.
It is absurd to say that since we don’t know the cause of what happens in the sub-atomic world, then the larger than atomic world could arise from nothing without a cause. Such a claim is an atheist of the gaps argument, unreasonable to its core. Such a claim is certainly not worth basing one’s eternity on.
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Posted in Atheism, Philosophy, Skepticism | 24 Comments

At What Level Should the Church Be Involved With Social Issues?

I was saved in an independent, non-denominational evangelical church. That particular church was very involved in social issues. They had a social issues committee that would try to influence culture and a letter writing committee that would meet to write letters to elected officials and tell them what church members think about cultural issues. At no time did they ever endorse a political candidate, but they did advocate for moral positions. They were very active. Since this was the only church I knew, I thought that all churches did such things.

It was only when I moved and joined another church did I learn different. In the many years since I was saved, I have visited many churches, been a member of several, been to seminary, and have been actively involved in ministry where I meet people from many backgrounds. For most of the years since that first church, it has been my experience that social action has been fading or non-existent in churches. Just this year, the largest protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, made a lot of fanfare about a new generation of leaders taking over. There were a lot of headlines about this new group of leaders wanting to leave politics behind.

I find this interesting because in the churches I’ve attended, I have never once seen a candidate recommended from a pulpit. There have been Christian leaders who have endorsed candidates, but not from a pulpit, or at least from any that I have attended, and I have attended very many. Compared to the overall population of protestant pastors and leaders, ones that endorsed candidates have been a significant minority. Further, protestant action has decreased on issues such as abortion, sexual morality, marriage, and divorce. When the Southern Baptists say they want to leave politics behind, many church members understand this as saying they will not be making statements on moral issues such as abortion, homosexuality, or marriage. I have heard evangelical ministry leaders specifically speak against mentioning abortion at Christian meetings because they did not believe in getting political.

Compare this to a hundred years ago, when conservative denominations such as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and Nazarenes were quite vocal about ills such as card playing, dancing, alcohol, and women’s clothes.

So we have a clear, conscious walking away from culture wars in protestant evangelical churches.

Change the channel to the modern black social justice movement. Today a black member of my church sent me an article from the New York Times that explained that black people are leaving mainly white evangelical churches because they do not speak up about black people and the police, immigration, and racial overtones in recent presidential elections. It would seem that white evangelical churches are criticized because they were silent about social justice issues.

So at this point I admit confusion. Is it not the case that race and ethnic based problems are moral issues? Is not abortion a moral issue? Is it not a social justice issue to keep marriages together so that parents can teach children to be effective members of society? Is trying to stop parents from voluntarily killing their children somehow a conservative cause? Is advocating public sexual modesty somehow helping candidates running for office? Is advocating help for destitute people arriving at our borders somehow more moral than stopping violence to a beating heart inside a womb?

Many, if not all, of these issues are moral issues that are distinct from political candidates. No political party has a corner on honesty and morality, and no political candidate has a verse in the Bible with his campaign slogan in it. Yet we are indeed called to be good citizens, which in our country means being educated on the issues and the candidates. That we should vote is a command, not an option, but there are no purely Christian political parties. That we should take action on social issues is expected, and indeed cannot be avoided, for to be silent on an issue is to make a statement about the issue’s relative importance. It seems odd to be expected to make social justice stance on racial issues while being silent on abortion.

Can we be more sensitive to white and black issues? Certainly. Should church leaders endorse candidates from their official positions? It is a bad idea, and I advise against it, but they are citizens and do not give up their rights when they become church leaders.

I fail to understand how we are wrong for advocating for some social justice issues and wrong for not advocating others. Perhaps we have been imbalanced, perhaps hypocritical.  However, we cannot be active on police violence against 20 year old black males while being silent on violence to 20 week old black fetuses.

Posted in Culture, Morality, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Luke Shows Accurate History

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
 
“A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord. . . ” (Luke 3:1-4)

We have to ask ourselves why such a passage would be in the Bible. The section listing the leaders adds no theological point, no spiritual truth, no church law, no personal edification, no religious end. Other spiritual books from the era do not include such passages. Why would someone include such a thing?

Because Luke, being an educated man, knew he was writing history and wanted to attest to the historical accuracy. This passage gives a time and a place. It gives real people who were leaders in real governments, people who can be placed. People writing parables or allegory do not include such details. This is history written by someone who was there.

We can prove the leaders in this section lived in the times and had the titles listed here. Since we can prove the parts we can corroborate, it only makes sense to accept the things we cannot prove, which was that John the Baptist actually spoke in the wilderness and said the things he did. We accept the passages we cannot prove because the passages we can prove are so accurate.

But further, this is tying Jesus to a passage in Isaiah 40. Isaiah says to “prepare the way for the LORD” which uses the name of God almighty. Prepare the way for YHWH, Jehovah God. John the Baptist, inspired by God, is calling Jesus God Almighty.

We have no way around passages such as this other than to accept them as they are: a factual historical account of a prophet of God who was telling us that Jesus was the one and only Deity.

Posted in Apologetics, Theology | 2 Comments

The Cumulative Argument Against Evolution

Evolution is a topic that raises emotions on several sides of the discussion. By itself it is not a subject that should divide people, whether disagreements be between Christians or atheists or faculty members of respected universities. It does divide, however, and raises the interest of many.

The following is a very brief summary of several lines of argument against evolution. They are all summaries, and no attempt is made to build each in detail, for a thorough treatment would take volumes for each. These are merely presented as summaries for thought and further study. This is presented as a summary of a cumulative case. I would ask that any responses be in the same vein.

1. If evolution were true, then all life is only geared toward survival, and what exists is only there due to natural forces, such as gravity or electromagnetism, or natural selection, commonly called survival of the fittest. In an evolutionary world, we cannot explain anything that goes above and beyond the need to survive. Therefore we have no explanation for why the human brain is so extraordinary. If we only need to catch animals and grow vegetables and kill enemies, why would we ever need to figure out advanced math, or complex, abstract concepts. We do not need to figure out nuclear physics to survive. We do not need differential equations, the ability to determine theoretical physics, or art of most any sort. If evolution is true, there is no explanation for the complexity in the human brain.

2. If evolution were true, our senses only exist to help us survive. Problem: If every rabbit runs from every bobcat because they think the bobcat is playing a fun game of tag, the same result will happen as if the bobcat were trying to eat the rabbit. Therefore our senses are not geared toward perceiving reality, but only to help us survive. We have no guarantee our senses are not lying to us, but only that they help us survive. For more on this, see Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism.

3. For most of the years since Darwin, evolutionary biology has dealt with large-scale questions: primates to human, or dinosaurs to birds, or amphibians and reptiles. The actual mechanism of mutations has largely been assumed. It has just been in the last few years that researchers have been able to actually look at DNA and see what is going on. In fact, the world of DNA is still being researched, and there is much still not understood. So far, the data is somewhat questionable as to whether it supports random mutations being able to make evolution work. At least, at the level of DNA mutations, we are just now peeking into that world. Mutations are the starting mechanism that supposedly drives evolution, and DNA is a field that is still relatively new. At the very least, it seems prudent to wait and see. The dogmatism that accompanies evolution seems unwise in the light of the primary mechanism being so much as yet unproven.

4. Similar to 3, the actual mutations that supposedly cause evolution are just now being able to be measured. The mathematicians are just recently getting involved. Unless the math works, then evolution will fail.  While I admit ignorance of mathematical theory, evolutionists are trying t work their way out of some dead ends presented by mathematical models of how evolution would work. Any workable model would have to be a statistical model that had enough random mutations to be able to be filtered by natural selection. To date, there is no valid mathematical model has been shown to work, at least so that the model has widespread acceptance in mathematical circles. The discussion is getting interesting. For more, see “introduction to Evolutionary Informatics” by Marks, Dembski, & Ewert.

5. The world of microbiology has increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years. The level of complexity within each living cell has been shown to be extreme, beyond anything ever dreamed in the past.  This field also has a great deal yet to be understood and is still still being researched. it would seem that standard evolutionary process would break down at the sub-cell level, for claiming that sub-cell systems composed of mechanical and chemical elements should compete with each other seems difficult, yet is essential to standard evolution. Further, the complexity there is so extreme as to stretch the credulity of the explanation of trying to make the sub-cell systems evolve from simple to complex.

6. Even if we eventually find immediate material causes for complex sub-cell structures and systems, material causes cannot explain the information found in DNA. The human genome is not merely a machine that causes something else, for it contains more than mechanisms. DNA contains information and fits well into information theory. The people in the field even use information-centered terms. The words on a page or on a screen are not merely ink and paper or pixels of light and dark, but contain ideas and concepts, reference data, the coding of the computer. I once asked an evolutionary biologist whether DNA contains information. He knew the conundrum he was facing, and answered that “it’s sort of information.”

7. If you get the scientists alone, they will often admit that even in their own areas of specialization, they can at best only understand a portion of the field. When you consider any field anywhere near a whole, the best minds simply do not understand the majority of the subject matter. It’s not because of lack of intelligence or lack of time and focus, but rather because of the level of complexity in most fields of study. Every field of science is extremely complex, and the more they dig, the more they realize they have yet to unlock the mysteries of what they are studying. Further, they have trouble keeping up with the research in their own sub-field or area of specialization. In fact, as much as has been learned in the last few generations leads researchers to realize how much is not yet known. It stretches credulity that all the accumulated knowledge of the history of science understands such a small percentage of something that is unguided and without intelligence.

8. Similar to 7, no one can be expected to understand the other fields of science that they do not study. However, for evolution to work, it would require many, many areas of science: astronomy, astrophysics, microbiology, paleontology, geology, and on and on, each of which must be considered in light of logic and philosophy of science. Each of these fields has many sub-fields, each of which in turn has areas of specialization. So no one has grasped all of their own field, let alone all of every field, yet evolution requires all of these areas for the process to work. At the very least, it would seem wise for evolutionists to dial down the dogmatism and be a bit more humble. It is entirely possible that people within a single field have misunderstood the working together of multiple areas of content.

9. Evolution is not testable and cannot be falsified. Whatever facts that get measured in a lab, evolution can explain, even contradictory facts. For example: Say you are walking on a mountain, and spot a man who has fallen off a cliff and is hanging by one arm, almost ready to fall to his death. You have a choice: you can risk your own life to save him, or let him die. If you risk your life to save his, the evolutionist calls this proof of evolution:  you risk your life to save him because of “tribal instinct” or “herd instinct.” The tribe or heard has a greater chance of survival than an individual. But suppose you take the other choice: you say “If he dies, there will be more food and women for me” and you walk on by, hoping he falls to his death. Well, evolution can explain this too……a selfish person is more likely to survive than a non-selfish one…..more food and women to reproduce with. Other examples exist in biology: If a series of animals can be placed in an evolutionary sequence, then their environment must have changed and they have evolved. If another animal shows long period of stasis, their environment did not change and they did not evolve. So evolution explains whatever data is observed, and there is no scenario that could arise that the evolutionary model could not explain within its scope. Evolution cannot be disproved based on data because it explains contradictory data. Models that explain too much reek of fallacies.

Posted in Evolution | 6 Comments

Systems of Systems Require a Good Designer

We think of science as providing modern conveniences, but in actuality scientists provide less of the things that make our lives more enjoyable than we realize. Instead, engineers take the things of science and make them work in practical ways. Newton may have demonstrated laws of motion and friction, but it was an engineer who took Newton’s laws and made practical machines that will do work for people. Engineers are responsible for cell phones, automobiles, air conditioners, space ships, and potato chips. A chemist may have figured out the periodic chart of elements, but chemical engineers figured out how to make the chemical compounds that are in so many of the products we use every day.

As any engineer will attest, getting a system to work is quite difficult. Getting a system to work correctly for a long time takes an extreme amount of effort, and even then the systems break down at some point and need maintenance. If we look at the development of things such as electric motors, which are a type of system, we see a long, difficult journey to create an efficient motor that could be depended upon to do useful work. To keep motors running requires periodic maintenance, including complex troubleshooting to find the root cause of breakdowns.

Further, the more complex the system, the more difficult it is to get it to work. Machines as routine as automobiles have taken armies of engineers many decades to make systems which work as well as they do today. Even today, after over a century of work by many thousands of engineers, our cars take regular maintenance or they would quit running rather quickly. Consider a system as complex as a space station and how many orders of magnitude it takes to keep such a system running.

Any engineer will tell you that to get a system to work as intended takes time and effort, and is a major achievement when it does.

In our natural universe, we also find systems. Our bodies, for example, have many systems: a circulatory system, a nervous system, a muscle system, a skeletal system. When we examine these systems, we find complexity. The nervous system is both electrical and chemical; the circulatory system has several major components, such as the shape of the veins and the nature of the blood components.

Further, the more we look, the more systems we find. Our bodies are composed of systems of systems. The several systems in the body have to work together to maintain life. The circulatory system has the heart, which is a pumping system. The heart valves are another system, the lungs yet another system, and blood cells are still another system. The more we dig, the more systems we find. As modern microbiology has well proven, living cells are extremely complex, and have major systems of their own, most of which have subsystems within subsystems.

So in many parts of nature, we see systems of systems of systems, many levels deep. We have yet to even discover all the systems, let alone determine exactly how they all function. Interlocking and interwoven systems that depend on each other.

While they do indeed break down, as arthritis and death are a reminder, the systems seem to work rather well overall. They have been repairing and reproducing themselves for quite a long while. We marvel at the human heart, which beats an average of 70 to 80 years.  Systems of systems, keeping life going for millennia, reproducing themselves, functioning quite well.

Which brings us to our problem: If God does not exist, then these systems are natural to the world, and the world naturally produces systems of systems of systems that work quite well for a very long time. They come together through natural processes, which hone out the poor systems and leave the good ones, naturally and inevitably. However, this is not what we encounter when we try to make a system. In fact, it takes teams of the brightest human minds to make one system that works. To get systems of systems, several layers deep, to work at all would be an engineers dream. Usually they find themselves trying to keep the old simple systems running at all, and have no time to try to design complex new systems. No engineer intentionally makes Rube Goldberg machines, for systems of systems do not work.

If nature has no design and no purpose, as Richard Dawkins has claimed, yet produced complex systems of systems, then it would seem that a guided effort by the brightest minds would be able to put complex systems together rather easily. Yet what we see is exactly the opposite. To get simple systems to work is difficult, and getting systems of systems of systems to come together and function well over a long time without intervention is not what human efforts produce.

It would seem that what we see in nature is a strong evidence for a master engineer beyond our wildest dreams. The fact that our brightest engineers fail more than they succeed should be strong evidence that anything that runs as well as the universe does not come together without intervention. The skeptic and atheist must answer the problem of why the universe runs so well all by itself, with no intelligence behind it, while our best intelligent efforts have so much difficulty. If the natural order was that systems come together and work well without an intelligent intervention, then our human engineers would have an easier time of their work. The fact that they do not demonstrates that the universe is not an accident but very well designed. Good designs require a designer. This we call God.

Posted in Apologetics, Atheism, Evolution | 19 Comments

Fragments of Truth

I saw a new documentary titled Fragments of Truth (see here). It features Dr. Craig Evans, who leads us through a series of locations, libraries, and archaeological digs to tell a story of early Bible manuscripts. The film also includes some top scholars such as Daniel Wallace and the keepers of the libraries which house the most important Bible documents.

The scholars in the film maintain that that they’ve proven that the papyri lasted much longer than what most people originally thought. Papyrus was a relatively cheap form of paper made from plant fibers, which compared to parchment, which was made from animal skins. The common modern myth has been that the papyri only lasted a few years, maybe 20 or so, and that in the early centuries the NT was copied many times over lots of iterations…..a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy.  But scholars in the film maintain that the average life of a papyrus was about 150 years, with many of them in use for 200 and some even 300. This is significant, for it could be that two copies from the autographs lasted until 500 or 600 AD.

Next, they now know that a good number of the early NT manuscripts were from secular, professional scribes, getting paid by the line. They would have no reason to redact the text, nor is their work as sloppy as many think.

Further, it would have been common for Paul or Luke or John to make several originals; keep one and send a few originals to different churches. Thus more than one autograph probably existed.

Next, the church was the first to make widespread use of the codex (book form), which makes the pages last much longer than scrolls.

With the huge number of copies, we can be assured that the Greek texts that are used in most translations for the last 1000 years are made from a small number of generations from the autographs. All the evidence points to a large number of manuscripts, each of which lasted a long time, and were available to trained scribes to copy for many years. The Greek texts that have been used for the life of the church were from a small number of generations from the autographs. Some of the extant manuscripts from the second or third century could have been first generation copies from the originals, done by trained scribes.

This further attests to the accuracy of the New Testament. Daniel Wallace, the author of a widely-used Greek grammar book and one of the world’s leading document experts, put the accuracy of the modern New Testament research to only 0.06% error, being 99.94% accurate. With this level of surety, we can be confident that what the Bible teaches about Jesus is what the original authors wrote. The film argues that the burden of proof is now on the skeptic, since the evidence for the text of the Bible is so strong.

We can be confident of what Jesus said. The question then appears before us: Why do we not follow His teachings? He tells us that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light, a concept that is missing in our lives.

Posted in Bible | 3 Comments

Can Animals Be Guilty of Hate Crimes?

A somewhat bizarre news story recently arose where a man tried to create a joke that backfired. His girlfriend had a too cute pug dog, and he taught the dog to do a Nazi salute upon the command “Do you want to gas Jews?” You can read the story here. 

The man is certainly guilty of extremely bad taste, but he has also been charged with a hate crime. He claimed he did it as a satirical joke just to annoy his girlfriend, but the court thought differently and convicted him of a hate crime. He may face jail time.

The event brings up a few interesting issues. Not the least of which is where does offensive humor stop and a crime start? Should the intent of a statement be worse than the statement itself? How do we know this man’s true intent when all we have are his words?

I look at this event with a philosophical eye. Let’s say we hold the man truly guilty of a hate crime and think he should indeed be arrested and kept in prison as a menace to society. But what about the dog? The dog was the one actually doing the salute to the offensive statement. Why did the police not arrest them both?

Many atheists tell us that we do not have free will, that humans are moist robots, and that our actions are conditioned responses to stimuli, just more complex versions of the dog being trained to salute. Further, the differences between humans and the dog are time and evolution, with the only differences being in the nature of what is called for in survival. So fundamentally there is not a difference in the man and the dog; both are merely responding to external stimuli.

Indeed, the atheist naturalist tells us that rapists and murderers do what they do because of a causally-closed universe, and that humans are not free agents and cannot originate a cause of their own actions. Therefore both the human and the dog are doing what they do for the same reasons.

How then can it be a hate crime, for the man is not truly hating? If we hold that the man is hating but not the dog, then we have no basic explanation for why this is so.

Of course, we do not lock up dogs for tricks that their owners teach them, and we know that the man should have had more compassion while the dog had no concept of the meaning of the command to gas Jews. For all the dog knew, the man could have been saying “Greep nackle harbing stu.” No society would lock up a dog for a hate crime. The only meaning the dog knew is that if he raised his paw, he got a treat. The ideas behind the words were lost on the dog.

Hate crimes exist because there truly is a meaning in our statements when we talk about gassing Jews or any other hurtful thing. Meaning exists, ideas have consequences, and in this case, widespread consequences of life and death. Further, if we can hate bad enough to be convicted of a crime, then mere non-material ideas have ethical consequences. Why is this so? Because there is an objective moral law that transcends the physical world. Moral laws require a moral law giver. This we call God.

 

Posted in Atheism, Morality | 2 Comments