The Limits of Science and the Transcendence of God

March 10, 2018 § Leave a comment

Since the Enlightenment, many have tried to position science and the Christian faith (or Theistic religion in general) as two mutually exclusive worldviews. Many thought, and still think today, that advancements in science have replaced our need for God or His miracles. How should Christians think about science? Are science and faith in God at odds?

Sometimes categories are just convenient ways of maligning one idea and exalting another. The truth is, science done scientifically is good and true just as teaching the Bible Biblically is good and true. Both can be distorted and misapplied. To understand both better, including their compatibility, we should first look at what both science and the Bible say about themselves.

GOD around nature

RESPECTING THE BOUNDARIES

How do we do science scientifically? Science is a systematic process by which we explore the natural universe through observation and experimentation. The Scientific Method pioneered by Sir Francis Bacon (a man of both science and Christian faith) in the 17th century, involves making observations, asking questions, forming a hypothesis, testing it through experimentation, and coming to a conclusion, or repeating and refining as necessary.

Stephen Jay Gould rightly recognized science and religion as separate areas of inquiry, but he strictly defines science as “fact” and religion as “values”, which is a limited perspective of both. Gould maintains that these separate “magisteria” do not overlap(1), but when it comes to science and Biblical Christianity, that’s only partly true.

Science cannot explain God because of its self-imposed limitation to inquiry about the natural and physical world. God falls in the category of supernatural, which means outside of nature. Science by definition is not qualified to examine God.

Science cannot explain science because the foundations of science are not scientific but philosophical. Science deals with how, not why. So when we ask why do science in the first place, we can’t offer scientific evidence or reasons to support it. Science has no adequate explanation for itself.

J. Warner Wallace, a Christian apologist and retired homicide detective, applies his investigative experience by following the evidence “outside the room”, as described in the premise of his book, ‘God’s Crime Scene’: “Can everything we see in the universe be explained solely from causes found within the natural realm, or is there evidence of an outside ‘intruder’? Is the universe a ‘scene’ that can be explained by natural ‘internal’ forces, or is an external ‘intruder’ a better explanation?”(2) Just as nature itself can’t explain nature, science, the limits of which is nature, points to something “outside the room.”

God CAN explain science. God’s word in fact lays the foundations for scientific endeavor and the natural universe we explore with it. Among other realities, the Bible accounts for the origins of nature, the laws of nature, and the exploration of nature.

The origins of nature are explained in the Genesis creation account. When we observe our world and consider its possible beginnings, the evidence points “outside the room.” As the Kalam Cosmological Argument for Classical Theism presents: Everything that began to exist has a cause, and since the universe began to exist, the universe has a cause. Logically, the first cause of the universe must be uncaused, and the eternal, personal, all-powerful Creator God of the Bible is a sufficient cause.

The laws of nature broadly encompass physical/scientific laws (like gravity and uniformity), natural law (morality and human rights), and the basic rules that govern logic (like the law of non-contradiction). These are called “laws” because they are consistent and reliable observed patterns in nature (including human nature and how we think) that are not conceived or established by us, but thought to be inherent or transcendent. In other words, they come to us from “outside the room.” The Bible accounts for these laws with accounts of God establishing order and uniformity in nature (Genesis 8:22)(3), writing moral law on our hearts (Romans 2:15)(4) and creating us in His image as beings who also think morally and employ logic (Isaiah 1:18)(5).

The exploration of nature is a fundamental part of human flourishing since the beginning, or at least since God scattered the nations at Babel (Genesis 11). Our scientific endeavor is fueled by a hunger to expand our territory and a thirst for knowledge about ourselves and our world. But why do science? Why do we spend billions launching exploratory spacecraft and searching for signals from aliens on the outside chance that we might not be alone in the universe?(6)

We can deduce from Scripture that we are made to ultimately encounter God through scientific exploration. Paul, in Acts 17:24-27, told the intellectuals of his day: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and… gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him…”. And in Romans 1:20, Paul makes it clear that we are “without excuse” for atheism and ought to logically infer a Creator, as most do, by observing creation.(7)

TRANSCENDING THE BOUNDARIES

If we take science “outside the room” to assess the supernatural, we are giving it a scope and authority it is not meant to have. Granting science such ultimate authority is one of the tenets of a religion called Scientism.

While science can’t transcend the boundaries of nature and the physical universe, God is by nature transcendent. God is infinite and limitless in His presence, power, knowledge and love, so boundaries are nothing to Him.

Nature can’t logically create itself. God transcended nature, first, when He created it (Genesis 1:1). As Deism would suggest, God could have created the universe and then left us alone, but Colossians 1:17 puts Him “in all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (The so-dubbed “strong forces” that hold atomic particles together are interactions that physicists don’t fully understand). God could have left His creation to perish completely in their sin, but instead God loves us, cares for us, and is active in and author of our story.

This love led Him to absolutely transcend our world in the sending of His Son (John 3:16-17)(8). Jesus Christ was born in the flesh, living a perfectly sinless life as fully man, but died as an atonement for our sins, a payment He could only make if He was also fully God(9). After defeating sin and death on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended back to the Father, leaving us His Holy Spirit.

Our sin cemented a barrier between man and God. Through Christ, God, who is no respecter of barriers, broke it down. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes (or transcends) to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) If not for God’s transcendence into our world, especially through Christ, we could never realize transcendence into His—but that’s exactly what He offers through faith in Christ alone. Jesus is the only “Way” we can truly get “outside the room.”

SCIENCE AND FAITH

Some claim that “science says” this or that. But outside of the definition and parameters we’ve given it, does science itself actually say things? Or is it more accurate to say that science is a process by which scientists say things? Scientists are people with individual worldviews and the choice to either use science correctly or make it do things it’s not supposed to do when they say things.

Does “science say” that our universe created itself, or that life originated from non-living matter, was seeded on earth from another part of the universe, or diversified by natural and undirected processes over billions of years? Actually, people with Naturalistic or Materialistic worldviews come to such conclusions in the name of science (or Scientism)—without observation, without testing, and without the aid of actual science. They are starting with a certain assumption dictated by their worldview and working to prove it using science.

If we prop up science with worldview assumptions or take it outside its self-imposed limitations, we are anti-science. If we assume that God is only a conceptual crutch to explain natural phenomena until science replaces Him, we are anti-theology. People who consider themselves Christians should evaluate science on the basis of what science teaches about itself. Likewise, people who consider themselves scientifically minded should evaluate Christianity on the basis of what Christianity teaches about itself.

In another act of transcendence, God has given us His word, and the Bible understood Biblically does not contradict science understood scientifically, but instead supports and even explains science. When we see, do, and define both science and the Christian faith correctly and honestly, the two are in harmony.

1) Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), Wikipedia contributors (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-overlapping_magisteria)
2) God’s Crime Scene: a Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, by J. Warner Wallace, David C Cook, 2015, p. 23.
3) “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (NIV)
4) “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” (NIV)
5) 
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (ESV)
6) “The Cost of SETI: Infographic.”
Bad Astronomy, 1 May 2011 (blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/05/01/the-cost-of-seti-infographic)
7) “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (NIV)
8) “
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (NIV)
9) My post:
“God and Man Collide: Why the Hypostatic Union of Jesus Matters” (https://godneighbor.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/god-and-man-collide-why-the-hypostatic-union-of-jesus-matters/)

Darwin Day Cake Recipe

February 12, 2018 § Leave a comment

Darwin cake

Try this great #DarwinDay cake recipe to celebrate the birthday of Charles Darwin and his pioneering work on the theory of evolution by natural selection.

Ingredients:fruit-cocktail-add-to-mixing-bowl
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk
8 oz. frosting

Instructions: Add all ingredients to bowl and throw them away, because ingredients must not be pre-selected or measured. Ingredients must be raw and in their simplest, most unrefined form. Like the finished cake, all ingredients must be naturally selected for based on random mutations and pressures from the environment. Ingredients cannot be selected on purpose or mixed into a common environment; they must already exist in the environment wherever they happen to exist and left to mix on their own. Keep in mind that the wrong ingredients, the absence of certain ingredients, or the right ingredients in the wrong amount will not result in a cake.

Prep time: Uncertain, but many suggest formation began shortly after the appearance of the first oceans.

Oven temp: You can’t use an oven. Any heat used in baking the cake must be naturally occurring in the environment rather than purposely selected on your oven.

Baking time: Baking time varies depending on genetic mutations and adaptability of the cake over time, but plan on anywhere from many thousands to many hundreds of millions of years, or perhaps more. Nobody knows. Test with a toothpick and allow to cool.

Frosting: Any “Happy Darwin Day” messaging, imagery or other decorative elements must also be naturally occurring on the cake without the input of intelligence or design.

Serves 12-15. Happy Darwin Day!

Naturally Speaking: What Does Creation Really Say?

March 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

nis_campaign_promoNATURE IS SPEAKING is the name of a campaign to remind humanity of its place in nature, which according to Conservation International is the place of an ant relative to a boot. The warnings from this environmental organization with a genuine concern for the earth frame mankind as planetary parasites, voicing authority through movie stars chosen to portray elements of nature. This project reflects a popular secular environmentalist view today, steeped in Naturalistic thinking, so it’s worth examining from a Christian perspective.

In the project, Julia Roberts plays Mother Nature, Harrison Ford speaks for the ocean, Kevin Spacey portrays the rainforest, Edward Norton is dirt, Penélope Cruz is water (if she married Edward, would they be mud?), Robert Redford is the redwoods (see what they did there?), Ian Somerhalder is a coral reef, and Lupita N’Yongo is a flower (more videos have been added since I wrote the original post). The imagery is breathtaking and the voiceovers are thick with anger and sadness at our destructive attitude toward nature, and in some videos return a destructive attitude toward mankind.

NATURE IS UPSET

Julia Roberts, in her Mother Nature video: “I’ve been here for over four and a half billion years, 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t really need people, but people need me. Yes, your future depends on me. When I thrive, you thrive. When I falter, you falter, or worse. But I’ve been here for eons. I have fed species greater than you, and I have starved species greater than you. My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests; they all can take you or leave you… Your actions will determine your fate, not mine. I am nature, I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?” (Roberts’ scolding tone here has been compared to the White Witch of Narnia’s.)

Harrison Ford’s lament in a perfect, growly, old-man-of-the-sea voice: “I am the ocean. I’m water. I’m most of this planet. I shaped it. …every living thing here needs me. I’m the source. I’m what they crawled out of. Humans are no different. I don’t owe them a thing. I give, they take. But I can always take back, That’s just the way it’s always been. It’s not their planet anyway. Never was, never will be. … Me, I could give a damn with or without humans. I’m the ocean. I covered this entire planet once and I can always cover it again.”

As a result many label this campaign as “anti-human”. Humanity has definitely caused harm to nature. Conservation International bids us to “change course now, because saving nature is the only way to save ourselves.” There is a lot of truth in these videos. Nature can definitely kill us, and we couldn’t live without it. “We need nature,” and it’s absolutely true that we have an obligation to preserve it, care for it, and live with it responsibly.

CREATION IS CONFUSED

Nevertheless the confusion here is where this obligation to the planet comes from, and where it comes from is important. The secular voices behind this project believe there is no greater force than nature and no louder voice than humanity’s to speak for it in order to save nature and ourselves. Forces of nature are anthropomorphized (animals or objects animated with human qualities, like speech and attitudes) because the clear principals of Naturalism and Naturalistic Evolution behind these films leave no room for anyone else speaking.

The Christian worldview offers clarity to the confusion this project expresses on several points. Starting from the ground up, the filmmakers need God in order for their point to be completely coherent. Without a Creator God as described in the Bible, mankind would be, as these videos imply, just another evolved animal species. As such we would have no moral obligations at all—not even the moral obligation to care about other plants and animals species, future generations, or even ourselves. Even if we are simply after self-preservation, Naturalism offers no purpose or value for life of any kind, including ourselves. But we claim purpose, not just instinct. Even the moral “good” of survival, passing on genes to the next generation, and basic altruism can’t be accounted for by Evolution. Why are these “good” without an objective and pre-existing moral standard for good? At the end of the day, survival and caring for the planet are subjective preferences if we imagine the world without God.

And let’s not forget that creation requires a Creator. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19b,20) From what has been made, we ought to recognize our world is not the result of the undirected processes of nature, a nature that can’t logically make itself. It was God who shaped the earth, not Harrison Ford’s ocean.

The videos point to humanity as the problem and despise it for neglecting nature. Such humility is a good start, but it’s incomplete on a Naturalistic view. God’s word says that humanity is loved but fallen (Genesis 3). God created a “good” creation (Genesis 1:31), and along with mankind, creation has fallen under the same curse of sin, groaning (Romans 8:22) for a day of restoration. The annihilation of the human race fantasized about in this project and as the theme of many of books and movies is misplaced. Our enemy is not nature or man, but the sin that has plagued both. We desire redemption.

NATURE SPEAKS TO GOD

Is nature really speaking through these prophets of Mother Earth? No indeed. If nature says anything, it declares the glory of its Creator.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
Psalm 19:1-4

GOD SPEAKS TO NATURE

At creation, it was the voice of God that spoke nature into existence.

And God said, “Let there be light,” … “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” … “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” … “Let the land produce vegetation…” … “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky…” … “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth…” … “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…” … “Let us make mankind…” And it was so.
Genesis 1:2-29

GOD SPEAKS TO MANKIND

Our stewardship over the planet is a charge from the Creator.

“Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” (Genesis 1:26)

You [God] made them [mankind] rulers over the works of Your hands; You put everything under their feet.” (Psalm 8:6) 

This certainly doesn’t mean we have the right to abuse His creation, any more than we have the right to crash a car we borrow from someone else. Stewardship involves responsible care of what God has charged us with. That means we should be right-headed about the environment. We will always clash with each other about what “right-headed” means in terms of what may or may not be affecting the forest and the oceans and the ozone, but it’s critical to know first who the owner of all of that is. And He has identified Himself to us.

THE POINT OF NATURE

Nature is for us. Statements like that often have atheists up in arms about Christian hubris, but this is not to say that man is the center of the universe. We are not; God is. Our ultimate authority, the Bible, tells us that nature is for us to see and then point to its Creator, who is known by His marvelous works. God made the earth for mankind to live in, to care for, and to discover Him through. He created the heavens too, so that we may look in that direction for something greater than us, greater than nature, greater than the sin that causes neglect. Through nature we discover a sovereign Lord who set the earth in motion and reassures us that it will endure until His perfect timing brings its restoration (Genesis 8:22; Revelation 21:1-6). Yes, we absolutely should take better care of the earth, because it’s His. Christians can watch these videos and see our correct place in the world, as stewards of God’s amazing creation. And with the sound muted, we can watch these videos and worship not the creation (Romans 1:25), but nature’s Creator Himself.

[Related post: The Logical Failure of Moral Evolution]

Pope Francis Redefines Both Creation and Evolution

October 29, 2014 § 2 Comments

As a recent article in The Independent reports: Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God isn’t ‘a magician with a magic wand’. 2v2-francis-popeSpeaking at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope made comments which experts said put an end to the “pseudo theories” of creationism and intelligent design that some argue were encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

Does the Pope present a good argument for God’s hand in the Big Bang and evolution? The Pontifex’s points, and those of his applauding “experts” actually don’t hold holy water.

Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator – arguing instead that they “require it”.

It’s true that The Big Bang and Evolution would require a Creator like the one described in Genesis. But does that Creator require either the Big Bang or evolution? Not at all. In his argument, Pope Francis is not starting with the Bible, he is starting with the assumption of the Big Bang and evolution.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.

How does the idea of God creating the Big Bang or Theistic Evolution appear any less “magic” (to anyone wishing to call ex nihilo creation “magic”) than God creating in six literal days? Either way, God created the universe from nothing. If someone wants to call that magic then they will regardless of the processes He used along the way.

He added: “He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfilment [sic].

“He created human beings and let them develop” into what? Human beings? If God created human beings and we end up with human beings, where’s the evolution?

Adding to the confusion, here is an “expert”: Giovanni Bignami, a professor and president of Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos: “The pope’s statement is significant. We are the direct descendents from the Big Bang that created the universe. Evolution came from creation.”

He’s right about one thing: The Pope’s statements are significant, reflecting a significant departure from sound Biblical exegesis. In Matthew 19:4, Jesus reminds the religious teachers of the first century what they should have already known: “Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’…?”. So according to Scripture, revealed by the very One who created, God didn’t create human beings billions of years after He made the universe, but “at the beginning.” Unless Jesus be a liar or a fool.

The Catholic Church has long had a reputation for being anti-science – most famously when Galileo faced the inquisition and was forced to retract his “heretic” theory that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

This may be a motivation for the Pope to make peace with “science”, but in doing so he is duped by the straw man that is the entire “science vs faith” parody. This is a false dichotomy. Christian faith has no quarrel with science done scientifically. Some muddled understanding of The Big Bang may fit in with God’s first creative act, but most of the theory’s developers had no vision to include God in their models, and the purists of any secular theory of origins will reject any participation by a deity. The same goes for macro-evolution. In order to meet Scientism half-way, Pope Francis must redefine both the historic teaching of Creation and secular theories of origins, and neither side will be willing to accept the accommodation he proposes.

We can force some divine-infused form of Naturalism into a watered-down allegorization of the Bible’s historical creation account, but when we do, we are clearly not beginning with the Word of God as our authority. Pope Francis should know better. “Haven’t you read…?” (Mat. 19:4a)

Get The Facts Straight: A Response to ‘Religious Constriction’, Part 2

June 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Fact checkThis post is the second of a 2-part critique of the worldview revealed in Charles Blow’s recent New York Times opinion piece, Religious Constriction (June 8, 2014). The first highlighted his detached view of Biblical literalism, a detachment all too common in postmodern culture. This one centers on the latter half of Blow’s article, which reveals a gross misunderstanding of the concept of facts. He writes:

“What worries me is that some Americans seem to live in a world where facts can’t exist. Facts such as the idea that the world is ancient, and that all living things evolved and some — like dinosaurs — became extinct. Facts like the proven warming of the world. Facts like the very real possibility that such warming could cause a catastrophic sea-level rise.”

First, Blow reveals that he isn’t sure what a fact is. A scientific fact, the type of fact he lists above, is “any observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and accepted as true; any scientific observation that has not been refuted.” Do the facts he uses as examples fit this definition? Let’s check.

“Facts such as the idea…” (Hold on. Are ideas facts, or in fact just ideas?) “…that the world is ancient, and that all living things evolved…” Blow is making assumptions, not recalling observations, about the past. And widely disputable assumptions at that. He was not there to observe primordial origins of the earth, or evolution, and he cannot test, let alone repeatedly confirm, either. He continues, “and some — like dinosaurs — became extinct.” We can observe the presence of dinosaurs in the fossil record, and their absence in the present day (something we can test and confirm) makes their extinction a fact. Christians do not refute the existence or extinction of dinosaurs, so I’m not sure why Blow included this at all.

More scientific facts from the author: “Facts like the proven warming of the world.” There is plenty of debate about this, but there is little proof of “warming”, assuming this means the earth overall is heating up due to our carelessness. What is proven is that there have been warming trends and there have been cooling trends in earth’s history. What is not proven fact is the idea that we are responsible for an impending natural global disaster. It’s summertime in the northern hemisphere, and the phenomenon he is referring to is known as weather. Lastly, “Facts like the very real possibility that such warming could cause a catastrophic sea-level rise” is a letdown. The term fact begs for a bit more certainty than a “very real possibility” that global warming “could” cause the oceans to overflow. Remember, we are talking about something that is confirmed through observation and repeated testing. Catastrophic climate change doesn’t fit the bill either.

What folks like Blow and Christians all have is evidence, not scientific facts, about the earth’s ancient history or climate change. We also all have a worldview bias. Everyone interprets the same evidence differently based on their worldview, what they already believe to be true. Everything is filtered through it, including the way we decide what is factual.

While theories like the Big Bang and Darwinian Evolution cannot by definition be scientific fact, Christians can’t truthfully call Creation, Noah’s Flood, or Jesus’ resurrection scientifically factual either, because we did not observe those events and cannot test them in the present scientifically. Christians rely on the account of God in His Word for an explanation of truth.

It’s important to note that there is some difference in the definitions of scientific fact, and fact, something that is based on truth that occurs whether or not we can observe or test it. The criteria for a fact is not as rigorous as that for a scientific fact. Both atheists and devoutly religious theists believe in certain basic presuppositions that we can’t empirically observe or prove, but we are convinced that they are facts, that they correspond with reality.

While personally I don’t think it’s helpful in apologetics to call a Christian’s most deeply held beliefs facts, we can reason that, when we by faith consider them to be factual, i.e. the Bible’s account of origins, they make sense of life, humanity, and the world that we can observe and repeatedly test. If we by faith believe that the Big Bang and Materialistic Evolution are factual, it doesn’t make sense of our reality. Instead we are left with more unanswered questions: Without an eternal God, what was nature’s first cause? Nature? How do the laws of logic and morality derive from undirected natural processes, from nothing but matter and motion? If we are to consider something we think happened in the past as a fact, it ought to at least make sense of the present.

By “some Americans [who] seem to live in a world where facts can’t exist,” Charles Blow means Christians who read the Bible literally, who assume that it means what it actually says. His straw man is the portrayal of Christianity and other religious “fundamentalism” in direct conflict with the facts. Blow desires that “Americans, particularly political leaders, who choose religious piety must also create an intellectual framework in which things of faith that exist without proof can make space for truths for which there is proof.” As we can see, Blow did not and cannot prove what he considers to be truth. Christianity is indeed in conflict with what Blow assumes by faith to be facts, but we are by no means opposed to facts that we can observe and test, that actually fit with our experience of ourselves and the universe.

Misrepresenting someone’s position makes it easier to attack. In his conclusion we see Charles Blow’s classic straw man repeated and wrapped in a kind of patriotic concern for the intellectual progress of our nation: “Religious fundamentalism at the expense of basic scientific facts threatens to obscure America’s beacon of light with a bank of fog.” This is a tired misrepresentation of Christianity but we’ll see it again from secular worldviews. With such a poor understanding of “facts” from Charles Blow and the liberalism of the media elites, it’s clear where the “bank of fog” hangs.

Related post: Literal Confusion: A Response to ‘Religious Constriction’, Part 1

Ken Ham Won the Creation Debate, and So Did Bill Nye.

February 6, 2014 § 14 Comments

On February 4, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” debated Answers In Genesis president Ken Ham on this question: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Before the debate, a friend said he hoped that there wouldn’t be a lot of bias and asked me who I thought would win. I explained that I don’t know how I would assess a win or loss apart from my own bias. My friend was talking about the bias of the moderator—CNN’s Tom Foreman, who was as neutral as a moderator could be. But I think it’s true that deciding who “wins” the debate very much depends on who’s side you are on before the debate even begins. That’s because whether we are debating or watching, we take our presuppositions–basics we assume to be true without evidence–into it with us, and we are incredibly stubborn about giving them up. Only one of the debaters understood this.

The beginning remarks and individual presentations were well-prepared and complete, and the highlight in my opinion. Ken’s arguments for a young earth creation were strong and clear, firmly rooted in the Bible as man’s ultimate authority. Bill’s were also well-formed as he posed some really tough challenges to creationism, although he seemed to stray from the topic to a focus on the age of the earth and Noah’s flood, which don’t pose a direct challenge to creationism with respect to the the question being debated.

Their differing presuppositions come to light in each point of their presentations. For instance, Ken’s creationism is firmly rooted in the book of Genesis. He presupposes the truth and authority of the Bible as God’s word, and in God as the infinite Creator. Bill’s materialism is firmly rooted in man’s ideas, that life and the universe evolved, somehow, from an unknown but presumably mindless beginning. Both positions are held a priori on faith, because neither presupposition can be proven with any kind of scientific process.

Ken was appropriately adamant about defining terms, specifically “science” and “evolution”,  noting that secularists have hijacked them for their exclusive use. Bill affirms this by consciously classifying his own position as science, and Ken’s position as something else. Science, as Bill says, was practiced by mainstream scientists, outside the walls of “this facility” (Bill never did correctly name the hosting venue as the Creation Museum, stammeringly calling it “this facility” no less than three times). Ken is thorough in providing numerous  testimonies from creationists who have made significant contributions to various scientific fields (for example, Raymond Damadian, pioneer of the MRI machine). This exposes Bill Nye’s non-sequiter—it simply doesn’t follow that creationists cannot be scientists, which was made obvious to everyone who doesn’t simply assume this to be true. This was a presupposition Bill carried into the debate and it stuck to him like a soup stain throughout as he continually maintained that children taught creation will not have the innovation to keep America in the global game.

Ken makes a clear distinction between historical science (data derived from the past without direct observation) and observational science (study of what we can observe but not recreate through controlled experiments, i.e. the cosmos, fossils). This distinction is invisible to Bill and many naturalists since it presents a real problem for molecules-to-man evolution. The way we interpret data from the past is colored by our presuppositions, what we already believe (We were created vs. We evolved) about the past. Not wanting to be caught assuming the fundamentals of his belief, Bill doesn’t recognize the difference. Naturalists generally do not acknowledge that their most deeply held convictions are not determined by evidence, but by faith, which is also true for creationists. Ken is right in his assertion that creation is the only historical science model that confirms what we find in observational science. Unfortunately, he didn’t say enough in support of this.

Bill’s repeated diatribe about the Bible highlighted his ignorance of the Bible and the evidences supporting it, citing creationism as an “interpretation of a 3,000 year old book translated into American English” and using the classic “game of telephone” critique to assert how it has probably changed over the centuries. It would have been a fairly easy apologetic move for Ken to summarize textual criticism and the fact that early extant manuscripts agree with current Bible text. But he didn’t, and really didn’t have time to. By Bill’s own admission, he is not a theologian, but he clearly didn’t do his homework here.

In addition to the faulty arguments for creationism’s incompatibility with science, Bill repeatedly relied on an illusory attempt to reduce the size of his opponent while inflating his own position. He continually referred to creationism as “Ken Ham’s view” and “Mr. Ham’s flood”, as if these views were exclusively held by Ken and his followers at AIG. The earth’s age aside, Christians, Catholics, Jews and Muslims all believe in divine creation (46% of Americans). Knowing this, Bill made reference to “billions of people in the world who are deeply religious” who do not accept Ken’s model, meaning old earth creationists. Ken is a young earth creationist. But, while Ken maintains old earth creationists have problems reconciling an old earth with certain language and theology presented in Genesis, he certainly identifies with them in the common faith that God created. The question being debated is not about whether creation is billions of years old or thousands. Bill expressly denies theistic evolution or creationism in any form, young or old. Aside from being an appeal to authority (Ken correctly points out elsewhere in the debate that the majority is not always right), this seems like an attempt by Bill to bring the world’s old earth creationists on his side. But Bill is a naturalist, so this won’t do.

The points most devastating to naturalism were ones largely unanswered by Bill, and those are the preconditions of intelligibility that Ken laid out: We accept by faith certain natural laws, such as the laws of logic, morality, uniformity, that allow us to do things like scientific experiments and reasoned debate. The naturalist assumes these to be true but can’t account for them on his own worldview. These natural laws make sense if they come from a logical, moral, uniform God who made us in His image. They shouldn’t exist if naturalism is true. Bill’s best answer on this is “I don’t know.” Ken also pointed out that knowledge and complexity don’t come from a universe originally devoid of these things, and Bill answers were missing here too.

I didn’t think Ken fared as well in the rebuttal stage or in the Q and A session that followed. He didn’t seem as well prepared, and his introductions to the Gospel seemed forced and a little out of place, especially since Bill provided no inroad to the gospel in his script. I want to be careful with that though, because I believe that presenting the Gospel should be the ultimate goal in apologetic endeavor, and a discussion about creation is really only a step or two way from the opportunity (Creation was originally good, man fell into sin, sinful man needed a Savior). But it seemed, at the end of the debate with time dwindling, this opportunity would have been better spent addressing some of the questions Ken didn’t have time to answer earlier. The gospel was a star in Ken’s initial presentation.

In my opinion Ken also spent too much time on arguing for a young earth, even though I share this view. Attention brought to the ecclesiastical divide between old and young earth creationists wasn’t helpful in this debate. Since the question debated was whether or not creation in any form fits with today’s world, it seemed pretty irrelevant. Although Ken did do a good job of exposing the unreliability of dating methods, Ken’s focus on a young earth also brought attention to the fact that he didn’t get around to addressing many of Bill’s challenges that seem to support long ages, i.e. the number of snow ice layers, very old trees, and the settling of rock layers.

The last question asked of both men was, “What is the one thing, more than anything else, upon which you base your belief?” Ken’s basis was God and His word. Bill’s reply began with a quote from his previous mentor Carl Sagan: “When you’re in love, you want to tell the world.” Bill’s love, he goes on to explain, is “information and the process we call science”. Now what if, instead of summing up his love for science, Bill had tried to explain love itself? And would he admit that he probably would put love higher than science? This, like much of what he and every naturalist base their most important beliefs upon, would have to be presupposed, as they make no sense on a completely materialistic universe.

Earlier in the final round of Q and A one question put to both debaters asked if they could imagine any evidence that would cause them to give up their worldview convictions. Ken Ham was doubtful that anything could change his mind about a creator God. Bill thought that a significant piece of evidence would change his mind about evolution, and he gave as one example a polystrate fossil. Well, I’d have to say Bill wasn’t sincere, since he has available to him evidence of numerous polystrate fossils. I’m guessing his presuppositions move him to apply some naturalistic phenomena or creationist misinterpretation to tree trunks or trilobite tracks that have been discovered to span multiple geographic layers.

We generally stick to what we already believe in any debate, and that’s why determining “winner” or “loser” is so subjective. It depends on who you ask. Unless winning and losing is based on something other than what most debates are about, like who gave the most eloquent speech (perhaps also very subjective) and who avoided more logical fallacies (a little less subjective). Otherwise, we are likely to call the winner the one who shares the same worldview we do, because there is no such thing as neutral belief. My hope is that the Lord will use this debate to persuade some for the truth of the Christianity, because the Gospel was preached, and Naturalism’s main problem was exposed. But they are generally very few who are converted as the result of one debate. That’s the job of God’s Holy Spirit. Like the guys at the podium, we hold fast to what we presuppose, ultimate commitments we already believe on faith. There’s plenty of debate after the debate about who won it. The lasting verdict? The truth will win in the end, when “every knee will bow… every tongue will acknowledge God.” (Rom. 14:11). But those are my presuppositions talking.

The Logical Failure of Moral Evolution

December 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

Logic shows that the universal applicability of moral obligations makes it impossible for them to have developed through Naturalistic Evolution.

1. Some humans hold that moral obligations evolve.
2. Moral obligations that evolved in humans should only be applied to humans.
3. Humans apply moral obligations to humans and also to intelligent beings in the universe including God, whether real or imaginary.
4. Humans do not apply moral obligations exclusively to humans.
5. Therefore, humans who hold that moral obligations evolved are inconsistent.

Put in a more Aristotelian way…

Major premise: Moral obligations are universal.
Minor premise: Moral obligations produced by Evolution cannot be universal.
Conclusion: Evolution did not produce moral obligations.

Deductive reasoning also demonstrates that Evolution could not have turned non-moral action into moral action.

1. Humans had a beginning.
2. Humans are moral beings, performing moral good.
3. A first morally good act performed by humans must have existed.
4. The first morally good act was morally good by a pre-existing standard.
5. Therefore, moral good must have existed before the first human moral act.

For more on these lines of reasoning, see Proof of an External Source for Human Morality.

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