Archive

Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

>The illegitimacy of anti-supernatural causation

2009 September 28 7 comments

>My recent post led to some discussion, mainly in response to my opposition in defining science as methodological naturalism. I think the previous use of the term Natural Philosophy was adequate for the time. It made it clear that it was the study of natural phenomena without the baggage of additional metaphysics that are unnecessary to the practice of science. The subsequent addition of historical science to operational science to encompass all “science” makes short descriptions more difficult.

My contention is that forcing singular past events to be natural (that is not supernatural) is artificial (not genuine) and arbitrary (not determined by necessity); in that if God did make an object, methodological naturalism would prefer the false explanation that man made it over the true explanation that God did. david w states

The difference is artificial if there can be evidence for supernatural causation. How… [can] we know if God made a house?

This is putting the cart before the horse. One cannot argue philosophically that God does not exist thus he cannot make anything thus nothing is made by God. One can argue philosophically the case for and against God, but if there is empirical evidence otherwise, that must be taken into consideration.

To ask what such evidence is for God, but deny that evidence is even possible within one’s philosophy is disingenuous.

If God exists and he made man, and is at least as capable as man then he can make anything man can make. It does not matter whether or not we can identify a particular object is made by God, the fact is this is theoretically possible. And a definition that excludes God from producing something when it possible that he could, and thus God didn’t, even if he did, is fallacious.

I think there is reason to think that God made some objects. But definitive evidence, or even any evidence, that God made something is not necessary to allow that possibility. We allow for that possibility in other situations, such as an unknown culture, or the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

It must be recognised that we are looking at effects, thus inferring the source. Extensive knowledge, or any knowledge, about the source is not required beforehand. It is in studying the effect that we theorise about the source.

Categories: design, logic, philosophy, science

>Establishing the model before doing the maths

2009 September 7 1 comment

>My recent post on information led to a call for a precise definition of what is meant by information. This request is eminently reasonable. I have yet to give an exact mathematical definition, or even an exact philosophical one. The reason is that “information” has a variety of meanings to different people; and the association with computing and information technology colours people’s thinking.

Consider gravity. My understanding is that ideas about gravity around the time of Bacon, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton changed the way people thought about motion. Prior to then it was obvious that objects fell to the ground, but the Aristotelian rationale for such motion was that (some) objects tend toward the centre of the earth. And observations would support this claim. Post-Aristotelian physics described the same phenomena, but for a different reason: massive objects attract each other. The stone moves toward the earth, and the earth moves toward the stone; but the earth imperceptibly because of its immense size. Same observation (as much as perceptible) but different explanation.

The old theorem explains pendulums better. Pendulums tend to the centre of the earth so they stop after a time, not doing so immediately because the weight is moving when it gets to the lowest point. Newton’s theory needs friction to explain the same observation; one could argue Newton is less parsimonious. However Newton was shown correct over time. And his theory was well defined, gave predictions, and was generalisable to the heavens.

My diversion was to highlight that the differences between the two approaches did not require them to be rigorously defined. The mass-attraction concepts antedated the maths by a significant amount of time; Newton had to invent maths for his theory! But a philosophical discussion on the merits of objects tending to the centre of the earth versus objects attracting is still very possible.

Similarly, it is possible to discuss other topics in general before rigour is attained, including information.

Information is a non-material concept that contains instructions thru language.

I use the term instruction somewhat broadly including being informed, not just commanded. That is, meaning of some form exists.

>Critique of my Young Earth Creationism post

2009 August 22 7 comments

> My post on young earth creationism raised several responses here and at Vox Popoli where it was originally posted. See also here and here. As well as a response on theologyonline.

These responses suggest some further aspects need to be discussed.

It is important for me to clarify what I was trying to do. I deliberately chose to give a scientific/ philosophical defence rather than a scriptural one. I thought it would interest a broader audience. And it is important to realise the issues in this debate are philosophical.

There were 2 main points I wanted to make.

  1. There is a fundamental difference between operational and historical science. Thus historical science can be challenged by types of knowledge (such as testimony and documentary knowledge) in a way that operational science cannot be challenged.
  2. Evidence against YEC that presupposes evolution is true is invalid. (In fact evidence against any theory presuming a priori that it is false is invalid).

So if people came away unconvinced yet more aware of their own preconceptions, and they could see that YEC is a valid philosophy that can be considered—and either accepted or rejected—then I am content with this.

The main complaints were the lack of positive evidence for YEC and the lack of exegetical support given for the YEC position.

Addressing the lack of positive evidence first. This complaint is reasonable, especially given my title. However the reasons given above are why I was cautious to discuss specific issues. Until these issues are dealt with, debates are frequently at cross purposes. YECists are forever pointing out the assumptions that non-YECists hold.

I had considered that too much discussion on the merits of, say, helium diffusion dating (and why evolutionists disagree with it) would miss the point that evolutionists are assuming ancient dates because they have a prior commitment to such, and thus they are judging other dating methods by their agreement, or not, to radiometric dating. Whereas my position is that the questioning of all dating methods is legitimate. As it was, the debates in the comments still frequently assumed the validity of old earth dogma.

Do YECists not also have a prior commitment to younger dates? Yes, they do. But they admit their commitment to a biblical timeframe. Evolutionists frequently deny their prior commitment and pretend they are somehow more objective, when in fact they are choosing the clocks that suit their purposes.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of more positive evidence of a young earth would have improved the post and it may be something I could address at a later stage.

My choice to avoid a scriptural defence on why the Bible demands YEC was deliberate, as mentioned. I laid out the basic beliefs for the benefit of those who did not know what they were; to clarify what YECists believe and also what they do not believe despite accusations to the contrary. However the responses and a conversation I had with a friend a few weeks ago has suggested that I should probably give the scriptural reasons for the YEC position at some stage.

>A defence of Young Earth Creationism

2009 August 14 33 comments

>Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is multifaceted. It is a metaphysical framework; a scripturally informed philosophy of nature which includes a scientific model that seeks to evaluate and explain the world. Thus it touches a variety of topics. There are limits in what can be accomplished with a short blog post, but I think that some clarity can be brought to the debate, specifically identifying the source of the conflict and the domain in which the debate needs to occur.

Antagonism to YEC is predominantly philosophical, rooted in naturalism. Opposition to the YEC position is frequently made using suppositions antagonistic to YEC; the proof of error is therefore in the axioms not the conclusions.

YEC has a long history. It has been the predominant position throughout most of the history of the West, until the introduction of uniformitarian interpretations in the 18th and 19th century by the non-catastrophic geologists. These geologists influenced Darwin and although Darwin didn’t publish his theory till the 19th century, evolutionary-like philosophies have a much older history, somewhat similar ideas proposed by some Greek philosophers. And YECists have good company with the likes of scientists such as Kepler, Newton, Pasteur, and Maxwell. But the issue is not a tradition game or a numbers game, it is: Does YEC accurately describe reality?

The underlying reasons for specific YECist concepts are: the rules of logic as applied to the Bible and science, and the grammatical historical hermeneutic applied to the Bible. YECists take most of Genesis to be historical narrative including the creation, fall, and flood. They think that most occurrences of the word “day” in Genesis 1 mean a usual day because of contextual considerations.

YEC touches several fields including theology: hermeneutics, theodicy; philosophy: philosophy of science, logic; science: biology, genetics, palaeontology, astronomy, geology, climate, thermodynamics; information theory; archaeology; history. (Hermeneutics and logic would be better classified as fields that form YEC belief rather than result from it, as mentioned above).

I wish to cover the following about YEC

  • What young earth creationists (YECists) do and do not believe;
  • The nature of evidence and science; and
  • A discussion focusing on a single aspect of YEC: the age of the earth.

What YEC is

YEC can be summarised as follows:

  • The universe is not eternal, it was created by God who is external to the world, self existent, and eternal
  • God created the world in 6 usual days
  • Nature was corrupted by the Fall of Man
  • The earth is about 6000 years old
  • The earth was deluged by a global flood about 4500 years ago
  • The Bible is inerrant and should be interpreted in a straightforward manner (according to genre)

There are several corollaries from this, though the specifics may vary. The creation model includes:

  • Most of the sedimentary layers of rock and enclosed fossils that occur worldwide were formed during the Noachic Flood.
  • The earth likely contained a single continent that broke up during or after the Flood
  • There was a single ice-age caused by the post-Flood climate
  • All land and air animals (of significant size) are descendants of the animals that were on the Ark
  • Man has coexisted with all animals that have ever existed
  • Natural selection (an analogue of artificial selection) occurs
  • Speciation is rapid. It occurs through allelic separation, genetically induced variation, or detrimental mutation (loss of genetic information).
  • There are genetic limits to the amount of speciation, diversification, adaption, or breeding that can occur
  • Information content of the biosphere cannot increase. Matter cannot create information.
  • Information is always the result of an intelligence
  • Loss of information can mean improved fitness within a specific environment, that is loss of function can result in improved likelihood of survival.
  • Lost information cannot be recovered without reintroduction of the same information (save trivial examples) by breeding or design
  • Archaeological artefacts post-date the Flood, which limits their age to a maximum of 4500 years

There are several accusations that are charged against YEC which proponents of YEC do not support or promote; such as

  • God (or Satan) created the fossils in situ as a test of our faith
  • God created things with false appearance of age (this needs qualification)
  • Animals were created how they look now and no new species of animals have developed
  • Entropy was a result of and did not exist before the Fall of Man
  • The earth is flat

On evidence and science

While much could be written in defence of the specific YEC beliefs, discussion can be difficult if foundational issues are not identified.

Modern science was originally a systematised process of categorising our observations to make further inferences and reduce our observations to consistent laws. While hypothesis testing is a usual method, data gathering to create a hypothesis was seen as legitimate. Thus, multiple measurements of the planets led to Kepler proposing elliptical orbits, which could then be further tested. Francis Bacon is frequently credited with formulating the scientific method. Written as:

observation → induction → hypothesis → test hypothesis by experiment → proof/disproof → knowledge

Popper’s falsifiability criterion has had a clarifying influence on the understanding of scientific theories. Therefore negative evidence was seen as disproving a theory whilst positive evidence is merely consistent with a theory, not proof of such.

Notice that Bacon’s definition is necessarily limited to observable phenomena. This is classic operational science (also called empirical science), which helps us infer laws about things that are demonstrable and repeatable. This is an enormously important distinction that frequently goes unrecognised. In contrast, inferences about previous events are not repeatable. This does not mean that the scientific method cannot be employed, rather that it is limited in what it can say.

Consider the science of identifying a criminal via a DNA sample. This science is not being done to discover how DNA binds to itself (i.e. hydrogen bonding), it is attempting to establish an event such as a murder.

So a fragment of the DNA is identified and then matched to a specific person. The samples can be run several times and in several different ways; both the forensic sample and the suspects’ samples. And we can establish that the forensic sample and a suspect sample match. This part of the process is operational science.

However establishing a particular suspect as the murderer is not observable. We cannot do an experiment several times to show that he did indeed murder the victim. Intrinsically it is impossible; the event happened in the past. And even if we establish he is capable of murder, it doesn’t prove he committed this particular murder. This kind of science is called historical science.

It has been claimed that scientists do not discriminate this way when practising science. This may be the case. When one does historical science there is usually an element of operational science as seen in this example (though the converse is not necessarily true). But whether actual scientists discriminate like this is irrelevant to the philosophy of science, what matters is whether this distinction exists. And it clearly exists because a methodology that relies on repeatability cannot be applied to singular past events.

The reason for this discussion is to show that historical science competes with other evidences in a way that operational science does not. If I claim my house is so high, I can invite you to m
easure it. Testimonial evidence doesn’t play a part. We don’t ask a range of people their opinion as to what they think my house height is. 3 measurements by several engineers using differing methods that all agree trump the opinion of a dozen opinions and guesses. This is not the case with historical science.

Returning to our murder investigation with DNA sampling, all we have established is that a suspect shares a DNA fingerprint with a crime scene sample. This may be because it is a limited test, say a portion of DNA with a limited number of polymorphisms. Even if we can be certain the DNA matches by performing adequate sequencing, there may be a identical twin brother we do not know about. Or the DNA may have come from the suspect, but at another time; a meeting earlier in the day. Now I am not trying to imply that DNA testing is inaccurate or inappropriate for criminal investigation, I am illustrating how its use in proving crime is intrinsically different from operational science.

Testimony of others meant little in the height of my house, but it means a great deal in identifying a murderer. Not because murder is more important that house height, but because it is not testable in the way that heights and widths of objects are. A claim that the suspect has a twin brother is a competing claim against the DNA test. A claim that the suspect was seen elsewhere at the time of the murder is a competing claim. A claim that the blood type does not match despite the DNA matching is a competing claim.

Note that competing claims against historical science can be both scientific and non-scientific (eg. testimonial).

Also note that scientific claims do not automatically trump non-scientific claims. The testimony of a thousand witnesses is not overturned by a DNA match just because the latter is scientific. We weigh several competing claims and people will be variously convinced depending on how reliable they regard each piece of evidence.

YEC is a competing claim about the history of the world. It is predominantly a competing claim to the historical sciences of biological macro-evolution, abiogenesis, stellar evolution, and uniformitarian geology.

Some of the YEC disagreement with evolutionary theory is due to consideration of non-scientific fields such as documentary evidence. However much of the disagreement is from a competing but different historical science. For example, consider the age of the earth.

How old is the earth?

YECists claim that the earth is about 6000 years old (though anything below 10000 years would fall into the same range). This is phenomenally different to the uniformitarian geological claim of 4.5 billion years. But note that any usual clock cannot calculate the time since the formation of the earth. We cannot go back, set our stop-watch, and mark off the aeons until now. We are considering a past event (or several past events). Compare this to measuring the time it takes a horse to run 1 km. We can do this measuring the starting and finishing time, and we can do this repeatedly, thus giving us the time (on average) the horse takes. For this we observe established clocks.

For past events we need to establish a historical clock, say radiometric-dating. Experiments can determine the amount of various isotopes of uranium and lead in a particular sample. One can do this part of the experiment over and over. We can satisfy ourselves to the limits of experimental accuracy that the sample contains a certain amount of uranium. This part of the investigation is operational science. All parties generally agree on the number of atoms identified in the sample and their ratio.

This ratio is then keyed into a formula based on a specific theory with a variety of assumptions to get a date for the formation of the mineral it was derived from. Now the theory is radioactive decay, which is reasonably well established, and an assumption is, say, no daughter isotope was present when the mineral formed.

The problem is that these calculations do not always give the answers that are thought to be correct (as established by other historical clocks or underlying evolutionary theory); so sub-theories are added, such as leaching of isotopes, addition of isotopes, incomplete melting at time of formation of mineral in rock. Creationists have also suggested a modification to the theory: the variation of decay half-life, though this modification is often disparaged.

Rather than discuss the merits of these sub-theories or, if you prefer, alteration of assumptions (all of which are reasonable); I would simply like to note that since radiometric dating is a historical science, there are competing claims.

There is the competing documentary claim, that the world was created 6000 years ago according to the Bible. This is a claim that YECists take seriously, much like the testimony of someone who witnessed an event. But documentary evidence is not restricted to the Bible. A variety of cultures have given an age of the earth much less than 4.5 billion years and more in keeping with the biblical figure, such as the Mayans and the Greeks. This particular competing claim is less convincing to agnostics and some theists, including some Christians. There are, however, other documentary claims and historical scientific claims that are worth mentioning.

Staying with radiometric dating, we have reliable documentary evidence for the age of some volcanic episodes. It so happens that rocks from lava flows within recent history that we know the real age of (via operational science) are consistently dated much older by radiometric dating, frequently hundreds of thousands of years or older. Explanations are offered up as to why this is the case, but the greater point is the model is reliably incorrect; it doesn’t matter how good this theory is or should be, the fact is the model doesn’t work.

If radiometric dating cannot get dates correct when we do know the true age, why should we trust it when we don’t know the true age?

We also have competing scientific claims. Radiometric dating is not the only historical clock. There are a large number of clocks. And even radiometric clocks vary depending on the isotope used.

Historical clocks often give maximum ages. This does not mean that the calculated age is the actual age, rather given the most favourable assumptions this is the longest a particular process has been going on. In constructing a clock based on sodium in the ocean, a maximum age would be established by assuming no sodium in the ocean when it formed, the lowest reasonable estimate for sodium influx, the highest reasonable estimate for sodium outflux, with the current concentration identified by measurements of salinity. The maximum age identified may not equal the true age, as the ocean may have started somewhat salty for example.

Within radiometric dating we have carbon dating competing with metal dating. Pretty much all carbon containing materials that have been tested contain carbon-14. This places an upper bound on their age. This includes diamonds embedded in rock supposedly millions of years old.

Other historical clocks include: diffusion rates of helium; decay of the magnetic field; decay of DNA and protein from dead organisms; elements in the ocean; recession of the moon, starlight travel from distant stars.

Objections can be raised against these other clocks (though the carbon-14 data is hard to surmount), but this is hardly the point. The point is that there are competing claims here. Radiometric dating of metals is favoured by the evolutionists because it gives a time frame needed for evolution. But it is one piece of historical scientific evidence. One person may find it convincing, but with so much riding against it, it is not unreasonable to weigh the other evidences heavier.

Summary

YEC is a worldview. It recognises a variety of evidences. It clearly understands the difference between operational and historical science
. YECists do not dispute any significant operational scientific finding. Investigating past events is philosophically distinct from investigating repeatable events and YEC views past events differently, and in a way that I think makes more sense of the data.

YEC theory on the age of the earth is more parsimonious. It is consistent with much of the documentary evidence. It is also consistent with many of the historical scientific clocks. Modifications to the starting conditions and rates give ages consistent with a young earth, including radio-carbon. Radio-dates of metals less so, but these are known to be inaccurate, and YEC proposals concerning rates of decay may resolve other well recognised difficulties of radiometric dating. Ancient earth theory is unable to easily reconcile non-radiometric clocks or even radio-carbon clocks.


Thanks to Paladin and AndyM for their suggestions.

>Does the Bible reflect modern science?

2009 February 11 10 comments

>I was hoping to discuss some ideas about ancient cosmology at some stage. In the meantime Greg has raised the more fundamental issue of presuppositions and modern evangelicals. My initial response is below though some items may need clarification.

Greg: …you seem to be concerned with the idea that the Bible has to reflect our current understanding of the world in order for it’s inerrency and infallibility to be upheld.

Well actually my view of Scripture means that I reject a lot of current popular theory. While I accept the world is spherical, I reject Darwinism which is by far the most popular understanding in modern science concerning the origin and development of the biosphere.

Your bias is constrained to a specific view of inerrency. He may prefer another, but each one tips either of you in a particular direction and to a particular interpretation that satisfies the requirements of that inerrency.

I presume “he” in this sentence refers to Gier. I am aware of different views. See here for inerrancy and infallibility. I also have a pastor who is neither a inerrantist nor a creationist whom I sit under quite happily. While I think that some passages appear difficult with an inerrant approach, I think that their resolution leads to deeper understanding of the way of God. This has occurred enough for me that initially contradictory passages do not send me reeling each time I come across one. I tend to look deeper into the context and some inferences turn out to not exist. We can read more into a passage than is often there.

More importantly, I think Scripture points to an inerrantist approach. See my comments on Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees.

An aside, be careful how you use the term inerrancy, it has a meaning. If you propose another meaning preferably use a different word. Even the word “infallibility” seems to imply inerrancy however it has a theological definition that specifies inerrant doctrine which potentially allows for error of fact.

This concerns me because I see an initiative to interpret passages in a certain way that conforms it to modern science,

The idea that anyone before Bacon really understood science quite the way we do is questionable. I think you are better to talk about the worldviews of then and now. Even Gier uses the term pre-scientific which is better though can still be misleading. I am more concerned about having a biblical worldview than a Western one. While the current Western worldview gets much wrong, it is important to realise that the Western worldview developed from Christianity—likely with some added Greek philosophy (to its detriment I think). Because of this the Western worldview is very Christian unlike many other cultures including pre-Christian Europe and Briton.

You will need to give examples of specific passages.

when an interpretation that draws from the science of their day explains it much better.

Except is the interpretation drawing from their day? Much of what I see is a later construct of what the ancients supposedly thought based on a hyperliteralist interpretation of ancient literature.

I see this a lot in the church, and once again, if I am wrong about you, I apologize.

You may be correct about me, though I give my views considered thought.

A modern person who wishes to explain scripture in light of modern science has the burden of proof upon them first.

Why? If Scripture is consistent with modern science why insist on a different interpretation just to make it inconsistent?

They need to show how an ancient person could have known what we know,

This assumes an anti-supernatural bias. If God created the universe he is more knowledgeable about its intricacies than every scientist combined. God can reveal material that happens to be factually correct, even if simplified. I am not stating that this has to be the case, rather pointing out the bias which insists on human authorship sans divine authorship. Scripture suggests both human and divine. Peter adds that prophets did not always understand everything about their message (1 Peter 1). I am not suggesting that the message of the prophets was differential mathematics and quantum physics, just the importance of divine authorship.

what benefit it provided the ancients,

It may not offer a benefit, it may just be an accurate report.

why God would only make it truly relevant to moderns in the West,

Examples such as?

and why the church missed these interpretations all this time and had to wait until the 20th century before science could shed light on things.

The church didn’t. My previous post on the flat earth mentioned that theologians in general did not teach a flat earth. Several appealed to Scripture to “prove” geocentricism. The fact they could only do so by appealing to poetical passages should have been a concern. Both hyperliteralism (including the Jews) and over-allegorising have been practised in interpretation, but that does not deny that Scripture can be understood. Moderns possibly do this less than some previous generations. Though there is a trend to turn historical narrative into symbolic language.

This comment also seems to contradict your earlier comment,

Going forward we as Christians must always be willing to follow where God’s Word leads us and not be afraid to discard tradition if a new understanding can fit the picture better. Many doctrines, or the expression and depth of understanding concerning them, have developed, been lost and found again numerous times throughout our history. There is always the possibility old understandings will crumble in the face of new discoveries.

While I agree with discarding tradition, I am cautious about new interpretations. They may exist but one would want very good evidence.

On a slightly tangential but important note—and this does not apply to the shape of the earth—part of my concern is how little people understand the types of science. Operational and historical science are quite different and a reasonable argument can be made that the latter is not strictly science. Historical science is a claim about history. It is a claim that can be refuted by eyewitness testimony.

For example scientific examination of Jericho cannot “prove” Joshua did not raze it. Both are claims in the same realm: historical truth. One is just playing a contemporary witness off against a non-contemporary interpreter. Either the first is a liar or the latter is mistaken in his interpretation of his findings.

Presuppositions are important. I think there is good reason to hold to inerrancy based on how Jesus and the apostles viewed Scripture. I think the Bible is historical and that it is correct when it makes historical claims. I think it important to understand what the author intended and the cultural situation into which he spoke. I disagree (in general) with hyperliteralism, but I think the bigger problem in this age is the priority of secular theory and hence unwarranted claims of symbolism, the explosion of interpretations, the invention of hermeneutic principles, the cherry picking of Scripture, the holding of contradictory ideas and anything else that lets us hold on to our favourite ideas; be that psychological, biological, sociologic
al, political or any other theory which we cherish.

>A theory that explains everything explains nothing

2008 December 28 4 comments

> I have been a little ticked at the number of times global warming is mentioned in connection with particular events when there is no association even reasoned. I guess, instead, I should be amused at the foolishness of men, except their political aspirations are too great and intentioned policies too invasive.

The associations of events with (non-existent) global warming remind me of the evolutionists just-so stories, people passing off their fantasies as fact. The concept that completely-fictional-stories-that-people-imagine-could-have-possibly-happened is even remotely representative of proper scientific investigation is ridiculous.

The claim that global warming is causing any current crisis is also ridiculous. The concern is future warming (albeit the near future). There has been no significant warming effect that one can currently blame CO2 for, and it looks like there may have been some cooling over the last few years.

John Brignell has compiled a list of all the things attributed to global warming, from acne to yellow fever. His list includes contradictory examples such as more and less hurricanes, more and less coral growth, warming and cooling, more and less maple syrup. (Some of the links are not effects, rather actions that people have advocated to halt global warming).

Now a cause can have more than one effect and even opposite effects depending on the conditions, but when a cause is claimed to result in every possible event it cannot true—based on the Law of Non Contradiction. A theory that explains everything really explains nothing. It is not predictive and it is not falsifiable. If global warming is claimed to cause everything how can it possibly be disproved?

Categories: climate change, philosophy

>The only test of any analysis is its truth

2008 November 9 2 comments

>I am currently reading America’s Great Depression by Murray N. Rothbard. He makes an interesting comment concerning critiques of Austrian economic theory. If it was included in the first edition, this comment was made in 1963:

Hayek believes that Mises’s theory is somehow deficient because it is exogenous—because it holds that the generation of business cycles stems from interventionary acts rather than from acts of the market itself. This argument is difficult to fathom. Processes are either analyzed correctly or incorrectly; the only test of any analysis is its truth, not whether it is exogenous or endogenous. If the process is really exogenous, then the analysis should reveal this fact; the same holds true for endogenous processes. No particular virtue attaches to a theory because it is one or the other.

I found this reminiscent of the intelligent design debate. My substitutions bolded.

Evolutionists believe that intelligent design theory is somehow deficient because it is non-naturalistic—because it holds that the generation of genetic information stems from interventionary acts rather than from acts of the organism itself. This argument is difficult to fathom. Processes are either analyzed correctly or incorrectly; the only test of any analysis is its truth, not whether it is naturalistic or non-naturalistic. If the process is really non-naturalistic, then the analysis should reveal this fact; the same holds true for naturalistic processes. No particular virtue attaches to a theory because it is one or the other.

>Message and matter

2008 November 2 7 comments

>It is important to understand the fundamental difference between these 2 concepts. Matter is all around us. Everything physical in the universe is matter or energy and Einstein showed us that they are essentially interchangeable, at least in essence if not always in practice. The stars, the earth, the moon. All the objects on the earth, both animate and inanimate. All are material. Composed of atoms and/ or photons.

As such they obey the laws of physics. Mass attracts, objects fall, momentum and energy are conserved, and entropy increases. They all obey the laws of chemistry which at a foundational level are laws of physics for elements. Why the chemistry laws should be as they are, ie. could the elements theoretically be different, is a different question.

None of this is too complex to understand, neither is it modern. While the ancients may not have understood the scientific laws in such detail, the concept of the material was well understood. And the material was often distinguished from the spiritual.

What I think it very important to comprehend is that information is utterly distinct from matter and not reliant on it. It exists independent of matter and there is no reason to think it could not exist even if matter itself did not. Though the existence of matter without information is unlikely to be possible.

Information or intelligence is difficult to quantify, though it can be done. Information is frequently stored in matter but it is in no way dependant on the matter in which it is stored. This post as you read it is stored magnetically on your hard-drive, having been copied from a server elsewhere. However it could be printed and stored in toner on paper. Or you could memorise it and it would be stored in your neurons. But the message is not derived nor is dependant on magnetism, paper, ink or anything else composed of matter.

This concept is fundamental. And it has significant implications.

  1. It means that the 2 (message and matter) are to be distinguished from each other, something that may not be done in defending various theories.
  2. They are not derived from each other. Information cannot make material and material cannot make information.
  3. We need a source for both matter and information.
  4. The laws that govern information are not those that govern matter. Information does not obey the law of gravity, it does not contain momentum, it cannot be transformed to energy.

Expanding on item 2: One might argue that a powerful source of information can create matter, but this is a being, not just an idea.

Information that appears to arise from matter is merely the level of information that already exists in the matter, it is not created by the matter. The limited information to describe a crystal structure is intrinsic to the information already contained within the physics and chemistry of the molecules.

Note that the crystal structure of salt is low information content and no more than can be known from our (potential) understanding of sodium, chloride, solutions and temperature. However deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has information that is imposed on it which is not intrinsic to nucleic acids, sugar bases, or phosphate. One can transcribe the code onto a computer or paper and the code remains intact.

Categories: information, philosophy

>Random quote

2008 August 3 Leave a comment

>You cannot find out what Napoleon did at the battle of Austerlitz by asking him to come and fight it again in a laboratory with the same combatants, the same terrain, the same weather, and in the same age. You have to go to the records. We have not, in fact, proved that science excludes miracles: we have only proved that the question of miracles, like innumerable other questions, excludes laboratory treatment.

C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock

Categories: philosophy, quotes

>Vanquishing Atheism's Vanguard

2008 June 28 5 comments

>I reviewed Vox Day’s book The Irrational Atheist for Tekton Apologetics Ministries and the review has recently been uploaded. The Tekton rating system is a 1–3 thumbs down for negative reviews and 1–3 thumbs up for positive reviews (with no neutral option). I gave the book 2+ (ie. a 4 on a 0–5 scale)

The review is at Tektonics and I have reproduced it below.


Vanquishing Atheism’s Vanguard

A Review of Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist

by Joel Bethyada

I had high expectations for this book. This concerned me somewhat as it increased the chances of being disappointed on reading it. Suffice it to say that it met my prior elevated expectations.

Vox is witty. He is both very clever and very funny. When you are laughing just reading the contents page you know it is going to be a good book.

What is useful in this foray into the New Atheist territory is that Vox lets them choose the battlefield and the weapons. And while Vox has no hesitancy in demolishing the arguments with his opponents’ swords, he frequently just sharpens them before handing them back leaving the New Atheists to eviscerate themselves!

The first few chapters cover the ground rules. Subsequent chapters are devoted to various popular atheists exposing their foolishness or duplicity. Despite the subtitle (Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens), Vox also has chapters on Dennett and Onfray. That they are not referred to in the title is due to Vox’s admiration of the former’s honesty, despite his mistaken conclusions; and the consistency of the latter’s position, albeit a horrifying one.

He then discusses objections to Christianity that have been raised by several of New Atheism’s statesmen or are commonly used by contemporary atheists. Vox suggests that Hitler was neither Christian nor atheist, but likely pagan; briefly dismissing the genetic fallacy that Hitler was raised Christian by noting that so were Dawkins and Hitchens. The Inquisition is dismissed mentioning themes that have previously been raised by other apologists, and also making the astute observation the the precipitating cause had a higher body count than all the inquisitors over several centuries combined. He then covers the Crusades. And finally human sacrifice in religion suggesting that often times political subjection was a primary motivation over piety. I am less certain the ancients made as great a distinction from the spiritual as modern day secularism.

Following along the lines of the Christians-behaving-badly arguments, the tables are turned and the New Atheists are forced to answer for unprecedented mass murder of the more powerful atheists (and only atheists!) of the 20th century.

As a theological addendum, Vox takes on theodicy and determinism using analogy with computer games. The analogy is quite a useful one but because of some theological errors, minor equivocation and pushing the analogy further than it is capable of, this section, while interesting reading, is less compelling than the atheist trouncing.

The style is slightly difficult at times (but made up for in the humour); the arguments are reasonable to follow but some sentences take slow focused concentration or re-reading. Vox makes frequent reference to his vast knowledge of topics and persons and reading the electronic version may be preferable to allow quick searches on esoteric comments. (The electronic version is available free online).

The book’s strengths include a offence approach—though perhaps a little aggressive, if one is going to take someone to task about minor mathematical errors he best be sure to make none himself—and arguing within the atheist paradigm. Weaknesses include allowing his opponents to label scientific that which is certainly not empirical evidence and better labelled historical, and the discussion of complexity where Vox fails to identify the real flaw in Dawkins’ argument and his fractal designer rebuttal is incorrect.

Will this book affect persons on either side of the debate? I hope so. Certainly the more noble of the atheist crowd will ponder its conclusions and it may perhaps draw them away from the dogmatic assertion that “God is not.” It will certainly encourage Christians who have thought the New Atheist arguments held water to realise they are hot air—if they can overlook any theological disagreements they have with the author. And for those who were already convinced of the New Atheist stupidity it certainly adds more ammunition to their armoury.

>The limits of God

2008 June 14 1 comment

>God is unable to do any conceivable thing. There are things he is unable to do for a variety of reasons and I wish to categorise these.

One method of dividing up the actions that God is unable to perform results in 2 options: Actions that men (also) cannot do and actions men can do

Attributes of God are similarly categorised. Attributes of God that man can have to a degree are called communicable. Examples would be love or mercy. Attributes that God has and we do not are called non-communicable. An example would be omnipotence.

Actions that neither men nor God are able to perform belong to the category of logical impossibilities. These actions require breaking the law of non-contradiction. Asking God to both do and not do something in the same way at the same time is logically impossible. Asking God to both have an attribute and an attribute that contradicts it is logically impossible. God cannot make a rock too big to lift. God cannot be both unchangeable and changeable in the same manner.

There are also actions that humans are able to perform that God is not able to perform. This seems to solely relate to the realm of sin therefore they are actions that abuse a good; they create an evil. Evil is a distortion of an underlying good. Therefore God is unable to perform them because he would be doing evil. An example would be lying. Lying is a distortion of truth, truthfulness is an attribute of God. For God to lie would be a denial of his nature.

There is a subcategory of actions that men can do and God cannot that deserves mention. There are some actions that are limited to men because its definition excludes the possibility of applying to the divine. An example would be murder. This requires some explaining.

God and men can both kill humans. Killing is defined as removing a life. Now this can be allowed as in the case of war or capital punishment, disallowed as in the case of murder, or accidental (because we live in a fallen world) as in the case of manslaughter.

Murder is disallowed because it is the unwarranted removal of life. God created us and owns us. We must obey him and he has told us that we are not to murder, not to destroy the imago dei. This prohibition clearly is one that can only apply to men (and possibly angels). God cannot destroy life without his own permission. If God does destroy life it means he has permitted himself to. Therefore God is unable to murder because the definition of murder does not apply to deity. One could argue that it was at least theoretically possible for Jesus to murder during the incarnation if he took a life without the implied or express permission of the Father, though that takes us into another debate, perhaps for another time.

The limits of God

  • God cannot perform logical impossibilities.
  • God cannot sin.
  • God cannot do things defined in terms of men.

The limits of men

  • Man cannot perform logical impossibilities.
  • Men can sin.

The debate on the limits of God goes even deeper than this. When we say that God cannot sin the question arises whether God cannot do evil or will not do evil? Or even, can anything that God does be considered evil as he is the definition of good?

Further, even if God cannot sin as deity, it is possible that Jesus could as man even though he choose not to.

Categories: apologetics, logic, philosophy, sin

>Freedom of man

2007 December 4 11 comments

>Reading Calvinists I am not certain they always understand the opposing view. There are several things that need to be understood by Calvinists if they are to adequately interact with those who do not subscribe to the reformed view.

I myself have not read Calvin or a great deal of defence of Calvinism. I have however read a lot of material written by Calvinists, some of which covers questions of salvation and predestination. And my current Bible is a Reformation Study Bible.

An aside: I am somewhat concerned that “reformed” is synonymous with “Calvinism.” Protestants in general trace theological ancestry back to the Reformation and many of them do not hold to a “reformed” view; but the term is well established. I actually object to Open View being called consistent Arminianism because it steals a term which already has meaning, and makes a judgment about deniers of Open View theology—that of inconsistency. Always be wary of those who frame debates in terms of manipulating language and the meanings of words!

Further, I have not studied up on Arminian theology, I just disagree with Calvinism so I think my ideas likely have an Arminian flavour.

Problems I have with Calvinist theology

  • I cannot see how God can cause something to happen directly and not be the source of it. Therefore I think that Calvinism makes God the author of sin. This is so contrary to what the Bible seems to teach that I cannot bide by it.
  • God repeatedly calls us to repent. The Bible is full of examples of God calling men to obey him and punishing men for disobedience. That God causes the disobedience that he so frequently rebukes men for just seems preposterous.
  • Other than a few verses (eg. Romans 9) the Bible does not seem to read in a Calvinist way.
  • Verses that seem to contradict Calvinism are given interpretations by Calvinists that seem to me to be unusual or bizarre.
  • A genetic fallacy I know—but it seems, from the little I know, that Calvin was influenced by Augustine who wrongly married aspects of Greek philosophy to Christianity.

How I see some Calvinists misunderstand non-Calvinists

We do not necessarily take the polar opposite to Calvinists.

Men are created in the image of God. They are also fallen. So they have many aspects in common with God but these aspects are frequently broken. They are broken beyond repair in that they can only be fixed by Christ, but they are not broken beyond recognition, nor use.

Take reason. Our ability to reason is because of God’s image in us, but we make mistakes in our reason.

  • We may not follow logic completely
  • We accept false premises
  • We prefer to think reality conforms to our sinful nature
  • We will defend our sin rather than face it.

But also

  • We can follow some logical arguments
  • We accept some true premises (to a varying degree) even if we do not know Christ
  • Some men do realise that things are not all right with man
  • And, even if we are unwilling to see evil in ourselves, most see it to some degree in others.

Now it may well be God’s sustaining power and work in our lives that allows us to do things while broken, but those thoughts remain ours, at least at the level of whether we choose to agree with God or disagree with him. That is, God is not forcing certain men to reject him, rather he is calling all, and all can respond, though not all choose to.

While God gives us much freedom, this does not mean we deny that God can override that freedom, at least in action; though he may prevent a thought or prevent a thought developing. Nor is deism true— God did not set up the world leaving us to do what we may, God is very actively involved in his creation. He responds to our prayers, he guides us, he gives us ideas, he speaks in dreams, visions and audibly at times. God is probably far more active in this world than most people appreciate.

But the key idea is that we have freedom of choice. While God has preferences for us we can choose to accept them or choose to rebel against them. We can oppose God. While God’s ultimate will (final plan or thing that he has determined to happen) cannot be thwarted, we can surely rage against him.

God is able to bring good out of evil, even greater good than would have been had the evil not occurred, but that he does that is testimony to his goodness; to claim that God willed evil to bring about a greater good seems, to me, to be inconsistent with the nature of God.

Categories: freewill, philosophy

>Open View Theology

2007 December 3 1 comment

>I have been wanting to make some comments since Vox started debating jamsco. To me it seems that the debate is covering several issues which are not always well defined. The question over whether God knows the future is discussed alongside free will and God’s micromanagement of our lives.

These 2 issues actually create a trilemma. God either knows the future specifically or he does not. God either controls every aspect of our lives including all our thoughts and actions, or he does not. But the 2 issues can be held separately.

To avert confusion, by “God ordains” I mean everything that happens in the world, good and evil, thoughts and actions of all men, has its origin in God’s will; ie. men do not really have their own will that can be at odds with God. By “knows the future” I mean the specific future, not all possible futures and not a general knowledge based on what he causes to eventuate.

The 4 options are

  1. God ordains everything and knows the future
  2. God ordains everything and does not know the future
  3. God does not ordain everything and knows the future
  4. God does not ordain everything and does not know the future

The above 4 options are really only 3. It seems to me that if God ordains every event then he knows the future pragmatically (brings about one specific future) even if theoretically he did not know it intrinsically.

I am not certain the micromanagement (predestination)/ freewill debate, which essentially the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, will be resolved easily. Though it is important for both sides to know the other side and understand it reasonably well. (I also think that the word predestination carries too much baggage to be used without clarification.)

Bible verses may support one’s underlying philosophy, but one also uses his philosophy when reading Scripture in general, and therefore interprets passages as being consistent with that philosophy—even when that interpretation is more strained than other readings. Vox phrases the error well,

  1. Take a Bible verse
  2. Assign a possible meaning to it.
  3. Insist this is the ONLY possible meaning, even when the meaning doesn’t make sense. (In this case, the problem is apparent a priori, but usually it is only evident when considered in context with other, contradictory verses.)
  4. Ignore all other plausible interpretations, especially more logical and Biblically supported ones.

In general terms one has to show that the Bible as a whole supports his theology.

At minimum show that a passage can only be interpreted in a specific way or that the other view contradicts Scripture*.

My position for the above options is 3. God does not micromanage everything but he does know the future specifically, nothing takes him by surprise. I will discuss both these options in future posts (God willing, I am not omniscient).


*A passage can only be interpreted in a specific way

  • P→Q

Example: Verse x means Calvinism.

The other view contradicts Scripture

  • R→S,
  • ~S→~R

Example: Open view implies y. Scripture says that y is not true (or the opposite of y is true) therefore open view is false.

What is unhelpful is using consistency which is non discriminatory

  • T→V
  • V→T

Which is logically unsound because U may also imply V. Example: Calvinism suggests z and Scripture says z. But Arminianism also suggests z!

>Green religion

2007 November 22 5 comments

>While this does not prove whether global warming is true or false, it is a sober warning about the diabolical nature of the environmental movement.

Because when Toni terminated her pregnancy, she did so in the firm belief she was helping to save the planet.

Incredibly, so determined was she that the terrible “mistake” of pregnancy should never happen again, that she begged the doctor who performed the abortion to sterilise her at the same time.

He refused, but Toni – who works for an environmental charity – “relentlessly hunted down a doctor who would perform the irreversible surgery. Finally, eight years ago, Toni got her way.

…”Having children is selfish. It’s all about maintaining your genetic line at the expense of the planet,” says Toni, 35.

…And a woman like me, who is not having children in order to save the planet, is considered barking mad. “What I consider mad are those women who ferry their children short distances in gas-guzzling cars.”

She is not alone.

“I realised then that a baby would pollute the planet – and that never having a child was the most environmentally friendly thing I could do.”

…”I didn’t want to have an ‘accident’ if contraception didn’t work – we would be faced with the dilemma of whether to keep the baby.”

…Mark adds: “Sarah and I live as green a life a possible. We don’t have a car, cycle everywhere instead, and we never fly.

“We recycle, use low-energy light bulbs and eat only organic, locally produced food. “In short, we do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But all this would be undone if we had a child.

“That’s why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.

The first person has an abortion so as not to badly impact the planet. She is then sterilised so that she will never get pregnant again.

The second couple get sterilised because pregnancy would pose a dilemma, keep the child and damage the planet or have an abortion.

It is not for me to forbid these women sterilisation. I would also add that them not raising children is possibly a good thing (though raising children can challenge beliefs).

What is certain is that the conclusions of these people are a gross error. The error is obvious in that their conclusions contradict Scripture.

And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and
subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds
of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1)

Logically this means that their reasoning is errant or their premises are false. I am not certain what global false religion will develop—it will likely be one that contradicts Christianity as much Satan can convince men of—but I have wondered for a time whether the environmental movement will be a component of it. There is a suggestion of this in Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1)

The devotion these people have towards the environment is such that they are idolising the earth. Their worship or devotion is not toward God but the creation. It may appear a little more sophisticated than ancient nature religions, though it is just as wrong, and in reality possibly not a lot different for some of these people.

Stewardship of the earth is a command to man. But we are to use the resources to aid man while not causing detrimental pollution, we are not to worship nature for its own sake.

>Time and eternity

2007 November 21 Leave a comment

>While I have thought that eternity is outside time for sometime now, recently I was pondering the thought that time itself may be a subset of eternity. In fact it seems to me that this must be the case.

God always has been. There are several scriptures that mention this. And he always will be.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: (Isaiah 57)

Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting! (Psalm 41)

Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting. (Psalm 93)

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21)

The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33)

For to us a child is born,to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder,and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9)

The sun shall be no more your light by day,nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light,and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60)

But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. (Jeremiah 10)

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. (2 Peter 3)

The Bible uses words that have a temporal component, this is reasonable given that we dwell in time and conceiving anything outside time may well be impossible. Nonetheless, this does not necessarily imply just that time is and God has been forever. The first words of the Bible are:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This presupposes there was a beginning. A time when time itself was created. Yet God was already there.

We can call this eternity. Not just forever past to forever future but beyond time.

Whether eternity is a time dimension is unknown, but whatever qualities it has (if it is any more that just the existence of God) time is surely a subset of it. In the same way that past present and future are all subsets of all time, time itself must be a subset of eternity, as eternity does not cease when time was created and therefore time exists in it.

An analogy to space can help. 1 dimension is a subset of 2 dimensions. 2 dimensions has a infinite number of single dimensions, but no 1 dimension is a preferential reference frame. Now one can define (read create) a primary reference frame for a line but the 2 dimensions do not cease to exist. Time as it now exists may have meant little or nothing in eternity until it was defined/ created.

I am not suggesting that eternity is 2 (or 3) dimensions of time. I am not suggesting that cause and effect are not real. Rather just the idea that while eternity is different to time, it may be different in that it is more than time, that it contains it.

Categories: philosophy, physics

>Does one need always tell the truth?

2007 October 21 8 comments

>My general view has been that there is a hierarchy of absolutes, so if one is faced with doing one or other of 2 usually wrong actions he needs to decide what is the right thing to do. If we are faced with a genuine conflict of morality, we are to choose that which conforms to loving God and loving our neighbour.

That being said I cannot think of a situation where murder would ever be the eumoral choice; of course murder is not the same as killing and if killing is ever justified then the killing is unlikely to come under the definition of murder.

With lying it is more complex. I personally think that Rahab did the right thing with the spies and the authorities of Jericho. Although previously I would have classified this under graded absolutism (ie. hierarchy of absolutes as above) my more recent thoughts have been that I think it depends on whether you are voluntarily giving information or you are being forced to.

If you are trying to convince someone of what you believe, or in general share your thoughts, you are morally obligated to tell the truth. But if others demand information that you do not desire to give them the situation is not the same. If someone is forcing you into a position of sharing information I wonder if that removes any obligation to tell the truth. I am not aware biblically that one is morally required to give information to someone they do not wish to. So being vague or evasive is not necessarily morally wrong, one has to weigh up the consequences of sharing that information. And if sharing that information causes damage to others (Nazi’s looking for Jews) then love of one’s neighbour may dictate that lying is justified.

We have liberty to our opinions and what we do with them, if someone tries to remove that liberty (eg. by forcing information out of us) we are released from any moral obligation in our answers. Further, if people misunderstand what we are saying when we do not wish them party to our information we are under no obligation to correct that misbelief.

However, God is not happy if we choose to keep our mouths shut in order to allow the miscarriage of justice.

Categories: ethics, philosophy, truth

>Physics is descriptive not prescriptive

2007 October 8 Leave a comment

>It is important to remember the laws of physics come from observations. We observe regular patterns and attempt to come up with mathematical models that explain the data and predict related phenomena. The predictive component is validates the model, it suggests that the model is more likely to represent reality. Explaining anomalous data is less impressive because models can usually be adjusted to fit. Models with simple equations, symmetry and covering more fields are generally favoured.

Kepler and Newton came up with orbital equations and gravitational theory that explained the movement of the the planets. Using gravitational laws we can predict the movements of the moon around the earth to great accuracy.

But the moon does not orbit the earth because of these equations, the moon orbits the earth and these equations describe the movements.

God set up the universe to function how it does. But God also sustains it, this means that it is not wound up and would run without him, if God removed his sustaining power the universe would instantly cease to exist. Anti-theists complain that this means we cannot do science, that we are at the whim of a God. Well we are dependant on him, but that does not mean that the universe is irregular and unpredictable. Leaving aside the fact that an atheist view of the universe gives us no reason to even trust our senses, if God is not capricious, then we can rely on his usual providence. We can therefore examine the universe with an assumption of a constant God who set up the world with a high degree of predictability.

This predictability has been known by all cultures and predates the scientific method—the scientific method gives a tool to gain underlying knowledge and make predictions based on models. As the earliest scientists said, they were thinking God’s thoughts after him. Isaac Newton stated,

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being.

Because God sustains the universe he can manipulate it at his will. Not that he necessarily does this on frequent basis. This intervention we refer to as (specific) providence if God’s hand guides specific events according to his will, or even at our request; we refer to it as miracle if it involves the overriding of physical law. Both the general upholding of the universe and a specific change to how the world usually operates are of equal ease for him. If God can stretch out the fabric of space then the multiplying of loaves and fish is of little difficulty.

That is why science is unable to disprove miracles. Miracles are not within the domain of operational science. Miracles are God’s specific activity, not his general activity. We cannot observe regularity in miracles to formulate physical law. However they are provable, just via another method: testimony. Proof of miracles is via witnesses.

Miracle is also proof of the supernatural. Science can say the the world operates “like so” under the normal scheme of things. Observations that contradict what we know may be due to miracle and science can say nothing against it—science does not describe specific providence, only the general. Dead men do not come back to life according to biological science, but there is nothing to prevent God doing this in a specific case if he so wishes.

>Skeptical of skepticism

2007 August 29 3 comments

>Biological Research Institute for Theoretical Evolution Studies (Brites) interview skeptic Stan Scanton,

Dr. Stan Scanton, skeptic of all things spiritual for the last four decades, has announced that for the last three years he has been secretly skeptical of skepticism.

Should a skeptical scientist be skeptical of skepticism?

“Certainly,” said Stanton. “Otherwise you are not a true skeptic. You are, at best, a selective skeptic. Scientists skeptical of only spiritual matters are selectively skeptical. Most people who call themselves skeptic are selective skeptics. People of faith who are totally skeptical of all science are also selectively skeptical. Pure selective skeptics learn nothing.”

How is it that pure selective skeptics learn nothing?

“I’m a statistician, and it’s like Type I and Type II errors in statistics. There is a tradeoff. If you want to learn nothing, be 100% skeptical. If you want to believe everything, be 100% gullible. True learning comes from an intelligent judicious tradeoff between the two.”

The article is hilarious including the before and after photos. In fact many of the photos on the site are priceless.

Categories: humour, philosophy, science

>Can we have a too high a view of Scripture?

2007 August 24 4 comments

>The obvious answer to the above question is yes. All things are to lead us to Jesus, and loving anything, including good things, above God is idolatry. The Bible is to led us to Jesus, however it is possible to defend it, or hold many of it’s claims to be true, yet not love Jesus. In fact Jesus castigated people for supposing to care for Scripture but were unable to recognize him at his coming.

But while Scripture is subservient to Christ, it is also representative of him; therefore we really cannot have too high a view of Scripture.

I propose that we should seek to have the same view of Scripture as Jesus; that view is one of inerrancy but it is also also one that views that which Scripture says God says. If we approach Scripture this way that will lead us to change beliefs that do not correspond to the Bible to beliefs that do.

By necessity I will be viewing Jesus’ and the writers’ of the New Testament views on the Old Testament (at that time being the Jewish Scriptures), but there is indications in the New Testament that we should view the New Testament in the same way (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Jesus commonly rebuked the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law for their unbelief. One may think they claimed a high view of Scripture. Are Jesus’ rebukes a commentary about holding Scripture in too high a regard? No. Jesus rebuked their actions that deny their supposed belief in Scripture. He also rebuked them for holding their traditions above Scripture. If anything, Jesus’ opinion was they had too low a view of Scripture, not too high.

Jesus’ views on the Bible are well illustrated with his teaching on the resurrection.

The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. So too the second and third, down to the seventh. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33)

This passage shows us in several ways how high Jesus’ view of Scripture was. The Sadducees tell a story to invoke a conundrum using this to defend their concept that there is no resurrection. Jesus teaches them, graciously explaining the nature of the resurrection and thus solving a perceived problem.

He rebukes them for not knowing Scripture or the power of God. He expected them to have had an even greater knowledge of the Scriptures.

Comparing the story in Mark and Luke we see Jesus response:

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mark 12:26)

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. (Luke 20:37)

Mark states: “… have you not read in the book of Moses,…” (Scripture states) and “God spoke to him”. Luke’s version says: “… Moses showed,…” (effectively, the Scripture says). In Matthew the rebuke is: “have you not read what was spoken to you by God.”

While the passage is about God speaking, these New Testament parallels equate what Scripture says with God speaking.

The third lesson from the passage about Jesus’ high regard for Scripture is his exegesis of Exodus 3:6 which states:

And he [God] said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Fuller context of this passage reads:

And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)

In calling Moses to his service God identifies himself as the God of Moses ancestors. God says he is the God of Abraham not he was. The time tense of this verse may seem a minor point, yet it was enough in Jesus’ view to defend bodily resurrection. If Jesus thinks that every word of Scripture is trustworthy can we hold a lesser view?

Scripture in general is to be understood; Paul admonishes Timothy that:

Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NET)

Of course not all Scripture is easy to understand. Peter says that some things are hard to understand. But that we can learn from the minor aspects of Scripture is not licence for obscure interpretation.

We should be conforming our ideas to Scripture. We should not seek to use Scripture to prove our pet theories, but holding it in such high regard that should its teachings ever contradict our own beliefs, it is for us to change. This is all the more important the closer we get to the return of our Lord, for as Paul warns:

But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves. (2 Timothy 3:13 NET)

and

For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV)

>Inconsistent Christians

2007 August 21 6 comments

>In his book The Battle for Truth, David Noebel comments in his conclusion,

Why do Christians so easily accept inconsistencies into their worldview? In this sense, non-Christians are much more consistent. There are no Marxist/Leninist creationists. There are no New Agers who believe in ethical absolutes. The Christian, who trusts the Scriptures and therefore has access to the one worldview based on eternal truth, should be the first person to recognise the bankruptcy of secular religious views. Yet all too often he is the first to embrace them!

This seems way too common. It is most unfortunate. Christians need to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind. I think there are several reasons why the above comment is the case—at least within the West.

Christianity is the truth, so where other worldviews contradict Christianity they are incorrect. Many Christians subscribe to a false worldview. To a subset of this group the inconsistencies between what they believe and Christianity may not be a compelling reason to reject their false beliefs, or conversely, Christianity. While some atheists may be somewhat more consistent, there is, fortunately, no shortage of inconsistent atheists. While atheists have no reason for universal, objective morality they do not all become nihilists, or mass-murderers like Stalin who was more consistent.

Part of Christians’ inconsistency is their desire to hold onto Christ in a world that denies him. They have met him and believe but have yet to allow their false worldview to be completely transformed. It is admirable they remain in Christ but they need to be made aware that Christianity demands our worldview is conformed to Scripture. What is also difficult is that they live in a culture where they are now going against the flow. Christian beliefs are currently very antithetical to secular beliefs, therefore the Christian viewpoint is actively opposed. While that may not be a lot different to what the non-Western Christians face, the Western Christians are in the position of having emerged from a Christian heritage which had a more favourable view of Christianity.

A further reason is that there are weeds within the church. Some people are “within” the church but are not of God and they promote ideologies that oppose God. Christians need discernment, though with the basic lack of a Christian worldview this is more difficult; looking at the fruit of person’s lives can be helpful in this area. Weeds appear like wheat early on, but they do produce fruit in the long term? fruit consistent with being in Christ. Rank heresy should not be too difficult to spot. Unfortunately it detracts some, and there is much that is more subtle than grossly heretical beliefs.

We have a tendency to agree with data that confirms our beliefs and explain away that which challenges it. This is understandable. It is a reasonable position if you are in the truth but an unreasonable one if you are in error; the problem is how do you know which camp you belong to?

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The answer is not to assess if data conforms to your ideas but do you conform to Scripture.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Categories: apologetics, philosophy, truth