The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Darwin’s birthday #2

What drives more scientists away from Christianity, evolution, or young-Earth creationism? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect that both have significant roles.

Some forms of evolutionary philosophy drive scientists (and others) away from Christianity. The New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, claim that evolution makes it intellectually feasible to be an atheist. To them, science can explain everything and there is no need for a God.

Young-Earth creationism (YEC), as taught by the Institute for Creation Research and Answers in Genesis, drives scientists away from Christianity. To most scientists, YEC fails in a number of ways. It fails biologically, astronomically, and geologically. The YEC-ers have convinced themselves, much of the Christian public, and much of society, that there is only one way to read Genesis, and that the truthfulness of Christianity stands or falls on this one interpretation. Scientists reject YEC, so they reject Christianity. This could happen to our youth raised on YEC as well.

I see both extremes as needless and unfortunate. I am convinced of the truth of Christianity, and don’t think the Bible has all that much to say one way or the other about evolution (except perhaps of humans).

To scientists who are reading this:

  • Don’t reject Christianity because of young-Earth creationism. There are plenty of alternatives out there to YEC within the Christian community, even within the Evangelical Christian community. At one time there was even quite a bit of diversity on these issues within the “fundamentalist” Christian community, but most of the dissent has been squashed.
  • One alternative within the Evangelical community is presented by Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Ross accepts an old Earth and old universe (he is an astronomer), but isn’t too keen on some aspects of evolution. He is a proponent of the day-age understanding of Genesis, and makes a good case for drawing parallels between the days of Genesis 1 and the history of Earth.
  • Another alternative within the Evangelical Christian community is theistic evolution. A good presentation of this is in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith Miller, who is in the Geology department at Kansas State University.
  • You can be a Christian and a scientist. You don’t have to abandon thinking; in fact, you may find your intellectual life fulfilled in ways you never imagined possible.

To Christians who are reading this:

  • I believe in a real creation by a real God, and a real Adam, a real fall into sin, real consequences for that sin, and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for that sin. Belief in an old Earth hasn’t changed any of that.
  • I’m not making a commitment to any one understanding of Genesis. Prominent old-Earth  interpretations include the day-age, analogical day, and framework interpretations. I see the literal six-day interpretation as also valid Biblically. Being that there are competing interpretations of Genesis within the conservative Evangelical community, I will go for ones that are not ruled out by the external evidence for an old Earth.
  • The truthfulness of the Bible does not stand or fall on the age of the Earth or biological evolution. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, for example, intentionally leaves out any statement on the age of the Earth.
  • Be willing to allow for some tension. We don’t fully understand the Bible. We don’t fully understand nature.
  • Be careful what you teach your children and the youth at your church. Don’t give them bad apologetics, and most of what is produced by ICR and AiG I place in this category. It is not all bad, but much of it is. And there are other creationist groups that are far worse. The risk is that our youth will some day have a crisis of faith, not because of what the Bible says, or because of evolution, but because much of what comes out of the YEC movement simply doesn’t conform to reality.

Grace and Peace

February 12, 2009 - Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | , ,

12 Comments »

  1. Happy Birthday Darwin! :)
    I’ve written a post with an extract on Darwin, check it out here if your interested.

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    Comment by Miracle Man | February 12, 2009

  2. Few scientists give up Christianity (specifically) or religion (generally) because of the actions of YECs. In fact I don’t know of any. I do, however, know a number of non-religious science professionals who have become that way because their familiarity with the methods and discoveries of science led them away from the religion they were raised in, away from the need to believe that understanding of the natural world comes from anywhere outside that natural world. Most pay no attention to creationists of any kind— YECs, OECs, intelligent design advocates— unless forced to do so. Personally, the vast majority of YECs I have known are ordinary decent people of all stripes, concerned about the same things in life that I am though sometimes expressed differently. While I reject their particular anti-science religious dogma and the actions that sometime follow, they have had no influence whatsoever on my own religious beliefs or lack thereof. I think most non-religious scientists would say something similar if asked.

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    Comment by Norm Smith | February 12, 2009

  3. “The truthfulness of the Bible does not stand or fall on the age of the Earth or biological evolution.”

    I know you accept the scientific consensus on the age of the earth and the age of the universe.

    But after searching for awhile, I can’t figure out whether or not you accept the basic facts of evolution, including the scientific fact that humans, including your dead Jeebus, are one of the modern ape species.

    Stop by my blog if you want, remind me that you’re from The GeoChristian, and I will publish your comment and respond.

    I just want to know – do you completely accept the natural process of evolution, including macro-evolution, and not including any supernatural magic?

    If yes, why are you a Christian?

    If no, what are you afraid of?

    Please understand that if you call yourself a theistic-evolutionist, I’m going to call you an evolution-denier, because there’s nothing theistic in science.

    Thanks.

    — Human Ape

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    Comment by Human Ape | July 7, 2010

  4. Human Ape:

    Thanks for your comment and questions.

    When I write about young-Earth creationism on my blog, I tend to focus much more on geological issues like the age of the Earth or the extent and work of Noah’s flood. There are two groups of people who insist that the Bible teaches that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old: the young-Earth creationists and the ardent anti-Christians such as yourself. It somehow comforts both groups to think that the Bible teaches this. The majority of Christians, including many theologically conservative—even fundamentalist—scholars, have no problem with a 4.5 billion year old Earth and view this as perfectly compatible with Scripture.

    What do I think about evolution? To start with, despite the insistence of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible doesn’t really say one way or the other the degree to which species can transform into other species, genera, families, and so on. Consider the wording of Genesis 1:11 —

    And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth. And it was so.” (ESV)

    This could also be translated as “Let the Earth bring forth…” or “Let the Earth produce…” This opens the door for processes over time rather than poof! the plants appear. The same wording occurs in verse 24 when land animals are created.

    Those who insist that the Bible forbids biological evolution do so based on a scattering of verses, none of which really say anything about limits to biological change. So theologically speaking, I don’t have a problem with evolution. Many Christians look at it as part of the system God has put in place to bring us to our present state. Not all agree.

    So I view evolution as primarily a scientific issue, while acknowledging that one cannot completely separate science from theology and philosophy. The fossil record gives us a history of life, from the bacterial life that lived through most of the Precambrian, to the modern biota of the Quaternary. Biological evolution gives a reasonable explanation for many features of the living world, past and present, though I’m not sure it gives the complete explanation, even from a scientific perspective (unless one presupposes that it must provide all of the answers).

    How do I view humans? Part of the answer is that I view us part of the creation. Genesis 2:7 says,

    “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (ESV)

    Some Christians take this literally—that God fashioned a lump of clay into a human shape—but many take it in a symbolic sense. An important part of what God is telling us here is that we are made of the same stuff as the rest of creation; the same earthy material. In Hebrew, adam (man) is made from adama (earth).

    As a Christian, then, I believe in a real person Adam, who was created by God. Did God use a biological process (evolution) to make this man? I don’t think so, but many Christians would disagree. This man, Adam, was in a sinless relationship with his Creator, and in that role represented all of humanity, even if there were other humans (Neandertals, etc.) already present. Adam failed that test, and suffered immediate spiritual death (separation from God—the worst kind of death) and eventual physical death (from which he would have been spared).

    I believe that the Christian view of humans is the correct one. In addition to being an integral part of the creation, the Bible describes us as being created “in the image of God.” We have something that makes us distinct from the other creatures that inhabit our planet. Because of this, each person has an inherent dignity and worth and should be treated with respect. When we sink to calling our opponents “morons,” “stupid,” or “idiots,” we are violating something a fundamental law of the creation. At the same time, because of Adam’s rebellion against God and our own rebellion, we all have something fundamentally wrong with us; what the Bible calls sin. This is expressed in many ways in our world: child abuse, murder, hatred, exploitation, theft, sexual sins, selfishness.

    Am I a theistic evolutionist? Perhaps. Maybe only partly so. It won’t bother me in the least bit if you consider me an evolution-denier.

    Why am I a Christian? I have many reasons; I’ll give you three that are important to me:

    First is the cosmological argument, which goes something like this:
    1. The universe exists, and there must be an explanation for why it exists.
    2. There are only three possible explanations for why the universe exists: 1)It has always existed. 2)It created itself. 3) It was created by something outside of itself.
    3. Explanation 1 has serious scientific and philosphical problems; Explanation 2 is absurd. Therefore the universe was created by God.

    The big bang doesn’t solve this problem for the atheist; it just puts the question back a step. A multiverse wouldn’t solve the problem either.

    Second is the problem of evil. Some view the existence of evil as a problem for Christians (and I don’t bury my head in the sand; the level of suffering in this world is intense), but I see it as an even greater problem for atheists. The atheist cannot say at a fundamental level that things like child abuse, genocide, and torturing puppies are evil. Almost all people are repulsed by these things, but atheists can only call them evil by borrowing their morality from somewhere else.

    Third is the resurrection of Christ. That Christ was crucified and that his tomb was empty three days later is an established historical fact. How do we explain the empty tomb? A number of lines of evidence—the lack of a body, the changed lives of the apostles, the explosive growth of the early Church, the short time span between the event and the writing of the New Testament—all point to the Christian explanation: that Christ rose from the dead. I find alternative explanations to be unsatisfactory.

    In light of these things, I think you really have no excuse for rejecting Christ and Christianity. Evolution is really a side issue, and you need to spend some time thinking through the philosophical, moral, and historical reasons for believing in Christ.

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    Comment by geochristian | July 7, 2010

  5. First of all, thanks. You obviously put a lot of time into your reply, and I appreciate that very much.

    A few points:

    Your “Therefore the universe was created by God” tells me you believe in a god-of-the-gaps. You are using your magical supernatural creature to solve a scientific problem. Even worse you are listing three possible explanations that you know of, but who are you to decide those are the only explanations?

    The only correct answer to an unsolved scientific question is “scientists are still working on it.”

    This would be an appropriate time to quote the University of Chicago biology professor Jerry Coyne, and what the heck, I might as well quote Charles Darwin and Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that what conquers our ignorance is research, not giving up and attributing our ignorance to the miraculous work of a creator.
    — Jerry Coyne

    Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
    — Charles Darwin

    Science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.
    — Neil deGrasse Tyson

    Jerry Coyne’s point is your evidence-free god hypothesis is equivalent to giving up. Real scientists never give up.

    Just when I thought there might be some hope for you I read your “the resurrection of Christ.

    My philosophy is impossible events never happen because they are impossible.

    That’s a simple thing to say, but it works. If something is ridiculously impossible, I throw it out immediately. Also, your evidence was extremely not impressive. Fantastic ideas require evidence that’s even more fantastic, and you didn’t even come close to that.

    This annoys me because it’s an insult:

    Almost all people are repulsed by these things, but atheists can only call them evil by borrowing their morality from somewhere else.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that “child abuse, genocide, and torturing puppies” are wrong things to do. People have highly evolved brains, so they can figure out the difference between right or wrong without any help from your god of the bible, who by the way loved genocide, or I should say the Bible writers who invented that disgusting god loved genocide.

    Sorry but this is more than strange:

    Evolution is really a side issue, and you need to spend some time thinking through the philosophical, moral, and historical reasons for believing in Christ.

    I wouldn’t call the most important fact of biology, and the most interesting fact of science, a “side issue”.

    Again it’s time for another quote:

    Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.
    — Michael Shermer

    About your Mister Christ:

    I threw out the Jeebus-was-a-god-man idea (and all other religious ideas including the magic god fairy) after I grew up. That was age 18, which was 43 years ago. And every year as I learn more about science, my atheism gets stronger.

    And I think that’s why Christians are constantly trying to stick Jeebus or god into science. They know science is the greatest possible threat to their Christian death cult, and so they try to merge their childish religion with science in every way they can.

    That doesn’t work because scientists don’t need the magic hypothesis.

    Back to Mr. Jeebus.

    Here’s the obvious truth: Jeebus (if there really was a Jeebus and I could care less if he was real or not) was nothing more than a worthless preacher man, as ignorant about how the world really works as today’s brain-dead preachers.

    The ideas that he performed miracles, rose from the dead, and was related to a god fairy, that’s totally nuts and evidence-free.

    Hey look it, you’re OK. You’re probably much more scientifically literate than I am. You have an unfortunate character flaw, you believe in a god, and even worse you believe in Jeebus, but nobody is perfect.

    Thanks for your long reply, and I hope you don’t mind but to justify the time I’ve spent here, I’m going to copy and paste the whole conversation to my blog, and I have so much respect for you, I’m not going to criticize you like I usually do to Christians.

    Thanks again sir.

    darwin-killed-god dot blogspot dot com

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    Comment by Human Ape | July 8, 2010

  6. Human Ape:

    1. The cosmological argument is not a “god of the gaps” argument. If you don’t believe that something outside of the universe/multiverse caused it to happen, then you must believe either that a) the universe is eternal or b) the universe, including its laws, caused itself to exist. Those are your only options. Which one is it? It is not unreasonable for me to accept the simplest answer, that some self-existent thing (God) caused the universe to come into being.

    2. I am very well aware that there are many atheists who are good, moral people. Some of them are more moral than many Christians. My intention in saying that atheists can only call certain things evil by borrowing their morality from elsewhere was not intended to insult anyone; it was simply stating a fact. As a Christian, I believe that atheists will often behave in a moral fashion because they are created in the image of God and have a God-given conscience. However, the atheist cannot look at evolution and say “genocide is evil.” Perhaps genocide might be to a certain population’s advantage at times. If so, genocide just might be justifiable in the absence of some higher set of moral laws.

    3. The question of genocide is a legitimate one to raise. Here’s a basic answer:
    –The commands given to Israel for the conquest of the Promised Land were strictly limited in scope. The commands were never repeated or applied outside of that context.
    –God has ultimate authority over all lands and peoples, including us.
    –All are sinners (that covers Hitler, Mother Theresa, and all of us in between) and deserving of God’s judgment. The Old Testament judgment on the Canaanites therefore is a brief picture of what we all deserve.
    –God is just. When Israel rejected God, it was subjected to equally severe judgment by the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians.
    –Grace was shown to repentant Canaanites, such as Rahab and her family.
    This answer may not satisfy all objections, but I am satisfied with the basic outline.

    4. When I said that evolution is a side issue to the questions of the truthfulness of Christianity, I meant it. To most Christians, the central issues are expressed in the basic creeds of the church, such as the Nicene Creed. We all acknowledge the basic tenets of the faith such as that God created the universe and that Christ died on the cross for our sins and physically rose from the dead. You cannot reject Christianity because of evolution, because acceptance or denial of evolution is a debatable issue inside of Christianity.

    5. That Jesus existed is as well-documented (or better-documented) as the existence of other figures from history. Do you believe that Julius Caesar existed? We have more Roman-era documentation of Jesus than we do of Caesar. Those who imply or state that he didn’t exist do so for reasons other than historical evidence.

    6. The resurrection is at the core of Christian beliefs. It is something we accept by faith, but that faith is not a blind faith.
    –If there is a God (and I believe God exists for a number of reasons, such as the cosmological and moral arguments that I’ve already mentioned), then why should it be surprising that he can occasionally intervene in the affairs of his creation to do things like miracles and raising Jesus from the dead?
    –It is clear from the historical records that the apostles were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. After he was crucified, they huddled in fear, and when rumors of his resurrection started, they didn’t believe it. They thought it was over. But then something happened that transformed these men into bold preachers of Christ’s resurrection.
    –Ancient people—whether Jews, Greeks, or barbarians—were no more inclined to believe in people physically rising from the dead than modern people are. We cannot dismiss the evidence for the resurrection by saying that the ancients were easily deceived but we moderns aren’t. For the apostles and other witnesses, it took “fantastic evidence” as you called it, to convince them that Christ rose from the dead.

    7. Christianity at its core is not anti-science. Science developed in Christian Europe rather than in other parts of the world. Secular historians of science agree that this is because Christianity teaches that matter is good (as opposed to many Eastern religions that teach that matter is evil or something we need to escape from), and that the universe operates by laws that can be understood.

    8. Darwin was no militant anti-Christian Dawkinsite, and it would be better to describe him as an agnostic than an atheist. Darwin did not reject Christianity primarily because of evolution, but because of other factors, such as the untimely death of his daughter. Even later in life Darwin stated more than once that one could be both a theist and an evolutionist (see Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist by Desmond and Moore).

    For these and other reasons, I reject atheism. Christianity is not something one could deduce by reason alone or by the scientific method, but that does not make it unreasonable or unscientific. Christianity is, in my mind, the system of belief that is most consistent with what we know about the universe, history, and philosophy. Christianity is for everyone: it has an intellectual richness that one could not exhaust in many lifetimes, yet is completely accessible to children illiterate peasants.

    Christ calls out for those who hate him, such as the apostle Paul, or atheists such as C.S. Lewis.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | July 8, 2010

  7. Please follow my logic.

    Evolution, if true, leaves Mr. Magic Man with no magic tricks to perform.

    Period. Case closed. Evolution kills god.

    You say you don’t believe in a god-of-the-gaps, and then you immediately invoke a god to solve a scientific problem. Your god solution is boring and worthless.

    “the atheist cannot look at evolution and say ‘genocide is evil’.”

    Good grief, do you think my entire life is based on some fact of biology?

    I don’t need to know anything about evolution to figure out something as ridiculously easy as the difference between right and wrong. I have a brain. I can think with that brain. And I figured out that genocide, stealing, lying, assaulting people is bad. I also figured out that helping other people, especially old people, is good.

    Honesty is extremely important to me, not because of some imaginary fairy who creates universes with its magic wand. Being honest is important to me because my reputation is important to me. And getting along well with my neighbors, the people I work with, and strangers I encounter, is important to me because this is necessary to have a happy stress-free life. Your ridiculous Christian superstitions have nothing to do with it.

    Our cousins the chimpanzee apes have figured out the same thing. Do you think chimps got their altruism from your invisible Magic Man?

    “For the apostles and other witnesses, it took ‘fantastic evidence’ as you called it, to convince them that Christ rose from the dead.”

    Apparently five billion human apes are not convinced. They are not only not convinced. They think anyone who believes that childish nonsense is insane. And do you remember that I said the impossible never happens. Is that idea so difficult to accept?

    Was Darwin atheist, theist, or wishy-washy agnostic? Who really cares? This is the 21st century, not the 19th century.

    I noticed that the number of times he wrote about a magic god fairy in all of his books was between zero and one. I think he may have stuck the word creator or something in a later edition of one of his books, but it’s obvious he was just trying to appease his wife or his insane critics.

    Would Darwin be an atheist today and proud to admit it? Of course he would. It would be an insult to say otherwise.

    Sorry to waste so much space on your blog, but I think this would be interesting to your readers:

    The other stress in Darwin’s marriage was his science and Emma’s religion. Darwin knew that people would think that his theory, in Thomas Huxley’s words, “killed god,” and he also knew that this fact would pain his wife, who worried for her husband’s soul to the point that she wrote him letters to that effect. It is, in fact, the likeliest reason why Darwin avoided the growing conflict between science and religion. Toward the end of his life he received many letters querying him on his religious attitudes. Darwin’s long-silence gave way to a few revelations. In one letter penned in 1879, just three years before he died, Darwin explained: “In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind.”

    A year later, in 1880, Darwin clarified his reasoning to the British socialist Edward Aveling, who solicited Darwin’s endorsement of a group of radical atheists. Darwin declined the offer, elaborating his reason: “It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men’s minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biased by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.” Emma was a deeply religious woman, so out of love and respect for her, Darwin kept the public side of his religious skepticism in check, an admirable feat of self-discipline by a man of high moral character.
    — Michael Shermer

    You wrote “Christianity is, in my mind, the system of belief that is most consistent with what we know about the universe, history, and philosophy.”

    My reply: Christianity is, in my mind, the most ridiculous insane cowardly idea ever invented by the human race. Your religion is, and continues to be, one of the human race’s greatest mistakes.

    Of course Islam is equally insane, but their god-split-the-moon-in-half idea is no more ridiculous and evidence-free than the stinking-dead-Jeebus-became-a-stinking-zombie idea.

    Speaking of cowardly ideas, I assume you believe in some kind of magical life after death, heaven or whatever. Heaven is of course, besides being a ridiculously stupid and impossible idea, requires a person to be extremely cowardly. So afraid that he or she can’t face reality. There’s no shortage of these cowards, and that’s why your medieval religion hasn’t gone extinct yet.

    With growing disrespect because you apparently still live in the Dark Ages,

    Human Ape

    darwin-killed-god dot blogspot dot com

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    Comment by Human Ape | July 9, 2010

  8. Human Ape:

    I know Christian high school students who confront their high school biology teachers with statements like, “Evolution is stupid.” That is the extent of their reasoning, and undoubtedly this does not have a positive impact on their teachers. These students don’t really understand evolution, but they feel threatened by it and have attended anti-evolution seminars at church or watched young-Earth creationist videos, and so they know that “evil-ution” is a tool of Satan.

    You are starting to sound a lot like those students. You don’t understand theism or Christianity and you write as if you feel threatened. Perhaps you’ve read Dawkins or other atheists, so your faith in atheism has been bolstered. If you cannot get beyond “Christians are morons” and refering to Jesus as “Jeebus” our conversation will be over.

    It appears that you fail to grasp the cosmological argument. It is one thing to disagree with it—though most philosophers believe it is sound—but if you lump it in with god-of-the-gaps arguments, you are missing something.

    You state that chimpanzees figured out altruism without God. Did you know that chimpanzees have been observed to be cannibalistic as well? If one bases their morals on animal behavior, then it just might be morally justifiable in some cases to wipe out a competing band of primates and eat them. The problem with evolution-based ethics is that it ends up being overly pragmatic. In the end, what ever works out good for me (or my tribe) is good. Usually that will mean doing good works and refraining from harming others, but not always.

    You believe that genocide, stealing, lying, honesty, and getting along well with others are good things. I am glad to hear it. I have two sets of questions for you:
    –Why do you believe these are good things? Are they always good things, or are there times when it is good to do the opposite of these things? Are there any moral absolutes?
    –How are you doing on your list of moral values? Do you ever tell a lie? Do you ever steal? Do you ever fail to do your part to maintain harmony with, as you put it, your neighbors, the people you work with, and strangers you encounter, including on places like the internet?

    I would be happy to continue the dialog if you can write respectfully.

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    Comment by geochristian | July 9, 2010

  9. Human Ape:

    I see your blog is heavily influenced by Richard Dawkins.

    Here is what a fellow atheist, philosopher/biologist Michael Ruse, has to say about Dawkins:

    “Dawkins is brazen in his ignorance of philosophy and theology (not to mention the history of science).”

    “Dawkins misunderstands the place of the proofs, but this is nothing to his treatment of the proofs themselves. This is a man truly out of his depth.”

    Here’s what Marxist (and I assume atheist) Terry Eagleton has to say:

    “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

    “Dawkins and Hitchens are equally theologically illiterate in their view of religion as a failed attempt to explain the world.”

    You really ought to let your copy of The God Delusion gather dust for a while. If you are open-minded (most “skeptics” are not) then you might try something like The Reason for God by Timothy Keller or a more academic work like Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig.

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    Comment by geochristian | July 9, 2010

  10. Since you flagged this in a later post I’ll join in, if I may.

    The GeoChristian wrote

    1. The cosmological argument is not a “god of the gaps” argument. If you don’t believe that something outside of the universe/multiverse caused it to happen, then you must believe either that a) the universe is eternal or b) the universe, including its laws, caused itself to exist. Those are your only options. Which one is it? It is not unreasonable for me to accept the simplest answer, that some self-existent thing (God) caused the universe to come into being.

    Those two do not exhaust the possibilities; you’re imputing a false dichotomy to atheists. A third possibility is that the universe spontaneously came into existence as a consequence of a quantum fluxuation in nothing. See here for a somewhat dated but still helpful introduction. Note this

    There is sufficient evidence at present to justify the belief that the universe began to exist without being caused to do so.

    My purpose in this paper is to argue that there is sufficient evidence at present to warrant the conclusion that the universe probably began to exist over ten billion years ago, and that it began to exist without being caused to do so. (Italics added)

    GeoChristian wrote further

    My intention in saying that atheists can only call certain things evil by borrowing their morality from elsewhere was not intended to insult anyone; it was simply stating a fact.

    However, the atheist cannot look at evolution and say “genocide is evil.” Perhaps genocide might be to a certain population’s advantage at times. If so, genocide just might be justifiable in the absence of some higher set of moral laws.

    You’re making (at least) two errors in this. The first error is that everyone “borrow[s] their morality from elsewhere.” While we humans have some intrinsic (inherited) tendencies, the specific moral rules we attempt to live by are borrowed. Christians no less than atheists do so, picking and choosing from among the principles on offer. Christians, for example, do not accept all of what is considered moral in the Old Testament–slavery, genocide, and so on. They selectively read scripture. And that immediately raises Euthaphro’s dilemma to notice. On what basis do Christians accept some Biblical precepts and reject others? And evolution is not a source of morality; it is a systematic description of the history of life on earth and an explanation for its diversity. Atheists look for morality elsewhere, in the products of human cognition and thought. We have to work at it, in contrast to taking the easy way out by transferring our responsibility to an invisible being of questionable reality.

    Further, there are a number of secular moral systems. There is a thriving branch of moral philosophy concerned with secular ethics. For example, reciprocity (the basis of the “Golden Rule”) is not at all unique to Christianity or even to theism in general. Your claim that atheists can behave morally “… because they are created in the image of God and have a God-given conscience” is merely question-begging.

    (And with no Preview I hope my formatting doesn’t get totally screwed up!)

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    Comment by RBH | July 11, 2010

  11. RBH:

    Thanks for taking the time to write a well thought-out comment.

    I’ll stick to the validity of the cosmological argument. Quantum fluctuations don’t solve the problem for the non-theist. The universe doesn’t just consist of matter and energy, but also of the laws by which the universe operates. Where did those laws come from? Did quantum mechanics create itself? All you have done is put the problem of the origin of the universe back one step. Either QM is eternal, it caused itself to exist, or something outside of QM caused it to exist. It is not unreasonable for theists to look at the first two options and reject them. there is no reason to believe that QM is eternal, nor is it logical to suppose that QM has the ability to create itself.

    I’m off to work; hopefully I’ll have time to reply to the rest of your comment later.

    Kevin N

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | July 12, 2010

  12. Hello,

    I have just joined this discussion and I would like to take it back a stage. I am not a professional scientist, but I am interested in the creation/evolution debate. I teach Art and Art History and the same rules of internal logic apply when putting forward an argument.

    I have notice Human Ape’s tendency to use insulting language alongside scientific arguments and feel there is a dichotomy in his approach.

    Ravi Zechariah said in his book ‘Can Man Live Without God?’ that there are three areas from which we draw our beliefs about life. If we imagine three concentric circles, in the middle is logic, then comes culture, and finally what he calls ‘table-talk’.

    If someone at the breakfast table says ‘They’ve disproved the male menopause’, the first question is ‘Who do you mean by “they”? How have they disproved it and what do you mean by ‘Male Menopause”?’

    If someone says ‘No thinking human being in today’s post-feminist age can believe in such a thing as the “Male Menopause”‘, then this is little better than the ‘table-talk’ statement. It is an argument from culture. When I took my teaching degree and had to use Harvard Referencing in my research, it made me stop blurting out such statements

    If someone says ‘Professor John Smith from Oxford University has researched into the phenomenon of male menopause, and can find no evidence for it after researching on 100 subjects, including a control, for two years’ – this is indeed a statement from logic, but it still has to be tested and debated.

    My concern is that much discussion on creation/evolution does not have its roots in logic, and I have to say that, although I am embarassed by some creationist arguments, the atheist evolutionists are often the worst example of this.

    Richard Dawkins is a man who defines the word ‘intelligent’ as ‘anyone who agrees with me’. Just look through his arguments and you will see what I mean. This is just people creating a culture of atheism that is as bad as any religious authority intimidating people with their own dogma.

    What do you think?

    Steve

    Like

    Comment by Steve Carroll | July 15, 2010


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