Atheist philosopher Michael Ruse rips into the best-selling author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins:
“It is not that the atheists are having a field day because of the brilliance and novelty of their thinking. Frankly — and I speak here as a nonbeliever myself, pretty atheistic about Christianity and skeptical about all theological claims — the material being churned out is second rate. And that is a euphemism for “downright awful.”
“It is simply that it (and the other works, some of which I have gone after elsewhere) is not very good. For a start, 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.”
Many read Dawkins’ works with a blind faith that the guy knows what he is talking about. It just isn’t so.
Ruse’s book review is in Isis, December 2007, 98(4), 814-816
I got the quotes from the Isis article from www.arn.org.
Grace and Peace
My home town of Billings, Montana is tied for being the city with the cleanest air in terms of ozone concentration in the entire United States, and is in the top 25 for cleanest air in terms of particulates.
From MSNBC.com: Report lists worst, best cities for air quality
Ahhh. To breathe some fresh Montana air.
HT: The Green Life
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Some of the vocal “new atheists, ” such as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) like to refer to themselves as “Brights.” Not everyone thinks these guys are all that bright, at least when it comes to their arguments against Christianity and theism. Dawkin’s arguments against theism have been criticized as being amateurish and sophomoric, not only by Christians, but even by other atheists. Here are some excerpts from a review of atheist Terry Eagleton’s new book Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. The review was written by Andrew O’Hehir and appears at Solon.com.
Yet their [Dawkins and Hitchens] arguments are fatally undermined by their own unacknowledged dogmas and doctrines, he goes on to say, and they completely fail to understand Christian faith (or any other kind) except in its stupidest and most literal-minded form.
A few years ago, I read an article by a Roman Catholic theologian who wryly observed that the quality of Western atheism had gone steadily downhill since Nietzsche. Eagleton heartily concurs. He freely admits that what Christian doctrine teaches about the universe and the fate of man may not be true, or even plausible. But as he then puts it, “Critics of the most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.”
Atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens, Eagleton insists, are playing to the high-minded liberal-humanist prejudices of their elite audience and, in the process, are displaying a shocking ignorance of their supposed subject, one that would be deemed unacceptable in almost any other intellectual forum. Would anyone be permitted to write a book about courtly love in the Middle Ages based on several visits to a Renaissance Faire, or a book about Nazism based on episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes”?
Still, he is incontestably correct about two things: There is a long Judeo-Christian theological tradition that bears no resemblance to the caricature of religious faith found in Ditchkins [Ditchkins = Dawkins + Hitchens], and atheists tend to take the most degraded and superstitious forms of religion as representative.
There is a richness and depth to Christian theology and philosophy that Dawkins et al. haven’t even touched.
HT: Cruchy Con
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My view counter hit 200,000 today. I’m not entirely sure what counts as a “page view” in WordPress, except that my own visits to the blog are not counted.
Thank you to all who read and comment on The GeoChristian.
Grace and Peace
The votes are in from the NASA Earth Observatory’s viewers’ favorites contest, and the winning image out of over 3000 possibilities is:
A view of Earth from Saturn.
To see the top ten vote-getters go to Earth Observatory’s Top Ten Images of the Day.
Grace and Peace
I’m still looking for a job as a geologist or GIS professional, and just updated my Ten Reasons Why You Should Hire Me post.
When I picked up one of my daughters from school a few weeks ago, she asked, “Dad, did you find a job today?” I replied, “I’ve found lots of jobs; they just haven’t found me yet.”
I have more strong possibilities now than I did a few weeks ago, and had two good interviews in St. Louis last week. I’m hopeful that something will come up soon.
Thanks for reading The GeoChristian, and for any openings you can point me to.
“The perspective of Scripture is not the survival of the fittest, but the protection of the weakest.”
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (NIV)
The compassion focus was on the ministry of Compassion International, a Christian organization that provides food, clothing, medical care, education, and hope for over 1,000,000 poor children worldwide. Here is the promotional video that was shown:
There are lots of children waiting for a sponsor. Your sponsorship gift of only $32 per month will lift a child out of the grip of poverty.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Proverbs 31:8, NIV)
Grace and Peace
Monday, April 27th is the last day to vote for your favorite image from NASA’s Earth Observatory.
Grace and Peace
Imagine the Taliban with nuclear weapons. That could happen if the worst-case scenario happens in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the radical terrorist group is making significant advances.
A Taliban conquest of Pakistan is by no means certain. The Pakistani military is powerful and could strike back. Or the cultural differences between the tribal Taliban and the majority Punjabi and Sindhi groups that populate the Indus valley could be significant enough to block the advance of the radical Taliban ideology in the hearts of the people. But then again, the Taliban are determined and patient, and could make further unexpected advances.
The Long War Journal has a couple maps showing the extent of Taliban control in the Northwest Frontier Province and adjoining areas, not too far from the capital city of Islamabad.
Extent of Taliban control 4/14/09
from The Long War Journal:
Extent of Taliban control 4/24/09
from The Long War Journal:
HT: The Map Room
Grace and Peace
|This is part one of a six-part series examining supposed evidences for a global flood that have recently appeared on the Answers in Genesis web site.|
|Part one — This article.|
|Part two examines the YEC argument that sedimentary rocks that contain dense accumulations of fossils can best be described by the action of Noah’s Flood.
|Part three examines the YEC perception that transcontinental rock layers, such as the sandstone layer that is found at the base of the Paleozoic sediments throughout much of North America, can best be explained by Noah’s flood.|
|Part four looks at the YEC claim that long-distance transport of sand grains can only be explained by Noah’s flood.
|Part five looks at unconformities and the boundaries between geological formations. The young-Earth crowd claims that there is no evidence for weathering and erosion between layers, which is simply not true.
|Part six looks at whether or not layers must be soft rather than lithified in order to fold. Laboratory and field evidence indicate that solid rocks really can fold.
A few weeks ago, I was pointed to some recently-published articles by young-Earth creationist geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling on the Answers in Genesis (AiG) web site. These make up a series called “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.”
The people at AiG are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I share their love for the Lord Jesus Christ, their respect for the Bible as the Word of God, and their desire to see people come to faith in Christ. However, I view their arguments for a young Earth and geological catastrophism as unnecessary Biblically, really bad apologetics, and a serious obstacle to the evangelism of scientists.
Unfortunately, few people in our churches or Christian education system have the geological background to critically analyze these arguments. The result is that people read articles like these from AiG, find them to be rather impressive, and believe that these present sound arguments in defense of the Bible. The opposite, however, is true. A vast majority of Christian geologists find the arguments for a young-Earth and the geologic work of the Flood to be untenable. It is my strong opinion that the young-Earth arguments of organizations like AiG have no place in our churches and Christian education system.
Let’s take a look at the first of Snelling’s “Six main geologic evidences for the Genesis Flood.”
Snelling begins this article with an overview of the vertical distribution of marine fossil-bearing sediments. Marine fossils are found throughout the geologic column in places like the Grand Canyon, at elevations approaching 8000 feet (2400 m) above sea level, and even at the summit of Mt. Everest (29029 ft, 8848 m).
Most young-Earth creationists acknowledge that the marine fossils at the top of Mt. Everest were deposited at a lower elevation and then uplifted through mountain-building processes, so I’m not sure what Snelling’s point is in bringing this up. The standard geological model of deposition and uplift works perfectly fine for explaining how marine fossils ended up at the top of many mountain ranges.
In his article, Snelling brings up fossils of organisms called crinoids:
Other rock layers exposed in Grand Canyon also contain large numbers of marine fossils. The best example is the Redwall Limestone, which commonly contains fossil brachiopods (a clam-like organism), corals, bryozoans (lace corals), crinoids (sea lilies), bivalves (types of clams), gastropods (marine snails), trilobites, cephalopods, and even fish teeth.
These marine fossils are found haphazardly preserved in this limestone bed. The crinoids, for example, are found with their columnals (disks) totally separated from one another, while in life they are stacked on top of one another to make up their “stems.” Thus, these marine creatures were catastrophically destroyed and buried in this lime sediment.
His description of the Redwall Limestone is mostly correct. The Redwall Limestone is part of a layer of Mississipian age that covers much of western North America, from Canada down to Mexico. This layer has different names in different regions, such as the Leadville Formation in Colorado and the Rundle Group at Banff in Canada. These can be traced as a continuous layer either in outcrop on the surface, or in the subsurface through oil and gas wells or by seismic methods. I have not observed the Redwall Limestone in Arizona, but am familiar with its equivalent in Montana, the Madison Group. The Madison Group consists mostly of marine limestone, and contains many quadrillions of crinoid stem fragments (I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation and came up with about 1016 stem fragments in a 500 x 500 km area; I know I’ve seen this figured out somewhere else before), as well as some beautifully preserved complete crinoid organisms.
In the young-Earth creationist scenario, these quadrillions of crinoid columnals had to be lying in the shallow sea before the flood, be ripped up in the early stages of the flood, be held together as a coherent package for a while during the flood with no loss or mixing with other units while Cambrian through Devonian sediments were deposited, and then deposited on the seafloor in the middle of the flood. Some of the fragile crinoid organisms would have had to stay together through all of this without disarticulating, such as the crinoid fossils illustrated to the right.
According to standard geological explanations, parts of the continents have been covered by shallow marine waters at numerous times throughout geologic history. Over time, in the absence of tectonic forces leading to mountain-building, continents are worn down to relatively flat surfaces. When sea level has risen (sometimes due to varying rates of mid-ocean ridge volcanism), these eroded continents became covered by shallow sea water. It was in one of these times that the Mississippian marine limestones were deposited on the continents. In places within these limestones, small-scale ecological distribution of organisms is preserved in the rocks (e.g. “Waulsortian mounds“, which are in some ways similar to coral reefs, but without a reef-building organism such as corals).
Crinoids are not really abundant in today’s oceans, but they are common enough for us to study them in their natural habitats. When they die, the stems often break up into small cylindrical segments, and the calcium carbonate portion of the stem can be preserved on the sea floor. Over time the stem fragments can accumulate to a greater depth. Snelling’s statement that it would require some sort of catastrophe to form beds of crinoid stem fragments is completely without a basis. A natural analog in the modern ocean can explain these layers easily.
- It is not necessary to posit a global flood to explain marine fossils at high elevations. Snelling knows this.
- Catastrophism cannot explain the fossil assemblage of Mississippian limestones such as the Redwall. It is difficult to see how this mixture of fossils (which contains more than just crinoids, as Snelling acknowledges) could have stayed together as a coherent package in a global flood.
- Local ecological zones are preserved at places in Mississippian limestones. Were these mounds carried by the flood and then deposited gently on the surface without breaking apart? I don’t think so.
The young-Earth catastrophist arguments of AiG might sound good to Christians without a strong science background, but this whole system simply does not work, and should not be used for apologetics and evangelism.
Up next: AiG argument #2: The World’s a Graveyard.
Grace and Peace
Last month I wrote about my friend Glenn, who reads over 100 books a year. I don’t think I’ll ever hit that level, but I have been encouraged to be more disciplined and intentional in my reading habits. This week Glenn pointed to a challenging reading list from Monergism books. I have about 20% of these books in my library, though I haven’t read all of them yet. The list comes from a Calvinist perspective (and I’m mostly Calvinist in my theology) but draws from non-Calvinist writers as well, such as Martin Luther.
Grace and Peace
Is the Four Corners marker, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet, in the wrong location? The answer is “yes” and “no.”
From ABC News/AP:
Tourists who think they’re putting a hand or foot in each of four states at the Four Corners area are apparently missing the mark – by about 2.5 miles. National Geodetic Survey officials say the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be.
The AP story doesn’t really get the story right. The marker is not where it “should be” but it is where the four states come together.
This is all explained at The Map Room: So What If Four Corners Is a Little Off?
When the territorial borders were surveyed in the 1860s, the surveyors were aiming for having the Four Corners intersection at 37°N 100°W. They missed this location, and placed the boundary marker where it stands now. The official state borders are not along the intended lines of latitude and longitude, but where the survey markers were actually placed, so the Four Corners marker really does mark the only place in the United States where four states meet.
On a small scale map of the United States, the straight-line borders of western states look like they follow lines of latitude and longitude exactly. For example, the US-Canadian border is supposed to follow 49°N. In reality, the surveyors missed all of these lines by a bit, and where the surveyors placed their markers is where the legal boundaries really are. Here is a 1:100,000 topographic map showing the wandering of the Montana-Wyoming border in Yellowstone National Park. The boundary wanders up to a half mile from the 45°N line that it is supposed to follow (it gets really close to following 45°N over on the right side of the map).
Grace and Peace
From yesterday’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: The View Near a Black Hole:
I’ve got this one set as my desktop background. Though a black hole itself is invisible, its powerful gravity sucks in gases from surrounding space. These gases become extremely hot as they spiral into the black hole, emiting x-rays and other electromagnetic radiation in the process.
Grace and Peace
From today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: Flowing Barchan Sand Dunes on Mars
This view includes crescent-shaped barchans as well as lonitudinal dunes. The prevailing wind is from the right to the left.
Grace and Peace
Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs (not the ID Philip Johnson) addresses the tough apologetics question of the conquest of the Promised Land, when the Israelites were commanded to kill all the inhabitants of the land. How can a loving God command the inhabitants of the land to be slaughtered? We are rightly offended by similar actions taken today: the holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia. So how do we answer this? See Truth and Apologetics for a good answer.
The basic answer I have given on this one is:
- This was a picture not of Israel’s righteousness but of God’s holy judgment on an exceedingly wicked group of people. We, likewise, are deserving of judgment.
- Even in the midst of the conquest there mercy was shown to at least one repentant inhabitant of the land: Rahab the prostitute, who is listed in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5).
- The command was limited in space and time and not repeated at any time afterward. Even during the conquest, the command was limited to hostile nations in a specific area. The Old Testament has plenty of counterexamples of commands to safeguard the rights of aliens.
- I don’t completely understand, but don’t have to.
Grace and Peace
The space shuttle is being phased out. Here is an artist’s depiction of part of the replacement, the Ares-I launch vehicle, which is scheduled for its first test launch this summer:
The Ares-I will be used for carrying crews into Earth orbit. The crew capsule will look similar to that used in the Apollo missions that took astronauts to the moon, but it can carry four to six astronauts rather than just three:
The space shuttle is used for lifting payloads that could be launched using unmanned rockets, which places astronauts unnecessarily at risk. NASA’s replacement launch vehicle for these purposes is the Ares-V, which will have a larger lift capacity than did the Saturn-V rocket, which was last used in the early 1970s. The Ares-V will be used for launching new components of the International Space Station, as well as for launching heavier components for missions to the moon and Mars.
LiveScience.com: Big Test Looms for NASA’s New Rocket
Wikipedia: Orion (Spacecraft)
Grace and peace
The gospel is for unbelievers. It is also for believers. It is not just the starting point; it is our life.
HT: Extreme Theology
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“Materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.” — A.N. Wilson, former atheist
Writer A.N. Wilson had a “Damascus Road” conversion to atheism, and then a slow climb back to Christianity.
His conversion back to Christianity was based on:
- Historical apologetics — the reality of the empty tomb; the perseverance of the apostles in the face of persecution.
- The lives of Christians — he speaks of Bonhoeffer in the face of Nazi imprisonment, T.S. Eliot, Dostoevsky.
- Uniquely human attributes — music, love, language.
Here are some quotes from an article in the New Statesman:
This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.
But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi’s own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?
I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.
[Language, music, and love] convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.
And here are some quotes from MailOnline: Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity:
For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.
Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.
Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?
Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.
To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
It also lends weight to the fervour of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.
My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.
Rather than being cowed by them, I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block. […] But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known – not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.
The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people’s lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.
Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love – whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends – and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves.
Easter does not answer such questions by clever-clever logic. Nor is it irrational. On the contrary, it meets our reason and our hearts together, for it addresses the whole person.
In the past, I have questioned its veracity and suggested that it should not be taken literally. But the more I read the Easter story, the better it seems to fit and apply to the human condition. That, too, is why I now believe in it.
Easter confronts us with a historical event set in time. We are faced with a story of an empty tomb, of a small group of men and women who were at one stage hiding for their lives and at the next were brave enough to face the full judicial persecution of the Roman Empire and proclaim their belief in a risen Christ.
Sadly, they have all but accepted that only stupid people actually believe in Christianity, and that the few intelligent people left in the churches are there only for the music or believe it all in some symbolic or contorted way which, when examined, turns out not to be belief after all.
As a matter of fact, I am sure the opposite is the case and that materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.
Grace and Peace
P.S. Christianity Today also has reported on A.N. Wilson’s journey.