Around the web 8/11/2013 — YEC problems with poop, having the flying spaghetti monster for lunch, and more

coprolite
https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndfossil/poster/hellcreek/Hellcreekp2.asp

YEC ARGUMENTS BURIED IN DEEP DOO-DOO — The Natural Historian has written a post I wish I had written: Dino Doo-Doo (Coprolites) and the Genesis Flood. Coprolites are pieces of fossilized excrement (and back when I was in graduate school, also the name of my geology department’s intramural softball team). The fossil record has an abundance of fossil turds: fecal pellets from all those invertebrates, fish poop, bird droppings, and rather large dino patties.

How would these have been deposited and preserved in the global deluge? Wouldn’t the sediment-rich slurry of the flood waters have disintegrated your average turd? How would poop piles end up in the same layers as their respective poopers?  After all, there are no dino turds in the Cambrian, and as far as we can tell, dinosaurs never stepped in dog doo-doo.

PSYCHOLOGICALLY SOUND — It is good to see a fellow Montanan writing a solid defense of Christianity: The Apologetic Professor. The author is a psychology professor at the University of Montana. But he is very wrong about one thing, so I’ll say “Go Cats!”

FEELING A BIT LIKE HEZEKIAH — The big boom in natural gas production in the United States is driven by production from shale, by the new technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has produced a chart showing the past and projected future production of natural gas in the United States:

nat_gas_production_1990-2040-(large)

So, at least we won’t run out of natural gas in our lifetimes. That means we can go on with the status quo: drill baby drill. We can just kick back like good ol’ King Hezekiah:

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” — 2 Kings 20:16-19 (ESV)

HT: Geology News

HAVING THE SPAGHETTI MONSTER FOR LUNCH— Some clever atheists came up with the idea of the Flying Spaghetti Monster a few years ago to try to discredit arguments for the existence of God. For example, if Christians say that a certain piece of evidence points to the existence of God, the pastafarian (a follower of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) would say that the same piece of evidence points to the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. The arguments for the existence of something/someone who is the uncaused cause, the origin of order and design, and the giver of moral laws, are in a completely different category than the arguments for an FSM. Put quite simply, there is no evidence for the existence of an FSM, and there is evidence for the existence of God.

Greg Koukl briefly discusses the FSM on the Stand to Reason blog: http://www.str.org/videos/the-flying-spaghetti-monster#.UghP-ZKcd8F

GeoScriptures — Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning God” vs Carl Sagan

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.Genesis 1:1 (ESV)

“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan, from Cosmos.

Which of these two quotes is a scientific statement, and which is a religious statement?

The initial reaction most people—including Christians— have had when I have asked this question is that the quote from Genesis is a religious statement, and the quote from Sagan is a scientific statement. In reality, both statements are religious or philosophical in nature, but only the Genesis quote is fully compatible with the universe as we know it.

I won’t dispute that the quote from the Bible is a religious statement. If religion is about God and his relationship to the universe and humanity, then Genesis 1:1 is clearly a religious statement.

Carl Sagan’s famous Cosmos statement is also a philosophical—and I would say religious—statement. Sagan had not observed that “the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” nor had he nor any other scientist done an experiment which proved that God doesn’t exist or isn’t necessary. In other words, Sagan had not used anything like “the scientific method” to arrive at his conclusion, and his Cosmos quote is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one.

Atheists such as Sagan would say that science has explained everything from nuclear fusion to sexual reproduction without any need for inserting God into the process and so their faith that there is no God is justified (faith is the right word, even if they would scramble to say it in a different way). But in doing this they are confusing categories. It is one thing to say that stellar evolution or meiosis can be explained without inserting a “God did it” step. Christians do not insert a “God did it” step into these processes either. However, it is an entirely different matter to explain why there is a cosmos at all. This question is outside of science, and is one that theists have a better explanation for than do atheists.

Many dismiss the Christian belief that God created the entire cosmos—matter, energy, space, time, and laws—as coming from a primitive myth. By “cosmos” I mean “everything that is or ever was or ever will be,” which would include the multiverse (if there is such a thing) beyond our observed universe, but would not include God. Only one of the following statements, however, is actually compatible with the cosmos as we know it:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

“In the beginning, nothing created everything.”

In the universe we live in, things do not pop into existence completely out of nothing. I am not talking about random quantum fluctuations creating subatomic particles here and there, because these particles are not truly popping up out of nothing. By nothing, I mean nothing — no space, time, matter, energy, nor laws. Because of this, it is incompatible with what we know about the cosmos—that is, it is incompatible with science—to believe that the cosmos came from absolutely nothing, or that it somehow created itself.

On the other hand, it is compatible with the universe as we know it (i.e. science) to advocate that it was caused to exist by something completely outside of it. There is absolutely no scientific reason, therefore, for a scientist to not accept that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Grace and Peace

Around the web 12/23/2012

NewsweekCoverEhrmanUN-MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM NEWSWEEK — The print edition of Newsweek is being discontinued, but they had to take one last swipe at Biblical Christianity. One of the final cover stories was What Do We Really Know About Jesus? by the non-Christian Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman. Most of Ehrman’s attacks on the Biblical record have been answered by Christian scholars numerous times, and others fall into the “so what?” category.

In response, Melinda Penner of Stand to Reason writes, “Many times, questions about the Bible can be resolved simply by reading what the text actually says, rather than believing what we think it says.” As I’ve pointed out before, doing this in itself takes care of a great number of apparent “contradictions” that authors such as Ehrman are concerned about.

UN-MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE ATHEISTS — Dr. Ehrman is wrong, but the organization American Atheists goes beyond being wrong with their “Keep the Merry! Dump the Myth!” advertising campaign, complete with a billboard in New York City’s Times Square, which can be seen at cnn.com: Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion.

Jesus a myth? I’m quite skeptical.

From the CNN article:

“Christianity stole Christmas in the first place and they don’t own the season, they don’t own the Christmas season,” [American Atheists’ president] Silverman said, pointing to pagan winter solstice celebrations that predated Jesus Christ. “When they say keep Christ in Christmas, they are actually saying put Christ back in Christmas.”

Isn’t that sort of like saying Canada Day (July 1st) doesn’t really have anything to do with Canada because it was predated by the Fourth of July?

NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES — I tend to be skeptical whenever someone comes out with a “I went to heaven and saw a glorious light” story, while acknowledging that such things could happen. Most of my cynicism comes from the lack of the centrality of Christ in most of these stories.

Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, puts these near-death (or near-heaven) experiences in perspective in his article Incredible Journeys: What to Make of Visits to Heaven.

In this vein, the silliest claim made in the current wave of books is that because of such experiences, we now know, as some of the titles suggest, that Heaven Is for Real or that there is Proof of Heaven. Christians believe that “heaven is for real” not because of the testimony of a 4-year-old boy or even of a neurosurgeon, but because Jesus Christ testified to such and rose from the grave to vindicate his testimony. He tells the thief on the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43, ESV). His teachings not only assumed a tangible, bodily existence known as the kingdom of heaven, but also an intermediate glorious state of bodiless existence.

A MODEST PROPOSAL — From the Parchment & Pen Blog: Should William & Kate Get an Abortion? You know, they haven’t been married very long, its only a zygote, and so forth.

Grace and Peace

Jesus is for geologists (and other scientists)

I’ve always known that Jesus is for geologists, as well as for biologists, chemists, physicists, archeologists, astronomers, and all other sorts of scientists.

There are, of course, many Christians who are scientists, and many scientists who are Christians. As a graduate student in geology, I found rich fellowship with a half dozen Christian geologists-in-training, and there was a Christian on the faculty of the department as well.

Davis Young, a Christian geology professor (retired), and author of The Bible, Rocks and Time, Christianity and the Age of the Earth, and Mind over Magma: the Story of Igneous Petrology, has written what he considers to be his most important book: Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God.

The summary on Barnes & Noble reads:

Bridging the fields of natural science and religion, Good News for Science: Why Scientific Minds Need God invites members of the professional scientific community, graduate, undergraduate, and high school science students, science teachers, and members of the general public who are interested in the natural sciences to embrace the Christian faith personally. Employing the theme of good news, this book challenges readers to ponder the question of life after death as a gateway to the overall claim that Christianity, at its best and most consistent, bears good news for both science and the scientist. On the one hand, Christianity, far from being antithetical to science, supplies the rational foundation that makes the scientific enterprise possible. On the other hand, the central message of Christianity brings a firm hope to scientists as individual persons in meeting their deepest needs and desires for genuine significance, purpose, goodness, forgiveness, justice, and relationship with the Creator. In presenting his case, the author eschews pseudo-science and treats with great respect the discoveries of contemporary mainstream natural science, including an ancient universe and Earth, biological evolution, and the standard model of cosmology. The text adopts an informal, personal, conversational style. Good News for Science will be of interest not only to the general scientific community but also to Christians who are seeking a resource to use in presenting Christian faith to scientifically knowledgeable individuals.

As the review says, this would be a great book for

  • Professional scientists
  • Students of science, at either the undergraduate or graduate levels
  • High school teachers and students
  • Members of the general public.

Buy this book at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Grace and Peace

Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism

Christianity Today has a brief interview with philosopher Alvin Plantinga regarding his recent book entitled Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. The main points of the interview are:

  • The alleged conflict between theistic religion and science is superficial.
  • There is a deep harmony between theistic religion and science.
  • Part of the reason there appears to be serious antagonism between theistic religion and science is because there are vocal advocates of warfare between the two. These people are wrong.
  • Those who add naturalism to scientific theories such as evolution are doing so for non-scientific reasons.
  • If we got here by unguided (i.e. no divine involvement) evolution, then there is no reason to trust that our minds can guide us to truth about evolution.

Regarding evolution, Plantinga states

In certain areas, the right word would be alleged conflict. For example, I argue that there’s no real conflict between evolutionary theory—that is, the scientific theory of evolution apart from any naturalistic spin—and what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity.” There’s no real conflict, even though conflict has been alleged by people on the Right as well as on the Left. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and a host of others claim that there is outright conflict between evolutionary theory and belief in such a person as God, who has created and designed the living world. At the other end, there are Christian thinkers, too—like Phillip Johnson—who think there is irreconcilable conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and Christian belief.

But I don’t think there is. What current scientific evolutionary theory says is that the living world has come to be via a certain process of natural selection operating on some form of genetic variation. And it’s clear that God could have made the living world that way if he wanted to. What Christianity tells us, what theistic religion generally tells us, is that God has created the world and created human beings in his image. He could have done that through a variety of means. And that point goes all the way back to the 19th century. Some of the Princeton theologians—Charles Hodge, for example—said exactly that shortly after Darwin’s theory of evolution appeared. It’s not a new thought at all.

Despite what you hear from the loud voices on both sides—whether Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett for the atheists or Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, or Phillip Johnson for the Christian anti-evolutionists—the Bible does not say much, if anything, about biological evolution. The two main arguments—at least from the young-Earth side of Christianity—against evolution are that there could not have been any death before Adam’s fall into sin, and that animals were created to reproduce after their kinds. The Bible however does not teach that there was no animal death before the fall, and to take the statements about organisms reproducing after their kinds in Genesis 1 to mean that populations cannot vary over time is quite a hermeneutic stretch. On the other side, atheist extrapolations from “organisms have changed over time” to “there is no God” are downright silly.

The conclusion a clear thinking person ought to make—and most scientists like to think of themselves as clear thinkers—is that one cannot rule out Christianity because of biological evolution or because of any other scientific theory. Those who have rejected Christianity because of evolution—or some other branch of science—have done so because of non-scientific additions to science, and are not being as rational as they have been led to believe.

Grace and Peace

Free thinkers?

Why do “free-thinkers” all come to the same conclusions?

Is it permissible for a skeptic to be skeptical about skepticism?

Is it rational to believe that “In the beginning nothing created everything?”

Can science prove that science is the only way to know anything?

How can an atheist know that God doesn’t exist without being omniscient?

If an atheist steals from a fellow atheist, have they done something inherently evil?