Thursday, 5 November 2009

Faith v Evidence

In a previous response, Adam said that I am "labouring under a faulty defintion of faith, namely that faith means 100% blind faith at all times."

This is not what I said. Faith is related to the volume of evidence. If you have sufficient evidence, why do you need to call it faith?

Of course you can say we have faith in induction or that the sun will rise tomorrow, but this makes the term meaningless. The less evidence one has for something the more faith it takes to believe it, therefore to say that someone's faith is fact based, is paradoxical.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

More Than a Theory - Chapter 3

Different Strategies.

In this Chapter Ross gives a potted history of origin beliefs as outlined in the previous chapter and here, especially with Creationism and Inteliigent Design, I think he does a good job. He details the trials and court cases where Creation arguments were dismissed as not being scientific enough for science classrooms.

His use of statistics in the opening of the chapter are of interest. The stats show how acceptence of Evolution has declined in the US population despite increasing Education over the past decades. The reason for this, according to Ross, is that strictly naturalistic explanations are being promoted and this is unhelpful to the evolutionists cause. What is missing from the science classroom are, according to Ross, "[significant] answers to the big questions of life... Where did humans come from?...Where are we going? "(p38). Of course the answers that science gives "Random physical phenomena [and] most likely to extinction" are dismissed as being, not untrue per se, but unpallatable.

The problem here is that, if these answers are true then should we ignore them because we don't like them? The fact that we are heading for extinction when the sun burns up in millions of years time is frankly irrelevant, the fact that, if some global warming proponents are right (and that's a seperate argument) we might be headed for extinction in the next few decades is much more relevant to me and those I care about. I agree totally that the universe can be awesome, fantastic, inspiring and wonderful, I fail to see why adding another layer of unecessary religious baggage makes it more so.

Ross details why other approaches to origin studies have failed and of course he outlines his own pet idea: anIntegrative Approach.

This particular sub-section left me baffled. Here is a quote:

The magisteria of science and religion find harmony in Christian doctrine. Biblical faith is fact-based. Such faith includes confidence, based on testable evidence, in the reality of that faith's object.
[my italics]

"Biblical faith is fact based"? Surely this is a contradiction. Either it is based on fact or it is faith-based. We would surely agree that faith means holding a belief either contrary to or in the absence of knowledge or expectation. For instance, take these two propositions:

1. Tomorrow the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

2. Tomorrow the sun will rise in the west and set in the east.

We would all agree that to hold onto the second proposition "takes more faith" than the first. This is because as far as we can know the sun has risen from the East every single day and will do so tomorrow. Clearly levels of faithare related to levels of evidence and induction.

Every major Christian doctrine is either founded upon or linked to thousands of wide-ranging scientific details on the origins, structure, and history of the universe, Earth, life and humanity.

If it is fact and evidence based, why are there so many different, contradictory and frankly irrational "doctrines"? Either a wafer turns structuraly into the body of a long-dead God-man or not. Either we originated from a mud-man with a woman made from his rib in a garden, with a talking snake and a magic fruit-tree or it was myth. These are contrary positions held by major Christian doctrines.

I know Ross is trying to present the faithful with Reasons to Believe but he still has not yet given us the reasons. He does however make various assertions about the Bible:

The Palmist declared that God has revealed himself to humanity in two books, the written record and nature's record. Both are said to be completely reliable, having as their source the one who embodies truth, then one who does not lie... According to the Bible...these two books are more than merely compatible - they overlap

Ross is again showing his hand here. The Bible is true; it must be so because it says so right the Bible.

Onto Chapter 4, An Objective Testing Method. Maybe now we will get some real evidence.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

More Than a Theory - Chapter 2

In the 2nd chapter of Ross's book he sets out to define in his words, the different range of beliefs in the origin of life and the universe.

His definitions are:

A - Evolutionists. They believe that the natural realm is attributal to strictly natural causes.

B - Young-Earth Creationists. The biblical fundamentalist, 7-day creation & Noahcian flood believer

C - Intelligent Designers. The scientific proposal that there is a designer or designers of at least some natural events or artifacts

D - Old-Earth Creationists. Accept the Biblical accounts but also accept scientific aging of the universe.

E - Theistic Evolutionists. God tinkers and directs evolution where needed (not sure how this differs from ID).

F - Framework Theorists. Accepts the Biblical account; but not necessarilly in the right order!.

G - Progressive Creationists. Not quite sure on this one; I think it is the same as Old-Earth creationists but a bit more Liberal.

H - Concordists. People who attempt to harmonise the Biblical account and the scientific account.

Ross manages to pull together eight different belief systems but of course they could easily be split into three.

A - people who accept what science tells us by looking at the evidence.

B - People who make things up without any evidence.

C - People who accept science but try to somehow squeeze round facts into square treasured myths.

All of Ross's catagories, bar one, presuppose the Christian God. Of course ID proponents say that their tinkerer is not actually identified, but it is interesting how almost all the proponents of I.D. are Evangelical Christians and I think the Discovery Institute's Wedge Strategy Document gives the game away.

Ross ignores other creation accounts, of which there are numerous.

What about Deists? People who beleive there was a God who started it all but things now proceede under natural causes? What about Matrixers? (See the film). What about.. oh heck, I could make any crap up and treat it as legitimate. All that counts here is evidence. That's it. If there is evidence then we shall see.

One thing about Evolutionists. From my readings and in my experience, almost all the scientists I have read who accept evolution, accept it as a scientific explanation for the diversity of life we see around us. If there is a God or Gods behind it then they cannot say, all they can say is that there is no evidence for the deity. They are looking for explanations and these explanations become part of the natural world, they are not "strictly" natural, they just "are" natural.

OK. On to Chapter 3, Different Strategies...

Monday, 2 November 2009

I get mail

I got an email from my friend Adam. It seems Blogger has a limit of so many characters when commenting, so Adam emailed it to me. I reprint his essay here:

i live in the same paranoid world as glenn beck.

if 20% of what glenn beck reports is true (it is) then the american media should be fired
(they should). the main stream media is in decline (do i smell a bailout coming?) and since
they are all libs they cant figure out why. supply and demand. their news sucks. its not
objective. so people dont buy it. but i digress.

some live in the united states. me.
some do not. the truscotsman

the current administration is not kidding. they are trying to fundamentally transform
the united states. if we could only be like britain. post Christian. where liberties vanish without
a whimper. where the narcissitic secular population cant even be bothered to sustain their
society by having children. (been nice knowin you) where you could shoot one of the 20 billions
cameras that surveil you. if you had a gun.

everyone worships something. even the atheist has fervently held beliefs even if
they are negative beliefs. a secular society believes in something. and the american
left have filled the vacuum with government. it is naive to underestimate their passion
to these ends.

is it a mere coincidence that we face the loss of liberty and our society is more secular
than ever? is it a coincidence that europe is more secular than america and has
even less liberty left than we do?

the truscotsman is a decent guy. but thats nota good enough foundation for a liberty
preserving system of government. american liberty is rooted in theism, specifcally Christianity.

its impossible to overestimate the contributions of Christian thought to america.
written constitutions, secret ballot, seperation of church and state and seperation
of powers were all born of puritan (Christian) practice.

"of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and
morality are indespensable supports" george washington

"it is impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible" g. washington

"can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their
only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that their liberties
are a gift of God?" thomas jefferson

upon travelling to american under commission of the french governemnt to
investigate how so much liberty without anarchy was possible wrote the following
"i do not know if whether all americans have a sincere faith in their religion, for who
can know the human heart? but i am certain that they hold it indespensable for
the maintenance of republic institutions. this opinion is not peculair to a class
of citiznes or to a party, but it belongs to the whole rank of society." america is
"the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest power over mens souls.
and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country
where it is now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest."

sam adams wrote "the right of freedom being a gift of God almighty.....the rights of the
colonists as Christians....may be best understood be reading and studying the institutes
of the Great Law Giver....."

adams fellow revolutionary, james otis, published the following: certainly there must be a compact
(between men for government) but for the compact to have any solid foundation it must be planted
in the unchangeable will of God, the author of nature, whose laws never change......the power of
God almighty is the only pwer that can properly and strictly be called supreme and
absolute. in the order of nature immediately under Him comes the power of simple
democracy, or the power of the whole over the whole. subordiante to both these
are all other political powers.

to end the quoting that could go on for some time, our nation and liberties are founded
in the fact that real equality among peoples is a Christian notion. and the further away
we move from that fact the further away we move from our founding and freedoms.

and this is why america is failing now. progressives believes rights are distributed by the
government. the same government with which they have replaced God, and as such
they feel allowed to remove those rights from the general public. its no accident that
the left works towards the "europeization" of america because it means necessarily
destroying what america was founded on.

without a higher lawgiver the state is the highest moral authority and the rights and
liberties are no longer inalienable but have become subject to the government which
gives and takes them as they please.

when political power rather than the "God of nature" becomes the decider of law and rights
we risk assuming the founders definition of tyranny.

consider our first amendment. it was meant to protect the right to free expression and
exercise or religion. today it has been bastardized to mean exactly the opposite of its
original intent being used to removed prayer and the ten commandments from school etc.

law accountable only to secular authorities become pliable by whomever is in power.

this problem mirrors the atheist belief that society is a good source of morality, despite the
fact that society has been so bad at it over the years. like morality,if liberty is based on
subjective authority, given human nature, weve got little chance of retaining it.

the father of the american constitution, james madison, said "we have staked the whole
future of the american civilization not upon the power of the governemnt, far from it. we have
staked the future...upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control
ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the ten commandments of God."

if the truscotsman believes that american liberty is not under assualt he is wrong.

if the truscotsman believes that american liberty's inalienability is not founded in God he is

Jonathan Coulton

Booked my tickets recently for Jonathan Coulton at The Bongo Club on 8th Nov. Can't wait.

I saw Jonathan last year in Birmingham and he was fantastic. If you don't know who he is, he is a former software engineer who quit to pursue a music career and survives through word of mouth and the internet spreading the word.

He produced a podcast called "Thing A Week" where he released a new song every week for a year, resulting in 52 mostly fantastic songs, available for free under a creative commons licence.

Do yourself a favour and check him out. There are some videos that some people have done on YouTube using World of Warcraft.

There is of course the office zombie apocalypse of Re Your Brains ,the unrequited lovelorn mad scientist of Skullcrusher Mountain and of course the wonderful ode for nerdy computer geeks everywhere - Code Monkey.

Book review - More Than A Theory

More Than a Theory, by Hugh Ross

The book by Hugh Ross, the leader and founder of the Christian Reasons to Believe (RTB) Ministries seeks as its premise to “Present a creation explanation [of the universe as it is] in scientific form”. (p16)

Chapter 1.

Ross clearly has a firm belief in the Christian Biblical scripture. As he says in his biography on his own website: “Hugh’s unshakable confidence that God’s revelations in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message”. He criticises scientists for exploring natural explanations for natural problems because “strictly natural outcomes reflect no care, no reason, no hope” (p13)

He seems to think that “naturalistic” scientists are being more dogmatic when they pre-dismiss supernatural, or at least potential supernatural, explanations. He criticises Eugenie Scott for her statement that “science and scientific testing must be limited to direct observations of events occurring in nature or under controlled laboratory conditions”. Ross claims this dismisses theoretical physics, astronomy, and other disciplines but fails to elaborate on how. Science is the study of nature. It is by definition a way of seeking naturalistic explanations for naturalistic events. It is a tool we can use to study reality and what it discovers becomes part of that reality. It reminds me of the old joke – what do you call alternative medicine that has evidence for its success?


Likewise, what do you call the supernatural with evidence for its reality?


Ross manages to dismiss Young-Earth creationism of the sort propagated by Ken Hamm with his Creation “Museum” and by the incarcerated Kent Hovind. He claims that forcing a “creation timescale of only a few thousand years…on Genesis I would make other biblical passages [on creation] contradict each other” (p17). He rightly states that scientific evidence of the age of the universe cannot be simply ignored. But to fit the science into Genesis I Ross has to treat Genesis I as non-literal - but of course literal enough so that is remains theologically consistent.

Ross is clearly a biblical inerrantist. However, the biblical inerrancy he propagates is one which needs the “application of appropriate biblical interpretive techniques”(p20) in order to determine its compatibility with God’s second revelation - Nature. Ross tries to interpret the Bible to fit the science instead of the other way around – which is what he would accuse YEC of doing – and I would welcome this but he realises he also has to expand the meaning of science to include the supernatural which is why he dismisses naturalistic scientists.

Ross seems to speculate that in propagating a scientific model of creation and putting forward some tests, he can demonstrate that his model is correct and therefore proving (at least as far as scientific modelling goes) that there is a creator (oh, and he is the Yaweh of the Bible) behind it all thus giving Christians “Reasons to Believe.”. And here’s me thinking that “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17)