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Friday, April 18, 2014

Abraham And Easter

Those of us who share the conviction that Christianity is actually true believe that a reset button got pushed on the first Easter Sunday when the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. No argument about that here.

But, as a result of that mindset, many Christians seem to take that view to mean that the Old Testament was therefore rendered invalid, overridden, or somehow not applicable to how we understand our faith. Beyond citing the creation story or the 10 Commandments once in a while, we seem to have disconnected the Old Testament from the New. But doing so strips the overarching story of the relationship between God and man of much of its meaning. The history we see in the Bible has always been leading somewhere. It's all about the same God. It's all one story -- and it's a rich story that gets even richer when you take the time to see the unmistakeable connection between Old and New.

Nowhere is that more apparent than in the life and mission of Abraham and the covenants God made with him that foreshadowed everything that would happen thousands of years later. In the story of Abraham we see all there is to understand about The Plan God put in place from the very beginning to save humanity. In Genesis 12:3 we get the biggy -- "... all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

All the peoples.

The nation of Israel was a "chosen people" only insofar as from that nation, and from the House of David within that nation, would come the Messiah for all the peoples. Israel was never meant to be the only nation God would save. It was simply the nation through which He would make a way to save Israel and everyone else.

The way He would do it was through a covenant relationship like nothing anyone had ever imagined before. It would be a covenant of law and love that was both conditional and unconditional simultaneously. If that sounds weird, it is. It is "weird" because the God who fashioned it is like no other God and the way in which He offered to save mankind was unlike what any other god could offer. He demonstrated it to Abraham in Genesis 15 when God showed Abraham the meaning of Easter.*

In covenant agreements between kings and peons of those days, it was customary for the great king to demand an animal offering from his peons. This was done by killing and cutting up the animals, then laying the pieces out on the ground. The king would promise to protect the peons if the peons would abide by the terms of their agreement with him. In such a case, the agreement was conditional on the part of the king. To "sign" the covenant, the servant who was promising to be loyal to the king would walk between the pieces while swearing an oath that in essence said, "If I do not live up to this agreement, may I be cut up in pieces like these animals." (OK, that's weird too. I'm not defending the practice, just relaying what it was).

And then came Abraham.

At first the ceremony commemorating his covenant relationship with God looked the same as it always had. He was instructed to prepare a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a pigeon. Abraham did as he was told, spread the pieces on the ground, and waited for further instruction; but no instruction ever came. What came instead was the "thick and dreadful darkness" of judgement. Abraham was overwhelmed and fell into a deep sleep. But when he awoke the most astonishing turn of events up to that point in human history occurred right before his eyes.

A pillar of smoke and fire just like the one that would later lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt appeared. It was the manifest presence of God himself. As Abraham watched, the pillar of fire and smoke moved between the pieces to guarantee the agreement. The God who created the universe -- the King himself -- passed through the pieces with a promise to bless the peon Abraham. This was exactly backwards from the way things were supposed to be, but it didn't end there. Just as startlingly, Abraham was never asked to walk through the pieces himself. He was never called to make an oath of loyalty.

God was promising to take the curse that would result from a broken covenant on himself and making the pledge to honor the covenant relationship for both parties. As Timothy Keller puts it, God was promising, "Not only will I be torn to pieces if I don't fulfill the covenant, but I will be torn to pieces if you don't fulfill the covenant."

And we didn't. And He was.

The Gospels record three hours when the darkness of judgement smothered the world from above a wooden torture post at Golgotha as Jesus, the promised Messiah ("Anointed One"), suffered for us because we had broken the covenant. An immortal King submitted himself to the same kind of physical mortality that his peons had brought on themselves. The King of the universe fulfilled His promise to Abraham in Genesis 15. Judgement for the sins of the peons had come and the Judge stepped down from the bench to take the peons' sentence for them. A New Covenant -- one that had been promised in Jeremiah 31 -- was put in place. But the new covenant cannot be seen in isolation from the older ones. The overarching story of salvation is one story. The whole story leads to Easter. Looking backward, it all makes sense.

To see the foreshadowing of Genesis 15 is to understand the story of Easter. It is the story of an infinite gap between an infinitely perfect God and His rebellious peons that could only be filled by the infinite sacrifice only God himself could provide. It is the story of the unconditional love of a God who abides by the conditions of a covenant He didn't break. If someone were to ask whether our covenant relationship with God is an unconditional or conditional covenant the answer is, "Yes."

Easter is the culmination of The Grand Story of the relationship between God and man being brought to its unanticipated, majestic conclusion. God fulfills all the terms of both sides of a covenant agreement by suffering the punishment we deserve, then overcomes a death He didn't deserve three days later to verify to us that He is God ... and that we are not.

The King walked through pieces with Abraham in anticipation of our being at peace with Him on Calvary.


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* For an excellent treatment of this idea, listen to Timothy Keller's podcast, "A Covenant Relationship," of October 9, 2013. That sermon brought this all together for me in a way that nothing I had ever heard previously had done. I credit it with the central idea of this post.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Jerry Coyne: Censorship Czar

Jerry Coyne represents a Darwinist Priesthood that is apparently not only afraid of open debate, but believes it is within their rights to demand that those who disagree with them just Shut Up.

At least they are consistent with the "Might Makes Right" Darwinian model to which their worldview leads -- In every case where arguing for opposing viewpoints becomes an issue, those on Coyne's side want to shut debate down, while Intelligent Design proponents want to open it up.

Hmm ... I wonder why that might be?


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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Reality of Subjective Morality

Ravi Zacharias is a master communicator and apologist. So, after the knock down, drag out debates about the differences between objective and subjective morality that can go on-and-on for pages on a blog and its comments, leave it to him to demonstrate the point with crystal clear ease in under three minutes.

I am thankful for Ravi and those like him. Enjoy ...


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Is The Creation Model Viable? -- A Debate Between Ken Ham and Bill Nye


Tonight the Creation Museum and debatelive.org hosted a debate between Ken Ham, founder of Answers In Genesis, and  Bill Nye, The Science Guy. Those who know me also know that I don't have much patience with either one of these men for reasons I have detailed in the past here (on Ken Ham) and here (on Bill Nye).

The topic of the debate was, "Is Creation a Viable Model of Origins in Today's Modern Scientific Era?"

Because of my experience in observing both of them, I honestly had no interest in watching what I considered to be a waste of time. But, since many people I know and respect were interested in the event, I decided to force myself to sit through it. There was nothing surprising in the case either of them made but I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the tone of their interaction. Good for them.

For what it's worth, here is my take on a summary of the debate:

Ken Ham is very good when talking Evolution -vs- Creationism, which is what the debate is supposed to be about. I think he did a great presentation of the differences in the views and the presuppositions on which they rest. Contra Nye, he showed some powerful evidence of brilliant scientists (including the inventor of the MRI) who are Biblical creationists. He made a great point about the fact that Creationists are perfectly willing to admit their assumptions while simultaneously accepting the actual evidence in question, while the Naturalists who defend Evolution also accept a religious belief system that they are not willing to admit is just that. In his first rebuttal, Ham did get into the "obvious meaning of the words of the Bible" (as long as you agree with him), death before the fall, and a "perfect" creation (I have addressed those topics here), and the fact that salvation depends on belief in Jesus Christ and not on the age of the Earth. Amen to that. I just wish he was that generous with the Christians he has debated on that topic in the past. Overall, he was more polite than I expected him to be and I think he did an admirable job.

Bill Nye keeps wanting to prove the age of the earth. Now, I happen to agree with him on that point ... but that was not the topic of the debate! Nye seemed so determined to show that a young earth model is preposterous, he forgot that wasn't the point of the debate. He never once -- in the entire two and a half hour event -- addressed the philosophical assumptions that underly his view of the world. He seems incapable of even comprehending what that means. Either that, or he is a master at avoiding the question. He resorted to "the-Bible-translations-rely-on-playing-the-telephone-game" nonsense that anyone who has any clue about the realities of textual criticism knows is nothing like how the Biblical text was transmitted. He repeated his previous empty assertion that Creationism stifles scientific progress and technological innovation -- a claim that is not only logically incoherent, but demonstrably false. The defenders of Naturalism need to find a better spokesman than the engineer-comedian turned "Science Expert," Bill Nye -- he couldn't even explain the simple concept of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. It's unreal to me that he has kept this label of "science guy" when he is really more of an embarrassment to their cause.

Both debaters fell flat when asked what I believe was the best question of the night, "What would change your mind?" Ken Ham demonstrated that his presuppositional approach to apologetics is indestructible. While I admire his reliance on Scripture, he seems unwilling to accept two things that are made perfectly clear in that Scripture: 1) That it is perfectly acceptable, biblically, to seek and accept revelation from outside the Bible, and 2) that in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul challenges us with the idea that if the resurrection did not happen, our faith is in vain and we are all fools. I think he would have been more credible if he had admitted that. For his part, Bill Nye fell back on different naturalistic explanations than the ones his naturalistic presuppositions already demand are true, once again demonstrating his complete lack of understanding of his own blindness on the issue.

In summary, it is very frustrating to me that there seems to so little realization in the general public that there is a view out there that accepts the truth in both their points of view, and rejects their falsehoods. A view that accepts the obvious evidence about the age of the universe, is completely comfortable with the philosophical limitations and realities of human reasoning, and does both with a healthy and respectful view of the authority of Scripture. There are plenty of spokesmen out there for that point of view -- "Old Earth" Creationism -- but neither side in this debate seems interested in addressing it with some intellectual honesty.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God Is Good. Period.

Every year, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I see plenty of people I know and respect making lists of things they are thankful for. I understand their thinking and I share their gratefulness for all our "first world" blessings. No doubt about the fact that all of us owe some thanks for those things we mostly take for granted.

Because of the religious origins of Thanksgiving in this country, I also understand why our thankfulness is many times tied to God. Within the greater Christian community, being grateful seems to come with the parallel understanding that the blessings we get are a part of the healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy life that God truly wants for us. Our "best life now," you might say. When things go our way, we are quick to add-on the heartfelt announcement that "God is so good!"

Being one that has his antennae up to detect cultural assumptions that find their way into the church, it occurred to me that this might just be one of them. After all, we are called to have "the mind of Christ," and it was Christ who said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

So, if Jesus promised us we would have trouble:
  • I'm wondering why would expect the Christian life to be without it ...
  • I’m wondering why we think we deserve "our best life now" ...
  • I'm wondering why we would think the words we speak have the power to make things turn out the way we desire them to be, when He never said any such thing ...
  • I'm wondering why we're always trying to figure out "God's will for our lives" when He has already told us very clearly and very simply that "[His] will is that we be sanctified."
To be sanctified ... or to be healthy, wealthy, prosperous, and happy? That is the question.

In light of these reflections, I decided to make a Thanksgiving list of my own. Here it is:
  • I'm thankful for separation from family and friends because it makes me cherish the time they're with me even more ...
  • I'm thankful for suffering because it challenges those who witness it to show compassion ...
  • I'm thankful for poverty because it pleads with us to be charitable ...
  • I'm thankful for fear because it teaches us courage ...
  • I'm thankful for unanswered prayer because it requires us to be patient ...
  • I'm thankful for sickness because it exposes how helpless we really are ...
  • I'm thankful for loneliness because it forces us to realize that we are not the center of the universe ...
  • I'm thankful for evil because it gives us a way to recognize the perfect Goodness of a Perfect God ...
This may seem like a weird list but I made it because I believe her when Joni Eareckson Tada says that the accident that broke her neck and has left her a quadriplegic since she was a teenager "was the best thing that ever happened to her" because it forced her to seek and find God.

I believe it when C. S. Lewis says that "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

I believe that if James, the brother of Jesus can be beaten, taken to the top of the Jerusalem Temple and thrown off, then stoned to death because he survived the fall; if Peter can endure the sufferings we learn of in his epistles and then die crucified upside down; if Paul can be beaten, tortured and left for dead in a ditch outside Lystra, stoned, imprisoned and beheaded on a Roman street, I believe him when he writes that, "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." (Romans 5:3-4)

If suffering was good enough for the apostles, I'm not sure why it isn't good enough for me.

Of course, this is all easy to say sitting here in my oversized, first-world office and it may be that sooner or later I will be forced to practice what it is so very easy for me to preach. But I consider these ideas now so that if/when the suffering starts, I won't be trying to wrestle with its purpose from inside the storm.

Jesus Christ sweated blood, was flogged and beaten mercilessly and then nailed to a cross to hang there until he died. If being sanctified means being made more like Christ, I think we should stop thinking that suffering is not for us, and start thinking about what it really means to be sanctified.

No one likes pain but I am thankful for it because I have to trust that God's purpose in this life has Him at the center of it, not me. His purpose for this creation is to annihilate suffering, and evil, and pain ... forever. Part of that purpose is that I need to develop the eternal virtues of charity, compassion, patience, courage and humility (among others).

So this Thanksgiving, I say we start telling the truth. Instead of just expecting the pleasure, let's start anticipating the pain with full knowledge of the reason we are called to endure it -- our sanctification. Our transformation to be like Christ. And then let us remember that regardless of our circumstances, we know they have an eternal purpose, that we are a part of it, that it is bigger than us, and that God is good whether we're personally doing well at the moment or not.

And let's be thankful for that too.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ain't That N.I.C.E.?

I wrote this more than four years ago … and things have only gotten worse. It's interesting to see how some bad ideas (and names) have changed -- for the worse.
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In the third installment of his space trilogy,Space Trilogy That Hideous StrengthC. S. Lewis' main character (Mark Studdock) was seduced with the promise of joining the inner ring of a powerful English society that used questionable tactics to establish an "efficient" state bureaucracy run by controllers who saw themselves as being a cut above the rest of the world. The name of the society Mark yearned to join was the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments -- N.I.C.E.

Lewis described N.I.C.E. as:
"the first fruits of that constructive fusion between state and laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes for a better world. It was to be free from almost all the tiresome restraints ... which have hitherto hampered research in this country. It was also largely free from the restraints of economy ..."
This, in fictional form, was the epitome of what Lewis feared would become a socio-political reality. Some of his reviewers begged to differ. The New York Times described That Hideous Strength as "superlatively nonsensical excitement, challenging implications," while Time magazine called it a "well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." That was in 1946.

Fast forward to 2009.

John C. Goodman, writing in National Review (September 21, 2009), reports on the contemporary British health commission:
"which currently recommends against any treatment that costs more than $45,000 to save a year of life. Because of [the commission], British cancer patients are denied access to drugs that are routinely available in the U.S. and on the European continent, and thousands die prematurely."
The name of the commission is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, but the Brits refer to it by the more commonly recognized acronym: N.I.C.E.

I wish I could make this stuff up. In fact, when I read it I assumed that Mr. Goodman had made it up. He didn't. But the creepy stuff doesn't stop there.

The reason Mr. Goodman cited this fact was because N.I.C.E., according to former Senator Tom Daschleis the model for American health care reform. He said so in his book, Critical: What We Can Do About The Health-Care Crisis. Barring the inconvenience of paying those pesky income taxes that only those of us who are not driven to work in a limousine should have to bear, the good Senator would have been the one overseeing our American N.I.C.E. guys.

Today, we see hypocritical politicians passing laws they've never read. We see the unilateral decisions of Barack Obama changing the duly passed, "settled law" of the Affordable Care Act to favor his cronies and union bosses. We see Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle touting the fact that they will also be covered by ObamaCare while conveniently avoiding the subject of their under-the-table subsidies. We see this is "necessary" to preserve the crop of geniuses in Washington D.C. from experiencing a "brain drain" if forced to live under the law like the rest of us chumps. We see HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who, as we have seen, will not only fill that role but also be the one to decide which pool of federal funding will be used to fund abortion.

We see, in other words, that all the N.I.C.E. guys are really just lying through their shiny white teeth.

Remember all the talk about "death panels" in ObamaCare? Well, given the ideology and bureaucratic impulses of our current cast of political characters, does anyone truly doubt that there will be rationing. When resources are limited and controlling costs is the reason the reform was pushed in the first place, this will be the inevitable result. Someone will be charged with responsibility of deciding who gets what. Someone like Mark Studdock.

And that is a hideous strength to wield.


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Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering Jack


Everyone who was alive 50 years ago probably remembers where they were and what they were doing on this date in 1963. It's a day that is emblazoned in our minds because it was the day that one of the greatest and most influential men in modern history died. Sadly, I didn't learn the significance of that day until nearly 30 years later. I'm still learning how much that man influenced my life and how indebted I, and many others, are to his life's work.

His friends called him Jack, but the man I'm talking about is not the man that you are probably hearing about in the news today.

His name was Clive Staples Lewis.

On the first day of classes in my Master's Degree program at Biola University, Craig Hazen welcomed us to the campus and asked us to go around the room for an introduction that included a short explanation for how and why we became interested enough in Christian Apologetics to enroll in the program we were just beginning. As I recall, there were about 28 of us in the room. Twenty five of us (me included) invoked the name of C. S. Lewis.

This was not, and is not, idolatry. Jack Lewis would reject and admonish the very thought of such a thing. It is simple respect and gratitude for the memory of the death of a great man and the enormous impact he had, and is still having, on this world.

His books are still being published. His allegorical stories and novels are still being made into films. Max Mclean has made himself deservedly famous for his one-man-show theatrical presentations in which he does nothing but give a dramatic recital of Lewis's books (so far including The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce). Think about that. We live in the age of instant news, YouTube videos and Snapchat. Max Mclean is reciting 70 year-old C. S. Lewis books ... and his audiences are mesmerized by them.

It is hard for me to imagine that any one person outside the biblical authors could ever again have as much influence on the thinking of so many people in ways that defend and promote the truth and reality of Christianity as C. S. Lewis. His way with words, the depth of his thoughts, and the prescience with which he anticipated the world we now inhabit is breathtaking to comprehend. He was a master of language and a brilliant observer of culture.

He was not a philosopher. He was something better. He was someone who could make philosophy real. He could see where philosophy was heading. His predictions and philosophical forecasts from the 1940s and 50s have become today's headlines. If you're skeptical of that claim, don't take my word for it, just sit down for a couple of hours, read The Abolition of Man, and try to fathom the fact that it was first published in 1947.

Beyond that, C. S. Lewis was a model for both Christian believers and rationalistic skeptics who have both stopped thinking about life's most important questions because they've already found their answers. He grew up an atheist but later admitted that his atheism was motivated by the emotional consequences of the pain he experienced in his youth that he could not reconcile with a good and loving God. That is a difficult thing to overcome. It is the most common reason for rejecting belief in God's existence. It is the enemy of reason. Yet, Jack Lewis vanquished each of these because he was more committed to the rational pursuit of truth than a victim of the tendency to let emotion succeed in locking the door behind a closed mind.

Lewis' mother died when he was 8 years-old. His father shipped him and his brother off to boarding schools where he gained not only a superior education but a love for books and inner reflection that was born of loneliness. Many of Lewis' childhood memories shaped the characters he would later create. His vivid pictures of those times became the settings for his stories. He relished the influences of George McDonald and G. K. Chesterton, who made him a lover of story and challenged him to think for himself. He fought in World War I, was wounded, and had one of his dearest friends (Paddy Moore) die in that war. Then, because he honored a pact he made with Paddy, on his return to England, Lewis spent the next 32 years caring for Paddy's mother -- an enterprise that was both strenuous and stressful but that Lewis rarely mentioned.

This was a man who had every excuse to be bitter and angry but everyone who knew him thought him to be the most cheerful and joy-filled person they had ever met. Lewis rejected bitterness and emptiness because he turned toward the Truth and power of Christ.

In his autobiographical and ironically titled, Surprised By Joy, Lewis describes his arrival at Oxford and the idyllic picture he had in his mind of the place that would become his academic home and anchor. He got off the train and wandered through town looking for a place to stay. As he wandered, the town "became more and more shabby, with one dingy shop after another, [but he continued] 'always expecting the next turn to reveal [its] beauties.' Only when it became obvious that he was coming to open country and there was no town left did Jack stop and turn around. Then he saw [Oxford] in all its glory, with its grand collection of towers an spires reaching toward the sky, a picture of academic splendor unsurpassed anywhere in the world* ...

"I did not see to what extent this little adventure was an allegory of my whole life."

With Douglas Gresham
Recently, I got as close as I could ever get to meeting Jack Lewis when his stepson, Douglas Gresham,  along with Dr. Devin Brown of Asbury University and author of, A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis, visited a nearby church to spend a couple of hours telling stories about him. It's a book that any skeptic or any fan of Christianity should read and consider because C. S. Lewis was both. I wish we would all be so dedicated and insistent on pursuing the Truth.

In an age where sound bites and celebrity count for more than substance, Jack Lewis -- a man of whom there only exist 38 photographs in the world** -- still resonates with and touches those who are privileged enough to take in his work. Over the years I have found that there are some of his ideas that I may take exception with but there is no Mere Christian who has made me think more about our shared convictions than Jack Lewis. I look forward to the day when I get off the bus at heaven's gates. I don't think I'll have to look far to see a barely recognized figure who seems somehow more imposing than all the familiar faces whose own earthly notoriety was their goal. When I do, I'll remember the words from The Great Divorce when the traveler's guide/teacher assured his student that: "[He] is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things ... Redeemed humanity is still young, it has hardly come to its full strength. But already there is joy enough in the little finger of a great saint such as yonder [gentleman] to waken all the dead things of the universe into life."


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* Devin Brown, A Life Observed, p. 97.
** According to The Magic Never Ends documentarian Chip Duncan as cited in: Devin Brown, A Life Observed, p. 18.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

J. Warner Wallace: Christian Case Maker



A new addition to the staff at Stand To Reason, J. Warner Wallace is a fantastic apologist whose clarity and attitude should inspire us all to "bloom where we're planted" as defenders of our Christian convictions.

In his book, Cold Case Christianity, Jim puts his experience and expertise as a cold case homicide detective in Los Angeles to work to analyze the evidence for Christianity. It's a great book that I highly recommend.

If you've been challenged about the ability of the New Testament writers to write the Gospels, this is a great article by Jim about the authenticity of the Gospel of John:

How Could a Poor, Uneducated Fisherman Write the Gospel of John?

Good stuff all the way around!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buried Treasure

Yesterday I completed a project that I have been putting off for months when I finally brought in some topsoil to regrade a spot in our backyard, seeded it, covered it with straw, and set up a sprinkler to water the new grass to life. As you can see, the shape of the area in question is fairly odd for a Fall replanting project. A perfect square? What's up with that?

Well, fourteen and a half years ago, when we moved into our new house, our five boys were 11, 9, 7, 4 and 2 years old. The younger part of the crew requested a sandbox in the backyard. Not being one to go out and buy some flimsy metal contraption that would rust away before the next summer, I reacted with overkill to produce the kind of sandbox I would have wanted as a kid. It took me a while but I finally created a 10' x 10' monstrosity. It had two layers of 6"x6" treated lumber to form the frame, bench seats on the corners, and probably two cubic yards of fine sand I lugged in bags from the hardware store over the several trips I made to find the right stuff to build it. And it wasn't going anywhere. The boards were held together with 6" countersunk lag bolts and the whole thing was anchored to the ground at the corners with pieces of 2 foot re-bar that were pounded home with a sledgehammer.

Now that's a sandbox.

Our boys spent a lot of hours playing in that thing. They built castles using Tonka trucks and bulldozers. They conducted full scale war re-enactments in that sand complete with tanks and plastic men shooting from tactically advantageous positions. They threw sand at each other. In fact, experts estimate that close to one cubic yard of that sand found its way back into our house over the ensuing 14 years.

But the sandbox days are over. Over the last several years, the sand became a breeding ground for those thick, spiny weeds that viciously attack you if you try to pull them. Rusted trucks found their way to the garbage. The wood was dried and cracked. The sandbox became nothing but an eyesore that made mowing the backyard more difficult than it really needed to be. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything about it. When Hank, our beloved golden retriever and The World's Best Dog, died a few years back, we planted a willow tree to remember him ... right there next to the sandbox.

The willow is getting bigger but the sandbox is just getting more overgrown.

So, this summer I had to cave to reality. We chopped the boards and pried rusted re-bar from the ground. Our sandbox frame became a funeral pyre for nasty weeds and plastic toys. Yesterday I lugged bags of topsoil to cover the dirty sand and, as I was raking it smooth and level, a few buried army men found their way to the surface begging for one more day in the imagination of a little boy.

I saved the army men.

And so a square of dry hay now covers the place where the sandbox used to be. Our water bill will be a little higher until the grass sprouts and, eventually, the yard will be easier to mow. But the sandbox won't be gone.

I was too lazy to replant the area the way I probably should have. I just left the sand where it was and covered it with a few inches of topsoil. My guess is that that square in our backyard where the sandbox used to be will always be a little soft and get mushy when it rains. The grass may grow a little differently in that square next to Hank's tree. Most people probably won't notice but we will. If you know where to look, you will always be able to see the outline of the place where five carefree little boys just played with army men.

That's my plan, anyway.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fast Food

In mid-February a friend of mine mentioned that a few years ago he started a personal tradition of fasting during the Lenten season leading up to the celebration of Easter. He said that the impact the experience had on him the first year he attempted it was powerful and had led him to continue the practice every year since. He didn't tell me what he meant by "powerful" but he challenged me to give it a try.

Coincidentally, I had been considering doing exactly that, though on a much smaller scale than he suggested. My friend had researched the issue and found that the original practice of the monks who instituted Lenten fasting was to fast every day except Sunday for the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. The monks apparently believed that Sunday, being a day of rest, should also include resting from the practice of fasting. So, though he was not in any way Catholic, my friend had decided to do the same thing. He suggested that instead of going directly to a full-blown fast, I should wean my way into it by eating only fruits and vegetables for the first week. He told me this on the day before Lent began.

The next morning (after breakfast), I decided that instead of just teaching and talking about the spiritual disciplines (you will find a good summary of what they are in a blog series by Ken Boa here: Spiritual Disciplines, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I might actually try putting them into practice. And so, almost on a whim, I vowed to give it a shot. I had no idea what I had signed up for.

Before I go any further, please understand that I realize the whole subject of the "spiritual disciplines" can be controversial. There are some who attribute these practices to eastern religious influences, to the occult, or to a dualistic, works-based view of spirituality. These can include unbiblical ideas like "learning to hear God's voice," adopting Gnostic concepts, or succumbing to the false notion of Catholic asceticism and the like. I understand and agree with those concerns. I am not addressing those here. My only goal during this whole ordeal was to use fasting as a tool to recognize my own self-centeredness and to redirect the energy I usually spend thinking about me to instead think about the God who sustains me.

I took my friend's advice to institute a purely fruit and vegetable diet (except that I added nuts to the list because I was a wimp) and it was only a matter of hours before the effects were obvious -- mostly when I had to drag myself kicking and screaming out of the pantry I frequent all-too-often. This was the first lesson I drew from what came to be an eye-opening, 40-day excursion into self-discipline and prayer. It is not about what you fast from or how far you go with your commitment. It is all about making the commitment in the first place. I found that when I put the brakes on my self-indulgent nature and forced myself to focus upward or to say a prayer - no matter how short or un-lofty - my propensity for the former gradually morphed into my practice of the latter. After a couple of weeks the practice took less and less effort.

Fasting is not meant to make us "better" or more "spiritual." It goes without saying that it should never be used as a self-serving method of impressing other people with the awesomeness of your own humility (see: Matthew 6:16). It seems to me that anyone who really understands the purpose of fasting also understands that doing it with the right intention means that no one will ever know you are doing it ... until you write about it on your blog, of course.

In other words, I found out what my friend meant when he described his fasting experiences as "powerful." The power in this or any other spiritual discipline comes in recognizing just how much we don't think about what we should be thinking about. The power comes in recognizing that we are powerless in every way that really matters. The power comes in the tangible realization that the most impactful aspects of this life we are living are the ones that are intangible.

When you recognize the Source of that power and recognize that it does not reside in your own head, you can go revert to your old ways of doing things (as I have) but you never go all the way back. You can't. And that's the point.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Stop Staring, Please

Two and a half weeks ago, my dermatologist performed a Moh's surgery procedure on me to remove a patch of squamous cell skin cancer from the inside of the bridge of my nose. It really is more of a nuisance than a serious threat but the healing process has not been fun. It was painful at first and came with a swollen, partial black eye and an obnoxiously large bandage that blocked my vision. The big bandage took a week to get reduced to a large bandaid, and now I'm down to a small circular one that I almost forget is there ... until I go out in public.

This whole ordeal has given me a new perspective, and not just on the issue of why we need to use sunscreen. I already knew that and have chosen to ignore it for most of my life. The bandage is a consequence of my bad choices and a reminder that I have made a lot of them. But the reason I'm writing this is because the bandage has also become a trigger for making me realize how badly most of us react to those who are different from us. It's a realization that may even be uglier than squamous cell skin cancer.

It's only a bandaid people!

Little kids stare at me like I have a third eye. Adults in the airport pretend not to look, but then I catch them stealing glances. It's as if I had a giant growth sticking out of my forehead and it has made me think, "What if I did?"

What if, like the young man my wife and I saw in Times Square this week, instead of a two-week stint with a bandaid, I had a lifelong attachment to a giant growth that deformed my face and forehead? What if I had Downs Syndrome? What if I had a speech impediment? In other words, what if I could never take the bandaid off? Do we even realize how much we can affect the personality of someone simply by staring at them because they are different?

I doubt it.

Though this is a good reminder about how we treat people who are different from us, it is obviously not some profound insight I got from having a bandaid stuck to my face. The real reason I'm writing this came last Sunday when, in the midst of my two-week bandaid ordeal, our minister addressed the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage in his sermon. I agreed with everything he said: That homosexuality is clearly condemned in the Bible; that same-sex "marriage" is an oxymoron; that we as a society should reject it; and that our reactions to the homosexual agenda are largely unproductive and makes things worse. All that said, it made me think, "What if your bandaid is homosexuality?"

I once flew with a flight attendant who commented that you could tell he was a homosexual "from outer space" ... and he was right. How do we -- how do I -- treat people like that? Is my first reaction to stare; to mock ... or to love?

Now, I know there are those who will argue with me about comparing the permanence and innateness of homosexuality with a bandaid that I can take off at will. I think there are good reasons to reject the idea that homosexuality is not a choice. I know there are good reasons to argue that homosexuality defies natural law and is therefore objectively immoral. I reject the very idea of same-sex "marriage." I am not arguing those points here. I could be wrong about them but if I am my point becomes even more relevant.

Let's assume I am right. Let's assume that, like my squamous cell skin cancer, the bandaid we stare at is there because homosexuality is a cancer that comes as a consequence of immoral behavior. So what? My being right about homosexuality has nothing to do with my treating other people -- most especially homosexuals -- with love and kindness, even in my own private conversations about it.

I have been guilty of failing at that responsibility -- that's what my bandaid really taught me.

We need to love homosexuals more than they love homosexuality, whether it's a bandaid they can take off or not.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Why Jerry Coyne's Claims Are Not Persuasive

Recently, I've been challenged by a new acquaintance to discuss some of the details and implications of Darwinian Evolution. This is a friendly discussion and I commend my skeptical, truth-seeking friend for his willingness to tackle these issues in a serious, respectful manner. We also agreed to read a couple of books that supported our respective points of view. I recommended Jay Richards', God and Evolution and Fazale Rana's, Origins of Life. To his credit, he ordered both books the next day. In turn, I agreed to read a book he thinks is compelling in support of evolution, Jerry Coyne's, Why Evolution Is True.

Coyne is a very convincing writer and makes a compelling case for his view. Ultimately, I don't find it persuasive but that's why we're having the discussion! In an attempt to engage Coyne's arguments, I am linking to a series of blog posts by Jonathan McLatchie, a fellow CrossExamined instructor and frequent contributor not only to the CrossExamined Blog, but to the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views.

This link gives a summary of Jonathan's multi-post review of Coyne's book and links to each of the posts in the series: Jonathan McLatchie's Review of: Evolution is True.

Jonathan has a undergraduate degree in Forensic Biology and a Master's Degree in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He is currently serving as an intern with the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In other words, Jonathan is the kind of guy who can speak intelligently to this subject and I am happy to let him. As the discussion progresses, I will try to offer my own thoughts at a more practical, Marine-friendly level if I can.

Here are some quick takes on each post in the series with specific links to each one.
_________________

Coyne defines "evolution"

Underwhelmed: Reviewing Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True


The gaps in Coyne's claim about Universal Common Descent (UCD) ... the idea that all life has descended from a single, single-celled, simple, common ancestor:

Jerry Coyne's Chapter on the Fossil Record Fails to Show "Why Evolution Is True"

Atheists never tire of denouncing theism as a lazy appeal to wishful thinking that gets inserted anytime there are gaps in our scientific knowledge. On their view, this is when theists shout, "Goddidit!" (You can see examples of this very thing in my discussion with tildeb a few posts back). But now, Jerry Coyne turns that notion on its head by presuming to know how God would do things if He really designed life. Coyne's lame claim is that "suboptimal" design proves that God could not have been involved. Apparently, Jerry Coyne not only knows what the most optimal design for each biological system should be, but also that this is exactly the kind of thing we should find if Darwinism is true. In effect, Coyne misses the irony involved when he shouts, "Evolutiondidit!":

From Jerry Coyne, "Evolution-of-the-Gaps" and Other Fallacies

This post shows the problems with Coyne's claim that "biogeography" -- the view that geographical evidence from continental drift and migration supports evolution -- offers convincing support for the "truth" of evolution:

As Evidence of Darwinian Evolution, Biogeography Falls Well Short of Satisfying

Evidence against Coyne's case for natural selection as an adequate explanation for the design everyone recognizes in life:

Blink and You'll Miss It: Jerry Coyne Turns His Attention to the "Engine of Evolution"

A short look at the ultimate question of human evolution and a summary of McClatchie's critique:

Human Origins, and the Real Reasons for Evolutionary Skepticism

_________________

More to follow on this discussion. It should be interesting ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Big Link In The Chain

As a follow-up to my post on the Penn State travesty and the "Chain of Perverts" that led from Alfred Kinsey to Hugh Hefner to Graham Spanier to Jerry Sandusky, it does my heart good to read that Spanier, the former President of Penn State, has been charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy. [His assistants] Curley and Schultz face new charges of endangering the welfare of children, obstruction and conspiracy.

ESPN reports:
Spanier has said he had no memory of email traffic concerning the 1998 complaint made by a mother after Sandusky showered with her son, and only slight recollections about the 2001 complaint by a team assistant who said he stumbled onto Sandusky sexually abusing a boy inside a campus shower ...  
The grand jury report indicates Curley, Schultz and Spanier told the university's lawyer they had no documents that addressed Sandusky having inappropriate contact with boys.
But Schultz did retain a Sandusky file in his office, the jury concluded, and he told his administrative assistant Joan Coble never to look at it. 
"She said it was a very unusual request and was made in a `tone of voice' she had never heard him use before," according to the jury report. 
Another Schultz assistant took the file from his office at the time of Schultz's arrest, made a copy and gave the file to him, the grand jury said. Kelly said it was eventually obtained by the grand jury ... 
Freeh's investigators uncovered emails in which the administrators discussed the 1998 complaint, including a May 5 email from Curley to Schultz and Spanier, with "Joe Paterno" in the subject line. It read: "I have touched bases with the coach. Keep us posted. Thanks." 
Spanier told Freeh's team that he believed in 2001 that the encounter witnessed by graduate assistant Mike McQueary amounted to "horseplay," although an email sent by him to Curley at that time reflected a much more somber tone. 
In that email, Spanier was reacting to a proposal by Curley in which they would not report Sandusky to authorities but instead tell him he needed help and that he could no longer bring children into Penn State facilities. 
"The only downside for us is if the message isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier wrote in 2001. "The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed."
Humane and reasonable indeed.

This sad and sordid story just keeps getting worse. But one thing that has not changed is the chain of perverts and the far-reaching and disgusting fallout from the work of the demented and dangerous Alfred Kinsey. When you hear about SIECUS in your public school, remember his name and the trail of destruction that leads from him, through the likes of Graham Spanier and Jerry Sandusky, right to your front door.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time To Vote: Abortion

Maybe it is jaded and cynical to say it, and maybe it is not even fair, but it seems to be safe to assume that "all politicians are liars" is as good a starting point as any to work from when assessing the candidates for whom we must choose to vote. I hate to say that because I'm sure there are non-lying politicians out there. But if there are, they are definitely in the minority -- and they certainly don't include our current choices for President of the United States. Still, the fact is that we have an obligation to vote whether we like our choices or not. So, given that dual reality, I'd like to make the case -- based on my wish to advance a rational, God-honoring view of the world -- for which liar would do the most to move this country in the right direction morally.

It may seem oxymoronic (or maybe just moronic) to attempt to make a moral argument for how to decide between liars, but I'm not trying to be funny, or witty, or sarcastic. I'm dead serious ... and I think the consequences of this choice are deadly serious too, especially when it comes to the moral repercussions of two of the most consequential moral issues of our time: abortion and same-sex "marriage."

Mitt Romney

Mr. Romney's stance on abortion seems to have changed considerably (Click HERE for a timeline series of videos showing the positions he has held since 1994):
  • 1994 -- In a debate during his race against Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, Romney said, "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country." Referring to the 1973 Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in every state, Romney added, "I believe that since Roe-v-Wade has been the law for 20 years, it should be sustained and supported. And I sustain and support that law and support the right of a woman to make that choice.
  • 2002 -- In a debate during his campaign for governor of Massachusetts, Romney said, "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard."
  • 2005 -- Romney endorses the standard postmodern "my personal view aside ... we should maintain the status quo" claim to be pro-life but not mess with abortion laws.
  • 2007 -- Romney would be thrilled to sign a bill overturning Roe-v-Wade.
  • 2012 -- Romney claims that he is "firmly pro-life" and thinks the abortion issue should be returned to the states.
While his opponents and the media characterize this timeline as a "flip flop," and while there is no doubt that he has changed his public position on abortion, it seems to me that Mr. Romney has "evolved" more than flipped. And consider this: Mr. Romney is a devout Mormon. Mormons in general are unwaveringly pro-family and pro-life. For that reason, I find it extremely doubtful that Mr. Romney was ever really in favor of abortion. He just didn't want to admit it because he was trying to get elected in an extremely liberal state (Massachusetts).

While I find that to be cowardly, dishonest, sad, and opportunistic, I believe the fact is that he lied about being pro-choice. But even if he didn't, his "evolution" has been toward the correct moral position on the issue.

Barack Obama

Mr. Obama's history with the abortion issue shows a far different story. You can get a detailed compilation of it here: Obama's Record on Abortion ... but suffice it to say it is abysmal:

  • 1997 - 2004 -- While a member of the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama opposed the proposed “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” (BAIPA) for three straight legislative sessions and twice spoke against the bill on the Senate floor. He voted against the bill twice in committee and once on the Senate floor. Both laws were intended to provide protection for babies who survived abortions equal to protection received by babies who are spontaneously born prematurely.
  • 2004 - 2009 -- Obama compiled a 0% voting record on pro-life issues scored by the National Right to Life Committee and a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
  • 2007 -- Obama sharply criticized the Supreme Court for its 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.  He said, "I strongly disagree with today’s Supreme Court ruling...I am extremely concerned that this ruling will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose, and that the conservative Supreme Court justices will look for other opportunities to erode Roe v. Wade, which is established federal law and a matter of equal rights for women."
  • 2008 -- At a campaign stop while running for president, Obama said: "I’ve got two daughters. Nine years old and six years old. I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby."
  • 2009 -- Obama not only invoked an Executive Order removing all barriers from embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), he simultaneously revoked President Bush’s Executive Order which funded alternate stem cell research that does not destroy human embryos. You can read the sad history of this story here: Stem Cell Obfuscation
  • 2010 -- Obama courted "pro-life" Democrats during the congressional fight against ObamaCare by promising to invoke an Executive Order that would prohibit taxpayer funding of abortion. This effort was successful in obtaining a key vote from Michigan congressman Bart Stupak that allowed the bill to pass. Since then we have found not only that the ObamaCare Law includes surreptitious language that would allow taxpayer funding of abortion, but we have seen an outright assault on religious liberty by the Obama administration that would force religious institutions and their insurance programs to fund services contrary to their religious convictions.

As Greg Koukl has put it, this president doesn't just think there is a right to abortion, he believes there is an inalienable right to a corpse. Barack Obama may not accept that description of his view on abortion, but his record tells otherwise. The president is among the most radical abortion rights politicians we have ever seen ... and he is proud of it.

On top of all the rest, and as it stands today, putting any Republican in office ensures that pro-abortion legislation will never see the light of day. It is a sad statement about the president's party and I pray it will change. But for now Romney wins on this issue hands down.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Don't Impose Your Views ... Only We Can Do That!

Worldviews Passing in the Night
Following the last post, I want to finish with the most important issue that I believe was exposed with Bill Nye's ridiculous video by devoting a separate post to my interlocutor's (tildeb) final comment, the gist of which is as follows:
I suspect we would agree on almost everything - like family and friends and jobs and the cost of living and health concerns and so on... right up until you tried to have your religious beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others or if I argued to keep true to the secular ideals of personal autonomy! … All religious claims for historical creationism are equivalently based solely on belief. At best - like abiogenesis - we should agree that neither of us knows and hold that opinion until such a time that reality offers us compelling evidence to adduce a change. Belief of the religious kind does not produce knowledge and certainly doesn't fill in gaps where we currently have none. Yet far too often, this is exactly where religious belief stakes out its ground. As if this weren't bad enough, too often the conclusions deduced from these beliefs are then imposed on the rest of us by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, public education, and so on. Nowhere is this more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality... but that's for another day.
I don't want to cut and paste the whole thing but I believe this gives proper context to tildeb's point. What I want to concentrate on is the idea that he brings in the emphasized phrases of his quote -- because this is where the real crux of the issue resides. Like Bill Nye (on the video in the original post), tildeb does not want to allow people who think like me to "have their beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others ... by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, [or] public education."

The mind-numbing arrogance and irony contained in this way of thinking is breathtaking. Notice that tildeb will not only mock the beliefs of others, he will fight to keep them from ever having them "imposed" on those with whom he agrees. How does he believe this should be handled?

By imposing his beliefs on those who disagree with him.

Notice that those who take Intelligent Design seriously and understand what it claims (as well as what it does not claim), are perfectly content to "teach the controversy." This means that they want to teach everything about Darwinism -- including its presuppositions, missing evidence, process flaws, and catastrophic inability to explain the origin of anything, let alone life itself. They have no desire to ban the teaching of Darwinism or to avoid it in any way. In fact, they have argued passionately for the opposite.

It is not "Creationists" who are imposing their beliefs on anyone. It is the materialist priesthood of Darwinist believers who are imposing their metaphysical worldview on others and enforcing it in every public institution that tildeb mentioned. You can read my thoughts on that subject here: "Defrocking The Priests of Scientism".

The final irony in tildeb's way of thinking is that he claims that this issue is "nowhere more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality."

Apparently those who think this way believe that it would be immoral for religious believers to impose their views on them. This charge is brought to us by subscribers to a worldview in which "morality" has no basis ... and pontificated on by those who are perfectly happy to impose their religious views on us.

Ironic is a nice word for that ...







Tuesday, September 25, 2012

None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

Recently, I posted a rebuttal to a recent video by Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" that generated more hits on my blog than any other single post I've ever put up. What followed (at least with one respectful commenter, tildeb) was an ongoing conversation about the differing views that Christian and secular folks have with regard to the role and implications of science and what we can infer from it about the real world. I have to say that though "tildeb" (I don't know his name but this is a link to his blog) and I see the world through completely different lenses, the conversation that was generated was pretty informative. I don't want to rehash it here (you can go to the comments section of the Bill Nye post if you're interested), but I did think the following exchange (which occurred near the end of the conversation) is telling about how two people can look at the exact same data and draw completely different conclusions. I'll let readers draw their own conclusions. Here's the beginning of tildeb's argument ...
There really are compelling reasons why nearly 97% of university tenured biologists reject all forms of creationism; the assumption of supernatural causation is not borne out by information we adduce from this natural universe. In fact, the overwhelming mutually supporting evidence from independent lines of research all point in one direction: common ancestry by natural selection. 
The important aspect here is often ignored by those who cling to creationist beliefs: the evidence did not have to be this way, yet it is! Genetics could have pointed to a single founding couple. Yet it does not. Geology could have pointed to a single creation event. Yet it does not. Topography could have pointed to a global flood. Yet it does not. Radioactive dating could have shown a uniform age of sedimentation. Yet it does not. Physiology could have shown distinct and separate ancestry. Yet it does not. Astronomy could have shown our solar uniqueness. Yet it does not. Physics could have shown exemptions were possible from natural laws. Yet it does not. Chemistry could have shown us cellular rejuvenation through intercessory prayer. Yet it does not. Biodiversity could have shown us stable population dispersal. Yet it does not. Over and over again, opportunities to adduce creation events are plentiful. What's strikingly absent from all this evidence is any indication for a creationist event.
There really are compelling reasons why nearly 97% of university tenured biologists reject all forms of creationism...

Correct. It’s called groupthink. There really were compelling reasons why nearly 100% of university tenured scientists rejected all forms of heliocentrism before Copernicus/Galileo proved their geocentric view was false. There really were compelling reasons why Einstein (and many others) rejected the notion of an expanding universe because they "knew" the universe was static and eternal.

Your appeal to authority does nothing to change the fact that the sudden appearance and expansion of the universe implies an external cause.

...the assumption of supernatural causation is not borne out by information we adduce from this natural universe. In fact, the overwhelming mutually supporting evidence from independent lines of research all point in one direction: common ancestry by natural selection.

And while you continue to pretend the origin of life is irrelevant to the worldview you are defending, I will continue to insist that you have to explain it too. Even if universal common ancestry is true, it does nothing to explain the origin of complex, specified information in DNA. Nothing.

Genetics could have pointed to a single founding couple. Yet it does not.

Well, actually it might seem far-fetched to think we could find “proof” of the first couple, but you also might be interested to know that research indicates that modern humans can be traced back to a single location while mitochondrial DNA analysis points to a single woman as its source. I guess the fact that the science community nicknamed her “mitochondrial Eve” is just coincidence. {Sources: Linda Vigilant et al, “African Populations and the Evolution of Human Mitochondrial DNA,” Science 253 (1991); M. Hasegawa and S. Horai, “Time of the Deepest Root for Polymorphism in Human Mitochondrial DNAs,” Journal of Molecular Evolution …There are more but I’m running out of space.}

Geology could have pointed to a single creation event. Yet it does not.

Well, actually that is kind of silly. Scientists who are looking at the “single creation event” are astronomers and cosmologists, not geologists. While geology might show traces of evidence for how the Earth formed and for what has happened to it since, it won’t really tell us much about the “single creation event.” For that, see Einstein, Hubble etc. Or, are you suggesting (like many young earth creationists) that the Earth was created before the Sun and the galaxy in which we reside? :-)

Topography could have pointed to a global flood. Yet it does not.

I agree. That’s why I don’t accept the idea of a global flood (defined as one that covered the entire earth). Go here for my explanation: The Extent of Noah’s Flood

Radioactive dating could have shown a uniform age of sedimentation. Yet it does not.

Once again, I agree! See how similar we are?! But that does nothing to undermine the case for a Creator. It only goes to undermine the case for young earth creationism which, I think you would agree, is nonsense.

Physiology could have shown distinct and separate ancestry. Yet it does not.

Well, actually that is not true either. Recent studies of human DNA distribution (2002) compared 377 DNA regions for 1,056 individuals from 52 different population groups and found 93-95% of all genetic variation occurs within all populations and only 3-5% of genetic variability occurs between populations. In other words the human genetic unity is very unusual. {Source: Noah A. Rosenberg et al., “Genetic Structure of Human Populations,” Science 298 (2002)

Astronomy could have shown our solar uniqueness. Yet it does not.

Apparently you unfamiliar with (non-Christians) Ward and Brownlee’s, Rare Earth. No time to go into it here but you can read the book which makes exactly the opposite point of your assertion here. Though you probably reject it without consideration, there is also Richards and Gonzalez's, The Privileged Planet, which deals with similar information and also shows how that information is perfectly consistent with the Christian view of reality.

Physics could have shown exemptions were possible from natural laws. Yet it does not. Chemistry could have shown us cellular rejuvenation through intercessory prayer. Yet it does not.

So, like many materialists, you seem to believe that science can disprove miracles. The glaring problem in that assumption is that it makes a colossal and inappropriate category error. In what alternate universe do you think science (the study of the material world) could prove or disprove miracles (which are, by definition, not material)?

Over and over again, your attempt to deny reality comes back to bite you. Over and over again you fail to see the myopic view you (along with Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”) are attempting to defend has glaring holes in it that you refuse to acknowledge. Hopefully, you have something to think about now ...  if you're honest with yourself that is ...

------------------------

As you can see, there are perfectly valid, reasonable and rational explanations for each of the phenomenon tildeb claims are non-existent. He doesn't have to accept them, but that does nothing to undermine their validity. Tildeb (and others like him) can continue to ignore these explanations and thereby remain intellectually dishonest in their claims that they don't exist.

I prefer to engage the best arguments of my opponents, not ignore them and I will let the reader decide if their blindness is of the willful or ignorant persuasion.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't Buy "The Science Guy"

I have nothing personal against Bill Nye, "The Science Guy". I remember watching parts of his program when our kids were younger and I found them enjoyable and informative. However, if you have any interest whatsoever in knowing the truth about the world and/or speaking coherently, consistently, and intelligently about seeking the truth about that world, please watch this 2:32 minute video and think about what he is saying. It really is beyond me how someone who is sold as such a scientific sage and articulator of the the truth could deliver such a bumbling, nonsensical connection of incoherent platitudes ... and then finish them off by admonishing the morons (defined as a parent who does not agree with Bill Nye, "The Science Guy") to shut up and leave the education of their children to the real scientists -- like him.




There are a few facts about Mr. Nye that I find directly applicable to the list of assertions (definitely not an argument) he brings us. For starters, one would think that someone who is touted in the media as a "science guy" -- especially a guy who would challenge your parenting skills if you don't buy into the widely accepted "fact" of evolution -- would, at a minimum be -- Oh, I don't know -- an actual scientist. Given the topic of this video in fact, we might assume that our "science guy" would have some kind of background or advanced degree in the life/biological sciences.

Well, Bill Nye, "the science guy," actually has nothing of the kind. Mr. Nye's education consists of a Bachelor of Science ... in Mechanical Engineering. His expertise consists of: developing a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing; being a student of Carl Sagan (a shocking revelation in light of the content of this video); receiving two Honorary Doctorate Degrees because he gave a couple of commencement addresses (long after his popularity on being "the science guy" had been established); and (probably the most relevant fact in relation to this discussion) a career that began as a stand-up comedian in Seattle.

I couldn't make this up.

With this as his background, "the science guy" wants to lecture the rest of us about how ridiculous we are to not believe in evolution but he makes absolutely no distinction about what he means by "evolution." Does he mean that we ridiculous people deny that species change and adapt to the environment? If so, he is just plain wrong. However, since it is the case that most who defend "evolution" are referring to a specific theory that all life is the result of a purposeless, materialistic process that began by a random accident and can account for all variations of life from that first self-replicating, single-celled organism (I refer to this as Big 'E' Evolution), I will assume that is what he means.

As we examine his case, it is important to recognize a couple of things. First, just because Mr. Nye's credentials as a "science guy" are lacking, that doesn't mean we should dismiss him out of hand. We should give him the benefit of the doubt until he gives us reason not to. Second, we need to recognize the difference between an assertion and an argument. Anyone can make assertions but no one should be compelled to accept them unless they are supported by evidence, logic and good reasoning. Mr. Nye gives none of these. He simply offers a rambling set of assertions that completely collapse when you take the time to think about what they are. So, in the interest of deciding who is actually being ridiculous, let me break down the case Mr. Nye makes.

"Denial of evolution is unique to the United States ... we are the world's most advanced technological society ... people move to the United States because of our general understanding of science."

Beside the fact that this a baseless and demonstrably false assertion (I know of plenty of folks who live all over the world who do not accept Evolution because they have not seen any credible evidence to support it), let's just say Mr. Nye is correct; the only people who don't believe in Evolution are Americans. What does this prove? Does the geographical location of those persons who believe in an idea determine the truth content of the idea itself? To ask the question is to answer it. As a side note, does Mr. Nye really believe that the reason people immigrate to the United States is because of our general understanding of science? The utter inanity of these assertions defies all logic.

"When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in Evolution it holds everybody back."

How, exactly, did Mr. Nye come to this conclusion? My undergraduate education is in aerospace engineering. I learned how to design airplanes and then how to fly them. I don't accept Evolution. So I would like Mr. Nye to explain to me exactly how I am "holding everybody back." I don't think he can. And let's turn this one around. Suppose I claimed that those who do accept Evolution are holding everybody back. Would Mr. Nye accept this as a valid argument against Evolution? It would be ridiculous if he did.

"Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science ... [Not believing in it] is analogous to doing geology and not believing in tectonic plates ... you're just not gonna get the right answer. Your whole world is just gonna be a mystery instead of an exciting place."

Before he said this, Mr. Nye had only demonstrated a lack of logic and reasoning. But here he completely invalidates his claim to be a "science guy." Whatever one thinks of the concept of Evolution, it can only be understood as a process that explains the emergence and diversity of life on the Earth. It is a noble attempt to explain the nuts and bolts of just how chemical elements that existed on the early Earth combined and interacted with one another to produce complex biological systems that live and grow and reproduce. It is the process that is at the heart of Evolution, not the parts that are used by the process. Yet Mr. Nye believes that tectonic plates -- which are nothing but giant hunks of rock that get pushed around by geological processes -- are analogous to the process of Evolution. He fails to understand the very basic concept that he is comparing completely non-analogous categories of things. If he can't distinguish such a fundamental concept as this I'm not sure why anyone thinks we should take him seriously as a "science guy."

"Once in a while I get people who don't really -- who claim -- they don't believe in evolution. My response is, 'Why not?' Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution."

Notice that Mr. Nye believes that no one could really disbelieve in Evolution; they only "claim" to do so. He also fails to offer the responses he receives to his "Why not?" question. Who is he asking? Why does he dismiss them? We can't really know how to evaluate their answers unless we know what evidence they are citing and the actual reasons they are giving. The fact that Mr. Nye doesn't accept their responses is hardly a reason for us to reject them, especially having established that his reasoning is demonstrably lacking in support of Evolution. I also fail to see any connection between my denial of Evolution and the complicatedness of the world I am living in as a result. This assertion comes completely out of left field as an irrelevant non sequitur.

"Here are these ancient dinosaur bones ... radioactivity ... distant stars ... the idea of deep time ... billions of years ... if you try to ignore that your worldview just becomes crazy"

Just like most "young earth creationists," Mr. Nye is equating non-acceptance of Evolution with belief in a young universe (or, conversely, acceptance of an old universe as an equivalent acceptance of Evolution). Once again he is confusing categories. How in the world does Mr. Nye equate non-acceptance of Evolution with a belief in a young universe? These two topics are completely separate. One is about biology and the other is about cosmology. All one would have to do to show that this assertion by Mr. Nye is false is declare themselves to be an "old universe, non-Evolutionist." How would he respond to that? By failing to recognize this difference, he not only demonstrates his lack of a basic understanding of science, but also shows the failure of the argument most young Earth creationists use against those of us who believe the universe is old. I wonder how Mr. Nye would react when someone pointed out to him that his thinking is exactly equivalent to the young Earth creationists he so abhors.

"I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that is completely inconsistent with the universe, that's fine ... but don't make your kids do it ... because we need them ... we need engineers who can build things and solve problems ..."

Now Mr. Nye has stepped out of a scientific critique (if you could consider to him to have ever been inside one) and into the arrogance of supposing he has the right to tell anyone what they should be allowed to teach their children. This is the impulse of a statist mindset that thinks it can determine what people should be allowed to think. Those of us who honor scientific objectivity, free thought, and academic tolerance need to recognize this kind of talk when we hear it. People who think like this are the most intolerant kinds of people and they are destroying the concept of free thought in the academy. It is intellectually dishonest and it can become dangerous for those who don't think the "right way."

I would also like to point out that Mr. Nye (once again) demonstrates his failure to understand basic logic when he ties belief in Evolution to our ability to produce "engineers who can build things and solve problems." It seems fairly obvious that one can be a perfectly competent airplane or bridge designer/builder not only without holding an opinion about Evolution, but with being completely ignorant about the very concept of Evolution. Mr. Nye proved that himself when he designed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor for Boeing.

Finally, Mr, Nye insists that we must overcome those who disbelieve in Evolution because "... we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers." By examining the case he makes in this video, I think it should be fairly obvious that, if scientific literacy became a prerequisite for voting and paying taxes, "the science guy" would have to stay home on election day.