Friday, November 30, 2007

More Pesky Evidence For The Naturalists

While the Naturalists go on making cartoons like this one, science just keeps marching along gathering data. Just a quick post to highlight a few news tidbits I've run across lately that serve to undermine the tenets of Naturalism -- and to show that the headings in the cartoon above should be reversed.

As has always been the case, and no matter how much they deny it, the actual evidence serves only to support the case for Theism in general, and the God of the Bible in particular. Just a couple of recent examples ...

"Junk" DNA has a purpose -- The Boston Globe reports that a kind of revolution is taking place in the scientific community as more information is gathered about the human genome.
... genes were assigned an almost divine role in biological "dogma," thought to govern not only such physical characteristics as eye color or hair texture, but even much more complicated characteristics, such as behavior or psychology. Genes were assigned blame for illness. Genes were credited for robust health. Genes were said to be the source of the mutations that underlay evolution.

But the picture now emerging is more complicated, one in which illness, health, and evolutionary change appear to be the work of almost fantastical coordination between genes and swaths of DNA previously written off as junk.
Scientists, and Philosophers of Science, like: Michael Behe, Fuz Rana, Stephen Meyer and William Dembski; have been predicting this exact idea for at least a decade, while Darwinists wrote off "Junk" DNA as the necessary but useless byproduct of evolutionary genetic mutations.
The Floral "Big Bang" -- Two papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences address the fact that flowering plant life appeared almost instantaneously in the Earth's history.
these bloomers went through an evolutionary "Big Bang" of sorts some 130 million years ago, a brief era of explosive floral diversification at a time when dinosaurs walked the Earth.

The origin of flowering plants called angiosperms has long baffled scientists, with Charles Darwin famously referring to the plant puzzler as an "abominable mystery."

"One of the reasons why it's been hard to understand evolutionary relationships among the major groups of flowering plants is because they diversified over such a short time frame," said researcher Robert Jansen, professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin.

To calculate these things, the teams looked at "known rates of genetic change, [then] estimated that three lineages went through a major diversification in an evolutionary 'blink of an eye.'"

This is yet another example of Naturalistic presuppositions demanding only certain types of conclusions -- the exact practice for which they accuse and demean "Creationists" of being ridiculously mindless. Darwinists calculate "known rates of genetic change" by assuming gradualistic Evolution is true, and are then confounded when the data doesn't fit with the theory. Meanwhile, the actual evidence fits perfectly well with the phrase "... Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds. And it was so ..." (Genesis 1:11).

This is not to say we should accept a "God of the Gaps" explanation by saying "God did it" and calling it a day. We should, as always, examine the evidence and do our best to understand how, where, and when the Creator involved Himself in the creation. What it does show -- for the umpteenth time -- is that the actual scientific evidence does nothing to undermine or eliminate the Theistic Hypothesis from consideration. It only supports it.

It always has.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Great Resource

For those who want some quick, concise answers to some common apologetic questions, may I recommend a new resource. These are short (it looks like most are 1-4 minutes) video clips of Greg Koukl offering answers during a series of interviews. Click below to go to the Stand To Reason YouTube site:

Stand To Reason on YouTube

For those who don't know him, Greg is the President and founder of Stand To Reason. He has a local radio show in Southern California and travels the world doing debates, lectures and apologetic training of all kinds ... the kind of thing I'd love to do when I grow up.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don't Ask Your Brain, Ask Your Mind

This November 15, 2007 Scientific American news story, "Are You A Liar? Ask Your Brain," prompted me to re-address a related article from over a year ago in the journal Discover, which reported on the work of:
"researchers [who] wanted to see whether brain scans can even pick up a significant difference between brain activity during lying versus when telling the truth."
The new research claims that ...
The act of lying or suppressing the truth triggers activities in the brain that send blood to the prefrontal cortex (located just above the eye sockets), which controls several psychological processes, including the one that takes place when a person crafts a new rather than a known response to something. "Lying is an example of this type of executive response, because it involves withholding a truthful response," says Sean Spence, a professor of general adult psychiatry at the University of Sheffield in England. "When you know the answer to a question, the answer is automatic; but to avoid telling me the true answer requires something more."
My contention is that that connection can only be explained by the actual existence of a non-physical entity called your mind. That there is also activity registered in the physical brain does not entail a physical cause. Those activities may be correlated but, as we have discussed before, correlation does not equal causation. Though the claims all sound very technical, a cursory analysis of the facts brings up some fairly obvious questions (that haven't changed since the last time this subject came up) regarding the connection between abstract ideas like truth and the purely physical neuron activity in your brain.

First, one is compelled to ask the materialist scientist on what premise this research is based. After all, if the human mind is nothing but a complicated mass of meat which has come to be what it is through an irrational, physical process, why would they expect to detect any physical reaction to such an abstract idea as truth?There seems to be no reason why unguided evolutionary mutation would in any way connect physical reactions with abstract notions. Yet …
"the brain scans revealed unique areas that only lit up during lying. However, the researchers point out that there isn't one telltale spot in the brain that can automatically indicate a lie. "There really is no one lying center," Faro says. "There are multiple areas in the brain that activate because there are a lot of processes that have to take place."
Second, if evolutionary processes could explain a physical reaction to a moral standard of behavior, it would seem logical to assume that that reaction would be centralized to the specific area in which evolution had brought about the divergent speech pattern. There seems to be no reason that this would involve multiple areas of the brain – unless those areas were holistically connected in some way. This, however, is exactly what one would expect to find on the Christian worldview – that moral awareness resides in the soul so that breaching a moral boundary would effect the entire being of the person who did so.

Third, why would researchers care about such a thing? What would cause a scientist to have any notion of what lying is, unless that researcher was aware of an objective standard by which one determines right or wrong – a standard that cannot exist on the naturalistic worldview. The very fact that these scientists are compelled to study such a thing is evidence that objective morality is real and that its effects are inescapable.

Finally, and a little humorously, the research showed that …
"'In the group that lied there were two times the number of areas throughout the brain that showed activation compared with the group that was telling the truth,' Faro says. '‘That's because to lie, you have to actively suppress memories that are triggered by the question, which takes more effort than simply asserting the truth,' he says."

And that …
"One of the most important of these is that the brain has to work much harder to lie than to tell the truth."
On the naturalistic worldview, there is absolutely no explanation for these findings. The state of the human brain is just the way it is because of a chain of deterministic evolutionary events that brought it to its current form. On this view there is no right or wrong so there should be no impetus for the brain to have to "work harder" to achieve any one outcome rather than another. After all, no one outcome is in any way superior to another.

The only way to make sense of this research, or to understand why the research was even done in the first place, is to accept the fact that the human mind is more than just a clump of gray matter.

I am currently reading Beauregard and O'Leary's, The Spiritual Brain. When I finish I hope to be able to post some more insights from their research about the actual existence of the human mind and soul.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Take Me To Your Seeder

NASA made headlines yesterday, when it was reported that the space agency may have uncovered evidence that life on Earth actually originated on Mars. Here's an excerpt from the story:
"It may not be likely," NASA researcher David Morrison told National Geographic News, "but we cannot exclude the possibility that we are, in effect, all Martians."

Panspermia, or the idea that Earth was "seeded" by life from outer space, is centuries old but until lately has not had much scientific evidence to support it.
I have mentioned the concept of panspermia before, but let me offer a quick review. First of all, this idea is anything but "new," as even the author notes. What is new, is the reason that Naturalistic scientists promote it. And that reason is stunning.

Michael Behe points out, in his book, Darwin's Black Box, that peer-reviewed articles and research in the area of the origin of life is almost non-existent.
More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.
The subject is so lacking any naturalistic explanation, the scientific community has punted it by splitting off origin of life studies from the rest of the Darwinian and neo-Darwinian Evolutionary models.

There are two basic forms of the panspermia in play. The first is labeled Directed Panspermia and basically sees life on Earth as an ongoing zoo experiment in which life was planted here by advanced aliens whose technological abilities go well beyond our ability to imagine or reproduce. Though it sounds goofy on the surface, that one is eerily similar to the Theistic Hypothesis. After all, we theists have no problem with the idea that a super-intellect not only planted us here but -- in the infamous words of atheist astronomer Fred Hoyle (he of Big Bang naming fame) -- that He has also "monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology."

The second form, and the one being championed here by NASA, is labeled Non-directed Panspermia. This is the notion that some primitive life form (bacteria etc.) evolved elsewhere but was transported to Earth by piggy-backing aboard a comet or meteor. This could be explained by the collision of such an entity with a life-inhabited planet, the force of which would expel debris that escaped the planet's gravitational field. Having escaped, the rock on which the bacteria was riding collides with Earth and serves to "seed" it for further evolution.

There are big problems with this theory. Not the least of which is the ability of the life form to survive such a journey. In the study cited we find that:
A team led by John Parnell from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland embedded fossilized microbes into a fake meteorite strapped to the exterior of the Russian Foton M3 scientific-research probe, which went into orbit on Sept. 26 and came back to Earth 12 days later.

"In the bit of rock we got back, some biological compounds have survived," Parnell told National Geographic News.
Please note: The embedded microbes returned 12 days later, while only some survived. Though this data doesn't preclude the possibility of non-directed panspermia, it does highlight the utter improbability that any form of life could survive the thousands, if not millions, of years it would take for such a cosmic hitchhiker to reach the Earth -- even from our closest neighbors outside the solar system.

Though directed panspermia poses an even more unlikely scenario (because the highly intelligent zookeepers would also have to survive for so long), even the undirected variety has to find a way to overcome the intense ultraviolet (and other forms of radiation) that permeates outer space, as well as the lack of a life-sustaining environment aboard its transporter through the interstellar vacuum. There are other reasons to doubt that such a thing could occur, but here's the clincher ...

Saying life "evolved" elsewhere and was then transported here does nothing to solve the origin of life problem! It only pushes the question back another level. One still has to overcome all the barriers that a naturalistic explanation for evolution has not been able to overcome here on Earth. Always remember, the smoke screen of panspermia is a tacit admission that Naturalistic scientists cannot answer the real question of the origin of life. Hiding behind this theory does nothing to remove them from that failure.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering ...

Today, at my kids' school, they honored veteran's with a patriotic mix of music, reading and a skit meant to thank the invited attendees for their service to the nation. It was a moving event and good to see that in some circles the service of those who sacrifice to keep us free is greatly appreciated. There were parents and grandparents who were recognized and applauded individually. But for me, one of the most touching moments was when an elderly gentleman, who looked to be in his late eighties, asked to take the microphone from the school principal. "Thank you," he said, "for taking the time to remember us."

Is that the epitome of the citizen soldier, the servant leader, the veteran to which we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude -- is that not the picture of why we hold these veterans so dear? He fought the war ... and he's thanking me for simply remembering.

The implication was obvious. With the possible exception of November 11, most people don't really remember. We go to the mall, or watch Monday Night Football, or start our Christmas shopping, or whatever it is we do ... without ever giving our ability to do those things a second thought. We take it all for granted. It made me think ...

I thought of the rag-tag gang of idealists who, without uniforms, banded together at Bunker Hill to begin a process that won a newly-birthed nation its independence.

I thought of the descendants of those idealists who, at Gettysburg, charged downhill at Little Round Top, out of ammunition but with bayonets fixed, and held the left flank of the Union Army. One of them, Colonel Strong Vincent, was my wife's great-great-great uncle. Just a mile or so to his north, General Lewis Armistead, mortally wounded at the infamous stone wall during Pickett's Charge, sent apologies to his best friend, General Winfield Scott Hancock, for his decision to fight against him on the Confederate side.

How are men compelled to perform such courageous acts?

I thought of the horrors of the "War To End All Wars" and the optimism the world shared when it ended on Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, the commemoration of which eventually became Veteran's Day in 1954.

I thought of another group whose missing or ragged uniforms left them a frozen, suffering gaggle of men who, somehow, still continued to fight during The Battle of the Bulge. And of the teenagers who left the landing craft at Omaha Beach, only to be mowed down by German machine gun fire. It was on that beach 50 years later, that Bill Clinton posed for a photo op as he placed a group of staff-planted stones into the shape of a cross.

How dare he even set foot on that beach for that purpose.

I thought of Frozen Chosin, and Pusan, and MacArthur, and Truman and the "Forgotten War" that my uncle, Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant Francis Adams, never forgot because he suffered in the cold there. It haunted him until his end.

I thought of the two men I admire most who were sitting on either side of me during the ceremony today. My dad, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bob Perry, and my wife's dad, Army Colonel Joe Vincent, who fought, and watched friends die, in the most unpopular war in America's history -- Viet Nam.

I thought of all those things in an instant. The remembering brought pride and admiration for those who have gone before me. But more than anything, the thought that haunts me today is for the future.

In a time when our enemy wears no uniform but vows to obliterate the American way of life and all who hold it dear; in a time when they have attacked us on our own soil and vowed to do worse; in a time when rogue nuclear weapons lurk in places unknown with persons who would use them without a hint of conscious regret; in a time when too many of our leaders seem reluctant to defend our national moral purpose against those who defile it; in a time like that my son has willingly volunteered to defend the cause of freedom. At the same time, each of his younger brothers have either taken intentional action, or showed every inclination, to do the same.

How are such young men compelled to perform such courageous acts?

Yes, I served 8 years in the Marine Corps. But only for the selfish purpose to fulfill a childhood dream of flying jets. My dream came true without ever having to endure a day in combat. Without ever having to know the fear that someone nearby was doing their level best to kill me. I served in a time of comfort. The same cannot be said for the sons who follow me.

So today I simply thank all those who are so inclined for remembering in a different way than we practiced today at school. Don't just remember the past. Remember the future.

Remember to pray.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

This Is NOT What I Meant

Beside his penchant for blaming natural disasters, both past and future (like an America-directed-tsunami or what residents of Dover, PA should expect after the defeat of ID there) on the immorality and misdeeds of humanity, Pat Robertson has also made some pretty outrageous public gaffs -- like musing about the assassination of Hugo Chavez -- that, even when "clarified," have succeeded in rendering him irrelevant in the mainstream political debate.

Today however, I can only say that I hope he is as irrelevant to most of America's "values voters" as he is to me. That's because today Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani for president.

Over at the LTI blog we have engaged in legitimate (and cordial) debate about our differences concerning a Giuliani presidency and what it would mean for the pro-life agenda. Our "disagreements" have always been about long-term strategy. But, as one who believes a vote for Giuliani in the general election is better than any alternative from the other party, I have tried to make it clear that I would in no way support Giuliani during the nomination process. For that reason, I see Robertson's endorsement as being detestable.

For all his bluster about immorality invoking the wrath of God, it is beyond me how Robertson can look past Giuliani's positions on abortion and homosexual rights to only see his fiscal conservatism and stance on the War on Terror. This is a move that flies in the face of the morality Robertson claims to hold in such high regard. He should be ashamed. I just hope that Robertson's past actions have rendered his endorsement a whispered call to a crowd that isn't listening.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Taking Naturalism To The Woodshed

When it comes to apologetic resources or cultural critiques, Christian thinkers have plenty of options from which they can choose. But when it comes to a clear thinking, surgical strike on the presuppositions and inevitably tragic consequences of naturalism and the secular worldview, no one does it better than my friend, James Abernathy.

This is Abernathy's first book, but if it is indicative of his intellectual mission in life, his opponents have been issued a stern warning of things to come. Abernathy is not your typical Christian apologist. And his opponents are not just secularists. Liberal Christians better take note also. They, Abernathy points out, want "... a God who accepts everyone and the sin in their lives. God certainly does the former, but for him to do the latter would go against his very nature ... What many liberal Christians don't realize is that without a holy and wrathful God, Christ's death accomplished nothing -- nor was it necessary. A God who only loves need not punish sin."

Abernathy had an epiphany on the similarities between liberal Christians and atheist secularists when he found that many of his Christian professors in grad school (Fuller Theological Seminary) shared the same political views as the atheist professors he had as an undergrad (Miami of Ohio). Trying to unravel the illogic in that conundrum led Abernathy to realize that though they each claim to hold to a different view of the world, the results of their thinking are the same because liberal Christians hold to the same presuppositions as their atheist counterparts. "Ideas," he writes, "are not 'respecters of men, ... their real-world consequences will be the same."

Using a mix of wit, political incorrectness, and precise thinking, Abernathy not only argues for the superiority of the conservative Christian worldview, but exposes the deception, metaphysical theft, incoherence, and self-contradiction inherent in the secular project. Abernathy has no intention of making nice with his secular opponents. The consequences of their thinking are too dangerous for that. Instead, Abernathy carefully unravels the critical flaws in their thinking, the eerie similarities between the secular worldview and ancient Gnosticism, and the chaos that the postmodern self-constructionists (both personal and community types) invoke with their so-called "progressive" ideas.

After setting the stage, and with no holds barred, Abernathy proceeds to illuminate the corrosive outcomes of this way of thinking in politics, the judiciary and, most alarmingly, the American public education bureaucracy. His "Random Ideas" are an entertaining culmination to a book that will keep you thinking but make you chuckle -- unless, of course, you hold to the ideas he takes to the woodshed. In that case, an honest self-assessment and thoughtful reconsideration of your worldview is in order. And James Abernathy is just the person to offer you some assistance in the endeavor.