Monthly Archives: March 2010

Evidence from how it is vs. how it would be

So if the Christian story was true, what would things look like? Let’s give a quick list.

  • Human intelligence
  • Appearance of design
  • Appearance(intuition) of an immaterial soul
  • Outside world matching up with thoughts in head
  • “Beautiful” theorems and laws
  • Rapid spread of belief after Jesus resurrection
  • Bible matching up archeologically and historically
  • Evil (due to free will)
  • Good sometimes coming from result of evil
  • Religious experience
  • Appearance of “miracles”

There are more, but this you get the idea. There are certain things we would expect to see if it were indeed true.

So what about this? Do we see this? It seems we do see these things, ALL of these things. Dawkins admits that things appear designed, physicists are saying it seems like somebody monkeyed with physics, Einstein found his formulas by looking for beautiful theorems, we find ourselves able to think of these things, and so on. So is it a coincidence that what we would expect to see we do indeed see? It doesn’t seem so to me. It seems like this is decent evidence for the Christian view. It matches up.

On the other hand, what about atheism? Do we see what we would expect? Does it appear that things happened by chance? Obviously not if they appear designed, since something can’t be appeared to be designed by chance (this is not saying that evolution by natural selection is wrong, just simply that one may not say, “Oh yeah, just looking at this it looks like it was entirely unplanned and random.”). Is there a natural explanation for everything? Not yet at least (origin of life, origin of universe…). Why would self-sacrificial religion be so prevalent (some religions may benefit survival, but ones like Christianity that lead to selflessness and possibly self-sacrifice would not be too beneficial)? Purely natural evolution would not explain such a thing. If atheism were true, we should expect religious stories to all fall into the “myth” category and not have hardly any evidence that any such religion is true or has any trace of fact in it. Such things like the Greek and Egyptian myths of gods impregnating humans to form demi-gods like Hercules (Heracles), or fighting each other to form night vs. day, and dying and rising with the changing of the seasons. There are no evidences that would support these being held as facts about the real world, but are rather stories that helped explain events that otherwise had no explanation. And this is what one would expect to be true of all religious stories if atheism were true. But…

There is great evidence for Christianity in the Bible. There are cities and civilizations that were dated correctly by the Old Testament. The same for the New Testament, not to mention the life of Jesus. We have more biographies written within 50 years of his death than almost every ancient figure including Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. He is mentioned also by Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Seutonius, and Tacitus, not to mention the Talmud. The events in the New Testament are historically accurate on nearly everything spoken of, and even some of the so-called “errors” may be reconcilable. But is this what one would expect if atheism were true? That one religion would have any evidence, yet alone this much supporting it, on top of what is mentioned earlier about finding what one would expect to find if this religion (Christianity) were true? The answer is no, this is not what one would expect to find given atheism.

1 in 3 people are Christians, and 62% believe hold to a form of theism, while only 2% claim to believe in no gods, and 8% are atheist/agnostic/humanists. These don’t seem to be the numbers one would expect to see if there were no gods, and yet the numbers are what the Christian theist would expect. Should we really have to be so counter-intuitive, explain away so many facts, in order for atheism to be rational? One would think that if atheism were true, that religion would be counter-intuitive, or at least be discarded by natural selection once it was no longer useful. But religion, Judeo-Christian belief in particular, has weathered every storm, assault, and come out with 1 in 3 people in the world believing it. Not what atheism would seem to promote.

Now by no means is this definitive of anything, but simply is a point that should spark some thought. This is at a glance, since this is by no means delving too deep into this idea, the concept of expect to see vs. actually see supports the Christian theists view, and not the atheistic view. Think about it.

Can minds have evolved?

Taking some concepts from Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN), I will attempt to show how our intelligible minds could not have evolved for two reasons.

The first reason will be more controversial I believe, and that is this. Beliefs are not entirely subject to genes, but other factors as well. If free will is true, then this is even more true. Even if not, one could argue that the setting we find ourselves in shapes our beliefs, even if genes make one more predisposed to believe something, it does not follow necessarily that they will believe that, since both/either free will and/or the environment can determine this. Given that natural selection, defined as “A process in which some individuals have genetically-based traits that improve survival or reproduction and and thus have more offspring surviving to reproductive age than other individuals, (Berkeley)” can only operate on genetically-based traits, and beliefs are not genetically-based, it therefore cannot effect them. This is not denying evolution, just evolution of the mind as we know it, that can entertain beliefs.

The second reason goes more along the lines of the EAAN, except not as radical. Let’s grant that evolution can effect beliefs. And let’s say that Plantinga is wrong that evolution may not select true beliefs. I actually am torn on this issue myself, since I find it plausible that it could select false beliefs that “promote” survival, but I can also see that somewhere along the lines, a false belief would be less beneficial than a true one. So let’s say that at least some beliefs can even be rationally thought to be guided by natural selection since they are true. But what about beliefs and concepts that don’t have any survival aspect whatsoever? People lived for thousands of years without calculus and physics, so were they promoted by natural selection? I can go two ways here. The first undercuts the idea that it could from the beginning. Natural selection cannot effect learned behavior of any sort, simply by definition. But even if we grant this, how does knowledge of the law of gravity increase my chance of survival? I don’t have to know anything about the law of gravity and it’s equation and how it works in order to know that if I step off a cliff I will fall. What about math? Does knowing 2+2=4 promote my survival? Do I live better by knowing that earth is the third planet from our sun? Do I have a better chance of living longer and producing more offspring if I know that a bachelor by definition is not married? I see no reason to think so. Based on this, natural selection cannot effect such beliefs since they have no survival value.

So what does this mean? Can we know or at least infer anything from this? I think that we can see that something else is needed to explain why we can apparently accurately detail laws of math and physics and concepts of biology, everything that we consider “intelligence,” if it doesn’t increase our chance to survive. What is this explanation? Even more, why is it that the ideas in our heads match up perfectly with actual world? Why are the laws of the world mathematically simple yet perfectly explanatory as well? Many have called this beauty, and finding beauty for these formulas seems to be an efficient way to find new laws. So what is the explanation for this? Yes, it could be chance. But what are the chances? I feel that this is simply not satisfying as an explanation at all. My proposal is that it is an extremely smart Being that did it all on purpose, for ease and beauty, and a small sign that allows us to find a small aspect of Him.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NASB

Future of the Gaps?

Obviously, many theists invoke the “god of the gaps” theory whenever they can. “Oh, you don’t know how that happened? Must be God.” This is TERRIBLE reasoning. However, even non-believers have fallen into this type of trap. In a recent discussion online, someone quoted how quantum theory was not complete and that some form of this could explain the universe. That is all fine and dandy, but it bears a striking resemblance to the “god of the gaps” argument. “Well, we don’t know now. But I’m sure we will figure it out in the future.” Both simply appeal to some unknown factor that may be right or may not be. Both with the same amount of reasoning behind them.

So my question is… When are we justified in saying that “God did it” or “We may figure out in the future?” Because I do believe that there are situations when this IS merited.

When other ideas fall into the same category. What I mean by this is simple. I will use the example of DNA, since it is information that is read, translated, and rewritten in the cell. We know that books are read, translated, and rewritten, and we know that humans “design” or wrote the books and programs to copy, translate, and paste the book as well. We are intelligent creatures. It then seems merited to infer that an intelligent something rather or another “designed” or wrote DNA, since it bears a great resemblance and is actually more in-depth than a book. This also applies to the future theory, though both are pretty subjective, since it is really an inference to the best explanation, but what is best to me may be different than your view of best.

Many people don’t like this concept. They say it is worthless and is never necessary. The inly problem is, this is how we operate in our everyday lives. We don’t usually have a deductive logical argument for the best course of action to take, or how someone will respond to an action, but rather we infer based on previous knowledge and assumptions. So are we stupid to do this? It appears not, as we are able to function quite well in this manner. And if it is highly successful in our day to day lives, why not in this situation as well, when there doesn’t appear to be a very strong deductive argument ether way.

(More to come on inference to best explanation)

Cosmological argument shown false… as Smith disproves motion?

In the Veritas Forum with Craig, Plantinga, Gale, and Smith, Smith talked a bit about how the universe caused itself.

Check out the video.

This should be all the related parts, the rest can be found in related videos on youtube.

Whole (sometimes won’t load all the way through)

Craig shows how Smith’s view of how the universe began, if true, would actually prevent motion as a cost. Plantinga then throws in the idea that the universe is not in fact entirely explained. Gale actually disagrees with Smith, causing a short comical period.

Why Ehrman’s logic is mistaken: “Admissions,” but only due to errant doctrine

Finished Jesus, Interrupted today. It took a little longer than expected due to school and teaching obligations, as well as a few new books that came in that I skimmed through, and also the fact that it was getting frustrating seeing many of Ehrman’s points being aimed at what is really an incorrect idea of biblical inerrancy.

I ended up finding the book pretty enjoyable, though most books tend to be such for me. There were moments of frustration, but I stuck through it. Ehrman raises some good points throughout the book, but nothing that should shake one’s faith. One can believe in God and Christ even if the Bible is not inspired or inerrant in any way, since then the books would be treated as historical biographies anyway (which is really one way they should be treated anyway), and that the information could still be largely trusted. His points merely force one to think about what inerrancy is. In a previous post, I discussed this, but will do so a little bit once again.

Ehrman came from the belief that there was not a single error in the Bible, not even a misspelling or misuse of a genitive or dative or perfect or aorist word. This was shattered given his findings, and it was really the first step towards his “conversion.” The issue here is that his doctrine seems to have been flawed. There is a lot of literature on the topic of inerrancy, but if you are interested in possible views, I recommend listening to Parts 5-7 of William Lane Craig’s Defenders Podcast. In short, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is at least that the Bible is inerrant on what it teaches and affirms. The historical facts are “allowed” to be wrong on this view, though many can be reconciled in plausible ways. For example, Ehrman spends some time on the story of Jesus cleansing the temple at the end of his ministry or at the beginning. But what he fails to mention, and being a historical scholar would know, is that the ancient historical biography was not usually listed in chronological order in the way we do so now, nor were quotes direct quotes, but rather, the author was given some leeway to place events in order of importance, and quotes would be used to summarize what was said. Chances are, Jesus sermons consisted of much more than what we find in the Gospels, but that the gist of the sermon could be summarized and still be considered what had been said.

So while Ehrman does point out some difficulties that are indeed hard to reconcile, one need not throw out entirely the doctrine of inerrancy, and even if one finds necessary grounds to do so, it by no means diminishes that historicity of the books as historical works rather than religious works.