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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.
Monday, October 03, 2011
In my last post, I discussed how many who hold to a neo-Darwinian view will quickly dismiss questions about the origin of life when discussing the viability of that evolutionary model. As I showed there, it seems that the origin of life does really come into play even in the literature of those wishing to promote an evolutionary paradigm, such as the National Academy of Sciences. However, this doesn't really answer the objection offered that the origin of life cannot be used as evidence against evolution since the former is focused on the beginning of life and the latter assumes life already exists and simply seeks to address the diversity of life in the world. Fair enough, let's then address this objection directly.
One of the primary goals for folks like Richard Dawkins and those who support his Blind Watchmaker hypothesis is to show that the incredible diversity of living beings throughout history has been the result of random mutations coupled with specific environmental factors that would cause some of these mutations to remain, since they provide an advantage to the organism. In other words, we are looking at random mutations and natural selection. But, natural selection assumes that there's something to act upon. If there are no mutations, or if the mutations are not wide enough to cause sufficient variation so that natural selection can make a selection, we don't get any change. So, the next question would be, in looking at the diversity of changes and the time allotted, could natural selection do all that work, considering it must first wait upon a random mutation that is also beneficial? This then prompts more questions.
As we start to think through all the questions that this model provokes, one can see that the model must get increasingly complicated. But, a fundamental issue hasn't been addressed—where did the stuff come from to modify in the first place? Not only can natural selection not act when there are no changes, it cannot act if there is no life. That's simple. If I were to go to an auto show and see a new experimental car made out of some unique alloy and ask where did that come from, telling me whether it was put together by robots or by hand doesn't answer my question. My question is who thought it up and how did they develop the new material. The origin of the vehicle is as much a focus of the question as the assembly.
Similarly, when we ask about the origin of life on the planet, taking us back to just a single cell and then looping through a vastly complex set of parameters obfuscates the question of what is necessary for such a theory to begin to function. If random mutations can't start, then they can't help us anymore than the motivations for surfacing in a sub when the seas are boiling. The complexities of forming life from non-life are so much bigger than the changes needed to get from one life to another that if you answer the first, the second would follow in line. It's not much of a stretch to say that if God could create life, then He could create it with diversity. But if we only limit ourselves to genetic mutations and natural selection, we've really not provided an answer. You can draw up battle plans for targeting U-boats once they surface all you want, but until you can boil the seas, they won't provide you with any advantage.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
For an example of the former, let's take Richard Dawkins, in "Why There Almost Certainly is No God" wrote:
It seems that Dawkins is lumping the "explanation for life" with evolution. Any explanation needs to include its origin as Dawkins subsequently makes clear. But Dawkins isn't the only one. The National Association of Biology Teachers has an "NABT Position Statement on Teaching Evolution" at its website that begins:
Next time, I'll address more fully the second point that descent with modification can't get started until life exists.
Friday, August 26, 2011
It seems that some in the media are really trying to make the evolution question a driving issue of the election. This is interesting, and quite a departure from previous presidential campaigns. As Jay Richards and David Klinghoffer noted "Evolution is the speed trap of presidential campaigns. Though a president doesn't have much influence over state and local science education policy, reporters lie in wait for the unwary candidate, ready to pounce with a question he's poorly prepared to answer yet that is important to millions of voters ." They're right, and I've been intrigued to see how this plays out on a national stage.
Of course, political reporters have been showing their ignorance on the issue. First, the word "evolution" has always proven to be wiggly. As this article shows, there are at least eight different meaning poured into the word, which makes it very hard to discuss with specificity. Also, reporters seem to think that intelligent design and creationism are synonymous. They aren't. There are many in the ID movement who even believe in some form of common descent. Lastly, as I've talked about here before, there's a huge amount of creation conflation going on - mixing the age of the universe with its cause.
Now, I don't usually give advice to political candidates of any stripe. However, it strikes me that there are many people that may be questioned or pressured by local educational organizations as to why they rebel against teaching evolution alone in the classroom. Here I believe is an intelligent, reasonable and completely supportable answer that I would offer if asked:
It is my understanding that the scientific method requires not only that one come up with a hypothesis to explain the cause and effect relationship of any set of events, but an effort should be made to falsify that hypothesis by testing or research of some kind.
Falsification is key to the method. Hypotheses that cannot be falsified are not considered science.
Therefore, if the 'blind watchmaker' hypothesis of all life developing from a single source is a scientific one, then it too should be held up to falsification. In order to do science as science, we must teach what the falsification of the hypothesis would look like. The only way this particular hypothesis can be falsified is if we can find evidence that life exhibits intricacies that could not have developed via random mutations perpetuated through natural selection. In other words, we should see if the diversity of living systems show themselves to be too complex to stem from only unintelligent processes.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
For this trip, we caravanned to Salt Lake City, Utah so we could interact with members of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) church. We chose Salt Lake because it is explicitly immersed in Mormon culture and thought. In some suburbs, there are populations of over 60,000 people and only two Christian churches to serve the cities! This is a non-Christian environment.
After some extensive training, we took the students to Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake where they were able to strike up discussions with Mormon missionaries and ask them about their beliefs. Students visited a splinter LDS group in southern Utah that still practices polygamy and attended one of their services. We also visited the campus of Brigham Young University and were able to interact with the students attending there. In between, we had opportunities to hear from some ex-Mormons and those with ministries that reach out to Mormon communities.
For most of our students, the experience was life-changing. Here are a few of their comments:
- "I went on this trip expecting God to use me to minister to Mormons in any way He willed, but God in all His wisdom and beauty ministered to my heart as well through the most unassuming circumstances! What a rich experience this trip was. I came back with more passion and fervor to communicate the truth of the Word to the unsaved who enter and surround my daily life."
- "The Lord broke my heart for the lost and gave me a new passion for His Word. But it also made me appreciate my salvation, the truth, and freedom that are God’s grace to me, so much more."
- "My heart absolutely broke for the Mormons who were so lost in a lie. It felt like there was no freedom of religion in Utah and that the Christians were forced to be underground or hidden from society."
- "Truly God is faithful to not only do a mighty work in the heart of those whom we had the opportunity to talk to, but to do a mighty work in my own heart as well!"
- "This trip has given me a greater confidence and ability to articulate and defend orthodox biblical Christianity in the marketplace of religious and philosophical ideas."
- "Before I went on the Utah Apologetics trip, some of my friends had jokingly said to me ‘if you want to talk to Mormons, why do you need to go all the way to Utah? You can find plenty right across the street!' And I kind of understood what they meant. But going to Utah and being in the middle of the Mormon culture opened my eyes to what a need they have to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. One Christian Pastor who is an ex-Mormon, Russ East, mentioned at the beginning of our trip that when we talk with the Mormons, we need to speak the truth to them and show them where the Book of Mormon falls short, but that it's also very, very important to show the love of God to them by being good listeners and not being in "attack mode". And he also mentioned inviting them to church with us so that they can hear good worship music. I think he said this because the death of Jesus for the sins of the world is so downplayed in the Mormon faith, that the freedom and joy of the Lord is lacking. So, although they are pre-occupied with other ‘good things' like works, family, etc., the importance of Jesus' death and salvation for our sins is easily neglected. It's so important to remember that the Lord looks on our heart."
Next spring, we are hoping to have another Apologetics Missions Trip, targeting a hub of atheistic culture, U.C. Berkeley. I hope you can join us. If you'd like to read more about some specific encounters we had with the Mormon missionaries, read this recent blog post. And if you'd like to attend one of the apologetics classes held monthly, look at our calendar for upcoming classes.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Here's a great interview with Thomas Sowell making the same point, but from the perspective of societal decision-making. Sowell even brings up Noam Chomsky and Bertrand Russell in the beginning of his talk. This video is a half hour well spent. H/T @simonfoust
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