Blog Archive


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 Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Didn't God Create Evil, Too?

Many people assert that if God created everything, then He must have also created evil, too. Is this right? Is God ultimately to blame for all the suffering in the world? In this latest Come Reason podcast series, Lenny takes apart the claim that God must be the creator of evil and shows why such an objection cannot stand.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Let's Not be Diverse for Diversity's Sake

It seems that everywhere you turn that the term diversity is the byword of the day. We hear about corporations who seek to become more diverse to reach an ever-widening global market, diversity training classes for the "insensitive," and the need for more and more diversity across our cultures and institutions. Yes, the call for diversity is increasingly strong, but what is it we're calling for?

image by tadness
Whenever the concept of diversity is discussed, it's nearly always offered as a positive. But it seems that it's rarely well-defined. What exactly does diversity mean and why is it so important? If it is as important as the emphasis seems to show, then there ought to be a clear idea of what constitutes diversity and what path an organization can take to be more so. But, because the term has become such a buzzword, I'm concerned that people are agreeing to a concept that is too amorphous to be useful.

The University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Public Health pperformed an open survey in 2010, asking students how they would define diversity. Most answers centered around two ideas: the primary one was that diversity entails gathering together individuals from all kinds of different backgrounds, different socio-economic strata, different political opinions, different religious beliefs, and even different moral beliefs.  A second idea that surfaced was that these differences are all equally valid. As one answer put it "Diversity of experiences, viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences. Tolerance of thought, ideas, people with differing viewpoints, backgrounds, and life experiences." But is this really true? Should we seek all kinds of differing viewpoints for the sake of having difference? Should we tolerate just anything?

Now, I understand that there is great benefit to learning about and understanding other cultures. The Chinese gave us gunpowder, the Persians advanced algebra. Certain cultures excel at different aspects of life and culture A may be stuck trying to find the answer to some problem that culture B has solved long ago. Humans are like that; we think linearly for the most part. However, I have become a bit worried because with all the talk of diversity, we never speak of the other side of the coin. There is a very significant drawback to diversity for the sake of diversity—and that is the danger of becoming less human.

Let me explain. If diversity means sinply accepting everyone for who they are, regardless of their beliefs or cultural differences, then there would be no cultural practice one could call wrong or bad.  Cultural practices are simply different.  But in the real world there truly are some things that are bad and should be discouraged. For example, in many African nations the practice of female genital mutilation is a longstanding cultural tradition. This practice is barbaric, though.  We should not accept it for the sake of wanting a different point of view.  We know that such a viewpoint is simply unjustifiable.

The only way cultures advance is to improve themselves. This may mean looking to other cultures and learning from them, but it may also mean teaching other cultures a better way to do things. If we are simply accepting all cultures, all points of view, then how do we as a human race advance? Christianity has been the leader in helping other cultures across the globe with issues like farming, providing clean water and medicine, providing education, and other advances that western nations take for granted. In so doing, they are not spreading diversity, but unity; they recognize all human beings as worthy of dignity and the best that all our advances have brought to life. I fear that today as more and more people call for diversity across every aspect of life, that they don't realize it will only make a positive impact if it is first run through the filter of moral clarity. That's the only way we can serve humanity well.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

G.K. Chesterton on Materialist Beliefs

"For we must remember that the materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intelligent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian is only restricted in the same sense that an atheist is restricted. He cannot think Christianity false and continue to be a Christian; and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. Mr. McCabe thinks me a slave because I am not allowed to believe in determinism. I think Mr. McCabe a slave because he is not allowed to believe in fairies. But if we examine the two vetoes we shall see that his is really much more of a pure veto than mine. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. Poor Mr. McCabe is not allowed to retain even the tiniest imp, though it might be hiding in a pimpernel. 
"The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts."
Taken from Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy (New York: Image Books | Doubleday, 2001) .18-19.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do Our Virtual Relationships Make Us More Callous?

Newly appointed Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer caused quite an uproar with her recent decision to eliminate the work from home arrangements that many of the company's employees enjoy. The policy was announced in an internal memo that read, "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo, and that starts with physically being together."

There is something unique and bonding about spending time with other people. Being a tech company, one would have expected Yahoo to extol the virtues and flexibility of the virtual office. However, Mayer is a smart CEO and she recognized that no matter what kind of technology she has at her disposal, it's never the same as being there.

It's not only job creativity or job efficiency that suffers from an overreliance of virtual exchanges. Psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, in an opinion piece , describes a  recent event where two teenage boys took a drunk and nearly unconscious 16-year-old girl and decided to abuse her in nearly every way imaginable: stripped her naked in front of partygoers, urinating on her, and digitally penetrating her. When finding out that he could still stand trial for rape, one of the boys reacted by texting “I should have raped her now cos everyone thinks I did” to a friend. The friend's reply? “Yeh you should.”

While the brutality of these acts is shocking, what's even more disconcerting is the fact that the perpetrators lack of any type of remorse even now. What's worse is that the bystanders at the party chose to do nothing and the “friend” who received that text message recipient agreed with the perpetrator! How could so many young people become so callous? Ablow believes it is a result of teens consuming so much of the digital culture. He writes:

Having watched tens of thousands of YouTube videos with bizarre scenarios unfolding, having Tweeted thousands of senseless missives of no real importance, having watched contrived "Reality TV" programs in which people are posers in false dramas about love or lust or revenge, having texted millions of times, rather than truly connecting and having lost their real faces to the fake life stories of Facebook, they look upon the actual events of their lives with no more actual investment and actual concern and actual courage than they would look upon a fictional character in a movie.
Ablow may be onto something. We live in a society where fame is held up as the highest virtue. Kids post videos of themselves hoping to get more and more hits. People substitute status posts for having conversations. They gun down their friends on X-Box, complete with blood splatters and gory details. In such a world it is easy to see how people can cauterize their ability to empathize with another human being through an over emphasis on technology.

In the gospels, Jesus seems to value spending time together. He would frequently pull His disciples aside for a break from ministry. The early church placed a strong emphasis in koinonia, that is communion or fellowship. Hebrews warns us not to forsake our gathering together (Heb. 10:25), and we are told that our hope found in the promise of living with Jesus forever (Rom 6:8).

While I believe that modern tools can help us keep in touch with one another, I see many people—and particularly younger people who have never known a world without text messages and the Internet—substituting virtual togetherness for the real thing. I think that because we are created as both body and soul, there is a special something that connects us when we are with one another. Video chats or telephone calls are nice, but they are not the same thing as koinonia.  Because there is a barrier between the participants, they can only simulate human contact. What we need is less FaceTime and more face to face time with each other. Perhaps as we begin to really share ourselves with each other it will make us better at feeling what the other person feels. And I think we could use a little more empathy in the world today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thomas Nagel on Why Materialism Fails to Explain Reason

Is reasoning ability based in only biology? We have sense perceptions, such as sight or taste, and those could be explained by the need for survival. But reason isn't like the senses.  Reason is a very peculiar thing and something that doesn't come about by use of the senses. It is different than that. For example, I may have a sense perception that I see water in the distance. I can see rippling waves on the horizon and I may assume that rippling waves mean water is present. However, once I reach that place where I thought the water to be, I see that all that lies before me is dry, barren desert.

If all I have is my sense perception, I would be caught in quite a pickle. Should I believe my senses when they tell me water is in a place or should I believe them when they tell me there is no water here? It is here I use something different than my senses to break the tie: I use reason. I can reason that while I've associated wavy ripples with water, there may be other things that cause the effect of wavy ripples that I saw. I can also reason that my senses have misled me in the past; I've seen optical illusions that are not real, though they appeared to be. I can therefore draw a conclusion that there is no water and the wavy ripples may have in fact been an optical illusion just like others I've experienced.

In all of this, reasoning has an objective quality that stands above sense experience. To reason is to shoot at an objective criterion: the truth. The truth lies outside the individual and can stand in contrast to things like sense experience. Your sense experience may tell you that the sun circles the earth, but by reason and knowledge you are able to understand that it is the earth that is circling the sun.1 This fact is as true in ancient times, when it wasn't believed, as it is today when nearly everyone believes it. The truth is, then, something that stands apart from the organism while sense experience is something subject to the organism.

Philosopher Thomas Nagel draws this distinction as well. He states:
"Thought and reasoning are correct or incorrect in virtue of something independent of the thinker's beliefs, and even independent of the community of thinkers to which he belongs. We take ourselves to form true beliefs about the world around us, about timeless domains of logic and mathematics, and about the right thing to do. We don't take these capacities to be infallible, but we think they are often reliable in an objective sense, and that they can give us knowledge. The natural internal stance of human life assumes that there is a real world, that many questions, both factual and practical, have correct answers, and that there are norms of thought which, if we follow them, will tend to lead us toward the correct answers to those questions. It assumes that to follow those norms is to respond correctly to values or reasons that we apprehend. Mathematics, science, and ethics are built on such norms."2
In in his recent book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong, he looks at the problem of deriving reason from a materialist position. He first dismisses the attempts to reduce reason to some property held within the elementary particles that make up the organism. He writes that rationality "cannot be conceived of, even speculatively, as composed of countless atoms of miniature rationality."3 He then underscores the point that reasoning is something different than just cause and effect relations. Cause and effect relations are what computers do. If you feed the computer an input, it will, by the nature of its programming, produce an output. There is no understanding that happens.

In rejecting these options, Nagel says any explanation of reason that reduces it to merely matter, chemistry, and physics is increasingly unlikely. He writes, "This would mean that reason is an irreducible faculty of the kind of fully formed conscious mind that exists in higher animals, and that it cannot be analyzed into the mind's protomental parts, in the way that sensation perhaps can be."4 Thus Nagel, an atheist himself, rejects the materialistic explanations for reason and says that some new explanation is needed.


1. Copernicus used reason and geometry to show the earth rotated around the sun. It wasn't until Galileo that there was new observational data to confirm Copernicus' model. See J. L. E. Dreyer History of the planetary systems from Thales to Kepler. 312-316. Available online at
2. Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly Wrong. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.71.
3. Nagel. 87.
4. Nagel. 87-88.
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