Friday, February 27, 2009

Atheists Praise Darwin

The U.S.'s largest atheist foundation, Freedom From Religion Foundation, has responded to the lack of appreciation for evolution in America by raising billboards that state, "Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief". This move comes on the bicentenial of Charles Darwin's birth on February 12th, 1809.

It's a telling move. That is, atheism has started its own evolution from a philosophical viewpoint to a fundamentalist movement. When a historical figure -- who made no claim to deity -- can be lauded by his adherents 200 years later as one who should be praised, then a certain deification is blooming. No matter how small, or how ironic, or how innocuous it was intended to be, the fact remains that Darwin is now being elevated to a level he would probably reject were he alive.

On top of all that though, atheism is not about evolution. The evolutionary model is simply a naturalistic understanding of the emergence and development of the world and its species. Atheism is quite simply a lack of belief in deity, and/or a rejection of the supernatural. So while evolution provides an understanding, that understanding is simply a tool in a much wider perspective about the nature of reality. Atheism, if it is properly understood (and I don't claim to have exhaustive understanding) does not limit itself to evolution as its entire epistemology.

That being said, it would seem to me that the catchy notion to 'evolve beyond belief' ends up in a bit of a conundrum: why would an atheist believe evolution? I have reasons why I, as a theist, believe evolution. But those reasons come with a price: a belief that my reasons are reliable, that rationality is reliable. So if these particular atheists, the ones who are touting the 'Praise Darwin' billboards, are encouraging us to 'evolve beyond belief', how is it that they believe anything of what they're promoting? How do they know their rationality is reliable? They've taken the floor out from under their own feet by implying that human beings are more evolved, genetically superior, when they lack belief. But how can they say that and believe it to be true without also disbelieving it?

The only way it can be true is if it is false. And the only way it can be false is if it is true. Essentially, the billboard means nothing. However, the connotations it brings about will addle people's brains enough that it will seem like something.

Solzhenitsyn Speaks

You listen.

“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Monday, February 23, 2009

And Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Atheists...

Well, the campaign is far from over. Atheists have presented their petitions to Ottawa to take up advertising space on the sides of buses. So far: no.

"Members of the Free Thought Association of Ottawa were on hand at the committee meeting and urged the committee to allow the advertisements. Afterward, the association vowed to continue the fight to have the ads on city buses.

Julie Breeze, a director with the Ottawa group, said the city has accepted religious advertisements in the past, and that the group is being discriminated against.

“We will continue to fight this,” she said. “There are a lot of people out there that share our views, and we are very disappointed that the motion didn’t pass. We would like to see an open dialogue in this city where differing views are allowed to be presented.”

Strangely, I don't care!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Academy Awards

I came home late tonight and subjected myself to 20 minutes of Academy Awards’ nominations and speeches. Yep, nothing like hearing a weak self-depreciating speech from the lips of an Academy winner performer, receiving the most self-absorbed trophy of a naval gazing American culture, as you sit in awe of the staged “sincerity” these performers deliver for the "good of humanity." By the way, this is the opposite of “the glory of God.” I mean I can appreciate a great performance like the next guy, but I was wondering when the incense, mantras, and obeisance would begin. This is what you call the liberated technological society, free from the shackles of religious antiquity, looking down from its perch with its political posturing and "moral" agendas, at those crude primitive Caesars and gladiators of old. "How far we have come? How great our evolution?"

Westboro Baptists and the Raging Stupid

Good on the U.K. for attempting to stop Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church from barfing their pompous tirades of unmitigated idiocy.  Maybe this group of rotten-minded fundies could do the rest of the world a favour and just shut-up.  It would certainly reduce our exposure to their passive support for bigotry and torture.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Ethical Consideration

The Anglican Bishop Harries takes a very divergent point of view on assisted suicide. Rather than striking himself to either side of the dividing line -- life is absolutely sacred vs. absolute autonomy in all choices -- he regards the prioritizing of human autonomy over all other considerations a faulty premise.

This would mean that assisted suicide is a matter of joint decision between the person requesting to be euthanized, the medical practitioners qualified to administer lethal means, and all those who care for the person requesting the mercy killing. Essentially, euthanasia, as bishop Harries views it, is an issue of interdependent choices, not individual autonomy.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Evolution Revolution?

I've been on an interesting metaphor in the stead of the abstract concept of growth, maturation of the human organism, more commonly referred to as a 'journey' for the past, um, 31 years. But more recently, I heard a short on a local Christian radio station instructing listeners that there is no mystery involved in understanding the dinosaurs, and acknowledging that many parents simply defer to evolutionary ideas because they haven't any ready answers for their children. It continues that since scripture says, in the book of Genesis, that there was no death whatsoever before the fall, evolution simply cannot be true, and therefore, human beings and dinosaurs and everything that is and has ever been on the earth has at least at some point existed concurrently since the beginning (paraphrased into my wordiness- edit bigger I say! lol).

Having paid absolutely zero attention to either side of the debate my whole life, having inserted the expected responses in my schoolwork from memory and not reason, I was startled that I even noticed this little bit of sickly sweet smelling radio candy.

So where IS that iron-clad scriptural account of no death before the fall? I checked Genesis; nothing. We surely die after we sin, but no mention of whether we were going to physically perish anyway (maybe it would have taken longer?), and nothing relating to the other creatures having never physically died before either. Okay, so without scriptural support and evidence for such a claim, why is this so commonly taught and accepted as scripturally sound doctrine?

Then, while reading Francis Collins' The Language of God, Collins alerted me to the Genesis account of the creation. Hmmm. Not all at once. Everything was created in steps. He asks how long the days were before the sun was created, if one holds to 'a day' being 24 hours, no more, no less. I consider the days described as eras rather than clock rotations anyway, so I wasn't bothered by this question. But, it occurred to me that the various arguments against old earth and evolutionary theory seem to rely very heavily or completely upon irreducible complexity and therefore, in a bizarro way, on inadequate technology.

Once we know and can view the parts that make what was previously thought to be irreducible, what happens to the arguments? What if the earth isn't flat and knowing this doesn't result in believers becoming morally unstable, abominable, reprobate despots?

My perspective on the universe seems to be evolving... ;) This may end up being the segue to my coming out of the... cave?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On Forgiveness

Luke 23:33-34 (New International Version):

"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'"

Theological Perspective: Christ's petition for the Father to forgive the ignorant murderers prefigures the nature of forgiveness for the rest of us once Christ was crucified. In effect, once Christ was crucified and his blood was sacrificed voluntarily, our forgiveness was accomplished before we asked for it. So now, we don't necessarily need to ask for forgiveness (though it is a good practice, and as Bonhoeffer noted, keeps us from thinking of forgiveness purely as a reflective activity). We just need to live in that forgiveness, and ask the Holy Spirit to quicken that forgiveness in our lives.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pack Your Bags!

Well, folks, I think this is good-bye. Armageddon is just about upon us, so it seems we ought to make pre-emptive niceties toward each other, shake hands and say adieu.

Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of famed Billy Graham) has declared that we're now at the great convergence in history when we can expect to see the end of human existence.

“We’re looking at the end of human history,” said Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of renowned evangelist Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries, at the recent convention of the National Religious Broadcasters. “That our generation is the generation that precedes the return of Christ, what a privilege, what a responsibility to share the gospel with the world in this generation.”

You know, that's really a sentiment that I've never understood: how is it more of a privilege to share the Gospel in the end times than to share it in the times before? If we hold to the conviction that time is not linear to God, then why do we suppose that there's a higher premium on sharing the Gospel toward the end of our interpretation of the times than before the end? Will the outcome be different somehow?

And when did it pass by the attention of educated, or just interested Christians that the advent of Christ was the beginning of the end? I mean, His physical presence on earth marked out the half-way point, didn't it? Wasn't it like the old English math question, "how far can you walk into a forest before you're walking out?"
Answer: half-way.

Well, it would seem that Christ's birth marked the half-way point in human time, so haven't we been on our way out of time since then? In which case, the seeming especial importance of sharing the gospel at the end of time has been the historical norm since the earth received Christ some 2000+ years ago. That would mean that it was just as important to share the gospel then as it is now. This by that, there is clearly no difference in degrees of importance sharing the gospel now than there was then.

Nonsensical sentiments like that drive me batty.

In any case, haven't we heard these kinds of predictions before? Hal Lindsay, Grant R. Jeffrey, Swedenborg, Jack Van Impe, etc. They've all set their dates. Those dates have come and gone. They've thus shown themselves to be false prophets. I suppose we'll have to wait and see if Ms. Graham Lotz and her band of merry prognosticators show themselves true, or not. For now, I think I'll hold on to Malcolm Muggeridge's quip about pining after the eschaton:

"We love to think of ourselves as positively the last generation of people: it enhances our sense of importance."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Moral Relativism

Dr. van der Breggen, over at his site Apologia has done an excellent job of skewering the logic of moral relativism.  And from the pen of a convicted psychopathic serial killer, Ted Bundy, takes moral relativism to its extreme conclusion.

"Then I learned that all moral judgments are ‘value judgments,’ that all value judgments are subjective, and that none can be proved to be either ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ I even read somewhere that the Chief Justice of the United States had written that the American Constitution expressed nothing more than collective value judgments. Believe it or not, I figured out for myself–what apparently the Chief Justice couldn’t figure out for himself–that if the rationality of one value judgment was zero, multiplying it by millions would not make it one whit more rational. Nor is there any ‘reason’ to obey the law for anyone, like myself, who has the boldness and daring–the strength of character–to throw off its shackles…I discovered that to become truly free, truly unfettered, I had to become truly uninhibited. And I quickly discovered that the greatest obstacle to my freedom, the greatest block and limitation to it, consists in the insupportable ‘value judgment’ that I was bound to respect the rights of others. I asked myself, who were these ‘others?’ Other human beings, with human rights? Why is it more wrong to kill a human animal than any other animal, a pig or a sheep or a steer? Is your life more than a hog’s life to a hog? Why should I be willing to sacrifice my pleasure more for the one than for the other? Surely, you would not, in this age of scientific enlightenment, declare that God or nature has marked some pleasures as ‘moral’ or ‘good’ and others as ‘immoral’ or ‘bad’? In any case, let me assure you, my dear young lady, that there is absolutely no comparison between the pleasure that I might take in eating ham and the pleasure I anticipate in raping and murdering you. That is the honest conclusion to which my education has led me–after the most conscientious examination of my spontaneous and uninhibited."

"Ted Bundy, cited in Louis P. Pojman, Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, 3rd edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson, 1999), 31-32."

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Laws of Science

I've had some interesting conversations with atheists over the past few years.  One thing that invariably comes up is that science is reliable because it identifies physical laws.  While I agree that observed, and repeated physical principles are reliable (e.g., gravity), I don't agree that they are absolute (in the sense that there will never be variance from those principles).  

Instead of arguing the case myself, however, I will let Dinesh D'Souza explain it.  He does a much better job of putting into words a suspicion that has been rattling around in my brain for the past while.

And, Uncle Lindsay, you may think he's a hack, but he's certainly not an intellectual slouch.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Quod Veritas?

At 3 1/2 my eldest son delivered an excellent answer to the long-standing question that has bugged countless philosophers, and was foisted haughtily from the lips of Pilate onto Christ, "What is truth?"

My son's answer?  "Truth is reality as it is for God."  A lot of my thinking has changed since then, and I truly appreciate the unadulterated, and simple wisdom of my son's answer.

God bless him with that kind of wisdom for many years to come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Atheism Gets Screwtaped

There have been some rather creative responses to the New Atheists (as some are wont to call them): Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris.  These 'heroes' of the world of rationalism, materialism, and naturalism have contributed a great deal to the ongoing cultural considerations of the existence of God.  Nevermind their common categorical error -- judging the non-empirical by means of the empirical -- they have done the world a good turn by reinvigorating a necessary philosophical question in a creative, though rather acerbic manner.

But I digress.

As stated earlier, there have been some rather creative responses to the Four Horsemen of Atheism.  Here is just one of them.  It's written after the fashion of C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters, and Screwtape Proposes a Toast.  It's quite amusing, but be patient because it's not short.

Thank you to Dr. Veith for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Justice Is Served! Take That, You Big Meany

Wow.  Talk about hardcore justice.  This doctor was jailed for accepting a $0.51 bribe 24 years ago.  And that's after he'd already been tried and let-off once!  I wonder if it cost India $0.51 to process this case for the past 24 years?