Archive for the ‘Science’ category

The Descent and Ascent of Man

May 27, 2017

Image ID: 150736070 Copyright: claverinza

When Charles Darwin wrote The Descent of Man[i], the title was a play on words. In the context of the book, Darwin meant the word in the sense of “derivation from an ancestor”; “the fact or process of originating from an ancestral stock”; and/or “the shaping or development in nature and character by transmission from a source”.[ii] Descent, of course, can have a quite different meaning.

The word, descent, can also mean “the act or process of descending from a higher to a lower level, rank, or state”; “an inclination downward”; and/or “a downward step (as in station or value”), as in decline. Darwin probably meant the word in this sense, also, in that philosophers and scientists and thinkers of all types before him had mostly viewed man standing apart from the rest of the natural world, standing above it (just a little lower than the angels). Darwin’s theory revealed man descending not from heaven, but descending (ascending) from lower life forms. This is the play on words.

In thinking about these things many generations after Charles Darwin coined the book title, in the context of all that has developed since his time, the subtlety and nuance of the play on words strikes me, but not in the way Darwin likely intended.

(more…)

Intellect and Faith

January 13, 2017
Photo by Tyler Drendel - Sunset at Fermi Lab

Photo by Tyler Drendel – Sunset at Fermi Lab

Following from part one of twobeing honest about the who and what of our underlying presuppositions

Think about it: can a finite being measure or define, let alone manipulate, an infinite God?

If God is “big” enough to create a universe so large that we cannot see past the beginning or the end, how do we expect to measure such a God?

We are more comfortable in our own element. We can understand the what and the how of the world we live in, but the who is another matter altogether. Non-believers go no further and declare, “that” is all there is.

At the same time, believers should not be afraid of facts or science. Facts and science help us to know and understand the what and how of creation – and they point to the Who. If we have an attitude open to the Who, we will see the evidence for God. In fact, it will seem self-evident. If a person wants “proof” before belief, such a person will never be satisfied- especially when the proof is a priori limited to the what and the how.

If we approach the idea of God with an “I will believe it when I see it” attitude, we aren’t likely to “see” anything. The intellect informs faith or the intellect dispels faith depending on our starting point, and that is not a matter of the intellect, but a matter of the heart!

In the New Testament, Jesus performed healing and miracles in front of crowds of people. Some people believed, and some people did not. Jesus said God must open our minds to understand (Luke 24:45), but we need to be willing, and that willingness is a matter of the heart, not the mind.

Atheists and agnostics have attempted to stake out an exclusive claim to the realm of intellect and to drive believers from that place. If you have come to faith in God, don’t reject your intellect. Don’t believe the lie that intellectual exercise is only for atheists or agnostics or that we must suspend or abandon our intellect to have faith.

We are instructed to “[s]et [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:2) If we believe, we should “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then [we] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Rom. 12:2)

Our minds should be engaged. God and His will can be tested and proven.

We are guided by faith, of course, but not a blind faith – an informed faith! Blind faith is superstition. Faith isn’t the absence of fact or intellect; it’s the willingness to commit to what we know.

The key is in the attitude of the heart.

Are you open to God?

Are you open to the possibility of God?

Do you have anything to lose?

Blaise Pascal said long ago:

Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.

Pascal was not shallow shill. He was a genius, a mathematician, philosopher, scientist and theologian.

Speaking to believers now, too often we are neither innocent as doves nor wise as serpents. We allow ourselves to be taken in and influenced by the world and the flesh, and we mistakenly buy into the lie that intellect is at odds with faith.We abandon the ground of intellect to the naturalists and materialists.

God invites us, “Come now, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18) That is a challenge to believers and unbelievers alike.

What’s In Your Primordial Soup?

October 31, 2016

I am reminded of a Farside cartoon when I think of primordial soup. For instance, the amoeba reading a book titled, Primordial Soup for the Soul. The concept of primordial soup isn’t a joke, of course. It is the idea that life began many millions of years ago as elements churned in the boiling atmosphere and electric charges of a primitive earth – a kind of Frankenstein-like beginning to be sure, but a serious scientific concoction.

The ramifications of the quintessential primordial soup are far reaching. They imply that nothing but natural forces were necessary for the creation of life. For many, the ultimate implication is that we don’t need God. We don’t need God to explain the origins of life because there is plausible natural explanation. But is that the case?

For several centuries, people have sought alternative explanations for the origins of the universe and of life as a way of chasing off the specter of God. Richard Dawkins, for instance, asserts that the “greatest achievement” of mankind is the theory of evolution, giving man the power to cast off the shackles of faith in God and allowing man to stand unfettered on his own. But, is that where we really stand today?

What’s in the primordial soup that seems to explain how life can rise from non-life, without need of a God, without anything other than the basic stuff of an infantile universe? (more…)

Did Nature Cause Itself?

October 21, 2016

I haven’t heard anyone ask whether nature caused itself, in so many words, but that is the question begged by any assertion that God doesn’t exist. Anyone who maintains that nature and natural causes are the beginning and the end of all reality is begging that question: did nature cause itself?

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to the assertion that nothing supernatural exists is the Big Bang. The Big Bang is accepted science. The evidence is very compelling, though it wasn’t received well when it was first postulated. The thought that the universe was not eternal and had a beginning was thought to be “repugnant” and to “betray the very foundations of science”.[1] This is because a beginning to the universe suggests that the universe had a Beginner.

The initial reluctance to accept the Big Bang has changed as the evidence has piled up. (more…)

The Myth of Objectivity

September 16, 2016

Thoughtful and thought-provoking articles are a source for many articles I write. When those two characteristics are exemplified in the same single article, I often use it as a springboard. An article by Trent Horn, Neil DeGrasse Tyson Shows Why Science Can’t Build a Utopia[1], is my springboard for this article.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, of course, is the outspoken agnostic ambassador of science. The Horn article was precipitated by Tyson’s tweet: “Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence”[2] and Horn’s counter-tweet: “@neiltyson ‘Rationalia’ is as useless as ‘Correctistan,’ or a country whose constitution says, ‘Always make the correct decisions.'”

To illustrate what he means by his counter-tweet, the author used the example of a driverless car. Fatalities have already happened with them and will undoubtedly happen again. That isn’t the point, though. The point is this: how should they be programmed when confronted with two options – to run over pedestrians or run into an object that may kill the passengers?

How does Rationalia weigh the evidence to determine which is the best course? (more…)

Atoms, Empty Space and Opinion

August 28, 2016

N. Dakota Sunset - Alex Fleming 2


As a believer and follower of Christ, I don’t think “we” have a monopoly on truth – maybe just the most important truth. But, truth is truth, I like to say. We all see facets of it and always have.

Truth might be overrated. I say that only partially tongue in cheek.  Jesus says He is the way, the truth and the life. Truth is only part of the equation.

This is a truth: there is nothing new under the sun. Democritus lived centuries before Christ and millennia before “modern” scientific discoveries.

He might have been a typical modernist, eschewing any reality but matter and energy, if he were born in another era, but he believed in gods.

Iron age ignorance is what moderns call it now. That fits into the opinion part, between atoms and empty space.

What was, is and seems will be. I think we take comfort, or try to, in the vastness of time and space. It leaves a lot of room to stretch out. We don’t like being hemmed in. Me included.

But, there is this nagging small voice. (more…)

Ten Quick Responses to Difficult Questions on Faith with the Help of John Lennox

July 1, 2016

john-lennox-houses-of-parliament


The ten statements and responses suggested below are inspired by a presentation by John Lennox, the famous mathematician, philosopher and Christian theist. Neither the statements nor the responses are comprehensive in the least, but they offer a quick look into the richly rational world of faith through a theistic (and Christian) lens. At the same time, they expose the shallowness of many atheistic objections to the idea of God.

                1)    Christians are really just atheists regarding Zeus and other gods. True atheists go one god further and reject the Christian god.

Statements like these reveal a willful ignorance. The Christian God (as with Allah of Islam and Yahweh of Judaism, for instance) is an exclusive claim: there are no other gods. That Christians, Muslims and Jews cannot all be correct in their understanding of that exclusive God does not negate the possibility that such a God exists. (more…)


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