Posted tagged ‘naturalism’

Lately, I’ve Grown Apathetic Towards Atheism

December 29, 2008

I find it discourteous when someone I was arguing with would leave valid points on the table and never respond.  Yet, lately, I’ve found myself leaving many discussions with atheists just as they were getting started.  I figured it had something to do with the fact that these discussions were taking place over at Unreasonable Faith and when a Christian posts a comment on that site, boy do they get a shellacking!  The reason for this is that is a basic presupposition in the PZ Myers type atheist that Christians are nincompoops who deserve to be insulted, and so those that comment on Daniels site, take any opportunity to do so.  Just take a quick gander over at Ray Comfort’s Atheist Central and you’ll see what I mean.  Ray is a straightforward evangelist who has raised the ire of the most outspoken atheists and he definetly recieves the worst of it. 

Admittedly, sifting through the constant condescending sarcasm and insult to find arguments to respond to grows tiresome.  However, my recent apathy towards argument with atheists, and articles about the atheistic worldview, goes far deeper than just growing tired of the same old atheistic modus operandi.  It’s that every atheist I’ve talked to over the past several months, has the exact same presuppositions.  They assume the same things at the outset of any conversation with a Christian. 

The Atheist Has No Metaphysical and Epistemological Leg to Stand On

About three weeks ago, I was in a conversation with five atheists.  Each conversation was in different stages of development and activity, however, each argument was heading in the same direction.  Specifically, how do we know what we know?  Namely, how does the Christian know that God exists and how does the atheist know that God isn’t needed?  This is known as epistemology. 

That all five of these conversation where heading in the same direction led me to make a post on the subject, Three Ways of Knowing.  Which are; personal experience, revelation/authority, or scientific inquiry.  The most basic presuppositions of the Christian worldview, is that God exists, followed by that the Bible is the Word of God.  The question is, how does the Christian know this?  Though there are certain things the Christian can know through scientific inquiry and textual analysis, the Christian knows the Bible to be the Word of God through the Ultimate Divine Revelation, that is, through a personal experience with God. 

The most basic presuppositions of the atheistic worldview, is that scientific inquiry is the only way to knowledge (empiricism), that all phenomena are natural phenomena (naturalism), that only the material exists (materialism), and that the rates of growth and decay have been the same since the beginning of the universe (uniformitarianism).  How does the atheist know this?  Can scientific inquiry tell them such things?  Of course not.  So then it must be one of the other two.  Their “authoritative knowledge” can only come through man since God doesn’t exist.  So basically, the atheist has decided, personally, that these things are true with no scientific reason to do so. 

Through the consquent discussions from Three Ways of Knowing and the subsequent post on the subject Atheism Stands Alone?  Don’t Fool Yourself, every one of those five atheists went away.  Why?  Because they didn’t have an answer.  The only answer an atheist can have to such an argument is to pretend that epistemological and metaphysical questions don’t matter.  It comes down to this, they literally prefer to think of the world as without a God, they just prefer it.  And no amount of argument or evidence will convince them.  Partly because of this revelation about atheism, I have grown, temporarily at least, apathetic towards further exploration of the atheistic worldview.

Opportunity Knocks

There is another event that has begun to sift time away from the blogosphere.  I have been given the honor and priviledge of leading a  Bible study with some friends.  It has given me the opportunity to study the Word of God like I never have before.  I was ready for a big responsibility and going in detail through the Book of Acts in detail has proved to be just that.  This responsibility has leapt itself above maintaining this blog.  I’ll probably make a page where my study notes are available.

What the Future Brings . . .

I’m not sure in what direction Apologia will take now.  Perhaps I’ll focus more on discerning the history of Christianity and atheism, the presuppositions that guide each and how they affect how we think about current events.  Perhaps I’ll attempt to write through my newly embarked upon theological exploration.  I’m not sure.

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Atheism Stands Alone? Don’t Fool Yourself

December 12, 2008

One of the most basic tenets in all of atheism is that atheism is not a belief, it is only a lack of a belief.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard it  . . . I’d have at least ten dollars.  The statement that either precedes or follows this is more than likely, “Atheism doesn’t take any faith”.  I’ll be honest, it took me a few months of hearing this statement to form a coherent response to it.  Only recently have I been able to do more than shout, “No, it takes TONS of faith!  You don’t know that God DOESN’T exist!”  As you can probably see, while true, that argument didn’t get me anywhere. 

A quick thesis:  The atheist is deluding themselves into thinking that atheism, or any belief can stand independent of a system of beliefs.

I am in three current conversations at different stages of development, so some of this might be repetative to those of you who am in the middle of this with, but the redundancy is necessary for me to clearly articulate my argument. 

To make sure we’re all on the same page, the most basic question becomes . . .

How Do We Know Things?

The study of that question is called Epistemology.  Atheists and Christians have completely different methods of epistemology.  However, we can all agree that there are three basic ways to know something (I’m stealing this from Eugenie Scott because I like it so much): 

  1. Personal state or insight — a.k.a. intuition or internal knowledge;
  2. Authority or revelation — including religious/spiritual revelation 
  3. Scientific inquiry — Which can only be related to the natural world around us

What this means to us:  Every piece or statement of knowledge such as “atheism is not a belief, and therefore takes no faith” must be scrutinized under, “how do we know this?”. 

This will become important later on. 

Firstly, NO Belief Stands Alone

That is, everyone has a system of beliefs, also known as a worldview.  Truly, an individual could not survive without an entire system.  When I get up in the morning to go to work, I must first believe that I’m truly awake, that I’m not mistaken about which car is mine, and that the interactions I have at work are with real people. 

Can you see what I did there?  I asked myself the all important “how do I know _____?”  in regards to my waking state, the accuracy of my memory, and the existence of reality.  When I ask this question, I must be honest and realize that scientific inquiry can answer none of those questions for me.  The knowledge must have come from one of the other sources of knowledge, either personal insight or authority/revelation.

Can the belief that my car exists be taken separately from my belief that reality exists?  Of course not.

As you can see, in order to function in the real world, I must have a very basic set of beliefs.  However, we must have these beliefs in order to function, so we merely acknowledge them and move on. 

In The Same Way

In order to be a Christian, you must have some very basic beliefs that science can’t inform you about.  That there is existence of things outside of matter (spiritual things), that God is able to speak with humanity, and that the Bible is that communication.  Those pieces of knowledge must come from either personal insight or authoritative revelation.  Of course, Christians believe that our knowledge of God’s existence and His Word comes from the ultimate authority!

Atheism is no different.

In order to believe that God doesn’t exist, you must first or concurrently believe that the natural world is the cause of all things and that only the material exists.  These beliefs are called naturalism and materialism.  Once you believe those two, then you’re free to believe that no god exists.  The modern atheist adds the beliefs of uniformitarianism and empiricism as well. 

Note: It was pointed out to me that perhaps Buddhists would call themselves atheists but still believe in a spiritual realm.  Even if this is true, the Buddhist would then have other beliefs that are inseparable from their atheism, the Buddhist is not an exception.

The Atheistic Delusion

One of my conversations is with morsecOde.  In his most recent comment he made a very interesting and telling statement.  This statement is the crux of the issue, and is one of the main reasons I was moved to write this article.  He said:

 Evidence backs up naturalism and materialism.

When morseOde talks of “evidence” he means evidence as a result of scientific inquiry.  This is the most basic of atheistic assumptions, that all the scientific evidence we have backs up their position and that God is an added, unnecessary and illogical conclusion.  You’ll hear it all the time, “If I saw evidence to believe in a god, I would”.  If it can be shown that scientific inquiry can not back up the big four atheistic beliefs, then their atheism becomes nothing more than personal preference.  So here it goes.

Note:  If, as an atheist, you want to object to my assertion that you must believe in these things.  Then please do so by more than just claiming that you don’t have to.  Please show me.

1. Naturalism

Let’s ask the all important question, “How do we know that nature is responsible for all phenomena?”.  Can scientific inquiry answer any question in the form of an absolute positive?  Of course it can’t.  Any attempt to use science, which only deals with the natural, to prove that the natural is responsible for everything only begs the question.  Does scientific inquiry test the natural world?  Of course, but it can’t test naturalism.  That’s the difference.

The atheist will attempt to get out of this trouble by saying, “The only thing we have is natural evidence so why add the assumption of a god?”  This is a cop out and part of the delusion.  If God doesn’t exist then nature MUST account for all phenomena.  There is no middle ground. 

2.  Materialism

How do we know that only the material exists?  In the same way, using the material process of scientific inquiry to test if only the material exists is circular reasoning.  Also, just like naturalism, there is no middle ground cop out.  Either a god exists or only the material does.

3.  Empiricism

How do we know that scientific inquiry (sense experience) is the only way to true knowledge?  Using scientific inquiry to show evidence that only scientific inquiry is true knowledge is circular. 

4.  Uniformitarianism

How can we know that the present rates of growth and decay stayed exactly the same in the past?  Using present growth and decay rates, can scientific inquiry tell us of past growth and decay rates?  Of course not. 

So Then What Do We Say?

Since scientific inquiry cannot give us evidence about the atheistic beliefs of naturalism, materialism, empiricism, and uniformitarianism, those pieces of knowledge must be decided by one of the other ways of knowing, either personal insight or authority.  The question then becomes, since science didn’t tell you about it, how do you know it’s right?  How does the atheist know his big four personal beliefs are more accurate than the Christian belief of a benevolent God? 

They don’t.

They ignore the inability of science to give evidence for their big four, or ignore the big four altogether, and delude themselves into thinking their atheism can be absent of any type of “belief” or “faith”.  When put under the microscope of epistemology, the big four degrade into nothing but pure personal preference.

Should Christians Believe in an Old Earth?

October 24, 2008

Recently, I’ve found myself defending the Bible against fellow Christians who don’t take Genesis naturally.  The general reason for doing this is to show that the Bible and science are compatible.  Right away, I would like to ask the question; should we be attempting to reconcile the Bible to science?  Or should we be reconciling science to the Bible?  As Christians, we believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God.  If this is the case, then every single subject the Bible touches on, it is the absolute authority on that subject. 

Although the Bible is not a scientific textbook (textbooks change every year), that doesn’t mean it doesn’t talk about anything regarding the natural world.  Especially when it comes to natural evidence of the unobservable past, are we going to trust human scientists who weren’t in the past and, compared to God, know very little?  Or will we trust God who is the only One who was in the past and who knows all things?

To explain this point better, I’d like to make a distinction between two types of science. 

Procedural Science vs. Historical Science

Very briefly, procedural science is that which we can observe and test in the natural world.  Historical science is that which attempt to describe the unobservable past through current natural evidence (DNA, geologic column, fossils, tree rings, cosmological phenomena etc.).  Although much more can and should be said on the topic, it will suffice to say here that making scientific conclusions of a historical nature require certain assumptions that procedural science does not.  The two main assumptions of the evolutionary worldview is naturalism and uniformitarianism.

As Christians, is it logical to take the historical science stories which require assumptions of naturalism and uniformitarianism over the infallible Word of God?

With this in mind, the question then becomes about what Scripture says about the natural world, and in particular, about how God created the Earth.

A Natural Interpretation of Scripture

Since our starting point is that Scripture is the infallible Word of God, and nothing else is, the only way to interpret Scripture is naturally.  What this means is to take historical accounts as historical accounts, poetry as poetry, and parable as parable.  How we decide if a particular passage is which, is by looking at the context;  Scripture interprets Scripture.  Let’s give this treatment to the Genesis account:

As the first chapter is entirely relevant to this discussion, and entirely too long for me to repeat it, I will just link it (Genesis 1), and then refer to specific verses within it.

Yom:  It Means a Literal Day in Genesis

It is true that the Hebrew word for day, yom, does not always refer to a literal twenty-four hour period (it can also mean from sun up to sun down and an indefinite period of time).  But when it doesn’t, the context always makes it clear. 

1:  The context of Genesis uses a literal meaning of yom

In Genesis 1:4-5, yom is defined in it’s two literal senses, the light portion of the day and the whole day.  On the first day, yom is defined for the entire creation account as either the light period or the whole day.  It’s impossible, therefore, to take yom away from the definition laid down at the beginning of the creation account in later verses without ignoring Genesis 1:4-5.

Yom is also used here with “morning” and “evening”.  Everywhere these two words are used in the Old Testament, with yom or without it, the text is referring to a literal evening or morning of a literal day. 

Yom is also used in conjunction with a number; one, two, three etc.  Every other time yom is used with a number, it is in description of literal days.

2:  Exodus 20:9-11 spoils all attempts to interpret millions of years into Genesis 1

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:9-11, quote in NKJV and link in NIV)

Read the above passage again, no really I mean it.  God’s entire reason for the Sabbath, and for the literal Jewish work week, was because of a literal creation week.  If God wanted to say that the Jews should work six literal days, and rest a seventh, because He worked in an indefinite period of time, He could have used any of the other three Hebrew words for “a period of time”, but instead He chose what the Jews would interpret as literal days, the word yom

3.  Jesus is a Young-Earth Creationist

This subject was gone to more detail in here, but Jesus clearly affirms his belief in a literal creation week in Mark 10:6.  Jesus is saying that God created humans “from the beginning of creation”, which would be false if humans came billions of years later as theistic evolution suggests.  So, if Jesus was a young-earth creationist, then how can His faithful followers have any other view?

4.  A belief in millions of years is opposition to the Biblical doctrine of death and the character of God

In Genesis 1, God calls creation “good” six times and when he finished on day six, He called everything “very good”.  Once Adam and Even sinned, God judged all of creation.  Instantly, Adam and Eve died spiritually and began to die physically (which they weren’t doing before).  The serpent and the Earth were changed physically and the ground itself was cursed (Gen 3:14-19).  Now, all of creation groans under bondage to corruption, awaiting the day when God restores His people (Romans 8:19-25). 

How can God call His creation “very good” if there was billions of years of suffering and death in the animal kingdom before humans were created?

This notion also makes God into a bumbling, lying, cruel creator who lacks the power to prevent disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but still calls it all “very good.”

5.  Paul basis his theology of salvation on a literal six day creation

If death and suffering already existed before the first man had a chance to sin, why do we need a savior?  The most important doctrine of Christianity, humanities need for a savior and Jesus’ ability to fill that roll, is based, according to Paul, on Adam’s first sin (Romans 5:16-18). 

Theistic Evolutionist Objections

These are just some of the objections I’ve heard so far from theistic evolutionists that I haven’t mentioned.

1.  In Mark 10:6, Jesus is talking about the beginning of marriage or the beginning of humanity, not the literal beginning of creation.

You can say that all you want, but what Jesus says is, “From the beginning of creation.”  It’s pretty simple.  What is more “in the beginning”, the sixth day of creation or billions of years after creation?

2.  On day three, God creates plants after their kinds, and those plants had descendants which grow.  No plant can have offspring which grow in only one day. 

To make this argument, you first completely ignore the clear evidence I gave above.  Then, you must ignore your own uniformitarian assumption in your interpretation.  You are attempting to argue that God is capable of creating nature, but once created, God is then bound by current rates of growth and reproduction.  The ridiculousness of this argument speaks for itself.

3.  On day six, Adam names all the animals, which must have been thousands of creatures, if not more, so that can’t possibly happen in one day either.

You must assume that he had thousands of names to give, instead of only a few.  Considering that, on day six, Adam is naming kinds, you’re going to have a hard time arguing this.  How long would it take to name a cat, a dog, a cow, a bird, a fish, a deer, etc.  There are not that many kinds.

Conclusion

If we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, if we read history as history and poetry as poetry etc, it is obvious what the Bible itself teaches about the beginning of the Earth.  To force uniformitarian and naturalistic assumptions upon the text of the Bible, is to literally take the authority of science over the authority of God’s Word.  What is at stake here is the authority of Scripture, the character of God, the doctrine of death, and the foundation of the Gospel message.

I have a question for all the theistic evolutionists reading this; why only Genesis?  That is, since the reason to interpret Genesis figuratively is because modern science has clearly shown that the Earth was not created in six days, why not interpret the rest of Scripture in the light of modern science?  Modern science tells us that men don’t walk on water, men can’t heal the sick, men don’t rise from dead and men don’t ascend from hilltops.  Why only subject Genesis to the conclusions of modern science, why not give Jesus the same treatment and then be forced to treat the acts of Jesus, including His death on the cross, as figurative?  Why only Genesis?

Forknowledge, his Brother and Their Belief in the Supernatural

October 19, 2008

For the record:  I’m not attempting to prove molecules-to-man evolution wrong.  This is a task I couldn’t possibly accomplish neither do I have the resources nor the desire to try.  My previous post was solely meant to give evidence of a phenomena that is contrary to evolutionary theory, and hence, evolutionary theory was adapted to fit it and the problem has been swept under the rug.

The “Molecules-to-man” Issue

Apparently, Forknowledge and his brother, Penguinfactory, have take exception to my use of the phrase “molecules-to-man evolution”.  Forknowledge says, “Kemp has given a bizarre defence of using the word ‘molecules’ by pointing out that the first living organisms were likely some sort of very basic prokaryotes (I’m confused too), while also stating that ‘man is the highest form of evolution’.”  I’m confused too.

Forknowledge, are you denying or ignoring your necessary belief in abiogenesis?  By default, you MUST believe that life formed itself from lifeless molecules somehow.  The only other alternative is God.  And since you can’t have that, you have abiogenesis.  Prokaryotes are the most simple system of molecules that formed themselves out of molecules (depending upon your particular variation of abiogenesis), hence “molecules”.

The brothers claim I contradicted myself by stating that the phrase “molecules-to-man” is not anthropocentric but then making the claim that humans are the highest evolved species.  Anthropocentricism states, as I understand it, that the POINT of evolution was to eventually evolve into humans.  The phrase says nothing about this, it only implies that humans are the most highly evolved.  In rebuttal to this idea, Penguinfactory said, “Humans are not the “highest” form of life from an evolutionary perspective. Everything alive today- even bacteria- is just as highly evolved as everything else.”

Are you attempting to claim that homo sapien,  the only species that could form a response to a logical argument as you’ve just done, has invented the automobile, the airplane, landed on the moon, writes poetry, plays music, and have the ideals of love, compassion and freedom are NOT the most evolved?  It’s like I’m in bizarro world.

The “Top Down” Issue

In my previous post, I showed that the Cambrian fossil record shows “top down” variation which is in contradiction to evolutionary theory that predicts a “bottom up” variation.  That is, the big characteristics (classified as “phyla”) show up first with variations happening down the line only in the context of their already set phyla.

Forknowledge and his brother, of course, disagreed with this, “Eric is once again applying the concept of the phylum across the board, as if it’s the only way to categorize the different types of living organism”  and “the majority of phyla appeared during the Cambrian, that is not the same as claiming that the majority of speciation or differentiation occured during it.

Strawman anyone?  I didn’t mention speciation or differentiation (by the way, what is that exactly?) I only mentioned phyla for a reason.  Of course, no one is saying that phyla is the only way to classify organisms.  But the phylum is the biggest classification within a Kingdom, and that’s what we’re talking about.  Let’s look at the chart:

So, the Cambrian fossil record clearly shows, as you’ve admitted, that most of phyla of life appeared with no apparent ancestors about 500 million years ago.  The majority of life as we know it are descendants of this fossil record.  They are admittedly very different but they only differ within their phylum set down during the Cambrian period.  This is a blatant “top down” formation, and talking about how different life is within phyla only supports that idea.   Why the phyla (body plan) stasis?  Why hasn’t the phyla changed just as much in the last 500 million years as it did during the 5-10 million years of the Cambrian?  These are questions evolutionary theory can’t answer.

Molecules-to-man evolution requires belief in the supernatural

Wikipedia:  The term supernatural or supranatural (super, supra “above” + natura “nature”) pertains to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature, in that they lack a clear scientific explanation.

Dictionary.com:  Of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.

American Heritage Dictionary:  Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.

Empiricism is the system of thought that says the only (or the best) way to know something is through experience.  That is, what we can experience with our senses is best way to true knowledge.  Science is the most natural expression of empiricism.
Let’s evaluate a statement based on it’s empirical value.  That statement is,

“God created the diversity of life on Earth.”

The problem is that it’s not an empirical statement.  But why not?
1.  The above statement is not empirical in nature because it is claiming something that is seen  “the diversity of life” is explained by something that is not seen, “God”.
2.  God is something that, by definition, cannot be experienced by the senses.
Therefore this statement cannot be empirically verified.  As a statement of belief, this is a belief in the supernatural as defined above.  Caveat:  I, of course, don’t believe that there isn’t any empirical evidence for God otherwise I wouldn’t be a Christian.  But the statement itself, even if there can be evidence for it, can’t be empirically verified.
Let’s evaluate another statement on the same basis.  Penguinfactory made the statement that the process of evolution we see today is the same as 500 million years ago.  I objected, pointing out that we can’t know that since one is observable and the other is not.  In response to this, Penguinfactory said,

“We have enough evidence to be able to conclude that evolution has been occurring throughout the history of life on this planet.”

This is also not an empirical statement.  Why?
1.  The above statement is not empirical because it is claiming that something that we can see “evolution” has been occurring during a time we cannot see, “the history of life”. 
2.  The past is something that, by definition, cannot be experienced by the senses.
3.  A phenomena that can cause 25-35 new phyla to appear in a five-ten million year time period has never been experienced by the senses.  Such a phenomena is outside of nature as we know it.  Empirically, we don’t even know if such a thing is possible.  As such, the statement that such a phenomena exists is a statement of belief.  And as a statement of belief, it is a belief in the supernatural. 

Remember, supernatural is defined as “lacking a clear scientific explanation,” “unexplainable by natural law of phenomena”, and “seems to violate or go beyond natural forces.”  The phenomena that created the diversity of life at the Cambrian does not have a “clear scientific explanation”, it only has theory, it’s unexplainable by any natural law that we can empirically verify, and seems to violate the natural and go beyond the natural forces we observe everyday.  Therefore, it fits as a supernatural phenomena perfectly.

Supernatural Powers

Naturalists give their beliefs supernatural powers, just like Christians do.  For us, God violates all known natural law and creates life as we know it.  For the naturalist, chance violates all natural law and creates life from non-life (abiogenesis).  Natural law is again violated when chance and Natural Selection creates twenty to thirty-five out of the forty phyla in a relatively short amount of time during the Cambrian.  By giving these supernatural powers to an observed natural phenomena, chance and Natural Selection, the naturalist can deny they believe in the supernatural.

To the naturalist, these things ARE described by natural law and yet, we’ve never seen a natural law that can accomplish the feats the naturalist believes chance can accomplish.  The powers of chance and Natural Selection given in molecules-to-man evolution are outside any known natural law and nothing has been observed that can even come close, hence, it is supernatural.