Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 9

What can we learn looking at the pale blue dot? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s been awhile since we last looked at the work of Glenton Jelbert. It hasn’t been because of lack of desire, but because of other reading requirements that I have had. Today, we return to look at a chapter on the pale blue dot.

Like all chapters, this one is a response chapter. The original writers are Jay W. Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez. Jelbert points out that both of them work for the Discovery Institute which we should all know is pretty much the thinktank for the Intelligent Design movement.

I will also state that I am not a promoter of the Intelligent Design movement. I prefer the traditional teleological argument of Aquinas that does not rely on scientific knowledge and I think the current ID makes the universe more of a machine which still gives us the problem of materialism. It was said long ago that he who marries the spirit of the age is destined to be a widow, and I really don’t want to build a worldview on modern science.

That said, there is some history. Richards and Gonzalez are certainly correct about the false narrative given in our schools today about science and Christianity in the so-called dark ages. Most people grow up hearing that Columbus sailed west to prove the Earth wasn’t flat, when this is entirely false as no serious thinker was suggesting that it was.

So also we are told that people would want the Earth to be at the center of the universe, but this wasn’t so. The center was not where God was after all. With this, I stand firmly in support of Richards and Gonzalez.

This then goes on to the idea that science has established our insignificance. We have moved from a place of honor to a place where we really don’t matter. We are just a pale blue dot in the universe. As you would expect, I do not find this convincing. C.S. Lewis said years ago there was a problem that any position would be argued against Christianity. If our planet is the only one with life, well that shows that life really doesn’t matter to the universe and there is no God. If there is life elsewhere out there, well that shows that life really isn’t that rare and unique so there is no need for God. This is a heads I win, tails you lose, approach and is based on an entirely subjective criteria.

Jelbert does say that the big challenge for religion is coming not from science but from history. While this will be looked at later in the third section, I find it quite amusing. The things liberal scholars even will grant today about the historical Jesus are things that would not even be thought about a century ago. We have more and more cemented information so much so that a minimal facts approach can be taken to the resurrection.

Jelbert in going further is absolutely right that how we feel about a proposition in science (Or any other field for that matter!) doesn’t matter. Reality doesn’t care how you feel. If Jelbert says that all that matters is the data, then I agree.

Jelbert says then that this is a slippery slope because it led to the establishment in science of our insignificance. Jelbert says he does not see how this is so, but it does not take much to see. It’s not Christians that demoted man. It’s man that demoted man. If there is nothing special about us, then let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. Many people are not persuaded after all by the facts of science so much as by the story of science. Few people will ever read the scientific journals, but many of them will go along with the story that is given. It’s the narrative today that matters.

Jelbert says the Catholic Church resisted heliocentrism for theological reasons. This isn’t accurate. Galileo was not the first to posit that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Several people had come beforehand and done so and they weren’t persecuted for it. So what was the big deal? Galileo was trying to teach theology and this without the necessary theological training.

There’s an irony that Jelbert thinks this case of resisting a claim for theological reasons should be ringing in the ears of those supporting ID. As I said, I do not support ID, but I think it would honestly be the opposite. Galileo was right and Galileo was the one challenging the reigning dogma of the day and insisting that he was right. That should be ringing in the ears of more of the scientific critics than anything else.

Jelbert also disputes that materialism does not enjoy a scientific pedigree. He rightly says that heliocentrism is independent of materialism, which is true, but I suspect Richards and Gonzalez have a lot more in mind than just that.  What is being spoken of lightly is the idea of the scientific revolution from then on and that supposedly materialism has been the great driver of it.

Jelbert also says what matters is not the historical success of an idea but what the evidence of it is. I contend that if you want to know if materialism is true or false, science is not the place to go to. It cannot answer those questions. The question is a philosophical one and not a scientific one.

Jelbert says we accept materialism because of its empirical success. I wonder what he would think about what Lewontin said:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.

The problem is that the philosophy does not dictate how the science is done. Christians have been doing the science the same way for centuries. In the lab, a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim, a Jew, a Wiccan, or whoever, does not follow a different set of rules for the science. It’s done the same way. Jelbert says the science cannot establish the case but then claims science is automatically an endeavor of materialism. I find this odd.

He concludes by saying that we have here no evidence of God. The problem is at the start he says that this was not meant to be. Saying the narrative is wrong does not mean God exists, but it should plant a seed of doubt. Why is it that materialists seem so eager to rewrite history? What else could they be wrong about?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Christian Hysteria And The Real Battle

Are we zealous in the wrong areas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I wrote about what was going on on a well-known apologist’s page and how it was the same thing from a year ago with a meme that was entirely false. This was about Halloween. Sadly, too many Christians posting ignored multiple people asking hard questions about the authenticity of the claim and went on with either bad-mouthing the person in the meme as if he really said the claim or jumped straight into panic mode. More often, it was panic mode.

Of course, no one is going to deny that parents want to protect their children and should do so, but could the real threats be being ignored for the fake ones? In fact, for those wanting to avoid the snare of the devil, I would think that someone like the devil could certainly create a false threat in order to hide a real one, a sort of diversionary tactic. Halloween is just such an example.

Sadly, I saw people posting speaking about how this is how the antichrist is going to take over by making this stuff fun and innocent. I’m surprised I didn’t see anything this time about the Illuminati and the New World Order. Of course, we also saw more and more people saying that this is pagan and that Christmas and Easter are also pagan.

I honestly wonder what such people are going to do when they tell their children this and then they or their children see something like the claims of Zeitgeist where Christianity is said to be copied from pagan gods. If we apply the same methodology, why not?

I do want it to be known that I surely realize the occult is out there. I also realize many Christians buy into a sort of occult thinking without realizing it. My wife and I like to sometimes watch these videos where people talk about the rapture coming and such. We don’t believe in it, but it can be amusing. It’s amazing how many of these begin with “I had a dream and” or “I had an experience and”. Too many Christians read signs into everything that happens to them as if the universe is all about them, kind of mirroring the way pagans read the entrails of animals and the flights of birds and other such things.

So while acknowledging that the occult is out there and yes, children need to be ready to deal with it, I can assure you that I see no reason to think that having your child put on a costume and go door to door asking for candy means they’re being caught up in the occult. Dare I say it, but perhaps not opening your children up to imagination and wonder is getting them closer to atheism. Chesterton was the great advocate of the importance of fairyland after all.

Furthermore, I am wondering how many of you who are like this are preparing for other challenges? For instance, are you equipping your child to know how they can show that God exists, the Bible is reliable, and that Jesus rose from the dead, beyond their personal testimony? If so, is your child ready to engage with the atheism they will find on a college campus?

What about materialistic greed? Is your child thinking that they need to have every new IPhone and computer and toy out there? Is your child wanting everything they can get and not appreciating the good gifts that they have? I’m not saying never get your child gifts like this, but make sure their love for you and their happiness is not conditional on such things.

Or dare I say it, what about sexual temptation? This is something they will live with all their lives. Do your kids have more than a few verses from Paul? Do they have a whole foundation of sexual ethics that tells them what sex is and why it matters and why it should be saved for marriage? Your kid could run into someone who will want to lead them into the occult to be sure, but they are far more likely to run into someone who will want to lead them into a sexual relationship outside of marriage and without a proper foundation, they will want to be led!

If you think that sounds a bit over the top, then just do this. Go to your average man who is married or not and is a devout Christian and ask him if he wrestles with sexual temptation. It’s a real battle. Even those of us, like myself, who love our wives deeply have to face a daily battle with the flesh. Are your kids ready?

Hysteria will not convince your kids. If anything, it will lead to your worldview being mocked and ostracized. If your child is talking about candy, there’s no need to bring up the plot of the antichrist. It saddens me that we who are supposed to live the most without fear are often the most fearful of all. You would think that Jesus had not won the battle against the forces of evil. You would think that Jesus is not Lord of all, conquering daily.

By the way, if you want my opinion on Halloween, go and have fun. It’s a day for kids to relax and enjoy themselves and pretend. If you don’t have kids, don’t close your door on Halloween. Here you say you are a Christian and you shut the door on children coming to your house. Is that the Christianity you want to present? Be there, put a smile on the faces of the kids, and give out the best candy that you have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Proof Of Heaven

What do I think of Eben Alexander’s book published by Simon and Schuster? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I was asked to read this book by someone interested in near-death experiences. I also have an interest in them, but I do prefer the evidential ones. No doubt, many of them provide comfort and meaning to the people who have them and while that is data to be used, I want something that can show that they are really having interactions going on outside of the body. This is a big problem for a materialist worldview.

Eben Alexander’s has been a popular one for some time and was the one I was asked about. He does have the advantage that he is a neurosurgeon so there’s no doubt he knows how the brain works. I think the case does establish that he had some kind of activity likely going on after he died. I do not think he made up his experience or anything like that.

The problem is not much beyond that is evidential. There is very little that he can point to going on in the world when he was in his comatose state and had no higher brain functions. We cannot take what he says about the beyond then in an authoritative way. We have no way of verifying it.

My big problem is it seems to be very much more of a New Age perspective. Nothing is said about Jesus and God is referred to as Om. The message given was love, which is fine, but then a part of “Nothing you can do is wrong.” I think we could all disagree with that part. Plenty of what we do is wrong.

Alexander does talk about going to church and taking communion, but one reads his book and wonders how deep it goes. What does communion mean to him? Does he take his experience as the final authority? As a Christian, I think it is important that we use Scripture to interpret our experience instead of the other way around.

Alexander’s story is indeed a remarkable one and I do think something miraculous happened that allowed him to recover from his illness. The problem is I don’t see how this constitutes proof of heaven. Heaven isn’t even defined in his book. What is this Heaven? How does someone get there?

Alexander doesn’t really spend time answering these questions. There isn’t interacting with many of the world religions to see what is said about them. There is an interesting story about his family history and about problems in scientific circles with NDEs not being taken seriously, but those of us who are more evidential in our thinking want more. As I said, my biggest problem is that the experience is the greatest authority.

In conclusion, the story is interesting, but I cannot recommend it really. I think an experience like Alexander’s does show that there is more to a person than their physical body and it does put materialistic thinking in a problem, but not much beyond that. I would much more recommend works like Steve Miller’s or Michael Sabom’s.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Defend The Faith 2015 Day Two

What has been happening at Defend The Faith? Let’s Plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Today has been an active day at the Defend The Faith conference hosted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. We started with a talk from Tim McGrew on the evidential value of the Book of Acts, which was certainly an eye opening talk. Next we followed with a talk from Rob Bowman on the travesty of an article from Newsweek. Let’s just say that it was like using a tank to squash a slug. Again, these talks will all be online for a limited time after the conference for free so please take advantage of that time!

After a lunch, we went to hear a talk first from David Calhoun about the role that films can play in apologetics. I did realize exactly how out of the loop I am about so many great movies, excepting when the topic of Harry Potter came up seeing as I know the series very well as a fan and was able to make my own contributions at that point. There are definitely some movies I wouldn’t mind watching now.

We followed that up by going to hear Keith Loftin give a case for mind/body substance dualism. I found this one to be quite technical but quite good as well. I was surprised to see NDEs not covered well and I did ask about them which got us to discussing the research of Gary Habermas, who I must highlight because he will in fact be speaking tomorrow.

After that, many of us who are speakers got to go out to dinner together at a nice seafood restaurant. I did order a shrimp platter but there was no way I could go through all of it. Allie got herself some pasta. Meanwhile, I just got to enjoy great conversation with Rob Bowman, Rhyne Putman, Tom Gilson, Fred Smith, Tim McGrew, Bob Stewart, and so many others who were there. I considered it a real privilege. The people running this conference are so kind and generous. Allie and I have felt like honored guests.

After that, Tim and Allie and I went back to his apartment. Why? Because Tim is wanting to teach me Bayes Theorem, especially because it seems to be so misused, especially by a certain prominent blogger that is popular amongst atheists. I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me, but Tim is a really encouraging guy and takes the time to explain and says to not worry about mistakes. They will happen.

We went back to the seminary then to hear James Walker of Watchman Fellowship give a great talk on worldviews and different perspectives people hold on religion. Watchman Fellowship also has available all their profiles that they’ve written on various topics of religion available for purchase as a file you can carry on your mobile device, which could be quite helpful to get.

After that, Allie and I went back to Tim’s apartment for a little while where he had a few people there just discussing apologetics and how important it was. If only we could get more youth ministers especially to see the need imagine what a difference we could make in the world and it was wonderful to see young people really eager to know how to defend their faith.

Well that’s all it’s going to be for tonight. Allie was starting to fall asleep while we visited Tim and not because he’s boring. He’s not. It’s just because she was so tired and frankly, I am too. Tomorrow is my day to speak so I hope you all will pray for me that I will give an effective talk that will bolster up the Gospel.

In Christ,
Nick Peters