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Month: February 2016

How Answers in Genesis is Really Good at Confusing You When it Comes to Discussing How We Know the Bible is True

How Answers in Genesis is Really Good at Confusing You When it Comes to Discussing How We Know the Bible is True

In my final post of this week dedicated to Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, I want to focus, not on science or Ken Ham’s Twitter trolls, but specifically on the truly muddled and confusing way Answers in Genesis even presents the Bible itself.

The Evangelical Dilemma with Genesis 1-11 and the Book of Revelation
In my life, I’ve come to realize that the most muddled thinking and confusion regarding the Bible stems from the beginning and the end: Genesis 1-11 and the Book of Revelation. Let’s face it, when it comes to your typical Christian layman sitting in the pews, both Genesis 1-11 and Revelation are really confusing. We can read the Gospels, Paul’s letters, the Old Testament stories about Abraham, Moses, and David, as well as Psalms and Proverbs—and we can usually “get” a lot of it, and relate them to our daily lives in some way. But Genesis 1-11 and Revelation? That’s some really weird stuff: talking snakes, angels having sex with women (did they really?—Actually, no, but that’s what many people think), beasts out of the sea, locusts, dragons, hailstones, fire from heaven. Just really bizarre stuff.

dispensationchartInevitably, there are always some self-proclaimed “experts” who go around selling their particular books, charts, and novel theology. Dispensationalists like Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, and the grand-daddy of the Schofield Study Bible, C.I. Schofield, have made a small fortune trotting out complicated “Dispensationalist charts” and writing novels that frighten and confuse many a Christian. And then, of course, there are young earth creationist organizations like Answers in Genesis, who flood the market with their own confusing (and often contradictory) claims that no one can really follow or understand.

I have found the result in both cases tends to be the same among Evangelicals. Nobody really understands those Dispensationalist charts, and nobody really understands all the “scientificy” jargon Answers in Genesis puts in their articles, blog posts, and curriculum—so they just nod, and figure, “Well, I guess they are the experts! I’ll believe it, even though I really don’t get it.” And then they go back to reading the Gospels, or other devotional works, and just leave trying to really understand Genesis 1-11 or Revelation off to the side.

The tragedy is that both Genesis 1-11 and Revelation are absolutely wonderful, powerful, life-changing, worldview-shaping parts of the Bible that are vital to the Christian life, yet they are left on the sidelines in most Christians’ lives, because the so-called “experts” (I’ll call them Bible-distorting heretics) have robbed Genesis 1-11 and Revelation of their transformative power, because they have made them mean what they never have meant.

The key thing with both YEC and Dispensationalism is this odd dynamic where they bombard people with so many specific details and claims, that everything gets muddled, over-generalized, and foggy. And that’s how they want it. It gives the illusion of specificity, yet keeps people dazed and confused, with a recurring case of the munchies for clarity—so they buy the YEC and Dispensationalist literature and curriculum, hoping they will explain what they themselves simply can’t  understand.

Dr. Jason Lisle’s Fog that Doesn’t Explain Why the Bible is True (Although He claims It Does)
JasonLisle_webBannerCase in point: Dr. Jason Lisle, the so-called astronomy expert at Answers in Genesis. In a March 22, 2011 post entitled, “How Do We Know the Bible is True?, Lisle writes seven pages of explanation that left me, a PhD in the Old Testament, scratching my head. Certainly, some of the things he said were true, but they were so wrapped up in what I can only describe as a “linguistical fog” that when I finished reading, I literally said, “Huh? Let’s take a quick look at it.

Now the question is a valid question, and one that is very pressing in our day: How do you know the claims of the Bible are true? Lisle says that some people point to the change it has made in their own lives, and he correctly points out that that might very well be the case, but it still is nevertheless a rather subjective standard. He then brings up another common yet unsatisfactory answer: “We know the Bible is true by faith.” Once again, that might be true, but it still is not an adequate answer that can prove the claims of the Bible are true.

It is at this point that Lisle says something that is, quite frankly, misleading, and actually contributes to the muddling fog. When defining “faith,” Lisle quotes Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the assurance of things hope for, the conviction of things not seen.” He then claims that this verse is saying that faith is the confident belief in something that you cannot perceive with your senses. So when I believe without observation that the earth’s core is molten, I am acting on a type of faith.”

Well, in fact, that is not how Hebrews 11:1 understands faith. Faith is not “believing what your senses cannot perceive.” Faith is believing that the future of a new creation is certain, even though it’s not here yet, because the firstfruits of it has happened with the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Faith has nothing to do with believing something exists in the material universe that your senses cannot perceive. It has everything to do with the future hope and certainty that God will fulfill His promise to redeem and transform His creation.

Lisle’s misinterpretation of Hebrews 11:1, and his subsequent definition of faith actually makes it impossible to understand what biblical faith really is. He has effectively reduced it to a muddled, quasi-scientific, “I believe something exists even though I can’t prove it scientifically” sort of nonsensical mantra. Simply put, what Lisle says faith is…isn’t faith. It’s nonsense.

What About II Timothy 3:16?
Lisle then points to II Timothy 3:16, which says, “All Scripture is God-breathed (i.e. inspired)…” and states that although that is true, again, it doesn’t prove the Bible is true. Once again, though, the way he interprets this verse is utterly false and misleading. He states that II Timothy 3:16 means, “every writing in the Bible is a revelation from God that can be trusted as factually true. Clearly, if the Bible is given by revelation of the God of truth, then it can be trusted at every point as an accurate depiction.”

Again, no, that’s not what II Timothy 3:16 is saying. Saying “All Scripture is inspired by God” does not mean that “every writing in the Bible is factually true.” If Lisle’s statement were true, then there would be no psalms, proverbs, parables, poetry…the list can go on. Once again, Lisle has taken an incredibly important verse, and has reduced its meaning to saying, “If it’s inspired by God, it has to be factually true, in some scientific/historical sense.” He has, in effect, restricted God’s revelation to only the ability to tell of facts.

Such a mindset is, ironically, that of the Enlightenment, and it is an anemic view of Scripture.

Textual and Historical Reliability
Right after his misleading statements and wrong definition stemming from Hebrew 11:1 and II Timothy 3:16, Lisle then pivots back to a very good point: that of the textual consistency and historical reliability of the Bible. We have thousands of ancient manuscripts of the Bible, and they largely are consistent with each other—they have been faithfully preserved. We can be confident that what we have in our Bibles today is a translation of the original writings. In addition, there is a lot of archaeological evidence that further confirms many of the historical claims found in the Bible.

Ironically, though, despite pointing to the archaeological findings that confirm the Bible’s historical reliability, Lisle then dismisses out of hand other archaeological findings that seemingly conflict with parts of the Bible, saying, “using archaeology in an attempt to prove the Bible seems inappropriate.” So basically, it’s great if it confirms my claims, but inappropriate when it calls my claims into question. I find that reasoning to be less than satisfying. There are better reason on this point than what Lisle gives.

Lisle’s Misunderstanding and Misuse of Prophecy
Lisle then claims that biblical prophecy proves the Bible is true. The only problem with his claim, though, is that his explanation of prophecy is utterly wrong. Simply put, Lisle puts for the idea that what makes prophecy so convincing is that it provides scientific information that has only been recently discovered by modern science and “secular scientists.” He writes:

“The Bible also touches on matters of science in ways that seem to go beyond what was known to humankind at the time. In Isaiah 40:22 we read about the spreading out (expansion) of the heavens (the universe). Yet secular scientists did not discover such expansion until the 1920s. The spherical nature of the earth and the fact that the earth hangs in space are suggested in Scriptures such as Job 26:10 and Job 26:7 respectively. The book of Job is thought to have been written around 2000 BC—long before the nature of our planet was generally known.”

No…that’s not what biblical prophecy is. To be clear, Lisle is claiming that in Isaiah 40:22, in the middle of YHWH calling the Judean exiles in Babylon out from exile, and in the middle of praising YHWH for being faithful to His covenant and saving His people, Isaiah then, out of nowhere, decides to give a modern science lesson, and declares, “Hey! In case you’re wondering, the universe is expanding! Hold on to this little nugget…for 2500 years! Secular scientists won’t figure this out for a long time!”

Ancient-Hebrew-view-of-universeDoes that make any sense? Of course not. The fact is, at that time, ancient people picture the earth and the heavens kind of like a snow-globe: the “dome” of the snow-globe were the heavens that God “stretched out” above the earth, with the “base” of the snow-globe being the land. That’s why Isaiah compares it to God “spreading out a tent”—simply put, he’s not talking about the expansion of universe as we know it today.

As for the Job passages, the Book of Job isn’t even prophetic literature. And, as with Isaiah 40:22, the writer simply is not talking about a spherical earth suspended in outer space. Using the snow-globe analogy again, he is stating that God has placed the earth/snow-globe over Sheol, which was represented as the Sea of Chaos. Sheol was the place of chaos, and ultimately void of any meaningful, ordered life. God had raised up the land from that chaos, established “boundaries” that provided a safe place for humankind to dwell, and he put that place (i.e. the snow-globe) on top of Sheol, on top of that chaotic void. The writer wasn’t doing modern astronomy; he was using the accepted ancient cosmology of his day to explain God’s power over it.

Yet, you won’t know any of this by reading Jason Lisle, because I’m convinced he doesn’t know any of this to begin within. Because of that, he simply trots out these isolated verses, and presents them as “being true scientific statements before their time” as somehow “proving” the Bible is true in terms of modern science.

Lisle’s Standard of Standards…
Nevertheless, the supposed “scientific prophecies” is not Lisle’s main argument. He thinks there is a better way to prove the Bible is true. And here is where is totally lost me.

He starts by saying we need something “absolutely conclusive and irrefutable” to prove the bible is true. And what is that irrefutable argument? Lisle says that the very fact we have standards of truth, that that is the irrefutable proof that the Bible is true. He writes, Only the Bible can make sense of the standards by which we evaluate whether or not something is true.”

He goes on to say that since we believe things are really true (i.e. if a light is green, then it isn’t red), that such things (he calls them the “laws of logic”) only make sense if God upholds the universe and we “take the Bible as our worldview.” Is that confusing, let Lisle try again: “If we don’t accept the Bible as true, we are left without a foundation for laws of logic.” After all, as Lisle says, “we assume that laws of logic will work in the future as they have in the past and that they work in the distant cosmos as they work here. But how could we possibly know that apart from revelation from God?” And again, “Apart from the truth revealed in the Bible, we would have no reason to assume that laws of logic apply everywhere at all times, yet we all do assume this.”

I’m sorry, I’m confused. Really, I don’t know what he means. The fact that a green light isn’t a red light is a logical statement…and that proves the Bible is true? The fact that the speed of light moves at a constant rate everywhere in the universe…is proof that the Bible is true? We wouldn’t know those things unless God had revealed Himself to Israel?

I’m sorry…but what? I’m being serious—does that make logical sense to anyone?

And Now For Something Even More Bizarre
After making the above statements, Lisle then brings the argument around to modern science, and claims that science wouldn’t even be possible unless there was uniformity in nature: “Science is based on an underlying uniformity in nature. But why should there be such uniformity in nature? And how do we know about it? We all presume that the future will be like the past in terms of the basic operation of nature.”

Now, that is completely correct. We can only do science by assuming the uniformity of nature and natural laws. “So what’s the problem” you may ask? That’s simple: Answers in Genesis (and Jason Lisle himself) routinely rail against “uniformitarianism,” and claim that the only way “secular scientists” can come up with evolution and the idea that the universe is billions of years old is by assuming uniformity in nature! The very YEC claims of Answers in Genesis are rooted in a denial of the uniformity of the natural world. Lisle himself attempts to explain away the fact that the speed of light shows the universe to be 14 billion years old. “That’s just an assumption,” he’ll say. “How do we know that light travels at the same rate everywhere in the universe at all times?”

Simply put, Lisle is saying uniformity in nature is the basis of modern science…yet rejects it when it conflicts with his YEC claims…which it does…that’s why he rejects it. He assumes the basic operations of nature are consistent throughout time…except when he tries to deny those operations to make his YEC claims of Genesis 1-11 work.

…and I still am confused how the speed of light or the color of lights “prove” the Bible is true.

Lisle’s Confusion/Conclusion
Lisle concludes with a number of statements I simply don’t get. They don’t make any sense whatsoever. So let me just conclude with quoting a few of these statements, and allowing you to try to figure them out:

“Interestingly, only God is in a position to tell us on His own authority that this [the laws of nature] will be true. According to the Bible, God is beyond time, and so only He knows what the future will be. But we are within time and have not experienced the future. The only way we could know the future will be (in certain ways) like the past is because God has told us in His Word that it will be.”

“We must admit that non-Christians are able to use laws of logic and the methods of science with great success—despite the fact that such procedures only make sense in light of what the Bible teaches.”

“So the fact that even unbelievers are able to use logic and science is a proof that the Bible really is true.”

“For if the Bible were not true, we couldn’t know anything at all. It turns out that the worldview delineated by the Bible is the only worldview that can make sense of all those things necessary for knowledge.”

“The proof of the Bible is that unless its truth is presupposed, we couldn’t prove anything at all.”

Like so much else within the YEC and Dispensationalist movements, that’s a lot of impressive-sounding verbiage, but it makes no sense. And that’s the point. It leaves the reader puzzled, and thinking, “Wow, I don’t get that. That’s sounds really deep! They must be smart, so I’ll take their word for it.”

I can’t say that. All I can say is…what?

Thus endeth this week’s Ken Hamfest…next week, it’s back to other topics.

 

Adventures in the Subterfuge of “Answers in Genesis”: Andrew Snelling and the Skeptics

Adventures in the Subterfuge of “Answers in Genesis”: Andrew Snelling and the Skeptics

andrew-snellingAs we continue in our Answers in Genesis Week on my blog this week, in anticipation to the appearance of Ken Ham at the up and coming AiG conference in my town this weekend, I want to share a short article by Dr. Andrew Snelling, a contributor to the AiG enterprise. The February 2, 2016 article is entitled, “Dealing with Skeptics.” In it, Snelling recounts an episode in which he encountered certain skeptics at a creation event in which he was speaking.

He noted that when he got to the event, there were “vocal anti-creationist skeptics” who were denouncing him for not being a real scientist. Snelling then said, “You see, I wasn’t a true scientist because I believe the Bible and therefore teach that the earth is young and that its geology was shaped by the global Flood cataclysm.”

I couldn’t help thinking, “No, they’re not saying you’re a true scientist because you believe the Bible. They say you’re not a real scientist because you are misinterpreting Genesis 1-11, and are injecting modern scientific assumptions into an ancient text. You are, in fact, molding the Bible into your own image—and the results are ridiculous.”

Of course, Snelling won’t even get specific enough to say, “They don’t believe I’m a scientist because I think Genesis 1-11 is giving historical/scientific information.” I think the reason is because he wants to frame the so-called controversy as one in which “secular evolutionists” are persecuting Christians for their faith. Therefore, he leaves it at the ambiguous “I believe the Bible is true, that’s why they’re attacking me.” Well, I am a Christian, and I believe the Bible is true. But I have no problem with the earth being millions of years old because I realize that Genesis 1-11 isn’t intending to relate scientific information on that topic. I realize that it’s not that Genesis 1-11 “isn’t true;” it’s that it isn’t trying to do science in the first place.

Condemnations from II Peter 3
Well, Snelling continued his narrative by pointing out that while he was giving his sermon entitled, “Creation and the Scoffers,” those skeptics were sitting in the front wrong. Undeterred, Snelling proceeded with his sermon. He referenced II Peter 3, where Peter talks about “scoffers” who will come in the “last days.” And how did Snelling interpret that passage? Simple:

“These scoffers would be those who would deliberately reject the geologic evidence that the world was destroyed and rebuilt by the global, mountain-covering Genesis Flood. They would instead believe that only present-day slow and gradual geologic processes could have shaped the earth and deposited the fossil-bearing rock layers over millions of years.”

That’s right! Snelling didn’t point out the “scoffers” Peter was talking about were those who scoffed at the idea of Christ’s coming at the end of the age. He claimed Peter was talking about…evolutionists who reject the geological evidence for a global flood!

Snelling then noted there were “howls of protests from the skeptics when I identified these last-days scoffers as the uniformitarian (millions-of-years-evolutionary) geologists of our day.”

I’m sorry, allow me to lend my voice to that protest. Let’s forget the whole “creation-evolution debate” for a moment, and focus on what Snelling really did. He claimed that Peter was talking about 21st century evolutionary geologists! Let’s put to the side the fact for all of AiG’s insistence that there is a mountain of evidence for a global flood, that they never articulate any, and focus on the fact that Snelling has just completely distorted Scripture. By claiming that Peter was talking about the 21st century creation/evolution debate (!!!), Snelling is twisting Scripture, plain and simple. He is twisting Scripture to try and support his young earth creationist claims which are, in and of themselves, a distortion and misrepresentation of Scripture.

I cannot even make fun of that. I’m just astonished.

Back to the Skeptics
In any case, Snelling then seemingly took pride in the fact that these “skeptics” denounced him as a fraud because they claimed the geological evidence proved the earth was millions of years old (which, by the way, it does). He then boldly proclaimed that “no amount of counter evidence would convince him.” Well, if you boldly state you will not consider evidence, I’m pretty sure that makes you not a scientist. For that matter, it makes you not an honest or humble person.

But that’s not how Snelling sees it. Instead, he accused the “skeptics,” not of being bad scientists, but of being in spiritual darkness: “Their root problem was instead spiritual. They did not want to “retain God in their knowledge,” so their “foolish” hearts were “darkened, professing themselves to be wise, they (had become) fools” (Romans 1:18–32). That’s right, they question him on the evidence of geology, and instead of engaging them on the geological evidence, he accuses them of being foolish sinners.

Snelling then ended by saying that those “skeptics” needed the Holy Spirit to convict of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, because that would be the only way they would “accept the authority of God’s Word in every area it teaches on, including the earth’s origin and history.”

That statement is extremely telling, for it shows the mindset of Answers in Genesis. The real focus, the real “end game,” if you will, isn’t the Gospel of Christ. No, the Gospel of Christ is only the means to the true end: being convinced of a young earth.

Never mind the fact that Genesis 1-11 isn’t giving a scientific account of material origins; never mind the fact that at no time in Church history was that ever seen as a core fundamental of the Christian faith; never mind the fact that no scientific evidence supports the claims of young earth creationism; for Answers in Genesis, convincing people of a young earth is the key to, well, everything. Apparently, Christ suffered, died, and rose again, so that the Holy Spirit could convict people to accept the authority of God’s Word, so that they would believe the earth is 6,000 years old.

That is the Gospel according to Answers in Genesis.

Conclusion
Noahs-Ark-AnimalsSnelling ends his article by saying that he knows without a doubt that a global flood occurred, “because God’s Word says it did! Even if I couldn’t see any evidence, I would have to accept God’s Word for it!” That statement too is very telling, for the biblical evidence is that Genesis 1-11 isn’t attempting to do history and science, therefore Snelling’s basis for belief in a literal global flood is founding on a profound misreading of Scripture. And because of that, he chooses to renounce all the actually scientific evidence for an old earth.

Basically Snelling says, “I’m going to reject the scientific evidence we have for an old earth, and instead I will base my belief in a young earth on a misinterpretation of Scripture.” When you think of it, Snelling is actually exchanging the truth about God’s creation for a lie.

That, I submit, is the insidious nature of groups like Answers in Genesis. People like Snelling and Ham really believe what they’re doing is right, and their followers cannot see that what they are doing is not simply damaging to science, but more importantly it is making a mockery of the Bible.

One More Thing
As I looked up material for this post, I came across this very interesting web article on Andrew Snelling. It takes about 5 minutes to read, but here’s the gist of it: Snelling writes for young earth creation organizations on topics like Noah’s flood; but then he also writes scientific articles on geology in which he advocates for millions of years.

When I was a kid, we used to play a game called “Concentration.” I think we could alter that game and play, “Contradiction.” Do you know the game? “Contradiction, now in session, try to keep the rhythm going. Names of…walking contradictions…such as….” You get it.

Answers in Genesis, Neanderthals, the “Creation Model,” and Predictions that Never Were

Answers in Genesis, Neanderthals, the “Creation Model,” and Predictions that Never Were

Answers CavemenIn my last post, I discussed Ken Ham’s recent comment regarding Neanderthals. Contrary to every single bit of scientific, genetic evidence, Ken Ham claimed—without any evidence whatsoever—that Neanderthals were simply human beings who dispersed after the Tower of Babel (circa 2250 BC according to AiG), whose genetic make-up mutated enough to give them a unique Neanderthal genome, who then somehow got reacquainted with the rest of humanity, interbred with the rest of humanity, and then died out, sometime before God called Abraham (circa 1900 BC according to AiG).

Well, that’s not completely right, at least not if you check out the AiG website. If do you, you will find a January 13, 2010 article entitled “Those Enigmatic Neanderthals,” by Anne Haberlmehl, in which she said that all human beings from Adam to the time shortly after the flood were Neanderthals. She writes, “…all the ancient long-lived people of early Genesis who lived for hundreds of years could be classified as Neanderthals, including everyone from Adam through to the Flood and for some generations after the Flood.” But from Abraham onwards—not Neanderthals.

But then the curious thing is that in yet another AiG article by Andrew Snelling and Mike Matthews, entitled, “When Did Cavemen Live?” (April 1, 2012), they give yet some more questionable information. In that article, Snelling argues that Neanderthals certain came about after Babel. But then the ice age (yes, THE ICE AGE) came and went sometime between 2250 BC-2000 BC. It was in that 250-year time-period that history witnessed the rise, genetic mutation, and fall of Neanderthals. This is what the Bible seems to indicate, says the folks at AiG. Oh, but there is one more thing that caught my attention in this article. It should speak for itself. In his discussion of the ice age, and the subsequent layers of earth stemming from that ice age, the ones in which we find the various fossils, Snelling notes the following about the top most layer: “Not a single Neanderthal, Homo erectus, or hobbit fossil has ever been found in the topmost layers.”

That’s right: we have not found the fossilized remains of Bilbo or Frodo Baggins, or Samwise Gamgee, or even Merry or Pippin. According to AiG, the race of Hobbits did not survive the vast ice age of 2250-2000 BC.

But let’s move on to the topic of this post…

Can Young Earth Creationists Make Predictions? Even Regarding Neanderthals?
In yet another AiG article by David DeWitt “Does the Creation Model Make Predictions?” (Feb 8, 2014), DeWitt attempts to convince us that not only does the Creation Model make predictions, but that it does in regards to Neanderthals.

PredictionsDeWitt starts his article by praising Ken Ham’s ability to make a monkey of Bill Nye during their debate. When Nye claimed that the creation model doesn’t make predictions (and that’s a rather key ingredient in the scientific enterprise), Ham, and now DeWitt, showed the following slide.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, but these aren’t predictions. Even if Genesis 6-9 was a historical account of a real worldwide flood, Genesis 6-9 isn’t a prediction—it would be a historical account.

Let’s take one example from the slide to how a prediction works: If you think Genesis 1-11 is giving historical information, and you total up the genealogies and conclude the entire universe is 6,000 years old, then a prediction would be, “When we calculate the expansion of the universe, and ‘turn the clock back’ based on the speed of light, we expect to find that the universe is 6,000 years old.”

But the thing is, though, is that when you measure starlight, you find the universe is 14 billion years old, proving that that “prediction” of 6,000 years old is wrong. You can’t then do what AiG does, and turn around and say, “Ah yes, our prediction was right, despite what modern astronomy says, because we added up the genealogies, and they say the universe is  6,000 years old!” You can’t use the basis of your prediction as validation of that prediction.

Why the Creation Model is so Much Better than the Evolutionary Model
DeWitt then made a point to show the fundamental difference between the “evolutionary model” and the “creation model.” He wrote, “the creation model, unlike evolutionary models, is very tightly constrained by Scripture that must be accounted for without wiggle room.” He then proceeded to articulate just what those non-negotiable “constraints” are: (A) The universe is 6,000 years old; (B) All humans descended from the first two people, Adam and Eve; (C) There was a worldwide flood during the time of Noah; and (D) God made the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of time itself, one day after the creation of plants.

The thing that astounded me was that DeWitt was putting this forth in an attempt to say the “creation model” was better than the “evolutionary model.” The “creation model” was better because it is rigid and won’t change. By contrast, “when evolutionists find a fossil in strata that they didn’t expect, they can just revise the date range.” DeWitt then says, “I could wish that the creation model was not tightly constrained so that it could be flexible like evolution; however, that would not reveal God’s glory nor honor the more-than-adequate revelation He’s given us in His Word.”

Like I said, these statements are simply astounding: DeWitt is criticizing evolutionary theory because it is willing to change its view, based on scientists commitment to follow the evidence where it leads. Yes, when evolutionists find a fossil it a strata they weren’t expecting, they revise their theory to make it fall in line with the evidence. DeWitt sees this as a weakness. Now, I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure this is what lies at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Science, by its very nature, is flexible and provisional: our understanding of the natural world changes based on the new discoveries we find.

Yet again, DeWitt sees this as a bad thing that “doesn’t reveal God’s glory.” That’s why he thinks the “creation model” is better: it refuses to change, no matter what evidence or discoveries we might find. This, DeWitt thinks, gives glory to God. I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. If that’s how DeWitt describes the “creation model,” then it’s pretty safe to say that it is, in fact, not scientific. To the contrary, it’s a predetermined claim that refuses to let any evidence or discover change it. Trying to pawn that off as “science” is dishonest, and certainly does not give glory to God.

But How Do Neanderthals Fit In to All of This?
With all that said, DeWitt gets to the point of his article. He himself can prove the creation model makes predictions, because he had done just that in regards to the study of Neanderthal DNA. He notes that back in 1997, scientists were able to map out the Neanderthal genome. And, shortly after that, an initial article was published that was entitled, “Neanderthals Were Not Our Ancestors.” In the article DeWitt references, he notes that it was concluded that “Neanderthals and modern humans last shared a common ancestor 550,000-690,000 years ago.”

Well, DeWitt knew this could not be right, because he already knew that, according to the “creation model,” that Neanderthals were human beings, and thus descendants of Adam and Eve. And so, he set out to scientifically prove those conclusions were wrong. After doing some research, he presented his findings at a “creation conference” in 2000. Simply put, his findings, based on the “creation model,” was that Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common gene pool.

And lo and behold, by the time the full Neanderthal genome was mapped out, scientists noticed how much overlap there was between the Neanderthal and human genomes. Neanderthals and humans had in fact interbred, thus, DeWitt claims, “completely reversing the conclusions of the original report in 1997.” He, David DeWitt, had predicted that Neanderthals were human beings descended from Adam and Eve, and the recent scientific discoveries had confirmed it. He writes, “Now, evolutionists have revised their theory and explanation to try to accommodate the results.  A creationist does not have that “luxury” because the creation model requires that Neanderthals and modern humans descended from Adam and Eve and therefore had to be related.

Score one for the young earth creationists! Oh, wait a second…

…But Nothing DeWitt Said Was True
Yes, you read that subtitle right. Not only is virtually none of what DeWitt said was true, he also left out a glaring problem with his claims.

Look at how he misrepresents the initial findings regarding the Neanderthal genome. Yes, the initial findings were that Neanderthals were not our ancestors—but DeWitt makes it sound like the initial findings were that Neanderthals and humans weren’t related. But the initial findings didn’t claim that. In fact, DeWitt even quotes them as saying that Neanderthals and human interbred—that would indicate they were related, wouldn’t it?

neanderthals_786What the initial findings claimed, which still holds true today is that Neanderthals and modern humans share a common ancestor. Have you ever seen a tree that has two main branches that stem out from the trunk, and then somehow, bend in such a way that they reconnect higher up? That’s what the initial findings said about the relationship between Neanderthals and humans: they share a common ancestor (think “the trunk”), they branched off from each other (think, one branch is human beings, the other branch is Neanderthals), and then those two branches reconnected around 100,000 years ago—that was when Neanderthals and humans interbred, and that’s why some people of European descent have some Neanderthal DNA.

That was in the initial findings, and that still holds true today. The only difference is that the initial findings claimed that Neanderthals and human beings interbred 60,000 years ago, whereas they have now revised that number to 100,000 years ago.

DeWitt though made it sound like “evolutionists” first claimed Neanderthals and humans weren’t related at all (they never claimed that).

He then claimed that he “made a prediction” that they were related, based on the “creation model.” In reality, he could have made that “prediction” based on the initial findings that he purposely mischaracterized. It is quite easy to make a “prediction” that Neanderthals and human beings were related after the initial scientific findings published in articles say, “Hey, Neanderthals and human beings shared a common ancestor.”

Finally, DeWitt then claimed that the most recent findings “completely contradicted” the original findings—but they didn’t; they actually confirmed them.

But there is still one more glaring problem with DeWitt’s claims. He said he “predicted” that Neanderthals and human beings are related, because Neanderthals were human beings descended from Adam and Eve. He then claims his “prediction” is confirmed by the scientific evidence. I’m sorry—it isn’t.

Remember, DeWitt claims that Adam and Eve were created 6,000 years ago, on the sixth day of time itself. Since he claims Neanderthals are descended from  Adam and Eve, I’d have to assume he believes what Ken Ham claims—that Neanderthals lived, genetically mutated, interbred with the rest of humanity, and died, between the years 2250 BC-2000 BC. So to be clear, his real “prediction” was that Neanderthals and human beings interbred about 4350 years ago. The science of genome studies shows that is not the case. The maps of the genomes show that the interbreeding took place 100,000 years ago, not 4350 years ago.

Even if you aren’t convinced of evolution, or that the earth is 4.5 billion years old, you have to see that DeWitt’s claims that “the new findings” (A) contradict the original findings, and (B) confirm his “prediction” that was based on the “creation model” are simply false—totally, completely false. The “revised” findings do not, in fact, “contradict” the initial findings, and they certainly don’t confirm his “prediction” that Neanderthals and humans interbred 4350 years ago.

And so, when DeWitt confidently declares at the end of his article, “I…want to illustrate how a scientist can make predictions within the biblical creationist framework, conduct a scientific investigation, and find evidence that confirms those predictions,” we can equally confidently declare…

“But you didn’t. So, why did you write the article?”

Perhaps he just had some left over wool taken from certain sheep AiG has fleeced that he wanted to pull over his readers’ eyes.

That Ken Ham…What a Neanderthal! (Or, “The Rise, Genetic Mutation, Interbreeding, and Extinction of Neanderthals…All Within 200 Years!)

That Ken Ham…What a Neanderthal! (Or, “The Rise, Genetic Mutation, Interbreeding, and Extinction of Neanderthals…All Within 200 Years!)

In the countdown to Ken Ham’s visit to my town next week, I am making a concentrated effort to write a few more posts on the claims that the folks at Answers in Genesis routinely make. Today, I want to comment on Ken Ham’s February 19th post about Neanderthals, entitled, “Neanderthals—Descendants of Adam.”

Genomes and Family Trees
Now, in case you are unaware, let me briefly summarize what scientists know about Neanderthals. Based on the study of the Neanderthal genome (yes, that’s right—we have mapped out the Neanderthal genome, just like we have mapped out the human genome), scientists have been able to calculate the following:

  • The group that would become Homo sapiens split off from Neanderthals about 600,000 years ago—Neanderthals moving off into Europe and Asia, while Homo sapiens remained in Africa.
  • 100,000 years ago, though, as Homo sapiens migrated into Europe and Asia, they bumped into Neanderthals again (imagine that—after 500,000 years), and were still so closely genetically-related, they were able to interbreed with each other, that is why there are traces of Neanderthal genes in some humans who are of European descent.
  • Neanderthals died out about 30,000 years ago.

Family TreeIf you are wondering how scientists can figure this stuff out from the genome, let me provide a very simple (hopefully not oversimplistic) example. Studying the genome is like looking at the “family tree” of humanity (and of course in this case, Neanderthals). The genome is very much like an actual picture/diagram of a family tree. All the genetic material is simply mapped out—it’s just a matter of reading all of it. Therefore, scientists have been able to see all of this before their eyes. They’re not guessing—they’re just reading the data that the genome(s) provide.

Enter Ken Ham
In any case, it is the recent news that humans and Neanderthals interbred 100,000 years ago that Ken Ham decided to comment on. His reaction was pretty simple: the fact that Neanderthals and humans interbred has been known for years—it’s just that “evolutionists” now put the date at 100,000 years ago, not 60,000 years ago.

Of course Neanderthals and humans interbred, Ham says, because Neanderthals were fully human, period: Neanderthals simply represent a people group that formed after the dispersion at the Tower of Babel, after the Flood, just a few thousand (not hundreds of thousands) years ago. They had unique characteristics that likely became more prominent as they were isolated from other people by the divinely created language barrier.”

And that’s that—end of the post.

Now, What Do I Know? I’m Just a Caveman!
Now, I am no scientist, and I am not going to get into the question of “Were Neanderthals human?” From my layman’s point of view, the fact that they could interbreed with Homo sapiens tells me at the very least they were certainly close enough.

What I want to comment on is Ham’s incredible dismissal out of hand of the genetic evidence from the genomes of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Remember, it’s not like scientists are just pulling numbers out of the air with blind guesses. They are looking at the mapped out genomes (i.e. just look at that print out of the family tree). They are then simply doing the calculations of what is there. And based on what they are looking at (kind of sounds like Ken Ham’s “observational science”!), they are able to calculate that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals interbred 100,000 years ago.

And yet in response, Ken Ham says, “Nuh-uh! Neanderthals are just a people group descended from Adam and Eve 6,000 years ago, and who were one of the groups who dispersed from the Tower of Babel 4,000 years ago! They had different physical characteristics because they were isolated, due to the different languages!”

Let’s Get Biblical…Biblical…I Wanna Get Biblical…
So let’s play along for a moment:

2,000 years ago, at the time of Christ, there were human beings—no Neanderthals anymore, just human beings, right? Right.

3,000 years ago, around the time of King David, there were human beings—no Neanderthals anymore, just human beings, right? Right.

Somewhere between 3,500-3,800 years ago, around the time of Abraham, there were human beings—no Neanderthals anymore, just human beings, right? Right.

Ken Ham says Noah’s flood happened 4,000 years ago…and then came the Tower of Babel…and then came Abraham. So it seems that Ken Ham is suggesting that the Neanderthals were a distinct group that developed after the Tower of Babel, who developed enough genetic differences with a span of, what? A couple hundred years at best? And then they interbred with the rest of Adam’s offspring when they regained contact, and then they died out virtually immediately, right before the time of Abraham?

GeicoOr does Ken Ham suggest that Neanderthals lived well into the time of Abraham, Moses, and David? If he does, is there any biblical evidence that would suggest this? (Well, there are those Geico commercials!) And before you venture a guess like, “Perhaps the giants like Goliath were really Neanderthals,” let me stop you right there. Goliath was believed to be anywhere between 7-10 feet tall. The average height of Neanderthals was 5’5”—so no, Goliath was not a Neanderthal.

Come Now, Mr. Ham…This is Just Getting Ridiculous
It should be obvious: Ken Ham’s claim about Neanderthals simply is not based in any known reality. He would have you believe that the only reason why Neanderthals are believed to be a distinct species from Homo sapiens is because they experienced rapid genetic mutational differences over the span of 200 years. To that, all I can say is this: every now and then we find that there has been some isolated tribe in South America that has been discovered—a people group that no one has ever known about, seemingly living in isolation from the world for hundreds of years. And do you know what we’ve discovered? They’re still fully people. They share the same human genome. Isolation for hundreds of years does not produce a radically distinct genome.

NeanderthalsYet those facts, plus the facts of the Human genome and the Neanderthal genome, plus the fact that there is no mention of Neanderthals in the Bible, plus the fact that Ken Ham provides no scientific or biblical facts for his claim, do not seem to deter Ken Ham from making something up entirely. Who needs scientific or biblical evidence anyway? Answers in Genesis apparently has the God-like ability to speak things into existence ex nihilo.

And even though such claims remain ex nihilo (for there is no trace of their validity in the known world), there are still some who will still believe it. It’s no wonder that God’s people in the Old Testament were told to stay away from pork products.

But if you just want to see Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer for a good chuckle, here you go. He makes a better case than Ken Ham.
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/unfrozen-caveman-lawyer/2862211

Ken Ham’s Got 18 Tweets (But The Truth Ain’t One!)

Ken Ham’s Got 18 Tweets (But The Truth Ain’t One!)

I’m not a fan of Jay-Z, but I feel the title just fit. (If you don’t know to what I’m referring, don’t worry. If you do, you owe to me to share this post on your Facebook and Twitter).

In any case, next week, Ken Ham is going to be speaking at an Answers in Genesis conference, hosted by a local church. To commemorate this event, I thought I’d share this week a few more posts about AiG.

HamArk

Over the past few weeks Ken Ham has been posting comments on his Twitter feed that can only be characterized as intentional trolls to rile people up, purposely offend non-believers, and just antagonize in general. I have to think there’s a method to his madness. I believe he’s intentionally doing it in order to stir up debate, and therefore interest, in his up-and-coming opening of the “Ark Encounter” attraction at his Creation museum this summer. In that sense, he is taking a page out of Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign: continue to say the most outrageous stuff, so that it will keep the attention and the spotlight on you.

Just over the past 48 hours, Ken Ham has posted the following tweets. In the spirit of Twitter, allow me to give a very brief response to each one of the following eighteen tweets:

  1. Secularists are experts at misquoting, misinterpreting & misunderstanding the Biblical text -their research skills of the Bible are abysmal.

***Actually, many secularists misquote and misinterpret the Bible because they are assuming what Ken Ham says about the Bible is what Christians have always believed. Simply put, they misunderstand the Bible because they’re going off of what Ken Ham says.

  1. The Bible teaches the earth is round (not flat) & hangs upon nothing (in space) – contrary to false secularist propaganda.

***This is a claim that I first came across back in the 1990s, from an A Beka book called Bible Doctrines for Today. The verses used to supposedly support these claims are Isaiah 40:22, which says, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth”! and Job 26:7, which says, “He…hangeth the earth upon nothing.” To the point, Isaiah 40:22 reflects ancient Near Eastern cosmology—it is not claiming the earth is spherical. We have ancient drawings of their view of the earth—it’s not a sphere. And the book of Job is poetry—it is metaphor, not scientific claims. This is not a matter of “false secularist propaganda;” it’s a matter of Ken Ham not knowing the difference between poetry and science; it’s a matter of Ken Ham misinterpreting the Bible…(and this takes us back to the first tweet).

  1. No evolutionist observed life form from non-life. No creationist saw God create life–BOTH are beliefs. Evolutionists need to admit that.

***The theory of evolution does not claim to explain how life came from non-life. It doesn’t address the origin of life; it addresses the process by which the variety of species came to be. The only difference between traditional evolutionary theory and Ken Ham regarding the variety of species is this: (A) Evolutionary theory claims life evolved into the various species over the course of millions of years, ultimately from a common ancestor; (B) Ken Ham claims that life evolved into the various species over the course of the past 4,000 years from the 1,000 “kinds” that came out of Noah’s ark. Debate that if you want, but you’ll find that Ham’s claims are actually a form of “hyper-evolution” that would require a completely new species to appear every seven years (think two beagles procreating so much, with so much genetic mutation, that within seven years their “descendants” would be Siberian huskies).

A great post on this can be found here, by Joel Duff, who has a blog entitled Naturalis Historia. In any case, this “charge” by Ken Ham against evolution (i.e. evolution can’t explain how life came about in the first place) is a completely bogus and false charge. It is a lie.

  1. It’s amazing how many secularists accuse God of moral issues when they have no basis for morality except their own subjective opinion!

***One could say this is technically true. The reality of morality is problematic for an atheist. Ham has a point: when Richard Dawkins accuses the God of the Bible of being barbaric and immoral, that moral claim directly contradicts Dawkins’ own claim that in a universe of blind chance, there ultimately is no right or wrong, or justice, or morality. But why does Ham tweet this out? I can only think of one reason: to intentionally tick off non-believers. Does that sound like something Christ would do? I’m pretty sure there is a better way to reach out to the lost than to essentially tweet out the proverbial “middle finger.”

  1. How to tell those who oppose God’s Word are insecure in their faith – they use ad hominem arguments, expletives, hate, blasphemous words.

TwitterWar***Now it’s true: if you read the comments on Ham’s Twitter feed, you’re going to come across some very vulgar and angry atheists. I’ve had conversations with some of them—they’re really obnoxious. I have to think, though, their anger is first and foremost directed at Ken Ham. I can understand their anger and frustration: Ham is supposedly a Christian, but he routinely puts out lies in regards to science, and acts positively smug about it. He intentionally antagonizes unbelievers, they get angry, then he posts tweets about how sinful and bad they are because they’re angry at his un-Christ-like behavior.

  1. Many have an evolutionary view of history thinking Noah was less intelligent than us without sophisticated tools – NO- it’s the opposite.

***This tweet goes along with Ham’s unsubstantiated, unbiblical, and unhistorical claim that people 4,000 years ago had access to advanced technology that would dwarf the technology we have today. Ham claims it was all completely obliterated in the flood—that’s why we don’t have any evidence of it. Just think about that claim, and ask yourself, “How can anyone take Ken Ham seriously?”

  1. Many react emotionally to God’s judgment at the Flood because inherently they know they’re sinners in rebellion against a righteous Holy God.

***No, they react emotionally to Ken Ham’s claims, because they are intentionally misleading and false. And when Ken Ham is called on it, he turns around and accuses that person of being a sinner. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day made it a habit of calling any of their fellow Jews who didn’t subscribe to their added claims to the Bible as “sinners” too. Jesus called them “a brood of vipers.”

  1. Most people who oppose and mock God’s Word are very ignorant of what God’s Word actually teaches – they’re sin nature shows clearly.

***Technically, this often is true. Many atheists who mock Christianity take their cue from Richard Dawkins, and don’t actually know anything about the Bible. But the opposition that comes up on Ken Ham’s Twitter feed is aimed at the false claims and teachings Ken Ham puts out there.

  1. Just as surely as God judged with a Flood & the fossil evidence is all over the world – so He will judge again next time with fire.

***Ken Ham is the quintessential passive-aggressive. What does this tweet imply? Simple: Ham is equating people who are convinced of evolution with the evil humanity that got wiped out in the story of Noah’s flood—and then he’s essentially saying, “Just wait until God’s next judgment comes!” Yes, just as God judged evil with the flood, so will He judge a scientific theory with fire.

  1. Hard to believe intelligent people believe matter came into existence by itself, & produced life by itself & eventually humans- foolish.

***See tweet #3. Ham is putting forth an utterly false understanding of evolutionary theory to condemn. Sure, belief that matter came into existence by itself is foolish—but that’s not what evolutionary theory says, or even addresses.

  1. Biology, Chemistry, Anthropology, Geology, & Astronomy all confirm the Historical account of Genesis.

***This is just simply false. A complete lie…and, given Ham’s own “definitions” of “historical science” and “observational science,” completely nonsensical using Ham’s own logic. He claims there are two different kinds of science: observational science deals with observable experiments and technology; historical science deals with the past, and therefore cannot be observed, and therefore is a matter of belief. For the sake of argument, let’s accept those categories. If that’s the case, then biology, chemistry, anthropology, geology and astronomy (being the “observational” sciences) couldn’t confirm the historical account of Genesis, because that is “historical” science). Ken Ham’s nonsensical claims contradict his own nonsensical (and fictional) categories of science.

  1. Amazing how many people claim Noah wouldn’t have had sophisticated tools when the account in Genesis does not tell us what tools he used.

***See tweet #6. Ken Ham thinks Noah had access to advanced technology and power tools…because the Bible doesn’t tell us what tools he used. This is what we call “an argument from silence.”

  1. Genesis 4 relates a few generations after Adam people made instruments of bronze and iron, Probably a high level of technology by Noah’s time.

***See tweets #6 and #12. How does one get from “instruments of bronze and iron,” to “high level of technology”?

  1. There is nothing in observational science that contradicts the Bible’s account of history of Creation, the Flood and the Tower of Babel.

***See tweet #11. By Ham’s own definitions, “historical science” is based on belief about the past, and therefore cannot be even addressed by “observational science.”

  1. Atheists can’t change the fact of history that their ancestor was a man called Noah who was a preacher of righteousness – sad they rebelled.

***Yet another antagonistic, passive-aggressive troll to get non-believers angry. Not exactly the best witnessing method, in my opinion. Ken Ham can’t change the fact that the literary genre of Genesis 1-11 (which includes the flood story) is not history or science, but rather ancient myth—God-inspired ancient myth intended to teach the Israelites the truth about YHWH, using the genre they would have been familiar with. And yes, Noah is called a preacher of righteousness—it’s sad the Ken Ham has rejected the inspired message of God’s Word, and is displaying the contentious, divisive “works of the flesh” that Paul talks about in Galatians.

  1. Those who claim tolerance are often the most intolerant of all – and often they’re intolerant of not just Christian doctrine but Christians.

***Again, technically true in many respects. There are quite a few atheists out there who are obnoxious, intolerant, foolish, and bombastic; and yes they positively hate Christianity. But let’s be clear, the kind of “Christianity” they are reacting against is the caricature that men like Richard Dawkins, and ironically Ken Ham, put out there. Dawkins and Ham are each other’s doppelganger. But as for Ham, all I say is this: For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Rom 2:24).

  1. Notice that those who claim they don’t believe in God spend a lot of their time shaking their fist at God who is long suffering toward them.

***See tweets #1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16. The atheists on Ken Ham’s Twitter feed are shaking their fists at him, because he is going out of his way to poke them in the eye, and then condemn them as rebellious sinners because they say, “Ow!”

  1. The scoffers who scoff today will one day bow the knee to the God they scoff at-God has the last say “Every knee shall bow to Me”(Rom 14:11).

***See tweets #1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 17. More passive-aggressive, self-righteous, Pharisaical condemnation coming from the heretical organization known as Answers in Genesis, that ironically gives answers that are not found in Genesis.

My Appeal…
Please note, these eighteen tweets are just a sampling. Ham makes it a point to flood Twitter with comments like these for one purpose: to get a reaction and to antagonize. I have found that one has to strike a balance when confronting men like Ken Ham. It is very easy to get sucked into the madness and obsess over the inflammatory and misleading things he routinely says. It’s especially hard when you’re writing a book on it.

At the same time, for the sake of the countless people who have been hurt by the Pharisaical propaganda of Answers in Genesis, it is important to keep warning people about how toxic and heretical it is. I’m specifically thinking of my former students, and any student who has gone to a Christian high school, or attends a Church, where the young earth creationist heresy of Ken Ham is embraced, promoted, and yes, forced upon people.

white-washed-cave-tombI want to say to anyone who is walking away from the Christian faith because they have been told, “If you don’t believe the universe is 6,000 years old, then you can’t believe anything in the Bible, and Christ died for nothing,” stop: don’t believe Ken Ham or Answers in Genesis. They are not preaching the Gospel of Christ. Look at how nonsensical and condemning they routinely are. What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t embrace broods of vipers, and even though those white-washed tombs would kill him and throw him into his own tomb, he would rise up, and walk out into a new creation.

So yes, walk away from the false gospel of Ken Ham, but don’t walk away from Christ.

Richard Dawkins Hates Beauty! (Well, not quite, but he’s not convinced by the Argument from Beauty) (Part 10)

Richard Dawkins Hates Beauty! (Well, not quite, but he’s not convinced by the Argument from Beauty) (Part 10)

God-delusionIn the past two posts, we’ve looked at Richard Dawkins’ attempt to discredit the five “proofs” for God’s existence that medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas came up with. We saw that instead of trying to even understand the actual arguments Aquinas was making, Dawkins chose to simply scoff and dismiss them. This tactic is actually surprisingly effective if you are addressing people who don’t know anything about Aquinas themselves, and are already inclined to reject anything that smells of “religion.” Of course, when you do that, you haven’t really argued or proved anything—you’ve just preached to a choir who doesn’t know how to read music.

My, My, My it’s a Beautiful World…So What?
In any case, in today’s post we will look at what Richard Dawkins has to say about the Argument from Beauty. The traditional argument is basically says, whether it be the poetry of Shakespeare, the music of Beethoven, or the artistry of Van Gogh, such beauty points to something or someone beyond mere natural existence. What Dawkins says about this argument, I find to be highly entertaining and rather mystifying.

ShakespeareDawkins’ initially comments in the following manner: “Obviously Beethoven’s late quartets are sublime. So are Shakespeare’s sonnets. They are sublime if God is there and they are sublime if he isn’t. They do not prove the existence of God; they prove the existence of Beethoven and of Shakespeare” (110). Though technically true in and of itself, Dawkins’ comment nevertheless misses the entire point of the argument. Evidently he thinks that someone who makes this argument from beauty is trying to make a scientific proof.

Obviously Beethoven’s music was written by Beethoven. Obviously Shakespeare’s sonnets were written by Shakespeare. It should also be just as obvious that  the argument from beauty is not attempting to be a scientific argument. The point is that things like poetry, music, art—the things that human do not share with the rest of the created order—point to something that is not part of the created order. That is the specific point that Dawkins just doesn’t get.

Everything else—breathing, sex, excrement, eating, etc.—human beings share with the rest of the natural order. We see these actions in the created order with other creatures that are not human. But when it comes to poetry, music, or art—these are things that we do not see in the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, or anywhere else in the created order. Therefore, the argument goes, there is an indication that there must be something or someone else that we share such things with. If poetry, music, art, and beauty were just part of the natural order, we should see them elsewhere in nature—but we don’t. They are unique to human beings, therefore, it would seem that human beings are unique, and share something that isn’t part of the normal created order. That would thus indicate something beyond nature, possibly a higher being or reality.

Dawkins seems to be getting hung up on the very word “argument.” He apparently cannot see the difference between saying something like art and poetry indicates the possibility of a reality beyond the created order, and that they prove in some scientific sense the existence of God.

Where’s My Concerto to Photosynthesis?
In any case, within his discussion regarding the argument from beauty, Dawkins says something that is truly astounding. Try to read the following quote without developing a smirk.

Sistine Chapel“Even great artists have to earn a living, and they will take commissions where they are to be had. I have no reason to doubt that Raphael and Michelangelo were Christians—it was pretty much the only option in their time—but the fact is almost incidental. …If history had worked out differently, and Michelangelo had been commissioned to paint a ceiling for a giant Museum of Science, mightn’t he have produced something at least as inspirational as the Sistine Chapel? How sad that we shall never hear Beethoven’s “Mesozoic Symphony,” or Mozart’s opera “The Expanding Universe. And what a shame that we are deprived of Haydn’s “Evolution Oratorio” (111).

The absurdities in that one statement alone are mystifying. First of all, Dawkins says that the only reason why Raphael and Michelangelo were Christians was because they had no other options. This goes along with another historical canard that the New Atheist Movement loves to trot out from time to time: the only reason why men like Raphael, Michelangelo, or Galileo were Christians was because “back then” Christianity simply killed anyone who said they didn’t believe in God. If you challenge them and say, “Wait, there’s no record of Christianity engaging in mass killings of atheists in the Middle Ages,” they will then reply, “Of course not. The atheists knew they would be killed, so they pretended to be Christians in order to stay alive.”

So what’s the “evidence” for such a claim? Easy, the fact there were no mass killings proves their point. I’m sorry, that makes about as much sense as Ken Ham claiming Noah had access to advance technology, but we don’t have any evidence of it because the flood destroyed it all.

In any case, Dawkins is clearly implying that if Raphael and Michelangelo were alive today, they most certainly would be atheists. How does Dawkins know this? Simple: he doesn’t. His starting point for assessing people is (A) if they are smart or artistic, then (B) they simply CANNOT be Christians of their own will. That’s a pretty astounding assumption. Again, we can see a similarity to Ken Ham, when he says the only reason why scientists reject young earth creationism is not because they are convinced by the evidence, but rather because they really are in rebellion against God and want to live lives of selfish debauchery.

In all seriousness, I am not making this stuff up. Arguments based on assumptions with silence as the only “evidence” are not arguments at all—they are attempts to further manipulate willfully ignorant people.

But let’s look at the second part of Dawkins’ statement: “Mesozoic Symphony”? The “Expanding Universe” opera? The “Evolution Oratorio”? I’m sorry, but being a literature major, I have to say that if I came across a poem that started with, “Oh photosynthesis, how you turn sunlight into energy! Oh photosynthesis, such yearning for a plant’s emitting oxygen!” I’d skip it. The reason should be obvious. It’s rather boring. Now, don’t get offended if you are really into science. I’m just stating what should be obvious: the things that inspire art, poetry, and music are not the scientific descriptions of how things work. If you want to get pumped up for a football game, you’re going to listen to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.” You’re not going to pop open a Biology textbook. (Perhaps that’s not the best example, but the point should be clear).

That is why the entire argument from beauty points to a God. If we were simply products of blind, evolutionary, undirected, materialistic processes, then there would be no desire in us to worship. And worship is essentially what poetry, music, and art are—forms of worship and creativity. The thing that is makes poetry, music, and art special and unique is that they start with something in ordinary life, like a chair, a bird (and who know? Maybe even photosynthesis!), and they proceed to interpret, and dare I say, even transform that thing into something more, something that goes beyond mere nature. Hence, the very reality and purpose of the arts and beauty indicate that there is a reality beyond mere nature. That’s the heart of the argument.

This unique ability human beings have, although expressed within the natural world, simply bear witness to something that is beyond the natural world. Poetry, art, and music are windows to a greater reality than the natural world, and human beings not only display creative means to order and cultivate the natural world, but they also display a creative and sacramental tendency to sanctify it. This is what we find in Genesis 1-2, where human beings are created “in the image of God,” and are designated by God to both “rule over creation” and act as priests who serve and cultivate creation. This is a factual reality that we simply cannot get away from. Therefore, no matter how hard Dawkins tries, his arguments are hollow.

One More Thing: No Hamlet?
Shortly after the above quote, Dawkins also says the following: “What if…Shakespeare had been obliged to work commissions from the Church? We’d surely have lost “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” and “Macbeth.” And what would we have gained in return? Such stuff as dreams are made on? Dream on” (111). Being a fan of Shakespeare (and the Church), I couldn’t let Dawkins’ final comment go ignored.

What Dawkins is essentially saying is this: “It’s a good thing the Church didn’t commission Shakespeare! If it did, I’m sure he’d have produced mindless drivel–certainly not great works like ‘Hamlet’ or ‘King Lear.'” Of course, this is quite a bold, and baseless assumption. I am reminded of what my Shakespeare professor once said, “You wont’ be able to understand Shakespeare unless you read the King James Bible.” He was stating an obvious fact that Dawkins doesn’t seem to acknowledge. Despite all of Dawkins’ diatribes against the “evils” of religion (which he characterizes as everything in religion), he cannot even bring himself to acknowledge clear artistic masterpieces…like Shakespeare’s play, or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel…that were clearly inspired by the Christian faith. Sure, Shakespeare wasn’t directly commissioned by the Church, but the Christian worldview comes through on every page of his plays. And for that matter, Michelangelo’s work was commissioned by the Church.

Despite what Dawkins is trying to claim, the exact opposite is true: the great artistic masterpieces of Western culture came about precisely because of the inspiration and influence of the Christian faith, not despite of it.

Richard Dawkins and Thomas Aquinas’ 4th and 5th Proofs for God’s Existence (Part 9)

Richard Dawkins and Thomas Aquinas’ 4th and 5th Proofs for God’s Existence (Part 9)

God-delusionYesterday, we looked at how Richard Dawkins failed to understand Thomas Aquinas’ first three “proofs” for the existence of God. Instead of even attempting to understand them, Dawkins simply dismissed them as “vacuous.” As we continue on with Aquinas’ final two “proofs,” we will see Dawkins’ dismissive reaction and inability to understand are on display once again. To get a jump on things, though, let’s first take a look at Thomas Aquinas’ fourth “proof”: that of the Argument from the Grades (or Degrees) of Perfection.

Aquinas’ Proof from the Grades of Perfection
Aquinas’ fourth proof involves what he calls “grades of perfection,” particularly in terms of transcendental values such as goodness, and justice. This argument is actually very similar to the argument regarding the moral law C.S. Lewis puts forth in Mere Christianity. Simply put, this argument starts with the acknowledgment that we constantly evaluate people and events on a moral scale.

For example, for all the immoral behavior in America today, America is still most certainly more moral than the Nazis. Compare me to Saint Francis of Assisi, I’m pretty sure I’ll come out looking pretty bad; compare me to a Charlie Sheen, I come out smelling like roses. And so, whenever we compare moralities along these lines, what we are actually doing is comparing them to some accepted standard of perfection. Therefore, Aquinas argues that “there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest, and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being” (Summa Theologica 1.2.3).

That being said, we would be mistaken if we assumed that Aquinas envisioned God as some sort of Platonic Form. After all, Plato’s forms were pure unchanging abstractions that were completely distinct from the particulars of the created order. If one thing is certain when one reads the Bible, it is this: God is certainly involved with His creation. So, rather than viewing God as some abstract standard, Aquinas proposes that we view his proof in light of God’s participation in the natural order. Perhaps an illustration from the natural world will help.

Think about how the basic elements of life like water and sunlight are “taken in” by plants to aid them in the higher form of plant life. Then think how plants are often eaten and “taken in” by animals to aid them in the higher form of animal life. And then think about how various animals are often eaten and “taken in” (along with various fruits, grains, and vegetables) by human beings to aid them in the higher form of human life. At each step of the way, the lower form of biological life participates in the development and maintenance of the higher form of life. Or to put it another way, the higher form of life incorporates the lower form of life into its own, and thus further perfects it. (This is also something C.S. Lewis talks about in Mere Christianity).

Aquinas thus argues that, just as this is true on the biological level, it is also true when it comes to transcendent values. Every time someone participates in a good, truthful, or noble act—no matter how great or small—that person is, in fact, pointing beyond his own particular good, truthful, or noble act to some higher form/degree of goodness, truthfulness or nobility. Therefore, any value within human morality, by virtue of its being inherently relational and participatory (i.e. “justice” only can be achieved when there is a relationship between two or more people), inevitably points toward and participates in a higher degree of virtue, of participatory moral perfection. This, Aquinas argues, points to the existence of God.

Dawkins’ Reaction to Aquinas’ Fourth Proof
It goes without saying that if your knowledge of Aquinas depended solely on what Dawkins puts forth, then you would have absolutely no knowledge of Aquinas, for Dawkins feels no need to put forth any useful information. Instead of actually discussing Aquinas’ fourth proof, Dawkins, once again, dismisses and mocks it out of hand, along with C.S. Lewis’ argument regarding a standard of right and wrong. He writes:

“That’s an argument? You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God” (102).

To be kind, this can hardly be considered a thoughtful or well-reasoned critique of Aquinas. One would expect such a reply from perhaps a cocky know-it-all high school sophomore, but hardly from a supposedly well-respected micro-biologist. Both Aquinas’s proof and Lewis’ argument are very thought-provoking. It is true that every single culture in the world has a basic standard of morality that is pretty much universal. “Morality” is a uniquely human phenomenon—where did it come from?

Dawkins, though, doesn’t even address the actual argument. Instead, he chooses to equate the idea of transcendent values and morality with body odor. Apparently he doesn’t know the difference, so let’s spell it out. Body odor emanates from a variety of biological functions within the human body and can be scientifically explained. It is a bodily function that we have no control over—it happens without our choosing it to happen. Morality, on the other hand, doesn’t just “happen.” Moral (or immoral) choices are completely subject to a person’s will. If someone walks up to a person at Starbucks and shoots him in the heart and kills him, we say that that person committed murder—an immoral act. It didn’t just “happen”—he chose to do it, and because it was wrong, he must suffer the consequences.

Given that reality, we must ask, “Where did we get this sense of morality from?” It certainly is not simply biological, as if a man who committed murder and a man who forgot to put on his deodorant one day are the equivalent of each other. To say such a thing would be ridiculous—yet here is Richard Dawkins, saying that very thing. He isn’t just comparing apples and oranges—he’s trying to compare apples with something akin to poetry. He might as well say, “How can you say apples taste ‘good?’ It’s so obvious that Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ is a metaphor for modern society’s loss of faith!”

Does that make sense? Of course not—neither does Dawkins’ critique of Aquinas’ fourth proof. Let’s now learn about Aquinas’ fifth “proof”: Finality.

Aquinas’ Proof from Finality
Thomas AquinasPerhaps Aquinas’ most important argument for the existence of God is his teleological argument. In its most simplest terms, Aquinas’ teleological argument is that all things in the natural world are goal-directed and thus have a purpose. Just as an archer shoots an arrow at a target, all things in nature are directed toward a final end, namely God. Or as Aquinas himself says, “Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God” (Summa Theologica 1.2.3).

Simply put, everything done has an effect and purpose. The very concept of “purpose,” though, denotes some sort of intelligence, for it seeks to understand why something happened. Why did Oswald kill Kennedy? Why did Al-Qaeda fly planes into the twin towers? Why? That is a question intelligent beings ask, because “purpose” is something intelligent beings know exist. Indeed, nothing in the universe at all can be explained or truly understood without this concept of purpose. As Edward Fesser has stated, “…it is impossible for anything to be directed towards an end unless that end exists in an intellect which directs the thing in question towards it. It follows that the system of ends or final causes that make up the physical universe can only exist at all if there is a Supreme Intelligence or intellect outside the universe which directs things towards their ends” (117).

Dawkins’ Rejection of Aquinas’ Fifth Proof
The reason why Aquinas’ teleological argument regarding final causes has been discarded by modern philosophers and many in the scientific world today is that it argues that meaning and purpose in the world point toward the reality and existence of God. Yet ever since the so-called Enlightenment, the Christian worldview that was responsible for the resurrection of Europe and the explosion of arts, literature, architecture and scientific inquiry, has faced a violent assault by the worldview of philosophical naturalism, that starts with the presupposition that there is no God and that the natural world comprises the entirety of reality. Simply put, philosophical naturalism states, “If it cannot be scientifically tested and analyzed, then it cannot exist.” This, is the very worldview of Richard Dawkins—he is a philosophical naturalist.

Therefore, when it comes to explaining creation of the natural world, those like Dawkins who hold to philosophical naturalism (i.e. atheism) try to argue that the theory of evolution “proves” atheism. Dawkins writes, “Thanks to Darwin, it is no longer true to say that nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Evolution by natural selection produces an excellent simulacrum of design, mounting prodigious heights of complexity and elegance” (103).

Of course, Dawkins’ claim is rather problematic. First of all, a description of the process of something does not disprove the idea that someone or something put that process in effect. If Dawkins described and explained all the inner workings of a clock and the process that went into building the clock, that still would not “disprove” the existence of a clock maker. Granted, it would not necessarily “prove” the existence of one either. But the point is this: one (i.e. the description of a process) does not negate the other (i.e. a Creator God).

Secondly, note how Dawkins describes evolution: “an excellent simulacrum of design,” and “mounting prodigious heights of complexity and elegance.” The very way in which Dawkins describes evolution, in and of itself, lends credence to what Aquinas is arguing in his fifth proof. Dawkins’ description takes the reader to a point recognizing a certain purpose and meaning of the created order. To say something is “complex” and “elegant” is to say that thing, in fact, has meaning.

Ironically, atheists like Dawkins go even further and argue that morality itself is simply the result of atheistic evolutionary forces. Or even more simply put: it was blind chance that brought about natural life, and it was blind chance that brought about morality. Evolution, they claim, explains both biological life and human morality.

Of course, the problem with that explanation is that it is, after all, an explanation—and by virtue of being an explanation, it is attempting to prove something and therefore  provide meaning to a certain phenomenon. That action of “proving something” and “providing meaning” is in and of itself evidence of intelligence and purpose—the very thing that philosophical naturalism utterly rejects. Therefore to try to give a convincing argument that the universe is purposeless, meaningless, and the result of random, blind forces, is to do something that you are arguing doesn’t exist—namely give a purposeful, meaningful, intentional explanation for the way things are. The point is simple: nothing in the universe makes sense without the existence of final causes.

We will now leave Dawkins’ failed attempts to discredit Aquinas, and move on to other things in The God Delusion.

Richard Dawkins’ Failed Critique of Thomas Aquinas (Part 8)

Richard Dawkins’ Failed Critique of Thomas Aquinas (Part 8)

“Proving” the existence of God in any rationalistic, scientific sense is going to be a futile endeavor. The reason why is, not because God doesn’t exist, but rather because He is ultimately beyond our limited rational capabilities, and is ultimately beyond nature. “Evidences” for God’s existence taken from the natural world, therefore, are always going to be inferred. If anything, arguments for the existence of God can best be understood as arguments for the possibility of the existence of God.

God-delusionThat being said, in Dawkins’ next chapter, “Arguments for God’s Existence,” he critiques the traditional arguments past philosophers and theologians have put forth for the existence of God. As we will see, Dawkins’ take on all these arguments is rather dismissive. He does a very poor job at even understanding what the arguments are saying. All he does is first set up materialistic science as the only valid method of ascertaining truth, and then discount out of hand all other methods of theology and philosophy on the basis that they’re not materialistic science. By doing this, all Dawkins has really proved is that he hasn’t really addressed the philosophical arguments on their own merits.

Dawkins Disses on Thomas Aquinas—Arguments 1-3
Dawkins’ first target is Thomas Aquinas and his five “proofs” for God. Now, Thomas Aquinas is considered to be one of the most brilliant medieval philosophers of all time. His Summa Theologica is still considered possibly the most robust and insightful work of theology ever written. Richard Dawkins the scientist, though, makes it quite clear how little he thinks of Aquinas. The problem with Dawkins’ analysis of Aquinas is that Dawkins clearly knows nothing of the philosophy Aquinas is using in order to make his arguments. Therefore, Dawkins’ “take down” of Aquinas is only convincing if one knows nothing of Aquinas, and just takes Dawkins’ word for it.

For example, Dawkins dismisses out of hand Aquinas’ first three “proofs” for the existence of God (The Unmoved Mover, The Uncaused Cause, and The Cosmological Argument) as “vacuous,” and says, “All three of these arguments rely upon the idea of a regress and invoke God to terminate it. They make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress” (101). Do you understand that? Probably not. Why? Because not only does Dawkins not explain what Aquinas was actually arguing, but he, in fact, misrepresents what Aquinas was actually arguing.

Basically, what Dawkins is saying is this: “Aquinas says, ‘Everything in nature has a cause  and comes from somewhere’ (i.e. a baby comes from its parents, who come from their parents, etc.); therefore his entire argument is, ‘Everything has to come from some ultimate cause—God!’ Therefore, Aquinas’ ‘proof’ is vacuous, because who caused God?”

And Dawkins the scientist thinks he has made mincemeat out of the greatest Catholic theologian in history—how easy. That just shows how unintelligent Christianity is.

There’s only one problem: that’s not Aquinas’ argument. Dawkins doesn’t even understand it correctly in the first place. So, what do you say? Are you up for a brief lesson in Aquinas?

Thomas Aquinas 101
Thomas AquinasWhat Thomas Aquinas is most famous for is incorporating Aristotelian philosophy as a means to explain Christian theology. If you will, he “Christianized” Aristotle. Now, one of the things that Aquinas did was show just how far human reason could take one in one’s search for God. Aristotle had argued that one could learn about universals in the world of forms by studying the particulars in the natural world. In his “Christianizing” of Aristotle, Aquinas showed just how much the natural world could, in fact, tell us about God.

By doing so, many people like Schaeffer have accused Aquinas of splitting reality into two spheres: the “upper level” of the spiritual world, with its concepts of God, heaven, the unseen, and grace, that can only be arrived at by faith, and the “lower level” of the natural world, with the visible, created, physical order that can be analyzed and measured. Of course, such accusations are misleading—there had been philosophical debates between Plato and Aristotle for 1,500 years. In the Nicene Creed, one of the first statements of faith is “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” Clearly there was an understanding of the two aspects of reality.

Aquinas argued that logic and reason where unique aspects of human beings who were made in God’s image. Therefore, even though human beings are sinful and fallen, their capacity for reason and logic are still gifts from God and can still aid human beings in their search for God. A sinful person, therefore, because he is made in God’s image, can still use his God-given reason to look at the God-created natural world and thus come to a better understanding of God. Human reason is never autonomous—it is a gift of God, and can therefore help lead human beings back to God. And inversely, if one rejects God, that person is without excuse, just as Paul says in Romans 1:20: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.”

Aquinas’ Philosophy
One part of Aristotle that Aquinas builds from is Aristotle’s concepts of actuality and potentiality. Using these concepts, Aquinas argues that there is no potentiality in God, and that God, therefore, is full actuality, meaning Another part of Aristotle that Aquinas builds from is Aristotle’s claim that everything in nature is a composite of both form and matter—a concept known as hylemorphism. Aquinas argued that although this is true for material substances, that it was possible to have immaterial substances of pure form, without matter—for example, God and other spiritual realities (again, consider the Nicene Creed that states that God, the Father Almighty, is the creator of all things visible and invisible).

Yet when it comes to the natural world, everything is a composite of form and matter. The perfection of this combination of form and matter is what Aquinas calls the essence of a particular thing in nature: what a thing is meant to be is its essence. Of course, taking human beings for example, no human being is perfectly what he/she should be—in our current state (our present existence) we are not yet what we are meant to be (essence). Aquinas said that the reason for this is that because of sin the material world has not yet been fully redeemed. We know this because there is still potentiality in nature—things are still in a state of becoming; and thus this means that all of creation has not yet been fully actualized (i.e. redeemed).

By contrast, there is no potentiality in God, because He is fully actualized and fully real. He is pure Spirit, and thus is not material, for to be material is to have potential and be susceptible to change. But human beings…that is another matter. We are in process of becoming; we are not yet fully actualized; our matter is “in potency” and it is our form actualizes our matter.

Therefore, Aquinas argued that goodness is conformity to the essence of a thing—in other words, you are doing what is “good” when you are doing something that conforms to your essence, who God created you to be. By contrast, evil is the absence of the good. This leads to another observation of Aquinas: if goodness actually is what conforms to one’s essence, and one’s essence is that which is fully real, then goodness conforms to what is really real; but evil, being the absence of the good, is ultimately unreality. It cannot have being in and of itself, because existence, being created by God, is ultimately good—existence is what is real.

Like Plato and Aristotle before him, and indeed like virtually most philosophers up to that point in time, Aquinas viewed the purpose for wisdom and knowledge as the search for the ultimate causes and meaning of things. Both the study of the natural world and the intellectual inquiry of philosophy were only worthwhile if they pointed toward God and helped human beings better themselves as they searched for God.

If all that has gotten your head spinning, hold on. We’ll now look at the first couple of Aquinas’ “proofs” for the existence of God. They all stem from the Aristotelian idea that one can look at the reality of nature and existence and derive a logical argument for the existence of a God.

Proof from Motion (Or the “Unmoved Mover”)
Contrary to what Dawkins would have you believe, this argument does have anything to do with literally moving from point A to B, like a car travelling from Chicago to New York. Rather, “motion” needs to be understood in terms of change. Aquinas argued that the very fact that things in the natural world undergo change points to the existence of God. As stated earlier, this has to do with the concepts of potentiality and actuality. Simply put, Aquinas argued that nothing can undergo change unless it is “put in motion” by another. For example, a car engine has the potential to run so that the car can leave Chicago and go to New York, but it can’t turn on itself. It’s potential must be “turned on” by someone or something else. This is true with everything: change doesn’t happen by itself; it must be initiated by something other than itself. Or as Aquinas said, “Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another” (ST 1.2.3).

Yet if that is the case, how did change ever begin in the first place? Enter God. Aquinas argued, “…it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God” (ST 1.2.3). By arguing for a “first mover,” Aquinas was not talking in terms of the order of time, as if God, way back when, created the universe, wound it up like a clock, and then set it in motion with all the change inherent in nature. Aquinas was talking, not in terms of time, but in terms of being. God was not “first in time,” for God was, in fact, outside of time. Rather, God is first in terms of being and existence. He is “pure actuality,” without any potentiality, and is thus the basis for all existence and change in nature.

This is extremely important to understand, for this is the very point Dawkins is wrong. Aquinas is not claiming that God is the first cause of everything in some sort of space-time sense, for to claim that would be, in fact, reducing God to a mere something else in the universe. Aquinas is not even arguing for “how the universe began.” For Aquinas, even if the universe itself is eternal, the fact is that things within the universe cannot cause themselves or undergo change themselves. Therefore, whoever or whatever is initiating those “causes,” whoever or whatever is “causing” things to change must be what we call God. But to fully grasp this would mean to understand what Aquinas means by “actuality” and “potentiality.” Here’s that in a nutshell:

Here’s An Example: Be Prepared to Have Your Mind Blown
Everything in the universe is some combination of “actuality” (i.e. what we are) and “potentiality” (i.e. what we can become, change into). For example, back in 1981, 12 year old Joel Anderson was 12 year old Joel Anderson, but with the potential to eventually become 46 year old Joel Anderson. And lo and behold, here in 2016, due to time, societal and cultural factors, and basic growth and maturity—here I am, the 46 year old Joel Anderson! But then here’s the thing that will really bend your mind: both the 12 year old and the 46 year old is still the same Joel Anderson! And I’m not yet the 80 year old Joel Anderson that I have the potential to be, but given various factors, I will one day be that 80 year old Joel Anderson while still being the same Joel Anderson!

And so, everything in the universe undergoes change because everything in the universe is a combination of “actuality” and “potentiality”—that change, therefore, is the process in which we are becoming who we are. But since we cannot cause our own change, our becoming must be caused by someone or something else—but that someone or something else must be pure actuality, without any potentiality. That someone or something else is the “First Cause,” the Ultimate Reality, a being who is pure actuality, in whom no change can occur because He is already fully who He is. Biblically speaking, that “someone” is God—the Great I AM. All reality, and all potentiality within creation, is rooted in that Being, that First Cause, who brings everything into being.

Proof from Causality (Or “The Uncaused Cause”)
With that, let’s look at Aquinas’ second “proof.” The proof from causality will sound very similar to the proof from motion. In many ways, they actually overlap. Yet whereas the proof from motion addressed the question as to why things change, the proof from causality addressed the question as to why things exist at all. The philosophical term Aquinas used was “cause,” and he distinguished between ultimate causes, intermediate causes, and first causes. He argued that without a first cause, there would not be an intermediate cause, and there would not be an ultimate cause. But we need an example to flesh this out.

Let’s say Bob and Betty get married and have a son, Bill—that will be considered the “first cause” that produced Bill. Bill then grows up and goes to college and gets a degree—this will be considered the “intermediate cause” that gave Bill the knowledge to launch a career. Eventually, Bill, being the genius that he is, creates a new supercomputer that puts all other computers to shame—this is the “ultimate cause.” Aquinas would say that Bill’s supercomputer would have never come into existence in the first place if he had not gone to college, and he would have never gone to college if it had not ultimately been for his parents who got frisky one night and conceived Bill.

Hence, everything and everyone gets its existence from another. Just like there is always a cause that invokes change in something that exists, there is also always a cause that invokes existence in the first place. Without a first cause, there wouldn’t be any intermediate or ultimate causes. And so, since such a thing could not regress to infinity, “…it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which every give the name of God” (ST 1.2.3).

Again, as with the proof from motion, Aquinas is not talking about a first cause in terms of time. He was no deist who viewed God as a cosmic watchmaker who caused existence, wound it up with natural laws, and then left it to its own devices. Simply put, existence is not a one-time thing; existence is a continuous reality. Therefore, Aquinas’ argument for God here is that just as God is the basis for all change, He is also the basis for all existence—here and now, on a continual basis, not back then and there. Aquinas’ argument basically is that God is the sustainer of all existence throughout time.

Edward Fesser, the writer from whom I got most of this information on Aquinas,  provides a good illustration on this point: “…for Aquinas, the claim that God made the world ‘is more like the minstrel made music than the blacksmith made a shoe;’ that is to say, creation is an ongoing activity rather than a once-and-for-all event” (88).

Conclusion
I could go on about Aquinas’ third proof, but I think the brief explanation of the first two will suffice in my argument about Richard Dawkins. Dawkins dismisses out of hand Aquinas’ first three proofs, but he gives no indication that he even knows what Aquinas was talking about. In fact, Dawkins’ assumption that Aquinas was talking about God being the first in regards to time, within the space-time continuum of the natural world, shows that he has positively has misrepresented Aquinas’ arguments.

Simply put, Dawkins’ dismissiveness stems from a willful ignorance of the very thing he is dismissing. Tomorrow, we will continue in our analysis of the shortcomings of Dawkins’ analysis of Aquinas’ next two proofs for the existence of God.

Richard Dawkins: “I’m a Scientist! I’m Qualified to Speak Authoritatively on Religion!” (Part 7)

Richard Dawkins: “I’m a Scientist! I’m Qualified to Speak Authoritatively on Religion!” (Part 7)

God-delusion

Dawkins is Blinded by Science?
Near the end of Dawkins’ second chapter in The God Delusion, he reveals what I believe to be a fundamental problem with his entire book: his inability to see the difference between science and religion. He states:

“Why shouldn’t we comment on God, as scientists? Any why isn’t Russell’s teapot, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, equally immune from scientific skepticism? As I shall argue in a moment, a universe with a creative superintendent would be a very different kind of universe from one without. Why is that not a scientific matter?” (78)

Now, no one is saying Dawkins can’t comment on God. The problem is that he believes that since he is a scientist that that somehow qualifies him to speak authoritatively on religion. His problem is that he thinks that all religion is doing is making objective, scientific claims about the universe—and therefore, since he is a scientist, he can comment on religion.

Of course, “religion,” or Christianity more specifically—or even more specifically, the Bible—is not primarily concerned with making “scientific claims.” Furthermore, Christianity isn’t trying to “prove” the existence of God as part of the natural world. Christianity teaches that God is beyond the natural world, and is not part of it—that point alone renders Dawkins’ scientific credentials irrelevant, for science deals with examining the natural world.

If you want to say it this way: Christianity is making metaphysical claims that are derived from historical events. But Christianity is not “doing science.” That is why Dawkins’ comments are so shocking: he apparently doesn’t even understand what the job of science is. This can be seen when he takes issue with the claims of even other scientists who say that science can only answer the “how” questions of the natural world, but that theology seeks to answer the “why” questions. Dawkins asks, “What expertise can theologians bring to deep cosmological questions that scientists cannot?” (79).

That’s an easy question to answer: theologians aren’t attempting to answer cosmological questions. Theologians start with the presupposition that a “God” exists and has interacted in some way with humanity, just as Dawkins starts out with the presupposition that there is no God and therefore there couldn’t possibly be any interaction in the first place. In any case, theologians study the texts that claim to be a witness to that interaction. Now, if such texts really are a witness to God’s interaction with humanity, then theologians are certainly in a better position than scientists to discuss theological matters, because theologians have studied the texts.

So when Dawkins asks, “Why are scientists so cravenly respectful towards the ambitions of theologians, over questions that theologians are certainly no more qualified to answer than scientists themselves?” (80), the answer is obvious: theologians are more qualified in their field, just as a biologist is more qualified to discuss biology than an artist. Dawkins objection is therefore just as nonsensical as if an artist said, “Why can’t my opinions on biology be just as accepted as those of a biologist? After all, I can paint!”

Dawkins Doesn’t See the Purpose…of Purpose
Dawkins’ next comments prove to be very revealing: “It is a tedious cliché (and, unlike many clichés, it isn’t even true) that science concerns itself with the ‘how’ questions, but only theology is equipped to answer ‘why’ questions. What on earth is a ‘why’ question?” (80). The very fact that he doesn’t even know what a “why” question is should tell us something about his view of the universe. “Why” questions are questions that deal with purpose and meaning—but obviously Dawkins does not believe there is purpose and meaning in the universe. But if that is the case, then why is he so fanatical in his crusade against religion? If he does not believe that the universe has any ultimate meaning or purpose, then his personal views of purpose and meaning are just as meaningless as those religious views he seeks to destroy.

Dawkins poses another question: “Perhaps there are some genuinely profound and meaningful questions that are forever beyond the reach of science. …But if science cannot answer some ultimate question, what makes anybody think that religion can?” (80). If you think about this statement, it should be quite shocking. Dawkins clearly believes that the only way to ascertain reality and find meaning is through science. Such a view automatically discounts not only religious faith, but also all poetry, music, art, and human creative expression. For science cannot quantify or dissect any of these, but not only are they part of reality, but these are the things that give life a sense of purpose and meaning. By holding to the notion that science is the “be-all-end-all” of reality, Dawkins actually discards the very part of reality that makes us human.

Ah, the Good Ole “Creation vs. Evolution” Canard
If Ken Ham obscures any clear thinking about the “creation/evolution debate” from one end of the spectrum, Richard Dawkins is just as guilty of such obfuscation on the other end of the spectrum. Indeed, when it gets right down to it, his ultimate goal is to show that evolution proves atheism and discounts religion, specifically Christianity. In the process of trying to make that case, though, he ends up making some quite startling claims. At one point in his book he says,

“A universe in which we are alone except for other slowly evolved intelligences is a very different universe from one with an original guiding agent whose intelligent design is responsible for its very existence.” (85)

Let me just ask a simple question: how does Dawkins know that a universe with a Creator God would be vastly different than a universe that contained creatures that evolved over time? He never addresses this. I’m assuming he would say, “If there was a God, then the universe would be ‘perfect.’ There would be no need for thing to evolve—He would have just made everything perfect.” To that, I would have to say, “Congratulations, you’ve proven yourself to be Ken Ham’s doppelganger once again.”

Both men assume that God would have had to have created everything “perfect” all at once, right from the very beginning. If you read my posts on the early Church Father Irenaeus, you will find out that such assumption was not the view of the early Church. Both Ham and Dawkins are basing their arguments on an assumption about God and His creation that simply was not held in the early Church as far back as the 2nd century.

For that matter, how does he account for the growing number of Christian scientists like Francis Collins, Kenneth Miller, and the Biologos Foundation who argue that there is no contradiction between believing in evolution and still being a Christian? These highly credentialed and respected scientists argue, in fact, that this universe is both the work of God and a product of evolution. This universe really is big enough for both ideas.

Dawkins, the Pope, and Evolution
In any case, another frustrating thing about Dawkins is his “I’ll damn you if you do, I’ll damn you if you don’t” mentality when it comes to Christianity. Take for instance a few years ago when Pope John Paul II openly endorsed Darwinism—the Catholic POPE declared that the biological theory of evolution did not, in fact, contradict Christianity. One would think that Dawkins would stand up, applaud, and say, “I’m so glad to see Christians are starting to come around on this topic!” But no—instead of applauding, Dawkins actually found a way to twist it into another condemnation of Christianity. Dawkins included Michael Russe’s comments about his reaction:

“When John Paul II wrote a letter endorsing Darwinism, Richard Dawkins’s response was simply that the pope was a hypocrite, and that he could not be genuine about science and that Dawkins himself simply preferred an honest fundamentalist.” (92)

It is simply amazing to me that, from one side of his mouth Dawkins can say, “You Christians are idiots for not accepting evolution!” and then from the other side of his mouth he can also say, “You Christians are hypocrites if you accept evolution!” It seems to me that Dawkins’ response reveals that he is not so much interested in truth than he is interested in destroying faith at all costs.

Yet there is one more thing Dawkins’ response reveals about him: he simply has no understanding regarding what Christianity is even about.  Pope John Paul II’s statement should have made it perfectly clear that the whole “creation/evolution” debate ultimately is irrelevant when it comes to the heart and soul of the Christian faith. Nowhere in the Old Testament  does it ever say, “God entered into a covenant with Abraham so He could prove he really created the world.” Nowhere in the New Testament do we ever find, “Jesus came, died on a cross, and rose again so he could disprove Darwinian theory.”

Dawkins Ham

While it is true that the Evangelical community in America has traditionally opposed evolution the fact is that when it comes to worldwide Christianity, they are in the minority. Evolution, properly understood, is accepted within Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and a majority of Protestantism. It is only a small sliver of worldwide Christianity that opposes it. Yet, that is the group Dawkins seems to believe represents historical Christianity.

Let’s be clear: Richard Dawkins has more in common with young creationist Ken Ham than he would like to admit. Both men present the “creation vs. evolution debate” as the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and both men are completely wrong. Both men are a threat to clear thinking.

Richard Dawkins on Islam and Christianity (Part 6)

Richard Dawkins on Islam and Christianity (Part 6)

RDawkins

In addition to criticizing both Judaism and Christianity, Richard Dawkins also takes the time to criticize Islam. Dawkins first correctly points out that Islam was spread by the sword from the very beginning. One may quibble about to what extent, and whether or not Islam is a religion of peace—that is not what I want to comment on. For that matter, at the very least, it is acknowledged that Muhammad was a military commander, and that fighting and war has been around in Islam from the beginning—justified or not, it was most certainly there.

Christianity, Islam…Ob La Di, Ob La Da?
What I want to focus on is Dawkins’ attempt to equate the spread of Christianity with the spread of Islam. He writes:

“Christianity, too, was spread by the sword, wielded first by Roman hands after the Emperor Constantine raised it from eccentric cult to official religion, then by the Crusaders, and later by the Conquistadors and other European invaders and colonists, with missionary accompaniment.” (58)

This charge, around since the dawn of the Enlightenment, is simply not true. It relies on a scant knowledge of history and propensity to believe anything. Let’s clarify the differences between the spread of Islam and the spread of Christianity.

First off, Muhammad died in 632 AD. Within one year of his death his followers had engaged in a bloody civil war with each other. Within 25 years (657 AD) Islam had been established, via military conquest, as far north as Syria. Within a mere 100 years (732 AD), the Islamic empire had reached as far as Spain, via…you guessed it…through military expansion. There is no doubt at all that Islam really was “spread by the sword.”

The spread of Christianity, on the other hand, followed a much different arch. It had survived for 300 years as a persecuted minority religion within the Roman Empire. By the time Constantine rose to power and had become a Christian, probably anywhere between 10-20% of the population was Christian. By 350 AD, no doubt because of imperial backing, approximately 56% of the population was Christian. But the fact is that Constantine did not persecute pagans and he did not “spread Christianity by the sword.” All he did was make it illegal to persecute Christians (or anyone, for that matter, on the basis of their religious beliefs). Yes, he gave imperial funds to the churches so they could build churches and extend their charitable efforts, but the basic historical fact is that Constantine did not spread Christianity by the sword—he did not force pagans to convert or die. What Dawkins is claiming is historically not true.

For that matter, the Crusades were not an attempt to “spread Christianity.” They were, in fact, primarily a European reaction to Muslim aggression and attempt to regain the Holy Land so that European Christians could go on their pilgrimages in safety. By the time they started around 1100 AD, Europe had been on the defensive for 400 years, while Muslim armies had tried to advance into Europe. This is not to say the Crusades were “good” by any means, but one thing is for sure: they weren’t an attempt to “spread the Gospel via the sword.”

The same holds true even for the Conquistadors—they were simply interested in gold and conquest for Spain. In fact, that missionaries came over to the new world often saw what the Conquistadores were doing and actually spoke out against the brutality of the European military might. Now of course there were some “religious people” who supported such barbarism, but the fact is what Dawkins claims is simply not true. It is historical revisionism, pure and simple.

What Kind of God Does Dawkins Deem Worthy?
There is one kind of “god” that Dawkins seems to think worthy of worship, although it certainly isn’t the biblical God. He write:

“Compared with the Old Testament’s psychotic delinquent, the deist God of the 18th-century Enlightenment is an altogether grander being: worthy of his cosmic creation, loftily unconcerned with human affairs, sublimely aloof from our private thoughts and hopes, caring nothing for our messy sins or mumbled contritions.” (59)

I find this quote by Dawkins to be truly astounding. Never mind the blatant name-calling, let’s just consider the fact that for Dawkins, the only kind of God worthy of consideration and worship is one who is unconcerned and aloof about His creation. The grand and worthy “god” of Dawkins is one who doesn’t care.

I think the real reason Dawkins likes the deist god isn’t so much that the deist god is unconcerned with human beings, but rather that a deist god is a being of which Dawkins doesn’t have to be concerned about. Deism, for all practical purposes, is atheism for arrogant philosophers who are still too cowardly to be like Nietzsche and take their atheism to its logical conclusion. It gives a brief “tip of the hat” to “God,” but then picks His pockets to retain some sense of “Christian morality.”

Dawkins and the Founding Fathers of the United States
Dawkins then proceed to discuss the founding fathers of America. While acknowledging many of them were, in fact, deists, Dawkins just can’t help from refraining in idle speculation: when he writes, “Certainly their writings on religion in their own time leave me no doubt that most of them would have been atheists in ours” (60). A few pages later, Dawkins speculates on the 535 present members of Congress as well: “…it is statistically all but inevitable that a substantial number of them must be atheists. They must have lied, or concealed their true feelings, in order to get elected. Who can blame them, given the electorate they had to convince? It is universally accepted that an admission of atheism would be instant political suicide for any presidential candidate.” (67)

Think about what Dawkins has said. Apparently, he thinks he can traverse both space and time and then look into the very hearts of the early founding fathers of America (as well as the present members of Congress) and determine that, although they said they believed in God—even a deist god—that they really were atheists. This is very much akin to how Ken Ham often frames his arguments: he throws out speculation, and then turns around and uses that speculation as “evidence” for his argument. It is a shell game, pure and simple.

Now, Dawkins does correctly say that the United States was not “founded as a Christian nation.” It was meant to be a secular state. We must remember, though, that this does not mean it was to be an irreligious state. “Secular” in the sense that the founding fathers wanted  simply meant that there is the freedom in the United States to practice whichever religion you believe to be true, and that you cannot compel someone else to follow your own religion.

Simply put, in the United States, all religions have an equal footing in public discourse. It is ironic, therefore, when Dawkins notes that the United States, having been founded on secularism, is the most religious country in the Western world, whereas England, who has the king as the official head of the established church, is one of the least religious countries. “Why is that the case?” Dawkins wonders. The answer is simple: when people are given the freedom to pursue faith, they do. By contrast, when religious faith is forced upon them, they reject it.

Religion in America
In any case, in his discussion about the religious life in America, Dawkins continues with a certain amount of flourish, but with a lack of historical accuracy:

“The genie of religious fanaticism is rampant in present-day America, and the Founding Fathers would have been horrified. Whether or not it is right to embrace the paradox and blame the secular constitution that they devised, the founders most certainly were secularists who believed in keeping religion out of politics, and that is enough to place them firmly on the side of those who object, for example, to ostentatious displays of the Ten Commandments in government-owned public places. (63)

We need to be clear: the founders did not want to “keep religion out of politics.” They wanted to prevent any one religious denomination or faith from exclusively dictating political policy and exercising political power to persecute any other opposing faith or denomination. There is a huge difference between not wanting the government to force a particular faith or denomination on the populace (which is what the founders were getting at), and not wanting religion or religious belief to play any part in politics (which is what the founders were not getting at). Even Jefferson, who clearly often ridiculed the institutionalized church, would have ever dreamed of barring believers from the public square of ideas.

As for Dawkins’ claim that the founders would have been horrified and object to displays like the Ten Commandments in government-owned public places, he apparently has never been to the Supreme Court itself, where there is a display of that very thing. In fact, all around Washington D.C. there are “religious displays.” Ever since George Washington was sworn in as the first president, each president is sworn in on a Bible.

There is no other way to say it: what Dawkins is doing is blatantly dishonest. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that he feels free to present rumor and gossip as further “evidence” of his claims. Here’s what he wrote regarding George H.W. Bush:

“All the Founding Fathers, whatever their private religious beliefs, would have been aghast to read the journalist Robert Sherman’s report of George Bush Senior’s answer when Sherman asked him whether he recognized the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists: ‘No, I don’t think that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.’ Assuming Sherman’s account to be accurate (unfortunately he didn’t use a tape-recorder, and no other newspaper ran the story at the time…” (65)

Does this raise any red flags? It should. Let’s get this straight: Dawkins is saying that Sherman said that George H.W. Bush said atheists were not citizens or patriots….oh but there is no actual recording of the conversation to substantiate it. And oh, Robert Sherman is a liberal activist and atheist—there’s certainly no reason whatsoever for him to make something up like that. For someone who rails against “religion” for basing things on no evidence, Dawkins has a strange habit of putting forth as “evidence” that which does not exist.

But let’s hypothetically suppose for a moment that George H.W. Bush did in fact say that, and that what how he really felt. Did he ever pursue a policy to arrest atheists or strip them of their constitutional rights? Did he ever persecute atheists? Did he round them up into ‘Christian concentration camps’?” Of course not.

God-delusion

So why did Dawkins put such an unsubstantiated claim in his book? It’s not because he is trying to tell the truth. It’s because he has an agenda, and ideologues with an agenda can’t be bothered with the facts and the accurate accounting of history.

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