where religion and politics meet

Everyone has a worldview. A worldview is what one believes about life: what is true, what is false, what is right, what is wrong, what are the rules, are there any rules, what is the meaning of life, what is important, what is not.

If a worldview includes a god/God, it is called a religion. If a bunch of people have the same religion, they give it a name.

Countries also have a worldview, a way of looking at life that directs government policies and laws and that contributes significantly to the culture. Ours used to be Christianity. Now it is secularism, which is practical atheism.

Some of us are trying to engage the government, the culture, and the people who live here to see life again from a Christian perspective and to show how secularism is both inadequate and just plain wrong.

A religion is not a culture, though it creates one. It is not what you prefer, like your taste in music or your favorite movie. It is what you believe to be true. Because it deals with things like God, much of its contents is not subject to the scientific method, but the reasons why one chooses to believe in God or a particular religion certainly demand serious investigation and critical thinking.

Every human being has the duty to search for and learn the truth about life. Education and science used to be valuable tools in this search, but science has chosen to answer the foundational questions without accepting the possibility of any supernatural causes, and education no longer considers the search to be necessary or worthwhile.

poligion: 1) the proper synthesis of religion and politics 2) the realization, belief, or position that politics and religion cannot be separated or compartmentalized, that a person’s religion invariably affects one’s political decisions and that political decisions invariably stem from one’s worldview, which is what a religion is.

If you are new to this site, I would encourage you to browse through the older articles. They deal with a lot of the more basic issues,

For now I want to focus my writing now articles specifically addressed to Christians. So most of my new posts will be on my other website listed below. I will continue to write and post short responses to newspaper columns and letters and even other articles as the inspiration hits me.

Visit my other websites theimportanceofhealing blogspot.com where I talk about healing and my book of the same name and LarrysBibleStudies.blogspot.com where I am posting all my other Bible studies. Follow this link to my videos on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-RztuRKdCEQzgbhp52dCw

If you want to contact me, email is best: lacraig1@sbcglobal.net

Thank you.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Response to an Atheist on Evolution

Response to an Atheist on Evolution

In a few generations, Western Civilization has undergone some major changes, the greatest of which has been the rejection of religion, specifically Christianity, in favor of secularism, which is essentially atheism.  This has had a profound impact on, frankly, everything. 
At the core of this change has been the concept of evolution.  Many religious people reject the idea, but they are commonly portrayed as being anti-science or just plain stupid for doing so. 
There is a video on the internet by Joshua Feuerstein attacking evolution, video here, which has gained some traction and was brought to the attention of JT Eberhard, the editor of patheos.com, an atheist online newsletter.  JT (I will use this to refer to Mr. Eberhard just because it’s faster to type) has taken the time to address this video point by point to show where he believes Feuerstein (or, Josh) is in error. link here,
This debate is important for everyone, whether or not they are interested in evolution, because, like I said, this affects everything, including governmental policies, which do affect everybody; morals in society, including but certainly not limited to even killings and crime in general; the movies you see; the books you read; and, well, just about everything.  Are people created in the image of God, endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights, as per the Declaration of Independence, and consequently of enormous intrinsic value,  or did humans evolve from lower forms of life by mutations, and all our rights come from the government?
In this article, I will take the points that Eberhard uses one by one and hopefully add to the conversation in a significant way to warrant the time you take to read this.  Do you need to watch the video or read the original article to make sense of this article?  I don’t think so.  The points raise the various issues involved in evolution, and I will address those.
There are a lot of other links in this article as well.  Do you need to look at every one?  No, they are like footnotes, there to show that I am not just making this stuff up.  This subject is important, so please take the time to understand the issues here and what is involved.  The points I list here are the points made in the video that Eberhard then answers.
1.          Evolution was never observed. 
JT makes two points here.  “[I]f being observed directly is your criteria, god should be thrown out immediately along with any stories of him creating the universe.”  People don’t have a problem with evolution because it was “never observed.”  They have a problem with the idea that evolution is standard science, because one of the foundational principles of science is being able to conduct an experiment to prove a hypothesis, and someone across the world can do the same experiment and get the same results.  Critics just don’t see this same level of verifiability in evolution. 
JT then asserts “[b]ut evolution has been observed.”  He cites four examples to prove his point.  The first is from an article in National Geographic here, where five pairs of adult lizards were transplanted to an island that already had lizards.  He calls this a “controlled experiment,” though it appears not..  A war broke out and researchers were not there for an extended period of time, about 30 years. 
The article says that “the new species wiped out the indigenous lizard populations, although how it happened is unknown.”   Of course, nobody knows, because nobody was there.  The most logical reason why is that the various species intermingled.  The researchers were able to show that the remaining lizards descended from the original ones brought there, but would the genetic footprint have been different if they hadn’t intermingled than if they had?  The article doesn’t say.  It also doesn’t say if the original lizards were examined beyond the fact that they were less aggressive than the new ones.
The upshot is that, when the researchers returned to the island, the remaining lizards had some different traits from the original ones brought there, including a new muscle that helped in digestion, which is cited as a proof for evolution.  But apparently the indigenous lizards must have had this valve, because they lived on the same diet, which supposedly was the need for this new valve.  Wouldn’t the mixture of the two species more likely be the source of this new valve? 
The article ends with this: “What could be debated, however, is how those changes are interpreted—whether or not they had a genetic basis and not a "plastic response to the environment," said Hendry, who was not associated with the study.  There's no dispute that major changes to the lizards' digestive tract occurred. "That kind of change is really dramatic," he added.  "All of this might be evolution," Hendry said. "The logical next step would be to confirm the genetic basis for these changes."
So it seems that calling it evolution might be a bit premature.   However, I don’t think anyone, including Josh, would question that living things can adapt up to a point to a changing environment.  Any creationist would say that all the various species of, say, dogs derived from a very few original dogs.  The problem comes when they are asked to believe in the major changes.  
For example, if all life evolved from simpler life forms, how or why did sea creatures develop lungs or land creatures develop gills?  They didn’t need them, and until they were fully developed they would have killed them if they tried to use them. Yet we are supposed to believe that a creature having fully functioning gills would still develop lungs over thousands (?) of generations with nobody guiding the process.
The second link to an example of “observed speciation” in mosquitos did not have any references to evolution that I could see.
The third example concerned a kind of maggot that “spontaneously emerged” in North America in the early 1800s.  Wasn’t this also the time in the history of science when it was believed that maggots spontaneously appeared in dead people?  This ‘spontaneous emergence’ happened long before Darwin’s views on evolution were broadly accepted by the scientific community or even a matter of discussion.  Why is that relevant?  Because there was no perceived need back then to substantiate their findings to prove their case. 
These maggots were associated with apples, which were not native to North America.  When apples were brought to North America, were they all brought over as seeds?  Were no European maggots aboard those ships that sailed for months to the New World?  Were there no European flies on those ships that made the journey that intermingled with home grown flies?  I don’t think the case for evolution is supported with this example.
The fourth cited link refers to a flower that is supposed to show strong evidence of evolution, but you need to be a botanist or at least be strongly scientifically trained to know all the technical terms used in the article. 
But briefly, evolutionists consider any changes in a living thing across a generation as proof of evolution.  Critics of evolution generally are not concerned about this.  They want to know how random, mindless mutations, without intelligence guiding it, can develop eyes, brains, a neurological system, and any of dozens of other intricate systems of the human body.  They want to know how self-reproducing things can randomly, mindlessly develop complementary reproductive systems that work together to create new offspring.  See my article for amplification. article: Is there a God?
No critic of evolution cares about all these ‘examples’ of evolution.  In the end, the lizards were still lizards, the maggots were still maggots, the mosquitoes were still mosquitoes, and the flowers were still flowers.  There are hundreds of kinds of dogs in the world, and many different races of human beings. The only important question is whether dogs or lizards or mosquitoes ever became something else.
Evolutionists seem quite pleased when they find what is considered a transitional species, that bridge between one species and another, which is essential if all life came from simpler forms.  JT notes the discovery of a transitional species  , an extinct fish “with many features akin to those of tetrapods”(four footed animals).
He even wrote a primer on evolution that references quite a few transitional species.  But for a process that is constantly at work with no intelligence guiding it and which produces changes only incrementally, I would expect that after billions of years of life on this planet, every living thing would be in a transitional state, like a city where every building is under construction, no building completed, yet all still inhabitable.
The problem with these ‘transitional species’ is that it gives the impression that they are like book revisions that come out all at once, like 2nd and 3rd editions.  And after a while, they just call it an entirely new book. Rather these incremental microscopic changes across the whole spectrum of genetic coding are as if I were editing this paper by randomly inserting and deleting letters yet expecting that at every stage the article was readable, coherent, and actually improving.
There is no master designer deciding when evolution can take a break, or even when a species is ‘complete.’  There are supposed to be constant changes, and after all these years, every living thing should exhibit these changes in progress.  Yet it looks to the casual observer like all of life has reached a state of equilibrium in that trees seem complete as trees, and human beings look like finished products.  Sure, we could all be smarter and better looking, and we still need a gene to prevent obesity, but nobody looks like the manufacturer is still at work here. 
2.  ”That’s why it’s called the “theory” of evolution.”
Because evolution is usually spoken of as “the theory of evolution,” the question is what that means exactly.    The word ‘theory’ can mean both an unproven assumption, and it can mean a set of principles.  Josh latches onto the fact that evolution is called a theory to assert that science itself admits that this is not yet proven. 
JT debunks Josh by using the other definition.  Actually I think JT goes a little too far with his definition of theory.  He describes “a theory [as] a hypothesis or collection of hypotheses, which has stood up to repeated rigorous testing and passed the test. A theory explains all relevant facts and is contradicted by none.”  Yet the Wikipedia article he refers to here notes that “a scientific theory may be rejected or modified if it does not fit [the] new empirical findings.” 
So science is supposed to always be open to new information leading to new conclusions.  And this is precisely where I would say that science has stepped off the path a little. 
Most people I believe would think of science as the search for truth, the search for answers.  But consider the questions of the origin of the universe, the origin of life, the origin of species, the origin of humans.  A lot of people believe in a God who did all this.  But science is not interested in finding out whether God did it or not.  It works from the assumption that God didn’t do it, and natural causes explain everything. 
So say for the sake of argument that there really is a God.  Science is not interested in knowing that.  It would still insist that everything can and must be explained only by natural causes, even when in fact it wasn’t.  So evolution is ‘proved’ basically because it is the only alternative explanation for things apart from God.  Either God created or nature did it on its own.  Since we automatically rule out the God option, what’s left?  Evolution.  So evolution wins.  [Note: Evolutionists separate the question of the origin of life from the question of evolution, but for now I am just dealing with the larger question of whether everything happened on its own or whether there was a God at work.]
The first question is not how life could have developed by itself but did it?  Science tries to explain how it could have, and if it could have, they assume it must have, and if it must have developed by itself, then God didn’t do it, and therefore there must not be a God. 
Now science will insist that they are not really interested in the God question, that it is not a matter for science, that they are only interested in the physical world.  But they then insist that the physical world is a closed system, that everything in the physical world can and must be explained by physical, or natural, causes, so there is no need for a God or to even bother with the question.  But to go from not seeing any reason or need for God to the conclusion that there is no God is a leap beyond logic or faith, a non sequitur.
I think the average person is not aware of these distinctions and would still see science as in the pursuit of all truth.  So it is essentially giving science a lot more credit than it really deserves.  Science ends up attributing things to mindless actions that we would never expect in regular life.  We know that all the advances in technology, like computers and cars and space travel, have required the accumulation of human knowledge and high levels of education and training, but science insists that given enough time, anything can happen, like human brains. 
The example of flipping a coin was used.  The odds of getting either heads or tails is 50/50.  But if you do it enough, say several billions times, you might or should get 20 heads or tails in a row.  The problem is that, if this is being compared to evolution, you just don’t start counting when you get the 20 in a row.  You don’t even know you are going to get 20 in a row until after you do.  But evolution is never done and never starts with a clean slate.  All the ‘misses’ before that are still there.  All the ‘mistakes’ from the last generation are still there. 
3.  ”One man’s theory.”
The statement is made here that this “theory [is] adopted by virtually every biologist on the planet.”  I think it should be noted that evolutionary concepts are not just the purview of biology, but chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, and a lot more fields that I don’t even know the names of.  But as for that first statement, I think it would be more accurate to say that few biologists would publicly question evolution for fear of losing their job.  There are many scientists who believe their findings show the impossibility of evolution  link, but because these scientists are too closely associated with openly religious people, a lot of people don’t even listen to what they have to say.
4.  ”You want me to believe that out of some accidental cosmic bang was created one cell…”
The video was clearly not made by a scientist here, because it confuses the question of how life began with evolution.  And that is a very serious matter with evolutionists, but I vote to give him some slack here.  For non-scientists, it’s all one big question: did God create the world, including human beings in their present form, or is everything simply the product of natural forces with no intelligence guiding the process? 
He is simply questioning how inert matter, things like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon could suddenly or even slowly join together to form a living thing.  It has been estimated that the value of all the chemicals and elements that make up the human body cost about $1 link..
Now chemicals constantly interact with other chemicals when they come in contact with each other.  But the question is how these chemicals can join to form a living thing, specifically a human being.
Scientists readily admit that the chemical structures in living things today are uniquely complex.  So they propose, no, assert that early life forms had to be really simple, and once that happened, they could then just evolve the rest of the way on their own. 
To explain how this started, or could have started, they give as evidence things like polymers or vesicles here which can both increase in size and divide.  But the increase in size is due to the absorption of available molecules, similar to how a log absorbs water.  The added water is not reconstructed into log but remains water that can just as easily be removed.  The log is dead and remains dead.   And the divisions of the original ‘thing’ is caused by outside sources rather than reproduction.  And another source is cited here which explains more about what could have happened. 
What is clear from these two cited sources is that natural causes are assumed to be responsible for everything.  But this is the assumption of science and not the conclusions.  Things had to evolve and things had to come together to form life, because there is no other explanation that they will allow.  To call it God seems to them to be an excuse for not doing the heavy lifting, like figuring out how it could have happened without God.
So when it is asserted that scientists agree, or the consensus of scientists is, it must be remembered that they are working from the assumption that there are no supernatural forces at work here.  All things can and must be explained in natural terms.  But there is nothing in the natural explanations that shows that it even could have happened apart from supernatural causes.  It is accepted only because any other possibilities have been ruled out from the start.
5.  ”…and that somewhere along the line we all magically developed different will[s] and different traits.”
Josh (the video) finds it hard to believe that from simple life forms complex life forms can emerge. 
The response, amplified in his primer, is:
“Evolution is engineered by the same key forces that generate new order everywhere in our universe without the need for any appeal to god. They are:
1. Mutation.
2. Reproduction.
3. Competition.
That’s it. If you have these three catalysts in place working over time, order and often improved functionality are inevitably the end result. This goes for life on this planet and for the evolution of stellar bodies in galaxies light years beyond it.”
That’s it, folks!  We can all go home now.  There’s nothing more to be seen here.
Mutations are changes in the genetic code when reproduction takes place.  The problem is that since scientists have started studying DNA, the building blocks of life, they have found that mutations are primarily neutral or adverse, such that some scientists, doing the math, see this as showing the upper limit for how long human beings could have been in existence, and frankly the numbers they give are a lot shorter than the numbers commonly taught. link There are just too many genetic errors in each generation.
JT thinks this is all a good thing.  He calls them “birth defects.”  Yet this is supposed to be the driving force that has produced thousands of new species with these incredible features like brains and eyes.  In fact, there aren’t any simple parts in a human being.  Yet again we are supposed to believe that all these errors, given enough time, will make such incredible things.
Reproduction?  The model of reproduction in the vesicles in point 4 was division imposed on them from without, like wind blowing a tree limb off.  Raindrops can be broken into new drops and combine to form larger drops, even rivers, but it is not alive and doesn’t have a program written into its cells that have the blueprint for a new raindrop; and it doesn’t take hydrogen and oxygen from the atmosphere and convert it into water.  Self-replicating molecules are not the same as having this program of reproduction (DNA) written in every cell.
6.  ”…it’s all because we willed it in our heads…”
Slip of the tongue?
7.  ”Everything came from one single cell, how much faith does that take?”
The question here simply is: which requires more faith, believing in God and the Bible or believing in evolution?  Let me quote the article here:
“Very little (see my rebuttal to argument #4), since this does not conflict at all with how we know the universe to work.  By that token it takes infinitely less faith than to believe in things that outright contradict the way we know the universe to work like, say, someone rising from the dead and walking on water.”
The bigger question now becomes: so just how does the universe work, and how do we know?  Evolution sees no problem with believing that complex life forms can come from simpler forms without the intervention of a higher intelligence, because their belief system requires it.  So the universe must work that way, because, since they assume there is no God, there is no other way it could possibly work. 
And Jesus couldn’t have done the things attributed to him, because they presuppose the reality of a spiritual power beyond the physical world. 
So what it comes down to is this.  Science cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.  Neither can anything else I would suppose, apart from maybe a personal appearance by God himself.  So the question of God or no God, creation or evolution, is not one to be resolved by what might be called proofs.  There is evidence, but there will always be unanswered questions.  Don’t expect that a human being will understand everything about God this side of death.  By definition, there is an enormous gap between humans and God.  Any information we would obtain about God would have to be through his initiative, not our efforts.  And if such were the case, I would have imagined that this would have taken place a long time ago (like Bible times?) rather than God waiting for, what, people to be smarter(?).
In general, I would say that the question of whether a person believes in God or not is based on personal issues, not on external information.  In other words, there is no amount of physical data that will prove or disprove the existence of God.
8.  ”The law of thermodynamics says that chaos can never produce order.”
Josh, who made the video, is not a scientist.  He may say things in the wrong way, and you can rebut the words he uses, but if you don’t see what he is getting at, you’re not addressing the issues he’s raising, and your rebuttal is not doing all that you are hoping for.
JT makes the following statement to disprove this statement from the video:
“But in terms of evolution the second law [of thermodynamics] doesn’t even apply because living systems are not isolated.  They are not closed systems.  Look at any plant to see this.  Most plants produce leaves by using 2% of the energy it receives from the sun to photosynthesize atmospheric oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules into high-energy, highly organized hydrocarbon molecules such as sugars.  This doesn’t violate the second law because the increased order is driven by energy coming into the system from the sun.  In fact, it is thanks to the second law of thermodynamics that living systems are able to increase their organization.”
But if a plant cannot exist without photosynthesis, how do you get a plant in the first place?  If evolution produced a pre-plant organism that was able to exist and metabolize energy and reproduce, how or why did it develop the ability to photosynthesize oxygen and carbon dioxide?  It obviously didn’t need it, so why would it do it?  And could random mindless mutations develop such a system?
This is what the video means by chaos producing order.  Random, unguided actions produce chaos, like a very young child hitting the keyboard of a computer trying to write a book on science.  It takes intelligence and knowledge.
The example used here to show that living systems can “increases their organization” does not answer the original charge, because the original charge has to do with how living systems got this ability to increase their organization in the first place.  How and why did (pre-)plants develop systems to photosynthesize in the first place?  The original charge is that something, meaning intelligence, outside of the system had to have imposed order on the system, otherwise the system on its own would never have created order.
9.  ”You cannot say that a universe that has order came out of an accident because it defies the very logic and laws of science.
There are at least two problems here.
Science says that there is no need for a God, because everything has within itself these properties that make for order and for this struggle for advancement through evolution.  But the only reason they say that these properties are inherent to molecules and organisms is because they have already rejected the idea of a God.  So therefore there has to be these inherent properties to explain how things got to where they are. 
It’s a little like saying that we don’t need farmers, because you can get all the produce you want from the grocery store.  If you need more, all they have to do is order it, and big trucks come and bring it.  How cool is that?
So where does produce come from?  Ultimately from trucks.
They think they can explain everything by describing how some very simple molecule combinations may self-replicate, and once that happens the ball is rolling, and you have plants and animals and human beings with brains and hearts and eyes and ears and nerves, given enough time, of course.
So the first problem is making an assumption (there is no God), and then offering an explanation of how things had to have happened, and then saying it actually did happen that way, because there is no other way it could have happened, and therefore they have proven that there is no God.
The second problem is the assumption that, given enough time, anything can happen, and we have had enough time to account for the existence of everything by entirely natural means.
Quoting JT:
“As for chance, yes, the arise [sic] of a self-replicating molecule is unlikely.  However, so are people winning the lottery.  Yet people win the lottery all the time.  Why?  Because millions of people are purchasing lottery tickets.  If you have enough tickets purchased, even something as unlikely as winning the lottery becomes probable.
That is why, if a self-replicating molecule arose through natural means, we’d expect to find ourselves in a vast, very old universe full of lots of materials and with enough time for them to interact a LOT, such that our self-replicating molecule “lottery” would have a probable winner.”
The problem here is that the fact that people all over the world would win the lottery at some point in time has nothing to do with evolution.  Evolution requires that the same molecules or organisms win the lottery over and over again.  Evolution compounds on the changes in the past in the same organism and its direct ‘descendants,’ but organisms separate from each other are all on different paths.  The advancement of one has no effect on the advancement of another.  These are all self-replicating systems here.  It’s not like human beings where blacks and whites can intermingle, and you can get a white man who can dunk.
10.  The tornado creating a Lamborghini analogy.
This is probably the weakest part of the video explanation, because it used the example of a violent storm assembling an expensive car out of junkyard parts.  However, the point of the analogy is that something as complicated as a Lamborghini requires intelligence to design, make the parts, and put it together.  Yet we are asked to believe that things far more complicated than Lamborghinis are able to be formed simply through mutations(?). 
The response to this is how self-replicating molecules explain everything.  Yet a few things are lacking in this explanation.  It has already been admitted that self-replicating molecules are “unlikely” (see #9 above), though it is asserted that they must have happened.  Yet there is still this huge gap between that and life. 
Life requires a lot more functionality than simply the ability to self-replicate.  Molecules replicating is far removed from a living organism having a genetic code that assembles a complex organism out of simple elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon.  We are asked to believe that very simple molecules that can replicate themselves make enough ‘mistakes’ in replication that over millions of years these ‘mistakes’ can account for all the various forms of life in the world. 
11.  ”…and yet, that’s exactly what science believes.”
This is just another part of the last point.  No, science does not believe this [Science does not claim that things can be instantly assembled from molecules that don’t self-replicate.], referring to the Lamborghini, but I think it does highly overestimate the abilities of evolution and highly underestimates the complexity of everything living.
12.  ”Science believes that from this accident came this perfectly working earth…everything in earth was created perfectly…it had to be by intelligent design.”
A little confusion here.  Christians do believe that the world was created perfect.  They also believe that things changed when humans gained the knowledge of good and evil, both humans and the physical world as well.  All the things JT brings up at this point [“As long as you consider hurricanes which kill indiscriminately (i.e., they kill Christians too), cancer, birth defects, earthquakes, whooping cough, and on, and on, to fall under the category of “perfect”.] were not a part of how the world was said to have been designed.  Evil entered the world, and the physical world changed as well. 
The point is again made here that “order requires no appeal to god.”  The bottom line here is that there are many things in life that a lot of people cannot imagine could have developed by themselves, like the things I have already mentioned: eyes, ears, brains, nerves.  Evolutionists look at them and say, no problem. 
13.  ”So dear Mr. Atheist, who really has to have a lot of faith today?”
JT notes first that Christianity obviously doesn’t make people better, and he sees the author of this video as proof.  However, there is no way to know if the video proves that, because we don’t know how Josh would be if he were not a Christian. 
But I would have to contend that Christianity does make people better (not perfect, just better), and atheism actually brings out the worst in people (with exceptions, of course J). 
Whatever evils have been attributed to the Church and to Christians throughout history, there is no question that the Bible itself teaches people, especially Christians, to love their neighbors, to be honest, kind, faithful, giving, patient, forgiving, self-sacrificing, hardworking, and essentially living for others.   It also teaches them that God will hold them accountable for their lives, and there is an afterlife to both reward good and punish evil.
If Christians do not live up to these standards, it is not the fault of the system.  People are not forced to do what they themselves don’t choose to do, but Christians are expected to live up to a very high standard, to be like Jesus. 
Now atheists can certainly have all of the above virtues, but there is nothing in atheism that teaches that they should, and certainly no one to hold them accountable if they are not.  So while many atheists believe in some set of morals, I would contend that this is not from their atheism but from the past Christian influences on society.  And nobody should be surprised if an atheist lives entirely for himself. Life is short, and that is all there is.
So the question is: what takes more faith, meaning: what is harder to believe, as in more contrary to common sense or common knowledge: to believe in God or to believe in evolution?
I think it is clear that believing in God is the default human condition.  There is no culture I am aware of where a belief in God is not prevalent.  There are countries that have officially declared themselves to be atheistic, but this is a position assumed at the top and then forced on the people.  These were not the result of popular referendums.
But common human experience shows that if you find something considered complex, like words in a sentence, tools, or machines, there was intelligence at work in the design and manufacturing of it.  Animals don’t build cities, or cars, or computers.  They don’t write books or compose music.  Human beings, even the simplest life forms, show such complex systems of assimilation and awareness that most people cannot imagine that there are the results of ‘mistakes’ in the genetic code.  And just how did we get that genetic code in the first place?
JT believes Josh (and Christians) need more faith, because “[he] reject[s] the entire discipline of biology (while clearly knowing next to nothing about it) in favor of a book written by people who lived in a time ignorant of almost every human discovery.”
The fact is that Josh and Christians don’t reject biology [“: a branch of knowledge that deals with living organisms and vital processes”], but many do have a problem with the explanation of how those living organisms and vital processes are said to have come about.
As for the Bible, is it really “ignorant of almost every human discovery”?  There are whole books written to show how far that is from the truth.  May I suggest:  Modern Science in the Bible by Ben Hobrink, Howard Books, 2005?  Modern science had to catch up with the Bible actually.  Certain basic principles of hygiene and health were unknown to science until the last hundred years or so but were taught in the Bible 3500 years ago.
14.  ”I can’t look at all of that creation (animals, Yellowstone, etc.) and say that it was an accident.”
More and more humans live in metropolitan areas where they are surrounded by concrete, buildings, streets, noise, and just plain human clutter.  I don’t want to overgeneralize here, but I would say that people who spend more time in nature, far from cities and town, find it a lot easier to believe in the existence of God than those who don’t
15.  ”I have to say that creation has a creator.”
The evolutionist doesn’t find any evidence of a creator, because they had already decided before the fact that there wasn’t any.  They are not asking whether any evidence supports the idea of a creator, because they have decided, and need to believe, that there is no creator.
Beginning with the assumption that everything happened on its own, it gives descriptions of the processes by which everything that is could have come about. 
“There was once a time when nothing was explained.  Ever since that time everything we have explained has been found to be the product of mindless forces acting on inanimate objects (i.e. natural causes).  All of it.  Literally.”  JT gives two examples of these explanations here: stars and the earth and solar systems
So what science has done is provide an explanation of how things could have happened and then suddenly they know [“has been found”] how things actually did happen, because, given the assumption that there is no God, how else could it have happened?  Science thinks that, when you introduce the God concept to explain anything, you are just trying to get around the hard work of finding out what really happened.  The fact is, though, that when you are trying to figure out what happened billions of years ago, you just don’t have enough information to go on.  You create a scenario of what could have happened, and leave it at that.
16.  ”I dare you to read Genesis 1.”
JT has a lot of questions about Genesis 1.  I read Genesis 1, and I have a lot of questions too.  Answering a lot of these questions didn’t make my list of most important questions in life to answer, so I don’t have answers to all of them, mine or his.  But I have some.
Three times JT asserts that something Genesis says happened didn’t happen the way it says it did.  And why would he say that?  Two reasons.  The first is that science already figured out how certain things could have happened according to their presuppositions.  Not because there was proof, but because assuming things had to have happened naturally, they believe they found a way it could have.  And because it is the only way it could have apart from God doing it, they accept it as fact.
The other reason would be the fossil record, which would take another article with a lot of documentation.  Yawn. Sigh.  And what would need to be documented?  Things like fossils being in the ‘wrong’ layers or mixed with the ‘wrong fossils,’ earlier fossils in layers above later fossils, dinosaur fossils having DNA present which doesn’t hold up for millions of years (actually a lot less), many unchanged forms from modern day descendants, problems with dating techniques, the presence of carbon – 14, and a few other matters beyond the scope of this article.
But simply, the bigger questions can still be answered apart from the question of fossils.
JT wonders “[h]ow, exactly, did he (God) give us dominion over all the species that came (and went extinct) before us?”  I would say that would be because of human intelligence.  Animals don’t ask questions about how things work.  They don’t create sciences or literature. They don’t put humans in zoos to admire and learn from them and quench their curiosity about other life forms. 
JT thinks it’s bad advice for Genesis (or God) to say that every herb and tree was given to us for “meat.”  “Even if it’s just being metaphorical, do you know how many plants have evolved poisons and other means to keep us from eating them?”  The Bible explains in chapter 3 of Genesis that a lot of things changed for the worse after sin entered into the world, including plant life, e.g. we now have to work the soil to grow our food.
18.  ”Why do we let evolution “science” work its way into middle schools and preschools and colleges and universities around the world?”
JT insists that schools only teach as science what has been “confirmed by the experts through the process of peer-review” and that creationists are only interested in talking to lay people who they are easily able to convince of the truth of their message.
Actually they only teach evolution in most places, because the courts have banned creationism from being taught.  Because it’s considered religion. 
So the question that needs to be answered is: what is [the] truth?  That ban assumes or contends that religion, any religion or all religions, is not true.  Yes, there is more than one religion, but does that mean that there is no way to evaluate them and see if one is truer than another. 
But the courts have banned religion from public education, because it has concluded that religion contributes nothing essential to human knowledge.  It is a cultural incidental like Italians liking pasta or Germans liking beer.
I would think that education is about learning the truth, the truth about everything, including whether there is a God, is there a purpose to life, is there right and wrong, are there rules in life? 
And you’re not going to be able to study the supernatural by studying only the natural, or study the immaterial by studying only the material. 
Is there a God?  Don’t ask a scientist.  They have spent their lives avoiding the question.  And don’t say that they have answered the question already, because they haven’t.  Just because you ignore something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  And that’s what they have done.  They have assumed there is no God and then constructed a view of the world based on that assumption and then told people to believe it on their authority. 
Believing in God or not believing in God is your choice.  Does it make a difference?  Only if there really is a God.  I would say that it is the most important decision you will make in your life.  Don’t make it lightly or quickly.  What many people have done is to voice a prayer that if there is a God, that he would make himself known to this person. 
On a lighter note, I will close with JT’s final comment.  It’s too good to pass up.  Just don’t let it make you forget everything that we said before it. 
“If nothing else, Josh and his followers have laid the groundwork for a fourth law of thermodynamics: rebuttals to a bullshit claim will take exponentially more energy to research and deploy than it took to make the bullshit claim.”


Monday, June 9, 2014

Is there a God, or did everything just evolve?

Is there a God, or did everything just evolve?

I believe that the most important question in life is whether there is a God.  Why?  Because it changes everything.  Now I know there are some people who believe there is a God, but they don’t believe that God is involved in this world.  Why?  Because He didn’t answer their prayers or didn’t do something they thought He should?  If God wasn't involved in life, in our lives, why would He have bothered to create the world in the first place?
Either way this is foundational for a person’s life.  If God indeed is involved in life, then everyone needs to know what God is doing and how it affects them.  What’s the program?
So how can we answer this question of whether there is a God?  One way is to consider the alternative and try to understand how all this, life and the world, came to be without a God.  In one word, they call it evolution.
I would like to share what I call the six impossible miracles of evolution, which, to me, require more faith than any religious fundamentalist is ever asked to show.
The first impossible miracle is how life started in the first place.  The human body, for example, is made up of things like carbon, water (think, sugar), nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, chlorine, sodium, and magnesium.  The simplest life forms would need at least the carbon and the water. 
Carbon is perhaps the easiest atom to bind with other atoms, but the carbon molecules found in living cells are really unusual, actually unique.  I understand that the protein molecules are joined together in ways that they would not join if left to themselves.  It’s like somebody made them fit. 
Frankly, I don’t see how life could have formed by itself in the first place.  How did carbon and water and whatever else join together to form life?  And is life just certain molecular formations?  What would animate carbon and water molecules to move and reproduce itself?
But let’s suppose lightning struck a piece of wet dirt, and it came to life (the first miracle).   There would need to be a second miracle immediately after.  Unless this living thing were able to metabolize energy, it would die within seconds.  So this lighting would have to strike again immediately and form a metabolic system.
But another miracle is needed very soon after.  Unless this thing could replicate itself, it would disappear from history, and life would end.  We know today that this requires things like DNA or RNA, a written code that makes up the blueprint for the current and future life forms.
And this was all supposed to have happened without outside intervention, strictly on its own.
Then the fourth impossible miracle, which to me is the ‘most impossible.’  Sex.  Up to this time, every living thing could reproduce itself by itself.  Now we are asked to believe that these living things, strictly by accident, random mutations, essentially divided themselves into two camps, each developing a complementary reproductive system over maybe a million years, a system that was not needed, and which eventually replaced the system of self-reproduction. 
Then after these millions of years, when the complementary reproductive systems were ready, these living organisms were in close enough proximity to each other to engage in a new act, and all the necessary codes of transmitting information to an offspring were written, again separately yet forming one coherent new code when joined.  Again, by chance, random actions.
The human body is the most complex, sophisticated thing in the world, and we are supposed to believe that this is the result of random, chance changes.  We are supposed to believe that eyes, brains, a neurological system are all the products of mindless events, which is contrary to everything we know about life.  If you went to the moon and found a computer there, or even something as simple as a table and chair, you would say that someone had been there.  You would not say that these things evolved by chance over millions of years.  Yet this is the essential premise of evolution.  Like finding a Michaelangelo painting in the ground and asserting that this formed naturally by nature without any human involvement.
I can understand the idea of design with regard to the world not being evident to everyone, so I suggest intelligence as the more fitting word.   
The sixth impossible miracle.  As evolution would have it, it would seem to me that humans are a product of chemical reactions, and these would govern the actions of the being.  But humans have thoughts.  Are thoughts just a response to a chemical reaction?  How would my thoughts in response to your thoughts be caused by chemicals?  There is no physical interaction.  I hear or see words, and my mind chooses how to respond.  It is not instinctive; it’s deliberate.  It can go either way.  I can choose how to respond. 
There is a self that can think and choose a course of action based on reason and not on chemical impulses, and this is separate from any physical processes.  So a human being is not simply the sum of all the chemical parts.  There is something more that nature can neither explain nor provide: a soul.
So because of these six impossible miracles, I cannot accept the idea that all of life and the world as we know it is the result of mindless, random events.  There is a God who made all this. 

When I realized that I believed in God, I realized also that the most important thing in life is to know this God and to serve Him.  Everything else is just temporary.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Is The Universe A Perfect Creation?

Is The Universe A Perfect Creation?

The following post was sent to me from a blog that I follow.  My reply follows.  


The Universe A Perfect Creation?
Posted on June 5, 2014  by Lenny     
You are on a rock floating though space.

People are always telling me that the universe is a perfect creation. They go further and assert that it was created especially for us humans – not so much for everything else that winds up as food on our table, clothes on our backs, shelter over our heads, or comforts for our pleasure.
Well…
I’ve got news for you. The world is in fact positively hostile. Everything out there is trying to kill you. And a great many things right here on Earth are also not only trying to kill you, but have been doing so for ever; quite successfully too. It’s in fact much worse – the universe is not only hostile, but fucking indifferent too.
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. – Stanley Kubrick
Think about it…
The only thing that is actively trying (unappreciated, I might add) in all the known universe to save your bacon, is your fellow human being (sometimes the odd dog or cat). And yet we behave in the most appalling manner towards the fellow members of our species. If I have to spell out the ways in which we do this, you are truly beyond redemption and the sooner you hurtle off this rock, the better for all of us.
Credulous at best your desire to believe in
Angels in the hearts of men
Pull your head on out your hippie haze and give a listen
Shouldn’t have to say it all again
The universe is hostile, so impersonal
Devour to survive… so it is, so it’s always been – Tool, Vicarious

My response:

OK, I’ll bite.
Based strictly on observation, I would agree with you.  The world is not an inert object like a rock.  There are moving forces, and if you get in the way, you could be swallowed up or crushed. 
But this same sense of observation tells me that there is order and design to this world.  The most obvious example is the human body, which cannot be explained by mindless, random forces we call evolution.  People will see human adaption as proof of evolution, but you have to go back to the beginning.  Everything we know about the world tells us that things left to themselves decay or fall into disarray.  Only intelligence acting on things makes things.  If you found a table on the moon, you would say that somebody has been there rather than that the table was formed through natural causes by chance.
If there is an intelligent cause for this whole thing, I would have to rely on this intelligent cause to explain to me how this thing works, if I am to understand it for more than what I can observe.  Has this intelligence communicated to human beings?  It’s logical to me to assume that it would mostly likely have been through one of the major religions in the world.  Which one?  Only two have shown any interest in spreading its message throughout the world: Islam and Christianity.  Islam has only done it through violence and intimidation.  The Christian message is one of love.  It has been Christians who have started hospitals, universities, and who have given countries written languages. 

I find the choice easy.  I understand that others don’t see it that clearly.  They have had bad experiences with churches and Christians.  It’s that human thing.  People screw things up.  But I don’t see a problem with the message:  God became man in the person of Jesus Christ to show us how to live and to die for our sins that we might have a new life with God.  They call that the gospel, which means the good news.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sad Truth about Wealth Gap

Sad Truth about Wealth Gap
letter to a news columnist about her article

Hi Mary
I read your article on the truth about the wealth gap.  Twice.  
I agree with you.  It’s sad.  But now what?  Is this a call for ideas on what to do?
You mention one course of action briefly at the end, but the emphasis of the article seems to be on “structural elements” that all but preclude progress yet alone success in fixing this problem. 
Is there anything that can be done?  I believe there is, and I would like to offer some suggestions.  Like a lot of things, the problem did not happen overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight.  There is a tendency today to think the answer for every problem is for the government either to spend money or give money.  But I have heard and read too many stories of professional athletes or lottery winners who either earned or won millions of dollars yet in a few short years were broke.  I would suggest that the answers need to lie with what individuals can do to for themselves more than what somebody can do for the groups as a whole.
One of the most important things a person can do is to get a good education.  Yes, I went to good schools, but I did not always have good teachers.
I remember a German teacher I had in high school.  I heard he had recently been in a mental institution.  He walked and talked like he was in quasi-catatonic state.  He went over the same material again and again and again.  But you know what?  I wanted to learn German.  I had the book.  And, no, it wasn’t a new book.  It was well worn, but it was intact.  I was not limited in learning German by what was taught in class or by my homework assignments.  I could read the whole book in my spare time if I wanted, and there were plenty of German books I could get from the library.
I was in honors classes through high school, but one semester I was not, because my previous grades were too low.  I had to get top grades to get back in again, and I did.  And that had nothing to do with my teachers but what I did when I was not in school.
Yes, schools in poor areas could use more funding, but, frankly, education is a mindset, a hunger for learning which should start long before a child reaches school.  And for the vast majority of people, they will need a good grounding in formal education to get anywhere in life.
The biggest single indicator of poverty is a single parent household.  Being a parent is a fulltime job, at least for the early years, and how can a person go to school or work and be a parent as well?  One of the secrets of gaining wealth is to control the spending of it.  Having children when you are not able to provide for them will trap you at the bottom economically for a very long time.
There is still the issue of good paying jobs, yet our government sent millions of good paying jobs overseas.  Why?  Simple answer: a combination of greed and stupidity.  We tax our companies at some of the highest rates in the world (that’s the greed part), and companies simply left for places where they could make more money (that’s the stupid part). 
Companies exist: to make money.  They don’t exist to provide jobs or to pay taxes.  Companies were started by people who wanted to make more money than they could by working for somebody else.  They identified a need and try to meet it.  It might seem noble and patriotic for a company to stay in the country and pay the high taxes, but companies know that their existence is not guaranteed.  Many large companies have gone under in a very short time due to competition, changes in the cost of doing business, or other factors.  They can’t afford to just accept higher costs, including taxes, just for worthy motives.  They’re either making money or losing money.  And unlike the government, they can’t lose money for too long without closing up.
If our government sent jobs overseas, it can bring them back.  But this would take a major shift in political thinking in our country.  Our country is divided pretty evenly politically right now, which means that policy decisions can swing back and forth depending on which party has the upper hand.  This makes it hard for companies to make major moves costing billions of dollars knowing that a favorable law today can change in a few years.  All this is not providing encouraging news for those who want to gain wealth, but it does point out some areas of government policy they can get involved with.
You mentioned insurance in your article.  The best place to get insurance is through one’s work.  The group plans have the lowest premiums and the best coverage.  And this goes back to the jobs issue.  Our government intentionally sent millions of good jobs overseas.  (See my article The Quickest, Easiest Way to Fix the Economy on my blogsite.)  And new government regulations are forcing many employers to drop their health insurance, and this will diminish the wealth of everybody as more people have to pay more money out of pocket for insurance.
The problem you highlighted in your article is enormous, affecting millions of people.  If the source of the problem is structural and solutions are sought that would elevate everyone at the same time and any time soon, I would say that things look pretty bleak. 
But for any particular individual, the younger the better, their success in life has a lot to do with the choices they make.  Doing well in school.  At least finishing high school.  Don’t have children until they are married.
To hope and wait for some government solution only encourages the idea that people are trapped, that things are hopeless.  I think the focus should be on what any one person can do to improve their life.
Thank you

Larry Craig

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bruce Rauner and gay marriage

Bruce Rauner and gay marriage
letter to the editor

It doesn’t matter what Bruce Rauner thinks about gay marriage.  It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks about it either.  It’s the judges who decide the big issues in our country.  Thirty states had constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and judges have found that irrelevant and inconsequential.  We could save ourselves a lot of time, money, and societal confusion if we just had the judges sit in our legislative sessions and tell us what the right thing to do is, because they seem to be the only ones who know.