XFiles Weekend: Thinking matter?

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 4, “What Lies Behind the Law”)

Last week, C. S. Lewis led us down a rather strange path, in search of some kind of supernatural “reality” that would be more consistent with his “moral law” than the reality we observe. He started off by offering us a hamstrung science incapable of any analysis or observation beyond taking note of what he called the “observed facts” of the natural world. Then he suggested that, if there were a (supernatural) power behind the observed facts of Nature, it could not be any of those observed facts, in the same way that an architect cannot be one of the walls of the house he’s designing. That brought us to the conclusion that we must rely on our own inner feelings, and our subjective interpretations of those feelings, as the sole available guide to whether this supernatural power exists. (It also ruled out any possibility of Biblical miracles being true, but that’s one of the occupational hazards of trying to prove the supernatural, and it’s customary to ignore such trifles.)

So where does all this lead us? Let’s let Prof. Lewis give us his “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking” speech.

Do not think I am going faster than I really am. I am not yet within a hundred miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears to me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong.

He has, in other words, brought us nearly to the point of believing in primitive, superstitious animism as the reason for our subjective feelings of guilt. So far so good, eh? But there’s a catch. In order for animism to work, you need more than just a supernatural law. You need an thinking, purposeful supernatural Being to drive it. And that’s the next leg of our journey. Just what is this supernatural power anyway?
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Posted in Science, Unapologetics, XFiles. 4 Comments »

XFiles Weekend: Lewis vs Behe, Dembski, et al

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 4, “What Lies Behind the Law”)

Last week, we watched a rather sad spectacle, as Prof. C. S. Lewis, Oxford don, tried to convince us all that science can never answer any questions beyond certain basic, elementary observations (e.g. “at such-and-such a time, I saw so-and-so through my telescope,” or “when I heated this substance to such and such a temperature, it melted”). Why would an intelligent and educated man be so eager to blindfold science, and to deny the existence of the various analytical, theoretical, and experimental techniques that define what science is?

Rhetorical question, I know. Lewis wants to persuade us to believe in something that hasn’t got a chance of withstanding any sort of scientific scrutiny, so he’s anxious to get science out of the picture, and to propose an alternative “reality” beyond the reach of science. He wants to make sure we have no way of verifying the truth of what he claims, so that we have to just take his word for it, prompted and consoled by our own (carefully manipulated) subjective feelings and biases. That may not sound very intellectually honest, but you can’t deny that, in marketing terms, it has proven to be extremely effective.

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Posted in Atheistic Morality, Science, Unapologetics, XFiles. 11 Comments »

XFiles Weekend: The wisdom of the “why’s”

(Book: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, chapter 4, “What Lies Behind the Law”)

Once upon a time, a man met three students, and asked each of them, “Why did Jesus die?” The pre-med student replied that Jesus died because he had lost a lot of blood during his beatings, and because of the physiological effects of crucifixion, and because he was stabbed with a spear. The political science student replied that Jesus died because he ticked off the wrong group of guys, and was becoming popular enough to pose a credible threat to the political establishment. And the theology student replied that Jesus died in order to save mankind from sin.

All three answered the same question. All three gave answers that their professors (at least) would count as correct. None of the three contradicted the other two. And yet they gave completely different answers. How can this be? Once we understand the answer to that question, we’ll be ready to look at C. S. Lewis’ claim that science can never answer the question “Why is there a universe?”—or at least, not to his satisfaction.

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Posted in Science, Unapologetics, XFiles. 3 Comments »

Starring Sarah Palin as Alice…

While I’m ranting about political topics, let me blow off a little steam about the Tea Partiers. I’m not sure how Louis Carroll would feel about seeing a significant element in American politics modeled after Messrs Hatter and Hare, but I rather doubt it would be pride.

The Tea Partiers are the intellectual bastard children of Karl Rove and Rupert Murdock (and similar manipulators of public opinion). Bred from the innuendo and suspicion fostered by conservative political strategy, they have grown up unable to trust any authority, even the ones that created them.

The plan was that by using slander and demagoguery, conservatives could control what people believed and how they would vote. It even worked, for a while. But much to their current surprise and dismay, it’s turning out that the victories they’ve bought with their dishonest tactics are victories they’ve charged to a very expensive credit card. And it’s time to pay the bills.

The trouble with rabble-rousing is that you end up with a lot of roused rabble. And in this case it’s a lot of roused rabble with an inherent mistrust of authority. Is it a coincidence that they’re developing a taste for candidates like Sarah Palin and George Bush, whose popularity is based on their lack of “elite” leadership skills? If you don’t trust your leaders, why not put the incompetents in that position, so they’ll be less of a threat, eh?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There’s no cure short of waiting for the Tea Partiers to realize that denying reality is mostly self-destructive. The question is, can the RNC survive the monster they worked so hard to create?

 
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Posted in Current Events, Politics, Science. 9 Comments »

Colson’s latest snow job

Boy, Chuck Colson has really been on a roll lately, hasn’t he? This time he’s denying global warming.

The people most inconvenienced by the blizzards weren’t the residents of this region, or the senators-it was the proponents of man-made global warming. Scientists and activists insisted that people on this side of the Atlantic ignore the evidence in their driveways and, instead, trust their computer models.

According to Colson, you can disprove global warming just by pointing out that it’s still snowing.

10 years ago, they told us that, on account of the same global warming, “snow is starting to disappear from our lives.” We were told that, because of all that nasty CO2, British children “just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

Ten years later, they most certainly do. Not only British children, but children in every state except Hawaii. All of Britain, much of the rest of Europe, and the United States have experienced snowfalls this winter. The data suggests, in fact, that “snow is coming earlier and heavier than it used to.”

Ah yes, “they” told us. Nice to have an unimpeachable source, isn’t it?

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Posted in Current Events, Politics, Science, Society. 4 Comments »

Luskin pwns Dembski

Via Good Math, Bad Math comes this delightful bit of news.

[O]ver at the Disco Institute, resident Legal Eagle Casey Luskin has started posting an eight-part series on how the Kitzmiller case (the legal case concerning the teaching of intelligent design in Dover PA) was decided wrong.

Dr. Chu-Carroll proceeds to disassemble Luskin’s rather pathetic argument (as does Dr. Wesley Elsberry), and I recommend following the links and reading their analyses. What caught my eye, however, was the way Luskin not only bungles his case, but inadvertently pulls the rug out from under one of William Dembski’s main arguments.

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Posted in Amusements, Current Events, Science. 3 Comments »

A YEC Photo Album

In honor of Darwin’s birthday, I thought it might be fun to present some actual photographs of the history of the universe. These are not “artist’s conception” or faked in any way. These are actual photographs of the things that were going on around the cosmos about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

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XFiles: “Scientific facts”

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

There’s a famous quote from the movie The Princess Bride in which Inigo Montoya tells Fezzig Vizzini, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” See if you can see why today’s installment from I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST reminds me of that quote:

When asked if divorce was acceptable, Jesus cited a scientific fact out of Genesis. … (Matt. 19:4-6). In other words, the nature of marriage is bound up in the scientific fact that Adam and Eve were created for a purpose.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Science, Unapologetics, XFiles. 5 Comments »

Competition

Fans of the XFiles Friday series may be interested to know (if they don’t already) that the Daylight Atheism blog has started a series on Lee Stroebel’s book, The Case for a Creator. The first two posts are here and here. As is customary at Daylight Atheism, the writing is excellent (the blog posts, I mean, not the book).

Recommended reading.

 
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Posted in Recommended Reading, Science, Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

Micro vs. macro

As usual, I’m way behind in my comment reading (I’m up to Feb. 27th in my backlog), but I’m seeing references to micro vs. macro evolution in the comments, and since I’ve come across this sort of discussion before, I thought I might step in and clarify my point a little.

The behavior of rivers is, broadly speaking, fairly easy to explain: water flows downhill. If your specialty is the study of rivers, however, you might want to dispute the claim that all rivers work in essentially the same way. You might want to point out different mechanisms of erosion and silt deposition, and how that interacts with the river to produce variations in the rate of flow due to changes in the riverbed. You might further study how the river affects the climate, possibly inducing changes in rainfall that in turn have an impact on the water flowing into the river. And yet, when you have delved down into all the technical hydrological details, all rivers still consist of water flowing downhill.

It was in that sense that I alluded to microevolution and macroevolution being the same basic process. Evolution is a process of change in the distribution of alleles, coupled with natural variations within the pool of available alleles and with the influence of environmental conditions on the selection of which alleles, if any, come to predominate within the population. Biologists are interested in breaking down this overall process into specialized submechanisms, and studying the factors and processes that produce certain specific types of variation under certain specific sets of conditions, and yes, in that particular technical discussion, you can make a technical distinction between microevolutionary processes and macroevolutionary processes. Such distinctions are of no use to evolution-deniers, however, because even here, we’re not talking about the kind of difference that would make microevolution possible while ruling out macroevolution.

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Posted in Science. 12 Comments »