Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Casey Luskin and Stephen C. Meyer discuss the Cambrian explosion

The latest episode of ID the Future is short and sweet – only 7 minutes long.

Details:

On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin sits down with Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Dr. Meyer explains his inspiration for writing Darwin’s Doubt and discusses the main piece of evidence that Darwin could not explain in his theory.

Special limited time offer: Save 43% and get 4 free digital books when you pre-order Darwin’s Doubt.

You can grab the MP3 here.

Topics:

  • what evidence caused Darwin to doubt his own theory of evolution?
  • has the progress of science made the problem more, or less, problematic for naturalists?
  • why is the problem of the Cambrian explosion so significant in biology?
  • how many animal body plans are there in total?
  • how many animal body plans emerged suddenly in the Cambrian explosion?

If you haven’t yet read Meyer’s first book, “Signature in the Cell”, you should probably grab that one. It’s the best book on intelligent design that’s out right now. It talks about the origin of the first living cell, surveying all naturalistic explanations for it, and concluding that the best explanation – the one most consistent with what we know now – is intelligent design.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , ,

Mormonism and Christianity: which one is supported by evidence?

The scientific evidence

One area where we can test the two religions is in the area of cosmology. What does each religion claim about cosmology?

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed.

What do the best Christian theologians believe about the origin of the universe?

“By what means did you make heaven and earth?  What tool did you use for this vast work? You did not work as a human craftsman does, making one thing out of something else as his mind directs… Nor did you have in your hand any matter from which you could make heaven and earth, for where could you have obtained matter which you had not yet created, in order to use it as material for making something else?  It must therefore be that you spoke and they were made.  In your Word you created them.” (Augustine, Confessions 11.5.7.)

“As said above (Question 44, Article 2), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from “not-man,” and white from “not-white.” Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the “not-being” which is “not-man,” so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the “not-being” which is “nothing”.” (Summa Theologica, part 1, question 45)

“Let this, then, be maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal, but was created by God.” (John Calvin, Genesis)

“We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God … the Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal; who from the very beginning of time by His omnipotent power created out of nothing both the spiritual beings and the corporeal.” (The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215)

So who is right? Has the universe always existed or did it come into being out of nothing?

Breaking the tie

To break the tie, we must use the ordinary tools of investigation – logic, science, historical methods, and so on. Let’s use science this time.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It is based on several lines of evidence, and is broadly compatible with Genesis. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[...]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

The historical evidence

You can find other disagreements between Christianity and Mormonism, if you are not so busy putting on make-up like politicians and journalists are. For example, Christianity is monotheistic (one God) and Mormonism is polytheistic (many gods). That means Mormonism is more like Hinduism than it is like Christianity – Mormonism and Hinduism even agree on the eternally oscillating universe. You can read all about it, with citations from Mormon scholars, in this article, authored by Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith. Or you could take a look at the history of Mormonism, and see if the claims made in the religious texts of Mormonism are historical. Or you could take a look at the prophetic claims of the founder of Mormonism and see if they were accurate.

Here’s an examination of the historical basis for the Mormon Scriptures, for example:

This is how responsible people evaluate religions to see whether they are all the same as the others, and, more importantly, if one is true. The point of religion is not to make people feel good, or to make them have a sense of community. The point of religion is to know how we got here, where we are going, and what we are supposed to be doing – as matters of fact.

As long as you don’t assume, before doing any research, that all religions are the same, and that all of their claims are equally untestable, then you can actually investigate things and come to some conclusions. Investigating is good, but watching debates with different views that feature public, testable evidence is also a good idea. The important thing is that you are serious about evaluating the testable claims of different religions, and that you don’t assume that choosing a religion is just like taste in clothes or taste in food, which varies by time and place and is really not making objective propositional claims about reality, instead of subjective claims about individual tastes and preferences. Just because you were born into a country that believed that the Earth was flat (or round) that wouldn’t take away the obligation on you to test those views and go looking at other views using the tools of logic, science and historical analysis.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Ben Carson’s story, and hour-long appearance Friday on Hannity

Two articles from the American Spectator about Ben Carson to provide background for his hour-long appearance on Hannity’s TV show Friday night on Fox News Channel.

First article from the American Spectator introduces Ben Carson.

Excerpt:

Dr. Ben Carson is fast becoming America’s Doctor.

And he will make an hour-long house call with Sean Hannity in a Hannity Special on Fox News Friday night.

Along with a handful of guests in an on-set audience, of which I will be privileged to be one.

Dr. Carson, of course, has been in the news lately for this speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. In which, with a surgeon’s precision, the good doctor deftly dissected both Obamanomics and Obamacare — with President Obama seated two seats away.

If you aren’t yet familiar with Dr. Carson you should make the time.

Here is a man whose single mother, one of 24 children — you read that right — married at 13, had two children (Ben and his brother Curtis), eventually finding out that her husband had an entirely different wife and family. Which is to say, he was a bigamist and soon departed from Ben’s family when the discovery was made by Ben’s mother. He was as well a man with an alcohol problem. Mom had a third grade education.

Not exactly an auspicious start for a young African-American kid in Detroit.

But Mom — that would be Sonya Carson — presented with her share of life lessons that every human being walking must face, was paying attention to her two boys. First, she set the example herself. Determined to avoid the welfare system, she worked “constantly,” Carson tells us. Her faith in God having her insist to her son, “Bennie, we’re going to be fine.”

No. she said, you cannot watch television all the time. She laid down a rule — one of many. Young Ben would not be allowed more than two or three TV programs a week. What he must do instead is read two books from the Detroit public library — and write book reports on each.

So began Ben Carson’s lifelong love affair with education — with reading. Dutifully, he would make the trek to the library, read the two books of his choice, write up book reports — and get them back from his mother with a check mark to acknowledge his work.

Did I mention that Sonya Carson couldn’t read? No matter — only much later would young Ben figure this out. In the meantime Ben Carson went from being called “dummy” by his fifth grade friends to a top student at Yale University not to mention the top of his class at the University of Michigan Medical School. And now one of the world’s most accomplished (not to mention famous) physicians, presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Second article from the American Spectator talks about why the left-wing media hates him. This one is by Dr. Paul Kengor of Grove City College. (H/T Ram)

Excerpt:

Liberals continue their hysteria over remarks made by Dr. Ben Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. Carson, a prominent pediatric surgeon from Johns Hopkins University, dared to weigh in on healthcare — something he knows something about, and certainly knows better than Barack Obama. In the liberal mind, Carson committed a grave transgression; he had dared to disagree with Obama, and in Obama’s presence.

In a discussion of Carson’s moral effrontery, Candy Crowley, host of CNN’s State of the Union, asked her panelists whether they were offended by Carson’s comments. “He [Carson] was talking about the idea of, you know, weaving the Bible into some objections he appears to have with the president’s approach,” said Crowley, as if the president would never likewise do anything so outrageous. Count Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky among the offended. She told Crowley: “I think it’s… not really an appropriate place to make this kind of political speech and to invoke God as his [Carson’s] support for that kind of point of view.”

In truth, what the likes of Crowley and Schakowsky object to is the mere fact that someone publicly disagreed with Obama on healthcare, and especially in the context of faith. This was sheer blasphemy. For liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans are never permitted to use their faith to disagree; no, only liberal Democrats enjoy such freedoms. I could give a thousand examples illustrating the point; I’ve written entire books doing so. For now, however, here are some particularly salient examples involving Obama, liberals, and healthcare reform:

From the very first year of Obama’s presidency, the Religious Left (Obama included) incessantly claimed God’s support for their vision of healthcare reform. This was no surprise whatsoever, just as it was no surprise that the liberal press was not only not outraged but silently supportive. There was nary a whimper of protest from liberal journalists, let alone their usual howls (when a Republican cites his faith) of “separation of church and state!”

For instance, in August 2009, Obama addressed a “virtual gathering” of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. It was a huge conference call to liberal Christians, Jews, and other people of faith. Obama told them that he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare reform. Christ-like, Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for — among other things — abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. A group called the Religious Institute, which represented 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Watch him Friday night for the full hour of Hannity.

My previous articles on Dr. Carson: 1) his opposition to Darwinism and his persecution by Emory University, and 2) the National Prayer Breakfast speech that rocketed him to national fame.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Ben Carson: a distinguished scientist who doubts Darwinism

I found an interesting post about Dr. Ben Carson on Evolution News. This is the same Ben Carson who lectured Obama on the merits of a flat tax and individual health savings accounts at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Excerpt:

Dr. Ben Carson’s accomplishments, personal and professional, are simply astounding. Although the world now knows him as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at one of the world’s greatest hospitals (Johns Hopkins), a groundbreaking surgeon, best-selling author, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (phew!), Dr. Carson wasn’t exactly born into his success. Raised in Detroit by his impoverished single mother who could hardly even read, Dr. Carson initially struggled greatly in school; that is, before rising to the top of his class and earning a scholarship to Yale University. To say his life journey is inspiring seems both inadequate and unnecessary.

So why did so many Emory professors and students protest his invitation to deliver the 2012 commencement address? Dogmatists in academia disapproved of, and perhaps were threatened by, Dr. Carson’s rejection of Darwinian evolutionary theory. As he mentions in his interview at IDTF, Dr. Carson has found unavoidable scientific evidence of purpose and design throughout his medical studies, and not just in the human brain:

I think one of the most damning pieces of evidence against evolution is the human genome. You can see that you have very complex, sophisticated coding mechanisms for different amino acids, and various sequences that give you millions of different genetic instructions — very much like computer programming, which uses a series of zeros and ones in different sequences, but gives you very specific information about what that computer is to do.In the end, Dr. Carson gave his address and President Wagner of Emory University promised to perform background checks on future commencement speakers to screen out Darwin-doubters.

Dr. Carson when on the ID the Future podcast to explain his whole ordeal dealing with the Darwinian censors at Emory University. Have a listen. It’s 10 minutes long. Dr. Carson also mentions two areas of the natural world that are at odds with materialist dogma: the origin of the universe and the origin of life (biological information). He also brings up common design as an explanation for similarities between organism, the same re-use that good engineers do when designing software.

I keep everyone to avoid non-quantitative majors in higher education, and to stick with science, technology, math and engineering. One reason to do this is for the money, but another reason is to avoid being persecuted by the high priests of naturalism. Well, it turns out that there are some areas of science to avoid, unless you know what you are doing. Just ask Bill Dembski.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

Agnostic professor Steve Fuller lectures on intelligent design

Jonathan M. introduces the lecture over at Evolution News:

On July 14, 2012, an ID conference (“Design in Nature? Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives”) took place in Cambridge, England. The event featured prominent ID thinkers Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, Prof. Steve Fuller, Prof. Stephen Clark, and Dr. David Glass. Videos of the presentations are currently being uploaded for public viewing.

So far, Steve Fuller’s presentation is the only one available. In this lecture, Fuller talks about why intelligent design is not more popular among scientists and others. Viewers may recognize a familiar face in the Q&A, as Stephen Meyer himself weighs in with his thoughts on the talk.

About Steve Fuller:

  • University of Pittsburgh Ph.D., 1985 (History & Philosophy of Science) for “Bounded Rationality in Law and Science,” directed by J.E. McGuire.
  • Cambridge University:  M.Phil., 1981 (History & Philosophy of Science) for “The Concept of
  • Reduction in Phenomenology and Logical Positivism,” directed by Mary Hesse.
  • Columbia University:  B.A., summa cum laude, 1979 (History and Sociology).

He speaks quickly, but it’s a nice history of intelligent design and evolution, and hits on all the interesting issues.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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