Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dr. Woodward on ID the Future Podcast

"On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin interviews Thomas Woodward, who makes the argument that 2009 should be celebrated as the 25th anniversary for intelligent design. Listen in as Dr. Woodward recounts the history of intelligent design and how the movement has changed over the last quarter-century."

Thomas Woodward is the author of Doubts About Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design and Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design.

Click here to listen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Richard Dawkins Runs From a Good Fight

Here is a great post from Evolution News.

"Today on the Michael Medved show, arch-Darwinist Richard Dawkins, author of The Greatest Show on Earth, was asked point-blank by Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman why he wouldn't debate Stephen Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell. His response? Weak sauce:

I have never come across any kind of creationism, whether you call it intelligent design or not, which has a serious scientific case to put.

The objection to having debates with people like that is that it gives them a kind of respectability. If a real scientist goes onto a debating platform with a creationist, it gives them a respectability, which I do not think your people have earned.

Hm. Did Professor Dawkins have these same scruples when he went up against John Lennox in 2007? No matter — Professor Dawkins made his position clear enough...." (more...)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great God Debates

"There is a great tradition of debates between atheists and believers in God. In the first half of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton debated George Bernard Shaw on topics ranging from God to socialism. In a famous debate, philosophers Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell squared off on whether God's existence could be proved. Dinesh D'Souza seeks to revive this great tradition, and in recent months he has been debating several of the world's leading atheists. More debates are coming up. Here believers and non-believers alike can see case for and against God and Christianity presented by capable advocates on both sides. So watch, and enjoy, and make up your own mind."

View Debates...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saddleback Church Apologetics Conference

Saddleback Church recently hosted an Apologetics Conference with a number of great apologists. Now their audio and video are available for listening and viewing online. But if you prefer MP3s or a podcast feed, you can download there right here:

• How Can I Know God Exists? - Dinesh D'Souza - MP3
• How Did the Universe Begin - William Lane Craig - MP3
• If God Exists, Why is there Evil? - Norman Geisler - MP3
• Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete? - J.P. Moreland - MP3
• What Do the Gospels Really Say About Jesus? - Darrell Bock - MP3
• How Can I Defend My Faith Without Sounding Defensive? - Greg Koukl - MP3

This is a wonderful introduction to how faith and reason work together. If you have doubts about the Christian faith or know someone who does, this is an encouraging place to start seeking some answers to questions that matter. (H/T Apologetics 315 blog)

Friday, September 11, 2009

John Lennox on the Design of the Universe

John Lennox is one of the most thoughtful defenders of Christianity today. Here he is on the Design of the Universe.

Visit his website for more...

Here is his latest book: God' Undertaker

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Behe interview sparks controversy on bloggingheads.tv

If you follow the Intelligent Design / Darwinian evolution debate, then you will want to check out this video. It was posted, taken down 6 hours later, then reinstated.

Here is the book stirring up all the controversy, see:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three Tips for Students Going Back to School to Study Evolution

For students heading back to the class room and need some help in thinking through evolution, the following article is helpful. Also, check out Sean McDowell and William Dembski's book Understanding Intelligent Design.

Three Tips for Students Going Back to School to Study Evolution (HT / Evolution News)

After attending public schools from kindergarten through my masters degree, I learned a few lessons about staying informed while studying a biased and one-sided origins curriculum. My large, inner-city public high school was rich in diversity, and I learned to appreciate a multiplicity of viewpoints and backgrounds. Unfortunately, this diversity did not extend into the biology classroom. There I was told there was one, and only one, acceptable perspective regarding origins: neo-Darwinian theory. As students head back to school this year, I want to share some tips I’ve learned to help students stay informed on this topic:

Tip #1: Never opt out of learning evolution. In fact, learn about evolution every chance you get.

Evolutionary biologist Patrick J. Keeling claims in a recent letter to the editor in the journal Science that, after “a creationist visited my biology class,” his class was promised a lecture in evolution, which “never materialized.” He writes, “I wanted to know what we were missing, and why.”

I can empathize with Keeling. I had an analogous but opposite experience studying evolution in high school. At the end of our stridenly pro-Darwin unit on evolution, my public high school biology teacher promised us a debate, which like Keeling’s evolution lecture, never materialized. Then in college, I took many courses covering evolution at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. But just like my experience in high school, there was virtually no meaningful debate or dialogue over the fundamental questions. Neo-Darwinian evolution was always taken as a given. Exactly like Keeling, I wanted to know what I was missing.

Despite the one-sided nature of my education, I’m glad I studied evolution. In fact, the more evolutionary biology I took, the more I became convinced that the theory was based upon unproven assumptions, contradictory methodologies, and supported weakly by the data.

So my first tip is to never be afraid to study evolution. But when you do study evolution, always think critically and keep yourself proactively informed about a diversity of viewpoints (see tips 2 and 3 below).

Tip #2: Think for yourself, think critically, and question assumptions.

Though my professors rarely (if ever) would acknowledge it, I quickly discovered in college that nearly all evolutionary claims are based mostly upon assumptions. Modern evolutionary theory is assumed to be true, and then the data is interpreted based upon Darwinian assumptions. The challenge for you, the truth-seeking student, is to always try to separate out the raw data from the assumptions that guide interpretation of the data.

Keep your eyes out for circular reasoning. You’ll see that very quickly, evolutionary assumptions become “facts,” and future data must be assembled in order to be consistent with those “facts.”

Realize that evolutionary thinking often employs contradictory logic and inconsistent methodologies. The logic employed to infer evolution in situation A may be precisely the exact opposite of the logic used to infer evolution in situation B. Here are a couple examples:

• Biological similarity between two species implies inheritance from a common ancestor (i.e. vertical common descent) except for when it doesn’t (and then they appeal to processes like "convergent evolution" or "horizontal gene transfer").
• Neo-Darwinism predicts transitional forms may be found, but when they’re not found, that just shows that the transitions took place too rapidly and in populations too small to (statistically speaking) become fossilized.
• Evolutionary genetics predicts the genome will be full of useless junk DNA, except for when we discover function for such “junk” DNA. Then evolution predicts that cells would never retain useless junk DNA in the first place.

When both A and (not) A imply evolution, you know a theory is based upon an inconsistent scientific methodology. Keep an eye out for assumptions and contradictory methodologies, for they abound in evolutionary reasoning.

Finally, you must be careful to always think....(more)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Darwin's Dilemma - Coming Soon to DVD

(description HT / www.arn.org) This documentary will examine what many consider to be the most powerful refutation of Darwinian evolution-the Cambrian fossil record. Charles Darwin realized that the fossil evidence did not support his theory of gradual, step-by-step evolutionary development. He hoped that future generations of scientists would make the discoveries necessary to validate his ideas. Today, after more than 150 years of exploration fossil evidence of slow, incremental biological change has yet to be excavated. Instead, we find a picture of the rapid appearance of fully developed, complex organisms during the outset of the Cambrian geological era. Organisms that embody almost all of the major animal body plans that exist today. This remarkable explosion of life is best explained by the existence of a transcendent intelligence.

Filmed on four continents, this fascinating documentary examines some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made... and, with them, a mystery deeper than Darwin ever imagined. The Cambrian explosion was actually an explosion of biological information: assembly instructions in DNA and embryonic blueprints that directed the development of the first complex animals...information that points unmistakably to foresight, purpose and intelligent design.

Darwin's Dilemma is a high-quality documentary that includes interviews with world-class paleontologists Simon Conway Morris and James Valentine, as well as leading intelligent design theorists and scientists Paul Nelson, Jonathan Wells, Stephen C. Meyer, Paul Chien, Doug Axe, and Richard Sternberg.

As with the first two Illustra Media ID documentaries, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet, Darwin's Dilemma is full of high quality animations to help the viewer visualize the amazing complexity and design of the Cambrian creatures. You can watch a trailer for Darwin's Dilemma is here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Did God Evolve?

Recently Dinesh D'Souza, author of "What's So Great About Christianity" reviewed The Evolution of God by Robert Wright for Christianity Today.

"There are three kinds of people: those who believe in God, those who don't, and those who believe in belief. Robert Wright is a member of the third group. He calls himself an unbeliever who holds that "gods arose as illusions" invented by mankind. At the same time, he thinks it is an excellent thing for others to believe in God. Since he advocates belief largely for secular and social purposes, Wright insists that religions evolve in the direction that he considers most conducive to social harmony and global peace.

It may seem odd that someone would take the trouble to write a 576-page book making this argument. Even so, I approached Robert Wright's new one, The Evolution of God (Little, Brown and Company), with anticipation. Years ago I enjoyed Wright's The Moral Animal (1994), which competently summarized then-recent research of evolutionary biologists on the origins of altruism. Wright presented his findings in a supple, breezy style that made the book a pleasure to read.

The Evolution of God is also engaging, and when you consider the topic you might wonder if the book is yet enough to do it justice. According to the publisher's summary, Wright seeks to provide nothing less than a "sweeping narrative that takes us from the Stone Age to the Information Age," a span of about 7,000 years. Besides, Wright's book covers the entire world, drawing on multiple fields including anthropology, history, biology, philosophy, and theology. Even great polymaths from Voltaire to Thomas Jefferson never attempted anything so ambitious, and Wright deserves credit for trying.

His thesis is simply stated upfront: While the gods arose as illusions, "the story of this evolution itself points to the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity," Wright argues. Moreover, religion has "matured" so that it is now closer to modern ideas of tolerance and scientific truth. In Wright's words, "the illusion has gotten less and less illusory."

This may seem a strange way to justify religion, and it is. Oddly enough, Wright considers himself a friend of religion. His massive narrative is intended to show that religion has slowly gotten its act together and its story right, and he is hopeful that religion will continue to evolve away from its harsh, primitive roots, toward less exclusivity and more tolerance, so it can be reconciled with modern secular liberalism. Wright sees himself as making a kind of defense of God, although "not exactly the kind of God that most religious believers currently have in mind."

Wright begins by claiming that polytheism persisted much longer than the Old Testament lets on, and that even Jews persisted in worshiping many gods despite their monotheistic God's jealous demands for exclusive allegiance. So far, he isn't saying anything controversial.

Wright proceeds to make claims about Jesus and Muhammad that are equally banal. He insists that Jesus didn't say some of the things that are attributed to him, something Christians have been hearing for a century and a half, and something that rests on questionable assumptions. The logic behind such an approach is that scribes in subsequent centuries may have made up the good stuff attributed to Christ, but they surely wouldn't have made up things in the Bible that make Christ look bad. But no one applies these principles to Socrates or any other historical figure. Imagine if you deleted all of Socrates' good arguments, imagining these to have been exaggerations concocted by his enthusiastic disciples Plato or Xenophon, and only credited Socrates with his bad arguments. We would have an entirely different picture of Socrates today. While there is indeed controversy about how accurately the disciples of Socrates pictured him, no philosophy student would stand for such a tendentious, one-sided mode of historical interpretation. By the same token..."
(Rest of article).

These days "evolution" as a concept is applied to anything and everything. The latest is God. Dinesh highlights some of the problems with this view.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Case For The Resurrection of Christ - Dr. Gary Habermas

Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). One of the ablest defenders of the historical evidence for the resurrection is Dr. Gary Habermas. here is a short clip of him on faith under fire. To see more resources by Dr. Habermas, you can visit his website.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tactics for Our Spiritual Conversations

Every now and then, a book comes along that has the potential to really help Christians engage others well. Greg Koukl's recent book is one.

In a world increasingly indifferent to Christian truth, followers of Christ need to be equipped to communicate with those who do not speak their language or accept their source of authority. Gregory Koukl demonstrates how to get in the driver’s seat, keeping any conversation moving with thoughtful, artful diplomacy.

You’ll learn how to maneuver comfortably and graciously through the minefields, stop challengers in their tracks, turn the tables and—most importantly—get people thinking about Jesus. Soon, your conversations will look more like diplomacy than D-Day.

Drawing on extensive experience defending Christianity in the public square, Koukl shows you how to:

- Initiate conversations effortlessly
- Present the truth clearly, cleverly, and persuasively
- Graciously and effectively expose faulty thinking
- Skillfully manage the details of dialogue
- Maintain an engaging, disarming style even under attack

Tactics provides the game plan for communicating the compelling truth about Christianity with confidence and grace.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why is Jesus the Only Way?

Why is Jesus the Only Way? Greg Koukl speaks to this question...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

William Lane Craig vs Daniel Dennett on Arguments for Existence of God

I came across this post (HT Winter Knight), to some auido of an entertaining and enlightening interchange between Dennett (atheist) and Craig (theist). Give it a listen....

Here are some of the observations made by Wintery Knight blog...

Dennett’s response to Craig’s paper

"Here is my snarky paraphrase of Dennett’s reponse: (I haven’t been snarky all day!)

Craig’s three arguments are bulletproof, the premises are plausible, and grounded by the best cutting edge science we know today.

I cannot find anything wrong with his arguments right now, but maybe later when i go home it will come to me what’s wrong with them.

But atheism is true even if all the evidence is against it today. I know it’s true by my blind faith.

The world is so mysterious, and all the science of today will be overturned tomorrow so that atheism will be rational again. I have blind faith that this new evidence will be discovered any minute.

Just because the cause of the beginning of time is eternal and the cause of the beginning of space is non-physical, the cause doesn’t have to be God.

“Maybe the cause of the universe is the idea of an apple, or the square root of 7″. (HE LITERALLY SAID THAT!)

The principle of triangulation might have brought the entire physical universe into being out of nothing.

I don’t understand anything about non-physical causation, even though I cannot even speak meaningful sentences unless I have a non-physical mind that is causing my body to emit the meaningful sentences in a non-determined manner.

Alexander Vilenkin is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.

Alan Guth is much smarter than Craig and if he were here he would beat him up good with phantom arguments.

This science stuff is so complicated to me – so Craig can’t be right about it even though he’s published about it and debated it all with the best atheists on the planet.

If God is outside of time, then this is just deism, not theism.

If deism is true, then I can still be an atheist, because a Creator and Designer of the universe is compatible with atheism.

I’m pretty sure that Craig doesn’t have any good arguments that can argue for Christianity – certainly not an argument for the resurrection of jesus that he’s defended against the most prominent historians on the planet."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

On the Origin of Life

Here is Dr. Stephen Meyer presenting his argument:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

for a blog on this important new book, click here.

For video of Dr. Meyer discussing the book, click here.

(from author site) The foundations of scientific materialism are in the process of crumbling. In Signature in the Cell, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer shows how the digital code in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence behind the origin of life. The book will be published on June 23 by HarperOne.

Unlike previous arguments for intelligent design, Signature in the Cell presents a radical and comprehensive new case, revealing the evidence not merely of individual features of biological complexity but rather of a fundamental constituent of the universe: information. That evidence has been mounting exponentially in recent years, known to scientists in specialized fields but largely hidden from public view. A Cambridge University-trained theorist and researcher, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Dr. Meyer is the first to bring the relevant data together into a powerful demonstration of the intelligence that stands outside nature and directs the path life has taken.

The universe is comprised of matter, energy, and the information that gives order to matter and energy, thereby bringing life into being. In the cell, information is carried by DNA, which functions like a software program. The signature in the cell is that of the master programmer of life.

In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin never sought to unravel the mystery of where biological information comes from. For him, the origins of life remained shrouded in impenetrable obscurity. While the digital code in DNA first came to light in the 1950s, it wasn’t until later that scientists began to sense the implications behind the exquisitely complex technical system for processing and storing information in the cell. The cell does what any advanced computer operating system can do but with almost inconceivably greater suppleness and efficiency.

Drawing on data from many scientific fields, Stephen Meyer formulates a rigorous argument employing the same method of inferential reasoning that Darwin used. In a thrilling narrative with elements of a detective story as well as a personal quest for truth, Meyer illuminates the mystery that surrounds the origins of DNA. He demonstrates that previous scientific efforts to explain the origins of biological information have all failed, and argues convincingly for intelligent design as the best explanation of life’s beginning. In final chapters, he defends ID theory against a range of objections and shows how intelligent design offers fruitful approaches for future scientific research.

Appearing in this year of Darwin anniversaries—Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of SpeciesSignature in the Cell could only have been written now that the data of biology’s dawning information age has started to come in. Meyer shares with readers the excitement of the most recent discoveries, as the digital technology at work in the cell has been progressively revealed. The operating system embedded in the genome includes nested coding, digital processing, distributive retrieval and storage systems. It is very extraordinary—the terminology is all recognizable from computer science.

The appearance of Meyer’s book is timely in two other ways. First, bestselling atheist writers like biologist Richard Dawkins have insisted that because Darwin buried the traditional argument for design in nature, religious belief has been shown to be irrational in our modern scientific age. Meyer reveals that, on the contrary, it is precisely our modern scientific age that is in the process of burying materialist theories of life’s development.

Second, since a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled in 2005 that intelligent design may not rightfully claim the designation of “science,” Judge John E. Jones has become the hero of Darwinian activists and their supporters in academia and the media. The Dover decision has been hailed as the death knell of intelligent design. Hardly so! Speaking from the more relevant perspective of the philosophy of science, Meyer responds that federal judges were never given the job of defining what is scientific and what is not.

As a philosopher and a scientist himself, having worked in the field of geophysics for Atlantic Richfield, Meyer is able to step back from the fray of competing views about Darwinian theory and offer a searching, compelling investigation of life’s beginning.

for more visit the website...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Christianity or Atheism more rational?

Is Christianity or Atheism more rational? Here is an interesting interview with John Lennox (philosopher of Science and Mathematics at Oxford) regarding this question.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Benjamin Wiker on Darwin, the Man and the Myth

On this episode of ID the Future, Logan Gage interviews Dr. Benjamin Wiker, author of The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin.

What were Darwin's actual religious and philosophical views? Are atheists abusing Darwin's theory when they say Darwinism supports their atheist belief? Listen in as Dr. Wiker answers and explains the natural outgrowth of Social Darwinism from Darwin's theory.

Listen to previous IDTF episodes featuring Dr. Wiker here and here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Does God Exist? Debate Now Available on DVD

The "Does God Exist" debate took place in front of a sold out crowd at Biola University on April 4, 2009. Over 4,200 people saw it live on-campus and and additional 11,000 viewed it from around the globe through a special webcast. Don't miss this debate between one of the finest Christian philosophers alive today, Dr. William Lane Craig, and Christopher Hitchens, who is one of the most outspoken atheists in a century.

Read the Biola's News Report on this Debate. Click Here

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Theisitc Evolution a Good Idea for the Christian?

I came across this blog post: "Where theistic evolution leads." It engages with Dr. Francis Collins bio-logos view.

(Here is an excerpt) Editor's Note: This is crossposted at David Klinghoffer's Beliefnet blog, Kingdom of Priests.

Some readers thought I was unfair in a previous entry explaining the difference between my perspective on evolution and that of my fellow Beliefnet blogger Dr. Francis Collins over at Science and the Sacred. Am I really not being fair? Well, let's test that hypothesis by picking out one idea from Dr. Collins's book and from his website BioLogos. It's his treatment of the idea that somehow a moral law in every heart points us to the existence of God.

Because BioLogos -- or theistic evolution, however we may designate the general approach -- surrenders so easily to naturalism, it must be willing to accommodate Darwinism's explanation of where that moral law comes from. Dr. Collins thinks radical acts of altruism may defy an evolutionary explanation, or maybe not. Thus quoth BioLogos:

Even if a purely natural account of moral development could be found, the simple fact that morality has evolved is something that would be expected in a world created by a just and loving God.
On the contrary...(more....)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

47-Million-Year-Old Fossil the Missing Link?

You know a story is big when Google changes their search engine logo to resemble this fossil.

The basic headline?

"Scientists yesterday unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossil that they’re calling the "missing link" between primates and humans. Technically called a Darwinius masillae, but nicknamed "Ida," the juvenile female primate was discovered in Germany’s Messel Pit and is one of the most intact fossils ever found. In fact, scientists were even able to identify her last meal: fruit, seeds and leaves." (click for more)

National Geographic here...

"Revolutionary" Fossil Fails to Dazzle Paleontologists

So what does this mean? Has the missing link been found? Well here is an interview with Dr. Fuz Rana with one Christian perspective from Reasons to Believe.

This article from Evolution News.

Also, a blog post here at Uncommon Descent and another Christian perspective from Answers in Genesis.

This will become another icon like "Lucy." On a side note, this has been released with the PR blitz of a major movie (book, website, documentary) all without a lot of examination and peer review. Time will tell. But I wouldn't be surprised to see a retraction on page 26 sometime in the future clarifying the import of this fossil.

For a very helpful introduction to evolution, the fossil record, and intelligent design see the Design of Life.

Helpful thoughts from Stand to Reason

"One question that has to be raised with any fossil evidence is the presupposition and interpretation imposed on the evidence placing it in the fossil chain of evolution. Fossils don't come lined nicely in the strata in transitional order, as the pictures of fossils lined up in science books nicely illustrate. Fossils are dated, which gives us their historical place, but that doesn't prove transition. What is evident in the fossil evidence, and in Ida, is variation in species, which isn't at all remarkable. Claiming those variations are proof of one species evolving into a new one is an interpretation of those physical features already with the assumption of evolution, not objective proof.

A transition is only a transition only if it occupies the space in the historical development that it needs to occupy, and no fossil can provide that proof without the presumption of evolution imposed upon it placing it in the transitional chain. That's circular reasoning."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is the New Atheism?

I came across this clip by Tim Keller. It is a succinct summary of the New Atheism.

Check out Timothy Keller's response in Reason for God.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What Darwin Didn't Know...

Would Charles Darwin be a 'Darwinist' if he were around today? An intersting question to be sure. Dr. Fazale 'Fuz' Rana has written an engaging article--What Darwin Didn't Know--exploring the kinds of evidence Darwin did not have available to him when he set forth his theory.

(excerpt) "When Charles Darwin advanced his theory of biological evolution, there was a lot of biology he didn't know. Some of it he recognized. But there was much he never even thought about. During the 150 years since then, scientific advance has yielded important understanding about life's origin, history and characteristics. These accomplishments provide the framework for modern biology. Even more, they are causing scientists to question his theory. Learning what scientists know will equip Christians with a response to the Darwin anniversaries and his theory of biological evolution that can change minds and lives..." Read More...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Darwin of the Gaps" - Review of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins

Francis Collins book, the Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief has much that is valuable to add to the conversation about design and the evidence for God. But there are some areas of disagreement that some have raised against Collins understanding of Intelligent Design and Common Descent.

Jonathan Wells reviews Collins' work here.

Here is is summary. Click here to read the whole article.

Francis Collins criticizes intelligent design (ID) on the grounds that it fails to suggest approaches for experimental verification, but then he cites experiments that he says prove it wrong. He also criticizes it for being a God of the gaps argument, but only after redefining ID as an argument from ignorance. Collins feels that ID poses a serious problem to Christian belief because it rejects Darwinian evolution, which he feels is supported by overwhelming evidence. But the only evidence Collins cites for Darwin’s mechanism of variation and selection is microevolution – minor changes within existing species. And the principal evidence he cites for Darwin’s claim of common ancestry is DNA sequences that he says have no function – though genome researchers are discovering that many of them do have functions. Collins’s defense of Darwinian theory turns out to be largely an argument from ignorance that must retreat as we learn more about the genome – in effect, a Darwin of the gaps.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dr. Woodward Article - Explaining about Our Creator: ANSWERING DARWIN

Dr. Thomas Woodward recently wrote an article for Kindred Spirit talking about Charles Darwin and how we can have a productive cultural conversation about issues Science, Darwin, Intelligent Design, and Faith. It is well worth a read.

(Article Begins)

THE TOWERING FIGURES OF CHARLES DARWIN AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN RARELY RECEIVE mention in the same breath. Yet because of a quirky coincidence—their births on the same day, February 12, 1809—the two are perpetually linked in our consciousness.

This year massive bicentennial celebrations are being launched for both. Clearly the more controversial for Christians is Darwin. He became the father of modern evolutionary theory when he argued that nature knitted together the living world through an all-powerful mechanism of creation—natural selection. This legacy, the center of praise in Darwin celebrations, reigns supreme in biology under the name “neo-Darwinism.”

Neo-Darwinism is a theory that says all biological complexity and diversity—from beetles to zebras and mosses to sequoias—arise from unintelligent forces in nature rather than from an intelligent agent such as God. Over a million species of plants, animals, and microbes, they say, have been sculpted through a long process of “macroevolution.” Darwin’s prime sculptor, tweaked with modern understandings, is nothing more than random genetic glitches filtered by natural selection.

Christians, on the other hand, observe the beauty of the natural world, take note of the gigabytes of coded DNA information packed within living cells, and see the fingerprints of God. To those with a biblical perspective, biology confirms that “since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).

As “Darwin’s year” continues, we must ask, “Is there a creative, redemptive way to participate in the celebration of Darwin to the glory of God? Could a great opportunity be staring us in the face?”

To address these questions we need to understand that Darwinian celebration won’t rapidly fade as we move through 2009. It will roar on, building to a second climax on November 24—a date that marks the one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

At www.darwinday.org one can follow the cascade of festivities in dozens of countries. Historians, scientists, and educators are seizing this moment to trumpet Darwin’s achievements and to bash intelligent design. By the end of 2009, millions will be influenced through TV specials, historical exhibits, conferences, books, and films.

In an odd twist Darwin enthusiasts have tied Darwin to Lincoln and given the nod to Darwin. Robert Stephens, the American who founded the annual Darwin Day Celebrations, told the BBC that “Feb. 12, 1809, was a very good day for our planet because Lincoln became the great emancipator of the slaves in America, and Darwin became the great emancipator of the human mind!” Stephens added that a “poignant” relationship exists between Lincoln’s great achievement and “Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection . . . that freed the human mind from superstition, thus permitting the interpretation of scientific data through the lens of naturalism instead of through the lens of theology.”

The irony in Stephens’s comment seems to escape him. His preferred philosophy of naturalism is itself a theological and metaphysical doctrine, not a finding of science. Naturalism declares that the universe is a “closed system of material causes and effects” which cannot be affected by anything outside such as God. The great Oxford-trained journalist Thomas Bethell saw this irony when he described naturalistic Darwinism as the great “intellectual superstition” of our time.

Freeing the Mind?

Darwinists like Stephens preach passionate sermons, arguing that science must build on naturalism’s firm foundation or perish. The upshot is clear: Any biblical notion of creation is to be discarded with other outmoded myths.

As a historian of the ongoing “Darwinism vs. Design” controversy, I am frequently shocked by how mainstream science has become unguarded in pushing a theology. It was trumpeted brazenly at a Darwin Day event at the University of Tennessee when William Provine of Cornell University boasted, “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism that has ever been invented.”

More than a decade later, in lectures, essays, and in the film Expelled, Provine says that Darwinism tells us there is no detectable god or designing force in the universe; no purpose in life; no life after death; no foundation for ethics; and no free will. Provine emphasizes that Darwin agreed with these conclusions.

Provine’s message is recast into an evangelistic appeal by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. Dawkins said that Darwin made it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Daniel Dennett at Tufts University was even more blunt. In Darwin’s Dangerous Idea Dennett wrote that Darwinism is like a “universal acid; it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized worldview.”

Confronted by this atheistic chorus, Christians wonder if it makes sense even to interact with Darwinian celebrants and celebrations. To add to the confusion, some religious leaders draw theological lessons from evolution and salute Darwin’s theory as a map of how God created by using forces of nature. Evangelical Christian and geneticist Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project, pushed a pro-Darwin stance and dismissed intelligent design in The Language of God. (Collins’s book is excellent in many other respects.)

So, to celebrate or not to celebrate? That is the question. Oddly the focus on Darwin presents us with a teachable moment, a year-long window of ministry we may never again see. So as the world focuses on Darwin and design, this is the year to study, learn, preach, and teach about God as Creator. Here are some suggestions:

1. Schedule one or more movie nights in home or church settings to show high-quality DVDs that dispel the confusion about Darwinism and design. (See below.)
2. Host a reading program or a book club to benefit from the rich literature that probes Darwin and the evolution/design debate. Consider reading Darwin’s own Origin of Species, and then balance that with the intelligent-design classic Darwin’s Black Box by biochemist Michael Behe.
3. Individually or in a group develop a chart or balance sheet listing both the positive things discovered in Darwin and his writings as well as the flaws and fallout from his life and legacy. Keep adding to this as your research expands.
4. Do a study and share your findings on what the Bible says about Creation. Remember to include the forgotten Creation verses such as Zechariah 12:1 and passages such as Job 38–40 and Isaiah 40–46. Emphasize Christ’s role in Creation (John 1; Col. 1; Heb. 1). To claim that a creaturely thing—raw matter and energy, unassisted by intelligence—gave rise on its own to the complexity of life is to worship that creature as a creator-substitute.
5. Adopt as a motto these words from the Introduction of Origin of Species: “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” Darwin’s immediately preceding words are significant: “For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived.” Those who say that only Darwin’s side should be presented are not following Darwin’s own counsel.
6. Note that Darwin had the courage to confront problems with his theory. His chapter on “Difficulties with the Theory” grew longer as his book passed through six editions.
7. Study the many lines of evidence that oppose naturalistic-creation theories. Focus on the most embarrassing new development, the meltdown of Darwin’s cherished mechanism (natural selection acting on random mutation) as an engine of change.

Now is the time to focus on Darwin and the history of the controversy he inaugurated. Plunge in, learn, read on both sides, and build the big picture of Darwin—both good points and bad—and his theory with its modest successes and massive problems. Here lies a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that is too great to miss.

The following are books, videos, and websites Dr. Woodward recommends for those wishing to become more conversant with their neighbors about Darwinism.

Unlocking the Mystery of Life
The Privileged Planet
The Case for a Creator

Woodward notes, “Two documentaries, Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet, both from Illustra Media, are extraordinary. Some of this material is combined in a DVD from La Mirada Films, Lee Strobel’s hour-long The Case for a Creator. Watch for a forthcoming Illustra documentary, Darwin’s Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record.

Visit these sites each week for the latest:

Source that provides summary with links for headlines relating to the subject of Creation-evolution

Website that provides an analysis of news coverage about evolution as well as original reporting that accurately delivers information about the current state of the debate over Darwinian evolution

The official site of Access Research Network (ARN), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing accessible information on science, technology, and society

The intelligent-design weblog of William Dembski, Denyse O’Leary, and friends

Beginner: What’s Darwin Got to Do with It? A Friendly Conversation about Evolution (2000)
Cartoon book by John L. Wiester, Jonathan Moneymaker, Janet Moneymaker, and Robert C. Newman. Takes about an hour to read. Recommended for ages twelve and older.

Intermediate: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwin and Intelligent Design (2006)
Jonathan Wells, who holds doctorates in biology and theology, speaks in clear, nontechnical language about Darwinism, explaining who is fighting whom, the root of the conflict, and the evidence for and against Darwinism and intelligent design. He also explains what is ultimately at stake for liberals and conservatives, Christians and non-Christians, educators, policymakers, and scientists.

Advanced: The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems (2007)
William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells lay out the main lines of evidence and argument in the current dispute between the Darwinists and the growing body of intelligent-design theorists.

For a balanced treatment on Darwin himself see Gertrude Himmelfarb’s classic Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution. Himmelfarb, a renowned historian, has produced a work that is meticulous, gripping, and extremely fair.

For a great analysis and critique (with heavy doses of humor) of Richard Dawkins’s arguments, check out The Devil’s Delusion, by agnostic David Berlinski.

Thomas E. Woodward is a Research Professor and Chair of Bible/Theology Division at Trinity College of Florida. He is the Executive Director of the C.S. Lewis Society and has authored two award-wining books, Doubts about Darwin and Darwin Strikes Back.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Can Science Explain Everything?

Science rules in our culture. If you’re a scientist people have to listen to you, and if you are not—well, no one wants to be dismissed as “unscientific.” Scientific discovery is the crowning jewel of human progress. Our society’s position: science can tell us everything we need to know; or if it can’t right now, just give it some time and it will eventually solve all our problems. This understanding represents an inflated view of science. As useful as science is, its explanatory scope is not universal. Only a little reflection shows that there are other areas of knowledge in our world: philosophy, ethics, religion, literature, economics, poetry, art, and music (just to name a few).

Not only is the notion that science can speak to all of life clearly false, a common formulation of this view is also incoherent. To see this, examine the following statement by famous atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell: “whatever knowledge is attainable, must be attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know.” Initially, this sounds very sophisticated and intelligent. The only problem is that if it is true, we couldn’t know it to be true. Why? Because the statement itself is not testable by the scientific method and is therefore, by its own standard, unable to be known. This fallacious view is called scientism.

What we need is a robust philosophy of science that recognizes the limits of the discipline. Now there may be implications in other disciplines--but science cannot and will not ever-in principle- be able to give us the elusive "Theory of Everything."

Friday, March 27, 2009

As the New Testament was being written...how were the books selected for the canon?

As the New Testament was being written...how were the books selected for the canon?

This is an interesting and important question. Especially as we head into the "specials on Jesus and the Bible season" on Discovery, History Channel and the like. Good TV...but often bad or at least, less than truthful, history.

Well, this is a big topic, but here are the three primary criteria that were used to distinguish between which writings would or wouldn't become Bible.

1) Apostolicity – it was written by an Apostle or an associate of an Apostle (cf. Mark with Peter)

2) Orthodoxy – it conforms to the teachings / theology of the Apostles. (BTW Constantine had nothing to do with the selection of the biblical books. He convened the council of Nicaea in 325 - but that dealt with relationship of Jesus the son to the father).

3) Catholicity (or Universality) – accepted by churches throughout the region.

As Wallace et al conclude in their excellent book, Reinventing Jesus, “Eventually, three kinds of literature were decisively rejected as non-canonical: (1) those that were obvious forgeries (2) those that were late productions (2nd century or later) and (3) those that did not Conform to the orthodoxy of the core books already known to be authentic.”(149)

Regarding (2), NT scholar Darrell Bock reminds us “Orthodoxy is not the product of third-century theologians. Those theologians certainly developed and honed traditional teaching. They gave flesh to the bones and structure to the basic ideas. However, the core of ideas they worked with and reflected in their confessions can be found in the faith’s earliest works. These works embraced what the apostles passed on. The works that we find in the New Testament also testify to this faith. That is why they were recognized as special sources for this teaching, even seen as being inspired by God."(The Missing Gospels, p.213)

Conclusion. This wasn't a power play and this process was well thought out--though it took time. Remember this is in an Oral culture before the Printing press is invented. We know that 21 of the 27 NT writings were functioning authoritatively by 180 AD and the 4 Gospels and the major letters of Paul were in place around AD 130.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Jesus and Pagan Mythology

One of the more common attacks on the historical Jesus making the Internet rounds these days is that Christianity borrowed from pagan religions / mythology.

Now, this was a popular argument around the turn of the 20th century, but has been all but abandoned by scholars today. But that does not keep this objection from making the rounds and finding its way into freshman seminars in college.

Here is a good article which discusses it--Jesus and Pagan Mythology--and also the chapter by noted historian Edwin M. Yamauchi in The Case for the Real Jesus.

Monday, March 9, 2009

How Christianity Changed the World

In the last post, I was responding to a very common criticism of the new atheists. But as it was properly pointed out, this is not an argument for Christianity.

When it comes to the moral vision of the NT and the lasting impact of Christianity, a fascinating book is How Christianity Changed the World. From education to women's rights, Christianity, when it has been properly understood and applied, is a force for good in our world. And that flows from the good news of the Kingdom that Jesus offered.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is Christianity Responsible for the Mass Murders of History?

If you were to sit through a Western Civilization 101 class today, it would not take long to get the impression that Christianity is responsible for the worst atrocities in history. Exhibits A, B, and C would be the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch trials. My point here is not to delve into the intricacies of history or justify what did or did not happen; though I would encourage people to go beyond the often unsubstantiated slogans and rhetoric to the facts of history themselves (it is one thing to take responsibility for what you did, it is quite another to struggle under the weight of what others wrongly perceive you to have done). Rather, I want to compare these events with Atheistic atrocities—which seem to get far less press.

If you were to only examine the big three Atheistic regimes of the 20th century—Mao in china, Stalin in Russia, and Hitler in Nazi Germany—then you would discover that they are responsible for more than 100 million deaths (and that does not even include others like Pol Pot’s mass killings in Cambodia). Dinesh D’Souza observes that:

"Religion-inspired killing simply cannot compete with the murders perpetrated by atheist regimes. I recognize that population levels were much lower in the past, and that it’s much easier to kill people today with sophisticated weapons than it was in pervious centuries to kill with swords and arrows. Even taking higher populations into account, atheist violence surpasses religious violence by staggering proportions. Here is a rough calculation. The world’s population rose from around 500 million in 1450 A.D. to 2.5 billion in 1950, a fivefold increase. Taken together, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings killed approximately 200,000 people. Adjusting for the increase in population, that’s the equivalent of one million deaths today. Even so, these deaths caused by Christian rulers over a five-hundred-year period amount to only 1 percent of the deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler, and Mao in the space of a few decades."

D’Souza further adds that, “If Christianity has to answer for Torquemada [cf. Inquisition], atheism has to answer for Stalin. By the same token, if the ordinary Christian who has never burned anyone at the stake must bear some responsibility for what other self-styled Christians have done on behalf of religion, then atheists who think of themselves as the kinder, gentler type do not get to absolve themselves for the horrible suffering that their beliefs have caused in recent history.” All loss of life is tragic, and I am certainly not trying to “white-wash” the evils done in the name of Christianity, but the facts of history show that atheism, not Christianity, is responsible for the mass murders of history.
For more on interacting with the New Atheism, check out Dinesh D'Souza's book, What's So Great About Christianity

Monday, February 16, 2009

Is the God of the Old Testament a Moral Monster?

That is a question that gets raised by a lot of the New Athiests. And there is probably no more passionate defender of atheism than Richard Dawkins of Oxford University.

Here are his devotional thoughts on the God of the Old Testamet:

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Hey...Richard...tell us how you really feel.

What can / should a Christian say in response to this?

First, Christians recognize that the God of the OT is the God of the NT--they are one and the same. So however we answer this, we can't right the OT off.

Second, We live in a fallen, broken world; God did not do this to us or intend this for us, humanity did this to ourselves by rejecting God. This is important because God used Israel (a deeply flawed people just like everyone else in the Ancient Near East) to be a force for good in the world...but Israel was not God's ideal community. He worked with fallen people in a very violent society to help show a better way and prepare the way for the messiah.

Now, none of these take away the bite of the passages that seem to advocate genocide in the OT. But they help us better appreciate the situation.

Dr. Paul Copan has written a thoughtful article engaging this issue called Is Yahweh a Moral Monster? The New Atheists and Old Testament Ethics

It is well worth a read. He also deals with issues like this in That's Just Your Interpretation

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On Darwin's 200th, a Theory Still in Controversy

On Darwin's 200th, a Theory Still in Controversy is an article that talks about the influence and controversy that Darwin's life and ideas sparked.

Darwinism is pitted against Creationism and then also Intelligent Design (which are different).

In light of that I want to highlight two books that explain what Creationism is and also what Intelligent Design is: Both are worth a read, and no backround knowledge is necessary to benefit from them.

Intelligent Design 101: Leading Experts Explain the Key Issues

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thinking like Non-Christians?

“Our churches are filled with people who are spiritually born again, but who still think like non-Christians.”—William Lane Craig

According to recent polls and surveys...this seems accurate. It is critical for the vitality and health of the church for us all to engage God and our world with our minds. That is a common and biblical command:

Luke 10:27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."

Romans 12:1-2 "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

1 Corinthians 10:31 "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

This will not just happen. It will require us to arrange our lives around Scripture and Community. We need times of quiet, times of study and solitude to renew our minds so that we can grow and engage our world with the eternal kind of life that Jesus offers.

A great place to begin this journey is by reading good books like The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning by JP Moreland.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What is apologetics?

What is apologetics? I will let one of the most prominent apologists of our day—William Lane Craig—answer that question.

“Apologetics (from the Greek apologia: a defense) is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith. Apologetics is thus primarily a theoretical discipline, though it has a practical application. In addition to serving, like the rest of theology in general, as an expression of loving our God with all our minds, apologetics specifically serves to show to unbelievers the truth of the Christian faith, to confirm that faith to believers and to reveal and explore connections between Christian doctrine and other truths” - taken from his excellent book Reasonable Faith.

Peter wrote that we are to in our hearts "set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (1 Peter 3:15-16).

This will include rebutting and refuting claims against Christianity as well as providing reasons for the plausibility of the Christian worldview.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Which comes first...The philosophy or the science?

In an essay discussing the limits of science, Yale philosopher George Bealer proposes two guiding principles. The first is the autonomy of philosophy principle which states that “Among the central questions of philosophy that can be answered by one standard theoretical means or another, most can in principle be answered by philosophical investigation and argument without relying substantively on the sciences.”

The second principle concerns the authority of philosophy, “Insofar as science and philosophy purport to answer the same central philosophical questions, in most cases the support that science could in principle provide answers for those answers is not as strong as that which philosophy could in principle provide for its answers. So should there be conflicts, the authority of philosophy in most cases can be greater in principle.” Bealer further notes that these two principles have “constituted the dominant view” throughout our intellectual history until recent infatuation with scientism displaced them.

Many times seemingly scientific disagreements are in reality philosophical ones. This is most often the case when it comes to the interpretation of the available empirical data.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Does Ignorance = Design?

This question came up in one of the comments. And so I figure I would bring it up here to discuss. Dr. Thaxton does a good job of working through some of these issues here.