Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dead to copyrights

"Child’s Description Of Heaven During Near-Death Experience Specifically Mentions Book Deal"

Are You Willing To Fight To Win On Same-Sex Marriage?

There's a new Associated Press and GfK poll on people's views of same-sex marriage and related religious liberty issues. I recommend reading the whole story. According to the poll, Americans seem to be less liberal on same-sex marriage and religious liberty than you'd think from watching the mainstream media, listening to Republican political analysts who claim that their party needs to change, etc. For example, here's an excerpt:

The Deist dilemma

I'll begin by stating my interpretation of historic Deism. It's my impression that during the Enlightenment, most Deists were closet atheists. They used Deism as a stalking horse for atheism. They did so for two tactical or strategic reasons:

i) It was politically hazardous to be a public atheist back then. Deism gave them some cover. It maintained a pious facade.

ii) In addition, it gave them an opportunity to perform jujitsu. They appealed to natural religion and the natural rights of man to undermine religious autocracy and political autocracy. They deployed this weapon against absolute monarchy and state religion. 

This religious appeal was basically a ploy. If they succeeded, they could then dispense with the religious justification. It was a temporary, opportunistic means to an end. 

However, that created dilemma. Initially, the natural rights of man were grounded in nature's God. The Creator endowing humans with "certain inalienable rights."

Once invocation of the deity served its purpose in defeating autocracy, God could be discarded. Problem is, as soon as God is kicked out, you lose the foundation for human rights. You must cast about for something else to ground human rights. 

More cynical, consistent atheists like Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade appreciated the nihilistic consequences of godlessness. By the same token, it's my impression that monarchs like Peter the Great and Catherine the Great were closet atheists who found it useful to cultivate popular piety among the masses as a way of keeping them submissive to the crown. Religious morality for the hoi polloi. That made them docile subjects. By contrast, Peter and Catherine held themselves to a very different standard. A law unto themselves. 

The link between homosexuality and pederasty

Homosexual apologists often bristle at moral comparisons between homosexuality and pederasty. When Christians bring this up, they treat that comparison as scurrilous and defamatory. But consider the linkage in academia. Consider all the sympathetic articles on pederasty in the Journal of Homosexuality. It isn't just Christians, but homosexual academics who are making that linkage. Consider sympathetic articles on pederasty in the Journal of Homosexuality (or the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality):

The  Journal of Homosexuality is an internationally acclaimed, peer-reviewed publication devoted to publishing a wide variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship to foster a thorough understanding of the complexities, nuances, and the multifaceted aspects of sexuality and gender. The chief aim of the journal is to publish thought-provoking scholarship by researchers, community activists, and scholars who employ a range of research methodologies and who offer a variety of perspectives to continue shaping knowledge production in the arenas of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) studies and queer studies.

Volume 49, Issue 3-4, December 2005, pages 63-85
Published online: 22 Sep 2008
Volume 49, Issue 3-4, December 2005, pages 137-171
Published online: 22 Sep 2008
Volume 20, Issue 1-2, February 1991, pages 13-30
Published online: 22 Mar 2012
Volume 3, Issue 3, May 1978, pages 291-300
Published online: 18 Oct 2010
Volume 49, Issue 3-4, December 2005, pages 13-61
Published online: 22 Sep 2008

The younger generation

Adam, inerrancy, and Arminianism

Here's part of a review of Walton's new book by a prominent Arminian site:

The suggestion that Adam and Eve could have existed as two advanced hominids in a long evolutionary chain will seem compromising to some…But, for the vast majority of Christians who think the whole science-religion war is an unnecessary war with far too many casualties, Walton presents a middle way forward. His book, no doubt because of both his scholarly credentials and his obvious evangelical conviction, will be well received amongst the majority of those who want a thoughtful and, yet, traditional approach towards science and the Bible.
On a related note, take this review at a prominent Arminian site:
I’ll go a little further … Not only is the gospel clear, but the historical Adam isn’t important to it at any level. It is Jesus Christ who assures us that we are justified before God. It is Jesus Christ who advances the missionary work of the church. It is Jesus Christ who secures our hope in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. A Christian who never hears about Adam, but is taught the life, death, and resurrection of Christ lacks nothing. Getting our priorities straight does matter.

On a related note:

There has been a major shift within the Wesleyan Theological Society concerning its position on inerrancy. In the first issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal, Kenneth Geiger, former president of the National holiness Association, wrote that the inerrancy of the original autographs of Scripture was the official position of the National Holiness Association and “quite uniformly the view of Wesleyan-Arminians everywhere.”[1]
In its first four journals, the doctrinal position of the Wesleyan Theological Society stated that the Old and New Testaments were inerrant in the originals. This statement no longer appeared after 1969. However at least nine Wesleyan scholars signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy on January 1, 1979: Allan Coppedge, Wilbur T. Dayton, Ralph Earle, Eldon R. Fuhrman, Dennis F. Kinlaw, Daryl McCarthy, James Earl Massey, A. Skevington Wood, and Laurence W. Wood.[2] [Emphasis added by editor]
The last Wesleyan Theological Journal article in support of biblical inerrancy appeared in 1981.[3] In 1984, Kenneth Gilder expressed the hope that as the Wesleyan Theological Society began its next twenty years that it would do its homework and not accept the agenda of Calvinistic evangelicalism.[4] Since then the doctrine of biblical inerrancy has been labeled as anachronistic to Wesley’s day, Calvinistic, and a fundamentalist doctrine. 
In the Fall 2011 issue of the Wesleyan Theological Journal, Stephen Gunter declared that inerrancy is not the issue for evangelical Wesleyans.

These examples illustrate a point I've made from time to time: the Arminian center of gravity is to the left of Calvinism. 

Sodomy and pederasty

Homosexual activists and their enablers resent it when Christians ask, If homosexual activity (including marriage) is deemed to be morally acceptable (or even commendable), then why is pederasty deemed to be out of bounds?

Now, I don't know if homosexuals really resent that comparison. I don't know if they resent it in principle, or if they just rankle at it because it's bad PR, because it exposes a weakness in their argument. From a tactical standpoint, they'd resist the comparison even if they privately agreed with it. 

In addition, I think many homosexuals are so self-absorbed that they only consider situations which directly affect them. Consider Ryan Anderson's futile effort to make a homosexual questioner take a consistent position:

It's funny to see homosexual apologists act so offended at the comparison. How are they in any position to be so judgmental? They bitterly resent Christians making value judgments about sodomy, but then they turn right around and make value judgments about polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality.

How can they be morally outraged by the comparison between homosexuality and pederasty or bestiality unless they think pederasty and bestiality are morally outrageous? But in that event, why aren't Christians equally entititled to view homosexuality as morally outrageous? 

Why isn't someone who practices pederasty or sadomasochism entitled to be just as morally indignant at the "bigoted" reaction of homosexual activists who defame the alternate lifestyle of the pederast or sadomasochist? 

Moreover, pederasty isn't an artificial hypothetical like the Trolley problem. Some secular academics use the same kinds of sociological data to justify pederasty as homosexual apologists use to justify sodomy and lesbianism. For instance:


Pederasty: An Integration of Cross-Cultural, Cross-Species, and Empirical Data
Bruce Rind PhD
Page Range: 463 - 475
Pederasty, or sexual relations between men and adolescent boys, is condemned in our society as an unqualified evil that maims and destroys. In ancient Greece, samurai Japan, and numerous other cultures, pederasty was seen as the noblest of human relations, conducive if not essential to nurturing the adolescent's successful intellectual and physical maturation.
Current psychological and psychiatric theorizing have pronounced and promoted the former view, while ignoring the vast array of cross-cultural data related to the latter view. Mental health opinion has also ignored a wealth of cross-species data with important parallels. Instead, this opinion is based on feminist models of rape and incest, which are backed up by clinical research on child sexual abuse.
The current article examines empirical rather than clinical data on pederasty, and supplements this with cross-cultural and cross-species perspectives. The empirical data show that pederasty is not only not predestined to injure, but can benefit the adolescent when practiced according to the ancient Greek form. Cross-cultural and cross-species data show the extensiveness of pederasty in the natural world, as well as its functional rather than pathological nature in these societies and species.
An evolutionary model that synthesizes the empirical, cross-cultural, and cross-species data is proposed as an alternative to the highly inadequate feminist and psychiatric models. The animal data suggest that the seeds for pederasty were planted at the dawn of humanity. The human data suggest that pederasty came to serve a mentoring function.
Journal of Homosexuality
(ISSN: 0091-8369) Volume: 49 Issue: 3/4 2005
Prepublication  ISBN-13: 978-1-56023-603-0


"Biophysicist Matt Baker Is an Intelligent Design Critic Who Doesn't Understand Irreducible Complexity" by Casey Luskin.

Friday, July 17, 2015

God is real

The following is an excerpt from John Lennox's book Miracles: Is Belief in the Supernatural Irrational:

Overgrown children


One of the oddities of human nature is how two people can see the same thing, but not see the same thing. They are looking at the same thing, but they react to it very differently. For instance:

My friend Alan Jacobs, a traditional sort of Anglican Christian, wrote this the day after the Obergefell ruling:
Perhaps I am soft on sin, or otherwise deficient in serious Christian formation — actually, it’s certain that I am — but in any case I could not help being moved by many of the scenes yesterday of gay people getting married, even right here in Texas. I hope that many American gays and lesbians choose marriage over promiscuity, and I hope those who marry stay married, and flourish.
I know what he’s saying. I felt that too. 
So, I think part of the reason I got a lump in my throat on Friday as I was scrolling through news feeds and seeing gay friends’ pictures pop up on Facebook and Twitter is because I know that for so many of these people, the alternative to their current jubilation has been a gulf of loneliness and marginalization.  
When some of us traditionalist Christians were moved by the pictures we saw of gay couples, or moved by the real-life visits with our gay friends, the day of the SCOTUS ruling, I think this is part of what we were feeling. We were wanting our friends not to be lonely and alienated from love, and we were wanting them to keep hoping and searching for Love Himself.
His post includes the above picture, to illustrate his point. But in a very real sense, he and I aren't seeing the same picture. 
I see a man around 70-years-old, in a business suit, exiting the courthouse, clutching red roses and a civil marriage certificate, followed by his elderly homosexual partner.
The man appears to have an expression of emotional fulfillment. And you know what?–that's pathetic!
He is moved, but I am not. No lump in the throat for me. Why? 
Yes, it means a lot to him. And that's the problem. It means too much to him.
This is not about getting married. Even before the SCOTUS ruling, it was legal for homosexuals to marry. Civil marriage was already legal in some states. And there are liberal denominations which already marry them. 
No. This is about social acceptance. This is about their desperate need to have the approval of total strangers. Have the approval of the church. Have the approval of faceless government bureaucrats.
Well, that's so immature. Why would you want the approval of total strangers? Why is that important to you? 
Normal, emotionally well-adjusted adults don't need the approval of strangers. There's a small circle of people whose opinion they care about. Family and close friends. And in a professional setting, the respect of their peers and colleagues.
But for homosexuals, they can't be happy unless everyone affirms them. Unless everyone validates their lifestyle.
That's emotionally stunted. That's a textbook case of arrested development. 
It's like a kindergartner who wants the teacher to give him a pat on the head–only in this case it's a 70-year-old queen. To be psychologically adult is, among other things, to outgrow the need for anonymous, ubiquitous approval. You care about the opinion of people who care about you. 
The very fact that so many homosexuals have a childish emotional need for universal affirmation reflects something deeply deficient in their social formation. 

Valorizing gay marriage

The Bible and violence

Nowadays, there are many readers who take offense at Biblical violence. In this respect, I think many modern Western people read the Bible differently than their forebears. Several reasons come to mind:

i)Due do general affluence, our lives are more comfortable.

ii) Apropos (i), we benefit from modern medical science. Anesthesia. Painkillers. Cures for many diseases. Surgery that brings symptom relief.  

iii) We typically feel safer. We don't fear a civil war, coup d'etat, military invasion, or martial law. We don't fear famine or epidemics.

Childhood mortality is low. Most people die in their 70s-80s or beyond.  

iv) We've delegated violence to a professional army and police force. 

But in the not so distant past, and in many parts of the Third World today, life is brutal. As a result, people have (or had) a tough-minded outlook. 

And the Western world is teetering on the brink of reverting to the harrowing conditions that our ancestors took for granted. 

Is belief in miracles irrational?

I will comment on this:

Take Jesus’ resurrection. Given how nature works, dead people stay that way. 

Absent the intervention of a rational, omnipotent agent. 

It didn’t have to be that way. Just as the freezing temperature of water might have been 34º F rather than 32º F, maybe one in ten dead could have “naturally” come back to life. 

i) That's a bit too facile. In principle, the freezing point for water could be different. However, that's not a discrete variable. To change that would impact other things. To make everything balance out, there'd have to be corresponding changes. You can't just alter the freezing point of water and leave everything else unaffected. Other adjustments must be made to accommodate that particular change. And maybe there's not that much give in the system. 

ii) Under what scenario does he think one in ten dead could "naturally" come back to life? How much necrosis has the body undergone? 

But, water does freeze at 32º F, and dead people stay dead (barring unforeseen medical advances that certainly were not available 2000 years ago). That’s why, if Jesus really did return to life, something must have intervened to block the otherwise inevitable march of natural laws.

That's roughly true.

Back to miracles. Even granting the tremendous reliability of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, the case for accepting their account is very weak. How many people return from the dead? It must be very low, far less than the number of people who have the serious disease in our analogy. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that God resurrects one in a billion people. This means that even if the witnesses to the resurrection were incredibly reliable (perhaps they misidentify non-miraculous events as miraculous only one in a million times), the chance that they were correct about Jesus’ resurrection would be only one in a thousand.

That frames the issue as if it's a roll of the dice. The natural odds. But if it happened, the Resurrection was the result of divine intervention. Not letting nature taking its course, but reversing nature. Circumventing nature. 

It's like asking what are the odds of throwing sixes ten times in a row? Well, that depends. Are they fair dice or loaded dice? 

Natural processes involve unintelligent causes–like a computer that's programmed to perform a task. It always does the same thing. Only does what it was programmed to do.

But the odds for what a computer will do–given the status quo–are very different from what a computer programmer will do. He can change the program. He can make the computer perform a different task. 

Dictionary theology

For some reason, Dan Chapa decided to comment on a 6-year-old debate we had:

My primary argument has been as follows:
P1: The bible says we chooseP2: Choosing rules out determinismC1: So the bible rules out determinism.P1 is plain in that every English translation of the terms bâcha and eklegomai translates them as choose.
Dan keeps committing the same elementary blunder, despite repeated correction. He confuses the meaning of a word with the meaning of a concept. But those are easily distinguishable.
By Dan's logic, the way to learn systematic theology is to compile a word-list, then sit down with a dictionary and look up the words. Take the following words, consult a dictionary, and voila!–you have mastered systematic theology:
God, Trinity, providence, omniscience, omnipotence, Incarnation, justification, resurrection, damnation, grace, faith, sin, soul, atonement, church. 

Problem is, the concept of "God," "Trinity," "omnipotence," "Incarnation," "justification," "grace," "soul," &c., is much richer than a dictionary definition of the word. What is more, there are competing models. Different theological traditions have different concepts of the Trinity, Incarnation, justification, grace, &c. 

According to the dictionary, both Zeus and Jesus are "divine," yet even if Zeus existed, he wouldn't be divine in the same sense as Jesus. He'd be a different kind of deity. Different attributes. 

Likewise, consider how philosophical theologians explore formulations of omnipotence. The idea of what constitutes omnipotence is hardly reducible to consulting Webster's dictionary. 

Further, the concept of choice crosses linguistic barriers, because it describes something we all experience daily. 
The experience would be just the same if (pre-)determinism is true. Say you make a conscious choice. But that's the end-result of subconscious factors. God predestined your mental state. Since your mental state is the effect of something else, you're not aware that it's caused. You can only start with what you've got. What may lie behind it is beyond your purview. 
I grant that determinists could develop a useful definition of choose that harmonizes with their philosophy. But I deny such a definition should be used to understand scripture. The bible was written for the common man, as can be seen by many of it’s books being addressed to this and that church and the Nation or People of Israel.
The concept of libertarian freedom devised by freewill theists like Robert Kane and Kevin Timpe is just as recondite as compatibilist formulations.  
While Steve poked at P1 and provided a tautological definition of choose (decision)…
i) That's deceptive. I quoted the definition of a freewill theist philosopher (Robert Kane). 
ii) Moreover, it's ironic than Dan complains about tautological definitions when he resorts to dictionaries. Dictionaries typically define words by synonyms! 
…his primary thrust has been at the notion that determinism rules out alternative possibilities. While he grants that determinism rules out alternative possibilities at a metaphysical level, he nonetheless maintains that in an epistemic sense of possible, determinists can hold to alternative possibilities. So he concludes I am eisegeting the dictionary – reading in absolute possibilities when it could be understood as relative possibilities.
That's an inaccurate summary of my position. Perhaps Dan is oversimplifying.
i) As I define it, a possible world is God's exemplary concept of a complete world history. God is able to imagine infinite variations. It's like a novelist who has the entire plot in his head. 
Depending on the context, we could say alternate possibilities are possible worlds or possible world-segments. Another way of putting it is that an alternate possibility is an alternate timeline or alternate history. 
These have their origin in the timeless mind of God. God's infinite imagination. So alternate possibilities exist at a metaphysical level. 
ii) God, in turn, instantiates one or more of these alternate possibilities. Whether it's one or more than one depends on whether there's one universe or a multiverse. 
iii) God is free to do that. Nothing determines God's choice. 
iv) Predestination rules out human access to alternate possibilities. A human agent (or angelic agent) can't choose contrary to what God foreordained. 
And even if every event was not predestined, there's no reason to think finite agents could access alternate possibilities. 
I grant that an epistemic sense of possible is both valid and common, but I deny that a determinist could hold to possible alternatives even in an epistemic sense. The epistemic sense of possible is a relative sense as opposed to an absolute sense. 
I don't know where Dan comes up with his definition, where he defines "epistemic possibility" as "relative" and "metaphysical possibility" as "absolute." He seems to pull that out of his hat. I didn't use that terminology. And Dan isn't quoting any freewill theist philosophers who use that terminology. It's his idiosyncratic usage. 
Steve: I cited the gambler to illustrate the fact that human agents can deliberate over hypothetical possibilities, and decide on one–even though only one of these hypothetical possibilities is a live possibility–and the gambler knows this at the time he’s deliberating and deciding what to do next.
One of the problems is that the gambler does not decide on one of the hypothetical (epistemic) possibilities. He wishes the card to be 2 rather than 3, but he doesn’t choose for the card to be 2 rather than 3. He chooses to draw or not – to take his chances. It’s not as if 2 and 3 are face up on the table and the dealer is letting the gambler pick one. If it was, he really would be choosing 2 over 3. Steve himself notes: The gambler goes into the game knowing in advance that his choices have no effect on the order of the cards. And yet his choices are made with a view to the order of the cards. 
When I said "decide on one," I was referring to something different than Dan. So he's not engaging my point. 
Another problem is that the epistemic sense of possible is an impersonal possibility, not a personal possibility. It says what is logically possible, not what is causally possible. Choice is about an agent’s abilities, but the epistemic sense of possible isn’t about an agent’s abilities. Steve counters that choice often takes an impersonal object, which is true but besides the point. In the epistemic sense, the possibility is impersonal, not the object. 
That's a false dichotomy. Even on a libertarian model, choice is not just about an agent's ability in isolation to the world. To have freedom of opportunity, there must be corresponding possibilities in the world. Libertarian freedom requires that. It's a relation. 
A third problem is that Steve uses alternative possibilities – meaning more than one possibility. But determinist’s think there can be only one possibility at a time. 
That's simplistic:
Human's can only make one choice at a time. By contrast, God can instantiate alternate courses of action by making more than one world. Whether he ever does so is a different question.  
In addition to the main line of debate on epistemic possibilities, Steve has been pressing me on whether choice relates only to mental resolutions or also to the extra-mental execution of the choice. I have responded that it doesn’t matter, because determinsts don’t believe in the ability to choose otherwise or the ability to do otherwise. So it’s an unneeded rabbit trail, but my answer is that choice can be used either way depending on the object of choice and responsibility attaches primarily to the internal mental resolution.
Here Dan is forced to admit there's a distinction–and sometimes a dichotomy–between the psychology of choice and access to alternate possibilities. What we imagine we can do and what we can actually do are often two very different things. For someone who appeals to "daily experience," Dan's evidential appeal is highly selective. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The other man

Not exactly the Hallmark card promoted by SSM proponents:

What if science can duplicate a miracle?

Elliott Sober is a leading secular philosopher of science:

These comments have not addressed the question of how we would ever know that an event is a miracle. It isn’t hard to know that an event is awe-inspiring and that it presently cannot be explained by science. But how can we know that science will never be able to explain it? And how are we to know that an event is the result of God’s intervening in nature? Many religions endorse the idea that the dead coming back to life is a miracle in this last sense. Atheists often claim that it is impossible for the dead to come back to life, but maybe the science of the future will show that they are mistaken. Perhaps mere human beings, armed with a  technology that is more powerful than the one we possess, can do the trick. If future scientists discover how to bring the dead back to life, they will be following in the footsteps of Newton and Darwin.

That's deeply confused. In principle, it might be possible for advanced technology to replicate some biblical miracles. But that misses the point: since this hypothetically advanced knowledge didn't exist in Bible times, it would take a miracle to produce the same effect absent scientific intervention.

Even if, in principle, scientific intervention could sometimes produce the same effect as divine intervention, that explanation is hardly a substitute for divine intervention in cases where no such scientific intervention did or could exist. 

Let this be recorded

Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord (Ps 102:18).

This verse lays down a fundamental principle. As one scholar notes:

That God saved his people from exile needs to be written down to ensure that future generations will know of his saving acts and proclaim his name. 
Let…be written is to ensure its accuracy and permanence. This is for the benefit of the following generation. B. Waltke et al., The Psalms as Christian Lament (Eerdmans 2014), 232.

That's a sola Scriptura principle. To an ensure the accurate transmission God's words and deeds for the benefit of posterity, there needs to be a written record.

i) We remember events better than words. We remember the gist of what somebody said.

ii) Oral tradition is an inefficient means of mass communication. Word-of-mouth is provincial. Writing is a more efficient means of disseminating information in space and time.

iii) In oral tradition, moreover, you keep adding links to the chain of custody. Every time it's repeated (or paraphrased), that's one more step removed from the source.

As another scholar notes: 

Ezra-Nehemiah are a fulfillment of this declaration; they put into writing the story of the city's restoration. J. Goldingay, Psalms: 90-150 (Baker 2008), 157.

To verify prophetic fulfillment, it's useful to have a written record of the oracle in advance of the fact. That establishes the priority of the oracle, as well as the wording. And that's something which posterity can consult after the fact. 

Lay Catholic apologists are fond of quoting 2 Thes 2:15 to prooftext their appeal to oral tradition. But that's anachronistic. 

If I were a mid-1C Christian in a church which Paul planted, if I heard him preach, then I'd hold fast to what he taught me in person. That's very different from what Catholicism means by oral tradition. 

Adam plus evolution?

Were Early Churches Ruled by Elders or a Single Bishop?

The Roman church is under God’s judgment for apostasy and idolatry

Home sweet Rome

Pathetic Evolution

One of the books I am currently reading is The Folly of Fools by Robert Trivers. Trivers is a Darwinist and seeks to explain these behaviors via evolution instead of looking at the spiritual implications of deceit and self-deception. As I’ve continued through the book, I’ve noticed that he engages in the pathetic fallacy quite frequently. The pathetic fallacy, in addition to being humorous because of the other meaning to the term “pathetic”, actually describes what happens when someone attributes human conduct to inanimate objects. This is hardly a fallacy limited to Trivers, of course. The entire Neo-Darwinian framework is nothing but the pathetic fallacy, most obviously shown by Richard Dawkins’s illustration of The Selfish Gene. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that a Dawkins blurb graces the cover of The Folly of Fools.

The pathetic fallacy actually extends back to Charles Darwin himself, though. In fact, the entire concept of Natural Selection commits this fallacy, inasmuch as the word “selection” requires some kind of rational agent making deliberations. We are told that Nature does this selecting. But Nature has no mind or will. It does not choose anything. It cannot select by definition.

Of course, the committed Darwinist claims that these are merely metaphors used to describe the situation, but I daresay that it is impossible to even talk about the theory of evolution without using just these metaphors. This is not a problem real scientific inquiry runs into. For example, while a chemist might say something like, “A molecule wants an electron to fill its outer shell” (“wants” being the pathetic fallacy), she can just as easily speak of the concepts without the metaphorical language (e.g., “There are certain numbers of electrons that elements have that make them more stable, and therefore if an element like chlorine, which has one fewer electron than it needs to be stable, is in proximity to an element that has one more electron than it needs to be stable, such as sodium, the extra sodium electron can be transferred to the chlorine atom resulting in an ionic bond between the two atoms, and forming a new compound of NaCl—or table salt”). Therefore, because the idea can be explained without the metaphor, the metaphor truly is used just as a short-hand description.

Darwinists do claim to be able to explain Darwinism in non-metaphorical terms, but not only have I yet to see one successfully do so, when they have tried to do so it quickly becomes apparent that the actual scientific aspects of Darwinism are insufficient to prop up the heart of the theory. In other words, Darwinism is built nearly entirely on metaphor, which means that Darwinism only works if the abstract concept of Nature becomes reified and endowed with agency. The actual scientific grounds Darwinists can point to are held by even the most fundamentalist creationist (e.g., animals adapting to the environment) and do not exclusively prove Darwinism. Therefore, the only part of the theory that matters is only "proven" by imputing agency to natural events--the actual definition of the pathetic fallacy.

Perhaps an example of the pathetic fallacy in action might be beneficial. Trivers writes of what to expect in a child witnessing some form of conflict between his parents, and says of that:
By logic, one would expect the child’s paternal genome to accept or acquiesce in the paternal viewpoint, while the maternal genome would be biased to embrace the maternal position. With increasing strife, one can easily imagine that the two genetic sides in the child—maternal and paternal—are hyped by the escalating conflict toward excessive production of their products (proteins, small-interfering RNs, or anti-sense RNAs, all capable of regulating other genes). Thus with greater marital strife, the intensity of the child’s internal conflict may increase at the genetic level and the biochemical, as well as at the psychological.

Trivers, R. (2011). The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. New York: Basic Books. p. 86-87.
Genes “accept” or “acquiesce” to a viewpoint. Other genes are “biased” and “embrace” the other position. In other words, Trivers claims that not only are the genes selfish, but that they A) know whether they are maternal or paternal genes; B) can listen to arguments between parents; and C) can tell which of the two arguers are the source of their genome, such that the paternal genes agree with the father and the maternal genes agree with the mother. As Trivers says, “one can easily imagine” this, but the problem is one can only imagine it.

But it is understandable why Trivers would have to resort to this sort of view given his fealty to Darwinism. After all, human beings are complex creatures that supposedly came from originally random chemical reactions that somehow self-organized. But the fact that we exist as we do now cannot be explained by slow, stepwise Natural Selection. Genes only work if they are part of an advanced system. In the “wild”, outside of an organism, genes cannot do anything. They are completely dependent upon being in the entire system. To move from essentially random chemical reactions between mixtures of elements that “just happened” to be in the neighborhood to self-organization and the proliferation of a species requires the each step of the process to be attainable, and that simply cannot be demonstrated. In fact, logic indicates that the steps are irreducibly complex and therefore impossible to gradually attain.

In order to be science instead of wishful thinking, Trivers needs to show a causal chain, devoid of any intentionality, desire, or thinking on the part of the genes. That chain needs to be established between two parents arguing in front of a child and the child’s genes being activated. These genes don’t want to be activated any more than sodium wants to bond with chlorine. But we can explain table salt from basic scientific premises. What are the basic rules by which an external signal, such as a child hearing his parents arguing, is differentiated so that one gene is activated when the child hears his mother’s voice and a completely different one activated when he hears his father’s voice? What is the biochemical pathway that is dependent solely upon the genetic influence of the maternal line that causes the maternal genes to be activated when the mother speaks, and vice versa for the father? Because if those pathways cannot be demonstrated, then Trivers’s claim is nothing more than a pipedream substituting for argument.

But again, this is not just a problem with Trivers's claims. This is the heart of Darwinism. All Darwinian evolution needs to explain the non-teleological pathways by which evolution is supposed to have occurred, rather than resorting to language like "Nature selects for X trait". Unless they can do so, Darwinists should admit they have no arguments, but only the pathetic fallacy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Huguenot Heart

Demon possession & spiritual warfare

Bestiality and homosexuality

At least, in public, homosexual apologists bitterly resent comparisons between homosexuality and bestiality. Today I ran across this discussion of Reddit:

Within the swampier quarters of the site, you will find all sorts of insalubrious offerings. One area features graphic discussions of bestiality. 
Read more at:

I haven't read the Reddit discussions of bestiality, and I don't intend to. But the immediate point is that this isn't just hypothetical. It's one of current alternative sexual activities. Not a bogeyman that rightwing Christians fabricated to create invidious comparisons with homosexuality. 

Cartesian doubt

Descartes was an interesting man. A math genius: founder of analytical geometry.

In philosophy, he's known for Cartesian dualism, the Cartesian demon, the Cartesian Circle, the "Cogito, ergo sum," a version of the ontological argument, his rejection of final causes, his rejection of Scholastic empiricism, a quantifiable definition of matter (in contrast to the Aristotelian-Thomistic qualitative definition), and his methodological doubt. 

He's often dubbed the first modern philosopher because he attempted to make a clean break with the past. Make a fresh start. 

I'd like to briefly focus on his methodological skepticism. In a couple of respects, there's a Van Tilian aspect to his methodology.

i) In a sense, his methodological doubt is naive. We can't really abstract ourselves from our social conditioning. We can't avoid being influenced by the history of ideas. 

However, to give his method a more charitable interpretation, this is an exercise in becoming presuppositionally self-conscious. We have many guiding assumptions which may be so engrained that we're not even aware of them. 

It's a useful exercise to take a step back and consider all the things you take for granted without giving it a second thought. 

ii) Apropos (i), it's good to consider how many of your beliefs may be unjustified or unjustifiable. 

Of course, we can't do that with everything we believe, but it can be useful to do that with important beliefs. After all, many beliefs are questionable. 

iii) Conversely, this sifting process can make us more aware of essential beliefs. By process of elimination, what beliefs are indispensable to morality and rationality? Bracketing one or more beliefs, then considering the adjustments that must be made in their absence, is a way of means-testing worldviews.  

Likewise, what kind of world must we live in to ground essential beliefs? What other things must be in place to sustain our essential beliefs? 

Take the typical Christian apostate. They think they can leave God behind without leaving anything else of consequence behind. Indeed, they think that's an improvement. They are so shortsighted.

It's natural for them to continue believing many things they used to believe as Christians, because these are indispensable beliefs. So they don't stop to consider that atheism commits them to dispensing with these beliefs. They don't consider the intellectual cost of atheism. 

iv) Methodological doubt can be taken too far. It's an intellectual exercise. We need to distinguish between paper doubts and real doubts. Just because we have the ability to dream up intellectual traps that we can't escape from doesn't mean doubt is actually warranted in that contrived situation. That reaction confuses imagination with reality.   

The future of Rome

I don't know the future, so this is speculative, but it's hard to see at this stage how the Roman church can pull out of the death spiral facing other mainline denominations. Because it's so big, it may take a long time to die, like the Ottoman empire.
Consider an illustration. From what I've read, shipbuilders try to make large vessels resistant to sinking by subdividing the hull into a series of watertight bulkheads. If the hull is punctured in one place, the entire hull doesn't fill with water. Instead, you have compartments sealed off from other compartments. 
If, however, several bulkheads are punctured, then the ship may keel over. The question is whether enough bulkheads have been punctured for the Roman church capsize. Given the extent of the damage, can it right itself? 
Take a comparison: back in the 60s, the SBC was trending liberal. However, I believe this was centered in some SBC educational institutions (Baptist colleges and seminaries). The laity was generally conservative, and many pastors, including megachurch pastors, were conservative. It was therefore possible to change course. The fundamentals were sound. But we don't have that situation in the Roman church. 
i) After initial opposition, the Roman Church has made peace with theistic evolution. Some of the most strident critics of intelligent design theory are Roman Catholics. 
Although there are individuals who can espouse theistic evolution while retaining other elements of traditional orthodoxy, I don't know of any denomination that's maintained that balance. 
ii) After initial opposition, the Roman church capitulated to German higher criticism. To my knowledge, this is pervasive. From top to bottom. Popes. The Roman episcopate. The priesthood. Catholic colleges and seminaries. Theologians and Bible scholars. The exception is pop Catholic apologists who converted from Evangelicalism. 
A fundamental principle of Christian theology is that Scripture is a historical record of divine words and actions rather than a collection of parables to illustrate doctrine. Once you deny the historicity of Scripture and the prophetic foresight of Scripture, you lose the foundation for theology. At that point there's no reason to believe in a God who intervenes in human history. Who speaks and acts. 
Moreover, if you think the infallibility of Scripture is incredible, how can you think the infallibility of the church is credible? 
iii) In the Roman episcopate, some bishops are known to be liberal. Yet despite their liberal reputation, they are promoted to key positions of leadership in the Roman Church, viz. archbishoprics, congregations in the Roman Curia. These are very influential policy positions. 
What does it say about a denomination where this is both tolerated and facilitated? And how does that impact theology and praxis over time? 
iv) According to an estimate from 15 years ago (by Fr. Donald Cozzens), the American priesthood might be 60% homosexual, with a higher percentage among younger priests. That means the priesthood is becoming increasingly homosexual. It is worse now than 15 years ago. Although that has specific reference to the American scene, the situation seems comparable in the EU and UK. 
In that respect, the moral and theological degeneration of the Roman church is far more advanced than any other mainline denomination.
v) This is aggravated by the acute priest shortage. What would happen if the Vatican were to defrock all its homosexual priests? There wouldn't be enough manpower to keep it going. 
This gives homosexuals within the Roman church enormous leverage. Imagine the impact if they were to stage a walkout? The Roman church has become utterly dependent on homosexuals to keep the machinery running. Given their disproportionate bargaining power, they can dictate terms and conditions. 
vi) The Vatican takes the presence of homosexual priests for granted. It regards that as acceptable so long as they are celibate–with a wink and a nod. 
vii) And it's not just priests. In addition, it's a given that you have homosexual bishops. Their identity may not be widely known to the laity, but it's an open secret to their colleagues and assistants. 
Even by Catholic standards, no denomination can retain traditional orthodoxy when you have that liberalizing counteraction. That's bound to move Catholic theology and praxis increasingly to the left. Which, not coincidentally, is exactly what we're seeing underway. 

Feser on sola Scriptura

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

"I can't help myself!"

i) One popular argument (if you can call it that) which routinely crops up in debates over "marriage equality" and the like is the claim that since sexual "orientation" isn't chosen, it's unfair to discriminate against LGBT individuals. 
ii) Of course, the claim itself is hotly contested. Part of the problem is that it's ambiguous. For instance, a junkie may have an uncontrollable urge to shoot up. He can't help himself. And there's a sense in which he didn't choose to become a junkie. He did, however, choose an addictive behavior.  
iii) How, let's grant, for the sake of argument, that homosexual orientation is inborn and irrepressible. Even if that were the case, does that, of itself, justify equal treatment?
Suppose an ex-Marine develops brain cancer, which makes him sociopathic. 
BTW, this isn't just hypothetical. There's a real life case (Charles Whitman):
Suppose he barges into an elementary school with a machine gun and a backpack full of magazines to reload. He plans to kill every child in sight.
Before he starts his shooting spree, police arrive. As a police sharpshooter is scoping out one side of the school, our would-be sniper steps in front of a classroom window, giving the sharpshooter a clear shot. Should he take the shot? Should he cap the would-be sniper before he starts killing little kids?
Technically, if the sniper kills the kids, that isn't murder. In his mental condition, there's no criminal intent. No malice aforethought. He is not morally responsible for his actions.
But even if it isn't "fair" to shoot him, it isn't fair to let him kill little kids. Although he's a raging sociopath through no fault of his own, he needs to be stopped by any means necessary.
Likewise, in an episode of La Femme Nikita ("Imitation of Death"), there's a terrorist organization that kidnaps children to turn them into suicide bombers. For years they are brainwashed and brutalized to make them cruel. They have no conscience. They will kill without compunction. 
What should you do if one of them is about to detonate his suicide jacket in a crowded shopping center? 
iv) Now, there are people who'd scream: "You're comparing gays to suicide bombers and mass murderers!"
Actually, no. Rather, I'm offering counterexamples to their principle. If someone didn't choose to be the way they are, if they can't help it, does that mean they are entitled to equal treatment?
If anything, if someone lacks impulse control, they need to be treated differently. 

Do miracles really violate the laws of science?

Help A Good Christian Apologist And His Family

I just saw a post by Dan Phillips about Ed Komoszewski's declining health and an opportunity to help him and his family. In addition to Dan's comments about Ed's work, see the remarks by Dan Wallace and Rob Bowman on the GoFundMe page. I've recommended a book Ed co-authored, Reinventing Jesus, for years, and I've often given copies away to other people. Please donate as much as you can to help Ed and his family.

"do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16)

Roger Olson's autobiography

Roger Olson has finally written his autobiography, aptly entitled Counterfeit Christianity.

Fighting the culture wars with one hand tied behind your back

One handicap which many Christian culture warriors experience is that we pull our punches. We win the argument, but we lose the debate because we're afraid to correct the narrative since that would require us to get very graphic. 
There's this "love wins" meme that credulous supporters of SSM keep touting. But it's very naive to think that alternate sexual lifestyles center on love. 
Take sadomasochism. I recently posted a comment by Richard Carrier extolling sadomasochism. How many "progressive Christians" are even aware of that, except as an abstraction? 
People like Robert George and Ryan Anderson have these very high-minded discussions of SSM, and up to a point that's a good thing. But by never delving into the sordid details of alternate sexual lifestyles, like domestic violence, sadomasochism, and the medical conditions, it allows the "love wins" meme to go unchallenged. 
This is a dilemma at two levels. To begin with, a lot of Christians don't know much about alternate sexual lifestyles. And that's generally a good thing. Obviously, you shouldn't immerse yourself in that material. 
In addition, even if you do run across it, there's a natural inhibition about describing it. But if we avoid that altogether, we let the other side define itself. 
So we need to strike a balance. It's like the study of the occult. For instance, there's a difference between reading literature about the occult and reading occult literature. I've read things about Aleister Crowley, but I've never read Aleister Crowley. I've read things about the Marquis de Sade, but I've never read the Marquis de Sade. I've heard of slasher films like the Saw series, but I haven't seen it.
There are clearly things we need to avoid experiencing firsthand. If you dip into that world, it contaminates the imagination.
We need to know enough and say enough about homosexuality, polyamory, &c., to correct the Disney world propaganda. 

Trafficking in baby parts

It's like the election and reelection of Obama opened a portal to hell: