Category Archives: News

Neil Shenvi lectures on the relationship between science and religion

Another great 42-minute lecture by Dr. Neil Shenvi.

Speaker bio:

As it says on the main page, my name is Neil Shenvi; I am currently a research scientist with Prof. Weitao Yang at Duke University in the Department of Chemistry. I was born in Santa Cruz, California, but grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. I attended Princeton University as an undergraduate where I worked on high-dimensional function approximation with Professor Herschel Rabitz. I became a Christian in Berkeley, CA where I did my PhD in Theoretical Chemistry at UC – Berkeley with Professor Birgitta Whaley. The subject of my PhD dissertation was quantum computation, including topics in quantum random walks, cavity quantum electrodynamics, spin physics, and the N-representability problem. From 2005-2010, I worked as a postdoctoral associate with Prof. John Tully at Yale where I did research into nonadiabatic dynamics, electron transfer, and surface science.

Outline slide: (Download the Powerpoint slides here)

Lecture:

Summary:

  • Science is often considered to be in opposition to religion, because it answers all the questions that religion asks
  • Thesis: 1) Science and religion are compatible, 2) Science provides us with good reasons to believe that God exists
  • Definition: what is science?
  • Definition: what is the scientific method?
  • Definition: what is religion?
  • Where is the conflict between science and religion, according to atheists?
  • Conflict 1: Definitional – faith is belief without evidence
  • But the Bible doesn’t define faith as “belief without evidence”
  • Conflict 2: Metaphysical – science presuppose naturalism (nature is all that exists)
  • First, naturalism is a philosophical assumption, not something that is scientifically tested or proved
  • Second, methodological naturalism in science doesn’t require us to believe in metaphysical naturalism
  • Conflict 3: Epistemological – science is the only way to know truth (scientism)
  • But scientism cannot itself be discovered by science – the statement is self-refuting
  • Conflict 4: Evolutionary – evolution explains the origin of life, so no need for God
  • Theists accept that organisms change over time, and that there is limited common descent
  • But the conflict is really over the mechanism that supposedly drives evolutionary change
  • There are philosophical and evidential reasons to doubt the effectiveness of mutation and selection
  • Evidence for God 1: the applicability of mathematics to the natural world, and our ability to study the natural world
  • Evidence for God 2: the origin of the universe
  • Evidence for God 3: the fine-tuning of the initial constants and quantities
  • Evidence for God 4: the implications of quantum mechanics
  • Evidence for God 5: the grounding of the philosophical foundations of the scientific enterprise
  • Hiddenness of God: why isn’t the evidence of God from science more abundant and more clear?
  • Science is not the only means for getting at truth
  • Science is not the best way to reach all the different kinds of people
  • There is an even deeper problem that causes people to not accept Christianity than lack of evidence
  • The deeper problem is the emotional problem: we want to reject God’s claim on our lives

He concludes with an explanation of the gospel, which is kinda cool, coming from an academic scientist.

I am a big admirer of Dr. Neil Shenvi. I wish we could clone him and have dozens, or even hundreds, like him (with different scientific specializations, of course!). I hope you guys are doing everything you can to lead and support our young people, and encouraging them to set their sights high and aim for the stars.

UPDATE: Dr. Shenvi has posted a text version of the lecture.

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Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy paper: gun control doesn’t lower murder rate

Guns are for self-defense against criminals
Guns provide effective self-defense against violent criminals

Doug Ross linked to this study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy.

He writes:

The Harvard study attempts to answer the question of whether or not banning firearms would reduce murders and suicides. Researchers looked at crime data from several European countries and found that countries with HIGHER gun ownership often had LOWER murder rates.

Russia, for example, enforces very strict gun control on its people, but its murder rate remains quite high. In fact, the murder rate in Russia is four times higher than in the “gun-ridden” United States, cites the study. ”Homicide results suggest that where guns are scarce other weapons are substituted in killings.” In other words, the elimination of guns does not eliminate murder, and in the case of gun-controlled Russia, murder rates are quite high.

The study revealed several European countries with significant gun ownership, like Norway, Finland, Germany and France – had remarkably low murder rates. Contrast that with Luxembourg, “where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.

The study found no evidence to suggest that the availability of guns contributes to higher murder rates anywhere in the world. ”Of course, it may be speculated that murder rates around the world would be higher if guns were more available. But there is simply no evidence to support this.”

The authors also took a look at the effect of gun control laws in various U.S. states, gun ownership in rural and urban areas, and across racial lines. The long and short of it is that a small number of extremely active criminals with lengthy criminal records are responsible for the overwhelming super-majority of all gun crimes, and these criminals are psychopaths that ignore all laws.

The study also cited a previous report that was unable to find a single gun control law implemented in the United States that is proven to have reduced violent crime.

This is not the first time that a study in a presitigious journal has challenged the liberal gun control narrative. People who oppose guns oppose them because of feelings. Guns are scary and guns are loud, they say. That’s their reasoning. But if you actually look at the data, you’ll find that guns do reduce crime rates.

The peer-reviewed research

Whenever I get into discussions about gun control, I always mention two academic books by John R. Lott and Joyce Lee Malcolm.

Here is a paper by Dr. Malcolm that summarizes one of the key points of her book.

Excerpt:

Tracing the history of gun control in the United Kingdom since the late 19th century, this article details how the government has arrogated to itself a monopoly on the right to use force. The consequence has been a tremendous increase in violent crime, and harsh punishment for crime victims who dare to fight back. The article is based on the author’s most recent book, Guns and Violence: The English Experience (Harvard University Press, 2002). Joyce Malcom is professor of history at Bentley College, in Waltham, Massachusetts. She is also author of To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an AngloAmerican Right (Harvard University Press, 1994).

Upon the passage of The Firearms Act (No. 2) in 1997, British Deputy Home Secretary Alun Michael boasted: “Britain now has some of the toughest gun laws in the world.” The Act was second handgun control measure passed that year, imposed a near-complete ban on private ownership of handguns, capping nearly eighty years of increasing firearms restrictions. Driven by an intense public campaign in the wake of the shooting of schoolchildren in Dunblane, Scotland, Parliament had been so zealous to outlaw all privately owned handguns that it rejected proposals to exempt Britain’s Olympic target-shooting team and handicapped target-shooters from the ban.

And the result of the 1997 gun ban:

The result of the ban has been costly. Thousands of weapons were confiscated at great financial cost to the public. Hundreds of thousands of police hours were devoted to the task. But in the six years since the 1997 handgun ban, crimes with the very weapons banned have more than doubled, and firearm crime has increased markedly. In 2002, for the fourth consecutive year, gun crime in England and Wales rose—by 35 percent for all firearms, and by a whopping 46 percent for the banned handguns. Nearly 10,000 firearms offences were committed.

[…]According to Scotland Yard, in the four years from 1991 to 1995 crimes against the person in England‟s inner cities increased by 91 percent. In the four years from 1997 to 2001 the rate of violent crime more than doubled. The UK murder rate for 2002 was the highest for a century.

I think that peer-reviewed studies – from Harvard University, no less – should be useful to those of us who believe in the right of self-defense for law-abiding people. The book by economist John Lott, linked above,compares the crime rates of all U.S. states that have enacted concealed carry laws, and concludes that violent crime rates dropped after law-abiding citizens were allowed to carry legally-owned firearms. That’s the mirror image of Dr. Malcolm’s Harvard study, but both studies affirm the same conclusion – more legal firearm ownership means less crime.

If you still think that guns are somehow bad for reducing crime, why not check out a formal academic debate featuring 3 people on each side of the debate?

If you want to know why the Democrat parts of the United States have such high rates of violence, then you need to look at the enormously high out-of-wedlock birth rates in the Democrat parts of the United States. Democrats have no problem with having fatherless children, and they support paying people welfare in order to do it. No wonder they have a crime problem that’s caused by the fatherlessness that is caused by their own values and policies. When Democrats stop paying single mothers money to have fatherless kids, then the crime rates in the Democrat parts of the United States will go down.

Virginia shooter background includes gay rights activism and anti-white racism

Let’s just pull up some quotations from mainstream news sources and learn about what the Virginia reporter shooter believed.

First, the UK Telegraph on the shooter’s home.

Gay pride flag and sex toys:

[…]In a raid on the apartment on Wednesday, police reportedly confiscated a gay pride flag. They also found “many” sex toys, which may have “human material” on them, the source told this newspaper.

Victim mindset and gay prostitution:

In a “suicide note” sent to ABC news, Flanagan said he was discriminated against in life for being gay and said he had sometimes worked as an escort for money.

Here’s another UK Telegraph article.

His motive was revenge against whites:

In a 23-page document faxed to ABC News two hours after the shooting,Flanagan apparently said that the Charleston shooting in June of nine black people was his “tipping point”.
He said the church shooting by racist Dylann Roof in South Carolina “sent me over the top”, after which he immediately bought a gun.

“Why did I do it? I put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15. The Church shooting in Charleston happened on 6/17/15,” he wrote.

“What sent me over the top was the church shooting,” he wrote. “And my hollow point bullets have the victims’ initials on them.”

“As for Dylann Roof? You —-! You want a race war —-? BRING IT THEN YOU WHITE —-!!!”

Why was Alison his target?

On his Twitter account, which has since been suspended, he wrote after the shooting that “Alison made racist comments” and “Adam went to (human resources) on me after working with me one time!!!”

And, of course, he is a Democrat:

He was also apparently reprimanded for wearing a sticker supporting President Barack Obama while reporting on the 2012 US presidential election.

And his Twitter feed confirms his frustration with the lack of punishment for Alison’s “racism”:

Alison made
Alison made “racist” comments, he says

I had to go to the UK mainstream media to get the full story – the US mainstream media isn’t reporting a thing. Why?

PJ Media reports that ABC News still has not released the full text of his 23-page manifesto.

The same article mentions that CBS News is covering up his anti-white racist motives:

A CBS report never mentioned the shooter’s racial comments at all. The piece did tiptoe around the shooter’s problems with race in two paragraphs, but never actually stated his race rhetoric seen in the explicit terms revealed in his manifesto.

Then, a piece in the Chicago Tribune called the killer “off kilter” and “bizarre” but steered clear of fully reporting on his racist ideas.

One reporter, The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, even took to Twitter to wring his hands over the reporting of Flanagan’s racist manifesto, saying to Breitbart’s John Nolte, “Do you worry at all that the ‘race war’ story does what the killer wanted?”

To be sure, Weigel was far less worried about stirring racial strife when he wrote a Bloomberg piece dissecting the racial motives of Charleston killer Dylann Roof.

I wonder why the media is covering up for him? Could it be that they basically agree with his values and motives straight down the line?

By the way, you probably hadn’t heard about this, but the driver of the Amtrak train was a gay rights activist, and he also felt that he was a victim of discrimination.

Excerpt:

[Brandon] Bostian is a gay-rights activist who previously lived in San Francisco before moving to New York. In 2012, he was interviewed by the Midtown Gazette, which covers parts of Manhattan, during the campaign for marriage equality.

He said: ‘It’s kind of insulting to have to beg people for my right to marry. I feel like we shouldn’t even have to have this fight.’

You probably had no idea. That’s how the mainstream media works.

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In Ohio, faithful Jews and Christians can no longer serve as judges

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

For the past few decades, we have been able to see what happens when the Christian church decides that piety and feelings are more important than truth and evidence. Gradually, pastors decided to eliminate any discussion of apologetics as well as any integration between the Christian worldview and other areas of knowledge, e.g. – economics, politics, science. What were the consequences of this emotionalization of Christianity? Well, we basically handed the commanding heights of the culture to the secular left – including furnishing them with new soldiers from our own pious families.

Consider this article in The Stream about a recent decision by the Ohio Supreme Court.

It says:

The court’s Board of Professional Conduct was responding to a request submitted by several lawyers and judges, including C. Allen McConnell, a municipal court Judge whose predicament we addressedin “The ‘Soft’ Beginning of the Post-Obergefell Persecution.”

Judge McConnell said that as a Christian, he could not officiate at same-sex weddings. The Board of Professional Conduct of the Ohio Supreme Court said he must. In other words: Christians, check your faith at the bench or you may not serve as a judge in the state of Ohio.

It is helpful to go through the board’s opinion because it reveals how they will treat complaints filed against judges in the future. If a judge is the subject of a complaint filed by a lawyer, fellow judge or member of the public, the board reviews the complaint. They will apply the strained analysis of this opinion in determining whether to sanction, suspend or remove the judge from the bench.

In Ohio, judges are elected by the people, at every level, municipal, circuit court, appeals court or state Supreme Court. In many other states they are appointed. Where they are appointed there are growing efforts to weed out Christians. This advisory opinion presents a new way of removing Christians from the bench after the people have elected them to office.

In this seven-page opinion the Board claimed that there is a “self-evident principle that the personal, moral and religious beliefs of a judicial officer should never factor into the performance of any judicial duty.” In other words, Christians must check their faith at the bench if they serve as a judge in the state of Ohio.

So what we have now is a kind of “religious test” for judges. If you are a devout Christian or a devout Jew, then you can’t be a judge in Ohio. Only people reject the Judeo-Christian ethics that founded this country can be judges.

So, if we go back 50 years, what were the churches doing to stop this? Were they educating people in apologetics? Were they encouraging people to stay married? Were they educating people about feminism, the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce? Were they paying attention to cosmology and fine-tuning discoveries and making them known to the flock? Were they teaching people about how to think Christianly about economics, foreign policy, free enterprise, and so on? Were they steering young people towards areas that are related to apologetics? Were they steering young people towards careers that would place them in positions of influence? No. We had other priorities – making people feel good, and avoid controversy and conflict.

Brett Kunkle, who works for Stand to Reason, posted an interesting commentary that I tweeted earlier this week. He talks about grilling a bunch of Christian parents by pretending to be an atheist professor.

He writes this:

There was no surprise factor. The parents knew who I was and the Christian organization I represented. Indeed, I told the audience what I was about to do, turned my back on them for just a moment, and then turned round again in full atheist character. I jumped into my role and they jumped into theirs, attempting to defend the faith against atheist professor “Dr. Kunkle.” Sadly, they were ill-equipped to handle my challenges. I was glad to see their fighting spirit, but their responses were only vigorous in style, not substance. After half an hour, many parents were exasperated and I ended the role-play.

“How was that for you?” I asked. “Extremely frustrating,” was the immediate parental consensus.

“Why was it so frustrating?” I pressed. One mom blurted out, “Because I didn’t have any good answers.” As soon as the words left her mouth, tears began streaming down her cheeks. It was a painful recognition of her own inadequacy and she knew what was at stake. As I glanced around the room, other parents were nodding in agreement, eyes moist with their own tears.

Caught off guard, I began to tear up, too. I felt such compassion for these good-hearted yet unequipped parents. Quickly gathering my emotions, I looked that mom in the eyes and gently replied, “I know exactly how you feel. I felt that way, too, when Dr. David Lane was dismantling my Christianity in front of my peers, in my college philosophy class.” I told the parents my story and encouraged them to prepare themselves so, in turn, they can prepare their own kids.

Afterward, parent after parent thanked me. They expressed their deep appreciation for the wake-up call, despite the accompanying painful realizations. And the mom who burst into tears? She walked up and gave me a big hug. Then she shared how her 21-year-old son, a student at Duke University, had turned his back on Christ while at college. She was convicted to begin a dialogue with him, as well as with her second son, a junior at Village Academy. I encouraged her, shared some resources, and gave her my email address with an open invitation to contact me anytime.

Christian parents: we need to do what it takes so that OUR sons and daughters get on the Ohio Supreme Court. We need to be the ones making these decisions, not the people on the secular left. If you send your kid off to Duke University unprepared, you’re not doing a good job at parenting.

Obama administration retaliates against Kansas for defunding Planned Parenthood

Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood
Barack Obama speaking to Planned Parenthood

Typical immature behavior from our petulant child-President.

This is from Life News.

Excerpt:

The Obama administration has punished the state of Kansas for cutting taxpayer funds for the Planned Parenthood abortion business by cutting its federal Medicaid funding by the same amount.The moves comes at the same time the abortion giant is facing intense criticism over its sales of aborted babies and their body parts.

In 2011, pro-life Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill signed into law a bill that would shift funding away from the Planned Parenthood abortion business and stops abortion funding in health insurance programs. The Kansas Senate passed the measure on a 28-10 vote and the state House followed suit with an 86-30 vote.

The measure has the state budget directing over $300,000  in Title 10 money to local full-service health clinics instead of Planed Parenthood and it places $300,000 into the Stan Clark grant-matched fund for pregnancy support and adoption counseling.

The funding cuts eventually resulted in the Planned Parenthood abortion business closing one of its centers.

Now, the Obama administration, in the wake of additional states cutting Planned Parenthood funding following the massive scandal, is going after one state that already cut tax-funding to the abortion company. According to an AP report: “The federal government reduced its Title X funding to the state by about the $370,000 annually in Title X money that two Planned Parenthood facilities in Wichita and Hays and an unaffiliated clinic in Dodge City had been receiving.”

While Kansas revoked taxpayer dollars for an abortion business, the Obama administration’s decision hurts women’s health and deprives them of legitimate medical and health care.

As AP reports, “Medical providers say that means low-income patients are finding it harder to access birth control, cancer screenings and other reproductive health care services.

“People have fewer places to go, and for those with limited means that may make utilizing those services even more difficult,” said J’Vonnah Maryman, director for public health at the Sedgwick County Health Department.

It’s not that the Democrats care about just allowing women to abort the children they conceive after freely choosing to have irresponsible sex. It’s that they want pro-life taxpayers to pay for it. If pro-life taxpayers don’t “share the blame” with the people having the abortions, then they need to be punished some other way. And if the punishment falls on other women seeking non-abortion health care, then that’s just too bad for them, Obama has decided.

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