Tag Archives: Investigation

Was atheism or Christianity more responsible for the Scientific Revolution?

Apologetics and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

First, here’s an article from the blog of the peer-reviewed journal Nature, probably the best peer-reviewed journal on science in the world.

The article is written by Dr. James Hannam. He has a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge and is the author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution (published in the UK as God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science).

Excerpt:

Few topics are as open to misunderstanding as the relationship between faith and reason. The ongoing clash of creationism with evolution obscures the fact that Christianity has actually had a far more positive role to play in the history of science than commonly believed. Indeed, many of the alleged examples of religion holding back scientific progress turn out to be bogus. For instance, the Church has never taught that the Earth is flat and, in the Middle Ages, no one thought so anyway. Popes haven’t tried to ban zero, human dissection or lightening rods, let alone excommunicate Halley’s Comet. No one, I am pleased to say, was ever burnt at the stake for scientific ideas. Yet, all these stories are still regularly trotted out as examples of clerical intransigence in the face of scientific progress.

Admittedly, Galileo was put on trial for claiming it is a fact that the Earth goes around the sun, rather than just a hypothesis as the Catholic Church demanded. Still, historians have found that even his trial was as much a case of papal egotism as scientific conservatism. It hardly deserves to overshadow all the support that the Church has given to scientific investigation over the centuries.

That support took several forms. One was simply financial. Until the French Revolution, the Catholic Church was the leading sponsor of scientific research. Starting in the Middle Ages, it paid for priests, monks and friars to study at the universities. The church even insisted that science and mathematics should be a compulsory part of the syllabus. And after some debate, it accepted that Greek and Arabic natural philosophy were essential tools for defending the faith. By the seventeenth century, the Jesuit order had become the leading scientific organisation in Europe, publishing thousands of papers and spreading new discoveries around the world. The cathedrals themselves were designed to double up as astronomical observatories to allow ever more accurate determination of the calendar. And of course, modern genetics was founded by a future abbot growing peas in the monastic garden.

But religious support for science took deeper forms as well. It was only during the nineteenth century that science began to have any practical applications. Technology had ploughed its own furrow up until the 1830s when the German chemical industry started to employ their first PhDs. Before then, the only reason to study science was curiosity or religious piety. Christians believed that God created the universe and ordained the laws of nature. To study the natural world was to admire the work of God. This could be a religious duty and inspire science when there were few other reasons to bother with it. It was faith that led Copernicus to reject the ugly Ptolemaic universe; that drove Johannes Kepler to discover the constitution of the solar system; and that convinced James Clerk Maxwell he could reduce electromagnetism to a set of equations so elegant they take the breathe away.

Given that the Church has not been an enemy to science, it is less surprising to find that the era which was most dominated by Christian faith, the Middle Ages, was a time of innovation and progress. Inventions like the mechanical clock, glasses, printing and accountancy all burst onto the scene in the late medieval period. In the field of physics, scholars have now found medieval theories about accelerated motion, the rotation of the earth and inertia embedded in the works of Copernicus and Galileo. Even the so-called “dark ages” from 500AD to 1000AD were actually a time of advance after the trough that followed the fall of Rome. Agricultural productivity soared with the use of heavy ploughs, horse collars, crop rotation and watermills, leading to a rapid increase in population.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when I am trying to find a game to play is ask “is it well designed?” If it’s not well-designed, then I will not take the time to learn the rules and practice playing. That was the situation before science started. The non-scientists thought that the universe was chaotic, that there were no rules, and so there was no point in trying to learn the rules. It was the idea that the universe was made by an intelligent Creator and Designer that made the first scientists start to do science. If there are rules to the game, then it’s worth it to learn them. But that’s a belief that’s more at home in a theistic worldview, not in a pagan or atheistic one.

What do skeptical ancient historians think of the earliest Christian creed?

 

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson solving a mystery

Here is a post from my friend Eric Chabot. He writes about the earliest historical source for the minimal facts about the resurrection, which is the early creed recorded by Paul in 1 Corinthians: 3-7.

1 Cor 15:3-7:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.

7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,

8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Just in case you didn’t know, Cephas is Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers.

The general consensus among scholars is the that creed goes back to within 1-3 years after the death if Jesus, when almost all the eyewitnesses were still around.

The creed

In Eric’s post, he quotes very well-known skeptical historians who affirm each part of the creed.

First, the creed as a whole is respected, even by atheist scholars like John Dominic Crossan:

Paul wrote to the Corinthians from Ephesus in the early 50s C.E. But he says in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that “I handed on to you as of first importance which I in turn received.” The most likely source and time for his reception of that tradition would have been Jerusalem in the early 30s when, according to Galatians 1:18, he “went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas [Peter] and stayed with him fifteen days” (3).

And atheist scholar Robert Funk:

The conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead had already taken root by the time Paul was converted about 33 C.E. On the assumption that Jesus died about 30 C.E., the time for development was thus two or three years at most.” — Robert Funk co-founder of the Jesus Seminar.(5)

Let’s take a look at one of the parts of the creed that is respected by skeptical historians… namely, the early belief that Jesus was resurrected shortly after his death.

The early belief in the resurrection

Skeptical scholar E.P. Sanders:

That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know. “I do not regard deliberate fraud as a worthwhile explanation. Many of the people in these lists were to spend the rest of their lives proclaiming that they had seen the risen Lord, and several of them would die for their cause. Moreover, a calculated deception should have produced great unanimity. Instead, there seem to have been competitors: ‘I saw him first!’ ‘No! I did.’ Paul’s tradition that 500 people saw Jesus at the same time has led some people to suggest that Jesus’ followers suffered mass hysteria. But mass hysteria does not explain the other traditions.” “Finally we know that after his death his followers experienced what they described as the ‘resurrection’: the appearance of a living but transformed person who had actually died. They believed this, they lived it, and they died for it. (14)

Skeptical scholar Bart Ehrman:

Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. (17)

Why, then, did some of the disciples claim to see Jesus alive after his crucifixion? I don’t doubt at all that some disciples claimed this. We don’t have any of their written testimony, but Paul, writing about twenty-five years later, indicates that this is what they claimed, and I don’t think he is making it up. And he knew are least a couple of them, whom he met just three years after the event (Galatians 1:18-19). (18)

You know, if all you did was give someone his post, I think that would be enough to show people that a more complete investigation of the historical Jesus was certainly a reasonable thing to do. It’s amazing to me that people who grow up at this time when access to the data is so easy do not take the opportunity to look into Christianity.

List of virtually undeniable facts

Finally, below is a list of facts about the historical Jesus that are accepted by ancient historians – Christian, non-Christian, atheist.

These are compiled by non-Christian scholar E.P. Sanders:

From his book “Jesus and Judaism” (1985):

  • Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.
  • Jesus called disciples and spoke of there being twelve.
  • Jesus confined his activity to Israel.
  • Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.
  • Jesus engaged in a controversy about the temple.
  • Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem by the Roman authorities.
  • After his death, his followers continued as an identifiable movement.
  • At least some Jews persecuted at least parts of the new movement.

From his book “The Historical Figure of Jesus” (1993):

  • Jesus was born c.4 BCE, near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
  • He spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
  • He was baptized by John the Baptist;
  • He called disciples;
  • He taught in the towns, villages, and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
  • He preached “the kingdom of God”;
  • Around the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
  • He created a disturbance in the temple area;
  • He had a final meal with the disciples;
  • He was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
  • He was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate;
  • His disciples at first fled;
  • They saw him (in what sense is uncertain) after his death;
  • As a consequence they believed he would return to found the kingdom;
  • They formed a community to await his return and sought to win others to faith in him as God’s Messiah.

The way the resurrection of Jesus is presented on TV, you would think that mythical stories about Jesus emerged decades and even centuries after the fact in other parts of the world from where the events happened. But the trouble is that no ancient historian thinks that. Only Hollywood TV producers and movie makers think that. Now, if you are getting your view of the historical accuracy of basic Christian beliefs from television and movies, then don’t be surprised if you are wrong. No one is saying that you have to go to Christian pastors and preachers for the facts, but you should go to the historians. They at least know the minimal facts.

The best way for a skeptic to tackle these issues is, I think, to watch a decent debate on the resurrection of Jesus between two respected scholars. My favorite debate on the resurrection is William Lane Craig versus atheist historian James Crossley. I have a video and a summary already ready made just waiting for you to check it out. Don’t worry, no one will be looking over your shoulder making you change everything your life should you be convinced. Just watch the debate and decide what you are going to do with it on your own. You don’t have to change your whole life overnight. Becoming a Christian is instantaneous and easy to do. Living like a Christian is a process, and it’s between you and God how fast you go. So just see what the facts are to start with and then take it from there.

Solyndra CEO and CFO will refuse to answer questions in Congressional hearing

Does Obama give taxpayer money millionaires and billionaires?
Obama gave $535 million taxpayer dollars to Solyndra, a company backed by a billionaire Obama-supporter

The Washington Examiner has the story. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

Two members leading the Congressional investigation into bankrupt solar energy firm Solyndra said the company’s executives broke their promise to testify openly during a hearing scheduled for this Friday, instead electing to exercise their Fifth amendment rights not to answer questions.

In a statement released moments ago, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and oversight subcommittee chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said:

“Our investigation has gotten this far without much cooperation from Solyndra, and it will continue with or without their voluntary testimony. It’s disappointing that the officials who canvassed the halls of Congress in mid-July and misled our members about the financial state of their company are now unwilling to answer direct questions, but any effort to cover up the truth will ultimately not succeed. We will not allow stonewalling by DOE, OMB, Committee Democrats, Solyndra, or anyone else to stop this investigation into what happened to half a billion dollars of the taxpayers’ money.

“Both Mr. Stover and Mr. Harrison will be sworn in under oath this Friday. We have many questions for Solyndra’s executives on their dealings with the Obama administration, their efforts to secure federal support for a project that appeared doomed from the outset, and why they made certain representations to Congress regarding their dire financial situation just two months ago. We would encourage Mr. Harrison and Mr. Stover to reconsider this effort to dodge questions under oath and hide the truth from those American taxpayers who are now on the hook for their $500 million bust.”

I wonder why the beneficiaries of a $535 million dollar stimulus grant would refuse to answer questions from Congress, now that they’ve declared bankruptcy. I wonder if it’s because of Solyndra’s links to Obama fundraisers?

Excerpt:

A key unanswered question in the Solyndra loan investigation concerns the role George Kaiser, the Oklahoma billionaire and major Obama fundraiser whose Family Foundation owned a large stake in the failed solar-panel company. Kaiser made multiple visits to the White House in the week before the Department of Energy approved a $535 million guaranteed loan to Solyndra on March 20, 2009, and helped arrange 16 separate meetings between top White House officials and Solyndra executives around that time. Yet Kaiser maintains that he “did not participate in any discussions with the U.S. government regarding the loan.”

But as the following video clip reveals, when it comes to steering government funds his way, Kaiser knew exactly what he was doing. Indeed, here he is July 2009 openly boasting about his ability to get his hands on stimulus funding. “There’s never been more money shoved out of the government’s door in world history, and probably never will be again, than in the last few months and in the next 18 months,” he says. “And our selfish parochial goal is to get as much as it for Tulsa and Oklahoma as we possibly can.”

Kaiser cites his “multiple trips to Washington” and his ability to secure meetings with “all the key players in the West Wing of the White House.” He also touts his “almost unique advantage,” through his foundation, of being able to match public dollars with private funding. That way, Kaiser says, the Obama administration will know “we’ll watch over it because we don’t want to be embarrassed with the way our money is spent and so we won’t make you be embarrassed with the way your money is spent either.” Sure, what could possibly go wrong?

Here’s the video:

And more from that National Review article:

While Solyndra’s failure is an embarrassment for both parties, Kaiser’s foundation still stands to recoup a large chunk of its investment in the company, whereas taxpayers will recoup very little, if any, of the $535 million investment the White House made on our behalf. That’s because once Solyndra’s financial troubles became too obvious to ignore, the DOE negotiated a loan restructuring that gave priority status to private investors over taxpayers with respect to the first $75 million recovered in the event of Solyndra’s collapse. As Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations pointed out last week, this appears to be a blatant violation of federal law.

Obama may take issue with the fact that “millionaires and billionaires” like Kaiser make too much money, but he obviously has no qualms about showering them with taxpayer dollars.

Remember, it’s not just one Obama fundraiser who has been linked to Solyndra.

Whistleblower fired by Barack Obama loses his appeal

Story here. (H/T Robert Stacy McCain)

Excerpt:

A three-judge panel rejected appeals Tuesday by Gerald Walpin, a former federal watchdog fired by President Obama in 2009, likely ending his attempts to get back his old job.

Former Corporation for National and Community Service Inspector General Gerald Walpin. (AP)Walpin was appointed inspector general for the agency overseeing AmeriCorps during George W. Bush’s administration and filed suit in July 2009 shortly after his dismissal.

But in a unanimous seven-page ruling issued Tuesday, judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously affirmed a previous district court decision, stating that Walpin “does not have a ‘clear and indisputable right’ ” to reinstatement.

In an interview, Walpin said he was disappointed by the decision, “not for myself but for the institution of inspectors general,” because the court decision “has effectively removed any meaning” to a 2008 inspector general reform law.

McCain adds:

And the White House lawyer who fired Walpin? He’s now ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

Here’s a story by Byron York to refresh you on the details of the case.

Excerpt:

The White House’s decision to fire AmeriCorps inspector general Gerald Walpin came amid politically-charged tensions inside the Corporation for National and Community Service, the organization that runs AmeriCorps.  Top executives at the Corporation, Walpin explained in an hour-long interview Saturday, were unhappy with his investigation into the misuse of AmeriCorps funds by Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star who is now mayor of Sacramento, California and a prominent supporter of President Obama. Walpin’s investigation also sparked conflict with the acting U.S. attorney in Sacramento amid fears that the probe — which could have resulted in Johnson being barred from ever winning another federal grant — might stand in the way of the city receiving its part of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money.  After weeks of standoff, Walpin, whose position as inspector general is supposed to be protected from influence by political appointees and the White House, was fired.

Walpin learned his fate Wednesday night.  He was driving to an event in upstate New York when he received a call from Norman Eisen, the Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform.  “He said, ‘Mr. Walpin, the president wants me to tell you that he really appreciates your service, but it’s time to move on,'” Walpin recalls.  “Eisen said, ‘You can either resign, or I’ll tell you that we’ll have to terminate you.'”

[…]In the course of his investigation, Walpin found Johnson and St. HOPE had failed to use the federal money they received for the purposes specified in the grant and had also used federally-funded AmeriCorps staff for, among other things, “driving [Johnson] to personal appointments, washing his car, and running personal errands.” Walpin came to the conclusion that Johnson and St. HOPE should be subject to suspension and debarment.

Kevin Johnson, is, of course, a Democrat. Just like Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are Democrats. And Chris Dodd is a Democrat. And so on.

Republicans prepare to investigate Democrat corruption

Here is Darrell Issa on Fox News Sunday.

Story from the left-wing Politico web site.

Excerpt:

The WikiLeaks debacle, corruption in Afghanistan and Obama administration regulation are all on the agenda as Rep. Darrell Issa prepares to take the helm of the top House committee tasked with watch-dogging Washington.

[…]”We need to start by asking a very fundamental question: Why hasn’t the economy created the private-sector jobs the president promised?” the memo said.

That hearing would call business leaders to testify about how government regulations are doing “harm to job-creation efforts.” The hearing falls in line with what Issa talked about Sunday, when he told “Fox News Sunday” that administration regulation is hurting American competitiveness.

According to the agenda, Issa also plans to hold hearings on the role played by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the foreclosure crisis. For that, he intends to call the Federal Housing Administration chief to testify, along with non-government experts. Along those lines, Issa is planning a hearing examining the “failure” of another government panel to find out more about the financial crisis — he wants to dig into the work of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which he claims has done a “biased” and “highly partisan” job of looking for the root causes of the financial crisis.

Issa also plans to detour into foreign policy. According to the memo, he’ll hold a hearing on how to combat corruption in Afghanistan. He also plans a hearing on WikiLeaks, examining ways the federal government can plug the disclosure of more sensitive information in the future. He plans to call National Security Adviser Tom Donilon to testify.

Issa said on “Fox News Sunday” that Attorney General Eric Holder needs to either do more to crack down on the WikiLeaks document dumps or leave the administration.

And so it begins.