All posts by Wintery Knight

https://winteryknight.com/

Is the presupposition of naturalism in science good for the pursuit of truth?

I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery
I have a key that will unlock a puzzling mystery

This topic came up recently in a discussion, and I wanted to be sure that all my readers were aware of how to think about the work that the presupposition of naturalism does in supporting naturalistic views of science. When I was little, way back in the 1990s, Phillip E. Johnson’s work on the definitions of science, evolution and creation were very important stuff. He was everywhere, doing lectures on university campuses and debates on the radio with Eugenie Scott. I was able to get a bunch of this audio from Access Research Network on AUDIO CASSETTES, but now that’s all obsolete.

Thankfully, I was able to find an old column written by Johnson in the Wall Street Journal, and preserved by Access Research Network.

Excerpt:

A Chinese paleontologist lectures around the world saying that recent fossil finds in his country are inconsistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution. His reason: The major animal groups appear abruptly in the rocks over a relatively short time, rather than evolving gradually from a common ancestor as Darwin’s theory predicts. When this conclusion upsets American scientists, he wryly comments: “In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.”

That point was illustrated last week by the media firestorm that followed the Kansas Board of Education’s vote to omit macro-evolution from the list of science topics which all students are expected to master. Frantic scientists and educators warned that Kansas students would no longer be able to succeed in college or graduate school, and that the future of science itself was in danger. The New York Times called for a vigorous counteroffensive, and the lawyers prepared their lawsuits. Obviously, the cognitive elites are worried about something a lot more important to themselves than the career prospects of Kansas high school graduates.

The root of the problem is that “science” has two distinct definitions in our culture. On the one hand, science refers to a method of investigation involving things like careful measurements, repeatable experiments, and especially a skeptical, open-minded attitude that insists that all claims be carefully tested. Science also has become identified with a philosophy known as materialism or scientific naturalism. This philosophy insists that nature is all there is, or at least the only thing about which we can have any knowledge. It follows that nature had to do its own creating, and that the means of creation must not have included any role for God. Students are not supposed to approach this philosophy with open-minded skepticism, but to believe it on faith.

[…]All the most prominent Darwinists proclaim naturalistic philosophy when they think it safe to do so. Carl Sagan had nothing but contempt for those who deny that humans and all other species “arose by blind physical and chemical forces over eons from slime.” Richard Dawkins exults that Darwin “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist,” and Richard Lewontin has written that scientists must stick to philosophical materialism regardless of the evidence, because “we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

So, if you’re having a discussion with a person who believes in naturalism – that everything in nature can be explained by material forces alone – then they will give you a stock response to all of your evidence for something outside of nature.

  • Origin of the universe? That’s not science
  • Cosmic fine-tuning? That’s not science
  • Origin of life? That’s not science
  • Cambrian explosion? That’s not science
  • Habitability-discoverability? That’s not science

It’s not that the people who did the science around these discoveries invoked God, and that’s why it’s not science. On the contrary, the mainstream scientists who made these discoveries scrupulously left God out of their microscopes and telescopes. These discoveries – which have only gotten worse for the naturalists as more details emerge – do not have easy naturalistic explanations. If you ask the naturalist for an explanation, they will resort to various sorts of speculations:

  • future science will undermine all our current knowledge
  • we are in an unobservable multiverse that exists eternally
  • aliens seeded the Earth with life, and THEY evolved
  • there are lots of fossils we haven’t discovered yet
  • there are lots of stars and planets we haven’t discovered yet

What’s the answer to this arguing from ignorance?

I think ridicule is best. You need to start by telling the full story about how these discoveries were made. Name the scientists, state the dates. Tell the whole story of how the science was done. Do this for each discovery. Then, at the end, ask them which of these scientific discoveries they deny. Ask them for naturalistic explanations of the ones they accept. Pretend to be confused, then concerned about their sanity. Finally, you should be as condescending as possible, and just explain that we can’t believe in fairies and unicorns. Explain things to them as if they were a child: we have to base our worldview on what science has revealed. We can’t hold out for Santa Claus to come down the chimney with new science that undermines all we have discovered. We have to go with the science we have today, and the science we have today says Creator and Designer. That is the best explanation of the what we know right now. And the trend is that these discoveries are becoming even MORE difficult for naturalism to account for. I guarantee you that the average rank-and-file atheist knows more about Star Wars and Star Trek lore than they do about actual scientific discoveries that threaten their beloved religion of naturalism.

Try to make your face look like Tucker Carlson:

When dealing with a naturalist fundamentalist, make the Tucker Carlson face
The Tucker Carlson face conveys a mix of confusion, disappointment and horror

For God’s sake, even Richard Dawkins admitted in his debate with John Lennox that a good case can be made for a deistic God from the science we have now. If Dawkins can admit this, then you need to be extremely harsh to the village atheists.

If the word “naturalism” is all new to you, you should probably read the whole article and this longer article as well. The longer article really explains the different definitions of the words that are used in these debates. Johnson’s an excellent writer, and you will learn a lot.

Study: sex-reassignment surgery does not improve mental health of transgender people

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

I found this peer-reviewed PLOS study while reading an article from CNS News.

The study takes a look at sex-reassigned people in pro-LGBT Sweden, between 1973 and 2003. Specifically, they aim to measure “mortality, morbidity, and criminal rate after surgical sex reassignment of transsexual persons” over a 30 year period.

The setting is important because Sweden has a much higher tolerance for gay rights than other Western countries, e.g. – America. There’s virtually no dissent from the gay rights agenda in Sweden – certainly no organized dissent.

Here are the results and the conclusion:

Results

The overall mortality for sex-reassigned persons was higher during follow-up (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 1.8–4.3) than for controls of the same birth sex, particularly death from suicide (aHR 19.1; 95% CI 5.8–62.9). Sex-reassigned persons also had an increased risk for suicide attempts (aHR 4.9; 95% CI 2.9–8.5) and psychiatric inpatient care (aHR 2.8; 95% CI 2.0–3.9). Comparisons with controls matched on reassigned sex yielded similar results. Female-to-males, but not male-to-females, had a higher risk for criminal convictions than their respective birth sex controls.

Conclusions

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.

So, there were higher risks of death, higher risk of suicidal behavior, and higher mental illness.

The CNS News article interviewed a Johns Hopkins University scientist who is familiar with the history of sex-reassignment surgery.

Excerpt:

Dr. Paul R. McHugh, the Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and former psychiatrist–in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital, who has studied transgendered people for 40 years, said it is a scientific fact that “transgendered men do not become women, nor do transgendered women become men.”

[…]Dr. McHugh, who was psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital for 26 years, the medical institute that had initially pioneered sex-change surgery – and later ceased the practice – stressed that the cultural meme, or idea that “one’s sex is fluid and a matter of choice” is extremely damaging, especially to young people.

[…][T]here is plenty of evidence showing that “transgendering” is a “psychological rather than a biological matter,” said Dr. McHugh.

“In fact, gender dysphoria—the official psychiatric term for feeling oneself to be of the opposite sex—belongs in the family of similarly disordered assumptions about the body, such as anorexia nervosa and body dysmorphic disorder,” said McHugh.

“Its treatment should not be directed at the body as with surgery and hormones any more than one treats obesity-fearing anorexic patients with liposuction,” he said.

In fact, at Johns Hopkins, where they pioneered sex-change-surgery, “we demonstrated that the practice brought no important benefits,” said Dr. McHugh. “As a result, we stopped offering that form of treatment in the 1970s.”

Regarding the study, McHugh says this:

The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people—extending over 30 years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered—documents their lifelong mental unrest.”

“Ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers,” said McHugh.

Normally, when it comes to questions like these, I think it’s best to be guided by the evidence. What good would it do to tell someone to do something that makes them like you today (“you’re so tolerant and compassionate”) if they commit suicide tomorrow? Although people today think that being truthful and setting boundaries is “intolerant”, it can actually save someone’s life. When you stop someone from going further in a direction that will expose them to harm, you’re actually doing the right thing – even if they hate you right now for disagreeing with them. (That hatred of dissent is a sign that they are wrong, by the way)

New study: more than half of all female-to-male transgender teens attempt suicide

Anti-marriage gay activists vandalize church
Anti-marriage gay activists vandalize church

A recent study by a researcher out of Brown University found that the exploding rates of transgender young people is being driven in part by social factors. In particular, coming out as transgender gives young people instant popularity, and everyone around them feels obligated to affirm them and agree with them. Or else. What’s missing? What’s missing is any sort of warning about the dangers of transgenderism.

The Daily Wire reports on a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Excerpt:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found an alarming number of teens who identify as transgender or nonbinary have attempted suicide at least once, showcasing the dangers of the transgender movement. More than half of all female-to-male transgender teens, for example, have attempted to end their lives.

Researchers behind the study used data collected from more than 600 teens over a 36-month period, June 2012 to May 2015, from the “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors” survey.

The study found that female-to-male trans teens had the highest suicide attempt rate of all other identity groups surveyed: 50.8%. Unsurprisingly, other gender-confused teens had outrageously high rates of suicide attempts, too. Nonbinary adolescents, meaning teens who do not identify exclusively as female or male, were found to have a 41.8% suicide attempt rate; male-to-female trans teens had a 29.9% rate; and “questioning” teens had a rate of 27.9%.

By comparison, teens who identified as their biological sex and corresponding gender suffered relatively low (though still too high) rates: females were found to have a 17.6% rate while males had the lowest of any other group at 9.8%.

When I tell LGBT people about the health risks of their choices, and cite peer-reviewed studies, the most frequent response is that they get angry and even violent and demand approval. I have even heard threats that if I don’t approve of what they feel like doing, then they will kill themselves, and their blood will be on my hands.

The thing is, there is a study about that. Even though LGBT people think that approval will make them feel better about what they are doing, it’s not true. In societies where social approval and government support of LGBT behaviors are HIGHER than in America, the suicide rates are still extremely high.

Life Site News explains:

A study out of Sweden published last month has found that suicide risk among active homosexuals is high even in a region that is highly tolerant of same-sex behaviour.

Published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, the authors found that men in same-sex “marriages” were at three times greater risk of suicide than men who are married to women.

The authors note in their abstract:

Even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality such as Sweden, same-sex married individuals evidence a higher risk for suicide than other married individuals.

Just in passing, what a strange way to respond to disagreement. I have people disagree with my chastity, my Christianity, my conservative politics, etc. all the time. It never occurs to me to threaten to commit suicide if they don’t approve. I also don’t try to get them fired, insult them, shame them, vandalize their property, assault them, murder them, or drag them in front of a government-run political correctness panel. I don’t even mind that they use their free speech to disagree with me. After all, they are people made in the image of God, with an equal right to be in a relationship with God. I can’t do anything that is going to cause them to think that God doesn’t love them.

It’s useful to remember that the Christian view on life is not to neglect God’s design and tell people to do whatever they want. The Christian view is to tell people God’s design, set boundaries, and encourage people to make good decisions. Christians don’t believe in love as mere acceptance. Christians believe in “love warns”. I tell young people not to run up student loan debt studying useless non-STEM degrees. They might feel bad, but it’s the truth: they won’t be able to find a job that allows them to pay the money back. Warning people about sexual issues is the same thing, in my mind.

The production of carbon from lighter elements is fine-tuned to an amazing degree

Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant
Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant

If there is one thing that science fiction is good for, it’s for popularizing the phrase “carbon-based life”. Everyone has heard that carbon is essential for life. But do you know why carbon is so important? And did you know that the reaction that produced the carbon in our universe is actually fine-tuned, and therefore evidence for a Creator and Designer of the universe?

Hugh Ross has a new article up in Salvo magazine, which I found thanks to a post at Uncommon Descent.

Now he starts off with a discussion of how the mass density of the universe needed to be fine-tuned in order to produce elements heavier than hydrogen from the (only) hydrogen that was present at the creation event. I’ve talked about that reaction previously, but I won’t repeat that here. Nucleosynthesis is one of the most important chemical reactions in science, and something every Christian should know and understand well enough to explain it.

You can’t make complex embodied intelligent creatures such as ourselves out of only hydrogen and helium, but you can’t make a life permitting universe without some hydrogen and helium. For one thing, you can’t have liquid water without some hydrogen.

But the element carbon is the center hub of all of the molecules inside of us that allow for the storage and processing of information necessary for life.  And it turns out that the reaction that creates carbon from elements lighter than carbon is fine-tuned to an amazing degree.

Excerpt:

But cosmic mass density is not the only thing that must have been exquisitely fine-tuned for the universe to contain any carbon. The nuclear resonance (or energy) levels for helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen also had to be exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon to exist. Here’s how that happens.

Stars fuse carbon and oxygen from helium through a series of reactions known as the triple-alpha process, in which three helium nuclei are combined to make one carbon nucleus. In the first step in this process, two helium nuclei (with 2 protons each) fuse together to make beryllium (which has 4 protons). Next, a helium nucleus fuses with a beryllium nucleus to make carbon (which has 6 protons). Then, some carbon nuclei fuse with helium nuclei to make oxygen (which has 8 protons).

The only reason that the triple-alpha process produces any carbon or oxygen at all is because in the first step, the ground state energy level (i.e., the state of an atom when all of its electrons are at their lowest energy levels) of the beryllium-8 nucleus (containing 4 protons and 4 neutrons) almost exactly equals the ground state energy level of two helium-4 nuclei (2 protons and 2 neutrons each). In the second step, the ground state energy level of a beryllium-8 nucleus plus a helium-4 nucleus almost exactly equals the energy level of an excited state of a carbon-12 nucleus (6 protons and 6 neutrons). In the third step, the ground state energy level of a carbon-12 nucleus at 7.65 million electron volts is just slightly larger than the ground state energy level of an oxygen-16 nucleus (8 protons and 8 neutrons) at 7.12 million electron volts.1

If it were not for the near equivalences or resonances of the nuclear energy levels of two helium nuclei relative to a beryllium nucleus, and of a beryllium nucleus plus a helium nucleus relative to a carbon nucleus, the universe would contain very little or no carbon and very little or no elements heavier than carbon. Life would be impossible.

Furthermore, unless the difference in the nuclear energy levels between a carbon nucleus and an oxygen nucleus were precisely 0.53 million electron volts, the universe would contain either a lot of carbon and no oxygen or a lot of oxygen and no carbon. Either way, physical life would be impossible in the universe.

In the early 1950s, astronomer Fred Hoyle and physicist Willy Fowler were the first to understand how critical the relative nuclear energy levels of helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen were for making life possible in the universe. Commenting on the highly fine-tuned nature of these nuclear energy levels, Hoyle wrote in an article he published in Engineering & Science,

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion beyond question.2

The article continues to explain that there is an additional problem of carbon fine-tuning related to habitability.

The carbon formation problem is one of the best examples of fine-tuning, and as you can see, it’s even admitted by atheists. It’s not the easiest one to explain (because resonance levels are not familiar in every day life), but it’s worth knowing about all three of the fine-tuning topics in the post.

Keep in mind that the more science has made progress, the more fine-tuning problems we have discovered. The trend is very bad if you are a naturalist. But very good if you are a theist. Evidence matters, and scientific evidence is the best kind of evidence.

Pro-life journalist gets police protection after receiving death threats and rape threats

Abortion Rights March
Abortion Rights March

Most pro-lifers tend to focus more on persuading a woman not to kill a child she’s already conceived. My view on abortion debating goes even further: I think that we should be persuading women not to have irresponsible sex in the first place. DC McAllister tweeted out something that I agree with, and now she’s getting death threats and rape threats. This is why I have an alias.

PJ Media explains:

Last week, PJ Media contributor and Fox News guest Denise McAllister sent out a powerful tweet denouncing the abortion movement. Little did she know, days later she would be in hiding, scared for her life. When she went public about receiving death and rape threats, pro-abortion Twitter users championed the threats against her.

“At the root of [abortion] hysteria is women’s unhinged desire for irresponsible sex. Sex is their god. Abortion is their sacrament,” McAllister tweeted. “It’s abhorrent as women have flung themselves from the heights of being the world’s civilizing force to the muck and mire of dehumanizing depravity.”

Now, I do think it’s important to be able to make a defense for the humanity of the unborn using reason and evidence. But I like what she tweeted here. We have to also make a case that a woman should view sex outside of marriage as a mistake. A mistake that is unlikely to work out in the long run.

Anyway, you can imagine what pro-abortionists did next… these are people who think you can kill unborn babies, after all. Not the best at moral virtue. Because “don’t kill the babies” is pretty much the most obvious moral rule there is.

More:

McAllister told PJ Media that she received death and rape threats, over multiple forms of private communication.

“They are threats outside of Twitter, stating they know where I live,” McAllister said. “Threats of rape and strangling. I spoke to the police. I am on home watch.”

“My children are very frightened,” she added.

On Sunday, she went public about the threats. “I am facing legit death & rape threats because I have dared to call out women who are hysterical about abortion and to challenge them to be responsible and not to elevate sex to the point that they’re willing to kill human life to avoid their responsibilities. How sick is that?” McAllister tweeted.

Some people responded with sympathy … to the person making the death and rape threats!

“People don’t react well to your extremism,” a user named Monika D. responded.

I took a look at her Twitter feed to see how things were going, and she had gone into hiding with her family, because of the rape threats, strangling threats, and death threats. Then, after she got police protection, she returned to social media. Police protection is not given unless the threat is credible.

Anyway, here’s what I want to say about this. I understand that women who have abortions are stressed and not in their right minds. But what about pro-abortion activists? When you meet someone who is pro-abortion, you’re talking to someone who is cannot answer the simplest moral questions correctly. There just is not factual, science-based case against the full humanity of the unborn. The justifications given for taking the life of an unborn child simply aren’t capable of making the act morally permissible.

Abortion is this generation’s slavery. It’s the exploitation of one class of weaker individuals by a class of stronger individuals, for the selfish gain of the stronger individuals. It really is nothing more than “I want to have sex with that hot guy, to boost my self-esteem”, followed by “I want to kill my baby so I can go on living for myself”. The point is that just like slavery, abortion is rationally indefensible to anyone capable of even basic moral reasoning. Everyone who is pro-abortion today would have own slaves. Everyone who is pro-life today would have been an abolitionist.

So, we shouldn’t expect people on the pro-abortion side of the aisle to be very concerned about doing what’s moral when it conflicts with their self-interest.

So, how far does this inability to think about right and wrong go?

Consider a few stories from the past summer:

Look. When you’re willing to kill an unborn child, simply because the child is the wrong race, or because the child is the wrong sex, because of how it impacts you, then anything is possible. Morality simply isn’t a concern for you. If you’re willing to do the worst thing, then you’re willing to do anything.

These are not good people, and it shows.