Al Gore refuses questions from reporters, refuses to debate skeptics

Now, if you guys have been on the blog, you know that a majority of stories here are going to be presented as issues to resolve between two oppsing forces, especially when it comes to spiritual issues. And that is because I believe that no one can convinced, by anyone, on any issue, until they hear both sides. But that is not the case with Al Gore.

Gateway Pundit links to this story from KNX:

Former Vice President Al Gore repeated his message that climate change is a planetary emergency at the WSJ’s Eco:nomics conference in California. …But don’t expect Mr. Gore to debate the merits of how best to tackle climate change anytime soon.

…he was challenged by Mr. Lomborg, the Danish skeptical environmentalist who thinks the world would be better off spending more money on health and education issues than curbing carbon emissions.

“I don’t mean to corner you, or maybe I do mean to corner you, but would you be willing to have a debate with me on that point?” asked the polo-shirt wearing Dane.

So Al Gore refused to debate Bjorn Lomborg. Must-see video is here:

Larry Elder links to this Boston Globe article that re-caps Al Gore’s impressive scientific credentials:

Gore’s undergraduate transcript from Harvard is riddled with C’s, including a C-minus in introductory economics, a D in one science course, and a C-plus in another… Moreover, Gore’s graduate school record – consistently glossed over by the press – is nothing short of shameful. In 1971, Gore enrolled in Vanderbilt Divinity School where, according to Bill Turque, author of “Inventing Al Gore,” he received F’s in five of the eight classes he took over the course of three semesters. Not surprisingly, Gore did not receive a degree from the divinity school. Nor did Gore graduate from Vanderbilt Law School, where he enrolled for a brief time and received his fair share of C’s.

Heck, all we have on our skeptical side are people like Richard S. Lindzen:

Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Lindzen received his Ph.D. from Harvard University, and he is a contributor to numerous scholarly volumes and the author of more than 200 articles in scientific journals. He is a member of the national Academy of Sciences and the Science and Economic Advisory Council of the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy.

And just look at the poor quality of his arguments. Al Gore could wipe the floor with Lindzen. Yeah. He really could.

UPDATE: Commenter ECM posted this link to a post on Watts Up With That? blog. Al Gore certainly seems to win a lot of awards, this one is for raising awareness about global warming. From the story: “Scripps Institution of Oceanography is awarding its first-even Roger Revelle Prize to former Vice President Al Gore… UCSD said Gore was selected for his efforts to raise awareness of global warming.”

John Boehner calls for Congress to freeze spending at current levels

House Republican Leader John Boehner
House Republican Leader John Boehner

House Republican Leader John Boehner calls for an immediate spending freeze at current levels. The freeze would cancel the 900 earmarks in the 410 billion dollar porkulus-2 omnibus bill. The video of his speech is below, and you need to watch it right now. Please.

Excerpt from John Boehner’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives:

I know there are a lot of members that have a lot of other issues that they’d like to include in this, but the fact is that American families are hurting, small businesses are hurting around the country, our economy is hurting. And I think we could help our economy, we could send a strong signal to the American people by extending this spending freeze through September 30.

“Let’s show the American taxpayers that we get it. Let’s show investors in our American economy that we get it. Because clearly the bill that’s been under consideration both here in the House and now in the Senate has a $30 billion increase over last year’s spending, and includes nearly 9,000 earmarks. And the way to put all of this to a stop is to just have a spending freeze. Let’s show the American people we understand the pain they are under and show them that we are willing to tighten our belt.

Boehner was not content to give mere talk. He tried to force a vote on the freeze in order to get the Democrats to go on record on the 1.75 trillion dollar deficit they’ve introduced. The story is here, and includes this quote from the Associated Press:

“The top Republican in the House is seizing on the latest spike in unemployment to call for a freeze on government spending and to urge President Barack Obama to veto a $410 billion spending bill.”

“Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the jump in unemployment to 8.1 percent and the loss of 651,000 jobs in February is a sign of a worsening recession that demands better solutions from both parties.”

“Boehner criticized the spending bill as chocked full of wasteful, pork-barrel projects. The Senate postponed a vote on the bill until Monday amid the criticism.”

“Boehner said he hoped Obama would veto the bill. He urged the president to work with House Republicans to impose a spending freeze until the end of this fiscal year.”

Who gets it? The House Republicans get it.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is reporting (via Connie Hair of Human Events) that the motion failed 160-218, with every Republican present voting for it.

How do atheist scholars justify morality on atheism in debates?

I want to tell you that the easiest topic to debate with non-Christians is the foundations of morality. Here’s a primer:

  1. If atheism is true, matter is all there is. Your actions are biologically determined. So there is no free will. As Dawkins says, there is only DNA and you dance to its music. Period. If there is no free will, there are no moral choices and no moral responsibility. Moral actions are not rationally justifiable on atheism.
  2. If atheism is true, humans are accidents with no intrinsic value. Any value that is assigned to humans is arbitrary, and arbitrary standards do not constrain the will of rational people when it is not in their best interest and/or they will not be caught (e.g. – Stalin).
  3. If atheism is true, there is no ultimate accountability for moral evil. Being good or evil is irrelevant to where you end up, and where humanity ends up. (The heat death of the universe). Being good when it requires self-sacrifice is irrational, on atheism.
  4. There are only 2 reasons to be moral on atheism. If you get pleasure out of following these made-up rules or if you avoid punishment. That is not what theists mean by virtue. Acting in the way you were designed to act in order to achieve what Aristotle called eudaimonia.
  5. Etc.

Try absorbing some of these actual public debates with real scholars and see for yourself:

  1. From Christianity Today, a written debate: Douglas Wilson vs. Christopher Hitchens
  2. From the University of Western Ontario, a transcript of a public debate: William Lane Craig vs. Kai Nielsen
  3. From Schenectady College, a transcript of a public debate:William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor
  4. From Franklin & Marshall College, William Lane Craig vs. Paul Kurtz (audio, video1, video2, video3, video4, video5, video6, video7)
  5. From the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, William Lane Craig vs. Louise Antony (audio1, audio2, video1, video2)

These debate links are courtesy of ChristianJR4. Where’s your blog, JR4? Come on, man! Get with it! If you other readers agree with me that he should start his own blog, then e-mail me or comment about it, and I will see that he is appropriately castigated for his slacking.

If you want to learn about these issues at a deeper level, there is also a good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use a made-up standard to judge God for his perceived moral failures, the second one is on whether meaningful morality is rational on atheism.

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Truthbomb Apologetics! Thanks for posting about my blog, Chad! New visitors from Truthbomb may be interested in my posts in the apologetics category.

How every Christian can learn to explain the resurrection of Jesus to others

Basically, as a Christian, I think we, myself included, all ought to be able to show that there is a case for the resurrection on historical grounds. Even if Christians know that the resurrection is true by the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, you cannot use that when persuading and defending it to other people. So you have to make a case using the available evidence and the normal rules of historical investigation. You can’t assume the Bible is inerrant with your co-workers and you can’t focus on Christian-ese or peripheral issues, either. So how can you do it?

Part A: Historical methods

The way I normally start is with the standard rules used by all scholars who analyze ancient biographies. Basically, there is a list of criteria that scholars across the spectrum use for deciding which parts of ancient literary sources are more likely to be true. It’s amazing when you see debates on this because both sides basically agree on the methodology.

And, if you apply the methodology carefully, then both sides actually agree on what facts in the biographies are authentic. I am talking about agreement on authentic facts by atheists and fundamentalists alike!

Here are some of the rules used for analyzing ancient biographies:

1) multiple attestation – if the fact about X is asserted by two or more
sources, then the fact is likely authentic.

2) dissimilarity – if a teaching of X is different from popular teachings
and concepts of that time and place, it is likely authentic.

3) embarassment – if a fact is embarassing to X or X’s community or the
writers of the biography of X, then it is likely authentic.

4) enemy attestation – if a fact about X is corroborated by enemies of X,
or X’s community, then that fact is likely to be authentic.

5) early attestation – if a fact about X is in an early source, then that fact
is likely to be authentic.

And there are others.

So, if you want to talk about the resurrection at work without being laughed at or fired, you can use these criteria to identify historical facts.

Part B: Minimal facts

Using the historical methods above, you won’t be able to recover MOST of what the New Testament writings say about Jesus. For example, the guard at the tomb is only in Matthew, so you cannot use that as a minimal fact. And John is a pretty late gospel, so most of that can’t be used. So what parts can be used?

Well, here is William Lane Craig’s list of facts:

1) the empty tomb
2) the appearances experienced by various people, including Paul
3) early belief in the resurrection emerged in Jerusalem

And, here is Gary Habermas’ list of facts:

1) death by crucifixion
2) early belief in resurrection
3) appearances experienced by disciples
4) Paul’s appearance and change of heart
5) James’s (Jesus’ brother) change of heart
6) the empty tomb

Probably the most celebrated defender of the resurrection writing today is N. T. Wright. He makes a bit of a different case where he asks what sort of historical occurrence would be adequate to explain the changes in theology and practice that occurred when 1st century Jews in Jerusalem became Christians. His argument is that the changes (“mutations”) require a historical resurrection. Here is Wright’s list:

1) the empty tomb
2) the appearances to various people
and 7 mutations (changes) in the way that early Christians changed
their views of the meaning and centrality of the Jewish doctrines of
the Messiah, resurrection, eschatology, etc.

You’ll be surprised to know that few of these facts are disputed by atheistic historians like Gerd Ludemann, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. The only one that’s sometimes disputed is the empty tomb, but some guys will give it to you. I just read N.T. Wright’s debate against John Dominic Crossan, who is on the far-left fringe. He gave up the appearances AND said he was “OK” with the empty tomb.

So, once you apply the historical criteria, and you hammer out your list of facts, what comes next?

Part C: Inference to the best explanation

Once you have the list of facts, you need to explain why the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead is the best explanation for the facts. This is done by showing that the hypothesis is consistent with all of the available data.

The atheist is likely to jump in at this point with an alternative explanation of the facts. Their explanations will not involve any miracles – instead, they try to account for the facts by proposing a naturalistic hypothesis. Here is a list of a few together with my defense against them.

1) Jesus wasn’t really dead
– crucifixion is lethal and you can’t fake being dead
– this doesn’t explain the early belief in the resurrection, since
a half-dead Jesus would not inspire a belief in the resurrection

2) Jesus’ disciples moved the body and lied about it
– it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.
– it doesn’t explain why the early church was willing to be persecuted

3) The Jews moved the body and lied about it
– they had no interest in helping a rival sect
– it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.

4) The Romans moved the body and lied about it
– they had no interest in helping a trouble-making sect
– it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.

5) Somebody else moved the body
– it doesn’t explain the appearance to Paul, etc.
– there is no evidence to support the claim

6) The early church hallucinated the appearances
– group hallucinations are impossible
– it doesn’t explain the empty tomb
– it doesn’t explain the theological mutations about “resurrection”, since seeing a ghost does not imply a bodily resurrection

Etc.

Keep in mind that when judging explanations, the simplest explanation is usually the best. If a skeptic has to join together multiple hypotheses, then this weakens the appeal of their explanation, because it’s “ad-hoc”.

I wrote another post on the resurrection here, with some links to debates.  Here is a list of the virtually indisputable facts about Jesus, from respected, skeptical, non-Christian scholars like Norman Perrin and E. P. Sanders. More debates are here.

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Robert P. Murphy’s blog Free Advice. Please take a look around – the purpose of my blog is to help Christians to integrate their faith with other areas of knowledge, especially economics! For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Murphy is the author of the greatest book on economics ever written (and I’ve read The Road to Serfdom!). This is a book for everyone – and it’s the first book laymen should read on economics.

How do leading atheists understand morality on atheism?

Here are descriptions of morality, as understood by atheists:

The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough… Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawgiver higher…than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can…be understood as those that are imposed by God…. But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of moral obligation…still make sense? …The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone. (Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p. 83-84)

The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory. (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins)
http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/1995-05-10nomercy.shtml

The late atheist philosopher J. L. Mackie said that moral properties are “queer” given naturalism “if there are objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.” Agnostic Paul Draper observes, “A moral world is very probable on theism.”

If you want to learn about these issues at a deeper level, there is also a good paper by Bill Craig on the problem of rationally-grounding prescriptive morality here. My previous posts on this blog on this topic are here and here. The first one is about whether atheists can use a made-up standard to judge God for his perceived moral failures, the second one is on whether meaningful morality is rational on atheism.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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