Are there objective truths about God?

In a lecture entitled “Are there Objective Truths About God?”, philosopher William Lane Craig address the postmodern skepticism of logic that seems to be so fashionable these days, especially on campus and in the “emergent church” movement.

Here’s the link to the lecture audio and the lecture outline.

What is a self-refuting statement?

The main concept in the lecture is the logical concept of self-refutation. A self-refuting sentence is a sentence that, if true, makes itself false or meaningless. For example, if someone said to you: “there are no meaningful sentences longer than 5 words”. Or if they said, “it’s wrong to make moral judgments”. Those statements are self-refuting.

What is truth?

Craig assumes the common-sense correspondence theory of truth. This theory holds that “truth” is a property of a proposition such that if the proposition is true, then it corresponds to the external world. For example, if I claim that there is a crocodile in your closet and we find a crocodile in your closet, then my statement was true. No crocodile in your closet means my statement was false.

Are there objective truths about God?

There are 3 objections discussed in the William Lane Craig lecture. Each objection seeks to make religion subjective, (true for each person, like food preferences), in order to minimize the incumbency and prescriptive force of Christian theology and Christian moral teachings.

Objection #1:The Challenge of Verificationism

The first challenge is that religious claims cannot be verified using the 5 senses, and therefore religious statements are objectively meaningless.

Consider the statement “Only propositions that can be verified with the 5 senses are meaningful”. That statement cannot be verified with the 5 senses. If the statement is true, it makes itself meaningless. It’s self-refuting.

Objection #2: The Challenge of Mystical Anti-Realism

The second challenge is that religious claims, and claims about God, are neither true nor false.

Consider the statement “No statements about God can be true or false”. That statement itself is a statement about God. If the statement is true, then it is neither true nor false. It’s self-refuting.

Objection #3: The Challenge of Radical Pluralism

The third challenge is that each person invents an entire reality of their own, and that there is no mind-independent objective world shared by individuals.

Consider the statement “There is no objective reality shared by all individuals”. That statement is a statement that applies to all individuals. If the statement is true, then it only applies to the speaker’s subjective reality, not to everyone else. It’s self-refuting.

Conclusion

Craig ends the lecture by arguing that it is OK to think that other people’s views are false. It does not follow that just because Christians think other people’s views are wrong that they am going to mistreat other people. In fact, in Christianity it is objectively true that it is good to love your enemies. It is objectively true that all human beings have value, because human beings are made by God.

In Christianity, I am absolutely obligated to treat people with whom I disagree with respect and gentleness (1 Pet 3:15-16). The more convinced I am about that belief, the better my opponents will be treated. A stronger belief in Christianity means more tolerance for those who disagree.

My personal experiences with “Christian” postmodernism

Growing up, I was often confronted with the idea that God was beyond logic and beyond reason. Imagine my surprise as a conservative young Christian to find out that church and campus club leadership had embraced postmodernism, and were very skeptical of controversial doctrines like Hell, exclusive salvation, inerrancy and authorial intent.

As I grew older, I began to uncover why the postmoderns in leadership believed that God is not bound by the laws of logic. It was because of their desire for popularity. They did not want to have to confront people with exclusive and judgmental Christian claims. They did not want to have defend these ideas as true, using evidence – because that would involve work.

Postmodern Christians would say to atheists, “Christianity is true for me, and atheism is true for you“, in order to be accepted. And they would feel, emotionally and intuitionally, that non-judmentalism and non-exclusivism was right. Postmodernism was their way to avoid wasting time on theology and apologetics, (although technically, it did involve lying to people about God’s character).

Postmodern Christians were also very hostile towards apologetics, because “knowing for certain” took away their ability to doubt. They could keep God at arms-length when he was morally demanding, while keeping him within arm’s reach for emotional support. God existed for postmoderns when they needed comfort, and he didn’t exist when they wanted autonomy.

For further study

A debate between a Christian and a postmodern. You can see for yourself how gentle Peter Williams is during this dialog with someone with whom he disagrees. His objective is to persuade – to win her over. Also, what about those who have never heard of Jesus? What about the problems of evil and suffering?

Also, for extra credit, Super-commenter ECM sent me this post from David Thompson a few days back, in which Thompson interviewed Dr. Stephen Hicks on postmodernism in academia. The post also describes the link between postmodernism and socialism. This is a great post!

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown excoriated over massive debt

Spotted this awesome video over at The Anchoress. This is a MUST-SEE video. If only someone had the courage to take on President Teleprompter and the economic-illiterates who voted for him, like this British MP takes on Gordon Brown.

The Anchoress has a bunch of great links there, as well.

Excerpt from her post:

Here in the United States, land of the First Amendment and free speech, it is right now unthinkable that anyone would stand up in a political chamber and speak so forthrightly.

I mean…can you imagine someone in our Congress or Senate actually standing up with a chart like this, and daring to talk to Obama about his “inherited” debt?

Michele Bachmann could do it. Also, here’s the chart that she mentions from Ace of Spades: (watch out for vulgar language!)

Obama's projected deficits
Obama's projected deficits

Gateway Pundit has more here:

President Obama expects the deficit level to be 12% of GDP this year.

America is actually in worse shape than Great Britain.
According to Heritage, Obama has already helped quadruple the deficit with his stimulus package.

Hot Air has links to the MP’s youtube page and blog. Apparently this is normal for him, although Hot Air says he isn’t a solid conservative.

Here’s his YouTube page, chock full of more in this vein, and here’s his blog, in which he marvels at the ability of the ‘Net to turn a backbench parliamentarian into an international fiscal conservative hero overnight. Exit question: We’re all agreed that Hannan gets to deliver the GOP’s response to next year’s State of the Union, yes?

Some people who voted for Obama told me during the election that Obama would be much more fiscally responsible than Bush and Reagan, because Republicans are all big spenders. They couldn’t stand the 550 billion we spent securing our liberty in two wars against radical terrorism. Obama is going to run the national debt up to over 20 trillion by 2019. Which amount is greater?

I asked 2 of my Obama-voting friends today how much the 2 wars cost, and neither of them knew. They did not even believe me when I showed them the actual numbers. What do they do in the evenings? Why, they watch Family Guy, Rachel Maddow and sports. One of these people actually told me that Rachel Maddow was a centrist. The other one is the more ignorant of the two.

Lastly, two of my fundamentalist Christian friends told me that Obama was more pro-life than McCain. Yes, they really said that! If you have a story about someone who voted for Obama who ought to have known better, please put it in the comments!

Michele Bachmann opposes nationalization of industries

Representative Michele Bachmann
Representative Michele Bachmann

We’re well on our way down the road to serfdom, but thankfully we still have Michele Bachmann fighting against socialism on our behalf.

Excerpt from her blog post:

It’s vital that we ask questions of this Administration as it continues to insert itself into the private sector.  Most recently, it’s reported that the Obama Administration is considering asking Congress to give the Treasury Secretary the authority to take over non-bank financial companies, such as large insurers, investment firms and hedge funds.

Giving the Secretary this authority would be an unprecedented transfer of power to the federal government. The current model for regulating the financial markets relies on independent agencies that are independent from the political process.

Give ’em hell, Michele!

The Democrats are considering carbon tariffs on imported goods

Robert P. Murphy’s linked to this post he wrote at the Institute for Energy Research. Murphy is concerned that Obama is going down the same path as that interventionist Herbert Hoover did. Hoover passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which led the United States into the Great Depression. Murphy thinks that carbon tariffs could be on the way!

Here is an an excerpt from Murphy’s post:

…the Obama administration—under the guise of fighting climate change—is testing the waters with new restrictions on imports. Specifically, lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering imposing “carbon tariffs” to prevent foreign nations from gaining a competitive advantage vis-à-vis U.S. producers who are burdened with a forthcoming cap-and-trade regime. The idea is that the U.S. government would slap a huge “compensatory” tax on imports that were produced in foreign nations that do not impose carbon legislation on their manufacturers.

Murphy explains why free trade increases the prosperity of all nations, by promoting efficient production:

Even without retaliation, a unilateral tariff increase makes Americans poorer. The gains to the workers in the “protected” domestic industry are more than offset by the loss to consumers who have to pay higher prices. A tariff is a tax on American consumers; the government says to its own citizens, “If you want to buy a product from a foreign producer, you have to make a side payment to the U.S. Treasury.” You don’t make a country richer by jacking up taxes on its own consumers.

International trade allows countries to specialize in their “comparative advantage,” or their areas of relative expertise. It would be catastrophic if everyone had to grow his own food, sew his own clothes, and drill his own cavities. We all benefit tremendously from the ability to specialize in occupations at which we are better than our peers, and then trade with each other.

The same principle applies to entire countries, which are simply aggregates of the individuals living in them. Because of differences in resource endowments, industrial infrastructure, weather, and the skills of the workforce, it is much more efficient for certain regions of the world to concentrate on a few key items and export them to other regions. When the government raises tax barriers, it interferes with this process and makes everyone poorer on average.

Not only do tariffs hurt consumers, but they also destroy businesses that export products. First, those businesses will have to pay more for raw materials. Second, the goods they export to other countries will face import tariffs. This will cost more American jobs than are “saved” by imposing tariffs. And the government gets the money from tariffs, not the productive private sector.

Murphy explains how global warming is really just a euphemism for economically-ignorant socialism:

Even if the threat from man-made climate change is as serious as some scientists claim, this fact would not overturn the centuries of work done by economic scientists. We know from both theory and history that raising trade barriers in the middle of a severe worldwide recession is a terrible policy. We also know from theory and history that government central planning does not work. When the technocrats reorder the economy, deciding which firms will survive and which prices are too high or too low, the results are disastrous. It doesn’t matter whether the justification is “fighting the Depression” (as in the 1930s) or “fighting climate change” (as in today’s discussions). Either way, central planning will wreck the economy, and it won’t even achieve its ostensible goals.

I recommend you go there and read the whole article. Think of the future of your children, and of your neighbor’s children.

Related story over at Stop the ACLU: “EPA may soon deem CO2 a threat to human health“. I blogged before about cap and trade, tax hikes on oil, the world’s anger at tariffs, and the myth of global warming.

Is there scientific evidence for an intelligent designer?

Dr. Walter L. Bradley
Dr. Walter L. Bradley

Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor, and a great example of the integration of Christian faith and a stellar academic career. He is not a “secret-service” Christian. Rejecting the notion of safe, private Christianity, he instead projects his Christian faith outward, where his students and colleagues can be aware of his beliefs.

Below I analyze a lecture I chose from the hundreds of public lectures he has given all over the world on the integration of Christian faith with other public, testable areas of knowledge. In this lecture, entitled “Is There Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer?“, Dr. Bradley explains how the progress of science has made the idea of a Creator and Designer of the universe more acceptable than ever before.

Evidence #1: The design of the universe

1. The correspondence of natural phenomena to mathematical law

  • All observations of physical phenomena in the universe, such as throwing a ball up in the air, are described by a few simple, elegant mathematical equations.

2. The fine-tuning of physical constants and rations between constants in order to provide a life-permitting universe

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants and ratios: (there are more examples in the lecture)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

3. Fine-tuning to allow a habitable planet

  • A number of factors must be fine-tuned in order to have a planet that supports life
  • Initial estimates predicted abundant life in the universe, but revised estimates now predict that life is almost certainly unique in the galaxy, and probably unique in the universe.
  • Even though there are lots of stars in the universe, the odds are against any of them supporting complex life.
  • Here are just a few of the minimal requirements for habitability: must be a single star solar system, in order to support stable planetary orbits, the planet must be the right distance from the sun in order to have liquid water at the surface, the planet must sufficient mass in order to retain an atmosphere, etc.

The best current atheist response to this is to speculate that there may be an infinite number of unobservable and untestable universes. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #2: The origin of the universe

1. The progress of science has shown that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing (= “the big bang”). It also shows that the cause of this creation event is non-physical and non-temporal. The cause is supernatural.

  • Atheism prefers an eternal universe, to get around the problem of a Creator having to create the universe.
  • Discovery #1: Observations of galaxies moving away from one another confirms that the universe expanded from a single point.
  • Discovery #2: Measurements of the cosmic background radiation confirms that the universe exploding into being.
  • Discovery #3: Predictions of elemental abundances prove that the universe is not eternal.
  • Discovery #4:The atheism-friendly steady-state model and oscillating model were both falsified by the evidence.
  • And there were other discoveries as well, mentioned in the lecture.

The best atheistic response to this is to speculate that there is an unobservable and untestable hyper-universe outside our own. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

Evidence #3: The origin of life

1. The progress of science has shown that the simplest living organism contains huge amounts of biological information, similar to the Java code I write all day at work. This is a problem for atheists, because the sequence of instructions in a living system has to come together all at once, it cannot have evolved by mutation and selection – because there was no replication in place prior to the formation of that first living system!

  • Living systems must support certain minimum life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating.
  • There needs to be a certain amount of complexity in the living system that can perform these minimum functions.
  • But on atheism, the living system needs to be simple enough to form by accident in a pre-biotic soup, and in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The minimal functionality in a living system is a achieved by DNA, RNA and enzymes. DNA and RNA are composed of sequences of proteins, which are in turn composed of sequences of amino acids.

Consider the problems of building a chain of 100 amino acids

  • The amino acids must be left-handed only, but left and right kinds are equally abundant in nature. How do you sort out the right-handed ones?
  • The amino acids must be bound together using peptide bonds. How do you prevent other types of bonds?
  • Each link of the amino acid chain needs to be carefully chosen such that the completed chain with fold up into a protein. How do you choose the correct amino acid for each link from the pool of 20 different kinds found in living systems?
  • In every case, a human or other intelligence could solve these problems by doing what intelligent agents do best: making choices.
  • But who is there to make the choices on atheism?

The best current atheistic response to this is to speculate that unobservable and untestable aliens seeded the earth with life. (I.e. – the Flying Spaghetti Monster did it)

The problem of the origin of life is not a problem of chemistry, it is a problem of engineering. Every part of car functionality can be understood and described using the laws of physics and chemistry. But an intelligence is still needed in order to assemble the components into a system that has the minimal requirements for a functioning vehicle.

Conclusion

In all three areas, scientists expected that the data would be consistent with atheism. First, scientists expected that life could exist even if the physical constants and ratios were altered. The progress of science said NO. Second, scientists expected that the universe would be eternal. The progress of science said NO. Third, scientists expected that the origin of life would be simple. The progress of science said NO.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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