Tag Archives: Christianity

Study: homeschooled children less likely to leave their faith

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

Lindsay, a super-mom who homeschools her kids with her super-husband Doug, sent me this article from Christian News.

Quick blurb:

The recently-released findings from an in-depth study of nearly 10,000 young adults show that Millennials who were homeschooled are less likely to leave the faith than individuals who attended private or public schools.

Late last month, Generations with Vision and the National Home Education Research Institute published the results of their Gen2 Survey. The study explores the correlations between different educational methods and the spiritual decisions of Millennials who were raised in the church.

“The purpose of the study is to examine these adults who were churched growing up and to understand the key influences which either encouraged or deterred them from believing and practicing the faith of their parents,” said the survey’s director and lead researcher, Dr. Brian Ray.

Using a sample size of 9,369 18-to 38-year-olds who were churched while growing up, the Gen2 Survey collected data on Millennials’ educational backgrounds, worldviews, and religious beliefs. The study found that individuals who were homeschooled, attended church regularly, and had good relationships with their parents were most likely to remain involved in the Christian faith.

“Having a strong relationship with the child’s mother and father, attending church as a child, and years homeschooled were all clearly positively associated with Millennials’ basic Christian orthodoxy, broader biblical beliefs, Christian behaviors (e.g., attending church, keeping sex in marriage, prayer, not using pornography), satisfaction in life, civic and community involvement, and having beliefs similar to one’s parents,” Ray stated.

87% of study participants who were homeschooled said they have strong Christian beliefs. Conversely, Millennials who were enrolled in public schools or private Christian schools were more likely to walk away from the faith later in life.

“Number of years in Christian school and number of years in public school were negatively associated with most of the adult beliefs and behaviors just mentioned,” Ray explained.

Statistically, homeschooled young adults were six times as likely to be believers and seven times as likely to be stronger in their Christian beliefs as Millennials attending private schools. Homeschooled Millennials were also two times as likely to be stronger in Christian beliefs as those who attended Christian schools or public schools.

I find that when I court Christian women, they pretty much have the idea that kids are are for providing fun for their parents. And if you make a plan to make them achieve anything, then that is bad because it’s less fun for the parents. Sometimes they try to dress it up in emotional or religious language when they are explaining it to others, but under cross-examination, it really turns out to be “marriage and parenting are better when we do whatever I feel like moment by moment”. If the man does not step up during the courtship with the research and get agreement on issues like homeschooling, then he needs to shut it down and move on. Women who are guided by their feelings instead of studies in decisions about how to parent are not safe to marry. Either they accept the the best practices from research, or they are out of the running.

Of course, that necessarily means finding a wife who has done a decent degree, worked a few years, and saved up enough money to help you to keep her at home with young children. I am seeing a lot of men in my office who have decent salaries, but they still can’t keep their wives at home, because their wives ran up $200,000 in student loans (this actually happened to my co-worker Javier). Other times, I see grown women into their mid-30s, still carrying tens of thousands in student loans, and refusing to get a full-time job in their field (this actually happened to a missionary I know who refused to work any job but waitress / bartender). Sometimes, the woman just doesn’t want to stay home, because she likes the feel of earning her own money instead of being dependent on her husband. That screws the kids as well, but it’s a very popular attitude today. These are the things that a man has to check for before he marries – and remember that there is often a great gulf between words and past actions. Don’t be fooled by someone who talks about what they will do in the future, when their past is completely different.

So if a couple determines that they are going to have no strict approach to how to parent the kids, then they should not be surprised their children fall away from the faith. Either you are aware of who is teaching your kids, and what they are teaching them, or you are not. It is no coincidence that the secular left pushes for earlier and earlier starts to schooling and more and more free college. They know that the more they get the kids away from their parents and in with peers of the same age and secular leftist professors and teaches, the more those kids are likely to adopt their values – not the values of their parents. Not the values of grown-ups who have to survive in the real world with common sense.

Why is the universe so big, and why is so much of it hostile to life?

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

Review: In case you need a refresher on the cosmological and fine-tuning arguments, as presented by a professor of particle physics at Stanford University, then click this link and watch the lecture.

If you already know about the standard arguments for theism from cosmology, then take a look at this post on Uncommon Descent.

Summary:

In my previous post, I highlighted three common atheistic objections to to the cosmological fine-tuning argument. In that post, I made no attempt to answer these objections. My aim was simply to show that the objections were weak and inconclusive.

Let’s go back to the original three objections:

1. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so BIG, and why is it nearly everywhere hostile to life? Why are there so many stars, and why are so few orbited by life-bearing planets? (Let’s call this the size problem.)

2. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does it have to be so OLD, and why was it devoid of life throughout most of its history? For instance, why did life on Earth only appear after 70% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed? And Why did human beings (genus Homo) only appear after 99.98% of the cosmos’s 13.7-billion-year history had already elapsed? (Let’s call this the age problem.)

3. If the universe was designed to support life, then why does Nature have to be so CRUEL? Why did so many animals have to die – and why did so many species of animals have to go extinct (99% is the commonly quoted figure), in order to generate the world as we see it today? What a waste! And what about predation, parasitism, and animals that engage in practices such as serial murder and infant cannibalism? (Let’s call this the death and suffering problem.)

Here’s an excerpt for the size argument:

(a) The main reason why the universe is as big as it currently is that in the first place, the universe had to contain sufficient matter to form galaxies and stars, without which life would not have appeared; and in the second place, the density of matter in the cosmos is incredibly fine-tuned, due to the fine-tuning of gravity. To appreciate this point, let’s go back to the earliest time in the history of the cosmos that we can meaningfully talk about: the Planck time, when the universe was 10^-43 seconds old. If the density of matter at the Planck time had differed from the critical density by as little as one part in 10^60, the universe would have either exploded so rapidly that galaxies wouldn’t have formed, or collapsed so quickly that life would never have appeared. In practical terms: if our universe, which contains 10^80 protons and neutrons, had even one more grain of sand in it – or one grain less – we wouldn’t be here.

If you mess with the size of the universe, you screw up the mass density fine-tuning. We need that to have a universe that expands at the right speed in order for the matter to clump together to form galaxies, stars and planets. Too fast, and you get no clumping. Too slow, and the whole thing re-collapses into a hot fireball. You need stars and planets to have a place to form life – a place with liquid water at the surface, and more.

And an excerpt for the age argument:

(a) One reason why we need an old universe is that billions of years were required for Population I stars (such as our sun) to evolve. These stars are more likely to harbor planets such as our Earth, because they contain lots of “metals” (astronomer-speak for elements heavier than helium), produced by the supernovae of the previous generation of Population II stars. According to currently accepted models of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, this whole process was absolutely vital, because the Big Bang doesn’t make enough “metals”, including those necessary for life: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and so on.

Basically, you need heavy elements to make stars that burn slow and steady, as well as to make PEOPLE! And heavy elements have to be built up slowly through several iterations of the stellar lifecycle, including the right kinds of stellar death: supernovae.

Read the rest! These arguments come up all the time in debates with village atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. It’s a smokescreen they put up, but you’ve got to be able to answer it using the scientific evidence we have today. They always want to dismiss God with their personal preferences about what God should or should not do. But the real issue is the design of the cosmological constants that allow life to anywhere. That’s the part that’s designed. And that’s not a matter of personal preference, it’s a matter of mathematics and experimental science.

Are Latter Day Saints (LDS) doctrines supported by philosophy, science and history?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

This post presents evidence against Mormonism/LDS in three main areas. The first is in the area of science. The second is in the area of philosophy. And the third is in the area of history.

The scientific evidence

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed. But this is at odds with modern cosmology.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[…]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

Philosophical problems

Always Have a Reason contrasts two concepts of God in Mormonism: Monarchotheism and Polytheism. It turns out that although Mormonism is actually a polytheistic religion, like Hinduism. In Mormonism, humans can become God and then be God of their own planet. So there are many Gods in Mormonism, not just one.

Excerpt:

[T]he notion that there are innumerable contingent “primal intelligences” is central to this Mormon concept of god (P+M, 201; Beckwith and Parrish, 101). That there is more than one god is attested in the Pearl of Great Price, particularly Abraham 4-5. This Mormon concept has the gods positioned to move “primal intelligences along the path to godhood” (Beckwith and Parrish, 114). Among these gods are other gods which were once humans, including God the Father. Brigham Young wrote, “our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father, and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father, and so on…” (Brigham Young, The Seer, 132, quoted in Beckwith and Parrish, 106).

[…]The logic of the Mormon polytheistic concept of God entails that there is an infinite number of gods. To see this, it must be noted that each god him/herself was helped on the path to godhood by another god. There is, therefore, an infinite regress of gods, each aided on his/her path to godhood by a previous god. There is no termination in this series. Now because this entails an actually infinite collection of gods, the Mormon polytheistic concept of deity must deal with all the paradoxes which come with actually existing infinities…

The idea of counting up to an actual infinite number of things by addition (it doesn’t matter what kind of thing it is) is problematic. See here.

More:

Finally, it seems polytheistic Mormonism has a difficulty at its heart–namely the infinite regress of deity.

[…]Each god relies upon a former god, which itself relies upon a former god, forever. Certainly, this is an incoherence at the core of this concept of deity, for it provides no explanation for the existence of the gods, nor does it explain the existence of the universe.

Now let’s see the historical evidence against Mormonism.

The historical evidence

J. Warner Wallace explains how the “Book of Abraham”, a part of the Mormon Scriptures, faces historical difficulties.

The Book of Abraham papyri are not as old as claimed:

Mormon prophets and teachers have always maintained that the papyri that was purchased by Joseph Smith was the actual papyri that was created and written by Abraham. In fact, early believers were told that the papyri were the writings of Abraham.

[…]There is little doubt that the earliest of leaders and witnesses believed and maintained that these papyri were, in fact the very scrolls upon which Abraham and Joseph wrote. These papyri were considered to be the original scrolls until they were later recovered in 1966. After discovering the original papyri, scientists, linguists, archeologists and investigators (both Mormon and non-Mormon) examined them and came to agree that the papyri are far too young to have been written by Abraham. They are approximately 1500 to 2000 years too late, dating from anywhere between 500 B.C. (John A. Wilson, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p. 70.) and 60 A.D. If they papyri had never been discovered, this truth would never have come to light. Today, however, we know the truth, and the truth contradicts the statements of the earliest Mormon leaders and witnesses.

The Book of Abraham papyri do not claim what Joseph Smith said:

In addition to this, the existing papyri simply don’t say anything that would place them in the era related to 2000BC in ancient Egypt. The content of the papyri would at least help verify the dating of the document, even if the content had been transcribed or copied from an earlier document. But the papyri simply tell us about an ancient burial ritual and prayers that are consistent with Egyptian culture in 500BC. Nothing in the papyri hints specifically or exclusively to a time in history in which Abraham would have lived.

So there is a clear difference hear between the Bible and Mormonism, when it comes to historical verification.

Further study

If you want a nice long PDF to print out and read at lunch (which is what I did with it) you can grab this PDF by Michael Licona, entitled “Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock“.

Brian Auten interviews philosopher Robin Collins on the fine-tuning argument

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

Here’s a must-listen interview from Apologetics 315.

Details:

Today’s interview is with Robin Collins, professor of philosophy at Messiah College. His training is in physics and in philosophy and he is a leading advocate for using the fine-tuning of the universe as a design argument for theism. He talks about his background and training, the fine-tuning argument, the different types of fine-tuning with examples and illustrations (laws, constants and initial conditions), two different ways of presenting the fine-tuning argument, answering common objections to the argument, the uniqueness of life, variations of the multiverse hypothesis, the failure of multiverse theory to explain away fine-tuning, objections to Victor Stenger, upcoming books, simplifying the fine-tuning argument for practical use, common mistakes when presenting the argument, the most common objection (who designed God?), and more.

Get the MP3 file from Apologetics 315.

Dr. Collins is extremely cautious and circumspect in his assessment of the fine-tuning argument. He takes the objections to the argument, like the multiverse, seriously and that comes across in the interview. He is familiar with criticisms of the argument and he has engaged with skeptics like Victor Stenger in his published work. I highly recommend it. It is a little more suited to intermediate-level Christians, but not so advanced that it’s impossible for non-math beginners to follow the broad thrust of what’s being said.

About Robin Collins:

Robin Collins (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1993), is professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Grantham, PA specializing in the area of science and religion. He has written over twenty-five articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, such as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for the existence of God, evolution and original sin, the Doctrine of Atonement, Asian religions and Christianity, and Bohm’s theory of quantum mechanics. Some of his most recent articles/book chapters are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (2009) “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse? (Cambridge University Press), and “God and the Laws of Nature,” in Theism or Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to finish a book that presents the case for design based on physics and cosmology, tentatively entitled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature.

You can read Robin Collins’ testimony here.

The fine-tuning argument

Here’s a short article where Collins gives TWO examples of the fine-tuning. He is very modest in his argument, merely asserting that the fine-tuning is more compatible with theism than it is with atheism.

Excerpt:

Science is commonly thought to have undercut belief in God. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked, “the more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” Yet, the discoveries of modern physics and cosmology in the last 50 years have shown that the structure of the universe is set in an extraordinarily precise way for the existence of life; if its structure were slightly different, even by an extraordinarily small degree, life would not be possible. In many people’s minds, the most straightforward explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning is some sort of divine purpose behind our universe.

This fine-tuning falls into three categories: the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, and the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. “Fine-tuning of the laws of nature” refers to the fact that if the universe did not have precisely the right combination of laws, complex intelligent life would be impossible. If there were no universal attractive force (law of gravity), for example, matter would be dispersed throughout the universe and the energy sources (such as stars) needed for life would not exist. Without the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus, there would not be any atoms with an atomic number greater than hydrogen, and hence no complex molecules needed for life. And without the Pauli-exclusion principle, all electrons would fall to the lowest orbital of an atom, undercutting the kind of complex chemistry that life requires.

Some fundamental physical numbers governing the structure of the universe—called the constants of physics—also must fall into an exceedingly narrow range for life to exist. For example, many have estimated that the cosmological constant—a fundamental number that governs the expansion rate of empty space—must be precisely set to one part in 10120 in order for life to occur; if it were too large, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form, and if it were too small, the universe would have collapsed back on itself. As Stephen Hawking wrote in his book A Brief History of Time, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Finally, the initial distribution of mass energy at the time of the big bang must have an enormously special configuration for life to occur, which Cambridge University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has calculated to be on the order of one part in 1010123. This is an unimaginably small number.

I know what you’re thinking: How do we know that non-Christian scientists acknowledge the fine-tuning of gravity in the way that Collins describes?

Well, the New Scientist actually talks about the fine-tuning of the force of gravity. And they’re not Christians.

Excerpt:

The feebleness of gravity is something we should be grateful for. If it were a tiny bit stronger, none of us would be here to scoff at its puny nature.

The moment of the universe‘s birth created both matter and an expanding space-time in which this matter could exist. While gravity pulled the matter together, the expansion of space drew particles of matter apart – and the further apart they drifted, the weaker their mutual attraction became.

It turns out that the struggle between these two was balanced on a knife-edge. If the expansion of space had overwhelmed the pull of gravity in the newborn universe, stars, galaxies and humans would never have been able to form. If, on the other hand, gravity had been much stronger, stars and galaxies might have formed, but they would have quickly collapsed in on themselves and each other. What’s more, the gravitational distortion of space-time would have folded up the universe in a big crunch. Our cosmic history could have been over by now.

Only the middle ground, where the expansion and the gravitational strength balance to within 1 part in 1015at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

Here’s a very long paper by Collins on the fine-tuning argument, where he answers several objections to the argument, including the multiverse/many-universe hypothesis.

If you want a longer response to the multiverse argument, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for Collins’ chapter in the “Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology“, then you can just get James Sinclair’s essay in “Contending With Christianity’s Critics“.

Jay Richards answers the objection “Who Designed the Designer?”

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

So I have presented the evidence for a cosmic beginning and for cosmic fine-tuning many times to atheists, going slowly over the history of cosmology and astrobiology, pointing out the discoveries that led all the science-accepting grown-ups to accept the Big Bang cosmology and the cosmic fine-tuning.

A couple of examples of evidence for the cosmic beginning: cosmic microwave background radiation and nuclesosynthesis.

And some examples of cosmic fine-tuning would be the gravitational force and the strong force.

The response from atheists who listen to this evidence is usually something along the lines of “Am I going to Hell?” and “Who made God?” or “Who Designed the Designer?”

Well, I’ve answered the Am I Going To Hell response to scientific evidence for a Creator and Designer in another place. The response to the who made God question is simple: 1) scientists acknowledge the Big Bang as the beginning of all space, matter and time itself. 2) the cause of the beginning of time must exist outside of time, and the cause is therefore eternal, and CANNOT therefore come into being itself.

For an answer to the last question about the Designer, let’s turn to Jay Richards, probably my favorite Christian thinker, (tied with Stephen C. Meyer).

Watch this for two minutes:

I just want to make sure that everyone gets the two points there.

First point is obvious. When it comes to objects that have the appearance of design, we have to look at the features of the object itself. If the object exhibits hallmarks of design, e.g. – specified complexity, irreducible complexity, etc., then we have to compare the design and non-design explanations for the object and choose which is the most reasonable. We do not need to know anything about who the designer(s) are, and you can see this in other areas like SETI, where nothing at all may be known about the originator of a coded message from space, yet still naturalists can accept that a coded message was sent (e.g. – first 100 prime numbers in beats and pauses).

The second point is that atheists have to account for the fine-tuning within their worldview as well, and give an explanation that is more probable than a Designer.

Questions like “Who made God?” and “Who Designed the Designer?” are asked in order to avoid having to provide an explanation for the scientific evidence we have today. It’s not that atheists have the answer to the evidence, it’s that they want to ask silly questions in order to avoid having to comply (rationally speaking) with the scientific evidence they see with their own eyes. Today, we have the scientific evidence for a beginning of the universe, and for fine-tuning of the universe to support complex, embodied intelligent agents. So that’s why you need to focus them on the important question: what is the explanation for the scientific evidence within an atheistic framework – how do they fit the scientific evidence we have today into their worldview? 

You have to watch out for their response of forced ignorance in the face of scientific evidence and demand that they deal with the scientific evidence that we have today. The more progress we have made in science in the last 50 years, the stronger the evidence for a cosmic beginning and for cosmic fine-tuning have become. This isn’t going away. Denial of today’s evidence and hoping for reversals of what we know today is not a rational response to the scientific evidence of today.

Let me give you a case in point. There was a recent debate where a prominent atheist said he was not even sure that the universe began to exist, despite the fact that this is guaranteed under the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem. The BGV theorem says that any universe that is on balance expanding must have a cosmic beginning. (And our universe will be expanding outward, eternally) Atheists like to clump together on atheist podcasts, atheist blogs and atheist chat rooms where they can all agree amongst themselves that the universe didn’t have a beginning and wasn’t designed – so that they can keep living as if no one designed them for a purpose that might interfere with their desires. But this is just willful ignorance in the face of solid scientific evidence, and we need to demand that they account for the scientific evidence we have today within their worldview. We can’t allow them to continue in their Flat-Earth worldview because they just plug their ears and shut their eyes to the progress of science. Self-inflicted ignorance is not a rational response to the progress of science.