Tag Archives: Evidence

New video takes you inside the cell to see how DNA is replicated

Wow, this is pretty! (H/T Uncommon Descent via ECM)

If you need to understand how to explain this video in the context of intelligent design, see my previous posts on the building blocks of life and the origin of biological information. I find it useful to draw up the probability calculations for your friends. It’s all explained in the latter article. Fun!

I like playing Sorcery Quest more than I like singing in church

I promised a friend of mine that I would go to church today, so I picked a 7 PM evening service and in the meantime, I’ve been playing an online game called Sorcery Quest (but they only give you 20 minutes a day to play! Boo!) and listening to those apologetics lectures that I ordered. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I don’t want to church but would rather stay home and play Sorcery Quest and listen to apologetics lectures instead.

One of those 3 activities is not like the others.

Which one doesn’t belong?

  • Playing Sorcery Quest
  • Listening to apologetics lectures
  • Singing in church

I’ll tell you which one doesn’t belong: singing in church. Because that’s for girls.

That’s right, I said it. Singing is for girls. But Sorcery Quest and apologetics is for boys.

Sorcery Quest

Let’s take a look at the blurb on the Sorcery Quest web site and see what Sorcery Quest is about.

Here’s the web site blurb:

Create a group of adventurers and embark on a fantastic journey where you will fight evil monsters and gain experience, find treasures, gold and fame, create your own guild, and, if you dare, enter the arena and challenge other players!

Here is a promotional video:

Here is the text from the trailer:

  • Ten locations to visit
  • Twenty character classes to choose from
  • Over 60 unique monsters
  • Collect more than 100 items
  • (Fight!) Classic gameplay
  • Turn-based combat
  • Explore a vast world filled with treasures
  • Play today for free

This is what boys like. Adventure!

Christian apologetics

Now I’ll write up a similar blurb for Christian apologetics.

  • Hundreds of universities, workplaces and restaurants to visit
  • Dozens of arguments to choose from across various academic disciplines
  • Hundreds of unique monsters, including university professors, feminists, fascists, Hollywood celebrities, left-wing journalists and village atheists
  • Collect thousands of magical books, debates, and lectures
  • Classic gameplay – gain experience, build your skills and assemble a team of brave adventurers to wage war on evil behind enemy lines
  • Turn-based combat
  • Explore a vast universe filled with powerful, effective scientific and historical evidence
  • Play today for free

I could go on and on about how exciting defending the faith is! Apologetics is something that boys like as much as they like Sorcery Quest or reading the Lord of the Rings. Adventure! In fact, Lee Strobel’s new book is all about public, personal apologetics being adventurous!

The feminized church

Now here’s a similar blurb for the feminized church, which is nothing like either Sorcery Quest, or Christian apologetics. (Note: this is exaggerated for effect)

  • Never learn any of the excellent reasons why the Bible is reliable or trustworthy, or even how to test its claims
  • Believe things without anyone explaining why you should believe them
  • Avoid discussing the evil happening in the world, and don’t make plans to do anything about it
  • Avoid discussing anti-Christian, anti-liberty policies being enacted by Obama
  • Help people to feel comfortable with their lack of engagement by talking about the weather, television shows and movies
  • Avoid hurting people’s feelings by expressing your views, or worse, by disagreeing with them
  • Sit next to screaming babies who need their diapers changed
  • Sing songs about your emotions with a crowd of strangers who will never talk to you about anything interesting
  • Have your aggressive male nature and apologetics knowledge suppressed by stuffy, insecure church pastors
  • After the sermon, hear about everyone else’s home renovations, children’s graduations and vacation plans

And so on… (add yours in the comments). This is just not going to attractive for boys. We want danger! Adventure! Collecting things! Exploring! Fighting! Winning! Scoring points! But all of that is forbidden in the feminized church.

So, this whole feminized church thing no good for boys.

Fortunately, the church I have to go to is far away so it will be a long drive – which is dangerous. I drive a triple-black convertible roadster – which is dangerous. And the friend who asked me to go to church is a wood-elf Princess – so that’s a quest. (She lines in a rural area, and so I can plausibly imagine that she is an elf). And she already has a reward for me, (a book of some sort, autographed), – that’s a treasure. She may also give me some of the magical elven food that she makes.

So, that’s something, at least. With a little imagination, church could be fun for me.

Maybe something exciting will happen to me on the way to church? A dragon could attack me and I could defeat him and steal his treasure. Maybe a magical sphinx will appear and refuse to let me into the church unless I answer 3 riddles? Why can’t church be more adventurous like that? Why can’t I ever disagree with people in church? Why can’t the whole church ever watch a debate? Why can’t I learn something that I can actually use to fight and win over non-Christians? Why can’t we link what the pastor says with the real world?

My visit to church

I’m back! I got there a half-hour early. The minister was a Reformed Baptist (I’m not a Calvinist, though) and he preached on the meaning of the ordinance of eating bread and wine, i.e. – Communion. And it was great because he explained what an ordinance was, and what a sacrament was, and he occasionally compared the Protestant beliefs with the Catholic beliefs about Communion. But he didn’t try to talk about any evidence for who was right, he just said that different people have different opinions – like tastes in food I suppose.

All the songs were about what God has done, nothing about how we feel about him. So that was good. I even sang “Crown him with many crowns” very quietly. (I sat at the back where no one would notice me). Nobody raised their hands during worship. So that was good. Raising your hands and stuff is just weird, because it just is! Weird! So the worship was right on target.

I took tons of notes. He used 1 Corinthians 10 and 11. Everybody knows that 1 Corinthians is one of Paul’s angry letters, like Galatians. Paul seems to take theology and apologetics so seriously, much more seriously than Christians in church today.

It was a communion service. He told us what we should be thinking about when we take communion (the bread and wine) and what we should not think about. He explained why this was a very serious thing to participate in. This part was really awesome! Because it was judgmental.

You guys can e-mail me if you want to know who the pastor was. You’ll recognize his name for certain if I tell you.

I went into the church book store, and they had an apologetics section with old-earth books, intelligent design books, William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland and Lee Strobel. AND THEY HAD DEBATES ON DVD WITH RICHARD DAWKINS AND CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS!!!!!! I took pictures of them with my cell phone! But the theology section was all filled with Calvinism, of course, but I can’t help that. The book store was huge.

My Dad is also very happy that I went to church. I usually only go about once a quarter these days. Normally I go to a non-Reformed Baptist church.

What I thought of going to church

Now nothing I learned today was useful for engaging non-Christians in public, but I learned lots of other new things. It’s important to compare different beliefs and say who is right and who is wrong, and why. He didn’t explain any of the why – no evidence was discussed for anything he said. But arguments and evidence is what makes Christianity interesting!

I do think that churches need to have the occasional service taught by a scholar on an apologetics topic, once a quarter. I insist that it be to the entire church. If only someone could come in and explain to them about the kalam argument, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the fossil record, irreducible complexity, the moral argument, consciousness, the problem of suffering, the hiddenness of God, the fate of the unevangelized, postmodernism, and middle knowledge.

And they need to cover the minimal facts case for the resurrection once a quarter in the normal service. And they’ll need to talk about abortion, marriage, persecution of Christians abroad, and other issues like that. If you don’t talk about the evidence pro and con, because you are afraid of upsetting the people who are there to have emotional experiences, then you run the risk that people will begin to believe that religion is divorced from truth. That’s what I mean when I say “the feminized church”. When you don’t link it to the evidence in the real world, people think that it’s not real.

How I would fix the church

I am sponsoring a couple of events next year where Greg Koukl will be speaking and he will be allowed to address the entire congregation in two Sunday services. Also, I am sponsoring another event where he will debate in a church. That’s all I wanted! As long as all the people who attend the church get the idea that Christianity is about the real world, and that it’s OK to ask questions, then I am happy. And I have a plan I am executing to help churches be more focused on truth and apologetics.

Right now, we have a shortage of young people, especially men, attending church. My recommendation is that pastors immediately begin involving apologetics material in their main Sunday sermons. And I do mean EVIDENTIAL apologetics, not pre-suppositionalism. Young people who see evidence from the world being discussed in the main church service will get the message that the claims of Christianity are objective, and testable. Right now, the reason they are dropping out is that they are not seeing that Christianity is objectively true.

Personal preferences and feelings cannot be debated. But truth claims can be debated, and that’s adventurous and dangerous.

Further study

Huge debate at Neil Simpson’s blog on religion and same-sex marriage

Neil Simpson has the best online debates. Here’s the post that kicked it all off.

Excerpt:

Here’s why I am free to support real marriage in the public square:

1. That First Amendment thingy.  We’re allowed to let our religious views inform our political views whether you like it or not. It doesn’t inhibit religious freedoms, it protects them.

2. My religion tells me that stealing, perjury, gay bashing and murder are also wrong.  Do you object to me letting those views inform my political views, or just the views you don’t like?

3. Lots of churches are thoroughly pro-gay, such as the UCC and the Episcopals.  I don’t recall you objecting to their advancement of the pro-gay cause.  If you were being consistent and if you really opposed any religious beliefs in the public square, shouldn’t you be objecting to their views just as strenuously?  Why do you just use that argument against views you disagree with?

4. You are begging the question by assuming what you should be proving.  You claim that we are denying “rights” to gays but you must change the definition of the word in question to draw that conclusion.  But the whole debate is whether to change the word and give them a new right.  You cheat and pretend that we’ve already changed the word and given them the right and then insist that we’re denying this existing right.  Sadly, pro-gay apologists commit this fallacy so reflexively that I doubt you realize what you are doing….

5. Finally, and most importantly, I didn’t bring up religion.  You did.  I can argue this topic without it — though of course, if you want to know Jesus’ views on it I’ll be glad to share the biblical view with you.

To give you a hint of how things are going over there with Neil, I’ve excerpted a sample exchange from the comments.

Sample exchange:

morsec0de writes:

Denying homosexuals the ability to marry each other has no secular justification.

Neil writes:

By nature and design [same-sex marriages] do not produce the next generation. Please don’t come back and tell me about infertile couples, those who use birth control, etc., as that isn’t the point I just made. My point is that by nature only heterosexual unions can produce children.

Homosexual couples can never provide a mother and father to a child, which by nature and design is the ideal. Again, just because there are non-traditional families doesn’t mean we shouldn’t encourage the ideal.

My own argument against same-sex marriage is here. Notice that it is completely fact-based, without even a hint of religion. That’s the way we roll on the Wintery Knight Blog.

New Scientist: the force of gravity is fine-tuned to permit life

The article from the New Scientist is here. (H/T ECM)

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 1015 at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

I know you guys look at my big list of objective evidence for Christianity, and you think “Wintery! Those evidences are not admitted by the majority of scientists!” I keep trying to tell you – my goal is to give you arguments and evidence that will work in the public square. These are mainstream evidences accepted by most or all non-Christian scientists as fact, and they used in public academic debates.

When I tell you about evidences from the big bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, etc., I am telling you evidence that should compel anyone to deny atheism, so long as they are not irrational and emotional. These are not Christian tricks. They do not address felt needs. They are not there to help you to be happy. They are not optional, depending on how you feel about them.

But there is another way to recommend Christianity to people, which is not rationally compelling, but instead relies on intuitions and experiences.

A different approach to apologetics

Some people offer Christian doctrines to others as a way of interpreting the human condition, etc. And it’s true that the Bible gives you an accurate description of your own inner life, and your rebellious attitude towards God. So these well-meaning Christians try to “persuade” non-Christians to consider whether the words of the Bible “ring true” with their intuitions and experiences.

Consider this quote from G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”:

And now we come to the crucial question which truly concludes the whole matter.  A reasonable agnostic, if he has happened to agree with me so far, may justly turn round and say, “You have found a practical philosophy in the doctrine of the Fall; very well…. If you see clearly the kernel of common-sense in the nut of Christian orthodoxy,why cannot you simply take the kernel and leave the nut? Why cannot you (to use that cant phrase of the newspapers which I, as a highly scholarly agnostic, am a little ashamed of using) why cannot you simply take what is good in Christianity, what you can define as valuable, what you can comprehend, and leave all the rest, all the absolute dogmas that are in their nature incomprehensible?” This is the real question; this is the last question; and it is a pleasure to try to answer it.

The first answer is simply to say that I am a rationalist. I like to have some intellectual justification for my intuitions. If I am treating man as a fallen being it is an intellectual convenience to me to believe that he fell; and I find, for some odd psychological reason, that I can deal better with a man’s exercise of freewill if I believe that he has got it.  But I am in this matter yet more definitely a rationalist.  I do not propose to turn this book into one of ordinary Christian apologetics; I should be glad to meet at any other time the enemies of Christianity in that more obvious arena.  Here I am only giving an account of my own growth in spiritual certainty.  But I may pause to remark that the more I saw of the merely abstract arguments against the Christian cosmology the less I thought of them.  I mean that having found the moral atmosphere of the Incarnation to be common sense, I then looked at the established intellectual arguments against the Incarnation and found them to be common nonsense.  In case the argument should be thought to suffer from the absence of the ordinary apologetic I will here very briefly summarise my own arguments and conclusions on the purely objective or scientific truth of the matter.

If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.”  I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence.  But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts.  The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend.  The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion.  Now, the non-Christianity of the average educated man to-day is almost always, to do him justice, made up of these loose but living experiences.  I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it.  For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flows the other way.

The problem with Chesterton’s view is that it is not rationally compelling. It is apprehended in a subjective way, depending on whether the person likes it or not. This pragmatic approach is popular today because people want to have their felt needs met. But this approach doesn’t allow you to demonstrate the truth of Christianity in the public square, using objective evidence, as Chesterton admits.

This rejection of objective apologetics has marginalized Christianity as subjective. I think we need to emphasize hard evidence. We need to have studied science, analytical philosophy, New Testament and history. We need to offer evidence that is objective, not subjective, like the fine-tuning of the gravitational force, so that our opponents are clear that Christianity is objectively true.

I think that Chesterton is a bad example for Christians to follow. In the Bible, I see Jesus constantly providing physical evidence for this claims by employing  miracles. We can do something similar to Jesus today, by leveraging past miracles, such as the fine-tuning of the gravitational force, in our public debates. We don’t need to invent new ways of evangelizing based on intuitions and experiences.

Further study

You can read more about the fine-tuning of the gravitational force from Robin Collins, who is the best we have on the topic. Collins started a Ph.D in Physics at the University of Texas at Austin, but ended up completing a Ph.D in philosophy at Notre Dame, under Alvin Plantinga, the greatest living philosopher today, in my opinion. I heard Collins speak at the Baylor ID conference in 2000.

Here is a textbook on physics and philosophy for high-schoolers written by David Snoke, a professor of Physics at University of Pittsburgh. He homeschools his own 4 children with this very book. The book contains Bible study and philosophy sections.

Is universal common ancestry based on established facts?

Casey Luskin wrote a wonderful article called “A Primer on the Tree of Life” that will help you to consider whether universal common ancestry is true.

Excerpt:

Evolutionists often claim that universal common ancestry and the “tree of life” are established facts. One recent opinion article argued, “The evidence that all life, plants and animals, humans and fruit flies, evolved from a common ancestor by mutation and natural selection is beyond theory. It is a fact. Anyone who takes the time to read the evidence with an open mind will join scientists and the well-educated.”1 The take-home message is that if you doubt Darwin’s tree of life, you’re ignorant. No one wants to be ridiculed, so it’s a lot easier to buy the rhetoric and “join scientists and the well-educated.”

But what is the evidence for their claim, and how much of it is based upon assumptions? The truth is that common ancestry is merely an assumption that governs interpretation of the data, not an undeniable conclusion, and whenever data contradicts expectations of common descent, evolutionists resort to a variety of different ad hoc rationalizations to save common descent from being falsified.

Here are two of the four evidences he looks at:

Molecular phylogenies

…the cover story of the journal New Scientist… titled, “Why Darwin was wrong about the tree of life.” …reported that “The problem was that different genes told contradictory evolutionary stories.” The article observed that with the sequencing of the genes and proteins of various living organisms, the tree of life fell apart…

You get completely different molecular phylogenies depending on which gene or protein you analyze from the organism. If UCA were true, all the genes and proteins would have to give similar molecular phylogenies. Casey also addresses horizontal gene transfer.

Convergent evolution

One data-point that might suggest common design rather than common descent is the gene “pax-6.” Pax-6 is one of those pesky instances where extreme genetic similarity popped up in a place totally unexpected and unpredicted by evolutionary biology. In short, scientists have discovered that organisms as diverse as jellyfish, arthropods, mollusks, and vertebrates all use pax-6 to control development of their very distinct types of eyes. Because their eye-types are so different, it previously hadn’t been thought that these organisms even shared a common ancestor with an eye.

Here, you have the same gene being used for the same function in different organisms that do not share a common ancestor.

Homologies and Morphological phylogenies

Casey goes on to look at the evidence from homologies and the disparities between molecular phylogenies and morphological phylogenies, (e.g. – Cytochrome B). Casey’s article is worth looking at, especially if you have never considered the case against universal common ancestry.