Science & Faith
CP Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Mike Keas

Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute http://www.discovery.org/csc, Professor of History & Philosophy of Science (College at Southwestern http://college.swbts.edu), & teaches at http://www.biola.edu/scienceandreligion

Posted 9/7/13 at 8:15 PM | Mike Keas

The God Question: Definitions and Sharing the Burden of Proof

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Sharing the Burden: Lt. Richard Alexander "Dick" Henderson using a donkey to carry a wounded soldier at the Battle of Gallipoli.

In a comment on my last blog Hraefn refers to this statement from me: "God, if he exists, is the ultimate uncaused cause (self-existent being).” Hraefn responds (emphasis mine):

Why must the creator of the universe, if such exists, be uncaused? By demanding that "God" be uncaused by definition, you are simply raising the (wholly unmet) burden of proof on yourself. I would suspect that few, if any, atheists would accept theist definitions as in any way binding on themselves or view the demand that we reject an uncaused universe, but blindly accept an uncaused creator of the universe, as anything other than a form of special pleading. If God can be uncaused then why can't the universe? Admitedly, a pantheist would likely look at all of this, smirk and say God is the universe, so why are you arguing which is uncaused (which would most likely offend both theist and atheist).

I aim to understand the views of those with whom I disagree, and this includes understanding the way that these folks define the basic terms of their theory. If I'm going to critique a theory, I ought to first grasp it as it is articulcated by its well credentialed proponents. I hope that critics of theism would extend the same generosity and mutual respect. In this spirit I wrote "God, if he exists, is the ultimate uncaused cause (self-existent being).” No thought-control demands are operating here, just an offer to get a crucial idea on the table for critical examination. One can understand the terms of an opponent's theory (even using terms as defined by the other guy), but then disagree respectfully with that theory. It's a free world. Hopefully we can remain civil in our discussion of competing theories about the meaning of life. FULL POST

Posted 9/2/13 at 9:32 PM | Mike Keas

Does Science Disprove God? ... Responding to “New Atheism”

The following are some outlined highlights of my talk at the Confident Christianity Conference, September 6-7, 2013: Does Science Disprove God? The main point of my talk was to analyze the problems in Stephen Hawking's book The Grand Design (2010). Hawking is widely considered the most important physicist since Einstein.

Critique of a Recent Contribution to “New Atheism” … Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design 

  • Hawking declared in his 2010 book The Grand Design: “Philosophy is dead” because it “has not kept up with modern developments in science.” Is this nonsense (despite its eminent author)?
    • The statement “philosophy is dead” is itself philosophical, not scientific, and thus self-defeating. It’s like saying “I can’t speak a word of English.” Nonsense!
    • Hawking’s philosophy is scientism, the claim: “science is the only way to know reality.” But science itself cannot support scientism (no observations support scientism), which makes it self-refuting. Scientism is a philosophical theory of knowledge. Scientism entails the philosophical assertion that you can’t make reliable philosophical assertions.
  • “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Hawking (Grand Design, 2010). See my blogs about this here and here.
    • The word “nothing” contradicts what else in Hawking’s statement?
      • Answer: “A law like gravity” (or a quantum vacuum), which is not “nothing.”
      • “Nothing” is the absence of anything, including properties and causal powers.
  • What if by “nothing” Hawking meant “nothing physical” (but rather something mathematical)? This view isn’t obviously self-contradictory. This is the ancient Greek Pythagorean belief that mathematical reality is the uncaused and self-sufficient (divine) cause of everything else.
    • Theology is the study of the divine (that which is uncaused and self-sufficient), and how all else is related to the divine. Even atheists have a theology in this sense, if only implicitly. Atheists generally think that the material world is self-sufficient (divine), but Hawking may believe in the ancient pagan theology of mathematical deity.
    • Keas’s forthcoming essay in Salvo Magazine (Sept. 2013): “Here is the Hawking science-theology dilemma. To the degree that we are able to rescue his creation story from contradictions, it appears all the more clearly theological (not scientific). On the flip side, denial of theological assertion in Hawking’s Grand Design makes its self-contradictory status more obvious. I will let the reader decide which is more damaging to his attempt to lead us away from theistic religion by ‘science’.”
  • What is the error in Hawking’s “more science, less God” atheistic slogan?
    • Edison invented the first long-lasting electric light bulb in 1879.
    • More scientific knowledge of electricity and light does not amount to less appreciation for the genius of Edison’s invention (personal agency).
    • Those studying the Edison light bulb should not pose the false dilemma of “Edison or natural laws.” Both are important! But Hawking presents a similar false dilemma of “God or natural laws.” Why not be open to both being important for a full explanation?
  • Tim Radford’s review of Hawking’s Grand Design comments on M-theory as a proposed “natural law” explanation of cosmic origins: “M-theory invokes … a prime mover, a begetter, a creative force that is everywhere and nowhere. This force cannot be identified by instruments or examined by comprehensible mathematical prediction, and yet it contains all possibilities. It incorporates omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, and it's a big mystery. Remind you of Anybody?”
  • How is “who created natural laws?” a good question, but “who created God?” is not?
    • Natural laws are fine-tuned for life (a tiny number of possibilities compared to ways for lifeless cosmos). This implies a lawgiver, and prompts: “who created natural laws?”
    • God, if he exists, is the ultimate uncaused cause (self-existent being). Thus, the question “who created God?” betrays confusion about what theists mean by “God.”

FULL POST

Posted 8/29/13 at 8:25 PM | Mike Keas

Recent Episodes in Censorship vs. Academic Freedom: Materialists Are Becoming More Intolerant

One indication of a failing paradigm in science (or in other disciplines) is an increasingly authoritarian attempt by its believers to curtail open discussion of where the evidence might lead. Recent attempts to shut down conversation about the evidential merits of intelligent design indicate just how insecure many neo-Darwinists and materialists are about their own theories of the world. Let's survey a few of these episodes.

1. Ball State University President Imposes Gag Order on Science Professors who Favor Intelligent Design

In a blatant assault on academic freedom, the President of Ball State University in Indiana has issued an edict banning science faculty from discussing the scientific evidence favoring intelligent science. The President's order is something right out of George Orwell's 1984. Ball State University is fast becoming ground zero in the war to suppress dissent in science in America. Stay tuned in future weeks for ways you can help defend the academic freedom of scientists under attack at Ball State.

2. Ban Discovery Institute: Hank Campbell's Appeal to the Editors of National Review

Displaying the totalitarian mindset of many scientific materialists, Hank Campbell of Science 2.0 is calling on National Review to ban writers associated with Discovery Institute, starting with blogger and bioethicist Wesley Smith. FULL POST

Posted 8/27/13 at 9:29 AM | Mike Keas

Three New Free Videos on Intelligent Design: Engaging Critics

Today I'm recommending three new videos about intelligent design, one of which includes an ID critic.
Michael Behe
1. MSN Science Channel Features Dr. Behe
If you are new to intelligent design, watch this short video highlighted at MSN, "The Theory of Intelligent Design: Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman." Michael Behe explains the concept of intelligent design and the argument from irreducible complexity. It's a clip from the Science Channel series of the same name.

2. Interview of Dr. Meyer on America's Number 1 Progressive Radio Show

Most critics of intelligent design are still refusing to grapple with the theory squarely. For example, watch this interview with Thom Hartmann, "host of America's Number 1 Progressive Radio Show." (Go to the bottom of this article about Meyer's book party to watch the Hartmann interview of Meyer). Hartmann tries to cast Stephen Meyer's new book Darwin's Doubt as an attack on science, but then demonstrates his own ignorance of Meyer's scientific argument. Hartmann repeatedly makes claims in the name of science without actually offering evidence-based scientific arguments. Meyer highlights some of the main points in his book that are based on the latest peer-reviewed scientific research. The interview is entertaining.

The only substantial attempt by Hartmann to present specific evidence to counter Meyer's thesis falls flat. Hartmann proposes that an increase in oxygen in the pre-Cambrian atmosphere generated the novel genetic coding needed to build the Cambrian animals. Merely citing one of the many necessary conditions for the Cambrian explosion does not respond to the core of Meyer's scientific critique of the unguided evolution of all those new animal body plans that appeared in the early Cambrian period.

3. Promote Free Speech on Evolution: Spread the Video about Meyer's Book Darwin's Doubt

The third and final new free video that I'm recommending today is tied to this article by John West excerpted below that sets the stage to appreciate the video.

Darwin's Doubt by Stephen Meyer is a landmark in the public discussion of intelligent design. For the first time in history, a book presenting the scientific evidence for intelligent design in biology has landed on the New York Times bestseller list. As a result, the critics of intelligent design are even crankier and angrier than usual (if that's possible!); and they are doing their best to suppress interest in the book by waging a campaign of character assassination and disinformation. To get a taste of what's going on, you need only peruse the content of many of the negative reviews posted at Amazon.com (often by people who clearly haven't read Meyer's book). Instead of respectfully disagreeing with Meyer or providing an evidence-based critique of his actual arguments, the "reviews" consist largely of personal attacks and insults like the following: FULL POST

Posted 8/24/13 at 7:42 PM | Mike Keas

“Something Can’t Come from Nothing”: Is it More Reasonable to Accept or Reject this Principle?

What can we learn from the large volume of comments under my post about whether the Mathematical Laws of Nature Create Everything from Nothing?

Hraefn, responding to MGT2 (who was supporting my claim that “something can’t come from nothing”) wrote:

Your repeated queries as to "how do you get something from nothing" is simply an argument from personal incredulity. Logically fallacious, and thus "illogical". Theoretical physics is very often counter-intuitive.

MGT2 replies:

Counter-intuitive does not mean illogical. Theoretical physics may be counter-intuitive in some respect, but it is never illogical.

As I teach in my Reasoning course each year, we should realize that “illogical” is a subset of that which is unreasonable. Illogical is a label for an argument that breaks one or more rules of logic (and neither MGT2 nor Hraefn breaks any logical rules in the comments section to my post). To argue in an illogical manner is one way to be unreasonable. But one may construct a logically valid deduction that has one or more premises that are unreasonable. That would be a case of being logical, but unreasonable. Just in case anyone wants to dispute this, I should point out that the atheist author (Lewis Vaughn) of the critical thinking textbook I use in my Reasoning course (pictured here) agrees with me. All the informed theists and atheists that I know share common ground here. FULL POST

Posted 8/21/13 at 9:36 AM | Mike Keas

Two Versions of the Moral Argument for God: Which is Best?

William Lane Craig is well known for advancing many arguments for God's existence, including the moral argument. Here is the moral argument as formulated by Craig:

  • Premise 1: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  • Premise 2: Objective moral values do exist.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.
Dr. Steve Meyer

Stephen Meyer offers a different version of the moral argument in the DVD curriculum TrueU: Does God Exist?

  • 
The existence of God provides the only coherent explanation for the conditions of an objective and meaningful system of morality.
  • Moreover, because the actions of all people reveal that they presuppose an objective and meaningful moral code, only a belief in God’s existence allows people to live consistently with their moral belief system.

If you wish to compare the two forms of the moral argument and weigh their worth, you might start by watching William Lane Craig debate mathematician Herb Silverman on the topic: Does God Exist? (March 23, 2010). Audio and video here.

Craig and Silverman spend much of their time arguing for and against the moral argument for God's existence. Silverman conflates the epistemological and ontological aspects of morality (as does Hitchens in his 2009 debate with Craig at Biola University), while Craig patiently corrects the error. How so? Silverman says the equivalent of "hey, I'm an atheist and I know that rape is wrong without any alleged god telling me so." Craig agrees that Silverman can know rape is wrong independent of a particular religious text (this is an epistemological issue), but maintains that Silverman's atheistic worldview does not provide a basis for objective moral values, such as "rape is wrong" (this is an ontological issue). Silverman's attempt to dismantle the moral argument for God only unwittingly reinforced one of its premises. I leave it to the reader to decide which premise Silverman's objection actually helped support despite Silverman's intentions otherwise. Audio and video here.

To make Craig-Meyer comparison easier, Craig's argument can be paraphrased:

  • Premise 1: If God does not exist, then the conditions necessary for the existence of objective and meaningful moral values do not exist.
  • Premise 2: But objective and meaningful moral values do exist.
  • Conclusion: So God must exist (in whom are located the conditions necessary for the existence of objective and meaningful moral values). FULL POST

Posted 8/14/13 at 9:33 AM | Mike Keas

Oxford Mathematician John Lennox: Can Mathematical Laws of Nature Create Everything from Nothing?

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John Lennox is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

Today we call upon Oxford Mathematician John Lennox to clarify some misconceptions that surfaced in the comments below my last blog. We will focus on the question: Can Mathematical Laws of Nature Create Everything from Nothing? The question itself needs to be reworked, but it is stated this way in order to tie into some common misconceptions. Help is on the way. First, a little backstory is needed.

In his 2010 book The Grand Design, celebrated cosmologist Stephen Hawking and coauthor Leonard Mlodinow claim that the laws of nature are consistent with the universe popping into existence from nothing: “Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.” (The Grand Design, p. 180). But something can’t cause itself to come into existence because it would have to exist already to have any causal powers. So Hawking’s statement is self-contradictory. Furthermore, a natural law like gravity is not “nothing.” This is another contradiction. Oxford's Dr. John Lennox's points out these and other contradictions in Hawking's (and Dawkins's) unreasonable worse-than-magic claims in this exclusive full-length video. Even better, read Lennox's book God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? FULL POST

Posted 8/11/13 at 10:42 PM | Mike Keas

Richard Dawkins Knows Something About Nothing? Satirical Video Remix that Might Go Viral

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Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have encouraged atheists to use satire to critique theistic views. To be fair, we should also recognize the legitimacy of satirical treatments of the views of atheists like Dawkins and Krauss. Yesterday somebody did just that in a delightfully satirical remix of several Dawkins videos in which Dawkins asserts his view (taken from Krauss) that the universe came from "nothing." His attempts to qualify and explain what he means by "nothing" are ... well ... entertaining.

In one part of this video collage Dawkins is puzzled as to why the audience thinks his views are laughable (the audience spontaneously laughs at one of Dawkins' serious remarks about something coming from nothing). This is a priceless moment that you need to experience. Watch the video now. Gather your family and friends for "the greatest show on earth" (Dawkins once wrote a book he called The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution).

For some clear thinking about the absurd claim made by some atheists that the universe came from nothing, watch this eight-minute clip of William Lane Craig. Early on Craig notes: "To claim that something can come from nothing is worse than magic."

Here are the source videos for the satirical remix linked above:

Posted 8/10/13 at 8:03 PM | Mike Keas

What is the Theory of Intelligent Design? And How to be an Informed Critic

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Critic by Lajos Tihanyi. Oil on canvas, c. 1916. Which kind of critic are you?

There are two kinds of critics of intelligent design who don't even get the defining features of the theory correct: those who know that they are mischaraterizing what the proponents of ID are arguing, and those who simply don't understand. Judging from recent comments, I suspect both sorts of ID critics follow my blog here at CP. I just happened to notice that today over at ENV, Casey Luskin addressed this very issue. Let's see how his essay might shed light here.

Luskin responds to this question (sounds like what we've heard here in the CP comment zone, over and over):

What's the "scientific theory of ID"? Who or what is the designer and how can we tell? What did it do and how can we tell? How did it do it and how can we tell? Where did it do it and how can we tell? When did it do it and how can we tell? Please pass on my thanks to all your colleagues for never bothering to answer these questions.

Luskin suspects that the "Nick" who posted this comment on Amazon (reviewing Stephen Meyer's new book) is the same Nick Matzke whose review of Meyer's Darwin's Doubt has spread misinformation about the length of the Cambrian explosion. It turns out that Matzke is simply out of touch with what the leading Cambrian experts think, namely that the "explosion" took only 5-10 million years, a mere geological blink of the eye. I wrote about this earlier in this blog: What is the Significance of a “Darwin's Doubt” Review by a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Science Journalist? I explailned how this set up an otherwise first-rate science journalist to badly misjudge Meyer's book. FULL POST

Posted 8/6/13 at 10:23 PM | Mike Keas

Darwin's Deeper Doubt Today: Theist Alvin Plantinga vs. Atheist Stephen Law

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Alvin Plantinga

Now that we have established Darwin’s own doubt about the reliability of evolved creatures to exercise certain higher order thinking skills, where is this conversation now? Do such deeper doubts about the capabilities of an evolved brain continue to undermine any good reason an evolutionary biologist might have to believe in his or her own theory today?

The most influential direction this conversation has taken in the last few decades centers on Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). You can listen to him make the argument here. I shall summarize the latest form of EAAN, which is how it is framed in his book Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011) and in this peer-reviewed journal article (the quotations below, if unidentified, come from this article). FULL POST

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