Science & Faith

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Posted 4/28/12 at 9:52 AM | Mike Keas

The Cambrian Explosion—A Major Challenge to Darwinism—Finally Defused by Geologists?

Precambrian strata in a phosphate mine in Guizhou (central China)

Shanan E. Peters and Robert R. Gaines published an article in Nature on 19 April 2012 that offers a new theory for how the Cambrian explosion occurred. But their attempt to diffuse this Darwin-threatening biological bomb is not really that helpful to believers in Darwinian evolution.

The Cambrian explosion refers to the geologically sudden appearance of more than half of all the animal phyla (basic animal body plans) within a window of 10 million years (or less) in the early part of the Cambrian period of earth history--a period that began 542 million years ago when Earth was largely covered with a vast ocean. This sudden appearance of animal body plans occurred without any clear evidence of evolution from earlier life forms. Critics of Darwinism argue that this counts as strong evidence against the universal common descent of all life from one common source. So, what can we say about this latest attempt to avoid the severe evidential challenge to Darwinism that the Cambrian explosion offers? FULL POST

Posted 4/27/12 at 9:07 AM | Mike Keas

Unguided Evolution of Humans from Chimp-Like Ancestors is Astronomically Unlikely

Ann Gauger, senior research scientist at Biologic Institute, has explained the upshot of recent research on the mutations in DNA that Darwinists think would be needed to evolve a chimp-like ancestor into a human being. The main problem that is often overlooked by Darwinists, but that destroys the credibility of human evolution from ape-like creatures, is clearly explained by Ann Gauger:

Mutations occur at random and most of the time independently, but their effects are not independent. Mutations that benefit one trait may inhibit another. In addition, many if not all these traits are complex adaptations. Each trait requires multiple mutations to achieve a beneficial change. And many of the traits must occur together to be of any benefit. Take, for example, the changes required for upright bipedalism. Hips, legs, feet, spine, ribcage, skull all need to work together to allow free and efficient motion. All must be changed. But changing the hips before changing the angle of the legs would not be helpful. Changing to upright posture without lengthening the neck and setting the skull atop the spine would not work. FULL POST

Posted 4/25/12 at 10:26 AM | Mike Keas

Intelligent Design is not a Recent Invention of the Christian Right: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Part 2)

In part one of our study of Jean-Jacques Rousseau we noted how he drew from Newtonian physics to develop an argument for a cosmic intelligent designer. If we follow the causal chain of “action and reaction” back far enough, he argued, we eventually come to a first cause, which must be an entity capable of “spontaneous, voluntary action.” Rousseau realized that one need not have a complete account of the characteristics of an intelligent designer to be able to infer the designer’s existence and activity. “The will is known to me in its action, not in its nature,” he proclaimed as he analyzed his own experience as an intelligent agent. Rousseau understood that he possessed a will that could make choices and initiate a ripple of effects within the physical world. And remember that Rousseau was a deist who had largely rejected Christianity by the time he published his thoughts on intelligent design in Emile (1762). FULL POST

Posted 4/24/12 at 8:59 AM | Mike Keas

Intelligent Design is not a Recent Invention of the Christian Right: Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Ancient philosophers including Plato and Aristotle adovcated early forms of intelligent design theory, which shows that intelligent design is not a recent invention of the Christian right (download “The Roots of Intelligent Design” here). We shall focus on a colorful 18th-century example of design theory that most people have overlooked: the engimatic work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778).

In Emile (1762), Rousseau’s influential book about how humans learn, we get a glimpse of how a leading Enlightenment thinker recognized the legitimacy of the inference to intelligent design in cosmology and the study of living organisms. Although Rousseau largely rejected Christianity, he found himself drawn by extensive evidence and intuition to infer the existence of some sort of cosmic intelligent designer. The core of Rousseau’s musings about the design inference is found about midway through book four of Emile, a treatise that was condemned in Paris (Catholics) and Geneva (Calvinist Protestants) for its theological heresy (he was nowhere near what today is known as "the Christian right"). Despite its departure from the historic Christian faith, Rousseau’s book Emile analyzes how humans are able to learn about the intelligent design of certain features of the natural world. To find the passages I quote below, you may perform a text search within the version of Emile made available for free public access by Project Gutenberg, which is the version I have used. FULL POST

Posted 4/23/12 at 9:52 AM | Mike Keas

Is Life Absurd without God?

William Lane Craig has often argued:

On my view there are two necessary conditions for an ultimately meaningful, purposeful, and valuable life: God and immortality—and if atheism is true, then, plausibly, we have neither.

Craig, like Francis Schaefer, uses this sort of argument to help people sense their need to look into the claims of Jesus Christ as the only source of eternal life.

Recently a guy named Pranav challenged Craig to defend this viewpoint. Craig does so in the Q&A section of his Reasonable Faith website.

Pranav summarizes Craig’s position in the form of four conditional (if-then) statements:

  1. If life and the universe will come to an end, then there is no ultimate meaning or purpose for them.
  2. If God does not exist, then there is no prudential reason to behave morally.
  3. Even if life and the universe did not come to an end, there still would be no ultimate meaning or purpose because they would be the result of cosmic accidents.
  4. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

Pranav then claims that except for the forth statement, the other three “suffer from many problems.” If you are short on time, follow my link above, scroll down to where you see a photograph of Dr. Craig which marks where his answer begins, and then just read Craig’s answer (which restates concisely the principal challenges that Pranav offers). Craig skillfully answers all of Pranav objections. Craig’s answers indirectly support the argument Stephen Meyer offers in TrueU set #1, lessons 9 and 10, which is the moral argument for God’s existence. Meyer’s chief opponent in this context is the Darwinian argument for morality without God. FULL POST

Posted 4/21/12 at 10:06 AM | Mike Keas

Dawinism and Dishonest Journalism: Then (Scopes Trial) and Now (Academic Freedom Laws)

Henry Louis Mencken

“You can’t criticize evolution because that would be against the law. It’s incredible, but evolutionists legislate the truth of their theory. They’ll sue, lie to judges, falsify histories, oppose academic freedom, control funding, blackball skeptics and create laws that not only enforce evolution but outlaw even criticism of their non scientific ideas.” Read more of this story at George Hunter’s blog Darwin’s God. Be sure to follow his links, including the one to the Alleged movie trailer.

Although Alleged is a drama, it captures what was going on in the Scopes Monkey Trial much better than the drama Inherit the Wind. The main storyline of Alleged is depicted well by its trailer. Notice how the young journalist is persuaded by his prospective employer from the Baltimore Sun (who stands for the real journalist H.L. Mencken; see photograph above) to twist the facts about the Scopes Trial in order to advance his career in journalism. George Hunter explains in his blog today (if you follow his links) how many journalists today who have covered the recent Academic Freedom Laws have behaved like the journalists depicted in the movie Alleged (which in turn depicts the kind of thing some journalists were doing during the actual Scopes Trial). Go here for more information about the Academic Freedom Laws that allow criticism of Darwinism. Get the truth about these new laws, starting with the one that has provoked the most opposition by liberal journalists. Yes, that one passed in the state of Tennessee, where the Scopes Trial took place in 1925.

Posted 4/17/12 at 11:20 PM | Mike Keas

Plantinga Replies to Richards on the Senses in which Darwinism is and is not Compatible with Christianity

Alvin Plantinga

I reported recently about the dialogue between philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Jay Richards over the meaning of “random” in Darwinian evolutionary theory. This exchange is about Plantinga’s book Where the Conflict Really Lies Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford, 2011). Here Plantinga argues that Darwinism does not conflict with Christianity, while also agreeing that there are many good scientific arguments against Darwinism. Richards has argued that the main point of Darwinism since its inception has been to explain what appears to be intelligently designed life as merely the product of the process of natural selection acting upon random genetic mutations. Because the vast majority of biologists since Darwin have thought that “random” here means “unguided,” Darwinism as it has been handed down to us is largely incompatible with Christianity. FULL POST

Posted 4/10/12 at 10:57 PM | Mike Keas

Tennessee Enacts Academic Freedom Law Protecting Teachers Who Present Both Sides of Evolution Debate

John Scopes in 1925 (the year of the Scopes Monkey Trial in Tennessee)

On Tuesday April 10th Tennessee became the latest state to enact an academic freedom bill that protects teachers when they promote critical thinking and objective discussion about controversial science issues such as biological evolution, climate change and human cloning. At least ten states now have statewide science standards or laws that protect or encourage teachers to discuss the scientific evidence for and against Darwinian evolution. Which other states will follow this promising trend? Contact Casey Luskin at Discovery Institute if you wish to make progress like this in your state.

Teachers in Tennessee are still required to teach according to state and local science standards. But under the law, teachers are allowed to objectively present additional scientific evidence, analysis, and critiques regarding topics already in the approved curriculum.

"More than 85 years ago, Tennessee teacher John Scopes appealed for the right to teach students all of the scientific evidence," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. "This historic bill now secures that right. It's ironic that many of today's defenders of evolution have abandoned Scopes' plea for free discussion and are pushing for censorship and intolerance in the classroom instead." FULL POST

Posted 4/7/12 at 11:09 PM | Mike Keas

Philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Jay Richards Discuss the Meaning of "Random" in Evolution

Alvin Plantinga

Philosophers Alvin Plantinga and Jay Richards have had an interesting exchange over the meaning of "random" in regard to the claims of evolutionary theory. This exchange was sparked by remarks Richards made in part three of his review of Plantinga's important new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford, 2011). I introduced Plantinga's book in an earlier blog. Let's now grasp Richard's initial challenge about the meaning of "random," Plantinga's reply, and finally Richards' most recent response.

Richards argues that the main point of Darwinism since its inception has been to explain what appears to be intelligently designed life as merely the product of the process of natural selection acting upon random genetic mutations. Most biologists today agree that within evolutionary theory "random" means "unguided." Darwinism so defined would be incompatible with Christianity, both Richards and Plantinga agree. They also agree that certain arguments against Darwinism, such as Michael Behe's "irreducible complexity," have great merit. So where is the conflict between Richards and Plantinga? FULL POST

Posted 4/3/12 at 10:14 PM | Mike Keas

Which Worldviews are in Conflict with Science? Plantinga's Book: Where the Conflict Really Lies

Many equate naturalism (the view that nature is all that exists) with the "scientific worldview." This is an often-repeated assertion of the new atheists. Alvin Plantinga's book, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford University Press, December 2011) provides solid reasons for rejecting this assertion of the new atheism. Based on his 2005 Gifford Lectures (a prestigious lectureship) and a long career of highly respected work in analytic philosophy, Plantinga has finally finished his definitive book on science and religion. I'm enjoying it now.

Plantinga's thesis in Where the Conflict Really Lies is that "there is superficial conflict but deep concord [i.e., agreement in light of all we know] between science and theistic religion, but superficial concord and deep conflict between science and naturalism" (page ix). Naturalism, rather than being equated with the "scientific worldview," is actually in conflict with science. Plantinga presented some of the arguments for this thesis at a recent conference (the audio is at the bottom of this webpage). I will review the details of Plantinga's argument against naturalism and other parts of his book in future blogs. FULL POST

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