Observations

February 10, 2013

“I have never believed in God. Yet, I have to admit that if He does not actually exist, then we can be little more than feverish, selfish little clods of ailments and grievances. And that is hardly enough reason to go on living. Only the existence of God can make anything at all have any meaning at all.”
George Bernard Shaw


Observations

January 28, 2013

Often when I argue that cells are infused with information driven molecular machinery and that this observation constitutes the basis for a readily falsifiable theory on why the cell is the product of the effort of a mind, opponents will accuse me of over-extending the use of the word ‘machine’. That is why I appreciate animations like the one below – it clearly depicts a molecular motor, that has been an integral part of cells since the beginning of life. It is clearly a mechanism composed of multiple integrated and highly interdependent parts that both convert energy into work, and provide the fuel on which the rest of the cell subsists.

The ATP synthase is definitely an information driven molecular machine, and the best explanation of its existence is that it was designed by a mind.


Atheist Myths About Eternity pt. 1 – Heaven is Boring

January 22, 2013

In a recent blog post on the New Atheist site A-Unicornist Mike shares his view of heaven by invoking Captain Kirk of the original Star Trek series. In the particular episode This Side of Paradise Kirk dismisses an offer to join an alien spore induced paradise with a typical Kirkian aplomb:

ELIAS: Captain, why don’t you join us?

KIRK: In your own private paradise.

ELIAS: The spores have made it that.

KIRK: Where did they originate?

SPOCK: It’s impossible to say. They drifted through space until they finally landed here. You see, they actually thrive on Berthold rays. The plants act as a repository for thousands of microscopic spores until they find a human body to inhabit.

ELIAS: In return, they give you complete health and peace of mind.

KIRK: That’s paradise?

ELIAS: We have no need or want, Captain.

SPOCK: It’s a true Eden, Jim. There’s belonging and love.

KIRK: No wants. No needs. We weren’t meant for that. None of us. Man stagnates if he has no ambition, no desire to be more than he is.

ELIAS: We have what we need.

KIRK: Except a challenge.

And later, with a reference to the Fall…

MCCOY: Well, that’s the second time man’s been thrown out of paradise.

KIRK: No, no, Bones. This time we walked out on our own. Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through. Struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums.

Mike’s point in employing this bit of dialogue is the same one skeptic’s have been using ever since – well at least since I was a skeptic myself, namely that heaven is boring, so who would want to go there anyway? It is an adolescent argument, the sort one would employ if one had a teenage view of the matter – which incidentally is around the time many men choose to become atheists. But it fails for two reasons, at least as far as Christianity is concerned; and one of the reason it fails is because Captain Kirk is a hypocrite.

How is he a hypocrite you ask? Well if you have a geek’s knowledge of the Star Trek universe like myself, then you know that by 21st century standards, the world Kirk and his crew inhabit is a paradise. Think about it – the Federation has long done away with money. The crew of the Enterprise never worries about running out of power, having an ample supply supplied by dilithium crystals. They jet about the galaxy, free to explore the mysteries of the universe having all their physical needs supplied at the push of a button on a replicator. They can move about at will over distance materializing in buildings on a planet’s surface in seconds (hey, where have I seen that before?!) War has ceased on earth and diseases are cured at the wave of glowing medical device.

As a matter of fact, Kirk often lectures warring alien about their primitive ways and absurd prejudices. Why? Because in order to have the freedom to really explore and gain more knowledge (which is after all the mission of the Enterprise) a high level of peace, prosperity and knowledge must be attained first. And as it turns out, this is pretty much true – historically, the cultures that have greatest advances are those who have managed to carve out for themselves a space where they can prosper in relative peace, away from the primitive human urges that constantly tear down civilizations. Man doesn’t stagnate when he is given room and means to rest and reflect, man prospers. In short, we advance by way of the heavenly, not by the way of the brutish struggle, something Kirk apparently forgot. But he is not known for his logic.

But the other reason this fails as a critique of the Christian view of heaven is that it is not an accurate view of the Christian view of heaven, at least as Scripture explains it. The proper Christian view of heaven is not one of mindless people floating about clouds, playing harps without a care or concern. That is a cartoon view of Christianity, which is where New Atheists seem to get most of their information. In Scripture our earthly lives are just a shadow of what our eternal experiences will be. This is how the Apostle Paul puts it:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. – 1 Corinthian 13:9-12

Paul is contrasting our current experience which is limited by time, our limited knowledge and experience with an eternal existence which has no such limitations. Knowing what’s true won’t be limited by our senses.  In another passage, Paul attempts to explain how different this life is from the life to come:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.
There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.1 Corinthians 15:35 -39

In other words, one can’t measure our eternal experience by our temporal, earthly experience. It would be like trying to study a forest by looking at an acorn. Saying that ‘heaven is boring’ is akin to a bird in a cage saying the sky looks boring. It’s absurd, especially if you have a tiny taste of what flight is like.

It’s always interesting for me to think about how awed atheists are by the universe; and one can see why – it’s vast, it is continually revealing new secrets and the more we know about it the more we know about ourselves. If it were feasible one could spend a lifetime exploring it and never scratch the surface of all its mysteries. Now think for a moment about what keeps us from exploring this immense creation. Our lives and resources are limited. For most of human history they have been severely limited. At this point in human history we barely have the capability to send machines to the nearest planets. Even if we manage to reach them ourselves, there is no indication we could ever send a person to the nearest star. Certainly in my lifetime it will not happen and if it ever does happen no one alive today will know it. And to be even more frank, the power and resources available to us is dwindling – and the will to use it for long term speculative ventures is waning as well, because people sacrifice long term understanding for short terms pleasure. Our ambition is stalled by our selfish natures not by a desire for heaven.

What is exciting about the thought of heaven is no such barriers exist. Time and resources are available for the ultimate exploration of the vastness of creation. Of course, beyond this lies the vastness the Creator Himself – to which there is no end of knowledge, understanding, and immeasurable motivation to go as C.S. Lewis put it, “further up, and further in”.

Of course in our hearts we know this – that’s why we strive for it on earth, even though it will never exist on earth. We strive to know more, we strive to live longer, to be healthier, and to be more at peace. We strive for these things because we realize that desperate lives of limitation are not how human lives ought to be.

Of course this is nonsense to Mike because he does not believe heaven exists to begin with, which rather makes his critique of heaven odd.

But if one is going to criticize something, one should at least understand what one is criticizing and his cartoonish cliché ridden view of the Christian notion of heaven shows he is not only ignorant of heaven, but of human nature altogether.


Observations – MLK Day Version

January 21, 2013

You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. “The whole concept of the imago Dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the ‘image of God,’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are not gradations in the image of God… We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.”

- Martin Luther King, from his speech, “The American Dream” Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, on 4 July 1965.


Observations

January 14, 2013

And occasionally one finds an atheist like British atheist and philosopher Tim Crane who makes sense:

“But what is undeniable is that we cannot understand our own culture unless we recognise that it was formed, for good or bad, as a Christian culture. It’s an illusion that we could somehow recover a human essence which is independent of the way it was created by culture. And the way western European culture was created was as a Christian culture, whether we like this or not. So to understand our own culture we must take into account its Christian roots, which may well be deeper than many atheists would like to acknowledge. Should religions be given special privileges? In the abstract, the answer to this question must be yes. If an atheist society (and I am assuming that the UK, at least, is an atheist society) is going to tolerate religions, then it is hard to imagine how this toleration would not result in special privileges. Orthodox Jews may not work on Saturdays or Friday evenings, Muslims and Jews may kill animals for food in a certain way, many religions will have the privilege to educate their children in their own way, and so on.”

Cambridge Philosopher Tim Crane in a recent interview at 3ammagazine


Observations

January 3, 2013

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
—C.S. Lewis
The Case for Christianity, p. 32.


Observations

December 28, 2012

No one was ever attracted to atheism by the love, joy, peace and kindness of an atheist.


The Silliness of Atheists on Christmas

December 18, 2012

Personally I am rather indifferent to the imagined ‘War on Christmas’ and all that entails, in large part because I don’t believe Christians should focus so much energy on a single Holiday during the year, and partly because Christmas with all its materialism and stress has much bigger problems than atheists.

Nonetheless a recent effort by the American Atheists demonstrates that there is as much silliness coming from the atheists as anyone else on the issue. In an effort to promote atheism, the atheists have again erected a large billboard in Times Square contrasting Santa Claus with Jesus.

In many ways the billboard displays how ignorant they are of the culture they live in; while Santa Claus took his final form as a result of American advertising campaigns, he is firmly rooted in Christian history in the form of St. Nicholas, of which the name ‘Santa Claus’ is a derivative. Some atheists of course might point to pagan influences, but those influences are no less religious.

Attempting to retain the joy of Christmas and excise its religious content is in many ways typical of the nonsensical nature of Western atheism, which enjoys the culture, morality, prosperity and knowledge of the West while attempting to deny its overtly Christian origin. They assume that such things can exist apart from the content of Christianity, though there is no evidence of this whatsoever – culture comes from somewhere, and it’s roots are invariably spiritual.

It’s part of the reason why atheism at its root is ultimately the refuge of the ignorant. To be an atheist requires willfully ignoring history and to some extent the reality of the human condition.

Some may think this a harsh assessment, but they are the ones putting their ignorance on display on a large billboard in the middle of Times Square.


The Only True Hope

December 18, 2012

I was thinking about Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s request for a moment of silence on Friday to be followed by churches ringing their bells 26 times in honor of the victims of the recent school shooting, and it reminded me of a the poem by Longfellow I heard again recently, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day written at a despairing time when his own son’s life was nearly ended by gunfire:

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on the earth, good-will to men.”

We have no greater hope than this, that God’s goodness will prevail, justice will ultimately be had and there will be hope and healing in the next life if not in this one. If death is the end, then there is no final justice, or comfort or peace – only in the eternal hope of the Gospel is there any real hope that what has gone so tragically wrong can be made right.


Observations

December 10, 2012

Those who deny the existence of the spiritual shouldn’t complain when our celebrations becomes exercises in materialistic consumption.


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