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.

Advertisements

Observations

October 17, 2012

It’s always amazing to me how little the objections to Christianity have changed, and how enduring the answers to those objections are – from the immensely wise mind of G.K. Chesterton:

Dear Mr. Chesterton,
A famous anthropologist has recently demonstrated quite conclusively that the physiological formation of the ape and the human, including their brains, are almost exactly alike…
Don’t you think he proved something rather devastating to your philosophy?

Signed, Dr. K.

Dear Dr. K.,
If he was trying to prove that man has a merely material origin like the ape, he was proving exactly the opposite. If there are two motorcars, which a minute examination proves to be exactly alike in every mechanical detail, then we shall be rather more and not less surprised if one of them suddenly soars into the air like an aeroplane, while the other can only trundle along the road like a cart. The only way in which we can possibly explain it is to suppose that, at some time and in some way, some other more mysterious force came into play. But the more we prove that every cog and rivet in the two machines is identical, the more we are driven to the mystical explanation when their action is different. And the difference between a man and an ape does not need discussion, it does not allow of denial or even doubt. Man has stepped into a totally different world of imagination and invention; like a man turning into a god. If this startling and stupendous difference can co-exist with exactly the same material origins, the only possible deduction is that it does not come from the material origins. In other words, the only possible deduction is that by some special spiritual act, as in the ancient record, man became a living soul.

Your friend, G.K. Chesterton

(Illustrated London News, Oct. 15, 1927)

The Reliable Bible – The Reliability of the New Testament

May 29, 2012

Excellent infographic showing the the reliability of the New Testament text as compared to other ancient documents. The New Testament has many more existing copies from antiquity which are closer to the the writing of the original text than any other well known ancient text we have – which would be expected for a document understood by believers as being Divinely inspired.

The reliability of the New Testament


Observations

May 15, 2012

“For all the great founders of modern science – Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Robert Boyle, John Ray and their Muslim predecessors – their research was itself an act of reverence. The list continues through the 19th century, with Faraday, Babbage and Kelvin. From our present age, Lennox quotes Sir Ghillean Prance, former director of Kew: “All my studies have confirmed my faith.”

Contrast this with Atkins, more hardline even than Dawkins: “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence. Only the religious – among whom I include not only the prejudiced but the underinformed – hope that there is a dark corner of the universe that science can never hope to illuminate.” And: “Humanity should accept that science has eliminated the justification for believing in cosmic purpose.”

Yet Atkins, as a professor of science, must be aware of Sir Peter Medawar’s famous adage, adapted from Bismarck, “Science is the art of the soluble”. Scientists study only those aspects of the universe that it is within their gift to study: what is observable; what is measurable and amenable to statistical analysis; and, indeed, what they can afford to study within the means and time available. Science thus emerges as a giant tautology, a “closed system”. It can present us with robust answers only because its practitioners take very great care to tailor the questions.”

Colin Tudge reviewing Oxford mathematician John Lennox’s book God’s Undertaker.


The Historical Nature of the Bible Deux

June 24, 2011

As I have elaborated on elsewhere, the Bible is fairly unique as a religious text for its reliance on testimonies that are rooted in specifically identifiable times and places. In this lecture, Dr. Peter Williams warden of Tyndale House at Cambridge and professor of ancient languages lectures here on the details that demonstrate the veracity of the historical record of the New Testament. It’s about an hour long, but the information provided is well presented and the time flew by while watching it.


The Historical Nature of the Bible

May 13, 2011

A recent post over at Neil’s fine blog Eternity Matters reminded me of a post I started as the result of chancing upon a recent edition of National Geographic (Dec. ’10) in a local bookstore. The cover story was The Search for King David. The article chronicles the growing body of evidence that King David and King Solomon are historical figures, but it also reveals something else – that the evidence is subject to much controversy in large part because of the differing views of groups involved in finding and interpreting it. Essentially there are three groups involved in the exploration of Biblical antiquities – Jews and Christians who consider the Bible as describing history, Muslims who deny that Jews have a historical presence in Israel, and secularists who deny any historical veracity of the Bible.

The views of investigators are critical to understanding what is being said about the historical nature of the Bible because unlike ongoing natural phenomena which can be objectively observed and tested, history is largely the subject of interpretation by individuals and groups. When looking at a particular artifact or archeological site, a researcher brings with him his convictions and beliefs about history. From the article:

The once common practice of using the Bible as an archaeological guide has been widely contested as an unscientific case of circular reasoning—and with particular relish by Tel Aviv University’s contrarian-in-residence Israel Finkelstein, who has made a career out of merrily demolishing such assumptions. He and other proponents of “low chronology” say that the weight of archaeological evidence in and around Israel suggests that the dates posited by biblical scholars are a century off. The “Solomonic” buildings excavated by biblical archaeologists over the past several decades at Hazor, Gezer, and Megiddo were not constructed in David and Solomon’s time, he says, and so must have been built by kings of the ninth-century B.C.’s Omride dynasty, well after David and Solomon’s reign.

During David’s time, as Finkelstein casts it, Jerusalem was little more than a “hill-country village,” David himself a raggedy upstart akin to Pancho Villa, and his legion of followers more like “500 people with sticks in their hands shouting and cursing and spitting—not the stuff of great armies of chariots described in the text.

“Of course we’re not looking at the palace of David!” Finkelstein roars at the very mention of Mazar’s discovery. “I mean, come on. I respect her efforts. I like her—very nice lady. But this interpretation is—how to say it?—a bit naive.”

Now it is Finkelstein’s theory that is under siege.

The article goes on to delineate evidence that David was much more than a ragtag rebel; however I think the fact that there is a controversy at all is telling. Unlike most other religions, Christianity (and Judaism from which it springs) is solidly mired in historical realities. There were no archeological controversies over ancient Greek or Roman religious beliefs because they were never understood to be historical in nature – they didn’t pretend to be. We don’t talk about Hindu archeology or Buddhist archeology because those religions are not reliant upon historical facts. None of these religions even pretends to be the product of a set of events that occurred in a particular time and place in history; only vague references to certain individuals whose actual existence is unimportant to the belief system.

Biblical belief however is definitively set in a particular places and times and concerns certain individuals. Take the opening to the 3rd chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.

There is a very specific list there of historic individuals
and places. There is no doubt about when and where the events were understood to have taken place. Interestingly, the historical existence some of the individuals in the list (Pilate and Caiaphas) were questioned by secular historians until late in the 20th century; that is until archeological evidence of their existence came to light. It is apparent that the author of the book was himself familiar with these individuals and places. Now these facts don’t in and of themselves prove that the events chronicled in the gospel occurred, but it does differentiate it from other religious beliefs at the time and since.

Indeed there is countless archeological evidences from the Bible to support its historical claims. The lack of evidence for certain individuals, often trumpeted by secular skeptics, grows smaller over time. Some evidences I would be surprised to find – for example of Abraham, an isolated nomad wandering across an ancient wilderness. Others however been have been demonstrated to exist – in addition to the evidences for David and Solomon mentioned above, we have good archeological evidence for the existence of the Israelites in the age of Joshua and Judges, King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, the prophet Jeremiah, King Jehu, King Hezekiah, the Babylonian Prince Belshazzar, the existence of Pontius Pilate, as well as the High Priest Caiaphas who condemned Jesus to death. There are numerous other examples both of the existence of people mentioned in the Bible, as well as artifacts which denote the general familiarity of the writers with the times in which they were writing.

Now obviously these evidences don’t in and of themselves prove the existence of God, or that Jesus was who the gospels claim he was – but what they do is distinguish the Bible from other religious beliefs and texts. Skeptics constantly seek to find flaws with the Bible, and claim many exist (a tendency that obviously skews their interpretations of the evidence that supports the Bible) but they can’t deny the distinction of the Bible when compared to other religious beliefs,

The text of Jews and Christians is by no means a mere superstition.


William Lane Craig/ Lawrence Krauss Debate

April 5, 2011

I recently listened to the March 30th at NC State about whether there is evidence for God, and as is becoming a trend, Craig cleared laid out and defended his case based on a few easy to explain points while his counterpart fumbled with his response, muddled understanding of issues, and generally dissembled his way through.

I am not actually that big a fan of listening to or watching debates. I prefer to read about issues and then consider various viewpoints – having a couple of guys give well worn arguments in a stringent format can get repetitive and predictable. Nonetheless I think they are useful in demonstrating how nonsensical materialistic arguments can be. From discussing how different sorts of ‘nothing’ could produce the universe, to how Craig’s arguments don’t apply because the universe is ‘illogical’, to claiming the universe isn’t fine-tuned and then trying to explain away the obvious fine-tuning, Krauss covered the whole gamut of atheist arguments, from obfuscation to irrelevancy.

For his part Krauss, who just seems to have realized how badly he lost the debate, is trying to explain away that defeat in a Facebook rant. His basic take seems to be, “I was being nice to someone who is too stupid to understand the arguments, in front of a crowd that was too stupid to realize I actually won the debate.” When in doubt, Ad Hom!

If you don’t want to take Dr. Krauss’ obviously unbiased word for it, then decide for yourself:

Part 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 here.

Once you are done watching it, please enjoy a snarky yet hilarious review of the debate at Wintery Knight’s site.