Sunday, May 29, 2011

Agnosticism: The most Egregious Form of Fence-Sitting

Wiki defines Agnosticism as “the view that certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable.

But how valid is this position really? Does anybody actually know for certain that God does or does not exist? I mean 100%. Can these people give compelling logical proofs or disproofs?

Not even the infamous anti-theist Richards Dawkins claims to know 100% that God does not exist. What about theists? I’m a devout Christian, but I can’t say that I know for sure. In fact if you press most Christians hard enough, they too will admit that they don’t know for certain.

This may surprise many atheists, and some Christian’s may recoil at the mere suggestion. But what we have to remember is that Christ never said that admission to Heaven requires certainty, in fact the totally opposite is true. Christ constantly stressed the importance of faith in the Salvation that is given by God (Matthew 25:21, Mark 5:2, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:50).

No demand was made for 100% certainty. How can anyone be 100% certain when our fallen, sinful existence is defined as being divorced from God’s presence?

So if both atheists and theists admittedly only hold their positions by faith, then where does this lead the agnostic? It seems as though it leaves him in an untenable intellectual position.

I can understand the agnostics who are genuinely perplexed and ambivalent as to the existence of God, but it is those agnostics that try and define Agnosticism as a legitimate belief system in itself that I find frustrating. It is a refusal to even genuinely debate the matter. It is a pusillanimous refusal to put ones neck on the line.

But what these types of agnostics don’t seem to realize is that their neck is on the line whether they like it or not. Either God exists or He doesn’t; when your last breath departs from your lungs, you will quickly find that there is no fence to sit on after all!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Could Neanderthal be a highly intelligent, bipedal ape?

Being a Young Earth Creationist (YEC), I have tended to view Neanderthals as a highly diverged race of humans. There is very little evidence to suggest that they are anything other than this.

But one thing that I had never considered before, is the thesis explained by the author of this video; that the collection of skeletons known as Neanderthal were actually highly intelligent, bipedal apes.

Of course this would not be a surprising revelation to any evolutionist, but how would this fit into a YEC theory? The bottom line is that there is no reason why God would not have created a highly intelligent species of ape that fully aligns with what the author of the video describes. This animal would certainly have been given safe passage by Noah on the Ark during the Global Flood, and flourished afterwards in the frigid ice age continent of Europe.

The only thing in this video that I couldn’t take seriously was the claim that the vastly distinct Neanderthals were mating/raping human females resulting in healthy offspring.

If there is anything that we know for sure in biology it is that different types of animals that have been totally separated for tens, or hundreds, of thousands of years CAN NOT produce viable offspring. This just does not happen.

The reason why the author suggested that humans and Neanderthals have mated in the past is because that DNA of Neanderthals closely aligns with humans. This fact, coupled with their virtually identical physiology of modern human, is what leads YECs to assume that the two are only different races of humans.

So is he right? The only thing that we can know for certain is that nothing is certain! As contradictory as this sounds, it is true. Skeletons tell us very little about the functioning of the organism. The whole farce with the coelacanth should serve as an important lesson.

True or not, I can appreciate the author thinking outside the box. It is certainly a very exciting thesis!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

'The Critical Decade’ Report

The first thing that startled me was the highly politicised nature of this report. It was written by a scientist with the aura of being a scientific report, but what I read in the report was a quasi-scientific document that had been totally white-washed and tainted with a heavy tarnish of semantic wordplay.
The most prominent example of this was the almost total absence of the term ‘global warming’, which had been exchanged for the term ‘climate change’. This has been a conspicuous tactical change recently in a desperate effort to give the moribund AGW (Anthropogenic global warming) theory some semblance of credibility.

Despite the superficial similarities between the two terms, there are substantial differences. The traditional term ‘global warming’ is self explanatory; the globe is proposed to be warming (the correct term iswhich emphasises the human factor of the alleged warming, but this is almost always shortened by dropping ‘anthropogenic’). But due to the significant credibility crises that the theory has had of late, this term has been dropped in favour of the term ‘climate change’.

The term ‘climate change’ is also self explanatory. But what is it’s relevance to AGW? Well, nothing! The climate always changes naturally from day to day; month to month; year to year and decade to decade. So while you can dispute the implications of the term ‘global warming’, you obviously cannot dispute the fact that the climate changes from day to day.

So here we have a political ploy to exchange a disputable term with an indisputable term with the intention of having the credibility of the fact that the ‘climate changes’ credited to the idea of AGW; a very deceptive and subtle ruse.

Such semantic ploys result in painfully asinine reading and nonsensical predictions as vague as this one:

“what we can say with certainty is that rainfall patterns will change as a result of climate change and often in unpredictable ways, creating large risks for water availability” pg 22.

Who would have thought that you could be certain about rainfall patterns being unpredictable, and will change as a result of the climate changing? What an epiphany!!!

The second thing to startle me, and the most egregious, was the almost total absence of an address of the main criticisms of AGW. This is highly significant because it reduces the credibility of the report to almost zero. For a report that is clamed to settle the scientific debate, this is appalling, and it goes to show how desperate the AGW proponents are that they have no other recourse than to ignore the powerful evidence against it.

This is no more obvious as when the report addresses the ‘climategate’ event. The author of this report merely mentions it as being an event in which somebody hacked the computers of scientists. The author simply ignores the fraud and prodigious data manipulation by the UN Climate Panel of scientists that the leaked documents and emails revealed.

The third thing that should give any critical reader pause for thought, is prominent use of terms such as "semi-empirical" and "significant uncertainties". The frequent use of these words and others synonymous terms really emphasises why the public has trouble accepting various pontificating by politicians that “the science is settled”.

Fourthly, whenever Antarctica is mentioned, the author is always careful to omit any reference to East Antarctica. Whenever he mentions Antarctica as a whole, he is sure to word it so as to only refer to the Western portion of Antarctica.

This is because, while Western Antarctica is indeed experiencing temperature rises and ice sheet loss, it has always been known but seldom mentioned that the Eastern portion of Antarctica – which is four times the size of Western Antarctica - is actually getting colder and forming thicker ice, and in amounts that actually offset that which is being lost on the other portion of the continent! This important fact is almost always omitted by AGW proponents. This is especially seen in this report where the author has gone out of his ways to give the strong impression Antarctica as a whole is warming and losing ice, when this is most certainly not true.

Having read this newest report that is claimed to settle the debate on human caused global warming, I am more unconvinced than ever. It is quite evident that this whole report is an egregious piece of political propaganda, NOT impartial science that it claims to be.

You can find 'The Critical Decade' report at this website.

For further information on the evidence against anthropogenic global warming.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The secular case against same-sex marriage

I just found this great article titled “The Secular CaseAgainst Same-Sex Marriage”. Of course I don’t agree with the author with a few points, him being an atheist and I being a theist and all. But I fully agree with the general argument that he outlines.

Here are a few choice quotes:

At the most basic level, our survival as a species requires the coming together of male and female gametes.

“In human societies the way this essential union is symbolised is in the institution of marriage. This is how the centrality of the male-female partnership is celebrated in our culture and, in a non-religious sense, it is sacred; that is to say, heterosexuality is so important to our survival, so fundamental to the continuation of the species, that we have an ingrained sense that marriage as a heterosexual union should not be tampered with.”

“In a just society, no-one should withhold such privileges from a person or a couple simply on the grounds of their sexual orientation. But to solve this problem by introducing same-sex marriage is to strip marriage of its deep meaning as a symbol of the male-female union that it is quintessentially a part of nearly all animal life, including human life, on this planet, and to pare it down to the status of a civil union, a merely legal arrangement. This is why I feel queasy about the idea of same-sex marriage. It is achieving equality for some by taking something important away from many others, and that, I think, is not just. The just way to give equality to homosexuals is to acknowledge their relationships in civil, unions which give them the recognition and legal rights they want and deserve”

“But we must also recognise that there is a sense in which homosexual partnerships are not the same as heterosexual ones and this difference should also be celebrated.

“I sometimes think that some members of the homosexual community are playing a game of “Let’s Pretend” – “Let’s pretend we’re heterosexual”: Heterosexual couples have children, so let’s get ourselves a baby. Heterosexual couples get married, so let’s get ourselves married. This seems to me to be at one level a denial of one’s homosexuality, of what makes homosexuality unique. Freedom is not the ability to become like other people, freedom is the ability to become more fully yourself! Isn’t this what “Gay Pride” means. There is no pride in making believe you are just like everyone else.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Darwinism a la Geocentrism

In a strange case of history repeating, the whole debate about origins seems to quite neatly align with another old debate about nature; the workings of the solar system.

Aristotle’s geocentric model of the universe was rather simplistic in that it assumed that all the celestial bodies moved in a uniform circular path around earth. While the retrograde motions of the planets were certainly known to Aristotle, he had no way to incorporate it into his model.

It wasn’t until Apollonius and Hipparchus came on the scene that the idea of epicycles was injected into Aristotle’s model to make it fit the actual observations. When Ptolemy came along, he took the idea of epicycles to a whole new level, compounding epicycles upon epicycles in a desperate effort to make the Aristotelian model fit observations.

It wasn’t until Copernicus and Kepler finally came upon the scene that the whole Aristotelian system was thrown out in favor of a totally new, and far more accurate, model; heliocentrism.

We can see in this whole narrative some quite striking parallels with the current debate over origins:

Darwin’s evolutionary model of the origins of the species is rather simplistic in that it assumes that all species evolved from one common ancestor by only a natural process. While problems were well known to Darwin such as a lack of model for the origin of the first life-form; lack of transitional fossils; and known limits to genetic change in breeding, he had no way to incorporate these into his model.

Intelligent Designist’s eventually came on the scene and injected the ‘god of the gaps’ idea into Darwinism in a desperate effort to make the Darwinian model fit observations.

It wasn’t until Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb Jr. finally came on the scene that the whole Darwinian system was thrown out in favour of the new, and far more accurate model of Biblical Creationism (or Young Earth Creationism).

The overturning of the Aristotelian model in favour of heliocentrism was a long drawn out and tortured affair. The stalwarts of the old model simply didn’t want to let it go and thus admit that they were totally wrong. They used every tactic in the book to stall the rise of the new model, even the highest powers in the land resorted to ‘roughhousing’ tactics.

It took the compounding of evidence and the slow dying off of the ‘old guard’ before the revolution truly took over.

The same is certainly true of today’s origins debate. The adherents of the old Darwinian model of origins are just as stubborn and dogmatic as the old geocentrists. Darwinists are demoting or sacking those in academic circles who disagree with them, even resorting to the courts in a desperate attempt to stall the rise of Biblical creationism.

But just as the ‘old guard’ was unable to stem the rise of revolutionary heliocentrism, the evidence against evolution is mounting, the evolutionary dogmatists are aging and the tide is inexorably turning in favour of the new revolution; Young-Earth Biblical Creationism.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Breaking The Spell, by Daniel Dannett

Unlike the arrogant and aggressive approach of most militant atheists, Dennett’s approach to critiquing religion is quite diplomatic and respectful. He seems to be aware that to address religious folk in an arrogant and haughty manner is to alienate the religious reader straight away.

So rather than verbally bashing the religious reader into submission, Dennett strives to convince the reader instead. This was quite refreshing.

To a large degree he is successful in departing from the traditional approach of the new atheists. There were very few times that I found myself rolling my eyes in reaction to the typical atheist drivel that is found in abundance in Dawkins and Hitchens works. But Dennett seemed to have set the bar a bit higher.

Despite the refreshingly tactful approach that Dennett took, he still managed to fall into some of the same old traps.

One of the usual dirty tricks that other militant atheist authors are guilty of is overstating the validity of evolution. In attempting to reject the need for a creator in nature, these new age atheists tend to greatly exaggerate how valid the theory of evolution actually is.

And Dennett is no less guilty of this. At one point he actually says that “Evolution is about as well established as the fact that water is H2O.” Suffice it to say, that water is in existence right now so we can put it to the test, and then retest it, at any time. The evolution of life through common descent on the other hand, is something that is alleged to happen in the deep past. And as such, can not be observed, and therefore can not be scientifically tested. No event of prehistory can ever be as scientifically established as water is H2O.

Another dirty trick – or maybe wilful ignorance – is his comment that there are no reputable scientists who reject evolution. This old canard can easily be rejected by noting the large lists of scientists who do unashamedly reject evolution. Lists, such as from Creation Ministries International or the Discovery institute, amply testify to this fact. These lists not only include hundreds of reputable scientists, but also include many dozens of science Professors of secular universities.

After admitting that certain religious aspects can have very good influences on people (something that almost all new-age atheists are loathed to do), Dennett seems obliged to offset this fact with the comment that atheists too could be better people than religious people. What is his reasoning for this? Well, he says that no survey has shown otherwise! Apparently, the moon is populated by pink elephants too, well no evidence has proven otherwise!

Dennett makes the claim that morals need to be grounded in reason, not blind faith. But, he says, blind faith is reasonable when we trust the source.

He then goes on to criticize Christians for having blind faith, but he somehow misses the point that Christians trust their source, just as his criteria demands! Christians trust that our omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent God is worthy of trusting over the fallible reasoning of man.

So in areas such as homosexuality, where God’s command conflict with man reasoning, Christians trust God, by virtue of his omniscience, that God would know. But human reasoning on the other hand, is based on a very poor understanding of the functioning of the human mind and sexuality. Because of this, human reasoning is always being revised and changed.

So when the two collide, Christians always place human reasoning in a subservient position to God’s reasoning.

Dennett makes the point that Christians need to make religion less of a “sacred cow”, and more like a “worthy alternative”. I have no doubt that this would be a virtuous exercise. Christianity could gain a lot from a critical examination, and a subsequent purge of all the dross that has infected it from the wider society over history.

But one must not make the mistake of rejecting religion outright simply because it contains a few faults.

Ultimately, if Christianity is the one true religion, then it will emerge from such a purge much stronger. But for this to happen it must cease compromising itself with the amoral tendencies of wider society, such as with evolution. The strength of Christianity is only in it’s whole form. As soon as Christianities protective shell of inerrancy is breached with the corrupting influence of compromise, it’s integrity rapidly fails and it is deformed into a feeble false religion. Such a religion is easily killed off.

Dennett opines that there is no reason why the materialist would be less caring or less moral than a theist. While this is undoubtedly true, the simple fact is that there is no reason why the materialist should, or even has to be, moral or caring.

For a materialist to be caring and moral is to embrace traits that are entirely superfluous to existence. Atheists can only hold on to these virtues as a mere matter of opinion, because in a materialistic world there are no transcendent morals or values.

It is only those materialists who have had a moral upbringing who continue to hold on to these values.

But what of those children, typically of today, who have not had such a privileged virtuous upbringing? Many of these children have not had these virtues installed in them during their formative years, and see no reason to adopt them later on in life. For them the questions are: Why stay faithful to a monogamous life when you can sleep with whoever you want to? Why donate to charity when you can spend the money getting drunk. Why be kind to a stranger when it makes you late for a movie?

Being caring and moral are just useless excesses in a materialist universe.

Dennett counters the claim that religion, if it has evolved, must be beneficial. After all, evolution is meant to eliminate harmful traits, and only perpetuate the beneficial ones.

He provides the analogy that tobacco isn’t good for us, yet it survives just fine. So he reasons that traits that have a negative effect on us, can still evolve. Thus religion could still have evolved even if it is bad for us.

The fault in this analogy is in the fact that tobacco’s existence is totally independent of humans existence, religion is not. The fact that tobacco is harmful to humans has no effect at all on it’s survival. Tobacco would still evolve regardless of it’s effect on humans.

Religion, on the other hand, is an idea that only exists in the minds of humanity. Therefore if religion was bad for humanity, then evolution would have had eliminated it from the human mind a long time ago. And because religion doesn’t exist outside the human mind, when it is eliminated from the human mind, it is eliminated from existence totally.

Thus, it is still true that if religion really was bad for humans then evolution definitely would have eliminated it.

On the topic of religious education in schools, I was very surprised to see that Dennett departs from the standard antireligious dogma of the other militant atheists who demand that religion should be totally wiped from schools. In contrast to this draconian position, Dennett believes that more religion should be taught in schools.

He believes that students should be taught about all religions, not just the one that they have been brought up in. While it is somewhat impractical to teach students all religions, I think that in the multicultural society that we live in today, it would be highly beneficial to teach about the most prevalent ones.

He also believes that, contrary to the absurd claims of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens, that parents should teach their children whatever they want – within reason- as long as it doesn’t “close their minds through fear and hatred or disable them from inquiry.”

Overall this book was a refreshingly diplomatic break from the usual antireligious diatribe of the new atheists. Dennett’s exploration into “religion as a natural phenomenon” was quite genuine and thought provoking. But it’s major downfall was that it is quite boring. Something about Dennett’s writing style left me rather flat and unenthused, which is quite odd for an antireligious book. Something about the book just didn’t flow as well as Dawkins or Hitchens books, I can’t quite pin down what it is though. Maybe a provocative and aggressive style is what keeps the readers attention?

So based on the content of the book I would give four stars, but on style two. This leaves an average of three stars.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is the Threat of Tyranny Over?

Western democracies have been constructed in a specific manner so as to safeguard the rise of tyrannies through government. We see in America and Australia that the government and the judicial system has been split up into vastly different pieces so that all power can not be wielded by only one person or group. This was specifically done so as to prevent tyranny.
We witnessed in Nazi Germany the cost of having insufficient safe guards in place, which resulted in the infamous atrocities that stained the 20th century in blood.

But in the last few decades there has been a concerted move within these two countries to largely amalgamate these various levels into the federal level. The impetus for this has come from the desire to minimise the waste of money in funding these different levels, as well as fast-tracking progress that tends to get caught up in the many different levels of red tape.

As honest as these reasons are, they tend to forget the actual purpose that the splitting up of power into different tiers was done for. It was specifically designed to prevent tyrannical persons or parties from not just rising to power, but in exercising it on everyone, everywhere.
But one may object that surely in this day and age such tyranny is a thing of the past so we can safely amalgamate all the tiers of government without fear of history repeating.

While it is tempting to think that such barbarous people and parties don’t exist in our ‘modern’ Western world of today, such thinking is rather dangerously naive.
I can think of two specific groups of people here in Australia that would take advantage of such an amalgamated government and rule like tyrants; moderate/radical Islam, and the radical-liberal Greens.

Radical Islam is quite explicit in it’s intentions of installing Sharia law in Australia. While the radical elements are currently few, moderate Islam is breeding more. But what’s even more worrying is that even moderate Muslims harbour, or at least are sympathetic, to the installation of Sharia law.
If moderate-radical Islam gained the controls of a vastly strengthened and amalgamated federal government, tyranny is almost certain to follow.

The Green party and it’s sympathisers are also on the ascendency here in Australia.
They, rather like the nascent Nazi party, are quite duplicitous with their policies. They present themselves to the public as a mainstream and credible alternative (again like the Nazi party), yet they harbour some pretty scary policies that are only ever revealed furtively once they have the power to instigate them. Policies promoting feticide, infanticide and senicide are their most insidious, not to mention the fact that they are generally regarded as narrow-minded economic vandals.
But what makes the Greens the greater threat is the Nazi-like duplicity that they employ to gain power. This has been proven a number of times recently where they have tried, and sometimes succeeded, in sneaking through outrageous bills when they know that it would never succeed if the bills were honestly proffered.
The enormous lust for power that these two groups have is only matched by the radial nature of their ideologies. The thing that makes them so dangerous is that their ideologies are very inconspicuous. It is hard for the ordinary, busy voter to see behind the fa├žade.

So in conclusion, having multiple levels of power may be costly, but they are extraordinarily important in preventing these groups with radical ideologies from sneaking into power, and if they do, then their actions are largely mitigated by the multiple governmental bulwarks.