Thursday, December 31, 2009

TF - Chapter 3 part 2

The last half of this chapter is a rehashing of things I have covered before on my blog. Instead of posting about them again I will just link to what I wrote before.

The first of these last two sections is on Textual Criticism. Colson is not theologian nor is he a biblical scholar. I would think it is a safe bet that he cannot read ancient Greek nor can he read ancient Hebrew. Colson has a law degree. Yet, in this section, Colson makes no references to any outside materials. The one end note in this section just talks about the date of P52, which is a small fragment of the Gospel of John. Even then he is dishonest with it, not mentioning that it is only a fragment of a few verses. He also doesn't seem to know about textual and higher criticism, which are two separate things. Instead he treats them as if they are the same thing.

The first claim he makes is:

Beyond the archeological discoveries, the truth claims of the Bible are supported by the uncanny coherence and unity of the Bible itself. It consists of sixty-six books, or seventy-three, as in the Catholic tradition, written over 1,500 years by forty people in three different languages, and yet there's a remarkable harmony and consistency in the overarching story. The ancient manuscripts possess an astounding consistency and integrity.

I have heard this claim before and it is ridiculous from the premise. First off it is not really that hard to add to a series that you have read. Fanfic exists for a reason. Also, has Colson or anyone who makes this claim ever looked in the Fantasy/Science Fiction section of a bookstore? In the Star Wars section alone there are several authors who have read the previous work (or at least glanced at it) and created a "coherent" arching story line through it all. Does this mean Star Wars is true now? I can hear the objections already, well that doesn't go over 1,000 of years and different languages (actually it does go over different languages) and the original author is still alive. So let's use the example of the Vedas. They were compiled from 1500 BCE to 500 BCE. That is 1000 years which is close to 1500. They were of oral tradition before that, much like the Tanakh. The original authors are unknown but the Vedas claim to be directly from Brahma. It is highly likely that there were several authors involved in the creation of the Vedas. So why should I take the Bible as truth and not the Vedas?

Next, does the Bible contain an "uncanny coherence and unity"? Let's refer to the skeptic's annotated Bible. They have a list of 442 contradictions found in the Bible (that is not counting the near 1500 absurdities they have listed also). That doesn't seem very coherent or unified to me. Also what is the overarching story in the Bible? I see the claim that the overarching story is the same throughout but no one bothers to say what that story is? Is it Good Vs. Evil in God's triumph over Satan and sin, or is it how God wants to have a personal relationship with everyone, or is it about the prophecies of the end of the world, or maybe something else? What is it? Each of these things I listed are in the Bible and they are each very different stories.

Colson never talks about his claims or present evidence, he just makes the claim and expects to be believed. I am sorry that is not enough for me, especially from someone who has been convicted of obstruction of justice for his actions in the Watergate scandal. That was before Colson was "born again" so surely he has changed now. He would not make any hypocritical responses or show no reason to not be trusted today, would he? If Colson expects to convince anyone of what he is saying, he needs more than words, he needs facts and evidence. This is the problem for most fundamentalist evangelicals, facts and evidence. I am expected to take their word on everything they say because they are speaking for God. Well there are a lot of people speaking for God what makes you so different than the others? I want facts and evidence. If you don't bring those you might as well leave.

For his next claim, Colson compares apples with oranges. He goes on about how there are so many copies of the Bible and not the Iliad or other random works of fiction that are not considered the word of God today. I have covered this before here and here.

He ends his section on textual criticism with the claim:

Why are the manuscript copies of Scripture so accurate? Jewish tradition provides one answer. According to Hebrew practice, only eyewitness testimony was accepted; and when copying documents, the Jews would copy one letter at a time - not word by word, not phrase by phrase, not sentence by sentence.

Again no notes on where he got this information. Is it really that hard to document your sources? I can't find a source for this anywhere. What I have found are talks about how Jewish copyists did things during the Middle Ages and brief overview of Textual Criticism in the Jewish study Bible. If anyone can find where Colson got this information from let me know.

The next part of the chapter is about how the Bible has changed lives. This is suppose to mean that the Bible is true. Ignore all the stories from every other religion in the world of people whose lives were changed by them (here, here, here, here, etc). This line of reasoning makes every religion true and atheism true, which is just not possible. So what does Colson do to show that this is true only for Christianity? Absolutely nothing, instead he goes off on Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris:

The latest wave of atheist literature of the Dawkins-Hitchens-Harris genre ignores the centuries of careful scholarship and evidence; taking verses and sections out of context, these authors argue that the Bible is a dreadful book filled with violence and war, and reflects a mean-spirited God who represses people - a "celestial dictatorship," in Hitchens's words. (The principles of interpretation these authors employ have been scorned even by secular peers.)

The article that Colson is quoting is "An Atheist Responds" from the Washington Post July 14, 2007 (Colson actually cited this source). Here is the quote:

It's uncommonly generous of Michael Gerson[" What Atheists Can't Answer," op-ed, July 13] to refer to me as "intellectually courageous and unfailingly kind," since (a) this might be taken as proof that he hardly knows me and (b) it was he who was so kind when I once rang him to check a scurrilous peacenik rumor that he was a secret convert from Judaism to Christian fundamentalism.

However, it is his own supposedly kindly religion that prevents him from seeing how insulting is the latent suggestion of his position: the appalling insinuation that I would not know right from wrong if I was not supernaturally guided by a celestial dictatorship, which could read and condemn my thoughts and which could also consign me to eternal worshipful bliss (a somewhat hellish idea) or to an actual hell.

Hitchens is calling God's rule a celestial dictatorship, because that is what it is. A dictatorship refers to an autocratic form of absolute rule by leadership unrestricted by law, constitutions, or other social and political factors within the state. How is that not describing God's rule?

Also point out where they are quote-mining. Show don't tell. Give examples, because I can point to several places in the Bible where what they say is absolutely right (the Book of Judges and Daniel 4:24-26 come to mind).

I also love the appeal to unnamed secular sources at the end. Again I ask how hard is it to list sources or even just names of some of these "critics"?

He follows that up with a list of questions:

I would ask Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, and company, if this book is so evil, how has it survived all of these years?

I don't really fall into any of those categories but I can give answers. By force. It survived long enough to become the state religion of the Roman Empire. Then it was mandated to the people. After the fall of the Roman Empire, we have the Middle Ages, where Christianity ruled supreme. The inquisition, the crusades and colonization of the world forced people to accept Christianity or die. After that, most people accepted it as the truth because they never questioned it or looked into it very deeply. Low educational standards helped to keep people from looking into it also. The more educated a country the less religious they are, with the US being the only real exception to that rule and religiousness in America is falling.

Edit: This is not the only way Christianity flourished. I would also say a cult of personality helped it at many times (much like most mega-churches today, that struggle when the pastor leaves or dies), plus many other sociological reasons. It is not a simple answer to give.

Why has it been the bedrock of forming the most humane civilization in history?

I have no idea of what civilization you are talking about. The only civilization ever formed on the Bible was Europe in the Middle Ages, I doubt you would call that humane. If you speak of America, I wouldn't call us the most humane (death penalties, high crime rates, health care for only the elect few, etc) and it would be extreme revisionist history to claim the US was founded on the Bible. Just point to where the Bible or Jesus is mentioned in the US Constitution or even the Declaration of Independence (God and Creator are mentioned in the Declaration but Jefferson's God and Creator was not the Christian God, but it does not specify which God or Creator).

How does it continue, if it is mean-spirited, to spread love around the world and turn hard-hearted criminals into gentle lambs?

Psychological reasons of the human mind. Christians cherry-pick what they read in it and into it. The same reason some Muslims can find peace and love for all things in the Koran and others find justification for killing infidels. The Crusades were a Christian undertaking. The killing of abortion doctors has been a Christian undertaking.

How could reading it have resulted in such people as Augustine and St. Francis?

How could reading the Koran resulted in such people as Benazir Bhutto, André Carson, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is a retarded question and can support any religion or just about anything.

Why would the Chinese, in the midst of atheistic madness, turn to it as their refuge?

Don't try and load the question or anything there Colson. Define atheistic madness. Mao was power hungry and it had little to do with atheism, except that Mao disliked religion (Christianity was never outlawed in China). Most people didn't turn to Christianity. So how did those people survive?

Finally Colson says that because people have predicted the death of Christianity and it hasn't happened yet, then it must be divine influence keeping it around. Non sequitur much? So by that logic, since people have predicted the death of atheism, then it must be divinely inspired also (possibly even more so since atheism is on the rise)...

That is it, that is all his evidence for the Bible being true and infallible.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TF - Chapter 3 part 1

Chapter 3 is entitled "He Has Spoken". I want to point out the title and the purpose of this book because Colson follows neither of these here. Instead he continues his Quixote-esque crusade against the army of straw men he constructs. He employs a plethora of logical fallacies, old arguments and make believe to destroy these straw men. Let's just dig right into it all.

Colson starts off with the story of a man named Speratus. There is great detail about how Speratus lived and interacted with his family and community. What he dreamed and hoped of for the future. Finally his brave efforts in preserving part of what we would call the New Testament. This is all just part of Colson's make believe world. Colson is trying to reference the Scillitan Martyrs. The thing is, all we have of what happened to them is what is the equivalent of a court transcript. We know nothing of their lives except there response to being told to "Swear by the genius of our Lord the Emperor." To which they refused. Speratus did quote Paul's letter to Timothy and did have a satchel containing letters of Paul. What they were being asked to do was to swear loyalty to the Empire, they were not asked to renounce their faith. They were put to death as traitors to the Empire. The actions of the government seems very similar to the right-wing 9/12 project and tea party movement going on in America right now, which Colson is a part of (see the Manhattan Declaration). Speratus and his fellow Christians died for being un-American un-Roman. I find it amusing that Colson, who has called people un-American, is hoisting these men up.

Colson talks about the house churches of China in the 70's. He makes it as if these people are being persecuted for their religious beliefs, which is true for the time period he choose. That time period was a ten year period between 1966 and 1976, when even registered churches were being closed. Currently, if the church is registered with the government it can continue operation, albeit with some influence from government officials. Churches have never been officially outlawed in China. Colson never says that people were martyred for their belief but implies it. From what I have read the common punishment for underground unsanctioned churches is heavy fines and sentencing to forced labor camps. I do not advocate these things and I think they should be allowed to worship how they please, but this is not execution.

Wang Mingdao is mentioned specifically by Colson. It is never mentioned why Mingdao was arrested but again Colson implies it has to do with his Christianity. In actuality, Mingdao was arrested for speaking out against the government and not registering his church with the government. I think it was wrong that he was imprisoned and I believe in the right to free speech, but this man was not arrested for his beliefs. He was arrested for being un-American un-Chinese.

Even if both of these groups died for Christianity, that does nothing to prove that Christianity is true. I can cite martyrs from every major religion. Martyrs just show that some followers are willing to give their life for what they believe to be true. Notice the word believe in that last sentence, that is the important part. Martyrdom is not a statement of truth but a statement of belief. Every Christian in the world could die for their beliefs and it would not prove whether Christianity was the truth or not.

Colson writes all this so he can pull the Christian persecution card. He equates the persecution people face in the Middle East for being Christian (which is punishable by death in some Muslim countries) with The Da Vinci Code being printed in America.

Just as in ancient North Africa, Christianity today in North Korea, much of the Muslim world, and elsewhere risk violent punishment for even possessing the Scriptures. Pakistani Christians must hide their bibles or endure severe attacks by imams and roving gangs.

In America and elsewhere in the West, the Bible continues to be attacked, if more subtly. Every Christmas and Easter the media runs programs with titles like "Who was Jesus?" Their advertising suggests that new scholarly discoveries transcend the narrow confines of faith and provide a greater truth devoid of the supernatural. Conspiracy theory books like The Da Vinci Code and articles related the publication of ancient Gnostic texts like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas abound.

That first paragraph was the entirety of the paragraph. The second paragraph continues on. Colson shows that he is more concerned with what is happening in America than with what is going on elsewhere in the world. He is just using the first paragraph, the one of actual persecution, to make it seem like American Christians are being just as persecuted as all the other Christians around the world. My response is to quote a book:

The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. - Proverbs 16:5

Colson continues on for another 2 paragraphs about how Christians are persecuted in America. How people make fun of them for saying they believe in Jesus and so forth. I personally have never seen this where I live. Instead people ostracize you if say you don't believe in Jesus. I have heard it is different on the East Coast but that is not all of America. Last I checked the most populous religion in America was Christianity. There have been a few non-Christian presidents but only early in American history (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe come quickly to mind). A list of the presidents and their religious affiliations can be found here. In recent polls, it seems that the last person most Americans would vote for is an atheist ( Gallup poll, and yes the percentage is changing but it is slow). Colson's claims of persecution, especially after listing real persecution, is just ridiculous. I don't see him going to jail or being beaten to death for writing and publishing this book.

The next section of Chapter 3 is the claim that the Holy Spirit helped write the Bible. Colson makes the statement that the New Testament was decided to be written by the apostles and they started writing about Jesus' life 20 years after Jesus' death. He provides no evidence to back this up. What we do know is that the earliest of the Gospels, Mark, was written around 70 CE, that would be close to 40 years after Jesus died. The purpose of the writing was not to create the New Testament, but to convert Greeks to Christianity and strengthen the beliefs of current Greek followers. It was a Chick tract, albeit much better than anything Jack Chick has ever thought about printing. Paul's letters started appearing around 40 to 60 CE but they say very little about the life of Jesus.

This book was written for believers, so I will grant some slack when Colson takes the Bible as exact history. Personally, I would want secondary evidence backing up the stories presented in the Bible. Especially things like the day of Pentecost and the resurrection of 500 on the day Jesus was crucified.

Next, Colson covers his version of the canonization of the New Testament. I say his version because he cites no references for his claims and I have never seen anyone seriously make the claims he does. Let me quote:

The young Church first embraced the written records from Paul's careful explication of Jesus' teaching. Paul's letters to individual churches were copied and exchanged among all church communities. Not long after his death in AD 66 or 67 every new center of the Church had a set of the most recognized letters of Paul. In the same way, manuscripts with the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, circulated and were copied by the churches and were quickly accepted as authoritative.7

Notice the reference note. Here is the end note:

7. The differences in the four Gospels were duly noted. The early Church Fathers could see that the evangelists present the life of Christ in different chronological orders. They also represent Jesus' teachings from different angles with a particular audience in mind. Rather than being disturbed by this, scholars int he early Church understood that the different accounts broaden and enrich our understanding of Christ's life. They also served as proof against the one-sided interpretations that characterized false teachings in that day - and ours as well.

In other words, Colson is pulling this garbage out of his ass. Then he adds an end note to make it look he referenced a real scholar, but it turns out to be more apologetics pulled directly from his ass. I am so glad that Colson has mind reading powers that can actually travel back in time. Instead of doing things like, I don't know, listing the letters and documents where the "early Church Fathers" talked about this. Things that would give his story some credibility.

I might also take back that part where Colson is writing for believers. Unless he believes his believing readers are completely retarded, which would explain some things, then there is no reason to mention what books the Gospels are. I know for a fact that this is beaten into children in Sunday school as soon as they can understand words. Of course, this would imply that Colson is writing to the straw man atheist that has never heard of Jesus or Christianity also. I notice a lot of fundamentalist writers do this, just go back and check out any of those Chick tracts. It is a weird idea that atheists are only atheists because they haven't really looked at Christianity. Most atheists I know, not all, grew up in Christian households. Even the ones that didn't, especially the Americans, still hear about Christianity because it is the world's largest religion.

Colson next claims that Archeology proves the Bible is flawless. He uses the Hittites as an example. For a long time the only evidence that these people existed was in the Bible. So many scholars believed them to be imaginary. Well absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and in recent years there have been some findings of these people. The Hittites were real. This in no way means that every story in the Bible is real, it just means that it wrote about a real group of people called the Hittites. By Colson's logic, and the logic of many other fundamentalist evangelicals, this means that Spiderman and every Marvel comic is real. I have an X-men comic with the character Rogue blowing a kiss to President Reagan as he flies by in Air Force 1. Since Reagan and Air Force 1 are real that must mean that Rogue is real also.

Shortly after admonishing scholars for dismissing the Hittites because of a lack of evidence, Colson writes this:

The Book of Mormon, for example, talks about a civilization in North America in 400-600 BC. Not a single artifact of that civilization has ever been discovered.

Hello, Pot, this is Kettle speaking, you are black. Again absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. There are many other reasons to not believe the claims of the Mormons. Just like there are many reasons not to believe the claims of Genesis, Exodus and Judges, besides an absence of evidence. A lot of it has to do with evidence we have of other cultures in the area. Egyptian culture has no break or mention of there ever being a mass of Jewish slaves or their escape. There is an absence of evidence of any movement of the Jews across the desert for forty years. The land of Canaan did not fall in the matter of a few years by a conquering force. Instead archeological evidence shows that it fell from internal revolt or peasant uprisings. (Watch this show from the NOVA series on PBS).

So from what I am seeing the Bible's stories are shown to be based on real countries, but the archeological evidence is showing that in the very least a few of these stories are made up and I am not even talking about the obvious made up stories of Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel and 7 day creation. (There is just so much wrong with the Noah story, languages evolved separately in different places, and the earth with all its life formed over a period of 4.54 billion years.)

Colson's only real claim in this section is:

Then there is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls revealed that Psalm 22, which predicted Christ's crucifixion, was indeed dated well before the Maccabean era. For several generations, Bible scholars had believed Psalm 22 could not have been written before the Maccabean era because the practice of crucifixion, which it had referred to, had not been invented.

Now here is a real claim, that could prove the Bible. Apparently Psalm 22 talks about crucifixion of Jesus before crucifixion had been in invented. If this is true it gives the Bible some real evidence.

So first let's look into the history of crucifixion. Crucifixion started around the 6th century BCE, 600 to 501 BCE. Herodotus describes a crucifixion taking place in 479 BCE, in his Histories, Book IX, as "they nailed him to a plank and hung him up...this Artacytus who suffered death by crucifixion." So that gives a rough lower limit to how long crucifixion has been going on.

Next, here is Psalm 22:16-18 (the main verses dealing with the crucifixion prophecy, verse 1 is quoted also in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34):

Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.

They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing.

Okay the first stanza is supposed to be the actual crucifixion. The word crucifixion is not used there, just they have pierced my hands and feet. The second verse is supposed to mean that his bones weren't broken. The third verse is about the guards betting on Jesus' clothes.

Now, let's look at when the Maccabean era was. The Maccabees ruled from 164 BCE to 63 BCE.

Finally, let's see the date of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls generally date between 150 BCE to 70 CE.

Now putting everything together, starting with the claim: Psalm 22 predicts Christ's death by crucifixion and predates crucifixion which was invented in the Maccabean era.

Crucifixion was started in the 6th century BCE, which is well before the Maccabean era and well before the Dead Sea Scrolls. So the last two claims are easily found to be false. The Dead Sea Scrolls do not date well before the Maccabean era. They date around the same time and after. So that claim is false also. The final claim is that Psalm 22 predicts Christs death by crucifixion. I will quote Chuck Colson:

But remember, Jesus and His disciples were well versed in and abided by the Old Testament.

So the early Christians knew the Old Testament or the Tanakh. Then some 30 to 70 plus years after Jesus lived, they wrote stories about his life. Is it so hard to fathom that these writers, who had learned the Tanakh, wrote their stories to fulfill messianic prophecies? I could write a story about my friend Steve that fulfills all the "prophecies" also. Especially if I can set the story 30 years before and considering the technological level of the time, there would have been no way to prove it didn't happen. Considering the average life expectancy in the first century was 49 to 62 years old, would mean that most of your eye witnesses would have died by then too.

Once again, Colson is fractally wrong.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Faith - Chapter 2 part 2

My last post was about Colson's description of what he said were the only three choices for the origin of the universe. Colson follows up these three positions with this statement:

"The choice we make among these three options as to the universe's origin is the most important choice in life. Everything else follows from it. It's the place where the search for the truth begins."

This is the most important choice in life, so go out and ask people how much they think on it. Then ask if what they do is based on their belief in the origin of the universe. Finally do a little research to see how science works. Colson manages to keep putting strings of sentences together that are so wrong it makes me pause and reread them several times.

So instead of going directly into why this choice is so important, Colson describes a personal anecdote. This story involves Colson, an unnamed atheist and Colson redefining terms in order to trick the unnamed atheist. Personally, I believe Colson has made this entire story up, much like Kent Hovind's story about him and the unnamed professor on a plane.

To go into the story, Colson starts off by telling the UA (unnamed atheist) that he (Colson) had never met an atheist before. Colson then completely redefines the word atheist to mean, "An atheist believes the existence of God can be disproved." This is why I believe the story is fake, the UA does not immediately respond, 'No you are incorrect and are trying to shift the burden of proof. Atheist simply means the lack of a belief in a god or gods.' Instead in Colson's fantasy world the UA responds by back peddling and claiming instead that he is agnostic. Colson then decides to redefine the word agnostic as "But an agnostic is one who says he doesn't think God can be known, and you can only be agnostic if you've tried to know Him and exhausted the search." Again the UA in Colson's story just stops talking to Colson (that part I can believe especially after Colson just told the guy what he supposed to believe). Personally I would have rebutted that definition also saying, 'Again you have changed the definition. Agnostic is a person that believes the ultimate truth value of God is unknowable. You do not have to continually search to come to this conclusion. We say Pi is an irrational number because it never repeats itself, but we have only gone so many decimal places in Pi, according to your definition we cannot call it irrational because we have yet to find an end or repetition. Again you have shifted the burden of proof. It is impossible to prove a universally negative. Instead it is up to the positive claimant, that would be you Chuck, to show evidence for your positive claim in God. Furthermore atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. One deals in belief and the other in knowledge. Your first description was more akin to a gnostic atheist or a strong atheist, you are completely ignoring an agnostic atheist or weak atheist.' Again this is why I believe this is a fictional story, or the UA was just trying to be polite at an "exclusive dinner party" for the governor, instead of being pushy and antagonistic in mixed company.

Colson does admit that this was just a "clever debating ploy" (clever is not the word I would use but it is not my ego he is trying to feed). He proceeds to create another straw man, this time about science (scarecrows beware when Chuck Colson comes to town), "it doesn't answer modern science, which has rendered belief in a personal God irrational." When did this happen? Possibly with the recent study of the brain when trying to decide what would God do, but this book was out way before that study. Please someone show me the peer reviewed scientific paper that renders a personal god irrational. Here all along I thought it was the irrational claims of the Bible that made the Christian God irrational (let's face it this is what Colson is on about, he doesn't care about any other versions of God, this is evident in his only 3 choices for the origin of the universe).

Next Colson tries his hand at philosophy and presuppositions. It is painfully obvious already that Colson has no idea of anything outside of fundamentalist Christianity. In a case of pseudo admittance of this, he quotes Alvin Plantinga. Colson claims that the statement 'God is' is a valid first presupposition. He "proves" this by pointing out that Plantinga makes the same presupposition (wow a Christian agrees to there being a God). He also claims that when Plantinga is questioned on this, he responds "whether they believe that other people have minds. Is this rational?" Now Colson gets tricky and replaces naturalism with solipsism. "But Platinga points out that individuals who call themselves solipsists each believe that they alone have a mind." Naturalism does not make this claim. This is the logical fallacy of equivocation. Naturalism would point out that we can take an MRI of the person and see a picture of their brain, so where is the picture of God? What is actually happening here is that Colson is mixing Plantinga's arguments. Plantinga has an argument against Naturalism. It is basically and argument from personal incredulity. He doesn't understand how a reliable cognitive brain could come about through evolution, therefore God did it. Yes, there is a little more to it than that, but that is the gist of it. You can read all about it here.

Colson's next evidence of the existence of God is intelligent design. He claims that the universe was intelligently designed, citing the structure of human cells and DNA. He even trots out the Bill Gates quote of DNA being more complicated than any software ever written. Bill Gates is not a biologist, nor has he ever studied biology. What Bill Gates says about DNA means absolutely nothing. This is an argument from authority. If DNA is a program, it is loaded with unnecessary code, something that no intelligent agent would ever put into their programs. Also, the most advance computer programs are not written by a single person. Several programmers write out different parts which are put together by other programmers. It would seem that calling DNA a program favors polytheism over monotheism. Of course the argument against that is that God is all knowing so he could do it himself, which leads me back to junk DNA.

Colson then quickly jumps to the Strong Anthropic Principle. Which is easily defeated by pointing out that the major assumption is that life can only evolve as it did on Earth. This assumption has been called "carbon chauvinism" in recent years. Victor J. Stenger has also shown that these so called "just right for life" factors, can be varied well outside their current just right state and still produce the basics for life. Using a program he created called "MonkeyGod", Victor simulated multiple universes by varying factors claimed to be "just right" for human life according to the SAP (strong anthropic principle). Not all of the universes survived or could contain the basics for life, but several did. This utterly defeats the SAP. Colson still tries to defend the SAP by quoting and unnamed scientist:

"It is as if, one scientist wrote, 'the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.'"

He has an end note saying that the quote is from Freeman Dyson in his book Disturbing the Universe (Colson had the quote from the magazine Skeptical Inquirer in an article entitled "Intelligent Design and Phillip Johnson"). The quote is found on page 250 of that book and here it is in its entirety:

"It is true that we emerged in the universe by chance, but the idea of chance itself is only a cover for our ignorance. I do not feel like an alien in this universe. The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming."

In the book, Dyson goes on to lay out the case for SAP. Dyson is an adopter of the theistic evolution idea. Unlike Colson who is a YEC (young earth creationist).

The next part of the chapter asks the question "Is God Is irrational?" Colson goes back to his make believe Roman world from the prologue, citing it as fact. This time he does give an end note for where he got this information. It comes from the book "Rise of Christianity" by Rodney Stark. Without having read the book I can only make so many comments on it. On the very cover of the book, Stark admits he is a sociologist and not a historian. I do know that Stark actually uses faith healing as an example of miracles going on in the church to this day. James Randi and the James Randi Educational Foundation would love to see examples of this. They have a million dollars on the line for any proof of miraculous healing and have had that money on the line since the 70's. No one has claimed it yet. This review of the Stark's book tells me enough about the book. It also tells me enough about Colson's fact checking, that it is close to if not at zero.

Colson next talks about a study in the early 1990's of the spread of evangelical and pentecostal Christianity in Roman Catholic South America. Except he leaves out the bit about the people being Catholic and implies they were pagans. So instead of this being about Christianity overcoming pagan society, which it is painted as, it is more like a revival of Christianity among Christians. Colson says this is meeting the "criteria of secular social scientists as to what constitutes a rational choice." Of course again he does not mention the scientist but has an end note. The secular scientist is Rodney Stark, who is anything but secular.

Colson then tries to prove that God is not wish fulfillment by quoting the Bible.

So his logic follows like this:

The Bible says we are born with an innate sense of God.
Some scientists, that are not named nor end noted, are claimed to be studying this idea looking for a "God gene" (follow the link, it is one scientist and his study has not been replicated or published in a peer reviewed journal).
Because of these two factors and the fact that he (Colson) cannot come up with a way (argument from personal incredulity) for the straw man of evolution he created to do this, then God exists and the bible is right.

Colson then tries to take on Dawkins' book "The God Delusion". Claiming Dawkins called YHWH psychotic. Here is the exact quote: "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." That is a bit more than just psychotic and Dawkins can point to scripture to prove every description he gave. If a human did what YHWH was claimed to have done in the Old Testament, no one would hesitate to call them a monster. Colson continues this Quixote quest against Dawkins with the ever popular quote mine.

"This is how Dawkins explains that belief in God is not rational: 'Any God capable of designing a universe, carefully tuned to lead to our evolution, must be supremely complex and improbable entity that needs an even bigger explanation than the one He is supposed to provide.' 'Thus,' Dawkins says, 'He's ruled out by the laws of probability.' Dawkins is saying God can't be God because He is beyond our comprehension."

Wrong. First notice the break in the two quotes. It is because these two quotes from "The God Delusion" are not even close to each other in the book. The first is a response to the SAP argument, pointing out that one would have to explain how such a complex God that could do these things could come into existence. It is found on page 176 of "The God Delusion". The second quote is found on page 68. This is the full quote:

"The deist God, often associated with the Founding Fathers, is certainly an improvement over the monster of the Bible. Unfortunately it is scarcely more likely that he exists, or ever did. In any of its forms the God Hypothesis is unnecessary. The God Hypothesis is also very close to being ruled out by the laws of probability."

Colson is a liar for Jesus. A person who thinks the ends justify the means. He has bankrupted his own position of moral superiority that he tries to cash in on at the end of this chapter. Colson is just another televangelist out for the money of the sheep. The only thing he learned from his time in prison, over his part in the Watergate scandal, is how to steal from people legally.

Colson ends his proofs of God with Pascal's wager. There is so much wrong with Pascal's wager that I will just link to the Iron Chariots page on it.

He concludes the chapter with the claim, "If we live in an exclusively material world, human life - including mine and yours - is absolutely meaningless. No matter how intense our passions, how great our accomplishments, or what side of history we choose, all of this will turn to dust in a universe doomed to extinction." Yes, if you don't believe in God then you are a nihilist. Just because the universe has no purpose, does not mean you can have no purpose. This is yet another straw man. Colson goes on to claim that only God can give meaning to life and thus moral responsibility. That we are nothing without God. I will end this with the Atheist Eve cartoon by Tracie Harris:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Faith - Chapter 2 part 1

Anything I cite from the book is used under Fair Use Copyright Laws within the US.

Been busy and I haven't had a chance to write this in awhile, but I am getting back to it finally.

Chapter 2 - God Is

This chapter starts with Colson quoting Sam Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation and the talk of Hurricane Katrina. Colson compares the lose that so many suffered, good christian people that prayed all their life like Harris said, to his son having cancer and Colson having to wait through an 11 hour surgery before he got they good news that his son would be fine and shortly after his daughter is diagnosed with minor skin cancer which is successfully removed also. So yes, losing your everything you own, your town, loved ones and friends is equivalent to Colson having to sit through an 11 hour surgery. What an arrogant prick.

Colson then gives several straw men of worldviews that oppose his own. Describing evolution as mere chance and believers in Spinoza's God as tree hugging hippies who "join environmental groups and even flock to mountain tops to experience the 'harmonic convergence' of natural forces." He also claims that people who worship Spinoza's God, he includes Einstein as an example, are strict determinists "they don't believe people make their own decisions." Yes, Einstein who showed why determinism can't possibly be correct on the quantum level.

He takes these straw men even further claiming they are the only 3 major ideas of the origin of the Universe. He lists them as a purely Materialistic Godless Universe, a Universal Mind/God is present in all things (Spinoza's God) and a Personal God. Sorry my deistic friends that believe in an impersonal God that started the universe and let it evolve on its own is right out. So already Colson has committed the logical fallacy of false dichotomy or in this case trichotomy.

The first option is "A Godless Material Universe". Colson explains it as the idea "that the material universe is the sum and substance of all that exists and that it has either always existed or it came into existence without a cause. Therefore, natural explanations suffice to answer all questions about the nature and origin of the universe and of life." Colson proceeds to do one of Ray Comfort's standard canards of everything came from nothing. He then compounds it by saying that it is mere chance that stars were formed and intelligent life came about. These are two different claims and are both straw men.

First the idea that everything came from nothing. This is because we know the universe had a beginning, the Big Bang. So what happened before the Big Bang? To some extent that is an absurd question as time did not exist before the Big Bang, but we can still call it before even if there technically was no before. So what was there? Was it nothing or was it something? The answer is yes. It was nothing and something at the same time. This is a very complicated topic and it is best left to physicists, of which I am not, so here is Lawrence Krauss. This video is an hour long but well worth the watch.

The idea that it is mere chance is also wrong, unless he thinks the laws of physics are mere chance. What created the stars was gravity. Here are two articles from on the subject:

First Star in the Universe Born With the Help of Dark Matter

The First Star: Things Heated up Quickly

This is not mere chance. There are certain ways that matter and energy react with one another. It is those reactions that create the universe. When it comes to the complexity of life, it is based off of those reactions and environmental pressures (aka natural selection). Mutations are random, but selection for mutations is not. Colson continues with an argument from personal incredulity added to the straw man of evolution he created.

Option number two is "God Is an Intelligent Presence in All Things, a Universal Mind". He starts this section by continuing to beat on his straw man of the first option:

"Our universe has an intelligible character for which the material theory cannot account. It can be investigated, reasoned about, and its phenomena translated into elegant mathematical expressions, like Einstein's E=MC^2. How can the intelligible, the predictable, and the uniform emerge out of pure chance?"

Not just wrong but fractally wrong, that is it is wrong in the whole and wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution (one exception Einstein did come up with the equation E=MC^2). What this has to do with the a universal mind, absolutely nothing. Colson is just beating his dead straw man further.

The next claim is that "many of the greatest scientists have concluded that an ultimate intelligence must be present in all things, if not behind them." Besides this being the logical fallacy an appeal to authority, he doesn't list the scientists or provide any evidence for this claim or what constitutes "the greatest scientists" except for making a claim as to what Einstein believed. No other scientists are mentioned. I personally get the feeling that Colson doesn't care about backing up any of his claims but actually thinks an appeal to random unmentioned authority is a valid argument.

Colson goes on to compare Einstein's Spinoza's God to Eastern religions, whatever that means and I think Hindus would like to talk to him about their Gods especially since Hinduism is the 3rd largest religion in the world, and New Age spiritualism as all the same thing. Claiming that they are strict determinists. A claim that he yet again provides no evidence for. Yet he goes to demonize all these groups through the idea of strict determinism saying that Einstein "thought human beings were no more responsible for their own actions than a chicken laying an egg." I don't know where Colson pulled this idea out of but I have a clue. If you are really interested in learning about Einstein's religious views click here, they are varied and interesting. You will notice that Einstein spoke out against theological determinism, which is a Christian idea.

Finally, Colson presents his third theory, a personal god. His reason, again if you have visited Ray Comfort's site you will have heard this before, is look at nature, look at the trees and look at the mountains. He claims that because we can find beauty in the world then it must mean that God exists and the beauty is an expression of this love. He actually writes look at the trees, mentioning apple blossoms in particular. Colson can not think of any reason for flowers to be pretty other than God. This again shows the shallow thinking of Chuck Colson. He either does not, can not or will not look at the evolutionary biological reasons for colorful flowers. Here are a couple of articles from Science Daily and Wikipedia on the evolution of flowers and why they are colorful (1 2 3), hint it is to attract pollinators. This claim is also just one large logical fallacy, argument from personal incredulity, just because Colson can't understand the biological reasons for plants ("The scientist may look at the white clouds of apple blossoms as nothing more than an adaptive response, but if only an adaptive response were required, then why this dazzling display? And why should the ingenious cooperation of the blossoms and bees be called for?") does not mean that it can't be understood.

This is the only evidence Colson provides, beauty in nature followed by a scripture in the Bible. Does that mean anything ugly or abhorrent found in nature, like worms that can only live by mating in the eyes of certain primates (humans and baboons mainly) or parasites that can only live by atrophying the tongues of other animals and replacing it with themselves, proves that there is no God? He does not consider the question in his book, but I would guess the answer to be no. The blame of such things is laid down to a "fallen world full of sin". This makes the hypothesis of beauty reveling God completely unfalsifiable and worthless for science or the philosophy of science.

I am stopping my review of this chapter for now and will continue more later. Colson continues to build on these straw men and does some quote mining too.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Faith - Chapter 1

I bought my mom and dad two of Ken Miller's books, Finding Darwin's God and Only A Theory. My mom read both of them and enjoyed Finding Darwin's God. A few days ago she said I owed her two books since she read the two I bought. She gave me the first one, Charles Colson's The Faith. I am going to read it and go over it here in my blog.

Any quotes from the book will be used in accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Laws of America.

Chapter 1 is titled "Everywhere, Always, By All"

"What we witnessed at Nickel Mines and in the times of the Roman plagues is true Christianity - sacrificial love, concern for all people, forgiveness and reconciliation, evil overcome by good. These two examples, drawn from thousands I might have selected, represent signs from the Kingdom of God announced by Jesus and lived by his followers to this day."

Well that sounds all fluffy and nice. Upon further inspection though it just doesn't stand up. First off what the victims of Nickel Mine did was amazing but not unprecedented or limited to Christianity only. In my comments over the prologue, I showed a quick search of Google can find hundreds and thousands of cases of victims doing the same all over the world. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the sole property or domain of Christianity. Forgiveness is taught by most religions, several whose origin is well before Christianity.

Second the story of the Christians in ancient Rome, was something Colson just made up. He had no evidence to back up anything he wrote. Colson does not have a degree in history, he is a lawyer. So his story at best is a wild fantasy of his own imagination. He then claims it is one of the most compelling stories he could come up with from thousands of stories. I really would hate to see how bad of an argument these other stories make.

His unsubstantiated claim of thousands of stories is just that unsubstantiated. It reminds of Paul of Tarsus claiming that over 500 people witnessed a risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:6). He gives no names or anyway to back up the claim but he throws it out there like it is convincing. Just naming a large number without giving us any way to look it up is not proof. I can claim that 500 people witnessed me flying like superman, but that does nothing to persuade you. You would want to see it yourself and talk to every individual, in other words more evidence than just the word of the one making the extraordinary claim.

Colson admits that not all Christians have lived up to forgiveness and love but he blames this on the fallen nature of humans. He also claims that "the Christian Church and the truth it defends are the most powerful life- and culture-changing forces in human history" and that the truth "has been tested and proven true over two thousand years." He does not define truth here. He just simply asserts that Christianity has some truth that has been proven over and over again. He never actually says what this truth is. I believe he is planning on stating the "truth" over the course of the book, so I am not going to harp on it too much here. It would just be nice that if you make a claim one can look it up and see if you are telling the truth, instead of just mentioning some nebulous word without defining it.

The next part of the Chapter is about Colson and his bigotry. He is visiting St. Paul's cathedral in London and is shocked to hear the gospel being preached there. The Church of England is just the Catholic Church without the Pope so it can't possibly be Christian or preach the gospel, that is never stated directly here but the fact he is shocked that the "Gospel" is being preached in a church is evidence enough.

The next part is more made up stories by Colson. He calls it a time-travelers view of Christianity. In it he picks 5 random times and places to 'observe' Christianity. Starting with 37 AD in Jerusalem, where "these new Christians are hard to distinguish from a branch of Judaism. They simply identify the Jewish teaching about the Messiah, the Son of Man, with Jesus of Nazareth. These Christians are mostly drawn from the ranks of tradesmen and laborers. They have large families, and their faith is marked by celebrations and by helping one another face life's material challenges." A comment like that should have some sort of foot note on where he researched and learned about what life was like in the 1st century, but there is none. Instead Chuck just pulled this all out of his ass. This doesn't even follow with what the Bible says about the life of the early Christians. Apparently there were many false prophets (Acts 8:9-25), the believers were quite communistic and shared all their property together (Acts 4:32-37), and they often separated themselves from the Jews in meaningful ways (Acts 10:9-23). I really have nothing nice to say about Colson for this deliberate and meaningful misrepresentation of Christianity that is so easily refuted by the Bible he claims to be talking about.

Next, he chose 325 AD and the First Council of Nicaea. He does get a few things right here. He says that the people are no longer only Jewish but from all over the Mediterranean, that they have some writings together called the "New Testament" (they had the writings, they were not canon but were treated as such, and they were not called the "New Testament"), and that most of the church leaders were celibate.

It is off to the Irish monks of the 7th Century, no specific date given here but this would be the period known as Celtic Christianity. He claims that the monks would pray with their arms outstretched to resemble a cross. The only thing I can really find on this is St. Dominic's nine ways of prayer which would have been in the 13th century not the 7th. It could have started well before what I found though. Colson also speaks of how the Irish monks sailed to Scotland where "they will call the Scottish clans to exchange their nature worship and bloody practices for the joys of heaven." Scotland is surrounded in mythology from that particular period, much like Ireland. I will quote Wikipedia on Scotland's early Christianity:

"The story of early Christianity in Scotland is as obscure as it is in Ireland. The earliest missionaries are traditionally Saint Ninian and Saint Columba. Ninian himself is now regarded as largely a construct of the Northumbrian church, after the Bernician takeover of Whithorn and conquest of southern Galloway. The name itself is a scribal corruption of Uinniau ('n's and 'u's look almost identical in early insular calligraphy), a saint of probable British extraction who is also known by the Gaelic equivalent of his name, Finnian. St Columba, the most important saint of medieval Scots, was certainly Uinniau's disciple. However, the earliest evidence of Christianity in northern Britain predates the respective floruit of either missionary. We can be sure that at least all of northern Britain, except the Scandinavian far north and west was Christian by the tenth century. The most important factors for the conversion of Scotland were the Roman province of Britannia to the south, and later the so-called Gaelic or Celtic Christianity, an interlinked system of monasteries and aristocratic networks which combined to spread both Christianity and the Gaelic language amongst the Picts."

Chuck then takes us to "one of the great English missionary societies of the 1840's." Colson claims these societies funded mission trips to the Far East, Oceania and Africa, which is true. Colson puts forth the idea of the Protestant work ethic helped push the Industrial revolution. This idea was put forth originally by Max Weber. The idea has many critics.

Finally, we go to 1980 Lagos, Nigeria to talk very little about the pentecostal churches that have sprung up there. I think there is a good reason not to talk about them, these are the churches that are killing or excommunicating small children as witches. Yet we are supposed to see these churches as forces of good in the world. Colson even praises the Nigerian churches for "bringing the faith back to the West." If that is "the Faith" then Chuck can keep his sick, disgusting, homophobic, misogynistic, evil, killing church because I want nothing to do with it.

His next section blames aggressive atheism or "anti-theism" for all the problems of the church. Naming Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Chris Hedge in his rebuke. To the point of claiming that Dawkins is only doing it for the money ("Richard Dawkins, responsible for half of those sales, can attest to how lucrative attacking God has become.") Colson then follows that up with one of the most ludicrous statements I have ever read:

"These critics say we are trying to 'impose' our views on American life - that we want to create a 'theocracy,' or a government run by the Church. But this is absurd; theocracy is contrary to the most basic Christian teaching about free will and human freedom. Christianity gave the very idea of separation of Church and state to the West. And Christianity advances not by power or by conquest, but by love."

There are just so many things wrong with that statement, I could spend days covering it alone. The biggest thing is that it is all a lie, there is no truth in it at all.

Colson continues on in this vein, blaming postmodernism saying it claims that there is no such thing as truth. He also claims tolerance for others is diluting the truth. He also makes an appeal to authority by quoting President Eisenhower. He even goes to make some persecution claims from being called names (although "Poor, uneducated, and easily led." is a quite accurate description in my opinion).

To the end the chapter Colson claims that anti-theism and Islam are the greatest threats to Christianity, America (not trying to make the US a theocracy) and the World. He also claims that Christians just need to get back to their roots and everything will be fine. The rest of the book is supposed to be about Christianity's roots.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dark Heresy - Night 5

The chase is on, everyone jumps aboard the ship in Port Suffering heading back to Scintilla. Kaltos is there to greet them in Scintilla and informs them that someone matching Skae's description, minus the mutations, was seen in Hive Tarsus, the second largest city on Scintilla, apparently recruiting soldiers. He was gone before anyone could confront him. They know his destination is Sentinel, from the reports submitted by Aristarchus. Everyone is loaded onto a ship and head off for Sentinel. The trip to Sentinel is longer than to Iocanthos, even though they are skipping the major warp pathways and going directly. Kaltos also sends his Biomancy advisor, Raltos (random rolled name), with them. This is partially because Shawn shows interest in becoming a Biomancer.

Once aboard the ship, Raltos takes off his helmet, and comments that he is glad to take that off finally.

When they arrive on Sentinel, it is quiet. After getting out of the spaceport they notice the bodies. Some are riddled with bullet holes, while others are just torn apart. No one is alive. James succeeds at a tracking roll and notices tracks going off into the desert. It is evening and thus the best time to be making this trek. They walk through the night and with Dawn coming the tracks still go on. Everyone decides to push on. An hour later a toughness test is made to see how everyone is still doing. Everyone passes.

After another hour of walking, a cave is found. The tracks go into the cave. Inside the cave, everyone can hear a whispering sound. Raltos is reminded of the legends of a xeno race known as the whisperers. A listen check is made a few more minutes into the cave, those that make it can hear gunfire. Next they come across a body of a human with weird bite marks all over it. It does have good armor and a photo-visor that allows for night vision. Alicia picks them up and puts both on.

Further into the cave, more gunfire can be heard, and they come across two more bodies. This time giant cockroach like animals are tearing and eating at the corpses. A whispering sound is coming from them. They stop eating and charge the PCs. After dispatching the whisperers, Shawn and AJ (who had to leave early and was now being played by me) equipped the new armor and helmets. Only Cheryl and James did not equip new armor. Cheryl because her chest piece already protected better and she couldn't replace the arms without replacing the chest piece. James really gives no reason for not equipping armor. With the way he is playing, I honestly don't expect his character to survive this entire story line.

The gunfire is getting louder as they venture further in the cave. Finally they reach an opening where they find 5 men garbed in the same armor as the corpses, one human corpse, several whisperer corpses, and 4 whisperers. The living men and whisperers are fighting each other. One of them men notices the PCs and aims his gun to fire on them. The players wipe out all but one of the men and all the whisperers. The last man runs towards a turn up ahead in the cave, only to have his head split open by a giant tentacle coming from around the corner.

Raltos leads the charge around the corner. Standing there in the cave is Abbot Skae in his horrible daemonic visage. Without warning, Raltos lobs a flash grenade at Skae, everyone wearing visors have to make an agility test. All the PCs succeed. Skae is blinded and stunned for 3 rounds. The fight lasts 3 rounds. First Raltos hit Skae hard in the head, followed by Alicia with a critical blow to the head with her chain axe. It only takes a few free shots after that to finish him off.

Behind Skae is an altar. On top of the altar sits a small needle like device attached to a half circle. It fits perfectly on the sphere James has and begins to spin. Raltos is amazed at the device. They start to leave. Skae is barely together but somehow manages to say, "This isn't over yet, the Dancer is coming and I will be there to see you all die at his hands." Skae stands up and tries to open a portal, similar to the one he escaped Iocanthos with, but it closes and fear crosses Skae's face. A daemonic voice is heard in everyone's head saying, "Skae you have failed me for the final time." At that hundreds and thousands of whisperers come out of every hole in the cave. They swarm over Skae devouring him leaving nothing but bones behind. The PCs aptly begin to run out of the cave. A couple of agility tests are needed but everyone makes it out fine. The whisperers do not chase out of the cave or even into the sun light.

Everyone heads back to Scintilla, this time taking the long and much safer way back. Shawn decides to do some research on St. Drusus and Drusus' dealings on Iocanthos. He finds out a lot of stuff he already knew. There are some dates missing and the actual source of the Dancer is not listed but he does discover the daemon's true name is Tsyiak. He also learns of how Drusus used Xeno technology to capture Tsyiak's soul in what the Eldar call a soulstone. Shawn learned about what soulstones were used for but little else. - "When the Eldar die, their souls are in danger of being devoured by the Chaos god Slaanesh. To prevent this, the Eldar created special Spirit Stones, which capture and contain their souls at the moment of death."

Kaltos was again waiting for them at Scintilla. He asked for the sphere and needle (the map) so that it could be studied. James, for some reason which he never explained, refused to hand it over. Kaltos nearly killed James right there. A compromise was reached where James would stay present for the studies being done on the map. The studies take about a month. They also discover a way to harness warp energy to activate the map instead of Aristarchus' or Cheryl's blood.

On one of the first days back, after defeating Skae, Cheryl goes out by herself shopping. She barely notices a flash of light in a tower, but has time to duck as a bullet barely misses her and strikes a person next to her. There is no doubt someone was aiming for her. When Kaltos finds out, he has some local law enforcement investigate the assassination attempt. He also lets none of the PCs go out without bodyguards.

That ended night 5.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Charles Colson - The Faith - Prologue

I bought my mom and dad two of Ken Miller's books, Finding Darwin's God and Only A Theory. My mom read both of them and enjoyed Finding Darwin's God. A few days ago she said I owed her two books since she read the two I bought. She gave me the first one, Charles Colson's The Faith. I am going to read it and go over it here in my blog.

Any quotes from the book will be used in accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Laws of America.

The Prologue starts out with the story of the Amish school shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. So right from the start I can see where this is all going, loads of emotion and little reason or evidence or substance. He goes into detail over the whole situation which you can read all about on the Wikipedia page. At the end he points out that the Amish showed real Christian love by forgiving the dead shooter and donating the money for the survivors to the shooter's widow and their kids. He doesn't make the claim here that only Christians are capable of doing something like this but alludes at it. A quick Google search of the subject will show that this is a very human thing to do, some just do it sooner than others.

He next makes up a story about two Christians living in Roman occupation during the plagues of the early 2nd century. He sets it in 116 AD and talks about a possible small pox plague. The only plague I can find any information on during the second century was the Antonine plague taking place between 165 to 180 AD. It was possibly a small pox plague. Colson tells his story saying that the rulers would leave town to escape and that the only people left would be the Christians to take care of the sick because that is what they were called to do by Jesus.

Two things about his little story. First the Antonine plague killed 2 Roman Emperors one of them being Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. The plague was named after Antoninus. So to say that the "wealthy fled" is shown to be false when 2 Emperors die to the plague.

Second the ones most affected by the plague were the soldiers. Marcus Aurelius was unable to push back the Germanic and Gaelic tribes because of his lack of soldiers. This is part of the reason that he personally joined the front lines. One particular offensive, against the Marcomanni, was postponed because of a lack of troops.

So I have to question what Colson is describing. He also makes the claim that "paganism didn't teach that human life was sacred." There is no citation for where this comes from, and I cannot find anything that backs this statement up. What I did find was this quote from the UNRV website:

"Indeed, it was not so much the paterfamilias who was owner of the house, it was his deified ancestors and local spirits who were the real proprietors and guardians of the land. The family demons could bring woe to those who offended them, and surely there was no greater insult than to lay a hand upon the paterfamilias whose chief duty was to propitiate them. Outsiders were also thought to invite divine wrath if they attempted to evict or harm a man within the presence of his household familiars. These religious taboos rendered domestic life and private property sacred centuries before civil law was accepted as a substitute."

This gives me the impression that everything was held in great esteem and life was protected by their ancestors and Gods. Colson's comment is just a straw man meant to demonize anything or anyone who are not Christian.

He goes on to claim that carrying for others was an "unprecedented teaching of Christianity". This is just not true. An early version of the Golden Rule was written about in Egypt during the Middle Kingdom (2040 - 1650 BCE). Well before Christianity and in the lands where the roots of Christianity formed. This is anything but "unprecedented".

Near the end of the prologue, Colson pulls out the No True Scotsman fallacy and claims that "love and forgiveness" are the hallmarks of real Christianity. This of course ignores passages such as 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' or Jesus claiming to bring a sword and turn sons against parents. I suspect that this fallacy will play out a lot through the book.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

tUPoC Chapter 1 Section 5

This is a book by Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers In Genesis (AiG). Here is a short background on him posted on Amazon's page for this book.

"Dr Jason Lisle is a research scientist and speaker with Answers in Genesis Ministries. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master's degree and PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr Lisle is currently planetarium director at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, and written a number of books and journal articles, as well as the programs currently being used in the planetarium."

I was able to see his talk on this same subject while visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky run by AiG. I know PZ has covered the first chapter but I wanted to take a shot at, especially after hearing Lisle's speech. Chapter 1 of his book is available online here. I will be using part of this book in accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Laws within the United States of America.

Worldviews - the heart and soul of Lisle's argument and consequently AiG's argument

"Most people today have not given much thought to their own worldview. In fact, many people do not even realize they have a worldview. Such people tend to think that all knowledge is acquired by unbiased observation of the evidence around us. This view is called “empiricism” and is itself a kind of worldview. We cannot help but have some beliefs about how the world works, how we attain knowledge, and how we should live. Even if we believe that we have no such beliefs — this is itself a belief. So there’s no escaping it. A worldview is inevitable. A rational worldview is not."

Because I never trust a liar even when they tell me what day it is, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which asserts that knowledge arises from sense experience. So observing the world and trying to understand it by observation is a worldview.

So what is a worldview? Lisle actually defines it: "Worldview: a network of our most basic beliefs about reality in light of which all observations are interpreted." These are also called presuppositions. In the sake of argument, I will grant Lisle that everyone has a worldview and that some knowledge is derived from this worldview. I will also grant him that not all worldviews are rational. His semantic game with belief is just that semantics. He is trying to set up a 'see all scientists believe in it that makes it a religion therefor creationism should be taught in school also'. I plan to show why this won't stand.

"Our worldview is a bit like mental glasses. It affects the way we view things. In the same way that a person wearing red glasses sees red everywhere, a person wearing “evolution” glasses sees evolution everywhere. The world is not really red everywhere, nor is there evolution everywhere, but glasses do affect our perception of the world and the conclusions we draw. We will find in this book that the Bible is a bit like corrective lenses. Without “biblical glasses,” the world appears fuzzy and unclear. But when our thinking is based on the Bible, the world snaps into focus: it makes sense."

This is just Ken Ham's regular garbage and you can see him say the same thing countless times on any number of videos on YouTube.

The idea of seeing evolution everywhere because of one's worldview is completely wrong. If we only interpreted everything through a worldview then evolution would have never existed, the world would be flat, the sun would travel around the Earth and Gods throwing lightning would all still be widely held beliefs. You see something happened. Someone started to investigate things and found real facts. These facts went against what that person knew or against their worldview. Instead of trying to explain away these facts, they followed them to find out real truth.

Copernicus and Galileo both grew up knowing that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun, moon and all the stars orbited around the Earth. That was the worldview. Yet they both discovered facts that proved their worldview wrong. Instead of hiding these facts away, they looked into it more. What they both discovered was that the Earth orbited the sun. The solar system was not geocentric but heliocentric.

In the same way, Charles Darwin joined the crew of the Beagle as a naturalist to study the geology of South America. He collected many samples and started to notice things that did not fit with special creation or Lamarckian evolution. Things like animals on islands more closely resemble animals from the mainland they are closest too rather than animals on other similar islands. It seemed as if the island animals and plants descended from the mainland animals and plants. This amongst his many other discoveries caused Darwin to doubt special creation and helped him to develop the first Theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection.

I could show even more examples through out the history of science all the way to modern day examples of Albert Einstein and Relativity. None of these men started off thinking that their worldview was 100% correct. Instead each of them found facts that went against their worldview and they adjusted what they thought according to the facts, not the other way around. What Lisle is implying is that everyone just changes the facts to fit their worldview. He is projecting, because that is exactly what he and all creationists and Intelligent Design advocates do. This is also just a giant straw man and he knows it to be so. I can say that because Lisle has a PhD in astrophysics from a reputable school. There is no way he could have gone through his degree without learning this. He is a charlatan and con artist in the name of religion. He joins a long line of charlatans for religion including his boss Ken Ham.

"Just as a person wearing red glasses perceives the world differently than a person wearing clear, prescription lenses, so evolutionists “see” the world differently than creationists. We have the same facts. But what we make of those facts is colored by our worldview. Thus, creationists and evolutionists interpret the same facts differently. This point cannot be overstated. Much of the frustration in arguments over origins stems from a failure to recognize that creationists and evolutionists must interpret the same data differently due to their different worldviews."

This is a lie. How did evolution start, Lisle? Did Darwin go out and say, "Hey I have this idea of evolution. Now I just need to find evidence to prove it." OF course he didn't. Everything I said earlier, which can easily be backed up by facts, shows that worldviews do not shape evidence, unless you let them. In the case of creationists, they insist on not only reinterpreting data, but cherry picking the data that fits their ideas best. Ignoring or trying to invalidate radiometric dating, physics all together and geological strata to name a few things. These things were not built upon presuppositions or worldviews but on cold hard facts that Lisle and his ilk choose to continually ignore.

"Many people do not want to accept the fact that all evidence must be interpreted in light of prior beliefs — a faith commitment of some kind. Many believe that evidence should be approached in a neutral and unbiased fashion — without any previous beliefs. However, this is impossible. For this view is itself a belief about how evidence should be interpreted."

This is utter bullshit. Then how are new ideas brought about? If we can only interpret things from the point of view of our worldview then how did these worldviews diverge? Historically it can be shown that there was no "evolution worldview", so where did it come from if "all evidence must be interpreted in light of prior beliefs"? He has no answer except to possible say that the Devil did it. Invoking some sort of supernatural occurrence, because according to his definition, someone cannot change their mind from looking at facts. Reread if you think I am misinterpreting him, he said "all evidence must be interpreted in light of prior beliefs" and "We have the same facts. But what we make of those facts is colored by our worldview." So Lisle explain how men who started with one worldview and changed to a different and new worldview. Explain why I started with a Biblical literalistic worldview but after studying the facts myself, changed my mind to what you call an evolutionist worldview. How does that happen if I only interpret evidence according to my worldview? He has no answer for this.

"Moreover, in order for our observations of evidence to be meaningful, we would have to already believe that our senses are basically reliable. It would do no good to observe some piece of evidence if we did not believe our observations are real and reliable."

Actually no we don't. Most people understand that our senses are not perfect or entirely reliable. We are fooled all the time by magicians, optical illusions, psychological phenomena like pareidolia, confirmation bias and many more that I can't begin to list them all here. (As a side note, confirmation bias is what Lisle is talking about when he says we interpret evidence by our worldview.) This is why science relies on peer review. A single person can draw conclusions based on their own observations, but to determine if those conclusions are correct it is not left to any one single person. Instead it is tested over and over again, to make sure that the conclusion holds. Even after holding for several years, it will continually be tested until it fails or is replaced by something that better fits the data and explains why the previous explanation held so well. Scientists do not make a name for themselves by upholding current Theories, instead they make a name by replacing old Theories with new and improved ones. The incentive is for scientists to overturn Theories.

"We cannot avoid wearing “mental glasses” — having a worldview — but it is crucial to wear the right glasses. In the same way that a person wearing red glasses might erroneously conclude that everything in the world is red, so a person with a wrong worldview will draw incorrect conclusions about the universe. But a correct worldview can prevent us from drawing the wrong conclusions and can improve our understanding of the world."

Look up the definition of hubris and will find a picture of Lisle with this statement next to it. He is not only claiming that his worldview is correct but because of that he will never draw a wrong conclusion about the universe because of it. Not once will you see any science make the claim they are 100% right 100% of the time. This is a level of arrogance that only the devoutly religious can claim.

"For example, when I observe a magician cut a person in half, I conclude that it’s a trick — no one was really cut in half, regardless of what I thought I saw. I draw this conclusion not because of the evidence, but because my worldview prevents me from drawing the wrong conclusion."

Wrong. You draw the conclusion because of evidence. You know it is illegal to kill someone. You know that when someone is cut in half they will die. You know that someone would have to have a mental problem or an accident to occur for them to advertise and cut a person in half before a crowd. You know you are there expecting to be fooled, only a few performing magicians claim or do not refute to have real powers (though none will submit to the JREF million dollar challenge).

Now if Lisle was going off of his worldview, then he could not know if it was a trick or not. Considering that his worldview allows for miracles and the Bible states that others will come doing miracles but not be of God (2 Thessolonians 2:9). So are miracles possible or not? Instead Lisle is using facts not his worldview to come to the conclusion it is a trick. This completely refutes his own example.

"For example, suppose that your neighbor tells you that she saw a UFO last night. Your worldview will immediately kick in and help you process and interpret this evidence. As your neighbor provides additional details, you will begin forming hypotheses based on your worldview. Perhaps she saw an alien spaceship. Perhaps it was a top secret government experimental aircraft. Maybe she had been drinking again last night. Or perhaps she merely saw the planet Venus. The conclusion you draw will be influenced not only by the evidence, but also by your general understanding of the universe. If you are convinced that extraterrestrial life does not exist, then clearly you will not draw the conclusion that your neighbor saw an alien spacecraft. Your worldview constrains and guides your interpretation of the evidence. This is true of every aspect of life. From UFOs or magic tricks to fossils and DNA, our worldview tells us what to make of the evidence."

Actually, I know of someone that claims to have seen a UFO. She thinks it was an alien ship. I have no basis to think she was lying, nor do I have anyway of refuting her claim. Personally, without any evidence but her own eye witness account, I don't think she saw an alien aircraft. I don't know what she saw. Why did I come to the conclusion that she didn't see an alien spacecraft? Evidence. I believe that there is alien life in the universe. There very well could be an alien race that is more advanced than we are. I have just seen no evidence of any contact by aliens to our planet. I am not saying that it could not happen, but that I find it very unlikely to have happened without any hard evidence. An eye witness is not always reliable, here we are getting back to our senses and their reliability. If more convergent evidence came out showing that we have been or are being visited by aliens then I will change my opinion.

"At this point, we have not yet made an argument that Christianity is the correct worldview — that it alone provides the correct way to interpret evidence in regard to origins (or any other issue). But by now it should at least be very clear that everyone interprets evidence in light of his or her worldview. And it is clear that creationists and evolutionists have different worldviews, and as a result, they interpret the same evidence differently. For this reason, evidence by itself will not cause a person to reconsider his worldview. Any scientific evidence can be interpreted in such a way as to fit into any given worldview."

Yet more projection. This is not how science works, this is how Lisle does "science". Lisle has yet to explain how a new worldview can come into being if all evidence is is interpreted based on one's worldview. The history of science shows it happening all the time. It is because science goes where the facts and evidence lead, it does not cherry pick and force facts into a predetermined view. This is even before going into falsifiability.

"A creationist looking at comets concludes that the solar system is young. An evolutionist looking at comets concludes that there must be an Oort cloud. A creationist examining the information in DNA concludes that there is a Creator. An evolutionist looking at the same information concludes that mutations or some unknown mechanism has generated such information. An evolutionist looking at the similarities in the genetic code of various organisms concludes that they must have a common ancestor. A creationist looking at those same similarities concludes that those organisms must have a common Creator."

An "evolutionist" then goes looking for evidence that will either prove them right or wrong and if wrong redetermines what the evidence is pointing towards even if it goes against their personal bias or, as Lisle calls it, worldview. A creationist just sits back and says "God did it" and never looks again. The creationist will also cherry pick quotes and findings of scientists and claim it fits creationism.

"We all interpret the facts in light of our worldview. Any evidence that seems to challenge our worldview can always be explained by invoking a rescuing device. Many debates on origins are not very effective because the opposing parties do not understand the nature of worldviews, evidence, and rescuing devices. Creationists can be frustrated that evolutionists are not persuaded by the evidence; but evolutionists feel the same way about creationists. Such frustration stems from a failure to consider the real issue: people always interpret evidence in a way that is compatible with their worldview. Thus, evidence by itself will never settle the debate."

Except scientists don't use rescuing devices, instead they have hypotheses that they test over and over again until they fail. At that point they reevaluate the evidence and let the evidence point to what is happening. Then that is tested over and over again until it fails. The testing never stops. Creationists never test and never continue beyond "God did it".

Lisle has some closing remarks about the next chapter. As I refuse to buy the book, I am not going on here. I think I am just going to go over Charles Colsen's book "The Faith" as my mom is insistent that I read it. This is another clue that my parents know of my atheism and yet don't want to talk about it.