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 space.com 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.

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