Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TF - Chapter 4 part 3

So after lying about what the Bible says and then making some weird unsubstantiated remark about skepticism, Colson ends this part of the section saying that the world is not like the Matrix. That is right we are not living in a computer simulated world and our bodies being harvested as batteries. Okay that was a cheap shot and slightly uncalled for. Although he did say that the Matrix was widely popular on American campuses, I think it was more popular than just that but whatever. What he meant is that we are not just a brain in a jar, that our senses are reliable and what we see is really real. The only support for this is because the Bible says so.

To be perfectly honest, we cannot know for 100% certainty that we are not a brain in a jar. That does not mean that the brain in a jar scenario is a good explanation. It is unfalsifiable and falsifiability is part of a good explanation. If something cannot be proven false then you can never know if it is true. Take Bigfoot for example. If Bigfoot exists, then we should find some evidence of its existence. So we should be able to capture it, but we have not. The claim for not being able to capture it, is because it is very elusive. So capturing would conclude there was such a creature but not capturing one does not make Bigfoot false. Then we are bound to find bones or droppings from Bigfoot. Yet again not finding these things does nothing to falsify Bigfoot. There are many reasons for why you won't find these things given, but the main problem is that it is impossible to prove a universal negative. So to prove that Bigfoot doesn't exist, there would have to be a claim about Bigfoot that can be repeatedly tested that would prove or disprove Bigfoot. No such claim is ever made. Thus Bigfoot is unfalsifiable. The concept of being a brain in a jar falls into the same category along with deities.

Now if someone was actually able to posit a claim that could confirm or deny the existence of a particular deity, then that would make the deity falsifiable. Some Christians start out saying that their God is falsifiable and make a claim that is supposedly falsifiable. Usually it is along the lines of the Bible is inerrant or the Bible claims this happened and thus God. Well in the case of the first claim, it fails from the start, because the Bible claims the Earth was created before the Sun. When you point this out to someone who makes this claim, they will immediately start denying facts. Thus making their claim once again unfalsifiable. As for the second claim, just because the Bible is right in one part does not mean it is right in the whole, nor because it is wrong in one part mean it is wrong in the whole. This is a logical fallacy known as the composition fallacy. Again this would make God unfalsifiable.

Unfalsifiable and lack of evidence are the main reasons why I deny most supernatural claims.

Next Colson claims Richard Dawkins denies truth. His basis for this is a quote from the Article "God vs. Science" in the November 2006 issue of Time Magazine. Here is what Colson says:

Richard Dawkins was asked in an interview with Time magazine whether good and evil have no meaning. Dawkins replied, "Even the question you're asking has no meaning to me. Good and evil - I don't believe there is hanging out there anywhere something called good and something called evil. I think that there are good things that happen and bad things that happen." The attacks of 9/11 are not intrinsically evil, and bringing relief to tsunami victims is not intrensically good? Preposterous.

First the actual question he was asked was:

What you've said implies that outside of the human mind, tuned by evolutionary processes, good and evil have no meaning. Do you agree with that?

So yes Dawkins is saying that there is no outside source of good and evil. There is nothing that is intrinsically good or evil. What Colson claims is intrinsically evil are acts of good and evil. Which Dawkins fully admits are real. If things are intrinsically good or evil, show me the evil cell or the good gene. Show where evil and good exist outside of the human mind. Actions can be good or evil depending on how we view them. There are people who think 9/11 was a good action and divine.

Colson continues on saying that if Dawkins admitted to there being a moral Truth (capital tee), then this would overthrow Dawkins' atheism. This is the old, all atheists know there is a God but are repressing that knowledge because they love to sin, repackaged a bit. Colson is saying he knows what Dawkins thinks and that Dawkins only denys moral absolutes because it would prove God. This is arrogance at its finest. Claiming to know what a person is thinking and that it is exactly opposite of what they are saying. Ray Comfort does this. Ken Ham does this. Random bloggers do this. I find it an interesting that it is the Christian Fundamentalist Evangelical sect that thinks they knows what everyone else is thinking and are not afraid to tell everyone what everyone is thinking. It is a level of arrogance and pride that just knows no bounds.

Colson talks about how C.S. Lewis was an atheist (which is debatable considering Lewis was quoted as saying he was "very angry with God for not existing" in his book Surprised by Joy) who turned to Christianity because of moral absolutes. C.S. Lewis had a lot to say about moral absolutes, which he called Natural Law. Lewis also talked about pride and arrogance. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride or Self-Conceit: and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility. You may remember, when I was talking about sexual morality, I warned you that the centre of Christian morals did not lie there. Well, now, we have come to the centre. According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

To continue with Colson's thought here, first Colson would have to prove moral absolutes. Instead all he does is posit the claim that they exist and the Bible is their source. If that is true, why does Colson not advocate the stoning of children, the stoning of women who are not virgins on their wedding night, not shaving, not planting wheat and barley in the same furrow, not wearing polyester, or not eating shellfish. Because if the Bible is the source of absolute morals, then these things are still absolutely wrong. Yet you will see virtually no Christians that spout moral absolutes doing any of these things (I say virtually because I don't know of anyone that follows these rules, but that does not mean they don't exist). What we see is morals changing throughout history, which is the definition of moral relativism. What is happening is we are becoming more and more inclusive as to who we consider to be like us. Initially it was only family. Then it encompassed the tribe. Cities were next, followed shortly by states. Then it became people who share skin color, and lately it seems to have divided into beliefs and somewhat nationalities. I dream of a day that it will encompass the world and we will all realize that there is very little difference between each person on the planet. That is the dreamer and ideologist in me.

Colson then quotes some percentages of people who believe in moral absolutes and according to Barna the majority of people do not. I would guess because it is demonstrably false, but then again evolution is demonstrably true and less than a majority believe it.

Colson then tells a story, which he claims is true but provides zero details to verify any of it (no names, no city, no school). Colson claims that a lady, who graduated from his Prison Fellowship's Centurions worldview program (he has to plug what he sells), living in the Bible belt (adds to the scare factor, atheists are taking over your home!!!zomg!!!111!!!eleventy!!!) started a 13 week bible study for seventh graders (average age - 12 to 13). She had 43 sign up to attend. At week 10 there was supposed to be a religious comparison study between Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. Supposedly the 7 of the 8 group leaders refused to teach it because "the claim that Christianity was true." I have serious doubts that it was exactly like this. I grew up in the Bible belt and I grew up believing that Christianity was true. I hardly would have been one of the 8 "serious Christian students". I questioned the way things were than most of my other fellow Sunday school students, yet I still believed that Christianity was true. What you can't do is lie to teenagers, especially demonstrable lies. As I said I can't determine the validity of this story, so I don't know what was actually said.

What I can do is find out as much as I can about Prison Fellowship's Centurions worldview program. You can read all you want about the program from the link. I am just going to point out a few things. 4 of the 15 books noted as required reading are Chuck Colson's own books and are not including in the cost of the program (2010 curriculum and 2009 curriculum and study guide). Food, board, and travel are not included in the price of the program. Sadly there is nothing listed about comparative religious studies, so again there is no way of knowing what was said in the class.

Colson ends the section with saber rattling. Telling people things like, see if this is allowed to continue Christianity is dead. Therefore you must by my books and come to my classes (only $1500 now!) or else you let Christianity die and you don't want to be known for letting that happen, do you? Okay he doesn't actually say buy my books, but this is just a simple call to proselytizing and a fear tactic at that. Yet another emotional plea with no substance to it.

The next section is aimed at Christians. It starts off good, admonishing the church for not doing more good works, especially fundamentalist mega-churches but quickly deteriorates. Instead of blaming leadership and the direction they have taken these churches (which Colson would be a part of), it is all blamed on postmodernism. Of course he also mentions it is the "postmodern Christians" that are saying the church is dieing, and somehow it is their fault also. I want to quote Colson here because it will come up again later, but this is the first time he mentions his Prison Fellowship and how well it works:

This distaste for doctrine has led some postmodern Christians to adopt the mantra "We want deeds not creeds." But wait a minute. For over thirty years, the movement known as Prison Fellowship and I have been taking the Gospel into the prisons, demonstrating the transforming power of Christ to turn the most reviled sinners into saints. No one would argue that these have not been worthwhile deeds. But if my creeds I believe are false, then my efforts have been totally missplaced; I cannot be sure that my deeds, however noble, are really good. It is the creed that makes me carry out the deed - that keeps me going into the most rotten holes in the world - and gives me the message I preach. The same is true of any Christian movement based on faith.

I will go over how well Prison Fellowship actually is in another section, when he actually prints numbers, right now I want to focus on the last part of that paragraph. Colson is saying that he can't know good actions from evil actions without the Bible telling him. He cannot assess the harm or help he does for other people without Christianity. In other words, he can't tell what other people are feeling. I am asking in all seriousness, is he a sociopath?

Well let's check the symptoms:

* Persistent lying or stealing - I don't know about the stealing but so far the lying is right.

* Superficial charm - He is a political and Christian leader...

* Apparent lack of remorse or empathy; inability to care about hurting others - He just stated that without the Bible telling him he is hurting someone, he couldn't tell.

* Inability to keep jobs or stay in school - Well his last real job, adviser to the Nixon Administration, he lost for breaking the law. He does have a degree, so not so much on this one.

* Impulsivity and/or recklessness - I don't know enough about him to answer this one.

* Lack of realistic, long-term goals — an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals - He seems to be able to make long term plans, even if they aren't very good, so this one he doesn't have either.

* Inability to make or keep friends, or maintain relationships such as marriage - I don't know about friends, but he has been married twice now. The second marriage has been for a long time.

* Poor behavioral controls — expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper - He posts some weird things on his blog on occasion, but I have yet to see the angry vitriol of some other bloggers.

* Narcissism, elevated self-appraisal or a sense of extreme entitlement - Yes, read just about anything he writes.

* A persistent agitated or depressed feeling (dysphoria) - Not that I can tell from his writings but that is not the way to fully diagnose something like this.

* A history of childhood conduct disorder - Not that I am aware of.

* Recurring difficulties with the law - He went to jail for his role in Watergate and is a member of the political group the Family.

* Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others - The Manhattan Declaration.

* Substance abuse - Not that I am aware of.

* Aggressive, often violent behavior; prone to getting involved in fights - Again not that I am aware of.

* Inability to tolerate boredom - I don't know.

* Disregard for the safety of self or others - Not directly, but he writes often in this book how Christians shouldn't worry about diseases and help those people, because God will protect.

* Persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social rules, obligations, and norms - Yes, he is actively fighting change in society, because he doesn't like it and claims it does not fit with his faith (even though there are people of the same faith as him that he is fighting against).

* Difficulties with authority figures - He still doesn't think he did anything really wrong during Watergate and that it was wrong for Deep throat (Mark Felt) to talk about what they did.

9.5 of 19, not bad...

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