This week’s Feed Back is an interesting one due to the philosophical rabbit trail that Tony and Jonathan end up on.  My Comments to each will follow.

  1. Robert Saunders says:

November 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

It is far too early to draw any conclusions about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Although more than 300 exo-planets are now known, the detection methods aren’t very good at finding ones with earth-like conditions — they are too small, and generally too far from their sun to be easily seen. As for terrestrial magnetism, any planet with an iron core and a sufficiently high core temperature can be expected to show magnetism — and a magnetic field is only a useful, not an essential, precondition to life: for about four billion years, earthly life existed only in the seas, where it would be protected from radiation bombardment. Note also that earth’s magnetic field has not been continuously present: it varies in something like a sinusoidal manner, reversing at varying intervals of a few tens of thousands of years, and near the zero crossings it is too weak to be of much use as a radiation shield.

MY RESPONSE:  Robert, your presuppositions of billions of years and disregard for Scripture are obvious.  On what basis do you believe in billions of years?  ALL dating methods are based on a number of assumptions to begin with, and many of them exhibit great discrepancies. 

The article did not say that a magnetic field was a prerequisite for life however; it is an essential component for the preservation of life.  There is no argument about the reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field but the time it took for the reversals to occur was not long enough to allow long term damage from the harmful radiation that the magnetic field normally repels.  I direct you to the article by Dr. Andrew Snelling – Fossil magnetism reveals rapid reversals of the earth’s magnetic field.

When you say that earthly life only existed in the seas for four billion years, again you are basing this on your presuppositions of billions of years which are based on the assumptions of very fallible men.  I chose to work from my presuppositions which are based upon the words of God who is incapable of being fallible and who gave us His account of when He created everything.   

2.     Hoite says:

November 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

While I believe in a Divinly designed creation proccess, the continuious attempts of Creationaists’ contortions to bend or deny the reality of every scientific fact or new discovery to fit their “6,000 years old” biblical age of the earth is humourus to watch. God’s plan for this planet is much larger than the tiny minds of the literalist Creationists.

MY RESPONSE: You seem to feel that people that accept God at His word have tiny minds.  I would say that those people who are unwilling to accept God at His word must believe that they are smarter than God to begin with.  Martin Luther had the best response for a statement like this when he said:

“How Long Did the Work of Creation Take?    When Moses writes that God created heaven and earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day.  But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.  For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written.  But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.

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  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Hoite, Jesus took Genesis as literal history. Do you suppose he was “bending” and “denying” what you call “every scientific fact or new discovery”? Was the Lord right, or wrong?

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  • Arek says:

November 15, 2010 at 9:37 pm

Good point! I never thought of that one. Mind if I use it from time to time?

3.     David A Williams says:

November 15, 2010 at 4:50 pm

To accept the Genesis account of creation as valid, one must first believe that God is; then the biblical record becomes a deep-seated conviction. I am not unseated simply because all things are not understood, or because new theories are proposed; faith keeps me on target. The ‘natural’ man will never ‘get it.’ All of this postulation is borne of either unbelief or faith; Hebrews 11 answers adequately.

MY RESPONSE: It is all a matter of faith: faith in God or faith in man.  Everything we do and believe in is based on our presuppositional faith.  How we interpret the world around us and even our interactions with other people ultimately rest upon our foundational beliefs in God or man.  Man’s knowledge and interpretation of everything is constantly changing, which means that it can never be truly trusted since it is destined to change again.  However, the Word of God is unchanging and the only source of absolute truth.  So who do you want to base your foundations upon?

4.     Tony says:

November 16, 2010 at 7:54 am

“I often wonder if God has a sense of humor because so often when evolutionary astronomers discover something new, it goes against their models and they end up having to revise their theories of how the solar systems, galaxies and the universe formed.”

I think you’re missing the point of Science. Science is a process of discovery. It is a method of learning new things, driven by a sense of curiosity, and the humility to understand that when new information comes to light, often you have to rethink your beliefs.

Religion is a method of ignoring new information in favor of defending existing beliefs.

I often wonder how Fundamentalists can believe in a God who doesn’t encourage a sense of wonder and discovery, but would rather people ignorantly hold to ancient misconceptions about the universe in which we live.

MY RESPONSE:  Your lack of understanding Scripture is obvious.  The Dominion Mandate given to Adam in the Garden of Eden directs us to study the world around us.  He was instructing Adam to learn new things to broaden his understanding of the world that God had created. 

Learning new things does not require one to constantly reformulate their foundational belief system.  Rather, we are to use our foundational belief system to best interpret the new information we learn.  No where in the Bible does God instruct us to ignore new information or not to have a sense of wonder and discovery.  Nor does He say that He wants His people to remain ignorant.  What He does tell us is:

Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us so to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

Proverbs 1:1-5 – “The Parables of Solomon the son of David king of Israel, to know wisdom, and instruction, to understand the words of knowledge, to receive instruction to do wisely, by justice and judgment and equity, to give unto the simple sharpness of wit, and to the child knowledge and discretion.  And wise man shall hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels,”

Proverbs 3:13-15 – “Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.  For the merchandise thereof is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof is better than gold.   It is more precious than pearls: and all things that thou canst desire, are not to be compared unto her.”

Proverbs 4:5 – “Get wisdom: get understanding: forget not,”

I suggest the next time you try to put words in God’s mouth that you check first to see if they are His words or the words of men.  Your comment reminds me of Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

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  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

Tony, your idea of “Religion” is historically ignorant. Some of the most astute scientists of time were “Religious,” and even others wrote more on the Bible than they did Science, yet today are known for their Scientific know-how.

In Atheism, you cannot justifiably do Science. What justification do you have for believing a physical world exists beyond your mind? What justification do you have for assuming a priori that it is rational, orderly, and knowable? What justification do you have for believing your sensory experience and memory are generally reliable, and communicate to you consistent truths about reality? What justification do you have for assuming the existence of immaterial, immutable, and universally applicable laws of logic that assist in the study of all space and time?

Atheism has no answer on these topics, at least no answer that doesn’t shoot itself in the foot. It is an epistemologically crippled system that is arbitrary at best, and yet inherently irrational at its basis.

That is why Christianity must necessarily be true in order for man to know anything at all, and Atheism is thus necessarily false.

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  • Robert Saunders says:

November 16, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Sampson’s post is arrant nonsense. Let us deal with his claims individually:
> In Atheism, you cannot justifiably do Science.
Science is simply organized observation. It requires nothing more in justification than the ability to use one’s senses — assisted, to be sure, by instrumentation.

> What justification do you have for believing your sensory experience and memory are generally reliable, and communicate to you consistent truths about reality?
The fact that such observations can be made by anyone, and give repeatable results.

> What justification do you have for assuming the existence of immaterial, immutable, and universally applicable laws of logic that assist in the study of all space and time?
The fact that it gives correct answers. No experiment was ever done to show that a critical mass of U-235 would explode, but a billion dollars (in 1940′s money!) was spent on the expectation that it would. And, as Hiroshima’s populace found out in 1945, it did. (The New Mexico test of 1945 was of a plutonium bomb of the sort that destroyed Nagasaki.)

> That is why Christianity must necessarily be true in order for man to know anything at all…

Actually, it is easy to prove that Christianity can provide no knowledge of anything. One can show that the information content of any theory derives exclusively from its refutability. Since no theory of god is refutable, no such theory can convey any information whatever.

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  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm

“Sampson’s post is arrant nonsense.” 

Thank you for sharing your opinion. The weight of this conviction will manifest itself in the quality of your responses. Let’s look at them.

“Science is simply organized observation. It requires nothing more in justification than the ability to use one’s senses — assisted, to be sure, by instrumentation.” 

Well, you completely avoided my comments on this issue. You’re assuming that nature first exists, is observable, orderly, rational and intelligible by man’s autonomous faculties. You assume this a priori with no justification. Further, you assume the future will be like the past, again with no justification other than to beg the question and state “It’s been that way in the past,” which draws reliance upon your memory (another assumed-reliable avenue of knowledge).

“The fact that such observations can be made by anyone, and give repeatable results.”

Why justification do you have for believing there are others to make the same observations? If you think they exist because you see them, you’re begging the question of how you know your sensory input is reliable, and the external world actually exists. You’ve still not addressed this.

To suggest the results are “repeatable,” you’re calling on your memory to be reliable about the information it contains and conveys to you, yet this is one of your burdens to justify. Why is your memory reliable? To say it’s been reliable in the past is begging the question. What epistemological foundation do you have for justifying these assumptions?

“Since no theory of god is refutable, no such theory can convey any information whatever.”

Actually, every theory of any God other than that of the Bible is refutable on grounds of internal inconsistency and irrationality. You, on the other hand, have no basis from which you can refute anything, especially since any claim to knowledge is arbitrary at best in your worldview until you provide a sure foundation from which you can accurately gain reliable input about Creation. Christianity has this though the God of the Bible, but Atheism is embarrassingly lacking on epistemological grounds.

“Let us deal with his claims individually”

You didn’t do this. In fact, you glossed right over some of the claims (never mind the fact that you didn’t even answer the ones you did mention.).

  • What justification do you have for believing a physical world exists beyond your mind?
  • What justification do you have for assuming a priori that it is rational, orderly, and knowable?

So, Mr. Saunders, please feel free to try this again. Avoid begging the question this time.

Jonathan

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  • Tony says:

November 17, 2010 at 6:26 am

Jonathan you’ve made a lot of very big assumptions, and combined them with some pseudo-intellectual non-sequiturs.

I am not an atheist. My problem is not with religious beliefs, it is with Fundamentalism.

Now, whether the the way we perceive the true nature of reality through our senses is an illusion or not is quire irrelevant. So too is the religious beliefs of early (and current scientists). What is at issue here is the literal interpretation of a book of fairy stories.

Seriously, how can you possibly believe that the story of Noah’s Ark is any more than a fable with a message?

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  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 17, 2010 at 8:55 am

Tony, you began your comment telling me it’s irrelevant whether or not we actually perceive reality, and then you turn around and call Noah’s deluge a “fable”. This seems to suggest me that you don’t think the deluge record matches what you perceive in reality – yet you told me perceptions are irrelevant right now.

With no epistemological basis from which you can justify the assumption of intelligible reality, any story about reality is equally valid to you. So on what basis do you call the Noachian flood “fable” and evolution “science” if perception is irrelevant?

Jonathan

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  • Tony says:

November 18, 2010 at 4:35 am

Jonathan,

I didn’t say perception is irrelevant, I said the argument about perception is irrelevant. I believe the argument is irrelevant because if sensory perception is an illusion, then it is an illusion for you as well as for me. If your argument is that the conclusions of science are invalid because we can’t be certain that our senses are real, then the same must go for the conclusions you draw from reading the Bible. The Bible is perceived through your senses. How do you know that the words you are reading are the real words of a real God? By your own argument, you cannot, because you cannot rely on your senses.

I have found in the past that the old “Reality is illusion” argument is used by people who are trying to shut down a discussion because they are scared that the other side of the argument might contain some elements of truth. It’s a ploy used mostly (in my experience) by intellectual try-hards, art-school wanna-be’s, and Fundamentalists scared to admit their narrow interpretation of the world around us might be flawed.

So for the sake of argument, can we assume that life is real, and that the environmental information we perceive in our brains via our sense is also real, but that our ability to process and accurately interpret that information is flawed? Or are you going to stick with the “We are all figments of our own imaginations” argument?

Now, to answer your second question, the basis of my doubt about the literal interpretation of the Flood Fable is this: Kangaroos. When I was about 9 years old, I wondered how Noah managed to get the kangaroos from Australia and put them on his Ark, and how they got back home again. And while I must admit I haven’t spent a lot of energy seeking an answer to this, I am yet to come across any sort of reasonable explanation. Perhaps you can help? Did Noah walk to Australia and herd the Kangaroos back across Asia? Or did God put a breeding pair of strays in the Middle East to make Noah’s task simpler?

Tony

P.S. have you ever tried to herd Kangaroos? It’s very difficult.

  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

I believe the argument is irrelevant because if sensory perception is an illusion, then it is an illusion for you as well as for me.

Now you’re assuming consistent experience across all people. Unjustifiably so as well.

The Bible is perceived through your senses. How do you know that the words you are reading are the real words of a real God? By your own argument, you cannot, because you cannot rely on your senses.

Tu Quoque is the fallacy you’re committing here. Rather than address the question, you’re falling back on the assumption that I’m just as guilty as you – which is demonstrably false. The Christian worldview has an avenue of knowledge through the God of the Bible. Atheism has no avenue, but merely leads inevitably to crippling agnosticism. Try to answer the questions and you’ll see this to be the case.

So for the sake of argument, can we assume that life is real…

Why on Earth would you assume that? What justification do you have for assuming this?

Or are you going to stick with the “We are all figments of our own imaginations” argument?

I didn’t affirm that position. I’m asking you what justification you have for believing there exists a physical world behind your mind and that it is knowable over against somebody else who believes there is no physical world beyond the mind, or somebody who believes there is but that it is not knowable. Can you set your assumption apart from theres, or is the basis of your epistemology nothing more than an arbitrary decision to follow one of the many lines of thinking without any legitimate justification for doing so?

For your convenience, I’ll repost the questions:

In Atheism, you cannot justifiably do Science. What justification do you have for believing a physical world exists beyond your mind? What justification do you have for assuming a priori that it is rational, orderly, and knowable? What justification do you have for believing your sensory experience and memory are generally reliable, and communicate to you consistent truths about reality? What justification do you have for assuming the existence of immaterial, immutable, and universally applicable laws of logic that assist in the study of all space and time?

  • Tony says:

November 18, 2010 at 11:04 am

The Kangaroos Jonathan? What about the Kangaroos?

I’ll answer your question when you answer mine.

  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 18, 2010 at 11:28 am

Your objection isn’t on factual grounds, which is why I won’t pretend that it is. Demonstrate the legitimacy of discussing facts and data within your worldview (by answering the question I’ve asked you multiple times now) and then we can discuss facts.

To speak of Kangaroos, you are assuming the existence of a physical world beyond your mind. To speak of Kangaroos you are speaking of an intelligible world. To speak of kangaroos you are speaking of the general reliability of your sensory input and memory to communicate truths of reality. To speak of Kangaroos and topology, you are speaking of immaterial and immutable laws of logic that transcend space and time.

I am not going to just assume that Atheism has the capacity to provide the preconditions of intelligibility since it is my thesis that you don’t. You must first demonstrate how your worldview can even probe the topic of Kangaroos through assuming the aforementioned axioms. To put it simply, before I’ll discuss kangaroos with you, you must first show me that Atheism can justifiably know of Kangaroos.

  • Tony says:

November 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I told you earlier Jonathan that I am not an atheist. And yes I do assume that there is a world beyond my mind, and I’ve explained why I believe that debate is just your childish way of avoiding the real topic at hand: the stupidity of the fundamentalist worldview.

Kangaroos are real. I’ve seen them. I’ve touched them. I’ve tasted them (they’re very tasty). I’ve smelled them (they stink). They live naturally in Australia and no where else in the world.

If the Biblical story of the Flood is true, how did they get on the Ark, and how did they get back to Australia after the waters receded?

Don’t avoid the question with your quasi-philosophical dribblings. Front up and provide an answer.

  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 18, 2010 at 12:24 pm

And yes I do assume that there is a world beyond my mind…

Why do you assume that? What makes your assumption that the world is real any less arbitrary than the assumption the world is an illusion?

Kangaroos are real.

Begging the question. You’re assuming that which you are supposing to be demonstrating.

I’ve seen them. I’ve touched them. I’ve tasted them (they’re very tasty). I’ve smelled them (they stink). They live naturally in Australia and no where else in the world.

Again, I understand what you assume to be the case, but that isn’t what I’m asking. How do you know you’ve seen them? How do you know that what you saw wasn’t an illusion? Or, how do you know that your memory of having seen them is even reliable. Take a moment away from just assuming your non-Biblical presuppositions and actually try to answer these questions.

Don’t be afraid to critically examine your own worldview. Honestly try to answer these questions without begging the question:

What justification do you have for believing a physical world exists beyond your mind? What justification do you have for assuming a priori that it is rational, orderly, and knowable? What justification do you have for believing your sensory experience and memory are generally reliable, and communicate to you consistent truths about reality? What justification do you have for assuming the existence of immaterial, immutable, and universally applicable laws of logic that assist in the study of all space and time?

  • Tony says:

November 18, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Jonathan, if nothing exists beyond my mind, then this entire discussion is pointless, because it means that you do not exist.

Do you exist Jonathan?

If you don’t exist, please tell me and I’ll go spend the rest of my illusional life doing something else.

If you do exist, then please explain how you can go on believing a set of stories that cannot explain something as simple as “how did Kangaroos get to Australia”.

Can you answer that question Jonathan?

  • Jonathan Sampson says:

November 19, 2010 at 12:43 am

Jonathan, if nothing exists beyond my mind, then this entire discussion is pointless…

Exactly. So tell me what justification you have for assuming my existence. Perhaps you’ll argue that we’ve been conversing back and forth for a while now, but that assumes the reliability of your memory and sensory experience (a burden you have yet to escape), and the existence of a physical world beyond your mind that I exist in, in addition to a nature of this world that is rational, orderly, and knowable.

So tell me what justification you have for assuming this conversation is taking place, and that I exist.

Can you answer that question Jonathan?

Yes, I can. In fact, I discussed it last evening with a fellow Christian. I’ll be happy to discuss it with you as well if you can demonstrate how your worldview provides the preconditions of intelligibility. Again, your objection to Christianity isn’t one rooted in facts. I won’t pretend that it is.

5.     Kim Wade says:

November 16, 2010 at 2:02 pm

The key here is the phrase, “Life as we know it…” What sustains US as a life-form in this part of the universe…may not be what OTHER life-forms needed to have started or to keep on propagating. It says in Micah 5:2,”His comings and goings out of the House of Bread have been through the ages. And in Luke, I think it is, it says He took on “our flesh” to know and feel our infirmities. Wherever death and seperation exist…there He went taking on whatever kind of “flesh” that was so afflicted. What stories we’ll share in the first ten thousand years,,,bright shining as the sun,,,and only just begun to sing His praise…of the Saviour who saved…us all…no matter our outward design. He sees the inner man a la’ King David.

MY RESPONSE:  As for the possibility of other life forms elsewhere in the universe, I would direct you to Gary Bates’ article – Did God create life on other planets? and his excellent book – Alien Intrusion UFOs and the Evolution Connection (which happens to be on sale at the moment.)

6.     Les says:

November 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm

Tony stated, “I often wonder how Fundamentalists can believe in a God who doesn’t encourage a sense of wonder and discovery, but would rather people ignorantly hold to ancient misconceptions about the universe in which we live.”

Isn’t it a bit odd(?) that our planet is the only known to have life and just so happens to be in the perfect place to observe the universe? How about the many Christian scientists throughout the ages who contributed greatly to our understanding of life on earth and the laws of the universe.

Nowhere in the Scriptures does God discourage studying the universe. He created it to be experienced, and to a great degree understood.

If evolution, the random, non-intelligent, coming forth of the universe, were true, why would anyone think there would be any consistency by which scientific study could be had?

Evolutionists want a random, non-intelligent beginning which brings forth a consistent, orderly process. This is ridiculous! Order does not come out of chaos!

If evolution was true, we would be horrified if it ever started up again. It’s great to talk about evolution in the past, but how would we deal with a random, non-intelligent process that invaded our lives? Suppose our food supply began to evolve in such a way as to be a hindrance to our ability to gain nourishment? What if the scientific principles we rely on simply evolved and no longer were compatible with life? Since evolution could not have a plan (that takes intelligence) there would be no reason to believe that things would evolve in such a way as to maintain the order on which we are dependent.

It is only through God, an intelligent being, that we have a well defined and organized universe which can be studied and relied upon to provide for our common good.

MY RESPONSE: I am pleased that you understand just how wrong Tony was about God’s directives for us to study and learn about the world around us.

I also like your understanding of the inconsistency of the belief in evolution.  Order does not come from disorder.  The concept of random chance creating the orderly universe and life defies all rules of logic.  I pray you are following my series on the Simple Cell as it clearly demonstrates the very high degree of complexity and order in the so-called simple cell.  There is absolutely no way that all of this complexity could have just POOF appeared one day in mythological ooze.  And if you can’t get the first cell to have formed this way, the rest of biological evolution collapses and we should not be here discussing it. 

To repeat the words of Martin Luther, “But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are.”

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