Philosophy’s Revenge on Science (Humor)

Our church has a Senior Seminar that we do each year. The goal is to prepare graduating high school seniors for the next phase in life and to grapple with living out their faith in a complex world. I am teaching the section on philosophy and logic.

Ted Talk: Stephen HawkingIt is always fun to come up with examples that can illustrate various forms of a logical argument. I call this one Philosophy’s Revenge. Continue reading

Who wrote the Gospel of Mark (Part V)

Modified from original published on January 22, 2010

I do from time to time read some of what Bart Ehrman writes as I enjoy studying early church history. His latest book “Jesus Interrupted” is on the list. I have not read this entire book but have read some of it in the book store and online.

In chapter 4, Dr. Ehrman claims that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses because the disciples of Jesus could not read or write.

From the Gospels we learn that the disciples of Jesus, like him, were lower-class peasants from rural Galilee. … We have some information about what it meant to be a lower-class peasant in rural areas of Palestine in the first century. One thing it meant is that you were almost certainly illiterate. Jesus himself was highly exceptional, in that he could evidently read (Luke 4:16-20), but there is nothing to indicate that he could write. In antiquity these were two separate skills, and many people who could read were unable to write.
Continue reading

Reason Rally or Atheist Assembly?

Today on the National Mall in Washington DC, people will gather together at an event called the Reason Rally. What is the purpose of the gathering? According to the web site it is a “coming out of the closet” for secularists. Here is how the Washington Post is describing it:

Reason Rally will show that all the cool people are atheists now and that the days of consent by silence are over. It’s an appeal to millions of hidden atheists to come out of their closets and join the fun.

One of the speakers, is Richard Dawkins, who poses the question who is against reason?

How have we come to the point where reason needs a rally to defend it? To base your life on reason means to base it on evidence and logic. Evidence is the only way we know to discover what’s true about the real world. Logic is how we deduce the consequences that follow from evidence. Who could be against either?

Sadly, Dawkins concludes that anyone who is not a secularist is against reason, logic, and evidence. He lauds science and reason comparing the building of planes, rockets, Mars rovers, the ability to cure diseases,  and the fact that the Earth spins to other things “we know”. Things like the age of the universe, the age of the earth, and the fact that we all evolved from other species.

This is not something new, Dawkins is known for this famous (or is it infamous) quote:

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

He, by his own count says 4x in the article that the “Reason Rally is not for you” if you have not outgrown the supernatural.

Tom Gilson over at Thinking Christian wrote the following:

The new atheists–participants in the contemporary anti-religion movement led by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, among others–are working overtime to tell the world that reason favors atheism, and atheism alone.

In this article and in this blog entry, he demonstrates where Dawkins fails to apply the reason he is rallying for.

Unfortunately, the notion that anyone who is religious must be against reason is ridiculous. Questioning the conclusions of science in areas like evolution is not rejecting reason or hiding from evidence. It is however recognizing that some things are probable and can’t be known with absolute certainty.

One of my favorite bloggers and theologians, C. Michael Patton has written on the idea of our need for certainty in a provocative entry “Why I am not completely sure Christianity is true”:

We don’t want probability! People can poke holes in that. We want absolute certainty. We want to be indubitable!” Indubitability ultimately equates to infallible knowledge—knowledge that can’t be wrong.

The science of aerodynamics can be proven with absolute certainty. I happen to live near an airport and see the evidence flying overhead every day. As we look overhead at these engineering marvels it is easy to think that science can prove anything in a similar manner. If scientists can build that plane then they can prove things like evolution too. However, this is committing the fallacy of faulty generalization.

  • Science has proven flight is possible by building a plane.
  • Science proposes that all living things evolved.
  • Therefore all living things have evolved because science proves things.

Enns and other theologians have assumed this as a starting point as they grapple with the impacts to theology. But that depends on what we mean by “know” and “prove”. In evaluating Enns claims, I have written about the difference between science that deals with the present, like putting rockets on the moon, and science that deals with the past and events that are a singularity, like the beginning of the universe.

We must all wrestle with the evidences we have available to answer these types of questions regarding what it is true. That even includes our own belief in God as Creator and in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Belief or faith by definition requires trusting something that can’t be proven certain, but does not mean that we are forced to take a “blind leap” that throws reason to the wind.

Christianity is a rational faith based on the historic reality of God interacting with His creation by sending His Son into the world to conquer death and save sinners during the first century. Can we know this with absolute certainty? No.  But having examined the evidence I have come to the logical conclusion that it is probable that Christianity is true.

And, if the Reason Rally is a coming out party for atheists to assert how cool they are then,Dawkins is right it is not for me. But then this event is not really a rally for reason, it is just an assembly of atheists.