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.

Why is Creation complaining?

This post was originally published on November 24, 2009 – the 150th anniversary of Origin of the Species. Wrestling with origins is likely something people will do until the return of Jesus, however the discussion over historical Adam seems to have created more interest in this topic so thought I would repost.

Darwin’s Origin of Species was published 150 years ago today sparking debate over the origins of man. So I thought it fitting to post some thoughts on origins today. Darwin himself seems to have struggled with the First Cause

But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.

Life and Letters Vol. 1 (page 306-307)

He goes on to say in later reflections…

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason, and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist. This conclusion was strong in my mind about the time, as far as I can remember, when I wrote the ‘Origin of Species;’ and it is since that time that it has very gradually, with many fluctuations, become weaker. But then arises the doubt, can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animals, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?
I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems. The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.

Life and Letters Vol. 1 (page 312-313)

One of my favorite theology blogs has recently [it was recent in 2009] analyzed the various views one might have relating to creation and evolution. [but their is this recent post on that topic] has As I reflect on these options as well as what Darwin has written I turn to Romans 8 and have to wonder what creation is groaning about if chance and natural selection are the basis of our origins.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:19-25 ESV)

For if God did use evolution (macro/common descent) and natural selection to create man then what was creation subjected to and when?

It would seem that subjection to bondage and corruption would require a state of creation that existed prior to its being subjected. And that state must be something different than what exists today. But in theistic evolutionary views the earth is required to be essentially the same for the 4.5 billion years (give or take) of its existence because the “7 days” of creation in Genesis 1 are where the work of natural selection processes were at work culminating in the evolution of man.

But if that is the case then what freedom and state is creation aspiring too? What does that look like? And what affect does this have on our own hope in the future since our hope and that of creation seem to be intertwined with restoration at Jesus return?

Science Roundup: Dawkins, Doubt, and Probability

Several interesting articles were published over the last few days that deal with science and origins. Since exploring that topic, based on the release of Enns new book, was a popular series here I thought I would share these.

On February 23rd 2012 Professor Richard Dawkins debated the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams on the ‘nature of human beings and the question of their ultimate origin’. The moderator was Sir Anthony Kenny.

The debate is available on You Tube, though I have not watched it as of yet.

The report from the Guardian was that the bout did not live up to the hype.

In normal boxing matches, the duty of the referee is to keep the fighters from gouging and biting; but when you get a theologian and a scientist in the ring together, the referee’s job is get them to try to hit each other and not flail at the air. …

With such a formidable referee there was some chance that the contestants might land some blows on each other, and the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford was packed for this intellectual bloodsport. They would be disappointed, despite all Kenny’s best efforts.

Dawkins explained his view:

The laws of physics have conspired to make the collisions of atoms produce plants, kangaroos, insects, and us.

yet also admitted in the same debate:

the world’s “most famous atheist” now says he is not 100 percent sure that God doesn’t exist — but just barely.  … the evolutionary biologist swiftly added that he was “6.9 out of seven” certain of his long-standing atheist beliefs.

xkcd: The Difference

Dawkins comments came out around the same time as the NYT book review on Lawrence Krauss’ new book – “A Universe From Nothing”, which claims the opposite:

Scientists may be at least theoretically able to trace every last galaxy back to a bump in the Big Bang, to complete the entire quantum roll call of particles and forces. But the question of why there was a Big Bang or any quantum particles at all was presumed to lie safely out of scientific bounds, in the realms of philosophy or religion.

Now even that assumption is no longer safe … science can explain how something — namely our star-spangled cosmos — could be born from, if not nothing, something very close to it.

According to Krauss that something isn’t God but “randomness”.

Maybe in the true eternal multiverse there are truly no laws …

Maybe indeed randomness is all there is …

Maybe. But that does not sound certain to me, and something close to nothing is still not nothing.

Lastly, the neutrino that broke the light speed barrier and therefore the theory of special relativity may have been the result of a faulty conductor according to Guardian.

So it looks like neutrinos respect the speed limit after all. At least, the OPERA experimentalists announced a couple of days ago that they have found one problem (with a connector in their experiment) which could have led to a faulty timing measurement. When they run again with this fixed, they may well get a result compatible with the speed of light.

Something Discover pointed out right away:

So don’t let your imagination run away with this just yet. This result will, in my opinion, probably turn out to be incorrect for some reasons dealing with measurement. Faster than light travel is still a dream, even though I wouldn’t say it’s impossible… just very, very, very, very unlikely.

Here the author raises the issue regarding the possibility of particles that are faster than light, reminding us that, however unlikely, even the theory of special relativity’s claim, that the maximum speed achievable is the speed of light, is not  “certain”.  The Guardian does offer an interesting question? Should the results about the neutrino have been published and would we be questioning the results as much if it did not contradict a widely held theory.

Experimentalists get ignored if they are right, and hugely cited if they are wrong.

Theorists get ignored if they are wrong, but a Nobel Prize if they are right.

When the “most famous atheist” is willing to admit that science cannot disprove the existence of God, even if he thinks it is highly, highly improbable and scientists may have observed particles that are traveling faster than light it reminds us that the scientific conclusions on origins and cosmology,which are based on inductive reasoning of current observations and experiments can not be “proven” with error-free certitude. They can only be considered in degrees of probability. Something to keep in mind when wrestling with the claims of both science and theological interpretations.