Sunday, April 16, 2006

Evidence for Easter

Millions of Christians celebrate Easter every year, a day commemorating an event that distinguishes Christianity’s founder from all other religious leaders—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not about colored eggs or cute bunnies. It’s about one who claims authority over all creation as the living Lord. Is there good reason to believe this?

In a pluralistic culture, diverse religious ideas are often viewed as merely products of subjective faith. A religion is “true” if it “works,” if it gives a sense of meaning to life and a connection to a community of faith. Matters of objective fact are dismissed in order to avoid controversy and strife. However, Easter makes no sense apart from the reality of a historical event. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14).

In a free society every religion is allowed to make its case publicly without fear of censure. All have the constitutional right to practice any religion or none. But this does not answer the question of what faith—if any—one ought to embrace. Easter offers an answer based on the compelling evidence that the story of Jesus coming to earth to redeem his people from their failures is vindicated by his space-time resurrection from the dead.

No blind leap of faith is required to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is more than a nice religious idea. The Gospel accounts that attest to the resurrection were written by people in a position to hunt down and check out the facts. They were either disciples of Jesus (Matthew and John) or individuals who carefully interviewed those closest to the event they described (Mark and Luke). These accounts were written shortly after the events they narrate; there was insufficient time for such mythological additions as a resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing sometime in the 50s, spoke of Christ publicly appearing to many people, many of whom were still living at the time he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Had there been no resurrection, this kind of statement would have been suicidal, since hostile witness could have refuted Paul’s claim. We have no record of a refutation.

Moreover, all the New Testament books have been accurately preserved over time. Scholars have access to thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts from which to translate our modern versions of these books.

The earliest record of the Christian movement (the Book of Acts) reports that the church proclaimed a resurrected Christ as the source of its courage and drive. The first Christians weathered intense persecution for their resurrection-faith; yet they persevered—some even unto death. Had the notion of the resurrection been fabricated, it would have unraveled under the relentless social and political pressures it faced. As former Nixon aide Charles Colson has pointed out in his book Loving God, he and the other White House conspirators could not pull off the Watergate cover-up, despite their unmatched political clout. When the crunch came, the truth was quickly flushed out. The early Christians had no such power to obfuscate or intimidate; but they never recanted. Their resolve is best explained by their knowledge of the resurrection.

Those hostile to these determined followers of Jesus could have easily refuted the nascent movement by simply exhuming the dead body of Jesus and displaying it as the decisive evidence against any claim to his resurrection. Both the religious and the political authorities of the day had reasons to resent these Christians and to stop their evangelism. But there is no evidence that anything of the kind occurred. The tomb was empty.

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is entirely different from the fascination many people have in supposedly supernatural events (of "The X Files" variety) that have no logical support. When Christians observe Easter they stand on the solid ground of history, looking upward with rational hope for a better life in the world to come.

21 comments:

Fletcher said...

AMEN!

Our faith in the resurrection is grounded in history, and is certainly much more verifiable than much of ancient history that is accepted as truth with a mere fraction of the evidence that we have for the physical resurrection of Christ in space/time.

We live our lives in celebration of the hope that we have in the risen Christ, who physically proved to us that we can in fact cross over from death to life.

I copied this post into a pro-Darwinism blog (I did not take credit for authorship, I wouldn't dare) - I'm sure it will cause a stir and bring about some grumpiness, which is a good thing.

John Stockwell said...

I find it interesting that Mr. Fletcher decided that a "pro-Darwinism blog" (he doesn't say which one) would be an appropriate place to post religious apologetic material.

Discussions of evolutionary biology are concerned with scientifiic issues. The standards of scientific knowlege are different from those of religion, grounded purely in physical evidence. Science and religion are not about
the same topic.

Now, a really challenging assignment for the wouldbe religious apologists is this: Instead of
attempting to ridicule or otherwise pooh-pooh mainstream science (or to invent unscientific alternatives such as ID creationism), how about totally embracing the results of the modern mainstream scientific community, exactly as scientists do, and use that as the basis of your apologetic.

(Hint. Scientists are neither fools, liars, nor are we generally on an anti-religious campaign.)

juliagwin said...

There appear to be several naturalists, evolutionists, atheists and / or agnostics who regularly blog here. Why? Is this an appropriate place to do so?

For the record, I like that you do so, even if I disagree with many of your arguments.

Why wouldn't Fletcher's choice of blogging a different opinion on a naturalist blog be "appropriate?"

Fletcher said...

John,

You cannot deny the fact that many who have vastly different worldviews are interested in discussing these differences. This is exactly why you seem to enjoy coming to Doug's blog to have discussions.

I find the same true in the evolution blogs or discussion boards. It has never been the case that I present arguments for theism and get no response.

So why do I do it? Because I like to provoke discussion! Simple as that. I find critique of worldviews stimulating, and it is my opinion that all people should be intellectually accountable for their worldviews. I work in a company full of scientists, and many of them are good friends of mine, who know I am a Christian, and we are capable of having polite, rational discussions about our views.

Are you saying that there exists not one scientist that is a "fool" or a "liar", and that Christians are? I may be reading something into that comment that you did not intend.

I find that the naturalist/materialist worldview does in fact require a significant amount of faith to adhere to, more faith than I personally am capable of realistically harboring.

juliagwin said...

Fletcher said, " I work in a company full of scientists, and many of them are good friends of mine, who know I am a Christian, and we are capable of having polite, rational discussions about our views."

Should we assume that "scientist" and "Christian" are incompatible? Does this not make John Stockwell's point? I do not concede that point, for it assumes that truth exists somehow in some spheres where it is lesser or lacking in others.

It is no accident that many of our greatest scientists were also men whose lives were governed by their Christian faith.

John Stockwell said...

My point is *not* that "scientist" and "Christian" are incompatible. Far from it!

My point is that many Christians erroneously believe that this is the case. Apparently, Mr. Fletcher would agree with this. There are a million blogs out there in cyberspace, yet, the first place that he decides to distribute Dr. G's aplogetic is what he refers to as a "pro-Darwinism" blog. Why not a New Age blog, or a pagan blog, or some such?

Certainly, there is a class of apologetic, which I would call the "sermon from science" that has mutated, grown scales and horns, and has tried to become "science from sermons". One form of this particular beast is so-called "scientific creationism". Another sleek and polished form is the modern "ID creationist" movement.

Another tactic is to try to make the claim of "scripture as history". It neither possible to prove or disprove the historicity of many of the events in scripture. To be sure, there are placenames, and the like, that have been verified by independent archaeological sources.

But, as with, say, novels by Herman Wouk, any good historical novel must have accurate background material to be convincing to the reader. There is nothing in Scripture that will make the supernatural parts believable to the nonbeliever. So, it is not the case that "faith is grounded in history". It is the other way around,
"a particular historical account is grounded in faith". History from sermons is as objectionable as science from sermons.

Finally, I would ask are apologetics merely "different opinions" as Julie says, or attempts to "stimulate discussion" as Mr. Fletcher says? I think not.

Fletcher said...

No, no, no... I have been misunderstood. What I should have said was "I work in a company full of scientists who hold to a scientistic worldview".

I believe that science and Christianity are freinds, not enemies.

Fletcher said...

Apologetics is the attempt to defend ones' views rationally, logically, reasonable, and so on. There are apologists for nearly all views.

John, when I said "rooted in history", what I meant was, if you hold Christianity to the same standards as historians hold other ancient historical accounts to, you'll find that it comes out shining.

There are many arguments in favor of the gospel message being true in history, in space and time, in reality.

There are 1) hostile witnesses that confirm what the scriptures tell us (the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for example), 2) numerous extrabiblical accounts to biblical activities, people, places, etc., 3) the martyrdom of early Christians including the disciples, 4) the empty tomb, 5) the way the gospels were written (women as the first witnesses, subtle differences in the accounts, accounts of the behaviors of Jesus and the disciples that are sometimes embarrassing - not the ideas recorded in mythology or fabrications, etc.)

... the list goes on ....

It would require significant faith to sincerely study the historicity of the New Testament and walk away denying its historicity.

So if Jesus was divine, and was in fact resurrected... then we can start considering ideas like Intelligent Design because the door to the reality of supernaturalism has been opened, has it not.

With the ID movement, opponents say that it cannot be science because it is not testable. OK fine. So why not teach it in public schools under the headers of philosophy or cosmology? Teach it in a way where the arguments for and against are presented, and let the students study it and ponder it on their own.

ID is of particular interest when it comes to origins, because Darwinism cannot account for origins. For the Darwinist, the highly complex substrate material necessary to form these supposed "self replicating molecules" (pure conjecture by the way) was "just there".... either that, or the answer to origins is simply "I don't know".

ID takes a look at origins and we ask ourselves "what is the best possible explanation for the current state of affairs?" The ID proponents answer is, the universe gives us strong indications that it was designed by a Designer.

John Stockwell said...

to Mr Fletcher:

I have no doubt that you are a person of faith. A person of faith has no need to justify or defend his or her faith. I would suggest that apologetics are really intended as a form of salesmanship.

I don't really believe that most people of faith want to play hardball with the fundamental ideas that they believe in.

In the Abrahamic religions, in particular, there is a tradition of scriptural inerrancy. So, the New Testament is assumed _a priori_ to be in some sense perfect and unerring, from the getgo.

So, if that is the case, then anything that may appear to be strange or contradictory must appear so as a result of a faulty interpretation, and not an actuality. Given that mindset, the only thing that a person of faith can come up with is a list of agreements or a list of positives.

It is certainly easy be skeptical of the historicity of the supernatural parts of any account, if you are not already inclined to believe in such things.

As to your comments regarding evolution. Please remember that evolution is the origin of species, not the origin of life. The problem of the origin of life is often referred to as "abiogenesis".

It is not at all necessary to the validity of evolution theory for there to be an understanding of the origin of life. Indeed, these are very different problems. Of course, the rational point of departure is to look at the chemistry of organisms, and the non-organic chemistry thought to be available the time when life is believed to have originated, and look for chemical processes that will bridge the gap. The problem has barely been studied.

As to the claims of ID, basically there is nothing there. What is this ID "research" supposed to be? There are grandiose claims made regarding the ability to perform calculations that will result in the discrimination of "designed" versus "natural", but the calculations are never done. There are grandiose claims regarding contributions to information theory made by ID proponents, yet these results never appear.

Where are the scientific papers, the experiments, the obervations, in short, where is the *science* of ID? It is nowhere to be seen. What we see coming out of the Discovery Institute really are polemics against mainstream science, and do not constitute scientific work.
In short, ID is a con. It is a sham masquerading as science.

Tim said...

John,

You write:

*****
Another tactic is to try to make the claim of "scripture as history". It neither possible to prove or disprove the historicity of many of the events in scripture. To be sure, there are placenames, and the like, that have been verified by independent archaeological sources.
*****

If by "prove" you mean something like "demonstrate as one would a mathematical theorem," then of course not. But this would be to demand from history (or from science, for that matter) the wrong sort of evidence. If by "prove" you mean "render credible by public, objective, neutral evidence, so that an informed and rational person ought to give assent," then sure, one can do that for the central tenets of Christianity by means of a historical defense of the authenticity and credibility of the New Testament documents.

As far as ID (which I notice you persist in calling "ID Creationism," which is a misnomer) is concerned, what's your take on M. Behe and D. Snoke, "Simulating the evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues," Protein Science 13 (2004): 2651-2664?

Do you think Lynch's reply is adequate?

juliagwin said...

John Stockwell says, "A person of faith has no need to justify or defend his or her faith. I would suggest that apologetics are really intended as a form of salesmanship."

No. Scripture mandates that we Christians must be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15). It is NOT salesmanship, but presupposes a yearning or questioning heart. Scripture also mandates that we do not "strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers." (2 Timothy 2:14).

No amount of salesmanship can create in you a living relationship with and understanding of God. God controls these things, and we are privileged sometimes to be used by Him.

In speaking of scriptural inerrancy, Mr. Stockwell says, "So, if that is the case, then anything that may appear to be strange or contradictory must appear so as a result of a faulty interpretation, and not an actuality. Given that mindset, the only thing that a person of faith can come up with is a list of agreements or a list of positives."

This misunderstands the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. I recommend that you conduct your own observation and critically read scripture for yourself. If you want further help, here please let me know and I shall endeavor to make more specific recommendations. I agree with you that many of us known by the name of "Christian" have a shameful witness to our God, but this reflects our own inadequacy. God is not finished, though.

Quoting Mr. Stockwell: "Please remember that evolution is the origin of species, not the origin of life. The problem of the origin of life is often referred to as "abiogenesis".

Evolution cannot run into a little corner and say, "I am only going to explain this little part, and you must validate me on this part alone." Furthermore, even the part with which you are comfortable in your evolutionary theory (origin of species) does not reflect the massive weight of the so-called "fossil record." Despite tenuous claims that transitional forms indeed exist, the fossil record is replete with the sudden appearance of fully-formed vertebrates and shows a decided lack of transitional forms - something which I think even Darwin noted and admitted as a weakness of his theory (hence the ever-more-frantic search for transitional forms and the unscientific clinging to naturalism as a religion requiring *unreasonable* faith). You admit that abiogenesis (spontaneous generation) is a problem. Yes it is - but only for the naturalist. Hebrews 11:3 says "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."

Mr. Stockwell says: "It is not at all necessary to the validity of evolution theory for there to be an understanding of the origin of life. Indeed, these are very different problems. Of course, the rational point of departure is to look at the chemistry of organisms, and the non-organic chemistry thought to be available the time when life is believed to have originated, and look for chemical processes that will bridge the gap. The problem has barely been studied."

But the problem HAS been studied. What about the work of Stanley Miller producing amino acids after sending a spark through methane and other gases? I am sure Stanley Miller's work was aimed to correct the problem you reference above. Abiogenesis (or spontaneous generation) must make sense in order to make the whole evolutionary theory work. For the naturalist, matter must be eternal and must be imbued with attributes like wisdom, power, will and order. We Christians accept these as some of God's communicable attributes which we share, being created in His image.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Where are the scientific papers, the experiments, the obervations, in short, where is the *science* of ID? It is nowhere to be seen."

It is at this point that I believe I may be engaging in useless wranglings with you, but I hope not. Perhaps you do have unanswered questions in your heart and mind which are left unsatisified by the convictions you now embrace. I am no scientist. I am a housewife and mother of 5 young children. I can only share with you that experiments have not convinced me of the truths I hold deeply - but my own observations have confirmed my deeply-held beliefs. Objective observation in pursuit of truth is the soul of science, is it not? When I *observe* the world in all its wonder, order, majesty, balance and beauty, I do not see random chance and mutation. I see design. I can't even think of an experiement to prove it, but I don't need one, for it seems obvious to me. The fossil record seems to support more strongly the creation account than the evolutionary account.

Where are the experiements that prove that all species originated from a common origin? I don't think experiments divide us. I think we divide over what we SEE and then what we BELIEVE about what we see.

Fletcher said...

Julia - What a great post. Very thoughtful! You are the most impressive non-scientist housewife mother of five that I have read. Five? Now THERE is a challenging occupation! I can't imagine.

Tim, good point on "what type of proof". Are we asking for legal proof or scientific proof? Legal proof, as we are examining historical arguments.

Regarding the ressurection and/or the reliablity of the New Testament, we might ask ourselves this: "When presented with all of the arguments and evidence for or against the ressurection, would Jesus be convicted in court for having been supernaturally raised from the dead in space and time"?

John, if Jesus really did live, minister, get cruficied, and then was actually supernaturally raised up after being quite dead for 3 days, this has profound implications for EVERYBODY, regardless of their personal convictions, feelings, or opinions. It's a big deal... think about it!

John Stockwell said...

To Julia and Mr. Fletcher;

First of all, when I use the term "person of faith" I am not referring excusively to Christians. Second, I have no desire to argue against the basic tenets of Christianity or of any other religion.

Most certainly there are people who are knowlegeable in scripture who are, nonetheless, nonbelievers. Of course, you will claim that "they didn't really understand it" or some such. There is always an out.

Furthermore, I think that you both would agree that it is possible that there is such a thing as a "bad apologetic". It is that class of bad apologetic that I point to as "salesmanship".

I argue that one such class of "bad apologetic" is the vast collection of anti-evolution or other forms of anti-science which is preached in the name of religion. Indeed, the pursuit of sloppy scholarship in science is an excellent example of the sort of thing that Dr. G. refers to as "truth decay".

Regarding specific comments.

Julia says:
Evolution cannot run into a little corner and say, "I am only going to explain this little part, and you must validate me on this part alone."

To this, I have to reply: Yes. This is exactly how science operates. Scientific theories are a local patchwork of specialized knowlege. The evolutionary biologist deals only with organisms, both living and extinct. People have been studying biology in a serious scientific way for more than 2 centuries.

On the other hand, abiogenesis research is a branch of chemistry that studies the possible chemical pathways from base chemicals to those that are at the foundation of biology. The problem of abiogenesis is much more difficult than investigations in biology, because the numbers of potential chemical pathways, and the numbers of potential early prebiotic enviroment are vastly greater, and largely therefore unstudied.

The Miller-Urey class of experiment is important because these types experiments show how easy it is to produce orgainic chemicals from inorganics sources, in a host of environments that likely were present at the time of the formation of the earth, but because of the difficulty of the problem of abiogenesis, this class of experiment is not the end of the story, only a crude beginning. (For example, it is known from astronomical observations that a vast array of organic chemicals are produced in enormous quantities in nebulae, nebulae of the same variety that the Sun and Solar system are believed to have originated from.)

The notion of "objective observation" is, indeed, what science is about. This term means the following: we consider our experience to be composed of "objects" (things) which have a collection of specific characteristics that we can measure, or otherwise describe in a fashion that is independently understandable by other scientists.

Indeed, any scientist can tell you of the awe and wonder of the universe (better, because we see more of it). But "awe" and "wonder" are not obserations, but rather are emotional experiences. Look beyond that awe and wonder, and we see regularity, which is what science is about describing.

Part of that regularity is the regularity that we see in biology. Though comparative morphology, and today, through comparative genetics we see the common relatedness of organisms. It is a nested-heiarchical structure that is consistent with common ancestry.

Regarding Julia's claim that there are no transitional fossils, she need only search on "transitional fossil" on Google, and she will find many examples. (Another example of bad apologetics.)

As to the experiments that show us that evolution is what happened, every time a fossil is found, every time a gene is mapped, this is a test (and so far a verification) of the notion of evolution.

Tim said...

John writes:

The Miller-Urey class of experiment is important because these types experiments show how easy it is to produce orgainic chemicals from inorganics sources, in a host of environments that likely were present at the time of the formation of the earth, ...

As I understand it, this claim is now badly out of date since it is considered unlikely by geologists that the early earth had a reducing atmosphere. Perhaps the biologists are more optimistic. As John says, there is always an out.

John Stockwell said...

To Tim:

Indeed, the early earth's atmophere likely was not the same as the Miller-Urey mixture, which is why it is viewed as being less likely that abiogenesis occurred in the open atmosphere.

Even on the earth today, there are reducing environments in the earth's subsurface. Geologic evidence tells us that the earth's atmosphere was virtually oxygen-free prior to 2.5 billion years ago, providing a greater possibility for reducing environments to exist. This may be a moot point, because astronomical observations suggest that there may have been millions of tons of organic chemicals raining down on the early earth.

Of course, this is all an open question, one which may be addressed through further scientific investigation in the fields of chemistry, geology, and astrophysics.

Tim said...

John,

Yes, thermal vents and other non-exposed areas are now the locus of choice for OOL speculations.

Since this is in your area of expertise and it's something I'm curious about, can you point me to a reference or two on the history of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere? As I understand it -- and this isn't my area of expertise, so I may be off base here -- there's something of a tug-of-war: volcanic outgassing and photodissociation of water tend to put oxygen (inter alia) into the atmosphere, but the oxygen also tends to be absorbed geologically (BIFs, red beds). I'd be interested to know what the direct geological evidence is on when this balance shifted critically. You mention 2.5 billion years ago as a cutoff. Can you point me to some literature on this?

John Stockwell said...

Tim wrote:
Yes, thermal vents and other non-exposed areas are now the locus of choice for OOL speculations.

Well, not completely. I only gave you a short answer, because you explicity mentioned geologists. Miller and Urey chose their reducing environment in part because important cellular processes are reducing reactions,
and more importantly because spectroscopic analysis of the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn reveal that these atmospheres are strongly reducing.

The geologists who counter that the earth's early atmosphere was either nonreducing, or oxidizing base their estimates on the gas content from the outgassing of modern volcanics, which are generally not reducing
or are strongly oxidizing.

The real issue is not the outgassing of modern volcanics, but the outgassing from the constituent materials that formed the earth during the accretion phase in the Hadean (the first 700 million years of the Earths history).

This issue has been addressed by recent work by Schaefer and Fegley of Washington University in St. Louis. These results were presented at a recent symposium of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Basically, their modeling suggests that there would be sufficient amonia and methane in the early atmosphere. This important, but also preliminary research.

Another paper using totally different science:

Kasting, J.F., D.H. Eggler, and S.P. Raeburn.
1993 Mantle redox evolution and the Oxidation State of the Archean
atmosphere, J. Geol. 101: 245-257.

also supports the notion of the early atmosphere being strongly reducing. The outgassing of mantle materials has a totally different chemistry than modern crustal materials, but mantle materials are more like the materials of the early earth's crust, before it differentiated into lighter and heavier fractions.

Regarding hydrothermal vents:

Horita, Juske, Michael E. Berndt
1999 Abiogenic Methane Formation and Isotropic Fractionization Under
Hydrothermal Conditions. Science 285 (5430): 1055

Schoonen, Martin A. A., Yong Xu
2001 "Nitrogen Reduction Under Hydrothrmal Vent Conditions:
Implications for the Prebiotic Synthesis of C-H-O-N Compounds"
Astrobiology 1:133-142

both discuss hydrothermal vents as reducing environments. (There are other papers in this direction.)


Regarding the 2.2-1.9 billion year oxygen event, the most modern references are:

Holland, H. D.
1999 "When did the Earth's atmosphere become oxic? A Reply." The
Geochemical
News #100: 20-22.

Holland, H. D.
1994, Early Proterozoic atmospheric change. Pp. 237-244. In: Bengtson, S. (ed.) Early Life on Earth. Columbia University Press, New York.

During this time, the oxygen level rose from about 0.2% to about 3% of the total atmospheric content. (The microorganisms and associated chemistry that are believed to have produced the banded iron formations are restricted to an atmospheric oxygen content of a few percent or less.)

At any rate, there is a lot of science yet to be done. While there is controversy over the composition of the early earth's atmosphere, it also appears that it is unreasonable to believe any of the people who give one-liner "disproofs of abiogenesis" by claiming that the early earth's atmosphere was not reducing.

Tim said...

John,

Thanks -- this is very useful and very interesting. The distinction between current outgassing and early outgassing is very interesting. I'll chase some of those down.

John Stockwell said...

To Tim:

Regarding the Behe and Snoke paper that you refer to, I can only refer you to a blog article by biochemist Ian Musgrave that discusses this paper. I am not a biochemist, so this is not my field. This site is:

http://www.talkreason.org/articles/evo.cfm

which refers to the following paper:

Bridgham JT, Carroll SM, Thornton JW. Evolution of hormone-receptor complexity by molecular exploitation. Science. 2006 Apr 7;312(5770):97-101.

which apparently blow one of Behe's favorite examples out of the water, effectively refuting the claims of the Behe and Snoke paper.

One or, even a few weak papers does not a field of science make. Even traditional young-earth-global-flood creationists have a few papers (Gentry's PO halos, for example.) The Loma-Linda group craftily publishes papers that discuss observations that are spindoctorable to the folks at home as supporting the notion of a worldwide flood, or of a young earth.

Indeed, i believe that it would be a good thing if the Discovery Institute would actually get their people to do publishable science. It would be better than the other publications (propaganda) that they publish.

juliagwin said...

Mr. Stockwell says, "Most certainly there are people who are knowlegeable in scripture who are, nonetheless, nonbelievers. Of course, you will claim that "they didn't really understand it" or some such. There is always an out."

I agree that all attempts to justify an obviously weak or wrong belief are to be condemned as dishonest and wasteful, but you seem committed to the idea that few Christians are willing to play "hard ball." I believe you might be here at this blog because we thinking people of faith arouse your curiousity as something of an anomaly. Perhaps the Hound of Heaven is chasing you down?

Well, there is an "out" but it is not what you might expect. Yes, a person of great intellect can read scripture and not understand it. There is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. Proverbs makes this difference clear. A fool can be filled with knowledge, but he who uses knowledge aright is wise and no fool. The requirement for understanding scripture has nothing whatsoever to do with intellect. See 1 Corinthians 2 in general. Verse 14 of chapter 2 states "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, becauses they are spiritually discerned." One must have spiritual understanding of spiritual words, for the words of the Bible are spiritual as well as intellectual. This understanding cannot be acquired through effort, but is God's gift. Once this gift is received, it should be diligently exercised to remain strong.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Furthermore, I think that you both would agree that it is possible that there is such a thing as a "bad apologetic". It is that class of bad apologetic that I point to as 'salesmanship'."

Agreed. This is why I previously stated that I think you and I (and naturalists and Christians in general) do not divide over the evidence. We divide over what we SEE and what we BELIEVE about what we see. You said that my assertion of a "decided lack of transitional forms" is an example of a "bad apologetic." Perhaps you do not believe it possible that anyone could doubt what seems plain to you and which causes you to put your faith in evolutionary theory - at least as far as biology is concerned. I was instructed (by you or another, I cannot remember) to go to a certain site to investigate the transitional forms issue. I was under the impression that the naturalists are in a mad dash to find the "missing links" and my impression was only strengthened by my visiting the naturalist sites. I found this one naturalist website most instructive in forming my opinion:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html

It appears to me that evolutionary theory is in want of strong transitional fossil evidence as well as other evidences which interfere with its cohesive and forceful arguments. If evolutionary theory were true, the fossil record should be REPLETE with transitional forms. Simultaneously, the sudden appearance of fully-formed vertebrates seems to be the rule. When I read about the so-called transitional forms on naturalist websites, my "baloney dector" begins to sound. I see propaganda and not objective science. I see an agenda being pushed that is not supported by the greater weight of evidence.

I must say also that I share with you a little disdain (I think I read you correctly, but I am not completely sure) about bad apologetics. But my disdain is toward the motives advanced to prop up evolutionary theory. The "missing link" between apes and humans, fabricated almost out of whole cloth from the single tooth of a pig comes immediately to mind.

But I also admit there are those who claim to be Christians whose lesser faith leads them to believe that God needs "help" of a less honest kind. God makes very plain that He needs nothing from us, and certainly not our help. Acts 17:25 states "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." That statement was made to the Athenians who prided themselves on scientific knowledge and philosophy, by the way. They were greatly advanced in so much (being, as all men, created in God's likeness), but had no light from Truth Himself. Truth is not, you see, a proposition. Truth is a person. That really cooks the noodle of anyone who is not Christian, but it is this truth which we Christians believe.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Indeed, any scientist can tell you of the awe and wonder of the universe (better, because we see more of it). But "awe" and "wonder" are not obserations, but rather are emotional experiences. Look beyond that awe and wonder, and we see regularity, which is what science is about describing.

Part of that regularity is the regularity that we see in biology. Though comparative morphology, and today, through comparative genetics we see the common relatedness of organisms. It is a nested-heiarchical structure that is consistent with common ancestry."

I quote you above merely to make my point that we both observe the evidence and come to different conclusions. You see relatedness of organisms in a biological sense. I see relatedness of a Designer.

One last quote from Mr. Stockwell: "Geologic evidence tells us that the earth's atmosphere was virtually oxygen-free prior to 2.5 billion years ago, providing a greater possibility for reducing environments to exist. This may be a moot point, because astronomical observations suggest that there may have been millions of tons of organic chemicals raining down on the early earth."

I do NOT mean to offend you, and I may be completely ignorant here, but are you talking about alien life planting the original life on earth? Organic chemicals come from life, right? I have heard some creationists say that naturalists sometimes postulate that aliens planted the first seeds of life on earth by leaving their trash or something like that, but I have never researched whether that was true. If it is true, then it seems ridiculous to me, and does not get rid of the problem of where life begins - for who created these alleged aliens?

By the way, the Bible is not meant to be a scientific treatise. Its purpose is to reveal the Truth about who you are and who God is and the unfolding plan and purpose of God and how that affects you. I think you will find, however, that this remarkable book contains no unscientific statements, and all statements touching upon science are quite remarkably accurate. Even when men believed the earth was supported by Atlas or columns on the backs of elephants, God informed us He hangs the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7). When men believed the earth was flat, God infomed us it was round (Isaiah40:22). There are many other examples about water cycles and blood flow and such, but there you have the general idea.

John Stockwell said...

Julie write:
" I was under the impression that the
naturalists are in a mad dash to find
the "missing links" and my impression
was only strengthened by my visiting the
naturalist sites. I found this one naturalis
website most instructive in forming my
opinion:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq- transitional.html

It appears to me that evolutionary theory is
in want of strong transitional fossil
evidence as well as other evidences
which interfere with its cohesive and forceful
arguments. If evolutionary theory were
true, the fossil record should be REPLETE
with transitional forms."

To Julie:
First of all, the FAQ that I pointed you to gives some examples of transitional fossils that have been found..

Your claim that the fossil record should be "replete" with transitional fossils, yet you have no basis for making that statement. What calculation do you quote for telling us just how many transitional fossils there should be? None, because there are no such calculations. Indeed, all fossils give biologists insight into the origin and development of life on earth.

Yet, the existence of a single transitional sequence disproves the original conjecture that there are "no transitional fossils".

The recourse for the scientist who wants to disprove these fossils as being transitional is to study them and provide scientific evidence refuting the claim. Yet, these examples have withstood the test of time. Now, you might
claim that there would be no interest in doing this among the scientific community. However,
this is not the case. One way to get famous
in science is to shoot down other people's results by competent science.


Julie writes:
"Simultaneously, the sudden appearance
of fully-formed vertebrates seems to be
the rule. When I read about the so-called
transitional forms on naturalist websites,
my "baloney dector" begins to sound. I
see propaganda and not objective science.
I see an agenda being pushed that is
not supported by the greater weight
of evidence."

To Julie:
You have to remember that "sudden" in the geologic record is millions of years. In the case of transitionals, It is tens of millions of years from lobefinned fish, to the first quadrapeds, of the variety of Tiktaalik, the fossil recently published in science. (Compare with human evolution, it is only 3 million years from Lucy to us.)

As to your "baloney detector" I can only suggests that it needs retraining, because the "greater evidence" supports the notion of evolution. Those "bad apologetics" that I was
telling you about are all the "evidences against
evolution" that you believe you know. If there is an agenda of such sites as the talk.origins site, it is to debunk the anti-science arguments of creationists.


Julie wrote:
But my disdain is toward the motives advanced to prop up evolutionary theory. The "missing link" between apes and humans, fabricated almost out of whole cloth from the single tooth of a pig comes immediately to mind.


To Julie:
My disdain is toward the flagrant misrepresentation of science. Nobody is "propping up" evolution!

As to your
story of the pigs tooth, this is the famous
case of "Nebraska man". You can
read about this particular event that
occurred in 1922 (ancient history in
terms of science) at:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/a_nebraska.html

Basically, the creationist claim is false.
There was no fraud, and this particular claimed
anthropoid was never an important part
of science. It remains, however, an important
part of creationist propaganda, because it
fits the motives of creationists to paint
scientists as being either dishonest or incompetent.

Julie wrote:
"I do NOT mean to offend you, and I may be completely ignorant here, but are you talking about alien life planting the original life on earth? Organic chemicals come from life, right? I have heard some creationists say that naturalists sometimes postulate that aliens planted the first seeds of life on earth by leaving their trash or something like that, but I have never researched whether that was true. If it is true, then it seems ridiculous to me, and does not get rid of the problem of where life begins - for who created these alleged aliens?"

to julie:
No. This has nothing to do with aliens. The current scientific view is that the solar system
coalesced out of a nebula. The idea that stellar
systems form this way is supported by
Space Telescope images.

It is possible to determine the chemical composition of material by observing the
absorption/emission lines of its spectra.
in the case of nebulae, for about 30 years
astronomers have been finding spectra
of organic chemicals in these nebula. The
idea is that these chemicals would be part
of the stuff that the earth formed out of.

So, no, the whole point of modern scientific
investigations, from Miller-Urey type
experiments, to observations of deep
ocean thermal vents, to astronomers'
observations of nebulae---that the
"organic" chemicals that are the building
blocks of life can be produced by inorganic
processes.

Julie wrote:
"I quote you above merely to make my point that we both observe the evidence and come to different conclusions. You see relatedness of organisms in a biological sense. I see relatedness of a Designer."

to Julie:
Science is all about how things happen. The physical evidence is consistent with the notion of common descent. The statement of explaining biology in terms of a "Designer" doesn't really tell us anything. We don't have a scientific theory of the "Designer" mechanism.

Now, if you are claiming that biology had miraculous origins, then we also don't have a
scientific theory to tell us what to expect, and more importantly, what *not* to expect from such a mechanism. We might as well say that biology "appeared magically out of nothing".
That statement is no more scientific than saying that "the Designer did it".

Julie wrote:
"By the way, the Bible is not meant to be a scientific treatise. Its purpose is to reveal the Truth about who you are and who God is and the unfolding plan and purpose of God and how that affects you. I think you will find, however, that this remarkable book contains no unscientific statements, and all statements touching upon science are quite remarkably accurate. Even when men believed the earth was supported by Atlas or columns on the backs of elephants, God informed us He hangs the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7). When men believed the earth was flat, God infomed us it was round (Isaiah40:22). There are many other examples about water cycles and blood flow and such, but there you have the general idea."


to Julie:
I would agree that the Bible is not a science book, and would suggest that such attempts to
show that it is consistent with science are post hoc arguments that are of little value. (Indeed, one could argue that Gen 1:24 is consistent with abiogenesis and evolution.) I am really arguing against apologetics that misrepresent science, and not against the Bible, or the Christian religion. These apologetics include probably everything that so-called scientific creaetionists have ever said, and the modern ID movement.