proof by precondition for intelligibility


Ignorance, while regrettable, can lead to some interesting discussions.

On Wednesday, November 29, 2006, your narrator had the honor of appearing on the radio talk show of Pastor Gene Cook. The show is called “The Narrow Mind,” a title with which Pastor Cook (he let me call him Gene on the air) seems quite proud, said title implying, as it seems to do, that Gene has a narrow mind regarding his understanding of “Truth,” and therefore proudly disregards anything that argues contrary to such understanding. Here is (should be—this is not a precise science) the narrow mind: http://tnma.blogspot.com .

The show can be (unless they have pulled it) heard here: http://tnma.blogspot.com/2006/11/american-atheist-edwin-kagin.html

If they have yanked the proffered “free download,” try here: http://www.edwinkagin.com/edwin_on_gene_cook.mp3, compliments of the Department of Copyright Violations. If anyone should sue, it will only make them more famous and we can share our profits with them. While you are at it, you can check out the blasphemous website www.edwinkagin.com which enjoyed quite a nice jump in visitors following this historic show.

But I digress. The program generated a number of remarks, many favorable, and many idiotic. Some just plain ill informed. As modest retrains the posting of the favorable comments, let us consider the following masterpiece of logic and presentation, which may or may not have been inspired by the radio show—probably was—surely sent in good faith to straighten me out, and a few replies thereto. The plugs for my website, and for Camp Quest, are indeed appreciated. The names of the parties are redacted for the sake of their family and friends, if any (clever readers will figure out who the correspondent is and how to contact him anyway):

Dear Mr. Kagin,

Recently a friend told me about your camp, Camp Quest, an unique camp for children of secular humanists. I visited your website[i] and noted that, according to your 2005 Camp Director’s letter, you offer a prize of a “godless (without “in god we trust” on it—made before 1954) one hundred dollar bill” to any camper who can prove that two invisible unicorns do not reside at your camp. I assume this challenge is to develop critical thinking skills in your campers, helping them understand that believing in something that can’t be seen is irrational. Therefore, belief in an unseen God also is irrational. Neat-o.

Do you also give a $100 prize for identifying straw man arguments on your website? If so, I’d like to submit the following for consideration of that prize.

In your Director’s letter regarding the unicorn challenge, you state that “Campers come up with the oddest refutations—like Edwin should have to prove that the two invisible unicorns are there. How ridiculous! It is pointed out that I have faith, and that is all that is needed? Isn’t it?” Later in your letter, you mention that campers are assigned a project to offer advice to inhabitants of another planet to consider “whether or not their emerging society should be encouraged to develop along lines of critical inquiry or along faith and belief in the supernatural.”

The way these examples are worded assumes that critical inquiry and faith in God are incompatible. I assume from the context of your letter that you define faith as “blind” belief, devoid of reason or evidence. However, claiming that belief in God is based solely on “blind” faith is a straw man argument—one that, as you point out in your letter, is easily knocked down.

May I suggest that by presenting belief in God in this way you actually are doing a disservice to your campers. By providing a refutation based on a flimsy caricature of theism, instead of developing critical thinking skills in children you provide them with a false sense of security for their atheism. A more robust approach would teach children about the actual reasons theists claim a belief in God and then go about refuting those reasons.

I suggest that your campers would be better instructed by explaining to them that everyone, whether theist or atheist, begins his worldview by first making a foundational assumption about the nature of reality. As it turns out, when it comes to beginning assumptions, there are not many options. You identified two in your letter, either nature is all that exists (atheism), or both nature and the supernatural exist (theism).[ii] Since that’s the case, then a proper starting point for teaching critical thinking skills would be to evaluate these two assumptions in light of our experience.

So let’s apply some good ol’ empirical reasoning to life experience. For example, everyone senses a concept we call justice. We may quibble over exactly what is just and what is not, but deep down we all intuitively know that some human actions are right and others wrong. So the question is: Which beginning assumption, atheism or theism, provides a sufficient foundation for this common human experience?

On the atheistic worldview, the beginning assumption is that only nature exists—molecules in motion, if you will. These initial molecules did not have a sense of justice. Then, it is further assumed that, over time, molecules bumping into each other developed the capacity for moral reasoning. But how can something (molecules with a sense of justice) come from nothing (molecules with no sense of justice)? Given a cause/effect universe, that’s a stretch, isn’t it? All of our experience suggests this cannot be. In fact, it smacks, not of rational thought, but of irrationality, of even, dare I say it, “blind” faith in the unseen ability of molecules to produce something that was not there before.

The relatively new science of socio-biology offers a response to this impasse. Social biologists suggest that evolutionary theory explains how molecules gradually developed into living organisms, and over time, those organisms which developed a mutated “cooperating” gene were naturally selected for their ability to better survive and reproduce. This resulted in homo sapiens inheriting this cooperating gene, or what we refer to as moral behavior.[iii]

However, this scenario, while an interesting story, only confuses the matter on two counts. First, we all tend to look up to people who sacrifice themselves for someone else. This ultimate form of morality, called altruism, is completely out of synch with evolution’s focus on the struggle for survival. If the goal is to pass on your genes, helping someone else pass on theirs makes no sense. It’s not just that evolutionary theory has not yet provided a satisfactory explanation for altruism, it’s much more than that. The insurmountable problem is that Darwinism is counter to our experience.

And second, the Darwinian story does not provide a satisfactory explanation because evolutionary theory is driven by random, chance mutations. And actual experimentation in the laboratory has never shown that point mutations of DNA are able to add any new information content to the genetic code. In other words, what scientists have found is that mutations either delete information or rearranges information that is already there, but they never add any new information. And new information in the genetic code is needed to generate unique organs, tissue, cells, and eventually, thought processes, if we expect to begin with a non-moralizing molecule and end up with one of its descendents having a sense of moral justice.[iv]

Based on this short critique, we find that we cannot adequately explain a fundamental experience of life by beginning with atheistic assumptions. Let’s turn to the alternative to see if we fare any better.

On the other hand, if we start from the other assumption, the idea that God exists and has the attribute of moral reasoning, and we further assume that God created man with a moral capacity, we have a sufficient cause to
explain what we all experience, those pesky moral notions. This is the only logical position. No “blind” faith at work here. Just a little good ol’ deductive reasoning.

Ah, but the objection may be raised, “If God is the cause of everything, then what caused God?” Interesting question, but it’s not pertinent to the discussion. That’s because every worldview begins with assuming something is real and this reality is, by definition, eternal, therefore having no cause. Either we begin with assuming matter is eternal or God is eternal. So there is no going further back to any other “causes.” Either “In the beginning, Matter” or “In the beginning, God.” Both views are equally religious, since they answer an ultimately “religious” question, “What about God?” Additionally, each position is equally a starting point from which to construct a worldview. The question is which assumption is more logical, given other things we know about the universe, life, and ourselves.

Please note, I am not suggesting that just because we can’t explain how something comes into being we insert the phrase “God did it” to fill in our lack of scientific knowledge. My argument is not this so-called “God of the gaps” argument. It is the opposite. I’m basing this line of reasoning on what we do know. We do know we all experience a sense of justice. We do know we live in a cause/effect universe. We do know the limits of what genetic mutations can accomplish, and that, in fact, mutations lead to a overall decrease in useful information.

So, once again, the issue is, how can non-moral molecules develop the ability to sense moral concepts? Or, for that matter, what about love—does love come from non-loving molecular interaction? Or, along the same line of reasoning, how can we arrive at rational thought, given non-rational matter and randomness as the only building blocks?

Over one hundred years ago Nietzsche correctly concluded that in a universe devoid of God, there is no morality, nor love, nor rational thought. So how can anyone use rational thought to make claims about the nature of reality or the non-existence of God? This is quite a quandary! Maybe, instead of calling your organization, “Camp Quest,” you might consider renaming it “Camp Quandary.” Just an idea for your suggestion box.

I wish you the best as you seek to develop critical thinking skills in the lives of the next generation. The fact that you have that desire demonstrates the imprint of an Intelligent First Cause, the only rational explanation for that very human sensibility.

Sincerely,

(Redacted)

PS

Instead of sending me the $100 reward for identifying the straw man argument on your website, please use the money to purchase some good books on why it makes sense to acknowledge the existence of God. May I suggest the following as staples for your camp library:

1) Faith Has Its Reasons, Boa & Bowman.

2) Unshakable Foundations, Geisler & Bocchino.

3) Reasonable Faith, William Lane Craig.

4) Philosophical Foundations for A Christian Worldview, Moreland & Craig.

5) Warranted Christian Belief, Alvin Plantinga.


[i] http://www.edwinkagin.com/Camp_Quest/Edwins%20Epistle%20to%20the%20Vancouverians.htm.

[ii] Actually, As the philosopher David Stove pointed out, altruism—the willingness, that is, to sacrifice for others—is obviously disadvantageous in what Darwin called “the struggle for life.” In a world where the goal is to pass on your selfish gene, helping someone else pass on theirs makes no sense. there is a third option: only the supernatural exists (pantheism), but the sake of simplicity, I’ll just evaluate the first two options, atheism and theism, since, you would agree that supernaturalism in any form is irrational.

[iii] Richard Dawkins champions this idea in his book, “The Selfish Gene.”

[iv] For a greater explanation of why evolution fails to explain genetic “progress,” see my article, “Of Monkeys and Men: What the Genetic Code Reveals,” at http://www.summit.org/resource/tc/archive/1106/.

===========================================================================================================

Now this person does not win the godless $100 for lots of reasons. The easiest to explain reason is because the prize is only open to Camp Quest campers, and a check of relevant records reveals him not to be such.

For the more serious student, the following replies may be of interest.

Larry said:

I don’t have time to respond right now but see;
http://www.primates.com/monkeys/fairness.html
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030918092951.htm
for scientific refutation of the person’s argument.

—————————————–

And Dr. Robin said:

Dear Chuck,

I think you will find many interesting possibilities in the real world of gene duplication, polymorphisms, additions and mutations if you choose investigate the literature among various model organisms. Below is one on gene transfer for example and another by gene addition. Just look on www.pubmed.gov and you have a world of literature to read on so many angles that all point to basically the same direction as a net result to explain humans — evolution of simpler to more complex over time.

I don’t have time right now to address your issues with science and facts but the fact is genes do move around and with all the building blocks of genetic information in the DNA all ready there in “simpler” organisms adding more should not be so hard to envision. Then these changes produce longer genes or more genes, basically more DNA to have more functions as well as mistakes.

>>>>>>>>>>


Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2006 Nov 7; [Epub ahead of print]

Evolution of the syntrophic interaction between Desulfovibrio vulgaris and Methanosarcina barkeri: Involvement of an ancient horizontal gene transfer.

· Scholten JC,

· Culley DE,

· Brockman FJ,

· Wu G,

· Zhang W.

Microbiology Department, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, P.O. Box 999, Mail Stop P7-50, Richland, WA 99352, USA.

The sulfate reducing bacteria Desulfovibrio vulgaris and the methanogenic archaea Methanosarcina barkeri can grow syntrophically on lactate. In this study, a set of three closely located genes, DVU2103, DVU2104, and DVU2108 of D. vulgaris, was found to be up-regulated 2- to 4-fold following the lifestyle shift from syntroph to sulfate reducer; moreover, none of the genes in this gene set were differentially regulated when comparing gene expression from various D. vulgaris pure culture experiments. Although exact function of this gene set is unknown, the results suggest that it may play roles related to the lifestyle change of D. vulgaris from syntroph to sulfate reducer. This hypothesis is further supported by phylogenomic analyses showing that homologies of this gene set were only narrowly present in several groups of bacteria, most of which are restricted to a syntrophic lifestyle, such as Pelobacter carbinolicus, Syntrophobacter fumaroxidans, Syntrophomonas wolfei, and Syntrophus aciditrophicus. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all three individual genes in the gene set tended to be clustered with their homologies from archaeal genera, and they were rooted on archaeal species in the phylogenetic trees, suggesting that they were horizontally transferred from archaeal methanogens. In addition, no significant bias in codon and amino acid usages was detected between these genes and the rest of the D. vulgaris genome, suggesting the gene transfer may have occurred early in the evolutionary history so that sufficient time has elapsed to allow an adaptation to the codon and amino acid usages of D. vulgaris. This report provides novel insights into the origin and evolution of bacterial genes linked to the lifestyle change of D. vulgaris from a syntrophic to a sulfate-reducing lifestyle.

Matrix Biol. 2006 Sep 19; [Epub ahead of print]

On the origins of the extracellular matrix in vertebrates.

· Huxley-Jones J,

· Robertson DL,

· Boot-Handford RP.

Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell-Matrix Research, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK; Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PT, UK.

Extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key metazoan characteristic. In addition to providing structure and orientation to tissues, it is involved in many cellular processes such as adhesion, migration, proliferation and differentiation. Here we provide a comprehensive analysis of ECM molecules focussing on when vertebrate specific matrices evolved. We identify 60 ECM genes and 20 associated processing enzymes in the genome of the urochordate Ciona intestinalis. A comparison with vertebrate and protostome genomes has permitted the identification of both a core set of metazoan matrix genes and vertebrate-specific innovations in the ECM. We have identified a few potential cases of de novo vertebrate ECM gene innovation, but the majority of ECM genes have resulted from duplication of pre-existing genes present in the ancestral vertebrate. In conclusion, the modern complexity we see in vertebrate ECM has come about largely by duplication and modification of pre-existing matrix molecules. Extracellular matrix genes and their processing enzymes appear to be over-represented in the vertebrate genome suggesting that these genes played an active role enabling and underpinning the evolution of vertebrates.


Yours,

(Redacted)

—————————————

Dog, I wish I was that smart.

And just what does “proof by precondition for intelligibility,” as advanced by Pastor Gene Cook, mean?.

Edwin.

Comments

  1. monkeysuncle says

    “Proof by precondition for intelligibility” is nothing more than fallacious circular reasoning.

    By this, Cook is trying to use his premise as a proof for the premise. Even -I- wouldn’t try that — and certainly not in debate with Edwin.

  2. monkeysuncle says

    Well, (redacted) doesn’t deserve a $100 prize for identifying a strawman because the choices presented to campers simply don’t constitute a strawman argument. As presented, it is simply asking campers to decide between two options–but campers often come up with third and fourth or more options on their own, anyway, these being exceptionally bright kids.

    It is also correct that the challenge is only offered to campers.

    (Redacted) also errs in saying that CQ helps campers understand that believing in something that can’t be seen is irrational. CQ absolutely does not do that. Air and gravity cannot be seen, but we don’t call a belief in them irrational. It is a belief in things for which there is no evidence that is irrational, and there is as much evidence demonstrating the existence of gods as there is to demonstrate the existence of Harvey the invisible 6-foot rabbit. Probably less.

  3. Anonymous says

    (Submitted to the Gene Cook show blog on Sat. 12-2-06 at 11:30pm)

    I’m seeing quite a few emotional cases for the existence of an actual historical Jesus Christ. All we atheists want to see is your “evidence,” that’s all. We’ve been looking for it, undoubtably more sincerely and thoroughly than you theists have.

    Don’t just spit sarcastically at us, find the hard evidence that he was anything more than a fabricated character and publish it in a national news release for the whole world to scrutinize.

    We will be waiting.

  4. monkeysuncle says

    I posted an extended version of my comments to Rev. Cook’s blog.

    I note with considerable interest that the post was denied. Perhaps if I hadn’t referred to their holy book as the Babble it might have been otherwise. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em.

  5. Robin says

    I just heard the recording of the radio program last night. Cook seemed singularly unable to repeat Edwin’s statements back to him in a coherent manner. It appeared that Cook was distorting Edwin’s views in order to fit them into his (Cook’s) own stereotype of atheists. I suppose that is what happens when you have a narrow mind.

  6. Anonymous says

    Submitted to the Gene Cook show blog on Mon. 12-4-06 At 5:40pm)

    You are correct Master Zap. It’s always difficult debating with someone that’s obsessed more with “winning the debate” than “finding the truth.”

    In any meaningful debate, it is necessary for both parties to let go of their prejudice and agree upon certain standards of logic. If the two parties do not agree on their logical standards, a productive debate can not develop.

    The greatest purpose and value of any debate, is where the observers, or listeners, stand to learn something new; other than that, what could be its purpose?

    Most evangelists are excoriated by their leaders and publications to reject any feelings of doubt. Unfortunately, when people fail to embrace doubt about any dogma that they are taught, they can learn nothing new.

    Most atheists embrace doubt. They question dogma. They aren’t going to believe something just because someone else says it’s so, there must corroborating evidence that goes beyond bronze age relics like the Bible or the Koran.

    Atheists aren’t atheists because they hate theists, it’s because they find many of the tenets of the theist impossible to justify within the standards of logic and the power of reason.

    So, again, unless the atheist and theist can agree on some standards of logic, the age-old argument will inevitably end in knee-jerk prejudice.

  7. cbaker84 says

    “Strawman” he calls it on the Camp Quest site. It’s obvious Redacted, despite his PhDs, doesn’t know what a strawman is since he almost immediately builds one that fits the standard definition. Here it is:

    “On the atheistic worldview, the beginning assumption is that only nature exists—molecules in motion, if you will. These initial molecules did not have a sense of justice. Then, it is further assumed that, over time, molecules bumping into each other developed the capacity for moral reasoning. But how can something (molecules with a sense of justice) come from nothing (molecules with no sense of justice)? Given a cause/effect universe, that’s a stretch, isn’t it? All of our experience suggests this cannot be. In fact, it smacks, not of rational thought, but of irrationality, of even, dare I say it, “blind” faith in the unseen ability of molecules to produce something that was not there before.”

    First, Redacted posits an atheist viewpoint of his own definition about molecules. I don’t know about you, but I almost never think of molecules but I know they exist.

    Second, he assigns a lack of justice to molecules. This is just silly as he strives to conduct his inquisition on his own terms.

    Third, his unjust molecules become just over time [by magic? supernaturally?] and he asks how this is possible. He calls it irrational which is odd since it’s his own unsubstantiated thesis. They are his molecules, after all. Shouldn’t they do whatever he wants them to do?

    No blind faith is required for normal molecules to create something that wasn’t there before. We call that chemistry. Slap a couple hydrogen molecules up against an oxygen molecule and whammo! water from nowhere. That is amazing.

    Redacted, buoyed by his incredible insight into atheist molecular science, then proceeds to explain how morality cannot exist in an atheist environment since altruism is not a product of evolution but must be theistically induced. He’s lucky there aren’t any lighted matches in this blog or another pile of straw would be afire.

    Finally, an appeal to authority from one his philosophy classes, doubtless. Nietzsche sez morality requires god [he never mentions which god but they rarely do]. Case closed. [snicker]

    Can we learn anything from his circular, self-referential diatribe? Probably not. It reminds me of the Christian bible – circles and contradictions. Ho hum.

    Well, I’m off to the cyclotron to look for those unjust molecules. I sure hope the invisible unicorns aren’t using it.

  8. Anonymous says

    I just read a reply on Gene Cook’s blog to my comment about logic, which I also posted here yesterday at 5:45pm.

    This reply got me laughing so hard I couldn’t stop for about 5 minutes and thought I would share it with everyone here. Here it is:

    ———–
    With the truth of the Bible as our presupposition, the Christian can account for universal, invariant, abstract entities, such as the laws of logic.
    Logic, reflects the thinking of God as revealed to us in His Word. If you would like specific verse references, please visit this link.

    The Christian can know he/she is correct by the impossibility of the contrary. No other worldview can give a rational account for logic. The Bible also teaches that the reasoning of those who reject Christianity is ‘foolishness.’ Rather than level this accusation directly at you, why don’t you tell us how YOU account for logic, and further prove it for us.

  9. Ken says

    The lesson learned by a youngster is simply that you cannot prove or disprove a non-event. Edwin’s analogy, designed for children, in which he claims no need for proof since he has faith is exactly parallel to the claim of christians that say they do need not need proof for their equally silly claims because they _believe_ them to be true.

    If you are able to follow the logic of that simple statement then it follows that the existence of gods or Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny cannot be proved or disproved. Unfortunately, christians do not throw out the gods along with the other kinds of imaginary entitys as their minds mature. To a really rational person, or as rational as humans are capable of getting, (that capacity is definitely not as fully evolved as some of us wish it were), it is crystal clear that a very large percentage of the species never does grow up. This lack is so unfortunate because of all the death and suffering it has caused.

    It takes no more than an elementary world history book to discover that blind belief in imaginary entitys has been behind many of the of the most horrific human behaviors. So aside from the _fact_ that there is absolutely nothing in our existence to indicate that there is anyone or anything supernatural, just thinking that there is often results in what can only be described as evil.

    The only “reason” that religion part in human minds is that humans have evolved with the most complex form of intelligence on this planet which as an adaptive tool must incorporate curiosity to determine a relationship between cause and effect in order make sense of our world.
    Superstition is in all cases a faulty association between cause and effect. Primitive and simple minded thinking along with a powerful drive to understand events has, through all of human history, caused humans to _invent_ a cause for events when the true cause was unavailable due to lack of information or faulty information underlying their assumptions as to the cause of of a given event. Progress toward our current civilization was exceeding slow until the formulation of a systematic method of relating cause and effect. That tool is what we call the Scientific Method. It always angers me that the multitudes of superstitious people castigate the Scientific Method (in comparison to their own personal set of superstitions) of understanding our universe but accept with open arms, the (I won’t say miraculous because miracles don’t exist), truly wonderful products and benefits that Science has provided. I have at least a little respect for groups like the Amish who at least make some effort to live without the results of modern Science.
    At least they make the effort not to be hypocrites.

    Does the writer really have to have to look, “deep down”, to know that some actions are evil and some beneficial? That’s an absolutely elementary discovery.
    His implied assumption that everyone holds a common element called justice, however is absurd. What is called justice in one place can be profoundly different from what is described as justice in another time, place or society. Example:beheading in the public square, stoning people to death,(very popular in the bible), etc.etc. Justice can be more simply described as the method of handing out aversive events to those members of a society that have difficulty following the rules of that society. Those rules do not be handed out by a supernatural father figure since the most common and essential are easily deducible, such as treat other people the way you’d like to be treated which concept obviously pre-dates the bible and was incorporated into it. It has nothing to do with something deep down; some type of moral compass, its simply that there have to be some ground rules for human animals if they want to live in a group. That group simply determines a set of rules that works for them, and those sets of rules have and still do vary widely outside of a few essential basics. (These sets of rules are very often not extended to outside groups or individuals).

    You describe Edwin’s characterization of of theism as flimsy. Your characterization is downright ethereal. Your train of “reasoning” around the subject of a molecule can be described as nothing other than just plain stupid. I’d be giving you the benefit of the doubt if I said ignorant. By your reasoning a computer simply can’t exist because its language of information processing is just dumb electrons. The old watch without a watchmaker argument has been easily refuted by people who actually use the tool called logic.

    The beginning assumption of *rationalism *is that the world as we experience it has a fixed set of rules. In order to understand our world we must determine what those rules are. We must carefully define and articulate what our question is in regard to some observed phenomonen.
    Then we propose possible explanations for what we observe and test those explanations as rigorously as we possibly can. Either the explanation of the phenomenon predicts and _always_ results in the same outcome or the explanation is discarded. And here is where there is a huge difference in rationality and superstition. Rationality as represented by science is far more humble than superstition as represented by theism because if science cannot explain a phenomenon… we simply say, *I don’t know.
    *Theology, on the other hand simply extracts an explanation from their imagination or fantasies and labels it truth.

    Theologians have declared that:
    The sun orbits the earth. Because that is what your kind of “good old empirical reasoning told them. (Untested observation) Man will never fly because god did not design him to do so.
    Faulty prophecy and faulty assumption because there aren’t any gods.
    And on and on ad infinitum.

    After science demonstrates the falseness of their monumental errors they often bluster and lash out at the messenger of the truth. They’ve frequently tortured or killed him in the past although christians have generally given up that practice. Their fellow theists, however, the muslums still like to kill those who disagree with them.

    Talk about straw men! Your description of “socio-biology” must have come right out of a pulpit. I happen to have a degree in biology and I am very comfortable in saying that virtually no person with any kind of scientific education would ever have gone down that ridiculous sentient or non sentient molecule thought path unless perhaps their minds were twisted and perverted by some kind of superstitious group. Do you even know what a molecule is? Gosh, I wonder how those nasty, death dealing elements called sodium and chlorine manage to join up and become plain old table salt?

    Altruism? Ultimate form of morality? Why do you presume to rank this type of behavior. Where in the heck did you dig that one up? Could you possibly consider the taboo possibility that altruism might be absolutely essential in an evolutionary sense for a mammal like Homo sapiens? If fathers didn’t have altruism then mothers wouldn’t survive and obviously (I hope) you can see that if mothers didn’t have altruism then babies wouldn’t survive. Do you think there is altruism in a wolf pack? Do you think that cats might have less altruism than the dog family. Do you suppose its within the realm of possibility that an overflow of this altruistic capacity is why humans keep dogs and cats as pets? Do you think that I wouldn’t try to save your life if you were in eminent danger because I would hope that others might do the same for me? Altruism is no mystery. By the way, if you knew anything about the Theory of Evolution, you would know that evolution often does not work only on the individual level but also on the group level.

    Oh, I like that line about counter to our experience. There you go again. Can’t you understand that your experience doesn’t mean didily?
    That’s where we get the flat earth, etc.,etc., etc. Your experience dictates that germs can’t possibly cause disease because you can’t see them. A large object will fall faster that a small one because it weighs more. A bullet shot from a level gun will surely stay in the air longer than one dropped to the ground beside the muzzle of that gun. Time must pass at the same rate regardless of speed of travel. All of the elements are earth, air, fire and water.

    Its been a long time since I studied genetics and its not my specialty so there is a lot about the subject that I don’t know. But I can personally guarantee you that mutations are happening this very moment at an incredible rate and that they do in fact result from rearrangement materials already in the DNA.
    It only takes very tiny changes in that DNA to effect great change in an organism. I think it has been established that 98% of *your* DNA is identical to that of your cousin, the chimpanzee. It is evident to anyone that observes chimps that they have altruism; and they also practice cannibalism. Sound familiar?

    This one’s a beaut. This reminds me of the mental effort that was once expended on, “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”
    That’s because /every/ world view begins with assuming something is real and this reality is, by definition, eternal, therefore having no cause.
    Either we begin with assuming matter is eternal or God is eternal. So there is no going further back to any other “causes.” Either “In the beginning, Matter” or “In the beginning, God.” c Additionally, each position is equally a starting point from which to construct a world view. The question is which assumption is more logical, given other things we know about the universe, life, and ourselves.

    So many fake premises. My world view does not begin by assuming anything except that* I* will decide by using the sensory systems that evolution has fortuitously provided me with or devised extensions of those senses such as for instance, microscopes, telescopes, x-rays, and so on. “This reality is by definition, eternal”? Who says so?
    “Either _we_ begin with assuming matter is eternal or God is eternal.”

    No *we* don’t. The subject of a god would never even be on the table for a discussion among rational people. When dialogging with a person who is already known to be infected with superstition it is a given that his statements will not be rational.

    Both views are equally religious, since they answer an ultimately “religious” question, “What about God?”

    You want them to be but they are not. I wrote earlier that with the scientific method we carefully articulate the question that we seek an answer. We don’t ask questions that can’t possibly be answered by the means that we have available or are otherwise meaningless. Such as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? How high is up?

    Bottom line. Very simple. God concept is able to predict NOTHING.
    Therefore trash it.

  10. Anonymous says

    The Death Of Truth

    Allan Bloom, author of the landmark critique of American education The Closing of the American Mind, starts his analysis this way: ‘There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students’ reaction: they will be uncomprehending. That anyone should regard the proposition as not self-evident astonishes them, as though he were calling into question 2 + 2 = 4.’ [1]
    What Professor Bloom observes is not a trend but a revolution. Like most revolutions, it did not start with a rifle shot or a cannon but with an idea that was whispered in many different environments and diverse situations. This revolution started in academia and eventually engulfed the common person. Its growth has been so subtle and thorough that it is now a core belief-not just of the college elite, but also of the rank and file, white collar and blue collar alike.
    What Is Truth?Since the sixties we have been in the throes of this quiet but desperate revolution of thought – the death of truth. We don’t mean ‘truth’ in the sense of something being my personal opinion. Rather we refer to the death of what the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth,’ the extinction of the idea that any particular thing can be known for sure.
    Today we’ve lost the confidence that statements of fact can ever be anything more than just opinions; we no longer know that anything is certain beyond our subjective preferences. The word truth now means ‘true for me’ and nothing more. We have entered an era of dogmatic scepticism.
    Ideas that are whispered are seldom analyzed well, for they simply don’t draw enough attention. By means of repetition and passive acceptance over time, they take on the force of common wisdom, a ‘truth’ that everyone knows but no one has stopped to examine, a kind of intellectual urban legend.
    Once ideas like these take root, they are difficult to dislodge. Attempts to do so result in Bloom’s ‘uncomprehending’ stares. [2] The ideas become so much a part of our emerging intellectual constitution that we are increasingly incapable of critical self-reflection. Even if we did, we have little conviction that such analysis would do any good anyway. As Kelly Monroe remarked in her book Finding God at Harvard, ‘Students feel safer as doubters than as believers, and as perpetual seekers rather than eventual finders.’ [3]

    When truth dies, all of its subspecies, such as ethics, perish with it. If truth can’t be known, then the concept of moral truth becomes incoherent. Ethics become relative, right and wrong matters of individual opinion. This may seem a moral liberty, but it ultimately rings hollow. ‘The freedom of our day,’ lamented a graduate in a Harvard commencement address, ‘is the freedom to devote ourselves to any values we please, on the mere condition that we do not believe them to be true.’ [4]
    The death of truth in our society has created a moral decay in which ‘every debate ends with the barroom question “says who?” ‘ [5] When we abandon the idea that one set of laws applies to every human being, all that remains is subjective, personal opinion.
    Pleasure as EthicsWhen morality is reduced to personal tastes, people exchange the moral question, What is good? for the pleasure question, What feels good? They assert their desires and then attempt to rationalize their choices with moral language. In this case, the tail wags the dog. Instead of morality constraining pleasures (‘I want to do that, but I really shouldn’t’), the pleasures define morality (‘I want to do that, and I’m going to find a way to rationalize it’). This effort at ethical decision making is really nothing more than thinly veiled self-interest-pleasure as ethics.
    When self-interest rules, it has a profound impact on behaviour, especially affecting how we treat other human beings. The notions of human respect and dignity depend on the existence of moral truth. Without it, there is no obligation of self-sacrifice on behalf of others. Instead, we can discard people when they become trouble-some or expensive, or simply when they cramp our lifestyles.
    What follows is a true story about a newborn child we’ll call Baby Garcia. This event took place in a major hospital in the Los Angeles area. I pass on the exact details as Jennifer, the nurse involved, related them to me:
    One night a nurse on my shift came up to me and said, ‘Jennifer, you need to see the Garcia baby’ There was something suspicious about the way she said it, though. I see babies born every hour, I thought.
    She led me to a utility room the nurses used for their breaks. Women were smoking and drinking coffee, their feet up on the stainless steel counter. There, lying on the metal, was the naked body of a newborn baby.
    ‘What is this baby doing here on this counter?’ I asked timidly. ‘That’s a preemie born at nineteen weeks,’ she said. ‘We don’t do anything to save them unless they’re twenty weeks.’
    I noticed that his chest was fluttering rapidly. I picked him up for a closer look. ‘This baby is still alive!’ I exclaimed. I thought they hadn’t noticed.
    Then I learned the horrible truth. The nurses knew, and it didn’t matter. They had presented the baby to its mother as a dead, premature child. Then they took him away and tossed him on the cold, steel counter in the lunch room until he died. His skin was blotchy white, and his mouth was gaping open as he tried to breathe.
    I did the one thing I could think of. I held him in his last moments so he’d at least have some warmth and love when he died.
    Just then one of the nurses-a large, harsh woman-burst into the room. ‘Jennifer, what are you doing with that baby?’ she yelled. ‘He’s still alive…’
    ‘He’s still alive because you’re holding him,’ she said. Grabbing him by the back with one hand, she snatched him from me, opened one of the stainless steel cabinets, and pulled out a specimen container with formaldehyde in it. She tossed the baby in and snapped the lid on. It was over in an instant.
    To them, this child wasn’t human. In seven more days he would have qualified, but at nineteen weeks he was just trash. [6]If there is no truth, nothing has transcendent value, including human beings. The death of morality reduces people to the status of mere creatures. When persons are viewed as things, they begin to be treated as things.
    Anything Goes
    The death of morality also produces an ‘anything goes’ mentality. Sexual norms not only become more liberal, they expand without boundaries because no boundaries exist. Ann Landers recorded the following letter from one of her ‘morally liberated’ readers:
    Dear Ann:
    I am a man in my early 60s, divorced and retired. My sister is in her late 50s and widowed. We go to bed together twice a week. This has been going on since her husband died 8 years ago. Actually, when we were teenagers, we fooled around a lot, but never had intercourse. This is not a love match, but it is sex, and good sex at that.
    We both enjoy these escapades, and they always produce a good night’s sleep. No one knows about this, and no one is getting hurt, or do you think we are fooling ourselves?
    -No NAME, NO CITY, PLEASEDear No Name:
    Sick, sick, sick. If I had your address I would send you a ‘get well’ card. [7]Even more sobering is how America responded when art went on trial in a Cincinnati courthouse. At issue was an exhibit in the Contemporary Art Center of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe, a talented photographer who had distinguished himself with, among other things, still-life photography of flowers. The photographs on display included the following: a picture of a ten-year-old girl sitting in a chair with her knees up and genitals exposed; a photograph of a man who was naked except for cowboy boots, bent over with a bull-whip in his anus; and a shot of one man expelling a stream of urine into the mouth of another.
    The museum was charged with exhibiting pornography. During the trial, a curator of another museum who testified on behalf of the Mapplethorpe exhibit was asked if the urination picture was art. ‘Yes,’ she said.
    ‘Is it fine art?’
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘Why?’
    ‘Because of the composition and the lighting.’
    Each photograph was acquitted of the charge of pornography and judged as fine art, after which social commentator and radio talkshow host Dennis Prager observed, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, if some of the leading artists in a civilization see a man urinating in another man’s mouth and see composition and lighting and do not see their civilization being pissed upon, we are in trouble.’ [8]
    And we are in trouble. A security camera in Britain records two young boys calmly leading a toddler away and later bludgeoning him to death. A mother in South Carolina fastens her own two children snugly into their safety belts and then sinks the car in the river so she can restore a romantic interest with a man who doesn’t want her kids. [9] The leader of a national animal rights organization states that animals are the moral equivalent of humans. [10] An upper-middle-class college couple in New Jersey deliver a child in a motel room, bash in its head, and then drop it in a dumpster. The American College of Emergency Physicians estimates that seventy thousand elderly Americans were abandoned by family members in one year, a practice called ‘granny dumping.’ [11] And the list goes on.
    We are not trying to pander to the sensational with these illustrations. These events aren’t out of the ordinary; they can be seen almost daily in our living rooms on the evening news.
    Ours is a generation that has institutionalized moral relativism. We’ve cut our eye-teeth on the philosophy that life’s most sublime goal is to be happy and that virtually any means justifies this self-serving end. No longer will we allow a hint of moral censure on sexual practices that were regarded as perverse only a generation before. We consider bullwhips in the butt and urination in the face fine art, abortion a constitutional right, infanticide a reasonable alternative to caring for a child with a troublesome birth defect, lesbian and homosexual families normal, and drug use a national pastime.
    ‘It is possible,’ Prager observes, ‘that some societies have declined as rapidly as has America since the 1960s, but I am not aware of any.’ [12]
    Traitors in Our MidstThis is not a ‘morality’ we simply tolerate; we champion it. We take pride in our tolerance, yet tolerate no one who doesn’t share our moral open-mindedness. ‘Who are you to pass judgment?’ we ask. ‘Where do you get off condemning a nurse for what she does with a foetus that was dying anyway? Or for criticizing the sexual preferences of siblings? Or for challenging another’s view of art?’
    This stinking stew of ethical nothingness is the sad legacy of the sixties. Yet when our own moral philosophy turns us into victims when our personal liberty is interrupted by random acts of anarchy – suddenly something like moral consciousness tries to lift its head.
    Take the Los Angeles riots of 1992, for example. As the buildings burned we watched with horror. Shops were plundered not by hooded looters but by families made up of mom, dad, and the kids – moral mutants on the shopping spree of their lives, giggling and laughing with impunity while stuffing their spoils into shopping carts and oversized trash bags.
    We shouldn’t have been surprised. During the L.A. riots these families did exactly what they had been taught. Nobody wanted to ‘impose’ their morality on anyone else, so they learned that values are relative and that morality is a matter of personal preference. Make your own rules, define your own reality, seek your own truth. In the spring of ’92, thousands of people did just what we told them to do, and civilization burned.
    If we reject truth, why should we be surprised at the moral turbulence that follows? As C. S. Lewis said, ‘We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.’ [13]
    This is the chaotic and confusing world of moral relativism, a world made more confusing because moral relativism isn’t even moral. It doesn’t qualify as a genuine moral view, as we will learn in the next chapter
    Notes1. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 25.
    2. When Chuck Colson gave an address at Harvard titled ‘Why It’s Impossible to Teach Ethics at Harvard Business School,’ this was precisely the response he received. As mentioned in a radio interview with James Dobson, Focus On the Family. The tape aired by Focus on the Family is Chuck Colson, ‘The Problem of Ethics: Why Good People Do Bad Things,’ an address to the Harvard Business School; copyright 1991, Prison Fellowship, PO. Box 17500, Washington, D.C. 20041.
    3. Kelly Monroe, ed., Finding God at Harvard (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 15. 4. Ibid., 17.
    5. Recorded in The Presbyterian Layman, July-August 1996, 8.
    6. As told to Gregory Koukl by Jennifer Personius, November 1988.
    7. Los Angeles Times, 22 August 1992, E4.
    8. Dennis Prager, ‘Multiculturalism and the War Against Western Values’ (audiotape), 7 October 1991, available through Ultimate Issues, 800-225-8584.
    9. Stephanie Saul, New York Newsday, 20 July 1995, A17.
    10. Ingrid Newkirk, national director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), quoted in ‘To Market, To Market,’ L.A. Times Magazine, 22 March 1992.
    11. New York Times, 26 March 1992 and 29 March 1992; Time, 6 April 1992; referenced in World News Digest, 13 April 1992.
    12. Dennis Prager, ‘Just Another Two Days in the Decline of America,’ The Prager Perspective, 1 January 1997, 1.
    13. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Collier Macmillan, 1955), 35.

    This is a sample chapter from the book Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Greg Koukl and Francis J. Beckwith available in the UK from STL through Wesley Owen bookshops.

    ——————————————————————————–
    © Greg Koukl 2005
    Source: Used by permission of DIVISION, a division of Baker Publishing Group, copyright © 2005. All rights to this material are reserved. Materials are not to be distributed to other web locations for retrieval, published in other media, or mirrored at other sites without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

  11. monkeysuncle says

    So. . . .we may conclude that the anonymous poster above is simply a cut-and-paste troll, who has never experienced the joy of having an original idea of his own and must resort to the vicarious pleasure of yanking off on a blog with which he disagrees.

    What a waste.

    The actual author of that bit is clearly a sad individual who does not understand art and culture. If he did, he would understand why art is not simply something you buy to match the draperies.

    Mr. Bloom, whom the author refers to, is an especially sad case, since he seems to have a small audience out there. This wretched creature is so bitterly disappointed, outraged and at odds with modern life that one wonders why he persists in continuing his own. To him, art is blasphemous, music is an expression of evil, and any composer that came after Rachmaninoff is a radical gangsta thug. Any new idea must be viewed as a revolutionary plot at worst, and as a suspicious indication of mental disorder at least. There is nothing good that is new in Professor Bloom’s world, which may explain why he attracts trolls like this anonymous poster.

    How sad.

  12. says

    Without invisible unicorns, there is no precondition for intelligibility.Gene should have known this. But he denied it. I guess he’s a “walking contradiction”.(Everyone knows about ouroborus reasoning. What’s so hard about it that Cook and so many others have missed it? Or do they do it deliberately?)Forget Gene. He’s a figment of his own imagination.Edwin you were great. Impressed me with your friendliness, among other things. Thanks for CQ (and the IQ), and everything that you do. You are appreciated.

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