Archive for August, 2010

August 20, 2010

Quantum Mechanics and Libertarianism

by Max Andrews

One of the most important premises behind quantum physics is to understand its indeterminacy.  My question is whether or not a theist can use this as an argument for libertarianism.  Subatomic particles behave in indeterminate ways (i.e. if you know the location of a particle you do not know it’s velocity and vise versa).  It should be noted that this doesn’t negate the laws of causality.  Without the laws of causality science absolutely breaks down.  It’s really an issue of probability with quantum physics.  The case a libertarian may make is that because quantum mechanics function in an indeterminate way, only with a probability, then nothing can be determined, everything is random.  Atheist Daniel Dennett and agnostic Stephen Hawking hold to this view of soft-libertarianism (as naturalists).

I certainly think this may be a good argument for a naturalist.  The best case that can be made for the naturalist is that neurological functions of the brain are random and what we do as agents is merely random.  However, for a theist, particularly a Christian who holds to the doctrine of creatio originans, this is problematic.  That is, God acts on an existing subject to preserve its existence an maintains the existence of the things he has created.  This begs the question, to what extent does God sustain the universe?  I think an obvious answer would be everything (i.e. atoms, particles, strings).  This isn’t to say that God causes every article or moves every particle, but he acts on them in a sustaining manner so that it may continue to exist.  What it does say is that despite the randomness there is still purpose because it is controlled and sustained by an agency (God).  For the Christian [entailing this doctrine], can the argument from quantum mechanics serve as an argument for libertarianism?  I would advocate that libertarians abandon this argument, it doesn’t work.  If anything, for a Christian, this could be used as an argument against free agency by the naturalist (an argument for naturalism).  There are better arguments for free agency to use.  I’ve heard this one before and libertarians need to abandon this.

August 12, 2010

The YEC Culture War

by Max Andrews

This is in response to and complementary to blogger Big Mama’s post.

If you’re not a young earth creationist you probably know one.  The YEC thinkers are usually pretty vocal about their position [and I have no problem with that], but I think some of the mission goals for YEC’s are eschew.  Answers in Genesis, perhaps the most prominent YEC think tank, is led by Ken Ham.  I think Ham misses the mark on many things, and I think the biggest problem is that he has misidentified the target of his culture war.

Example:  I know that AiG certainly benefits from some literature and research from the Intelligent Design Movement, but their criticisms are misguided.  The author, Dr. Georgia Purdom, seems to be uninformed of the goals [and limits] of intelligent design.  ID is very modest in claiming that,

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

My point is that the science of intelligent design is incapable of identifying who [assuming a mind is a person] designed X (for more on the claims of ID and the difference from creationism please this).  Identifying the creator is a philosophical and theological conclusion.  Of course science has a presupposition of philosophical issues (i.e. recognizing patterns, consistency, reason, and logic), but that is not the same as making a separate conclusion from what has been answered by science.  In the case of intelligent design, the scientific conclusion would merely be that the universe was designed for life and that life itself was designed, that’s it!  It doesn’t seem like this is acceptable for AiG, Dr. Purdom states,

In today’s culture, many are attracted to the ID movement because they can decide for themselves who the creator is—a Great Spirit, Brahman, Allah, God, etc. The current movement focuses more on what is designed, rather than who designed it. Thus, leaders in the movement do not have problems with accepting an old age for the earth or allowing evolution to play a vital role once the designer formed the basics of life.

Proponents of ID fail to understand that a belief in long ages for the earth formed the foundation of Darwinism. If God’s Word is not true concerning the age of the earth, then maybe it’s not true concerning other events of the Creation Week; and maybe God was not a necessary part of the equation for life after all.

Without the framework of the Bible and the understanding that evil entered the world through man’s actions (Genesis 3), God appears sloppy and incompetent. People ask why God is unable to prevent evil from thwarting His plans, resulting in such poor design, instead of understanding that because of the Fall there is now a cursed design.

God’s role as Creator is foundational to His role as Redeemer.

In addition, because the ID movement does not acknowledge God as Redeemer, there seems to be no final solution for the evil in this world; and by all appearances it will continue to reign supreme. However, when trusting the Bible as opposed to neglecting it, we read that Jesus clearly conquered death with the Resurrection (Romans 6:3–10) and that one day death will no longer reign (Revelation 21:4). Again, the Creator and the creation reflect on each other.

Romans 1:20 states that all men know about God through His creation. However, recognizing that there is a designer is only the first step. Colossians 1:15–20 and 2 Peter 3:3–6 demonstrate how God’s role as Creator and Redeemer are inexorably intertwined. Again, God’s role as Creator is foundational to His role as Redeemer. Recognizing a designer is not enough to be saved; submitting to the Redeemer is also necessary.

Now, I don’t want to generalize all YEC’s, so this criticism is primarily for AiG.  Intelligent design cannot tell you that you are sinful, that Jesus existed, that he died and rose again, and it doesn’t tell you that you need to be redeemed!  Intelligent design does not point to the cross, it points to a designer.  If design is going to be used as an apologetic you can resume with a cumulative case argument. A cumulative case may look like:

  1. The universe had a beginning (Cosmological argument, God is extremely powerful and personal [kalam]).
  2. The universe is designed to harbor life and life is designed (Teleological argument, God is extremely intelligent).
  3. There are absolute moral duties and values (God is a morally perfect person and is good).
  4. The historicity of the death and resurrection of Jesus (that Jesus is God and God is involved in his creation).

You’ll notice that nothing (except for 4 when used as a historical apologetic approach) listed can be used by itself to demonstrate the truth of Christianity.  I would exclude 4 as being necessarily obvious because I have a classical approach to apologetics, that one must be presuppose the existence of God for miracles to happen.  I have other disputes with Purdom’s article (i.e. the beginnings of ID [uh, Plato, Cicero? It’s not Darwinism and OEC).  For more information on AiG’s position on the ID movement, see this.

Back to Ham real quick, I believe Ham needs to calibrate and zero his sights to bigger problems than intelligent design and OEC (not the enemy).  Now, I believe there are times for friendly criticisms, but to [implicitly] attack philosopher and mathematician Bill Dembski, a major leader in the ID movement, and philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig as pagans is a bit too much.

A significant portion of my presentation will center around the teachings of William Dembski  and others (such as William Lane Craig associated with Talbot Theological Seminary and Biola University) who sadly contribute to the loss of biblical authority in church and culture.

It’s interesting because in the very next line Ham states,

But please keep in mind as I make these observations that I am not questioning anyone’s Christian faith.We are encouraged to know that many Southern Baptist leaders (e.g., the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, Dr. Paige Patterson, and others) have been standing up for biblical inerrancy, but Answers in Genesis is concerned that there are some professors in Southern Baptist schools who are actually undermining biblical authority.

Oh, even better, he then states,

Where England is today spiritually (it is all but dead), the USA will be tomorrow if we keep heading in this direction.  Christian leaders representing the church need to stand up in this nation and condemn the compromise with the pagan religion of the age (millions of years/evolution—the pagan religion of the age to explain life without God) and stand for God’s authoritative Word. Only then will we see God’s blessing on the church and the resulting change in the culture that is so needed. Of course, we don’t question whether such scholars are Christians, but we still need to point out their compromise of accepting man’s opinions over God’s Word.

Isn’t a pagan religion something contrary to Christianity?  I know he states he’s not questioning their salvation, but does he believe OEC’s, who believe in billions of years, can be pagan and Christian at the same time?  Please view the whole article and his claims and qualms here.

Going through the AiG and YEC literature, it certainly appears that ID and, of course OEC, has been a part of the aggregate of criticisms as hurdles to the gospel.  I don’t think this is true, intelligent design is completely neutral to the gospel and OEC is not either.  I hope that AiG continues their work and ministry because I see YEC’s as brothers and sisters in Christ and a dialogue in the market place of ideas will give rise to the truth.  We should continue dialogue and exchange ideas and criticize, but in order to change a culture for a theistic and Christian worldview the focus needs to be on real hurdles.  If the issue is evolution, OEC and ID are not the enemies.  AiG, focus more in Darwinism than ID to win the culture war.  Focus more on atheism and address the arguments the other side is purporting point by point.

For more on AiG and the culture war please see Ham’s State of the Nation and Big Mama’s links provided.

August 12, 2010

Is Intelligent Design Science? A Debate

by Max Andrews

I found this debate between biochemist Michael Behe and physicist Stephen Barr originally posted by the Discovery Institute and thought I would share this as well.  I really appreciate the debate and Behe’s performance.  Behe was certainly pressed for time and could have presented the material by condensing it more, but it was still good material.  I find that many Darwinists begin the discussion (if they even permit discussion) by trying to rule out intelligent design out as science by definition, a problem of methodological naturalism.  I appreciated Barr’s open approach to intelligent design, he did well.  I’m sure I’ll be posting more on this later, until then, enjoy.

Full Video & Audio