Saturday, April 24, 2010

Is there intelligent life in outer space?

This post brought to you by the great minds at the Answers in Genesis newsletter team. Also by the letter C, the number 6, and the word "ego."

A: A number of leading evolutionists, like the late Dr. Carl Sagan, have popularized the idea that there must be intelligent life in outer space. From an evolutionary perspective, it would make sense to suggest such a possibility. People who believe this possibility contend that, if life evolved on earth by natural processes, intelligent life must exist somewhere else in the far reaches of space, given the size of the universe and the millions of possible planets.
I've probably already said this, but the term "evolutionist" is about as helpful when describing scientists as "atomist" or "gravitist." Yes, scientists accept evolution because it's an amazing theory, not because they were choosing them out of a hat and happened to pick cell theory, germ theory, and... uh... creationism. Carl Sagan was an astronomer and cosmologist, so it's strange to assign this term to someone in his field (as opposed to biololgy), but I think you're just trying to single him out as "not one of us." It would, however, make sense to postulate the high probability of life existing somewhere else in the universe because of the massive amounts of planets, each with differing heat cycles, atmospheres, dominant elements, and so on. No one is saying that there is definitely, for sure life out there. But it's hard to say there definitely isn't either.
One can postulate endlessly about possibilities of intelligent life in outer space, but I believe a Christian worldview, built on the Bible, rejects such a possibility. Here is why.
Ah, forget science, the search for life, or any possible concrete confirmations we might have in the future. You've got the answer because your books tells you so... or at least you interpret it to tell you so.

During the six days of creation in Genesis 1, we learn that God created the earth first. On day four He made the sun and the moon for the earth, and then “He made the stars also” (Genesis 1:16).
From these passages of Scripture it would seem that the earth is very special—it is center stage. Everything else was made for purposes relating to the earth. For instance, the sun, moon, and stars were made “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14).
...And that's how you end it. Well, you seem to have let your logic go unsaid and assume that we will just "get" what you're trying to say. And what I think that is would be "everything in this universe revolves around the earth" (metaphorically... or a few hundred years ago, literally - thanks Galileo!). We as humans are just so important that everything in the universe was made for us and our enjoyment. All of those beautiful galaxies billions of light years away and the billions more that we'll never see, yes, all for our ocular enjoyment. Forget the fact that they are all pretty much meaningless if we are only here because Yahweh wanted to make us, they are for US! US ONLY!


As the creationists would have you believe, because we are so important, there is no need for any other planet to be inhabited by aliens because frankly, God wouldn't care about them. He'd be so concerned with us, meeting our needs, answering our prayers, and sacrificing humans for us that he'd probably just forget about the Klingons. And because of original sin, they'd be sentenced to eternal torture as soon as they're born and they'd have no Klingon-Jesus to save them. So obviously, the best solution would be to just leave the planets dry and lifeless. It's a stretch to believe, but they can do it. I mean, they are creationists.

In case that last statement was too controversial, I'd like to slightly clarify. There are two types of creationists. Those that don't really know much about science but believe in creationism because their pastors tell them they have to and those that do know about science but continue to lie through their teeth and distort facts because this is what they want to believe. And a large majority probably fall into the first category, so it's hard to blame them. I just hope that one day our educational institutions will be able to adequately cover scientific explanations for basic principles, such as evolution. If we had that, I think we could cut TalkOrigins' Index to Creationist Claims in half.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Does the big bang fit with the Bible?

Possible geometries of the universe
So AiG finally came out with a newsletter I felt like responding to. Personally, I don't care if a scientific theory does or doesn't fit with the Bible because I'm not a Bible-truther. However, some people (or organizations) feel the need to mock modern science without understanding it while claiming that it is wrong and disagrees with their book, and thus we should believe their magical story of creation.

A: The “big bang” is a story about how the universe came into existence. It proposes that billions of years ago the universe began in a tiny, infinitely hot and dense point called a singularity. This singularity supposedly contained not only all the mass and energy that would become everything we see today, but also “space” itself. According to the story, the singularity rapidly expanded, spreading out the energy and space.
Not quite. The Big Bang Theory (BBT) doesn't describe the origin of the universe but rather the development of the universe over time. It also doesn't say that the universe was ever point-like. Other than that, I think you're pretty much correct.
It is supposed that over vast periods of time, the energy from the big bang cooled down as the universe expanded. Some of it turned into matter—hydrogen and helium gas. These gases collapsed to form stars and galaxies of stars. Some of the stars created the heavier elements in their core and then exploded, distributing these elements into space. Some of the heavier elements allegedly began to stick together and formed the earth and other planets.
Ok, sure. I have some reading to do on the Nebular hypothesis, but I don't see anything immediately wrong with that summary.
This story of origins is entirely fiction. But sadly, many people claim to believe the big-bang model. It is particularly distressing that many professing Christians have been taken in by the big bang, perhaps without realizing its atheistic underpinnings. They have chosen to reinterpret the plain teachings of Scripture in an attempt to make it mesh with secular beliefs about origins.
Dang, and I was taken in by its scientific underpinnings. I'm pretty sure there's nothing about BBT that requires an atheistic universe. Many creationist organization that aren't AiG have come to embrace the scientific explanation of BBT for how our universe developed. What exactly in the bible is so "contrary" to the idea that all matter initially expanded outwardly to create the universe we have today? Is that not how Yahweh chose to "speak" it into existence? If not, how do you know this? Do you not accept BBT just because your pastor or Sunday school teacher says so (neither of which are authorities on the subject)? (To clarify, not all creationists are Christians. However, only the ones I know are. If you're Muslim, I'm still talking to you.)

I personally believe that Christians are hesitant to accept this theory because it removes their god as a necessity from a universe that has constantly needed less and less supernatural explanation as our knowledge has grown. Christians probably believe this is the one area of science that needs a god to explain it, otherwise we perhaps could have come from "nothing", but this, like the rest of creationism, is just wishful thinking. I'll admit that BBT is tough to understand because there's just so much that goes into it - from complex physical formulas to jargon to Einsteinian relativity. But that's an even better reason to not go around claiming that a certain scientific theory is incorrect when you yourself don't understand it. Leave science to the scientists.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Freedom of Speech

I was waiting at the bus stop just yesterday when I saw a guy about my age reading Ray Comfort's edited version of On the Orgin of Species (which I confess I am disappointed that it shows up on Amazon's top 3 search results). At first I thought to myself, "This is a joke, right? Like, they didn't really make a book with that dumb of an intro, did they?" But of course, they did, and he was reading it. I didn't get to say anything to him about it and if I did I would have told him to just tear out the first few pages and use them as kindle.

What seems sad to me is that, after all these years, Creationists still attack Darwin for his views on... well, the origin of the species. They defame his character as though it matters and as though it has anything to do with what science said then or says today. But the worst part is that a lot of people might notice the book, see the attractive colors, recognize the iconic name, open to the first page, and think that Ray Comfort has actually somehow disproved a grounded scientific theory in under 50 pages. I know, you wouldn't think it's likely, but the odds are good that it would happen to at least a few people. Looking at the cover, you couldn't tell that it is supposed to be a "rebuttal" but it instead somewhat deceptively states that it merely contain an "introduction," which contains some of the poorest argumentation and misunderstanding about the theory I've ever seen.

On one hand, I hate it. In a country with freedom of speech, any uneducated man can publish a book that says anything he wants it to without any legal repercussions. It just doesn't seem fair that it should be published and given to unsuspecting college students throughout the nation. But on the other hand, I love the US for the same reason. Instead of censoring people we don't agree with, we fairly give them the right to voice their side while soundly trouncing every argument they put forth and conclusively showing them to be frauds. Sure, some people might get deceived in the process, but when you consider that it could be you getting shut up by the feds, you realize how important it is that everyone be permitted to at least speak their mind.

Furthermore, you now have the opportunity (perhaps even the responsibility) to become knowledgeable on a subject so that you can better yourself and others by dissecting the lies and showing yourself to be an honest, contributing member of society. I can't count the times I've been thankful for the ability to read an article that my family, friends, government, or politicians wouldn't have wanted me reading. I would hope that in a completely open forum where everyone's voice can be heard, the truth would win out every time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Atheist Blogroll

Rock the Mind has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Proving God Exists: Morality

I can't decide whether I'm glad or disappointed that Eric Hovind actually hasn't written these articles I'm critiquing here. The dude's name is Joshua Joscelyn, but I'm sure Eric at least had to approve these for them to appear on the website. So I hold them both responsible for their production's absurdity. And this final article is not exempt. Shall we?
Atheism is bankrupt. The unbeliever's worldview is utterly devoid of justification. When someone takes the unbeliever's claims to the bank, the check will bounce. If anything is to be said for this illogical worldview, it could be said that the unbelievers have been clever enough to turn the tables on Christians and paint believers as the illogical ones. However, this only underscores the importance of subjecting your worldview as well as that of the unbeliever to closer scrutiny. And one of the best areas in which to do this is in the area of morality.
Utterly devoid of justification is great wording. Well, at least if you're referring to your previous inane articles where you assumed your own conclusions. I don't feel like anyone has turned any tables. Rather, claims have been held up to scrutiny and some have been shown to be... transparent.
Now, before we go any further, it must be stated that I am not claiming the atheist or unbeliever to be immoral, necessarily. This is often confused with the true intent of what I am about to say. But rather, I will demonstrate that, like logic and science, morality is merely assumed by the unbeliever, yet without a rational basis. While he may claim that morality—the concept of right and wrong—is merely the evolutionary result of self preservation, this counter claim has a few fundamental flaws. The unbeliever suggests that morality is simply a man-made construct that came about as an aid to our evolution. After all, it is simply pragmatic to avoid stealing from or killing my neighbor as this will garner favor for myself, and will thus further my survivability. This is sometimes extrapolated to also suggest that morality is what society agrees upon. But this would mean that societies like Nazi Germany were, by definition, good. It would mean that doing wrong to my neighbor when no one else can possibly find out is not wrong, but right.
Ah, I'm not necessarily immoral. Just probably, amirite? All because of this damned unbelief. God, give me faith! Oh,wait, actually that's just wishful thinking kicking in again. When people tell you to "ask God to increase your faith," that's as helpful as telling me to ask the unicorn fairy to increase my faith in leprechauns. If it helps, it's only because I wanted it to help. Otherwise, wouldn't God/unicorn fairy have increased my faith in the first place? I don't know. I honestly haven't dealt with any supernatural beings in my short stint on earth.

Anyway, yes, I do believe morality is a man-made construct. And yes, I do believe it has its basis in evolution. But please, "assumed... without a rational bias?" Just keep drinking that Kool-Aid. Yes, it does actually increase survivability if you don't go around stealing things or killing people. But you say that morality could (under some definitions) be determined by society. Well, I have to disagree. Read on:
And what is "wrong," anyway? How does one define this word? By what standard can something be right or wrong? When the unbeliever is faced with this question, he does not have a rational response. 

Morality is, at its core, based on the results of free-will decisions upon fellow humans. That is to say, something is morally "wrong" if it unjustly harms someone and "good" if it helps them in some way (which would be decided by the receiver of the action). Now if we use that basic definition of morality to analyze your scenario, the Nazis, we can see that it was not moral. Their actions benefited no one and harmed the lives of millions in unspeakable ways. The tough thing about morality is that there aren't always easy choices. Sure, some basics are easy, like "don't murder" (that never helps the victim), "don't steal" (other people have a right to their property - you wouldn't want someone taking your stuff), or "don't rape" (I don't need to explain this one). But as scenarios change and get more complex, things can get more muddled. This happens for issues like nuclear proliferation (incidentally, not a topic covered by the Bible), homosexual marriage rights, abortion, and "universal" (American) healthcare.

One side (clear-thinking people) believe that homosexual marriage should be allowed because it gives people the right to do what they want in a situation where other people will not be notably negatively affected. The other side thinks that it should continue to be outlawed because.... well, their book says so. This is an issue of morals because one side believes their position is morally correct and the other's incorrect (and vice versa). This issue does not require a Bible or any other text to tell you what to think.

Other, more complex issues would be those like nuclear proliferation. Is it moral or immoral to stockpile nuclear weapons? Should we distribute them? Should we try to remove all of them everywhere and use all of our military power to do so, voiding other countries' rights to sovereignty, trying to ensure that everyone in the world can be free from the threat of nuclear violence? People have taken stances on both sides of this issue and have made compelling arguments both ways. Christians often paint a picture of a completely black-and-white world where each action is either completely right or completely wrong. This unfortunately just isn't how the world works. Choosing the lesser of two evils is sometimes the best thing to do. But I'm digressing.
To him, if right and wrong are only based on human consensus, than morality is entirely subjective—it changes, and is not absolute. In other words, what is right to one group at one particular time can "morally" be wrong to another group at another time. Or if right and wrong are in the mind of the individual, then how can they be blamed by their actions? If evolution is the explanation, and we are only acting as our DNA dictates, then once again, there is no way we can logically be outraged when somebody's DNA causes them to kill, rape, or lie. After all, we are not outraged at the rock that falls on a car and injures the occupants. How is this any different from the purely naturalistic explanation given lamely by the unbeliever? They're only reacting to their genes, right? Evolution cannot account for morality.
No, conversely, if morality is entirely based on what God says, then it must be relative - subjective. It would be completely based on "God says so" (never a good reason to believe when the person who told you that isn't known to be trustworthy).  If God says that action X is good, then it simply is good regardless of context, motivation, or meaning. If God told you to slaughter children (and don't say it hasn't happened... repeatedly), then it is a good thing to do. An honorable one. A required one. And that's something I just can't buy. Remember the Euthyphro Dilemma? It asks the question, "Is it moral because God commands it, or does God command it because it is moral?" Clearly, I do not believe it can be the former, for that would require countless absurdities like the one I just mentioned. If it is the latter, then God is simply a bystander at the moral carnival, watching the ferris wheel of choices spin and dictating to you when to get on and off the ride. This is especially hurtful to those believers who would like to think that God created and is in control of everything, including morality. But it's just not so.

In case it hasn't been obvious from what I've said so far, people are not outraged at rocks for falling on them (well... some are, but it's a futile thing) because rocks don't have free will. They aren't making choices. Morality requires choices. In the same way that you can't fault a person for pulling the trigger and killing a child if his hands and fingers were hooked up to a machine that controlled them against his will, you can't fault a rock for falling on a car if it had no say in the matter. If a rock did become sentient and decide to crush my muscular legs, I'd have a legitimate reason to complain.
Yet evolutionists and unbelievers, in general, behave in moral ways. They make statements like "You shouldn't teach Creationism to little kids," or "You ought not to judge other people." They bear witness to the Creator by their conscience, while making moral statements, though these statements cannot be accounted for within their worldview. The fact that unbelievers appeal to objective morality, even though they lack the standard for such, proves that they really do believe in God! Unbelievers borrow from the Christian worldview in operating within the guidelines of morality. It is the Christian worldview, because morality to a Christian is merely a reflection of God's nature. Morality to a Christian stems from an absolute standard—God and His Word. Morality is built into the hearts of every person God created, whether they follow that conscience or not. Deep down inside, even atheists know that there is an absolute moral standard—they just can't bring themselves to confess His name. In this way, morality bears witness to the Creator God, who is good and right. And that, you can take to the bank.
Yay! You finally get it! We shouldn't be teaching creationism to little kids. Because it isn't science and it isn't true. I mean, you can deny that, but reality isn't up for grabs here.

Non-Christians appeal to a non-objective but intellectually defensible morality that tries to find the best decision in the set of all possible decisions. Note that this whole while, you've used the adjective "Christian" to describe all of these things that you're trying to prove here. I could change that to "Jewish" or "Muslim" and that wouldn't change your arguments one bit. That should raise some flags for you, but that isn't even your biggest problem. You assert, again, without justification, that we have defined our ways of thinking upon your Bible without realizing or acknowledging it. You haven't backed up a whit of these assertions, and I think now that realization has been heavily poured upon your head.

So here's the "moral" of the story. Think rationally. Anticipate the consequences of your actions, especially in situations where you are aware that things can go wrong. By being conscious about the impact you have on your family, friends, and society in general, you can make the world be a happier, less crappy place. And smile about that!