If a thought is not a thing… then what is it?

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Thoughts are things.

As in, they exist.

But they are not made from stuff. So… what are they?

Look outside and count the trees lining the street. You just used thoughts to generate a number. But where is that number? It’s not painted on the trees just because you counted them. Maybe the number is in your head? Where in your head? If I — heaven forbid — cracked your skull open and went looking for that number, I’d be disappointed to only find nerves and chemicals. Alas, no number. But, you accurately counted the trees using basic math. Yet there is no physical proof of the math being done.

But those numbers do exist, or else, what the heck do we mean by numbers? And how come they — when accurately used — allow us to build machines and predict the movement of planets and stars?

Greek philosophers came up with the word metaphysics. It meant “beyond” physics. They placed morals, math and geometry in that realm. Plato used the example of geometric shapes to show that we all know of things that are in the metaphysical realm and not in our physical realm. You can draw a shape in the sand, but it is an imperfect version of the image in your thoughts.

Case in point: the square. Elementary students know what a square is. Four straight lines connected at right angles:

square

Interestingly, true squares only exist k2-5in the realm of our thoughts and not in the physical world. Proof of this is that you have never seen a perfect square. This would require four perfectly straight lines connected at exactly 90 degrees in each four corners. But even with modern pixel screens and computer generated squares, if you zoomed in enough, you’d notice irregularities. Straight lines on a word document are actually imperfectly aligned pixels (see illustration). The reason we know this pixelated line is imperfect is that we know — in our mind’s eye — what straight looks like, even though we can’t find it anywhere in the universe. But where is that perfect square if it’s nowhere in the physical universe? And if we were ever to perfectly create a straight line or a shape, we would only have done so after meticulously following the blueprints in our minds, not copying a physical form.

All this to state that there is an entire universe out there that is not made up of atoms. It does not get old or rusty. Yet we access it every day when we think. These thoughts are not perusing the physical world with our 5 senses, it is perusing an immaterial world of truths that exist nowhere except that “other” world.

Thoughts are things, but not made up of matter.

The “other” world is real. Very, very real.

The Problem of Information

pseudogene_full_3155369670-6One thing that is often overlooked when discussing biology is: information.

Biology IS information. Without the blueprint of information (i.e.: DNA) and tens of thousands of little micro machines doing specific jobs there would be no giraffes, humans or crabs. There wouldn’t be any dandilions, roses or even bacteria. All of these are made up of the same materials that we find in the crust of the earth. Dirt, rocks and mud have all the same molecules as me and you. We could build an elephant with the ground under our houses.

But therein lies the rub for atheists. We would have to intelligently BUILD biological life out of the materials around and under us. Because without intelligence, machines are not built. Planes and tanks and bicycles are also made from materials we find on — or in — the earth. But bikes don’t pop out of the ground magically. Only as the result of human intelligence and effort.

“But, there’s your error, plants DO sprout out of the ground…”

No, they don’t.

If you put a seed in the ground, the cells of the seedling get to work. Micro machines grab ingredients from the surroundings and build additional cells according to the blueprint of information already in the seed. In short, you need a of batch of machines and a ton of information in order to grow a plant. It does not pop out of dirt.

Neither do bugs or llamas.

Every plant or animal or germ we know comes from another of its own kind. And invariably, all of these biological “systems” are run by information, machines that can read information, machines that build or carry things and structures that house all of these in a carefully chemically balanced fluid.

Even children understand that information comes from minds not mud.

Therefore, when it comes to life on earth, information — for the atheist — is a problem.

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An Embarrassing Event?

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Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins

Donald Henry Gaskins had been beaten and neglected as a child and had been in and out of court to face several burglary, sexual and physical assault charges throughout his life. Then he graduated to raping a twelve year old girl and killing at least 8 people. On September 6, 1991 he was executed by electric chair in South Carolina.

On March 1, 1932 Richard Hauptmann snuck into the bedroom of a 20 month old infant and kidnapped him. He left a note to the boy’s famous and wealthy father, Charles Lindbergh, demanding $50,000 for the return of the child. The money was delivered but the baby was never returned. A couple of weeks later the infant’s lifeless body was found in a nearby field, apparently dead from a blow to the head.

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Richard Hauptmann

Richard Hauptmann was later arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby boy. Court proceedings for Hauptmann were called the “Trial of the Century” due to the heinous nature of the crime. Hauptmann was dubbed by the press as the “most hated man in the world.” On April 3, 1936, Hauptmann was strapped into the New Jersey State Prison electric chair (dubbed “Old Smokey”) and executed.

Ted Bundy confessed to at least 30 murders across seven states in the U.S. during the 1970’s. His crimes were so horrendous that they redefined the notion of human depravity. Bundy not only killed his victims but often engaged in sex acts with them post mortem.

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Ted Bundy

He even decapitated several victims and kept their heads as souvenirs. This degree of vicious perversion is usually not even found in horror cinema.

Bundy escaped while on trial in Colorado. He was recaptured in Florida some time later after committing more murders in a college dorm room. His trial and sentencing led to his January 24, 1989 execution in the electric chair.

All of these criminals were executed by electrocution. There is nothing glamorous about the electric chair. No one boasts about a family member that was put through this procedure. As we can see, the unsavory characters that are put through this type of death penalty are not beloved members of human society. Often their crimes are so dreadful that it is sickening to contemplate. first-electric-chair-Auburn-NY-photo-International-News

This is where Easter can come into a new focus. Easily the most beloved and revered figure in all of history, Jesus Christ is a man who was, like the murderers mentioned above, killed by a state execution. Yet even the dreadful criminals in our modern times received better treatment than Him. The method by which Jesus was killed was even more gruesome and obscene than the electric chair. He died a death more loathsome than Ted Bundy’s.

Today the Christian cross is a classic symbol of righteous triumph. Yet during Jesus’ generation it was a grotesquely slow and painful method of execution that was reserved for the bottom of the barrel criminals. In comparison the electric chair is a sanitary and dignified death penalty. Crucifixion on the other hand took several days of slow suffocation in which the criminal was exposed in public — often in the nude — and could be jeered at, spat upon and continually mocked until death overtook him due to kidney or heart failure. It was so depraved that Roman citizens were forbidden to be crucified, no matter their crimes.

Perhaps it is easier now to understand the shock of Peter and the disciples when Christ told them that He had to die by crucifixion. Imagine our disgust at having our beloved mentor be put through the same treatment as the 3 criminals mentioned at the beginning of this post. Imagine early Christians using the symbol of the electric chair to happily remember their Teacher. And now, imagine the likeness of electric chairs on every church roof throughout history, or millions of necklaces with electric chair pendants around the necks of grandmothers, fathers, pastors and people attending church.

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What a strange and gruesome thought. Yet the cross is much more grotesque and unsophisticated. The only reason the symbol of the cross is palatable to Christians is that it is not the end of the story. No fan of John F Kennedy commemorates him by wearing a rifle necklace. Nor do friends, family and admirers celebrate the day Harvey Oswald shot him (Nov. 22, 1963). Yet the day of Christ’s execution is labelled “Good Friday” and Easter weekend is the single most important Christian holiday.

Absolutely none of this makes sense without the Resurrection.

The Resurrection makes the cross a symbol of the death of death itself. The victory of Life over death. No longer is even as gruesome an execution as crucifixion able to overshadow the size, brightness and power of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The conquering of the grave has inoculated crucifixion and turned the day of Christ’s execution into a Good day. On that day our death and judgment was cancelled.

Permanently.

Praise God for that. Take a moment to really thank Him.

Liberal Theology – A Vomit-Worthy Enterprise

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*the tone of this article may seem a bit aggressive. It is meant to be. Sometimes it is more biblical to be visceral as well as accurate (Rev 3:16).

I can respect an honest skeptic. Heck, I can even stomach a former believer that has lost the faith (depending on their reasoning). But to this day, the one brand of human that makes my stomach churn is the “liberal Christian.”

Even the atheist has staked out a position. It is his own position in his own territory. It is the opposite of theism in every respect and the atheist admits to this and lives there full time. He turns his nose at God in plain site for all to see. No pretenses to piety. Full blown rebellion. Gutsy. I may disagree very strongly with the reasonableness of his position, but at least I don’t have to pay his rent. For the atheist truly has “moved out” of the Faith.

Liberal theologians on the other hand, live downstairs and use the attraction of  Christianity to attract many, unsuspecting spiritual seekers. “Come in,” they proclaim, “we will preach Christ to you, and let you feel the true power of His Resurrection.” Yet, as they begin to teach and preach, they rob Christianity of everything that makes it… well, Christianity. For those of you unfamiliar with the likes of Bishop Spong, John Dominic Crossan, the Jesus Seminar and church denominations such as United Church and Presbyterian, liberal theology is the belief that we live in a naturalistic world (i.e.: atheism) and that the bible is to be understood as a metaphor. According to liberal theologians, Jesus may very well have lived, but He was not God’s Son, the Messiah nor a Resurrected Saviour. Afterall, in an atheistic world, souls, gods and miracles exist only in the imaginations of sophisticated apes like us. Any mention of the strictly supernatural in the Bible was added by later generations of Christians to embellish Jesus’ teachings.

Bishop Spong explains the New Testament as a make-belief tale concocted by Christians to be a metaphor for Jesus’ true teachings. According to Spong and his ilk, what Christ actually taught His disciples was that they, just like him, were to see “God” as the Universe and life itself. Jesus taught them that their lives could “resurrect”beyond the grave if they loved others while they were alive.

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Episcopalian Bishop John Spong

Their loving and compassionate lives would impact the next generation and even live on perpetually in the domino effect of their teachings going from one epoch to the next. But there was no bodily resurrection, Christ did not ascend back to the Father, raise anybody from the dead, feed thousands with a couple loaves, walk on water and their will be no surviving the grave. For anybody. Not even Christ. In short, the world is purely natural.

Liberal theology is inseparable from atheism. Because it is atheism.

Which is why my nausea is triggered. There is something pathetic about masquerading as one business while, deep down, being a direct competitor to that business. In real-world commerce no one would tolerate this. It is, in fact, illegal. I can’t occupy a corner of a health food store and sell cigarettes. I have to pay for my own location, employees and carry my own insurance. I can’t squat in someone else’s business. Liberal theologians like Bishop Spong actually draw a salary for the episcopal church in the United States. He wears clerical robes while preaching atheism using the New Testament. He is an intellectual, spiritual and financial squatter.

If atheism is your brand, join their team. Using language such as “Christ,” “redemption,” “God” and “Resurrection” yet not believing in any of them is suspect. Trying to convince a trusting public that you are Christian is deceptive.

Liberal theologians will claim that they “know” that Jesus and His disciples would whole-heartedly agree with Spong and company. And that they would lovingly shake their heads at us poor, knuckle-dragging biblical literalists. If someone is this type of liberal Christian, I’d have more patience for them. For they could truly be confused and not simply a parasite.

For the confused liberal theologian I would offer some simple challenges:

  1. Why, throughout history, is there no Hebrew, pagan or Christian uses for the word “resurrection” other than the plainly physical bodily type of resuscitation?
  2. Why does the bulk of contemporary (and historical) New Testament scholarship attribute to the Gospel accounts the invariable style of 1st century biography and not mythology or liturgy?
  3. If there was no belief among the first generation of Christians in a literal, bodily Resurrection of Christ, why would the enemies of the early Church (i.e.: Jewish religious establishment and the Roman Empire) have records of Christianity being synonymous with the belief in a crucified then physically resurrected Jesus?
  4. If Peter and the disciples were simply trying to teach that — as the Beatles sang – “all you need is love” why not just say that? It would be simpler and easier than co-ordinating an entire mythological history that described a literal, physical Resurrected Christ whose life was punctuated with miraculous healings and actions. Apparently (according to Christian and non-Christian historical records) most generations of Christians misunderstood the “love theory” behind the “made up history” of the Gospels and epistles in the New Testament and the poor saps went to their painful deaths for nearly two millennia because of a mistaken literal understanding.

I could literally go on and on. Liberal theology makes no sense of the actual texture, genre and historical interpretation of the New Testament. According to them, only in the past 200 years has the “true” meaning behind the New Testament been clearly understood by middle aged scholars living in a secular post-enlightenment culture.

Could it not be that the Jesus Seminar scholars and liberal churches are merely the by product of their culture? That they would be so intimidated — or bedazzled — by a secular world that they would gut the Bible of its intended meaning? Conveniently protected by thousands of miles and thousands of years from the bloody epicenter of the early Church, they do not have to deal with actual Christians who actually died as martyrs for actually believing in an actually Risen Christ that saved them from an actual Hell and gave them actual hope for an actual life beyond the grave. Liberal theologians are content to sing a song for you to dance to as your life dwindles back to the ashes from whence it came.

If atheism is their religion why not have the courage and moxy to get off the welfare of the blood-bought, charity-driven reputation of old school Christianity and start their own darn business down the street?…

 

 

 

 

Credit to Islam for Scientific Revolution? What about Christianity?

The following post is from a colleague of mine at Reasons To Believe:

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I was looking at the claim that Islamic apologists are making that a Muslim named Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥaytham (965 – c. 1040 CE) (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhazen) invented the scientific method today and that it’s Islam which is actually responsible for the rise of modern science in the world.

We’re all familiar with the common assertion by Western scholars that modern science arose in Christianized Europe in the 16th century and that it was a continuation of the scholastics from the 11th century forward and that it was uniquely the Christian worldview that empowered Medieval Christian theologians to articulate the metaphysical framework for Western Civilization that freed science so it could soar in Europe to a degree seen nowhere else in the history of the world (other civilization’s accomplishments not withstanding).

That Judeo-Christian theology was essential for the rise of modern science as Christianity depicted God as a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation thus providing a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension that contrasted with other dominant religious and philosophical doctrines in the non-Christian world.

Christian and many non-Christian philosophers, theologians, historians, etc… justify and substantiate this claim using scripture and empirical documentation. It appears to me the proselyting Muslim apologists contradicting this are right about the significant accomplishments of some Muslims in history (such as Alhazen) but wrong in making the claim their worldview is the one responsible for the rise of modern science.

Firstly, in my view “The Dark Ages” is a fabrication of a small number of atheistic Enlightenment writers (e.g. Voltaire, Diderot, and Gibbon), echoed by modernists and post-modernists. The period of the “The Dark Ages” was an era of profound and rapid technological progress by the end of which Europe had surpassed the rest of the world.

Without going into any detail (as the historical record is clear), with rare exception, earlier technical innovations in ancient Greco-Romanism, Islam, imperial China, etc… did not constitute science as we engage in it today. They resulted from craft, philosophy, lore, trade skill, engineering, learning, etc…

I’ll use an example. Aristotle, for example, taught that the speed at which objects fall to earth is proportionate to their https://i0.wp.com/dduc.acm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/aristotle.pngweight-that a stone twice as heavy as another will fall twice as fast. A simple trip to any of the nearby cliffs would have allowed him to falsify his own proposition but he never did that. It was Christians like Albertus Magnus (1205-1280) who subjected Aristotle and others to observational testing, frequently finding them to be in error, and implementing research leading directly to breakthroughs in biology and physics. This pattern can be seen for rest of the famous Greco-Roman pagans and subsequent Christian responses. This isn’t to downplay what they did accomplish, of course, but the consensus among contemporary historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science is that real science arose only once: in Christianized Europe not in China, Islam, India, or ancient Greece and Rome.

Specifically with respect to Islam, which one would think has a theistic worldview appropriate to support the rise of science, it never blossomed. As the socio-historian Rodney Stark states in ‘For The Glory of God’:

“Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but has been conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes on the world as he deems it appropriate. Consequently, there soon arose a major theological bloc within Islam that condemned all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy insofar as they denied Allah’s freedom to act. That is, Islam did not fully embrace the notion that the universe ran along on fundamental principles laid down by God at the Creation, but assumed that the world was sustained by his will on a continuing basis.

This was justified by a statement in the Qur’an: “Verily, God will cause to err whom he pleaseth, and will direct whom he pleaseth.”

Although the line refers to God’s determination of the fate of individuals, it has been interpreted broadly to apply to all things. If God does as he pleases, and what he pleases is variable, then the universe may not be lawful. Contrast this with the Christian conception of God as stated by the early French scientific genius Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who justified his search for natural “laws” on grounds that such laws must exist because God is perfect and therefore “acts in a manner as constant and immutable as possible,” except for the rare occurrence of miracles.

Whenever the subject of Islamic science and learning is raised, most historians emphasize that throughout the centuries when Christian Europe knew virtually nothing of Greek learning, that learning was alive and deeply appreciated in Islam. That is certainly true. It is even true that some classical manuscripts reached Christian Europe through Islam, especially as Christian and Muslim intellectuals had contact in Spain.

But it is also true that possession of all of this ” enlightenment” did not prompt much intellectual progress within Islam, let alone eventuate in Islamic science. Instead, as the devout Muslim historian Caesar E. Farah explained:

‘The early Muslim thinkers took up philosophy where the Greeks left off… Thus in Aristotle Muslim thinkers found the great guide; to them he became the first teacher.”

Having accepted this a priori, Muslim philosophy as it evolved in subsequent centuries merely chose to continue in this vein and to enlarge Aristotle rather than to innovate. It chose the course of eclecticism, seeking to assimilate rather than to generate, with a conscious striving to adapt the results of Greek thinking to Muslim philosophical conceptions, but with much greater comprehensiveness than was achieved by early Christian dogmatics.

The result was to freeze Islamic learning and stifle all possibility of the rise of an Islamic science, and for the same reasons that Greek learning stagnated of itself: fundamental assumptions antithetical to science. It is very significant that the Rasa’il, the great encyclopedia of knowledge produced by early Muslim scholars, fully embraced the Greek conception of the world as a huge, conscious living organism having both intellect and soul. Indeed, according to Jaki, the ‘Muslim notion of the Creator was not adequately rational to inspire an effective distaste for various types of pantheistic, cyclic, animistic, and magical world pictures which freely made their way into the Rasa’il.’

Nor were outlooks more conducive to science achieved by Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes (1126-1198) and his followers, despite their efforts to exclude all Muslim theology from their work in direct conflict with those who sustained the Rasa’il. Instead, Averroes and his followers became intransigent and doctrinaire Aristotelians-proclaiming that his physics was complete and infallible, and if an observation were inconsistent with one of Aristotle’s views, the observation was certainly incorrect or an illusion.

As a result of all this, Islamic scholars achieved significant progress only in terms of specific knowledge, such as certain aspects of astronomy and medicine, that did not necessitate any general theoretical basis. And, as time passed, even this sort of progress ceased.

Clearly, then, and contrary to the received wisdom, the ‘recovery’ of Greek learning did not put Europe back on the track to science. Judging from the impact of this learning on the Greeks, the Romans, and the Muslims, it would seem to have been vital that Greek learning was not generally available until after Christian scholars had established an independent intellectual base of their own. Consequently, when they first encountered the works of Aristotle, Plato, and the rest, medieval scholars were willing and able to dispute them!

I surely do not mean to minimize the impact of Greek learning on European intellectual life. It had an enormous influence, not only on Scholastic thought, but on many subsequent generations. However, the most antiscientific elements of Greek thought were withstood or, at worst, sequestered in the humanities while the sciences marched on.

Islamic diversity is not the result of unusual theological tolerance. Rather, the prevailing view in nearly every religious Islamic faction has been that all the rest are sinfully wrong. As Ibn Qudama (1154-1233) explained, ‘There is nothing outside of Paradise but hell-fire; there is nothing outside of the truth but error; and there is nothing outside of the Sunna but heretical innovation…’

Islamic pluralism has stemmed from the unusually close ties between religion and the state. That is, state control has not given one faction the means to suppress the others; instead, the exigencies of governance have usually imposed the need for compromise and political coalition building upon religious factions. Thus although from time to time one Islamic faction has been able to suppress all of the others within a specific political domain, more typically the need for toleration has been imposed by unyielding diversity.”

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islamic astronomer Al-batani, c. 900

Accomplished Arabs like al-Battani (Al-batani, c. 900), al-Farghani (Alfraganus, c. 860), al-Bit:ru¯j¯ı (Alpetragius, c. 1180), Alkwarizmi (c. 830), and Alhazen (c. 1000) were known to medieval Christian scholars and scientists through Latin translations of some of their writings by Archbishop Raymond at Toledo’s Muslim-Spanish school of translators in the first half of the twelfth century. Toledo eventually fell to Alfonso VI, King of Castile in 1085 when Christian forces captured its magnificent libraries intact and word soon spread about the fabulous riches contained therein. Europeans had been well aware that they had lost much of the learning of the ancient world after the fall of Rome and they were keen to reacquire it. Islam itself contained the notable “european” (i.e.: Greco-roman) accomplishments but was still somehow kept from progressing scientifically in the manner which European scientists progressed under the worldview of Christianity in Europe.

And I think it’s important to understand that Alhazen was rebelling against the authoritative religious and political powers in the Islamic world in not relying upon Islamic authority in scientific conclusions but rather believing in a direct study of nature. In fact, he was placed under house arrest for it. Alhazen’s ‘against the grain’ approach got him in trouble and despite his personal genius and accomplishments, the Islamic worldview controlling the Arab world prevented his approach from becoming the standard that it became in the Christianized West even as the Islamic world partially but grudgingly loosened up a bit with respect to his argument.