Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Eternity and Temporality

With the Evolution and Intelligent Design debate raging, I need to establish some foundational concepts here for future posts on this subject. To whet your appetite for what would otherwise be very dry heady stuff, I'll mention that these foundational concepts demonstrate that conservative Christian Apologetics (why Christians like myself believe what we believe) is made of the same fiber as true science. What?!? But one is faith and the other is science, you may argue. Such an argument betrays an ignorance of what faith is. But let me build this from what we know. (For any readers who are philosophically savvy, I'm leaving out much detail because most people won't bother to read past the first couple of paragraphs much less the first fifty if I make a complete treatise.)

The physical properties of this universe can be broken down to a simple formula of definition. Classical Logic spells it out in the law of contradiction: 'A' is not 'not-A'. This implies but not prove that if you have 'A' there is something that is 'not A'. A simple observation of the universe indicates that for every discernible thing there is indeed something that it is not. The fact that the laws of physics are discernibly consistent throughout the universe is an indication that there is something that is absolute. In other words, there is something that transcends the law of contradiction. For example, while we can say that there is something besides the law of gravity, there is no instance where the law of gravity is nonexistent. This absolute context is difficult to represent. While not precise in its representation, the law of identity will work: A = A. If we can derive an absolute context, there must be an ultimate context that has no context in which it resides. This cannot be represented so much as explained as that which alone is self-identified.

In other words, I can say that the planet earth is one thing and Mars is another. Mars is not Earth. However, they both exhibit a predictable gravitational relationship with the sun, each other, the other planets, moons, even their components. This same gravitational property is observable throughout the known universe. Gravity, therefore, is an absolute context within the context of this universe. But the universe must have a context. If it has no transcendent context, then the universe itself is self-defined. The argument to this point doesn't specify what is self-defined. If the nested contexts are infinite, then their infiniteness is the self-defined context.

If your brain doesn't hurt yet, then understand that this argument has been made by classical apologists centuries ago. They used different words and different approaches, but the argument is basically the same. The philosophical problem with saying that this fully describes the nature of God still holds. We can discern some aspects of the nature of God in other ways. The goal at this point is to turn back to the law of contradiction and explain how good science and conservative Christian apologetics are both dependent on this principle.

I'll skip the raw derivation, so suffice it to say that the law of contradiction yields the basic deductive logical syllogism:

Relationship: If 'A', then 'B'

Observed: 'A'
Conclusion: Therefore, 'B'


Observed: 'Not B'
Conclusion: Therefore, 'not A'

Science begins with the observation of evidence. No conclusions should be drawn based these observations. However, speculation helps us develop a Scientific Theory which must properly meet a stringent set of criteria in order to be considered so. These criteria can be roughly summed up in two of the criteria: A Scientific Theory must be 1) testable and 2) negatable. In other words, it must follow the basic syllogism and its negation as I have outlined above. A theory may spawn one or countless hypotheses. Therefore, a theory serves as a reference for continuity in scientific study. If it were to be negated, it must be modified or trashed completely in order to conform to the conclusions derived by the testing of hypotheses. A hypothesis is simply a testable statement that can conform to the relationship the syllogism is built on. A controlled experiment is the means by which the truth value of the relationship is tested. Empirical data from the experiment is observed and analyzed statistically in order to derive a likelihood for the truth value.

Conservative Christian Apologetics works much the same way. Evidence, particularly about the Bible, is observed. Theories about the Bible are developed. Hypotheses testable by the analysis of additional evidence are developed, and the likelihood of the hypothesis calculated. There typically doesn't need to be much in the way of experimentation, because historical science is the stuff of the past and can only be tested by analyzing evidence relating to the hypothesis. Such analysis is not reproducible in the sense that historical events don't repeat themselves in identical historical contexts, but it is reproducible in the sense that other scholars can review the material and present evidence and analyses not taken into consideration.

Understand that individual scientists do bad science about as much as individual Christians do bad apologetics. That said, I will do my best to present my analyses as accurately as possible when addressing science and Christian issues. "But this Blog is about religion and politics," you may argue. Yes, but bad science is all too frequently used to advance political ideologies and religion is all too often used to cloud the truth about God. AS it is, I call this Blog "Religion and Politics" to illustrate that I'm willing to perform the social taboo of discussing the beliefs and ideologies that we take so personally. You know there are two things you should never talk about (besides personal finance)...


Okay, I must admit, this is a bit off-topic. The title of this blog doesn't refer to the last book of the Bible. I've been playing the fourth Myst adventure: Revelation. I just had to comment on the exceptional graphics.

The attention to detail in the age of Tomanha is astonishing. When the clouds move across the sun, approprate parts of the landscape dim accordingly. When I turn about, I hear my virtual feet scuffle. When I focus on nearby objects, distant objects go out of focus. When I focus on distant objects, nearby objects go out of focus. The water is very realistic. Some of it is still with slight movement. Some of it moves slowly and you can see impurities in the water float along in it. Fast moving water looks real and doesn't look like a simple loop. Mist from the water may rise up. The alndscape looks real. I have only gone to one other age: Spire. This seems to regress a little in quality, probably due to the lack of similarity to earth, but the action is just as realistic. The burning sun under the age is a cool effect. I started to sweat when I first saw it from underneath the crystal "organ".

I did, however, look for my shadow. It's not there. I looked for my feet which I heard scuffing about and they aren't there. The cursor is fairly realistic, but it looks like a disembodied hand - like Thing on the Addams Family. I do like the fact that you can choose a left hand or a right hand. Also neat is that the shadows of the hand change depending on the elevation of your focus as though it were lighted from a point alwaus to the front of my focus and just slightly above the horizon. These are very minor issues, but humorous to think of.

Some of you not familiar with Myst may think this commentary odd. The Myst series is a set of adventure games that conisist of exploring different worlds or "ages" and solving puzzles associted with a storyline. The travel from one age to another involves opning up a book that describes the age to which you desire to travel and placing your hand over the window on the first page. You then materialize in the new world. The writing of these books is usually done by Atrus who learned the art of writing these books from a people called the D'ni (pronounced "Dunny"). The storyline involves Atrus' somewhat dysfunctional family. He has a good enough marriage, but his father, Ghen, is an evil overlord and his sons take after their grandfather. I haven't gotten to the fifth and final Myst yet to meet his daughter as an adult, but in Revelation, she is precocious yet personable pre-teen.

Enough off-topic for now. If I find anything striking in either of the other two ages, I'll post again. If not, Happy Mysting...

Friday, October 21, 2005

Halloween: Another Offensive Time of the Year

Here's another article:

Church's anti-Halloween flier upsets family
Files police complaint: 'I have every right to decorate my home'

Posted: October 21, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com

An Indiana family upset by an anti-Halloween church flier filed a complaint with police.

Dalene Gully of Ellettsville told Indianapolis television station WRTV-TV she was offended by the flier placed outside her home by the House of Prayer Church of Bloomington.

"I started reading it, and I was very, very upset by it. I found it very accusatory and very threatening," Gully said.

The church's pastor, Larry Mitchell, said the church did not intend to upset the family but sought to warn people that Halloween is not harmless fun.

"Halloween is not fantasy," Mitchell told WRTV. "We're training up our children, and obviously this lady was trained up in this. Halloween seems like it is taking just as much prominence as Christmas."

The family filed a complaint with the Ellettsville Police Department, but Mitchell said he would have preferred they come to him first.

Gully said the incident prompted them to install an alarm system.

"This is my home, and I like Halloween," she said. "If I want to decorate my home, I have every right to decorate my home."

If Dalene Gully has every right to decorate her home for Halloween, then the church has every right to distribute fliers opposing it. If she is offended by the flier, she should realize that people can be offended by her decor. Mrs. Gully clearly has a double standard. To those who disagree, the church is not out filing legal complaints against her. The church recognizes her rights. The church also recognizes its right to speak freely. Mrs. Gully will fight tooth and nail for a "right" that doesn't exist - the "right" to not be offended - while denying the church not only that same "right" but also the real constitutional right to freedom of speach.

Why is she so deluded? While Halloween can be fun, it is used by Satan to desensitize us to the spiritual world by making it out to be some fantasy that we can have fun with. He does this so that we will relax our guard to the influence of demons and bolster us against the influence of the Holy Spirit, for by so doing he will meet less opposition in his mission to thwart the purpose of God and he can create more opposition in the existential realm that he can use to further refocus our attention away from what is truly important. This is why she is so deluded.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I'd Like To Be A Witness For The Defense At This Trial...

In case the link to the article is broken, I'll republish the text of it here:

Prisoner sues God

A Romanian prisoner is suing God for failing to save him from the Devil.

The inmate, named as Pavel M in media reports, accused God of "cheating, abuse and traffic of influence".

His complaint reads: "I, the undersigned Pavel M, currently jailed at Timisoara Penitentiary serving a 20 years sentence for murder, request legal action against God, resident in Heaven, and represented here by the Romanian Orthodox Church, for committing the following crimes: cheating, concealment, abuse against people's interest, taking bribe and traffic of influence."

The inmate argued that his baptism was a contract between him and God who was supposed to keep the Devil away and keep him out of trouble.

He added: "God even claimed and received from me various goods and prayers in exchange for forgiveness and the promise that I would be rid of problems and have a better life.

"But on the contrary I was left in Devil's hands."

The complaint was sent to the Timisoara Court of Justice and forwarded to the prosecutor's office.

But prosecutors said it would probably be dropped and they were unable to subpoena God to court.

You don't know: God just might show up.

What can I say? Is God not on trial all the time? Do we, his creations, presume to judge God for the content of our lives? The answer to this question results in two conclusions that appear contradictory:

On the one hand it is clear that we must bear the responsibility for our faults. Nevertheless, we do blame God. Otherwise we would not have sentenced Him in His Son, Jesus Christ, to death by crucifixion through our representative forbears in Jerusalem 2000 years ago. If we were honest, we would recognize that we have at one time or another blamed God for our sin even as this man has done, whether or not we admit that our sin is indeed sin. We like to justify ourselves while secretly realizing that we need justification. But there is only one way to be justified before God, and this through the atonement of Christ. We cannot justify ourselves.

On the other hand, if God is above reproach then who are we to deny His preeminence above all things. If we need justification before God, then is He not worthy of the recognition that He is indeed in control of all things? For example, we say that a natural disaster is a bad thing. What's so bad about it? Is a shot in the arm a bad thing? It hurts, but it is for the best good. Do we not trust that God knows what He is doing and is simply functioning for a time as it were in a fallen universe for the benefit of His creation?

We can't ascribe to one and not the other. For this reason many are conflicted about God.

As for the Romanian convict, he should understand that baptism is no guarantee of a "contract" between he and God. While the Orthodox may have some form of means-of-grace doctrine, there is still some methodology for confirming salvation. Therefore, there is a recognition in his tradition that baptism itself is not the guarantee. I would argue that his attempt to hold the Orhtodox church accountable for the actions of God is evidence according to the doctrines of the Orthodox church (which is the context of the man's argument) that the man demonstrates no contract with God in his behavior despite baptism and some attempt at confirmation. Otherwise, If God, as creator, can influence our behavior, then God transcends the ability of His creation to sue Him. I'd like to see the court try to enforce a sentence on God.

Case closed.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Creationism

There is a case currently being tried in federal court that will set precedence regarding the legality of teaching Intelligent Design alongside Evolution in public schools. There are some misconceptions regarding the differences between Evolution, Intelligent Design and Creationism. I'll attempt here to set forth the primary distinctions between the presuppositions that fuel them and investigate the effect they have on genuine scientific discovery.

There are a host of presuppositions for any school of thought. Often, differences lie not in what presuppositions are held, but in the priority presuppositions are assigned by proponents. Argumentation is also usually confused by the ignorance we have as to the nature of our own presuppositions.

The primary presupposition evolutionists hold is either that there is no God or that God is not active in His creation. Christians, (and maybe some Jews) who would not hold either of these views, who also believe Evolution, hold the presupposition that scientists have proven that Evolution is absolutely true and that God simply used Evolution to create the world. They adjust their hermeneutical understanding of the first chapters of Genesis to agree with this primary presupposition. Ideally, Christian hermeneutics are founded on Christian apologetics, developed by observing how the writers of later scriptures treated earlier scriptures, and refined by the need to apply consistent hermeneutics throughout all scripture.)

Evolution a priori denies one possible conclusion, namely that there is a supernatural source (God) of cosmological and biological genesis. Therefore, the pattern exists for denying other possible conclusions when developing analyses that result in further hypotheses to test. For some biologists, whose field consists of obtaining data through passive observation and developing educated commentary on it, it is particularly easy to skew the commentary to omit those theories disagreeable to one's perspective. This is the sort of commentary that is most easily distilled through popular media to the untrained public.

Unlike Evolution, Intelligent Design (ID) holds as its primary presupposition that all conclusions should be taken into consideration for likelihood and that the option with the greatest likelihood should be considered true until another more likely possibility is discovered. This produces, most likely, the least biased scientific discovery.

Creation Science (CS) has as its primary presupposition that the scriptures are true. While the scriptures can be scientifically demonstrated to have a high likelihood of truth value, they are not scientifically exhaustive. Therefore, most Creation Science focuses only on analyzing evidence with respect to how it fits into scripture. Because of the debate with evolution, Creation Science tends to be reactionary.

The problem that evolutionists have with ID is that they believe that ID is no different than CS. They believe this because of their presupposition that there is no supernatural influence over natural processes. Because of this, they cannot discern a difference between one group that allows for the possibility and another group that focuses solely on the supernatural influence. They rightly fear that ID can legitimately debunk their presupposition while CS has always had as much external bias - however legitimate it is - as Evolution.

My take on it is this: I believe the Bible to be true. My schooling and experience in the lab has developed in me a critical mind for analyzing empirical evidence. Having reviewed the evidence available, none of it contradicts a literal understanding of the Bible. In fact, most of it that applies gives a clear likelihood that the Bible is true. Because of the evidence that falls outside the areas of traditional science, I can say that the Bible is likely to the point where it is impossible to be false. Therefore, I have the confidence to say that ID can investigate outside of the constraints of scriptural revelation and never ultimately contradict scripture.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Venezuela Index

There is much more to say about Venezuela than what I've said so far. However, I'm wrapping the story up in this blog. In an effort to tie the Venezuela series together, I'm creating this to use as an index.

Venezuela: The Series
Venezuela - Our Environment
Venezuela - Iglesia Bautista: Fuente de Agua Viva
Venezuela - more about the church.
Venezuela - Medical Clinic
Venezuela - Carnival
Venezuela - Carnival Stories
Venezuela - Construction
Venezuela: The Dump

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet Miers

This wild card that Bush has thrown has caused a bit of a stir. Some libs like her because they think she's liberal. Some libs don't like her because they think she's conservative. Most conservatives are skeptical because they simply don't know. The issue with conservatives don't fall on what they think of Miers, but how much trust they are willing to give to George Bush.

Bush has given us two sides of the coin on most big issues. He has taken on the war against terrorism. He has also left our borders open. he has given us tax cuts that have effectively raised revenue and stimulated the economy. He has also authorized the biggest federal spending increases in US history.

We elected him. Should we not support him? Yet according to principle, it is right for us to question any incongruity we see in his character. The fact is, we don't know - and that bothers us.

However, this illustrates one difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals tend to project their preferences and biases. This is why they are quick to form opinions without having the facts. (They typically gather evidence later to support their opinion and deny or ignore facts that disagree with their opinion.) Conservatives like to have all the facts. That is why we reserve our opinions about such as Meirs until we have some significant data about her to analyze. This is why we now focus on Bush and why he would deny us some hard facts and tell us only, "Trust me."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ministry to Arabs

I'll only say that my church has been asked this year to undertake a ministry to Arabs. It is a significant ministry with global impact. What I want to leave you with is this thought from the one who asked us to take up this ministry: If Arabs had been shown the truth of the gospel and the love of Christ instead of the debauchery of our pop culture, would they have flown planes into our buildings? For those of you who are Christian, know that there are sleeper cells of Arabs who may live in your neighborhood. If they could see Christ in you, would they not be motivated to put away their bombs and plans for your destruction?

You see, they see our TV and our government and they conclude that this represents Christianity. They don't realize that we have a pluralistic society here. Even some Americans have never known true Christians and know only the cartoonish concept of Christianity that Hollywood and the liberal news media portray. If you consider yourself a Christian, consider the way in which you represent the One who bore the penalty for your sins through His own death.

Know that you have a hope to give those who have no hope. Explicit in Islam is that one can have no knowledge that he has earned his eternal reward. There's no hope in it. Fortunately, we have the opportunity to demonstrate the sacrificial love that Christ has for us. Take that opportunity and God will bless your efforts by sending His Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of those who would be your enemies.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Danish Air Force Compensates Santa for Killing Rudolf

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa. He just lives in Denmark. Well, it's kinda close to the North Pole. I thought he had eight of them plus Rudolph instead of just two, though. Maybe Danish environmental laws have caused him to cut back. Apparently, this is big international news:

Chinese News
British News
Canadian News
Scottish News
USA Today

...and countless others.