Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Dr. Abraham Reveals Subversive Religion

In 2004 Dr. Nathaniel Abraham was fired from the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in New England when his belief in divine creation became known. Dr. Abraham is a citizen of India and also nearly had his visa rescinded. He was subsequently hired as a professor at Liberty University, but he lost the capacity to do the research he desires to do. Since his dismissal was over his theological beliefs and not contingent on his scientific study, he has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the institute for religious discrimination. Read more at Answers in Genesis.

I wonder what religion was being discriminated against? Being Indian, a name like "Dr. Nathaniel Abraham" makes me think he's Christian, not to mention his current employment with Liberty. But creationists can be Muslim, Jewish, or any other religion. The argument from the Institute could be that they weren't discriminating against a religion per se, but only against a belief that happens to be held only by people who are religious in general. However, there are people who believe in God, but aren't religious and there are atheists who are rather religious about their atheism.

And that's my observation. Naturalists argue that belief in God is untestable and therefore unreasonable. But it is unreasonable to claim something is untestable if we merely haven't developed a scientific methodology for testing it. Therefore, denial of the existence in God is no less unreasonable than belief in the existence of God. In fact, initial belief in God is contingent on assent to the veracity of the evidence of God. Sustained belief in God for the Christian is contingent not on external evidence, but recognition that the assent itself was of God and that spiritual growth is internal. (I don't mean to imply that non-Reformed theologians don't recognize God's activity in their life, but they may not recognize the gift of initial faith.) Therefore, belief in God is more reasonable to those who have the additional evidence of a personal relationship with Him than the denial of God by those who do not.

To be clear, I'll state this another way by way of example. Take the old shell game. The ball goes under one cup and it is mixed around by the shell game artist with two cups under which there is nothing. After the shuffle, the artists asks the gambler which cup the ball is under. He doesn't know, but he thinks he does. The ball may have been transfered by way of slight of hand from one cup to another by the artist, but the gambler doesn't know which. He can't see under the cups. With respect to science, this means he cannot test to determine which cup the ball is under. If the gambler were a naturalist, he would argue that there is no ball under any of the cups because he cannot test it. The artist has a buddy he calls over. He carefully lets his buddy peek under each cup and see for himself where the ball is. The buddy now knows where the ball is and tells the gambler which cup the ball is under. The gambler argues that there is no ball under any cup because he cannot see it, but the buddy has personal knowledge of the ball. This is why it is more reasonable for the buddy to believe there is a ball - and to know which cup the ball is under.

The charge of "religious discrimination" brings this fact to light. If is is discrimination, on what basis was the discrimination made? If it is religious to believe one thing and not another that is mutually exclusive, then would it not likewise be religious to believe the other? If the belief in God is a religious belief, it is a belief that is held by many different organized religious groups. It is held by people like Anthony Flew who are not particularly religious, or who do not identify with one group or another. Therefore, belief in the nonexistence of God is likewise a religious belief although most of those who hold this belief do not belong to an organized religious group. After all, I have demonstrated that membership is not necessarily concordant with assent.

There is a difference between belief in a Creator and a belief that the Creator created. The notion that it is tolerable to accept the reasoning of someone who would believe in a Creator but doubt that He Created any of this rather than someone who actually held a reasonably consistent theology indicates the lack of reason by which the Institution establishes its beliefs. Nevertheless, we can conclude that the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a religious organization that requires its members to adhere to a certain set of unreasonable beliefs. The established method for the determination of the validity of scientific credentials and discovery is peer review, NOT institutional dogma.

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