Archive for the ‘creation’ tag
Two hundred four years ago today, Charles Darwin, the man who would go on to introduce the concept of evolution by natural selection (although he didn’t call it that at the time), was born. Of course, here in the year 2013 when we know that evolution is the process on which everything else we know about biology is based.
As such, it’s a sad and pathetic travesty that the parties of God, the Republican Party and some within the Democratic camp will probably prevent the nation from formally celebrating his contributions to, not just science, but one of the largest questions of life, that is, how did human life develop from less to more complex forms.
Ken Ham, for example, is not just a very enterprising young Earth creationist who raised more than $25 million to build the monstrosity known as the Creation Museum in Kentucky, is also also a danger to lovers of truth and to truth itself.
In his recent article for Slate, Mark Joseph Stern took one for the team and analyzed some of Ham’s books, which as he noted,
fall into two categories: colorful picture books designed to indoctrinate children, and pseudoscientific tracts aimed at persuading adults.
In one of Ham’s books for adults, “The Lie,” he claims that evolution is a “belief” — It’s not. It’s a scientific theory, or in other words, a fact as concrete as gravity — and is not backed by proof, or in his words, “All the evidence a scientist has exists only in the present.” That, of course, is simply not true.
Here is Stern:
This means we should disregard isotope dating, fossil records, genetic sequencing, geologic time, developmental biology, plate tectonics, disease resistance, and the rest of modern science because who can really know if they’re accurate?
“The Bible’s account of origins,” on the other hand, was written by “the Creator God” and contains all the “history we need to know to understand the present world.”
And that’s pretty much all Ham has. Blind faith in the Bible is superior to belief in evolution, because the former was written by God, while the latter is a myth perpetuated by sinful atheists. Science is a myth simply because it cannot be allowed to contradict the Bible. That’s Ham’s starting and ending point, his premise and his conclusion. Such unquestioning trust and circular logic pervades the pages of the book, presented with smug satisfaction.
There is hope that a formal Darwin Day may be established in the future, just not much of one. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) proposed a resolution to name Feb. 12 Darwin Day, but it’ll most likely die on the vine. As Phil Plaits with Slate notes with some disappointment:
I have more than a suspicion he has an uphill battle ahead of him on this. Far too many members of Congress think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, with far too many of them sitting on the House Science Committee. Of course, to be fair, having even one is one too many.
All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.
Yes, this guy sits on a science committee in Washington. I’m not making this up. In my view, a person capable of uttering such idiotic nonsense is ill-equipped to lead anyone, much less represent us on a science panel. Then again, maybe this country doesn’t deserve to wave Darwin’s banner when so few people realize the importance of his contributions, cling to creation myths and worse, don’t even attempt to understand or learn about how our world works. I would laugh if not for the equal portions of frustration, anger, and yes, pity.
[Credit: Artwork by gremz, Deviant Art user]
Most of the following video you can skip if you like because the interviewer, Howard Conder, quizzes Richard Dawkins on some rather absurd questions about evolution, irreducible complexity, etc., that he would already known the answer to if he had bothered to read any of Dawkin’s books.
Conder seems to not be able to comprehend the point that Dawkins makes, that is, if Yahweh is all powerful and essentially sets the rules on how mankind will be redeemed after the fall of Adam and Eve, why does God require a “perfect” sacrifice, or even a sacrifice at all.
Here is Dawkins:
The idea that God could only forgive our sins by having his son tortured to death as a scapegoat, is surely from an objective point of view, a deeply unpleasant idea. If God wanted to forgive us our sins, why didn’t he just forgive them? Why did he have to have his son tortured?
That’s a very good question.
Well, what’s your answer?
Conder then recounts the Genesis narrative in which Adam “lost that perfection for us all” when he sinned in the Garden. He then explains why Christ was necessary:
Another perfect being of the same degree of perfection could only be the proper ransom for our redemption.
Conder in response:
Being the god that he is, allowing for us to have freewill, it wasn’t just scrumping an apple. There was more to it than that. Adam was plainly disobedient, and I think he even admits it himself in the fact that he hid from God that particular evening because there was a fellowship between man and God every day.
So Adam was disobedient and that sin reverberated down the ages, is inherited by all humans. What kind of a doctrine is that? Inherited by all humans and had to be redeemed by the son of God being tortured to death. What kind of morality are you propagating there.
That’s a very good question (Are you noticing a theme? Dawkins raises very good questions to which there are no answers).
Conder then reiterated the point that Christ’s life had to be perfect. In apparent frustration with this exchange, Dawkins agreed that they should move on. Before going to a question and answer part of the interview, Conder said:
Please Richard, see my heart, not my intellect because my heart is for mankind as well.
And with a tinge of sarcasm, Dawkins replies:
Oh I can see that.
OK, so if you didn’t view the whole video, that’s enough to get a general feel for how it went in the last few minutes. As I said, Conder seems unable to wrap his mind around the question that Dawkins posed time and again, that is, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why the need for a sacrifice at all, much less a perfect sacrifice. At one point, Dawkins hints at the problem when he asks: “Why did God have to have his son tortured.”
Conder didn’t pick up on the subtly, but implicit in the question is if God “had” to do anything, if he is operating under a set of rules outside of himself or if he is constrained in his actions in any way, then he is not God. Essentially, he makes the rules, and the sacrifice that would redeem mankind had to be perfect, then some being or entity other than God is in control. Christ didn’t have to be killed to redeem mankind. Indeed, mankind didn’t have to redeemed by any physical action whatsoever. God could have just done it. He could have said:
OK, the gig is up. It’s been thousands of years now. I think you have toiled and suffered birth pains long enough now. You guys are off the hook. Eat, drink and be merry and enjoy your lives.
But no, believers would continue to have us believe that their God is so obsessed with the notion of vicarious redemption that nothing but a perfect sacrifice for redemption would do. Well, if that’s the case, God’s might, whatever it may be, is not omnipotent, and his love, whatever it might be, is not all-encompassing.
Fossil by fossil, scientists over the last 40 years have suspected that their models for the more immediate human family tree — the single trunk, straight as a Ponderosa pine, up from Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens — were oversimplified. The day for that serious revision may be at hand.
The discovery of three new fossil specimens, announced Wednesday, is the most compelling evidence yet for multiple lines of evolution in our own genus, Homo, scientists said. The fossils showed that there were at least two contemporary Homo species, in addition to Homo erectus, living in East Africa as early as two million years ago.
Uncovered from sandstone at Koobi Fora, badlands near Lake Turkana in Kenya, the specimens included a well-preserved skull of a late juvenile with a relatively large braincase and a long, flat face, which has been designated KNM-ER 62000 (62000 for short). It bears a striking resemblance to the enigmatic cranium known as 1470, the center of debate over multiple lineages since its discovery in the same area in 1972.
If the 62000 skull showed that 1470 was not a single odd individual, the other two specimens seemed to provide a vital piece of evidence that had been missing. The specimen 1470 had no mandible, or lower jaw. The new finds included an almost complete lower jaw (60000) — considered to be the most complete mandible of an early Homo yet found — and a part of another lower jaw (62000).
The fossils were collected between 2007 and 2009 by a team led by Meave and Louise Leakey, the mother-and-daughter paleoanthropologists of the Koobi Fora Research Project and members of the famous African fossil-hunting family. Dr. Meave Leakey is the wife of Richard Leakey, a son of Louis and Mary Leakey, who produced the early evidence supporting Africa’s central place in early human origins. Mr. Leakey divides his time between Stony Brook University on Long Island, where he is a professor of anthropology, and the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya.
After looking “long and hard” for fossils to confirm the intriguing features of 1470’s face and show what its teeth and lower jaw were like, Dr. Meave Leakey said this week, “At last we have some answers.”
Listening to 12 minutes of Neil deGrasse Tyson on a Sunday morning is at once more enlightening and more inspiring than anything I ever heard under the steeple:
Here’s how our composition breaks down compared with the rest of the universe:
Top five most populous elements in human beings (helium inert):
Top five most populous elements in the cosmos:
As of May 30, 1,215 scientists named Steve have signed the following statement in support of evolution as part of the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve.
Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.
The project, which is named in honor of Stephen Jay Gould, is kind of a tongue-in-cheek jab at a common practice of young earth creationists who often cite scientific “experts” to support their claims. This practice can be easily spotted in garbage literature from Answers in Genesis, Watchtower and others.
Here’s the updated list of Steves.
And if you’re interested, pick up this snazzy T-shirt:
I have been stewing on this topic for a couple of days now, so I think I will take a few minutes now to, as it were, “shoot my bolt” on this article by Rabbi Adam Jacobs paradoxically titled, “A reasonable argument for God’s existence.”
The essence of the article rests on the fact that we — scientists and free thinkers — have no idea how the first RNA molecule first appeared on Earth, and that to fill in this gap (Jacobs’ Yahweh is the great God of the Gaps, after all), we must inextricably look to a “conscious super-intelligence” as the “architect of life” to account for this gaping hole in our scientific knowledge. This, Jacobs declares, is the reasonable position when science leaves us without answers.
Not one of them (scientists) has the foggiest notion about how to answer life’s most fundamental question: How did life arise on our planet? The non-believer is thus faced with two choices: to accept as an article of faith that science will eventually arrive at a reasonable, naturalistic conclusion to this intellectual black box or to choose to believe in the vanishingly small odds that the astonishing complexity, intelligence and mystery of life came about as a result of chance, which of course presents its own problems.
He then quotes Dr. Robert Shapiro, professor emeritus at New York University:
Suppose you took scrabble sets, or any word game sets, blocks with letters containing every language on Earth and you heap them together, and then you took a scoop and you scooped into that heap, and you flung it out on the lawn there and the letters fell into a line which contained the words, ‘to be or not to be that is the question,’ that is roughly the odds of an RNA molecule appearing on the Earth.
What Jacobs doesn’t tell readers, however, is that Shapiro has not abandoned a naturalistic explanation of how RNA might have come about. Shapiro simply says that earlier particles might have eventually led to RNA. A link on Shapiro’s Wikipedia page was broken, but here is a snippet from his entry:
opposes the RNA world hypothesis, holding that the spontaneous emergence of a molecule as complicated as RNA is highly unlikely. Instead, he proposes that life arose from some self-sustaining and compartmentalized reaction of simple molecules: “metabolism first” instead of “RNA first”. This reaction would have to be able to reproduce and evolve, eventually leading to RNA. He claims that in this view life is a normal consequence of the laws of nature and potentially quite common in the universe.
And that is really the theory that I think most work from, that RNA and later DNA first came about from earlier and simpler compounds. Now, we revert back again to this question: where did the simpler compounds come from? We can keep reverting back to the regression after regression until we hit the infinite one. But at least the scientific explanation of how something exists rather than nothing finds its basis in quite simple, naturalistic explanations. Jacobs, however, would have the scientific community introduce an immensely complex being such as God to explain how our little dot of a planet in the cosmos came into being, a concession that would beg many more questions than it answers, such as, “Who made God?” and “How can we theorize a scientific explanation for a spiritual realm?” and “How can we possibly qualify or scientifically observe or record a spiritual reality?”
I posit to you that all the evidence points, in an obvious and inextricable way, to a supernatural explanation for the origin of life. If there are no known naturalistic explanations and the likelihood that “chance” played any role is wildly minute, then it is a perfectly reasonable position to take that a conscious super-intelligence (that some of us call God) was the architect of life on this planet. Everyone agrees to the appearance of design. It is illogical to assume its non-design in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
Jacobs’ thesis here is very primitive indeed. First, it’s not chance. Second, let’s go back before Darwin so eloquently explained natural selection. What were believers saying? They were saying that humankind has its origins in the divine, that we are made in the image of God, that a complex being such as humans could not have possibly originated from any thing other than a supreme being. I posit that this is precisely what Jacobs is doing on the origin of the universe. Whether Jacobs might like to admit it or not, Darwin all ready solved the great mystery of how man ascended from his former lower position in the animal kingdom to being the most intelligent species on the planet. Science, not the divine, solved that riddle for us. Today, believers are making the origins of the universe analogous with earlier questions of the origins of man, and God is the ever-present and ever-ready answer.
But that would be the wrong answer. Just as evolution eventually became the accepted means by which humans developed from lower strata, eventually, we will have the answer on the initial origin of life so long as we let science do its grand work. There is no point in throwing up our hands and summoning a god in the meantime. It is this primitive tendency of us humans that gets us into arguments in which we can’t escape, and it’s far from constructive to continue the practice of looking to the heavens for answers to stuff we can’t yet explain, like the ancients.
I vehemently disagree with the final two sentences above: “Everyone agrees to the appearance of design. It is illogical to assume its non-design in the absence of evidence to the contrary.”
Perhaps every theist agrees that there is an appearance of a design, but when I consider the vast number of failed planets and potential planets in our universe through the eons, the likelihood of a planet like ours eventually arising seems quite high, and in some 12-14 billion years, so high that we should be surprised if such a planet had not eventually formed. We live in that eventuality.
I’ve decided to let this be the final edition on this series since it seems that any other arguments I meet in the remaining chapters, “Salvation,” “Christianity & Other Religions,” “Objective Truth” and “The Bottom Line,” merely rehash the same fallacies and question begging, or beginning with that which is trying to be proven, that I’ve already spent much of real estate addressing. This post covers heaven and hell, free will, and that which must have occurred in the mind of God prior to everything.
Having thus done away with nearly every argument the authors of Handbook of Christian Apologetics have presented for the after life, it’s almost logically absurd to then attempt to examine their (and religion’s) claims on heaven and hell, but since these notions are so entrenched in doctrine, and at least with the latter “place,” and sometimes even with the former, creates in so many young people an abiding and impenetrable fear of death, they must be addressed. I, myself, remember living for quite some time in unheralded fear, ever looking to the skies for the second coming, quite liking my current life, and frankly, not looking forward to the end of it all.
Religion, however, can’t wait for it, for it is then, that every eye will dry, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the true lord. And then, with winnowing fork in hand, the great Judge will separate the wheat from the chaff, the saved from the damned, in the cosmic and spiritual end game of all time.
The authors, after some unnecessary remarks about reincarnation, begin with another maddening self-created list of objections, this time 29, to which they claim to answer in turn. I cannot go through every single one but will highlight some keys points.
Their first answered objection is this: “The idea of heaven is a prescientific superstition,” and their first answer is that, “That objection is unscientific. The scientific way to refute an idea is by evidence, not name-calling.” But the authors are working from a backward premise here. Fantastical claims, like the existence of some place, in this dimension of another, require fantastic evidence, for even if our telescopes and modern means of observation can’t yet reach these realms, the question of whether places like heaven or hell exist would emphatically be a scientific question. For, a world in which heaven or hell or God exists would be a very different world from that which these elements do not exist. To claim that these are spiritual worlds, and thus, outside of the scope of science is to provide a cop out answer and to provide license to claim anything about anything. I could claim the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a real presence in my life. For instance, and I can claim that he is totally spiritual but has a real presence in my heart. And most everyone would call me crazy or deluded.
The authors’ next point on this objection is that, “Plenty of ‘prescientific’ ideas are valid, true and important, not superstitious — for example, birth, death, life, good, evil, beauty, ugliness, pleasure, pain, earth, air, fire, water, love, hate, happiness.” First, life, birth, death, earth, air, fire and water are not ideas, neither are beauty, ugliness, love and happiness. The former are realities of physical life, the latter are emotions and adjectives. I suppose we can say “heaven” is an idea, but we can’t say any of the elements in this list are ideas, in the same way that libertarianism or Unitarianism are ideas. The notion that an unproven spiritual place is somehow equated to any of these observable or noticeable components of human existence is a stretch.
In the second objection of heaven, the authors attempt to answer this, “There is no scientific evidence for heaven.” True enough, but then they skip the tracks a bit when they say, “Nor are many ideas that everyone admits are valid, even the scientist. When the scientist closes his laboratory and goes home and kisses his wife, he does not believe there is nothing there but hormones and neurons and molecules.”
Actually, love, again, is not an idea but a human emotion, and yes, the scientist knows full well that his feelings of love for another are firmly based in science (and here) and have nothing to do with any spiritual realm, for non-believing scientists can feel love as powerfully as believers. Does anyone really think that somehow the phenomenon of love somehow slipped past scientific investigation, that the brightest minds in the world missed some mystical or otherworldly component we call love? That love has the scientific world stumped and at a logical impasse? Love is as firmly based in science as any other feeling.
I skip some objections and land at #9, which says, “Heaven is too dogmatic. How can we know anything about heaven, anyway? If ‘no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived,’ then it has not entered into our hearts yet. It can only be faith and speculation, not knowledge.” Their Reply B is the only one worth mentioning: “‘Only faith or speculation’? But faith is not fantasy; faith is knowledge. Faith is accepting divinely revealed data.’” These statements are false based on scripture. Hebrews 11:1 has this to say: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The “conviction of things not seen” is about as far from “knowledge” as one can imagine, and while the believer may hope for whatever they have faith in to be true, that hope doesn’t make it so. Faith is not knowledge; otherwise, it ceases to be faith, and divinely obtained knowledge is only faith that the information came from a deity. I hope for a world in which people live and die by grace, without ever being subjected to persecution, racism, rape or murder, but I’m under no delusions that this type of world can be achieved any time soon. It’s the unfortunate belief of apologists that this sort of world will never and can never come to fruition under the cloak of original sin, and it’s my belief, in turn, that such a world can never come to be while religion continues to denigrate human life and human solidarity in longing for an after life that’s about as certain as the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Russell’s Teapot.
Most of the rest of the objections deal with questions about whether we will be bored in heaven, will we miss our loved one once we get there, will we mourn those who might have gone to hell and how are notions like resurrected bodies and new earths possible. The answers provided (except for the point about being bored) amount to this: we don’t know but God does, and we’re sure he’s sorted through those issues. On the point about boredom, the authors have this to say: “Heaven will not be boring because it will not be merely the satisfaction and the lulling of desire. It will not be merely contentment, which gets boring, but joy, which does not. Joy is as passionate and dynamic and stimulating as desire itself.” This is all complete speculation, of course. The authors have no idea what heaven will be like no more than any pastor or biblical scholar. Pulling some quotes from C.S. Lewis and Revelation are far from adequate to accurately a) describe a place such as heaven and b) to prove its existence in the first place, for if the gospel of Mark is markedly unreliable in many cases, how much more so are any of the other gospels, and especially the wildly symbolic Revelation.
Included in the next chapter is a list of 14 things about hell, #9 of which raises one of the more interesting (but I would add, revolting) and shocking points in the entire book, and here it is:
“Many have believed, and some still believe, that since there is a hell, God must be a God of wrath and vengeance and hate (We can add, by God’s own admission, “jealous”). It may be that the very love of God for the sinner constitutes the sinner’s torture in hell. That love would threaten and torture the egotism that the damned sinners insist on and cling to. A small child in a fit of rage, sulking and hating his parents, may feel their hugs and kisses at that moment as torture. … So the fires of hell may be made of the very love of God, or rather by the damned’s hatred of that love.”
While the authors seem to make non-believers (They ratchet up the language and call them “sinners”) out to be seething God haters and active revolters against heaven, this, in almost all cases, is not true at all and absurd. For, to actively hate God’s love would be to assume that he exists in the first place, so it would be logically impossible to suggest non-believers hate God’s love. Nor is it a matter of ego. To actively reject a god, while still believing he is there, could be egotistical depending on the person (“I want to go at it alone”), but non-believers, can claim no such egotism because, again, that would be absurd.
The next point is fascinating as well: “Some (Whoever that might be) have taught or implied that hell is forced on the damned, that they are thrown into hell against their will. This would go contrary to the fundamental reason for hell’s existence: our free choice and God respecting it.” Yes … free will. Repent, accept this free gift (which was neither asked for nor desired) or burn. That’s not free will.
I was once asked by a believing friend of mine that if I was standing before God, what would be my one question. I thought about it for a minute, knowing both Bertrand Russell’s own answer (“Oh God, you didn’t give us enough evidence.”) and Christopher Hitchens’ (“Imponderable Sir, I presume from some if not all of your many reputations that you might prefer honest and convinced unbelief to the hypocritical and self-interested affectation of faith or the smoking tributes of bloody altars.”), I gave this one: “Why did you bother in the first place?”
For, in that time before time that the Bible calls “chaos,” God knew the whole game before he set it in motion. He knew, first, that he would get around to, as some point, creating humans. He knew he would endow us with free will. He knew he would plant the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. For what purpose? To tempt man with a carrot on a stick, as if to say to a 6-year-old, “Don’t you eat any candy this afternoon. Oh, by the way, here’s a cookie jar. We’ll sit that right in front of TV. Look but don’t touch.” He knew, prior to making us, that we would fall. He knew that Satan would enter into the garden, and he knew that he would not stop him. He watched it all happen, there in the chaos in his omniscience.
He knew of the thousands and thousands of years humankind would suffer through all kinds of natural disasters, disease, famine and wars. He knew about the years and years of disputes that would take place between Israel and himself. He knew of the plagues that he would send. He knew they would wander in the desert for years, ever wavering between belief and disbelief. He knew that he would, after years of squabbling with the Israelites, send a son, the human embodiment of himself, to at last, atone for the original sin that took place thousands of years prior and for all present and future sins of man. And all of this, in the mind of God in that early chaos. One might wonder why God waited until about 4 A.D. to send Christ. Why not immediately after the fall? Why not save his loved creation thousands of years of suffering, famine and wandering in the desert? Why not, indeed.
Likewise, Christopher Hitchens has summarized the ultimate problem as well as anyone:
… the idea of a vicarious atonement, of the sort that so much troubled even C. S. Lewis, is a further refinement of the ancient superstition. Once again we have a father demonstrating love by subjecting a son to death by torture, but this time the father is not trying to impress god. He is god, and he is trying to impress humans. Ask yourself the question: how moral is the following? I am told of a human sacrifice that took place two thousand years ago, without my wishing it and in circumstances so ghastly that, had I been present and in possession of any influence, I would have been duty-bound to try and stop it. In consequence of this murder, my own manifold sins are forgiven me, and I may hope to enjoy everlasting life.
Let us just for now overlook all the contradictions between the tellers of the original story and assume that it is basically true. What are the further implications ? They are not as reassuring as they look at first sight. For a start, and in order to gain the benefit of this wondrous offer, I have to accept that I am responsible for the flogging and mocking and crucifixion, in which I had no say and no part, and agree that every time I decline this responsibility, or that I sin in word or deed, I am intensifying the agony of it. Furthermore, I am required to believe that the agony was necessary in order to compensate for an earlier crime in which I also had no part, the sin of Adam. It is useless to object that Adam seems to have been created with insatiable discontent and curiosity and then forbidden to slake it: all this was settled long before even Jesus himself was born. Thus my own guilt in the matter is deemed “original” and inescapable. However, I am still granted free will with which to reject the offer of vicarious redemption. Should I exercise this choice, however, I face an eternity of torture much more awful than anything endured at Calvary, or anything threatened to those who first heard the Ten Commandments.
In the final portion of this needlessly long chapter on hell, the authors answer some objects, and I will only take the first three, which say that the concept of hell goes against God’s supposed love, justice and power. In the latter section about God’s power and his seeming ability to squash hell, Satan and his minions in an instant, the authors say that we must understand God’s nature of omnipotence. “… God’s power does not extend to contradicting his own essential nature. God is consistent. The logical laws of consistency … are reflection of the very nature of God. God cannot do meaningless and self-contradictory things. … One such intrinsically impossible, self-contradictory and meaningless thing would be to have a world with free creatures and no possibility of hell. … To destroy hell means to destroy free choice by destroying one of its options. If there is no hell, no separation from God, then all must choose God, and this is not free choice.”
I would have thought a couple college professors could do better than this. First, if God can’t contradict his own nature and if he is locked in to being consistent, then he’s not omnipotent. If he were omnipotent, he could, if he chose, do “meaningless and self-contradictory things” or anything else that he liked. Thus, the authors aren’t making a great case at all for God’s all-powerfulness.
Second, you mean to tell me that it is out of God’s purview to come up with some way that his creation would not have to face eternal punishment in case they decided to use their reasoning faculties, which he presumably provided, and could not in good conscience, believe based on the evidence? Why only the two-fold option? God is either not all-powerful or omniscient or he isn’t very creative. How about this: He could have rewarded those who chose to believe with eternal life and paradise, and he could have merely left everyone else who did not believe alone and simply allowed them to choose to live finite, non-eternal lives like dogs and cats. Why this brutal and arcane insistence on eternal punishment for folks who tend to think for themselves? This insistence doesn’t even make the case that God is nice, much less benevolent, for a nice God would conclude something like, “Well, people after Adam really had nothing to do with that first human’s decision to disobey me, so I’ll give them a pass.” But no, we have a brutal, unalterable and unreasoned decree onto future generations who were in no way responsible for Adam’s decision. For this follows: just because a member of the human species may be found guilty of rape or murder, the entire race is not guilty, and it would be unjust to pass along that judgment to everyone else.
For some folks, the thought of living this life to the fullest without resting any hope on another life is, to some, a comforting, liberating notion because it makes this life very important indeed, while theories of eternal life and souls make this life almost beside the point. Again, setting up a spiritual game of “Let’s Make a Deal,” in which we had better choose the right door, is not free will because of the existence of only two doors. Where are the third, fourth and fifth options?
One more point: The authors here say that, “The objection claims that a world with no hell is possible and asks why God did not create it. He did! God did not create separation from himself. God did not create hell. We did. God created a perfect world, but in creating humans (and angels) with free will, he left it up to us whether this actual world — the one without hell — would continue to be, or whether another possible world – one with hell – would begin to be.”
But yet, he planted the tree of knowledge in the garden like a carrot on a stick (If he didn’t, who?). Yet, he allowed Satan to enter the garden. Yet, he gave Adam no firm answers (only vague ones) on the critical and eternal consequences of eating the fruit? Yet, God can’t figure out a better way for most of his creation not to suffer eternal hellfire, and he can’t come up with not even one more option? Yet, he foreknew the entire tragic story of human history before he, himself, set the ugly business in motion. Unfathomable.
I learned about this a couple weeks ago, but as folks can see from the long tenure John Milton enjoyed at the top of this site, I haven’t devoted as much time to writing as usual as of late. More on that in another post.
But for now, one of the most significant discoveries, at least in my lifetime, was made in late September, when astronomers found the only planet besides Earth that is the right size and in the correct position to support life.
Orbiting around a red dwarf star in what is known as the Goldilocks Zone some 20 light years away, the planet known as Gliese 581g exists in an area of its galaxy that is neither too close or too far away from the star to foster ideal temperatures for life. According to Carnegie Institute astronomer Paul Butler,
This is really the first ‘Goldilocks’ planet, the first planet that is roughly the right size and just at the right distance to have liquid water on the surface. …
Everything we know about life is that it absolutely requires liquid water. The planet has to be the right distance from the star so it’s not too hot, not too cold … and then it has to have surface gravity so that it can hold on to a substantial atmosphere and allow the water to pool.
As we know, Gliese 581g does have water on it, and some scientists think it most probably has liquid water, given the temperate weather conditions. It’s believed that the average temperature range varies between -84 to -49 F with no atmospheric effects added in, while the numbers jump to -35 to 10 F with greenhouse gas effects figured in. That sounds pretty chilly, but half, or more, of the planet’s surface is on the dark side sitting away from its sun, while the bright side could, as I’ve read, approach as high as 160 F.
Either way, it’s a huge leap forward for science and for those interested in the question of whether life exists on other planets. Remember, of course, that when we say “life,” we don’t mean highly developed mammals like humans or apes, but most likely, we are referring to microbes and other simpler forms. With this discovery and others like it that have turned up water sources elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps the only question that remains is: Not whether some form of life exists elsewhere, but how long will it be until we, in fact, discover it too?
The photo below illustrates quite well the point I was making about Earth’s near insignificance when compared to the grand scale of other objects in space, and indeed, the universe itself. If I had created things, I think I probably would have made the Sun closer to Earth and much less astronomically disproportionate to the size of our planet, such that a mere solar flare could not in an instant, vaporize us all. As one can see here, a wave of solar gas jutting out from the Sun is many, many times longer than the entire diameter of our planet. The Earth obviously isn’t that close to the sun. It was added to the photo to show scale. Here’s more pictures Life and Getty.
[Caption: OCTOBER 25: Astronomers at the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured this image of a solar prominence erupting from the surface of the Sun on October 25, 2002. Two large prominences were spotted and one is shown here with the Earth in scale to demonstrate the immense size of this solar phenomenon. (Photo by SOHO/ESA/NASA/Getty Images)]