Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Lost Childhood of Jimi Hendrix

Charles R. Cross's new biography of Jimi Hendrix, Room Full of Mirrors, is reviewed in today's New York Times. It's yet another story about a lost childhood and the subsequent quest to find the stability and love Hendrix never got as a child. The result was a life filled with an endless supply of drugs and sex. The NYT review states, "more than one woman tells of coming into his room to find him with five or more lovers already in his bed. Exhaustion became his regular state, and in his last days he desperately went from woman to woman."

Listen to this sad moment of a man trying to find the love he never had as a boy: "As he did with Cobain, Cross ties Hendrix's emotional malnutrition as a child to his inability to cope with fame as an adult, leading to constant longing and disappointment. A few months before he died, Hendrix the superstar came through Seattle on tour... Driving past the hospital where his mother had died, he searched in vain for her grave. Then he came to a run-down, vacant house where he had lived as a boy and spent countless hours playing the broomstick. Going up to the window, ''he put his hands around his eyes,'' Cross writes, ''pressed his face against the glass, and peered into the shadows, as if he were searching for something he had lost.'' "

Friday, August 26, 2005

Darwin's Finches Only Evolve Back and Forth

Peter and Rosemary Grant are professors of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton. In this month's edition of the journal Current Biology they co-author the article "Darwin's Finches." The famus finch beaks oscillate, over time, back and forth. We can thus raise the question: if they diverge only then to converge back to what they were before, is that really evolution? The Grant's article leaves that question unasked and unanswered. Arn.org responds that we know the answer to the question is "yes," but it is only microevolution.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Jesus Research #1

I recently began a year of knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. The way I am doing this is:

- I am going to read and re-read and re-read etc. the 4 gospels for a year. Just reading Matthew-Mark-Luke-John over and over and over.

- I began a new journal in which I will record my thoughts, insights, and questions about Jesus and the things of Jesus.

- I will also be doing ongoing Jesus research, using texts I already have on Jesus and probably some new texts. I have a decent, scholarly personal library in the area of Christology that I'll be going back to. One of my areas of doctoral study was in this area.

- My personal goals in all of this are: to get the Jesus story into me. To know about the Real Jesus and to know the Real Jesus.

- For my church - I will begin preaching through the 4 gospels on Sept. 18. A goal: that my congregation becomes "Jesus literate."

- I believe it is extremely important for Christians today to read the real thing - not just books about Jesus, but the actual gospels.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Scientific Irrelevance of Darwinian Theory

When I was a pastor at Michigan State University we had many scientists in our church. I had dialogue with a number of them regarding evolutionary theory. What I discovered was that, even though most of them were brilliant in their various areas of science, they were not especially familiar with Darwin’s theory of evolution. They could have been familiar with it had they wanted to. They certainly had the ability to comprehend it. But they had not really especially studied it. They did not need to study Darwin and Neo-Darwinian theories of evolution to do the effective science that they were engaged in. In Kuhnian terms, they were mostly engaged in “normal science,” and doing it quite well.
Which raises the question: What good is Darwinian theory to the actual doing of science? Here is a quote from Ohio State University scientist Robert Disilvestro that speaks to this point.
“There's a popular statement that nothing in biology makes sense in light of evolution. I challenge anyone to tell me any single area of biomedical research that one couldn't do if they didn't accept Darwin's current ideas. I'm waiting to hear it. I can't think of a single one. And that question has been asked to some people and they can't give me an answer, either.

So in my work, what I work on could be interpreted in light of some evolutionary theories, but it's not required that I hold a particular theory in order to do my work. I could believe in Darwin, I could believe in punctuated equilibrium, I could believe in spacemen, I could believe in intelligent design. And I pretty much do the work in more or less the same way...

I've read hundreds of biomedical research papers, I've been to hundreds of talks, and evolution is only brought up once in a great, great while. For the most part, it's never even brought up, which is something I wanted to comment on and it's in my written statement, which hopefully some of you got...

In reality, there are a handful of people that have really gone through the Darwinian ideas, have come to the conclusion that they make compelling sense. There are a few, like myself, who questioned those ideas and have come to the conclusion that they make compelling nonsense. But the overwhelming majority of scientists have never even thought about the question...

I think most scientists have just never critically considered the issue.”

Over 400 Scientists Doubt Darwinism

Here's an entire article re. the growing number of scientists who question natural selection as the means by which speciation occurs.

SEATTLE — More than 400 scientists have signed onto a growing list from all disciplines who are “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.” “Darwin’s theory of evolution is the great white elephant of contemporary thought,” said Dr. David Berlinski, a mathematician and philosopher of science with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). “It is large, almost completely useless, and the object of superstitious awe.”Discovery Institute first published its Statement of Dissent from Darwin in 2001 and a direct challenge to statements made in PBS’ “Evolution” series that no scientists disagreed with Darwinian evolution. “The fact is that a significant number of scientists are extremely skeptical that Darwinian evolution can explain the origins of life,” said Dr. John G. West, associate director of the CSC. “We expect that as scientists engage in the wider debate over materialist evolutionary theories, this list will continue to grow, and grow at an even more rapid pace than we’ve seen this past year.”In the last 90 days, 29 scientists, including eight biologists, have signed the “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.” The list includes over 70 biologists.The most recent signatories are Lev V. Beloussov and Vladimir L. Voeikov, two prominent Russian biologists from Moscow State University. Dr. Voeikov is a professor of bioorganic chemistry and Dr. Beloussov is a professor of embryology an Honorary Professor at Moscow State University and a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.“The ideology and philosophy of neo-Darwinism, which is sold by its adepts as a scientific theoretical foundation of biology, seriously hampers the development of science and hides from students the field’s real problems,” said Professor Voeikov.“Lately in the media there’s been a lot of talk about science versus religion,” said West. “But such talk is misleading. This list is a witness to the growing group of scientists who challenge Darwinian theory on scientific grounds.” Other prominent biologists who have signed the list include evolutionary biologist and textbook author Dr. Stanley Salthe, Dr. Richard von Sternberg, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, and Giuseppe Sermonti, Editor of Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum. The list also includes scientists from Princeton, Cornell, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Ohio State University, Purdue and University of Washington among others.

Monday, August 22, 2005

ID, The New York Times, and Darwin's Finches Again

Today's nytimes.com has yet another article on Intelligent Design Theory.

Amazingly this article uses Darwin's finches as evidence of macroevolution. "The finches that Darwin observed in the Galápagos Islands provide the most famous example of this process. The species of finch that originally found its way to the Galápagos from South America had a beak shaped in a way that was ideal for eating seeds. But once arrived on the islands, that finch eventually diversified into 13 species. The various Galápagos finches have differently shaped beaks, each fine-tuned to take advantage of a particular food, like fruit, grubs, buds or seeds.
Such small adaptations can arise within a few generations. Darwin surmised that over millions of years, these small changes would accumulate, giving rise to the myriad of species seen today."

It is likely true that Darwin's finches, for evolutionists, "provide the most famous example" of natural selection. But this "most famous example" demonstrates only microevolution. To get macroevolution out of the finch example is to extrapolate from the data. Again, Darwin's finches provide evidence for micro-, not macro- evolution. The criticism regarding Darwin's finches has especially come from Jonathan Wells and others.

Friday, August 19, 2005

My Brief Life On The Panda's Thumb

I made a comment a few weeks ago on The Panda’s Thumb. I was quickly attacked by a litany of ad hominem abusives, ad hominem circumstantials, encountered one of the very best examples of begging the question I have seen (I’ll probably use it as an example in the logic classes I teach in college), was sworn at, and so on. I found it very difficult simply to make one logical point and have it responded to (which was that a conclusion made by Nick Matzke did not logically follow from his premise).

So off we went chasing red herrings, swinging at straw men, and sliding down a great many slippery slopes. Now, in the untamed wild west of angry Darwinists where gunslingers take the laws of logic into their own hands, came macho threats, outright mockery, drooling guffawing, and whispered snickering. Everything but my mother was assaulted.

All of which began to produce a fog of sorts through which, I confess, it became hard to see the forest for the trees. Such is the net outcome when a fair portion of Patrick Hurley's 25 informal fallacies belch forth from The Saloon of Darwin.

Yet my brief life at The Panda’s Thumb gave me many wonderful new examples of informal logical fallacies to use in my teaching. As well as a number of clear non sequiturs and just plain poor logic. Yes, I do understand that il-logic is not the domain of Darwinists especially. All of us can and do miss the point, equivocate, and get vague. But illogic-with-a-vengeance seemed to predominate in the “discussion” I had. Which tells me that vitriolic fundamentalists are to be found wherever there are humans.

Looking for the Real Jesus

Bill McKibben has what is to me a stunning article on the Real Jesus in this month's Harper's Magazine. It's called "The Christian Paradox: How A Faithful Nation Gets Jesus Wrong."

Increasingly I find that I desire to know about and know the Real Jesus. One way I am currently doing this is taking a year or more to read and re-read the 4 gospels, over and over and over.

I would suggest doing this. Read the 4 gospels rather than read books about Jesus. Read them as if for the very first time. Attend to them. Listen. Be both broken and encouraged. Convicted and blessed.

And obey.

Never forget this: Jesus is radical. Jesus is the revolutionary One. He is the world-changer and life-transformer. And He didn't get to be that by giving us some soft fuzzy words about how to maintain our self-image.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Spiritual Warfare Notes (especially for the men of Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Joliet, Illinois)

Dear Men of Judson Baptist Church in Joliet:

Hello! I very much enjoyed being with you this past weekend. And... I am praying for you. I'm carrying my prayer list around and interceding before God on your behalf.I am very excited about what God is doing in you. I am praying for you as you pray for one another and invite others in your church this coming Sunday to join you in praying for each other.Here are some notes from last weekend on spiritual warfare.

Blessings,

John Piippo

*****
We are in a spiritual war.

Why there is a spiritual war going on:God is love. That means, in His essence, God is love.God wants His created agents (persons and angels and spiritual beings) to love Him.For this to happen created agents must have free will.Love is not possible without free will.But giving created agents free will has a risk.Because created agents can choose to not love God.Wherever there is free will there will be war.

The battlefield is: the souls of men and women.

Satan, our adversary, is:“a roaring lion” who “prowls around, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
He is “the tempter” who influences people to sin (1 Thess. 3:5; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; Acts 5:3)and the deceiver who blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4).
Satan is behind all types of false teaching (Gal. 4:8–10; Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 4:1–5, 1 John 4:1–2; 2 John 7),
And can appear as an “angel of light” (Gal. 1:8),
and even perform “lying wonders and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing” (2 Thess. 2:9–10).

How do we wage war against the spiritual forces of evil?
Ephesians 6:10-20 tells us to “put on the full armor of God.”
This means:
Be truthful (as opposed to Satan, who is the “father of lies” and operates in lies)
Be straight (“righteous”).
Be a peacemaker (this is far different from being a “peace lover”).
Step out in faith. Faith is: risk. Faith is not essentially a feeling. It is action. Faith is a verb.
Know that God loves you and has saved you and you are his child.
Know God’s Word and use God’s Word in spiritual warfare.
Pray! Prayer, says Greg Boyd, is an act of war. Prayer pushes back the darkness.

AND… Take authority.

Matthew 28:18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mark 1:27The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him."
Look at “authority prayers “ in Mark 1.
Luke 4:36All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!"
Luke 9:1 - When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.
Luke 10:19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
Matthew 10:1; 7-8 - 1He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil[a] spirits and to heal every disease and sickness… 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[b]drive out demons.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says that the weapons demolish arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.

Following Francis Frangipane (The Three Battlegrounds), I am defining a spiritual stronghold as a “house made of thoughts.” We are called to “take every thought captive.”

Here are some examples of spiritual strongholds – “houses” made of thoughts – that need to be torn down:

Cares of the world
Anxiety
Unforgiveness
Bitterness
Grief (lasting)
Instability (emotions rule; the emotional rollercoaster)
Accusations (the “accuser of the brethren”)
Condemnation
Sin and patterns of sin

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Romans 15:17-19 at Redeemer

Hello Redeemer Family:

If you were at the 8/7/05 morning service you heard me say that some persons do not think miracles can happen. This may be because they have been influenced by a view called Philosophical Naturalism (PN).
I have found, in my conversations with persons and in my reading, that often a person who does not believe in miracles holds to the view that there is nothing outside of “nature.” PN is the belief that everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces, and that there are no things or events outside of nature. Atheist Paul Draper puts it this way: Naturalism is “the hypothesis that the physical universe is a ‘closed system’ in the sense that nothing that is neither a part nor a product of it can affect it. So naturalism entails the nonexistence of all supernatural beings, including the theistic God.”
Now note this: PN is not itself a truth that can be discovered by studying nature. As Darwinist Eugenie Scott states, science only studies nature, and nature is “matter, energy, and their interaction.” PN cannot be found in nature, thus the idea that "there are no things or events outside of nature," that the universe is a "closed system," is not itself a scientific truth. It is rather an assumption, or a definition. Therefore, for someone who buys into PN (whether consciously or unconsciously, but quite often the latter), of course miracles don’t happen because “there is nothing outside of nature.”
Let me put this another way. If someone like Draper just states that the universe is a closed system, then of course, for people like Draper, miracles will not happen. As philosopher Richard Purtill states, “a position that describes natural laws as simply a summary of what happens cannot even make the contrast between miracles and nonmiraculous events” (“Defining Miracles,” in A Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, eds. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas, 70).
Obviously, then, a person who holds to PN cannot believe in miracles (defined as events that cannot be explained by pure natural forces). The non-existence of miracles is assumed by definition. Just as it would be impossible to believe in a “married bachelor,” it is impossible – logically – for a PN-er to believe in miracles.
Philosopher Winfried Corduan writes, "By virtue of their assumptions about the nature of science the naturalists [adherents of PN] will never be convinced that a miracle has actually occurred... We can now see that the naturalists have laid out the rules of the game in such a way that they cannot possibly lose" ('Recognizing a Miracle," in Ib., 101).
I feel quite certain that PN long ago infiltrated the Christian church. In spite of the fact that God worked miracles through Jesus and Paul, there are Christians who doubt that miracles really happen today. In this sense they are people who walk in unbelief. They are philosophical naturalists.
Here then is a reason why we do not see miracles in Westernized churches but see them in non-Westernized churches. This explains Matthew 13:58, where we read that Jesus refused to do miracles because of the people’s lack of faith. Where there is lack of faith or unbelief we should expect the relative absence of the supernatural.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Philosophical Naturalism dialogue on The Panda's Thumb

Someone at the Darwinist website The Panda's Thumb responded to me:

John Piippo wrote:
Having been a professor of logic for many years I must say that Philip Johnson’s quote does not serve as a premise leading to the conclusion that “ID is just creationism in a postmodern, relativist tuxedo.” Johnson’s quote addresses his concern (and Plantinga’s, et. al.) that Neo-Darwinism is inextricably rooted in methodological naturalism.

Can Piippo name a currently accepted scientific theory, in any discipline from physics to biology, that is not “rooted in methodological naturalism”? That is, does Piippo know of a currently accepted theory that invokes causal/explanatory variables not normally deemed to be ‘naturalistic’, or whose support does not in the end depend on systematic observations of the natural world? Though I’ve worked in science and technology for over 40 years, in both industry and academics, I have not to my knowledge encountered even one such.

Here is my response:

The very fact that nearly all (if not entirely all) current scientific theories are grounded in Philosophical Naturalism (PN) supports what I (and Plantinga et. al.) are saying. PN holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.
But PN is not itself a scientific truth. Rather, PN defines the parameters of scientific inquiry. As such, PN functions as a definition. But it itself is not a scientific truth.
PN is something like a philosophical position. PN is often also referred to as Metaphysical Naturalism. That is, PN is a metaphysical claim. As a metaphysical claim the truth or non-truth of PN needs to be established philosophically, not scientifically.
Plantinga explains this: The idea that “human beings and other living creatures have come about by chance, rather than by God’s design, is… not a proper part of empirical science. How could science show that God has not intentionally designed and created human beings and other creatures? How could it show that they have arisen merely by chance? That’s not empirical science. That’s metaphysics, or maybe theology. It’s a theological add-on, not part of science itself. And, since it is a theological add-on, it shouldn’t, of course, be taught in public schools.” (http://newsinfo.nd.edu/content.cfm?topicid=12242)
If, therefore, most current scientific theories are grounded in PN this does not imply that ID is to be dismissed as “science.” It only means that much contemporary science is grounded in a certain non-scientific metaphysical claim. Some, like Plantinga and Johnson, wish to question the validity of that claim.

Atheism as a Crutch

Thomas Nagel, in his book The Last Word, offered a revealing insight into his personal motivations for his atheistic beliefs: "I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope that there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."

Jay Budziszewski responded to Nagel's comments in the journal First Things. There he said that if Nagel's motivations are true of most atheists, then "those who say that theism is a crutch have got it backwards…; it is atheism that serves as a crutch."

A Darwinist Begs the Question

I am currently in a dialogue/debate on line at nytimes.com over the issue of Intelligent Design theory.

Consider this recent post by a Darwinist, who writes: “It's true that arguments by ID proponents that organisms are too complex to have evolved step by step are clearly wrong, since one step at a time is just how complexity develops.”

This is a pefect, textbook example of the informal logical fallacy of "begging the question."

This argument states: Premise 1. One step at a time is just how complexity develops. Conclusion: Therefore it is wrong that organisms are too complex to have evolved step by step.

But of course! Because it's just circular reasoning.

Frightened By Intelligent Design Theory

In today's New York Times Paul Krugman states his fears re. Intelligent Design Theory. I just e-mailed him this response:

Dear Mr. Krugman:

· To hint that ID is using “fake research” is dishonest. The truth is that a growing number of actual scientists show interest in ID. This includes ID-ers problems with Darwinian macroevolution.
· “Fake research” has been used by Darwinists. See, e.g., Jonathan Wells’ Icons of Evolution.
· “Science” and “scientific truth” and “peer review” and “the self-policing nature of science” present actual scientists in universities as pure Cartesian intellects devoid of “politics.” Politics has long been involved in Neo-Darwinist promotion. Not all Neo-Darwinians have engaged in it. Just as not all ID-ers engage in it. But it seems to be a quite human thing.
· If it is true that some politicians hate Darwinism, so what? One commits the ad populum fallacy by inferring that this somehow undermines ID theory.
· It is an empirical fact that a small-but-growing number of actual scientists have doubts about macro-evolution. It is true that more scientists today accept macro-evolution than not. But, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, this is always the way a potential revolution happens in science. So, when it comes to revolutionary science, numbers do not matter. Yet in the history of science, theories can come and go (see Kuhn again, e.g.). A prevailing scientific paradigm gets questioned, sometimes by only one scientist. It takes many years for the then-prevailing paradigm (called “normal science” by Kuhn) to gain acceptability.
· The political and emotional resistance to a candidate for a paradigm shift is understandable. I personally see this in a lot of the anti-ID literature. Yet there are serious discussions going on. See, e.g., Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, edited by non-ID-er Michael Ruse and ID-er William Dembski. Don’t you think that the dialogue that takes place in a text like this is more fruitful than pointing out the political hatred on both sides?

Sincerely,

John Piippo, Ph.D

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Philosophical Naturalism and Miracles

Philosophical Naturalism (PN) holds that there is nothing outside of nature. Everything in our experience can be accounted for by pure natural forces.

Obviously then, a person who holds to PN cannot believe in miracles (defined as events that cannot be explained by pure natural forces). The non-existence of miracles is assumed by definition. Just as it would be impossible to believe in a married bachelor it is impossible – logically – to believe in miracles.

Now note this: PN cannot be itself established by science since, by definition, science only studies natural (not supernatural) events. PN defines the parameters of science; viz., everything in nature. This definition of “science” does not nor cannot prove PN. As philosopher Richard Purtill states, “a position that describes natural laws as simply a summary of what happens cannot even make the contrast between miracles and nonmiraculous events” (“Defining Miracles,” in A Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God’s Action in History, eds. Douglas Geivett and Gary Habermas, 70).

Philosopher Winfried Corduan adds, "By virtue of their assumptions about the nature of science the naturalists [adherents of PN] will never be convinced that a miracle has actually occurred... We can now see that the naturalists have laid out the rules of the game in such a way that they cannot possibly lose" ('Recognizing a Miracle," in Ib., 101).

Any attempt to argue from this notion of science that miracles do not happen is to beg the question.

Blatant Falsehoods in The Da Vinci Code

Page 1 of DVC states: "Fact": "all descriptions of ...documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate."
But this is false. Here are but some examples which Margaret Mitchell of The University of Chicago cites.
  • There were "more than eighty gospels" (p.231; the number 80 is factual-sounding, but has no basis)
  • "The earliest Christian records" were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (including gospels) and Nag Hammadi texts (pp.234, 245)
  • The Nag Hammadi texts "speak of Christ's ministry in very human terms" (p.234)
  • The marriage of Mary Magdalene and Jesus is "a matter of historical record" (p.244)
  • Constantine invented the divinity of Jesus and excluded all gospels but the four canonical ones
  • Constantine made Christianity "the official religion" of the Roman Empire (p.232)
  • Constantine coined the term "heretic" (p.234)
  • "Rome's official religion was sun worship" (p.232)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Selling of The Da Vinci Code

I was in Borders today and saw some "Da Vinci Code" games/etc. for sale. Here comes the spinoff marketing of the movie.
Today's New York Times has an article stating that Christian groups are putting pressure on director Ron Howard and Sony Pictures to revise the plot so as to "soften" it and hopefully not upset so many Christians. But the basic plot, horrifically false though it may be, will surely remain since it is the core of the fictional work; viz., that "Jesus married Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church has done everything in its power, including murdering millions of people, to cover it up."
I'll be doing a seminar on DVC at our church when the time is right to help our people see the story's false claims.