Sunday, December 18, 2005

Darwinian Faith According to Tom Bethell

The Darwinian macro-evolutionary claim is that life came from non-life. I like the way Patrick Buchanan comments on this, using Tom Bethell’s book Politically Correct Guide to Science. He writes:
“If believing that Christ raised people from the dead is a matter of faith -- and it is -- is not the Darwinist claim that nature created life out of non-life a matter of faith? If it is science, why can't scientists replicate it in microcosm in a laboratory? If scientists know life came from matter and matter from non-matter, why don't they show us how this was done, instead of asserting it was done, and calling us names for not taking their claims on faith?”

Multiverse Theory & an Argument from Ignorance

Leonard Susskind, the inventor of string theory, is interviewed in New Scientist on the question "Is String Theory In Trouble." In the following interchange re. the anthropic principle Susskind uses an argument from ignorance.
The question is put to him: "Is it premature to invoke anthropic arguments - which assume that the conditions for life are extremely improbable - when we don't know how to define life?"
Susskind replies: "The logic of the anthropic principle requires the strong assumption that our kind of life is the only kind possible. Why should we presume that all life is like us - carbon-based, needs water, and so forth? How do we know that life cannot exist in radically different environments? If life could exist without galaxies, the argument that the cosmological constant seems improbably fine-tuned for life would lose all of its force. And we don't know that life of all kinds can't exist in a wide variety of circumstances, maybe in all circumstances. It a valid objection. But in my heart of hearts, I just don't believe that life could exist in the interior of a star, for instance, or in a black hole."
I have highlighted in bold his argument from ignorance. There is no evidence that non-carbon-based life does exist. Such non-existence threatens Susskind's multiverse theory and causes him to speculate. And notice how his final quote about his "heart of hearts" indicates his real doubt that non-carbon-based life does exist.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Henri Nouwen on Heaven and Hell: Part 2

I just received the new Nouwen e-letter. It's called "The Good News of Hell." Nouwen writes: "Is there a hell? The concepts of heaven and hell are as intimately connected as those of good and evil. When we are free to do good, we are also free to do evil; when we can say yes to God's love, the possibility of saying no also exists. Consequently, when there is heaven there also must be hell. All of these distinctions are made to safeguard the mystery that God wants to be loved by us in freedom. In this sense, strange as it may sound, the idea of hell is good news. Human beings are not robots or automatons who have no choices and who, whatever they do in life, end up in God's Kingdom. No, God loves us so much that God wants to be loved by us in return. And love cannot be forced; it has to be freely given. Hell is the bitter fruit of a final no to God."
I agree with Nouwen. The reasoning goes like this:
1) God is love. This means that God is, in his essence, love. God cannot not-love.
2) Love necessarily implies relationship.
3) To say that God loves us is to say that God wants us to love him back.
4) But love is not really "love" if not freely chosen. So, God gives us free will.
5) Free will is not really "free" if we cannot choose to not love God.
6) Because God is in his essence love, God cannot refuse us if we choose against him. To do this would be coercive, and love is not coercive.
7) Therefore persons who choose to not love God will receive the outcome of their choices, which is eternal separation from God. (Defined biblically as "hell.")

Heaven, Hell, & Free Will

I receive a daily thought from Henri Nouwen's writings. Today's thought is about heaven, hell, and the freedom to choose.
Nouwen writes: "Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward. But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus. God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey. God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision God gives us the freedom to move away from God's love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God's choice. It is ours."
I agree with Nouwen's point. God honors our choices. If we choose to move away from God then God will not force us to be in relationship with him. God's love is not coercive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Merton & Post-Christianity

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who never watched television and spent much of his time in the presence of God praying and listening. Because of his rigorous spiritual discipline, and his great cognitive and creative giftedness, God spoke many things to him, and people came to him from around the world seeking a word from God.
Consider this Merton quote, written many years ago, that is prophetic and was truly ahead of its time:
"We on the contrary live in an irreligious post-Christian world in which the Christian message has been repeated over and over until it has come to seem empty of all intelligible content to those whose ears close to the word of God even before it is uttered.  In their minds Christian is no longer identified with newness and change, but only with the static preservation of outworn structures.” - Merton - From Peace in the Post-Christian Era, by Thomas Merton.  Orbis Books; Maryknoll, New York. 2004. p.127-28.
What a sad and true indictment of many churches today.