Intelligent Design

Do Intelligent Design proponents worship two Gods?

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“Huh?” I hear you say. “Why would anyone think that?”

The reason, according to a recent blog article by Dutch biologist Gert Korthof, is that a God who designed malaria, and who allowed Hitler’s atrocities to take place, could not possibly be the same Deity as a God who upholds the sanctity of human life, and who condemns abortion, euthanasia and the atrocities committed by Hitler:

But there are two Gods. The God of the Sanctity of Human Life and the God of the Free Will Defense. They disagree strongly. The God of the Sanctity of Human Life is against abortion and euthanasia, and also against the atrocities of Hitler. The other God, The God of the Free Will Defense, allows the atrocities of Hitler.

However, Intelligent Design proponents fail to recognize that these attributes are mutually incompatible, so they end up believing in a schizophrenic Deity who somehow combines them all. Dr. Korthof argues that believers who engage in this intellectual juggling act end up paying a terrible personal price: they become desensitized to human pain and suffering, because they have learned to rationalize its occurrence in God’s cosmos.

Dr. Korthof is aware that this conclusion will evoke skepticism and even incredulity from many readers, so he skilfully sets forth his case, which rests upon two pillars: first, a quotation from the writings of a scientist and notable Intelligent Design proponent, Professor Michael Behe (who is also a Roman Catholic Christian) on the malaria parasite; and second, quotes from two Christian philosophers (John Hick and Richard Swinburne), who use the Free Will Defense to justify God’s allowing atrocities such as the Holocaust.

Is God the author of natural evil?

Let’s look at the first pillar. Korthof draws readers’ attention to the following passage in Behe’s book, The Edge of Evolution:

Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts. (…) What sort of designer is that? What sort of “fine-tuning” leads to untold human misery? To countless mothers mourning countless children? Did a hateful, malign being make intelligent life in order to torture it? One who relishes cries of pain? Maybe. Maybe not.” (The Edge of Evolution, or: EE, p.237)

Dr. Korthof is appalled by Professor Behe’s reasoning here. As he remarks in his online review of Behe’s The Edge of Evolution:

Personally, I find this the most shocking passage of the entire book. If malaria is intelligently designed, then it is a form of biological warfare or bioterrorism, just as the intelligently designed spread of anthrax spores by mail in 2001 (18). The difference is that malaria killed millions and that the killing continues on a daily basis… What is really bad from a moral point of view, is that first having blessed malaria with a divine origin, subsequently his “Maybe. Maybe not” avoids any answer to his own question “What sort of designer is that?” A question of the highest moral, humanitarian, medical and educational importance.

Unfortunately, Dr. Korthof has badly mis-read Professor Behe’s book. He is simply mistaken in claiming that Behe “blessed malaria with a divine origin.” You want proof? Here is what Behe says on page 238 of his book:

…Are viruses and parasites part of some brilliant, as-yet-unappreciated economy of nature, or do they reflect the bungling of an incompetent, fallible designer?

Whether on balance one thinks life was a worthwhile project or not – whether the designer of life was a dope, a demon, or a deity – that’s a topic on which opinions over the millennia have differed considerably. Each argument has some merit. Of the many possible opinions, only one is really indefensible, the one held by Darwin…. He decided – based on squeamishness – that no designer existed. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

Korthof defends Darwin’s squeamishness, remarking in a footnote:

As I see it, Darwin had the emotional basis for empathy, sympathy and rejecting cruelty. Sensitivity for pain and suffering of others is the basis of morality (Frans de Waal). Darwin has a non-contradictory foundation for morality. Behe himself and Behe’s God apparently misses empathy and sympathy.

However, the reader will notice that in the above passage by Behe, he carefully avoids committing himself on the question of who designed the malaria virus (correction: parasite – VJT), or for that matter, the larger question of who the Designer of life was. He is even willing to entertain the notion that the Designer may have been “a demon.” He then goes on to say:

Maybe the designer isn’t all that beneficent or omnipotent. Science can’t answer questions like that. But denying design simply because it can cause terrible pain is a failure of nerve, a failure to look the universe fully in the face.

Professor Behe wrote the above passages as a scientist. Looking at the complex machinery of the cell, he found overwhelming evidence for design; however, intellectual honesty compelled him to admit that there is also evidence for design in the workings of the malaria virus (correction: parasite – VJT). How does one reconcile these facts on a moral level? That’s a very good question – but it’s not a scientific question. What should be clear, however, is that nowhere does Behe assert that the malaria parasite is God’s handiwork. Indeed, Behe is so scrupulously fair that he even refrains from calling life itself God’s handiwork, as this would be a conclusion which goes beyond the scientific evidence available.

Now, the Intelligent Design movement is a very big tent, theologically speaking: it includes people of many faiths and none. I realize that Dr. Korthof’s article is targeted specifically at Christians, but I am surprised that it never occurred to him to examine the writings of other Intelligent Design proponents who belong to the Christian faith, to see if they believe that God designed the malaria parasite. In particular, Dr. Korthof would have been well-advised to read Professor William Dembski’s recent book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (B & H Academic, Nashville, Tennessee, 2009). This is a highly original contribution to the literature on the problem of evil, by a leading Intelligent Design proponent.

What does Dembski have to say about the cruelty found in Nature? He openly admits that Nature is cruel, and decries the efforts of theistic evolutionists to rationalize it and/or deny this fact. For Dembski, however, the cruelty which is rife in the natural world is not the work of God but of Adam, whose sin retroactively caused the entire natural world (which existed for millions of years before Adam) to be plunged into suffering. In Dembski’s theodicy, Adam, as the first human being, exercised a special lordship over creation, making him responsible for the fate of the entire animal kingdom. Hence the consequences of Adam’s fall were truly momentous: countless animals that lived long before him and after him were condemned by his willful act of disobedience to suffer from predation, parasitism, disease, death, and extinction. Now, this may strike readers as a very anthropocentric explanation of the evil we see in the natural world, but at least it doesn’t make God the author of the suffering caused by malaria. To quote Dembski:

The preferred way that theistic evolutionists deal with nature’s cruelty, however, is denial and rationalization. Sure, natural selection involves pain; but as Darwin stressed, the pain is worth it: “As natural selection works solely by and for the good of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend to progress towards perfection.” Thus Darwin sanctified evolution and deified natural selection…

Besides rationalization, there’s denial. Thus we are told that cruelty is not really cruel unless conscious moral agents (like us) are suffering it: “While cruel rats and malevolent weasels might exercise such wicked designs in the pages of children’s books,” writes Denis Alexander, “to the best of our knowledge the real animal world is amoral and has no ethics.” But Alexander here fails to distinguish between cruelty as a conscious motivation (which is culpable in us but lacking in other animals) and cruelty as it is experienced by us (such cruelty comes against us as much from nature as from the designs of fellow humans). The fossil record – as a history of predation, parasitism, disease, death, and extinction – is seen by us as cruel even if the animals in it cannot properly be said to have cruel motivations. In any case, ask yourself which requires rationalization: affirming nature’s cruelty, or denying it. Clearly, denying it.

Does evolution therefore undermine the theodicy I am proposing? Not at all. Although I personally think that the scientific evidence supports only limited forms of evolutionary change, evolution in the grand sense (“monad to man”) would simply underscore natural evil in the world and thus constitute a further way that God makes the world reflect the corruption in the human heart as a consequence of the Fall. On this account evolution is not so much a method of creation (though it can be that also) as a method of judgment by which God impresses on the world the radical consequences of human sin. (Pages 165-166.)

As we have seen, Professor Dembski ascribes the malaria parasite retroactively to Adam, and not to God. There is of course a third option: that Satan created (or modified) the malaria parasite. This was the option favored by the Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, who traced natural evil back to the fall of Satan, which preceded that of humanity and may have preceded the appearance of life on Earth. For his part, Dembski is willing to allow that Satan may have wreaked havoc on Earth before Adam’s Fall, but he insists that he was permitted to do so only because God knew that Adam was going to fall after being tempted by Satan. Why? Because Satan was not the lord of creation of Earth; Adam was. However, Adam fell freely; thus the ultimate responsibility for the nastiness we see in Nature is Adam’s, not God’s or Satan’s. As Dembski puts it:

…[N]ature consequent to the Fall exhibits a nastiness and perversity that seems hard to attribute to the active will of a loving God. Vipers, viruses, and vermin seem more appropriately attributed to God’s permissive will, the permission going to Satan. On this view Satan ravages the earth prior to the Fall but is permitted to do so because of his success in tempting the first humans, a temptation that itself required God’s permission. (Page 146.)

The first pillar of Dr. Korthof’s case has been toppled: Christians are not committed to making God the author of natural evils (such as the malaria parasite), and Intelligent Design in no way entails a theodicy that makes God the designer of the malaria parasite.

Dr. Korthof on the Free Will Defense for evil

Now let’s look at the second and more significant pillar of Dr. Korthof’s case: the Free Will Defense. For Dr. Korthof, God’s allowing free agents (e.g. Satan, Adam or Hitler) to wreak evil in the world is just as morally reprehensible as God’s perpetrating that evil Himself, as there is no “higher end” or “greater good” which could possibly justify His permitting this evil. Dr. Korthof is particularly scathing in his criticism of the theodicies of Professors Richard Swinburne and John Hick, who view the world as a vale of soul-making, in which natural evil is intended by God, as part of our schooling in the moral virtues. Korthof quotes from a summary of Swinburne’s thinking, written by the late philosopher D. Z. Phillips:

“Swinburne tells us that ‘a creator who gave them only coughs and colds, and not cancer and cholera would be a creator who treated men as children instead of giving them real encouragement to subdue the world’.” [4] (Quoted by D. Z. Phillips, 2005, The Problem of Evil & The Problem of God, p. 59.)

Or in the words of Swinburne himself:

But the more freedom and responsibility we have, of logical necessity the more and more significant are the bad consequences which will result (unprevented by God) from our bad choices. [5] (Providence and the problem of evil, OUP. (Accessible at http://books.google.com), p.159).

Additionally, Korthof cites a long passage from the philosopher John Hick, who argued along similar lines that God’s giving human beings free will entailed the possibility of the Holocaust:

It seems to me that once you ask God to intervene to prevent some specific evil you are in principle asking him, or her, to rescind our human freedom and responsibility. Was God supposed to change Hitler’s nature, or to have engineered his sudden death, at a certain point in history? But the forces leading to the Holocaust ramify out far beyond that one man. God would have had to override the freedom not only of Hitler and the Nazis, but all participants in the widespread secular anti-Semitism of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe, which itself was rooted in nearly two thousand years of Christian anti-Semitism. Further, having prevented this particular evil, God would be equally obliged to prevent all other very great human evils… Where should a miraculously intervening God have stopped? Only, it would seem, when human freedom will have been abolished.” [1] (my emphasis) (Quoted in D. Z. Phillips (2005) The Problem of Evil & The Problem of God, p. 107.)

Comments Korthof:

It is quite shocking to hear that God has his reasons for not preventing the Holocaust. The most shocking is that people are prepared to continue to believe in the moral goodness of such a God.

Dr. Korthof rejects the theodicies of Hick and Swinburne, according to which “God has his reasons for allowing all the violations of the sanctity of human life,” because the alleged reasons utterly fail to exculpate God:

According to the Free Will Defense the reasons are the unrestricted freedom of humans to do the greatest evil. God allowed Hitler to do the greatest evil. Whatever the detailed reasons of God, it is a fact that atrocities did occur and God did not prevent them. As a consequence, the ‘Judeo-Christian conception of the sanctity of human life’ is annihilated.

Why is Dr. Korthof so fiercely critical of Hick’s and Swinburne’s soul-making theodicy?

What readers need to understand here is that Korthof is arguing as an anti-consequentialist: he doesn’t believe that the end justifies the means. Like the philosopher D. Z. Phillips, Korthof holds that no “higher end” – not even freedom – could possibly justify God’s permitting the natural evils we observe in our world. Korthof contends that Christians like Professor Richard Weikart, who argues that belief in Darwinism is dehumanizing, fail to realize that belief in a God who allows the Holocaust is even more dehumanizing, because it desensitizes us to the suffering we see around us, and which it is our duty to fight. He wraps up his blog article as follows:

The conclusions of these observations are (1) that belief in God causes insensitivity for human pain and suffering and further; (2) if God allows violations of the sanctity of human life, those violations can’t be immoral (otherwise, God would be immoral), (3) therefore it is pointless to fight against those violations or blame Darwinism.

Is Hick’s and Swinburne’s soul-making theodicy authentically Christian, anyway?

The irony, however, is that Hick’s and Swinburne’s soul-making theodicy is something of a theological novelty. It is not the traditional Christian solution to the problem of evil. That is the argument put forward in an article by David Bentley Hart, entitled Tsunami and Theodicy (First Things, March 2005). The author, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, writes against the backdrop of the Boxing Day tsunami on December 26, 2004, which killed approximately 300,000 people. Hart forcefully rejects the rose-tinted view that tragedies like these fit into some “Big Picture” and possess some ultimate meaning which God can fathom, even if we cannot. This, Hart maintains, is not the Christian view, and it is in any case profoundly immoral, as it turns God into a utilitarian monster who achieves His Grand Plan for Cosmic Harmony only by treating people like pawns on a chessboard. Unbelievers who declare that these terrible tragedies are utterly meaningless and abominable are right, Hart declares. Hart reminds us that the traditional Christian answer to the problem of suffering in the world has always started from the Fall of our first parents, which Hart describes as “an ancient alienation from God that has wounded creation in its uttermost depths, and reduced cosmic time to a shadowy remnant of the world God intends, and enslaved creation to spiritual and terrestrial powers hostile to God.”

Additionally, Dr. Korthof appears to be unaware that a large number of Intelligent Design proponents (including many Christians) would be in complete agreement with his criticisms of Hick’s and Swinburne’s theodicy, according to which the Earth is a vale of soul-making. As Professor William Dembski argues in his book, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (B & H Academic, Nashville, Tennessee, 2009):

The earth as a place for soul-making also leaves much to be desired. The metaphor here is that of a school that attempts to train us to become great souls. But rigors of a curriculum are one thing; Lisbon earthquakes and Asian tsunamis, not to mention Auschwitz and the Killing Fields, are another. Do we really need a curriculum that grinds so many of its pupils to powder? If the earth is indeed a place for soul-making, how many great souls does it produce? Is it not a tiny, tiny minority? How many flunk out of Hick’s school of soul-making? How many do not merely flunk out but end up in the gutter, addicted to sensuality, money, fame and power? How many cannot be said to have enrolled at any school whatsoever, whose days are consumed in a simple struggle to survice (think of barefoot children scouring garbage dumps to eke out an existence)? (Page 31.)

Dembski goes further:

Where Hick offers a school, I offer an insane asylum. Students at a school need to be trained and cultivated, Inmates at an insane asylum need to be cured and delivered.(Indeed, why did Jesus devote so much of his ministry to healing the sick and casting out demons?) (Page 45.)

The contrast between the two theodicies could hardly be starker. Dembski continues:

Natural evil constitutes a disordering of nature. A benevolent God will allow natural evil only as a last resort to remedy a still worse evil, not as an end in itself over which to glory. (Page 81.)

Now, Dr. Korthof will probably acknowledge that Dembski’s theodicy is radically different from that of Hick and Swinburne, but he could still argue that on Dembski’s theodicy, God allows evil for the sake of a higher end: freedom (Adam’s and Satan’s) is the reason why God permits the natural evils we observe in our world. Moreover, it is by no means apparent why the entire animal kingdom should have to suffer for the sin of Adam.

Concluding thoughts

I would like to conclude by putting forward a few tentative suggestions. We, with our limited intelligence, do not know how the cosmos is run – in other words, we don’t know the “rules of the game,” on a cosmic level. Perhaps in the scheme of things, it is simply impossible for God to make an intelligent race of beings without offering them a sphere or domain in which they can legitimately exercise their freedom. For instance, perhaps God cannot make a unique race of intelligent beings on a certain planet, without also giving them dominion over all the non-rational creatures on that planet. And perhaps the animals that develop on a given planet are “ontologically bound” to the intelligent beings who later appear on the same planet and who are designated by God as their stewards, in such a way that the animals cannot appear on that planet unless the intelligent beings who are destined to rule over them also emerge at some (chronologically subsequent) point in time.

Finally, I should like to point out that one thing which a morally good God cannot do is break a promise. Consequently, if we find evil in the natural or human world which makes no sense in the scheme of things, and which serves no “higher purpose,” we should ask ourselves: what kind of promise would prevent a Deity from eliminating that evil, and to whom would it have to be made? The Judeo-Christian speaks of a Fall of the angels and of a subsequent Fall of Adam. I suspect that Lucifer and Adam may, after being created, have demanded from God a domain in which they could legitimately exercise their freedom, and that being granted this domain by God, they may have rebelled against God, and then told God in no uncertain terms to “butt out” and let them exercise their freedom as they wished. Faced with this double rebellion, God may have had no choice but to honor His promise and let them do their worst.

The honoring of a promise is not a “higher good” which rationalizes natural evil; rather, it is an action which springs from the very nature of an essentially good God. For God, honoring a promise is an unconditional duty, which has nothing to do with the good consequences that may or may not result.

Readers who wish to have a look at previous posts of mine on the problem of evil might like to peruse this old post of mine and this one.

Readers who may be curious as to how I believe God ultimately ties up the problem of suffering for animals, and exactly which features of the biological world can and cannot be ascribed to God, might like to have a look here, here and here. Theodicy is necessarily speculative; I can only offer opinions, not certainties.

An atheist’s theodicy

But enough of my ideas. I’d like to close with an interesting theodicy put forward by an atheist, Dr. Bradley Monton, who has also written a book about Intelligent Design, entitled Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design:

I think that the problem of evil provides a pretty good argument against the hypothesis that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God exists. But I’ve been thinking off and on for a while now about various replies to the argument from evil, and more and more I’ve been thinking that the best reply is the many-universes reply. Since that reply isn’t discussed much in the literature on the problem of evil, I thought I’d present it here.

This isn’t the most formal way to present it, but I’ll present it with a parable. Suppose that God exists, and God is omnipotent and omniscient, and has the desire to be omnibenevolent. So God creates a very nice universe, a universe with no evil. We might at first think that God has fulfilled the criterion of omnibenevolence, but then we recognize that God could do more — God could create another universe that’s also very nice. Agents could exist in that universe that didn’t exist in the first universe, and so there’s an intuitive sense (which is admittedly tricky to make precise mathematically) in which there would be more goodness to reality than there would be were God just to create one universe.

But of course there’s no reason to stop at two — God should create an infinite number of universes. Now, he could just create an infinite number of universes, where in each universe no evil things happen. But in doing so, there would be certain creatures that wouldn’t exist — creatures like us, who exist in a universe with evil, and are essential products of that universe. So God has to decide whether to create our universe as well. What criterion should he use in making this decision? My thought is that he should create all the universes that have more good than evil, and not create the universes that have more evil than good.

So that’s why an omnipotent omniscient omnibenevolent God would create our universe, even though it has evil — our universe adds (in an intuitive sense, setting aside mathematical technicalities) to the sum total of goodness in the universe, and hence it’s worth creating.

Well, what do readers think of Dr. Monton’s theodicy? And what do readers think of Dr. Dembski’s? Are Christians desensitized to the evil and suffering in the world, as Dr. Korthof claims? And if so, why is it that the vast majority of people who defend the rights (and full personhood) of unborn children, people with disabilities, people in a vegetative state, and people in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease, identify with the Judeo-Christian tradition, whose God Dr. Korthof finds so abominable? Something to think about.

And now, over to you.

57 Replies to “Do Intelligent Design proponents worship two Gods?

  1. 1

    A quibble (I’m grading essays from the second preliminary exam in evolutionary biology at Cornell, and so don’t have time for more than that right now):

    Malaria is caused by a eukaryotic protozoan, not a virus. To be specific, malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by a eukaryotic protist of the genus Plasmodium. Viruses, by contrast, are non-living macromolecular obligate reproductive parasites of living cells.

    This is not a trivial distinction: equating the eukaryotic protozoan Plasmodium falciparum with a virus (say Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV) is essentially equivalent to equating a rowboat and an aircraft carrier. The only thing they have in common is that they are both pathogenic (i.e. the rowboat and the aircraft carrier both float). Indeed, viruses like HIV are not alive, whereas protozoans like Plasmodium falciparum are not only alive, they are much more closely related to us than we are to, say, the E. coli bacteria living in our large intestines.

    Which, of course, is not directly a commentary on V. J. Torley’s arguments about theodicy. However, I am concerned that people not spread misinformation about biology in the process of making otherwise interesting arguments.

  2. 2

    Moderators: Sorry about the double post (I thought the system didn’t take the first one). Please remove the first one, thanks!

  3. 3
    EvilSnack says:

    Korthof has done nothing more than demonstrate that he is a poor theologian. In this particular case, he never does get away from the unstated premise that the life we know is all that there is, and that therefore everything about God may be judged solely on the basis of things we observe in this life.

    Once that premise is seen as the unproven (and unprovable) assertion that it is, his whole argument collapses.

  4. 4
    JDH says:

    Maybe I am just strange, but I have never had a problem with the so-called problem of evil or suffering.

    ( Please note that I was sick for 10 years at one point in my life ( I almost died ) and have a disabled daughter ).

    1. For us to assume that all that is built on the earth with the necessary decay built in by the need for death brought about by sin can come about without the possibility of evil is naîve. We do not understand the limitations of design for earth.

    2. Many people have a false idea of what omnipotent means. God limits himself because of his nature.

    3. I somewhat agree with the”school room” argument. What we need to do is learn to love. I don’t think sinful people can learn to choose to love apart from the existence of suffering.

    4. Without massive amounts of evil available as examples how can God explain to us what sin is. Certainly He has tried, and modern man has rejected the awfulness of sin. ( Rom. 1 )

    5. The awfulness of sin can only be understood in the suffering of the innocent. Sin is evil precisely because it does not follow the rules of Karma. Those who believe in Karma can not explain the real world ( Ps 73 ).

    6. No amount of suffering by any mother weeping for her child suffering from malaria, will ever come close to the suffering the Son of God endured when dying for our sins on the cross. I think Christians who don’t understand this — don’t at least try to fathom how much He suffered for us — will have a more shallow relationship with their Savior. I urge you to study the cross and learn of His love. ( Rom 8:6-8, II Cor 5: 20 – 21 ) )

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill, just curious, just what kind of grade would you give an IDists in your class who did not toe the neo-Darwinian party line? Or would he/she even make it to exam time?

  6. 6
    nullasalus says:

    JDH,

    You’re not alone. I’ve had trouble taking it seriously as an argument for years.

  7. 7
    Oramus says:

    vjtorley, thanks for your new post.

    This subject brings to mind something Jesus said and I paraphrase here:

    “It is better to enter heaven missing an arm and leg, than enter Gahenna body intact.”

    How is the soul preserved, one would ask? By following as closely as possible the life of Christ, which is a perfect model of right choice.

    Evil IMO started of with Lucifer’s wrong choice, which put massive pressure on Adam. Still, Adam is without excuse.

    However, God as the truly loving parent, did not ‘ground’ adam by locking him in his room, so to speak, or prohibiting him from playing outside.

    What He did do is put the burden of the responsibility for the consequence of choice squarely on Adam’s shoulders. God is saying to Adam, ‘you wanted to know what I face in sustaining Myself, in holding up creation, well there you have it’; the choice is now yours to make.

    In a nutshell, evil in this world is for us to solve and let us make no mistake, we KNOW what it takes. God told us. God gave us the answer.

    We KNOW the road to solving the problem of evil. It stares at us in our hearts each day, pleading for us to receive His Mercy. Remember Christ’s lamenting to Saint Faustina that souls torment themselves mostly due to self-loathing, not daring to ask for Christ’s Mercy.

    Look at us now. Do we not all have what it takes within us to right the wrongs in our lives, within our family’s, within the workplace, between friends, between neighbors? Surely we do. Yet, the vast majority of us are too timid to sacrifice wealth, fame, pride, etc. in order to right the wrongs, apply that salve of Mercy to our spiritual and physical wounds, to do what it takes to change the direction of our lives.

    Truly, we are without excuse. I don’t know about any of you (pl) but I won’t cop out by blaming God. I KNOW I have the will to change my life and the lives of other around me.

    I KNOW when I could have or will have had made a difference but stood by for fear of the burden of sacrificing the temptations of this world for the benefit of others with no seemingly tangible benefit to me.

    So I argue that Hitler is our collective choice, or the result of our LACK of choice. Same with Mao and Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, the Scythians and other thugs.

    Even disease is our collective choice. My take is, the severity of disease (and possibly natural disaster) is directly proportional to the ratio of right/wrong choices Man makes.

  8. 8
    CannuckianYankee says:

    The real problem here is what might be called: “The problem with finding a problem with what does not exist.”

    If the atheist chooses to remain consistent, there is no evil, so there is no problem of evil. Evil only becomes meaningful if God exists.

  9. 9
    Clive Hayden says:

    CY,

    If the atheist chooses to remain consistent, there is no evil, so there is no problem of evil. Evil only becomes meaningful if God exists.

    Exactly right.

  10. 10
    vjtorley says:

    Allen_MacNeill

    I do apologize for confusing a virus with a parasite. The funny thing is, I was actually aware (at the back of my mind) that the cause of malaria was a parasite, having written about it briefly in a post some time ago. Last night I must have been on mental auto-pilot, as my post was what you in North America call an “all-nighter.” Anyway, I’ve corrected my egregious errors. Thank you for picking that up.

    Here’s a tidbit about the malaria parasite that may interest readers.

    According to a recent press release (see http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_s....._id=117259 ) by the National Science Foundation, modern malaria parasites began to spread to various mammals, birds and reptiles about 16 million years ago. Malaria parasites may jump to new, unrelated hosts at any time, decoupling their evolution from that of their hosts. The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago – very close to the time when humans first appeared. However, according to Dr. Robert Ricklefs, one of the biologists who conducted the recent research into the origin of the malaria parasite, “Malaria parasites undoubtedly were relatively benign for most of that history, becoming a major disease only after the origins of agriculture and dense human populations.”

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    I agree with many of the philosophical/moral/religious arguments made here.

    There is certainly a problem of theodicy, but there are various ways to answer it, more or less satisfying. All of them are religious in nature. It is true that simple atheism should not have those problems.

    However, no amount of intellectual understanding, IMO, will ever really “answer” the mystery of suffering. I personally believe that only the experience of divine love can satisfy our heart about those fundamental questions.

    Anyway, I want to say that I absolutely agree with Behe’s position: the analysis of design in biological being is a scientific task, not a philosophical or religious one.

    Scientifically I have no doubts, for the same reasons suggested by Behe, that the malaria parasite is designed.

  12. 12
    Spiny Norman says:

    I don’t have a problem with agreeing that the malaria parasite is the product of design; what I do have a problem with is the apparently unchallenged hidden assumption that the malaria parasite we observe today functions in the same way as the original designer intended. Perhaps its function has been corrupted over time? As a Christian who accepts the theology of the Fall, I rather expect that things tofay would be broken, damaged and/or somehow dysfunctional, and I am not aware of any arguments which would prevent me from assigning things like malaria parasites and the aids virus into that broken/damaged/dysfunctional category.

  13. 13

    Re comment #5:

    In my evolution classes at Cornell what matters to me is a student’s ability to make reasoned arguments supported by evidence, not whether they agree with me. I have given A+ grades to creationists and ID supporters who make vigorous and well-reasoned arguments, and much lower grades to students who say they “believe” in evolutionary theory, but cannot explain why or support their arguments using evidence.

    For that matter, I always invite creationists and ID supporters to make presentations in my evolution course. My colleague, Will Provine, and I have had Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, and John Sanford give guest lectures in our evolution course, and I invited the founder of the now-defunct Cornell IDEA Club to co-facilitate my seminar course on “evolution and design in nature” in the summer of 2006 (see http://evolutionanddesign.blogsome.com/).

    Personally, I don’t “believe” in evolutionary theory, any more than I “believe” in the kinetic theory of gases. Both are supported by very well-documented empirical research and as such are useful tools for further investigations into the workings of nature. “Belief” isn’t a useful tool for scientists; curiosity and skepticism are.

    “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”
    – Thomas Henry Huxley [http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/letters/60.html]

  14. 14
    DaRook says:

    As Creator, God can do whatever He wants with His creation. Does the clay say to the potter, “What makest Thou?” Does not the Potter have power over the clay to make one vessel unto honor and another fitted for destruction? His ways are higher than ours and from our very limited perspective we can not judge His motives. Declaring the end from the beginning, He has spoken it, and He will bring it to pass. He has purposed it, He will also do it. If God truely knows (declares) all things before the foundation of he world, all of our actions are set in stone anyway. “Free will” does not really come into play. To deviate one iota from what God has known from the beginning would make God wrong. We are not robots, we are clay. God is working a plan and promises that all will work together for good for those who believe. We may not be able to see it all of the time, but we trust in the one who promised. God doesn’t need to be defended as much as He needs to be obeyed.

  15. 15

    Re comment #8:

    Here’s how I would reword this assertion:

    “If a naturalist chooses to remain consistent, there is no natural evil, so there is no “problem” of natural evil (i.e. things like tsunamis just happen, they don’t happen for a reason). Evil only becomes meaningful if self-aware reasoning entities (such as humans) exist.”

    Evil, in my opinion, is entirely a product of intent (as in mens rea). Being completely without the ability to reason or to have intentions (or to act upon them), “nature” cannot be evil.

    To me, this is part and parcel of the concept of the “naturalistic fallacy”: to personify “nature” and to assume that nature has the ability to reason or to have intentions (or to act upon them) is to commit a logical fallacy. By extension, ID also partakes of this same fallacy, and is therefore equally logically fallacious.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill, through your ‘measured’ fairness towards your students, my respect for you has increased, though of course you know that I strongly disagree with you that evolution has even one iota of conformational evidence as to the violation of genetic entropy. In fact I hold that evolution is in fact a major hindrance in molecular biology that is preventing the full elucidation of the nature of ‘transcendent information’ in molecular biology. Though this following paper offers a good starting point for this elucidation,,,

    Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH
    Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate.
    http://journals.witpress.com/p.....038;jID=19

    ,,, It is fairly obvious that more work needs to be done to demonstrate the exact manner in which ‘transcendent information’ is separate, and even dominate, of matter/energy in molecular biology,,, the elucidation needs to be extended much like to the extent to which transcendent information has been shown to be unique and dominate in quantum mechanics with the refutation of the hidden variable, as well as shown to be unique and dominate by quantum teleportation,,,

    further note:

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – Father of Cybernetics

    Landauer’s principle
    Of Note: “any logically irreversible manipulation of information, such as the erasure of a bit or the merging of two computation paths, must be accompanied by a corresponding entropy increase ,,, Specifically, each bit of lost information will lead to the release of an (specific) amount (at least kT ln 2) of heat.,,, Landauer’s Principle has also been used as the foundation for a new theory of dark energy, proposed by Gough (2008). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._principle

    Also of interest is that a cell apparently seems to be successfully designed along the very stringent guidelines laid out by Landauer’s principle of ‘reversible computation’ in order to achieve such amazing energy efficiency, something man has yet to accomplish in any meaningful way for computers:

    Notes on Landauer’s principle, reversible computation, and Maxwell’s Demon – Charles H. Bennett
    Excerpt: Of course, in practice, almost all data processing is done on macroscopic apparatus, dissipating macroscopic amounts of energy far in excess of what would be required by Landauer’s principle. Nevertheless, some stages of biomolecular information processing, such as transcription of DNA to RNA, appear to be accomplished by chemical reactions that are reversible not only in principle but in practice.,,,,
    http://www.hep.princeton.edu/~.....501_03.pdf

    Thus since molecular biology is apparently designed along such stringent guidelines as landauer’s principle then it seems that it may be quite possible to actually carry out a successful measurement of the erasure of information from a cell by any mutation to a ‘parent’ strain.

    further notes:

    “Those devices (computers) can yield only approximations to a structure (of information) that has a deep and “computer independent” existence of its own.” – Roger Penrose – The Emperor’s New Mind – Pg 147

    Evolutionary Informatics – William Dembski & Robert Marks
    Excerpt: The principal theme of the lab’s research is teasing apart the respective roles of internally generated and externally applied information in the performance of evolutionary systems.,,, Evolutionary informatics demonstrates a regress of information sources. At no place along the way need there be a violation of ordinary physical causality. And yet, the regress implies a fundamental incompleteness in physical causality’s ability to produce the required information. Evolutionary informatics, while falling squarely within the information sciences, thus points to the need for an ultimate information source qua intelligent designer.
    http://evoinfo.org/

    “Computers are no more able to create information than iPods are capable of creating music.”
    Robert Marks

  17. 17
    deric davidson says:

    “God allowed Hitler to do the greatest evil”.

    Hitler (made in the image of God) had free will. It’s called FREE will for obvious reasons. Hitler commited the greatest evil by his own choice not God’s choice. Surely for God to revoke Hitler’s application of free will would have contravened the God given gift of free will which is part and parcel of being made in the image of God? That is WE are absolutely responsible for our own actions not God. If this results in human suffering then that is OUR fault not God’s fault. We are not God made robots that God turns on and off in order to prevent bad things happening.

  18. 18
    bornagain77 says:

    This poem reminds me of Hitler:

    Ten Foot Tall and Bulletproof
    http://www.facebook.com/photo......0088262100

  19. 19
    Upright BiPed says:

    JDH @ 5.

    Same here. No problem at all.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr MacNeill:

    I must beg to differ:

    the “naturalistic fallacy”: to personify “nature” and to assume that nature has the ability to reason or to have intentions (or to act upon them) is to commit a logical fallacy. By extension, ID also partakes of this same fallacy . . .

    The design inference on signs of intelligently directed contingency to the reliably observed source of such contingency precisely does not personify nature, any more than to recognise that this text has an intelligent author personifies the text.

    That is, text does not equal author. Just so, design does not equal designer.

    Please, correct.

    GEM of TKI

  21. 21
    Collin says:

    JDH
    “I somewhat agree with the”school room” argument. What we need to do is learn to love. I don’t think sinful people can learn to choose to love apart from the existence of suffering.”

    I thought that was profound. Thank you.

  22. 22
    bb says:

    All of you are way above me but I’ll venture a thought. What if malaria has a useful purpose that is obscured? Behe wondered at that.

    My microbiologist friend Joe Francis has a hypothesis that pathogenic microbes had an original constructive purpose. But have been corrupted by mutation or by misplacement (bull in a china shop).

    He points to cholera as an example. When contained in the right environment, it is tremendously beneficial to sea animals that travel from fresh to salt water and vice versa. It also plays a major role in carbon cycling by breaking down chitin.

    Infect humanity with it and you have the black death. Like fire, it is both helpful and incredibly destructive when not contained.

    I agree with Joe when he speculates that Adam’s sin caused otherwise helpful and even essential microbes to mutate into pathogens or to move beyond prescribed boundaries.

    The point is the villains weren’t created to be killers and may in fact perform some benefit.

  23. 23
    gpuccio says:

    KF at #20:

    Very well said!

  24. 24
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Dr. MacNeill

    In response to:

    “If the atheist chooses to remain consistent, there is no evil, so there is no problem of evil. Evil only becomes meaningful if God exists.”

    You stated:

    “Evil, in my opinion, is entirely a product of intent (as in mens rea). Being completely without the ability to reason or to have intentions (or to act upon them), “nature” cannot be evil.”

    I think we’re in agreement that nature in itself is not evil – that evil derives from the intent of rational minds.

    However, I have some questions regarding your response:

    “Mens rea” is the latin term for a guilty mind. This would suggest that evil (as you imply – the position of being guilty by action and intent) is more than simply a lack of ability to reason or to have consistently rational intentions, but that there is a moral element of knowledge that one’s actions intentionally violate a moral standard of good.

    In other words, the person who does evil does so not because he/she is incapable of being rational or to act upon intentions; quite the opposite. The person who does evil intends to do so, and so is acting upon evil intent – in intentional violation of a moral standard of good, and that’s why we have terms such as “guilty.”

    Is this not your position? If it is, I think your response may be in need of some clarification in that regard.

  25. 25
    vjtorley says:

    bb and SpinyNorman

    I think you are both onto something.

    bb, I especially I liked your comment:

    The point is the villains weren’t created to be killers and may in fact perform some benefit.

    SpinyNorman, I would also endorse your remark:

    I don’t have a problem with agreeing that the malaria parasite is the product of design; what I do have a problem with is the apparently unchallenged hidden assumption that the malaria parasite we observe today functions in the same way as the original designer intended.

    The press release I linked to in #10 above seems to point in a similar direction, as it suggests that modern-day malaria is much more lethal than the original version of the parasite:

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_s....._id=117259

  26. 26
    vjtorley says:

    Allen_MacNeill:

    Thank you for your comments. I was struck by your quote from Huxley:

    Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
    – Thomas Henry Huxley [http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/letters/60.html]

    I’ve just been having a look at this article by Professor Dallas Willard, entitled “Knowledge and Naturalism”:
    http://www.dwillard.org/articl.....p?artID=64

    Here’s my question. Can truth be naturalized? And here’s another one: can belief be excised from our accounts of knowledge?

  27. 27
    Clive Hayden says:

    Allen,

    Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.

    You mean to say “or you shall describe nothing.” For that’s all science is, a collection of descriptions. And if you have no preconceived notions, such as inference and logical deductive ability, you won’t even know you’re sitting before anything that might repeat and have structure to even call it a “fact”, much less whatever a “fact” is in itself, which can only be described, not fully known. Science has no conclusions, because it’s never concluded.

  28. 28
    allanius says:

    First of all, none of the explanations for the supposed depravity of nature seen in the original post are found in the Bible—not Behe’s (whatever that is), not Dembski’s, not Lewis’s. And it seems to us that the desire to make such explanations puts our good friends in school with Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. The justice of God has been questioned, and they come rushing to His defense.

    The whole point of Job’s story is that men are not qualified to defend God. Job’s well-meaning friends did not realize that God had granted the accuser permission to test his faithfulness. There was a backstory to his suffering of which they were unaware; therefore they could not understand that his suffering truly was unmerited. They felt they had to blame Job in order to defend God, when in fact Job was blameless.

    They also did not understand that suffering can be redemptive. God had put a fence of prosperity and happiness around Job that protected his faith, but such fences can become a barrier between God and ourselves. It was terribly painful to lose everything he loved, including his reputation, but only then did it become possible for him to hear from God directly in the storm and to say “I know that my Redeemer lives.”

    This, by the way, is a statement of faith. Rationalizations are more in the realm of temporizing.

  29. 29

    In comment #26, vjtorley asked:

    “Can truth be naturalized? And … can belief be excised from our accounts of knowledge?”

    Having not had time to do more than briefly skim the linked article, I can’t answer the first question definitively. Clearly, any answer to this question depends fundamentally on one’s definition of both “truth” and “naturalized” (and the definition of “nature” from which the latter term is derived).

    I personally have had a problem with the word “truth”, at least insofar as it is generally used by most people. To me (and I must admit that my views on this are largely the outcome of my education as an empirical scientist), “truth” (at least insofar as it pertains to descriptions of empirically verifiable reality) is a matter of statistical confidence. I have explained my views on this in much more detail here:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......gical.html

    To be specific, it may be the case that there are “transcendent truths”, but as far as I can tell these are not concerned with those phenomena that are empirically verifiable. One can study a “natural” phenomenon such as gravity using the standard techniques of the empirical sciences (i.e. observation, mathematical analysis, statistical verification, etc.), but the “truths” that one obtains from such analyses are inherently probabilistic and always subject to revision.

    So, is “truth” a “natural” property of reality? I don’t think so, but I will have to consider the question much more deeply before I can assert any confidence in that answer (pun intended, of course).

    As for “belief”, I have a very similar problem. What sense of the word “belief” is referred to in the question? One can “believe” various things – that 2 + 2 = 4, that genetic information is encoded in the nucleotide sequence of DNA, that the United States of America is a representative democracy, that one’s children are beautiful and smart (and love their dad), or that God exists (or doesn’t) – but it seems to me that these are very different meanings of the word “believe/belief”. I believe various things (including my own version of cogito ergo sum, not to mention si enim fallor sum), but as for my understandings of the workings of nature, I don’t think any of them (at least insofar as they are based on empirical investigation) would qualify as “beliefs”. At best they would be “rules of thumb” or “useful generalizations, subject to revision”, but not “truths” (and certainly not “transcendent truths”).

  30. 30
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeil, I ‘believe’ science is the relentless search for a more complete understanding of ‘the truth’,,,

    What is Truth?

    To varying degrees everyone looks for truth. A few people have traveled to distant lands seeking gurus in their quest to find “Truth”. People are happy when they discover a new truth into the mysteries of life. People who have deep insights into the truth of how things actually work are considered wise. In the bible Jesus says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” So, since truth is considered such a good thing, let us look for truth in a common object; a simple rock.

    Few people would try to argue that a rock is not real. Someone who would argue that it is not real could bang his head on the rock until he was satisfied the rock is real. A blind man in a darkened cave would feel the rock hitting his head just as well as a sighted man who saw the rock coming.
    A rock is composed of three basic ingredients; energy, force and truth. From Einstein’s famous equation (e=mc2) we know that all matter (solids, liquids and gases) of the universe is ultimately made up of energy and therefore the entire rock can “hypothetically” be reduced to energy.

    E=mc²: Einstein explains his famous formula – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CC7Sg41Bp-U

    This energy is “woven” by various complex, unchanging, transcendent, universal forces into the atoms of the rock. The amount of energy woven by these complex interactions of various, unchanging, universal forces into the rock is tremendous. This tremendous energy that is in the rock is clearly demonstrated by the detonation of nuclear bombs. This woven energy is found in each and every individual “particle/wave” of every atom, in the trillions upon trillions of atoms in the rock. While energy can be said to be what gives “substance” to the rock, energy in and of itself is a “non-solid” entity. In fact, the unchanging, transcendent, universal constants/forces, that tell the energy exactly where to be and what to do in the rock, can be said to be the ONLY solid, uncompromising “thing” in the rock. Yet there is another ingredient which went into making the rock besides constants/forces and energy. An ingredient that is often neglected to be looked at as a “real” component of the rock. It is the transcendent and spiritual component of truth. If truth did not exist the rock would not exist. This is as obvious as the fact that the rock would not exist if energy and/or unchanging force did not exist. It is the truth in and of the logical laws of the interrelated unchanging forces of the universal constants that govern the energy in the rock that enable the rock to be a rock in the first place.

    Is truth independent and dominant of the energy and force? Yes of course, there are many philosophical truths that are not dependent on energy or force for them to still be true. Yet energy and unchanging force are precisely subject to what the “truth” tells them they can and cannot do. To put it another way, the rock cannot exist without truth yet the truth can exist without the rock. Energy and force must obey the truth that is above them or else the rock can’t possibly exist. Since truth clearly dictates what energy and/or unchanging force can or cannot do, it follows that truth dominates energy and unchanging force. Energy and unchanging force do not dominate truth. It is also obvious that if all energy and/or force stopped existing in this universe, the truth that ruled the energy and force in the rock would still be logically true. Thus, truth can be said to be eternal, or timeless in nature. It is also obvious that truth is omnipresent. That is to say, the truth that is in the rock on this world is the same truth that is in a rock on the other side of the universe on another world. Thus, truth is present everywhere at all times in this universe (Indeed, Science would be extremely difficult, to put it very mildly, if this uniformity of truth were not so). It has also been scientifically proven, by quantum non-locality, that whenever something becomes physically “true” (wave collapse of entangled electron, photon) in any part of the universe, this “truth” is instantaneously communicated anywhere/everywhere in the universe to its corresponding “particle”. Thus, truth is “aware” of everything that goes on in the universe instantaneously. This universal instantaneous awareness of a transcendent truth also gives truth the vital characteristic of being omniscient (All knowing). This instantaneous communication of truth to all points in the universe also happens to defy the speed of light; a “truth” that energy and even the unchanging force of gravity happen to be subject to (I believe all fundamental forces are shown to be subject to this “truth’ of the speed of light). This scientific proof of quantum non-locality also proves that truth is not a “passive” component of this universe. Truth is actually scientifically demonstrated, by quantum non-locality and quantum teleportation, to be the “active” dominant component of this universe. Thus, truth is not a passive set of rules written on a sheet of paper somewhere. Truth is the “living governor” of this universe that has dominion over all other components of this universe and is not bound by any of the laws that “truth” has subjected all the other components of the universe to. Truth is in fact a tangible entity that enables and dictates our reality in this universe to exist in a overarching non-chaotic form so as to enable life to exist (Anthropic Principle). Truth, which is shown not to be subject to time in any way by quantum non-locality, has demonstrated foresight and purpose in the Anthropic Principle for this temporal universe and, as such, can be said to be “alive” from the fact that a “decision” had to be made from the timeless/spaceless dimension, that truth inhabits, in order for this temporal reality to become real in the first place. i.e. truth is a major characteristic of the necessary Being, “uncaused cause”, the Alpha, that created all reality/realities. The fact that quantum teleportation shows an exact “specified dominion” of a photon energy by “a truth” (actually truth is shown to be “a specified truth of infinite information” in teleportation) satisfies a major requirement for the entity needed to explain the “missing Dark Matter” in that the needed explanation would have to dominate energy in just such a similar fashion, as is demonstrated by teleportation, to satisfy what is needed to explain the missing dark matter. Moreover, that a photon would actually be destroyed upon the teleportation of its truth (infinite specified information) to another photon, is a direct controlled violation of the first law of thermodynamics. This is direct empirical validation for the law of conservation of information since a truth exercised dominion of a photon of energy which cannot be created or destroyed by any known material means, and provides another primary evidence that “The Truth” is the foundational entity of this universe (i.e. “The Truth” cannot be created or destroyed). The fact that simple quantum entanglement shows a “coherent long-range universal control” of energy, by “a truth”, satisfies a major requirement for the entity which must explain why the universe is expanding at such a finely-tuned degree in such a manner as it is. Thus “transcendent eternal truth” provides a coherent picture of reality that could possibly unify all of physics upon further elucidation.

    Well, lets see what we have so far; Truth is eternal (it has always existed and will always exist); Truth is omnipresent (it is present everywhere in the universe at all times); Truth is omnipotent (it has dominion over everything else in the universe, yet is not subject to any physical laws); Truth has a vital characteristic of omniscience (truth is apparently aware of everything that is happening in the universe); Truth is active (it is aware of everything that is happening and instantaneously makes appropriate adjustments); and Truth is alive (Truth has created a temporal universe from a reality that is not subject to any physical laws of time or space (transcendent of time and space) for the express purpose of creating life; Anthropic Principle) Surprisingly, being eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. active and alive are the foundational characteristics that are used by theologians to describe God. Thus, logically speaking, spiritual/transcendent truth emanates directly from God. So in answer to our question “What is Truth?” we can answer that truth comes from God as far as the scientific method is concerned.

    Now to bring this into the focus of the Christian perspective, Jesus says that He is “The Truth”. In regards to what is currently revealed in our scientific knowledge, this is a VERY, VERY fantastic claim! If Jesus is speaking a truth, which I believe He is from the personal miracles I’ve seen in my own life, then by the rules of logic this makes Jesus exactly equivalent to God Almighty as far as the creation and sustaining of our current reality is concerned. Well,,, Is Jesus the author of this universe and all life in it??? Though this is somewhat difficult to bear out scientifically, there actually is strong scientific evidence that gives persuasive indication that this is so,, i.e. that Christ is God.

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5070355

    Matthew 28:18
    And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”

    As well a very strong case can be made that Jesus is Lord since all the foundational truths in what could be termed the “transcendent” philosophy of human character and behavior (i.e. Love your neighbor as yourself, Don’t bear false witness etc..etc..), have all found their ultimate authority and expression in Jesus Christ life. i.e. by His “sinless life” and by His resurrection from the dead he has set the standard for “righteousness” and has indeed testified to “philosophical truth’s” primacy and authority over this material realm. Plus, I find extreme poetic justice in the fact Jesus has overcome death and entropy by leading a totally sinless, and thus in essence a totally decay-free, life. I also find it extremely poetic, and even logical, that we too can escape death and decay by accepting this “living eternal truth” of Jesus atoning sacrifice into our hearts.

    Myself, I find the overall pattern of evidence that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth to be overwhelmingly compelling as well as a source of great Joy.

    John 1:12
    Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

    Kutless: Promise of a Lifetime – Live
    http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....2b35a1a968

    Solid Rock – the 5th service band Featuring TRU-SERVA – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4jD70Y-mQ0

  31. 31
    Mung says:

    Allen MacNeill:

    I personally have had a problem with the word “truth”, at least insofar as it is generally used by most people. To me (and I must admit that my views on this are largely the outcome of my education as an empirical scientist), “truth” (at least insofar as it pertains to descriptions of empirically verifiable reality) is a matter of statistical confidence.

    Allen, you’re confused, and your confusion has nothing to do with science, or your status as a scientist.

    The fact that you yourself are an educator makes this especially disturbing.

    Why not explain for our benefit, and perhaps even your own benefit, the meaning of the words “true” and “false” and the sorts of things which those two words might meaningfully be applied?

    And then, while you are at it, please explain why your statements about truth deserve any measure of confidence from those of us here are UD who might read them.

    Tell us truthfully, and give us a reason to have confidence in the truth of your reply, whether you even believe whether any statement you make should be accepted as the truth, and how and why we would accept that statement to be true.

    Why shouldn’t we just ignore anything you say?

  32. 32
    gpuccio says:

    vjtorley:

    you ask:

    “Here’s my question. Can truth be naturalized? And here’s another one: can belief be excised from our accounts of knowledge?”

    My simple answers. One at a time:

    “Can truth be naturalized?”

    Certainly not. Truth, even in its different possible meanings, is always a judgement of consciousness about conscious representations. So called naturalism excludes consciousness from its primary map of reality, so it can generate only false definitions of truth.

    “Can belief be excised from our accounts of knowledge?”

    No. Our knowledge is never absolute, and is always influenced by our beliefs, which are never purely cognitive entities. Therefore, knowledge is never a purely cognitive entity, but is always a “cooperation” of cognition, feeling, intuition, personal history and free choice. That is in no way a limit: indeed, it is the distinctive mark of human knowledge, and one of its fundamental values.

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    GP: Also, in the relevant sense, knowledge is warranted, credibly true belief. Multiply that by how induction is incapable of certainty on matters of fact, and how deductions depend on the degree of trust in axioms. Then also, logic itself rests on unprovable first principles of right reason (that we accept as their denial leads to reductios, but that comparative difficulties exercise is not a proof.) G

  34. 34
    gpuccio says:

    KF:

    I absolutely agree with your points 🙂

  35. 35

    Let me be as concise as possible:
    science isn’t about “truth”, it’s about generalizations, derived by induction and tested by observation, which are useful for further analysis, but which are also open to revision or replacement.

    And as we all know, generalizations are always wrong.

  36. 36
    Joseph says:

    But Linus Pauling told us science is about truth-so did Einstein.

    But I would say to them truth = reality, as in what is the reality behind this “thing” we are investigating?

    There is only one reality, ie one tuth behind our existence- well eeryings’ existence. And science is one way to help us figure out that reality, ie truth, via “induction and tested by observation, which are useful for further analysis, but which are also open to revision or replacement.”

  37. 37
    Joseph says:

    There is only one reality, ie one truth behind our existence– one tuth is for the dentally impaired.

    🙂

  38. 38
    gpuccio says:

    Allen_MacNeill:

    While there may be some truth ( 🙂 ) in what you say, I can’t say that I really appreciate your wording.

    Science, like any other form of intellectual cognition, is about building maps of reality. Generalization is certainly not the only cognitive process implied in that.

    While I absolutely agree that scientific maps “are open to revision or replacement”, I definitely don’t like your use of the word “wrong” to define that limitation.

    Cognitive maps are probably never absolutely right or wrong, because, as should be well recognized, a map “is never the territory”. So, saying that they are wrong is as inaccurate as saying that they are right.

    But that is not a limitation of maps: it’s rather their true utility. It’s exactly because a map is not the territory that it is useful if we have to move in the territory.

    The problem is, there are good maps and bad maps. There are, indeed, very bad maps too. Maps which do not correspond at all to the territory, however they try.

    That is the kind of map I would definitely name “wrong” (and if you have some suspect of what I am referring to, well you are right).

    But I would never call “wrong” a good map, a map which can really help me in my trip. Even if the symbol for a city in it is not really a city. But, if the symbol is in the right place, for me that’s definitely “a right map”. And a good, useful one.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr MacNeill:

    1] When science sacrifices the value of truth as a target (even if not a certain attainment), it becomes ideology. Truth, here, understood much as Ari did ever so long ago in Metaphysics 1011b: that which says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.

    2] The claim “generalizations are always wrong,” is of course itself a generalisation, as the dry humour hinted at in your comment implies.

    GEM of TKI

  40. 40

    Bravo, GEM, for noticing the inherent paradox in the absolute statement “generalizations are always wrong”. I intended this both as a humorous comment and as a further demonstration of my underlying point: that absolute statements (what most people think of when they say “truth”) are not the kinds of statements that scientists make (if they understand what science is about). For at least a century, scientific generalizations have been inherently probabilistic/statistical, rather than absolute. I have argued elsewhere (see http://evolutionlist.blogspot......gical.html ) that this is a necessary and irreducible outcome of the reliance upon transductive/deductive/inductive/abductive/consilient reasoning. To be concise,

    When we make generalizations about our empirical observations of external reality, those generalizations are always probabilistic and provisional.

    Or, to say it another way,

    Since the only perfect (i.e. “true”) analogy to a thing is the thing itself, all other analogies are necessarily imperfect (i.e. “false” to some degree).

    Which is to say that all inferences (i.e. statements that are not statements of identity, but rather of similarity) are false to some degree, and therefore statements about “truth” that refer to our inferences about nature cannot be absolute.

    It has, of course, occurred to me that all this is just another way of getting to Descarte’s cogito ergo sum, which is just St. Augustine’s si enim fallor sum restated in positive terms.

  41. 41

    When one aims at a target, there are two possible outcomes:

    1) one’s shooting is accurate, meaning that one has come close to the aimed point, and

    2) all of one’s shots are precise, meaning that one has come close to hitting the same point multiple times.

    This distinction was first pointed out to me in fourth grade by my teacher, Miss Greenwood, and I have thought about this distinction ever since. In the context of intelligent design, it seems to me that accuracy necessarily requires intention, but precision does not. It also seems to me that for at least a century scientists have cared much more about precision than accuracy. Indeed, many philosophers of science have questioned whether accuracy in scientific descriptions of reality is even possible.

    There is, of course, another option: that when one shoots at a target, one is both accurate and precise. This is the outcome exemplified by the many stories of arrows splitting arrows in the center of the bullseye (see Eugen Herrigel’s Zen and the Art of Archery for a paradigmatic description of such an arrow shot). Combining both accuracy and precision is the ideal, but as I have already insinuated, perfection is impossible in nature (just like generalizations are always wrong and truth is never absolute).

    And so the question becomes, which do we try to attain: accuracy or precision or both? And how do we know which (or even if) we have attained? The standard methods of statistical verification used in the empirical sciences try to accomplish both, but usually (always?) fail. What appears to be accuracy is often merely precision, and one comes to wonder if accuracy, like the Baker’s Boojum, has “softly and silently vanished away” just as we think we have attained it.

    People who require that generalizations always be true, that “truth” always be “true”, and that the world be purged of all ambiguity find the universe of scientific discourse inherently confusing, and often disturbing, if not outright terrifying. But people who relish ambiguity as a source of variety – people with a highly developed sense of curiosity – often become scientists for this very reason: that nothing is really known for certain, and that the universe is “open” (in the Popperian sense) and therefore endlessly fascinating.

  42. 42
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill,

    materialistic atheism offers not even a hope for discerning ‘truth’,,,,:

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Proof That God Exists – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    ,,,So Dr. MacNeill, since reality does in fact rest on ‘unvarying truth’, from one edge of the cosmos to the other, (in fact science would be impossible if unvarying truth did not exist), then we can safely surmise that our intuition that ‘transcendent truth’ exists as the basis of reality to be firmly grounded in the reality we study. I really see no basis for you claim that absolute truth does not exist. Can you please point me to the reference that unambiguously shows the measurement of any of the transcendent universal constants that have varied over the history of the universe?

    GRBs Expand Astronomers’ Toolbox – Nov. 2009
    Excerpt: a detailed analysis of the GRB (Gamma Ray Burst) in question demonstrated that photons of all energies arrived at essentially the same time. Consequently, these results falsify any quantum gravity models requiring the simplest form of a frothy space.
    http://www.reasons.org/GRBsExp.....ersToolbox

    I would also like to point out that since time, as we understand it, comes to a complete stop at the speed of light this gives these four fundamental universal constants the characteristic of being timeless, and thus unchanging, as far as the temporal mass of this universe is concerned. In other words, we should not a-prori expect that which is timeless in nature to ever change in value. Yet contrary to what would seem to be so obvious about the a-piori stability of constants we should expect, when scientists measure for variance in the fundamental constants they always end up being ‘surprised’ by the stability they find:

    Latest Test of Physical Constants Affirms Biblical Claim – Hugh Ross – September 2010
    Excerpt: The team’s measurements on two quasars (Q0458- 020 and Q2337-011, at redshifts = 1.561 and 1.361, respectively) indicated that all three fundamental physical constants have varied by no more than two parts per quadrillion per year over the last ten billion years—a measurement fifteen times more precise, and thus more restrictive, than any previous determination. The team’s findings add to the list of fundamental forces in physics demonstrated to be exceptionally constant over the universe’s history. This confirmation testifies of the Bible’s capacity to predict accurately a future scientific discovery far in advance. Among the holy books that undergird the religions of the world, the Bible stands alone in proclaiming that the laws governing the universe are fixed, or constant.
    http://www.reasons.org/files/e.....010-03.pdf

    Psalm 119:89-91
    Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven. Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created. Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.

    Systematic Search for Expressions of Dimensionless Constants using the NIST database of Physical Constants
    Excerpt: The National Institute of Standards and Technology lists 325 constants on their website as ‘Fundamental Physical Constants’. Among the 325 physical constants listed, 79 are unitless in nature (usually by defining a ratio). This produces a list of 246 physical constants with some unit dependence. These 246 physical constants can be further grouped into a smaller set when expressed in standard SI base units.,,,
    http://www.mit.edu/~mi22295/co.....tants.html

    Anthropic Principle – God Created The Universe – Michael Strauss PhD. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4323661

    “If we modify the value of one of the fundamental constants, something invariably goes wrong, leading to a universe that is inhospitable to life as we know it. When we adjust a second constant in an attempt to fix the problem(s), the result, generally, is to create three new problems for every one that we “solve.” The conditions in our universe really do seem to be uniquely suitable for life forms like ourselves, and perhaps even for any form of organic complexity.” Gribbin and Rees, “Cosmic Coincidences”, p. 269

  43. 43
    bornagain77 says:

    one more note Dr. MacNeill:

    Testing Creation Using the Proton to Electron Mass Ratio
    Excerpt: The bottom line is that the electron to proton mass ratio unquestionably joins the growing list of fundamental constants in physics demonstrated to be constant over the history of the universe.,,, For the first time, limits on the possible variability of the electron to proton mass ratio are low enough to constrain dark energy models that “invoke rolling scalar fields,” that is, some kind of cosmic quintessence. They also are low enough to eliminate a set of string theory models in physics. That is these limits are already helping astronomers to develop a more detailed picture of both the cosmic creation event and of the history of the universe. Such achievements have yielded, and will continue to yield, more evidence for the biblical model for the universe’s origin and development.
    http://www.reasons.org/Testing.....nMassRatio

  44. 44
    vjtorley says:

    Allen_MacNeill,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my questions, and thank you also, gpuccio, kairosfocus, bornagain77, Joseph and Mung.

    You wrote:

    When we make generalizations about our empirical observations of external reality, those generalizations are always probabilistic and provisional.

    Isn’t it the case, however, that many scientific statements make reference to specific kinds of entities, or even to particular entities. And couldn’t statements about these entities be true?

    For example:

    1. Sheep are mammals. (As long as the category “mammal” remains a valid scientific category, this is an informative scientific statement: it tells us about their anatomy and their ancestry, for instance.)

    2. The cause of malaria is a parasite, not a virus. 🙂

    3. Earth has existed for more than four billion years.

    4. All living things share a common ancestry.

    5. The Sun is an O-type star, which is destined to expand into a red giant.

    6. The universe is expanding.

    I hope I’m not misunderstanding you, and I’m aware of course that from time to time, scientific categories need to revised. (Will astronomers in 100 years’ time continue to speak of O-type stars? I don’t know. But whatever categorization they use, 5. remains a genuinely informative statement.)

    So my question is: can some scientific statements, at least, be true in an absolute sense?

  45. 45
    gpuccio says:

    vjtorley:

    I think your six examples congigure two different situations.

    Cases 1 and 5 seem to be just the application of a man made categorization to existing data. So, as long as the categorizations are accepted and the data are accurate, they can IMO be considered true, or at least logically consistent (which is the loigical meaning of “true”.

    The other cases are different. They are however inferences, even if some of them are very reasonable and supported inferences. Inferences are never “closed”, that is absolutely sure.

    If I had to give an order to those four statements, from the most “certain” to the least, I would say: 2 – 3 – 6 – 4.

    They are however 4 statements I agree with (but I believe many here would strongly object to number 4).

  46. 46
    john_a_designer says:

    vjtorley:

    What does Dembski have to say about the cruelty found in Nature? He openly admits that Nature is cruel, and decries the efforts of theistic evolutionists to rationalize it and/or deny this fact. For Dembski, however, the cruelty which is rife in the natural world is not the work of God but of Adam, whose sin retroactively caused the entire natural world (which existed for millions of years before Adam) to be plunged into suffering.

    Unfortunately, I think Dembski’s theodicy creates more problems than it’s worth. I would argue, based on a correct interpretation of Genesis and Job that God created the world in such a way that nature is wild and untamed; however, wild and untamed are not synonymous with evil and cruel.

    Man alone was created with a moral capacity, something that animals do not share. He was also given dominion (Gen. 1:26)over the natural world.

    A lion attacking, killing and eating a gazelle, or a shark attacking and killing a seal, are not moral acts, despite what we as humans may think and feel when we witness those kind of things.

    I think this idea of the wildness and untamedness is confirmed when we look at Job chapters 40 and 41 where God tells Job (boasts?) about the behemoth (the hippo?) and the leviathan (the crocodile?). There no hint in any of this God thinks of these awesome and savage creatures as being evil in any so called natural sense. Indeed, not only does he seem to be very proud of these kind of creatures, but he warns us near the beginning of this passage:

    40: 8 “Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

    Again, no where is it suggested that these powerful and savage creatures are not behaving and acting in the way God originally intended for them to behave and act. Our feelings and opinions don’t matter.

    What happened as a result of the fall is not that God changed nature, but that man, by his own choice, changed his relationship with nature. Man experienced alienation not only from God and from his fellow man but from nature itself .

    Man still has dominion over nature but because of his alienation from nature man’s dominion is no longer one of wise and benevolent stewardship, but rather one of destructive and self serving exploitation. I think that a better explanation of what Paul means in Rom. 8:22, where he describes “creation … groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time,” is that nature was changed because of the fall, or because man’s relationship with nature was changed, so now rather than being a benevolent steward he acts, more often than not, as a ruthless exploiter.

    On the other hand, there is the hint in Genesis that man was originally intended to tame nature if he so desired. Indeed, despite our fallen nature we still have this dominion– the ability to tame and manage the natural world. We adopt other creatures as pets, cull elephant herds, create gardens and parks, even sometimes come to the rescue of creatures in the wild. For example, almost every year there are news stories of people saving stranding whales and porpoises. But that is man changing nature for his own purpose. However, man’s purpose is not necessarily nature as God originally created it or intended it to be.

    Notice that God placed man originally in Eden (Gen 2:8-17), but Eden as it is described in the Bible had geographical boundaries. In other words, whatever Eden was, or was meant to be, it didn’t exist everywhere. It only existed where man was present. So, I would argue the doctrine that the fall affected nature everywhere and at every time throughout history to be a hermeneutically unsound interpretation.

  47. 47

    vjtorley in comment #44:

    As always, your posts and comments are both informative and intriguing. I’d like to focus on one phrase in your comment #44. You close with a question:

    “…can some scientific statements, at least, be true in an absolute sense?”

    It seems to me that one must be very careful to distinguish between scientific statements and the objects and/or phenomena that they describe and/or explain. For example, your statement #5:

    “The Sun is an O-type star, which is destined to eventually expand into a red giant”

    is a description of the star about which our planet orbits. As a description, almost all of it is not true, if by “true” you mean “incontrovertible”. Even it’s name isn’t entirely “true”. The stellar system in which our planet exists is called the “Solar system”, and therefore it’s primary star is called “Sol”, not “Sun” (i.e. no one refers to it as the “Sunnar system”). It is also not and O-type star. It is technically a G-type star (a type G2V star, to be very precise), so classified on the basis of its size and color (it radiates maximally in the yellow-green part of the visible spectrum, but appears white when viewed from outside the Earth’s atmosphere).

    Most significantly, we can’t be certain that it will eventually expand into a red giant star. Indeed, we don’t know for certain that any stars do this. We infer that they do on the basis of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, which can best be understood as representing the changes that appear to happen to the size, color, and luminosity of stars over time. However, we don’t know this to be “true”, we infer it on the basis of various empirically derived bits and pieces of data, woven together with skeins of explanatory theory.

    Indeed, all we know about the Sun/Sol is what we can perceive about it directly (i.e. it’s hot, bright, mostly yellow, and moves across the sky in a variable length of time that averages about 12 hours). However, we know from historical records that people have inferred that the Sun/Sol is:
    • a very large fire (i.e. the immediate products of combustion) located very far away
    • a deity (having various forms, depending on the culture in which this is inferred) Who rises into the sky above the eastern horizon and disappears behind the western horizon a variable length of time later
    • the instantaneous creation of the deity of the Judeo-Christian religion about 6,000 years ago (depending on one’s calendar and assumptions about various systems of time measurement)
    • a flaming object in the sky that, like the Moon and stars, revolves around the Earth
    • about the same distance away and of similar “nature” to the Moon
    • an object in space about which the Earth revolves
    • about 93 million miles away from the Earth and about 26,811,000 times larger than the Moon
    • a continuous hydrogen/helium nuclear fusion explosion in which the outward force of the explosion is balanced by the inward pull of gravity
    • a type G2V white dwarf star with a diameter of about 1,392,000 km, about 109 times that of Earth, and its mass (about 2 × 1030 kilograms, 330,000 times that of Earth) accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System and consists of three parts hydrogen, to about one part helium (less than 2% consisting of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, iron, and others)
    …and so forth.

    The last description is the current “scientific” description, and is entirely inferred (i.e. none of the information in the last description has been, nor even can be, directly measured.

    So, are any of these descriptions “true”? And if so, what degree of “truth” characterizes them? And how do we know?

    Now, let’s consider another possible definition of “truth”: that it is the thing described when we describe something. That is, when we describe something, we are describing something that actually exists in “nature” (i.e. rather than only in our minds, or somebody else’s). Scientists, if we agree on anything (which is problematic at best), agree that our descriptions correspond in some way with something that is “really there”. That “something” is the “truth” toward which our investigations are forever pointing, but as my earlier posts should clearly indicate, at which we never (indeed cannot ever) arrive.

    So, as far as I can tell, scientific “truth” is approximate, probabilistic, and provisional, and the “real” Truth (with a capital “T”) that it describes is forever (and necessarily) unknowable, especially in its entirety. You may prefer to identify this latter “real Truth” with your deity (or deities). To me, doing so is simply a matter of taste, not logical necessity. And about taste, well

    de gustibus non est disputandem

  48. 48
    bornagain77 says:

    But alas Dr. MacNeill, The Truth, with a capital T, is actually alive and has invited you to know him personally. His name is Jesus.

  49. 49
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. MacNeill, as for a ‘matter of taste’ that I believe you have falsely assumed cannot be resolved, I submit once again,,,

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5070355

  50. 50
    vjtorley says:

    Allen_MacNeill,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful post (#47). You raise several interesting epistemological issues, which I shall discuss briefly.

    You write:

    Now, let’s consider another possible definition of “truth”: that it is the thing described when we describe something.

    To me, that sounds like a good definition of “object,” rather than truth.

    Referring to my description of the Sun (Sol), you write:

    As a description, almost all of it is not true, if by “true” you mean “incontrovertible”.

    But I don’t. A sentence is true if and only if it is indeed the case. To use an old example, “Snow is white” is true if and only if it is the case that snow is white. Even if intelligent and highly educated people dispute this statement, it remains true. I should add that “Snow is white” is a dispositional statement, so it cannot be falsified by observed instances of sooty snow. Also, the word “white” is deliberately being used with the degree of precision that accompanies everyday discourse; so if some scientist were to insist that snow is not in fact perfectly white, his/her assertion, while true in a scientific sense, would rightly be dismissed as irrelevant nitpicking in the context of everyday discourse.

    Referring to the Sun (Sol), you wrote:

    It is also not an O-type star. It is technically a G-type star…

    I’m very glad you picked that up. I have no idea why I wrote “O,” having read hundreds of astronomy books in my childhood which stated that the Sun is a G-type star. Maybe I was subconsciously associating “O” with “ordinary,” as the Sun is commonly described as an ordinary star, although in fact the Sun is not really average (being more massive than most stars) and O-type stars are certainly anything but ordinary.

    But in any case, the statement that the Sun (Sol) is an O-type star is unambiguously false, and you were right to correct me for making it. But if some descriptive statements are capable of being unambiguously false, then it must be the case that some descriptive statements are capable of being unambiguously true.

    Finally, referring to the current description of the Sun, you write that it “is entirely inferred (i.e. none of the information in the last description has been, nor even can be, directly measured).”

    There are several points on which I could take issue with this last statement of yours: (i) the implicit assumption that only direct measurements are candidates for being true or incontrovertible; (ii) the implicit assumption that any statement which is not a measurement must be an inference; and (iii) the implicit assumption that an inference cannot be true in an absolute sense. (If you meant to say that an inductive inference cannot be known to be true in an absolute sense, you would be on much stronger philosophical ground.)

    I could add, of course, that even direct measurements are highly theory-laden, as they are made with instruments which are assumed to work in a certain way and to measure a certain property of objects, so direct measurements are no less problematic than other statements as candidates for being true.

    Is the equation of truth with God a matter of taste? It cannot be, if God actually exists. For if He is real, then He is a Being whose nature entails that He knows every statement which is (absolutely) true, and therefore His mind contains every truth. Thus the statement “God is truth” describes the very nature of God, it is by definition true, if God is real. Also, God is a necessary Being, and not one who merely happens to exist.

    I conclude that “God is truth” is a statement which is either necessary or impossible.

  51. 51
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley,

    you may enjoy this recent article by William Lane Craig:

    William Lane Craig asks: are there objective truths about God?
    http://winteryknight.wordpress.....about-god/

    mp3 file is listed as well:

  52. 52
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    Thanks for the link. I always enjoy reading Dr. William Lane Craig’s articles and watching his presentations. He’s a very thoughtful and intelligent Christian apologist.

  53. 53

    In comment #50 vjtorley wrote:

    “an inductive inference cannot be known to be true in an absolute sense”

    Very concisely put! I completely agree, and this was precisely the sense in which I have framed my entire argument. That is, I believe that any and all statements about external reality (i.e. “nature”, but not the content of our conscious minds) are ultimately based on induction, and so all such statements are to some degree “not true” in the sense of “absolute truth”. I have written extensively on this point here:

    http://evolutionlist.blogspot......gical.html

    and would appreciate and enjoy your comments (and especially criticisms), either here or via email:
    adm6{atsign}cornell{dot}edu

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr MacNeill:

    Provisionality about findings is our lot as finite and fallible people. But, that does not mean that we do not often arrive at credible, reliable and even in some cases morally certain knowledge. And, the provisionality in question cannot justify selective hyperskepticism, which boils down to question-beggingly rejecting the point that “extraordinary” claims only require adequate, not “extraordinary” evidence.

    Locke’s remark in section 5 the introduction of his Essay on Human Understanding is telling:

    __________________

    >> Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.] >>
    ___________________

    GEM of TKI

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: In addition, reasoning on family resemblance and expected/inferred similarity [i.e. by analogy] lies at the heart of induction in general and so of science, especially origins science where we cannot make direct observations of the facts of the remote past. to see how important and valuable that is, let us cite the usual testimony against interest, form Wiki on Analogy:

    . . . analogy is an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular, as opposed to deduction, induction, and abduction, where at least one of the premises or the conclusion is general [I disagree, abduction is a type of induction, and induction works by analogy in material part, analogies simply hold the inductive chain implicitly, i.e the family resemblance expectation claim]. The word analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often, though not necessarily, a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.

    Analogy plays a significant role in problem solving, decision making, perception, memory, creativity, emotion, explanation and communication. It lies behind basic tasks such as the identification of places, objects and people, for example, in face perception and facial recognition systems. It has been argued that analogy is “the core of cognition”.[3] Specific analogical language comprises exemplification, comparisons, metaphors, similes, allegories, and parables, but not metonymy. Phrases like and so on, and the like, as if, and the very word like also rely on an analogical understanding by the receiver of a message including them. Analogy is important not only in ordinary language and common sense (where proverbs and idioms give many examples of its application) but also in science, philosophy and the humanities. The concepts of association, comparison, correspondence, mathematical and morphological homology, homomorphism, iconicity, isomorphism, metaphor, resemblance, and similarity are closely related to analogy. In cognitive linguistics, the notion of conceptual metaphor may be equivalent to that of analogy.

    See the crucial error being made, in an attempt to distance analogy from induction?

    NWE’s corrective adjustment is significant in its article, in the analogous introduction:

    An Analogy is a relation of similarity between two or more things, so that an inference (reasoning from premise to conclusion) is drawn on the basis of that similarity. So if item or person or process A is known to have certain characteristics, and if item or person or process B is known to have at least some of those characteristics, the inference is drawn that B also has those other characteristics. If the cases are not similar enough to warrant the inference, then it is a false analogy.

    An analogy is either the cognitive process of transferring information from a particular subject (the analogue or source) to another particular subject (the target), or a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process. In a narrower sense, an analogy is an inference or an argument from a particular to another particular, The word analogy can also refer to the relation between the source and the target themselves, which is often, though not necessarily, a similarity, as in the biological notion of analogy.

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: The claim “All forms of logical argument (except for tautologies) are false to some degree,” is an error, and a key one. That is it makes the same basic error in the beginning that Mortimer Adler so deplored, of rejecting the whole category of self-evidently true, non tautologous statements, e.g. Josiah Royce’s error exists. This is not A = A, a restatement in different terms, and yet on pain of self-referential incoherence it is undeniably true, so well-warranted to demonstrative certainty, i.e. known beyond possibility of correction. Among many other claims.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Couldn’t resist this one:There is no such thing as absolute truth; there is only degrees of validity.

    1 –> Validity strictly is about whether a logical inference is correct not about truth, but that is minor.

    2 –> More important, any argument that makes or entails the truth claim that there is no truth [i.e. that which says of what is that it is and of what is not that it is not], is self refuting.

    3 –> For, it implies that it is true that there is no truth. A => NOT-A, a contradiction, which is necessarily false.

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