Intelligent Design

What happens when we assume there is no design in life?

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Friends remind me of an excerpt from a debate between intelligent design advocate Phillip Johnson, a constitutional lawyer, and Darwinist philosopher William Provine, in which Provine proclaims,

First, the argument from design failed. There is no intelligent design in the natural world. When mammals die, they are really and truly dead. No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth. These are all conclusions to which Darwin came quite clearly. (Stanford University, April 30, 1994)

Provine has said this elsewhere over the years, most notably in the Expelled movie.

A friend comments that he admires Provine for at least being honest about where materialist atheism leads – as opposed to Richard Dawkins, who moralizes with abandon, without recognizing that his belief system cannot privilege one morality over another by definition.

What happens then? Well, what happens then is being played out in Canada right now, and all across Europe. All ethical systems come under attack, and degenerate into a swamp of unfocused feelings. In Canada, a quasi-judicial body known as a “human rights commission” – with far more power over individual Canadians’ lives than any court would ever have – is alike empowered to pass judgment on a clergyman’s pastoral advice and a late-night comic’s jokes – based on assorted individuals’ feelings of hurt or offense. One astonishing decision follows another, and you can read about many of them on a regular basis at civil rights lawyer Ezra Levant’s blog.

Straw in the wind: When Levant recently tried debating an establishment lawyer, the establishment lawyer began to claim that Levant “needs counselling” – there are few more ominous words in a rapidly degenerating materialist society. The establishment neither has nor needs arguments for its position; it only needs to flow in whatever direction it is driven by the moods of the moment, and those whose moods (not “ideas”, notice) are out of synch – “need counselling.”

As Mario Beauregard and I put it in the The Spiritual Brain, the root of this sort of abuse is materialist atheism, in which

“science-based, effective and progressive policies” are not offered by a self to other selves, but driven by an object at other objects.” (p. 117)

That, I think, is what breeds the totalitarian impulse. The materialist has first dehumanized himself, then he dehumanizes others.

Also, just up at The Mindful Hack

Neuroscience: News flash, sort of … people would rather give to charity than pay taxes. Who’d ever have guessed?

Neuroscience: When did you really decide to adopt that puppy?

Fun! G. K. Chesterton on the difference between humans and apes

Mathematician David Berlinski on why we should not pay any attention to “evolutionary psychology”

Evolutionary psychology: Women prefer men with stubble? Oh, no wait – beards – but we can explain that too …

Brain: If a pill did not cause all your problems, chances are a pill won’t fix them all either

60 Replies to “What happens when we assume there is no design in life?

  1. 1
    tribune7 says:

    When mammals die, they are really and truly dead.

    But the DNA is still there. Seems it’s just a little engineering issue to start it up again, right Provine? Any good mechanic should be able to do it.

    That’s all life is, right? DNA. And it happens naturally via random events and chemical necessity, right?

  2. 2
    jinxmchue says:

    This guy in the video is a jackass, but at least he’s an honest jackass. His summary of what evolutionary biology means is spot on.

  3. 3
    Borne says:

    For those interested in speaking up about the Canadian HRC fascists write to the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper : pm@pm.gc.ca

    I wrote and received a prompt response from the executive communications officer who told me my mail was being forwarded to the Chief Justice.

    You can contact premier of Alberta Ed Stelmach (where the pastor thing is going down) here :
    premier@gov.ab.ca

    Note that when addressing political dignitaries one must tone down ones language and anger into polite terms of outrage 😉 or your email will get trashed right off.
    It wasn’t easy for me to tone down my own words below a certain level of outrage at these travesties perpetrated against Canadian citizens.

    And it doesn’t really matter that you’re not Canadian yourself. A little input from our good neighbors to the south (or where ever) might do some good.

  4. 4
    JPCollado says:

    No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth.

    The super-rich elites of the world need this type of thinking in order to justify their big-swallowing-up-the-small behavior and total disregard for human dignity.

  5. 5
    Mats says:

    I wonder how theo evos refute Provine.

  6. 6
    O'Leary says:

    Mats, the theo evos say that we know by sheer faith without evidence that what Provine says is not true.

    It took me years to figure out why New Scientist used the cockamamie defnition of “faith”, “belief without evidence”

    Every Christian or Jew that I knew believed on the basis of evidence.

    But that was before I started researching By Design or by Chance? – and ran smack dab into “theistic” evolution.

    Those people DO believe without evidence. They believe that the evidence does not support design in the universe. And if it doesn’t support even that, what the heck could it possibly support that would be of interest to a deist, let alone a theist?

    So, armed with faith in faith alone, they team up with atheists to attack the ID theorists and then act hurt when anyone makes clear that their faith is on a par with Julie Andrews’ “confidence in confidence alone”.

    Darwinism cannot turn mud into mind but it can turn churches into condos.

    – d.

  7. 7
    Second_Ammendment says:

    Without the principles of Christianity and a strong voice for God in public life, there can be no freedom. To deny the holy spirit in order to legitimize loose women and predatory economics is a sign of the times.

    We can still set an example though. Honesty and integrity always prevail in the long haul.

    This kind of thing makes my blood boil.

  8. 8
    Alan Rhoda says:

    Denyse wrote:

    “That, I think, is what breeds the totalitarian impulse. The materialist has first dehumanized himself, then he dehumanizes others.”

    I agree. C. S. Lewis made the point well in That Hideous Strength.

  9. 9
    DaveScot says:

    Denyse

    Definition of the word “faith” in the American Heritage Dictionary

    .2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

    Bible definition of faith (KJV):

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    Dictionary and bible seem to pretty much agree on it.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    Just for fun:
    H’mm:

    Let’s take a look at this UD thread from last summer, from 46 on. Compare the exchanges there with Provine’s remarks above.

    Then, I invite our materialist friends to tell us how we can ground liberty and justice for all, save on the foundation that we know — or, should know — worked historically:

    When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness . . . when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . ., Happy 232nd b’day, America!]

    Back that up with Locke’s citation from Richard Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity, as he began to ground the principles of liberty:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men [i.e. the Golden Rule; cf. Matt 7:12 etc] . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant. [2nd Essay on Civil Government, ch 2 section 5; citing Hooker’s Ecclesiastical Polity, 1594 -.]

    Then, after comparing what is now going on in Canada, let us invite our materialist friends to explain to us again just why we “should” move to an evolutionary materialist foundation for our worldviews, science, education and ethics.

    GEM of TKI

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Dave, every worldview at length embeds first plausibles that constitute an unproven faith point; indeed, post Godel, Mathematics is in a similar position, much less science.

    But, that does not mean that such faith is inevitably irrational — we have the duty of comparative difficulties, in light of experience, factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory elegance towards reasonable faith, and that is Denyse’s underlying context: e.g. what of those of us who know God in a personal relationship? [Do we believe without evidence, and without foundation or reasonableness?]

    Back to lurking . . .

  12. 12
    Atom says:

    Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    What is that evidence? What is that substance? (In other words, if we know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, what is this faith substance itself?)

    Faith is trust in a historically trustworthy source. The degree of history and the degree of trustworthiness are directly proportional to your degree of rational faith. That is the Biblical understanding of the “faith substance”. DS, you seem to adopt an atheist understanding of faith as “substanceless.”

    It is actually closer to induction, where we use past results as the faith basis of our beliefs concerning the future or unseen cases. (i.e. the substance of things hoped for [future states], and the evidence of things not seen [unobserved cases])

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    I wouldn’t normally broach this issue, but since it was brought up, I will make the relevant point. Scriptural faith is actually defined in two ways, first as the assent of the intellect to a revealed truth and second, as a total life commitment to that same principle. The broader point is, though, that faith can be either mindless or rational, depending on circumstances. Most religions ask their believers to simply accept the propositions without any evidence.

    Such is not the case for Christianity. It is always characterized as something to be supported by rational investigation. Hence, passages in Psalm 19 and St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, both of which point to evidence for design, are put there to provide rational motives for believing. Similarly, numerous Old Testament prophecies become fulfilled in the New Testament including, among other things, Jesus’ birthplace, the dynamics of his ministry, his recorded miracles, and the conditions surrounding his execution. Inquiring minds are supposed to notice that 459 fulfilled prophecies, all of which converge in time, space, history, constitute statistically independent events that are extremely likely to have occurred by chance. So, it is not the typical case of someone just showing up and saying, “trust me.”

  14. 14
    Graceout says:

    Biblical Faith: Confidence in the character and nature of God as revealed through His interaction in history (time and space) and His Word–tested by time and emperical, systematic dissection.

    Worldy Faith: Crossing one’s fingers and muttering “Gee, I sure wish it were true, but whatever will be, will be…”

  15. 15
    DaveScot says:

    Clear instances of faith would be belief in Noah’s arc and the global flood, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, Moses parting the red sea, that you need water splashed on your head by a priest before you can gain admittance to heaven, and things of that nature.

  16. 16
    Atom says:

    Clear instances of faith: trusting that G-d will provide for your family, since he has done so in the past even in the harshest of times; believing that G-d can heal you, since you’ve seen family members healed in the past; trusting that the Bible is G-d’s reveled word, since all of your personal investigations into the evidence have turned out to confirm its message (cf. the case of Lee Strobel.)

    As Stephen B said, faith can be mindless or rational. Most Christians I know (even uneducated ones) have a rational, induction-like faith. G-d has shown himself trustworthy to them personally, so they trust him personally.

  17. 17
    timothy_wood6 says:

    It seems like this moral argument against evolution boils down to:

    The presented implications of evolution offend my sensibilities. Therefore evolution must be false.

    This doesn’t seem like a very strong argument.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    —–Dave: “Clear instances of faith would be belief in Noah’s arc and the global flood, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, Moses parting the red sea, that you need water splashed on your head by a priest before you can gain admittance to heaven, and things of that nature.”

    I think that this is a fair point and I agree that these are good examples. Indeed, I will go one step further and acknowledge that it requires a bit of a leap. The critical point is, though, that the rational justification precedes the leap. You don’t get that with other religions.

  19. 19
    Mats says:

    Dave,
    Biblical faith is not “belief without evidence”, as the materialists say, but “Trust in God’s promisses”.

    We trust in what God says because it is HE who says it.

  20. 20
    O'Leary says:

    Noah’s arc? I love it!

    Dave, you are confusing the rainbow after the waters subsided (= arc) with the boat (= Ark). (Cf. Gen 9:12-17)

    For what it is worth, most people come to faith through evidence from their personal experience. The more dramatic and counter-expectations the experience, the less likely they are to make stories of unusual occurrences recorded in the Bible an occasion of doubt.

  21. 21
    DaveScot says:

    Arc was a simple typo. I meant the boat. Interesting connection with the rainbow in the same story though but I don’t think there was anything Freudian in the slip (and by slip I mean mistake not a place where a boat is kept).

    Faith defined as belief in things not seen is still a common, oft used definition of the word that was not at all cockamamie in a religious context.

  22. 22
    DaveScot says:

    StephenB

    re; leap of faith

    Excellent. This common phrase is meaningless unless faith is defined as belief in things not seen.

    Darwinism is so filled with leaps of faith it’s become a religion, not a science. Faith that all things have a material explanation is a religious belief. Science, like Elvis, has left the building at that point.

  23. 23
    WinglesS says:

    I don’t believe you need “you need water splashed on your head by a priest before you can gain admittance to heaven”.

    If I recall right a thief crucified with Jesus went to heaven. I don’t think he had any water splashed over his head at that point or before that. (although that’s an assumption)

  24. 24
    DaveScot says:

    wingless

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptism

    Baptism has traditionally been seen as necessary for salvation. Martyrdom was identified early in church history as baptism by blood, allowing martyrs who had not been baptized by water to be saved.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    Atom (and Dave and StephenB et al):

    Excellent, telling point in 12:

    Faith is trust in a historically trustworthy source. The degree of history and the degree of trustworthiness are directly proportional to your degree of rational faith . . . .

    It is actually closer to induction, where we use past results as the faith basis of our beliefs concerning the future or unseen cases. (i.e. the substance of things hoped for [future states], and the evidence of things not seen [unobserved cases])

    Indeed, good enough to pull me back out overnight! (I never thought of putting it quite that way before A, but on reading your comment several things just clicked together . . . let us explore together for a few moments.)

    Now, it is wise to look just a little at the context of Heb 11:1, down to v 6, since it has been cited and alluded to in the above. So, let’s see the evidence:

    Heb 11: 1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.

    3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. 4By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.

    5By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

    Now, the analogy of scientific, confident induction, and of putting faith in a known to be reliable friend lead to some interesting points on the above:

    a –> When one has provisionally tested and found a principle or person to be trustworthy, it is rational to accept it or him or her on cases not yet or otherwise known.

    b –> Indeed, this is a form of the basic principle of testing and trusting (but verifying where possible) reliable witnesses and evidentiary methods as is used in courts. (Cf founding father of modern jurisprudence on evidence, Simon Greenleaf’s principles here.)

    c –> The very first of these rules is quite interesting: Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise. [Testimony, p.16.]

    d –> Similarly: If [a report] were “the result of inquiries, made under competent public authority, concerning matters in which the public are concerned” it would . . . be legally admissible . . . To entitle such results, however, to our full confidence, it is not necessary that they be obtained under a legal commission; it is sufficient if the inquiry is gravely undertaken and pursued, by a person of competent intelligence, sagacity and integrity. The request of a person in authority, or a desire to serve the public, are, to all moral intents, as sufficient a motive as a legal commission. [p. 25.]

    e –> And: In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the proper inquiry is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is a sufficient probability that it is true. [p. 28.]

    f –> Note as well, the restricted sense of “proof”: A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt. [pp. 28 – 9.]

    g –> So, we see that the issue is to establish that on the face of it a witness or source is credible, and to trust such sources at least provisionally, with the burden of disproof resting on the objector, once credibility tests have been passed.

    h –> This bears more than a passing resemblance to both scientific work and to faith in the biblical sense.

    i –> In the latter case, we Jews and Christians are part of a tradition that stretches across millenia and millions of lives, with a great many people who have known and encountered God based on the inscripturated tradition. Indeed, there are millions alive today who testify to such from personal experience, experience that has often utterly trasnformed lives beyond what psychologiests or sociologists etc can account for.

    j –> So, it is rational for us to trust the tradition and its core writings, even in the teeth of cavils [as opposed to actual burden-of-proof meeting, well-founded objections].

    k –> We may, with justification, call such: “reasonable faith.” (And notice how friendly this approach is to justice, good philosophy and science . . .)

    l –> In that light, the text above speaks of how we accept by trust that God is Creator, so that the empirically observable [the visible] comes from what is ultimately not [the invisible]. (That sounds eerily familiar as one reflects on the fine-tuned intricacies of cosmological physics, and as one reflects on the similarly fine-tuned complexities of bio-information.)

    m –> It cites several exemplary cases of faith under trial [the following chapter is a litany of the heroes of the faith and their life stories]. In short, there is a tradition, and there are cases where the source shows itself trustworthy, so we have a right to confident trust and expectation on cases where we do not have such further confirmation.

    m –> The passage then concludes that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” In light of the context, such confident faith is rational.

    In the light of the above, I find TW6 at 17 tellingly off the mark:

    The presented implications of evolution offend my sensibilities. Therefore evolution must be false.

    No, TW:

    From Provine in OP, we note: “No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth. These are all conclusions to which Darwin came quite clearly.”

    But, by sharpest contrast:

    . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity . . . . In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    And, if mind has been undermined, then a fortiori morals [a key function of mind] are undermined — as Provine acknowledges. With not only potentially but across the past 100 years, actually devastating consequences — as over 100 million ghosts remind us.

    In short, the objection is not merely an appeal to offended sensibilities [emotions] but to logic of reduction to absurdity. That is, evolutionary materialism here has rto answwer to serious evidence and reason that points to its logical incoherence.

    For 150 years, despite having captured the intellectual high ground of key sectors of our scientific culture, it has repeatedly failed to do so.

    So, we have good reason to be suspicious of — rather than confident in — it. And, as the always linked will summarise at 101 level, we have excellent reason to infer that the structure of life and of the observed cosmos that facilitates it show evidence of being formed by an intentional, thinking, choosing intelligent agent.

    Reductio ad absurdum cannot be dismissed so lightly!

    GEM of TKI

  26. 26
    Apollos says:

    Dave, baptism is not scripturally required for salvation — however belief is (cf. Romans 10:9, 1 John 3:23-24). Since belief is your issue with accepting the testimony, I wouldn’t worry so much about baptism. It’s putting the cart before the horse. You won’t hear many protestants insisting that baptism necessarily precedes salvation.

    When you decide to accept that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he died on the cross and then rose from the dead(for your sake) it might be appropriate at that time to determine if one should be baptized (cf. Luke 23:42-43, Acts 2:38).

  27. 27
    Avonwatches says:

    Apollos is correct.

    People are saved by faith in Christ. No conditions.

    Baptism is not a requirement, but an act/ritual to signify your belief and acceptance of Christ into your life.

    ==========
    On Topic:

    How long has this ‘situation’ in Canada been going on? Or has it just gotten worse recently?

    When touring through BC, I was amazed at the country and people. Don’t shatter the flawless mirror!

  28. 28
    mad doc says:

    faith to me is like a jigsaw puzzle…. then you suddenly see the picture.

  29. 29
    PannenbergOmega says:

    In regards to Noah’s Flood, many scholars today see it as a being a local event. So even if that is so, was there still an Ark with lots of animals?

  30. 30
    DaveScot says:

    Avonwatches

    Baptism is believed to be a requirement for salvation in some Christian denominations. The wiki link I gave has at least a partial list of which do and which do not.

    If you can find the logical proofs or material evidence for which it is, baptism not required to get into heaven or baptism required to get into heaven, I’d really appreciate it. This seems a rather important thing to get right if you happen not to have been baptized.

    Appolos

    Since you got the baptism thing wrong why should I trust you about anything? But I’ll pose a question for you anyhow. Once saved, always saved? If a person once had faith, and was saved, but subsequently loses faith, are they still saved? Please provide logical proofs and material evidence to back your answer because the faith based answers will be different depending on who you ask. I need objective answers. Thanks in advance.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    Dave:

    Pardon an intervention on the off-topic issue. You are taking me back 20+ years.

    As the linked study shows, there is a decisive concrete C1 example [Ac 10 – 11], backed up by the very first church council [Ac 15] — indeed St Peter’s very own words.

    The logic of this is seen from how a circle of people [Cornelius the Centurion, his family and friends] simply sitting and listening to the gospel, with believing hearts, received the Spirit with manifest signs. Indeed, the very words being spoken by Peter as the Spirit was suddenly poured out on them were, from Ac 10:43:

    ” . . . All the prophets testify about him [Jesus the crucified and risen, v. 39 – 41] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    On the strength of so receiving the Spirit, they were baptised. And, in Council, Peter noted circa AD 48 – 9:

    Ac 15: 7 [In Council in Jerusalem, on the legitimacy of Paul’s teaching, ~ AD 49:] After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.8 God, who knows the heart [1 Sam. 16:7], showED that he acceptED them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as [cf. Ac 2:1 – 4 ff] he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us [Jews] and them [Gentiles], for he purified their hearts by faith.10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear?11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved [cf. Eph. 2:8 – 10], just as they are.”

    Romans 1 – 3 is an elaboration of this by Paul, circa AD 57.

    I trust these remarks and the linked will help us address the incidental concerns, so that we can return focus to the major — and crucially relevant — themes in the original post.

    All the best.

    GEM of TKI

  32. 32
    tribune7 says:

    Dave,

    I’ve had taken the point of the unnecessity of Baptism and was generally unsuccessful in making it.

    I’ve concluded that God simply wants us to get baptized.

    I don’t think that He is a fundamentalist about this though and that all unbaptized souls go to Hell though.

    Some of the best arguments from Scripture for baptism not being a requirement for salvation were summed up by KF. For me this would especially be <a href=”http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Rom%203:27-30;&version=31;”Rom 3:27-30

    An, of course, the thief on the cross made it to glory without baptism.

    And, the Quaker church, which you admire, never required baptism and I think that there are Quakers who are true Christians, whereas as certain denominations that insist on full immersion don’t seem. to me, to have a lot of true Christians in them .

    Regardless, if one is troubled by one’s unbaptized state the simplest thing to do is to find a rational church and get baptized in it.

    And if one is worried about the state of loved ones/friends, trust the wisdom and mercy of God. If He were a legalist, the stoning of the adulterous woman would have happened.

  33. 33
    WinglesS says:

    Davescot

    I wouldn’t really consider the thief a martyr, more like a deathbed conversion.

    But enough of this, suffice to say not all, and I belive the majority, of Christians do not believe that baptism is neccessary to go to heaven. If you want to insist that it is, it’s your own opinion. It’s not as if I can prove what happens after you die.

  34. 34
    Rude says:

    In regard to heaven, y’all might find interesting this latest from N. T. Wright.

  35. 35
    StephenB says:

    Dave: The command to “believe and be baptized” is taken differently by Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians. For Catholics, the two terms are taken as equally important and the sequence of words is not the issue since the phrase does not say believe and “then” be baptized. For non-Catholics, the sequence is decisive and they argue that the “then” is implied.

    This means, of course, Catholics and non-Catholics administer the sacraments differently. Catholics believing that it is a “sacrament,” insist on infant baptism. They see it as more than a juridical matter, arguing that it causes changes in the soul by removing original sin. Thus, for them, there is a real cleansing. That is why they insist that it be done as early as possible. Since babies cannot decide on these matters, their parents do it for them so that they will be eligible for salvation if they die before they are capable of making a faith commitment. Then, when they are old enough, they perform the act of faith. The doctrine of baptism of desire is exactly as you say except that it is extended not only to martyrs (baptism by blood), but to anyone who would have accepted it if they had been given a chance. That also includes anyone who has never even heard of it but would have had an open disposition to it. (baptism by desire). The Catholic position is that the commandment is there and that there is no reason to gamble on the matter, although it also acknowledges that God is not bound by his own laws.

    Non Catholics believe that faith is prior to baptism (in time and in importance), so they ask for a faith commitment first, and then they baptize. While many do baptize infants, others don’t. Again, some non-Catholics argue that the sacrament of baptism is a legal requirement, others don’t. Few seem to believe in “regeneration,” meaning that they disagree with the Catholic teaching which holds that baptism actually brings new life into the soul or that it creates a permanent mark on the individual. For that reason, they don’t think it is as important. Since infants cannot make a confession of faith, some non-Catholics delay the ritual until such a commitment is possible.

    Both sides can find Scriptural justification for their position, so it seems fruitless to line up all the passages. For my part, the main Scriptural injunction (believe and be baptized) is a dual command and that the order of the words does not necessarily reflect the order of importance. That means that, in my judgment, the matter should not be left to chance. Of course, that is just another way of saying that I am a Catholic.

  36. 36
    Borne says:

    Dave: “Dictionary and bible seem to pretty much agree on it.”

    Another translation puts it: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the sign that the things not seen are true.”

    Faith is the ‘evidence‘ of things not seen. Can we see atoms or whatever? Do we have evidence of there existence? Sure. Do you ‘believe’ in atoms? Do you have faith in their existence? Of course. Have you ever seen one?

    You have to remember that the same chapter you quote also adds, 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” There is a simple description of the unseen things which the cosmos is made of. You can easily read molecular and atomic level entities in there.

    Nevertheless, the global context of scripture is that faith is trust in the person of God, in his character.

    It is also clear that there are different levels of faith.
    —————-
    Now as for water baptism – what do you do with the theif on the other cross? To whom Christ said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise”?

  37. 37
    PannenbergOmega says:

    In Dembski’s “Christian Theodicy” paper he expresses support for a limited Biblical flood.

  38. 38
    BarryA says:

    One of the most interesting things about faith to me is the way materialists seem to think they are immune to it, that it is an affliction to which only theists succumb. Which makes me think of my favorite Phil Johnson quote (in the debate with Provine BTW):

    “I would love to be a Darwinist, I just can’t manage the faith commitments.”

  39. 39
    DaveScot says:

    tribune7 writes: “trust the wisdom and mercy of God”

    That simple statement is a complete encapsulation of my faith. I eschew ritual, scripture, chants, obeisances, and all the like. Follow the golden rule and trust in the wisdom and mercy of God to treat you as you’ve treated the rest of creation. Under that rubric everyone, no matter whether theist or atheist or anything in between, has an equal opportunity and as an added bonus the mortal coil becomes easier to endure for everyone and everything in it when we live by the golden rule.

  40. 40
    Graceout says:

    DaveScot,

    As a believing Christian, I too eschew ritual, incantations, sacrifices, etc. But God has something better in mind than our just ‘getting along’.

    As our Creator, He is more interested in fellowship with us than our behavior. He hopes that, when we get to know him, our behavior will improve — not the other way around.

    Behaviour (ritual, incantation, ceremony, and symbolism) is the stuff of religion — man trying to attain to God.

    Christianity is God reaching out to humanity and offering His life to ANYONE (nothing exclusive there) whereupon we can can do much more than simply “act nice”. We can fellowship with our Creator, who in turn helps us to truly BE nice–from the inside out.

    Some people work hard at being good–just to try and prove they don’t need God.

  41. 41
    DaveScot says:

    Graceout

    One must account for the billions of people throughout history that had no exposure to either the OT or NT. In your faith what is their relationship with God now and in eternity?

  42. 42
    Timaeus says:

    Regarding all this scrapping about baptism. Sigh. Why should it have to be up to us Platonists to clarify Christian doctrine?

    First, it is not just “Catholics” that practice infant baptism. The Eastern Orthodox churches do, and so do the Anglican, Lutheran and Reformed churches. It’s therefore not just a Catholic thing, but was in fact pretty nearly the universal practice of the Church, Catholic and Protestant, from ancient times through the Reformation.

    Second, it was conceived in all the above Churches (including the Protestant ones) that outside the Church there was no salvation, and, since baptism was necessary to be a member of the Church, baptism was required for salvation. It was crucial to baptize infants, since they often died very soon after birth, in order to make sure they were saved. Luther insisted on infant baptism to “snatch the child from the jaws of the Devil”.

    Third, it’s true that the Church also taught that, under certain circumstances, God would take the unbaptized into heaven. But that was not the normal pathway. Baptism was the normal requirement for salvation. If you died without being baptized, you died in fear and trembling.

    Fourth, those who are arguing differently here, i.e., that baptism is unnecessary for salvation and is merely a public acknowledgment of one’s faith, are arguing from a “free church” perspective, i.e., from that part of the Reformation which differed from Luther and Calvin. I am not saying that this in an incorrect perspective, or one to be deplored – there are good arguments for adult-only baptism — but it is definitely a partisan perspective, not representative of even all Protestants, let alone all Christians. (Free-church Christians have this odd habit of offering their private interpretation of the Bible, or their denomination’s interpretation of the Bible, as THE Christian teaching on anything. They appear to lack historical perspective, as if they have not studied the history of the Christian Church.)

    I hope this has been helpful, and will now return from these mundane historical matters to the metaphysical and spiritual realm in which we Platonists prefer to dwell.
    T.

  43. 43
    Timaeus says:

    To Graceout @40

    Objecting only to your last sentence, I find it hard to believe that there are many people who “work hard at being good just to try and prove they don’t need God”. Further, I wouldn’t swipe at people who work hard at being good. There aren’t that many people in the world, not even many Christians, who work consistently and diligently at being good, and we should be glad that there are as many as there are, not invent negative motivations for their behavior. Finally, as a Platonist and disciple of Socrates, I can name at least one non-Christian ancient Greek who worked hard at being good who had no such motivation.

    T.

  44. 44
    Apollos says:

    Dave Wrote:

    Since you got the baptism thing wrong why should I trust you about anything?

    I certainly wouldn’t insist that you take my word for it but rather judge the issue by scripture, since water baptism in this context is a Christian issue, and Christianity holds up scripture as the highest authority for divine wisdom and knowledge.

    KF’s post at 31 certainly backs up my assertions about water baptism, along with some other commenters here, so I’m not sure where I was wrong. There is much that could be said about baptism, physical and spiritual, with most Protestants agreeing that the real baptism is of the Holy Spirit, and that water baptism is the outward proclamation and confession of faith in Jesus Christ. (I’ve never known of a Christian who didn’t earnestly desire to be baptized once they accepted the truth.)

    Regarding OSAS (Once Saved Always Saved) I’d be happy to have this discussion if I didn’t think you were just trying to make a point about faith issues verses objective evidence. There aren’t any non-faith answers to this question, but I think you know this already. In order to arrive at a satisfactory answer, one must again appeal to scriptural authority over spiritual issues. This requires faith that scripture is God’s revelation to mankind.

    For the record, I believe in OSAS as long as faith in Christ is genuine. While a Christian’s faith can be tested, sometimes harshly, I must trust what scripture says.

    Jesus said:

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    Paul’s testimony is also relevant:

    That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

    for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)

    The only proof that can be given is from scripture, and it’s the only objective source for theological issues such as this (I can’t think of a more objective source). More would require the agreement of those involved that scripture can be wholly trusted as the source of divine wisdom.

    Whether one can believe sincerely and earnestly in the vicarious death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ the Messiah of Israel, and then suddenly or steadily stop believing in this truth — rejecting it utterly, is a matter of philosophy and theology, with the doctrine of predestination falling squarely in the middle. I doubt I could do the subject justice, compared to many commenters here.

    In my opinion, a better question than “can you lose your salvation” is “do you have it now?” If you meet the requirements of John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 (above) then the answer is “yes.”

  45. 45
    parapraxis says:

    I recently had an interesting dialogue with a number of atheists on my blog about objective morality. I was asserting that it was not possible, whereas they were asserting it was. Several atheists were asserting that you could be an atheist and still have a system of “objective” morality.

    As for evolutionary psychology, I find it to be useless, and often has a political agenda not too deeply buried under the surface.

    http://thecuontryshrink.com

  46. 46
    Rude says:

    There is an atheist argument that could be made and that would be via a kind of Platonism. Just as physicists tend to be mathematical Platonists (e.g., numbers are real, they’re actually “out there” and not just the rustling of neurons in the head), so also moral principles are real. The argument seems to me to be very much like the argument for natural law. The problem is that atheists tend to hate this argument—maybe because they don’t really want there to be a universal ethics.

  47. 47
    parapraxis says:

    I think a lot of times atheists really do want to believe there is an objective system of morality apart from the existence of God. Because the alternative is horrific, and I believe there is a strong aspect of morality that is designed into humans. So for many atheists, coming to a point of admitting that there is no possibility of objective morality without a designer, would be to deny an important aspect of their being.

  48. 48
    tribune7 says:

    Follow the golden rule and trust in the wisdom and mercy of God to treat you as you’ve treated the rest of creation. Under that rubric everyone, no matter whether theist or atheist or anything in between, has an equal opportunity and as an added bonus the mortal coil becomes easier to endure for everyone and everything in it when we live by the golden rule.

    Dittos!

  49. 49
    Paul Giem says:

    DaveScot,

    Regarding your questions on baptism and once-saved-always-saved, you might try reading my book Scientific Theology (avalable online free here), especially chapter 8. You might find a logical, Biblical discussion that is surprisingly compatible with your own point of view.

    From one vegetarian to another

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    I find it interesting that a thread on a major, major issue — one that is potentially decisive via reductio ad absurdum on a matter that most sane people care about a lot (objectivity of morality and linked credibility of mind tied to the underlying reality of our expereinced power of choice) — has been so dominated by side-issues, however interesting they are.

    Can we come back to focus on the original post here, and maybe put up an off-topic thread on the theological issues?

    In that interest, let’s bring up again Prof Provine’s remarks as cited by Denyse:

    First, the argument from design failed. There is no intelligent design in the natural world. When mammals die, they are really and truly dead. No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth. These are all conclusions to which Darwin came quite clearly. (Stanford University, April 30, 1994)

    A few observations:

    1 –> Of course, first, Provine and others have done no such thing as showing that the design argument as a serious inference to best explanation, especially in the modern form, failed. Assertions and dismissals do not good warrant make.

    2 –> Indeed, even the classical forms were more dismissed than failed, once the myth of self-assembly of the intricate systems of life became scientifically fashionable.

    3 –> What is empirically well-warranted, is that functionally specified, fine-tuned, complex information based structures and processes are the products of intelligent design. And, for excellent reason tied to the easy exhaustion of probabilistic resources of the observed cosmos that attends searches across the configuration spaces that start in arbitrary locations and proceed by random walks or other chance-based processes. [Newbies, cf my always linked through my handle in the LH column.]

    4 –> Indeed, Dembski and Marks’ recent work on active information provides a metric for the difference intelligent guidance makes in getting to the islands of functionality. Once a system embeds at least 500 – 1,000 bits of information capacity and is functionally sensitive to significant perturbation, we have excellent reason to infer that it is designed.

    5 –> That much we know, or should know.

    6 –> BTW: On the relevant side-point, cf Rom 2:6 – 16. In the Judaeo-Christian theological synthesis developed by Paul [bridging here Jerusalem, Athens and Rome!], it is understood that God judges by the degree of light one has access to, and how one uses it. As vv 6 – 8 observe: “6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” For those of us who have access to the stream of evidence that traces to the resurrection of Jesus as attested by 500+ eyewitnesses, record within 25 years (with the majority of eyewitnesses then still alive — how well do you remember critical events of 1983 . . . ?), and a now 2,000 year history of God’s gracious and supernatural, life-transforming interventions,that implies some sobering responsibilities to the truth and the right.

    7 –> As to the second claim, on the finality of death, we just noted a centrally important counter-example; one that has decisively shaped world history over 2,000 years.

    8 –> And, I am reminded by lurker I, to note that in recent months there was a reported case — was it a Mrs Velma Thompson? [I have lost the URL on the story, and it is very hard to find in the usual searches . . .] — where a woman clinically died to the point where rigor mortis was setting in, and was dead for 17 hours. Then, she woke up.

    9 –> The same goes on to make an interesting observation:

    . . . actually (aside from Mrs Thompson), the *fact* of natural death is profound evidence against ‘materialism.’

    For, IF ‘materialism’ is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN “life” (the quotes are because “life” is a concept: there is no such thing as “living matter;” all matter is non-living) is nothing but chemical reactions.

    To put that in less fuzzy wording (for to speak of “life” is to speak fizzily): IF ‘materialism’ is the truth about the nature of reality, THEN all that distinguishes any living organism from so much non-living matter is the on-going — and seemingly self-directed — chemical reactions which comprise what we call “biological processes.”

    And yet, living organisms die. Routinely.

    So, do the chemicals get *tired* or reacting? Do the individual molecules and atoms keep track of which other molecules and atoms they’ve already reacted with, and and refuse to react again with those specific ones?

    It’s one thing for a chemical reaction to cease because a necessary reactant, say oxygen, has gone missing from the mix. It’s quite another thing for a chemical reaction to simply cease.

    10 –> So, we get to Provine’s key inferences: “No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth.” [Cf here, again, that thread from nearly a year ago, on how our then resident evo mat advocates responded when this was brought up from the ID and theistic thinkers’ side. Telling, isn’t it.]

    11 –> I note on the above, that Provine has inadvertently gone to reductio ad absurdum, but fails to understand that his position is self-refuting, as he imagines it is well-founded “science.”

    12 –> How so? First, because mind requires freedom of choice, so determinstic forces and chance boundary conditions cannot base the credibility of our thought life; a credibility that is a premise of science itself as an intellectual project.

    13 –> For, if we cannot examine and decide freely to follow credible evidence and logic, reasoned discourse is a delusion. This, and I here acknowledge debt to an email exchange with the same lurker I, no less a figure than Prof Antony Flew, in his atheist days, saw, very clearly:

    . . . choice-choice between at least two real alternatives either of which the agent possibly could take-must be a presupposition of any actual knowledge. For no creature incapable of making choices between alternative possibilities of belief could properly be said “to know something.” Second, choices, in this understanding, cannot be causally necessitated. For to say that there was necessitation in one particular sense would be to deny that there were any real alternatives to that particular commitment. Third, we all acquire the crucial and complementary notions both of practical necessitation and of being able to do other than we do in what is, surely, the only way in which such fundamental notions could be acquired. We acquire them from our everyday and utterly familiar experience both of making choices in action, and of bringing some things about while finding it utterly impossible to effect others. [Essay, “Choice and Rationality,” archived at Reasonpapers dotcom, accessible through the von Mises Institute.]

    14 –> This of course immediately extends to our experience — and expectation [cf how we routinely quarrel by appealing to transcendent moral principle] — of being morally obligated, as a peculiarly important dimension of choice. (Contrast here the tendency to explain away immoral conduct on the premise of “my genes made me do it.” Tell that to the father of a victim of child abuse, or the mother of a victim of drunk driving, sometime. And, I speak here as one with a lifelong challenge to overcome a truly dangerous temper.)

    15 –> So, Rude’s observation at 46 above is very illuminating:

    Just as physicists tend to be mathematical Platonists (e.g., numbers are real, they’re actually “out there” and not just the rustling of neurons in the head), so also moral principles are real. The argument seems to me to be very much like the argument for natural law. The problem is that atheists tend to hate this argument—maybe because they don’t really want there to be a universal ethics.

    16 –> Of course, the classic conundrum on such practical Platonism, is the Christian response tot he theory of the Forms: they take reality in the Eternal Mind of Him who is LOGOS, and who became incarnate and tabernacled among us. In short, the reality of mental and moral phenomena points to the Divine, at least it makes it the best explanation.

    17 –> Parapraxis’ follow up at 47 is then very illuminating:

    I think a lot of times atheists really do want to believe there is an objective system of morality apart from the existence of God. Because the alternative is horrific, and I believe there is a strong aspect of morality that is designed into humans. So for many atheists, coming to a point of admitting that there is no possibility of objective morality without a designer, would be to deny an important aspect of their being.

    18 –> in short, we are now at reductio ad absurdum, at least in the inference to best competing worldview level explanation form. [Cf again my earlier remarks at 10 and 25 above. The link in 10 to an earlier thread from about a year ago will also be interesting.]

    GEM of TKI

  51. 51
  52. 52
    StephenB says:

    —–kairosfocus: “We now see again that we cannot reason without trust and we should not trust without [good] reason.”

    Exactly right. This is a wonderfully terse way of expressing the paradox.

    Let’s break this down:

    [A] We cannot reason without trust.

    Put another way, we must accept as self-evidently true the following proposition [A] We have rational minds, [B] we live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a correspondence between the two realms. If we don’t assume those three things, then there is no reason, no science, and no rational communication at all.

    Provine begins from the opposite starting point, denying not just one, but all three of the prerequisites for conducting a rational scientific investigation. In effect, Provine is saying, “I would like to explain relationship between us and our world even though I don’t believe that there is any rational connection between the two realms, or that the two realms even exist.” (Monistic materialism accepts only one realm, matter. [there is no “us”])

    [B] We cannot trust without reason.

    In the final analysis, every world view or religion should be examined for its reasonableness. Reason can take us to faith’s door, but it cannot cross the threshold. That is why all world views require a leap of faith. The question we should always be asking is this: Is my faith reasonable? Does the rational justification PRECEDE the leap? We find in Christianity, for example, “motives for credibility,” and then we take the leap.
    Materialist Darwinists like Provine take a leap of faith, but they don’t base their faith on reason, they base it on desire. Materialists want radical Darwinism to be true at any cost. Thus, they trust without reason. They take a leap of faith based on desire and the rational justification comes after the fact in the form of rationalization. They are trying to make sense out of what they believe to be an absurd universe and irrational universe, characterized by purposeless, mindless evolution. This is a self contradictory position. If the universe is absurd, then we shouldn’t be trying to make sense of it.

  53. 53
    allanius says:

    The death of God requires a new idea of what it means to be human; Nietzsche at least was honest about this. If the will to dominate is the path to happiness, then such values as pity and kindness must be wiped out. Life itself must be devalued in order to facilitate the transcendent identity of the superman.

    This raises an interesting question: is it true that human beings can be happy without pity and kindness? Mercy must be set aside for the sake of the will to power, but mercy is one of the most desirable values known to man. Can we be happy without it? Is Nietzsche’s story about the pursuit of happiness really true?

    By negating philosophy and the old construct of intellect and matter, nihilism makes it possible to make the case for God without axioms. We may attempt to annihilate God in theory, but it is impossible to erase the great desirability of mercy and justice from consciousness without starving our understanding of what it means to be human.

    The mere fact that Provine, Dawkins, Harris, et al, continue to cling to the notion of their own common decency—indeed, their moral superiority—shows that they do not derive their notion of humanity from Darwin. Such values cannot be found in nature “red in tooth and claw” or the survival of the fittest. They reflect something that exists outside of natural selection per se.

    It is possible, of course, to credit our militant atheists with an intent to recreate what it means to be human from nothingness—to make “new ideals” of a different hue from those advocated by Nietzsche himself, which was Hume’s original plan for a world after God. But how is it that these new ideals look so much like the old? In what sense is the novo homo really new?

    The just-so explanations for mercy and justice provided by the evo-devo crowd are reductive. They may provide a plausible theoretical framework for such attributes, but they cannot explain their great desirability, their lofty status in our hierarchies of value. They cannot explain why we feel a need to invoke them when we want to justify our identity and notions of value.

    Evo-devo is speculative, while the great desirability of mercy, kindness and justice is an existential fact. We cannot obliterate it by obliterating God. But then it has now become possible to suggest that God is “left over” from the annihilation of being by nothingness; that God reemerges from the burning of Valhalla in a new way, no longer limited by intellect and its theories of value.

    http://jaytrott.com

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    In section [B} on 52, I meant, we SHOULD not trust without reason, rather than we CANNOT trust without reason. Obviously, lots of people do trust without reason which is precisely the problem.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    Hi Stephen B

    It is true that we SHOULD not trust without [good] reason.

    Oddly, it is also true that we cannot trust without reason — the problem is, whether the reason[ing] involved (explicitly or implicitly or even “intuitively”) is good!

    On this I like to adapt on the three classical [Aristotelian] acts of mind:

    1] understanding/ apprehending/ recognising

    2] discovery/ recognition

    3] proving/ inferring

    We have to have faith in a lot of things to do these things, as you noted:

    we must accept as self-evidently true the following proposition [A] We have rational minds, [B] we live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a correspondence between the two realms. If we don’t assume those three things, then there is no reason, no science, and no rational communication at all.

    GEM of TKI

  56. 56
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Two senses of recognition — 2nd is of new things. Forgive.

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Trib, thanks!

  58. 58
    StephenB says:

    Hi kairosfocus: Yes, true enough.

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    H’mm:

    Verrry interesting . . .

    I find it interesting that we don’t seem to be hearing from evolutionary materialists claiming to be capable of explaining and grounding the reality of the power of human choice (aka [sufficiently] free will), morals and mind. (At least, since the outcome of the exchange in this nearly year old UD blog thread, here.)

    So, let us hear Prof Provine again on the implications of the Darwinian evolutionary synthesis:

    No ultimate foundations for ethics exist, no ultimate meaning in life exists, and free will is merely a human myth. These are all conclusions to which Darwin came quite clearly. (Stanford University, April 30, 1994)

    Indeed, we may add more, from the linked year-old blog thread, from a 1998 statement excerpted by BarryA at 74:

    “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.”[ Evolution: Free Will and Punishment and Meaning in Life, Second Annual Darwin Day Celebration Keynote Address, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, February 12, 1998 (abstract); on the web at http://eeb.bio.utk.edu/darwin/…..ddress.htm.]

    In other words, the 1994 excerpt is not exactly an outlier.

    So, we may freely conclude that he essentially agrees with the chain of inference I have made for many years now, up to this point, and which appears in its latest form as a part of appendix 6, the always linked:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/ associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity . . .

    Where it gets interesting is the evident consequences:

    . . . . But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

    Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are “simply accidents of history,” one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one’s preferences.

    Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless . . .

    If that sounds uncomfortably like the world in which we live — and, for that matter, the world Paul described in Rom 1:18 – 32 — we know why.

    Time to do some serious re-thinking . . . or, do we need to hear from the ghost of a certain Nietzsche?

    Or, as Oakley summed up and reviewed Weikart’s recent historical research:

    In one particularly chilling passage in Descent of Man he [Charles Darwin] asserted, “At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” [cf Chs 5 – 6] Even more ominously, this insouciantly expressed sentiment cannot be regarded as an illegitimate conclusion from the earlier and more reliable Origin of Species. In a passage historians often cite to prove that at the time of the Origin Darwin was still struggling to maintain his belief in God, Darwin actually, if unwittingly, promulgated the charter for all later social Darwinists: “Let the strongest live and the weakest die… . Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.” . . . .

    Perhaps the greatest lesson to be drawn from Weikart’s narrative is the astonishing metaphysical continuity he limns in the views that started with Darwin and ended up with Hitler. To trace this continuity, one need only compare this passage from Nietzsche’s Will to Power with a similar one, immediately following, from Mein Kampf.

    From Nietzsche:

    The biblical prohibition “Thou shalt not kill” is a piece of naïveté compared with the seriousness of Life’s own “Thou shalt not” issued to decadence: “Thou shalt not procreate!” —Life itself recognizes no solidarity, no “equal right,” between the healthy and the degenerate parts of an organism… . Sympathy for the decadents, equal rights for the ill-constituted—that would be the profoundest immorality, that would be anti-nature itself as morality!

    From Hitler:

    A stronger race will supplant the weaker, since the drive for life in its final form will decimate every ridiculous fetter of the so-called “humaneness” of individuals, in order to make place for the true “humaneness of nature,” which destroys the weak to make place for the strong.

    Thus, absent a clear and convincing answer on grounding morality and restraining the power of the beast within, we need to take prudent inferences and precautionary actions, if we are to avert a C21 reprise of some of the worst chapters of C20 history.

    GEM of TKI

  60. 60
    Graceout says:

    To Timaeus @ 43.

    My statement may have sounded a bit caustic, and I apologize. I meant no swipe at those who work hard at being good, since this (obviously) is a noble pursuit. I did say “many” (not most; not all), and I stand by it, since, I myself have fallen into that category on occasion.

    Indeed, one of the common themes of various chapters of the Ethical Society is “Good without God”. I believe that pure altruism is virtually non-existent, since most “Good Deeds” are motivated by prestige, guilt, one-upmanship, and profit. Of course, if you agree with Ayn Rand (as I do) the pursuit of profit is, of itself, a “Good Deed”. (Yes, I know she was an atheist. Go Figure.)

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