Thursday, August 24, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I have run across your blog in my search for truth which most people begin at some time or another and was curious as to your thoughts on Lee Strobel's "A Case For Christ"? I noticed you had an outline, but I didn't find much information. Any information provided will be very much appreciated.My response follows.
A review of Strobel's book is somewhat on hold. In reading his book, as well as the apologetic works of Josh McDowell, I am frustrated by the one-sided presentation of the material. They never include a complete presentation of the views and arguments of their opponents. They both often include long passages refuting opposing opinions, but the reader unfamiliar with those alternate views is left to either trust that the apologist is right or seek out the alternative views themselves for closer examination.
I have selected the second path. Strobel and McDowell have taken on such a broad subject matter in their writings that the diligent truth seeker will do well to pursue further study. For a start, read Jeff Lowder's article on the Strobel book:
(Infidels.org is a good site for finding opinions opposing those of the apologists. I'm not necessarily endorsing the site -- read their views as critically as you would any other! It is a good resource for counterpoint, though.)
The book that I'm reading now has been quite interesting. It is Bart Ehrman's New Testament introduction:
It's actually a college textbook, so the overview of the NT is quite extensive, but the text is accessible to someone, like me, who is not an NT scholar. This is an interesting work in that it does not so much endorse strong conclusions -- like the apologists' works -- as it teaches the methods by which scholars come to those conclusions through various methods of critical thinking. The text also serves as a repository of good information that counters apologists' arguments.
Note that both Ehrman and Lowder were both once evangelical Christians whose reasoned study has led them to alternative conclusions. Lowder is an atheist, Ehrman, an agnostic.
The most important thing is to critically evaluate your sources of information, whether they be Christian or not. This requires lots of reading in addition to any single perspective.
Monday, August 21, 2006
This is an terrible way to return to school: there is a manhunt for a cop killer going on at Virginia Tech as I write. The man, William Morva, (a kid really - he's 24) stole a gun from an officer while on hospital release from jail, after which he killed a hospital security guard and a police officer. Virginia Tech and the whole town of Blacksburg are shut down. Both my company and my school are closed, and people have been asked to stay home with doors locked. He is supposedly still hiding somewhere on campus or in town, and the news is mentioning the possibility of hostages. My house is unfortunately right next door to the convenience store that Morva attempted to rob at gunpoint one year ago - the crime that put him in jail in the first place. This is the second time in my life that I wish I owned a gun.
For a small, tight-knit town that has been for a long time one of the safest places to live in Virginia, this is unusual. Virginia Tech now has the feel of downtown Oakland, CA, where my childhood home was occasionally sprayed with bullets. Let's hope they get this guy soon and return sleepy little Blacksburg, VA back to its usual serenity.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
I found a careful reading rewarding. Darrell's work stands apart from other debunkings of ID thought in that it (1) accurately depicts the nuances of the ID movement, (2) references history and science to discredit the claims of ID, and (3) does not conflate the issues of faith an science. As far as (3) is concerned, Darrell is careful to show how Christianity stands quite apart from the claims of evolution and must be evaluated separately. Very well done.
My favorite quote:
Creationists don't know why ignorance is not honored as knowledge among the knowledgeable, and hubristically they demand that their favored brand of ignorance be given a seat at the table of science.To the YECs an IDers: before you get angry about why he might make this claim, evaluate his arguments and demonstrate where he is wrong.
Update: My apologies to Ed Darrell for calling him "Michael Martine" in the original post. I got Martine's name from the bottom of Ed's post, but apparently I did not read carefully -- Martine only created the blog template that Ed uses.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Tuesday, August 8, 2006
Janice's words in yellow. Mine in white.
I appreciate the opportunity to interact with you on this topic. Since tone is hard to read in an e-mail, let me just state at the outset that I consider this a rational discussion, not an argument.
>> Thanks for that very interesting trip into your blog and the websites. I find myself feeling sorry for "Nick", though. I was not surprised that you directed him and myself to websites to sort through endless information, most of which, you already knew, that we would not understand anyway.
It was certainly not my intent to send you to information you found unintelligible! I apologize if you found this to be the case. You asked a $50 question, and I was trying to give you a $50 answer. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that an e-mail will not change your mind, so I pointed you towards some of the resources that helped change mine. It has taken me years to wade through a stack of books and a litany of websites. I have found that this is the best way to make an informed decision, rather than dogmatically asserting allegiance to either creation or evolution without a rational basis.
>> Every person that believes in evolution, that I have asked to show me why, just points me to another website, written by another person, who believes in evolution.
Again, this is because it takes a detailed application of one's mind to come to a conclusion about the confusing array of information out there. Please do not write off my opinion just because the answer cannot be summed into a sound bite.
>> Maybe you can explain some of the main concepts, simply, for those of us who are not as "advanced " as you in this Field. I think that would be a GREAT blog for you, from your OWN words, not other people's.
OK, let me give it a shot...
>> You say that you used to be a Christian, so think back to that point and try to explain what inevitably brought you to where you are now.
... but let me state again that what I say about evolution and science is not the same as criticizing Christianity. My reasons for being an agnostic philosophically/religiously are not the same as the scientific reasons I accept evolution as the best theory to describe our origins. For now, I am only speaking about evolution, not Christianity. In the past hundred years, it has only been a recent trend, since Henry Morris' work in the 1960's, to conflate the two.
>> ... I assume that it was alot of information over the years, but if you had to explain it to a child, using just some main points that stand out, what would you say?
As I stated in the post on evidences for evolution, my process for accepting evolution had two parts. (1) I found that YEC theories are untenable. There was a period after this discovery during which I subscribed to neither YEC nor evolution. During this period I devoured much of the material listed in the post, along with much written by YEC's and intelligent design folks. (2) I found that the theory of evolution fits the evidence found in the natural world better than any other theory.
Let me create an outline. My process of discovering that YEC is untenable followed these lines of logic. Once again, I provide websites to back up the science, but what you were most interested in was my line of reasoning. The reasoning based on the evidence is my own. (Note: many of my links are from Christian sites!)
1. The earth is old
- Dendrochronology (Tree ring dating). This is one of the most accurate dating methods known. Trees only ever produce one ring per year, and those rings are affected by the environment during the years the trees were producing rings, creating markers. We can use these markers to match up environmental events in history to create a description of history back over 9,000 years. Note that the flood was to have taken place about 4500 years ago, which would have destroyed this record, and that creation was supposed to have taken place 6,000 years ago. There is already a problem. http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/dendro.html
- Varves. Varves refer to an annual deposit of either sediment (at the bottom of lakes) or rock (in mineral deposits). Only one layer (or one couplet) is deposited per year. These can be counted back 40-50,000 years when counting sediments in lakebeds. In geological deposits, we can count back millions of years. It's a simple process very similar to tree rings. We can see how varves are created today; we can count how many have been created. The interesting thing is that these deposits show that they are laid down under tranquil conditions, excluding the possibility of a flood. http://www.ibri.org/Tracts/varvetct.htm
- Ice core dating. Similar to the varves and tree rings above, we can note that layers are also added to glacial ice deposits annually. In some formations, we can count back approximately 160,000 years. This also eliminates the possibility of a recent worldwide flood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_core
- Carbon 14 dating. Without getting into detail, the half-life of Carbon 14 lets us date things back to 40,000 years with great accuracy (60,000 years with some newer methods). What is interesting is that this method can be cross calibrated with other methods to see if they both achieve the same result. For example, this has been done in conjunction with dendrochronology, sedimentary varves, and ice cores. Guess what? They agree with each other. http://www.howstuffworks.com/carbon-14.htm
- Radiometric dating. This operates on the same principle as carbon 14 dating, but since the half-lives of other radioactive elements (Uranium, Argon, Rubidium) are much longer, we can date even older things. These dates can take us back billions of years accurately. Once again, this is not just one method, and when tested against one another, they agree with each other. Scientists are not just shooting in the dark. http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html
At this point, I have named 5 categories with multiple dating techniques within each that all point to a world older than that described by young earth creationists. To believe the YECs, all of this -- supported by the sciences of physics, chemistry, and geology -- must be discarded. Not only are these methods supported by these sciences, when cross checked, they agree with one another. The world is looking pretty old.
2. Geological features are not supported by the flood.
- River channels in the geological column. This is an interesting one. There are many examples of rivers found buried in the geological column with many layers beneath them and many above. If a flood laid down all the layers, how was a river preserved in the middle of them? http://home.entouch.net/dmd/rivchan.htm
- There are lots more examples like this one of structures that cannot form during a flood. One of them is coprolites -- fossilized animal droppings. These are found in various layers throughout the geological column. According to flood theories, these must have been fossilized during a catastrophic flooding event. However, similar to the rivers, coprolites are found both on top of and underneath many layers of rock. It's hard to imagine a flood scenario that lays down many layers of rock, stops for long enough for coprolites to be created, then continues to lay down rock. http://home.entouch.net/dmd/bathroom.htm
- I name only two here; there are a multitude more.
3. Geological features point to biological change over time
- The Geological Column. Yes, it does exist, despite the protestations of creationists. This column, dated accurately by the methods listed above, tells the story of a Cambrian explosion of life over 500 million years ago, new life forms emerging over time, old life forms becoming extinct, simple life forms becoming more complex, sea life moving to land-based life, and much, much more. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/geocolumn/
When I reached this understanding, I was at a stasis point. I had realized that the YEC position is indefensible. I found the YEC protestations to this case unreasonable. None of these reasons require the assumption that evolution is true, they are all independently justified, and they all seem to tell the same story. If young-earth creationism does not fit the evidence, what does?
This is when I was finally willing to consider evolution as a potential theory to describe the origins of life on earth. For this reasoning, I will point you back to my original post, Evidences for Evolution. http://gnosos.blogspot.com/2006/07/evidences-for-evolution.html
Again, to summarize, I didn't just jump ship to support evolution in a day. Through a reasoned study I concluded (1) that YEC does not make sense and then (2) evolution fits the evidence better than any competing theory.
>> "It is impossible for those who have been once enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace." Heb 6:4-7
>> I certainly hope you "calculated" this into your equations...
Again, this response is all about evolution, not Christianity. But, since you seem to have read my thinking on religion as well, I will respond. Of course, I am aware of this passage in Hebrews. Scary stuff. For some of my thoughts on the matter, please see my post here: http://gnosos.blogspot.com/2006/03/what-am-i-freeing-myself-to.html
Janice, I have laid my thinking out before you. I would be curious if you will return the favor. How do you justify your own system of thought that includes a young earth?