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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Evolution

    Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by Elgin Hushbeck

    At a recent lunch with some co-workers a friend shared a picture he thought was funny.  The picture was of the sign for a Christadelphian Meeting Room, which in addition to the name and meeting time also had an area for a short message that could be changed. The message in the picture was “Evolution is a Lie.”  What he found humorous was that taped to the sign was a paper that said, “If you have evidence to disprove evolution… then write it down, get it peer reviewed & collect your Nobel prize.”

    Regardless of any possible humorous value, this picture does highlight a number problems with this entire issue.   The first point is that it is always easy to poke fun at the fringe and the Christadelphian Church is clearly on the fringe.  Not only do they reject evolution, they reject most of teachings that have defined Christianity for 2000 years.

    Their claim that evolution is a lie is at best hyperbole, and more likely simply absurd.   Regardless of what you think about evolution, it is not a lie.  A lie is something said with the intent to deceive. The core of a lie is deception not truthfulness.  In fact, it is possible to lie while only saying things that are true, if they are said in such a way as to mislead.

    Few if any supporting evolution do so because they know that evolution is false, and they are just trying to deceive people into thinking it was true.  They believe evolution to be true and that is why they defend it. Evolution can be true or false, but it is not a lie.

    The paper taped to the sign is not much better, has it has several problems. Let me take them in reverse order.  Let’s assume for a second that someone did have such evidence.  Would it really be as simple as getting it peered reviewed and collecting a Nobel Prize? The history of science says no. Science, regardless of its benefits as a method to learn about the natural world, is governed by people.  As a community, scientists have beliefs and agendas that get in the way of pure objectivity.

    In my book, I cite the example of Alfred Wegener, who had a theory of Continental Displacement, what we would now call Plate Tectonics.  When he published his results rather than winning a Nobel Price he was shunned and ridiculed to the point that he could not even get a job teaching in his own country.  This was because his theory would have overturned the then current thinking on Geology.  It was only 20 years after his death that his theory ceased to be considered pseudoscience and finally came to be accepted.  Overturning evolution would be a far more massive change than that proposed by Wegener.

    That brings us to the issue of what this “supposed evidence to disprove evolution” might be.  Just how would one go about trying to disprove the theory?  Evolution is not a repeatable event that can be verified by experiments.  If one wanted to “disprove” Gravity one would need to construct an experiment which showed that the mathematical formulas that describe it break down.

    But evolution was an historical process. It attempts to describe what happened. So how would one “disprove” it? Find a difference between the theory and the evidence? That already exists.  Darwin’s theory involved small changes over long periods of time, but the fossil records shows long periods of stability marked by short periods of change, which has led to the version of evolution called punctuated equilibrium.

    This leads to the second problem, which goes to the heart of what is evolution.  I have seen a very wide variety of definitions. In short it means many things to many people. I have seen evolutionists define it so broadly as to account for all dogs, or even all canines, evolving from a single type, something even devout 7-day creationists would accept; to a godless and undirected natural process that accounts for the origin of all life.

    This later definition is probably the most accurate for the most ardent supporters. It is not tied directly to any evidence, as evidence really does not matter. The theory of evolution will simply adjust itself to include whatever the evidence is found. Given the human ability to rationalize almost anything, it is hard to conceive of anything that could not be fitted in somehow.

    After all the core of Darwin’s original theory was small changes over long periods of time.  When that was not supported by the evidence, the evidence was simply incorporated into to the theory.  In short, Evolution can accommodate large changes or small changes; long periods of change or short periods of change. It is whatever it needs to be.  In short, it is a tautology and thus is something that cannot be disproven.

    Finally, there is an even deeper issue at play, and it is one that involves the nature of science, particularly when it comes to historical issues such as evolution that do not lend themselves to repeated testing and experimentation.  When dealing with such issues, is it the purpose of science to discover what happened, or is science limited only providing a natural explanation?  This question is at the core of the debate over the possibility of discovering intelligent design.

    The short history of research into intelligent design also shows the absurdity of the claim taped to the church’s sign.  Even scientists who accept evolution have found themselves in trouble for even considering the possibility of Intelligent Design. This is because for many, science can only consider natural explanations, and as such, any consideration of Intelligent Design is a priori unscientific.  This would be fine if it was then acknowledged that science was correspondingly biased, but strangely few skeptics will acknowledge that point.

    The real irony in all this is that within the Christian community, evolution is a matter of open debate.  There are Christians who accept evolution, Christians who do not, and some in the middle.  One is free to look at the evidence and reach their own conclusion.  Within the scientific community, evolution is a belief that can only be questioned at serious risk to one’s career, where even the research into the possibility of Intelligent Design is strongly opposed and condemned.  Yet somehow it is the Christians who are closed minded because they consider more than one option.

    A Review of Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great – Summary

    Saturday, February 21st, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

    The following is an outline of my review of Christopher Hitchens’, “God is not Great

    Part I – Chapter One
    The definition of Atheism. Do “the faithful” commit more crimes? Are atheist dogmatic?

    Part II – Chapter One
    the “four irreducible objections to religious faith.”  Religion and sex

    Part III – Chapter One.
    Do believers claim to know everything?  “essential knowledge”

    Part IV – Chapter One
    Are we evil, or just partly rational?  What is ‘reason.’ Worldviews.  Reason and the existence of God.

    Part V – Chapter One
     The core weaknesses of atheism: rational evil.  Eugenics and Social Darwinism.

    Part VI – Chapter One
    the “Secular injunction” in Philippians 4:8  Truth, Justice, Lovely, Pure, and Virtue.

     Part VII- Chapter Two
    Why aren’t believers happy?  Christians who interfere in the lives of others? Charitable giving.

    Part VIII – Chapter Two.
    Hitchens and Dennis Prager.   Northern Ireland.

    Part IX – Chapter Three.
    Jews, Muslim and Pork.  Do prohibitions grow out of repressed desire? Being Holy.

    Part X – Chapter Four.
    Religion and Health.  Conspiracy theories. the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc or false cause.

    Part XI – Chapter Four.
    Cardinal Alfonso Lopez de Trujillo and condoms, and the politicization of science.

    Part XII – Chapter Four.
    Religion and Medicine, The fallacy of Hasty Generalization, the Black death. The germ theory of disease. 

    Part XIII – Chapter Five
    The Metaphysical claims of Religion. Atheist’s demand for proof. Religion vs. the behavioral sciences.

    Part XIV – Chapter Five
    The secularization of society.  The fallacies of appeal to the people and appeal to misplaced authority. Ockham’s razor.  Do we need God to explain the universe? probable arguments. deductive logic and inductive logic.

    Part XV – Chapter Six
    Hitchens distorted view of religion. Religion and Superstition.  Miracles, evil, and the problem of evil.

    Part XVI – Chapter Six
    Arguments from design. Paley. Hitchens argument concerning death and the universe.  Design and purpose.

    Part XVII – Chapter Six
    Specific arguments for Design.  Myths used to support evolution. evolution is unfalsifiable.

    Part XVIII – Chapter Seven
    The Old Testament.  Hitchens view of revelation. The Ten Commandments. Slavery. stoning of children for disobedience

    Part XIX – Chapter Eight
    The New Testament. “if English was good enough for Jesus…”  The flat earth.  Biblical scholarship.  Dating the New Testament.

    Part XX – Chapter Eight
    Reliability of the Gospels, Liberal Scholarship. Two major Errors of Hitchens.  The “other gospels.”  Virgin birth. Bart Ehrman.

    Note:  I skipped chapter Nine as it dealt with the Koran.

    Part XXI – Chapter Ten 
    Miracles.  Hume. The resurrection. The nature of miracles.  Freewill.  Proof and evidence.

    Part XXII – Chapter Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen    
    Chapter 10: The lost of belief.  
    Chapter 11:  The origin of religion. The Melanesian “cargo cult” Marjoe Gortner. Mormonism. Chapter 12:  The end of religion
    Chapter 13: Does religion make people better? Martin Luther King.  Abolition.   

    Part XXIII – Chapter Thirteen   
    Who is a Christian. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Hitchens refutes the majority of his  own book.

    Part XXIV – Chapter Thirteen   
    Are atheist immoral? The foundations of morality. Marriage.   

    Note:  I skipped Chapter Fourteen as it deals with eastern religions.

    Part XXV – Chapter Fifteen
    Is Religion Immoral? Presenting a false picture of the world to the innocent and the credulous. doctrine of blood sacrifice. Atonement.  Anti-Semitism. Corporate Guilt.

    Part XXVI – Chapter Fifteen
    Atonement. religious laws that are impossible to obey.

    Part XXVII – Chapter Sixteen
    Is religion child abuse. Abortion.  Evolution myths. Eugenics. Circumcision.

    Part XXVIII – Chapter Seventeen
    Atheists and the evils of the 20th century.  The definition of religion. “the totalitarian mind-set.”

    Part XXIX – Chapter Seventeen
    Hitchens attempts to link 20th century evils to religion. Christians who risked their lives to save others.  Fascism and Christianity.

    Part XXX – Chapter Seventeen
    The problem with focusing on the evil in others.  

    Part XXXI – Chapter Eighteen
    The Resistance of the Rational.  Galileo. Socrates. Gibbon. The Fall of Rome.

    Part XXXII – Chapter Nineteen
    A New Enlightenment.  Lessing. Faith and Reason. Worldviews.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XXIX

    Friday, January 23rd, 2009 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    I am continuing in my extended review of  Christopher Hitchens book “God Is Not Great,” and his defense of atheism in chapter 17.  As I pointed out last time, given how he has attempted to attack religion in the first sixteen chapters, this is pretty much a no win situation for Hitchens, as he has put himself into a box he cannot now escape.  Still that does not deter him from trying, and what follows is a highly selective view of history, in which he attempts to justify his claim that these secular regime, hostile to at least traditional religions and boasting of their scientific foundations, were in fact actually religious rather than secular. 

    Much of Hitchens’ supporting evidence is inconsistent and is at best little better than “grand conspiracy theory ” type thinking that attempts to find the sinister hand of religion pulling the string behind these otherwise  benign atheist fronts.  But some of the problems that run throughout this chapter can be seen in a couple of revealing quotes.  On page 241, Hitchens acknowledges that “Many Christians gave their lives to protect their fellow creatures in this midnight of the century, but the chances that they did so on orders from any priesthood is statistically almost negligible.” 

    This sentence alone is would be enough to fatally damage Hitchens claim. He attempts to write off these Christians who died to protect others, not to mention the many others who likewise risked their lives without dying,  as acting “in accordance only with the dictates of conscience,” hoping thereby to exclude the influence of religion upon their actions. But does religion consist solely of following the orders of a priesthood? 

    It is just a fact that many Popes throughout history have condemned persecution of the Jews by Christians, and that within Christian Europe , the further a Jew lived from Rome, and thus the influence of the Church, the more they were at risk from persecution. This does not absolve Christianity from guilt when it comes to the persecution of the Jews, nor should it.  But if Christians acting in direct contradiction to the dictates from the Rome, can still be seen as religious in their persecution of the  Jews in the Middle Ages, how can Christians risking their lives to save Jews in the 20th century, be seen as secular, simply because they were nor explicitly ordered to do so by a priesthood?  The double standard implicit in Hitchens’ argument is staggering.

    Ultimately, Hitchens’ argument ignores the role of religion in shaping one’s conscience, and one’s sense of duty to our fellow creatures.  Are we really to believe that these Christians who risked their lives to save others, did so completely independent of Biblical teaching such as Lev19:6’s, command not to stand idly by the blood of your  neighbor,  or Jesus’ teaching concerning the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

    And of course, in a nice little sleight of hand,  Hitchens deftly diverts attention away from just whom these fellow creatures needed to be protected from. So what we have here is Christians  risking, and in some cases sacrificing, their lives to save their fellow human being from atheist regimes that sought their extermination, and Hitchens wants us to conclude from this that atheism is free from blame and that religion was actually the culprit.  Talk about turning things upside down.

    From here Hitchens further attempts to make his case by claiming that “those who invoke ‘secular Tyranny in contrast to religion are hoping that we will forget two things: the connection between the Christian churches and fascism, and the capitulation of the churches to National Socialism.” (pg 242)

    This is a classic example of a seemingly devastating point that is really quite meaningless.  Fascism, in the mid-1930s was a large an popular movement with many supporters even in the United States.  Given the size and popularity of  Fascism and number of Christians in Europe, it is hardly surprising that there were some connection between some Christians and Fascism, and in fact there were some Christians who were strong supporters of the fascists. But that hardly makes fascism a religious movement or Christianity responsible.  To put this in perspective it is also a fact the same could be said about Jews, but would anyone seriously claim that Fascism was therefore a Jewish movement?

    The simple fact is that if you look the major leaders of fascism, and communism for that matter, they were atheists who were seeking to apply the principles of science to the governing of society. The intellectual roots of these movements were solidly grounded, not in religion, but in the dialectic materialism of Karl Marx, the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, and philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, particularly on the death of God as an idea that should have any influence us. These leaders, both political and intellectual, saw religion at best as merely a tool to be exploited to achieve their aims, and at worst a competitor to be eliminated.

    As for the capitulation of the churches, this sadly is true, and it is a major mark against the church that it did not do more to resist such evil. But however bad the churches failure, and it was bad, it was still a failure of omission.  Thus Hitchens argument is in reality that the Christians, not atheist are responsible, because the Christians did not do enough to stop the atheists.   A very strange argument indeed.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XVII

    Friday, October 3rd, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    Continuing in chapter six of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” I come to his discussion of the specific arguments for design.  Again there is a great deal of hyperbole and ridicule that one must wade through, and given the subject matter, a great deal of it is somewhat ironic.  Hitchens attempts to claim that it is theists that have been forced into this argument “with great reluctance,” and that atheists “have to improve our minds by the laborious exercise of refuting the latest foolishness contrived by the faithful. (pg 80-81)

    Hitchens would do to well to seriously read Jonathan Wells’ book Icons of Evolution in which Wells exposes a number of not only foolish arguments, but distortions, errors and in many cases outright fraud that has been and continues to be used to defend evolution.  The many examples documented by Wells are not obscure pieces of evidence, but well known and commonly cited examples,  such as that evolution is mirrored in the development of an embryo, or the Pepper moths that changed from white to dark because of pollution, both of which are in fraud category.   Yet, despite the fact some of these have been known to be false for decades, and in the case of the embryos for over a century,  these and the other examples in the book were still being used in standard biology textbooks at least as late as 1998.

    Nor is this simply a problem of the past. Hitchens, himself falls victim to one more recent examples is this string of myths used to support evolution, a supposed computer model that proved the evolution of the eye.  The simple fact is that there was no such program, nor, more importantly, could there be, at least any time soon, for reasons we will come to in a moment.

    In Hitchens defense, apparently he was relying on Richard Dawkins here who popularized this error.  Once the error was pointed out, atheists were quick to claim that Dawkins was only partially in error, for he was referring to a mathematical model develop by Nilsson and Pelger which he merely confused as a computer program.

    The differences between the study and a computer program aside, the problem with Nilsson and Pelger’s paper as a proof for evolution is the same that would plague any computer model; it is based on a whole series of assumptions which go to the core of the theory of evolution. If you accept all of the assumptions, that is, if you already accept evolution, then the paper will make a plausible case. But in the end, the conclusion of the paper is only as valid as the assumptions that are behind it.  It can at best only say how the eye might have evolved if all the assumptions were correct. It is hardly a proof of evolution as Hitchens was falsely led to believe.

    Unfortunately this is how much of evolution is defended. Pieces of information are distorted, expanded, or in some cases even created, and then strung together as so called proofs of evolution.  Anyone who dares questions this alleged evidence is ridiculed, attacked and rejected.  If they persist and expose the error, then we are told the error really doesn’t matter anyway.

    To further compound his problem, one of the points Hitchens makes against design, apparently unbeknownst to him,  is a major problem for evolution.  Hitchens quite correctly states that, “a theory that is unfalsifiable is to that extent a weak one.” (pg 81)   

    The problem of Hitchens is that evolution is unfalsifiable for two reasons.  The first is that it depend heavily on imagination.  A great deal, if not the vast majority, of what we think of as evolution, is not based on what we actually know happened, but on what scientist imagine might have happened.  Since we have a great capacity for imagination, evolution has a rich texture of what might have been, especially given how little we really know about the prehistoric past.

    Hitchens might object to this by claiming that evolution is science, and therefore must pass peer review and conform to the evidence. But modern science is not the open-minded investigation atheists like to claim. It is a narrow-mind and oppressive system that will severely punish any who question the current orthodoxy, as Pamela Winnick shows in her book A Jealous God.  One of the quickest ways to lose funding for your research, your job, and your livelihood is to raise a question about evolution.

    As for the evidence, there is in reality very little, and more importantly any potential problems are brushed aside with the claim that future research will resolve them. Even worst is the often used argument that we are here therefore evolution must have happened. The bottom line is that evolution is unfalsifiable.

    Sure if you interpret all evidence to fit your theory, let your imagination fill in any blanks, strenuously ignore any problems, and suppress any criticism so that only believers of evolution, or at least those who will not voice any doubts, can be considered scientists, then evolution will seem to be firmly established.  And yet, despite this the evidence for design grows stronger, not weaker, the more we know.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    Hitchens – God Is Not Great XVI

    Friday, September 26th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    Continuing in chapter six of Christopher Hitchens’ book “God Is Not Great,” Hitchens finally comes to the subject of the chapter: Arguments from design. He starts with the famous argument of William Paley about finding a watch on a beach. While we may not know who or what made the watch, its complexity and construction shows that it was not produced by natural forces, but was designed and made by some intelligence for some purpose.

    Hitchens links in the first part of the chapter where he pointed to the tendency of some to attribute whatever is good to God and everything else to something other source, by claiming that believers only attribute to design what appears to be a good design.  Since not everything can be attributed to good design, we are wrong to attribute anything to it. However such an all-or-nothing argument really makes no  sense. To see why, consider for the moment that Paley’s mythical beachcomber had found the watch next to a plain old rock. According to Hitchens’ reasoning, since it does not appear that the rock was designed, there is no reason to conclude the watch was designed either.

    Hitchens quickly moves on to talked about design in living things, which he of course then explains away by the atheistic catch all of evolution, ridiculing the very notion of creation.  One of the things about Hitchens, is that he makes what seem to him to be brilliant and unanswerable points, but which are really just slanted statements about which the only thing that is really puzzling is that he would actually consider them arguments in the first place.

    Consider the following example.  When talking about death, Hitchens writes, “This of course raises the uncomfortable (for believers) idea of the built-in fault that no repairman can fix.  Should this be counted as part of the “design” as well?”   And just in case, it is not clear enough to the reader how brilliantly stunning this argument is, Hitchens then adds, “(As usual, those who take the credit for the one will fall silent and start shuffling when it comes to the other side of the ledger.)” (p 79)

    Hitchens may call it shuffling, but I certainly see no reason to be silent on this.  If other Christians are silent, it probably more for puzzlement that anyone would see in this as a difficulty much less an argument against Christianity. In fact, the Bible it pretty clear on this point. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death,”  and Hebrews 9:27 says “people are destined to die.”   Psalm 90 tells us that “We live for 70 years, or 80 years if we’re healthy” (ISV) Sure death is unpleasant, but it does seem to be built into to our present state. 

    This is what make Hitchens’ smug argument that design must be false, because we have  a “built-in fault that no repairman can fix” to be so puzzling.  This is not a problem for Christianity, this a key teaching; though Christians would clarify this as no mere human repairman can fix, as that it can be fixed, that we can live forever, also a key teaching of Christianity.

    This raises another key issue. Whenever arguing against a position, to be truly successful one must argue against the totality of the position, not some idealized subset.  Most atheists, including Hitchens here, address the issue of God as a designer, isolated from the rest of Christian teaching. In short they completely ignore that no longer live in the first two chapters of Genesis, where God created the world and it was good. We live in the fallen world of the rest of the Bible. Sin corrupted not only humanity but the rest of creation as well (Roman 8:18-22). Exactly how the rest of creation was affected is not stated in the Bible. But it is a part of the teaching of the Bible, and cannot be ignored when considering questions of design in the universe. 

    From this puzzling argument, Hitchens goes to yet an even more puzzling argument. He writes, “when it comes to the whirling, howling, wilderness of outer space, with its red giants and white dwarfs and black holes, it titanic explosions and extinctions, we can only dimly and shiveringly conclude that the ‘design’ hasn’t been imposed quite yet.” (pg 79-80).

    The only thing that would leave me speechless about such an argument is the utter ignorance of the natural laws that govern this and the evidence of design they show. Hitchens cites as additional evidence that the other planets in our solar system can’t support life and that our sun “is getting ready to explode.” (pg 80), as if these were somehow arguments against design.  The problem is that a key aspect of design is purpose. A watch may be more carefully designed than a hammer, but if you need something to drive a nail, the a watch is probably unless.   That the other planets can’t support life says nothing about their design, unless God wanted them to support life. That the sun will no longer support life in the distance future says nothing about design unless God needed it to support life in the distance future.

    So Hitchens’ macro arguments come to nothing. But having silenced the opposition in his own mind on these macro issues, Hitchens then proceeds to the micro arguments, which is where I will pick up next time.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact. �

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XIV

    Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In this part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I will continue my look at Dawkins’ speculations on the roots of morality.  Dawkins rejection of God and acceptance of evolution forces him to find an evolutionary basis of morality.  He admits that “On the face of it, the Darwinian idea that evolution is driven by natural selection seems ill-suited to explain such goodness as we possess, or our feelings of morality, decency, empathy, and pity… Isn’t goodness incompatible with the theory of the ‘selfish gene’?” (pg 214-5)

    Dawkins’ goes on to argue that the idea that it is, is a misunderstanding and the evolution is not incompatible with goodness.  There are two main problems with Dawkins argument. The first is that it is really very selective and theoretical and amounts to little more than special pleading.  The second is that while Dawkins’ see evolution’s ability to account for goodness as a strength, and yet another reason we do not need religion, the special pleading nature of the argument is in reality an indication of a much deeper problem: that as put forward by those like Dawkins it is a tautology . 

    In logic a tautology is an argument that is always valid. While this sounds like a good thing, the problem with tautologies can been seen in the following example; it will either rain or not rain tomorrow.  Now this statement will always be valid, regardless of location or weather.  But while always valid, it tells us nothing about whether or not we will need an umbrella. In short it really tells us nothing at all.

    What Dawkins explanation really reveals is that evolution is a huge complex tautology.  It can explain anything the evolutionist needs it to explain.  Soon after Darwin, the theory began to be applied to societies to justify why some people were better off than others, in Social Darwinism.  It then became the basis of Eugenics, which effectively argued for selective breeding of people, to produce better people, much the way we selectively breed animals.  This culminated in Hitler’s belief in a master race, and the elimination of impure bloodlines. 

    Following WWII, this was all rejected, and rightly so, as immoral. While we continued to selectively breed animals, people were off limits.  Yet Dawkins now argues that he can explain an almost opposite morality also based on evolution.  What this means is that evolution can explain either view. Just like the statement it will either rain or not rain tells us nothing about the weather, evolution tells us nothing about morality. It only tells us about the ability to speculate to a particular goal on the part of the scientist.

    The problem with the particular answer Dawkins gives is that he cites a number of “good Darwinian reasons for individuals to be altruistic, generous, or ‘moral’ towards each other.” (pg 219) Yet those pushing Social Darwinism, or Eugenics in the 1920s and 30s also had many good Darwinian reasons as well. So a clear question become why Dawkins’ Darwinian reasons should be preferred to these other Darwinian reasons. For most people this is pretty easy to determine as history has shown that the Darwinian reasons for Eugenics leads to some pretty immoral things.  But since Dawkins is arguing for the basis for morality, he cannot use morality to make such a choice without falling victim to circular reasoning.  Which leaves him with special pleading; his reasons are better than the reasons that led to eugenics because they give him the answer he is seeking.

    Yet even if Dawkins were correct, and our sense of morality is what it is because of evolutionary pressures to survive, it still would not follow that this is what morality should be in the twenty-first century.  Dawkins acknowledges this when he says that “those rules still influence us today, even where circumstances make them inappropriate to their original function.” (p 222) In short, even if Dawkins’ is correct concerning his view of the evolutionary basis for morality, that says nothing about what morality should be today.  In fact the only thing Dawkins would have succeeded in doing it arguing that morality is at best a residue of the evolutionary process, and there is no reason it should hold any automatic power over our actions.

    In fact the only principle left would really be “might makes right.”  Whoever has the power, would determine right and wrong.  Of course the problem here is that had Dawkins view been accepted earlier, for example before much of the progress in civil and human rights over the last couple of hundred years, there would have been no reason to make those changes, and they very likely would never have happened. 

    The belief in human rights is grounded in the belief that we are all created in the image of God, and what God has given, no one can arbitrarily take away, not even the king.  The anti-slavery movement was not grounded in Darwinian reasons, but in religious belief, in particular in the belief that slaves were men with rights.  Luckily those views became well entrenched before Darwin put forth his theory, as I am not at all sure that had the ideas of evolution become entrenched first, whether an anti-slavery movement could have ever taken root.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.  

    A Review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion Part XIII

    Friday, January 4th, 2008 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In the last part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I discussed Dawkin’s speculations on the origin of religion.  In Chapter six Dawkins continues his speculations or the Roots of morality with all the same faults and some new ones.  I looked forward to this chapter with great interest, as not only is Morality a key issue in life, it is also behind one of the arguments for the existence of God.

    Thus I was disappointed, thought hardly surprised, when Dawkins began with what at best can be considered a strawman argument.  He says “many religious people find it hard to imagine how, without religion, one can be good, or would even want to be good.” (pg 211)  Since “many” is a somewhat vague term when talking about the vast majority of the world’s population, Dawkins’ statement is undoubtedly true in some sense.  Still, it really misses the key issue of the origin of morality.  As I wrote in my book Christianity and Secularism, concerning this subject, “this does not mean that only people who believe in God are moral. A person can be an atheist and still be a very moral person, and a person who does a tremendous amount of good.  The real question is where do morals come from?”(pg 179)

    But before moving to that question I would like to address some comments Dawkins makes concerning a letter that claimed that evolution was by blind chance, atheism was nihilistic, and if true would mean that life was without meaning. Dawkins objects saying “for the umpteenth time, natural selection is the very opposite of a chance process.” (pg 214)

    Here Dawkins equivocates a bit. Equivocation is using the same word or phrase with different meanings.  Dawkins is correct in that evolution is not a chance process, in the sense that it is governed by natural laws, and the forces that govern evolution are constantly selecting the most likely to survive, weeding out the rest. So when talking about evolution as a process, it is a process with a goal. But chance does play a role, as it is by chance that certain features appear so that the process can either select or reject them. 

    However, if instead of talking about the process of evolution, we consider the occurrence of evolution or the result of evolution, chance plays a huge and even dominant role. Evolution does not teach that human being appeared because evolution purposed for them to appear, they appeared by chance.  In fact, the more science studies origin of the world and the condition needed for intelligent life, the more they must fall back on chance to explain why we are here.  So Dawkins’ rebuttal depends on a narrow and somewhat different meaning for evolution.  Thus the equivocation. 

    Dawkins then goes on to point to his book “Unweaving the Rainbow” to argue that atheism does not mean a meaningless nihilistic existence.  Again there is some equivocation here. Dawkins is correct in the sense that we can find meaning in anything.  Parents often find meaning in their children. People can find meaning in their work, or in their hobbies, or in helping others. The can find meaning in supporting their favorite sports teams, or perhaps in Dawkins case in science.  So in this sense Dawkins is correct. 

    But this is a very subjective and narrow type of meaning.  The real question is whether not there is anything more than this. If the Sun were to explode tomorrow, and all life on earth wiped out, the planet broken in small pieces, would any of this have meaning? The answer from evolution must be no. Whether you had been a Stalin murdering millions, or a Mother Theresa who had devoted your life to helping the poor, a world class athlete or a couch potato, a Christian or an atheist, would make no difference at all. All would irrelevant and without meaning.

    The simple fact is that meaning requires an intellect, a though process that can judge value.   To have a meaning beyond ourselves requires a thought process beyond us. To have an ultimate type of meaning requires an ultimate type of thought process.  In short, it requires a God.

    Now the atheist can argue that this is all there is. There is no meaning beyond the meaning we give to things. They can even argue that we should give some meaning to certain things.  But they can’t legitimately complain when Christians they charge that their view says there is no ultimate meaning.

    A similar confusion, lies behind the charge that atheist can’t be good, though in Dawkins defense it is a common error. If one believes that morality comes from God, then absence of God, would then be an absence of morality. Many falsely assume that this mean immoral, but it doesn’t.   An absence of morality would be amoral, not immoral.  Atheists, because they reject God as source for morality, are not automatically immoral; they are free to pick whatever morality that suits them.  Many adopt large parts of the morality of the society in which they are raised, which in the western world is a morality that has been strongly shaped by Christianity. 

    But this freedom to choose the good, also means they are free to choose the bad. This is why the foundation of morality is so important, and why atheists even though they may be themselves moral, have a major problem in this area.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part XII

    Friday, December 21st, 2007 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    In this part of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I come to the chapter where Dawkins discusses the roots of religion. These next two chapters, this on the origin of Religion and the next on the origin of Morality both suffer from a problem that is common not just to atheist, or even to science but to everyone: the freedom of speculation, in absence of evidence.

    This is quite visible when Dawkins discusses the habit of some birds to bath in ant nests, which is called anting.  Dawkins says “Nobody is sure what the benefit of anting is… but uncertainty as to the details doesn’t – nor should it – stop Darwinians from presuming, with great confidence, that anting must be ‘for’ something.” (pg 164) 

    While not an entirely unwarranted conclusion, it clearly does not derive from the evidence, for by Dawkins own admission, no one knows what it is for. Instead it derives from Dawkins’ faith in Darwinian evolution.  His faith in evolution, is part of his world view, and shapes and in some cases determines the conclusions he reaches, particularly in those areas where there are gaps in his knowledge.

    Again there is nothing unusual about this.  We all do it. Christians have certain beliefs about the universe and God, and when we come to things that are unknown, we attempt to fill in the gaps the best we can based on how we see the world.  There is no problem for Christianity here as many Christians realize this, and acknowledge the role that faith plays.  The problem is that most atheists are very critical of Christians for relying on faith, not realizing that they are doing the same thing.

    The reliance of faith is likewise behind Dawkins belief that there must be some evolutionary benefit to religion.  This claim is a natural outgrowth of his rejection of God and the supernatural; and his faith in evolution.  Dawkins is not reaching this as a conclusion of his study of religion; it is his starting point for understanding of religion. 

    In short, he starts with a huge bias that will permit only certain types of answers.  Sure, anyone who likewise rejects religion and accepts evolution, might find his explain, that religion is a by-product of the evolution of memes; the cultural equivalents to biological genes, acceptable.  However, Dawkins is hardly driven to that conclusion by the evidence. 

    This leads to yet another problem, for there is really very little evidence for Dawkins claims about the origin of religion, and most of what there is comes from other areas of science that also have an a priori rejection of the supernatural.  Now when dealing with physics and chemistry, an a priori rejection of the supernatural, is not much of an issue. But when dealing areas such a psychology, it does become a factor, and when dealing with the psychology of religious belief, becomes key.

    In short, this chapter basically boils down to biased speculation.  It cannot be taken as an argument against religion, and to his credit Dawkins does not really try to do this.  If he did, he would immediately fall into the fallacy of circular reasoning, as the ending premise and starting premise would both be: religion is false.  Instead, Dawkins is trying to clear up some questions that follow from his main argument discussed early, that the God does not exist.

    Still his arguments in this chapter seems to be more than just a dispassionate analysis of the possible origins of religion once it is accepted that God does not exist. Dawkins seems driven to defend his hostility to religion. He admits that this puts him in a quandary for if religion is so negative, how can it be the evolutionary benefit it must be to exist in the Darwinian worldview.

    But it is not much of a quandary.  Freed from constrains of facts and evidence, for there is very little in this area, Dawkins is pretty much free to speculate anything he wants, limited only by his own imagination, and naturalistic bias.

    Such speculation is routinely condemned by atheists when theist engage in it, but the label of science puts a veneer of respectability on Dawkins speculations, as if labeling them as science somehow magically gives them some sort of special standing above other more ordinary speculations.  Since they are ‘science,’ they are more readily accepted into the mental framework and then become the basis upon which other speculations will be judged.

    While Christians realize that they have faith in the Biblical accounts and that they are speculating in some cases where we do not really know, most atheists do not realize that they do the same things.  Most of them really have no idea of how much speculation and faith underpins that which they believe.

    Actually Dawkins summed up the situation pretty well in his first sentence of the chapter, when he said “Everyone has their own pet theory of where religion comes from and why all human cultures have it.” (pg 163)  If you exclude a belief in God and sin up front, then one theory for religion is as good as another. Dawkins should have just left it at that.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part XI

    Friday, November 9th, 2007 by Elgin Hushbeck

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    Nov 9, 2007, Wausau, Wi   Last time in my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I looked at the flaws in the first three point of what Dawkins calls “the central argument of my book.”  Again, he summarizes this argument in the following six points:

    1 – The appearance of design is one of the greatest challenges to the human intellect.

    2 – The temptation is to attribute design to a designer.

    3 – The designer hypothesis is false because it does not explain who designed the designer. 

    4 – Evolution, the best explanation so far, shows that design at least for biology is an illusion.

    5 – Since in evolution, apparent design is an illusion, it could be an illusion in other areas such as physics.

    6 – We should not give up hope of finding better explanations elsewhere and the weak explanations we do have are better than the explanations that rely on God.

    When we come to point four, that evolution shows that design in biology is an illusion; this of course assumes that not only is evolution a valid theory for the origin of new life forms and biological structures, but that it is a completely explanation.

    Space here does not permit a discussion of all the problems with evolutionary theory, and in any event, these are well discussed elsewhere. So I will just mention two points that cast serious doubt on Dawkins argument. The first is that the problems with evolutionary theory have not decreased over the years, as our understanding has grown, but rather have increased to the point that, as I discuss in my book Evidence for the Bible, even the definition of evolution itself is now unclear, as supporters keep shifting the definition to avoid these problems, frequently in contradictory ways. 

    The second is that, contrary to the claims of evolutionists like Dawkins, evolution is not questioned simply for theological reasons, and not are all of those who question it are even theists. In fact, evolutionists have increasingly had to resort to the suppression of differing views, in order to maintain their dominance, as the evidence contrary to evolution and in support of intelligent design has grown.  In short, the claim that evolution has shown design to be false is simply untrue despite how much evolutionist like Dawkins might want to believe in it.

    Point five, which claims that the apparent design in areas other than biology might also be an illusion, correspondingly falls apart. Yet even if this was not the case, point 5 would still have a huge problem as it is fallacious. It simply does not follow that even if evolution shows design to be an illusion in biology, that it was therefore an illusion elsewhere.  This would be like claiming that just because some apparent suicides turn out to be murder, all apparent suicides could be murder, and therefore we can reject the concept of suicide itself.

    This brings us to last point. It can hardly be called a conclusion.  Rather it is a plea to “not give up hope.”(158)  I must commend Dawkins for his honesty.  Most atheists strongly deny that hope, and it counterpart faith, play any role in their thinking, and in fact are highly critical of theists when they express hope or faith.  But at least theists do not confuse expressions of hope, with logical arguments that make opposing views untenable.

    Dawkins’ does acknowledges that there are problems in the view he defends, but see hope in an old argument frequently employed by atheists.  Chance + enough tries = certainty.  Such reasoning has another name: The Gambler’s fallacy, and the error of such reasoning can be clearly seen in the lavish displays of wealth in such places as Las Vegas.

    Based on Dawkins estimates, where concerning the number of planets he even knocks off a few zeros “for reasons of ordinary prudence”, and where he assumes that life is a one in a billion chance, there would still be billion planet with life, and ours would only be one of them.

    This is at least better that Carl Sagan’s famous estimate of billons and billons of planets.  Yet like Sagan’s it is seriously flawed. Sagan only considered a few of the factors needed for life. Far more rigorous looks at these numbers have shown that if all of them are considered the chance of having even one planet in the entire universe that would support life, are less than 1 in 100, odds that even Dawkins says are to be laughed at. And this is just for a planet that could support life. It does not begin explain how life itself could start. The odds against life starting by chance are so incredibly huge that they are truly beyond comprehension, odds so large that even other atheists have compared them to a miracle.  (For a more complete discussion of these odds, see chapter four in Evidence for the Bible)

    So Dawkins’ hope is based on an off the cuff estimate that are not even close.  Where he estimate billions of planets with life, serious estimates of all the relevant factors show that there should not even be one planet that could support life, much less actually have life.

    So Dawkins argument has serious problems with each of his six points.  It ends with a hope that could only reasonably be called misplaced.  Rather than showing that God is untenable, the evidence points to the existence of God, and this conclusion as grown stronger over the years, not weaker, as we have learned more about life.

    This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.