Posted tagged ‘Christianity’

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Ham, and Nye

February 15, 2014

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What do chocolate chip cookies have to do with the recent Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate? Well, you’ll see shortly! First though, one conversation the debate stirred up among believers and unbelievers alike relates to differences between what Mr. Ham referred to as observational science and historical science. This is an important distinction, which I think becomes clearer if we refer to the two as scientific research and natural history research. Dr. Mortimer Adler described natural history research in the 1960’s. His ideas have been developed further by Dr. John K. Reed and others, and their efforts help us better understand the limitations of scientific research. More importantly, they help us see the real battle is not “science vs. religion” as some falsely claim, but Christianity vs. naturalism. Naturalism is basically the idea that nature is all there is, and there is no God who created everything.

Papers like this one describing natural history research are helpful, but complex. While thinking about an easier way to explain the differences, I realized cooking might serve as a useful explanatory tool. In what follows, I will use chocolate chip cookie recipes as an analogy to help discern between scientific research, natural history research, and futurology claims.

Scientific research: Like a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, scientific research involves developing a testable, repeatable method that others can follow AND produce similar results. A good recipe produces good cookies for everyone who follows the directions.

Example: The cadmium reduction method is a common procedure used to measure the concentration of NO3 (nitrate) in water. Nitrate is an important nutrient, but can be a pollutant when concentrations are high. If I collected a water sample from a river for nitrate analysis, I should be able to send it to any laboratory in the nation and receive similar results.

Natural History Research: This is like the scientific method in reverse. You have the cookie (the result), but you don’t have the recipe (the method). So, you decide to try and use the cookie to figure out what the recipe is. At present, a Google search for “chocolate chip cookie recipe” yields 49,600 results! Which recipe is the one used to make the batch of cookies shown above? How will you know? Well, you probably won’t know for sure, but through chemical analysis run on your cookie, plus other research including reading historical documents like cook books, you can eliminate a lot of the possible recipes.

Example: Historical documents and eyewitness accounts show Novarupta volcano’s lava dome formed in 1912, about 100 years ago. I had a sample age-dated using the Argon-Argon method, and it showed the lava dome was up to 5.5 million years old! Both methods (historical records, Ar-Ar dating) have the same material evidence, but the massive time differences result because extremely different procedures were used to interpret the data. It is also obvious that, for this example anyways, one interpretive framework, or “recipe” (historical records), is clearly better than the other. They’re not equally valid.

Futurology claims: This is like having an untested chocolate chip cookie recipe. You think it will make good cookies, but you’re not sure yet, especially since your recipe is quite a bit different from some other recipes. Some are more skeptical of your recipe than others.

Example: Confusion over what future climate will look like. Will it be warmer, cooler, or the same? The data show warming in the 80’s and early 90’s, but no warming for 17 years and 5 months now. Nevertheless, media and many scientists continue to paint a grim futuristic story involving catastrophic global warming resulting from carbon dioxide emissions linked to human activity.

The debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye was an origins debate. It was not a “Science vs. Bible” debate as some may claim. It was about how the way we view things influences our perception of reality. It was a battle between Christianity and naturalism. So, the next time you hear someone describe Christian and conservative people as “anti-science,” understand that it has nothing to do with scientific things. Christians, as Mr. Ham mentioned during the debate, are not anti-chemistry, anti-physics, anti-technology, etc! That’s irrational, but then so is unbelief, so Christians shouldn’t be surprised when unbelievers say irrational things. God has to change their heart and mind. Only then will they see more clearly.

The “anti-science” mantra is a straw man argument by dogmatic, and often bigoted individuals who want their naturalistic story of the past, present and future told, to the exclusion of other stories. Especially the story found in Scripture. Pray that God will turn the hearts of unbelievers to Him, and that they would trust His story of Creation, Fall, Redemption through Christ alone, and Restoration, which is the greatest story of all! Pray also for Christians who are confused by naturalism, and erroneously seek to find a “middle ground” between Christianity and naturalism in places where it doesn’t exist.

A Profound Theological Statement

December 30, 2013

In his new book, Rocks Aren’t Clocks, PhD geologist John K. Reed writes:

“Today’s geology assumes the truth of secular naturalism as a matter of course. That emphasizes the need to examine the philosophical and theological issues. For example, people ask if the Bible is a reliable historical source. That’s not a question of science, but it is a question that has profound implications for geology. If we answer in the negative, we have made a profound theological statement; if we answer in the affirmative, then prehistory is precluded and the atheistic geological history that most of us learned in school is false.”

So here is one man who says that we are making a profound theological statement when we ask if the Bible is a reliable historical source.  But then other Christians answer the question in a more agnostic, “I don’t know” fashion.  And still other Christians agree with the atheists, thinking that answering in the affirmative is “embarrassing.”  But, do the agnostic or “embarrassed” believers, as well as the unbelievers realize what a profound theological statement they are making? And do they realize, as Dr. Reed points out, that the earth age question is not primarily a question of science, but of history?

Should any Christian be agnostic or embarrassed about whether the Bible is a reliable historical source? Well, no. Think about the detailed genealogical records in Scripture. Those are in the Bible to remind us of God’s unbroken covenant of grace with mankind throughout history.  Beginning with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, God’s covenant of grace unfolds through history, going from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, and finally to Christ.

Also, looking at Scriptures like Romans 1:20, or Matthew 19:4, or Mark 10:6, there is no good reason to interpret those any other way except that mankind was present from Day 6 on.  Personally, I don’t know exactly how old the earth is, but it is reasonable to conclude from Scripture that it is around 6,000 years old, and mankind has been there since the beginning.

If you are a Christian who is currently “agnostic” or “embarrassed” about the earth age question, I encourage you to read Rocks Aren’t Clocks. You will quickly understand that there isn’t a science vs. Scripture battle, but there is most definitely a battle between the worldviews of Christianity and naturalism. The battle is over how to interpret history, not whether Christians are debating the existence of gravity, DNA, etc. If, on the other hand, you are an unbeliever who thinks Christianity is foolishness, then I pray that God will change your heart, because all the evidence in the world won’t save you. Jesus saves.

Evolutionists Target Texas Creationists

February 23, 2011

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

A recent article by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) expressed concern that creationists are targeting Texas science classes. The concern is over the review teams being appointed for the upcoming Texas High School Supplemental Science Materials Review, currently scheduled for June, 2011. The article included me as one of several “anti-science activists”, and even quotes some of my blog entries:

excerpt from a recent article by the Texas Freedom Network

While I appreciate the free advertising, I personally don’t think anyone who signed up to be on the science review team should be labeled “anti-science.” And if the article’s author is going to claim that a man with a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Princeton(Dr. Ide Trotter) is “anti-science”, I’m going to have a hard time believing anything else he or his organization has to say. I hope you will, too.

What I do believe though is all of us are at least a little confused about what is and isn’t science. Science is about studying things we can observe and verify. Natural history, which includes the theory of evolution, is not real science. Mortimer Adler, the famous American philosopher, described natural history as a “mixed question”, relying on inputs from other fields like history and philosophy. I would agree.

If you read some of the comments beneath the Texas Freedom Network article, there is a rather sour response by Charles, who claims that the first teacher who tries to teach “the tenets of dominion theology” in a public school is going to “end up wishing they had never been founded or born.” Wow, really?! Charles is planning on torturing Texas public school teachers, and the Texas Freedom Network supports this? Well??? As of 5/20/2011 TFN has not removed Charles’ oppressive comments. Doing something to a public school teacher that would make them wish they had never been born is about the most anti-freedom action a person or group could take against another human. Remember what I said earlier about not believing what they say? I hope that is also true for the public school teacher-torture-talk of Texas Freedom Network and its supporters.

If for some reason you agree with Charles and his oppressive views, would you please take just a minute and explore with me the “tenets of dominion theology“? We’ll start with Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), considered by most scholars as the founder of the modern scientific method. He was also a staunch supporter of the tenets of dominion theology. So what are the tenets of dominion theology? Well, the number one tenet is Christian charity. And what is Christian charity? It is service to fellow man. Love, in other words.

To summarize, “dominion theology” is about understanding God’s creation so well that we can use it to make life better for everyone and everything. Apparently, Charles is opposed to this, and he’s ready to torture any teacher who, in essence, tries to teach applied science. But why would anyone be against THAT? Why would anyone be against love? Well, let’s give Charles the benefit of the doubt and assume he is really not anti-science or anti-love, but instead is just a bit grumpy, and ignorant about what dominion theology is. Instead of picking on Charles the teacher-torturer, let’s look at someone else who we know was opposed to Christian charity. The man I am thinking about is Thomas Malthus, who in 1798 published a book called An Essay on the Principles of Population. Instead of finding innovative and creative ways to help others, Malthus thought we should send poor people to live in disease infested swamps, where they would have a better chance of getting sick and dying.  Malthus also had some ideas about population growth that were not based on any real scientific data. In other words, he made up his data. And guess who took Malthus’ ideas and made them a cornerstone of their theory? None other than Charles Darwin, who on p. 4-5 of Origin of Species said that his idea was based on “the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdom.”

Was the idea of evolution based on ideas that oppose improving life on Earth via scientific discovery? It sure looks that way.

So, are most people anti-science? No.

Is there an inseparable bond between science and Christianity? Yes, which means efforts made to separate the two are ultimately anti-science.

Is everyone, myself included, to some degree or another confused about the limits of science? Yes. And this June, hopefully all reviewers, regardless of what their faith-based beliefs about origins are, will be able to work together with humility and wisdom to give Texas public school students the best science education possible.

Will the real Francis Bacon please stand up?

January 23, 2011

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is considered by many as the founder of the scientific method, which is basically an organized way for us humans to attempt to answer questions about the Created order. A lawyer and a statesman, his greatest passion was in finding ways to improve and extend human knowledge, and this is seen in his written works like The Advancement of Learning.

Francis Bacon wrote many things. He was also accused of many things, and a brief read of Wikipedia’s Francis Bacon Page will leave any reader confused about who Bacon really was, or wasn’t.

Something that naturalists commonly credit Bacon with and creationists accuse Bacon of is encouraging the rejection of the Bible as a tool for informing scientific pursuits. This idea stems mainly from one paragraph he wrote in Novum Organum (1620), which is Latin for “New Instrument”. When describing “idols” that cause problems for proper study of natural philosophy, Bacon lists “superstition and religion” together as two culprits.  Bacon claims that, during his time:

“some moderns….have endeavored to build a system of natural Philosophy on the first chapter of Genesis, the book of Job, and other parts of Scripture; seeking thus the dead amongst the living. And this folly is the more to be prevented and restrained, because not only fantastical Philosophy but heretical Religion spring from the absurd mixing of matters-Divine and Human. It is therefore most wise soberly to render unto faith the things that are faith’s.”

Even though Bacon’s works are in English, I must admit that I feel extremely inadequate when attempting to interpret them.  And if you are anything like me, you may need to read the above passage over several times, and even then, it may still not make any sense. What I think is pretty obvious though is that Bacon is concerned with letting science (philosophy of men) interpret Scripture.  Bacon says it is wise to “render unto faith the things that are faith’s”, and warns against the “absurd mixing of matters Divine and Human.” Notice, he doesn’t say we should never mix Divine (God’s Word) and Human (scientific observations), but rather we should avoid absurd mixtures. This is basically the same thing he said 15 years earlier in Advancement of Learning, Book I:

“A man cannot be too well studied in the book of God’s word or in the book of God’s works, divinity or philosophy…..and again, that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.” [emphasis mine]

Again, Bacon did not say never mix things divine and human, just don’t unwisely mix them. That is a BIG difference, one statement leading down a shifty, sandy, secular fundamentalist road and the other leading down a solid, Biblically grounded path for interpreting past, present and future events.

So what was Bacon talking about when he mentioned “fantastical philosophy” and “heretic religion” (in Bacon’s day, “religion” meant Christianity) resulting from “absurd mixtures” of God’s word versus man’s word? It is difficult to say, but possibly one event he was referring to was Galileo’s recent problems with Catholic church leaders. In the early 1600’s, Galileo had reported, based on observations, that the Sun was at the center of our solar system. Church leaders said the Earth was at the center. Now, Joshua 10:12-13, Ecclesiastes 1:5, and Isaiah 38:8, all say the Sun “moves”, but make no mention of whether the Earth does or doesn’t. So why did Church leaders support a “geocentric” idea? Interestingly, geocentrism was proposed by Aristotle, and, even though he never made any actual observations of planetary motion like Galileo had, Church leaders accepted his unscientific claims over Galileo’s real observations.

Christian leaders made a big mistake in trying to apply Aristotle’s deductive conclusions to interpret Scriptures. The Scriptures do mention relative motion between Sun and Earth, and Church leaders should have encouraged the study of this relative motion. This would have avoided false conclusions, as well as providing an excuse for us sinful humans to reject God’s word. Church leaders could have simply said “we don’t know, we haven’t measured it, nor have we been to Space to verify either Galileo’s or Aristotle’s claims.”

In my book, The Exchange of Truth, I talk about Francis Bacon and his impact on science. Before I wrote the book, I did quite a bit of research on him. Here is a .pdf file of a 2005 presentation I gave on Bacon:

The Forgotten Message of Francis Bacon

From what I have learned, it is obvious Bacon had some flaws, just like any of us, but I came away with a different conclusion than some as to what Bacon’s agenda was. What I saw was a man who thought it was perfectly reasonable to mix science and religion. One of his foundational verses was Matthew 22:29, where Jesus informed the Sadducees “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Bacon thought men should know Scripture (God’s Word) and His power (God’s Works).  This idea permeates all of Bacon’s works.

Because I have written favorably of Bacon in Exchange of Truth, while other creationists have not, I thought I should conduct some more study into the man. To do this, I used a creation research search engine developed at Bryan College called CELD.   I typed in “Francis Bacon” and was greeted by several results. I was pleased to find some recent research published by Dr. Stephen A. McKnight from the University of Florida. In the abstract to a 2007 paper, he drew a similar conclusion to mine:

“Bacon’s program for rehabilitating humanity and its relation to nature is not a secular scientific advance through which humanity gains dominion over nature and mastery of its own destiny but rather one guided by divine Providence and achieved through pious human effort.”

McKnight has also published a book, The Religious Foundations of Francis Bacon’s Thoughts, and is a contributor to The New Atlantis, a journal of technology and society titled after one of Bacon’s most famous works.

So what do you think? Should Francis Bacon be labeled the hero of secular fundamentalists and villain of Christian creationists? I say no, but you should read Bacon and decide for yourself. My suggestion is to read Francis Bacon: The Major Works. Unless you are VERY fluent in 1600’s era English, Latin and Greek, you will find yourself flipping to the notes in the back about every other sentence. I think you may conclude, as myself and others have, that Francis Bacon saw the important connection between science and Christianity, a connection that is badly severed in the 21st century, but not impossible to repair. The Bible can inform science, and thinking of it any other way results in an “absurd mixing”.