Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions by David Berlinkski (2009) A Book Review

Whatever else David Berlinski's Devil's Delusion may be, it's a good read. The language is lively and the metaphors crackle. Berlinksi puts the boots to the notion that science, with its methodological naturalism, "cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door" (quoting Richard Lewontin). His basic premise is that reductionist science cannot explain reality, life, or human existence at any meaningfully deep or satisfactory level. And, as long as this is true, there will be room for theistic explanations.

Berlinski adopts a polemical tone to his musings -- a tone which some may find irritating. Indeed, one cannot help but think the darwinian gods must have raised up this self-described secular Jew to be a thorn in the sides of the likes of Richard (The God Delusion) Dawkins and Christopher (God is Not Great) Hitchens.

Concerning Hitchens he writes: "When asked what he was in awe of, Christopher Hitchens responded that his definition of an educated person is that you have some idea how ignorant you are. This seems very much as if Hitchens were in awe of his own ignorance, in which case he has surely found an object worthy of his veneration." (208).

One can imagine Christopher, in response to Berlinski, seeking the darwinian gods three times to have this thorn removed from his side, with the darwinian gods responding, "your DNA is sufficient for you, now, dance!".

To give you an idea of Berlinksi's style, and the ease with which he blends scientific and philosophical thinking, I offer this:


If the universe is as scientists say it is, then what scope remains for statements about right or wrong, good or bad? What are we to say about evil and great wickedness? Whatever statements we might make are obviously not about gluons, muons, or curved space and time. "The problem," the philosopher Simon Blackburn has written, "is one of finding room for ethics, or of placing ethics within the disenchanted, non-ethical order which we inhabit, and of which we are a part."

Blackburn is, of course, convinced that the chief task at hand in facing this question-- his chief task, in any case-- "is above all to refuse appeal to a supernatural order." It is a strategy that merits admiration for the severity of mind it expresses. It is rather as if an accomplished horseman were to decide that his chief task were to learn to ride without a horse.

End Quote.

As I worked my way through this book, the line from Job kept suggesting itself to me: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if you have understanding". Sure enough, Berlinksi quotes this verse in the context of the book's high-water mark: "The God of the gaps may now be invited to comment--strictly as an outside observer, of course. He is addressing us. And this is what He has to say: You have no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic, and social world in which you live could have ever arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles" (201).

Just so.

The Devil's Delusion: a lively, topical read, now available in paperback.

Friday, December 25, 2009

God Kissed the World on Christmas Day

To all who read or posted to this blog during 2009: Thank you, and Merry Christmas.

God has acted in history to save a world distanced from Him by sin. The incarnation is the most astonishing, breathtaking event in history. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself! His motive was love -- self-giving and infinitely costly. How can we express God's action towards us, the weak, the disinclined, the ungrateful?

Merry Christmas 2009.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

God, moral sense, and the argument from sufficient cause

Hey, you atheists out there. Want a good site to go to? Check out Atheism: Proving the Negative.

We're debating atheism and moral sense, and, so far, if the site author is to be believed, I'm losing, and losing badly -- I've got nothin'!

We now go to the debate in progress, where I am arguing from the premise of sufficient cause:

* * *

One of the principles of software engineering is that "what goes out, must have come in" i.e., there must be sufficient inputs to produce a given output.

All the closed-system of materialism has to offer us is human beings which are the product of mindless, amoral, purposeless processes (and nothing more). If I'm wrong about this first premise, let me know.

Now, humans are moral creatures. (If I'm wrong, let me know.)

What is the foundation of this moral sense? I see only two possibilities -- man himself, or nature, i.e, darwinian processes. (Wrong, let me know.)

Man himself.

The first source is man himself, with morality not being innate, but, as intelligent apes (or worms, or bacteria) being rationally determined by man as a rational creature (rationality is another problem for materialism, but let's grant it for the sake of argument.)

Morality in this view is the result of human reflection and contemplation -- and nothing more. In other words, we are not wired to be moral creatures, we overlay moral thinking upon our amoral urges.

In this view it is nothing more than a subjective overlay by humans upon more foundational realities -- i.e., that we are at essence, nothing more than stardust and water, re-mixed by an amoral, unthinking process, for no purpose.

Morality is then, at foundation, subjective. The human race may develop one set of moral constructs, an alien race another. And it would not be a question of one being right and the other wrong -- because in the closed system of materialism, morality is not intrinsic to the universe, it is some kind of overlay, and there is no external arbiter.

Indeed, different human groups or cultures could conceivably develop different moral systems, and the same problem would apply -- no outside, objective arbiter.

Now, the higher we go in moral thinking -- thinking that human beings have "value", thinking that human beings have "intrinsic worth", thinking that harming another human being is "wrong" or "evil", the higher we go in the disconnect from our origins from mindless, dead molecules -- and the more absurd and incongruous we become. Surely we deceive ourselves when we think we are worth something or have value! Our moral sense "emerges" like a vapor from the elements, but that's all it is at heart, vapor. It is grounded in nothing, ultimately.

Our moral thoughts are grounded in nothing more than utilitarian thinking -- I don't like to have pain inflicted upon me, so I won't inflict pain on others -- but this does not make inflicting pain "wrong". I feel good when I give to charity, so I'll give to charity -- but this does not make giving "good". This is not objective right and wrong, good and evil. This is just pragmatism, dressed up as right and wrong. This may get us to pragmatic advice for getting along in life, but it does not get us to objective right and wrong or good and evil. It falls short.

And, since there is no objective criteria "out there", anyone can refuse to play the game. Some people find pleasure in inflicting pain -- who's to say this is "wrong"? Who made you boss of me? Why are the conclusions of your uncreated, undesigned, purposeless brain any better than mine?

Darwinian foundations.

I prefer the view that moral sense is not just a human overlay, that it is indwelling, innate, and persistent. But this makes the problem even worse. Forget about rational foundations for morality. At least we are rational whereas the processes of nature, being mindless, are not. Now morality is rooted in nothing greater than darwinian wiring.

Darwinian processes are themselves mindless, amoral and purposeless (would you agree with that?).

If so, there is just insufficient input to take the output -- moral sense -- seriously. To trust it. To think that it actually means something. To think that it is anything more than a survival strategy (and strategy is the wrong word), it is really nothing more than a cruel burp of mindless, amoral evolution that doesn't care if we survive or not, let alone develop moral sense.


We are endued with the sense of "ought", the sense that some things are right and others wrong, much the same way that we believe there is something wrong with the notion that 2 + 2 =5 and that this belief is not just a matter of rational constructs of the human brain (view one) that 2 +2 should be 4, or feelings (view 2) that 2 +2 feels like four, but an apprehension of an objective fact objectively existing outside of subjective human sense experience which is true whether we recognize it or not.

The problem, of course, is, that in a closed-system materialistic world, there is no place for objective morality to exist outside of the molecules themselves. Unless you posit that morality somehow existed potentially in the stardust and water that begat us and is part of the fabric of the universe.

So, that is why I argue from absurdity. The materialist, in positing the objective existence of good and evil, right and wrong, cannot adequately account for it.

He can argue why we think there is right and wrong, but good and evil themselves cannot be sufficiently accounted for. And a truly scientific materialism would seek to debunk such thinking.

If moral sense is not rooted in God, but in stardust and water, it is, ultimately, rooted in nothing. (And, given the Big Bang theory of origins -- nothing is exactly what it is rooted in.)

And that is why I conclude that we have two fundamental choices: a) freedom from God and moral accountability to him coupled with admitting and accepting the absurdity of the human condition or b) God and accountability to Him, and authenticity.

This argument does not "prove" the existence of God. But it does demonstrate why rational human creatures should at least lean towards hoping that God in fact does exist.

Some might even say that leaning the other way would be a sin.

And that's the way the leaning-towards-God Ball bounces.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Oh, The Humanity!

"Obama forced to leave Global Warming summit to face massive DC snowstorm"

"Big DC snowstorm forces Pelosi to cut short her global warming trip"

Oh, the irony!

Oh, the humanity!

On the other hand, imagine how cold it would be if the planet wasn't "on fire".

And that's the way the climate Ball bounces.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oral Roberts: "Rot in Hell!"

Oral Roberts founded a university on a spectacular campus and also built a hospital (now closed). It took money to do this. And some of his fund-raising efforts were spectacularly problematic. But, he was a great man, larger than life, and did more in his lifetime than most of us could do in ten.

He's dead now, gone to meet his maker (as they say). His death brought out some strong reactions. The "not dead soon enough/rot in hell" crowd came out with a vengeance, and, as far as I can tell, most of them are atheists. So, memo to God: if you're a just God, a God who cares about humankind, our aspirations, etc., you're gonna have to create a place called hell, or there are going to be a lot of disappointed atheists out there.

When an atheist (or anybody for that matter) wishes someone he views as vile or evil in hell, he is simply wishing for justice. He wants a universe where justice is done, where a person gets "what he deserves" and, if it's not done in this life (as it never is), then, for there to be ultimate justice, in an afterlife. We all have this indwelling sense of justice/injustice. We all long to see justice done.

The gospel affirms that justice will, ultimately be done. Christ's unjust suffering and triumphant resurrection both secure and guarantee it. It's in the bag. The righteous will be raised to eternal life, the wicked, to everlasting destruction. (If there is any doubt about God's willingness to punish the wicked, Christ's death refutes it. If there's any doubt about God's intent to reward the righteous (those who trust his Son), Christ's resurrection refutes it.) There will be a great re-balancing, where "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last". It's not a matter of "if"; but "when".

This yearning for "final justice", which is pretty strong and pretty innate, is one reason why I find it odd that atheists are glad rather than sad there is (as they allege) no God. And one of the reasons I'm glad I ditched atheism for a Sure Thing.

* * *

I did an informal Google poll. The results:

Oral, "rot in hell": 1600

Oral, "now in heaven": 27,000

The "now in heaven"'s have it!

Oral, enjoy your new life. See you in a bit.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

PS -- If you've got seven minutes to spare, Oral's most famous sermon here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

That's Classy Time, Real Classy

This from Time magazine on the death of Oral Roberts: "Roberts was finally called to meet his alleged maker this week."

That's classy, Time, real classy. If you can't bring yourself to run a common expression as-is, why bother?

Makes me glad I let my Time magazine subscription lapse a few years back. I did it to save the planet.

Now, after this gratuitous and unnecessary swipe against Oral Roberts, Christianity, and belief in God in general, I can't wait for Time magazine to meet its alleged maker.

Guess that's not very charitable of me, huh?

The love that Jesus commanded is hard.

I need to speak to my Maker and Redeemer about this.

And that's the way the early-morning Ball bounces.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Atheist Quote of the Day

"Being an atheist gives me the freedom and mental strength to be comfortable with the understanding that I am no more significant than a bread crumb on my chopping board."

Bread crumb... yummm!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Over-Egging The Pudding

Egged on by AGW climate enthusiasts with visions of sugar-plums and never-ending funding dancing in their heads, compliant scientists jumped on the AGW band-wagon claim that the past several years were the hottest. Ever. Some scientists, however, were unsettled by all the settled science being slathered about. As one guy put it: "‘Let us not try to over-egg the pudding".

Well, over-egg the pudding they did. And did. And did. Turns out they've been over-egging the pudding for quite a while -- a recipe for exposure, shame, and ridicule. Now they're walking on egg shells, knowing you can't reverse-engineer a scrambled egg.

Conrad Black is said to have swindled shareholders out of millions (a charge I do not accept), and he is in jail because of it. But the scientific-political complex has already consumed billions and threaten to confiscate untold billions more. So my question is this: what kind of prison sentence do they, persons who have said that those who disagree with them should be thrown in prison, deserve?

Did they fudge? Did they dissemble? Did they cook the books?


And the proof of the pudding is in the heating.

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

Read all about it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm A Climate Mystic

Sort of Political waxes eloquent about those carbonic credits...


... based on something you can't see or touch, determined by theoretical formulas you can't comprehend, tracked through computer entries you'll never see, trading for sums of money you can't even imagine, managed by people you won't ever know.

To be're far away lands on "green" stuff you'll never hear about, and probably don't even want to think about.

Now, ask yourself...

Who wouldn't want a piece of that action?"

Well, I would for one. Because I'm earth's newest and bestest and brightest Climate Believer. I believe in Climate! I believe in Climate Justice -- my motto is "there's enough climate for everybody, so let's spread it around, just like Al Gore!".

For one thing, I'm pretty sure if you buy them, you get a bumper sticker for your car that says you, one of the virtuous ones, have bought CCs to offset the use of your car. You can toodle around town feeling virtuouser-than-thou!

And David Suzuki, my newest and bestest friend, he would want a piece of that action, as would the Great, the agreeable, the aGoreable, Goregeous One.

I'm in. I may even trade in my houseboat in order to buy carbon credits -- if I had a houseboat, which I don't.

But, I may sell my van down by the river.

30,000 Activists Cannot Be Wrong

Some people place their hope in the Return of the King, you know, the Soon Coming Prince who will judge among the nations, set things that are wrong, right, and rule in perfect justice and righteousness (while, in the minds of some, at least, driving an eco-friendly Prius between Jerusalem and the 'burbs).

Hah! Losers!

No need to wait!

I'm placing my hope in 30,000 AGW activists, who at this very moment are munching caviar, quaffing fine wines, and raising cheery glasses in generous toasts to lavish and ever increasing public funding, all the while plotting urgent and imminent strategies to force the rest of us to restrict our planet-killing CO2 footprints.

Meanwhile, let's raise 30,000 glasses to global warming -- "global warming has been good to me!"

And that's the way the left-out-in-the-cold Ball bounces.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Design Without A Designer?

1. Software upgrades contain large amounts of functional information.

2. Intelligence is the only known source of this kind of information.

3. Therefore software upgrades require intelligent programmers.

* * *

1. Living things contain within their genomes large amounts of functional information.

2. The only cause known to be capable of generating large amounts of functional information is intelligence.

3. It is therefore reasonable to infer that the functional information in living things must have an intelligent source.

Here, here! Operative words: "reasonable to infer".

The predictable darwinian response: Large gobs of information -- whole libraries of it -- formed one tiny bit at a time, by a mindless, directionless, goalless process -- a process which just "happened" into existence.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Proof That BOTH Belief in God and Skepticism are Genetic

At last -- irrefutable proof that BOTH belief in God and Skepticism are genetic.


Ya gotta put up with a 30 second commercial to get to it, but paradigm-shifting scientific breakthroughs like this are worth the wait.


Pardon Me While I Throw Up

This just in from the University of Minnesota (via Fox).

"A branch of the University of Minnesota may require all education students at the school to understand and accept that they are either privileged or oppressed..."

Some of the proposed curriculum requirements are:

• "Future teachers will be able to discuss their own histories and current thinking drawing on notions of white privilege, hegemonic masculinity, heteronormativity, and internalized oppression."

• Teachers will be able to articulate a "critical analysis of this story of America, for what it illuminates and what it hides or distorts" including:

- "myth of meritocracy in the United States"

- "historical connections between scientific racism, intelligence testing, and assumptions of fixed mental capacity"

- "alternative explanations for mobility (and lack of it)"

- "history of demands for assimilation to white, middle-class, Christian meanings and values"

- "history of white racism, with special focus on current colorblind ideology"

• "Future teachers are able to explain how institutional racism works in schools" and recognize that "schools and classrooms are often structured in ways that advantage and disadvantage some groups but are also critical sites for social and cultural transformation."

Some of the assignments students would have to complete:

"They must reveal a 'pervasive stereotype' they personally held about an identity group, and evidently must argue in a personal essay that this view has now been 'challenged' on the basis of their experiences with that identity group. So if you say, 'well, actually I don't have a pervasive stereotype' … you're probably going to get a bad grade," he said.

As for how university professors will learn to assign those grades, the report proposes "required training/workshop for all supervisors."

"Every faculty member at our university that trains our teachers must comprehend and commit to the centrality of race, class, culture, and gender issues in teaching and learning, and consequently, frame their teaching and course foci accordingly," it says.

* * *
All this sounds like some left-wing nightmare imposed on other living human beings. Not a word about anything noble or lofty like promoting the equality of all human beings -- just a giant exercise in excusing underachievement via the promotion of perpetual victimhood. Oh yeah, and the racist project of "blame the white guy".

I Categorically Deny Having An Affair With Tiger Woods

The I've-had-a-Tiger-in-my-tank confessional bandwagon is in top gear with no end in sight. At this point, it seems it would be a shorter list, and a quicker process, if those who have not had an affair with Tiger would raise their hands. So, here it is. I have never been with Tiger, and categorically deny any and all vicious rumors to the contrary.

And that's the way the golf-Ball bounces.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I Came Back With An IDCH, Not ITCH!

I Came Back With an IDCH, not ITCH!

Attending a conference, like a hike in the woods, can be an adventure -- you never know what you're going to come back with! In my case, I came back from the New Orleans Come, Let Us Reason 2009 Conference with an IDCH, not an itch -- which is a good thing!

IDCH stands for Institute for Digital Christian Heritage. They are Texas-based, and their cyberhome is www.DigitalChristianHeritage.Org. I met the Executive Director, Neal Audenaert. IDCH is all about creating a digital library reflecting our Christian heritage. They're starting with - ta-da - Christian Apologetics, what else?!

I've arranged with Dr. Timothy McGrew, a Come, Let Us Reason 2009 conference speaker, to get 40GB of classic, historical Christian apologetics material loaded onto a hard drive (a lengthy download, otherwise, eh?). This is a story in itself. All about me in Canada ordering a flash drive from China to be mailed to Dr. McGrew in the US, only to have tell me the Chinese Seller was bogus, cancelling the order, getting a PayPal refund, then buying a COSTCO Canada cash card so I could order a portable HD from COSTCO USA (since I don't have a US VISA card) and have it shipped to Dr. McGrew in Kalamazoo. Whew! But, I digress...

By January 2010, I should have 40GB of clean digital information that a person would otherwise have to root around dusty libraries in Oxford and Cambridge to get at!

Check out IDCH at www.DigitalChristianHeritage.Org. As they say, "If you have a project you think we could help with, be sure to contact us."

And that's the way the Ball bounces.

AGW Headline of the Day

"UN weather agency says decade likely warmest on record: And 2009 will probably end up as one of the warmest years."

No doubt. Operative words: "end up" -- given biased climate scientists' propensity to cook the books.

Just gonna take a bit more time... adding the fudge factor, negating the cooling, almost there... hang on a minute... got it!!!




Monday, December 07, 2009

CO2 Is Destroying The Planet!!!!

The USA EPA has declared CO2 a dangerous pollutant and threat to public health. They can get a way with this because a) CO2 is invisible, and b) some people probably confuse it with carbon monoxide.

But, why stop at CO2 -- something that is required for life itself, and is as natural as breathing? Why not ratchet up the rhetoric even further in the cause of world governance?

Goin' out on a limb, here.

The Ball Bounces predicts that, by April 1, 2010, the EPA will declare water vapor a dangerous pollutant and threat to humankind.

You heard it here first.

And that's the way the crystal Ball bounces.

The Rush To Copenhagen: Taking the Al Gore Pledge

One hundred and forty planes and one thousand two hundred limos are rushing to Copenhagen as we speak in order to save the world by imposing strict CO2 rations on the rest of us.

For the sake of this boiling planet, and the fish slaughtered to provide them with caviar wedges, let's hope they succeed!

As for me, I am doing my bit by taking the Al Gore pledge: I pledge to keep my C02 carbon emissions to a level not exceeding that of Al Gore!

And that's the way the CO2-emitting threat-to-the-planet Ball bounces.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Another One of Those Climate Justice Deniers

Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship is a pro-coal, for-profit Denier. Clearly this man is a dangerous climate-justice denier and should be jailed -- as recently suggested by Canada's answer to Al Gore, David Suzuki.

Watch the video, if you dare. Warning: this man is so far off he thinks fossil-fuel generated electricity is good for mankind.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Quote of the Day: On Michael Shermer (Skeptic)

"Shermer thinks science is a game you play where you aren’t really after the truth but just trying to explain things without God."

Review of the Meyer-Sternberg vs Shermer-Prothero debate over at
Frosty Evening:

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The White House Party Crashers

What to do? What to do?

Put the two of them in a large helium balloon, set them adrift over Colorado, while the rest of us watch, eyes glued to our TVs, to see if they make it.

The ratings will be spectacular and they'll get all the reality-TV attention they were looking for -- it's win-win!

"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"