Friday, June 20, 2014

Why Many Scientists are Atheists

Read the following comments in light of the Reasonable Faith podcast HERE, and secondarily this video podcast Here.

 A common comment made by atheists is that the majority of the highest intelligent people in the world are scientists, and that the majority of scientists are atheists.

Depending on who is making the comment, some of the conclusions made based on those two premises are.

- Therefore science has disproven the existence of God, or
- That the evidence against the existence of God is persuasive, or
- That the evidence for the existence of God is unpersuasive, or
- That science has made God's existence highly unlikely, or
- Therefore people can model their opinions on the "God question" based on the opinions of such highly intelligent scientists who are atheists, or
- Therefore belief in God is unreasonable

In response to these types of conclusions William Lane Craig has noted in THIS PODCAST the following in response to the movie The Unbelievers:

-In a survey of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2009, they found that 51% of scientists believe in "God" compared to 41% who do not. So, the majority of scientists did express belief in "God" according to the Pew survey.

Craig might be referring to the survey discussed in the article HERE. The article states, "Indeed, the survey shows that scientists are roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power." So, Craig's use of the word "God/god" refers to some "higher power" and not necessarily a personal God. This result is obviously limited to American scientists and does not include all scientists in the entire world internationally. I suspect the percentages of scientists who are "believers" in some higher power would be much less. Nevertheless, the American survey explodes the common opinion that the overwhelming majority of scientists are atheists.

- Craig continues by saying that the survey reveals that when you compare the percentages that believe in "God" to the percentages from 100 years ago [again in America and not worldwide], you find virtually no change. That back in 1914 there was a survey conducted by the psychologist James Leuba of 1,000 U.S. scientists on their views on God and Leuba found that the scientific community was evenly divided. With 42% believing in a personal God and 42% not believing in a personal God.

- Craig continues by pointing out that the survey demonstrates that the percentages of belief in "God" varies widely depending on the field. For example biologists are much less likely to believe in God than chemists, which is probably a result of the whole Creation vs. Evolution controversy and the sort of self-selection that goes on in the hiring of persons who are biology teachers in American universities.

[[  I would add an example. Atheists like to point out that the majority of scientists at the National Academy of Sciences are atheists. However, I read somewhere that members are elected by existing members. If that's the case (as this link suggests), then it's no wonder that the majority are atheists. Obviously, atheistic members will tend to nominate and elect fellow atheistic scientists to become new members. As the link says, there is no application process since new members are unilaterally elected. Quote, "Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations."  ]]

- Craig goes on to given examples of top scientists who are believers in "God."

For example:

George Ellis of the university of Cape Town. Craig says that Ellis was described to him by another astrophysicist as "...the person in the world who knows more about cosmology than any other person alive today."

Christopher Isham is a quantum cosmologist in England who has been described as Britain's leading quantum cosmologist. Craig described him as a "Christian".

Francisco Ayala is one of the most eminent and well known evolutionary biologists in the world and he's a Catholic (former Dominican priest).

Allan Sandage was one of the world's greatest astronomers who recently passed away (in Nov. 2010) was a "Christian." In his later life Sandage became a Christian and wrote essays on the subject of religion and science.

Francis Collins the head of the human genome project is a "Christian."

- Craig goes on to point out that when further investigation takes place, it's often the case that the unbelief of atheistic scientists isn't the result of their scientific studies. Rather they often came to their field of study already as unbelievers. Often as teenagers they were atheists prior to their entering into their selected field of science. This has been clearly demonstrated by the Rice University sociologist Dr. Elaine Ecklund in a series of surveys that she did at 21 major research universities between 2005 and 2008. Her research shows that most scientists who are unbelievers do not become irreligious as a consequence of their science.

[["In fact, for the majority of scientists I interviewed, it is not the engagement with science itself that leads them away from religion. Rather their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experience with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable."- Dr. Elaine Ecklund; Rice University sociologist who conducted research from 2005-2008. Her investigation resulted in the 2012 book Science vs. Religion – What Scientists Really Think]]

- Craig concludes that the disproportionally high percentage of non-believers among scientists as compared to the general population is the result of self-selection. Unbelievers (or the irreligious) are  more likely to become scientists in the first place as opposed to religious believers who will often go into things like theology, New Testament Studies, philosophy, comparative religion or other fields of expertise.

- Regarding the movie The Unbelievers, Craig goes on to say that what he finds so ironic is that, "Here are [Richard] Dawkins and [Lawrence M.] Krauss extolling and celebrating science, and yet they themselves are so unscientific when it comes to examining the roots of the unbelief of scientists."

See also: The bell curve of atheism by Steve Hays

 The following are my specific comments.

It's true that highly intelligent people enter the sciences. But they also enter other fields as well. People enter fields they are more comfortable in or have strengths in. Sometimes scientists can be socially awkward. That's not to say that all scientists are socially awkward. However, it might be the case that those who are socially awkward are drawn toward science more than other fields precisely because it often requires less inter-personal interaction. It also might be the case that science isn't as appealing to socially outgoing personalities precisely because it's understood that entering such fields will result in less inter-personal interaction and they would find that personally boring. This selection effect therefore concentrates and increases the percentages of scientists who are socially awkward.

The stereotype that scientists are often socially awkward might have some justification, otherwise it wouldn't be so common. Also, being socially awkward may itself have a negative effect on having a personal relationship with God. That is, apart from God's grace (whether it be prevenient grace as Arminians believe or efficacious grace as Calvinists believe).

People's strengths can often also be the source of their greatest weaknesses. Which can lead to their downfall. For example, data minded people can miss the forest for the trees. Artistic people might miss the spiritually emblematic character of Nature and reality because of its immediacy. Highly intelligent people can be so self-sufficient and proud that they can deceiving themselves into rashly concluding that they therefore don't need and never needed God. When, upon further reflection, it might have been God Himself who gave them the intellectual (and other possible) advantages that they had which enabled them to eventually succeed. Also, sometimes the greater the intelligence, the greater ability to rationalize one's belief or disbelief.

It's also likely the case that many (if not most) atheistic scientists are totally ignorant about the evidence and arguments for God's existence. Such that they are not in a position to make declarations on it or make recommendations as if they were experts on the topic. It's not their area of expertise. This is demonstrated by how poorly scientists have done in debate with William Lane Craig on the issue of the existence of God. Asking scientists about God can sometimes be analogous to asking Hollywood actors their views on politics. Only a small handful of actors and actresses actually know anything about politics, history, governments, economics et cetera.

The following is taken from comments I made at another Christian blog HERE. I've edited and added to the original comments slightly. Read them in light of the fact that I wrote my comments with a mostly Christian audience in mind.

1. Since the popularity of Darwinism in the late 19th century, academia has tended to be atheistic (especially in the sciences). So, it's no wonder that when classes are taught with an atheistic spin by atheistic professors, that impressionable and admiring students tend to convert to atheism if they weren't atheists already. If they were atheists, then their beliefs end up being reenforced and solidified.

Darwinism became popular because of inferences and interpretations made of scientific data that was discovered in the 19th century. But such atheistic interpretations wouldn't have been as easily accepted if they knew back then the scientific data now being uncovered in the 21st century (think of the whole Intelligent Design movement and how it's challenging Neo-Darwinism).

2. Given what the Bible says about our natural sinfulness and aversion to God, is it any wonder that intelligent and self-sufficient (from a human perspective) people tend to deny the existence of God when they sinfully refuse to see all the subtle ways God has blessed them and given them success? There's a self-reinforcing ignorance and blindness going on. Deep in their hearts they don't want to see God's providential handiwork and so they blind themselves further so that they will continue not to see it. That coupled with how methodological naturalism and the autonomous sinful man's desire of mastering his environment (through physics, chemistry and other natural sciences) perfectly meshes to create self-consciously professing and asserting atheists and metaphysical naturalists. We humans have a natural tendency to want to take God's place and have His powers and prerogatives.

3. If unconditional election is true (as Augustinianism and Calvinism teach), then God tended to elect a greater percentage of those who would not be as naturally gifted in Common Grace blessings (which include high intelligence) as others. In which case, those who are highly intelligent will tend not to be among those who are regenerate in this world. Compare the Biblical passages of 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Matt. 11:25-27; Luke 5:31-32.

4. It might well be the case that people with more well rounded intelligence and/or certain personality types tend to go into fields outside of science (e.g. business, finance, law, leadership positions, politics, public relations type fields etc.) because they have abilities that people who tend to go into science tend not to have. For example, people skills; leadership skills; adaptability to changing environments, circumstances and data; communication skills et cetera. Whereas, some people who prefer the safety of fixed data (or at least generally stable theories), of controlled environments, of abstract thinking and procedural thinking (and technical processes) tend to enter scientific fields. The fact that there are different kinds of intelligence and different areas of intelligence lessens the force of the (probably true) claim that the most "intelligent" people in the world are scientists.

5. We also have to consider the fact that the distribution of atheists in the various scientific fields isn't uniform. While certain scientific fields tend to be filled with atheists, others will be more open to "a higher power", or deism, or theism or even Christian theism. It's not surprising that biologists, anthropologists, paleontologists tend to be atheistic. But microbiologists (for example) are more open to the possibility of intelligent design than the former list of scientific fields because of the amazing complexity and apparent design in their own field. Similarly, I've heard Hugh Ross say a number of times that there are many Christians in the astrophysicist community because of many instances of the apparent manifestation of the anthropic principle they often find in nature (and especially in their own field).

6. The sad and ironic thing of highly intelligent people becoming atheists is that the very thing that makes them especially reflective of the Image of God is the very thing that they use to distance themselves from the God who gave them such intellectual blessings. So that the more God has given to them, the more they want to live ungratefully and unthankfully. Rather than acknowledging the source of their (literally) god-like (because God given) powers. When I think of the many geniuses and prodigies who have existed in times past and present and their amazing abilities, I can't help but be confirmed in my belief in the existence of God. These are people with amazing (seemingly supernatural) mathematical skills, memories, musical talents, etc.

Here's a List of Child Prodigies

Some Quotes from Scientists
(taken from my blog HERE)

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
- Professor Richard Lewontin (one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology)
[ Source HERE or HERE [source]

Charles Darwin died the 19th of April 1882. In 1879 John Fordyce wrote asking if Charles Darwin believed in God, and if theism and evolution were compatible. Darwin replied "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist." In the same letter Darwin wrote, "But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind." Darwin wrote his reply letter May 7th 1879, only a few years before his death.

The intelligence bell curve of atheists as rated by Steve Hays:

The bell curve of atheism by Steve Hays

See also my blog:

Book Reviews of Recent Atheist Authors by Christian Apologists

Evidence and Arguments Against Materialism and Naturalism

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Role of Tradition in the Church

This blog is in response to C. Michael Patton's informative article titled, "Five Views of Tradition’s Role in the Christian Life."

The comments box seems to be moderated and I suspect my comments won't be approved. So, I'm posting my comments here.

Patton listed 5 different views concerning Tradition:

1. Dual-source theory
2. Prima Scriptura
3. Regula Fidei
4. Sola Scriptura
5. Solo Scriptura or Nuda Scriptura

In my comments I added 6 more logical possibilities, numbering them 1-6. I'll post my comments exactly as I did in the combox but continue the sequential numbering in double brackets.

I like the list, but it's missing some other possible options.

1. [[6.]]
What of an Evangelical continuationist view (e.g. Charismatic) position that affirms Scripture as the sole infallible rule of faith but also affirms the continuation of the charismatic gifts including the revelatory gifts? But which nevertheless believes that no revelation after the closing of the canon and before the return of Christ is on par with inspired and inerrant Scripture (i.e. during the interadventual period). Public infallible revelation that can bind the Christian's conscience ceased with either the death of the last apostle or the writing of the last canonical book (whichever occurred last). However, private revelations that cannot bind the conscience of a Christian does still occur. Such revelations must be tested by, be consistent with, and not contradict Scripture. In such a position, past tradition exists (e.g. the church fathers) as well new traditions being formed due to practices influenced by private revelations. [This is my view]

2. [[7.]]
A non-Evangelical continuationist view that believes that revelation on par with Scripture still occurs (and can therefore theoretically expand written Scripture). Like the above, such a position can include past, developing and future traditions. An example would be that of Mormonism which claims living prophets who can give new revelation. Mormonism also has addition books (The book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants).

3. [[8.]]
A continuationist view that affirms the usefulness of Scripture and Tradition but finds present revelations superior to both. An example would be that of some of the early non-Anabaptist wing of the Radical Reformation.

4. [[9.]]
A view that claims to be Christian but rejects Scripture and Tradition as obsolete.

There's also the possibility of a view that's selective regarding Scripture and Tradition like the Marcionites.

5. [[10.]]
Those that are selective and cessationistic; and

6. [[11.]]
those that are seletive and continuationist

Friday, June 13, 2014

William Lane Craig Apologetics Sampler

Belief in God as Properly Basic - William Lane Craig

Kalam Cosmological Argument - Part 1 - William Lane Craig

Teleological Argument - Part 1 - William Lane Craig

Contingency Argument for God - Part 1 - William Lane Craig

The Ontological Argument - Part 1 - William Lane Craig

Moral Argument For God - Part 1 - William Lane Craig

Divine Hiddenness - William Lane Craig

The Euthyphro Dilemma - William Lane Craig

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Definitions of Chance

The word and concept(s) of "chance" is something that often crops up in apologetical, theological and philosophical discussions. For example, discussions regarding evolution, intelligent design, predestination, free will, providence, superstition, mythology, quantum mechanics etc. Unfortunately, the word is often used imprecisely and equivocally. That's because the word "chance" can refer to different concepts and their different meanings are used interchangeably in discussions (often resulting in the fallacy of equivocation).

So, for the sake of clearer and more productive discussions, here are some rough and ready definitions.

Chance is one of those words that has different meanings in different contexts. Here are SEVEN common ways the term is used (there are probably many more).

1. Chance can refer to our ignorance due to (seemingly) random events (to finite minds). For example, we talk about how a flipped coin ends up landing heads or tails "because of" chance (or "by chance"). "Chance" here has no metaphysical existence. It's a description of or reference to our ignorance of the conditions of a certain situation. In flipping a coin we never know the exact amount of spin given to the coin, the distance to the floor, the height of flipping, how air pressure/wind/humidity (etc) affects the flipping and landing of the coin. The same goes for randomly shuffled cards. There's only a limited number of ways in which they can be arranged. Even if we can't predict which way because of limited knowledge or limited mental calculating ability. The key word is "ignorance."

2. Related to the above, "chance" can refer to randomness. For example, after randomly shuffling cards we might say that whatever card ends up being on top was a result of or "by chance".  The key words is "randomness."

3. "Chance" can refer to mathematical probabilities. For example, when we speak about the "chances" of a coin landing heads or tales being 50/50. The statistical probability does not affect the outcome even though some people might think that it does or can.

4. "Chance" sometimes refers to an interesting coincidence. For example, you can try to call someone at the same time he is attempting to call you. As a result both of you may talk about how it was "by chance" you both decided to call each other. Or how "by chance" you met each other at the dentist's office even though neither of you had planned on it. This usage is related to the concept of serendipity. Which Wikipedia defines as a '"fortuitous happenstance" or "pleasant surprise".'

5. "Chance" can refer to metaphysically contingent events (including "freak events"). That is, events that have no metaphysical and/or epistemic (rational) cause or reason. For example, if a horse were to pop into existence instantaneously without any physical or metaphysical cause. Christians reject metaphysically contingent events because of our doctrine of providence.

6. "Chance" can refer to something that actually has power to do something. "Chance" in this case is a power or entity that can determine things (sometimes called luck, fortune, destiny etc). As if it has some metaphysical existence of its own and power or force to affect events in reality. So for example, some people attribute their meeting and finding their spouse to "chance" in the same way others would refer to fate, destiny or fortune. Another example is how people talk about "Lady Luck" when it comes to gambling or a winning streak. Christians reject this superstitious notion of "chance." However, Christians do believe in providentially appointed events.

7. "Chance" can sometimes be associated with the Three Fates of mythology (cf. Moirai or Parcae).

As noted above, these different senses of the word "chance" is often mixed up, confounded and muddled in conversation. Both between different people and when a single person is speaking about a particular topic. The first four senses are compatible with Christianity, but the last three are incompatible with Christianity.

Here's an EXCELLENT book on the topic of Chance and God's Sovereignty by Vern Poythress. Amazingly it's freely available online!!!!!!!

Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events (PDF) by Vern Poythress. 

Related  Blogs:

Three Kinds of Providence

Distinctions in God's Will from a Calvinist Perspective [ My Five Distinctions]

On the Accuracy of Luke's Census

A well known apparent error in the Bible that skeptics have often pointed out is the issue of the historicity of Luke's record of a census while Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2).

The following are some links to resources that will help Christians deal with the problem.

Some Triablogue links:

Luke's Census by Jason Engwer (all six parts)

Is Luke's Census Historical? by Jason Engwer

Resources On Luke's Census by Jason Engwer

Richard Bauckham On The Historicity Of Luke's Census And Luke 2:22-24 by Jason Engwer

Luke's Census Didn't Involve Ancestry by Jason Engwer

Jared Compton On Luke's Census by Jason Engwer

Out of our census by Jason Engwer

Paul Tobin Vs. Richard Carrier On Luke's Census by Jason Engwer

Recent Apologetics on the Nativity

The liberal tug-of-war by Steve Hays

Quirinius and the gunfight at O.K. Corral by Steve Hays

The hidden contradictions of Ehrman by Steve Hays

The lowdown on the census of Quirinius

Understanding And Arguing For Luke's Census Account

There are more resources at Triablogue, but the above are a sample.

Recommendations on doing a website search.

Other links:

Once More: Quirinius's Census by Jared M. Compton

On Quirinius' Census by Darrell Bock

Josephus Misdated the Census of Quirinius by John H. Rhoads

Luke, Quirinius, and the Census by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Luke 2:2 and the Census by Stephen C. Carlson

A “most prominent” census: Carlson vs. Carrier

Luke, Quirinius, and the Census

Unbelievable? Is Luke’s Description of Quirinius Historically Inaccurate?

Controversial researcher Ernest L. Martin addressed the census in his book The Star of Bethlehem: The Star That Astonished the World.
Here's a link to Chapter 12

While I'm no longer a Roman Catholic, Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis wrote:

"Thanks to the work of Hugues de Nanteuil, we have found that the modern critics are wrong. Little known (or advertised by modern scholars) is that Josephus had two different dates for the death of Herod, and the interpretation of the source containing 4 B.C. is highly debatable. In Herod’s [sic] other work, he says Herod died in 7 or 8 BC."

If it's true that Josephus had two different dates for the death of Herod, then it would be a matter of fact that Josephus got it wrong at least once. Which also means Josephus could have gotten it wrong twice. Conversely, this also means that Luke could have gotten it right. In which case, skeptics put too much weight on this apparent Biblical error whenever they argue against Biblical Inerrancy. Unfortunately, Sungenis didn't give any more information in his reference to the work of Hugues de Nanteuil.

Michael Heiser lists some recent scholarly reasons why Herod may have died 1 BCE in an article here:

Heiser's two main sources in defense of a 1 BCE death of Herod are:
1. Herodian Chronology by Ormond Edwards,
from the Palestine Exploration Quarterly, volume 114, 1982 - Issue 1

2. When Did Herod the Great Reign? by Andrew E. Steinmann,
from Novum Testamentum 51 (2009) 1-29

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context?

Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context? by Craig Keener

See also Steve Hays interaction in the comments section of his blog HERE. Steve does a great job explaining how the New Testament authors legitimately quoted the Old Testament.

I also wrote the following comments in Steve's blog:
This might help or hurt. According to some Messianic Jews there are:

Four categories of quotations in the New Testment of the Old Testament. Using a common Jewish hermeneutical approach called Pardes/PaRDeS.

Arnold Fruchtenbaum argues [in his article
How the New Testament Quotes the Old Testament] the following four ways.

Literal Prophecy Plus Literal Fulfillment: Pshat
The first category is known as “literal prophecy plus literal fulfillment,” reflecting the rabbinic pshat, which refers to the simple meaning of the text. The example of this first category is found in Matthew 2:5 6.

Literal Plus Typical: Remez
The second category of quotations can be labeled “literal plus typical.” In rabbinic theology it was known are remez or “hint.” An example of this category is found in Matthew 2:15.

Literal Plus Application: Drash
The third category is “literal plus application,” correlating with the rabbinic drash. The example of this category is Matthew 2:17 18.

Summation: Sod
The fourth category is “summation” or “summary.” The meaning of sod is “secret” or “mystery” or “something unknown.” The example of the fourth category is found in Matthew 2:23.

(cf. this article
A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Hebrew Bible)

Typology And Simplistic Skepticism by Steve Hays

The Nature Of Biblical Prophecy Fulfillment by Jason Engwer

I would also recommend Michael L. Brown's five volume work Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus. Since I possess all five volumes, I can definitely say that Brown answers all the major objections to Jesus as the prophesied Messiah in the Old Testament. See also my related blog:

What Do You Think About The Messiah?

Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23 and the Virgin Birth

More Links:

How the New Testament Quotes the Old Testament  by Arnold Fruchtenbaum

Here is a link to Arnold Fruchtenbaum's 21 part lecture series on The Life of the Messiah (now titled "The Jewish Life of Christ")

Fruchtenbaum explains PaRDeS in audio lecture #3.

Lecture 1Lecture 2 Lecture 3 Lecture 4 Lecture 5 Lecture 6 Lecture 7
Lecture 8 Lecture 9 Lecture 10 Lecture 11 Lecture 12 Lecture 13 Lecture 14
Lecture 15 Lecture 16 Lecture 17 Lecture 18 Lecture 19 Lecture 20 Lecture 21

A Look at Messianic Prophecy: Four Ways the New Testament Authors Use the Hebrew Bible