Monday, August 6, 2012

“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

    It is significant that the Lord's Prayer begins with the honor and reputation of God Himself. God is the Creator and Sustainer of life, and all of creation exists for His honor and glory. Worship is the fitting response of the creature.
    The first petition of the Lord's Prayer bears a striking resemblance to the Third of the Eighteen Benedictions of the Jewish synagogue service: "Holy art thou, and revered is thy name. There is none other God besides thee. Blessed are thou, o Lord, the holy God." When we pray "Hallowed be Thy name," or "let Your name be sanctified," we are asking that God would be honored and venerated as God throughout all of creation.
    The petition is, in fact, an outright assault on secularism in all its forms. Refusal to worship God is the sin of base ingratitude. "But," an atheist might ask, "why should modern man acknowledge God at all?" One answer to that question was given by King David 3,000 years ago. In Psalm 8 he exclaims: "O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens!" (Ps. 8:1; NKJV). What prompted David to say that? "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?" (vv. 3,4). In his earlier life as a shepherd David had had the experience of gazing up at the star-studded sky, and of being struck by the sheer immensity of the universe. This, in turn, caused him to reflect on the vast disparity between God and man. If the heavens are this spectacular, how much more so must be the Creator of it all? How could it be, then, that Almighty God could take note of us?
    What David has done here, in effect, is not so much to give us a technical scientific explanation of nature as to express an aesthetic appreciation of it. Nor is he being irrational: he is looking at something that actually exists. But he is deeply moved by what he sees.
    Has science discovered anything in the last 3,000 years that in any way invalidates David's insight? Not really. If anything the more we learn and understand about the inner workings of nature the greater our appreciation of its majesty and grandeur should be. What we know now is that the universe is far larger and more complex than anything David could possibly have imagined. The scientist, for all of his research and investigation should be the most reverent and devout of all believers.
    Ah, but the atheist will say, science has shown that there is no need for the "God hypothesis." O really? Christian theism posits the existence of a First Cause Who is eternal, self-existent and omnipotent. He created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing. Atheists, on the other hand, have to argue that the universe somehow created itself. But if something does not yet exist, it has no power to do anything, let alone bring itself into existence. If Christian theism cannot explain the direct causal link in creation, neither can atheism. Christian theism at least posits a first cause; atheistic science has absolutely no first cause at all. And who is being irrational here?
    O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!


  1. Yes, Oogity Boogity is far better rational explanation... especially when you use god and grandeur to be synonyms for it. What a convincing argument against non belief!

    Good grief.

  2. It all depends on what comes first, the facts or the theory. One approach is to start with the facts -- the amazing complexity of nature -- and then reason from the facts that there must have been an Intelligent Designer. The other approach is to start with the theory (evolution) and argue that even if nature appears to be designed, it really isn't. There has to be a naturalistic explanation even if we don't know yet what it is (we are confident that science will eventually discover one). Which approach is more rational?

  3. Oh, good grief. This just gets better and better. You are profoundly ignorant of how science works, Bob.

    For example, you say One approach is to start with the facts -- the amazing complexity of nature -- and then reason from the facts that there must have been an Intelligent Designer.

    Reason from the facts? What does that mean, Bob? Well, in scientific terms it means we ask, "How can we test for this hypothesis?"

    The evangelical christian: "Oh look: complexity. Therefore Jesus."

    This is not science, Bob, nor is it reasonable. It is not 'One approach' but utter nonsense.

    Your other so-called approach is equally nonsensical: "Oh look: complexity. therefore evolution."

    This isn't science, either, Bob, and it is not reasonable.

    Which approach is more reasonable? I don't know: they're both as much nonsense as pretending an answer that includes 'Therefore Oogity Boogity' is rational.

    What is rational is to come up with an hypothesis that is at least testable. You might want to start there, Bob, although it will be hard on intellectual muscles that you have let atrophy.

  4. Someone, (I think it was a commentator on Eric MacDonald's blog) drew my attention to an article by Carol E. Cleland that originally appeared in Geology (Nov. 2001) entitled "Historical science, experimental science, and the scientific method." Dr. Cleland, who teaches Philosophy and Astrobiology at the University of Colorado, was trying to fend off criticisms from experimental scientists that "historical scientists," such as herself, cannot falsify their hypotheses, and that therefore their conclusions "resemble just-so stories." She notes "the startling number of physicists and chemists who attack the scientific status of neo-Darwinian evolution." She responds by attacking the basis of experimental science, arguing that it produces results that are no more certain than those of "historical science." It is a good discussion of the scientific method, and is a demonstration that evolution, like Intelligent Design, is a hypothesis that is NOT testable.

    1. You don't realize just how absurdly foolish is the conclusion you reach: evolution has become a theory because it successfully explains how life changes over time with all the data from reality related to how this natural process is expressed. That's why evolution is no longer an hypothesis.

      But you can dismantle the process and demonstrate how it operates by many means making the whole cohesive. That's why Tiktaalik was such a resounding success for testing evolution directly: an hypothesis was established for this transition species with specific physical traits, predictions were based on the geologic timeline when the species must have existed, a geographical location for these strata was located to examine, and the fossil was found. If that's not successful and demonstrable testing for evolution, then I don't what else can be done to satisfy those who will dismiss such resounding success as inadequate. It was spot on.

  5. If one accepts the premise of evolution, every species is a transitional form.

    1. If one accepts the fact of evolution, then you are indeed a transitional form.

      And your point is?

  6. I guess my point is this: the whole discussion about missing links is kind of pointless, because if evolution is true, the fossil record is incomplete, so that the scientist could never reconstruct a complete genealogy. There will always be new discoveries of "transitional forms" and there will always still be "missing links." What we do see in the fossil record are distinct, identifiable species, which by itself would tend to lend weight to the creationist argument. An evolutionist (I am assuming) would have to argue that evolution proceeds in fits and starts. A new species evolves, and then nothing happens for a period of time. But if evolution is supposed to be an ongoing process, with random mutations happening all the time, you would expect to see a vast continuum of transitional forms, rather than the stable species that we actually see.

    1. Missing links is the religious take on criticizing the fossil record so that for every intermediary presented, the creationist can try to make hay out of the fact that there are now TWO missing links produced!

      Evolution is all about common ancestry. Fossils provide an excellent record showing intermediate species that share common features. It is upon the features that we build our definition for differentiating species and we can show a clear march from an ancient species to a modern one. The process by which this happens can be demonstrated in a variety of ways all of which support small changes over time in response to changes in a variety of influences, such as genetic change, environmental change, energy change, and so on. All are mutually supporting. You, Bob, are an intermediary between your parents and your children. If your children have children on Mars, how reasonable is it that their progeny will begin to incorporate certain biological changes because of a different diet, different gravity, different source and composition for nutrients and energy? That's not evolution, of course, because the key feature in this agency-less process is whether or not the minor changes in reproductive fitness. That is the natural mechanism by which evolution occurs over time and this can be demonstrably shown in many, many ways... some transitions smoothly done over time, others remarkably quickly. If there were intervention at any point (other than at abiogenesis) then evidence should be available somewhere in the compendium of life to show effect for it. This is what is lacking to give respect and consideration to notions like creationism and Intelligent Design and intergalactic seeding and so forth. There is nothing but a lack of evidence for anything other than evolution by common ancestry, and in this regard there is overwhelming and mutually supporting evidence everywhere we look. It's not an equivalent issue between evolution and something else as the religious like to pretend: there is only evolution and the scientific consensus is complete not because this avenue has been chosen but because reality shows us only this.

  7. Wouldn't something like the "Cambrian Explosion" be evidence showing the effect of an intervention?
    You might also want to make a distinction between creationism and Intelligent Design. I think that it might be logically possible to believe in Intelligent Design and a form of theistic evolution at the same time, although Francis Collins doesn't seem to think so. But it is a little unclear from his presentation what role, if any, God plays in the process.
    Creationism, of course, would imply that God created each species separately.
    If we try to take a purely inductive approach to the evidence, I think that the arguments for Intelligent Design make a lot of sense, whether one conceives of it in an evolutionary or creationist sense.

    1. Bob, 70 to 80 million years of evolution in operation is not by any stretch of the imagination an intervention unless an intervention is defined to look exactly like evolution at work.

      And, yes, ID does not require a god but those who support the concept are almost entirely religiously motivated to do so. This is why we find such gems as "cdesign proponentsists" in the reworked creationist 'textbooks' offered up by Intelligent Design proponents. Although we sometimes will find religion without creationism, we never find creationism without religion.

      As far as ANY theistic evolution, we have this component of supporting creationism at some historical moment. Although many mainline denominations have agreed to support evolution and have made declarations to this effect, there comes a point where belief runs directly contrary to the scientific method. Even clever and accomplished scientists are not immune from having to reach this incompatibility, which is w2hy most accomplished scientists are forced to either reject religious claims about creationism or live with the hypocrisy of working six days a week with one method of inquiry that works and one day a week with a contrary one that doesn't.

      Although you may think ID makes sense, it doesn't do so based on evidence from reality. This shows that creationism and ID are assumptions first and foremost held in place solely by belief of the religious kind. That's why in the past couple of millennia creationism has produced no new knowledge, no new avenues of inquiry, no new applications, therapies, or technologies but presents us with an attractive but simplistic model of appearance that complex life came into being with a POOF! by some supernatural force we do not understand. The only difference between this and Intelligent Design is... well, there isn't any other than a nod that perhaps rather than a supernatural force is was some other equivalently unknown natural agent of POOF!. That's why few if any reputable biologists pay ID any mind whatsoever. It's still belief - rather than a god-of-the-gaps assumption, ID changes it to a Designer-of-the-gaps assumption.

    2. First of all, how can you use the scientific method to determine what happened hundreds of millions of years ago? Can you test your hypothesis under controlled conditions? Even if you could prove that evolution is theoretically possible, how could you prove that it actually happened?
      Secondly, assuming that you could prove what happened in, let's say, the Cambrian period, what useful knowledge could you possibly gain thereby? What new knowledge, new applications, therapies or technologies has evolution provided us?
      I was struck by a comment by J.D.Bernal, hardly a friend of American Fundamentalism. He said "However, the effect of Darwinism on science was not an altogether happy one. It certainly did raise a great interest in biology and drew many people into it. But at the same time the emphasis that Darwin's theory gave to the simple tracing of evolutionary relationships between organisms and the building of elaborate family trees distracted naturalists from the study of the actual lives and inner workings of animals and plants." (Science in History, Vol. 2, pp.644-645).
      I was recently impressed by the difficulty of drawing conclusions from the bare physical evidence by trying to understand the geology of my own local area (The Allegheny Plateau in the Appalachian Basin). I wanted to know what lies beneath my feet, and what conclusion can we draw about the region's past. What I found out, of course, is that the area was once under water, that there are many different layers of sedimentary rock (the one that everyone is interested in is the Marcellus Shale, about a mile underground), the the local topography is marked by several parallel synclines and anticlines, and that the nearby mountains were apparently formed by folding. But when I read the different accounts I got different explanations of what happened. For example, it seems evident from the composition of the different sedimentary layers that the water level of the sea rose and fell over time. But what caused this? One explanation is that the sea level itself periodically rose and fell, possibly through climate change. But others suggest that it was the floor of the sea that rose and fell, possibly through geological changes. Then there is the question of what caused the synclines and anticlines. One earlier geologist suggested that as the primeval earth cooled it shank, causing the earth's surface to shrivel in the process. The more modern theory, I gather, is that the Appalachian mountains were created by folding, which was the result of a lateral force (tectonic plate activity) striking North America from the southeast. The bare physical evidence, it appears, is susceptible to different interpretations.
      Intelligent Design, like Darwinism, attempts to reason inductively from the evidence. Isn't the only reason it is not "science" is because it is not atheistic?

    3. Bob, it appears by the angle of your question that you have been misled by others (probably with a religious agenda) to understand the term 'science' to be an empirical result from a lab experiment. By pretending that this - and only this - is 'science', those who wish to make belief equivalent (or 'another' way of knowing) find it easier to argue their case.

      But you're smarter than that. You know that science means a method of inquiry. No matter what your hypothesis about reality may be, this method allows you a means to inquire honestly by turning to reality and finding out if the evidence supports or detracts from the hypothesis. If enough support mitigates the detractions, then the hypothesis gains traction in the scientific community. It is a very rare occurrence for an hypothesis to withstand every challenge, to successfully account for all the evidence in every facet as it appears in reality, to align seamlessly with every other (and often a strikingly different) avenue of inquiry, and to be demonstrable in a variety of ways and means. All this evolution has accomplished.

      And yet here you are attempting to suggest that the scientific jury has some significant and meaningful members absent, that consensus has not been reached, that perhaps that is some equivalent explanation that competes, that we still have some measure of reasonable doubt to apply, that the method has produced an explanation that somehow fails to address those few outliers and other unaccountable data that avoids fitting into the theory. None of this is true regarding evolution. It is as established a fact as we as a species has ever produced. To doubt this is to doubt all knowledge is to doubt the method that produced not just it but all applications, technologies, and therapies that work for everyone everywhere all the time.

  8. The questions you have about specific conclusions regarding your local geology and geography are not equivalent. Just because geology has these kinds of local debates doesn't mean the billions of dollars invested by mining and resource companies based on our understanding of geology is somehow uncertain to yield direct benefits, that the science is too 'iffy' to really set stock in, that geologists in fact disagree with each other over the central and fundamental aspects of their shared field. No. They don't. They agree with each other over 99% of all of the forces that shape geology but bicker over how each might be expressed in local details. And this understanding works in reality to produce the kind of knowledge that yields practical applications, therapies, and technologies that work for everyone everywhere all the time.

    The Appalachians are old bones of the earth that have been reshaped many times by tectonic activity. Like entering a hotel room once the scene of a murder but cleaned repeatedly and redecorated and refurnished many times over, the original evidence is difficult to isolate from the intervening 'noise' of later events, which makes coming up with a timeline agreeable to all difficult. But that doesn't mean the documented murder didn't take place. In the same way, the tectonic documentation of the Appalachian history is everywhere as well as ongoing. And it's cohesive enough to explain why we have the formations today we have, enough to trust - for example - submarine navigation and anti-submarine defenses to this knowledge. It works all the time for everyone everywhere (and explains why the rock formations of Newfoundland are the same age and composition and strata with the same fossils as North East Africa. The Atlantic has not always been there and the young mountains of the mid Atlantic rift produce perfect mirror flows on each side stretching from Africa to Newfoundland. Your neck to the woods has been 'scrunched' at least twice (like the re-cleaned, re-decorated hotel room) so it's difficult to know exactly what happened when. But these differences of opinions by geologists don't cast any doubt on plate tectonics as an explanation for geological formations.

    Intelligent Design does not draw deductions from reality other than pointing out that things look complex but assumes that complex things need a Designer (Blessed be His Name). But reality offers us comprehensive evidence how this complexity is an emergent property of evolution, meaning common ancestry by natural selection. Any proponent of ID only has to produce evidence contrary to this process to gain merit. So far, all attempts have failed to do so. Irreducible complexity, the mainstay of ID, has been repeatedly shown by reality to be a false conclusion in every example brought forward by ID advocates. These results have nothing whatsoever to do with atheism or religious belief; reality arbitrates. But what is frustrating is for the advocates of ID to pretend reality is insufficient to judge their religious claims made about it! This would be equivalent to geologists blaming companies for daring to dig where their beliefs tell them exists minerals and other natural resources bu, when examined in reality, are not present. Eventually people should quite rightly doubt the geologists who are shown by reality to be consistently wrong in their so-called 'inductive' conclusions. Blaming atheists for reality's failure to support religious belief shows the depth of confusion otherwise intelligent people are willing to make in the name of keeping their beliefs empowered.

  9. First of all, how can you use the scientific method to determine what happened hundreds of millions of years ago?

    Oh Bob.
    If you really want to know, pick up a book on science. Science is the study of reality.
    Scientists study what happened millions and millions of year ago all the time. You reap the benefits of such study. That's why there is petrol in your car. Think about it.

    Intelligent Design, like Darwinism, attempts to reason inductively from the evidence. Isn't the only reason it is not "science" is because it is not atheistic?

    "Intelligent Design" is useless. It's not productive.
    There's not a single experiment or test or dirty test-tube with the label "Intelligent Design" on it.
    Remember that hypothetical scientist from your church surrounded by pots of money, sitting quietly by himself in a lab?
    You couldn't think up a single bit of work for him to do in the name of "Intelligent Design".
    He's still twiddling his thumbs, whistling a tuneless tune.

    Modern biology is fruitful. It gives us stuff. Valuable stuff. The foundation of modern biology is the Theory of Evolution.
    Scientists don't support Evolution just to annoy you.
    They support it because it helps them do real work.

    "Intelligent Design" is just an empty buzzword. It's worthless.
    There's no work.

  10. In case you missed them, you may want to take a look at the reviews I did of Sam Harris' book "The Moral Landscape" (7/9,7/11, and 7/13) and the one by Francis Collins,("The Language of God," 7/17,7/18, and 7/20).

  11. In case you missed them, you may want to take a look at the the comments I made on your reviews of Sam Harris' book "The Moral Landscape" (7/9,7/11, and 7/13) and the one by Francis Collins,("The Language of God," 7/17,7/18, and 7/20).

    The scientist still sits in his lab, twiddling his thumbs.
    "Intelligent Design" is just an empty buzzword. It's worthless.
    There's no work.