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In Defense of the Scientific Method

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

I read an interesting quote by Adam Savage, of Mythbusters fame. He said the following in a Popular Mechanics podcast:

Like I said, the newspapers talking about evolution versus creationism is very much an attack on science as a type of religion—believing that the scientific method is some type of religious belief. And it’s not! That kind of attack absolutely is damaging science exploration across the whole country. I do think that’s a significant problem. And until we can get our head out of the sand and realize that science isn’t about truth…

Adam makes a couple of good points in this quote. He says that the scientific method isn’t “some type of religious belief.” He’s right, too. The scientific method is a tool. However, religious belief does factor into the scientific method.  Religious belief is the bias that inherently determines how one interprets the results of the scientific method. These results can provide support for vastly different presumptions, whether they be of supernatural creation or evolutionary naturalism.

And evolutionary naturalism is a religion, a dogma as faith based as any religion. Consider this statement that the famous evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky, quoted in The American Biology Teacher journal: “Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.”1 Or Michael Dini, the Texas Tech University professor who refused to give letters of recommendation to students who would not verbally confess the truthfulness of evolution. Which brings one to the second part of Adam’s quote.

Adam’s statement that, “science isn’t about truth,” is also correct. This doesn’t make science useless; far from it! The results of scientific endeavors have greatly benefited the quality of our lives. But scientists don’t know everything, and therefore science deals in theories, both weak and strong, but never in facts, and no matter how strong a theory is, it is always subject to change.

In summary, science and the scientific method cannot confirm the origin of life for evolutionary naturalist, and it cannot do this for creationists either. As a tool, what it can do is affirm what we already believe.

  1. “Nothing In Biology Makes Sense Except In the Light of Evolution”, The American Biology Teacher, Vol. 35, pp. 125-129 []

The Constitution and the Christian – Gun Rights

Here’s my 2 cents worth on the whole gun issue, as if there’s not enough opinion out already. I’m going to go the extra mile and annoy both sides, so read it to the end.

From a political perspective, the current broo-ha is spectacularly ill-thought out. It’s the definition of mob mentality. Politicians and activist want to ban semi-automatics like the AR-15 and other so-called “assault rifles.” But there’s no such thing as a semi-automatic assault rifle. There are assault weapons – I know because I shot at people with them – but they were never semi-automatic only. I’m convinced that the only reason these “assault rifles” are being targeted is because they look scary. That’s it. Personally, I think the AR-15 is a hobby toy that makes people feel cool. There are other legal weapons that could have been far more devastating in a club than the low power, low caliber Sig Sauer that was used in Orlando. But I guess a person looks a lot scarier with a gun that’s faux military, so ban it.

And would banning “assault weapons” fix the problem? Should we abandon this line of mitigation just because it’s not 100% effective? That’s a straw man. The real question is: At what level of ineffectiveness should we cease trying? Because we did this once already. “Assault weapons” were banned in 1994. The bill was allowed to expire in 2004 because it had no effect whatsoever.

There are middle ground areas, like putting all semi-automatic rifles under the 1934 National Firearms Act. Passed to keep mobsters from getting automatic weapons, it has strict requirement for ownership, like fingerprinting, approval of a local sheriff, registration, etc. This is more like what Canada has. Personally, I don’t think that this type of regulation will fly with the American public, though it would be worth a… ahem… shot.

And that brings us to the 2nd Amendment. The purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to provide for an armed people, in the case that if it becomes “necessary to alter or abolish” a government. I absolutely agree that an AR-15 is a terrible hunting weapon. But the 2nd Amendment has nothing to do with hunting. In fact, if keeping with spirit of the amendment, the American public is woefully under-armed compared to its government. Some may argue that the 2nd Amendment only applies to militias (though today’s National Guard is a far cry from the municipal militias of the 1770s). However, the Supreme Court ruled against this interpretation in District of Columbia v Hellar, and frankly, the amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, regardless of the reason for it. But the reason is valid. The purpose of maintaining state militias after 1788 was to protect against overreach of the U.S. federal government. That falls in line with the Declaration of Independence’s justification of rebellion against Britain, and with current interpretations for the right to own semi-automatic weapons. The 2nd Amendment is a core part of our government; included in the Bill of Rights, demanded by Patrick Henry, and strongly supported by Jefferson. A simple examination of other writings at the time of the drafting of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will strongly support this.

The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution (1787).

Ok, with all that being said, here’s my Christian viewpoint:

I think the American Revolution was an unjust war, fomented and supported by a wealthy elite who wanted to maintain the trade advantages of salutary neglect. I’m not saying that they thought of it this way, but the blood of thousands was spilt over a political position on trade. It was hardly a war of self-defense or an attempt to stop rabid aggression and destruction.

The social conditions that generally are supposed to lie behind all revolutions—poverty and economic deprivation—were not present in colonial America. There should no longer be any doubt about it: the white American colonists were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing imperial chains to throw off.

Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991)

On the other hand, there’s a chance that if we hadn’t rebelled the British could have ended slavery much sooner and with no bloodshed, as they did in their other colonies. Our rebellion and the idea that we should overthrow unjust governments by force have been the seed of much conflict in this country.

There is also no justification for rebellion in scripture. The opposite, in fact. We are to obey those who God allows to be in authority over us. “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,”1 Christ said, and “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”2 Paul wrote, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,”3 and “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”4

For a Christian, we don’t have a dog in this fight. We already know what we should do, and it doesn’t include shooting other people in a civil war. So from that perspective, it doesn’t really matter if the 2nd Amendment stands or falls. “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”5 Our constitution is the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. You may ask about self-defense, but I don’t think that the right to own a handgun is going to be an issue for a while, and even in that case, our ultimate protection is the will of God. Betsie ten Boom once said, “There are no ‘ifs’ in God’s world. No places are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety.”

So what is our calling? We are to be lights and salt. We should never excuse the sin around us, and especially not our own, but we should also follow Christ’s example of love to the lost. He told the mob, “He who is without sin cast the first stone,”6 but he told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”7
The world is only going to become more corrupt. It is the nature of man. Our time is limited, and the time of those souls without Christ is limited. Let our actions be focused on eternity without distraction.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Romans 13:11-14

  1. Mark 12:17 []
  2. Matthew 5:10 []
  3. Romans 13:1 []
  4. Romans 13:7 []
  5. Hebrews 13:14 []
  6. John 8:7 []
  7. John 8:11 []

The Only Safe Place

The recent and unexpected death of young Christian made me ponder again why “bad” things happen to believers.

It’s easy to question God’s plan in our own ignorance. The Bible clearly says, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.1” We often lack the perspective to understand what is good in God’s eyes, but we can trust him and seek to be in his purposes, not ours. There are two quotes I love on this subject. William MacDonald said, “We know that He answers every prayer in exactly the same way we would if we had His wisdom, love, and powers.”2 Betsie ten Boom, who died at the hands of Nazis in a concentration camp, told her sister Corrie,

There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – Oh Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!3

  1. Romans 8:28 []
  2. My Heart, My Life, My All, William MacDonald, 2001. Chap. 5 []
  3. The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom, 1974 []

Right Questions, Wrong Places

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Humanistic Naturalism as a Religion

Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine, November 10, 2014 – Review of the move Interstellar

It’s huge, it’s cold, it’s soulless. It’s possessed of forces that would rip you to ribbons the second you dared to step off the tiny planetary beachhead it has permitted us. What’s more, it completely defies understanding, at least for anyone who’s not fluent in the language of singularities and space-time and wormholes and all the rest. But never mind, because we believe in it all—and oh, how we love it. Big cosmology has become our secular religion, a church even atheists can join. It addresses many of the same questions religion does: Why are we here? How did it all begin? What comes next? And even if you can barely understand the answers when you get them, well, you’ve heard of a thing called faith, right? Like religion, cosmology has its high priests: Einstein and Hawking—people who, like Muhammad and Jesus, don’t even need second names. It has lesser priests as well: Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson—the great communicators. It has its storytellers too, none more powerful than those in Hollywood.

Interstellar will unavoidably help us look at the cosmos more as cathedral than void—a place to contemplate the riddles of space and time, yes, but life, death and love too. That’s explicit in the movie.

 

If ever there was a pious myth and a piece of credulous superstition, it is the liberal-rationalist belief that, a few hiccups apart, we are all steadily en route to a finer world.

“Simple morality dictates that unless and until someone can prove the unborn  human is not alive, we must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it is (alive). And, thus, it should be entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”