Darwin’s Horrid Doubt

Charles Darwin argued that the species (humans among them) arose by a process of natural selection. Under this argument, an organism is a machine. It is run by genes which “desire” to reproduce themselves in the next generation. (No, genes dont really have hopes and dreams, they dont desire things. But they act as though they do. Consider Dawkins’ work. He backs this up a lot.) 

It follows (as Darwin admitted) that our lives, experiences, and subsequent actions are simply actions that aim to reproduce our genetic code. The central nervous system, advanced though it is, therefore is nothing more than a machine designed to take stimuli and order them in such a way as to reproduce our genes. 

With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or are at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any such convictions? (Charles Darwin, Life and Letters, vol 1 written in 1881.  Interestingly this was the year before Nietzche declared that God was dead.)

This was Darwin’s horrid doubt. Under the naturalistic worldview (Darwin’s worldview), there is no reason to believe that the purpose of our CNS is to tell us accurately what is going on in the world around us, for their is no reason for us to know anything about our world. The purpose is to manipulate us into reproducing and spreading our genetic codes.  

Patricia Churchland (an influential modern philosopher who works at the University of California at San Diego) asks what the nervous system is for. She says it enables us to succeed in the four “F”s: Feeding, fighting, flighting and reproducing (sorry.). It is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Evolution guarantees – if it is successful in that organism, if that organism is naturally selected – appropriate behavior, but not true beliefs. It just makes behavior appropriate for survival.

Darwin therefore doubted that our CNS could give us a reliable picture of the world around us. There is no reason for it to do so. All it does is take stimuli and spit out responses that help us survive and reproduce.

Consider this idea with cows or fish or dogs first, and not with people.

Then consider that we humans arose the exact same way. There is no reason to believe that our reasoning or perception are reliable are any more reliable than a monkey’s.

Naturalistically, then, there is a problem with epistemology. There is no reason to believe that we can actually know anything for sure. (It follows, somewhat ironically, that there is therefore no reason to believe that we can know that natural selection, evolution, etc are true.)

This is what Alvin Plantinga calls an evolutionary argument against evolution. It is based on Darwins very own “horrid doubt” (his words).  I care little however for the way it is an argument against evolution. That is merely a small, somewhat humorous, sidenote. The real concern here is what it says about naturalistic epistemology.  But that hardly has the same ring as “an evolutionary argument against evolution.”

The Christian Worldview breaks with Darwin. It holds that we are created by God in his image, and that he gave us the ability to think and reason and perceive the world around us so that we could accurately perceive Himself and worship Him. We cannot worship what we cannot know, so God has given us a way to know.

Life and Democracy

November is just a few weeks away now, and in the United States of America, that means it’s time to vote.  I hesitate to speak directly to politics here, but the issue of the sanctity of life is so intimately linked to both the Christian Worldview and current political landscape that I can scarcely get around it.  

Is all life precious?  Is all life deserving of life?  That is a question that many are asking these days.  I beg you to consider this question and vote accordingly.  Consider these facts and statements gathered from Dr. Al Mohler’s blog.  

John McCain is fully dedicated to the right to life for our unborn. He supports the reversal of Roe vs. Wade to put the issue back into the hands of the states.  He is fully supportive of life beginning at the point of conception and its being protected from that point.  His running mate, Sarah Palin, is even more devoted to this issue than she is.  As the wife, mother, and professional, I’d say she has a basic grasp on the issue.

Barack Obama, on the other hand sees the issue from a far different viewpoint.  This from an article by Professor George of Princeton University:

First:

For starters, he supports legislation that would repeal the Hyde Amendment, which protects pro-life citizens from having to pay for abortions that are not necessary to save the life of the mother and are not the result of rape or incest. The abortion industry laments that this longstanding federal law, according to the pro-abortion group NARAL, ”forces about half the women who would otherwise have abortions to carry unintended pregnancies to term and bear children against their wishes instead.” In other words, a whole lot of people who are alive today would have been exterminated in utero were it not for the Hyde Amendment. Obama has promised to reverse the situation so that abortions that the industry complains are not happening (because the federal government is not subsidizing them) would happen.

Second:

He has promised that ”the first thing I’d do as President is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (known as FOCA). This proposed legislation would create a federally guaranteed ”fundamental right” to abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, including, as Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia has noted in a statement condemning the proposed Act, ”a right to abort a fully developed child in the final weeks for undefined ‘health’ reasons.” In essence, FOCA would abolish virtually every existing state and federal limitation on abortion, including parental consent and notification laws for minors, state and federal funding restrictions on abortion, and conscience protections for pro-life citizens working in the health-care industry-protections against being forced to participate in the practice of abortion or else lose their jobs. The pro-abortion National Organization for Women has proclaimed with approval that FOCA would ”sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.”

Third:

Obama, unlike even many ”pro-choice” legislators, opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions when he served in the Illinois legislature and condemned the Supreme Court decision that upheld legislation banning this heinous practice. He has referred to a baby conceived inadvertently by a young woman as a ”punishment” that she should not endure. He has stated that women’s equality requires access to abortion on demand. Appallingly, he wishes to strip federal funding from pro-life crisis pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion for pregnant women in need. There is certainly nothing ”pro-choice” about that.

In addition:

In an act of breathtaking injustice which the Obama campaign lied about until critics produced documentary proof of what he had done, as an Illinois state senator Obama opposed legislation to protect children who are born alive, either as a result of an abortionist’s unsuccessful effort to kill them in the womb, or by the deliberate delivery of the baby prior to viability. This legislation would not have banned any abortions. Indeed, it included a specific provision ensuring that it did not affect abortion laws. (This is one of the points Obama and his campaign lied about until they were caught.) The federal version of the bill passed unanimously in the United States Senate, winning the support of such ardent advocates of legal abortion as John Kerry and Barbara Boxer. But Barack Obama opposed it and worked to defeat it. For him, a child marked for abortion gets no protection-even ordinary medical or comfort care-even if she is born alive and entirely separated from her mother. So Obama has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.

Senator Obama, though he claims to be a devoted Christian, is clearly out of step with the Christian Worldview on the issue of abortion.  What shall we say about this inconsistency?  Maybe he doesn’t allow his religious views to affect any aspect of his life outside of church-on-sunday.  Maybe he has sold out to parties that disagree and despise the view that all life is sacred.  Maybe he isn’t the devoted Christian he claims to be.  I have no idea.  

Clearly though, Obama’s actions and statements and views on abortion speak for themselves.  He is clearly out of step with the Christian Worldview.  And as Christians I beg you, in view of God’s stance on the issue of life, to consider closely who you will vote for this November.

Published in: on October 15, 2008 at 9:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Faith and Knowledge

It seems that far too often you hear people referring to science pertaining to knowledge and religion pertaining to values.  I haven’t quite figured out what values are or why it is OK that they are not based in knowledge.  As far as I can tell, values flow out of something like truth that is unconnected to knowledge and is also unconnected to objective truth.  We seem to live in a world where scientific knowledge is the only thing that is objectively true, the only thing from which knowledge springs.  Values, religion, faith exist in some separate area of our brains that is unaffected by knowledge and even goes against knowledge.  

According to many, faith is diametrically opposed to knowledge.  It would seem to fly in the face of scientific knowledge.  After all knowledge can be tested; it can be explained; it can be attested to.  But faith, on the other hand, has no basis in knowledge; it is blind and, insomuch as it is blind, it is foolish.

I wouldn’t argue that a completely blind faith that set itself up against observable fact and knowledge is foolish.  But I wouldn’t characterize faith as such.  I dont think many of the great Christian thinkers throughout history would either.  This is how faith is described by Francis Scheaffer, a man who resided in Switzerland, at a place called L’abri and held classes for anyone who showed up at his front door.

Scheaffer argued that we really have two separate things we call faith.  The are different enough, he says, that there probably should be two different words.  But alas, we have but one.  Faith.  

Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock and suddenly the fog shuts down The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will all freeze to death here on the shoulder of this mountain. Simply to keep warm, the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are. After an hour or so, someone says to the guide: “Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then?” The guide would say that you might make it till morning and thus live. So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog. This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.

The man who jumps down in the fog like this has no idea if there is a ledge there to land on. He simply knows that IF there is, he may survive. This is how some view Christianity – a shot in the dark, a blind leap of faith. There is some outside chance that it may be accurate, but simply not great enough to base life on and certainly not some kind of foundation of knowledge and truth. Now lets look at the other kind of faith – the kind that is practiced by Christians around the world.

(I’ll employ some paraphrase here, because his argument is rather lengthy.)  Suppose we’re in the situation he presents above, but instead of taking a blind leap we, enshrouded in fog, hear a voice saying “You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are… I am on another ridge.” The voice claims to be that of a man who has lived in the mountains all his life, who knows these mountains very well. He claims that there IS a ledge just below and that we can easily drop to it and make it through the night.

We would likely not immediately drop, but ask the man questions to find out if he really knows what he is talking about and if he is a friend or foe. If convinced by his answers, we would then drop to the ledge and survive the night.

This is faith, but obviously it has no relationship to the first instance… The historic Christian faith is not a leap of faith in the post-Kierkegaardian sense because “[God] is not silent,” and I am invited to ask the sufficient questions in regard to details but also in regard to the existence of man.  I am invited to ask the sufficient questions and then believe him and bow before him metaphysically in knowing that I exist because he made man, and bow before him morally as needing his provision for me in the substitutionary, propitiatory death of Christ.

I need not say more.  Excerpts here are from “He Is There and He Is Not Silent.” This book and Scheaffer’s Escape From Reason are two of my favorites. I highly recommend them.

The fog can really close in!

Presuppositions, Presuppositions

Reading Salvo Blog this week, I found a post on Bill Maher and his new movie, “Religulous.” Here’s a link to it. It’s a video of Maher on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart talking about his movie. I must concur with Bobby Maddex in saying that Bill Maher is just as “religulous as the rest of us.” Only difference is, he doesn’t realize it.

I don’t have the video, the link above will take you to it on Salvo’s website. Suffice it to say that Jon Stewart nearly falls out of his chair as Bill Maher blasphemes his way into the Jon’s audiences’ collective heart. They really yuck it up over Maher’s telling of the biblical narrative.

This is followed by Maddex’s cutting commentary. If you are familiar with Ravi Zacharias, you will understand the “road-runner tactic” Maddex uses. The commentary is priceless.

Here’s the crux of the matter. Bill Maher is just as religious as anyone else. His religion is just a lot different than mine – may be the same as yours. His religion, like mine rests on certain philosophical presuppositions – which are nothing like mine. His are such things as: there is no God, Darwin was right. Whatever else these are, they are philosophical presuppositions. There is no way for him to know these things. They aren’t demonstrable. They aren’t things that can be known in the same way that it can be known that the sky is blue. They are simply things he believes to be true.

Two things:

First, his religion goes nowhere. All meaning is lost. Everything in life, including life itself, is an accident. There is no value in life, love is nothing but chemicals in the brain, loyalty is an illusion as we all strive put our genes into the next generation – survival of the fittest and all that. 

Secondly, the basic presuppositions mine rests on, namely that God is the creator and sustainer of the world and that he has a plan that he is working out in his own time and means, has been accepted by most people throughout all of human history. On top of this, it was written down by men who I identify with on a family level.  How do we know Jesus rose from the dead? We saw him. We saw him. The church, my family, whom I belong to, whom I trust, saw him. And I have faith that it is true – objectively true. As true as “Noah’s flood.”

Sometime soon, I will speak more about this faith. Or I will hearken to Francis Scheaffer on it.  Until then, consider Maher, Maddex, and leave a comment if you so desire.

Published in: on October 1, 2008 at 7:20 pm  Comments (7)  
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