Atheists & secularists, like anyone else, will sometimes speak of what gives their life meaning and purpose. It might be fighting against religious dogma, or helping people think rationally, or spending time with their family, or "making the world a little better place", or... whatever. Note that these are self-imposed "purposes" or "meaning", often involving leaving some sort of intellectual or philosophical legacy. But, is this really consistent with their worldview? Have you ever heard of Lawrence M. Krauss or Glenn D. Starkman? Even if you don't run in scientific circles, you may be familiar with Krauss, who is a well-known ...
"Those who are unwilling or incapable of discerning or judging between good and evil are in this manner revealing either their disobedience or their immaturity." -- Pastor E.L. Bynum In our last "episode", we began to address the issue of what it means to "judge" others. Specifically, we took a practical, nonsectarian look at why people cry, "Don't judge me!" and why we should, in fact, make fair judgments about others' behaviors & beliefs, always with the welfare of them and others around them in mind. Now, what about Christians, in particular? Aren't we supposed to be extra loving and kind and ...
If you are at all familiar with Christian apologetics, whether engaging challenges from non-theists or from Christians with different views, you know that the topic of pain, suffering, and death is a major issue. (In fact, Darwin's struggle with this was the impetus for developing his theory.) These things are considered "evil", so the question is "Why would a 'good' God make a world full of pain, suffering, & death for His creatures to endure?", or "How could God include pain, suffering, & death (for millions of years) in His 'very good' creation?" The Young-Earth Creationist (YEC) solution is that none ...
Welcome to the 3rd and penultimate installment of this series, in which I explain how self-deluded I have been about my own hatred and bigotry regarding, well, just about everyone but straight, white, white-collar males between 18 & 65 years of age (or thereabouts). Where was I? Oh... [caption id="attachment_1341" align="alignleft" width="225"] Pro-choice Activists[/caption] 7) I hate women. And it's not just because I'm single. (Or, should that be the other way around?) ;-> In particular, I think most of today's "feminist" positions and causes reveal a certain level of narcissism and another excuse to play the blame game for ones woes, real ...
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." -- Abraham Lincoln "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!!" That was my response (posted on Facebook), give or take an "R" or two, to the 2012 Election results. Actually, that was my second FB post. My first was, "Crap on a stick! I'm so depressed." But, that's not quite right. I'm very disappointed, obviously. And a bit morose. But, really, I'm angry. So, here goes the rant... Are you freakin' kidding me?!! Do we really have to listen for 4 more years to this pompous, Marxist ...
Sometimes, I can't help myself. I mean, people make spurious claims and ridiculous accusations against God, Christians, "the Church", etc., all the time. Usually, I let it go. Can't be constantly getting into long, drawn-out internet debates ALL the time, after all. But, sometimes, I just have to say something. And, so it went the other day, when a FB friend of a FB friend, amidst generally mocking comments, claimed that Christians were responsible for "lots of mass murders." Of course, I had my suspicions about what she was referring to. There are some nasty stains on Christianity's record. But, I also ...
"I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother." -- Mitt Romney, in an op-ed piece in The Boston Globe (7/26/2005) In "The Pro-Life Position: Just One Question", I argued that if the unborn is indeed a member of the human family, no matter how small or odd it looks, then "no justification for killing it is adequate." But, then I left a footnote saying that there are rare exceptions to that rule. So, I figured I may as well address those now.... When the ...
Part 1: Firm Foundation "I yam what I yam, and that's all what I yam." -- Popeye, the sailorman Given the subjects that I usually read and write about on this blog, critical thinking really comes in handy. Not that I'm some great logician or anything. Far from it! But, over the last few years, I've been exposed to the discipline of informal logic by some pretty darn good thinkers. (At least, I think they are.) I've noticed that I am now more apt to notice logical errors & fallacies when reading or listening to someone's arguments for his/her position on a ...
[caption id="attachment_1464" align="alignleft" width="300"] Original Star Trek bridge crew[/caption] I remember when, many years ago, I first found out that the cast of the original Star Trek series did not always get along and a huge part of the problem was William Shatner's ego. Star Trek was one of my all-time favorite TV shows (and the movies and the books), and Shatner was a favorite actor when I was growing up -- right up there with Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man, and later Tom Selleck of Magnum, P.I., fame. So, I was understandably disappointed to find out my "heroes" ...
"[S]cience and religion are two essential components in the search for truth. Denying either is a barren approach." -- Dr. Martin Andreas Nowak, mathematical biologist Once upon a time (actually, it was about a year ago) in a land far, far away (OK, it was here in NE Florida), I had a brief but interesting discussion. I had been taking a few skills & personality assessment tests, which involved identifying what I thought my strengths & weaknesses were, figuring out my personality traits, etc. While discussing the results with a couple family members, the religiously-agnostic one noted, "Huh! You consider yourself ...
I just finished Newt Gingrich’s latest book, Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America’s Fate. As expected, it’s a great read. The selfish, stultifying attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) of the “prison guards of the past” that Gingrich writes about are incredibly aggravating. At the same time, the amazing discoveries and technological advances being made and opportunities to be taken are exciting and incredibly encouraging.
In the final chapter, he concludes:
“Our society, in this era of big government, is centered on bureaucracy, regulation, and law. This mindset makes breakthroughs difficult and general breakout almost impossible. To become breakout champions, citizens and elected officials need to think about society and government in a completely new way….”
Gingrich then proceeds to lay out eight key principles for doing so.
But, the particular topic I wanted to bring to your attention is from the chapter on “Breakdown in Government”. We often hear/read about the evils of today’s unions and how they can ruin a company (e.g., a car manufacturer) with their unreasonable demands. That is an example of a private-sector union “working with” a corporation to shoot themselves in the foot (feet?). But, here are a few examples of public-sector unions and local governments doing the same.
“It’s not just the federal government that’s breaking down. Many state and local governments, too, are falling apart in places where they have been disastrously mismanaged. Government at all levels is failing us. Meredith Whitney, a financial analyst, offers a startling example of the problem in her book Fate of the States. In the early 2000s, she recounts, the head of the Contra Costa County, California, firefighters’ union “negotiated a sweet new contract for his members.” The contract provided that “veteran firefighters could now retire at age fifty with an annual pension equivalent to 90 percent of their salary.” This deal was a great boon for the firefighters but not for the taxpayers.”
Sweet deal, yes! But, it strikes me as an unbelievably selfish and short-sighted one, too.
“Predictably, the weight of the pensions proved too much for the county to sustain. By 2012, in the wake of the recession, Contra Costa County could no longer afford to keep all its firehouses open and meet its pension obligations at the same time. When the director of the local taxpayers association looked into the matter, she found that there were 665 retired county employees with an annual pension of $100,000 or more and twenty-four who earned over $200,000, even in retirement. As Whitney puts it, ‘Everybody might still love firefighters, but what they did not like was retired fifty-five-year-olds taking home $100K a year at a time when many taxpayers were out of work and could not afford to put any money aside for their own retirements.’
The newspapers these days overflow with similar examples of excess. Whitney describes a California prison guard (the literal kind) who ‘with a base salary of $81,683 collected $114,334 in overtime and $8,648 in bonuses.’ This man ‘was eligible for an annual $1,560 “fitness” bonus for getting a checkup,’ and he ‘could retire at fifty-five with 85 percent of his salary and medical care for life.’”
“Such reckless management and outright corruption has left states broke. Illinois has roughly $100 billion in pension obligations, the vast majority of which is unfunded, and another $55 billion in unfunded obligations for retiree healthcare. In California, the debt story is even more alarming. State and local governments in the Golden State carry a $1.1 trillion debt. Yet California continues to spend big on goodies like a hundred-billion-dollar high-speed rail line from San Diego to Sacramento. Many of the major states — California, New York, and Illinois among them — behave just as recklessly as the federal government.”
Wow! It is simply amazing how these things just go on, year after year. Can they not do simple math? Are they in denial of economic realities? Do they not look more than 5 or 10 years down the road? Do they not care? Gingrich is gracious enough not to point this out in the book, but it occurs to me that these state and local governments which have such enormous debts due to profligate spending and ridiculous union contracts are, by and large, politically liberal and predominantly led by Democrats (and, maybe, the occasional moderate-to-liberal Republican). I’m gonna go out on a limb and state that there is a connection, there. Just sayin’….
Every so often, some big-time pastor or evangelist get into the news for making some “end times” statement or “prophecy”. Of course, there are many ministries and organizations that focus on this stuff all the time. That’s their thing, 24×7. It’s all over Christian media and there are tons of books on it — some scholarly, many not so much. Some people are really into it! And they can be very… opinionated. But, even if eschatology (i.e., study of the “last things”) was never emphasized in your family or church community, you’ve probably seen or heard of it. Have you ever wondered what to make of it all?
I used to be somewhat into the subject but was never “hard core”. Apocalyptic prophecies never pre-occupied my thoughts (that I can remember). I didn’t look at every war or world event as a “sign of the times” or try to identify the Antichrist. (Well, maybe just for “fun”. At the moment, Obama, Soros, & Putin would be at the top of my list of possibilities.) And I was always extremely skeptical of modern-day predictions for the date of Christ’s Second Coming and/or “the Rapture”. (Jesus said no one would know, after all.) But, I did do some reading up on the different views and found it all fascinating. Before going too far, though, I decided to stop pursuing it. I only had so much time & money to devote to such studies, and I decided to focus more on the “origins” issues instead.
Sadly, eschatology can be as divisive within the Church as debates on evolution, the age of the Earth, or the historicity and extent of Noah’s Flood. Maybe more so, for some. It can also be rather distracting and the cause of unhealthy obsession. As Kenneth Samples has put it,
“Being ‘watchful’ for the Lord’s coming (Matthew 24:42; 25:13) does not mean becoming consumed with the speculative prophetic details of apocryphal texts. Rather it means believers must guard themselves against being swept away by the powerful affairs and concerns of this life.”
So, I am glad I never got caught up in “end times mania”; and, while I may eventually renew my studies on the general subject, I pray that the Lord helps me stay grounded and focused on more important matters. In fact, that is a major point made in Samples’ latest book, Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times (available from RTB at http://reasons.org). Part of what Samples talks about is the fact that, despite the various views about how everything will play (or is playing) out in the end times, there are five core, foundational points that are held as orthodoxy in all historic Christian theological traditions.
“God’s redeemed people will love, worship, and serve Him in a righteous and just kingdom that will never end.”
Borrowing from C.S. Lewis, this is what Samples refers to as “Mere Christian Eschatology”. This is our common ground. As long as we agree on the reality of these five things, that is sufficient. We can study the relevant biblical passages further, investigate the different theories, even extrapolate and speculate a bit (but not too much). But, if we are strongly convinced of a particular position, we must not become dogmatic about it, and there is no need to treat our Christian brothers & sisters who disagree badly for it. This is not a salvific issue, so a certain latitude must be granted, and grace, humility, and diplomacy are always called for.
Furthermore, Samples reminds us (and I agree) that we should not become obsessed with eschatological minutiae and fretting over every “sign”. A certain amount of concern and awareness is commanded in Scripture, but it should not be at the expense of sharing the rest of the Gospel message, working for the Kingdom, living and dying well as servants of Christ. The hints at things to come that God provides in the Bible should be seen as encouragement that what we do on this Earth is not in vain.
“The promise of Christ’s return should not result in excessive speculation about the future. Rather, its watchful anticipation should encourage believers to live lives of faithful gratitude to God.”
The bottom line is that, as Greg Koukl has said, “A lot of bad stuff is going to happen, but Jesus wins in the end.” By extension, genuine followers of Christ “win”, too. Amen?
Remember a few weeks ago, when I announced that I would be starting to post about sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure stuff on this blog? (If not, just trust me. I said it.) I know several of my friends and readers are into a lot of the same stuff, so I would think they’d have some interest in such posts. Right? Well, the reaction was a bit, shall we say, lackluster.
After some more thought, I decided that part of the problem was probably that this blog is not the best forum for those topics. Heck, it’s hard enough keeping a fair balance between Politics, Science, & Religion. Throwing in posts about Star Trek, superheroes, hobbits, and other pop-culture entertainment just didn’t make sense. (Those poor Google search-engine bots wouldn’t know what to think!) So,…
I have started a new, separate blog called simply “Heroes and Aliens”. (I wanted to call it “Out of My Mind” or “Pixels and Ink”, but those were both taken.) The About page and first post are both up, with a couple more posts scheduled for the next few days. Check it out and let me know what you think (here or there)!
If you have watched anything other than the Olympics and reporting on the Olympics on TV lately, you have probably heard about the latest batch of friends whom President Obama has nominated for ambassador positions. (Well, actually, I don’t know about the MSM, but various programs on Fox News have covered it.) In case you aren’t familiar with the story, it is pretty sad. In a nutshell,…
It’s bad enough that Obama doesn’t appear to take foreign policy seriously, but his current crop of nominees – mostly lawyers and businesspeople who are/were donors and bundlers of big bucks for the Obama campaign and for Democrats in general — are even worse than the last batch.
In response to all of this, I am of two minds. Here are my two reactions/responses:
Response 1: STOP, already!
Honestly, Mr. President, your State Department is already a joke. Hardly anyone takes the U.S. seriously on the world stage, anymore. Don’t you think it would be a good idea to at least find potential appointees who have a clue about the nation you want to send them to? Especially when those nations are our NATO allies, and, thus, players in international security and world peace? Don’t you think it behooves you to place people in those positions who are informed not only on your administration’s policies and desires but on the relevant local and international politics, etc.? Perhaps it would help if they had already demonstrated some basic knowledge and interest about the countries in question? Maybe? Ya think?
Let’s see some qualified candidates for a change, Mr. President. People who have actually done their homework and maybe even have some experience in foreign diplomacy. OK? Yeah, that’d be great.
Response 2: Mr. President, how much for the ambassadorship to New Zealand?
I realize I have no experience in diplomacy or international relations, and I have never actually been to New Zealand. But, I’m not too worried about that, since it has been established that they aren’t requirements for such appointments. However, I do know where New Zealand is on a map — i.e., somewhere near Australia. (Or, is it Middle-Earth?) I speak one of the official languages — i.e., I can do a reasonable impression of Russell Crowe. I have even read most — well, some — of the Wikipedia entry on New Zealand, so I know that they have some awesome mountains, lots of weird plants and animals, and their form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy. Plus, I would enjoy living there and am reeeaally motivated to get and keep this job, because:
b) New Zealand is home to Temuera Morrison (who played Jango Fett in Star Wars II & III and Abin Sur in Green Lantern), and I think he’s cool;
c) I know three definitions for the word “kiwi”, and I like saying it, too (E.g., “Kiwi. Kiwi. Kiwi, kiwi, kiwi, kiwi, kiwi.”); and,
d) Much of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies were/are filmed in New Zealand, and the actual, life-size village of Hobbiton is preserved there, which is where I would like to relocate the embassy. (Don’t worry the taxpayers will cover the move.)
The more I think about it, Mr. President, you should waive the donation. I would be the best ambassadorial nominee you have and would bring a modicum of respect to the office and, by extension, to your administration. (Frankly, you could use the help.) I promise not to throw lavish parties (compared to yours, certainly), consort with hookers, or insult my host country. So, how about we forget about any donations to your campaign, you pay for all my moving expenses to NZ, and we’ll call it even. Deal?
P.S. My parents were wondering if the U.S. embassy in Rome is looking for a new occupant? (They have even been to Italy a couple times.) Hint, hint.
Years ago, former Reagan official Frank Gaffney (now founder and president of the Center for Security Policy) charged conservative activist/strategist Grover Norquist with having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The charges were “investigated” by the American Conservative Union and Norquist was finally cleared in 2011. Now, it appears that Gaffney is being vindicated. A 45-page report with similar charges against Norquist and Suhail Khan — both members of the ACU’s Board of Directors — has been filed by several respected, former national security leaders and officials (e.g., Allen West, James Woolsey, Andrew McCarthy).
Here’s a quote from Gaffney in the interview on his reaction to the new charges:
“[W]hat we’ve seen in the past week is the fruit of the kind of work that Suhail Kahn has been doing inside the US government, and that is the announcement by the President through his Homeland Security and State Department that, just because you’ve been involved in running ‘a little bit’ of material support to terrorism, that should not preclude you from gaining asylum in this country. Suhail Khan has been working to eviscerate our material support to terrorism for years, and I think, thanks to his work and that of another prominent Muslim Brotherhood activist, Mohammad Magid, they’ve made a substantial inroad in that direction with this announcement by the President. This has to be addressed and challenged and, I hope, undone, so that this kind of operation won’t be allowed by someone who confesses to be a conservative activist.”
This is a serious indictment of the Islamists’ infiltration and influence in some quarters on the Right side of the political aisle. (We already knew they had infiltrated the Left, including the Obama administration itself.) If these accusations turn out to have substance (and it appears that they do), then those “advancing the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood organizations in this country” needed to be rooted out like a cancer. I just hope the powers-that-be take it seriously and learn a lesson or three from it all.
We all know about the Boston Marathon terror attack on April 15, 2013. Two Chechen brothers with Islamist beliefs set off two bombs near the finish line, killing 3 people and wounding at least another 264. What most people don’t realize (and I didn’t until recently) is that that wasn’t the only attack. Less than 24 hours later, armed assailants attacked an electrical substation near San Jose, California.
The entire attack took less than an hour, beginning with someone sneaking into an underground vault, cutting AT&T fiber-optic lines to knock out phone and 911 service shortly before 1 a.m. on the 16th. Within half an hour, an unknown number of snipers began a 19-minute barrage on the nearby PG&E substation. By the end, seventeen transformers had been destroyed, and the perpetrators got away clean, leaving no indication of who they were or the reason for the assault. Fortunately, no workers were injured. Following the attack, utility workers were able to quickly reroute power around the site, and other Silicon Valley substations took up the slack, thereby preventing a blackout. But, the millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the substation in question took 27 days to repair.
The nature and small scale of the substation attack suggests that, while “professional”, it was not the work of a well-funded terrorist group. Or, if it was, one has to wonder what benefit it would be to have such a limited “trial run”, since it only serves to warn the authorities of the danger. In fact, the FBI insists that it wasn’t a “terrorist” attack at all. On the other hand, Jon Wellinghoff, now-retired chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, thinks the evidence points to:
“the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the U.S. power grid that has ever occurred.”
Apparently, the Defense Department experts he consulted with at the time found 100+ shell casings with no fingerprints and “small piles of rocks that appeared to have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.” He may have a point. However, just because they demonstrated reasonable skill with firearms, planned ahead, and were smart enough to wear gloves doesn’t mean they were “terrorists”. Personally, I think it sounds like the efforts of a few local individuals (with obvious weapons training) who were either a) just trying to “have some fun” or b) wanting to alert the public and the authorities of the need for better protection from actual terrorist attacks on our infrastructure — a sort of “Wake up!” call. Or not.
Regardless, I certainly hope the powers-that-be take this seriously. If this incident is any indication, it seems like a concerted effort by a larger, well-funded group, armed with more than just a few rifles — regardless of their ideology — could fairly easily take out several key substations, causing a whole lotta destruction and disruption across wide areas of the U.S. (On the other hand, there are other, possibly easier, ways to attack our power grid. See below.) Unfortunately, I have little confidence in our leaders in Washington doing what needs to be done. Whatever efforts they do take will probably involve more regulations and restrictions of freedoms, while trying to retain a “politically correct” appearance and all “for the public good”.
A spokesperson for the House Energy and Commerce Committee says they have been “briefed by agency officials and industry representatives” and “continue to monitor the investigation closely.” And, according to an official statement by Scott Aaronson, senior director of national security policy for the Edison Electric Institute,
“The industry takes its role as critical infrastructure providers very seriously. Publicizing clearly sensitive information about critical infrastructure protection endangers the safety of the American people and the integrity of the grid.”
Good point, but I’m still worried. This looks like a great opportunity for the energy industry (not the government) to hire some of those thousands of unemployed military veterans as on-site guards and security consultants. They’ve got the training. The costs would be relatively minimal and certainly tolerable, even if passed along through slightly increased utility rates.
Another area where our infrastructure is vulnerable is through its computer systems. Many have assumed that, due to their isolation from the rest of the internet, plus their relative obscurity such that only a limited number of people are familiar with them, the control systems of our various energy plants were safe from cyber-attacks. Not so. In a study last year, independent consultants from Automatak identified 25 vulnerabilities in the computer system used to control power plants throughout North America.
Fortunately, they are the “good guys”, working with the industry to find and patch such holes before hackers — either for pure mischief’s sake or worse — spot them and take advantage. But, once in awhile, the “bad guys” do find and exploit a security opening before it’s caught. And, there have been limited cyber-attacks on American control systems in the past, mostly traced back to China (who officially denies it) and Russia.
Then, of course, there is the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, which would fry all(?) electrical systems and devices within a certain radius of the blast — depending on how big a pulse it was, of course. But, that’s a whooooole ‘nother level of bad. (Check these two links for what that might entail.)
NOTE: As I was about to “go to press”, I found this article. In reaction to the substation attack and subsequent meetings, several liberal Democrat Senators (e.g., Reid, Feinstein, Franken) sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, urging stronger federal standards to protect the U.S. power grid.
“We are concerned that voluntary measures may not be sufficient to constitute a reasonable response to the risk of physical attack on the electricity system.”
I’m glad that they took the attack as a “wake-up call to the risk of physical attacks on the grid.” But, it sounds to me that, as I feared, it will be used as a pretext for federal authorities seizing more control.
The debate is over, and the contestants and their audience have all gone home. But, of course, the debate still rages on, especially on the “interwebs”. I have been reading various comments by people who watched it. There are the devoted naturalists/evolutionists who are sure that Bill Nye “won”, maybe even kicked butt. There are also the devoted (young-Earth) creationists who insist that Ken Ham wiped the floor with Nye. But, it is the more careful thinkers and observers that I think are worthy of our attention. From those, the impression I get is that neither was at the top of his game (assuming each has higher potential, of course) and both parties missed opportunities to correct and inform.
Before I proceed, I’d like to refer you to “Why I Didn’t Watch the Ken Ham-Bill Nye Debate” by Pastor Matt. He expresses some of the same feelings I had and part of why I didn’t watch it, either.
“Each would preach to their proverbial choir and it would all be sound and fury signifying nothing. I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet but from what I could glean from social media last night, that’s exactly what happened.”
It’s somewhat cynical, but he makes some good points. Matt also links to the recap by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute. In “The Ham-Nye Creation Debate: A Huge Missed Opportunity”, Luskin confirmed my suspicion of what would likely occur:
“Sure, Ham talked about some science here and there, but almost all of what he said focused on trying to support a young earth viewpoint…. While Ham did make a few effective points that you don’t have to accept evolution to do good science, the compelling scientific evidence for design in nature got skipped over.
…Christians (like me) who don’t feel that accepting the Bible requires you to believe in a young earth will feel that their views weren’t represented. And because Ham failed (whether due to time constraints, lack of knowledge, inadequate debate skills, or a fundamentally weak position) to offer evidence rebutting many of Nye’s arguments for an old earth, young earth creationist Christians with doubts will probably feel even more doubtful. Most notably, however, skeptics won’t budge an inch. Why? Because Ham’s main argument was “Because the Bible says so,” and skeptics don’t take the Bible as an authority. They want to see evidence….
This is really unfortunate. I know that Ken Ham means well, but it’s extremely regrettable that the powerful evidence for design in nature was hardly discussed in the Ham-Nye debate. A huge opportunity was lost.”
“[Nye] knows next to nothing about the many emerging scientific challenges to the neo-Darwinian paradigm. He didn’t hardly [sic] try to defend Darwinism in the debate, and a debater who was familiar with these issues could have shown the audience that an ID-based view of life is far superior to a Darwinian one.”
Kevin Nelstead over at The GeoChristian gives a very good review of the debate, acknowledging the good points made and the blunders by both Nye and Ham: “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis” One very important point that Kevin begins with is, “The debate was very cordial, respectful, and orderly.” (Other commentators have said as much, too.)
In “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath”, my Facebook friend Luke Nix gives his take on what happened. He summarizes the “Contention and Evidence” of each, then the “Responses and Rejoinders” of each, followed by their “Strengths and Weaknesses” and a “Final Assessment”. Well done, Luke!
Over at “Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- An analysis of a lose-lose debate”, J.W. Wartick (another FB friend) gives his assessment. Taking a similar approach to Luke’s, J.W. presents (and comments on) each debater’s Opening remarks, main Presentation, Rebuttals, Counter-Rebuttals, and then a bit on the Q&A that followed, ending with an overall Analysis on each and a Conclusion. Another nice job, J.W.!
Bob Perry at “True Horizon Blog” gives a brief assessment, and I sympathize with the frustrations that he and others have — in case that wasn’t already apparent — regarding the false dichotomy presented. Bob points out some of the same stuff the others do but makes a couple additional, great observations: “Is The Creation Model Viable? — A Debate Between Ken Ham and Bill Nye”
Michael Minkoff of the political blog “Last Resistance” gives his three cents in “Thoughts on the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Creationism Debate”
“First, it wasn’t really much of a debate. Both sides had important points to emphasize and ideas to present, but there was little dialogue between the two worldviews. Questions asked by one side to the other were left unanswered, and all in all the debate afforded ample fodder for confirmation bias—and little else.”
Yup. That’s one of the frustrating things about many such debates. Questions left unanswered, questionable claims left unchallenged (or inadequately so), and the focus quickly drifts from the title issue in deference to separate agendas. With a background in philosophy of science, Minkoff delves a bit into the metaphysical claims and assumptions that were made by Ham and Nye, whether they realized it or (most likely) not. An interesting read.
I would be remiss if I left out the excellent review made by HBU professor and “apolojedi” (and FB friend) Melissa Cain Travis, even if she only has the first two parts available at the time I write this. In “Evaluation of the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate PART 1″, Melissa begins by articulating “The Problem” with such an event and the aforementioned false dichotomy. She then proceeds to “cover some of the main points made by each participant,” highlighting excellent points and utter failures. Part 1 covers Ham’s opening statements, while Part 2 covers Nye’s. Very thoughtful and well written, as usual!
For some commentary on the debate by an organization of Theistic Evolutionists, check out “Ham on Nye: Our Take” at The BioLogos Forum.
As for Reasons to Believe (RTB), the old-Earth creationist organization that I support, they have not given a post-debate commentary, so far. But, prior to the debate, they posted this link on Facebook: “Questions Regarding the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Debate”.
All in all, no real surprises. I don’t know if any good actually came of the debate or progress in answering the posed question about creationism as a “viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era.” In the end, I just hope and pray that a) a few people had their faith in naturalistic evolution shaken and, b) as one commenter put it, that “the gospel of Jesus Christ was presented with clarity and grace.”
UPDATE: It was not intentional, but it occurred to me after posting last night that I didn’t have any links or quotes from anyone of a young-Earth persuasion. None had come across my path, as it were. But, now I’ve become aware of commentaries on the debate by a couple of well-known and respected young-Earthers — one a scientist/educator, one a theologian. Both give fair assessments from their perspective.
Dr. Jay L. Wile relates his observations in “Talking Past One Another – The Ham/Nye Debate”.
You can probably guess the focus of Dr. Al Mohler’s comments from the title of his post: “Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man -— The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate”.
Announcement! Announcement! Announcement!
OK, the news isn’t really all that fantastic, nor is it super or amazing. It certainly isn’t incredible or even uncanny. Some of you may think it’s just ho-hum. But, I have decided to occasionally post about something totally unrelated to the major subjects of this blog — namely, sci-fi/fantasy and action/adventure.
I have been a huge fan of these genres for most of my 40+ years. I remember watching the original Star Trek when I was really small. (HUGE fan! Followed all of the movies and later series, too.) I know I was an avid comic reader/collector by the age of 8 — superheroes, mostly — and have been ever since. (BIG time! Although, I had to sell my sizable collection before moving to Florida, and I don’t collect anything at the moment.) The original Batman series from the ’60s, Six Million Dollar Man, Knight Rider, A-Team, Star Wars, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, James Bond (eventually), monster movies, kung-fu flicks, Battlestar Galactica (all three series), C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles and the Space Trilogy (well, most of ‘em), Rocky, Rambo, The Terminator, Alien(s), The Matrix, Die Hard, X-Files, Lost, 24, etc. I love(d) them all! Well, OK, maybe not ALL, but a LOT! (For example, I never did get into Dr. Who or Blake’s 7 or Power Rangers or TMNT.) Nowadays, my interests range from Harry Potter (books & movies) to Arrow to Almost Human to Jack Reacher (the novels, not the Cruise movie). Whether the format is TV, movies, comics, books, even some cartoons, whatever, I was and am “into it”. (Wait,… I take that back. I never had the time/money/patience to get into computer gaming. Sorry, gamer dudes! No anime/manga, either.)
Yes, I have to confess — no, I profess it proudly — I’m a pop culture geek.
But, other than chatting with the occasional, likeminded friend or acquaintance, I’ve never really had an outlet for some of my ideas and commentary. So,… I decided that I may as well use this blog to share my musings. Those who don’t care can simply ignore these posts, since they won’t replace or (hopefully) interfere with your regularly-scheduled, normally-themed fare. These posts won’t come out very often, since I don’t have the time or money to read & watch as much as I used to; plus, writing about this stuff takes up time when I could be reading/watching!
What do I have in mind? Well,… some possibilities include movie reviews, fan-casting for movies/TV made from other source material or for reboots, comments on upcoming movies, ideas how to improve movies/franchises, original ideas for comics/books/movies, my feeble attempts at writing fiction, etc. No political tie-ins. No theological assessments. No apologetical applications. No examinations of scientific discoveries. No attempts at profundity. Just plain fun! (Not that there won’t be related posts with some of that stuff. I’ve already done that and will again when the mood strikes.) I will even consider guest submissions!
Not sure when the first one will appear, but I have several ideas and some notes already, so I might get one out in a couple weeks or so. (I think I’m gonna need a new blog ‘Category’ for these posts.) I’ll try not to bore you with my geekiness, but…
You have been forewarned!
UPDATE 2/19/2014: Go here…
Ain’t nothin’ like a good debate about a controversial issue!
In case it has not already come to your attention, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis (a young-Earth creationist ministry) will be having a public debate this February 4th, just a few days from now. According to the press release, the official topic will be: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” Though not really an experienced debater, Nye, who does TV interviews about evolution and creation, accepted the offer to argue in favor of naturalism/evolution and against Ham’s biblical, young-Earth creationism. It was all the result of a video Nye put out back in 2012, followed by video responses posted by Ham and others.
The debate will take place at the Kentucky-based Creation Museum near Cincinnati, OH. The price to attend in person was $25 per ticket, but those sold out very quickly. There is the option to stream it live thru debatelive.org (originally to be $5, but now free), plus there will be DVDs of the event that can be pre-ordered now or ordered afterward, as well as a digital version for download. Of course, AIG always has other products for sale, too. Some have cynically speculated that Ham is only doing the debate to raise money, since the museum — specifically, the life-size Ark exhibit — is having some financial problems. But, even if that’s the case, I don’t see the problem. Any organization, ministry or otherwise, needs to pay the bills and stay out of debt whenever possible. They have to pay for the event itself, too. Plus, as Ham pointed out, this is a rare opportunity for a Christian/creationist to present his case in what has become a relatively high-profile event with a popular science “personality”.
What can we expect in this “debate”?
Notice that I put the scare quotes around the word “debate”? In this case, it is meant to imply my skepticism that this will be formatted or treated as a real debate. I could be wrong, of course. I’m sure there will be a lot of spirited give-and-take, but I have a hard time imagining Ham being able to contain himself, adhering to the structure and courtesies of a more formal format. (For example, from what I’ve seen, he tends to interrupt and try to steamroll his opponents.) Again, I could be wrong.
Nye’s main concern, as evidenced from the video that got this all rolling, is that children need to believe in (Darwinian) evolution. It’s bad enough that a portion of the U.S. believe in creationism, which he believes has no sound basis whatsoever, because “it holds everybody back”, thus retarding progress.
“[W]e need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future”, like “engineers that build stuff, solve problems.” (See my Point #1 below.)
Teaching kids creationism — and it’s clear that he has the young-Earth variety primarily in mind — interferes with this, so he hopes to convince people that “this sort of thinking is not in the national interest.” He doesn’t come across as the excitable type, so he’ll probably keep his cool and be generally polite. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if elements of (feelings of) intellectual superiority and resulting condescension creep in, as is often the case with non-theists in these discussions. Nye is obviously frustrated with and perplexed by the very ideas of denying evolution and believing the Earth is only 6000 or so years old. I suspect, then, that he will a) harp on the age of the Earth/universe issue and the irrationality of YEC and b) try to persuade the audience of the “proof” of biological evolution, in an effort to demonstrate that creation(ism) is not a viable model of origins. “For the children…!”
While I count Ham as a Christian brother and appreciate his desire to honor Christ, I strongly disagree with his approach and position on the origins issue. Based on what I have seen/read/heard of and from him, I do not particularly like him as a person, either. I am frustrated both by his statements and treatment of those who hold to other positions and by the damage I feel he does for the Kingdom, despite his intentions. That said, this debate is an opportunity for Ham to be a bold, yet gracious, ambassador for Jesus Christ, both in what he says, how he conducts himself, and how he (and other Christians at the event) treat Nye. (In fact, it’s an opportunity for all Christians to educate, be educated, and conduct themselves as good ambassadors.)
If Ham is smart & careful, he will not let Nye spend too much time on the “billions of years” but instead keep the emphasis on the evidences for design and their improbability via purely natural processes. Unfortunately, Ham cannot use some of the best such evidence, because it violates his YEC sensibilities. Given that the age issue is central to Ham’s position and a major sticking point for Nye, I suspect it will actually be a central focus of the exchange. And that’s not good, ‘cuz the evidence is in Nye’s favor on that one.
I will be curious to find out how it all turns out, but I probably will not watch it live or order the DVD or digital download.
As with most debates, I doubt that those who already firmly hold a position will be convinced otherwise, though a few of those on the fence may be pushed one way or the other. Beyond that, I don’t really know what to expect in the Nye vs. Ham “debate”, but I am pretty sure that it will get people thinking and talking (as it already has), and it will reinforce the idea in many people’s minds that Nye’s naturalism and Ham’s young-Earth creationism are the only real options in the origins debate. Amateur and professional pundits alike will have a field day, and (the idea of) God and the Bible will liberally mocked, as usual.
I would like to remind everyone — and encourage those who are likeminded to do the same — that this “Naturalistic Evolution vs. Young-Earth Creationism” framing of the issue presents a false dichotomy. (As is “Science vs. Faith”.) There are other options. I would go so far as to argue that only one of these other options — old-Earth creationism (OEC) — addresses and accounts for both nature and Scripture with sufficient care, rigor, and respect.
With that in mind, but without going into detail, I would like to lay out a few points for those on all sides to consider:
1) Science has not and does not disprove the Christian faith/religion. (Other belief systems do not fair so well.) Nor must one be non-religious (or only marginally so) to understand scientific principles and do good scientific research. In fact, it has been argued by various scholars — including Stanley Jaki, Rodney Stark, James Hannam — that the bulk of scientific advancement from the Middle Ages forward is indebted to the spread of the Christian worldview and the hard work of many theistic (mostly “Christian”) scientists (or “natural philosophers”). (See my post: Can You Accept “Revealed Wisdom” and Still Be “Scientific”?)
2) “Billions of years” neither helps Darwinists — because there still isn’t enough time for natural processes to accomplish the developments observed in the record of nature (i.e., cosmological, geological, biochemical, biological, etc.) — nor does it hurt Christians who believe in Creation by the biblical Yahweh — because, rather than diminishing God’s miraculous power, the history of nature reveals multiple miraculous interventions of various sorts by God to design and prepare a world for life, to populate that world with diverse species in their various ecological niches, to enable advanced human civilization, and to carry out His Eternal Plan to conquer evil.
3) Taken from another angle, just because one holds to the generally accepted antiquity of the universe and of the Earth, an antiquity for life on Earth, and an antiquity for Mankind (however disputed), does not mean one embraces (or must embrace) an evolutionary framework. Not even with a theistic gloss. The ages of these things are separate from an evolutionary paradigm. However, we can — without any inconsistency — believe that there was a limited amount of change to various plant and animal populations over time, leading to a certain amount of biodiversity. The biblical text allows for this and the scientific evidence points to it, but it does not require an acceptance of macroevolution.
4) Over the centuries, very smart, learned, and theologically orthodox men within Christendom have posited and held to a variety of positions on how best to understand the Days of Creation, the diversity of life, the origin of Man, etc. Their peers did not, generally, see fit to accuse them of compromise or heresy when they disagreed on these matters.
5) In both scientific research and biblical hermeneutic, a certain amount of speculation is acceptable, as long as it remains within the bounds of logic and, with the latter, within the pale of Christian orthodoxy. That is how theories are formed, which can then be pursued and tested. But, we must take care not to get so fond of our speculations that we treat them as facts, assuming they are true, and dismissing alternate, viable positions as false, even impossible. (Yes, I’m talking to you!)
6) The vocabularies of the ancient languages of the Bible, especially Hebrew, were quite limited, and many words had several different meanings or connotations, often depending on genre usage and context. Don’t be too quick to assume you’ve got it all figured out.
7) The biblical text does not say that the Days of Creation were of the 24-hour variety. That is an interpretation and assumption made by some, and it is a popular position today. The Hebrew word “yom”, just like its English counterpart “day”, has several meanings. The definition intended in any particular passage is not always as obvious as it may seem and may require further study.
8) The Bible also does not say that the universe, or Earth, or life on Earth, or humanity were 6000 or 10000 years old, or any other age. Those dates are estimates, based on a beginning point of a 144-hour Creation Week, followed by a very concrete and contiguous reading of the Genesis 5 & 11 genealogies. Just the fact that some YECs allow for up to 10000 years (or more) means that they recognize there are at least a couple “missing” names (as indicated elsewhere). But, there are other conservative, biblical scholars that believe the text is a very “telescoped” record, not meant for calculating chronologies, such that there may have been many tens of thousands of years between Adam and Abraham (ca. 2100 BC).
9) There is also no reason to insist that the Flood account in Genesis is about a global phenomenon. In fact, there are many reasons, both scriptural and scientific, to believe that a local/regional flood — though one that wiped out all of humanity (save Noah’s family), which had not yet spread globally — is the more likely scenario. This also would have occurred a few tens of thousands of years ago.
10) Regarding the teaching of children, I suppose I can understand Nye’s concern from his point of view. But, I feel it is misguided. As I already pointed out, extraordinary scientific advancement has resulted from the influence of Christianity and the work of Christians in science, past and present. Some of them believed in an ancient Earth, others in a relatively young Earth. Some believed in some sort of evolution of the species, others did not. Plenty of harm, on the other hand, has come from naturalistic, non-theistic presuppositions in science — from eugenic experimentation to the more recent delays in progress in genetics due to assumptions about “junk DNA”.
For the record, from a policy standpoint I do not think young-Earth creationism should be mandated to either replace or be taught alongside Darwinian (or some other type of) evolution in public schools. (Not in Science class, anyway.) A more general Intelligent Design approach, however, should be an option to be addressed objectively. Private schools should be able to teach whatever they want, though I would hope they teach at least a working knowledge of the prevailing evolutionary theory, so that students are conversant and prepared for what they will encounter outside of creationist environs. In the home, though, the government has no authority from God or Constitution to decide and enforce what parents may and may not teach their children.
Please see the “Cre/Evol/ID” page linked at the top of this page for other posts I have done on this topic. The primary old-Earth creationist organization, which I highly recommend, is Reasons to Believe. They have some great books and other products, as well as scads of free resources at their website. Richard Deem also has many very good articles from an OEC position at Evidence for God from Science. You might also check out the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, The GeoChristian, Rare Universe, and Questioning Answers in Genesis.
Finally, if you watch or listen to the “Ham on Nye” debate, feel free to comment here and let us know your impressions. Thanks!