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Christianity and the progress of science

Well, it’s Friday, so I thought we would all benefit from reading about a brand new peer-reviewed study that should be the final nail in the coffin of naturalistic evolution. At least for those with an open mind who are not wedded to the philosophical assumption of naturalism.

Phys.org (which is committed dogmatically to fully naturalistic evolution) reports:

Mark Stoeckle from The Rockefeller University in New York and David Thaler at the University of Basel in Switzerland, who together published findings last week sure to jostle, if not overturn, more than one settled idea about how evolution unfolds.

It is textbook biology, for example, that species with large, far-flung populations—think ants, rats, humans—will become more genetically diverse over time.

But is that true?

“The answer is no,” said Stoeckle, lead author of the study, published in the journal Human Evolution.

For the planet’s 7.6 billion people, 500 million house sparrows, or 100,000 sandpipers, genetic diversity “is about the same,” he told AFP.

The study’s most startling result, perhaps, is that nine out of 10 species on Earth today, including humans, came into being 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.

“This conclusion is very surprising, and I fought against it as hard as I could,” Thaler told AFP.

That reaction is understandable: How does one explain the fact that 90 percent of animal life, genetically speaking, is roughly the same age?

Oh, oh. Pick me, pick me. I know the answer. The answer is that the biological information in living systems was put there by an intelligent agent. You know, the same way that information in books is put there by intelligent agents. And the same way that information in computer code is put there by intelligent agents. And the same way that information in blog posts is put there by intelligent agents. We know what introduces information from our own experience.

Well, what about mutation and selection? Couldn’t they create all this information in a couple hundred thousand years? Well, no. You see, mutation and selection have been tested in the lab to see how much information they can produce over generations and generations. And the conclusion is clear: it is impossible for blind forces to create the amount of information we see in living systems in the short time that is available. In fact, the whole history of the universe is not enough time for evolutionary mechanisms to create the information we have in front of us.

Before we leave the paper reported by Phys.org, here is something about whether we see the gradual emergence of complexity via lots of transitional forms in nature.

Not so much:

[…][A]nother unexpected finding from the study—species have very clear genetic boundaries, and there’s nothing much in between.

“If individuals are stars, then species are galaxies,” said Thaler. “They are compact clusters in the vastness of empty sequence space.”

The absence of “in-between” species is something that also perplexed Darwin, he said.

Indeed. So perplexing.

The evidence we gain from the progress of science is always perplexing to people who assume naturalism, and then try to shoehorn reality to match their religious assumptions. I have an idea. Why don’t we just make science the search for truth, no holds barred? Wouldn’t that be a much better way to do science? Let’s just do science honestly, and stop trying to make it prove things that are comfortable for us.

If the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, the origin of the first living system, and the sudden origin of body plans in the Cambrian explosion are impossible to account for on naturalism, then maybe we need to jettison the philosophical assumption of naturalism, and just go where the evidence leads? What’s wrong with that?

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How did life begin?

When I was in graduate school, we studied a book called “Mirror Worlds”, authored by famous computer science professor David Gelernter at Yale University. This week, I noticed that Dr. Gelernter had written an article in the prestigious Claremont Review of Books. In his article, he applies his knowledge of computer science to the problem of the origin of life.

Evolution, if it is going to work at all, has to explain the problem of how the basic building blocks of life – proteins – can emerge from non-living matter. It turns out that the problem of the origin of life is essentially a problem of information – of code. If the components of proteins are ordered properly, then the sequence folds up into a protein that has biological function. If the sequence is not good, then just like computer code, it won’t run.

Here’s Dr. Gelernter to explain:

How to make proteins is our first question. Proteins are chains: linear sequences of atom-groups, each bonded to the next. A protein molecule is based on a chain of amino acids; 150 elements is a “modest-sized” chain; the average is 250. Each link is chosen, ordinarily, from one of 20 amino acids. A chain of amino acids is a polypeptide—“peptide” being the type of chemical bond that joins one amino acid to the next. But this chain is only the starting point: chemical forces among the links make parts of the chain twist themselves into helices; others straighten out, and then, sometimes, jackknife repeatedly, like a carpenter’s rule, into flat sheets. Then the whole assemblage folds itself up like a complex sheet of origami paper. And the actual 3-D shape of the resulting molecule is (as I have said) important.

Imagine a 150-element protein as a chain of 150 beads, each bead chosen from 20 varieties. But: only certain chains will work. Only certain bead combinations will form themselves into stable, useful, well-shaped proteins.

So how hard is it to build a useful, well-shaped protein? Can you throw a bunch of amino acids together and assume that you will get something good? Or must you choose each element of the chain with painstaking care? It happens to be very hard to choose the right beads.

Gelernter decides to spot the Darwinist a random sequence of 150 elements. Now the task the Darwinist is to use random mutation to arrive at a sequence of 150 links that has biological function.

[W]hat are the chances that a random 150-link sequence will create such a protein? Nonsense sequences are essentially random. Mutations are random. Make random changes to a random sequence and you get another random sequence. So, close your eyes, make 150 random choices from your 20 bead boxes and string up your beads in the order in which you chose them. What are the odds that you will come up with a useful new protein?

[…]The total count of possible 150-link chains, where each link is chosen separately from 20 amino acids, is 20150. In other words, many. 20150 roughly equals 10195, and there are only 1080 atoms in the universe.

What proportion of these many polypeptides are useful proteins? Douglas Axe did a series of experiments to estimate how many 150-long chains are capable of stable folds—of reaching the final step in the protein-creation process (the folding) and of holding their shapes long enough to be useful. (Axe is a distinguished biologist with five-star breeding: he was a graduate student at Caltech, then joined the Centre for Protein Engineering at Cambridge. The biologists whose work Meyer discusses are mainly first-rate Establishment scientists.) He estimated that, of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. It’s not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller. Axe puts them at 1 in 1077.

In other words: immense is so big, and tiny is so small, that neo-Darwinian evolution is—so far—a dead loss. Try to mutate your way from 150 links of gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million—you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done.

Keep in mind that you need many, many proteins in order to have even a simple living cell. (And that’s not even considering the problem of organizing the proteins into a system).

So, if you’re a naturalist, then your only resources to explain the origin of life are chance and mutation. As Dr. Gelernter shows, naturalistic explanations won’t work to solve even part of the problem. Not even with a long period of time.  Not even if you use the entire universe as one big primordial soup, and keep trying sequences for the history of the universe. It just isn’t possible to arrive at sequences that have biological function in the time available, using the resources available. The only viable explanation is that there is a computer scientist who wrote the code without using trial and error. Something that ordinary software engineers like myself and Dr. Gelernter do all the time. We know what kind of cause is adequate to explain functioning code.

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Bible study that hits the spot

One of the questions that everyone should ask themselves is “what happens to me when I die?” Well, I’m an evangelical Protestant Christian, and I think that view of the world is correct according to logic and evidence. Well, I found an article on this that provides the philosophical theology perspective, from Dr. William Lane Craig. You can’t do better than him.

He writes:

The first and most fundamental truth that we must hold on to is that the biblical hope of immortality is physical, bodily resurrection. I repeat: The biblical hope for immortality is physical, bodily resurrection. The biblical hope is not that the soul will someday be separated from the body and fly off to heaven and be forever with God in heaven in this disembodied existence. That’s actually a very Greek understanding of the afterlife, from the Greek philosophers like Plato, and it’s very different from the Jewish-Hebrew way of thinking of the afterlife. For Jews and for the early Christians alike, the hope of immortality was not the immortality of the soul alone but rather the resurrection of the body. This physical body will be raised from the dead and transformed to immortal life.

He cites 1 Cor 15:20 and Phil 3:20-21 as support.

And do we get our resurrection bodies right away?

Now that raises the next question: When do we receive our resurrection bodies? When do we get our resurrection body? Is it immediately upon death? When we die, do we immediately receive our resurrection body? Well, the answer to that is, no. That idea fails to take seriously the physical nature of the resurrection. The resurrection body is not some different body. It is this body transformed into a glorious, immortal, Spirit-filled, incorruptible form. So if we received our resurrection body immediately upon death, the graves of all the Christians would be empty! There would be no corpses left in the tombs because our resurrection bodies are the transformation of this earthly body. Therefore, the resurrection doesn’t take place immediately upon death. Rather the Scriptures are fairly clear that this takes place at the second coming of Christ, when Christ returns to earth.

He cites 1 Cor 15:21-23, 51-52 for support, as well as 1 Thes 4:13-17.

And what about the time in between death and the second coming of Christ? After all, in Luke 23:39-43, Jesus tells the dying thief who believes in him that he’ll be with Jesus in Paradise that very day:

39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 

41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Dr. Craig says:

[T]he Bible indicates is that the soul does survive the death of the body. Human death does not mean extinction. Human death is simply the separation of the soul from the body. While the body dies biologically and decays away, the soul continues to exist and continues to live in a disembodied state. In between your death and your resurrection you will exist as a disembodied soul, a soul without a body, in a conscious state.

And he cites Phil 1:21-24, where it talks about how life after death, but before the resurrection, is an improvement, because he will be with Christ, which is “far better”. Those who don’t accept Jesus as Lord and Savior will also have a life after death, but apart from Christ. And they’ll also have a resurrection, but not to eternal life with Christ:

In John 5 there’s a very interesting passage where Jesus speaks about the resurrection, and He says that there will be a resurrection, not only of the righteous dead, but even also of the unrighteous dead. John 5:28-29. Look at this saying by Jesus: “Do not marvel at this. For the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.” Jesus envisions that all people will be raised from the dead. Those who are believers, the righteous dead, will be raised to the resurrection of life; but the unrighteous dead, those who have rejected God’s grace and His love, will be raised to the resurrection of condemnation.

Dr. Craig also talks about the story of Lazarus, where the rich man, who is not saved, is in Hades, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew word “Sheol”, which you may recognize from the Psalms.

Dr. Craig writes:

When people die, the righteous go to be with Christ, where they will await their resurrection from the dead. The damned go to Hades, where they are in a disembodied state where they await their resurrection to final judgment. Only then are people ushered in to their final state, which is heaven or hell.

I cannot wait until I get my resurrection body. I have a very good idea of what I’d like it to be, too. I think about the resurrection a lot, and really look forward to it. I had a difficult life in many ways. There are things that have not been resolved, like not being married, and being stuck as a virgin! And then there’s the troubles I sometimes have at work, when atheists who are younger and more dedicated than me make me feel inadequate. I was a hard worker in my 20s and 30s, but now in my 40s, I just feel like I would rather be doing things I really care about, and it’s sometimes hard to focus, especially when retirement is just around the corner – around age 50.

Sometimes, I find myself driving home in my beautiful city and state, and I just think, the most important things are not all this prosperity and freedom God blessed me with, but that vertical relationship with God. And I wish I was doing more to really show Jesus that he is Lord of my life. But my hope is that in the end, I will share in his vindication, being clothed in a righteousness that I did not earn myself.

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A family praying and reading the Bible

I know what you’re thinking – I’m going to say apologetics. But I was actually having a talk with a young women who found the arguments for God convincing, but wasn’t sure whether she was ready for a personal relationship with the God of the Bible. It got me thinking about my past and what it was about the God of the Bible that caused me to make a commitment.

If I had to say what it is that cause me to take Christianity seriously, including accepting Jesus as my Leader (more than just as my Savior), it would be the conviction that God was lining things up in my life to show himself to me. This was particularly welcome because I could see that I had not been blessed with the best situation in life to start out with.

Sean McDowell has a recent post about it, and since he is an expert in apologetics, I’m inclined to agree with him.

He writes:

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis makes a distinction between “Gift-love” and “Need-love.” As for Gift-love, he gives the example of a father who works and plans for the future well being of his family, even though he will die without seeing them benefit. As for Need-love, Lewis gives the example of a lonely and frightened child who comes to its mother’s arms for comfort and protection. Such love is neither selfish nor improper, because children are intended to have nurturing mothers, and mothers are intended to care for their kids.

According to Lewis, God’s love for mankind is entirely Gift-love: “The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too.” God does not need our love or worship. Rather, He freely loves us as an extension of His grace.

But our love for God is different. While we may be able to offer God Gift-love, our love is primarily need based. Lewis explains: “But man’s love for God, from the very nature of the case, must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love.” We desperately need God in both this world and the next.

And then Lewis makes an additional (and helpful) distinction—while our objective need for God will never change, our awareness of that need can. And if our awareness of the need for God fades, then so may our faith. Thus, Lewis says:

There seems no reason for describing as hypocritical the short-lived piety of those whose religion fades away once they have emerged from “danger, necessity or tribulation.” Why should they not have been sincere? They were desperate and howled for help. Who wouldn’t?

In other words, if someone believes in God because of an immediate need for safety or comfort, then as soon as the danger or pain ends, so may the faith. How does this relate to students? Think about it. If a young person believes in God for social or relational needs in the family, church, or school, then when those needs fade, so will his or her faith. If belief in God fulfills some external need, then as soon as that need fades, or another venue provides satisfaction of that need, the student will likely abandon his or her faith (or minimally, have a marginalized faith).

The whole post is worth reading, because no less than Sean McDowell himself had a moment like this where he realized his own sinfulness and had to rely on Jesus for his forgiveness.

Judging from his tweets, I know that Sean is obsessed with super-heroes like Spider-Man, and so he would not be comparing himself to his peers in terms of righteousness. That sort of distance between you and Spider-Man can be really grating for boys. Inside, we feel like we are meant to be super-heroes. Many young men go into apologetics because they see it as a super-power. The problem of not measuring up is very strong for us, because we see the demands of Christianity as much greater than mere church attendance. I imagine that as Sean engaged with people using his apologetics super-power, he probably realized how difficult it was to know everything and give an answer to everyone. That’s above and beyond the standard shortcomings or pride, anger, hatred, and so on that are inside of every person.

We are not super-heroes but we need to have super-human righteousness (that is, perfect righteousness) in order to stand before our Creator and Designer. The only solution is to rely on the imputed righteousness of Jesus for our super-hero status. It is a good and healthy thing to take on Jesus as King, and to imitate him. But when we fail, we must also rely on him as Savior. And thank God the Father for that provision of salvation. And indeed, I myself think of Jesus as Savior in the moments where I am conscious of my own sin. But I need to think about him more than that, and I’ll explain how next.

In my case, I wanted to be a super hero growing up, but I knew I wasn’t coming from a family or a background that made super-heroes. I was saved in a non-Christian home where, thanks to my hands-off “parents”, I was on a very dark path to failure. In fact, I can see where I would have ended up by just looking at where my older brother is now. That disaster is what my parents, my schools, my culture, etc. produced in him, and it would have been me except for God stepping in to make himself known. I get excited about God as initiator and architect of salvation (not without my free will to trust). When God architects a divine appointment for me to use my prepared abilities in his defense or in mentoring little ones, I praise God as author of salvation. But I forget that Christ is the one who allows me to be clean enough to participate in this plan.

My ambition from small was to be a super-hero, and this later turned into great respect for people in the military, especially those who are awarded the Medal of Honor, like Michael Murphy. I want God to give me the Medal of Honor, too. But sin ruins my ambition every day. When I am called out to serve and am found faithful and competent, I need to remember that what makes me fit for service is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. His shed blood is the cape that I put on when it is my turn to come off the bench and be who I was designed to be. It is very important to me that the God I serve is the kind of God who won’t turn away from me when I fall short.

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Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle

I used to think that if you were really good at your job, then it wouldn’t matter if you were serious about your Christian beliefs, because no one would fire you. But I guess that’s not true when it comes to the conflict between gay rights and the Bible. On Friday, an Australian rugby player had his contract canceled because he shared some Bible verses on social media.

Here’s the story from the UK Daily Mail:

Israel Folau says he ‘deeply saddened’ by Rugby Australia’s decision to tear up his $4million rugby contract, but his religious beliefs should not stop him from playing the sport.

The decision, which was announced on Friday afternoon, makes the devout Christian the first Australian athlete dismissed for expressing religious beliefs after sharing a homophobic Instagram post.

[…]’The Christian faith has always been a part of my life and I believe it is my duty as a Christian to share God’s word.

‘Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.’

The words he cited are from 1 Corinthians 6:9-14 which are about sin and repentance and who will be admitted to the Kingdom of God.

Just to be clear, the Christian position on sexuality is that you cannot have sex outside of marriage. And the Christian position on marriage is that it is one man and one woman for life. Authentic Bible-believing Christians may fail to live out that standard, but they can never take any other stance than that in public. If you are a Christian, you cannot say that sex outside of marriage is fine with God. If you are a Christian you cannot say that redefinitions of natural marriage are OK with God. There’s only one kind of authentic Christian, and that’s the kind that takes the Bible as authoritative, including on moral issues. Telling someone they can’t quote the Bible in public is essentially telling them that they can’t be a Christian in public.

Whenever things like this happen to Christians who are serious about their beliefs, I always try to find out what the people who take away their livelihood have to say about it. These people usually think of themselves as very tolerant and open-minded, so it’s interesting to hear how they keep their self-image after firing someone for their religious beliefs.

The article says:

In a press conference this afternoon, Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle said Folau was a ‘great player’ but that everyone has the right to be respected regardless of sexuality, race, gender or religion.

[…]’Our clear message today is that we need to stand by our values and the qualities of inclusion, passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork.’

Ms Castle said she had told all rugby players in Australia that RA supports their rights to their own beliefs.

‘But when we are talking about inclusiveness in our game, we are talking about respecting differences as well,’ she said.

‘When we say rugby is a game for all, we mean it. People need to feel safe and welcoming in the game, regardless of their race, background or sexuality.

[…]’I’m confident because those players understand that everybody has a right to their own views or religious beliefs, and as long as they continue to express them in a respectful way we will continue to support them,’ she said.

[…]Ms Castle said she was ‘disappointed’ that Folau had not apologised.

So, did the rugby player have a right to be respected regardless of his religion? No, he needed to be fired. Did she respect his differences? No, she fired him. She says that authentic Christian quoting the Bible on social media is not being a Christian “in a respectful way”. So there’s a non-Christian telling a Christian how to behave like a Christian. And after she fires you, she’s disappointed that you didn’t apologize to her for not being Christian in a respectful way.

My thoughts

I have two thoughts about this. First, if you want to be public about your Christianity and keep your job, then you need to have an alias. Because of this intimidation from secular left fascists, Christians are refusing to speak out on moral issues on a daily basis. To help you to be more comfortable speaking out, you should have an alias. I have blogged about sexual issues and marriage many, many times on this blog, often citing peer-reviewed research in order to support the Christian position on these issues. And so far, no one has been able to get me fired. My goal is to have an influence. I want to do as much as I can without letting the fascists on the other side stop me.

Second, I’ve noticed that it’s increasingly common for Christians to side with the gay activists against other Christians. And that’s because Christianity has become so much about feelings and self-esteem that many people who claim to be Christians think that Christianity should always make them feel good and be popular. If all you have is feelings, it’s pretty easy to put your need to feel good above the need to defend what the Bible teaches.

For those who would like to be bolder but don’t know how, the Bible actually has an answer to that in 1 Pet 3:15. In order to be bold, you need to be prepared. By reading books outside of the Bible, you’ll equip yourself with evidence so that you can debate non-Christians who don’t accept the Bible. They may not accept the Bible, but they have to accept evidence, or they’ll look stupid and irrational.

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Let’s investigate the historical facts

I blogged previously about William Lane Craig’s appearance on the Ben Shapiro show. One thing that didn’t seem to come up was Ben’s own explanation for the rapid belief among the followers of Jesus in his bodily resurrection, and his identity as the Jewish Messiah. I guess Dr. Craig did some digging and found out Ben’s view, because he posted a response to Ben on Facebook.

Here it is:

NOTE ON THE BEN SHAPIRO INTERVIEW

I’m grateful to Ben Shapiro for inviting me to appear on his program and for his excellent interview. Prior to going on the show, I prepared a brief on his view that Jesus was a political revolutionary who got himself crucified. As it turned out, the issue never came up, and the brief, like most of them I prepare, remained unused. But I share it here with you in case this issue ever comes up in your conversations.

Jesus as a Violent Revolutionary

This view was suggested by SGF Brandon back in the 1960s but has been virtually universally rejected by scholars. Why?

Four reasons:

1. It would require us to regard as inauthentic all of Jesus’ moral teachings concerning non-violence, turning the other cheek, loving one’s enemies, etc.

John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol. 3, pp. 566-67:
“Jesus’ inclusive outreach to all of Israel in the end time, his emphasis on mercy and forgiveness, his rejection of retaliation, and his exhortation to love even one’s enemies lay at the opposite end of the Palestinian-Jewish spectrum from violence-prone zealotry.”

2. Roman authorities never regarded Jesus or his followers as enemies.
When Messianic pretenders or prophets arose, the Roman authorities acted pre-emptively, decisively, and ruthlessly to destroy them. For example,
A.D. 36 a Samaritan prophet led people up Mt. Gerizim. Pilate immediately sent cavalry and infantry to attack them and destroy them.
A.D. 45 a man named Theudas led people to the Jordan River to part the waters. Fadus sent cavalry in a surprise attack and killed and captured many.
A.D. 50s a prophet called the Egyptian led followers to the Mt. of Olives to watch the walls of Jerusalem fall. Felix sent Roman troops to slaughter all of them.
But Roman troops were never sent to attack the followers of Jesus, either during his lifetime or after his death.

3. During Jesus’ ministry Palestine was at relative peace.
All of the above examples occurred after Jesus’ death. During Jesus’ lifetime Palestine was basically at peace.

John Meier: “the fatal flaw of this approach is its presupposition that there was one or more organized and armed groups of Jewish revolutionaries active in Palestine c.a. A.D. 28-30. . . . But, as far as the historical record permits us to judge, there were no organized, armed groups of Jewish revolutionaries active during Jesus’ public ministry.”

So obviously Jesus did not lead such a group.

4. The evidence is that Jesus rejected being the Messiah in a militaristic sense.
I agree that Jesus thought of himself as the Messiah, but not in the military sense of a warrior-king.

James D.G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, p. 653: Jesus ignored or refused or rejected the dominant current understanding of the Messiah as a royal and military power like Herod the Great.

Jesus ran contrary to the chief priests’ and the people’s expectations. Mk 15.31-2: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

Most Jewish people I talk to don’t really have a thought out explanation for the basic historic facts about Christianity. They tend to treat the New Testament as forbidden, and just keep the bare historical facts about Christianity at arm’s length. So, even if I put forward a minimal facts case for the resurrection, for example, they tend to not want to engage with it. They won’t deny facts, and they won’t put up an alternative explanation. The best response I’ve heard is the one Ben gave: Jesus didn’t achieve the things that Jews expected the Messiah to achieve, so we’re still waiting on the real Messiah. And Dr. Craig’s response to that was, well if Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, and God raised him from the dead, then God thinks that he’s the Messiah.

What I’ve noticed in listening to my favorite Jewish conservatives like Dennis Prager, Ben Shapiro, etc. is that Jews don’t put as much emphasis on testing religious claims as evangelical Protestants do. I have had evangelical Prostestants write to me about all kinds of scientific breakthroughs and historical discoveries, asking me what impact this or that has on the truth of Christianity. In my opinion, even conservative Jews don’t invest as much time into that sort of thing. They seem to be respectful of all religions that produce people who keep to the general moral teachings of the Old Testament. This is nice for me, because I do take those moral teachings seriously. But I remember someone asking Dennis Prager how to choose a religion, and his first rule was not to disrupt your family or community. That is something that no Christian like me could say.

After all, we have this from the founder of Christianity:

Matthew 10:34-38:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 

35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 

38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Just to be clear, that sword is meant to divide, not do violence, OK? I actually told that verse to my mother when I was breaking with the Islamic religion she was trying to push me into when I was young. She did not like it!

Also, Christians have this:

John 18:36-37:

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

So, Christianity is a truth-centered religion. Getting the beliefs correct comes first, and the good actions follow from that. It’s not primarily about feeling good, about family acceptance, not about community cohesion, or even being a “good person”. It’s about recognizing Jesus for who he is – Lord and Savior – and giving Jesus acknowledgement and respect in your priorities and actions.

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21 states have SOGI anti-discrimination laws

Remember watching that video of the fascist thug Democrat Brian Sims, as he bullied the pro-life lady who was praying outside of an abortion clinic? Well, imagine that abusing Christians who take the Bible seriously became the law of the land, and a minority of secular leftist were empowered to use government as a weapon to silence and coerce Bible-believing Christians.

Regular readers will be familiar with the cases where gay activists went after bed and breakfasts, wedding venues, photographers, florists, bakers, etc. who refused to participate in celebrations of same-sex marriage. Christians oppose same-sex marriage, because the leader of the religion defined marriage as being between one man and one woman. However, religious liberty wasn’t a defense in these cases, because these states had passed “SOGI laws”, which made it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act is a Democrat bill that forces all the states without SOGI laws to allow gay activists to weaponize government against Christians, forcing them to participate in non-Christian celebrations of gay activism.

The Federalist described some effects of the bill:

On the surface, the “Equality” Act is supposed to protect LGBT folks from discrimination by adding the categories of sexual orientation and gender identity to all federal civil rights laws, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It would make claims of discrimination related to these characteristics legally actionable in the way racism is, and applying to virtually every area of life: the workplace, education, banking, jury service, federal funding, housing, medicine and psychiatry, and all public facilities.

It is a power grab in the guise of anti-discrimination. A bait-and-switch. It’s another attempt by a ruling micro-clique to exert mega-control over everyone else’s lives, including those it purports to protect. It allows the Mass State to maximize bureaucracy and social engineering, especially by its huge regulation of speech and expression. It erodes individual rights while claiming to uphold them.

Sane people of goodwill have a host of good reasons to object to the so-called Equality Act. And many of those reasons have been written up, including the de-sexing of toilets and showers, the compelled speech inherent in pronoun protocols and severe punishment for “misgendering,” the promised harassment of business owners, the invasion of girls’ and women’s sports by biological men who force on them an unequal playing field, the utter contempt for individual conscience, and more.

The net result of this act would be a huge inequality of power accrued to the state and drained from the individual.

Other areas that would be affected: tax exempt status for churches, private college admissions, scholarships and curricula, moral standards in Christian organizations, forced transgender treatments at hospitals and health clinics, foster and adoption agencies could not prefer naturally married couples.

The author of that article lists five specific effects of the law:

  1.  It Undermines Everyone’s First Amendment Rights
  2. The Ambiguities in the Bill Threaten the Rule of Law
  3. Nudge Toward a Chinese-style Social Credit System
  4. Redefining Humanity By Outlawing Sex Distinctions
  5. It Enshrines Socially Destructive Identity Politics

Let’s see what the article says about #2:

The first thing that should hit any reader of the so-called Equality Act is the ambiguity of its language, especially with the bill’s outright emphasis throughout on “perceptions.”

[…]Consider how much the “Equality” Act would rely on bureaucratic and court actors to divine the “perception” of the perpetrator or victim of so-called discrimination: it would have to calculate your intent, read your mind, check out your body language, pick you apart for any suggestion of malice. For example, it repeatedly refers to sexual orientation and gender identity as “actual or perceived.” Many times throughout, the text notes that discrimination (or identity?) involves “perception or belief even if inaccurate” (emphasis mine).

This dependence on perception or belief about a person’s self-identity did not exist before. The language of this proposed law is more fluid than gender fluidity on steroids, and it’s wild stuff to push, especially at the federal level. It invites no end of accusations and lawfare that bodes ill for society and promises much human wreckage. The only people “empowered” by such a scam are those on the upper levels of this newly devised food chain who can call the shots.

Here’s more about #3 for those who didn’t know about the China social credit system:

If passed, we shouldn’t be surprised if it eventually produces a social credit system not unlike what is happening in China, whereby your livelihood, education, career, mobility, and access to goods and services is based on a literal “score” of your compliance with government policy. To paraphrase Sir Richard Scruton’s excellent observation of how that works in China, I’d say that the so-called Equality Act would help create robots out of Americans, with the state programming what they can say and do.

As more people self-censor because of the risk of losing their livelihoods and social status, they simply become more prone to robotic compliance and conformity with limits on their speech. This is fast becoming the case in China, where citizens feel the need to build up their “social credit” to be allowed access to jobs, education, housing, and who knows what other goods and services. The so-called Equality Act’s restrictions on First Amendment freedoms would be a big step in that direction.

A social credit system that scores you for conformity would be a logical effect of the intent of the Equality Act: to punish free expression in just about every sphere of life, including the workplace, at school, in the public square, and in all public facilities, and any place that might be connected with federal funding. (By the way, Scruton was punished—stripped of his chairmanship of an architectural commission in Britain—simply for explaining what the social credit system does to people in China. That should be another lesson for us here.)

Just to be clear, I live in a state with no SOGI law, and I still write about studies, etc. that are critical of the gay agenda from behind an alias. The second that this Equality Act becomes law, I would instantly have to delete this blog, my Facebook page, and my Twitter in case “discrimination” was “perceived” by an LGBT activist based on my previous writings, and they decided to investigate.

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If abortion reduces crime, why does the evidence show that it doesn’t?

Grr, my annoying co-workers are at it again this morning. This time, it’s the man who annoyed me about overpopulation fears, which I responded to earlier this week. He says to me this morning that Alabama is going to have a big problem with violent crime because they’ve stopped abortions. These sorts of views are common among TV-watchers, but not among those study-readers.

Life Site News reports on a Yale Law & Economics Research Paper.

First, let’s see the abstract:

Abortion may prevent the birth of “unwanted” children, who would have relatively small investments in human capital and a higher probability of crime. On the other hand, some research suggests that legalizing abortion increases out-of-wedlock births and single parent families, which implies the opposite impact on investments in human capital and thus crime. The question is: what is the net impact? We find evidence that legalizing abortion increased murder rates by around about 0.5 to 7 percent. Previous estimates are shown to suffer from not directly linking the cohorts who are committing crime with whether they had been born before or after abortion was legal.

And now, let’s see the Life Site News article:

Law professors John R. Lott, Jr. of Yale Law School and John E. Whitley of the University of Adelaide found that legalizing abortion increased murder rates by up to seven percent. They concluded that legalizing abortion is a contributing factor to the great increase in out‑of‑wedlock births and single parent families, which in turn contribute to increased crime rates. Since 1970, the percentage of single‑parent households in the United States has nearly tripled, from 11 percent to 32 percent, and the percentage of out‑of‑wedlock births has nearly quadrupled, from 11 percent to 43 percent of all children.7 Children born out-of-wedlock and raised by only one parent have a significantly higher incidence of crime.

There are many other fundamental problems with the conclusion that legalized abortion leads to a decrease in crime.

Statistician David Murray confirmed that young males between the ages of 17 and 25 commit the majority of crimes. However, if abortion had reduced crime, the crime rates in the United States would have dropped first among young people. They did not. Instead, the number of crimes committed by older people dropped first. Nearly 60% of the decline in murder since 1990 involved killers aged 25 and older — who were born before Roe v. Wade.8

Murray also found that other nations with high abortion rates showed a large increase in crime about eighteen years after they legalized abortion. For example, in Great Britain, which legalized abortion in 1968, violent crime has been rising steeply since about 1985 ― exactly when it should have been declining, according to the Donohue‑Levitt thesis. Additionally, Russia, with the highest abortion rate on earth, has experienced a tidal wave of every kind of violent crime following the breakup of the Soviet Union.9

FBI statistics showed that the murder rate in 1993 for 14‑ to 17‑year‑olds in the USA (born in the years 1975‑1979, which had very high abortion rates) was 3.6 times higher than that of kids who were the same age in 1984 (who were born in the pre‑legalization years of 1966‑1970). Additionally, since Black women were having abortions at a much higher rate than White women, we should have expected the murder rate among Black youth to have declined beginning in about 1991. Instead, it increased more than five hundred percent from 1984 to 1993.10

Finally, the huge increase in violent crime that peaked in 1991 and then began to decline is more closely related to the crack epidemic, not abortion. The Donohue‑Levitt study confirms that the crime rate rose and fell exactly where crack cocaine was most easily available ― in the large cities and among young Black males.11 This is also confirmed by the rise in crime during the time period 1984 to 1991, after a decline from 1980 to 1984. If abortion were the primary cause of a decline in violent crime, the crime rate would have been relatively stable during the time period 1980 to 1991.

By the way, a good book to buy on this is John Lott’s “Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t“. One third of the book covers this topic.

And if you’re wondering what caused the decline in violent crime rates in the 1990s, the answer to that is that it was multiple factors. Better policing, mandatory sentencing laws, legalized concealed carry laws, and other factors were responsible.

Abortion and child abuse

Sometimes, pro-abortion people put forward a similar argument about abortion preventing child abuse. This argument seems intuitive, but from an evidence point of view, it’s false.

Here’s a report from Life News about a study out of Bowling Green State University.

Excerpt:

For decades, evidence has existed showing abortion contributes to a rise in child abuse. Now a new study by a post-abortion research institute and Bowling Green State University professors finds that women who have abortions are more likely to abuse their children.

Published in the medical journal Acta Paediatrica, the study found that women who have had abortions are 2.4 times more likely to physically abuse their children. Pro-life advocates say it proves the need for providing women with post-abortion counseling to help deal with the emotional trauma of the abortion.

[…]The authors suggested that “emotional difficulties and unresolved grief responses” from pregnancy loss, whether voluntary or involuntary, could have a negative impact on women’s mental health and lead to unhealthy parenting responses.

According to the Illinois-based Elliot Institute, which released information about the study’s findings, prior surveys “have linked pregnancy loss to an increase in grief reactions, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which can have a negative impact on parent/child relationships.”

The post-abortion research group also points to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology that found abortion has been linked to an increase in substance abuse and thoughts of suicide, which could also contribute to child abuse.

The new study also found that women who had more than one miscarriage or stillbirth were more likely to engage in child abuse than women who had just one. However, women who had abortions were more likely to abuse their children whether they had one or more than one abortion.

“Regardless of the specific mechanisms at play, maternal history of one induced abortion does appear to be a marker for increased risk of physical abuse,” the authors concluded.

Whenever I read about how studies contradict people’s intuitions about what will and will not work, it makes me sad that so many people who live life on intuitions and feelings are still allowed to vote. If only we had a society where reason and evidence were seen as indispensable for building up your view of the world.

By the way, if you’re looking for a good article for debating other aspects of the Alabama pro-life law, my friend William, who loves to debate everything, and he always wins, just posted this article about 9 myths about the Alabama pro-life law.

General advice on countering your co-workers

I found that if I passed on TV and movies, I could buy pretty much any book I wanted that has research-based responses to these common questions from secular leftists. All it takes is a commitment to dedicate your book-buying budget to the task of responding to challenges, instead of producing feelings.

I notice a lot of Christian women in my office reading fiction books, while the Christian men are always talking about TV and movies. Fiction and entertainment are useless for putting forward Bible-based views and supporting evidence in controversial discussions. Instead of wasting your money on fiction and entertainment, listen closely to what people in your office are saying, and then purchase and train with resources that help you to serve God in these discussions. Bible verses and prayers alone will not equip you to serve in difficult situations.

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Total fertility rates have decreased globally by about half since 1960.

I had lunch with one of my co-workers on the secular left recently. I asked him what his biggest concern with the world. After telling me that he was a “libertarian”, he said that he was alarmed that people were having too many babies. I asked him what he wanted to do about it. He said keep abortion legal, and use the government to stop people from reproducing. Some libertarian!

Anyway, he was just factually wrong about the overpopulation, and I had to launch into a long, detailed explanation of replacement rates, birth rates across the world, and how the prosperity created by capitalism has caused birth rates to decline in even poorer countries. I also explained to him that once a country dips below the replacement fertility rate (2.1 births per woman), it never returns. I concluded my refutation of his assertion by stating that he should be more worried about underpopulation than overpopulation.

Anyway, I had to repeat the same explanation again with another secular leftist that same week. So when I saw this recent Daily Caller article about a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control, I figured I might as well equip you guys to respond to other people with the same wrong view.

It says:

The United States birth rate hit a record low in 2018 with numbers reflecting the lowest birthrates in the past 30 years, reports say.

A new report from the National Center for Health Statistics at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that almost every age group of women under 35 showed birth rate declines in 2018. The provisional number of births in the U.S. in 2018 was 3,788,235, down 2% since 2017. For every 1,000 women, the fertility rate declined 2% from 2017 to 1,728.0 births.

Birth rates had reached a record low in 2017 as well, marking a continuing trend of declining birth rates over the past four years, according to CNN.

[…]These 2018 birth rate numbers are below the necessary threshold needed for population replacement, which is 2,100 births per 1,000 women, CNN reports.

So we’re down to 1.73 births in the USA, which is below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain current population levels.

This new report isn’t an outlier. It confirms what we knew about from previous reports.

Here’s an earlier report from the far-left Pew Research Center, reported by the radically-leftist Slate, of all places.

Excerpt:

A report issued last month by the Pew Research Center found that immigrant births fell from 102 per 1,000 women in 2007 to 87.8 per 1,000 in 2012. That helped bring the overall U.S. birthrate to a mere 64 per 1,000 women—not enough to sustain our current population.

Moreover, the poor, highly fertile countries that once churned out immigrants by the boatload are now experiencing birthrate declines of their own. From 1960 to 2009, Mexico’s fertility rate tumbled from 7.3 live births per woman to 2.4, India’s dropped from six to 2.5, and Brazil’s fell from 6.15 to 1.9. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average birthrate remains a relatively blistering 4.66, fertility is projected to fall below replacement level by the 2070s. This change in developing countries will affect not only the U.S. population, of course, but eventually the world’s.

Now I have a couple tools for you to share to those people who might have irrational views of this issue.

Useful videos

This video explains what’s wrong with overpopulation fears:

Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth - YouTube

And this one explains what the replacement rate number is:

2.1 Kids: Stable Population - YouTube

You can share those for people who don’t have time to read. It at least makes the point, even if it doesn’t link to a reputable report.

A useful podcast

This podcast featuring famous economist Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse will be useful for you to understand why the overpopulation myth is something you should be concerned about.

The MP3 file is here. (from 1/22/2010)

Topics:

  • how the transition from country to city discourages child-bearing
  • how religion impacts how many children parents have
  • what is the US birth rate, is it high enough?
  • can we just import immigrants to alleviate the low birth rate?
  • has increased prosperity encouraged people to have more children?
  • how has the purpose of sex changed after the sexual revolution?
  • how does the demographic crisis threaten entitlement programs?
  • what do we learn from the declining birth rate in Japan?
  • how does population growth impact stock market performance?

This podcast explains how some countries aren’t making enough young workers to pay for the social programs needed by a growing number of elderly people wanting to retire.

Please share the post if you found it useful.

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Fine-tuning of the strong nuclear force and the fine structure constant

If there is one thing that science fiction is good for, it’s for popularizing the phrase “carbon-based life”. Everyone has heard that carbon is essential for life. But do you know why carbon is so important? And did you know that the reaction that produced the carbon in our universe is actually fine-tuned, and therefore evidence for a Creator and Designer of the universe?

Hugh Ross has a new article up in Salvo magazine, which I found thanks to a post at Uncommon Descent.

Now he starts off with a discussion of how the mass density of the universe needed to be fine-tuned in order to produce elements heavier than hydrogen from the (only) hydrogen that was present at the creation event. I’ve talked about that reaction previously, but I won’t repeat that here. Nucleosynthesis is one of the most important chemical reactions in science, and something every Christian should know and understand well enough to explain it.

You can’t make complex embodied intelligent creatures such as ourselves out of only hydrogen and helium, but you can’t make a life permitting universe without some hydrogen and helium. For one thing, you can’t have liquid water without some hydrogen.

But the element carbon is the center hub of all of the molecules inside of us that allow for the storage and processing of information necessary for life.  And it turns out that the reaction that creates carbon from elements lighter than carbon is fine-tuned to an amazing degree.

Excerpt:

But cosmic mass density is not the only thing that must have been exquisitely fine-tuned for the universe to contain any carbon. The nuclear resonance (or energy) levels for helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen also had to be exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon to exist. Here’s how that happens.

Stars fuse carbon and oxygen from helium through a series of reactions known as the triple-alpha process, in which three helium nuclei are combined to make one carbon nucleus. In the first step in this process, two helium nuclei (with 2 protons each) fuse together to make beryllium (which has 4 protons). Next, a helium nucleus fuses with a beryllium nucleus to make carbon (which has 6 protons). Then, some carbon nuclei fuse with helium nuclei to make oxygen (which has 8 protons).

The only reason that the triple-alpha process produces any carbon or oxygen at all is because in the first step, the ground state energy level (i.e., the state of an atom when all of its electrons are at their lowest energy levels) of the beryllium-8 nucleus (containing 4 protons and 4 neutrons) almost exactly equals the ground state energy level of two helium-4 nuclei (2 protons and 2 neutrons each). In the second step, the ground state energy level of a beryllium-8 nucleus plus a helium-4 nucleus almost exactly equals the energy level of an excited state of a carbon-12 nucleus (6 protons and 6 neutrons). In the third step, the ground state energy level of a carbon-12 nucleus at 7.65 million electron volts is just slightly larger than the ground state energy level of an oxygen-16 nucleus (8 protons and 8 neutrons) at 7.12 million electron volts.1

If it were not for the near equivalences or resonances of the nuclear energy levels of two helium nuclei relative to a beryllium nucleus, and of a beryllium nucleus plus a helium nucleus relative to a carbon nucleus, the universe would contain very little or no carbon and very little or no elements heavier than carbon. Life would be impossible.

Furthermore, unless the difference in the nuclear energy levels between a carbon nucleus and an oxygen nucleus were precisely 0.53 million electron volts, the universe would contain either a lot of carbon and no oxygen or a lot of oxygen and no carbon. Either way, physical life would be impossible in the universe.

In the early 1950s, astronomer Fred Hoyle and physicist Willy Fowler were the first to understand how critical the relative nuclear energy levels of helium, beryllium, carbon, and oxygen were for making life possible in the universe. Commenting on the highly fine-tuned nature of these nuclear energy levels, Hoyle wrote in an article he published in Engineering & Science,

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion beyond question.2

The article continues to explain that there is an additional problem of carbon fine-tuning related to habitability.

The carbon formation problem is one of the best examples of fine-tuning, and as you can see, it’s even admitted by atheists. It’s not the easiest one to explain (because resonance levels are not familiar in every day life), but it’s worth knowing about all three of the fine-tuning topics in the post.

Keep in mind that the more science has made progress, the more fine-tuning problems we have discovered. The trend is very bad if you are a naturalist. But very good if you are a theist. Evidence matters, and scientific evidence is the best kind of evidence.

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