Thursday, December 19, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 232c: The ghost of C S Lewis weighs in (via a video) vs FFRF on the question of science, religion, the reality of God and miracles

This time, let us focus on the pivotal ideas in the FFRF poster, that all that exists is the natural world and that "Religion" is therefore "but myth and superstition . . . "

As we have been observing the FFRF poster confidently asserts:

The obvious pivotal issue is that in our day such atheism wears the lab coat, and pronounces its assertions in the name of science, which in their minds, trumps "religion." (BTW: It seems, sadly, that such atheists are usually so ignorant or dismissive of philosophy that they can only equate religion with superstition, they have no conceptual category that allows them to recognise why there are diverse worldviews and why a worldview different from their own may be reasonable. Part of our job is to educate such, including on the inevitable worldview roots of science and of their evolutionary materialist secular humanist scientism.  Including, the decisive weaknesses in that view. Later on, DV.)

C S Lewis long ago answered -- actually, ANTICIPATED -- quite decisively, with the very miracle at the heart of Advent Season as the miracle in play: that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin. 

This has been brought to the attention of a modern audience by way of an animation -- thanks to C S Lewis Doodle:

Two George III sixpences, HT Wiki
Here, we can see how by way of the example of two sixpences put in a drawer on successive days, we can understand the difference between a law of nature acting freely by mechanical necessity and/or by chance processes similar to what happens when we roll a pair of fair dice, and what happens with intelligent intervention. The two coins put in a drawer will add up to twelve pence or one shilling's worth -- unless someone intervenes. And if a thief intervenes, he will have not so much broken the laws of arithmetic as those of England.

Just so, it was not ignorance of the laws of nature that led Joseph to change his mind about divorcing his espoused wife Mary. (And yes, the betrothal of that day was much stronger than our modern engagements are. One had to get a divorce to break it -- it was unconsummated marriage.)

Joseph full well knew how women usually become pregnant with child. 

But, he was also open to the possibility that the world is not a closed, self-contained material, mechanical system with room only for chance and deterministic causal influences that trace ultimately to the physics and happenstance circumstances of the Big Bang or the like.

So, it seems that the dismissal "[t]here are no gods" -- we agree, there is but one true Living God, our creator and Lord -- is not the pivotal matter, but instead the declaration, "[t]here is only our natural world." That is, FFRF and others of like atheistical ilk imagine that reality is material, and believe that "science" has somehow proved it so.

Which science, when, where, by whom, how?


Not psychology or biology, and not chemistry. 

And least of all, physics.

Science properly understood studies the natural world as a going concern in light of empirical observations, it is unable to explain its ultimate root. 

Save, that cosmology (a branch of physics) is more and more finding out that the physics of our cosmos is highly fine tuned in ways that allow Carbon Chemistry, watery medium cell based life to exist on terrestrial planets. Ways that look suspiciously like a design. (We will follow this up later.)

But also, at bottom, the confident assertions by FFRF also pivot on the notion that "there is no evidence for God," so belief in God MUST be blind faith, or superstition similar to believing in good luck due to having a rabbit's foot in your back pocket.

(Perhaps, such need to ask themselves why they have come to imagine there is no such evidence, on what grounds. And, whether what they really mean is, "there is no evidence that I am willing to properly follow up, fairly evaluate and accept if the balance of the evidence points that way." A very different thing indeed.)

However, it may be more useful to simply cite a current short summary of five pointers to God, as was presented by the noted Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig, during a recent television interview:

In an accompanying article he notes . . . and he is a leading expert on the views of modern atheists with many public debates with leading atheists to the point where some are now gun-shy:
. . . most atheists, in my experience, have no good reasons for their disbelief. Rather they’ve learned to simply repeat the slogan, “There’s no good evidence for God’s existence!”  . . . . 

In my publications and oral debates with some of the world’s most notable atheists, I’ve defended the following five reasons why God exists:

1.  God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.  Given the scientific evidence we have about our universe and its origins, and bolstered by arguments presented by philosophers for centuries, it is highly probable that the universe had an absolute beginning. Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.
 2.  God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. Contemporary physics has established that the universe is fine-tuned for the existence of intelligent, interactive life.  That is to say, in order for intelligent, interactive life to exist, the fundamental constants and quantities of nature must fall into an incomprehensibly narrow life-permitting range.  There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature's laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.
3.  God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties. Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm? Evolution? Social conditioning? These factors may at best produce in us the subjective feeling that there are objective moral values and duties, but they do nothing to provide a basis for them. If human evolution had taken a different path, a very different set of moral feelings might have evolved. By contrast, God Himself serves as the paradigm of goodness, and His commandments constitute our moral duties. Thus, theism provides a better explanation of objective moral values and duties.

4.  God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Historians have reached something of consensus that the historical Jesus thought that in himself God’s Kingdom had broken into human history, and he carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms as evidence of that fact.  Moreover, most historical scholars agree that after his crucifixion Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty by a group of female disciples, that various individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death, and that the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection despite their every predisposition to the contrary. I can think of no better explanation of these facts than the one the original disciples gave:  God raised Jesus from the dead.

5.  God can be personally known and experienced.
 The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. Down through history Christians have found through Jesus a personal acquaintance with God that has transformed their lives.
So, is it really true that there is "no evidence" for God, or is it that there is no evidence that some are willing to accept that might just put an unwelcome Divine Foot in the door of their comfortable ideology? {Added, Dec 22: Cf. UD's V J Torley respond to P Z Myers' attempted dismissals of W L Craig's brief arguments, here.}

And if God is, why would he not ever have good reason to occasionally act beyond the usual course of nature to fulfill a higher purpose? 

Such as, the prophesied and fulfilled incarnation of the Christ, his life and service, his death burial and resurrection as witnessed by 500 who could not be stopped by dungeon, fire or sword -- or worse? 

That is, the focus of this Advent season.

That is, too, the possibility of and value of evidence for miracles is going to be settled in the end on whether one is willing to accept that God is possible in light of evidence that is accessible all around us and -- as our consciences testify -- even inside us. For, if we are subject to moral government -- the force of OUGHT, that strongly indicates that we live under a Moral Governor, the inherently good God, our Creator.

We seem to be zeroing in on a will problem here.

Let us ponder that, this Christmas season. END

PS: Note the onward exchange between V J Torley and P Z Myers, here.