Thursday, November 28, 2013

As is our tradition before the Thanksgiving meal, I read George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (this time the one from the Columbian Centinel, 1795), and then said the following prayer:

Dear God,

George Washington implored the nation to give thanks, but my heart is driven to ask for help instead, for I fear that you will soon take away the great and outstanding benefits you have given to us, due to our godlessness as a nation, and I perceive that you are taking them away already.

Washington mentioned our exemption from foreign war, but we are continually deployed overseas with no end in sight.

He mentions a happy course of public affairs in general, but we are continually threatened by religious zealots, who do not worship you in truth; half our population desires to be supported by the other half without contributing anything; we do not, in general, as a nation, understand our current blessings; we are increasingly a lawless nation, both on the part of the citizens and of the leaders; and many of our men are not men, but adult children, and many of our women are only vain.

Our constitution, which is there at least in part to preserve each man's property, is continually under assault by those that do not believe in private property. Much of our property is stolen from us to support worthless and lazy people, and to support the excesses of wicked politicians and corporations.

I perceive that we have become arrogant because of our prosperity and military might (but you are the commander of armies and the giver of all blessings). And we are increasingly given over to delusive and vain pursuits. Our entertainment and pleasure takes priority over all other things. We do abuse your blessings.

The truth is still available, but it is increasingly belittled and lies are typically louder and increasingly more prominent and believed among the people. Do not prevent the truth from being proclaimed, so that those that love and fear you can hear it and know it and rejoice in it.

I don't know what to do about this, other than to raise my children as best as I know how, and do what I know is right. Protect this family from the judgment to come, that will surely come if you do not grant this great nation repentance. Grant us repentance. Give to me the wisdom to know what to do, if anything other that what I am doing already.

Again, in times past, this has been a holiday of thanks, but I want to this day ask for your forgiveness and mercy, that this great nation would display the fruits of repentance.

But we still have plenty, as this table testifies, and thank you for that continued blessing, and continue to grant us these blessings.

I pray these things in the name of him that is the only reason anyone is ever afforded any mercy and forgiveness, or Lord Jesus Christ. May we be found in him. May we be his men and women. Please work in our hearts, that we may conduct our thoughts and actions according to his good pleasure.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Purveyor of Abysmal Ignorance

Well, at least when it comes to some things, he is either abysmally ignorant, or deliberately untruthful, and for the sake of giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will say he is ignorant. He seems an honest enough guy. But about what things in particular is he abysmally ignorant, you ask? Well, things like Intelligent Design. He has been very outspoken on the subject, and I can tell you he doesn't seem to have the faintest clue about what Intelligent Design really is.

There is a YouTube video here, among other places, where he gives a talk about Intelligent Design, essentially telling people that Intelligent Design is a 'god of the gaps' argument, as it is commonly and erroneously described (especially at Wikipedia, but no surprise there). The argument goes like this: “we don't know how something works or has come about, therefore God must have done it.” He gives examples where some very prominent and well known scientists have apparently reasoned that way, with Issac Newton being his prime example. He states that when these brilliant men understood the law-like nature of the world around them, they could describe it without referring to God or gods. But when they reached the limits of their knowledge, they invoke a god or gods to explain what they could not with a naturalistic explanation. And I can see how that can be a big problem, and that it very well could in fact cause people to prematurely give up searching for an explanation for some phenomenon that is under investigation.

But I also see another big problem: Intelligent Design is nothing of the sort. Intelligent Design, as a scientific theory, does not in any way resemble the 'god of the gaps' argument. There are many places to go that will give you a solid definition for Intelligent Design, and the 'god of the gaps' description is nowhere to be found within these other sources (New World Encyclopedia is one of them). And yet over and over and over, Mr. Tyson, in his presentation linked above, gives examples of the 'god of the gaps' argument, then says “this is intelligent design!” It could be that Mr. Tyson has been enlightened since his talk at the Beyond Belief '06 shin-dig, but if he has, I am not aware of it, nor have I heard him retract his former statements.

But if it's not a god of the gaps argument, then what is Intelligent Design? I will quote form the New World Encyclopedia:

Intelligent design (ID) is the view that it is possible to infer from empirical evidence that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection" Intelligent design cannot be inferred from complexity alone, since complex patterns often happen by chance. ID focuses on just those sorts of complex patterns that in human experience are produced by a mind that conceives and executes a plan. According to adherents, intelligent design can be detected in the natural laws and structure of the cosmos; it also can be detected in at least some features of living things.

Why this is controversial is astounding to me, because people make design inferences all day long without even thinking about it. Every time you see something like this:

 or this:
or this:

you automatically 'know' that an intelligence was behind it. You didn't see anyone do it, and you don't have a clue why they did it, but you automatically know that someone did it. These things are obviously best explained by an intelligent cause, even though we know nothing at all about the nature or intent of the creators of these artifacts when we first see them (i.e. who did it and why), and in many cases, we don't know how they did it.  But that doesn't matter, because as soon as we see these things, we immediately abandon any notion that they were produced naturally by some weird, freakish natural phenomenon that has so far eluded the scientific community. In fact, to suggest that these artifacts were the result of wind or erosion or some such thing would be quite a stretch at best (but most would consider such a notion absurd).

But if this is the case, that there are things in this world that are best explained by an acting intelligence, and we actually conclude that every day, then it seems to me that there should be a rigorous way to describe why we reach that conclusion. This is essentially the effort behind the Intelligent Design movement - to be able to explain why we know that the three examples above were made by someone. Hence, ID is a rigorous philosophical and mathematical method by which we can conclude that certain phenomena in our world are best explained by an acting intelligence. It is the answer as to the 'why' we believe that the three things above were made. Or in other words, if we tacitly reach these sorts of conclusions every day without thinking about it, then we should be able to explicitly reach these sorts of conclusions by thinking about it, and we should then be able to apply that reasoning to everything around us, including living things and the universe as a whole (e.g. Dembski's 'explanatory filter'). That is at the root of intelligent design, in a nutshell. Pretty simple, huh?

But Mr. Tyson is a really smart and well read guy. Surely he is privy to such a simple concept? Alas, I guess not. It is another sad example of an ID antagonist either not doing their homework (which is shameful for someone of his learning), or he is an outright propagandist and distorter of the truth. It's one or the other, to be sure.

To wrap it up, in an effort to address Mr. Tyson's assertion that ID is a 'discovery stopper', I would only ask this question: if it can be shown with rigorous deduction or powerful inference that biological life or the universe as a whole has been designed (which is what ID claims to be able to do), then what is the point in continuing to look for a naturalistic explanation, other than to try to maintain the hope that God does not exist?