Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Liberal Protestant Spirit Of Gregory The Great And John Of Damascus

In another thread, Historical Number Cruncher wrote:

"In 397 AD, the Roman Cathoics and the Eastern Orthodox held the Council of Carthage to separate the Wheat from the Chaff: to select the Books of the Bible; to mark Commentaries, Histories, and Training Manuals as useful non-Biblical Books; and to discard the books being insinuated into the Scripture by the Gnostics. What have the Reformers done? John Calvin's Doctrine of Total Depravity implies that the Church Fathers of Carthage were not Competant because of their sin to do the work that they did. Chapter XXXI, Article iv of the Westminster Confession declares that their work is not binding....While I believe in Biblical Inerrancy, I listen more to those who actually did something about it rather than to see someone's MANMADE Doctrines bring it into Question....Chapter I of the Westminster Confession copies the Council of Carthage List, at least a Thousand years too late, and is hardly authoritative....If Chapter XXXI, article iv invalidates the Council of Carthage, it also invalidates the Westminster Confession....The Integrity of the Bible is an ALL-IMPORTANT issue for me, unlike you LIBERAL PROTESTANTS....What have you or your Church done to protect the Integrity of the Scripture besides teaching the Doctrines of Men, like Presedtination, Total Depravity, Monergism, or that legal Church Councils are invalid as the Westminster Confession teaches?...You forget that before 397 AD, there was no Scripture. It was nothing more that a scattered collection of scrolls, both fact and fiction."

Historical Number Cruncher is a poor communicator. It's often difficult to determine what he's trying to say. I suspect that he hasn't done much research and hasn't given these issues much thought.

There are a lot of problems with what he seems to be saying. Many of those problems have been addressed by other posters. I want to address one of the problems in particular.

He suggests that the council of Carthage gave us the Bible, that its work is "competent", "valid", "binding", "authoritative", "legal", etc. He thinks that this issue is "ALL-IMPORTANT", unlike us "LIBERAL PROTESTANTS".

A lot of Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cite the council of Carthage (or the earlier councils of Rome and Hippo) in a similar way, though often in a more informed and nuanced manner than Historical Number Cruncher does. One of the problems with citing any of these councils in such a manner is that many patristic, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox sources disagreed with the canons advocated by those councils after the councils were held. Gregory the Great believed in a different Old Testament canon. John of Damascus held a different New Testament canon. Etc. To this day, Eastern Orthodox disagree among themselves about which books to include in the Old Testament canon (see, for example, here and here). Why would these people be ignorant of the "binding" and "ALL-IMPORTANT" authority of the council of Carthage (or Rome or Hippo)? Did men like Gregory the Great and John of Damascus have the spirit of a "LIBERAL PROTESTANT" on such issues? In addition to disagreeing with the canon(s) of many modern Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists, did these men also disagree with their view of church authority?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Things That Conflict With Reppert's Intuitions: Self-excepting Fallacy #200

Reppert claims he doesn't have to deny inerrancy.

I maintain that if he holds to inerrancy, he must give up his critique of Calvinism based on his intuiting, or he must give up inerrancy.

Which way will he go?


Gen. 6:5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them."

Gen. 19:24 Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Gen. 22:1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied. 2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

Ex. 11:4 So Moses said, "This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.' Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

Ex. 12:29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Ex. 32:27 Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' " 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day."

Deut. 3: Next we headed for the land of Bashan, where King Og and his army attacked us at Edrei. But the LORD told me, 'Do not be afraid of him, for I have given you victory over Og and his army, giving you his entire land. Treat him just as you treated King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon.' So the LORD our God handed King Og and all his people over to us, and we killed them all. We conquered all sixty of his towns, the entire Argob region in his kingdom of Bashan. These were all fortified cities with high walls and barred gates. We also took many unwalled villages at the same time. We completely destroyed the kingdom of Bashan, just as we had destroyed King Sihon of Heshbon. We destroyed all the people in every town we conquered – men, women, and children alike. But we kept all the livestock for ourselves and took plunder from all the towns."

Deut. 21: 18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Josh. 7:10 The LORD said to Joshua, "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 25 Joshua said, "Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today." Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

Josh. 8:18 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand, for into your hand I will deliver the city." So Joshua held out his javelin toward Ai. 19 As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire.

20 The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers. 21 For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from the city, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. 22 The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. 23 But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua.

24 When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai. 26 For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed [a] all who lived in Ai. 27 But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua.

28 So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. 29 He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.

1 Sam. 6:19 But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?"

1 Sam. 15:1 Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' "

2 Sam. 6:6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.

1 Kings 20: 35 By the word of the LORD one of the sons of the prophets said to his companion, "Strike me with your weapon," but the man refused.
36 So the prophet said, "Because you have not obeyed the LORD, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you." And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.

I Chron. 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, "Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are."

3 But Joab replied, "May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?"

4 The king's word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.

6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king's command was repulsive to him. 7 This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

8 Then David said to God, "I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing."

9 The LORD said to Gad, David's seer, 10 "Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.' "

11 So Gad went to David and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Take your choice: 12 three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the LORD -days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

13 David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."

14 So the LORD sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the LORD saw it and was grieved because of the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

Eze. 9:3 Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the LORD called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side 4 and said to him, "Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it."

5 As I listened, he said to the others, "Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. 6 Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple.

7 Then he said to them, "Defile the temple and fill the courts with the slain. Go!" So they went out and began killing throughout the city. 8 While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, "Ah, Sovereign LORD! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?"

Is. 13:11 I will punish the world for its evil,
the wicked for their sins.
I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty
and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

12 I will make man scarcer than pure gold,
more rare than the gold of Ophir.

13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble;
and the earth will shake from its place
at the wrath of the LORD Almighty,
in the day of his burning anger.

14 Like a hunted gazelle,
like sheep without a shepherd,
each will return to his own people,
each will flee to his native land.

15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through;
all who are caught will fall by the sword.

16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.

17 See, I will stir up against them the Medes,
who do not care for silver
and have no delight in gold.

18 Their bows will strike down the young men;
they will have no mercy on infants
nor will they look with compassion on children.

19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
the glory of the Babylonians' [b] pride,
will be overthrown by God
like Sodom and Gomorrah.

20 She will never be inhabited
or lived in through all generations;
no Arab will pitch his tent there,
no shepherd will rest his flocks there.

21 But desert creatures will lie there,
jackals will fill her houses;
there the owls will dwell,
and there the wild goats will leap about.

22 Hyenas will howl in her strongholds,
jackals in her luxurious palaces.
Her time is at hand,
and her days will not be prolonged.

Hos. 13:16 The people of Samaria must bear their guilt,
because they have rebelled against their God.
They will fall by the sword;
their little ones will be dashed to the ground,
their pregnant women ripped open."

John 2:13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!"

Acts 5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. 3 Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."

5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?"
"Yes," she said, "that is the price."

9 Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.


For Reppert to claim that it's only a doctrine like reprobation that conflicts with his "moral intuitions" and not passages like the above, then his critique is simply rendered the complaint of a man who has an axe to grind against Calvinism.

Or, he can come right out and deny inerrancy. Show people what you have to give up to beat the Calvinist.

Who do men say that I am?

Mark Driscoll: There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a Pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity. Source.

(HT: Steve Hays)

Luke 18 And Roman Catholic Desperation

Scripture repeatedly refers to people as justified as soon as they come to faith rather than having to wait until baptism or some other work is later added to their faith (Mark 2:5, Luke 7:50, Acts 10:44-48, 19:2, etc.). These passages are problematic for Roman Catholic soteriology. The following are some comments made about one of these passages, Luke 18:10-14, by some Roman Catholic posters in recent threads (see here and here). I've seen other Catholics make similar comments about Luke 18.

Nick wrote:

"In Lk 18 there is nothing in reference to 'faith', much less 'faith alone', but rather humility (cf James 4:6ff)."

"The moral was about humility versus pride, not faith versus works."

"'He who humbles himself will be exalted'. That is not the language of imputed righteousness. God recognized the virtue of humility in his soul and made his soul righteous again. Combine that with what other Scripture says on humility....Also, I would argue that nothing in that parable indicates this was a conversion experience. Rather the two men already believed in God going to do their daily prayers, justification by imputation occurs once upon conversion to the faith."

"That parable NOWHERE attacks or denigrates or contrasts good works to faith, the parable nowhere mentions faith (both men already believed in God)"

Dmitry Chernikov wrote:

"The Pharisee was not justified not because the works are useless or unnecessary but because he lacked the inner understanding of his sins. Similarly, dead faith fails to justify. We can make the case that both the internal faith and charity and good works are required. In the final analysis, how can God know if you are sincere in your faith? How can even you know? You have to prove your faith through action."

Is this passage in Luke 18 about humility? Yes. It's also relevant to justification. A passage of scripture can address more than one issue. A sinner who's characterized by his sinful profession of tax collecting appeals to God's mercy and leaves the temple justified. Contrary to what Nick suggests, the tax collector doesn't seem to have been converted earlier. If he had been, he probably wouldn't have been portrayed as a tax collector seeking God's mercy, and the reference to his leaving the temple justified would lose its force, since he would have been justified prior to going to the temple, not just afterward. The concept that he repeatedly gained and lost his justification, working as a tax collector even though he had previously been justified, reads unimplied assumptions into the text. The common Evangelical reading of the passage is simpler and preferable.

Does the fact that both men "believed in God" prove that they both had faith? No, not in any relevant sense. Evangelicals don't define faith as belief in God. Justifying faith involves more than that.

How would God know that our faith is sincere? God is omniscient. He doesn't need to wait for outward works in order to know what occurs in the heart (Acts 15:8). In Acts 15, Peter is referring to the events of Acts 10, where believers received the Holy Spirit prior to being baptized. Similarly, it would be implausible to suggest that the tax collector in Luke 18 was baptized in the temple. Faith is assumed in Biblical passages about justification (Hebrews 11:6). Baptism and other works aren't. A passage like Luke 18 implies faith, but doesn't imply baptism or any other such work. The idea that Jesus would commend a tax collector who had no faith is ridiculous, whereas the concept that the tax collector wouldn't have been baptized in a Jewish temple isn't. The passage doesn't have to mention faith in order for faith to be implied. It would have to mention something like baptism in order for us to conclude that such a work was involved. The idea that faith and works are in the same category, as if both could be assumed with equal validity in this context, is ridiculous.

Arguing that something like the tax collector's humility is a work doesn't reconcile the passage with Roman Catholic doctrine. Roman Catholicism doesn't teach that it's normative for people to be justified at the time they attain humility. In Roman Catholic theology, you can have faith, humility, and other good attributes, yet remain unjustified until the time of your baptism. Protestants don't deny that those who are justified have attributes such as faith and humility. Nothing in Luke 18 is inconsistent with a Protestant view of how people are normally justified. But the passage is inconsistent with a Roman Catholic view of normative justification.

It's true that Luke 18 doesn't address imputation. But the passage doesn't need to address imputation in order to be inconsistent with Roman Catholic soteriology.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Red Queen

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Speaking of which:

“I am wondering if the following type of analysis might be helpful.”

It isn’t.

“1.Suppose I were to argue as follows. Given the fact that Calvinism violates my conception of what it is for God to be good, I ought to accept it only if it can be established biblically beyond a reasonable doubt. “

The major premise is nonsensical. Reppert’s intuitive preconception of divine goodness is irrelevant to the meaning of a text. Since this is not a hermeneutical principle, there is no extraneous burden of proof to overcome. To see this, suppose we were to apply Reppert’s reasoning to any other text:

“Suppose I were to argue as follows. Given the fact that Homeric mythology violates my conception of what it is for Zeus to be good, I ought to accept it only if it can be established Iliadically beyond a reasonable doubt. “

No one would accept the application of Reppert’s burden of proof to the Iliad, or any other text. Why apply a different standard to the Bible?

Well, I suppose Reppert could say the following: “Since the Iliad is fiction, the Iliad could very well violate my conception of what it is for God to be good, but we hold the Bible to a higher standard.”

In other words, the Iliad could teach a false doctrine of God because the Iliad is fictitious, whereas the Bible can’t teach a false doctrine of God. It can only teach a true doctrine of God. For the Bible, unlike the Iliad, is inspired.

But if that’s the case, then Reppert must be prepared to adjust his intuitive preconception to the Bible. So, either way, he has backed himself into a dilemma.

If, on the one hand, he treats the Bible as falsifiable, then he can’t say that a Calvinistic interpretation must discharge some extraneous burden of proof.

If, on the other hand, the teaching of Scripture is bound to be true, then it must be in a position to correct Reppert’s preconception.

“Probably, Calvinism cannot be established biblically beyond a reasonable doubt.”

And how does he verify the minor premise?

“1 can be objected to by saying that my belief concerning what it is for God to be good is based on a mere ‘intuition’ or gut feeling. But of course, to my mind, it is central to retaining a reasonably strong analogy between divine goodness and human goodness. I think Calvinists leave the analogy far too weak.”

Reppert has done nothing whatsoever to advance the argument. Indeed, he hasn’t even given us an argument here. Like the Red Queen, he’s just running in place. He’s asserting that the analogy is far too weak.

“But one of the main reasons I have for accepting Christianity and not Islam is the moral superiority of the God of Christianity to Allah.”

And, as usual, he’s repeated himself, although I’ve already responded to this illustration. There is more than one way to skin a cat. More than one way to falsify Islam.

“Scripture teaches plenty of things beyond reasonable doubt…But predestination? That strikes me as a judgment call at best. “

Based on what? His exegesis of Scripture?

“But notice that in this argument all I am doing is using my conception of divine goodness to impose a strong burden of proof on theologies that undermine it.”

It’s illicit to treat his preconception of divine goodness as a hermeneutical burden of proof. That’s hermeneutically irrelevant to the meaning of a text. He wouldn’t apply that to Homer. Or Dante. Or Blake. They could well conflict with his preconception of divine goodness. There is no prima facie presumption to the contrary.

His argument acquires its specious plausibility because he consciously or unconsciously smuggles the notion of inspiration into the Bible, such that Scripture couldn’t speak falsely of God. But once he makes that concession, then he must be prepared to yield to the authority of Scripture.

“In doing so I am certainly not rejecting inerrancy. It seems that some people are suggesting that in order to be a good Christian I have to commit myself not only to Scripture's inerrancy.”

Reppert is now rewriting the history of this thread. Manata and I weren’t the ones who originally questioned his commitment to inerrancy. He’s the one who floated that proposition as an escape clause to evade Reformed exegesis. Reppert likes to float a number of escape clauses to evade Reformed exegesis.

“I don't think I'm going to dedicate my life to examining this question biblically. It seem highly unlikely antecedently that it is the case.”

So all the business about the “burden of proof,” “a judgment call at best,” “beyond a reasonable doubt” and so on was just a charade.

“Am I sticking my head in the sand?”

Yes. There’s a name for that: Struthio camelus.

“No, I am adjusting my belief system as evidence comes in, like a good Bayesian.”

No, you’re deliberating turning a blind eye to only probative evidence there is. How would we know if predestination is true or false? The only direct evidence would come from divine revelation.

“Am I not open to the teaching of Scripture?”

Obviously not. You’ve decided what is antecedently likely or unlikely, and so, based on that assessment, you don’t even crack the covers of Holy Writ to confirm or disconfirm your precious intuition.

Reppert practices a special brand of Christianity using earplugs and eye patches.

“Do I have no clue what it means to be a Christian?”

When you walk around with earplugs and eye patches, it can have that desensitizing effect.

“It could have taught Calvinism beyond a reasonable doubt. It doesn't.”

Reppert is to Calvinism what Dawkins is to Christianity. They don’t know because they don’t believe, and they don’t believe because they don’t know. A perfect circle of self-reinforcing prejudice.

Should we pray for Ted Kennedy?

John Mark Reynolds (hereafter JMR) recently made the following statement:

“I just read that Senator Ted Kennedy has a serious illness. I stopped what I was doing and prayed for him and urge you to do the same. This is true, even if you disagree with him politically as I do. Common humanity is more important than politics. Failure to realize this is neither conservative nor Christian. We pray for Senator Kennedy as a human being, because we recognize the limits of politics. His soul and his pain are more important than all the budgets that have ever been passed.”

There are a couple of problems with this statement. For one thing, political differences between liberals and conservatives run deeper than budgetary concerns. Just to take a few of the less morally freighted issues, Kennedy’s political positions on illegal immigration, gun-control, school choice, judicial activism, and school choice are hardly equivalent to whether a bridge is built in so-and-so’s Congressional district.

I’m not saying this is a reason to refrain from praying for Kennedy. Just that JMR is trivializing the issue when he reduces the differences to all the budgets that have ever been passed. And that’s even before we get to the morally meatier issues.

For another thing, the Bible doesn’t invoke our common humanity to erase all distinctions between the righteous and the wicked. Scripture is full of prophetic denunciations against the wicked. More on that later.

“We will all face the painful evidence of our mortality. Only a saint or a cad can fail to have sympathy for any sick man. The saint can do so because he is wise and deeply insightful enough to know when sympathy is not appropriate or helpful.”

But common humanity doesn’t distinguish between the saint, the sick, and the cad. So JMR is applying contradictory criteria.

By definition, wouldn’t saintly criteria trump common humanity? The saints would represent the best of humanity. If there are times when it’s appropriate to be unsympathetic, then shouldn’t the rest of us follow the lead of our spiritual betters?

“We pray for every person what we pray for self, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner’.”

That’s would be a valid reason to pray for Kennedy. At the same time, that would be a valid reason to pray for any number of people. But there are only so many hours in a day. Only so many people I can pray for.

Suppose I pull down that dusty high school yearbook of mine. That’s been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long. I thumb through the photos. Page after page. How many of them do I still remember? For three years I saw them every day. Sat with them. Spoke with them. Ate with them.

Here’s an idea. Instead of offering a prayer for Ted Kennedy, suppose I pray for five of my old classmates everyday. Maybe a different set every day. Lots of folks are going to pray for Ted Kennedy. But what about my old classmates? Who gives them a second thought?

You know, there are some people who, if you don’t pray for them, no one else will. You’re the only steppingstone to heaven they have.

“Why pray for Senator Kennedy when we don’t know him? Are we just being ‘star struck’ and honoring the famous more for their fame? If our humanity is common, then shouldn’t we stop and pray for everyone. Would we ever do anything but sympathize with the pain of the billions around us? Partly, we should never stop praying sympathetically.”

But he just said that there are times when a saint will withhold sympathetic prayer.

“However, some men and women fall within our circle of accountability for special prayer.”

I agree with this statement. See above.

“Our leaders are some of those people. If Saint Paul can ask the Roman Christians to pray for their regional kings, there is no member of our government who does not merit this concern.”

I assume he’s alluding to 1 Tim 2:2. If so, there are several problems with his appeal:

i) When you apply a Biblical injunction to a modern situation, you need to consider the underlying rationale. 2 Tim 2:2 includes a purpose statement: “so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life.”

In other words, Christians were a religious minority, living in a hostile world. They should pray for benign rulers.

But if that’s the point of the command, then it hardly applies to Kennedy’s situation. He’s on the way out.

ii) When you apply a Biblical injunction to a modern situation, you also need to apply it to an analogous situation. You need to recontextualize the command. Under our form of government, Ted Kennedy isn’t my elected representative. I didn’t vote for him. I don’t even live in Massachusetts.

iii) Can we pray for every local, state, and federal employee? I don’t think so. Did Roman Christians pray for every functionary of the state? I don’t think so.

“We are honoring one of our leaders who is wounded when we pray for Senator Kennedy.”

What if Ted. Kennedy is dishonorable? Should we honor him anyway?

“Senator Kennedy chose to live a life of public service. He need not have done so. He has been a leader of the Republic for decades, for good and ill, but Scripture commands us to pray for our leaders. We also honor him for his position and for his sacrifices. The Kennedy family has given a great deal to the nation and it appropriate for all of us to honor this commitment.”

Well, that’s a very charitable interpretation. I beg to differ.

i) To begin with, when I look at the Kennedy clan, I see a lot of raw ambition. A hunger for power and prestige.

ii) But even if you think that JFK or Bobby Kennedy or Rose Kennedy made a great contribution, Ted Kennedy doesn’t automatically get the credit for what they did.

iii) Ted Kennedy strikes me as a rich kid who feels guilty about his hereditary wealth. And so he appeases his guilt by taxing the middle class, redistributing their income, and assuming the role of a national busybody. I don’t find that the least bit honorable.

Compare Ted Kennedy to William F. Buckley, another rich kid and Roman Catholic who put his hereditary fortune to a very different and far more admirable use.

But that’s not the worst of it. Ted Kennedy is an evil man. He’s an evil man in private life and public life. From Chappaquiddick through his role in the judicial murder of Terri Schiavo to his untiring advocacy of abortion, sodomy, and stem cell research, he’s right up there with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Tse-tung as one of the all-time enemies of all that’s good, decent, defenseless and innocent.

The Bible has some choice descriptions of crime and punishment. Before we get teary-eyed about Ted Kennedy, maybe we should ask ourselves if JMR’s attitude is entirely warranted in Scripture. What does it have to say about the fate of the wicked? A few examples might restore our sense of perspective:

Numbers 16:31-35,49

31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up!" 35And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. 49Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah.

Acts 12:21-23

21On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. 22And the people were shouting, "The voice of a god, and not of a man!" 23Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.

Psalm 58:8

8Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,_ like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.

Revelation 6:10

10They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

Revelation 18:20

20 Rejoice over her, O heaven,_ and you saints and apostles and prophets,_for God has given judgment for you against her!"

Revelation 19:1-3
1After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

"Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants."
3Once more they cried out,__ "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever."

2 Kings 9:1-10
1Then Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, "Tie up your garments, and take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. 2And when you arrive, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. And go in and have him rise from among his fellows, and lead him to an inner chamber. 3Then take the flask of oil and pour it on his head and say, 'Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.' Then open the door and flee; do not linger."
4So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. 5And when he came, behold, the commanders of the army were in council. And he said, "I have a word for you, O commander." And Jehu said, "To which of us all?" And he said, "To you, O commander." 6So he arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. 7And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. 8For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 9And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her." Then he opened the door and fled.

2 Kings 9:30-37

30When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window. 31And as Jehu entered the gate, she said, "Is it peace, you Zimri, murderer of your master?" 32And he lifted up his face to the window and said, "Who is on my side? Who?" Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. 33He said, "Throw her down." So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her. 34Then he went in and ate and drank. And he said, "See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter." 35But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. 36When they came back and told him, he said, "This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, 'In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, 37and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.'"

Roger Nicole on Biblical Inerrancy

Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.

This interview with Roger Nicole was taken from pp. 16, 17 of Reformed Theological Seminary's Spring/Summer 2008 edition of Ministry and Leadership.

Q: The inerrancy of Scripture is a controversial doctrine in some quarters. How do you define inerrancy, and how is the term given to being misunderstood?

A: Inerrancy is an articulation explicit of the nature of the influence of God on Scripture, which takes a full account of the fact that it is God's Word. The question, therefore, is "What can be defined as an error, and what does inerrancy therefore avoid?" If that is not properly understood, then some people may have a mistaken notion of what we want to assert. Very definitely, inerrancy does not come as a result of testing all the statements of Scripture and finding them to be true, because if that were the case, we would never end this job. Therefore, inerrancy is not some concept that theologians have developed and then placed onto Scripture, then have to validate by checking any kind of statement that might contradict what was said.

The origin of inerrancy is that God is the divine author of Scripture, and Scripture is presented as the Word of God, which it is, actually, jointly and concurrently with being the word of the human authors whom God used. Therefore, the concept is that we need to have a representation of the activity of God that is in keeping with the character of God Himself. For God, in fact, any error would be a lie.

Q: What would you say to those who argue that inerrancy is a modern idea created by desperate evangelicals responding to the conclusions of higher criticism?

A: That would be answered by looking at all the major thinkers in the Christian faith and finding out what they thought about the Bible and whether they thought there were errors to be corrected. The doctrine of the Bible has been that this is the Word of God, and you don't correct God.

The doctrine follows the reverence of the Jews for the Old Testament, also demonstrated by Jesus in His own approach to Scripture and maintained by the Apostles. It has been the doctrine of the church from the start.

Q: So what's at stake with the doctrine of inerrancy?

A: It is to recognize that whatever the Bible says is conformed to factual identity or reality and does not depart from proper criteria of truth. There are difficulties - passages where we seem to have a problem - but the fact that we are not able to find a complete reconciliation ought not lead us to challenge something as firmly established as the fact that God Himself acknowledges to be the author. It is stated in more than 2,000 places in Scripture that this is what God says.

Q: What, then, is the greatest threat to the doctrine of inerrancy today?

A: It is that if you deny inerrancy in the sense that you say the Bible maintains things that God does not stand for, or garble the events that actually occurred, then the authority of Scripture as being God's Word has been challenged and perhaps canceled. As a result, you have lost the supreme criterion of truth - what God has said cannot be false.

Q: Where do we see the bad fruit of a faulty view of inerrancy today?

A: We find that challenge in churches where people say we ought to receive practicing homosexuals as members. Scripture has said clearly that homosexuality is so nefarious that those who practice it may be punished with death. The New Testament presents it as so bad as to show the depths of corruption unparalleled in humanity, and it states expressly that those who practice that will not go to heaven. Some say, "OK, these are in the Bible, but it represents customs of that time, so there's no authority of God in there." But if you have liberty to do that, then you can take whatever it says and say, "That's for days gone by, and we can't have that anymore." Therefore our feelings, practices and sin begin to be the authority instead of God. The damage is terrific. It's a leak so bad that all the liquid may go through it.

Q: Why does there seem to be a recurring pattern of voices within evangelicalism challenging the doctrine of inerrancy?

A: What happens is that the critical approach has been so thoroughly endorsed at the graduate level that people in the universities are constantly confronted with it. And if they are not carrying through with it, they are at times discriminated against. I have the case of a thesis by one of my Gordon-Conwell colleagues who was writing about the Old Testament. He had a view contrary to the prescribed approach to Scripture, and he was rejected for his doctoral thesis on the grounds that he did not sufficiently acknowledge the critical view. So especially in the area of Scripture, if you accept inerrancy, you disqualify yourself, so to speak, in this particular way.

Victor Reppert: Self-excepting Argument #199

Reppert posted a link to Alan Rhoda's post on "the theologian’s fallacy" (which I will be responding to at a later date). Basically, the theologians fallacy is just a name for "the general practice of appealing to some allegedly absolute authority - whether that be the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas, the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, the Mormon's revelation knowledge (i.e., "burning in the bosom"), or what have you - as a "trump card" for defeating rational objections." People who use this kind of reasoning are called, "Trumpers."

Reppert claimed that Rhoda's post was "relevant to some of the discussions [he has] been having here" with the Calvinists.

What is so ironic about this is that it has been Reppert, more than us, who have appealed to the "theologians fallacy" in this debate!

See, he has this "intuition." Nothing trumps it. Reppert is a trumper.

You see, Reppert uses his trump to deny inerrancy: "Inerrancy can't be right if it conflicts with my intuitions about what is good."

Or, Reppert uses his trump to defeat objections even if he holds to inerrancy: "I'll side with Wesley and say, 'If a text conflicts with my intuitions, then I'll just say we don't know what the text means and we may never know until we get to heaven.'"

Or, Reppert uses his trump to defeat an aspect of my theodicy: "Yes, God's plan is infinite, and he does have many reasons for things beyond our understanding, but he just can't have a good reason for reprobation because my intuition tells me so."

Reppert has been "Trumping" us since day one. Every single one of our arguments gets trumped by Reppert’s trump.

He then kicks us when we're down and posts a post about a fallacy that he claims we have been committing in this debate when, in actuality, Reppert's the Trumper.

I was fine to argue strictly from philosophy with Reppert. I even cited a whole host of non-Calvinist philosophers who backed the basic idea of my arguments. I clarified our position so he could attack it properly. I used philosophical arguments from non-Christians. I used philosophical arguments from prominent libertarians. I played Reppert's game. He trumped every single one of my (and Steve's) arguments with his "intuition."

Go to the dictionary and look up "Trumper" and you'll find this picture:

King of Trump

Take it or leave it

[Victor Reppert] My claim is that it is sometimes reasonable and faithful as a Christian to take your belief in divine goodness over your belief in biblical inerrancy. Steve said someone who says this has no clue what it means to be a Christian. My response is if that's the charge you want to make, then you have to make it against Wesley and Lewis as well as myself.

You see, what Steve keeps forgetting is that he made a charge that goes well beyond the charge of committing an error. Steve had said that in making the move I make I go so far wrong as to not even know what it means to be a Christian. In other words, to not be a Christian. If someone doesn't know what it is to be a Christian, then that person can't possibly be one, just as if I have no idea what it means to be a Democrat, then I can't be a Democrat.

I am asking Steve to accept the logical conclusions of his statements or to withdraw them.

1.I distinguish between psychology and logicality. Because a Christian is still a sinner, a Christian will be inconsistent in some of his beliefs or behaviors. That is logically inconsistent with Christian theology and ethics, but up to a point, it’s consistent with being a Christian in a fallen world.

Professing believers range along a continuum, from folks like, say, George Whitefield or Billy Graham at one end to John Spong and Harry Emerson Fosdick at the other. It’s easy to make value judgments at either extreme, although our value judgments are necessarily provisional and fallible. Then there are borderline cases which are more problematic.

In my personal opinion, C. S. Lewis, as well as John and Charles Wesley, give abundant evidence of having been regenerate, and I can easily account for their theological deficiencies.

2.However, as I’ve said before, Christianity is a revealed religion, not a Turkish bazaar. I’m not going to change the rules just to make Reppert feel more at home. Indeed, since I didn’t make the rules, I’m in no position to change them. I’m not the landlord. God is.

God doesn’t revolve around Victor Reppert. Christianity is about historical realities and timeless realities. Reality doesn’t expand or contract to accommodate what Victor Reppert is prepared to believe. And if he thinks that Biblical Christianity is out of sync with reality, then he went through the wrong door.

3.It’s faithless rather than faithful to call yourself a Christian while holding a lower view of Scripture than Jesus Christ. As one theologian summarized the view of Christ:

“Jesus Christ himself provides a most arresting example in this respect. At the very threshold of his public ministry, our Lord, in his dramatic victory over Satan’s threefold onslaught, rested his whole defense on the authority of three passages of Scripture. He quoted the Old Testament in support of his teaching to the crowds; he quoted it in his discussions with antagonistic Jews; he quoted it in answer to questions both captious and sincere; he quoted it in instructing the disciples who would have readily accepted his teaching on his own authority; he referred to it in his prayers, when alone in the presence of the Father; he quoted it on the cross, when his sufferings could easily have drawn his attention elsewhere; he quoted it in his resurrection glory, when any limitation, real or alleged, of the days of his flesh was clearly superseded. Whatever may be the differences between the pictures of Jesus drawn by the four Gospels, they certainly agree in their representation of our Lord’s attitude toward the Old Testament: one of constant use and of unquestioning endorsement of its authority.”

If you’re going to be a Christian, you need to identify your beliefs with the beliefs of your Lord. Bring your beliefs in line with his. That’s what it means to be a follower.

4.Finally, not all errors are innocuous errors. Some errors are incipient errors. Insidious errors. Symptomatic of a deep-seated rebellion. Of a heart that never surrendered to God. Sometimes this remains latent. At other times, circumstances may drive it to the surface.

I’m reminded of something Warfield once observed:

“The underlying motive seems to be, as Mr. Knox would say, to make Christianity easy ‘for Jones to swallow’. It is not of the ascertainment of the pure truth that Dr. Sanday seems to be thinking at the bottom of his mind, but of the placating of ‘the modern mind’ and the adjustment of Christianity to its ingrained point of view. He seems to value his suggestions looking to the substitution of an unmiraculous Christianity for the supernatural Christianity hitherto believed in by men, because by them Christianity would be made more acceptable to ‘the modern mind.’ He tells us with charming naïveté:

‘What they would mean is that the greatest of all stumbling blocks to the modern mind is removed, and that the beautiful regularity that we see around us now has been, and will be, the law of the Divine action from the beginning to the end of time. There has been just this one little submerged rock in our navigation of the universe. If we look at it from a cosmical standpoint, how infinitesimal does it seem! And yet that one little rock has been the cause of many a shipwreck of faith. If it is really taken out of the way, the whole expanse of the ocean of thought will be open and free.’

But what if that ‘one little submerged rock’ is just Christianity?…When Dr. Sanday read that amazing paper on Miracles at the Church Congress at Middlesbrough (in 1912) in which he preadumbrated all that he has since said, there were those on the platform with him who, had he only been willing to hearken to them, could have corrected his deflected pointed of view.”

My point is not to equate Reppert’s position with Sanday’s. Indeed, Reppert wrote a fine critique of Hume.

Yet, at a deeper level, they share the same basic outlook. Reppert simply locates the submerged rock in different parts of Scripture than Sanday does. Reppert believes as much of Scripture as he can squeeze into the close quarters of his modern mind. He’ll shave off or saw off whatever doesn’t fit within the rigid dimensions of his cultural conditioning.

But divine revelation is a unit. Either God has spoken or he hasn’t. Take it or leave it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Can Random, Non-Directed Processes Create DNA Information?

In my previous post on DNA, I mentioned the following argument:

A) DNA is information.
B) Information cannot arise from a random, non-directed process.
C) Darwinism requires DNA to have arisen from a random, non-directed process.
D) Therefore, Darwinism cannot explain DNA.
In my first post, I demonstrated A) DNA is information. In this post, I will demonstrate B) Information cannot arise from a random, non-directed process.

The first thing to note is an example that Apolonio brought up. He said:

For example, we can conceive of a case where a person knocks over a scrabble box and the letters I Love You comes out with that order.
While this would be a random process creating information, it is not using foundational forces. The specific example requires a person to knock over the Scrabble box. But even if we adjust for that and make it gravity pulling a box off a shelf or something similar, Scrabble tiles are not foundational in nature; they are designed. So the information still requires a non-foundational force (human ingenuity) to create the tiles which are used to create information in the pattern “I love you.”

Even then, the odds that “I Love You” would form are quite rare. Assuming an equal sample of each letter of the alphabet (as well as an infinite supply of them), you have 8 letters, so the odds of pulling these particular letters would be 1/268, or 1 in 208,827,064,576, which is: 4.79 x 10 -12. If you include the space as a character, we have 10 characters and 27 possibilities each draw: 1/2710, or 4.9 x 10-15.

In reality, however, Scrabble boxes do not contain an equal sampling of each letter. Instead you have 12 Es; 9 As & Is; 8 Os; 6 Ns, Rs, Ts; 4 Ds, Ls, Ss, Us; 3 Gs; 2 Bs, Cs, Fs, Hs, Ms, Ps, Vs, Ws, and Ys; 1 J, K, Q, X, Z. Finally, there are 2 blanks. This yields 100 total pieces. If we use the blanks as spaces, the odds for each letter in “I [blank] Love [blank] you” are:

I = 9/100
Blank = 2/99
L = 4/98
O = 8/97
V = 2/96
E = 12/95
Blank = 1/94
Y = 2/93
O = 7/92
U = 4/91

Because we are not dealing with an infinite number of tiles, we have to reduce how many are available after each selection. Thus, we have a 9/100 chance of pulling an I on the first draw from the box. If we do so, there are now only 99 tiles remaining, 2 of which will be blanks. That means we have a 2/99 shot for the blank, etc. Note that when a letter repeats (for instance, the O), we have to decrease the number remaining too. Thus, the first draw of an O is 8/97 but the second is 7/92 (because the first draw picks one of the Os). Finally, we get the combined odds by the following:

9/100 x 2/99 x 4/98 x 8/97 x 2/96 x 12/95 x 1/94 x 2/93 x 7/92 x 4/91, which is:

774,144 / 62,815,650,955,529,472,000

Or 1.23 x 10-14

Which is roughly 1 in 81 trillion. So even though the tiles were created by humans, a random arrangement of them to spell out “I love you” is still extremely rare.

The above does, however, help us understand a bit about DNA. As most are already aware, DNA uses 3-base codons to create amino acids. There are four possible DNA bases (ACGT), and that means that means 43 (64) possible combinations of those letters. However, there are only 20 amino acids. As a result, amino acids are often encoded by multiple numbers of codons. For instance, Leucine (L) can be encoded by CTT, CTC, CTA, CTG, TTA, and TTG. Which means there are 6 possibilities for L. In fact, quickly going through the amino acids (using their single-letter code name) we find:

I = 3
L = 6
V = 4
F = 2
M = 1
C = 2
A = 4
G = 4
P = 4
T = 4
S = 6
Y = 2
W = 1
Q = 2
N = 2
H = 2
E = 2
D = 2
K = 2
R = 6
Stop = 3

As you can see, all 64 possible combinations would be represented in the above. Therefore, we can say that given a random piece of DNA with 3 codons, there is a 3/64 chance that it is I (Isoleucine) and a 2/64 chance that it is N (Asparagine), etc.

Because base pairs are so prevalent, we can treat them as if there is an infinite supply of them. As a result, if we wanted to calculate what the odds would be that six base pairs will code for Isoleucine and then Asparagine, we would simply multiply 3/64 and 2/64 to yield: 6/4096, or about 1 in 683.

Of course, proteins can have hundreds of amino acids chained together in polypeptides. (In fact, by convention, most scientists do not consider a polypeptide chain to be a protein until it has at least 50 amino acids in it, although that is an arbitrary dividing line.) Because of their size, the odds of even a single 50-amino acid polypeptide forming are quite rare. In fact, even if they were simply a chain of L (Leucine), which has a 6/64 chance of forming for each L, the odds of 50 formulating would be 650 / 6450, which is roughly 8 x 1038 / 2 x 1090 which is approximately 4 x 10-52, or 1 chance in 3 x 1051.

Clearly, this method of explaining DNA is insufficient to explain even a basic protein, let alone complex cells and higher organisms.

This brings us to our next point, which is something that Mighty Pile brought up: the definition of information (i.e., something that is non-repeating, non-random, and not based on foundational forces) seems to exclude the ability of random, non-directed processes in the first place. As such, B) seems to be proven by stipulation, which means it relies on a circular argument.

However, when we examine B) carefully we see that it does not rely on circular reasoning when cashed out. To demonstrate how that is possible, I must first point out that the Darwinist must assert the opposite of B). They must assert that information can arise from random, non-directed processes (as evidenced by premise C)). And this is demonstrated by the fact that you are reading this blog post, which is information.

This blog post has an author. The author is not a random, non-directed process. But, if Darwinism is correct, at some point we can link my existence back to a random, non-directed process. Therefore, in a causative sense, the Darwinist would say that a random, non-directed process somehow created a non-random, directed process that was able to create information.

And it is because this option remains open to the Darwinist that B) does not entail circular reasoning. All the Darwinist needs to do is to show that Information can arise from forces that are non-random, non-repetitive (to exclude crystals) and non-foundational if those forces (we will call them meta-forces) are themselves built on random, non-directed forces. In other words, the Darwinist can argue: “Information comes from meta-forces, which are non-foundational; but meta-forces come from foundational forces.” Putting it into this two-step process would avoid the circular reasoning charge, while also giving the Darwinist a possible route to establishing C).

So the question now becomes, can random, non-directed processes create non-random and non-repeating meta-processes that could then create information in the form of DNA? DNA is one of the simplest information processes we can think of (compare it to trying to establish the framework for a spoken language), but even it is vastly complicated. In order for DNA to function, it has to store information that is used to create amino acids that bond together to form proteins that then create the mechanism for storing and reading DNA. In other words, in order for DNA to function biologically, we need to have a loop where DNA is used to create the processes needed to create more DNA. DNA is copied via cellular processes that are created with proteins that are themselves created by DNA. Thus, we have a vicious cycle going on.

But before we get to the loop, is there a simple way to just encode amino acids into DNA? Amino acids, after all, are fairly easy to create in a test tube, as Stanley Miller demonstrated (albeit his experiment does not prove what he thought it proved). Using those same “primitive” conditions, however, it is not possible to create DNA.

DNA also presents a problem because, as you’ve seen above, sometimes as many as six different DNA codons can represent a single amino acid. While moving from a DNA codon to an amino acid is easy, moving from the amino acid to a particular strand of DNA is much harder.

Due to the limitations of DNA, Francis Crick proposed that life began based on RNA instead of DNA. RNA is only single stranded, as opposed to the DNA double helix. RNA can also sometimes function similarly to proteins. DNA, however, is much more stable and less prone to errors (which is why an intelligent being would pick DNA instead of RNA to start life off; and which is why Darwinists claim DNA was “selected for” by Natural Selection).

Which brings up an important point. The “central dogma” (as Crick named it) is DNA to RNA to protein. It doesn’t go in the opposite order. (There are a few exceptions to the strictness of the “central dogma”, most notably RNA viruses (like HIV) which go from a single strand of RNA to DNA before then going through the “central dogma”; but there are no instances that I am aware of where proteins go to RNA then to DNA.) This makes it highly unlikely that amino acids bonded to become proteins and then those proteins created RNA that was then made into DNA and eventually stored in cells.

That means we had to start someway with DNA or RNA and then create proteins from that; but in order to create the proteins, it means we must have the structure in place by which RNA can be converted to a protein. Once again, we’re left with the chicken and the egg problem. And this system cannot have arisen by blind chance, since as you’ve seen even a single protein of 50 of the most common amino acids has astronomically long odds at forming randomly.

Regardless of where we start, we have to have some method of going from a random soup of amino acids to a particular sequence of amino acids being coded in information, be it RNA or DNA. But this will only start to happen if there is a reason for the information of a protein’s make-up to be converted to RNA or DNA.

That DNA is useful for life is not debated. Suppose that the amino acid “soup” manages to create a protein that could be used by a cell later on. It would be useful for the cell to have a way to rapidly create this protein. And the protein is created from amino acids that can be stored in DNA. Obviously, if we have this end in mind, we could design the process by which the DNA code comes about. But this requires teleology, which Darwinism denies. We cannot have the end of a working cell in mind; we have to have completely random processes that somehow create the necessary steps involved.

But suppose that we are left with only the random creation of the system to begin the evolutionary process. According to modern materialistic theory, life first became possible about 3.5 billion years ago. That is, the Earth cooled enough, the atmosphere was in the correct state, water existed, etc. so that life would not be extinguished if it was formed. Amazingly enough, according to these same scientists, the first life on Earth appeared roughly 3.5 billion years ago. In other words, as soon as it was possible for life to exist on Earth, life did exist on Earth. This must mean that the creation of life ought to be an “easy” process, given materialistic claims. If it is easy, then it should not rely on a process that has such poor odds of succeeding. Either life’s occurrence on Earth was a miracle against all odds, or else this cannot be how life began on Earth.

Rough-drafting the Word of God

victor reppert said...

“Do you honestly thing that anyone comes to Scripture from a neutral perspective? Because your view of God is unpopular in some circles you suppose that you base it on Scripture and only on Scripture. You bring just as many hermeneutical presuppositions to Scripture as I do.”

But this ducks the question of whether Scripture, as the word of God, is ever in a position to correct our presuppositions. What happens when we come to the Bible with our preconceptions, and our preconceptions collide with the Bible? Then what?

Reppert never allows the word of God to be the word of God. Is God ever permitted to disagree with the great Victor Reppert? Or would it reflect unaccountably poor judgment on God’s part to have a difference of opinion with a man of Reppert’s unimpeachable wisdom?

If fact, God should have waited until Reppert was born to consult with him before God wrote the Bible. It was very presumptuous of God to write the Bible without Reppert’s advice. As a result, a lot suspect material made its way into the final draft which a sharp-eyed editor like Reppert would have crossed out with his red pen and sent back to the Holy Spirit for further revisions.

What about extrabiblical input? Yes, common knowledge of the world is relevant to the interpretation of Scripture. So is Biblical archeology. But the point of that is to arrive at the meaning of Scripture. To see Scripture through the eyes of the original audience. That’s not the same thing as modern scientific theorizing. Or moral intuition.

Reppert is always on the outside, looking in.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

School for Scandal

[Dave Armstrong] “I must admit that discovering this information today almost literally took my breath away.”

I hope there was someone around to administer CPR.

“It's a rare Protestant who will so brazenly defend denominationalism, since they are well aware that it is absent from Scripture.”

Absent from Scripture in what sense? The Pharisees and Sadducees represent the Jewish equivalent of denominations. Not to mention many other Jewish sects in 2nd Temple Judaism.

Of course, there’s a sense in which you only had one church in the 1C, and when doctrinal or ethical questions arose, a local church could write one of the apostles for guidance. But they’re long gone, so we can no longer dash a letter off to Peter, Paul, or John, and get a letter back, resolving the dispute over, let us say, infant baptism or millennialism. So that’s one reason we have different denominations. Our circumstances are different from theirs.

Mind you, I think we have far more denominations than we need. And one of the denominations we could definitely do without is Roman Catholicism. Pointing to the proliferation of sects and denominations is hardly an argument for Roman Catholicism.

“Almost all Protestants I have encountered are deeply uncomfortable and uneasy with regard to denominationalism and sectarianism. That is because they know full well that it is scandalous.”

i) Assuming, for the same of argument, that denominationalism is scandalous, why should I be scandalized by someone else’s scandalous conduct? What’s that to me? Should I be scandalized by Paris Hilton’s scandalous conduct? No.

Armstrong talks like one of those Hollywood gossip-columnists who wallows in vicarious hanky-panky. Does he read the National Inquiry from cover-to-cover for his daily dose of scandal?

ii) For that matter, if Armstrong is so scandalized by denominationalism, then he should remove himself and his family from the apostate denomination he belongs to and join some Bible-believing Protestant church. That would be a step in the right direction.

“Hence, they will often argue that Luther, Calvin et al never intended for this state of affairs to come about.”

Maybe they didn’t. Men are shortsighted. We frequently fail to foresee the consequences of our actions. Did Leo X foresee the consequences of excommunicating Luther?

“Luther himself complained bitterly about rampant sectarianism in his own time, that he thoroughly disapproved of.”

Since I’m not a Lutheran, so what? Luther was also an anti-Semite. Does that mean I should be an anti-Semite too?

“Calvin was quite embarrassed over it, as I have documented from his own letters.”

i) So Armstrong is faulting me because I’m not a company man. I’m not enough of a Reformed loyalist. If only I were a blind partisan for my cause, then he’d be more approving!

ii) Calvin was a 16C Frenchman, I’m a 20C American. His socioreligious experience is completely different from mine. So, yes, I have a very different take on “schism” than Calvin. And that’s because my experience is different than his.

It’s like those back-to-Africa movements. You sometimes have Black Americans who book a flight back to the “mother country” to rediscover their “roots.” But after spending a few days in a godforsaken village, they discover that they have next to nothing in common with the people they “left behind” hundreds of years ago. Immigrants make a new life for themselves in the new world. Create a new culture. A new social network. There’s no going back.

Although my forebears hail from Normandy, I’m not a 16C Frenchman. I can’t identify with Calvin’s anguish as an ex-Catholic. That doesn’t define me.

Oh, and it’s not just little old me. Dave Armstrong’s brand of Catholicism has been tremendously conditioned by the American experience. Does Armstrong have the same view of religious dissent as Torquemada? Seems to be that Armstrong is a wee bit more magnanimous than his 15C Iberian counterpart. Indeed, if Armstrong were living in 15C Spain, Armstrong, with his Vatican II theology, would be prosecuted as a heretic.

Armstrong then quotes a couple of statements by Niebuhr and Bloesch. Once again, who cares? Why should I care what they say just because they say it? I’m always game for a good argument, but the mere fact that Armstrong can dig up a quote by some liberal Protestant or palpitating ecumenist is not, of itself, an argument against denominationalism—much less an argument for Catholicism.

This is just a phony argument from authority, as if a Protestant author functions as an ipso facto authority figure when you’re debating with a Protestant like me. But that’s fallacious. I don’t regard a Protestant author as an authority figure. Even a writer like Calvin is not an authority figure. If you want to quote me an authority figure, quote Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Moses, Paul, Isaiah, &c.

You’re welcome to quote a Reformed theologian, but it’s the argument that counts, not the label. What’s inside the box, not the brand-name.

jan said...

“This argument is the equivilent of saying ‘Mormons exist, therefore it is God's will for there to be Mormons, therefore I will become a Mormon’.”

I’ve already responded to that fallacious analogy in my reply to Dmitry. Try again.

Actually, it is God’s will that some people be Mormons. It’s God’s will that some people be reprobates. That some people go to hell. If you wish to be damned, then, by all means, become a Mormon.

The fact, however, that it’s God’s will for some people to be Mormons doesn’t tell us anything about who, in particular, God decrees to be Mormons. That’s not a directive for you or me to become Mormons.

“Last time I checked, every Church denied this.”

Which reinforces my point. Armstrong is claiming that Catholicism is a source of religious certainty, whereas Protestantism is a source of religious uncertainty. You’re defending my point rather than his.

“Including Calvinists who say that everyone can be deceived about their own state.”

If you checked this, then you didn’t bother to check any Reformed theologians. The reprobate can be spiritually self-deluded. And I can be mistaken about someone else’s state of grace. But the elect cannot be deceived about their own election.

“But here you're comparing apples to oranges in what is certain.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument.

If you’re claiming that Roman Catholicism offers institutional certainty, so what? Even if that were true, unless objective, institutional certainty translates into individual, subjective certainty, wherein lies the value of institutional certainty? Who’s the beneficiary?

“You miss the point. This is like saying by adhering to the bible as an authority you lack the confidence in the power of rational persuasion to argue God is Trinity from other sources.”

That’s not what Armstrong said.

And from what other sources, besides divine revelation, would we argue for the Trinity?

“Of course many if not most Protestants would not make a definitive statement that a non-Christian cannot possibly be saved.”

Once again, how do you think that’s relevant to *Armstrong’s* argument? His contention is that Protestants ought to agree on sacramental theology since the sacraments are means of saving grace. If most Protestants think that communion and baptism are inessential to salvation, then how does that observation bolster Armstrong’s argument?

“So by this criteria, the Westminster's category of ‘those things essential for salvation’ is an empty category.”

How is it germane to judge Westminster’s category by non-Westminster criteria? Why not judge non-Westminster categories by Westminster criteria? Maybe we should judge Tridentine categories by Westminster criteria. Or judge Vatican II categories by Westminster criteria.

“Except that there are protestant denominations who hold to baptismal regeneration. I've certainly run into Church of Christ denominations who held to it. I guess Westminster got it wrong on that one then.”

How did Westminster get it wrong? Did Westminster deny that the some Protestant denominations affirm baptismal regeneration?

Or do you mean that if Westminster affirms one thing, and the Church of Christ affirms the contrary, then Westminster “got it wrong.” By what logic does that follow? What not say that, in that event, the Church of Christ got it wrong?


“Instead of celebrating denominationalism.”

I never said anything to “celebrate” denominationalism. At the same time, I don’t get all worked up over it, the way a breast-beating ecumenist does.

To some extent, denominationalism is a harmless, inevitable development. It reflects differences in taste, ethnicities, and nationalities. To some extent, denominationalism is a necessary evil. A certain amount of sectarianism and denominationalism is due to sin. And if you want to see a really sinful denomination, few denominations can stack up to the Church of Rome for its knee-deep history of corruption.

“How can it be God's will that so many should be in error?”

Notice how Catholics stipulate that God wouldn’t do this or that rather than consulting the Bible to hear God speak for himself. They begin with their preconceptions about what is unacceptable. Then reason back from the unacceptable consequences. Compare Harold’s denial to God’s stated modus operandi:

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:11-12).


“This logic is unacceptable. That same logic destroys the very concept of Love, Justice, etc., because if God really valued those things the world would be full of Love and Justice.”

i) To begin with, a scale of values doesn’t imply that lower values are unreal.

ii) More to the point, God couldn’t will justice unless he willed evil. Apart from evil, there’s no occasion to exact justice.

And while love is possible in an unfallen world, there’s a type of love—redemptive love—which presupposes the fall.

“Doctrinal disunity is the biggest scandal in Christendom today, and it puts a dagger in the prayer of Jesus: That they might be one so that the world may know Jesus is really Lord. I dont consider the prayer of Jesus to be hypothetical, I believe that the greater the unity the better testimony of the truth of the Gospel there is to the world.”

Except that Nick does, indeed, regard the prayer of Jesus as hypothetical. Not merely hypothetical, but counterfactual. For, on his interpretation, it remains unanswered—two thousand years later.

Reginald de Piperno:

“Hays is far from consistent on this. He sounds more like a Deist than anything. He sounds like Alexander Pope: ‘Whatever is, is right.’ Abortion? God must want it. Legal Homosexuality? God must want it. Oneness Pentecostals? God must want their errors. Mormons? God must want their errors.”

I already addressed that facile objection in my reply to Dmitry.

“I seriously doubt that Hays would apply the same ridiculous ‘logic’ to these issues.”

It’s only ridiculous because Reginald applies it in such a simpleminded fashion. In my reply to Dmitry, I drew some elementary distinctions.

“And he would be right, of course: God does not endorse sin or error.”

True, but there’s a sense in which God wills sin.

“But that is exactly what Hays is saying in his argument: God wants error.”

That’s not synonymous with divine endorsement.

“But that's a lie, and I hope that Hays will reconsider the terrible thing that he is saying about God.”

I’m not ashamed of God’s government of the world. God doesn’t need us to make excuses for him. It’s not as if someone hijacked the world. No one is holding God hostage.

Paul Hoffer:

“Can any one explain to me how Mr.. Hays' view doesn't portray God as an existentialist?”

Since Hoffer doesn’t bother to explain his own remark, why should anyone else?

Ben M:

“Darndest defense of dis-unity I ever heard! Not surprisingly however, the Fathers (not to mention Scripture!) offer a slightly different take on such things.”

Of course, repairing to the church fathers begs the question in favor of Catholicism.

John Henry Hughes:

“Reading Hayes Just Makes me Laugh. Of course the only argument the So-called reformed can make is to appeal to pre-destination and the idea that man has no free will to reject God's purpose (and even that is a weak arguement).”

Does reading Thomas Aquinas also make Hughes laugh? Did Aquinas deny predestination? Is funny how many Catholics are abysmally ignorant of Catholic tradition.

“And as for criticizing our man Dave on being a layment and not having a theology degree, should Justin Martyr have got a theology degree and been ordained before he defended Christianity to the Roman Emperor?”

If Justin Martyr were attacking the right of private judgment, then he would lay himself open to that charge.


“Reginald, I think you're wrong. For Steve it is not a lie that God wants error. God definitely does want error.”

Sounds familiar. Where have I heard that before? Oh yes:

“Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thes 2:11-12).

Continuing with Jon:

“Sin glorifies God.”

Wherever did I get that twisted idea? Oh yes:

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).

“For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Rom 11:32).

Continuing with Jon:

“Otherwise, why would (the Clavinist) God have caused sin? Rape, genocide, theft, etc. These things are all great, because everything glorifies God. Scary, but that's his view.”

Aside from the fact that this is grossly simplistic, how would Jon distinguish the Reformed version of predestination and providence from the Thomistic version of predestination of predestination and providence as both bear on the problem of evil?

“And sadly I believe these opinions of his have probably affected his personality. He is becoming like this God he worships. This would explain why he's probably one of the most caustic e-pologist out there.”

Wow! That’s very insightful! Jon should become a full-time psychologist. And, while he’s at it, I wonder if he’d apply his inexorable logic to Art Sippo.

A piece of the action

dmitry chernikov said...

“James, sometimes we can glean the greater good that comes out of the evil permitted by God. In this case, it's Steve's pleasure in condemning you for being ‘evil’ and having the truth of Calvinism promoted in this manner. (You see, God loves us so much, that He can't hurt us. He has demons, those He already hates, to do the dirty work for Him, that is, to torture the wicked in hell. Steve is one of them or will be.)__Am I right, Steve, or are you an equal opportunity condemner, because everyone is evil (but especially, of course, those who disagree with you, the regenerated one) due to men's total depravity?”

I see that Dmitry has been reading C. S. Lewis or Victor Reppert. Once you discover that Reformed believers are devil-worshipers, it’s only a short step to the realization that we're subdermal demons.

Just between you and me, Dmitry, I’m a senior partner at the law firm of Wolfram & Hart. My real name is classified, but if you receive a business card in the mail with the name of Malacoda, that’s me.

As to torturing the wicked in hell, that all depends. Hell is all about who’s hot and who’s not. The warmer the lower.

It’s like a Mafia Don who’s sentenced to hard time. As long as he can access his Cayman accounts to bribe the guards, he enjoys a steady flow of whiskey, call girls, Havana cigars, and so on.

Likewise, we operate a lucrative, off-the-books business for select customers down below. The classic quid pro quo. Depending on how much money changes hands or hooves (not to mention other forms of remuneration), we can arrange a transfer from the fourth circle to the third. Adjust the thermostat. Import a case of Perrier if you’re parched. There’s a roaring black market for contraband in hell. Almost anything can be smuggled in for a price.

However, if you expect any special treatment from me, you will need to master the fine art of bowing and scraping. Learn to talk respectful to your infernal elders and betters. I don’t appreciate your impertinent tone, young man. As things presently stand, I’d assign you to a cellblock with the Russian Mafia—right down the hall from the main office of the Foul Fiend.

Fortunately, you still have time to mend your ways and strike a Faustian bargain. When you receive my business card in the mail, contact my executive secretary, and we’ll set up a meeting at a neutral location to hammer out the arrangements. What’s your blood type?

Natural Selection and the Gambler's Ruin

I mentioned in my comments with Mighty Pile the Gambler’s Ruin. The GR occurs when a gambler runs completely out of money. There are two aspects of the GR that impact our understanding of Natural Selection. First is the fact that if you are at a numerical disadvantage, then even if you have a statistical advantage in gambling you will often hit GR first simply because the other person can take “more damage” before he reaches it. Thus, just because one individual gains a favorable mutation does not mean that that mutation will be automatically chosen for due to the sheer number of competitors that the individual would have to compete with.

But more importantly is the fact that Natural Selection, in order to work at all, is an All-Or-Nothing proposition. That is, favorable traits must be selected for while unfavorable traits must die out. In one of his comments, Mighty Pile said:

Some traits DO confer an advantage to a particular organism and its progeny. While fit individuals certainly do die sometimes and unfit individuals certainly do live sometimes, the fit organisms would outcompete the unfit ones in large numbers. One antelope's chance vs another antelope's chance may be a 49%-51% split. But in a whole herd, the one that gets eaten will almost always be of the slower variety, or of the sick or injured variety. This is, of course, supposition based on logic. I don't know how I'd prove it right now; it seems obvious in any context I can come up with for it. The difference between fit and unfit would probably be very small most times, setting up a sort of tipping point situation. I don't have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you, right?
In response, I pointed out that one would be foolish to wager everything he owned for a chance to win a billion dollars if he only had a 51% chance of winning it and a 49% chance of losing it. This did get me to thinking a bit further, however, and I developed the following.

Suppose you start with 100 individuals. Each begins with $100. Each wagers $100 in order to gain $100. The odds are 51% win and 49% lose each bet, but with the following stipulation: as soon as you hit $0, you’re out of the game. You cannot continue. This is important to mimic Natural Selection, because as soon as you die you can no longer reproduce. It’s over. So you need a final set point.

How long will it take for a person to reach $1,000 given this structure? And how many people will hit GR before that occurs?

I made up an Excel spreadsheet to show this to me (click here for graphic). It assumes a literal 51% - 49% split for each round (in other words, I don’t randomize the data; this is the “ideal”). The vertical axis is how much money people have; the horizontal axis is the number of rounds. The number plotted in each cell is how many people remain for each row (i.e., how many people have whatever money is in that row). The bottom line beneath the graph simply sums how many people remain (i.e., those who did not hit GR). The cell at the far right of the 0 line is the grand total of those who hit GR.

Thus, we begin with 100 people holding $100. After the first round, 49 people are bankrupt and 51 people have $200. In the second round, 51% of those 51 people (26.01) at $200 will gain another $100 for a total of $300, while 49% (24.99) lose $100 to go back to $100 total. For the third round, we again calculate each group: 51% of the 26.01 (13.27) at $300 will go to $400; simultaneously, 49% of the 26.01 (12.74) drop back to $200. In the meantime, 51% of the 24.99 (12.74) who dropped to $100 will gain $100 and make it back to $200. They combine with the 12.74 who lost $100 to drop down to $200 to make 25.49. Finally, 49% of the 24.99 (12.25) who were at $100 will go bust.

Note that unlike in real life (where a whole number of people either win or lose), these calculations are made with the decimal points from the previous numbers still intact. In fact, I used dependent formulas for each cell. If we were rounding before we did the math, the answers would vary slightly.

And the results: It takes 11 rounds for the first person to hit $1,000 (and that’s only if you round 0.58 up to 1; the line does reach in round 9, but the value would round down to 0). In the meantime, 75.93 people have gone bust. That means that in order to get one person from $100 to $1,000, 76 people have to go bankrupt. And that’s starting with 100 people. A 1% advantage does not provide much of an advantage at all under these circumstances.

Natural Selection falls to the same principal. Just because a favorable mutation may confer a 1% advantage onto an antelope does not mean that the antelope really has that much more of an advantage than other antelope. And I should point out that living systems are actually far more complex than even this illustrates.

The key to why this works this way is because the chart is capped at 0. Once you hit 0, it’s over. That provides a literal line in the sand that has a huge impact. Because in Natural Selection death is such a line in the sand, this demonstrates that even a 1% advantage holds no real benefit to the furtherance of a trait in the species.

In reality, survival rarely comes down to a single trait though. Chance encounters are almost always going to outweigh any mutational advantage of a single trait. Consider all the following that mitigate against the classical view of Natural Selection:

* An antelope is born with 1% more speed than any other antelopes who have been born. However, when the antelope is a newborn, he is not as fast as the adults. As a result, despite being 1% faster than all other newborns, he is still slower than the slowest adult; therefore, he remains a preferential target for predators. If he is near adults at the edge of the herd when lions attack, they will go after him rather than the adults. This brings to mind the second point:

* As Mighty Pile pointed out, there is an oft repeated joke that one need only be faster than the slowest prey when a predator attacks. This, however, ignores the fact that if you are faster than me, but you are five feet away from a hungry bear while I am a quarter mile away from the hungry bear, the bear will catch you before you can run far enough to surpass me and make me a target.

* Sometimes pure dumb luck happens. A ram may be the fittest ram ever, but if he slips and breaks his leg, he’ll be eaten. And accidents happen quite often in nature. And even aside from nature. A highly specialized and advanced snake in Baghdad might happen to get hit by a mortar round fired from an insurgent that was not intended to strike the snake, but did. Or a random lightning strike could kill an elk in the forest who was “superior” to the other elk. When it comes to random events, traits have no bearing on survivability. There is no survivability trait for bad luck.

* For that matter, the strongest bull may be cut down by a viral infection that attacks only strong animals, leaving the weak bulls alive. The weak bulls are “more fit” (by definition, since they survived) but once the infection runs its course the herd would have been better off with the stronger bulls.

* A mutation for greater intelligence might occur in a sheep that’s also the least hearty sheep in the herd. Despite the fact that this intelligence trait would benefit the herd as a whole, the sheep dies of an illness before reproducing.

So survival rarely is about any one trait anyway. Instead, to have the best chance at surviving, organisms need to have a wide range of traits, any one of which may or may not be relevant at any particular time. But some traits are mutually exclusive. Because evolution must be blind (in a materialistic world) it cannot predict which trait will be needed in the future. And because it cannot predict what is needed (after all, it is non-teleological; and furthermore, even intelligent agents like weathermen cannot predict what will happen in the environment tomorrow), the random forces of nature will far outweigh any slight statistical advantage that individuals in a herd have.

So the only way to have beneficial mutations that avoid the GR problem is if they grant a far greater than 1% chance upon the individuals (after all, think of mutations, which convey far more than a 1% disadvantage to the individuals and therefore are seen!), or if they occur more often than random mutations would enable them to occur so that more individuals get the trait (remember, we started the above graph with 100 individuals already having $100, and 76 of them went bankrupt before a single person reached $1,000; if you had 1,000 people to begin with, 760 would go bankrupt…but you’d have 10 make it to the $1,000 mark, so clearly having more individuals get the same mutation would help), or the mutation would have to occur in an individual that is already “more fit” due to other traits to begin with (and that brings up the converse: a detrimental mutation can occur in those who are “more fit” due to other traits and therefore be “selected for” simply because it’s riding along with the system; whereas a “less fit” organism might evolve a wonderful trait that cannot overcome the aspects that make it “less fit” and therefore that trait is not “selected for”).

That’s a lot of front-loading you need before you can get the system going. Living systems are far too complex to be affected greatly by any slight advantage in a single trait.