Saturday, February 08, 2014

Hellish NDEs

One theological criticism of NDEs I've run across is that NDEs are heretical inasmuch as there are so many heavenbound NDEs in contrast to hellbound NDEs. Now, I haven't done as much study of NDEs as Jason Engwer, so I'm going to discuss the objection from a hypothetical standpoint.

i) One issue is whether we have reliable statistical data on how many unbelievers reportedly experience heavenbound NDEs, in contrast to Christians. 

ii) But here's another consideration. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that some clinically dead patients catch a glimpse of hell before they are resuscitated. It wouldn't surprise me if hellish NDEs are underreported. (Just as it wouldn't surprise me if heavenly NDEs are overreported or misreported.) Unlike a heavenbound NDE, where there's an incentive to report it, isn't there a disincentive to report a hellbound NDE?

To take a comparison, from what I've read, many people who have horrific experiences in wartime (to take one example) may never discuss their experience. Or it may be years before they talk about. Or they may refuse to talk about it even when they are questioned about their experience. Their experience was so horrific that they try to push it as far back in their minds as they can. Try to think about anything except that searing experience.

Likewise, if you actually had a hellish NDE, it might be so unnerving, so terrifying, that it's not something you'd ever talk about. 

iii) On a related note, wouldn't it be embarrassing to say "I went to hell when I died on the operating table!" That's a pretty self-incriminating admission. That's telling other people what a terrible person you must be. How many people are going to volunteer that information?

iv) Of course, some people might tell a tale about their hellish NDE as a get-rich-quick scheme. Tell a juicy story about their wicked life as an unbeliever, then say they were converted when they had a hellish NDE. Go on TBN to recount the alleged experience. A good way to sell books. 

But, of course, we'd be justifiably skeptical about hellish NDEs of that variety. 

v) Now I'd like to make a few general observations about NDEs. There are Christians who are understandably nervous or disapproving of putting any stock in NDEs. We shouldn't crave for extrabiblical confirmation of the afterlife. We should rely on Scripture alone concerning the afterlife. To that I'd say a few things:

vi) This isn't necessarily a case of going on a quest for extrabiblical confirmation of the afterlife. Rather, reported NDEs are thrust upon us whether we like it or not. We don't have to solicit these reports or go in search of them. It's just a modern fact of life that in the age of medical science, where clinically dead patients are sometimes resuscitated, that there's going to be a cumulative record of reported NDEs. That will just proliferate over time. This fell into our lap, unbidden. So it's a question of how or whether we should respond. There's a difference between seeking evidence of the afterlife and responding to prima facie evidence of the afterlife.

vii) It's because we have the Bible that Christians are especially well-positioned to evaluate NDEs. If we vacate the field, then the interpretation of NDEs will be left to New Age pluralists. By contrast, Christians have a standard of comparison. 

viii) Of course, once you decide to evaluate NDEs, that commits you to investigate NDEs. What are the best sources? Who are the most reliable researchers? What are the most credible cases? You have to sift through the literature. Find out who's worth reading. 

ix) I think some or many Christian critics of NDEs are conflicted about corroborative evidence. It's my impression that many Christians who criticize empirical confirmation of the afterlife have no problem with empirical confirmation of other Biblical truths. They generally support Biblical archeology. They generally support scientific confirmation of Genesis. Or corroborative evidence for the historicity of the Pentateuch or the Gospels. Or corroborative evidence for the traditional date of Daniel. Or corroborative evidence for the resurrection of Christ. 

If so, it's arbitrary for them to draw the line with the afterlife. 

x) We also need to be clear on the limitations of NDE evidence. Assuming that some NDEs are veridical, the main thing they establish is the fact that human consciousness can exist apart from the brain. And I don't see any theological reason why Christians should object to empirical evidence for substance dualism. How's that essentially different from empirical evidence for other things Christians believe in? 

For instance, prolife Christians often include scientific arguments regarding conception and gestation. Likewise, Christian social conservatives cite scientific evidence promoting heteronormative behavior. 

xi) We also need to be clear on what we mean by "hell." We need to distinguish between the intermediate state of the damned and the final state of the damned. 

Soft science

According to reviews of the Ham/Nye debate, Ham drew a hardline distinction between historical sciences and observational sciences. Nye countered by citing astronomy. Ham may well have overstated the case. But it's possible to overstate the case in both directions. Can we generalized about different branches of science? Is there an overlap between observational and historical science in every branch of science? Or does Ham's dichotomy hold in some branches of science, but not others? Likewise, which branches of science intersect with creation science? For instance, paleontology has a reputation for being a soft science. 

Is Kentucky a scientific backwater?

Friday, February 07, 2014

Missing links

"5 Christian Arguments Left Out of the Ken Ham, Bill Nye Debate"

I'll note in passing I don't agree with everything in the article. But I'm glad to see other possible focal points in the debate over "Christianity and science" broached. At the least they help better round out what should be involved in such a debate.

"Sneering Calvinists"

A blogger for TGC recently did a post on "Sneering Calvinists." I'll just make a few brief comments:

i) I had an aunt who was a lifelong Arminian. A doctrinaire Arminian. She was one of the two most saintly Christians I ever knew. So I think it's possible for an Arminian to be a very pious, very godly Christian. Just to get that out of the way.

ii) But in my extensive experience, I'd say that, with few exceptions, Internet Arminians are the most prideful, bigoted, hypocritical professing believers I regularly encounter. 

Notice I said Internet Arminians. I think that's largely due to the fact that the Internet is a magnet for militants. Ideologues. 

I don't use that as a pejorative characterization. The Internet attracts militant Arminians, militant Lutherans, militant Catholics, militant Democrats, militant libertarians, and militant Calvinists–to name a few. To state the obvious, I myself am a militant Calvinist. 

So Internet Arminians are a self-selected subset of Arminians generally. And I think it brings out the worst of the worst. 

iii) As I've said on another occasion, I think that's largely due to the fact that Internet Arminians define themselves in reference to Calvinism. They constantly define themselves in contrast to Calvinists and Calvinism. That's the invidious frame of reference against which they measure themselves. Incessantly comparing yourself to others is bound to cultivate a prideful attitude. And it renders them impervious to self-criticism. It's the team-player mentality in excelsis. They love their own. They excuse their own. 

For a current example, just spend a few months reading the comment threads at Jerry Walls' Facebook page. 

iv) Finally, there's a stock rejoinder to this: "two wrongs don't make a right!" Just because there are bad Arminians doesn't justify your bad behavior.  

However, that rejoinder is confused on two levels:

a) To begin with, the critics single out Calvinists, alleging that Calvinists have a distinctive reputation in this regard. But if that's the charge, then it's a logical refutation to note that's not distinctive to Calvinists. It's not as if there's something about Calvinism that makes this alleged attitude more prevalent amount Calvinists. 

b) In addition, the allegation is vague. From what I've read, this usually comes down to is the fact that Arminians resent Calvinists who regard Calvinism as theologically superior to Arminianism. They bristle at that attitude.

That, however, isn't a matter of Calvinists feeling superior to Arminians, but Calvinists deeming Reformed theology to be superior to Arminian theology. That's comparing one theological tradition to another, and judging one to be better than another. There's nothing wrong with that. It's unavoidable. We ought to make those comparative assessments. And both sides of the debate do that very thing. 

Compartmentalized Christians

Secular scientists, as well as many professedly Christian scientists, espouse the uniformity of nature. They regard that as a prerequisite to science. The uniformity of nature makes nature predictable. Not only does that make it easier to extrapolate from the present to the future, but to extrapolate from the present to the past–which is important in the historical sciences. In addition, it makes it easier to interpolate. In the historical sciences, there are often gaps in the surviving evidence. If, however, nature is uniform, if the same kinds of events occur, then it's easier to postulate what happened in the absence of direct, extant evidence. Because nature is continuous, change is incremental. 

As a result, many professedly Christian scientists are scientific deists. They believe God's contribution is to put the initial conditions in place, then conserve the status quo. Everything occurs with law-like regularity.

As a further result, many professedly Christian scientists have a very compartmentalized belief system. Take Ard Louis, who's a Reader in Theoretical Physics and a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He's also a contributor to BioLogos.

What's ironic about Louis is that he's a charismatic theistic evolutionist. A charismatic who subscribes to methodological naturalism. To illustrate:

"I remember one girl who had a very severe back injury. She was in traction and about to be airlifted back home to the United States. Before she left, one of my friends prayed for her to be healed. She instantly jumped up and started running around. Though I found this incredible, I did recognize that this girl's experience of prayer and healing matched exactly what I had read in the Bible." 
On another occasion Louis was sick with the early stages of malaria. He called two of his friends to pray for him and within moments felt completely recovered. "I was sincerely shocked." Thinking that he might be imagining the change, he went to a dorm wall where he had often jumped to see how high he could touch. Now, he jumped and touched higher than he had ever done before. 
"In my work, we have a very peculiar way of looking at the world, a very powerful way we call methodological naturalism. As a Christian I can make a good argument for it. It would be odd if there were miracles in my lab or in my calculations. What I am studying are the regular ways God sustains the world. If there is a God who is faithful, then I expect his rules to be trustworthy and regular, and if God is intelligent I might even need to understand his rules. 
"I think Western cessationism comes from people acting like that all day long, and they think that's the way it is. But I don't think that's the way it is. If you read the Bible, that's not the way it was. It's particularly important for me as a scientist to be involved in something like praying for the sick because that does act on a different plane." 
Louis believes that pentecostal and charismatic Christians have a particular contribution to make to the discussion of evolution. 
T. Stafford, ed. The Adam Quest (T. Nelson 2013),  chap. 9.

Louis is oddly oblivious to the glaring ironies of his position. He's a cessationist in the lab, but a charismatic in church. 

What kind of world do we live in if God sometimes heals a terminal cancer patient in answer to prayer? That introduces an element of discontinuity into natural processes. That makes nature less linear. Less predictable. 

The outcome is no longer like a machine that always does just what it's programmed to do. For God can and sometimes does override the default setting. And that, in turn, introduces more uncertainty into historical sciences like astronomy and paleontology. 

How does Louis combine methodological naturalism, medical science, and miraculous healing? Something has to give. If God is rule-bound, then God can't intervene to miraculously heal a patient. That would interrupt the usual chain of cause and effect.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Jonathan Sarfati's double life

Jonathan Sarfati is best-know for his day job as a creation scientist. However, our undercover reporter found out that Sarfati moonlights as the King of Hell. The photographic evidence is incontrovertible:

The moral of the story is that it's hazardous to get on Sarfati's bad side. No wonder Dawkins will never debate him.

The One True stray sheep

Ender's Game review

I saw Ender's Game the other day, and I thought it was really good.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Starling murmurations

From Dr. Timothy Standish:

Why might someone, other than a Darwinist, perceive in starling murmurations a strong suggestion of design? As Jerry Coyne points out, echoing the clip from Flight, in the cold hard world of survival of the fittest, starlings that stick with the group may enhance their odds of surviving predation. But such an effect is an emergent property of the murmuration. Attributing the origin of murmurations to enhanced survival requires first that murmurations exist, thus making for a circular argument. To circumvent this problem, a Darwinist might invoke cooption. Maybe the ancestors of modern starlings gathered together for some other practical purpose and then, in a lucky coincidence, gained the survival advantage provided by murmurations. But think about the resources consumed by daily migrations followed by considerable time flying about with other starlings. It's unclear why any other proposed reason for investing resources this way would not be equally vulnerable to the criticism of circularity.

Flying in formation has advantages that humans quickly recognized once we mastered powered flight. The most obvious of these involves multiple sets of eyes looking out for enemies or obstacles. If human intelligence can figure this out, perhaps clever starlings can as well. But if there is a genetic component to the behavior -- a reasonable assumption given that starlings form murmurations wherever they are in the world while other birds do not -- then a mechanism for creating the required genetic changes would need to anticipate the need fulfilled by murmurations. Darwinian evolution is blind and unguided, incapable by definition of anticipating anything. In the case of human flight, various types of formation flying were developed in anticipation of a need. Generally that was to survive during battles in the air. Formation flying is not something that pilots stumbled upon in the middle of a dogfight then stuck with; it is a solution to an anticipated need. Intelligence alone has been shown to have produced such solutions.

When it comes to design and murmurations, the elephant in the room is the other abilities birds must possess to achieve the phenomenon. They must have the inclination to fly long distances and to congregate. They must have the ability to navigate, the ability to fly, the ability to perceive and react to the other birds they are flying with, and any number of other wonders. Most people, scientists or not, can see this; but Darwinism demands that we turn a blind eye to such things.

One might note, finally, that understanding starling murmurations in terms of design liberates us from a depressing view: that life is nothing more than a struggle for survival. Perhaps starlings share the same joy humans experience in reuniting at the end of the day. Perhaps as they dance this spectacular dance, they enjoy the warmth of one another's company. Dancing, you might imagine, has to be more fun up in the air. When you have observed murmurations on a lovely clear evening, the argument from beauty to intelligent design is only natural. Perhaps in witnessing this, we share some of the joy that starlings themselves feel.


Rapid speciation

Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D. says:
Pretty good review ^^^^.
CMI’s review is titled Clash over worldviews. Among other things, it documents that leading evolutionists E.O. Wilson and the late Ernst Mayr agreed with a distinction between observational and historical science. It also deals with Nye’s ‘evidences’ that Ham had no chance to rebut in the short time available.
It was an unconscionable bait-and-switch for Nye to compare the number of kinds on the Ark, only vertebrate animals, with the number of so-called species today. The vast majority of those species are non-vertebrate, and no creationist believes that they evolved from the Ark vertebrates. See for example Refuting Noah’s ark critics.
The Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat, and it’s well known that mountains are good for rapidly producing new varieties and even speciation. That’s because they readily provide the geographic barriers needed for allopatric speciation. With the small populations off the Ark, it’s even easier because of genetic drift.
Actually, even before Darwin, creationists understood that a wide variety of animals descended from a relatively small number of kinds on the Ark. Thus they realized that there was a lot of post-Flood variation, and even what we would now call speciation. For example, Anglican Bishop John Wilkins (1614–1672), the founder of the metric system and the first secretary of the Royal Society; and German Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), renowned in his day as “master of a hundred arts”.
Even now, we could call it a creationist prediction that rapid speciation would be more common than evolutionists expect.

Lord of the flies

While the doctrine of “original sin” gets a hard time (I prefer talking about original “guilt” and original “death”), G.K. Chesteron famously said, original sin is the only Christian doctrine that is empirically verifiable. All people sin. All people imitate sin. All people have a propensity to sin. All people are guilty of sin. That human beings sin, transgress, break laws, violate rights, and commit immoral deeds is self-evident to everyone. I have to confess that one of the things that amazed me as a parent was that I never had to teach my children how to lie. They picked it up quite naturally. The mess that one child makes he or she will instinctively blame on another child, preferably the younger one, who cannot yet speak for themselves. Greed, violence, and selfishness seem like the default setting that they are born with. I sincerely believe that crying babies would throw their own mothers under a truck if it would get them what they want. Experience has also taught me that raising toddlers is like working for Caligula and Charlie Sheen combined. A house run by teenage boys has about the same degree of law and order as lunatics running an asylum. A colony of minors stranded on an island would not resemble Peter Pan’s paradisiac Never Never Land, but would descend immediately into violence and terror more akin to William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies where the strongest ruled the weakest with merciless spite. If you ever want to see what people are like, what they are truly like, see what they do when they think no one is watching them. Whether it is under a hoody, in a dark alley, or anonymously on the internet, that is when you see what evil desires and what dark proclivities lurk within the hearts of men and women. I’m sure psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists have their own models and explanation for this sort of innately inhumane behavior, but just as equally important is the theological one: human beings are born into the world with an inherent propensity to sin because they are born into the world separated from God. The whole condition of guilt, sinful behavior, and death is all traceable to the one act of disobedience in our primeval parents, Adam and Eve.

Throwing Ham under the bus

Here are some comments I've run across regarding the Ham/Nye debate:

"I still respect Ken Ham a lot. I think he's doing tremendous work for the Kingdom and am not pleased at all by professing Christians who seem all to eager to throw him under the bus." 
"Give me a break! Like I said to disgruntled Christians, how about praying for Ken Ham instead of criticizing him? Is it Ham's fault that they promoted the debate better than Dr. Craig? Does the average Christian need 2 doctorates, etc. to do apologetics? Man...some Christians never have enough to complain about." 
"I had families from church over to watch the debate and there were 7 kids. Most of those kids got was Ham was saying. Now, had this debate featured a "higher level" Apologist who used more technical terms, those kids probably would not have followed."

i) I'm going to begin by saying some positive things about Ham. I appreciate the fact that he's been an outspoken critic of Peter Enns. That's more than I can say for the grand muftis in the PCA. Why is Enns still an elder in good standing in the PCA? He's been a ripe candidate for a heresy trial for some time.

Likewise, I appreciate the fact that Ham founded AiG. That's a very useful resource.

In interviews, Ham said he challenged Nye to a debate because the scientific establishment has silenced public debate over evolution in primary and secondary education, so this is a way of bypassing official censorship. Going over their heads to directly address the general public. That's why he also does the talk show circuit (The O’Reilly Factor and Fox and Friends in the Morning; CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, ABC’s Good Morning America, the BBC). I think that's a commendable strategy.

ii) There's a right way and wrong way to score the Ham/Nye debate. For instance, you had old-earth creationists who said he lost because he defended young-earth creationism, and you had theistic evolutionists who said he lost because he defended young-earth creationism. But that's the wrong way to score the debate. Since he is a young-earth creationist, that's going to be his frame of reference. The proper standard of comparison would be the most sophisticated exponents of young-earth creationism. Did he bring to the debate the best that young-earth creationism has to offer? 

Now for the other side of the argument:

iii) Ham doesn't know his limitations. And that's not admirable. That's prideful. Given that he's recruited a number of contributors to AiG who have the expertise he lacks, why didn't he tap his own talent pool? Instead of presuming to spearhead the debate himself, why not volunteer one of his AiG contributors? Why not challenge Nye to debate one of them?

It's possible that Nye would have declined that challenge. However, since Nye is very self-confident, it wouldn't surprise me if he'd accepted the challenge. That would have given Nye a much stronger opponent. Consider Jerry Coyne's damning admission:

I hope that, in the future, Nye is not so emboldened by his success in this debate that he starts debating creationists. Eventually he will run into one that is not as Ham-handed as Ham, and he’ll lose badly.

iv) The debate question (“Is creation a viable model of origins?”) was so broad that it was practically impossible for a creationist to win. Nye can hurl too many objections at his opponent. There's not enough time to respond to the objections. So the debate question needed to be very narrow.

Sure, Nye could still go off-message, but in that event his opponent could the remind the audience that Nye was tacitly conceded that he lost the argument whenever he felt the need to change the subject.

v) Some Christians think we should go easy on Ham. Do they think your kid's high school biology teacher will go easy on Ham style arguments? Do they think your kid's college astronomy or geology prof. will go easy on Ham style arguments? If you send your kids into battle with light armor, they will return in bodybags. 

vi) No, the average Christian doesn't need two doctorates to do apologetics. But that misses the point. If you're going to defend Christianity on a national stage, then that raises the bar. Likewise, science is very specialized. You can't just bluff your way through a scientific debate if you lack scientific expertise.

vii) There's more to Christian faith than arguments. Some Christians don't need arguments. They've experienced God in unmistakable ways.

But if you are going to argue for the faith, then your argument should be able to withstand hostile scrutiny. It's pointless to argue for your position in the first place unless you have good arguments. A bad argument is worse than no argument. 

viii) I'm not clear on how Ken Ham relates creation science to biblical authority. To judge by the debate reviews, he seems to use the Bible to defend creation science rather than using creation science to defend the Bible. If so, that's backwards. Isn't the point of creation science to give scientific reasons for believing Gen 1-11? So Ham needs to defend creation science on scientific grounds. Creation science is supposed to provide supporting arguments for Gen 1-11, as well as scientific objections to Darwinism, &c. 

Moreover, to judge by the debate reviews, he appealed to biblical authority without giving the audience reasons for believing the Bible. But in a national debate, where many members of the TV audience are unbelievers, that's not something they will take for granted. 

The geological column

Al Capone, a “Catholic murderer” and a “Pop Tart Catholic”

Al Capone, a faithful “son of the Church” 
Did you know that Al Capone considered himself to be a good Roman Catholic until the end? He received last rites from a priest and a Catholic burial.

In his search to demonstrate that those “Callers” who call Protestants to communion with Rome, Darryl Hart has uncovered a Roman Catholic writer, John Zmirak, who is confirming the kinds of things that we have always known: That if you take away all the “Cafeteria Catholics” who break all the rules (most notably the rule on contraception), then you end up with 1.2 million of “the right kind of Roman Catholics” – those who diligently seek to keep all the rules in the proper, nanny-enforced way.

But let’s use language a good deal more precisely, in a doctrinally rigorous sense. How many people in America actually believe all the central truths of the Catholic Catechism? Public opinion surveys have revealed that high percentages of Sunday Mass-goers do not hold, or perhaps never learned about, transubstantiation (the change of bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist). Depending on which faction of the Catholic fragment you belong to, you can chalk up that ignorance to either the collapse of Catholic schooling, the dumbing down of the liturgy, or even to the suppression during the 1970s of the “unconscious catechesis” that used to occur every time the most unlettered peasant knelt for the Host and reverently took it on his tongue from the blessed hands of a priest.

I don’t know that public opinion surveys have asked “Sunday Catholics” what they believe about the physical resurrection of Christ, or the Immaculate Conception, but if average Catholics believe what I was taught in my Catholic high school, then they are heretics – and probably don’t even know or care.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Bill Nye's science lies

Spontaneous abortion

I've noticed some people arguing the fact that a woman's body "naturally rejects hundreds of fertilized eggs in her lifetime" (source) is meant to imply pro-life proponents are inconsistent in defending life at conception. This, in turn, is meant to imply abortion is morally licit.

On the one hand, most pro-life proponents believe life begins at conception. But on the other hand, if so, then why do pro-lifers not mourn the loss of these "hundreds of fertilized eggs"?

I'd like to make some preliminary notes on the topic, and perhaps come back to more specific details at a later date if I can find the time:

On worldviews

Check out Prof. James Anderson's five-part series on worldviews.

Also, here is his book.

Necessity and determinism

Ostrich apologetics

Do you have what it takes to take on Bill Nye The Science Guy? Do you have to know everything, about every branch of science? 
You would think if the Bible is true, and every Christian is called to defend it, then every Christian should be able to defend it. 

I don't believe it is possible to be any more ivory tower than this blog post. Sure, I think there are better people who can take on Bill Nye, cough Sye, cough, but it's not because of their education, or college degrees. It's not because of the height of their ivory tower. 

Unfortunately, this ostrich posture is representative of some Christians. They operate with a fatalistic outlook, as if qualifications don't matter. But if you're going to make a scientific case for creation science, or make a scientific case against evolution, then your scientific competence, or lack thereof, is directly germane to the success or failure of your performance. There's no magical efficacy that attaches to a well-meaning, but ignorant performance.

Every Christian isn't called to defend specialized issues which he has no technical competence to defend. To the contrary, he ends up harming the cause. Every Christian doesn't have a duty to get into a national televised debate with Bart Ehrman on the reliability of the NT text. Don't do that if you lack the requisite expertise in textual criticism. Every Christian doesn't have a duty to get into a national televised debate with Israel Finkelstein on the historicity of the OT. Don't do that if you lack the requisite expertise in Biblical archeology. 

There's a very common narrative of boys who get their information from someone like Ken Ham, go off to college fired up about how they are going to trounce the Darwinians, only to lose their faith in Biology 101, Geology 101, or Astronomy 101. Enthusiasm is no substitute for know-how.

That's one reason we need to distinguish creationist popularizers like Ken Ham from creation scientists who have real expertise.

Textual stability

Presenting the Gospel

A number of commentators have commended Ken Ham for presenting the gospel several times during his debate with Bill Nye. However, a problem with that commendation is that, in the context of a debate over creation science, the credibility of the gospel is tied to Ham's ability to make a credible case for creation science.

I think some commentators are acting as if the gospel is somehow a stand-alone presentation, independent of the context in which it's given. It's easy for me to imagine some listeners saying to themselves, "That's a beautiful story, Mr. Ham. A beautiful fictional story. Pity the Bible isn't believable." 

This is not like a debate over evidence for the Bible, which would, in turn, lay a foundation for a gospel presentation. 

Creation debate

I going to do two things in this post: begin with some links to post-debate analysis, then include some comments from the Uncommon Descent blog. 

There were two related events last night: the formal debate between Ham and Nye, then a joint interview with Piers Morgan. I didn't watch either one. I don't think Ham and Nye are terribly competent spokesmen for their representative positions.

Post-debate analysis tends to focus on lost opportunities. Post-debate analysis can be more useful than the actual debate because it gives the commentator the opportunity to shore up deficits in the actual debate:


  1. As a card carrying YEC ( paid about $35 for my membership in Creation Research Society), I thought NYE won the debate but not hands down.
    He posed the question, “Is Ken Ham’s model viable?” the answer imho, is “not yet” which is as good as “no”. It was clear in the Q&A not even some YECs would agree with the model Ham had in mind, and in fact Ham waffled. “The Bible said it” is not a model.
    Ham however probably elevated the dignity of creationists by showing the media is distorting evidence and that creationists can do good operational science and that secularists are hijacking the definition of science.
    Nye made some mis-steps most notable claiming the adequacy of natural selection, and he fumbled over the 2nd law (and I could have given a better answer than the confused answer he gave), simply by saying “the 2nd law states…” “creationists mistake organization with entropy, entropy helps you estimate energy available to do useful work, you need entropy to be alive, if you remove all the entropy in your body (say by freezing to absolute zero) you die. Duane Gish was horribly wrong and that’s an example of creationism teaching bad science.”
    Some scientists who aren’t creationists don’t think the universe is expanding nor that the Big Bang is correct. Another forgivable misstep.
    Ham, when asked about the dinosaurs and carbon dating didn’t use the opening! He could have said “we find carbon 14 in dinos, ambers, and the entire carboniferous era of supposedly 300 million years ago, and then this casts doubt on the interpretation of other radiometric methods, and by the way other clocks indicate youth. Distant starlight would be a problem if the transmission of light over time and space is constant, and if one or both vary the speed of light, then it’s not a problem and that is a testable prediction” But he waffled and just waxed philosophical and theological.
    As both Dr. Sheldon and myself point out, we are skeptical of the existence of Dark Energy and Nye laid out the claim of dark energy as being real.
    Ham did a good job of using the notion of “the orchard” of life vs. trees. I’m not comfortable saying there is no increase of information, there is no significant increase in information, but I’m glad he had Fabich speak for him. And I was really glad Distinguished professor of astronomy Danny Faulkner spoke and advocated young universe.
    But is the model viable. “Not yet” in my opinion, and that is as good as “no” for the sake of science. But that’s not complete fair because we should also ask is the Darwinian model viable, “NO WAY, and never”, not even based on the terms of science Nye laid out.
    Both performed well, and it wasn’t the blowout of Ham destroying Nye, Nye won the fundamental question even if he had to use some falsehoods to win the debate. His criticism of Noah’s ark was powerful.
    What’s an example of a rout aside from the Seatle Seahawks crushing the Denver Broncos in the superbowl? Stephen Meyer vs. Peter Ward. That’s where the ID side completely obliterated the Darwinian side.
    Credit Ham for mentioning the Lord Jesus Christ and pointing out that we may have joy now to discover, but what will it mean for us when we are dead.
  2. I think Ham was far better prepared in his presentation, but wobbled in rebuttal and the little Q&A that I could tolerate. Nye was as methodical as a sand flea with a flurry of attacks against YEC from every known science in random order. Ham would have needed “millions of years” to rebut every point. Good tactic by Nye.
    Nye did make good points about the reasonableness of some of the mathematics of Genesis, although he was apparently unable to grasp Ham’s presentation of the “orchard” model, and the profoundly expanded genetic variability in earlier organisms such as is apparently preserved in dogs was lost on Nye. The genetic variability dogs would enable them to easily form hundreds of “species” in a short amount of time.
    That Nye presented the inflationary model in one breath, and the fixed distance of stars in the next was as remarkable as Ham’s ignorance of the currently accepted understanding that the universe inflated faster than the speed of light, which means that a star that’s 6,000 light years distant could have been 1 light year distant a few seconds ago, as is thought to have happened at some point.
    Particularly appalling was Ham’s inability to come up with a single prediction based on YEC, or a reason why anyone could possibly be interested in Cosmology when the Bible already tells you that “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” Apparently, Ham’s curiosity is very easily sated. Nye’s attempt to enforce the imaginary separation between “scientists and engineers” from Christians pretty much failed in light of Ham’s presentation.
    Overall, Ham did a better job, but not by much, and I’m sorry to say that the encounter was reminiscent of a battle between a blind cobra (Nye) and a crippled mongoose (Ham).
  3. Scordova.
    NO!! Ham was way ahead in argument, articulation, and summing things up.
    Nye lost everywhere he roamed.
    Ham did point out the racism in early textbooks based on Darwin, I forgot to mention that. That was a good jab.
    Nye stated a falsehood, but one he obviously believes, that about Natrual Selection.
    Maybe I just found Nye more charming. Ham began to resort to implicit circular reasoning without justifying his reverence for the Bible, he just accepts it.
    It’s commendable that someone accepts the Bible, but with an audience watching to hear why you accept it and no answer is given except, “I believe it”, I find that off putting. Not once did Ham say why he believes it, he just states it without any support, which doesn’t look much better than saying “the book of the flying spaghetti monster answers all your questions….it answers the questions of …..” It comes across as closed-minded and out of touch and perhaps gullible. Exactly the qualities you don’t really want to see in someone, especially a scientist.
    Nye was being extremely diplomatic in not directly attacking the Bible, so he let up when he could have really abused Ken Ham. Nye could have said, “In the Bible, God commanded the children of Israel to kill women and children like the Amalekites. Do you agree that this was a good thing to do. If God asked you to do that, Ken, would you have done it?” Thankfully the debate didn’t get to such mud slinging…
    But personally I don’t care what individual has won the debate. The facts have decided, and the facts are the judge in the end (well, God is the judge in the end). So the facts win the debate.
    ID is true, and whether the case of YEC will ever be convincing from the data remains to be seen, but for now, I can only merely accept it personally, on faith, but I will admit, not all the available observations are friendly to YEC, there are unresolved serious problems. I know that, the best YEC scientists that I meet in conferences know that.
    Darwinism is dead, ID is alive, and YEC is still in the hospital bed.
  4. Ham answered a question that went something like, “if you had evidence that the world was old, would you still believe in God and Jesus Christ?”
    Ham basically answered that would be impossible since God’s word is true, which is nothing more than an assertion, and shows he will not follow physical evidence where it leads.
    I would have said, “Yes I would still believe in God and Jesus Christ. I’d believe in God because of the evidence of design even in an Old Universe, and I believe in Jesus Christ because of the blood of the martyrs and the changed lives, not the least of which is mine. If you can provide convincing proof that life can arise without intelligence, that would make me doubt, if you can provide proof that Jesus was not a historical person as well overturning the well-attested martyrdoms of the early Christians, I might have even more doubt, but you can’t say He hasn’t changed lives nor hasn’t answered prayers. But one thing is clear, there is no salvation in Charles Darwin nor eternal hope for a soul after death through science.”
    Why do I believe world is young? Half the scientific clocks say it is, half don’t. So it is inconclusive on evidential grounds. A natural reading of the Bible suggests it, so that makes it promising enough for me to believe it. If ALL the clocks said the world is old, then I don’t think I could accept YEC.

“Reformed Aesthetics”: bringing the “poetics of everyday life” back into focus

My online profile for years has begun with the following statement: “‘We are His workmanship,’ His ποίημα (poiema), His ‘poetry.’ If you’ve ever studied poetry, or struggled to write a poem, you understand the care God takes to ‘work all things together for good’ in our lives. For this reason, and many others, I believe in the Sovereignty of God.” The beauty of the world around is not something I take for granted.

Stephen Wolfe has published his first blog article at, entitled simply “Reformed Aesthetics – Introduction” . He explains:

My contributions to this site will be an attempt to formulate a Reformed view of aesthetics. Though Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox think on these things regularly, Reformed Christians rarely discuss issues in art, poetics, music, and other things with the form and felt qualities of meaning. One would struggle to find any detailed discussion of these topics in most systematic theologies. This is a mistake. The aesthetic dimension of life is vital to worship and life….

I’m not advocating for the use of icons, images of God the Father, and statues in churches. Nor am I arguing that we satisfy the latest craving for a “sacramental worldview” found in the neo-platonism of the medieval period and in the Radical Orthodox movement…. With most of the Reformers, I deny this. Beautiful things are not beautiful because they “participate” in the divine. While creaturely beauty is an analogy to the beauty of God, it is not an analogy by virtue of some added divinity. There is no nature/grace dualism. Just as God’s moral character has been created or brought into creation as the moral law, God’s beauty has been analogized into creation as the creaturely standard of beauty. The standard of beauty is purely creaturely, not something creaturely with some supra-creaturely or divine addition.