Archive for September, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 2.02.04 PMLawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State University,  penned an article with The New Yorker.  It is provocatively titled “All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists.”  Not just an atheist, but a militant atheist.  Krauss, has risen in fame in the past few years, penning such books at The Physics of Star Trek and The Universe From Nothing. In an interview with Sam Harris, he describes himself as “as an anti-theist rather than an atheist.”  Krauss has had multiple debates with William Lane Craig here in the United States as well as in Australia (here and here and here).  He even did a movie with Richard Dawkins titled The Unbelievers. Dr. Craig did a series of podcasts commenting on the film.

In his September 8 article in The New Yorker, Krauss claims that “it’s inevitable that [science] draws people away from religion.”  Oddly enough he just merely asserts this claim without any evidence or argument.  Are we to just believe him on blind faith.  If science inevitably draws people away from religion how does he explain Francis Collins, Sarah Salviander, John Lennox, Neil Shenvi, Ray Bohlin, Michael Strauss, John Polkinghorne, or Alister McGrath.  Or how the book True Scientists, True Faith explores how twenty of the world’s leading scientists explain how their science enhances their faith and their faith undergirds their science.

Even more oddly is his focus in the article on issues that have nothing to do with science at all.  In eleven full paragraphs a total of seven were on social issues like Kim Davis, Hobby Lobby, the shame people feel for questioning their parents faith, and Planned Parenthood.  As Edward Feser says in his article Krauss discusses “matters of public controversy entirely irrelevant to either science or the question of God’s existence.”

He surely has a right to express his opinion on issues entirely outside his domain of expertise, but they carry no more weight as a business student has in expressing his views on the background radiation in the cosmos.  When he does he reveals aptly how sophomoric his reasoning is on the issue of God and science.  As Plantinga said about Dawkins and his book The God Delusion I believe the comments apply to Krauss as well:

Dawkins [and Krauss] is not a philosopher (he’s a biologist). Even taking this into account, however, much of the philosophy he purveys is at best jejune [i.e., naive, simplistic, and superficial]. You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.

Below are some articles that react to Krauss:

“Scientists Should Tell Lawrence Krauss to Shut Up Already” by Edward Feser in Public Discourse The Witherspoon Institute, Sept. 28, 2015.

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Feser is as entertaining as he is educational.  A partial excerpt:

The closest Krauss comes to justifying his thesis is in the following passage:

science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.” . . . In my more than thirty years as a practicing physicist, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned in a scientific meeting. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature . . .

Is this a good argument? Only if this parallel piece of “reasoning” is also a good argument:

Checkers is an atheistic enterprise. My practice as a checkers player is atheistic. That is to say, when I move a game piece across the board, I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my career as a checkers champ. In my more than thirty years as a checkers player, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned at a checkers tournament. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of the game.

So, it isn’t just science—even checkers proves atheism! Who knew?

“Why Can’t These Guys Stay on Topic? Or Read?” by Edward Feser at Edward Feser Oct 4, 2015 – Here Feser responds to some criticisms of his critique of Krauss.

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My wife loves detective or crime shows on TV.  From Matlock and Monk to Psyche and Sherlock.  She actually likes serving on the jury in court.  For those who have special place for detective shows or even crime novels you need to check out J. Warner Wallace.  Wallace, a cold-case detective, was an adamant atheist until Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 10.40.39 AMhe was thirty-five.  In fact, he cases have appeared repeatedly on NBS’s Dateline.  As Wallace puts it, “cold case detectives examine events in the distant past for which there is often no living eyewitnesses andScreen Shot 2015-09-25 at 10.42.58 AM little, if any, forensic evidence.  The gospels also record an event in the distant past for which there are no living eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence.”  He used his skills as a cold-case detective to determine if the gospel is true.  These skills are utilized in his first book Cold-Case Christianity. He has recently turned his skills to the existence of God in God’s Crime Scene.  The video below is a lecture he did in which he examines “How the Cosmological Evidence Points to the Existence of God.”  The lecture actually begins at minute 2:45.  He introduces the lecture by describing a cold case principle of “staying inside the room” or “going outside the room.”  When as a detective, coming upon a crime scene in a room, he had to determine if the evidence pointed a cause inside the room or outside the room.  Think of universe as a “room.”   As one looks at evidence, can it be accounted for by staying in the room or does one have to go outside the room in order to better explain the evidence.  The proverbial “room” is the universe.  As he says in the introduction of his new book God’s Crime Scene “my investigation of the natural universe required me to look at the characteristics of the ‘room’ and determine if they could be explained fully by what already existed within the ‘four walls.’  Was there any evidence inside the universe pointing to the existence or intervention of a supernatural being outside the universe?”

Both books are well worth the read as well as the video below.

Dark ages mainWe have all heard about the “Dark Ages” between 500 AD and 1500 AD.  Some common descriptions include:

“There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.” – Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981, a notable atheist with the publication of her book The Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible).  Joseph Lewis in An Atheist Manifesto claims that, “If you do not want to stop the wheels of progress; if you do not want to go back to the Dark Ages; if you do not want to live again under tyranny, then you must guard your liberty, and you must not let the church get control of your government. If you do, you will lose the greatest legacy ever bequeathed to the human race—intellectual freedom.”  Jeffrey Taylor, correspondent for Atlantic Monthly and NPR’s All Things Considered, states in Salon.com, “There is a reason the Middle Ages in Europe were long referred to as the Dark Ages; the millennium of theocratic rule that ended only with the Renaissance (that is, with Europe’s turn away from God toward humankind) was a violent time.”

The diagram below, which has circulated on the internet, claims to demonstrate that the Middle Ages caused a tremendous hole in advancelearning and advancement caused by Christianity.  Anne Fremantle in her study of medieval philosophers, The Age of Belief (1954), wrote “of a dark, dismal patch, a sort of dull and dirty chunk of some ten centuries.”  Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher, who attacked the church, describe the period as one when “barbarism, superstition, and ignorance covered the face of the world.”  Rousseau declared that the era following the fall of Rome caused “Europe [to] relapse into the barbarism of the earliest ages.  The people of this part of the world . . . lived some centuries ago in a condition worse than ignorance.”  The great Roman historian Edward Gibbon called the fall of Rome the “triumph of barbarism and religion.” (here)

Unfortunately, this derision of the Middle Ages being a darkened period, continues into contemporary descriptions.  Such perpetrators include Bertrand Russell, Charles Van Doren, and William Manchester.

Like the myth that the church hindered science, or that everyone in the middle ages believed the earth was flat, or that Galileo was thrown in jail for promoting the heliocentric model of the universe (which you can read about in my previous posts linked); the term “dark ages” is a pejorative term to deride the period as backwards, ignorant, and dismal.  Given that the church and Christianity was the most influential institution in the Middle Ages, to reference that time period as the “dark ages” is in essence to slander Christianity.  Who, in their right mind, wants to associate themselves with “incessant warfare, corruption, lawlessness, obsession with strange myths, and an almost impenetrable mindlessness” as the noted historian Manchester does in his A World Lit Only by Fire.

The problem with this myth is that it is so contrary to the facts.  If the “dark ages” were so unproductive and backwards, how does one explain the proliferation of inventions and developments during this time period.  A simple listing of inventions, discoveries and developments demonstrates the the Middle Ages were anything but dark:

  • The collar and harness for horses and oxen enabled the drawing of very heavy wagons, with increases in speed
  • The invention (8th century) of iron horseshoes that protected the feet of horses but greatly improved their traction in difficult conditions
  • The swivel axel (9th century) was developed that made large transport carts much more maneuverable
  • The invention of the horse drawn furrow plow increased food production
  • The water mill was invented in the Middle Ages
  • The mechanical manufacturing of paper instead of by hand and foot
  • Windpower was harnessed to mill, grind, and to pump water
  • Eyeglasses were invented in 1284 in northern Italy
  • The mechanical clock, a 13th century invention, for centuries existed only in Medieval Europe
  • The blast furnace (12th century)
  • Spinning wheel (13th century)
  • The agricultural revolution of the three-field system
  • Chimneys (12th century)
  • Universities
  • Quarantine (14th century)
  • Musical Notation (11th century)
  • Western Harmony
  • Local Self Government
  • Chartered Towns

The fact of the matter is the term “dark ages” is a form of the ad hominem argument.  In short, it’s name calling.  Until one can demonstrate that the middle ages was backward and made no technological, societal, or intellectual advancement (which is not possible given the proliferation of advancement during this time as shown above), the term “dark ages” is just a term of derision that is vacuous of any substance.  One more telling point to demonstrate that the Middle Ages were much more advanced than even our current modern and contemporary age. In the Middle Ages a peculiar institution completely disappeared, but tragically was reintroduced in the modern era: slavery.  This very fact shows that the Modern Age is much more dark than the Middle Ages ever were.

As Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College says at the end of the video below: “Instead of the ‘Dark Ages’ as it is popularly called.  The Middles Ages might better be described as the “Brilliant Ages.'”

Resources

Quick Quotes from the Experts:

“Nevertheless, serious historians have known for decades that these claims [that the Middle Ages were dark] are a complete fraud.  Even the respectable encyclopedias and dictionaries now define the Dark Ages as a myth.  The Columbia Encyclopedia rejects the term, nothing that ‘medieval civilization is no longer thought to have been so dim.’ Britannica disdains the name Dark Ages as ‘pejorative.’ And Wikipedia defines the Dark Ages as a ‘supposed period of intellectual darkness after the Fall of Rome.’ These views are easily verified.” (Rodney Stark, How the West Won. ISI Books, 2014)

“Let’s set the record straight. From 962 to 1321, Europe enjoyed one of the most magnificent flourishings of culture the world has ever seen.  In some ways it was the most magnificent.  And this was not despite the fact that the daily tolling of the church bells provided the rhythm of men’s lives, but because of it.” (Anthony Esolen, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, p.132)

“It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked up these strange ideas from websites and popular books. The assertions collapse as soon as you hit them with hard evidence. I love to totally stump these propagators by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted, or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any.” (Tim O’Neill “The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” Strange Notions)

Books:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen (Regnery, 2008)

The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, by James Hannam. (Regenery, 2011)

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths, by Regine Pernoud. (Ignatius, 2000)

How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity by Rodney Stark (ISI Books, 2014)

Articles:

The Dark Age Myth: An Atheist Reviews ‘God’s Philosophers'” by Tim O’Neill. Strange Notions n. d.

“5 Ridiculous Myths You Probably Believe about the Dark Ages” by

“Top 10 Reasons the Dark Ages Were Not Dark” by Jamie Frater. Listverse June 9, 2008

“15 Myths About the Middle Ages” by Sandra Alvarez and Peter Konieczny. Medievalists June 27, 2014

“Misconceptions About the Middle Ages Debunked Through Art History” by Bryan Keene and Rheagan Martin. Iris: The Online Magazine of the Getty February 20, 2015

“Myths about the ‘Dark Ages'” by John Tertullian. Contra Celsum April 13, 2011

“How the Middle Ages Really Were” by Tim O’Neill. Huffington Post September 8, 2014

“Top 10 Inventions of the Middle Ages” by Jamie Frater. Listverse September 22, 2007

Videos:

James Bishop's Theological Rationalism

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I love quotes. I also read widely, and in the process save many quotes that are relevant, and thought provoking. It may come to the surprise of many readers that it is actually the mainstream scholarly position that the disciples, and skeptics alike, came to believe in his resurrection because they were were convinced that Jesus had appeared to them. Here I include quotes from atheist, Jewish, Christian, and other non-Christian scholars.

Secondly, the most common naturalistic hypothesis today that attempts to describe these appearances is the hallucination hypothesis. At the end I include more quotes that show this hypothesis to be faulty, hence why it has failed to convince many scholars in the field.

Disciples, and skeptics were convinced that Jesus had appeared to them after his death:

  • “In order to work, the Jesus tomb hypothesis has to claim that the disciples died for something they knew was a lie—in fact, something…

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