Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Michael Behe and the Biblical "kinds"

I’ve been tediously trying to read through Michael Behe’s latest book Darwin Devolves. Its main premise is that Darwinian mechanisms do not build genetic information. Instead, biological processes break apart DNA thus possibly creating animals that are more adaptable in the short run but yet, in the long term, less genetically fit and limited in the amount of variation they can produce. I was reading into the book when I discovered even deeper design in living things than I was already aware of.

Near the beginning of chapter two, Behe discusses a group of insects called planthoppers. Young planthoppers have strange bumps in their hind legs, and at one-time scientists did not know what they were. However, a pair of British entomologists, using sophisticated high-speed video equipment, revealed that these bumps are the teeth of gears which enable them to jump. Behe says this “is the first example of a (relatively) large, in-your-face, interacting gear system in an animal.”

After next discussing the putative bad wiring of the vertebrate retina, Behe discusses the fact some migratory birds and other animals can sense the magnetic field of the earth and use it to navigate. Microbiologist Richard Blackmore demonstrated that magnetotactic (try to say that 5 times real fast!) bacteria contain a line of iron-rich particles that act like a magnet when the particles are in a line, and this orients the bacteria with the magnetic field of the earth. Here’s where it gets more complicated. Those bacteria don’t simply ingest minerals that happen to be lying around. They manufacturer the right size and shape of the mineral they need and store it in the correct membrane compartments and attach it in the right spot. All of this, Behe says, “requires sophisticated control mechanisms in the cell to target the right proteins to the right places at the right times throughout changing external circumstances.” Behe goes into more detail on this.

This is no surprise to me as, for a while, I’ve known about machine-like biological mechanisms ever since Behe, back in 1996, discussed the bacterial flagellum as an example of such mechanisms. Since then Jonathan Sarfati has devoted an entire book – By Design – to biological machine-like features. Quoting one or two examples will not suffice here, so I’ll just quote one paragraph from a reviewer on Creation.com. 

There are two recurrent themes in this section, apart from the evidence for design itself. One is the acknowledgement by man of the superiority of the design in nature. It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and science is more and more looking to nature to solve its engineering problems and provide new technologies. Even the most committed evolutionist has to acknowledge and admire the wisdom and ingenuity displayed in such incredible design; yet they often ascribe that wisdom to nature itself, rather than to the true Designer. The second theme is the complete inadequacy of evolutionary theory to explain the design present in nature. Many of the design features are irreducibly complex, meaning they could not have arisen through a series of “numerous, successive, slight modifications” over time. Every part had to be in place and fully functional for the whole to work at all. Other biological features exploit the laws of physics in remarkable ways to achieve the desired result, requiring a close correlation between biology and physics. While not specifically stated as such in the book, this implies an intimate knowledge of the fundamental laws of physics that is more consistent with an intelligent designer than blind chance as the only “designer.”[1]

Drawing upon research of the limits to which animals can change, Behe suggests that the family is the animal classification level at which unguided processes no longer can produce different unique animals. He says, “minor random variations around a designed blueprint are possible and can be helpful, but are severely limited in scope. For new basic designs such as those at the biological level of family and above, additional information is necessary, information that is beyond the ability of mindless processes to provide.” (p. 169)

Behe is no fundamentalist Christian as far as I read him, but it’s interesting how what he says matches the Bible’s ideas of “kinds.” An article at creation.com caught my eye where Pete Williams says, citing S. R. Driver, that min (the Hebrew word translated as “kinds” in Genesis) can be interpreted as a collective of a plurality of life-types. Williams cites E. Zorell as claiming min “is a division of a thing into various forms or types”[2]  Oddly, this is just the sort of arrangement Behe seems to be alluding to. Under each family - which seems to be the limit to which  natural selection can change animals into new existing forms - there are multiple different forms possible.

This definition of kinds was discussed by creationist Henry Morris back in the early 1970s.

Even though there may be uncertainty as to what is meant by “kind” (Hebrew min), it is obvious that the word does have a definite and fixed meaning. One “kind” could not transform itself into another “kind.” There is certainly no thought here of an evolutionary continuity of all forms of life, but rather one of definite and distinct categories. Furthermore, the sense of the passage is that a great many different kinds were created in each of the nine major groups (excluding man) that are specifically listed. There is certainly room for variations within each kind, as is obvious from the fact that all the different races and nations of men, with all their wide variety of physical characteristics, are descended from the first man and are therefore all included within the human “kind.” The same must be true for the other kinds. Many different varieties can emerge within the basic framework of each kind, but at the same time such variations can never extend beyond that framework. [3]

I should mention that sometimes evolutionists show they support such conclusions although they would never admit they support Biblical creation. Here is an excerpt from my discussion of evolutionist Stephen Gould from my review of Richard Dawkins at https://thesecularleftcritique.wordpress.com/the-delusional-dawkins-a-review-of-the-greatest-show-on-earth/

Gould seems to understand these limits. He says that “few systems are more resistant to basic change than the strongly differentiated, highly specified, complex adults of ‘higher’ animal groups.” How could you ever, for instance, convert an adult rhinoceros or a mosquito into something different, he asks. Yet, he says, transitions between major groups of animals have happened. To show the vanity of such a search for transitions, Gould quotes classical scholar D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson as saying

An algebraic curve has its fundamental formula, which defines the family to which it belongs. . . . We never think of “transforming” a helicoid into an ellipsoid, or a circle into a frequency curve. So it is with the forms of animals. We cannot transform an invertebrate into a vertebrate, nor a coelenterate into a worm, by any simple and legitimate deformation. . . . Nature proceeds from one type to another. . . . To seek for steppingstones across the gaps between is to seek in vain, forever.

Along with other evidences, I find this stunning confirmation of the accuracy of the Bible.

[3] Henry Morris, Scientific Creationism, 2nd ed (El Cajon: Master Books, 1985), 217.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Some Critical Thoughts on Socialism

I’ve got some material on socialism and am always looking for additional material to add to my opinionated gold. I’m also a Joe Rogan fan.  I was therefore delighted to find investor Naval Ravikat on the Joe Rogan show answering many pro-socialism arguments and arguments people who favor that political system. Here’s a synopsis of a few points he makes (video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGMJ61Phs2s)

  • 1.      On the idea of basic income, say, maybe $15,000 a year just to provide basic needs, that amount would never be enough. Socialists like Bernie Sanders would demand more until we slide into bankruptcy because of the weight of the payments needed to support such a system.
  • 2.The free exchange in free markets is intrinsic to humanity.  Sometimes capitalism fails not because it’s a bad system but because businesses aren’t allowed to fail when they make bad decisions. They instead “socialize” their mistakes by forcing others to bail them out making everybody else poor in the process.
  • 3.      Regarding the failures of capitalism, don’t confuse equal opportunity (which is essential for capitalism to operate) with equal outcomes which can appear because of a difference in effort, choices, or skills. People who demand equal outcomes can only do so via force. It’s interesting that there are no working examples of socialism that do not use some type of violence to equalize outcomes. 
  • 4.      Wealth is not a zero-sum game where people who create wealth make it impossible for others to create it as well or take it from them.
  • 5.      People who argue for socialism are arguing from their heart because it feels good to share, and socialism is about forced sharing. However, capitalism comes from the head and comes as a result of thinking properly about what economic system is best. Socialism functions well in a family but doesn’t work when your group becomes larger (a city, county, state, or nation, for instance). The larger the group the more the possibility for cheating or people taking without giving something back. Hence, we need a profit-and-loss system that makes one do work in order to reap monetary benefits.
I also found an article on the Washington Examiner web site that critiques Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s idea of “public goods” – health care and public education supposedly two of them. I can understand why a socialist like her would want to argue this way. One conservative reply to confiscatory taxation often suggests that to take things from one person to give to another would be a form of theft if it is done for no other reason than to redistribute wealth or give some people free things. However, if things are common, then there can be no theft. How, then, could someone complain about giving somebody free education or health care if the items are “common”? The article is at https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/yes-alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-plans-are-about-giving-away-free-stuff

I had earlier picked up a copy of Thomas Dilorenzo’s The Problem with Socialism. It argues that socialism actually causes pollution, kills good medical care systems, and causes monopolies.  He also explains how Sweden’s socialism is not a successful example of that governmental system even though it is touted as such.

One of my favorite videos comes from the Four Horsemen who argue, that among other things, the money system is doctored to make investors become rich at the expense of poorer individuals. This would be an example of the crony capitalism to which Ravikat alludes to. It’s not capitalism that is a bad system so much as the way it’s manipulated to favor some people at the expense of others. The video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fbvquHSPJU. I’d appreciate to hear someone’s comments on that video.

I also ran into an article on how David Brooks left his socialist ideas behind when he realized that the government officials he knew who claimed they could design and run an entire economy could not do so. In fact, nobody can, and efforts to do so only create injustices and inadequacies. The article is at https://hotair.com/archives/john-s-2/2019/12/06/david-brooks-socialist/ and here’s a quote from the article:

This is basically the argument that the invisible hand of the market is smarter than any planned system. Socialists don’t like that but it keeps proving to be true. But the best part of the piece is the next step. Brooks argues something that I’ve raised before: Socialism breeds corruption.

The argument that some people who think they can design something as complicated as an economy really can’t is an argument made also by Kevin Williamson in his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism.

Apparently, socialism is not a winning philosophy in Great Britain. The online news site Hot Air published an article on the overwhelming defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Corbyn ran as a Democratic Socialist. Article is at https://hotair.com/archives/john-s-2/2019/12/13/corbyns-loss-bad-news-sanders-warren-aoc/

In short, I would like to see DiLorenzo, Ravikat, Williamson, and Brooks engage Sanders and Ocasio Cortez over the merits (or lack thereof) of socialism. But that’s a pipe dream on my part.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Abortion as a "form" of killing

Randomly browsing the net one day, undoubtedly because I had little to do, I came across an article from Matt Walsh, speaking on the Daily Wire Youtube site, which, I think, best summarizes the pro-abortion pro-choice argument. Walsh claims that most pro-abortion arguments are smoke screens for the real arguments, and I believe he’s correct. Sophie Lewis, feminist and author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family (a quite revealing title) is his subject to prove that point. In an interview Walsh features, Lewis honestly says abortion is a form of killing that we need to defend. That, I think, is the substance of every pro-choice pro-abortion argument. As I watched this video, I thought that, in fact, those who are pro-choice can’t say they want to defend killing so they must mask what they want in the form of arguments about the “personhood” of the fetus, for instance. In essence, they must mask their desire to kill something with metaphysical argument while biology clearly shows the fetus is a living human being. What they really want is moral permission to kill a living being they do not want to keep or support.
I found it interesting that she has to say abortion is a “form” of killing. We never say killing a house fly or a tumor is a “form” of killing. We use words like this to mask underlying uncomfortable feelings. Even in this interview it seems her moral sense is bothering her, but she wants to coax her moral sense over to the other side hoping to feed it enough lies to keep it quiet. I feel she’s trying to talk herself into a moral stance she can’t yet defend.

The pic is from Walsh’s video and here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J2xLCxZ4JE

In addition, she does appear elsewhere on the net. Here’s a more detailed interview with her on abortion where she echoes the thoughts that Walsh talks about. Here she calls being pregnant “gestational work” – another euphemism to undoubtedly calm her moral sense. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMGptJXz618

I should mention that I did an article on the claim that the liberal left is immoral when it comes to life and death and the post is at https://thesecularleftcritique.wordpress.com/when-it-comes-to-life-and-death-the-liberal-left-is-immoral/

"What liberalism does, in this case, is teach people to be irresponsible. It also damages the family structure because neither the mother or father considers the needs of the child.  The funny thing about liberalism is that on the one hand Hillary Clinton can opine that it takes a village to raise a child while on the other hand her secular philosophy denies that parents should even care about their children and can kill them if their autonomy is threatened. Apparently, it takes a village assuming the village cares."

Review of Book Atheist's Fatal Flaw

Among Christians, the moral argument is one of the most popular philosophical arguments for God’s existence. The arguments goes something like this:

Real moral obligation is a fact. We are really, truly, objectively obligated to do good and avoid evil.
Either the atheistic view of reality is correct or the “religious” one.
But the atheistic one is incompatible with there being moral obligation.
Therefore the “religious” view of reality is correct.[1]

The atheist’s answer to using moral precepts to argue for God’s existence is to argue that God can’t possibly exist. All you have to do is look at the evil in the world. If God does exist, He would never tolerate this evil. Former atheist Antony Flew cited this problem as one of the reasons he became an atheist so early in his life. [2] Bertrand Russell also argues similarly:

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years.  I really cannot believe it.  Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists?[3]

            A frequent Christian response to this objection is that the atheist actually reaffirms the validity of the Christian argument. Why are atheists sure they are actually referring to objective precepts not to do evil? For instance, is genocide or bigotry objectively evil and morally wrong or is that mere opinion? Atheists can only object to the evil in the world if there is an objective moral code that transcends humans. Such a source for that can only come from a divine source.
            An interesting different approach to this problem has been recently undertaken by Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy in their book The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw.[4]They explain that the atheist position contains a fatal contradiction in that atheist philosophy does not allow God to act to contain the very moral evil atheists want prevented.
            Geisler and McCoy explain there are three ways God can prevent moral evil. Method A posits God could prevent all moral evil. Method B posits God could intervene to prevent only the worst moral evil. Method C posits God could intervene only in the area of one’s conscience.
            Preventing moral evil, then, must involve in some capacity the ruling of other people’s actions – whether taking away all free will and making people nothing but robots or causing indirect control over people using guilt that results from sinful actions. However, as Geisler and McCoy explain, atheists value autonomy above everything else in five areas that define one’s worldview: origin, identity, meaning, morality, and destiny.  Let me explain each. Atheists do not need or want God to be involved in creating because humans, they believe, sprang from a purposeless process of evolution. We got here without God’s help. Atheists also demand they decide for themselves what their purpose in life is or their value. Atheists also want to choose what moral codes to follow. Atheists and humanists both explain that our moral codes were a result of social evolution over millions of years. We learned proper moral behavior, but proper behavior is always subject to change. This is what Christian philosophers call moral relativism. Lastly, atheists often state that whatever problems exist in humans their fix does not in any way depend on faith in or acceptance of God’s existence or anything God demands of us. Rather, faith in science will allow us to fix these problems. Again, I cite atheist Bertrand Russell whose hopeful formula is echoed in Humanist Manifestos I and II as well. 

Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generation. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.[5]

            Chapter three of their book begins explaining, in my opinion, a much-ignored area of philosophy: the ways God controls moral evil while allowing for personal freedom. As Geisler and McCoy explain, in each of these areas the atheist prefers freedom to God having any control over our actions. For instance, God wants us to submit to Him, but atheists believe God is a tyrant for demanding such obedience and McCoy quote Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens as suggesting that humans don’t need policing. God works through our conscience, but atheists often say that humans do not possess responsibility for their actions or they posit that they have done nothing immoral at all. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons atheists believe in materialism; they want to eliminate any chance of humans being responsible for their actions. If humans are merely physical automatons controlled by nothing but material substances, they can no more control what they do than a rock can control whether it rolls down a hill. Death is allowed by God because it limits human evil a person can do, but atheists claim God is immoral for allowing that as well.
            Reading their book, it’s obvious that atheists want to have their cake and eat it too. Actually, they are more like the child who demands the keys to a parent’s car even though they cannot drive, get in an accident, and then blame the parent for giving them the keys. Such a child is rebellious and refuses to accept any parental control. In regards to what God wants us, this is sinful rebellion which is how we would expect unbelievers to act if Christianity is true – which is one more reason I believe it.

[1] Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1994), 72.
[2] Antony Flew, There is a God (New  York: HarperCollins, 2007).
[3] Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian (New York: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1975), 10.
[4] Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy, The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw (Grand Rapids: Baker House, 2014). All citations from this essay are from this book unless otherwise stated.
[5] Russell, 22.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

James Tour demolishes secular origin of life talk

I have been doing some avid watching of IDist (intelligent design theorist) Stephen Meyer lately and came across someone else, James Tour, who is even more explicit and blunt in his assessment that the problem of the origin of life has never been solved. He’s a synthetic organic chemist so he has credibility. The first video I came upon is very short but succinct at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4sP1E1Jd_Y&t=1s

However, thereafter, I came across yet another longer speech by him which would be rare because he says he doesn’t normally do speeches. He concentrates more on journal articles. He doesn’t talk about God or religion or anything in this talk and sticks strictly to the scientific aspect of this issue, and people can draw their own metaphysical conclusions from what he says.  It’s at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zU7Lww-sBPg&t=2363s
What I found most notable – and reasonable to believe – is how scientists (and scientists speaking toward reporters who cover them) is how they misrepresent the origin of life controversy. It occurs in the second link I provided above. Essentially what they do is mix a bunch of chemicals together, find some kind of reaction that they claim is close to providing the kind of reaction necessary to start life, and then proclaim they have solved the origin-of-life problem. But they haven’t even came close to doing it.

That brings me to Richard Dawkins who I have covered in some detail in much of my writing. I recently, in one of my writings, argued that reality is difficult for evolutionists to face particularly regarding the origin of life. It’s at https://thesecularleftcritique.wordpress.com/reality-is-tough-on-evolution-or-when-the-data-doesnt-fit-your-theory-the-data-must-be-wrong/ Here’s part of what I said on him:

Evolutionists don’t admit defeat, and to cope with a perilous situation they rely on continued agnosticism. This can continue for years without the realization that at one point they should admit they are wrong. Dawkins’ writing on the origin of life is a case in point. In 1986, Dawkins noted that “chemists have failed in their attempts to duplicate the spontaneous origin of life in the laboratory.” He has also noted that “We still don’t know exactly how natural selection began on Earth.”[xii] In 2006, not much changed. Dawkins says “The origin of life is a flourishing, if speculative, subject for research . . . I shall not be surprised if, within the next few years, chemists report that they have successfully midwifed a new origin of life in the laboratory.” It hasn’t happened yet, he says, and he maintains that the probability of it happening is extremely low although we can, he says, have confidence it happened at least once.[xiii] Perhaps the reason that life is so improbable and that researchers can’t create life is that there is something missing in these attempts that make it impossible to do so. Maybe intelligence is needed; perhaps even divine intelligence.
Greetings. This blog continues the work I have begun as the author of the book The Vast Wastelands of Unbelief which I have henceforth edited and republished as the Wastelands of Unbelief via Wordpress.at https://wastelandsofunbelief.wordpress.com/

I also started a Wordpress site devoted to subsequent essays critical of secular left thought - whether it be secular humanism, atheism, liberalism, or evolutionism at https://thesecularleftcritique.wordpress.com/table-of-contents/

This blog is for shorter entries and updates on material I find on a daily basis that have an impact on the type of material I write about.