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William Lane Craig is widely considered the best Christian apologist living. Hitchens said that before this debate he received emails from fellow atheists, stating, “please don’t let us down.”
Dawkins has thus far refused to debate Craig, stating, “I don’t debate professional debaters.” But Hitchens is always willing to jump in the ring. It’s a long debate, so you’ll probably watch it in bits and chunks. But it’s a good one.
Here’s a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Dr. David Berlinski, an admitted secular Jew who does not practice any religion. He does however have advanced degrees in mathematics and philosophy. Hitchens’ reputation is well known.
In this debate, two debate the opposite proposition that Hitchens made in one of his books, that religion poisons everything.
I like Scott Adams, author and artist of the Dilbert comic strip. his blog posts are insightful, though I often disagree with the angles he takes. For instance, in this post, Adams writes about Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality that momentarily got him suspended from his show, Duck Dynasty.
Adams states that he is “pro-gay” but does not believe the response by other pro-gay people to Robertson’s comments was a consistent response. He writes:
It seems to me that Phil Robertson was born with the brain he has. He didn’t have a choice in the matter. And science is starting to understand that religious folks have different brain structure than non-believers. So how is it fair to belittle Phil for acting in the only way he could, given the brain he has?
Adams supports this argument by stating, that because gays are born gay, they should not hold Robertson responsible for acting in a way consistent with his biology, just as pro-gay people ask others to accept the actions of gays because because gays are born this way.
Adams employs his argument as A priori, that is, he makes little attempt to prove that gays are born that way, or that Robertson is born believing that homosexuality is a sin other than to point out that almost all modern people believe homosexuals are born homosexuals and that studies on the brains of religious people shows that their brains are different. Indeed, there are studies that show people who meditate or pray may have differences in their brain.
But Adams misses the point entirely, it seems, after reading the results of those studies. What the studies seem to show, is that meditation in prayer change the brain, it is not the A priori structure of the organic tissue that caused meditation or prayer. He puts the cart before the horse, which I have increasingly noticed to be a habit of scientifically predisposed liberals, of which Adams is one. Adams’ argument is much like saying that someone lifts weights because they are strong. Now, at elite levels, or in highly specialized arenas, there is some truth to this notion. For instance, Olympic athletes are not only very adept at what they do because they are Olympians, they in fact showed an extraordinary talent in their early years which incentivized the activity. The best gymnasts are not only strong because they are gymnasts, but they are likely great gymnasts because they received the positive feedback of success against others of similar experience early in their careers. This is called the self-selection bias. People like to do things in which they can be successful. Thus it could be argued that certain organic traits in a person’s brain may involved in the person’s religiosity, especially if the person showed great insight of religious nature, such as Martin Luther, or Thomas Aquinas. They could be rightfully termed religious prodigies. And homosexuals may have attributes not directly related to sexuality that predispose them to being gay. But this does not mean genetics is destiny.
Another hole in Adams’ reasoning is that he must willfully ignore the fact that some nations and cultures show higher levels of religiosity than others. Pakistan and Afghanistan for instance are much more religious than Canada. Are we to believe that the people in Pakistan have distinctly different brains than the people in Canada? Also, in the past, humans were generally more religious than they are now. Did our brains change so dramatically in a matter of 100 years? These are rhetorical questions to which nearly everyone knows the answer. And the same argument must be made for homosexuality. If homosexuality is innate, why did almost all ancient Greeks practice it to some degree?
And just as with the studies on the religious brain, we must consider that homosexuality may change the human brain, Ex-post facto. Even if defining differences are discovered between homosexual and heterosexual brains, are the structural differences the cause or the result of homosexual thoughts and actions? We know the human brain is very plastic, its organic structures very susceptible to outside influence.
And this brings us to an even deeper question: What is the First Cause of thought? The purely materialistic view states that thought is nothing more than microscopic movement of matter, in ways poorly, but generally understood. However, the observed science seems to contradict this. If thinking can change the organic structure of the brain, how can the organic structure be the cause of the thought? What, at this very moment caused you to reach for your coffee cup, change the channel, stand up? It could not be a random impulse, otherwise our daily life would have no order. So, it seems to me, the First Cause lay deeper than the material, in a sort of spiritual realm.
But are we a Tabula Rasa, a blank slate upon which the external world, though training, rhetoric and dogma can elicit from us any response it likes? I do not believe we are. We obviously possess some innate inner qualities. I am often amazed at the things my three year old daughter knows without really having been taught these things. For instance, I have noticed that she knows what is “scary”, and thus evil or bad, in some cartoons, even though to my knowledge she had no way of being taught that such things were supposed to be evil. Some studies show that children have a general idea of good and bad from a very young age.
An easy solution to the question of Tabula Rasa, is that humans have many general inborn traits, but that any of them can be subdued through training, culture, or other factors, for good or bad. Just as all humans get hungry after going for a time without food, all humans can to varying degrees, stave off the act of eating through acts of will.
Without a vision of God, the people run amok. ~Proverbs 29:18
My friend, Bill, recently posted a comment in which he states:
FWIW, you have changed my mind on more than a few things, and one that I was very resolute about. I still have trouble digesting the emphasis on God in your posts though, not on an individual level but in it’s relation to society. It honestly seems like exactly the opposite of a position you’d hold so I’m missing something. Would love to discuss further some time 😉
This presents a very complicated issue, one that will require more extensive thinking and planning than are needed for most blog posts. I’ve thought about this what a post explaining my stance would entail, and felt that I perhaps would be too lazy to properly express myself, or perhaps merely incapable of doing so. My response could take a book, and there are many books written that would far surpass anything I could put down that would enunciate why I think that without God, society goes mad. Even as those who note society’s growing madness cannot fully grasp why this is happening. They still grasp at materialist reasons.
Several years ago, I gravitated toward Existentialism , not in a deliberate manner, not in a seeking for some “ism” to satisfy Man’s inherent need for meaning, though existentialism speaks primarily of Man’s need for meaning. The need for meaning is at Man’s core–without it he falls into madness, despair, self-destructive behavior, and loses almost all ability to examine himself. He becomes a ship without a compass, floating on a sea with no islands and no shores. His ship is quickly running out of food and drink. Even when I read of anti-theist movements like Bolshevism, there is the need for a driving force, a cause, a need to get up in the morning, for energy and drive.
Many who’ve read my writings or who’ve had cursory political conversations with me may believe that I am an ultra righter-winger, with no sympathy for the root of socialist or Communist thought. They would be wrong. My family on both sides was blue collar through and through. Welders, wood cutters, mill workers, union members. I know how tough physical labor is; I’ve done it myself on many occasions throughout my life, and I hated it; it was so boring all I could think of was the end of the day. Marx speaks to me at several levels. He talks about how the proletariat’s work is boring and provides only enough money to scrape by. Though I’d argue that my blue collar family did better than Marx would have predicted. My father, as a mill worker and welder, and my uncle as a boiler-maker, another uncle as a commercial fisherman, did quite well. The Communists and Socialists for the 40 hour work week and 8 hour days. People in Britain during the Industrial Revolution used to have to work 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Believe it or not, being in the US Army made me more sympathetic to Marx, not less. I’ve seen how some managers and leaders will work people to death to make themselves look good, with almost no thought for others as human beings. On the other hand the Army has many traits inherent to a Socialist society, and these too create many problems. But in truth, I consider the US military to be one of the most un-American organizations in America. It removes too much choice, freedom of thought and audacity. It suffers its own consequences.
The people who fought for justice for workers should be commended. There is a tendency toward increasing efficiency in any business, and often this results in people being treated as mere commodities. But not always, and I would argue that business can get more out of people and attract better people by treating them well.
One of the problems with the Manichean universe of Socialist/Capitalist conflict, is the belief that material needs are the basis for happiness. The Communists want us to believe that money is evil, and yet in many cases it is them who want the poor to have more money. It is they who primarily argue that money and the material comforts that it brings is what makes life bearable. Both Capitalists and Socialists argue almost the same thing. Almost. The big difference is that most free-market capitalists argue for freedom, that people should be free to get as rich as they please. It does not necessarily make a person evil to do so. Our nation is founded on basic freedoms, agreed upon in the Bill of Rights.
Even more important to me, is that Communism’s root is atheism. Communism expresses that Man’s only salvation is through materials, the exact thing that Marx explicitly railed against, but then built an ingenious argument for. Communists and their softer cousins, Progressives, expect too much from this life. The more you expect from this life, the more you will come to hate it. The more you come to find joy in small things, the more joy will be imparted to you.
Of all writers, perhaps Dostoevsky understood Man’s conundrum the best.
And so I seek a deeper meaning for myself and Mankind. Shredding all the money in the world, as the Communists want, will not bring nobility or contentment to humans. When I read the writings of the old Communists, Lenin, Mao, Marx, I’m astounded how men of such genius and energy could be so blind. Where did they get their energy? How could 75 years of hard living on this Earth give them enough motivation to fight so hard for something so transient? Where could they find the raw energy to commit such sustained atrocity, and to write with such power?
When humans drift away from the deeper meaning of existence, they almost always fall into self-destructive cycles. The West is abandoning God. The message is that only the uneducated and unthinking believe in God. And yet the further we drift from God, the more uneducated and unthinking we become. Our depravity, fed from an infinite well in a meaningless universe, was its own end. The message fed to us has been that freedom from God was the key to happiness. Much or our “art” is a celebration of our basest instincts, a celebration of historically aberrant behavior, drug use, arrogance, hate, raw sexuality, the pointless accumulation of money and trinkets.
Marx’ opening statement in The Communist Manifesto rings true, but it is not complete:
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
In truth, all men have striven for meaning. Take away God and provide Man with only raw materialism, and we find that what Whitaker Chamber’s said presents a much fuller picture of human history:
“Man without mysticism is a monster”
And so, since the powerful motivator of “The Cause” the ideologies like Communism provided men like Lenin has been replaced by vacuous nihilism. Without an external materialistic philosophy to drive him, Man turns from killing one another and turns to killing himself. But what proof do I have? Aren’t Americans more comfortable than ever? Maybe, but are they happier? Look at these statistics and decide for yourself:
- Illegitimacy in the US, since 1960, has risen from 5 percent to 41 percent.
- From 1960 to 1990, teen suicide rates tripled.
- Violent crime from 1960 to 1992-murder-rape-assault, increased by 550 percent.
- America imprisons more people than any country in the history of the world. We have to, to keep the monsters we have created from destroying the monsters of the future. 2.3 million people are in American prisons. Countries like Britain who’ve refused to throw people in jail at such a high rate have suffered the consequences: Britain has one of the highest violent crime rates in the world.
- SAT scores in America have been dropping for decades.
- “One in 10 Americans now takes an antidepressant medication; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four.”
- Suicide in the military has skyrocketed; nothing the military has done to try to stem this has slowed the rates of self-inflicted death. And nothing will because the problem is spiritual not based in materialism.
- Western civilizations do not produce at a rate which will sustain them. While this says nothing of the truth of Christianity, it does hint that societies who at least think children are important enough to birth may be the societies that rule the Earth in 100 years. You may believe this is a good thing. Until you realize that young people are the ones who sustain the elderly in democratic-socialist societies such as our own.
How are we better off? Are we a more or less religious people than we were through the 30s, 40s and 50s? We are in very concrete ways, more violent, depressed, and stupid. What more measurement could we ask for to prove our decline? The first challenge of doomsayers such as myself, is not to convince of the correct medicine for our sickness, but to convince people we are sick at all. If the demise of civilization were apparent to everyone, it would never happen. But as TS Eliot noted, it’s not with a bang, but a whimper that we die.
Beyond the scientific facts is my personal anecdote. And in the true existentialist tradition, anecdote is important to me. It is important to everyone, even the most rational among us. Nobody lives his life day to day on scientific experiment. We know that getting hit by cars is bad for us, not based on Newtonian physics, but because we heard of someone else dying when they were struck by a car. And our parents told us not to play in the road. in my own experience, people now are indeed dumber, coarser, less able to see themselves as the world sees them. Lacking manners of the faintest sort, they are loud, base, uttering curse works in virtually every sentence. Many are unable to write a clear sentence, gravitate toward the most brutal and meaningless of music and cinema. If you want to know where a society is headed, look at its art. This brutal music is not admired despite its barbarity and coarseness, but because of it. Many celebrate the worst traits in humans, while scoffing at nobility.
Why all people in Western Society, even Christians, must face Nietzsche
Nietzsche predicted the downfall of the West. He declared:
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?
Nietzsche, one of the few truth-tellers of the modern age. He is of the same blood line as Dostoevsky. Nietzsche’s answer to the idea that God is dead and that we killed him with unbelief, is the construction of the Ubermensch , a human beyond the cares imposed on humanity by the inevitability of death. To the Ubermensch, death, troubles, pain, mean nothing. The Ubermensch is able to find meaning in his life despite all of this. To Nietzsche, that is the only way to avoid utter despair and the logical conclusion of self-destruction: To become so strong psychologically, that none of it matters.
And that is why I, a Christian, still admire Nietzsche. He didn’t smooth things over for the atheists. He told them exactly what kind of world they would create. It would be a world, “beyond good and evil”, that is, evil. The classic Christian ethics would be tossed aside, and human psychology would be reduced to physiology.
And who has suffered first and foremost in our post-Nietzschean world? The intellectual elites in our universities, the libertine millionaires in Hollywood? No, it is the underclass. Our destruction is truly a grassroots movement. There was a time in America when being poor was not synonymous with slovenly, greedy, thieving, bitter, uncaring, leading an unexamined life. I grew up poor and it was none of these things. There were of course exceptions, but now in many cases being poor is the direct result of a criminal mind. And where did the criminal mind come from? It is the brood of a godless world. Unable to examine itself, a brute child who knows only the satisfaction and existence of its own passions.
We stand on the shoulders of giants. The slide to the bottom will not be instantaneous, but we have begun the journey. The statistics that I posted above are but a small fraction of the facts displayed in several books that show where we are going. To some people, this decline will not be so apparent. America and Europe are, after all, not monolithic entities. Pockets of noble humans remain. But even in many of these pockets, these noble humans have forgotten their Christian birthright. And each generation’s memory lapses more. And so, our society is not yet Somalia, but it is draining its well. As GK Chesterson stated:
The modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital. It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.
Make no mistake, the pale horse coming is not at a full battle gallop, but trots slowly at the horizon. Ask yourself, if America were to decline and fall, what would it look like, if not exactly what it looks like now when compared to our past?
We must understand, that in this predominately agnostic society we created, we also created people who must do one of two things:
- Ignore the fact that all humans die, and that our life on this Earth means nothing without the hereafter. 75 years is the mathematical equivalent of zero when juxtaposed with infinity. Any number is zero when compared to infinity.
- People who acknowledge the meaninglessness of a life and thus intentionally subscribe to nihilism and destructive though immediately satisfying behavior. I myself would do heroine if I thought there was nothing beyond this life.
All societies that have tried to create an Ubermensch-by any other name- have brought almost unimaginable horror to mankind. The Nazis were directly influenced by Nietzsche. The Communists attempted a humanist utopia made of men who lived beyond the natural needs and desires of humans. The mountains of corpses generated from these societies are a lesson that the atheists of our day try to sweep away with their postmodern cynicism.
In ending, my thesis is that our society is disintegrating in very concrete ways. And why is this? Because we no longer have a reason to live, to do good…to even try.
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They’ll laugh, they’ll snicker. And I’ll keep trudging through the streets carrying my sign: “The End is Near!” We are a dying society. As faith in God has disintegrated, so has knowledge of good and evil. The agnostic and atheist elites will analyze, but will not find the cold, mathematical formula they seek to explain our disintegration, except to say in the form of a new social program. Here, uber-liberal Democrats find in their hearts to call out to God–and thank him for access to abortion. Nietzsche’s Transvaluation of Values is nearly complete, but not quite. As in Sodom and Gomorrah, God was willing to save a city from destruction should there be a very small percent of people whom remained righteous. America remains the most faithful Western nation in existence, which isn’t saying mush at this point in time.
America’s time is coming. We are walking on slippery rocks. Just as the great sermoneer, Jonathan Edwards quoted:
Their foot shall slide in due time, Deuteronomy 32:35.
If we continue, and we probably will, one day we will look around and wonder how our great cities became smoldering ash, whether in metaphor or in reality. In due time, when God has had enough.
50 million abortions a year. The great shift toward matriarchal society has wrought annihilation of which Mao, Hitler and Stalin would be proud. Men have made war against armed men. The modern feminist has picked up the sword against a dreaming child. Disintegrating family structures. Voting trends are already showing the results of massive demographic changes. Fact: Immigrants and Blacks vote for more government. They will not stop. They’re world view tells them that government makes and enables life. And just as the prophets of old heard from the people they warned: “We’ve heard the warnings before, shut up and go away”, many will ignore the obvious, that America cannot continue down the road it’s on. Spending is a moral issue. Those whom chronically take more than they earn have a moral problem. We as a people have a moral problem. A nation of consumerism, hedonism, nihilism, socialism. We better find more theism.
In 2011, vaunted scientist Stephen Hawking announced the death of philosophy. His premise is that philosophy has not kept up with modern physics. Hawking, judging from his writings, is probably quite happy about the death of philosophy.
I am in no position to argue with Hawking’s science. What I am in a position, I believe, to do, is compete with Hawking, and many other current and popular scientists, such as Richard Dawkins, on a philosophical level. It is precisely because of the death of philosophy, that brilliant scientists such as Hawking draw fallacious conclusions.
First, let me admit that philosophy and science are intimately linked, like Siamese twins; two entities sharing common systems. It is impossible to speak of science without invoking some philosophical insights. Many new scientists despise this idea. To them, philosophy involves metaphysics, which is related to that dreadfully unscientific thing called religion.
These scientists want to keep science and religion separated. It enables them to control the message, which is that if a person is religious, he is by definition anti-science. And since we all know that science is “true”, we must conclude that suppositions of scientists are true, and that those reached by theists are false. What many modern scientists cannot abide is that religion can be based on science.
But science, in and of itself, tells us little about what conclusions we should draw from scientific revelations. Science does a rather poor job in answering the child’s first question: Why?
Why is the grass green? Because of chlorophyll, of course. But why?
Why should I not kill the human next to me, and take his wallet? The Nazis divorced high science from real philosophical or religious thinking. The result was Zyklon-B and gas chambers. They knew, from science, to a sufficient degree, what the poison gas would do to human bodies, but they could not decipher the reasons not to use it in such a way. Science cannot save humanity, hence the invention of the atom bomb and artillery shells and reality television….
Why is there something instead of nothing? Ask scientists why often enough, and you will get a response similar to the frustrated parent answering a string of whys from a 5 year old: “Shush“. Like that parent, some scientists don’t want to admit that they don’t know the answers. I am always amazed by the juvenile understanding that some world class scientists seem to have of the philosophic weaknesses of their arguments. Why do humans like music? Why do humans have language? Science rarely makes itself look so ridiculous as when it exercises itself through “evolutionary psychology” or makes any attempt to explain the exact reasons for a certain trait in a species.
The death of philosophy not only harms science, it harms religion. Christians, in many cases, find it difficult to defend their beliefs, with notable exceptions. Even a tertiary knowledge of philosophy would better arm them.
Indeed philosophy’s demise even results in faulty intelligence analysis and bad military strategy for America. A 50 minute class on deductive reasoning from a teacher who knew what they were talking about, may have saved the United States billions of dollars and thousands of lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If the unexamined life is not worth living, modern America seems a wasteland of meaninglessness. Little Johnny cannot determine why knowing and understanding American history is more important than anything that can be gleaned from Jersey Shore. We have and will reap the whirlwind because of this.
“We just heard of a brand new way..we’ll have to wait and see if it’s half of what they say.” ~Loverboy, The Kid is Hot Tonight
On a friend of mine’s blog, I often present alternate views to the blog’s author and to many of the people who leave comments. Predictably my opinions tend to be more conservative than others. One line of comments was about global warming. Being a global warming skeptic, I felt it necessary to point out some problems with the current model as it now stands. The author of the blog asked why I would believe the minority of scientists over the majority’s opinion.
It is a legitimate question and I’ll give only a short answer here because this post is not really global warming. My primary arguments against the global warming model is not so much with the individual scientists that conduct the studies, though several of them have been caught fudging data in order to strengthen the perception that more warming is taking place than is actually occurring. My main argument is against the alarmists such as Al Gore, who claim warming will lead to imminent catastrophe. But there are also loopholes in the logic employed by the scientists themselves.
I’ve written articles on global warming, diet and evolution. In most cases my arguments are not the mainstream argument. I also see some major problems with Psychology as a science. I could be accused of being anti-intellectual or anti-science. I don’t believe this is the case.
Essentially, my argument is one of Empiricism vs. Rationalism. Both views hold legitimate value. The Empirical view essentially says that human beings are limited in their knowledge because the only knowledge they can truly have is gained through limited senses. Rationalism says that humans have innate knowledge and can extrapolate facts that are beyond human senses. It is possible that a person take an empirical view of some phenomena and a rationalist view of others. For instance, in my view of global warming and the current model of evolution, I am an empirical skeptic. In the case of God and Christianity I am a rationalist.
Let me explain why I am a skeptic in some cases but not others. I’ll use techniques that intelligence analysts employ to develop what is called the Enemy Course of Action. As an analyst, I develop the enemy’s Most Likely Course of Action (COA) and his most Most Dangerous Course of Action (MDCOA). The analyst may compose several COAs. Think of these as hypothesis in scientific terms. Using information, gathered intelligence and careful thinking, the analyst draws up the plan that the enemy is most likely to employ against the friendly military. The analyst also creates a product that shows the most dangerous actions an enemy may employ. Much of the process is rational. An analyst cannot know for sure where the enemy will be in the future, but he can extrapolate using analysts tools and logic. But there are parts of the process that are empirical, too. The analyst has to provide ways that his hypothesis can move up the scientific slide-scale to theory. To do this, he creates Known Areas of Interest (NAIs)and Indicators. NAIs are areas of terrain that would be monitored with intelligence assets in order to cull Indicators. Indicators are “proofs” that the enemy is committing to a certain predicted course of action. So, if a MDCOA states that the enemy will use chemical weapons against friendly battalion headquarters, an indicator may read like this: “In NAI 1, enemy soldiers are wearing or carrying personal protective chemical gear. ” If intelligence collection assets see this, and the information makes it back to the analyst and commander, they can both begin focusing on the MDCOA as the enemy’s plan of action.
So what’s my point? The point is that analysts can only give the most likely event that will occur as well as their opinion on what is the most dangerous. He has to back up his claims with potential indicators. And here’s where I see the problems with global warming. If I were an analyst using the above model to figure out what is going to happen because of global warming, I would say it global warming will have have very little impact on people’s lives. Scientists can look at the empirical facts, like temperature measurements at various points around the globe. They can see that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, because they can create closed systems and inject CO2 into that system and observe CO2’s effects on heat conservation. But there are many things that scientists cannot see empirically with global warming. They cannot see the end result of global warming, they can only rationalize what the end result may be. And if we use the past as an indicator for what may happen in the future, than we must come to the conclusion that the predicted temperature increases do not present a clear and present danger to mankind, because the Earth has been much warmer and contained much more CO2 in the past than it does now. And let’s remember that the Earth is not warming as fast as climate models predicted, thus the weakness of rationalism. Several years ago, Al Gore assured us of catastrophe. But man-made CO2 is an extremely small percentage of greenhouse gas, and we know that temperature does not increase in a linear fashion with CO2. The impact of man-made CO2 on temperature is not known. It may be so low as to be immeasurable. If someone tells me that human survival is threatened by global warming, they have to give me indicators and they also have to show how much impact human activity has on the warming in the first place, because otherwise we have very little control of what the weather does. They also have to give explanations for past warming before the industrial age and why no warming has occurred in the last 15 years. Most importantly, they have to show me why nations should spend trillions of dollars on programs such as the Kyoto Protocol.
Science is not very good at predicting. The major areas of current scientific practice that most trouble me are the ones that seek to extrapolate over very long periods of time. I see the problem like this: If a man who is shooting a rifle at a target 50 meters away misses by 4 inches, that same shot would have missed a more distant target by an even wider margin. And yet in the case of evolution, scientists seek to tell us what happened millions of years ago. Is it not reasonable to surmise that they may be off the mark just a bit? Global warming too seeks to tell us what will happen in the year 2040. Both evolution and catastrophic results of global warming are fine hypothesis. But empirical evidence does not yet support those hypothesis as scientific fact.
Ideological thinking can and has damaged the science. Take diet for instance. In many cases, the thinking goes like this: “I like animals, therefore I don’t like to kill animals, and therefore eating meat and fat damages my health.” “I like nature, nature is the environment without man in it, therefore any man-made technology is bad for nature.” “I do not believe in God, therefore evolution is true.” The opposite also happens. “I don’t believe in evolution because I believe in God.” In other words, people do not believe certain things because of science, they believe the science because of certain other things. As we know from the Nazis, science can be used to support any ideology. And times and thinking change. Scientific consensus, like religious consensus, is subject to change. As Loverboy sings: The kid is hot tonight, but where will he be tomorrow? The hot new idea may fade, and thus laws should only be made in the case of strong empirical evidence.
The truly damaging aspect of this is the linear thinking that science and religion can never mix.
Do I hold Christianity and the existence of God to the same standard I hold evolution and the global warming catastrophe hypothesis? Yes I do. The primary difference is that in one case, global warming, some people want to spend trillion of dollars to change and in most cases slow down modern economies. As far as my belief in Christianity goes, I do not want laws made that require people to be Christians because 1) That kind of Christianity would be wholly inauthentic 2) I may be wrong.
I especially may be wrong on the small minute details of the religion, for God had to constantly correct the men in the Old Testament and the New. No man can conceive fully, God. Moreover, no two men’s concept of God can be exactly the same, mathematically speaking. Theocrats, such as the Taliban, want to calcify thinking. So do the Technocrats or those that make laws based on science that extrapolates and does not see first hand.
I have come to the conclusion through rationalization, that there is probably a God, something or someone that created the universe. And the logical conclusion I draw is the same as Nietzsche’s, that without God, there is no good and evil, that people can only make claims to right or wrong based on how they feel about things. And the problem with that is that there will always be someone who feels differently. The Taliban feel it’s ok to shoot disobedient women in the head. No Atheist could argue with the Taliban on any moral grounds, because life had no meaning without the sacred, it only has fleeting feelings.
In the end, my belief in God does not harm people, at least as far as I can tell. Indeed, using the classic model or what makes a man right and just, Christianity improved me significantly, so there is a utilitarian argument for Christianity in my case. Should a law be made that all people had to believe exactly as I do, that law would most likely harm even me, because it’s unlikely my views in 20 years will be exactly as they are now.
And yet the Technocrats want to make laws that tell us exactly how we can think and act, sometimes based on very poorly understood and complicated things, like brain chemistry. I am not saying that we can never reach a level of adequate surety in these various areas, but it doesn’t seem like we’re there yet. When an engineer builds a plane that cannot fly, the results are immediately evident. When climate scientists or pundits claim Florida will be under water in 50 years so we’d better spend millions, well show me the money.
Schools cannot teach alternative views to evolution, nor do they even talk about the unanswered aspects of the hypothesis. Some children are forced by state law to take medication for ADD before they can attend school. And our society accepts this Technocratic rule because it believes people who think otherwise are unscientific and stupid. In essence, we have accepted science’s version of the Taliban.
I recently read a blog post on Scott Adams’ excellent Dilbert website. Yes, that Dilbert. The post is titled, Breakfast is Overrated. In the post, Adams states that he finds he has much more creativity and energy when he eats very little before noon. He says when he finally eats his lunch, he usually needs to take a nap.
This mirrors exactly my experience. When I wrote my novel, For Want of Knowledge , intentionally skipped breakfast, only drinking coffee until my daily word count was complete. Even now I find that my desire to write at all diminishes when I eat. I usually have to roll out a post before eating, and if I eat while writing a post, I many times will not finish.
I found a book online, called, The Hygienic System: Orthotrophy. A portion of the book, chapter 24, reads:
“Herodotus records that the invading hosts (over five millions) of the Persian general Xerxes, had to be fed by the conquered cities along their lines of march. He states as a fortunate circumstance the fact that the Persians, including even the Monarch and his courtiers, ate one meal a day.
The Jews from Moses until Jesus ate but one meal a day. They sometimes added a lunch of fruit. We recall reading once in the Hebrew scriptures these words (quoting from memory): “Woe unto the nation whose princes eat in the morning.” If this has any reference to dietetic practices it would indicate that the Jews were not addicted to what Dr. Dewey called the “vulgar habit” of eating breakfast. In the oriental world today extreme moderation, as compared to the American standard, is practiced.
Dr. Felix Oswald says that “during the zenith period of Grecian and Roman civilization monogamy was not as firmly established as the rule that a health-loving man should content himself with one meal a day, and never eat till he had leisure to digest, i.e., not till the day’s work was wholly done. For more than a thousand years the one meal plan was the established rule among the civilized nations inhabiting the coast-lands of the Mediterranean. The evening repast–call it supper or dinner–was a kind of domestic festival, the reward of the day’s toil, an enjoyment which rich and poor refrained from marring by premature gratifications of their appetites.”
Anecdotal of course, but in line with my experience. I just watched my cat eat the food I gave him this morning. Afterwards, he immediately went to sleep for an hour. But it does make me wonder if prosperity has a terminal seed planted within it. After reaching its peak, a society has access to lots of food. People begin to eat more and more. Eventually a level of consumption is reached that outpaces the body’s need for nutrition and stunts energy and creativity. The society begins to slow down, and other cultures who lag just a bit behind and don’t have as much begin to catch up.
The Romans apparently ate one big meal late in the day, and supplemented a couple of very small meals earlier. The average Roman soldier was incredibly tough. Few modern elite military forces could beat an average Roman soldier in marching. A Roman soldier would march all day and then build a fortified encampment. The average soldier probably weighed only 140 pounds. Though his caloric intake had to be high, on the order of 5000-6000 calories a day, it’s unlikely he had the time or capacity to eat multiple meals in a day, aside from some bread or dates. Yet he maintained a fantastic physical capability.
Also of interest are recent findings that very old practices, considered mystical and spiritual, actually have very measurable utilitarian value. In America, the religious live the longest. Who is likely to live the shortest life? The least religious women.
Fasting is an ancient tradition, and chronicled throughout the Bible. In the Bible fasting is done along with prayer, usually in preparation for a trying event, such as war or in times of grief. Fasting has legitimate health benefits. It seems to help in the fight against cancer, brain degeneration, and insulin resistance.
I believe the ancients sensed things that we have proven through scientific study. What we need a million dollar study to prove to us, the ancients endorsed simply because they saw it working. While it’s true that ancient people did some things that are obviously wrong, many things they did were intuitive and profoundly effective. In today’s world, many fall victim to the fallacy of Appeal to Novelty.
Could it be that fasting grants “wisdom” ie, enhanced brain activity? Maybe it’s something to fast on.
A few nights ago, I worked as the staff duty NCO for my battalion. This means that I work a 27 hour shift and am responsible for checking buildings throughout the battalion, taking important phone calls after duty hours, and generally maintaining security throughout the battalion during that time.
Also, during the staff duty work period, the NCO is in charge of the “extra duty Soldiers”. That is, the Soldiers who have gotten into trouble and been given Article 15 sentences of extra duty. Extra duty is one of the plainest examples of the difference between civilian life and that of a Soldier. In a Company Grade Article 15 (an Article 15 imposed by a company commander), a Soldier can be sentenced to up to 14 days of extra duty. With a Field Grade Article 15 (an Article 15 imposed by a Battalion Commander or higher), the Soldier can impose up to 45 days of extra duty.
Extra duty is fairly brutal. A Solider in my unit starts his day at 0700 hours for accountability formation and physical training. Then they’re one and a half hours to change, shower and eat before reporting to their appointed place of duty. The duty day unusually ends at 5 pm unless there’s important work to be done. For the extra duty Soldier, his day doesn’t end until 2300 (11 PM). So, someone with 45 days extra duty is working about 15 hours every day, if you take out time allotted to eat.
Last night, I was responsible for four Soldiers on extra duty, which meant I was supposed to assign them tasks and keep them busy. Mostly the usual military stuff like buffing floors and mopping. One of the Privates asked me if I wanted him to do police call, which means picking up garbage around the barracks and headquarters. I agreed and he went on his way. A couple of hours later I realized I hadn’t seen the Soldier in a while, so I went out to look for him. He seemed to had vanished. I went in to ask one of the other extra duty Soldiers if they’d seen him. One of the others was acting very strange, as if he were hiding something. I immediately recognized the body language from my days as a cop. He was up to something, and gave me the odd story that he’s just vomited “all over the bathroom”. I told all of the Soldiers to hand over their cell phones, as I suspected they were communicating and covering for each other while they slacked on their work.
But I still had to find the missing Soldier. His buddy finally gave up the goods and said that sometimes the other Private sleeps in the woods. Sure enough, I found Private Snoozy fast asleep in a group of bushes behind the barracks. I escorted him back to my office and pondered what to do with him. He told me that he has insomnia and he’s had it ever since December when he watched a friend in Seattle Washington shoot himself in the head. Sadly, I immediately felt suspicious about this story. I’m sure we’ve all heard of school kids producing sick notes because of deaths in the family that never happened.
I delved further into his personal life. He told me that he was being “chaptered” out of the Army for Failure to adapt to the military life style” and “Pattern of misconduct”. He had only about 5 days remaining of his extra duty days out of the 45 he’d been sentenced to.
Later on in the work shift, one of the Soldiers’ cell phones kept chiming, so I turned them over to see which one it was. It was the sleepy Soldier’s phone. It was his wife, sending him a text, which read: “I love you. Can you bring some MREs home?” An MRE is a “Meal Ready to Eat.” They are the prepackaged food that Soldiers eat when deployed or in the filed, or on very rare occasions, when they have no time at work to get a hot meal. They’re not bad for carrying around whilst in third world countries. But no one brings them home to munch on. The Soldier had also asked for and MRE to eat when he first arrived for his shift, stating he was broke.
Later, I asked the Soldier if he’d had pay taken away from him when he was punished by the commander. He said no money was taken from him and that if it were, he wouldn’t be able to live. I asked him where his money was going. He told me that, between his car payment and car insurance, he paid $800 a month. His insurance was over $400 a month because of 4 vehicle accidents this year alone.
Three of the four Soldiers on extra duty acted in what I considered “un-soldierly” ways. One Private First class did not stand at parade rest when addressing me, as is Army regulation when addressing an NCO, until that NCO releases them by telling them “at ease.”
When I found the Private sleeping in the woods, and was escorting him back to the office, I felt exactly as I did as a police officer, escorting a prisoner to jail. The biggest difference was that I’d never escorted a co-worker. Inn the end, I did nothing but yell at the sleeping Soldier and have him report every 30 minutes to my office. Anything more would probably keep him in the Army longer and waste people’s time and resources.
All of this got me thinking about delinquency. Here was a young man who’s Army career could have been as fine as any others. He’d been afforded the exact same opportunities as me, but apparently could not even show up for work on time. The other Soldiers exhibited behaviors that subtly showed them to be undisciplined. In short, it seemed they were all trying to get away with something from the start, that every moment was about trying to cheat.
I thought back to my teenage years, before I became a Christian, and remembered where I was and could have been. The profound changes in me when my Damascus Road moment occurred. No amount of intelligence, ability or even opportunity, could have protected me from myself before I was born again. I was a thief, a liar, a deceiver and had failed at everything. My rational side wants to say that I had a choice in the matter, that I could have just pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and begun doing the right thing. But this never would have happened by any secular means. No amount of punishment, no amount of philosophical talks about right and wrong, only through religious epiphany was I able to change.
In short, I was a slave. But as Paul stated in Romans 6:6 :
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”
I do not at all understand the mechanism that changed me. I literally became a different person in my mind. All of my unbelieving friends will confirm this. Those early years as a new Christian were tough, though. The longing for perfection that can never be achieved, which are at the roots of fundamentalism. I tend to agree with Soren Kierkagard’s theory of the three stages of life: The aesthetic, the ethical and the religious.
I am far from perfect. But when I do wrong, I at least want to do better next time. As a teenager, I wanted to keep stealing and keep lying. There was no war with sin. I was fully on the side of sin.
And so I look at some of these Soldiers and see that they have little choice but to act in the manner they do, and the only way the Army can handle them is to get rid of them. In fact, I am amazed at the people who walk around without having experienced any religious change, but are able to play by society’s rules. They are in Kierkagard’s ethical stage, the stage I needed to leap over, from the aesthetic (un-reflective) to the religious.
They are stronger than I was.