Thursday, April 26, 2012

Striving after the wind

The more I think about the Great Debate, the more it all feels like bullshit.  Not the arguments or positions themselves, but the act of arguing feels senseless.  While I never fully understood why atheists feel such a strong need to be so evangelistic--never having been one myself, how could I understand the emotion?-- while Christians are equally evangelistic as mandated by God.  Atheism seeks to disprove religion; religion seeks to justify its place as an intellectual endeavor that is not simply supported by blind belief and foolish presupposition.  Plenty of evidence exists for both positions.  Arguments can be so thoroughly constructed that they will only sway their own subscribers.  On some level, I understand the need for Christianity to defend itself.  Yet the whole process seems hopeless.  Neither side backs down, the debate becomes more heated, and truth is only found in the form of stigmas and perceptions.  Atheism is the track of the intellectual elite douches while faith is reserved for the blind, uneducated fools.

Perhaps I am being overwhelmingly cynical.  Yet the process still feels as a striving after wind.  While it would be great to have all the answers, I realize that all of the answers cannot be found.  No one comes to faith except through Christ; Christ brings many to faith simply through the power of his love reaching its pinnacle at the moment of his Great Sacrifice.  Where is my place in the bullshit battle?  Maybe this is my propensity for lifestyle masochism (like my decision to become a teacher).  Maybe this isn't meant for me.  Maybe this isn't for me and I should live my life as simply as possible, loving as much as God enables along the way.  I suppose only time will tell.

Yet the ache within me remains: I want answers to the questions that I haven't yet thought to ask.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


In The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins describes (pp. 268-270) his disbelief of how creationists can maintain their beliefs in light of the findings by Darwin on speciation.  I am continually annoyed when atheists and Christians alike leave no room for evolution in the argument.  By assuming that the claims of creation demand that all modern species be present on the ark is a self-defeating straw man argument.  Yet that's exactly what we find many (not all) atheists using as their definition of the creation story.  In this matter, I agree completely: it would be ridiculous to assume that all modern species were present on the ark at the time of the flood.  Evolution is not the theory in question; the span of time in which it occurred and the conditions from which it started are the only two variables worth debating in this great argument.

Additionally, Dawkins provides the answer to the problem that he proposes.  In fact, the creation story creates an arguably greater explanation of how we see species distributed in their modern settings.  If the ark contained, say, 20 fundamental species of mammals and those mammals were to disperse and become rapidly partitioned into the islands that he describes in the same chapter, evolution would take hold and maintain adaptive selection.  As he says, all of the great variety of African cichlids have evolved "before our very eyes" in the past 200 years.  How much more would lemurs, sheep, and whatever else you could imagine evolve to adapt in the span of 5000 years!  God gives the command to "go forth and multiply", and I doubt that the animals would have been any great exception.  While this leaves some vague room for divine intervention/ inspiration for the movement of the animals, we are already assuming that God has divinely acted to create the Flood in the first place.  There are, however, many issues that can be raised that seem to contradict a rapid-evolution theory:

  1. The fossil record does not support such a worldview (unless rapid extinctions were to have occurred prior to the Flood and perhaps even in the Garden itself).
  2. Radiometric dating (as Dawkins says earlier in the book) must have worked differently than it currently does, and we have no evidence for this being possible.  While it is not impossible assuming it could be attributable to some undiscovered process, all forms of radiometric decay would need to have been impacted on the same scale.  Indeed, if some global process were to stimulate rapid decay, this is what we would expect.
  3. The continents would need to have been connected at some point.  Plate tectonics must have worked more rapidly than previously.  Again, dating methods directly contradict this idea.  However, the "freak events" that Dawkins describes could have lead to great dispersal/migration.
  4. Abel was a shepherd.  He tended sheep.  I am curious to know the etymology of the Hebrew words used in the Genesis account, specifically whether the term "shepherd" could be more loosely applied to a tender grazing animals/livestock.  Assuming this is not the case, however, one must conclude that mammals existed at the same time as dinosaurs and that sheep have existed since the beginning of time (if Genesis is true).
Yet if these problems are to be resolved, the evolutionary forces that Dawkins describes as being at play in modern and ancient species would not need to be removed or explained away.  The Genesis account would sync well with the idea of rapid evolution, isolation, and dispersal.

As an aside, I've been keeping an eye on a certain Google Doc titled the "Dossier of Reason"-- a collection of arguments opposing the Bible from a variety of approaches including science, internal logic, and self-contradictions.  After browsing through several of the arguments, I have half a mind to sit down and thoroughly attempt to refute each one.  Many are illogical and seem to be based solely on a position of highest probability causality without taking into account human logic, error in the reasoning of the actors, and the ability to explain any of the superficial contradictions without being titled "warped logic" and "grasping at straws".  The problem is that this document is many, many pages long; to thoroughly treat each point would require a great deal of writing along with a bit of research (and perhaps even some contact of professors/experts).  

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I have again found myself at a point where I struggle to build motivation and provoke myself to further my investigations.  I have been given a great gift in the time that I have available to do nothing.  Today, I realized that I simply wanted today to pass.  Not in the hopes of tomorrow, not in the hopes of ending today, but in hopes of passing time and possibly reaching a new point of motivation.  If I am in one of my moody bouts, I am often unable to rally myself to do the things that I am not necessarily obligated to do, but would benefit me in some way.  Today was the first time I could sit down and read in weeks, and even that came only from a motivating trip to Barnes & Noble.  I browse the titles, wishing I could possess the knowledge that they contain.  It often motivates me to read and study, but it also reminds me that I will never know everything that I wish to know.

I don't know if I will ever contribute to the body of scientific knowledge.  I don't know if I will ever build public awareness of ideas.  Perhaps my motivational and focus issues will prevent me from ever achieving anything truly great.  This all feels pointless without the prospect of benefiting others through my knowledge, yet for now, the fruit of my work must simply be the satisfaction of knowing more and answering the questions that lead to the ultimate question: what am I?  If God indeed has a plan for what I will do, then it is not necessarily my place to know the plan in advance.  That is, assuming that God has a plan.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I know there are many deep philosophical aspects to the appreciation of beauty.  I'm sure I could spend an entire career studying the elements of aesthetics: the biological responses of neurological pathways when presented with beauty, the psychological state of being associated with beauty, the philosophical question of why beauty exists, etc.  The thing that I would very much like to know is why mankind shares a common sense of wonder and appreciation for natural phenomena beyond the scope of human influence.  Why is space so awesome?  Why does the Grand Canyon attract countless tourists (beyond the possible social pressures and stigma of the vacation archetype)?  Why does this sense of wonder seem to be (form what I understand) common to all human populations?  I doubt it could be scarcity, for there are many other things that are scarce that few would describe as wonderful (different species of insect come to mind).  Additionally, scientists who devote their entire lives to investigating specific topics have a habit of retaining their wonder despite decades of research and exposure.  We can spend every night of our lives living under a blanket of twinkling stars and still be filled with a sense of awe simply by looking into the night sky.  What is it about the natural world that fills us with such a sense of wonder and beauty?  Surely this appreciation developed after the primary form of selection on the human population came from within our own species, so what value does this wonder have?  Many scientific contributions have stemmed from curiosity and obsession, yet many who are curious do not achieve such accolades.  Could our common sense of wonder toward the universe be the heavenly declaration of God's glory?  Or could it be much more simply explained by the fulfillment of some psychological or sociological need?

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.  Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Last week, I was seriously beginning to doubt whether my intuition and research would ever culminate in some tangible product that would be useful for the intellectual and spiritual development of other people.  Just as I had resolved to answer only my own questions and abandon all further endeavor, a fellow teacher and great friend approached me (without being made aware of my commitments) with the words "I don't think you should abandon the idea to one day write a book".  She proceeded to tell me of a story of how she invested a great deal of time and effort developing a Sunday School curriculum that felt trivial at the time and did not have a widespread impact, but is still used in her home church to teach children.  The last we had spoken of my idea to write a book was several months ago, and I had given no indication that I was doubting my abilities and commitment.  Being a Christian herself, this would be one of those things where the Spirit clearly speaks through people to encourage and give direction.  While moments like these can certainly be attributed to coincidence and circumstance, as a Christian I find them encouraging.  With all of the doubts that I've had over the past several months about my faith, calling, and abilities, I interpret this as a divine prod to do just as was said: "Don't abandon the book idea".  At least, not yet.

My fear in all of this is that I will sacrifice everything to no one's (or perhaps only a few people's) benefit.  I want to make an impact and build the kingdom of God, so if I can't do it as an academic I will do it as a teacher on the front lines of speaking love into the lives of broken students.  I realized this week that I can count the number of students in my class who live with both of their biological parents.  Many of my students have been abused, a couple have children, and most see no future for themselves beyond what has been painted for them.  Perhaps my University of Michigan experience have left me jaded, but I find the number of students planning to attend Division 1 schools to be saddening.  There is clearly much good that could be done here, but will it be done through me?  I don't know how to fix these problems or even to encourage my students to care enough about their future to pass my class.  I wonder if I am cut out to be a teacher.  Due to funding issues, however, I am likely going to be here for at least 5 years so I have plenty of time to discover the answer.

Due to the craziness of my schedule and a recent addiction to a Facebook game that my friends are all playing, I have had precious little time to continue my pursuit of truth.  I found a series of online courses on apologetics that I might take, each lasting 5 weeks.  It would be nice to have something tangible to put on an application if I were to pursue this further.  I will say this though: the cosmological argument for the existence of God (as I understand it) is completely bogus.  The principle of causality dictates that all things must have an origin, including the universe.  Christians say that this means there must be something outside the universe to create it, and we call this thing God.  Yet to make such a claim means that there exists an ultimate "something" that defies the principle of causality and ultimately led to the conditions we now find ourselves in.  To claim that this "something" is God, we could equally define the singularity that led to the Big Bang was that something and is therefore god.  Within a Christian worldview, the principle of causality gives us great confidence in the great Creator.  Yet the claim that this evidence is universal evidence for God falls short of the absolute conviction that it affords Christians.

Monday, February 27, 2012

They can't all be right...

...therefore they must all be wrong.

I realized today that I might be holding a strong bias against academics.  Many mutually exclusive worldviews exist.  There cannot be many gods, no gods, and only one God at the same time.  Christianity and Atheism are in direct opposition.  Every champion for each side has his opponent, otherwise we would all be of one mind.  If every argument for the existence/nonexistence of God can be disagreed upon, then they must all be incorrect in some way.  I don't want to waste my time studying ideas that are incorrect, yet the pursuit of truth requires that falsehood is exactly where I begin.  Yet with such an anti-scholar bias, would I believe the truth once I found it?

The idea of an absolute truth is absolutely unquestionable to me.  While we may all perceive the truth in different ways, there cannot be conflicting explanations as to why I exist.  If I do not exist, I would never be able to prove it because I am limited to the realm of "existence" from which to collect my data and form my conclusions.  Since I cannot know anything about nonexistence, I must work within the realm of existence.  So why do I exist?  Am I the product of a combination of chemicals obeying physical laws created by the reverberations of dimensional strings caused by random chance, or was I specifically designed and created by a Creator who operates outside the perceivable universe?  Both cannot be simultaneously true.  There exists an answer; the only question is whether or not the answer can be obtained.  We have been given eyewitness accounts of the interventions of a Creator that exists outside of the perceivable universe.  But what of the places where the eyewitness accounts seem to contradict naturalistic observation?

One of the arguments that I have always hated most is the idea that simply because a worldview can be properly constructed in which a Creator is unnecessary, a Creator must not exist.  A fundamental tenet of the Christian faith is that knowledge of God cannot be acquired without God revealing himself.  Indeed, this seems to agree with the idea of a being that exists outside of the testable universe.  If this is true, then nature should never prove that a Creator exists.  If so, man has created his own path to the knowledge of God and faith is no longer required.  If the presence of a Creator can be proven, then God's action in the universe would be unwarranted and mankind would all be of one belief, albeit not all of one doctrine.  Christianity smacks of parallelisms to this idea, namely the Fall and the Tower of Babel.  If the Bible is true, then the only way to believe in God is for Him to reveal himself to the heart personally.  The Intelligent Design movement, therefore, is mutually exclusive to orthodox Christianity.  They can't all be right, and everyone seems to have at least some wrongness about their arguments.

In an interest in deepening my knowledge of modern arguments in apologetics, I recently picked up "If God, Why Evil?" by Norman Geisler.  While the foundation that he lays in the book seems to be logical, it breaks down once the ideas are drawn to their full conclusions.  For example, one of his arguments is that man was created with free will.  Since all that God created was very good, free will mus therefore be very good.  Yet God cannot have free will.  It presents a logical paradox analogous to asking "Could God create a stone so heavy even he couldn't lift it?" or my personal favorite "Could God create an argument so stupid even he couldn't answer it?"  The Bible seems pretty clear on the fact that God is unchanging, cannot lie, and cannot denounce himself.  If that is the case, then He is (in some sense) bound by his own will.  While there are many interpretations of his will (specifically where his Will seems to run contrary to his actions), each of those wills cannot be to oppose himself.  God would be in conflict, and therefore imperfect.  If free will is not a trait which God possesses, then either...
1. God possesses free will and is imperfect
2. God lack free will and therefore lacks something good
3. Free will is not good, and therefore man was not created very good
4. Man was not created with free will
While the 4th option intuitively seems to run contrary to what the Bible says, Martin Luther once wrote on the "bondage of the will".  Clearly this is a book that I will need to read if I am to pursue this mystery further.

To underscore my initial point, Geisler makes multiple illogical arguments (not limited to the example described here).  It could simply be that I misunderstood his point or that he could not adequately address these seeming contradictions in the scope of his book, yet I find myself wanting to become superior to an author that is considered one of the greatest apologists of our time.  I want to feel as if I have something to contribute to the intellectual community that is genuinely unique and valuable.  This desire aligns perfectly with my angsty "No one truly understands me" perception which I never fully outgrew.  Perhaps this desire is to be embraced as motivation to work and study.  Alternatively, it could lead me to become an arrogant asshole that would deny the obvious truths that many others embrace.

EDIT: I came down a bit too hard on Geisler.  As I progress further through his thought process, his ideas are well-reasoned and explained.  Before I make judgments about his assertions on free will, I should probably read his book designated for the subject.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Those who know me best often describe me as a series of internal contradictions.  I am in a constant state of cognitive dissonance, never being satisfied with any one choice or solution.  Here are some examples.

I am both an introvert and an extrovert.
I need to be around people, yet always need to be alone.
I am a fairly disorganized and messy person, but hate messiness and disorganization.
I am both vain and filled with self-loathing.
I view myself as both superior and inferior to others.
I am filled with constant discontent, yet would describe myself as happy.
I have a very unhealthy diet, yet am quite health-conscious.
I am constantly self-absorbed, yet other people matter to me more than anything else.
I am creative, yet logical.
I always want to be in a dating relationship, yet yearn for singleness while involved with a woman.
I am confident and self-reliant, yet insecure and dependent upon others.

Many of these contradictions likely resolve to singular explanations that I simply have not take the time to investigate.  Many other people likely share these same dualities.  I write this only to point out that a new duality has recently been creeping into my mind:

I believe both that the Earth is young and that it is old.

I can't explain exactly how I feel on the subject.  If you ask me how old the Earth is, I would give you a different answer depending on the day.  It seems so overwhelmingly clear to me based on the evidence that the earth cannot be as young as the Bible claims.  Yet somehow, this is the position I stand by.  If I had to sign a contract asking me how old I actually believe the Earth is, I would go with the biblical definition.  Both explanations seem right, yet they are certainly at odds.  The Earth cannot be billions of years old and have been created only a few thousand years ago.  Unlike my other dualities, this contradiction feels strangely comfortable.  Irony comes in the knowledge that this is the only duality listed here which is irreconcilable.

As a nation, I don't see how we can adopt anything but a scientific explanation of what we see.  Yet in my own life, isn't the truth of the Gospel the idea that matters most and is to be upheld at all costs?