11/29/2007

Stenger, Part 2

Here’s a second post on Victor J. Stenger’s book. I’ll focus on his idea of lack of structure at the universe’s beginning. I’ll then look at some of the implications of his interpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007)

He is clear and easy to understand here: “At [the beginning] the universe had no structure. That meant that it had no distinguishable place, direction, or time. In such a situation, the conservation laws apply.” (131)

Elsewhere he writes, “…an expanding universe could have started in total chaos and still formed localized order consistent with the second law [of thermodynamics].” (118)

First, as I have noted before, there may well be structure and order in the universe that we cannot yet identify. Vast complexity is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend. The ever increasing body of knowledge held by science is apparent in history. We may just have more to learn.

Second, I have already discussed Stenger’s difficulties in identifying a lack of structure based on logic and observation. We must have an idea of structure to recognize a lack of structure. Just where did this idea come from? Are we to think that matter in motion gives us the power to identify logical / orderly patterns?

A quote Stenger shares is telling:

“The only laws of matter are those which our minds must fabricate, and the only laws of mind are fabricated for it by matter.” – James Clerk Maxwell (as quoted on page 113)



There is yet another problem. Citing a lack of order at the creation of the universe, Stenger postulates that the Second Law of Thermodynamics could still hold in a universe which is expanding, losing energy as a whole, but providing increases in energy or order within localized pockets. (117ff.)

If the universe is infinitely old, why hasn’t the usable energy completely wound down? (See here and here.) Stenger tries to get around this devastating question by appealing at several points to a universe that just appeared. He uses sophisticated language, but basically states it came in to being spontaneously from nothing. As R. C. Sproul is so quick to point out, nothing comes from nothing. Nothing is “no thing.” With no being, it cannot do or cause anything. (See this book and some of the quotes on this site.)

I could also cite Jonathan Edward’s discussion of the fact that “nothing” is incomprehensible. As soon as we define what nothing “is,” it begins to be something. We cannot think of nothing, so it cannot be an alternative to be evaluated against another idea. This is the ultimate proof of any truth: we cannot think of the contrary. Something must have always been here. (We could also discuss the implications of the incomprehensibility of nothing for the ontological argument, but that is really beyond this post. It is discussed here.)

All in all, Stenger’s book is worth a read. It will help a person “see into” the world of a scientist who holds firmly to atheism. It does not, however, present cogent arguments against God’s existence. The God Hypothesis does not fail. It is strongly affirmed by the logical interpretation of evidence cited by Stenger himself.

11/22/2007

Thanksgiving Day

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in the U. S., and I wanted to offer a prayer. It is my habit to pray in the plural because I am of the firm conviction that no Christian ever prays alone.

Father in Heaven, we come before you this morning in awe of Your justice, Your power, Your love, Your mercy and Your grace. We praise You for who You are as You reveal Yourself to us in your Word.

We confess, Lord, that we have sinned against You, in the things we have done, the things we have thought, and the things we have said. We have sinned in doing things we should not have. We have sinned in not doing the things You would have us do.

We are truly sorry, and in reverent fear of You, we humbly repent. Please forgive us.

We thank You that we can be forgiven because of what Christ did for us on the cross.

Give us new hearts and new lives that we may glorify You in all we think, say, and do. Help us to live each day looking backward to the cross as our hope and forward to heaven as our vision. Give us assurance of our salvation and victory over our sins that our humbled hearts might be of service to others.

Thank you that we live in a country which allows us so much freedom to live out our faith. Help us to take advantage of this freedom in word and deed. Help those who do not have our freedom of worship, who meet together in secret, who live in fear of what their governments or their cultures or even families might do to them. Give them a special sense of Your presence and power.

Thank you for our wealth. We have warm, dry shelter; clean water; nutritious food; and strong clothing. Help us to be mindful of those less fortunate than ourselves. Grant that we can provide to others in Christ’s name.

Thank you for our friends and family. Give us rest from our labors on this holiday to meet with them. Bless our fellowship.

We have so much more to be thankful for, but most of all, we thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, and his life and sacrifice.

In His Name we pray, AMEN.

11/19/2007

Stenger, Part One

I have been reading an interesting book by Victor J. Stenger that I would like to interact with over my next few posts. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007).

To quote Stenger: “The people performing the study, that is, those taking and analyzing the data, must do so without any prejudgment of how the results should come out.” (24)

Is there any such thing as an unbiased person? Can anyone claim to be completely objective in his or her pursuit of truth?

Greg Bahnsen notes that:
…a person's most fundamental beliefs (or presuppositions) determine what he or she will accept as evidence and determine how that evidence will be interpreted. … Our presuppositions about the nature of reality and knowledge will control what we accept as evidence and how we view it.

Even more interesting is Stenger’s reference to computer simulation. Computer programs help us understand “how simple systems can self-organize themselves.” (65) These computer programs immediately fall victim to the base facts of computer manufacture and programming. To create a simulation, we need a working computer which is fabricated by an outside intelligence, a programming language which is a way to interpret binary digits written by an outside intelligence, and a system of algorithms written by an outside intelligence to even begin. (Please see my attempt to unpack these statements here.)

This is even admitted on page 65: “… these demonstrations start by assuming a few simple rules and them programming a computer to follow those rules.” There would be no rules, simple or complex, in a random universe for a computer to follow. Organization is always imposed by intelligence.

Much of Stenger’s argument turns on the idea that “…the universe had no structure…” at its beginning (131). One quick question: how do we know there was no structure at the beginning?
First, there may well be a structure that we have not been able to identify. There is no reason to believe we have learned all there is to know about order and chaos. I find the study and application of chaos theory to be exciting.

Second, how were we able to recognize disorder in the first place? Can disorder be defined without reference to order? Don’t we need an idea of structure to determine the lack of structure?

Order is imposed by the rigorous application of logic and observation. In an atheist universe, we would have no reason to believe that logic applies to reality. How can matter in motion lead to universal laws such as the laws of logic? Logic is immaterial; it does not exist outside of our minds. Logic cannot be affirmed or denied by scientific experimentation; it must be assumed in order to evaluate those experiments.

It doesn’t stop there. How can we even be sure that our senses are reliable enough to give us useful information? Evolution only favors the ideas and sensations that keep an organism alive. It does not necessarily favor an accurate perception of reality.

Maybe Stenger would reply that “… [the laws of physics] are what they are because they agree with the data…” (132). If we have no logic to evaluate that data, and we have no reliable senses to evaluate that data, we have no way to interpret the laws of physics in Stenger’s universe.

Non-material, abstract entities must be affirmed by anyone who wants to observe an experiment, evaluate data from an experiment, or communicate the results of that experiment with other people. (instert link to darada and van til here) Stenger’s way of thinking does not allow for anything to be non-material; we are all just a product of the movement of sub-atomic particles which make up the sum total of our being.

We would be well-served to explore the God of this universe as the ground and center of our thinking and being.

11/18/2007

OCC

It has been a while since I posted. This week has been National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child, the shoebox ministry of Samaritan’s Purse. I am the Area Coordinator for our part of Tennessee, and I have been spending allot of time organizing and helping at our Collection Center.

If you have not heard of Samaritan’s Purse or OCC please follow the links embedded in this sentence to find out more. It’s a ministry that has worldwide impact. OCC supplied gift-filed shoeboxes to over 7.5 million children in over 90 countries last year, and I pray we do more this year. Follow this link to volunteer; it will change your life!

11/03/2007

Atonement Explained the Old Fashioned Way

In the current debate over the atonement we would do well to listen to a great commentator of old:


“For this purpose, then, the ... Word of God [Christ] entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own …


He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.“ – Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei

John and History

I have been re-reading the Gospel of John lately. I like it because of the author’s obvious delight in the Person of Christ.

I find an article by Craig Blomberg over at the NAMB Apologetics site to be interesting. Here’s a sample:

“… a considerable number of scholars during the last half-century have pioneered what came to be known as the "new look on John," recognizing a far greater level of historical reliability and a Jewish milieu for the deeds and teachings attributed to Jesus than the first half of the twentieth century had acknowledged. Arguably, if the next half-century gave the same kind of sustained study to the remaining questionable details, the amount of general confidence in the fourth Gospel would again grow in corresponding fashion.” – Craig Blomberg


John, the author of the gospel attributed to him, was the apostle who was a personal friend of Jesus. He gives many accurate details of first century Palestine, including arrangement of buildings and geography, that have been verified by archaeological research. His authorship was attested to by church fathers in the mid-second century, and these were people who had been trained by John himself.

I find more and more reason to believe the exalted picture of Christ as the Divine Son of God given by John.

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