Rhetoric from secular philosophers: a losing cause

Phillip Johnson is a Christian who toured universities, and challenged evolutionists with thought-provoking questions on philosophy, science, and religion. This came from his visit to Ohio State University in the 1990s:

This philosopher [in the crowd] correctly argued that the absence of a natural explanation did not always prevent us from holding rationally that such an explanation exists nevertheless. He pointed out that a bridge in the area had been destroyed by unknown, and unknowable, natural causes. “Should we attribute such destruction to God?” he asked with a rhetorical flourish. “Would you want to ride on a bridge built by creationists, who simply sat on their hands and believed?”

In asking this question the philosopher ignored the fact, however, that the investigators of the bridge disaster had already eliminated intelligent causation as the cause of the collapse. They were justified in looking for natural causes, because intelligent ones had been eliminated.

But it was his final rhetorical question that had been the sound bite, sending titters through the ranks of the Talk.Origins crowd. Johnson turned to the philosopher and calmly said, “I would prefer a bridge built by someone who can recognize intelligent design.” The crowd, quiet and listening intently up to this point, erupted in laughter, cheering, and applause.

This was the exchange of the evening for most—and it was the secularist who had played the rhetorical card and lost.

Source

Reynolds, J.M. (1995). Que Res Vitas? Phil Johnson Takes His Case to the East. Available http://www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/pjlect.htm. Last accessed 25th Apr 2016.

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Eels, their prey, and evolutionists all confused

The evolutionist Sam M believed that electric eels got their electrical stunning abilities through evolution. He said:

The earlier stages of the electric eel would not have paralyzed their prey, but would they have simply confused it? If the eel is hunting prey that is used to using its own electrical field to help navigate, and the eel’s minor charge is enough to throw that off, that could be enough of a benefit the allow the eel to catch prey more often compared to the eels whose charge did not affect the navigation of their prey.

It’s a very small benefit, of course, but small benefits lead to large changes when given millions of years. If their environment is as such that having the ability to give an electrical discharge, regardless of how small, benefits the species, then one would expect that this would carry on for future generations. As this continued, those who were born with gradually stronger voltages, therefore having a somewhat greater effect on prey, would again be more likely to catch prey, defend themselves, and breed.

Remember that there are ways to look at any one species and see rational ways that they could have evolved over time.

Does this “rational way” of speculation hold water? Gavin B replied with:

Sam M says, “the earlier stages of the electric eel would not have paralyzed their prey, but would they have simply confused it?” Yet Dominic [Statham] already argued that they [eels] had to produce protective mechanisms at the same time as they developed their deadly electric generation ability, to protect them from paralyzing themselves.

So if they were only able to confuse their prey, this doesn’t resolve the issue of having to develop a protective mechanism at the same time, or they would have confused themselves. Then you would have a confused eel and a confused fish at the same time.

I doubt whether a confused eel could catch a confused fish.

Quote sources

Statham, D. (2014). Stunning and stealthy: the amazing electric eel [article comments]. Creation Ministries International. Available http://creation.com/electric-eel. Last accessed 13th Sep 2015.

Rationalism as a self-imposed blindness

The universe, let alone God’s realm, is vaster than the mind of man can comprehend. Reason is a valid perspective if it is not totalitarian. Reason now admits the facts of science, but it is hostile to the facts of faith. Rationalism thus is a form of self-imposed blindness of a most arrogant sort. It says in effect, there are no fish unless my net catches them.

Quote source

Rusdhoony, R.J. (2013) Van Til and the Limits of Reason [e-book]. Ross House Books, Vallecito, Location 940-43

All hail hydrogen, helium and lithium

To those who do not know what the Big Bang is, it is the theory that at some time in the past, now [in 1993] generally believed to have been about fifteen to twenty billion years ago, all the matter in the universe was concentrated into a single mass, which exploded with a “big bang.”

The idea began with a Belgian astronomer, Georges Edward Lemaitre. According to Isaac Asimov, Lemaitre conceived this mass to be “no more than a few light-years in diameter.” At the very least, that would be two light-years or about twelve trillion miles.

By 1965 that figure was reduced to 275 million miles, by 1972 to 71 million miles, by 1974 to 54 thousand miles, by 1983 to “a trillionth the diameter of a proton,” and now, to nothing at all! A singularity!

It exploded, producing hydrogen and helium and perhaps some lithium. Time became the hero and multiple billions of years later it had produced everything in the universe, including Lewis Carroll’s famous “shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.”

Quote source

Davidheiser, B. (1993). A statement concerning the ministry of Dr. Hugh Ross. Logos Publishers, Canoga Park. Available http://www.ldolphin.org/bolton.html. Last accessed 20th Jun 2015.

Church and state must be under God’s authority

The rationalist wants to establish authority rather than recognize it. To begin with a Biblical perspective means to recognize the radical impact of sin and its world and life view on man. For the faithful Christian, the mind and life of man must be governed by the Word of God. Both church and state must be under the authority of the Word of God, and also man, his reason, and every area of life and thought.

Quote source

  1. Rushdoony, R. J. (2013) Van Til and the Limits of Reason. (Ebook). Ross House Books, Vallecito. Location 947-51.

Reason flies like a turkey; faith like an eagle

RationalWiki wrote a sometimes dubious FAQ for people who have converted to atheism. An excerpt reads:

If you found this article, you very well might have recently lost faith in your god or particular religious teaching. Some people have been raised to think that life without religion is utterly unthinkable, so a loss of faith can be difficult and trying, especially when deeply ingrained in our thoughts…

Well, how did things come to be? What was before the Big Bang? If God didn’t create the universe, how did it happen?

Apart from “there is no before” as time did not exist, the only answer is “we don’t know.” Is that so terrible? We’re trying to work it out though, which is better than accepting the unsupported claims of ancient writers.

Regarding the “unsupported claims of ancient writers” line, it sounds authoritative on the surface, but it’s a loaded statement that carries epistemological baggage. A more transcendent view is this:

What did make itself clear to me was that reason is limited by its own experience, whereas the universe is far vaster than the mind of man. Moreover, God’s realm which transcends man’s narrow vision is far greater than man’s mind can comprehend. The rationalist limits understanding to reason; faith is for him a blind belief, whereas the Bible tells us, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). Faith is thus a higher form of understanding, one which does not limit its perspective to the scope of man’s mind.

Quote sources

  1. RationalWiki (2013). RationalWiki Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted. Available http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/RationalWiki_Atheism_FAQ_for_the_Newly_Deconverted. Last accessed 24th Jan 2015.
  2. Rushdoony, R. J. (2013) Van Til and the Limits of Reason. (Ebook). Ross House Books. Location 935-939.

God’s sovereignty precedes scientistic rationalism

Ed Morris says:

Contrary to [Jonathan] Sarfati’s implications [for the Old-Earth interpretation of Scripture], this does not accord a lesser place to the authority of Scripture, it simply acknowledges that even though Scripture is propositional revelation communicated via language, we still sometimes interpret Scripture wrongly, especially when we fail to take reality into account.

But that’s a loaded and sneaky statement; R.J. Rushdoony’s philosophical view exposes it thusly:

But to quote Scripture to these “Christian” rationalists is to often incur their contempt because they assume that their philosophy represents a higher wisdom than the Bible, the Word of God. The issue is always the same: human autonomy or God’s sovereignty. If God is the Lord, the Sovereign over all creation, rationalism is not only false but is a sinful rebellion. Reason is not demoted by being denied autonomy and the “right” to judge God. Rather, reason is given the freedom of the creature to think God’s thoughts after Him.

Quote sources

  1. Morris, E. (2005). A Nonexpert Review of the Book “Refuting Compromise” by Jonathan Sarfati. Available http://www.noble-minded.org/sarfati_review.html. Last accessed 29th Dec 2013.
  2. Rushdoony, R.J. (2013). Van Til and the Limits of Reason[e-book]. Ross House Books. Loc. 1087-91.