Friday, March 25, 2016

The Case of the Empty Tomb




The Case of the Empty Tomb

“What’s this?!” Kaylene exclaimed, pointing at a dirty cake pan. Returning from ice skating with our family, she found a “smoking gun” of sorts. You see, we have a history of surprising each other on our birthdays, going back to before we were married. Tony had arranged for two students to come over to prepare the surprise cake while we were skating. Unfortunately, in their haste to not get caught in the act, they forgot about the dirty cake pan! We tried to brush it off, to come up with another explanation, but nothing would convince her that we weren’t up to something. She expected it, and there was a dirty cake pan to prove it.

People run into the same problem when they try to deny the resurrection of Christ. It was always God’s plan to atone for our sins by the death of Jesus Christ, and it was always His plan to raise Him from the dead, to show His victory over death, the promise of eternal life. The prophets told us what to expect!!

When He rose He left behind clear evidence: The empty tomb, many witnesses and transformed lives. Big smoking guns. Although many have offered alternate explanations for the resurrection, those scenarios aren’t believable. The following are a few of the most popular yet feeble explanations.

The Substitution Theory. This theory is advanced by Islam, which rejects the idea that Jesus died for our sins to make peace with God and trust instead in their own good deeds. In their holy book, the Koran, we read,

They said, “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God,” but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no certain knowledge, but only conjecture to follow. For surety they killed him not: Nay, God raised him up unto Himself, and God is Exalted in Power, Wise. (Sura 4:157-158)

But this is not believable. First, is God deceitful? Would He trick people into thinking Jesus was crucified? Why, when the prophets foretold the event, would God trick us this way?

Secondly, could anyone really impersonate Jesus successfully? How could anyone follow the script and take the punishment? For what motive? Wouldn’t the interrogators, the high priests, Pilate and Herod know if they were talking to the right man? His answers made it clear who He was. Also, Jesus’ mother and disciple were at the foot of the cross as he was dying. Wouldn’t they have recognized Him? This would be like us trying to convince Kaylene that we made the cake for someone else. Secretly. We tried that and she saw right through it. The story just doesn’t fit the facts!

The Theft Theory. This explanation was first advanced by the Jews. In Matthew’s gospel we read, “the chief priests…gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”’”

The story that the disciples stole the body of Jesus is not believable either. Remember two facts: First the disciples had fled Jesus. They were afraid and disillusioned, depressed and cowering. Second, armed Roman soldiers guarded the tomb. They were under threat of death if the body of Jesus was missing from the tomb. So, how could the disillusioned disciples have found the courage and strength to steal the body from the guarded tomb? If the soldiers were asleep, how did they know the body was stolen by the disciples? What would have motivated them to steal the body? What did they have to gain? Most were later killed for their testimony of the resurrection. Why would they die for a lie? It makes no sense.

The Swoon Theory.  This explanation says that Jesus was only wounded by the crucifixion. But this can’t be right. The Jews knew He was dead. That’s why they spread the lie that the disciples had stolen the body. Besides, the Romans knew how to kill people. They crucified hundreds of thousands, and they normally broke their legs to insure they would die quickly. But when the soldiers saw Jesus, he appeared dead, so instead, they thrust a spear into his side just to be sure. So, how could Jesus have recovered, escaped from the graves clothes and tomb, overpowered the guards, then journey seven miles on mangled feet and convince the Apostles of His Lordship? Again, it’s not believable.

The Hallucination Theory.  This explanation claims the eyewitnesses only hallucinated that Jesus had risen from the dead. All of them. At the same time. On multiple occasions. This would be like trying to convince Kaylene that she only thought she saw a dirty cake pan. Good luck with that!

None of these theories explain the empty tomb and the transformed lives as well the resurrection does. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and concurred death, just as foretold by the prophets! 

Christ is Risen!!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Pondering the Big Bang

For years I’ve quoted the work of Roger Penrose, whose calculation regarding the improbability of a natural origin of our universe have greatly emboldened creationists and proponents of a designed universe.  Penrose concluded that, of all the possible initial conditions that our universe could have had, our universe started in an extremely rare, highly ordered, low entropy state. (For those of us needing reminder of what entropy is – it is the degree of disorder in a system; a measurement of disorder, which is always increasing in the universe.) So rare in fact that the chance that our universe began with such a low entropy is just 1 in 1010^123.  That is a 1 with 10123 zeros behind it!  Incredible!

The number is hard to appreciate without a little more explanation.  A man couldn’t write the number out longhand even if he began writing it on the day Adam was created!  That’s a very big number, representing a very special universe.  The Penrose calculation is the mother of all arguments for a finely tuned universe.  From it, many have made the obvious inference for the existence of God.

Not only did the universe began in a very rare state, but this condition is also necessary for life to exist.  In intelligent design lingo we call this “specified complexity”.  The universe is finely tuned for life.  That’s the amazing thing.

Since I had been quoting Penrose, I decided I should learn a little more about him.  Is he just a nutty
Sir Roger Penrose
professor, out on a limb, or is he someone who knows what he is talking about?  I learned that Roger Penrose is actually Sir Roger Penrose, having been knighted for his mathematical ability.  With Steven Hawking, he worked out the implications of the General Theory of Relativity on cosmology and the “big bang”.  Penrose is no nutty professor.  He is a world class mathematician, a brilliant man.

I wondered how he calculated such a large number.  Was it just a combination of the other "fine tuning" arguments rolled into one?  Is it a mysterious formulation, decipherable by few mortal minds?  Or is it profound yet understandable?   So, I found the book where he makes the calculation, The Emperor’s New Mind, and began reading with great interest.  As it turns out, in a nutshell he is saying that out of all the possible initial entropy states of each particle in the universe, all were at an amazingly low entropy (highly ordered) state.  He arrives at the number using relatively simple formulas and justifiable assumptions.

In The Emperor’s New Mind  Penrose also argues that the known laws of physics are inadequate to explain the phenomenon of human consciousness.  He seems willing to go against the flow of materialist thought – matter is all that exists – and provides views on the human thought process that are not popular within the scientific community.  Though he wrote the book about twenty years ago even referring to a Creator in the text (without giving definition), he is still trying to figure out a natural explanation for the low entropy initial state of the universe.  Wikipedia claims he is an atheist. Online I found an intriguing interview, where it is evident that he is still wrestling with the implications of his own work.  Trying to devise a natural explanation, all he has found is what he refers to as crazy ideas.  Check out the interview at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEIj9zcLzp0

Other atheist cosmologists suggest the explanation for our existence, against all odds, is the "multi-verse", an infinite number of parallel universes. Thus, we just happen to be in the universe with the right entropy, the right fundamental forces, etc. Lucky us!

There are at least a couple of big problems with this idea. First, it is a metaphysical (beyond physical) explanation which secular scientists have told us is out of bounds.  As Physicist Stephen Barr mused, “It seems that in order to abolish one unobservable God, it takes an infinite number of unobservable substitutes.”

Another problem with the multi-verse is that it can explain anything, therefore it explains nothing. In a parallel universe, a guy who looks just like you invented ice cream. That's not really an explanation, but shows the absurdity of the multiverse. Anything can happen as a result of a random quantum fluctuation, even things we normally attribute to natural law.

The obvious answer to the puzzle of "fine tuning" is that, as another knighted cosmologist, Sir Fredrick Hoyle, once put it, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.”  As Christians, we know Who the Superintellect is!  Isn’t it amazing that what our God spoke into existence still confounds even the brilliant among us!!  I am reminded of  Isa. 29:14, "Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

Monday, January 13, 2014

On the Big Bang

As one who believes in supernatural creation, I sometimes chuckle when I read books on modern cosmology.  Einstein’s Telescope is one of those books.  Early on in the book we are assured of the veracity of the Big Bang Story.    The author claims that three strong lines of evidence give us this assurance:

1.       The Expansion of the Universe
2.       The ratios of light elements Lithium, Deuterium and Helium from early nucleosynthesis from protons and neutrons.
3.       The Cosmic Background Radiation

However, I know from other books on the subject that, in order for these three lines of evidence to be consistent with observations, new, speculative entities have been invented.  

First, the idea of “dark energy” had to be invented to explain the accelerating expansion of the universe.  According to the latest big bang calculations, 72% of the mass-energy of the universe is dark energy.  Unfortunately, nobody has found it nor are there any good candidates for what it is.  Yet, secular cosmologists believe in it because “something” is causing the universe to accelerate outward.  Hmmm.

Second, “cold dark matter” had to be invented to explain the ratios of the light elements as well as the apparent mass of galaxies.  You see, for the math to work out, the big bang requires that 23% of the mass-energy of the universe be made up of this cold dark matter, which is mass that doesn’t absorb or emit heat or light.  Extra mass, which we can’t see, is required to explain the speed at which galaxies rotate.  For many years, scientists believed this mass was normal “baryonic” matter, like black holes or burnt out stars, which couldn’t be seen by telescope.  However, if all that mass was normal matter, that extra matter would drastically change the ratios of the light elements formed according to big bang cosmology.  The observation would no longer match the theory.  So, to keep that cosmology alive, scientists infer “cold dark matter”, an exotic entity which is very common but never been detected.  Hmmm.  Cold dark matter also helps to explain how matter could begin to clump together in the early universe, which otherwise looks very smooth according to the cosmic background radiation measurements.  It’s very useful stuff.  If they could only find some. 

It is hard to see how the ratio of light elements is evidence for the big bang when “cold dark matter” has to be invented to rescue it.

The book Einstein’s Telescope is about the search for dark matter and dark energy, so I thought it would be interesting.  Indeed.

Finally, the “inflation” epoch was invented to solve the horizon problem, that is, the uniformity of the Cosmic Background Radiation.  Again, this inflation epoch is unproven but it is needed to explain why the background temperature is the same in every direction.  Not only is this “inflation” unproven and unprovable, the inflation theory actually says that, for at least a moment, the universe expanded many times faster than the speed of light.  Hmmm.  That sounds more than a little speculative.  Friends, maybe the background temperature is the same in every direction because we are near the center of the universe.  Oh, no.  That would make us special, and we can’t have that.

As you can tell, I’m more than a little skeptical about the strong lines of evidence for the “big bang”.  Yes, there is good evidence for the three lines themselves, but the observations could be caused by something, or someone, else.  As Michael Disney, a British Astrophysicist, put it,

In its original form, an expanding Einstein model had an attractive, economic elegance. Alas, it has since run into serious difficulties, which have been cured only by sticking on some ugly bandages: inflation to cover horizon and flatness problems; overwhelming amounts of dark matter to provide internal structure; and dark energy, whatever that might be, to explain the seemingly recent acceleration. A skeptic is entitled to feel that a negative significance, after so much time, effort and trimming, is nothing more than one would expect of a folktale constantly re-edited to fit inconvenient new observations.” (from “Modern Cosmology: Science or Folktale?”, American Scientist, 2007)

And they think we have faith!



Monday, June 24, 2013

This is the kind of nonsense that makes my blood boil.

Someone, "A.J. from Vienna, Virginia", has initiated a petition to place a federal ban on teaching intelligent design or creationism in public schools.  Apparently this is in response to the "teach the controversy" movement promoted by the Discovery Institute, which several states have adopted.

As of this afternoon, the petition has 34,600 signatures.  They need 100,000 by July 15th for President Obama to address the issue.

From the petition
“[Creationism and intelligent design] have no basis in scientific fact,” the petition claims, “and have absolutely zero evidence pointing towards these conjectures. These types of loopholes in our education are partially to blame for our dangerously low student performances in math and science. Therefore, we petition the Obama Adminstration [sic] to ban the teachings of these conjectures that contradict evolution.”

This is nonsense on many levels.  First, how can this person claim that there is zero evidence of design?  We are here functioning, aren't we, along with millions of other species?  We live on a planet which seems to be perfectly designed for life, isn't it?  And don't we live in a universe with fundamental forces and constants which appear to be fine tuned for life and for discovery?  Furthermore, the best explanation for the existence of genetic information is design.  All of creation points to a designer.

There are "facts" which support common descent evolution and design.  The big question is which origins theory best explains the universe we live in.  The debate is largely about philosophy, not the facts.  It is about how we define science, which is a question of philosophy.  Many in academia are defining science as the study of natural causes and effects.  This is practical for medicine and engineering but very limiting and inadequate regarding our origins.  That is the rub.

What happened in the past cannot be proven conclusively.  You look at the data, you make assumptions and choose a theory which best explains the evidence.  What is "best" is subjective, based on philosophical preferences.  The problem with this ban is that they are essentially banning a philosophical position.  I ask, is this, or is this not a free country?

The claim about design and/or creation beliefs affecting our national math and science performance is also ludicrous.  Math and science can be learned and applied regardless of your stance on questions of origin.  Many engineers, doctors and researchers, including me, accept design origins theory, and it doesn't affect their performance in the least.  We know that natural laws do a great job explaining most current phenomena, and we accept that and apply those laws accordingly.

If anything, restricting which origins theories are taught in schools will discourage many prospective scientists from engaging in the field.  Now a campus minister, I hear students tell me they are uncertain they want to continue in science because the professors are so dogmatic and persistent about common descent evolution.  Apparently some go on and on about it with no particular purpose but indoctrination.  Objectors are shamed and silenced, which is a real problem that the "teach the controversy" movement is meant to remedy.

Another issue here is states rights.  Can ideas and philosophies be banned at a federal level?  I don't think so.  If they can, something is seriously wrong here.

 

Yours Truly,

Tony

Monday, December 31, 2012

Science and the Dogma of Common Descent


 I recently found myself involved in a lengthy facebook discussion over the ideas of the age of the earth and evolution, and I wanted to share some of my thinking on the evolution topic here as well.

As a former research and development engineer, I'm used to proving ideas in the lab with real data.  I think that's where common descent has fallen short.  Yes, evolution, defined as change over time, is a fact.  We can see it.  But there seems to be limits to the amount of change which can take place, as experienced with the "artificial" breeding of dogs, for example.   Common descent, on the other hand, seems to me to be scientific dogma, due to it's many failed predictions.  Here are a few of them:
                                                                                                                                                                                                           1.     The fossil record lacks the transitional forms expected if common descent were true.  In The origin of the Species, Darwin wrote, “[Since] innumerable transitional forms must have existed, why do we not find them imbedded in countless numbers in the crust of the earth?  Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory”.  One hundred and fifty years later the situation is much the same.    Only a handful of controversial transitional forms have been offered.  The fossil record is characterized by sudden appearance and stasis, not revealing the gradual change predicted by Darwin.

2.    Another prediction of common descent is that genomic and morphological phylogenies would agree.  In other words, “there is one ancestral tree describing how species are related” or “if species are related in a certain way then all lines of evidence should reveal that relationship”.  But this is not the case at all.  The more genetic data collected, the more relational conflicts are found.   A recent philosophical journal reported that, “Incongruence between phylogenies derived from morphological versus molecular analyses, and between trees based on different subsets of molecular sequences has become pervasive as datasets have expanded rapidly in both characters and species.” (Liliana M. D├ívalos, Andrea L. Cirranello, Jonathan H. Geisler, and Nancy B. Simmons, "Understanding phylogenetic incongruence: lessons from phyllostomid bats," Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Vol. 87:991-1024 (2012).)

3.     The change over time evolution which we do observe in organisms tend to show loss of function and fitness rather than the opposite, predicted by evolution.  Where “beneficial change” is noted, it is usually the result of temporary “genetic drift” or some loss of function which happens to be beneficial in a certain environment.  Evolution seems to be headed the “wrong” direction.  In fact, mathematical models show we are headed for trouble.  In the January 2010 abstract of his article Rate, Molecular Spectrum and Consequences of Human Mutation, National Academy of Sciences member Michael Lynch wrote, “Finally, a consideration of the long-term consequences of current human behavior for deleterious-mutation accumulation leads to the conclusion that a substantial reduction in human fitness can be expected over the next few centuries in industrialized societies unless novel means of genetic intervention are developed.”  I have commented more extensively on this topic in my first blog article.

So, it seems that common descent survives not because of the data, but in spite of it.  From Wikipeda we see that:

"Dogma is the official system of belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group or organization.[1] It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself. Although it generally refers to religious beliefs that are accepted regardless of evidence, they can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, or issued decisions of political authorities."

In fact common descent holds up liberal education (learn everything because there is no truth), atheism, nihilism,and many other "-isms".  Common descent needs to go away but it won't because it's too important to too many people who run from The Truth (Please note my implied dogma here).

Tony 

www.tonyandkaylene.com

Thursday, September 6, 2012

High Level "Detractors" From Evolution

I found something today that I thought I should pass along.  Apparently, lately more high profile scientists have been willing to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that means breaking with the "central dogma" of evolution.

A professor at Dartmouth is stiring things up by proposing a radically different "tree of life", based on data he feels is solid (read more here).  It turns out that depending on which protein, DNA or RNA (structural form) you choose to trace an organism's history, you get a different relationships between organisms.  If evolution were true, you would see the same relationships no matter which data subject you study.

It seems that evolution has been falsified, but this idea does not go down easy.  There is much at stake philosophically.

An ardent defender of evolution is bemoaning the "fall" of some of his colleages on his blog "Why Evolution is True".  It's an interesting look at what is happening at the top of the scientific battle over evolution, from the Darwinist perspective.  Check it out here.


My thanks to my friends at evolutionnews.org who tipped me off with this article.

Things are getting interesting!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random means Random!

When I first saw the title of Alvin Plantinga's new book, Where the Conflict Really Lies, I immediately wanted to buy and read it, especially after reading the description at Amazon.com:

"This book is a long-awaited major statement by a pre-eminent analytic philosopher, Alvin Plantinga, on one of our biggest debates -- the compatibility of science and religion. The last twenty years has seen a cottage industry of books on this divide, but with little consensus emerging. Plantinga, as a top philosopher but also a proponent of the rationality of religious belief, has a unique contribution to make. His theme in this short book is that the conflict between science and theistic religion is actually superficial, and that at a deeper level they are in concord.

"Plantinga examines where this conflict is supposed to exist -- evolution, evolutionary psychology, analysis of scripture, scientific study of religion -- as well as claims by Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Philip Kitcher that evolution and theistic belief cannot co-exist. Plantinga makes a case that their arguments are not only inconclusive but that the supposed conflicts themselves are superficial, due to the methodological naturalism used by science. On the other hand, science can actually offer support to theistic doctrines, and Plantinga uses the notion of biological and cosmological "fine-tuning" in support of this idea. Plantinga argues that we might think about arguments in science and religion in a new way -- as different forms of discourse that try to persuade people to look at questions from a perspective such that they can see that something is true. In this way, there is a deep and massive consonance between theism and the scientific enterprise."

I have not read the book, but apparently much of it is helpful in reconciling faith and science.  But as Jay Richards of the pro intelligent design, Discovery Institute points out, perhaps he is trying too hard.  Richards claims that Plantinga uses a non-standard definition of the word "random" which allows the idea that God could intervene in the process of evolution, thus imputing purpose and meaning - something which neither Darwin nor current leading evolutionists intend to allow.  In his review, Richards says that at times this non-standard definition is used when it is politically useful, as in appeasing a school board member, but when it comes to textbooks and teaching in the classroom, philosophical naturalism, denying God any place in the process of evolution, is the standard procedure.

In short, Plantinga is defending theistic evolution, a flawed idea I've written much about in my blog.

You may read Jay Richard's review here.

Let's not fool ourselves.  Darwin and his followers do not intend to give God any role in the creation.  Today, secular historical scientists (those who try to explain how the world and humanity came to be) start by assuming He does not exist, promote theories explaining as much as possible without Him, and then say that Christians are "unscientific" if we doubt their conclusions.  What a farce!