The misnomer of the ‘God of the Gaps’ claim.

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Why the Discovery of the Kepler-452b (‘Earth 2’) Is NOT Bad news for God

The recent discovery of the Kepler 452b planet has had several commentators drooling with excitement as they further speculate that we may not be alone in the universe after all.

Others, such as Jeff Schweitzer have seen it as cause to make ignorant claims about the Bible and attempt to use it as ammunition against Christianity, as he does here in this Huffington Post article –

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-schweitzer/earth-20-bad-news-for-god_b_7861528.html

My intention is not to get into the plethora of fallacies, arguments from silence and woefully bad Biblical exegesis that his article relies on to indulge his hyperbole. And I don’t wish to pick on one article when several have been written in response to this discovery.

But let me just mention 3 things very briefly:
1) St. Augustine, back in the 4th century, pointed out that a wooden and literal reading of Genesis was folly.
2) Nowhere does Jesus, nor the Bible in fact, insist that we are alone in the universe.
3) There is a passage from the NT that might even be Jesus referring to other forms of life not from this planet – “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” – John 10:16

Rather, I’d like to just mention what this finding DOES impact upon: morality.

The form of the moral argument I would normally cite is William lane Craig’s. It simply runs as follows –

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-moral-argument-for-god#ixzz3gvur2wGB

Now, in his book On Guard, regarding Darwinism, Craig notes “If the film of evolutionary history were rewound and shot anew, very different species with a very different set of values might well have evolved.”

Now his point was confirmed and corroborated by Darwin himself when he said in the Descent of Man –
“If…men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it their sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.”

Therefore, the claim against premise 1 above: that evolution can somehow command notions of objectivity when it comes to our engagement with morality and ethics, is simply wishful thinking. Yet this is exactly what many contemporary philosophers, like Kai Nielson, Tim Maudlin, Thomas Nagel, Michael Martin, Louise Antony and Sam Harris espouse. Broadly speaking they would argue on the bases of ‘greater good’ (consequentialism) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consequentialism and ‘social contract’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract models for grounding the existence of objective moral values and duties. However, these proposals are deeply flawed.
For, firstly, on naturalism, we are merely the products of socio-biological conditioning, our ideas of morality and ethics included! To claim that our human notions of moral values and duties have somehow ‘evolved’ to objective status would be, as Craig would say, just an appeal to ‘specieism.’

But, secondly, and this is where planets like Kepler-452b come in, if we hypothesize that we are not alone in the universe then just how do our notions of ethics and morality impose themselves as ontologically objective to anyone else?

If Kepler-452b had 10 billion inhabitants and though they were more advanced than us, they had used up their planets resources and were starving and so began eating our planet’s 7 billion inhabitants and harvesting Earth’s resources would we think that objectively ok, on account of it being for ‘the greater good’? If not why not? (other than just a special appeal to ‘specieism.’)

If Kepler-452b decided that it wanted to slowly exterminate all human beings on Earth over a sustained 10 yr period for 10 seasons of its new entertainment show, then just what reaction would Maudlin, Nagel, Harris et al. get when they claimed that this was objectively wrong? When the game-show host stopped laughing and just asked ‘says who?’ what could they say?

The bottom line is that the more we suspect that there may well be other life in the universe, the more obvious it will become that we must look to something / someone beyond this universe if we hope to reasonably and rationally affirm the existence of objective moral values and duties.

The only other escape from the moral argument is to bite the bullet and embrace nihilism: something that is so counter intuitive and so contrary to experience for almost all of us, that it would make life unbearable, highlighting the meaninglessness, purposelessness and valuelessness of life the universe and everything in it!

Ergo, the more our understanding of this universe suggests life, the more our ‘moral compasses’ must point us to God.

The moral argument – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxiAikEk2vU

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What did Paul think about the role of women in the Church?

Intro

In this essay I will engage with Paul as he has traditionally been handed down to us, paying attention to only the most relevant texts to our question.

The Cultural and Societal Context

In Paul’s day, ‘women nowhere enjoyed the social freedom recognized as their right today.’[1]  Keener cites various sources’ depictions of women, including: Jewish teachers branding them ‘evil;’ Josephus insisting that they should be subordinate for their own good and dismissing the trustworthiness of their witness; and Philo declaring that they have little sense.[2]                                                                                                                                              Under Roman law only the ‘paterfamilias,’ (male heads of household) were recognized as a full person in Roman law and society. [3] Accountability for family members came with this.[4] Moreover, teaching roles ‘were, with rare exceptions, limited to men.’[5]

1 Corinthians

This letter addresses certain specific issues. Paul addresses husbands & wives on equal terms,[6] preaching reciprocity (1Cor.7:2-5) and advocating female head-covering (1 Cor.11:2-16), as to have it uncovered was often a sign of being sexually available.[7]                               This could easily have flared into a major controversy. Therefore, Paul’s purpose was undoubtedly church unity. [8] However, ‘Paul nowhere in this text subordinates the woman.’[9] Regarding 1Tim.14:34-35 perhaps Paul was addressing Corinthian women who were abusing the gifts of the Spirit or who had problems discerning prophesies;[10] or more likely, addressing the problem of ignorant questioning during teaching. Interrupting with a question was culturally acceptable in the ancient world, but it was considered rude if the question was ignorant. As women were seldom educated they could have been the ones predominantly guilty of this. Thus Paul suggests that they should remain quiet during services whilst also promoting improved female education.[11]                                                                      Furthermore female head-coverings ‘indicated commitment to her husband but also respected the Jewish obligation for a man to divorce a woman who appeared in the street with head uncovered (m. Ketub.7:6)’ [12] and, like Jesus, divorce was something Paul held strong views against.                                                                                                            Moreover,  Paul is not telling women to remain silent altogether in church, for he has already mentioned that he expects them to pray and prophesy publicly along with men (1 Cor.11:4-5), nor is he clearly referring to the teaching of scripture.

1 Timothy

Paul was asking Timothy to deal with the growing problem of false teaching (1 Tim.1:3). For Paul ‘they must be stopped, and Timothy was left in Ephesus to do it,’[13] it was his ‘overriding concern.’[14]                                                                                                                                      1 Tim.2:8-15 remains the most contentious passage to our question. Regarding v9 Winter reaffirms that ostentatious dress often sent seductive signals.[15] Moo confirms this.[16]                                                                                                                                                                    Paul then prohibits women to teach (didasko) in such a way as to take authority (authenteo) over men. If Paul is using authenteo in its strongest sense, he may merely be objecting to the practice of women attempting to seize authority from men. This is Belleville’s view and she suggests that the Ephesian Artemis cult may provide the key backdrop to understanding this verse. For in the Artemis cult ‘the female was exalted and considered superior to the male.’[17] Acts 19:28-37 corroborates the impact and significance of the cult to Ephesus, which indeed held the temple to her, in its time one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.                                                                                                               Winter agrees that ‘here the term carries not only the connotation of authority but also an inappropriate misuse of it.’[18]                                                                                                           Many of the oldest translations understood the Greek in this way. (eg The Old Latin, Vulgate and KJV).[19]  Belleville observes that Lexicographers Louw and Nida record twelve entries for ‘rule’ and forty-seven for ‘govern.’ If Paul had this in mind he could have made this clear. Instead he chooses a phrase unique to the entire New Testament. The most obvious reason being that he intended the word to be heard in its strongest sense.                                                                                                                                                          Indeed, Belleville outlines the extensive tradition within ancient Greek culture that saw the word often used in very sinister (often murderous) contexts.[20] She concludes: ‘there is no first century warrant for translating authentein as to exercise authority…rather the sense is the Koine ‘to dominate, to get one’s way.’[21]

1Tim.1:4-7, 1:20, 6:3-5, Tim 2:17; suggest that, for Paul, as women ‘were most susceptible’ to the false teachers they might provide a ‘network’ for their worrying expansion.[22] Thus Paul offers both a ‘short-range’ and ‘long-range’ solution: women should not be ruling the teaching; and they need to be actively learning. [23] Paul, in addressing the women, is no less simply being governed by the social situation, than his prior address to the men to stop quarrelling.[24]                                                                                                                                             Furthermore, Payne has made a crucial observation regarding verse 12: “the verb here is ‘I am not (now) permitting’. There is not a single instance of the use of this verb in Greek literature where this form means ‘I am permanently banning women from teaching etc.’”[25] On the contrary, it implies a temporary restriction because of an immediate problem. Paul could have said ‘I will never permit women to teach… but he did not, and for a good reason. He is correcting a problem.’[26]                                                                                        Therefore, Paul is probably being a lot less misogynistic and a great deal more Christ-like than perhaps many today realize, exploring these passages in isolation, through a contemporary lens.

Paul’s Affirmations of Women

Paul refers to Phoebe as a ‘servant,’ (Rom. 16:1-2) possibly in the sense of being a deacon and a minister of God’s word like himself, and also a ‘helper of many.’ Paul does not grant this title (prostatis) to anyone else in his correspondence, indicating: ‘that he holds this woman in high esteem.’[27] For Macdonald, ‘Phoebe’s activities offer perhaps the most important evidence for women’s leadership in the Pauline churches.’[28]

In the proceeding list (Rom 16:3-16), although Paul lists about twice as many men as women, he commends twice as many women as men! This may indicate his sensitivity to ‘opposition women undoubtedly faced.’[29] Here he also mentions Priscilla, naming her before Aquila, something most unconventional. Her significance is also corroborated by Luke (Acts 18:26). Keener declares that, ‘These passages alone establish Paul among the more progressive writers of his culture.’[30]

Paul also mentions ‘Junia,’ a common feminine name and as Keener[31] and Macdonald[32] argue: the proposal that Junia is not a woman rests on the assumption that a woman could not be an apostle, rather than on any evidence inherent in the text itself.

As well as Prisca (Priscilla) the Pauline epistles include references to Nympha, who hosts an ekklesia (church gathering) in her house (Col 4:15). Meanwhile, Acts suggests that the house of Mary (12:12-17) and that of Lydia (16:14-15,40) also ‘served as bases for the movement.’[33] Paul also refers to Euodia and Syntyche, women who ‘struggled beside me in the work of the gospel’ (Phil 4:2-3) which is very apostolic language!

Evaluating the conservative position

Moo (clearly also representing the views of Piper and Grudem) acknowledges that women have been endowed with spiritual gifts;[34] and that Ephesus was beset by false teaching, something that gave rise to Paul’s instructions in 2:9-16;[35] and he accepts that the educating of females ‘was not generally encouraged by the Jews.’[36] Yet he concludes:  ‘For any woman in any culture to engage in these activities (teach or have authority) with respect to men means that she is violating the Biblical principle of submission.’[37]                                                                                                                                                                                    He maintains that this would be Paul’s ‘position in any church.’[38] But this stance isn’t supported, for Moo simply feels that the burden is upon others to show that this wouldn’t be Paul’s instructions to every church in any context.[39] Witherington disagrees and supports his argument that, ‘Paul is not laying down first principles here, he is correcting an existing problem’[40]                                                                                                                                    Moo’s interpretation of quiet submission, teaching and Paul’s citing of God’s ordering of Adam and Eve in creation and Eve‘s falling into sin (1 Tim 2:13-14),[41] drive him to this conclusion.
However, the context of the prior use of the Greek word (hesuchia) indicates that we should interpret 1 Tim 2:11 in the same way as 2:2 – that we have a quiet peace and serenity about us as we seek to learn.[42] Indeed, 1Peter 3:4 reveals the virtuosity of ‘quietness,’ in contrast to outward ostentatiousness. It articulates the beauty of the quiet and humble-hearted, something ‘precious’ to God.                                                                                        Secondly, Paul’s use of hupotasso (v11 submission) elsewhere, strongly suggests that he viewed this as an innately Christian virtue, and not just confined to females within a gender-role directive. For in 1st Corinthians he implores them to submit to the visiting household of Stephanas. (1Cor16:15-16) Paul also points out how all things are under submission to Christ and then God Himself. (1Cor15:27-28)
Moreover, in his previous letter to the Ephesian church he uses hupotasso to describe how slaves should submit to their masters and, astonishingly, vice-versa; (Eph 6:5-9) and how all within the household should submit to one another (Eph5:21) and how a wife should submit to a husband just as the church should submit to Christ (Eph5:24). Kroeger notes:

As Christ the head brought growth and empowerment to the body of believers (Eph 4:15; Col 2:10), so the husband should be the enabler of the wife for personal growth and empowerment in a society that afforded her few opportunities.[43]

                These examples illustrate how Paul’s view of hupotasso is not about submitting meekly to a domineering autocrat, something that we might associate with ‘submission’ today. No, it’s about a harmonious sense of belonging. This sharply deviated from the common household code,[44] and was altogether more radical. ‘Householders were sometimes called to be sensitive to their wives, children and slaves, but they were never told to submit to them.’[45]
                Thirdly, Moo defines teaching as: ‘the careful transmission of the tradition concerning Jesus Christ and the authoritative proclamation of God’s will to believers in light of that tradition.’ [46] Should we believe that Phoebe, Priscilla or Junia weren’t involved in any of this? They clearly sound like servants of the Gospel!                                                      Moo argues that it is ‘manifestly not true’ that if local or temporary circumstances are identified against which a passage is written then one can conclude that it has only limited application. Again, he offers nothing to substantiate this dismissal,[47] Keener[48] and Fee[49] disagree entirely!                                                                                                          Regarding 2:12 Moo bemoans that the lack of educated women ‘isn’t stated, or even hinted at, in the text.’[50] He argues, ‘is it not a dangerous procedure to import such factors without clear warrant in the text?’[51] Well, this would be to ignore the social and cultural context, through which we ascertain those things that simply weren’t necessary to say. That women were not as well educated as men is clearly one such example. To confine our hermeneutic to literally only that which is explicitly stated directly by a text should leave us wondering whether Paul actually believed the sky is blue or not. After all, nowhere does he comment on this!
Finally, though verses 13-14 do seem to push us towards thinking more universally than particularly, when we view them in tandem with v 5:15 we get a sense that Paul is not citing Eve’s deception by Satan to highlight some innate idea of female foolishness or inadequacy, but more acutely to point out that history was repeating itself. Satan was at it again in Ephesus!                                                                                                                        Moreover, Paul had given the exact same warning to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:3). Taken together we see that Paul’s motive is the latter (fear of Satanic deception) rather than the former (subjugation of women within the church). And Rom. 5:12 compounds this point, for there Paul identifies Adam as the originator of sin!                                                               Context and intended audience is the key to understanding Paul and his focus. In Rome it was primarily concerning men. In his letter to Timothy his concern is regards women. Indeed, he doesn’t then go on to condemn women, (1 Tim 2:15) but points to the Christ-like virtues that are the way to redemption and salvation. In mentioning child-bearing, he may even be alluding to Mary as the great example (Gal 4:4).[52]  Additionally, 1Tim 4:3 may go ‘a long way towards explaining the comment,’[53] Paul is citing the virtuosity of childbirth because of, and in response to, the false teaching being propagated against marriage.

Conclusion

In both 1Cor14:34 and 1Tim2 Paul may just be saying: ‘everyone in worship should be silent in the presence of those who are speaking the Word of God…The Lord is in his holy temple and will speak.’[54] For both just talk about “silence and submission in the presence of authoritative teaching and teachers.”[55] Moreover, Fee warns that a literal, instructive reading of Timothy, ‘would do the Pharisees proud.’[56]                                                          If we don’t consider 1Tim in isolation, then we see that Paul is dealing with a particular problem and is not talking universally. For Paul declares (1Cor12:28) that teachers are third on the list of importance, behind apostles and prophets, both of whom included females with Paul’s expressed blessing and gratitude. (1Cor.11:5) Thus, it’s hard to believe that Paul had an intrinsic stance against female teachers while affirming them as apostles and prophets!                                                                                                                                           Witherington asks: ‘Paul a misogynist? On the contrary…(He is) someone that supported by implication, the new freedom and roles women may assume in Christ.’[57] Keener is equally convinced that Pauline texts ‘addressing the roles of women in both church and home suggest that Paul be ranked among the most progressive of ancient writers.’[58] For it was Paul that declared emphatically: ‘There is no longer male and female.’(Gal.3:28)

What contribution can his perspective make to the life of the Church today?

Moo maintains that a woman’s submission is violated if she ‘teaches doctrine or exercises authority over a man.’ Even having sought to challenge and expose the deficiencies of this view in this essay, still other problems and questions arise: When does a boy become a ‘man?’And when should his doctrinal education begin? Is that not culturally relative? Has God not gifted mothers naturally to be maternal guardians and ‘teachers’ of their children?                                                                                                                                                                Fee reflects, ‘It is hard to imagine under any circumstances how the denial of one half of the human race to minister to the other half brings glory to the gospel.’[59] He concludes that believing that God has never gifted women to teach would be to have ‘your head in the sand.’[60]

Regarding roles of ‘authority’ within the Church episcope, are those positions really about dominating over others, or even just exercising authority? Or are they not as much about shepherding and leading by humble example as anything else. There was no example of domineering or being authoritarian towards others by our true leader. He washed feet, sacrificed Himself completely and preached that the first should be last. In short, there simply was no authentein about His leadership and His is obviously the model that the Church should aspire to.

Bibliography

Works Cited:

Belleville, L. ‘Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15.’ In Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, ed. R. W. Pierce and R. M. Groothuis. 2nd ed. (IVP/Apollos, 2005)

Fee, G. ‘The Great Watershed—Intentionality and Particularity/Eternality: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 as a Test Case.’ In Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1981) Online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/44680321/Fee-Gospel-Spirit-Issues-in-Newtestament-hermeneutics-0943575788

Keener, C. S. ‘Man and Woman’ In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin. (Leicester: IVP, 1993)

Kroeger, C. C. ‘Head’ in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin (Leicester: IVP, 1993)

MacDonald, Margaret Y. ‘Women in the Pauline Churches’ In The Blackwell Companion to Paul, ed S. Westerholm (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

Moo, D. ‘What Does it Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?’ In Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, eds Piper & Grudem (Wheaton: Crossways, 1991)

Winter, B. W. Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003)

Witherington III, B. Women in the Earliest Churches (Cambridge: CUP, 1988)

— — ‘Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention– 1 Tim. 2.8-15’ (Blog-February 25th 2006)

<http://benwitherington.blogspot.co.uk/2006/02/literal-renderings-of-texts-of.html > [accessed October 20 2014]

Works Consulted:

Kroeger, R. & Kroeger ,C. I Suffer Not a Woman. Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in the Light of Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001)

Perriman, A. Speaking of Women: Interpreting Paul (Leicester: Apollos, 1998)

[1] Keener, C.,‘Man and Woman’P.587

[2] Ibid,p.589

[3] Ibid,p.587

[4] Kroeger, C.,‘Head’p.376

[5] Keener,‘Man and Woman’,p.589

[6] ibid,p.584

[7] ibid,p.585

[8] ibid

[9] ibid,p.586

[10] ibid,p.590

[11] ibid

[12] Kroeger,‘Head’p.376

[13] Fee, G.,‘The Great Watershed’p.55

[14]Belleville,L.,‘Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15’P.206

[15] Winter,B.W.,Roman Wives, Roman Widows,p.121

[16] Moo,D.‘What Does it Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority Over Men?’p.182

[17] Belleville,’Teaching’p.219

[18] Winter,‘Roman Wives, Roman Widows’p.119

[19] Belleville,‘Teaching…’p.209

[20] ibid,pp.212-216

[21] ibid,p.216

[22] Keener, ‘Man and Woman’p.591

[23] ibid

[24] Ibid

[25] Witherington,B.,‘Literal Renderings..’(Blog)

[26] ibid

[27] MacDonald,M.,‘Women in the Pauline Churches’p.269

[28] Ibid,p.275

[29] Keener,’Man and Woman’p.590

[30] ibid

[31] ibid,p.589

[32] MacDonald,’Women’p.271

[33] ibid,p.278

[34] Moo,D.‘What Does it Mean?’p.183

[35] ibid p.180

[36] ibid p.179

[37] ibid p.191

[38] ibid p.189

[39] ibid

[40] Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)

[41] Moo,’What Does it Mean’p.179

[42] Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)

[43] Kroeger,‘Head’p.377

[44] Keener,’Man and Woman’p.588

[45] ibid

[46] Moo,‘What Does it Mean’p.186

[47] Ibid,p.188

[48] Keener,‘Man and Woman’p.591

[49] Fee,‘The Great Watershed’p.61

[50] Moo,’What Does it Mean’p.193

[51] ibid

[52] Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)

[53] Belleville,’Teaching’p.207

[54] Witherington,’Literal Renderings’(blog)

[55] ibid

[56] Fee,’The Great Watershed’p.63

[57] Witherington,Women in the Earliest Churches p.218

[58] Keener,‘Man and Woman’ pp.591-2

[59] Fee,’The Great Watershed’pp.64-5

[60] Ibid,p65

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Reflections on the Craig /Carroll debate part 3:- From Teleology to Morality

3) In this part I want to see if its possible to slide seemlessly from teleology to morality.

The second major facet of the debate concerned the phenomena of cosmic fine-tuning. This time Carroll began with a concession: “This is the best argument that the theists have when it comes to cosmology.” However, in the very next sentence he maintained: “It is still a terrible argument, that is not at all convincing.” So what are his main complaints about the argument, an argument which relies solely on the data that the vast majority of the scientific fraternity agree exists, and from which very reasonable philosophical and theological inferences can be drawn?

Well, his first objection is to dispute the very existence of fine-tuning, on the premise that it is still really only speculation as to what constitutes life and what doesn’t. He says: “I am by no means convinced that there is a fine-tuning problem… I do not grant that therefore life could not exist… What is the definition of life…? There’s a huge panoply of possibilities. They sound very science fiction-ee… the results are gonna sound like they come from a science fiction novel.” Well, firstly, I’ll return to science fiction in a little while. But, secondly, this complaint is not new and has been considered many times before. Which is why WLC could refer to an article by the Australian physicist Luke Barnes who cites a vast array of world class cosmologists who acknowledge the phenomena. Among them is Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees who has explained:

“Any universe hospitable to life – what we might call a biophilic universe – has to be ‘adjusted’ in a particular way. The prerequisites for any life of the kind we know about — long-lived stable stars, stable atoms such as carbon, oxygen and silicon, able to combine into complex molecules, etc — are sensitive to the physical laws and to the size, expansion rate and contents of the universe. Indeed, even for the most open-minded science fiction writer, ‘life’ or ‘intelligence’ requires the emergence of some generic complex structures: It cant exist in a homogeneous universe, Not in a universe containing only a few dozen particles. Many recipes would lead to stillborn universes with no atoms, no chemistry, and no planets; or to universes too short-lived or too empty to allow anything to evolve beyond sterile uniformity.”

Goodness, even Richard Dawkins, in the God Delusion, accepted the reality of cosmic fine-tuning and the late Christopher Hitchens, like Carroll, believed it to be the best argument for theism. As WLC himself has previously noted:

“If these constants or quantities are altered even a little, what happens is you wouldn’t even have chemistry or matter, much less planets and stars that could serve as places for life to evolve. That kind of response (we don’t know what other forms of life might have evolved) simply doesn’t understand the catastrophic consequences of altering these constants and quantities… By life, scientists just mean something like this: the ability of an organism to take in energy, metabolize it, and reproduce after its own kind. Anything that can do that is called life. It doesn’t have to be anything of a form familiar to us. It just has to fill that very generic definition of being able to do something of that sort.” (Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s4-14#ixzz2uiV9mnxQ)

Carroll’s other major complaint is that he doesn’t believe that an initial low entropy condition is necessary for our existence and he questioned why God would make the entropy of the universe so unnecessarily low in order to create us. In response, Craig made 3 very reasonable philosophical reflections to this qualm, but before referring to them we should first pause and reflect on the science itself. Carroll’s argument here is an extension of the one he made in ‘The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity’, where he wrote:

“The entropy didn’t need to be nearly that low in order for life to come into existence. One way of thinking about this is to note that we certainly don’t need a hundred billion other galaxies in the universe in order for life to arise here on earth; our single galaxy would have been fine, or for that matter a single solar system.”

With this in mind we can see that, again, Carroll was in fact making a highly contentious scientific claim, while espousing his own authority to ram it home as if it were recognized science fact.  It’s not! Renowned Cosmologists, John Barrow, John Wheeler and Martin Rees all independently contradict Carroll’s view, as a great many other cosmologists similarly would:- (My thanks to ‘Philosophical Theist’ for the references)

“Chemical complexity requires basic atomic building blocks which are heavier than the elements of hydrogen and helium which emerge from the hot early stages of the universe. Heavier elements, like carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, are made in the stars, as a result of nuclear reactions that take billions of years to complete. Then, they are dispersed through space by supernovae after which they find their way into grains, planets, and ultimately, into people. This process takes billions of years to complete and allows the expansion to produce a universe that is billions of light years in size. Thus we see why it is inevitable that the universe is seen to be so large. A universe that is billions of years old and hence billions of light years in size is a necessary pre-requisite for observers based upon chemical complexity.” (John D. Barrow, Cosmology and The Origin of Life)

“A Universe that contained just one galaxy like our own Milky Way, with its 100 billion stars, each perhaps surrounded by planetary systems, might seem a reasonable economy if one were in the universal construction business. But such a universe, with more than a 100 billion fewer galaxies than our own, could have expanded for little more than a few months. It could have produced neither stars nor biological elements. It could contain no astronomers.” (John Wheeler, The World Within The World)

“The very hugeness of our universe, which seems at first to signify how unimportant we are in the cosmic scheme, is actually entailed by our existence! This is not to say that there couldn’t have been a smaller universe, only that we could not have existed in it.” (Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers)

Moreover, Craig is quite right to point out that the fine-tuning argument is based on empirical observations alone. The relevance of these observations is not dependent on postulating, a priori, that the purpose of the universe is ‘us.’ He remarked, on the one hand, that there may well be other intelligent life scattered about our universe. (As an aside, if this were the case does it not present another intriguing interpretation of John 10:16..?) While on the other, as Robin Collins would later expound  in his paper, it could be that the initial low entropy conditions were necessary to facilitate the ‘discoverability’ of our universe. As Craig himself put it:

“God has given us a world that is susceptible to rational exploration and discovery. If God wanted to make a universe discoverable by embodied, conscious agents he might well make it in such a low entropy condition.”

And this brings me back to Carroll’s reference to science fiction and what I see as the second potential dichotomy for the naturalist :-

At the conclusion of his opening speech Carroll showed a photograph of  several hundred galaxies apparently taken from the Hubble telescope, before imposing the idea that theists believe the universe “is like that because we were going to be here.” He continued, “but there’s nothing in our experience of the universe that justifies the kind of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves.”

Now either Carroll is right, in which case he should find the Craig response that we may not be alone in the universe as perfectly acceptable; or he is wrong. If so, and we are alone, then the Craig/Collins point about the ‘discoverability’ of the universe becomes more potent: because we would be left with some justification into thinking, as the apex of all creation, we are of central significance.

But this is not the potential dichotomy. This comes once we bring morality into the equation. If we recall, Carroll himself mentioned the possibility of other life forms being possible under different fine-tuning conditions. And he appealed to science fiction. So let’s run with this:-

Did you ever see that dreadful movie, ‘Flash Gordon’? Max Von Sydow is its only saving grace. Anyhow, Ming (Sydow) is about to destroy the Earth & Dr. Hans Zarkov implores him “But why, why…??” Ming merely replies, “why not?” Or did you ever read, ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’? At the beginning the ‘Vogons’ (I think!) are going to destroy the Earth for the ‘good’ of the rest of the universe as they want to place an intergalactic ‘by-pass’ straight through us.

The question is, in both of the above examples how can any ‘human social contract’ of morality be objectively binding? The point is that if we are not alone in the universe how does our system of morality and ethics impose itself as ontologically objective to anyone else? After all, we already know that our system of moral values and duties do not impose themselves upon any other species within just our own planet. So, if we are not alone in the universe on just what basis can we claim that our moral values and duties are any more ontologically objective than anyone else’s? Therefore, in the search for a foundation for objective morality we would need to look for something that is transcendent of this universe, would we not? So if the naturalist wants to affirm (as I believe Carroll and certainly his cohort Tim Mauldlin do) any ontologically objective truth about moral values and duties then, if we are not alone, that must surely either entail a transcendent grounding for them, or if we are alone, at the very least provide us with the justification that affords us believing, “the kind of flattering story we like to tell about ourselves.”

(When time permits!) In the concluding part I’d just like to make some final general remarks as well as referring to some things that Carroll has now himself said in his own now uploaded post debate reflections.

Postscript:- When Ming or the ‘Vogons’ do turn up on Tim Maudlin’s doorstep, does he really think that his personal exposition of Moral Platonism will save him…  ;-)

God Bless :-)

link to the debate – http://www.tacticalfaith.com/media/greer-heard-forum-2014/

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Reflections on the Craig / Carroll debate Part 2:-

2) In my last post I tried to outline some of the problems that arise when one attempts to ride roughshod through the principle of causality or apply it only arbitrarily. Yet, this is exactly what Carroll advocates, all the while remaining oblivious to his later apparent contradiction when he insists that, “Our metaphysics must follow our physics.” But more than this, 2 further problems were exposed which would seem to contradict his rather bold declaration that he made in his opening speech: “naturalism is far and away the winner when it comes to cosmological explanations.”

If memory serves, both of these problems were pointed out by William Lane Craig. The first being the second law of thermodynamics. For if the universe has existed eternally then it remains inexplicable as to why the universe is not already in a state of thermodynamic ‘heat death’. Aware that this observation would most likely be raised in the debate, Carroll’s response was to point to (failed) attempts at constructing eternal models of the universe, like his own, that somehow avoid this problem. But he again conceded: “It’s certainly a true issue that we don’t know why the early universe had low entropy and entropy has ever been increasing. That’s a good challenge for cosmology.” Having mentioned that he’s written a whole book on the subject, he’s still left declaring: “We don’t know why.” He goes on to ask: “Are there realistic models of eternal cosmologies?” And, as if throwing up some sort of smokescreen, he then mentions finding 17 such models in half an hour on the internet. But he happily declares that, “none of them are right…we’re nowhere near the right answer yet.” If you’re left scratching your head at how this response supposedly addresses the entropy ‘problem’, well you’re not alone!

It was immediately apparent that this smokescreen was really a part of his adoption of the tired-old straw man attack that theists are just appealing to a ‘God of the Gaps.’ He says, “I keep re-iterating: what matters are the models, not the abstract principals.” Such a comment is telling, on many levels. Firstly, it smacks of the naive and yet familiar prejudice that: ‘scientism and verificationalism trump philosophical reasoning,’ an attitude which seems so common within the science fraternity. Moreover, it conjoins with his continual complaint that, “theism is not well-defined.” What he’s inferring, of course, is that it doesn’t offer the intricate empiricism that can be found via the models of theoretical science. It appears that his presupposition is that the 2 are at odds. But this is not the case. It’s simply that many theists (like WLC) have explored and examined the findings and data that the scientific method has given us and then inferred that the explanation that there is a transcendent, causal agent behind reality, is the best explanation. This was the case for Galileo, Newton, Kepler, Faraday et al.

Secondly, it is always worth pointing out how oblivious the Atheist/naturalist is being when making such claims about their own levels of ‘faith’ on which they themselves are depending. (and this is usually whilst holding a condescending, dismissive attitude towards the theist for the levels of ‘faith’ on which they, supposedly, depend). For Carroll pleads, “Maybe the universe is eternal and has no equilibrium state…Maybe there is no high entropy state…maybe there is no equilibrium for it to fall into.” So, as well as arguing (pretty vacuously) against what has often been regarded as metaphysical bedrock: the principle of causality, here he is rejecting another bedrock principle, this time from physics: the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is yet more pleading that flies-in-the-face of decades of established science, as well as the gamut of observational and empirical evidence on which the law is grounded. And he offers nothing empirically or theoretically that succeeds in addressing the problem. I, for one, would love to know what he means with his equivocation that while no models that have ever been proposed are “right,” he describes them as being ‘viable.’ Well, I’m sure Fred Hoyle’s ‘steady state’ theory of cosmology would still be seen as ‘viable,’ were it not for the magnitude of evidence that proved the theory wrong and the Friedman / LeMaitre model right!

You know, I happened to listen to a Tim Keller sermon last night ‘How the Gospel Changes our Apologetic’ and towards the end of it Keller spelt out his usual 3-step evangelistic technique. Step 2 involved illustrating how it actually takes more faith to deny the truths of Christianity than it does to embrace it. If that sounds like he’s setting the bar pretty high, just put it in the context of Carroll’s appeal that “we hope some day we get there..” (ie that there is a past-eternal cosmological model) having already made his, “naturalism is far and away the winner when it comes to cosmological explanations” claim. Of course, alternatively, Carroll could just put his ‘faith’ in the idea that something really can just ‘pop’ into existence (or come into being, if you prefer) from literally nothing. Then again, surely that would sound too much like an abstract principal…

Now, even if Carroll holds firmly in his ‘faith’ that one day some extravagant cosmological model can be conceived of that will overcome the thermodynamic problem, he would still be left with a further problem that was pointed out by WLC in his response: the age of the universe, given its rate of expansion. As Craig rightly points out: “Why would the universe transition to classical space-time just 13 billion years ago? It could not have existed from infinity past in an unstable quantum state, and then just 13 billion years ago transition to classical space-time. It would have done it from eternity past, if at all.” In other words, if the ’cause’ of our universe were just a prior eternal quantum state then the ‘effect’ of that cause: our universe, should also be eternal. Unless I’d fallen asleep and missed it entirely, Carroll never even attempted to respond to this glaring conundrum.

In part 3 I hope to raise another potential dichotomy that the naturalist faces when considering entropy and conditions suitable for life, that was discussed in the debate.

link to the debate – http://www.tacticalfaith.com/media/greer-heard-forum-2014/

God Bless ;-)

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Reflections on the Craig / Carroll Debate:- Part 1

So the recent William Lane Craig / Sean Carroll debate has me attempting my first ever blog! I watched the debate live in the wee small hours of last Saturday morning and found myself scribbling a couple of notes, which has left me wanting to make a few points:

1) It was inevitable that the Borde, Guth, Vilenkin (BGV) theorem of 2003  would come up. Firstly, it is clearly a testament to the plethora of evidence we have for the standard model of Big Bang cosmology that neither Carroll, nor Krauss before him, are trying to undermine it. (If anything, the discovery of the Higgs Boson served as one of the last missing pieces confirming it.) So what Carroll and the cosmological fraternity at large have been trying to do is no longer attack what increasingly seems to be the impeachable fortress of Einstein, Friedman and LeMaitre, but construct pre-Big Bang models that through the application of quantum mechanics can postulate a theoretical past-eternal ‘universe’ that would escape the parameters and conclusions of the BGV while maintaining a congruence with the standard model. Carroll himself conceded in his opening speech (The BGV theorem) “Means our ability to describe the universe ‘classically,’ gives out.” This could be loosely translated as saying ‘we now know, since 2003, that classical physics entails a cosmic beginning, so we’re all away desperately constructing quantum models to try and circumvent this problem.’ So we are at the point of accepting that the door is shut with regard to ‘classical’ explanations that could avoid a cosmic beginning, but the door is still open with regard to quantum explanations. (Perhaps that’s actually because we still know a great deal less about quantum physics than we do classical physics!)

In his rebuttal Carroll then goes on to argue that the principal of causality applies within the universe but not to the universe (or even multi-verse) as a whole. Firstly, this really does sound like counter-intuitive special pleading. Secondly, he provides no evidence or empirical data in support of this claim. Thirdly, as I think WLC pointed out, this just classically commits the ‘taxi-cab’ fallacy as Alexander Pruss has pointed out. Finally, and this is what had led to me scribbling, it seems to me that this whole issue presents the first of several troublesome dichotomies for the naturalist:

If he denies that causality is a meta-physical principle & shouldn’t be extended beyond this space-time, then he cannot arbitrarily concurrently claim that maths exists necessarily. Or to put it another way: either the naturalist can appeal to maths as a meta-physically, necessarily existing object that undergirds the presence of all natural laws, or not. If they argue the former, then just on what basis is one discounting causality as a meta-physical principle, as Carroll does in the debate? Surely they are inextricably linked? The rules of logic indicate so. If the latter, they have no answer to the question, ‘Where does nature and natural laws come from?’ Moreover, one is also surely leaving the best explanation for the applicability of maths to the natural world as being that it is itself a created/constructed ‘language.’ Any constructed ‘language’ or ‘system’ requires a constructor. And so it therefore would remain that the existence of mathematics is evidence of a transcendent agent.

2 mins of Craig on the applicability of maths:-                               http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlQllBxLRa4

Ok, I’ve rambled on enough just on the first point that I wanted to try and articulate. So I’ll look to make the other points in follow-up posts in the next couple o’ days if time permits!

link to the debate – http://www.tacticalfaith.com/media/greer-heard-forum-2014/

God bless :-)

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