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A review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism. By David Marshall.

Jan 12, 2008

Harvest House, 2007. (Available in Australia at Koorong Books)

Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens. These have now become almost household names. They are some of the leading figures in the New Atheism brigade. These are militant, dogmatic atheists who are on a search and destroy mission when it comes to religion. They seem to despise faith and people of faith, and are conducting a holy war to convince us that only atheism is tenable.

This volume explores some of the main themes, contentions and accusations being made by the new atheist crusaders. Written in a witty and easy to read style, Marshall takes on the various claims made by these unholy warriors, especially their anti-Christian diatribes. He fairly yet firmly interacts with these men, showing that they stand on much shakier ground than they realise.

Consider some of the many criticisms made by the neo-atheists. One common charge is the claim that religion in general and Christianity in particular is unscientific, irrational, and simply based on blind faith.

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For example, the atheists claim that Christians rely on ancient and discredited eyewitnesses. But as Marshall reminds us, almost everything we know is based on the testimony of others. The claims of the Gospel writers can be assessed and evaluated just like we weigh up the evidence of any other eye witness.

The Bible often “appeals to reason, empirical facts, and experiment”. Christians are not to just take a blind leap of faith, but to examine the evidence and test the truth claims being made. Faith in fact is a settled conviction based upon adequate evidence.

Also consider the claim that science and faith inevitably conflict. But is this so? Marshall cites sociologist Rodney Stark who notes that of the 52 greatest scientists between 1543 and 1680, almost all were “devout believers,” with only two being sceptics.

Even Darwin relied heavily on Anglican natural theology. Thus evolutionary philosopher Michael Ruse can argue that “without Christianity, I doubt we would have Darwinism.” Western intellectual history was largely Christian history: “Every great European thinker from John of Paris to John Locke was steeped in the Bible”.

Another contention of the atheists is that religion is the natural product of the evolutionary process. But the universal and persistent place of faith in the human community does not fit well in evolutionary thinking.

Why do only human animals have this longing for the transcendent? “Do gorillas tell ghost stories in the night?” asks Marshall. “Do chimps see King Kong in the clouds? When Fido is unfaithful, does he do penance?” If evolution wanted us to be religious, why not animals as well? Why only us?

The new atheists also think religion is immoral, and yet believe that atheism can account for morality. But as Marshall says, even Dawkins admits that it’s “hard to squeeze out-group altruism from the evolutionary rocks”.

Dawkins does speak of the upward climb of morality. But he seems to have no basis for it given his worldview. Marshall rightly asks, “What if the Christian faith lay at the heart of these great reform movements?” He documents how many of the great moral reformations were directly based on Christians seeking to be Christlike. From the elevation of women to the suppression of slavery, it was the Christian church that led the way.

And what about the supposed evils perpetrated by Christianity? Take the issue of the burning of witches. Atheist Bertrand Russell claimed that the church murdered “millions of unfortunate women”. Despite the hype and exaggeration of the theophobes, the actual figures are much different. At best, around 40,000 people were put to death, three quarters of whom were women. This is still too many, but a few facts need to be kept in mind.

For example, nearly everyone in those days feared witchcraft. Nonbelievers were equally concerned about the practice. Even atheists and sceptics like Thomas Hobbes and Jean Boden said witches should be killed. And many Christians actually did all they could to protect those charged with witchcraft.

While the track record of the Christian church is far from perfect, on the whole it has done far more good over the centuries than bad. It is not so clear if the same can be said about atheism. Much evil has been committed in the name of godless atheism.

Marshall reminds us that atheist Joseph Stalin on average killed more people in a single day than did the Spanish Inquisition in three centuries. And it was not just Stalin who was responsible for the bloodbaths of the twentieth century: “Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, both Kims, Ho, Castro, Ceausescu, and Honecker were also atheists.”

Marshall looks at plenty of other atheist claims. Most are either groundless or a beat-up. Sure, one can always find fault in any religion, and one can always find “nice” atheists. But the distorted and jaundiced picture painted by the neo-atheists is really far from the truth.

They may be selling a lot of books, but they are also peddling a lot of half-truths and misconceptions. The public record needs to be set straight, and this book helps to do just that.

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46 Responses to A review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism. By David Marshall.

  • Sounds good, Bill. I’m interested. Regarding such things it is worth checking out this site:

    http://www.bethinking.org

    Great apologetics website, with contributions by some fantastic people. There are some very well constructed, well thought out arguments against athiesm on this site.

    Simon Kennedy, VIC

  • [A]theists claim that Christians rely on ancient and discredited eyewitnesses. But as Marshall reminds us, almost everything we know is based on the testimony of others.

    The problem is when this testimony speaks of people turning water into wine, resurrecting the dead, flying up into heaven on a winged steed or other miracles. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Religious texts are not extraordinary evidence.

    Also consider the claim that science and faith inevitably conflict. But is this so? Marshall cites sociologist Rodney Stark who notes that of the 52 greatest scientists between 1543 and 1680, almost all were “devout believers,” with only two being sceptics.

    Conflict between science and faith is inevitable because many religious people reject/attack scientific findings which they perceive to be incompatible with their faith. Take for example the (worryingly large) number of people who don’t accept the theory of evolution because they take Genesis literally. Also, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, there are many religious people who believe the earth is about ten thousand years old.

    Why do only human animals have this longing for the transcendent? “Do gorillas tell ghost stories in the night?” asks Marshall. “Do chimps see King Kong in the clouds? When Fido is unfaithful, does he do penance?” If evolution wanted us to be religious, why not animals as well?

    Because only humans have developed language, which in turn has led to the development of human culture(s). Religion is a product of human culture.

    The new atheists also think religion is immoral, and yet believe that atheism can account for morality.

    Wrong. Atheists do not believe that atheism can account for morality. What is moral (and what isn’t) is a human construct which is closely connected to altruistic behavior, which has evolutionary explanations.

    Much evil has been committed in the name of godless atheism.

    Wrong. While atheists have committed awful atrocities it has not been ‘in the name of atheism’. Atheism is a single answer (No) to a single question: (Do you believe in God(s)?). It is void of content. It doesn’t instruct one how to live, or what and what not to do. These things are best determined through reasoning. The dogmatic ideologies of Stalin and Mao where unreasonable in the extreme.

    Sure, one can always find fault in any religion, and one can always find “nice” atheists.

    Clever use of scare quotes. Atheists aren’t actually nice? They’re just pretending so that they can blend in and make their way into positions of power before they enact their evil plans right?

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Thanks Sammy

    Extraordinary evidence is only required by those who have closed minds, and have ruled out ahead of time – as a faith commitment – the possibility of anything beyond the natural or material realm. No amount of evidence will sway someone who has a philosophical pre-commitment which rules out anything beyond their reductionist naturalist worldview.

    Real science has no conflict with religion, only scientism, which is where you nicely fit in. Because of your narrow, anti-supernatural bias, you have an inbuilt bias against any counter-evidence to your materialist worldview. And there are plenty of people – many who are not even religious – who are aware of the many difficulties and shortcomings with the theory of evolution.

    Simply making assertions without backup evidence helps no one here (“religion is a product of human culture”, “what is moral is a human construct”, etc.). These are just dogmatic assertions based on your presuppositions, not the evidence.

    And you are right that atheism provides no help to the question of morality. Given its presuppositions, it has almost nothing constructive to say about either good or evil. It has no way to account for either the grandeur of man or his very real nastiness and brutality. The biblical worldview provides a fully coherent and reasonable account of both.

    Stalin, et., al., operated out of an inherently atheistic worldview. You are simply living in denial here. You need to be better read. The entire edifice of Marxism was based on atheism and dialectical materialism.

    Atheists and non-atheists alike are all in the camp of being “nice”. That is, all goodness and niceness is derivative. Because we are made in the image of a moral God, and because of God’s common grace, we all have a modicum of niceness. But without the grace of God, we all revert to our natural, selfish selves. And the chief sin of course is pride, the idea that we are pretty decent blokes, not needing any outside help. Until we overcome that hurtle, we will never avail ourselves of the cure we so desperately need.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Extraordinary evidence is only required by those who have closed minds, and have ruled out ahead of time – as a faith commitment – the possibility of anything beyond the natural or material realm.

    Generally speaking, atheists haven’t ruled anything out. We simply won’t believe in the supernatural until we see the evidence. There’s nothing wrong with this.

    Sammy Jankis, London

  • Dear me, Sammy, it appears that you engaged your fingers at the keyboard prior to shifting your brain into gear! 🙂

    “Conflict between science and faith is inevitable because many religious people reject/attack scientific findings which they perceive to be incompatible with their faith. Take for example the (worryingly large) number of people who don’t accept the theory of evolution because they take Genesis literally. Also, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, there are many religious people who believe the earth is about ten thousand years old.”

    Could you please explain why taking Genesis literally is such a worry for you? On what historiographical basis do you consider it to be incapable of a literal understanding?

    Am I able to take it as fact that you don’t consider yourself to have been living in excess of ten thousand years, in order to have “better” evidence of the age of the planet than the rest of us? 🙂

    And therefore, since believers and non-believers in the theory of evolution are both
    a) viewing the same indirect evidence
    and
    b) exercising some form of faith
    in coming to their conclusions, I am very interested in seeing what quality of evidence you consider to overwhelmingly favour the evolutionary interpretation.

    “Because only humans have developed language, which in turn has led to the development of human culture(s). Religion is a product of human culture.”

    Is there any explanation for such a unique event within the evolutionary/random worldview you hold? According to what fundamental principle of evolution does an event become unrepeatable?

    “Wrong. While atheists have committed awful atrocities it has not been ‘in the name of atheism’. Atheism is a single answer (No) to a single question: (Do you believe in God(s)?).”

    Unfortunately, this answer only turns around to bite you.

    If atheism is the answer “No” and religion is the answer “Yes” to the same question then, according to your logic, atrocities committed by religious people are equally not done in the name of their religion.

    You apparently fail to understand that the question is inherently religious, and either answer is equally religious.

    Both answers yield logical implications for people in choosing how they should exercise their choices in lliving life, and you over-simplify the result by claiming that atheism is a single answer to a single question.

    I would like to know what significance you attach to the answer “No”, by asking how you understand the question “Is there a God?” ?.

    I have modified the question you used for clarification. Your actual question ‘Do you believe in [the existence of] God?’ doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. The answer “No” could simply be wrong, in the same way that “Do you believe in [the existence of] gravity?” “No” can be wrong, as the lawyers say: ‘on the facts’.

    So let’s get to the tin tacks, shall we?

    John Angelico

  • Dear Sammy,

    Perhaps you could help me (one of those “religious” people who “despite the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary…believe the earth is about ten thousand years old”). Can you explain how you think language evolved in humans? I ask because it seems that you depend on the evolution of language in humans as being a key factor that distinguishes us from animals (ie we have culture, religion etc because we have language, on the other hand animals do not). So for your argument to remain viable you need to explain the language part of it.

    Regards,
    Mathew Markey

  • Sammy, as a believer I do not reject scientific findings, I’m just sceptical about them because I know that in a few years (sometimes just a few months) a new countering theory will be presented to us by another scientist (and sometimes even the same scientist). You see, scientists keep changing their stories. Once they told us that mercury was a cure for syphilis and that eating fat thickened the blood and made you more robust. I could go on with scientific quack stories for ever, but I’m sure you know just as many. The point is that, for any scientist to assume that current findings are the summit of knowledge in any field is arrogant and based on the assumption that what we know today is not open to further knowledge in the future.

    On the contrary, the Bible story has not changed and non-believers, even after centuries of trying, have still not disproved it. At the very best, they come up with highly improbable ‘alternative explanations’ that cannot be proved.

    I also find your requirement that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” to be quite strange. You’ll have to do better than that if you really want to challenge believers, as the evidence angle has already been tried and failed. In fact, noteable non-believing legal scholars dared to apply the rules of evidence centuries ago. And unlike the atheist brigade, these folk were scholars in the true sense of the word and open to the possibility that the Bible story may be the truth. One such example, among many, is Simon Greenleaf – the principle founder of the Harward Law School. Google him and read his legal examination and attempt to disprove the Gospels. He ended up having to conclude that the resurrection did in fact happen!

    Frank Norros

  • Extraordinary evidence is only required by those who have closed minds, and have ruled out ahead of time – as a faith commitment – the possibility of anything beyond the natural or material realm.

    Wrong. It’s just asking for enough evidence to believe something that is itself hard to believe. Without that standard, any weird claim or supernaturalist belief would have an easier time worming it’s way through, simply because the standards of evidence have been lowered for it.

    No amount of evidence will sway someone who has a philosophical pre-commitment which rules out anything beyond their reductionist naturalist worldview.

    If you were to look at the Statements of Faith that AIG, ICR, and other YEC organizations make, you’d see the irony in that. There are no comparable statements of faith in any university or science research institution.

    Real science has no conflict with religion, only scientism, which is where you nicely fit in.

    Based on what? Your assessment of someone saying that they’d need a lot of evidence to believe something supernatural happened? What standards of evidence do you have, then?

    Because of your narrow, anti-supernatural bias, you have an inbuilt bias against any counter-evidence to your materialist worldview. And there are plenty of people – many who are not even religious – who are aware of the many difficulties and shortcomings with the theory of evolution.

    Problem is, all those so-called shortcomings are based on false and/or cherry-picked evidence. Check out Talk Orgins Index of Creationist Claims or even better, their Quote Mine Project.

    One good site for analyzing specific creationist claims is here

    And before you ask, yes. I’ve read True Origins, Talk Origins, AIG and ICR.

    One last thing: “bias” does not mean the same thing as refusing to change your mind. The guy you’re talking to has said that he’d need an “extraordinary” amount of evidence to believe in something supernatural. That’s not on the same level as the AIG people, who take an oath where they swear to discount outright any evidence that goes against the YEC view.

    Reynold Hall, Edmonton, AB, Canada

  • The problem with Marshall and others (I also did a short review of Marshall’s book) is that they are too defensive, re-active, their criticism of the pro-athethiests never goes far enough (but Marshall is better than many). The atheist/”Humanist” position should be attacked very vigorously (nothing else will do), since the sheer immorality of their ideas – and evil historical record – requires it. So, up, at ’em, over the parapets; otherwise the destiny of the human race will be total destruction.
    John Thomas

  • From Wikipedia (occasionally useful for speedy access to factual support for an argument, but to be taken with a grain of salt:

    “The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. The two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft.”

    29 convictions out of over 150 arrests means some 120 acquittals. So the numbers may not be even as large as Marshall indicates – more indication of gross exaggeration.

    John Angelico

  • Thanks Sammy

    (Sorry for the delay – out of action for a while.) But you are either being deliberately misleading here, or are very poorly read on this issue. Consider just a few (of many) quotes:

    “The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, but rather the replacement of a worldview in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle by a new worldview in which there was no room for supernatural forces.” (Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr)

    “I am not an agnostic. I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith … The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.” (Immunologist George Klein, The Atheist in the Holy City)

    “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin)

    Since your atheist sermons can readily be found on your website, I won’t present them all here. Let me just that you seem to have graduated from the same Atheist Academy that every other misotheist has. All your arguments are as monotonously repetitive as they are misleading.

    The claim that atheists have no positive beliefs, no a priori beliefs, only a lack of belief in God, is just wishful thinking. You atheists are making many claims, chief of which is that there is no god. Such a claim of course demands some evidence; simply making the charge proves nothing.

    And of course the non-existence of God cannot be proved, so an honest atheist should admit to being at most an agonistic. But as Klein admits, it is faith, not evidence, that leads him to atheism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Reynold Hall relies on Talk.Obnoxious, where most of the articles are written by non-experts in the field. Many of the lead articles were authored by computer programmers!

    The “quote mining” fetish really means “quoting in context an evolutionist who nevertheless presents a difficulty for a particular area of evolution, so is invoked as a hostile witness.”

    Hall also ignores the a priori belief in materialism that governs evolutionary biology and uniformitarian geology, e.g.

    Richard Lewontin (as cited by BM above)

    Scott Todd, an immunologist at Kansas State University (correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999):

    ‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic’

    In 1785, before examining the evidence, the deist James Hutton, ‘the Founder of Modern Geology’, proclaimed (Theory of the Earth’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1785; cited with approval in Holmes, A., Principles of Physical Geology):

    ‘the past history of our globe must be explained by what can be seen to be happening now … No powers are to be employed that are not natural to the globe, no action to be admitted except those of which we know the principle’

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Sammy is deluding himself if he thinks no atrocities were committed in the name of atheism. The Soviets and their allies bulldozed churches and imprisoned and killed pastors precisely because they were not atheists. Other non-atheists were sent to be ‘re-educated’.

    Conversely, the atrocities that misotheists love to pin on Christians were not only on an infinitesimally smaller scale than atheistic atrocities, but inconsistent with Christ’s teachings. Atheistic atrocities were consistent with atheism.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • If it really was true that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, then that rules out evolution then. Nothing could be more extraordinary than the claim that life came from non-life, and nothing in science has less hard evidence to back it up.

    Reynold Hall’s claim that “There are no comparable statements of faith in any university or science research institution” is simply misleading. You don’t need to have one to have one. In-other-words, these institutions may not have an overt statement of faith, but they have one all the same as demonstrated by those quotes from honest atheists that Bill and Jonathan mention above. And anyway, what about the Humanist Manifesto which could easily pass as the unofficial ‘statement of faith’ of most western universities today.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Mathew Markey: Can you explain how you think language evolved in humans? I ask because it seems that you depend on the evolution of language in humans as being a key factor that distinguishes us from animals…

    I’m not an expert in glottogony, but people working in evolutionary linguistics have some ideas about how language evolved. One such theory is known as gestural theory, where language developed from gestures used for simpler communication. Unfortunately it’s a difficult field to research given that language doesn’t fossilize. It’s a fascinating question, and this website seems to offer a good summary of current thoughts on this matter.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Jonathan Sarfati: Sammy is deluding himself if he thinks no atrocities were committed in the name of atheism. The Soviets and their allies bulldozed churches and imprisoned and killed pastors precisely because they were not atheists. Other non-atheists were sent to be ‘re-educated’.

    There is no atheist creed which demands that all non-atheists renounce their faith or be murdered. Ergo, atheism is not responsible for the crimes of Stalinists. The idea that people who aren’t atheists should be persecuted or killed does not logically follow from atheism itself.

    Reynold Hall relies on Talk.Obnoxious, where most of the articles are written by non-experts in the field. Many of the lead articles were authored by computer programmers!

    Funny how the requirement of expertise is relaxed for ID/creationist proponents (engineers and mathematicians are suitably qualified to critique the foundation of biology), but when non-biologists defend evolution from pseudo-science their field of expertise becomes most important.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Ewan: If it really was true that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”, then that rules out evolution then. Nothing could be more extraordinary than the claim that life came from non-life, and nothing in science has less hard evidence to back it up.

    Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life, it explains the diversity of life. The study of the origin of life is abiogenisis.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • People always stay focused on the science when debating evolutionary theory. What is forgotten is just how significant the philosophical objections to evolution are.

    For example, phenomenal consciousness, the first-person, subjective, “what it is like” of seeing or hoping or feeling is not beneficial for survival. In other words, creatures can flee preditors or find food or reproduce with out the phenomenal state. Much like computers can function “as if” they had first person mental states.

    Thus such a major part of our conscious state is an unnecessary evolutionary burden and so not a predicted outcome for evolution. This casts great doubt on the theory – http://www.themidnightsun.org/?p=182#more-182

    Damien Spillane

  • Dear Sammy,

    Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life, it explains the diversity of life. The study of the origin of life is abiogenisis.

    I’m not sure how this enhances your argument. All you’ve done is pass the buck. Now you need to come up with some extraordinary evidence for the extraordinary claim that organic life came from inorganic matter.

    Not to mention the fact that the only “unextraordinary” evidence we have in today’s world for evolution is that species can diversify via the process of natural selection, which does nothing to add NEW information to their genetic makeup – it is just a rearrangement or loss of information. This means that we only observe species diversifying to a LIMITED extent (eg finches with long/short beaks, dogs with long/short hair, etc etc you know what I mean, many examples could be given). This is NOT evolution as you mean it. You mean dinosaurs turning into birds, and apelike ancestors turning into humans (we DON’T see this). For this kind of evolution, you would require extraordinary evidence for such an extraordinary claim (that a living organism can gain volumes of NEW information in its genetic makeup seems quite miraculous and not backed up by anything we observe today).

    Regards,
    Mathew Markey

  • Sammy Jankis
    Your statement
    “Evolution doesn’t explain the origin of life, it explains the diversity in life.”
    I am sorry but this does not comply with popular presentation here in Australia.
    The evoloutionists here claim that man evolved from the primordial ooze to what he or she has become in moden times over billions of years.
    Are they wrong in their assumptions?
    Jim Sturla

  • Sammy, you are just being pedantic. I know as well as you what is the technical term for life from non-life. The broadly accepted definition of biological evolution most certainly does include the field of abiogenesis so my statement stands.

    The miracle abiogenesis aside, evolution can’t even explain the diversity of life anyway since it has no mechanism to explain how information in the genome has increased from the alleged single cell of first life.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  • Sammy is ignorant of the fact that many leaders in the origin of life field use the term chemical evolution. E.g. the September 1978 issue of Scientific Americanwas specially devoted to evolution, and one major article was ‘Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life’, and referred to “the evolution of life from non-living organic matter”. Dr Cyril Ponnamperuma, co-authored a paper with the same title, and his affiliation was the Laboratory of Chemical Evolution Chemistry Department, University of Maryland.

    “Abiogenesis” seems more like a Talk.Obnoxious popularization to avoid dealing with this intractable issue for the materialists.

    CMI employs several Ph.D. biologists, for his information. Far better than the computer programmers who write a lot of Talk.Obnoxious agitprop.

    Sammy also doesn’t understand the logic of comparative history. He whinges about atrocities professing Christians in the past who were acting contrary to Christ’s teachings, but tries to explain away the crimes of atheists persecuting non-atheists acting consistently with atheism and evolutionary ‘survival of the fittest’.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hi Sammy,

    I really struggle to understand where you are coming from – do you honestly think that God is going to be subject to the laws of nature?

    Do you think that God has to figure out an additional way of convincing you for His existence to be true?

    I can only imagine God fretting about how to meet your demands. Not.

    Mark Rabich

  • Damien Spillare: People always stay focused on the science when debating evolutionary theory. What is forgotten is just how significant the philosophical objections to evolution are.

    Evolution is a scientific theory. Any philosophical objections to evolution one may have do not undercut it in any fashion. The fact remains that biological organisms evolve over time as a result of random mutation and natural selection.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Ewan McDonald: Sammy, you are just being pedantic. I know as well as you what is the technical term for life from non-life. The broadly accepted definition of biological evolution most certainly does include the field of abiogenesis so my statement stands.

    Broadly accepted by whom?

    The miracle abiogenesis aside, evolution can’t even explain the diversity of life anyway since it has no mechanism to explain how information in the genome has increased from the alleged single cell of first life.

    Copying errors (mutations) can increase information.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Sammy is ignorant of the fact that many leaders in the origin of life field use the term chemical evolution.

    “Abiogenesis” seems more like a Talk.Obnoxious popularization to avoid dealing with this intractable issue for the materialists.

    Yes, origin of life researchers use the term chemical evolution. Not biological evolution. Scientists investigating the origin of life use the term chemical evolution (or chemosynthesis) when hypothesising how life developed from non-life. You can put all the “scare quotes” around it that you like, but this doesn’t change the fact ‘abiogenesis’ is commonly used to refer to this concept.

    CMI employs several Ph.D. biologists, for his information. Far better than the computer programmers who write a lot of Talk.Obnoxious agitprop.

    And did the CMI biologists acquire their doctorates by doing creation science or biology? Have they published any scientific research supporting creationism in reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals? And if a random sample of the world’s Ph.D. qualified biologists were asked to review Talk Origins and the CMI website, which website do you think they would recommend to non-biologists for information about evolution?

    Sammy also doesn’t understand the logic of comparative history. He whinges about atrocities professing Christians in the past who were acting contrary to Christ’s teachings, but tries to explain away the crimes of atheists persecuting non-atheists acting consistently with atheism…

    I ask again – what tenet(s) of atheism was Stalin following when he embarked on his campaign of mass murder? And what authoritative text, as recognised by atheists, is it found in?

    …and evolutionary ’survival of the fittest’.

    Evolution is descriptive, not prescriptive. It’s a scientific theory which explains biology. It explains how things are, not how they should be. ‘Is’ does not imply ‘ought’.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Thanks Sammy

    You are once again talking scientism here, not science. The idea that science and philosophy are somehow two separate spheres is of course not a scientific claim, but a philosophical one. All science is based upon numerous scientifically-unproven philosophical assumptions. These include the assumption that a physical (and mind-independent) world exists; that the laws of logic are reliable and universal; that nature is generally uniform and capable of observation and study, and so on.

    Scientism refuses to admit that we all bring our own biases and philosophical assumptions to any scientific quest. Michael Polanyi, Karl Popper and many others have pointed out the absurdity of denying personal beliefs in the endeavours of science.

    Your scientism and naturalism are simply showing again, big time. Your intellectual hubris could be toned down if you took the time to read some of these great philosophers of science, instead of dogmatically pushing your faith in materialism and scientism. But people with dogmatic faith commitments seldom let evidence and reason stand in the way of their belief systems.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Sammy misses the point. In an issue of SciAm devoted to evolution, one of the first chapters was about chemical evolution. So origin of life theories are part of the ‘General Theory of Evolution’ (GTE, defined by the evolutionist G.A. Kerkut of Southampton Uni as ‘the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form.’ (Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, p. 157, 1960)

    For Sammy’s info, the creationist biologists at CMI all earned their doctorates at secular universities for researches in biology. This is easy enough to find out, e.g. Creationist qualifications. So CMI is far better equipped than Talk. Obnoxious where many biological articles are written by compuer programmers.

    Sammy’s ilk has no hesitation in blaming Christianity for various things, without showing that any of these were part of the teachings of Christ. But they whitewash atrocities by atheists acting consistently with their atheistic belief that we are just rearranged pond scum, so are entitled to practise “survival of the fittest” which brought us into existence.

    Indeed, under atheism, there is no reason to say that they were wrong. Compare A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion by Craig Palmer and Randy Thornhill (MIT Press), which argues that rape is a product of evolution that helps men spread their genes. Watch how Palmer squirms in this interview to justify the wrongness of rape under his own evolutionary worldview.

    Note that my argument is not that atheists cannot live ‘good’ lives, but that there is no objective basis for their goodness if we are just rearranged pond scum.

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Thanks again Sammy

    You are right to say that “is does not imply ‘ought’”, but you are wrong to assume therefore that ‘is does not lead to ought’. There is a very solid tradition of the ‘is’ of evolution leading to some radical ‘oughts’. On an individual level, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer could rightly ask what was wrong with killing, if there is no ultimate meaning or purpose in life, and we are just here by accident.

    On a broader scale, Richard Weikart rightly shows how Darwin’s position leads in a very real way to eugenics, racism and Hitler’s final solution (From Darwin to Hitler, 2004). Many other commentators have noticed the very real connection between materialistic Darwinism and social Darwinism of all sorts. Most recently political historian John West has noted how despite Darwin’s anxiety about it all, social Darwinism flows very naturally from his worldview (Darwin Day in America, 2007).

    A worldview that emphasises the survival of the fittest, and argues that we are simply survival machines, has little to say to dissuade either a Hitler or a Dahmer. Indeed, many of the world’s great killers of the past 100 years used Darwin and philosophical naturalism to justify their blood-letting.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Dear Sammy,

    Thankyou for your link regarding the evolution of language. I found it somewhat interesting, but I was struck mainly by the sheer speculative nature of the theories mentioned. None of them can be supported by any evidence (as you say, language does not fossilize). To address the gestural theory specifically, I found that there are many obstacles that have been totally glossed over.

    How did the primates that began using hand signals already have the cognitive ability to generate meaningful signals, and also the cognitive ability to interpret the meaning of signals coming from another primate? How did primates which first started using sounds to substitute for hand signals obtain the relevant anatomy (eg vocal chords) for making sounds, and at the same time obtain the cognitive ability to generate such sounds with meaning? Moreover, how did these same primates also come to have the relevant anatomy for hearing such sounds (eg middle ear canal, cochlea, auditory brainstem etc)? And how did these same primates also obtain the cognitive ability to process the signals from the hearing anatomy in a way that they could actually interpret them as sound, and with some kind of meaning?

    As I said, these issues are totally glossed over, as though they pose no challenge (or in the faith that somebody else will overcome the challenge purely because we “know” that evolution happened, so there WILL be a reasonable explanation for all this eventually).

    I know this seems to be getting a bit off the topic of this thread, but I felt that I needed to challenge your assertion that animals are only different from humans (ie that we have culture/religion and they don’t) because we have developed language and they have not. At the moment I feel that you have to make your assertion from a position of faith in the “fact” of evolution, and not on any reasonable evidence or theory. That sounds more philosophical than scientific to me.

    Regards,
    Mathew Markey

  • BM: You are right to say that “is does not imply ‘ought’”, but you are wrong to assume therefore that ‘is does not lead to ought’. There is a very solid tradition of the ‘is’ of evolution leading to some radical ‘oughts’.

    If someone observes what is (evolution by random mutation and natural selection) and comes to the conclusion that in light of this fact they should engage in a murderous campaign, what it shows is this person’s inability to reason. It says nothing of the validity of the theory of evolution.

    On an individual level, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer could rightly ask what was wrong with killing, if there is no ultimate meaning or purpose in life, and we are just here by accident.

    And anyone capable of the most basic level of reasoning should be able to tell him what’s wrong with killing people. Incidentally, if someone said “Jeff, you cant kill people because there is an ultimate meaning and purpose in life.”, do you think he would have changed his tune?

    A worldview that emphasises the survival of the fittest, and argues that we are simply survival machines, has little to say to dissuade either a Hitler or a Dahmer.

    Evolution isn’t a worldview, it’s a scientific theory. It explains biology, it doesn’t instruct people how to live or how to run a society. It’s no more a worldview than the theory of relativity.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Thanks Mathew

    The atheists and Darwinists of course do not want to admit to any major differences between humans and animals. While there are some physiological similarities, there are also great differences. Animals may be able to attain a limited vocabulary (with human help), but they cannot ask philosophical questions or deal with abstractions. Nor are they able to appreciate beauty, have a sense of the transcendent, use complex tools, have an awareness of time (past, present and future), and so on.

    But such evidences matter little to those who are pushing an agenda: in this case, to argue that both humans and animals are part of a great evolutionary march, with nothing unique or special about humans.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “Evolution is a scientific theory. Any philosophical objections to evolution one may have do not undercut it in any fashion. The fact remains that biological organisms evolve over time as a result of random mutation and natural selection.”

    Evolution’s being a “scientific theory” does not preclude philosophical objections. For science to even begin it presupposes certain philosophical insights, such as the orderliness of the universe, the existence of the external world, the reliability of inductive reasoning. Thus science is predicated on philosophy in many ways. Philosophy just details the broader picture from within which science acts.

    Thus science is not immune from philosophical objections. This misconception arises because many in science today are ignorant of philosophy in general.

    Damien Spillane

  • Thanks Sammy

    Your quaint yet blind faith in human reason alone to solve every problem and be the supreme arbiter of what is right and wrong is as naive as it is foolish. I remind you that one of the most cultured, civilised and educated nations on earth (Germany in the 1930s) saw fit with their primary reliance on reason to support Hitler and the Nazis, and unleash World War II.

    Indeed, some of the most amoral and immoral proposals and actions of the past several centuries have been undertaken by our enlightened reason-only secular elites. Of course the idea that we can abandon God and revelation, and through reason alone come to all truth and all morality is the Enlightenment ideal. Unfortunately the last century, which has been our most secular century, has also been our most bloody century on earth.

    It is the secular worldview, intent on bringing a coerced utopia on earth, whether it be through the Marxian New Man or Nietzsche’s Uberman, that have ranked among the most immoral and violent visions yet unleashed on this planet.

    Secularism and atheism are worldviews which have consequences. Unfortunately bad ideas have bad consequences, and we have seen far too much of the ugly consequences of the ideas so strongly championed by the secualrists.

    And you continue to either be ignorant of the literature or deliberately deceptive here. It is the Neo-Darwinian camp itself that proudly proclaims the worldview implications of their beliefs. Consider just one of many quotes here:

    “The Darwinian revolution was not merely the replacement of one scientific theory by another, but rather the replacement of a worldview in which the supernatural was accepted as a normal and relevant explanatory principle by a new worldview in which there was no room for supernatural forces.” (Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr)

    And yes Dahmer did eventually change his tune, and repented of his crimes after becoming a Christian. He realised the ugliness of his secular, Darwinian worldview, and how incompatible it was with Biblical Christianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • BM: Your quaint yet blind faith in human reason alone to solve every problem and be the supreme arbiter of what is right and wrong is as naive as it is foolish.

    I’ve never suggested human reasoning is infallible. I do, however, think it’s the best way to solve problems and determine right and wrong. It’s certainly superior to abandoning our critical faculties and blindly adhering to ancient religious texts.

    I remind you that one of the most cultured, civilised and educated nations on earth (Germany in the 1930s) saw fit with their primary reliance on reason to support Hitler and the Nazis, and unleash World War II.

    That the Nazi’s offered reasons for what they did does not in any way invalidate reasoning as a method for determining right and wrong. Hitler and his doctrines were unreasonable in the extreme. By the way, can I just say that it’s quite interesting to watch someone try and use reasoning to cast doubt on the validity of reason.

    Indeed, some of the most amoral and immoral proposals and actions of the past several centuries have been undertaken by our enlightened reason-only secular elites.

    What was reasonable about the actions of Stalin, Hitler Mao…?

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Accoring to Irrational Atheist by “Vox Day”:

    * More than 93 percent of all the wars in human history had no relation to religion
    * The Spanish Inquisition had no jurisdiction over professed Jews, Muslims or atheists, and executed fewer people on an annual basis than the state of Texas
    * Atheists are 3.84 times more likely to be imprisoned than Christians
    * “Red” state crime is primarily committed in “Blue” counties
    * Sexually abused girls are 55 times more likely to commit suicide than girls raised Catholic
    * In the twentieth century, atheistic regimes killed three times more people in peacetime than those killed in all the wars and individual crimes combined

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • Hello Sammy
    I feel that your arguments are based on intellectual theory and not on fact.
    In the society that we live in the Laws are based on Christo/Judeo ethics.
    I have spent some time overseas in a country whose laws are based on the theories that you espouse.
    I can assure you that intellectual concepts do not work, it has only brought fear and mass corruption to the society.
    People need and crave boundaries not airy fairy ideas.
    Jim Sturla

  • Thanks Sammy

    But all the tyrants thought they were being perfectly reasonable in their mass slaughters. Indeed, Hitler’s Final Solution was perfectly logical and reasonable given his worldview. The ideological road to the Holocaust came fairly directly from Darwin via Nietzsche. Do not forget the subtitle of Darwin’s classic: “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. The Nazi experiment was fully reasonable in view of such thinking. It made perfect sense and most educated Germans at the time agreed with the logic of it all.

    Sorry, but reason alone will not cut it. Who decides who is reasonable and who isn’t? You? 51 per cent of the population? Scientists? Lenin and Stalin thought they were being perfectly reasonable as well. Your secularism simply leaves your feet firmly planted in mid-air when it comes to morality. Without an absolute, universal and unchanging basis for ethics, there is no way to argue that Hitler’s ethics were inferior to Mother Teresa’s.

    No one is arguing that we should be un-reasonable when it comes to ethical reflection. But reason alone is clearly not enough. Unless there is an objective standard of morality, we are simply left with moral subjectivism and relativism.

    And let me call you bluff on “ancient religious texts”. Are you now arguing that simply because something has been around for a long time that it is no longer of any value? And why are you assuming that something new is somehow superior to something that is older? That is simply chronological snobbery, and has nothing to do with rational debate.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The ideological road to the Holocaust came fairly directly from Darwin via Nietzsche. Do not forget the subtitle of Darwin’s classic: “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”.

    Do not forget that “race” as used by Darwin, and naturalists of his time, meant distinct populations within species. In fact, The Origin of Species hardly mentions humans at all.

    Sammy Jankis, London UK

  • Dear Sammy,

    Since the debate has now turned to your appeal to “reason” (you said: “And anyone capable of the most basic level of reasoning should be able to tell him what’s wrong with killing people”), I now ask you to be consistent with yourself and tell me how the stories about how language evolved satisfy any standard “reasoning” test (they certainly don’t pass my standard). I guess they can’t because there is no such thing as standardised reasoning. One person’s “reasoning” could be another’s foolishness. And yet you seem to put your faith in human reason to solve moral problems (eg why serial murder is wrong, or why Hitler and Stalin’s actions were unreasonable).

    I have to ask you (to paraphrase C.S. Lewis) – if the thoughts that occur in your mind (or should I say brain, because what is a “mind” in the evolutionary framework, really?) are just the result of a long series of evolutionary accidents (and the same applies for me), why should we even try to reason with each other? On what basis can you justify the use of reasoning to solve moral problems or conduct debates when there is no basis (in the evolutionary framework) to even trust in such reason, let alone understand how it is possible that it exists?

    I am not trying to throw reasoning out the window here – of course I believe that the human ability to reason with the mind is amazing. But I also know that human reasoning is fallible. My understanding of this is consistent with my belief that we were created by God. He created humans with the ability to reason, and also the freedom to choose their own actions. It is this freedom which opened the door for the first humans to sin – the consequences of which was a fallen creation (if things were left perfect, then it would not be possible for us to be punished with death). And that is where the fallibility comes in.

    But where is the consistency in your position here? Somehow you have to justify that human reasoning just happened by evolutionary accident while at the same time using such accidental “reasoning” in your justification. It doesn’t sound reasonable to me. Please correct me if I’m wrong about what you think here, I certainly don’t mean to put up a straw man to knock down – but if I am wrong, I would be very interested to know what the consistent and reasoned response would be.

    Regards,
    Mathew Markey

  • Thanks Sammy

    But with all due respect, each new post from you shows how far out of your depth you are, or how far you are willing to distort the truth to push your agenda. Darwin in fact said quite a lot about people in his various writings, which need to be taken as a whole. For example, in The Descent of Man he made it clear how his theory directly applied to humans. He said, “the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man”. He also clearly believed in the racial superiority of the white Europeans over other races, something Hitler found to be quite helpful. Darwin said that sometime soon, “the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world”. This is eugenics and racism pure and simple, very handily put to use by the Nazis.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi All,

    This website with all its contents is great. Thanks to all for contributing. Here is a contribution I would like to make.

    I think back to my school days and the science class being taught ‘evolution’ and how it important it was because of the answers it provided for the origins of life. You don’t need a PhD to understand the effect it had on my ‘worldview’.

    Jump forward many years to about 2006. I unknowingly started a journey that to this day I am still somewhat shocked and amazed to have begun. It all started with me finding myself reading an article about the issue of Macro Evolution and the problems with the Darwinian model.

    It was a most interesting read in itself but it caused me to seek from others what their understanding of evolution was, whether their worldview could be labelled loosely as atheistic, theistic or some variant of and to what extent did they think evolution was a factor in that worldview.

    I started to read more widely than ever before and found myself exploring all manner of literature in the areas of – origins of life theory, evolution (in all its forms) cosmology, astrophysics and then naturally to the issue of science, religion and philosophy.

    In short, my own investigation has caused me to defect from naturalism. I no longer maintain my ‘Darwinian worldview’. Somewhat ironic in the face of much of the claims made in discussions on religion and science. But to do so I concede would take a lot of ‘blind faith’ on my part. I’ve read about the ‘God of the Gaps’ theory, but the term ‘Evolution of the Gaps’ seems quite sensible.

    When I looked at the body of evidence/data that I had collected on the origins of life, nature of man, logic, aesthetics, mind, laws of physic and mathematics (to name a few) and compared contrasting worldviews, I couldn’t get away from the Judaeo-Christian worldview being the most cogent of arguments. It took some getting used to.

    I’ve become very interested in the swathe of books published by such atheistic authors as Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris etc and theistic authors such as Mcgrath, D’souza, Craig etc. I’m sure most would be aware that there is a very healthy debating scene that occurs mainly in university campuses across North America between many of these authors. They are very entertaining but unfortunately due to time constraints there tends to be the lack emphasis that gets placed on properly defining buzz words like – ‘faith’, ‘logic’, ‘reason’ and ‘religion’.

    A great resource I stumbled upon is the work of http://www.apologetics.com, whose stated mission to challenge ‘believers to think, and thinkers to believe’. Check out the podcasts of their radio show that are available from the website and from itunes.

    A new topic is discussed each week and people call in and provide their views which are also discussed. These guys are astute, well educated apologists who are able to articulate their views on a broad range of issues relevant to the society in which we live.

    Lee Strobel’s books – The Case for a Creator, The Case for Chris and The Case for Faith provided a great source of information and the references included provided for some great reading worth of any thorough investigation.

    I also recommend http://reasons.org (all about science) and http://tothesource.org/ for some interesting reading.

    As a famous man once said “The truth is much more interesting”, how right he was.

    Regards

    Tim Jones

  • Thanks Tim
    Yes those are all quite helpful sites indeed. A little while ago a put together a small list of some of the better sites:

    Organisations

    Breakpoint
    http://www.pfm.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=BreakPoint1
    Christian Worldview Network
    http://www.christianworldviewnetwork.com/
    Leadership U
    http://www.leaderu.com/index.html
    Probe Ministries
    http://www.probe.org/
    Stand to Reason
    http://www.str.org/index.htm
    Summit Ministries
    http://www.summit.org/
    Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
    http://www.rzim.org/

    Individuals

    John Ankerberg
    http://www.johnankerberg.com/
    Francis Beckwith
    http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/Menu3.html
    J. Budziszewski
    http://www.origins.org/pjohnson/pjohnson.html
    William Lane Craig
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/index.html
    Doug Groothuis
    http://www.gospelcom.net/ivpress/groothuis/doug/
    Philip Johnson
    http://www.origins.org/pjohnson/pjohnson.html
    J.P. Moreland
    http://www.afterall.net/citizens/moreland/

    Regards
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • That’s a pretty good review, though, despite it being well-written I would strongly disagree about the strength of David Marshall’s book. I’ve done an extensive review of it and I found many errors – some very glaring ones.

    I did not find one argument that Marshall made to be persuasive and I found that two of the worst chapters were the two in which he attempted [but failed miserably] to show that Richard Dawkins does not want parents to teach their kids religion and that atheism was responsible for communism, and evolution responsible for Nazism.

    There are many facts which handily refute his book.

    Personally, I liked David Aikman’s, The Delusion of Disbelief, better. While his arguments were bad (though not as bad as Marshall’s) Aikman’s book was much better written and Aikman utilized various “facts” (though I would use this term very loosely) to prove his points, while Marshall insisted on using “arguments from authority” continuously, but rarely gave any actual evidence for his claims.

    Kenneth Foshee, USA

  • Thanks Kenneth

    Yes, I found the Aikman volume to be a good book. There are others as well that could be recommended.

    As to your concern about “actual evidence,” well we have to be careful here. There are in fact different kinds of evidence, as there are varieties of proof. One type of evidence which may be appropriate in one area may not at all be appropriate in another.

    For example, the sort of evidence needed in a court of law may not at all be the sort of evidence needed in another situation. The same with the notion of “proof”. Again, a court of law cannot demand absolute proof (very few things in life can be proven absolutely), but will ask for “the preponderance of the evidence,” or will seek to make “a reasonable case”, etc.

    And different fields will require different sorts of investigations. Historical proofs will differ from scientific proofs, and so on. Indeed, different types of reasoning will lead to different degrees of certainty. While deductive reasoning offers absolute proof (as in mathematical or geometrical proofs), inductive reasoning offers only a high degree of certainty (as in scientific proofs).

    So it partly depends on what is being discussed and investigated, and what sort of evidence will qualify as being supportive or otherwise.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I completely agree about different kinds of evidence for various kinds of claims, but to give two specific examples of this lack of proof is when Marshall states that “[w]hile documents have not been found, many church officials say he instructed them to aid jews to escape the Holocaust” and that it is “disputed” whether or not pope pius XII saved 700,000 – 800,000 jews in the Holocaust.

    Where is the proof? He is using hearsay evidence. I would not consider this good evidence. He even admits there are no documents in support of this claims.

    In another part of the book Marshall quotes a few scientists saying that it would be practically impossible for DNA to just begin to assemble itself (if memory serves I think this is what was being discussed). Considering there are just as many scientists who would disagree and state some hypothetical scenarios [at the website Science Daily they sometimes have articles detailing recent findings about this subject] in which this could take place, it’s clear that this issue is not as open and shut as Marshall makes it appear.

    Kenneth Foshee

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