The Teleological Argument

October 22, 2011

The Teleological Argument or the Argument to Design is another argument attempting proof of God’s existence based upon the premise that the universe is designed, and therefore needs a designer:  God.  The argument has also been called Intelligent Design (ID) by the newer generation of Christian apologists.

The beginning ideas of a argument for design began around 400- 300 b.c. with thinkers like Socrates and Aristotle.  The first Teleological arguments had its classical Christian roots back in the 3rd and 4th century with Thomas Aquinas in his greatest work Summa Theologica.

In the early 19th century William Paley illustrated a watch maker analogy that is still used today as an example.  A summary of his analogy is as follows: Think about the complexity of a pocket watch.  All the tiny gears, and parts that are inside it that are perfectly sized and fit together to form a watch that tells time accurately.  It is a complex machine that was designed by a designer.  Would you imagine placing all the individual parts to the pocket watch in a bag and shaking them up randomly and then one day as you are shaking them up they fall into place and fit together to form a perfectly working pocket watch.

Any time you see specified complexity and intelligibility in the physical word you automatically assume a designer was behind it.  While it is of course possible, over a billions of years that after shaking a bag full of watch parts that they could fall into place and form a perfectly working pocket watch, your first instinct would be that someone designed it to be that way.   Apologist Ravi Zacharias uses the following illustration:  Imagine you go into space and visit a planet that you have never been to before.  Upon arrival you see a note on the planet that says “Hello John.  I’ve been waiting for you, what took you so long?”  You would never in a million years assume that letter appeared by random chance.

Over the last half century the Teleological Argument has been often misrepresented by some theists with examples that have not stood the advancement of science.  This comes from assumptions from theists that try to explain unanswered scientific questions in biology.  Those of us who hold a theistic worldview need to be careful when we try to say that something cannot be explained any more, and therefore God must have designed it.  Advancements on science can make theists look ignorant or weaken the Teleological Argument.

For example Darwin was intrigued by the complexity of the human eye.  After studying the eye, Darwin saw no way that the eye could have evolved given the fact that in order for the eye to function properly it would need all the separate parts (pupal, retina, lens, optic nerve, etc. ) working together.  In other words, why would the eye start to evolve if there was no benefit of sight yet.  Christians were quick to jump on this type of example and say that the irreducible complexity of the eye, among other examples, was proof that God was the only was possible designer of these complex systems.   Recent scientific discoveries have given us answers that we thought were not answerable.   I will revisit the subject of irreducible complexity in a separate post and  go into more details.

There are however, better areas to use the Teleological argument in besides biology.  They are much more solid in the defense of a intelligent designer.  We will look at the Teleological Argument within the universe,  within  DNA, and within the laws of the universe  in sub-sequential posts over the next few posts.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

Is Humanity Determined or Do We Have Free Will?

October 21, 2011

DominosAs the title above asks  the question, is humanity determined or do we have free will?    The question might seem rather silly, and you may think you know the answer very quickly.  But, it is a very important question to answer, because Determinism is a natural outflow of Darwinian evolution.  We will look at the definitions and then discuss whether naturalists are actually living by what they believe.  By naturalist, I mean someone who holds a philosophical viewpoint according to which everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.  In naturalism there are no God or gods, no miracles, hidden forces that drive the universe, no souls or spirits, no inspired scripture or prophecies.   Just physical stuff that operates according to physical laws.

Determinism – The teaching that every event in the universe is caused and controlled by natural law.  Everything we say, do, and think has been predetermined by evolution and encoded into our DNA.

Free Will – The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion

Are we Really Free?  Think about it, can we choose to hold the door open for someone, can we choose to love someone, can we make decisions based on intellect, reason,  and emotion?  I have found that in my discussions with naturalists that they want to claim that everything is determined, but only to a certain extent.  They claim that they can rise up above their predetermined selves and become free.   This is not how determinism works though, it’s either all or nothing with determinism.  Let me illustrate my statement with an example used by Greg Koukl of why it is either all or nothing.

It’s like a series of dominoes falling. When any particular thing happens in the physical universe we ask ourselves what was the domino before it that caused it? And what was the domino before that? You can chart that. This just points out that all physical systems are deterministic. Every single action is determined, brought by a prior physical action. Science is the discipline that is meant to discover those prior physical conditions so that if we recreate the prior physical conditions, if we set up the dominoes in the exact same way, they are going to fall in exactly the same way every single time.

Picture in your mind two lines of dominoes that are falling. And at the end of the line of dominoes is not another domino, but there is actually a human being, a person standing there right next to a cliff. What happens when the last domino falls and lands on our poor unsuspecting person at the end of the line of dominoes? Well, low and behold, just as every domino has fallen up until then, the last domino strikes the human being and he falls too, right over the cliff. Now, here is my question. Given that scenario, did that person jump off the cliff? The answer is no, of course not. He was pushed. What was he pushed by? A falling domino, a big one, adequate to shove him over the cliff.

Now, what if the person who fell over the cliff actually thought he jumped on his own. perhaps because he didn’t see the dominoes. Would he have done just as he thought? The answer is, of course no. The guy thought he jumped over the precipice but it was really a domino that pushed him.

On the physicalist view of the universe, everything is dominoes, whether you see them or not. Whether they are outside or inside, everything is dominoes. Sometimes we think we are jumping, but the fact is we are not. Instead, he fell because of prior physical conditions that were sufficient to cause the effect of us jumping one way or another. We are always pushed if there are only physical causes in the universe.

Determinism makes everything in life neither true or false, but just as the way things are determined to be.  The next time you get into a conversation with a person who believes in determinism, just simple remind them that according to their view, they are no more right in their belief of determinism as you are in your belief in free will and they are just wasting your time because after all, things are just as they were determined to think, say, and do.

Think about how we operate in life.  We do not live our lives by the rules of determinism, even the naturalists.  We have an internal barometer that helps us discern right from wrong and we make decisions based on that.  Our court system, like all others, is based on the premise that we are accountable for our actions.  Have you ever known anyone to be pronounced innocent based on the plea of determinism.  “Your honor and jury, I am innocent because it was my DNA that made me do it…”  Anyone who believes in determinism but doesn’t live their life like they belief is just being intellectually dishonest.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.

Defining Terms: Entropy, Heat Death, and the Cosmological Constant

October 15, 2011

Cleaning up a few loose ends with some terms that I used in my Cosmological argument post a few days ago.  Boring, I know, but there is a method to my madness.

Cosmological Constant – a constant term used for the rate of expansion of the universe.  It is based on several factors including the relativistic equations for gravity.

Entropy – Entropy has many different definitions depending on what science you are discussing from statistical mechanics, physical chemistry, or classical thermodynamics.  What I was referring to was associated with classical thermodynamics was  the relationship between heat and mechanical energy or work, and the conversion of one into the other.

Heat Death – after entropy has reached its maximum and zero energy is available,  according to the laws of thermodynamics the material universe is apparently winding down and approaching heat death.

A great example  of entropy and heat death is a cup of hot coffee.    After you load all the ingredients in the coffee maker and press the start button  You have the coffee that is kept hot by the heat element under the pot.  The coffee pot is made to keep the heat a constant by using energy from the plug.    If the coffee maker is unplugged or the coffee is poured into a cup entropy will have reached its maximum.  The coffee comes out of the pot hot, but if you leave the cup of coffee, it is no longer being keep at a constant temperature by energy used in the pot.  Without any usable energy the coffee if left alone with slowly lose heat and cool down to the same temperature of the room or environment that it is in.  The coffee has then reached heat death.

Objections to the Cosmological Argument

October 13, 2011

Talk to the hand!

In my last post I introduced the Cosmological Argument to you and in this post I want to address some objections or questions that may come up from those you share with.  If you missed the Cosmological Argument click here to read it first.

The most likely response to the Cosmological Argument that you may get is a question, “Who made God?”   This is a key question in Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion.    Apologist Sean McDowell notes “While rhetorically powerful, this objection misses the point of the argument.  The claim is not that everything has a cause.  Rather, everything that begins to exist has a cause.”  Think about it, if God was caused, then you would have an infinite regress without a beginning.  Remember our conclusion from the last post.

Since the universe is physical, finite in space, has a beginning, and slowly running out of energy we can then say the cause had to be outside the physical, (i.e. non-physical) infinite, timeless, changeless, and powerful.  Sounds a little like the God the Bible describes.

While this doesn’t point to a particular God, like that of the Bible, the character traits that are given this creator/beginner are the same as the God of the Bible.  God is non-physical, infinite, timeless, changeless, and powerful.  This type of being does not need a cause.

Another objection you might hear from someone is that the universe caused itself to come into existence without the aid of anything outside itself.  This is as it sounds, absurd.  It that were possible, why wouldn’t other things come into existence all by themselves also?  Why don’t we have people or basketballs randomly appearing in the universe?  The laws of nature cannot explain how this might be, this is the ultimate magicians rabbit out of the hat trick.

One last objection to the Cosmological Argument might be to the premise that the universe does not have a beginning.  Someone may want to challenge your statement that you make on a beginning.  They may point out that the recent work of Stephen Hawking, a brilliant Astrophysicist and mathematician.   Hawking says that the beginning of the universe can be avoided because time has been rounded off at the final moments before the Big Bang Singularity.  The way that Hawking got this to work in mathematical equations was with the use of imaginary numbers combined with Einsteins equations.  Unfortunately these numbers do not work out when you replace the imaginary numbers with real numbers in real life.  “But if the universe can be eternal and uncaused,” as Sean McDowell states “then why can’t God?”   What is most unreasonable is to suppose that the universe arose, uncaused from nothing.

As always, questions, comments, discussions are welcome.  If you can think of any other objects feel free to post them in a comment.

Starting at the Beginning

October 12, 2011

It’s time to start looking at the evidence and reasons for having a Christian worldview.  Before you can look at the Bible and Evidence that supports Christianity, we need to step back and look at the evidence  and reasons that point to the existence of a God or gods first.  After we show support for the existence of a God, then we will move toward the evidence for Christianity.    A good place to start would be at the beginning.

As Christians we know the universe and the world had a beginning.  The first verse in the Bible says “In [the] Beginning God created [the] heavens and [the] earth” – Genesis 1:1.  (I put accents around the word “the”  because in the Hebrew language,  in which it was written in there was not a definite article.  It is added to make it easier to read.)  So we believe according to the Bible that the universe had a beginning.  According to the law of non-contradiction, the universe either had a beginning or it did not, both cannot be correct.  So, is there any evidence or reasons that we can point to that support the claim in the Bible?  There are!

The first argument we will look at is called the Cosmological Argument or also know as the Argument for a Creator or The First Cause.  It is also called the Kalām Cosmological Argument, because it is related to Islamic theologians of the Kalām tradition in Medieval times.  The origins of the Cosmological argument go all the way back to Aristotle in which he called it The Prime Mover. I’m sure he wasn’t the first to think about the beginning though, just the earliest we can trace back in writings.  Thomas Aquinas who lived in the 3rd century wrote extensively about it in Summa Theologica, perhaps his greatest work.

The Cosmological Argument is a philosophical argument that is based on the Principal of Causality and states the following 4 premises and conclusions:

  1. Premise: Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
  2. Premise: The universe had  a beginning.
  3. Conclusion: The universe had a cause.
  4. Conclusion: The cause of the universe is a personal, uncaused, non-physical being, we call God.

Think about cause and effect that you learned about in school.  Every Effect that happens had a cause that made it come to be.  If you imagine a row of domino’s that are lined up one in front of the other.  You push the first domino down and it falls into the next domino in the row, which in turn causes the second domino to fall on the 3rd domino in the row, and so on and so on.   If you were to look at the reverse order of the domino’s you can trace back each effect to a cause before it.  For example, What caused the 10th domino to fall, it was pushed by the 9th Domino.   What caused the 9th Domino to fall?  It was pushed by the 8th Domino.  You can trace them all the way back to the first domino.  What caused the first domino to fall?  We can see it wasn’t another domino.  What or Who caused the first domino to fall?  In the example, the person did.  Whenever you are tracing back a line of cause and effect relationships and an effect cannot be explained by a “what” it must be a “who” that caused it.

Now if we look at our two premises from above and examine them we will see how solid the Cosmological argument is.  Premise 1: Everything that has a beginning has a cause.  We have never observed something that began that did not have a cause in the history of modern man.  Anyone would be crazy not to accept that premise.  The second premise is a little harder, but we do have scientific evidence for premise 2: The universe had a beginning.  Here are the details.

1. The universe is winding down.  The cosmological constant (the expansion rate of the universe) shows us that the universe is gradually getting bigger and spreading out further and further from itself.  It is slowing down to a point of entropy.  (where all energy will equalize and come to rest, think of coffee cooling off in a mug slowly over time or a coin that is tossed and eventually comes to rest.)  If you follow the motion of the stars and galaxies backward they lead to a point where they all come together at a starting point.  Common sense would tell you that in order for the universe to wind down, it must have been first wound up by something or someone.

2. Philosophically, if there were no beginning of the universe, then we would not be here in the present.  Imagine a number line and trying to count to 0 from a negative infinity.  You can’t do it.

3. The natural sciences have a problem when it comes to matter.  Where did matter come from?  No matter how you back up the tape of time and divide and section the physical material world, you always have the same problem as you did before, where did that matter come from, what caused the matter to ‘be’?  You can look at atomic and sub-atomic particles and still ask where they came from.

Even the Big Bang Singularity states that there was a beginning of the universe.  Darwinian evolutionists know this and they are frantically looking for a way around the scientific evidence that they have now.  Steven Hawking, in his latest book, The Grand Design, has come up with a theory where the universe has no beginning.  Unfortunately, it is all done on mathematical models and imaginary numbers, and doesn’t pan out in the real world.  It even involves alternate universes and mini-universes!    It really goes to show you that they would rather accept a theory of the absurd, one like Hawking’s, rather than to accepted the Divine “foot in the door” evidence of a creator.   They so desperately want the universe to not have a cause, because they know the evidence of a cause will shut the door on their atheistic view of the universe.  I will come back to Hawking’s theory and others in a future post.

The Cosmological Argument gives us 5 specific traits of the first cause of the universe.  Since the universe is physical, finite in space, has a beginning, and slowly running out of energy we can then say the cause had to be outside the physical, (i.e. non-physical) infinite, timeless, changeless, and powerful.  Sounds a little like the God the Bible describes.

My next post will discuss some objections about the Cosmological Argument.  In the next weeks we will look at other arguments that point to a theistic worldview.  As always, questions, comments, discussions welcome.

Building a Firm Case for Christianity

October 4, 2011

Once you know what people believe  you will know where to start building a firm case for a Christian worldview.   If you missed the Conversational apologetics post I suggest you read it.  It will help you discover what people believe, or what worldview they have.  As a disciple of Christ we all know that it is our responsibility to share the Gospel of Jesus with those who ask us about our faith.   You may even have the desire to do so, and have been preparing for an opportunity to do so when the chance comes.  Where do you start?  Should you take a straight path to the cross?  Should you share Bible verses with them?  While it is never wrong to share the message of the cross with anyone, there may be a few other helpful points to consider as you began building your case for Christianity.

If you look at the illustration below, it shows you the progression that it takes to hold a Christian worldview.  You cannot hold a Christian worldview until you move from an atheist position.   Similarly, you cannot hold a Christian worldview, until  you know what type of theistic position you hold.  Do you believe in one God (monotheistic), more than one god (polytheistic), God is in everything (pantheistic), etc…  Likewise, you will have difficulty trying to convince someone that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if they don’t believe that a God or gods exist.  The same way someone will have difficulty with the claim that Jesus is God, if they don’t trust the Bible as a reliable source.

As you talk and ask questions to others about what they believe you will discover what they believe and where they are in the progression above.   Then you will know where to start with helping them along the way towards a Biblical worldview.  A friend of mine, Chris Sherrod, who teaches apologetics and has been published in several books uses an illustration of a set of pillars to show how the different evidence builds upon more evidence to provide a solid case for Christianity.

Building a Case for Christianity

Over the next weeks and months we will begin to break down the 4 pillars above and examine the evidence that God has given us.
As always, questions, comments, and discussions are welcome.

Why I believe

September 28, 2011

Why I BelieveStarting off from the gate I want to summarize why I believe, what I believe about the existence of God and my faith in the Christian God of the Bible, and His incarnate name given in the New Testament, Jesus.  This blog is meant to be a general one and I will spend the next months and years breaking it out piece by piece so that it can be swallowed and enjoyed bit by bit.

After studying many of the worldviews through books, articles, talking with people in person, I have concluded that my Christian world view is the most comprehensive, complete, and logical worldview of all the many different worldviews including atheism.  While it still holds some difficulties and challenges, it stands tall over all the other worldviews.  In no particular order, here is Why I Believe…

1. Faith.  Yes Faith, there is a dual definition of faith floating out in the sea of apologetics, in short a blind faith and a Biblical faith.  I will explain this in greater detail in a soon coming post, but in short I believe Christianity takes and uses both those types of faith. I am convinced that most people do not understand the true definition of Faith.  Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

2. Creation.  When I examine the world in which I live, I see evidence for a beginning of the universe, I see intelligence, and a mind behind the matter.  I have not found any answer in the material world that points to other trustworthy conclusions.

3. The Human Mind and Soul.  Why are we conscience? Why are we special?  Why do we have the ability to reason and think?  Why do we have  moral absolutes?  How do we judge what good and evil is?    In a world without God, these things are not possible.   The Bible describes the human condition perfectly.

4. The Bible.  The Bible makes the bold claim to be written  inspired word of God, but should we just except the Bible as God’s Word, because the Bible tells us so?  The Bible is a reliable book that is written in many different styles, by more than 40 authors, on 3 continents, over a period of about 1,500 years.  It is the most unique book ever written and for centuries it has stood the test of time and scrutiny by many.  When you compare the Bible to all other religious books, the Bible stands tall.

5. Historical Jesus.  Jesus was a real person, despite the constant attempts to blur the evidence.  But, Jesus made some bold claims about who He was and what His mission was about.  There are many sources, outside of the Bible that confirm the existence of Jesus and record some of the claims He made that are in the Bible.  Christians can even exclude even the evidence of the Bible and some of the other questionable secular documents and still make a case for Jesus existence, that is solid.

6. The Church. Yes, the church.  I realize that sometimes the church (people) can look pretty bad and can be rather disappointing, but the church (the people) has also made some great strides and impacts in the world in where we live.  Christians have been of the forefront leading the charge in several advancements for good in our world.  Slavery, Women’s rights, and even Science.

7. Religion.  Religion is mans attempt to come to God.  Religion shows how we have a yearning to get to God, just like we have a desire for food or procreation.  God gives us a desire that can be met by Him just like finding food and companionship.  Even though many people have wrongly been lead into believing in something that they haven’t researched, the desire for God is there.    I have always preferred the phrase, relationship over religion.

8.  The Empty Tomb.  Perhaps the greatest evidence for my belief.  The resurrection is key to Christianity.  Without it, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14 , my faith is in dead.  When you examine the evidence for the resurrection you are not left with any other choices that make any sense at all.  Jesus made claims that would rise from the dead, something that  charlatan would not dare to do.

9. Personal Experience.   I realize that my own personal experience is not as strong a proof as some of the other items listed above.  For example, I could say that God answered a prayer request of mine, a Mormon could say the same thing.  Some personal experiences are subjective.  But, this doesn’t mean I should throw out the personal experience all together.

Let me stop you before you start to pick apart these individual items by saying that no single one of these proves anything.  No, I cannot in a denotative way point to God and say “see, there He is” like I might point out Bob who fixed my car or Larry who made me a sandwich.  (I will address why I think that this is perfectly how God designed it to be in a later post.)  Let me point out that each of these individual areas lead or point to a particular conclusion that God does exist, and that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  It is the sum of the conclusions that add up far better than any other worldview.  Biblical Christianity uses all the different methods of science, philosophy, reason, and reality to build a strong case for a Christian worldview.  No other worldview can claim that which Christianity does, they either fail in arguments in one or more areas by contradicting themselves or by not being able to produce the evidence that Christianity does.

If you are searching for answers, and want to start looking at different worldview, that is great, can I offer a suggestion?  Start with Christianity.  There is something about Jesus that most of the other major worldviews want to include him in their teaching.  To Muslims, Jesus was one of 28 prophets, In Hinduism Jesus is a good moral teacher, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons view Him as the Son of God, by which we can earn our salvation.  Jesus is the central feature in Christianity, not only because of his teachings but because of who He is, and claimed to be, God.

As always, questions, comments, and discussions welcome.  I am looking forward to the breakdown of these items that I have listed above.  In my next few posts I will give some basic information about apologetics and lay a foundation and order down for looking at the evidence piece by piece.