Indiana’s new law providing for the practice of religious freedom is not really a new law at all, but joined at the hip with bipartisan legislation – Religious Freedom Restoration Act - passed in 1993 and signed by President Clinton. That law clarified and underlined the Constitution’s provision for not letting government define religious preferences and practices. Indiana’s legislation abets what 19 other states already have on their books.
But for me the real question is the freedom to practice what you believe and what is taught by your faith. The Constitution guarantees such freedoms as long as they do not deny others the practice of their equally guaranteed freedoms. And most certainly Indiana’s law will not prevent its LGTB contingent from doing their thing that includes getting supportive services from numerous suppliers who are ready, willing, and able.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3
‘Tis the season to talk of God. The debate about the existence of God or Intelligent Designer or Universal Intelligence or … (henceforth ‘God’) continues to grow as we discover more about our universe, or as some would have it, creation.
Celebrated physicist Richard Feynman said, “I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God -- an ordinary God of religion -- a consistent possibility? … Yes, it is consistent.” He went on to say, “…many scientists do believe in both science and God, in a perfectly consistent way. But this consistency, although possible, is not easy to attain...”
Since Feynman made this statement some years back, a lot more has been learned about how our universe is constructed. This has caused more and more scientists to apply Occam’s razor and conclude that the most likely explanation for the existence of what we observe and measure is that there is a God, that what is, came to be through intelligent design. Almost all scientists are Bayesians in how they treat uncertainty, the consistency of their belief in the existence of God is then taken as any other proposition they may consider. In this case the existence of God in their mind has a very high probability (say, 0.999), but it is not a certainty and still makes a provision for future evidence to start diminishing that probability. In other words, God, like descriptions of the rest of his creation, is accepted within the reasoning powers that have evolved within the sapient critters that populate his universe.
In the January 2015 Scientific American is a feature article discussing the statistical likelihood of myriads of exoplanets which may be even more suitable for life as we know it (i.e. carbon based with lots of complex molecules having hydrogen and oxygen in them). Best current estimates number these planets to be around 100 billion just in our Milky Way galaxy. In our visible universe there are up to 200 billion galaxies (they are still counting), and, of course, then there is the part of the universe that is already invisible to us. These are the galaxies so far away that the intervening space itself is expanding faster than the speed of light, making it so that light from the invisible galaxies will never reach us – i.e. we will never see them, and they will no longer see us. Put it all together, and there are a lot of potential homes where intelligent civilizations will come to be, are, and may have already passed into oblivion or onto paths of glory unknown to our meager peabrains.
In a 25dec14 piece ‘Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God’, Eric Metaxas discusses the unbelievably extreme precision with which tens of natural constants/parameters have been fashioned that make life on earth (and potentially elsewhere) possible. The slightest variation in any of them would create universes to deny our existence. Astronomer Fred Hoyle (of Big Bang fame) said, “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
We can go on quoting science luminaries drawing similar conclusions until the cows come home. Let me throw out one or two more, first by one of the current greats in theoretical physics, Paul Davies. He said, “the appearance of design is overwhelming.” Oxford mathematician and philosopher of science John Lennox agrees, “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.” (more here)
Opposing them is the diminishing crowd of secular humanist scientists whose mantra is that ‘it’s turtles all the way down!’ These investigators may have their scientist credentials called into question because they don’t follow evidence and infer from what their data reveals. Instead, they start with the firm yet unscientific belief that the debate is over, that ‘There is no God’, and then spend their lives looking for the next turtle upon which all the other turtles can be balanced (until the top one on whose back rests earth). They never seem to understand that such a quest doesn’t even lead in the direction of the proof they seek. (Today, from their ranks come also the climateers who fiercely mangle climate data records and run dodgy computer models to support their political funding benefactors in trumpeting the whys and wherefores of undeniable man-made global warming.)
The existence of God beckons to answer Princeton physicist John Wheeler’s last quest, ‘Why Existence?’ – a profound journey beyond the limits of science.
To recap Feynman, “So the question changes a little bit from ‘Is there a God?’ to ‘How sure is it that there is a God?’ This very subtle change is a great stroke and represents a parting of the ways between science and religion. … I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God -- an ordinary God of religion -- a consistent possibility? Yes it is consistent.”
[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 30 August 2014.]
It is now twelve years since WSJ Asia bureau chief Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and beheaded by Muslim terrorists. Since then countless thousands of Muslims and non-Muslims have been murdered by Muslims in the name of their ‘religion of peace’. A couple of weeks ago we were reminded by journalist James Foley’s gruesome execution that nothing has changed. He was killed by the new emergent Islamic State or ISIS that seeks to re-establish an Islamic caliphate in the Mideast, and eventually raise its flag over the White House.
It is clear to many, perhaps most, that evil abounds in the world today. Yet the concepts of evil are varied to the point that among their extremes there may be no agreement at all on what constitutes evil. I admit to being on or near a semantic extreme myself. In any case, given all the worldwide killing and corruption, I would like to put down some thoughts about how I judge that something or someone should be labeled evil. In doing so I don’t seek agreement, but a reasoned critique would be welcome.
Having a clear thought about what is and is not evil is important, because we tend to react differently when we confront what we judge to be evil as opposed to, say, ignorant, misguided, arising from a different yet acceptable perspective, or a purely random happening. We don’t want to ignore evil, knowing evil gnaws on us, especially if we consider it our duty to oppose or eliminate it. And it does so even if it’s not our duty but that we see the opportunity and have the means to diminish it. Also, we feel good if we have successfully struck a blow against evil. Most religious traditions exhort us to deal with evil through scriptural prescriptions that range from turning away to facing it head on and doing some things much more proactive.
1. For me evil involves an agent/agency of evil that is sapient or at least sentient – sapient in the sense of being wise or knowing its role in promulgating the evil act, and sentient in being conscious of oneself but not necessarily aware of one’s role.
2. Evil must have a target or a victim that is at least sentient enough to be capable of suffering the effects of evil. The target may or not be intended by the agent to suffer the consequences of evil. The target need not perceive the identity of the agent(s) of evil.
3. Evil must cause its target unjust suffering and/or pain. The injustice of evil must also be apparent to and communicable by those who witness evil or hear its report. Most importantly, absent the notion of justice, the idea of evil has no meaning.
4. Ultimately evil is in the eye of the sentient and sapient target and/or the witness to it. Universal evil is a rarity among humans.
5. An agent of evil need not believe that the consequent he causes or catalyzes is in his own eyes evil. Here we understand that agents of evil come in many flavors and functions. Agents are also those who perceive the evil, have the ability to prevent the evil impacting its target, and yet let the evil proceed unimpeded. And abetting agents do not instigate the evil but merely support its progress.
6. With or without noble motives an agent can enable evil through ignorance. Therefore enduring ignorance that enables and/or inflicts unjust pain is evil.
Resisting evil, even unto its destruction, is perceived as being just, responsible, dutiful, and/or noble. Therefore it is easier to marshal a cohort to fight something that can be ascribed and accepted as being evil, because evil usually evokes a strong emotional response in people. For that reason evil is often invoked by demogauges seeking popular support for a political or commercial agenda. In such cases the desired supporters are also made to believe that they are the targets of the posited evil.
In this light we see that evil abounds and more so as the world becomes tightly connected. Daily we are made aware of purposely or carelessly inflicted pain which we are told is unjust. In contrast, without such widespread evil, good works and acts of altruism would not be celebrated. Evil has also been the classical progenitor of religions whose adherents’ most beseeching prayer to their god(s) is ‘deliver us from evil.’
Yet in spite of experienced evil or feeling helpless in its affront, we also continue to teach the stoic and character-building palliative best captured in the Chinese proverb, ‘Pain makes a man think, thinking makes a man wise, and wisdom makes life bearable’ - which we apply to both just and unjust pain.
Time again to put some nasty gossip to rest about the President and his religion. I received an email from a correspondent citing a 29dec13 piece in the NYT about how “Mr. Obama’s faith is a more complicated, more private, and perhaps … a more inclusive affair.” Well, we know that it’s a faith that has omitted a number of traditional Christian observances in our capital, and doesn’t include much church attendance given the experience he had with the Rev Wright.
But my correspondent did point out that our president may be even more distant from his fervently claimed Christianity than he thinks. The NYT reports, “He has turned to his faith during difficult times, and is comfortable invoking Scripture; his speeches and remarks are peppered with the phrase “I am my brother’s keeper,” echoing the Old Testament phrase.”
My correspondent thinks that perhaps the President should recheck his echoes a bit more carefully. For example, like the true socialist he is, Mr Obama instinctively reversed the biblical question Cain asks in Genesis – ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ – into the more correct collectivist version. (You’d think that this would have been caught by the crack journalists at the nation’s leading liberal voice.)
In any case, it is good that the President thinks enough of the public’s apprehension about his religion to have his minions publish this clarification in the west’s answer to Pravda.
[This is the transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 26 July 2013.]
New levels of social justice are being sought in our military. The very same people who militate for separating church and state in all corners of public life are now demanding to have their fair share of padres in the armed services. Actually, in the military men of God are called chaplains, and now (seatbelts please) atheists are demanding that the military provide them the comfort of a compassionate chaplain who shares their religion. (more here)
Did I say religion? Yes, atheism is a religion because it satisfies the requirements of a distinct faith in the structure, organization, and origin of the cosmos and everything in it. Let’s not confuse the atheist with the agnostic. An agnostic is a person whose belief system is moot about the existence or absence of God, Creator, Universal Intelligence, or whatever you want to call it. An agnostic believes that God’s existence is either unknown, or more strongly, that it is unknowable. (more here)
This is a distinct difference from the atheists, who sometimes also call themselves humanists, and who believe strongly that there is no God. They have had their case made by notables like physicist Stephen Hawking and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Their philosophy is the ‘turtles all the way down’ theory of cosmology. Mankind will just keep discovering ever more esoteric layers of scientific knowledge, each of which underpins all the previous layers of our understanding. Research without end, Amen.
But unfortunately, atheists can claim no science to back up their professions of God’s absence. You see, science is a biped, it advances only on the principles of falsifiability and Occam’s razor. The latter resolves questions between two competing theories which explain all the known observations and data, and then selects the simplest of the two for further exploration. Falsifiability is the bedrock principle of science. Every proposed theory of science must be such that it can describe tests or realworld experiments, which if it fails, would cause it to be discarded as a description of truth about our universe.