Origins: A Reasonable Explanation For Reason Itself

Where Does Consciousness Originate?

When it comes to explanations for origins, the origin of the universe seems to be the logical place to begin the discussion. That’s where I usually start. But as a way of transitioning from the previous topic of morality, I will take a different approach and first consider where reason and logic come from at all.

Think about it (pun intended). The very fact that we can have a discussion about the nature of morality, or the origin of the universe — or anything at all — means that we have the capacity to consider alternative ideas. Ideas are not physical things. So, how can we do that? What is it about the physical neurons that make up our brains transmitting electro-chemical signals back and forth that gives us the ability to compare alternatives between non-physical things like concepts and ideas? How do we explain “intentionality” or free will?

The one thing about this life that we know and experience directly and without any doubt is the awareness of the “self.” We know we exist because we experience the physical realities of the world. But just who is it that has these experiences? There seems to be something about “us” that cannot be explained by the physical stuff we can see, touch, taste, hear, or smell, and it is something for which a purely physical, atheistic universe cannot even begin to account.

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Don’t Impose Your Views … Only We Can Do That!

Following the last post, I want to finish with the most important issue that I believe was exposed with Bill Nye’s ridiculous video by devoting a separate post to my interlocutor’s (tildeb) final comment, the gist of which is as follows:

I suspect we would agree on almost everything – like family and friends and jobs and the cost of living and health concerns and so on… right up until you tried to have your religious beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others or if I argued to keep true to the secular ideals of personal autonomy! … All religious claims for historical creationism are equivalently based solely on belief. At best – like abiogenesis – we should agree that neither of us knows and hold that opinion until such a time that reality offers us compelling evidence to adduce a change. Belief of the religious kind does not produce knowledge and certainly doesn’t fill in gaps where we currently have none. Yet far too often, this is exactly where religious belief stakes out its ground. As if this weren’t bad enough, too often the conclusions deduced from these beliefs are then imposed on the rest of us by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, public education, and so on. Nowhere is this more problematic than over issues claimed by the religious to be about morality… but that’s for another day.

I don’t want to cut and paste the whole thing but I believe this gives proper context to tildeb‘s point. What I want to concentrate on is the idea that he brings in the emphasized phrases of his quote — because this is where the real crux of the issue resides. Like Bill Nye (on the video in the original post), tildeb does not want to allow people who think like me to “have their beliefs privileged or their intentions imposed on others … by influencing public institutions, public practices, public policies, public law, [or] public education.”

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Don’t Buy “The Science Guy”

I have nothing personal against Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”. I remember watching parts of his program when our kids were younger and I found them enjoyable and informative. However, if you have any interest whatsoever in knowing the truth about the world and/or speaking coherently, consistently, and intelligently about seeking the truth about that world, please watch this 2:32 minute video and think about what he is saying. It really is beyond me how someone who is sold as such a scientific sage and articulator of the the truth could deliver such a bumbling, nonsensical connection of incoherent platitudes … and then finish them off by admonishing the morons (defined as a parent who does not agree with Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”) to shut up and leave the education of their children to the real scientists — like him.

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Thinking Allowed

I have been challenged recently (on several fronts — some just internally) about the purpose and usefulness of Christian apologetics. I don’t take the challenge lightly. Some who have challenged me have given me some food for thought about how I approach my Christian convictions and I take their critiques seriously. I know for a fact that I am prone to over think things and to be too quick to rely on my “head” to live out my convictions while I’m too slow to use my “hands” to serve others. No doubt about it.

But I would also challenge my hand-focused friends to consider that their works of service do not absolve them from thinking about their faith. It’s the only way to make sure that our service has the proper foundation and that the Christianity we are presenting is an accurate view of the world. The whole discussion reminded me of a similar post from 5 years ago that I am re-posting here.

Because I try my best to adhere to the principle of being “tolerant of people, but intolerant of (bad) ideas,” I will not identify the author of the following. I only quote said author to make a point about the self-defeating consequences of anti-intellectualism in the church. Check out this excerpt (sorry it is so long) from a book which contains a chapter entitled, “Confused Mind”:

Reasoning Leads to Confusion

…O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves? … Matthew 16:8 (KJV)

A large percentage of God’s people are admittedly confused. Why? As we have seen, one reason is wondering. Another is reasoning. The dictionary partially defines the word reason in the noun form as an “underlying fact or motive that provides logical sense for a premise or occurrence” and in the verb form as “to use the faculty of reason: think logically.”

A simple way to say it is, reasoning occurs when a person tries to figure out the “why” behind something. Reasoning causes the mind to revolve around and around a situation, issue or event attempting to understand all its intricate component parts. We are reasoning when we dissect a statement or teaching to see if it is logical, and disregard it if it is not.

Satan frequently steals the will of God from us due to reasoning … What God leads a person to do does not always make logical sense to his mind. His spirit may affirm it and his mind may reject it …Don’t Reason in the Mind, Just Obey the Spirit

… the realization of how easily we can be led by our heads and allow reasoning to keep us out of God’s will provoked in me a “reverential” fear of reasoning.

Let me point out that this author “has been teaching the Word of God since 1976 and in ministry since 1980.” This author is the prolific writer of “more than 70 inspirational books” and has “released thousands of audio teachings as well as a complete video library.” This author can be heard on national radio broadcasts, seen on national TV programs almost every day, and travels nationwide speaking and doing teaching conferences. This author has influenced a whole lot of people. I don’t want to disparage the writer. I’m sure the writer has helped many people and is motivated to do so for all the right reasons. But, in this specific case, this person is just plain wrong. The teaching offered here is deeply flawed and destructive to any Christ-follower who adheres to it. Unfortunately, many new and vulnerable minds do just that.

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Relativism: Living In Candyland

I want to start off by making a startling personal admission that you may find shocking. You may continue at your own risk but consider yourself properly warned. Here goes ….

I hate Candyland.

Always have. Always will. The game drives me nuts. When my kids were little, I used to find any kind of excuse to not play it with them. But, because I did not want to hurt their feelings or make a big deal about it, I was sometimes trapped into participating in the game that never seems to end. It requires no skill, no memorization, no strategy. It has no point.

It is simply a mindless game of chance in which your only claim to victory is the random drawing of the right colored card. Mindless that is, unless you are the Dad who pre-stacks the cards so that your happily oblivious kid always seems to randomly draw the exact cards he needs, in the exact order he needs to draw them, in order to reach the pinnacle of Candyland achievement – the coveted “Candy Castle.”

Whatever.

Yes, I cheated at Candyland. And yes, I know I shouldn’t be cheating. But please — I only practiced “positive” cheating. And yes, I know that playing Candyland requires no skill or strategy because it is a game for little kids. I get it. But any game that: discourages actual thinking so blatantly; is so unsystematic and muddled that rule violations go unnoticed; can be so easily manipulated by those in positions of power; and that offers such a vacuous and unsatisfying payoff — any game like that is a colossal waste of my time. I boycotted it years ago.

I thought I had put my disdain for Candyland behind me, until I began reading Douglas Groothuis’s book, Truth Decay, a defense of Christianity “against the challenges of postmodernism.” One of the postmodern philosophers Groothuis repeatedly quotes in the book is Richard Rorty, the former Stanford professor who died last month. Rorty’s death has prompted a rash of articles about him, many of which I have read over the last few weeks. In short, these events converged in my realization that we have people – serious, educated, intellectually gifted people – who live their lives based on a worldview that effectively treats morality, ethics and the pursuit of truth no differently than a rainy afternoon game of Candyland.

Let me explain …

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