Posts Tagged ‘‘Tekton Apologetics’’

Trump Brings Armageddon Closer by Moving American Embassy to Jerusalem

December 8, 2017

And this is exactly what Christian Zionist millennialists like Tim Lahaie want.

Yesterday, Trump announced that he was going to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is what the Israelis have been demanding for years, but previous administrations have not given into them, because they were very much aware that this would set off a powder keg of rage and hostility across the Middle East. Jerusalem was taken from the Palestinians, and still contains a sizable Arab population. The Israeli nationalist right would love it to be the capital of their nation, but it is also claimed by the Palestinians.

There have been mass protests and riots against Trump’s decision all over the Middle East. RT yesterday put up this footage of Israeli squaddies or the police trying to put down protesters or rioters in Bethlehem yesterday.

And politicians from across the political spectrum have condemned Trump’s decision, from Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon to Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

May’s condemnation is far less full than one would wish. As you can see, she doesn’t condemn it because it’s a rubbish decision. She only condemns it because it hasn’t been made according to the proper decision making process. As for Boris, he optimistically says that it’s good that the Americans are committed to the two-state solution. In fact, the Palestinians aren’t happy with the two state solution, for the simple reason that the Israelis will keep stringing them and the rest of the world along with it, while taking whatever remains of Palestinian land. The aim now is to demand an end to Israeli apartheid and the full rights of Palestinians as equal Israeli citizens. But as this would threaten Israel’s existence as a racial ethno-state, there’s going to be profound opposition to this.

The Young Turks have also weighed in on this issue. In the video below, Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola explain just why it’s a bad idea. They point out that it’s been mooted before, and there were a series of resolutions passed in both houses of Congress in the 1990s. But then somebody pointed out what would happen if they did. They state that it’s an incendiary situation, because Jerusalem is a holy city to Christians, Jews and Muslims, and that many of them will not want to see all of the city and its shrines placed under Israeli rule. Uygur also points out that for some Christian Zionists, an apocalyptic war is exactly what they want. They believe that there will be a final battle between the forces of good and evil when one of the mosques in Jerusalem is destroyed. This will lead to a nuclear holocaust, following which Christ will return.

Uygur follows this with an atheist rant, which I don’t agree with. But he states that even though he doesn’t believe in the prophecy, it has to be taken seriously because others do, and they are willing to fight and kill for it. He concludes by making the point that it’s just Islam that’s the problem. It’s also Christian fundamentalism. To which Iadarola adds that ‘Fundamentalism is the problem’.

I know a number of people, who hold a very literal view of the Creation story in Genesis, and who could be fairly described as ‘Fundamentalist’. They’re good people. But Uygur is absolutely right about the dangerous, apocalyptic views of the Christian Zionist right. Christian Zionism began in the 19th century, because it was believed that if ancient Israel was restored, Our Lord would return to Earth to usher in the Millennium. In the 1980s this morphed into a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. Now it’s become a war between Israel and Christendom versus Islam.

One of the leaders of American Christian Zionism is Tim LaHaie. LaHaie is one of the authors of the Left Behind series of novels, in which the Rapture has occurred and all the righteous have been taken to heaven in preparation for the rise of the Antichrist and the Tribulation, before Christ’s return and the overthrow of Satan. The novels were a massive hit amongst the American Christian readership, and were turned into a film/TV series.

But not only are these views extremely dangerous, they’re also abysmally bad theology. The Church Fathers in the Early Church were acutely aware of the temptation of some Christians to try to force events, and were very much against it. Furthermore, the Millennialists predictions depend on a very specific reading of the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is not easy to interpret as very much of it is in symbolism and imagery that was probably well-known to Mediterranean Jewish Christians, but has been lost to us over time. The mainstream view is that the book is part prophecy, part commentary on contemporary events. The ‘Beast 666’ is believed to have been Nero, the Greek version of whose name, Neron, has that value in the Gematria numerological system. Not only did Nero persecute Christians, as a young man he also used to dress up as a beast and go around with his fellow aristocratic yahoos attacking ordinary Roman citizens. So this is partly a commentary on the contemporary persecution of the Church in ancient Rome under Nero. However, the Book is also prophetic, in that it looks forward to the general resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return. But this will happen without there being a tribulation or apocalyptic battle beforehand.

If you’re a Christian, and wish to read more, then I heartily recommend you go over to Tekton Apologetics and look at J.P. Holding’s writings on this issue. Holiding’s a theologically Conservative, Protestant Christian with a literal view of Genesis. I don’t know what his political views are. For all I know, he might be a man of the right. But this doesn’t matter, because he has written very detailed, informed critiques of this dangerous, Millennialist nonsense, and is a very, very fierce critic of the Left Behind books, and the way they have dumbed down American Christianity.

Preaching Christ During the Festival of Science

June 15, 2008

Last Friday, the 6th of June, was the last day of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, held annually in Cheltenham, in Britain. It’s been going for a few years now, and is pretty much like the annual Festival of Literature held in the same town every October, with the obvious difference that it’s about science, while the other festival is about literature. Both feature leading figures in their respective areas talking about their subject, and particularly their latest work, or the latest issue to grab the national attention and be debated. In the case of the Festival of Literature, it’s obviously writers discussing their latest book, while in the Festival of Science it tends to be scientists talking about the latest issue in science.

Scientists and Writers at the Cheltenham Festival

As it’s an event aimed at getting the general public involved with science and more aware of contemporary research and issues, the scientists appearing at the Festival tend also to be the authors of books on popular science, or the hosts or producers of TV and radio programmes on science. For example, this year one of the guests at the Festival was Dr. Robert Winston, a fertility expert and the presenter of a number of science and factual programmes, such as Walking with Cavemen and The Story of God. Walking with Cavemen was a series the Beeb screened a few years ago now about human evolution, tracing the origins of the human species from its earliest ancestors up to the emergence of modern humans, Homo Sapiens, on the plains of Africa. The Story of God, on the other hand, was a straightforward history of the various religious faiths around the world. While he definitely isn’t a Creationist – the Story of God showed him debating Creationism in a radio studio in America – Winston is an observant Jew. There was a bit in the series where he appeared to leave the militant atheist and biologist Richard Dawkins momentarily speechless. Dawkins had just declared that he really couldn’t understand how any intelligent person could possibly believe in religion, to which Winston simply said quietly, ‘I believe it.’ Dawkins looked amazed, and said to him, ‘You do?’

‘Yes,’ said Winston, ‘I honestly do.’ Winston then went on a few months after the series and the publication of Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, to criticise Dawkins publicly at a festival of science in Edinburgh for trying to associate atheism with science, politely stating that while he respected Dawkins personally, he thought he was profoundly wrong to do so. The title of Winston’s speech even suggested that in his attempt to connect science to atheism, Dawkins was deluded.

Other speakers who have appeared at the Festival in the past have included the australian astronomer, Duncan Steele, and the Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik, who were on a panel with a number of other scientists talking about the dangers of collision from asteroids; the physicist Jim al-Khalili, giving a brief introduction to Quantum physics to coincide with his book, Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed, and the mathematician Simon Singh talking about codes and ciphers through history. It can be a really great, fascinating, fun event, depending on who’s speaking at the Festival and your particular interest in science. It’s run in association with a hands-on science centre in Cardiff, so there’s a series of scientific games and fun experiments in the main hall, and some of the events and speakers are definitely not solemn, dry lectures. They had one tent set up as an arena for Robot Wars one year when that was on British TV.

Problems of Presenting Atheism as Science

While it’s a great event generally, I have some real qualms about the very reductionist materialism preached by some of the speakers. While the vast majority of the speakers and events at the Festival don’t touch on religion, some of the scientists and writers who have appeared have very strong atheist views which they articulate as part of their general views on science. Richard Dawkins is one such guest at the Festival who talks about science in terms of a general atheist worldview. Other atheist scientists who also view science and atheism as strongly linked, and are very hostile to religion, who have appeared at the Festival of Science include Steven Pinker and the philosopher, A.C. Grayling.

The Christian Origins of Experimental Science

Now modern experimental science first emerged in Europe through the belief of medieval and Renaissance Christian natural philosophers that nature was available to rational study as, being created and established through God’s divine and transcendent Wisdom, it was therefore itself rational and ordered. These early scientists believed that nature and Scripture comprised two books, which together revealed God’s glory, although while nature demonstrated the existence of God, it could never give as full a revelation of God as Scripture. The pioneering scientists of the Renaissance – Copernicus, Galileo, Rene Descartes, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton were all devoutly religious, even if, like Newton, they held unorthodox religious views. Boyle, for example, in his book The Christian Virtuoso, made it very clear that he believed, in contrast to Rene Descartes, that the universe clearly showed evidence for teleology, and pointed very much to the existence of God. He also endowed a series of lectures to be preached annually to prove the existence of the Almighty. All this is often forgotten in the contemporary view of the history of science, which tends to view it in very Positivist terms as an intellectual endeavour opposed to religious belief, and which emerged to challenge religion and the supernatural to replace it with rationality and materialism.

Presenting the Christian Origins of Science During the Festival, and Great Resources on Christianity and Science

I’d like to challenge that perception of science and its history. I’d like to hire a church hall or similar venue one day around the time of the Festival to present a lecture on the history of science, showing that it was based very much on the Christian conception of an ordered nature established by the divine reason. I’d also like to make the point that, contrary to the views expounded by Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett and other atheist scientists and philosophers, science is not intrinsically atheistic, and there is much in science that points away from atheism and towards the existence of God. It’s just an idea, and really should be done by someone like the awesome Bede, who’s a historian of science and whose website, Bede’s Library and blog, Bede’s Journal, are superb resources for science and Christian faith. At the moment it’s just an idea, but I think, given the intense debate between science, religion and atheism at the moment, it needs to be done, and the case clearly presented for the Christian creation of and support for science. I also thoroughly recommend the ‘Scientists of Christian Faith’ project over at J.P. Holding’s awesome Tekton Apologetics site as another great resource giving brief biographies and descriptions of the lives and work of numerous scientists, including the above founders of this part of the human project to understand the world, who are also Christians, and whose work often reflects and strengthens their Christian beliefs.

Problem of Distinguishing Scientific Fact and Personal Views of Scientists

One other point needs to be made about some of the scientific views presented as the latest research, or as predictions of what will occur in the future, at science festivals and in the press generally. Scientific views in particular areas are changing all the time as new evidence emerges and old evidence re-examined. Moreover, scientists in their interpretation of particular facts aren’t immune from the influence of their own personal beliefs and general cultural attitudes. Some philosophers of science have stated that there are no ‘brute facts’ in science, that is, no facts whose meaning is immediately self-evident, independent of other facts. All scientific facts are interpreted through a network of related scientific facts and models by a human mind. This means that while most of the material and research presented as scientific fact at such festivals can be trusted as well-established science, some of it should also be treated with a certain scepticism as the researcher’s own personal opinions. Thus, Jim al-Khalili’s treatment of Quantum physics in his book will be a more or less trustworthy account of the main ideas and debates in that science, even if there is also considerable differences of opinion between scientists on the wider philosophical implications of the theory. However, the view presented by one scientist, the author of the book, The End of Time, that time does not exist and is illusory, while cogently argued and intellectually respectable, is an extreme view that is far less likely to be objectively true.

Commercial Pressure and Exaggerated Scientific Claims

Moreover, some of the descriptions of the progress made and what can be expected in particular areas of science in years to come have struck me as being more like a commercial advertisement than an impartial description of the current state of that science. Scientific research can be expensive, and the universities and companies engaged in it depend on government funding and private investment for their financial support. Thus it appears to me that there’s a financial incentive for some scientists to exaggerate publicly the results they expect of their research, while being much more cautious in private. Consciousness research is a good example. In a piece published in the British newspaper, The Guardian, just before the Millennium, various scientists in Britain and America were interviewed giving their views on what science would discover in the future. This included a couple of neurologists declaring that the solution to the problem of consciousness would be found, and that it would be much simpler than previously considered. Yet philosophers have also noted that despite the optimism of some materialist philosophers and neurologists, like Daniel C. Dennett, the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness has not been solved and many materialist philosophers themselves do not consider that a materialist solution will be easily found.

Differing Views on the Development of Intelligence in Robots

This tendency for scientists to exaggerate the results they expect of their particular branch of science can also be seen in some of the statements by AI researchers developing robots. The British cyberneticist, Kevin Warwick, of the University of Reading very strongly feels that AI will be a genuine reality, and that we are on the verge of creating truly intelligent, autonomous machines. He’s extremely pessimistic about this, however, arguing that such robots will be a very real threat to humanity. In the first chapter of his 1997 book, March of the Machines: Why the New Race of Robots will Rule the World, he paints a grim picture of the fate of humanity fifty years in the future. By 2050, according to the book, if current progress in robotics continues, the robots will have taken over and what remains of humanity will be reduced to complete servitude, farmed and controlled by the machines.

The robotics experts Mark Tilden and Dave Hrynkiw, who specialise in developing very simple robots that can be built by the amateur enthusiast at home, are far more sceptical about the development of AI and the potential for robots to become truly autonomous, intelligent machines. In his preface to their book Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology, Tilden gives an hilarious account of his attempt to create a robot butler, an excessively complicated machine that gradually proved to be a complete failure until it was finally outwitted by his pet cat. He describes coming home one day to find it spinning uselessly in the middle of the carpet. When it came out to vacuum, the cat had learned to block it with play furniture, until the machine thought it was completely surrounded and so was reduced to spinning helplessly, leaving the cat to go back sleeping in peace. After seeing his five thousand dollar robot beaten by his cat, Tilden switched it off, and turned instead to developing far simpler, much less intelligent, but far more reliable machines. Regarding the problems in developing truly conscious machines, he states

‘Alas, unlike in the movies, and despite all wishes to the contrary, the ability to make a conscious robot creature doesn’t happen by just throwing electronic bits together. Even the best minds and budgets haven’t managed it outside the usual nonclassroom biology. True, sophisticated computer characters have been made that appear to have some aspects of life (they’re a prime seller of the video game market), but their responses are limited. Even real goldfish show more life than the best screensavers made in their image. However, the general mass-belief in “automatic consciousness” is a problem for robotics researchers because popular media keeps implying it’s not a problem.’ 1

Now Warwick, as an expert in his field, clearly knows what he’s talking about and it would be unwise not to pay attention to his warnings, particularly as arms companies have developed a battlefield robot, which some observers fear is a real threat to human life and the continued existence of the human species. On the other hand, from what Tilden and Hrynkiw say, it’s clear that the machine aren’t going to take over soon, and that the human race needn’t fear an army of robots all looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger rising up against it any time soon.

Pressures from Funding and Exaggerated Claims of Future Results

Beyond this particular debate in robotics, my point is that in certain areas of science scientific opinion may be very divided, and present a far different picture from the one an individual scientist may wish to promote. Undoubtedly the scientists working in particular areas genuinely believe that their research will yield important results, but in their public statements commercial and financial pressures may lead them to play down any difficulties or problems, which may be considerable, that they also face. After all, government funding bodies aware of the need to give the public value for the tax money they’re considering spending, banks, and entrepreneurs looking for a useful and commercially viable product that will give a good, reliable return on their investment, are going to be reluctant to put money into a project in which the leading researchers believe that it might yield some interesting results, eventually, but it’ll be several decades, if at all. Hence, in my view, the various confident predictions by materialist neurologists that the problem of consciousness is about to be explained and that very shortly mind will be found to equal brain. They undoubtedly believe it, but few people and organisations are going to fund their research if they present a much more sober, far less confident picture of future progress.

Confusion of Atheism and Science in Popular Science Writing

Tilden’s view that popular science has created false expectations is also shared by the Christian writers Paul Marston and Roger Forster, who have backgrounds in science and mathematics. They comment that much of the popular science in bookshops around Britain, especially that written by Peter Atkins, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Steven Pinker and John Gribbin, ‘is metaphysics not ‘science’, popular or otherwise, and their books are full of extended analogy and parables’ to the point where they suggest that ‘we might call them ‘Penpops Fables’ since Penguin ‘popular science’, books are especially full of them’. 2 Dawkins in particular has been criticised for confusing his own ideas with generally accepted, good science, and presenting them as the view of science in general. Fraser Watts, a former President of the British Psychological Society and Starbridge Lecturer in Science and Religion at Cambridge, stated that Dawkins

‘purports to be speaking for the whole of science as though all scientists think what he thinks, but they don’t … I think there is undoubtedly truth in Darwin’s theory of evolution, but it is not a complete explanation of everything as Dawkins makes out – and he muddles up what is validly established science and the ideas he had in the bath last night, and he presents this as though it is a seamless robe and it is actually quite misleading.’ 3

Conclusion: Some Scientific Statements Need To Be Viewed with Scepticism

Thus, there are very good reasons, such as the commercial pressures on professional science writers and their own, personal ideological and professional biases, why some of the statements about the nature of science and state of research in popular science should be taken with a degree of scepticism. The whole point of science is that its findings and statements can be subjected to critical testing and scrutiny, and that critique should also include atheist metaphysics when this is presented as an intrinsic part of science itself.

Notes

1. Tilden, M., and Hrynkiw, D., Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology (New York, McGraw-Hill/Osborne 2002), pp. XIV-XV.

2. Forster, R., and Marsden, P., Reason, Science & Faith (Crowborough, Monarch 1999), pp. 42-3.

3. Fraser Watts, in the Christian Students in Science video Encounter, cited in Forster and Marsden, Reason, Science and Faith, p. 53.