Posted in Apologetics, Evolution

You can’t believe both Jesus and evolution

By Weylan Deaver

Much can be said in falsifying the theory of humans evolving from non-humans. The field of study in defense of the existence of God, the deity of Christ, and the inspiration of the Bible is called apologetics. This paragraph is not to delve into that overwhelming evidence, but, rather, to address the all-too-frequent tendency of people who say they believe the Bible, but also believe things that contradict the Bible, such as evolutionary theory. You cannot believe both Jesus and evolution. Why? Because Jesus explicitly contradicts evolution. Hear his words in Matthew 19:4-5, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (ESV). According to Jesus, from the very “beginning” there were male and female. In fact, from the beginning it was a man joined by God in marriage to his wife. If evolution is true, then Jesus is wrong. If Jesus is right, then evolution is a lie. Those who claim to accept the Bible need to be honest enough to accept what it teaches. Trying to twist biblical miracles into something that fits modern skepticism is a fool’s errand. If God created the universe, as Genesis 1 teaches, there is no reason in the world to doubt any miracle as described in the Bible. Jesus himself endorsed the Genesis creation account. Shame on us if we feel the need to compromise God’s facts to harmonize with Satan’s fiction. In the end, we will be judged neither by Charles Darwin’s theory, nor the invective of a Richard Dawkins or Bill Nye. Jesus claimed in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution

The Scientific Method: Two Problems

By Mac Deaver

I want to mention two problems with what has been termed the “scientific method.” But before identifying the problems let me assure the reader that I am well aware of the fact that the “method” has over many years resulted in much benefit to the human family. It is the method of trial and error. The scientist will imagine a working hypothesis or theory that he wants to test to see whether or not it can be identified as the given cause of a certain effect. He says to himself that if x is the case (my theory is correct as the cause of this certain effect), then y will follow. He runs his experiment and finds that y is, after all, certainly present. He then concludes that x is to be presently accepted as the cause of y.

Now, the first problem is a problem for atheistic scientists who view the so-called “scientific method” as the completely encompassing route to truth. There are those among us who decry the very concept of the metaphysical or spiritual reality. They claim that there is nothing but matter. For example, Sam Harris in his book, The Moral Landscape, even denies any spiritual person. There is no mind, according to Sam, distinguishable from a brain. Man is at most a brain without any spiritual or metaphysical agent to operate the brain. Matter is all that there is and so matter is all that matters!

And since science is the discipline that explores matter, then science is the vehicle whereby truth (all truth) is known if known at all. In other words, given this radical evaluation of reality, there is no truth accessible to man via any route other than science, and the method by which science discovers truth is the so-called “scientific method.” There is no domain outside the purview of this method since it is believed by atheistic scientists that there is nothing to be explored except matter itself.

But the first difficulty we raise has to do with the selection, identification, and application of this method. Just how is it that scientists have selected this method as “the” method for the discovery of any and all truth that is accessible to mankind? In the first place, if it is a method whose application is to matter only, then the method selected presupposes a metaphysical position with regard to the exhaustive scope of matter. For a scientist to affirm that “matter is all that there is” is not a materialistic declaration. It is an attempted description allegedly of all reality to be sure, and it is a claim that there is nothing besides matter, but the explanation itself is a purely metaphysical explanation. Rocks don’t talk. Monkeys can’t lecture. The very nature of rational explanation implies rationality (not merely a brain) and rationality simply cannot coherently be reduced to matter.

So, for one to say that “matter is all that there is” is to assert something in contradiction to the nature of the assertion. It is like saying, “I am not here.” It is a metaphysical attempt at denying the metaphysical. It is an explanation (whether correct or not), and the nature of explanation is such that it is not reducible to mere matter. A description of matter and an explanation of matter can never be matter itself. Matter cannot explain itself either by content or attempted rational explanation. A brain cannot explain itself. Brains don’t study brains. Minds can study both brains and other minds. Brains can be used by minds in offering explanations (and must be), but brains alone offer nothing by way of explanation any more than kidneys do.

In the second place, when atheistic scientists choose to employ the “scientific method” as their one and only tool for truth discovery, we must point out that their selection of this all-encompassing vehicle of discovery was not made by utilization of the method itself. That is, when they identified the “scientific method” as the alleged one route to all truth, they did not make the selection based on the use of that method at all. They did not use the “scientific method” in order to arrive at the conclusion that the “scientific method” is the route to all truth. And since they used some other means to arrive at that method, they have already implied by the selection of the method for use in science that there is some means of getting at some “truth” other than the method itself, since they used some other means to select the “scientific method” as the only way to find truth! Furthermore since they used some other means of arriving at the “scientific method” (other than the method itself) as the method of choice in truth discovery, that means that whatever it is that they used in order to select the “scientific method” is surely a more fundamental route and a far more encompassing route to the discovery of truth than the “scientific method” could ever by itself be.

The selection of the “scientific method” as the method of choice for science is a reasoned or rational selection made without the use of that method in the selection process. The “scientific method” was simply not employed in order to select the “scientific method” as the one and only method of truth discovery. And even for those scientists who are not atheistic, still it is true that their employment of the method is not based on the use of that method in the selection of that method.

The situation that I am referring to is very unlike the use of reason. We simply cannot identify and describe reason without employing it. We must in every attempt at the recognition and identification of the “laws of thought” always be utilizing them. However, it is not so with the so-called “scientific method.” And even though atheists want to claim that their method of discovery is the only means of discovery, yet their method was not discovered by means of the method! The selection of a trial and error method of truth discovery was not itself made based on any trial and error test for that method. Since the method itself is a metaphysical construct, it could not in and of itself be placed in a materialistic format for analysis. For someone to suggest that “if a is true, then y will follow, and y did follow; therefore, a must be true,” is an exercise in reason (be it right or wrong), and not simply an exercise in matter exploration by other matter. Consider the following points:

  1. Either the atheistic scientist has decided to use the so-called “scientific method” as the exhaustive approach to all truth by means of the “scientific method” or by some other means.
  2. The atheistic scientist did not use the “scientific method” to locate the method nor to elevate it to its alleged exhaustive role in truth discovery.
  3. So, the atheistic scientist decided to use the “scientific method” and prescribe the use of it for all truth discovery on some basis other than the method itself.
  4. This means that the atheistic scientist implies that the so-called “scientific method” is not the only way to discover truth!

The very idea of using the “scientific method” as “the” avenue to all truth is itself not discernible via the method. The method itself cannot possibly prove the non-existence of something outside the purview of that method of discovery. Materialism can never by a materialistic means prove the non-existence of the non-empirical (the metaphysical). In other words, the atheistic scientist who limits the discovery of truth to the “scientific method” has himself used some other criteria for giving that method its lofty and all-encompassing status. He has so elevated it but not by virtue of its all-encompassing nature, but because of his atheism!

The bottom line is that no scientist can defend the “scientific method” without reason. And when he does so, he admits that reason is superior to matter and very necessary in any explanation attempt. And when atheists attempt to claim that the “scientific method” is the one and only justifiable route to truth, they do so ignorantly and in self-contradiction since the employment by them of that route is because of a reasoned choice and not by means of some empirical trial and error vindication of the method itself. In fact, there can be no reasoned justification for the method itself, given the way that it is constructed. And that brings us to the second problem with the method.

The second problem with the “scientific method” has to do with the logical form of it. Consider the following illustration. Let us say that a couple decides to visit some nearby friends but without notifying their friends first. They get into the car and begin to drive. The husband says to his wife, “I hope they are home.” She responds, “We’ll know when we see the yard, for if they are home the yard will be mowed.” Then they get to the house and they see that the yard is mowed, and conclude. “They are home.”

Now, let us analyze what happened and put it into a strict logical form so that we can easily determine what was said and whether or not it was logical and conclusive. Let us use x for “if they are home.” And let us use y for “the yard will be mowed.” If we affirm x (they are home), then we could conclude y (the yard will be mowed). But the couple didn’t do this. They affirmed y (the yard is mowed) because they saw the mowed yard when they drove up to the house, and then they reached the conclusion that x (they are home). Now, let us suppose that they found no one at home. Even though they realized that their friends always kept up their yard work when at home (so that they had a right to say to themselves if x [they are home], then y [the yard will be mowed]), they were not counting on any explanation for a mowed yard other than the presence at home by their friends. But they found y (the yard is mowed) and yet they found non-x (the friends were not at home). Later, let us suppose, they found out that their friends had gone on vacation and had hired some yard workers to attend the yard while they were gone.

You see, the would-be visitors drew a conclusion not warranted by the evidence. They arranged their reasoning in this way: “If they are home, then the yard will be mowed. The yard is mowed. Therefore, they are home.” But then they found out that even though the yard was mowed, their friends were not at home. The argument—or, syllogism—looks like this:

  • If x then y (if they are home, then the yard will be mowed).
  • y (the yard is mowed).
  • Therefore, x (they are home).

And this is an illogical form. It is invalid. The conclusion is not established by the premises. And yet, this is the very form that is characteristic of the “scientific method.” Note this carefully. The “scientific method” entails an illogical or invalid form. And this means that the conclusion reached by using this form is not established! It is not proven! In a hypothetical syllogism (an “if-then” syllogism), we can either affirm the antecedent (what follows the “if”) or we can deny the consequent (what follows the “then”). The first form is called modus ponens; the second is called modus tollens. These are both logical or valid forms. But to deny the antecedent or to affirm the consequent is to construct an invalid form (see Lionel Ruby’s Logic—An Introduction, pp. 272-276). The couple in our illustration constructed an invalid form. They said: if x (antecedent) then y (consequent). That is, if they are home, the yard will be mowed. But then they affirmed the y (the yard is mowed), and concluded x (they are home). And this is an invalid form. They affirmed the consequent.

If a scientist tests his hypothesis and says if x is correct (if they are home) then y will follow (the yard will be mowed), and then he runs his test and finds that y is, after all, present (the yard is mowed), he concludes then that x is established at least as a theoretical cause (they are home) of y. But since the form is invalid, he has no right to reach a conclusion that is absolutely true. The whole process of his trial and error method is logically flawed. For y (the yard is mowed) may be caused by something other than x (their being home). There could well be another explanation for y (the yard’s being mowed).

It is sometimes reassuring that some scientists recognize the tentative nature of scientific claims and admit that they have not proven a position but only identified a possibility. Their conclusions they hold tentatively. However, some bold atheists and obsessed evolutionists overreach their findings and draw conclusions from their method that they deem beyond reproach. It is enough here for us to realize that no conclusion whatever reached via the “scientific method” can by that method be established as absolutely true.

 

Posted in Apologetics, Epistemology, Evolution, Metaphysics

The Illusion of the Unattended Brain

In an effort to ground morality in science, Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, wrote a book published in 2010 entitled The Moral Landscape with the accompanying cover description: “How Science Can Determine Human Values.” Also on the front cover, Sam Harris is touted as “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Sam Harris is not shy about either attacking religion or about extending the traditional role of science. Having plodded through the book, in keeping with the way that Sam explains his nature and condition as well as that of the rest of the human species, I can now say that Sam is a bold brain, but I can’t say anything else if I remain within the confines of Sam’s own description of himself and the rest of us. If you have read the book or if you follow along in this paper, you should soon see what I mean.

Sam Harris attempts to build a case for ethics based completely on the physical nature of man as an evolved species on this earth. Without evolution as theoretical background and the all encompassing presupposition as the explanation for the existence of mankind, Sam’s argumentation for scientific ethics has nothing to offer, but with it, he thinks that he can argue rationally for an ethical approach to life based simply on a greater understanding of the human brain and its relationship to events in the world. But can he?

Interestingly, a reader does not get far into the text before he realizes that Harris tries, in one sense, to “distance” himself from evolution. He writes, “As with mathematics, science, art, and almost everything else that interests us, our modern concerns about meaning and morality have flown the perch built by evolution” (14). But just what in the world does that mean? How have we humans “flown the perch” that evolution built? Sam doesn’t tell us. But given the fact that he says such a thing impresses me that there is something incongruent about the concept of evolution and the concept of meaning and morality that Sam Harris recognizes. And it is a problem for him throughout his effort to base morality on physicality. Look at the situation like this. When Sam says that we humans have “flown the perch built by evolution” I submit to the reader that since he surely is trying to say something meaningful, that he is either saying:

  • (1) Evolution is false, so we need to distance mankind from it in making the case for evolutionary ethics; or
  • (2) Evolution is irrelevant to the discussion of evolutionary ethics; or
  • (3) Evolution is inadequate as a justification of any evolutionary ethical theory.

I know he not claiming (1) evolution is false, because to the end of the book he stays attached to the claim of its scientific accuracy. I know he is not claiming (2) evolution is irrelevant because throughout the book he constantly employs the concept to bolster his thesis. I conclude that he is conceding, without intending to, that there is something awfully incoherent about conceptually connecting the concept of morality to mere apes. And if the reader thinks that I am being too hard on Sam for referring to people as “apes,” simply read the book and see how many times he uses the word or some synonym or similar expression to describe the human family. His is simply another sad effort at building a case with a missing link. Somehow and in some way (isn’t it strange), Sam thinks that human concern with meaning and morality go beyond the purview of evolution (the expression “flown the perch” has to have some application), and yet throughout the book he writes as though there is perfect harmony between the concept of organic evolution including the evolving of apes to men and the concept of human morality.

Harris chides fellow scientists for claiming that science has nothing to say about morality, and he claims that he has found the explanation as to why science can say something about it after all. It is his contention that facts cannot be separated from value. We all know that scientific work is in the field of empirical discovery. Science attempts to tell us about facts. But, Harris claims, that values are attached to facts, so that if science can tell us what the facts are, it can tell us something about what the values are. And if we know the correct values regarding facts, we can more adequately choose correctly in making our moral decisions.

Of course, Harris’ thesis is that since we cannot separate facts from value and since science is in the business of discovering and reporting the facts, that science then is equally in the business of being able to tell us what the value of the facts are. But, it must not go unsaid, that Harris’ whole case is based on his unproven and unprovable notion that all “facts” are physical ones. This is necessary to the proving of his thesis, but he never does, and he never can prove that only empirically derivable conclusions reached in a scientific laboratory qualify as “facts.” This is what he assumes but cannot prove, and in his book he never seriously tries to do so. He simply writes his book while granting that most Americans still do not believe the theory of evolution, as if they should. He never attempts to prove the theory at all, but takes it as a scientifically established fact. But, here Harris is very wrong. The fact is, that evolution as an explanation for the arrival of the human species has never been proven. Furthermore, given the nature of science and the nature of origins (including the origin of man), such a discussion of the origin of man and the morality of man is outside the scope of science anyway.

On the first night of the four night public debate in 1976 between Thomas B. Warren (theist) and Antony G. N. Flew (at the time a world renowned atheist, but who later disavowed atheism), Warren gave Flew the following True-False question:

  • T/F Value did not exist before the first human being.

Flew answered the question “True” and wrote on the paper that value was a function of the human mind (Warren-Flew Debate, p. 15 and APPENDIX). In his first speech on Monday, Warren pointed out that Flew’s answer to the question meant that since Flew was claiming that value did not exist before the first human did, then value itself was simply a function of the human mind. And that meant that the concept of “value” then is reduced to the subjective likes and dislikes of a person. Warren likened it to “liking or not liking spinach” (Warren-Flew, p. 15). This means that according to Flew’s answer, he was unfortunately taking the position that when men approve of something or disapprove of something, that in saying it is “right” or “wrong” they are simply expressing their likes and dislikes. In Philosophy, that view is described as “the emotive theory” of ethics.

Of course, since Sam Harris is here either by creation or evolution, and since he asserts that he (as well as the rest of us) is here via evolution, he has no basis upon which to dignify the concept of “value” or “morality” that gives it the objective meaning or status that he wants it so desperately in his book to entail. He wants so badly to argue for some kind of “objective” ethics based on some things that humans have in common which tend toward general human well-being. But all of his argumentation amounts to nothing when one considers that “value” is simply an invention of the human mind per evolutionary theory. And that means that “morality” is a merely human invention, too. So regardless what Sam Harris’ thesis is as to how to go about establishing a good evolutionary ethic, it all amounts to the fact that Sam Harris is simply providing us via his book with his own personal wish for the world as he would like it to be. But that is as high a standing in “value” as his thesis can acquire. It represents Sam’s effort at getting his way because the world as he envisions it is the world he wants. It is made up of things he likes. And it is true that a lot of what he likes, others like, too. But that is no basis of morality. And Harris even admits that a view is not established as true by its numerical support. Hear him:

Does a lone psychotic become sane merely by attracting a crowd of devotees? If we are measuring sanity in terms of sheer numbers of subscribers, then atheists and agnostics in the United States must be delusional: a diagnosis which would impugn 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences” (Landscape, 157, 158).

So, while on the one hand Harris recognizes that any particular viewpoint is not established as actually true simply by counting the number of people who support it, yet on the other hand he does argue for a theory of ethics which is based on the overall well-being of or happiness of “the greatest number of people” (Landscape, 28 ). So, regarding ethical theory, numbers do count after all! This is just one of many incoherencies in the development of his thesis.

Thus, basing ethics on the well-being of the greatest number, Harris is ethically a “utilitarian.” Regarding the question of God’s existence, he is an atheist. In fact, he is an atheistic neuroscientist whose view is that science and religion are antagonistic (158-176). They cannot be reconciled. Regarding politics, he says he is a liberal (90), and concerning his origin and nature, he is a self proclaimed ape (2, 114). I am not making this up! He does have a doctoral degree, however, but how impressive should that be among apes? So, the book is the product of an atheistic ape who is attempting to tell the rest of us apes how science, a discipline invented by apes, can help apes live happier lives. Are you following this?

Now, let us get back to the massive wall over which Harris attempts to climb in his effort to establish a science of morality. He does not accept the conclusion of the famous Scottish skeptic, David Hume, who pointed out many years ago that no one can get “ought” from “is.” And to attempt to do so is to commit what has come to be called the “naturalistic fallacy.” Harris thinks that Hume was simply wrong (38). He contends that there is a way for science (which describes to us what our world is) to tell us something of how we ought to act in it. But, we respond, it is just not possible!

Several years before he met Warren in public debate, the then atheist Antony G. N. Flew wrote a little book entitled Evolutionary Ethics. It was published in 1967, and he debated Warren in 1976. In his book, Flew affirmed that one simply could not get from “is” to “ought” in an evolutionary world. He sided with Hume. Flew quoted from Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature:

In every system of morality which I have hitherto met with I have always remarked that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought or ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence….” (Evolutionary, 38).

According to Flew, Hume took the position that “value” was a projection of the human mind onto the things that are being valued. Rather than value existing in the thing itself, value was the position or status granted it by the mind. Mind gave value to the thing rather than the thing’s having a value that presented itself to the mind. This, of course, meant that “value” was not objective. Value was not a characteristic of the thing but rather a propulsion of the mind onto the thing. Mind created value. Flew described Hume’s view as being,

that values are not any sort of property of things in themselves, but that they are in some way a projection out on to the things around us of human needs and human desires. (One resulting problem, more obvious perhaps to us than to Hume, is that of explaining how values can be in some such fundamental way dependent on, and some sort of function of, human needs and human desires, without its thereby becoming the case that some purely descriptive statements about what people do want or would want must entail consequences about what ought to be” (Evolutionary, 39).

And let it be noted that between 1967 and 1976, Flew had not found the answer to that problem! He recognized a great philosophical difficulty for evolutionary theory and ethics. And he never reconciled the two. He saw the problem; he had no answer.

In his third affirmative speech on Monday night of his debate with Warren, Flew said with regard to value: “I can not give a complete account of the nature of value and particularly of moral value, which I regard as even halfway satisfactory…The general line I want to take, as I think all humanists do, is that value is somehow—somehow—a function of human desires, human wishes, and so on…” (Warren-Flew, 43).

Flew went on to suggest that moral value was somewhat like the market value of a 1974 Volkswagen Beetle, and he maintained the likeness throughout the discussion (43, 184, 201). Flew maintained this likeness because he thought it illustrated to him how that moral value (1) was on the one hand a product of human desire—someone’s interest in buying a Volkswagen, and yet (2) on the other hand, the price was not determined simply by any one person’s desire. A man couldn’t buy a 1974 Volkswagen for a price that his desire set or determined. The market price decided what the man must pay.

But in is fourth affirmative on Thursday night, Warren responded:

But I have a question for Dr. Flew along that line: if the Volkswagen is worth $500.00 at one place and $1,000.00 at another place, how is the actual or real value of the car to be decided? Or, does it have any real value? Now, if your illustration is worth anything at all, it will have to have some real value, or else you will have to say that no human being has any real value, and you will have joined the Nazis in a thorough-going way to say that the Jewish people did not have any real value (only a market value that might fluctuate up and down and therefore would be worth nothing under the regime of the Nazis). Dr. Flew, you ought to think those illustrations through before you give them” (Warren-Flew, 186, 187).

Flew responded in his fourth negative that night, “I hope that I did not confuse people about this. Of course I do not think that moral value is in all respects like market value. One terribly important dissimilarity is precisely that market value does vary very freely with a place and time” (Warren-Flew, 201). Flew simply reiterated his point that at least the illustration presented a situation in which value was the product of human desire and yet one man’s desire did not determine what the value of the car would be. However, he was stuck with an illustration that, if like moral value, allowed for a relativistic view of ethics.

The sad thing is that Sam Harris concedes the whole point that, granted evolutionary theory as the accurate explanation for the arrival of the human species, we are stuck with evolutionary value. That is, we are in a situation such that moral values can change! So, on the one hand Harris says that “morality can be linked directly to facts about the happiness and suffering of conscious creations” (Landscape, 64); on the other hand he grants that what makes conscious creatures happy will not necessarily remain the same (84). And, of course, he has no way of countering Flew’s contention that science alone cannot tell us that what humans do, in fact, currently desire is what they ought to desire.

So, it is clear that, given evolution, there can be no such thing as “objective” ethics or, to put it another way, there can be no such thing as an act that is intrinsically good (that is, good in and of itself) or an act that is intrinsically evil. And yet Harris, while admitting this, continues to attempt to establish an evolutionary ethic. In fact, Harris concedes that, given evolutionary theory, it is possible that the science of morality may eventuate into perhaps a contradictory kind of morality so that what is now seen as good could be later viewed otherwise. Listen to Harris:

But what if advances in neuroscience eventually allow us to change the way every brain responds to morally relevant experiences? What if we could program the entire species to hate fairness, to admire cheating, to love cruelty, to despise compassion, etc. Would this be morally good? Again, the devil is in the details. Is this really a world of equivalent and genuine well- being, where the concept of ‘well-being’ is susceptible to ongoing examination and refinements as it is in our world? If so, so be it. What could be more important than genuine well-being?” (Landscape, 84).

Wow! Per Harris, if it turns out that current good is eventual evil and that current evil is eventual good, so be it! Of course, whether current or eventual, his ethical utilitarian theory is that if most people gain happiness by an act, that act is “good.” So, even now (much less later), if a majority of people would gain overall well-being and happiness from an act that gets rid of the minority, such would be good! Flew had no way of overcoming this objection to his concept of ethics; Harris has no answer either. Harris says that if the brain can be changed to look at ethics differently, that is the way that it will be. “The devil is in the details,” he says. No, the devil is behind the very idea of trying to justify ethics without God!

Of course, Harris goes on to express the view that a radical change in the way that we currently look at ethics is not likely to happen, but the fact that he allows for this is a tremendous insight into his theory of ethics. He is advocating “relative” ethics rather than “absolute” ethics, and by his imagination, he has treated us to his view that that is the nature of ethics. And that means that there is no such thing as an absolutely good act or an absolutely bad act! Consider the following:

  • T/F 1. An act is intrinsically good or evil in and of itself (Sam Harris says “False” because an act is only “good” if it contributes to the overall well-being of the majority of the people).
  • T/F 2. The Nazi killing of the Jews in World War II was an intrinsically evil act. (Sam Harris would have to say “False” since no act to him is an intrinsically evil act. And there are conceivably circumstances in which the annihilation of the Jews would contribute to the happiness or over all well-being of a majority of people in a nation or in the world).

Consider that Harris in a footnote bemoans the current standing of atheists in American society. He claims that “atheists are the most stigmatized minority in the United States—beyond homosexuals, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, Asians, or any other group” (Landscape, 234, 235). Then, I humbly ask, is it conceivable that we could reach a moment in our history in which the killing of atheists (on the grounds that they are atheists) would be acceptable ethical practice if the majority of Americans and/or the majority of all men deemed that the happiness of most men would be enhanced? According to the basis of Harris’ concept of ethics, neither he nor any other man would be able to pronounce such killing at such time as intrinsic evil! In fact, according to “utilitarian” ethics, such killing would be the right thing to do!

But now, consider the following statement from Harris: “I believe that we will increasingly understand good and evil, right and wrong, in scientific terms, because moral concerns translate into facts about how our thoughts and behaviors affect the well-being of conscious creatures like ourselves” (Landscape, 62). Now, regarding the quotation please notice the following:

  • Sam expects more of us in the future to accept the concept of good and evil as a scientific matter.
  • There are no moral concerns outside the realm of facts (which to Sam must be empirical).
  • Our thoughts and behaviors are determined by empirical facts only.
  • We are conscious creatures.
  • Sam believes this.

Now, dear reader, what you need to see at this point is that the above affirmations are reducible to the last one: Sam said, “I believe that….” We could give attention to each part of the quotation, but such is not necessary because of the relationship that Sam Harris has to the claims. Who believes the assertions? Sam Harris says that he does. Well, who is Sam Harris? And amazingly throughout the book he writes (1) as though a real person named Sam Harris exists who is, in some way, ontologically distinguishable from mere matter while all the time (2) attempting to convince us that neither Sam Harris nor any of the readers actually exists! Do you think that I have simply misread Sam Harris? Follow closely.

To assert that men are simply instances of conscious matter is incredibly self-contradictory. “Consciousness” is not a material property! It is not simply an empirical characteristic of anything. And consciousness has never been found in science (or anywhere else) capable of expressing itself without rationality. Apes have feelings, but apes cannot articulate those feelings in language. And language requires thought. Consciousness cannot express itself without thought. Animal life can express itself by mere animation (movement). But consciousness to express itself beyond movement requires thinking.

But, Sam Harris claims that all thoughts are merely and exhaustively empirically driven or produced. In other words, Sam attributes human thought completely to the human brain! And the brain is simply conscious matter. There is no “real” person attending the brain. The brain, according to Sam Harris, is an unattended physical organ that produces the “mind” with its thoughts and intentions! Furthermore, he (Sam Harris) as a neuroscientist studies the brain, and having studied the brain a lot (to the reception of a doctoral degree), he is now in position to tell us that there is no real Sam Harris! Furthermore, anyone reading his book needs to read it while recognizing that not only is Sam Harris nonexistent, but that the reader is equally ontologically unavailable! And all the while this conceptual and linguistic joke is carried on as though it has real scientific merit. Listen to Sam:

Your ‘self’ seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. As we will see, however, this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain” (Landscape, 102).

Again, “All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion” (Landscape, 103). Again, “From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world” (Landscape, 104). Sam claims that “thoughts arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions” (Landscape, 105).

Dear reader, can you (and I mean the real YOU) believe it? You may ask, “Well, if no one is responsible for his own thoughts, then who is doing the thinking? Sam would have “us” to believe that the brain is the thinker! Per Sam Harris, the brain produces what “we” think of as the mind and its thoughts. “Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc. are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world” (Landscape, 105).

So, there you have it. It is not simply true that the real, personal, spiritual, metaphysical, ontologically distinguishable, Sam Harris has disappeared, but that, according to Sam Harris (whoever that is), there has never been a Sam Harris. But still, “we” have to account for Sam’s thoughts. Well, that is attributed to “Sam’s” brain. Sam is claiming that he is brain. He is conscious matter. But the conscious matter is not personally attended. It is still matter only that somehow in evolution reached a level of consciousness. And now at that level of consciousness, the brain all alone and unattended produces thoughts which express themselves at times in actions.

Dear reader, can you believe such? Of course, it never dawned on Sam that as he was writing his book and trying to inform us all that “we” do not exist but rather that our “brains” are the existent empirical entities that alone are responsible for our thoughts, that he was at cross purposes with himself. First consider the following:

  • T/F 1. I, Sam Harris, am a person ontologically (in the nature of being) distinguishable from my material body (Sam says “False). Per Harris, there is no immortal soul (Landscape, 110).
  • T/F 2. I, Sam Harris, am my brain and body, and my brain is physically distinguishable from the rest of my body (Sam would say True).
  • T/F 3. While I, Sam Harris, am composed of brain and body, it is “my” brain that is responsible for all my thoughts and intentions. (Sam says True).

Now, dear reader, please look at #3 again. The word “my” is placed in quotations because the sentence is written as though Sam somehow exists apart from body and brain, but according to Sam, he clearly does not. Furthermore, he writes this way throughout his book. He writes as though he has a real metaphysical status and that his readers have an actual metaphysical status while all the time attacking the very concept of anyone’s having real metaphysical status.

Please consider the difficulties that one faces when attempting to deny himself (that he actually has a metaphysical existence). Consider the following statement:

I, Sam Harris, deny myself.

The sentence makes sense in that it is pieced together with words each of which has meaning, and the whole of the arrangement seems to be stating a complete thought. However, the sentence does not make sense conceptually. For example, when we consider what is being affirmed and what is being denied, we must face the fact that either (1) the “I” (whoever it is) has to exist in order to make the denial of oneself, or (2) the “myself” has to exist in some sense in order to be denied. So the “I” must be here as denier or the “myself” must be here as the one to be denied. If one says, well, the answer is that the “myself” is not here for it is the very thing being denied, so far so good, it would seem. However, the denial itself must be attached to the “I” in order for the denial to be made. The brute fact is that there is no denial being made at all if someone is not making the denial and neither is someone being denied.

Furthermore, since Harris denies that he exists as an “immortal soul,” then let us consider a further difficulty. When he says that he does not exist, we then face the following possibilities. It is either the case that:

(1) a soul is denying itself; or

(2) a soul is denying its body (including brain); or

(3) a brain is denying its soul; or

(4) a brain is denying its body (including itself).

Since Harris denies having a soul, obviously then he cannot be meaning either (1) or (2). A soul cannot be doing anything since it simply is not there. So he cannot possibly be meaning that a soul is either the “one” (a metaphysical being) denying self or denying its body. So (1) and (2) are out of the issue. If it is then suggested that Sam means (3), that would mean then that a brain would be denying its soul. But since, per Harris, a brain has no soul, how could and why would a brain do that? How can a merely physical organ deny an ontological attachment to a metaphysical entity? A gall bladder can’t do that, nor a liver, nor a lung, nor a physical heart, etc. How is it possible for a merely physical organ, derived from an evolutionary background to go into the negative in describing its own nature? Can an empirical entity create the metaphysical category only to deny that it has any occupancy? And by the way, how would a mere brain know that anyone had ever accused it of having any attachment to a metaphysical entity in the first place? Such would be absolutely absurd!

Either a brain is not a purely physical organ (this, Sam as an evolutionist would deny), or it must be in some way connected to a metaphysical entity that is utilizing it in denying whatever it is that is being denied!

Harris has a personally unattended brain saying that it has no association with or connection to a soul. And, per Harris, the brain’s thoughts are not metaphysical constructs but rather are physiologically driven. Thoughts are the products of the mind which is the product of the brain. Thoughts, anyway, are simply like gas that has escaped the brain. We might say that his view more or less means that a brain merely “erupts” into thoughts. There is no purpose to them nor design for them. They are random secretions for which no person whatever is responsible!

Remember, he has told that “the conscious mind cannot be the source of its own thought and intentions” (Landscape, 216). And furthermore, he says, “Am I free to change my mind? Of course not. It can only change me” (Landscape, 104).

And that leaves us with (4): a brain is denying its body (including itself). When Sam Harris claims that he does not exist, he must be telling us that he as a brain is denying that the brain is there (with its body or that the body is there with its brain). But we know that Sam can’t mean to be suggesting (4) because that would mean that the brain is denying itself. And Sam in the book is quite insistent to claim that it is only the brain (with accompanying physical body) that does exist, and that the brain alone is “responsible” for thinking! Each of the four theoretical possibilities is thus eliminated from what Sam could actually be meaningfully saying. Regardless what with his incongruent combination of language and concepts he is attempting to do, the elimination of each possibility shows us that no one can rationally deny himself! And yet the ethic proposal that Sam proposes in his book is grounded in this irrational attempt!

But all the way through his book, Sam is taking the brain as being there and the metaphysical soul as not. He writes, “It seems to be that few concepts have offered greater scope for human cruelty than the idea of an immortal soul that stands independent of all material influences, ranging from genes to economic systems” (Landscape, 110). First, let it be said that without that immortal soul Sam can’t be rationally calling in question the existence of anything, much less himself! Dirt can’t deny the existence of dirt! Apes can’t deny the existence of apes, and they can’t even try.

Only metaphysical entities attached to empirical substance or form or bodies can have the capacity on this earth to deny one or the other of their conceptually distinguishable natures (physical or metaphysical). A purely physical entity has no ontological capacity to deny anything. Only a metaphysical entity has capacity to affirm and deny. Second, Sam is critical of the existence of any independent immortal soul that is not under the influence of “material influences.” But let it be said just here that we theists recognize that the mind or soul currently utilizes the brain. And any damage to the brain certainly can have a significant effect on the mind and its capacity to think. If the brain is the organ that the mind uses (as opposed to the liver, gall bladder, etc.), then any damage to the brain can certainly affect what the mind can or cannot currently accomplish. No one denies this that I know. But that is certainly not the same thing as to claim that there is no metaphysical mind as is proven by the fact that brain study has determined that a damaged brain affects thinking.

Sam Harris has studied the human brain a lot. But Sam has drawn some conclusions regarding human nature, the nature of truth, and the nature of morality that simply cannot be rightly deduced from that study. His denial of himself cannot “square” with his empirical investigation of the human brain. Someone is doing that study. But according to Sam it is merely one brain looking at another brain, and when thoughts are produced, they are unauthored by a person and no person is responsible for them. Notice the following:

  • T/F 1. Sam Harris as a metaphysical soul within a physical body is responsible for his book. (Sam says False).
  • T/F 2. Each reader of Sam’s book is a metaphysical soul within a physical body who is responsible for what he does with Sam’s book (Sam says False).
  • T/F 3. Sam Harris’ brain is alone responsible for Sam’s thoughts which in an “unauthored” way has provided us with Sam’s book (Sam tries to justify this as True though it is a self-contradictory affirmation).
  • T/F 4. Some unidentified brain produced the mind which produced the thoughts which produced the book called The Moral Landscape, attributed to Sam Harris as author (According to Harris’ argumentation as to the nature of man [he is a completely physical entity], this would be True).
  • T/F 5. The “people” who “read” Sam’s book are actually (according to Sam’s view of human nature) only other unidentified brains that produce minds which produce thoughts which produce action, so that only unidentified brains are “responsible” for minds allegedly produced by them (True, if Sam Harris’ view of human nature is correct).

A conscious mind cannot be held responsible, Sam tells us (Landscape, 216). Furthermore, he says that our thoughts are not even “authored.” Remember, he has told us that “…thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored and yet author to our actions (Landscape, 105). On the cover of The Moral Landscape we find these words describing Sam Harris: “New York Times bestselling author of The End of Faith.” Therefore, even though Sam Harris is an “author” of books, he assures us that his thoughts have no author other than a personally unattended brain. Believe it who can! How can such drivel be allowed such publication and distribution for public consumption? It is as though Sam is telling us and trying to convince us that our situation is comparable to one computer communicating with other computers, telling them how they ought to act. And there is no “one” in the picture except computers. There is no “mind” behind the brain which uses the brain. There is no Maker of the mind but Sam knows that there can only be a computer and correspondence carried on between computers if someone made the computers and if someone uses the computers. But irrationally, Sam contends the situation is otherwise for the, according to him, evolutionarily developed human species!

Curiously, and without any evidence to support his theory, Harris attributes all thought to a physical organ that is metaphysically unattended, and Sam Harris intellectually attacks any concept of personal moral responsibility! Somehow our moral world is going to be improved when we all face up to what this neuroscientist is telling us: No real person is responsible for anything. Only a brain is! Remember, Harris contends that a “person” is no more responsible for his thoughts and actions than he is for being born into this world (Landscape, 104). As it turns out, given the explanation of the human situation according to Sam Harris, ethics has nothing whatever to do with personal responsibility! Now, there is your ape morality! And mixing such absolute fiction with some sort of “moral guidance” direction for the further development of the human species cannot save it from its on self-destruction.

There are many more very serious mistakes made in the book, The Moral Landscape. But we will not go into the exposure of every wrong turn that Sam took in arriving at his current confusion and explanation regarding morality. Once we see how the foundation for the theory (that science can determine human values) is based on such ontological self-contradiction, we see that everything else to be discussed is peripheral and secondary.

The very idea of a self-styled ape trying to convince other alleged apes how to live is laughable. And while I do sympathize with Sam in his horror over evil done in the name of religion, I cannot sympathize with him in a solution that embodies such incoherence and self-contradiction. And who among us can accurately apprise the misery caused in this nation already over the pseudo-scientific advocacy of organic evolution in its expression of current immorality? Sam incoherently warns us against self-deception (Landscape, 163, 176), all the while assuring us that there is no actual ontological “self” to be deceived! Such confusion is no help in trying to contribute to a better world.

It Is Only My Brain Talking

He said to me that he is not here.
“Who is not here?” I replied.
“Me,” he said as if unaware
That his denial had just been denied!

“If you are not here,” my inquiry began,
“To whom shall I make my reply?”
Someone responded (and I’m not really sure who),
“Me,” without blinking an eye.

“But how can I talk to you when you’re not here?”
“It is merely my brain,” he said with a smile.
“But how can that be?” I asked in response.
He said, “It’s been that way all the while.”

“Your brain? I asked with a skeptical look.
How can that possibly be?
The brain cannot be ‘your’ brain at all
For you just told me that the brain had no ‘me!’”

“There is no ‘my’ brain,” I tried to point out,
Not sure that he at all apprehended.
“If you are not here, the brain is not ‘yours.’
Indeed, the brain is completely unattended.”

Posted in Apologetics, Christianity and Culture, Evolution

Aliens and Evolution (What Happens When Imaginary Green Men Get Credit for God’s Work)

By Weylan Deaver

Aliens are ingrained in our cultural psyche. They abound in books, movies, radio, and a thousand theories about the extra-terrestrial, little green men, UFO sightings, abductions, Area 51, and Roswell.

The year 1898 saw publication of H. G. Wells’ novel, War of the Worlds, which helped pioneer the concept of aliens (and aliens versus man). It was adapted in a 1938 radio broadcast which frightened many into believing aliens were invading America. H. G. Wells was an adoring student of Thomas Huxley, who was known as “Darwin’s bulldog” due to his staunch defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of human origins.

If aliens are defined as physical creatures inhabiting other planets or galaxies, then they have no place in a worldview informed by the Bible. Angels and demons are treated as matter-of-fact realities in the Bible, but not as living in space. Stars are created by God (Gen. 1:16) and, though sophisticated instruments will only allow scientists to guess at their number, God knows the precise number of stars and has already named every one of them (Psalm 147:4). One thing the Bible never hints at is intelligent life in outer space.

However, aliens do go hand in glove with evolutionary theory. In his 2008 documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Ben Stein chronicles extreme prejudice in academia against belief in intelligent design in the universe. At the movie’s end, Stein interviews Richard Dawkins, one of today’s leading advocates of atheism. Asked about the possibility of the world’s being intelligently designed, Dawkins replies:

“Well… it could come about in the following way: it could be that uh, at some earlier time somewhere in the universe a civilization evolved… by probably some kind of Darwinian means to a very, very high level of technology and designed a form of life that they seeded onto…perhaps this… this planet. Um, now that is a possibility. And uh, an intriguing possibility. And I suppose it’s possible that you might find evidence for that if you look at the um, at the detail…details of our chemistry molecular biology you might find a signature of some sort of designer.”

In other words, even an atheist like Dawkins feels the pressure to admit the possibility of what to so many of us is painfully obvious: we are surrounded by intentional, intelligent design. So, with straight face, he posits as a serious suggestion that unidentified aliens, at an untold time, from undisclosed location, by an unknown method, “seeded” on earth a “form of life” they “designed.” Dawkins’ desperation is palpable, and a grasping at cosmic straws.

The debate may be shifting. Whereas atheists used to deny intelligent design in nature, at least some now seem willing to admit it, as long as the designer is anyone but God. What but an entrenched anti-God bias would produce a baseless assertion, such as Dawkins’ theory of intelligent design by aliens? Yet, some will doubtless view it as scientifically credible, since Dawkins said it, even though there is nothing scientific about it.

Scripture affirms the existence of Adam and angels, but not aliens. Rational, thinking beings that we are, there is no excuse for confusion about where we came from. Noting the inescapable evidence for God all around us, the apostle Paul writes that “the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

Posted in Apologetics, Evolution, Existence of God

The Marvel of Memory

By Weylan Deaver

Have you ever remembered an event or place you had not thought of in years, a memory coaxed out of hiding somewhere in your mind? The aroma of Kool-Aid and mopped floors (or maybe even something else I can’t quite put my finger on) — these things form a smell somehow peculiarly associated in my mind with my first grade cafeteria. I attended a different school for second grade, and several more schools before graduating. Yet, this particular smell I only associate with my first grade cafeteria — not any of the others I ate in for twelve years. Every once in a while, I’ll catch a whiff on the air that takes me back to the room where a six-year-old used to eat lunch. Memory is a profound thing (see here for an interactive infographic on the brain’s basic functions). How is it possible for the brain to store a memory from decades earlier, and hold onto those details, perhaps for a lifetime? An evolutionist has the insurmountable challenge of explaining how matter can produce memory. Imagine a scientist with a tray in front of him containing all the elements: the makings of liquids, gases, rocks and dirt. What elements could the scientist combine in order to get a piece of matter capable of storing a memory? The idea that matter — if it were only arranged in proper sequence — could, by itself, hold a memory within itself, is ludicrous. Physical elements compose the brain, but elements cannot explain all the mind can do. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). In fact, it is only because he has a God-given mind that an atheist can have a thought. Rather, we agree with David’s assessment when he said to the Lord, “I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).