This book by Dr. Stephen Meyer has elicited a lot of insults from its critics, but not much reasoned response.
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a review of double-doctor Alister McGrath’s book Why God Won’t Go Away. It ends with an amusing anecdote about a young man who meets Dr. McGrath and asks him to sign one of his theology books. The young man tells Dr. McGrath that he has Richard Dawkins to thank for his conversion to Christianity. He had read Dawkins’s The God Delusion and thought it was so unfair and one-sided that he had to look at the other side. When he did, he become convinced of the reality of Christianity.
While one might pass this off as an isolated incident, it’s not clear that’s the case. Not long ago, I blogged about another person who was raised Catholic but became an agnostic in her teens. She read The God Delusion and similar works, thinking it would drive her to atheism. Once she read Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists, however, she read authors on the other side of the debate. In comparison, she found the arguments of Dawkins and his ilk intellectually deficient, so she returned to her Catholic faith.
Note what happened in both of these cases. Each person decided to look at both sides of the issue. They looked at the arguments of those who claimed there is no God, and they looked at the arguments of those who claimed there is a God. Both decided that those who argued against the existence of God had a significantly weaker position. As a result, they ended up believing in God.
But what makes the arguments of the New Atheists so weak? It’s not just that they have little evidence to back up their claims. It’s more than that. I think one of the reasons their arguments are so weak is that they try to make up for their lack of evidence with insults and bluster. Somehow, they think they are making their case stronger, but to most reasonable people, it has the opposite effect. A few days ago, I ran across a story that makes this very point.
Statue of two gossipping ladies in the old town section of Sindelfingen, Germany. (click for credit)
There has been a lot of research regarding what personal characteristics make a person more or less likely to lie. The results of this research have been decidedly mixed. Some research suggests that pretty much everyone lies. Some research suggests that men are more likely to lie than women.1 Other research, however, shows no difference in the amount that men and women lie.2
A new study3 was recently published regarding the personal characteristics of those who tend to lie, and it has gotten some attention from the atheist community. Why? Because one of the results indicates that people who claim religion is important to them are more likely to lie for financial gain. Indeed, as one popular article on the study put it:
However, he [the author of the study] discovered other factors predicted a greater likelihood of telling an untruth — including the assertion that religion plays an important role in your life. Somewhere (or not), Christopher Hitchens is chuckling.
Now before I begin discussing the study, please understand that in my personal experience, Christians are less moral than the general population. I don’t suggest that this is a general trend; I have no idea. It is simply what I have gathered from my own personal experiences. For example, if I look back on my professional career, I have had several bosses – people who exercised authority over me at work. Some of them were atheists, and some were Christians. At least one of them would never speak about his religious beliefs. The most moral among them was one of the atheists, and the least moral among them was one of the Christians. This is consistent with my overall experiences as well. In general, I think that Christians do a very poor job of representing Christ to the world, especially when it comes to whether or not you can believe what they say.
I am always interested in looking at studies that try to quantify whether or not my personal experiences are representative of a general trend. When I first heard about this new study, then, I wasn’t surprised about its conclusions. However, a detailed look at the study did offer one surprise.
This is part of a stained-glass window called "Education." It is found in room 102 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall at Yale University, and it portrays science and religion in harmony. (click to see the entire piece)
You hear it all the time. Science and Christianity are in conflict. For example, Dr. Thomas Henry Huxley once wrote:1
The science, the art, the jurisprudence, the chief political and social theories, of the modern world have grown out of Greece and Rome—not by favour of, but in the teeth of, the fundamental teachings of early Christianity, to which science, art, and any serious occupation with the things of this world were alike despicable.
The problem, of course, is that such statements are demonstrably false. Indeed, as I have written before, historical scholarship has shown that modern science is a product of Christianity (see here and here).
I recently ran across an excellent essay by Dr. Michael Keas that makes this point very well. I strongly recommend that you read it in its entirety, but there are two quotes from it that I would like to highlight.
This is Dr. Laura Keynes, who returned to the faith of her childhood after reading the New Atheists and those who replied to them. (Click for credit.)
Dr. Laura Keynes grew up in Cambridge, arguably the intellectual center of the United Kingdom. She studied at the University College of Oxford on a full-ride scholarship and ended up earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Her doctoral thesis was on epistemology, the study of knowledge and justified belief. As her last name indicates, she is the great-grandniece of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. She is also the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.
Why am I telling you about this young lady? Because she recently wrote an article entitled, “I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic.” Now the title didn’t surprise me at all. I know a lot of Catholics (and even more Protestants) who believe in evolution. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, Dr. Michael Behe, says:1
You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.
However, as I read the article, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, Laura was raised Catholic but drifted away from the faith after her mother became a Buddhist and her brother rejected all organized religion. By the time she was studying for her Doctor of Philosophy degree, she was an agnostic. During that time, however, Richard Dawkins had opened up an international dialogue on the existence of God with his thoroughly awful book, The God Delusion. Well, Laura decided to read Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists, and she says:
I expected to be moved from agnosticism to atheism by their arguments, but after reading on both sides of the debate, I couldn’t dismiss a compelling intellectual case for faith. As for being good without God, I’d tried and didn’t get very far. At some point, life will bring you to your knees, and no act of will is enough in that situation. Surrendering and asking for grace is the logical human response.
I swore I would never do it. I would never write an elementary science course. After all, I have no experience with the age group. We adopted our only daughter when she was in her teens. I have taught at the university level and the high school level, but never at the elementary level. I simply couldn’t imagine any scenario in which I would write an elementary science series.
Well, God clearly has a sense of humor, because over the past three years, I have been doing just that! It wasn’t my idea. Honestly. When I left my previous position three years ago, I tried to write a math program. I worked hard on it for about two months, and when I looked at it critically, I realized that it just wasn’t very good. I showed it to a math teacher I respect and admire, and he quickly agreed!
As I prayed about what I should be doing, a conversation I had with a brother in Christ kept coming back to my mind. He suggested that I should write an elementary science course that used the days of creation as detailed in Genesis to introduce scientific concepts. The more I prayed about it, the more comfortable I became with the idea, so I started writing a course I originally called Science in the Creation Week, a title my lovely and patient wife never liked.
I decided to change the title of the course when I started seriously praying about what the rest of the series would cover. It seemed to me that the Lord was leading me to write a series that introduced scientific concepts in historical context. Since the creation account in Genesis is the beginning of history, it made sense to call the course Science in the Beginning. Now that I have spent three years writing, I can present an overall plan for the series.
A painting of David and Goliath by the Italian artist Caravaggio (public domain image)
King David is a central figure in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 17, we learn that as a young man, his faith in God allowed him to challenge and defeat the champion of the Philistine army (Goliath), who was a giant. He spent many years on the run from the vengeful King Saul, but eventually, he became ruler over all Israel. He also fathered one of the wisest men who ever lived: King Solomon. He was far from a saint, however. He not only forced a woman to commit adultery with him, he also arranged for her innocent husband to be killed in battle. Despite such grave sins, we learn in the New Testament (Acts 13:22) that he was a man after God’s own heart.
There are some Biblical scholars who think that King David never existed. Dr. Philip R. Davies, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, says:
I am not the only scholar who suspects that the figure of King David is about as historical as King Arthur.
Others think that David might have been a real person, but he was not the ruler of a mighty kingdom, as depicted in the Old Testament. Dr. Michael Carden suggests:
Was there a David? Possibly. Possibly a bandit and maybe eventually a warlord with some authority in Judah during the ninth century BCE, from whom a subsequent dynasty in Jerusalem claimed descent.
The main reason some think that David could not have been ruler over a great nation is that there is very little archaeological evidence that indicates Judah was anything but a rural backwater during the time when David reigned. That view, however, might be changing.
Those who graduate college are more likely to retain their faith. (Click for credit.)
We’ve all heard the story before: A devout young student graduates from high school and attends college. While he is there, he hears all the arguments against his faith from his secular professors. He is tempted to live the “wild life” that many college students enjoy. He finds that it is easy to do all sorts of things that his parents didn’t allow him to do at home. Pretty soon, his faith is in the rear-view mirror, and by the time he graduates, he has lost it altogether.
While there is no doubt that this story is true for some individuals, it is almost certainly not true for the majority of students. In fact, according to an article discussed by the Geochristian, students who attend college are more likely to retain their faith than those who do not attend college! The article bases its conclusions on two sources: a book published by Oxford University Press and a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Social Forces.
Since I am always interested in looking at the evidence as directly as possible, I read the study, and it is truly fascinating!
Roy Costner IV was the valedictorian of Liberty High School in South Carolina. In honor of his achievement, he was given the opportunity to address his fellow students during commencement ceremonies. Most commencement speeches are forgettable, but his was not. It wasn’t because his speech was amazingly good. It was mediocre at best. It didn’t really follow a coherent line of thought, and a large portion of the speech consisted of “shout outs” to individual students. His speech is memorable because it was an open act of defiance against the school district.
He begins his speech with this jarring statement:
As I stand here before you, members of the school board, faculty, staff, family, friends, and fellow graduates. I first wanted to say that I turned in my speech to Miss Lynn, which….uh…she somehow seemed to approve, so obviously I didn’t do my job well enough. So we’re going to just have to use a different one.
He then ripped the “approved” speech in half, pulled out another speech, and began to read. Rather quickly, he told the audience that he is grateful for the fact that his parents led him to the Lord at a young age, and then he recited the Lord’s Prayer, which is based on Matthew 6:9-13.
Why the drama? Why the prayer? According to FOX news, the school district had been getting complaints from atheist groups about the fact that they include prayers in their school events. As a result, the school district banned prayer altogether. Costner’s speech was designed to get around that decision, and if you listen to the video above, you will see that it went over well with his classmates. I have never heard the Lord’s Prayer cheered as it was during his speech!
Now even though his speech violated the school district’s ban, it appears he is not going to suffer any consequences. A spokesperson for the district says:
The bottom line is: We’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.
As an atheist who became a Christian, I am always intrigued to read of similar journeys made by others. I have written about a couple of them in the past (here and here), and now the GeoChristian points out another one:
The Home Educating Family Association is a wonderful organization that provides all sorts of useful resources to homeschoolers. They publish a magazine called (not surprisingly) Home Educating Family. Recently, they asked me to contribute to their first issue of 2013, which focuses on pro-life topics. I ended up writing two pieces for them. The first one is entitled “My Little Girl,” and it discusses our experience of adopting a teenager (who just turned 34!). It was probably the most difficult piece I have ever written, as it brought up all sorts of (mostly wonderful) memories. I had such a hard time finding the words I needed to convey what I felt, and then I had a hard time proofreading the piece because of my tears! The article is not available on the internet, so if you want to read it, you will need to get the print magazine.
The other article didn’t make it into the print magazine, so it ended up being posted on the Home Educating Family Association blog. It is essentially a composite of two blog posts I wrote previously discussing how a baby in the womb is fully human. It is not emotional, but some might find it interesting. If you care to read the piece, you can find it here.
You have stumbled across Dr. Jay L. Wile's Blog. Dr. Wile holds an earned PhD from the University of Rochester in Nuclear Chemistry. He is best known for the "Exploring Creation with..." series of textbooks written for junior high and high school students who are being educated at home. He has also just released an elementary science series!You can read about that here.
Red Wagon Tutorials
This site is run by the most gifted teacher with whom I have ever worked. He has live classes that go with my books as well as recorded classes.
Answers in Genesis
While I disagree with some of the theology on this website, the science discussed is pretty solid.
This website contains works from a good mix of young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Dr. Todd Wood, one of the leaders in baraminology. He covers current topics of interest to young-earth creationists.
This is the blog of Kevin Nelstead, an old-earth creationist geologist. He covers many topics related to the age of the earth and offers a nice contrast to the young-earth writings listed above.
An interesting "think tank" that contains the major players in Intelligent Design
This is atheist PZ Myers's blog. While I disagree with most of what he says, he is a provocative writer. This is one of the few blogs I read regularly. Please note that there is a lot of foul language in his writing. Those who cannot defend their positions rationally tend to descend into such nonsense.