"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Knowing God: Part 3

I knew when I started this essay, that one of the biggest problems would be avoiding all of the inherent rabbit trails that you can go down by taking on the question of whether or not it is possible to know God.

One commenter who passed by here did exactly what I expected, in light of the fact that the vast majority of people who occupy the churches on Sunday morning across this country don't really believe most of what the Bible says, and don't really have any interest in doing so.  Let me quote my visitor:

I have spent about 15 years now happily looking at evidence that was sent to me by creationists. I'm a Christian, a teacher in my church, and even a part-time missionary! I rarely find evidence sent to me that even takes looking at. [sic] On rare occasions I do, but even that has not stood up to scrutiny.
Gentry's polonium halos is a good argument, though there are refutations [he means criticisms, nobody has refuted any of Dr. Gentry's work. - Moshe] of it written. The question has to do with whether there was any travel of gas through the granite. Gentry says there's no evidence; his opponents say there's clear evidence. I can't resolve a question like that, but I haven't found anything else that withstood scrutiny.

It is interesting that this man cites the polonium halos, because that is the one case that proved to me that people will choose to believe what they WANT to believe in spite of the evidence.  This visitor backs that up, in spades.  Back in the late 80's, when I had just a couple of years of apologetics research under my belt, I was writing a paper for the class I was teaching on apologetics.  I was distilling the very technical writing of Robert Gentry and his critics down to what could be understood by the average person with an eighth grade education.  Most people don't understand chemistry and quantum mechanics, and I wanted people in my class to get the gist of it all.  More importantly, I wanted them to see the silly ways that Gentry's critics tried to deal with explaining away his conclusions.  God had a lesson for me in this exercise. So I will have to explain further.

There was a woman who for months had been coming to a Bible study at an Episcopal church that I was a member of  at that time.  She just showed up after about the second week it had begun.  It was an evening, weekday class and we spent about an hour and a half on it.  The class was memorable for two reasons.  First, the woman seemed to be there for the express reason of playing the devil's advocate.  She wanted to contest everything.  She wanted to introduce every criticism she could come up with.  There were just two of us who would take on her challenges, and often times that meant pointing out how ridiculous some of her challenges were, as they really didn't have anything to do with the particular text we were using.  She was like a member of the Brady Campaign attending a Gun Owners of America meeting.  We tried to be conciliatory and accommodating, but it was a struggle.

The other reason it was memorable was that a couple of months later, I was working on my apologetics class presentation, and I had gone to my college library to pull the source papers on Dr. Gentry's work on polonium halos.  Guess who was the librarian on duty.  She wanted to know what I was looking up and why. I went over it with her as succinctly as I could.  She was not impressed.  I highlighted the important points again and asked her if she understood the implications.  She claimed she didn't.  When I carefully explained that it meant that granite had to have been created nearly instantaneously, she said there must be some explanation.  I showed her how I had already covered that.

"Then there must be some other explanation."
"Do you know of some other physical laws of the universe that the best minds in geophysics are not aware of?" I asked her.
"Well, no, but there must be some other explanation."
"Look, I've made the point that Dr. Gentry has come at this problem from every angle, and that the physicists who don't like his conclusions have postulated theories but with no experimental or empirical evidence.  I've shown you the quote where the head of the geophysical association simply tells his colleagues it would be best to drop the subject because they have no good answers."
"They just haven't found it yet, they just need more time."

And so it hit me.  It didn't matter how much more time.  It didn't matter how much more evidence.  That dialog would prove to be very valuable to me just a couple of weeks later in my sociology class.  The visiting instructor there was an assistant from University of South Florida, where I would attend later.  He was a former Catholic who had a real hate on for the church of his ancestry, and he enjoyed taking shots at Christianity and the Bible at every turn.  But he hadn't bargained for having somebody like me in his class.  I challenged him all the time.

"You make fun of things you claim are "Christian" beliefs and then I show clearly why you are wrong - that those aren't Judeo-Christian beliefs at all -  why do you do that?"
"Because it's all just a bunch of mythology.  Mankind has gotten past that, or needs to."
"But you don't give any good evidence. You cite stuff that I've shown has been debunked.  You make statements, but you don't back them up with anything solid."
"I don't need to."
"Then let me ask you this: If I could show you a mountain of incontrovertible evidence that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the Bible is a supernatural book that had to be written by an omnipotent, omniscient creator, would you be willing to change your mind?"
"Hell no."

There it was.  The same thing I saw in the librarian.  However, here, I had gotten him to admit it in a classroom full of 28 students.  A guy who was supposed to be teaching truth to young minds about a field that was supposed to be about scientific endeavor.  It was like the scene in "A Few Good Men" where Lt. Caffey gets Col. Jessup to forget about the implications of what he might say, and instead, just blurt out the truth. [BTW - I love the Col. Jessup soliloquy and agree with it.]

It cemented a lesson in my mind that I would never forget.  It brought a more complete understanding to me of what Yeshua meant when He said that we shouldn't throw pearls before swine.  It proved to me that people will not only seek out the answers they want and ignore the ones they don't, but even in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence, they will choose what they want over what is real.

Now, let me back up to what commenter Paul said above:

"I rarely find evidence sent to me that even takes looking at.[sic] On rare occasions I do, but even that has not stood up to scrutiny."

Admittedly, I don't know what all gets sent to Paul, but his statement smacks of what I've encountered over the many years.  It is the a priori method of dismissing anything one doesn't agree with from the moment something seems to present evidence of the supernatural or contradicts long held assumptions.  Paul is invited to share with me examples of what he deemed unworthy to even consider, but I doubt he'll take me up on it.
When I was teaching apologetics regularly and came across such bad information, I always used it as a teaching opportunity to show my students what not to do.  Also notice that Paul is as much admitting that he doesn't go looking for information that challenges his beliefs, he is waiting for someone to send it to him. There's another lesson there.

I'm a great fan of marine biology. Of material things I miss a lot, my 75 gallon saltwater aquarium is in the top ten.  I used to do a lot of snorkeling, and when I lived in Tampa, I was ten minutes from one of the world's largest marine estuaries.  What does that have to do with the previous paragraph?   There would be no small amount of times when I would see Yankees who had come to Florida, thinking that every piece of shore that was licked by salt water would be a bounty of marine wonders. I can't count the number of times I'd hear "kids" of all ages say, "What's the big deal, there's nothing here."
I'd be out in the turtle grass and mangroves, enjoying the wonders of all the different species of crabs, anemones, a few coral, sea horses, etc. It was different every day.  It could suddenly change with the tide.  The dolphins aren't on the payroll of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, so they don't show up on cue, but they eventually show up. There are many wonders to behold, but if you are expecting someone to lead you by the hand, you will miss out on a lot.  Of course, you can go to the Florida Aquarium, or Sea World, and it's all designed to be spoon fed to you as easy as pie, but the people who go to the trouble and expense of making it so easy and entertaining are making big bucks to do it.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard a believer in evolution make a statement about what creationists believe or teach, only to find out when challenged that they not only cannot cite the source, but that it's what they heard some other evolutionist say they thought creationists believed. Most of the time, it would turn out to be false.  For this reason, creationists are forced to be extremely careful about quoting and citing source material.  Fortunately for us creationists, there are evolutionists who, from time to time, let down their guard and admit things out of some devotion to the scientific method, or truth, as it were.

Here is a good example:
Professor Richard Lewontin, a geneticist (and self-proclaimed Marxist), is a renowned champion of neo-Darwinism, and certainly one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology. He wrote this very revealing comment (the italics were in the original). It illustrates the implicit philosophical bias against Genesis creation—regardless of whether or not the facts support it.

‘We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.’

Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons, The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.

You see, it's an open conspiracy, or a cattle conspiracy.  The vast majority of the population outside of academe, don't read the literature and are unfamiliar with all of the internal debate that goes on among scientists.  Guys like Paul aren't going to dig and discover gems like the one above.  It's just generally accepted that "all" scientists believe evolution is fact, based on the evidence, not in spite of it. The assumption is that if someone has an advanced degree in science, then there was some magic fairy dust that was sprinkled on them that makes them follow the truth regardless of the implications or the consequences.

And let's not forget that the reason Ben Stein made the movie EXPELLED: is because the vast majority of the populace is unaware of the systematic and purposeful efforts that go on in academe to stifle any discussion, let alone evidence that is heretical to the religion of evolution.

I want to thank Paul for stopping by and making me realize that I needed to go down this little side track in order to emphasize that if my readers are going to benefit from what I have to share, they are going to actually have to do some thinking for themselves.  And if I need to stop and answer questions and objections, that's fine, even if it means it will take a bit longer to get to the conclusion.  My main point for this entire essay is whether or not it is logical and reasonable to believe that we can know God.  If we have to broaden the knowledge base to get there, so be it.

You can move on to Knowing God: Part 4 by clicking here.


  1. I appreciate you pointing this out. I suffered from it for a long time, until I realized I was doing it and that bugged me so much that I started looking at everything I believed with a much more critical eye. Sometimes I still catch myself doing it, much to my chagrin... but I'm working on it!

    And "people will not only seek out the answers they want and ignore the ones they don't, but even in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence, they will choose what they want over what is real" is exactly what I see in the vast majority of people who label themselves "liberals".

  2. Thank you, Jeanne S. A great example of what you say is in "liberals" (I need to add to my glossary, because I hate using that word for leftists) thinking that human beings are basically good; inherently so. Any parent knows that as soon as a child can start walking and talking that they are inherently selfish. Not evil, mind you, but their natural tendency is not to worry about fairness or the benefit of others, and to rebel against nearly any and all discipline. The world is rife with societies from the biggest and modern, to the smallest and primitive that prove that if people are not "trained" out of their natural tendency, crime in all forms is rampant.

  3. Trust me, as a mom who raised 2 girls to adulthood (without either of them getting arrested, pregnant, or otherwise in serious trouble!), I'm all too well aware that kids are inherently selfish and that "inherent good" is something that _may_ be present in an individual person but usually isn't -- and certainly isn't present in humanity as a whole! (BTW, I'm also appreciating your posts on Knowing God; although I'm not Christian, you've written a lot that is both passionate and sensible, and I'm enjoying mulling it all over.)


Please don't make me disable comments because you couldn't maintain decorum and civil discourse. You can disagree all you want to, just don't get nasty.