This is Lecture 5 of 6 lectures delivered at this seminar. The fifth was by Fr Abram Abdelmalek.
Father Abram Abdelmalek was born in Egypt and completed two degrees in Egypt in Geology and Theology. On 15 November 1996, he was ordained a priest of the Coptic Orthodox Church in 1996 by Shenouda III, the 117th Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. Fr Abram is currently serving a large spectrum of community groups, including some aboriginal communities in Western Australia like the Australian Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
This is Lecture 4 of 6 lectures delivered at this seminar. The fourth was by Fr Pavol Herda.
Father Pavol Herda is the priest in charge of Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Kelmscott. He comes from Slovakia AND was ordained at St Joseph’s Church, Subiaco, in 2008. Fr Herda is committed to helping people in Western Australia understand the enriching messages of eternal hope given to us by Jesus Christ.
This article reminded me of the fact that until we are saved and regenerated we are dead, dead men walking. Only in Christ are we made alive. And thus we avoid the second death even if our flesh dies we live eternally. Jesus said to the guy in Luke 9:59-60: “Let the dead bury the dead” when they weren’t dead at the moment He spoke to the man who wanted time to wait until his parents had died before following Jesus.
Life. It is one of the most common words in the English language. It is something to “live,” something to “spend,” something that begins and ends, something that is evaluated as “good” or “bad,” as “healthy” or “unhealthy.”
But how do we actually define it? Is it defined by our culture, or does it have an intrinsic meaning that transcends how the culture uses the word?
With the COVID19 plandemic, really a scamdemic, there seems to be more an epidemic of fear and panic. Why is that?
People are willing to give up all their civil liberties and be lock away like common criminals to be assured that they won’t catch a certain new alleged virus and die. This is strange because the alleged virus (if you an believe that there really is a new/novel coronavirus) has a survivability rate of 99.98% (CDC) for anyone younger than 50 years old.
Here is a table of infection fatality rate (IFR) data from the US CDC (2020).
If we take Scenario 5, the best current estimate, and convert to survivability rate, expressed as %, using the formula (1- IFR)100, we get the following:
Part 11 and the final part of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 10 is found here.
In the last section of the book titled “Caring” he opens the first chapter with a quote from Carl Sagan’s wife. In response to people who knew Sagan was not a believer, seven years after his death his wife, Ann Druyan, wrote:
“We knew we were the beneficiaries of chance … That pure chance could be so generous and so kind … That we could find each other … in the vastness of space and the immensity of time…. The way he treated me and the way I treated him… that is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.” (pp.387-8)
This then leads to the question of the afterlife. Being a naturalist Carroll does not believe in such. He states though that he would like to continue living in some fashion after death, but only if it was pleasant and if he was not “tortured by ornery demons” (p.388)
And he writes that it takes courage to face up to the finitude of and the limits on our existence. Thus he agrees with Druyan that it was only chance that she met Sagan. The message here is that man is just another animal and not any more important that a sea slug. By chance we meet our spouses—there is no more meaning in our existence than chance.
“Ideas like ‘meaning’ and ‘morality’ and ‘purpose’ are nowhere to be found in the Core Theory of quantum fields, the physics underlying our everyday lives.” (p.389)
But he tries to add meaning by saying that these are emergent ways of talking about our human-scale environment. Nothing more.
“The source of these values isn’t the outside world; it’s inside us.” (p.389)
We could discuss where such ideas have ultimately led to. In the 20th century alone at least one hundred million people were killed, directly or indirectly, by atheistic despotic regimes, which were the invention of man’s values. Nazi Germany eliminated the handicapped because of ideas from inside the mind of man—ideas that were based on humanist Darwinian thinking.
Carroll tries to save the atheist position with
“If you are moved to help those less fortunate than you, it doesn’t matter whether you are motivated by a belief that it’s God’s will, or by a personal conviction that it’s the right thing to do. Your values are no less real either way.” (p.391)
That is true. But in a culture that developed from the Judeo-Christian mind-set it is not surprising that altruism in part remains in the society, even among atheists. But what is their motivation. It would seem they would be acting contrary to their selfish Darwinian belief system.
Most societies that developed aid to the poor or the handicapped did not arrive at those ideas using man’s values. Most hospitals, aged care homes, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other outreaches (the anti-slavery movement, for example) began with Christians desiring to follow Christ’s admonition. (Matthew 25:37-40)
The unsaved sinner did not just think it would be a good idea to help the poor themselves. History tells us—Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, to name a few—that man’s ideas are decidedly selfish and destructive. The scriptures tell us (James 4:1-2) that it is from lust (or desire) that many undesirable actions and even wars result.
But according to Carroll,
“[d]esire has a bad reputation in certain circles. But that’s a bum rap.” (p.392)
And he tries to give it a positive spin, but not by mentioning any of the negative traits that desire or lust lead to. He says once we have provision of food and shelter we challenge ourselves to show some accomplishments.
“That makes sense, in light of evolution. An organism that didn’t give a crap about anything that happened to it would be at a severe disadvantage in the struggle for survival when compared to one that looked out for itself, its family and its compatriots.” (p.392)
Part 9 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 8 is found here.
Purpose without a Creator
The next chapter entitled “Emergent Purpose” is about finding some sort of ‘purpose’ as an emergent property of evolution. He is quite clear that evolution itself is undirected but suggests that we humans can find some purpose in it.
He starts out with a question “Why do giraffes have such long necks?” and gives 4 possible answers, 3 of which evolutionist would believe. Option 1 he declares incorrect, which is Lamarckian, yet actually closer to Darwin’s original idea. Options 2 is the common way of explaining neo-Darwinian evolution, with mutations conferring better fitness. Option 3 is about sexual selection and option 4 is in line with his overall message of the book.
“Given the laws of physics, and the initial state of the universe, and our location in the cosmos, collections of atoms in the shape of long-necked giraffes came into existence 14 billion years after the Big Bang.” (pp.291-2)
None of this sentence has any credibility. Only by assuming everything to be true in the evolution story from the big bang to current day could you write this. So it is not a science statement but a theological statement. He says it avoids any particular evolutionary story, but it is not hard to imagine that the words “came into existence” does not mean at the hands of the Creator, but rather is a big bang. Otherwise there would be no need to start in the big bang, nor include the words “our location in the cosmos”. He says this is a poetic-naturalism way of speaking about emergent properties of the biological world. But that could only be true if you could demonstrate experimentally that each requirement in the statement is true.
Then from this sort of story, which he calls “the fundamental description of reality” (p.292) because of the big bang, expansion of the universe and the increase in entropy with time, he says
“… these emergent pictures invoke words like ‘purpose’ and ‘adaptation,’ even though those ideas are nowhere to be found in the underlying mechanistic behavior of reality” (p.293)
“How could evolution, which itself is ultimately purely physical, bring these utterly new kinds of things into existence? It’s a natural thing to worry about. The process of evolution is unplanned and unguided.”
“There is no general principle along the lines of ‘new kinds of things cannot naturally arise in the course of undirected evolution.’ Things like ‘stars’ and ‘galaxies’ come to be in a universe where they formerly didn’t exist. Why not purposes and information?” (p.293)
Part 5 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 4 is found here.
Worldviews and Science
In his chapter titled “Planets of Belief” he uses the analogy of how planets are alleged to have formed naturalistically (which in reality is just wishful thinking) and how we humans form our belief systems by associating together collections of ideas and ‘isms’.
“One person’s planet might include the scientific method, as well as the belief that the universe is billions of years old; another’s might include a belief in biblical literalism, as well as the belief that the world was created a few thousand years ago.” (p.118)
Then he asks how do we know which one is correct. But firstly he has created a straw man anyway. To suggest that a biblical creationist does not believe in the scientific method because she or he believes in a Creator is absurd. Science operates on the present, not the past. Any past creation event is untestable by the scientific method. This shows a clear ignorance of such matters. He goes on to write:
“If you confront a young-Earth creationist who thinks that the world came into being 6,000 years ago with scientific evidence for a very old Earth and universe, their typical response is not “Oh, I don’t believe in evidence and logic.” Rather, they will attempt to account for the evidence within their belief system, for example, by explaining why God would have created the universe that way.” (p.118)
Carroll believes that his science is some absolute ground upon which he may firmly stand, without realising that same that he accuses the young-Earth creationist of applies to him. His worldview is also based on a set of beliefs. I would say beliefs that are without foundation because they rely on an edifice of untestable theories supported by plethora of unknown ‘unknowns’. Those ‘unknowns’ include, but are not limited to, dark matter, dark energy,1 dark radiation, dark photons, chameleons, inflation and how it allegedly started and stopped, the singularity itself, expansion of space, CMB radiation as the afterglow of the big bang—not the radiation itself, but the fact that it allegedly came from the big bang fireball, when big bang cosmology has a radiation horizon problem—and also the growth of large galactic structure allegedly only hundreds of millions of years after the big bang—a particle horizon problem. These horizon problems mean that there is insufficient time in the standard cosmology to account for the existence of the observations. Yet, on the same page, Carroll writes,
“Abandoning the quest for a secure foundation in favor of a planet of belief is like moving from firm ground to a boat on choppy seas or a spinning teacup ride. It can make you dizzy, if not seasick. We are spinning through space, nothing to hold onto.” (p.118)
The implicit belief here is that his belief is better than a YEC belief though he does not directly acknowledge it. But he is saying something like ‘you’d be mad to believe that!’ Yet he uses the language of belief in reference to his own faith.
“What rescues our beliefs from being completely arbitrary is that one of the beliefs in a typical planet is something like ‘true statements correspond to actual elements of the real world.’ If we believe that and have some reliable data, and are sufficiently honest with ourselves, we can hope to construct belief systems that not only are coherent but also agree with those of other people and with eternal reality.” (pp.118-9, emphases added)
Then he continues with the discussion saying that stable planets of belief are those that are internally consistent and coherent. Also he relies on the fact that others hold to the same beliefs as a judge of their truth. The inference though is that YECs and others who hold a different belief system to his atheistic worldview are not consistent or rational, and their beliefs don’t correspond with reality.
Part 4 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 3 is found here.
Understanding the World
Carroll devotes a few chapters to assessing how well we understand the world. He introduces us to Rev. Thomas Bayes who, in the latter part of his life, studied probability. He was published posthumously on the subject. His work has become widely used in mathematics, principally statistics, and also in physics. The subject has become to be known as Bayesian inference or Bayesian probability.
Bayes’ main idea involves how to treat the probability of a proposal being correct in the light of new evidence becoming available. In physics we rely on what we already know, or what we think we have established as foundational and we build upon that. When we get new information that could change our view we need to update what we believe is the probability of the hypothesis being correct in light of that new information. That probability is what is called a credence, or the degree of belief that we hold that we are correct.
So Bayesian inference attempts to apply a quantitative value to what we might infer from our attempts to explain the physical world. It is the basis of scientific investigation. In terms of experimental discoveries it is easy to see how this might apply. We can never prove any hypothesis or theory correct. All we can hope to do is update our credence, meaning to increase the probability of a theory being correct. In physics a threshold is established of 5σ (5 sigma) above which it is said that a discovery has been made. Statistically that is like saying there is only 1 in a 3.5 million chance that the signal isn’t real and thus the theory is wrong. That is a very low probability indeed. But some discoveries have been made at the level of 3σ or less.1 I know of one hypothesis that had a 6σ probability yet it turned out to be wrong.2
But things don’t always work out to be correct, even with a statistical probability above 5σ. Any hypothesis may be refuted but it can never be proven. Do you remember the claim of faster than light neutrinos in 2011? The OPERA team’s experimental results indicated a 6σ level of confidence, which is much higher than the 5σ usually required for new particle discoveries. But in the following year, as many expected (because we don’t expect any particle to break the speed of light limit), an error was found in the experimental analysis resulting from a loose fibre optic cable, and that meant those neutrinos obeyed the universal speed limit. When the new information came in the Bayesian credence could be updated to nearly zero.
Part 3 of my review of the book: “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean M. Carroll. Part 2 is found here.
Carroll defines naturalism saying it comes down to three things (p.20) and that “the only reliable way of learning about the world is by observing it”. But how can he know that if he is not God. Suppose for a minute that there really is a Creator God and He gave us a revelation in His written Word. But because man cannot, by definition, observe God, since He is a spirit and outside the realm of detectability by science, how can he know that what God has written is not a reliable way of learning about the world? And this is another self-refuting claim: what observation did he make, or even could he make, that reliably showed that observation is the only reliable way of learning?
His form of naturalism – poetic naturalism (after David Hume) – is just standard atheistic naturalism, but he adds that man has responsibility and freedom (p.21).
“The world exists; beauty and goodness are things that we bring to it.”
He means there is nothing intrinsically good or beautiful. He writes that there are
“No causes, whether material, formal, efficient, or final” (p.29).
Extending the idea of Laplace’s Demon, he writes
“Realistically, there never will be and never can be an intelligence vast and knowledgeable enough to predict the future of the universe from its present state.” (p.34)
In the chapter titled “Reasons Why” he says that Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason is a mistake. That principle states that “For any true fact, there is a reason why it is so, and why something else is not so instead” (p.40). And he points out that
“Hume noted that conceiving of effects without causes might seem unusual, but it does not lead to any inherent contradiction or logical impossibility.” (p.41)
This leads to his belief that the universe needs no reason to be; it simply is.
“… there are facts that don’t have any reasons to explain them”. (p.42)
He implicitly believes a big bang origin for the universe 14 billion years ago, and says that there are some questions for which we may not get answers.