The Missing Links – Nov. 21, 2011

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Max Andrews shares his Top Ten Philosophy, Science, and Theology Podcasts

J. P. Moreland talks about the argument from consciousness at last week’s ETS/EPS meeting in San Francisco (video).

Craig Blomberg discusses the historical Jesus and the reliability of the Bible (video).

Atheist philosopher Daniel Came criticizes Richard Dawkins’s decision not to debate William Lane Craig.

Chad Meister writes on “Atheists and the Quest for Objective Morality.”

Similarly, William Lane Craig lectures on the question “Is God Necessary for Morality” at Boston College Law School.

A distinguished group of evangelical scholars discuss the impact of the King James Version of the Bible (audio).

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Two Reviews of Richard Dawkins’s new book “The Greatest Show on Earth”

The Telegraph gives an overwhelmingly positive review, and the reviewer is happy with how Dawkins

gives the fact-rejecters their just deserts. He sets out to polish off their flummery. Dawkins compares creationists to Holocaust deniers and spoons, with relish, an acid sauce of mockery onto that absurd confection of half-baked ideas.

Interestingly, the review by New Scientist is mostly negative, and for the same reasons.

Another “argument for evolution” book could only be justified by a great new angle on how to reach the unconverted masses.

Implying that your audience is stupid does not qualify as a great new angle. Yet this is precisely what Dawkins does. He opens the book by mentioning his two previous books about evolution, and then, with a nearly audible scoff, adds that back when he wrote those books (when people, apparently, were smarter?) he didn’t have to argue that evolution actually happened. “That didn’t seem to be necessary,” he says.

By the first chapter he is comparing his predicament to a history professor forced to teach “a baying pack of ignoramuses” and dealing with a “rearguard defence”. Today, he proclaims, “all but the woefully uninformed are forced to accept the fact of evolution”.

It’s really kind of comical. If “spot the condescensions” is a new drinking game, then bottoms up! There’s one in just about every chapter. Though Dawkins says from the outset, “This is not an anti-religious book”, he can’t help but knock religion throughout, For instance, he writes: “God, to repeat this point, which ought to be obvious, but isn’t, never made a tiny wing in his eternal life.” Young Earth creationists are, he writes, “deluded to the point of perversity”. You get the sense that Dawkins just can’t control it. It’s as if he suffers from an anti-religious form of Tourette’s syndrome.

Any thoughts or observations on this new book?

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First Things on Priest, Scientist John Polkinghorne

Former mathematical physicist and now Anglican priest and theologian John Polkinghorne brings a unique perspective to questions of the relationship between science and religion.  First Things gives some background and describes two of his recent books.

A great point here:

The overall message Polkinghorne brings is a crucial one: Science cannot provide its own metaphysical interpretation. As he says with typical precision, “Physics constrains metaphysics, but it no more determines it than the foundations of a house determine the precise form of the building erected on them.” This is especially true in a post-Newtonian world characterized by greater epistemological humility. “The twentieth-century demise of mere mechanism,” he says, provides “a salutary reminder that there is nothing absolute or incorrigible about the context of science.” Some questions lie “outside the scientific domain,” and here “theology has a right to contribute to the subsequent metascientific discourse.” Anyone familiar with the writings of such preachers of scientific atheism as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, or Christopher Hitchins will immediately appreciate the very different world in which Polkinghorne dwells. “The tendency among atheist writers to identify reason exclusively with scientific modes of thought,” he notes pointedly, “is a disastrous diminishment of our human powers of truth-seeking inquiry.”

That tendency, as I recently noted, is scientism.

Concerning natural theology,

As an expert in fundamental physics, Polkinghorne likes to advance a modest form of natural theology—not the older kind of argument that places design in direct competition with biological evolution and stresses “gaps” in natural processes, but a newer style of argument based on the very comprehensibility of nature and nature’s laws. The universe revealed by science “is not only rationally transparent,” but also “rationally beautiful, rewarding scientists with the experience of wonder at the marvelous order which is revealed through the labours of their research.” Why should this be so? The laws of nature “underlie the form and possibility of all occurrence,” but science can treat them only “as given brute facts. These laws, in their economy and rational beauty, have a character that seems to point the enquirer beyond what science itself is capable of telling, making a materialist acceptance of them as unexplained brute facts an intellectually unsatisfying stance to take.” The very possibility of science, in his view, “is not a mere happy accident, but it is a sign that the mind of the Creator lies behind the wonderful order that scientists are privileged to explore.” In short, “the activity of science is recognized to be an aspect of the imago Dei.”

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