Thinking Christian

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Origins and Science

David Barash, Evolution, and God: Pretending Authority Far Beyond His Qualifications

Monday, September 29th, 2014

David Barash has a capital-T Talk he gives college students every year. He tells about it in a NY Times op-ed, God, Darwin and My College Biology Class:

Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isn’t, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.

Barash is a biologist, a professor at the University of Washington. I’ve looked at his …


Science and Reason Yes, Science-and-Reason No

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Science and reason belong together, right?

Yes. Obviously so, in fact. Science and reason are both means for determining truth. Science depends on reason: every valid scientific conclusion is also a valid logical conclusion, the endpoint of a rationally conceived and rationally conducted process, and usually also a midpoint in a much larger rational process. So yes, obviously they go together.

There’s a problem with that relationship, though. In some circles, reason is spoken of almost as if it depends on science. More specifically …

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Here We Go ‘Round the No-Free-Will Bush ♫

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014


SteveK [told us[( about this report, Free will could be the result of ‘background noise’ in the brain, study suggests.

I’ve seen enough bad science journalism to know that the real experiment may look very little like the one reported there. (In fact, I have real trouble believing the research is as weak as that.) Taking the report at face value, though, with that disclaimer, this appears to be what’s happening:

A cue appears on screen at random intervals. When the cue …


Seek God Sensibly: On His Own Terms

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Is there a God? How would we know?

Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable through science. I can see the appeal in thinking that, since science tells us so much about the world. Even better, it has ways to adjudicate factual disputes, especially when it’s possible to employ very careful measurement and control of variables.

Ironically, those are exactly the factors that make science a poor way to detect the reality …


Creation, design, and evolution: if a theory could be derived straight from metaphysics, would it still be scientific?

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Imagine the following scenario:

SMITH: I know that evolution produced the biological world by naturalistic processes.

JONES: Interesting. Do you believe in God?

SMITH: No, I’m sure there’s no God.

JONES: How do you know that naturalistic evolution explains life as we see it?

SMITH: Because the evidence clearly demonstrates it.

JONES: Suppose there were no evidence for it. How would you handle that?

SMITH: What do you mean? There is evidence. Tons of it!

JONES: Of course there is. We both agree on …

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The God of the Gaps and the Baker of the Bagel Hole

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Here are a few quick responses to the “God of the Gaps” objection to Christian theism. The objection involves a few serious misconceptions, including:

Thinking that the gaps are where God mostly works in nature (or thinking that’s what Christians think about God). That’s like saying your local baker’s chief product is bagel holes.

Declaring “God of the gaps” to be a silly God argument, while future-science-of-the-gaps is just fine; for example, “We don’t know how rationality functions in the brain, but we’re confident science …

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Why There Was No Visible Scientific Progress in the Middle Ages

Friday, April 25th, 2014

There was no scientific progress in the middles ages. Science made gained no ground at all until the end of the age of unreason. Right? So we’re told, anyway.

Here’s one way to represent it: a simplified picture of the progress of science since the year 500. It looks believable enough, doesn’t it? The curve assumes that in 500 there were about only 100 imaginary “knowledge science units” in the whole world. With that as a baseline, it’s easy to suppose that today there might …

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Why Didn’t Jesus Introduce Simple Medical Practices?

Friday, April 25th, 2014

The question came up recently, why didn’t Jesus bring better health science with him when he came? Think of all the misery that could have been spared, even if he had taught people to boil bandages before applying them to wounds.

What if questions are impossible to get reliably right, but for this one I think we can apply Clarke’s maxim: “Any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic.” If Jesus had introduced scientific medicine that far ahead of its time, it would have been …


Misunderstood or Misrepresented: JT’s Straw-Man Version of My Beliefs

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Intellectually responsible debate requires understanding what you’re disputing. That’s one of the most well-established tenets of debate. When one side distorts the other, either by failing to understand or by intentional twisting, the debate is no longer about each side’s beliefs, but about one side’s false beliefs about the other’s beliefs. The result is usually that a weak straw man is put up and knocked down, in a classic display of fallacious reasoning.

Today I’ve seen a glaring instance of dispute without understanding. It’s at …


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