The Metaphysical Assumptions of the “Scientific Method”

In a recent online conversation someone just assumed the knowability of science and the universe without knowledge of the history behind such an assumption. After posting the statement and my quick response, I will include other longer excerpts from a few sources both explaining this a bit more and defending the challenges to these assumptions, such as “this makes ‘science’ too easy.”

Enjoy:

Sean said this:

➤ What do you mean justify it? How do I justify that we assume nature is uniform? Because that’s how it has been so far, and it shows no signs of changing.

A great response would have been that he is ASSUMING arguments from theism in this regard:

Indeed, there are certain philosophical presuppositions that must be assumed in order for science to be considered an effective, worthy endeavor:

The external world is real and knowable.
Nature itself is not divine. It is an object worthy of study, not worship.
The universe is orderly. There is uniformity in nature that allows us to observe past phenomena and to understand and predict future occurrences.
Our minds and senses are capable of accurately observing and understanding the world.
Language and mathematics can accurately describe the external world that we observe.

(Via Explore God)

The atheist or Eastern worldview could not have advanced science under their worldviews auspices… and these assumptions from the Judeo-Christian faith are what made scientific advancement flourish so well in the West.

NOT TO MENTION that the falsely defined attributes of Quantum Mechanics to undermine logic are shown false in that we can know many things not only in logic but also in science… thanks to healthy presuppositions.

And in another article by Explore God, we have this [again] short summation that is explained further below it:

Modern science depends on some key assumptions derived from Christianity:

  • Belief in the rationality of the universe. Scientists believed the universe was orderly and uniform because it was created by a God who was rational and ordered.
  • Belief that mankind was created in the image of God. Since God is rational, man is rational and able to reason. Since man exists in an orderly universe, he is able to trust his senses, employ his reason, and understand the world.

Science begins with the conviction that the universe is knowable, that it is ordered, that sensory perceptions can be trusted, and that reason and rationality correspond to reality.

Here are the promised ~ longer ~ explanations to the above and how such assumptions were the foundations of Christian theology and it’s influence of the scientific revolution [this is also related to the myth behind “Islam’s Golden Age“]. The first study is by Dr. Henry Schaefer, who is [past?] Professor of Chemistry at the University of Georgia…

  • and a prolific scholar with over 750 scientific publications to his credit. In this lecture, presented at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Schaefer confronts the assertion that one cannot believe in God and be a credible scientist. He starts by showing that the theistic worldview of Bacon, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday and Maxwell was instrumental in the rise of modern science. He goes on to name many modern scientists and Nobel prize winners, including Charles Coulson, John Suppe, Charles Townes, Arther Schawlow, Alan Sandage, Donald Page, R. David Cole and Francis Collins, whose religious faith is an integral part of who they are as scientists. The video concludes with an exclusive interview with Dr. Schaefer where he discusses why a Christian worldview is more compatible with the findings of modern cosmology than a purely naturalistic and materialistic worldview. (www.arn.org)


~MORE RESOURCES~


On this episode of ID the Future, host David Boze examines the plight of Dr. Daniel Shechtman, recent winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals, who had previously suffered much rejection and ridicule for threatening the consensus of the scientific establishment. Listen in and consider the parallels between Shechtman’s once-heretical science and the modern-day rejection and scorn of the ID movement.

Has Modern Science Become Dysfunctional?

WASHINGTON, DC – March 27, 2012 — The recent explosion in the number of retractions in scientific journals is just the tip of the iceberg and a symptom of a greater dysfunction that has been evolving the world of biomedical research say the editors-in-chief of two prominent journals in a presentation before a committee of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) today.

“Incentives have evolved over the decades to encourage some behaviors that are detrimental to good science,” says Ferric Fang, editor-in-chief of the journal Infection and Immunity, a publication of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), who is speaking today at the meeting of the Committee of Science, Technology, and Law of the NAS along with Arturo Casadevall, editor-in-chief of mBio®, the ASM’s online, open-access journal.

In the past decade the number of retraction notices for scientific journals has increased more than 10-fold while the number of journals articles published has only increased by 44%.  While retractions still represent a very small percentage of the total, the increase is still disturbing because it undermines society’s confidence in scientific results and on public policy decisions that are based on those results, says Casadevall.  Some of the retractions are due to simple error but many are a result of misconduct including falsification of data and plagiarism.

More concerning, say the editors, is that this trend may be a symptom of a growing dysfunction in the biomedical sciences, one that needs to be addressed soon.   At the heart of the problem is an economic incentive system fueling a hypercompetitive environment that is fostering poor scientific practices, including frank misconduct.

The root of the problem is a lack of sufficient resources to sustain the current enterprise.  Too many researchers are competing for too little funding, creating a survival-of-the-fittest, winner-take-all environment where researchers increasingly feel pressure to publish, especially in high-prestige journals.

“The surest ticket to getting a grant or job is getting published in a high profile journal,” says Fang.  “This is an unhealthy belief that can lead a scientist to engage in sensationalism and sometimes even dishonest behavior to salvage their career.”

Funding is just one aspect of a very complex problem Casadevall and Fang see growing in the biomedical sciences.  In a series of editorials in the journal Infection and Immunity they describe their views in detail, arguing that science is not as healthy as it could be or as it needs to be to effectively address the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

“Incentives in the current system place scientists under tremendous stress, discourage cooperation, encourage poor scientific practices and deter new talent from entering the field,” they write.  “It is time for a discussion of how the scientific enterprise can be reformed to become more effective and robust.”

The answers, they write, must come not only from within the scientific community but from society as a whole that has helped create the current incentive structure that is fostering the dysfunction.  In the editorials they outline a series of recommended reforms including methodological, cultural and structural changes.

“In the end, it is not the number of high-impact-factor papers, prizes or grant dollars that matters most, but the joys of discovery and the innumerable contributions both large and small that one makes through contact with other scientists,” they write.  “Only science can provide solutions to many of the most urgent needs of contemporary society.  A conversation on how to reform science should begin now.”

Here are two short videos by MIT nuclear scientist, Ian Huthinson (PDF Bio) discussing scientism:

(Above videos) What is science? And how can we bring the answer to bear on the question of whether science and faith are at war with each other? Ian Hutchinson, professor at MIT and author of “Monopolizing Knowledge,” shares his take at The Veritas Forum.

Faith in science?

So, we’re told, liberals trust science more than conservatives do. The implication — freely peddled in much news coverage — is that conservatives are either dumber or more politicized than liberals. This fits in neatly with a narrative established in screeds like Chris Mooney’s 2005 book, “The Republican War Against Science.” The only problem is it’s not true.

Consider an interesting new study by Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow in sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The folks at Inside Higher Ed summarized it this way: “Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.” The report also noted that in 1974 conservatives were likelier to trust science than were liberals.

So what does that mean?

Gauchat points out, correctly, that you can’t lay the blame at the feet of biblical creationists and anti-evolutionists, who were no less common in 1974. Nor is sheer ignorance responsible, as the decline in trust rose with education. Instead, he suggests that it’s the increasing use of science as ammunition for big-government schemes that has led to more skepticism.

There’s probably something to that, but if you read the actual paper something else becomes clear. Despite the language in the coverage, it’s not science as a method that people are losing confidence in; it’s scientists and the institutions that purport to speak for them.

Gauchat’s paper was based on annual responses in the General Social Survey, which asks people: “I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?” One institution mentioned was “the scientific community.”

So when fewer people answered “a great deal” and more answered “hardly any” with regard to “the scientific community,” they were demonstrating more skepticism not toward science but toward the people running scientific institutions.

With this in mind, a rise in skepticism isn’t such a surprise. Public skepticism has grown toward most institutions over the last several decades, and with good reason, as a seemingly endless series of scandals and episodes of dishonesty have illustrated.

In fact, given that Americans have grown broadly more skeptical of institutions in general, it’s not surprising that conservatives are more skeptical of scientific institutions than they were almost 40 years ago. What’s surprising is that liberals have grown less skeptical over the same period. (Perhaps because scientific institutions have been telling them things they want to hear?)

Regardless, while one should trust science as a method — honestly done, science remains the best way at getting to the truth on a wide range of factual matters — there’s no particular reason why one should trust scientists and especially no particular reason why one should trust the people running scientific institutions, who often aren’t scientists themselves.

In fact, the very core of the scientific method is supposed to be skepticism. We accept arguments not because they come from people in authority but because they can be proven correct — in independent experiments by independent experimenters. If you make a claim that can’t be proven false in an independent experiment, you’re not really making a scientific claim at all.

And saying, “trust us,” while denouncing skeptics as — horror of horrors — “skeptics” doesn’t count as science, either, even if it comes from someone with a doctorate and a lab coat.

After a century of destructive and false scientific fads — ranging from eugenics to Paul Ehrlich’s “population bomb” scaremongering, among many others — the American public could probably do with more skepticism, not less.

If scientists want to be trusted, perhaps they should try harder to make sure that those who claim to speak for science are, you know, trustworthy. Just a thought.


~EXCERPTS~


  • J.P. Moreland and William Lane Criag, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 346-350.

SCIENTISM

Scientism, expressed in the quotation by Rescher at the beginning of the chap­ter, is the view that science is the very paradigm of truth and rationality. If something does not square with currently well-established scientific beliefs, if it is not within the domain of entities appropriate for scientific investigation, or if it is not amenable to scientific methodology, then it is not true or rational. Ev erything outside of science is a matter of mere belief and subjective opinion, of which rational assessment is impossible. Science, exclusively and ideally, is our model of intellectual excellence.

Actually, there are two forms of scientism: strong scientism and weak scient­ism. Strong scientism is the view that some proposition or theory is true and/or rational to believe if and only if it is a scientific proposition or theory; that is, if and only if it is a well-established scientific proposition or theory that, in turn, de­pends on its having been successfully formed, tested and used according to appro­priate scientific methodology. There are no truths apart from scientific truths, and even if there were, there would be no reason whatever to believe them.

Advocates of weak scientism allow for the existence of truths apart from science and are even willing to grant that they can have some minimal, positive rationality status without the support of science. But advocates of weak scient­ism still hold that science is the most valuable, most serious and most authorita­tive sector of human learning. Every other intellectual activity is inferior to science. Further, there are virtually no limits to science. There is no field into which scientific research cannot shed light. To the degree that some issue or be­lief outside science can be given scientific support or can be reduced to science, to that degree the issue or belief becomes rationally acceptable. Thus we have an intellectual and perhaps even a moral obligation to try to use science to solve problems in other fields that, heretofore, have been untouched by scien­tific methodology. For example, we should try to solve problems about the mind by the methods of neurophysiology and computer science.

Note that advocates of weak scientism are not merely claiming that, for ex­ample, belief that the universe had a beginning, supported by good philosophi­cal and theological arguments, gains extra support if that belief also has good scientific arguments for it. This claim is relatively uncontroversial because, usu­ally, if some belief has a few good supporting arguments and later gains more good supporting arguments, then this will increase the rationality of the belief in question. But this is not what weak scientism implies, because this point cuts both ways. For it will equally be the case that good philosophical and theologi­cal arguments for a beginning of the universe will increase the rationality of such a belief initially supported only by scientific arguments. Advocates of weak scientism are claiming that fields outside science gain if they are given scientific support and not vice versa.

If either strong or weak scientism is true, this would have drastic implications for the integration of science and theology. If strong scientism is true, then the­ology is not a cognitive enterprise at all and there is no such thing as theological knowledge. If weak scientism is true, then the conversation between theology and science will be a monologue with theology listening to science and waiting for science to give it support. For thinking Christians, either of these alterna­tives is unacceptable. What, then, should we say about scientism?

Note first that strong scientism is self-refuting (see chap. 2 for a treatment of self-refutation). Strong scientism is not itself a proposition of science, but a sec­ond-order proposition of philosophy about science to the effect that only scien­tific propositions are true and/or rational to believe. And strong scientism is itself offered as a true, rationally justified position to believe. Now, propositions that are self-refuting (e.g., There are no truths) are not such that they just hap­pen to be false but could have been true. Self-refuting propositions are neces­sarily false, that is, it is not possible for them to be true. What this means is that, among other things, no amount of scientific progress in the future will have the slightest effect on making strong scientism more acceptable.

There are two more problems that count equally against strong and weak sci­entism. First, scientism (in both forms) does not adequately allow for the task of stating and defending the necessary presuppositions for science itself to be prac­ticed (assuming scientific realism). Thus scientism shows itself to be a foe and not a friend of science.

Science cannot be practiced in thin air. In fact, science itself presupposes a number of substantive philosophical theses which must be assumed if science is even going to get off the runway. Now each of these assumptions has been chal­lenged, and the task of stating and defending these assumptions is one of the tasks of philosophy. The conclusions of science cannot be more certain than the presuppositions it rests on and uses to reach those conclusions.

Strong scientism rules out these presuppositions altogether because neither the presuppositions themselves nor their defense are scientific matters. Weak scientism misconstrues their strength in its view that scientific propositions have greater epistemic authority than those of other fields like philosophy. This would mean that the conclusions of science are more certain than the philo­sophical presuppositions used to justify and reach those conclusions, and that is absurd. In this regard, the following statement by John Kekes strikes at the heart of weak scientism:

A successful argument for science being the paradigm of rationality must be based on the demonstration that the presuppositions of science are preferable to other presuppositions. That demonstration requires showing that science, relying on these presuppositions, is better at solving some problems and achieving some ide­als than its competitors. But showing that cannot be the task of science. It is, in fact, one task of philosophy. Thus the enterprise of justifying the presuppositions of science by showing that with their help science is the best way of solving cer­tain problems and achieving some ideals is a necessary precondition of the justifi­cation of science. Hence philosophy, and not science, is a stronger candidate for being the very paradigm of rationality.[1]

Here is a list of some of the philosophical presuppositions of science: (1) the existence of a theory-independent, external world; (2) the orderly nature of the external world; (3) the knowability of the external world; (4) the existence of truth; (5) the laws of logic; (6) the reliability of our cognitive and sensory facul­ties to serve as truth gatherers and as a source of justified beliefs in our intellec­tual environment; (7) the adequacy of language to describe the world; (8) the existence of values used in science (e.g., “test theories fairly and report test re­sults honestly”); (9) the uniformity of nature and induction; (10) the existence of numbers.

Most of these assumptions are easy to understand and, in any case, are dis­cussed in more detail in other parts of this book. It may be helpful, however, to say a word about (9) and (10). Regarding (9), scientists make inductive infer­ences from past or examined cases of some phenomenon (e.g., “All observed emeralds are green”) to all cases, examined and unexamined, past and future, of that phenomenon (e.g., “All emeralds whatever are green”). The problem of induction is the problem of justifying such inferences. It is usually associated with David Hume. Here is his statement of it:

It is impossible, therefore, that any arguments from experience can prove this re­semblance of the past to the future, since all these arguments are founded on the supposition of that resemblance. Let the course of things be allowed hitherto ever so regular, that alone, without some new argument or inference, proves not that for the future it will continue so. In vain do you pretend to have learned the na­ture of bodies from your past experience. Their secret nature, and consequently, all their effects and influence, may change without any change in their sensible qualities. This happens sometimes, and with regard to some objects. Why may it not happen always, and with regard to all objects? What logic, what process of ar­gument secures you against this supposition? My practice, you say, refutes my doubts. But you mistake the purport of my question. As an agent, I am quite sat­isfied in the point; but as a philosopher who has some share of curiosity, I will not say skepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference.[2]

We cannot look here at various attempts to solve the problem of induction ex­cept to note that inductive inferences assume what has been called the unifor­mity of nature: The future will resemble the past. And the uniformity of nature principle is one of the philosophical assumptions of science.

Regarding (10) (the existence of numbers), in general, if we accept as true a proposition like The ball on the table is red, we thereby are committed to the ex­istence of certain things, e.g., a specific ball and the property of being red. Now science uses mathematical language much of the time and such usage seems to presuppose that mathematical language is true. This, in turn, seems to presup­pose the existence of mathematical objects (e.g., numbers) that are truly de­scribed by those propositions. For example, the proposition Two is an even number seems to commit us to the existence of an entity, the number two (whatever our analysis of numbers turns out to be), which has the property of being even. The same theory of truth used outside of mathematics (the corre­spondence theory) applies within mathematics as well. Now the debate about the existence and nature of numbers is a philosophical one, and thus stating the debate and defending the existence of numbers is another philosophical task presuppositional to science.

There is a second problem that counts equally against strong and weak sci­entism: the existence of true and rationally justified beliefs outside of science. The simple fact is that true, rationally justified beliefs exist in a host of fields outside of science. Many of the issues in this book fall in that category. Strong scientism does not allow for this fact and therefore should be rejected as an in­adequate account of our intellectual enterprise.

Moreover, some propositions believed outside science (e.g., Red is a color, Torturing babies for fun is wrong, I am now thinking about science) are better jus­tified than some believed within science (e.g., Evolution takes place through a se­ries of very small steps). It is not hard to believe that many of our currently held scientific beliefs will and should be revised or abandoned in one hundred years, but it would be hard to see how the same could be said of the extrascientific propositions just cited. Weak scientism does not account for this fact. In fact, weak scientism, in its attempt to reduce all issues to scientific ones, often has a distorting effect on an intellectual issue. Arguably, this is the case in current at­tempts to make the existence and nature of mind a scientific problem.

In sum, scientism in both forms is inadequate. There are domains of knowl­edge outside and independent of science, and while we have not shown this here, theology is one of those domains. How, then, should the domains of sci­ence and theology be integrated? To this question we now turn.


[1] John Kekes, Tic Nature of Philosophy (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1980), p. 158.

[2] David Hume, An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748; Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1965), pp. 51-52 (sec­tion 4.2 in the original).

This example comes from Lambert Dolphin’s online library and is an article entitled, “Christianity and the Birth of Science,” by Michael Bumbulis, Ph.D. The actual article is much larger, but this is a great example of the assumptions assumed by the scientific revolution:

a. A belief in an “only God.” This belief had two major implications. Only a lofty and vigorous monotheism could instill a sense that there existed a being so powerful that He created ALL there is to create. Pagan gods were too often seen as PART of nature. The birth of science needed a God bigger than that. Secondly, this God was a personal God with a will. Just as He willed certain moral laws, He could be perceived as willing laws of nature. In fact, this type of assumption/perspective actually turned into an apologetic argument, where theologians and scientists would argue the laws of nature implied a Lawgiver. Whether or not the argument if valid is irrelevant. I’m simply highlighting how the medieval mind would easily see it from the opposite angle – a Lawgiver implied laws in creation. Pagan gods were simply not seen as Lawgivers.

b. A belief in a rational God. This belief has a major implication. A rational God would create a rational creation, a creation that would turn out to be ultimately intelligible. Thus, all one had to do was uncover what was there waiting to be uncovered. One didn’t have to worry that such searching would be in vain. No one worried about a deceiving god. Or a creation that was ultimately an illusion.

c. A belief that the Universe was created ex nihilo. This belief had several major implications.

i. If the universe was created, it is not eternal. Thus, it was also not necessary. Since it need not exist, there must be a reason why it exists. Furthermore, since it could have existed in another form, there must be reasons why it existed in the form that it does. A contingent universe arouses curiosity. A necessary universe does not.

If a Christian is curious about Creation and God’s reasons for creating what He created, the obvious place to start is by studying Genesis. Whether or not one interprets Genesis as metaphor, myth, or history, one big truth arises from this account – ALL is creation. That is, the earth and the bird are every bit creation as the stars and the sun. It’s this type of insight which enabled folks like Buridan (see below) to describe heavenly motions in terms of terrestial motions. It’s hard for us modern folks to appreciate how radical it was to describe the movement of the heavens as being like a man jumping or a smith’s wheel turning. But this was a crucial step. And it was a crucial step that helped to get around Aristotle’s philosophy.

ii. It is true that the Bible doesn’t clearly distinguish between the natural and the spiritual. But some type of distinction is assumed, otherwise, the miraculous would be meaningless. The distinction the Bible makes is between the Creation and the transcendent Creator. And this is a distinction which was very important to the birth of modern science. Pagans made no such distinction. A tree would never be studied because a tree was a divine representation! And Eastern religions could care less about the tree, as it was either an illusion or a distraction. But in Christianity, the tree was desacralized. Thus, it could be studied. And since it was made by a rational Creator, a Creator who instructed us to “subdue the earth,” the impetus was there to study the tree. Why? Because it didn’t necessarily exist. It was made and thus need not exist. Thus, to understand the tree, one couldn’t deduce its existence from first principles, one had to actually “take it apart” and figure out how it worked. And since God was rational, it was thought that the tree would ultimately be intelligible.

This distinction between Creation and God was essential to science. For it is this very distinction that is behind what we now call the “natural” and the “spiritual” (anyone who can see this relationship will clearly see how science is indebted to Christianity). That is, if you simply remove God from the picture, Creation becomes the Natural. And God is over there in the “Spiritual.” But this distinction was not commonly found among the worlds religions. Their views were inherently monistic and pantheistic. As Francis Bacon would write:

“For as all works do shew forth the power and skill of the workman, and not his image; so it is of the works of God; which do shew the omnipotency and wisdom of the maker, but not his image; and therefore therein the heathen opinion differeth from sacred truth; for they supposed the world to be the image of God, and man to be an extract or compendious image of the world.” Bacon would add that this pantheistic view resulted in “the greatest arrest and prejudice of further discovery.”

iii. Another simple implication is that a creation implies an act of creating. This would be an important point of speculation for medieval philosophers, and their speculations would turn out to be important in the birth of modern science.

d. If you are going to think God’s thoughts after Him (as Kepler said), you’d better have reasons for believing this could be done. Part of this reason stemmed from the belief in a rational God. But also important was the belief that man was created in the image of God. This belief enabled folks to trust their own reason, as their ability to reason was not only viewed as a gift from God, but it was also a way in which humankind reflected God. Furthermore, the Incarnation was also probably relevant. For if God became man, then maybe the chasm between Man and God wasn’t so huge. So maybe it wasn’t so absurd to think God’s thoughts after Him. After all, a Muslim would never dare to “think God’s thoughts after Him,” as God was viewed to be totally different from humankind.

e. Almost all cultures throughout history have had a cyclical cosmology. This makes sense. We live on a spinning globe which is in turn spinning around the sun, and this produces natural cycles on earth. And its these cycles that led to a cyclical cosmology (just as appearances also led to Geocentrism). But this cyclical view is not fertile ground for science. Science entails the notion of progress, a belief that we can progress towards a state where we understand nature. The Christians inherited from the Jews a sense that was most “unnatural,” a sense that stemmed from revelation – cosmology is linear. That is, God created and works through history. For example, His delivery of the Israelites from Egypt would never happen again, so it must be retold. The Christians inherited this spirit. Their history became as follows: Creation – the Fall – the coming of Messiah- the death of Messiah – the birth of the Church – the return of Messiah. It was a linear view where history was progressing towards a goal. This linear thinking was important to science. Why? Intellectuals from cyclical world views tend to think “there’s nothing new.” Instead of looking for something new, they look to the wisdom of ancients who represent a Golden Age. But the Christian could say, “Hey, maybe the ancients didn’t know everything. Maybe there is something new to be learned, something that has NEVER been known before.” And to find this new material, they need look no further than Creation, for the Author of the Bible (who shows his intentions in linear fashion) is also the Author of Nature.

To see the importance of linear thinking, consider how cyclical thinking stunted the birth of science in Greece. Let’s consider one of the greatest Greek philosophers, Aristotle. Aristotle attempted to explain the world in typical Greek fashion. Aristotle postulated a law (in “On the Heavens”) which stated that the rate of at which falling bodies speed toward the center of the earth, or its surface for that matter, was determined by their weight. Aristotle said that if two bodies were dropped from the same height, the one with twice the weight as the other would reach the ground twice as fast as the lighter one. This law was simply accepted. And how odd this is! Any construction worker would have observed that this was not true. Anyone could have tested Aristotle’s claim with a very simple experiment -climb a house and drop two objects of differing weight. But no Greek ever seemed curious enough to simply test this claim! Why was this? Why were they so blind to such basic science?

Well, we have to understand Greek cosmology. For them, the universe existed as an eternal cycle of birth-life-death-rebirth. This cyclical view of nature prevented the birth of science. For one thing, the notion of an eternal universe went hand-in-hand with the notion of a necessary universe. Aristotelian physics was simply taken to be necessarily true and known through introspection. It seems intuitively obvious that heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects. But the Greek mind never thought to test it. And what a simple test it is! Furthermore, the cyclical view of nature eliminates the perspective of progress. And without the belief in progress, there is no need to look further once you think you have it all figured out. Aristotle endorsed, in a manner-of-fact way, the idea of eternal cycles. One way he did this was to make reference to cultural history. He explicitly stated that inventions familiar to his contemporaries had been invented in innumerable times before. But he did add that the comfort provided by the technical brand of those inventions available in his time represented the highest level they are capable of providing. This attitude also hindered science. If reality exists as a series of eternal cycles, the tendency is to think either one is at the bottom, and a hopeless, inward perspective develops, or one is at the top (as Aristotle thought), and complacency develops. Greek success with mathematics, coupled to their cosmogony, led them to think they could deduce reality and questioning those deductions by silly experiments was unthought of.

Unfortunately for Christendom, Greek philosophy was merged with Christian theology. And this, more than anything else, is what caused the birth of modern science to be delayed. The break with Aristotle stemmed from Christian theologians who questioned Aristotle’s self- evident truth of the eternal universe. Their theology taught otherwise, that the universe was created ex nihilo. This teaching was formally and solemnly declared in 1214 as the Fourth Lateran Council (although is was debated a long time prior). The declaration essentially stated the truth of our finite creation, but said we could only know this from revelation. This declaration freed Christian thinkers as they began to reinterpret the world simply by assuming as fact the temporality and contingency of the universe.

[I often think Christians fail to realize that Big Bang cosmology represents a very powerful confirmation of their Christian faith. Every world view (including atheism) other than that shaped by Judaism and Christianity has proclaimed the Universe is eternal. In the thirteenth and fourteenth century, Christian philosophers took the bold step in denying that matter and time was eternal, something taught by all the great Pagan and Muslim philosophers. Yet they acknowledged that their denial could not be proven true, that it stemmed solely from their faith. And modern science has now corroborated their position!]

f. Finally, the Christian religion did indeed place emphasis on moral behavior and a concern for Truth. Both of these are important to science. Science is, after all, an attempt to uncover the Truth about the world. Science is committed to the notion of objective truth, truth that exists apart from individual belief. Since Christianity placed emphasis on this type of truth (in contrast to many forms of paganism), this religious attitude could easily be extended to the physical world. As for moral behavior, science depends on truthful reporting and honest experiments.

In addition to all these consensus assumptions, there is one more relevant point. Not only did the Bible provide a consensus on some basic assumptions about the world, assumptions important for the birth of science, but the very perspective about the book was important. God was viewed as the Author of the Book and the Book spoke of Truth. But for these Christians, God was also the Author of Nature. Yet, Nature was simply another book written by God in another code. The early scientists often used the metaphor about the *book* of nature. Seeing Nature as a *book* meant there were intelligible truths that could be uncovered with study. This whole attitude was already placed inside these men by their Christian religion’s attitude toward the Bible. For them, Nature wasn’t an illusion, Nature wasn’t evil, Nature wasn’t the playground of a myriad of gods or fairies, Nature wasn’t simply “matter and space.” Nature was a Book! And it was a book with containing new material from the Author of the Good Book. So uncovering new truths, uncovering God’s thoughts, was actually a religious endeavor!

Many of the founders of modern science were in fact amateur theologians. And their theology constituted important background belief for their endeavors. Let us consider two examples, Kepler and Pasteur.

Arno Penzias (1978 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics and co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation) makes a very interesting point concerning Johannes Kepler. Speaking about the scientific goal to find the simplest answer possible (a philosophical principle which of course stems from a Christian theologian -see below), Penzias says:

“That really goes back to the triumph, not of Copernicus, but really the triumph of Kepler. That’s because, after all, the notion of epicycles and so forth goes back to days when scientists were swapping opinions. All this went along until we had a true believer and this was Kepler. Kepler, after all, was the Old Testament Christian. Right? He really believed in God the Lawgiver. And so he demanded that the same God who spoke in single words and created the universe is not going to have a universe with 35 epicycles in it. And he said there’s got to be something simpler and more powerful. Now he was lucky or maybe there was something deeper, but Kepler’s faith was rewarded with his laws of nature. And so from that day on, it’s been an awful struggle, but over long centuries, we find that very simple laws of nature actually do apply. And so that expectation is still with scientists. And it comes essentially from Kepler, and Kepler got it out of his belief in the Bible, as far as I can tell. This passionate belief turned out to be right. And he gave us his laws of motion, the first real laws of nature we ever had. And so nature turned out to redeem the expectations he had based on his faith. And scientists have adopted Kepler’s faith, without the cause.”

The other example concerns Louis Pasteur, a devout Christian who nailed down the germ theory. In this case, we can see the clear contribution of his Christian theology. Pasteur lived in a time when belief in spontaneous generation still persisted. Many biologists in his day believed microbes could spontaneously appear from chemicals and this was thought to be the cause of illness. This disagreed with Pasteur’s religious beliefs and theological beliefs involving Creation, so he set out to prove it false. And he succeeded with some clever experiments that are still taught in modern biology texts. Since Pasteur proved that microbes didn’t spontaneously appear from previous chemical states, he argued that illness must be caused by the transfer of microbes from one person the the next. Pasteur’s views and work influenced another Christian scientist/physician at the time, Joseph Lister, who then developed antiseptic surgery. So like it or not, the germ theory and modern surgery owe a great deal to the theological motivations that led to the rejection of spontaneous generation.

  • David S. Dockery and Gregory Alan Thornbury, eds., Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundation of Christian Higher Education (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2002), 131, 137-138.

…If science is the modern way to knowledge, let us review how science works. Science begins with the assumption that the universe is knowable, regular, predictable, and uniform. This is an assumption that cannot be confirmed by the scientific method. If the universe were capricious, the scientific way of knowing would not work. A traditional view of science is that scientists go about their business in an objective, empirical, and rational manner.’° The view was proposed by Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in Novum Organum (1620)…

[….]

When one considers the history of modern science and its contributions to knowledge, one sees that there were many areas of the ancient world that could have been home to our modern way of knowing. The ancient Greeks provided many concepts that are important to our modern way of knowing: observation (Aristotle), theory (Plato), mathematics (Pythagoras), astronomy (Ptolemy), and technology (Archimedes). The ancient Chinese made great discoveries: gunpowder, the compass, papermaking, the rocket, silk production, and accurate astronomy records. Yet neither culture was where modern science developed. Why? Science begins with the assumption that the universe is know­able, regular, predictable, and uniform. To the ancient Greeks, the capricious behavior of gods and goddesses made nature unpredictable. The ancient Chinese were never convinced that humans could understand the divine code that rules nature. Modern science developed in a culture that had a window that saw the universe as knowable, regular, predictable, and uniform. The Christian faith provided such a window.

The Christian belief in a Creator provided the basis for the assumption that the universe was really there and had value. Such an idea would be antithetical to a worldview such as Buddhism. The Christian faith provided the basis for the assumption that nature could be studied since it was a creation of God, not a god itself who might retaliate against too much probing or curiosity. The Christian view of God as a moral lawgiver also encouraged them to look for natural laws. The Christian faith in an eternal and omnipresent God led to the assumption that any natural laws would be uniform throughout the universe. Thus, the Christian faith had provided a window that saw the universe as knowable, regular, predictable, and uniform.

Experimental science was encouraged by the belief in cre­ation ex nihilo. The concept of creation ex nihilo meant that God was not constrained by preexisting matter since he created the universe out of nothing. Thus, rational deduction will not provide the details of the universe; one must actually do the observations. Christian belief in the Fall of mankind in the garden of Eden encouraged Christian scientists to develop technology to help alleviate the destructive effects of the Fall. To the Christian, the faith in a Creator God presented nature as another avenue for discovering information about God. As Francis Bacon stated in 1605:

Our saviour saith, “You err, not knowing the scrip­tures, nor the power of God”; laying before us two books or volumes to study, if we will be secured from error; first the scriptures, revealing the will of God, and then the creatures expressing the power; whereof the latter is a key unto the former: not only opening our understanding to conceive the true sense of the scrip­tures, by the general notions of reason and rules of speech; but chiefly opening our belief, in drawing us into a due meditation of the omnipotency of God, which is chiefly signed and engraven upon his works.

Thus, faith encouraged the study of nature.

  • Bradley Monton, Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design, (Peterborough, Ontario [Canada]: Broadview Press, 2009), 62-64.

FOLLOWING SUPERNATURALISM MAKES THE SCIENTIST’S TASK TOO EASY

Here’s the first of Pennock’s arguments against methodological naturalism that I’ll consider:

allowing appeal to supernatural powers in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon the gods for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.

This argument strikes me as unfair. Consider a particular empirical phenomenon, like a chemical reaction, and imagine that scientists are trying to figure out why the reaction happened. Pennock would say that scientists who allow appeal to supernatural powers would have a ready-made answer: God did it. While it may be that that’s the only true explanation that can be given, a good scientist-including a good theistic scientist—would wonder whether there’s more to be said. Even if God were ultimately the cause of the reaction, one would still wonder if the proximate cause is a result of the chemicals that went into the reaction, and a good scientist—even a good theistic scientist—would investigate whether such a naturalistic account could be given.

To drive the point home, an analogy might be helpful. With the advent of quantum mechanics, scientists have become comfortable with indeterministic events. For example, when asked why a particular radioactive atom decayed at the exact time that it did, most physicists would say that there’s no reason it decayed at that particular time; it was just an indeterministic event!’ One could imagine an opponent of indeterminism giving an argument that’s analogous to Pennock’s:

allowing appeal to indeterministic processes in science would make the scientist’s task too easy, because one would always be able to call upon chance for quick theoretical assistance…. Indeed, all empirical investigation beyond the purely descriptive could cease, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything.

It is certainly possible that, for every event that happens, scientists could simply say “that’s the result of an indeterministic chancy process; there’s no further explanation for why the event happened that way.” But this would clearly be doing bad science: just because the option of appealing to indeterminism is there, it doesn’t follow that the option should always be used. The same holds for the option of appealing to supernatural powers.

As further evidence against Pennock, it’s worth pointing out that prominent scientists in the past have appealed to supernatural powers, without using them as a ready-made answer for everything. Newton is a good example of this—he is a devout theist, in addition to being a great scientist, and he thinks that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Pennock falsely implies that this is not the case:

God may have underwritten the active principles that govern the world described in [Newton’s] Principia and the Opticks, but He did not interrupt any of the equations or regularities therein. Johnson and other creationists who want to dismiss methodological naturalism would do well to consult Newton’s own rules of reasoning….

But in fact, Newton does not endorse methodological naturalism. In his Opticks, Newton claims that God sometimes intervenes in the world. Specifically, Newton thinks that, according to his laws of motion, the orbits of planets in our solar system are not stable over long periods of time, and his solution to this problem is to postulate that God occasionally adjusts the motions of the planets so as to ensure the continued stability of their orbits. Here’s a relevant passage from Newton. (It’s not completely obvious that Newton is saying that God will intervene but my interpretation is the standard one.)

God in the Beginning form’d Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles … it became him who created them to set them in order. And if he did so, it’s unphilosophical to seek for any other Origin of the World, or to pretend that it might arise out of a Chaos by the mere Laws of Nature; though being once form’d, it may continue by those Laws for many Ages. For while Comets move in very excentrick Orbs in all manner of Positions, blind Fate could never make all the Planets move one and the same way in Orbs concentrick, some inconsiderable Irregularities excepted, which may have risen from the mutual Actions of Comets and Planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this System wants a Reformation…. [God is] able by his Will to move the Bodies within his boundless uniform Sensorium, and thereby to form and reform the Parts of the Universe….

A scientist who writes this way does not sound like a scientist who is following methodological naturalism.

It’s worth noting that some contemporaries of Newton took issue with his view of God occasionally intervening in the universe. For example, Leibniz writes:

Sir Isaac Newton and his followers also have a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to them, God Almighty needs to wind up his watch from time to time; otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion.”

Note, though, that Leibniz also thought that God intervened in the world:

I hold that when God works miracles, he does not do it in order to supply the wants of nature, but those of grace.

Later investigation revealed that in fact planetary orbits are more stable than Newton thought, so Newton’s appeal to supernatural powers wasn’t needed. But the key point is that Newton is willing to appeal to supernatural powers, without using the appeal to supernatural powers as a ready-made answer for everything.

Pennock says that “Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview.” Newton’s own approach to physics provides a good counterexample to this—Newton is a leading contributor to the scientific worldview, and yet he does not bind himself by the assumption of uninterruptible natural law.

Agent Causality vs. Blind Causality

The Argument from Reason ~ David Wood

(H/T ~ Debunking Atheists)

….Darwin thought that, had the circumstances for reproductive fitness been different, then the deliverances of conscience might have been radically different. “If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill  their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering” (Darwin, Descent, 82). As it happens, we weren’t “reared” after the manner of hive bees, and so we have widespread and strong beliefs about the sanctity of human life and its implications for how we should treat our siblings and our offspring.

But this strongly suggests that we would have had whatever beliefs were ultimately fitness producing given the circumstances of survival. Given the background belief of naturalism, there appears to be no plausible Darwinian reason for thinking that the fitness-producing predispositions that set the parameters for moral reflection have anything whatsoever to do with the truth of the resulting moral beliefs. One might be able to make a case for thinking that having true beliefs about, say, the predatory behaviors of tigers would, when combined with the understandable desire not to be eaten, be fitness producing. But the account would be far from straightforward in the case of moral beliefs.” And so the Darwinian explanation undercuts whatever reason the naturalist might have had for thinking that any of our moral beliefs is true. The result is moral skepticism.

If our pretheoretical moral convictions are largely the product of natural selection, as Darwin’s theory implies, then the moral theories we find plausible are an indirect result of that same evolutionary process. How, after all, do we come to settle upon a proposed moral theory and its principles as being true? What methodology is available to us?

  • Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, eds., Contending With Christianity’s Critics: Answering the New Atheists & Other Objections (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), 70.

See more at my post: Evolution Cannot Account for: Logic, Reasoning, Love, Truth, or Justice

Gender-Gaps, The Peace Index, and Happiest Countries

(This is the bringing together of two older posts from 3-years ago with the addition of Dr. Sommers’ video just below)

GENDER EQUALITY

The “Global Index of Peace” works in similar fashion to the Global Gender Gap Study sponsored by the World Economic Forum. Professor, scholar, and feminist, Christina Hoff Sommers explains where such endeavors go wrong:

A DEBATE ON THE PEACE-INDEX

In a prolonged debate about the above “poster,” one young gentleman brought up an issue I hadn’t really encountered all that much in my years of discussing like topics. So I wanted to isolate it and post it here for other “arm-chair apologists.” I will post his an my discussion on the matter of the “global peace index.

Challenge

I agree, this image is highly ignorant and is very “Bumper Sticker” Now with a statement like “ATHEISM KILLS” One is tempted down the path of teleological thinking and must thus assume that Atheism is Bad as a result, but is it? I did some looking and thought to use a country with the highest percentage of Atheists as a case in point. Norway is currently one of the most Atheist countries in the world percentage wise with about 46 – 85% stated as “Atheist/Agnostic/Nonbeliever in God” While the same for the US is only 3 – 9%. The Current Global Peace index rates Norway 18 out of 158 while the US only gets 88th.

First Response by Me:

…question. Will Norway be able to enter a country by being “weighty” enough to get a coalition of many countries, and stop a dictator from taking over another country… keeping peace on the world stage? (First Gulf War for instance). The peace index doesn’t. If you combine all the times the US has injected itself into stopping calamity and bloodshed (WWII, the Cold War [which includes battles like Vietnam, Korea, and the like]), peace is our main business. Why? Do Western mores based in Grecian-Judeo-Christian understanding [and how it was applied in the U.S.] make the West more adamant about rights?

Second Challenge:

…you are correct the Global Peace index does not account for political weight and or the ability to step in as a country and use military force for the greater good. However, while we can all agree that Hitler was an evil man who needed to be stopped, it is hard to then make the logical bridge that all dictators must be stopped. Even if it is the right thing to do as I assume your point is stating, The United States certainty hasn’t made the effort of ridding the world of evil dictators. You state we should be valued in greater respect for our past military interventions such as the Cold War, which included battles like Vietnam, Korea, and the like. However, many of these proxie wars were less about peace as they were about ideology (The Red Scare). I do not believe such wars were wars of necessity and I do not believe that “Peace is our main business” All of the above should only contribute to a lower ranking on the Global Peace index. This is where you and I could spend much time on the deference in philosophies between the pros and cons of an interventionist militant government.

You ask, “Do Western mores based in Grecian-Jude-Christian understanding make the West more adamant about rights?” While I believe this question is open to much interpretation, I also believe I have already answered it by showing how Norway is leading by example for good while having a large percentage of it’s population non believers of Western based Grecian-Jude-Christian morals….

My Second Response:

…”RED SCARE” ~ not a scare as much as a fact. For instance, communism was overthrowing government-after-government:

Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, and half of Germany, North Korea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, on and on.

[….]

Economic health, military stockpiles, foreign policies, are correlated with a non-belief system. So one aspect that makes the U.S. not fair well is our stockpile of military weapons. Thats One, two is countries that do score well on the global peace indicator with religious populations (Chile, Portugal, Malaysia, etc.), alongside those countries with a high atheist population that score poorly on the GPI (Russia, North Korea, Azerbaijan, etc.) seem to not make the cut in these Internet lists. Many of the countries said to be “atheist” are in fact still a) inhabited by a Christian majority, and/or b) possess a Christian history and ethos that has ALLOWED secular humanism to both exist and to openly criticize the very tenets from out of which it was born. Sweden, for instance, suffers from above average incidents of violent crime (rape being the highest in Europe). So the stats you provided break down under further investigation.

Atheism is a rejection of an absolute ethic. Virtues do not exist. You may apply what is morally good by law, but this has proven (like Nietzsche prophesied) to break down quickly with no “Law Above the Law.” Again, atheist defenders themselves admit this and I quoted them above.

Which Mussolini commented on this power struggle for ethics: “Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism by intuition…. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be bearers of an objective, immortal truth… then there is nothing more relativistic than fascistic attitudes and activity…. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.”

[….]

…to make another point on the “peace index,” which I took to the wood shed already, [includes as a negative a country that has capital punishment, or, the death penalty]. In Norway, Breivik killed 77 people (almost all children). The maximum sentence he can get for his crimes are 21-years in prison, which he got. Now, I am sure there have been white-collar extortionists (like a Madoff type schemer) that have been sentenced to near the same, if not the same. So Norway, because they do not have capital punishment, is higher on the “peace index,” but in fact they cheapen life by making a crime of killing children (77-of them) equal to $$$$ lost.

“It’s become common knowledge that Denmark, Sweden and Norway routinely rank highest on lists of the world’s happiest nations…” (The World’s Happiest Countries Take The Most Antidepressants)

(As usual, all graphics/pics are linked to other resources.) Often I hear about how much lower the crime rate is in Europe, at times having the “Peace Index” thrown into the conversation without any meditation on what exactly this “index” says. Happiness is another moniker often thrown around without any comparisons of “what constitutes ‘happiness’.” So lets deal first with happiness, and then get into the peace index and gun-control/stats.

HAPPINESS

What constitutes happiness between the States and Europe? Let’s delve — quickly — into this topic via Forbes (2006):

The average American works 25 hours a week; the average Frenchman 18; the average Italian a bit more than 16 and a half. Even the hardest-working Europeans–the British, who put in an average of 21 and half hours–are far more laid-back than their American cousins.

Compared with Europeans, Americans are more likely to be employed and more likely to work longer hours–employed Americans put in about three hours more per week than employed Frenchmen. Most important, Americans take fewer (and shorter) vacations. The average American takes off less than six weeks a year; the average Frenchman almost 12. The world champion vacationers are the Swedes, at 16 and a half weeks per year.

Of course, Europeans pay a price for their extravagant leisure. The average Frenchman produces only three-quarters as much as the average American, even though productivity per hour is slightly higher in France.

This raises more than one interesting question. First, why do Americans choose to work so much? (Or, if you prefer, why do Europeans choose to work so little?) Second, who’s happier?…..

Why indeed.

I think this is answered a bit later in a newer poll/study, found at Live Science (see also FoxNews):

Americans really do love to work, it seems, while Europeans are much happier if they skip burning the midnight oil in favor of leisure. That’s according to a new study finding longer work hours make Europeans unhappy while Americans get a very slight (albeit not statistically significant) bliss boost from the extra grind.

“Those who work longer hours in Europe are less happy than those who work shorter hours, but in the U.S. it’s the other way around,” said study author Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, a clinical assistant professor of public policy at The University of Texas at Dallas. “The working hours’ category does not have a very big impact on the probability of happiness of Americans.” [Happiest States’ List]

The study, based on survey data, can’t tease out whether work causes happiness or unhappiness, though the researchers speculate the effect has to do with expectations and how a person measures success.

Okulicz-Kozaryn used surveys of European and American attitudes for the study. The surveys included questions about the number of hours worked and asked respondents to identify if they were “very happy,” “pretty happy” or “not too happy.”

They found that the likelihood of Europeans’ describing themselves as “very happy” dropped from around 28 percent to 23 percent as work hours climbed from under 17 hours a week to more than 60 hours per week. Americans, on the other hand, held steady, with about a 43 percent chance of describing themselves as happy regardless of working hours.

The results held even after the researchers accounted for possible confounding factors, such as age, marital status and household income….

[….]

“Happiness depends upon satisfaction with your income, satisfaction with you family life, satisfaction with your work, satisfaction with your health,” he said.

“People trade off work and leisure,” Easterlin explained, and so any attempt to explain the results of this study would have to take that into account. “[Happiness] has to do with what you think the goals are of people in the two countries.”

American happiness is a pursuit important enough to include in one of our Founding documents, right next to life and liberty. This “pursuit” we are use to (and is being harmed/deformed by the welfare state growing larger) creates innovation. For instance David Mamet notes the following:

In my family, as in yours, someone regularly says, “Hey, you know what would be a good idea … ?” And then proceeds to outline some scheme for making money by providing a product or service the need for which has just occurred to him. He and the family fantasize about and discuss and elaborate this scheme. Inherent in this fantasy is the unstated but ever-present truth that, given sufficient capital and expertise or the access to the same, the scheme might actually be put into operation (as, indeed, constantly, throughout our history, such schemes have), bettering the lives of the masses and bringing wealth to their creators. Do you believe such conversations take place in Syria? In France?

David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture (New York, NY: Sentinel Publishing, 2011), [FN] 120.

Some can be happy with less pay and trusting the state will care for them enough to go on 12-week vacations. While doctors, for instance, may enjoy a month-long vacation in France [mandatory vacation], this “happiness” rather than hard-work often has deadly consequences, one being — for instance — nearly 15,000 people dying in a heat wave in France in 2003 (a record for Europe… previously Italy held it with 3,000).

  • …Health Minister Jean-Francois Mattei has ordered a separate special study this month to look into a possible link with vacation schedules after doctors strongly denied allegations their absence put the elderly in danger. The heat wave hit during the August vacation period, when doctors, hospital staff and many others take leave…

So Europe being “happier” than the United States is something of a misnomer.

FAUX HAPPINESS

About the above graphic:

…the moods of Scandinavian nations may be more closely linked to medicine than anything else. The chart depicts the relative amounts of antidepressant consumption across several different European nations. Iceland — not technically in Scandinavia but nearby — leads with 118 daily doses per 1,000 people. Denmark, Sweden and Finland are all close behind…. The report notes that the prevalence of antidepressants in Europe is a growing trend. “In all European countries for which data is available, the consumption of antidepressants has increased a lot over the decade, by over 80% on average across EU member states,” it reads. According to the report, 30 percent of Icelandic women over the age of 65 had an antidepressant prescription in 2008. 

It may seem paradoxical that the world’s happiest nations also take the most antidepressants.

“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We pursue it, not expecting government to provide it for us. If government doeas, a simple economic law states — basically — that creativity is squelched:

  • “A fundamental principle of information theory is that you can’t guarantee outcomes… in order for an experiment to yield knowledge, it has to be able to fail. If you have guaranteed experiments, you have zero knowledge”

George GilderInterview by Dennis Prager {Editors note: this is how the USSR ended up with warehouses FULL of “widgets” (things made that it could not use or people did not want) no one needed in the real world.}

PEACEFUL/SAFE

When people do, austerity more-often-than-not leads to riots and collapse. And why in many European countries the EU is being rejected, and conservative parties are getting landslides (like UKIP in the UK). People are fed up with horrible health care, no incentive to succeed, taxes, crime, and immigration issues. 

Okay, I feel my point has been made. Innovation comes by a drive to work hard, as much as you wish in fact… whereas Europe forces people to work less, and thus is stagnant in relation to this said innovation. What about crime rates and violence, yes, even gun violence? Lets see. Firstly, I deal with some of the more pressing issues with the Peace Index here. But in this conversation, I wanted to deal with violent crimes… which include more than gun violence. As Europe gives birth to a generation divorced of their cultural heritage, you will see a rise in violence, and then a rise in reaction to it. Maybe an over-reaction?

VIOLENCE

Firstly, if you are an in-depth kind of reader, at this link you will find multiple debates and appearances of John Lott on CNN and other programs discussing gun crime. But let’s deal with a place that has for years made gun ownership illegal, the United Kingdom. Here is the headline from The Telegraph on the topic:

UK is violent crime capital of Europe: The United Kingdom is the violent crime capital of Europe and has one of the highest rates of violence in the world, worse even than America, according to new research.

Analysis of figures from the European Commission showed a 77 per cent increase in murders, robberies, assaults and sexual offences in the UK since Labour came to power.

The total number of violent offences recorded compared to population is higher than any other country in Europe, as well as America, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Opposition leaders said the disclosures were a “damning indictment” of the Government’s failure to tackle deep-rooted social problems.

The figures combined crime statistics for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The UK had a greater number of murders in 2007 than any other EU country – 927 – and at a relative rate higher than most western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain. 

 It also recorded the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU, and the highest absolute number of burglaries, with double the number of offences recorded in Germany and France.

Overall, 5.4 million crimes were recorded in the UK in 2007 – more than 10 a minute – second only to Sweden.

Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: “This is a real damning indictment of this government’s comprehensive failure over more than a decade to tackle the deep rooted social problems in our society, and the knock-on effect on crime and anti-social behaviour.

“We’re now on our fourth Home Secretary in this parliament, and all we are getting is a rehash of old initiatives that didn’t work the first time round. More than ever Britain needs a change of direction.”

The figures were sourced from Eurostat, the European Commission’s database of statistics. They are gathered using official sources in the countries concerned such as the national statistics office, the national prison administration, ministries of the interior or justice, and police.

A breakdown of the statistics, which were compiled into league tables by the Conservatives, revealed that violent crime in the UK had increased from 652,974 offences in 1998 to more than 1.15 million crimes in 2007.

It means there are over 2,000 crimes recorded per 100,000 population in the UK, making it the most violent place in Europe.

Austria is second, with a rate of 1,677 per 100,000 people, followed by Sweden, Belgium, Finland and Holland.

By comparison, America has an estimated rate of 466 violent crimes per 100,000 population.

France recorded 324,765 violent crimes in 2007 – a 67 per cent increase in the past decade – at a rate of 504 per 100,000 population. 

…read more…

Which segways into a recent comparison in crime and gun-control in a Wall Street Journal article by Joyce Lee Malcolm, entitled: “Two Cautionary Tales of Gun Control: After a school massacre, the U.K. banned handguns in 1998. A decade later, handgun crime had doubled.” Here is an interview of her in regards to the article, followed by excerpts from said article:

Larry Elder Interview & Wall Street Journal Article

Here are portions of the article:

…Great Britain and Australia, for example, suffered mass shootings in the 1980s and 1990s. Both countries had very stringent gun laws when they occurred. Nevertheless, both decided that even stricter control of guns was the answer. Their experiences can be instructive.

In 1987, Michael Ryan went on a shooting spree in his small town of Hungerford, England, killing 16 people (including his mother) and wounding another 14 before shooting himself. Since the public was unarmed—as were the police—Ryan wandered the streets for eight hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone with a firearm was able to come to the rescue.

Nine years later, in March 1996, Thomas Hamilton, a man known to be mentally unstable, walked into a primary school in the Scottish town of Dunblane and shot 16 young children and their teacher. He wounded 10 other children and three other teachers before taking his own life.

Since 1920, anyone in Britain wanting a handgun had to obtain a certificate from his local police stating he was fit to own a weapon and had good reason to have one. Over the years, the definition of “good reason” gradually narrowed. By 1969, self-defense was never a good reason for a permit.

After Hungerford, the British government banned semiautomatic rifles and brought shotguns—the last type of firearm that could be purchased with a simple show of fitness—under controls similar to those in place for pistols and rifles. Magazines were limited to two shells with a third in the chamber.

Dunblane had a more dramatic impact. Hamilton had a firearm certificate, although according to the rules he should not have been granted one. A media frenzy coupled with an emotional campaign by parents of Dunblane resulted in the Firearms Act of 1998, which instituted a nearly complete ban on handguns. Owners of pistols were required to turn them in. The penalty for illegal possession of a pistol is up to 10 years in prison.

The results have not been what proponents of the act wanted. Within a decade of the handgun ban and the confiscation of handguns from registered owners, crime with handguns had doubled according to British government crime reports. Gun crime, not a serious problem in the past, now is. Armed street gangs have some British police carrying guns for the first time. Moreover, another massacre occurred in June 2010. Derrick Bird, a taxi driver in Cumbria, shot his brother and a colleague then drove off through rural villages killing 12 people and injuring 11 more before killing himself.

[….]

Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in 1996, Martin Bryant, an Australian with a lifelong history of violence, attacked tourists at a Port Arthur prison site in Tasmania with two semiautomatic rifles. He killed 35 people and wounded 21 others.

At the time, Australia’s guns laws were stricter than the United Kingdom’s. In lieu of the requirement in Britain that an applicant for permission to purchase a gun have a “good reason,” Australia required a “genuine reason.” Hunting and protecting crops from feral animals were genuine reasons—personal protection wasn’t.

With new Prime Minister John Howard in the lead, Australia passed the National Firearms Agreement, banning all semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic and pump-action shotguns and imposing a more restrictive licensing system on other firearms. The government also launched a forced buyback scheme to remove thousands of firearms from private hands. Between Oct. 1, 1996, and Sept. 30, 1997, the government purchased and destroyed more than 631,000 of the banned guns at a cost of $500 million.

To what end? While there has been much controversy over the result of the law and buyback, Peter Reuter and Jenny Mouzos, in a 2003 study published by the Brookings Institution, found homicides “continued a modest decline” since 1997. They concluded that the impact of the National Firearms Agreement was “relatively small,” with the daily rate of firearms homicides declining 3.2%.

According to their study, the use of handguns rather than long guns (rifles and shotguns) went up sharply, but only one out of 117 gun homicides in the two years following the 1996 National Firearms Agreement used a registered gun. Suicides with firearms went down but suicides by other means went up. They reported “a modest reduction in the severity” of massacres (four or more indiscriminate homicides) in the five years since the government weapons buyback. These involved knives, gas and arson rather than firearms.

In 2008, the Australian Institute of Criminology reported a decrease of 9% in homicides and a one-third decrease in armed robbery since the 1990s, but an increase of over 40% in assaults and 20% in sexual assaults.

What to conclude? Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven’t made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres. The two major countries held up as models for the U.S. don’t provide much evidence that strict gun laws will solve our problems.

Ms. Malcolm, a professor of law at George Mason University Law School, is the author of several books including “Guns and Violence: The English Experience,” (Harvard, 2002).

Of course America’s worst massacre involving a school is the Bath Bombing (below), Michigan (1927). And a bomb killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City Bombing. So if someone wants to kill another… no amount of government regulation will decrease this fact:

  • “…we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

John Adams, first (1789–1797) Vice President of the United States, and the second (1797–1801) President of the United States. Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6.

Godly Contradictions? Rocks, Evil, God’s Origin

Another good read on this can be found at Evidence for God. Similkarly, a common challenge that includes the same categorical mistake has to do with “Can God make a rock soo big He cannot lift it?” Go to a previous post of mine where a paper, a video, and my Power Point presentation on the matter are.

Power Point – Can God Make a Rock So Big That by Papa Giorgio

Can God Make A Rock So Big He Cannot Lift It? by Papa Giorgio

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Atheism, Science and God (Part 1)

This is the “official” part one.

Philosophy, Science and the God Debate (Part 1) ‘Science disproves the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it. But top Oxford Professors, John Lennox, Alister McGrath and Keith Ward effectively challenge this widespread belief and show that science and faith in God are not incompatible. ‘Science disprovers the existence of God’ – and thanks to high profile scientists – many people unquestioningly believe it.

Oxford Professors vs New Atheists: Evidence, Faith and Knowledge

Chris Jervis interviews scientists, theologians and philosophers John Lennox, Keith Ward and Alister McGrath on the meaning of faith in Christianity. Is Christian faith blind? Is it against evidence? Lennox, Ward and McGrath respond to many claims made by the New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (author of God is not Great).

Responding To the Fool (Proverbs 26:4-5)

(h/t Debunking Atheists… led to getting the video) While I do not believe there is enmity between pre-suppositional and evidential apologetics (like the author of this DVD), I do recommend highly this presentation as a learning tool for how to evangelize. People are different and respond differently to evidences and logical presentations. One should always have the best of them in his quiver. Consider giving American Vision a look over. Much Thought. (Posted by: Religio-Political Talk)