Posts for Jul, 2005.

7/27/2005 7:47:00 AM

Sitting Shiva with James

Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 by Brian Beers
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For the past few weeks, and for however long it takes, my wife has been sitting in James. She confessed that doesn’t like James. So she decided that she either needed to tear it out or sit in it until she understood the reality of what James wrote. Two years ago we held our son in a quiet room behind the ER, as his body gave up his three-month fight against his congenital heart-defect. This year, ten days after the 2nd anniversary of Joseph’s death, my wife’s father entered the ER, and two days later we again recognized this valley.
So when James says “count it all joy” he is either completely ignorant and a real jackass or he knows something and is trying to share it. We choose door number two. How we respond to Scripture is a microcosm of how we respond to God. My wife has chosen to allow James to poke and prod her heart –to open her wounds and, she trusts, bring healing. She wants to know God as James did. She wants James 1:2 to ring true in her heart rather than as a clanging cymbal.
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7/25/2005 10:00:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Five

Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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A couple of postings ago, I got a bit tart with respect to an article in Astronomy magazine.  Some of the thought – which author Adam Frank judiciously distanced himself from! – was lampoonable.  And so, through world class humorist, Terry Pratchett, I wish further to lampoon:


It is now known to science that there are many more dimensions than the classical four. 

Scientists say that these don’t normally impinge on the world because the extra

dimensions are very small and curve in on themselves, and that since reality is fractal

most of it is tucked inside itself.  This means either that the universe is more full of

wonders than we can hope to understand or, more probably, that scientists make things up

as they go along.


But the multiverse is full of little dimensionettes, playstreets of creation where creatures

of the imagination can romp without being knocked down by serious actuality. 

Sometimes, as they drift through the holes in reality the impinge back on this universe,

when they give rise to myths, legends and charges of being Drunk and Disorderly.[1] 

[1] Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (New York: HarperTorch, 1989), 263. 

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7/25/2005 8:03:00 AM

Scientists Getting Smarter

Posted Monday, July 25, 2005 by Brian Beers
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No this is not a joke, last Thursday World Net Daily posted a press-release from the Discovery Institute, a proponent of the Intelligent Design theory, based in Seattle.

-Who knew we had sane people in Seattle?

More than 400 scientists have now signed onto the DI’s “Statement of Dissent from Darwin.” which now includes “two prominent Russian biologists from Moscow State University.” Scientists who have now officially submitted their resignation from the category of “respected” scientist.

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7/20/2005 11:17:00 AM

The Moon God Gave Us

And a Tasteful Tribute by Google

Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2005 by Brian Beers
Categories: Humor   Comments: None
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Dr. Vreeland has been reviewing The Privileged Planet in which the moon's contribution to our scientific discoveries as well as the habitability of terra firma (or not so firma - for those of you reading chapter 3) is lauded. 
And for those of you interested in learning more about our moon...
Today is the anniversary of the the first manned lunar landing, and Google Maps has added some Nasa imagery so that you can surf our nearest celestial neighbor.


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7/18/2005 7:35:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Four

Posted Monday, July 18, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).  


Greetings again Cosmophiles!  Once upon a time, back in the fall of 1996, I had some special international training in BakersfieldCA.  I was with Campus Crusade and I was headed to Nairobi to teach seminary.  I guess Crusade thought that Bakersfield was as close to another planet as they were going to find and so we were trained “cross-culturally” there.  In any case and as it turned out, one of my compadres there had a friend who had recently become a disciple of Hugh Ross.  According to a publication of the American Scientific Affiliation, Hugh Ross is an Astronomer.  This young man to whom I was introduced was a convert from the Recent Earth Creationist position.  His mother, I was told, was the librarian of a geological archive there in Bakersfield and I had to listen to structural inference arguments for a while.  When I didn’t just roll over and play dead, I was handed “Tape Six” of a Hugh Ross lectureship and asked to convert to the religion.  I did not.  The reason was because of what I’ve frequently said in these articles: often, having a Ph.D. in a “scientific” field usually entails the permanent amnesia of that for which the “Ph.” stands.  Unfortunately, Hugh-I-refuse-to-think-outside-the-box-because-it might-embarrass-me-in-the-academe-Ross is no exception.  This has been pointed out rather acutely by William Lane Craig in the area of Christology/Soteriology and multiple dimensions (JETS 42/2 [June 1999]: 293-304).  Nevertheless, Craig cuts him the following slack: “He has vigorously defended scientifically the cosmological and teleological arguments for a Creator and Designer of the universe and has championed progressive creationism over against naturalistic accounts of biological evolution on the one hand and so-called “young earth” creationism on the other” (p. 293).  And the slack hangs him.  I hate to say it but he has not “defended scientifically the cosmological and teleological arguments” because those do not subject themselves to what Craig elsewhere calls “verificationist epistemology” required in the reliability and validity of empirical research – they are philosophical arguments . . . in fact, all arguments are philosophical.
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7/11/2005 2:00:00 PM

Church Growth

Toward a view of acceptable church growth.

Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 by Sam Yeiter
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Brian and i recently had a discussion about church i thought i'd put up some of my thoughts about it...although i highly recommend that you read Brian's as well...he has some neat thoughts there.

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7/11/2005 9:46:00 AM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Three

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing.

Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).


This week’s jolly adventure into epistemic na-na-world includes a prelude from the current issue (August [!] 2005) of Astronomy magazine.  Here’s a teaser quote from Adam Frank’s “Seeing the Dawn of Time”: “EARTH EXISTS only because the physical laws in our universe are just right.  That’s a natural result of the multiverse, from which countless pocket universes bubble off from the whole” (p. 38; emphasis, the editors of Astronomy).  Yow!  If there was ever more of a motley juxtaposition of randomness and determinacy in print, I’d like to see it.  (Oh, I already have; but you will have to wait until I get to G & R’s handling of the hijacked Copernican Principle, chapter 11).  One of the headings of the article even presumes the alleged principle of mediocrity: “Our mediocre universe.”  I wonder how it will be when all the math washes out and we find new ways to observe particles that apparently disappear into others of the “multiverse” and we discover that the present universe in 4, 5, or 6 dimensions is all that there is.  Remember that there were a lot of good mathematicians that had the hammer of good math shattered on the anvil of physics.  One might think of Einstein’s defense of the static and eternal universe:


In an historical instance of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity had already predicted that the universe was either  expanding or contracting.  Unfortunately, Einstein found the notion so distasteful that he      had introduced a “fudge factor,” a variable called a cosmological constant, theoretically retrofitted to keep the universe in steady, eternal equilibrium.  But upon learning of  Hubble’s discovery, Einstein made a widely publicized trip to California to see Hubble’s data for himself.  As a result of Hubble’s discoveries, and the works of Georges Edouard Lemaitre, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest and physicist who had studied under Arthur Eddington, and Soviet Aleksandr Friedmann – whose solutions to Einstein’s theory implied an expanding universe – he repented of his cosmological constant, famously calling it the “greatest blunder” or his career (G & R p. 171; see also Stephen Hawking
The Universe in a Nutshell [New York: Bantam, 2001], pp. 21, 49, 96-97.)


One thing that you rarely get in popular level articles is that not everybody agrees on the theories that are trotted out ex-cathedra style by the peoples’ pontiffs of physics.  In defense of Frank, he does leave the doctrine at the level of theory and states plainly that some of the more eccentric assumptions and conclusions are hotly debated.  But in everything from string-theory, to n universes, you get nothing like the monolithic presentations force-fed my high-school kids.  Anyway, lest I be accused of wasting your time, read the article yourself.  The history lesson for the study of cosmology over the last 30 years or so is worth the price of the subscription.  The major problem with the article is that it does not tell you why the three problems (causality problem, flatness problem, magnetic monopole problem) are real problems to inflation theory or Big Bang Cosmology in the first place. 


Perhaps in an effort to distance himself from the craziness of the positions, the author of the article quotes Mario Livio: “Inflation naturally produces a multiverse.”  To which I ask, why?  No answer is forthcoming.  “If you believe in some form of inflation, then it is almost inevitable that some form of eternal inflation will occur.”  “Almost inevitable” is not good enough.  You said that it naturally produces a multiverse and now you say that it is “almost inevitable.”  The math must not be very good and the observations nonexistent.  Yep: “The different universes would not be causally connected. . . .”  Frank, now:  “No signals from one pocket universe could ever reach another.  That means there is no way to study them.”  How convenient!  Non-falsifiable!  The multiverse exists because I say so!  I am a “scientist” and can therefore say any crazy thing I want and not be wrong.  Oh, and by the way, that also means that you cannot short change me in government grants.  Along with my omniscience, that would, after all, impinge upon my omnipotence.  It is too bad whenever there is the request for an accountability in respect to their eccentricities, the cretins who would dare question the validity or value of the theoreticians’ product are branded right-wing fundamentalist wackos.  Academicians have insulated themselves, with their inflated salaries, in the tiny bastion of the academe.  Like supreme court justices, they are virtually unimpeachable.  Also like supreme court justices, we question the validity of their opinions.  The beauty of the religion of scientism is that most every assumption they rest on and many of the conclusions they reach for fall to the fallacy of non-falsifiability.  Isn’t it fascinating that this is exactly the same charge they level at theists?  Overall, if you find the article compelling, at least no one will ever fault you for your lack of creative imagination. . . .  But if you’re into the multiverse, I would rather recommend “The Chronicles of Riddick.”  Meanwhile back in the real universe. . . .
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7/10/2005 8:04:00 AM

Question Church Growth

Posted Sunday, July 10, 2005 by Brian Beers
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This past weekend my family went down to Oregon to visit a couple of friends of ours from college. Both of these friends attend (or don’t attend) the same church. They feel completely marginalized by the pastor’s emphasis on church growth. Both couples are struggling with a myriad of issues brought on by misguiding leadership.
While we were down in Oregon our home church in Washington may have set an attendance record for our Sunday Morning service: 159. We normally run 90-110 and have room for 140 –of course “normal” was before a church across town began hemorrhaging Christians. This “other church” is also suffering from issues similar to our friends’ Oregon church. Both pastors have recently spent 40 days purposizing their churches.
While I could spend a lot of time discussing how an obsession with growth is unnecessary and harmful, I would like to take a few moments to discuss the toll that growth –even healthy, natural growth takes on a church.
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7/7/2005 6:57:00 PM

What Can One Church Do?

Toward a Biblical View of Homelessness

Posted Thursday, July 07, 2005 by Sam Yeiter
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I would like to open a discussion on the Church’s response to the homeless.  Particularly, what should be the response of a little church?  I’m hoping that it’s a given that God cares for the homeless, and that the Church ought to be involved if it’s something God cares about.  In this post I recount my experience with one man whose story I believed.

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7/6/2005 5:23:00 PM

Gonzalez and Richards Chapter Two

Assumptions and implications are not the same thing.

Posted Wednesday, July 06, 2005 by Gerald Vreeland
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Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).

One of the fun things about writing is that that cat is out of the bag.  No matter what you say you will find yourself in quarantine.  Were I to categorically claim that I was a recent earth creationist (CRI type), I would find myself alienated from the Intelligent Design folks and ostracized by the “Naturalists.”  That is really too bad, wouldn’t you say?  Having lost every argument, people resort to epithets and ostracism.  The word of post-modernism is quite simply: “Whatever. . . .”  Whatever, if you are not interested in my evaluations don’t read them; if you think I’m stupid, believe me, that is a favor I can return. . . .  Last week (6/22/05), I read a piece by Burt Prelutsky wherein it might be concluded that he believed that “Creationists” as he calls them are knuckle dragging troglodytes.  Fine, my gorgeous wife has two science degrees, a career in a bio-medical field, acceptance to an advanced degree program and a 160 I.Q.  She is a Creationist . . . an articulate creationist.  I have two Masters and a Doctor of Philosophy degree.  Whereas I do not have my wife’s IQ, I have had to deal with the issues all day every day for the last 30 years because I was in preparation for and now teach in the field of Old Testament studies.  On contract days, like my wife, I am a creationist.  Other days I wonder if maybe the ID folks don’t have something to bring to the party and everyday I listen to the secularists and glean what I can that is not so theory laden as to be useless.  Regardless, and unlike many “science” Ph.D.’s I have not forgotten what the Ph. in the D. stands for: we are all, first and foremost, philosophers – we can be good ones or bad ones.  My sense of the history of science is that most of the secularist theoreticians have forgotten that presuppositions and rational argument count.  These are tragic mistakes that I do not wish to replicate.  Therefore I evaluate friends and foes alike to ferret out stuff that is usable and stuff that needs to be fixed or discarded.

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