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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fulfilled Bible Prophecies?

Commenter Cranky said:

"There were many prophecies made in the Bible and all that could have been fulfilled have been fulfilled. Only a few remain. None have ever failed"

Do tell. I must have missed that.

With the great opportunity for God to make specific statements about verifiable future events in "his" book, you would think he could come up with at least one.


Cranky, you are in water over your head here. There are so many prophecies in the Bible that came true that your comment looks pretty foolish.

The Temple at Jerusalem is thrown down stone-by-stone

Bible passage: Matthew 24
Written: between 50-68 AD
Fulfilled: 70 AD

Jesus, for instance, predicted the destruction of the Temple within the generation of his hearers in approximately 30 AD. This means that the Temple would have had to be destroyed within the lifetimes of at least some of the hearers. Now, the Temple was a massive structure consisting of several buildings built of gigantic building stones. Yet, in 70 AD, that Temple was destroyed thoroughly stone-by-stone because during the attack I mentioned yesterday fires broke out and much of the gold of the Temple artifacts and treasuries melted down into the cracks of the stones. The Romans tore up the entire structure in order to recover that gold. Thus, the exact words of Jesus were precisely fulfilled.

Matthew 24:2 & 2 - Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

He also gave followers some signs to see as the cue to flee the area. Many believers heeded his warnings and left Jerusalem before the terrible events occurred. Here is just one of many easily verified prophecies.

God foretells the future of Tyre:

1) Tyre would be attacked by many nations

Bible passage: Ezekiel 26:3
Written: between 587-586 BC
Fulfilled: 573 BC, 332 BC, 1291 AD
In Ezekiel 26:3, the prophet said that Tyre, the Phoenician Empire's most powerful city, would be attacked by many nations, because of its treatment of Israel. At about the time that Ezekiel delivered this prophecy, Babylon had begun a 13-year attack on Tyre's mainland. Later, in about 332 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre and brought an end to the Phoenician Empire. Tyre later fell under the rule of the Romans, the Crusaders and the Moslems, who destroyed the city, again, in 1291.

Ezekiel 26:3
therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.

2) Tyre's fortresses would fail

Bible passage: Amos 1:9-10
Written: about 750 BC
Fulfilled: 333-332 BC
In Amos 1:9-10, the prophet said that God would cause Tyre's protective fortresses to fail, as punishment for the way that Tyre treated Israel. That prophecy was fulfilled in 586-573 BC when Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar attacked the mainland of Tyre, and in 333-332 BC when Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre. Alexander's army built a land bridge from the mainland to the island so that they could use a battering ram to break through the island's fortress.

Amos 1:9-10
This is what the Lord says: "For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses."

3) Tyre's stones, timber and soil would be cast into the sea

Bible passage: Ezekiel 26:12
Written: between 587-586 BC
Fulfilled: 333-332 BC
In Ezekiel 26:12, the prophet said that Tyre's stones, timber and soil would be thrown into the sea. That probably would have been a fitting description of how Alexander the Great built a land bridge from the mainland to the island of Tyre when he attacked in 333-332 BC. It is believed that he took the rubble from Tyre's mainland ruins and tossed it - stones, timber and soil - into the sea, to build the land bridge (which is still there).

Ezekiel 26:12
They will plunder your wealth and loot your merchandise; they will break down your walls and demolish your fine houses and throw your stones, timber and rubble into the sea.

4) Tyre would lose its power over the sea

Bible passage: Zechariah 9:3-4
Written: between 520 and 518 BC
Fulfilled: 333-332 BC
In Zechariah 9:3-4, the prophet said that the Phoenician city of Tyre would lose its status as a powerful nation on the Mediterranean Sea. Today there is a city called Tyre that is either on, or near, the original Phoenician site. But this Tyre is a small city in modern-day Lebanon. It is certainly not the powerful nation that it was in the days of Zechariah.

Zechariah 9:3-4
Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets.
But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire.

5) Tyre would never again be found
Bible passage: Ezekiel 26:21
Written: between 587-586 BC
Fulfilled: after 332 BC
In Ezekiel 26:21, the prophet said that the Phoenician city of Tyre would be brought to an end and would never again be found. When Alexander the Great destroyed the city in 332 BC, he brought an end to the Phoenician Empire. The Empire was never revived or "found" again. As for the city itself, it has been torn down and built upon by a succession of world powers. Today, finding artifacts from the original Phoenician Tyre is difficult. Many of the original buildings were destroyed by Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Moslems. According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition: "The principal ruins of the city today are those of buildings erected by the Crusaders. There are some Greco-Roman remains, but any left by the Phoenicians lie underneath the present town."

Ezekiel 26:21
I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found, declares the Sovereign Lord."

6) Tyre would never be rebuilt
Bible passage: Ezekiel 26:14
Written: between 587-586 BC
Fulfilled: 332 BC
In Ezekiel 26:14, the prophet says the Phoenician city of Tyre would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. This was fulfilled when Alexander the Great conquered Tyre in 332 BC. His conquest brought an end to the Phoenician Empire. The empire never recovered from the attack. And so, it could never rebuild Tyre. Other nations and empires have built cities on or near the original Phoenician site.

Ezekiel 26:14
I will make you a bare rock, and you will become a place to spread fishnets. You will never be rebuilt, for I the Lord have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord.


Dr. Hugh Ross writes on this subject:

Fulfilled Prophecy: Evidence for the Reliability of the Bible
by Hugh Ross, Ph.D.

Unique among all books ever written, the Bible accurately foretells specific events-in detail-many years, sometimes centuries, before they occur. Approximately 2500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors. (The remaining 500 or so reach into the future and may be seen unfolding as days go by.) Since the probability for any one of these prophecies having been fulfilled by chance averages less than one in ten (figured very conservatively) and since the prophecies are for the most part independent of one another, the odds for all these prophecies having been fulfilled by chance without error is less than one in 10 to the 2000th (that is 1 with 2000 zeros written after it)!

God is not the only one, however, who uses forecasts of future events to get people's attention. Satan does, too. Through clairvoyants (such as Jeanne Dixon and Edgar Cayce), mediums, spiritists, and others, come remarkable predictions, though rarely with more than about 60 percent accuracy, never with total accuracy. Messages from Satan, furthermore, fail to match the detail of Bible prophecies, nor do they include a call to repentance.

The acid test for identifying a prophet of God is recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:21-22. According to this Bible passage (and others), God's prophets, as distinct from Satan's spokesmen, are 100 percent accurate in their predictions. There is no room for error.

As economy does not permit an explanation of all the Biblical prophecies that have been fulfilled, what follows in a discussion of a few that exemplify the high degree of specificity, the range of projection, and/or the "supernature" of the predicted events. Readers are encouraged to select others, as well, and to carefully examine their historicity.

(1) Some time before 500 B.C. the prophet Daniel proclaimed that Israel's long-awaited Messiah would begin his public ministry 483 years after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He further predicted that the Messiah would be "cut off," killed, and that this event would take place prior to a second destruction of Jerusalem. Abundant documentation shows that these prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the life (and crucifixion) of Jesus Christ. The decree regarding the restoration of Jerusalem was issued by Persia's King Artaxerxes to the Hebrew priest Ezra in 458 B.C., 483 years later the ministry of Jesus Christ began in Galilee. (Remember that due to calendar changes, the date for the start of Christ's ministry is set by most historians at about 26 A.D. Also note that from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. is just one year.) Jesus' crucifixion occurred only a few years later, and about four decades later, in 70 A.D. came the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 5th.)*

(*The estimates of probability included herein come from a group of secular research scientists. As an example of their method of estimation, consider their calculations for this first prophecy cited:

* Since the Messiah's ministry could conceivably begin in any one of about 5000 years, there is, then, one chance in about 5000 that his ministry could begin in 26 A.D.
* Since the Messiah is God in human form, the possibility of his being killed is considerably low, say less than one chance in 10.
* Relative to the second destruction of Jerusalem, this execution has roughly an even chance of occurring before or after that event, that is, one chance in 2.

Hence, the probability of chance fulfillment for this prophecy is 1 in 5000 x 10 x 2, which is 1 in 100,000, or 1 in 10 to the 5th.)

(2) In approximately 700 B.C. the prophet Micah named the tiny village of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Israel's Messiah (Micah 5:2). The fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Christ is one of the most widely known and widely celebrated facts in history.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 5th.)

(3) In the fifth century B.C. a prophet named Zechariah declared that the Messiah would be betrayed for the price of a slave—thirty pieces of silver, according to Jewish law-and also that this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem's poor foreigners (Zechariah 11:12-13). Bible writers and secular historians both record thirty pieces of silver as the sum paid to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus, and they indicate that the money went to purchase a "potter's field," used—just as predicted—for the burial of poor aliens (Matthew 27:3-10).

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 11th.)

(4) Some 400 years before crucifixion was invented, both Israel's King David and the prophet Zechariah described the Messiah's death in words that perfectly depict that mode of execution. Further, they said that the body would be pierced and that none of the bones would be broken, contrary to customary procedure in cases of crucifixion (Psalm 22 and 34:20; Zechariah 12:10). Again, historians and New Testament writers confirm the fulfillment: Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross, and his extraordinarily quick death eliminated the need for the usual breaking of bones. A spear was thrust into his side to verify that he was, indeed, dead.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 13th.)

(5) The prophet Isaiah foretold that a conqueror named Cyrus would destroy seemingly impregnable Babylon and subdue Egypt along with most of the rest of the known world. This same man, said Isaiah, would decide to let the Jewish exiles in his territory go free without any payment of ransom (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13). Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of these feats (and he did, eventually, perform them all), and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 15th.)

(6) Mighty Babylon, 196 miles square, was enclosed not only by a moat, but also by a double wall 330 feet high, each part 90 feet thick. It was said by unanimous popular opinion to be indestructible, yet two Bible prophets declared its doom. These prophets further claimed that the ruins would be avoided by travelers, that the city would never again be inhabited, and that its stones would not even be moved for use as building material (Isaiah 13:17-22 and Jeremiah 51:26, 43). Their description is, in fact, the well-documented history of the famous citadel.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 9th.)

(7) The exact location and construction sequence of Jerusalem's nine suburbs was predicted by Jeremiah about 2600 years ago. He referred to the time of this building project as "the last days," that is, the time period of Israel's second rebirth as a nation in the land of Palestine (Jeremiah 31:38-40). This rebirth became history in 1948, and the construction of the nine suburbs has gone forward precisely in the locations and in the sequence predicted.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 18th.)

(8) The prophet Moses foretold (with some additions by Jeremiah and Jesus) that the ancient Jewish nation would be conquered twice and that the people would be carried off as slaves each time, first by the Babylonians (for a period of 70 years), and then by a fourth world kingdom (which we know as Rome). The second conqueror, Moses said, would take the Jews captive to Egypt in ships, selling them or giving them away as slaves to all parts of the world. Both of these predictions were fulfilled to the letter, the first in 607 B.C. and the second in 70 A.D. God's spokesmen said, further, that the Jews would remain scattered throughout the entire world for many generations, but without becoming assimilated by the peoples or of other nations, and that the Jews would one day return to the land of Palestine to re-establish for a second time their nation (Deuteronomy 29; Isaiah 11:11-13; Jeremiah 25:11; Hosea 3:4-5 and Luke 21:23-24).

This prophetic statement sweeps across 3500 years of history to its complete fulfillment—in our lifetime.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 20th.)

(9) Jeremiah predicted that despite its fertility and despite the accessibility of its water supply, the land of Edom (today a part of Jordan) would become a barren, uninhabited wasteland (Jeremiah 49:15-20; Ezekiel 25:12-14). His description accurately tells the history of that now bleak region.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 5th.)

(10) Joshua prophesied that Jericho would be rebuilt by one man. He also said that the man's eldest son would die when the reconstruction began and that his youngest son would die when the work reached completion (Joshua 6:26). About five centuries later this prophecy found its fulfillment in the life and family of a man named Hiel (I Kings 16:33-34).

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 7th).

(11) The day of Elijah's supernatural departure from Earth was predicted unanimously—and accurately, according to the eye-witness account—by a group of fifty prophets (II Kings 2:3-11).

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 9th).

(12) Jahaziel prophesied that King Jehoshaphat and a tiny band of men would defeat an enormous, well-equipped, well-trained army without even having to fight. Just as predicted, the King and his troops stood looking on as their foes were supernaturally destroyed to the last man (II Chronicles 20).

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 8th).

(13) One prophet of God (unnamed, but probably Shemiah) said that a future king of Judah, named Josiah, would take the bones of all the occultic priests (priests of the "high places") of Israel's King Jeroboam and burn them on Jeroboam's altar (I Kings 13:2 and II Kings 23:15-18). This event occurred approximately 300 years after it was foretold.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 13th).

Since these thirteen prophecies cover mostly separate and independent events, the probability of chance occurrence for all thirteen is about 1 in 10 to the 138th (138 equals the sum of all the exponents of 10 in the probability estimates above). For the sake of putting the figure into perspective, this probability can be compared to the statistical chance that the second law of thermodynamics will be reversed in a given situation (for example, that a gasoline engine will refrigerate itself during its combustion cycle or that heat will flow from a cold body to a hot body)—that chance = 1 in 10 to the 80th. Stating it simply, based on these thirteen prophecies alone, the Bible record may be said to be vastly more reliable than the second law of thermodynamics. Each reader should feel free to make his own reasonable estimates of probability for the chance fulfillment of the prophecies cited here. In any case, the probabilities deduced still will be absurdly remote...

I could go on and on and on.

"God gave the prophecies, not to gratify men's curiosity by enabling them to fore know things, but that after they were fulfilled they might be interpreted by the event, and His own providence, not the interpreters, be thereby manifested to the world."

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727)

In other words, God has used fulfilled prophecies to show men that He knows the future and has power over it, and the world, and all things. Man then has the choice to believe or not. But fulfilled prophecies are accomplished fact that can be ignored, but not refuted!

Hit or Myth scholarship

The holidays are over and some commenters have speculated that Christianity is simply mythology. For some of them, such speculation is perhaps of some comfort. Yes, crack open a cold one and long for the days when Christianity is forgotten. Fat chance!

After the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, the primary persecutors of Christians were the Jews, who sought to imprison and even kill Christians as "heretics." Wikipedia notes that later the emperor Nero decided to make Christians scapegoats:

"The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37-68). In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome which destroyed vast portions of the city and economically devastated the Roman population. Nero, whose sanity had long been in question, was widely suspected of having intentionally set the fire himself. In his Annals, Tacitus, states that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace" (Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus). By implicating the Christians for this massive act of arson, Nero successfully capitalized on the already-existing public suspicion of this religious sect and, it could be argued, exacerbated the hostilities held toward them throughout the Roman Empire. Forms of execution used by the Romans included systematic murder, crucifixion, and the feeding of Christians to lions and other wild beasts. Tacitus' Annals XV.44 record: "...a vast multitude, were convicted, not so much of the crime of incendiarism as of hatred of the human race. And in their deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights."

Nero was an equal-opportunity hater, and his enmity towards the Jews led to the eventual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the mass slaying of perhaps a million Jews. This destruction was predicted by Jesus as recorded in the book of Matthew and also in the Revelation of John.

"The destruction of Jerusalem was more terrible than anything that the world has ever witnessed, either before or since. Even Titus seemed to see in his cruel work the hand of an avenging God." (C.H. Spurgeon, Commentary on Matthew, p. 412)

After that event, the Jews ceased to be effective persecutors of Christians, but Romans took over that job. Some Roman emperors largely ignored Christians, but others made it their mission to wipe Christianity from the face of the globe.

The first documentable Empire-wide persecution took place under Maximin, though only the clergy were sought out. It was not until Decius during the mid-century that a persecution of Christian laity across the Empire took place. Gregory of Tours glosses the persecutions in his "History of the Franks" written in the decade before 594:

"Under the emperor Decius many persecutions arose against the name of Christ, and there was such a slaughter of believers that they could not be numbered"...

...The persecutions culminated with Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century. Their persecution, considered the largest, was to be the last, as Constantine I soon came into power and in 313 legalized Christianity.

Diocletian erected a monument to the end of Christianity. Constantine later converted that monument to a Christian memorial.

Once people tried to kill off Christians, and they failed. Now there are those who make the lame attempt to defeat Christianity by the multitude of their words and a pathetic attempt at scholarship called "Textural Criticism."

Now that we are nearly 2,000 years beyond the writing of the first scriptures, so-called scholars arise to try to cast doubt on the Bible and the events described therein. Actually, this attempt began shortly after Darwinism became popular. I see it as a pathetic attempt to try to justify belief in no God. How can these so-called scholars make a study of original documents when such documents are now long gone and all we have left are copies several generations away from the first books? Only a strong desire to try to disprove God as God explains such efforts, since the New Testament books were established as reliable early in the second century and treated as such thereafter. There is no doubt that the miracles of Christ are headliners of all four Gospels and receive occasional mention in other accepted Bible texts as well.

I addressed this subject here, and here, among other posts on the subject.

Not only did Josephus confirm that Christ existed and that the miracles were reported by witnesses at the time of Josephus, Jewish writings confirm much of this as well, despite the obvious disadvantage to the non-Christian Jews inherent in confirming even the existence of Christ. There is even a mention in Roman writings that survive, oddly enough. Odd since at the time of Christ Judea was considered an unimportant backwater province.

Choose one!

A) The story of Christ and Christianity is a compelling one. His disciples witnessed His miracles and resurrection and spread the word around the area. They were quite willing to both live and die for this cause. While they were killed in droves, their claims were never refuted and in fact the verity of their witness was instrumental in the rapid spread of Christianity.

B) The story of Christ and Christianity requires an acceptance of supernatural occurrences and no matter what evidence now remains, anything not naturalistic is totally unacceptable/unbelievable.

From this great historical distance from the time of Christ, one cannot either prove or disprove the life and miracles of Christ. One either accepts the witness of the times, which is conclusively in favor of both. Or, you can ignore all scholarship that occurred within a reasonable time span and try to disprove both Christ and His miracles from a great distance and with no evidence in hand. One simply needs to suspend logic and voila, Christ is made to disappear!

There were many prophecies made in the Bible and all that could have been fulfilled have been fulfilled. Only a few remain. None have ever failed. The Bible has proven to be an archaelogical handbook for excavating in the region of the Bible lands. The genealogies of the Old Testament have been revealed to have been evidenced in the writings of peoples around the globe, including peoples who had no knowledge of the Bible itself. I stand confident in the Bible as a reliable historical and spiritual document and I believe that Christianity will be alive and well long after Darwinism has gone the way of spontaneous generation, the philosopher's stone and the concept of a flat earth.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's a wonderful life!

Family, food, and football are all part of our Thanksgiving tradition. We're going over the river and through the woods this year. We've all decided it is time to see that old Jimmy Stewart movie again this year, too. I am very thankful for my country and my family and friends and my God. God bless you all this Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

God versus Science part four

We ended the discussion here:

COLLINS: For you to argue that our noblest acts are a misfiring of Darwinian behavior does not do justice to the sense we all have about the absolutes that are involved here of good and evil. Evolution may explain some features of the moral law, but it can't explain why it should have any real significance. If it is solely an evolutionary convenience, there is really no such thing as good or evil. But for me, it is much more than that. The moral law is a reason to think of God as plausible--not just a God who sets the universe in motion but a God who cares about human beings, because we seem uniquely amongst creatures on the planet to have this far-developed sense of morality. What you've said implies that outside of the human mind, tuned by evolutionary processes, good and evil have no meaning. Do you agree with that?

Now we resume:

DAWKINS: Even the question you're asking has no meaning to me. Good and evil--I don't believe that there is hanging out there, anywhere, something called good and something called evil. I think that there are good things that happen and bad things that happen.

In other words, Dawkins is arguing for no absolutes. There is frame of reference to judge between good and evil or even to establish what is good and what is evil other than the space between his two ears.

Allow me to share two quotes from Dr.Francis A Schaeffer, in bold to contrast from my notes:

"People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize. By presuppositions we mean the basic way an individual looks at life, his basic world-view, the grid through which he sees the world. Presuppositions rest upon that which a person considers to be the truth of what exists. People's presuppositions lay a grid for all they bring forth into the external world. Their presuppositions also provide the basis for their values and therefore the basis for their decisions."

We have seen that both Dawkins and Collins have expressed their presuppositions during the course of this TIME-led discussion. It behooves one to understand that one definitely has presuppositions and to understand what they are. Only the most ignorant among us cannot perceive of such presuppositions and only the stupid deny that they exist.

"No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. The Christians had that absolute in God's revelation. Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to the beasts."

I submit that Dawkins and those like him wish to have a totalitarian rule over scientific discussion and therefore this quote applies beautifully. Evolution thrives best in a world with no absolutes. But God and absolutes walk hand-in-hand.

COLLINS: I think that is a fundamental difference between us. I'm glad we identified it.

TIME: Dr. Collins, I know you favor the opening of new stem-cell lines for experimentation. But doesn't the fact that faith has caused some people to rule this out risk creating a perception that religion is preventing science from saving lives?

COLLINS: Let me first say as a disclaimer that I speak as a private citizen and not as a representative of the Executive Branch of the United States government. The impression that people of faith are uniformly opposed to stem-cell research is not documented by surveys. In fact, many people of strong religious conviction think this can be a morally supportable approach.

TIME: But to the extent that a person argues on the basis of faith or Scripture rather than reason, how can scientists respond?

COLLINS: Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith rests squarely upon reason, but with the added component of revelation. So such discussions between scientists and believers happen quite readily. But neither scientists nor believers always embody the principles precisely. Scientists can have their judgment clouded by their professional aspirations. And the pure truth of faith, which you can think of as this clear spiritual water, is poured into rusty vessels called human beings, and so sometimes the benevolent principles of faith can get distorted as positions are hardened.

DAWKINS: For me, moral questions such as stem-cell research turn upon whether suffering is caused. In this case, clearly none is. The embryos have no nervous system. But that's not an issue discussed publicly. The issue is, Are they human? If you are an absolutist moralist, you say, "These cells are human, and therefore they deserve some kind of special moral treatment." Absolutist morality doesn't have to come from religion but usually does.

We slaughter nonhuman animals in factory farms, and they do have nervous systems and do suffer. People of faith are not very interested in their suffering.

People of faith see a large difference between animals and man. But the stem cell issue is very complex and often presented in a deceptive manner. There are large numbers of adult stem cells available for study. The government has not banned research using embryonic stem cells, but simply refuses to pay for such research. In other words we aren't going to be forced to pay, even second hand, for the murder of babies.

COLLINS: Do humans have a different moral significance than cows in general?

DAWKINS: Humans have more moral responsibility perhaps, because they are capable of reasoning.

It sounds as if Dawkins sees the difference between man and cow in terms of intellectual capacity? Interesting. I wonder if he would therefore conclude that it would be okay to eat human flesh? If not, why not?

TIME: Do the two of you have any concluding thoughts?

COLLINS: I just would like to say that over more than a quarter-century as a scientist and a believer, I find absolutely nothing in conflict between agreeing with Richard in practically all of his conclusions about the natural world, and also saying that I am still able to accept and embrace the possibility that there are answers that science isn't able to provide about the natural world--the questions about why instead of the questions about how. I'm interested in the whys. I find many of those answers in the spiritual realm. That in no way compromises my ability to think rigorously as a scientist.

I am sorry that TIME picked a scientist who is not on the opposite side of the spectrum from Dawkins, but rather one who is a bit wishy-washy on the issue of God and Science. On the other hand, it certainly illustrates that a scientist who believes in God and takes that presupposition to work with him every day has no problem with performing research and making wonderful discoveries that benefit his fellow man. Collins is, in my mind, wrong about evolution. Still, his belief in the supernatural sure hasn't hindered his career as a scientist, Dawkin's assertions to the contrary.

DAWKINS: My mind is not closed, as you have occasionally suggested, Francis. My mind is open to the most wonderful range of future possibilities, which I cannot even dream about, nor can you, nor can anybody else. What I am skeptical about is the idea that whatever wonderful revelation does come in the science of the future, it will turn out to be one of the particular historical religions that people happen to have dreamed up. When we started out and we were talking about the origins of the universe and the physical constants, I provided what I thought were cogent arguments against a supernatural intelligent designer. But it does seem to me to be a worthy idea. Refutable--but nevertheless grand and big enough to be worthy of respect. I don't see the Olympian gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.

Hmmm. Let's see, God is described in the Bible as omniscient (knows everything) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnipresent (present at all places and at all times) and the ex nihilo creator of everything, including time and space. God is light, He is love, He is merciful. God made everything and sustains everything. His Bible says that He is capable of doing more than we can "ask or even think!" Yet Dawkins says that God would have to be "a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed?" What is bigger and better than the God we already have? He is already beyond what we can comprehend with our finite minds as it is.

But Dawkins is simply copping out. God is bigger than big and better than great but Dawkins doesn't want any God of any sort. Dawkin's god? He sees his god in the mirror every morning. Because Dawkin's god is his own intellect and image. Hee-hee, think Dawkins is "bigger and better" than God? Not me!

TIME ARTICLE With reporting by David Bjerklie, Alice Park/New York, Dan Cray/Los Angeles, Jeff Israely/Rome

Giving Thanks - Liberal News Media Edition

The U.S. Press Should Count Its Blessings

By: Michelle Malkin

In between breathless condemnations of the Bush administration for stifling its free speech, endless court filings demanding classified and sensitive information from the military and intelligence agencies, and self-pitying media industry confabs bemoaning their hemorrhaging circulations (with the exception of the New York Post), my colleagues in the American media don't have much time to give thanks. Allow me:

Give thanks we don't live in Bangladesh, where you can be put on trial for writing columns supporting Israel and condemning Muslim violence. Just ask Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, editor of Blitz, the largest tabloid English-language weekly in Bangladesh. He is currently facing a sedition trial for speaking out about the threats radical Islam poses in Bangladesh. He has been imprisoned, harassed, beaten and condemned. In court last week, his persecutors read these charges against him: "By praising the Jews and Christians, by attempting to travel to Israel and by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist militancy in the country and expressing such through writings inside the country and abroad, you have tried to damage the image and relations of Bangladesh with the outside world." For expressing these dissident opinions, he faces the possibility of execution.

Give thanks we don't live in Egypt, where bloggers have been detained by the government for criticizing Islam and exposing the apathy of Cairo police to sexual harassment of women. Just ask Abdel Karim Suliman Amer, 22, who was arrested earlier this month for "spreading information disruptive of public order," "incitement to hate Muslims" and "defaming the president of the Republic." Ask Rami Siyam, who blogs under the name of Ayyoub, and has been outspoken in his criticism of Egyptian brutality. He was detained this week along with three friends after leaving the house of a fellow blogger. His host, 24-year-old reformist Muslim Muhammad al-Sharqawi, had been detained by the Egyptian government this spring as he left a peaceful demonstration in Cairo where he had displayed a sign reading, "I want my rights." Sharqawi was beaten in prison over several weeks.

Give thanks we don't live in Sudan, where editors can lose their heads for not kowtowing to the government line. Ask the family of Mohammed Taha, editor in chief of the Sudanese private daily Al-Wifaq, who was found decapitated on a Khartoum street in September. He had been kidnapped by masked jihadi gunmen. What did Taha do that cost him his life? He insulted Islam and dared to question Muslim history, the roots of Mohammed and other Muslims. Before his murder, his paper was shuttered for three months and he was hauled into court for "blasphemy."

Give thanks we don't live in China, the world's leading jailer of journalists and Internet critics. Consider Yang Xiaoqing, jailed for five months because he reported corruption among local officials in the central Hunan province. Or Yang Tianshui, sentenced to 12 years in jail this spring for posting essays on the Internet supporting a movement by exiles to hold free elections. Or Li Yuanlong, a Guizhou reporter for the Bijie Daily jailed for two years on subversion charges because he dared to criticize the ruling Communist Party on foreign websites. Or any of the other 32 journalists and 50-plus bloggers behind bars.

Give thanks we don't live in Lebanon, where outspoken writers pay with their lives. Journalist and Christian Orthodox activist Samir Kassir, who was critical of Syrian involvement in Lebanon, was assassinated in a Beirut car bombing in 2005. His colleague, An-Nahar newspaper manager Gibran Tueni, was killed in a car bombing last December. Lebanese TV anchorwoman and Christian journalist May Chidiak survived a separate car bombing last fall, but lost an arm, leg and use of one eye.

Give thanks we don't live in Russia, where investigative journalists routinely wind up dead. Last month, unrelenting reporter and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya was found shot dead in her apartment. In the days before her death, Politkovskaya had been working on a story about torture in Chechnya, according to her newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. She joins a death toll that includes Paul Klebnikov, the U.S.-born editor of the Russian edition of Forbes, who had been investigating the Russian business underworld and was gunned down outside his Moscow office in 2004; Valery Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Oborzreniye, also shot dead after investigating organized crime and drug trafficking in 2002; and Larisa Yudina, editor of the opposition newspaper Sovetskaya Kalmykia in southern Russia, who was stabbed to death by former government aides.

Give thanks we don't live in Denmark, where the cartoonists who dared to caricature Muhammad and challenge creeping Shariah are still in hiding, in fear for their lives.

Give thanks we don't live in Italy, where a spineless judge bowed to jihadists and put famed war journalist Oriana Fallaci on trial for her sharp-tongued critiques of Islam. She succumbed to cancer before they could exact a vengeful penalty against the lioness. But they made the price of "insulting" Islam known far and wide to the cowering Western media.

Give thanks we live in America, land of the free, home of the brave, where the media's elite journalists can leak top-secret information with impunity, win Pulitzer Prizes, cash in on lucrative book deals, routinely insult their readership and viewership, broadcast enemy propaganda, turn a blind eye to the victims of jihad, and cast themselves as oppressed victims on six-figure salaries.

God bless the U.S.A.

The price of freedom is living in a society where pseudo-progressives (read "socialists and communists") can (and do) dominate the news media and the faculties of our establishments of higher learning. It is appalling to me how many seemingly intelligent people can drink such Kool-Aid. But on the other hand I am proud to live in a country where all points of view may be heard.

While colleges and network newsrooms are filled with lefty elitists in search of a platform, the talk radio stations and blog posts are peopled in large part by conservative thinkers who in this modern multi-media age help balance things out. The Fox News channel is the most popular cable news network just because it provides an alternative to the same old liberal pap being served up on CNN and MSNBC, among others. Rush Limbaugh sails on victoriously and successfully filling the airwaves and Air America swiftly goes belly-up. Our side has a voice, too!

I stand up for your right to disseminate liberal loony nonsense and I wore the uniform of my country to preserve that right. I now take full advantage of my right to take issue with such nonsense by force of reason at every opportunity, including this poor humble blog. Thank God for the good old USA!

Oh, and about that whole Rangel and the draft thing...

It appears that Nancy Pelosi and the most of the rest of the Democrats realize that bringing back the draft would be, well, daft! Yet some seem to think it would have been wise to reinstitute the draft to teach this country a lesson somehow...I like what Jay Tea at Wizbang wrote on the subject:

Sergeants ain't social workers

With Congressman Rangel's latest excursion into silliness -- the reinstatement of the draft -- I find myself having to write a piece I never thought I would have to write. It seemed so simple and fundamental that it was one of those things that didn't need saying, but apparently there are people out there (see the comments on Kim's piece for some prime examples) who don't grasp some true fundamental facts about the military.

1) The military's sole duty is to protect America, Americans, and American interests. Everything it does should revolve around those basic points, and anything that does not fit into that category, by definition, detracts from those obligations.

2) The primary tool of the military to achieve those goals is force. Not necessarily violence, but force -- the determination to use violence if necessary, but also any other means to achieve its goals, if those means will achieve the goal more efficiently than violence.

3) The end of mandatory conscription -- the "draft" -- and the institution of an all-volunteer military was, like racial integration, a severe shock to the system of the services -- but, ultimately, one that proved a tremendous advantage to the military. By limiting service to not only those who were willing to serve, but eager and had to prove themselves worthy, we increased the efficiency and morale of the armed services geometrically. Thanks to advances in training, weaponry, support technology, and doctrine, I think it is safe to say that a single US soldier of today is worth at least a dozen soldiers of World War II vintage in combat -- and today, the notion of "a single soldier" (or "An Army Of One") is as obsolete as a Colonial-era musket.

4) The biggest problem our military has ever experienced has been the good-intentioned idiots who see the military as a social laboratory, or a "representative" of America, or a social agency. Far too many times the military has been sent into situations where its primary duties simply don't apply -- recently, I'd have to cite Somalia. It's been well over a decade since the Battle of Mogadishu, and I still don't understand what the hell our forces were doing there in the first place, from the CNN-covered amphibious landings up until the White House-ordered retreat in the face of the enemy.

The military is NOT intended to be "representative" of America. Rather, it should be representative of both the best and worst of America -- simultaneously an exemplar of our finest citizens (and, occasionally, non-citizens) selflessly serving our nation, and a concrete example of the full power and fury at our command. These are the true heirs of The Greatest Generation, the men and women who saved the world from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan -- but did so by killing literally millions of people, including women, children, and other civilians. The deaths of the innocent was hardly the goal or intent, but a simple, brutal necessity.

5) Under current conditions, we have passed the point where wars are won or lost based purely on numbers of bodies in uniforms. Since World War II, we have invested tremendously in the concept of "force multipliers" -- elements and factors that increase the effectiveness of military units.

For example, flying fuel tankers that can re-fill aircraft in midair. Suppose you have a target you need to attack. Your bombers only have a range of 500 miles. That means that only air bases within 500 miles can be used. But toss in some tankers, and suddenly bases 1,000 miles or more away can take part, because their bombers can refuel to and from the attack without having to land.

One example has been the use of the Stealth bombers. They are flying their attacks from halfway around the world because they can refuel to and from the target as needed.

For another, greatly improved communications. One small group of soldiers can do the work that used to take several squads to perform, if they can readily communicate with scouts and other surveillance units. Five groups of enemy approaching? If we can locate each precisely, that one group can take them on -- and take them out -- one at a time, then move on to the next with little fear of being ambushed.

In the above-mentioned Battle of Mogadishu, the casualties were staggering -- the Somali attackers suffered over 1,000 killed and 3,000 wounded, while we suffered 19 killed and 82 wounded. Our force of 160 stood against literally THOUSANDS of attackers -- and for every one of ours we lost, they lost over 50.

And the military is doing pretty good at meeting its recruitment goals. Some months are better than others, but overall they're doing all right.

Most importantly, the people who would know the best -- the military themselves -- don't want the draft. There are still a few "lifers" who remember the bad old days when the services were chock-full of members who simply didn't want to be there and were counting the days until they could get the hell out. They were bad for morale, and led to a LOT of disciplinary problems.

For the vast majority of today's service members, they see their service as not an obligation, but a duty and a calling. They are in the armed services because they WANT to be, and they have worked damned hard to get there and stay there. To listen to the motivations behind those who advocate the draft, it is clear that they see military service as a burden -- and want to use it to "punish" those who they call "chickenhawks" -- those who support the current war, but do not serve themselves. One factor they never seem to take into account is the perception of those currently serving -- they understand the underlying contempt for the military behind that attitude, and want nothing to do with it.

The fundamental notion behind those who are calling for the return of the draft is simple: they want the war in Iraq over, and are willing to do pretty much anything to achieve it. If that means inflicting catastrophic damage on our armed services by burdening them with tens of thousands of unwilling inductees, destroying the 30+ years of progress by our Professional Military, then that's a small price to pay for ending the war.

And it's more than a little ironic: during the Viet Nam war, the anti-war side cited the ending of the draft as one of its major goals. Today, their heirs are the ones calling for its return, again in the name of ending a war they oppose.

It took years for the military to overcome the shock of the end of the draft the last time, and even longer for the determination that it was, ultimately, for the good. Lord knows how much damage its return would cause, or how long it would last, and how long it would take for us to recover this time.

I don't think we will have to find out, but I've been wrong before.

Yeah, what he said! Anyway, Nancy Pelosi wanted to have John "Abscam" Murtha as her right-hand man but the blue dogs helped block that, convincingly. Charlie Rangel's idiotic plan to reinstitute the draft won't be supported. Next you'll be telling me Nancy is withdrawing her support for Alcee "impeached-but-not-convicted" Hastings to head up the Intelligence committee! Here I thought the Dems would immediately start making so many mistakes that they'd be the fish in the barrel come 2008. Maybe I was wrong. Well, it's a lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ong way to go before that day.

Anyway, there's nothing good-intentioned about Rangel's plan. I present to you a portion of this Chron Watch posting:

"This is vintage Charlie Rangel. He's adept at distortion and his proposed draft isn't meant to improve the military but to create a Vietnam era military of draftees. Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that conscription brings about negative results, " says former Marine intelligence officer and NYPD detective Sid Francis, himself an African-American.

In addition, most men and women in today's military come from middle- and upper-middle class families.

Republicans understand Rangel's motive for calling for a renewed draft. He's opposed to all military actions undertaken by the Bush administration and is a vocal opponent of the Iraq war, but he sees an opportunity to undermine the military by infusing it with draftees who don't want to fight. He is also aware that conscription creates civil discord.

"Rangel's draft is part and parcel of the "class warfare" strategy the Democrat Party uses to divide the country," says a high-ranking military officer.

Rangel's critics point out that he has a penchant for making outrageous statements and if he's asked to reinterate them on television or radio he backs off from those comments with tepid excuses. For instance, in a speech in Harlem in New York City, Rangel said that President Bush is "our Bull Connor," a reference to the southern sheriff who used attack dogs on civil-rights protesters. Rangel, however, failed to mention that Sheriff Connor was a Democrat.

Let's take a look at the real Charlie Rangel as evidenced in a little known story of how a New York City detective knocked the robust politician on his keister following the utterance of a Rangelism in the 1960s:

Sidney was one of New York City’s first African-American detectives. In fact, he was so good at policing in the city's toughest neighborhoods, that he was promoted to the coveted rank of 1st Grade Detective in the NYPD, the youngest in New York's history. A former Marine--one of the first blacks to be accepted into the Marine Corps in 1945--Sid was your consummate police officer. Tough, relentless, and proud, Sid tempered his tough street persona with intelligence and a sense of fairness that won the respect of his superiors, his fellow cops and the citizens he served. Sid came from a black family of achievement with one brother becoming a police captain and another serving as a colonel in the U.S. Army.

Sidney saw action in Korea at about the same time as Rangel took to the battlefield with the U.S. Army. While Rangel brags about his military service and being awarded a Purple Heart for wounds he received, Sid believed a good Marine does the wounding and killing not the other way around. He openly admired General George Patton and Sid repeatedly viewed the motion picture "Patton" in which, during the opening monologue by George C. Scott portraying General Patton, he says, "No one wins a war by dying for his country. You win a war by making the other poor son-of-a-bitch die for his country." Sid was a blood-and-guts Marine and a blood and guts cop. I know. I partnered with him during his later years.

While still a young detective, Sidney arrested a black man who was dealing drugs on streets and schoolyards of Harlem. The drug dealer sold heroin to black youngsters who were being told over and over again since they were knee high that their lives were hopeless in an America that at best cared little for them, at worst wanted them in prison or dead. They were indoctrinated with this rhetoric by the likes of Charlie Rangel, white liberals, and their echo chamber, the mainstream news media. Detective Sid had little compassion for a man who sold drugs to black kids.

At the time, Charlie Rangel was an up-and-coming political hack in the local Democrat Club and a lawyer more adept at shooting off his mouth than arguing his position on jurisprudence. Rangel ended up representing the drug-pushing punk--whose parents, by the way, were financially very well off. The punk's dad was a bigtime contributor to the local Democrat Party and a supporter of Rangel for congressman which led to Rangel acting on behalf of an unrepentant drug pusher. Ironically, Rangel later would become chairman of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control in Congress.

So Charles Rangel, attorney-at-law, visited my partner Sid in order to get him to back off and perhaps change some of the testimony should the case go to trial. The young detective told Rangel, “No way. That skell sells poison to kids.” At that point Charlie Rangel, a known bully in Harlem and northern Manhattan, called Sid an Uncle Tom and got in his face. The six-foot tall detective hauled off and bopped him right in his face and Rangel went down.

After getting up from the floor and brushing himself off, the opulent future congressman made some empty threats of retaliation. However, Rangel never filed departmental charges of police brutality. Sid believed that Charlie Rangel knew that if he did he would find himself in a jackpot over witness tampering and he may have had to kiss his political career goodbye.

Oh, and by the way: the first time his own draft bill came before Congress in 2004, Congressman Charlie Rangel voted "nay."

I wish I could say we've heard the last of Charlie, but since he will be heading the Ways and Means Committee, well, you can kiss your tax cuts goodbye unless the blue dogs get a bit more bite to go with their bark.

Hey, America, you voted for these guys, and now you have got 'em!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

God versus Science part three

We left off yesterday here:

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That's an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as "Why am I here?", "What happens after we die?", "Is there a God?" If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn't convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

This is an idea I have expressed before and it seems like a powerful one: that when one refuses to consider the supernatural he automatically eliminates a subset that may include the answers to the questions being asked. Those who demand only naturalistic solutions may miss the actual solution entirely.

We go forward...

DAWKINS: To me, the right approach is to say we are profoundly ignorant of these matters. We need to work on them. But to suddenly say the answer is God--it's that that seems to me to close off the discussion.

TIME: Could the answer be God?

DAWKINS: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

COLLINS: That's God.

DAWKINS: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishingly small--at the least, the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case.

The onus is on who? Why not put the onus on Dawkins to show that God can't apply to a situation? In fact, why put any special requirement on an argument from either God or not-God, but rather let suppositions stand or fall on their own.

When it comes to science, the idea is to seek truth not to justify a belief system. Don't get me wrong, I think it is plausible to allow scientific discoveries to be applied to your belief systems. But when you do scientific research, the idea is to look for the answer. If the answer is that God created, there is no special requirement to get a note from your mother in order to say it.

To me, at the bottom of it all you either think Goddidit or chancedidit. Okay, either way, the job of most disciplines of science is to figure out how things work and how we can apply it to our lives more so than concentrating on which didit didit. Right?

TIME: The Book of Genesis has led many conservative Protestants to oppose evolution and some to insist that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

COLLINS: There are sincere believers who interpret Genesis 1 and 2 in a very literal way that is inconsistent, frankly, with our knowledge of the universe's age or of how living organisms are related to each other. St. Augustine wrote that basically it is not possible to understand what was being described in Genesis. It was not intended as a science textbook. It was intended as a description of who God was, who we are and what our relationship is supposed to be with God. Augustine explicitly warns against a very narrow perspective that will put our faith at risk of looking ridiculous. If you step back from that one narrow interpretation, what the Bible describes is very consistent with the Big Bang.

This is why Collins is a bad choice to oppose Dawkins. He and Dawkins agree from the get-go on certain issues such as this one. There are plenty of believing scientists who don't believe the Genesis account is incorrect.

DAWKINS: Physicists are working on the Big Bang, and one day they may or may not solve it. However, what Dr. Collins has just been--may I call you Francis?

COLLINS: Oh, please, Richard, do so.

DAWKINS: What Francis was just saying about Genesis was, of course, a little private quarrel between him and his Fundamentalist colleagues ...

COLLINS: It's not so private. It's rather public. [Laughs.]

DAWKINS: ... It would be unseemly for me to enter in except to suggest that he'd save himself an awful lot of trouble if he just simply ceased to give them the time of day. Why bother with these clowns?

COLLINS: Richard, I think we don't do a service to dialogue between science and faith to characterize sincere people by calling them names. That inspires an even more dug-in position. Atheists sometimes come across as a bit arrogant in this regard, and characterizing faith as something only an idiot would attach themselves to is not likely to help your case.

A bit arrogant? The situation in Iraq is a bit sticky. Boxing is a bit violent.

TIME: Dr. Collins, the Resurrection is an essential argument of Christian faith, but doesn't it, along with the virgin birth and lesser miracles, fatally undermine the scientific method, which depends on the constancy of natural laws?

Dumb question, incredibly slanted. Counsel is leading the witness, your honor!

COLLINS: If you're willing to answer yes to a God outside of nature, then there's nothing inconsistent with God on rare occasions choosing to invade the natural world in a way that appears miraculous. If God made the natural laws, why could he not violate them when it was a particularly significant moment for him to do so? And if you accept the idea that Christ was also divine, which I do, then his Resurrection is not in itself a great logical leap.

Well, duh. If God made the laws, any way in which He works is natural. Trust me, evolutionists depend on the idea that conditions on earth today have not always been the same and so do Creationists. We keep finding that there are addendums to the "Laws of Nature" as we learn more and more. Newtonian physics yielded to Einstein and Quantum Theory. The speed of light, we have recently discovered, is apparently NOT a constant.

TIME: Doesn't the very notion of miracles throw off science?

COLLINS: Not at all. If you are in the camp I am, one place where science and faith could touch each other is in the investigation of supposedly miraculous events.

DAWKINS: If ever there was a slamming of the door in the face of constructive investigation, it is the word miracle. To a medieval peasant, a radio would have seemed like a miracle. All kinds of things may happen which we by the lights of today's science would classify as a miracle just as medieval science might a Boeing 747. Francis keeps saying things like "From the perspective of a believer." Once you buy into the position of faith, then suddenly you find yourself losing all of your natural skepticism and your scientific--really scientific--credibility. I'm sorry to be so blunt.

Too bad. The world wasn't made to accomodate one man's view of how scientific methods must be carried out. Belief in God didn't stop Newton from making discoveries, or Crick, or Pasteur. Dawkins may see it as a hindrance but in fact history says that it is not.

COLLINS: Richard, I actually agree with the first part of what you said. But I would challenge the statement that my scientific instincts are any less rigorous than yours. The difference is that my presumption of the possibility of God and therefore the supernatural is not zero, and yours is.

Collins reiterates that very good point that Dawkins has failed to address.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you have described humanity's moral sense not only as a gift from God but as a signpost that he exists.

COLLINS: There is a whole field of inquiry that has come up in the last 30 or 40 years--some call it sociobiology or evolutionary psychology--relating to where we get our moral sense and why we value the idea of altruism, and locating both answers in behavioral adaptations for the preservation of our genes. But if you believe, and Richard has been articulate in this, that natural selection operates on the individual, not on a group, then why would the individual risk his own DNA doing something selfless to help somebody in a way that might diminish his chance of reproducing? Granted, we may try to help our own family members because they share our DNA. Or help someone else in expectation that they will help us later. But when you look at what we admire as the most generous manifestations of altruism, they are not based on kin selection or reciprocity. An extreme example might be Oskar Schindler risking his life to save more than a thousand Jews from the gas chambers. That's the opposite of saving his genes. We see less dramatic versions every day. Many of us think these qualities may come from God--especially since justice and morality are two of the attributes we most readily identify with God.

DAWKINS: Can I begin with an analogy? Most people understand that sexual lust has to do with propagating genes. Copulation in nature tends to lead to reproduction and so to more genetic copies. But in modern society, most copulations involve contraception, designed precisely to avoid reproduction. Altruism probably has origins like those of lust. In our prehistoric past, we would have lived in extended families, surrounded by kin whose interests we might have wanted to promote because they shared our genes. Now we live in big cities. We are not among kin nor people who will ever reciprocate our good deeds. It doesn't matter. Just as people engaged in sex with contraception are not aware of being motivated by a drive to have babies, it doesn't cross our mind that the reason for do-gooding is based in the fact that our primitive ancestors lived in small groups. But that seems to me to be a highly plausible account for where the desire for morality, the desire for goodness, comes from.

I have a highly plausible bridge to sell you, in Brooklyn. Dawkins is inventing genetic characteristics and predispositions out of whole cloth. It is clever obfuscation but it remains baseless speculation (BS for short)!

COLLINS: For you to argue that our noblest acts are a misfiring of Darwinian behavior does not do justice to the sense we all have about the absolutes that are involved here of good and evil. Evolution may explain some features of the moral law, but it can't explain why it should have any real significance. If it is solely an evolutionary convenience, there is really no such thing as good or evil. But for me, it is much more than that. The moral law is a reason to think of God as plausible--not just a God who sets the universe in motion but a God who cares about human beings, because we seem uniquely amongst creatures on the planet to have this far-developed sense of morality. What you've said implies that outside of the human mind, tuned by evolutionary processes, good and evil have no meaning. Do you agree with that?

Stay tuned until tomorrow for the last part of this article. Collins leaves us with a great question, which Dawkins has presented to us in the midst of his assertions. Is there such a thing as good and evil? By what justification do those who believe in evolution assert that good and evil even exist? For in their world we are random beings formed by the workings of random and unthinking processes and neither good nor evil should be considered to exist, right?

How does one explain the inherent knowledge within the great majority of people that there is good and evil? How about the understanding inherent within normal folks that individual life has value? Only the few mutant souls among us are born without such knowledge and we call them sociopaths, moral monsters who easily become serial killers or totalitarian rulers. Yet evolution provides no evidence that such inherent knowledge should have ever come about.

The Wizbang Weblog Awards

If any of my wonderful readers want to nominate me (modest grin) or any other blog including their own for one of these awards, here is what to do:

*Go to this address

*Pick a category or two or ten

*Vote for a blog or two or ten, etc.

Last year I voted for several favorite blogs and after reading a few new ones I decided it was time to start my own. A few health and family matters slowed me down a bit, but we are going great guns again right now and I really kind of like my blog (someone should!) if I do say so myself.

This year I have already gone there to nominate a couple of blogs I really like. Hey, another chance to vote and this time no party affiliations or negative campaigning!!!!

I suppose you can also go there and post about how much you despise a blog, if you really want. Ha!

This has been a commercial message. Regular posting and answering commenters shall resume this evening...

Monday, November 20, 2006

God versus Science part two

Now continues the blogging of the November 13th cover story of Time Magazine.

TIME: Professor Dawkins, if one truly understands science, is God then a delusion, as your book title suggests?

DAWKINS: The question of whether there exists a supernatural creator, a God, is one of the most important that we have to answer. I think that it is a scientific question. My answer is no.

Ah, the naturalist is given a leading question. He cannot perceive God by naturalistic methods, with a worldview that cannot see the supernatural, so it is no surprise he wants to assert that there is no God.

TIME: Dr. Collins, you believe that science is compatible with Christian faith.

COLLINS: Yes. God's existence is either true or not. But calling it a scientific question implies that the tools of science can provide the answer. From my perspective, God cannot be completely contained within nature, and therefore God's existence is outside of science's ability to really weigh in.

Good answer. Science cannot either prove or disprove the existence of God, nor is it supposed to do so. Unfortunately people like Darwin and Dawkins have tried to use science to eliminate the concept of God and many laymen have been so deceived.

TIME: Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, famously argued that religion and science can coexist, because they occupy separate, airtight boxes. You both seem to disagree.

COLLINS: Gould sets up an artificial wall between the two worldviews that doesn't exist in my life. Because I do believe in God's creative power in having brought it all into being in the first place, I find that studying the natural world is an opportunity to observe the majesty, the elegance, the intricacy of God's creation.

DAWKINS: I think that Gould's separate compartments was a purely political ploy to win middle-of-the-road religious people to the science camp. But it's a very empty idea. There are plenty of places where religion does not keep off the scientific turf. Any belief in miracles is flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science.

So Dawkins asserts here that there are no miracles. Hmmm. He must believe that the miracles performed by Jesus didn't happen. The problem is that even the non-Christian Jews, who considered Jesus to be a problem, recorded that He had performed miracles. There were hundreds of witnesses to most of the miracles of Jesus and just because they are all dead now doesn't change things. Dawkins wants us to ignore the New Testament scriptures and hundreds of witnesses and the witness of the non-believing Jews and claim that miracles are "flat contradictory not just to the facts of science but to the spirit of science."

TIME: Professor Dawkins, you think Darwin's theory of evolution does more than simply contradict the Genesis story.

DAWKINS: Yes. For centuries the most powerful argument for God's existence from the physical world was the so-called argument from design: Living things are so beautiful and elegant and so apparently purposeful, they could only have been made by an intelligent designer. But Darwin provided a simpler explanation. His way is a gradual, incremental improvement starting from very simple beginnings and working up step by tiny incremental step to more complexity, more elegance, more adaptive perfection. Each step is not too improbable for us to countenance, but when you add them up cumulatively over millions of years, you get these monsters of improbability, like the human brain and the rain forest. It should warn us against ever again assuming that because something is complicated, God must have done it.

Darwin provided a simpler explanation largely because he had no concept of how complex life really is. Early 19th century scientists had just begun to absorb the work of pioneers like the Pasteurs, just begun to see that the makeup of living organisms consisted of far more complexity than previously imagined.

I have posted many times about a multitude of problems with Darwinian theory, and the ID argument is just one of them. There is no evidence of macroevolution ever being observed, by the way, so Dawkins is speaking of things that are speculative and not observed or proven.

COLLINS: I don't see that Professor Dawkins' basic account of evolution is incompatible with God's having designed it.

ALARM! DIVEDIVEDIVE! Now here comes yet another problem with this article. I believe I have established that the author of this piece is predisposed to take the Darwin side of the question. But now we discover that the scientist he has chosen to take the Creation side isn't acutally a pure Creationist! We aren't being presented with black versus white, but rather as I feared it is black versus off-white.

TIME: When would this have occurred?

COLLINS: By being outside of nature, God is also outside of space and time. Hence, at the moment of the creation of the universe, God could also have activated evolution, with full knowledge of how it would turn out, perhaps even including our having this conversation. The idea that he could both foresee the future and also give us spirit and free will to carry out our own desires becomes entirely acceptable.

DAWKINS: I think that's a tremendous cop-out. If God wanted to create life and create humans, it would be slightly odd that he should choose the extraordinarily roundabout way of waiting for 10 billion years before life got started and then waiting for another 4 billion years until you got human beings capable of worshipping and sinning and all the other things religious people are interested in.

Oh boy. Now I find myself agreeing with Richard Dawkins! I agree that such a view is a cop-out indeed. Collins runs away from the argument entirely.

COLLINS: Who are we to say that that was an odd way to do it? I don't think that it is God's purpose to make his intention absolutely obvious to us. If it suits him to be a deity that we must seek without being forced to, would it not have been sensible for him to use the mechanism of evolution without posting obvious road signs to reveal his role in creation?

Come on! Why would God come up with a way to bring about all current living things by producing untold generations of organisms dying and failing and struggling to adapt to a cruel world? That is a loving God? Plus, if the Genesis account of the Bible is not reliable, then doesn't that mean that the Bible itself is unreliable? If we cannot believe that the Bible reveals God, then what good is it and how do we then know what God wants us to know?

TIME: Both your books suggest that if the universal constants, the six or more characteristics of our universe, had varied at all, it would have made life impossible. Dr. Collins, can you provide an example?

COLLINS: The gravitational constant, if it were off by one part in a hundred million million, then the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang would not have occurred in the fashion that was necessary for life to occur. When you look at that evidence, it is very difficult to adopt the view that this was just chance. But if you are willing to consider the possibility of a designer, this becomes a rather plausible explanation for what is otherwise an exceedingly improbable event--namely, our existence.

Weak example. Dr. Hugh Ross lists 154 examples of the incredibly narrow parameters required to allow life on Earth alone, as I have listed previously, and the list grows when you consider requirements for the existence of the Universe.

That Dr. Collins is a Big-Banger and also that he allows for evolution being driven by God means that he really doesn't make a good debate opponent for Dawkins. Dr. Ken Ham is one of many hundreds of far better candidates. Alas, we have what we have for now.

DAWKINS: People who believe in God conclude there must have been a divine knob twiddler who twiddled the knobs of these half-dozen constants to get them exactly right. The problem is that this says, because something is vastly improbable, we need a God to explain it. But that God himself would be even more improbable. Physicists have come up with other explanations. One is to say that these six constants are not free to vary. Some unified theory will eventually show that they are as locked in as the circumference and the diameter of a circle. That reduces the odds of them all independently just happening to fit the bill. The other way is the multiverse way. That says that maybe the universe we are in is one of a very large number of universes. The vast majority will not contain life because they have the wrong gravitational constant or the wrong this constant or that constant. But as the number of universes climbs, the odds mount that a tiny minority of universes will have the right fine-tuning.

I am curious as to why Dawkins can assert that the existence of God is improbable and that statement goes unchallenged? The rules of logic dictate that the simplest explanation is the best and the existence of a Creator God is far and away the simplest explanation for the Universe and all of life having come about. You must being bringing in corrolary assumptions when you dismiss God. Dawkins in this case is counting on those 300 billion universes or whatever the theory is this week. Is there any real evidence for this, or was it thought up just out of necessity?

COLLINS: This is an interesting choice. Barring a theoretical resolution, which I think is unlikely, you either have to say there are zillions of parallel universes out there that we can't observe at present or you have to say there was a plan. I actually find the argument of the existence of a God who did the planning more compelling than the bubbling of all these multiverses. So Occam's razor--Occam says you should choose the explanation that is most simple and straightforward--leads me more to believe in God than in the multiverse, which seems quite a stretch of the imagination.

Yeah. Like I said. So why, Francis, not apply Occam's to the evolution versus Creation question, too?

DAWKINS: I accept that there may be things far grander and more incomprehensible than we can possibly imagine. What I can't understand is why you invoke improbability and yet you will not admit that you're shooting yourself in the foot by postulating something just as improbable, magicking into existence the word God.

Gee, Dawk old boy, the idea of God was around a long time before either you or Collins were born. No "magicking" was involved. God was the first explanation for our existence, and the simplest and most logical. You simply can't grok.

COLLINS: My God is not improbable to me. He has no need of a creation story for himself or to be fine-tuned by something else. God is the answer to all of those "How must it have come to be" questions.

DAWKINS: I think that's the mother and father of all cop-outs. It's an honest scientific quest to discover where this apparent improbability comes from. Now Dr. Collins says, "Well, God did it. And God needs no explanation because God is outside all this." Well, what an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain. Scientists don't do that. Scientists say, "We're working on it. We're struggling to understand."

Ah, but when Creation is the logical explanation, and more so as we learn more about life, then to me those who deny God are the ones who are doing the evading. Dawkins comes from the "ohnonotGod" school of thought, wherein God cannot be the answer no matter what. Meanwhile, believing scientists study to learn more about life without being hindered by such a prejudice.

COLLINS: Certainly science should continue to see whether we can find evidence for multiverses that might explain why our own universe seems to be so finely tuned. But I do object to the assumption that anything that might be outside of nature is ruled out of the conversation. That's an impoverished view of the kinds of questions we humans can ask, such as "Why am I here?", "What happens after we die?", "Is there a God?" If you refuse to acknowledge their appropriateness, you end up with a zero probability of God after examining the natural world because it doesn't convince you on a proof basis. But if your mind is open about whether God might exist, you can point to aspects of the universe that are consistent with that conclusion.

Hey, go ahead and study anything and everything that interests you! We all benefit from good research. Collin's belief in God, which Dawkins sees as anti-science, has led to several great achievements. I quote from the National Human Genome Research Institute site: His research has led to the identification of genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington's disease and Hutchison-Gilford progeria syndrome.

Dawkins has been credited with discoveries advancing the study of evolution, primarily. He is so hostile to God that it pretty well exhudes from his very pores. Allow me to give you an example:

Standing in the pulpit of the First Parish Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Richard Dawkins introduced his “sermon” this way:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

The 600 people in attendance laughed and applauded, clearly excited to hear the author read from his new book, The God Delusion.

Dr. Dawkins has come to America to promote his book and expand the ranks of the “new atheists”—those who unashamedly “come out of the closet” to proclaim their atheism. According to Wired magazine’s Gary Wolf, they are “a band of intellectual brothers … mounting a crusade against belief in God.”

In my estimation, Collins has done more for mankind than Dawkins despite his "handicap" of belief. Stay tuned for part three!

Election fallout 1.0 - Democrats to bring back military draft

One of the consequences of a Democratic victory, as I had warned one and all, is heading our way already.

WASHINGTON -- Americans would have to sign up for a new military draft after turning 18 if the incoming chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee has his way.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said Sunday he sees his idea as a way to deter politicians from launching wars and to bolster U.S. troop levels insufficient to cover potential future action in Iran, North Korea and Iraq.

"There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way," Rangel said.

Rangel, a veteran of the Korean War who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation on conscription in the past, said he will propose a measure early next year.

In 2003, he proposed a measure covering people age 18 to 26. This year, he offered a plan to mandate military service for men and women between age 18 and 42; it went nowhere in the Republican-led Congress.

Democrats will control the House and Senate come January because of their victories in the Nov. 7 election.

At a time when some lawmakers are urging the military to send more troops to Iraq, "I don't see how anyone can support the war and not support the draft," said Rangel, who also proposed a draft in January 2003, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The all-volunteer military has been meeting and exceeding recruiting goals, so the need for a draft is not because of numbers.

The all-volunteer military has requirements concerning both intellectual and physical capabilities. Right now the bureacracy required to sift out the "wheat from the chaff", so to speak, is not massive since it is merely a matter of testing those who wish to join. The sifting of all people within an age range to determine who would meet the standards should a draft be implemented would require another large chunk of people and money. Typical Democratic idea, wasting more of our tax money for no good reason.

The all-volunteer military contains - surprise!- all volunteers. This means a united force of men and women who are preconfigured to be part of a team that does the job. A drafted military would include large numbers of young men and women who are absolutely abhorred by the prospect of being in the military, causing disunity and discipline issues. Military morale would be ruined. There would also be a large chunk of our young people who would flee to Canada and other shores rather than join the military. What a terrible mess! All because Charles Rangel thinks the children of the well-off should have to enter the military. Even that is a pipe dream, since the elites among us found ways to keep their kids out of the draft back in the day anyway and would likely do it again.

I was drafted and I know what the military used to be. The Vietnam draft-era military included large numbers of criminal types, drug abusers, unmotivated slackers and plenty of people who hated the military and were willing to sabotage their own organizations if necessary to get them out of service. What a terrible mess! Today's military is a far better organization because it is comprised of those who are capable of service and who have chosen to serve!

The draft would ruin us. Is this what Rangel wants, to hurt the USA? Does he hate his country? One of my kids has joined the military, one of six, and I also have one more who may well consider joining. I am certainly in favor of them joining if they choose to do so, but I am vehemently opposed to the draft. If my son has to take up arms, let it be alongside others who have also chosen to do it, others he can depend on. I don't want him fighting alongside someone who might run away, or cause him to be endangered either by incompetence or attitude.

A fair introduction of Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins

This addendum is simply to present a fair and balanced introduction for the two men who are debating in the God versus Science article. Both of these summations are from that well-beloved online resource, ha ha, Wikipedia! (The reader will note that Dawkins is described as a scientist, but that is of course a matter of viewpoint. Dawkins has studied, opinined, and written about scientific fields of study, especially concerning genetics and origins. Only Dr. Collins is actually degreed in a scientific field and working in an actual field of science.)

Clinton Richard Dawkins (born March 26, 1941) is an eminent British ethologist, evolutionary scientist, and popular science writer who holds the Charles Simonyi Chair in the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.

Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene which popularised the gene-centric view of evolution and introduced the term meme into the lexicon, thereby helping to found the field of memetics. In 1982, he made a major contribution to the science of evolution with the theory, presented in his widely cited book The Extended Phenotype,[1] that phenotypic effects are not limited to an organism's body but can stretch far into the environment, including into the bodies of other organisms. He has since written several best-selling popular books on evolution, and has appeared in a number of television and radio programmes on evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion.

Dawkins is an outspoken atheist, humanist, and sceptic, and is a prominent member of the Brights movement. In a play on Thomas Huxley's epithet "Darwin's bulldog", Dawkins' impassioned defence of Darwinian evolution has earned him the appellation "Darwin's rottweiler".


Francis S. Collins (born April 14, 1950), M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-geneticist, noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes, and his leadership of the Human Genome Project (HGP). He is director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

As head of NHGRI, Collins has overseen the HGP, the multidisciplinary, multi-institutional, international effort to map and sequence all of the human DNA and then determine aspects of its function. The goal of the effort is to improve human health.

With Collins at the helm, the HGP has attained several milestones, while running ahead of schedule and under budget. A working draft of the human genome was announced in June 2000, and an initial analysis was published in February 2001. HGP scientists continued to work toward finishing the sequence of all three billion base pairs by 2003, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's seminal publication of the structure of DNA.

Collins's commitment to free, rapid access to genomic information helped to make all data immediately available to the worldwide scientific community. With these data sets of DNA sequence and variation in hand, researchers around the globe work on the process of understanding the connection between genes and disease. Collins envisions as a new era of individualized, prevention-oriented medicine.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

God versus Science part one

Now begins the blogging of the November 13th cover story of Time Magazine.

God vs. Science

We revere faith and scientific progress, hunger for miracles and for MRIs. But are the worldviews compatible? TIME convenes a debate

There are two great debates under the broad heading of Science vs. God. The more familiar over the past few years is the narrower of the two: Can Darwinian evolution withstand the criticisms of Christians who believe that it contradicts the creation account in the Book of Genesis? In recent years, creationism took on new currency as the spiritual progenitor of "intelligent design" (I.D.), a scientifically worded attempt to show that blanks in the evolutionary narrative are more meaningful than its very convincing totality. I.D. lost some of its journalistic heat last December when a federal judge dismissed it as pseudoscience unsuitable for teaching in Pennsylvania schools.

I have reviewed the Pennsylvania decision and in my opinion it was entirely boneheaded and unscientific. I also think that we can immediately see from the phrase, "very convincing totality" that this article is being written with a definite pro-evolution slant. But that is to be expected from Time.

But in fact creationism and I.D. are intimately related to a larger unresolved question, in which the aggressor's role is reversed: Can religion stand up to the progress of science?

This statement flies in the face of the fact that most early scientists were not only believers in God, but their belief that God was both orderly and logical and good allowed them to trust in certain rules of testing and evidence that remain in use today. Life is not random. Also, belief in God exists outside of one's opinion about origins even if it may be related.

This debate long predates Darwin, but the antireligion position is being promoted with increasing insistence by scientists angered by intelligent design and excited, perhaps intoxicated, by their disciplines' increasing ability to map, quantify and change the nature of human experience.

Now the writer is gushing! He might want to consider writing advertising copy instead of a supposedly scientific treatise.

Brain imaging illustrates--in color!--the physical seat of the will and the passions, challenging the religious concept of a soul independent of glands and gristle. Brain chemists track imbalances that could account for the ecstatic states of visionary saints or, some suggest, of Jesus. Like Freudianism before it, the field of evolutionary psychology generates theories of altruism and even of religion that do not include God.

The above is speculative, of course, and when it comes to Jesus it is downright insulting to believers. The writer suggests to an extent that Jesus was simply experiencing chemical brain imbalances!!!!! Makes you wonder why those with imbalances these days don't heal the sick, raise the dead and provide a basis for moral behavior for Western Civilization, right?

Something called the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology speculates that ours may be but one in a cascade of universes, suddenly bettering the odds that life could have cropped up here accidentally, without divine intervention. (If the probabilities were 1 in a billion, and you've got 300 billion universes, why not?)

This is also remarkably speculative and doubtless thought up primarily because the odds against the creation of the Universe, life and other tenets of naturalistic thinking are so insurmountable otherwise. This is why odds against those things are no longer anything I pay much attention to, since evolutionists will just pull the multiverse thing out of their back pocket and the discussion can no longer continue. Once life was established on earth, though, the odds do pertain, but that is another discussion.

Roman Catholicism's Christoph Cardinal Schönborn has dubbed the most fervent of faith-challenging scientists followers of "scientism" or "evolutionism," since they hope science, beyond being a measure, can replace religion as a worldview and a touchstone. It is not an epithet that fits everyone wielding a test tube. But a growing proportion of the profession is experiencing what one major researcher calls "unprecedented outrage" at perceived insults to research and rationality, ranging from the alleged influence of the Christian right on Bush Administration science policy to the fanatic faith of the 9/11 terrorists to intelligent design's ongoing claims.

Really, I am surprised that evolutionists aren't tearing their clothes and rioting in the streets! That this author ties Christians with murdering terrorists and then brings in ID in the same breath reveals that he is more than against God, he is downright hostile to God and all who believe. Intelligent Design makes many claims that evolutionists have made only the most pathetic and futile inroads against. School boards can be flummoxed by the problems involved but real scientists, at the very least, agree that there are uncounted ID problems that evolution has no good answer for, not the least of which is the process known as photosynthesis.

Some are radicalized enough to publicly pick an ancient scab: the idea that science and religion, far from being complementary responses to the unknown, are at utter odds--or, as Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has written bluntly, "Religion and science will always clash." The market seems flooded with books by scientists describing a caged death match between science and God--with science winning, or at least chipping away at faith's underlying verities.

There are plenty of God-believers who also believe in evolution, and there are those who don't buy either one. Christianity and evolution are not mutually exclusive. In my view, a careful consideration of evolution will bring you to a need to choose sides at some point but that is just me.

Finding a spokesman for this side of the question was not hard, since Richard Dawkins, perhaps its foremost polemicist, has just come out with The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin), the rare volume whose position is so clear it forgoes a subtitle. The five-week New York Times best seller (now at No. 8) attacks faith philosophically and historically as well as scientifically, but leans heavily on Darwinian theory, which was Dawkins' expertise as a young scientist and more recently as an explicator of evolutionary psychology so lucid that he occupies the Charles Simonyi professorship for the public understanding of science at Oxford University.

Does anyone else find it funny that the author chooses a non-scientist to represent "Science" in his article while a genuine scientist takes the other side? In fact, the discussion is ongoing with scientists being on both sides. The actual title should be "Godless Science versus Science with God", were the author being both honest and balanced.

Dawkins is riding the crest of an atheist literary wave. In 2004, The End of Faith, a multipronged indictment by neuroscience grad student Sam Harris, was published (over 400,000 copies in print). Harris has written a 96-page follow-up, Letter to a Christian Nation, which is now No. 14 on the Times list. Last February, Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett produced Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, which has sold fewer copies but has helped usher the discussion into the public arena.

If Dennett and Harris are almost-scientists (Dennett runs a multidisciplinary scientific-philosophic program), the authors of half a dozen aggressively secular volumes are card carriers: In Moral Minds, Harvard biologist Marc Hauser explores the--nondivine--origins of our sense of right and wrong (September); in Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast (due in January) by self-described "atheist-reductionist-materialist" biologist Lewis Wolpert, religion is one of those impossible things; Victor Stenger, a physicist-astronomer, has a book coming out titled God: The Failed Hypothesis. Meanwhile, Ann Druyan, widow of archskeptical astrophysicist Carl Sagan, has edited Sagan's unpublished lectures on God and his absence into a book, The Varieties of Scientific Experience, out this month.

Fine, and I can find you plenty of books on Scientology, too. Or Astrology. Whatever. The sheer volume of books that are pro-evolution and hostile to God doesn't make them right. The loudest voice isn't necessarily the best.

Dawkins and his army have a swarm of articulate theological opponents, of course. But the most ardent of these don't really care very much about science, and an argument in which one party stands immovable on Scripture and the other immobile on the periodic table doesn't get anyone very far.

The above statement is either remarkably ignorant or deliberately false. There are hundreds of respected scientists who are pro-Creation and anti-evolution as anyone who has studied the subject or even simply read this blog would know without doubt.

Most Americans occupy the middle ground: we want it all. We want to cheer on science's strides and still humble ourselves on the Sabbath. We want access to both MRIs and miracles. We want debates about issues like stem cells without conceding that the positions are so intrinsically inimical as to make discussion fruitless. And to balance formidable standard bearers like Dawkins, we seek those who possess religious conviction but also scientific achievements to credibly argue the widespread hope that science and God are in harmony--that, indeed, science is of God.

Well, my research indicates that the majority of the great scientists of the past, like Newton, were actually believers in a created Universe and believed that science was the study of God's creation. More propaganda from the author. I am really looking forward to the dialogue between the two protagonists so that more than one point of view gets presented. Good grief!

Informed conciliators have recently become more vocal. Stanford University biologist Joan Roughgarden has just come out with Evolution and Christian Faith, which provides what she calls a "strong Christian defense" of evolutionary biology, illustrating the discipline's major concepts with biblical passages. Entomologist Edward O. Wilson, a famous skeptic of standard faith, has written The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, urging believers and non-believers to unite over conservation. But foremost of those arguing for common ground is Francis Collins.

Uh-oh! Are we actually going to have a debate between an ardent evolutionist and an ardent Creationist or is this going to be black versus off-white?

Collins' devotion to genetics is, if possible, greater than Dawkins'. Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute since 1993, he headed a multinational 2,400-scientist team that co-mapped the 3 billion biochemical letters of our genetic blueprint, a milestone that then President Bill Clinton honored in a 2000 White House ceremony, comparing the genome chart to Meriwether Lewis' map of his fateful continental exploration. Collins continues to lead his institute in studying the genome and mining it for medical breakthroughs.

He is also a forthright Christian who converted from atheism at age 27 and now finds time to advise young evangelical scientists on how to declare their faith in science's largely agnostic upper reaches. His summer best seller, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press), laid out some of the arguments he brought to bear in the 90-minute debate TIME arranged between Dawkins and Collins in our offices at the Time & Life Building in New York City on Sept. 30. Some excerpts from their spirited exchange:

Okay, maybe he will be okay...tomorrow we begin the actual debate between the two men concerning this issue. But look at how long this very slanted prologue went on! The author was determined to preconfigure the audience to take his side in the debate. Bad form, that! Furthermore, one side is represented by a non-scientist who just wrote a book, "The God Delusion" that by it's very title is dismissive and arrogant. Meanwhile the God side seems to be represented by a balanced, non-hostile scientist. Knowing that this very slanted journalist is going to pick and choose portions of the debate between the men, one might expect that the result is going to favor evolution whether or not the actual discussion went quite that way. But curiosity drives us to review it anyway. More tomorrow!