Richard Dawkins, the high priest of today’s modern-day religion of evolution, has written a children’s book with the title, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. When a scientist tells you that he knows what’s really true, he is being a philosopher not a scientist. There are hundreds of examples of scientific truisms that are no longer true today. The geocentric model of the solar system and spontaneous generation are two of the big ones. Then there is the problem of the origin of everything. There is no scientific way of knowing what’s really true about how we and the stuff of the cosmos got here. Science writer Isaac Asimov can only say, “Without being able to be certain . . . (and perhaps we never will be), we can speculate as to the possible course of events in the primordial ocean.” Dawkins writes in a similar way in his book The Greatest Show on Earth:
In reality, evolution is about magic, conjuring something out of nothing. Until evolutionists demonstrate (1) the origin of matter out of nothing (Voilà!), (2) how inorganic matter evolved into organic matter (abiogenesis), (3) the origin of information and its meaningful organization (DNA programming), and (4) a genetic explanation for why it is mandatory that anyone be moral (ethics), evolution is little more than a belief in and practice of black magic.
Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller are stage magicians. Their act is a mix of comedy, irreverence, and lots of skill. They are also known for exposing quacks, frauds, and claims of the supernatural in the tradition of Harry Houdini and James Randi.
Their worldview is libertarian and atheistic. According to an article in Wired magazine, Penn has Nevada license plates that are customized to read “ATHEIST” and “GODLESS.” “Sometimes they’ll even sign autographs with ‘There is no God.’” As one would expect, Penn believes that we got here, not by a creative act of God, but by the process of evolution. He believes in evolution. It’s his religion. By Penn’s own admission, echoing the words of Asimov and Dawkins, he states that he does not “know how the world was created.” He goes on to write in his book God, No!:
There is one thing that Penn does know: There is no such thing as magic. He and his stage partner do not make objects appear and disappear. Everything they do is a trick, sleight of hand, prestidigitation (“quick fingers”), legerdemain, or any other word of phrase you might want to use to explain their act. There’s also some mechanism known to them but not known to their audience that lets them fool the observer that something seemingly magical took place. Noting magical ever takes place.
Everything they do is a manipulative trick, and they will be the first to tell you the truth about their business except how all the elements of the trick are done. The operating assumption of anyone who attends a “magic” show must always be “I know I’m being fooled, even though I don’t know how.” This reminds me of a scene from the film My Cousin Vinny (1992) where Bill (Ralph Macchio), is describing to his cellmate Stan the ability of his cousin Vinny Gambini (Joe Pesci) to uncover the truth no matter how cleverly disguised:
Penn & Teller make their living being quintessential Gambinis, and they want us to do the same when it comes to claims of the supernatural. Animals, coins, balls, cards, and whatever else, don’t appear out of thin air when a magician performs. Tricks are designed, prepped, and executed using natural methods and materials. Nothing is transformed, restored, teleported, levitated, cut in half, or stabbed. Nothing ever vanishes.
Most magicians will never tell how they perform their tricks. Their livelihoods depend on secrecy. (Of course, there are exceptions when money is involved and anonymity is part of the reveal.) It’s the illusion that enthralls an audience. “It is argued that once the secret of a trick is revealed to a person, that one can no longer fully enjoy subsequent performances of that magic, as the amazement is missing. Sometimes the secret is so simple that the audience feels let down, and feels disappointed it was taken in so easily.”
As magicians who would never claim that they can make life appear on stage from non-life, as adherents of evolution claim has been done, they must believe that matter appeared out of nothing and life came from non-life. Penn & Teller would never claim that they could make a single molecule appear out of thin air, but they must believe that the birds, the bees, the trees, and you and me came into existence and evolved from nothing into a superheated, ultimately sterile chemical soup.
Penn & Teller could stand on stage and shake a jar of these origin chemicals until the hell they don’t believe in freezes over, and the stuff inside would never come to life. Of course, there is the more fundamental problem of accounting for the stuff in the jar, but we’ll give them that much. What they so cleverly debunk using their illusionist principles, they have not applied to the evolutionary worldview that makes fantastic claims that in any skeptic’s dictionary would be defined as magical. Consider the following on “Probability and the Origin of Life” by Robert E. Kofahl:
As magicians, Penn & Teller know that their tricks are designed, either by them or someone else. They also know that those who design and build the equipment for their stage magic use existing material. Those who develop tricks don’t create their tricks out of nothing, and Penn & Teller wouldn’t expect it to be any other way. In fact, if some seller of magic tricks came to them and claimed that he could teach them how to make a rabbit really appear out of thin air, they would dismiss him as a kook. But they have no problem believing that the cosmos and life as we know it did appear out of thin air with no intelligence behind the process.
Penn & Teller’s well scripted magic acts do not happen by chance. A great deal of planning and design go into every performance. And yet they believe in a theory that debunks design, embraces the non-entity chance that can’t do anything because chance doesn’t exist, and goes against the operating premise that life does not come from non-life.
Even so, Dawkins, Penn & Teller, and Asimov, contrary to everything they believe about how the world works, believe that the cosmos came into existence out of nothing and that life evolved from non-life. In Asimov’s book The Wellsprings of Life, he spends nearly 200 pages describing how scientists believe life evolved. But when he gets to the origin of life, how it all started, the scientific method is discarded and magic replaces it:
Magic! There is no other word for it. When pushed to explain how it all started, the atheist scientist can’t apply the well-tested scientific method. Penn & Teller can’t make objects appear out of thin air, but they believe with all their heart that nothing pulled the cosmos out of nothing. Now I would like to see that magic act.
- Isaac Asimov, The Wellsprings of Life (New York: Signet Science Library, 1960), 204. [↩]
- Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth (New York: The Free Press, 2009), 419. [↩]
- Raven Clabough, “Richard Dawkins’ New Children’s Book Encourages Atheism, Evolution,” The New American (September 20, 2011). [↩]
- Richard Dawkins, “Atheists for Jesus” (April 10, 2006). [↩]
- Geoffrey Gagnon, “Faces of the New Atheism: The Illusionists,” Wired (November 2006). [↩]
- Penn Jillette, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and other Magical Tales (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011), 2011), xvi. [↩]
- Jillette, God, No!, xviii. [↩]
- Jillette, God, No!, xix. [↩]
- It’s a shame that My Cousin Vinny has so much foul language in it. It’s a clever movie. If you decide to watch it, make sure it’s on a channel that edits language. [↩]
- Robert E. Kofahl, “Probability and the Origin of Life.” [↩]
- R. C. Sproul, Not a Chance: The Myth of Chance in Modern Science & Cosmology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994). [↩]
- Asimov, The Wellsprings of Life, 204–205. [↩]
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