Saturday, December 27, 2008

McAvoy: 1. Satan: 0

How much does the natural order of our world conspire to keep people from reading the Bible?

You might answer, "Not at all." Certainly, nothing in physics would give any reason to believe such a thing. But years of experience show me otherwise.

Take last Friday, for instance. I was on my way from Jersey to Philly to meet a friend for lunch. It poured rain, and while traffic moved fine on the other side of Rt. 70, I could have probably covered more distance swimming than driving. Short a swimsuit, I inched along, frustrated at my growing tardiness.

Then, I had an idea.

As I said, it's my belief that forces within us and without us strive to keep us from reading the Bible (or praying). But I had my Bible right with me. And what better thing to do in traffic than to, as they say, get in the Word?

So I got my Bible out. I opened to Luke. I balanced it on my steering wheel. I started reading aloud.

Six verses in, the previously unmovable traffic parted like the Red Sea, and I was on my way to hand drawn noodles!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

I don't have the words to express how beautiful this video and its vision are to me:

Yes, please.

Thanks to jaeyde for showing this to me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Friend in Dialogue is a Friend Indeed

Handsomer men would be hard to find.

Jonathan and I both like to think. We also like to talk. We also have amazing chemistry. We also properly spell, capitalize, and punctuate text messages. Put it all together, add some intangibles, and you get some really great exchanges. Let me offer a sample:
Me: Wow, blogging about evolution is really exhilarating for me. I'm not sure why, but I hope it doesn't spill into giving the issue more centrality than it merits.

Jon: Yeah, I hear you. I think it's a little too emotionally charged in some circles.

Me: Yes, people perhaps equate fighting for Jesus with fighting against Darwin.

Jon: Not to mention the personal dimension. For me I mean. And I think it contributes to anti intellectualism among Christians.

Me: YES. I HATE anti-intellectualism among Christians. It is one of our big failures communally.

Jon: It's definitely an area where we play into the narrative of the world.


Jon: Yeah. One thing that's been hard for me since high school is not being the scientist in the room.

Me: Guess you will have to fit in a few physics classes [in grad school]. At least audit.

Jon: I don't know. While I like being a poly math, I definitely believe in division of labor. I want to be thinking econ 16 hours a day.

Me: Hah, that's your econ speaking. Try some science and you'll change your tune. That's funny because I love the idea of a "renaissance thinker."

Jon: So do I, but in today's world very often a renaissance thinker is a shallow thinker. It's just not possible to know everything that deeply.

Me: But is the integral of knowledge the same? Can one assign relative worth to breadth vs depth? Is there a place for each? Ephesians 3:18

Jon: You have to go deep to reach the frontiers of knowledge. Although sometimes ideas from other fields have applications in your field, you need depth in your own field to recognize that opportunity.

Me: In other words, take a 17 c.u. major as well as one or two courses in seven varied sectors?

Jon: Well, an undergraduate degree rarely takes you to the frontiers of knowledge. But yes, the principle is there.

Me: I do think in modern academia there is an idolatry that says new knowledge = progress, and that does not necessarily follow. Let's synthesize what we know.
What a friend!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I am Not an Evolutionist #1

Or, "Charles Darwin Lied."* Part one of an at-least-three-part series.

Calvin has a hairier face than most.

First, a disclaimer: while I have a modest background in science, that science is not biology, and I am by no means an expert in these matters.

(1) There are a whole host of aspects to life that, while wonderfully aesthetic, imply no obvious reproductive advantage. One can still attempt to explain them through the framework of natural selection and random mutation, and indeed many do attempt so, but these attempts often strike me as strained, and are circular themselves inasmuch they seek to offer evidence for evolution.

A few examples:
  • Forgive me for allowing most of the details to escape me, but I remember reading several years ago about a prize awarded to a man for thinking of an explanation for why people aren't nearly as hairy as other apes.

    His prize-worthy idea? Perhaps mothers preferred babies who were less hairy and were thus more likely to care for them.

    That's it.

    My problem with this reasoning is that it could be used to justify any trait unique to humans. Who knows what would be possible if our great-grandmothers had different tastes! Perhaps we would all be able to sing "Do your ears hang low?" with much more gusto. Perhaps Chewbacca would exist in reality and not in myth.

  • The peacock's tail is a prime example of what is called "sexual selection:" the trait makes the peacock no more fit physically, indeed less so, but nevertheless makes him more fit in the evolutionary sense because peahens are impressed by peacocks with more impressive tails. The tails are said to signal fitness, perhaps because the man is able to survive despite the handicap.

    The logic strikes me as just a bit twisted. He proves he has good genes by surviving despite having bad genes (which give him a functionally useless display of feathers).

    (And why should peahens prefer mates with more impressive tails to begin with? Would this trait itself not have to evolve?)

    Another challenge is presented by the knowledge that it seems peahen mate selection is rather independent of peacock tail impressiveness. For the evolutionary argument to hold up in light of this knowledge, peahen preference toward impressive tails must have evolved some time ago, then evolved away again after the men had gone through all the effort of evolving their tails. Women are so hard to please.

    Consider, for a moment, an alternative explanation: Peacock tails are beautiful, and this fact has something to do with their origin.**

  • As a final example, consider breasts in women, a topic upon which my male readers should have no trouble focusing. Believe it or not, their presence presents a significant challenge to evolutionary theorists.

    The story is similar to the puzzle of why we aren't so hairy. Put simply, most female mammals develop breasts only after giving birth, and their breasts remain only while nursing. Only in human women do they develop first and for always at adolescence, then further around the time of birth. Breasts in other mammals are decidedly unattractive to males, since they signal that the female is not in much of a state to bear young.

    Why should this be so? There are evolutionary ideas. Perhaps breasts evolved so that babies would have an easier time nursing. I think it was Stephen Jay Gould who posited that they developed so men would have an easier time getting used to mating face-to-face (which raises the question of why people evolved the propensity to mate face-to-face). Evidently, our great-grandfathers much preferred their wives' posteriors to their faces. Men are so insensitive.

    But these ideas are just speculation. In short, there is no good reason why this trait ought to evolve, from a Darwinian perspective. One can posit, "There must have been a good reason, because this trait clearly evolved!" But that is circular reasoning and placing faith in Nothing.

    And so I say, only one third in jest, is it not evident that breasts are a great gift from God to men, women, and babies alike?
    "I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment..." (Ezekiel 16:7a).

In short, the world is full of incredible beauty, and this beauty is very difficult to explain with a framework that only rewards survival, like a society of Van Goghs which cares nothing for its artists.

Rather, it is evident to me that many things are beautiful because they were made with beauty in mind.**

*Not especially true, as there is a world of difference between lying and simply being mistaken. But it goes well with another recent post of mine.

**This, of course, requires that beauty exists in an intrinsic, objective sense.***

***This, of course, requires that there exist someone with the authority to set such a standard. You can see where I'm going...