Archive for January, 2012

Adapting Evolution

Posted on January 29, 2012. Filed under: Culture |

Galileo Galilei claimed, “I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” “All variety of created objects which represent order and life in the universe could happen only by the willful reasoning of its original Creator, whom I call the Lord God,” wrote Isaac Newton. I could quote Nicholas CopernicusFrancis Bacon,  Gregor Mendel (though he’d be tough since monks don’t say much), Johannes KeplerRene Descartes,  and the list goes on. So, why are science and Christianity thought to be mutually exclusive today? If scientists and Christians are both in pursuit of the truth, why are they perceived as enemies?

In a word, Darwinism. Today, it seems that questioning evolution surpasses the horrors of the crusades, the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition, and the monstrosity of prolonging Kirk Cameron‘s acting career.

As an individual born with two left-brains and an over-developed type-A personality, I always argued evolution was the process God used, and that Christians who said otherwise were the blind sheep. But a few years ago, I became painfully enlightened that my understanding of evolution was weak at best, and scientific dogma at worst. So, I decided to follow Proverbs 4:7, “Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

Lots of people equate evolution as simply ‘adaptation over time,’ but if that was the case Darwin might as well have said the birds have beaks. Obviously, this was common knowledge; humans have been breeding dogs and horses to embody the traits we desire for thousands of years. Evolution, however, argues that random adaptation accounts for all species, which are descendant from the first single-celled organism on earth.

Since no one has ever witnessed a new species actually ‘evolve’ from an old one, scientists collect evidence and theorize about how the species came to their current form. The problem is that (most) scientists now assume evolution is a fact, which leads them to ignore evidence that doesn’t fit the theory (rather than follow Pascal‘s…also a Christian…scientific method, which calls for modifying the theory).

For example, evolution proposes that there was a single living cell that kick-started all life for us. Out of that cell came every life, domain, kingdom, phylum… up to species (remember Linnaeus’ classification?). The ‘Tree of Life‘ would start out at the simplest level of classification (life, domain, etc) and over millions of years branch out to the gazillions of species we have today.

But fossil records indicate that for millions of years earth only had single-celled organisms, and then suddenly the most complex levels of life appeared (the event is referred to as the Cambrian Explosion). The exact time line for this explosion is up to interpretation, but the fact is that life became very complex very quickly (even 50 million years isn’t long when you’re talking about a 4.54 billion year old planet). Darwin acknowledged the Cambrian Explosion contradicted his theory, so he argued that,  “only a small portion of the surface of the earth has been geologically explored” hoping that as time went on, more fossil evidence would support his theory. But 150 years later, we still have the same problem.

Does everyone remember the embryo comparison from biology? It suggested early ebryonic development is evidence of a common ancestor; the earlier the phase of development, the more similar species look. My teacher never pointed out that Haeckel skewed his sample and willfully forged the drawings. The actual embryos look very different, but especially in the earliest forms of development (see Model 4).

Monkeys and men? Well, obviously we’re still waiting for those missing links to be filled in, while current fossil records leave a lot of room for interpretation (they don’t come with birth certificates). Secondly, the argument assumes men and animals do not differ other than in their ‘mental faculties’ as Darwin put it. They  both experience jealousy, love, anger, and other emotions, just in different degrees. But, that’s a pretty big assumption. When was the last time you got into the head of a dolphin to see if they are really feeling jealousy? Couldn’t the argument be made humans are projecting our emotions on the animals? It’s a subjective argument rather than a scientific observation.

What about DNA being the building-block that accounts for all ‘mutations’ into different species? Well, ever think about how a fertilized egg duplicates into cells, some of which start ‘pumping’ while others turn into an early neurological system – all of those cells are genetically the same. Could it be that something else is a factor?

But what about the other big holes in the theory of evolution?  How did life even start in the first place? The odds of amino acids (not life – just the building blocks) coming together alone makes my brain hurt (I’ve read everything from 1 in 1040 to 1 in 10390). Then there’s the question living cells forming. Then there’s the question of where all the ‘stuff’ came from in the first place.  Evolution is silent on these more fundamental questions.

I don’t pretend my examples are complete or exhaustive.  And I’m not saying we should burn every copy of On the Origin’s of Species, replace them with Genesis.  Or that if you believe in evolution that you are stupid and need to jump on the Intelligent Design bandwagon. Evolution has some insights, particularly on explaining variation within species (like bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics). However there are far too many flaws that are not even discussed, which is concerning.

If contemporary dogma bars logical discussion, how are we any different than those who wouldn’t consider the earth revolved around the sun?

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American Idolatry

Posted on January 21, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Former logo of American Idol from 2002 to 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re like me, when you think of the Ten Commandments, you probably made a mental check list, “Well, I’ve lied, but I haven’t murdered anyone, so that’s pretty good.” However, the Bible tells us anyone breaking the least among God’s commands will be least in heaven. Often times, we try to make ourselves feel better by focusing on what we haven’t broken (Matthew 5:19).

Idolatry is one of the sins that I typically thought I was ‘safe’ from… I mean the likelihood of worshiping a golden cow as a god is pretty low. The commandment says, “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them,” so as long as I’m not bowing down to Osiris or Ra, I should be in the clear right (Exodus 20:4-5)? Or maybe, that’s not what God meant. Maybe I’m just as guilty as the Israelites. Maybe the American idol is more than just a TV show that just launched its 974th season…and counting…

Christ told us that when we curse someone, we are subject to judgement, just as those who murder are subject to judgement (Matthew 5:21-22). He said that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:27:28). So clearly, God wanted the Jews to connect the dots between their hearts and the law He gave them. According to Jesus, the sin starts in the heart, it’s not just in the action. If that’s the case, then the second commandment implies that idolatry isn’t just carving an image out of gold or stone; idolatry is putting anything (or anyone) in your heart where only God belongs:

“So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world” (Col 3:5, emphasis mine).

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:15-16, emphasis mine).

So, don’t worship the bad things like the endless pursuit of money, sex outside marriage, or plot with Pinky and the Brain to take over the world and you’re good right? I think there’s more to it than that. While some might be tempted to think bowing down to a man with a falcon head is ridiculous, the ancient Egyptians might think watching pictures in a box for  5 solid days a month insane. Television, like a mutant statue, is not intrinsically bad. And certainly taking pride in your work, as John wrote, is not bad (Proverbs 10:26). I think it’s the meaning we put in these these things that makes them idolatrous. Striving to provide a good home for your family is good, but not if you’re spending so much time at the office your kids don’t know you. Pursing companionship in a mate is good, but not if it means you’re compromising your faith.

How do we know if we’re committing idolatry? One way is by examining the fruits of our life choices, which is certainly how others will evaluate us (Matthew 7:16). In the end, it comes down to are we pursing what we want over what God wants for us (as He instructed in the Bible). After all, the first sin came down to man (yes, technically woman) making himself his own idol.

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The Moderate

Posted on January 14, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , |

Eurasian badger

Image via Wikipedia

If you spend some time Googling Martin Luther King Jr this weekend, you might notice a few things your second grade teacher left out of her lesson. I’m not talking about the fact that he had extramarital affairs or even more egregious, that he was a Republican. I’m referring his distaste with something we’re all guilty of: being a moderate.

King said, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” He wrote in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate.”  Unlike the white moderate, the supremacist had devotion to a cause and  fought to defend that cause rather than seek “the absence of tension.” Indeed he wrote, “lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Was King onto something here? Is moderation something to be pursued to keep peace or avoided to stand firm in convictions? Does a moderate have a better chance of winning ‘hearts and minds’ or does a moderate just lack a back bone?

Craig Groeschel’s Weird highlights Christ’s ‘woes’ on seven churches that lost their way in Revelations. For six of them, Jesus acknowledges good with the bad, but to the church of Laodicea, he just laments. What was Laodicea’s crime? Idolatry? Sexual immorality? Poking a badger with a spoon? Nope, those were the other churches…and Eddie Izzard. Laodicea’s problem was its moderate nature: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16).

There are other places where God expresses our faith is not to be moderate in nature: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21).

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

Christ and MLK Jr. were saying that we cannot be tepid with the truth, in whatever form it takes. God judges us by our actions, not how we say we feel. While being a moderate may not get you into trouble, it almost always signals one of two things: ignorance and/or apathy. Truth cannot dwell in anyone with either trait.

In his letter, King wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Paul called for Christians to “have a strong belief in the trustworthy message …[and] be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong” (Titus 1:9). Those convicted by truth shouldn’t tolerate lies, but strive to lovingly spread the truth.

There may not be ‘whites only’ drinking fountains anymore, but I think moderation still shows a lack of conviction and/or understanding. A Church full of moderate Christians focuses more on religion than faith. A country full of moderate citizens focuses more on 15 second sound bites or ESPN than investigating facts molding our future. Schools full of moderate teachers demand regurgitation of academic creeds rather teaching students how to think critically.

We’re all guilty of being the moderate in some area of life. I think this MLK Jr Day  we would do well to remember something else he said, “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label…the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

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Putting Defense on Defense

Posted on January 8, 2012. Filed under: Government | Tags: , , , , , |

The Terminator (soundtrack)

Image via Wikipedia

This past Thursday, the White House announced it was ‘cutting’ defense spending while updating the Pentagon’s strategy for the future (someone will have to explain to me how decreasing the amount something increases is a cut). Some of these updates include focusing on the Asian-Pacific, investing in unmanned aerial vehicles and cyber-space security, and cutting personnel costs while maintaining beach volleyball courts for Navy pilots. As expected, Republicans are screaming Obama is ‘gutting’ the defense while Democrats argue it’s not enough.

Not surprisingly, national defense is justifiable biblically. We see this from the beginning of Israel’s formation when the Hebrews left Egypt armed (Exodus 13:18). Samuel listed the first role the king would have as commander-in-chief (1 Sam 8:11). But too much of a good thing is not always good, and can even make you vomit (Proverbs 25:16).

The Parable of the Talents gives the account of a man who went on a journey but gave three servants sums of money to invest while he was gone. The first two invested their treasure and thereby turned a profit, but the last buried his portion in the ground. He didn’t earn any interest, but he didn’t lose the money either. The master came home, rewarded the first two, and cast out the last servant (Matthew 25:14-30).

Like the servants entrusted with the master’s money, our government is entrusted with the taxpayer’s money. And like the master, we should expect that our money is spent in a thoughtful, legal, and efficient way,  not simply earmarked for ‘defense,’ a good thing, and hope it all works out in the end. We would be wise to question how 78,000 troops across Europe are still necessary. Or how paying for 2,200 nuclear weapons prevents a terrorist attack, protects us from a crippling cyber attack on our power grid, or prevents Skynet from becoming self-aware. Does keeping a large standing military protect American citizens or make politicians more cavalier with our military?

Christ warned us about entering into military commitments without counting the costs ahead of time, “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able …If he is not able, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away” (Luke 14:31-32).

Not all military spending is necessary or wise simply because it is done in the name of defense or security. We need to know what our end goal is – protecting our trade, nation building, preparing for an alien attack on Independence Day? We need to know if those goals are attainable – can Afghanistan become a stable republic, are advanced alien spaceships even likely to be compatible with Windows?  And of course, we need to know the cost. With $117,000,000,000,000 (and counting) in unfunded liabilities, I have to wonder what we can afford.

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