New Prager University Video: "If Good and Evil Exist, God Exists," w/ Peter Kreeft

Prager U’s latest course: “Is there such a thing as objective morality? If there is, does that suggest a moral law giver? Peter Kreeft, distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, takes on these critical questions and offers some challenging answers.”

New on NewsReal – Bill Maher Rewrites and Ignores History to Pit the Founding Fathers Against the Tea Party

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Left-wing satirist Bill Maher is taking his hatred of the Tea Party movement to the next level. Evidently epithets like crazy, stupid, and racist no longer satisfy him, and he’s decided it’s time to hit “teabaggers” where it really hurts: by mocking their reverence for America’s Founding Fathers, suggesting the Founders’ values aren’t their own:

“[T]he Founding Fathers would have hated your guts…and what’s more, you would have hated them. They were everything you despise. They studied science, read Plato, hung out in Paris, and thought the Bible was mostly bullshit.”

Maher got a crack in at the Founders as well, saying they had a moral code, but it didn’t come from the Bible…”except for the part about, ‘it’s cool to own slaves.’”

Here, Maher is repackaging the ridiculous straw man that conservatism is not only incompatible with reason and science, but that right-wingers actually pride themselves on disregarding the insights of modern intellectuals in favor of gut instinct and unchanging tradition. But this is a complete distortion of conservative arguments.

We have no problem with true intellectualism or reevaluating our positions in light of new evidence; what we object to is the arrogance of societal elites who look down upon the decision-making abilities of the average American, especially in decisions concerning the individual’s personal affairs. We object to “expertise” being taken as a license to make policy outside of the democratic process.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

Religion Battle Royale

Click here for the full video of a recent three-way debate between Dinesh D’Souza, Dennis Prager, and Christopher Hitchens, representing Christianity, Judaism, and atheism, respectively. It’s an excellent, stimulating, wide-ranging discussion on faith, reason, God, and morality, with three tremendously formidable debaters—even if Hitchens tends to be a snide, boorish ass.

D’Souza on "An Absentee God?"

During this debate, Christopher Hitchens actually raised an intriguing challenge to God’s existence (good points from atheists are so hard to find these days). Now, Dinesh D’Souza has an answer:

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. On Friday July 11 the libertarian conference FreedomFest will have, as its featured event, a debate on “Christianity, Islam and the War on Terror” between Christopher Hitchens and me. The media will be there, and the organizers also expect to have the debate up on the web. (Just in case Richard Dawkins is listening, I’ll have to remember
not to use Hitler-style shrieks and yells.)

In thinking about this debate, I’m reminded of an argument that Hitchens made in our New York debate last October. At that time I did not know how to answer his point. So I employed an old debating strategy: I ignored it and answered other issues. But Hitchens’ argument bothered me.

Here’s what Hitchens said. Homo sapiens has been on the planet for a long time, let’s say 100,000 years. Apparently for 95,000 years God sat idly by, watching and perhaps enjoying man’s horrible condition. After all, cave-man’s plight was a miserable one: infant mortality, brutal massacres, horrible toothaches, and an early death. Evidently God didn’t really care.

Then, a few thousand years ago, God said, “It’s time to get involved.” Even so God did not intervene in one of the civilized parts of the world. He didn’t bother with China or India or Persia or Egypt. Rather, he decided to get his message to a group of nomadic people in the middle of nowhere. It took another thousand years or more for this message to get to places like India and China.

Here is the thrust of Hitchens’ point: God seems to have been napping for 98 percent of human history, finally getting his act together only for the most recent 2 percent? What kind of a bizarre God acts like this?

I’m going to answer this argument in two ways. First, in this blog I’m going to show that Hitchens has his math precisely inverted. Second, in a future blog I’ll reveal how Hitchens’ argument backfires completely on atheism. For today’s argument I’m indebted to Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

An adept numbers guy, Kreps noters that it is not the number of years but the levels of human population that are the issue here. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever been born is approximately 105 billion. Of this number, about 2 percent were born before Christ came to earth.

“So in a sense,” Kreps notes, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. If He’d come earlier in human history, how reliable would the records of his relationship with man be? But He showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population, so even though 98 percent of humanity’s timeline had passed, only 2 percent of humanity had previously been born, so 98 percent of us have walked the earth since the Redemption.”

I have to agree with Kreps’s conclusion: “Sorry Hitchens. And Hallelujah.”
Part 2 of his response:

Here I want to show how Hitchens’ argument completely backfires on atheism. Let’s apply an entirely secular analysis and go with Hitchens’ premise that there is no God and man is an evolved primate. Well, biology tells us that man’s basic frame and brain size haven’t substantially changed throughout his terrestrial existence.

So here is the problem.
Homo sapiens has been on the planet for 100,000 years, but apparently for more than 95,000 of those years he accomplished virtually nothing. No real art, no writing, no inventions, no culture, no civilization. How is this possible? Were our ancestors, otherwise physically and mentally undistinguishable from us, such blithering idiots that they couldn’t figure out anything other than the arts of primitive warfare?

Then, a few thousand years ago, everything changes. Suddenly savage man gives way to historical man. Suddenly the naked ape gets his act together. We see civilizations sprouting in Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, China, and elsewhere. Suddenly there are wheels and agriculture and art and culture. Soon we have dramatic plays and philosophy and an explosion of inventions and novel forms of government and social organization.

So how did
Homo sapiens, heretofore such a slacker, suddenly get so smart? Scholars have made strenuous efforts to account for this but no one has offered a persuasive account. If we compare man’s trajectory on earth to an airplane, we see a long, long stretch of the airplane faltering on the ground, and then suddenly, a few thousand years ago, takeoff!

Well, there is one obvious way to account for this historical miracle. It seems as if some transcendent being or force reached down and breathed some kind of a spirit or soul into man, because after accomplishing virtually nothing for 98 percent of our existence, we have in the past 2 percent of human history produced everything from the pyramids to Proust, from Socrates to computer software.

So paradoxically Hitchens’ argument becomes a boomerang. Hitchens has raised a problem that atheism cannot easily explain and one that seems better accounted for by the Book of Genesis.
UPDATE: A reader posed a few challenges to D’Souza’s argument (if he wants to know why I’m not publishing his comments, he’s free to ask here). I want to address them, though, since they strike me as common areas of misunderstanding.

Humanity’s “takeoff” provides no evidence that God was involved. It could have been coincidence, or the invention of something like the written alphabet or mathematics or several such developments at once.

But this is precisely the issue: mankind had a whopping 95,000 years in which none of it happened. Then “several such developments at once”? Granted, it’s not material evidence, and it’s not proof, but you’ve gotta admit, it’s certainly intriguing circumstantial evidence.

It also provides no evidence that it was Christ or Christianity specifically that is the answer. Advancements took place before Christ…maybe the Greek Gods get credit for Ancient Greece?

This complaint gets the two arguments mixed up. D’Souza does not tie human advancement to the coming of Christ at all, but to the endowment of man with a soul. The only point Christ pertains to is the percentage of the human race that lived before Him as opposed to after.

It’s also interesting that technology has advanced exponentially in recent history, despite no known input from Allah or God or Zeus.

That’s because the input we’re talking about—the soul transforming an animal called human into a man, giving him a true mind rather than a brain—already happened. According to D’Souza’s theory, human reason and creativity flow from this singular change.

Hating Religious Expression

In today’s Reporter, Rachel Diech whines:

Is it just me or is it every time I read The Reporter’s editorial section, there’s always someone spewing rants about God?

It’s just you. God and religious values are a recurring topic every now and then, but you’ll need more than that if you want to characterize them as “spewing rants.”

I’m so sick of Christians forcing their beliefs down my throat. Can we just give a little bit of a rest when it comes to religion, please!

What the heck were you expecting from a page labeled “Opinion”? Its entire point is for people to express their OPINIONS. Religion is something people have OPINIONS about, for and against. Disagree with specific beliefs? Write about it. But unless you’re willing and able to offer more than vague crap, your complaints are nothing more than bigotry.

If I wanted to be preached at about God, I would go to church. I don’t want to read it in my newspaper.

Get off your high horse and grow up. Maybe church would do you some good…

Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins

Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled sounds eye-opening, and if this observation for Mariano at Atheism Sucks is any indication, it sure will be:

Now on to Prof. Dawkin’s ID promotion. Mr. Stein’s interview with Prof. Dawkins is something to behold—a feast sights and sounds, I assure you. For instance, Prof. Dawkins asserts that people feel liberated and relieved when they realize that God does not exist. Mr. Stein asks him how he knows that, he is after all speaking with an empirical scientist. Prof. Dawkins responds that he receives letters from people to that effect. To which Mr. Stein states that there are some 8 billion people in the world and asks, “How many letters do you get?” This is funny and even embarrassing but think about it: the sorts of letters that Prof. Dawkins receives to that effect are of a very particular sort having been written by people who were motivated to contact him in order to either thank him, or buddy up to him, or congratulate him, etc. This certainly constitutes a biased sample. This sadly short segment is peppered with Prof. Dawkins making authoritative pronouncements only to be asked how he knows that and being forced to admit that he does not.
Finally, he is asked how life could have originated presuming that God does not exist. He begins to explain Darwinian Natural Selection but is asked to back up to how life began in the first place. Taking a page straight out of Francis Crick’s atheist escapism playbook—he proposes Directed Panspermia. He lucidly explains, beyond any obscurity, that alien civilizations could have developed to the point of gaining the ability to seed life on earth. This is a theory for the intelligent design of life on earth. What then is the next logical question? How did life originate on that alien world? Prof. Dawkins explains that he believes that it was through Darwinian mechanisms.