Fundamental Astuteness

The Essence of Astuteness: Non-Partisan Intellectual Honesty

A slight amendment…

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I’ve decided I can’t get away from political blogging. Besides, faith and politics can mix to a certain extent. Just how far I’m not sure, but I’ve decided to blog a little about politics again. Apologetics will still be the focus, but politics will not be excluded.

 

Yours truly.

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Written by Astuteness

September 16, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Posted in Blogging, Politics

Michael Shermer on the Problem of Evil

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My favorite skeptic, Michael Shermer, has written a book titled “How We Believe: The Search for God in the Age of Science”. I’m enjoying it so far. The critics seem to like it too. “Well researched, comprehensive, and persuasive” “This is an important book” “Great read…!”

I’ve always been fascinated by the problem of evil. I assume at least most of my small readership is familiar with the issue. The question basically is: “How can an all good God and all powerful God allow evil in this world and still be sinless?”

I’m still thinking and reading on the topic, and I hope to write more about it soon. What I have concluded is that despite the apparent conundrums inolved with the problem, I am not yet convinced that the existence of pain and suffering justifies the rejection of God. Nevertheless, I’m still intruiged by other people’s reasoning and justifications for their worldview, and I now present an excerpt from page five of his book mentioned above:

“To this day I have not heard an answer to the Problem of Evil that seems satisfactory. As with the Problem of Free Will, most answers involve complicated twists and turns of logic and semantic wordplay. One answer, for example, is based on the fundamental assumption of a stone so heavy he cannot lift it. Likewise, God cannot be encompassed in the in the subset of evil. Evil, like heavy stones, exist independently of the larger set of God, even though remaining in that set. Another riposte involves explaining specific historical evils, like the Holocaust, where one answer is that “humans committed these evil acts, not God.” But this avoids the problem altogether: Either God allowed Nazis to kill Jews, in which case He is not omnibenevolent, or God could not prevent Nazis from killing Jews, in which case he is not omnipotent.”

Others have found the answer. I hope to find it too.

Written by Astuteness

September 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

On Faithful Skepticism and Rational Faith

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It is my observation that the mainstream media and academia stigmatize faith as something intellectually inferior and antithetical to both science and reason. This is not always true of every respected scientist. Some, like Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic Magazine and the one to whom I also like to refer to as “my favorite skeptic”) have a less villifying take on faith in general, and the Christian Faith in particular. Still, atheists like George H. Smith boldy assert that “Christian theism must be rejected by any person with even a shred of respect for reason”. Websites too, like Importance of Philosophy make assertions such as “The result of using faith consistently is the complete inability to think.” Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

I disagree.

To either replace their faith and justify their rejection of it, skeptics turn to other pinnicles on which to view truth and analyze the world. Some go all out in support of Science. Its all about science. What do emperical experiments tell us. What’s happening in the labratory. Others are all about reason. “This is rational.” “That is not.” “If God created everything, then God created evil. And since evil exists, and acording to the principle that our works define who we are, the we can assume God is evil.”

Media and acadamia potray these alternatives to faith (reason, science, etc) as exclusive to faith. “Science and Faith are not compatible” or “Reason and Faith cannot be reconciled”. The implication is that if you have faith, then you are not rational. You are not scientific. You wonder in the wastelands of stupidity and cluelessnes. Such implications are used, particuarly in our college campuses, as tools by which to destroy people’s religious faith.

And it works. The Christian Church doesn’t do very well educating its people on how to defend the faith. The de-conversion rate of college students is at an all time high. So when our young people go to college, who wants to be called “irrational” “stupid” “clueless” etc? And so people fall away from the faith or cower from the mighty intellecutals in fear because someone convinced them that faith is inherently exclusive to the other faculties of reason, science, and so on.

Part of the problem may be that we let our opponents define what faith is. And when that happens, they are more than happy to define it in the negative. “Faith is the opposite of reason” or “Faith is antithetical to science”.

But is faith merely a dictionary antonym for intellectual glory?

I think not.

I propose that we as Christians take our definition of faith from the 19th book of the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews, the 11th chapter, and the first verse, which says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In other words, strictly speaking, faith is merely the belief in something that we have not directly seen or experienced firsthand. That’s it.

If this is the case, then it has far reaching implications into whether or not faith should be stigmatized as something inherently irrational. Because if it is true that faith is merely belief in something not directly experienced, then everyone has faith.

I have not been to England. But I have strong faith that it exists. I haven’t seen it first hand, but Rick Steves has apparantly been there and made a movie about it. The name appears in my history books and all of them agree on the general size and location of the country on the map. Its a well grounded faith too, because there is good evidence for it.

Scientists have not actually seen macro-evolution happen. No one has gone to the zoo for a few million years and watched a monkey turn from ape to homo-sapien. Its a matter of faith because they’re believing in something that they have not actually seen.

In light of this, the argument in our culture ought not to be about whether faith is inherently dangerous or evil; everyone has faith; the argument ought to be over who has the best faith supported by experience, reason, science, and logic.

As a historical faith, Christianity has, in my experience, been able to meet the burden of proof to my satisfaction such that I am convinced that, while theism and christianity are not proveable with mathmatical certainty, the archeological, scientific, philosophical, and historical evidences make faith in God and the Bible a reasonable state of existence not outside the realms of science and rationality.

The evidence that makes this so will be explored on this blog as time goes on. But for now, remember: Faith is not irrational in and of itself. Everyone has to one varying degree or another in various fields of thought and persuasion. The debate ought to be over which faith is best supported by our deductions and observations.

I conclude as I often like to do with the great quote from the great Voddie Baucham:

“Is that your final answer? I hope its not. voddie-baucham.jpgLet me give you an answer to that question that I believe is better than ‘I was raised that way’ or its better than “Well I’m Southern Baptist and that’s the way we believe’ or its better than “I tried it, and it worked for me” Let me tell you why I choose to believe the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible because I was raised that way—because I wasn’t. I don’t choose to believe the Bible because I tried it and it worked for me. My mother’s Buddhism worked for her—that’s why she was a Buddhist! I need something more than just ‘because it works’. Here’s the answer—I’ll give it to you and unpack it for you:

I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report [of] supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.”

 

 

Starting Points…

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As I mentioned quite a few weeks ago, I’ll be blogging about Christian issues, specifically on the defense of the Christian faith with a focus on the intellectual side of Apologetics.

Hopefully, this blog will not merely be a stump for methodically proclaiming religious dogma from centuries past. In addition to discussing the Christian side of things, I hope to give voice to some of my favorite skeptics  as well. I guess it would be correct to say that I try to be open minded, although I do think “tolerance” is overvalued in the our culture. But that is for a different discussion.

I thought it might be good lay out a couple of my positions on things related to what I’ll be blogging about for a while; some basic hypothesis that will be examined and critiqued as the blogging goes on.

  • The Bible: The Bible is the authoritative Word of God. It was written by over 40 authors over a span of approximately 1500 years. It appears there is good evidence that the Bible is a reliable collection of documents that is attested by historical, archaeological, and scientific data and appears to bear markings of divine inspiration. Many Christians believe the Bible for the wrong reasons that depend on illogical circular reasoning. Voddie Baucham said it best: ”

    “Is that your final answer? I hope its not. voddie-baucham.jpgLet me give you an answer to that question that I believe is better than ‘I was raised that way’ or its better than “Well I’m Southern Baptist and that’s the way we believe’ or its better than “I tried it, and it worked for me” Let me tell you why I choose to believe the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible because I was raised that way—because I wasn’t. I don’t choose to believe the Bible because I tried it and it worked for me. My mother’s Buddhism worked for her—that’s why she was a Buddhist! I need something more than just ‘because it works’. Here’s the answer—I’ll give it to you and unpack it for you:

    I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report [of] supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.”

  • The Resurrection: For reasons to be elaborated on a later date, I find the evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Christ to be compelling.
  • The Problem of Evil: The problem of evil is indeed one of the strongest arguments against rational theism. Yet, after considering the matter for over a year, and continuing to do so, I do not find the existence of evil and suffering to be a rational reason to reject theism. My reasons for this will be explained later.
  • Theism: The existence of God cannot  be proven with mathematical certainty. But the same is true for a variety of other things we intellectually  take for granted. However, I do believe it is reasonable to believe in God because there is good evidence and good arguments for His existence.
  • Origin: After some consideration of the evidence, my position is that God created the Universe a finite time ago ex-nihilo (out of nothing). As far as evolution is concerned, I find a lot of holes in the theory, and am disturbed that it is taught as fact in our schools. This has consequences far beyond mere scientific knowledge.

These and many other thesis I hope to examine in the coming months on Fundamental Astuteness. Your thoughts, insights, criticisms, and questions are welcome.

Written by Astuteness

August 30, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Why did you not read this article? You’ll never have the chance to read it again. An interesting experiment…

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NOTE: Read through this all the way quickly. 

I suspect only familiar wordpress users will understand fully how this is going to work, but let’s give it a shot.

The WordPress Blog server has, as we know, millions of blogs, posting thousands of article each day and hour under hundreds of tags. Tags provide a way for people to find articles they think will interest them. When an article is tagged under, say, “politics” a link to that article will appear on a list under that tag name on wordpress.com. So, suppose I write an article and tag it under “politics”. Immediately, a link to my new post will appear on the list of wordpress blog articles that have been tagged under politics. Users interested in politics will be perusing that list, see my article pop up when they refresh the page, and hopefully, click on the article. 

The neat thing is that an article can be tagged several times on different themes, and thus, appear on several wordpress tag lists at once, thus increasing the liklihood of it getting clicked. 

SO HERE IS THE EXPERIMENT: If I write this article, what kind of hits will I get if I increase the number of tags? Suppose I tag this article under a whole array of things, and for the purpose of experiementation, a whole array of unrelated tags? I am going to tag this article under the most famous wordpress taglines, as follows: 

  • Life
  • Music
  • News
  • Politics
  • Barack Obama
  • Culture
  • Christianity
  • Family
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Sports
  • Random
  • Entertainment
  • Religion
We’ll try just that for now, and see what happens. Hypothesis is, if I tag this post under so many popular tags, then the traffic will increase substantially. 
So, with that in mind, if you care to, express in the comments section how you found this article. 

Written by Astuteness

August 26, 2008 at 11:05 am

How to blog better…

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Some folks have asked how to blog well. What goes into blogging a good blogging that generates readership? While I am certainly no expert at this, and past record due to time constraints has limited my potential, here are a few things that might be helpful: 

  1. Choose a simple format. Don’t use complicated ones that are hard on the eyes. For simple starters, use a template that has a flag image across the top, links on the right hand side, and then a column of text for the blog.
  2. Keep your text looking professional. Don’t vary the text randomly. Avoid it. Use bold and ALL CAPS if you want to emphasize a point. Do not use lots of different colors in your text. Stick with black. It matches everything and looks professional. Don’t use colors that don’t match or are hard to see
  3. Comment on other blogs. When you comment on other blogs, that provides a link for other commentators to follow back to you. This generates traffic. So, preferably, comment on other blogs/websites that already have a lot of traffic, and hopefully you’ll pick up some fringe benefits in the process. 
  4. Come back to this blog in a few days. Hopefully by then, I’ll have found the news paper article I have in my desk somewhere on good blogging techniques. It will have much more substantive points. 

Written by Astuteness

August 25, 2008 at 12:44 pm

I’ve got it…

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My small readership may recall that some time ago, I wrote an article outlining some needed changed to the astuteness domain. One of those changes needed to be a shift from blogging about whatever crossed my mind to something more specific. A central theme. A main topic or area of discussion.

A couple of things have come to mind since then, and I narrowed it down to three main choices:

1) Blog about being a good blogger. It sounds ridiculous, but I think it could be done. Blog about what is needed to have a famous, visited blog, and that itself will generate traffic. Reminds me of my friend Shaun who makes money online by maintaining a website about…making money online. Cool.

2) Blog about politics. Be a political critic. Like John Stossel. If you haven’t read his books, do it. Get them at your local library today. “GIve me a Break” and “Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Why everything you know is wrong”. But I decided this just wasn’t for me…yet. Maybe another time.

3) Blog about Theology, Christian Apologetics, and Skepticism. Find answers for the Christian Faith. Find the strengths and weaknesses. Why do I believe the Bible? What about the Trinity? The Problem of Evil? Does God exist? Is it reasonable to believe in God? Are skeptics any more rational than believers? Why is Michael Shermer my favorite skeptic?

After much thought, I’ve decided to go for the last option. I’m young yet, and I can do politics another time. If Christianity is real, now is the time to find out.

So for now, its category three. That will be the current and near term future for Astuteness. If I find something irresistable going on in politics, I’ll mention it. But for the most part, Apologetics is on!

Written by Astuteness

August 1, 2008 at 8:33 am