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Brain Neuroscience and Philosophy Suggest Existence of Soul

Posted by Tony Listi on August 2, 2012

(This borrows arguments and facts from Dinesh D’Souza’s book Life After Death.)

Neuroscientists study the physical brain, but they also want to understand the non-physical mind. Yet thoughts cannot be collected, weighed, measured, sniffed, or even observed, at least not directly and clearly. They try to reduce the mind to merely physical cause-and-effect relationships. But is it even possible to do so?

Neuroscience has shown that brain states and mental experiences are correlated and that in many cases that certain mental states are dependent on certain brain states, but it HAS NOT shown that brain states cause mental states.

The famous American philosopher William James correctly thought of the brain not as a causal device but as a gateway, receiver, or transmission vehicle for the mind.

As an analogy, consider a radio and music. If the radio breaks and one can’t hear the music anymore, does that prove that the radio causes the music? Of course not. The music/radio waves are actually distinct from and have an independent existence from the physical radio itself. The radio merely channels and manifests the music/radio waves that already exist all around us.

Similarly, music CDs require CD players, but the players don’t cause the music. Software requires hardware, but the hardware doesn’t cause the software’s programs. A fine paintbrush is needed to paint a fine painting, but the paintbrush doesn’t cause the painting but the artist using the paintbrush.

The question materialist atheists have to answer is this: “How do material objects, such as neurons with their associated apparatus of axons and dendrites, cause immaterial outcomes such as sensations, emotions, and ideas?… How can we be confident that the brain is a manufacturing plant for the mind and not merely a gateway or transmission belt?”

If minds are shadows/epiphenomenons that don’t do anything, why do we have minds? It is unlikely evolution would provide mental functions if they were irrelevant.

And if the mind is just an illusion with no existence, then the very thought, idea, and truth of “the mind is just an illusion with no existence” doesn’t exist either. It’s self-contradictory.

The notion that the mind is the brain (Daniel Dennett) doesn’t work either. Mental states are private, known only to the person; brains are not private and can be known by an outside observer. Mental states cannot be spatially located; brain states can. Mental states are about something and intentionally refer to something external to themselves; this is not the case with brain states. A person is infallible concerning their mental state, about their own thoughts; a person cannot be infallible concerning their brain state. A person cannot be mistaken about what they themselves experience mentally; a person can be mistaken about their own brain state, which a neuroscientist may know more about through technology and observation. Moreover, if two different people have the same mental state, that does NOT mean they have the same brain state. Human brains are wired differently from individual to individual.

The mind is not what it makes a person do either. One can remove actions or cease to act and the mental experience still be there. Mental experiences can exist apart from any behavior and perhaps from any physical manifestation.

Philosophers like Thomas Nagel (click here for more info) and Frank Jackson have soundly argued that even a full understanding of brain physiology will never reveal mental states, that mental states can never be reduced to purely physical terms.

The mind is not the output of a computer either. We cannot build computers that do what the mind does and experiences. Of course, the notion of the mind as a computer doesn’t preclude the notion of life after death since one might download and upload the mind. Moreover, a computer merely manipulates symbols; it isn’t really conscious of what it is doing like the human mind. Computers can do syntax but not semantics; they can follow rules but can’t discern meaning. No computer, however complex, will ever be able to think and be conscious.

Neuroscience has only shown its own inherent limitations and blindspots. Science is limited to the study of material things that are objective and publicly observable. The “scientific” argument against the soul (mind/consciousness) collapses because the soul is not material or objective. Neuroscience thus makes life after death a plausible notion, though perhaps not persuasive and credible on its own.

Neuroscience has also shown that mental activity actually reconstitutes and reprograms the neurons in our brain. The mind, the person, the human will, shapes and forms the physical brain.

Physician Jeffrey Schwartz treats OCD patients and developed what he calls “cognitive therapy.” This therapy involves patients learning to refocus their minds away from their compulsions and toward other thoughts and actions. Not only has the therapy been successful in many cases, but it has shown that a person can willfully rewire and bring order to their own previously disordered brains. The mind is controlling the matter, not the other way around!

The placebo and nocebo effects also demonstrate how the mind changes the body, including the brain.

The concept of neuroplasticity is a relatively new term to describe how the mind can change the physical arrangements in the brain. Psychiatrist Norman Doige has employed this concept and a therapy similar to Dr. Schwartz’s to successfully treat a variety of mental disabilities.

If the mind is independent enough to create changes in the body, especially the brain, it seems reasonable to suppose the mind can survive the dissolution of the body, including specifically the brain.

Dr. Schwartz and physicist Henry Stapp are using discoveries in quantum physics to explain these mysterious/miraculous phenomena/treatments. They believe that consciousness operates at the quantum level to create a physical force. They believe the patients can, through trained volition/consciousness, fix and rearrange the position of subatomic particles and thus transform the physical reality within the brain.

Consciousness is perhaps the most perplexing and mysterious subject in science, and yet it is the most obvious and self-evident thing to the ordinary person. Human consciousness has no physical explanation yet we can see its physical consequences in medicine. Consciousness has no good evolutionary explanation either.

Consciousness must exist. If consciousness doesn’t really exist, than we can’t be conscious of the fact that consciousness doesn’t exist. To deny consciousness is self-contradictory.

Philosopher David Chalmers argues we should accept consciousness as an irreducible element of reality, just like matter and energy in physics.

Quantum uncertainty creates rational/scientific room for free will.

“Thus a strict materialism refutes itself for the reason given long ago by Professor Haldane: ‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motion of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true…and hence no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” -C.S. Lewis, Miracles

If we presume morality, we must presume free will too. And free will is inherently spiritual and supernatural by definition (i.e. not a result of physical cause and effect). Free will and atheistic materialism are incompatible. Thus morality and atheistic materialism are incompatible.

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Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Church, Not State: The Christian Approach to Health Care

Posted by Tony Listi on December 1, 2009

St. Luke, the physician

Christians cannot and should not try to separate their religious beliefs from their political beliefs. Faith must inform our morals, and morality must inform our politics. So what does the Christian faith have to say about health care? Quite a bit actually.

Christianity is fully embodied in Catholicism, and Catholicism uniquely reveres, embraces, and is founded upon the authoritative traditions of the early Church. So the answer to “What does the Christian faith have to say about health care” is another question: how did the early Church traditionally approach health care? (Scripturally, some important information on early Christian charitable work in general can be found in the Book of Acts and some of St. Paul’s letters but very little specific to health care aside from miraculous healings and the institution of the Sacrament of the Sick through the letter of St. James, 5:14-15.)

The history of institutionalized health care is so intimately intertwined with the history of Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, that it is no exaggeration to say that the latter gave rise to the former.

But for the purposes of the current American health care debate, two main questions stand out: Did the early Church relinquish all responsibility for care of the sick to the state (the Roman Empire)? Did it demand the state tax the rich heavily to pay for health care for everyone?

On both counts, no, it didn’t. And it is so frustrating that the leadership of Christian churches, but especially that of the Catholic Church, as well as many lay Christians have ignored the history of the Church with regard to this issue.

Even before the persecution of Christianity stopped, the early Church assumed full responsibility for the sick (including their pagan persecutors) and financed their hospitals through private charity.

According to a Christianity Today article, reviewing the book Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

As early as A.D. 251, according to letters from the time, the church in Rome cared for 1,500 widows and those who were distressed. A hundred years later, Antioch supported 3,000 widows, virgins, sick, poor, and travelers. This care was organized by the church and delivered through deacons and volunteer societies…. When the plague of Cyprian struck in 250 and lasted for years, this volunteer corps became the only organization in Roman cities that cared for the dying and buried the dead. Ironically, as the church dramatically increased its care, the Roman government began persecuting the church more heavily.

Outside their close family and perhaps friends, most pagans cared nothing for their fellow human beings, whom they did not consider to be brothers made in the image and likeness of God, as Christians did. We should expect nothing less with health care under the neo-pagan political left in America today. Ideas have consequences; indeed they have already occurred in de-Christianized Europe. Just as the pagans before them, leftists are willing and even eager to kill the weakest among us, i.e. the unborn (or even born) child, the elderly, and the mentally or physically disabled.

According to sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt in How Christianity Changed the World:

Charity hospitals for the poor and indigent public did not exist until Christianity introduced them…. [T]he first ecumenical council of the Christian church at Nicaea in 325 directed bishops to establish a hospice in every city that had a cathedral…. The first hospital was built by St. Basil in Caesarea in Cappadocia about A.D. 369…. After St. Basil’s hospital was built in the East and another in Edessa in 375, Fabiola, a wealthy widow and an associate of St. Jerome, built the first hospital in the West, a nosocomium, in the city of Rome in about 390. According to Jerome, Fabiola donated all of her wealth (which was considerable) to construct this hospital, to which she brought the sick from off the streets in Rome….

The building of hospitals continued. St. Chrysostom (d. 407), the patriarch of the Eastern church, had hospitals built in Constantinople in the late fourth and early fifth centuries, and St. Augustine (354-430), bishop of Hippo in northern Africa, was instrumental in adding hospitals in the West. By the sixth century, hospitals also had become a common part of monasteries. Hence, by the middle of the sixth century in most of Christendom, in the East and the West, ‘hospitals were securely established.’ Also in the sixth century, hospitals received an additional boost when the Council of Orleans (France) passed canons assuring their protection, and in the last quarter of the same century, Pope Gregory the Great did much to advance the importance of hospitals….

By 750 the growth of Christian hospitals, either as separate units or attached to monasteries, had spread from Continental Europe to England…. And by the mid-1500s there were 37,000 Benedictine monasteries that cared for the sick….

The Crusaders also founded healthcare orders, providing health care to all, Christian and Muslim alike. The Order of Hospitallers recruited women for nursing the sick. The Hospitallers of St. Lazarus, founded in the East in the twelfth century, devoted themselves primarily to nursing. This order spread to Europe, where it founded many more hospitals and treated people with various diseases. The Knights of the Order of Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem (Knights of Malta) not only operated and maintained hospitals, but also admitted the insane. They founded a Christian insane asylum in 1409 in Valencia, Spain.

According to historian Gary Ferngren in Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity:

The experience gained by the congregation-centered care of the sick over several centuries gave early Christians the ability to create rapidly in the late fourth century a network of efficiently functioning institutions that offered charitable medical care, first in monastic infirmaries and later in the hospital.

The Protestant Revolution, the Endarkenment, the French Revolution, and its intellectual descendants have brought abrupt and sometimes violent disruptions, if not a complete end, to this vast charitable network in many places. Yes, “evil” religion and “papism” had to be smashed and replaced by the “humanitarian” Animal Farm of the Leviathan state. Ha, how “compassionate.” But I digress….

Now, am I suggesting that the U.S. return to the exact health care system of the early Church? Of course not! This straw man entirely misses the point that I’m trying to communicate here. I’m not suggesting a structure and system in itself but rather an approach and a set of principles that need to be incorporated into the American health care system. And the Christian churches, esp. the Catholic Church, need to recommit themselves to their obligation to care for the indigent sick and need to take an active role in articulating and promoting these Christian principles to everyone.

What are those principles?

  1. Generally and most importantly, care for the physical needs of human beings do NOT override Christian moral imperatives not to steal and commit violence, even from and against the rich. Spiritual needs override any physical needs.
  2. The health of the poor in one’s local community must be a pressing concern of all Christians.
  3. Care for the sick is an essential duty of local churches that should not be relinquished to the nation-state.
  4. In general, care for the sick is not to be financed by state-coerced wealth redistribution but by the patients themselves or charity.
  5. However, to whom much is given, much is expected. The rich are morally obligated to voluntarily direct their wealth to the health care of the poor, starting in their local communities.
  6. If the state is to assist in financing health care in any way (which I doubt is necessary), it should be done as locally as possible, according to the Catholic moral principle of subsidiarity.

Medicine today is vastly more accurate, comprehensive, sophisticated, technological, and effective. That also means that, aside from higher costs caused by government interference in the industry,  health care is naturally more expensive now because it is so much more valuable than it was centuries ago. But none of these facts change or undermine the Christian principles I’ve laid out above. Politics itself has shown that more than enough money can be raised through a well-organized solicitation of voluntary donations.

The fact that modern medicine can treat so many maladies naturally and psychologically creates more pressure to assure every sick person receives treatment. But again, that pressure should not tempt us to stifle charity through state-enforced plunder. That pressure belongs on us as individuals, esp.  the rich, who must care for modern-day Lazarus or face an eternal punishment.

It is an inverse relationship and a zero sum game between government control and Christian charity. The former stifles the latter. Even if socialized medicine did work better (it never does), it would do no good for us to gain all the bodily health in the world yet become mortally and spiritually sick in the process.

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity and Politics, Church History, Government and Politics, Health Care, Moral Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Scienceolatry: Science as a Religion and Idol

Posted by Tony Listi on April 26, 2009

Our student newspaper, the Battalion, seems to worship the All-Powerful, Almighty Science, who saves all from death and conservatism (secular sin), especially one staff writer in particular, Mr. Tiruvadi:

“[M]any Americans are just getting sick of sectarian bickering and dogma, turning away from organized religion and instead toward an optimistic humanism that accurately reflects 21st century hopes…. As time went on and pesky scientists were dealt with, the inevitable transition of atheism from the dark arts to an acceptable religious identity accelerated. What we’re seeing now is the natural extension of the spirit that started the science ball rolling centuries ago…. Religion is often associated with vehement opposition to stem cell research, classroom science lessons, individuals exercising their rights and sexual scandals while those that don’t believe are seen as intellectual elitists.”

The irony is that there would be no modern science without the Judeo-Christian tradition. Virtually all other religious traditions, those of the gentiles and pagans, thought of the physical world as permanently divine and thus irrational (for their gods were capricious). Only with the coming of Yahweh, the Creator of the natural world, did humanity powerfully come to see order and reason to the universe, an order which by human reason could be measured, studied, recorded, even manipulated. The story of Galileo has grown into an atheist/agnostic myth over time. There is no real conflict between science/reason and Christianity.  Humanism, divorced from divinely sanctioned morality, must degrade into horrific, totalitarian power-worship over time.

Tiruvadi also writes, “As our excellence in science, arts and business increases we will see a shift in public misconceptions of A&M, fortified by our increasingly knowledgeable faculty and research focus…. In the coming decades we’ll find ourselves deeper into the vanguard of science, a place where our definition of tradition will really be tested and we’ll be confronted with controversial opportunities. For example, will A&M’s participation in stem cell research be an affront to its tradition? If you define A&M’s tradition as wholly steeped in conservatism then yes, we’ll have to forsake our brain just to be a big heart. Will we let misconceptions of the theory of evolution get in the way of how we teach biology? Luckily the integrity of science is still strong at A&M, but growing reactionary views can bring even science dangerously close to conservatism’s guillotine.”

Ironically, the guillotine was the instrument of the “progressive” French Revolution, which also idolized rationality and science and attempted to destroy all signs and symbols of organized religion. How appropriate that those who worshipped rationality would execute their heretics by chopping off the seat of such rationality! “Conservatism’s guillotine” is an oxymoron.

Media Credit: Jordan Bryan

Obama seems to have become Tiruvadi’s Scientist in Chief: “This may very well be the closest we get to a scientific-messiah-president, and that’s good news for every American…. America is still at the vanguard of scientific innovation, with brilliant minds paving the way…. The promise of stem cells as a viable cure in any disease is still up in the air, but as science always says, you don’t know until you know. And now, with a President that doesn’t resort to religion-laden stem cell rhetoric, we might finally know.” Thanks Yogi! Brilliant!

Science says touch your toes…. Touch your head. No, you’re out, I didn’t say “Science says“!

And they call us religious nuts? Who says science can’t be perverted into a religion (scientism) with their own messiah and dogma to go with it?

I could argue with Mr. Tiruvadi ad nauseam. But nothing I could say would be as powerful as three movies: The Island, Gattaca, and Brave New World. As I’m sure he would agree, seeing is believing, no? These are three must-see movies for everyone.

Science has methods and nothing more. It has no ethical standards in and of itself. Ethical standards must be applied to science from without. Science is knowledge and thus power. Power has no ethical standards in and of itself. Power-worship merely takes different forms throughout history. The golden calf, the hammer and sickle, and the swastika have all seemingly been replaced by the glass test tube.

Yet this is precisely what Mr. Tiruvadi and others like him seem to claim: science can do no wrong. They are not willing to engage in a moral debate because science sets the terms of morality, or, even worse, has “determined” that morality is a biological-sociological phenomenon, a delusion of sorts. “There is no good and evil; there is only power and those too weak to seek it.” When does human life begin? Does innocent human life have dignity and thus deserve protection, no matter the stage of its growth and development? These questions are brushed aside as heresy, as challenges to scientismic dogma.

Ironically, science itself tells us when human life begins: conception. Humanity can be scientifically defined, more or less, by genetic material, 46 chromosomes. And life can be defined, more or less, by the presence of cells, especially those which grow and divide. Thus conception is the exact moment at which humanity and life become one and find coexistence. So tell me, which book of the Bible or religious dogma did I just cite? The left abandons reason rather than embracing it.

In contrast, scientism and its acolytes often wish to define human dignity on a sliding scale based on intelligence; the intelligent may thus oppress or even enslave the ungifted and untalented. The mentally disabled, the senile, the comatose, and even the child, within or outside the mother, are thus expendable according to this strict logic.

We have seen communism and fascism, leftist ideologies both, deny human dignity and use the power of the state to commit genocide and enslave human beings. Perhaps the worst is yet to come under neo-pagan scientism, for it promises a power over human beings that not even Hitler or Lenin could have imagined, a miserable totalitarian power that only fictional movies can capture and illustrate…for now.

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Fascism, Government and Politics, Hollywood and the Film Industry, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Political Psychoanalysis, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Pharaoh’s chariots found in Red Sea?

Posted by Tony Listi on December 22, 2008

http://wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=19382

Pharaoh’s chariots found in Red Sea?
‘Physical evidence’ of ancient Exodus
prompting new look at Old Testament


Posted: June 21, 2003
1:00 am Eastern

By Joe Kovacs


WorldNetDaily.com

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” (Exodus 14:21)

One of the most famous stories of the Bible is God’s parting of the Red Sea to save the Israelites from the Egyptian army and the subsequent drowning of soldiers and horses in hot pursuit.

But is there evidence that such an event did in fact happen – and if so, precisely where did it take place?

The issue is surfacing some 3,500 years after the event is said to have taken place with reports of Egyptian chariot wheels found in the Red Sea, photographs to document it and new books by scientists that could lead to a whole remapping of the Exodus route and a fresh look at ancient biblical accounts.

Wheel of fortune


Is this a chariot wheel that chased Moses?

“I am 99.9 percent sure I picked up a chariot wheel,” Peter Elmer tells WorldNetDaily after two diving trips to the Gulf of Aqaba branch of the sea. “It was covered in coral.”

The 38-year-old forklift mechanic from Keynsham, England, traveled to the region with his brother, Mark, after being inspired by videos of explorers Ron Wyatt and Jonathan Gray, who have documented artifacts that in at least one case authorities have confirmed to be a chariot wheel dating to the time of the Exodus.

“I believe I actually sat in an ancient chariot cab,” Elmer said, referring to his time exploring a submerged item in what he describes as an underwater scrapyard. “Without question, it is most definitely the remains of the Egyptian army.”

But despite all of Elmer’s excitement, others who have been to the same location are not so sure what is being viewed underwater are the remnants of the great chase and urge extreme caution regarding the unsubstantiated claims.

“All kinds of people are finding coral and calling it chariot parts,” says Richard Rives, president of Wyatt Archaeological Research in Tennessee. “It’s most likely coral covered with coral. … Opportunists are combining false things with the true things that are found. These people are making it up as they go to be TV stars.”

Rives was a longtime partner of Ron Wyatt, an anesthetist and amateur archaeologist who died of cancer in 1999. Before passing away, Wyatt devoted years searching for and documenting physical evidence for events mentioned in the Bible. In addition to chariot wheels, Wyatt claimed to have found Noah’s Ark on the mountain next to Ararat in Turkey, the “true” Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia and the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments near the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.


Submerged ‘land bridge’ (wyattmuseum.com)

Among those who accompanied Wyatt on many of his excursions is his wife, Mary Nell. She’s concerned about over-exuberance regarding new claims, but the Spring Hill, Tenn., woman tells WorldNetDaily she’s “convinced” there are chariot parts located on a subsurface “land bridge” connecting Egypt to Saudi Arabia through the Gulf of Aqaba.

She cites Ron’s discovery of a wheel hub that he brought to the surface in the late 1970s as proof.

The hub had the remains of eight spokes radiating outward and was examined by Nassif Mohammed Hassan, director of Antiquities in Cairo. Hassan declared it to be from the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, explaining the eight-spoked wheel was used only during that dynasty around 1400 B.C.

Curiously, no one can account for the precise whereabouts of that eight-spoked wheel today, though Hassan is on videotape stating his conclusion regarding authenticity.

When Mary Nell went diving with Ron, she says it was very easy to assume (wrongly) that every item on the flat bottom had historical significance.

“[At first] I thought everything was a chariot wheel!” Mrs. Wyatt exclaimed, noting how difficult it is for the untrained eye to distinguish an artifact from a piece of coral. “I’m just trying to be cautious about over-identifying too much. … It is God’s truth, and we can’t hype it up. We can’t add to it.”

However, she notes a big problem for explorers and scientists is that the Egyptian government no longer allows items to be removed from the protected region. Thus, someone claiming to find an artifact will have a hard – if not impossible – time verifying its authenticity, a classic catch-22.

The watery grave

“And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” (Exodus 14:28)

The Bible account makes it clear that once the Israelites had marched through the parted sea on dry ground, that the waters rushed back to completely engulf the doomed army of ancient Egypt.

With that in mind, many of the items being seen in the Gulf of Aqaba have been photographed by divers for comparison to the Exodus story.

Many other photographs show formations in a circular pattern with projections that could be spokes, but those items remain at the bottom and have not been authenticated.

Another issue is the route of the Exodus, and which body of water the Israelites crossed. Many travel maps and Bibles indicate a crossing point in the Gulf of Suez, the western branch of the Red Sea. But those may have to be updated if the Aqaba location is confirmed as the true location for the miraculous event.

“The truth is, no one really knows where the crossing of the Red Sea took place,” says Carl Rasmussen, a biblical geographer and professor of Old Testament at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn.

Rasmussen compiled the “Zondervan NIV Atlas of the Bible” and personally thinks the crossing took place somewhere along what is now the Suez Canal.


Yellow highlights possible spot of Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia. Gulf of Aqaba branch of Red Sea is at center, with main Red Sea at bottom-right of photo (wyattmuseum.com)

Some scientists from Europe say the current maps are wrong, and the Wyatts are right – that the crossing began at the Nuweiba beachhead, went through the Gulf of Aqaba, and then into what is now Saudi Arabia where they claim the “true” Mount Sinai is located.

For years, scholars have speculated as to the location of the actual Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. At least 13 sites have actually been claimed on the Sinai peninsula as being the correct spot.

But Ron Wyatt believed it was in Arabia, even referenced as “mount Sinai in Arabia” by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 4:25.

So he and his sons made their way to “Jebel a Lawz,” the mountain of the Law, which is known by the locals as “Jebel Musa” – Moses’ mountain.

Unfortunately for the Wyatts, they were arrested and held in prison. His wife says someone had phoned embassy authorities for the Muslim country, claiming that Ron was spying for Israel. They were released after spending 78 days behind bars.

Rasmussen doesn’t agree with the Arabian Mount Sinai theory.

“I believe the strongest candidate is Jebel Sin Bisher,” he told WorldNetDaily. “The sites in Saudi Arabia have very, very weak scriptural backing, in spite of the hype.”

Now, a new book by Cambridge University physicist Colin Humphreys titled “The Miracles of Exodus” supports not only the claim for an Aqaba crossing, but also the location of Mount Sinai in Arabia.

“If my book is correct, and I believe the evidence is very strong,” says Humphreys, “then world maps will need to be redrawn to relocate Mount Sinai. History books, travel guides and biblical commentaries will need to be rewritten.”

Throughout his work, Humphreys provides scientific explanations to corroborate the accounts of the Old Testament.

“‘The waters piled up, the surging waters stood firm like a wall,’ is a remarkable description of what the mathematics reveals to be the case for water pushed back by a very strong wind,” he writes.

“What I have found is that the events of the Exodus are even more dramatic than is generally believed,” Humphreys said. “The Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egypt really is one of the greatest true stories ever told.”

A Swedish scientist who believes the Red Sea was split says while Humphreys is correct about the Aqaba crossing, there are no natural, scientific explanations for the parting miracle described in Scripture.


Walls of water as depicted in ‘The Ten Commandments’ (Paramount Pictures)

“The wind did not separate the water,” says Lennart Moller of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. “No person could be in that wind and survive. … If God has created all the Earth, it’s no problem for Him to separate the water for a while.”

Speaking to WorldNetDaily from the isle of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, Moller, the author of “The Exodus Case,” says the key in finding the correct route of the Israelites is to understand that the Hebrew reference to “yum suph” does not mean “sea of reeds” as many scholars have claimed.

Moller says it refers specifically to the Gulf of Aqaba, and while he’s not formally affiliated with the Wyatts, he agrees with them that a host of other evidence can be found on the Arabian side of the water, including remains of the golden calf, pillars, altars and the even the rock the Bible says Moses split to bring forth water for the Israelites.

Regarding the items found beneath the waters, Moller believes there are remnants not only of chariots and wheels, but also human and animal skeletons.

“There was a disaster [there] a long time ago,” he said. “Whatever that is, it’s open to interpretation.”

He also notes that the downward and upward slope of the Aqaba crossing path actually falls within current U.S. standards for handicapped ramps.

And while Mary Nell Wyatt warns overstating the claims by divers and authors could do more harm than good, she does believe there’s a reason why her husband was led to discover what Ron called “God’s attention-getters.”

“God preserved all these evidences,” she said, “[otherwise] there would have been nothing left. … God has been lost today. Even Christians still can’t believe this all happened. … We need to pray for the Lord to help us get people to see it.”

Back in England, Peter Elmer says people have mockingly asked “Why should a forklift mechanic from Keynsham be able to go to the same place Moses was?”

He takes the criticism in stride, pointing out “Jesus used fishermen, tax collectors and publicans. Why not a forklift mechanic?”

Posted in Religion and Theology, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A Change of Heart on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Posted by Tony Listi on August 11, 2008

Dr. Ken Miller, a Roman Catholic professor of biology at Brown University, examines Intelligent Design as a political phenomenon and addresses two of its key objections: the paucity of intermediate organisms in the fossil record and, more importantly, Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity. He takes these scientific objections to evolution seriously and then scientifically refutes them with specific examples. He does not dismiss such objections merely as “religious” and then end the discussion.

This video of his lecture has changed my view of the ID movement and my thinking on the science behind evolution. I’m more inclined to think evolution is a sound theory now.

It has not changed my belief that science should not be funded by the government nor that there is a hostile, secular, aggressively anti-religious bias within much of the scientific establishment and academia in general.

I am not a creationist and the Christian faith does not compel belief in creationism as literalist Protestants define it.

The natural process of evolution need not contradict the existence of God and his Providence. Thus, neither does it preclude the existence of morality. I mean, what would it say about morality if we really believed a material, natural process could influence its validity at all? That is what liberalism/secularism believes. Creationists make a dangerous misstep since their logic implies this too. Though evolution has certainly been used to justify horrible crimes, so has religion. And we should reject the flawed logic of such criminals that misuse both science and religion.

I am a big fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s biblical argument in defense of evolution:

“We read in Genesis 2:7 that ‘the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.’ Right away we notice something different: the Bible says that the universe was created out of nothing but it does not say that man was created out of nothing. Rather, it says that man was made or shaped from the existing substance of nature. ‘Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.’ So the Bible is quite consistent with the idea that man is made up of atoms and molecules and shares the same DNA found in earthworms, whales, and monkeys.

It is true, however, that the creation account in Genesis does not prepare us for the discovery that man has about 98 percent of his DNA in common with apes. In his Descent of Man, Darwin writes that ‘man…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.’ Our resistance to this is not religious; it is because we sense a significant chasm between ourselves and chimpanzees. Of course Darwin is not saying that man is descended from chimpanzees, only that apes and man are descended from a common ancestor. Whatever the merits of this theory, there is no reason to reject it purely on biblical grounds. Christians since medieval times have agreed with Aristotle that man is an animal–a ‘rational animal,’ but still an animal.

What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him. Thus there is no theological problem in viewing the bodily frame of man as derived from other creatures. The Bible stresses God’s resolution, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Christians have always understood God as a spiritual rather than a material being. Consequently if man is created in the ‘likeness’ of God, the resemblance is clearly not physical. When Jared Diamond in his book The Third Chimpanzee refers to humans as ‘little more than glorified chimpanzees,’ he is unwittingly making a Christian point. We may have common ancestors with the animals, but we are glorified animals.”

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Education, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Religion Creates Social Order and Happiness

Posted by Tony Listi on June 19, 2008

Strong and repeated evidence indicates that the regular practice of religion has beneficial effects in nearly every aspect of social concern and policy. This evidence shows that religious practice protects against social disorder and dysfunction.

Specifically, the available data clearly indicate that religious belief and practice are associated with:

* Higher levels of marital happiness and stability;
* Stronger parent-child relationships;
* Greater educational aspirations and attainment, especially among the poor;
* Higher levels of good work habits;
* Greater longevity and physical health;
* Higher levels of well-being and happiness;
* Higher recovery rates from addictions to alcohol or drugs;
* Higher levels of self-control, self-esteem, and coping skills;
* Higher rates of charitable donations and volunteering; and
* Higher levels of community cohesion and social support for those in need.

The evidence further demonstrates that religious belief and practice are also associated with:

* Lower divorce rates:
* Lower cohabitation rates;
* Lower rates of out-of-wedlock births;
* Lower levels of teen sexual activity;
* Less abuse of alcohol and drugs;
* Lower rates of suicide, depression, and suicide ideation;
* Lower levels of many infectious diseases;
* Less juvenile crime;
* Less violent crime; and
* Less domestic violence.

No other dimension of life in America-with the exception of stable marriages and families, which in turn are strongly tied to religious practice-does more to promote the well-being and soundness of the nation’s civil society than citizens’ religious observance. As George Washington asserted, the success of the Republic depends on the practice of religion by its citizens. These findings from 21st century social science support his observation.

Read more details at: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Religion/bg1992.cfm

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Science and Religion, Sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Global Warming: A Rational Examination and Theological Implications

Posted by Tony Listi on April 30, 2008

http://www.acton.org/media/20080417_christians_and_global_warming.php

This is one of the best rational examinations of the issue of global warming that I have ever seen. The guy is a philosopher by training, so he knows how to break down an issue rationally. He provides a very good holistic look at this hot topic.

As Christians, we have a duty to be stewards of God’s creation, including earth itself. But we also have a duty to think critically in practically applying theological beliefs. We have a duty to the truth and to the poor. The truth is that global warming may not be bad, may not be caused by human actions, and may be beyond our control to do anything about. And the proposed policies coming from the alarmists will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable among us. These reckless and disastrous proposals have made global warming a moral issue for conservatives!

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Global Warming and Environment, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Science and Politics, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Contraception: Why Not?

Posted by Tony Listi on April 20, 2008

Dr. Janet Smith explains why the Catholic Church keeps insisting, in the face of the opposite position held by most of the rest of the modern world, that contraception is one of the worst inventions of our time.

http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/sexuality/se0002.html

My topic for tonight is the Church’s teaching on contraception and various sexual issues. As you know, we live in a culture that thinks that contraception is one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind. If you were to ask people if they wanted to give up their car or their computer or their contraceptive, it would be a hard choice to make. It’s really considered to be something that has really put us, greatly, into the modern age and one of the greatest advances of modern medicine and modern times. Yet, there’s this archaic church that tells us that, really, this is one of the worst inventions of mankind. According to the Church, contraception is one of the things that’s plunging us into a kind of a disaster.

So we have this great polarization: a world that thinks contraception is one of the greatest inventions of our time and the Catholic Church that says it’s one of the worst. I am going to try to help people see tonight why the Church’s teaching certainly deserves serious consideration.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in American Culture, Catholicism, Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Moral Philosophy, Religion and Theology, Science and Religion, Sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Priest-Cosmologist Wins Prize for Universe Research

Posted by Tony Listi on March 13, 2008

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/science/13prize.html?ex=1206072000&en=05f8fd66cce9b0b4&ei=5070&emc=eta1 

The $1.6 million Templeton Prize, the richest award made to an individual by a philanthropic organization, was given Wednesday to Michael Heller, 72, a Roman Catholic priest, cosmologist and philosopher who has spent his life asking, and perhaps more impressively answering, questions like “Does the universe need to have a cause?”

The John Templeton Foundation, which awards grants to encourage scientific discovery on the “big questions” in science and philosophy, commended Professor Heller, who is from Poland, for his extensive writings that have “evoked new and important consideration of some of humankind’s most profound concepts.”

Much of Professor Heller’s career has been dedicated to reconciling the known scientific world with the unknowable dimensions of God.

In doing so, he has argued against a “God of the gaps” strategy for relating science and religion, a view that uses God to explain what science cannot.

Professor Heller said he believed, for example, that the religious objection to teaching evolution “is one of the greatest misunderstandings” because it “introduces a contradiction or opposition between God and chance.”

In a telephone interview, Professor Heller explained his affinity for the two fields: “I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us knowledge, and religion gives us meaning. Both are prerequisites of the decent existence.”

Professor Heller said he planned to use his prize to create a center for the study of science and theology at the Pontifical Academy of Theology, in Krakow, Poland, where he is a faculty member.

Professor Heller was born in 1936 in Tarnow, Poland, one of five children in a deeply religious family devoted to intellectual interests. His mother, a schoolteacher, and his father, a mechanical and electrical engineer, fled to Russia in 1939 before the Nazi occupation.

On returning years later to Poland, where Communist authorities sought to oppress intellectuals and priests, Professor Heller found shelter for his work in the Catholic Church. He was ordained at 23, but spent just one year ministering to a parish before he felt compelled to return to academia.

“It was one of the most difficult years of my life,” Professor Heller said. “This confrontation of this highly idealistic approach to life with everyday life is very painful.”

“When I was asked to attend to a dying person,” he said, “I was not prepared for life myself, so I had a difficult time to prepare someone to pass away. When you are confronted with such an immediate fact, you never think about the high goals of your life.”

The prize will be officially awarded in London by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in a private ceremony on May 7 at Buckingham Palace.

(For more information on the Templeton Prize: http://www.templetonprize.org/purpose.html)

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The Christian Roots of Modern Science

Posted by Tony Listi on March 11, 2008

Science has theological roots. This is so because Christianity (or at least Catholicism) has never been hostile to the use of reason. In fact, reason is a gift from God, a spark of the divine, and a reflection of the image and likeness of God in ourselves.

Have you ever wondered why modern science (and the university) arose in Europe rather than in some other part of the world? It is a fact of history that Western philosophical and scientific advancement began well before the secularism of the so-called Enlightenment. The answer is that Europe had Christianity and Christianity embraced reason. Should we be surprised that some of the greatest scientists and philosophers in history have been Christians? No. Pagan religions thought that the natural world was full of spirits or that many gods governed and interfered with the natural world. Thus under both systems, the world was mysterious, unpredictable, capricious, and uncontrollable. This was not good philosophical and paradigmatic soil for science. The Chinese came close with the conception of the Tao, a vast undefinable and impersonal force that ordered the universe. But a belief in order alone is not suffucient for science; one must also believe that human beings can discover and grasp that order. This latter belief was not present among the Chinese, probably because there was no idea of a personal God.

Then came Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which show greater openness to reason. Judaism planted the seeds of reason for the other two religions and for what would become science. The Old Testament reveals that the natural world is a creation of God. Recall that God chastises people for worshipping idols, which were merely nature, His creation. (See also the Book of Wisdom 13:1-4). Nature is governed according to God’s laws (See Job 38:4-5). It is not filled with spirits and God inteferes with this creation only in certain circumstances and for his particular purposes. The notion of the world as the creation of God would be adopted by Christianity and would lay the foundation for the concept of nature as an object of study distinct and separate from the divine. Indeed, the Judeo-Christian concept of a “miracle” would have had no special significance (e.g. as proof of the divine) without the Judeo-Christian paradigm of a naturally ordered material world.

Islam did not develop modern science because the very religion oppressed philosophers whose ideas seemed to challenge the very principles of the religion itself (al-Ghazali vs. Averroes). The Qur’an was the perfect book with perfect knowledge; what need was there of scientific literature? Moreover, the Qur’an portrays Allah as having absolute freedom and sovereignty. Ideas such as goodness, rationality, truth, and anything else do not constrain Allah (Qur’an 5:64).

But Judaism and Islam are primarily religions of law and thus concerned with jurisprudence. Thus reasoned debate and and exploration tend to focus narrowly on legal codes. Christianity, however, is a religion of creed and doctrine. Christians seek to know what are the correct set of beliefs and what is the relationship between God and man. Christian theologians thus have always exercised reason in order to understand the ways of God in a way that most religions do not. Theological argumentation was the pre-cursor of science.

This may have begun most prominently with St. Augustine who attempted to tackle some of the deepest and most difficult theological and philosophical problems in history: free will, the existence of evil, God’s existence and the nature of that existence, God’s relationship to time itself, etc.

St. Thomas Aquinas also wrote reasonably with arguments: “We shall first try to manifest the truth that faith professes and reason investigates, setting forth demonstrative and probable arguments, so that the truth may be confirmed and the adversary convinced.” Faith alone is not enough; reason should demonstrate and confirm the truth.

St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God is also quite a piece of rational discourse. It was assailed by Kant, only to be defended later by Hegel, both whom are giants in the field of philosophy.

Augustine, Aquinas, and Anselm do NOT appeal to faith, revelation, or the Bible in formulating their arguments. Such things may form the backdrop or even the raw material for rational discourse and examination, but it cannot be claimed that Christianity has rejected reason in favor of blind faith alone.

Scientists today take for granted that their whole enterprise is based on a very Christian and faith based idea: the universe operates according to intelligible laws. The universe has an order to it and we can perceive and understand that order. Nature is mathematical. There is no logical or rational necessity that this should be so. It was Christianity (building upon the tradition of the pre-Socratic Greeks) that advanced the idea of a rational cosmos because it holds that God is rational (Jesus is the Word, the logos, which also means “reason” in Greek).

(The material for this post was drawn from D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity and The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Bible and Islam.)

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