Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

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 »

Children and Their Rights Unjustly Absent from Same-Sex “Marriage” Debate

Posted by Tony Listi on November 21, 2011

I’m getting really tired of seeing debates over same-sex “marriage” (SSM) that ignore, dismiss, or downplay children and their rights and that talk about marriage as if it were primarily an adult-centered civil institution. It is so sad that leftists, most libertarians, and many so-called “conservatives” treat children this way. The real debate over marriage as a public, civil institution should not be about adults but about children and children’s rights.

The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other for the sake of their children and their children’s rights. Marriage as a civil institution is about children; the law should recognize it as children-centered institution. Children and their rights are the reason why marriage is a public, civil institution (not merely a religious institution) and why it should have special legal status.

While not every marriage can or does bear fruit in the procreation of children, every child has a mother and father, and the well being of that child depends significantly upon the relationship between his or her mother and father, which marriage, as a civil and social institution, is designed to strengthen and stabilize.

The law should recognize these basic facts of biology, social science, and human nature and should protect the child’s rights by protecting marriage. Legal protection of marriage is necessary because children are unable to defend and protect their own rights, and the violation of those rights and consequent harm and damage done is extremely difficult to remedy satisfactorily after the fact.

SSM tries to change marriage from a children-centered civil institution to an adult-centered civil institution, necessarily perverting and destroying the essential public purpose of marriage and harming children, who depend upon marriage for their well being.

Many people often say that same-sex “marriage” (SSM) does “no harm to anyone.” While it might have little to no direct and immediate effect on adults and current marriages, SSM would certainlydirectly, and immediately harm future children by:

  1. Undermining, if not removing entirely, the children-centered nature of civil marriage, which children depend upon for their well being,
  2. Turn children into commodities to be manufactured and possessed that unrelated adults have a “right” to have, separating children from at least one parent as a matter of routine procedure,
  3. Empowering the state to routinely and arbitrarily assign parentage and custody of children without any regard for biology or genetics.

Marriage should not be about self-centered adults who want recognition and approval from the State for their private relationships which serve no public purpose. As a civil institution, marriage is not about the “happiness” or “rights” of adults but the happiness and rights of children. 

SSM strips away the essential public purpose of marriage (children and their rights) and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage. Under the new definition(s) of “marriage,” a whole host of private relationships having nothing to do with the procreation and proper raising of children could be considered a “marriage.” By the time the logic of these new definitions reaches its full implications, there will be nothing left of marriage except an absurd and dangerous government registry of roomates and friendships.

A relationship based on homosexual affection or behavior is no more deserving of legal recognition and approval than a relationship based on the activities of living together, golf, chess, dancing, or studying. Homosexual behavior, living together, golfing, playing chess, dancing, and studying are all private behaviors that serve no essential public purpose. If these individuals want to formalize their private relationship and create reciprocal rights and responsibilities amongst themselves, they are free to do that under the law using contracts. But of course, no private individual or corporation outside of that contractual relationship should be forced by government to recognize that contractual relationship and to perform some specific action because of the existence of that contractual relationship.

But marriage, a relationship based on procreating children and securing their positive rights, deserves special legal status that transcends contract law because it serves the very essential public purpose of procreating children and securing their positive rights. Marriage is more than a contract because it intends to create and care for an entirely new human being, an entirely new third party to the “contract” who has special positive rights that depend upon the marriage relationship itself to be secured.

Perhaps some people will argue that SSM and the creation and proper raising of children can go together…. But SSM inherently promotes and encourages the outrageous, immoral, and harmful notion that children are commodities or things which adults have a “right” to have, regardless of whether they are the biological parents of the children or not. On the contrary, children should be loved into existence and are persons with a positive right to a relationship with both biological parents, to know and be known by both biological parents.

Creating a child with the intention of preventing the child from having a relationship with one or both of his or her biological parents is cruel and unjust to the child. Artificial reproduction technology merely makes this injustice and cruelty more possible and likely than before. SSM thus tries to change marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents as a matter of routine procedure.

Most dangerously, SSM would lead to changes in parentage laws entailing the empowering of the State to assign the parentage of children to adults based on inherently arbitrary criteria rather than on biology. Currently, unless scientific testing shows otherwise, family law assumes that the father of a child is the husband of the mother of the child (i.e. presumption of paternity), if the mother is married. But by changing the legal definition of marriage from one man and one woman, the State is empowered to ignore human nature and biology and arbitarily assign children to the custody certain adults. Such changes create legal precedent for the State having complete and arbitrary control over children and to whom they belong. If you think this sounds far-fetched, it has already happened in Washington State.

This blog post draws heavily from the Ruth Institute’s pamphlet “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage.” Click here to get your copy!

Posted in American Culture, Government and Politics, Marriage, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Peeling Away Lies: The True History of the Spanish Inquisition

Posted by Tony Listi on June 3, 2011

“…historians are now discovering that the common notion of the Spanish Inquisition as some horrible, fanatical, all-encompassing bloodthirsty monster could not be further from the truth. Their conclusions come from the first-time ever study of the actual cases taken from the archives of the Inquisition itself…. Studying the archives of the Inquisition demolished the previous image that all of us had.” (BBC documentary “The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition”)

“The reason why accurate information about the Inquisition fails to penetrate the popular mind is not such a mystery at all. Numerous people have a vested interest in keeping the traditional image alive…. Those who resent the Church’s claim to moral authority use as their most effective weapon the allegation of hypocrisy….” -James Hitchcock, Professor of History at St. Louis University

There are so many myths, lies, and half-truths surrounding the history of the Inquisition. In this post, I’m going to set aside the philosophical, moral, and prudential considerations surrounding the issue. Let’s focus on the historical facts first, shall we? Some historical accuracy and perspective should be enough to defuse much of the hatred and animosity aimed at the Catholic Church.

First, some general historical facts:

The Inquisition technically had jurisdiction only over those professing to be Christians (i.e. Catholics). It did not have jurisdiction over those who did not claim to be Christian like Jews and Muslims.

States and kingdoms of the time explicitly and officially endorsed and embraced the Christian faith as the foundation of their own authority and the peace of civil society. Thus they saw an attack on the unity and purity of the Christian faith as an attack on them, their authority, and the public peace. This was not a new or unique idea in the previous history of the relationship between religion and politics. Furthermore, even by some imperfect modern standards, in point of fact, these heretical sects were indeed in many cases violent and destructive of civil society.

The Inquisition was a response to statist encroachment into doctrinal territory and overzealousness of the State and mobs of people in executing heretics. In the early 13th century, the Inquisition was born most likely in response to popular mobs’ and the State’s aggressive prosecution and punishment of heretics, especially the Cathari, a sect that taught that sexual intercourse and marriage was evil and that suicide was good under certain circumstances. The Church likely saw these secular tribunals as an encroachment on its authority with regard to what is true doctrine and what is heresy. So it decided to create its own body of judges that would exercise doctrinal authority and judgment in the name of the pope.

The Inquisition was not an all-powerful institution with unlimited power and supreme authority. Rather, it was under the authority of the pope and diocesan bishops and competed with the State and the local aristocracy in many instances. It was often overshadowed in the city and powerless in the country.

This rest of this post is going to focus on the Spanish Inquisition.

My primary source of historical information is going to be a TV program that the BBC that aired in 1995 called The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition (see videos below). Why? Because this TV documentary presents the views of scholars who actually examined the original and detailed achival records of the cases that came before the Spanish Inquisition. These internal records were never intended for public viewing. The documentary draws primarily upon the work of Professors Henry Kamen and Stephen Haliczer. There is also a Wikipedia article devoted to the new historical findings.

You can watch the documentary yourself, starting with the first YouTube video below (of five videos):

The documentary is no more than an hour long and well worth the watch. For those who don’t want to watch it or don’t have the time to, I’m going to highlight some key facts that it brings to light.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Church History, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What’s Wrong with the Phrase “Sex Life”

Posted by Tony Listi on February 3, 2011

I hate the phrase “sex life” and all the modern assumptions that lie behind it. Such a phrase elevates sex and sexual urges to a higher dignity than they deserves; the phrase reflects sexolatry. Some people act as if sexual urges were like hunger or thirst and thus need to be satisfied ASAP or else they will die or be miserable.

A person who overvalues sex will never be a truly happy person. Sex is an activity, not a “life,” and an activity that is not essential to human happiness and fulfillment. Happiness and fulfillment come from love, not regularly indulging sexual urges. Only to the extent that sex is loving does it contribute to true happiness and fulfillment. And sex is absolutely not the only form and manifestation of love.

A person may have a spiritual life, a work life, a social life, a married life (if called to marriage), and even a political life perhaps. For religion, work, society, marriage, and politics are no mere activities but very important elements of human life in general. It is natural and right that these aspects of life should require most of our personal time, attention, energy, and resources.

But for a person to have a “sex life” seems necessarily to imply lust and disorder. For sexual activity should be engaged in only within marriage, and sex, though an essential and the climactic element of married life, is still only one element of married life. For I would say that a marriage in which sex is the most dominant concern and feature of the relationship, to the point where the couple has a “sex life,” could not be a truly loving Christian marriage. It seems impossible to love your spouse when virtually your only or primary concern is when and how the next occasion for sex will be. I would also suspect that any such “sex life” would be short-lived, for an absence of love in a marriage will only lead to very painful suffering and heartache and thus to a situation in which neither wants to have sex with the other again.

Moreover, while sex within marriage can be loving, it isn’t necessarily loving just because the man and woman are married. Though sex is the ultimate act of marital love, it cannot be loving if the rest of married life, the non-sexual majority of married life, is unloving.

Thus, the phrase “sex life” is rarely used within the context of marriage for a variety of reasons. Rather, it is commonly used among young singles who have no moral qualms about premarital sex and some of whom will even engage in sexual activity on a weekly basis if not more often, whether casually or with a regular partner(s).

But to treat sex in this way, rather than as the fruit of married love, is actually to harm and degrade oneself and the other person. Paradoxically to some perhaps, the chaste who abstain from sex know the true value of sex and achieve the value it offers in only married life. For outside of marriage, sex is inherently unloving. Outside of the permanent commitment and union of marriage, sex is inherently an act of using the other person rather than an act of sacrifice, of truly giving oneself to the other person.

The purpose of the sexual act is to be an expression of Christ-like love toward one’s spouse. The love of Christ is fruitful, sacrificial, and joyful. That means the sexual act must be open to procreation, to the creation of a new human life, the primary fruit of marriage. And to deliberarely bring a child into the world is indeed to make a sacrifice of future time, attention, energy, and resources for the sake of the child and the spouse. Lastly, the sexual act should be one of joyful celebration. It should celebrate (and consummate) the love that should already exist between husband and wife. Yes, sex should be pleasurable (otherwise, you’re doing something wrong, haha). But love is a cause for joy, not mere pleasure. The natural physical pleasure of sex should complement the joyful celebration of marital love. But to have pleasure without joy is worse than pain itself. And to take joy in the wrong things is to be a miserable creature.

The truth that sex has specific divinely-sanctioned purposes and yet at the same time is completely unessential to human fulfillment is a truly Christian insight, one that is most firmly upheld and defended in Catholicism with its strict doctrines with regard to sex. Virginity and celibacy are given their due honor only in the Catholic Church, which alone has eunuchs who purposefully embrace celibacy for the sake of the kingdom of God. Sex too is given its due honor only in the Catholic Church because of its steadfast prohibition of contraception.

Posted in American Culture, Moral Philosophy, Sex, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

“Church and State” vs. Religion and Politics

Posted by Tony Listi on July 25, 2010

When I get tired of addressing the same misunderstandings over and over again, I decide to write a blog post about it that I can just send people to, rather than having to explain myself and common errors over and over again.

The “separation of church and state” is a common objection people of many political persuasions like to fling at conservatives, as if these objectors had any philosophical or historical understanding of the phrase and their interpretation of it.

There is a difference between the institutional separation of church and state vs. the philosophical separation between religion and politics. There is a difference between institutions and people vs. ideas and philosophy.

The former is possible, desirable, and necessary for the sake of both church and state. It is not good for priests, pastors, bishops, or popes to hold political offices outside of the Vatican. There have been times in the history of Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, when religious leaders wielded formal political authority too. But more importantly, before Christianity and after the Protestant Revolution, the state assumed religious authority as well, dictating to its subjects what they shall believe and how they shall act, subjecting religious leaders to political authority. In the modern era, this usurpation has been accomplished through government-run education and a variety of laws premised on anti-Christian principles.

The Crown and Parliament of England in particular controlled the Church of England. This reality is what motivated the American founders to enact the 1st Amendment which prohibited the “establishment of religion” at the national level (it did not prohibit established churches at the state level and many states had and retained these established churches after the ratification of the Constitution). The 1st Amendment prevented the establishment of a Church of the USA, funded by tax-payer money, akin to the Church of England.

Both the life of the spirit and the public life of politics suffered (at least eventually) under such institutional arrangements. The institutions of church and state must be kept separate and independent. I am FOR the separation of church and state. And these arrangements are what Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he wrote the phrase in his letter to the Danbury Baptists (the phrase is not in the Constitution).

However, the latter, the separation of religion and politics, is intellectually impossible.  Religion makes claims about the origin and nature of man, including his natural rights. Just because one is an atheist or agnostic doesn’t mean one doesn’t have religion. Everyone has religion because everyone has a view about the origin and nature of man and about his nautral rights. And natural rights are the basis of good, just, and moral politics. Natural rights are what the founders appealed to in the Declaration of Independence.

It is impossible for one to be for or against the separation of religion and politics. The fact is that they cannot be separated, as a matter of reason and contemplation about what each sphere entails. The political order rests upon the moral order and the moral order upon the religious order.

So the next time some preacher, pastor, priest, bishop, or pope starts talking politics, denouncing abortion and gay “marriage,” I don’t want to hear appeals to the “separation of church and state.” It is irrelevant.

What you are really saying is that you want a separation of the Christian religion from American political discourse, which is un-American historically and philosophically dangerous. You would rather substitute a leftist, collectivist, libertine, secularist pseudo-religion for Christianity as the basis of moral judgment, natural rights, and law. Such a substitution would be immoral, unjust, and terrible for the spiritual and material well being of all Americans.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Conservatism, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, The Constitution, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 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 »

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 »

The Decline of a Nation

Posted by Tony Listi on May 24, 2008

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/decline.html

By Kerby Anderson

Introduction

Doomsayers for many years have been predicting the decline and fall of this country. And while many of these short-term predictions have proved inaccurate, there is some truth to the prevailing belief that this nation will fall like every great nation before it. Apart from revival and reformation, this nation is destined to decline.

The problem with many of these doomsayers is that while their prognosis is right, their diagnosis is wrong. Yes, the future is bleak. But our problem is not ultimately political, economic, or social, as these doomsayers would have us believe. The decline of this nation (just as the decline of every other nation) is due to spiritual factors. The political, economic, and social problems we encounter are the symptoms of the spiritual deterioration of a nation.

Just as there are spiritual principles that influence the life of an individual, so there are political-spiritual principles that govern the life of a nation. And though we may feel that these are obscure and difficult to discern, in reality they are visible to anyone willing to look at the record of history.

Our problem is that we don’t really learn from history. George Santayana said that “those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” The philosopher Hegel said, “What experience and history teach us is this: that people and government never have learned anything from history or acted on principles deduced from it.” Or as Winston Churchill said, “The one thing we have learned from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

The refrains that are often heard are: “It can’t happen here,” or “Our country is different.” But the reality is that nations are born and die just like individuals. Their longevity may exceed the average person’s lifespan. But the reality is that nations also die.

History has shown that the average age of the great civilizations is around two hundred years. Countries like Great Britain exceed the average while other countries like the United States are just now reaching the average age.

Each of the great civilizations in the world passed through a series of stages from their birth to their decline to their death. Historians have listed these in ten stages.

The first stage moves from bondage to spiritual faith. The second from spiritual faith to great courage. The third stage moves from great courage to liberty. The fourth stage moves from liberty to abundance. The fifth stage moves from abundance to selfishness. The sixth stage moves from selfishness to complacency. The seventh stage moves from complacency to apathy. The eighth stage moves from apathy to moral decay. The ninth stage moves from moral decay to dependence. And the tenth and last stage moves from dependence to bondage.

These are the ten stages through which the great civilizations have gone. Notice the progression from bondage to liberty back to bondage. The first generation throws off the shackles of bondage only to have a later generation through apathy and indifference allow itself to once again be enslaved.

This is the direction this and every other country is headed. The book of Judges shows that the nation of Israel passed through these same stages. And this country will do the same unless revival and reformation break out and reverse the inexorable decline of this nation.

The Cycle of Nations

In his book The End of Christendom, Malcolm Muggeridge makes this powerful observation. He says:

I conclude that civilizations, like every other human creation, wax and wane. By the nature of the case there can never be a lasting civilization anymore than there can be a lasting spring or lasting happiness in an individual life or a lasting stability in a society. It’s in the nature of man and of all that he constructs to perish, and it must ever be so. The world is full of the debris of past civilizations and others are known to have existed which have not left any debris behind them but have just disappeared.

He goes on to say that

…whatever their ideology may be, from the Garden of Eden onwards such dreams of lasting felicity have cropped up and no doubt always will. But the realization is impossible for the simple reason that a fallen creature like man though capable of conceiving perfection and aspiring after it, is in himself and in his works forever imperfect. Thus he is fated to exist in the no man’s land between the perfection he can conceive and the imperfection that characterizes his own nature and everything he does.

Nations rise and nations fall. Every nation has followed this progression from bondage to bondage. The nations of this century will be no different. But let us not accept the Marxist notion that these are fixed and intractable laws of history. Christians can point to unusual times when revival has redirected the inexorable decline of a civilization. In the Old Testament, Jonah saw revival postpone God’s judgment of Nineveh. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther and John Calvin saw a Protestant Reformation transform Europe. And even in the history of the United States the First and Second Great Awakenings changed individuals and our society.

But apart from God’s intervention, nations will decline and eventually pass off the scene. Much of the Old Testament records the history of the nation of Israel. It passed through these same stages and so will every country in the world.

As Christians we must recognize that nations will rise and fall just as individuals will be born and die. Our civilization will not last indefinitely, but will eventually pass off the scene. Only God’s Word endures forever. We should not put our trust in the things of this world for they are destined for destruction. Instead, we should put our faith in God and His word.

The Decline of the Family

Nations most often fall from within, and this fall is usually due to a decline in the moral and spiritual values in the family. As families go, so goes a nation.

This has been the main premise of thinkers from British historian J. D. Unwin to Russian sociologist Pitirim Sorokin who have studied civilizations that have collapsed. In his book Our Dance Has Turned to Death, Carl Wilson identifies the common pattern of family decline in ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Notice how these seven stages parallel what is happening in our nation today. In the first stage, men ceased to lead their families in worship. Spiritual and moral development became secondary. Their view of God became naturalistic, mathematical, and mechanical.

In the second stage, men selfishly neglected care of their wives and children to pursue material wealth, political and military power, and cultural development. Material values began to dominate thought, and the man began to exalt his own role as an individual. The third stage involved a change in men’s sexual values. Men who were preoccupied with business or war either neglected their wives sexually or became involved with lower-class women or with homosexuality. Ultimately, a double standard of morality developed. The fourth stage affected women. The role of women at home and with children lost value and status. Women were neglected and their roles devalued. Soon they revolted to gain access to material wealth and also freedom for sex outside marriage. Women also began to minimize having sex relations to conceive children, and the emphasis became sex for pleasure. Marriage laws were changed to make divorce easy.

In the fifth stage, husbands and wives competed against each other for money, home leadership, and the affection of their children. This resulted in hostility and frustration and possible homosexuality in the children. Many marriages ended in separation and divorce.

Many children were unwanted, aborted, abandoned, molested, and undisciplined. The more undisciplined children became, the more social pressure there was not to have children. The breakdown of the home produced anarchy.

In the sixth stage, selfish individualism grew and carried over into society, fragmenting it into smaller and smaller group loyalties. The nation was thus weakened by internal conflict. The decrease in the birthrate produced an older population that had less ability to defend itself and less will to do so, making the nation more vulnerable to its enemies.

Finally, unbelief in God became more complete, parental authority diminished, and ethical and moral principles disappeared, affecting the economy and government. Thus, by internal weakness and fragmentation the societies came apart. There was no way to save them except by a dictator who arose from within or by barbarians who invaded from without.

Although this is an ancient pattern of decline found in Greece and Rome, it is relevant today. Families are the foundation of a nation. When the family crumbles, the nation falls because nations are built upon family units. They are the true driving social force. A nation will not be strong unless the family is strong. That was true in the ancient world and it is true today.

Social commentator Michael Novak, writing on the importance of the family, said:

One unforgettable law has been learned through all the disasters and injustices of the last thousand years: If things go well with the family, life is worth living; when the family falters, life falls apart.

The Decline of Values

There are many factors in the decline of a nation. Certainly a major one is the breakdown of the family. But another potent but less perceptible force is the power of ideas.

False ideas are bringing about the decline of western culture. Carl F. H. Henry, in his book Twilight of a Great Civilization, says:

There is a new barbarism. This barbarism has embraced a new pagan mentality . . . not simply rejecting the legacy of the West, but embracing a new pagan mentality where there is no fixed truth.

Today we live in a world where biblical absolutes are ignored, and unless we return to these biblical truths, our nation will continue to decline.

To understand how we have arrived at this appalling situation, we need to go back a century and look at the influence of five intellectual leaders who still profoundly affect the modern world. The first person is Charles Darwin (1809-1882). In 1859 he published The Origin of Species and later published The Descent of Man. His writings blurred the distinction between humans and animals since he taught that we are merely part of an evolutionary progression from lower forms of life. Darwinism, as it came to be called, not only affected the field of biology, but became the foundation for the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychology.

The second person is Karl Marx (1818-1883). He and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto around 1850, and Marx devoted his life to writing about the demise of capitalism and coming of communism. He understood the importance of ideas. Marx once wrote: “Give me twenty-six lead soldiers and I will conquer the world.” The twenty-six lead soldiers are the keys on a typewriter. The pervasive influence of communism in the world today is testimony to the truthfulness of his statement.

The third person is Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). Although he may not be as well known as the other two men mentioned, his influence was just as profound. He was a German Bible scholar whose theory on the dating of the Pentateuch completely transformed Old Testament studies.

Wellhausen argued that the early books of the Bible were not put together by Moses but were gathered together many centuries later by several different men called redactors who wove various strands together. He and his disciples established an anti-supernatural approach to the scriptures which is influential in most denominational seminaries today.

The fourth person is Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). He merely took the logical implications of what Darwin was doing in biology and applied them to what today is known as psychology and psychiatry. Freud argued that humans are basically autonomous and therefore do not need to know God. Instead, we need to know and understand ourselves since our problems stem from those secret things that have evolved in our lives from our past.

A fifth person is John Dewey (1859-1952). He is the founder of modern education and published his first work, The School and Society, in 1899. John Dewey was also one of the co-signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933.

Dewey, like Darwin and Freud, believed that humans are autonomous. They don’t need to have an authority above them but can evolve their our own system of education. Thus the very foundation of modern education is anti-supernatural.

Ideas have consequences, and false ideas can bring down a nation. The theories of these five men are having devastating consequences in our nation and world. Unless we return to biblical absolutes, our nation will continue its decline.

Spiritual Decline

The decline and fall of nations is usually due to internal factors rather than external threats. Even though some may have fallen to barbarians, their demise ultimately came because of moral and spiritual weakness which manifested itself as military weakness. Historians have listed the stages in the decline of a nation. These should not be too surprising to any student of the Old Testament. The stages of decline parallel the stages through which the nation of Israel passed.

But neither should they surprise a student of the New Testament. In the opening chapter of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he traces a similar progression. In fact, Romans 1 shows the decline of a civilization from a societal perspective. Looking at the Hellenistic world of his time, he reflects on the progression of sin in a nation.

The first stage is when people turn from God to idolatry. Although God has revealed Himself in nature to all men so that they are without excuse, they nevertheless worship the creation instead of the Creator. This is idolatry. In the past, this took the form of actual idol worship. In our day, it takes the form of the worship of money or the worship of self. In either case, it is idolatry. A further example of this is a general lack of thankfulness. Although they have been prospered by God, they are ungrateful. And when they are no longer looking to God for wisdom and guidance, they become vain and futile and empty in their imaginations. They no longer honor God, so their foolish hearts become darkened. In professing to be wise, they have become fools.

The second stage is when men and women exchange their natural use of sex for unnatural uses. Here the Apostle Paul says those four sobering words, “God gave them over.” In a society where lust- driven sensuality and sexual perversion dominate, God gives them over to their degrading passions and unnatural desires. The third stage is anarchy. Once a society has rejected God’s revelation, it is on its own. Moral and social anarchy is the natural result. At this point God has given the sinners over to a depraved mind and so they do things which are not proper. This results in a society which is without understanding,untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

The final stage is judgment. God’s judgment rightly falls upon those who practice idolatry and immorality. Certainly an eternal judgment awaits those who are guilty, but a social judgment occurs when God gives a nation over to its sinful practices.

Notice that this progression is not unique to the Hellenistic world the Apostle Paul was living in. The progression from idolatry to sexual perversion to anarchy to judgment is found throughout history.

In the times of Noah and Lot, there was the idolatry of greed, there was sexual perversion and promiscuity, there was anarchy and violence, and finally there was judgment. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel there was idolatry, sexual perversion, anarchy (in which each person did what was right in his own eyes), and finally judgment.

This progression happened throughout the Bible and to Greece, to Persia, to Babylon, and to Rome. And if it happened to these nations, then it can happen today. Unless we return to God’s principles, decline and destruction are inevitable.

© 1991 Probe Ministries

Posted in Abortion, American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Sex | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Which is More Materialistic: Capitalism or its Alternatives?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

Marxism is specifically atheistic. By denying the supernatural, transcendent, and spiritual aspects of reality, it is inherently materialistic and deterministic. The world is atoms, their random motions, and absolutely nothing else. Marxism seeks to satisfy material needs and desires regardless of the moral consequences (because morality, a transcendent thing, doesn’t exist). Communism, socialism, and welfare statism are merely derivatives of this Marxist theory.

Capitalism inherently believes that all human beings have free will and should be free to exercise that freedom without coercion from others in economic matters. Now the very idea of free will and freedom presupposes the divine, the supernatural. Freedom presupposes something more than a mere mass of atoms and random chance. It presupposes something more than the material world. It presupposes something (or someone) that can actually choose, i.e. the soul, and thus presupposes a Soul-Maker too. Thus capitalism presupposes the transcendent and spiritual and thus is less materialistic than any of its alternatives.

There is a distinction between materialism and productive use of the Creation. But of course, if you are an atheist, this distinction necessarily has no meaning for you.

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