Tuesday, February 7, 2006


President Bush attended the funeral of Coretta Scott King today whereupon he was assaulted by a succession of speakers from Jimmy Carter, who almost daily diminishes in the estimation of those who value human decency and a sense of Christian brotherhood, to Joseph Lowery, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton. Each of these men took the opportunity to personally blast the President and his policies, inciting the audience to hoot and howl, sometimes for over a full minute. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, his wife, and his father just sat in the pew and endured this despicable treatment as these poseurs and charlatans, none of whom has half the character the president does, desecrated the memory of Mrs. King by using the occasion of her funeral as a prop to enable them to politically excoriate the President. It was a disgrace.

This is the face of the modern Democratic Party, and it's not something we would want our children to behold.

The Garden of Eden

This story is so astonishing it sounds almost like a hoax. A team of scientists have journeyed into a virgin area of New Guinea and discovered a treasure trove of new biological species. The full article can be read here. Following is a summary of their finds:

Birds: The scientists discovered a new species - the red faced, wattled honeyeater - and found the breeding grounds of two birds of almost mythical status - the golden-fronted bowerbird and Berlepsch's six-wired bird of paradise, long believed to have disappeared as a separate species. The expedition also came across exotic giant-crowned pigeons and giant cassowaries - a huge flightless bird - which are among more than 225 species which breed in the area, including 13 species of birds of paradise. One scientist said that the dawn chorus was the most fantastic he had ever heard.

Mammals: Forty species of mammals were recorded. Six species of tree kangeroos, rare elsewhere in New Guinea, were abundant and the scientists also found a species which is new to Indonesia, the golden-mantled tree kangeroo. The rare and almost unknown long-beaked echidna, or spiny anteater, a member of a primitive group of egg-laying mammals called monotremes, was also encountered. Like all the mammals found in the area, it was completely unafraid of humans and could be easily picked up, suggesting its previous contact with man was negligible.

Plants: A total area of about one million hectares of pristine, ancient, tropical, humid forest containing at least 550 plants species, many previously unknown and including five new species of palms. One of the most spectacular discoveries was a so far unidentified species of rhododendron, which has a white scented flower almost six inches across, equalling the largest recorded rhododendron flower.

Butterflies: Entomologists among the scientists identified more than 150 different species of butterfly, including four completely new species and several new sub-species, some of which are related to the common English "cabbage white" butterfly. Other butterflies observed included the rare giant birdwing, which is the world's largest butterfly, with a wingspan that stretches up to seven inches.

Frogs: The Foja is one of the richest sites for frogs in the entire Asia-Pacific region, and the team identified 60 separate species, including 20 previously unknown to science, one of which is only 14mm big. Among their discoveries were healthy populations of the rare and little-known lace-eyed frog and a new population of another frog, the Xenorhina arboricola, which had previously only been known to exist in Papua New Guinea.

At this point in the history of biological exploration such a discovery is simply astonishing.

Is Atheism Rationally Superior?

John Loftus at Debunking Christianity posts an argument against the Christian Illusion of Rational Superiority. He claims that many Christians hold that Christianity is rationally superior to atheism, and that if an atheist doesn't believe in God it must be due to some reason other than the logic of his arguments.

He promises more elaboration on this in future posts, but in this one he contents himself with simply noting that some very smart people have been unbelievers and implying that, therefore, atheism must be more rational than its alternatives. It's true enough that smart people have been atheists, but that fact is evidence for nothing. Smart people have also been theists.

Whether or not Christianity is rationally superior to atheism, I think it is the case that theism, belief in a personal God, is superior, both rationally and existentially, to atheism.

It's superior rationally because, unlike atheism, theism offers grounds for trusting our reason. If God has given us our cognitive faculties then we have reason to expect that they are reliable guides to truth. We may be wrong about that, but we have reason to believe that we're not.

The atheist, on the other hand, has no grounds for trusting that reason can lead to truth, or even for asserting that truth should be our goal.

If our reason is a product of blind, unguided processes that responded to survival pressures in our evolutionary past then we can conclude only that our reason is a reliable aid to survival in a stone age environment. We can infer nothing about it's usefulness as a guide to truth.

It could well be, for instance, that beliefs we hold that enhance our survival are, in fact, not true. A person who believes that rats are evil spirits in the form of rodents and should be avoided at all costs will have an advantage in surviving plagues born by rats even though his belief is false.

The atheist cannot even argue that reason is reliable since in order to form an argument on behalf of reason he has to rely on reason. In other words, he has to assume that reason is reliable in order to argue that it is. This is the fallacy of begging the question. He may be right that reason is reliable, but he can only believe it is as an a priori act of faith.

Nor can he say that truth should be our goal since to do so is to bind others to a value or ethical judgment that he has no business making for anyone but himself. Upon what would he base the assertion that it is "right" to believe what's true and "wrong" to believe what's false? Why should anyone value truth instead of, say, personal comfort? If a belief gives people solace, like belief in an afterlife, even though it may not be true, why should that belief be regarded as inferior to a true one? What is it about truth that makes it superior to other values? Would the truth in this case make a person's life better in any way if it robbed them of their comfort?

The theist, however, especially the Christian theist, grounds his esteem for truth in his belief that God wants and commands us to value it preeminently. He grounds it in his conviction that Christ is the Truth and that that Truth liberates us, even if we don't know how.

Theism is existentially superior to atheism because, as we've written on previous occasions (e.g. here), atheism, unlike theism, gives us no basis for ultimate meaning in our lives or in the universe, it offers no ground for moral judgment, no hope for genuine justice, no hope that death does not win in the end, no grounds for believing in human dignity, or worth, or human rights. It gives us no basis for thinking we have free will or for thinking that we have an enduring self. It gives us no reason to love others (since love is just a chemical reaction occuring in the brain and as such has no meaning beyond providing a source of pleasure and grief). In the atheistic view we are just gobs of mud and blood with no soul, no mind, and no non-arbitrary value. The atheistic view is utterly de-humanizing if taken to its logical endpoint, and the bloody, tyrannical history of state atheism in the twentieth century vividly illustrates the consequences of that dehumanization.

Loftus may be correct that atheism is rationally superior to Christian theism, but in order to make his case he has a long uphill climb ahead of him. We'll be interested to see how he manages.