Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chuck Colson, R.I.P.

Chuck Colson was a man who fell suddenly from a life of privilege, power, and self-aggrandizement and subsequently committed himself to serving and helping others. He spent a bit less than a year in prison in the mid-seventies for his role in the Watergate scandal and upon release founded Prison Fellowship, a ministry to help convicts straighten out their lives.

His is a remarkable story, showing as it does the power of redemption and giving hope to thousands who despaired of ever being able to change their own lives.

Colson died today due to complications from surgery to relieve a clot on his brain. He was eighty years of age. Go here to read more on this extraordinary man.

Hume's Tacit Endorsement of Intelligent Design

One of the interesting paradoxes in the debate over whether living things are the product of intelligent agency or whether they have evolved through purely mechanical means from an organic broth in a primeval pond is that those who take the latter view also take as one of their heroes a man who sounds in some of his writings like an advocate of the former view.

The great skeptical philosopher David Hume (1711-1776), in arguing against the rationality of believing in miracles (in Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding), says that experience should be our guide in what we believe. If there is a uniform experience against the occurrence of miracles then that experience amounts to a proof that any report of an alleged miracle is likely to be bogus.

Well, if a uniform experience is to be our guide in determining what is credible and what isn't how can we believe that life arose from non-living matter apart from the agency of an intellect? We have, after all, absolutely no experience of such a thing happening. Even if living things are someday created in a laboratory we will still have no experience of life coming to exist apart from a purposeful mind.

A little further on in the Inquiry Hume writes:
We may observe in human nature a principle which, if strictly examined, will be found to diminish extremely the assurance which we might, from human testimony, have in any kind of prodigy. The maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our reasonings, is that the objects of which we have no experience resemble those of which we have; that what we have found to be most usual is always most probable; and that where there is an opposition of arguments we ought to give preference to such as are founded on the greatest number of past observations.
One of the things that needs to be explained in any theory of origins is how biological information could ever have been produced by randomness and blind chemical action. Whenever we find information being produced today, whether in books or computer programs or whatever, it is always, without exception, produced by a mind. Thus, to the extent that one accepts Hume's principle as valid and reasonable one should assume that the information we find in living cells - in their DNA and in their architecture - was also the product of a mind.

Let me repeat Hume's words: Whenever there's a conflict of explanations "we ought to prefer the one based on the greatest number of past observations." Just as this principle rules out believing that information could be produced by anything other than intelligent agents it also rules out belief in any naturalistic theory of biogenesis. In order to believe that life arose from non-life we have to believe something we have never observed or experienced in all of human history. We have a uniform experience of life always and only arising from other living organisms. Thus as good Humeans we must conclude that whatever initially produced life on earth must itself have in some sense been alive.

Elsewhere (see his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion), Hume argues against the argument for God based on the design we find in the world, but his argument fails to discredit the notion that life and the universe are the products of design. To the extent that his argument is effective it is only so in showing that we can't conclude from the design of the world that the designer must be the God of the Bible. His argument does nothing to demonstrate that the world is not intelligently designed.

Though Hume's devotees would recoil in horror at the notion, the fact is that if we follow their champion we have no reason to think life was not intelligently designed and very good reason to believe that it was.

Stepping on the Gas

Political Math illustrates the silliness of the Obama administration's attempts to slough the national debt problem off on his predecessors:

As Morgen Richmond says at Hot Air:

If you ask me, this, even more than the economy, should be the defining issue of the 2012 election. The President was presented with multiple opportunities to address the long term deficit – including a bipartisan framework from his own commission – and each time he simply chose to walk away. This is one of the most remarkable failures of presidential leadership in history, and it’s time to take the keys away before we careen into an abyss we’ll never get out of. Which is apparently located somewhere south of Puerto Rico.