Apologetics may be simply defined as the defense of the faith. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the complexity of the problem of defining apologetics. It turns out that a diversity of approaches has been taken to defining the meaning, scope, and purpose of apologetics.
From Apologia to Apologetics
The word “apologetics” derives from the Greek word apologia, which was originally used of a speech of defense or an answer given in reply. In ancient Athens it referred to a defense made in the courtroom as part of the normal judicial procedure. After the accusation, the defendant was allowed to refute the charges with a defense or reply (apologia). The accused would attempt to “speak away” (apo—away, logia—speech) the accusation. The classic example of such an apologia was Socrates’ defense against the charge of preaching strange gods, a defense retold by his most famous pupil, Plato, in a dialogue called The Apology (in Greek, hē apologia).
Heresey and Punishment
There is much to be learned from the way in which a societyseeks to limit the choices of its members, particularly in the contentiousfield of religion. Medieval Europe is a good case in point, because atfirst sight the ideological blanket of ‘Christendom’ thrown over thecontinent disguises both the diversity of belief and the responses to thatdiversity. Theoretically the medieval Christian Church was a monopoly based on exclusive interpretation of the Bible through the works of theChurch fathers and the legislation of Councils. The heretic was a dissenter and must be silenced by any means necessary. It was not OK to question the religious movement local to you. Why was this? Well because the apologetics knew that their preconceived scripts would not stand up to questioning.
I am not going to go into gory detail in this article, perhaps I just had an idea for a future piece but I will link here to a couple of pieces regarding various methods employed by various religious cults and their sects for daring to question or deny their god(s) Christianity Islam Video here if you are not much of a reader
Times They Are A Changing
Well for the most part, I would not stand up in the streets in Lahore or Riyadh and start questioning the existence of Allah or start asking for evidence that Muhammed travelled to heaven on a Buraq for fear of an horific public and on the spot execution, but in many countries now atheists can finally stand up and engage in civil(ish) discourse with apologists and call them out on their quite feeble arguments which used to placate the general masses. We can expose their shill “scientists” such as Jason Lisle who will present half truths, or just outright lies in order to mislead theists that may not be so well versed in the sciences. They see his PhD status and take his comments as “gospel” even though it flies in the face of scientific consensus, but this is just a way to confirm their bias and bolster their irrational belief. You can watch ICR’s Prof Jason Lisle being debunked here. The late Duane Gish was another hookey professor that had no problem bending the truth in order to uphold apologetic arguments attempting to give credence to religious claims using “science”. I debunked one of Gish’s articles from ICR here.
And what we are seeing is all of the apologists being debunked one by one. Their once sacred arguments like William Lane Craigs re-hash of Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Arguments For God being stripped apart and shown to be the illogical presuppositional nonsense that it is. We see people like Hamza Tzortzis, who was Europe’s leading proponent of the miracle like nature of Quran write a public letter debunking his previous arguments after spending time working in labs with actual scientists to see how the claims of islamic scholars gone by do not hold up to questioning. He also applies logic to his original claims and shows how his older arguments are self refuting. For more on Hamza’s U-turn click here.
In the age of information the religious apologist has to lie and hope the listeners dont fact check. They rely on a less educated audience lapping up their lies and passing it down the generations. Hopefully the Modern Heresey Movement combined with the Information Age, YouTube, can be more than just a thorn in their sides and maybe one day tumble this abhorrent abomination of liars, cheats and charlatans. Hopefully here at www.answers-in-reason.com we are making headway alongside people like AronRa, Cosmicskeptic, Holy Koolaid, misterdeity and Hemant Mehta aka Friendly Atheist to name but a few of the prominent rational thinkers exposing apologetics for what they are. Excuses!!
Making The Immoral Moral
At the risk of falling foul of Godwin’s Law I am going to invoke Hitler….
What Hitler had his propaganda machine do was demonise certain groups in society. This meant that when his troops massacred said groups the German people felt nothing or very little for these people. The doctrine of religion would attempt to do the same and makes their followers desensitised towards the horrific acts of earlier followers or for that matter generations of followers to come.
The Old Testament would have the Levites butcher their families if they did not follow their one true god. This should be shocking yet religious apologetics would attempt to square this away as “not a biggy”, Jehova did warn us he was a jealous deity. it was their fault for not believing in him.
Likewise with a global flood killing all but 8 members of the same family. The entire population of the Earth were sinners, apparently including all unborn babies and children under the age of reason, not to mention all but “of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.” Gen 7:2
This is extreme yet the science of excuses causes people to not even bat an eyelid. Same goes for killing disobedient children, stoning a bride that was not a virgin and chopping the opposing hands and feet from an apostate.
Making The Impossible Possible
You need just look at the Statement of Faith of groups like ICR or www.answersingenesis.org
Instead of testing bible claims they take it as a starting point for scientific research, that is exactly the opposite of scientific research. It takes a conclusion and works backwards to try to manufacture situations that would fit what they need it to be. An example is humans and dinosaurs living at the same time in history. Evidence shows otherwise but lets not let facts get in the way of their mission. They clearly state that no matter what evidence appears to the contrary that they will uphold their belief. How they have the audacity to call this science is beyond me.
We have pastors like Peter LaRuffa who is immortalised on video stating that if the bible said 2+2=5 he would accept this as truth and try to find a way in his mind to “work it out and understand it”. Bill Nye’s response to this is fantastic and you can see it here.
Defending Logic and Reason
I named a few prominent atheist activists above but left off many. As a movement against the sham that is apologetics we have been blessed with many wonderfully erudite and eloquently spoken front men. Walking amongst us still we have the likes of Dawkins and Dennet, Harris and Krauss and we fondly remember the most brilliant Christopher Hitchins, may his energy transform and never be destroyed.
I would call upon any and all rational and reasoned thinkers to take to the internet and use the tools we have available to us, chat rooms, comments sections, twitter and YouTube, any platform these apologists use to spread lies and misinformation and call them out. Correct them on every video, tweet or post they make. Quote peer review, use top down logic but expose their lies. They no longer have the upper hand of outspoken “heretics” being afraid to have their say and expose them for what they are.
Join the New Age Heretic Movement, be heard and silence the charlatans. Make a difference!!
Alan The Atheist
Comment on “Religious Apologetics – The Science of Excuses”
Alan, you write: “In the age of information the religious apologist has to lie and hope the listeners don’t fact check. They rely on a less educated audience lapping up their lies and passing it down the generations.”
Since you brought up the topic of information, I will make an argument for God based upon information science. You can fact check all of my sources. If I am lying of misrepresenting anything, please point out the SPECIFIC lies or misrepresentations:
“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”
Such are the words of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And a little detective work quickly eliminates the alternative to God which atheists cite as the cause for life: Natural laws.
Realizing specifically why natural laws are completely incapable of producing life is crucial to understanding why the theistic explanation must be the truth, no matter how improbable it may appear to an atheist:
Imagine if, one morning, you opened an email from a friend which read,
ABC ABC ABC ABC ABC
It is entirely besides the point that what your friend wrote is meaningless. What is more important to our “detective work” is WHY such a simple, regular, and repetitive pattern of letters is meaningless. According to information science (not to mention everyday common sense), in order for a set of symbols to contain meaningful information, it must be complex, irregular, and non-repeating, such as the symbolic sequence below:
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
In the terminology of information science, a simple and repetitive pattern such as ABC ABC does not have the information bearing capacity necessary to contain a meaningful email message, or a set of instructions. The genetic code (the language of life) conveys instructions for an organism to develop, using a code consisting of four letters known as nucleotide bases. But if these symbolic sequences were created by natural laws, they would be very similar to the meaninglessly simple and repetitive message in your friend’s email. Nancy Pearcey eloquently elaborates on this point in her book Total Truth:
“…In principle, laws of nature do not give rise to information. Why not? Because laws describe events that are regular, repeatable, and predictable. If you drop a pencil, it will fall. If you put paper into a flame, it will burn. If you mix salt in water, it will dissolve. That’s why the scientific method insists that experiments must be repeatable: Whenever you reproduce the same conditions, you should get the same results, or something is wrong with your experiment. The goal of science is to reduce those regular patterns to mathematical formulas. By contrast, the sequence of letters in a message is irregular and non repeating, which means it cannot be the result of any law-like process.”
(Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (p. 195). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)
In the primary text on the application of information theory to the origin of life titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how the simplicity and regularity of natural laws renders it mathematically impossible for such laws to produce life from non-life:
“The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of the Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.”
(Yockey, Hubert P. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 72, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)
Yockey continues, in Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life:
“The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws.”
(Yockey, Hubert P.. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (2005) Kindle Location 77, Kindle Edition. New York, New York. Cambridge University Press.)
Renowned physicist Paul Davies (winner of the Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics) reflects Yockey’s above comments, and makes clear the distinction between the medium (the material aspect of an organism) and the message (the informational aspect of an organism). As an illustration, a song is an immaterial informational entity which may be stored on various material storage media, such as an iPod, a compact disk, an old vinyl record, or a cassette tape. But the song itself could not have been produced by unintelligent material processes, since it is not a material thing. Similarly, in regards to life, the unintelligent action of natural laws could possibly explain the material aspect of an organism, but not the informational aspect of the organism (the set of immaterial instructions codified in the genetic code). Indeed, it would be no more possible for natural laws to write a song than to produce instructions codified in the genetic code. In The Fifth Miracle, Davies makes this point:
“The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently, they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules [such as even the most simple organism]. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics. Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [life emerging from unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”
(Davies, Paul. (1999) The Fifth Miracle. pp.254-255. New York, NY. Simon & Schuster, Inc.)
So if laws of nature do not give rise to information, what does? Interestingly enough, the “detective technique” used by Charles Darwin leads us to the unavoidable conclusion that an intelligent agent (read: God) is responsible for the information contained in the sets of immensely complex instructions codified in the genetic code. In The Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer explains how Darwin felt that scientists should look for causes already known to produce the effect in question:
Darwin himself adopted this methodological principle. His term for a presently acting cause was a vera causa, that is, a true, known, or actual cause. Darwin thought that when explaining past events, scientists should seek to identify established causes—causes known to produce the effect in question. Darwin appealed to this principle to argue that presently observed microevolutionary processes of change could be used to explain the origin of new forms of life in the past. Since the observed process of natural selection can produce a small amount of change in a short time, Darwin argued that it was capable of producing a large amount of change over a long period of time. In that sense, natural selection was “causally adequate.”
So what is the vera causa, in Darwin’s terminology, ALREADY KNOWN to produce information? In answer to this question, Meyer cites information scientist Henry Quastler:
“The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.”
(Henry Quastler, The Emergence of Biological Organization, (Yale University Press, 1964).)
At SETI (The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program) the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the scope of science. A long sequence of prime numbers in a radio wave from space, for example, is regarded by SETI as being a clear indicator of intelligent agency. This is because such a sequence is not the simple, regular, and repeating sort of sequence which occurs naturally.
Whenever we trace information back to its source, INVARIABLY, we come back to a conscious mind, not an undirected material process, as Meyer notes. The irregular and non-repeating nature of genetic instructions means that they could not have been accomplished by a law-like process. Sir Issac Newton was really onto something when he wrote the following in what is regarded to be the most important scientific work of all time, Principia Mathematica:
“Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”
Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book “In the Beginning Was Information,” Gitt writes:
“…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.” Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the non-material nature of information by defining it as an “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated:
‘When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.’
It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information.”
(Gitt, Werner. In the Beginning Was Information. (2005) Kindle Location 427. Green Forest, AR. Master Books. Kindle Edition.)
Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, admitted the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:
“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”
(Wald, George. “Life and Mind in the Universe”. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry. March 15, 1984.)
The most common atheist objection is to accuse theists of an Appeal to Ignorance fallacy: “We don’t yet know how life emerged from non-life, so God must have done it.” However, it is crucial to realize that this is NOT the theistic argument, but rather, a straw-man mischaracterization of the theistic argument. Constructing an argument for God based upon what we ALREADY KNOW is entirely different from arguing, “We don’t yet know how life emerged from non-life, so God must have done it.”
Because intelligent agency is the only cause already known to produce information, it is actually the atheist who must commit an Appeal to Ignorance fallacy: “We don’t yet know how life emerged form non-life, so unintelligent natural processes must have done it.”
Moreover, in addition to committing the above Appeal to Ignorance fallacy, the atheist must ignore what we already know about the source of information. Imagine if you were a member of a jury presiding over a criminal trial, and the defense lawyer’s concluding remarks consisted of the following:
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please ignore the evidence for my client’s guilt presented by the prosecution, and patiently wait for evidence which will arrive someday to support an alternative explanation which I will eventually think up.”
As ridiculous as such an argument seems, the atheist is left with nothing more in his explanatory toolbox. It is critical to realize that, in the absence of logically coherent reasons for adopting the atheist stance, we have no choice but to assume other-than-logical (read: ideological) motivations are at play. In 1997, Harvard University geneticist Richard C. Lewontin famously admitted his ideological (as opposed to logical) reasons for embracing the philosophical stance known as materialism (the most common atheist alternative to theism), which which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including consciousness, are results of undirected material processes:
“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
(Richard Lewontin, Billions and billions of demons (review of The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan, 1997), The New York Review, p. 31, 9 January 1997.)
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