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In his article, “Are We Dumb and Getting Dumber?,” Regis Nicoll writes, “Distinguishing between science and faith is problematic, given that there is more than a little measure of faith in science; especially, materialistic science:

  • Faith that nature is a mechanism that can be explained by physical laws,
  • Faith that those laws are universal and unchanging,
  • Faith that our senses reliably perceive the world as it really is,
  • Faith that our minds accurately interpret those perceptions, and
  • Faith that the origin, diversity, and complexity of nature is the unguided product of chance and necessity.”  (Breakpoint – Published May 6, 2011)

Nicoll continues, “Similarly, discriminating conventional wisdom from actual wisdom is difficult-to-impossible, given their considerable overlap.  The conventional wisdom that ‘what goes up, must come down,’ is congruent with the actual wisdom of Newton’s laws.  In the same way, conventional beliefs about things like murder, cruelty and rape accord with the universal conviction of their actual immorality.”

Nicoll notes that, “Our real challenge is not discerning between such false dichotomies but discerning science from science fiction and truth from falsehood.  When a frog-turned-prince tale is dismissed as myth until the time frame is changed from a bibbidi-bobbidi-boo instant to 150 million years, it signals a discernment deficit.  When the time frame is extended to a few billion years to spin a neutrino-turned-prince tale, it signals a discernment crisis.”

Who are the “gatekeepers” of truth?  Nicoll recalls a NOVA special featuring an astrophysicist who stated, “We’re descended from neutrinos!”  Then, after a reverential pause, he added, “They’re our parents.”  (This… from an astrophysicist?  He’s joking, right?)  Nicoll writes, “The gatekeepers have spun many an imaginative yarn about how the universe came to be and how matter ‘went live.’  But despite the intellectual charm of creative neutrinos, cosmic inflation, multiverses, emergence, abiogenesis, and the like, their ever-inventive tales remain, and will always remain, just that: tales with no more claim to truth than those of a court astrologer.”

I came across Nicoll’s article in Breakpoint (5-6-11) while trying to respond to my agnostic friend.  He’s the one who threw into the “hopper of our discussion” the quote from William Inge (see Part I, previous post).   I explained to my friend that I am a builder of relationships.  I am a woman who, because of both facts and faith, accepts and finds joy in my defined role of “helper.”  My Biblical worldview defines my role in Genesis 2:18.  “The the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ ”  (The Hebrew word for “helper” is ezer, which elsewhere in Scripture also means “assistant” or “ally.”  Thus, my blog name ezerwoman.  In no way do I find “helper” to be inferior; rather, I find order, sanity, and hope in a chaotic, insane, and hopeless world.)  As a builder of relationships and a “helper,” I could have been blessed with a brain that easily processes scientific data and enjoys doing so.  But, no.  Such a brain belongs to my husband and sons.  Nevertheless, I do possess reason and logic.  My reason and logic agrees with Nicoll when it comes to these “gatekeepers of truth.”

Nicoll writes, “The idea that ‘in the beginning were neutrinos’ that went bump in the cosmos to form intelligent beings is as fantastic (more so, really) as the Mayan account that ‘in the beginning were only Tepeu and Gucumatz . . .[who] sat together and thought, and whatever they thought came into being.’ ”

Are we witnessing an intentional change in education?  Isn’t the proper goal of education to teach students how to think, not what to think?

“Intelligent design and Darwinism,” writes Nicoll, “are controversial theories that enjoy wide currency in the marketplace of ideas.  Teaching one theory to the exclusion of others, and without presenting its weaknesses along with its strengths, is indoctrination, not education.”

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“Science . . . contemplates a world of facts without values,” wrote William Inge, but “religion contemplates values apart from facts.”

What is “religion?”  Doesn’t everyone have a “religion,” a worldview upon which they stand?  True to their “religion” or worldview, don’t they practice it “religiously?”  My worldview determines how I see and respond to everything.  Faith in my worldview compels me to study and weigh facts.  It also compels me to set higher standards (values).  Together, these facts and values determine how I think, live, and treat myself and others.

My worldview tells me that science/facts and “religion” (faith)/values are not exclusive of one another.  The atheist and I both put our faith in something; then we, true to our faith, practice it.  The atheist doesn’t want to believe in an authority higher than himself.  I, however, have discovered that when I place myself on the throne of “authority,” I put myself and others at risk.

Facts are necessary.  Facts include more than science but also history and consequences of behavior.  My faith in God’s Word of Scripture, for example, is not without fact.  The Bible is fact.  It is recorded history.  It is eye-witness accounts.  Father telling son or Jew telling Gentile.  The Bible is backed up by facts.  Archeological evidence and scientific documentation abound.  My worldview impresses upon me the need for such facts over and above feelings and opinion.  I cannot trust my feelings.  They change with mood and circumstance.  My opinion is biased.  The law of gravity, on the other hand, is fact.  So are history and experience.  So, while I may feel like jumping off the roof of my house, it serves me well to remember that when my dad jumped off the roof of a barn, he broke his arches.  The law of gravity, together with history and experience, are beneficial to me.  Faith enters in for both the atheist and myself as a Christian, most especially when something happens that we didn’t see or can’t explain.  Both the atheist and I will act as people of faith: faith in something.  I didn’t see my dad jump off the barn.  I didn’t hear his cry.  Even though I can’t explain exactly what happened, I have faith in what my dad told me.  Faith in his words prevents me from a foolish (and painful)  jump.

Let’s assume, as Richard Dawkins insists, that there is no creator.  No creator of all that ever has or ever will exist; no creator of persons (bodies, minds, and souls); no creator of boundaries for the function, care and protection of those persons; no creator of conscience; no creator of all things right, honorable, merciful, and true.  In such a world, I become the “authority” of my life and Dawkins becomes the “authority” of his.  But, what values do we harmoniously work with for the benefit of community?  My values will be shaped by my “god” (me) and his will be shaped by his “god” (him).

Let’s be honest… and willing to expose our core faith.

Someone like Dawkins doesn’t want to acknowledge the Creator God who brings order out of chaos.  He resists the valid conclusion of both faith and science that Someone higher than himself exists.  Yet, in reality, he’s putting his faith in something.  Himself!  His core faith is himself!  He may claim to wrap himself in science and demean those of faith.  Nevertheless, he is practicing his faith.  And his values, like all values, flow out of his faith: whatever he believes in.

Science and facts divorced from faith and values?  No.  All are interrelated.  The more I study God’s Word and the more I am informed by facts — of biology, anatomy, archeology, and history, the more I recognize God at work.  Intelligent and orderly design.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

At the end of his life, Charles Darwin reflected on his work and confessed, “I was a  young man with unformed ideas.  I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire.  People made a religion of them.”

Louis Pasteur declared in one of his lectures, “Science brings man nearer to God.”

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Is this life after The Pill?

Shirley Wang is the author of “The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction — Taking Birth-Control Pills May Mask the Signals That Draw the Sexes Together, Research Shows.”  (Wall Street Journal)

Rush Limbaugh’s program of May 10, 2011, featured “The Tricky Chemistry of Attraction.”  My husband happened to be listening.  I thank him for catching this… and sharing it with me.  Whatever  you may think of Rush Limbaugh, research is research.  The thing is, some of it gets shared… some of it stays hidden.  This research helps make sense of many choices, behaviors, and lifestyles that I’ve been watching or aware of as a post-pill woman.

“Much of the attraction between the sexes is chemistry.”  Not hard to swallow, eh?  Let’s continue.  “New studies suggest that when women use hormonal contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, it disrupts some of these chemical signals, affecting their attractiveness to men and women’s own preferences for romantic partners . . . Evolutionary psychologists and biologists have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates.”

The article goes on.  “One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the T-shirt study, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts.  The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors knows as pheromones.”

Continuing, “The study also showed that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune system genes known as MHC . . . the family of genes permit a person’s body to recognize which bacteria are foreign invaders and to provide protection from those bugs.  Evolutionarily, scientists believe, children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more pathogens.  More than 92 million prescriptions for hormonal contraceptives, including pills, patches and injections, were filled last year in the U.S., according to data-tracker IMS Health.  Researchers say their aim isn’t to scare or stop women from taking hormonal contraceptives.  ‘We just want to know what we’re doing’ by taking the pill, says Alexandra Alvergne, a researcher in biological anthropology at University College London in the U.K.  ‘If there is a risk it affects our romantic life and the health status of our children, we want to know.’ ”

Wang, in her article, explains that, “Both men’s and women’s preferences in mates shift when a woman is ovulating” (most often day 14 of her cycle) . . . “Some studies have tracked women’s responses to photos of different men, while other studies have interviewed women about their feelings for men over several weeks.  Among the conclusions: When women are ovulating, then tend to be drawn to men with greater facial symmetry and more signals of masculinity, such as muscle tone, a more masculine voice and dominant behaviors . . . The women also seemed to be particularly attuned to MHC-gene diversity.  From an evolutionary perspective, these signals are supposed to indicate that men are more fertile and have better genes to confer to offspring.”  (Limbaugh comments here: “All of this happens in a split second.  It’s not something that’s calculated . . . but it does dictate behavior and choices . . . .”)

Wang’s article continues, “Women tend to exhibit subtle cues when they are ovulating, and men tend to find them more attractive at this time.  ‘Women try to look more attractive, perhaps by wearing tighter or more revealing clothing,’ says Martie Haselton, a communications and psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.  Research on this includes studies in which photos that showed women’s clothing choices at different times of the month were shown to groups of judges.  Women also emit chemical signals that they are fertile; researchers have measured various body odors, says Dr. Haselton.  Such natural preferences get wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown.”

But, “Women on the pill no longer experience a greater desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation.  Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears.  And men no longer exhibit shifting interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, perhaps because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.”

Also, “There is accumulating evidence indicating men react differently to women when they are on birth control.  A 2004 study in the journal on Behavioral Ecology used the T-shirt study.  But instead put the shirts on 81 women.  A panel of 31 men, smelling the T-shirts, experienced the greatest attraction for the non-pill-using women when they were ovulating.  Twelve women on the panel didn’t detect any difference.”  (Limbaugh comments: “Basically, if this is true, the natural selection process of a woman wanting a traditionally masculine guy when she’s ovulating goes out the window.  Nothing to do with sexual orientation here.  But this, for example, could give rise to this whole notion of the metrosexual [a man who likes to shop, is in tune with fashion and appearance], if this is true.  That’s why if all of this is true, then it changes everything we know about our lives since when the pill became profligate in 1970.)

Take it… or leave it.  Limbaugh concludes, “It’s fascinating.  Now, you couple all this with the obvious role changes that militant feminism brought on, and it could explain a lot about general unhappiness, confusion, who’s supposed to be what that both sexes seem to exhibit.”

And, finally, another thought on the impact of hormonal birth control and how it affects women and men: “When the pill was approved for use in the U.S. in 1960,” said Limbaugh, “the divorce rate was less than 10%.  Over the two decades that followed, divorce rates climbed to over 20%.  So maybe it’s harder to stick it out in a marriage if the power of attraction wanes, and if the attraction wanes because the chemicals aren’t there that make it possible, well, that would explain a lot, too.”

Fascinating, don’t you think?

Men… women… not the same.  Dare we say created to be different, yet attracted to one another as part of the design… for a purpose.  Life.  Generations to come.  Hmmm.

But, what happens when we tamper with the design?

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“Not a Scientist” has offered ezerwoman the opportunity to hear from someone of a contrasting worldview.  I don’t know “Not a Scientist,” but I am grateful that he’s interested in dialogue.  This society needs more of that.

Twice, “Not a Scientist” has commented on my post, “Questions to Help Us Think (4-4-11).  My pastor and son have also joined in the discussion.  This is a good thing.  That’s part of the reason why I’ve put myself out here — in blog world.  Some say, “Linda!  You’re a target.”  There is no fear in that.  Not if I’m a target for well-thought out words that may — or may not — agree with my worldview.  We should be doing more talking.  Explaining.  Researching.  Challenging.  We should practice building our lives upon what we think and know to be true rather than upon fickle feelings and emotions. 

To “Not a Scientist” I offer the following:

You and I see the world through very different glasses.  Our worldviews boldly contrast.  

  • My worldview is built on God’s Word.  Yours is not. 
  • My worldview does not blow with the wind or shift like sand.  I believe yours blows and shifts a great deal depending upon circumstances.
  • My worldview is built on the created order; thus, I know who I am, from where I come, how I’m to live, and where I’m going when I die.  You don’t appear to believe in any created order but, rather, evolving chaos. 
  • My worldview tells me how God wants men and women to live and relate to one another.  Yours, well, how are men and women supposed to live and relate to one another?  Why? 
  • My worldview offers a future of generational hope built on the backs of fathers, mothers, and grandparents who faithfully teach their sons, daughters, and grandchildren what God says about morality, ethics, marriage and family, “loving our neighbor as ourselves, and serving “the least of these.”  It appears you can entertain your fanciful and humanistic ideas only because fathers, mothers, and grandparents faithfully wove the strong fabric of this nation which you don’t seem to appreciate but certainly enjoy wearing.  
  • My worldview explains that the problems and challenges of relationships, marriages, families, and the whole of society are because of sin which opposes God’s good and perfect design.  I’d be interested to know why you think life is so difficult.
  • My worldview explains that everything — good or bad — has a consequence (you know, like gravity).  Do you acknowledge consequences and can you explain why they exist?
  • My worldview explains why I daily battle with myself and that I’ll never be good enough to save myself.  Do you sense an inner struggle between right and wrong, good and evil?  Even though you say you don’t believe in souls, what if you’re wrong and you really have one?  Where will your body and soul be after you die?
  • I can’t seem to do the good I know I should but, instead, I do the bad I don’t want to do.  This quandary could leave me in desperation.  In desperation, I might be tempted to sacrifice something in order to save myself.  But, I don’t have to.  My worldview assures me that the one and only necessary sacrifice to make me right with the Holy God was made by Jesus Christ on the Cross.   At the Cross, I can lay down my burdens, sorrows, disappointments, and failures.  Jesus forgives me.  Now, He only asks that I use His Word for life that changes lives.  Every day for me is new and filled with hope.  Mr. “Not a Scientist,” how do you start your days?  To what do you look forward?  What hope do you have?  What hope do you offer others?  (I can tell you: You have the same hope I do because Jesus died for you, too.  Can you believe it?)

You have fanciful ideas, Mr. “Not a Scientist.”  But, they are dangerous.  When I expressed concern for the two young men now “joined” in “marriage,” I did so because I am positive they have souls.  Souls that will live forever — with God or not.  I am positive because God’s Word tells me so.  If I’m wrong, there is no loss.  If I’m right, and those created and precious souls are separated from God because of sinful choices, then there is huge loss.  Soulful loss. 

Fanciful ideas, like free-falling without a parachute, are exciting — for awhile.

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It was predictable.  The “chattering atheist class is once again mocking those of us who believe in God,” writes Chuck Colson.  In the wake of the earthquakes and tsunami, they ask: Why would our so-called good God permit such a catastrophe?  Colson observes, “It’s amazing how much time some people spend railing against a God they don’t believe exists.”

My son, Jon, notes, Christianity isn’t for dummies.  We don’t have to leave our brains at the door in order to have faith in a creator God.  Look at what’s happening.  The earth and the physical creation — reflecting its rational creator — is behaving according to observable laws.  Observe these laws and principles, encourages Colson, and you’ll know much about plate tectonics and how earthquakes occur.  They are a result of natural processes.

Can we stop earthquakes?  No.  But, as rational beings created in God’s image (although fallen to sin), we enjoy the opportunity to use the gifts of knowledge God has entrusted to us.  We, as Colson points out, can use that knowledge and good sense.  Perhaps we should not be so arrogant as to build cities on already-known fault lines.  Or homes in hurricane zones.

When an earthquake, tsunami, or tornado claim the lives of thousands, can we complain that God let it happen?  When a hurricane wrecks havoc in a community, can we question or blame God? No.  “Hurricanes are a natural phenomenon that occurs because of climactic changes and shifting winds and temperature gradients,” notes Colson, “all of those things which can now be clearly demonstrated to be physical laws of the universe.”  Has it always been this way?  Nasty upheavals of the earth and killer storms?

No.  Such things did not exist in the beginning.  But, in a perfect Garden, man and woman rebelled against God.  (I hear you atheists… go ahead and scoff.)  When the created thought itself better than the Creator, sin entered the world.  Now we live with the consequences of that sin: an earth in turmoil.

What can we do?  Mourn with those who mourn.  Love our neighbors as ourselves.  Help those in need.  Share our resources.  Give up a new pair of shoes, a steak dinner, or a round of golf and send the money to world relief.

Then, listen.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell  me, if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements — surely you know!  Or who stretched the line upon it?  On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone . . . Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place . . . Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt . . . Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion . . . Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

(Job 38:4-6; 12; 25; 31; 40:1-2)

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