The October 2000 issue of Forbes ASAP is a remarkable, voluminous anthology pondering the question: “What is true?” An impressive crowd of cognoscenti discuss the status of truth in the digital age in each of their respective specialties: business, culture, faith, science, history, and people. A tone of jaded skepticism pervades, except, of course, in the science column, where scientism perseveres. On culture, Pico Lyer’s [sic], “Do You Copy?” and, Ian Frazier’s, “Th-Th-That’s Not All Folks,” both commend the facsimile over the original, the fabrication over the real. In contrast, Stephen Jay Gould’s, “Only Human,” offers a wistful tribute to the authentic artifact en route to a biological definition of the human essence. Richard Dawkins’, “Hall of Mirrors,” is a stirring apologetic for science being the oracle of truth. For faith, Reynolds Price discloses a gentle and wisehearted Christian confession written to his godson. And, Michael Korda offers an amusing, if derisive, look at the Bible from the perspective of a publisher. This special issue features fine, fascinating writing across the board and is highly recommended. Finally, Zogby’s, What is “True”? Poll includes several notes of interest.
The Secular Web is currently hosting the Carrier-Roth Debate in which Jennifer Roth argues that an ethical case can be made against abortion without reference to God or any other supernatural entity. It is telling that neither disputant attempts to justify the intrinsic worth they assume for human persons. If each party just grants that humans are inherently more valuable than rocks and trees, the crucial issue has been missed: the question of what it is that makes anything valuable. William Lane Craig presses this very issue in a new article in Paper Trails, “The Indispensability of Theological Meta-ethical Foundations for Morality.” There is also philosophical confusion in the debate about what constitutes personal identity and other problems, but there are also many highlights in this exchange. Whether or not Roth is successful, it is refreshing to hear concerns about abortion outside of the religious community. Apart from condemnations of clinic violence, ethical considerations are conspicuously absent from virtually every pro-choice website, from Planned Parenthood to Protect Choice. Teenwire is about as close as you get with its swift dismissal: “Abortion is a touchy subject with a lot of people. Remember that this is your body and your decision… You have a right to end an unwanted pregnancy if you feel that it is the wisest decision for you.” Considering this, The Secular Web’s substantive discussion is especially commendable.
Following the recent Kansas decision eliminating Evolution from state testing, Time Magazine invited Stephen Jay Gould to reaffirm a complementarity view of the interaction between science and religion and the unflagging support for Evolution by the scientific community. After a furious call to arms in the Wall Street Journal editorials, the dauntless Phillip Johnson explained what he sees as the real issue. Leadership University has reprinted Johnson’s article as part of a special focus on Evolutionary hegemony. Nancy Pearcey attempts to clarify the decision and lessen the hysteria in, “The Sky is not Falling.” *Also see: “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”
Jeffrey Jay Lowder, founder of the Internet Infidels, offers a welcome clarification of the term ‘feethinker,’ in his article, “Is ‘Freethinker’ Synonymous with ‘Nontheist?‘” He ultimately agrees with Bertrand Russell that what defines a freethinker is not the content of his beliefs, but because “after careful thought, he finds a balance of evidence in their favor.” In principle, then, Lowder concedes that a theist could be a freethinker. His unremarkable conclusion is noteworthy because it demurs from the pervasive opinion of many skeptics that the defining characteristic of religious people is their unthinking credulity. Consider, by way of contrast, the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s ‘nontract’ (sic), “What Is A Freethinker?” Still, Lowder rejects the possibility that an Evangelical Christian could be a freethinker. Considering Lowder’s familiarity with the recent flowering of excellent Christian scholarship, especially in philosophy, his denial of Christian “free thinking” is, in the end, a bit puzzling.
In a recent issue of Philosophy Now, Daniel Hill describes how the work of Alvin Plantinga has revolutionized the discipline of Philosophy of Religion. His cursory sketch of the subject and his observations on Plantinga’s unique and peerless contributions are an interesting introduction to the field and its leading spokesperson. Several of Plantinga’s articles [link expired] are available online. For a fuller synopsis of his life and work, consider reading The Analytic Theist.
Christianity teaches that something is profoundly wrong with the human person. We are, among other things, corrupted, dysfunctional, sinful, and at times evil. Furthermore, there is ultimately only one remedy for our condition, and that is salvation from ourselves and our condition by faith in Jesus Christ. This central Christian tenet is often unsettling to Christians themselves and is positively insufferable to the culture at large. Religious Tolerance Online, for example, catalogues all manner of religious perspective with delicacy and precision, raising no quibble with their various beliefs. But it judges the Christian belief in the unique salvific efficacy of Jesus as on par with racism and other forms of intolerance. Observe the author’s herculean (and commendable) effort to describe Christian exclusivism’s view toward other religions without expressing his/her own frustration and sadness with this perspective. Leadership U. is featuring several articles that seek to justify Christian exclusivism. We especially recommend Rick Rood’s “The Christian Attitude Toward Non-Christian Religions,” Brad Johnson’s, “A Three-Pronged Defense of Salvific Exclusivism in a World of Religions” and Paul Johnson’s “The Necessity of Christianity“.
TJ Walker’s Web Radio Show is currently featuring a very interesting interview with Molleen Matsumura (link expired), a member of the National Center for Science Education (an organization promoting, in particular, evolutionary education). Her disregard for the “Intelligent Design” movement is an enlightening glimpse of its continuing perception among evolutionists. Cross reference her primary contention — that Intelligent Design theories are not genuine theories because they fail to have explanatory power — with Stephen Meyer’s, “The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent,” on explanation, and Dembski’s “The Explanatory Filter,” on her God of the gaps concern. Since the concerns Matsumura raises have been so thoroughly discussed by the Intelligent Design movement, it is hard not to wonder why she exhibits no familiarity with their proposed solutions. David Kornreich’s, “Why Creationism is not a Science,” (link expired) seems equally oblivious to these discussions. Behe’s Empty Box, on the other hand, is a glimpse of the possible dialogue prompted by taking Intelligent Design theorists’ criticisms seriously.