Living Forever

Reading Time: 6 minutes

A friend on Facebook, Stephanie, asked me what I thought of a BBC article by Frank Swain about living forever. The article looked at some different studies on life extension and how the mortality rate has changed in the past several decades. No doubt the life expectancy has improved in the past century, and according to many experts we can see an even more significant increase in the next 50 years.

In the article, Swain quoted Gennady Stolyarov, a transhumanist philosopher and author of a children’s book titled Death is Wrong. “It would be wonderful to get to a world where all death is optional. Right now, essentially all of us are sentenced to the death penalty, even though most of us have done nothing to deserve it.” 1

After I read the article, several things sparked my interest that I wanted to examine. The above quote about our being sentenced to the death and not deserving it, had me salivating. Questions like:
-What do you mean by deserve?
-Where do you get your notion of right or wrong when you say some do not deserve death?
-Just what do we deserve and why do you say that?
-Does anyone deserve death?
-What penalties, if any, does someone deserve? Who decides? 2

I expected to write a piece on just what we do deserve, and explain where I get my ‘notion’ on right and wrong, but I ended up taking a completely different trail as I explored further.

transhumanistI was unfamiliar with the term ‘transhumanist’ so I looked it up. Transhumanists, or H+, is a international intellectual group or movement that has a goal of improving and transforming the human condition. Here are a few sites dedicated to the H+ cause. You can read some of their mission statements, goals, and definitions below.

http://humanityplus.org is dedicated to elevating the human condition. We aim to deeply influence a new generation of thinkers who dare to envision humanity’s next steps. Our programs combine unique insights into the developments of emerging and speculative technologies that focus on the well-being of our species and the changes that we are and will be facing.

http://www.transhumanism.org Over the past few years, a new paradigm for thinking about humankind’s future has begun to take shape among some leading computer scientists, neuroscientists, nanotechnologists and researchers at the forefront of technological development. This is the assumption that the “human condition” is at root a constant. Present-day processes can be fine-tuned; wealth can be increased and redistributed; tools can be developed and refined; culture can change, sometimes drastically; but human nature itself is not up for grabs.

http://www.prochoicealliance.org Our-Values We believe that social justice, safety, human rights and dignity for women must be paramount in public policy and private practice in emerging biotechnologies. We believe that treatments, devices, and pharmaceuticals developed with public funds should be accessible and affordable to all. We believe in respect for women as decision-makers about their own health, and that in order to make good decisions about participation in research, women must be given accurate and unbiased information and be free from coercive, misleading, and deceptive practices.

http://lifeboat.com/ex/main is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

I was familiar with the term singularity, but not how it was used above. To me a singularity, in cosmological terms, was a point in time when everything was created. I wrote about it in The Miracle of Existence.  Above, a singularity is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature.

trans3Frankly I found all of this information fascinating and at the same time disturbing. Some of you reading this hold the same view of human nature as I do, which is, at his core man is sinful and self serving. Others see inherent goodness and believe that ultimately mankind will overcome their darker nature and evolve into a species that looks beyond their own desires. Your view on human nature will determine how you perceive the agenda of H+.

As I poured over the links, web sites, and information about H+, I recalled a movie my son and some of his friends, (Annie, Luke, and others) were considering seeing titled ‘Transcendence‘.  Since I am on Easter Break I went to a matinée. Without turning this into a movie review, I will just say it was rather depressing and to spend your money on some ice cream instead. But, it did put forth some of the H+ views and goals, ultimately giving the transhumanism world view a positive spin.

Simply put, the main character, Dr. Will Caster, facing death had his brain transferred to a digital super computer program, and once on the information super highway, he was able to play the stock market and create immense wealth for his wife. She in turn, (with his help), created a massive underground lab where technological medical advancements developed into Christ-like abilities. The goal: to improve the human condition. The cost? Human individuality; as each was treated, Caster was able to control them in some kind of Borg, hive collective.

Fun story, but don’t miss the underlying message. Our brains, mind, essence, is nothing more than digital. A soul? Spirit? Something immaterial? Nonsense. Technology can replace God. The crippled can walk again, the blind can see. With this kind of technology, what use do we have for Jesus or God? If we can eliminate the death penalty that Stolyarov says we are all charged with, maybe we can become gods.

On the lifeboat site I linked above, they had a list of the ten most important Transhumanist Technologies.  Number 2 on the list wants us to dismiss the possibility of a soul. Meat, (flesh) is not needed. Once we overcome the discomfort of the fact that we are nothing more than chance material patterns, we can explore existing on other tiers.

trans2In the Prochoice Alliance group above, sex selection and designer babies  becomes nothing more than choosing your favorite loaf of bread. Unfavorable traits are de-selected, and replaced with favorable traits. I am talking beyond simple hair or skin color, but even emotional and mental capacities could be weighed. 3

Transhumanists and the organizations they build recognize the dangers of technological advancements, but without a moral compass held within the Christian world view, they are destined to become lost and take countless lives with them.

Don’t misunderstand me. The technological advances around the corner that could cure cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and a host of other human ailments should be pursued. But what do we become if all our needs are met? Do the struggles some of us have create desirable character traits? What would happen to compassion, (I John 3:17) if there was not a need? Who would encourage, (Acts 18:27)? Would gratefulness, (I Corinthians 4:7) or patience, (Romans 5:3–4) become meaningless terms?

Trans1

Many years ago in college term paper I likened technology to a rope. Something that could pull us out of an abyss, or be used to tie a noose around our necks. With a broader view and more life experience I begin to see it more as a noose. At some point, the dangers of technology could become like a Hydra. Cut off one head and you have several more to deal with. Couple that with the sinful, fallen nature of man, and you have a peril on the same level as the “Deplorable Word” spoken by the White Witch who annihilated life on her home world.

 

Sources:

1. Swain, Frank. “How to live forever.” BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation, 21 April 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.
2. Koukl, Gregory. Tactics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. Print
3. Coeytaux, Francine. Darnovsky, Marcy. Fogel, Susan B. “Assisted Reproductive Technologies.” Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, 1 January 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.

 

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Living Forever by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

A brief look at God’s Not Dead

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Did you see the movie God’s Not Dead? I watched it for the first time with my wife, a few days ago. I returned two days later to watch it a second time with my son and several of his friends. This time I took notes, as well as anyone can take notes in a dark theater.

If you have watched this movie, or you are planning on watching it, then take a moment and read this. It will help explain some of the arguments used by both the atheist, Professor Radisson, and the Christian student, Josh Wheaton. This review, (if you can call it that), is far from exhaustive in covering the logical fallacies and apologetic arguments, but for the layman it may be of use.

The Most Intelligent People are Atheists

The first argument Professor Radisson used when he walked into his philosophy class was to point to a list of famous, intelligent, if not brilliant, people who were all atheists. This is a logical fallacy called appeal to authority. Come up with a list of famous, educated, or powerful people that support your cause, and your cause must be important and intellectually just.

Every year in politics, you see candidates endorsed by famous actors or actresses. They do this because the Hollywood spotlight holds a position of influence over us. If a popular actor or actress endorses someone, more people will vote for that individual. Both the Republicans and the Democrats use a Hollywood face or famous sports figure to promote their campaign. The fact that both sides take part in this should tell you something. It works.

Christians could also come up with a list of brilliant minds that believed in God or the Christian world view. In popular culture, we have Tyler Perry, Patricia Heaton, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Martin Sheen, Angela Bassett, to name a few in the Hollywood circles. They all believe in God or profess to be Christians. We could also list those famous for their towering intellect. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Mendel, and Einstein to name a few.

Appealing to authority can be persuasive, but it does not make something true. Even if everyone I listed above thought that the world was flat, it would not be true. And when Professor Radisson shows off a list of brilliant and famous people that were, or are, atheists, it does not make atheism true, any more than the lists I offered makes Christianity true.

The prompting is that only smart people are atheists, but you can see that is not the case. The suggestion is that science trumps faith and that science and faith are at odds. Or more specifically, that knowledge and faith are on opposite ends of each other. Many atheists and even some Christians believe, the less knowledge you have, the more faith you need. Give it some thought, this is obviously not true, the opposite of faith is unbelief, not knowledge, and the opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. Brilliant minds, throughout history and today, have excellent reasons and evidence for their faith.

Atheists do not have the market on knowledge, reason, and science. In my readings on apologetics, I have found support for the faith I have in Christ. As my knowledge has increased, so has my faith. As Josh researched the Christian world view, no doubt his faith also increased.

There were two apologetic arguments Josh Wheaton used in the movie I would like to touch on, which would help those watching the movie for the first time understand the philosophy behind them. It is also important for every Christian to be familiar with them, because when talking to skeptics or atheists, they commonly come up.

The First Cause

The first argument Josh brought up was the Big Bang Theory.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble noticed what he called a ‘red shift’ in the color of very distant galaxies. What this turned out to mean was that the galaxies were actually moving away; in other words, the universe is expanding. Why is this significant? If we were to dial back time a thousand years, the universe would be smaller than it is today. If we were to go back a million years, it would be smaller still. We could go back to the beginning and find the universe compressed into a single point that science calls a singularity. What caused this singularity? We call that God. As Greg Koukl puts it, to have a Big Bang, you must have a Big Banger.

Just a few years later, Albert Einstein came to peer through the telescope at the Wilson Observatory to confirm, at least in his own mind, the findings of Hubble. Since then, science has continued to conform this, and the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted in the scientific community.

I know many Christians that have been uncomfortable with this, but it actually plays into the hand of those who believed in God. Simply put, if the universe had a beginning, it must have been created. For centuries, science believed that the universe had always existed, but Genesis says, “In the beginning God created…”

One form of the cosmological argument is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument, and essentially it states the following premises and conclusion:
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

Someone might ask, “Then who caused God?”, but God is an uncaused, eternal being. He stands outside of his creation, much like the author of a book stands outside of his novel. Time is inexorably tied to our universe and God stands outside of it. He is not bound by his creation any more than Thomas Kinkade is bound to live in one of his idyllic country cottage paintings.

Problem of Evil

Another argument Josh addressed is the problem of evil. The argument goes something like this: how can an all powerful, all loving, all knowing God allow evil? David Hume put it this way, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

Let me ask you, what is your purpose in life? If you hold a Christian world view, you must understand that your purpose in life is not your happiness, but for you to commune with God. This life does not end with our last breath, but spills over and opens up a door to an eternal ocean of God’s presence and love.

The old woman in the nursing home toward the end of God’s Not Dead spells it out nicely when she says to her son, “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble, because he doesn’t want them turning to God.” 1

I think many of you may have the same experience I do, when I say the times I have been the most active in prayer are when I have been going through difficulty. No doubt many of you have experienced the same thing. How many have cried out to God when they are experience a sudden life threatening experience? Most everyone recognizes, in times of difficulty, we turn toward God, but sometimes the answer is no, and we suffer great pain or loss. For many of us, this brings us closer to God, and a greater understanding of the purpose to our life.

Timothy Keller wrote, “For many years, after each of the morning and evening Sunday services, I remained in the auditorium for another hour to field questions. Hundreds of people stayed for the give and take discussions. One of the most frequent statements I heard was, ‘Every person has the right to define right and wrong for himself or herself.’ I always responded to the speakers by asking, ‘Is there anyone in the world right now, doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?’ They would invariably say, ‘Yes, of course.’” 2

We are all free to do good, and we are all free to do evil. The same freedom allows us to do one or the other, but without good we could not measure evil. Without God, evil is just a behavior that some don’t enjoy, and it becomes a totally subjective feeling.

Timothy Keller was pointing out that without a grounding objective morality we get from God, then evil is just a point of view. If we each decide what is right and wrong, then evil is just a matter of opinion.

Volumes have been written on the problem of evil, and it is one Christians should be familiar with because it can be one of the most difficult questions to answer when the suffering does not offer any rhyme or reason.

Go see God’s Not Dead if you have not seen it. I would have enjoyed more classroom debate and apologetic arguments in greater detail, also more character development. Nevertheless, it has raised awareness in Christians who might never have considered intellectual and philosophical arguments for their belief in Christ.

Sources

1. God’s Not Dead. Dir. Harold Cronk, Perf. Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper. Pure Flix Entertainment, 2014. Film
2. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.

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A brief look at God’s Not Dead by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Science Camp and Hunter Killer Snails

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This past week I took my 6th, 7th and 8th graders to the Alliance Redwood Outdoor Education Camp. It was a new experience for most of my students; many had never been away from home, their parents, or attended any kind of science camp. Several had never spent any time on the beach, so on the last day we went to Bodega Bay  and enjoyed some tide pooling with our naturalist.

con3The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves and when we left, I had a couple of them tell me their favorite part was the tide pooling and spending time exploring and playing along the beach. We walked a mile or two and toward the end of our exploration, I noticed two people a ways off that seemed to be doing the same thing my students were. My class approached within 50 yards or so, and I was curious as to what they were doing. The woman was facing the sea, but did not enter the water. She was conversing with the older gentleman, who was intent on some rocks and seemed to be working on something.

I took a quick glance at my students, adult chaperones, and our naturalist to make sure all was in order. Everyone was chatting and tide pooling. I then walked over to the older couple to say hello. As I walked up, I was surprised to see he was actually drilling into the rocks and seemed to be placing some small orange markers on a rock covered with sea anemones. I stopped just a few feet away and was watching what he was doing. I asked the woman what he was doing. She was very friendly and had an Australian accent.

con2 She explained that her friend David was marking the outer edges of the sea anemone’s colonies. I asked why, and she shared that they both work at a university in Australia, outside of Sydney. I don’t recall the name of the University, but she said they travel to other university’s and coordinate working with other scientists also studying sea anemones. Currently, David was on sabbatical and they were working with U.C. Davis. I introduced myself and shook her hand. I believe she said her name was Jean.

 

con1She told me that David has studied sea anemones for over 30 years, researching their habitats and behaviors on coastal areas all over the world – North America, South America, Japan, and of course Australia. She was very friendly and shared a bit more than I wanted to know, but I listened patiently, waiting for a moment to ask a question. Finally, she paused and I jumped in with a question that I thought she might be able to answer. I asked her, “After studying sea anemones for over 30 years, I have to ask if you have found any evidence on how life could have begun?” She smiled pleasantly, looking up, thinking, she was considering her response. I continued with, “I mean abiogenesis, life from non-life. After so many years of study, have you found any explanation for that?” She glanced at me again and seemed to be slightly embarrassed, still smiling. She said, “That would be a question for David. He is also a geneticist.”

A geneticist is a biologist who studies genetics. What is genetics? It is the study of heredity and genes. Genes, among other things, can explain why you are terrible at math, but excel at language arts, assuming it is not the teacher’s fault. 😉 Geneticists study microbiology, cell biology, chemistry, and have a solid understanding of how we inherit certain traits from our parents. Why our hair is straight, why our eyes are blue, why some are tall and others short, and why some, like me, don’t like chocolate, but prefer vanilla. As a boy, all my siblings would receive a chocolate Easter Bunny to enjoy, but mine was always white chocolate and I was amazed from an early age, how the Easter Bunny knew that I disliked chocolate.

She called out to David, “David, this gentlemen has a question for you!” He nodded, but kept working for a few moments. It was obvious he was trying to complete the task of marking the rocks. She explained to me while we waited that he was actually marking the sea anemones’ colonies. By marking the colonies, they are able to track their movement, which is slow, slower than a snail. In fact, some snails are predators for the sea anemones. I found that amusing and she could tell. She went on explaining that the sea anemones who were in the front of the colony were actually scouts, and those behind the scouts were warriors. The terms scouts and warriors perked me up, (I know, a typical male response), and I asked why they were named that. She said that as the colony moved, only 15 to 25 millimeters a month, (that is about an inch for the rest of us), the scouts determined if the new territory was worth their efforts. If any scouts were threatened by some snails, (I preferred the term Hunter Killer Snails, but kept that thought to myself), the warrior sea anemones actually threw out longer tentacles and attacked.

About the time I had visions of the under water Alamo, with a colony of sea anemones surrounded by General Santa Ana and his hunter killer snails, David finished his task. He walked up and was changing the bit on his drill when I said to him, “I understand you have been studying sea anemones for over 30 years.” He smiled and said, “Yes.” I continued, “Have you come across anything in your research that would explain abiogenesis? Have you seen any kind of observable evidence that would explain how life could have begun?” David replied, but I followed very little of what he said. He mentioned genes, divisions, population genetics, mutations,  and explained how some sea anemone divide. clone He mentioned chemistry, biology, bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. He mentioned many things, but did not mention how abiogenesis could have taken place. I was going to ask again, pressing in with the question, but a student ran up to me asking me to look at what she found. I could tell my students were gathering around the naturalist for a chat and it was something I should be involved in. I thanked David and Jean for their time and said that I enjoyed the conversation.

When you talk to someone about evolution, it is important to define what exactly they mean by the term evolution. Evolution in its most basic sense means change over time. All we need to do is look around and we can see how things change over time. The second common definition of evolution is microevolution, or adaptation. Darwin’s famous finches are an example of microevolution. The common house sparrow that came to America in the mid 1800’s is another, with the larger bodied sparrow found in the colder climate in North America and the smaller in the South. We have thousands of examples of microevolution, which are commonly used as examples of macroevolution. The last definition, macroevolution, takes place over hundreds of millions of years. Molecules to man. So the question I was asking does not have to do with the process of evolution per se, but specifically how it could have begun.

How does the Darwinian evolutionist, the macro-evolutionist, explain the beginnings of life? How can you possibly get life from non-life?

When we gathered around our naturalist, she had the students share what they had discovered and found in the last hour or so. When they finished, she asked me what I learned from my conversation with the couple. I shared what they were doing, and then my question about evidence for abiogenesis in 30 plus years of studying sea anemones, and his lack of an answer.

Greg Koukl call it, “Putting a stone in their shoe.” Others may say, “I like to give them something to think about.” No matter what we call it, asking the question of abiogenesis to even the most dedicated and educated university evolutionary professors will result in a reply that should be listened to very carefully.

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