Friday, February 05, 2010

Special Prayer Request

Tom B. is my daughter's drama teacher. At her class this past weekend he asked me to get the word out and get as many people praying for him as possible. Last fall he had to have surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Apparently it has now re-torn. But in the process of some testing he was having for the re-tear, his doctors actually discovered that he has tumors on his lungs. He would greatly appreciate it if we could get as many people praying for him as possible, so I ask anyone reading this to please pray for Tom regularly. Put his name on your prayer lists at church and ask your friends to pray as well. E-mail, phone, do whatever you have to do. Just please get as many of God's children as possible praying for Tom.

Thank you all. And please check out the "Prayer Network" page on the Ten Minas website for more people who have asked for your prayers. God bless.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Skepticism's Naturalistic Bias

The Skeptics Society is an organization that describes itself as "a scientific and educational organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, professors and teachers, and anyone curious about controversial ideas, extraordinary claims, revolutionary ideas, and the promotion of science." Their purported mission is "to serve as an educational tool for those seeking clarification and viewpoints on those controversial ideas and claims." On their "About Us" page they attempt to clarify the definition of a "skeptic." According to the Society:

"...skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are 'skeptical,' we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe."

As far as this definition goes, I would label myself as a skeptic. After all I do not believe in the resurrection of Christ as a matter of blind dogma. I have evaluated the evidence and firmly believe that there is "compelling evidence" that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. I appreciate that such a claim requires extraordinary evidence. But as the Skeptics Society definition says, I do not go into the investigation "closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real" and I believe that compelling evidence demonstrates that this extraordinary claim is in fact true.

People who label themselves as "skeptics" (or "free thinkers," as the latest fad seems to be) like to think that they approach questions with true objectivity, not bringing their own presuppositions or biased worldview to bear on the question. In reality, I believe that so-called skeptics are just as influenced by biased presuppositions as they claim their opponents are. Specifically, their history betrays a naturalistic bias. They are not "closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real" so long as a naturalistic explanation for that phenomenon can be found. If the evidence points to a supernatural explanation, skeptics will discard it on that ground alone.

Take the following quote, also taken from the Skeptics Society's "About Us" page:

"Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, which involves gathering data to formulate and test naturalistic explanations for natural phenomena. A claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent it would be reasonable to offer temporary agreement." (emphasis added)

According to this comment, skepticism limits itself to evaluating only "natural phenomena." If that were true, it would make perfect sense to limit your search to "naturalistic explanations." After all, the definition of a "natural phenomena" is something with a "naturalistic explanation."

But skeptics do not limit their opinions to natural phenomena. Take a few examples from the Skeptics Society's website.

Their home page has the following two quotes:

"Shermer exposes frauds and debunks paranormal quackery from acupuncture to out-of-body experiences, and more on his YouTube Channel!"

"In this 14-minute introduction to skepticism, Dr. Michael Shermer (Executive Director of the Skeptics Society) discusses why people believe weird things and elaborates on the power of belief systems."

Does this sound like Dr. Shermer (the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine) is limiting himself to explaining "natural phenomena"? Isn't "paranormal" by definition not "naturalistic"?

Their website also contains a book review of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, a fictional story by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein which, contrary to the appearance of its title, actually uses fiction as an attempt to disprove the existence of God. Look at some of the comments that found their way into the review:

"As is suggested in Goldstein’s title, many individuals still turn to a work of fiction called the bible for their answers to life’s big questions."

"36 Arguments for the Existence of God not only delivers what the freethinking reader wants from a philosophical novel, but is a must-read for any skeptic who wishes to arm him/herself with thoughtful ammunition in the ongoing battle to end religious irrationality."

Again, isn't the existence of God a supernatural question?

Finally, Volume 15, Number 3 of Skeptic Magazine contains an article titled "Magic, Skepticism & Belief: An Empirical Study on What Magicians Believe About the Paranormal and letters titled "When Religions Go Bad", "Christianity and the Southern Cross" and "I Could Be Wrong About God, Could You?"

Please understand that I am not suggesting that people who label themselves skeptics should not chime in on these topics. Of course they should. The marketplace of ideas demands that competing viewpoints be given equal voice so that intelligent people can evaluate them on their merits. The problem is that skeptics worship at the altar of the scientific method and only open themselves up to naturalistic explanations. That is fine if you are limiting yourself to evaluating natural phenomena. But they do not limit their inquiry in this way. They equally delve into the realm of the supernatural, but they continue to limit themselves to naturalistic explanations.

This is an unjustified methodological limitation. If your goal is to discover truth you have to broaden your horizons to include both natural and supernatural potential explanations, all the while being true to the original definition of skepticism that "we must see compelling evidence before we believe." But nothing in the requirement for compelling evidence per se eliminates supernatural explanations. I understand that most skeptics probably believe that they are open to these possibilities, but their comments often betray the truth.

The Skeptics Society admits that a skeptic looks only for "naturalistic explanations." That in and of itself shows why their methodology is inadequate for opening yourself up to all possibilities of "truth." If you are not interested in learning the truth and would rather go through life wearing a set of naturalistic blinders, that is certainly your prerogative. But if so then understand that you will never be able to arrive at answers in arenas for which your methodology is ill-suited.