Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review (2): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Chapter 1 is called “The Nature of Evidence,” and in it, Lisle addresses how two people with different presuppositions, or worldviews, can view the same evidence and come to different, even totally opposite, conclusions. He gives some examples of evidence that, seen rightly, supports the biblical creation account. This evidence includes information science (like DNA), irreducible complexity, and carbon (C-14) dating. Lisle notes that matter doesn’t “spontaneously generate information,” and that “only a mental source (a mind) can generate new creative information. He uses the very words of his book for illustration. Lisle also points to the existence of comets as good evidence for the biblical timescale of creation, which leads him into the next topic: “rescuing devices.”

The book seems to change course here, moving from the mention of various evidences to the rationale for dialogue regarding such evidences. Lisle defines a rescuing device as “a conjecture designed to save a person’s view from apparently contrary evidence.” He suggests that evolutionists use the Oort Cloud as a rescuing device to save their view of an old universe (billions of years) from the seemingly contrary evidence of comets, which cannot exist for even 100,000 years. In others words, Lisle says that any evidence can be explained away by invoking the unknown (a rescuing device); and the important thing to note here is that rescuing devices are not bad or wrong in and of themselves, as long as they are not arbitrary. Arbitrariness is not allowed in the philosophical realm of logical and rational thinking; rescuing devices must be reasonable, not arbitrary. Just as Lisle gave the comets and the Oort Cloud as an illustration that seems to favor creationists, he also gives one that seems to favor evolutionists – distant starlight. Of course, Lisle offers a number of reasonable rescuing devices that creationists employ regarding this apparently troublesome issue. But his point in doing so is to suggest that arguing over the evidence won’t bring conclusions. The argument must take place regarding worldviews.

Lisle next defines worldview as “a network of our most basic beliefs [presuppositions, to be introduced later] about reality in light of which all observations are interpreted.” While all people have a worldview, few realize it; and even fewer contemplate their worldview. Lisle gives a number of illustrations to support his stance here. One such example is this: “Suppose that your neighbor tells you that she saw a UFO last night. Your worldview will immediately kick in and help you process and interpret this evidence. As your neighbor provides additional details, you will begin forming hypotheses base don your worldview… The conclusion you draw will be influenced not only by the evidence, but also by your general understanding of the universe.” If you believe that aliens exist, you might agree that she saw a UFO; but if you don’t believe that aliens exist, then you’ll explain her sighting in another way. The point is that worldviews are what determine the meaning of the evidence. And so we must take a step away from the evidence in any given debate and look more closely at the worldviews.

Lisle begins chapter 2, which is called “Resolving the Origins Debate,” by laying out the creationist (biblical) worldview side-by-side with a synopsis of evolutionist worldviews (naturalism – “the belief that nature is all that there is” – or empiricism – “the idea that all knowledge is gained from observations”). The various evolutionist worldviews basically encompass all non-biblical views and hold to a faulty philosophy of uniformitarianism, the idea that “the present is the key to the past.” Lisle works hard to show that there is no neutral ground between these two competing worldviews (Matthew 12:30), though the evolutionist often demands that the creationist come to a neutral position for the sake of dialogue (by doing away with the Bible).

Since there is no neutrality, how might we determine whether or not a worldview is rational? Lisle points first to consistency, claiming that a true worldview must be internally consistent. He shows that relativism and empiricism are refuted by failing this test. Next Lisle lays the groundwork for a very important concept throughout the rest of the book – the preconditions of intelligibility. He says, “These are conditions that must be accepted as true before we can know anything about the universe,” and they are “things that most people take for granted,” things like “the reliability of memory,” “the reliability of our senses,” “that there are laws of logic that govern correct reasoning,” “uniformity of nature,” “morality,” “personal dignity,” and “freedom.” Lisle says, “Only a consistent Christian can have justification (a sound reason) for things like laws of logic and the reliability of our senses… Only in a biblical creationist universe is it possible to actually know anything about anything.” And then he reveals the great proof after which the book is titled. “The ultimate proof of creation is this: if biblical creation were not true, we could not know anything!” Lisle will repeat this ultimate proof in different ways throughout the rest of the book, but he says it again this way here in chapter 2: “Only the Christian worldview (starting with a literal Genesis) can rationally [in a non-arbitrary way] make sense of the universe.”

The remainder of chapter 2 is spent refuting initial reactions to this profound statement. Lisle gives examples of poorly articulated responses; he also notes “the necessity of being non-arbitrary.” Pointing out that knowledge is simply “true, justified belief,” Lisle concludes, “Non-biblical worldviews such as evolution are necessarily ultimately irrational,” because they have no justification for the beliefs within them; therefore they lack knowledge. As God says in His word, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). Indeed, the ultimate proof of creation is bold.

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