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Saturday, November 19, 2011

D'Souza: 'Why We Need Earthquakes'






During my recent debate with Justin Vacula, he brought up the problem of so-called 'natural evil', asking why natural disasters occur. Insofar as the example of earthquakes occurring that Justin brought up, I linked an article quoting the director of the German Space Research Centre Institute of Planetary Research and chairman of European Space Agency’s scientific advisory committee, Tilman Spohn. Spohn notes ...








"It is an idea growing in popularity among planetary scientists. Says Spohn, “plate tectonics replenishes the nutrition that primitive life could live on. Imagine a top surface that is depleted of the nutrition needed for bacterial life. It needs to be replenished, and plate tectonics is a method of achieving this.”

Spohn found that the further he delved into the issue, the more important plate tectonics seemed to be for life. For example, it is believed that life developed by moving from the ocean to the kind of strong and stable rock formations that are the result of tectonic action. Plate tectonics is also involved in the generation of a magnetic field by convection of Earth’s partially molten core. This magnetic field protects life on Earth by deflecting the solar wind. Not only would an unimpeded solar wind erode our planet’s atmosphere, but it also carries highly energetic particles that could damage DNA.

Another factor is the recycling of carbon, which is needed to stabilize the temperature here on Earth. Spohn explains, “plate tectonics is known to recycle carbon that is washed out of the atmosphere and digested by bacteria in the soil into the interior of the planet from where it can be outcast through volcanic activity. Now, if you have a planet without plate tectonics, you may have parts of this cycle, but it is broken because you do not have the recycling link.”

It has also been speculated that the lack of tectonic action on Venus contributed to its runaway greenhouse effect, which resulted in the immense temperatures it has today."








I personally thought using so-called 'natural evil' as an argument against the existance of God to be absurd, and on a couple of different levels. Last night while surfing the net, I came across this article by Dinesh D'Souza (above) which deals with another objection that skeptics might raise. D'Souza quotes "Rare Earth, a 2003 book by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee that traces the myriad conditions required for life to exist on any planet. In a sense, the authors—an eminent paleontologist and an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle—are discussing the "anthropic principle," which specifies the degree to which our planet appears fine-tuned for complex life." D'Souza goes on to note...








"Why didn't God devise a world that didn't require plate tectonics and consequently one that wouldn't have to put up with earthquakes?" In other words, surely God could have made a universe that operated according to a different set of laws.

Ward and Brownlee's answer to this is as simple as it is devastating. Such a world could have produced life, but it surely could not have produced creatures like us. Science tells us that our world has all the necessary conditions for species like Homo sapiens to survive and endure.

Our planet requires oxygen and a warming sun and water in order for us to live here, and we appreciate this, even though we recognize that people can get sunstroke and drown in the ocean. So, too, it seems that plate tectonics are, as Ward and Brownlee put it, a "central requirement for life" as we know it.

This is not to suggest, as the scientist and philosopher Leibniz once argued, that ours is the best of all possible worlds. But ours may be the best of all feasible worlds, at least as viewed from a human perspective."








So there you have it, earthquakes are necessary for life. It also appears that hurricanes serve a purpose too. Gravity occurs through natural processes and bad things can concievably come about because gravity exists, but nobody is going around arguing that the planet would be better off without gravity.




The important thing to keep in mind, as philosopher Peter Kreeft once mentioned, is to be there for people when bad things occur in their lives. To be Christ for them as God's love shines through us as we comfort them in their time of need and despair.


10 comments:

Speedy G said...

You mean that mankind NEEDS to struggle and overcome "obstacles" in order to become 'intelligent'?

I'm shocked I tell you, SHOCKED!

JD Curtis said...

Right. I read where Kreeft once asked how you could possibly teach something like courage to someone unless they actually had to experience adversity and hardship.

It just can't be done.

Theological Discourse said...

how are natural disasters a problem in the first place? is this another 'argument from evil' that is directed to a 'god' that doesn't describe the Christian God at all?

GentleSkeptic said...

"how are natural disasters a problem in the first place?"

Natural disasters are not the problem. Unnecessary human suffering is the problem. And natural disasters cause a great deal of unnecessary human suffering.

According to Genesis, God did not create us with "suffering" in mind, just communion and relationship. But after the Fall (our fault) it is, ever-after, our continual punishment; through toil, pain of childbirth, etc. The problem is reconciling this response to our (singular) failure, as created beings with no experience, with an infinitely Good and Loving God.

It's not hard to see why y'all can't answer the question.

GentleSkeptic said...

"Such a world could have produced life, but it surely could not have produced creatures like us."

In other words, God's infinite power is actually quite limited by … the laws of nature?

GentleSkeptic said...

I read where Kreeft once asked how you could possibly teach something like courage to someone unless they actually had to experience adversity and hardship.

JD: is it your view that adversity and hardship were part of God's original Plan for us? Please cite scripture to support your answer.

JD Curtis said...

Natural disasters are not the problem. Unnecessary human suffering is the problem. And natural disasters cause a great deal of unnecessary human suffering

Who drew the line as to what constitutes 'unnecessary'? Is mild discomfort allowed?

In other words, God's infinite power is actually quite limited by … the laws of nature?

I don't think that's the issue here. The above article indicates that life could conceivably exist without plate tectonics, it's just that we wouldn't have a world anything like this one if we didn't.

JD: is it your view that adversity and hardship were part of God's original Plan for us? Please cite scripture to support your answer.

I don't think it was. Only after the fall did such things enter the world. we don't see them mentioned before the fall.

The problem is reconciling this response to our (singular) failure, as created beings with no experience, with an infinitely Good and Loving God

Would you argue that we shouldn't have a wide range of possible responses/emotions/options and that we should have been programmed differently?

GentleSkeptic said...

Who drew the line as to what constitutes 'unnecessary'? Is mild discomfort allowed?

Well, can we at least agree that there is a line somewhere, and that is is frequently crossed? Or are catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, floods, etc. all "necessary" for our spiritual well-being in your view?

We all know that sometimes a little suffering now prevents much greater suffering later on, and thus we go to the dentist, and/or take foul-tasting medicines, and/or do tedious, tiring chores, and so on. But hang on—that argument assumes that the lesser suffering is justified by the need to avoid the greater. In other words, it assumes some amount of suffering necessarily exists. But wouldn’t it be preferable not to have any suffering at all, lesser or greater?Deacon Duncan

Only after the fall did such things enter the world. we don't see them mentioned before the fall.

Well then: your all-powerful, all knowing God's very first plan was a perfect failure, wasn't it? And Jesus represents Plan C; third try.

By embracing the ideas of strength through adversity and development through hardship — dare I say it, that the environment shapes the organism — you are endorsing the founding principles of Natural Selection. You're arguing in favor of evolution. If everything was Created Perfect and Good to begin with, what is the purpose of adversity? To make things better than perfect?

In fact, the big challenge to ID proponents is that design connotes purpose. We perceive "design" in nature because we are designers, and when we design things, they have a purpose. What is the purpose of an eye that can't see, or a wing that can't fly? What is intelligent about designing the critical male reproductive organs in such a way that it must be kept cooler than the body in order to work effectively, and thus must be dangled outside of the body in a tender little sack? What is the purpose?

Would you argue that we shouldn't have a wide range of possible responses/emotions/options and that we should have been programmed differently?

You misunderstood me. It is God's harsh response to our "failure" — understandable, at The Beginning, given our inexperience with, well, anything — that must be reconciled with His infinitely loving nature. It's a punishment-fits-the-crime question. Our very first mistake was greeted by a total reversal of the original deal. Not a warning, not a reprimand, not a loving "Oopsie! You messed that up, try to do better next time, OK?" No: full-on rejection, expulsion from Paradise, (lest we eat from that OTHER tree, you know, the Eternal Life one), pain, toil, death. And not even a fair summary of these looming consequences beforehand. Basically, God got mad that we touched the temptation that he deliberately placed within easy reach, then handed down the worst possible punishment.

We didn't Fall, we were Pushed.

If what God really wanted was creatures to commune with and worship Him, then yes; we should have been programmed differently. (At least, I should have.)

GentleSkeptic said...

In the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, whose actions are the most like God’s? It’s not the Samaritan, whose compassionate aid was praised by Jesus. It’s the priest and the Levite, who passed by on the other side of the road, leaving the wounded traveler lying in the ditch. God’s response to suffering is the opposite of what Christianity teaches as a “good” reaction. The classic Christian rationalization for this is that God knows more than we do, so “presumably” He is acting for the greater good. But that response falls short for two reasons: first, if we can never know that it’s not better to suffer, then why should we blindly assume that compassion is always the “good” thing to do? But secondly and more significantly, is it even remotely plausible to suppose that, by purest coincidence alone, the “good” thing for God to do would always turn out to be to fail to show up and help?

To make this argument work, you have to make an additional assumption: either that suffering is a good and preferable thing in and of itself (masochism), or else that good, by itself, is somehow intrinsically flawed and incapable of producing greater good on its own. That would mean that God, being perfectly good, was also perfectly intrinsically flawed and incapable of producing greater good without directly or indirectly inflicting suffering on others. Either way, if suffering is indeed required to produce the minimum acceptable amount of good, then it is wrong to seek to relieve suffering.
Deacon Duncan

GentleSkeptic said...

It's worth pointing out that D'Souza also defends an old universe and the ToE:

D’Souza goes on to defend not just the evolutionary timeline, but evolution itself. He even repeats the disproved assertion that man shares 98% of his DNA with apes. He argues that this is perfectly reconcilable with Scripture; since God’s image that man is made in is not physical, but spiritual, there is no problem with the physical body being derived from an ape.

link