Fact checking the fact checkers

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In this climate of “fake news,” professional fact checkers have risen to new prominence.  But an academic study of two of the most prominent media fact checkers has found that in one out of five times, the two come to opposite conclusions about whether something is true or a lie.

After the jump, an editorial discusses the study (linked at the end of this post), as well as other similar findings, including a column by Mark Hemingway (a member of an LCMS congregation).

Some will use this research for the postmodernist cause:  “See, there are no ‘facts.’  Bias is inevitable.  Objective truth is impossible to determine.  Truth is relative.  Truth is a political construction, etc.”

And those who think that way will feel justified in constructing more truths for a political cause. [Read more…]

5 more arguments for the existence of God

 

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St. Thomas Aquinas famously formulated 5 arguments for the existence of God.  Robert H. Nelson has formulated 5 more, reflecting modern modes of thinking.

They have to do with (1) the mystery of why mathematics, a mental construction,  applies so completely in the physical world; (2) the mystery of human consciousness; (3) new issues in evolutionary biology; (4) that revolutionary ideas have tended to occur separately but at the same time;  (5) the phenomenon of different forms of worship (including the way even non-religious ideologies such as Marxism assume religious forms).  These all suggest the existence of a mind behind the universe.

More details on these arguments after the jump.  See also Nelson’s book,  God?  Very Probably:  Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God.

Now I’m not sure such arguments, while interesting, get us very far.  They don’t get us to the incarnation of this God, or to His act of atonement on the Cross, or to His resurrection from the dead.

Faith is a curious kind of thing,” the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  Faith is a gift.  As the great thinker  J. G. Hamann said when his friend Immanuel Kant tried to argue him out of his conversion, you can’t argue me out of my faith because I was never argued into my faith.  Faith is a kind of revelation, the personal impact of the Word of Law and Gospel, so it’s very real, hard to shake, and yet a different kind of thing than the conclusion of a rational argument.

And yet, I do think apologetics can be helpful in clearing away obstacles and in reminding us all that Christian faith is connected to objective truth.

 

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Plantinga wins Templeton Prize

512px-AlvinPlantingaChristian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has won the Templeton Prize for contributions to religion.

Plantinga has shown, in a sophisticated way that is convincing even to most non-believing philosophers, that it is not irrational to believe in God, that the “problem of evil” does not disprove God’s existence, and that Christianity can make important contributions to philosophical questions.

Plantinga, a Calvinist who has been a professor at Notre Dame, has sparked a renaissance in Christian philosophy and has shown Christian academics how they can contribute to secular academia without compromising their faith.

Photo of Alvin Plantinga by Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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And now, the nature rights movement 

Main_Ganga_river,_before_the_Bhimgoda_barrage,_HaridwarThe language of “rights” tends to win all arguments.  There are “human rights.”  These include “women’s rights,” “minority rights,” “gay rights.”  Then people started asserting “animal rights.”  A new strategy for some environmentalists is to assert “nature rights.”

In a recent victory for that movement, a river in New Zealand held sacred to the Maoris has been legally declared a “person.”  Similarly, a court in India declared that for the purposes of law the Ganges river, sacred to the Hindus, is also a “person.”

This is an odd accommodation for secular governments to be so deferential to religions.  But the impetus is not so much religious as environmentalist.  Wesley J. Smith, who writes about these developments (read him after the jump), quotes an environmental defense organization that is behind other attempts to claim “rights” for other “natural communities,” such as mountains, streams, and forests.

For an overview of this movement, see the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature website.  The nation of Ecuador has formally codified the rights of nature.

Smith points out the painful irony of affirming the personhood of rivers while denying the personhood of unborn children.  Similarly, some of the same people who are sympathetic to the rights of mountains and forests are opposing human rights to religious liberty, freedom of speech, and others principles of the Bill of Rights (such as the right to keep firearms).  And they are insisting on “nature rights” while rejecting “natural law.” [Read more…]

Originalism and the rule of law

8459580668_6b116eeb71_zDuring his confirmation hearing for Supreme Court justice, liberal senators interrogated Neil Gorsuch about his judicial philosophy of “originalism.”

Because the founders used “he” to refer to the president, does this mean you don’t believe that a woman can serve in that office?

Because the authors of the 14th Amendment didn’t think about women or gays when they drew up the equal rights protection, does that mean you don’t think it applies to women or gays?

Judge Gorsuch replied that such questions show a misunderstanding of what “originalism” means.  That approach does not look for meaning in subjective interpretations of readers, whether of the time it was written or today.  Rather, it looks for meaning in what the law says.

To discern that, you have to research what the words meant to the lawmakers who passed the law; that is, their original intent.  But to interpret (or throw out) a law based on speculation about the personal beliefs of the authors–as opposed to what they said–is more like what liberal interpreters do when they interpret the laws according to their own personal beliefs.  Thus, “originalism” refers to the original language, not historical origins.

That is, originalists believe that the meaning of language and thus the law is objective, not subjective.  The 14th Amendment  guarantees the equal protection of the laws to all Americans, so that would include categories of Americans that the authors didn’t think of at the time.

The rule of law, notes an editorial on the subject (quoted and excerpted after the jump), depends on the law having an objective meaning.

This debate reminds me of different approaches to the Bible.  Do we interpret it according to what we want it to mean?  That’s basically the approach of liberal theology.  Or do we believe in what it says? [Read more…]

To infinity and beyond

Mathematician Eugenia Cheng has written a popular, amusing, and fascinating book on the concept of infinity.

Beyond Infinity:  An Expedition to the Outer Limits of Mathematics takes up its paradoxes, mathematical conundrums, and important uses.

For example, one mathematical axiom is that:

infinity X infinity = infinity.

But if you work out this equation by dividing both sides by infinity, you get:

infinity = 1

Since that can’t be, infinity must not be a number, exactly.  But what is it?

Read an excerpt from her book, taken from Science Friday. [Read more…]