An A-Z of Unanswered Objections to Christianity: Y. Has Christianity made the world a better place?

When one is assessing the credibility of a religion, impact matters: has it been a force for good or for evil? In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught his followers how to discern false prophets: “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16, NASB). This is a test that can be applied not only to prophets, but to entire religions. What I am proposing in this essay is that while a religion which makes our world a better place may not necessarily be true on that account, its positive influence on the course of human history at least renders it worthy of consideration. On the other hand, we can probably disregard the truth claims of a religion which leaves the world no better than it was before, and ignore altogether the claims of a religion which actually makes the world a worse place in which to live. So the question we need to ask, before examining the intellectual claims of Christianity, is: has Christianity made the world a better place?

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Dr. Jeffrey Tripp on the failure of undesigned coincidences

Dr. Jeffrey Tripp has a PhD in New Testament and Early Christianity. He is also the author of a text titled, Direct Internal Quotation in the Gospel of John. His academic publications can be found here. In this interview with Derek Lambert of Mythvision, Dr. Tripp critiques the argument from undesigned coincidences developed by Christian apologist Dr. Lydia McGrew in her book, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts. I have to say that Dr. Tripp’s rebuttal of Dr. McGrew’s argument is about the best I’ve seen yet: it’s fair, thorough, courteous and scholarly. What do viewers think?

Assembly theory explains and quantifies selection and evolution

Scientists have grappled with reconciling biological evolution1,2 with the immutable laws of the Universe defined by physics. These laws underpin life’s origin, evolution and the development of human culture and technology, yet they do not predict the emergence of these phenomena.

Evolutionary theory explains why some things exist and others do not through the lens of selection. To comprehend how diverse, open-ended forms can emerge from physics without an inherent design blueprint, a new approach to understanding and quantifying selection is necessary3,4,5.

We present assembly theory (AT) as a framework that does not alter the laws of physics, but redefines the concept of an ‘object’ on which these laws act. AT conceptualizes objects not as point particles, but as entities defined by their possible formation histories. This allows objects to show evidence of selection, within well-defined boundaries of individuals or selected units.

We introduce a measure called assembly (A), capturing the degree of causation required to produce a given ensemble of objects. This approach enables us to incorporate novelty generation and selection into the physics of complex objects. It explains how these objects can be characterized through a forward dynamical process considering their assembly.

By reimagining the concept of matter within assembly spaces, AT provides a powerful interface between physics and biology. It discloses a new aspect of physics emerging at the chemical scale, whereby history and causal contingency influence what exists.


The Expanded Problem of Animal Suffering

Phil Halper (aka SkydivePhil) has produced a hard-hitting new video titled, “Atheism’s Best Argument? The Problem of Animal Suffering & The Neuroscience of Pain,” in conjunction with philosopher of consciousness Ken Williford, neuroscientist David Rudrauf, pain expert Perry Fuchs, as well as ethicists Peter Singer and Mark Bernstein, and philosopher Joe Schmid and Within Reason host Alex O’Connor (the artist formerly known as cosmic skeptic). Here’s a brief excerpt from the video’s description:

The problem of animal suffering (a version of the problem of evil) has recently been described as the biggest problem for Christianity. However, a new paper in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion suggests that the problem is far worse than imagined. Here, we explain why and counter attempts by theists to reply.

I’ll be putting out a TSZ post on the problem of evil later this year. In the meantime, I’d like to ask viewers what they think of SkydivePhil’s latest video. Comment is welcome.

The Shroud of Turin: Why I think the image is natural and probably medieval

Recently, some prominent defenders of the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin have produced a spate of online videos promoting their point of view. We’ll have a look at two of these below. At first blush, they sounded pretty convincing – especially their attempts to debunk the carbon-14 dating for the Shroud to somewhere between 1260 and 1390. I then did some online research, and I came across some very convincing rebuttals of popular pro-Shroud arguments. Interestingly, these rebuttals were made by a Catholic science teacher named Hugh Farey, a current former editor of the British Society for the Turin Shroud newsletter, and a former Shroud believer. I was highly impressed with Hugh Farey’s eloquence as a speaker. Shroud believers will find his arguments devastating. I post them here for readers’ interest.

5 Popular Arguments for the Shroud of Turin Debunked

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weirdly, fuel efficiency can be expressed as an area

Yesterday I saw someone joking online about how if you apply dimensional analysis to fuel efficiency, you end up with an area. Why? Because fuel efficiency is expressed (in Canada and Europe, anyway) as liters per 100 kilometers. The liter is a unit of volume, or length3. The kilometer is a unit of length. If you divide length3 by length, you end up with length2, or area. (Similar reasoning applies to American-style fuel efficiency expressed as miles per gallon.) Continue reading

Maximum mutational robustness in genotype–phenotype maps follows a self-similar blancmange-like curve


Phenotype robustness, defined as the average mutational robustness of all the genotypes that map to a given phenotype, plays a key role in facilitating neutral exploration of novel phenotypic variation by an evolving population. By applying results from coding theory, we prove that the maximum phenotype robustness occurs when genotypes are organized as bricklayer’s graphs, so-called because they resemble the way in which a bricklayer would fill in a Hamming graph. The value of the maximal robustness is given by a fractal continuous everywhere but differentiable nowhere sums-of-digits function from number theory. Interestingly, genotype–phenotype maps for RNA secondary structure and the hydrophobic-polar (HP) model for protein folding can exhibit phenotype robustness that exactly attains this upper bound. By exploiting properties of the sums-of-digits function, we prove a lower bound on the deviation of the maximum robustness of phenotypes with multiple neutral components from the bricklayer’s graph bound, and show that RNA secondary structure phenotypes obey this bound. Finally, we show how robustness changes when phenotypes are coarse-grained and derive a formula and associated bounds for the transition probabilities between such phenotypes.


Evolutionist against gradualism?

Annotated […] excerpts :

We now know that Darwin’s ‘gradualist’ view of evolution, exclusively driven by natural selection, is no longer compatible with contemporary science.

Species do not emerge from an accumulation of random genetic changes. This has been confirmed by 21st-century genome sequencing, but the idea that natural selection inadequately explains evolutionary change goes back 151 years – to Darwin himself. Continue reading

Marmorkrebs disprove “Natural Selection”

(F) Growth differences of five juveniles from dam B that were size-matched in stage 6 and then cultured in an aquarium without shelter. 34 days later, one specimen was in stage 11, one in stage 9 and three were in stage 7. Scale bar, 4 mm.

The facts

A 2008 study popularized by Michael Blastland in his book, ‘The Hidden Half’, shows that genetically identical crayfish (clones) from the same batch and grown in a tightly controlled identical environment vary wildly in size, lifespan, behavior, appearance, growth rate, molting, reproduction, etc. Continue reading

What do you think of Dr. Lydia McGrew’s Elevator Pitch for the Resurrection?

Dr. Lydia McGrew is a renowned Christian apologist and philosopher, who surely needs no introduction to viewers of this blog. Recently, she released her Elevator Pitch for the Resurrection of Jesus on Cameron Bertuzzi’s Youtube channel, Capturing Christianity. Here it is:

(For the benefit of viewers, I should explain that Dr. Lydia McGrew suffers from severe back pain.)

I decided to post a short six-minute reply, summarizing and rebutting her case. I conclude that the Resurrection of Jesus is something that believers have to take on faith. What do you think?

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Are We Living in an Existential Vacuum?

The existential vacuum is a widespread phenomenon of the 20th century.” said Viktor Frankl.

I am living in an existential vacuum. We pay a price for our relative freedom. Animals are rooted in being governed by instincts which they are obliged to follow. Humans are set free from this obligation. We escaped from a life of instinct only to have tradition curtailing individual freedom. Modern society has allowed us the opportunity to wrestle free from these bonds, but, like a child thrown into a swimming pool by a parent eager to teach it to swim, we tend to flail about having been left to our own devices. A feeling of abandonment may lie deep within my soul. My reliance on instinct and tradition has been pulled from under my feet. What should I do? Follow the crowd, or look for an authority that is going to tell me what to do and think? Or stand on my own two feet and find my own path? Continue reading

Descent with Modification misrepresentation

Darwin defined “evolution as “descent with modification”. But modification of what? The messy mix of DNA in sexual reproduction is not modification of anything. Two become three in sexual reproduction while one becomes two in mitosis and budding. No parent is being modified. Either way, descent by definition is the creation of new entities. Modification by definition is the same one entity before and after. The combination “descent with modification” is simply incoherent. Is this just an unfortunate linguistic error that hides a real process? Could this apply to populations instead? Populations change, but they do not descend – just individual members do. OK then, “descent with modification” is just a pleasant but otherwise incoherent soundbite. Continue reading

RNA World:

The Answer to Chickens and Eggs

One regret I have regarding the demise of Uncommon Descent is being unable to continue discussion with Upright Biped, a regular at UD who believed he had an argument against the natural evolution of the genetic code, which I refer to as his “semiotic hypothesis”.

Whilst wrapped up in impenetrable jargon and idiosyncratic prose, it is/was quite a simple argument: that the first organisms could not evolve the genetic code without already having the metabolism in place and vice versa, an insoluble chicken-and-egg conundrum. Continue reading

How not to argue for the Resurrection PLUS my latest interview with Ed Tahmizian

(Note: my recent interview with Edouard Tahmizian of Internet Infidels is at the end of this post.)

Christian apologist Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, a New Testament Baptist scholar, pastor and author who ministers internationally as president of Christian Thinkers Society, was recently interviewed by Ruth Jackson on the show, Unapologetic, from Premium Unbelievable about his latest book, Body of Proof: The 7 Best Reasons to Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus–and Why It Matters Today (Bethany House Publishers, 2023). Dr. Johnston wrote a 93,000-word dissertation while he was studying at Oxford on the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus, concluding that the resurrection was the best explanation for what happened. In his interview, he makes an even stronger claim (13:11): “We can prove the resurrection of Jesus really happened.” That’s a very tall claim, to put it mildly. As Scripture testifies, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
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Prof. Michael Hudson Explains the Rise of China / BRICS

For the first 30 years of my life, I was a “David Barton” American Christian … raised as a Baptist YEC … Air Force pilot “defending America against Communism” … etc etc.  Beginning at about Age 30, I began to question the policy of making the US Military into “The World’s Globocop” and in 1996, I separated from the military.  I was happy to see “The Fall of Communism” in 1989 but I continued to be discontent with the US Govt but couldn’t put my finger on the problem.  Finally — just a few months ago — I’ve figured it out, thanks to Prof. Michael Hudson and long story short, things have never been more clear for me.  The fog has lifted. Continue reading