Partisan, Uninformed Zeal vs. Balance, Reason, and Prudent Use of Data

Do you always believe everything negative about Hillary?  What about the bad news about Trump?  Immediately believe such news?

You shouldn’t.  Everyone is wrong and makes mistakes.  Trump makes lots.  So does Hillary.  Some policies each proposes are bad.  All aren’t good.  We should use balance, reason, and prudence to discern what is good and what is bad — not parrot like an uninformed, zealous partisan.

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We find people debating every social, religious, and political issue every day.   On Facebook.  On blogs.  On TV.  At work.  Those in these debates can usually be placed on a continuum of reason vs. blind faith.  On a continuum of information and data vs. data-free emotion.

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Atheists may have blind faith in their positions with no basis in fact.  Theist also may have blind faith with no basis in fact.  Your co-worker may be entirely emotional and not study any issues.  A neighbor may never be emotional and have every fact in the Universe memorized.  Everyone relies on some amount of faith and then an individual amount of facts.

We don’t know everything, so we gotta have faith in many areas of life.  But to rely solely on emotion or blind faith isn’t a good approach, in my view.  Instead, to we should gather all available data to make the most-informed decision possible.

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I’ve noticed that many LDS critics fall into this category — partisan, uniformed zealots — on many topics.  They rush to judgment when an LDS official is accused of wrongdoing, for example (this has occurred recently online).  Indeed, in my experience zealous LDS critics often assume the worst when the topic involves Joseph Smith or current leaders.  More data or context isn’t needed.  No way!  They “know” the truth, and their mind’s made up.

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This tendency — to assume the worst without evidence — is indicative of a problem.  A lack of balance and sense of proportion.  A willingness to be ignorant.  Perhaps lacking understanding that they’re, in fact, ignorant.  But being ignorant, nevertheless.

A commitment to a cause — be it Trump, Hillary, the LDS Church, etc — that is not based in reality.  But in large amounts of emotion.

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Critics of the Church (or any organization that is being unfairly maligned) often withhold exculpatory information.  This means, information that would exonerate or free of wrongdoing is intentionally withheld.  This is dishonest.

Remember the Duke Lacrosse case?  The lacrosse players hired a stripper.  Bad idea. But they didn’t rape her, as she later claimed.  The District Attorney assigned to the case stretched out the case longer than he should of, and used it as a way to get reelected.

It turned out, the DA also withheld evidence that would have freed the boys and avoided ruining their reputations (and lives for a few years).  That is, he buried exculpatory evidence.  He was disbarred (lost his law license) for this action.

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These kinds of practices are dishonest, unethical, and a form of misrepresentation.  Fair-minded people need to weigh the evidence.  They should see the often weak claims — especially in light of more data and context — as undermining of a critic’s position.  Waiting and researching prevents quick, rash, overreactions.

Of course, Mormons can also be immensely defensive and not follow the facts.  They shouldn’t.  Latter-day Saints should follow the evidence and increase their testimony.  After all, we embrace all truth!

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Mormon leaders have not and never will be perfect.  Neither have biblical leaders or leaders of any organization now or in history been perfect.  But, as unfamiliar issues and controversies arise, let’s gather all the possible associated data before we throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.

If you’re too quick at either activity — to defend or to accuse —  rather than gather the evidence fully, you might fall into the zealot camp.  An overzealous and uninformed fan with lacks proportion, balance, and all the context.

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So, if you’re an absolute, fully committed, all-in Trump, Hillary die hard, LDS critic, or uninformed partisan for the LDS faith you might want to evaluate your positions and look at more data before you jump to the defense of your candidate or annihilation of your opponent.

My experience is that the vast, vast majority of Latter-day Saints don’t rob, steal, or assault sexually (or otherwise).  However, some do.  And our past leaders were good men.  And our religious practices took place in a real, historical context that takes time to appreciate.  So, as we learn, let’s hear all sides, allow for due process, and not rush to judgment.

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And when questions arise relative to items in LDS history, please take the time to do the research.  You shouldn’t immediately trust LDS critics, nor should you exclusively trust what your Uncle Bob might say about our own history (even if he’s an active member).  Study things on your own.  Weigh the evidence.  And strive for balance and prudent understanding.

The best route is to follow the advise given in this podcast:  always consider the best in other faiths and groups.  Don’t knock down their weakest point.  Appreciate their strongest point!

Episode 32: Balancing Religious Tensions – Mauro Properzi

As we learn, we should consider a few ideas in the below video (start at 16:30 mark to avoid long introduction and personal anecdotes):

Scientism and the Faith of an Atheist

Science doesn’t answer big questions. The why questions.

However, Science does demonstrate very long odds that all this “just happened by chance.”

Life on this planet in a rare event.  That the universe to exist at all is amazing.  The four forces.  These issues of fine tuning of all variables in our universe — varying any one of which would throw life and the Universe out of existence — provides credibility that God exists in and created the Universe.

 

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Two points from scientific naturalism (atheism):

1.  The natural world is all there is.

This claim is consistent logically equivalent to atheism.  One can’t logically prove atheism or that the natural world is all there is.  How could one prove that there is nothing beyond the natural world, when all they can study is the natural world (and nothing more)?

The only way the naturalists could hold this claim #1 is by faith.  But then the naturalists would contradict claim #2.   Indeed, claim #1 is internally incoherent.

2.  We should only believe what can be scientifically proven.

This second point is far too narrow.  In fact, we accept many intuitive truths that can’t be proven.

Can’t prove these truths:

1) Ethics:  can’t prove good and evil.  2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty.  3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past.  4) Science itself has unproveable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths:  Science presupposes logic and math.

Even statement #2 itself can’t be proven scientifically.  Statement #2 is an opinion or statement of philosophy.  #2 is self-refuting and cannot be true.

William Lane Craig at his best in under 3 minutes:

Great points in 1.5 minutes:

Less than 2.5 minutes:

Awesome demolition in a little over 5 minutes:

Elder Holland, attending the 50th anniversary celebration of discovering chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, gave this talk on evidence:

John Lennox (see video below) has debated the biggest names among today’s atheists.

Christians should have an evidence base for belief in Christ.  John told us of Jesus’ actions so that we might believe.

John 20 : 30-31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

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Lennox makes several points from atheist debates:

1) Belief in Christianity is based in evidence — not blind faith.  Review John 20: 30-31 again.

2) Atheists claim to not have faith, but Lennox has challenged many atheists this way: “I’m sorry, but I thought you believed your atheism.”

3) Dawkins believes in or has faith in stuff, including his wife.  Evidence-based faith is still faith.

4) Traditional Christians don’t believe God was created (Mormons theology involves progression).  Dawkins constantly teases, “Who created your Creator?”  Lennox says nobody. Dawkins believes the Universe created him.  So, Lennox asked Dawkins, “Who created your (Dawkins’) creator?”  Still waiting for an answer.

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Top issues:

1) We don’t believe in the God of the Gaps.

2) Science and God are compatible and complimentary:

  •  To say you don’t believe in God, but rather you believe in Science is analogous to saying you don’t believe in Henry Ford, but instead you believe in the laws of internal combustion.  The God explanation is not the same as the Science explanation.  You, obviously, should believe in both.
  • Why is the kettle boiling?  There are 2 explanations: a scientific one about molecules.  And a personal agent explanation:  it’s boiling because I want a cup of tea.

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3) The Law of Gravity describes gravity, but descriptive laws do not create anything.  Ever.  We don’t even know what what gravity is.  However, Steven Hawking and other secular scientists would have you believe laws daily create matter and the entire Universe.  Not true.

4)  God created the world good.  God could have created a perfect world, but none of us would have been in it.  A world without hate will have no love.  Robotic worlds lack sin and many other problems, but they have no humans.  Bringing humans into the world is a risky business.  God’s children can grow up and say no.  Just like our kids.

Another discussion with John Lennox on faith and reason.  Faith of believers.  Faith of atheists.  What is the evidence?  What of blind faith?

Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan (Christian, former Jew) discuss the limits of Science and atheism.

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At the 5:10 mark in the video below, Bill says when someone says “I believe in Science” you immediately know they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Science is a tool.  Like a hammer.  So, when they exclaim, “I believe in Science,” they’re really saying, “I believe in a hammer.”

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Science is not a philosophy.  It’s not a world view.   It’s a method.  It’s a series of questions, processes, and procedures to isolate variables and extract something out of nature.

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Scientism or Trans-science:  popularized by the new atheists, such as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, and Dennett.  An arrogant belief in objectivism — won’t believe anything other than Science — that itself becomes a religion.

What of Philosophy, Art, Ethics, and other obvious truths we can’t prove?

We can’t understand infinity or eternity.  We simply lack the neurons.

Worth 12 minutes of your time.

More from William Lane Craig:

Scientism is not Science.  It’s a theory.  It’s a philosophy.

The statement itself — one should only believe in what can be scientifically proven — is self-refuting.  One can’t prove one should believe this.  It’s a philosophy statement or belief — not something that itself can be proven.

Can’t prove these truths:

1) Ethics:  can’t prove good and evil.  2) Esthetics: can’t prove beauty.  3) Metaphysics: the reality of the past.  4) Science itself has unprovable assumptions: Special Theory of Relativity, one-way velocity of light is assumed to be constant. 5) Mathematics and logic truths:  Science presupposes logic and math.

Fun interchange.  William Lane Craig (on the left) is a skilled debater.  Too bad he’s not LDS.

Another gem by WLC on God.  Now, I don’t agree with all of Craig’s arguments, but the discussion is wonderful.

Are prophets perfect?

Fun place to start:

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Members and Church critics are often unfair toward LDS leaders.

This was recently posted in a discussion about supposed unreliability of LDS prophets:

Whatever criticisms you have of LDS leaders (and some are fair) we can show you flaws in OT prophets (also fair). I’ve found that many Christians have a double standard. They ignore Biblical prophets’ flaws and obsess on LDS leaders flaws.

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If we knew even more about the cultural shifts in Biblical times we’d have an even greater hey day, highlighting the shifts in doctrine/policy/opinions in the early Church.

Such shifts and changes surely occurred. And some just might have been handled in less-than-perfect ways. Even with the little we have from scripture, it’s obvious Biblical leaders (all men) had issues, sometimes major.

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For some reason you can’t say the obvious: prophets have never been perfect. They’ve always battled weaknesses and blind spots. We don’t take joy in pointing out flaws in Paul’s day or ancient Israel. But your harping against Brigham’s issues (he may have had more than any modern LDS prophet) is very unfair and uncharitable.

So, we’re inclined to illustrate that Brigham wasn’t alone in teaching later-refuted stuff while still remaining an instrument in God’s hands (if sometimes a clumsy and ineffective one). Pick a century (or more) in ancient Israel. During that span you will find good prophets and just perhaps a less-effective prophet.

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If Brigham was our most trouble you may want to stop focusing on the outlier (a bad apple among the bunch). That’s not a good practice. Look at the broad picture. To focus only on the negative leads to biased conclusions.

You should appreciate some of the best the Mormons do. Their best teachings. Not their worst, refuted-by-everyone-from-critic-to-friend teachings. That is not an honest pursuit of truth: to focus on the worst.

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Do you excessively, even obsessively, criticize Hillary (or Trump)? Ever notice anything good he/she has done? Anything? You may not do this with politicians. However, to only nitpick the LDS Church — when it has many widely recognized positive virtues and practices — is a reflection on you. And your character. And motives. Not the Church…

Thoughts by Michael Ash, frequent contributor to FAIR MORMON:

Among other great points made in the video, Michael Ash points out that OT prophets had false understandings regarding astronomy. False prophets, therefore? Nope. Cut them some slack!

 

The Church encourages members to use faith and reason to interpret the revelations and teachings of the Church.  Too many members follow blindly.  

Do prophets know everything?

 

What happens to those who privately or publicly disagree with the prophets or official church doctrines?  We can disagree.  We are not asked to follow blindly.

 

Brett McDonald, creator of the LDS TRUTH CLAIMS YouTube channel,  discusses fallibility of our leaders:

What constitutes “official” Mormon doctrine? Clearly, the scriptures contain official doctrine. But what counts as “scripture?” Are statements of the First Presidency official “doctrine?” What about statements of Joseph Smith, the Journal of Discourses or general conference addresses?

 

 

 

Blind Faith in General and Atheists’ Blind Faith

Elder Bruce Hafen gave this talk in early 2017 at BYU-Hawaii:  “Faith is Not Blind.”

Atheists often accuse believers of blind faith.  Faith without a shred of evidence!

This, unfortunately, may be true in some cases. Just as it’s true for many uneducated atheists who have not deeply contemplated their positions. After all, many atheists were raised in atheist homes, and have not been challenged.

But it isn’t true in my case or for many I know.  Indeed, we should all develop our beliefs in an environment of faith and reason.  Study and prayer.  Blind faith is untested faith.

Faith, reason,  and evidence are closely bound together.

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Learning and study enhances belief. Faith (belief) and reason (study) are complementary.  Not mutually exclusive. The scriptures support this position.

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God wants us to have faith,  but not blind faith.  Developed, nurtured faith isn’t blind.

Faith in your wife, after years of loyalty in marriage, is neither blind faith. Not at all, though it’s still faith! 

The Apostle John (see John 20:30-31 below) included some — but not nearly all — of the events in Jesus’ life so that we might believe in Him.  That thereby we might have eternal life.

In other words, understanding Jesus’ life, miracles, and teachings helps us believe.  John didn’t want us to believe blindly.

John himself was an eye witness.  Consequently, John shared the best evidence from Jesus’ life so our faith would be anything but blind!  He shared evidence so our faith would be evidence based. 

John 20:30-31 King James Version (KJV)

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Lennox below makes a good case that atheists themselves exercise faith. Just as believers do.  Faith in the rational intelligibility of the Universe.

And, given their view — that evolution is a mindless, unguided process — they shouldn’t trust their own minds and the Science they produce.

But they do. Blindly!  Oh, the irony!

In a 2-minute segment below watch John Lennox discuss this topic of faith and blind faith with a very uncomfortable Richard Dawkins.

Dawkins is arguably the most militant atheist living.  Atheists believe in faith.  Don’t let them convince you otherwise.

Lennox argues that faith is based in evidence.  Dawkins says faith is only present where there is no evidence.  John points out that Richard Dawkins also exercises faith.  Faith in his wife, given past actions/loyalties.

Lennox is a brilliant, kind, and talented teacher.

Science developed in Western Europe precisely because Christians believed in a law giver.

In China and other areas, there was no unifying concept of a Creator.  The Gods, if they did believe in one or more, we’re capricious. One couldn’t systematically learn of the Universe.

Alvin Plantingsa asserts evolution itself undermines naturalism (more extreme form of atheism).