Saturday, December 29, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 44: A Blog discussion on adverse "reader" "reviews" of Dembski and Wells' Design of Life at Amazon

Over the past several days, my most intense online engagement has been taking a look at the wave of adverse "reviews" of Dembski and Wells' new book, Design of Life, over at Amazon, by the Internet's ever so active Darwinistas.

This has unfortunately delayed my onward post on the developments with tidal wave no 2, but is of interest in itself.

Interested onlookers may wish to look at the book's Amazon page here, and at the full set of reviews to date, starting here. Notice how the reviews are essentially all 1 - star or 5-star [averaging out at as highly misleading 3-star as art just now], and that it is the positive reviewers who seem to have by and large actually read the book and set out to write actual reviews.

I therefore did a quick survey of the then relatively small number of adverse "reviews" here, on Dec 20, and followed up shortly thereafter with a survey of the positive ones here.

Of the Darwinistas, the most serious seems to be a certain ID Critic, who although he has not actually reviewed the book attempts to knock down the basic case for inference to design as a scientific enterprise with relevance to origin of life and body-plan level biodiversity.

In so doing, he inadvertently reveals the spin tactics of the Darwinistas, which is of course of deep interest to those of us who wish to heed our Saviour's caution in Matt 24:
MT 24:3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

MT 24:4 Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you . . . . 24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time."
Sadly, such false prophets now include those who abuse the wonders of Science and Technology to make them into the claimed signs pointing to the "truth" of their Evolutionary Materialism, which actually cuts its own throat through self-refutation,when it has to stand on its own merits.


[Evolutionary Materialism] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as "thoughts" and "conclusions" can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance and psycho-social conditioning, within the framework of human culture.)

Therefore, if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity . . . .

Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic, and only survives because people often fail (or, sometimes, refuse) to think through just what their beliefs really mean.

As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead.

As Francis Schaeffer and others have so ably pointed out, this inner contradiction explains modern man's dilemma and confusion. For, his soul — created by God, our real Maker — tells such a man that he is significant, but what he thinks he knows tells him that he is nothing but a random bit of rubbish cast up by an ultimately chaotic and purposeless universe. He therefore knows not which to believe, and so lives under a cloud of hopeless despair, "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

It is also of interest to those of us who wish to take seriously the worldviews and argument implications of spiritual warfare, as the Apostle Paul discussed in 2 Cor 10:4 - 5 and again the implications of the need to restructure all wisdom and knowledge in light of its source, the Divine Logos, as Paul also highlights in Col 2:2 - 3:
2 Cor 10: 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish [misleading] arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ . . .

Col 2:2 b: . . . Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
I therefore reviewed this "review," here.

I excerpted his key points, then responded with brief notes, as follows [with additional links, a note or two, some clarifying adjustments and a bit of highlighting]:

ID Critic, IDC, tries to take opportunity [of the customer reviews section onthe Amazon page] to make a “devastating” case against ID.

Let’s take up a few excerpts, as — though it does not actually address a review of the book, it is the closest to a substantial addressing of the book by a critic that I came across before giving up on the noxious smoke from burning strawmen:

1] [IDC remarks:] Intelligent Design (ID) starts with an unfounded assertion that design is that which remains once natural processes of regularity and chance have been eliminated.

H’mm. IDC, kindly tell us whether or not what we routinely and generally observe stems from one or more of the causal factors: [a] chance, [b] natural regularity tracing to mechanical, law-like necessity, [c] agency?

Or, did Plato et al [cf Cicero] . . . get it wrong?

[Or, inserting an example, is it not the case that we can easily see the three in action for instance by considering that: "heavy objects tend to fall under the natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. But, if the die is cast as part of a game, the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes! " cf. discussion here.]

2] available empirical evidence and logic suggests that there is nothing necessarily supernatural about intelligence. In fact, intelligent behavior seems quite well reducible to regularities and chance . . .

The first part is right: empirically based inference to intelligence in action is not inference to the supernatural.

H’mm, didn’t Dr Dembski say something like that, somewhere, sometime . . .

Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence.

Unfortunately, the second statement is not at all an empirically anchored fact, but an unproved core worldview level assumption, that of the self-refuting system of thought known as naturalism, or more descriptively evolutionary materialism. [Cf the discussion on this in the Darwin Thread, Aug 20, from 48 on. See how the materialist scheme of thought becomes dynamically impotent to account for a credible mind, and thence self-refutes.]

We can simply ignore — as obviously inane — IDC’s reference in the rest of the second sentence to “polling, profiling, advertising and many other arenas.”

3] Intelligence is in other words predictable and since intelligence has the ability to make choices given multiple options, there will be a certain level of variation or uncertainty present.

H’mm I always thought Napoleon used to say that when you have an opposing general pinned down to one of two options, each bad, he will “predictably” choose the third one. That is the unpredictable option.

IDC, FYI, the essence of intelligence is that it is rational, and so will follow logic in general, but also creative, and so is able to do the utterly unexpected and unforeseen.

4] Since Dembski also argues that science as it exists right now rejects the design inference a-priori, it seems clear that Dembski’s design is different from the design detected by the sciences.

A neat but futile attempt at the rhetoric of turnabout.

In fact, IDC, inference to design is — as my own discussion identifies, as common as inference to signal/message in the face of noise. [NB: IDC managed to ignore this and I followed up with relevant intro level technical details here.] Where things get interesting is when the otherwise obviously valid inference to intelligence may cut across the agenda of the evo mat advocates. They they impose a radical, philosophically unjustifiable and historically ill-founded attempted redefintion of science that says that in effect only entities compatible with the evo mat view may be adverted to in scientific work.

In short, they are begging worldview level questions — as you exemplify.

5] Dembski argues that if something can be explained as a regularity, its probability becomes close to 1 and the information goes to 0. But the same applies then to intelligent design. If something can be explained as intelligently designed, the amount of information is zero.

This simply reflects the erroneous assertion already addressed under 3. In short the “contradiction” IDC sees in WD is of his own making, and reflects on his own erroneous logic, misunderstandings and evident disconnect from the real world of intelligent actors, especially those of us who have had to design complex things that have to WORK. [NB: followed up here in general terms on being challenged by IDC (esp. see point 11 on the sadly mistaken notion that intelligent agencies generate low information when they issue messages!), and again here with initial level technical details.]

6] perhaps we can define the amount of information as the likelihood that the item arose under uniform probability? Under that scenario, something is `designed’ if it has a function and if its pure chance probability is too low. But then we still do not know if designed means `designed by regularity/chance’ or `designed by an intelligence’

IDC, please, first of all, read some basic materials on information theory, perhaps even my modest summary in my always linked, section A . . . If you had submitted something like the just excerpted in my Comms classes, you would have been given 0. [Let’s just say my students had a saying when I turned up in class: “More work, sir!” I freely confess to being of the heavy workload school of thought on learning in college.]

In the bolded part, IDC sets the essence of the EF in a context that is confused, the better to dismiss it. So, let us disentangle:

–> We see an object which is functional, and evidently information-bearing.

–> We ask, 1: is it contingent or the product of law-like natural regularity tracing to mechanical necessity of nature? If not contingent, then obviously necessity explains it and the object is not designed.

–> On the alternative that the object manifests contingency [multiple possible outcome states for a given event], we ask, 2: Is the object complex, i.e does the configuration space taken up by the set of possible outcomes require at least 500 - 1,000 bits to store? If so, it is complex in the sense relevant to the ID inference.

–> We ask, 3: is the outcome specified, especially in a message-oriented or information-processing, functional sense. If so, the object exhibits functionally specified, complex information [FSCI, a relevant subset of CSI, and the subset IDC addresses] beyond the reasonable reach of chance acting alone on the gamut of the observed cosmos.

–> We conclude, provisionally (as is true of all scientific reasoning) but confidently (and IMHCO, reliably):


[p] in all cases of directly observed origin of such FSCI the cause is intelligent agency,


[q] on excellent grounds tracing to the principles of statistical thermodynamics [cf my always linked, app 1 section 6], this is likely due to the impotence of random-walk searches [including those functionally filtered before moving on to the next stage] on the gamut of the cosmos to find such islands or archipelagos of functionally specified complexity,


[r] We are well-warranted, on solid empirical and logical bases,


[s] such FSCI is the result of intelligent agent action, even in cases where we do not see the causal process in action directly.

7] if chance alone does not explain it and if regularities cannot explain it (yet) then we have to accept `design’ as the default explanation. So `design’ includes anything from `intelligent designer’ to `an unknown regular process’.

Let’s see: on this proposal, there is an unknown regularity of nature at the cosmic level that forces the emergence of FSCI-based life.

That sounds like a very serious bit of organised, fine-tuned complexity at cosmogenetic level to me. What sort of agent could possibly be responsible for such?

[And if the alternative chance across a quasi-infinite multiverse of proffered, we note that this is now an unobserved, empirically unanchored inference, at worldview level. So it has no right to censor out the alternative that an agent has made the cosmos as a fit habitation for life.]

More seriously, we note that all scientific inferences are provisional. So, we will observe that we KNOW that agents routinely produce such FSCI. The inference to agents as the best, current, empirically anchored explanation for the nanotech of life as we see it, and thus also for the macro-level biodiversity as we see it, is an inference based on what we do know.

What then, does IDC offer as a better explanation?

A hypothetical natural regularity that forces the emergence of life. Without any empirical warrant.

What sort of desperation in defence of a worldview-level commitment does this sort of blind faith and promissory note reveal?

8] given Dembski’s logic, natural selection matches his definition of an intelligent designer. Once again we notice how ID fails to distinguish between apparent and actual design

Of course, NS is in effect the fact that certain already functioning organisms survive and differentially reproduce better on average in their environment than competitor organisms.

That explains the survival of the fittest, but not their arrival, which was the key issue in the first place. NS simply cannot be the DESIGNER. [Has IDC ever had to design and develop a serious system that used say a machine-language programmed microcontroller at its core?]

9] since ID refuses to propose positive hypotheses, it is thus doomed to be unable to deal with the issue of apparent versus actual design in any scientifically relevant manner

In fact, the design inference is a positive hypothesis,and provides a step by step process for inferring to agent action that is familiar to anyone who has ever had to do even a first course in statistical inference testing.

Such as, say, those having at least a first degree in biology. So, the ever so prevalent willful obtuseness on this topic is inexcusable.

But, perhaps, IDC means here that ID so far does not allow us to infer to the identity of the designer.

The best away to look at that is to go back to IDC’s cite of Nichols’ excerpt from Dembski.

WD: “even though in practice inferring design is the first step in identifying an intelligent agent, taken by itself design does not require that such an agent be posited. The notion of design that emerges from the design inference must not be confused with intelligent agency” (TDI, 227)

In short, we use the design inference to recognise the credible existence of design.

Now, in our background knowledge, design comes form the action of intelligent agents, without exception where we directly know the cause. But, epistemically, we are first inferring to design, then inferring onward to the agents that are the observed cause of the designs that exhibit FSCI.

And, we may then onward ask about the candidates to be the designer, and what intents such candidates may have had.

We could go on and on ad nauseum, but let’s cap off with this stunning bit of turnabout rhetoric:

10] science has shown that information can in fact increase in a cell under purely natural processes of regularity and chance. Unable to eliminate chance and regularity, the design inference remains quite powerless. But all hope should not be abandoned, one can always move the origin of `information’ to an earlier time in history, such as the `first cell’ or if that does not work, to the origin of the universe.

Here IDC first conflates mere increase of information storage capacity [easily done thought chaining of discrete state elements, e.g. a random polymer] with increments in functionally specified complex information beyond the[Dembski Universal Probability Bound] UPB, 500 - 1,000 bits [e.g. the increment on the order of 100 mn functional DNA bases required to get the information to code for an arthropod at the Cambrian revolution, as Meyer aptly pointed out in his famous PBSW article].

In fact, directly opposite to IDC’s second assertion in the teeth of the facts, the EF based on FSCI is fully and reliably capable of discriminating agency [as the presumed source of design] from chance and necessity on EVERY case where we do directly observe the source of the FSCI. To give just one instance, is IDC committed to the notion that this and all other posts here at UD in this thread, and in the Amazon reviews on DOL are the result of lucky noise, save of course his own?

As my always linked, Section B shows in summary and with suitable excerpts, the third assertion here is the ultimate in chutzpah.

For, in fact, it is notorious and plain that it is the evo mat OOL researchers who have found themselves in ever deeper despondency as they see more and more how complex the nanotech of life is, and they have not got ANY credible, robust model that passes the muster of the principles of statistical thermodynamics and information theory relevant ot the matter. [Cf also my always linked, App 1, esp. section 6.]

CONCLUSION: Dembski wins, by a knockout.

IDC then tried to brush away my remarks in his comments thread.

I subsequently followed up, and went on to finally look at his argument on whether agents produce information -- I kid you not! -- here and here.

Perhaps the best in-a-nutshell survey of the core of the issue is this, though, posted in response to a critic known as Q, at Uncommon Descent, whose line of argument was to challenge the claimed indefensible premises that causes reliably trace to one or more of chance, necessity and agency:

b} . . . one is far more directly aware of one’s cognition and conscience than one is of any scientific finding, which one accesses through these [faculties] and on the grounds of their general reliability.

c} Thus, if a claimed “scientific” view of the world asserts that chance + necessity of material forces [NB: which BTW INCLUDES quantum states and associated indeterminacies] drive neural network activity thence the epiphenomenon of the mind, a la Crick [et al], then it is self-refuting.

d} And then one looks and lo, the claimed scientific theories are in fact plainly and objectively riddled with a priori [materialistic] philosophical, wordview commitments that filter and indeed cherry-pick which facts to attend to and which to dismiss . . . .

e} Under such circumstance, one is perfectly in order to look at the reductio ad absurdum, and reject the a priori commitments that led up to it, namely evolutionary materialism . . . .

f} On the issue at stake on the [design-detecting] explanatory filter, I have simply noted that we do observe chance, necessity and agency and their diverse and distinguishable empirical traces:

1 –> I then noted how the filter is reliable where we can check it.

2 –> I see that it has good roots in the statistical principles of systems with large configuration spaces.

3 –> I see no good reason to brush the filter aside simply because it yields results objectionable to a theory that is already rooted in dubious a priori commitments.

4 –> I know agents exist today far more certainly than I can claim to know that they emerged spontaneously through chance and necessity in the primordial past — a claimed process which I know is dubious on independent grounds as already described.

5 –> Above all, I have no good reason to assume or assert that agents were not possibly present at the origin of life, or of body-plan level biodiversity.

6 –> I then see the organised complexity manifest in the FSCI required, which I know empirically to be a good sign of agency.

7 –> I therefore infer that OOL [origin of life] and body plan level biodiversity trace to agency, on [reliable] inference to best, empirically anchored explanation — the way science infers.

8 –> Extending to cosmogenesis, where I see a fine-tuned organised complexity in the physics of a life-facilitating observed cosmos, I see good empirically anchored reason to infer that the cosmos is also designed.

9 –> Designs imply designers, and the overall cluster of design inferences is consistent with the concept of a cosmogentic desingner who intended to implement a cosmos for life and put life in it, however s/he may have done so.

10 –> But observe, the direction of inference is from known properties of chance, necessity and agency, to distinguishing signs and a filter that reliably separates. Thence, on cases of interest individually we see well-warranted inferences to design. Thus, we start from design and build to designer, only refusing to a priori rule out the possibility of agency before inspecting evidence.

11 –> On the principle of simplicity, when we see the cluster of relevant designs, it is reasonable to infer that the designs fit into a common, coherently purposeful framework.

12 –> Going beyond the domain of Science proper, but still in the spirit of seeking empirically anchored truth on worldviews, it seems reasonable to see that this inference is compatible in broad terms with the traditional view that science thinks God’s thoughts after him. And since that is precisely how some of the greatest of all scientists thought and worked, I have no problem thinking and working like that as a scientist.

g} So, going back to the scientific inferences proper, I conclude that on well-known principles of scientific inference, and on evidence that is otherwise inexplicable, but which I know agent action routinely generates, that agents are the well-warranted explanation for these phenomena.

Here I stand, and in a nutshell, why . . . . And, as the above thread abundantly shows, the alternatives are vastly inferior once their difficulties are brought out on a level playing field.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we resentfully refuse to recognise the obvious!

As Paul sadly but aptly summed up:
RO 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord . . . . RO 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened . . . .

RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity . . . .

RO 2: 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil . . . 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good . . . 11 For God does not show favoritism . . . . 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

RO 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

So, let us now arise and call our civilisation to repentance, and to God's wonderful grace! END


PS: It may help you to know that in a galaxy far away and a time now vastly remote, I actually used to lecture, inter alia on communication systems and thus on basics of information theory. In a galaxy even more distantly removed from the here and now, I studied the topics and did research on a comms theory exercise for post-graduate qualifications . . .

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christmas Reflection

Just now, I was writing to a dear sister over in Bimshire, who sent out for her Christmas present a lovely poem by Timothy Dudley-Smith, Not in Lordly State and Splendour. (Not to mention, a lovely, well-laid out letter.)

The poem set me to reflecting on some C1 church Hymns and similar statements on the Incarnation.

These, I think I will take the liberty of sharing:

First, a great C1 church Hymn:

PHP 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

PHP 2:6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

PHP 2:7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

PHP 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!

PHP 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,

PHP 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

PHP 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Next, one of the great statements of the C1 church's theology (here set out to bring out the incremental, synthetic parallelism):

HEB 1:1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers
through the prophets at many times
and in various ways,

2 but in these last days
he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
and through whom he made the universe.

3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory
and the exact representation of his being,
sustaining all things by his powerful word.

After he had provided purification for sins,
he sat down at the right hand
of the Majesty in heaven.

Here's another great C1 Hymn:

COL 1:13 [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
14 in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.

COL 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.

16 For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.

17 He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,
so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood,
shed on the cross.

Aren't they beautiful! And, isn't our God wonderful beyond all praise! AMEN

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 43: The Golden Compass 4 -- the Lucy Pevensie school of epistemology

Just this morning on the local relay of the usual morning BBC news -- a familiar 7:00 am or 8:00 am morning ritual all over the English-speaking Caribbean -- there was an item on the 75th anniversary of that venerable global institution.

As I listened to it, my mind went back to the recent issues over BBC's sad loss of credibility and tendency to regrettably biased reporting and commentary. Thence, my mind turned to this blog's recent remarks on the Golden Compass movie [which by the way, opened with unexpectedly low box office numbers], and to The Chronicles of Narnia, which Mr Pullman has so often and so harshly derided.

(I also remembered my promise to get around to the substance for this post -- I have been busy over the past few days, with consultancy issues, with the GLI initiative and with updating the now long note on Information, design science etc. Pardon the delay . . . and, ASAP, I will also be getting around to interesting links between the ever unsettled Middle East, Israel, the ongoing peace process, Iran, Venezuela and the Caribbean. But, let's get back to this post . . . )

. . . I found the suggested explanation for the Golden Compass' low box office numbers in the USA interesting, especially the contrast with numbers in the UK:
Rolf Mittweg of New Line Cinema, which released Compass, concedes that the religion controversy might have had an effect. But he points out, "Historically, that tends to be ineffective — look at The Da Vinci Code. No one was supposed to see that, either."

He notes that the film did better internationally, grossing $55 million in 25 territories, led by the United Kingdom, where it brought in $18 million. Outside the USA, Mittweg says, movies are "not at all affected" by religious controversies. [Translation: Slander, hostility-inducing misinformation, advocacy for questionable early sexual behaviour, and blasphemy against the Church and God have little impact on the public in truly secularised cultures. Shades of Rom 1.]

Gregg Kilday, film editor with The Hollywood Reporter, paints a complex picture. Though church opposition can't be discounted, he says, "to claim it's a victim of religious controversy, there's no real evidence of that, at least not at this point."

The film may have suffered from a general tiring of fantasy films, he says. He noted the poor box-office performance of Stardust, which topped out at just $38.3 million this year. "And while the movie has been treated as a potential franchise, a la Lord of the Rings, in some ways, it was never fated to be like that," Kilday says. "The Pullman trilogy isn't as well known, and this is a fantasy built around a young girl" — not exactly a fit with the genre's core young-male audience.

What's more, he says, "in reaching out to younger females, it obviously ran up against Enchanted."

Disney's princess film, in fact, is holding well, according to studio estimates from Nielsen EDI. The film captured No. 2 with $10.7 million after two weeks at No. 1 . . .

Muy interesante.

Especially, let us observe the deft dodging of the point that Pullman has clearly gone across some very serious lines in the culture with his very overt hostility to the Judaeo-Christian tradition and a highly questionable incident in his trilogy, in which Lyra, the approximately 12 year old anti-heroine engages in a highly sexually charged encounter with Will, her companion for much of the trilogy. [Cf Atlantic Monthly's discussion here.]

Onward, my thoughts went to a key incident in the very first book in the Narnia series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The incident occurs shortly after Lucy, the youngest of four Pevensie children, had discovered a gateway to the parallel universe of Narnia, while hiding in a wardrobe. (NB: In a later book, The Magician's Nephew, it turns out that the wardrobe was made from the wood of an apple tree planted from a Narnian seed and used to save the life of Professor Kirke's mother. That name Kirke is also, plainly, a hint: "kirk" is the Scotch word for "church.")

On returning to England from Narnia, Lucy announced her discovery to her brothers Edmund and Peter, and her older sister, Susan.

They don't believe her and worry as to whether she has turned liar all of a sudden, or whether she has lost her mind.

Soon enough, the worried older siblings bring the matter to Prof Kirke, and ask for his help. An epistemologically interesting exchange occurs, starting with a sharp retort from the good Professor [which I duly emphasise]:
"How do you know?" he asked, "that your sister's story is not true?"

Oh, but--" began Susan, and then stopped. Anyone could see from the old man's face that he was perfectly serious. Then Susan pulled herself together and said, "But Edmund [NB: who had by then also been to Narnia and had come under the bewitchment of the wicked white witch, Jadis, who had usurped power in Narnia and was running a Nazi-style police state, making it "always winter but never Christmas"] said they had been only pretending."

"That is a point," said the Professor, "which deserves consideration . . . For instance . . . does your experience lead you to regard your brother or your sister as the more reliable? I mean, which is the more truthful?"

"That's just the funny thing about it, Sir," said Peter. "Up till now, I'd have said Lucy every time." . . . .

"Well," said Susan, "in general, I'd say the same as Peter, but this couldn't be true -- all this about the wood and the Faun."

"That is more than I know," said the Professor, "and a charge of lying against someone whom you have found truthful is a very serious thing . . ."
The issue of Lucy's possible madness, naturally enough, then comes up.

The Professor dispatches the suggestion with a hook-shot to the boundary: " Oh, you can make your minds easy about that. One only has to look at her and talk to her to see that she is not mad."

Next . . .
"But then," said Susan and stopped . . . .

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then, unless further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."
And so, we come to the central issue of epistemology, the philosophical study of knowledge: whose report do we believe, why?

The best answer, in a world of fallible, finite, too often ill-willed people, hinges on credibility, and on being open-minded but critically aware.

On the principles of reasonable faith, in short:
--> We should trust the straightforwardly and plainly, habitually truthful over the devious, manipulative and deceptive.

--> We should examine circumstances and known facts to see if one who hitherto has usually told the truth may be either lying or mistaken or outright deceived.

--> We should not beg the question by ruling out logically possible options that don't fit our current view of the world, or by demanding an impossible standard of evidence for such: extraordinary things require ADEQUATE evidence, not "extraordinary evidence."

--> When in doubt, we should hold our conclusions provisionally, pending further clarification.

--> When such a conclusion holds up and shows itself to be reliable relative to facts and fresh discoveries, is coherent and powerfully explains a lot about the world, we should be prepared to trust its reliability.
By that light, The Chronicles of Narnia wins hands down over The Golden Compass, and the His Dark Materials trilogy.

(So, by the way, if you are looking for a set of books to give to a favourite child for Christmas, Narnia takes my endorsement hands down over The Golden Compass and its ilk, or for that matter the latest Harry Potter tome.)

And, by that light, the Apostle Paul's AD 55 report takes my endorsement hands down over and against the fulminations of Mr Pullman and his atheistical ilk:
1CO 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you . . . .

1CO 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep . . . 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
So, now: whose report will you believe this Advent Season? Why? END


One of Mr Pullman's ill-founded but sometimes persuasive accusations against Narnia is that C S Lewis sends Susan to hell for simply growing up and becoming fashion conscious.

I find Chris Whiteside's rebuttal to such notions here very interesting, and telling on Mr Pullman's want of doing basic research before making sharp accusations:
. . . a careful reading . . . will show that [The Last Battle”] does not predict whether Susan will go to heaven when she dies. There is a far more practical reason why she does not join the other characters in heaven at the end of the book – she isn’t dead yet. At the conclusion of the Narnian series Susan is alive and well in England and, if she has any sense, suing British Rail for vast sums of money as compensation for wiping out her entire family in a rail accident.

This is not just my own interpretation, although I arrived at this view myself from reading “The Last battle”. C.S. Lewis confirmed it himself in a letter to a boy named Martin in 1957 which can be found in the book “Letters to Children.” In his words
“The books don’t tell us what happened to Susan. She is left alive in this world at the end, having by then turned into a rather silly, conceited young woman. But there is plenty of time for her to mend, and perhaps she will get into Aslan’s country in the end – in her own way.”
Personally I suspect that Susan would have come back from what would appear to her as the wasteful and tragic death of her parents, brothers, sister and cousin by campaigning for better rail safety and justice for the survivors and families of rail crash victims. When Susan rediscovered the strength she had as the Queen who defied and outwitted Prince Rabadash, the Board of British Rail and the Department of Transport wouldn’t have known what hit them !
Indeed! (Rabadash of Calormene had wanted her hand in marriage in Narnia . . . )

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 51: The GLI Cybercollege proposal

Over the past several months, I have been working on some ideas initially put forward in April to June this year.

Overnight, I have now pulled them together in the form of a web page, and have invited comments and practical inputs.

The header for that page follows:



The GLI Cybercollege Proposal

GEM of TKI April- June 2007

INTRODUCTION: The below summarises a proposal for developing a regional cyber college initiative for equipping the people of God of the Caribbean for discipleship, community leadership, success in their professions and businesses, and for leading in God blessed reformation and transformation of communities and cultures in the Caribbean and beyond.

The first thesis is: a well-implemented cyber college campus supporting local micro-campus centres in a regional network, can materially help to transform the Caribbean church's capacity to lead in community transformation, regionally and internationally.

The second is: on our TVs, in our DVD rental shops, in our libraries, in our bookstores and magazine stands, in our streets, on our computer screens, in our newspapers, in political meetings, in our offices, in our schools and on our college and university campuses -- and indeed in our churches -- an informal cyber college is already in full bloom, serving the cause of de-Christianisation. A second one is being created as we speak, serving the cause of Islamisation. In short, we must recognise that we are now playing catch-up.

The third: We can . . . create a network of integrated micro-campus centres across the region [and beyond it . . .], and tie these in with the existing network of Seminaries, Christian colleges and schools. [With the number of Christians working as educators, we do not want for academic talent and technical education support.]

The fourth: Step by step, a regional cyber college would then emerge, with a focus on both an online campus and local micro-campus learning centres based in communities and churches. I believe this is a plausibly achievable, and plainly desirable, goal that emerges from our present and by practically achievable and affordable steps, transforms our reality into a better state.

The fifth: a vision is a way to build the future by inspiring and motivating people who see how a better way can emerge out of and transform the present to turn hope into reality. So, if a regional Cybercollege is a means to build a brighter future that helps people fulfill their hopes and calling under God, it can catalyse a movement that can grow and help that future to materialise.

The sixth: A powerful vision tends to attract volunteers who put in effort that would otherwise require enormous direct investments of money that probably could not buy inputs of half the quality that inspired people will joyously and freely give. (But of course generous support in cash and kind fertilises such voluntary efforts and multiplies their effectiveness. The freeness mentality by contrast, starves growth, as trying to get something for nothing all the time is in the end self-defeating.)

The seventh: the Web offers several powerful technologies that can be used to create what we have called a Cybercampus -- an online learning environment that provides many of the resources that one would find on a traditional on-the-ground campus. That is, we substitute clicks and bits for walks and bricks. ("Clicks and bits" -- BTW, as helpful, including not only "live" access to the 'net but also the creative use of multimedia CDs and DVDs as well as old fashioned paper-based materials -- are a whole lot cheaper than "bricks." It is also easier to move bits to where people are, than it is to move people to where a campus is, even just across a city much less a region that is about 1,000 miles across, with dozens of countries separated by miles of sea!)

The eighth: On the other hand -- as the log-college story suggests -- there is no substitute for people coming together to discuss and think through things face to face. For this, we can easily observe that no other institution or movement in the Caribbean has a network of locally based facilities that rivals the churches and church-associated institutions across our region. Similarly, no other institution or movement has in aggregate the sort of resource-people who sit in our pews week by week. Such facilities have room, have people, and credibly can access the resources to get reasonable bandwidth Internet hookup and a cluster of PCs to form a local area network. That means that if we can use small clusters of Internet-linked PCs that tie local churches and similar already existing bases of operation to the Cybercampus, we can have an almost instant regional network of micro-campuses tied together by a regionally integrated learning environment. (BTW, This would instantly dwarf the scope of the UWI Distance Learning system!)

The ninth: several web technologies provide powerful tools for creating effective learning environments. It seems, we can do this through one-stop shopping. For instance, [one may download] the generic version of the "free" Internet learning environment, Moodle, as a Zip file.

The tenth: In our region, accreditation of quality of learning is a rising concern for tertiary level education, and one that is dominated by Governmental or Quasi-governmental organisations . . . This is understandable given our region's history, but it tends to obscure the actual origins of the modern accreditation movement as a voluntary, mutual recognition of quality of learning environments, experiences and outcomes. So, why not just go back to the roots? . . . . That is, if we are able to come together across the region and mutually develop, standardise and recognise the quality of learning environments, experiences and outcomes, we will have a basis for respectable certification of learning outcomes. At the upper end, we can also integrate these into well-understood certifications through external exams . . . and through awards such as Associate and full degrees and Diplomas etc. This last, of course, would best be done through integration with the existing network of Christian Bible Colleges, Seminaries etc., and wider regional initiatives in accreditation. That way, we can provide a supportive system for equipping people as effective disciples and servants of God in the home, church, school, workplace and community.

The eleventh: Similarly, through providing second-chance secondary education, bridging studies to tertiary education, useful undergraduate qualifications, degree completion, and eventually paths to graduate and professional qualification, we can create empowering paths to successful careers and community leadership, thence reformation and God-blessed transformation of our region and the world beyond.

The twelfth: This framework on the face of it shows that such a regional college based on a Main, Cyber Campus integrated with local micro-campus centres and partnerships with existing institutions and campuses is plainly feasible and has a lot of promise. It can also start-up on a shoestring, with materials adapted from existing courses and using open source software. Once that happens, it can snowball . . .

This brings us, as always, right back to the fundamental challenge under God:

Why not now? Why not here? Why not us?

Comment and inputs towards implementation are very welcome.


Your thoughts are very welcome. END

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Matt 24 watch, 42: The Golden Compass 3 -- dealing with the de-Christianising tidal wave

I think it was Gibbon who said that in classical times, the common people thought the stories of the gods were all equally true, the philosophers that they were all equally false, and the politicians that they were all equally useful; or, words to that effect.

Now, over the past two centuries, as the tidal wave of evolutionary materialism-driven secularism, apostasising accommodation and associated neo-paganism has steadily mounted up in the power centres of the West, the Christian faith has come under increasing pressure in our civilisation. This has now led to a similar trend that has been aptly described by Dr Wade Bradshaw of L'Abri Fellowship, UK:
The understanding of our culture increasingly is that the Christian God is seen as primitive, old-fashioned and immoral . . . non-Christians will say that to you but, increasingly, as I speak to Christians who are going to church, they have this nagging sense that they may be in agreement with them . . . In other words, that the church no longer occupies the moral high ground . . . It is as if . . . I was trying to call them up to what is clearly good and true and right and they kept acting like I was trying to call them down to something . . . Can you see if the church does not understand this dynamic, that we are proclaiming these people to be sinners in need of reconciliation with the real God and they are thinking, whether clearly or not, 'if there were a God why would I go to yours? Because I already consider myself morally superior to your God.'
The Golden Compass movie and the associated Dark Materials series of books, on the evidence we have been looking at, presents a view of the world that both appeals to this underlying feeling, and seeks to accelerate the trend. This is not surprising, as Mr Pullman has evidently openly declared that ". . . My books are about killing God."

In particular, Pullman's works build on the rise of an increasingly popular genre of fantasy, science fiction and pseudo-historical novels and associated movies over the past several decades that have to a large extent become the forum for discussion and popularisation of worldview options for a West that -- under the impact of secularisation -- has to a significant extent forgotten, distorted, despised and/or lost confidence in its Judaeo-Christian heritage.

For instance, the original Star Trek popularised a world in which God is simply irrelevant and science is the gateway to a bright, somewhat socialist post-economic idealistic future. The Star Wars movies, with their semi-pantheistic Force plainly lent significant momentum to the rise of the new age movement. Star Trek the Next Generation explored the synthesis between the neo-pagan and the utopian-scientific. As I have taken some time to read a fair amount of current science fiction -- for the first time since the 1970's, I have seen that by and large there is an imaginative world created in which God is irrelevant or at most a personal or cultural force without objective reality.

Nowhere do we see a serious engagement of the issue that the only actually known source of functionally specific, complex (and often fine-tuned) information that turns up in the nanotechnology of the cell, is intelligent agency. Nor, is there a serious addressing of the issue that the fine-tuned organised complexity we see in the foundational physics of the life-facilitating cosmos we inhabit, as an organised evidently purposeful system, is likewise best explained as the product of an awesomely powerful intelligence. Apart from, of course, C S Lewis' science fiction trilogy from sixty or so years ago.

On the Fantasy side, the Harry Potter series of books have created a hugely popular imaginary world in which magic is real and powerful, but acts as an apparently "natural" force in an alternate world that partly intersects with the everyday world inhabited by "muggles" -- who are all too prone to misunderstand, fear, despise and persecute the minority who are the magical elite.

On pseudo-history, we have had outright pseudo historical conspiracy theory reconstructions of the origins of the Christian faith that latterly gave rise to the vastly popular and influential Da Vinci Code novel and movie, which roundly -- and without merit -- declares that there is a trunkful of proof out there that the Bible as we know it is false, a Constantinian fraud. Kathleen McGowan, in her The Expected One, has moved this one step further, by in effect claiming to be a real-life Sophie Neveau who is writing a thinly veiled autobiographical novel.

Pullman's work draws on all these trends, putting forth a world in which there are multiple, partly interacting materialistic but magical universes, in which as one "angel" boldly and persuasively declares:
The Authority, God, the Creator, the Lord, Yahweh, El, Adonai, the King, the Father, the Almighty – those were all names he gave himself. He was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves – the first angel, true, the most powerful, but he was formed of Dust as we are, and Dust is only a name for what happens when matter begins to understand itself.
Then, as the movie version comes out, one is now being invited to Meet your Daemon.

Is it any wonder that in such a situation, Mr Blair, the former UK prime minister has just gone on record, that while his "religious faith" was "hugely important" to him during his tenure as Prime Minister, he was previously unable to be open about this key element of his character because "Frankly, people do think you're a nutter."

Indeed, he also tellingly observed in an interview, that:
. . . voters tended to think that religious politicians “go off and sit in the corner and … commune with the man upstairs and then come back and say, ‘Right, I’ve been told the answer and that’s it’.
But in fact, even a reading of Locke's 2nd Essay on Civil Government will rapidly show up a decisive step in his case for liberty, in Ch 2 section 5, where he cites "the judicious [Richard] Hooker" from his Anglican work, Ecclesiastical Polity [1594- ]:
. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. [Cf Matt 7:12, Rom 2:14 - 15, 13:8 - 10, also 1 - 7] From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.
What a contrast we see between the secularist caricature and the historical, Biblically anchored reality of a massive and costly contribution of people working consciously in the Bible-anchored Judaeo-Christian tradition, across centuries, to the rise of modern democratic self-government of and by a free people. Including, here in the Caribbean.

In short, first, Dr John Sentamu — the [African!] Archbishop of York — is tellingly apt: “Mr Blair’s comments highlight the need for greater recognition to be given to the role faith has played in shaping our country [i.e. Britain].”

How can we effectively respond to this tidal wave from the North?

There are several steps:

1] We must fearlessly address the mindset and morality of a Romans 1 culture:

Paul, in Rom 1:18 ff., aptly observes:
RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. [Some would add: In the old days, in temples, now often on TV or in textbooks, magazines and museums.] . . .25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised . . . . RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity . . .

Here, we see a chillingly accurate portrayal of our own culture, from 2,000 years ago.

There is abundant and adequate evidence to warrant recognition of the loving God who created our world and us, but in our resentful ingratitude and rebellious hostility, we turn our backs on him. We pretend to be wise, but the rejection of plainly evident truth warps our minds so we are en-darkened, not "enlightened" -- our arrogant boast. And, as a direct consequence, our behaviour spins out of control into immoral, destructive chaos.

Our first duty, then, is accurate public diagnosis of our civilisation's plight, cost what it may.

2] We must expose the key cracks in the foundations of current Western and Westernised cultures:

In Athens, Paul from the opening words of his epochal Mars Hill address, went straight to the key crack in the foundation of the secular western intellectual tradition. For, first, he carefully observed the shrine that exposed the critical flaw in Pagan thought: an altar dedicated TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. That is, on the most important possible point of knowledge, the Athenians — the founders of the Western intellectual, artistic and democratic traditions — were forced to admit their ignorance, in a public monument.

So, he opened his speech:“what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

For, God created the nations from one man, and "he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.” [Acts 17:25 - 27; emphasis added.] That is, the nations were created to foster godliness, and we are God’s tenants and stewards on the lands in which we live. God therefore so controls our times that he brings us to the point where we must decide whether to seek or serve Him.

Our world today is in precisely the same situation, and with far less excuse.

3] We must expose the roots of the immoral chaos that surrounds us:

In Ephesians 4:17 - 24, we may read:
EPH 4:17 . . . you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

EPH 4:20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
This expands on the point brought out by Romans 1, and highlights not only the Christian alternative ethic of the truth in love to God and neighbour, which among other things means that we should do no harm, but also it points out that our moral challenge is so radical that only transforming spiritual renewal by the power of God can turn around the situation.

4] In particular, we must highlight the intellectual and moral incoherence of evolutionary materialism:

Here, we can observe that:
if materialism is true, the "thoughts" we have and the "conclusions" we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity . . . . Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.”. . . . As a further consequence, materialism can have no basis, other than arbitrary or whimsical choice and balances of power in the community, for determining what is to be accepted as True or False, Good or Evil. So, Morality, Truth, Meaning, and, at length, Man, are dead . . . . In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that "Right" and "Wrong" are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

"Truth is dead," so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are "simply accidents of history," one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one's preferences.

Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so [once one has enough power and has lost all feeling] the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

A grim picture, and one that has unfortunately repeatedly played out under evolutionary materialism-dominated ruling elites over the past 100 years, costing well over 100 millions their lives; not counting, say the 45+ millions dead in the womb through the American abortion holocaust. (By the way, I gather that some in Jamaica now hope to adopt the same sort of callous attitude to the taking of innocent life in the womb. For shame!)

Thus, the attitude that it is the Judaeo-Christian view that is morally suspect is patently absurd. No, the root issue is that men are fallen and need to be redeemed and find true enlightenment and empowerment from God.

5] In the manifest power of the outpoured Spirit of God, call men to humble themselves and repent under the Gospel message:

In Acts 2:22 - 39, we read Peter, speaking to the potentially hostile crowds on the first Pentecost Sunday:
AC 2:22 "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him . . . . 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear . . . . AC 2:36 "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" . . . . AC 2:38 . . . "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."
In 1 Cor 15:1 -11, we similarly read Paul's summary in AD 55 of the C1 church's testimony from the 30's AD on:

1CO 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you . . . . 1CO 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [cf here Isaiah 53, circa 700 BC], 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep . . . 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born . . . . 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
In short, the authenticity and power of of the Gospel are vouchsafed to us by both eyewitness lifetime records and the manifest power of the Spirit of God, over 2,000 years, a power seen in transformed lives and manifest power from God in many, many ways. It is truth, life- and soul- saving, transforming truth, if we will but humbly listen to and heed it.

6] We must diligently and effectively disciple the nations:

The gospel is not principally a fire insurance policy. As Paul points out to Titus:
TIT 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
In short, we need to go through careful, disciplined, diligent discipleship training that equips us to walk in the truth, love, power and purity, helping to transform our own lives and families and communities, then the wider region and world.

A tall order, but through the grace of God, a feasible one. So, again: why not now, why not here, why not us? END