GK Chesterton Quotes

“In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.”

“The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid.” 

“Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.”

“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”

GK Chesterton

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die…A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying.” 

“If I did not believe in God, I should still want my doctor, my lawyer and my banker to do so.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy.”

Dinesh D’Souza on the Genetic Fallacy

I’d like to make a short post on the genetic fallacy, only because I encounter it so frequently in faith-related discussions. It’s important that Christians know how to respond when confronted with arguments such as, “you’re only a Christian because you were born into a Christian family in a country that’s predominantly Christian.” This kind of statement is usually intended as an attack on the veracity of a person’s faith, and often comes along with an allegation of confirmation bias.

Dinesh D’Souza

In a previous post, “Alister McGrath on the Demand for Proof,” I mentioned that I’ve recently been listening to a number of debates on religion. In one of these debates, Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza gave an excellent response to John Loftus‘s use of the genetic fallacy. I thought it was worth passing on:

“Essentially John Loftus said that we can’t really know if a religion is true, because there happen to be many of them. If you happen to be born in Afghanistan, you’d be a Muslim. If you happen to be born in Tibet, you’d be a Buddhist. 

That’s true, but what on Earth does that prove? I happen to have been born in Bombay, India, which happens to be a Hindu country. The second largest group is Muslim. Even so, by choice I am a Christian. Just because the majority religion is one thing doesn’t make it right or wrong. 

By the way, what [John Loftus] says about Christianity…is equally true about beliefs in history or science. If you are born in Oxford, England, you are more likely to believe the theory of evolution than if you are born in Oxford, Mississippi. If you are born in New Guinea, you are less likely to accept Einstein’s theory of relativity than if you are born in New York City. What does this say about whether Einstein’s theory of relativity is true? Absolutely nothing.

In other words, [John Loftus] is guilty of what in logic is called the ‘genetic fallacy’. It’s the fallacy of confusing the origin of an idea with its veracity.”

pH Regulation in the Brain

One of my favorite parts of medical school is getting to learn about the human body’s ability to self-regulate. Life is fragile – don’t get me wrong – but the amount of abuse our bodies can withstand is pretty eye-opening. I thought it would be fun to write about one such example. There are dozens of similar topics I could have chosen, so perhaps I’ll write more posts like this if it’s well-received.

Many of you reading this are probably familiar with the “blood-brain barrier” – a physiological barrier that protects the brain (our most important organ…at least according to the brain) from harmful substances in the bloodstream. More specifically, the barrier seals off surrounding tissue from substances in the blood that are relatively large or polar, while allowing the passage of smaller, nonpolar substances.

Since [H+] ions are naturally prevented from crossing this barrier, it serves as an excellent form of protection against metabolic acidosis or alkalosis. This means that even when a person’s pH levels get thrown out of whack, the brain remains relatively insulated. Such a person might become quite sick until the body’s other homeostatic mechanisms are able to bring pH back into the normal range…but the brain is much less likely to suffer significant or irreversible damage.

So that’s great for metabolic acidosis or alkalosis, when [H+] ions are responsible for the change in pH. In respiratory acidosis or alkalosis, however, the pH changes are being driven by CO2 – a nonpolar molecule that diffuses into the brain with ease.

The blood-brain barrier, it turns out, is utterly ineffective in protecting brain tissue from respiratory acidosis or alkalosis.

This is where things get pretty cool. It turns out that glial cells in the brain are designed to respond to abnormal changes in pH by increasing their production of lactic acid (in the case of respiratory alkalosis) or ammonia (in the case of respiratory acidosis). Since the brain can’t just “seal itself off” from the effects of CO2-induced pH changes, it responds by directly buffering the ECF.

Alister McGrath on the Demand for Proof

I recently signed up for a trail marathon, so lately I’ve been spending quite a bit of time running. Many of these runs last several hours, so I’ve been really grateful to have discovered the free “DebateGod” podcast on iTunes – dozens of lengthy debates on religion, featuring the likes of Craig, McGrath, D’SouzaDawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

Running can be boring, and I like to tell people that there’s not nearly enough going on in this head of mine to keep myself entertained for more than about twenty minutes.

Of course, running can also be painful, and listening to arguments from Sam Harris isn’t exactly a soothing remedy.

Anyhow, one of these debates in particular really struck a chord with me. Or to be more specific, Alister McGrath’s statements in response to Susan Blackmore (Bristol University, 2007, on the motion: “belief in God is a dangerous delusion”) struck the chord. I’ve recently had a number of conversations with people over the nature of “evidence”, “belief”, and “proof”…and how all of these ideas relate to an individual’s religious faith (or lack thereof).

Alister McGrath

Among those who reject Christianity, there is often a desire to “claim the side of science” – to demand irrefutable empirical evidence as the only rational grounds for belief. In other words, “prove it, and I’ll believe it.” If you’ve followed this blog at all over the last few weeks, you’ve no doubt noticed my preoccupation with this issue (coughcoughcoughcough).

Although I don’t always agree with everything McGrath says, his statements in this debate really cut to the heart of the “demand for proof” issue:

“I believe it absolutely clear that one cannot prove God as one can prove that two and two make four. I also need [to raise the issue] that there are many things that each of us here tonight believes to be important…yet when the chips are down, we know we simply cannot prove them with the certainty that two and two make four.

I believe passionately that democracy is better than fascism. If you were to say to me, “Can you prove that empirically? Can you prove that logically?” I would have to say, “I don’t believe I can.” But nevertheless I have every right to believe this as something that seems to me to be the best-justified approach, and therefore it makes a huge difference to me.

And I think all of you here tonight will be able to identify beliefs – moral, political, ethical – which you know to be vitally important, and yet you also are aware that you really can’t prove them. And that is just the way things are.

…In most areas of life, beliefs that really matter [cannot] be proved in that strict logical sense. They are justified – in a sense we may give reasons for them, GOOD reasons for them – but very often we know we can’t prove them.”

Book Review: “The Knowledge of the Holy”

My wife and I recently finished reading A.W. Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy”, and I figured it would be a good opportunity to write my first book review.

The book itself is very short (117 pages in my edition), and could potentially be read in a single sitting. Allison and I finished it in three weeks by reading a single chapter each night. Since the material is at times a bit heavy, this might be the better approach.

A.W. Tozer

Tozer spends each chapter reflecting on a specific quality of God – His infinitude, immutability, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, holiness, and so forth. In the process, Tozer explains how all of these qualities are inevitably linked together. I couldn’t begin to do the author justice, so I’ve collected below a few short passages:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness. Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges…A god begotten in the shadows of a fallen heart will quite naturally be no true likeness of the true God.”

‎”If by ‘practical men’ we mean unbelieving men engrossed in secular affairs and indifferent to the claims of Christ, the welfare of their own souls, or the interests of the world to come, then for them [knowledge of God’s immutability] can have no meaning at all…But while such men may be in the majority, they do not by any means compose the whole of the population. There are still the seven thousand who have not bowed their knees to Baal.”

“The unbelieving mind would not be convinced by any proof and the worshipping heart needs none.”

“I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true…For instance, the Bible teaches that God is love; some have interpreted this in such a way as virtually to deny that He is just, which the Bible also teaches.”

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! I considered creating some sort of “rating system” for future book reviews…but in all honesty, I only have enough motivation to write about the ones that I really enjoy.