Interpreting Genesis

Via Jerry Coyne I came across this essay regarding the interpretation of Genesis. (Click here for Part One of the essay.)

The article is by Kenton Sparks, a professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University. His argument will be entirely familiar to connoisseurs of this issue. The Bible, you see, was never intended to teach us science. Augustine and Calvin understood that if the Bible conflicts with well-established scientific truths, then it is our understanding of scripture that must yield. Modern creationists err in treating Genesis like a science textbook, and would do better to adopt the attitude of Augustine and Calvin..

The “Genesis is not a science book” canard is one of the more annoying cliches of this genre. As a way of salvaging any notion of the inerrancy of scripture it falls short. It also represents a serious misunderstanding of how YEC’s view the matter.


Here’s Sparks:

Secondly, regarding Scripture itself, although Augustine and Calvin deeply trusted the Bible as a witness to Christ and the Gospel message, they did not feel any deep need for Scripture to provide dependable insights on everything in human experience. In particular, both theologians averred that the Bible is not a science book. This is why Augustine was so comfortable reading problematic biblical texts as allegories and why Calvin was able to say, rather nonchalantly, that one could not depend on Scripture as a guide to the structure of the cosmos.

Their temperament towards Scripture was very different from what prevails nowadays in pop Christian culture, where it is casually assumed that the Bible is a fool-proof guide for everything … not only for leading us to Christ and right living but also for elucidating the scholarly facts of astronomy, biology, chemistry, economics, psychology, and sociology as well as the practical facts of success in marriage, parenting, health, and personal finances.

I think we should follow the lead of Augustine and Calvin. It is time for the Evangelical tradition (of which I am a part) to take scientists more seriously and the Bible somewhat less seriously, with respect to Science.

What I mean is this. As a rule, God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves. Basic facts about electricity, magnetism, gravity, quantum physics and genetics, however interesting, could not have been understood by ancient readers. On top of that, we have been able to tolerably appreciate and understand them by applying our natural, God-given intellectual gifts to a study of the cosmos that God made for us. And what we have discovered reveals a cosmos that is truly amazing and that, if anything, only points us towards the God who made it. And this, the Bible tells us, is precisely what the cosmos–the “book of nature”– was designed to do!

Let us get one thing out of the way right up front. Creationists do not believe the Bible is a science book. They believe, along with most Christians, that the purpose of the Bible is to instruct us about our need for, and the availability of, salvation. When the 66 books of the Bible are published in one volume, the result is a long, dense book almost none of which deals with anything relevant to science. The creationists are perfectly aware of these facts.

Nor do they believe that the early chapters of Genesis were intended primarily to teach us science. In their view the function of these chapters, as with the rest of the Bible, was to give us information relevant to understanding our predicament as sinful human beings.

However, they do believe the Bible is inerrant on any subject it addresses, and if that means accepting what it says during its very rare excursions into science then so be it. Thus, the point of Chapter One of Genesis is to establish that God produced a very good creation, one that was later sullied by human sin. It was also intended to rebut both polytheism and pantheism by establishing that one God was directly responsible for creating everything in nature. That creation took place in six days, followed by a day of rest, was meant to establish a pattern for us to emulate in keeping the Sabbath. Note that none of these purposes relate to science.

But in presenting these basic truths of the human condition, the Bible expresses itself in ways that have scientific consequences. We might even find it interesting and suggestive that the Bible, which mostly avoids scientific questions, begins with so much material relevant to science. Perhaps the conclusion is that God considered these particular scientific truths to be so important that they could not be omitted without compromising the story. At any rate, it makes little sense to say we will accept the spiritual truths of the Bible as a direct revelation from God, but will simply discard the parts that conflict with modern science.

There are many other problems with Sparks’s argument. He writes:

Basic facts about electricity, magnetism, gravity, quantum physics and genetics, however interesting, could not have been understood by ancient readers.

No one is asking for the basic facts about electricity and the rest. Even in the YEC interpretation of Genesis, there is little provided in the way of details regarding what God did. Scientific details are not the issue here. The question is: If Sparks is right that the Bible was not meant to provide us with scientific information, then why does it say anything about science at all?

Let us assume for the moment that evolution is God’s means of creation. We can understand that He would not lay out the technical details of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis, since those details would not have meant anything to ancient readers. How does it follow that His only option was to present the story of creation via an entirely fictitious sequence of events? A story which, if you accept the results of modern science, has led astray enormous numbers of sincere seekers over the centuries.

When you explain something to a small child you routinely simplify the situation. You omit details and context, and express yourself in language the child will understand. It is rare, and almost never appropriate, to lie outright to the child about what is going on. Surely God could have presented the essential spiritual truths without embedding them within a fictitious story. Accommodating His presentation to the level of His audience calls for simplification, not fabrication.

Sparks is also wrong when he says:

As a rule, God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves.

But the really important truths of Genesis are not things human beings could have figured out for themselves. Human beings could not have figured out, for example, that God created everything in six days and then judged his creation to be very good. The purpose of Genesis is to tell us about things that God did, and about his interactions with the earliest humans. Such things are well outside the realm of science, as people like Sparks so frequently remind us.

Consider the age of the Earth. If God had thought that was a question of burning importance, the Bible could have contained a verse resolving the question explicitly. Instead it contains an account of creation in six days, coupled with detailed genealogies that certainly seem to give us a complete record of descent from Adam to Abraham. The creation account and the genealogies have obvious significance in the story of the human condition; significance that has nothing to do with the age of the Earth. The fact remains, however, that it is a consequence of what is presented that the Earth is on the order of a few thousand years old.

For all its ubiquity, Sparks’s argument is simply inadequate to the challenge posed by modern science to scriptural authority. The stories in Genesis are central to the grand narrative of fall redemption, yet modern science tells us these stories are completely fictitious. Given this basic fact I can understand why so many people believe you must choose between science and scripture. What I do not understand is people trying to maintain the idea that the Bible is holy and inerrant some of the time, while utterly unreliable at other times. Yet that is precisely what Sparks, and those who argue like him, are doing.

It should also be pointed out that Augustine and Calvin were hardly theological liberals. They may have been wiling to countenance non-literal interpretations of certain aspects of Genesis, but both believed that Genesis was far more than just an allegory. It is one thing to adjust our understanding of certain verses based on what science is telling us, it is quite another to simply dismiss the clear teaching of whole swaths of scripture. If science tells us that the Sun is fixed and the Earth moves, then Joshua 10:12-13 can be given a figurative interpretation to accommodate the fact. It is not as if the purpose of the Book of Joshua is to teach us about the motions of the planets. Not so with Genesis. There the spiritual and scientific information is so bound up together that it is impossible to cleanly separate them. It is hard to believe that either Augustine or Calvin would have been satisfied with Sparks’s view of this issue.

The simple fact is that the Creationists would have felt right at home in nearly every portion of the Christian world right up until the nineteenth century. That the Bible was as reliable on scientific questions as it is on everything else was Christian conventional wisdom until relatively recently. The Catholic Church that tormented Galileo certainly thought the Bible was reliable on those scientific questions it addressed, for example. The common view, certainly supported by Augustine and Calvin, was that science was the servant of religion, and needed to be kept in its place. I find it unlikely that they would have appreciated the complete role reversal typical of modernity.

Comments

  1. #1 Koray
    February 18, 2010

    It’s not just Genesis. What about this afterlife business? Or resurrection, or any other intervention by god. They are all contradictory to our understanding of nature. The spiritual message is again tied to real world events.

    The only thing special about Genesis is that it has claims that can be falsified ‘today’. Almost every other statement that you don’t like (e.g. slavery, afterlife) can be defended until the cows come home by blaming it to interpretation, analogies, inability to disprove future events, etc. to prevent the ugly word “corruption” from creeping in.

  2. #2 Rob Jase
    February 18, 2010

    When Sparks’ fundie buddies stop trying to use the bible as a science book I’ll listen to him.

    Until then the rest of the flock is drowning him out.

  3. #3 Jayman
    February 18, 2010

    Jason Rosenhouse:

    However, they do believe the Bible is inerrant on any subject it addresses, and if that means accepting what it says during its very rare excursions into science then so be it.

    But YECs do not consistently accept the Bible at face value when it appears to address science. For example, Leviticus 11:6 says rabbits chew the cud. YECs do not claim that rabbits are ruminants. They defend the verse in some other way. If YECs can be more flexible when it comes to Leviticus 11:6 there is a possibility they can become more flexible when it comes to Genesis 1.

    The question is: If Sparks is right that the Bible was not meant to provide us with scientific information, then why does it say anything about science at all?

    If Genesis 1 is not a purely historical-scientific account, then it is foolish to interpret it as history or science. YECs believe that Jesus’ parables should not be taken as history because those sayings are parables. If they could be convinced that Genesis 1 is not of the history or science genre then they would no longer look to it to answer historical and scientific questions. Jesus’ parables are proof that essential spiritual truths can be embedded in fictional stories.

    It is not as if the purpose of the Book of Joshua is to teach us about the motions of the planets. Not so with Genesis. There the spiritual and scientific information is so bound up together that it is impossible to cleanly separate them.

    If you do not look at Genesis 1 as a purely historical-scientific account of creation then religion and science are less tightly bound together.

    It is hard to believe that either Augustine or Calvin would have been satisfied with Sparks’s view of this issue.

    I don’t claim to know what either Augustine or Calvin would believe if they were alive today. However, less literal interpretations of Genesis 1-11 have existed among Jews and Christians for centuries.

  4. #4 KKBundy
    February 18, 2010

    I’ve said this before so I apologize for repeating myself.
    But…

    The bible is not even close to inerrant on scientific matters. The truth is it has very little to say about anything scientific. At all! Ever! As a moral guide it is also seriously lacking in a firm ethical structure. There is murder, genocide and mayhem and those are just the things represented in Genesis and just those done by God himself. This book represents nothing about a deity’s relationship with humanity. It is about the frailty and wickedness and yes , greatness of the people, not the God. There is little divine in the Bible. Like Homer or Virgil it is a very human book, telling all the horrendous and wonderful things we do.
    Yes we should look on the Genesis as an allegory, but not one explaining a deity. The allegory is explaining us. Our needs and desires, our fears and hates, and the small initial steps we took to understand our world. As a human allegory it can be quite beautiful, but as divine revelation, it is horrid. I don’t know what the rest of you need but if there were a creator, I want a nicer one than the version of Yahweh we have been saddled with, a more peaceful king of peace, a more perfect perfection. The monster Genesis reveals is nothing I could worship. Ever!

    I am nearly finished with Genesis at the Blessed atheist Bible Study @ http://blessedatheist.com/ It has been fascinating and horrifying and very funny in places. I have read the entirety of Genesis at least 4 times and in places more. It is humorous and terrible and so much else. But the one thing it is not is divine!
    I urge you to read Genesis for yourself.

  5. #5 Anthony
    February 18, 2010

    I haven’t read either essay by Sparks yet but plan to, thanks for the links Jason.

    Actually Kenton Sparks was the last straw for me when I finally rejected evangelical Christianity. I had been struggling to incorporate evolution into an evangelical perspective and was also dealing with the historic criticism of the Bible, especially after reading material from Paul Seely and Peter Enns. I decided to read Sparks’s God’s Word in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship in hopes to shore up a lot of doubt that I had. Instead I found the evidence Sparks presents for historical criticism overwhelming and subsequently rejected Christianity.

    Speaking of Sparks’s essays on the Biologos website, one of Sparks’s buddies Darrel Falk (who convinced me that evolution was correct) wrote an essay about me last year entitled Saving Anthony. I clarified a number of issues regarding my deconversion in the comments section.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 18, 2010

    Jayman –

    If you’re curious, Here’s how the creationists deal with the question of rabbits and cud chewing.

    Also, creationists understand that there are different literary genres represented in the Bible. They would point out that Jesus’ parables are obviously parables. Another example would be the Psalms, which are clearly poetry. Regarding Genesis, however, they argue that an analysis of the language used makes it clear it is indeed intended as literal history. If you are going to dismiss the Genesis story as just an allegory, there should be clear textual evidence that that is what it is.

  7. #7 themann1086
    February 18, 2010

    This comment of his jumped out at me:

    God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves.

    Ok… so, what’s the point? If we can figure it all out for ourselves, what’s the point of the Scriptures? Conversely, how does a book containing stuff we could have figured out for ourselves point to it being the word of a supernatural being?

  8. #8 Valhar2000
    February 19, 2010

    Conversely, how does a book containing stuff we could have figured out for ourselves point to it being the word of a supernatural being?

    If the book had contained knowledge that was completely unavailable at the time, and very unintuitive, so that the likelihood of it being guessed by human writers was nil, that would be pretty good evidence that something was going on.

    If Jesus had said to his followers something like:

    Verily, verily, I say unto thee that thy doubts of the placement of a particle, multiplied by thy doubts of the speed of the particle, must be greater than or equal to the constant of Planck divided by two.

  9. #9 Richard Eis
    February 19, 2010

    If you remove Genesis from the bible as an “historical” account, don’t you then end up with a great gaping hole where original sin used to be? I know you can do some althletic leaps of the imagination to cover it but still….

    Also doesn’t that then change the entire starting history of the bible. And where do you stop? Was there a flood? Did Joseph live 110 years…What about Exodus?

  10. #10 Joel
    February 19, 2010

    “Quantum physics is too hard to teach to little kids, so we’ll just tell them that heavy objects fall faster and that the sun revolves around the Earth.”

    Seems logical.

  11. #11 Jr
    February 19, 2010

    “Regarding Genesis, however, they argue that an analysis of the language used makes it clear it is indeed intended as literal history.”

    How does the language prove that? Many 19-century authors for example used the literary device of writing their books in the style of a recounting of actual events, by a narrator who experienced them. Thus the language is close to the one used in non-fiction but yet the stories were never intended to be taken as anything but fictional.

    Imagine the Sherlock Holmes stories were almost the only surviving writngs from our culture in a few thousand years, and that people try to determine whether they are descriptions of real events or fictional.

    Now the Sherlock Holmes stories are certainly not poetic, instead they appear to be written in straight-forward prose. Nor do they appear to be a parable or an allegory. And they certainly claim to be a true account, written by a person (Dr Watson) who is recounting his own experiences. Clearly the only reasonable conclusion is that they are in fact to be taken as the literal truth.

    Our situation with Hebrew literature is probably similar to my imagined Holmes-readers’. We do not have an extensive collection of Hebrew literature from which we can make judgements of genre. In fact all we got are the books in the Hebrew Bible and they were not even written at the same time but over an extended period of hundreds of years. I have no idea whether the authors of Geneisis intended there story to be taken literarly.

    I do not believe however that Geneisis was intended to be about Jesus. That is both a strained reading of the text, and wildly contradictory to accepted science, which does not allow for prophecy. I do not view Sparks views in that regard as much better than creationists.

  12. #12 heddle
    February 19, 2010

    But of course you have not commented on the fact that neither Augustine nor Calvin nor a whole host of others from the pre-scientific era took the Genesis account literally, even when they had no reason not to.

    You call “the bible is not a science book” a canard. Maybe. But that position would be much stronger were it not for those who held to that position prior to any perceived conflict. The were not trying to salvage the inerrancy of scripture.

    I see the issue this way. I’ve seen it a million times. You do not want there to be reconciliation between the bible and science–so you declare that the literal reading of Genesis is the only reasonable reading. Such a position neglects history on at least two accounts:

    1) As mentioned, many pre-scientific theologians, including some top-ten early church fathers such as Augustine did not take Genesis literally–and that had to be for reasons other than forcing agreement with science, and

    2) The meteoric rise in popularity of a literal interpretation to, at its peak, near unanimity among evangelicals came as a result of the advent of the theory of evolution. The easiest way for the church to deny evolution was to deny that it had time to operate.

    Point 2, which represents an effect not a rule, is in fact the opposite of what you claim. Here we don’t have people abandoning the literal view in order to force a reconciliation with science. On the contrary, some adopted the literal view to force a disagreement with science (evolution).

    Of course none of these are general statements–you can find exceptions and teachings across the board.

  13. #13 Jud
    February 19, 2010

    Mighty interesting thread.

    Richard Eis writes:

    If you remove Genesis from the bible as an “historical” account, don’t you then end up with a great gaping hole where original sin used to be?

    Jews have done fine without the concept of original sin (at least in its full-blown form as something only Jesus can save you from).

    On the larger question of Bible interpretation, the gamut runs from Hillel’s famous statement that the entirety of the law is the Golden Rule, and all else is commentary, to fundamentalists who think this text, having undergone multiple translations and editions, can be said to have a “literal” meaning that is not just one more interpretation.

    There are certainly those along this spectrum who believe their interpretations are consistent with science. For those close to the “Hillel end,” who feel the text is at heart an exhortation to act morally toward one’s fellow human beings, this can be considered a fairly logical position. (That is, there is nothing logically inconsistent about acting well toward others and a scientific way of viewing the universe.) As we move along the spectrum through God-belief to the “fundamentalist end,” there is less and less consistency between such views of the Biblical text and scientific ways of knowing. Yet I would not discourage those who both believe in God and appreciate science:

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

    - Walt Whitman

  14. #14 H.H.
    February 19, 2010

    Sparks said:

    As a rule, God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves.

    In other words, the truthfulness and accuracy of the bible cannot be judged on any subject which is possible to be independently verify through other means. Well, isn’t that super convenient for the apologists like Sparks.

  15. #15 H.H.
    February 19, 2010

    Oh, and as creationists love to point out, Jesus himself refers to a literal Adam, which means that the messiah himself did not consider Genesis to be allegorical. Trying to dismiss the opening book of the bible directly imputes the credibility of Jesus. Creationism may be stupid and embarrassing, but it’s more intellectually honest than the cherry picking offered by liberal apologists like Sparks.

  16. #16 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 19, 2010

    heddle –

    But of course you have not commented on the fact that neither Augustine nor Calvin nor a whole host of others from the pre-scientific era took the Genesis account literally, even when they had no reason not to.

    You call “the bible is not a science book” a canard. Maybe. But that position would be much stronger were it not for those who held to that position prior to any perceived conflict. The were not trying to salvage the inerrancy of scripture.

    According to Sparks, Calvin was, indeed, motivated by a desire to reconcile scripture with science. And Augustine specifically mentions compatibility with science as a tool for interpreting scripture. You can take it up with him.

    What I described as a canard was the idea that modern creationists think the Bible is a science book. A far more accurate statement of their belief is that the Bible is a book primarily about religious truths regarding fall and redemption, which in a handful of places addresses questions of scientific interest. In those places it should still be regarded as inerrant.

    To reduce Augustine and Calvin’s views of Genesis to the simple statement that they allowed for non-literal interpretations is very unfair. Neither one of them thought Genesis was just an allegory. Augustine, for example, was thoroughly convinced, based on scripture, that the Earth was on the order of 6000 years old. The fact is that modern science leaves absolutely nothing standing of a literal interpretation of Genesis. You have to argue that it has no historical content at all to reconcile it with modern science. I doubt Augustine and Calvin would have wanted anything to do with such an idea.

    Finally, Augustine and Calvin were just two people. By far the dominant interpretation of the Bible, right up to the present was in line with modern YEC. Much of St. Basil’s analysis of Genesis, for example, could have been written by modern YEC’s. To single out two folks who were slightly more liberal than their contemporaries as representative is rather poor form.

    I see the issue this way. I’ve seen it a million times. You do not want there to be reconciliation between the bible and science–so you declare that the literal reading of Genesis is the only reasonable reading.

    How interesting that you go straight to attacking motives. You, I suppose, are not motivated in the slightest by your desire to reconcile science and scripture. I can only say that I have read Genesis, have read rather a lot of commentaries on Genesis, and I have yet to see a persuasive argument for the view that it was intended to be nothing more than an allegory. There is no tradition prior to Darwin that interpreted Genesis in that way, including people like Augustine and Darwin.

  17. #17 K. Mapson
    February 19, 2010

    The Bible might very well rebut both polytheism and pantheism, but it can not overcome the logic of pandeism, which fully accounts for and thereby supersedes the Bible. Because of this supercession, the Bible can not be true unless and until pandeism is first affirmatively proven false, regardless of the text written in the Bible!!

  18. #18 heddle
    February 19, 2010

    Jason,

    Finally, Augustine and Calvin were just two people. By far the dominant interpretation of the Bible, right up to the present was in line with modern YEC.

    ?? Sez who? There is compelling evidence that the supreme dominance of the YEC view is post-Darwin. (Though scant–what is certain is that people didn’t talk much about it before Darwin. It was not a line in the sand issue.) But you do find, rather easily, people with non-literal interpretations. Even among the so-called church fathers there was Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Origen–all of whom had a non-literal view at at least some point in their lives.

    How interesting that you go straight to attacking motives.

    You speculate on motives (abandoning a literal interpretation merely to reconcile with science) but somehow it is “attacking” when I engage in some speculation?

    What I described as a canard was the idea that modern creationists think the Bible is a science book.

    ?? But earlier you wrote:

    The “Genesis is not a science book” canard is one of the more annoying cliches of this genre.

    Are both positions canards? Or is there a typo here?

    I have yet to see a persuasive argument for the view that it was intended to be nothing more than an allegory.

    Are you sure you could be persuaded? People from the pre-scientific era (some) have long commented that the creation account does have a suggestive poetic flavor, particularly in obvious parallelism between the first three days and the second three days, viz., (1)light-(4)light, (2)water-(5)water, (3)land-(6)land.

    Your commentary implies that the non-literal view of Genesis is a purely or at least mostly a modern phenomenon, a retreat in the face of modern science, when that is not as obvious as you suggest (although there certainly is that effect.) And you neglect my other point, that the massive shift toward the literal view, especially in making it a test of orthodoxy, came in response to evolution–i.e. there was a push in the pulpit, and the pews followed along, to adopt or even demand a literal view specifically to make it incompatible with science.

    H.H,

    Oh, and as creationists love to point out, Jesus himself refers to a literal Adam,

    There are at least two broad non-literal interpretations (Day Age, and Framework–although some Day-Agers claim to be “the” literal interpretation) and variations thereof that are compatible with a literal Adam and have proponents who affirm a literal Adam–i.e., the first ensouled human if you will, and the very man referred to by Jesus. So a literal Adam is not compatible only with the YEC view. That’s a false dichotomy.

  19. #19 Neal
    February 19, 2010

    The word “day” in the Bible does not always mean 24 hours. Some interpret Genesis 1 to mean that, but many do not, and most people are open about it.

    If a five year old asks his parents where he came from, the response might simply be that he came from the love between his mother and father. If that same child later goes to medical school and becomes an OB doctor he is going to learn volumes of stuff about child birth. Will he then go back to his parents and say, “You lied to me?” No, he understands that what his parents said was true and what he later learned was also true.

    Even in its simplicity, the most basic teaching of Genesis is missed by evolutionists. The simple truth is that God created life. Perhaps the greatest disservice that Darwinism has done for mankind and science is to look at life as simple and junky. There actually wonder and fantasic lessons of design that are found within nature. Evolution dumbs down life, dumbs down science and looks at theology with a negative eye. Contrary to Darwins depressing view of life, the Psalms says that we are wonderfully made. Research into the living cell is showing this to be the case more than ever.

  20. #20 eric
    February 19, 2010

    Neal: The word “day” in the Bible does not always mean 24 hours. Some interpret Genesis 1 to mean that, but many do not, and most people are open about it.

    If a five year old asks his parents where he came from…

    I’m pretty sure the civilizations from 2000 B.C. on were not built by five-year-olds. And that people back then could count. There would simply be no reason to tell mature adults like Plato, Euclid, etc… “1 day” if you really meant 1 week, 1 year, 1 millennia, or 1000 millenia. Solomon reputedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines; I’m pretty sure he could understand the difference between a small number and a big number.

  21. #21 James Sweet
    February 19, 2010

    I dunno, I think Sparks has a point. The Bible would make a shitty science textbook, therefore we can deduce that it was not intended to be one. The Bible would also be a pretty shitty textbook on philosophy and ethics, so we can deduce it was not intended to advise us on those issues either. Same goes for the Bible’s use as a history textbook. Even as a theology textbook, its scope is so limited as to be essentially useless. So clearly, the Bible was not intended to fulfill any of these roles, and we should discount its use in said roles.

    Furthermore, Sparks hits the nail on the head with this one:

    As a rule, God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves.

    And since human beings are quite capable of figuring out on our own that dualism is an illusion, that there is no afterlife, and that positing a cosmic Creator as an explanatory device is worse than useless, it follows from Sparks’ logic that God did not intend for the scriptures to reveal anything about the soul, Heaven, Hell, or even God Himself.

    I for one applaud Sparks. He has put forth an idea that might rightly be called “Bible of the Gaps”. But whereas the God of the Gaps finds Herself living claustrophobicly in the ever-shrinking holes in our knowledge of the universe, the Bible of the Gaps has long since been squeezed into nothingness — after all the Bible does not address any topic that has not already been given a superior secular treatment.

    Sparks is exactly right. We should not look the Bible for information or guidance on any subject in which it is deficient. Which is all of them.

  22. #22 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 19, 2010

    heddle –

    ?? Sez who? There is compelling evidence that the supreme dominance of the YEC view is post-Darwin. (Though scant–what is certain is that people didn’t talk much about it before Darwin. It was not a line in the sand issue.) But you do find, rather easily, people with non-literal interpretations. Even among the so-called church fathers there was Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Origen–all of whom had a non-literal view at at least some point in their lives.

    Well, here is Langdon Gilkey (himself a theistic evolutionist) from his book Maker of Heaven and Earth: The Christian Doctrine of Creation in the Light of Modern Knowledge:

    To the Christian of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the biblical idea of creation probably meant something like this: “Not so very long ago (4004 BC in fact), God, having dwelt in splendid isolation for eternity, suddenly created in one series of momentous, instantaneous acts the whole present world. In this single miraculous series of events, centering somewhere in Mesopotamia, the Lord made in their present form all the kinds and species of things that were ever to be: the sun, the moon, and stars were given their places, our present seas, mountains, and valleys were formed by His direct power, the present species of plants and animals were made by His hand. Thus the whole world as we know it came to be, not by an age-long process of gradual development, but by the fiat of a fabulous artificer in six days of furious activity.”

    It would be trivial for me to produce similar quotations from reputable scholars. Just about any history of geology will record what a shock it was for early geologists to be confronted with clear evidence of a very old Earth, contrary to their expectations. I think I am on solid ground in saying the dominant interpretation of Genesis was that it described actual historical events, that it taught that the Earth was young, that Adam and Eve were real people and so on.

    As I pointed out in my opening post, not all non-literal interpretations are created equal. It is one thing to fiddle with interpretations of specific words or verses; for example, reinterpreting the days of Genesis to be long periods of time to accommodate geological evidence. It is quite another to dismiss the whole thing as just an allegory. Augustine and Calvin, for all their willingness to countenance non-literal readings, interpreted Genesis in ways that are far closer to modern YEC’s than they are to theistic evolution. It is too cavalier to throw their names around as justifying the dismissal of Genesis as a historical account.

    You speculate on motives (abandoning a literal interpretation merely to reconcile with science) but somehow it is “attacking” when I engage in some speculation?

    What on Earth are you talking about? I did not speculate about anyone’s motives. I presented Sparks’ argument and explained why I do not find it convincing. You, on the other hand, while ignoring most of what I wrote, accused me of holding the views I do out of a desire to see the Bible and science in conflict. Yes, I call that attacking my motives.

    ?? But earlier you wrote:

    The “Genesis is not a science book” canard is one of the more annoying cliches of this genre.

    Are both positions canards? Or is there a typo here?

    I was making two separate points.

    It is a canard that modern creationists view the Bible as a science textbook. They do not. They view it as a book of religious truths that should still be viewed as inerrant on those rare occasions when it addresses science.

    Separately from that, it is also far too facile to invoke the mantra “Genesis is not a science book” as an argument for treating Genesis as an allegory with no historical content at all. In Genesis the science and the spiritual teachings are so bound up together that it is hard to justify accepting one after discarding the other.

    Perhaps you could direct me to what you regard as a really good presentation of the case for interpreting Genesis as an allegory.

    Are you sure you could be persuaded? People from the pre-scientific era (some) have long commented that the creation account does have a suggestive poetic flavor, particularly in obvious parallelism between the first three days and the second three days, viz., (1)light-(4)light, (2)water-(5)water, (3)land-(6)land.

    So we’re back to attacking intellectual integrity? Yes, I’m sure I could be persuaded.

    I am perfectly familiar with the framework view, and I find it exegetically implausible. How does the parallelism between days 1-4, 2-5 and 3-6 transform the first chapter of Genesis from a straightforward account of a sequence of historical events into an allegory? It takes a lot more than the recognition of a poetic element in Genesis to render it consistent with modern science.

    I don’t think you are facing up to the full magnitude of the problem. We are not just quibbling about the age of the Earth. It is nearly everything in the first eleven chapters that must go if we are to accept modern science. The time scale of creation is wrong, the sequence of events is wrong, and the story of the fall is wrong. The chronologies must be pathetically incomplete. The story of Noah’s flood is out, as is the story of the Tower of Babel. Nor are these minor side issues, unlike the issue of whether the sun moves in Joshua. These are the foundational stories of the book. Language is being used in ways I do not understand if such a book can still be regarded as inerrant.

    Your commentary implies that the non-literal view of Genesis is a purely or at least mostly a modern phenomenon, a retreat in the face of modern science, when that is not as obvious as you suggest (although there certainly is that effect.) And you neglect my other point, that the massive shift toward the literal view, especially in making it a test of orthodoxy, came in response to evolution–i.e. there was a push in the pulpit, and the pews followed along, to adopt or even demand a literal view specifically to make it incompatible with science.

    The emphasis on the literal view in the late nineteenth century had far more to do with German Higher Criticism than it did with evolution. The only reason modern creationists focus so much on the first chapter of Genesis is simply because that is where they perceive the most fervent attacks. In general, they do not even make an acceptance of YEC a requirement for being saved. Usually their argument is that it is a slippery slope from “compromising” on the first chapter, to rejecting the Bible outright.

    That these sorts of considerations (regarding evolution and the age of the Earth) were not much of an issue prior to 1800 is simply the result of Christianity not facing any serious challenges on these fronts prior to modern biology and geology. We can find a close parallel, however, in the Church’s treatment of heliocentrism. They regarded it as a dangerous idea that was contrary to scripture, and one of which they would tolerate speculation, but no outright endorsement. We all know what they did to Galileo for crossing the line of acceptable thought.

    That, mind you, was based on a handful of vague Bible verses on an issue that was plainly ancillary to the business of salvation through Christ.

    Now conduct a simple thought experiment. Suppose Darwin had been doing his work in the early seventeenth century. Do you think the Church of that time would have said, “What is the problem? We have a long tradition of non-literal interpretations of the Bible?” You know full-well they would not have.

    Finally, I implied nothing about why people might favor a non-literal interpretation of Genesis. I addressed Sparks’ argument specifically and explained why I find it unpersuasive. It was Sparks, recall, who framed his argument entirely around the idea that if science and scripture conflict, then it is science that must win. I merely explained why so many people, including myself, see that as tantamount to saying you must choose between science and scripture.

  23. #23 gillt
    February 19, 2010

    In Barbara W. Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” she notes that throughout the 14th century a literal interpretation of genesis was widespread among all three classes–cleric, nobility and peasant.

  24. #24 heddle
    February 19, 2010

    I don’t want to get in a long debate (been there done that too many times) but I want to comment you are mixing up two separate issues here– 1) the age of the earth and 2) the literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Geneses 1 doesn’t tell you anything about the age of the earth– That came from the biblical genealogies. That is:

    You can believe in a young earth, and not believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

    This was in fact, as I think you mentioned, Augustine’s position. (And the other church fathers I mentioned.) It might have been mine too. After all–there was no reason to believe in an old earth in the 4th century. Nevertheless he was not a YEC as we use the term because that includes affirming a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Thus I agree that before the scientific era almost everyone believed in a young earth. There would be no reason for anyone to believe in a ~10^10 year old earth.

    But again, that does not mean everyone was a YEC–that they had a literal view of Genesis 1–and in fact many did not.

    As for you finding the parallelism in Genesis 1 unconvincing–that’s hardly the issue–the issue is did others, before the scientific era, see the parallelism and comment on it being suggestive of Hebrew poetry? Some did.

  25. #25 Jason Rosenhouse
    February 19, 2010

    I don’t want to get in a long debate (been there done that too many times) but I want to comment you are mixing up two separate issues here– 1) the age of the earth and 2) the literal interpretation of Genesis 1. Geneses 1 doesn’t tell you anything about the age of the earth– That came from the biblical genealogies.

    Actually the idea that the Earth is young comes from combining the six-day creation in Genesis with the genealogies. If the events described in the first chapter of Genesis took place over long periods of time (as suggested by the Day-Age view, for example) then the genealogies would not imply a young-Earth. They could then be interpreted simply as a description of human descent once humans finally appeared on the scene. The two issues are not as distinct as you suggest.

    As I recall, Augustine believed that the days of Genesis were actually instants, so that even though he did not think they were 24 hour days, he still thought creation took place in a short period of time. Yes, his interpretation was non-literal, but it was still far closer to modern YEC’s than to theistic evolutionists.

    I do not know as much about Calvin’s views, but the issue Sparks mentions had to do with Noah’s flood, and not the first chapter of Genesis. My understanding is that Calvin was largely a disciple of Augustine, and tended to share his views on theological matters. Certainly Calvin accepted Augustine’s view of original sin, which was premised on a literal Adam and Eve.

    And, I’m sorry, but the issue is not whether people noted the parallelism in Genesis before the scientific era. The issue is whether they used that parallelism as an excuse for dismissing the whole Genesis story as an allegory. Very few, if any, did such a thing.

    You did not take me up on my offer to mention a reference that presents a good case for an allegorical Genesis. Seriously, if you know of a book or article that you think lays out the case especially well I would be interested in procuring a copy.

  26. #26 Robocop
    February 19, 2010

    At any rate, it makes little sense to say we will accept the spiritual truths of the Bible as a direct revelation from God, but will simply discard the parts that conflict with modern science.

    Why do you presume that the Bible’s revelatory character means that God somehow dictated its contents? The concept of “inerrancy” is a 20th C. American invention after all.

    What I do not understand is people trying to maintain the idea that the Bible is holy and inerrant some of the time, while utterly unreliable at other times.

    What I do not understand is the wooden literalism you espouse. Is Dostoevsky somehow unreliable since the events of The Brothers K didn’t happen?

    The common view, certainly supported by Augustine and Calvin, was that science was the servant of religion, and needed to be kept in its place.

    I would suggest that the Christian view is that both science and religion, being human constructs, are servants of truth (and Truth).

  27. #27 Robocop
    February 19, 2010

    As I recall, Augustine believed that the days of Genesis were actually instants, so that even though he did not think they were 24 hour days, he still thought creation took place in a short period of time. Yes, his interpretation was non-literal, but it was still far closer to modern YEC’s than to theistic evolutionists.

    How could anyone possibly be talking about literal 24-hour days (and thus literal evenings and mornings) before the creation of the sun?

  28. #28 Lenoxus
    February 19, 2010

    Robocop # 27:

    How could anyone possibly be talking about literal 24-hour days (and thus literal evenings and mornings) before the creation of the sun?

    Easy — you just have to not think that “days” and “sun” have anything to do with each other. After all, there can be very cloudy, hence “sunless”, days, no? The sun is just a thing up in the sky that we can see during the day.

    That’s my totally-made-up answer, anyway.

  29. #29 heddle
    February 19, 2010

    Jason,

    What has been recommended to me is the 2 volume set of the Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham. But I haven’t read it yet. You might try the collected writings of Meredith Kline on the Framework Interpretation–including the popularized “The Genesis Debate” which has Kline arguing for the Framework and Hugh Ross for the Day Age. Not scholarly, but not bad.

  30. #30 Lenoxus
    February 19, 2010

    “Not a science book” bothers me in a very subtle way. In the contexts it’s used, it’s, like, just this side of not being a logical fallacy.

    The Lord of the Rings isn’t a science book either. People who think it’s no problem that the Bible contains zero information otherwise inaccessible to its writers are people with a very low standard for God. Did Yahweh speak directly to the ancient Hebrews or didn’t he? Yes, they were a pre-scientific culture. So…?

    It’s like if I claimed my dog had supernatural powers of vocal communication, then when someone asked me to prove it, I said “Don’t be silly, dogs can’t talk, that’s absurd. Dogs are physically incapable of talking, so it would be unfair to expect one to.” Well, can my dog do anything special language-wise? Or was my whole claim just silly?

    Scientific knowledge is just one example of the many ways the Good Book could hypothetically be distinguished as superior to its numerous fellow holy texts. I have to wonder… is the Bible “not” a book of prophecy, either? Will the Apocalypse happen literally or “allegorically”?

    Is Dostoevsky somehow unreliable since the events of The Brothers K didn’t happen?

    Is the Bible just a work of fiction?

  31. #31 Jayman
    February 19, 2010

    Richard Eis, some Christians don’t believe in original sin. It is hardly a necessary component of Christianity. The genre of each passage in the Bible must be judged independently of others. It is quite possible that Genesis 1-11 is not history while other parts of the Bible are history.

    H.H., the fact that Jesus refers to Adam (though not by name) does not require that we believe Jesus thought Genesis 1-11 was literal history. Suppose I say that someone acted like the good Samaritan. It would be wrong to infer that I believe the good Samaritan was a literal historical person. I know quite well the good Samaritan is a character in a parable Jesus told. The genre of Genesis 1-11 must be determined on its own terms.

    Jason Rosenhouse, it is my understanding that the Jewish scholar Maimonides (Rambam) argued that Genesis 1-11 is not to be taken literally. Unfortunately, I don’t have a book and passage for you. But he certainly pre-dates the modern creation/evolution debate.

    As for a book recommendations, have your read Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux? He does not argue that Genesis 1-11 is allegory. Rather he argues that it is a form of primeval history (like some other ancient Near Eastern documents). It may go “too far” for some Christians but it was a fresh view (to me anyway). I’ve also heard (but have not yet read) that The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton argues that the creation account is more concerned with the function of creation than with how creation came about. It may be the kind of book you are looking for.

  32. #32 Pierce R. Butler
    February 19, 2010

    I’m just finishing up Robert Crumb’s brilliant illustrated edition of Genesis (highly recommended, including his handful of annotations and endnotes). He makes even the lost lists of names interesting through galleries of original portraiture.

    Genesis is not the craziest book in the christian bible, but it runs a close second to Revelations (perhaps S. Clay Wilson, if still extant, would be the graphic artist best suited to draw a comparable version).

    It’s harder than ever now to imagine what it would take for anyone to consider that book as anything other than a clamjamfry of tribal lore from rather unsophisticated storytellers. Just about every other culture’s mythology is more coherent and poetically insightful.

  33. #33 Pierce R. Butler
    February 19, 2010

    Er, ah, that’s “… long lists of names …” in comment 32, ‘graf 1.

  34. #34 tomh
    February 19, 2010

    Neal wrote:
    The simple truth is that God created life.

    I love the certainty of this kind of statement. No maybes, ifs, ands, or buts. Just state it as a fact and that’s the end of it. The only justification needed is, as the old gospel tune says, the Bible tells me so. Simple indeed.

  35. #35 tomh
    February 19, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    some Christians don’t believe in original sin. It is hardly a necessary component of Christianity.

    What a tiresome argument. Is there anything that all Christians believe in? All 38,000 sects, or whatever the ridiculous number is? It seems the only necessary component of Christianity is that one calls oneself a Christian. That’s the beauty of arguing the pro-Christian side. No matter what the opposing argument is, the fact that “some” Christians don’t believe it is considered a debate clincher. What a sham.

  36. #36 Lenoxus
    February 19, 2010

    Sheesh, I keep going on the same rant as the OP, but I can’t help it. Anyway, what all this suddenly reminded me of is a common response to the apparent moral problems with the bible — its tolerance and even commanding of slavery, rape, and conquest.

    Believers will say “You’re looking at that from a 21st-century viewpoint. You have to understand it in the context of the times.”

    This is not an unreasonable thing to say if we’re trying to evaluate a person or text which is not reputed to be in any sense divinely inspired. For example, David Hume held racist ideas, and to some extent, that can be chalked up to his zeitgeist, not that it totally excuses him. Likewise, perhaps whoever wrote Deuteronomy 15:12-18, dealing with the freeing of slaves, was trying to slowly humanize the Hebrew slavery system. There can be shades of grey there.

    But the same verses make no sense as the commands, even indirectly and remotely, of an all-loving God. They completely condone the hateful institution. They render totally disparate the treatment of male and female slaves; only the former are to be freed in a jubilee year, which is why a slave could very well wish not to be freed, so as not to be separated from his family. Today, we call the whole thing inhuman. Why was it not inhuman then? If it was, why didn’t God have it edited out of His book before it went to press, so to speak?

    The “cultural context” argument suggests that we should hold God (and/or his indirect interpreters) to moral standards so low, the Bible could very well have been the creation of fallible human beings. Either that, or such notions as universal equality are mistaken and merely “modern” (the “21st-century viewpoint” I alluded to earlier), not reflective of the true Godly morality.

    (It’s amazing how quickly a theist can go from condemning “moral relativists” to becoming one.)

  37. #37 jimvj
    February 20, 2010

    The book of Leviticus has diagnostic and therapeutic recommendations for Leprosy.
    Do those who consider “the Bible” to be inerrant when it addresses scientific topics insist on using them?

  38. #38 tomh
    February 20, 2010

    @ #37

    Few religionists refuse medical treatment for themselves. Their children, however, are another matter. Children die every year because Christians don’t allow modern medical treatment for them – of course, it doesn’t really count because it’s only “some” Christians and probably not “true” Christians at that. Very convenient.

  39. #39 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    I keep trying to find a forum on this issue that is not more preaching to the choir. But, that aside, I’m wondering: Why do you all have your panties in such a bunch? Relax, fellows. The strangle-hold evolutionary theory has on public education and the media in general is not likely to be released in any of our lifetimes, and it is even less likely that America will become some kind of theocratic state (which I wouldn’t want to be in myself) where, horror of horrors, little American Muslims might be taught the Ten Commandments. Why are you all running so scared? Or…could it be that, for all your ranting about ID (it’s not science it’s not science it’s not science it’s not….), somewhere in your mind a forbidden thought is even now metastasizing: Evolutionary theory is debunked? No? Well, I have a surprise for you: It has been. Yep. Sorry, but it’s a done deal. Has been for a long time now, long before ID. Evolutionary theory is easily demolished by a thousand more unanswerable arguments than phlogiston theory. Just pick one at random (any will do). Probability theory, for example. The probability that this ALL happened by chance is…what? Like 1/[(number of atoms in the universe)to the 10,000th power] or so. And, look at you. You’re a healthy young man with a PhD and not one of the trillions of pieces of space junk flying about the universe? Lucked out, huh? Boy, I’ll say. If I thought I had that kind of luck, man, I’d be booking the next cheap flight to Vegas.

  40. #40 anon
    February 20, 2010

    This is science, Kennesaw; there are no forbidden thoughts.

    Forbidden thoughts are exclusively in the realm of religion, where the leaders can’t have people thinking clearly because truth would upset the applecart. (Obviously it hasn’t upset yours yet.)

    You might want to check your calculations again, this time changing one bit at a time and keeping the results that work best while discarding the ones that fail — you know, test the hypothesis that scientists actually believe rather than the silly all-at-once straw man of the theologians’ wishful thinking. You might be quite surprised.

  41. #41 Jayman
    February 20, 2010

    tomh, your problems can be solved quite easily. Just stop making sweeping generalizations. Don’t make arguments that imply that the refutation of one doctrine is a refutation of all doctrines. Don’t hold all Christians morally responsible for the actions of a few Christians.

  42. #42 Tulse
    February 20, 2010

    The probability that this ALL happened by chance is…what?

    The probability that a omnipotent omniscient conscious intelligent immaterial being poofed into existence is…what?

  43. #43 Jayman
    February 20, 2010

    Tulse, Christians don’t believe that God “poofed into existence,” we believe God is an eternal, necessary being. On the other hand, the universe is a finite, contingent entity.

  44. #44 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    Tulse: God didn’t “poof” into existence or come into being at all; he never wasn’t. So there is not even one event at issue, much less the billions upon billions of events supposedly involved in the inexorable upward march of evolution. Can’t argue probability unless you have at least an event or two.

    To anon: I always get a kick out it when debaters (not to put too fine a meaning on the word) snatch at a word or phrase to “attack” when they find no better strategy at hand. Meanwhile, let me get this straight: I have an “applecart” and you don’t? Please.

  45. #45 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    While y’all are mulling over what to say next, let me pose a little challenge: Write a short paragraph on what you think about behaviorism, as championed by B.F. Skinner and others. Please don’t be shy about mentioning any predictions or benefits that have come out of this branch of science.

  46. #46 tresmal
    February 20, 2010

    B.F. Skinner? What the hell? Relevance?

  47. #47 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    S’matter, tresmal? Not up to it? Okay. Let’s make it simple. B.F. Skinner and his colleagues claimed that, by their “upgraded” behaviorism, they had made psychology scientific. So, did they? Was it? I know you probably cannot see where this is going, but I bet some of your fellow ID/creation critics do. It’s relevant to the very question of how this issue is being argued here. It’s relevant to the questions of what is science, what is expected of science, and what we will tolerate in our taxpayer-funded institutions of learning.

  48. #48 tresmal
    February 20, 2010

    I know you probably cannot see where this is going…

    You’re right, so why don’t you spell it out, which is the custom at science oriented websites.

  49. #49 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    You’ve been challenged. Stop squirming and accept it like a man. Or stand back and let another try.

  50. #50 tresmal
    February 20, 2010

    Machismo?!? Seriously? Are you challenging me to fisticuffs sirrah?
    I’m not “squirming” I’m asking you to be clear. If you have a point, stop being coquettish and spell it out.
    As for Skinner, I don’t know enough about his work to judge it. I do have enough sense not to fall victim to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, by trying to answer it. For what it’s worth, whether Skinner’s work is bogus or well established science has no bearing on the validity of evolution.
    How old is the Earth?

  51. #51 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    Hey, tres. Nothing wrong with not knowing much about Skinner.
    On “whether Skinner’s work is bogus or well established science has no bearing on the validity of evolution”: I agree completely. But that’s not the point. The point is that what you think of Skinner’s work might have a bearing on what you can justifiably bash as non-science. Meanwhile, what has no bearing on what I am ready to call science is how old I think the earth is. So quit with the red herrings already.

  52. #52 Lenoxus
    February 20, 2010

    I think KW’s point is related to “science has been wrong before.” Sometimes IDers like to say that ID is like string theory, and string theory is called “science” even though it isn’t testable, right? It’s science-sciencey-Science, so there.

    This ignores that there may be a continuum of sorts here; for example, economics is a “soft hard science”. Not to mention that string theory only ever calls itself theoretical, unlike ID. Same deal with KW’s take on behaviorism.

    As near as I can tell, the scientific method is still the best way to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to knowledge claims. Ever heard of the Great Disappointment? A sect called the Millerites were convinced that the world would end in 1844. According to Wikipedia (not the most reliable source, of course), it did not.

    My point in bringing that up is that there’s no apparent rubric or method by which the Millerites can be filtered out from being True Christians, apart from their obviously having been wrong. On what religious grounds were they incorrect? None. 1845 came along, falsifying their claims — but that wasn’t a religious event.

    Of course, it’s because of stuff like the Disappointment and, much more so, the age of the earth that IDers do their best to distance themselves from religion (specifically Christianity), so as not to be tarred for having been wrong so many times before. Or is ID like the chemistry to YEC’s alchemy? I for one have a hard time seeing that.

  53. #53 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    And as for the Dunning-Kruger Effect, you mean it actually took TWO guys to come up with that? We must be running low on post-graduate thesis topics.

  54. #54 Lenoxus
    February 20, 2010

    Having re-read KW’s original post here, I’m trying my best to make sense of this part:

    You’re a healthy young man with a PhD and not one of the trillions of pieces of space junk flying about the universe? Lucked out, huh?

    It seems Jason Rosenhouse should be impressed that he was not born as dark matter or part of a star. Clearly, the only possible reason that Jason Rosenhouse is not dark matter is You-Know-Who.

    Why not add time to that absurd mix? What are the odds that Dr. Rosenhouse wasn’t born as one of the tens of millions of other people that have ever existed? How could it be that Dr. Roshenhouse wasn’t born as Napoleon or a dinosaur?

  55. #55 SLC
    February 20, 2010

    One thing should be made clear here which is that string theory, as it currently exists is not, repeat not a theory of physics. It’s a theory of mathematics which may or may not have application to physics. In this regard, it is in the same category as group theory, Lie algebras, Hilbert spaces, and Riemannian geometry were when they were developed as it was totally unknown as to whether they had any physical application at the time. At best, it would be labeled a hypothesis of physics as we sit here today.

  56. #56 Kennesaw Williams
    February 20, 2010

    Thanks Lenoxus (where do you guys get these names anyway?) for your post.
    On testability: This point is always lost on me. Okay, ID isn’t testable. Neither is the Big Bang theory. Neither is biological or cosmological evolution. Which is very different from saying there is no EVIDENCE for them. So, if there is apparent EVIDENCE for a scientific assertion or theory, but no handy litmus TEST to prove it, do we summarily throw it out as junk science? And who came up with the “testability” test anyway? I honestly don’t know, but I suspect it is of rather recent mintage.
    But this really becomes a lot of whistling in the wind, doesn’t it. Because I know (and you know) that you lovely people call ID crap, not because of any fastidious concern for the integrity of the scientific method (please,spare me you mock indignation here), but quite simply because you are terrified by the theological implications.
    Footnote on Testability: Well, evolution should be testable, but apparently it isn’t. Otherwise, surely, after all these years of (often state-funded) laboratory efforts to do so, it would have been. We have today, after all, no new species, have discovered no indisputable “missing links,” have, in all our harried adaptations, developed no new faculties, much less organs, in any species, and have not, in our own species, become demonstrably smarter, except perhaps in inventing increasingly clever methods for annihilating one another. You say you need “geologic time” for all that? Fine, but so much then for testability. Meanwhile, classical Darwinism is dead. Neo-darwinism has been ably debunked, even by such brilliant non-Christian evolutionists as Arthur Koestler, a half-century ago.
    But, you know what one of the clinchers is, for me, in accessing the credibility of evolutionary theory? It is quite simply the refusal of evo apologists to acknowledge the very large number of serious problems that the theory suffers from. Problems? What problems?
    I have to leave this blog for a while now. Nice talking to you all.

  57. #57 tresmal
    February 20, 2010

    Because I know (and you know) that you lovely people call ID crap, not because of any fastidious concern for the integrity of the scientific method (please,spare me you mock indignation here), but quite simply because you are terrified by the theological implications.

    First, any statement to the effect “you say “X” but you really mean “Y” is a bogus and contemptible form of argument. At a minimum you need substantial evidence to back it up. Second, you’re wrong. A substantial percentage of evolutionists are devout Christians or other theists. They would actually love the theological implications of ID/creationism. Prominent among them is Kenneth Miller, devout Christian and evolutionist. His book Only a Theory is a good takedown of ID.
    Oh well, I too, have to run.

  58. #58 Modusoperandi
    February 20, 2010

    Kennesaw Williams “Well, evolution should be testable, but apparently it isn’t.”
    Sciency Guy #1 “I’ve got a fossil that’s way more fishy than amphibiany from 380 million years ago.”
    Sciency Guy #2 “Oh yeah, well I’ve got a fossil that’s more amphibiany than fishy from 365 million years ago.”
    Sciency Guy #1 “I wonder what would happen if we split the difference?”
    Sciency Guy #3 “Well, shucks…

    I, also, have to run. I don’t know what your excuse is, but there are wolves after me.

  59. #59 Lenoxus
    February 20, 2010

    “Testable” doesn’t necessarily mean “repeatable”. The question of testability simply deals with whether or not the proposed phenomenon has any consequences which we could physically detect as existing or as not existing; in other words, whether there would be any difference in the world if the phenomenon were false rather than true.

    For example, suppose one proposes that a comet caused a mass extinction event at some point in Earth’s history. A consequence of this, if it happened, would be that one would find physical remnants of a comet impact at the strata in question (I don’t happen to know what sort of remnants they would be, but I think my point is clear). What you’re not allowed to do is say that it’s a special kind of comet that would leave no traces, just because that’s the kind of comet it was.

    That’s the way many of us see ID — as so much special pleading. Did ID predict the universal common descent of life, for example, as something a designer would necessarily have done? Or did it reluctantly incorporate the scientific findings after the fact? (A fact, it happens, about which many IDists have still not made up their minds.)

    Anyway, even though it is not repeatable, the Big Bang certainly has testable consequences; there is a certain way we should expect the Universe to be as a result of it, and no other way. Perhaps some day string theory will be testable as well, although from what I understand it isn’t at the moment.

  60. #60 MadScientist
    February 20, 2010

    Wow, talk about revisionism! Augustine and Calvin were among the biggest anti-intellectuals in the history of religion. Where does this guy get the notion that Augustine and Calvin would be in favor of rejecting biblical claims when confronted by scientific fact? On the contrary, Augustine and Calvin were far more likely to have people murdered for witchcraft (or murdered on some other pretense).

  61. #61 David Marjanović
    February 20, 2010

    The simple truth is that God created life. Perhaps the greatest disservice that Darwinism has done for mankind and science is to look at life as simple and junky. There actually wonder and fantasic lessons of design that are found within nature. Evolution dumbs down life, dumbs down science and looks at theology with a negative eye. Contrary to Darwins depressing view of life, the Psalms says that we are wonderfully made. Research into the living cell is showing this to be the case more than ever.

    This is nonsense from start to end and back. It is fascinating what similarities tubulins (of eukaryotes) and FtsZ (of other cells) have. It is fascinating what similarities the genes for enzymes for nucleotide and amino acid synthesis have — they must all be derived from gene duplications that happened before the last common ancestor of all known life. It is fascinating how the hemo-, myo-, cyto- and neuroglobins are derived from gene duplications. I could go on for the rest of the night about the molecular level alone.

    Do you know about mitochondria, hydrogenosomes and mitosomes? About Rickettsia? About cyanobacteria, cyanelles, and chloroplasts? About the proteasomes of archaea and eukaryotes?

    Evolutionary theory is easily demolished by a thousand more unanswerable arguments than phlogiston theory. Just pick one at random (any will do). Probability theory, for example. The probability that this ALL happened by chance is…what?

    Mutation is random, but selection is not. Selection is determined by the environment.

    You haven’t even understood the uttermost basics of the theory of evolution by mutation, selection and drift (founded by Darwin, as opposed to, say, the theory of evolution by inheritance of acquired characters founded by Lamarck 50 years earlier) — and yet you claim it’s all wrong. Have you no shame?

    we believe God is an eternal, necessary being

    How do you justify this belief?

    string theory is called “science”

    Not by every theoretical physicist by far, never mind the science theorists.

    Okay, ID isn’t testable. Neither is the Big Bang theory. Neither is biological or cosmological evolution.

    The Big Bang theory is testable. It predicted the microwave background. If the microwave background were not there, we would know there hadn’t been a Big Bang.

    The theory of evolution is testable. It predicts a large number of things: that the similarities among living beings are arranged in a tree shape; that there were no rabbits in the Silurian; that there are no mammals (other than bats) or frogs on remote oceanic islands; and so on for hundreds of pages. If any of these predictions had been found to be untrue, so would have been the theory of evolution.

    There is no such thing as “cosmological evolution”. Evolution is defined as “descent with heritable modification”; living beings can evolve, languages can, certain computer simulations can, and that basically is it.

    Now, how could ID be tested? It says “at unspecified points in the past, an unspecified number of designers* did an unspecified number of underspecified things in unspecified ways and for unspecified, sorry, ineffable motives”. If that is wrong, how can we ever find out that it is wrong?

    ID is equally compatible with everything and its opposite. That’s why ID is not science, and that’s why Michael Behe himself testified at Dover that ID can only be counted as science if the definition of “science” is broadened so far as to include astrology as well — he mentioned astrology.

    Again, it shows that you don’t understand what you’re talking about.

    It is quite simply the refusal of evo apologists to acknowledge the very large number of serious problems that the theory suffers from. Problems? What problems?

    Yeah, what problems indeed? You have tried to list some. You have failed every single time. Perhaps try again?

    But this time please attack the theory of evolution, not some laughable strawman that makes you look stupid.

  62. #62 MadScientist
    February 20, 2010

    “As a rule, God has not specially revealed in Scripture those things that human beings can figure out for ourselves. Basic facts about electricity, magnetism, gravity, quantum physics and genetics, however interesting, could not have been understood by ancient readers.”

    Oh, that’s just too funny. Yet god thought it was necessary to tell folks “hey, killing other folks isn’t cool. And by the way, don’t forget tomorrow at sunrise – I want you to murder all the males in the neighboring village and rape all the females, OK?”

  63. #63 Cornelius
    February 20, 2010

    Kenesaw Williams

    “Evolutionary theory is debunked? No? Well I have a surprise for you. It has been. Yep, sorry it’s a done deal”

    Shoot. Just when I was getting to know the basics. Back to reading fiction for me.

  64. #64 David Marjanović
    February 20, 2010

    Oops, forgot the footnote to the unspecified number of designers. Somehow, all cdesign proponentsists speak of a single designer at all times, without ever bothering to try to test that assumption. It just so happens they all come from a Christian or (in 1 or 2 cases maybe) Jewish tradition, so they’re used to that idea…

    Google for “Introduction to Multiple Designers Theory”.

    I don’t happen to know what sort of remnants they would be

    Depends on a couple of things, but one is a relatively much higher abundance of extremely rare elements like iridium and osmium, and the same for certain isotope ratios within elements. Then there are the things left by the impact itself — a crater (distinguishable from a volcanic crater by a long list of pretty simple criteria), glass spherules, tsunami deposits if the impact happened into the sea, evidence of forest fires like soot… and a mass extinction event if the impact was large enough.

  65. #65 Jayman
    February 20, 2010

    David Marjanovic, to put it briefly, the belief that God is an eternal, necessary being is justified on the basis of special revelation and natural theology.

  66. #66 Michael Ralston
    February 20, 2010

    Wow, did I really just see someone use the lottery-winner fallacy? Really? Kennesaw’s probability argument is precisely equivalent to the argument “Nobody can win the lottery because the odds of doing so are tiny!” … man, that’s almost adorable.

  67. #67 tomh
    February 20, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    …the belief that God is an eternal, necessary being is justified on the basis of special revelation and natural theology.

    You have an odd definition of the word justified. Special revelation? Miracles, perhaps, or your own personal experience of a voice in your head? And natural theology, which is pretty much the opposite of special revelation. Since Paley wrote the book on natural theology, it’s no wonder you’re an ID fan. Usually to justify something you give some sort of evidence, not just throw around important-sounding phrases in a vain attempt to impress.

  68. #68 Jayman
    February 20, 2010

    tomh, I made it abundantly clear that my answer was brief. The interested reader can read books on the subjects.

    By special revelation I had in mind the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ (of course a personal experience with God would also be proof for the person in question). Perhaps start with the three volume work by N.T. Wright on the historical Jesus.

    If you want to read arguments from natural theology you can start with the Five Ways of Thomas Aquinas or The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Just make sure you understand the actual arguments and don’t rely on caricatures you find on websites or in a Richard Dawkins book (I mention him because he completely botched the Five Ways in The God Delusion).

    If you are a stickler for evidence I am surprised you thought I was an “ID fan” since I have provided no evidence for such a statement. In fact, I recommended a book above (Evolutionary Creation) that accepts and defends evolution. Whether the intelligent design movement ultimately succeeds of fails has no bearing on my belief in God.

  69. #69 Jon H
    February 20, 2010

    ” If you are going to dismiss the Genesis story as just an allegory, there should be clear textual evidence that that is what it is.”

    The different orders in which various things are created in different chapters is a pretty good clue, is it not?

  70. #70 tomh
    February 20, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    If you are a stickler for evidence

    That’s quite amusing, a Christian talking about evidence. They’ve had 2000 years to come up with some and have yet to produce a scrap. Voices in their heads and an old book. Sorry, that doesn’t cut it.

  71. #71 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2010

    The theory of evolution is testable. It predicts a large number of things: that the similarities among living beings are arranged in a tree shape; that there were no rabbits in the Silurian; that there are no mammals (other than bats) or frogs on remote oceanic islands; and so on for hundreds of pages. If any of these predictions had been found to be untrue, so would have been the theory of evolution.

    David, I know you’re studying the subject, and I’m just a layperson, but I think this must be partially wrong.

    The last two about mammals or frogs especially — such a find would be ascribed to an rare, but not impossible, rafting event or similar transference. It would hardly falsify evolution in and of itself.

    I’ve also argued before that a rabbit appearing in sediments prior to the evolution of mammals (or something similar) would be a good argument for time-travel of some sort, but it would not falsify all of evolution, except insasmuch as it “falsifies” all causality-based science. Of course, such a thing would also demonstrate the cosmological lack of necessity of a creator…

    There is no such thing as “cosmological evolution”.

    This is wrong too. It is inappropriate and wrong to conflate biological evolution with cosmology, but the term is used by cosmologists and astronomers to refer to how the universe, and subcomponents of the universe, change over time. Prescribing that the barn door be closed on all other uses of the word “evolution” is useless. It has long since escaped into other scientific fields — to the admitted annoyance of biologists.

    You’re usually more careful than this. I suspect that overtiredness is getting to you.

  72. #72 Owlmirror
    February 20, 2010

    I’m going to copy and paste the following, which are from the end-notes for The Sandwalk Adventures, by Jay Hosler — everything between the rows of “=” signs is by him:

    ================

       1. As a result of mutation creating new alleles, and segregation and independent assortment shuffling alleles into new combinations, individuals within a population are variable for nearly all traits.
       2. Individuals pass their alleles on to their offspring intact.
       3. In most generations, more offspring are produced than can survive.
       4. The individuals that survive and go on to reproduce, or who reproduce the most, are those with alleles and allele combinations that best adapt them to their environment.

    ================

    Ultimately, I think that those postulates (near enough), define what biological evolution is. “ID”-ists, YECs, and other delugional creationists have to demonstrate how those are false, or not falsifiable/testable.

  73. #73 Tulse
    February 20, 2010

    By special revelation I had in mind the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ

    And how do you distinguish the truth of the special revelation of the Bible from other religions’ holy books? Why should I believe the truth of the Bible and not, for example, the Vedas? Why should I believe that Jesus Christ existed and not, say, Al-Buraq, the winged horse that flew Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem and back (after all, it says so in the Qur’an)?

    (of course a personal experience with God would also be proof for the person in question).

    Some people claim a personal experience with God, and other claim a personal experience with aliens, or with leprechauns. How do you propose to distinguish among these groups?

  74. #74 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    By special revelation I had in mind the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ (of course a personal experience with God would also be proof for the person in question).

    There is no real distinction between “special revelation” and “special pleading”. Claims of knowledge in violation of logic and utterly lacking in empirical evidence are indistinguishable from fantasy, confabulation, and generally making shit up.

    Perhaps start with the three volume work by N.T. Wright on the historical Jesus.

    Does he have anything besides the usual thin sheaf of dubious references in Josephus, Pliny and Tertullian, supported by fallacious arguments that presuppose the truth of the NT?

    Just make sure you understand the actual arguments and don’t rely on caricatures you find on websites

    Websites that actually contain the Summa itself?

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm

    Is this a “caricature”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinquae_viae

    or in a Richard Dawkins book (I mention him because he completely botched the Five Ways in The God Delusion).

    How?

    It looks like all of the counterarguments against Dawkins’ summaries are either hopelessly vague, or commit still more special pleading and/or question begging — much like Aquinas himself.

    Whether the intelligent design movement ultimately succeeds of fails has no bearing on my belief in God.

    Well, your mind is your own, and you are free to hold whatever beliefs you wish.

  75. #75 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    Actually, the counterarguments against Dawkins’ arguments against Aquinas’ “Five Ways” look very Courtier-like. “Oh, Aquinas is so very hard to understand. You need to read these philosophers’ explications of what he really meant, instead of just what Aquinas wrote. You’ll just get confused if you try and take it all at face value.”

    And, really — “Aristotle’s metaphysics”? Aristotle got empirically testable stuff wrong, so we should accept him on non-testable arguments? Especially when those arguments are not in support of Christianity, but of a vague pantheistic deism?

    Bah.

  76. #76 SLC
    February 21, 2010

    It seems that the creationist nutcases are not confined to the US. Apparently, the State of Israel has some also, in the presence of a whackjob, a certain DR. Avital, who has been appointed as the chief scientist of that countrys’ education ministry. That would be roughly equivalent to an American president appointing Michael Behe as his science adviser.

  77. #77 MadScientist
    February 21, 2010

    Wow – I can’t believe anyone is actually referring to Aquinas. Aquinas was an imbecile at best; it took him many hundreds of pages to make his circular “proof” – most people can come up with a circular proof in only a few sentences. Why an idiot like Aquinas is so revered by some is beyond me.

  78. #78 SLC
    February 21, 2010

    At comment # 76, the link was left out.

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1151223.html

  79. #79 Richard Eis
    February 21, 2010

    Richard Eis, some Christians don’t believe in original sin. It is hardly a necessary component of Christianity.

    Is ANYTHING a necessary component of christianity? Why would anyone take christianity seriously when no-one can even decide on the basics. The only logical conclusion it seems is that each person has their own christianity, all happening in their heads.

    “Evolutionary theory is debunked? No? Well I have a surprise for you. It has been. Yep, sorry it’s a done deal”

    Oh noes, someone should tell all those biologists to stop finding stuff out since all those things we learnt about genes (and that we use) don’t really exist. Yep gene testing, all out the window, quite useless. Don’t tell me about all the great things we have done. They are completely wrong now, no matter how well they worked.

    David Marjanovic, to put it briefly, the belief that God is an eternal, necessary being is justified on the basis of special revelation and natural theology.

    Would this be the special revelation in that book which is randomly allegory (whenever its’s convenient anyway it seems) and which everyone disagrees on anyway (38,000 different sects?? my god, you guys crow about a schism in science everytime someone blows their nose in the wrong direction)

  80. #80 Aquaria
    February 21, 2010

    Oh, yes, it’s just so hard to read the meanderings of a 13th century propagandist, clinging to Aristotle’s metaphysical right nut for dear life.

    Aquinas is not difficult. I read him when I was 19, for crying out loud, and I laughed at how long he took and how much tap-dancing he did to come up with a very silly conclusion that amounts to: Because! That’s why!

    He completely mangles the difference between motion and energy in his first cause, so much that it makes your head hurt from how he dances from motion to energy disguised as motion with all the fickleness of Brad Sheen in a room with Angelina and Jen,

    Here, I’ll show you how fallacious the Unmoved Mover is, point by point.:

    [Note: Aquinas has already stated he's about to take us through arguments that will prove the existence of God.]

    The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion.

    Here we go. Good luck.

    It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion.

    You’re a regular fucking Sherlock, Tommy. What a brilliant observation! /sarcasm

    Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion;

    O RLY? Someone or something outside of you has to move you to go across a room to pick up a book you want to read? Not much for self-motivation, eh? Never mind that Aquinas is already smearing the line betwee motion and energy with that last bit. Yeah, this is brilliant argumentation–it’s already headed toward insanely stupid.

    whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act.

    The mouth-foaming fit must have passed. He’s making sense again.

    For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it.

    The sane is sticking around for a bit longer, even if he’s still confused about motion and energy. Let’s call this going from apple (motion) to oranges (energy).

    Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold.

    Smartest thing said in the whole spiel. Too bad he’s babbling about energy (oranges), not motion (apples).

    It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself.

    Get off your fat ass, Tommy, and you’d find out a mover can be the moved. He’s gone back to motion (apples) again, still not realizing where he’s fucking up.

    Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another.

    Within a complex ecosystem like human the human body, yes, this is the case (human receives stimuli, brain processes, sends out marching orders to appropriate body parts to run from the tiger or what have you), but the human ultimately is the mover and the moved, when taken as an entire entity.

    If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again.

    Not if it’s a human body, which can move itself.

    But this cannot go on to infinity

    Immaterial. There doesn’t need to be anything outside the human body moving it for the human body to move, so it doesn’t matter if the external movers are 1 or infinity.

    because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand.

    Except for things that aren’t, you know, sticks…like humans, which can be mover and moved simultaneously. The rest about not having a first mover is whining as argument, as if there absolutely has to be a first mover because Tommy says so waaaaaahhhh. To someone with a brain, it’s full of WTFLOLBBQ.

    Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

    Holy non sequitur, Batman! How did we get here?

    Tommy, Tommy, Tommy…

    1) You haven’t sufficiently demonstrated that a mover can’t move itself, as is the case with humans.

    2) You haven’t demonstrated that an external first mover exists or is necessary–you keep asserting it, without anything to back it up!

    3) If everything has to have an external first mover, what external entity moves the first mover? And what mover moves him? And so forth. Infinite regress is a bitch, you know.

    4) God appears here out of the fucking blue. For the sake of argument, If an external first mover exists and is necessary (not at all proven here), why is that mover a god, and more specifically the Christian God? Explain!

    5) No, everyone doesn’t understand that it’s your Imaginary Sky Daddy. It’s up to you to establish this, Tommy. Step by step, which you fail to do. Spectacularly.

    ———

    All this argument does is assert that everything has to be moved by something else, except for god, of course, because Aquinas says so via faulty reasoning By his so-called logic, if a first mover = GOD, then whatever is the ultimate first mover of a body is God; ergo, all humans and animals are GOD! I really don’t think he meant to go there!

    Now if I can dismantle this one argument with ease with barely community college behind me, do you really think Dawkins doesn’t know how to address it?

    If you’d like, a dummy like me can take on the other four. They’re not that difficult…for someone whose thinking post-dates the 13th century.

  81. #81 Edward T. Babinski
    February 21, 2010

    On the difference b/w ancient cosmologies and ours, I sent this to a friend recently (I also have a chapter coming out in April on “The Cosmology of the Bible” in a book titled, The Christian Delusion) :

    The difference b/w ancient cosmologies and ours: They interpret acts of nature as direct acts of God, personally decided upon by the Deity. Crops fail? God had a reason. Plague, war? God’s will. Good harvest? We have pleased God. Today we concentrate more on finding practical ways to beat nature, not accept our fate as if everything that happened was God’s personal decision being foisted on us. We invented the lightning rod for instance. (Catholics used to ring holy bells and say prayers to avoid tall church steeples being hit by lightning.) And we developed medical and agricultural science. And we have peace-making committees and movements. Neither do we sacrifice goats before rolling up our sleeves and doing cancer research. We don’t imagine we can actually change God’s mind or obtain blessings or avoid curses with sacrifices and prayers. We wear seat belts. We do statistical analysis to determine where the greatest most likely dangers lay, or where the most likely profits may be gotten. At most, we say a little prayer, just in case God’s listening. Most people don’t pray and fast for days or practice literal sacrifices to try and get things done in this life. We’ve gone from religious to practical. But back then it was considered practical to build the biggest damn ziggurats that could be seen for miles in every direction, or pyramids, or other temples. Temples were big business, the more gorgeous and expensive the better. GOD MUST BE SHOWN HOW MUCH WE BELIEVE IN HIM AND HOW CERTAIN WE ARE THAT HE WILL HELP US! HE MUST BE APPEASED! HE MUST BE PETITIONED INCESSANTLY. THAT’S WHAT PRIESTS ARE FOR! IT’S THEIR JOB! Today, if we worship anything, it is CAUSALITY. We try to figure out how things work, from engines to electronic circuits to the synapses of the human brain. We seek causes by looking outward with telescopes and looking inside with microscopes, even electron microscopes. And we certainly don’t fear peeking in in God’s backyard with telescopes or sending probes as far as Pluto or walking on the moon, even after KNOWING what happened to the folks who tried building a brick tower to heaven, and even though we know that “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but God has given man the earth.” ONLY the earth.

  82. #82 Edward T. Babinski
    February 21, 2010

    AUGUSTINE’S BIBLICAL ASTRONOMY

    AUGUSTINE: “. . . the firmament was made between the waters above and beneath, and was called ‘Heaven,’ in which firmament the stars were made on the fourth day.”

    Nice. Augustine noted that Genesis 1 depicts waters above the stars. He even cited the psalm about “waters above the heavens.” In his work on Genesis Augustine even wrote: “The term ‘firmament’ does not compel us to imagine a stationary heaven: we may understand this name as given to indicate not that it is motionless but that it is solid and that it constitutes an impassable boundary between the water above and the waters below.” Augustine adds, “Whatever the nature of the waters [above the firmament], we must believe in them, for the authority of Scripture is greater than the capacity of man’s mind.”

    Augustine’s last phrase above was even echoed by Martin Luther as late as the fifteenth century:

    “Scripture simply says that the moon, the sun, and the stars were placed in the firmament of the heaven, below and above which . . . are the waters. . . . We Christians must be different from the philosophers in the way we think about the causes of things. And if some are beyond our comprehension like those before us concerning the waters above the heavens, we must believe them rather than wickedly deny them or presumptuously interpret them in conformity with our understanding” [Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, ed. Janoslaw Pelikan (St. Louis, MI: Concordia, 1958), pp. 30, 42, 43].

  83. #83 Edward T. Babinski
    February 21, 2010

    JOHN CALVIN’S BIBLICAL ASTRONOMY

    “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.’” (John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), p. 72)

    “The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion — no disturbance in the harmony of their motion. The sun, though varying its course every diurnal revolution, returns annually to the same point. The planets, in all their wandering, maintain their respective positions. How could the earth hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by God’s hand? (Job 26:7) By what means could it [the earth] maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish it? Accordingly the particle, ape, denoting emphasis, is introduced — YEA, he hath established it.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Psalm 93, verse 1, trans., James Anderson (Eerdman’s, 1949), Vol. 4, p. 7)

    “Albeit the duration of the world, now declining to its ultimate end, has not yet attained six thousand years. … God’s work was completed not in a moment but in six days.” [. McNeil, Ed., Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion 1, Westminster Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1960, 160–161, 182.]

    Calvin believed that God’s creation was completed not in a moment but in six days. He concluded, based on Genesis 1:5, that God Himself took six days to accommodate His works to the capacity of men. Creation occurred little more than five thousand years in the past, not innumerable ages.

    The Westminster Confession (1647) clearly affirmed that God created the world and all things in it “in the space of six days” (chapter 4, paragraph 1). “In the space of six days” was based on Calvin’s Genesis 1:5 comment. In Annotations upon All the Books of the Old and New Testament (the Westminster Annotations, 1645), the Westminster authors specified concerning Genesis 1:5 that in the latter part of the verse, the word day is the natural day, consisting of twenty-four hours. This Presbyterian Confession, with its traditional view of creation, was also adopted by British and American Congregational and Baptist denominations.

    On the fixity of species/kinds, John Calvin stated in his notes on Genesis 1:24:

    “I say, moreover, it is sufficient for the purpose of signifying the same thing, (1) that Moses declares animals were created ‘according to their species:’ for this distribution carried with it something stable. It may even hence be inferred, that the offspring of animals was included. For to what purpose do distinct species exist, unless that individuals, by their several kinds, may be multiplied?”

  84. #84 Oran Kelley
    February 21, 2010

    Jason-

    Postings like this really cry out that you are either ignorant, disingenuous or both.

    The fact of the matter is the bible has played a lot of roles for a lot of different people. Your insistence that anything in the bible must be taken as fact is, to be short about it, horseshit.

    History amply demonstrates that this isn’t the case–lots of people have chosen to ignore many things in the bible at their discretion. And in spite of the fact that this dissatisfies you, religion soldiers on.

    What exactly *are* your credentials on the history and sociology of religion, by the way? Or in literary interpretation? Or in the history of reading, literacy, narrative, fable, etc. etc. etc. This posting would seem to argue, “non-existent.” In fact, this posting would seem to argue that you are incapable of understanding that religion *has* a history or *has* variations across different societies or different parts of society.

    Have their always been literalist creationsists? Yes. The article you are quoting doesn’t argue against that point. The argument is that Christianity has long had a powerful and revered tradition that wasn’t simply literalist.

    Just because you want a monolithic “religion” to argue against doesn’t mean that religion obliges by being the monolith you’d like. Your deep disinclination to take religion as anything but your bete noire is ignorant. And the seeming pride you take in that ignorance is kind of disturbing, as I thought that that sort of anti-intellectualism was the hallmark of the other side. Apparently not.

  85. #85 Tulse
    February 21, 2010

    History amply demonstrates that this isn’t the case–lots of people have chosen to ignore many things in the bible at their discretion.

    That is not an argument that such choice is intellectually defensible, which was the entire point of the post, and which you completely missed.

  86. #86 Oran Kelley
    February 21, 2010

    Well, Tulse, we’re talking about how to interpret a book. Can you tell me why it is intellectually indefensible to interpret a part of it as allegory? I have a feeling that you will find that not only was that interpretation made, but it was also vigorously defended.

    It’s really pretty silly to try to impose one brand of error on your intellectual opponents. We all know allegory exists, we all know that were there a book-writing God, he might have used it.

  87. #87 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    Basic facts about electricity, magnetism, gravity, quantum physics and genetics, however interesting, could not have been understood by ancient readers.

    I’d glazed over that the first time, but — sheesh that’s insulting. Did “ancient readers” all have neurological disorders, or fundamentally different brains, or what? You can teach anything to anyone with the capacity to learn it, if you have the patience.

    This is related to my example about talking dogs. It is precisely because no ancient people ever received special revelation, instead building up their insights one at a time like all cultures do, that we naturally think of ancient people as “primitive”. “Oh,” says the theist, “How can you expect the Bible to contain the Schrodinger equation! Ha ha! That’s silly, holy books don’t contain scientific knowledge!” (Except when some claim they do.) So what does privilege any of them above all the others? (Even when it comes to “truths” that were just as accessible then as now — the wrongness of rape and slavery — the Bible still gives the incorrect answers. Is that just because of the “backwardness” of the ancients? Come on.)

    Even if it’s the case that God didn’t want to upset history by teaching scientific facts “ahead of time”, here’s something he could have done: Included in the Bible some gibberish text with instructions for its meticulous preservation. Then, thousands of years later, a new revelation appears with a cipher that allows the original text to be decoded into a description of some complex scientific law, or a portion of DNA, or whatever. If that happened, it couldn’t be chalked up to coincidence or fakery, because the decoded text would clearly have been there “all along”, just in coded form.

    Or is the Christian God compelled, as many theologians tell us, to never actually prove that he exists, just intimate it my means that are indistinguishable from how any other religion works? (Means like “revelation”, for example.)

    Can you tell me why it is intellectually indefensible to interpret a part of it as allegory? I have a feeling that you will find that not only was that interpretation made, but it was also vigorously defended.

    What in Genesis, and solely in Genesis, leads to this conclusion? That’s what I don’t get about all this. What do the six days “allegorically” represent? What about the repeated refrain, “There is (was) a morning, and an evening”? Is that an allegory for the “morning and evening” of a person’s life?

    What evidence is there that any Christian believed in an Earth that was over, say, fifty thousand years old before the geological evidence started pointing to millions of years? What in Genesis tells us that the “days” are really periods of millions and millions of years?

  88. #88 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Oran Kelley wrote:
    …lots of people have chosen to ignore many things in the bible at their discretion

    Good for you. You’ve hit on the very essence of the Bible. It can be all things to all people, used to justify just about anything that anyone wants it to. Some have used it to justify allowing children to die for want of medical care, others claim it justifies waging war on people of different beliefs, others for the right to subjugate women, slavery, the list goes on and on. In short, it’s the most versatile book ever written, an authority for just about any action anyone wants to take.

  89. #89 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Tulse:

    And how do you distinguish the truth of the special revelation of the Bible from other religions’ holy books? Why should I believe the truth of the Bible and not, for example, the Vedas? Why should I believe that Jesus Christ existed and not, say, Al-Buraq, the winged horse that flew Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem and back (after all, it says so in the Qur’an)?

    Test the sacred texts. For example, the Quran 4:157 asserts that Jesus was not crucified and killed whereas the NT asserts he was crucified and killed. Using historical methodology we can determine that the Quran is wrong and the NT is right.

    Some people claim a personal experience with God, and other claim a personal experience with aliens, or with leprechauns. How do you propose to distinguish among these groups?

    If possible, test them (if you can’t test them you can’t know in that instance). For example, if someone claims to have received a prophecy from God you can see whether it comes true or not.

  90. #90 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    ou’ve hit on the very essence of the Bible. It can be all things to all people, used to justify just about anything that anyone wants it to. Some have used it to justify allowing children to die for want of medical care, others claim it justifies waging war on people of different beliefs, others for the right to subjugate women, slavery, the list goes on and on. In short, it’s the most versatile book ever written, an authority for just about any action anyone wants to take.

    The problem isn’t the bible per se; it’s the very idea of “special revelation”; of privileging one’s personal prejudices and interests, and ultimately claiming that those reflect the mind of God. That’s how the bible was written in the first place, in all its bloody original glory, and that’s how later interpreters decided which parts of the bible they thought were important were “true”, and all the rest weren’t, or weren’t exactly.

    Not everyone who claimed special revelation was a complete asshole, or at least, not all of the time. But for the most part, claiming to just know because you just know that God said so is the self-justifying and self-authorizing claim of an asshole, and leads to ass-holier-than-thou behavior.

  91. #91 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    Test the sacred texts. For example, the Quran 4:157 asserts that Jesus was not crucified and killed whereas the NT asserts he was crucified and killed. Using historical methodology we can determine that the Quran is wrong and the NT is right.

    “Historical methodology”, ha.

    Matthew 2 claims that Jesus was born in the time of King Herod, who died in 4 BC.

    Luke 1 claims that Jesus was born during a Roman census that took place in 6 AD.

    Using historical methodology, we can determine that the NT contradicts itself and is false.

    If possible, test them (if you can’t test them you can’t know in that instance). For example, if someone claims to have received a prophecy from God you can see whether it comes true or not.

    Is there some reason that God cannot be bothered to speak for himself?

  92. #92 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror:

    There is no real distinction between “special revelation” and “special pleading”. Claims of knowledge in violation of logic and utterly lacking in empirical evidence are indistinguishable from fantasy, confabulation, and generally making shit up.

    You can use historical methodology to determine what Jesus said and did, just as you can with any other individual in history.

    Does he have anything besides the usual thin sheaf of dubious references in Josephus, Pliny and Tertullian, supported by fallacious arguments that presuppose the truth of the NT?

    The truth of the NT is not presupposed, its demonstrated pericope by pericope. Unfortunately, this comment implies you actually entertain the notion that Jesus did not exist, which would make you the atheist version of a young earth creationist. No amount of historical inquiry can help you, just as no amount of scientific inquiry can help a YEC.

    How? It looks like all of the counterarguments against Dawkins’ summaries are either hopelessly vague, or commit still more special pleading and/or question begging — much like Aquinas himself.

    Here are some quotes from Edward Feser’s Aquinas:

    Dawkins claims, for example, that Aquinas holds that since “there must have been a time when no physical things existed,” something must have brought them into being. But in fact Aquinas famously thought it can be proven philosophically that the world had a beginning in time, and while he nevertheless believed it did, he held that this was something that could be known only through divine revelation (ST 1.46.2). Consequently, his arguments are not intended to show that God caused the world to begin at some point in the past (at the Big Bang, say). Rather, he argues that even if the world had always existed, God would still have to exist here and now, otherwise certain features that it exhibits here and now would be inexplicable. Dawkins also alleges that Aquinas gives “absolutely no reason” to think that the cause of the world must be omnipotent, omniscient, good, and so on. In fact, as noted already, Aquinas devotes a great many pages to showing this, as anyone who takes the trouble to read the Summa Theologiae beyond the passage containing the Five Ways will soon discover. Dawkins thinks that Aquinas’s Fifth Way is more or less the same as William Paley’s famous “argument from design,” when in fact they are radically different, since Aquinas’s argument appeals to Aristotelian teleology while Paley’s assumes instead a non-teleological mechanistic conception of the natural world. And so forth. (p. 64)

    And given the reasoning of the Fourth Way, wouldn’t we have to say that God is not only the most good, true,a nd noble thing, but also (to quote Dawkins again) the “perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness,” and indeed that he possesses to the maximum degree any attribute we can think of? (After all, on Plato’s theory, everything has a Form, including not only goodness, truth, and the like, but less elevated and abstract things too, like sweetness, filthiness, illness, and the like.) But this would be absurd, and certainly incompatible with Aquinas’s conception of God.

    In fact these objections, like others we’ve examined, rest on egregious misunderstandings of Aquinas’s basic metaphysical commitments; and hwile there are indeed Platonic aspects to the Fourth Way, they are all greaty transformed by Aquinas in light of some of the concepts we surveyed in chapter 2, in a direction more consistent with his general Aristotelianism. (p. 104)

    Since Aquinas is not in this argument concerned with heat, cold, sweetness, sourness, fragrance, smelliness, and other mundane features of reality, Dawkins’ objection simply misses the point. Moreover, it should now be clear why Aquinas takes the most true, most good, and most noble being to be one and the same being; for as we saw in chapter 2, Aquinas argues that the transcendentals are “convertible” with one another. That is to say, there are one and the same thing considered under descriptions. This is also why he draws a related inference that might otherwise seem ungrounded to many modern readers, to the effect that that which is most true, good, and noble is “consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being.” For this follows automatically from the doctrine of the transcendentals. (p. 105)

    Actually, the counterarguments against Dawkins’ arguments against Aquinas’ “Five Ways” look very Courtier-like. “Oh, Aquinas is so very hard to understand. You need to read these philosophers’ explications of what he really meant, instead of just what Aquinas wrote. You’ll just get confused if you try and take it all at face value.”

    The fact is that it is usually a good idea to read old works with a scholarly commentary on hand because you bring assumptions to the text that the author and original author did not. You need to be put yourself in their frame of mind. Dawkins appeared to have read a summary of the Five Ways and interpreted them based on his own metaphysical assumptions which were entirely different than Aquinas’ metaphysics. Misunderstanding is bound to happen.

    And, really — “Aristotle’s metaphysics”? Aristotle got empirically testable stuff wrong, so we should accept him on non-testable arguments?

    Why can’t you refute his metaphysics? In theory, it should be quite easy to do. Unless of course he’s right.

    Especially when those arguments are not in support of Christianity, but of a vague pantheistic deism?

    Looks like you don’t understand Aquinas. As the quotes above imply, the Five Ways point to a single deity who is active here and now. Polytheism, deism, and atheism are ruled out.

  93. #93 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Richard Eis:

    Is ANYTHING a necessary component of christianity?

    Christ, it’s right in the name ;)

    Why would anyone take christianity seriously when no-one can even decide on the basics. The only logical conclusion it seems is that each person has their own christianity, all happening in their heads.

    A more logical conclusion is that people can sincerely disagree with each other about things while still sharing a lot in common. If you dismissed a subject merely because there is some disagreement you wouldn’t believe in much of anything. Weight the arguments and make up your own mind.

  94. #94 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    Wow – I can’t believe anyone is actually referring to Aquinas Dawkins. Aquinas Dawkins was is an imbecile at best; it took him many hundreds of pages to make his circular “proof” engage in horse laugh pseudoargumentation – most people can come up with a circular proof appeal to ridicule in only a few sentences. Why an idiot like Aquinas Dawkins is so revered by some is beyond me.

    I fixed your comment for you so that it is now tethered to reality. Incidentally, merely asserting something is circular is not the same as demonstrating it is circular, which is a fact that was also lost on the audience when I confronted PZ Myers recently. (The only thing worse than my poor “presentation” of my favorite argument was the vapid responses to it.)

    Now if I can dismantle this one argument…

    You didn’t.

    …with ease with barely community college behind me do you really think Dawkins doesn’t know how to address it?

    Yes, I really think that failure of a scientist doesn’t know how to address the classical arguments for God’s existence.

    The fact that mediocre Dawkins is held in such high regard is a direct reflection of the intellectual vacuity of the “new atheist” constituency.

  95. #95 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    Actually, the counterarguments against Dawkins’ arguments against Aquinas’ “Five Ways” look very Courtier-like. “Oh, Aquinas is so very hard to understand. You need to read these philosophers’ explications of what he really meant, instead of just what Aquinas wrote. You’ll just get confused if you try and take it all at face value.”

    1. The Courtier’s Reply is a form of pseudoargumentation.
    2. Dawkins most certainly did not apprehend the classical arguments for God’s existence, let alone refute them.

    Here is a telling example:

    Let me translate this infantile argument into the appropriate
    language, which is the language of the playground:
    ‘Bet you I can prove God exists.’
    ‘Bet you can’t.’
    ‘Right then, imagine the most perfect perfect perfect
    thing possible.’
    ‘Okay, now what?’
    ‘Now, is that perfect perfect perfect thing real? Does it
    exist?’
    ‘No, it’s only in my mind.’
    ‘But if it was real it would be even more perfect,
    because a really really perfect thing would have to be
    better than a silly old imaginary thing. So I’ve proved that
    God exists. Nur Nurny Nur Nur. All atheists are fools.’

    This is a textbook example of appeal to ridicule.

    The very idea that grand conclusions could follow from such logomachist
    trickery offends me aesthetically…

    But isn’t it too good to
    be true that a grand truth about the cosmos should follow from a
    mere word game?

    Dawkins’ circumscribed intelligence is not Anselm’s problem, nor is it the problem of anyone who has advanced and/or defended an ontological argument.

    My own feeling, to the contrary, would have been an automatic,
    deep suspicion of any line of reasoning that reached such a significant
    conclusion without feeding in a single piece of data from the
    real world.

    A foolish empiricism is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    The most definitive refutations of the ontological argument are
    usually attributed to the philosophers David Hume (1711-76) and
    Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Kant identified the trick card up
    Anselm’s sleeve as his slippery assumption that ‘existence’ is more
    ‘perfect’ than non-existence.

    Ah, yes, the “existence is not a predicate” incantation. Unfortunately for the intellectually circumscribed ethologist, whether or not existence is a predicate, the modal status of something can be regarded as a property.

    I’ve forgotten the details, but I once
    piqued a gathering of theologians and philosophers by adapting the
    ontological argument to prove that pigs can fly. They felt the need
    to resort to Modal Logic to prove that I was wrong.

    Clearly, Dawkins is out of his league.

    Moreover, Dawkins cited Norman Malcolm (and gave an internet source in the footnotes; the stupid ass cannot even be bothered to read some books or journal articles) but Malcolm’s objection only applies to the version of the argument where existence is a property.

  96. #96 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    You can use historical methodology to determine what Jesus said and did, just as you can with any other individual in history.

    Well, if you want to know what someone “said and did” the first step would be to look at contemporary records from someone who heard and watched the person, and then recorded this information. Can you point to anything like this, that is someone who heard Jesus and recorded his words and deeds?

  97. #97 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Robert O’Brien wrote:
    A foolish empiricism is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    Ah, the religious fanatic’s constant refrain – how foolish people are to rely on reality for their information. Far better to let the imagination dream up imaginary data and call it Truth.

  98. #98 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Aquaria, are you not realizing that “motion” refers to change and not merely movement from point A to point B? I’ll quote from Feser’s Aquinas again as you provide stock objections.

    O RLY? Someone or something outside of you has to move you to go across a room to pick up a book you want to read? Not much for self-motivation, eh?

    One common objection is that the activity of animals shows that the premise is simply false. For isn’t it just obvious that animals move themselves? But as we noted in chapter 2, Aquinas does not deny that there is a loose sense in which animals move themselves. Strictly speaking, though, when an animal moves this only occurs because one part of the animal moves another part, as when the legs of a dog move because of the flexing of its muscles, the muscles flex only because of the firing of certain motor neurons, and so forth. When considered in detail, then, the example of animal movement does not constitute a conterexample to the principle that “whatever is moved is moved by another.” (p. 67)

    Except for things that aren’t, you know, sticks…like humans, which can be mover and moved simultaneously. The rest about not having a first mover is whining as argument, as if there absolutely has to be a first mover because Tommy says so waaaaaahhhh. To someone with a brain, it’s full of WTFLOLBBQ.

    Earlier you agreed with Aquinas that motion is the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality and that nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality except by something in a state of actuality. If you think Aquinas is correct on these two points then you are forced to admit that there is a Unmoved Mover in a causal series that is ordered per se.

    If everything has to have an external first mover, what external entity moves the first mover? And what mover moves him? And so forth. Infinite regress is a bitch, you know.

    Note first of all that the argument cannot be criticized by appealing to a variation on the standard “If everything has a cause, then what caused God?” objection. Aquinas does not say that everything is in motion, but only that “some things” are in motion; nor does he say that everything is moved by something else, but only that “whatever is in motion” is moved by something else. Hence it will not do to ask, “Doesn’t that mean that God must be in motion?” or “What moves God, then?” For there is nothing in Aquinas’s premises that implies that God would have to be changing like everything else is, or that he must be moved by something else. (p. 67)

    4) God appears here out of the fucking blue. For the sake of argument, If an external first mover exists and is necessary (not at all proven here), why is that mover a god, and more specifically the Christian God? Explain!

    The Unmoved Mover is actuality itself. The doctrine of the transcendentals and the four other ways fill out the description of God. The Five Ways prove monotheism and rule out polytheism, deism and atheism.

    5) No, everyone doesn’t understand that it’s your Imaginary Sky Daddy. It’s up to you to establish this, Tommy. Step by step, which you fail to do. Spectacularly.

    That’s because you presumably read the Five Ways in isolation and failed to understand the metaphysics that are explained throughout his writings.

    Now if I can dismantle this one argument with ease with barely community college behind me, do you really think Dawkins doesn’t know how to address it?

    I think Feser’s proved that neither you nor Dawkins know what you’re talking about. No one who understands Aquinas would make the errors you make in points 3-5.

  99. #99 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    Ah, the religious fanatic’s constant refrain – how foolish people are to rely on reality for their information. Far better to let the imagination dream up imaginary data and call it Truth.

    To the contrary, dim bulb, I think empiricism is important. However, not everything is amenable to empirical observation, such as mathematical truths. When I brought this up to PZ, he said something like “anything that isn’t amenable to empirical science is worthless,” and he said it without qualification. He was wrong too.

  100. #100 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    Did Jesus exist as an actual historical person? Maybe, maybe not. But if he did exist, that wouldn’t automatically make Christianity true.

    Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von Münchhausen, was a real historical person. There are numerous claims about him which are just about as wild as the miracles attributed to Christ. The amount of actual evidence for both legends is equal, that is, nil.

  101. #101 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    tomh:

    Can you point to anything like this, that is someone who heard Jesus and recorded his words and deeds?

    Read Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Here are some examples:

    Luke 1:1-4: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

    John 19:35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

    Papias (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-4): I shall not hesitate also to put into properly ordered form for you everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down well, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders — what [according to the elders] Andrew or Peter said, or Philip, or Thomas or James, or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice.

  102. #102 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Lenoxus:

    Did Jesus exist as an actual historical person? Maybe, maybe not.

    The belief that Jesus never existed is about as popular among historians as young earth creationism is among scientists. It is amazing that people who think YEC is crazy can hold an analogous belief themselves in another field.

    But if he did exist, that wouldn’t automatically make Christianity true.

    True, but if a significant portion of the story is correct it’s pretty hard to remain an atheist.

  103. #103 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    You can use historical methodology to determine what Jesus said and did, just as you can with any other individual in history.

    Like Odin and Thor; Zeus, Athena, and Apollo; Rama, Sita, and Hanuman?

    The truth of the NT is not presupposed, its demonstrated pericope by pericope.

    How? By affirming the consequent and special pleading?

    Unfortunately, this comment implies you actually entertain the notion that Jesus did not exist

    I entertain the notion that the evidence for Jesus’ existence is dubious, which it is.

    No amount of historical inquiry can help you, just as no amount of scientific inquiry can help a YEC.

    Why is historical inquiry necessary? You’re claiming that there is a God that exists now. Get him to show up, and your case is made.

    Dawkins also alleges that Aquinas gives “absolutely no reason” to think that the cause of the world must be omnipotent, omniscient, good, and so on. In fact, as noted already, Aquinas devotes a great many pages to showing this, as anyone who takes the trouble to read the Summa Theologiae beyond the passage containing the Five Ways will soon discover.

    And the rest of the Summa contains as many logical fallacies as the Five Ways. Arguing without logic is indeed an argument without reason.

    Moreover, it should now be clear why Aquinas takes the most true, most good, and most noble being to be one and the same being; for as we saw in chapter 2, Aquinas argues that the transcendentals are “convertible” with one another. That is to say, there are one and the same thing considered under descriptions. This is also why he draws a related inference that might otherwise seem ungrounded to many modern readers, to the effect that that which is most true, good, and noble is “consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being.” For this follows automatically from the doctrine of the transcendentals.

    Because special pleading is just special.

    Why can’t you refute his metaphysics? In theory, it should be quite easy to do. Unless of course he’s right.

    The refutation of a personal God existing is as easy as pointing out that such a person would and could speak for himself, and would not need an Aquinas, or an Aristotle, to speak for him.

    QED.

    Looks like you don’t understand Aquinas.

    Looks like you — or Aquinas — did not understand Aristotle, who could not possibly have been a Christian, inasmuch as he lived centuries before Christ was supposed to have.

    As the quotes above imply, the Five Ways point to a single deity who is active here and now.

    Only by making fallacious arguments — special pleading and affirming the consequent, and inconsistent and self-contradictory logic.

    A personal God who was real would not need theologians to argue on his behalf.

    =============

    1. The Courtier’s Reply is a form of pseudoargumentation.

    (…Says the hypocritical pseudoarguer).

    That’s exactly the point. The courtiers — theologians and apologists — are all making false and fallacious arguments.

    This is a textbook example of appeal to ridicule.

    (…Says the hypocritical ridiculer.)

    That’s because the ontological argument is in fact utterly ridiculous.

    Dawkins’ circumscribed intelligence is not Anselm’s problem, nor is it the problem of anyone who has advanced and/or defended an ontological argument.

    Advancers and defenders of ontological arguments have the little problem that they think that imagination and reality are identical.

    A foolish empiricism is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    When you wish a flying pony into existence and ride it all around, you can show all those fools at the institute how great your mind is !!

    Good luck with that.

  104. #104 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    #102 Jayman:

    The belief that Jesus never existed is about as popular among historians as young earth creationism is among scientists.

    I don’t see quite the same mountains of evidence in the case of Jesus. True, it’s probably more likely that he existed than not (I personally subscribe to Bart Ehrman’s view on the subject), but unlike questions about the history of life on Earth, there’s precious little evidence either way.

    If a significant portion of the story is correct it’s pretty hard to remain an atheist.

    Does that same principle apply to, for example, Muhammad? I wouldn’t disagree that a “significant portion” of the Islamic story of Muhammad is historically true. The crucial bit is the parts where he receives divine revelations.

    Same for Jesus and his miracles. There are people who exist today who have claimed to raise the dead numerous times, for example. Their lives are well documented by journalists, and future historians will no doubt write about them. But certain of their claims are sufficiently grand that they exceed the available evidence.

    There is no particular reason that Jesus, if he existed, wasn’t just another faith healer with a following, albeit one with an especially strong additional claim about the source of his “powers”. That doesn’t make him a liar or lunatic, either. Just another fallible man.

  105. #105 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror,

    You have already demonstrated that you are lacking in native intelligence; there is no need to be gratuitous.

    (…Says the hypocritical pseudoarguer).

    That’s exactly the point. The courtiers — theologians and apologists — are all making false and fallacious arguments.

    Nope. The horse laugh is not a valid form of argumentation, your delusions to the contrary notwithstanding. It is up to you, and PZ, and Dawkins to a) apprehend the arguments and b) show that they are “false and fallacious.” You have utterly failed at both.

    (…Says the hypocritical ridiculer.)

    That’s because the ontological argument is in fact utterly ridiculous.

    Perhaps you plan on piling your Pelion of delusions on Dawkins’ Ossa of delusions in an attempt to assault Heaven, since you aren’t making much of an impact down here.

    If the ontological argument is so transparently fallacious, then you should have no problem legitimately dispatching it.

    Advancers and defenders of ontological arguments have the little problem that they think that imagination and reality are identical.

    You have the little problem of thinking your imagined argument is the same as an actual argument.

    When you wish a flying pony into existence and ride it all around, you can show all those fools at the institute how great your mind is !!

    Good luck with that.

    That’s just nonsense. Are you trying to make some sense?

  106. #106 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    You have already demonstrated that you are lacking in native intelligence; there is no need to be gratuitous.

    You don’t like it when someone holds up a mirror, eh?

    The horse laugh is not a valid form of argumentation,

    It is when the argument is absurdly invalid.

    It is up to you, and PZ, and Dawkins to a) apprehend the arguments and b) show that they are “false and fallacious.” You have utterly failed at both.

    You mean that you have failed to acknowledge the arguments’ falseness and fallaciousness. The ignorant can be taught, but the deluded who prefer delusion to reason refuse to learn.

    If the ontological argument is so transparently fallacious, then you should have no problem legitimately dispatching it.

    If God is real, you should have no problem getting him to weigh in on your side and demonstrate the arguments’ lack of fallacy.

    That’s just nonsense. Are you trying to make some sense?

    That’s what I keep saying to you onto-illogicalists, and you keep repeating high-flown nonsense.

  107. #107 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    I’m personally not sure I understand why the ontological argument can be used to prove God but not to prove, for example, a perfect island. According to that link:

    There is a possible answer to this objection, put forward by the Roman Catholic philosopher Paul J. Glenn (who himself disagreed with the proof on other grounds) in his An Introduction to Philosophy.[citation needed] It is that Anselm’s argument is only applicable to a being of which nothing greater can be conceived. Therefore, the island analogy is not appropriate, as it has only limited application (islands). The supreme being is not merely a platonic form, but a unique God who necessarily exists because his greatness is limitless. Islands are by definition limited; they need not have every greatness. God, to be God, must have. And so this proof could only apply to the greatest being possible.

    “Every greatness”? You know what they say about a point in every direction…

    Once God’s existence is “proven” in this way, he ceases to even be a Being. He/She/It is just an Everything.

    (The greatest possible “Everything” would necessarily be infinitely evil, for example, as well as infinitely good; unless one arbitrarily decides that evil is always a “lack”.)

  108. #108 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    (The greatest possible “Everything” would necessarily be infinitely evil, for example, as well as infinitely good; unless one arbitrarily decides that evil is always a “lack”.)

    The notion of privative evil is one that theologians came up with out of nowhere, and is nonsense when examined closely.

    If someone dies of thirst, did they die from not having non-water?

    If someone contracts a disease that causes as slow and painful death, did they did of not having the lack of the disease?

    And I’m pretty sure that it’s one that theologian wouldn’t use in reality about his own life.

    “Help, help! My house has a lack of not being on fire!”

  109. #109 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    It is when the argument is absurdly invalid.

    Nope. And merely asserting something is absurdly invalid is yet another form of pseudoargumentation.

    You mean that you have failed to acknowledge the arguments’ falseness and fallaciousness. The ignorant can be taught, but the deluded who prefer delusion to reason refuse to learn.

    Do I have to resort to Dick, Jane, and Spot with you? I already pointed out the problems with their “refutations,” which you completely glossed over, and I asked you for a refutation of your own, which you have yet to supply.

    Listen, your “tee-hee!” approach works well within your intellectually-inbred and intellectually-deficient clique, but don’t expect anyone outside of it to accept your content-free pseudoargumentation.

    If God is real, you should have no problem getting him to weigh in on your side and demonstrate the arguments’ lack of fallacy.

    First of all, you need to demonstrate a fallacy. Secondly, I can defend it myself.

    That’s what I keep saying to you onto-illogicalists, and you keep repeating high-flown nonsense.

    Your inability to apprehend the argument is not our problem. I remember when I was first taught how to integrate the standard normal in multivariate calculus. Some of the students in the class thought the professor was engaging in legerdemain, but what he did was legitimate and they were wrong, just as you are wrong. (Although, they can be excused, since I think they eventually came around. You cannot, since you remain in your deception and ignorance.)

  110. #110 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    #108 Owlmirror: lol.

    Although I’m not a libertarian, I think the libertarian notion of “negative liberty” is a valid opposite of Privatio Boni. Just as one might term evil the absence of good, one can legitimately say that good is simply the absence of evil, where evil is defined as coercion. I do sometimes think of good in vaguely Buddhist terms, as simply the reduction of suffering (similar but not identical to negative liberty). Neither concept totally encompasses my personal ethical views, however.

  111. #111 Kennesaw
    February 21, 2010

    Re David Marjanović:

    At least you don’t have a screwball name.

    Nevertheless, your paragraph…

    “The theory of evolution is testable. It predicts a large number of things: that the similarities among living beings are arranged in a tree shape; that there were no rabbits in the Silurian; that there are no mammals (other than bats) or frogs on remote oceanic islands; and so on for hundreds of pages. If any of these predictions had been found to be untrue, so would have been the theory of evolution.”

    is really quite, well, I was going to be kind and say specious, but, in the interest of accuracy, I must come down in favor of silly. With a straight face you claim that evo predicted the apparent hierarchy of living things? Please. No rabbits in the Silurian? Oh, sure. And no wombats in Eastern Mongolia. Please. And no mammals (except exceptions) on remote islands? Why not no Eskimos in Antarctica, or no penguins in Kansas? It is a little frightening to realize that there are folks out there teaching our children who actually take this kind of stuff seriously.
    But my favorite quote from you is “Yeah, what problems indeed?” I’m at a loss for a comprehensive adjective here, when naive, arrogant, ignorant, foolish, disingenuous, and several others spring to mind. But one thing is clear: This is not an expression of the scientific spirit, but rather the language of dogmatism. “What problems indeed?” LOL
    I suggest that you google “problems with evolution,” but only when you’ve a lot of time on your hands.

  112. #112 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    The notion of privative evil is one that theologians came up with out of nowhere, and is nonsense when examined closely.

    If someone dies of thirst, did they[sic] die from not having non-water?

    If someone contracts a disease that causes as slow and painful death, did they[sic] did of not having the lack of the disease?

    And I’m pretty sure that it’s one that theologian wouldn’t use in reality about his own life.

    “Help, help! My house has a lack of not being on fire!”

    A theory concerning moral-aesthetic concepts does not really apply to chemical processes. Simply amazing! I’m pretty sure you can’t obtain the antiderivative of fire, either.

    You know, Owlmirror, I’ve already given the Dunning-Kruger Award to another vapid pharyngulite, FrankT, but you are definitely in the running for next month!

    Incidentally, this:

    If someone dies of thirst, did they[sic] die from not having non-water?

    Does not make sense.

  113. #113 Tulse
    February 21, 2010

    the Quran 4:157 asserts that Jesus was not crucified and killed whereas the NT asserts he was crucified and killed. Using historical methodology we can determine that the Quran is wrong and the NT is right.

    You are using evidence from the New Testament to prove the validity of the New Testament? What independent evidence (that is, not reported in the New Testament) is there that Jesus was actually crucified? And why would crucifixion alone make him a god, without further independent reports of his supernatural acts, such as his revivification?

    There is next to no non-biblical evidence for the man known as the historical Jesus, and absolutely no independent evidence that such a man performed any supernatural acts.

  114. #114 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    Read Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Here are some examples:
    “just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.”

    In other words, the answer is no, you have no contemporary accounts of Jesus, or miracles, or resurrection, or any other so-called events in his life. You have ancient tales handed down from generation to generation until some story was finally recorded – so much for your “historical methodology.”

  115. #115 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror, the fact that you have to resort to name-calling and one-liners indicates your tank is running on empty now. Complaints about God not acting how you want Him to act are not arguments against His existence. If Aquinas is such an idiot you’d think you could pick apart his actual arguments.

    Lenoxus, if Muhammad’s revelation, the Koran, was vindicated by a close study of the text, then obviously it would be hard not to be a Muslim. As for miracles, they’re only a problem for atheists. For the sake of argument, I could grant that Muhammad worked a few miracles and still have reasons to reject his revelation.

  116. #116 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Tulse:

    You are using evidence from the New Testament to prove the validity of the New Testament?

    I am applying historical criticism to the documents (plural) of the New Testament, just as I would apply historical criticism to any other text.

    What independent evidence (that is, not reported in the New Testament) is there that Jesus was actually crucified?

    Josephus and Tacitus. But you also make the common mistake of considering the New Testament as one source. It is a collection of sources that can independently verify each other to an extent (just as the Muslim ahadith are a collection of sources that can verify each other to an extent). The crucifixion was also so scandalizing that it would not be something the early Christians would make up.

    And why would crucifixion alone make him a god, without further independent reports of his supernatural acts, such as his revivification?

    Crucifixion alone would not make Jesus God.

    There is next to no non-biblical evidence for the man known as the historical Jesus, and absolutely no independent evidence that such a man performed any supernatural acts.

    Josephus also notes that Jesus worked miracles. The demand for non-biblical evidence seems like an attempt to ignore that evidence, rather than confront it. It is to be expected that followers of Christ would keep the best records about his life. If I debate with Muslims I don’t ignore their evidence concerning Muhammad, I confront it. You betray a lack of confidence in your position if you need to wave away evidence.

  117. #117 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    tomh, that was a non-response on your part. If an eyewitness account is not a contemporary account then no such thing exists. And seeing as the Gospels were written within living memory of the events they describe the stories contained therein could not have been handed down for generations before being recorded.

  118. #118 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    In other words, the answer is no, you have no contemporary accounts of Jesus, or miracles, or resurrection, or any other so-called events in his life. You have ancient tales handed down from generation to generation until some story was finally recorded – so much for your “historical methodology.”

    The Gospels are based on earlier sources; that is beyond dispute. Also, you betray your ignorance of antiquity. Ex post facto historical accounts are very common in antiquity and the fact that a particular text dates after the events it records does not necessarily make it unreliable.

    What independent evidence (that is, not reported in the New Testament) is there that Jesus was actually crucified?

    See Josephus and Tacitus for a start. The Greek version of the former has been interpolated but there are other versions, most importantly the Arabic version, that lack the obvious Christian glosses.

  119. #119 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    In my opinion, there exists a far greater amount of “eyewitness evidence” for UFO abductions or for the Loch Ness Monster than for Jesus’s resurrection. I’m afraid that Gospels + Josephus + Tacitus just doesn’t cut it.

    Almost every religion has scriptures, and nothing seems to elevate the Christian ones above the others’. Where exactly are the “500 eyewitnesses” Christians often bring up? They exist entirely in one mention in one book; there aren’t 500 eyewitness accounts.

    Is the difference that unlike Christianity, “everyone knows” that ufology and cryptozoology are bunk? Because a lot of people, sincere believers all, would claim disagreement with that. This is where the old phrase about extraordinary claims comes in handy.

    If we stick strictly to historical evidence, and on its basis accept the Resurrection (if there even were historical evidence for it), then on the same basis, we must needs reject a whole lot of the rest of the Bible. Exodus and the Flood go out the window, for starters; unlike the Ressurection, which, had it happened, might have been a quiet event observed by few, they explicitly contradict history.

  120. #120 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    And merely asserting something is absurdly invalid is yet another form of pseudoargumentation.

    And by that logic, so is merely asserting something to be pseudoargumentation.

    Do I have to resort to Dick, Jane, and Spot with you?

    It couldn’t hurt my argument — and cannot possibly help yours. So feel free.

    I already pointed out the problems with their “refutations,”

    You mean your pseudoargument from assertion. You didn’t actually do the work of a counter-refutation.

    and I asked you for a refutation of your own, which you have yet to supply.

    And you are shifting the burden of proof now.

    Listen, your “tee-hee!” approach works well within your intellectually-inbred and intellectually-deficient clique, but don’t expect anyone outside of it to accept your content-free pseudoargumentation.

    Theology is indeed content-free pseudoargumentation.

    Secondly, I can defend it myself.

    Because you are claiming to be God?

    Your inability to apprehend the argument is not our problem.

    The argument being incoherent is not a problem for empirical reality.

    A theory concerning moral-aesthetic concepts does not really apply to chemical processes. Simply amazing! I’m pretty sure you can’t obtain the antiderivative of fire, either.

    Your pathetic non-sequitur of a pseudoargument is noted.

    If someone dies of thirst, did they[sic] die from not having non-water?

    Does not make sense.

    I agree. How could I possibly have become confused about a fundamentally incoherent concept?

    If you died from oxygen toxicity, would you have died from a lack of not having too much oxygen?

  121. #121 MadScientist
    February 21, 2010

    @Robert O’Brien:

    “…the fact that a particular text dates after the events it records does not necessarily make it unreliable.”

    Unfortunately when there are many decades between when an event is alleged to have occurred and when it is recorded necessarily makes the account unreliable and should be treated as hearsay unless there is independent evidence for it (such as the case for many astronomical events). This is why historians view such accounts with great suspicion and Edward Gibbons threw away volumes of such unreliable accounts. In the case of the jesus stories, the absence of contemporary Roman records is extremely suspicious. During an era of zealotry which Roman records do support (leading up to the Roman Diaspora of ~70C.E.) here is a man who claimed to be god and worked miracles, is reportedly convicted and ordered executed by an official of the Roman empire and there are no records. There are records about the christians of the era, but none of their god. I guess god didn’t like his name being recorded in anything but the official holy book.

  122. #122 MadScientist
    February 21, 2010

    @Jason: “Augustine, for example, was thoroughly convinced, based on scripture, that the Earth was on the order of 6000 years old.”

    Really? Where is that evident in Augustine’s writing? (well, at least a belief that the earth was 4000 years old in Augustine’s era) The 6000 years is a much later invention; Shakespeare wrote Hamlet long before the earth was declared to be 6000 years old.

  123. #123 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    But my favorite quote from you is “Yeah, what problems indeed?” I’m at a loss for a comprehensive adjective here, when naive, arrogant, ignorant, foolish, disingenuous, and several others spring to mind. But one thing is clear: This is not an expression of the scientific spirit, but rather the language of dogmatism. “What problems indeed?”

    You have no scientific spirit, and you don’t understand enough about evolution to argue against it.

  124. #124 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror, the fact that you have to resort to name-calling

    Which name calling?

    and one-liners indicates your tank is running on empty now.

    Are you saying that you’re incapable of actually addressing my arguments?

    Complaints about God not acting how you want Him to act are not arguments against His existence.

    Actually, they are, because asserting that God is a person that does not act like a person is contradictory and/or commits the fallacy of special pleading, depending on where you go with it.

    If Aquinas is such an idiot you’d think you could pick apart his actual arguments.

    If I pointed out where he argues from assertion, affirms the consequent, commits special pleading, and contradicts himself, would you read and address it, or just ignore it because logic makes you uncomfortable?

    I mean, you’ve ignored some substantive points I made above, so I kind of suspect that pointing out Aquinas’ fallacies would be a waste of time.

  125. #125 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Robert O’Brien wrote:
    The Gospels are based on earlier sources; that is beyond dispute.

    That is disputed on this very thread by Jayman, in the post right above yours. He seems to think that there are eyewitness accounts.

    Ex post facto historical accounts are very common in antiquity

    Contemporary accounts are very common in antiquity, many dating to long before the supposed time of Jesus. They make a much stronger case than your ex post facto history. Yet, despite the fact that you have a man (or maybe a god, I’m never sure), who supposedly performed miracles never seen before, rose from the dead, etc., no one at the time bothered to mention it. Doesn’t do much for the accuracy of your Gospels. Yet it seems that the flimsier the evidence, the more vehemently the believers cling to the stories.

  126. #126 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Lenoxus:

    In my opinion, there exists a far greater amount of “eyewitness evidence” for UFO abductions or for the Loch Ness Monster than for Jesus’s resurrection. I’m afraid that Gospels + Josephus + Tacitus just doesn’t cut it.

    In each case the skeptic should be able to supply a less fantastic explanation for why the alleged eyewitnesses think they experienced something spectacular or admit that they don’t have a sensible alternative. It is when skeptics have to come up with an alternative explanation for the resurrection that things get interesting.

    Almost every religion has scriptures, and nothing seems to elevate the Christian ones above the others’.

    If the arguments of natural theology prove a single God exists then the only options among major modern-day religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Islam can be refuted by demonstrating that the Koran could not be the revelation of an omniscient deity. Christianity can be refuted by demonstrating that Jesus Christ was not a true prophet. Judaism can be refuted by showing that each and every prophet in the Hebrew Bible was a false prophet. I’m a Christian because I believe I can demonstrate that the Koran is not the work of a true prophet, while I cannot show that Jesus Christ and the Jewish prophets are all false prophets.

    This is where the old phrase about extraordinary claims comes in handy.

    But this seems to be a convenient cliche to avoid believing in the paranormal/supernatural. Numerous eyewitnesses, photos, videos, etc. rarely convince skeptics of the paranormal/supernatural. It seems that they personally need to be abducted by aliens, see Bigfoot, or be miraculously cured of an illness.

    If we stick strictly to historical evidence, and on its basis accept the Resurrection (if there even were historical evidence for it), then on the same basis, we must needs reject a whole lot of the rest of the Bible. Exodus and the Flood go out the window, for starters; unlike the Ressurection, which, had it happened, might have been a quiet event observed by few, they explicitly contradict history.

    Weighing historical evidence without invoking an anti-supernatural bias would be preferable to me, even if things were messier.

  127. #127 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    I could grant that Muhammad worked a few miracles and still have reasons to reject his revelation.

    How is that not special pleading based on nothing more than prejudice and presupposition?

    . The crucifixion was also so scandalizing that it would not be something the early Christians would make up.

    Your argument from assertion is noted.

    “So scandalizing” to whom, exactly?

    Josephus also notes that Jesus worked miracles.

    You mean the part of Josephus that was made up by later Christian copyists?

    If an eyewitness account is not a contemporary account then no such thing exists.

    If one so-called “eyewitness account” contradicts another so-called “eyewitness account” about what year some event occurred, then, yeah, their contemporaneousness is called into question.

    And seeing as the Gospels were written within living memory of the events they describe

    We do not actually have evidence that this was the case.

    ====

    The Greek version of the former has been interpolated but there are other versions, most importantly the Arabic version, that lack the obvious Christian glosses.

    The Arabic inclusion of a paraphrased translation from the Syriac is long remote from anything that might be called contemporary.

  128. #128 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    MadScientist:

    Unfortunately when there are many decades between when an event is alleged to have occurred and when it is recorded necessarily makes the account unreliable and should be treated as hearsay unless there is independent evidence for it (such as the case for many astronomical events).

    So an eyewitness account should be treated as hearsay if the eyewitness account is written down a few decades after the events in question happened? For example, if my grandparents wrote down their own accounts of the Great Depression today, I should assume they are unreliable, right?

    In the case of the jesus stories, the absence of contemporary Roman records is extremely suspicious.

    What professional historians have made those statements? Which extant first-century Roman sources do you think should have mentioned Jesus but did not do so?

  129. #129 octopod
    February 21, 2010

    The reason for Owlmirror’s one-line responses, I would like to point out, is because O’Brien is engaging in the classic technique of the “Gish gallop” — issuing a whole string of unrelated false and/or unsupported assertions and expecting them to be addressed as if it were a coherent argument.

    Settle down, man. Address a single issue. May I suggest you two go to ground over the “privative evil” argument? Because that’s the most interesting thing you’ve got going here.

  130. #130 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    tomh, there is no contradiction between using earlier sources and using eyewitness accounts. Suppose I was writing a book on World War II and used both accounts from living eyewitnesses and the testimony of those who have passed away. This would hardly be a contradiction.

  131. #131 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    In each case the skeptic should be able to supply a less fantastic explanation for why the alleged eyewitnesses think they experienced something spectacular or admit that they don’t have a sensible alternative.

    The crucifixion being a complete fake is less fantastic than God doing magic indistinguishable from prestidigitation 2000 years ago and being utterly silent afterward.

    It is when skeptics have to come up with an alternative explanation for the resurrection that things get interesting.

    What’s your “alternative explanation” for Hanuman’s bridge?

    If the arguments of natural theology prove a single God exists then the only options among major modern-day religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Nonsense. Do you really not understand that you cannot derive unconnected facts from a single conclusion?

    I’m a Christian because I believe I can demonstrate that the Koran is not the work of a true prophet, while I cannot show that Jesus Christ and the Jewish prophets are all false prophets.

    How do you know you’re not ignoring the evidence and logic against them being true?

    But this seems to be a convenient cliche to avoid believing in the paranormal/supernatural.

    It’s a convenient metric to avoid fooling yourself, or being fooled by others.

    Numerous eyewitnesses, photos, videos, etc. rarely convince skeptics of the paranormal/supernatural.

    And the eyewitnesses turn out to be unreliable, the photos ridiculously blurry, and the videos shaky. And that doesn’t even take into account the blatant fakes.

    It seems that they personally need to be abducted by aliens, see Bigfoot, or be miraculously cured of an illness.

    No, the questions of what constitutes an alien, a bigfoot, or a miracle cure need to be substantively addressed. Especially the latter — aliens and Bigfoot might flee scrutiny from fear. What’s God’s excuse?

  132. #132 Robert O'Brien
    February 21, 2010

    You mean your pseudoargument from assertion. You didn’t actually do the work of a counter-refutation.

    My good moron, read the following (or, more appropriately, have it read to you) as many times as it takes to sink in:

    Ah, yes, the “existence is not a predicate” incantation. Unfortunately for the intellectually circumscribed ethologist, whether or not existence is a predicate, the modal status of something can be regarded as a property.

    Clearly, Dawkins is out of his league.

    Moreover, Dawkins cited Norman Malcolm (and gave an internet source in the footnotes; the stupid ass cannot even be bothered to read some books or journal articles) but Malcolm’s objection only applies to the version of the argument where existence is a property.

    Your pathetic non-sequitur of a pseudoargument is noted.

    Your cognitive deficit is noted. The fact remains, however, that your analogies, like you, are worthless. (Appeal to analogy a) is generally a weak form of argumentation and b) depends on the suitability of the analogy.)

    And you are shifting the burden of proof now.

    No moron. You claimed ontological arguments are invalid. The onus is on you to cough up a refutation.

    The argument being incoherent is not a problem for empirical reality.

    Show it is incoherent.

    If someone dies of thirst, did they[sic] die from not having non-water?

    Does not make sense.

    I agree. How could I possibly have become confused about a fundamentally incoherent concept?

    Truly, there is no bottom to Owlmirror’s dumbness. What I meant to convey is that what you wrote does not make sense even as a parody. If someone dies of thirst, then he dies from a lack of water. You should have written “…die from having non-water,” which is still stupid, as are your other attempts at parody, but at least makes sense as a parody.

  133. #133 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror, Aquaria at least tried to lay out Aquinas’ argument and refute it. Granted he did not understand the argument but he gave it a shot. You’ve made some one-line assertions but haven’t shown you grasp the Five Ways. I’m not going to waste my time trying to figure out what part of the argument you consider special pleading based on one-line answers to paragraphs of text. If you lay out Aquinas’ points one by one like Aquaria did and try to refute them then in detail I might comment. Just don’t make the same mistakes as others have above.

    How is that not special pleading based on nothing more than prejudice and presupposition?

    How is it special pleading? Is it not a fact that atheists must reject all miracles to remain atheists while Christians do not have to reject all miracles to remain Christians?

    Your argument from assertion is noted. “So scandalizing” to whom, exactly?

    Note that my assertions are frequently backed up with book recommendations for longer treatments of the subject. The Christians themselves were scandalized by the crucifixion. Read Martin Hengel’s Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross for numerous primary sources.

    You mean the part of Josephus that was made up by later Christian copyists?

    No, the Christian interpolater did not insert the part about Jesus performing miracles.

    If one so-called “eyewitness account” contradicts another so-called “eyewitness account” about what year some event occurred, then, yeah, their contemporaneousness is called into question.

    No, the accuracy of at least one account is called into question.

    We do not actually have evidence that this was the case.

    Yes, we do. The scholarly consensus is that the Four Gospels were written in the first century, which is within living memory of Jesus’ public ministry which concluded around AD 30. I also supplied quotes and a book recommendation pertaining to the eyewitness nature of the Gospels.

  134. #134 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    Ah, yes, the “existence is not a predicate” incantation. Unfortunately for the intellectually circumscribed ethologist, whether or not existence is a predicate, the modal status of something can be regarded as a property.

    A pathetic pseudoargument which does nothing to demonstrate the validity of the ontological argument.

    Your pseudointellectual jargon fails to do anything but convince me that you don’t understand the ontological argument yourself.

    (Appeal to analogy a) is generally a weak form of argumentation and b) depends on the suitability of the analogy.)

    Which is what theology itself is — weak arguments and unsuitable analogies.

    You claimed ontological arguments are invalid. The onus is on you to cough up a refutation.

    Still shifting the burden of proof. A pity your arguments are as weak as your intellect.

    What I meant to convey is that what you wrote does not make sense even as a parody.

    Which I acknowledged, and modified. Pity you can’t read for comprehension.

    I note you ignored the modified example just to slag off at me some more. I shouldn’t be surprised, of course — you so much prefer insults to substance. Feel free to continue your childish temper tantrum.

  135. #135 Jayman
    February 21, 2010

    Owlmirror:

    The crucifixion being a complete fake is less fantastic than God doing magic indistinguishable from prestidigitation 2000 years ago and being utterly silent afterward.

    The hard part is providing an alternative explanation that respects the evidence. I’m not aware of any professional historian who rejects Jesus’ death by crucifixion. In the last chapter of The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology McGraw and McGraw use Bayesian analysis to show that the evidence for the resurrection is good enough for it to be the most likely explanation for our evidence. You’ll need to refute that paper to show that the non-crucifixion is the most likely explanation.

    What’s your “alternative explanation” for Hanuman’s bridge?

    I haven’t studied the matter so I have no comment.

    Nonsense. Do you really not understand that you cannot derive unconnected facts from a single conclusion?

    Natural theology leads to monotheism. It is then a matter of trying to find the correct monotheism on other grounds. If you were convinced monotheism is correct, would you bother with polytheism, deism, or atheism?

    How do you know you’re not ignoring the evidence and logic against them being true?

    I can’t be absolutely certain, which is why I continually read on the subject. If you have book recommendations you think would prove me wrong feel free to suggest them.

    And the eyewitnesses turn out to be unreliable, the photos ridiculously blurry, and the videos shaky. And that doesn’t even take into account the blatant fakes.

    You obviously haven’t looked very hard.

    No, the questions of what constitutes an alien, a bigfoot, or a miracle cure need to be substantively addressed. Especially the latter — aliens and Bigfoot might flee scrutiny from fear. What’s God’s excuse?

    You’re saying medical science is not at the point to determine whether someone has been miraculously cured?

  136. #136 Lenoxus
    February 21, 2010

    #126 Jayman:

    If the arguments of natural theology prove a single God exists then the only options among major modern-day religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Why couldn’t they all have it wrong? After all, none of them limit themselves to either “natural theology”, observed evidence, or both; they all include some form of unverified revelation, and ancient oral/cultural history.

    Islam can be refuted by demonstrating that the Koran could not be the revelation of an omniscient deity.

    Hence, why there are no Muslims today, except deluded ones, right? Whereas the Bible, now, that’s an irrefutable, straightforward, and consistent piece of work. Try demonstrating that that couldn’t be the revelation of an omniscient deity and… you might be done before chapter 2.

    Judaism can be refuted by showing that each and every prophet in the Hebrew Bible was a false prophet.

    So if it could be demonstrated that, for example, Daniel was “prophesying” recent history and not future events, that wouldn’t be enough, because it takes the refuting of each and every prophet? What if all but one of them could be shown to be false? Would Judaism still look sufficiently accurate?

    Numerous eyewitnesses, photos, videos, etc. rarely convince skeptics of the paranormal/supernatural. It seems that they personally need to be abducted by aliens, see Bigfoot, or be miraculously cured of an illness.

    Ah, every time I use the examples of pseudosciences, I forget about the crank magnetism phenomenon. So basically, you do believe every claim a sufficient number of people have agreed is true.

    Except, for some reason, Islam or Hinduism, either of which has far more claimants, arguing from logic and eyewitness testimony, than either of the psuedosciences I mentioned before. Somehow, you can blithely declare that religions with millions of followers each are false, yet that miraculous healings are true. What about a Hindu who attributes her cured cancer to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles? Was that a natural event, or your particular god moonlighting? Or do you find it implausible that non-Christians would ever experience sudden remissions?

    Weighing historical evidence without invoking an anti-supernatural bias would be preferable to me, even if things were messier.

    You don’t need an “anti-supernatural bias” to see that there was never a mass exodus of thousands of Hebrew slaves from Egypt, and certainly not to see that there was no global flood in human history.

    Is it “messy” to say, “Well, fossils, DNA, geology, and everything else says the Earth is billions of years old and never experienced a catastrophic flood — and some books say otherwise”? That’s only as messy as any area of life, where there will always be someone disputing things.

    #128 Jayman:

    So an eyewitness account should be treated as hearsay if the eyewitness account is written down a few decades after the events in question happened? For example, if my grandparents wrote down their own accounts of the Great Depression today, I should assume they are unreliable, right?

    Well, if that was the entirety of evidence for the Depression, then yes, absolutely. It sounds like I’m being irrational, but that’s only because we do, in fact, have enormous amounts of independent evidence that the Depression occurred. Individual eyewitness accounts are mere anecdotes until enough are amassed, and the more counter-evidence there is, the more counter-counter evidence there needs to be.

    Of course, it would be different if your grandparents’ claim was merely that they had been poor, not that poverty was everywhere. In that case, their testimony alone would be enough, because there is no hurdle of counter-evidence to overcome (in the hypothetical universe where the Depression hadn’t apprently happened) and it is a perfectly reasonable claim by itself.

    #135 Jayman:

    Natural theology leads to monotheism.

    (Plus Monsieur the Son and Madame His Mother.) Gee, I wonder if it could be monotheism that leads to “natural” theology…?

    You’re saying medical science is not at the point to determine whether someone has been miraculously cured?

    In one sense, that’s always the case, by definition; miracles are not remotely predictable.

    In another sense, the whole thing could be unequivocally demonstrated by, for example, the sudden regrowth of a limb, or a series of tests showing a strong effect (say, 99% cure rate) for intercessory prayer. Remissions and other “miracle” healings, by contrast, do not qualify as supernatural. Their mechanisms are well understood, even if they are experienced as beyond the ordinary; they are no more supernatural than X-rays.

  137. #137 Tulse
    February 21, 2010

    It is when skeptics have to come up with an alternative explanation for the resurrection that things get interesting.

    What?! What independent evidence do you have of Jesus’ revivification?

    If the arguments of natural theology prove a single God exists then the only options among major modern-day religions are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

    Many Hindus argue that their religion is in fact monotheist, with the various “gods” just different aspects of the Supreme Being, just like Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in Christianity.

    Also, even apart from the Trinity in Christianity, what is monotheistic about a religion with a supernatural being who is evil and opposes a supernatural being who is good? Why is it that Satan doesn’t count?

    And, of course, your argument presumes that the only possible monotheisms are those which currently exist and are practiced, and ignores the option that, even if monotheism is actually true, none of the existing religions have the “right” monotheism.

  138. #138 tomh
    February 21, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    It is when skeptics have to come up with an alternative explanation for the resurrection that things get interesting.

    Why in the world would skeptics or anyone else have to come up with an alternative explanation for your claimed resurrection? For such an outlandish claim it seems like the claimant should have some reasonable evidence. Of course, there is none. If you insist on an alternative explanation, how about, it’s just a made-up story? That would be the most rational explanation.

  139. #139 386sx
    February 21, 2010

    It is when skeptics have to come up with an alternative explanation for the resurrection that things get interesting.

    It’s always a joy seeing these little glimpses of illogic into why people believe the dumb things they believe. Funny stuff…

  140. #140 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    How is it special pleading? Is it not a fact that atheists must reject all miracles to remain atheists while Christians do not have to reject all miracles to remain Christians?

    It’s special pleading to claim to that some event “must” have been a miracle, and also to claim to know what is or is not a “valid” miracle.

    The Christians themselves were scandalized by the crucifixion.

    In what sense?

    Read Martin Hengel’s Crucifixion in the Ancient World and the Folly of the Message of the Cross for numerous primary sources.

    Can you summarize a little? What exactly does he argue?

    No, the Christian interpolater did not insert the part about Jesus performing miracles.

    If that were true, Origen would have cited it along with the other, much shorter and more ambiguous reference to someone called Jesus in that work.

    No, the accuracy of at least one account is called into question.

    So who is wrong, and why? Matthew or Luke?

    And why is one of them, supposedly written in the first century, so wrong about events that occurred earlier in that century, if they even are the “eyewitness” testimony they claim to be?

    Yes, we do. The scholarly consensus is that the Four Gospels were written in the first century,

    The earliest fragment has only been dated to about 150. Nothing earlier exists — so far as I had heard. Got anything earlier?

  141. #141 Owlmirror
    February 21, 2010

    The hard part is providing an alternative explanation that respects the evidence.

    There is no empirical evidence to respect.

    In the last chapter of The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology McGraw and McGraw use Bayesian analysis to show that the evidence for the resurrection is good enough for it to be the most likely explanation for our evidence.

    What scenarios to they “analyse”? Do they consider “fiction”? Do they consider “fraud”? Do they consider “medical anomaly”? How do they weight each factor?

    Do they actually work out the probabilities of all of them, and show that fraud and medical anomaly are less probably than a miracle?

    You’ll need to refute that paper to show that the non-crucifixion is the most likely explanation.

    Would you give up Christianity if you read such a refutation? Just completely abandon the entire enterprise as having been an improbable fad from the beginning?

    I see that you misspelled their names. It’s “McGrew and McGrew”. I’ll give it a look at some point.

    Natural theology leads to monotheism. It is then a matter of trying to find the correct monotheism on other grounds. If you were convinced monotheism is correct, would you bother with polytheism, deism, or atheism?

    Even if the above were correct, you still cannot conclude that only one of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity can be the “correct” monotheism if “monotheism” is true.

    For that matter, Deism is in fact a form of monotheism as well, as much as you might wish to reject it by fallacious special pleading.

    You obviously haven’t looked very hard.

    I’m sorry, are you claiming to have solid, non-faked videos and photos of aliens and Bigfoot, and absolutely certain proof of miracle cures?

    You’re saying medical science is not at the point to determine whether someone has been miraculously cured?

    Are you in fact claiming that it is?

    Got any evidence in that regard?

  142. #142 Robert O'Brien
    February 22, 2010

    A pathetic pseudoargument which does nothing to demonstrate the validity of the ontological argument.

    You remind me of the monkey who saw his master shaving and tried to imitate him, only to cut his throat in the process. In any event, I am not obliged to demonstrate the validity of the ontological argument in this thread. What I signed up for was to shoot down the bogus arguments against it.

    Your pseudointellectual jargon fails to do anything but convince me that you don’t understand the ontological argument yourself.

    There is nothing pseudointellectual about modal logic. The following is excerpted from Robert Andrew Ariel’s Theistic Proofs and Immanuel Kant: A Conflict Revisited. (I know you will have trouble with it since it is not excerpted from a coloring book but get a grown up to assist you.)

    The second objection consists of Kant’s famous claim that “existence is not a
    predicate,” because “By whatever and by however many predicates we may think
    a thing — even if we completely determine it — we do not make the least addition
    to the thing when we further declare that the thing is. Otherwise it would not be
    exactly the same thing that exists, but something more than we had thought in
    the concept. . . .” Since under Anselm’s formulation of the Proof, as well as
    under later formulations by Descartes and others, we must ascribe to God all
    positive predicates, if existence is not a predicate we need not ascribe it to Him
    and hence need not conclude that He exists.
    The objection also can be answered by carefully distinguishing whether we
    are talking about necessary or contingent existence when we say “Existence is not
    a predicate.” Let us grant for the sake of argument that contingent existence is
    not a predicate. It does not therefore follow that necessary existence is also not a
    predicate. Since we have granted that contingent existence is not a predicate, we
    accept the fact that “By whatever and by however many predicates we may think
    a thing.. .we do not make the least addition to the thing when we declare that the
    thing contingently is.” Thus, for example, the ideas of a contingently existing rose
    and of a contingently non-existing rose are in fact the same idea, since both are
    equivalent to affirming that the rose is merely contingent. But it is not true that
    the idea of a necessarily existing rose and of a non-necessarily existing rose are
    equivalent; we do indeed make an addition to the thing when we declare that the
    thing necessarily is. For consider: when we have the idea of a non-necessarily existing
    rose, what we are thinking of is what we have all seen in a florist’s window.
    But when we think of a necessarily existing rose, we are in fact not thinking of anything at all, since the idea of a necessarily existing rose is self-contradictory
    (because the idea of anything material being necessary is self-contradictory).
    Thus, unlike the case of the contingently existing rose and the contingently nonexisting
    rose where the two ideas are identical, the ideas of a necessarily existing
    rose and of a non-necessarily existing rose are very different since the idea of the
    latter is perfectly sensible while the idea of the former is self-contradictory. In
    view of this difference it would seem incorrect to say “By whatever and by however
    many predicates we determine a thing… we do not make the least addition
    to the thing when we further declare that the thing necessarily is,” since in the
    case of the rose just presented we did make an addition to it by affirming that it
    is necessarily existing, namely, that it is self-contradictory. Hence it would seem
    that even if contingent existence is not a predicate, necessary existence is in some
    sense “enough” of a predicate so that when we ascribe to God all positive predicates
    that “a being the greater than which cannot be conceived to exist” must
    possess, we must also ascribe necessary existence to Him. Thus it would seem
    that Kant’s second objection to the Ontological Argument does not stand, and
    that as a result of ascribing to God necessary existence we may deduce the Argument’s
    conclusion, namely, that God exists.

    Still shifting the burden of proof.

    You don’t understand burden of proof any more than you understand anything else.

    If that were true, Origen would have cited it along with the other, much shorter and more ambiguous reference to someone called Jesus in that work.

    Provide the proper citation and then argue why Origen would have necessarily referenced the particular comment re: Jesus’ miracle-working.

    Pity you can’t read for comprehension.

    I can both read for and write with comprehension, which sets me apart from you.

    The Arabic inclusion of a paraphrased translation from the Syriac is long remote from anything that might be called contemporary.

    The Arabic version is not a paraphrase, it is a translation of the Syriac, you transparent poser.

  143. #143 Brian
    February 22, 2010

    Robert O’Brien
    But when we think of a necessarily existing rose, we are in fact not thinking of anything at all, since the idea of a necessarily existing rose is self-contradictory
    (because the idea of anything material being necessary is self-contradictory).

    That doesn’t work. A necessarily existing rose is no more self contradictory than a necessarily existing being. Trying to special plead for God won’t work. Persons, of which God is supposed to be, are contingent as we see everyday. To say that a person necessarily exists is no different than saying a rose necessarily exists. If you think for a while Robert you might realize that the contradiction is in necessary existence. No existence is necessary in the sense that the ontological argument argues. Certainly we must necessarily exist to be tapping away on keyboards, but that is just a contingent matter.

    The ontological argument fails in that having a conception of a necessarily existing God in your thoughts doesn’t mean a necessarily existing concept is a real being.

  144. #144 Brian
    February 22, 2010

    Here’s an argument using necessary existence to prove God doesn’t exist (just for fun).

    1. Anything that can be denied without contradiction is contingent. (Vx(D(x)->C(x)))

    2. God’s existence can be denied without contradiction in the phrase ‘There is no God’. (D(G))

    3. Therefore God’s existence is contingent. (C(G))

    4. God necessarily exists. (~C(G))

    5. We have a contradiction. Therefore God cannot exist.

    The argument is logically valid. The premises are true. So it stops modal arguments that start from God’s existence being possible.

  145. #145 Richard Eis
    February 22, 2010

    Jayman: So an eyewitness account should be treated as hearsay if the eyewitness account is written down a few decades after the events in question happened? For example, if my grandparents wrote down their own accounts of the Great Depression today, I should assume they are unreliable, right?

    Yes, you should. Everything they say should be corroborated or taken with a pinch of salt. Memory is fragile and easily distorted.
    It has also well known that exciting events get “bigger” with time and retelling.

  146. #146 Neal
    February 22, 2010

    Funny how very little science is mentioned by evolutionists here. But why should it? Evolution is not really based on science, but is based on religion.

  147. #147 Jud
    February 22, 2010

    Neal @#19 writes:

    The simple truth is that God created life. Perhaps the greatest disservice that Darwinism has done for mankind and science is to look at life as simple and junky.

    Simple, no. Proceeding from simple causes, yes. There’s a difference.

    “Junky,” I love. You think life isn’t “junky”? OK, quick question: Why do guys have nipples?

    There actually wonder and fantasic lessons of design that are found within nature. Evolution dumbs down life, dumbs down science….

    If evolution is so simple, then why do ID or YEC proponents have such troubles comprehending it? There are lots of good recent books about it written for laypeople, giving quite detailed and thorough reviews of supporting evidence from various scientific disciplines. You might try reading a few. I’d be happy to recommend some, as I’m sure would others here.

    Kennesaw Williams @#39 writes:

    Evolutionary theory is easily demolished by a thousand more unanswerable arguments than phlogiston theory. Just pick one at random (any will do).

    I’m sorry, but you will really have to do an awful lot better than that if you want to make a valid argument. Since this post, I haven’t seen a single remotely scientific, empirically verifiable argument against evolution from you. (Not surprising, since making such an argument against evolution would be of roughly the same order of difficulty as making it against, say, special or general relativity.) If on the other hand your object is to wage argument by insult, it’s my own opinion that you might want to retire and yield pride of place to O’Brien on that score.

    Probability theory, for example. The probability that this ALL happened by chance is…what? Like 1/[(number of atoms in the universe)to the 10,000th power] or so. And, look at you. You’re a healthy young man with a PhD and not one of the trillions of pieces of space junk flying about the universe? Lucked out, huh? Boy, I’ll say. If I thought I had that kind of luck, man, I’d be booking the next cheap flight to Vegas.

    OK, you’ve got me curious. Do you not know that Dr. Rosenhouse is a professional mathematician who has more than a little facility with probability theory? Here is Dr. Rosenhouse demolishing the probability argument from someone who has considerably more practice (but no more success) trying to make that argument than you do: http://www.math.jmu.edu/~rosenhjd/dembski.pdf

  148. #148 Tulse
    February 22, 2010

    Funny how very little science is mentioned by evolutionists here. But why should it? Evolution is not really based on science, but is based on religion.

    Neal, the issue raised was about Christianity — it had nothing to do with evolution, and therefore discussion of the scientific basis of evolution would have been irrelevant. If you are interested in the science behind evolution, I’d recommend looking at a few of the many books on the subject, such as Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne.

  149. #149 Richard Eis
    February 22, 2010

    But why should it? Evolution is not really based on science, but is based on religion.

    Look, I know you want to tar evolution with the worst possible reputation… but…

    Neal, it seems, likes to assert things. They then magically become true because he says them apparently. Methinks he has a god complex. It is unfortunate for Neal that he is not the God he worships and reality and science will continue happily with or without him.

    No Neal, you can’t just say that something is obvious or true just because you really, really want it to be true. There has been more said about the wonder of the universe by scientists (see Carl Sagan) than any amount of pontificating by your pederasts.
    We see the beauty of the universe for itself. You see it only as an indierect means of bringing up God and how great he is (again).

  150. #150 JImC
    February 22, 2010

    Ever notice how Robert OB spends much of his time insulting others intelligence why fronting the most absurdly stupid ‘ideas’. Why is he not blocked everywhere? he contributes nothing and his Brayton award is well deserved.

    Jayman may be misguided but at least he is semi coherent.

  151. #151 ildi
    February 22, 2010

    If N.T. Wright’s analysis is evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, then there is also ample historical evidence that there were witches in colonial Massachusetts.

  152. #152 Deepak Shetty
    February 22, 2010

    When you explain something to a small child you routinely simplify the situation. You omit details and context, and express yourself in language the child will understand. It is rare, and almost never appropriate, to lie outright to the child about what is going on

    Ah. You never had the birds and the bees talk then :).

  153. #153 Wowbagger
    February 22, 2010

    ildi, #151, wrote:

    If N.T. Wright’s analysis is evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, then there is also ample historical evidence that there were witches in colonial Massachusetts.

    Indeed. Or that another messiah was living in Waco, Texas until that unfortunate incident in 1993.

    Anyway, can anyone point toward a link that outlines the argument made upthread about how natural theology ‘proves’ monotheism? Being new to all this I’ve not heard that before and – while more than a little dubious about the rationale underlying it; when I read the comment my response was ‘huh?’ – I’d like to read some more.

  154. #154 ildi
    February 22, 2010

    About.com has a good summary of natural theology in general. From what I understand, once you’ve accepted a god based on ‘science’ (various arguments such as the universe looks designed, or the universe had a beginning and everything that begins was caused by something, ergo god) and then you move to ‘historical’ evidence such as that presented by N.T Wright or Habermas’ ‘minimal facts’ approach or William Lane Craig’s Bayesian analysis to ‘prove’ that Jesus rose from the dead, and this in turn automatically proves his divinity, therefore Christian monotheism!

    The whole thing holds together as well as and is about as scientific as the various 9/11 conspiracy theories.

  155. #155 Dan S.
    February 23, 2010

    Kennesaw:

    in the interest of accuracy, I must come down in favor of silly.
    Really? Let’s see:

    With a straight face [David Marjanović] claim[s] that evo predicted the apparent hierarchy of living things? Please.
    Yep. See for example http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/lines/IVDhierarchies.shtml
    Remember, one basic definition of evolution is simply descent with modification (from a common ancestor), which means that evolutionary trees are really just really, really big family trees. Think of human (biological) families: someone might have siblings with which they share very recent common ancestors (parents); then cousins (shared grandparents), second cousins (great=grandparents), etc. Likewise, my cat (Felis catus) shares a (relatively recently) common ancestor with a bunch of wildcat species in the same genus (Felis), and a more distant common ancestor with lions, tigers, leopards & jaguars (genus Panthera), all being members of the family Felidae, and an even more distant common ancestor with other members of suborder Feliformia – civets, mongooses& meerkats, hynenas, etc. (look up Binturong!). Go even further back and he has a common ancestor with the other members of the order Carnivora, including d-o-g-s (the horror!). Further back, and we’re talking about my kitty’s common ancestor with other mammals, and waaaaaaay back, with the other tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, and birds)

    You talk about “the apparent hierarchy of living things,” and that’s a very apt word choice, because some definitions of “apparent” include “Readily seen; visible.” and “Readily understood; clear or obvious.” All that stuff about species and genus and family and order? That’s from the system of biological classification originally devised by Linnaeus back in the 18th century – a hierarchal system based on apparent resemblances between organisms: ie, vertebrates are animals who have a backbone, tetrapods are vertebrates who have four limbs, mammals are tetrapod vetebrates who have mammary glands if female, sweat glands, hair, 3 inner ear bones, and so on down the line. Remember, we’re talking over a century before Darwin published his big book on the origin of species – Linnaeus were just laying out a way to classify & identify organisms. Descent with modification says this is exactly what we should see – and that these similarities should reflect relationships, just like human “family resemblances”, but more so.

    Now, another definition of “apparent” is “Appearing as such but not necessarily so; seeming.” And of course, that’s what this could have been – after all, from Darwin to DNA is about a century. When folks started poking around in there , they could have found that each species had its own unique genetic code, with no obvious relation to any other, or chaos, or plain old weirdness (ie, dogs coming up as more closely related to fungus than to cats, as my kitty insists is the case). Instead, what they actually have found is a pattern of relationships that matches up rather well (if not without a few surprises) to traditional classification. Indeed, it could have been impossible to make those sorts of classifications at all, with life all being a crazy-quilt melange of traits – but it isn’t.

    No rabbits in the Silurian? Oh, sure. And no wombats in Eastern Mongolia. Please

    The parallelism is a bit off here, since (as you know), the Silurian isn’t a where (like Eastern Mongolia), but rather a when (about 443 to to 416 million years ago, (when trilobites, sea scorpions, and the first bony fishes roamed the oceans, and the land seems to have been conquered only by arthopods and primitive plants.) Evolution, as descent with modification, predicts that we won’t see creatures existing before their ancestors. Finding a fossil rabbit in the Silurian – much less the Precambrian – would suggest that something is very, very wrong.

    And no mammals (except exceptions) on remote islands? Why not no Eskimos in Antarctica, or no penguins in Kansas?

    Remember, evolution is descent with modification (from a common ancestor). Hence it predicts that organisms on remote islands (assuming they’re, ie, volcanic, and not fragments that continentally-drifted away from a mainland over millions&millions of years) have to be descended from earlier organisms – which had to be able to reach these islands. Some small seeds and bugs can be blown remarkable distances way up in the atmosphere (or get washed ashore on vegetation), birds can get pretty much everywhere (and can deposit seeds, etc.), and some reptiles, with their sluggish metabolisms, seem to have some luck colonizing fairlyremote islands via ‘raft’ (ie, trees uprooted by storms, etc.) But (without human help, intentional or not) metabolic-powerhouse land mammals are out of luck – the chance of them hanging out on a floating log for weeks are not good, to say the least – even if they don’t starve, they’ll die of thirst, surrounded by undrinkable salt water. Amphibians are also out of luck. However, as noted, there’s an exception – you can find bats. Can you think why this might be? (Also marine mammals).

    It is a little frightening to realize that there are folks out there teaching our children who actually take this kind of stuff seriously.

    Uh-huh. Now, I’m not sure why exactly you wrote these things – it may be you understood what he was saying, but were making a more subtle argument (perhaps about the nature or quality of these predictions, and the different senses of “prediction) – best case -or that you understood but were simply trolling for mindless amusement. Another possibility is – well many creationists just don’t really understand much about modern science. This sort of ignorance is not the worst thing by far – after all, they’re generally fed & encouraged in it by people they deeply trust – and best of all, it’s fixable, with countless books, magazines, websites, and people (online and off) waiting to help, if you just let them. If nothing else, though, I would suggest not doing the whole snide thing unless one’s really sure that one is actually pretty familiar with the subject – otherwise, one just looks really – what was the word? Oh, yes – silly.

  156. #156 Lee Harrison
    February 23, 2010

    Dan S. just won several dozen internets. That was a beautiful smackdown.

  157. #157 SLC
    February 23, 2010

    Re Dan S

    I suspect that Mr. neal hasn’t found Haldanes’ cat in the Pre-Cambrian.

  158. #158 Michael
    February 23, 2010

    Brian @144:

    Your argument doesn’t really make sense. It isn’t even clear what the premises are supposed to be.

    If the premises are 1, 2, and 4, then your premises can’t all be true, since they are contradictory — and anything follows from them.

    If the premises are 1 and 2, then what is 4 doing? It isn’t derived from 1-3.

    To be charitable, I will take 4 as an assumption for reductio ad absurdum. Then all you are entitled to at step 5 is ~4, which is just C(G), or in other words 3 again. That doesn’t get you your conclusion.

    So, let’s try again. I think what you had in mind is possibly this:

    Here’s an argument using necessary existence to prove God doesn’t exist (just for fun).

    1. Anything that can be denied without contradiction is contingent. (Vx(D(x)->C(x)))

    2. God’s existence can be denied without contradiction in the phrase ‘There is no God’. (D(G))

    3. Therefore God’s existence is contingent. (C(G))

    4. If God exists at all, God necessarily exists. (E(G) -> ~C(G)) (This would be accepted by the typical defender of the ontological argument so we can take it as a premise.)

    5. Therefore God does not exist (~E(G)), by modus tollens from 3 and 4.

    This argument is indeed logically valid. Does it “stop modal arguments that start from God’s existence being possible”? I am not even sure what you mean by this, since the modal arguments usually conclude to God’s existence, rather than starting from God’s existence. So, to be charitable again I’ll assume you mean “modal arguments that conclude to God’s existence.”

    But now the problem is that anyone who accepts God’s existence will deny that your premise 2 is true. You don’t give any argument for it. But the ontological argument is basically an argument that premise 2 is false — that in spite of appearances there is a contradiction in asserting “God does not exist.”

    So your little argument begs the question by building into the premises the point at issue.

    Even Anselm already made this point. Hume has much more useful critical things to say about this than you manage here.

  159. #159 Bruce Gorton
    February 23, 2010

    Posted by: Robert O’Brien | February 21, 2010 2:23 PM

    1: The courtier’s reply is an argument that more or less sums up to “Don’t tell me XYZ person made a good argument, give me the argument.” In other words the Courtier’s Fallacy does not present an argument but rather a means of winning by filibuster.

    2: In what way was his rephrasing actually wrong? The argument he was countering really does sum up to that. Further it is telling that you don’t mention that his rephrasing to that given argument isn’t the whole of his counter argument.

    Dawkins’ circumscribed intelligence is not Anselm’s problem, nor is it the problem of anyone who has advanced and/or defended an ontological argument.

    But here is the thing, you are calling Dawkins stupid – but you haven’t demonstrated that he is wrong.

    A foolish empiricism is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    Again, calling Dawkins stupid, yet you provide nothing to demonstrate that he is wrong. So far that “Stupid” claim is starting to look a mite bit like projection.

    Ah, yes, the “existence is not a predicate” incantation. Unfortunately for the intellectually circumscribed ethologist, whether or not existence is a predicate, the modal status of something can be regarded as a property.

    Aww, did you fail to get that the argument isn’t over whether existance is a property, but whether imperfection is a property of non-existance?

    Sorry O’Brien, but so far all you have demonstrated is that you don’t like Dawkins, and that you are pretty stupid too.

  160. #160 Brian
    February 23, 2010

    Michael:

    But now the problem is that anyone who accepts God’s existence will deny that your premise 2 is true. You don’t give any argument for it. But the ontological argument is basically an argument that premise 2 is false — that in spite of appearances there is a contradiction in asserting “God does not exist.”

    But I did not assert that God does not exist. I said there is no contradiction in the statement There is no God. There’s a difference. My first premise by the way was meant to be if something can be denied (or affirmed) without contradiction then it it contingent. My post was supposed to be a lark.


    So your little argument begs the question by building into the premises the point at issue.
    It’s not question begging unless there is a contradiction in the phrase ‘There is no God’. Declaring that the ontological argument proves this a contradiction is question begging against me.

    If a modal argument starts from the premise that possibly God exists, and my argument above shows that God’s existence is impossible then obviously that modal argument begins with a false premise. It can’t get off the ground so to speak.

    Again, my post was a lark. But oh well.

  161. #161 Jayman
    February 23, 2010

    Lenoxus:

    1) I grant that it is possible that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all false religions.

    2) The mere fact that someone is a Muslim does not mean they are deluded, it just means that they are wrong (in my opinion).

    3) If there were only one true Jewish prophet there would still be a prophet to build a religion around. Granted it may look different than the religion we know as Judaism.

    4) I think multiple attestation is a good criterion for doing history. Note I did not say it is the only criterion nor did I say this criterion should be applied to non-historical claims.

    5) I’m open to “non-Christian” miracles.

    6) You misunderstood my statement about “messiness.” I meant it may be “messy” to deny the flood and accept the resurrection. But if that’s where the evidence leads then we should take that route any way.

    7) The arguments of natural theology stand or fall independently of the Abrahamic religions.

    Tulse:

    1) I’ve already noted that different Christian accounts of the resurrection are independent of each other. If you are looking for a non-Christian account of the resurrection then you are out of luck. Do you actually think someone who believed Jesus was resurrected would not be a Christian? If you are looking for witnesses who were not Christians before they were convinced that Jesus was resurrected then you can look at Paul and, possibly, James the brother of Jesus.

    2) Satan is not a deity because he is a created being.

    tomh:

    1) Those who claim that Jesus did rise from the dead do have to produce an argument.

    2) Likewise, those who claim that Jesus’ disciples made up the resurrection also have to produce an argument. You’re making an historical claim that has to be backed up like any other. If you don’t want produce an argument then remain neutral. I’m not aware of any professional historian who believes Jesus’ disciples made up the resurrection accounts out of thin air.

    Owlmirror:

    1) As an example, in 1 Cor 1:23 Paul notes that the crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. It is far more likely that Paul is telling the truth than that he made up the crucifixion in order to hinder his own missionary goals.

    2) Hengel’s book on the crucifixion catalogs a number of remarks similar to 1 Cor 1:23 in Jewish, Christian, and pagan literature from around the time of Jesus. Christians had no reason to make up the story of the crucifixion and plenty of reasons to deny it if it were fiction.

    3) On the one hand, you are confident you can read Origen’s mind regarding what he would or would not have included in his writings. On the other hand, you doubt that Jesus was known to perform miracles despite the public nature of the miracles. Why are you so confident that you know what Origen was thinking?

    4) I leave it to you to research the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke. Raymond Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah is probably the best starting point.

    5) You confuse the earliest extant manuscript with the date the Gospels were written. The earliest extant manuscript of any ancient work will always post-date the date of composition.

    6) There is historical evidence to respect concerning Jesus’ resurrection. Whether you consider this “empirical” or not is irrelevant. The theories you and tomh have offered are rejected by historians because they do not respect the evidence.

    7) I believe the piece by McGrew and McGrew is available for free online. However, it may be a draft and not the final product. I leave it up to you to read it.

    8) I would not give up on Christianity if you only refuted the work of McGrew and McGrew. However, I would give up Christianity if you persuaded me, on historical grounds, that Jesus was a false prophet.

    9) The Five Ways prove a presently-acting God and thus deism is ruled out by natural theology.

    10) I was not claiming to have proof of aliens or Bigfoot. But since you don’t seem to know what a miracle is (it’s special pleading if I know what a miracle is), it would be a waste of time to try to prove a miracle has taken place. Plus, you’re looking for “absolutely certain proof”, which doesn’t exist in the real world.

    Wowbagger:

    1) I have a rough outline of the Five Ways on my blog.

    2) Many of the authors in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology have blogs or websites you can visit.

    3) I believe there is a debate on YouTube between William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith on the kalam cosmological argument.

    ildi:

    1) Natural theology is not science (though it may use science in its arguments), it’s philosophy. Whether it is “scientific” is irrelevant. If the arguments have true premises and make no errors of logic they offer deductive proof of God’s existence.

  162. #162 Brian
    February 23, 2010

    Jayman. The Kalam cosmological argument is unsound. It’s first premise that everything that begins to exist has a cause is simply false. The second one, that the universe began to exist is wholly unsupported by science. Lane Craig had a debate with Victor Stenger in 2003 where Stenger pointed out that the Casimir effect or similar showed there are uncaused beginnings and also that the Hawking-Hartle model of the universe show that while time may have began just after the big bang (Plank time) that doesn’t mean the universe did.

  163. #163 Brian
    February 23, 2010

    Jayman, it’s a stretch to suggest that natural theology is part of philosophy. It is apologetics. Philosophy tries to discover the truth using reason and arguments whilst apologetics tries to support with arguments and reason what is already taken to be truth. Very different beasts.

  164. #164 ildi
    February 23, 2010

    Natural theology is not science (though it may use science in its arguments), it’s philosophy. Whether it is “scientific” is irrelevant. If the arguments have true premises and make no errors of logic they offer deductive proof of God’s existence.

    To piggyback on Brian’s comment, natural theology is to philosophy as intelligent design is to evolutionary theory. Second, whether it is scientific is indeed relevant because the arguments are supposedly based on evidence in the natural world, not just subjective personal revelation or supernatural events. So, you can’t dismiss what the science tells you.

    Natural theology arguments seem to be based on a Newtonian universe, and show a singular lack of understanding or even acknowledgment of the cognitive and neurosciences.

  165. #165 Tulse
    February 23, 2010

    Satan is not a deity because he is a created being.

    A god can’t create a god? Tell that to the Greeks.

  166. #166 Modusoperandi
    February 23, 2010

    Tulse, now you’re just being ridiculous. Everybody knows that the Greeks were wrong. They, you see, were trying to fill in very limited knowledge about the history of the universe and the machinations therein with a narrative (a theory, if you will) of how it all fit together.
    Then the one real God told Moses all about what really happened and, suddenly, the Greek model was obsolete. That it took so long for the Greeks to give up on their myth after the Jews and the Christians told them about the real story just shows how obstinate fallen Man is in the face of the Truth®.

  167. #167 Jayman
    February 23, 2010

    ildi, natural theology does not ignore science. For example, William Lane Craig incorporates astronomy and physics into his kalam cosmological argument. I would be interested to hear specific examples where science is dismissed by such philosophers.

    Tulse, you’re using a different definition of deity than that used by Jews and Christians. The Judeo-Christian God is eternal, Satan is not.

  168. #168 Tulse
    February 23, 2010

    Tulse, you’re using a different definition of deity than that used by Jews and Christians.

    But the same one used by the Greeks, the Norse, the Mayans, etc. etc. etc.

    What makes the Jews and Christians right?

  169. #169 Brian
    February 23, 2010

    I would be interested to hear specific examples where science is dismissed by such philosophers.
    Jayman, Lane Craig says the Big Bang model means that the universe began to exist at some time. This is wrong. It is not what the science says. Lane Craig says that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This is wrong both philosophically (Hume) and scientifically (Casimir effect, etc).
    He has had this pointed out to him, by Victor Stenger, and others but as he’s not interested in truth, but in giving religious beliefs an air rationality, he repeats these falsehoods as if they were obvious truths. He’s declared that natural theology, even if it were all wrong, wouldn’t change his faith. So, it’s not about truth.

  170. #170 tomh
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    Those who claim that Jesus did rise from the dead do have to produce an argument.

    And so the arguments you produce to prove a story from the Bible, are other stories from the Bible. Don’t you realize it’s silly to keep trying to prove all these stories with logic and evidence? Logic doesn’t work with faith and the evidence is nonexistent. So, you have faith – I have no quarrel with that. But to keep trying to show that there is evidence for your faith that would convince an impartial observer just doesn’t work. If there were evidence then you wouldn’t need faith. That’s not so hard to understand.

    Christianity is equivalent to Scientology. If there were evidence that Xenu brought people to earth, stacked them in volcanoes, and detonated hydrogen bombs around them, then it would be easy to convince everyone that it happened. But since there’s no evidence, one must have faith. Just like Christianity, either you have faith or you don’t. No evidence is available or required.

  171. #171 heddle
    February 24, 2010

    Brian,

    Jayman, Lane Craig says the Big Bang model means that the universe began to exist at some time. This is wrong.

    It is also not disproved by science. There is no causal connection to what existed before the big bang–so there is no more (nor will there ever be) direct evidence that there was something before the big-bang than there was nothing. All you will ever have is speculation. You can say “the universe began at the big bang” is wrong, fine. But then your should also say that pre-big-bang theories such as Hawking’s are also just as wrong for the same reason-they can’t be tested. You are implying, it seems to me, that “there was nothing before the big bang” and “there was something before the big bang” are not equally wrong. They are. That is, they are both unfalsifiable.

    Furthermore, a slight modification: “our universe began at the big bang” is fairly defensible.

    Lane Craig says that everything that begins to exist has a cause. This is wrong both philosophically (Hume) and scientifically (Casimir effect, etc).

    Earlier you attributed the Casimir causeless-effect claim to Stenger. Stenger says a lot of things, some right some wrong. But if he says that the Casimir effect is an example of something without a cause he is wrong. The cause of the Casimir Effect is trivially understood. Either you are misquoting him or he is speaking in error. And his errors do not tend to be that egregious.

  172. #172 JimV
    February 24, 2010

    I thought the Casimir reference was a mis-quote also. The example I have heard is radioactive decay of a nucleus. What causes one U-238 atom among billions of identical ones suddenly to spit out neutrons? As far as I know, this is impossible to predict for individual atoms. I think there are similar quantum-mechanical effects also, such as the generation of virtual particles, and quantum tunnelling. To the best of our current understanding, I think, it does appear that “God plays dice with the universe” (metaphorically both with respect to the dice and the god).

    My problem with the resurrection is not whether a charismatic cult leader was crucified by the Romans, but that the apologetics used to give the event world-shaking significance make no sense to me. Certainly in our human justice systems we consider it wrong and pointless to punish an innocent person for crimes done by others, so I don’t see how it makes any sense on a cosmic scale either. To me, the torture and killing of an innocent person would be just one more crime (or sin) to chalk up against us, not a reason to wipe the slate clean.

    George Washington did some good things and some bad things. I was taught in public school about the good things (including some that didn’t happen, such as not lieing about the cherry tree) and not the bad things. Could it be that perhaps Sunday Schools are taught the same way?

    On special revelation: after many years of having been taken to church for about 3.25 hours every Sunday morning and 0.5 hours every Sunday night, plus an hour of “Release-Time Religious Education” every Thursday afternoon during the school year, and “Daily Vacation Bible School” in the summers, I knew I was supposed to believe in a lot of stuff which made no sense to me, and in my struggle I asked this God of which you speak for a sign, many times. Make a crow fly onto that fence there, God, just to show me you do exist and are listening. You did all those miracles 2000 years ago (before there were video cameras), can’t you give me one tiny sign?

    It didn’t happen in my case, but multiply me by several thousand, and sooner or later god’s random dice tossing will produce such a sign, and that person will tell someone else, and so on. That seems to me as good an explanation for Special Revelation as the supernatural one.

    For all those that do believe that the god who created all those colliding galaxies (and peppered our own planet with the same amount of buckshot that the moon and Mars have received, if one could see it under the erosion and vegetation) did so just so we little old humans could live out a morality play for several decades and then spend an eternity in some other universe being rewarded or punished for it … hey, whatever gets you through the night, as my friend Mario says. If I see your car spinning its wheels in a snow drift I’ll give you push, as I did the other day, regardless of what your bumper sticker says, and maybe you can help me out some time too.

  173. #173 eric
    February 24, 2010

    Heddle: You can say “the universe began at the big bang” is wrong, fine. But then your should also say that pre-big-bang theories such as Hawking’s are also just as wrong for the same reason-they can’t be tested.

    Heddle, my understanding of Hawking is that he says time and space are one thing, originating in the big bang. Thus it is meaningless to talk about a “before” the big bang. Its like asking “what came before blue” – the sentence may have proper English language construction, but it signifies nothing real. If this is right, there is no ‘pre-big bang’ which needs explanation. The term is meaningless.

    And you are wrong in saying ‘there was nothing before’ vice ‘there was somethnig before’ are unfalsifiable or equally unfalsifiable. The hypothesis that time and space are one thing has consequences and makes predictions for how time and space behave near large masses and singularities. AFAIK these predictions match our limited observations. On the other hand, positing that the big bang occurred within some outside, independent time frame – i.e. the hypothesis ‘there was something before it’ – makes a claim about the relationship of time to space which (again, AFAIK) match neither what out best scientific hypotheses predict, nor what we observe.

  174. #174 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Either you are misquoting him or he is speaking in error. And his errors do not tend to be that egregious.

    Error! Never attribute to foul play what is explained by error.

    I was thinking of things like decay of radioactive isotopes and such that have no cause. But anyway it’s incontrovertible that there’s things that begin that have no cause.

    There is no causal connection to what existed before the big bang–so there is no more (nor will there ever be) direct evidence that there was something before the big-bang than there was nothing. Sort of puts the kibosh on a first cause argument doesn’t it then?

  175. #175 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    David, what do you think of Stenger’s stuff in ‘The comprehensible cosmos’.

  176. #176 heddleh
    February 24, 2010

    The question of radioactive decay (or QM in general) is subtle. On the one hand, as several have pointed out, nobody can predict when a radioactive nucleus will decay. On the other hand, we do, in some sense, know the cause of the decay: a non-zero matrix element connecting the initial and final states. The problem is that the laws of QM only allow us to interpret that matrix element in terms of probabilities.

    The statement that we know the cause of radioactive decay is evident in the fact that we can predict which ones will decay and which ones will not–which we couldn’t do if we didn’t, in some sense, know the cause.

    I won’t argue whether knowing the appropriate laws amounts to knowing the cause–but in my view it does.

    David, what do you think of Stenger’s stuff in ‘The comprehensible cosmos’.

    It is on my reading list.

  177. #177 Jud
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman, I’d beg to differ with you regarding evidence and the Resurrection, along the lines that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    People die every day, but there has never been an objective record (photographic, etc.) of a resurrection in more than a century since such means of recording became available. I think you would agree that a resurrection would be a quite extraordinary event.

    Thus I don’t know if one can realistically contend that those who say Jesus, once dead, remained so, would be making a claim requiring historical proof. (Accepting the historical existence of a man about whom the Jesus claims were made – I see no particular reason not to accept that such a person once lived.) After all, one would readily accept without further proof that anyone who recently passed away has remained dead. I would think it is those who claim the miraculous – the never-recorded since we have had the capability of doing so – who would have to present some quite extraordinary proof to be persuasive.

    That a person had followers who believed (or at least claimed) he was the Messiah, who, after this person was killed in public fashion against all expectations for a Messiah, contended his death was just temporary – certainly it is not difficult to think their story was concocted to suit the terribly inconvenient facts that the “Messiah” had utterly failed to perform as promised, and was put to an ignominious death by mere humans, Gentiles at that. So we have a story that suits the beliefs/purposes of those telling it, versus the hard fact that there is no modern objective record, amongst billions of deaths, of a single resurrection.

    If I were sitting on a jury having to make a judgment on such counterposed arguments, I must say the miraculous explanation would not get my vote, and it wouldn’t be a close thing.

  178. #178 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    I won’t argue whether knowing the appropriate laws amounts to knowing the cause–but in my view it does. I guess if you’re a believer, you’re committed to that stance and probably anti-positivism or whatever they call it.

  179. #179 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jud, not to mention that one of the Gospels says that all the dead got up and did a middle-eastern old-school version of Thriller two. I think it was Mathew. The Romans would’ve noted that.

  180. #180 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    that was too not two.

    From wikipedia:
    To Mark’s account of Jesus’ death, Matthew adds the occurrence of an earthquake, and saints arising from their tombs and appearing to many people in Jerusalem

    Now that would’ve been recorded by people in the area.

  181. #181 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    Tulse:

    1) If you’re asking which definition of “deity” is right, I would say they are both right in their respective theologies.

    2) If you’re asking why I’m a Christian and not a pagan then I’ve already given my answers.

    Brian:

    1) I skimmed through a book I have and Craig does respond to Hume. It looks like Craig and Stenger had a debate so maybe I’ll check that out. Thanks.

    2) If Craig’s faith is based on more than just natural theology then I don’t see why you would expect him to change his faith if all the arguments from natural theology failed.

    Tomh:

    1) All history involves “stories.” Do you object to history in general or just history that deals with Christianity?

    2) You equate faith and blind faith. When I say I have faith in God it means I trust God. Thus looking for evidence in no way contradicts having faith.

    3) Skeptics have become Christians based on the evidence. Claiming that there is “no evidence” is absurd.

    Jud:

    1) You speak of probabilities in the abstract. The problem is they don’t tell us what actually happened in history. We need to look at the evidence surrounding each event to do history.

    2) Your suggestion that Jesus’ disciples concocted the resurrection story raises more questions than it answers. I don’t think scholar studying the issue would take your viewpoint.

  182. #182 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman,
    I skimmed through a book I have and Craig does respond to Hume.

    Can you post what he says or the gist of it. I recall reading Lane Craig say that Hume himself didn’t even say that an uncaused event was possible. Which is false as reading of Hume’s Treatise will show. I’ve not read anything where Lane Craig really addresses Hume, he just seems to brush it off.

    If Craig’s faith is based on more than just natural theology then I don’t see why you would expect him to change his faith if all the arguments from natural theology failed.

    Ahh, but you were suggesting that Natural theology was like philosophy. In philosophy, at least in principle, people accept the truth that reason, argument, evidence lead to. I was just pointing out that in natural theology reason and evidence is just a hand-maiden for irrational belief. If they provide support or cover, well and good, if not, faith trumps reason. Sort of unlike philosophy.

  183. #183 Anton Mates
    February 24, 2010

    Heddle,

    The statement that we know the cause of radioactive decay is evident in the fact that we can predict which ones will decay and which ones will not–which we couldn’t do if we didn’t, in some sense, know the cause.

    I won’t argue whether knowing the appropriate laws amounts to knowing the cause–but in my view it does.

    I take it you mean that we can predict which ones will decay eventually, over an unlimited period of time–that is, which nuclei are unstable to some degree–and which ones won’t? Even there, of course, our predictive ability is limited; is there any nucleus we know to be so stable that its probability of ever decaying is zero?

    Anyways, it seems to me that your view of causation itself nullifies Craig’s kalam argument. He requires “causes” to be events which temporally precede their effects, so that he can go on to make various claims (which I don’t accept) about the impossibility of an infinite temporal regress. But you’re allowing the cause of a phenomenon to be the law which describes it–even if incompletely–in which case Craig’s argument doesn’t apply.

    In other words, in your sense, we already have a cause for the existence of the observable universe: the Big Bang model. If you want a cause for that, we could posit any number of models/sets of laws from which the Big Bang model could be deduced/predicted. Then we could posit models which imply those models, and so on ad infinitum. None of Craig’s arguments against infinite regresses into the past would be relevant here, so far as I can see.

  184. #184 Modusoperandi
    February 24, 2010

    Brian, I doubt very much they had time to write it down. They were too busy running the hell away from all the zombies. Then, afterwords, everybody forgot about it, except Matthew.

  185. #185 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    Brian, here’s a quote from The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pp. 189-190:

    J. L. Mackie, in response to the kalam cosmological argument, reserved his chief criticism for its first premise. He complains, “there is a priori no good reason why a sheer origination of things, not determined by anything, should be unacceptable, whereas the existence of a god [sic] with the power to create something out of nothing is acceptable” (Mackie 1982, p. 94). Indeed, he believes creatio ex nihilo raises problems: (i) If God began to exist at a point in time, then this is as great a puzzle as the beginning of the universe. (ii) Or if God existed for infinite time, then the same arguments would apply to his existence as would apply to the infinite duration of the universe. (iii) If it be said that God is timeless, then this, says Mackie, is a complete mystery.

    Now it is noteworthy that Mackie never refutes the principle that whatever begins to exist has a cause. Rather, he simply demands what good reason there is a priori to accept it. He writes, “As Hume pointed out, we can certainly conceive an uncaused beginning-to-be of an object; if what we can thus conceive is nevertheless in some way impossible, this still requires to be shown” (Mackie 1982, p. 89; cf. Oppy 2006b, p. 151). But, as many philosophers have pointed out, Hume’s argument in no way makes it plausible to think that something could really come into being without a cause. Just because I can imagine an object, say a horse, coming into existence from nothing, that in no way proves that a horse really could come into existence that way. The mutakallim plausibly claims that it is ontologically impossible for something to come uncaused from nothing. Does anyone really believe that, however vivid his imagination of such an event, a raging tiger say, could suddenly come into existence uncaused, out of nothing, in the room right now? The same applies to the universe: if there was absolutely nothing prior to the existence of the universe – no God, no space, no time – how could the universe possibly have come to exist?

    In fact, Mackie’s appeal to Hume at this point is ounterproductive. For Hume himself clearly believed in the Causal Principle. In 1754, he wrote to John Stewart, “But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falsehood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration, but from another source” (Grieg 1932, 1: p. 187). Even Mackie confesses, “Still this [causal] principle has some plausibility, in that it is constantly confirmed in our experience (and also used, reasonably, in interpreting our experience)” (Mackie 1982, p. 89). So why not accept the truth of the Causal Principle as plausible and reasonable – at the very least more so than its denial?

    Regarding natural theology, it is hardly the only area where reason, argument, and evidence are weighed. For example, Craig is known for defending the resurrection. He could say that even if the arguments from natural theology failed, the arguments for the resurrection are still persuasive, could he not?

  186. #186 tomh
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman wrote:
    All history involves “stories.” Do you object to history in general or just history that deals with Christianity?

    So you equate actual historical events, attested to from many sources, often with physical evidence, with miraculous events described in one religious text, written for who knows what reasons. You choose to believe an account of a man rising from the dead, as described in your holy book, as though it really were an historical event. That’s fine, your beliefs are your own, but to try and convince others that there is credible evidence for this event, and the evidence is in your holy book, is simply beyond all reason.

    When I say I have faith in God it means I trust God.

    I have no idea what that means.

    Thus looking for evidence in no way contradicts having faith.

    Nothing at all wrong with looking for evidence. Claiming to have found evidence of a man rising from the dead, all of which evidence is found in your holy book, doesn’t contradict faith, it contradicts reason. Why do you need evidence? Faith is belief without evidence.

    Skeptics have become Christians based on the evidence.

    And Christians have become skeptics based on lack of evidence.

  187. #187 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman:

    Lane Craig:
    The mutakallim plausibly claims that it is ontologically impossible for something to come uncaused from nothing. Does anyone really believe that, however vivid his imagination of such an event, a raging tiger say, could suddenly come into existence uncaused, out of nothing, in the room right now? The same applies to the universe: if there was absolutely nothing prior to the existence of the universe – no God, no space, no time – how could the universe possibly have come to exist?

    An argument from incredulity, he can’t believe it, therefore it can’t be. Poor logic. This seems to be Lane Craig’s schtick. Hokesy examples that appeal to every day intuition but have no logical force. It certainly doesn’t deal with Hume. If you can conceive of something and it isn’t illogical in conception (like a square circle) then it isn’t ruled out a priori, so it’s a matter to investigate. If it’s a matter to investigate, it is contingent and thus could have been otherwise. Given that there’s no a priori reason to accept the causal principle then it is false to assert that everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe could have begun to exist and not have a cause, and it only had to happen once, no matter how hard that is to square with everyday experience.

    Hume:
    For Hume himself clearly believed in the Causal Principle. In 1754, he wrote to John Stewart, “But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without a cause: I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falsehood of that Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration, but from another source”

    This letter was written after the Treatise, where Hume did indeed assert such an ‘absurd’ proposition. Why Hume did this is probably to the approbriam he received because of his ‘atheism’. If Lane Craig is any kind of philosopher, he would be familiar with the Treatise.

    Treatise 1. Part 3, Section III :

    The separation, therefore, of the idea of a cause from that of a beginning of existence, is plainly possible for the imagination; and consequently the actual separation of these objects is so far possible, that it implies no contradiction nor absurdity; and is therefore incapable of being refuted by any reasoning from mere ideas; without which ’tis impossible to demonstrate the necessity of a cause.

    Also, Hume accepted that we could never prove the theory of causality, because of the problem of induction, but that as a contingent (not a priori) fact of life, we must accept it as acting.

    Mackie:
    “Still this [causal] principle has some plausibility, in that it is constantly confirmed in our experience (and also used, reasonably, in interpreting our experience)”

    Totally, but that doesn’t make it anymore than an inductive fact about the universe that could have been different.

    Lane Craig:
    So why not accept the truth of the Causal Principle as plausible and reasonable – at the very least more so than its denial?

    Because he’s making a deductive proof that requires no counter examples or possible counter examples or it is unsound. As I discussed with David Heddle earlier many scientists accept things like radioactive decay or virtual particles are uncaused and they or their properties begin to exist all the time. If counter example is possible or exists then the argument is sunk.

  188. #188 ildi
    February 24, 2010

    Your suggestion that Jesus’ disciples concocted the resurrection story raises more questions than it answers. I don’t think scholar studying the issue would take your viewpoint.

    There’s consensus among many biblical scholars that the disciples believed that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Paul, however, seemed to believe in a spiritual rather than physical resurrection. Hard to say for sure, since there we don’t even direct eyewitness reports, unlike the Salem witch trials.

    Resurrection stories were common at the time, whether in the form of the gods of other religions, or humans becoming immortal as a reward from the gods. Even Herod mentioned the rumor that Jesus was John the Baptist resurrected.

    So, their beloved leader is executed in the lowest, most humiliating manner possible, he even utters a cry of despair on the cross, the body disappears, they pretty much have lost everything they built their lives around. What is more likely: a miraculous physical resurrection, or they developed a resurrection mythos around him?

  189. #189 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman, do believe that bit in Mathew about saints rising from the dead and saying hi to those who knew them to be historical? Along with the accompanying earthquake? If so, why wasn’t such a stunning event recorded?

  190. #190 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    never prove the theory of causality, I meant demonstrate/prove the principle of causality. D’oh!

  191. #191 SLC
    February 24, 2010

    Re Heddle @ #176

    The “cause” of radioactive decay for an atomic nucleus is the accidental fact that it has positive binding energy. Thus, in principal, one could predict which nuclei will decay by determining whether the binding energy is positive. However, one can no more predict when a given nucleus will decay then one can predict when the ball will fall in double zero in roulette. In fact, quantum mechanics is very like roulette, or dice as Einstein said.

    Given a measured 1/2 life, lambda, for a nucleus, one can only say that the odds are 50/50 that the nucleus will decay within lambda of the present time. And if the nucleus happens to not have decayed after lambda, the odds are 50/50 that it will decay within another period lambda. Or putting it another equivalent way, given 1 million such nuclei, approximately 500,000 will remain after lambda and approximately 250,000 will remain after another lambda.

  192. #192 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    Tomh:

    So you equate actual historical events, attested to from many sources, often with physical evidence, with miraculous events described in one religious text, written for who knows what reasons.

    You keep repeating the same mistakes. The life of Jesus is attested in many sources. The purpose of those writings are often spelled out explicitly (I even quoted one of the reasons above to you). There is archeaological evidence supporting many of the claims in these sources. It is quite clear the real issue, for you, is that Jesus was known as a miracle worker.

    That’s fine, your beliefs are your own, but to try and convince others that there is credible evidence for this event, and the evidence is in your holy book, is simply beyond all reason.

    I’ve given you the chance to provide reasons not to treat the sources in the Bible like all other historical sources and to provide a plausible alternative to the resurrection. I’ll gladly take book or article recommendations. Your falsehoods (three errors in the first sentence I quoted from you) are not going to convince me that atheism is a reasonable point of view to adopt.

    I have no idea what that means.

    ???

    Why do you need evidence? Faith is belief without evidence.

    Blind faith is belief without evidence. Faith, in the sense of trust, generally requires evidence.

    And Christians have become skeptics based on lack of evidence.

    But I don’t claim skeptics embrace blind faith (blind doubt?), as you do with Christians. I admit there may be arguments for atheism that seem plausible to people. I ultimately haven’t found any of them convincing, but I don’t brand atheists as being “beyond all reason” (to use your words).

  193. #193 Jim Harrison
    February 24, 2010

    Thing is, if we start giving credence to crazy old stories like the resurrection, which are facially implausible, we’ll have to also give credence to the millions of equally attested miracle tales from all over the world. No thanks. The endless and rather boring arguments about natural theology can also be dismissed on a similar basis: you have to buy into ancient metaphysical systems to make sense of them and once you do that, you really ought to take the many alternative metaphysical systems seriously as well.

    Religions are all obviously false popular delusions. To borrow an old idea from Aristotle, the sensible man regards them with light irony.

  194. #194 386sx
    February 24, 2010

    I’ve given you the chance to provide reasons not to treat the sources in the Bible like all other historical sources and to provide a plausible alternative to the resurrection.

    Yeah atheists, while you’re at it, give a plausible alternative to this one here:

    “To Mark’s account of Jesus’ death, Matthew adds the occurrence of an earthquake, and saints arising from their tombs and appearing to many people in Jerusalem”

    So atheists, let’s see you give a plausible alternative to every single one of those resurrections. And then just when you think you’re done, you still have to give a plausible alternative to an earthquake!

    Checkmate atheists!!

  195. #195 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    Brian:

    1) The quote I provided was taken out of a 100 page chapter. It is but a small slice of the larger argument.

    2) I agree that there is no absolute proof (that I am aware of) for the causal principle. However, I agree with Mackie that “it is constantly confirmed in our experience.” Craig (along with James D. Sinclair) touch on quantum mechanics in their chapter.

    3) No, I do not believe the saints physically rose from the dead and entered Jerusalem.

    ildi:

    1) If I were to reject the resurrection, I need something more concrete than that the disciples “developed a resurrection mythos” around Jesus while sincerely believing he rose from the dead. The first issue is what was so convincing about this non-resurrection that the disciples, and even a hostile person like Paul, came to sincerely believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

    Jim Harrison:

    1) Your lack of desire to investigate miracle accounts or metaphysical systems tells us nothing about the truth of these matters.

  196. #196 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    I agree that there is no absolute proof (that I am aware of) for the causal principle. However, I agree with Mackie that “it is constantly confirmed in our experience.” Craig (along with James D. Sinclair) touch on quantum mechanics in their chapter. Look, if we’re arguing that our everyday experience is of a causal principle then we’re in agreement. If we’re arguing from our everyday experience to a necessary truth we’re just making stuff up. But it needs to be a necessary truth for the argument to work. Anyway, Lane Craig wants you to move from everyday experience to something none of us can have experienced or know with any probability. His argument just don’t work as far as I can see.

    No, I do not believe the saints physically rose from the dead and entered Jerusalem.

    We’re in agreement again. Still, if the Romans had have spoken about the Earthquake and the dead walking about it would offer some pretty good evidence. Also, it wouldn’t have been hard for an omnipotent God to raise them as well as himself from the dead.

    modusoperandi:
    Brian, I doubt very much they had time to write it down. They were too busy running the hell away from all the zombies. Then, afterwords, everybody forgot about it, except Matthew.

    That brought a smile to my face. :)

  197. #197 ildi
    February 24, 2010

    If I were to reject the resurrection, I need something more concrete than that the disciples “developed a resurrection mythos” around Jesus while sincerely believing he rose from the dead

    Why is that?

  198. #198 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    Brian:

    But it needs to be a necessary truth for the argument to work.

    Why do you say that? What do you mean by a necessary truth? Do you think a good deductive argument can be made even if it is not absolutely certain each premise is true?

    ildi:

    Why is that?

    The resurrection hypothesis neatly explains many other aspects of early Christianity, whereas your hypothesis gives rise to further questions (one of which I raised above).

  199. #199 ildi
    February 24, 2010

    The resurrection hypothesis neatly explains many other aspects of early Christianity

    My point exactly! There was a vested interest in maintaining a resurrection story; otherwise Christianity wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on.

  200. #200 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman, a deductive is one where if the argument is valid and the premises true then the conclusion is true. If one or both of the premises are not true then the argument tells us nothing about the conclusion. The premise that every thing that begins to exist has a cause is not true in all possible cases, it is not necessary. So, you have a premise of a deductive argument which is not true all the time. You can’t say that the conclusion is thus true based on this premise. It may be, but that argument doesn’t tell you anything.

    I also thing the other premise is not true either. At least it’s an open point of debate. So, the deductive argument doesn’t work.

  201. #201 Jayman
    February 24, 2010

    ildi, you’ve misunderstood me. To take the issue I raised earlier, the resurrection hypothesis explains why the disciples and Paul sincerely believed Jesus rose from the dead. Your hypothesis, at least as stated, provides no explanation for these facts, especially in the case of Paul.

    Brian, when you say that every thing that begins to exist has a cause is not true in all possible cases, do you mean all possible cases in the real world or all possible cases that we can imagine (even if our imagination may not correspond to reality)?

  202. #202 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman:

    do you mean all possible cases in the real world…?

    Yes. As you agree there’s no absolute proof that the causal principle applies in every conceivable case in the real world. You could argue that every case you’ve experienced, or you and I have experienced, agrees with the causal principle. This is good for making an argument about the causal principle as a probability related to similar situations by analogy or induction. It is no help making a deductive argument about all possible real world cases. In the end, if it’s not necessary, then it’s contingent, and it could go anyway, even if we’ve only observed it go one way.

  203. #203 Brian
    February 24, 2010

    By the way, it doesn’t matter if we can or can’t imagine something happening. We don’t claim to be all powerful. All that matters is it logically possible?

  204. #204 Modusoperandi
    February 24, 2010

    Jayman “Your hypothesis, at least as stated, provides no explanation for these facts, especially in the case of Paul.”
    So, let’s see; a man grows to hate his job (a soul-crushing grind of sticking it to other people), notices that the very people he’s sending to their deaths seem far more centered, more calm, more holy than he, in his zeal, is. He starts to empathize with them, making it harder and harder for him to persecute them against his own “inner voice” (the “kick against the goads” bits in Acts, potentially). His growing attachment for the out-group made it much harder to crush them. Eventually, he snapped, had a vision, and became a zealot for the other side, washing away his own guilt for the things he’d helped do and the system he’d supported in the process.
    He turned into an ex-smoker. He got the inverse of Stockholm Syndrome. He went native. He became his own Tyler Durden.

  205. #205 Jim Harrison
    February 25, 2010

    Whether miraculous events occur is a function of the social setting. Protestants report very few miracles while they are in plentiful supply in Catholic territory where they are needed to validate new saints. But if you really want to hear a bunch of goofy stories, spend some time (as I have) among the New Agers of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

    Beats me how anybody with a reasonable amount of life experience could credit the resurrection story for two seconds. Have you guys spent no time around credulous people? There are millions who accept homeopathy, for heaven sakes. Getting some folks in Palestine to buy into a risen god is child’s play compared to the wonders worked by modern snake oil salesmen.

  206. #206 Richard Eis
    February 25, 2010

    Miraculous healings are also ten a penny in the christian culture. Big bucks and easy fraud over the gullible and desperate.

    The resurrection was probably just made up. Other stuff was from the bible. Stuff like this is made up all the time by others. Remember the people going blind looking for the Fatima miracle in the sun?

    There was a cult a while back that predicted the end of the world through visions. When it didn’t happen, the leader had another vision. This time telling everyone that their constant praying and fasting had meant that the earth got saved. And there was much rejoicing from these earth saving people. Twas a miracle indeed and no doubt got written down somewhere. Lets hope no-one finds it years from now and thinks the earth nearly disappeared. :)

    Then lets not forget about the miracles in other religious texts that are obviously fake (because they aren’t christian ;) but are believed as having really happened by millions of people.

    There are supposed to be 2 billion christians in the world today according to some statistics. That means a one in a million event happens to 2000 christians everyday. With the mass communication we have today, no wonder miracle stories are ten a penny too.

  207. #207 Brian
    February 25, 2010

    Richard Eis, reminds me of the prophecy of this ‘man of God’.

    http://www.hnlc.org.au/rensford/resources/Nalliah_election_false_prophecy.pdf

    This was the same guy who said the bushfires here a year ago which killed 180 or so people and destroyed countless bush (forests) and endangered wildlife were because this state, Victoria, had decrimilized abortion. But he’s not a member of a cult, not because his beliefs are strange, but because they’re a branch of the popular cult of christianity.

  208. #208 Richard Eis
    February 25, 2010

    Let’s not forget that every hurricane is caused by teh Ghays being seen in public according to Pat Robertson (oooh the power they must wield).

    Also wasn’t there a big prayer for rain last year by some governor or evangelical?. There usually is.

    Religion is completely bonkers. Always has been, always will be. You can cover it up for a while, but sooner or later a moderate snaps and declares a water stain as the virgin Mary or something. Not to mention all the moderates who think Obama is the antichrist and that demons are real.

  209. #209 Brian
    February 25, 2010

    Jayman, if you’re still around. Interesting talk about natural theology going on here:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/ruse-the-trouble-with-richard-dawkins/#comments

  210. #210 Tommykey
    February 25, 2010

    He became his own Tyler Durden.

    Yeah, but who was Paul’s “Marla Singer”?

  211. #211 Jud
    February 26, 2010

    Jayman, I appreciate your willingness to engage in spirited but respectful give-and-take.

    That having been said, if I can engage in some gentle criticism, let me say I was a bit disappointed with your response in #181. It seemed a little facile and not an altogether serious engagement with the points I raised.

    Specifically:

    1) You speak of probabilities in the abstract. The problem is they don’t tell us what actually happened in history. We need to look at the evidence surrounding each event to do history.

    I wasn’t speaking of “abstract” probabilities, I was speaking of the probability of a resurrection event, based on the part of history we can corroborate with photographic or video recording technology. As I mentioned in my previous comment, I would guess you also consider resurrection extremely improbable. Historical resurrections you believe ought to be credited would consist of (1) Jesus; (2) possibly Lazarus, unless you wish to make a distinction between being raised from the dead and resurrection; and (3) anyone else? So that’s one or a handful of all the people who ever lived, correct?

    I agree that we need to look at evidence to assess what actually happened. If the evidence consists of stories from interested parties, and if it contradicts not only your personal experience but all known physical and biological laws, then I’d submit it’s deserving of very little credence. One must also consider that the majority of the stories from interested parties in this case are not first-hand accounts, and are in many respects contradictory.

    That brings me to the second part of your response.

    2) Your suggestion that Jesus’ disciples concocted the resurrection story raises more questions than it answers. I don’t think scholar studying the issue would take your viewpoint.

    You don’t think scholars would take the view that the resurrection story was created to suit the theological purposes of the believers? Then let me recommend for you the works of Bart Ehrman, and of the over 150 distinguished Biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar ).

  212. #212 heddle
    February 26, 2010

    Jud,

    Then let me recommend for you the works of Bart Ehrman, and of the over 150 distinguished Biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar

    And be sure to bring little colored beads to vote with, because that’s how distinguished scholars work!

  213. #213 Wowbagger
    February 26, 2010

    heddle wrote:

    And be sure to bring little colored beads to vote with, because that’s how distinguished scholars work!

    Just like how whenever it’s pointed out that religion is not compatible with science you trot out all the examples of scientists who are religious believers?

    My guess is your beads are as black as your pot…

  214. #214 Owlmirror
    February 27, 2010

    Provide the proper citation and then argue why Origen would have necessarily referenced the particular comment re: Jesus’ miracle-working.

    Origen, Against Celsus, CHAP. XLVII.

    I would like to say to Celsus, who represents the Jew as accepting somehow John as a Baptist, who baptized Jesus, that the existence of John the Baptist, baptizing for the remission of sins, is related by one who lived no great length of time after John and Jesus. For in the 18th book of his Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus bears witness to John as having been a Baptist, and as promising purification to those who underwent the rite. Now this writer, although not believing in Jesus as the Christ, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless–being, although against his will, not far from the truth–that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus (called Christ),–the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice.

    Also:

    The other occasion for quoting Josephus by Origen is in his Commentary on Matthew. Origen’s purpose here is commenting on the statement in Matthew 13:55: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” His objective is to collect all the extrabiblical information on James, and the other brothers of Jesus. He approves of the tradition found in the Gospel of Peter and the Protoevangelion for reasons of piety claiming that Jesus’ brothers were actually his stepbrothers. The other tradition concerning James was the work of Josephus’ Antiquities about which he writes:

    And James is he whom Paul says that he saw in the Letter to the Galatians ‘but I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother’ (Gal.1:19). And this James was so celebrated with the people for his righteousness that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Jewish Antiquities in twenty books, when wanting to seek for the reason why such great calamities befell the people that even the temple was destroyed, said that they happened because of God’s anger at what they did to James the brother of Jesus called the Christ [Messiah]. And the wonderful thing is that, although not accepting that our Jesus is Christ, he testified to the great righteousness of James.

    If there was any text in Josephus that agreed that Jesus had indeed worked miracles, Origen would not have written that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ.

    I can both read for and write with comprehension,

    Provably false.

    The Arabic version is not a paraphrase

    Pity you can’t read the literature for comprehension.

    ‘Agapius of Hierapolis’ and Michael the Syrian’s versions of the Testimonium Flavianum, a passage about Jesus from Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, both derive from the Syriac translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Historia Ecclesiastica. Michael’s Testimonium is more authentic than Agapius’ Testimonium, and it is more authentic than the textus receptus in reading that Jesus was ‘thought to be the Messiah’. Some features of Agapius’ Testimonium previously considered to be more authentic than the textus receptus can be explained by distinctive readings in the Syriac text that Agapius used.

  215. #215 Owlmirror
    February 27, 2010

    [These are all responses to Jayman, most derived from responses written to others, and some directly to me. Sorry for the length...]

    If there were only one true Jewish prophet there would still be a prophet to build a religion around. Granted it may look different than the religion we know as Judaism.

    If there were any “true” prophets, then it follows that the religion that the prophet espouses is “true”.

    It does not rule out, of course, that any God or Gods of these prophets are lying to their prophets, or that their prophets are lying about some of what the God or Gods say.

    I’m open to “non-Christian” miracles.

    In what sense?

    Satan is not a deity because he is a created being.

    Why can’t a god create a god?

    As an example, in 1 Cor 1:23 Paul notes that the crucifixion is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

    Yes, I know. Note that the implication of the context of the verse is that God lies by omission and/or is insane.

    It is far more likely that Paul is telling the truth than that he made up the crucifixion in order to hinder his own missionary goals.

    If there existed a tradition of a story that involved crucifixion, and he believed it, he wouldn’t have made it up himself, but rather would be emphasizing and propagating a known story.

    Christians had no reason to make up the story of the crucifixion and plenty of reasons to deny it if it were fiction.

    Like all religious cults, Christians would have found their reasons to make things up in cultural and religious traditions — like the suffering servant parts of Isaiah — and in their own heads.

    On the one hand, you are confident you can read Origen’s mind regarding what he would or would not have included in his writings.

    See my response to Rob O’B. Origen was trying to promote the idea of Jesus as Christ. If there was something known in Josephus that supported that, he would have phrased the way that he cited Josephus to reflect that.

    Unless you are saying that Origen would have had reason to sabotage his own argument?

    On the other hand, you doubt that Jesus was known to perform miracles despite the public nature of the miracles.

    No, that doesn’t follow. If there was a story about Jesus having been crucified, having the story include alleged performances of miracles is just an embellishment of the story.

    I leave it to you to research the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke.

    Far easier to parsimoniously discard both of them as late fictions; urban legends floating around and picked up, or just plain fabrications. After all, neither Matthew nor Luke would have necessarily known Jesus’ early history, even if Jesus was a real human and they both knew him as an adult.

    Even if one story is true, that means the other one is a complete or partial fabrication, and renders suspect everything by the author of that work. Why did he, whichever one it was, include this story that implicitly contradicts the alternate one? Maybe he just didn’t care about what true and false are?

    You confuse the earliest extant manuscript with the date the Gospels were written.

    Not at all.

    There is historical evidence to respect concerning Jesus’ resurrection. Whether you consider this “empirical” or not is irrelevant.

    It is relevant to the question of whether there is empirical evidence for said resurrection, for which there is not.

    I believe the piece by McGrew and McGrew is available for free online. However, it may be a draft and not the final product.

    I did find something, and skimmed it (it’s 75 pages long).

    It contained a confession of general Christian presupposition:

    It is true that this conclusion is conducted under an initial constraint; it is predicated on
    the assumption that in matters other than the explicit claims of miracles, the gospels and the book of Acts are generally reliable – that they may be trusted as much as any ordinary document of secular history with respect to the secularly describable facts they affirm. And where they do recount miraculous events, such as Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, we assume that they are authentic – that is, that they tell us what the disciples claimed. This calculation tells us little about the evidence for the resurrection if those assumptions are false. We have provided reasons to accept them, but of course there is much more to be said on the issue.

    It also contains a few instances of non-miraculous explanations, only to dismiss them out of hand as being “improbable” or “lacking explanatory power”. It even raises examples of claimed miracles, and dismisses them as being fraudulent — and refuse to consider the possibility of fraud on the part of Jesus and/or the disciples.

    This really is like trying to argue for a particular magician really sawing a lady in half and putting her back together again — despite knowing that all other magicians out there are performing a trick.

    It is nothing more than an extended collection of arguments from ignorance, incredulity for naturalistic explanations, and special pleading.

    I would not give up on Christianity if you only refuted the work of McGrew and McGrew.

    Going through all 75 pages to explicitly list all of the fallacious logic, point by point, is a lot of effort for no concession whatsoever on your part. Please forgive me if I give that a pass, for now.

    However, I would give up Christianity if you persuaded me, on historical grounds, that Jesus was a false prophet.

    Are you persuaded that David Koresh was a false prophet? What persuaded you?

    Are you persuaded that Marshall Applewhite was a false prophet? What persuaded you?

    Are you persuaded that Joseph Smith was a false prophet? What persuaded you?

    Are you persuaded that L. Ron Hubbard was a false prophet? What persuaded you?

    Are you persuaded that Mohammed was a false prophet? What persuaded you?

    The Five Ways prove a presently-acting God and thus deism is ruled out by natural theology.

    They most certainly do not prove anything, being based on fallacious logic. Even if their logic was more sound, they argue in favor of a sufficiently transcendent God that by its very nature need not act “presently”.

    But since you don’t seem to know what a miracle is (it’s special pleading if I know what a miracle is)

    Of course it’s special pleading, because it’s a claim of knowing the action of something outside of reality with absolutely certain proof — which you then go on to say does not not exist in the real world.

    Just out of curiosity, what do you think a miracle is?

    Plus, you’re looking for “absolutely certain proof”,

    I’m looking for something better than fallacious argumentation, which is what all of the theological apologetics I’ve ever read or heard are.

    which doesn’t exist in the real world.

    Not even for God?

    Or is God unreal, as I have been arguing?

    The Judeo-Christian God is eternal, Satan is not.

    How do you know, in either case?

    You equate faith and blind faith. When I say I have faith in God it means I trust God.

    What is it that you are trusting, exactly?

    Claiming that there is “no evidence” is absurd.

    Why? There is no empirical evidence.

    Your suggestion that Jesus’ disciples concocted the resurrection story raises more questions than it answers.

    But “God did it” raises far more questions than that. So a conspiracy that takes place and does not require a God (that does not exist anyway) requires fewer additional entities, and is thus more parsimonious.

    The mutakallim plausibly claims that it is ontologically impossible for something to come uncaused from nothing.

    Then God is ontologically impossible.

    Does anyone really believe that, however vivid his imagination of such an event, a raging tiger say, could suddenly come into existence uncaused, out of nothing, in the room right now? The same applies to the universe: if there was absolutely nothing prior to the existence of the universe – no God, no space, no time – how could the universe possibly have come to exist?

    The same applies to God: if there was absolutely nothing prior to the existence of God – no God, no space, no time – how could God possibly have come to exist?

    He could say that even if the arguments from natural theology failed, the arguments for the resurrection are still persuasive, could he not?

    He can say whatever he wishes, and still be wrong. And he is.

    The life of Jesus is attested in many sources.

    Four is “many”?

    There is archeaological evidence supporting many of the claims in these sources.

    There’s archaeological evidence supporting miracles?

    It is quite clear the real issue, for you, is that Jesus was known as a miracle worker.

    Why should anyone accept that someone is or was a miracle worker with no empirical evidence of these alleged miracles?

    I’ve given you the chance to provide reasons not to treat the sources in the Bible like all other historical sources and to provide a plausible alternative to the resurrection.

    All alternatives that don’t invoke miracles are more plausible than any miracle. All of the potential alternatives (fraud, fiction, small conspiracy, large conspiracy, confabulation, medical anomalies, various mental and psychological disorders, and potential combinations of the previous) have a multiplicity of examples that have occurred throughout history, and still occur today.

    For miracles, not so much.

    Faith, in the sense of trust, generally requires evidence.

    What evidence do you have for God or miracles, that you trust them?

    If I were to reject the resurrection, I need something more concrete than that the disciples “developed a resurrection mythos” around Jesus while sincerely believing he rose from the dead. The first issue is what was so convincing about this non-resurrection that the disciples, and even a hostile person like Paul, came to sincerely believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

    We don’t have to read their minds to know that people have always in general been capable of believing truly strange and sometimes physically impossible things. Whatever the source of their conviction, it would still be more plausible than a miracle.

    The resurrection hypothesis neatly explains many other aspects of early Christianity, whereas your hypothesis gives rise to further questions (one of which I raised above).

    It is exactly as “neat” as saying that a magician who appears to saw a woman in half and then return her to her prior state has in fact done exactly that. Saying that magic is real is “simpler” than careful analysis of the event.

    Saying it was a trick, an illusion, a fake, a hoax, a fraud — just raises further questions.

  216. #216 386sx
    February 28, 2010

    The resurrection hypothesis neatly explains many other aspects of early Christianity, whereas your hypothesis gives rise to further questions (one of which I raised above).

    Yeah, like… who are these invisible people that all of these apologists that Jayman reads about are talking to all the time? Which is of course the real reason why Jayman is persuaded by all of these desperately lame apologetics. He would have to own up to the fact that he talks to pretend people all the time. (And of course the real evidence for his convictions is that he talks to them and they talk back or they give him “signs” and stuff.)

  217. #217 Robert O'Brien
    February 28, 2010

    If there was any text in Josephus that agreed that Jesus had indeed worked miracles, Origen would not have written that Josephus did not believe in Jesus as the Christ.

    That is a fine non sequitur. Josephus need not be a Christian to report that Jesus performed wonderful works.

    Pity you can’t read the literature for comprehension.

    ‘Agapius of Hierapolis’ and Michael the Syrian’s versions of the Testimonium Flavianum, a passage about Jesus from Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, both derive from the Syriac translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Historia Ecclesiastica. Michael’s Testimonium is more authentic than Agapius’ Testimonium, and it is more authentic than the textus receptus in reading that Jesus was ‘thought to be the Messiah’. Some features of Agapius’ Testimonium previously considered to be more authentic than the textus receptus can be explained by distinctive readings in the Syriac text that Agapius used.

    Owlmirror, I realize that you are lacking in native intelligence, but, even so, that does not absolve you from providing proper citation for the abstract you copied and pasted. (Your desperate googling is apparent.) Now, I’ve read the author’s (i.e., Alice Whealey) book on Josephus; it is very good. However, the abstract you cited does not support your claim that the Arabic version is a paraphrase. It simply states that it is not as authentic as the Syriac.

  218. #218 Owlmirror
    March 1, 2010

    Josephus need not be a Christian to report that Jesus performed wonderful works.

    And if he had, Origen would not have been so certain that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was Christ.

    but, even so, that does not absolve you from providing proper citation for the abstract you copied and pasted.

    Please. You leave off citations all the time, you intellectually dishonest hypocrite. And given the exact text, it’s not exactly rocket science to find out where it came from.

    Now, I’ve read the author’s (i.e., Alice Whealey) book on Josephus; it is very good.

    See? It wasn’t that hard to find. Even you, with your emotional problems, anger-management issues, and other more insidious mental handicaps, were able to find it.

    But it appears that you failed to note that the paper is more recent than the book published in 2003. Tch. This is:

    Whealey, A. 2008. “The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic”. New Testament Studies. 573–590

    However, the abstract you cited does not support your claim that the Arabic version is a paraphrase. It simply states that it is not as authentic as the Syriac.

    Because the Arabic is a paraphrase, as you would realise if you could read for comprehension.

    This article argues that Michael’s Testimonium is closer to what Josephus originally wrote about
    Jesus than Agapius’ Testimonium, [...] It also aims to show that some of the distinctive elements in Agapius’ Testimonium that Pines considered to be neutral or non-Christian, and thus reflecting Josephus’ original text, can be accounted for by distinctive elements in the original Syriac source that Agapius paraphrased for his own version of the Testimonium.

    The citation for that, by the way, is “Ibid”.

    You obnoxious silly person.

  219. #219 Owlmirror
    March 1, 2010

    @heddle:

    And be sure to bring little colored beads to vote with, because that’s how distinguished scholars work!

    Well, yes — when it comes to matters of religion. Didn’t the various Christian councils also vote on matters of doctrine?

    By the way, is it not the case, as in the other instance we discussed in that other thread, that the results of the Jesus Seminar is consistent with Calvinism? That is, the majority, like myself and every other “unregenerated” human, must necessarily fail to know the “correct” answers because God chose to damn them to hell and withhold the gift of faith?

    Just checking.

  220. #220 Robert O'Brien
    March 1, 2010

    Please. You leave off citations all the time, you intellectually dishonest hypocrite.

    Really? Then you should not have any trouble providing several examples.

    And if he had, Origen would not have been so certain that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was Christ.

    Your bald assertion is noted and discarded. If the original text contained the “wonderful works” as well as “he was thought to be the Christ” then Origen would have been sure Josephus was not a Christian.

    Because the Arabic is a paraphrase, as you would realise if you could read for comprehension.

    I cannot read that which you did not provide, dim bulb. The text that you just provided was not part of the abstract you copied and pasted without citation. Incidentally, it takes a special kind of moron to neglect to provide the very text that supports his case.

    Now, I certainly respect Alice Whealey as a scholar, and I will have to take her argument into consideration. In any event, what you are too dumb to realize is that in her 2008 paper Alice Whealey is arguing for an original text that is even more positive than the Arabic text.

    In fact, much of the
    past impetus for labeling the textus receptus Testimonium a forgery has been
    based on earlier scholars’ anachronistic assumptions that, as a Jew, Josephus
    could not have written anything favorable about Jesus. Contemporary scholars of
    primitive Christianity are less inclined than past scholars to assume that most
    first-century Jews necessarily held hostile opinions of Jesus, and they are more
    aware that the line between Christians and non-Christian Jews in Josephus’ day
    was not as firm as it would later become.5 The implication of this is that supposedly
    Christian-sounding elements in either the textus receptus or in Michael’s
    Testimonium cannot be ruled inauthentic a priori.

    Quit while you are behind.

  221. #221 Neal
    March 2, 2010

    Why were there tens of thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem within a generation of the resurrection?

    Why would Jewish priests in the first century become Christians?

    Why would the disciples who knew Jesus submit to torture, live in poverty, and give their lives if they did not believe in the resurrection?

    Why did my dad’s inch long skin melanoma completely disappear within a few days after the family prayed with him for healing in Jesus Name?

  222. #222 Modusoperandi
    March 2, 2010

    *Why would people have joined X*?
    *Why would people convert to X?
    *Why would they be zealous of X?
    *Why does a personal anecdote of prayer in the name of X work?

    * Note: Substitute religion of your choosing for X

  223. #223 James Taylor
    March 2, 2010

    Robert O’Brien “I realize that you are lacking in native intelligence”

    Are you the same Robert O’Brien who was at Florida? If so, you have no basis for calling anyone stupid. I suggest you stop throwing stones given the glass house you built for yourself.

  224. #224 CherryBomb
    March 2, 2010

    Every time I hear someone say “The Bible is not a science textbook”, I want to say “But it IS a science textbook.” Or at least it was. The people who wrote it were some of the most intelligent people in the world. The parts of the Bible that try to explain nature are generally reasonable and well thought-out, given the state of knowledge at the time.

    I mean, if you are an ancient Hebrew and wanted to figure out how old the Earth was what would YOU do? Well, maybe guess that the Pyramids were the oldest thing around and try to figure out how old they were. They got pretty close.

  225. #225 Richard Eis
    March 3, 2010

    Well, maybe guess that the Pyramids were the oldest thing around and try to figure out how old they were. They got pretty close.

    and the magic apple tree and talking snake? and what was that technique for breeding striped animals again?

    Why did my dad’s inch long skin melanoma completely disappear within a few days after the family prayed with him for healing in Jesus Name?

    I would ask whether it was actually a melanoma, also why, if it was a miracle it didn’t disappear immediately. I would ask why your father didn’t have medical treatment for it, or if he did i would ask how you differentiate the treatment’s success from your prayer success.

    Every christian prays for cancer to go away when they get it. Plenty of prayers go unanswered.

  226. #226 Maria
    March 3, 2010

    To live is to resist

  227. #227 Carlo
    March 3, 2010

    Yes To live is to resist

  228. #228 eric
    March 3, 2010

    R. O’B: Why were there tens of thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem within a generation of the resurrection?

    You’re implying that conversion rate provides some evidence or weight to a claim of truth/validity. The church of scientology claims 8 million members, and its about a generation old. By your logic, that would make their religion ~800 times more true than yours.

  229. #229 ildi
    March 3, 2010

    The people who wrote it were some of the most intelligent people in the world. The parts of the Bible that try to explain nature are generally reasonable and well thought-out, given the state of knowledge at the time.

    Really? What is your evidence that they were some of the most intelligent people in the world? The Egyptians and Babylonians had a better approximation of pi than the Hebrews did…

  230. #230 SLC
    March 3, 2010

    Re lidi

    Not to mention the Greeks. None of the ancient Hebrews came even close to Archimedes, one of the most important scientists who ever lived. Archimedes came close to inventing the integral calculus some 1900 years before Newton and Leibniz.

  231. #231 ildi
    March 3, 2010

    Only reason I didn’t mention Archimedes is that he lived after those highly intelligent people wrote the OT.

  232. #232 Richard Eis
    March 4, 2010

    You’re implying that conversion rate provides some evidence or weight to a claim of truth/validity. The church of scientology claims 8 million members, and its about a generation old. By your logic, that would make their religion ~800 times more true than yours.

    Funny… very funny, but unfortunately I must point out the differences in media potential and population size/density between the religions.

    I would say the rises are about comparable though if you scale them. Clearly you don’t need a miracle, if you use a forceful, underhanded and manipulative marketing campaign full of fake promises and threats.

    Oh… wait…

  233. #233 Chris Sanord
    March 4, 2010

    Here is an ironic truth Let’s start with the term the “theory of evolution.” A scientific theory is In the sciences generally, a scientific theory (the same as an empirical theory) comprises a collection of concepts, including abstractions of observable phenomena expressed as quantifiable properties, together with rules (called scientific laws) that express relationships between observations of such concepts. A scientific theory is constructed to conform to available empirical data about such observations, and is put forth as a principle or body of principles for explaining a class of phenomena.4 Notice I emphasized observable phenomena, because for something to be a scientific theory there has to be observable proof that verifies the scientific theory itself. There has to be physical evidence of evolution occurring (remember from now on when I mention evolution I am talking about macro-evolution. The belief that our ancient ancestor was pond scum). So what am I saying, for something to be a scientific theory there has to be evidence that you can look at of the theory occurring. Here is where the first problem lies no one has ever witnessed the occurrence of evolution. NO ONE! Also there is no proof that verifies evolution ever occurred, so to say in its most basic form that evolution is a theory, according to the definition of a scientific theory is wrong. So evolution is not even a theory because there is no observable evidence that it ever occurred.

  234. #234 eric
    March 4, 2010

    There has to be physical evidence of evolution occurring (remember from now on when I mention evolution I am talking about macro-evolution. The belief that our ancient ancestor was pond scum). So what am I saying, for something to be a scientific theory there has to be evidence that you can look at of the theory occurring. Here is where the first problem lies no one has ever witnessed the occurrence of evolution. NO ONE!

    Very good point. Has anyone ever actually seen a bank account grow from $1 to $1,000,000,000? Sure, I buy the theory of microinterest. $1 might grow to be $10. But macrointerest? You can’t be serious! There is simply NO REASON to believe a small, incremental process, repeated over and over again, could lead to that amount of change.

    I’m planning a book on it. I’m calling it the Edge of Investment.

  235. #235 386sx
    March 4, 2010

    So what am I saying, for something to be a scientific theory there has to be evidence that you can look at of the theory occurring.

    Oh okay. How about micro-evolution. Could micro-evolution possibly be evidence that macro-evolution is occurring? Nawwwww, of course not.

    Anyway, somebody tell them fancy scierntists that they forgot to have some evidence for their scientifical theory thingie, while I has me a six pack of blatz and a baloney sandwich in my trailer park trailer, a readin the holey Bible.

  236. #236 386sx
    March 4, 2010

    So evolution is not even a theory because there is no observable evidence that it ever occurred.

    Something tells me you mean something other than “observable evidence”, but yer a hankerin for movin some gaol posts once someone mentions some observable evidence, so’s you can have some yuk yuks. (That or you are lacking in some scientifercal language skills due to your not having a clue.)

  237. #237 Richard Eis
    March 5, 2010

    Sooo Mr smarty pants Sanord. Please tell me how any man can be convicted of a crime if no-one was there to see it.

    I mean there is all the DNA evidence, crime scene, we found the weapon with fingerprints, can even tell you where and how the victim was bludgeoned based on blood trajectory.

    But according to your logic it would be impossible to prove that a crime had taken place because no one had seen it. Maybe God just put a dead body there eh?

    Crime scene investigation…. IT’S NOT REAL PEOPLE!!!!elebenty!!!

    No one really gets murdered!!!!

  238. #238 Robert O'Brien
    March 5, 2010

    The argument is logically valid. The premises are true. So it stops modal arguments that start from God’s existence being possible.

    Sorry Brian, but no. I contacted two philosophers, one whose field is logic and philosophy of mathematics and the other whose field is philosophy of religion. Here is what the former had to say about your argument:

    Hi Robert,
    I take it that your* step 4, ~C(g), is also one of the premises. In this case, the premises 1, 2, and 4 are just inconsistent. Everything follows from them, that Santa Claus exists as well as that the moon is made of cheese. Furthermore, the existence of God is not among your* premises, so there is no reduction here.

    *These are not my premises, of course, but Brian’s.

    I wanted to clarify some things with the philosopher of religion before I post his response but suffice it to say that your first premise is false.

  239. #239 Owlmirror
    March 17, 2010

    Then you should not have any trouble providing several examples.

    #95. Not a single citation.

    You sneer a lot in your other comments, but don’t back them up with anything at all besides your transparent and pretentious demonstrations of your utter intellectual dishonesty and vacuity.

    If the original text contained the “wonderful works” as well as “he was thought to be the Christ” then Origen would have been sure Josephus was not a Christian.

    Because Christ could not have performed wonderful works?

    Are you usually this stupid?

    I cannot read that which you did not provide

    Except you obviously did, moron.

    The text that you just provided was not part of the abstract you copied and pasted without citation.

    The abstract was offered in support of my thesis that you had not read the literature for comprehension.

    You demonstrated that my thesis was correct, and additionally demonstrated that even with the actual text under your nose, you cannot read for comprehension.

    Incidentally, it takes a special kind of moron to neglect to provide the very text that supports his case.

    It takes a very, very special kind of moron indeed to repeatedly demonstrate that he cannot read for comprehension.

    In any event, what you are too dumb to realize is that in her 2008 paper Alice Whealey is arguing for an original text that is even more positive than the Arabic text.

    What you are too much a fool to realize is that she undermines her additional conclusions (that is, besides her analysis of the Arabic and Syriac wording demonstrating that the Arabic is a paraphrase) that there is any evidence whatsoever for the Testimonium existing in the original works of Josephus.

    In fact, much of the past impetus for labeling the textus receptus Testimonium a forgery has been
    based on earlier scholars’ anachronistic assumptions that, as a Jew, Josephus could not have written anything favorable about Jesus. Contemporary scholars of primitive Christianity are less inclined than past scholars to assume that most first-century Jews necessarily held hostile opinions of Jesus, and they are more aware that the line between Christians and non-Christian Jews in Josephus’ day was not as firm as it would later become.5 The implication of this is that supposedly Christian-sounding elements in either the textus receptus or in Michael’s
    Testimonium cannot be ruled inauthentic a priori.

    This, though, makes a stronger case for the argument from Origen’s silence: A neutral or even slightly positive wording in Josephus would have been something that any competent apologist would have seized upon in defending the character of Jesus against attack!

    Origen would have been able to include that even though Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, he wrote nothing bad against him, and/or even wrote something favorable about Jesus.

    So, are you arguing that Origen was an incompetent apologist?

    Quit while you are behind.

    Take your own advice.