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2/1/10

Odd Objections to Miracles

This post has been moved, for info on objections and how the Bible is skeptical about miracles, see this link.

81 comments:

  1. ... which is precisely how Christianity reasoned that observational science is useless for centuries, since God could just alter the rules at any time. Luckily this idea is incorrect.

    Also, miracles are not unpredictable. Jesus seemed to wield his power effortlessly by will alone.

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  2. Ginx

    I'm not sure where your precedent for how "Christianity reasoned that observational science is useless for centuries" comes from.

    Mariano: Now that you mention it it is slightly odd. Though I'm more used to these to responses "Its just impossible!!" or "I trust that one day in the distant future someone will come up with an explanation." That kind of reasoning takes more faith than it does to believe in God.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

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  3. which is precisely how Christianity reasoned that observational science is useless for centuries

    Boy, you atheists buy into more myths than far right conspiracy theorists. It's a fact that science was expanded and practiced primarily by men of the cloth and lay Christians for centuries. The mass ignorance of history among the internet atheists is astounding.

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  4. Yeah, after the Greek and Roman texts had been burned as evil centuries before. Scientific exploration did not occur in Europe until re-exposure to the works of people like Aristotle thanks to the Muslims (who preserved the works of the Byzantines).

    American education can be so adorable.

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  5. Ginx

    Well apparently you take their education sources to heart ;) You realize that scientific texts were never burned? The Catholic Church in its history never organized a large scale book burning (Though I'm sure you probably think they had an army and organized witch hunts too). Roman and Greek texts were never burned (in fact the closest you'll get is Diocletian burning early Christian texts in an effort to stamp out Christianity or maybe the destruction of the Cathar texts). Most ancient texts were actually preserved by monks so when the time came and Europe was again stable (which is why there was never any large scale scientific inquiry done for some 300 years you should know) scholars were able to use these ancient writings to begin the Renaissance.

    Now I'm not sure what history course youve ever taken but apparently your a little misinformed.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

    P.S. As a history major I'll be glad to set the record straight.

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  6. Oddly enough, I have rarely if ever heard these objections to miracles raised.

    Objections I hear far more frequently include the lack of supporting evidence for supposedly widespread miracles, the lack of modern miracles that are not statistically probable when confirmation-bias and simultaneous trials are factored in, and the lack of any supernatural activity whenever controlled conditions are implemented.

    It's a fact that science was expanded and practiced primarily by men of the cloth and lay Christians for centuries.

    You are correct. Due to the increased amounts of spare time and resources that were available via the church, and the lack of any viable intellectual alternative to the creationist version of origins, the majority of scientists between the 10th and the 20th century were practicing christians.

    This trend swung in the other direction as evolution began to displace creationism as a more scientifically valid understanding of natural history, opening the scientific arena to agnostics and atheists.

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  7. The problem is in your imprecise definition of "predictable". Just because we expect miraculous events to be individually unpredictable, does not mean that we shouldn't expect some kind of measurable aggregate outcome.

    For example, the timing of an ejection of a decay particle from a radioactive isotope is unpredictable, but we can say with a great deal of accuracy how long it will take for half of the particles in the sample to decay. Therefore, the aggregate outcome provides us with a prediction we can test.

    The challenge to miracles is that we can't even make any aggregate predictions about them. We can't, for instance, say that people who pray are more likely to be healed than those who don't.

    Without a way to test if miracles are happening or not, they may be going on, but there is no way to justify a belief that they are.

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  8. James...

    With such a high percentage of the world's population believing in God or a higher power, or in miraculous events, I think you would have a hard time finding anyone who would be considered to NOT have a confirmation bias when witnessing or learning of a supposed miracle.

    Perhaps if you ran the studies in Scandinavian countries you might have a shot. They can tell you of the miracle of the ill newborn that survived their attempts to euthanize it.

    That was low, I know it, but I couldn't help myself.

    Other than the "God as wish-granter" prayer studies that have gone on (flawed from the very start) what simultaneous trials have ever been attempted in a study of "miracles"?

    I'm guessing not many, as naturalism presupposes miracles as near impossibilities.

    Finally -- no matter how you slice it, modern science owes the church a great deal of gratitude for the scientific discoveries in its name. Of course, you can always march out that broken down ol' "Persecution of Galileo" horse again and take her for a ride to try and prove otherwise.

    ImSoSmrt...

    When you boil down your comment, it matches up quite well with:

    2) miracles are rare, not predicable, events and are therefore surely fallacious claims.

    I'm just saying.

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  9. The story in Acts 19 is simply one example which is immortalized in the Bible. Christians throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa encouraged the destruction of competing ideologies.

    So maybe you guys can tell me, is ignorance in fact bliss?

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  10. With such a high percentage of the world's population believing in God or a higher power, or in miraculous events, I think you would have a hard time finding anyone who would be considered to NOT have a confirmation bias when witnessing or learning of a supposed miracle.

    This is correct, which is why anecdotal evidence is for all practical purposes useless on this subject.

    Perhaps if you ran the studies in Scandinavian countries you might have a shot. They can tell you of the miracle of the ill newborn that survived their attempts to euthanize it.

    That was low, I know it, but I couldn't help myself.


    I am sorry, I do not understand what I assume was meant to be humour.

    Other than the "God as wish-granter" prayer studies that have gone on (flawed from the very start) what simultaneous trials have ever been attempted in a study of "miracles"?

    I'm guessing not many, as naturalism presupposes miracles as near impossibilities.


    Note that naturalism does not presuppose miracles specifically to be near impossible: it includes all forms of the supernatural.

    In fact, many studies of people who claim supernatural abilities, such as faith healers, dowsers, psychics and cold readers, as well as supernatural events or entities: hauntings, possession, the 'born again' experience, NDE's, etc. have been done. The results have not been ambiguous.

    Finally -- no matter how you slice it, modern science owes the church a great deal of gratitude for the scientific discoveries in its name. Of course, you can always march out that broken down ol' "Persecution of Galileo" horse again and take her for a ride to try and prove otherwise.

    This is true. Were it not for the church providing the resources and time for its educated members to spend in academic study in the past, as universities and research laboratories do today, then the world would be very different. This gratitude, however, is tempered by the fact that the church as an organisation promoted theological study as 'more worthy' than naturalistic study, despite the fact that it was unanimously the latter which resulted in the breakthroughs and discoveries of the age.

    I do not understand why you would encourage me to bring up the subject of Galileo Galilei. Although there can be no denying the tradgedy of his story, it was an isolated incident where a non-practical discovery contradicted dogma, and the church was guilty of a knee-jerk reaction. Because most scientific progress was not so aggressively in opposition to doctrine, and was practical besides, it was rare for the church to oppose it with such vehemency.

    For example, when evidence began to appear in support of an earth much older than Bishop Ussher's 6000 years (during the late 1700's, from memory), the church remained relatively silent. Such evidence could be accomodated. However, when Darwin published his seminal work, their response was quite agressive, because it contradicted doctrine: esp. regarding the human relation to the animal kingdom.

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  11. This trend swung in the other direction as evolution began to displace creationism as a more scientifically valid understanding of natural history, opening the scientific arena to agnostics and atheists.

    Wow, another myth happily embraced by an internet atheist. Imagine that. If you were familiar with history, you would see that neither Charles Hodge nor Benjamin Warfield, the precursors to the fundamentalist movement, found Darwin's theory as threatening to Christianity. In fact, Warfield studied biology and considered himself a believer in evolution. It's true, once naturalists started harking on evolution as a replacement to God, there were Christians that withdrew themselves from the academy, but so what? They shouldn't have. They should have engaged the debate and shown the deficient nature of the neo-Darwinian paradigm based on the evidence, as the ID movement is doing today.

    Now, I find it interesting that in the last 50 years, discoveries in cosmology have shown that the theologians were right all the time; the universe came into being ex nihilo, displacing pure naturalism as a more scientifically valid understanding of natural history, once again opening the door to creationists everywhere.

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  12. Wow, another myth happily embraced by an internet atheist. Imagine that. If you were familiar with history, you would see that neither Charles Hodge nor Benjamin Warfield, the precursors to the fundamentalist movement, found Darwin's theory as threatening to Christianity.

    Please do not put words in my mouth. I do not believe evolution is threatening to christianity. I believe the two are eminantly compatible, as proven by many theistic evolutionists. I specified "creationism" for a reason.

    The point I was making was that prior to the theory of evolution, there was no natural explanation of the earths history, which is at least in part why so many embraced a theistic worldview. The theory of evolution gave them that alternative.

    They should have engaged the debate and shown the deficient nature of the neo-Darwinian paradigm based on the evidence, as the ID movement is doing today.

    Please show the peer-reviewed papers submitted by members of the ID movement that demonstrate "the deficient nature of the neo-Darwinian paradigm."

    Thus far I have failed to find any. The intelligent design movement appears from my perspective to be a political movement, not a scientific one.

    Now, I find it interesting that in the last 50 years, discoveries in cosmology have shown that the theologians were right all the time; the universe came into being ex nihilo

    The big bang theory does not require ex nihilo creation. It is a description of what came after. Alternative hypotheses exist.

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  13. A question for all the theists here:
    How can a miracle be known to occur if it can't be tested or verified?

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  14. Please do not put words in my mouth

    I wasn't. I was showing that when the evolutionary theory was young, there were strong conservative Christians who embraced the theory.

    The point I was making was that prior to the theory of evolution, there was no natural explanation of the earths history,

    That's fine, but the commonly held myth is that Christians immediately anathematized the theory. As it is common among the internet atheist crowd to propagate said myth, I mistakenly thought you were as well.

    Please show the peer-reviewed papers submitted by members of the ID movement that demonstrate "the deficient nature of the neo-Darwinian paradigm."

    Well there's Meyer's that was published in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. ID peer reviewed papers are becoming more and more common, all stating that the theses of common descent and natural selection are insufficient as the sole explanation of evolutionary development. Then there are publications that aren't peer reviewed per se, but are widely discussed. Behe, Dembski, Meyer, etc ad infinitum. Sternberg, an evolutionary biologist himself, has stated his misgivings about neo-Darwinism.

    I am happy to remain a skeptic of the touted consensus, because the Theses of Common Descent and Random Mutation and Natural Selection as the means of evolutionary development stem from enormous extrapolations from very limited evidence. There is an inherent presupposition that underlies the extrapolation. It is, simply stated, a leap of faith.

    If you somehow hold the peer review system to be some sort of infallible magisterium of absolute knowledge, I will respectfully disagree and point you to the recent wonderful University of East Anglia incident. People can dogmatize scientific theories.

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  15. How can a miracle be known to occur if it can't be tested or verified?

    How can we be sure the universe wasn't created 5 minutes ago with the appearance of age since it can't be tested or verified? How can we know that our rationality is true if we can't test or verify that it's true, since we would have to assume we have rationality to rationally test rationality? How can we be sure that the Copernican principle is true since we can't test or verify by going to other parts of the universe? How indeed?

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  16. The big bang theory does not require ex nihilo creation. It is a description of what came after. Alternative hypotheses exist.

    The definition of big bang cosmology is the coming into being of space and time out of nithing. None of the other theories have withstood the scrutiny of which the Big Bang theory has. You present a philosophical argument for infinite time and for a contingent universe coming into being uncaused out of nothing and then we'll talk.

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  17. Carlos Ginés Vázquez said...
    http://atheismisraising.blogspot.com/


    Well, Mariano, you know you've made it in internet apologetics when the internet atheists make a mock site. Perhaps there is a lack of original thinking in the community?

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  18. I was showing that when the evolutionary theory was young, there were strong conservative Christians who embraced the theory.

    A fact, as you have mentioned, I do not deny. Thank you for realising.

    Well there's Meyer's that was published in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

    On 7 September, the publisher of the journal, the Council of the Biological Society of Washington, released a statement retracting the article as not having met its scientific standards and not peer reviewed.

    ID peer reviewed papers are becoming more and more common, all stating that the theses of common descent and natural selection are insufficient as the sole explanation of evolutionary development.

    I can find little evidence for this.

    Then there are publications that aren't peer reviewed per se, but are widely discussed. Behe, Dembski, Meyer, etc ad infinitum. Sternberg, an evolutionary biologist himself, has stated his misgivings about neo-Darwinism.

    This is why I asserted that Intelligent Design appears to be a political, rather than a scientific, movement.

    I am happy to remain a skeptic of the touted consensus, because the Theses of Common Descent and Random Mutation and Natural Selection as the means of evolutionary development stem from enormous extrapolations from very limited evidence. There is an inherent presupposition that underlies the extrapolation. It is, simply stated, a leap of faith.

    Your claim rests on the concept that the only evidence for common decent is extrapolation from observed evolution. This is, however, demonstratably not the case. The nested heirachy shown in the fossil record, Endogenous Retrovirus's, vestigial organs and atavisms, and the ever popular Archaeopteryx, Tiktaalik and Lucy, are all independant evidence for common decent that do not require extrapolation from observed selection pressures.

    If you somehow hold the peer review system to be some sort of infallible magisterium of absolute knowledge, I will respectfully disagree and point you to the recent wonderful University of East Anglia incident. People can dogmatize scientific theories.

    I do not understand. The incident you speak of shows absolutely nothing in the way of dogma. If one gives the originators of the personal e-mails in question a chance to explain their choices of wording, it quickly becomes apparent that much of the large media reaction was fabricated from what can only be described as "quote mines". Indeed: The most commonly brought up quote is also the most innocent. The others show a high level of contempt for denialists and a wish to deprive them of 'ammunition,' but this is to be expected. Climate Change Denialists are not highly respected amongst climatologists, just as Intelligent Design Creationists are not respected amongst biologists.

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  19. Bossmanham:

    I had a feeling someone would say something like that.

    Why do you accept one claim about an event, but not another?

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  20. The definition of big bang cosmology is the coming into being of space and time out of nothing.

    You are mistaken. The Big Bang theory deals only with the expansion of time and space from a singularity (within experimental error): it does not deal with the events prior to the existance of the singularity (assuming there were any).

    A philosophical case can be made for a larger multiverse, for an infinitely regressing universe, for an already extant singularity, or for (as you say) ex nihilo creation.

    I am agnostic on the issue, due to it's philosophical nature.

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  21. I can find little evidence for this.

    http://www.discovery.org/a/2640

    This is why I asserted that Intelligent Design appears to be a political, rather than a scientific, movement.

    Just because a segment of the community refuses to allow a view a voice doesn't mean it fails to meet the scientific standard. Do you advocate this type of censorship? Were you against it when the church did it?

    The Big Bang theory deals only with the expansion of time and space from a singularity (within experimental error): it does not deal with the events prior to the existance of the singularity (assuming there were any).

    You are mistaken. I never claimed it explained what happened before the singularity, as there cannot be a temporal before the singularity. However, the expansion of the universe shows that at some point in the past, the singularity came into being. If you go back in the past you will reach the singularity, which "prior" to there was...wait for it...nothing. That means it shrinks into non-existence, which means that it came into being at some point. Based on this, it's not a stretch to infer what caused said singularity.

    As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo" (quoted from William Lane Craig: http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/ultimatequestion.html).

    Your claim rests on the concept that the only evidence for common decent is extrapolation from observed evolution. This is, however, demonstratably not the case.

    Says you. I interpret the evidence differently. Prove me wrong.

    The nested heirachy shown in the fossil record

    Out of order in many places. And why would this prove is neo-Darwinism true?

    Endogenous Retrovirus

    Assuming it works as the neo-Darwinian explanation says it does. But that's what's up for debate. Is there an observation that doesn't rely on this blatant question begging?

    vestigial organs and atavisms

    Ditto.

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  22. and the ever popular Archaeopteryx

    Wow. I'd thought most had dropped the silly Archaeopteryx as EOE. Dr. Alan Feduccia (evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina), said, "Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it’s not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of ‘paleo-babble’ is going to change that."

    Tiktaalik and Lucy

    How are these fossils EOE? Because you assume they're ancestors of currently living species? Do you have any evidence, other than blatant question begging?

    are all independant evidence for common decent that do not require extrapolation from observed selection pressures.

    How is any of this EOE? Because you assume the observable natural selection extends beyond the bounds currently observed? Is there any evidence of that? I think not. Individual fossils are not EOE. They're evidence strictly that an animal like that lived. Going beyond that is inferring something beyond the evidence. What is the justification for making this leap?

    The incident you speak of shows absolutely nothing in the way of dogma

    Um, the devotion to global climate change to the extent that people will cover up evidence that contradicts it? Mmkay. "Hiding the decline" is hard to defend. This has extended into the IPPC chair not disclosing the myth of the shrinking glacier data. You're precious system is far from infallible.

    Climate Change Denialists are not highly respected amongst climatologists, just as Intelligent Design Creationists are not respected amongst biologists.

    Poison the well much? This is the point. They aren't well respected because they question the untouchable dogma of supposed "scientific consensus." Don't bring up arguments that question the official teachings of the church of the science stuff. You'll get excommunicated.

    I'm baffled at the blindness to your own double standard, James. And really, relying on Wikipedia? Really? It's so innocent the guy resigned? Are you really buying that drivel?

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  23. Plus, "well respected" is an entirely subjective view showing a bias on your part.

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  24. James...

    I have read through your posts and have come to one obvious conclusion. Your sense of humour is on extended holiday.

    In related items...

    The dismissal of anecdotal evidence so often used by the atheist to refute the existence of God or miracles makes me cough blood. In Western Civilization, people are sent to prison and given the death penalty on largely anecdotal evidence. Medicinal discoveries have been made thanks to anecdotal evidence. The fact that Joan Rivers looks like Skeletor from Masters of the Universe, confirmed with anecdotal evidence. We live our lives and believe certain "basic truths" from nothing more than anecdotal evidence.

    If the criteria to prove a miracle of God or a supernatural event is to test it under lab conditions in a double-blind study with consistent results showing upon replication, then I think it is likely that even if miracles and the supernatural do exist, science will never be able to conclusively prove or disprove them. In other words, God does not work on your timetable.

    I just want to clarify, that is the royal "your" by the way, lest you think I believe that you, Lex Luthor and Black Manta have God penciled in as a test subject in your secret laboratory at the bottom of a swamp.

    As lab studies go though, I would like to point out that Rupert Sheldrake has done some particularly compelling work on the "supernatural" . Every naturalist and atheist worth his shot has taken aim at Sheldrake's work (some have even lied in an attempt to refute it) and Rupert just keeps on embarrassing them.

    Also, Stephen Meyer's paper not meeting peer-review standards was a smear-job. It met the standards, and was peer reviewed just fine, particularly considering that the peer review process is mostly a joke anyway.

    Look at the circle-jerk that is the peer review process among climate-change scientists. More and more evidence just keeps coming out regarding bad sources used over and over again, misstatement of facts, collusion within the peer review process and more. I'm not saying climate-change isn't happening, but these scientists are not doing themselves or the peer review process any favors. The CBSW just got their panties in a bunch because a paper by one of those pesky creationists happened to sneak its way into their Darwin worshipping publication.

    As for your statements on the Big Bang and creation ex nihilo, bossmanham dealt with them ever so nicely, the only thing I would like to add is that you are correct in being an agnostic on the multiverse theory as it is metaphysical and philosophical in nature, however, theists have a much more simple and elegant solution -- God. Ockham would be proud.

    To quote David Berlinski, aping Fred Hoyle and Paul Davies, "The universe looks like a put up job, because IT IS a put up job."

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  25. Bossmanham:

    I hope you haven't forgotten about my question:

    Why do you accept one claim about an event, but not another?

    Fleaflikr and anyone else on the theistic/ religious side is welcome to answer it as well.

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  26. In Western Civilization, people are sent to prison and given the death penalty on largely anecdotal evidence. Medicinal discoveries have been made thanks to anecdotal evidence.

    Yeah... except if one guy tells you a plant cured cancer on the first Thursday of January 1998, no one would believe him. An occurance cannot be "anecdotal." An anecdote is merely a story, and no science goes by what a story said. It may test ideas in a story, but anything science cannot reproduce is ignored.

    You should see a metaphysician, you have fractured your logic.

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  27. Ginx:

    Well, a crime is most certainly an occurrence (or multiple occurrences), is it not? And yet we often confirm and take action based on these occurrences, the evidence for which has often been cobbled from eyewitness statements, anecdotal evidence and often weak or nonexistent empirical or scientific evidence.

    So, what you're saying is that this way of doing things is good enough to convict a man of a crime, or sentence him to death, but not good enough to confirm the miracle of let's say, Jesus' resurrection. Despite the overwhelming eyewitness accounts and personal testimonies of that event.

    Right, I forgot that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" card allows the materialist a free pass to move the goal posts and dismiss just about anything. Your statement reeks of scientism, as you seem to be insinuating that only science can prove or disprove anything.

    Whose logic is fractured?

    "Anything science cannot reproduce is ignored." Agreed. Which is why, as an earlier poster stated, it is doubtful science will ever be able to confirm or deny the existence of miracles. If mIracles and the supernatural do exist, they seem to be stubbornly uncooperative to scientific method -- which would seem to be expected given most of the lore surrounding these types of events.

    However, just because science ignores it, does not mean these things are not happening.

    Secularist10:

    Can you please be more specific regarding your question. Are you talking two claims about the same event, or are you asking why someone will believe a claim about a certain event, but not about another event? Can we have an example?

    Once you give specifics, I'm sure many people here will be happy to answer you.

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  28. Lolgasm:

    In a way they are the same thing, but I was thinking more about the latter: why you or I or anyone accepts one claim about an event, but not another claim about some other event.

    For example, to get specific: suppose I say that my new baby boy was born on a Saturday because the stars were aligned; every other one of my children was born on a Monday or a Tuesday; but the stars this time around were aligned such that my boy was born on a totally different day.

    Would you accept or not accept this claim, and why?

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  29. *sigh*

    Evidence for a crime, especially that not based on witness testimony, has nothing to do with anecdotal evidence. Witness testimony is NOT reliable, for many different reasons (the imperfect nature of memory, the possibility of bias, the existence of lying, etc).

    There are also no first-hand accounts of the miracles of Jesus, only the speculation of Greek speaking Romans.

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  30. Ginx

    I'm curious as to how much law you've studied. "witness testimony is NOT reliable"? Just where do you get this far fetched idea? Witness testimoney is probably the best thing to have on your side. If a witness comes forward his claim has to be validated or it has to be proved he was lying. Recently I have a friend who was forced to go to court as he was a witness to a crime. Your telling me that the prosecution was wrong to call on him as witness testimony is not reliable?

    I'm also curious where you get this notion of "Greek speaking Romans" and no "first hand accounts" The oldest copy of Matthew dates to 70AD (though since some of Matthew is found on the Magdalen papyrus an earlier date is not out of the question and more likely as there are ne references to the Destruction of the temple either) that and Luke was written by Luke who travelled with Paul and had talked with the disciples.

    Its also worth noting that there are accounts of miracles besides those of Jesus which do coincide with Jesus promise that Christians would be able to do these things.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

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  31. Ginx...

    Sigh indeed. It appears we have reached the "contrarian for the sake of it" portion of our program.

    You stated...(drum roll for effect)

    "Evidence for a crime, especially that not based on witness testimony, has nothing to do with anecdotal evidence. Witness testimony is NOT reliable, for many different reasons (the imperfect nature of memory, the possibility of bias, the existence of lying, etc)."

    I'm not sure anyone stated that empirical evidence WAS particularly reliable. In my post I was just stating that we count on it everyday of our lives and even use it to convict in our court systems.

    As I submitted in my post from yesterday, criminals are quite often tried and convicted on anecdotal evidence, eyewitness testimony and basic deduction (or inference to the best explanation) with very little (or almost nonexistent) empirical evidence.

    Tell me this isn't true. Of course, considering you seem to take the opposing viewpoint of whatever theist crosses your path, you may well do just that. Next thing you know, you will be handing your talk show over to Conan O'Brien and taking it back seven months later. I'm on to your tricky ways, Ginx.

    So where was I? Oh, right...so anecdotal evidence, eyewitness testimony and deduction are good enough to sentence a man to death, but not to lend any support to supernatural claims?

    It is true that anecdotal evidence is unreliable and by its very nature cannot be replicated. So, yes it is bad for scientific method, but that does not automatically disqualify all anecdotal evidence as lies or bias or mass hallucinations either. Unless of course, you are falling into the scientism trap as well and believe that scientific method is the only way to discover knowledge or truth. If that is the case, well then you are just bowing to a new kind of god, aren't you?

    Let's name him Chet. Chet, The God of Scientism!

    FInally (and aren't we all the better for it), you stated...

    "There are also no first-hand accounts of the miracles of Jesus, only the speculation of Greek speaking Romans."

    Yes and no...or is that no and yes? If you mean that Woman Follower #1 (who for our purposes will be played by the lovely Helen Mirren) did not write down a first-person account of her witness to the empty tomb and resurrection body, then yes...if that IS NOT what you meant, well then, I know a certain post-modernist who needs to brush up on his New Testament scholarship, and his nickname rhymes with "stinks" (no offence, it's just the first thing that popped into my skull).

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  32. Secularist 10

    To answer your question all one would simply have to do is check their calenders and ask an astronomer. That would be fairly simple to refute or prove, though it would be much more likely that your baby was born on a full moon.

    Though it would also be worth noting that one should ask what you mean by stars aligned? Fairly vague notion.

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  33. For more on this breaking refutation bulletin. I'll let Josh McDowell speak for me...and oh my stars and garters, it even fits into my court system analogy.

    "Several very important factors arc often overlooked when considering Christ's post-resurrection appearances to individuals. The first is the large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning. One of the earliest records of Christ's appearing after the resurrection is by Paul. The apostle appealed to his audience's knowledge of the fact that Christ had been seen by more than 500 people at one time. Paul reminded them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned.

    Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, associate professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: "What gives a special authority to the list (of witnesses) as historical evidence is the reference to most of the five hundred brethren being still alive. St. Paul says in effect, 'If you do not believe me, you can ask them.' Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago."

    Let's take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. Do you realize that if each of those 500 people were to testify for only six minutes, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you would well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history."

    Thank you Cleveland, you've been a great audience! Good Night!

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  34. Anonymous:

    So then, assuming we could verify that the stars moved in a certain way, you would accept that the star motion was indeed the cause for my baby's birth on a Saturday?

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  35. Just as an FYI, "In 391 [CE], Emperor Theodosius I ordered the destruction of all "pagan" (non-Christian) temples, ..." re the burning of the library at Alexandria. Also, rioting Christians murdered the leading mathematician of the day while the library because she wasn't a he. ( http://tinyurl.com/y9mvgyy )

    Here's another good one, from NPR: ( http://tinyurl.com/23wnbd ). It seems this missionary went to the Amazon jungle to convert the natives. They converted him:
    "... Prof. EVERETT: A guy died and he came back from the dead? That's amazing. We've never seen anything like that. So what did he tell you when he came back from the dead? Well, I didn't actually see him. I mean, the - and so then they said, well, why are you telling us about it? I mean, you didn't see it and you don't know anybody who saw it. And so they were - they lost interest in the story completely.

    POLLIE: The Piraha, Everett says, are the ultimate empiricists, demanding evidence for every claim. And under their cross-examination, Everett began questioning his own religious beliefs. In the end, it was the Indians who converted the missionary. ...
    "

    Your silly yarns can't even fool uneducated bush people. You tell us that Roadrunner cartoon schtick happened to real people long, long, long ago, and you wonder why we laugh at you. Its for the same reason I laughed at the cartoons.

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  36. "Let's take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial, and place them in a courtroom. ..."

    But no such deposition ever took place. There isn't one minute of testimony. There is only the word of Paul, hardly a dispassionate and objective reporter.

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  37. Masked Marauder....

    LOL. Really, that's what you're bringing to the table, huh...evidence of an ex-druggie, counter-culture informed, Noam Chomsky-idolizing linguist that gave up on his faith just because it was put under childlike questioning? Especially questioning from a Amazon tribe who believes in spirits (that they actually SEE no less) and other supernatural goings-on?

    I would say that informs more about the man than the faith.

    That's some weak sauce MaskedMarauder, seriously. It's like the Justice League. You've got Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash...and then you've got guys like Blue Beetle, and you wonder...how the hell is HE even contributing? Do the JLA need somebody for monitor duty that badly? He's funny enough I suppose, but that's all he's got going on. Your contribution here is like Blue Beetle, only without the funny. Well, not the intentional funny at any rate.

    As for your second post, it seems that you are bringing out the big guns with the classic "YOU LIE" defense, recently brought back to prominence by U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson.

    Paul may not have been a dispassionate or objective reporter, (try finding one of those nowadays btw) but if he were lying it would be the largest and most successful conspiracy in the history of the world, particularly with Paul's claim coming so (relatively) soon after the event, since many of those supposed witnesses would still be kicking it with the living.

    Paul's lies would have been easily struck down by others, particularly the Romans, and given the shame of the crucifixion of their leader, Christianity probably would never have gotten off the ground.

    To my knowledge, we have no first-hand account of the assassination of Julius Caesar, yet we largely take that as historical fact. Much of our information comes from Plutarch, who wasn't even a glint in his father's eye until eighty years after the fact. We also know that Plutarch sometimes liked to stretch the truth and fabricate elements of Roman and Greek history for dramatization, so he was hardly a dispassionate or objective reporter himself, and yet we're pretty sure Julius Caesar was shanked, prison squealer-style, on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

    MaskedMarauder, I salute you! When my elderly relatives come over for dinner, I will replace my hot salsa with your trademark weak sauce so as not to upset their sensitive, octogenarian tum-tums.

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  38. Fleaflikr:

    You bring a valid point on Ceaser. Though I will ask you to tone down your hostility to MM there. We don't need to get out of hand here.

    Secularist 10:

    If we could validate it on the stars then yes I would accept your claim. But say an astronomer says the stars weren't aligned on saturday then we would be forced to reject your claim. As I'm sure the astronomer has more authority on the subject. Though does this mean that we are debating whether the stars were aligned or that your baby was born on saturday? Because if we are arguing that the stars was the cause then as I've said it could be refuted that that was the cause. Though then we could take your word that he was born on Saturday.

    Though for a better case lets try this example. One day in England it rains and suddenly fish begin falling from the sky. Only two men see this. When later questioned on the incident one man says it was mackeral, the other trout. Would that mean that either a) its wasn't raining fish? b) It did rain fish though both men disagree on what type of fish it was raining? or c) Both men know nothing about fish but this event still happened.

    For a little more complex scenario say 500 witnessed it raining fish, 250 say it rained trout, 250 say mackeral.

    Will we conclude that yes it rained fish, only the witnesses could not agree what type? Or that all 500 are delusional?

    MM:

    I'm not sure what your point about Theodosius is. Yes he did stamp out Paganism in the Western Roman empire but he never ordered any massive book burnings, just the destruction of pagan temples. I'm at a loss on what this has to do with any historical points this has to Ginx's previous claims. That an angry mob beat a mathematician to death is not something extrodinary either. I'm having slight trouble finding any reference to this claim as well.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

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  39. Anonymous Troll:
    "If we could validate it on the stars then yes I would accept your claim."

    Well, at least you're consistent! I will give you that. Most people who are Christian do not accept astrology or zodiac or any of that jazz, even though, to be logically consistent, they should .

    Let me be clear about my example, BTW. Fact: my baby was born on a Saturday; Fact: the stars were aligned/ moving in a certain way; My claim: the star motion in question was THE CAUSE for my baby's birth on a Saturday.

    You say you would accept my claim. I consider that very telling, indeed.

    Anyone else want to take a crack at this one?

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  40. hardly a dispassionate and objective reporter.

    You're right, he only began by persecuting the early Christians and then had a radical conversion.

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  41. Fleaflikr: For someone who's been admonished to not judge others it seems you do almost nothing but judge others, and not nicely either, to avoid grappling with the issues at hand. I don't know what Chomsky did to get on your hate list, but his personal character has absolutely nothing to do with what's being discussed here. If you ever want to get serious, let me know.

    Re: The Caesar caper: Not the same situation at all. There's lots of contemporary evidence Julius Caesar actually existed and did most of the things attributed to him. Among them are coins, public inscriptions, contemporary accounts and etc. The same can not be said of the other JC, your alleged Jesus.

    Marcus T. Cicero was an eyewitness to the assassination and many of his letters to Caesar, and to others about Caesar have survived.

    Its pretty solid history and there's no desperate necessity to invoke the imaginary testimony of imaginary witnesses to support it.

    Also, as you should know, Paul, and anybody else for that matter, needed lie to factually incorrect. He was known to have an epileptiform neurological condition which is known to have cognitive impacts. Or, like you, he could just be an uncritical thinker and so unusually credulous and so easily fooled into believing in things that never were. And that's not especially difficult to do. It was certainly easier in Paul's day when so little was known about anything, but even today, in our instant information age, thousands were gulled in broad daylight by Bernie Madoff's swindle.

    Neither alternative has anything to do with dishonesty on Paul's part, although it doesn't rule it out either.

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  42. Anonymous...

    Geesh, I hope my sense of humor is not being taken as hostile. I come by it naturally. Note that I never actually stated anything about MM or his character or person, just about the argument, and I thought it was clear I was taking friendly and humorous jabs. So for the record, I WAS NOT attempting to be hostile.

    Of course, that sauce is still weak. ;-)

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  43. AT: Destroying established culture is a promiscuous affair. There needn't be an itemized list of Things To Destroy in order for those things to be destroyed intentionally. When Theodosius called for jihad, the science books went up in the same smoke as the rest.

    The alexandrian mathematician was Hypatia. She wasn't beaten to death. She was taken by force to a church, stripped naked and then flayed alive with shells or potsherds. The story is in Gibbon. I've never heard it serious challenged for authenticity.


    bossmanham: checkout Eric Hoffer's book "The True Believer." With fanatics its the fanaticism that matters, not so much as the cause to which they're devoted. What you mention is just another reason to distrust what Paul says.

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  44. What you mention is just another reason to distrust what Paul says.

    Yeah, right up to his stonings, beatings, imprisonment, and beheading. Okay.

    The 500 witnesses is strong evidence because these people would have been able to be contacted by the people who read Paul's letter. He's saying to go ahead and talk to them, they'll corroborate what he said. I'd assume Paul himself had spoken to some. If these people didn't exist, someone could have pointed that out.

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  45. What has the manner of death to do with the object of belief? Surely, that a suicide bomber is prepared to die for his belief may convince you of the depth of his belief without convincing you of the accuracy of the belief or whether it is anchored in reality. Look no further than the Jonestown Massacre to know what magnitude of preposterous things uncritical true believers are capable of believing and doing based on those beliefs.

    The alleged 500 witnesses is weak evidence because there is no evidence that they existed or what they might have said if they did exist and were asked to verify Paul's interpretation of what he didn't see himself.

    Like the Sherlock Holmes yarn with the dog that didn't bark, ask yourself instead what is implied by the absence of belief by the many hundreds more contemporaries who weren't persuaded.

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  46. Secularist 10:

    Alright now that I understand the nature of your claim I can much more easily comment on it. If you say that the stars aligned is what caused your baby to be born on Saturday and not just that they happened to be born on the day the stars aligned I understand now.

    Only question it brings to mind is why you would claim that? First off what do you think the stars had to do with it? Secondly how is it important?

    I thought we were clarifying dates.

    Fleaflikr:

    It did come across as slightly hostile yes ;)

    The point on Ceaser is still good however. For instance only one witness is recorded. Many of the events were directly told years after.

    Note to MM we are not debating wheter Ceaser existed (not the point, though on another note if you doubt Jesus existed that makes me skeptical of you) but as to whether using the same methodology we can prove each account as viable. Now considering how much is written on Jesus for even after the time he was around it is undeniable that he existed.

    MM fully adressed:

    Thanks for the name. Just throwing out something like that really leaves me hanging trying to varify it. Most of my books don't list her but I'll look for more. Also don't loosely through the word jihad around, its not just religious war (which isn't even close to how your attributing it to Theodiosus). He was attempting to follow in Constantines legacy and did it in the worst way possible (well not the worst Dioclytian was 10x worse than he ever was) and actually not alot was in Alexandria. Nothing that couldn't be reproduced anyway. The contents of the library were scattered all about the ancient world and many would be successfuly reproduced thanks to the hard work of monks as they hoarded this knowlegde away. Besides the library wasn't ordered burned, the same rioters set it on fire to destroy pagan texts. A far cry from the intentional burnings of scientific materials that Ginx would ascribe.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

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  47. Oh and a quick note on Alexandria. I was talking about scientific materials being reproduced.

    Though another note is there is no mention of anything other then religious artifacts being destroyed. Part of it as I understand was burned but the entire library was not destoryed. From what I've gleaned from further research apparently it was a pagan temple either attached to the library or under it.

    signed "that anonymous troll"

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  48. Anonymous Troll:

    It's unfortunate that you seem to not have actually fully read my original question. It was very, very simple. It was, quoting myself:

    "For example, to get specific: suppose I say that my new baby boy was born on a Saturday because the stars were aligned..."

    That is: Baby born on Saturday BECAUSE the stars were aligned.

    You now say:
    "Only question it brings to mind is why you would claim that? First off what do you think the stars had to do with it? Secondly how is it important?"

    Why I would claim it is irrelevant. Address the assertion, please.

    But more importantly, neither you nor anyone else on the theist/ religious side has addressed the original issue I raised, which was extremely fundamental and extremely simple, and far more in-line with the topic of Mariano's post than much of what has been discussed here.

    It was, again quoting myself:

    "Why do you accept one claim about an event, but not another?"

    And I later clarified by saying:
    "[the issue is] why you or I or anyone accepts one claim about an event, but not another claim about some other event."

    The baby on Saturday thing was simply an example to make the larger issue clearer. That's why it was prefaced with the words "For example."

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  49. MM....

    I find it interesting that my use of humor was somehow thought as an attempt to avoid "grappling with the issues". I'm of the opinion that discourse on this particular subject can often devolve into a lot of chest-thumping, emotional responses, blind contrarianism and pedantry...especially when confined to a blog like this where anyone can post their thoughts, so in an effort to avoid such mind-numbing engagements, I turn to humour, which can be biting, but is always in good-hearted jest. However, lest I risk getting the fun police called on me, I am willing to get serious for a moment.

    My post to you was primarily dismissive in nature because your posts (at least the two that I was referencing) were largely without merit and seemed designed mostly to belittle. What had been a thoughtful and interesting series of exchanges was brought down by your post that basically gave you an opportunity to state how "silly" Christianity is, and how atheists laugh at Christians for their silly beliefs. Hardly adds much of substance to the thread, does it?

    Your second point was more or less an opportunity to haphazardly call Paul's credibility into question. Did you provide evidence? No. You basically stated that Paul was neither "dispassionate or objective" therefore he could not be trusted as a source. This was another sniping run without a shred of logic or evidentiary support to make your comment anything even resembling a worthwhile addition to the discussion. I almost expected your next post to state nothing more than "Christians are cotton-headed ninny-muggins's". So...when I compared your additions to the thread as "weak sauce", or the "Blue Beetle" of the thread, I did so, because the shoe fit. This was not a judgement on you or your character, just your eye-roll inducing posts.

    Your following response to me though, much better. If you had come with that in the first place, we would have been in business. I do find it interesting however, that while I took your posts to task, you take ME personally to task by calling me judgmental, evasive, and a poor critical-thinker. It good to know that he old adage of "Agree with Atheists or they'll call you more names" still holds true.

    Regarding your latest love letter to me, allow me to say that an individuals background, culture and personal character are quite relevant when analyzing their decisions. Personal decisions are informed by all those qualities. Let us once again look at your "evidence" of the silli-williness of Christianity in the linguist (Everett) who was amazingly de-converted from Christianity by the "ultimate empiricists", an Amazon tribe who believes in physical manifestations of spirits that they see and talk to, as well as other supernatural events. Empirical indeed.

    Upon reading more about Everett, you find that he was heavily influenced by the 70's counter-culture and drug scene. Well, those in that scene tend to be atheists, neo-pagans or anything but Christian. As for Chomsky, I have no problem with the guy, but Chomsky was an idol of Everett's, and it is human nature to emulate the qualities of your idols...and in addition to Chomsky's accomplishments as a linguist, he was against concentrated and organizational power, and was an atheist and secular humanist. Everett credits Christianity with helping him escape the drug scene, and that may be what Christianity was for him, an escape...because it seems that he lost his faith upon being confronted with the weakest of scrutiny So, again...character and background informs the decisions that one makes...they are qualities that are anything but irrelevant to this topic.

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  50. MM...

    In continuing our serious discussion, let us address your Julius Caesar vs. Jesus Christ comments. You are correct on one thing, I had forgotten about Cicero's writings, thanks for bringing up a point of value. So, that's one additional source, terrific...so between that, Plutarch, statues, coins and inscriptions, we can very much confirm the existence of Julius Caesar, not that it was ever being put into doubt.

    However, Romans also put the images of gods and goddesses on their coins, write about them in their letters and literary works, carve statues of them and inscribe their names onto structures. So is that enough evidence to confirm the Roman gods to you as well?

    From your "alleged Jesus" comment, it would seem that you doubt the existence of Jesus at all, interesting since it would put you in the academic minority. Most New Testament scholars (even the Atheist ones) largely agree that Jesus of Nazareth lived, preached, was crucified by the Romans and was buried. They also largely agree that Christ's followers believe he was resurrected from the dead.

    My guess is given the various sources you list for Julius Caesar that you claim Jesus lacks, you accept the New Testament as a single source and an unreliable one at that. So might I gently remind you that the New Testament is a compilation of documents and writings, it is a collection of sources. Sources that archeology is actually confirming more and more elements of. It used to be that the dearth of archeological evidence for the Assyrians or the Nineveh disproved the Bible. After they were found, then it was the Hittites, and now, hey...we've found those buggers too.

    You could talk about the inconsistencies among the gospels to invalidate the New Testament, but most of these are minor, as you'd expect from different accounts. Now, if all the minor details matched or if the major ones were completely off, then maybe you are on to some chicanery. So, if there was no Roman census around that time, or if one gospel claimed that Hitler killed the children rather than King Herod, or that the shepherds at Jesus birth were watching Barney Miller, then we might be concerned about the validity of the varied accounts.

    I would go back to the Caesar story...what about Brutus? Plutarch infers that Brutus was Julius Caesar's son, while other sources say he was the son of Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder. So, should we now bring doubt to Brutus' existence due to these inconsistencies? Et tu uhhhhh?

    Honestly though, if we took the metaphysical and supernatural elements out of the New Testament, or we removed the naturalist bias, it would more than pass the muster of historical documents.

    There are also references to Jesus Christ outside of the bible, such as in the writings of Josephus. That's one, plus the New Testament. Hey, two primary sources were good enough for Julius Caesar, right? Of course there are other references to Jesus in Jewish and pagan writings as well.

    Finally, we return to Paul, that "hardly dispassionate and objective" reporter as you call him. So, in that initial comment, Paul was too emotionally invested and tainted by his subjectivity, in your second post he is suffering from a neurological issue (which you state as fact, but is nothing of the sort). Wow, Paul just can't win with you, huh? Either way, whatever the source of Paul's claims, be it fraud, hallucinations or a genuine religious experience, it does not change the fact that his claims could and would have been easily refuted by the Romans or nonbelievers, especially given the shame brought by his religious leader's crucifiction. Yet, what happened was precisely the opposite...to the extreme.

    However, you may be right about people believing in silly things though, I mean if Richard Dawkins can get others to believe that biological memes exist, maybe you really are onto something there. Okay, one joke...I couldn't resist.

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  51. Hello world...

    In a mad dash to edit down my posts and get to bed (and be very very serious about it, might I add), I lost some things in the editing. While the Assyrians or the Nineveh and the Hittites provide much of the cultural, geographical and philosophical foundations for the New Testament, their discovery more than helps to validate portions of the Old Testament as well, really even more so. But in Jesus' sermons and in Luke you will find all the connecting threads one might need.

    However there are other discoveries to lend credence to the Jesus tale, historical confirmation of Pilate and the discovery of the tomb of Caiaphas being two, the cultural accuracy of Luke being another.

    Also, It will be interesting to see how the James Ossuary situation shakes out.

    Memes though...I still got nothin'

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  52. Somebody just got pwned like a n00b!

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  53. Secularist 10

    In regards to your example. I lost the context as we discussed it. Though now you can answer as to why your claiming the stars caused the child to be born. Otherwise basically asking an astronomer breaks the whole argument.

    As to why someone accepts one claim over the other, for me its evidence, sincerity, and confirmation on my part.

    For instance I was highly sceptical of my parents claiming I'd only had a 50% chance to live at birth. I thought it was memory. So we went to visit the doctors one day and asked for details. Turns out my parents were wrong and I only had a 40% chance. Thats why I know accept that story.

    Anonymous above:

    We don't need cheerleaders here.

    signed "that anonymous troll" ;)

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  54. Anon T.: the dividing line between religion and science, or at least protoscience, and education was thinner back then. In Egypt astronomy was religion. The library in Alexandria was indeed in a religious building, but not everything in it was sacred. Even the Vatican has its own observatory but that doesn't make it's telescope a holy relic or a fetish.

    Even so, what sort of swine goes around trashing other people's religious buildings? Just because I'm an atheist I don't assume a license to bomb churches or torch synagogues.

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  55. Fleaflikr: Humor? Is that what you call it? Background does matter, but that doesn't make rank vituperation a substitute for analysis or elucidation. Eg: Upon reading more about Everett, you find that he was heavily influenced by the 70's ... So? Everybody who lived through the 1970s was touched by the culture, how could they not be? Everybody from the Pope to Ho Chi Minh and everyone in between was touched by it. That's a truism, not an argument or an explication.

    I said silly yarns, not that christianity is sily. See, you always try to imagine the worst of people. And yes, believing somebody rose from the dead is silly. And yes, I do laugh a bit when people get wound up pushing it like its as natural as apple pie.

    But, unless you are saying that there is nothing to christianity but the alleged resurrection, you're just exaggerating and imagining things with your fulminations on supposed attitudes toward christianity in its entirety.

    Again, I'm not calling Paul's credibility into question. I challenge the statement, not the man. And, yet again, there are many ways for him to have been wrong without his being dishonest or disreputable. And, yet again again, you try to make it all about personal character assassination. Its as if there is no such thing as an objectively real world out there for you. You behave as if everything is about personalities.

    Maybe your eyes wouldn't roll if you looked more carefully at what was in front of them instead of what you imagine or wish was in front of them.

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  56. Fleaflikr: Caesar Part Deux:

    Cicero is the only one I know of who witnessed the assassination and who's writings survived until today, which was the origin of the thread. But there were at least two other contemporaries who's writings remain. (Three if you consider JC himself, but those books are neither here nor there WRT the assassination.) Catullus the poet was a friend and guest of Caesar, and Sallust the historian was a friend also, as well as an enemy of Cicero. He aslo served under Caesar in Gaul, I think. So, yes, the record for the life and death of J Caesar is much, much, much, much, much more complete and reliable than that for "Jesus."

    Quite apart from the bulk of independent corroborative evidence for Caesar, there was nothing inherently improbable in it either. And that's important. There are certainly untrue elements in Caesar's biography, although I don't know precisely what, but over all its probably mostly true. Who knows, maybe his real name was Poopsius Maximus and Julius was just his nickaname.

    But with Jesus there are all these supposed miracles to contend with, and extraordinary claims require extraordinarily good evidence to back them up, not less. I have no problem believing that somebody named Jesus was crucified around that time in Palestine. But if I'm going to believe that that guy rose from the dead I'm going to need a lot more to go on than the unrecorded testimony of 500 imaginary witnesses.

    ... the fact that his claims could and would have been easily refuted by the Romans or nonbelievers ... How do you know they weren't refuted? Where's the testimony? Where's the commentary on it? Nowhere. There isn't even a record of it ever having been collected. Corrinthians 15:6 is just a rhetorical challenge, like a rhetorical question, never meant to be answered. It persuades only those who already want to be persuaded.

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  57. Anonymous troll:

    "Though now you can answer as to why your claiming the stars caused the child to be born. Otherwise basically asking an astronomer breaks the whole argument."

    Oh no, you're retreading ground we've already covered. Remember? I said (hypothetically):

    "Fact: my baby was born on a Saturday; Fact: the stars were aligned/ moving in a certain way..."
    My claim was that the stars caused the time of birth. My motivation for claiming that is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Now, on to the central issue, you say:
    "As to why someone accepts one claim over the other, for me its evidence, sincerity, and confirmation on my part."

    YES! THANK YOU! We finally have an answer. Now we have something to work with. Interestingly, this is pretty much exactly my own thought process, as well. And yet we clearly believe very different things, don't we?

    I would just suggest the following: (1) sincerity can be faked, no? Also, one can sincerely believe something without it being true, right? (like my star baby claim);(2) confirmation on my part... confirmation of what?

    Let me suggest that what you are "confirming" is the evidence itself. So sincerity alone is ultimately unreliable, negating the 2nd condition. And what you are confirming is the evidence itself, rendering the 3rd condition redundant.

    Conclusion: it is evidence alone that justifies a claim. Evidence can come in many forms, of course (i.e. tangible or intangible) but that's what it is.

    Evidence is useful to us only if it fits with our understanding/ conception of the natural order, right? Think about it.

    Miracles by definition violate the natural order, rendering evidence meaningless. It follows, therefore, that miracles cannot be justified. Therefore a reasonable person should not accept them.

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  58. MM....

    Hi again. It's me. Your letters have been keeping me warm all these sleepless nights and I just want to say...thank you. Really though, c'mon man...that Blue Beetle thing, that was at least kind of funny, I mean, maybe not to you, but I bet it would KILL at Comic-Con. You know, my middle name is "Glib"...I bet that explains everything.

    Regarding Everett, I didn't state he was "influenced by the 70's", I wrote that he was influenced by 70's COUNTERCULTURE thankyouverymuch. Of course everyone who lived in the 60's and 70's were touched by the culture...but Everett admits that he was seriously into the counterculture movement of the time...a movement that was very anti-Christian. Just look at the personalities to come out of that movement, and that should be very telling for you. Again, no matter how you try to spin it, personal and environmental influences inform our character and decisions, quite often trumping education, reason, logic and yes, even faith. So, upon studying his background, and considering his de-conversion under the most childlike of scrutinies, I can justifiably assume that his background influenced this turn of events. This is Psychology 101 and I'm not sure why you are so determined to try and downplay it. Either way, let's move on, I'm sure Everett's ears are burning right about now.

    The "silly yarn" you were referring to was the resurrection tale, which is the fundamental basis for Christianity. Is it all there is to Christianity? Of course not, but without the resurrection (either physical or spiritual) Christianity would be a much different worldview.

    Imagine a movie with great special effects and good acting but with a terrible script and terrible direction. All elements of the movie aren't bad, but overall, yep...as a whole, it was a bad movie, because the foundational elements were lacking.

    So, by your account, you are calling the foundational belief of Christianity silly, but not Christianity itself? That sir, is quite a fine line. One doesn't have to "always" imagine the worst in people to have a hard time swallowing that one.

    The unavoidable truth is that you were making lowbrow, insubstantial comments with those posts and I called you out on it. I don't have to imagine the purpose of your posts or misinterpret them due to some kind of martyr complex (badump-bump), their purpose was all too transparent.

    And for the record...I WISH my eyes would see Sofia Vergara in my bedroom raring and ready to go, but so far, nothing.

    When you state Paul was a "hardly dispassionate and objective reporter", what precisely are you commenting on if not his credibility? Your comment did not address Paul's letters, it addressed Paul. In your follow up comment you stated that Paul suffered from a neurological disorder, once again calling into doubt his credibility to falsify his statement. At no time did you actually comment on the statement itself, you went after the reporter, not the report. You behave as if you did the exact opposite, which makes for an interesting exercise in revisionist history.

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  59. Finally, since we both believe the Julius Caesar was a real guy (phew, it was touch and go there for awhile), I can skip over the evidence for Julius Caesar and more right into why you question the credibility and/or existence of Jesus Christ.

    You say "...with Jesus there are all these supposed miracles to contend with, and extraordinary claims require extraordinarily good evidence to back them up, not less. I have no problem believing that somebody named Jesus was crucified around that time in Palestine. But if I'm going to believe that that guy rose from the dead I'm going to need a lot more to go on than the unrecorded testimony of 500 imaginary witnesses."

    Now we find ourselves full circle back to Mariano's initial post, which was about objections to miracles. You really brought us back nicely, it was seamless really...so, good on you. Basically your issues with the historicity of Jesus boils down to what I knew it was always going to boil down to...your disbelief of miracles and the resurrection. These are the same issues that most atheists have, and the very ones that have been addressed over and over by apologists and continue to be sticking points for those who presume naturalism and claim miracles do not happen, despite whatever evidence may be placed in front of them.

    Since I'm guessing that neither of us are going to be converted by a couple of blog posts, it seems we are at an impasse. Therefore, by my thinking at least, this is the perfect time for to take my leave of this thread. All the best to you and yours.

    Goodbye Lion, goodbye Tin Man, goodbye everyone, goodbye Masked Marauder, I'll miss you most of all.

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  60. Secularist....

    "Evidence is useful to us only if it fits with our understanding/ conception of the natural order, right? Think about it."

    You are describing bad scientific practice. Good science seeks to expand and enlarge our understanding in order to change our concepts of the natural order. This is how science proceeds.

    It's the evidence that feeds science, not the science that determines the evidence. Genuine scientific enquiry follows the evidence. You have it backwards

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  61. IRT Masked Marauder...

    You are removing Corinthians 15:6 from its greater context. The Corinthians were being divided and falling from the faith. They were doubtful of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote back to them with -- among other claims -- the claim of the 500 witnesses.

    When this news began to spread to the nonbelievers and to the Romans, they would have done much more than refute this grandiose and false claim, they would have used this absurd pronouncement to discredit and quash the Christian movement. T'would very likely have been the noose that Christianity hung itself with.

    Additionally, while I cannot know how it was perceived by others reading your posts, I believe your attempts to negate Paul's claim were via an attack on his credibility. It was Paul himself who was the topic of your criticism, not his claims. You were attempting to place his reliability into question by citing his personal bias or some bogus medical condition. That's fine, it doesn't bother me, I am used to such tactics, but you could at least admit to it.

    IRT Secularist...

    You wrote:

    "Miracles by definition violate the natural order, rendering evidence meaningless. It follows, therefore, that miracles cannot be justified. Therefore a reasonable person should not accept them."

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but your essential claim is that evidence of miracles should be ignored or rendered inert, because miracles cannot exist. This is not only poor logic, but poor methodology. It presupposes a myopic and naturalistic foundation, leaving room for nothing else, including genuine inquiry. Your personal philosophy does not allow you to follow the evidence, so you discard it. This is very telling.

    It is not at all dissimilar to Masked Marauder's reasoning to doubt the Biblical Jesus, and possibly even the historical personage, contra to the evidence of his existence or his deeds. Masked Marauder cannot bring himself to believe in these Jesus claims due to a presupposed naturalism.

    I admire the faith of both of you, truly. I believe that it takes a lot of it to be an atheist, and perhaps healthy dose of hubris as well.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Anonymous:
    "Good science seeks to expand and enlarge our understanding in order to change our concepts of the natural order."

    The issue here is the term "natural order." I could go into a big spiel about what I define it to mean, but I think my response to Dei-O below will help to clarify.

    Dei-O:
    "Correct me if I'm wrong here, but your essential claim is that evidence of miracles should be ignored or rendered inert, because miracles cannot exist."

    Nope. I'm perfectly willing to accept that a miracle happens. Here's the problem: there's no way of knowing it. Testing and experimentation do not apply because testing and experimentation require a natural order that adheres to certain laws. By definition, miracles violate those laws. So we can never know if the miracle actually happened, or if someone's trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

    You mentioned "evidence" of miracles. But miracles, by definition, preclude evidence, because of the nature of legitimate evidence.

    "It presupposes a myopic and naturalistic foundation, leaving room for nothing else..."

    That's right. I am assuming that only the material world exists. There very well may exist a world beyond this material world. But here's my question: how do we know that that world exists?

    Personally, I would absolutely LOVE to know how you know that there is a supernatural world. I would love to see the evidence. I really would.

    You are absolutely right that a materialistic methodology can only lead to materialistic conclusions. Materialism cannot describe the nonmaterial. But my question is: how do you know that nonmaterial world, that supernatural world, exists?

    It would seem to take quite a bit of faith on your part, indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Fleflikr: I wrote that he was influenced by 70's COUNTERCULTURE thankyouverymuch....

    What you call the counter culture is/was a part of THE culture, not outside it. It was one response to the predominant culture and so is, along with the dominant culture, and other sub cultures, just another component of the overall culture. Just because he reached a conclusion you didn't like doesn't entitle you dismiss it simply by applying pejorative labels like "childlike" to describe his contemplations on the subject, especially when you don't know what they are.

    So, by your account, you are calling the foundational belief of Christianity silly, but not Christianity itself?
    Yes. The implications of the truth/falseness of a claim are immaterial to the question of the truth/falseness of the claim.

    When you state Paul was a "hardly dispassionate and objective reporter", what precisely are you commenting on if not his credibility?
    Simply that there are more things to take into consideration when evaluating the truthiness of the claim than simply that Saint Paul said it. As has been said here and elsewhere (ref Dei-O), Paul had political motivations for writing the letter, and its fair to consider that in evaluating the statement. And yes, the state of his neurological health is also a factor to consider, as is it the conspicuous absence of the putative testimony of the mute 500. As you said, "personal and environmental influences inform our character and decisions, quite often trumping education, reason, logic and yes, even faith." Why is that true only for Everett but not for Paul?

    I "went after" Paul because you introduced him into this conversation via McDowell. If you want me to respond to the evidence from the 500, present it and I will.

    These are the same issues that most atheists have,...

    These are the same issues every rational person has.

    Shortly after The King died, Elvis sightings started coming in from all around the world. I didn't keep count but I wouldn't be surprised if there were 500 or more all told. Are you saying I'm obliged to believe that Elvis lives because 500 people I don't know say they saw him in shopping malls from Tarzana to Timbuktu? I don't think so. And if I won't do it for Elvis, why should I do it for Jesus? At least I SAW Elvis on Ed Sullivan, so I know he was real, or as real as a stage act can be.

    And note also that as far as I know nobody claimed that Elvis ever rose from the dead. The claim was merely that he faked his death to get privacy, a much more credible theory than that attached to Jesus. On strictly rational grounds, even with the evil mummy, the movie "Bubba Ho-Tep" is much more believable than "The Greatest Story Ever Told."

    ReplyDelete
  64. secularist10:

    You love to babble nonsense but you constantly fail to address the issues. That is why atheists are stupid. They fail to accept God and they embrace the stupidity of science. Observational science is limited by our senses so how can we rely on our science? You really should start using your brains nore I must admit I am losing patience with your stupidity!

    ReplyDelete
  65. Hi:

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    ReplyDelete
  66. CHRISTIANITY NEEDS TO BE EXTERMINATED WITH THE RATS AND ROACHES!

    ReplyDelete
  67. IRT Masked Marauder

    I believe you may have missed the other posters' points about being influenced by a subculture. They weren't arguing that the counterculture movement was not a integral part of the overall cultural attitudes of the 1960's and 1970's, but they were pointing out that there is a very significant difference between living during it and actively seeking out that subculture. I grew up during the 70's, so I did the former, but did not do the latter. When one actively seeks out a subculture it is because that lifestyle appeals to them, they are then further influenced by it. In addition, the other posters were not describing the linguist's decision as childlike, rather they were arguing that the objections given to him by the tribe were childlike, which they very much were. Those objections came off as very first year Sunday School to me.

    Regarding Paul. Thank you for confirming that you were in fact attacking Paul's credibility directly. I'm glad that has been settled. Your inconsistency in that regard has been remarkably consistent.

    My appreciation of the Bubba Ho-Tep shout out notwithstanding, the Elvis analogy has too many problems for me to go into at this moment in time. I will say this for it though, it is flashy and to the uncritical thinker would seem like a somewhat effective argument. You should continue refining it and it may turn out to be worthwhile. I readily invite other posters to break down why it fails so miserably in its current form.

    You wrote:
    "These are the same issues every rational person has."

    Looking through your earlier comments, I noticed a tendency for you to shift the focus of your arguments on the fly in an attempt to keep them viable. Having written that, I was still surprised by your decision to so quickly backpedal into the claim of rationality over irrational Christian belief. This is a shallow and fallacious crutch of an argument that has been kicked out from under the one legged Atheist by many philosophers, both Christian and secular. I recommend you begin with Plantinga's arguments of epistemic rights and noetic structure, and continue from there.

    It has been interesting reading your comments thus far, but given your retreat to the simplest of rationality claims and your sophomoric and banal attempt at humor in your message to Secularist, I truly find no compelling reason to continue engaging with you.

    Good day.

    ReplyDelete
  68. IRT Secularist

    You and I actually have more in common than you might think. The difference largely lies in our philosophical conclusions. In a couple of ways, I even completely agree with you.

    In an exchange with another poster, the two of you came to a more or less agreed upon conclusion that there are many different types of evidence that go into our belief or non-belief in any given claim. Yet another poster even mentioned that scientific evidence is not even the most credible form of evidence we use in our courtrooms. I agree with all this, and it seems fair enough all around. However, in this post to me, you mention the nature of "legitimate evidence". I will assume that despite your exchanges with others, what you truly consider to be "legitimate evidence" would be empirical evidence, tethered to natural laws and a materialist methodology, largely proven or disproven by the scientific method. Given your other responses to my statements, I think that seems like a fair assessment of your opinion on the matter.

    Additionally, as a previous poster stated -- and where you and I seem to agree -- if miracles or the supernatural exist, given their unpredictable nature and the inability to reproduce effects consistently, I do not believe that the scientific method will ever be able to conclusively prove or disprove the existence of these phenomenon. Where we disagree is in the legitimacy and application of evidence when dealing with the supernatural and claims of miracles.

    Your point of view is the materialist one, believing that because we cannot conclusively confirm or falsify these occurrences via the scientific method we have no legitimate reason to believe in them. This is, as I stated previously, a myopic and narrow viewpoint, and one that adheres to the fallacy that is scientism. I, on the other hand, admit that scientific evidence is important and viable evidence, but it is not the ONLY kind of viable evidence.

    For example, science and its standard methodology cannot prove ethical beliefs or moral values, it cannot prove mathematical and logical truths, it cannot prove aesthetic judgements nor ironically can science prove science itself. Yet it is rational for us to believe all these things to exist via evidence from outside the realm of science.

    End Part 1

    ReplyDelete
  69. IRT Secularist - Part 2

    When it comes to the supernatural and related elements -- miracles, etc. -- not only is there a wealth of documentary evidence supporting it, but we see evidence of what may or may not be the supernatural almost everyday, from people being pronounced dead by medical experts only to come back to life, to the mystery of the human consciousness, to a cat who seems to know when people are going to die, to 70,000 people in Portugal seeing the Lady Fatima. I admit that there MAY someday be a naturalist explanations for all these events, but in the meantime, just assuming without evidence that these things are natural in origin, or dismissing them out of hand is an act of materialist dogmatism that cannot be justified by the material evidence available. This is not explanatory, it is evasive. While I readily admit that it is sometimes possible to disregard testimonial evidence with some ex post facto claim of hallucination or neurological illness, there are no shortage of occurrences that do not lend themselves to such conclusions, such as when someone speaks a language they do not know or comes to knowledge that they have no material means of knowing.

    Two additional examples of evidence for the supernatural which utilize the scientific method include the work of Rupert Sheldrake, and remote viewing. A previous poster mentioned Sheldrake, but I too have been very intrigued by his work with dogs and his papers on harmonic resonance. He has been peer reviewed and published and his findings have not been successfully debunked, despite numerous attempts by others to do so, and his work falls squarely into the realm of what we would call supernatural. Remote viewing has also been "proven" by the scientific method and that too is clearly supernatural in scope.

    Findings like these are all too often dismissed by the pop argument of "extraordinary claims", which makes a convenient umbrella for the materialist to use when it is raining evidence that he or she doesn't like. While the Sagan argument may serve it's purpose as a piece of old-timey psuedo-scientific wisdom, there are many inherent issues in the "extraordinary claims" argument, one of which is that it adds a ridiculously subjective variable into the scientific method. What is considered extraordinary, and by who's criteria? What makes a claim "very" extraordinary as opposed to just "slightly" extraordinary? What if the claim is "moderately" extraordinary but the evidence is only "mildly" extraordinary? How is this even decided? The "Extraordinary claims" argument is just one example at how often materialist arguments rely on an appeal to logic even though they are offered up under the banner of science.

    You talk about miracles violating what you define as the "natural order", but what of the natural order itself? What of the cosmological constant and the fine-tuning of the universe? Why are the fundamental laws of nature true? Why is the electron charged, what is it that make it follow certain laws? In "The RNA World", Orgel and Joyce concluded that the series of prebiotic reactions needed to form oligonucleotides “would have been a near miracle”. So what of biochemistry, then? Why must the materialist scientist retreat from materialism into metaphysics to try and answer many of these questions? Given all of that, it would seem to me that the natural order is actually quite miraculous from a certain point of view, leaving room for much, much more.

    End Part 2

    ReplyDelete
  70. IRT Secularist -- Conclusion

    You asked me:

    "How do you know that nonmaterial world, that supernatural world, exists".

    I do not. I only believe that it exists based on the many different kinds of viable evidence available to me. I believe this, as do 9 out of 10 Americans and roughly the same percentage of the global population. In other words, I am not a man on an island when it comes to disagreeing with the materialist worldview.

    I very much agree that my faith, which is both rational and reasonable, still takes a bit of, for lack of a better term -- faith. That would seem self-explanatory. However, dogmatic adherence to materialism takes quite a bit of faith as well, more so in many ways. In spite of that observation, most materialists would rather pound the table, shouting of "rationality and reason" and engaging in all kinds of mental gymnastics rather than just admit to it. If you are the exception to this rule, I applaud you for it.

    Thank you for an enjoyable discussion. Be seeing you.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Dei-O: ... but they were pointing out that there is a very significant difference between living during it and actively seeking out that subculture...
    Of course, and that's what I was talking about. The cultural components have reciprocal relations among each other. There can be no counter culture without a predominant culture to counter and the predominant culture becomes in the process a reaction to that counter culture. No matter which side someone comes down on they are inevitably affected by the other.

    When you say "When one actively seeks out a subculture it is because that lifestyle appeals to them..." it is equally true that those that stick to the dominant culture are actively choosing that over the counter culture(s) because conforming to the original dominant subculture appeals to them; so they are both equally active expressions of their respective prejudices. The point being that cultural relativism operates on both sides and so can not be an authoritative discriminating criterion.

    ... rather they were arguing that the objections given to him by the tribe were childlike...
    "childlike" was used in two contexts. The first was similar to what you say, but the second, to which I was responding, was WRT "[Everett's] de-conversion under the most childlike of scrutinies". In neither case is it childlike to consider the quality of testimmony for extraordinarily peculiar claims. Neither is it childlike to not be persuaded by vague hearsay of uncertain accuracy from unknown sources. The alternative, what you're proposing as the right path, is just intransigent prejudice, not thoughtful contemplation of the subject.

    Once again, I'm responding to the credibility of the claim given the available evidence (or lack thereof, in this case), not the credibility of Paul. I don't understand why you're having so much difficulty with this simple distinction.

    Of course focus shifts. All open discussions are fluid and focus flows with it. I talked about the rationality of concern over the evidence in the context of the claim being made and the evidence offered in its support. This should be an utterly mundane and uncontroversial issue. It holds for all things, not just this. That you chose to inject irrational christian belief into the mix is just spurious as far as I'm concerned. These diversions are why focus flows here, by the way.

    Plantinga concerns himself with internal self consistency, not consistency with objective reality which is what's called for here.


    re: sophomoric and banal attempt at humor: try to pay closer attention to what is being posted. That was from a spoofer. Note lack of "avatar" and that link goes to somewhere other than mine.

    Ciao!

    ReplyDelete
  72. IRT Masked Marauder

    In reading through the numerous comments very quickly, I did miss that it was a spoofer posting that message. For accusing you of that absurdity, and my dismissal of you because of that, I apologize.

    However, my other comments stand and --going against my better judgement -- I will engage you for one final time..

    Cultural relativism does operate on both sides, influencing decision making in many ways. None of the earlier posters were stating that cultural influence alone swayed his decision, but that it was a legitimate factor, which you yourself seem to be admitting that it is. I'm not sure why this continues to be a point of argument. I think you are splitting hairs here and reading far too much into this.

    These "childlike" questions are basic queries of the Christian faith that have been asked before and have been answered more times than one can reasonably count. This has nothing to do with any sort of immovable dogmatism, just an observation that these rather simple objections to Christianity have been addressed in intellectually complex ways. Finally, the scrutiny being referred to was the tribe's, not Everett's, so let it go.

    With the Paul issue, I'm not sure if you are being intentionally obtuse or if you really believe that you are attacking only the claim and not the claimant. After reviewing your litany of posts in this thread, I found a couple of offhand remarks about having no testimony from the 500 "imaginary" witnesses, in which you largely just dismiss the claim, but your other comments on this topic involved questioning Paul's reliability, due to either a fictional medical history or his motives. If you don't understand how that is an attempt to cast doubt onto Paul's reliability, then I will be content to throw my hands up in the air and just walk away.

    I agree that all focus shifts, but your tactics, wether intentional or not, seem to be about changing the very nature of the argument to keep it viable, fine -- more power to you. You also have a habit of inferring an opinion rather than stating it outright and when called on the inference, playing the innocent. For example.

    When FleaFlikr wrote:

    "Your issues with the historicity of Jesus boils down to what I knew it was always going to boil down to...your disbelief of miracles and the resurrection. These are the same issues that most atheists have."

    You responded with:

    "These are the same issues every rational person has."

    It would seem unnecessary for me to mention that Christians have no such issues with the resurrection story or the act of miracles, as they are partly the basis for the Christian faith. Therefore, your inference is that Christians are in fact irrational, and at it's basis, Christianity is irrational as well. Your stated opinion informs this logic, and it is an argument that has been fairly well beaten about the neck and head by philosophers both Christian and secular.

    You later write:

    "That you chose to inject irrational christian belief into the mix is just spurious as far as I'm concerned."

    The obviousness of these tactics do your credibility no favors.

    Finally, I think you need to review all of Plantinga's arguments in depth. Objective and external reality is covered as well.

    Be seeing you.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Dei-O:

    Glad to see I've prompted such a response!

    "... science and its standard methodology cannot prove ethical beliefs or moral values, it cannot prove mathematical and logical truths… Yet it is rational for us to believe all these things to exist via evidence from outside the realm of science."

    You are conflating materialism with scientism or positivism. They are related, but the former does not imply the latter. I disagree on scientific methodology and morality, but that's another discussion. We know that feelings exist because we can and do experience them, either through the body or the mind. All these things you mentioned are very amenable to a materialist mindset, a mindset that asserts that only this reality exists.

    “I admit that there MAY someday be a naturalist explanations for all these events, but in the meantime, just assuming without evidence that these things are natural in origin, or dismissing them out of hand is an act of materialist dogmatism that cannot be justified by the material evidence available.”

    Oh, but this is wrong. It would be dogmatic if there was no rational justification for it. But I can think of at least one strong reason, inductive in nature, why this is a rational position: (1) there have been many materially unexplainable events in history (plagues, natural disasters, babies born with deformities, etc), (2) almost all have subsequently been explained materially, (3) therefore, we expect a future material explanation for a currently unexplainable event.

    Another inductive reason to bet in favor of materialist explanations and against supernatural ones:
    There has never been an ironclad proven example of the supernatural. This includes the things you mentioned, like remote viewing.

    On extraordinary evidence: I don’t see why this is so difficult to accept. If someone claims that something happened which violates the natural laws as well as abundant scientific findings, that claim will need to really work hard to justify itself. You can’t just say someone thousands of years ago (in a heathen society given to superstition and magic) died and then came back to life, cite a few pieces of evidence and eyewitness claims, and assume your job is done. The claim should account for the fact that it runs contrary to a vast amount of evidence and knowledge. Jesus’ resurrection, for example, does not account for that. Quantifying “extraordinary” or “how much evidence is enough” is a separate legitimate issue—but the underlying principle is correct.

    Also, since you're a Christian, consider: there is about as much evidence, and the same kind of evidence, for the Prophet Muhammad story as for the Jesus resurrection story; why don't Christians accept the former?

    “Why are the fundamental laws of nature true?”
    Why do you ask? That is, why do you entertain the idea that they might not be true?

    “However, dogmatic adherence to materialism takes quite a bit of faith as well, more so in many ways.”

    Not really. Materialism is the default condition of the human mind. To see why, try this little thought experiment: assume that material reality does not exist. Logically, can you assume that? No, you cannot. In order to imagine that reality does not exist, you must exist, which means that reality must exist. Now assume that the supernatural world does not exist. Logically, can you do that? Yes you can. Materialism is the default.

    ReplyDelete
  74. Dei-O: cultural influence can be relevant factors fit for consideration in cases such as these, but because they apply symmetrically they can not be determinative. Therefore, the argument that cultural bias explains, or even is the principle contributor to Everett's de-conversion fails. It might be more accurate to suppose that the bias is a consequence of Everett's understanding and not its cause. Its true that Fleaflkr didn't say cultural influence alone swayed Everett, but he raised no other hypothesis either.

    The second instance was: "... upon studying his background, and considering his de-conversion under the most childlike of scrutinies ...". I take that to refer to Everett's reexamination of his own position. Perhaps I misread it, but either way, the questions are not childlike, and addressing them in "intellectually complex ways" is clearly inadequate.

    Paul: he went suddenly blind and heard disembodied voices. Today that would be a medical concern. And if you're saying that that event is fictional then ...?

    Other than that, my interest and focus has indeed been about the claim and not the claimant. I've tried to point out that Paul cannot be believed simply because Paul is Saint Paul; the same criteria applied to Everett should also be applied to Paul unless a frankly dogmatic position is the intent. Whether Paul's credibility sinks or soars depends on how the questions resolve, and that is immaterial to the querying.

    To be specific, "the same issues every rational person has" to which I refer boil down to how to evaluate evidence, not, as Fleaflkr mistakenly opined, disbelief of miracles and the resurrection." How to evaluate evidence is or should be, I think, the same for everyone trying to think rationally about the real world. The rationality/irrationality of christian belief is not germane to this and I did not raise and do not pursue that issue.

    I've read some Plantinga, and some commentary on his theories. None of it looked like it was going anywhere useful so I haven't pursued it.

    Ultimately the question here is an empirical one, not a philosophical one. Nothing I've read by or about his theories so far suggests he has much to offer in that domain. If you could suggest something by him or in his school of thought that is more down to earth than idealised I'll look at it again.

    ReplyDelete
  75. IRT Secularist

    I appreciate your response as well and very much respect your opinion -- although I do not agree with it.

    I'll try to blow through this very quickly, as I've been spending much to much of my time the last couple of days engaging in extended discourse.

    I was not really conflating the three any more than they already have been by the scientific and atheist communities, with these elements becoming increasingly symbiotic within that worldview. I was just responding to what I had defined as your "legitimate evidence", which I concluded to be empirical evidence, material in nature that could be confirmed by the scientific method. Alexander Byrne typifies this mindset by stating, "Everything, in short, is a natural phenomenon, an aspect of the universe as revealed by the natural sciences."

    There is also Michael Shermer, who describes scientism as "a scientific worldview that encompasses natural explanations for all phenomena."

    This is a pretty common point of view of the materialist or "naturalist" scientist or atheist, so I felt comfortable forging ahead with that assumption when engaging your arguments. So given that foundation, I kindly responded by mentioning some elements of "everything" that could not be proven by the natural sciences. If this does not apply to you, then you are much more open minded than the typical materialist and I applaud you.

    Upon reading your inductive argument for materialism and your thought experiment, I was tickled at how this latest response to me primarily featured arguments from logic, particularly since I mentioned how often atheists make appeals to logic under the guise of science. In contrast, I very much appreciate that you are at least being honest about your approach.

    Your inductive reasoning argument is logically sound, but I disagree with the second premise, and the argument can very easily be turned on its head. Example:

    1). There have been many materially unexplainable events in history (ghost sightings, people speaking unknown languages, remote viewing, miracles, returning to life after being pronounced dead, NDEs, the human consciousness, the cosmological constant, etc.) 2. Most have not subsequently been explained materially, 3. Therefore, we would not expect a future material explanation for a currently unexplainable event.

    If I was taking my time, I could have had a more extensive list for the first premise, but I think you get the gist.

    More below -- so much for blowing through this.

    ReplyDelete
  76. Additionally --

    When you wrote that, "There has never been an ironclad proven example of the supernatural. This includes the things you mentioned, like remote viewing." This may be true -- assuming by ironclad, you mean incontrovertible scientific proof -- but it is rather unconvincing, as given what we believe about the qualities of the supernatural, one would not expect this kind of ironclad scientific proof.

    The evidence for Jesus' resurrection has been covered extensively by many great apologists, so I will skip over that, but as I stated before, the "extraordinary claims" argument has some logical merit and may work as some sort of scientistic pop wisdom, but it is far from scientific and far too subjective to be as scientifically en vogue as it seems to be. Its application can too easily turn science into bad science. It is however a great excuse to move some goal posts.

    When I asked, "Why are the laws of nature true?" in my potpourri of rhetorical questions, I was being just that, rhetorical. I was pointing out that the natural universe seems to be quite miraculous, leaving it open to the metaphysical, be it "miracles" or other supernatural events. To sum up, my philosophy on the nature of the universe has been encapsulated very well in a quote from Gerald Schroeder.

    "The physical system we refer to as our universe is not closed to the nonphysical. It cannot be closed. Its total beginning required a nonphysical act. Call it the Big Bang. Call it Creation. Let the creating force be a potential field to you if the idea of God is bothersome to you, but realize the fact that the nonphysical gave rise to the physical. Unless the vast amounts of scientific data and conclusions draw by atheistic as well as devout scientists are in extreme error, our universe had a metaphysical beginning."

    I enjoyed the thought experiment, but again, this is an argument from logic that can be applied to many other queries that necessitate active awareness of self. It is also dependent and informed on one's worldview and can be applied to the metaphysical as well, with the logic still being consistent. I'll give you an example based on someone with a theistic belief. I will even relate it specifically to the Schroeder quote above.

    Assume that a metaphysical first cause (God, whatever) does not exist. Logically, can you assume that? No, you cannot. In order to imagine that a metaphysical first cause does not exist, you must exist, which means that a metaphysical first cause must exist. Now assume that a metaphysical first cause does exist. Logically, can you do that? Yes you can. A metaphysical first cause is the default.

    Now keep in mind I am not arguing that this is right or wrong, nor do I want to get into metaphysical first cause versus who-knows-what physical first cause, but I'm sure you understand my point.


    IRT to Secularist and Masked Marauder:

    I have enjoyed and appreciate the lively and mostly well-reasoned engagements here, and I am sure we will run into each other again elsewhere.

    Be seeing you.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Dei-O:
    It seems we're pretty much at the end of this discussion. I will just say the following.

    The difference between my 1-2-3 inductive argument and yours is in the number of occurrences in question. There have been countless materially unexplainable events that were subsequently explained materially, but only a handful that have continued to defy explanation. I know where I'll put my money.

    "This may be true -- assuming by ironclad, you mean incontrovertible scientific proof -- but it is rather unconvincing, as given what we believe about the qualities of the supernatural, one would not expect this kind of ironclad scientific proof."

    My case rests. One cannot prove supernatural occurrences because of their nature as supernatural. And, really, from a religious perspective, isn't it all more about faith than ironclad knowledge anyway?

    And on the thought experiment: Hate to do this, but your example is not correct. Start with the premise:

    "Assume that a metaphysical first cause (God, whatever) does not exist. Logically, can you assume that? No, you cannot."

    Actually, you can. The logical consequence would be simply that reality is eternal, which is not disproved by the big bang, despite what many think. Big bang deals with our universe, not a larger multiverse that may exist, and that may operate according to laws of causality that are incomprehensible to us.

    Thank you for an interesting exchange. You are most welcome to continue it on my blog--just click on my name.

    ReplyDelete
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