Why Isn’t There More Compelling Evidence For God?

Why Isn’t There More Compelling Evidence For God?

A few days ago Bill LaBarre was wondering why there isn’t more compelling evidence for God:

God could have left the resurrected Jesus on the Earth to continue to perform miracles or simply be a unique UN-aging individual that lives throughout time. Or he could have Jesus reappear to people every hundred years or so where he would perform a series of miracles.

You are probably thinking this is unrealistic or expecting too much. But I would have to ask if this kind of evidence was fine for Biblical times, why not now? Why the inconsistency? Why the desire to have people believe for not very convincing reasons when giving such reasons would be child’s play? If eternal damnation is on the line, any God that did not give sufficient evidence to convince reasonable people would be a moral monster.

My answer here will be brief and preliminary. I think the key  is in what God wants people to believe. It’s not just about believing that he is God.

It’s about believing in who he is as God.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who would come to him must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.”

It’s about knowing God.

Jesus said in John 17:3, “And this is eternal life: that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

It’s about knowing who we are in relation to God.

Repeatedly throughout the Bible, but especially in Genesis 1:26-28, the extended passage of Romans 1:18-3:28, and Romans 5:8 we discover that we are loved by God, honored by God, but flawed and fallen into the death of alienation from God, and we need him to pick us up out of it. To come to God requires agreeing with him that this is the case, and recognizing that he has supplied the solution through Jesus Christ.

it’s about loving who he is as God.

From Matthew 22:35-40:

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him [Jesus]. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Now the question is…

Has God supplied sufficient evidence for us to do that? Millions upon millions say yes. Some say no, but so far what I hear from them is one-dimensional: that God could provide more evidence of his existence if he chose to do so. I’m sure he could have done that. But would evidences that compelled belief in his existence also produce belief in his good character, awareness of our death apart from him, and love for God?

There were many in Jesus’ day who saw his miracles and yet rejected him. They had plenty of evidence. It wasn’t lack of reasons that kept them from accepting him, it was something else.

There is more to knowing God in Jesus Christ than mere intellectual assent, like agreeing that the universe is vast, or some such thing. There is also the joyful yielding of the will. God gave enough light so that those who would willingly submit to him would have reasons for confidence in him. For my part, I find reasons everywhere I look!

He gave enough light for those who would receive it, but not so much that others couldn’t find ways to disbelieve. The difference is in the heart attitude toward self and God.

And it seems to me that this amounts to a morally justifiable reason for God to have done as he has. Recall that he said the greatest commandment was to love him with all our heart, soul, and mind. The world he created is delicately balanced so that we can—and must—accept him with all that we are.

(I’ve chosen to deal with this from the perspective of human experience rather than divine election, because I think the question really is one of human experience and decision-making. If an answer can be supplied on that level, it will be the answer that’s relevant to Bill’s question. I want to affirm, though, that the willingness to submit to God is a gift given by God, through grace. It’s not a mark of special merit for those who receive it, for we are all equally in need of God’s work in our lives to return us to true life.)

350 thoughts on “Why Isn’t There More Compelling Evidence For God?

  1. Excellent.

    One thing that atheists seem fixated on is that “[i]f eternal damnation is on the line” business. As if “eternal damnation” is the thing. As if redemption is an ad hoc band-aid for the thing. That’s not the way my Bible reads. On the contrary, the Bible would indicate that redemption is the thing.

    While it does raise the question “what are we to be redeemed from?” casting the Biblical answer (i.e., “God’s righteous judgment”) as “eternal damnation” is an obvious distortion. Insofar as that distortion is of ‘Christian’ origin, atheists are doing Christianity a favor by calling it out. Indeed, the atheist claim “[a] God [like that] does not exist!” is quite consistent with the (very Christian) prophetic message (in keeping with “it’s about knowing God” above) “[the] God [who exists] is not like that!”

  2. On point #2, given how little of himself God actually has revealed to us (the point of this discussion), it’s hard to make the case that we can actually know God in any real sense. Basically what we have is his word, plus a world that seems incongruent with the character he says he has in it (ie. the problem of evil), and we are expected to believe in him through faith. This certainly isn’t knowing in the way I know my earthly father.

  3. Re: “how little of himself God actually has revealed to us”

    Jesus. Incarnate God. Brilliant teacher. Unmatched moral philosopher. Healer. Went out of his way to find and heal the most despised. Self-sacrificial to the point of great suffering. Lynch-pin in the history of civilization.

    That would appear to be plenty of revelation to me.

  4. How much more would you need to know about God? It seems to me he’s revealed as much as we can comprehend, if we would only take the time to search it out.

  5. Clearly we don’t experience maximal knowledge/experience of God today. The incarnation is a case in point. Jesus was here, having breakfast with people. Now he’s not. The question at hand is why not. (One reason you did not bring up is that Jesus incarnate was not omnipresent, the Spirit empowered Church can be everywhere at once. Jesus himself said it would better if he left as well). You give some interesting reasons. I simply argue that better knowledge of God isn’t a valid one.

  6. Re: “Clearly we don’t experience maximal knowledge/experience of God today.”

    Clearly. And tragically.

    But as Colossians 1:10 indicates, “growing in the knowledge of God” is something that pleases God. That he doesn’t give us “meta-revelation” (i.e., the how and why of His choice of revelation techniques) need not either distract or offend us.

  7. I find the idea that God incarnate is somehow “not enough” hard to understand. If he stood on his head spitting wooden nickels while being God incarnate would that be enough?

  8. Knowing God exists is supposed to change your attitude toward him? If you disliked the main character in a novel, would that attitude change if you later learned he was a real person in history?

  9. Hi there – been reading a lot of TC, and now feel I might actually be able to comment without looking like a total idiot 🙂

    OK, stop me if I state a false premise:

    1. God knows every part of us, all about our minds, how we tick, how we reason, make decisions etc – the whole omniscience thing.

    2. Therefore he knows the exact amount of evidence, and the precise form of evidence, which will elicit the required faith in Him, given that faith isn’t just belief without evidence, after all. Everyone’s different in their degree of course, and I’m not specifying the form of evidence here, I just mean enough of it and of the right kind.

    3. Therefore, by not supplying me with that evidence (by “supplying” I mean making it discoverable in the normal course of events: I don’t expect it just plonked on my lap, but evidence which may be found after a reasonable amount of curiousity/investigation), He *knows* that I’m not going to have faith in Him, and therefore is making the concicious decision to exclude me.

    Now the obivous counter to this that I predict will be raised (an assumption on my part, of course) is that the above precludes free will, that I have the free will to believe in a god, in spite of the lack of evidence But if I have faith at this point, then surely I *am* just pretending? If I was convinced, then by definition I’d have enough evidence. If I don’t then I’m either wilfully pretending or just engaging in wishful thinking.

    Thoughts?

  10. Tom,

    I was *very* careful not to use the word “Prove” (or variants of that word) in my post. I just checked again to make sure. I’m talking about evidence, not proof.

    You’ve asserted that faith is based on evidence, its not blind faith, but based on some form of evidence that has convinced the faithful of His existence. Is God not interested in supplying *any* evidence? Otherwise it is blind faith.

    I’m also interested as to why you think He’s not interested in supplying evidence? Surely you’d regard the Bible as evidence He’s supplied, for example (assuming it was inspired by Him etc)

    I’ve been following this line of thinking after reading Peter Boghossian’s recent book, and your objections to his definition of Faith, asserting that your faith is actually based on evidence (I hope I’m not mis-characterising what you’ve said). So I’ve been trying to look at what the evidence is. (just started listening to Tim McGrew’s talks who wrote the Gospels and evidence etc)

    And, by evidence, I should re-iterate that I’m not limiting that to verifiable scientific evidence (though that may be included) but all the evidence (document, reasons, even feelings) that a person uses to have faith.

    Chris

  11. Oops. Either I misread you or you misread me. I’m getting a breakfast ready with the family right now so I can’t sort it out right now, but what you heard isn’t what I meant, or else vice versa, or both.

  12. That slippery word “proof” strikes again!

    Even with this misunderstanding, I don’t understand how you arrived at the the notion that Tom thinks God is “not interested in supplying evidence ” when you stated in the previous paragraph that Tom believes exactly the opposite.

    Most folks around here would strongly contend that God has provided evidence (the Bible, as you correctly pointed out, is but one such example) and continues to do so. Whether any of this constitutes reliable evidence is obviously up for debate. But what is not up for debate is that Christians like Tom are asserting the existence of divinely bestowed evidence.

  13. Ah, I may have to apologise – I missed the word “simply” in there. If you read the sentence without simply I hope you see why I thought that. Sorry, Tom.

    However, my contention still stands. Each of the points that Tom makes is underpinned by a faith statement. And the faith in each case has evidence. But the starting point *has* to be an acknowledgement in the existence of God, then comes more knowledge of of his character, your relationship with him, His love for you etc.

    Analogy time:

    Six months ago, I didn’t know there was such as person as Tom Gilson. I first became aware of his existence since then, and have good reasons (though not absolute proof – Tom could just be an internet collective 😉 ) to believe he exists. Such awareness didn’t tell me anything about his character, or what sort of person he was etc. That only came after further study etc. (and I’m still learning).

    So if God wishes to bring Atheists to himself (which I presume He does), then He, surely, *has* to start with enough evidence to satisfy the case for His existence. Once that is established, then the rest can follow. Or does He just expect a hardened Atheist to suddenly change his or her mind totally spontaneously?

  14. No, not spontaneously. Not (necessarily) instantly, either.

    There is evidence for God, and it’s not necessary to start with “God exists” in order to see it. It’s enough to begin with, “God could possibly exist.” The evidence of philosophy, history, and experience points toward God, and if you follow it you might find yourself moving in that direction.

    You might not think that this is starting with enough evidence to satisfy the case for his existence; but that’s fine. It’s actually a cumulative case, or at least that’s how many people experience it in their approach toward God, which means it doesn’t all land upon one’s awareness all at once at the beginning.

    God is worth the investigation. I encourage you to take it a step at a time, staying open to the possibility that he is indeed real, and looking at good sources to explain why so many people think that he is. My favorite these days is J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity, but C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity is another great one that hasn’t yet grown old.

  15. Unless you are stating that the atheists who convert to Christianity are not really atheists (and I’ve heard this claim would you believe) then the starting point does not have to be the acceptance of God. The starting point, I would think, is the willingness to assess the evidence at face value. And by that I mean without absolute scepticism of the Divine. If, for example, a claim about a miracle is made and it seems to be persuasive then perhaps, just perhaps, there is a God. One can grant this and remain an non-believer.

    I find your analogy confusing. You seem to be comparing the road you took to forming an opinion on Tom’s character (not his existence mind you) with the road you demand God follows in demonstrating his existence. The claim we Christians make is that there is enough evidence but that in one way or another we all suppress the truth – Christians included. So all means continue investigating.

  16. Tom:
    I’m with on on many points here – yes, you’re right with the whole not having to start with believing in God – that other evidence can come along concurrently while the case for existence is being built, but ultimately it will rest on that – it that bit isn’t there then it is quite unlikely that that person will call themselves a believer. The rest adds depth to that faith, granted, and may also help to inform the existence (but then it becomes part of the evidence for existence.)

    A brief aside to introduce myself slightly more properly, and to give a bit more context what I’m saying – I’d currently class myself as atheist, however previously I was a Christian for about 25-26 years. This whole topic is close to my heart, since it is one of the reasons for my becoming un-convinced of the case for His existence. The journey you describe is one where the evidence builds up over time through life, you see more of his goodness and get to know more of his love and character. My journey was pretty flat in this respect. The start of my move to atheism was, I think, when I postulated, reasonably I thought, that objective examination of the world through science, should not in any fundamental way, conflict with Biblical truth, as presented by Christians.

    The more I looked at it, the more I could see the conflict. The more I looked at my own life, the less I could point to as being his work in it. I quickly realised that I couldn’t point to a single thing that I could claim as a divine difference – ie something that I’d regard as being caused by a supernatural power. I didn’t see the non-scientific evidence that you talk about.

    When I prayed, no answers came. Nothing changed inside me. My heart wanted God, but he didn’t appear to be answering – He wasn’t there.

    I was all out of evidence, and when one doesn’t have enough evidence, then Atheism is the natural result. God had 26 years of my life – if that wasn’t enough time to make himself plain to me, then he’s not doing a very good job.

    OK – not so brief.

    So why am I still here, and not off enjoying my god-free life? Because my curiosity has been re-awakened. My faith had stunted it into almost nothing-ness – “just believe in what you’re told, God has all the answers” – but it is now back with a vengence. So I genuinely want to know what it is I missed. Why do people have faith? Was it different in some way to what I did? One side or the other is right – which is it.

    Oh and don’t mis-understand – I *am* an atheist, not agnostic, ie I have not seen enough evidence of God to give me faith in him, but if enough evidence was available I would.

    Soooo, back to the original point: Why isn’t there more compelling evidence for God? When I was at University, oh so long ago, I think it was one of my lecturers pointed out that if we couldn’t understand what he was teaching, then the blame was actually on him for being a good enough teacher, not on us for not understanding. God is responsible for providing the compelling evidence, otherwise its on him for the failure to communicate. That’s the essence of my contention – God put us into this world, created us – there are more people in the world who *don’t* believe in the Christian God than do. That’s a *massive* failure!

  17. Billy Squibs:

    Well, I fully expect to be accused of not being a “real christian” by somebody (not necessarily here), so I guess that evens things up 🙂

    Just about every Atheist I’ve heard has said they’re willing to accept evidence and change their position, so please don’t mis-represent the Atheist position like that. Even Dawkins openly says that he would believe in God if compelling evidence was presented, and do you have reason to believe that’s not the case? How willing would you be to change your position if he evidence you’re relying was discovered to be false?

    And why should I have to accept evidence at “face value”? Evidence needs to be tested, checked, confirmed. Scepticism keeps people honest – its the questioning that makes people check their work, that encourages others to duplicate work to confirm the observations.

    My analogy was meant to show that we generally initially have a very one-dimensional view of someone – just a name, say, nothing more. But the more I’ve read about Tom, read his writings etc. the more he’s become a real person. Maybe it didn’t really work or add much here. What it certainly wasn’t was a demand of God. I’ve gave up expecting God to do anything in response to me a while ago…

  18. @ Chris B

    It would appear that at least part of your difficulty is encapsulated in the words “as presented by Christians”… :-/

    But may I respectfully ask in what sense “God had 26 years” of your life if you came to the end of that period “all out of evidence”?

    Please let me make an observation about “evidence” (in general)? There is a great deal of difference between “evidence per se” and “perceived evidence”. For example, one could legitimately claim that the universe had been full of evidence for “Newton’s Law of Gravity” long before Sir Isaac. However, none of that was perceived as evidence for such a law until quite recently. The “magic” that turns “evidence per se” into “perceived evidence” is the expectation of a manifestation of a causal relationship between that-thing-that-there-may-be-evidence-for and the evidence itself.

    Typically, when I encounter folks saying that “there is no evidence for God”, they are often simply saying that they do not have the requisite expectation — and the lack of perceived evidence follows naturally.

    When asked “what possible evidence would change your mind on the matter?” atheists often give revealing answers. Typically, what one atheist might offer as such a hypothetical evidence would have another shouting, “God of the Gaps!”

  19. Just about every Atheist I’ve heard has said they’re willing to accept evidence and change their position, so please don’t mis-represent the Atheist position like that. Even Dawkins openly says that he would believe in God if compelling evidence was presented, and do you have reason to believe that’s not the case? How willing would you be to change your position if he evidence you’re relying was discovered to be false?

    Perhaps I didn’t express myself well enough, Chris. But it might help if you reread what I actually wrote. Nowhere did I say that atheists (all of them) would be unwilling to change their position given sufficient evidence. I’m quite sure that many would be intellectually honest enough to abandon their former beliefs.

    Though I would also add three things to this –

    1) I don’t believe that faith is purely a rational endeavour. This is not to say that it is irrational. We aren’t talking about the God of the Philosophers, we are talking about a personal God.

    2) While I accept that many atheists would follow the evidence, I also think that some are so prejudicial towards the very concept of God that it’s mere lip service compelling them to leave the door open. And this is why I wrote about those “without absolute scepticism of the Divine”. (And I’ll happily admit that there are mirror images on the Christian side). Michael Shermer would be one example. Lewis Wolpert another. And for his part, it’s my understanding of Hume that he practically defined the possibilities of miracles out of existence. Perhaps I’m being unfair to such people, but it seems to me that they are functionally absolutists. Talk is cheap.

    3) Mere belief is not the endgame.

    Additionally, when I said “at face value” you have apparently misunderstood me. I did not mean to imply that evidence is something one should just accept. Please note that I directly before I typed the words “at face value” I had typed the words “assess the evidence”. Test, check and confirm all you like. Indeed, my last sentence was an encouragement to do so.

    Put it this way. Have you ever met someone who holds on so tightly to a belief, any belief, that they just can not listen, let alone consider, an alternative view? Well, that’s what I was talking about. The real challenge to my faith comes from those who do not follow Christ and have yet in some fashion sincerely sought God and have seemingly investigated the evidence with an openness . In a nutshell, they type of non-believer that a man like Richard Dawkins is not.

    As for my willingness to abandon a cherished beliefs. Well, I really don’t know the answer to that. It might be that I’m unwilling to change my beliefs, or maybe I would be intellectually honest enough to follow the evidence. Who is to say? The times that my faith has been the shakiest is not when I think I’ve met an irrefutable argument (I’ve never encountered one), it’s when I’m moved by desire. Sometimes it would be easier not to be a Christian.

  20. It is late here (I’m on the not currently giving thanks side of the pond) so I’ll just briefly answer a bit of Doug’s comment, and look at Billy’s tomorrow 🙂

    I’d contend that a large proportion of the evidence we have is “presented through Christians”. Did God *physically* write the Bible? No, Christians wrote the NT and their predecessors, the Jews, wrote the OT. We have testimonies and Sermons and books and a whole host of other stuff, all filtered through Christians – I’m led to believe that how He does his communicating.

    26 years of Sundays going to church (and various mid-week meetings), listening to sermons and living my life based on something that I now don’t believe is true. Did enjoy the singing, though. And the sound engineering.

    I don’t quite get what you mean about evidence and perceived evidence. That’s kind of on the level of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a noise”. Is sound the wave in the air, or the interaction with the bones in our ear and signals that sends to our brain? Evidence is only relevant when we examine it (assuming we are thorough and impartial in our examination of it)

    And, do note, for scientific accuracy’s sake – Newton was actually wrong about gravity – fine for small scale but Einstein’s theory of relativity supersedes Newton in the larger scale – the evidence doesn’t always support the conclusions you come to, and you may have to revise your findings.

    More in the morning…

  21. Thanks for being in the conversation, Chris.

    I think I have some idea what you mean about prayers not seeming to get you anywhere. I’m wondering if you could elaborate more on this:

    The start of my move to atheism was, I think, when I postulated, reasonably I thought, that objective examination of the world through science, should not in any fundamental way, conflict with Biblical truth, as presented by Christians.

    Did you find that conflict appearing? Because I agree: nature, properly understood, and Christian belief, properly understood, should never conflict. When I find an apparent disagreement, my question is, what have I misunderstood? Or where have I rushed too quickly to a conclusion?

    If there were a genuine conflict between the two I’d have to seriously reconsider what I believe. What I’ve found has been quite the opposite, however.

    I’d be interested to know about your discoveries and experiences.

  22. @Chris
    Yes, I’d be interested in your answer to Tom’s question in #22.
    My experience is congruent with Tom’s, and, I learned Christianity from the same people who taught me to be an experimental physicist. That was some 35 years ago, and while my Christian walk has had its share of successes and failures, I am more certain of its (Christianity) truths now than I was at the beginning of my life with Christ.

    One thing I have learned over the years is to distinguish between the facts (observations and experimental results, theoretical frameworks, models) of the modern empirical sciences and the metaphysical interpretations that scientists (people with their own worldviews) impose on those facts.

  23. Doug – to finishing off my answer to you from last night:

    Evidence, in the scientific sense, is an observation that agrees (or disagrees – basically is relevant to) the theory of the thing you’re looking into. It either confirms or falsifies that theory. (Rarely does it prove)

    I think you may be just muddying the terms to introduce “perceived evidence” as a thing. Yes, Gravity’s been around, presumably for quite a lot longer than we’ve understood it before – did the evidence exist before we perceived it? I don’t think that really helps the conversation. I refer you back to the tree falling in the forest example.

    As to what would change my mind? I’ll leave that one as “the right evidence” – not necessarily a satisfying answer from your point of view, but the best one I currently have. I’m pretty sure this conversation will come back to that topic, so I’ll give myself time to actually give a meaningful answer, rather than something glib.

  24. Billy,

    The starting point, I would think, is the willingness to assess the evidence at face value. And by that I mean without absolute scepticism of the Divine.

    I didn’t mean to imply that you thought this about all atheists – my point was that atheists (probably talking mostly about the “weak atheist” position, which isthe one I’m most familiar with, and identify as probably being my view) in general are people do consider the evidence, as honestly as possible. Not everyone (on both sides of the debate) is always honest, though, of course – everyone has their biases and prejudices.

    1) Do you define Irrational to be the exact opposite of Rational? In which case what you’ve said is pretty meaningless. I suppose something could be partially rational and partially irrational – would that fit the case of being neither?

    2) The reason (my opinion – you’d have to ask them to find out for definite) that many atheists only pay lip service, is that lip service is the proportional response to the amount of evidence they see for the divine. You presumably only pay lip service to the idea of God being a flying spaghetti monster, with good reason. It may also be that they’re just tired of the same arguments being brought up (I am postulating here) – there’s a reason that (certainly in this country) Appeals against a criminal conviction can’t just be entertained at the whim of the convicted – new evidence needs to be provided, otherwise it is just wasting a lot of peoples time and money.

    3) Agreed

    OK – I think I understand your “at face value” – I suppose it is just a matter of not twisting the evidence to agree with a particular outcome or conclusion, but viewing it for what it says? A valid point, but not one which is unique to the Atheist.

    I find your last comment interesting on a number of levels – but don’t have time or battery life to go into it just now.

  25. Tom & Victoria,

    It is a pleasure to be here and I’m enjoying this conversation immensely – always helps the thinking.

    I’ll have to answer you later, as my laptop is almost out of power and I’m about to get into work, where I should really concentrate on work, rather on weightier matters 😀

    Chris

  26. @Chris B,

    Re: “presented through Christians” — for better or worse, much evidence for God is filtered through Christians. And they sometimes (often?) make blunders. We agree.

    Re: “God had 26 years” — still interested (forgive the question if it is too personal) in what “living my life based on…” really entails. Does going to church and listening to sermons and singing songs more or less sum it up for you?

    Re: “Evidence” — you use the word “relevant” as a qualifier, I use the word “perceived” as a qualifier. Are you sure those two are as different as you appear to think? (and for logical accuracy’s sake, “wrong” is not an appropriate description of Newton with respect to gravity: “extremely accurate to the point of precision in a limited context” is not the same as “wrong”; if Newton was “wrong” about gravity, there has never been a scientist who has not been “wrong” — about anything! 😀 ). You (correctly) use the word “observation” to define evidence. And you also use the word “theory” to contextualize it. What you are doing with both words, of course, it to introduce the same (rather inconvenient) subjective component of evidence represented by my word “perceived”. It is unavoidable.

    Re: “the right evidence”. As you are considering a meaningful answer, perhaps I could help? For there to be “relevant/observed/perceived” evidence of anything, it is necessary for there to be the expectation of a manifestation of a causal relationship between that thing and the evidence itself. Since the “thing” in question is God, what manner of evidence would you expect?

    If you were to use the Bible as a guide (for argument’s sake), you would expect to see evidence for God in creation (particularly in human beings, who are referred to as “in the image of God”) and in history (particularly the history of Israel, and the testimony of those who claim to have known Him).

    If there were, for example, a philosophical conundrum given the label “the hard problem of consciousness” rendering certain aspects of the human experience impenetrable to traditional empiricism (there is) — why would you be disinclined to accept this as “evidence”?

    If there were, for example, a people whose history is deep, rich, and remarkable in the face of extreme oppression, but whose population is notable for their intelligence, success, and contribution to society far beyond statistical expectation (there is) — why would you be disinclined to accept this as “evidence”?

    If there were, for example, testimony of literally millions of people throughout history to miraculous intervention in their lives (I know two people personally whose medical recoveries were labeled “miracles” by the medical professionals, there are “prayer coincidences” in my life and the lives of family members that are truly amazing and Keener has published a compilation of documented miracles in two rather large volumes) — why would you be disinclined to accept this as “evidence”?

    Sure: like all evidence, it is worth examining carefully and critically. But just the evidence I’ve listed above is more than sufficient for many people (and yes, even people with far greater scientific and logical capabilities than either of us — Newton, Pascal, Faraday, Kepler, Maxwell come to mind) — so…? Your turn.

  27. I didn’t mean to imply that you thought this about all atheists

    That’s good to know. But then I’m left wondering why you accused me of misrepresenting the atheist position in the first place. I’m pretty sure I understand what the atheist position is and that it says nothing about how one should evaluate the evidence for God.

    1) Do you define Irrational to be the exact opposite of Rational? In which case what you’ve said is pretty meaningless. I suppose something could be partially rational and partially irrational – would that fit the case of being neither?

    Strictly speaking I think would define them as opposites. But you should reread my comment again. I said “I don’t believe that faith is purely a rational endeavour. This is not to say that it is irrational.” Note that I don’t automatically juxtapose faith with rationality. I was somewhat cryptically referring to the nebulous point that lies between the mere possibility that something may be true (and I’m using the word “possibility” in a very loose sense here) and the belief that it is. In other words, I think X might be possible Vs I believe that X is true. Perhaps people can help me with a definition – or even the very concept – because I’ll admit that it’s not clear in my mind.

    2) The reason (my opinion – you’d have to ask them to find out for definite) that many atheists only pay lip service, is that lip service is the proportional response to the amount of evidence they see for the divine.

    Let me clarify that I did not say that many atheists only pay lip service. I said that some do. I then when on to suggest that to such people there can seemingly be no sufficient evidence in favour of X because they are committed to the idea that X is not possible. The issue of evaluating evidence in light of what I think amounts to unreasonable presuppositions has been my point from the beginning.

    OK – I think I understand your “at face value” – I suppose it is just a matter of not twisting the evidence to agree with a particular outcome or conclusion, but viewing it for what it says? A valid point, but not one which is unique to the Atheist.

    I’m happy to agree with all of that.

    One small point – atheist is not a proper noun. I don’t normally care about such things but often I see people refusing to use correct grammar in order to make a childish point. I’m not accusing you of this behaviour though. I get the sense that you are actually up for honest discussions.

  28. The thing that frustrates me about some atheists’ handling of “the evidence for God” is that it is so very unscientific (NB: I am not at all accusing Chris B of this — just making an observation).

    That is, a scientist (when asked to consider evidence for X) would ask the questions “What evidence would we expect from X?” and “How can we construct an experiment in order to isolate the effects of X?” I have yet to see an atheist do this when addressing the question “What evidence for God would you consider legitimate?”

    The obvious answer to the second question when X==God (isolating the effects of God) is “Good luck with that.” If we, for the sake of argument, permit God’s existence, then He most certainly has demonstrated the preference to participate in the world (given, for sake of argument) via secondary causes. Isolating Him in the laboratory appears to be a non-starter.

    The answers to the first question when X==God (what would we expect from God) would likely (if we were to consider the Christian God, once again for sake of argument) look something like the list I provided above. But I forgot an interesting one…

    If there were, for example, a man who stands out in history as the finest moral philosopher, an unparalleled thinker, who gained the reputation as a worker of miracles and who even had his enemies marveling at his wisdom… if this man broke through barriers of societal injustice and changed the world through his teaching and example… if this man single-handedly changed the course of history for the better, doing more for the cause of justice than anyone before or since… if this man were predicted (“prophesied”) by those claiming to hear God’s voice centuries previously… if this man were to change the lives of those he encountered, making illiterate peasants into game-changers in the context of history… if this man was to coincide with an event unprecedented and unexplained like (for example) a resurrection from the dead (there is!) — what, indeed, would make anyone disinclined to accept him as “evidence”?

  29. Doug,

    I have yet to see an atheist do this when addressing the question “What evidence for God would you consider legitimate?”

    I can do this. Legitimate evidence for “the existence of X” is some prediction, using knowledge of X, which is then verified by experiment or observation. Moses used this method to great effect with Pharaoh. Moses predicted each of the plagues and then everyone observed that his predictions were correct.

    I am not persuaded by ancient accounts of verified predictions because it is difficult at this late date to know if the authors added the predictions to the story after the events to make the story more convincing.

    However, there is no shortage of opportunities for believers to make a similar demonstration today. Predicting a tsunami would be nice, with the side benefit of saving many lives. Predicting neutrino masses that we have yet to measure or predicting miraculous signs would work. My hat is off to Harold Camping for making such a prediction, though I’m glad he was wrong.

    Predicting something that is already known (e.g. consciousness or biological complexity) doesn’t count. Anybody can fit their theory to the facts once the facts are known.

    I think this is a pretty widely held view of evidence for existence among atheists. It is the sort of evidence we expect for the Higgs Boson, Black Holes, or new species of fungus. It seems reasonable to expect it for a God that is right here, right now.

  30. Hi everyone. I just found this today and have enjoyed it immensely along with the ensuing conversation. I hope everyone (in the US) had a good holiday yesterday.

    As I read this I am still left asking myself “why isn’t there more compelling evidence for God?” Perhaps I’m just too dense to see a clear answer in the writing. Maybe I should go through the points:

    It’s about believing in who he is as God.

    OK, this doesn’t really address the question, I think Chris B accurately pointed out in #14 “….[T]he starting point *has* to be an acknowledgement in the existence of God….” I think your point about the Greatest Commandment is also of a similar circular nature.

    It’s about knowing God.

    OK. But in order to know something I think it would be really helpful to know that it exists… Unless you are talking about knowing something the way I might know a fictional character such as the way I know Homer Simpson (not making fun here – he’s just the most famous fictional character I know).

    The other ones – “It’s about knowing who we are in relation to God; it’s about loving who he is as God.” This seems also to require the acknowledgement previously mentioned.

    I also asked why, if “strong” evidence for existence were given in Biblical times, why is it not given now? Tom even seems to admit that compelling reasons were fine in that time (“There were many in Jesus’ day who saw his miracles and yet rejected him. They had plenty of evidence. It wasn’t lack of reasons that kept them from accepting him, it was something else.”) so we are still at a loss on this one.

    Also we should be clear that even if we are given overwhelming evidence, we are still free to accept or reject his love and sovereignty.

    So, Tom, you seem to move on to what you wish was the question: “Has God supplied sufficient evidence for us to do that?” You go on to ask “But would evidences that compelled belief in his existence also produce belief in his good character, awareness of our death apart from him, and love for God?”

    It seem that no, it would not. But it would at least provide good reasons to start considering it very seriously. You say that “God gave enough light so that those who would willingly submit to him would have reasons for confidence in him” and that this is a difference of “heart attitude toward self and God.”

    But this is just not true as shown by the fact that the vast majority of people who do believe in God do not believe in the Christian God, and far too many honest seekers (I mentioned my 3 Pastor friends as examples – I could give many others who were devout followers and also lost their faith) just don’t find sufficient reason to believe in a Christian God. These people are heart-broken at losing their faith (and often friends and family along with that). It is not something they really wanted. I suppose that is hard for you to believe.

    I’m with Chris B on this, why would he only give just enough reason for some, but not those a little more skeptical? Surely there is a point where skepticism does become unreasonable, but to ask people to just accept the rather strange claims of Christianity would likely fall into an unreasonable nature itself by just saying – “hey, someone wrote this… let’s believe it.” (No, I don’t think the evidences given in #27 by Doug are very compelling. Yes, it’s good enough for some smart people, but it is not good enough for other smart people). So why not give that kind of evidence that would convince ALL reasonable people?

    You must understand that to us outsiders, this looks like a very strange game for a God to play?

    Just for a point of reminder, I think I am as open to evidence as I think is prudent. I DO agree with Billy Squibs in #16 that if there is persuasive evidence for a miracle, that there may indeed be a God.

    But right now, it does seem to me that you have the kind of evidence that we should expect had the writers of the Bible simply exaggerated their claims (you reply in the previous post notwithstanding).

  31. Catching up after Thanksgiving and etc….

    Aaron, you write,

    Clearly we don’t experience maximal knowledge/experience of God today.

    True enough. I’m wondering whether you think there’s some reason we ought to expect that.

    Chris, I know you didn’t use the word “prove,” but you did speak of supplying sufficient evidence to persuade each person, which comes out to having the same effect.

    You said you expected an “obvious counter,” that your proposal would preclude free will. That is correct. If God adjusted circumstances such that no matter who you were, no matter what you did, no matter anything on your part, he would supply sufficient evidence to cause you to believe he exists, then no one would be free to doubt that he exists. But then you went on to add,

    But if I have faith at this point, then surely I *am* just pretending? If I was convinced, then by definition I’d have enough evidence. If I don’t then I’m either wilfully pretending or just engaging in wishful thinking.

    That’s not correct. There is sufficient evidence for me to believe, rationally and reasonably, and so my belief is neither willful pretending nor wishful thinking. If you don’t think you have enough evidence to believe, that doesn’t mean that I do not.

    You also asked,

    I’m also interested as to why you think He’s not interested in supplying evidence? Surely you’d regard the Bible as evidence He’s supplied, for example (assuming it was inspired by Him etc)

    I do think he’s interested in supplying evidence. I’m not sure where you got that from.

    When I was at University, oh so long ago, I think it was one of my lecturers pointed out that if we couldn’t understand what he was teaching, then the blame was actually on him for being a good enough teacher, not on us for not understanding. God is responsible for providing the compelling evidence, otherwise its on him for the failure to communicate.

    Your teacher’s point is not absolutely or universally true. If you decided not to bother trying to understand what he was teaching, the fault would be yours, not his. If you blew off the homework or spent the whole class period texting, the fault would be yours, not his. So I wonder if you’d be willing to re-think your analogy with that in mind. Could it be that you are wrong to conclude that the only identifiable failure must be God’s?

    You say later,

    I’d contend that a large proportion of the evidence we have is “presented through Christians”. Did God *physically* write the Bible? No, Christians wrote the NT and their predecessors, the Jews, wrote the OT. We have testimonies and Sermons and books and a whole host of other stuff, all filtered through Christians – I’m led to believe that how He does his communicating.

    Christians wrote the NT, obviously: it would be hard to find a non-Christian discussing the implications of life in relationship with the risen Christ! But look at the one who wrote more of the NT than anyone else: Paul. He didn’t start out as a Christian. He was opposed enough to kill Christians. (This is not much in dispute among serious scholars of the NT era, by the way.) And the Christians’ evidence is heavily corroborated. (I just ran across this for example.)

    This was an interesting point: “You presumably only pay lip service to the idea of God being a flying spaghetti monster, with good reason.” I disagree, actually. It’s not about the FSM, though, it’s about the person presenting the FSM theory. If he or she really believes it’s part of a viable argument, then I’ll present a (more viable!) counter-argument. It’s not because I take the FSM seriously, but because I take the person seriously.

    Does that mean you need to take God seriously, then, because you take me or other Christians seriously? I don’t think there’s necessarily parity there. You see, no one believes in the FSM, and no one thinks the FSM matters to any human being. The FSM has no importance in itself. I don’t counter the FSM argument just for the FSM’s sake. I do it in hopes of helping someone understand that belief in God is rational, because God is important for God’s own sake. The question of God is important for you as an atheist, because you might be wrong. (No one thinks anyone might be wrong for disbelieving in the FSM.)

    Thank you again, by the way, for being in the discussion. It’s a good one.

  32. Gavin,

    The problem with your view of evidence is its dependence on predictability. I’m not sure Doug meant what you took him to mean, but if he did, then I disagree with Doug, too.

    You wrote,

    Predicting something that is already known (e.g. consciousness or biological complexity) doesn’t count. Anybody can fit their theory to the facts once the facts are known.

    What you’re saying there is on the one hand irrelevant to the point (the great extent of biological complexity was unknown until very recently, so it’s a bad example) or else illegitimately confining knowledge to the new and the novel. Why can’t the evidence of consciousness be considered? You say it’s because anyone can fit their theory to the facts: I say that’s a theory that doesn’t fit the facts. Consciousness, morality, human worth and purpose, free will vs. determinism, and so on fit cleanly and easily into Christian theism, but with naturalistic atheism they fit only with strong hammer blows.

    Predicting a tsunami would be nice, with the side benefit of saving many lives. Predicting neutrino masses that we have yet to measure or predicting miraculous signs would work.

    Sure. But please re-read the OP to understand one reason that’s not the way God works.

  33. Tom & Victoria,

    Firstly, Scientific credentials: Physics Degree, so a certain amount of Scientific training, though I then went into IT, so now I’m a little rusty 🙂

    I’ve been thinking alot of the day as to how to explain this in way that makes sense.

    OK so you have the the Christian view of Creation: either the YEC viewpoint that takes a literal view, or the Intelligent Design viewpoint that evolution happened, but needed God to direct it. [Any other major views that need taking into account – they’re the two I’m most familiar with]. This is the first thing that’s got me. You’ve got the same scripture, the same God, the same evidence, shall we say, yet two quite different viewpoints (certainly from a physical point of view). My personal view used to be that God *could* have happily made everything in 6 days, and made the Earth seem like it was variously 6 or 10 thousand years old, but it did seem a bit far fetched to believe that He did, and so probably didn’t and that there was some sort of ID thing going on. The Bible is pretty clear that we are created beings – there’s lots of references to God creating everything. So here’s the first failure to communicate: We have the Ken Ham’s of this world (you’ve got to admire his dedication, if nothing else) resting their faith on the literal viewpoint, then the ID viewpoint that life just *had* to have a creator, guiding it. However, neither have any actual physical evidence (in spite of Ken’s protests to the contrary). If ID is happening, then how exactly is it happening? It is the epitome of the Divine changing the physical, and therefore there should be some evidence that it is happening. None has been found. Plenty has been found for evolution by natural selection. Nothing in evolution requires any outside intelligence to work.

    Secondly, the sheer scale of the universe. Douglas Adams, in the radio series of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the original, and, in my opinion the best, version of Hitch Hiker) told of the Total Perspective Vortex: “For when you are put in the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the size if the entire unimaginable infinity of Creation along with a tiny little marker sayung ‘You are here’.” It is hard for the human mind to comprehend the sheer scale of the universe, the fact there are billions upon billions of stars, many just like ours with planets revolving round them, and the possibility of life. It just didn’t make *any* sense that the creator of all of this would centre Himself on a small tribe of people on an insignificant blue-green planet on the western spiral arm of the milky way, 2000 years ago.

    Finally, Scripture says (and this may be a paraphrase) that all Creation speaks of the glory of God. The implication being that, if one studys nature, then one will see elements which can *only* be explained by the divine. There are, to my knowledge, none of these. Further, if this was the case, then the more one studys the Universe and nature and everything, the more one would be convinced that of a creator god. Therefore, most top level scientists would be believe that there was a creator god who’d created everything. They don’t. In fact, the opposite is true.

    It is a *lack* of evidence of God in the physical world that both convinces me that I was wrong to believe these years in Him, and also makes it hard to explain it. Giving examples of a lack of something is tricky, which is why the above may not be completely coherent (that and it is the end of a long week 🙂 )

  34. Bill, I’m glad you found this. I was going to email you if you didn’t.

    OK, this doesn’t really address the question, I think Chris B accurately pointed out in #14 “….[T]he starting point *has* to be an acknowledgement in the existence of God….” I think your point about the Greatest Commandment is also of a similar circular nature.

    Why does that have to be the starting point? Why not just be open to the existence of God, and discover him gradually, more and more as time goes on? I don’t see the circularity.

    OK. But in order to know something I think it would be really helpful to know that it exists… Unless you are talking about knowing something the way I might know a fictional character such as the way I know Homer Simpson (not making fun here – he’s just the most famous fictional character I know).

    Exactly. The thing is, what I hear from many skeptics is not quite what you’ve articulated here. They seem to think it’s about knowing that God exists, and they complain that God (if he exists) doesn’t give them compelling evidence for that. The reason is because it’s not about knowing that God exists. It’s about knowing that God exists, and who he is; and appreciating his love, truth, grace, mercy, holiness, justice, sovereignty…. So I agree that knowing God exists is essential, but those who call on God to (drawing on a recent example) allow his people to predict tsunamis or as-yet-unknown neutrino masses miss the point. That’s about knowing that God exists, which is a small part of God’s purpose with his people.

    I also asked why, if “strong” evidence for existence were given in Biblical times, why is it not given now?

    I don’t know. I’m also not sure how it affects the discussion. I’m not saying it doesn’t, I’m just asking you to explain.

    Also we should be clear that even if we are given overwhelming evidence, we are still free to accept or reject his love and sovereignty.

    Really? I’m trying to put this in a biographical framework for the, say, four-year-old who has recognized God absolutely must exist but rejects his love. (If not four years old, just when did you think that conviction must necessarily kick in?) What kind of world would this be if everyone had to make that decision on those terms? It seems very strange to consider it, and it seems to me no better than a world where people who reject God’s love and sovereignty also reject believing in his existence. I sure can’t see any advantage to the other way. Can you?

    So, Tom, you seem to move on to what you wish was the question: “Has God supplied sufficient evidence for us to do that?” You go on to ask “But would evidences that compelled belief in his existence also produce belief in his good character, awareness of our death apart from him, and love for God?”

    It seem that no, it would not. But it would at least provide good reasons to start considering it very seriously.

    Sure. But I think the evidences that exist do that anyway.

    the vast majority of people who do believe in God do not believe in the Christian God, and far too many honest seekers (I mentioned my 3 Pastor friends as examples – I could give many others who were devout followers and also lost their faith) just don’t find sufficient reason to believe in a Christian God. These people are heart-broken at losing their faith (and often friends and family along with that). It is not something they really wanted. I suppose that is hard for you to believe.

    I know some of those former believers. It’s not hard to believe. There are factors there that I find hard to understand, I’ll admit. I know that in many cases disbelief follows personal pride or moral problems. I do not know that this is always the case. (Someone is going to write and tell me they’re offended by the implication I just made. I want to say this in advance: what I wrote is try in a large number of cases, and I’ll stand by that. I do not say, because I do not know, that it’s true in your case.)

    Here’s one more thought on this. The message of Jesus Christ is rationally supportable. It may not be provable but it is supportable, and it is not irrational. Not only that, but it is a very good message. It is a message of a personal God who rules over a moral universe, where justice and goodness prevail in the long run even if not at the moment. It’s a message of reality for humans: we know we’re not what we ought to be, and that all our effort hasn’t gotten us where we know we should be. (That’s very hard to explain on naturalism.) It’s a message of hope for humans: God loved us enough to become one of us to rescue us from our failings and from our alienation from him. It’s a message of hope with respect to that great enemy, death, too, which he overcame in Christ.

    So since it is rationally supportable, and since it is very good, and since it helps explain so much of the human condition both in terms of failure and hope, I urge you this: even though you have not found your way through to understanding and trust in Christ today, at this stage in your life, keep seeking him! Keep looking. You will find him, or be found by him. It’s worth the pursuit!

  35. Doug:

    I’m going to be quite brief here (hopefully), since there are sooo many conversations going on all at the same time, and I’m afraid I don’t think I’ll be able to answer every point in as much depth as they’re due.

    1. “Presented through Christian” going to leave this, since Tom’s referenced it further down, so I’ll talk about that a bit more then.

    2. Christian life – could you summarise your last 26 years in a couple of sentences? It was a normal Christian life, going to what most Christians would recognise as a properly alive church (part of New Frontiers, most recently), participating fully, getting involved as you’d expect any Christian would. I’ve no reason (apart from the obivous) to believe it was any different to anyone else’s Christian life.

    3. “Relevant” was a qualifier, since when one is testing a theory, technically you only need evidence related to the thing you’re testing. When you’re investigating mating habits of South American toads, for example, you wouldn’t need evidence of neutrinos being emitted by the Sun. Extreme example yes, but that’s what I mean by relevant. Percieved has connotations of subjectivity, which is one thing one tries to avoid within science (and, generally, in any form of serious investigation.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there was never a scientist who has not been wrong about something. That’s part of the beauty of science – it isn’t afraid to get things wrong! Take, for example, the recent measurements which seemed to show that there was something travelling faster than the speed of light (linked with the work going on at CERN). Now, the science community didn’t throw their hands up and say: “No, that can’t be right, we’ve proved that nothing can go faster than light, go away, you must be wrong”. No, the took the experiment seriously, and re-produced the experiment independently, to check. Turns out they were wrong (callibration error, if memory serves). Newton was wrong. Not by much, and, most of the time outside the limits of measurement. Relativity is a much better description of gravitation, and works at all scales. Newton now has a good approximation which works for much Earth bound practical applications, but it doesn’t make it accurate.

    4. I’m still leaving the “right evidence” topic for now… maybe later as time permits.

  36. Thanks for writing back Tom,

    I guess I feel the need to point out again that I still don’t feel the title question to this blog entry has been answered. But I know it’s not an easy question. I’m sure many have tried to answer it before and obviously have not provided good answers either. Nevertheless, I still think it is a crucial question.

    –….[T]he starting point *has* to be an acknowledgement in the existence of God….” I think your point about the Greatest Commandment is also of a similar circular nature.

    -Why does that have to be the starting point? Why not just be open to the existence of God, and discover him gradually, more and more as time goes on? I don’t see the circularity.

    Again, I am open to the possibility. It would be dishonest for anyone not to be. It is similar with ghosts, and extraterrestrial life… I must always remain open. But the vast majority who remain open to the Christian God will not be convinced because the evidence just isn’t there (hence the reasons for the topic in the first place). I again come back to the idea of a God that would be a moral monster if he set the conditions that would judge someone because they failed to believe given inadequate evidence.

    The circularity refers to pointing out that we should love a God who we don’t know exists in the first place, in order that we may know and love him(?)

    –OK. But in order to know something I think it would be really helpful to know that it exists….

    -Exactly. The thing is, what I hear from many skeptics is not quite what you’ve articulated here. They seem to think it’s about knowing that God exists, and they complain that God (if he exists) doesn’t give them compelling evidence for that. The reason is because it’s not about knowing that God exists. It’s about knowing that God exists, and who he is; and appreciating his love, truth, grace, mercy, holiness, justice, sovereignty…. So I agree that knowing God exists is essential, but those who call on God to (drawing on a recent example) allow his people to predict tsunamis or as-yet-unknown neutrino masses miss the point. That’s about knowing that God exists, which is a small part of God’s purpose with his people.

    Honestly, this makes no sense. If you want to know about God’s love, truth, grace, etc. You have to know he exists. Again, perhaps I’m just being too dense.

    –I also asked why, if “strong” evidence for existence were given in Biblical times, why is it not given now?

    -I don’t know. I’m also not sure how it affects the discussion. I’m not saying it doesn’t, I’m just asking you to explain.

    I’m still trying to understand your reason(s) that God doesn’t give us strong evidence now. It was fine at one time. Why not now? Previously you seemed to indicate that God would be immoral to do so now. I think you backed off on this position so I’m just not sure what you think now.

    –Also we should be clear that even if we are given overwhelming evidence, we are still free to accept or reject his love and sovereignty.

    -Really? I’m trying to put this in a biographical framework for the, say, four-year-old who has recognized God absolutely must exist but rejects his love. (If not four years old, just when did you think that conviction must necessarily kick in?) What kind of world would this be if everyone had to make that decision on those terms? It seems very strange to consider it, and it seems to me no better than a world where people who reject God’s love and sovereignty also reject believing in his existence. I sure can’t see any advantage to the other way. Can you?

    I honestly don’t understand what you’re saying in this paragraph. I have read it several times. For lack of a better example, children who grow up in China are well aware of the existence of the Communist Party. Yet they are free to accept or reject its leadership abilities. Many come to love it; many despise it. [I am not saying God is like the communist party. I simply can’t think of another analogy right now].

    -I know some of those former believers. It’s not hard to believe. There are factors there that I find hard to understand, I’ll admit. I know that in many cases disbelief follows personal pride or moral problems. I do not know that this is always the case. (Someone is going to write and tell me they’re offended by the implication I just made. I want to say this in advance: what I wrote is try in a large number of cases, and I’ll stand by that. I do not say, because I do not know, that it’s true in your case.)

    This just seems to be all the more reason to give good evidence… especially for those who believe in a different God.

    -Here’s one more thought on this. The message of Jesus Christ is rationally supportable….

    This only tells me that you have reasons to WANT to believe in the existence of God/truth of Christianity in the first place. I think you agree that wanting to believe something will often lead someone to belief even if it is not true. That is the very problem.

  37. Tom: (answering your comment at 4:02pm)

    Proof is something more absolute – it has a different meaning to just being convinced of something, esp. when it comes to faith – the standard of evidence required to have faith in something appears to be somewhat lower than absolute proof. If we start using the word proof in there, then people may think we have some form of absolute proof.

    I *really* don’t get this argument about free will.

    Here’s an example: Smoking is bad for you – pretty much universally agreed. However what if we said: let’s not tell all these people over there that smoking is bad for them – in fact, lets make sure they get just about no evidence about it at all that its bad. In fact lets also provide lots of evidence that its good.

    They may die horribly of lung cancer, but at least they had the free will to make that choice.

    The obivious, moral choice would be to inform everyone of all the nasty things smoking does to you. People sill have the free will to smoke (and evidently do), but it is an informed decision.

    And to use the info in the OP, God doesn’t just want us to believe in Him, he wants all that other stuff you mention too. Believing in His existence doesn’t automatically mean that you beleive all the other stuff about him… that too has to be learnt. But at least everyone would know that He was actually real – level playing field and all that.

    I think you’ve taken the next bit a bit out of context – to add it back in

    I have the free will to believe in a god, in spite of the lack of evidence But if I have faith at this point, then surely I *am* just pretending? If I was convinced, then by definition I’d have enough evidence. If I don’t then I’m either wilfully pretending or just engaging in wishful thinking.

    You evidently do regard the evidence as sufficient. I don’t, therefore if *I* had faith in God at this point I’d have the pretend, or engage in wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is how I’ve characterised my previous faith before, and it seemed accurate from my point of view.

    I’ve already apologised for missing the word “Simply” in your sentence – Sorry about that 🙂

    The teacher’s point assumes the student is eager and open to learn, and willing to do the homework – if someone is honestly seeking, then the failure is God’s.

    Biblical truth: This is a question I’ve been wondering for a while, having read a fair amount of your blog. Do you have an article or statement which sets out why you believe the Bible to be Divinely inspired? I’ve seen many comments from yourself saying that you’re often challenged about this and have been over it before, but I’ve failed to find anything definitive. (I do understand why you’d not want to keep repeating it, but I have honestly tried to find something written by yourself on the subject and have failed to – you do have rather alot of stuff in here!) But if you could point me in the general direction that’d be great.

    Thank *you* for your blog – it really is making me think about all this stuff more, which is good all round. There is much more I’ve not commenting on, but the week and some rather nice Ale are having their effects, so I’ll hopefully manage more over the weekend. I’d like to focus more on the actual article, really – I’ve kinda had to do more introductory stuff, given I’m new here, so people know where I stand, but I don’t think its possible to properly discuss everything that’s been brought up so far, as much as I’d like to 😀 !

  38. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that someone spent 25-26 years as a practicing Christian, and yet can’t bring himself to believe, who says, “When I prayed, no answers came. Nothing changed inside me. My heart wanted God, but he didn’t appear to be answering – He wasn’t there.” I’m troubled in my spirit and saddened. That ain’t right.

    My rule of thumb is that people who’ve never experienced a major crisis of faith (not just time walking apart from God) or had experiences that give good reason to doubt in God’s existence or character, almost always respond like one of Job’s friends to someone who doubts. They just can’t relate.

    Faith is never just an evidence issue. It’s always a “gut” issue too. It’s always rooted in real, lived experience. You think “evidence” would be bothering Chris B if God had answered his prayers?

    The fact is, there’s just plain a lot of mystery in God’s ways. The Bible at one point says he is “inscrutable”. Paul changed because Jesus physically knocked him to the ground, spoke to him, blinded him, gave him a prophetic revelation of someone coming to him to heal his blindness, etc. Jesus could do that for everybody. He doesn’t. Unsurprisingly, the embarrassing situation that not everybody believes though it’s clearly within God’s power to make them (see Paul again) has produced some of the greatest debates we see over theological issues today (the perennial Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate).

    Consider,

    Multiple times in the Bible God explicitly turns even the most righteous of believers over to Satan’s power for a period of time. Think about that for a minute. How often have you heard sermons based on this particular aspect of God’s character?

    Multiple times in the Bible God’s word appeared to fail, always with fatal consequences to actionable faith until God intervened. (I think it’s notable that of all the times the Israelites angered God through disbelief, God never judged them for refusing to listen to Moses after having put it all on the line once in believing they’d be delivered from Pharaoh, only to have it fail to come to pass and even to be savagely punished for their insolence).

    I find it interesting that the psalmists and prophets, who were doubtlessly very close to God, frequently pour out emotional complaints to him about why the world did not seem to be operating in accordance with his character (see Habakkuk for instance).

    Today, we see precious little of that Biblical complaint or longing for change. Instead it’s an attempt to rationalize the way things are as somehow all very godly and to be expected if one really understood God and the bible. Or dismiss those who leave the faith as never really saved or believing in the first place (as Calvinist dogma asserts).

    My reading of the Bible tells me that God quickly rejects those who demand that he put on a performance for them while responding to those who humbly have legitimate questions. I believe there are sincere people with legitimate questions that aren’t answered. Why is that? I’m not going to jump into being God’s defense attorney when I don’t even know the real answer myself. To me that’s one of the key takeaways of Job: don’t presume to understand God’s intent in a particular situation or that we actually know exactly what’s going on.

  39. All this talk about evidence for God. I’m reading Aquinas by Feser. Good stuff, albeit difficult to digest at times. I recommend it for the purposes of laying down a solid foundation from which to build upon. Evidence without a rational and realistic foundation leads to a distorted view of life, with Naturalism being Exhibit A.

  40. Tom,

    Consciousness, morality, human worth and purpose, free will vs. determinism, and so on fit cleanly and easily into Christian theism, but with naturalistic atheism they fit only with strong hammer blows.

    I completely disagree with you. What we observe about consciousness, morality, human worth and purpose, free will vs. determinism and so on fit cleanly into naturalistic atheism but require Christian theists to engage is all sorts of convoluted arguments, e.g. the arguments for why an omnipotent, omnipresent and loving God is basically invisible. Piece of cake for atheists.

    This is why I, and many atheists, think prediction is important. Everybody thinks the evidence already in hand fits their beliefs. Making a prediction that is different from what an atheist predicts shows that your knowledge actually provides a better understanding of the world. Good luck.

    I’m not trying to convince you to change your standard of evidence. Consider whatever evidence you like. I just wanted to answer Doug’s question about what one atheist is looking for and give some idea why it is reasonable.

  41. Gavin, can you justify the claim that “What we observe about consciousness, morality, human worth and purpose, free will vs. determinism and so on fit cleanly into naturalistic atheism but require Christian theists to engage is all sorts of convoluted arguments”. My understanding is that there is quite a range of differences within the naturalist world-view on the big issues like morality, conciousness and free will Vs determinism. For instance, Sam Harris would have us believe that through we can discover objective morality while men like Michael Ruse think morality is a trick of evolution.

    Secondly, the sheer scale of the universe. Douglas Adams, in the radio series of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the original, and, in my opinion the best, version of Hitch Hiker) told of the Total Perspective Vortex: “For when you are put in the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the size if the entire unimaginable infinity of Creation along with a tiny little marker sayung ‘You are here’.” It is hard for the human mind to comprehend the sheer scale of the universe, the fact there are billions upon billions of stars, many just like ours with planets revolving round them, and the possibility of life. It just didn’t make *any* sense that the creator of all of this would centre Himself on a small tribe of people on an insignificant blue-green planet on the western spiral arm of the milky way, 2000 years ago.

    I’m sorry, Chris, but as objections go this one strikes me as being particularly weak. When it comes to the the truth of the Biblical claim about God’s long and intimate interactions with his human creations, Douglas Adam’s incredulity is neither here nor there. His opinion is secondary to actually making a case for why we should believe that this is so. Essentially all Adams has done is begged the question by concluding with the notion that we are insignificant.

    What you, Adam’s (sadly now departed), Stenger or anyone else who makes this disappointingly popular argument should do is demonstrate to us –

    A) Why the size of the universe is in any way relevant to an omnipotent God. (As somebody with training in physics this facet of the objection should be treated with scepticism. See here for more.) You can then tell us what size of universe is compatible with God. For instance, would it logically be more possible that God exists if the universe was the size of our solar system?
    B) Demonstrate that God could have absolutely no other purpose for creation (in the past, present or future of the universe) as is stated in the objection.
    C) If not B then explain why this makes no sense. Also clarification on they way it apparently makes no sense would be appreciated. For example, are we back to personal incredulity? “It doesn’t make sense to me. Therefore…”. Or is it something else?

  42. Billy,

    My understanding is that there is quite a range of differences within the naturalist world-view on the big issues….

    That’s right, just as there is quite a range of differences within the Christian community. Making up explanations for known facts within almost any broad framework is so easy that it can often be done in multiple and even mutually contradictory ways. When it comes to explaining things after the fact ignorance is an asset because it provides great flexibility. Christians don’t fully know the mind of their omnipotent God, so explaining things after the fact is like shooting fish in a barrel. There is plenty that science doesn’t know about consciousness and morality, so it’s not too tough for atheists to make up stories as well.

    When somebody says that Christianity (or some other worldview) best explains the world we observe, they are expressing an opinion about their favorite story. I’d say that when Chris argues that the universe is too big for God to take an interest in us, he is expressing his opinion about a story as well. Opinions differ.

    Expressing opinions is fine, but actual knowledge about the world is demonstrated by making predictions and verifying them. Prediction and verification separates truth from falsehood. Knowledge works.

  43. I’m not sure that I see an answer to my question in you comment, Gavin. You said that consciousness, morality, human worth and purpose fit well within a naturalistic framework and that Christianity has to come up with convoluted reasoning to fit around these problems. (My paraphrase) OK, so far so good. I then asked how you knew this and you responded with a post that discusses opinions.

    It seems to me that naturalism has yet to provide an answer to the problem of conciousness, that it has to deny objective morality (though some such as Stephen Law are reluctant to do so), can only posit subjective values for human worth and is utterly devoid of any teleology. Talking about opinions is fine. But if this is what your comment is based upon it’s more akin to bluster than a well supported claim.

    Also, is you last paragraph subject to prediction and verification itself? If it fails its own standards then what does this say? Or are you giving us an opinion?

    I can think of at least one form of knowledge that is not strictly subject to scientific prediction and verification. For example, the day I married my wife was one of the happiest days of my life. How does your preferred epistemological framework account for unrepeatable historical events and personal experiences? No doubt people can mention other forms of knowledge (and that might be the contentious word) that don’t fit neatly into your framework.

    P.S. I wish that I could edit my last comment because on rereading it I’ve noticed a couple of mistakes/ required changes. For example, I should have said “Adams’s” and not “Adam’s”.

  44. Billy Squibs

    It seems to me that naturalism has yet to provide an answer to the problem of conciousness

    Yes but that in itself doesn’t support anything supernatural.
    There are many indications that support a naturalistic view of the mind. The influence of drugs, lesions, the results of fMRI scans, electrical stimulation of the brain,…
    All point in the same direction. While on the other hand, the dualistic, supernatural view of the soul, has no proof whatsoever. No one has yet been able to tell how the soul works, or how it would influence the natural world.

  45. Dirkvg

    No one has yet been able to tell how the soul works, or how it would influence the natural world.

    This has been done. This is not the only understanding, but this one is based on a rationally supported and coherent understanding of reality.

    The naturalistic understanding, on the other hand, fails the coherency test, which is a deep rooted *philosophical* problem that plagues naturalism as a philosophical enterprise. It forces you to accept unrealistic conclusions that don’t fit your realistic experiences nor your rational senses.

    For example, the conclusion that a properly functioning rational mind can naturally emerge from something (i.e. nature itself, which is mere matter an energy) that lacks the necessary attributes to create it. If nature had those attributes, then nature itself would consist of *more* than mere matter and energy. But then that would not be naturalism.

  46. SteveK

    I read the article.
    The author states that man is made up out of an animal part and a part angel. Based on what proof? None is given. It is also not explained how this soul part should work, neither is it explained how soul interacts with nature.
    Maybe I missed it. If so, give me the relevant sentences.

    You talk about coherence, but what could be more coherent than explaining everything as situated in the same realm, in this case, the natural? Explaining things as originating from two realms, natural and supernatural without any explanation of their interaction, is certainly less coherent.
    That nature could not give rise to beings which can reason, is just a statement, without proof. Against this we can see how many elements of thought are already present in degrees in our evolutionairy cousins. Which is a fact supporting a naturalistic explanation and not a supernatural explanation.

  47. Dirkvg,

    I read the article.
    The author states that man is made up out of an animal part and a part angel.

    If that’s what you think he states I suggest you reread the article.

    That nature could not give rise to beings which can reason, is just a statement, without proof. Against this we can see how many elements of thought are already present in degrees in our evolutionairy cousins. Which is a fact supporting a naturalistic explanation and not a supernatural explanation.

    There are many arguments to show that reasoning can not in principle arise from the purely physical. We are not talking about a difference in degree but in kind. Your assertion that the evidence points to a naturalistic account is only true if you ignore this evidence.

  48. Yes but that in itself doesn’t support anything supernatural.

    And I never said it did. I simply asked for some justification to buttress a strong claim.

    There are many indications that support a naturalistic view of the mind. The influence of drugs, lesions, the results of fMRI scans, electrical stimulation of the brain

    Then again there are some indications that it a purely naturalistic process is fundamentally incapable of giving rise to conciousness. See the likes of Nagel and Ruse, both of whom are atheists.

  49. Melissa
    the author states: ‘That is to say, a human being is something which by its nature exercises both the animal powers of nutrition, growth, reproduction, sensation, appetite, and locomotion, and the intellectual and volitional powers possessed by angels.’

    I admit I reformulated it a bit but that was not the point of the argument.

    You state that there are counterarguments (even many) but you, just as the author, don’t present one argument.

  50. Bill,

    It seems to me that naturalism has yet to provide an answer to the problem of conciousness, that it has to deny objective morality (though some such as Stephen Law are reluctant to do so), can only posit subjective values for human worth and is utterly devoid of any teleology.

    This looks like a lot of bluster to me, and I’m not interested in debating it. If you don’t know why hitting people is wrong in a wold without God, I probably can’t help you.

    [T]he day I married my wife was one of the happiest days of my life.

    Were you expecting it to be a happy day? If you were, then you demonstrated some genuine knowledge about yourself and your relationship. Best wishes to you both!

    How does your preferred epistemological framework account for unrepeatable historical events…

    Some things are just observed facts, and I don’t think we need to make and verify predictions to believe well documented facts. Ted Kenedy was shot, we all know it without doing a bunch of testing.

    If you have an unconventional theory about why he was shot, for example as part of some conspiracy, then you ought to make some predictions about what that would mean and then check the historical documents to see if those predictions are correct. For example you might predict that Oswald and Ruby had some common associate who would have set Oswald up to be silenced. Can you find evidence that such mutual associates existed? (I’m way out of my field here, so don’t take the details of this example too seriously.) If you predict a certain pattern of correspondence and then find it, that suggests that you may have a valuable understanding of the historical event.

    We use this method in studying the Big Bang. We predict what we expect to observe in the cosmic microwave background, then we make the observation. We are doing a very good job lately.

    Some historical events are not sufficiently documented. While I think that the truth exists, I don’t think we can ever know the truth about these events with any confidence.

    …and personal experiences?

    I’m not sure what you mean by this. Is the wedding and example?

    Also, is you last paragraph subject to prediction and verification itself?

    Yes! We have been predicting since the scientific revolution that this method will increase our knowledge, and that prediction keeps being verified. I confidently predict that predicting-and-verifying will continue to increase our knowledge in 2014. In contrast, I do not predict any new knowledge from the efforts of William Lane Craig or Alvin Plantinga.

  51. Billy Squibs

    On the one hand,
    there are a number of indications, of which I mentioned a few above.
    A real causal link has not yet been made. But the number of correlations is so great in number and varied in their form and proces that we can speak of almost a kind of proof by triangulation.

    Science is making giant leaps, in the field of brain research, in the last decade. We can pinpoint the areas where sight, language, reasoning, emotion, … are situated.

    At this moment the discussion on causality brain – behaviour, is on the level where the discussion smoking – cancer, once was. The cigarette firms denying the link, the researchers finding more and more correlations which point to a link.

    And on the other side, the supernatural: no explantion at all.

    So there are a lot of indications, but not enough to prove a strong causal claim. While the other side stands empty handed.

  52. Billy Squibs

    Philosophers can discuss at their heart’s content, I’d stick with the scientists. That’s where the real advances in our knowledge of this matter are made.

    One could compare it to Aristotle philosophizing on the nature of the polar bear, and a biologist who did his polar bear research in the habitat of the bear itself.

  53. Billy:

    It wasn’t Douglas’s incredulity that I was stating, it was my own – I just thought it was a good illustration.

    This *isn’t* evidence for atheism in general, it is the evidence that brought *me* to atheism (well, a part of it) – which is what Tom and Victoria asked.

    What it does is to shift the burden of proof (which never should have been on me in the first place). 2000 years ago the universe was a small place. The Earth (not even all of it). The sun, the moon and some twinkly points of light which were handy for pointing at Saviours, but didn’t seem to do much else. Explaining all this with a god, and that his plan involved a minor tribe close to what was actually the centre of the known world could sound plausible.

    Now we have in the region of 10^22 – 10^24 of stars in the universe (accoring to the ESA website I just googled). That is an un-imaginiably HUGE number. In addition to showing that Jesus was God and came to save humanity, you’ve now got to also show where this all fits into that number of other possible stars and worlds and beings. I don’t deny that an amnipotent god would have no problem at all with a universe that size. The answer to all three points A, B & C is: you tell me? *you* have the burden of proof to tell me where God fits into all this. I don’t have show that God exists in a small universe, you have to show He exists. I don’t have to demonstrate God having no other purpose, you have to demonstrate He does have a purpose. I don’t have to clarify why it doesn’t make sense, you have to show why it *does* make sense. I’ve yet to see the evidence that would convince me of any of that.

    This does (I’m kinda surprised 😉 ) actually tie into the original blog post. By “you” above, I didn’t mean Billy – you’re under no obligation to me – I meant God, or his representatives on Earth. It is up to Him to provide the compelling evidence.

    P.S. The one liner about dog souls may have *seemed* like a throw-away, but was actually meant seriously – someone above asked for what evidence would convince me there was a God. Proving that dogs don’t have souls (and I mean the same sort of souls as humans do, not fake animal-souls) and humans do have souls would go a long way towards that.

  54. Victoria says

    There are many arguments to show that reasoning can not in principle arise from the purely physical.

    Most philosophers and nearly all scientists think those arguments are rubbish. As long as the nonphysical component to consciousness is supported by “arguments” rather than empirical evidence it can be safely dismissed as a fantasy. It is a fantasy you are free to enjoy, however.

  55. Dirkvg

    Based on what proof?

    I never said proof was offered. You have no proof of it being otherwise so we can both move on to other areas – like rational coherency.

    It is also not explained how this soul part should work, neither is it explained how soul interacts with nature.

    What kind of explanation are you looking for? For example, I can offer an explanation for how a transgression is erased through an act of forgiveness – but then you might press me and ask how that works and how forgiveness interacts with nature. I hope you aren’t asking for a physical explanation, or one what only employs terms from philosophical naturalism.

    That nature could not give rise to beings which can reason, is just a statement, without proof.

    And saying the opposite, is what? Yep, the same thing. At least have the rationality and consistency to back up your philosophical view of reality with an understanding that makes sense.

    But as I alluded to above, in order for naturalism as a philosophy (because, that is what it is) to make sense you’d have to tweak it so much that it wouldn’t be naturalism any more. In fact, you’d have to tweak it so much that it would look nearly indistinguishable from theism.

  56. Philosophers can discuss at their heart’s content, I’d stick with the scientists. That’s where the real advances in our knowledge of this matter are made.

    This is so thick with irony. I really hope you don’t miss it.

  57. SteveK,

    The naturalistic understanding, on the other hand, fails the coherency test, which is a deep rooted *philosophical* problem that plagues naturalism as a philosophical enterprise.

    So philosophers have shown that in a purely natural world philosophy alone is not reliable. That fits my observations pretty well, so score one for naturalism.

    This is why we don’t pursue naturalism as a philosophical enterprise, we pursue it as an empirical exercise. Empiricism provides a check against our limited perceptions, our mistaken preconceptions, and unreliable reasoning. And it works.

  58. Gavin,
    See my comment in #59 as this also applies to your #60. If you cannot see the problem, you are rationally blind.

  59. SteveK:
    Um, from the article you linked to:

    “The key difference would be that whereas the severely damaged dog of our example could also go on utterly to perish, this stub of a human being could not.”

  60. SteveK

    There is a lot of proof. Overwhelming even. Science and technology offer proof of the natural. And so far there is no proof whatsoever of the supernatural. So the most rational thing is to take the naturalistic viewpoint.

    The naturalistic explanation of how things work exists, it’s called physics. And it works. It’s up to the dualist to explain how the supernatural can influence the atoms, molecules, … of the natural world. Until now, after centuries of dualism, this still amounts to zero.

    And saying the opposite, is what? Yep, the same thing.

    I don’t just state the opposite without backing. Evolution, neurology and psychology form the basis of my statements. My view is not just philosophy, but backed up by science. While yours, the dualist, supernatural view is not only lacking proof but moreover in contradiction to science.

  61. SteveK

    see 68

    and:

    on advances made by science

    This is so thick with irony. I really hope you don’t miss it.

    I see science replacing a missing arm with a bionic arm. I’ve never seen a missing arm replaced by a new arm, by miracle. So far for your irony.

  62. You referred to real advances in knowledge, Dirkvg. Can the scientific method separate the real advances in knowledge from the lesser advances? No. See the irony now?

  63. SteveK

    I see you meant a word play, ok.

    But this doesn’t give you any counterargument to my arguments above on dualism.

  64. SteveK

    But still, science does distinguish between smaller discoveries and more fundamental discoveries.

  65. Science and technology offer proof of the natural.

    And I can see the syllogism now.

    – Science gives humans the knowledge they need to create things
    – Thanks to science, humans were able to create iPads
    – iPads have really cool and useful features (calculators, spreadsheets and Candy Crush).
    – Therefore naturalism is true.

    Makes perfect sense.

  66. But still, science does distinguish between smaller discoveries and more fundamental discoveries.

    Thanks to the philosophy department, it does. Has the irony hit you yet?

  67. The naturalistic explanation of how things work exists, it’s called physics. And it works.

    I gave an example in #58. I’ll quote it again below.

    Using plain, ordinary language please explain in naturalistic terms how the act of forgiveness works. Describe in plain language how the various physical forces of forgiveness erase the physical (energy?) of transgression.

    For example, I can offer an explanation for how a transgression is erased through an act of forgiveness – but then you might press me and ask how that works and how forgiveness interacts with nature.

  68. @SteveK:

    Makes perfect sense.

    Some brave souls are collecting the arguments, as e.g. made by our distinguished visitors — see here. Hilarious. Precisely because of the likeness unto reality.

  69. Chris B.,

    I just want to know how he knows dogs don’t have souls?

    If you’re referring to Feser, he does think dogs have souls, just not rational souls.

    Gavin,

    Most philosophers and nearly all scientists think those arguments are rubbish. As long as the nonphysical component to consciousness is supported by “arguments” rather than empirical evidence it can be safely dismissed as a fantasy.

    And yet the philosophers and scientists who think they’re rubbish are unable to provide a rational refutation and your “argument” that they can be dismissed as fantasy is not an empirical one.

    You state that there are counterarguments (even many) but you, just as the author, don’t present one argument.

    Well, I assumed that someone who is weighing in on a topic with the kind of certainty that you are displaying would be aware of the counter arguments to his position. If you do wish to become acquainted you might start with the arguments of Nagel, Searle, Ross among others.

  70. Describe in plain language how the various physical forces of forgiveness erase the physical (energy?) of transgression.

    I’ve got this one! Forgiveness doesn’t erase transgression because transgression is not a real thing. It is a fantasy that you believe in due to an irrational overconfidence in your misperceptions about the world. The irrationality and misperceptions are to be expected of your naturally evolved brain, but could be corrected though the proper use of empiricism.

  71. Melissa:

    Uhuh. And exactly how does he know that dogs don’t have “rational souls”, the same as humans?

  72. @ G. Rodrigues,

    1. We can explain many things without referring to the supernatural.
    2. There are many things that we can’t explain within a naturalistic framework.
    3. Anything that can’t be explained within a naturalistic framework is a fantasy.
    4. Unfortunately I need some of those fantasies to make my naturalistic explanations intelligible.
    5. I am very good at ignoring 4.
    6. Therefore God does not exist.

  73. Chris B.,

    And exactly how does he know that dogs don’t have “rational souls”, the same as humans

    There is no evidence that dogs are able to grasp abstract concepts and reason on the basis of them.

  74. Wow, loads of post all of a sudden. While I’m working my way through them I would like to set the record straight on the first thing I read.

    This looks like a lot of bluster to me, and I’m not interested in debating it. If you don’t know why hitting people is wrong in a wold without God, I probably can’t help you.

    Please do not construct strawmen and then chide me when you de-construct them. You did not represent what I wrote accurately, Gavin.

  75. SteveK

    You are not adressing my arguments for naturalism and you don’t try to counter my criticism of dualism.

    You just pose a question of which you know probably very well that it’s at the moment unanswerable.

    It is not because naturalism can’t answer all questions that therefore it is proven wrong. You are or using a faulty discussion tactic, or you don’t realise your own mistaken supposition.

    In fact while discussing this you use a computer, thereby proving that you, yourself, put your trust in naturalistic reality.

    Trying to defend dualism by asking fake questions shows, you have no real defense for your dualism.

  76. Melissa:

    Argument from Silence then?

    Feser’s contention is that Human Souls survive the body’s physical death, yet animals’ souls don’t. How does he know that?

  77. Melissa,

    making a strawman and ridiculing it is probably fun, but also weak

    3 anything that can’t be explained within a naturalistic framework is just that, as yet unexplained

    4 we don’t need fantasies to make naturalism work. Maybe you noticed, we sent men to the moon, we let people control bionic limbs with their brain, …

    5 naturalism has strong evidence in its favor, supernaturalism has none or weak evidence

    6 so if one wants to be rational and coherent one takes the naturalistic point of view and one doesn’t believe in elves, Thor, Zeus, Shiva or God

  78. Chris B.,

    Argument from Silence then?

    Feser’s contention is that Human Souls survive the body’s physical death, yet animals’ souls don’t. How does he know that?

    Usually if there is no evidence that something is true it is quite reasonable to conclude it is not true, wouldn’t you agree?

    Why don’t you read what Feser has to say on the subject?

  79. Melissa:

    No, actually I don’t agree. If there’s no evidence, then that thing is *not proven*. That’s not the same as not true. If there’s evidence to the contrary, then you can say it is not true.

    I probably should read Feser – you’re right. Any recommendations?

  80. Dirkvg,

    anything that can’t be explained within a naturalistic framework is just that, as yet unexplained

    Atheists and naturalists will commonly explain away our experiences as illusions or fantasies so I’m not sure why you think my sentence was inaccurate. Also what can’t be explained within a naturalistic framework is not only unexplained yet but unexplainable if you insist on clinging to your naturalism.

    we don’t need fantasies to make naturalism work. Maybe you noticed, we sent men to the moon, we let people control bionic limbs with their brain

    You’re confusing science and naturalism. In fact you’ve done that the whole way through the thread. Plus you should note that “working” and being intelligible are not the same thing.

    naturalism has strong evidence in its favor, supernaturalism has none or weak evidence

    I’m still waiting for this strong evidence. Cool toys and evidence of brain activity when we’re thinking are not evidence for naturalism they are entirely consistent with theism.

  81. Chris B.,

    If there’s no evidence, then that thing is *not proven*. That’s not the same as not true.

    Having evidence for a thing does not “prove”anything. You will note that I wrote that it is reasonable to believe it is not true. Given the evidence available Feser believes that dogs do not have rational souls. Do you have a reason to disagree with this or are you just being argumentative for the sake of it?

  82. Melissa,

    And yet the philosophers and scientists who think they’re rubbish are unable to provide a rational refutation.

    Here is the refutation: Your argument has no empirical support, it is therefore irrelevant to the world we live in.

  83. Melissa:

    You said:

    There is no evidence that dogs are able to grasp abstract concepts and reason on the basis of them.

    not that there was evidence they couldn’t. An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Also, I never said that having evidence proves anything. If you’ve no evidence either way, then it is *not* reasonable to decide on one believe one way or the other.

    I’m not just being argumentative for the sake of it. It is an important point regarding whether humans and animals are fundamentally different, or whether the human is merely an higher evolved animal. If there is a difference in the Soul of us vs. animals, then this would go some way to deciding that. It isn’t so much the reasoning/abstract thought part, rather the immortality part that would be significant, though.

  84. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Gavin is purposefully making himself look like a fool who thinks he understands the arguments. I mean, this

    Your argument has no empirical support, it is therefore irrelevant to the world we live in.

    is a claim/argument that has no empirical support, therefore it is irrelevant to the world we live in – and yet Gavin thinks he said something coherent.

  85. You are not adressing my arguments for naturalism and you don’t try to counter my criticism of dualism.

    I’m not? No bother, really, because my original purpose was to inform you about the soul (see #47), and I did that.

  86. G. Rodrigues,
    This one closely sums up many of the arguments here. I wouldn’t use the word faith though.

    #227
    ARGUMENT FROM SCIENTIFIC FAITH
    (1) Science, unlike religion, always operates on proof rather than faith.
    (2) Even though all scientific proofs ultimately boil down to principles that must be accepted on faith.
    (3) But if you don’t think about that, then it’s totally not a problem.
    (4) Therefore, God does not exist.

    I like Melissa’s a lot too. Funny.

  87. Chris B.,

    If you’ve no evidence either way, then it is *not* reasonable to decide on one believe one way or the other.

    But we do have evidence that dogs aren’t rational – nothing they do would lead us to believe that they grasp abstract concepts. Bear in mind that I am arguing that it is reasonable to believe not 100% certain knowledge. If they were rational then they too would have a soul that could survive the death of the body.

    I’m not just being argumentative for the sake of it. It is an important point regarding whether humans and animals are fundamentally different, or whether the human is merely an higher evolved animal. If there is a difference in the Soul of us vs. animals, then this would go some way to deciding that. It isn’t so much the reasoning/abstract thought part, rather the immortality part that would be significant, though.

    There are arguments that establish that reasoning cannot be a solely physical process which is why a rational soul can survive the death of the body.

    Feser has a round up of posts on the mind-body problem here:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2011/05/mind-body-problem-roundup.html

    Scientism here:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

    Also this posts on the interaction problem:

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2008/10/interaction-problem.html

  88. Gavin,

    Here is the refutation: Your argument has no empirical support, it is therefore irrelevant to the world we live in.

    I’m going to read your phrase “irrelevant to the world we live in” as meaning something like accurately reflecting reality, because that’s what we’re talking about when we’re deciding if something is true or not. For your statement here to function as a refutation you would need to first establish that only arguments that have direct empirical evidence accurately reflect reality. To do that coherently you would need to provide direct empirical evidence for your argument. What is your empirical evidence to support your claim?

  89. I’ve got this one! Forgiveness doesn’t erase transgression because transgression is not a real thing. It is a fantasy that you believe in due to an irrational overconfidence in your misperceptions about the world. The irrationality and misperceptions are to be expected of your naturally evolved brain, but could be corrected though the proper use of empiricism.

    Fire, Ready, Aim!

    There is a better way to think, Gavin. A way that doesn’t result in anti-realism.

  90. For your statement here to function as a refutation you would need to first establish that only arguments that have direct empirical evidence accurately reflect reality. To do that coherently you would need to provide direct empirical evidence for your argument. What is your empirical evidence to support your claim?

    I’m glad you asked (and this also addresses SteveK at 92). I’m going to pick a sample of arguments that lack empirical support: all of theology for the past 1500 years.

    Theology is certainly operating free of empirical support, but do its arguments accurately reflect reality? Certainly the arguments do not reflect reality with any reliability because the arguments do not even produce a consensus among theologians. Do theologians agree on the nature of God, His relationship to creation, or His role in human affairs? No, no and no. Since theological arguments produce a huge range of conclusions, those conclusions cannot possibly reflect the one reality.

    This is not a philosophical argument. I can certainly imagine a world where philosophy, like math, is able to produce consensus conclusions. In such a world I would have to give serious consideration to the possibility that those claims might be right. But that is not what we find empirically. What we actually observe is a lot of arguing without much progress towards consensus, so it is safe to say that the theological arguments are not reliably reflecting reality.

    That is just one field, but it is quite a bit of evidence. Perhaps you would like to propose another field which you think does a better of reflecting reality without empirical support.

  91. Gavin,

    Since theological arguments produce a huge range of conclusions, those conclusions cannot possibly reflect the one reality.

    I think you must have meant to write those conclusions cannot all possibly reflect the one reality. So your evidence does not support your conclusion. Given also that a consensus and empirical evidence does nothing to guarantee that a position accurately reflects reality, your claim does not hold up under scrutiny.

  92. SteveK

    You are not adressing my arguments for naturalism and you don’t try to counter my criticism of dualism.

    I’m not? No bother, really, because my original purpose was to inform you about the soul (see #47), and I did that.

    The article just informed me about the thoughts of the author
    since it contains no proof or evidence, it remains just that, words without real content. If a soul would exist, the artice was not informative at all, just an example of guesswork.
    As I wrote:
    It is also not explained how this soul part should work, neither is it explained how soul interacts with nature.
    Maybe I missed it. If so, give me the relevant sentences.

    I thought your purpose was to demonstrate the truth of dualism and the article on the soul was an example to justify dualism. If so no justification as yet has been shown.

  93. Argument from Consensus I:

    (1) Theologians, unlike scientists cannot arrive at a consensus.

    (2) For example, there was a consensus that Newtonian theory of Gravity was the correct one.

    (3) Then there was a consensus that Einstein’s theory of General Relativity was the correct one.

    (4) Now, there is a consensus that Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is not the correct one.

    (5) Now, there is a consensus that we have no consensus on what the correct theory of Quantum Gravity is.

    (6) There is a consensus that we have little idea on what such a theory should be.

    (7) There is even a consensus that there is little consensus on what directions we should pursue to frame such a theory.

    (8) Herein it is proved that there is a consensus among scientists unlike with theologians.

    (9) Therefore God does note exist.

    Argument from Consensus II:

    (1) Theologians, unlike scientists cannot arrive at a consensus.

    (2) Scientists do not take their cues from a Holy book; rather, are skeptical, always testing their theories and refining them.

    (3) Scientists often disagree with each other; this is a strength of science.

    (4) But there is a consensus.

    (5) Or whatever.

    (6) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from Consensus III:

    (1) Theologians, unlike scientists cannot arrive at a consensus.

    (2) But I can imagine a world where it could.

    (3) In such a world, I would listen to them.

    (4) But ours is not such a world.

    (5) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from Consensus IV:

    (1) Theologians, unlike scientists cannot arrive at a consensus.

    (2) What this has got do with the question of whether God exists, I do not know.

    (3) But I will just say it anyway.

    (4) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from Consensus V.

    (1) Theologians, unlike scientists cannot arrive at a consensus.

    (2) Atheists cannot arrive at a consensus on just about anything.

    (3) Atheists cannot even arrive on a consensus on what Atheism is.

    (4) …

    (5) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from Ignorance I:

    (1) I have never set foot on a lab; I have never done a scattering cross-section calculation; I do not know what is a Lagrangian or the stress-momentum tensor or a Feynman diagram.

    (2) But science rocks.

    (3) Like, totally.

    (4) And scientists do not believe that God exists.

    (5) Apart from those that do.

    (6) But otherwise, Science ™ is on the side of atheism.

    (7) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from ignorance II:

    (1) Theology is free of empirical support.

    (2) Therefore Theology can never be validated.

    (3) Therefore Theology is all wrong, for all we know.

    (4) Mathematics is free of empirical support.

    (5) Therefore Mathematics can never be validated.

    (6) Mathematics is essential to the hard empirical sciences.

    (7) There would be no physics, chemistry, etc. without Mathematics.

    (8) I am ignorant of both Mathematics or Theology.

    (9) So who cares, anyway.

    (10) Therefore God does not exist.

    Argument from Ignorance III:

    (1) I have read this article about dualism.

    (2) The article does not prove what it set about to prove.

    (3) Of course, if you were to ask me what are the arguments, I would not know.

    (4) You mean, there *are* arguments in there?

    (5) Well, they are wrong.

    (6) Therefore God does not exist.

  94. Gavin, you wrote,

    Melissa,

    And yet the philosophers and scientists who think they’re rubbish are unable to provide a rational refutation.

    Here is the refutation: Your argument has no empirical support, it is therefore irrelevant to the world we live in.

    You’re implying this as your position: that which has no empirical support is irrelevant to the world we live in. Can you show us the lab experiment or field observation that demonstrates the truth of that assertion? Journal references would be helpful, if you could include them. I’d like to see the where “relevance” is operationally defined, and where its presence or absence can be predicted with such total precision by the presence or absence of empirical support.

    While you’re working on that, could you demonstrate for us empirically that humans have value, or show where someone else has conducted that experiment or correlational study?

    Note that the question isn’t whether humans think they have value, but whether humans actually have value. If you think that the two questions are the same—for example, that humans have value because we perceive ourselves to have value—then you’ll have to be prepared to answer the question, “Do you have empirical support for that?”

  95. I have a question for Dirkvg, too. It relates to this that you wrote, which SteveK also asked you about:

    It is also not explained how this soul part should work, neither is it explained how soul interacts with nature.

    Suppose for the sake of argument there were some explanation somewhere that told how this “soul part” works, and how soul interacts with nature. Suppose that this explanation involved some events and effects happening in material reality, and some events and effects happening in immaterial reality. The part of that explanation that was located in material reality would be observable and describable in scientific terms, but the part located in immaterial reality would be inaccessible to science, just because it’s immaterial.

    Could you imagine such an explanation being true and useful, if such an explanation were offered?

  96. Chris, I’ll have to disagree with the thrust of your #56 comment. I can’t show you God exists. All I can do is offer evidence. What you do with this is your business. The claim of Christianity is that this evidence is sufficient. And I’ve already admitted I think is tricky to explain in the case of those non-believers who genuinely seem open to the existence of God.

    When you have difficulty with the nature of the universe (say it’s size or it’s age) fitting with God then I would really like to know why this is. Perhaps instead of demonstrating A,B and C you can simply tell me why the size of the universe lead you away from the belief in God.

    In short, why, oh why, does size matter? 🙂

  97. Tom, I asked a somewhat similar question of Gavin in #45 (3rd and 2nd last paragraphs). Gavin gave a sort of response in #53.

  98. I see.

    Gavin, you wrote in #53,

    This looks like a lot of bluster to me, and I’m not interested in debating it. If you don’t know why hitting people is wrong in a wold without God, I probably can’t help you.

    Let me try a thought experiment to see if I understand correctly what you’re getting at. It’s obvious that hitting people is wrong. Not only that but it’s obvious in a world without God. So I think you’re saying this:

    1. Posit a world with God. In that world, we can understand that hitting people is wrong, or
    2. Posit a world without God. In that world, we can understand that hitting people is wrong.

    But there’s a problem with those two suppositions, and the problem is that either we live in a world with God, or we live in a world without God. Whichever of those is true, the existence or non-existence of God will absolutely rule what kind of things we can understand to be true.

    Let me illustrate.

    If we live in a world that is actually, really, and truly without God, it is going to be very difficult to posit a world with God. The reason is because we could posit anything whatsoever. We could posit a world where up is down, where gravity causes water to flow one way and marbles to roll another. We could posit a world where people are born old and die as infants. We could posit anything whatsoever.

    If, on the other hand, we live in a world that is actually, really, and truly with God, then it’s going to be impossible to posit a world without God. That’s because if there is a God (speaking specifically of theism now), then that God created not only the world but also our abilities to posit things. In that case we would have to posit ourselves as living in a world where the very ability to posit things did not exist.

    To summarize: if there is no God, then for the reasons I have just stated, it is impossible to know whether hitting people would be right or wrong in a world with God; and conversely if there is a God, it is impossible to know whether hitting people would be right or wrong in a world without God.

    So while your response here may seem obvious to you, it’s anything but that.

    When Christians bring up the argument from morality, it’s about the kind of distinction raised above: a world with or without God actually existing, and whether a world without God can actually account for the existence of right and wrong.

    Now it could be that you have made a different kind of error. Here’s what you wrote:

    If you don’t know why hitting people is wrong in a wold without God, I probably can’t help you.

    What some people mean when they say that (I’ve seen it often) is more like this:

    If you think you have to believe in God to know that hitting people is wrong, I probably can’t help you.

    But no knowledgeable Christian would say that: see Romans 2:14-15.

    So if you were really talking about a world without God, you raised an impossible point of discussion. If you were talking about what we can know without believing in God, you missed the point.

  99. @Gavin,

    “I can do this.” …but you didn’t.

    The “this” in question is to ask “what evidence might it be legitimate to expect for God?” Instead, you seem to be answering the question “what evidence would it be helpful to my position to demand for God?”

  100. @Chris B

    “…subjectivity, which is one thing one tries to avoid within science” The operative word here is “within”. Certainly “within” science, one attempts to avoid subjectivity. The bad news is that there would be no science whatsoever if it were not for human beings (who unavoidably operate in the subjective). That is, there is a world of human activity that science itself operates within. And it is impossible to eliminate the subjective from the realm of human activity (without eliminating humanity). For example, while it is possible to project “evidence” into the “objective realm of science”, it never starts there. It starts with observations (i.e., perceptions) and assumptions (i.e., theories) and interpretations (i.e., relevance) — those nastily-subjective human bits that no science could exist without!!

    here’s a link on the topic

  101. Gavin,

    Given the thoroughness of Tom’s response you can ignore this if you want to deal with that instead.

    But just in case, can you tell me why “hitting people is wrong”. I’ll take any perspective you like. Just tell me why it’s wrong. My bet is you can’t.

  102. I would like an answer to that question as well. For some context Gavin was responding to the below comment.

    It seems to me that naturalism has yet to provide an answer to the problem of conciousness, that it has to deny objective morality (though some such as Stephen Law are reluctant to do so), can only posit subjective values for human worth and is utterly devoid of any teleology. Talking about opinions is fine. But if this is what your comment is based upon it’s more akin to bluster than a well supported claim.

    I wasn’t happy with his response because it did not address what was written. In this regard it’s as good an example of a strawman argument as you are likely to see.

  103. Billy,

    Not to mention his response #98 was a complete non sequitur. He provided the question, blockquoted and all, and then went off expounding on something altogether different. It was such a stunning disconnect I’ve had to reread it a number of times to believe it.

  104. Tom:

    Three links you’ve commented for me to look at.

    Firstly, a bunch of Bibical facts. I’ve listened to Tim McGrew’s first talk in his Reliability of the Gospels series, “The Gospels and Acts as History” on Apologetics 315, which is in a similar vein. It is an interesting exercise, so be sure, to fact check all the mundane details. I’d much prefer, however, that the non-mundane details were checked and corroborated. It is great to know about flights of steps used by guards and natural shopping points on the way to Caesarea. I’m sure historians are delighted, but then, I’d suspect that people living around this time would know the world in which they lived in. It shouldn’t be a surprise.

    Imagine this: In 2000 years, someone dug up a history of Scientology (to pick a random example). Wow, they thought, look at all these extraordinary claims, I wonder if they’re true? Oh, look, it also gives us a lots of nice fact about life in the 20th century. L Ron seems like a decent chap. Would that make the rest of it true? Would it be something you’d like to base your life on? And that’s really my point. If I’m meant to base my life on this, I want something more than vague historical corroborations of the mundane. I want at least properly documented accounts from eye witnesses at the very least, along with accounts from people who *don’t* have a vested interest. Where are the comptempory accounts? (must listen to more Mr McGrew)

    Second link is to an article about “Intelligent Design”. Hmmm… May I ask, for the record, whether you think this link: http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1136 is a suitable summary of ID? Just wondering. I’m not going to go any farther than that. I suspect that would take us off at even more of a tangent, and really not be productive at this time. Maybe another time for that one.

    Thirdly you have a link connected with one of the scientific reasons for my current lack of faith, once which everyone seems to be picking on… perhaps you all regard it as the “easy” one, maybe?

    Billy also posted a link to a Saints & Sceptics article in a similar vein.

    I’m really at a loss to know how to start to tackle this one, really. I’ve re-written this comment a few times now. Really, this point was one of my weakest. I’ve already explained that no, it isn’t at all strong, and actually, Tom, there is much to agree on in your article. Yes, if God exists, then I’d have no problem with him populating as much or as little of the Universe that He likes. And if he doesn’t exist then, well, it is academic, and your article does little to persuade. However, if you are looking at the whether a god exists or not, then, yes, it does have some bearing. It doesn’t provide strong evidence, but it does add a little something to the unlikelihood – we have to make more effort to explain why the God of the Bible appears to have such a parochial attitude. That’s all.

  105. Doug:

    Oooooo – I get to play G Rodrigues’s game – Yay!

    1) Scientists are subjective

    2) Science is therefore subjective

    3) Theories are just assumptions

    4) Science is rubbish

    5) God Exists!

    😀

    Anyway, thanks for agreeing with me, a bit… let’s examine this with a little less Rodrigues:

    1. Yes, humans do Science – See my side-discusssion with Melissa about whether animals might… [haven’t forgetten that, BTW, working on a comment]

    2. Yes, humans are subjective, that is we can allow our prejudices and pre-conceptions to influence what we think. We’re also aware we are subjective and can think objectively, allowing for our known prejudices and pre-conceptions.

    3. Now the interesting bit: Eliminating the subjective is *exactly* what science *tries* to do. Scientists use a number of methods to do this: Peer review, for example. Making results re-producible for corroboration (or refutation) purposes, stating assumptions. Did you realise, for example, at at CERN at the LHC, they actually have two entirely separate teams working on the project to find the Higgs Boson. Completely separate – separate buildings, separate experiments separate personel. Both looking for the same thing. If that isn’t an extreme attempt to reduce subjectivity, then I don’t know what is!

    Theories aren’t assumptions – they’re testable hypotheses. They don’t assume, then setup the framework for testing. They are born out of the observations, then tested against the evidence. That’s how we have advanced knowledge for hundreds of years. It seems to work quite well.

    I really don’t understand why you say that is is impossible to eliminate the subjective without eliminating humanity? Could you explain that a bit more?

  106. Good discussion, Chris B.

    Judaism and Christianity are unique among all religions in that they are based in history. All other religions are more or less philosophies of living. Their purported messengers are more or less incidental to the messages they delivered, and their philosophies are (depending on how you prefer to view it) disconnected from time and space or transcendent over time and space. Either way, time and space have little to do with them.

    Mormonism is an exception to that general principle: it also claims to be rooted in history. The problem is that there is absolutely no independent reason to believe that its “history” really happened.

    Judaism and Christianity claim that God revealed himself by way of acts in real time-space history. We could say there are two questions in Christianity (and Judaism as far as is relevant, but I’ll focus on just Christianity for now). Did the events happen? and, If so, then what do they mean? Those questions don’t belong in other religions, including Scientology. Whether L. Ron Hubbard lived or not, whether he was a nice guy or not, Scientology could be what it is with or without him. Not so with Christianity.

    Now, you actually caught the reason these mundane details in Dr. McGrew’s talk are important. You wrote, “I’m sure historians are delighted, but then, I’d suspect that people living around this time would know the world in which they lived in. It shouldn’t be a surprise.” That’s right. These details serve to show that the writers lived around that time and knew the world they lived in.

    A lot of counter-biblical skeptical theory depends on the writers not living around that time, and not knowing the world they were writing about. The claim is that the life of Jesus was the product of some period of legendary development among some “community of faith,” inventing stories to suit their current needs according to their Sitz im Leben (life situation). Bart Ehrman, a major popular proponent of such theories, says (In Reinventing Jesus) that these “communities” were in fact spread out across multiple continents, languages, and cultures, and their stories were the product of an early “telephone game,” with distortions and fabrications creeping in at every juncture.

    Dr. McGrew was demonstrating that this brand of skepticism should be treated very cautiously at best, for where the facts can be checked, there is no evidence to be found for this kind of multiplying distortion and fabrication. Ehrman’s view would require us to believe that this “telephone game” got every tiny detail right, all the way from the beginning of the chain in Judea, to the end in Asia Minor, Rome, or North Africa, or wherever—and yet while getting all those details exactly right on the money, the “telephone game” managed to invent a whole new, fantastical, impossible history surrounding Jesus and his followers.

    So that’s what’s relevant about the tiny details.

    There are major facts that are not corroborated outside the Bible, but are multiply attested by the multiple sources in the New Testament documents, within a short period of the events. These multiple sources include Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and “Q,” a lost document that most scholars believe Matthew and Luke used as source material.

    The point of it all is that we’re reading history that’s reliable. And since the message of Christianity depends on Did the events happen? and If so, what do they mean?, that’s really quite significant.

  107. And Chris, if I may add just a bit to Tom’s explanation. The “mundane details” in the NT establish it as reportage and not myth. This, as Tom points out, is extremely significant for a faith that relies on accurate reporting of the facts. As C.S. Lewis said:

    “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this [Gospel] text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage – though it may no doubt contain errors – pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors, or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative….The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.”

    In other words, the NT is a text written by the people who were there at the time recording the events that happened. Given how dramatic those facts are, unless they were true, Christianity never stands a chance of becoming even a minor religious movement much less the world’s leading faith.

  108. @Chris B,

    Perhaps it would be helpful to introduce a distinction that, as an IT guy, you likely appreciate: in Eckel’s classic “Thinking in Java” he talks about “class creators” and “client programmers”. Well, there is a similar thing going on in science. Earlier in my career, I played the “science creator” role (rather than the “client-of-science” role). And the subjectivity of human beings is very much in play in that space. The interpretations, assumptions and perceptions of scientists are very much the things that create the science in the first place. Experimental construction is a remarkably creative (i.e., synthetic as opposed to analytic) exercise. As soon as science becomes “a done deal” it’s (relatively) boring. It would be a bit easier for you to understand if you had had some experience as a scientist…

  109. The metaphor that Charles Marshall uses is that there are “science-composers” (that write the “music”) and “science-appreciators” (that read the “music”). Sure, once the “music” is on paper, there is no subjective element to it at all! But the only possible way to imagine that subjectivity isn’t part of the entire process is to deny the possibility of science-composition altogether.

  110. Doug:

    OK, so science has a subjective element to it. There is also the intention by Scientists to (in general) to find objective truth. What exactly is your point here? Are you trying to say that Science is *merely* subjectivity? Or just that it isn’t completely objective? I don’t really get what you’re trying to say. It was never my intention to say that there is no subjectivity in Science. My point was that Science *tries* to remove subjectivity, that is personal bias, from the process. Are you saying that all science is partial and un-trustworthy? Or something in between?

  111. Tom on your question in 103

    Could you imagine such an explanation being true and useful, if such an explanation were offered?

    Yes, each explanation has the potential of being true. True, understood as being the most justified explanation.

    But before we get to that point we have to consider a number of points:

    – As you say, if there would be a supernatural world, (I like to use the term supernatural because some people in using the term material, tend to forget that nature also consists of energy besides matter) then if it would manifest itself in our natural world, then in principle science could test these manifestations. In fact this is what sceptics in several countries, a.o. James Randi, try to do. Until now without results.

    – Now suppose, that on a scientific basis, such a test would lead to a conclusion that no naturalistic explanation could now or in the future explain the manifestation. Let’s for now leave the question what would be necessary for this aside.

    – What would we have then? Evidence for a manifestation of the supernatural world in our natural world. So only now after all these steps, we come to your question. Could one imagine an explanation of this to be true? A first problem would be that the number of explantions is only limited by human creativity. If we limit ourselves to a small number of possible explanatiosn, that is those who would see the cause as coming from a supernatural being , even then we already have a large number of contenders: Shiva, Thor, the Christian God, Satan, various demons, semi-Gods, … If a fact is proven there must certainly be some kind of explantion which would be more true than others. But how to decide? It is in a way Abraham’s problem: how to know if the manifestation is God’s or of something else?

    So to conclude, the road to such an explantion is filled with (almost) unsurmountable problems, and at present there is not even evidence or only weak evidence for the first step, the proof of such a manifestation.

  112. Tom on your 109

    Just a question: I hope you are not some kind of Bahnsen presuppositionalist, are you? Some of the points in that comment gave me that impression.

  113. Sure: you are absolutely correct that the scientific enterprise attempts to remove subjectivity from the process. But before it gets that far, subjectivity — in the exercise of “science-composition” — is in play. Here, perception of evidence is critical.

    If your criterion for “evidence for God” disallows any subjectivity, then you are looking for God in a place that He could not legitimately be expected to be found. That is, one should not imagine that we would find Him in the formalization of scientific knowledge (this would be like attempting to find “music” in little black circles and squiggles on a set of lines).

  114. Theology is not totally independent of empirical reality.

    From the opening 3 chapters of Genesis, we would predict that humans beings will show both moments of greatness and moments of wickedness. That’s an empirical prediction. Is it a successful prediction?

    Or, Augustine arrives empirically at the doctrine of the sinful nature: by observing the responses of infants, he concludes that even they are very often driven by self-centeredness and envy, far earlier than they could have learned it.

    Those are just examples. Those doctrine could be true or false, accurate or mistaken–but they do participate in the empirical world.

    And did someone honestly say that empiricism provides a check against our limited perceptions? But empiricism is the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense experience. How exactly does an a priori reliance on our sense experience provide a check against our sense experience? And did someone actually contrast empiricism (a philosophical position) with philosophy? Weird.

  115. Dirkvg,

    First, I think that in spite of Randi’s attempts of controlling observations of the supernatural, there is strong evidence that miracles happen. Craig Keener’s book on Miracles is the best place to go for that. Or I could tell you about my own experience, and some friends’ as well.

    Second, the range of conceivable explanations for a supernatural event is not so broad as you think. Explanations that are incoherent or unbelievable on philosophical grounds can be ruled out. If a miracle happens upon prayer in Jesus’ name, as is commonly the case, then that’s strong evidence that the God of Christianity is behind the event.

  116. Doug:

    So, essentially, you’re saying God is a subjective experience, completely immunune from any objective analysis – Science-proof, if you like.

    Why exactly? Why isn’t it legitimate to expect to find some evidence of God in objective reality? Is He deliberately hiding? That would be just mean!

  117. @Chris B,

    Wow. I guess I’m not being understood at all. Sorry for the failure to communicate.

    @Dirkvg,

    “there is not even evidence or only weak evidence for the first step, the proof of such a manifestation.” Far too many throughout history would disagree. The failure is not in the manifestation itself, but in the “handle” on such manifestation that would satisfy skeptics. The “multiply-reproducible” requirement of Randi’s challenge limits its value, I’m afraid.

  118. The intersection between Chris B and dirkvg appears to be the accusation that God has failed to communicate. Strangely, this accusation appears in the context of a number of failures to communicate. May God forgive those who want to participate in His Word for our part in this failure. But if nothing else, this context reminds us that when communication is concerned, “it takes two to tango.” There may indeed be responsibility on the part of those accusing God of insufficient communication.

  119. Doug (and later, Tom):

    Firstly, I’m sorry if I came across as sarcastic, or less than respectful. The medium we’re using here (plain text) is actually (I’ve found) pretty lousy at deep communication – it takes a lot of quite slow back and forth to get the message across. We don’t have the advantage of being able to see all the unspoken communication or even tone of voice etc. So we may jump to the wrong conclusion based on how hard we imagine the other person is hitting the keys 🙂

    So, my last comment was a statement to try to get to the nub of what you’re saying, something for you to agree or disagree with, something to explain relative to. It was all serious comment, not a sarcastic response – I suspect I could have phrased differently.

    I’m not interested in winning the argument because someone uses the wrong words, or wilfully mis-interprets something and stakes their reasoning upon that. In fact, I’m not particularly interested in “Winning the argument” at all, whatever that is. I’m more interested in finding out what the truth is, and why people think that.

    I too love the irony in the your last comment – perhaps we are all made in the image of God afterall 😉 [I also try inject humour into my comments – maybe that’s a British thing, I don’t know – too much Monty Python when growing up 😀 ]

    But the serious side to this is that failure to communicate might be considered the responsibility of both side if those sides are roughly equal – like in this blog/forum here where understanding each other viewpoints is the aim.for example. Where they’re not – for example in the Teacher vs student relationship, which I mentioned before, where the Teacher is the imparting knowledge to the Student. Or, to pick another at random, an Omnipotent,Omnipresent,Omnisicient God who created us, knows every hair on our head, knew us before we were born vs Created being relatonship. If He’s not getting the message across, and it is His responsibility to make sure that message gets across, because He’s the one with all the power & knowledge etc.

    To move onto Tom’s comment, which kind of ties in [the *big* advantage of this communication medium is that it *isn’t* an immediate medium – if I waited 2 days to reply to you in a face to face conversation you’d probably be a little bit irritated. But here, I get lots of thinking time 🙂 ]

    My real issue with the method of demonstrating the reliability of the Biblical account, is that it says nothing of the character and reliability of the people actually writing it. It doesn’t mean that it is a accurate honest account of the events of that time. It is indisputably written by those with a vested interest in the Religion. It is written by those who’s opinions have been coloured by the faith they’ve grown up in. We see that today where people are drawn to a charismatic leader, and un-duly influenced by their views. It is written with reference to multiple interlocking sources, so of course, where those accounts will agree. It was written referencing real historical events – it certainly seems quite possible that Jesus existed as a physical person. I don’t have a lot of trouble accepting that. But, they are, as Doug has been arguing, subjective accounts. These were not impartial observers. They were heavily involved in the events that occurred. And while that can be an advantage, it can also be a hinderance. There is a definite tendancy to want to paint the best light on events. A tendancy not to want to admit you’re wrong about things. A tendancy to bias viewpoints to what you already think, colour them by previous experience.

    This is why having an account from an *impartial* observer is important. Or even an observer who disagrees. I’m very interested in the comment which I think Tom made earlier, that even when Jesus was about on Earth, there were people who rejected Him. That is *vastly* significant. It is tricky to work out intentions from such a small statement, but it might imply that even when He was incarnate, the evidence wasn’t compelling. I would *love* to see one of those people’s accounts of the events of that time.

    I’m not trying to build an Argument from Silence here, but rather showing why I still regard there to be a lack of reliable evidence. I’m not saying that the accounts are definitely un-reliable, I’m saying their reliability isn’t confirmed. And if I’m going to base my life on that foundation, which, Tom, I think is what you’re saying, then I want something better – I’m not convinced.

  120. Tom

    Personal experiences fall under the heading of ‘anecdotal evidence’ and are considered weak evidence.

    To count as scientific proof, and you used the term scientitific in your question, a proof has te be repeatable by anyone anytime. It is this method that ensures that scientific evidence is the best knowledge we have.

    One of the findings of experiments in psychology is that personal experiences are not very reliable. Furthermore history abounds with personal experiences that proved to be wrong.

  121. Tom

    If a miracle happens upon prayer in Jesus’ name, as is commonly the case, then that’s strong evidence that the God of Christianity is behind the event.

    This seems a case of double standards.
    You pray, something happens. You think there is a certain causality from one to the other, by way of God.
    On another post, when I pointed out, the physical occurences in the brain and the possible link to behaviour, you wrote that this was only a case of
    correlation.
    You seem to easily by step the fact of correlation in the example of prayer.

  122. Actually, dirkvg, anecdotal evidence is very useful for knowing whether some event happened, and repeatability is not the test of a miracle. You’ve borrowed language from one field of knowledge and imported it into another.

    Personal experiences can be proved wrong, you say. Well, of course they can. But how? Do you see that in the very course of your answer you’ve hinted at its rebuttal? For you see, it’s possible to test the veridicality of personal experiences. Some can be proved wrong. Others can be verified to be trustworthy.

    My friend Connie who was instantly healed of severe epilepsy while being prayed for in the name of Jesus had a personal experience that was attested to by herself, her family, and her physicians. That’s not unreliable.

  123. I am not a Bahnsenist. I couldn’t even figure out which comment you thought led in that direction. Sorry.

    I do think presuppositions play a large part in worldview discussions, but I’m also highly in favor of appealing to evidences, which Bahnsen (as I understand it) was not.

  124. RE: #133, no double standard there at all. I’m not sure what you took from that earlier comment, but it sure wasn’t what I intended. Maybe it was my fault, maybe I wrote something unclearly.

    Correlations obviously contribute to knowledge. I’ve run lots of correlational research studies. They’re very useful if treated properly.

    Physical events in the brain are obviously involved in cognition, behavior, health, and so on, and the reason we know that is because of correlations.

    My point previously was that the correlations there did not prove that these physical events were the sole cause of those effects.

  125. Doug

    The “multiply-reproducible” requirement of Randi’s challenge limits its value, I’m afraid.

    It’s the opposite. The scientific requirement of repeatability is one of the strenghts upon which the present state of knowledge about reality is built.
    Nothing personal implied, but the argument: it is just a one of a kind event that can’t be tested but still is true, has been an argument to justify a lot of fraud in the realm of the supernatural. It renders such anecdotal evidence very suspect.

    There may indeed be responsibility on the part of those accusing God of insufficient communication.

    I don’t accuse God of anything, since I don’t think he exists. Moreover it’s not just the lack of evidence or the weak evidence that convinces me he doesn’t exist but also the contradiction with the knowledge of which we can be certain (a.o. because it is based upon repeatability).

  126. Tom

    I’ll reply later. Glad you’re no a Bahnsenist. I found his ideas a bit too far over the edge. I don’t think they lead to rational conversations. : )

  127. @dirkvg

    In the scientific enterprise of “detection”, there are two types of errors: a type I error (false positive) and a type II error (false negative). Sure, one can construct tests to reduce false positives. This is easy. In fact, the easiest possible: simply claim everything as a negative. Too easy. Boring, in fact. And hardly indicative of a “strength”.

    As Pascal correctly (and famously) wrote, a type II error (false negative) may indeed be something that you might want to avoid in the present instance.

  128. @Chris B,

    One (potentially relevant) relationship that you overlooked: a parent and child. If you are (or ever have been) a parent to a teenager, then you’ve likely experienced failures to communicate with all possible well-meaning effort to get through.

  129. @ChrisB:

    Oooooo – I get to play G Rodrigues’s game – Yay!

    Let me make this short: I have no idea why you are harping on and on about Science ™ and delivering one-paragraph lectures on it. The OP is, among other things, about evidence and the evidence relevant for answering different questions. So, what is your point? Are you going to show us the peer-reviewed articles in scientifick journals that show that God does not exist? If yes, then why the detour? Or your point is that there can be no scientifick evidence for God’s existence? If the latter, my first answer is shrugging my shoulders and replying so what? My second answer is, well, it depends; depends on the logical structure of the argument where such putative evidence is deployed. And then again, since such arguments are of necessity weak in probative force even if successful, I return to my first answer, so what? It would be relevant, or at least mildly relevant, if the question of whether God exists is scientifick one, or if science, in the sense of the hard, modern empirical sciences, is the only or even the best method for gaining knowledge. Since both questions have a resounding no(*) as an answer: shrug shoulders.

    (*) To be more precise, the answer to the latter depends on what means by “best”; there are some quasi-tautological ways of construing “best” in which the answer turns out to be a yes.

  130. @Chris B,

    You appear to want to discard any and all evidence that has been convincing enough to make people want to record it for posterity. I guess that means that you don’t accept the reporting of anyone who actually believes what they are writing?

  131. G Rodrigues:

    I’ve never mentioned “Science (TM)” – if you check carefully, then you’ll see that I’ve generatlly referred to it as science, with a small s. Science (only capitalised due to the beginning of the sentence) is a lot of things, but basically it boils down to a methodology for discovering stuff based on available evidence. I’ve also never stipulated what the nature of that evidence should be.

    I’ve never harped in my life! I don’t own one, and am unlikely, given current circumstances to ever own one. I’ve been answering comments from Doug, honestly trying to understand his viewpoint, which still eludes me. I believed this was the point of this blog – to have conversations about God, Religion etc, and to encourage thinking about Christianity. If that’s not the case, then I shall apologise to Tom, and go on my way.

    I’m not going to show you peer reviewed papers showing that God doesn’t exist for exactly the same reasons I’m not going to show you peer reviewed papers showing that Unicorns don’t exist! I’ve *never* said I believe God doesn’t exist, my actual view is I that there isn’t enough evidence to believe God exists. A subtle difference, but a very significant one.

    My is also not that there is no scientific evidence for God. I’m having trouble grasping why there necessarily *isn’t* any, which some people here are claiming. If God interacts with the world, which I’m led to believe He does, then there would be evidence of that interaction, and that would be able to be evaluated in a rigorous fashion, unless there’s another good reason why not?

  132. Doug:

    I’m not talking about discarding evidence, I’m talking about evaluating the evidence for it. You mentioned subjectivity yourself. That’s what I’m talking about.

    An example:

    Would you try to learn about the health effects of smoking cigarettes from a tobacco company? No, of course you wouldn’t because they have a vested interest in selling you cigarettes and would give you a biased view.
    The Bible (well, New Testament) is written by Christians, who may well give you a biased view. And since we have no other contemporary accounts of the actual meaningful parts of the story, you know, the important bits, then we have no way of working out how biased the NT accounts are. If we had a contemporary account from an impartial observer, or even one who would be opposed, for example, one of the Pharisees or a Roman, then we could assess better the reliability of the NT.

  133. I’m having trouble grasping why there necessarily *isn’t* any [scientific evidence], which some people here are claiming.

    Chris,

    Do you find any scientific evidence for love. Do you think you ever will. Does it not have an effect on the world. How about creativity, intelligence, humor. Do these things exist or have an effect in the world. Is there is any scientific evidence for them. Do you believe these things exist even without scientific evidence.

  134. Doug:

    My oldest is 6 (and the other one is 4), so I’ve not reached the teenager stage yet… enjoying it all immensely 🙂 From my limited observation, though I’d guess that it may more be categorised as wilful not wanting to understand, rather than someone who is eager to learn and just not get it. As Tom pointed out, it isn’t an absolute rule, which is fair enough, and there will obviously be exceptions. It is a principle which I’ve always liked, as it keeps the teacher humble, rather than assuming that their explanation is OK and it must be their stupid students 🙂

  135. BillT:

    Have you laughed at anything I’ve said in this blog? There, you have evidence for humour! Can you test it? I can think of a few ways: get a comedian, a room full of people and work out how many laugh at each joke, how loud and for how long. That’d probably give you a good measure of humour.

    There’s lots of married people who kiss and make babies and spend their happy lives together, and sacrifice for each other and all sorts of other stuff – there, evidence of love.

    There are art galleries stuffed with creative art, there are intelligent people debating things on blogs.

    Of *course* there’s evidence for these things.

  136. Chris,

    There is other evidence apart from an impartial observer that confirms the NT story. We know when it was written. We know the text is extremely accurately preserved. We know it references the deity, miracles, life, death and resurrection of Christ in statements that reliably date to within a couple of years of his death and resurrection. So, how does Christianity become even a minor religious movement, much less the largest most important religion in to world, if the story it tells about Christ isn’t confirmed by the people who were the eyewitnesses to the events it describes as well as it’s first converts.

  137. Doug,

    This is easy. In fact, the easiest possible: simply claim everything as a negative. Too easy. Boring, in fact. And hardly indicative of a “strength”.

    Scientific testing is not equal to ‘simply claim everything as a negative’

    It is just the best method there is for attaining knowledge. Prove overwhelmingly by the insights and technological advances it brought us.

    Calling it ‘simply claim everything as a negative’, seems more akin to venting one’s frustration because personal beliefs are proven to be false.

  138. Chris,

    I hate to mention this tiny detail but you asked for scientific evidence not just evidence. Did you miss the “scientific” part of your question and my answer?

  139. “If we had a contemporary account from an impartial observer, or even one who would be opposed, for example, one of the Pharisees or a Roman, then we could assess better the reliability of the NT.” — um… the Pharisees and the Romans who were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus became Christians! That’s what witnessing the pivotal historical event since the big bang does to you.

    Then there are:
    * Tacitus
    * Pliny (who writes that Christians have “bound themselves by a solemn oath… never to falsify their word” – which might have bearing on their reliability as witnesses)
    * Josephus (whose work was edited later, but most scholars agree he wrote some of the passage on Jesus)
    * Lucian
    * The Talmud

    It would appear that you are using the word “impartial” to mean something altogether different from “fair and honest”…

  140. BillT

    Most the statements you make could just as well be made about the Koran.
    And eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. Moreso if they are by the believers themselves.

  141. BillT:

    Please see my longer answer to Tom which covers the first half of your paragraph.

    For the second half of the paragraph, I’m going to ask you if you think Islam is true. On the assumption that the answer is negative, then could you explain how that got arguably as large and important as Christianity. It is probably currently having a greater influence over world affairs at the moment than Christianity.

    Argument from Popularity.

  142. Doug,

    Only Josephus wrote about someoen who could be the same man as Jezus, and as you yourself wrote, his text was edited.

    Maybe a small detail but most Jews stiil believe in Judaism, not Christianity.

  143. Chris, I do appreciate you input into this thread. However, see comment #121. Note that there are quite a few mentions of the, ahem, proper noun, “Science”. I was going to point this out at the time of posting but decided against doing so.

    We see that today where people are drawn to a charismatic leader, and un-duly influenced by their views.

    Tell me about it! That gushing and unthinking adulation that Richard Dawkins and fellow Brights receives is just bizarre, right?

    These were not impartial observers. They were heavily involved in the events that occurred. And while that can be an advantage, it can also be a hinderance. There is a definite tendancy to want to paint the best light on events. A tendancy not to want to admit you’re wrong about things. A tendancy to bias viewpoints to what you already think, colour them by previous experience.

    All true. But can you name me any accounts that aren’t coloured? And while you are at it perhaps can you point me in the direction of an impartial observer to a particularly significant event?

    The truth, I think, is that you can’t. We all interpret the world around us – everyone from footballers, to mothers, to atheists and theists on internet forums and all the way up to reporters, historians and eyewitnesses. This is why the sentence that I’ve highlighted could equally be applied to you, the sceptic, each and every time you encounter evidence for God. Which neatly brings me back to the point I attempted to make in our very first interaction.

  144. Most the statements you make could just as well be made about the Koran.

    Dirkvg,

    No, actually they couldn’t. The Koran isn’t an historical account anything like the Bible. You need to study up a bit on the differences between the two. They are quite significant.

    Doug,

    I did not make an argument from popularity. This seems a lot like you conveniently leaving the “scientific” part out of your last reply. Is reading and understanding what is actually written an issue for you.

  145. BillT:

    I assume the second half of 157. is directed at me, rather than Doug…

    Firstly, you asked

    So, how does Christianity become even a minor religious movement, much less the largest most important religion in to world, if…

    If that’s not argument from popularity, I don’t know what is.

    Secondly, I didn’t “ask for scientific evidence”, I asked why I’m being told that the use of “scientific evidence” isn’t a valid way of verifying anything about the existence of God.

    Evidence is evidence, that’s why I didn’t prefix it with “Scientific”. We have evidence. We use science to evaluate the evidence. Is there really such a sharp distinction between scientific evidence and just evidence?

    [edit: Dang – getting my Bills and Billies mixed up – apologies, should have credited Billy Squibs for bringing up this bit]

    I apologise if I used Science rather than science, BTW – I probably should have clarified that earlier, and also actually checked back in the discussion before claiming, but in my defence, there are now 157 comments, so actually reading through that lot would have taken a while. I was also not aware, when I started using it the connotations which the word Science is taken with – some more explanation around my meaning when I say science might have been more helpful.

  146. Tom,

    Good that your friend Connie was cured.

    – Examples plenty of honest, well meaning people who were misguided.
    Even though they had overwhelming experiences. Without independent thorough research there is no way you can be certain that a miracle happened. As you describe the case of your friend’s cure, there are several possible naturalistic explanations.

    – Many miracles are claimed at Lourdes, France. But as yet no one without an arm, suddenly got his or her arm back. If God can heal, he certainly also could make an arm grow back. Why doesnt he? Are people without arms less religious than those with arms? Religion has no satisfying answer for God’s discrimination of the armless. On the other hand, for naturalism this doesn’t pose a problem.There are several possible explanations for cured limbs or minds. And also for the reason why arms don’t suddenly grow back.

    – You pray and someone is cured. Does this happen everytime? Probably not, since you indicated that for you repeatablility is not a test for miracles. So, you pray and now and then something happens and you think there is a connection between prayer and the event. So you feel this supports your belief.
    Ever wondered why native people keep believing in their magical beliefs? Just for the same reason, with all respect, as you do. They do their rain ritual and sometimes it rains. So they think there is a connection. Just same kind of magical thinking.

  147. @ChrisB:

    I’m not going to show you peer reviewed papers showing that God doesn’t exist for exactly the same reasons I’m not going to show you peer reviewed papers showing that Unicorns don’t exist!

    I presume by this that the answer is that the peer reviewed papers on the issue amount to exactly zero. Then please explain me, why all this talk about Science ™? Because *if* Science ™ was *really* relevant and central to decide the question, which is not, there would be by now scores of scientific papers on the subject. As it is, there are none. Which is about as much, give or take an epsilon of difference, the relevance it has to the question.

    I’ve *never* said I believe God doesn’t exist, my actual view is I that there isn’t enough evidence to believe God exists. A subtle difference, but a very significant one.

    Actually, it is not subtle at all; the reason for this imagined difference is simple: to avoid the burden of proof.

    I’m having trouble grasping why there necessarily *isn’t* any, which some people here are claiming.

    To quote myself (a very bad mannerism, but there you have it):

    My second answer is, well, it depends; depends on the logical structure of the argument where such putative evidence is deployed. And then again, since such arguments are of necessity weak in probative force even if successful, I return to my first answer, so what?

    If God interacts with the world, which I’m led to believe He does, then there would be evidence of that interaction, and that would be able to be evaluated in a rigorous fashion, unless there’s another good reason why not?

    The adjective “scientific” has a proper meaning and it is not “rigorous”; evidence for such “interactions” (by which I presume you mean miracles) is broadly Historical; History is not a science, neither in the sense of the modern empirical sciences, nor in the broader Aristotelian sense.

  148. BillT

    We know when it was written. We know the text is extremely accurately preserved. We know it references the deity,

    These statements of yours could also be made about the Koran.

    You conveniently overlooked the rest of my mail.

    Selective reading to support your belief? Just one of the factors that lead to an irrational worldview.

    So, how does Christianity become even a minor religious movement, much less the largest most important religion in to world, if the story it tells about Christ isn’t confirmed by the people who were the eyewitnesses to the events it describes as well as it’s first converts.

    If growth equals truth to you, then you are probably preparing to convert to Islam?

    And as I already wrote, eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable.

  149. Dirkvg,

    Pretty funny you telling me “You conveniently overlooked the rest of my mail.” when you quote 2 1/2 sentences of mine and claim that proves your point. Your “eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable.” is a gross generalization not a rational argument. I was doing you a favor not mentioning it.

    The point of the 2nd quote that is significant isn’t the growth part. Reading for meaning might help

  150. Chris B.,

    If God interacts with the world, which I’m led to believe He does, then there would be evidence of that interaction, and that would be able to be evaluated in a rigorous fashion, unless there’s another good reason why not?

    I think the point is that science is not the only way to evaluate claims in a rigorous fashion. My next point is for you but also Dirkvg:

    Science is very good at answering particular questions, it has nothing to say about many other very important questions. Therefore, whether the use of scientific methodology has given us insight into the questions it is able to answer and lots of cool toys is irrelevant. No one here is disputing that the modern physical sciences are one source of knowledge. You both seem to very confused about the actual methodology and the inherent limits of it. Science gives a good but limited description of reality, confusing that part description with the whole story is a mistake.

    We have evidence. We use science to evaluate the evidence. Is there really such a sharp distinction between scientific evidence and just evidence?

    Not all evidence is scientific evidence.

    For the second half of the paragraph, I’m going to ask you if you think Islam is true. On the assumption that the answer is negative, then could you explain how that got arguably as large and important as Christianity. It is probably currently having a greater influence over world affairs at the moment than Christianity.

    There are significant differences between the origins and spread of Christianity and Islam. Christianity began as a movement of people that were in the main lacking in power. Islam was begun by a charismatic warlord. A lot of the spread of Christianity was due to peaceful missionaries whereas Indonesia is the only muslim country that is not the result of conquest.

  151. BillT

    I added someting to my comment above.

    I didn’t quote to prove my point but to show that your claim that a number of your own statements about the Bible, which you seemed to think were arguments for the truth of Christianity, couldn’t be made about the Koran, was untrue.

    And my point on eyewitnesses was not a gross generalization but based on scientific research. Just read up on psychology. Just a tip as my favor for you.

  152. Melissa

    Yes there are several ways of attaining knowledge. But any comparison shows that the scientific method far outweighs them all. Other ways , such as intuition, mystical revelation, … can be useful starting points, but as sources of reliable knowledge they have many wak points.

    I guess you are aware that most other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, … are based on the same ways of knowledge which you seem to estmate so highly. But strange as it may seem they arrive at conclusions quite different from yours.
    While on the other hand science has built a core of knowledge whch is undeniable and cumulative over in time. This same science with its products, which you condescendingly call ‘toys’, could one day cure a relative of cancer. Not a bad thing for a toy, I guess.

  153. Dirkvg,

    Except, of course, you’re still wrong about that. The statements I made about the Bible cannot be made about the Koran and your quote mining them and trying to move the goalposts add nothing to the validity of any of your statements. Your point about eyewitnesses is a gross generalization and your suggestion I “read up on psychology” actually confirms that. Just a tip as my favor for you.

  154. BillT

    Well I showed which statements by you, could also be made about the Koran. Not all, but some. But you choose to be blind.

    On eyewitnesses: Denying scientific evidence is the mark of the true believer. You could have found the research, it’s there, but you rather take the irrational leap.

    If you choose to be irrational then a rational discussion with you is not possible. Pithy.

  155. Ok, so now it’s “Not all, but some.”

    Before it was “Most the statements you make could just as well be made about the Koran.”

    This is called moving the goalposts and does nothing to help and quite a bit to hurt your position.

    And further, I never said “eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable” wasn’t true nor did I “Deny(ing) scientific evidence” (not that you provided any). I said it was “a gross generalization not a rational argument”. Gross generalizations can be true but to make them applicable to the discussion you have to show how their applicable which you failed to even attempt. That’s what’s meant by rational argumentation which seems to be conspicuously missing from your posts.

  156. G Rodrigues:

    Be careful with assumptions, as they’re often wrong.

    I’ve no idea whether or not there are, to be quite honest – I would suspect not, since generally, people don’t prove negatives: if you propose something, like, say, the existence of Unicorns, then you have to provide evidence of their existence. I shouldn’t have to provide evidence every time someone says to me that unicorns exist (or elves, or dragons etc.) that they don’t. That’s why we have the burden of proof.

    Do you know anything of the Scottish legal system? In a trial, they have 3 possible findings for a jury to make – the two usual ones: Guilty or Not Guilty. But the jury also have at their disposal the veridict of “Not proven” which means they didn’t consider the evidence sufficient to make a decision either way. And yes, it does avoid the burden of proof. But then I’m not the one proposing that there’s a supernatural creator of everything now, am I?

    And now you’re making more assumptions about what I mean – if you don’t know, then please ask, rather than just assuming… it is a lot less work for everyone. I’m not limiting God’s interactions to just miracles, if by miracles you mean the obvious raising from the dead, healing the sick etc. I mean whenever He interacts in some way – eg. sends an Angel, moves a star, sends a flood, creates the world. those sorts of things.

    I *really* don’t understand what your self quote – I didn’t the first time round, and still don’t after careful reading. Care to explain some more?

    History is looking at the evidence of what happened in the past and trying to decide whether it is a reliable account of what happened then, and, I guess in a wider sense, working out what we can learn from it. Sound about right? I don’t actually care if you want to label that as science or not, nor whether you object to me doing so. I’m not here to play word games – that’s disingeneous.

  157. Dirkvg,

    Yes there are several ways of attaining knowledge. But any comparison shows that the scientific method far outweighs them all.

    No it does not. The scientific method is great for questions that it is competent to answer for anything else it’s useless. You keep harping on the usefulness if science. No one is denying that and it is irrelevant to the discussion, I can only conclude that it is rhetorically useful or psychologically comforting for you to try to portray us as anti-science.

    I guess you are aware that most other religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, … are based on the same ways of knowledge which you seem to estmate so highly. But strange as it may seem they arrive at conclusions quite different from yours.

    You’re spouting rubbish here but you’ve shown yourself unable to receive correction on this point so I’m not sure what to say in response, except that the ways of knowing most pertinent to the question of the truth of Christianity are the disciplines of history and philosophy as well as personal experience. Much of your beliefs would also be based of these disciplines even if you are unable to recognise that.

  158. BillT

    If you read 161 you would see that I quoted the statements I meant in detail. Three to be precise. And yes I call that ‘some’. But since your statements were not that many, I also call those three ‘most of your statements’. So no moving the goalposts. I couldn’t be more precise that that, could I?

    The rest is just you playing with terms to try to gain the upper hand. Have fun.

    Try to counter arguments with arguments and not with condescending remarks. That will keep discussions friendly and rational.
    And this ends this discussion for me.

  159. Dirkvg,

    That’s a nice try but the original statement you made that I quoted was made in post #153 not #161. Moving the goalposts again or just prevaricating. Well, you’re consistent if nothing else.

    And there was no “playing with terms” (more gross generalizations not a rational arguments?) in my prior post. I leave that to any reader to see.

    And I’ll certainty keep you admonishment “to counter arguments with arguments and not with condescending remarks.” in mind. Coming from the author of the “Just a tip as my favor for you.” it’s particularly poignant.

  160. Melissa

    Rational thinking and experience are elements of the scientific method.
    These elements are used in the disciplines of philosophy and history.

    Alternatives to these are a.o. intuition and mystical insight.
    Mystical insight and intuition are certainly not unknown as sources of knowledge on God in Christianity.

    So why would my mentioning of these ways of gaining insight in reality be ‘spouting rubbish’?

    Believing in miracles is anti-science.

    Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others, because it is based on naturalism and because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.

  161. Dirkvg,

    So why would my mentioning of these ways of gaining insight in reality be ‘spouting rubbish’?

    Because you weren’t just mentioning them, your point was that the way we know the core claims of Christianity are true is solely by intuition and mystical insight which is wrong.

    Believing in miracles is anti-science.

    Wrong.

    Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others, because it is based on naturalism and because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.

    Wrong, wrong and wrong.

  162. Melissa,

    Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not in rationality.
    But seemingly you think different about that.

    I could also just as well answer with

    ‘spouting rubbish’
    ‘wrong’
    ‘wrong, wrong, wrong’

    but because I hope you are prepared to have a rational conversation I wll
    try to explain waht I meant, so you can formulate a more interesting answer. Are you prepared?
    Or do you prefer to keep on answering in insults and 5 letter words?

  163. dirkvg, I’m sorry to break it to you but this:

    Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.

    … is wrong.

    I’m way behind on this conversation. I can see I have some catching up to do. My quick impression, dirkvg, is that you’re castigating people for not answering you in detail, and you call for meanwhile answering a comment like Melissa’s in #170 with a brush-off: “believing in miracles is anti-science.”

    You say you want a rational discussion, but you don’t seem to be listening to reason with respect to the proper place and the proper limits of science.

    While you’re thinking this through, you might want to look at this BreakPoint article of mine, “God and Science Do Mix.”

    And I still need to go back through this discussion and find out whether these quick impressions of mine, based on the most recent comments, fit the rest of the conversation.

  164. Meanwhile I’m wondering, dirkvg, whether you believe science has limits with respect to what it can discover about reality (eventually, over the course of many years). If so, do you think there’s any knowledge humans can know about reality, beyond the boundaries of science’s limits?

  165. I have a quick question for you , dirkvg. What is your background in science? Or perhaps you have some knowledge of the philosophy of science?

    A number of other brief points.

    The phrase “spouting rubbish” is certainly a forthright claim to make but perhaps its use is justified if it’s true.

    Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.

    Can you expand on this more, please? What does “in essence” mean? What do you understand by the words faith and rationality?

    Perhaps you haven’t been paying much attention to the other posts and comments around here (or to apologetics in general) but the point being made by Christians such as the ones you’ll find here is that the juxtapositions between faith / rationality and science / religion is both simplistic and artificial.

    You have typed a number of bumper-sticker slogans like “Believing in miracles is anti-science” without justifying them. If there is to be any value in such statements it will be found in your ability to substantiate them.

  166. @ChrisB:

    I’ve no idea whether or not there are, to be quite honest – I would suspect not, since generally, people don’t prove negatives: if you propose something, like, say, the existence of Unicorns, then you have to provide evidence of their existence.

    First, doesn’t the situation strikes you as odd? No one gives a hoot about whether elves exist or not, but the question of whether God exists is of consuming interest, so why are there no such articles? The answer is pretty obvious. Second, to quote Dr. Johnson, “clear your mind of cant”. “People” prove negatives (I assume by negatives you mean negative existential statements) all the time. Mathematicians do it as a matter of daily routine; physicists do it; historians do it; we (as in everyone) do it; I would even add bees do it, if the joke were not so lame.

    I shouldn’t have to provide evidence every time someone says to me that unicorns exist (or elves, or dragons etc.) that they don’t.

    If the claim were self-evident, then quite reasonably, the burden of proof would lie with the person denying it; but otherwise, this is just rubbish. If you do not provide evidence, then you should trim down the claim to what you can actually prove. But the relevance of all this to God’s existence is, as far as I am aware, exactly zero, simply because God is not the sort of being that unicorns, elves, dragons, etc. are, or would be if they existed. So the answer to whether He exists or not is arrived at by a distinctly type of considerations than whether the Higgs boson exists or whether elves exist.

    Do you know anything of the Scottish legal system? In a trial, they have 3 possible findings for a jury to make – the two usual ones: Guilty or Not Guilty. But the jury also have at their disposal the veridict of “Not proven” which means they didn’t consider the evidence sufficient to make a decision either way. And yes, it does avoid the burden of proof.

    The analogy is flawed, for exactly the reason you stated: the third verdict “Not proven” is delivered *after* examining the available evidence and concluding that it does not favor either case. So quite clearly and emphatically, it does not “avoid the burden of proof”. Or are you saying that the evidence you have surveyed happens to favor neither “God exists” nor its denial?

    I mean whenever He interacts in some way – eg. sends an Angel, moves a star, sends a flood, creates the world. those sorts of things.

    That “sort of thing” is precisely the kind of sloppy talk that gets us nowhere. The second and third examples are clear cases of miracles. The fourth, at least for the typical understanding of the word “creation”, and which not coincidentally is in one form or another the base for all the classical arguments for God’s existence, is *not* a case of “interaction” for reasons that should be obvious. For the first, it depends on the actions of the angel.

    I *really* don’t understand what your self quote – I didn’t the first time round, and still don’t after careful reading. Care to explain some more?

    I am sorry but I do not understand your difficulty. I am simply saying that whether there is “scientific evidence” depends on the structure of the argument and that such arguments are of necessity weak, in what they prove and in their probative force. But somehow I suspect that I have just repeated myself and you are probably in the same confused state.

    I’m not here to play word games – that’s disingeneous.

    So talking precisely, preserving the necessary distinctions, etc. is a “word game”? A consideration of the proper methods of proof, as it pertains to the different spheres of human knowledge is “disingenuous”? When a large part of the discussion centers precisely around that? Do you even have any idea what you are talking about?

  167. Dirkvg, it’s time you looked yourself in the mirror. You represent yourself as possessing a superior brand of truth here, but you continually reveal you don’t know what you think you know.

    You wrote,

    Only Josephus wrote about someoen who could be the same man as Jezus [sic], and as you yourself wrote, his text was edited.

    That’s just false, in your first clause. Good grief. Why do you come here acting as if you know something you don’t? What about Tacitus? Around 115 AD he wrote,

    Therefore, to stop the rumor [that the burning of Rome had taken place by order], Nero substituted as culprits, and punished in the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians. Christus, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.

    As for Josephus, yes, that was edited. So what? Does that mean it’s useless? By no means! Based mostly on internal and textual (documentary) evidence, scholars have strong consensus on what he actually wrote. In one location (Antiquities 20.9.1):

    When, therefore, Ananus [the high priest] was of this [angry] disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was out upon the road. So he assembled the sanhedrin of judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, whose name was James.

    And in the Testimonium Flavionum, scholars (skeptical ones included) generally agree that he wrote,

    About this time there lived to Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who brought surprising feats and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing among us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had in the first place come to love him did not give up their affection for him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

    This reading is supported by (in the words of Paul Eddy and Greg Boyd, writing in The Legend of Jesus),

    a copy of a 10th century Arabic translation of the Testimonium (from Agapiu’s Book of the Title), discovered and published several decades ago by Shlomo Pines. What is most interesting about this copy of the Testimonium is that the three passages that have been widely acknowledged as Christian insertions in the Greek text are either missing or seriously altered.

    There are other reasonably good sources as well, and reasonably good reasons to think they do speak of Jesus Christ himself. But I won’t go into them. I’ve made my point (I’ll make it again): Look in the mirror: doesn’t it bother you that you speak so confidently of that which you do not know? How can you be content with yourself in that state?

    You made a laughably false comparison, which BillT picked up in #157, when you said that most of what he had said about the Bible could also be said about the Koran.

    Look in the mirror, again: doesn’t it bother you that you think you know something about these two texts, and that you can instruct others about them, when in fact you know that little?

    Then later you wrote this to BillT. He has already responded, but I want to repeat it in context of that same issue.

    BillT

    We know when it was written. We know the text is extremely accurately preserved. We know it references the deity,

    These statements of yours could also be made about the Koran.

    You conveniently overlooked the rest of my mail.

    Selective reading to support your belief? Just one of the factors that lead to an irrational worldview.

    Did you notice that you conveniently overlooked the rest of the sentence, after the comma, that you quoted from BillT?

    If that isn’t utter, blind, intellectual dishonesty, then it’s complete and total incompetence. I can’t think of any possible third option.

    Sure, you’ve tried to defend yourself in subsequent comments by saying, for example,

    I showed which statements by you, could also be made about the Koran. Not all, but some. But you choose to be blind.

    No, he chose to be logical: for the statements you cherry-picked out of context were irrelevant to the argument, when taken out of context. Bill knew that. I know that. Anyone can see it. But you made a point of them anyway.

    And yet you represent yourself as the one with the superior brand of truth here.

    How can you live with yourself that way? Doesn’t it bother you?

    Then there’s all your bluster about eyewitnesses. You wrote,

    And eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. Moreso if they are by the believers themselves.

    Later you add,

    And my point on eyewitnesses was not a gross generalization but based on scientific research. Just read up on psychology. Just a tip as my favor for you.

    … and

    On eyewitnesses: Denying scientific evidence is the mark of the true believer. You could have found the research, it’s there, but you rather take the irrational leap.

    I’ll accept that tip. Well, actually, I already did, in the course of earning my M.S. in psychology. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable in certain settings and circumstances, and completely trustworthy in other settings and circumstances.

    There is a common meme out there on the atheist Interwebs about eyewitness unreliability. I suspect you are parroting that meme. I’d be glad for you to prove me wrong, and here’s how you could do it: describe at least some of the circumstances in which eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and to what extent, and for what reasons. I suggest a good introductory psych (or social psych) textbook: it’ll do you much better than Reddit.

    But unless and until you know the answer to that question, would you do your own intellectual integrity a favor, and not repeat memes concerning which you know little or nothing at all? It’s an irrational leap, you know.

    And yet you represent yourself as the one with the superior brand of truth here.

    Again, I urge you to look in the mirror. I’ll repeat myself: you represent yourself as the one with superior knowledge and the superior brand of truth, yet you keep saying things that are factually unfounded and demonstrably false. You say them with utter confidence, as if to instruct us.

    I do not much expect you to accept our instruction. But I urge you to accept the instruction that comes from reality: the reality of the facts which contradict your confident yet false beliefs. I urge you to recognize that reality is teaching you something about yourself and your self-confidence. I urge you to recognize this opportunity that you now have to doubt yourself. For there is good reason for you to do so. It has been demonstrated here, quite amply, I believe.

    To discard false certainty is the first step toward growth in knowledge. I think you’ll be glad of it if you will only do so.

  168. Tom, regarding the whole “Eyewitnesses are unreliable. Therefore atheism.” can you point me in the direction of some counter perspectives?

    I’ve encountered a slight modification of this argument wherein the ability of the human mind to accurately process sense data is questioned . For example, think of the whole “Hyperactive agency detection. Therefore atheism.” argument.

    While this general line of argument may well be true in some circumstances it’s also potentially a self-defeating line of reasoning, no?

  169. Thanks Tom.

    Correct me if I am wrong but did Bill LaBarre not raise the UFO question on another thread?

  170. On the difference between Islam and Christianity:

    Islam spread through political and military influence. Mohammed himself was a political, military, and religious leader, and his successors, the caliphs, combined all of those things as well. By 732 AD, one hundred years after Mohammed began his work, Charles Martel was fending off Islamic armies in France. So, the influence of Islam spread first through military and political might.

    Christianity began with zero political and military power. It was spread for the first 300 years only by the explanation of its message, which involved quite of bit of reasoning and debate. Eventually, it worked its way through up to the emperor himself.

    So, post-Constantine there may be a parallel between Christianity and Islam. However, the initial growth (and, for Christianity, even survival) is not at all analogous:
    Islam began with political and military influence, and continued to have it. There was always pressure to adhere to Islam for significant reasons other than the persuasiveness of its message.
    Christianity began with only the persuasiveness of its message. Rather than being supported by political and military pressures, it was opposed with political and military pressures.

    And the Koran, as was pointed out, is not a particularly historical document. It is mostly didactic and self-referential: there is nothing in it that parallels the Gospels’ and Acts’ extensive references to political, geographical, cultural, and historical contexts.

    So, just vaguely saying “Well, so Islam is popular. too!” is a really ignorant analogy.

  171. Thanks Joshua, That was quite helpful. I have read quite a bit about this, especially the work of Rodney Stark, but could not have explained this so succinctly.

  172. “So, post-Constantine there may be a parallel between Christianity and Islam.”

    There may be less of a parallel than one would think. Rodney Stark makes the point that the adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire actually slowed the spread of Christianity. The influx of new “Christians” meant that a very great number of them were marginally Christian if really Christian at all. So, instead of a smaller number of highly committed Christians you had a large number of marginally committed Christians the result being the dilution of the conversion efforts overall. Isn’t that always the way when the Government gets involved in anything. Also, the Roman Empire was in decline and only lasted 150 years of so post-Constantine.

  173. And if eyewitnesses are unreliable, what about the scientists who were eyewitnesses to their experiments? Do we believe what they tell us about the experiments and the results? Or do we dismiss it because “eyewitnesses are unreliable”?

    One odd thing about some of these arguments is that they wind up proving too much, and actually removing any grounds for knowledge at all, including science.

    By the way, just appealing to “science” is actually several types of fallacy.

    1. ambiguity: it’s not clear what the term even means. There are many types of sciences, with different types of methodologies.
    2. reification: treating abstract ideas as though they are concrete. So “science” doesn’t actually make discoveries, but certain scientists do.
    3. illegitimate (because vague) authority: there are legitimate appeals to authority, but unless that authority is clearly identified, there is no way to determine if that authority is in fact legitimate. So, saying “science proves X” is no more reasonable than saying “the Bible proves X.”

    Why is it that we faith-heads seem to have to give basic logic lessons to the noble defenders of rational thought?

  174. Bill,

    Sure thing. That’s why I said “may”–I simply wasn’t going to argue the post-Constantine point.

    The dissimilarity in their origins and initial success was my main point.

  175. Tom, Melissa and Billy Squibs

    dirkvg, I’m sorry to break it to you but this:

    Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.

    … is wrong.

    see Tom’s comment 176

    My Oxford dictionary tells me:

    religion: a particular system of faith and worship

    In the catholic encyclopedia you can find:

    (a) The light of faith. — An angel understands truths which are beyond man’s comprehension; if then a man were called upon to assent to a truth beyond the ken of the human intellect, but within the grasp of the angelic intellect, he would require for the time being something more than his natural light of reason, he would require what we may call “the angelic light”. If, now, the same man were called upon to assent to a truth beyond the grasp of both men and angels, he would clearly need a still higher light, and this light we term “the light of faith” — a light, because it enables him to assent to those supernatural truths, and the light of faith because it does not so illumine those truths as to make them no longer obscure, for faith must ever be “the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not”

    “He that believeth and is baptized”, said Christ, “shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16); and St. Paul sums up this solemn declaration by saying: “Without faith it is impossible to please God”

    So religion and more particulary catholic religion is based on faith.

    And what is faith?

    To the Oxford dictionary it is:

    strong belief in a religion , based on spiritual conviction rather than proof

    In the encyclopedia you can find:

    to assent to a truth beyond the ken of the human intellect, but within the grasp of the angelic intellect, he would require for the time being something more than his natural light of reason,

    So my statement that it is based on faith, and not on rationality is not that wrong at all

    Maybe you see it differently but it seems you are the exception

    But maybe you are more convinced by the Bible:

    see then the story about Thomas the apostle, also known as doubting Thomas

    which nicely shows the importance which faith above reason and proof should have for a Christian

  176. Dirkvg, look in the mirror. You’re still speaking confidently of that of which you know almost nothing. Faith is not opposed to rationality, and Google does not make you a scholar.

    Try here: creatingatheists.com, the link on faith and reason.

  177. Dirkvg,

    which nicely shows the importance which faith above reason and proof should have for a Christian

    One problem with this. You are using faith as an alternate way of knowing whereas in the Chrustian understanding our faith is founded on reason. We have ample reasons to have faith (trust) in Jesus. The doubting Thomas story does not show that Thomas should have believed without reasons. Your excerpt from the Catholuc encyclopedia does not show that our faith in Jesus is not based on reason. See Tom’s posts on Bloghossian and the resultant discussions where all this is covered in much more detail.

  178. Do yourself a favor, dirkvg: be a learner, not a memer. You’re in a space where people have thought long and hard about these things. We’ll learn from you if you’ll learn from us. If you come merely to instruct, you are taking on an inappropriate role.

  179. How’s the strawman coming, Dirkvg?

    I linked to this video on the other thread. Take a few minutes of your day to watch the first 54 minutes and learn the truth: the Christian faith rests upon a foundation of evidence. Always has.

  180. There are a lot of comments on this blog where if certain naturalistic or atheistic statements are made, people react by asking all kinds of proof or scientific articles to prove those statements

    Now, what happens here?

    – I state that Christian belief is based on faith
    – you state that I am wrong
    – I quote an independent dictionary and a Catholic encyclopedia that confirm what I stated in the first place

    And still you deny the facts as they lay before you. You still claim that it is based on reason while the encyclopedia, a Christian text, clearly states a.o.: ‘more than his natural light of reason’

    Even stronger: Tom even reproaches me in his ‘don’t be a memer’ to have presented evidence. Maybe because it blatantly disproves him.

    Melissa: ‘The doubting Thomas story does not show that Thomas should have believed without reasons.’

    I quote here the words of Christ in the Bible: ‘blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

    There is no ‘We’ll learn from you’. Only an ingnoring of the presented arguments and evidence or a misinterpretation.

    I guess the underlying intention is shown in his: ‘if you’ll learn from us.’
    It seems that it is not your intention to rationally discuss things on an equal basis, but to convert .

    By the way Tom, in 159, I show some of the irrationality in your way of seeing things. Maybe you missed it.

    I planned to present a number of experiments that showed the unreliability of eyewitnesses and of personal experience but I wanted first to see how you would react to my post. I realize now it would have been futile.

    A remark on Joshua’s ‘And if eyewitnesses are unreliable, what about the scientists who were eyewitnesses to their experiments?’

    This shows a total lack of knowledge of the scientific method in not realizing that the demand that an experiment should be repeatable by anyone anytime is meant to avoid just this very subjectivity. The subjectivity which renders, Tom, all your anecdotal evidence weak and unreliable.

    Just a thought in parting: did you ever notice that there is no laughter in the Bible? Strange isn’t it?
    If there would be a God who would see the foolish ways of men, how could he not laugh?

  181. Dirkvg,

    You have a track record of speaking that which you do not know. Now you say,

    Now, what happens here?

    – I state that Christian belief is based on faith
    – you state that I am wrong
    – I quote an independent dictionary and a Catholic encyclopedia that confirm what I stated in the first place

    No, what you said was, “Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.” You set the two in opposition to each other.

    My answer was that faith is not opposed to rationality, not just that you are wrong. Your independent dictionary and Catholic encyclopedia do not confirm that faith is opposed to rationality. I do not deny that Christianity is based on faith, but what does “based on” mean in that context? It does not mean, “based on an epistemic foundation of faith divorced from reason”–which is what you seem to think it means:

    So my statement that it is based on faith, and not on rationality is not that wrong at all

    If you were to read Augustine or Aquinas, or any decent theologian for that matter, you would know just how impossible that conclusion really is. This is why I say that Google does not make you a scholar: you don’t know the context or meaning of what you read, and you draw false conclusions.

    I thought I answered your #159. Sorry–I must have been interrupted. What I intended to write was, “if God does a thousand miracles, but not the one you want him to do, does that mean there is no God?”

    You say,

    I planned to present a number of experiments that showed the unreliability of eyewitnesses and of personal experience but I wanted first to see how you would react to my post. I realize now it would have been futile.

    What on earth would you want to do that for? No one here is denying that there are circumstances where eyewitness accounts are unreliable, or that personal experience can be misleading. What we want you to take note of is that these failures and difficulties aren’t universal. We’d like you to quit making these blanket statements as if they cover every situation! You acknowledge this implicitly when you say,

    A remark on Joshua’s ‘And if eyewitnesses are unreliable, what about the scientists who were eyewitnesses to their experiments?’

    This shows a total lack of knowledge of the scientific method in not realizing that the demand that an experiment should be repeatable by anyone anytime is meant to avoid just this very subjectivity. The subjectivity which renders, Tom, all your anecdotal evidence weak and unreliable.

    Don’t you see that?

  182. Dirkvg,

    I quote here the words of Christ in the Bible: ‘blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’

    Since when does “not seen” mean the same thing as having no reasons to believe?

    And to reiterate the entry in the Catholic encyclopedia does not show what you think it does. The claim in the part you quoted is that there is some knowledge that is not accessible by human reason alone.

    The problem is that most of your statements are unsupported by evidence and any evidence you have produced does not show what you think it shows. Your posts on thus topic have been anything but rational – if by rational we mean presenting sound arguments, and being able to assess the significance of various evidences.

  183. Dirkvg,

    It might help if you re-read John again and consider the dynamics of the “doubting Thomas” scene. My take on it is as follows.

    Thomas, as a member of the 12, held a privileged position. Each and every day he was in the presence of Jesus he was in the presence of God incarnate. In all the years of following Jesus Thomas had heard him talk about strange and cryptic prophecies regarding his own death and resurrection. He had seen Jesus do incredible and miraculous things. In the week following the resurrection Thomas would have encountered the women who went to the tomb and his fellow disciples who told him the incredible news that Jesus was in fact not dead.

    And dispute all this Thomas a) refused to believe b) sipulated that he would only believe if he could stick his fingers into the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.

    I take the words of Jesus to be an admonishment of his behaviour. In a (contestable) paraphrase, “You heard me speak and preach, saw all these wonders that I did in the name of the Father, heard the testimony of your friends over the last week, and yet you refused to believe. For shame, Thomas! There are going to be those who believe without as much evidence as you have had access to and more power to them”.

    I’ve heard AC Grayling try the same, “Jesus said blessed are those who believe without evidence” shtick before. It’s not correct.

  184. Sigh. Did you really think that everything I know about the scientific method was contained in that one sentence?

    Yes, the scientific method does depend up repeatability. But unless you your own self have actually done the study, you must rely on eyewitness or expert testimony. Have you yourself actually done the experiments that confirm general or special relativity? Have you yourself actually done the experiments that confirm evolution? Have you yourself actually done the experiments that confirm the efficacy of chemotherapy? And so on. Unless you are a practicing scientist in every field of science, and have personally conducted the same experiments, then you have to rely upon eyewitness testimony, either of the original experiment or any of the repeated confirmatory ones.

    And it turns out that some of what we think we know, assuming that scientific findings are in fact confirmed in this way, may be an illusion:
    http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21588057-scientists-think-science-self-correcting-alarming-degree-it-not-trouble

  185. Tom
    Answer to 197
    On laughter in the Bible:

    Yep, you got me, the word is mentioned in the Bible.
    But it’s not as you claim

    Again you speak of that which you do not know.

    But a lack of detail. I meant humor, laughter because of a funny situation, a good joke.
    The laughter you mention is laughter out of contempt which is quite something else.
    A God who is contemptuous of his own creation, a bit strange coming from an infinitely loving God don’t you think?

  186. Tom and Melissa
    Answer to 198 and to 199
    To my

    “Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.”

    You wrote:

    You set the two in opposition to each other.

    No, writing: ‘based in X not in Y’ is not the same as ‘X is opposed to Y’.
    If I say , this house is built on concrete not on rock, I don’t state there is an opposition between concrete and rock. Fundamental logic.
    So the rest of your argument falls away as it tries to answer my statement on faith as the basis of religion.
    Even stronger, you yourself accept that religion is based on faith. So, in fact we agree on that point.

    As to the nature of faith and rationality. I repeat the quotes I made earlier:

    To the Oxford dictionary it is:
    strong belief in a religion , based on spiritual conviction rather than proof
    In the encyclopedia you can find:
    to assent to a truth beyond the ken of the human intellect, but within the grasp of the angelic intellect, he would require for the time being something more than his natural light of reason,

    So faith is not based on proof. See for example the dogmas in Christianity. If one tries to be rational, one tries to base ones opinions on proof. A rational man would never accept dogmas.
    In the quote from the Catholic encyclopedia the crucial part is ‘would require for the time being something more than his natural light of reason’. This indicates clearly that, according to Catholicism, one has to go beyond reason. So rational thinking is not sufficient. And it is faith that gives that extra leap.
    Strange that I should be the one explaining theology to you.
    But the cause lies probably in the way you try to battle atheism by claiming that your beliefs are also based on rational thinking, which clearly they are not.

    I thought I answered your #159. Sorry–I must have been interrupted. What I intended to write was, “if God does a thousand miracles, but not the one you want him to do, does that mean there is no God?”

    That is just what the voodoo priest or he hindu brahman, would reply, thereby you yourself just
    confirm my argument on your magical thinking.
    In fact you don’t offer any real counterargument to my 159.

    No one here is denying that there are circumstances where eyewitness accounts are unreliable,

    Good to know. I don’t claim that this unreliability is in all cases 100%. That would be foolish.
    Of course there is a variation. But it is rather to the person who claims to have evidence of extraordinary events, such as a resurrection, to prove that there are justified reasons to think that the eyewitnesses are very reliable. In the case of the resurrection, to the contrary, there are many reasons to believe that the reliability is low. As a psychologist you are probably aware of the biases that are
    to be expected in small groups of believers, a.o.: in-group – out-group effect, confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, … Moreover the accounts were written down only 60 or 80 years after. Plenty of time for additional adaptations.
    It is just because of this that repeatability , proof and independent observers are so important. All things we don’t have in the case of the resurrection.
    Just compare with what you read in a newspaper, which is written the day after the events. How many distortions and wrong interpretations that contains, in this age of modern media.

    Melissa

    Just a bit on your comment in particular:

    Since when does “not seen” mean the same thing as having no reasons to believe?

    I never stated that ‘not seen’ which is believing on faith, meant believing without reasons.
    Faith is a reason, just not a rational reason. There is a fundamental difference between ‘having reasons’ for something and being rational. A voodoo priest has reasons, just not rational ones.
    The fact that I have to explain something so basic shows something about your knowledge.

    The rest of your comment is just negative remarks without any argumentation.
    If you want to discuss my arguments, see the answers I gave Tom in several comments above, or just ask me what my argument is on a specific point.

  187. Billy Squibs

    I like to keep my privacy, but to answer partially to your question before: I have a masters degree in one of the social sciences. And while some people on this thread probably suppose without any evidence that I am some young ignorant nitwit, (which just proves bias against someone who differs in opinion), I am, judging by the picture of Tom, quite a bit older than he, and since my masters I didn’t spent my time idle. I am now preparing a Phd, so in fact I have little time to occupy me with answering comments.

    But as to your comment 200

    You reformulate quite a bit and you invent a bit too. This may support your belief but doesn’t lead to
    justified conclusions. It just creates your own brand of belief.
    If Jezus says ‘blessed’ the he indicates that those who believe on faith are better than those who do not.
    Which indicates that believing on faith is better than believing on the basis of proof.

    Besides, Tom agrees in his comment 198 that religion is based on faith. So if you agree with Tom, there is no real argument left. Just discussing an interpretation of the doubting Thomas is then a bit superfluous.

  188. Joshua

    If you sigh once, how many times would I have to sigh?

    In assessing scientific claims one doesn’t just rely on eyewitnesses, but also on the arguments the scientists present, the evidence they present , the tests by others of their claims, …
    To type your comment, you didn’t just rely on eyewitnesses as to the claims that IT works, you used the evidence they produced: the computer on your desk.
    As to the article, no problem. It says that a number of results are wrong, which is just what science is for, to produce results and to see if they are right or wrong. Furthermore it states that scientific findings have to be tested by repeating them. If one doesn’t, one risks having a lot of articles with unverified findings which could be wrong.
    So, in fact it supports the scientific method and argues to apply it more thoroughly.

    In further support I cite a comment I made earlier:

    Science knows flaws, it is after all a human endeavor. Also science can’t answer everything. So I am certainly not an adherent of scientism.
    But science is a self correcting method to gain the most justified knowledge. It can be tested by anyone anytime
    Yes, if I quote a scientific article, I trust that it is done right according to what one calls the scientific method. Yes, I trust upon science when I believe that the earth has a molten core.
    The reason I trust this is overwhelming evidence of the results of science. Science contains a core of suppositions that is unrefuted. The many sectors of science, such as geology, biology, chemistry, … mutually support and confirm each other. They are based on physics, which in its turn is confirmed by the other sectors. The results of science are all around us. From the chemical cleaning products in our house to the rockets we send in space, to the very computers you and I use to write and read this. Moreover as I wrote it is a method of knowledge which is self-correcting.
    To deny the value of science or to state it is just a question of faith and authority is akin to hypocrisy.
    Or would you jump out of the tenth floor on the idea that the law of gravity is only based on faith and authority?
    Religion on the other hand is based on no evidence at all or weak anecdotal evidence.
    Having faith in religious concepts is fundamentally different from having trust in science.
    Believing in dogmas based on the authority of the pope, likewise.
    Claiming otherwise is reducing the notion of faith to something trivial.
    Moreover besides the lack of evidence for the supernatural, the core laws of science are in contradiction with a supernatural world.

  189. Dirkvg

    Just a thought in parting: did you ever notice that there is no laughter in the Bible? Strange isn’t it?
    If there would be a God who would see the foolish ways of men, how could he not laugh?

    Psalm 2 answers that question. If the shoe fits…

  190. By the way, Dirkvg, there are a couple dozen other instances of laughter in the Bible. I just picked out the one that most closely fit what you seemed to think was missing.

    Psalm 14:1 might be another case of a shoe that fits…

  191. Dirkvg, your “fundamental logic” needs a better foundation.

    No, writing: ‘based in X not in Y’ is not the same as ‘X is opposed to Y’.
    If I say , this house is built on concrete not on rock, I don’t state there is an opposition between concrete and rock. Fundamental logic.

    It does mean that the house’s foundation excludes rock. And your treatment of Christianity was one that included faith (as you misunderstand it) and excludes reason. What else could “not in reason” mean in that context?

    So faith is not based on proof. See for example the dogmas in Christianity. If one tries to be rational, one tries to base ones opinions on proof. A rational man would never accept dogmas.

    Your logic here is again really, really, atrocious; foolish, actually, referring again to Psalm 14:1. If one tries to be rational, one tries to base one’s opinions not on proofs but on the best available information. Proofs are very, very rarely available for important questions.

    I made certain decisions on Friday based on a very ominous winter weather forecast. My opinion was that it would be a good idea to get the cars in the garage, which we don’t always do. That opinion was not based on proof.

    That’s just one of a hundred decisions I made this weekend that weren’t based on proof. I washed dishes, not because there was proof that there were dangerous germs on them, but because of a likelihood that it would be safer. I’m writing this post, not because there’s “proof” that a person named Dirkvg will read it, but because of a likelihood.

    All of this is based on the best available information.

    You, too, make hundreds or thousands of decisions every day based on unproven opinions.

    And one of your unproven, and unprovable, opinions (for it is false) is that a rational person must seek proof for his decisions.

    Another one is this: “A rational man would never accept dogmas.” That’s a dogmatic statement, and self-referentially incoherent, and therefore false.

  192. Tom,

    You wrote ‘opposition’ now you write: ‘exclusion’
    not the same
    you are jumping around in attempts to justify yourself

    your decisions were based on proof in the past of correct weatherforecastss and probability of germs causing disease

    both based on science

    my view on rationality is not stating a dogma but based on a definition and the conclusions one can make based on that definition

    again: you are jumping around in attempts to justify yourself

    trying discussion tricks to save your skin

    I had expected more

  193. Tom

    in rereading your post I realize you haven’t really understood what I wrote

    moreover you insult me

    you disappoint me, I had expected more

  194. Dirkvg, let’s grant for the sake of argument that opposition and exclusion are different enough to prove I was a blithering idiot when I wrote “opposition.” Much wiser now, I have adjusted the argument to “exclusion.”

    And with that adjustment, my argument is there for you once again to respond to, which for some reason you chose not to do.

    Would you like to?

  195. Could you please, in your deep disappointment, enlighten me as to how “both based in science” makes the slightest difference? I showed that rational people have unproved opinions. “Based in science,” and probabilistic assessments based on previous proven science, don’t change that.

    As a social scientist (I am one too) you should be very, very aware that proofs relating to personality, relationships, group interactions, decision-making, and so on are very, very, very, very hard to come by. You should be aware of the recent reportage on over-confidence in the social sciences due to unrepeated studies, lack of properly generalizable populations, and so on.

    So even when you do something as simple as setting a date for lunch with a friend, you have no proof he or she will show up. You have very little proof of anything with respect to that other person’s personality, present cognitions, or future actions. But you have opinions, I’m sure.

    Also: when you say, “A rational man would never accept dogmas,” is based on definitions, does that mean that a rational man is defined as one who refuses to accept dogmas, or that dogmas are defined as those propositions, claims, injunctions, etc. that rational men do not accept?

    Either way, just to say “based on definitions” is no argument. Instead you insult me with “trying discussion tricks to save your skin.”

    I thought insults minus arguments were a sign of weakness.

  196. Tom

    I would never use terms such as ‘blithering idiot ‘. You shouldn’t either even to talk about yourself. I wonder why you do this?

    I don’t want to insult you, but the way you continued to change terms
    from my ‘not based on’ to ‘opposition’ and then ‘exclusion’ , gave the impression you were trying to change terms to win the argument. If so, it was a trick, and someone we both know would cal it intellectual dishonest, (joke). If it happened unconciously, I apologize.

    You suddenly seem to be eager to continue this conversation. Why?

    I will answer, but now over here it’s family time.

    I wonder what is your opinion on my comments on miracles and eyewitnesses in 203 and 205?

  197. You reformulate quite a bit and you invent a bit too. This may support your belief but doesn’t lead to
    justified conclusions. It just creates your own brand of belief.
    If Jezus says ‘blessed’ the he indicates that those who believe on faith are better than those who do not.
    Which indicates that believing on faith is better than believing on the basis of proof.

    Thanks for the response, Dirkvg. However, I must admit to finding it unsatisfying. You haven’t offered much in the way of critique. Only a puzzling reference to the word “blessed”. This may support your belief but doesn’t lead to justified conclusions 🙂

    You also criticise me for reformulation and invention but sadly you don’t elaborate on this charge. If my understanding of the passage is incorrect then correct me. You think I have invented something. I think that you did a little verse mining to promote your agenda. A text without context (that’s what verse mining is) is a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.

    Besides, Tom agrees in his comment 198 that religion is based on faith. So if you agree with Tom, there is no real argument left. Just discussing an interpretation of the doubting Thomas is then a bit superfluous.

    The issue is not about what “religion” is based upon. It’s about what faith is. A large amount of posts and comments on this blog over the last number of months have sought to promote the idea that faith can be evidence based rather than the notion that it’s believing something you know is not true. I think that Tom (and other apologists besides) is very keen to both make the point that Christianity is evidence based.

    You seem to have one rather simple and categorical understanding of faith. I happen to think that faith – and one can have faith in all sorts of things – is a little more complex. Faith in something can be justified or unjustified given the evidence or lack thereof.

    See here for a 10 minute clip from John Lennox discussing faith. Lennox’s clain is in short the following

    Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.

    The reason you brought John 20:29 into this discussion was because you claimed that this one verse – devoid of context – supports the notion that Jesus endorsed blind faith. I wont let you back out of it by pretending that the verse is just a matter of interpretation (after telling me exactly what it meant) and therefore superfluous.

  198. @Dirkvg #re your commentary on Psalm 2:

    No, you did not answer it – where is your exegesis of the Hebrew text of Psalm 2? Your comparative word study of how the specific Hebrew words for laugh (yishaq – in Psalm 2:4 a ) and scoffs (yil’ ag in Psalm 2:4 b ) to see how the words are used elsewhere?

    Where is your study to determine how this particular aspect of God’s attitude toward His enemies fits in with everything else that both the Old and New Testaments have to say on that subject?

    A good Hebrew lexicon and concordance will track down the other uses of that word: for example Psalm 52 (Psalm 52:6-7), Psalm 37 (Psalm 37:12-13). These (and many more on the same theme) passages compare and contrast the wisdom of trusting God with the folly of denying/rebelling against His Sovereign rule.

    It definitely does not mean that God is amused by the fools who deny Him and rage against Him – it is more like a ‘snort of derision’ or “yeah, right! – who do you think you are, a mere mortal in comparison to Me, the Eternal Sovereign Creator, the Judge of all the earth?”

    But God does not leave it at that, nor does He leave us to our own devices and with no hope of being reconciled to Him. He invites His enemies to lay down their arms, cease their rebellion, and become His friends, even His adopted children, and to accept His sovereign authority over us and His entire creation. To be among God’s defeated enemies when He re-establishes His Kingdom as it was meant to be means to not be a part of that new Kingdom. This is the thrust of John 3:16, Matthew 11:25-30 (esp Matthew 11:28-30), and Romans 5:1-21 (see Romans 5:9-10).

  199. Dirkvg, the “blithering idiot” thing was a matter of hyperbole and self-deprecating humor. There’s no need to read anything more into it.

    You wrote,

    I don’t want to insult you, but the way you continued to change terms
    from my ‘not based on’ to ‘opposition’ and then ‘exclusion’ , gave the impression you were trying to change terms to win the argument. If so, it was a trick, and someone we both know would cal it intellectual dishonest, (joke). If it happened unconciously, I apologize.

    Actually, Dirkvg, if I had wanted to go deep into the logic of the situation, I could have made a case that “opposition” was correct all along. I didn’t do that because it would have remained controversial, and it would have been a fair amount of needless work anyway. After all, “exclusion” makes the point I was trying to make in the first place, and it’s less contentious and less in need of controversial analysis to support it.

    So you’re still actually focusing on how I’m making my point rather than on the point itself. So I’ll make it again, quoting from 198 but using “exclusion” this time:

    Dirkvg,

    You have a track record of speaking that which you do not know. Now you say,

    Now, what happens here?

    – I state that Christian belief is based on faith
    – you state that I am wrong
    – I quote an independent dictionary and a Catholic encyclopedia that confirm what I stated in the first place

    No, what you said was, “Most Christian religions accept the fact that in essence their belief is based in faith, not rationality.” You treat faith as excluding rationality.

    My answer is not just that you are wrong, but that faith does not exclude, nor is it opposed to rationality. Your independent dictionary and Catholic encyclopedia do not confirm that faith excludes or is opposed to rationality. I do not deny that Christianity is based on faith, but what does “based on” mean in that context? It does not mean, “based on an epistemic foundation of faith divorced from reason”–which is what you seem to think it means:

    You say in 203, answering me,

    I thought I answered your #159. Sorry–I must have been interrupted. What I intended to write was, “if God does a thousand miracles, but not the one you want him to do, does that mean there is no God?”

    That is just what the voodoo priest or he hindu brahman, would reply, thereby you yourself just
    confirm my argument on your magical thinking.

    You find confirmation in the thinnest of places. Look, if you really want to make a solid case that Christianity involves magical thinking, you’ll have to deal with

  200. Dirkvg,

    I never stated that ‘not seen’ which is believing on faith, meant believing without reasons.
    Faith is a reason, just not a rational reason.

    And this is where the disconnect in the conversation is happening. You consider faith to be the reason we believe whereas I think most of the Christians who have commented here consider their faith the reason they believe. I already pointed out this problem in 192, you ignored it. Let’s try again shall we? Not seen does not mean not based on rational reasons.

    Moreover besides the lack of evidence for the supernatural, the core laws of science are in contradiction with a supernatural world.

    You’ve stated this a couple of times. It’s obviously wrong but if you think you can provide some kind of justification go ahead. The ironic thing is the the intelligibility of the world is undermined by naturalism for a number of reasons, not least of these being the fact that at some point in your explanations you must posit brute facts.

    The many sectors of science, such as geology, biology, chemistry, … mutually support and confirm each other. They are based on physics, which in its turn is confirmed by the other sectors.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. The reductionists would love to think everything in the other sciences could in principle be reduced to physics but there’s no evidence that is true. Maybe that’s not what you had in mind though. Care to elaborate?

    And I’m still wondering what the relevance if the reliabity of science is to the question of whether Christian doctrines are true. I guess it has something to do with you thinking science contradicts the supernatural therefore we must choose science but since we all think you’re wrong on that point, maybe instead of trying to convince us of the general reliability of science (something that we are not in conflict over) you should show us why you think this.

  201. Melissa, would you please clarify this?

    You consider faith to be the reason we believe whereas I think most of the Christians who have commented here consider their faith the reason they believe.

  202. Tom,

    Faith, in my experience, would more accurately be rendered trust. My belief that God created the world, in the incarnation and resurrection, in the continuing work of the Holy Spirit and the redemption of the world is based on evidences. These evidences come from history, philosophy and personL experience. The faith part comes in when I walk my life in the belief that these things are true. It is true that through this faith (living life trusting Jesus) we come to know more of God, especially his faithfulness and goodness as we see the world through the eyes of faith. As someone who came to faith as an adult the idea that faith is the reason I believe just seems bizarre.

  203. And one of your unproven, and unprovable, opinions (for it is false) is that a rational person must seek proof for his decisions.

    I imagine that Dirkvg goes about his day like this:

    “I know medium-well steak is cooked more than medium so I will cook them accordingly. But that isn’t a rational thought. How do I really know this? I need proof. Oh yeah, I remember it was proven in a lab back in 1903. Okay, I’m being rational now. Carry on.”

    “I know water freezes at cold temperature so let me use the freezer to make ice. But wait, how do I know?! I’m being so irrational. I need proof. I’ll check the interwebs. Okay, I see here that science proved that in the lab too. Okay, I’m being rational now. Carry on.”

  204. Thanks, Melissa.

    I was confused about your wording, and wondered if there was a typo. I’ll set it up graphically:

    “You consider faith to be the reason we believe
    whereas I think most of the Christians who have commented here
    consider their faith the reason they believe.”

    It seems like you intended to set the third clause there in contrast to the first one, but it didn’t come out that way. Not as I read it, at any rate.

  205. Tom,

    It seems like you intended to set the third clause there in contrast to the first one, but it didn’t come out that way. Not as I read it, at any rate.

    You’re right, it was badly worded. It should have been their faith is because of the reasons they believe. Our faith in God is because of our assessment of the evidence available. I think that assessment is rational.

    I find it quite difficult to proof my writing properly when I’m on my phone.

  206. Melissa @ comment # 222,

    John Lennox makes exactly the same point in the link I posted in # 216. Sadly, I don’t suppose any of this will make a difference to Dirkvg.

  207. Anybody else find it difficult to have these kinds of conversations? They don’t seem to get anywhere, but I don’t want to give dirk the impression that I find his claims unanswerable.

    Much of the problem goes back to second part of #188: the term “science” keeps getting thrown around without any clear definition. Are we talking about the method? Are we talking about the findings? Are we talking about the field, including the practitioners? So, until that’s done, I’m not sure that it’s possible to have a clear discussion.

    However, I don’t know that good definitions are dirk’s strong point. First, because he thinks that one citation from a general dictionary and one out of context quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia constitute “best practices” when it comes to defining words. Second, he actually can’t keep straight what he himself means by words: he complains that there isn’t any “laughter” in the Bible, by which he clearly includes derisive laughter, saying:

    “If there would be a God who would see the foolish ways of men, how could he not laugh?”

    But when this exact phenomenon, of God laughing at the foolish ways of men, is pointed out to him, he suddenly doesn’t mean that anymore, but rather:

    “laughter because of a funny situation, a good joke.”

    He complains:

    “The laughter you mention is laughter out of contempt which is quite something else.”

    But that is exactly what he was looking for the first time.

    And then he tries to turn it against us:

    “A God who is contemptuous of his own creation, a bit strange coming from an infinitely loving God don’t you think?”

    Hello, fallacy of red herring! Since when is this discussion about the attributes of God AT ALL?

    And the first time, dirk seemed to think that the LACK of divine derision was a problem. The second time, however, the PRESENCE of divine derision is the problem.

    So, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere, if the meanings of words change every time an argument is answered. It’s classic “moving the goalposts.”

  208. A post inspired by Joshua’s post above:

    I’ll tell you how I feel about a lot of reactions in this discussion. I feel I have to explain things that I thought would be general knowledge. I feel that if there is a possible wrong or unusual interpretation of my comments, that interpretation is chosen. I don’t pretend it is done on purpose, but that’s the way it feels.

    Suppose I would try, for example, to explain the principle of the continuity of nature. By giving the example that if one drops a ball, one expects it to bounce back.
    Then I would get reactions of the kind: o yeah, that wouldn’t happen with a ball of lead.

    While it seems clear to me, from the context, that I meant the kind of ball one uses in soccer.

    When adding to my comment the fact that I meant a soccer ball, I then would get this kind of reactions: see you don’t know about what you are talking, you speak of that which you do not know, you are again backpeddeling, It would be an interesting exercise to count up the number of times you’ve been refuted here in the past several days, and the number of times you’ve responded with something as basic as, “Well, okay, I see that I need to look at this in a different light now.”.

    While to me it seems obvious that when I talk about balls that bounce, I don’t talk about balls of lead ot that if I talk about laughter (to name one example of the lot) one thinks first of all of humor and jokes, and not about derisive laughter .
    But my attempt to clear up your misunderstanding is turned against me.

    And on top of that, if I dare, in my attempt to clear things up, to mention that the ball is made of leather, I get reactions such as:

    ‘ Hello, fallacy of red herring! Since when is this discussion about the material of the ball AT ALL?
    So, I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere, if the meanings of words change every time an argument is answered. It’s classic “moving the goalposts.” ‘

    So that is how a lot of this discussion feels to me.

    I’ve had 5 reactions to my comment, I will answer some points, not all. Otherwise this would take too much time. It will be in a few days because I have some other things to do.

    I won’t react to SteveK, because that is just a creation of his own making.

  209. “It’s classic “moving the goalposts.”

    From Dirkvg? On this thread? No, I protest. I thought this might be true of him in his posts #167 and #171 as I pointed out in my posts #168 and #172. But Dirkvg assured me it wasn’t so.

  210. I suppose, Dirkvg, that we could all be ganging up on you – perhaps even without realising it ourselves. It’s also possible that we are making some valid points about your interactions here and you aren’t inclined to listen to us. For my part I’m going to try to review our interactions to see if I can spot any evidence of the former.

  211. Billy Squibs

    Didn’t notice anything of the sort in your posts Billy.

    I think it’s mostly due to another frame of reference. But some people think automatically that theirs is the best and the other frame as testifying a lack of knowledge. Instead of trying to discuss on an equal level.

  212. I think you are large correct about the frame of reference. But part of the problem arises when you made highly contested and unfavourable statements about the nature of faith and put them over-against things like science and reason.

    I would like to think that most Christians – at least those who are of the questioning variety, which appears to be most of the regulars here – would broadly agree with John Lennox regarding the nature of faith and its relation to reason (see link above). If this is true then an impasse was always likely.

    My hope is that if anyone is inclined to read through 200+ comments they will be cognizant of what the NT means by faith (hint: it’s not “believing what you know ain’t true” or “believing in the teeth of evidence to the contrary”) and also see that we have made a reasonable and rational defence of our position.

    P.S. Still waiting for Gavin to respond to the question raised in comment #112

  213. I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

    C. S. Lewis

  214. 112

    if BillT signals he wants to give up his little vendetta, and switch back to normal conversation, I could give my view on this

    but in a couple of days

  215. Dirkvg,

    I look forward to seeing what your reasons are for thinking the supernatural contradicts science. I think that’s where the heart of your objection to God lies.

  216. Vendetta? Dirkvg, what is it that he’s doing wrong?

    You don’t really have to answer that if you’d be willing just to continue in conversation instead.

  217. Let’s use the bouncing ball analogy (“follow the bouncing ball”?). The exchange actually went more like this:

    Dirk: “Odd how the ball doesn’t bounce. Shouldn’t the ball bounce on the ground?”
    Us: “But the ball does bounce on the ground. You clearly don’t understand the ball.”
    Dirk: “I didn’t mean a ball that bounces on the ground, I meant a ball that bounces off the wall. And isn’t it strange that the ball bounces on the ground?”
    Me: “But you asked about a ball that bounces on the ground. And the first time you had a problem with the ball NOT bouncing on the ground, but now you have a problem that the ball DOES bounce on the ground. You seem to be changing your definition.”
    Dirk: “I feel misunderstood.”

    (Key:
    ball~God
    bounces~laughs
    on the ground~at foolishness
    off the wall~at a joke)

  218. And lest it be thought that I’m making a mountain out of a mole-hill, this whole debate turns on how words are defined, like “faith,” “knowledge,” “science,” “supernatural,” etc. So, if someone has trouble sticking with clear definitions, then we might want to consider whether this is going to be a fruitful discussion.

  219. Dirkvg @ #173 wrote:

    Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others, because it is based on naturalism and because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.

    Let’s unpack Dirk’s argument to see what he’s claiming.

    “Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others…”

    Of course, I am assuming that by science we’re meaning sciences, like the physical and social sciences, which rely in some way on some sort of empirical methodology. However, this is not what the word science, which is derived form the Latin word scientia, originally meant. Scientia simply means knowledge, which can include any kind of knowledge, including those that are not strictly empirical. For example, theology at one time was considered the “queen of the sciences.” So, the modern view of science is actually a very restrictive and limited (even limiting) view of knowledge. How does that make it better? I would argue that there are a number of questions that “science” from its limited perspective cannot answer.

    For example:

    Can “science” answer the big questions, like “why there is something rather than nothing?” Or, “what is the ultimate ground of being?”

    Can “science” tell us what makes something beautiful?

    Can science tell us morally how we ought to live?

    Can it tell us if there is any kind of ultimate purpose and meaning to life?

    I would argue that it can’t. Yet, I would also argue that these questions are the important questions. They are the questions that we as humans ask and indeed they really define us as human beings. Once again, how can we claim that “science” is better if it can’t answer those kind of questions?

    But actually it’s worse than that, because science has no way to justify it’s own foundational assumptions or presuppositions. For example, when Edwin Hubble analyzed the spectra of distant galaxies and discovered that there was a correlation between red shift, velocity and distance, he had to assume that the speed of light in a vacuum was a universal constant. That may be a reasonable inference but it is not something that has ever been “proven”. In other words, to even do science we have to assume the uniformity of natural causes… something that cannot be established inductively. So from where do we get our idea of natural law? I think C.S. Lewis said it the best. He wrote: “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a [law giver].”

    Now notice how Dirk tries to justify his claim that scientific knowledge is better. He argues that it’s “because it is based on naturalism”. But naturalism is a philosophical position. As with any philosophical position, it is based on apriori assumptions and preconceptions that cannot be established scientifically. So how do we know that naturalism is true? We can’t on scientific grounds. (Maybe we need to accept it by faith?)

    Finally Dirk argues that scientific knowledge is better, “because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.” Notice that he is making a logical claim here. However, he has not proven that there is any logical inconsistency in concurrently holding scientific and supernatural beliefs. For example, Johannes Kepler believed as a scientist that “he was thinking God’s thoughts after him.” I could list a number of contemporary scientists, including some who comment here, who hold similar beliefs. Are they being illogical? I don’t think so. Dirk needs to develop his argument further if he is going to convince me.

  220. JAD

    quite a post

    I still haven’t the time to answer in full but :

    ‘I would argue that there are a number of questions that “science” from its limited perspective cannot answer.’

    Religion can’t either.

    ‘Now notice how Dirk tries to justify his claim that scientific knowledge is better. He argues that it’s “because it is based on naturalism”. ‘

    No, that’s not the reason why.

    ‘Finally Dirk argues that scientific knowledge is better, “because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.” ‘

    Because it is contrary??? That would be a silly claim to make. I have my faults, but not that one.

    I am sorry, you seem to misunderstand me. I’ll try to be more clear in a few days.

  221. Religion can’t either.

    Really? Now, you may find the answer to that “there is something rather than nothing” because God willed it to be inadequate because you don’t believe in God. But it’s a far better answer than you can give without Him.

    And certainly if there is an ultimate purpose and meaning to life that is answered only by the dictates of God.

    The same can be said of the moral ought. Certainly, the great existential thinkers agreed with this.

    And this isn’t projecting God onto all our unanswered questions about life. It’s actually quite the opposite. We all know, deep within us, that we have purpose, meaning and morality. God offers the only rational answer as to why.

  222. It never ceases to amaze me how blithely some atheists will assert that religion can’t answer questions of the sort that science cannot.

    To make that kind of statement successfully, one would have to know one of two things. One would have to know (a) that God does not exist, which is the main point in question, so any answer that assumes God’s non-existence is begging the question. Either that, or one would have to know (b) that if God existed, then God could not be the sort of being who could supply humans with answers to these questions. That’s a position that no one could rationally offer without at least attempting to defend it. I’m quite sure it’s a defense that no one could succeed in making.

    So whether one takes route (a) or (b), it’s a dead end, though I wouldn’t object to someone at least trying to defend (b). It could be very instructive.

    Maybe these assertions are fueled by differences of opinions between religions. One religion explains things one way, one religion explains things another way, they don’t agree in their explanations, so therefore “religion” fails to answer these kinds of questions.

    But on a forum like this one, we all know that already. We don’t defend “religion.” We who are Christians put Christianity on the table for discussion. We put forth the God of Christian theism as the one who can supply answers. If the atheist says “religion can’t answer these questions,” we yawn and say, “fine… who cares?” And then we say, “Christianity can answer these questions.”

    To which, if the atheist says “Christianity can’t do that,” then he is back to the (a) or (b) dead end.

  223. Dirkvg,

    How did I misunderstand you? I was quoting you directly from #173. Here again is the full text:

    Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others, because it is based on naturalism and because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.

    You gave three reasons why “Science is important in this discussion”:

    (1) “because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others”
    (2) “because it is based on naturalism and”
    (3) “because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.”

    So what did I misunderstand? I certainly did not misquote you.

    BillT,

    And this isn’t projecting God into all our unanswered question about life. It’s actually quite the opposite. We all know, deep within us, that we have purpose, meaning and morality. God offers the only rational answer as to why.

    In other words, borrowing a term from evolutionary psychology, it appears that we’re “hard wired” to seek purpose, meaning and moral values etc. Yet the committed naturalist also tells us that this hard-wiring has also given rise to some of our mistaken beliefs. For example, Richard Dawkins tells us that living things “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”, while Sigmund Freud claimed that religious belief was an illusion, and Charles Darwin told us that the human belief in an afterlife, which he observed was virtually universal, was also an illusion. Finally, Michael Ruse & Edward O. Wilson argue that ethics is nothing other than “an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate.”

    In other words, the purpose of our evolutionary hard wiring is not for finding the truth it is for coping and surviving. Of course, Christian theists had a completely different perspective here.

  224. JAD,

    In 243 I reacted to your statement:

    ‘Finally Dirk argues that scientific knowledge is better, “because its core of knowledge is contrary to the supernatural.” ‘

    In 247 you rightly quoted me a bit more in full:

    ‘You gave three reasons why “Science is important in this discussion”’

    ‘is important’ is not equal to ‘is better’

    ‘is better’ is your addition, while in reality I, in that comment, spoke only of reasons why science ‘is important’ in this discussion.

    Science is better than other ways of knowledge but not because it is contrary.

  225. Dirkvg,

    Read what you wrote @ #173. You’re the one who introduced the word better.

    Science is important in this discussion because it shows which ways of gaining knowledge are better than others…

    So, what are you saying there? I am trying to figure out what you mean. It seems to me that you are saying science is a way of knowing and that it can decide between epistemological claims what is the best way of knowing. But that is not a role for science as such but for philosophy.

    Also at #173 you told Melissa, “Believing in miracles is anti-science.” But now you are claiming, “Science is better than other ways of knowledge but not because it is contrary.” Do you now wish to modify your claim that miracles are anti-science?

  226. ‘ Do you now wish to modify your claim that miracles are anti-science?’

    I never claimed that. Miracles are events that happened or didn’t happen.
    I claimed that believing in miracles is anti-science. That is quite something else. You have a knack of misquoting me. : )

    Just reread your own post 249.

  227. Dirkvg,

    You seem to have plenty of time to respond now. Are you ready to justify you statements yet? I mean the statement that believing in miracles is anti-science is falsified by the many Christian scientists who also believe in miracles but as I wrote before, the statement you really need to justify is that science contradicts the supernatural. My suspicion is that you are confusing what science can tell us with what science plus naturalism tells us.

  228. Oh, so “believing in miracles is anti-science”, but claiming that “miracles [for real] are anti-science”, is not? Okay, if miracles can really happen how is believing in them anti-science?

  229. Confusing is an understatement (and i’m not even on pain meds 🙂 ) – ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is more like it, with Dirk playing the role of one Carroll’s denizens 🙂

    When he gets around to answering Melissa’s question coherently, I’ll jump back into the fray.

  230. I was thinking about how that might come across as a personal attack, which isn’t something I like to host on this blog. Whether it does or not is at least partly up to Dirkvg himself, and what he thinks it represents.

    But there’s something else going on at the same time. I want to address this directly to Dirkvg.

    It’s related to my earlier plea that you would look yourself in the mirror. I think you probably still consider yourself the representative of reason here. If so, you’re not coming close to living up to your own view of yourself; you are not who you think you are. You would do well to take a close look at that reality.

    This latest “confusion” is just the most recent example of that. You do not consider miracles anti-science, since that’s a question of whether they happened or not, but you consider belief in miracles to be anti-science. Therefore if a miracle happens, it doesn’t affect the truth or falsehood of science (which I agree with), but if I recognize that that miracle happened, then my attitude of belief toward that miracle is anti-science. It can happen without being anti-science, but I can’t recognize that it happened without being anti-science.

    I don’t know how you’re going to respond to that analysis, Dirkvg, but I have a tentative prediction, based on your past interactions here. I rather expect you’re either going to ignore it, or you’re going to try to find some tortuous path toward resolving the contradiction, which in the end will be less than rational again.

    Based on what I’ve seen here, in other words, you would rather let an issue slide by, or you would rather dig yourself deeper into your unsupportable positions, than admit that you might have been wrong and take the opportunity to learn and grow through it.

    I would love to have you prove me wrong. I warmly invite you to prove me wrong.

  231. Here is a warning to those who keep insisting that science is the best way of knowing.

    Sir Peter Medawar (1960 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) wrote:

    “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer. … The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’;’What is the point of living?’ .”

    Medawar is credited for creating “a new branch of science, the immunology of transplantation.” I think he probably had a good idea what science could and could not do.

  232. Tom 257

    I rather expect you’re either going to ignore it, or you’re going to try to find some tortuous path toward resolving the contradiction, which in the end will be less than rational again.

    If I ignored remarks it’s either because:
    – I overlooked them
    – I thought they would lead to enervating endless discussions over terms
    – my reaction was: do I really have to explain such basic points? No, I am not going to go down that road.

    Tortuous??? Just specifying that I meant humour when mentioning laughter, doesn’t seem, tortuous to me. It seems rather the first and most natural thing to think of.
    I hope you noticed that until now, no one gave an example of humour or jokes , in the Bible. Which was my point to start with.

  233. Victoria 217

    It definitely does not mean that God is amused by the fools who deny Him and rage against Him – it is more like a ‘snort of derision’ or “yeah, right! – who do you think you are, a mere mortal in comparison to Me, the Eternal Sovereign Creator, the Judge of all the earth?”

    I agree completely. No humour intended in that Biblical phrase whatsoever.
    On the other hand your suggestion that I would have to do an exegesis of the Hebrew text of the
    Psalm is absurd. That would imply that one couldn’t say anything about the Bible text in one’s own language without the Hebrew original.

  234. Joshua 241

    So, if someone has trouble sticking with clear definitions, then we might want to consider whether this is going to be a fruitful discussion.

    I noticed that too, that’s why I used the Oxford dictionary and the Catholic encyclopedia, but the creativity in ingnoring them was great. Someone even suggested I took the quotes from the encyclopedia out of context, while they came directly out of the encyclopedia’s text on faith.

  235. JAD 242

    For example, Johannes Kepler believed as a scientist that “he was thinking God’s thoughts after him.” I could list a number of contemporary scientists, including some who comment here, who hold similar beliefs. Are they being illogical?

    Citing scientists can turn against you:

    A 1996 survey published in Nature magazine found that only 7% of National Academy members, the brightest of the bright, believe in a personal god (Larson, E. J., and L. Witham. 1997. “Scientists are still keeping the faith.” Nature 386:435-436; Larson, E. J., and L. Witham. 1998. “Leading scientists still reject God.” Nature:313.).

  236. Tom 245

    One would have to know (a) that God does not exist, which is the main point in question, so any answer that assumes God’s non-existence is begging the question.

    Science doesn’t assume God’s non-existence. The evidence for is just weak.

  237. On faith

    Tom 218

    I do not deny that Christianity is based on faith, but what does “based on” mean in that context? It does not mean, “based on an epistemic foundation of faith divorced from reason”–which is what you seem to think it means:

    To the Oxford dictionary it is:
    ‘strong belief in a religion , based on spiritual conviction rather than proof’
    Spiritual conviction is not = reason. Reason supposes strong justification not just a conviction.

    In the encyclopedia you can find:
    ‘to assent to a truth beyond the ken of the human intellect, but within the grasp of the angelic intellect, he would require for the time being something more than his natural light of reason,’

    Did you see : ‘beyond the ken of the human intellect’ in this quote. Beyond means that it is not related to, that it surpassed reason.

    I gave the example of dogma:

    ‘So faith is not based on proof. See for example the dogmas in Christianity.’
    Quote from the Catholic encyclopedia:
    ‘But according to a long-standing usage a dogma is now understood to be a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in theScriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful.
    Such, for example, are the doctrines of Transubstantiation, papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, some of the Church’s teaching about the Saviour, the sacraments, etc. All doctrinesdefined by the Church as being contained in revelation are understood to be formally revealed, explicitly or implicitly. It is a dogma of faith that the Church is infallible indefining these two classes of revealed truths; and the deliberate denial of one of these dogmas certainly involves the sin of heresy.’
    But you conveniently ignored it.
    It is clear that dogma has got nothing to do with reason.

    I advise you to look in the mirror and question yourself on what you think you know.

  238. JAD 242

    In other words, to even do science we have to assume the uniformity of natural causes… something that cannot be established inductively. So from where do we get our idea of natural law? I think C.S. Lewis said it the best. He wrote: “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a [law giver].”

    Interesting statement but easily answered. Yes we presuppose the continuity of nature. But not because they believed in a lawgiver. In this Lewis was wrong, as in so many other ways. We presuppose this because it is hardwired in our brain because of evolution. If that wouldn’t be the case our race would be extinct. Furthermore this principle is continually confirmed by our everyday experience and by science, so proven by the facts themselves.

  239. Some basic knowledge

    I use some quotes from Wikipedia because I already have a lot to type.
    Don’t just react with ‘oh it’s from Wikipedia then it’s rubbish’, give a counterargument. Also rejecting a statement just because it’s a quote, is not a valid counterargument.

    -) magical thinking

    Quote from Wikipedia:
    Magical thinking is the identification of causal relationships between actions and events where scientific consensus says that there are none. In religion, folk religion and superstition the correlation posited is often between religious ritual, prayer,sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or recompense.

    -) Anecdotal evidence

    Quote from Wikipedia:

    ‘The expression anecdotal evidence refers to evidence from anecdotes. Because of the small sample, there is a larger chance that it may be unreliable due to cherry-picked or otherwise non-representativesamples of typical cases.[1][2] Anecdotal evidence is considered dubious support of a claim; it is accepted only in lieu of more solid evidence. This is true regardless of the veracity of individual claims.[3][4][5]
    The term is often used in contrast to scientific evidence, such as evidence-based medicine, which are types of formal accounts. Some anecdotal evidence does not qualify as scientific evidence because its nature prevents it from being investigated using the scientific method.
    In all forms of anecdotal evidence, its reliability by objective independent assessment may be in doubt. This is a consequence of the informal way the information is gathered, documented, presented, or any combination of the three. The term is often used to describe evidence for which there is an absence of documentation, leaving verification dependent on the credibility of the party presenting the evidence.

    -) Having reasons – rational thinking

    There is a fundamental difference between ‘having reasons’ for something and being rational. A voodoo priest has reasons, just not rational ones.

    Rational :
    Rational thinking is based on or in accordance with reason or logic
    This means: thinking in an optimal way.
    Based on our best evidence and most justified conclusions

    Irrational thinking (includes magical thinking) : thinking in a non-optimal way

    -) eyewitnesses
    Tom 218

    As for #205, it’s too mixed up even to begin to deal with what you wrote there about eyewitnesses.

    Not really a counterargument is it?

    Maybe you should read up, a.o., on the findings by Elizabeth Loftus.

    There are quite a number of factors that can influence the information given by an eyewitness. In the case of the apostles, this becomes even more suspect because they were anything but independent objective bystanders but active believers who were faced with the cognitive dissonance of seeing their leader crucified. As a psychologist you know very well what cognitive dissonance can do. Moreover their information was only put on paper 80 or 100 years later. And to make it even worse, the original text or texts, are no longer available, only what are thought to be copies, made much later.
    The whole history of these texts, even apart from the reliability of the first eyewitness accounts, which are canonical, which not, which are accepted by which variant of Christianity, the additions, the adaptions,… does not add to an image of objective accounts, rather to the contrary. And one doesn’t have to be a Bible historian to see this.

  240. Tom 218

    God and Science Do Mix
    1) To reveal Himself to humans—to communicate—He must break into nature sometimes, but He must do so rarely.
    2) God made the world friendly for science, not for the sake of science alone, but to accomplish the whole scope of His purposes for us.
    God’s desire to relate with a world of humans, to give us the power of moral agency and the ability to learn, and to make His occasional interventions meaningful, leads Him to let His creation run its ordinary course in ordinary times. Scholars and students at a Catholic cathedral school figured that out more than 800 years ago.

    1) anecdotal evidence -> weak justification, see post above

    2) presupposes the existence of God, so not a valid argument

  241. On miracles and supernatural

    Dirkvg
    That is just what the voodoo priest or he hindu brahman, would reply, thereby you yourself just
    confirm my argument on your magical thinking.

    Tom 218

    For another thing, just because I might say something similar to a Hindu Brahman (the terms are capitalized in English) or a Voodoo priest, that doesn’t mean that they share any common belief in magic or that I agree with either of them. There’s no argument there in what you said: did you realize that?

    Melissa 251

    the statement you really need to justify is that science contradicts the supernatural.

    Dirk 250
    Miracles are events that happened or didn’t happen.
    I claimed that believing in miracles is anti-science.

    Tom 257

    You do not consider miracles anti-science, since that’s a question of whether they happened or not, but you consider belief in miracles to be anti-science. Therefore if a miracle happens, it doesn’t affect the truth or falsehood of science (which I agree with), but if I recognize that that miracle happened, then my attitude of belief toward that miracle is anti-science. It can happen without being anti-science, but I can’t recognize that it happened without being anti-science.

    This latest “confusion”

    Tom, you confuse ‘magical thinking ‘ with ‘magic’. So, you didn’t understand what I meant. But you didn’t realize it did you?
    See on magical thinking my post above on ‘Some basic knowledge’.

    You all got rather worked up about that miracle remark didn’t you? And yet, easily explained.
    A miracle is or is not, as a fact. As a fact, if it is not then no consequences for science. If it is then science has to accept it and adapt its view on reality.

    What I claimed is that believing in miracles is anti-science. Why? Because there are very justified reasons to consider miracles as non-existent. To believe in the existence of non-existent things is irrational, evidence of magical thinking and thus not scientific. Moreover miracles would break the laws of science and are thus contrary to the core tenets of science. If you could prove their existence then science would have to accept that there existed a realm where there could be events based on processes contrary to the laws science has discovered. But this is not so.
    So, Tom, the confusion is only in your head.

  242. On morality and meaning of life

    BillT 112

    I’ll take any perspective you like. Just tell me why it’s wrong. My bet is you can’t.

    BillT 244
    And certainly if there is an ultimate purpose and meaning to life that is answered only by the dictates of God.
    The same can be said of the moral ought. Certainly, the great existential thinkers agreed with this.
    JAD 242
    I would argue that there are a number of questions that “science” from its limited perspective cannot answer.’
    Once again, how can we claim that “science” is better if it can’t answer those kind of questions?
    Dirkvg: Religion can’t either.

    On morality:
    See the Euthyphro dilemma: or God follows rules or it’s up to his whim.
    In the first case, there is in principle no reason why we couldn’t access the same rules.
    In the second, there wouldn’t be absolute standards and who would follow a God who can change his rules from moment to moment? Who could order the death of women and children in the Old Testament and talk of love your neighbor in the New. Who could have the coveting of your neighbour’s ass in the commandments and seemingly forgot to mention the sin of slavery.
    The classic answer, by believers is that God and The Good, are one, so God can’t do anything else but good. This a trick. This ‘solution’ pushes back the dilemma a step but the dilemma still exists because there remains a conceptual distinction.
    So in reality the believer and the atheist are in the same position. Trying to determine what’s right.

    On another note: the believer can be 100% sure that the info really comes from God and not from another source or it could be distorted.
    So the believer can’t just do what the voice, the priest, … says.
    He always has to ask himself: is this really the voice of God, is this really what God wants?
    So in the end he can’t just obey blindly, it comes down to his own responsibility
    This is also true for the atheist

    So two reasons why religion can’t tell you what to do, and why you must decide yourself. Which explains quite nicely the many differences in opinion between believers.

    As to what rules to follow?
    There are those such as Hilary Putnam, who claims that there is no fact value distinction. There are those such as Marc Hauser, who claims we have a moral grammar built into our brain.
    I don’t know.
    What I do know is that we have empathy built into us. We have also the possibility for aggression, but if empathy wouldn’t have outweighed aggression, our weak human forefathers wouldn’t have survived.
    Man can only survive in group. Besides the evolutionary argument there is also the existence of mirror neurons, but I’ll leave it up to you to discover what that is.
    Besides empathy there is also the built in abhorrence of harm and the universal desire for a society that cares for the wellbeing of its members. Societies such as dictatorships sooner or later fail.
    It’s not the absolute universal set of rules you imagine you have but it has an objective side. And it’s not based on an illusion.

    On meaning:

    I’ll let two philosophers do the talking:

    Meaning received by God
    If the only point in living is to serve somebody else’s purposes, then we cease to be valuable beings in our own right and we merely become tools for others, like paper knives or cloned workers.
    Julian Baggini

    I don’t see how the existence of a god or a soul confers any meaning on my life. How does that work, exactly? Nobody has ever given an adequate answer. My life is meaningful because I have family, meaningful work, because I love to play, I have dogs, I love to dig in the garden. That’s what makes my life meaningful, and I think that’s true for most people.
    Now, at the end of it, what’s going to happen? I will die and that’s it. And I like that idea, in a crazy sort of way.
    Barbara Churchland

    Meaning is in the middle of life: between birth and death: lifes are meaningful by virtue of the activities we do within them
    A film or play has to end. We may regret that but it is what makes it valuable in the first place. Death gives life meaning. A never ending game is meaningless. The fact that things are finite makes them meaningful. If life is eternal then no choice has meaning.
    Julian Baggini

    Science and morality and meaning
    Science can’t give the ultimate answers, but neither can religion.
    Science is however immensely important in showing us the right way to do things. If we want to educate our children which methods are best? If we want to reintegrate criminals what is the right way? And so on. Here science can show what way to choose to reach our ends.

  243. Science and religion

    – Two arguments based on evidence:

    – 1) justification by induction

    This is the main method about how to reason concerning matters of fact
    You take the evidence and based on the evidence you make generalizations
    In science to see if your generalizations are correct you have your theory tested by others.
    The principle is based on: what has been observed in the past or present -> is valid for what hasn’t been observed in past, present and future.
    This is based on the premise of the uniformity of nature (see post above)
    The principle of induction is taken for granted every minute of the day, by atheists end religious believers.
    The principle is not supported by strict logic, but by the evidence of experience .
    If one accepts this principle, and everyone does, then, if one wants to be consistent, one should accept that this principle points to naturalism and not to supernaturalism, because of a continuation of the laws of nature. The laws science describes.

    2) Justification by abductive reasoning

    This principle is also based on evidence not on strict proof.
    One can understand abductive reasoning as “inference to the best explanation.
    If there is more than one possible explanation this principle is used to determine which is
    best.
    In general best explanation:
    – most economic explanation, simpler
    – more coherent
    – the explanation that fits best in with other facts as well, more comprehensive than
    the alternatives

    These points are again the result of experience of countless of trials.
    Supernatural intervention doesn’t fit in with all the other facts we know of how the universe works.
    And its explantions don’t answer to the principle of abductive reasoning.
    Every time a scientist tests how things work we find that they work through natural processes.
    In the whole history of humanity there has been no instance where scientific progress depended upon the inclusion of the supernatural in its explanations or predictions.
    For the things we can’t directly observe it fits with that to suppose that they work the same way
    To add the supernatural is to add something for which we don’t have any strong evidence for.
    The things that are called evidence are of the weak sort, such as anecdotal evidence and texts about events for which we have no independent objective witnesses but only witnesses for which we have several indications to think that they are unreliable.
    The fact that Jesus is mentioned or the Christians, in a number of historic texts is not equal to there having been independent objective observers present when the events happened.

    So there is a lot of evidence for naturalism and an absence of evidence for anything else.
    Such as: God, elves, hobbits, unicorns, Zeus, Thor, Shiva, …
    It is always possible that at some point in time strong evidence will appear for other options
    But this is possible for all kinds of beliefs. The mere possibility is no reason to believe.
    Naturalism is not 100% certain, but to claim that this is reason to be agnostic is to state that we should be agnostic on all things. Because nothing is 100% certain.

    To rely more on anecdotal evidence instead of strong evidence to the contrary -> wishful thinking, self-delusion.

    I will try to make it clear in another way:
    Science is a method for truth better than other methods. We can illustrate this by considering the difference between science and pseudo-science (homeopathy, astrology, …).
    Pseudo-sciences
    – rely on anecdotal evidence
    – don’t allow precise predictions and can’t be falsified.
    – use scientific terms without specifying their meaning
    – make statements which are much better explained by science
    – are not consistent with other theories, in the way physics is consistent with biology, chemistry, …
    – are irreconcilable with fundamental scientific insights

    If you consider this list one sees immediately a number of correspondences between pseudo-sciences and religion.
    Both lack a good method to determine truth.

    – Burden of proof: If I claim to have a table in my house, no one will demand proof of that. It is a very common thing and quite possible. But if I would claim to have a moon rocket in my backyard, or claim powers of levitation, people will look at me incredulously and if not suspect me of suffering of hallucinations, at least demand some extra proof. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. Same with religion. On the one hand we have the laws of physics, which are if maybe not 100% certain, still so taken for granted that most people have no problem in flying with aeroplanes, will not step outside their window from the third floor because they trust the law of gravity, and so on and so on. So this part of our knowledge is considered as having a very high degree of certainty and to match the real world, as it is, as closely as possible.
    On the other hand we have the claims of religion putting forward beings (God), and acts (miracles), which are in blatant contradiction with the laws of physics. So it seems only natural that the burden of proof lies in the camp of the religious.
    The reasons not believe in God are not only to be found in there being no strong evidence but also in
    – the argument from evil
    – a number of other philosophical problems with the notion of God
    – the lack of condemnation of slavery in the Bible, which permitted and even condoned ages of
    slavery
    – …

  244. dirkvg, you poser.

    In #265 you quoted me as asking, what does “based on” mean, in context of “based on faith”. Then you proceeded to repeat what you had already delivered as definitions of “faith.”

    You have got to have enough brains to realize that when you’re responding to “what does ‘based on’ mean, in ‘based on faith’?” you need to answer according to “based on,” not “faith.”

    You do know that, don’t you?

    And you do know that “spiritual conviction” and “strong conviction” are not logically exclusive categories, don’t you? But you’ve confidently set them up as if they were. You’re displaying great confidence in the midst of incompetence, once again!

    All of the dogmas that you set up as examples are Roman Catholic-specific. I’m a Protestant.

    But still your conclusion that dogma is divorced from reason remains unsupported. You just named some dogmas, briefly summarized your opinion of how they came to be, and pronounced them unreasoning. As arguments go, the jump there from evidence to conclusion is greased mightily by a slippery slide of prior, unsupported, and question-begging assumptions.

    You’re displaying great confidence in the midst of incompetence, once again!

    When will you learn?

  245. Well my posts start at 259. I advise you to start from the top because some arguments made in one post are explained in a post above.

    If you want to make a remark, try to keep it brief. I am not going to make such lenghty posts again and I don’t have ages of time.

  246. Tom,
    You don’t seem to know what dogmas are. Just read my post a bit more carefully.

    Or explain to me why and how according to you dogmas are based on reason.

    Just hollering about incompetence is not an argument.

    I could do the same.

  247. In #268, you miss the point completely. It’s neither anecdotal nor circular. The argument is not, “There is a God, and we have such-and-such stories about him therefore … God and science mix.” I could have said that, and I might say it in other contexts, but that wasn’t the point of that article at all. The point of it was, “To posit the God of Christian theism is by no means to posit a God that is inconsistent with science as we practice it, for this is how Christians posit God, and the Christian view of God is consistent with the practice of science.”

    If you can’t read the argument for what it is, you can’t refute it for what it is.

  248. You’re shifting the burden, Dirkvg. You claimed dogma was divorced from reason. Go ahead and show how that’s the case. Show where these dogmas arose from, as actual case studies in the history of their development, and how reason failed. Show that you know what you’re talking about.

    You say the confusion is only in my head (#269). But you continually display great confidence in your understanding, while displaying incompetence in your knowledge and in your reading of our arguments. You try to defend yourself when shown these things, rather than trying to learn. Your defenses fail repeatedly, as they have done once again today. And yet you continue to defend your position rather than learn from correction.

    What this tells me, Dirkvg, is that there’s really nothing to be gained from continuing this kind of discourse with you. I’m really interested in carrying this on any further–at least, not until some sign appears that it might become productive.

  249. Tom

    You said that I was wrong , that I didn’t wanted to learn. I asked you the evidence for your claims on dogma. You are just throwing the question back at me.

    This is no discussion. Only a thinly disguised attempt to convert. You give no counterargument, no justification.

    Only insults.

    It shows your weakness.

    You give up. You lost.

    You probably have no real counterargument and chose the easy way out.
    I kind of expected this.

    Anyway, take care.

  250. Dirk, I’ve been presenting counterarguments all along. If you judge them to be “no real counterargument,” that’s your opinion, upon which I know now I will not succeed in having any effect. If you think that my giving up is because I “lost,” I respond that I am giving up rather because I see no point in continuing. I don’t expect you to agree with me on that, either.

    So you have your opinion of me as we reach this point in our discussion, and I have mine of you. Others reading here will draw their own conclusions. If they agree with you about me, then I’m willing to face that consequence. To try to change the mind of a man so supremely confident in his incompetence, as you are, is a fool’s game. I’m more willing to let my reputation stand at risk by pulling out of the game than I am to waste my time foolishly continuing in it.

  251. Dirkvg,

    You are right that rational thinking requires that we conform our thinking to the rules of logic. We must also be able to correctly assess what is relevant and irrelevant to a particular claim. Honestly you are not really displaying high grade critical thinking skills at all. Partly I think that is because you really are largely ignorant of the serious arguments for God’s existence and you show little to no indication that you want to change that situation.

    For instance you bring up the Euthyphro dilemma as if it is a knock down argument. You acknowledge that Christians have answered it but your response shows that you don’t really understand the answer.

    The classic answer, by believers is that God and The Good, are one, so God can’t do anything else but good. This a trick. This ‘solution’ pushes back the dilemma a step but the dilemma still exists because there remains a conceptual distinction.

    You might try this link if you want to start to educate yourself.

    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com.au/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

    Now, maybe my paraphrase of your thinking in relation to science wasn’t what you really meant but could you please fill us in on science’s “core of knowledge” that is “contrary to the supernatural.”

    You did have this to say:

    Moreover miracles would break the laws of science and are thus contrary to the core tenets of science.

    As I predicted, you are confusing the core tenets of science with the core tenets of naturalism. Physical casual closure is a philosophical conclusion of naturalism, not of science.

    Some advice when writing your PhD: consider carefully what is truly relevant to the point you want to make and that the evidence really does show what you think it shows. The inclusion of a lot of irrelevant material is unlikely to win you extra points and just frustrates people who are trying to work out what your point really is.

  252. It appears to me that Dirk’s tactic is to wow us with a citation bluff or citation dump (It could be a combination of the two, I suppose). I’m not impressed, because I have seen this trick before. (Someone with the initials NM comes to mind.) In my opinion tactics like this are a sign of weakness, not strength. So Dirk has only ended up wasting his Sunday afternoon.

    My answer to all your posts, Dirk. Science will never be able to answer all our questions or solve all our problems. I share Sir Peter Medawar’s view on this. (see my post @ #258)

    P.S. If you think I’m wrong, prove it scientifically.

  253. Dirkvg,

    You didn’t address my question from #112 in any way. Just wanted to be sure you weren’t under the illusion that you had.

    Not really surprised though. Like I said to Gavin in that post. My bet is you can’t.

  254. As a Christian theist I have no problem with the claim that:

    1. Natural causation is sufficient to explain some things about the universe, life and human existence.

    This appears to be self-evidently true.

    What I do have a problem with is the claim that:

    2. Natural causation alone (causation that does not involve any kind of intelligent agency–God, angels, aliens etc.) is sufficient to explain everything about the universe, life and human existence.

    At present this is an unproven assumption. Can such a claim even be established scientifically?

  255. Tom, Melissa, JAD, BillT

    Tom
    you have made a number of counterarguments but no serious ones in your reactions to my sunday posts
    Moreover you probably started your posting without having read the other explanatory posts.

    Melissa
    I will read the article and get back to you
    ‘you really are largely ignorant of the serious arguments for God’s existence’
    I am interested to know what these are according to you?

    JAD

    Why don’t you just try to give some counterarguments instead of hiding behind the: ‘he is making a few quotes, how terrible ‘ reaction.

    ‘ Science will never be able to answer all our questions or solve all our problems. ‘

    I never claimed that science would answer all our questions. To the contrary just read my 270

    ‘2. Natural causation alone (causation that does not involve any kind of intelligent agency–God, angels, aliens etc.) is sufficient to explain everything about the universe, life and human existence.’

    I never claimed that either, see above.
    also in my 271:
    It is always possible that at some point in time strong evidence will appear for other options
    But this is possible for all kinds of beliefs. The mere possibility is no reason to believe.
    Naturalism is not 100% certain, but to claim that this is reason to be agnostic is to state that we should be agnostic on all things. Because nothing is 100% certain.

    To rely more on anecdotal evidence instead of strong evidence to the contrary -> wishful thinking, self-delusion

    BillT
    I said I would give my view on this (see 235), never that I would give the definitive answer.
    Why do you think my view is not the answer.
    It’s easy just to make a claim without justification.
    Do you have the definitive answer? If so, care to give it?
    And does it answer my objections to morality coming from God?

  256. Dirkvg, I have re-read all your posts, and I still find nothing in them that explains away, justifies, or corrects the mistakes I identified in 272, 275, and 277.

  257. By the way, with reference to your latest comment to BillT, as well as several earlier ones: there are many, many situations where anecdotal evidence is exactly what is called for.

    Do you know what those situations are? Can you differentiate the circumstances in which anecdotal evidence either is or is not appropriate to rely on, and the reasons? Can you recognize whether BillT’s evidences fall into the category of evidence appropriately or inappropriately applied?

    Your Wikipedia quote in #267 doesn’t address any of that.

    This basic inability to make appropriate distinctions is yet another aspect of your confident incompetence.

    But I ought not be continuing in this conversation. I had bowed out. I shall do so again now.

  258. For those interested the Oxford dictionary gives two definitions for faith. Interestingly, dirk only quotes the second. Why is that?

    Of these two definitions it’s the first that is more closely aligned with the usage in the NT.

  259. Dirkvg,

    Naturalism is not 100% certain, but to claim that this is reason to be agnostic is to state that we should be agnostic on all things. Because nothing is 100% certain.

    “Naturalism is not 100% certain…”

    So, if one accepts naturalism, one must accept it by faith? Why then prefer it over any other world view?

    “…but to claim that this is reason to be agnostic is to state that we should be agnostic on all things.”

    Now you’re making a prescriptive value judgement based on your world view? What are you saying, we all should be agnostic because you are agnostic?

  260. dirkvg,

    My question was a simple one. I reproduce it below.

    But just in case, can you tell me why “hitting people is wrong”. I’ll take any perspective you like. Just tell me why it’s wrong. My bet is you can’t.

    I expected you would avoid addressing it directly.

    Your objection to God as the summum bonum falls quite a bit short of being definitive. It isn’t a trick of any sort nor does it “push back the dilemma a step” as there is no dilemma in this concept. (The Euthyphro Dilemma is a dilemma for the Greek Gods not the Christian God.)

  261. Tom,

    Yes, it was posed to Gavin originally but Dirkvg referenced it and mentioned he would (might?) address it in his #235. I was under no illusions that would actually come to pass.

  262. JAD

    as usual you missed the point of the argument.
    At a certain point it becomes tedious to keep on correcting you.

  263. To some of you I put a number of questions.

    In a few days I’ll return to see if you can do something more than just do some atheist bashing. : )

    I’ll will then also give my reacton to a number of posts.

    Have fun.

  264. BillT

    Yes, it was posed to Gavin originally but Dirkvg referenced it and mentioned he would (might?) address it in his #235. I was under no illusions that would actually come to pass.

    I did just what I wrote, I would: give you my view.

    How about yours? Or is it to delicate to stand scrutiny?

  265. Your question, “to [sic] delicate to stand scrutiny?” is both insulting and baiting.

    Your accusation of “atheist bashing” is tendentious and hypocritical in light of your bashing BillT.

    Your charge, “as usual,” JAD “missed the point of the argument,” and your conclusion that “it becomes tedious to keep on correcting you” is a more subtle character attack, but a character attack nonetheless.

    Read the discussion policy again, Dirkvg.

    As for slavery, that’s been discussed at great length here. Atheists may have simple explanations, but simple explanations aren’t always a sign of good thinking, and that’s especially true when it comes to interpreting texts written for people in very distant cultures, times, and places. Not to mention the fact that your short and simple summary of the Bible’s treatment of slavery is fairly well distorted. If your intention was to make a point, you would have done better to show that you knew what you were talking about first.

  266. Dirkvg,

    Yes, you have given your view.

    Since you ask let me provide mine. I offer this as an “in-kind” response to yours and believe it offers similar depth and explanatory power that yours does. I believe it’s wrong to “hit people” because it would violate the objective moral obligation I have towards others not to harm them. Scrutinize away!

  267. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about Stark writing as a sociologist and leaving his believer pen in the drawer. That being said, I just purchased Stark’s Discovering God to read on a trip. Early in the book he says that if he would have written this book earlier, it would have been about the evolution of God in the minds of men. Now, though, HE has evolved to the understanding of God’s actual existence, thus the change in focus to Discovering God and how different people groups came to that. This is my first foray into comparative religion and I really like Stark, so I am looking forward to it.

  268. Dirkvg:

    as usual you missed the point of the argument.
    At a certain point it becomes tedious to keep on correcting you.

    Did I misunderstand you, Dirk? In my haste, it appears that maybe I did. But where have you given me, or anyone else here, an argument, or even some reasons, that would persuade us to accept a naturalistic world view? Without any arguments, aren’t you asking us to accept a NWV simply because you believe it’s true?

  269. Dirkvg,

    The Kalam cosmological argument is good, but I think Aquinas Five Ways are the most powerful arguments for the existence of God. For them to have force though you need to accept the metaphysics and so the first step would be to understand the inadequacy of naturalism. For this I would suggest Nagel, or maybe Ross’ argument from the determinate nature of human thought. Rosenberg presents what he sees as the implications of your atheist worldview, implications that I would agree with, unfortunately his conclusions really do undermine his ability to present an argument, which makes his position incoherent (a charge he denies but unsuccessfully imo). I know you’ve brushed aside the moral argument but that also provides substantial reasons to believe that God (not gods) exists.

  270. Here is an argument that I’ve given before as to why I believe naturalism is inadequate as a philosophical world view.

    This is how The Center for Naturalism briefly defines the naturalistic worldview:

    Naturalism, in essence, is simply the idea that human beings are completely included in the natural world: there’s nothing supernatural about us. Naturalism is based on science as the best, most reliable means for discovering what exists. Science shows that each and every aspect of a human being comes from and is completely connected to the natural world, and is understandable in terms of those connections.
    http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/descriptions.htm

    There are a couple of specific claims are being made here:

    (1) “Naturalism is based on science as the best, most reliable means for discovering what exists.”

    Has this been scientifically proven or is it just an assertion?

    Why as a skeptic should I accept it if it’s just an assertion?

    Is it the only means of discovering what exists?

    (2) “Science shows that each and every aspect of a human being comes from and is completely connected to the natural world, and is understandable in terms of those connections.”

    What do they mean by “Science shows”? Has science proven “that each and every aspect of a human being comes from and is completely connected to the natural world?”

    It appears to me then that Naturalism itself is based on some assumptions which not only have not been proven by science but are not even in principle provable by science. So as an outsider and a skeptic why should I give naturalism any serious consideration at all? Why should I prefer it over other philosophical world views?

    So to be persuasive, Dirkvg needs to explain and then justify his assumptions as to why, I as a skeptic, should accept his belief that naturalism is true. If he can’t then naturalism is just a belief– his belief.

  271. The Kalam cosmological argument is good, but I think Aquinas Five Ways are the most powerful arguments for the existence of God.

    Agreed. Some people may think these arguments don’t amount to much of anything because, well, you know — Science!! and Evolution!! and Computers!! But those people would be very, very mistaken.

    Take just the First Way as an example. That one by itself tells us that – right now, today – some unchanging being makes each and every second of existence possible – all of existence – even those infinite universes you dreamed up as a way to avoid believing in God.

    Does that conclusion fit into a naturalistic worldview? No. Some naturalists try to make it fit but asserting this unchanging being is obviously “the laws of physics”, but that is pure nonsense, and Aquinas more or less explains why in his other arguments.

  272. Tom, BillT, JAD, Melissa

    Your question, “to [sic] delicate to stand scrutiny?” is both insulting and baiting.

    No intend there to insult, just an intend for some irony and humour. Just to lighten things up. Too much seriousness is a bit boring.
    If it came over as insulting, I apologize.
    It’s not easy sometimes to convey humour, maybe I should place 🙂 signs next time.

    Your accusation of “atheist bashing” is tendentious and hypocritical in light of your bashing BillT.

    I had the impression that there was a lot of negativity without much argument coming my way, at least by some. But the last series of post showed otherwise, so I retract this.

    BillT

    the objective moral obligation

    I can’t do much scrutinizing without knowing your justifications for this.
    What is objective for you? I suspect you use it in a special way.

    JAD

    Most of my justification is contained in 271.
    Naturalism being by abduction the metaphysics that fits best, the findings of science. But I’ll expand on this a bit later.

    Tom,

    your points on the value of anecdotal evidence in 287 should be answered by this quote and other parts from my 267:

    ‘In all forms of anecdotal evidence, its reliability by objective independent assessment may be in doubt.’

    Of course the value of anecdotal evidence is not really important when mentioning there being a table in my neighbours house. (see for this my 271) but in the case of the existence of God or miracles, or maybe more important for you, if someone would claim the existence of Shiva, Zeus, elves or Ctulhu, if the claim is based on strong justifications or just anecdotal evidence, becomes very important. Even for you.

    I’ll get back to you all later.

    Melissa, also to your points. I already read Feser once. I will read it again, but on my first impression his argument is important for people who are themselves Thomists. I of course am not, but many Christians ( a.o. William Lane Craig) aren’t Thomists also.

    Kalaam argument:
    Must there be a first cause? Why? Why not cyclical or from nothing, as argued by some physicists.
    If the universe must have a cause, then why doesn’t God need a cause? One can claim all sorts of things on God, but that’s just what they are, claims, nothing more. There is no logical reason why not everything should be caused, also God. Or if God is possible without cause, then why not the universe? Even if there would have been something which caused the universe, even then there is no reason this would have to be nothing else but the Christian God.

    You are right, this argument is not strong.

    I’ll look at the others.

    On another thread I made a comment on slavery. I must say, some reactions are a bit unexpected and strange. 🙂

  273. dirkvg,

    I will read it again, but on my first impression his argument is important for people who are themselves Thomists. I of course am not, but many Christians ( a.o. William Lane Craig) aren’t Thomists also.

    But it gives an answer to the dilemma you posed and if you wish to continue to pose your dilemma as a serious objection then you need to show how he goes wrong or why Thomism is wrong, not just say that you and others don’t agree with him. In my opinion you can’t get a robust moral realism or scientific realism without incorporating natures and natural ends into your metaphysics.

    Must there be a first cause? Why? Why not cyclical or from nothing, as argued by some physicists.
    If the universe must have a cause, then why doesn’t God need a cause? One can claim all sorts of things on God, but that’s just what they are, claims, nothing more. There is no logical reason why not everything should be caused, also God. Or if God is possible without cause, then why not the universe? Even if there would have been something which caused the universe, even then there is no reason this would have to be nothing else but the Christian God.

    All your objections have been thoroughly answered by many other people. You should be aware that the physicists “nothing” is not nothing. If you want to be consistent then contingent things need a cause, of course it’s very difficult to be a consistent naturalist (I would argue it is impossible). Once God is established then there are other arguments to show that God is consistent with the revelation in the bible. Couple this with historical and existential claims of the bibles truth and you have very real reasons for thinking that Christianity is true.

  274. If the universe must have a cause, then why doesn’t God need a cause?

    Better get to reading that Feser book again. As you already noted, you don’t need to be a Thomist to have a valid argument so keep that in mind.

    One can claim all sorts of things on God, but that’s just what they are, claims, nothing more.

    Not true. I cannot claim that God is a lesser being and have it be true.

  275. Short answer: because the universe began to exist, and nothing begins to exist without a cause of its existence. God is without beginning. God is understood (posited to be, if you insist) self-existent; the universe is neither understood to be self-existent, nor can it reasonably be posited to be so.

  276. What is objective for you? I suspect you use it in a special way.

    No special way whatsoever. Objective as opposed to subjective.

    The question at hand is why hitting people is wrong.

    There is only one answer to this question that I can see and that is the one I provided. Because it would violate the objective moral obligation I have towards others not to harm them. Without that objective moral obligation I can see no reason why I shouldn’t hit people. And please the operative issue is why. It’s asked as a hypothetical.

  277. ‘ because the universe began to exist, and nothing begins to exist without a cause of its existence.’

    so then also God

    ‘If you want to be consistent then contingent things need a cause,’

    if you believe in causality then your God must have a cause

    ‘God is without beginning. God is understood (posited to be, if you insist) self-existent; ‘

    by you and other religious believers, but that doesn’t make it so. These are just claims.

    It is not that because science has for certan things no answer (yet or maybe never) that the answer must be God

    It is perfectly conceivable that a less than perfect Being, or an evil Being could have created the universe or Shiva or …

    ‘All your objections have been thoroughly answered by many other people.’

    and their answers rejected as insufficient

    It is perfectly conceivable that a less than perfect Being, or an evil Being could have created the universe or Shiva or …

    you are just projecting your own suppositions as the answer to an open question

    a Hindu could react in the same way

    you have no valid argument there

    you can claim these thing but without proof

    this argument leads nowhere

    because all points of yours can be countered

  278. Is this guy for real or just a troll? Because this is not a dialog but an insult to any rational person.

  279. Agreed. It’s like trying to talk calculus with a 5th grader who insists you don’t know anything about the subject.

  280. Dirkvg,

    If you don’t wish to think for yourself or educate yourself and intend on continuing to limit your responses to posting the most inane atheist memes, there is little we can do to further the “discussion”.

  281. OK,

    I’ll start again and do it more slowly:

    – I guess we all agree that our known universe started with the Big Bang.

    – What came before the Big Bang, we don’t know.

    We can make some suppositions:

    a thing or state of the naturalist kind:
    – a eternal state of energy in which (as according to Krauss and Stenger) fluctuations can give rise to universes
    – an uncaused quantum event (some quatum physicists suppose this is possible)
    – a cyclical universe
    – …

    a thing, state or being of the supernatural kind:
    – God
    – Shiva
    – a demon
    – …

    If we want to prove by argument the existence of X, we can’t of course presuppose the existence of X.

    Now in the case of the Big Bang, we have no idea what came before, and we have no idea how to find out. (As yet of course)

    So there are a number of suppositions we can make, but there is no way to determine which one it is.

    Since we can’t determine which one it is, we can’t determine that it is God or Shiva or a quantum fluctuation or ….

    And we can’t presuppose God’s existence, because that’s just the X we want to prove.

    I don’t have to disprove God’s existence on this argument, I just have to show that there could be other explanations and that we have no way to decide which is the correct one.

    Conclusion: this argument doesn’t prove the existence of God.

    Unless you have made the discovery of the century and have found a way to look behind the Big Bang. But I think I’m on the save side in thinking you haven’t.

    Shall we go to the next one?

    Calculus with a 5th grader 🙂 ? Inane atheist memes? 🙂 You’re a real jokers SteveK and Melissa

  282. BillT

    Without that objective moral obligation I can see no reason why I shouldn’t hit people.

    It’s like traffic rules: if you think it would be all right to start banging in to other cars with your car, then you wouldn’t get anywhere. So you follow the traffic rules and everyone drives safely to their destination.

    Because of ages of practice, we arrived at a set of rules that allow traffic to run well, and with a few variations, quite a few rules are adopted in most countries.

    One could make the same reasoning for a number of moral rules. If everyone would start hitting people, society would be impossible. So if you want society to exist, this gives a good reason why not to hit people.

    But why you think you have that ‘objective moral obligation’, is still unclear to me.

  283. @Dirkvg:

    I’ll start again and do it more slowly:

    Let me spell it out for you, reaaaaally sloooowly, so that even you can grok it: Y-o-u h-a-v-e n-o i-d-e-a w-h-a-t y-o-u a-r-e t-a-l-k-i-n-g a-b-o-u-t.

  284. You’re a real jokers SteveK and Melissa

    It would be a little less tragic if we were.

    I don’t have to disprove God’s existence on this argument, I just have to show that there could be other explanations and that we have no way to decide which is the correct one.

    Are any of your proposed naturalist pre-big bang states necessary rather than contingent? Are they pure act, rather than a composite of act and potency? If not they are ruled out as ultimate explanations, not to mention that what came before the Big Bang is irrelevant to Aquinas arguments and indeed the Kalam.

    Further more do you know the difference between God (according to classical theism) and Shiva and a demon. If not, then you better do more reading and a bit less parroting.

  285. Dirkvg, your comments here show a repeated concern for what you don’t have to do in the context of this argument. You say that because we haven’t proved God, you don’t have to … etc.

    Have you thought about looking at it from the other perspective: what you really might want to do?

    God is good. He really is! To know him is good, now and for as long as he remains good, which (since his unchanging and eternal) forever! Why would you not want to investigate his existence, rather than constantly taking the stand that someone has to prove him to you?

    We know there’s no proof for God that commands every reasonable person’s assent. We also know that, lacking that kind of proof, still there is every rational reason to believe in his reality, for those who are willing to open themselves up to him.

    Open up. Please. For your sake.

  286. Melissa

    You missed the point.

    The point being:

    Now in the case of the Big Bang, we have no idea what came before, and we have no idea how to find out. (As yet of course)

    So there are a number of suppositions we can make, but there is no way to determine which one it is.

    Since we can’t determine which one it is, we can’t determine that it is God or Shiva or a quantum fluctuation or ….

    So contingent or not , … have got nothing to do with it. If you are unable to understand this then I can see why you tend to accept such arguments as the first cause argument, as convincing.

    The difference between God and … also has got nothing to do with my argument.

    The point of my argument is the impossibility of having any knowledge on the state of the situation before the big Bang. Your post doesn’t change that at all.

    I thought you had other, according to you, strong arguments. But I wonder that if you can’ t understand this counterargument, you will understand the counterarguments to the others. I’m always willing to try.

    But on the other hand maybe I explained it a bit more clearly this time.

    Insulting me just shows your frustration in coming up with a decent counterargument.

  287. Tom (and also Melissa),

    I appreciate your concern.

    But I have investigated and found no strong justification for belief.
    In fact I was once a catholic but left the faith after investigating it and other beliefs. And Melissa, for your info, I also investigated a.o. Hinduism.

    The arguments offered me here for belief, are also lacking in justification.

    I understand , but do not condone , the frustration of some, but nobody can reproach me that I try to base my life and beliefs on rational reasons and not on illusions. You also write about rational reasons, but so far I haven’t seen any that are justified.

  288. Melissa

    a little aside on Kalam argument:

    this argument also supposes certain points that would be situated before the Big Bang, so here my argument also succeeds.

  289. Tom

    Have you thought about looking at it from the other perspective: what you really might want to do?

    I like to live my life in truth, even if it is not always easy. And I find it a pithy that other people can’t do this also.

  290. @Dirkvg:

    arguments please, otherwise this is just an insult

    I couldn’t care less that you think is an “insult”; and I couldn’t care less, because you are not here to present arguments — you have none — but to score points.

    It just is the case that you *demonstrably* have no idea what you are talking of and yet you go about prancing your ignorance and labelling others as a jokers, when the joke here is on you; you are a poseur, and an intellectually dishonest one, as your mine-quoting of the Catholic Encyclopedia showed (no this is not an insult, but the truth).

    I have little inclination to waste my time with you; but just to give you a taste, I will humor you just this once.

    What came before the Big Bang, we don’t know.

    I presume this is a reference to the Kalam. Ok, what the Kalam purports to prove is that the universe had an absolute beginning; beginning here means beginning *of* time and space, so there is simply no temporal *before*. There is, or there is if the metaphysical assumptions of the Kalam are correct, a causal be*cause* but that is a different kettle of fish. To then go on listing alternatives like “eternal state”, “quantum fluctuations”, etc. is to simply have no idea what the argument is and how one goes about refuting it.

    So there are a number of suppositions we can make, but there is no way to determine which one it is.

    That is precisely what the Kalam, or more precisely, the conceptual analysis part of the argument, sets about to do; to prove that the cause of the Universe must have certain properties X, Y, etc. that no naturalist cause (e.g. the ones you listed) can have, not even in principle; properties that one commonly attributes to a Creator, which is what everyone understands by God.

    Wow. You have absolutely no idea what the argument is, and yet you confindently pronounce that you a have a killer refutation. Just wow.

    Conclusion: this argument doesn’t prove the existence of God.

    The only conclusion is that you have absolutely no idea what the Kalam is, or even how to go about refuting it.

    note: I think the Kalam ultimately works, but it does not prove that much; there are much better arguments. So even if it were found to be unsound, it would not rob me of my peace of mind.

  291. Rodriguez

    you missed the point

    see also my 318 and 320

    The point is that it is impossible to determine the truth of arguments such as the Kalam, and others. An with truth, I mean truth in reality, not that they are logically valid.

    And therefore that it is not possible to prove the existence of God based on this.

    and an intellectually dishonest one, as your mine-quoting of the Catholic Encyclopedia showed (no this is not an insult, but the truth).

    If the fact that on the subject of faith, I quote the Catholic encyclopedia on this very subject, and in doing so I state quite clearly the origin of my quote: the encyclopedia, if this is intellectually dishonest to you, then you have no idea what intellectual honesty means.

    People who call others intellectual dishonest and at the same time have no problem throwing insults around, there must be a word for that.

  292. Rodrigues

    That is precisely what the Kalam, or more precisely, the conceptual analysis part of the argument, sets about to do; to prove that the cause of the Universe must have certain properties X, Y, etc. that no naturalist cause (e.g. the ones you listed) can have, not even in principle; properties that one commonly attributes to a Creator, which is what everyone understands by God.

    If you would have read my post correctly then you would have noticed it also treats supernatural causes. It’s easy to miss the point if one sees only what one wants to see.

  293. It’s like traffic rules: if you think it would be all right to start banging in to other cars with your car, then you wouldn’t get anywhere. So you follow the traffic rules and everyone drives safely to their destination.

    That somehow you do not understand that the “objective moral obligation” that I described is an “ought” and the above which you described is an “is” falls right in line with my expectations. You failed to tell why I should act and instead told me what would happen if I do act. (Hint: Who has the right to tell me I want to “get anywhere”.)

  294. @Dirkvg:

    The point is that it is impossible to determine the truth of arguments such as the Kalam, and others. An with truth, I mean truth in reality, not that they are logically valid.

    Yes, you very conveniently assert this without giving a *single* argument for it; since you demonstrably do not understand the Kalam, your assertions are worthless. If the Kalam is not logically valid, then you have to show what is the logical misstep or the equivocation. If the Kalam is logically valid (which you seem to concede), then it is incumbent upon you to say which premise is wrong if you wish to refute it; but of course, since you demonstrably do not understand the argument, that is what we will never hear from you, outside of vague baseless claims and whining, all the while piling insult upon insult on your interlocutors. Furthermore, if “it is impossible to determine the truth of arguments such as the Kalam”, then it is impossible to argue for the truth of whether the Big Bang was caused by a quantum fluctuation, whether cyclic universes or multiverse scenarios are possible, etc. which of course you deny. IOW, “it is impossible” just when it suits your case.

    If the fact that on the subject of faith, I quote the Catholic encyclopedia on this very subject, and in doing so I state quite clearly the origin of my quote: the encyclopedia, if this is intellectually dishonest to you, then you have no idea what intellectual honesty means.

    I know very well what it means; and intellectual dishonesty is what you demonstrated. What you did was mine-quote out of all context and without the least tincture of understanding of what you quoted.

    If you would have read my post correctly then you would have noticed it also treats supernatural causes. It’s easy to miss the point if one sees only what one wants to see.

    Giggle; you really haven’t got the least self-awareness or a sense of irony do you? But if you keep repeating this to yourself, you might as well believe it. Honestly, I have no intentions of furthering an impossible discussion with an ineducable ignoramus — and this is not an insult, but a simple description of reality.

  295. Rodrigues

    There is a fundamental difference between an argument being logically valid or unvalid and it being true in reality. An argument can be perfectly valid on a logical basis but having nothing to do with the real world.

    This is what I am writing about. You show that you have no idea what this means.

    It’s basic intellectual knowledge.

    As I wrote to Melissa:

    If you are unable to understand this then I can see why you tend to accept such arguments as convincing.

  296. @Dirkvg:

    There is a fundamental difference between an argument being logically valid or unvalid and it being true in reality. An argument can be perfectly valid on a logical basis but having nothing to do with the real world.

    Do you read what people write or just spout the first thing that comes to mind? Are you stupid? Or just feigning to be one?

    You conveniently step aside all issues I raised but one; as for that, I will quote myself:

    If the Kalam is not logically valid, then you have to show what is the logical misstep or the equivocation. If the Kalam is logically valid (which you seem to concede), then it is incumbent upon you to say which premise is wrong if you wish to refute it;

    If the Kalam is not “true in reality”, since you seem to concede that it is logically valid (no logical misstep, no equivocations, etc.), then the only possibility left is that some premise is wrong, since it is a deductive argument.

    Stop parroting cliches, or projecting your ignorant misunderstandings on others, and tackle the argument — but of course, to do that, you would actually need to *understand* it, which is a real tall order.

  297. Dirkvg,

    I have it because I have a God who can be and is an objective law giver. An objective moral obligation comes from and can only come from an objective law giver. Without it you have nothing but a subjective personal opinion about what is right (see your; “get anywhere”). With it you have an objective standard that is applicable to everyone.

    Further to its objectivity, it is an obligation because the rest of mankind, to whom I am obligated, is such because they are “created in God’s image”. We are all bound together in that obligation because and only because of that shared creation. Without that, I have no responsibility to anyone for any action I might decide to take. (As a corollary you have the “beasts of the field” who’s only responsibility is to eat anyone they can in order to survive.)

    So in summary, either you have ab objective standard applicable to everyone or you have a subjective standard that people can ignore at will. And you either have an obligation to others of you are just another of the “beasts of the field”. The only way you can have the former of these rather than the later is to have a God within whom they meet.

  298. Dirkvg,

    There is a fundamental difference between an argument being logically valid or unvalid and it being true in reality. An argument can be perfectly valid on a logical basis but having nothing to do with the real world.

    That is why you look at the premises. If the premises are true (reflect reality) then the argument is sound and the conclusion is inescapable.

    You’re out of your depth and you don’t even realise it. Please stop telling us about how rational you are … you don’t even know how to correctly apply critical thinking.

    And no I didn’t miss your point, your point is irrelevant to the arguments, as I have tried repeatedly to show you, but you just refuse to bother trying to understand the arguments that you say fail.

    … and we are frustrated because you continue to carry on about rational thinking but have absolutely no idea of how to critically appraise an argument. You should be embarrassed by what you have posted here.

  299. Melissa

    That is why you look at the premises. If the premises are true (reflect reality) then the argument is sound and the conclusion is inescapable.

    Classical argument
    Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
    The universe has a beginning of its existence;
    Therefore:
    The universe has a cause of its existence.

    Because of the nature of the Big Bang we are unable to acertain the truth of the premisses of the argument.

    I gave possible alternatives in a previous post.

    Or do you have a magical instrument that does the trick 🙂

    And yes I know there are other versions, but they give the same problem.

    I hope you understand it now.

  300. Melissa

    I was going to discuss in depth a number of replies to some other posts of mine a.o. 271

    but since the growing irrationality and insults from Christians at my adress, I’ll limit myself to the following:

    – science and it’s core findings are proven in an overwhelming manner

    – religion and it’s claims (miracles, the existence of supernatural beings, …) have only weak or no evidence

    so the choice for someone who wants to be rational and coherent is clear

    – naturalism is the metaphysics that fits science the best based on the justification by abductive reasoning, which I also explained in my 271

  301. @Dirkvg:

    but since the growing irrationality and insults from Christians at my adress, I’ll limit myself to the following:

    This is ridiculous; you are like the Black Knight retorting “It’s just a flesh wound.”

    (warning: too much tomato juice on the clip)

  302. Rodrigues

    if this was a race in trying to understand the argument then Melissa with her:

    ‘That is why you look at the premises. If the premises are true (reflect reality) then the argument is sound and the conclusion is inescapable.’

    is way ahead of you. But will she reach the end with the help of my 332?

  303. Actually, Dirkvg, the best physics out there says that the universe had a beginning, even if the universe we observe is part of a vast multiverse, and even if its beginning was much, much longer ago than the 13+ billion years ago that ours came into being. And that is sufficient to establish premiss 2. (There are also philosophical arguments for premiss 2, but I don’t think you care much for those, regardless of their validity.)

    As for premiss 1, either the universe/multiverse had a cause for its beginning or it didn’t. A causeless beginning from pure nothing is impossible to conceive and extremely implausible.

    I hate that I have to resort to placing a qualifier on “nothing,” but in light of Krauss’s and Hawking’s recent confusions, I must. They say that the universe could have come into being from “nothing,” where “nothing” is something: physical laws operating in some state of potentiality, at least.

    Such a state of potentiality is not separate from physical reality, but rather an aspect of it (today) or else (long ago) the physical cause of the current physical phenomena.

    And that state of potentiality either had a beginning or it did not. As I understand it (though I’m way out of my field and open to correction) the theorems that show that the universe/multiverse could not have existed eternally in the past, also show that such a state of potentiality could not have existed eternally in the past.

    So again, as I understand it, science shows it had to have had a beginning; and if it had a beginning, it either had a cause or it did not. A causeless beginning-to-be is impossible to conceive and highly implausible.

    That’s a very quick and rough analysis of the argument’s premisses. Your turn: do you have an informed response, or will you resort to, “well, we just can’t know”?

  304. And Dirkvg, if you think G. Rodrigues has trouble understanding these things, you underestimate him very, very badly.

    He’s calling on you to tackle the argument. So is Melissa. So are BillT and others. So am I. (I keep saying I’m going to pull out of discourse with you, since it’s so unproductive, but I can’t help myself sometimes.)

  305. Tom,

    You don’t get it.

    You try to justify one option while the argument which I present, states that we can’t, based on proof , decide between all the options possible. Because we can’t go behind the Big Bang.
    This argument is not adressed at all in your post.

    Two remarks on your post:

    – Even if it were true, then as such it doesn’t prove the existence of God. Just that there was a cause. And the proof of the existence of God is what this discussion is about.
    The claim that with the argument from first cause, or the Kalam argument, one can prove the existence of God, is still unproven.
    So if Melissa thinks that she has a case for the existence of God , she will have to present other and better arguments.

    – you try to justify your claim based on science. And while recognizing your ‘I’m way out of my field ‘, you still accuse two experts in the field, Krauss and Hawking, of being confused. Very funny.

    I don’t know Rodrigues, only that he’s a guy who likes to insult people and still doesn’t understand my argument.

  306. @Dirkvg:

    I don’t know Rodrigues, only that he’s a guy who likes to insult people and still doesn’t understand my argument.

    Ah, the misunderstood victim… Your arguments are so awesomely brilliant that none of us can understand them. I do not understand you; Tom does “not get it” (#338), Melissa, while still “way ahead of me”, has still not “reached the end” (#335), Melissa and SteveK are jokers (#312), it became “tedious” to keep correcting JAD, because he did not understood either (#293), etc. and etc.

    Face it, we are all incorrigible dumbasses and you are just wasting your time with us. It is a “pithy” (sic.), but we cannot do what you can do (#321). Seemingly, all we can do is “insult you”. I insulted you (#338); Tom insulted you (#278); Melissa insulted you (#318). It is the “growing irrationality and insults from Christians” (#333) epidemic, I suppose

  307. Dirkvg,

    But will she reach the end with the help of my 332?

    Let’s look at your 332 shall we?

    Because of the nature of the Big Bang we are unable to acertain the truth of the premisses of the argument.

    Once again the nature of the Big Bang is irrelevant to the Kalam. Arguments are given against the possibility of an infinite chain of temperol causes, that is what you need to tackle, not the question of what physical state might or might not have preceded the Big Bang.

    And yes I know there are other versions, but they give the same problem

    How does Aquinas argument for a first cause that begins not from the existence of the universe but the existance of any one of the myriad of material substances fall prey to your objection?

    So we see that what you think should make us see reason, just displays that you do not know what you are arguing against.

    – Even if it were true, then as such it doesn’t prove the existence of God. Just that there was a cause. And the proof of the existence of God is what this discussion is about.

    You wrote similar to this once before and I answered it before but I’ll respond again in the hope you might not raise this again as if it is an unseeded objection. Aquinas ways show that there must be a cause, but also what is required for something (in the loose sense of the word) to be a first cause. God as revealed by natural theology is consistent with God as revealed in the scriptures. Historical enquiry gives further evidence in support of the Christian revelation and the Christian response to existential questions offers further credence to their truth. Coupled with my own personal experience, I am quite confident in the reasonableness of Christian faith.

    naturalism is the metaphysics that fits science the best based on the justification by abductive reasoning

    No it is not. If our concepts exist only in our minds then what we describe in our science are things that exist in our minds, not in reality. Although in theory some scientists will say there are no formal or final causes in nature, in practice they presuppose these things in their everyday work, I know I used these concepts in my research (although without necessarily understanding this was what I was doing) without even a second thought. If our concepts only reflect what exists in our minds and not out there, why is science so successful?

    It is not a choice of either science or Christianity.

    so the choice for someone who wants to be rational and coherent is clear

    … and you have kindly provided us with the example of how not to go about it.

  308. Melissa

    that ‘no’ on the other thread was not very friendly

    maybe I’m not that friendly to Tom, but he is already unfriendly for a long time

    I had planned to explain my argument more fully and answer your remarks, just give me some time

    but if your mind is set on not listening to me, let me know, I hate to waste my time

  309. Melissa

    just a quick remark to your:

    ‘ If our concepts exist only in our minds then what we describe in our science are things that exist in our minds, not in reality. ‘

    our concepts do correspond more or less to reality, because of two reasons:

    1) evolution:

    the persistence of uncountable species of living beings

    survival is only possible because all species of animals, including human beings, perceive a real world, not a suppositious fanciful reality, but the real thing in itself

    If the concepts wouldn’t have corresponded to reality, we would have been extinct

    would you, on the idea that gravity exists only in your mind, step out of a window on the tenth floor? I hope not.

    2) subjective mental experience is dependent on bodily features that
    are mind-independent
    our sense organs are part of that reality

  310. Dirkvg, please don’t misunderstand: my “unfriendliness” is directed toward one thing in particular, and one thing only: your confident assertions concerning that which you know little.

    And I would hope that if and when you recognized that trait in yourself, you would also regard it in negatively. I would hope that you would want to root it completely. In other words, I think that if you actually saw it in yourself, you would be unfriendly toward it, too.

    If I were doing the same and someone pointed it out to me (which has happened often!) I would consider that the work of a friend, helping me to become who and what I want to be.

  311. Tom

    you hide your unwillingness to argue on a rational level, on the arguments that matter, with a facade of ‘I am a friendly man who just tries to point out the failings of others.

    it seems just one of the several tactics you use to try to get the better hand of your opponent

    and avoiding the argument in depth

    I checked and the first time you reacted to a post of mine it was already with 14 sucker punch questions. Whose only purpose could have been to overwhelm the atheist, not with reasoned arguments on the question at hand, but with a lot of fireworks to scare him off. See: ‘Jerry Coyne’s witch…’ your post 62.

    Maybe you succeed in convincing yourself that you act as a friend. But then that’s probably the best trick in your book.

  312. @Dirkvg:

    Maybe you succeed in convincing yourself that you act as a friend. But then that’s probably the best trick in your book.

    Maybe you have not noticed but this blog is Tom’s blog. Maybe where you live it is a habit of barging into people’s houses and freely abuse the house owner, but in the civilized world it is considered rude and obnoxious.

    Since obviously you think you are *not* in a friend’s house, and since this is not *your* house but Tom’s, why don’t you get gracefully lost and save yourself the much deserved banishment? You can then go back to the infested swamp you troll and freely complain to anyone who will listen how every Christian commenter in “Thinking Christian” is irrational, insulting, and the other more hundred generous qualifiers you have piled on us throughout this thread and every other thread you have participated in.

  313. Dirk, the “sucker punch” questions (here were in response, as usual, to your confident assertions concerning matters of which you obviously knew almost nothing. It’s been the same all along.

    Though I would phrase it differently, I’m basically in agreement with G. Rodrigues’ latest comment.

  314. Correction: I was looking at the wrong comment there, Dirkvg. The first time I addressed you was here. Those were not “sucker punch” questions, by any stretch. They were expressly not intended to “overwhelm.” I introduced them with,

    II am about to enumerate fourteen questions and/or points of information relevant to your prior comments here. I do not expect you to answer them all. It’s up to you whether you answer any of them at all. My purpose in raising these questions is not to elicit your answers but to encourage you to slow down a bit and recognize where you stand with relation to these kinds of questions.

    The reason I’m doing this is because I’m seeing you express considerable confidence in your philosophy, without seeing you express comparable background knowledge.

    Now again, the reason I’m pointing this out is not to put you down, but to encourage you to slow down a bit and recognize where you stand with relation to these kinds of questions.

    If I were you, I would see this as the kind of moment wherein I realize that I don’t know as much as I thought I knew. There’s nothing wrong with that, in itself. I have had many such moments in my writing life, especially on this blog. Where it goes wrong is if you or I act as if we know what we do not know. This is what I’d like to encourage you to reflect on carefully.

    So with that as introduction: … .

    That’s not sucker-punching.

  315. Be advised that the reason for this is not because you disagree with me or anyone else here, or because you’ve raised arguments we don’t want to face. If you believe in empirical evidence, as I am sure you do, you’ll find plenty of evidence here that people who disagree and raise tough arguments are welcome, as long as their contribution is respectful and as long as there’s some sense of mutual listening, give-and-take, and other related signs of productive discussion. That’s what’s been missing from your participation, and it’s the reason for ending it now.

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