The Final Answer To All Theistic Arguments?

The Final Answer To All Theistic Arguments?

Geoff left a comment yesterday pointing us to what he called “a simple presentation explaining why all of these arguments are ultimately unconvincing to most atheists.” The video, “Putting faith in its place,” represents itself as a kind of ultimate answer to all theistic arguments. It’s an example of the kind of thing that both perplexes and grieves me.

Overview of the Video

It begins with a logical presentation of what we can or cannot know about that for which we have no direct evidence, drawing the sensible conclusion that where we have no evidence, all we can know for sure is that logical impossibilities are logically impossible. The spiritual world, it says, is physically inaccessible to us, so all we can know about it is what cannot be true of it: that it cannot contain or include that which is logically impossible. “Logic alone cannot show that possible [divine] beings exist without evidence…. measurable, verifiable evidence.”

Therefore, says the video, every logical argument for the existence of God is fallacious, so then all one needs to do in each case is identify the fallacy. So for example, William Lane Craig’s argument leading to the necessity of a changeless disembodied mind as Creator must be wrong, and in this case the error is that “a changeless mind is by definition non-functioning.” Craig’s conclusion is self-contradictory and logically impossible.

Then it moves into discussion of “proving God with logic,” and says that 100 invalid arguments don’t accumulate into one valid one. But when those who take them as true disparage people by saying, “You’re worthless, you’re immoral, your lives are unlivable, I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, you’re human garbage, non believers are human rubbish, join our religion of love and peace or go to hell!” those they try to oppress should be expected to try to refute such arguments.

So when we Christians try to pressure others into saying grace before a meal, one appropriate response might be, “Please, either show your god exists or stop nagging.” Don’t push your beliefs on me, in other words. “You can’t pester and bully people and then hide behind faith when you’re challenged on your behavior,” and “resorting to emotional blackmail is a dishonest tactic.”

Believers in God particular stumble over defining the deity: there’s no evidence for any attribute for their god. If your definition includes, “God is non-physical,” then immediately you have a God in mind that “by definition cannot be quantified, tested, perceived, even in principle.” If God (or a god) dropped a message from the moon, the most we could conclude is that something was going on that involved some “power, intelligence or technology unknown in number and unknown in its nature,” or it could be something like a hallucination. Coming to the truth of the matter is beyond the reach of our limited brains.

Even if there were some intelligence responsible for creating the universe, we could not know anything about its nature, its number, or whether it was interested in humans or could communicate. Anything that “can’t be reliably examined/quantified even in principle” is a “non-scientific concept” unsupported by logic or evidence.

So we who accept such a God have “no grounds for bullying or ostracizing” those who disagree. They’ll keep popping holes in our fallacious arguments until we’ve outgrown our need for everyone to agree with us.

In the end “It’s not whether we believe in gods but how we treat each other that determines our character.”

Response to the Video

So goes the statement in the video. What shall we make of this?

First, to the extent that Christians (or those who claim to be Christians) attack those who disagree with them as indicated in the fourth paragraph (see above), I am very grieved about this. I am aware that it happens. I hate it, and I grieve it.

Yet there is such a thing as standing against ideas and for ideas; standing against falsehood and for truth. And those who say, “stop pushing your beliefs on me!” are themselves pushing a belief. Christians have every right and duty to speak our beliefs. The point is to do it in love and with respect.

I am further grieved and perplexed at the fallacies contained in this supposed comprehensive answer all fallacious beliefs in God. Is a changeless mind by definition non-functioning? Sure, if you define it a certain way, a way that has nothing to do with Christian belief. The Christian conception of God is that he is changeless in his being-ness, in his attributes and character; not that he is frozen immobile and incapable of doing anything. The video effectively proves that a certain kind of God doesn’t exist: a God that nobody has ever thought about believing in. It has no relevance to any God that anybody (Christians, at least) actually thinks might exist. It’s a straw man. But it’s supposed to represent the way any argument for God is fallacious.

It’s such an obvious error, it causes me to wonder if we believers have done such a poor job of communicating what we actually believe! But it’s hard to imagine that we’ve let something as basic as that go unstated.

The argument goes on scientistically to presume that if we cannot detect a god by physical means, then we can say nothing about it/him/her/them. Even if some great event happened by which something seemed to be communicating to us as a God would do, we could not trust our brains to conclude truly what really is behind those phenomena.

(It’s not at all clear how the author of the video thinks we can believe anything at all, even what we know through scientific means, given his absolute skepticism regarding how we should interpret putative messages from God. If aliens or hallucinations could be responsible for such messages, the same could be responsible for everything we believe. Brain in a vat, anyone?)

I suppose there is some truth in the idea that our own research and evidences can’t lead us to a correct and reliable view of God. If it were entirely up to us to investigate and conclude, then we would be incapable. But that would be to say that if there is some God, then that God must be incapable of communicating reliably to us. What a pathetic thing this god would be, whose skills are not up to those of the average human being. It cannot get a message across. I can get on the phone and say, “Hello, this is Tom,” and I can communicate that message successfully. But this video says God isn’t up to such a task.

This view that discovering the truth about God is entirely up to us, and that God has nothing to offer in the exchange, has a name: pride. It is the first cardinal sin, the foundation of all sin. It is saying, “God, thanks but no thanks, you have nothing for me, it’s all on my shoulders.”

Christians don’t believe in a deaf-mute God, any more than we believer in the kind of changeless God the video spoke of earlier. We believe God can communicate, and that he has done so.

So in summary, when Geoff offers this as an example of why non-believers are not impressed with arguments for God, I respond thus: Christians most assuredly ought not to be offensive. Our persuasion ought not to be to meet some inner need to make everyone agree with us. It ought to be an expression of love and truth, the sharing of good news about real life. That is my intent and my goal, and I hope I attain to it to some extent.

But the video’s arguments against Christian arguments are otherwise a complete failure, because they argue against a straw man, a god that nobody believes in and is irrelevant. The God in whom Christians believe is able to make himself known, and for those who will look and listen, he has done so.


118 thoughts on “The Final Answer To All Theistic Arguments?

  1. It seems to me that the view you attack suffers from two kinds of fault.

    1. It seems not to engage with the best that Christian theology has to offer. Thomas, for instance, argued that God, though strictly changeless, could still will the world into being, and in that single, changeless act of will could still provide for divine action upon various moments of time. How so? God had perfect foreknowledge of all that would happen, and so could structure his single, changeless creative act of will so that it responded as He saw best to time and its contents.

    One cannot simply make a little jab at Christian theology and expect it to fall to the ground. The objections have been considered and reconsidered. Replies have been formulated over 2 millenia; and to simply ignore those displays what looks to be a willful ignorance.

    The critic of Christianity must be well-versed in Christian theology if he is to have any hope of success; and most are not.

    2. The critic that Tom takes to task seems not to realize that theology has much in common with physics. Much that is posited by physics is not something that can itself be perceived. Examples: the Schrodinger wave function, and the curvature of space-time. These are theoretical posits made to bring sense of theory; and theoretical they will forever remain.

    Moreover, they are posits that are not accepted by all. Interpretations of quantum mechanics, for instance, abound. Some are deterministic; some indeterminstic. And the accounts they provide of the world and its basic constituents are quite dissimilar, though they of course do agree about the observables.

    In this regard, physics seems to be much like theology. Theology makes a number of theoretical posits that to its defenders seems necessary to make sense of the world. Reject these if you like. But do not assume that theology is fundamentally different in kind from science. It’s not. Nor is it inherently more irrational.

    Perhaps here we should also stress that theology attempts to make sense of much more of the world that does physics. It begins with a much wider sphere of experience. I mean to include here our moral experience, our sense that there is such a thing as right and wrong. When this experience is unfolded, it seems to me that right and wrong are “out there” in the world and thus not dependent upon us. But that point to the side, both theology and physics begin in experience but end in theoretical posits that outrun all possible experience.

  2. Yes, his first error is to talk about “inaccessible” space. From there he makes other statements, such as his definition of a changeless mind, which as you point out creates a straw man.

    Then, of course, you have the problem of showing that a logical proof actually proves anything. The key, as you point out, is that God reveals himself, which is outside the realm of logical proofs.

  3. Well said, Tom. It’s a head scratcher as to why someone would think this video addresses the God of Christianity. The more we talk with Geoff and others here, the more it becomes clear we are talking past one another.

  4. Bingo!!

    You wrote: It’s not at all clear, by the way, how the author of the video thinks we can believe anything at all, even what we know through scientific means, given his absolute skepticism regarding how we should interpret putative messages from God. If aliens could be responsible for such messages, they could be responsible for everything we believe. Brain in a vat, anyone?
    Exactly. You seem to want to KNOW things with certainty. That is a delusion, a chimera, a fantasy. Yes, you could be a brain in a vat. All knowledge is necessarily contingent.

    So the materialist, realist viewpoint – that there is a material world, that we are capable of perceiving some of the properties of this world, and that “if you take away all the atoms, there’s nothing left” is contingent. It’s falsifiable. On the other hand, it’s the most parsimonious explanation we have for our experiences, including our experience of others, and that’s why we provisionally adopt it. It’s falsifiable, but nothing in our experience so far has falsified it.

    I keep running across this kind of extreme dichotomy between certainty and total unpredictable chaos. (If this is a straw man, I apologize – blame your fellow believers.) Nothing in our experience warrants this. Different hypotheses about the world are confirmed to different degrees, and we treat them accordingly.

    Franklin Mason seems to adopt this dichotomous position. Concepts like the curvature of space time are, he says,

    theoretical posits made to bring sense of theory; and theoretical they will forever remain.

    But this is nonsense. Such things are hypotheses brought forth to explain the data, the real observations of the world. They may become scientific theories (and please don’t trot out that pathetic equivocation about “just a theory” – you’re intelligent people, you know that what scientists mean by the word), or they may be falsified by new data. And the mathematical constructs that we use to try to make sense of the physics are not merely esoteric and speculative things: the microelectronic components of the computer on which you are reading this text were designed using systems which depend on the properties of subatomic phenomena, properties which are only comprehensible using what Franklin calls “theoretical posits”.

    I find it ironical that Tom winds up accusing atheists of “pride” (in the sense of “hubris” – there is plenty of good pride, too). It has always struck me as pure hubris that the religious seem to believe that certainty – non-contingent, non-falsifiable truth – is achievable, and that their beliefs constitute such truth. One of my favourite quotations by Richard Feynman is “We are trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible, because only in that way can we find progress.”

    Five hundred years ago, “everybody knew” that many kinds of madness were caused by demonic possession, by the intervention of supernatural forces on the soul. Today we understand most of the neurochemical factors involved in schizophrenia, and we can help sufferers using drugs, not exorcism. Demonic possession is an embarrassing and obsolete superstition; if someone uses it as an excuse for child abuse or neglect, we treat them as criminals. That is progress – not hubris.

  5. Geoff, you say,

    You seem to want to KNOW things with certainty.

    and

    It has always struck me as pure hubris that the religious seem to believe that certainty – non-contingent, non-falsifiable truth – is achievable, and that their beliefs constitute such truth.

    I don’t think you would (or should) object to wanting to know things with certainty. More appropriate would be an objection to arriving falsely (prematurely, perhaps) at a state of believing one has certainty.

    But the extreme skeptic position, the view that we could be a brain in a vat, is unnecessary and unsupportable. Knowledge can be knowledge without certainty. I know that my flight home today is scheduled for a certain time. My only basis for that knowledge is the meaningful arrangement of dark and light pixels on my computer screen. Could it be an elaborate hoax? I suppose so. Am I wrong then to say, “I know”? I think not.

    If we reach a condition of knowledge, then we “know,” even if that knowledge is not “certain” in the sense that no successful challenge against it could even be imagined. If we have warrant for our beliefs, and if our beliefs are true, then apart from certain few Gettier-type exceptions, we “know.”

    So to say that I “know” is not necessarily (as you have implied) the result of some neurotic need for certainty. You yourself cannot keep yourself from making knowledge statements: that computers are built on the basis of physical theorems, that “five hundred years ago, ‘everybody knew’ that many kinds of madness were caused by demonic possession,” but that “today we understand most of the neurochemical factors involved in schizophrenia;” and that “Demonic possession is an embarrassing and obsolete superstition.”

    I wouldn’t think of accusing you of making those statements because you have some philosophically or psychologically inappropriate “need to know,” such as you have implied of me and other Christians. I think the reason you made those statements is because you actually know (or think you know) they are true.

    Interestingly, that last (regarding possession) is not a conclusion of science, properly speaking. It is an extrapolation from certain scientific discoveries: that many forms of mental illness are ameliorated by other means. Science has not investigated every case, and there are many that have not been successfully treated. The extrapolation is justifiable only if one assumes materialism, but materialism is not a conclusion from science; it is a metaphysical position. You have jumped beyond science into matters of which it cannot speak with certainty, yet you use the language of knowing (“we understand” and “this is progress”) within a scientific framework, implying that it is through science that we know these things.

    You say, “All knowledge is necessarily contingent.” That’s a self-defeating statement, my friend. Need I spell it out?

    So with respect to Christian beliefs, in fact I know that Christian beliefs could be wrong. I don’t think they are wrong, and my confidence in that is so strong that I’m willing to stake my life on it, and to order all my actions and behaviors around it. Not because I have to have something to order my life around, but because there is something I strongly consider to be true, and it only makes sense to order my life around it.

    Is it pride to take that position? I’ve addressed that question recently in “The truth holds us.” I don’t know if you saw that one.

    I notice you are silent about just about everything else I said in this post, and more that Franklin added, concerning all the logical flaws in the video you presented to us.

    By the way, I don’t agree that the materialist explanation is the most parsimonious one we have for all of our experiences. Parsimonious it is, yes; but a comprehensive explanation it is not. It leaves out too much of what it means to be human: rationality, consciousness, the experience of free will, etc. And it certainly leaves out God’s revelation of himself.

  6. Geoff:

    Your last comments are precisely why you need to do a lot of homework: to remedy your ignorance and to rein in your pseudo-philosophical commitment to the self-defeating notion of scientism. That last unscientific commitment is something to which you appear to have a deep, deep emotional commitment. Let’s take Tom’s exposure of your absolutist views:

    “All knowledge is necessarily contingent.”

    Surely, you must now feel very embarrassed about asserting such a self-defeater so categorically… or do you still not get it? Just to make sure: is the knowledge you employ to support this claim also contingent? If so, you’re either a hypocrite for intentionally trying to slip in a fast one, or (more likely) simply not thinking things through. Point 1 (to Tom).

    But point 2 on this very same assertion reveals your ignorance about what science itself is about. Are you so ignorant of scientific findings as to permit yourself to make such a ridiculous claim in public?

    The following are discoveries of the modern empirical sciences. Please tell us all whether any of them might be altered (falsifiable) due to new scientific information becoming available: (1) a water molecule is composed of two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen; (2) the non-pathological human heart is a four-chambered organ for pumping blood throughout the body in a closed circulatory system that exchanges carbon dioxide waste gas with oxygen; (3) both the gravitational and electromagnetic forces are inversely proportional in strength to the square of the distance separating the bodies in question; (4) a non-pathological human being cannot jump unassisted 100 meters straight up into the air… and then land unassisted without severely injuring themselves; (5) electromagnetic radiation does not depend on a medium external to itself to propagate through space; (6) electromagnetic radiation refracts through or is absorbed completely by material media; (7) assuming no external influences or internal collapse, the planet Saturn is on-average less dense than water; (8) the period of a simple pendulum is not dependent on the mass of the weight; (9) atomic and nuclear-level entities have their energy levels quantized; etc. ad nauseum. I could go on, quite literally, for days expanding this list of non-contingent knowledge.

    And, surely you’re not about to claim that your own moralizing is also based upon contingent knowledge, are you? If it is, why are your being so categorical and pejorative in chasing your own straw man boogiemen of faith? Somehow, you seem to have an implicitly claim on a certain dispensation to grant you the “high” moral ground.

    You really don’t know what you’re talking about. After such and outrageously ignorant and self-defeating claim it is we who are fully justified in questioning your personal understanding of what a scientific theory is… not to mention what a hypothesis is, what counts as evidence, etc. We already know there is no need to convince ourselves of your philosophical and theological ignorance.

    Then, the rhetorical fallacy of trying to turn the tables is deliciously ironic: you claim “You seem to want to KNOW things with certainty. That is a delusion, a chimera, a fantasy.” Yeah, right… and of course, the characterization YOU seem to want [meaning: emotional basis] to IMPOSE with certainty. In fact, Geoff, it is you who clearly have a deeply-emotional but quite certain commitment to avoiding certainty like the plague.

    Aside from the obvious foolishness of this personal opinion, if you were in the least bit knowledgeable about the terrible errors of Descartes (which echo through the sheer nonsense of Bertrand Russell’s claims to our day with Guth, Dawkins, Singham, Stenger, Dennett who are more interested in the mighty dollar and popularity and truth), you might think twice: it is scientists (I know, because I am one by training, professional experience, and teaching experience… and I’m a formally-trained philosopher of nature) that demand certainty be confined in its expressions to the precision of mathematical formalisms as well as procedural and operational definitions.

    What utter nonsense! First, this vision itself is not mathematically expressible. Second (following upon the first), while it works well for the MES, to then claim such epistemological and hidden ontological reductionism upon all knowledge is unscientific and bad philosophizing. Third, vague generalities or reflective experience are deemed inadmissible when the very possibility of the MES operating depend on them: most axioms and presuppositions of how we view the world (meaning: universe) are quite general (say the first principles of non-contradiction and sufficient reason). Fourth, only a very limited number of people are seismologists, so the knowledge they produce must be believed, i.e., trusted; a larger group of people have actually experienced earthquakes but don’t understand them fully; ALL people know what motion is, but likely are not able to rigorously define what it is. Motion is NOT merely dx/dt: it is a species of change which is rigorously defined as the “reduction from potency to act.” This latter knowledge is quite general, but without it seismologist could not do their work—their likely ignorance of that knowledge notwithstanding. Fifth, a scientist who contends that only the “scientific methods” are appropriate for studying nature is making a statement about nature without employing those methods! It is impossible to know what one means by “science” (mediate intellectual knowledge obtained through demonstration) in any meaningful sense of the term without going back to a general reflective experience of knowing things scientifically. This is what you intentionally ignore to serve a personal purpose… or of which you are utter ignorant.

    So, buster, swallow the ignorance-based hubris and do a lot homework before torturing critical thinkers with arrogant errors—errors which animate your straw men and vain attempts to malign religious faith by misusing and misappropriating science to serve personal a priori, pseudo-philosophical, unscientific ideological commitments.

  7. Holo, I think most of us fail to live up to what Tom calls the Starbucks standard from time to time (I know I do), but you don’t even appear to be trying.

    One can simply explain where and why one disagrees with what another said without making pejorative comments like these:


    ….to remedy your ignorance and to rein in your pseudo-philosophical commitment to the self-defeating notion of scientism.

    Surely, you must now feel very embarrassed about asserting such a self-defeater so categorically… or do you still not get it?

    If so, you’re either a hypocrite for intentionally trying to slip in a fast one, or (more likely) simply not thinking things through.

    You really don’t know what you’re talking about. After such and outrageously ignorant and self-defeating claim….

    Aside from the obvious foolishness of this personal opinion….

    We already know there is no need to convince ourselves of your philosophical and theological ignorance.

    So, buster, swallow the ignorance-based hubris and do a lot homework before torturing critical thinkers with arrogant errors….

    That’s an awful lot of condescension for a single post (and this is representative of the majority of your posts).

    I think all of us skeptics would be happy to engage with and discuss your criticisms if you would present them in a more civil form.

  8. Let’s see David (and Geoff and Tony): if I made a list of the condescension and tone of each of your comments individually, I bet I would overwhelm Tom’s comments section. (Just take a look at Geoff’s immediately preceding comments.) With the possible exception of you (notwithstanding the weakness of your reasoning on morality), the vast majority of atheists are moral relativists… so what really is your point? Point 1.

    Point 2 is you’re being seriously disingenuous: even if we accept your criticisms as supposedly not hiding behind the rules, what about Tom’s, Charlie’s, Dave’s, SteveK’s responses? Each and every one of them has poured countless electrons into answering the very “criticisms” I raise, and yet–as I’ve concretely pointed out on so many occasions, they are met with fallacies (straw man, genetic, turning the table, etc.), hand-waving, misinterpretation, deflection, obfuscation, selective inattention, and crude imposition. You yourself reject all responses–and VERY crudely so because, after all, it’s Christians that are making the point… and yet now come crawling back with an appeal to emotion: “I think all of us skeptics would be happy to engage with and discuss your criticisms if you would present them in a more civil form.” Oh brother.

    Point 3: Perhaps you didn’t notice (I won’t analyze why you didn’t notice) that the tone I take is significantly more “civil” than what is accorded to people of faith (especially Christians) on atheist/secularist/skeptic sites. It’s not that we’re offended by skepticism–I for one welcome it… but not when it becomes a reason-destroying, self-immolating crutch.

    Is any of the above justification for strongly exposing your errors? Maybe not… but then we’d have to have an idea what ya’ll mean by “Starbucks standard”… because from where I’m standing it’s not what Tom means. (Appealing, when convenient, to Christian moral precepts and standards to deflect from the hypocrisy of atheists who rudely malign faith is rich!) AND, to counter Geoff, I wonder what “contingent knowledge” basis he’d make any moral claims against anyone at all.

    Stop the whining, David. We’ve seen enough of the errors, and then the moralizing to deflect from those errors. You’re not here to discuss but to pick a fight (to raise skepticism of anything at all to the level of idol worship), and now that you’ve got one it’s the Monty Python version of King Arthur’s “Run Away!!!” No, I’m not about to take your criticism at face value: the track record advises me to the contrary. Passion directed against error is a good thing. Condescension sprinkled for good measure is not. Granted. I have atheist issues I struggle with all the time to properly direct the passion. But then I’m appealing to something most atheists reject… most of the time out of hand. So, what really is served in discussing anything with you folks? Certainly not the truth…

  9. Thread police are always so … selective.

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-16026
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-15924
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-15953
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-15962
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-15972

    Listen, buster, I’m not going to read every author you cite just because you cite ‘em. If you want to advance an argument, and offer one or two authors whose works support your thesis, that’s fine. But when I make it clear that I’ve read Gilder, and that I now consider him to be a crackpot, you don’t get to invoke the Genetic Fallacy against me, because I haven’t made an argument to which the fallacy might apply. I’ve simply said that he’s a crackpot that I’d prefer not to read. Got it?

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-16026

    Right.

  10. Heya Geoff,

    Let me stress the point that I wished to make. Certain posits made within science – the wave-function, for instance – are in principle non-observable. We can observe only their effects. (In the case of the wave-function, the act of observation brings about its “collapse”, as is said, and thus bring into existence a certain particular state of affairs that before was a mere possibility.) It’s not that we haven’t built the right sort of device yet, a stronger microscope, say. The unobservability is in-principle. It cannot possibly be overcome. Observation brings about the eradication of the wave-function; attempt to observe it, and it no longer exists. Thus the wave-function is very unlike, say, the electron; the latter is perfectly observable (with a little aid of the appropriate scientific instrument anyway).

    This does make the wave-function speculative, in a sense. But this does not make belief in it non-scientific; anyway, it is not if we are to judge by the actual behavior of physicists.

    Now, the evidence of the senses does of course bear upon the wave-function. On the basis of that evidence, the wave-function was posited; and it is conceivable that future experience should be such that the wave-function becomes a less than plausible theoretical posit.

    Let me say here as well that there are other interpretations of the formalism of quantum-mechanics that eschew the wave function. (Many-worlds and the Bohm interpretation come to mind. Google if curious.) This should come as no real surprise. We have here pushed past the bounds of possible experience, and different interpretations are to be expected. But this has not deterred scientists. They know that theory here outruns experience, but they argue amongst themselves anyway about which is the best view. If they do this, why should we not do so? There’s no sense trying to be more Catholic then the Pope.

    I would say that any view of science must pass the test of quantum mechanics. Some hold that science cannot posit in principle unobservables. (This seems to be the view you propose, Geoff.) But this is factually false. Quantum physicists do it; and if they do, whey shouldn’t we?

    One last little point. Perhaps you will say that Christian theism isn’t at all like quantum mechanics in that it does’t really explain or predict anything, and that as a result it cannot be falsified. I would reject this. Here’s a concrete explanation, one that could be falsified: those who commit to the Christian world-view and act and think as it dictates become over time better, more compassionate, more truthful people. If this were not true, I for one would come to harbor serious doubts about the truth of Christianity.

  11. Yes, Charlie, since I’m frequently the subject of Holo’s commentaries I’m more conscious of them than those of others. Clearly Geoff could stand to take a chill pill too—though I’m not going to comment on or debate about who is or isn’t the worst offender in this regard. That would be counterproductive.

    And I don’t mean my comments on this topic as a personal attack on either Holo or Geoff–I’ve been more than a little snarky at times myself.


  12. Some hold that science cannot posit in principle unobservables. (This seems to be the view you propose, Geoff.) But this is factually false. Quantum physicists do it; and if they do, whey shouldn’t we?

    That which is unobservable may have observable effects. I think most of us religious skeptics are willing to entertain evidence for (based on observable effects of) an unobservable God.

    If Christian and only Christian faith healers went around the world laying hands on amputees and having the limb grow back in moments before the startled eyes of crowds, television cameras and scientists in a laboratory setting I’d be pretty willing to allow that Christianity has strong evidence going for it (that’s just one example of many I could have chosen).

    So, sure, we can allow for unobservables. But that which is both unobservable and has no observable effects (at least none explained as well and at least as parsimoniously by other hypotheses)?

    I don’t see, offhand, any good reason we should do more than consider them interesting speculations.


  13. Here’s a concrete explanation, one that could be falsified: those who commit to the Christian world-view and act and think as it dictates become over time better, more compassionate, more truthful people.

    That’s a good example of an “effect” which isn’t evidence for the Christian God because its as well explained much more simply (assuming its even true):

    by the fact that committing oneself to a world-view that values compassion and truthfulness will tend to result in more compassionate and truthful behavior even if the worldview is false.

    Or do you deny that people who commit themselves to other religions and philosophies that value these attributes become more compassionate and truthful as a result?

  14. And I don’t mean my comments on this topic as a personal attack on either Holo or Geoff–I’ve been more than a little snarky at times myself.

    Okay, I’ll accept that at face value… and apologize for being so strong in my responses. Yet, can we move on? I’m not so sure: my highlighting the errors at least deserves some attention. For example, when will the referenced fallacies (please, at least the fallacies) be admitted?

    Regarding this: “If Christian and only Christian faith healers went around the world laying hands on amputees and having the limb grow back in moments before the startled eyes of crowds,” you’re not dealing merely with physical phenomena, like the rearrangement of mere atoms to heal an arm, David. For purposes of the discussion, let’s leave aside medically-inexplicable healings at Lourdes (among many others). You’re dealing with a three Persons in One God… who’s not very happy about being tempted to perform like a monkey for the satisfaction of atheists. [Daddy, I’m not going to like you until you make Mommy give me ice cream for dinner!]

    Reference the temptation of Christ in the desert and by the pharisees: these were not merely space-filler stories with little or no significance. To then pejoratively and incorrectly reduce this to “evasiveness” on the part of Christians or their God, is ludicrous. Atoms will perform for you given the right prodding. Humans will not, and you are an excellent example. You expect less from the Being who is Existence Itself?

    … and has no observable effects (at least none explained as well and at least as parsimoniously by other hypotheses)…

    Well, that’s been addressed up and down and sideways in earlier posts by Tom. The problem, to repeat, is your personal imposition of what counts as evidence and what may really be “observable effects” attributable to things beyond your a priori epistemological limitations. Come clean on this by clearly admitting the basis upon which your MO rests. We’ll be particularly interested in what “observable effects” serve as the basis for your methodology… and methodology is certainly something quite per se unobservable.

    Finally, you’re not the “target” of my “comments” as if it were a personal thing. You’ve made some huge errors and have used fallacies (which I’ve cataloged) to make your points. Those are my targets. They are important. I’m also sensitive to requests to go off topic to deal with these: they usually demand more time and commitment than the actual topic being discussed because they reveal intellectual and personal commitments… that must be exposed if erroneous. That’s where you atheists are at an advantage: to unpack the plethora of ignorance, fallacies, and unscientific, pseudo-philosophical commitments would violate the terms of Tom’s blog: it’s not a book, but a blog.


  15. I’m not so sure: my highlighting the errors at least deserves some attention. For example, when will the referenced fallacies (please, at least the fallacies) be admitted?

    There’s nothing at all wrong in pointing out a fallacy. I’m not asking you to stop. Though I do wish you’d more often provide support for you’re claims that a statement is a fallacy. Too often, it seems to me, you accuse us of fallacies, or even make sweeping comments to the effect that our posts are full of fallacies, with little or no support for the claim. Just because you call something a fallacy doesn’t mean the rest of us agree. And if you don’t actually do anything to support the claim we’ve little reason to even respond to it much less acknowledge you to be right.


    You’re dealing with a three Persons in One God… who’s not very happy about being tempted to perform like a monkey for the satisfaction of atheists. [Daddy, I’m not going to like you until you make Mommy give me ice cream for dinner!]

    Why is it an insult to God to say you aren’t convinced he exists in the absence of good evidence? If he doesn’t want to provide evidence that’s his choice. But if so he has little grounds for condemning people for not believing he’s real. I’m making no demand of God. I’m simply stating what I think would be necessary for a reasonable person to be convinced he’s real.

    The Bible, by the way, claims that God HAS provided clear evidence in the past of his existence. The story of Elijah and the priests of Baal involves Elijah challenging them to see whose God would provide clear empirical evidence of his existence and power. I don’t recall any Christians claiming God was performing like a monkey for doing so.


    Well, that’s been addressed up and down and sideways in earlier posts by Tom. The problem, to repeat, is your personal imposition of what counts as evidence and what may really be “observable effects” attributable to things beyond your a priori epistemological limitations.

    You (like most Christians) disagree with me and most religious skeptics, no doubt about it, in very fundamental ways in regard to our views about epistemological issues.

    You are mistaken, though, in calling my views based on a priori epistemological limitations. I’m no atheist equivalent of a presuppositionalist. My thinking about epistemological issues is almost the complete reverse.

    My problem with the approach to epistemology I find among religious believers is that they fail the following test:

    Suppose I adopt a proposed method of making judgments about the truth or falsity of a proposition. Suppose the proposition is true. Will it cause me to be prone to believe the proposition? And suppose the proposition is false. Will it cause me to believe the proposition anyway?

    It always seems that the methods proposed by religious believers yield an answer of “yes”, of assent to the proposition, in either case. And if that’s so something’s very wrong.

    Take, for example, the sensus divinitas. Suppose its real. No problem there. The criteria I’ve seen believers propose result in them accepting it. But suppose some alternate hypothesis was actually the case (like that its all in the believer’s imagination). The criteria they’ve proposed, in every argument I’m aware of, still yield belief. There’s nothing in the criteria that allows one to distinguish true from false.

    That’s a rather huge problem. If you disagree with me on this we can explore the question further—giving actual examples of criteria apologists have proposed for belief in God because of the sensus divinitas and exploring whether, if they’re wrong about the sensus divinitas being real, their methods will result in them avoiding holding a false belief in it.

    One possible criticism of my sort of approach (one I’ve encountered occasionally) is that, while I may avoid assenting to many false beliefs, I will also needlessly avoid assenting to a lot of true ones which I ought to have accepted. And I’d be glad to respond to any arguments to that effect.

    As to the heavy emphasis on empirical evidence (which so often yields calls of “Scientism!” from believers), I enthusiastically admit that I have a very high esteem for empirical evidence. When I go through all the possible methods I can think of for trying to separate truth from falsehood in regard to most kinds of questions (including the truth or falsity of religious claims) nothing seems to work a fraction so well as well as methods that make sound use of empirical evidence.


    Come clean on this by clearly admitting the basis upon which your MO rests. We’ll be particularly interested in what “observable effects” serve as the basis for your methodology… and methodology is certainly something quite per se unobservable.

    You seem to have misunderstood my position. It is not something like the verification principle (which is itself, as so often pointed out, unverifiable). My position is that we ought not believe in the EXISTENCE a thing if there is no observable effect of its existence not equally consistent with alternative explanations which are as, or more, parsimonious.

    If you think that it is in some sense self-refuting like the verification principle then I ask you to state, explicitly, in what sense you think this to be the case.


    That’s where you atheists are at an advantage: to unpack the plethora of ignorance, fallacies, and unscientific, pseudo-philosophical commitments would violate the terms of Tom’s blog: it’s not a book, but a blog.

    Understand that I find your thinking as full of error as you do mine. And we can call each other ignoramuses in a hundred different ways if we like….or we can simply explain in what respect we disagree with the others position (taxing and time-consuming thought it is). I, for one, prefer the latter and don’t intend to engage in conversation or debate with someone doing the former.

  16. [Prefatory note to Tom: the fact that I don’t respond to every point that is made in every comment does not mean that I agree with or concede it. Life is short, and there are actually more important things than blogging. As I have noted several times, I spend a lot of my life on business travel, and that necessarily curtails the time I can spend on blogging. If you are only open to full-time participants….]

    Anyway, David Ellis has made most of the points that I would have, and done so more stylishly, so I won’t repeat them here. However I would like to draw your attention to an interesting piece that I read on the flight up to Seattle that seems helpful in this discussion. Here’s Sean Carroll, live-blogging a recent conference in Oxford on Philosophy and Cosmology:

    9:00: Ellis gives the opening remarks. Cosmology is in a fantastic data-rich era, but it is also coming up against the limits of measurement. In the quest for ever deeper explanation, increasingly speculative proposals are being made, which are sometimes untestable even in principle. The multiverse is the most obvious example.

    Question: are these proposals science? Or do they attempt to change the definition of what “science” is? Does the search for explanatory power trump testability?

    The questions aren’t only relevant to the multiverse. We need to understand the dividing line between science and non-science to properly classify standard cosmology, inflation, natural selection, Intelligent Design, astrology, parapsychology. Which are science?

    And that’s all I have time for – I need to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow. [PowerPoint – ugh! Perhaps the most convincing evidence for the existence of Hell!]

  17. I do wish you’d more often provide support for you’re claims that a statement is a fallacy. Too often, it seems to me, you accuse us of fallacies, or even make sweeping comments to the effect that our posts are full of fallacies, with little or no support for the claim.

    Hmmm… let me count the ways. How about here (https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/the-first-easter-historical-consensus/#comment-16172) for starters? Care to address the concrete examples provided in the first several paragraphs? Or how about comment #6 above highlighting the self-immolating nature of Geoff’s assertions (you’ve had your share as well, David)?

    These are not trivial matters, because they are those things upon which you largely base your positions in all these discussions. (The nature of the genetic fallacy is particularly vile and anti-intellectual–if not because it does serious violence to the pursuit of truth, then because of the way you and Tony expressed them: “a self-selecting group” or Christians being a majority of the scholars in Germany allegedly being enough to refute their claims.) And, it’s not a matter of whether or not you agree or disagree–that’s your personal opinion. Truth is not about personal opinion. Yet, you don’t stop, do you David? Try this for example:

    If he doesn’t want to provide evidence that’s his choice. But if so he has little grounds for condemning people for not believing he’s real.

    Evidence? Again, based on your limitations? Yes, you DO presuppose much–despite protestations to the contrary. You demand empirical evidence, but provide none that would support the validity of the demand itself. Also, theologically incorrect: God does not “condemn” you–you’re, quite literally, condemning yourself to your own proximate goods and personal opinions–things that will never fully satisfy you in the end. If you say “no” to God, do you want Him to rape your intellect and force you to say “yes”? God isn’t like that: He’s like a teasing lover: He whispers something in your ear, you turn around, and your lover has fled. Why? Ahh, my friend, because He wants you to pursue Him–like any lover wants to be pursued. “I didn’t mean it,” or “I didn’t realize,” or “I didn’t think about that” at the end will be too late not because these may all be honest responses, but because you will have chosen your allegiance–your trust–to anything BUT Existence Itself. You will not have loved… and you will have lost your Lover. How many men throughout history have been spurned by someone initially interested, and when they weakly respond, “I didn’t realize,” it’s too late? It’s the choice at the end of the day that counts. It’s your will as ordered to proximate goods and errors that’s the problem.

    My position is that we ought not believe in the EXISTENCE a thing if there is no observable effect of its existence not equally consistent with alternative explanations which are as, or more, parsimonious.

    Perhaps, but doesn’t that presuppose one clearly understands what existence means? What does it mean for something to “exist”? Does a rock exist in the same manner as a thought? Does meaning in a word exist in the same way that dirt in a rug exists? What level of existence does a shadow “have”? Again, you claim to be a non-presuppositionalist… and yet you are anything but. Then, before getting this fundamental issue hammered out you pursue “the sensus divinitas”… does that make any sense to you?

    (I find Calvin’s–and later Plantinga’s–vision of the sensus divinitatis weaker than Aquinas who demanded rigorous syllogistic or dialectical reasoning. The Scriptural take-off point is Psalm 19:1, but Calvin’s point of view is too “touchy-feely” and, as far as I’m concerned, certainly warrants criticism even from atheists. Per Psalm 19:1 we DO see the glory of God proclaimed in [employing your word] His creation [the “effect”], but we do not see it with the eyes of science… just like we do not see an injustice committed with the eyes of science… and, as you are aware of my skepticism of ID, we do not see design in nature with the eyes of science.)

    Understand that I find your thinking as full of error as you do mine.

    Great. Please provide concrete examples and why they are errors. I’ve done my part (see above) regarding your errors.

    If you think that it is in some sense self-refuting like the verification principle then I ask you to state, explicitly, in what sense you think this to be the case.

    No, I didn’t say that: it’s not a first principle… your claims fall when applied back upon themselves. They’re self-refuting because they fail their own test. For example, you claim to have a “very high esteem for the empirical evidence,” which itself cannot be supported empirically. (I’m not denying the potential truth of your claim, but it’s more of a belief that a proper understanding of reality if you’re not getting my challenge to you.)

    Apart from that, I think you may have misstated your position on what you call the principle of “verification” which I’m assuming you mean the principle of sufficient reason (PSR). Are you suggesting the PSR can be denied… if nothing else because it can’t be “verified”? I hope not, but I’ll let you decide whether to fall on that sword. Hint: try to deny it and see what happens: think about the nature of the denial itself.


  18. The nature of the genetic fallacy is particularly vile and anti-intellectual–if not because it does serious violence to the pursuit of truth, then because of the way you and Tony expressed them: “a self-selecting group” or Christians being a majority of the scholars in Germany allegedly being enough to refute their claims.

    There’s where you’re mistaken. I (and I suspect this goes for Tony as well, though I leave it to him to explain his position) don’t think the fact that Christians are likely to be drawn more than non-Christians to the field of NT scholarship is, as you accuse me of claiming, “enough to refute their claims”.

    It is simply reason to be alert to possible bias.

    The above is a good example of the primary flaw in your accusations of committing fallacies. You frequently misrepresent or misunderstand our positions when making such accusations.


    Evidence? Again, based on your limitations?

    I have my opinions about what constitutes reasonable grounds for belief. In what ways, specifically, do you find my approach unsound?


    Yes, you DO presuppose much–despite protestations to the contrary.

    You are free to hold that opinion. But if you are unwilling to support it I will pass on without commentary.


    What does it mean for something to “exist”? Does a rock exist in the same manner as a thought? Does meaning in a word exist in the same way that dirt in a rug exists? What level of existence does a shadow “have”? Again, you claim to be a non-presuppositionalist… and yet you are anything but. Then, before getting this fundamental issue hammered out you pursue “the sensus divinitas”… does that make any sense to you?

    We’ve discussed the meaning of the word “existence” before. I was presuming you had not completely forgotten that. As you said previously, this is a blog. Not a book. I’m not obligated to provide a complete explication of every possible relevant concept and a complete statement of a philosophical system every time I state a position I hold. That would, indeed, make this an unwieldy discussion.


    I find Calvin’s–and later Plantinga’s–vision of the sensus divinitatis weaker than Aquinas who demanded rigorous syllogistic or dialectical reasoning.

    If you want to discuss Aquinas’ version of the SD please be more specific. He’s a philosopher which I’m aware you have a particular interest in. I’ve never been much impressed with him and haven’t read any of his works in years.


    Great. Please provide concrete examples and why they are errors.

    That’s what I’m doing with this post and most of the others I’ve written in response to your comments (my pointing out that you misrepresented my position above being a typical example).


    No, I didn’t say that: it’s not a first principle… your claims fall when applied back upon themselves. They’re self-refuting because they fail their own test. For example, you claim to have a “very high esteem for the empirical evidence,” which itself cannot be supported empirically.

    Then where do all these accusations of scientism come from if people are not noticing evidence that I place particular emphasis on empirical evidence in my approach to epistemological questions.

    But, regardless, that’s not a contradiction in my position. Again, I didn’t claim that all propositions, to be accepted, must be supported empirically. I said that claims of the sort “X exists” need empirical support, even if indirect (and there are, of course, other classes of propositions than claims that X exists–including the one you mentioned: that I place great emphasis on empirical evidence).

    This, by the way, is another of the sort of error to which you are prone and which you asked me to specifically point out and expound on–that you’re prone to erroneously accuse others of making self-contradictory claims.


    Apart from that, I think you may have misstated your position on what you call the principle of “verification” which I’m assuming you mean the principle of sufficient reason (PSR).

    No. Nothing of the sort.

    I was talking about the central concept in logical positivism. That a statements meaning (if it is not a tautology) resides in its means of verification. That if there is no circumstance (no empirical evidence) which can be said to weigh for or against its being true then the statement is meaningless.


    Are you suggesting the PSR can be denied… if nothing else because it can’t be “verified”

    No, I wasn’t talking about the PSR at all–as explained above. And I’m not a supporter of the logical positivist’s verification principle either, by the way. Even if I do have some things in common with them (my emphasis on empirical evidence in particular).

  19. The problem, currently and among others, is that having “very high esteem for the empirical evidence” doesn’t address another fundamental point (mercifully, positivism has been rejected): ( 1 ) where is epistemological demarcation between ( a ) what can be known from the empirical strictly within the competence of the MESs, ( b ) what can be known from the empirical but must be reasoned to beyond the competence of the MESs, and ( c ) what can be known empirically through faith… and what discipline has as its subject matter (formal object) this distinction? In this wider sense of “empirical” we are all empiricists: we must “experience” a thing (crudely put) to know it. The problem occurs when atheists intentionally narrow “experience” to suit their needs–usually done by limiting valid knowledge to that accessible only to the MESs.

    This area is very murky in the various explications we hear from atheists… either because they don’t seem to understand those distinctions, or because they refuse to acknowledge those distinctions… or both. The first is ignorance, the second is the reductionist path. David is dancing around the issues, looking for qualification upon qualification (which, by the way, killed positivism) to leave him a toe-hold on the prior commitment to atheism. He may protest this by falsely claiming we provide no concrete examples or by “disagreeing” (as if it were a matter of opinion) that he doesn’t base his position on fallacies, etc., (he and Tony and Geoff do: I and others have concretely called them on it).

    I’ve left this discussion because (for among other reasons) David’s last set of comments were (again) disingenuous and manipulative, as this example indicates:

    I… don’t think the fact that Christians are likely to be drawn more than non-Christians to the field of NT scholarship is, as you accuse me of claiming, “enough to refute their claims”.

    That’s patently false and it avoids the real criticism of his position: the genetic fallacy as a rhetorical trick. Now, slightly back peddling, David adds (at best) an air of muddying the waters with irrelevant points: what possible relevance to the truth does his claim have even if you give him the full benefit of the doubt? None. Then why bring it up? It could only have been added intentionally, and we all know the game being played…

    Sorry, Tom, but I leave with a sense of having wrestled with atheists playing in muck.

  20. I don’t think the issue is very complicated.

    The basic question is, what are New Testament scholars? Are they simply historians?

    My position is that New Testament scholars are permitted to approach the interpretation of texts, history, and archaeology (among other fields) in a way that allows for, or presupposes, the supernatural. This premise separates them from historians, who do not. (I think one famous way of saying it is that the NT scholar cannot approach the study without taking a position on who Jesus was.)

    I’d like to avoid the accusations of scientism, etc., and that “Well, then historians presuppose on this issue so they’re the ones with closed minds, etc.” because I think it’s a kind of special pleading.

    Why would my citing that the majority of Mormon or Islamic scholars accept the historical accuracy of their sacred texts not persuade you that we can know for sure that those events happened? Because you do not find the events cited in their history to be plausible. So to what do you attribute the consensus reached in these fields? To those scholars’ prior bias. In other words, you make your determination of other religions’ supernatural claims based on the events as they are described, not on the consensus of those who you assume have a bias toward the issue. This is so simple and obvious I am surprised it has become an issue.

    I think that some here feel that this is a kind of fallacy. But it’s not a fallacy to recognize the biases of individuals, and to strive to eliminate those biases from knowledge pursuits that function to describe reality. And I find it a tad ironic that apologists would eschew this line of thinking but adopt it so readily when, for instance, they seek to discount the consensus view of biologists because of a putative prior commitment to naturalism.

    So here are two issues that I think the apologist needs reconcile when establishing the historicity of the supernatural events described in the NT (among other things):
    – Why should the apologist accept the consensus of historical events among NT scholars but not the same consensus from scholars of other religions?
    – Are NT scholars, when considering the events of history, the same as historians? If so, how do you explain the vastly different ways scholars in the field of Roman History and Antiquity explain the events surrounding Christianity compared to the majority of NT scholars?

    I have to say that at this point, after 3 or 4 postings and comments pertaining to this subject, very little of substance has been offered either in the way of historical evidence or the introduction of a methodology that would pass historical legitimacy (independent attestation, contemporary supernaturalism, etc) on the supernatural claims of the NT.


  21. The problem, currently and among others, is….

    I don’t know that the things you mention are problem rather than simply things we haven’t yet gone into.


    ( 1 ) where is epistemological demarcation between ( a ) what can be known from the empirical strictly within the competence of the MESs, ( b ) what can be known from the empirical but must be reasoned to beyond the competence of the MESs, and ( c ) what can be known empirically through faith

    To be clear, when I talk about empirical evidence and the need for it I’m not talking just about science. When I bounce up and down on my chair to prove its sturdiness I’m not doing science but I am gathering observational evidence from which I can draw conclusions.

    The answers to A, B and C depend in part on how you’re defining empirical (and you seem to be defining it more broadly than I am). Not to mention how you’re defining faith. Are you looking for an answer in terms of experience broadly understood or sensory observation?

    I’ll leave it to you to define what you mean by faith. As to empirical, I’m referring to the more narrow sense of the word as having to do with sensory observations. I’m aware that it can be used more broadly to refer to experience in general and that’s perfectly valid. But to avoid mutual misunderstanding we need to be aware of the difference in usage between the two of us.


    In this wider sense of “empirical” we are all empiricists: we must “experience” a thing (crudely put) to know it. The problem occurs when atheists intentionally narrow “experience” to suit their needs–usually done by limiting valid knowledge to that accessible only to the MESs.

    I’m not at all saying that only sensory observations can be the basis of knowledge (although its probably necessary to many kinds—I can’t know what my car’s gas mileage is without sensory observation but I can know I’m happy simply through introspection).

    I do think we probably need observational evidence to reasonably conclude that supernatural beings (including dieties) exist. I’m open to the idea that other ways may exist but every time I’ve examined one that’s been proposed it turns out to fail the test I mentioned earlier.

    The only kinds of valid knowledge I can think of that we can gain without observational evidence (the term I will use now on instead of empirical evidence for clarity’s sake since you seem to favor a broader definition of empirical and I’d rather avoid misunderstanding) are truths of logic and math on the one hand and truths about one’s own mental state available through introspection.

    If you think there are others I’d be interested in exploring some examples.


    David is dancing around the issues, looking for qualification upon qualification (which, by the way, killed positivism) to leave him a toe-hold on the prior commitment to atheism.

    What qualifications upon qualifications are you referring to? I’ve explained what I mean were you misunderstood my position. But that’s a qualifying it. Nothing about it has changed or required revision. My position is simply that I’ve encountered no method for forming a belief about religious claims not involving observational evidence that doesn’t fail the two pronged test:

    Suppose I adopt a proposed method of making judgments about the truth or falsity of a proposition. Suppose the proposition is true. Will it cause me to be prone to believe the proposition? And suppose the proposition is false. Will it cause me to believe the proposition anyway?

    Every method other than those using observational evidence to support religious belief fails this test because it will yield belief even where the contrary hypothesis is true.

    If you can think of an example that doesn’t then please present it.


    I’ve left this discussion because (for among other reasons) David’s last set of comments were (again) disingenuous and manipulative, as this example indicates:

    I… don’t think the fact that Christians are likely to be drawn more than non-Christians to the field of NT scholarship is, as you accuse me of claiming, “enough to refute their claims”.

    That’s patently false and it avoids the real criticism of his position: the genetic fallacy as a rhetorical trick.

    You have caricatured my position and then object to my not accepting the caricature as accurate. You are free to do so. And I’m free to point it out as an example of the straw man fallacy.

  22. I’d like to see some elaboration on the idea of “what can be known empirically through faith”. Including a definition of faith as its being used here. I’m not aware of any way to know through faith–not unless I’m misconstruing how you mean the term to be understood.

  23. Tony, thanks for getting the discussion back on track. We’d gotten into background issues for so long that the point of the discussion had been left behind.

  24. We also need to keep in mind the difference between a consensus in the sense that most experts in the field favor A over B but consider B something that can be reasonably argued for and a consensus in the sense that most experts in the field not only favor A over B but consider B so contrary to the evidence that endorsing it is irrational.

    An example of the latter being an astronomer who claimed galaxies were not masses of stars far outside the mass of stars in which we’re embedded but are just nebula within our own galaxy would be considered a crank by the rest of the astronomical community.

    And, of course, particular issues may lie somewhere between those two extremes.

    My impression, based on what I’ve read him say, is that Habermas thinks the empty tomb lies in the former category rather than the latter.

  25. God isn’t like that: He’s like a teasing lover: He whispers something in your ear, you turn around, and your lover has fled. Why? Ahh, my friend, because He wants you to pursue Him–like any lover wants to be pursued. “I didn’t mean it,” or “I didn’t realize,” or “I didn’t think about that” at the end will be too late not because these may all be honest responses, but because you will have chosen your allegiance–your trust–to anything BUT Existence Itself. You will not have loved… and you will have lost your Lover. How many men throughout history have been spurned by someone initially interested, and when they weakly respond, “I didn’t realize,” it’s too late? It’s the choice at the end of the day that counts. It’s your will as ordered to proximate goods and errors that’s the problem.

    I like that metaphor, Holo. Understanding a personal relationship (with God or anyone) is not the same as understanding the relationship between Force and Mass. The meaning behind and evidence supporting the former is not the same as the meaning/evidence for the latter.

  26. To elaborate on Tony’s point about the mistaken accusation of a fallacy: suppose that over the next 3 decades there was a large influx of Scientologists into the field of NT scholarship and the figures went down from 75% affirm the empty tomb to 35% do.

    Would you not consider it very likely due to religious bias ?

  27. Depends on the reasons the Scientologists cite for coming to their conclusion. It has nothing to do with their being Scientologists.

  28. If the NT scholars accepting it are almost all Christian and the ones rejecting it are almost all something else then it seems a safe bet that at least one (and potentially both) of the groups are allowing bias to interfere with their judgment.

    Can you think of any other explanation that’s remotely as plausible?

  29. That is, by the way, a question I consider important to ask on all such issues.

    For example, if the medical experts who disagree with the claim that cigarette smoking increases the danger of cancer are almost all in the employ of tobacco companies and the medical experts who think it is causing cancer aren’t then we have cause for suspecting the judgment of the former.

    Would you not agree (not that the issue is always so clear)?

    Or do you think this is an example of the genetic fallacy?

  30. Tony, you offered this idea:

    My position is that New Testament scholars are permitted to approach the interpretation of texts, history, and archaeology (among other fields) in a way that allows for, or presupposes, the supernatural. This premise separates them from historians, who do not. (I think one famous way of saying it is that the NT scholar cannot approach the study without taking a position on who Jesus was.)

    First, this is just false. Whether NT scholars are “permitted” to presuppose the supernatural is the wrong question. If you as a skeptic wanted to become a NT scholar, all you would have to do is take the proper course of study, do the usual publishing, and you’re a NT scholar. There is no document you have to sign agreeing to the possibility of the supernatural. Some schools call for a statement of faith, but they most assuredly do not own the whole field!

    Second, recall what I wrote just less than a week ago:

    This is not to say that everyone believes that Jesus rose from the grave by the power of God. William Lane Craig points out in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics that we can distinguish two kinds of questions: what can we know historically about the events of those several weeks, and what do those events mean?

    NT scholars can be historians and vice versa, by looking at what we can know historically about the events of the era. To decide the meaning of the events is another question.

    Third, consider the implications of what you said, if you are saying that historians cannot consider the supernatural as a possible cause for any event of the era. That means the historian must conclude that Jesus performed no miracles and did not rise from the dead, even if the evidence demanded that conclusion. It is to presuppose an outcome regardless of the evidence.

    I’d like to avoid the accusations of scientism, etc., and that “Well, then historians presuppose on this issue so they’re the ones with closed minds, etc.” because I think it’s a kind of special pleading.

    How so?

    Why would my citing that the majority of Mormon or Islamic scholars accept the historical accuracy of their sacred texts not persuade you that we can know for sure that those events happened?

    Let’s not talk apples and oranges here. Maybe you did not know this: NT scholars are not necessarily Christians. Your analogy could only apply to NT scholarship if you put in terms of “scholars who study the origins of Islam,” or “scholars who study the origin of Mormonism,” rather than (as you implied) scholars who believe in these religions.

    You are factually incorrect to assume that the field of NT scholarship represents a prior bias toward supernatural explanations. For most of the 20th and 21st century (actually since the mid-19th century) the bias has been the other direction, though the weight of evidence is tipping the field more toward accepting the historicy of the NT record.

    So I hope we can put to rest this discussion on bias. It just doesn’t exist as you suppose it does.

    I have to say that at this point, after 3 or 4 postings and comments pertaining to this subject, very little of substance has been offered either in the way of historical evidence or the introduction of a methodology that would pass historical legitimacy (independent attestation, contemporary supernaturalism, etc) on the supernatural claims of the NT.

    I’m setting the stage. And I’m also now on my third trip out of state in the last week and a half.

  31. David,

    If the NT scholars accepting it are almost all Christian and the ones rejecting it are almost all something else then it seems a safe bet that at least one (and potentially both) of the groups are allowing bias to interfere with their judgment.

    Can you think of any other explanation that’s remotely as plausible?

    Yes – the one that is based on the reasons given, not the one based on their being Christian or non-Christian. Nobody is completely unbiased so get the notion of unbiased people out of your head.

    Here’s the REAL puzzler you should be spending your time on – why do some non-Christian NT scholars agree with the Christian NT scholars? Spend some time dissecting the reasons of these non-Christian’s. Learn why these non-Christian’s agree with the Christians and perhaps you will learn something about why the Christian thinks the same way and isn’t as biased as you think.


  32. Yes – the one that is based on the reasons given, not the one based on their being Christian or non-Christian. Nobody is completely unbiased so get the notion of unbiased people out of your head.

    I never claimed anyone is free of bias. I’m considering the issue of whether there’s reason to think that one or more groups judgment has been inappropriately swayed by their bias.

    And its rather implausible to think (to use my less contested example) that almost all of the medical experts in the employ of cigarette manufacturers just happen to line up on one side of the issue and almost all others on the other side without one of them having had their judgment skewed. This is too obvious to warrant debate.


    Here’s the REAL puzzler you should be spending your time on – why do some non-Christian NT scholars agree with the Christian NT scholars?

    Indeed, that’s a good question.

    Here’s another question you should have asked yourself: how many Christian scholars lie in the 25% that didn’t agree?

    When it comes to judgments directly relevant to religion, a matter concerning which such strong passions surround, its particularly important to ask questions about possible bias (and that includes biases against as well as biases for the hypothesis favorable to the religion). Much the same goes for questions relating to a person’s ethical, national, political, financial and personal interests—I’m not singling religion out for this sort of treatment.


    Spend some time dissecting the reasons of these non-Christian’s. Learn why these non-Christian’s agree with the Christians and perhaps you will learn something about why the Christian thinks the same way and isn’t as biased as you think.

    Feel free to link to or quote them on this subject. Its worth discussing.

    I think we should do that and the reverse as well. Examine the reasons why some of the Christian scholars (if any) are in the opposing 25%.

    Unfortunately, this post hasn’t told us about any of the Christians who dissented—much less their reasons.

  33. The “bias” that we’re really talking about here is “confirmation bias”.

    Or as Greta Christina put it, we have to be particularly careful when we’re investigating something which we want to be true:

    That shouldn’t be seen as evidence for why it is true. Quite the contrary. When we really, really want something to be true, that’s when we have to be extra careful, extra suspicious of our motivations, extra cautious about our thought processes. That’s when rationalization, and confirmation bias, and all those other mental processes that support us in believing what we already believe, seriously kick into high gear.

    That’s exactly why the scientific method has so many rigorous cross-checks. Science is full of stubborn bastards who crave recognition and would love nothing more than to prove their theory correct. Hence, double-blinding, and placebo controls, and peer review, and publishing not just results but methodology, and replicating experiments, and all that good stuff. A rigorous application of the scientific method doesn’t guarantee that personal bias won’t affect results… but it’s the best method we have for minimizing bias and filtering it out in the long run. That’s the whole point.

    Christians want Christianity to be true. String theorists want string theory to be true. That’s human nature. But wanting can blind us.

  34. Clearly, Geoff wants it to be true that Christians want Christianity to be true. I’m sure Geoff will object to that statement because how could I possibly know what Geoff wants unless he tells me?

    Now you know what I think about your statement, Geoff.

  35. Tom,

    If you as a skeptic wanted to become a NT scholar, all you would have to do is take the proper course of study, do the usual publishing, and you’re a NT scholar

    I think you missed my point; if I did as you suggest my scholarship would still be contingent on what position I took on Jesus (historical figure or God). I face no such dilemma when studying Napoleon, where only one set of (historical) tools are available to me. Also, there are not, as far as I know, colleges offering study on Napoleon that are asking me to take a position on who Napoleon was prior to my study, for instance.

    William Lane Craig points out in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics that we can distinguish two kinds of questions: what can we know historically about the events of those several weeks, and what do those events mean?

    Craig appears to be rushing forward to declare that the only issues remaining are the historicity of a few minor details, when in fact serious historical contention begins far prior to that.

    A man named Jesus could have existed, carried on a messianic ministry, and been crucified by the Romans. I’ll grant that, but I also admit that the extent that we can surmise as much from the kind of existing documentation (and the absence of what we’d expect) makes almost anything about even these basic events surrounding Jesus the subject of serious historical controversy.

    Craig’s tact is similar to an Islamic scholar stating that we only need to sort out what happened surrounding the events of Muhammed rising to heaven from Jerusalem, and what do those events mean. Frankly, the approach feels like a kind of sales gimmick where the salesman is told to ask the prospective buyer who enters the lot, “So, what color Escort are you thinking of buying today?”

    Third, consider the implications of what you said, if you are saying that historians cannot consider the supernatural as a possible cause for any event of the era.

    I didn’t mean it to be only an implication. I think that rejection of supernatural explanations is a sine qua non of historical study. This is not an issue of controversy anywhere outside the fundamentally religious. If we lived in a world where the supposedly supernatural is not regularly debunked or demystified, then things might be different. Because we do not, historians look at the events of the past through the prism of their own time.

    I can’t think of any contemporary historian who allows that the best historical explanation for a past event is that a supernatural event occurred. NT scholars, I’m sure, do it all the time. (As do Islamic and Mormon scholars, etc.)

    How so? [How are accusations of scientism, etc. a kind of special pleading?]

    Because you are willing to accept the consensus of NT scholars, and not the consensus of scholars of other religions.

    Maybe you did not know this: NT scholars are not necessarily Christians.

    Lots of people study the Koran who are not Muslims. My (non-Islamic) Near Eastern Studies professor in college, for one. After 9/11, lots of people bought a copy of the Koran to try and understand the religion. Why do you assume that the field of Koranic studies is confined to only the Islamic believer? And isn’t it obvious that those choosing to lose significant portions of their lives studying these documents have a vested interest in their proving to be, ultimately, more than bunk?

    You are factually incorrect to assume that the field of NT scholarship represents a prior bias toward supernatural explanations.

    I think you misunderstood me (as explained above). NT scholarship permits (even if it does not always require – depends on which school you apply to, I guess) supernatural explanations. That is a different kind of study than history, which flat out rejects such explanations as the cause of historical events.

    For most of the 20th and 21st century (actually since the mid-19th century) the bias has been the other direction [away from supernatural bias], though the weight of evidence is tipping the field more toward accepting the historicy of the NT record.

    You have been asked to back up these assertions with your source. Your claims appear even more expansive now. I am curious how you know such things. [I am inclined to think your claim is largely unknowable in the way you have framed it.]

  36. SteveK,

    Clearly, Geoff wants it to be true that Christians want Christianity to be true. I’m sure Geoff will object to that statement because how could I possibly know what Geoff wants unless he tells me?

    Are you saying that recognizing bias in others is impossible? Or that the only way we can be sure of bias is if it is verbally acknowledged? Or that bias doesn’t exist? I’m just not sure what you meant.

  37. Hello David


    That which is unobservable may have observable effects. I think most of us religious skeptics are willing to entertain evidence for (based on observable effects of) an unobservable God.


    [italic added]

    You will excuse me if I suggest that this apparent willingness to entertain evidence for an unobservable God is really little more than a rhetorical ploy. The facts remain that, despite the best efforts of materialist science, there is no valid theory whcih explains;

    1) The beginning of the universe. The Big Bang theory is an explanation of the order of events which (we think) followed the beginning of the universe but, as Steven Weinberg makes clear, we have no (apparent) way of knowing what actually happened or how or why.

    2) The formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. The present explanation, the nebular hypothesis, is merely a refinement of the explanation offered by Swedenborg after a vision of ‘angels’ in the 18th C. The nebular hypothesis encounters severe difficulties in the laws of physics as presently understood but no one has offered a better explanation so it remains the default position.

    3) The rise of life. Not only is the beginning of life not explained by any credible hypothesis, but every extension of our knowledge of biology simply increases the number of hurdles that chemistry must overcome before life can exist.

    4) The existence of consciousness and its corollary reason. Again there is no credibly hypothesis which answers or even explains what consciouness and reason are or how they could possibly exist in a materialist universe.

    5) The ‘fine-tuning’ of the universal constants. The best explanation for fine-tuning is either “that’s just the way it is” or “there are an infinite number of possible universes and we just got lucky” or some other brute fact argument.

    Given the fact that most of the so-called expanations for these ‘observed’ phenomena are deficient the argument from design is certainly not out of the ballpark. Of course, you could resort to the old “God of the gaps” argument, but the gaps are widening for the materialist argument as we speak. It is only the philosophical commitment to materialism which lends credibility to materialist arguments, certainly not observed effects, in fact, the observed effects tend to refute materialism.


  38. Of course, you could resort to the old “God of the gaps” argument, but the gaps are widening for the materialist argument as we speak.

    I think you mean I could resort to pointing out that you’re using a god of the gaps argument.

    And I do.

    And, as I’ve said before, I’m not a materialist. I consider several other theories equally, if not more, plausible.

    A few errors you make:


    Not only is the beginning of life not explained by any credible hypothesis….

    Abiogenesis is a credible hypothesis. Its just not currently testable (its rather hard to prove the nature of a single event that occurred billions of years ago and which could not be expected to leave much evidence telling us any specifics about it).


    Again there is no credibly hypothesis which answers or even explains what consciouness and reason are or how they could possibly exist in a materialist universe.

    You really shouldn’t confuse a universe not created and ruled by a God or gods with a materialist universe. Quite a lot of us nontheists don’t subscribe to ANY metaphysical theory. Personally, I think it may be an unanswerable question (several different theories are equally consistent with what we observe about our universe)—and very possibly a meaningless one (what difference does it make if you label the basic stuff of the universe “matter”, “idea”, “information” or whatever so long as it behaves in exactly the say way regardless).

    And you are mistaken in thinking materialism has a problem accounting for reason—but we’ve discussed that before at some length and I don’t care to rehash it(I tend to agree that materialism may have a problem with consciousness–depending on the variety of materialism you’re talking about and what you mean by “matter”—some varieties have little or no problem).


    5) The ‘fine-tuning’ of the universal constants. The best explanation for fine-tuning is either “that’s just the way it is” or “there are an infinite number of possible universes and we just got lucky” or some other brute fact argument.

    There are actually about 17 (last time I counted) possible explanations for the anthropic coincidences. And I see no reason to think the God hypothesis tops the list. Quite the contrary. In regard to the multiverse hypothesis its an explanation in terms of something we already know can exist (a universe emerging from a big bang). It just posits ours isn’t the only one. The God hypothesis, on the other hand, posits something far less demonstrably real—a spirit being of infinite power.

    Its clear which hypothesis Occam’s razor favors.

    This is, by the way, much the same as the fine tuning argument in regard to earth’s having just the right conditions for life….some still say this is evidence of design.

    And if we lived in a universe of one solar system they might have a good point….but in a universe of trillions upon trillions of them. Not so much.

  39. Tony,
    I’m saying Geoff’s blanket statement doesn’t apply to me. Probably doesn’t apply to many, really. I would want something like self actualization without all the inconveniences of Christianity.

  40. SteveK,

    So you don’t want Christianity to be true?

    You don’t want to spend eternity with those you love?

    You don’t care if your parents and ancestors were all deceived by something that turns out to be false?

    You are indifferent as to whether or not the time and effort you have taken defending the rationality of your faith turns out to be all wasted?

    That would make you an extraordinarily odd person.

  41. Immortality in a state of perfect bliss holds no appeal for you?

    Sure it does…but I can get that elsewhere, in a different belief system. Explain to me why I’d want someone crucified and resurrected, why I’d want to view myself as a sinner that needed redemption and why I’d want to deny myself anything in life.

  42. Hello David

    And, as I’ve said before, I’m not a materialist. I consider several other theories equally, if not more, plausible.

    Which theories?

    Abiogenesis is a credible hypothesis. Its just not currently testable….

    Abiogenesis is a generic term which means “life arising from non-life”. It, in itself, is not even a hypothesis but refers to a series of hypotheses, each of which are highly specualtive and none of which are supported by scientific evidence.

    There is no truly “standard model” of the origin of life. Most currently accepted models draw at least some elements from the framework laid out by the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis. Under that umbrella, however, are a wide array of disparate discoveries and conjectures such as the following, listed in a rough order of postulated emergence:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_life#Current_models

    There does exist a “Law of Biogenesis”, which is, in fact, tested everytime you open a can of Campbell’s [primordial] Soup. Louis Pasteur demonstrated the fallacy of spontaneous generation (abiogenesis) in 1859, coincidentally the same year that “Origin” was published.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Pasteur_and_Darwin

    Oparin proposed that the “spontaneous generation of life” that had been attacked by Louis Pasteur, did in fact occur once, but was now impossible because the conditions found in the early earth had changed, and the presence of living organisms would immediately consume any spontaneously generated organism.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Pasteur_and_Darwin

    Now, one might ask what evidence Oparin cited for his assertion that spontaneous generation did in fact occur once? Or could it be that his commitment to materialism guided his science? The simple “fact” of the case is that Oparin rejected the science and settled upon a philosophical proof, “We do not witness abiogenesis today (science), but abiogenesis “did in fact occur once” because we witness the existence of living organisms (materialist philosophy).” This is nothing more or less than a statement of faith.

    When we consider that Pasteur (of pasteurization fame) demonstrated that “life begets life) 150 years ago, and that the theory has been tested perhaps more than any other, so much so that the “Law of Biogenesis” is essentially unchallenged except for credal speculations such as Oparin’s “fact” noted above, then the idea of a designer who made the universe and all that is in it is certainly tenable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biogenesis#Law_of_Biogenesis

    You really shouldn’t confuse a universe not created and ruled by a God or gods with a materialist universe. Quite a lot of us nontheists don’t subscribe to ANY metaphysical theory.

    Explain the difference. You have an annoying habit of arguing the materialist dogma until you are faced with an irreconcilable contradiction at which point you say you don’t subscribe to “ANY metaphysical theory” – an assertion I would suggest is, if not false, incoherent. So please, explain the difference to me.

  43. Dave,
    Like your recent comment on origin of life.

    – Science based on what is known and demonstrable is this: life begets life.
    – Science based on speculation or “gap” thinking is this: non-life begets life.


  44. Explain to me why I’d want someone crucified and resurrected, why I’d want to view myself as a sinner that needed redemption and why I’d want to deny myself anything in life.

    That element, in and of itself, were you coming to it as someone unacquainted with and without bias regarding this religion, you probably wouldn’t favor (except for the denying yourself anything—I would assume any reasonable person who isn’t a sociopath would understand that). But, of course, most humans aren’t coming to the study of religion as reasonably unbiased, rational inquirers. They’ve been indoctrinated from early childhood.

    And, indeed, I don’t think natural preference is the only element pushing people toward religious belief. But its certainly a strong one. I hear it from believers all the time: “I couldn’t imagine life being worthwhile is we only get a brief time on earth and then its over”.

    But I’m not all that interested in speculations on the motives of religious believers. I’m mostly content to point out the weakness of their arguments. Their personal psychology I can leave to others to explore.


    Dave: Which theories?

    Very nearly all of them. Idealism, neutral monism, panpsychism, you name it. All are consistent with what we observe about our world. I have no particular preference for any and no particular interest in the question since, as I pointed out, they result in no known difference to the way the world works that we can observe (if it did, they’d be verifiable and falsifiable).

    But they, as best I can tell, aren’t.


    Abiogenesis is a generic term which means “life arising from non-life”. It, in itself, is not even a hypothesis but refers to a series of hypotheses, each of which are highly specualtive and none of which are supported by scientific evidence.

    Its a general type of hypothesis. And a perfectly reasonable one.

    Yes, its speculative at this point. But at least we know chemicals exist and chemical reactions occur. We know that chemical bonds can and do, all the time, when the conditions are right naturally go from simpler to more complex molecules. It is far from a stretch to think that these processes could, under the right conditions and given enough time, result in self-replicating molecules.

    As for it being a matter of science, its something that’s been investigated in the laboratory for years. These experiments have resulted in more and more complex molecules. Not self-replicating molecules yet. But that it hasn’t been observed yet is no reason to think it can’t and certainly not reason to think some spirit magicked them into being instead. We know from the evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that evolution occurs. We’ve no particular reason to think that this was preceded by “and God created the self-replicating molecule”.


    Louis Pasteur demonstrated the fallacy of spontaneous generation (abiogenesis) in 1859…

    Are you actually going to try to equate the idea that “certain complex, living organisms are generated by decaying organic substances” like maggots being spontaneously generated from rotting meat is equivalent to what’s being discussed here or that this sort of spontaneous generation of complex life form’s having been rejected by the scientific community has any bearing on this discussion? Almost no biologist would agree.


    Explain the difference. You have an annoying habit of arguing the materialist dogma until you are faced with an irreconcilable contradiction….

    No. You simply have difficulty distinguishing materialism from nonbelief in a creator. My view of the world lacks belief in a personal agent or agents creating or ruling the world for the simple reason that I don’t accept as existing things I see no reasonable basis for the belief in. That doesn’t mean I have to take a position on the debate concerning materialism vs idealism vs dualism vs neutral monism vs panpsychism or any of the rest.

    I’m simply a naturalist. And I mean that in a very minimal way. I lack belief in supernatural realms, forces or beings who created or rule the universe (though I’m willing to be convinced should any of them bother to reveal themselves in nonambiguous ways).

    That’s it. My naturalism is just as consistent with other metaphysical theories concerning what the basic “stuff” that makes up our world is. Neutral monism (to name just one–I’ve no particular preference for it either) is just as consistent with naturalism as materialism is.

  45. Their personal psychology I can leave to others to explore.

    Good thinking because it leads to a dead end. Anyone who says Christian’s want Christianity to be true as the motive for them believing it is true is smoking something. Check your cig’s Geoff, because I can get all the benefits of Christianity outside of Christianity.

    So, to answer Tony’s opening question directly: No I don’t want Christianity to be true, but I’m thankful it is.

  46. David Ellis: Although I’m personally a naturalist & materialist, I can go along with you right up to the point where you throw “dualism” into the mix. Do you really go that far? Do you really think that dualism is consistent with naturalism? (I think it was Descartes who first realized how difficult it was to square dualism with any plausible notion of causality….)

  47. Tony, your beliefs regarding what NT scholarship is simply do not fit the facts of what NT scholarship is. I have said it clearly enough already, and I’m just going to have to leave it at that.

    But I do want to clarify a couple of things:

    Why do you assume that the field of Koranic studies is confined to only the Islamic believer?

    I didn’t assume that at all. I was not talking about “the field of Koranic studies.” I was talking about something you brought up in comment 25:

    Why would my citing that the majority of Mormon or Islamic scholars accept the historical accuracy of their sacred texts not persuade you that we can know for sure that those events happened?

    I took your question to be referring to scholars who were Mormon or Islamic (Muslim). If you meant scholars who study Mormonism or scholars who study Islam, then that’s a different subset of scholars. In the same way there are NT scholars, and there are a subset of NT scholars who are believers in the NT.

    If the majority of scholars who study Islam or Mormonism are believer in the veracity of some parts of Islamic or Mormon history (respectively), then it would behoove us to inquire whether the majority of such historians are also proponents of the religion whose history they are studying. If the majority of NT scholars believe in the historical veracity of some parts of the NT, it is relevant to ask whether the majority of NT scholars are Christians or are believers in supernaturalism.

    My statement still stands: since the mid-1800s, the field of NT scholarship has been dominated by anti-supernaturalists, so the confirmation bias you keep wanting to find in NT scholarship is a chimera; you won’t find it.

    You asked me to where I got that information, to cite a source. I’m in a hotel room right now. I don’t have a library handy to look through. I got the information from years of reading lots of sources. If that’s not good enough for you, it’s the best I have available at the moment. You probably have better access to sources at hand than I have. Do you have information to show that I’m wrong? (I’m quite sure you don’t, because I’m quite sure I’m not wrong on this.)

  48. SteveK: I would suggest that you reconsider whether your position is truly representative. Most members of religions self-report that their strongest reasons for their affiliation are family and community identification. Such believers are strongly opposed to people and ideas that are seen as threatening to their faith, to the point where they oppose even discussion and reporting of alternative viewpoints. (Check out the various Pew reports on religion and society.)

    Are you suggesting that these (the majority of Christians) do not want Christianity to be true? When children parrot their Catechisms, or churchgoers recite the Nicene Creed, do you really think that they are mentally qualifying their words with the hope that they are false, or a wish that they might turn out to be false?

    Or do you simply object to my idiomatic language? When I said “Christians”, were you objecting to what you saw as a universal claim? I hope that none of us would never be so rash as to attribute *ANY* viewpoint to every single self-described Christian.

  49. David,

    Would you care to unpack that last sentence for us in a way that looks less like a self-contradiction?

    I thought it would have been clear from my prior comments. If I were to dream up a belief system – sans evidence – that I would find comforting and beneficial, I would not dream up the belief of One crucified and resurrected. I would not dream up the belief that I need redemption. I would not dream up the belief that required me to love my neighbor as myself. Screw my neighbor! (I say this for dramatic effect).

    My belief in the resurrection and all that it entails has nothing to do with my wishful imagination wanting it to be true.

  50. Tom: Confirmation bias applies to a single argument as much as to a broad academic tradition. So for you to say that

    since the mid-1800s, the field of NT scholarship has been dominated by anti-supernaturalists, so the confirmation bias you keep wanting to find in NT scholarship is a chimera; you won’t find it.

    is irrelevant: it doesn’t mean that confirmation bias doesn’t show up in particular cases. If anyone appears to treat confirming evidence with more respect than comparable disconfirming evidence, it’s fair to ask if confirmation bias is at work.


  51. Do you really go that far? Do you really think that dualism is consistent with naturalism?

    It depends on the version. Obviously, many varieties of supernaturalism involve a version of dualism and I, as I said, don’t include things in my worldview, like Gods or souls, that I don’t think we have any decent evidence for.

    But a version of dualism which simply asserts that there are two varieties of basic substance? Sure. And I’m not limiting this to just matter and mind–though that’s the most common version—there may be substances we haven’t the vocabulary or experience to describe—with something as speculative as metaphysics the possibilities are wide open. And I see no reason to necessarily limit it to just two substances.

    Mostly, though, I tend to think that, whatever else they may have gotten wrong, the logical positivists were right in thinking most metaphysical questions are probably just meaningless (though I’m not entirely convinced this is the case—maybe someone will one day find a way to verify or falsify them).

    As I said, what does it mean to say that the basic stuff of the world is matter, or mind, or idea or information (or all of them) if in every respect it acts the same way? It sounds to me like different labels for the same thing.


  52. I would not dream up the belief that required me to love my neighbor as myself. Screw my neighbor!

    I hear similar things frequently–and usually without the qualifier “I say this for dramatic effect”. Why do so many religious people seem to think they would be sociopaths if not for religion?


    My belief in the resurrection and all that it entails has nothing to do with my wishful imagination wanting it to be true.

    As I already said, I don’t think it does. I think its likely wishful thinking plays a large part in belief in a loving God and in an afterlife for most people. But, in my opinion, there is a complex, interconnecting stew of motivations, drives and psychological impulses involved in religiosity. Wishful thinking is just one of many. Living in a culture that uses guilt as a social stabilizer and inhibitor (as, to one degree or another, I think almost all societies do) could be another.

    But as I said, I’m not all that interested in speculating on the psychology of religion. I’d rather leave that, for the most part anyway, to the professional psychologists and sociologists who have the wherewithal to perform actual studies and experiments.

  53. I think that the biggest problem of non-supernatural dualism is the implied discontinuity that it entails. Going back to the abiogenesis question, the Neat Trick involved in the origin of life is that some chemical structure took the form of an information substrate, allowing for pattern-based organization of the physical material. This is really the difference between chemistry and biochemistry. And once we move to the biochemical, we have all the mechanisms we need to build the rest of life: RNA, cells, multicells, neurocells, and eventually us.

    If you introduce the dichotomy of “physical stuff” and “mind stuff”, you have to explain where the “mind stuff” comes from. And does mind stuff reduce smoothly to physical stuff? Biochemistry does reduce smoothly (but lossily) to chemistry. If it doesn’t reduce, don’t you have a backdoor supernaturalism?

  54. Geoff,

    Most members of religions self-report that their strongest reasons for their affiliation are family and community identification.

    You may be right here. If this is the sole reason why they believe then I question their status before God. I’m not saying what that status is because I don’t know. God will judge each man. However, I do know this – by definition, a Christian means one who identifies with Christ and all that that entails, not one who identifies with their family/community.

    If the reason for your Christianity only goes as far as family/community identity – and no further – then you’re not a Christian. Non-Christian’s meet that same criteria which leads to a contradictory definition of Christian that must be resolved.

    Are you suggesting that these (the majority of Christians) do not want Christianity to be true? When children parrot their Catechisms, or churchgoers recite the Nicene Creed, do you really think that they are mentally qualifying their words with the hope that they are false, or a wish that they might turn out to be false?

    Not at all. Maybe we are talking past each other here so let me pause and ask a question. When you said Christian belief is the result of wanting the belief to be true, I took that to mean we have a want/desire that needs to be satisfied, and that want/desire led to the fabrication of the Christian faith out of whole cloth. Is that what you meant?

    In your comment here, and with Tony too, you are talking about the wants/desires that naturally flow from the belief itself, which is different than the wants/desires that lead to the belief in the first place.

  55. SteveK,

    Explain to me why I’d want someone crucified and resurrected, why I’d want to view myself as a sinner that needed redemption and why I’d want to deny myself anything in life.

    We’re talking about bias, and you’re denying that you want Christianity to be true. I’ll agree that Christians believe some odd things (like that the atonement makes any sense at all), but the oddity of those beliefs is separate from a desire that that be true. My daughter might admit that unicorns are odd and ungainly with their thin long horns, but that does not mean that she does not wish that they exist.

    Teaching that we are all sinners who need redemption (through the controlling representatives of the church) is about as common a form of social control as I can imagine. Someone’s accepting it (judgments about the values taught aside) will invest them in a system that they will then be inclined to support – otherwise their obedience will have been wasted. That aside, I don’t find the doctrine unattractive at all – I know myself well enough to know that I harbor faults and the potential for grave mistakes, and the expression that I am not alone in this regard and that I am still accepted is actually quite winning.

    I, along with David Ellis, am perplexed as to why Christians so often think that Christians invented morality, functioning societies, etc. If you think that only belief in your God prevents you (and others) from acting as they should deny themselves nothing then you have not looked at history or other contemporary non-Christian societies, and I imagine that you have not very deeply considered what life would be like without your beliefs.

  56. Yes, Geoff, there are unanswered questions with dualism (materialism faces a similar problem regarding consciousness). But I don’t think the problems are insurmountable for either of these theories and, since these are hypotheses which are probably by nature intrinsically untestable, I also see little reason for us to concern ourselves much about them.

    The position I favor most, if I have to pick one, is that these varieties of metaphysical question are simply incoherent. Literal nonsense.

  57. Tony,

    We’re talking about bias, and you’re denying that you want Christianity to be true.

    I’m denying that my wanting the historical events of Christianity to be true led to me believing they are actually true.

    If you know of the bias at work in my mind that would lead me to believe in ‘Christ was crucified for my sins’ rather than ‘Crucifictions aren’t required because we are all good’ then please tell me what it is because I’d be interested to know.

  58. Tom

    Tony, your beliefs regarding what NT scholarship is simply do not fit the facts of what NT scholarship is. I have said it clearly enough already, and I’m just going to have to leave it at that.

    I haven’t thought that you were unclear, but that you have failed to substantiate your claim that the body of NT scholars are not biased to confirm the historical authenticity of events of the NT and that the claim itself is, in fact, probably unknowable.

    My statement still stands: since the mid-1800s, the field of NT scholarship has been dominated by anti-supernaturalists, so the confirmation bias you keep wanting to find in NT scholarship is a chimera; you won’t find it.

    By dominated do you mean contributing most substantially to the field’s progress, or dominated as in presented a clear majority? It seems quite possible to me that the most influential NT scholars would be those who would identify themselves as anti-supernaturalists, but that the field itself would remain mostly Christian believers (supernaturalists). This is highly relevant to your assertion, but without your being more clear there’s no way for us to truly evaluate your argument.

    If the majority of scholars who study Islam or Mormonism are believer in the veracity of some parts of Islamic or Mormon history (respectively), then it would behoove us to inquire whether the majority of such historians are also proponents of the religion whose history they are studying. If the majority of NT scholars believe in the historical veracity of some parts of the NT, it is relevant to ask whether the majority of NT scholars are Christians or are believers in supernaturalism.

    The above is a completely reasonable thing to say. So do you know what proportion of those who vouch for the historicity of Jesus that you cited earlier are Christians or believers in supernaturalism? Because if you do not, it seems to undermine the validity of your prior claim.

    You asked me to where I got that information, to cite a source. I’m in a hotel room right now. I don’t have a library handy to look through. I got the information from years of reading lots of sources. If that’s not good enough for you, it’s the best I have available at the moment. You probably have better access to sources at hand than I have. Do you have information to show that I’m wrong? (I’m quite sure you don’t, because I’m quite sure I’m not wrong on this.)

    It was not my intention to catch you hamstrung. And I don’t wish to disagree simply to be disagreeable. If you like, I am willing to move forward to discuss issues you may want to proceed toward with the understanding that the historicity of the underlying events are a topic of, to the say the least, great controversy.

  59. SteveK,

    If you know of the bias at work in my mind that would lead me to believe in ‘Christ was crucified for my sins’ rather than ‘Crucifictions aren’t required because we are all good’ then please tell me what it is because I’d be interested to know.

    Not sure where you got this notion from. I now wonder if you understand the idea of confirmation bias.

    I also wonder how you would imagine the truth of the inverse of what you seem to contend is false, which is (my wording) “crucifying an innocent man is required because we are not all good.” That is actually a wonderful example of how confirmation bias (that Christianity must be true) can lead to odd, unreasonable outcomes.

  60. Tony,

    Not sure where you got this notion from. I now wonder if you understand the idea of confirmation bias.

    Wiki: Confirmation bias is an irrational tendency to search for, interpret or remember information in a way that confirms preconceptions or working hypotheses.

    Okay, I’ll ask it this way. What preconception would I be confirming if I were guilty of irrationally searching for and/or interpreting information in such a way as to come to the conclusion that the resurrection, as reported, was an historical event?

  61. Tony –
    Whatever your response (if you even have one), the Christian belief would be the means by which I satisfy my preconceptions (confirm my bias). The statement “Christian’s want Christianity to be true” should be stated as, “Christian’s want their preconceptions to be true”. If I couldn’t satisfy those preconceptions under Christian belief, then I’d satisfy it in another belief system (humanism for example). The truth of Christianity would be of no concern to me. It’s not necessary. That is what I was trying to say.

    So why did I pick Christianity rather than scientism or logical positivism or atheism to satisfy my preconceptions?

  62. Hello David

    Very nearly all of them. Idealism, neutral monism, panpsychism, you name it. All are consistent with what we observe about our world. I have no particular preference for any and no particular interest in the question since, as I pointed out, they result in no known difference to the way the world works that we can observe (if it did, they’d be verifiable and falsifiable).

    Anything except theism? Why how very catholic of you. You are sadly mistaken if you do not think they make any difference to the way the world works, or at least, how we think the world works and the way we live in the world so defined. Our beliefs about what is real and what is not real condition our actions.

    Yes, its speculative at this point. But at least we know chemicals exist and chemical reactions occur. We know that chemical bonds can and do, all the time, when the conditions are right naturally go from simpler to more complex molecules. It is far from a stretch to think that these processes could, under the right conditions and given enough time, result in self-replicating molecules.

    Can we say “entropy”? We do not “know” that chemical bonds “naturally go from simpler to more complex molecules”, quite the contrary, the observed scientific evidence demonstates the opposite.

    Are you actually going to try to equate the idea that “certain complex, living organisms are generated by decaying organic substances” like maggots being spontaneously generated from rotting meat is equivalent to what’s being discussed here or that this sort of spontaneous generation of complex life form’s having been rejected by the scientific community has any bearing on this discussion? Almost no biologist would agree.

    And your point is? Of course “almost no biologist would agree” – most biologists accept the materialist paradigm and are attempting to prove that maggots may spontaneously generate from stone. You have not offered any argument or evidence here other than an argument that “most biologists” believe that life can arise from chemicals, the very hypothesis in dispute. Most biologists once believed in spontaneous generation, that didn’t make spontaneous generation true. The rather sad fact that most biologists are still committed to a paradigm which is becoming increasingly untenable the more we learn about the true nature of living organisms is more reflective of dogmatic belief than scientific inquiry.

    That’s it. My naturalism is just as consistent with other metaphysical theories concerning what the basic “stuff” that makes up our world is. Neutral monism (to name just one–I’ve no particular preference for it either) is just as consistent with naturalism as materialism is.

    Anything except theism. I just wanted to know where you stood, you change your position so often I needed a scorecard. Tell me, is it difficult to stand when you have your feet planted firmly in mid-air?

  63. An interesting excursion into the modern scientific mind.

    http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/22300

    About 5 minutes into the diavlog the participants excuse the inexcusable faux pas of allowing Behe to participate in a diavlog on blogginheads, the ultimate sin for materialist (naturalist?) scientism. It appears that some misguided sense of inclusivity encouraged an over-zealous blogginghead producer to webcast a couple of ID centered daivlogs, much to the chagrin and everlasting shame of blogginheads chief editor, Robert Wright.

    Note from Robert Wright:
    My apologies to viewers who were hoping for a classic Science Saturday, complete with discussion of actual science. But I felt that, given the controversy involving two recent diavlogs that featured either a creationist or an adherent of intelligent design, I should try to explain (a) how those diavlogs came to be and (b) what our policy on discussing creationism and intelligent design will be going forward.

    It’s like reading David Ellis with audio… 8^>


  64. Anything except theism?

    I’m referring to theories concerning the basic “stuff” of the world. Theists and supernaturalists generally falls into one of two camps: idealism or dualism (not that either of those are necessarily theist/supernaturalist).


    You are sadly mistaken if you do not think they make any difference to the way the world works….

    There’s no test we can currently conduct to decide between them (although its conceivable that things like research into the paranormal and miracles could provide compelling evidence relevant to the question). But currently efforts in that regard have uncovered nothing which isn’t reasonably suspect.


    …..or at least, how we think the world works and the way we live in the world so defined. Our beliefs about what is real and what is not real condition our actions.

    True. But I’m talking only about whether we have basis for thinking any particular theory true. Not whether any particular theory has psychological and social effects. Not that I think the effects of any of these theories, in and of itself, has much effect….its only the second order ideas we attach to them that have great effects (like our religions and attempts to associate, wrongly in my opinion, ethics with metaphysics). All territory we’ve discussed before. I don’t know about you but I’m getting tired of repeating myself.


    Of course “almost no biologist would agree” – most biologists accept the materialist paradigm and are attempting to prove that maggots may spontaneously generate from stone.

    So I take it you ARE going to equate what we’re talking about with something that ridiculous. Then I’m wasting my time.

    And, by the way, a great many biologists are religious people who aren’t materialists. They accept evolution (and abiogenesis as the reasonable inference from the evidence for evolution) because the evidence is actually that compelling.


    You have not offered any argument or evidence here other than an argument that “most biologists” believe that life can arise from chemicals, the very hypothesis in dispute.

    Actually, I pointed out why its a reasonable idea. Because, given the evidence for evolution, its unreasonable to think the first step in the process was magic (and God created the self-replicating molecule and lo it was good). Because its a very small step from recognizing that natural processes constantly involve interactions resulting in simpler molecules forming more complex ones could lead to self-replicating molecules. There’s nothing magical about a molecule of this sort. Its just, probably, larger than most and its formation likely rare. But there’s simply nothing implausible about these processes given a large enough “natural laboratory” and enough time producing a self-replicating molecule. Yes, this is an area of investigation on the frontier of the science. But its also one we’ve been making progress in. Chemists have produced more and more complex molecules in the lab trying to replicate the conditions that they think may have been involved in abiogenesis.

    But one can stick with the God of the gaps if one likes…..and continue the retreat into ever smaller gaps.

  65. Hello David

    Perhaps you would like learn something new?

    “Metaphysics: Constructing a World View” by William Hasker is a relatively short book (124 pages), but contains a great deal of information. Surprisingly enough, although the topic of metaphysics may sound daunting, the subject matter is presented very simply. The reader will come away with a good overview of metaphysics and the common metaphysical issues.

    Available on googlebooks as a free preview
    http://books.google.com/books?id=NDqZDq5o0loC&dq=Metaphysics:+Constructing+a+World+View+by+William+Hasker&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=v_gd4vFCh2&sig=FGC4V98CcXyEL0l4aAc4L0yTwnI&hl=en&ei=myq6SrWpAovCsgO0oMkj&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false

  66. Thanks, but I’ve read a lot on metaphysics and don’t need an introduction level book. I was once extremely interested in it–before I concluded that the logical positivists were mostly, though probably not completely, right in their contempt for metaphysicians.

  67. SteveK,

    The statement “Christian’s want Christianity to be true” should be stated as, “Christian’s want their preconceptions to be true”. If I couldn’t satisfy those preconceptions under Christian belief, then I’d satisfy it in another belief system (humanism for example). The truth of Christianity would be of no concern to me. It’s not necessary. That is what I was trying to say.

    I think you are confusing normal human desires with confirmation bias.

    Yes, we all have similar desires. But confirmation bias is more specific, referring to our tendency to look for evidence that supports a theory, and ignore evidence against it.

    We look for support for our theories for, among other things, our already having invested in that theory. You suppose that you arrived at a point in your adult life when you all of a sudden decided, “Today’s the day I decide if I want to adopt a religion! Let’s look at what’s out there and give it a thorough review.”

    But few come to their religion that way. By the time they are ready to make such a decision, they are steeped in the theory that is their religion – complete with family and friends, the satisfaction of normal human desires, personal pride, etc. That is why so many people (surprise!) come to the “decision” that the kind of religion in which they were raised is the true one.

    What preconception would I be confirming if I were guilty of irrationally searching for and/or interpreting information in such a way as to come to the conclusion that the resurrection, as reported, was an historical event?

    The preconception that Christianity is historically accurate.

    But I think I’ve spent enough time on this topic. You appear to be contending that you, or Christians in general, are immune to confirmation bias when it comes to evaluating the evidence for Christianity. I may be critical of apologists, but I would never consider them to be inhuman.

  68. Hello David

    Thanks, but I’ve read a lot on metaphysics and don’t need an introduction level book. I was once extremely interested in it–before I concluded that the logical positivists were mostly, though probably not completely, right in their contempt for metaphysicians.

    Now why would logical positivists hold metaphysicians in contempt? Could it possibly be related to the self-referential incoherence of their own philosophy?

    “The principle of empirical verifiability states there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1) those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful.”

    http://books.google.com/books?id=PCGhbTrI9QoC&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=%22logical+positivism%22+geisler&source=bl&ots=9Bdg-lJXM6&sig=-wQP-SkZ_blGHboSSTz5NPNy9XI&hl=en&ei=0lG6Su6RK5HEsQPJ9M0l&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=%22logical%20positivism%22%20geisler&f=false

    Of course, as I noted above, you have your feet planted firmly in the air already. It is a logical consequence of logical positivism. No one likes having their morst cherished theories refuted in such a cavalier manner so they have developed a contempt for metaphysicians. That way they can employ the usual strategy of attacking the man rather than the argument.

    Logical positivism was, ironically, very much like a religious faith – a faith in natural science (which might be called “scientism”). This became very apparent when the positivist attempt to elucidate the strictly empirical foundation of natural science came to grief over the self-refuting character of the verification principle. When the elucidation failed, the logical positivist did not relinquish his original faith in natural science at all. He acted like a “true believer.” He held on to that commitment to science, regardless of its philosophical problems.

    http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa146.htm

    An unfortunate consequence of the religious commitment of the logical positivists and their subsequent offshoots was the diminishing of logic as a discipline of thought. Logic was essentially reduced to a calculating formula with little or no relation to the peculiarly human process of reasoning. Once one begins to study traditional logic one realizes that it has serious metaphysical implications which are rather difficult to ignore. It is imperative that the “true believer”, or perhaps I should say the “true un-believer”, avoid these metaphysical implications at all costs, even, if necessary, at the price of his very reason. “Though it always comes as a surprise to intellectuals, there are some forms of stupidity that one must be highly intelligent and educated to commit.”

  69. Tony,

    But confirmation bias is more specific, referring to our tendency to look for evidence that supports a theory, and ignore evidence against it.

    I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t WANT the THEORY of historical Christianity, qua historical Christianity, to be true so I’m not looking for evidence to support it.

    I MAY want the theory of a higher being/god/creator existing, life having meaning and purpose or an afterlife in a state of bliss to be true – and I MAY be looking for evidence to support THOSE theories, but I can find that evidence elsewhere.

    Remember, the evidence doesn’t exist under confirmation bias scenarios so I can “see” it anywhere.

    Are you normally this obtuse, Tony?

    You appear to be contending that you, or Christians in general, are immune to confirmation bias when it comes to evaluating the evidence for Christianity.

    Oh, for heaven’s sake, Tony. Honestly. I’ve given you ample opportunity to identify my preconceptions and you have failed to delivery time and time again. I guess all you have is empty claims of bias without any real argument or evidence.

    If I’m biased toward the historical events being true, I must want some preconception to be true. What is it? You said: “The preconception that Christianity is historically accurate.” Wrong.

    If you don’t know then stopy saying I’m biased toward some preconception.

    I will ignore your continuted empty claims about bias until you can tell me what my preconceptions are and why I’m biased toward historical Christianity.

  70. SteveK,

    Are you normally this obtuse, Tony?

    I have explained myself to the best of my abilities. Anyone reading our discussion here can make their own determination about who is being obtuse.

  71. Hi Tony

    What is the point that you have been trying to make?

    Shoud reiterate SteveK’s question?

    What part don’t you get?

  72. Dave:

    Me: What is the point that you have been trying to make?
    Dave: What part don’t you get?

    When someone says they don’t get your point, it means they don’t understand how the parts relate to an argument. My question doesn’t refer to the parts of your argument, but the argument itself.

    Do you understand why “what part don’t you get?” misses the question?


  73. “The principle of empirical verifiability states there are only two kinds of meaningful propositions: 1) those that are true by definition and 2) those that are empirically verifiable. Since the principle of empirical verifiability itself is neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable, it cannot be meaningful.”

    My thinking is similar but doesn’t involve quite so far-reaching a claim. My position is that any claim to describe the world or the way it works (a much more limited class of propositions)which results in no observable or experiencable difference in the way the world works is probably just a confusion of metaphors with what the metaphor describes.

    The materialist (at least before modern physics) might describe the world in terms of indescribably small billiard balls in space interacting with one another. Another metaphysician, an idealist, might think of it more like a computer simulation.

    I tend to think both are describing the exact same thing. They’re just giving them different labels and thinking about them in terms of different imagery and metaphors. I don’t see real substantive difference.

    On the other hand, if the idealist posits something observably different from the materialist and says mind can directly affect events and other minds without any physical means being involved then we’re getting into the territory of testable hypotheses. We can then look for evidence of telepathy that involves no physical basis, reincarnation, ghosts, etc. to seek support for the claim (though we still have to be alert to unknown physical phenomena in doing so).

    I think parapsychology is a failed enterprise and hold out little hope of that changing. But who knows? It’s not inconceivable that we’ll manage to find good evidence of psi eventually.

    So I don’t go nearly as far toward the elimination of metaphysics as the logical positivists. But I do agree with them that most of what metaphysicians have historically written is little more than building cloud castles of imagination.


    No one likes having their morst cherished theories refuted in such a cavalier manner so they have developed a contempt for metaphysicians.

    You have that a bit backwards. The contempt for metaphysics preceded the criticisms of the verification principle.

    But I’m not sure why you keep coming up with these criticisms of logical positivists when I’m not one of them. You can criticize the VP all day long. But since I never endorsed it the criticisms have no bearing on this discussion.


  74. I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t WANT the THEORY of historical Christianity, qua historical Christianity, to be true so I’m not looking for evidence to support it.

    You don’t have to want something to be true to have a bias in favoring of confirming its truth.

    A man of a suspicious nature, for example, doesn’t WANT his wife to be sleeping with other men….but he may be inclined to believe it at the slightest hint that its happened none the less.

    Wanting something to be true is only one of many things that can involve us in confirmation bias.

  75. Hi David Ellis,

    I tend to think both are describing the exact same thing. They’re just giving them different labels and thinking about them in terms of different imagery and metaphors. I don’t see real substantive difference.

    That is a metaphysical theory using imagery and metaphors.

    (though we still have to be alert to unknown physical phenomena in doing so).

    We have to be? Why do we not have to be alert to unknown mental phenomena when investigating purportedly physical causation?
    That’s another metaphysical claim.

    So I don’t go nearly as far toward the elimination of metaphysics as the logical positivists.

    You don’t eliminate it at all.

    While we’re on about confirmation bias I admit I may have missed it but I never saw an answer to my question to you: so what if the same 75% of NT scholars who believe in the four facts of the minimalist argument for the historicity of the Resurrection are Christian and so what if the 25% who purportedly reject the facts are not? What are you saying?

    This line of questioning, of course, ignores the fact that you have been presented a Jewish scholar who accepts that Jesus (Whom he believes to have been a mere prophet and not the Son of God or in any way Divine) was Resurrected, and that there are skeptics who accept the empty tomb and the Disciples’ experiences of Jesus after His death (inc, Ehrman). It also ignores the fact that non-orthodox Christians of the day accepted the Resurrection and rolled it into their gnostic beliefs (denying Jesus’ human nature and His actual death) and that an opposing religion, Islam, which rejected the tenets of Christianity accepted the historicity of the account (making His death an illusion to account for it). These sources have their respective failings, as humans do, but they demonstrate that the argument against the Resurrection was never ‘he was just a man and he died and he’s still in the grave’.

  76. Hello Tony

    Once upon a time someone (on a completely different site) told me that I was being irrational, so I restructured my argument and posted it again. He responded with a “That’s all very well, but you’re irrational.” Once more unto the breech, I restructured the argument yet again only to receive the same reply. You see, Tony, some people have this idea that “rational” means “I don’t believe in God.” so any theistic argument is a priori irrational. When I suggested to my correspondent that this might be the case I received no response.

    Not being the sort of person to just let it pass, I subsequently purchased a collection of logic texts, both ancient and modern. After all, if I was ‘irrational’ I wanted to know. Fortunately for my rather high opinion of myself I discovered that I was not ‘irrational’ – although I will allow that I might be mistaken about things – and I learned a lot about the nature, history, and practice of reason. One of the more curious points is the modern penchant for defining skepticism as rational when, in fact, skepticism is anything but rational.

    4. (initial capital letter) Philosophy.

    a. a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece, the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that real knowledge of things is impossible.

    b. any later thinker who doubts or questions the possibility of real knowledge of any kind.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/skeptic

    Since logic and reason are the tools by which we study and learn the true nature of things – that is to say, the tools through which we aquire knowledge – then skepticism is the antithesis of reason. However, this enthusiasm for skepticism is highly selective, one must be skeptical about all things theistic but one must be jaw-droppingly gullible about all things scientistic.

    For example, David Ellis can write;

    Yes, its speculative at this point. But at least we know chemicals exist and chemical reactions occur. We know that chemical bonds can and do, all the time, when the conditions are right naturally go from simpler to more complex molecules. It is far from a stretch to think that these processes could, under the right conditions and given enough time, result in self-replicating molecules.

    That is a statement of faith in promissory materialism.

  77. Dave,

    If you cannot be bothered to explicitly state your argument then I will not try and piece it together for you.

    It seems like you are saying in your last comment that you are not irrational because you proved it to yourself by reading, that skepticism is not rational and that it disqualifies one from making arguments about reality, and that logic and reason are the (sole) tools by which we learn the true nature of things.

    I don’t care to sort any of this out for a variety of reasons, but I’d include the fact that I am still unable to discern what it is that you are trying to argue for, or against.


  78. That is a statement of faith in promissory materialism.

    Again, I’m not a materialist. One does not have to be a materialist (or even a naturalist, which I actually am) to believe in atoms, molecules and chemical reactions. Nor to make quite reasonable inferences from what we know about these things and about the overall diminishing complexity of lifeforms as one goes back in time.


    That is a metaphysical theory using imagery and metaphors.

    Its an opinion about metaphysical theories as I’ve generally encountered them. If you want to call it engaging in metaphysics I have no objection to that. As I said, I’m not trying to totally eliminate metaphysics as the logical positivists were.


    We have to be? Why do we not have to be alert to unknown mental phenomena when investigating purportedly physical causation?

    We do. The discovery of the previously unknown placebo effect being a prime example (not that I’m saying that, ultimately, there’s no physical component of the placebo effect–but its certainly true that state of mind has repercussions for health and healing).


    You don’t eliminate it at all.

    That’s right, I don’t. I just think a lot of what’s been done in the field over most of the history of philosophy has been, metaphorically speaking, fairy castles—colossal edifices of baseless speculation and rather poor reasoning.


    While we’re on about confirmation bias I admit I may have missed it but I never saw an answer to my question to you: so what if the same 75% of NT scholars who believe in the four facts of the minimalist argument for the historicity of the Resurrection are Christian and so what if the 25% who purportedly reject the facts are not? What are you saying?

    I’m saying its a strong reason to suspect at least one of the groups is biased.

    But I’m also saying that you’re exhibiting confirmation bias when you point to a handful of non-christian scholars among the 75% for as compelling reason to consider this position well-founded while not asking the same about believers in the opposite camp and their reasons for their position.

    Regardless, though, I’m thoroughly tired of this topic. The 75% in question do not, from what I’ve read, consider this a settled issue. They don’t consider the 25% in the opposing camp as holding an unreasonable position (like, for example, cosmologists would consider someone who denied that any astronomical object exists outside the orbit of the outer planets). And 75% isn’t a very big consensus anyway.

    More importantly, as Tony pointed out, this isn’t a topic that requires specialized expertise. We can and do understand the arguments for ourselves. So if you want to discuss the actual arguments in support of the empty tomb or other historical claims then I’ll be glad to continue the discussion. If you want to just continue ad nauseum to debate about what percentage of NT scholar believe X,Y or Z and how much weight we should give their opinion then the rest of you’ll have to do that amongst yourselves—we’ve talked it over enough so far as I’m concerned—and we certainly don’t seem to be getting anywhere with the discussion. Especially since our requests for additional data have been ignored.

  79. Hi Tony

    What I am saying (arguing) is that the simplistic, skeptical, arguments against theism are not (necessarily) rational and that theistic arguments are (at least as) rational as the allegedly rational skeptical arguments. The fallacy of skeptics is to believe that they think rationally, probably caused by reading too many back issues of “Reason” magazine, when in fact they are often more irrational than the theist.

  80. Earlier, David incorrectly applied the term “speculative” to metaphysics (“with something as speculative as metaphysics the possibilities are wide open”). It’s this kind of ignorance even of the basic terms (“speculative” is an important term of art not reducible to a pejorative label aimed at things he doesn’t get) that leaves atheists (in particular) spouting the nonsense we see here and elsewhere. This latest example from David is a perfect example:

    I just think a lot of what’s been done in the field over most of the history of philosophy has been, metaphorically speaking, fairy castles—colossal edifices of baseless speculation and rather poor reasoning.

    Every natural scientist should be insulted by such crass self-serving ignorance. It was the speculative philosophy of the medieval Scholastics which laid the groundwork that makes it possible for the MESs to operate today. Duhem (a physicist who was, initially, also an atheist, was stunned by what his own and others’ research revealed regarding the origin of the MESs), Jaki followed up… and there has been no serious challenge to the findings of these and other researchers. (Of course, atheists will accuse these guys of being “biased” simply because they were Christians… but their own views are beyond question: the genetic fallacy as a rhetorical trick over and over and over again.)

    Don’t fall for David’s claim that he’s not a materialist: claiming not to be one while operating as one (I’ve concretely pointed this out earlier) is disingenuous. It’s like Daniel Dennett at his “naturalism” sight butchering the term “spiritual” and applying it to “naturalism” in the attempt to gain an air of credibility.

    Rank obtuseness.

  81. Holo, thank you for kindly taking the time to share your opinion. You seem to think I believe medieval Christian philosophers didn’t contribute to the development of science. You are incorrect.

    I won’t bother with the rest of your misrepresentations and baseless assertions. I have better things to do.

  82. ???

    The medieval Scholastics were used as an example NOT (as you claim without basis) to counter your understanding of their contribution BUT to counter your foolish assertion that I just think a lot of what’s been done in the field over most of the history of philosophy has been, metaphorically speaking, fairy castles—colossal edifices of baseless speculation and rather poor reasoning. “I believe“? Yeah, right… the very philosophical basis upon which the MESs are built (by medieval Christians–that must really gall you) are nothing but “fairy castles.” (I bet you can’t name a single medieval axiom–of the roughly 75–that form the basis for the MESs to operate so well.)

    Your own atheistic biases are clouding not only your ability to reason but to correctly read what others write. But, hey, I can’t say that because atheists are never biased–only Christians are… and hence nothing Christians say can be true irrespective of whatever biases are at play.

    Oh, and yes, you are a materialist… albeit one still in the closet: your personal epistemological restrictions betray that.

  83. Hello David

    Again, I’m not a materialist. One does not have to be a materialist (or even a naturalist, which I actually am) to believe in atoms, molecules and chemical reactions. Nor to make quite reasonable inferences from what we know about these things and about the overall diminishing complexity of lifeforms as one goes back in time.

    Isn’t subjectivism grand. You can build your own little castle and take shots at the passersby with impunity and whenever the return fire comes close you throw up your hands and say “I’m not…” What is “nature” in your world? “atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions”?

    As I said, I’m not trying to totally eliminate metaphysics as the logical positivists were.

    But your not a metaphysician… or a materialist… or a logical positivist… or?

    We do. The discovery of the previously unknown placebo effect being a prime example (not that I’m saying that, ultimately, there’s no physical component of the placebo effect–but its certainly true that state of mind has repercussions for health and healing).

    But you’re not an idealist… er, a materialist…

  84. Naturalism, Human Persons and Rationality: Admitting the Problem

    The recalcitrant nature of human persons for scientific naturalism has been widely noticed. Thus, Berkeley philosopher John Searle recently observed, “There is exactly one overriding question in contemporary philosophy….How do we fit in?….How can we square this self-conception of ourselves as mindful, meaning-creating, free, rational, etc., agents with a universe that consists entirely of mindless, meaningless, unfree, nonrational, brute physical particles?” For the scientific naturalist, the answer is “not very well.”

    http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2008/08/04/naturalism-human-persons-and-rationality-admitting-the-problem/

  85. I just think a lot of what’s been done in the field over most of the history of philosophy has been, metaphorically speaking, fairy castles—colossal edifices of baseless speculation and rather poor reasoning.

    “The only good reason for learning philosophy is to refute bad philosophy.”
    C. S. Lewis

  86. Hi David Ellis:

    Me:
    You don’t eliminate it at all.
    DE:
    That’s right, I don’t.
    DE:
    As I said, I’m not trying to totally eliminate metaphysics as the logical positivists were.

    Yeah, most people reject logical positivism and its claims.

    Me:
    We have to be? Why do we not have to be alert to unknown mental phenomena when investigating purportedly physical causation?
    DE:
    We do. The discovery of the previously unknown placebo effect being a prime example (not that I’m saying that, ultimately, there’s no physical component of the placebo effect–but its certainly true that state of mind has repercussions for health and healing).

    You also can’t say that, ultimately, there is no mental component at the base of every physical component.

    I’m saying its a strong reason to suspect at least one of the groups is biased.

    That’s a sensible position. And since neither is free of bias nor of a world view the question about “who’s a Christian” is a red herring.

    But I’m also saying that you’re exhibiting confirmation bias

    No, you are.

    when you point to a handful of non-christian scholars among the 75% for as compelling reason to consider this position well-founded while not asking the same about believers in the opposite camp and their reasons for their position.

    Oh. Were there believers in the opposite camp? What was their percentage and how did they overcome their bias?

    Regardless, though, I’m thoroughly tired of this topic. The 75% in question do not, from what I’ve read, consider this a settled issue.

    Were they presented as settling the issue?

    They don’t consider the 25% in the opposing camp as holding an unreasonable position (like, for example, cosmologists would consider someone who denied that any astronomical object exists outside the orbit of the outer planets). And 75% isn’t a very big consensus anyway.

    Of course not.

    More importantly, as Tony pointed out, this isn’t a topic that requires specialized expertise. We can and do understand the arguments for ourselves.

    Is that so? Tony didn’t seem to understand them well at all.

    So if you want to discuss the actual arguments in support of the empty tomb or other historical claims then I’ll be glad to continue the discussion. If you want to just continue ad nauseum to debate about what percentage of NT scholar believe X,Y or Z and how much weight we should give their opinion then the rest of you’ll have to do that amongst yourselves—we’ve talked it over enough so far as I’m concerned—and we certainly don’t seem to be getting anywhere with the discussion. Especially since our requests for additional data have been ignored.

    I have no interest in debating ad nauseum the percentages (how many comments does it take on the subject before it becomes ad nauseum? I’m usually allowed more than two.). What I wanted to discuss was your question begging indictment of the biases of the 75%. We already discussed the historical arguments and it is just the logic of those arguments, unfounded claims of bias aside, that the scholars in question found convincing and present as evidence – yes, even those who aren’t Christian.

  87. Charlie,

    I think you’re coming late to this discussion.

    David Ellis: Regardless, though, I’m thoroughly tired of this topic. The 75% in question do not, from what I’ve read, consider this a settled issue.
    Charlie: Were they presented as settling the issue?

    Yes. In a previous post entitled “The First Easter: Historical Consensus,” Tom presented this statement, “We do know for sure [“for sure” subsequently withdrawn] that Jesus lived, died, and was buried in a grave provided by Joseph of Arimathea. We know for sure that the grave was found empty by several women on the following Sunday, and that several of Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they took to be the risen Christ appearing to them.”

    He also included this quote:

    Habermas found that 75% of scholars accepted the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb. The evidence is so compelling that even a number of Jewish scholars … have declared themselves convinced on the basis of the evidence that the tomb was empty

    The whole purpose of Tom’s post, as far as I can tell, was to establish that because of the (supposed) consensus of NT scholars the historicity of the events of the NT as being beyond reasonable doubt. Which makes this all the more funny.

    David Ellis: More importantly, as Tony pointed out, this isn’t a topic that requires specialized expertise. We can and do understand the arguments for ourselves.
    Charlie: Is that so? Tony didn’t seem to understand them well at all.

    I’ll leave subsequent readers here the option to determine, once again, where the lack of understanding is.

  88. Hi Tony,
    You’re right, I think Tom did present it as an issue which could be considered to be settled … if you ignore context and the very fact that 25% of experts disagree.
    Did you think that Tom was calling the dissenting scholars irrational? I didn’t.

    Tony: Which makes this all the more funny.
    David Ellis: More importantly, as Tony pointed out, this isn’t a topic that requires specialized expertise. We can and do understand the arguments for ourselves.
    Charlie: Is that so? Tony didn’t seem to understand them well at all.

    I’m glad you have a sense of humour but since the two points are barely related (the 75/25% number vs. the arguments for the Resurrection) your amusement derives from your not quite following the argument … again.

    I’ll leave subsequent readers here the option to determine, once again, where the lack of understanding is.

    You do that:
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-16097
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-16126
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/09/independent-attestation/#comment-16143

    Maybe their propensity for confirmation bias is encouragement.

  89. Charlie,

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I thought “Tom was calling the dissenting scholars irrational[.]” I think that the logical conclusion, with my concern about a Christian confirming bias, would be that it is the consenting scholars would might be irrational.

    Thanks for the links. I think they, along with this, continue to confirm that your accusations that our disagreement stems from failing to understand your argument are not so well-founded as perhaps you imagine.

  90. William Lane Craig vs. Lewis Wolpert

    Craig, ‘God exists, here is the evidence.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist, there is no evidence.’

    Craig, ‘God exists, here is the evidence.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist, who made God?’

    Craig, ‘God does exist, he is an uncaused eternal being. Here is the evidence.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist. He hasn’t done anything in the last 2,000 years.’

    Craig, ‘That’s chronological snobbery. You don’t tell the time with an argument, you don’t tell if an argument is true or false, of if evidence is good or bad with a watch.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist. We believe because we have a notion of cause and effect, this leads to toolmaking, and also to belief in God.’

    Craig, ‘That’s the genetic fallacy. To confuse the origin of a belief with it’s truth or falsity. You need to deal with the arguments and evidence that I have presented.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist. There is no evidence. Who made God?’

    Craig, ‘Here is the evidence. God is an uncaused being. God does exist.’

    Wolpert, ‘God doesn’t exist. There is no evidence.’

    Craig, ‘God does exist. Here is the evidence.’

    http://abetterhope.blogspot.com/2007/02/william-lane-craig-vs-lewis-wolpert.html

  91. Hi Tony,

    I don’t know where you got the idea that I thought “Tom was calling the dissenting scholars irrational[.]”

    I got it from your words because that’s what your words mean. An unreasonable doubt is an irrational doubt.

    I think that the logical conclusion, with my concern about a Christian confirming bias, would be that it is the consenting scholars would might be irrational.

    What’s your opinion about who you think is irrational (surprise, it’s Christians) have to do with where I got the idea above? You don’t make sense here when you write such logically unconnected sentences.

    Thanks for the links.

    You’re welcome.

    I think they, along with this, continue to confirm that your accusations that our disagreement stems from failing to understand your argument are not so well-founded as perhaps you imagine.

    I’m sure you do. Given your discourses on confirmation bias it’s quite ironic (let the reader understand).

  92. Hi Steve.
    It couples well with Dave’s Wolpert selections.
    Ironically, many here are going to watch it and think “so what? Infidel Guy did a great job. That’s just what I would have said.”

  93. Oh wait,

    I think they, along with this, continue to confirm that your accusations that our disagreement stems from failing to understand your argument are not so well-founded as perhaps you imagine.

    Yes, it is true that you do not grasp the arguments well. But I didn’t say that is why we disagree. I think your horse and cart are backwards in that scenario.

    In fact, as the links show, you don’t even understand your own arguments all the time.

  94. Thanks for that link too, Charlie. I thought the last paragraph summed up the universal problem quite well.

    Reginald read the following comment by one of his listeners: “The point, of course, is that their God doesn’t heal the things that would be impossible to refute as divine intervention. Their God only heals the things that still leave us having to doubt.” Here the writer says that the things God does can be “refuted” as divine acts. This is, to say the least, absurd. No one can refute a healing as a divine act, just as no one can refute the resurrection as a divine act. What the writer means is that God doesn’t do the things that would make it impossible to doubt. God, according to the atheist, should do something so amazing that we couldn’t possibly doubt it. But as I’ve shown elsewhere, there is nothing God could do that we couldn’t doubt. Reginald suggested that God should regenerate some limbs. But all atheists would have to posit is that the human body has some amazing, yet unknown, healing powers. Reginald also argued that God should appear to everyone. Wouldn’t this remove all doubt? I doubt it. If God were to appear to us, there would still be a group of skeptics saying either that we’re all having a mass delusion, or that powerful aliens are pretending to be God. There’s simply no end to the “I want more” obsession. If God goes three feet, we can always complain that he didn’t go five. If God gives us a Mercedes, we can always demand a yacht.
    This may be a small part of the reason why God has arranged things as he has. Not giving us everything we want certainly generates complaints, but at the same time, this arrangement reveals something very important about us. It distinguishes those whose natural response to God’s gifts is gratitude from those who think that God’s sole purpose is to meet their demands.


  95. But as I’ve shown elsewhere, there is nothing God could do that we couldn’t doubt. Reginald suggested that God should regenerate some limbs. But all atheists would have to posit is that the human body has some amazing, yet unknown, healing powers.

    The “God doesn’t give clear evidence because you wouldn’t believe it anyway” rhetorical response.

    Easy to accuse people of. Too bad we don’t have the opportunity to find out if it’s really the case.

  96. Hidden somewhere in the buiding is a cube… What does the cube contain?

    Presupposes an isoloated and incommunicative God… the God of the Deists… which is disinterested in the world. What if the cube contains a transmitter which sends signals about its content out to the residents of the building? The cube is no longer isolated and incommunicative.

    Logic CAN’T show that possible beings actually exist, without evidence.

    Can you measure or weigh logic? Does it have dimension? Is it physical? What counts as evidence?

    Changeless means “Non-functioning” – Minds and purposeful creation DEPEND on change.

    Here our resident skeptic exploits the ambiguity in the word ‘change’ – does he mean change form, change nature, change content, change intent… etc.

    to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone: to change one’s name; to change one’s opinion; to change the course of history.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/change

    100 invalid arguments don’t accumulate into 1 valid one. “They know they can’t prove God with logic…”

    This is just breathtaking in its audacity. Every one of the arguments he so cavalierly dismisses as “doomed” is a logical argument. He may disagree with one or more of the premises in each of the arguments but he does not indicate which if any of the premises are flawed. Given the rather obvious fact that these arguments have been taken seriously by some of the greatest minds in history – whether they accept the conclusions or not – as evidential in nature one must ask on what grounds he so confidently dismisses them as “doomed”. This is a wonderful example of the skeptic using “reason” as a mantra to support a metaphysic in which reason is impossible.

    I’m just exposing your flawed reasoning

    Physician, heal thyself. Given the activist nature of atheists and their use of the law to ban religious expression and/or education on the basis of their own flawed reasoning and unexamined assumptions.

    et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…

  97. I’m just now back in circulation after a week and a half of travel on a really crazy schedule. I have just read through the comments of the past several days, and I think I’m caught up on them. You know what I find interesting in all of this? There’s something I’ve been looking for and I haven’t found it. In fact, Geoff ducked it when I asked him about it.

    What I find especially interesting is how this has gotten off topic. Geoff presented this video as “a simple presentation explaining why all of these arguments are ultimately unconvincing to most atheists;” and I believe that claim has been countered. Numerous other topics have wound as trails around this thread, but this question remains unaddressed: what will Geoff and others do with their support of a supposedly logical presentation that has been shown to be utterly illogical?

    He’s not the only one who endorsed the thing; Discover Magazine blog showcased it as having come from a group that does “high-quality logical videos.” I can’t imagine what got into them.

    Let me review what I already wrote. The video presents itself as wiping away all theistic belief with a single overarching argument; so that, knowing that every theistic argument is flawed, all one has to do is find the flaw in each one. But finding that flaw is merely clean-up work. We already know, by the argument represented in the cube, that theistic arguments are always wrong.

    It is presented as a logical argument. My point (echoed by many here) was that as a purported model of logical argumentation, it fails utterly and it fails embarrassingly. The example of clean-up work presented in the video, regarding God as a changeless mind, is just awful. And that’s only the first error it makes in its assumptions about theism. The video presents multiple straw-man arguments. But it comes from a group claiming to be masters of logic.

    I believe this video has been shown to be wrong. I believe that Geoff’s assertion that it explains “why all of these arguments are ultimately unconvincing to most atheists” is valid only for those atheists that are willing to be convinced by that which is logically untenable. Geoff, do you still endorse this video? If so, on what grounds? Other skeptics/atheists: do you endorse it? Would you put it forward as representing any part of your viewpoint now?

  98. The first comment on the Discover Magazine website about this video is steeped in irony.

    1. rob Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 8:15 am
    i read on a blog a few weeks ago, something that sums it up pretty nicely.

    you are entitled to your own opions, but not to your own facts.

    Yes, but you need the correct facts about Christian theology/faith before you can make a video that claims to expose the flawed thinking.

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