“Science Says The Universe Has No Purpose” — Lawrence Krauss

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Lawrence Krauss’s book A Universe From Nothing was panned about as effectively as any publication I’ve seen, when David Albert published his review in the NY Times Sunday Book Review. That was on March 22. A Google search on “Krauss nothing” returns dozens of other negative reviews. Just to show that even great criticism has its limits, the LA Times published an opinion piece by Krauss on April 1. (The date is fitting.) I don’t think it’s too late now to register my opinion on it.

The piece is called “A universe without a purpose,” and it’s subtitled, “New revelations in science have shown what a strange and remarkable universe we live in.” There’s enough right there work with: if Krauss is going to tell us that scientific revelations show the universe has no purpose, he’s crazy. What science could tell us, possibly, is that as far as science knows, it’s possible the universe has no purpose—with emphasis on as far as science knows and possible. Science doesn’t know everything.

He opens the piece,

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

Well it was. God did that. Does Krauss think science disproves that? I think he does. How does he come to that conclusion? If we’re supposed to find the answer to that question in this article, we’re in trouble—or else Krauss is. Now, I’ve written for newspapers, and I understand the space limits they impose. If he had said that it was hard to explain in so few words, I could accept that, and I could look elsewhere for his real explanation. He doesn’t do that, though. Instead he wastes valuable words on this kind of nonsense:

One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein’s realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.

Physics has indeed presented us with challenges: wave-particle duality, absolute limits to knowledge, cosmological mysteries of dark matter and dark energy, and as Krauss tells us,

Most surprising of all, combining the ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics, we can understand how it is possible that the entire universe, matter, radiation and even space itself could arise spontaneously out of nothing, without explicit divine intervention. Quantum mechanics’ Heisenberg uncertainty principle expands what can possibly occur undetected in otherwise empty space. If gravity too is governed by quantum mechanics, then even whole new universes can spontaneously appear and disappear, which means our own universe may not be unique but instead part of a “multiverse.”

Pardon my bewilderment, but what does any of this have to do with “pillars of classical logic”? Classical logic has to do with the way we draw inferences from premises or evidence (which frequently supplies the material for our premises). Contemporary science still draws inferences from premises/evidence. It still relies on those classical pillars. If it didn’t, then evidences could lead to any conclusion whatsoever, without logical restraint. Krauss’s statement here betrays an astonishing ignorance concerning philosophy.

Not that he has no appreciation for it whatsoever, as he has explained in a more recent article. Still,

I, and most of the colleagues with whom I have discussed this matter, have found that philosophical speculations about physics and the nature of science are not particularly useful, and have had little or no impact upon progress in my field.

This is hilarious. His conclusion, the universe came from nothing, comes from his philosophical speculations about physics and the nature of science. Of course since he is a physicist he has the right to practice philosophy, just as (elsewhere in that article) he grants physicists the right to draw the right conclusions about the implications of quantum physics. Granted, physicists have a better grip than the rest of us on the issues raised by physics, but that doesn’t make them good philosophers. The best illustration for that is Krauss and “nothing.” For a universe to arise out of his kind of “nothing,” that “nothing” has to be the sort of nothing that accommodates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It has to be the kind of nothing in which laws of physics apply, and where the potential to create matter exists. Physical laws and potentialities are not nothing.

But Krauss will have (ahem) nothing of that. He sets it aside with,

When it comes to the real operational issues that govern our understanding of physical reality, ontological definitions of classical philosophers are, in my opinion, sterile. Moreover, arguments based on authority, be it Aristotle, or Leibniz, are irrelevant.

I’m not sure whether the “or” in “real or operational” is the “or” of an appositive or of an alternative. In other words, I don’t know if he means real issues = operational issues, or if he means either real issues or operational issues. If the former, then he’s playing philosopher again in a big way. (It’s not a real issue unless it’s an operational issue. Fiat reality, and those of you who disagree just shut up, would you? Not that I’m trying to act as an authority… see below.) If the latter, he’s still playing philosopher, but maybe not quite so egregiously. Anyway, he goes on,

In science, there are no authorities, and appeal to quotes from brilliant scholars who lived before we knew the Earth orbited the Sun, or that space can be curved, or that dark matter or dark energy exist do not generally inform our current understanding of nature. Empirical explorations ultimately change our understanding of which questions are important and fruitful and which are not.

Important or fruitful for what purpose? For empirical and scientific purposes, surely. He assumes that those categories are all that count. I suspect he’s making that assumption on his own authority, without even recognizing he’s doing so. In science, there are no authorities.

He meanders from there through some muddled thinking on theology and philosophy, and leads us to this defense of his “nothing:”

Instead, sticking firm to the classical ontological definition of nothing as “the absence of anything”—whatever this means—so essential to theological, and some subset of philosophical intransigence, strikes me as essentially sterile, backward, useless and annoying. If “something” is a physical quantity, to be determined by experiment, then so is ‘nothing’.

“Intransigence.” Hmmph. No authority-playing here, right? Wrong.

“If ‘something is a physical quantity, to be determined by experiment, then so is ‘nothing’.” Really? How does that follow? How? It boggles the mind! (Maybe the Walking Christian was right.)

Krauss closes that piece saying,

To those who wish to impose their definition of reality abstractly, independent of emerging empirical knowledge and the changing questions that go with it, and call that either philosophy or theology, I would say this: Please go on talking to each other, and let the rest of us get on with the goal of learning more about nature.

His mistake is obvious. He tells us that philosophical/theological definitions of “nothing” are unhelpful to the progress of science, and in that carefully delimited realm I’m sure he is correct. He says physicists have their definition of “nothing,” and it happens to be the sort of “nothing” that can produce something. In this he is also correct. This is all true as far as science knows. But he also says that the same “nothing” explains where all the somethings came from, while forgetting that this “nothing” demands explanation itself, for in the broad scheme of things it too is a “something.”

Back now to the LA Times article, where he writes,

Perhaps most remarkable of all, not only is it now plausible, in a scientific sense, that our universe came from nothing, if we ask what properties a universe created from nothing would have, it appears that these properties resemble precisely the universe we live in.

We know this because if a universe created from nothing didn’t have these properties, we wouldn’t be living in it, as he says elsewhere. It’s a neat little post hoc, circular-logic, anthropic trick. The prediction of what a universe-from-nothing would produce is made on the basis of what the universe (wherever it came from) actually did produce. Oh, and did he say “created”? How careless of him! It’s that pesky illusion of design creeping into his language, right here in the very article he’s writing to refute it.

Does all of this prove that our universe and the laws that govern it arose spontaneously without divine guidance or purpose? No, but it means it is possible.

And that possibility need not imply that our own lives are devoid of meaning. Instead of divine purpose, the meaning in our lives can arise from what we make of ourselves, from our relationships and our institutions, from the achievements of the human mind.

Imagining living in a universe without purpose may prepare us to better face reality head on. I cannot see that this is such a bad thing. Living in a strange and remarkable universe that is the way it is, independent of our desires and hopes, is far more satisfying for me than living in a fairy-tale universe invented to justify our existence.

Science reveals that it’s possible there is no Creator God, he says; and to believe in God is to living in a “fairy-tale universe invented to justify our existence.” Really, now. Purpose and design are illusory, too. Where did those conclusions come from? From science reveals it’s possible there is no Creator God? If that’s what he thinks, then the pillars of logic have indeed been kicked out after all— from under one scientist, at least.

516 Responses

  1. BillT says:

    We, in some sense, should be thankful for Mr. Krauss. Without him (and a few others I can think of) it would be so much more difficult to explain the inadequacies of this kind of secular thought. But Mr. Krauss makes it abundantly clear just how inadequate he is at making sense of anything outside of his little world. It goes something like this, right?

    “Something can come from nothing as long as that nothing is really something and that something (that comes from nothing) looks just like it should if it came from nothing because that’s the way it does look and if you doubt this is true don’t because I said it is. Oh, and philosophy is stupid.”

  2. Crude says:

    I’m with BillT. This book was basically a gift to theists – Krauss’ thoughts on this matter have been panned so effectively, from so many quarters, that it’s really breathtaking. At this point, his arguably sole defense of his book amounts to ‘I wasn’t trying to answer the question everyone thought I was, and which my book title says I was. I was just trying to popularize science and show what cool ideas are in science.’

    I think the best part – and the part that isn’t really discussed – is how even Krauss’ defense, weak as it is, can only get any traction at all by completely throwing Dawkins under the bus.

  3. JAD says:

    Consider the following argument:

    1. Something has always existed.

    2. The universe began to exist.

    3. Whatever it was that caused the universe to exist has always existed.

    Comments:

    Even many atheists share the intuition that premise #1 is true, otherwise you have to believe, like Krauss, that something comes into being uncaused (and unexplained) from nothing.

    Big bang cosmology has pretty much established premise #2.

    Not only is whatever caused the universe to exist eternal, but it must also be transcendent.

    Questions:

    What is it that has always existed?

    Doesn’t this argument at least imply that the universe has a purpose?

  4. Justin says:

    JAD, I don’t think that that argument alone would imply purpose. I think you would need other arguments.

    As for Krauss, it amazes me that some really, really intelligent people print some of the most laughable assertions about what science has “proven” with respect to God. I realize that nobody is perfect, and that perhaps we are, at times, blind to our own misconceptions along the way. I get that. But wow, this really takes the cake. Between Krauss, Dawkins, and Hawking, there really are a lot of foolish claims being put into print by some otherwise truly gifted people.

  5. Victoria says:

    My issue with this type of science writing is when the author fails to do the following:
    (a) makes a clear distinction between established scientific consensus and what is currently speculative – things that have been well-tested and verified vs those things which are still unverified.
    (b) let the reader know that he is making a transition from modern empirical science to metaphysics, philosophy and theology – and, simply asserts a metaphysical conclusion without rigorously supporting it.
    (c) has an axe to grind, and does not say so up front.
    (d) explain the methods and limitations of modern empirical science.

  6. JAD says:

    Justin:

    JAD, I don’t think that that argument alone would imply purpose. I think you would need other arguments.

    Maybe… However, I think the very concept of something eternal and transcendent “advances the ball”, so to speak, towards the meaning and purpose end of the field. Of course, it raises the question of what is the nature of whatever it is that is eternal and transcendent. I think there are at least two possibilities:

    A. Agency (intelligent consciousness or mind.)

    B. Some kind of mindless mechanism.

    C. ?

    If you argue for B you are arguing for an infinite regress of mindless causation.

    Are there any reasons to prefer B over A? I would argue there are better reasons to believe A.

  7. Justin says:

    Hey JAD,

    I’m a bit of a novice at philosophy, but I think that the Kalam type arguments Take you up to the choice between A and B. I don’t think B necessarily has to result in an infinite causal regression, but again, I could be missing something. I agree that the creative buck stops somewhere. Whether it is personal or not seems to require some additional argument on top of the argument you’ve outlined. That’s one of the reasons I like the moral argument as a compliment to the Kalam and teleological arguments.

    I’m also partial to the A theory of time, but I have barely scratched the surface of that debate. It is truly mind bending. I do like your argument for an eternal cause, though.

    I also think that we can no longer accept naturalism’s denial of anything transcendent, given we live in the information age and certain theories of information hold that at its base, information is a non-physical quantity.

    It is all very interesting, but it very well could be that on the Kalam-type arguments that there is simply some eternally existent non-personal cause. It takes something else to show why that cause is personal or intelligent, in my unlearned opinion. I think such arguments do exist.

  8. JAD says:

    Justin,

    I think the fundamental argument for making the choice between A and B is the argument from mind.

    This argument begins with the question: Why is the universe intelligible?

    The theist’s answer is that the universe is intelligible because it is the result of an eternally existing transcendent Mind.

    We commonly call this eternally existing transcendent Mind being God.

    What does an eternally existing transcendent Mind explain?

    An eternally existing transcendent Mind explains the origin of the universe.

    An eternally existing transcendent Mind explains the fine tuning of the universe.

    All the main monotheist religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam are based on revelation. General revelation is God revealing himself in nature; Special revelation is God revealing himself propositionally, verbally or in writing.

    Obviously an eternally existing transcendent Mind can communicate propositionally and personally.

    Of course, God’s existence also provides an objective grounding for morality and ethics.

    It also means that the universe and mankind does have an ultimate meaning and purpose.

    Again all this begins with the question: Why is the universe intelligible?

    What is the non-theist’s answer to that question?

  9. Fleegman says:

    @JAD

    Well, since you asked, I simply can’t resist taking a punt at it. I can’t speak for all atheists, of course, but my answer is “I don’t know.”

    Your answer is also “I don’t know,” but your argument goes something like this:

    1) I don’t know.
    2) Therefore, I do know, and as a result I can claim to have an objective morality, and give ultimate meaning and purpose to my life.

    You can’t explain one thing when the explanation that is even more complex and unknown, can you?

  10. JAD says:

    @Fleegman

    In other words, you have no explanation for the intelligibility of the universe.

    It appears to me that you are confusing knowing, believing and proving.

    I can’t prove that God created the universe but from what I do know I would argue that is the best explanation, therefore that is what I believe.

    If you don’t know does that mean you don’t have any beliefs?

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    The problem with your assessment of JAD’s argument, Fleegman, is that it’s false. It’s untrue.

    You say the explanation is even more complex and unknown. I suppose then that “some human tool maker” is an impossible explanation for tools found at some previously unknown archaeological site.

    I suppose that “some ET” would be tossed out the window as an explanation for a monolith found on the moon (2001: A Space Odyssey, with updated abbrevations).

    No, a mysterious and complex explanation for some phenomenon x can be an explanation for x. It happens all the time.

    And God is not as unknown as you claim, besides.

  12. Fleegman says:

    @JAD

    In other words, you have no explanation for the intelligibility of the universe.

    Me personally? No. There may be billions of parallel universes that aren’t intelligible, for all I know.

    I can’t prove that God created the universe but from what I do know I would argue that is the best explanation, therefore that is what I believe.

    But isn’t it that because it appeals to you because it corroborates your presupposition that God exists?

    It sounds very similar to the “that tree looks designed, so there must’ve been a designer” line of reasoning, and that’s equally unconvincing.

    If you don’t know does that mean you don’t have any beliefs?

    I believe in a whole host of things. Tom did a post on it recently, in fact. I would argue that a lot of the beliefs he quoted were simply rejections of religious beliefs, though. “They believe this life is all we have.” Well, yes, but it’s religion that brought the idea of life after death, so it’s just the default position. In this case, it’s not so much “believing this is the only life we have,” and more “I don’t see any reason to think otherwise.” I also believe in The Golden Rule. But that’s what happens when you base your morality on subjective reality.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    You have no ultimate beliefs, you only reject religious ones. Why some people think it’s a virtue to live without beliefs is beyond me.

    That’s in addition to the craziness of thinking that’s actually how you’re living. You do have beliefs. You just won’t own them.

  14. Fleegman says:

    Would you consider a Muslim more virtuous than an atheist because he has what you would call “ultimate beliefs,” Tom?

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Not necessarily. Why do you ask? Did I say that having ultimate beliefs is necessarily virtuous?

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    Here’s the thing, Sault.

    You have beliefs, but you want to identify them as non-beliefs, or negations of beliefs, rather than as positive beliefs. You seem to think there’s something good about labeling your beliefs that way. You seem to think, in other words, that it’s better not to have beliefs than to have them (even though you do that them).

    What motivates you to prefer to say they are not beliefs? What do you like about that?

  17. Fleegman says:

    Tom, you said:

    Not necessarily. Why do you ask? Did I say that having ultimate beliefs is necessarily virtuous?

    having previously said:

    You have no ultimate beliefs, you only reject religious ones. Why some people think it’s a virtue to live without beliefs is beyond me.

    and I thought you were implying that having beliefs was virtuous in some way. Perhaps I misunderstood. I don’t think it’s virtuous or not to have beliefs, or non beliefs or whatever. Having beliefs says nothing about one’s character. What those beliefs are, however, says a lot, right?

    You also said:

    That’s in addition to the craziness of thinking that’s actually how you’re living. You do have beliefs. You just won’t own them.

    followed by:

    You have beliefs, but you want to identify them as non-beliefs, or negations of beliefs, rather than as positive beliefs. [snip] What motivates you to prefer to say they are not beliefs? What do you like about that?

    And this is what I said a few comments up:

    I believe in a whole host of things. Tom did a post on it recently, in fact. I would argue that a lot of the beliefs he quoted were simply rejections of religious beliefs, though. [snip] I also believe in The Golden Rule. But that’s what happens when you base your morality on subjective reality.

    You see, I’m not afraid to say that I do have positive beliefs. I was simply making the point that many of the beliefs you attributed to atheists in that post, were simply rejections of religious beliefs, and therefore not positive in nature.

  18. JAD says:

    @Fleegman

    But isn’t it that because it appeals to you because it corroborates your presupposition that God exists?

    It corroborates my presupposition that God exists because I have honestly looked at the evidence and compared that presupposition with the presupposition that God does not exist. In other words, I would argue that when you look at the evidence fairly and objectively, the presupposition that God exists is a better explanation than the presupposition that God does not exist.

    Do you have any presuppostions? Is it possible to have a viable world view without any presuppositions? Or are there presuppositions that are self evidently true? If so what are they? Do they fully explain human existence?

    Philosophers at one time embraced a position called logical positivism or verificationism. However, it was abandoned becaused it was realized that in part it was a self refuting position. According to W.L. Craig:

    Back in the 1940s and ’50s, many philosophers believed that talk about God, since it is not verifiable by the five senses, is meaningless—actual nonsense. This verificationism finally collapsed, in part because philosophers realized that verificationism itself could not be verified! The collapse of verificationism was the most important philosophical event of the 20th century. Its downfall meant that philosophers were free once again to tackle traditional problems of philosophy that verificationism had suppressed.
    Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/god-is-not-dead-yet#ixzz1uZHauFaY

    Are you a verificationist?

  19. Fleegman says:

    @JAD

    You said:

    What does an eternally existing transcendent Mind explain?

    An eternally existing transcendent Mind explains the origin of the universe.

    An eternally existing transcendent Mind explains the fine tuning of the universe.

    Okay, but so does the expansion and collapse of an infinite number of universes before this one. And maybe matter can only exist with the known forces of nature. No need for a mind.

    You go on to say:

    Of course, God’s existence also provides an objective grounding for morality and ethics.

    It also means that the universe and mankind does have an ultimate meaning and purpose.

    But those are your assumptions that there is ultimate meaning, and objective morality.

    I would argue that when you look at the evidence fairly and objectively, the presupposition that God exists is a better explanation than the presupposition that God does not exist.

    As you know, it’s called a null hypothesis. God existing provides zero explanatory power over and above “I don’t know,” and in fact brings a whole host of things that need explaining.

    If God created the universe for us, for example, why can we not live in the vast majority of it? Why does the Earth kill people with natural disasters if it was created for us? I don’t have to explain these things. You do, because you’ve chosen God as the “best” explanation for everything.

    When you try to explain something with a hypothesis, you should reject that hypothesis when it is contradicted by the evidence. This is not what you are doing. You say you chose the best explanation, but then you end up rationalising away the stuff that doesn’t fit with that explanation in order to preserve it as viable. In other words, your presupposition is immune to criticism because you begin by saying “God exists, so let’s make the evidence fit.” I’m sure you think your idea of God fully explains our existence, but the whole point of Christian apologetics is to try to make it all fit because on the face of things, it simply doesn’t.

    Are you a verificationist?

    I’m not really into philosophy. My position is that science is the best way of knowing things, and all the reasoning in the world can’t bring something into existence. So I’m whatever that is, I suppose.

  20. Justin says:

    Fleegman:

    Okay, but so does the expansion and collapse of an infinite number of universes before this one. And maybe matter can only exist with the known forces of nature. No need for a mind.

    This explanation runs into a little bit of trouble with an infinite regress. If there were an infinite number of universes before this one, how did we ever arrive at this one?

    My position is that science is the best way of knowing things, and all the reasoning in the world can’t bring something into existence

    How do you know that science is the best way of knowing? That assertion cannot be proven by science. And no Christians argue that they’ve created God by arguing for his existence, so that statement is incoherent. It pressupposes that God does not exist, which is rather what you said we shouldn’t do earlier when you said your answer was “I don’t know”. Your positions seems a little self-contradictory.

  21. Fleegman says:

    @Justin

    This explanation runs into a little bit of trouble with an infinite regress.

    No more so than the infinite God hypothesis.

    How do you know that science is the best way of knowing? That assertion cannot be proven by science.

    Well, I said it’s my position, but I could be wrong. It’s repeatable, self-correcting, it predicts stuff, and it’s useful. I have good evidence that it works, because technology works.

    And no Christians argue that they’ve created God by arguing for his existence, so that statement is incoherent.

    Ok, sorry, that’s not what I meant. I meant that you can do all the philosophical somersaults you want, but if there’s no evidence for something, and if the available evidence contradicts a certain hypothesis, it should be rejected.

  22. Holopupenko says:

    I’m not really into philosophy. My position is that science is the best way of knowing things…

    Expanding upon Justin’s point: this is the usual self-immolating, non-thinking, evidence-challenged nonsense that–heh–appeals to its own pseudo-philosophy! You really, really are not a critical thinker, Fleegman.

    We’re not “into” atheism for, among other reasons, your non-thinking is a poster-child example of atheism.

    Now, folks, watch how it won’t matter an iota that Fleegman has just so blatanly undermined himself… because it’s not about logic or evidence for atheists: it’s about will-to-power.

  23. Holopupenko says:

    I have good evidence that it [science] works, because technology works.

    Oh, brother: operation trumps understanding… and he’s actually comfortable with such brain-numbness. And, where is your “evidence” that philosophical reasoning is NOT “repeatable, self-correcting, it predicts stuff, and it’s useful”? I can tell you of its immediate value: it certainly exposes your weak reasoning, and it predicts further weak reasoning on your part!

  24. Justin says:

    No more so than the infinite God hypothesis.

    Well, God is not a series of created events, so I don’t see how God would suffer from an infinite regress problem.

    Well, I said it’s my position, but I could be wrong. It’s repeatable, self-correcting, it predicts stuff, and it’s useful. I have good evidence that it works, because technology works.

    Yes, but the actual statement you made, that science is the best way of knowing, is a statement that isn’t subject to scientific scrutiny. If we were somehow limited to only what was discernable by science, our lives would be fairly limited. In addition, the very foundations of science, the logical and mathematical axioms, aren’t “provable” themselves. How then do you know that science is correct? The argument is circular.

    I meant that you can do all the philosophical somersaults you want, but if there’s no evidence for something, and if the available evidence contradicts a certain hypothesis, it should be rejected.

    What specific evidence do you see that contradicts a belief in the existence of God? Admittedly, the problem of evil which you raised is one of the best arguments atheists have raised historically against the existence of God. Unforuntalely, though, the argument has proved to not be a very good one.

  25. Holopupenko says:

    Justin:

    A quibble over an important point: the “problem of evil” argument is actually a very strong and good one. I’ve tried for years to be “satisfied” by philosophical theodicy-based arguments: the best I’ve arrived at is a Plantingesque minimalist sense that doesn’t refute faith. I “get” Aquinas’ and Augustine’s positions… but I’m still not completely satisfied.

    The response that DID “satisfy” me deeply was the Cross. Granted, that’s not an argument nor is it necessarily amenable to being an apologetic tool–especially with those burdened with argumentative presuppositions. (The enthymeme “Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto; therefore, God IS” distantly echoes the power of the Cross.) When someone once pointed out to me that the response to the question “where is your God in the face of such evil?” is “He’s right there on the Cross suffering as well,” that was the day redemption became crystal clear to me–at least to the extent it’s possible to understand it in this life… and it’s the day I cried bitter, bitter tears.

  26. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Holopupenko:

    Have you read Brian Davies’ “The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil”? He argues after Aquinas’ fashion that God is not to be conceived as a member of a moral community. What do you think of it?

  27. Justin says:

    Hi Holopupenko,

    It is the strongest argument I have run into as well from an emotional point of view. But the argument seems to self-destruct for a few reasons. As I’ve seen the problem of evil argued, it assumes that without God, there is still a way to discern evil that is objective, which is problematic. It also makes assumptions about the goals and purposes and methods of God’s creative act that are unsupported.

    Emotionally, I think it is a great argument for atheists. Logically, it seems to have some issues, to me at least. I don’t think the argument is compelling, i.e. “the existence of evil entails the non-existence of God”. We have to be able to draw a line between the desire for a full blown theodicy and the conclusion that the problem of evil is not a logically compelling problem. It’s not necessary, though I’ve heard some plausible explanations, to explain why evil is allowed to know that it’s existence doesn’t logically rule out God’s existence. Hope that makes sense.

  28. Holopupenko says:

    G. Rodrigues:

    I know of Brian Davies and I’ve heard of the book, but I have not read it. The per se causal chain known as the stack of unread books by my nightstand has actually managed to reach infinite regress… St. Thomas would be stunned.

    Hi Justin:

    It makes perfect sense, what you say. Apart from how G. Rodrigues’ reading suggestion may help, for now I remain emotionally (in a good way) wedded to the Cross… and, frankly, I pray I remain that way. Of all the philosophical issues I’ve thought about and from which I’ve received deep “satisfaction,” the philosophizing over evil seems to meet a gentle “wall” at the Cross, which then beacons me forward in another way.

    I’m not suggesting I leave my reasoning at the foot of the Cross in any negative sense. It’s that my capacity for reason seems to get hit by the blinding darkness of Uncreated Light (per St. John of the Cross) and, well… this is where I come to a loss for words… and a plethora of tears.

  29. JAD says:

    @Fleegman

    I’m not really into philosophy. My position is that science is the best way of knowing things, and all the reasoning in the world can’t bring something into existence. So I’m whatever that is, I suppose.

    As Justine has already pointed out to you, you are making a scientifically unprovable assertion about science . In other words, you are making philosophical claims about science.

    However, many scientists, including some prominent ones, think that science is limited in what it can tell us about the world, life and human existence.

    For example, Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar (knighted 1965) wrote in his book, Advice to a Young Scientist:

    “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer. … The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’;’What is the point of living?'”
    Advice to a Young Scientist, London, Harper and Row, 1979 p.31

    Erwin Schrödinger, said something similar: “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity.”

  30. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Justin, Holopupenko:

    I think it is worth making a conceptual distinction. I agree with Justin that the Problem of Evil (PoE for short), whether in its logical or evidential forms, as an argument against the existence of God has no bite, although it is very effective as a rhetorical, emotional-laden weapon. But for a theist there is still a problem of harmonizing the nature of God with the existence of evil. The two problems are usually conflated, but they can be logically disentangled, and the latter one cannot be as easily (for some unspecified value of easy) answered as the first one.

    The classical, Biblical locus for the expounding of the PoE is the book of Job. Job asks why does the just suffer? Why does the unjust prosper? He cries out for meaning. This cry is so profound and terrible that in the beginning of chapter 3 it is as if Job wants to undo God’s dictum “Let there be light”: Job 3:3, 4. God’s answer, right out from the whirlwind in chapters 38-41 is puzzling, to say the least. He does not justify Himself; He does not offer any theodicy; He does not offer any philosophical arguments; He does not (contra some commentators) offer a cosmic version of Might makes it Right. To Job He only offers a barrage of rhetorically devastating unanswerable questions. How are we to read this?

    I am not going to offer any answer; ultimately, independently of the rational answers we may scrounge, of the dialectical weapons we may sharpen for the public pit (and this we *must* do if we are to be His witnesses), I am with Holopupenko and jump from the puzzlement of Job to the sufferings of Christ in the Place of the Skull. We have this much to trust Him, attested by the Crown of Thorns and the nails on His feet and hands, and trust in Him we must lest we go mad (like our atheist commentators) and waste our lives not only in the here and now but in the eternal ever-after.

  31. SteveK says:

    I can tell you of its immediate value: it certainly exposes your weak reasoning, and it predicts further weak reasoning on your part!

    Priceless irony.

    🙂

  32. Fleegman says:

    @Holopupenko

    So good to see you again. I should have known that mentioning the word “philosophy,” like some kind of bat signal, would bring you swooping into the conversation.

    Now, folks, watch how it won’t matter an iota that Fleegman has just so blatanly undermined himself… because it’s not about logic or evidence for atheists: it’s about will-to-power.

    Yes folks. Amazingly, even in the face of Holopupenko’s blinding reasoning, I’m still an atheist! Incredible, but true.

    Let me ask you something. Is it possible that there is someone in the world who’s as well read on the subject of philosophy as you are and yet holds different opinions on the subject of whether or not an ultimate cause is required for the universe? Or whether a god is required to explain us all being here? Or any of the things that your studies of philosophy have led you to believe are fundamentally true?

    And would this person think you were completely wrong about them? And if you two were in a public debate about it, would your arguments see you to victory?

    I suppose the question is: are your opinions up for debate at all? I think you would have to answer in the affirmative, right?

    And that is why science is a better way of knowing things are true. It’s not a matter of opinion, or debate, or consensus.

    If I believe that the acceleration due to gravity on the surface of the earth is 9.8 m/s^2, to one decimal place, it doesn’t matter how many people disagree with me, or how well read they are, or how good they were at debating. They could argue that it’s 10.0 m/s^2 all they wanted — maybe because it’s a nicer sounding number — and they would be demonstrably wrong.

  33. Fleegman says:

    @Justin

    What specific evidence do you see that contradicts a belief in the existence of God? Admittedly, the problem of evil which you raised is one of the best arguments atheists have raised historically against the existence of God. Unforuntalely, though, the argument has proved to not be a very good one.

    My point is that it’s only a problem in the frame of an all loving, all powerful god.

    As I’ve seen the problem of evil argued, it assumes that without God, there is still a way to discern evil that is objective, which is problematic. It also makes assumptions about the goals and purposes and methods of God’s creative act that are unsupported.

    Can’t you determine something is bad without an objective meaning of evil? I don’t want to suffer, so it’s reasonable to assume that suffering is a bad thing. Since it’s, well, suffering, it’s also reasonable to assume that if you take the viewpoint that there is a god, and that this god loves us, and is all powerful, that he wouldn’t let us suffer. Forget Christianity for a moment, forget the fall of man, we’re just talking about an all powerful, all loving, being.

    So, on the face of it, given that there is suffering, it’s reasonable to say that this particular hypothesis doesn’t work. Rather than rejecting this hypothesis, however, rationalisations are made to explain this problem. My world view explains these things perfectly. No rationalisations required. So how is your viewpoint a better fit for the model?

    G.Rodrigues wrote:

    I am not going to offer any answer; ultimately, independently of the rational answers we may scrounge, of the dialectical weapons we may sharpen for the public pit (and this we *must* do if we are to be His witnesses), I am with Holopupenko and jump from the puzzlement of Job to the sufferings of Christ in the Place of the Skull. We have this much to trust Him, attested by the Crown of Thorns and the nails on His feet and hands, and trust in Him we must lest we go mad (like our atheist commentators) and waste our lives not only in the here and now but in the eternal ever-after.

    This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Something in the Bible doesn’t seem to make sense, but it must make sense, so we’ll just brush it under the carpet, and trust that it does. And I’m the one who gets called out for not being a critical thinker.

  34. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    So good to see you again. I should have known that mentioning the word “philosophy,” like some kind of bat signal, would bring you swooping into the conversation.

    Since we have a past history of testy discussion I will make this short: the moment you say that “I’m not really into philosophy. My position is that science is the best way of knowing things…” you are asking for a snarky reply and deservedly so. Because such a position can only be held unreflexively and ignorantly. Unreflexively because it is so obviously self-contradictory, that no one who has paused for a few minutes to think about it, can consciously hold it, and ignorantly because if you were not ignorant of “philosophy”, you would not hold such a self-contradictory belief unreflexively.

    And that is why science is a better way of knowing things are true. It’s not a matter of opinion, or debate, or consensus.

    So if “science is a better way of knowing things are true”, you can provide us the scientific evidence for the truth of the statement “science is a better way of knowing things are true”. So where are the experiments performed? The lab tests? The peer-reviewed papers?

    Still do not see the point? Do I *really* need to spell it out?

    It gets tiresome having to point out obviously self-contradictory statements over and over and over again. It wears one’s patience out, believe you me.

  35. G. Rodrigues says:

    note: “Unreflexively” should be “unreflectively”. Apologies for the mistake, but I always get these two mixed up.

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    This “scientific” dismissal of philosophy would be less disturbing were it not the source of so many other errors—Krauss’s, for example.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman:

    And that is why science is a better way of knowing things are true. It’s not a matter of opinion, or debate, or consensus.

    You know what else is a better way of knowing things are true? Looking at them with your eyes. By looking with my eyes I know that my feet are still attached to my legs, I’m sitting in my recliner in my living room, the sun is shining this morning, my daughter’s birthday balloon is still floating in the air a month after her birthday.

    Those things are most assuredly true. My wife who is also in the room with me would not debate or dispute any of them with me. So much cleaner and clearer than philosophy!

    You might object to the limited scope of knowledge my eyes can bring to me with all assurance. A similar limitation, though, applies to science, on a larger scale of course. Science is observation and perception writ large, with mathematics thrown in to organize it.

    Oh, and it’s also theory, which requires logical analysis, which is philosophy. But on the whole it is limited in its scope to that which can be observed and then analyzed mathematically. I keep repeating, and I hope someday it will sink in, that science’s success (as Polkinghorne put it) is a function of its modest ambitions. The reason it’s so effective is that it tends to limit itself to objectively answerable questions.

    Meanwhile, what’s philosophy good for? For one thing, it’s good for thinking things through that we learn through science. Did you happen to notice, or did it pass you by, that what I said I could know just by seeing included much that I could not know that way? My daughter’s balloon, for example: it doesn’t have her name written on it, nor does it say in flashing letters how long it has been since her birthday. That requires an act of memory on my part. What are memories? They’re not perceptions, in any sensible way of thinking of the term. Are they real? Can we prove that they are? Those are philosophical questions. Philosophical training helps us realize that not all good questions are scientific questions.

    (I’m willing to bet that Holopupenko was ready to write an objection when he got to the end of that paragraph. I’ll guarantee he noticed what was going on there!)

    And that’s just a trivial start on the matter. My point is this, which I will repeat until it strikes home: science is very, very good at what it does. The fact that there are some questions in the world that can be answered objectively is a good thing, and we ought to pursue those objective answers objectively. The fact that some questions are like that has fooled some careless thinkers into thinking those are the only worthwhile questions, or else that all questions fit into that category (two different, but related, errors).

    Don’t be careless. Don’t be fooled. It’s not wise.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh, and by the way, at many, many points science is a matter of opinion, debate, and consensus. Don’t believe me? Then why does the word “consensus” get thrown around so frequently in scientific debates, like global warming, for example?

  39. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, you are not a good critical thinker. Your simplistic reliance on science-only is one example, but there are others. Here is one, from which ironically I was able to draw the substance of my first sentence here (it’s an example of your use of philosophy, by the way):

    This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Something in the Bible doesn’t seem to make sense, but it must make sense, so we’ll just brush it under the carpet, and trust that it does. And I’m the one who gets called out for not being a critical thinker.

    You ignore the reason G. Rodrigues gave. You treat it as though that were of no account. You brush it under the carpet yourself! And you do so with no apparent act of critical reflection. I assure you that thinking Christians do not “brush” these questions aside without reflecting on them long and thoughtfully. You want to read some good hard thinking on them? Got a free month or two?

  40. Justin says:

    Fleegman wrote:

    My point is that it’s only a problem in the frame of an all loving, all powerful god.

    There is an emotional problem, but not a logical one. First of all, with respect to the free will of the creatures God created, were God to prohibit every evil thought and action for which we have the potential, we would effectively not have free will. The only meaningful way to have a loving relationship with His created beings is if they choose to love Him. Now, this does not have to be the actual reason God has for allowing evil, but because it is plausible, it means that the problem of evil with respect to evil committed by humans simply is an emotional problem, not a logical one. People have the freedom to love God or rebel against Him. Otherwise, God would have created mere automatons; not terribly meaningful.

    Can’t you determine something is bad without an objective meaning of evil? I don’t want to suffer, so it’s reasonable to assume that suffering is a bad thing.

    Not all evil leads to immediate suffering, though. Not all good actions are without suffering. Self sacrifice for others leads to suffering for the one that does the good, so I don’t think it’s possible to define evil purely in terms of that which makes us suffer….

    Since it’s, well, suffering, it’s also reasonable to assume that if you take the viewpoint that there is a god, and that this god loves us, and is all powerful, that he wouldn’t let us suffer. Forget Christianity for a moment, forget the fall of man, we’re just talking about an all powerful, all loving, being.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that an all loving god would prevent our every suffering. What seems more logical to me is that an all loving god who desires a relationship with its creatures would want the creatures to know something about love as well. It is logical that this god, in order teach the creatures about love, empathy, charity, and self sacrifice while allowing free will as well, would have to allow for some suffering for some amount of time. It needn’t be a permanent state of suffering, which is why it is also not illogical that we suffer here but will not suffer in heaven. At this point, since we do not have perfect knowledge, then it becomes an emotional argument about how much suffering is sufficient. Again, this may not be God’s actual reason for allowing suffering, but because it is possible and plausible, it means that an argument from evil fails to be decisive.

    So, on the face of it, given that there is suffering, it’s reasonable to say that this particular hypothesis doesn’t work. Rather than rejecting this hypothesis, however, rationalisations are made to explain this problem. My world view explains these things perfectly. No rationalisations required. So how is your viewpoint a better fit for the model?

    It is precisely because rationalizations are possible that the logical problem of evil fails, whether or not those are God’s actual reasons. I would be interested in knowing how your worldview deals with the problem of evil at all. I the atheist worldview, evil is subjective, simply a matter of personal or societal opinion, and nothing more. Some absurdities result in determining good from evil based solely on the presence of suffering. How does your worldview make room for free will if it is purely naturalistic?

    I will withhold my judgement of your critical thinking skills for now : ) I would like to here in more detail how your worldview fits the model, as you call it.

  41. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    And that is why science is a better way of knowing things are true. It’s not a matter of opinion, or debate, or consensus.

    Relying on only my own experiences and perceptions is a better way of knowing things are true. Relying on others for accurate knowledge is less reliable – they could be mistaken. Therefore science isn’t the best way of knowing things. Science is inferior by comparison.

    Now that science has been shown to be an inferior path to knowledge and truth, what should we do with it Fleegman?

  42. LarryS says:

    Fleegman,

    I appreciate your involvement in this discussion. I hope you don’t feel too abused!

    However, your logic is definitely circular: Science is the best way of knowing. How do you know that? Well, er… science.

    I guess you might prefer to reply “evidence”.

    The belief that there are simple(r) explanations for complex effects is what drives science. And few of us would deny that we have a greater understanding of how our world works due to scientific thought.

    However, just because some things have simple explanations does not necessarily mean that all complex effects have simple causes.

    It is not a belief that can be logically justified, but I agree that there is significant evidence to support it in certain spheres.

    It has to be said that logic can also be troublesome for theists. For example: Many of us believe that God is omniscient and omnipotent. Now if God decides to intervene in some situation today, He would have known yesterday that He would do it (He knows everything, right?). But doesn’t that mean He’s powerless to change His plans? (Not omnipotent). The logical deduction is that God cannot be both omniscient and omnipotent, or we are making a faulty assumption perhaps about how time works.

  43. Ardoise says:

    To Holopupenko and all theists:

    As a handy tool to help you look through the eyes of an atheist, every time you use the word “God” replace it with the word “fairies” instead.

    For example:

    I can’t prove that God created the universe but from what I do know I would argue that is the best explanation, therefore that is what I believe.

    Becomes:

    I can’t prove that fairies created the universe but from what I do know I would argue that is the best explanation, therefore that is what I believe.

    I suspect you may find it enlightening.

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    If that is indeed how atheists think, then yes, it is very enlightening. I’ve seen that kind of ignorance, actually, in some atheists. It would be very irresponsible however to ascribe such nonsense to all of them, for many of them are of course smarter than that.

    Anyway, I have to wonder whether you an atheist or a theist yourself. I can’t quite tell how seriously you were intending us to take your advice. If you are an atheist, then you probably think that “fairies” is functionally equivalent to “God,” and you show thereby how incredibly little you know.

    If you are a theist, then you are apparently trying to make a tongue-in-cheek point, that atheists have a mistaken view that “fairies” can be regarded as functionally equivalent to “God.” That would be a sensible point to make about some (not all!) atheists, who have incredibly little understanding of God.

    Which are you? I’d be interested to know.

  45. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Lars:

    Now if God decides to intervene in some situation today, He would have known yesterday that He would do it (He knows everything, right?). But doesn’t that mean He’s powerless to change His plans? (Not omnipotent). The logical deduction is that God cannot be both omniscient and omnipotent, or we are making a faulty assumption perhaps about how time works.

    Augustine (Confessions, end of 4th century AC) and Boethius (Consolation of Philosophy, beginning 6th century AC) have disposed of this argument 1500 years ago.

    In a nutshell, you are confusing a causal relation with a temporal relation, which simply does not exist, because God is outside space-time and thus is timeless, at least in the classical conception of theism. He is also timeless in a more general sense, because time is the measure of change and He is impassible, once again, at least in the classical, orthodox mainstream conception.

  46. Ardoise says:

    Actually, I’m better classed as anti-theist.

    If you’ve been brain-washed from childhood then obviously your ability to think straight about religion is likely to have been harmed. Replacing “God” with “fairies” may be useful to help get you out of your existing patterns of thinking.

    To someone who hasn’t been indoctrinated, Christian religion (all religions for that matter) comes across as complete nonsense. I would love for you to be able to look at it without your baggage – without those years of having to believe it’s true.

  47. Tom Gilson says:

    Then it is as I feared. You are ignorant. I’m sad for you.

    You make some very serious false assumptions about believers, in addition to your incredibly erroneous beliefs about God. I don’t believe in God because of “years of having to believe.” My goodness, how presumptuous you are to assume that! Aren’t you embarrassed? Don’t you recognized that what you’re doing is classic stereotyping behavior? Don’t you remember how closely steretyping is associated with rank bigotry?

    If you think “fairies” is functionally equivalent to “God,” then your ability to think straight about religion has been grievously damaged.

    Replacing “fairies” in your thinking about God with “God,” as the word “God” is really defined, may be useful to help get you out of your existing, and demonstrably false, patterns of thinking.

    I understand that Christianity comes across to you as complete nonsense. If I thought “God” meant “fairies” I would consider it nonsense too. But it doesn’t, and the nonsense you reject has nothing to do with the realities I accept.

  48. Justin says:

    I always find atheist self-descriptions amusing. Anti-theist, atheist, pretty much synonymous based on the actual meaning of the term atheist. Statements like that usually demonstrate that the author hasn’t given much thought to what their own positions are, much less those of theists.

    No way, I’m not really a theist, I just believe in God….

  49. Ardoise says:

    I prefer “anti-theist” because I think that religious faith is harmful. Faith is belief without evidence. It is the opposite of rational thinking.

    But, yes, I’m atheist. I would guess you are too, at least in the broad sense of the word, regarding elephant-headed Ganesha, Poseidon – God of the Sea and Thor – God of Thunder. People have always come up with “explanations” for things that they don’t understand, but it doesn’t mean to say those explanations are true.

    You say I haven’t thought about it. But why do all those children starve in Africa? Why does God never heal amputees? You can come up with rationalizations to deal with these questions, but aren’t you even a little bit unhappy about those rationalizations?

  50. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    You may feel that you don’t “have to believe”, but in reality is that true?

    Are you saying that if you were to tell your family and your friends that you had lost your faith in God, that it would be no problem, they’d all be relaxed about it, you’d have no personal issues, and there would be no repercussions?

    If so I apologize for my presumptuousness. I assumed – from reading your blog etc. – that God is a huge part of your life. It appeared to be part of your sense of identity, and I assumed that abandoning your religion would be a very difficult decision to take.

  51. Fleegman says:

    @G.Rodrigues

    Since we have a past history of testy discussion I will make this short: the moment you say that “I’m not really into philosophy. My position is that science is the best way of knowing things…” you are asking for a snarky reply and deservedly so.

    Well, it was a little tongue in cheek, I’ll grant you.

    So if “science is a better way of knowing things are true”, you can provide us the scientific evidence for the truth of the statement “science is a better way of knowing things are true”.

    I suppose I should have said “I believe” at the beginning of that sentence. I don’t know it, I’ll grant you. Well, any more than we can know anything. However, and I’ll say it again, since I’m typing this on a computer, it’s a good indication that science works.

    Still do not see the point? Do I *really* need to spell it out?

    I don’t know, maybe. I think you’re saying that I’m presuming that science is a good way of understanding the world around us. Or that science works. But, since I cannot prove that presumption, I’m guilty of the same thing I’m accusing you of. No?

    If that is what you’re saying, that’s fine, but what has “there is a god out there that created the universe” ever predicted? Or ever given us? How is it a useful concept? I stick by my presumption that science works, because, well, because it works, and provides useful things. If it didn’t, and we didn’t go to the moon on the back of it, I’d revaluation my position on it. The same can’t be said for your presumption about God.

    It wears one’s patience out, believe you me.

    I know how you feel.

    @Tom

    That requires an act of memory on my part. What are memories? They’re not perceptions, in any sensible way of thinking of the term. Are they real? Can we prove that they are?

    Are memories real? Can we prove that they are? Of course we can. Memories are far from perfect, though. Science is beginning to understand how memories are stored in the brain, and it’s actually shedding light on why memories are so fallible. You know, like eyewitness testimony.

    Those are philosophical questions. Philosophical training helps us realize that not all good questions are scientific questions.

    I have no problem at all with this. But understanding that something is a good question, and realising that it’s not something science can answer, does not mean they are answerable. You can debate it all you want, but in what sense can you arrive at an answer?

    Oh, and by the way, at many, many points science is a matter of opinion, debate, and consensus. Don’t believe me? Then why does the word “consensus” get thrown around so frequently in scientific debates, like global warming, for example?

    And evolution is just a theory. Please. And don’t get me started on global warming. You know we went to the Moon, right? Well, just because someone who lives in his parents’ basement has a website about the Moon landings being faked doesn’t mean there isn’t a scientific consensus on the issue.

    But Tom, this is completely beside the point. My point is that there is an answer to be found, and we can find it using science. Even if all the scientists in the world thought the sun orbited the Earth, they would be wrong. And they would discover it eventually, because there is a correct answer.

    I assure you that thinking Christians do not “brush” these questions aside without reflecting on them long and thoughtfully. You want to read some good hard thinking on them? Got a free month or two?

    Tom, you have highlighted my point on this perfectly. Here we have a section of the Bible that doesn’t sit well with Christians. It doesn’t, on the face of it, say very nice things about God’s character. So they think about it for centuries, and write material on them that would take months to read. All to turn something that on first glance looks bad, into something that looks good.

    Christians have certain beliefs about God’s character, or morals, or whatever, and the Bible says something that, on the face of it, contradicts those beliefs. Rather than just saying the book is wrong, or their beliefs are wrong, they spend and energy making it say what they want it to say so they can say the book is still perfect. What’s the point of having a book in the first place, if you’re just going to essentially rewrite the obvious meaning to fit your own preconceived ideas? And how can you point at the Bible as evidence of anything about God’s character, if you are interpreting it to fit your own ideas about, well, God’s character. I know we’ve talked about this in another thread, but I still haven’t heard anything remotely satisfying regarding this question.

    @Justin

    Hope I’m not being too abrasive, here. I certainly don’t mean to be!

    First of all, with respect to the free will of the creatures God created, were God to prohibit every evil thought and action for which we have the potential, we would effectively not have free will. The only meaningful way to have a loving relationship with His created beings is if they choose to love Him. Now, this does not have to be the actual reason God has for allowing evil, but because it is plausible, it means that the problem of evil with respect to evil committed by humans simply is an emotional problem, not a logical one. People have the freedom to love God or rebel against Him. Otherwise, God would have created mere automatons; not terribly meaningful.

    This is a big one, and I’m glad you brought it up. You talk about beings choosing to love God. How is it a choice? It’s the same as someone putting a gun to your head and saying “love me, or I’ll blow your head off,” but it’s actually worse. It’s “love me, or I’ll torture you for eternity.” Again, how is this a choice?

    Not all evil leads to immediate suffering, though. Not all good actions are without suffering. Self sacrifice for others leads to suffering for the one that does the good, so I don’t think it’s possible to define evil purely in terms of that which makes us suffer….

    Yes, I totally agree with you. I was just using suffering as something we could both agree on was a bad thing. I’m not calling it evil, just something we can all agree we’d rather not happen to us.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that an all loving god would prevent our every suffering.

    You may be right, here. What I mean are things that, for example, would contradict the idea that the Earth was created for us, since it directly causes hundreds of thousands of people to suffer and die each year.

    It is logical that this god, in order teach the creatures about love, empathy, charity, and self sacrifice while allowing free will as well, would have to allow for some suffering for some amount of time. It needn’t be a permanent state of suffering, which is why it is also not illogical that we suffer here but will not suffer in heaven.

    The thing is, this all sounds like rationalisation for what you believe, because you have to explain the suffering that we see in the world. You say we need suffering, or evil, because without it we wouldn’t have free will. But, and this is an important point, if you believe there’s no sin in Heaven, and that there is also free will in Heaven, it’s obviously possible for the two to exist simultaneously, isn’t it?

    It is precisely because rationalizations are possible that the logical problem of evil fails

    But the problem is that you can rationalise anything if you hold on to preconceived ideas. The possibility of rationalisations says nothing about the truth of the thing you’re attempting to rationalise.

    I would be interested in knowing how your worldview deals with the problem of evil at all. I the atheist worldview, evil is subjective, simply a matter of personal or societal opinion, and nothing more. Some absurdities result in determining good from evil based solely on the presence of suffering. How does your worldview make room for free will if it is purely naturalistic?

    I’ll try to sum it up quickly, since it’s almost dinner time. Bad things happen in the world. Why wouldn’t they? I don’t think it’s a matter of opinion that rape and torture are bad, is it? As for free will, there’s a divergence in the atheist community as to whether or not free will is just an illusion. I suppose that’s more of a philosophical question… See what I did there?

    All the best,

  52. Jared C. says:

    @Ardoise, you should really do a bit more reading here. These “arguments” of yours simply don’t hold up to those who have actually spent a great deal of time thinking about them. They are quite old, and the fact that you bring them up as if theists had never considered them before shows how little you have thought about them yourself. Here’s a hint: before you argue against someone’s position, it would serve you well to learn something about what their position actually is. You clearly have not done that.

  53. Ardoise says:

    @Jared C.
    You have no idea what reading I have done. These are not new questions, but since when has newness been important?

    The answers I have heard to these questions are generally along the lines of “ours is not to reason why” (essentially “I don’t know”), lengthy rationalizations that only prompt more questions or smoke-screens of impenetrable “philosophical” language that attempt to give an appearance of erudition, but really say nothing. In contrast, the atheist’s stance is very, very simple: “There isn’t an interventionist god, so there’s no reason for bad stuff not to happen nor for amputees to have special treatment”.

    If I haven’t read enough, and you have a similarly simple answer that supports the notion of an interventionist god then please let me know.

    I am a true scientist. I am perfectly willing to have my mind changed about anything. If you have evidence that there is a god (even a non-interventionist one) I would love to know of it.

  54. Justin says:

    Ardoise,

    You’ve come to a good site. I don’t think I have ever seen “ours is not to reason why” given here as an explanation of belief. If believing without evidence is anathema to you, then please know that there are a host of beliefs that then fall to this axe, science included. Bthe basis of science is logic, mathematics, and observation. Two of these, at least, cannot, at their most fundamental levels, be proven with evidence. Observation is iffy at best, only becoming “science” when coupled with rational thought and mathematics.

    You say religion is “dangerous”. It can be, when abused, as with any philosophy. There have been times when the church has been antagonistic to science, and dangerous to life itself. To this, I would remind you that in the 20th century alone, more people were killed by powers opposed to religion than have been killed in all wars before and since combined. As to the dangers to progress and science, there are plenty of current scientists who advance human knowledge while believing in God. I find your claim that religion is dangerous laughable. Immoral, fallible humans are dangerous, religion is not.

    With respect to progress in terms of human rights, without a foundation in God, there would be no rational basis for human rights, period. Again, I find your claim that religion is dangerous not creditable.

    At the end of the day, religion can be shown to be rational. Sure, it may not be provable to your satisfaction, but it nevertheless is rational.

  55. Ardoise says:

    @Tom, in your blog article you ask:

    Pardon my bewilderment, but what does any of this [quantum mechanics] have to do with “pillars of classical logic”?

    You really should do a bit more reading here. (Sorry, that was just a little joke.) You might want to look at the law of excluded middle.

  56. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m well aware of the law of the excluded middle. (I’ve read some things in my life.) I’m also well aware of how quantum mechanics challenges it. I can also see that Krauss doesn’t explain what he’s talking about, and that he doesn’t realize this: quantum mechanics yields a certain class of results that challenge (possibly) that law, but QM could never have gotten to the point of doing that without classical logic. So no, QM does not challenge classical logic–not without relying upon it utterly.

  57. Ardoise says:

    @Justin

    As you know, part of the scientific method involves making hypotheses – you look at the evidence and theorise about the cause-and-effect model that lies behind it. You could claim these theories are beliefs. I wouldn’t. What makes them distinct from faith beliefs is that they come from evidence, and (true) scientists actively try to negate them.

    When Einstein improved on Newton’s thinking it was celebrated by the community. Had Newton been alive I have no doubt he would have joined the celebrations. The whole point of science is continually to try to get a better understanding of life and the universe.

    From my outsiders point of view, the point of faith appears to be to obfuscate and rationalize existing beliefs no matter what. To be fair, a large number of Christians have changed their minds about evolution. But there are a heck of a lot who are still covering their ears and saying “Nahh nahh I can’t hear you”.

    Religion is dangerous because it’s irrational – it doesn’t look at and accept real-life as it. It forces real-life into a model that doesn’t fit. It inhibits learning, it makes people do crazy things like genitally mutilating their children, treating homosexuals with contempt, allowing HIV/Aids to spread by banning condoms, not to mention 9/11 and all that.

    I’m atheist, yet I have never had so much as a parking fine. Morality does not come from the bible. As far as I know the bible doesn’t have much to say about child rape, yet we all know that it’s wrong. The Old Testament has plenty of passages relating to stoning people to death and killing babies, yet again, we know it’s wrong. How come?

    It can be explained quite happily in evolutionary terms. By caring for people in your gene pool – and even working together with people in a wider community – your genes are more likely to survive. Simple as that.

  58. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    I see you’re ducking the question about stereotyping and bigotry. Care to answer that one?

    As to what you have said,

    First, faith is not “belief without evidence.” Good grief. Who brainwashed you to think that? That definition comes from people who want to make faith look ridiculous, not from people who want to understand what faith actually is.

    Further nonsense: that we theists are atheists with respect to Thor and etc. No. We are not atheist with respect to anything. An atheist is a person who takes it that there is probably no God, or who does not believe there is a God. I do not believe that by any stretch. You’ve fallen for an Internet meme that’s as fallacious as it can be. Utter nonsense, and evidence of brainwashing.

    You say,

    You can come up with rationalizations to deal with these questions, but aren’t you even a little bit unhappy about those rationalizations?

    What makes you think they’re rationalizations? A little evidence, a little argument, please? Or do you prefer the brainwashing technique called the repeated lie?

    You may feel that you don’t “have to believe”, but in reality is that true?

    I believe because I consider it to be true, for reasons based on evidence, logic, and experience. Does that mean I have to believe? Earlier you put “having to believe” in the context of brainwashing, and now you’re putting it in the context of social pressure. That’s a logical fallacy called equivocation. Which do you really mean? Or, if you prefer, don’t bother answer, because I don’t “have to believe” for either reason.

    You have no idea what reading I have done…. The answers I have heard to these questions are generally along the lines of “ours is not to reason why” (essentially “I don’t know”), lengthy rationalizations that only prompt more questions or smoke-screens of impenetrable “philosophical” language that attempt to give an appearance of erudition, but really say nothing.

    I don’t have any idea what reading you’ve done, but I can sure tell what reading you haven’t done: the reading that gives answers other than the kind you’ve dismissed here—without argument, by the way.

    What’s funny, in fact, is that you haven’t actually made any arguments, other than “theists have to believe,” which doesn’t fit me or probably most theists, and “you’re an atheist, too,” which is just mindless repetition of a fallacious meme. That is to say, you’re really saying nothing, and doing so without even the appearance of erudition.

    “There isn’t an interventionist god, so there’s no reason for bad stuff not to happen nor for amputees to have special treatment”.

    That’s a simple answer to a certain set of questions. How does it do as an answer to the question, “who raised Jesus Christ from the dead?” or, “who instantaneously healed my friend of severe epilepsy?” or any number of other substantiated miracles.

    It also fails to answer where the world came from, why people have free will and consciousness, and a host of other important questions.

    I am a true scientist.

    What’s your field, and what kind of research have you published?

    From my outsiders point of view, the point of faith appears to be to obfuscate and rationalize existing beliefs no matter what. To be fair, a large number of Christians have changed their minds about evolution. But there are a heck of a lot who are still covering their ears and saying “Nahh nahh I can’t hear you”.

    The point of faith is not, from the perspective of one who practices it, what it is to you as an outsider. Sorry, but you’ve got it wrong again.

    Religion is dangerous because it’s irrational – it doesn’t look at and accept real-life as it. It forces real-life into a model that doesn’t fit. It stops learning, it makes people do crazy things like genitally mutilating their children, treating homosexuals with contempt, allowing HIV/Aids to spread by banning condoms, not to mention 9/11 and all that.

    The New Atheism is irrational in the sense that it doesn’t practice rational thinking. And it forces life into a model that really doesn’t fit: there’s no free will, consciousness is an illusion, etc.

    I’m atheist, yet I have never had so much as a parking fine. Morality does not come from the bible. As far as I know the bible doesn’t have much to say about child rape, yet we all know that it’s wrong. The Old Testament has plenty of passages relating to stoning people to death and killing babies, yet again, we know it’s wrong. How come?

    Do you want an answer, or do you want to remain content with your Internet-atheist meme-brainwashing? That’s a serious question.

    It can be explained quite happily in evolutionary terms. By caring for people in your gene pool, your genes are more likely to survive. Simple as that.

    Boy, have you got a lot of reading to do. You don’t even understand evolutionary theory as evolutionists understand it. I recommend the evolutionist Richard Joyce on evolutionary morality. It’s not simple, my brainwashed friend.

    What about that sterotyping issue, by the way? Maybe you’ve never had a parking ticket, but be careful how you congratulate yourself: you’re sure stepping close to the line of rank bigotry in the way you’re treating me and other theists here.

  59. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    From Christian to Christian, I publicly praise you for the forbearance and self-control (listed among the fruits of the Spirit) you show in putting up with fools.

  60. Tom Gilson says:

    You must have written that before you saw my last response to Ardoise.

  61. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, here’s what faith is. It’s an extrapolation from knowledge. It’s a perfectly ordinary human way of thinking.

    I married my wife almost 25 years ago based on my faith that she would be a good life companion, that she would remain faithful and good to me, and that I would enjoy being married to her for the rest of our lives. That was an act of faith, because I did not have direct evidence for any of that.

    Of course, I did know a lot about her. I knew a lot about her character, her general trustworthiness, that I liked her a lot and loved her a lot (two different but related emotions), and that she felt the same about me. That was knowledge. I had a knowledge-based experience with her, from which I extrapolated the conclusion that she would be a great woman to be married to.

    Similarly with God: I have knowledge of God, based on Scripture, history, philosophy, and personal experience. The resurrection of Christ is not a matter of faith, in my opinion, it is a matter of evidence-based information and knowledge.

    Where faith comes in is in the extrapolation from that knowledge (and other knowledge of God). I have faith that God will continue to express the same faithful and trust-worthy character in the future that he has always done in the past. I have faith that he will keep his promises, as he has done in the past. I have faith in my eternal future in his hands, because of what he has made known to me in the past and the present.

    So no, to say that faith is belief without evidence is just not true. It’s one of those Internet-atheist memes that you should question if you want to avoid the embarrassment of speaking with great confidence about things on which you know almost nothing.

  62. Ardoise says:

    Let me start with this issue of stereotyping and bigotry. I’m sure both of us are trying our best to understand each other’s positions. It’s difficult to convey thoughts in writing and difficult to discuss a subject like religion when both sides have strong and opposing feelings about it. If you feel like I am insulting you, at any point, please know that I don’t mean to, and let me know so I can apologize. I am trying to do my best to articulate my thoughts clearly, but I am a fallible human being.

    I appreciate that it’s your space and I’m criticising something that is very important to you. I appreciate your responses. I won’t say that I’ve been made to feel welcome, but I have at least been tolerated and I appreciate that. I will try to take more care over how I come across.

  63. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re missing the point, Ardoise.

    It’s not whether I feel insulted. It’s not “how you come across.” It’s that you are stereotyping. You are making generalized statements, imputing nonsense to theists generally as if we all accepted such nonsense. Regardless of how it affects me emotionally (I’ve heard worse, and I am just fine, thank you), you yourself were wrong to do that.

    And you have shown evidence in the process that your thinking about Christianity is muddled. If I were you I would be appalled to realize that I was doing that, and I would take it as a strong warning to myself: “My beliefs about Christianity are based on stereotypes, which is a pretty serious signal that a lot of them are likely wrong.”

    That’s the point I want you to catch. Don’t worry about me. Worry about your own beliefs instead.

  64. Justin says:

    Hey Fleegman,

    I don’t take difficult questions as being abrasive. I enjoyed reading your response, honestly.

    With respect to religion being a choice, and God telling people to accept Him or face eternal torture, I would like to say a couple of things. The Bible says precious little about Hell. It gives us enough of a glimpse to know it is not a destiny one would choose. Beyond that, medieval renderings of He’ll may give one the impression that God is the foreman of some incredibly cruel torture sweatshop. I tend to C.S. Lewis’ explanation that there ate people who say to God, “thy will be done” and those to whom God days “thy will be done”. An omnibenevolent god may well allow people to suffer their own fallibility indefinitely, but it is one’s choice. N.T. Wright explains it as an existence where one pursues his own agenda forever, progressively becoming less and less human, less and less a creature that reflects the image of God. In other words, God says, “I will not force you, have it your way…. forever.”. That literally would be Hell.

    As to the possibility of sin in heaven, my thoughts are this: an Indian may set himself in fire to protest some social wrong. I have no desire whatsoever to set myself on fire. I cannot contemplate a situation where I would set myself on fire as a protest. It is something the probability of Whig I would do is utterly remote. It may be that in heaven, or the new creation, that sin is still a possibility, but that it is even more unappealing, to an infinite degree, than setting one’s self on fire.

    With respect to the problem of evil, my aim was to demonstrate that it fails as a logically decisive argument, and nothing further.

    As to moral objectivity, I agree that if there is no god, that morality is merely opinion, that torturing an infant baby merely for fun, is not objectively wrong. It is the same conclusion that leads scientists such ad Dawkins to urge the re-examination of eugenics. However, I find subjective morality to be at best wishful thinking. However, it seems crystal clear to me that morality is not decided upon, but is discovered. What I mean to say it that we may choose, due to free will, to disobey the moral laws that virtually every society since the dawn of man has held, but we do so at our own peril. No society upholding murder, theft, and dishonesty as moral obligations has survived for any significant amount of time. There are a common set of moral laws extant in every society, and where moral codes differ, it is normally due to a difference of opinion as to matter of fact, nOt morality.

    If indeed the universe is purely deterministic, then there is no hope, no moral truth, no human rights, and no morality beyond societal opinion. As atheist Jerry Coyle says, we should live as if we have free will even if the universe is completely deterministic. I find that living a lie or illusion is not satisfying.

    Again, I enjoyed reading your response, and hope to hear your thoughts.

  65. Justin says:

    P.S. – autocorrect is the bane of I’ll apple users. (should be “all”, to prove my point).

  66. Ardoise says:

    Right, the evidence you had built up suggested to you that she would make a good life partner. And, in this case, the only way to really test that hypothesis was to marry her. Seeing as you’ve been married for 25 years, it looks like you made a good choice. Many people aren’t so fortunate.

    If you had found that your wife had repeatedly cheated on you, lied or physically and mentally abused you, then you may have reconsidered your choice in the light of the new evidence and sought a divorce.

    Not so with religion. As I understand it, you’ll plough on with your religion no matter what.

    Regarding the resurrection of Christ, which is more likely? (1) That people made up the story to make Jesus look good; (2) people thought that Jesus rose from the dead but were mistaken – perhaps by someone who looked very similar or an intentional deception like a magic trick; (3) Jesus actually rose from the dead.

    To me your belief in Jesus’s resurrection is definitely an act of faith (insufficient evidence to base it on). It is an astonishing claim and astounding claims require astounding evidence. I would dare to say that no evidence from 2000 years ago would be trustworthy enough for us to believe this claim. They simply weren’t scientifically rigorous enough at that time.

  67. Ardoise says:

    @Tom

    I don’t know exactly your beliefs. I don’t suppose even you know exactly what they are. Generalizing from my experience with other Christians as far as I can see is the only practical route available to me.

    You call it stereotyping. I’m sure we both do have stereotypes of each other – that’s how human brains seem to file things away. I don’t want to make assumptions about you that don’t reflect your true views. I just don’t know how to avoid it. I was trying to get to the crux of the debate rather than dance around it. Perhaps I need to do more dancing? Let me know how you would like me to be.

  68. Ardoise says:

    @G. Rodrigues

    I’m not a fool and I would rather you didn’t call me that. I may have some wrong assumptions – as I’m sure you do too – but that doesn’t make either of us fools, just humans.

  69. Tom Gilson says:

    I was trying to get to the crux of the debate rather than dance around it. Perhaps I need to do more dancing? Let me know how you would like me to be.

    So here are my two options, based on what you’ve offered me:

    1) You stereotype my beliefs according to your distorted Internet-atheist memes, or

    2) You dance around the crux of the debate.

    Could you do me the favor of thinking through a possible Option 3? (I could suggest one, but I’m going to see whether you can, too. If you can’t, then this discussion will be revealed as a charade.)

  70. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    I suppose I should have said “I believe” at the beginning of that sentence. I don’t know it, I’ll grant you. Well, any more than we can know anything. However, and I’ll say it again, since I’m typing this on a computer, it’s a good indication that science works.

    You “believe”? Do you know what is a proof by contradiction? Can you recognize one?

    I think you’re saying that I’m presuming that science is a good way of understanding the world around us. Or that science works. But, since I cannot prove that presumption, I’m guilty of the same thing I’m accusing you of. No?

    No.

    If that is what you’re saying, that’s fine, but what has “there is a god out there that created the universe” ever predicted? Or ever given us? How is it a useful concept? I stick by my presumption that science works, because, well, because it works, and provides useful things. If it didn’t, and we didn’t go to the moon on the back of it, I’d revaluation my position on it. The same can’t be said for your presumption about God.

    As far as I can understand you, you are saying the following two things:

    1. The statement “There is a God” has no predictive power and no usefulness.

    2. Science has predictive power and usefulness.

    Can you explain to me what predictive power and usefulness of some statement has to do with its *truth*? Do you even stop for a moment and think of what entails from your statements?

    1. theorem (Lindemann): the number pi is transcendental. proof: check a decent book on number theory.

    2. There is no empirical evidence for 1.

    3. There is no predictive power to 1.

    4. There is no usefulness to 1.

    So by your criteria, should I conclude that 1. is false? Of course, what applies to Lindemann’s theorem applies to vast bodies of mathematics, so should we consign mathematics to the flames? That is not such a good idea is it? For if you throw away mathematics, you can kiss bye bye to all the hard empirical sciences as well.

    And what about historical questions? Since the question whether “Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC by a group of pro-republic senators led by Brutus” cannot be decided by recourse to empirical evidence, it cannot be decided at all? moral questions? Ethical questions? Aesthetical questions? Philosophical questions?

  71. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman (continued):

    Are memories real? Can we prove that they are? Of course we can. Memories are far from perfect, though. Science is beginning to understand how memories are stored in the brain, and it’s actually shedding light on why memories are so fallible. You know, like eyewitness testimony.

    Do you even stop for a moment and think about what entails from your statements? If eyewitness testimony is unreliable then how come do you rely on the words of the scientists? Maybe they are lying. They even have a motive — to keep their jobs. If memories are unreliable (or “so fallible” in your own words) then how do you know you are responding to the same G. Rodrigues with which you had a testy debate some time back? Maybe I am not him and just an impersonator. After all, eyewitness testimony is “so fallible” so why should you believe me? Or why should I believe you? Don’t you realize that your puerile brand of skepticism means the death of science, since if you cannot count on your memories and eyewitness testimony, science is not possible, not even in principle?

    But understanding that something is a good question, and realising that it’s not something science can answer, does not mean they are answerable. You can debate it all you want, but in what sense can you arrive at an answer?

    Do you even stop for a moment and think about what entails from your statements? See my previous comment on mathematics. Also, above you conceded that you believe in a certain statement (“science is a better way of knowing things are true”) but you really do not know and neither can you justify it. So in what sense, can you arrive at an answer to decide the question? Surely not by the experimental method. Do please tell me how.

    Tom, you have highlighted my point on this perfectly. Here we have a section of the Bible that doesn’t sit well with Christians. It doesn’t, on the face of it, say very nice things about God’s character. So they think about it for centuries, and write material on them that would take months to read. All to turn something that on first glance looks bad, into something that looks good.

    You seem to be saying the following:

    1. Some sections of the Bible do not sit well with Christians, presumably because they do not say nice things about God’s character.

    This is interesting. If some parts of the Bible do not sit well with Christians, then why did they not throw away said embarassing parts?

    2. Christians think about it for centuries, and write material on them that would take months to read.

    So the following things count as defects of Christians: thinking (for centuries, imagine that!) and writing things that are hard to read. Bizarre, but Ok.

    3. All to turn something that on first glance looks bad, into something that looks good.

    Ah, that is your point. All that thinking and writing is not to attain understanding of genuinely difficult questions but as some sort of cover-up operation. Honestly, are you even half-aware of just how ridiculous it all sounds? Do you even stop for a moment and think about what entails from your statements?

  72. SteveK says:

    Ardoise

    Not so with religion. As I understand it, you’ll plough on with your religion no matter what.

    More evidence that you really don’t understand Christianity. Your comments are riddled with falsehoods and sloppy thinking. Time will tell, but so far you have demonstrated that you understand almost nothing about Christianity. Would you like to correct that at some point?

    Regarding the resurrection of Christ, which is more likely? (1) That people made up the story to make Jesus look good; (2) people thought that Jesus rose from the dead but were mistaken – perhaps by someone who looked very similar or an intentional deception like a magic trick; (3) Jesus actually rose from the dead.

    Rather than rely on your vivid imagination for what you imagined might have happened, let’s instead look at the evidence. Do you have any evidence that supports (1) or (2)?

  73. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    I’m not a fool and I would rather you didn’t call me that.

    Yes, I know you advertised yourself as a “true scientist”.

    The discussion policies of this blog and the honor due to its host prevent me from using the most fit qualifier, so I had to strain my meager English and make do with fool.

  74. Wildhand Donkey-Trousers says:

    SteveK, Evidence is all around you. Ever notice someone exaggerate a story for effect or tell a blatant lie? This is not a far-fetched idea. If someone told you they’d seen someone make a coin appear from behind someone’s ear, you would be skeptical (I hope) and suspect some kind of sleight of hand was involved. Why is it different?

  75. Tom Gilson says:

    Just so everyone is clear on this, WDT is Ardoise.

  76. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, for the sake of simplifying this discussion, you should know that there’s no scholarship supporting the idea that the resurrection was some story exaggerated for effect. The theory that it was a blatant lie runs into serious difficulties, too.

    Also for the sake of simplifying the discussion, do you have a third option such as I requested earlier, to show that this is a serious discussion? I’d really like to know before I expend any more energy on it myself.

  77. Justin says:

    Wild Donkey,

    It is different because of the Jewish beliefs out of which Christianity grew. First century Jews that did believe in a coming messiah were adamantly expecting a physical, militant leader who would overthrow the Romans and vindicate Israel. There are many first century Jewish sects which announced messianic claims. When their leaders failed to bring forth the expected overthrow of Rome, such movements were abandoned. First century Jews simply did not expect the messiah to come and die for the sins of others. As such, exagerations of first century Jewish expectations simply cannot explain the rise in Christian belief. First century Jews would not have seen Jesus as the messiah absent an event such as the resurrection. They would have discarded Jesus at his death and looked elsewhere for messianic potential.

    For Christianity to arise as it did, the best explanation is that Jesus was raised from the dead. Theories of later embellishments simply don’t have sufficient explanatory power.

  78. Wildhand Donkey-Trousers says:

    Isn’t it more plausible that they sincerely believed – they were truly convinced – he had come back from the dead, but in fact they were somehow (intentionally or unintentionally) deceived? Surely that’s immensely more likely than that he actually did come back from the dead?

  79. Wildhand Donkey-Trousers says:

    @Tom
    Yes, I shall withdraw. You successfully evaded my questions about amputees, starving children, morality that is not covered by the bible and other questions you chose to label as “atheist memes”. Well done. I’m sure you must have misgivings deep down, but I totally understand that nothing I say will ever change your mind. It’s a paradigm shift.

    Best wishes to all.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, how could they have been deceived? They saw him definitely alive after he was definitely dead.

    There are multiple theories you could offer on this, and that have been offered by others. Do you have one in particular you would like to discuss? Simply to say “isn’t it more plausible they were deceived?” is inadequate without at least some kind of explanation as to how.

  81. SteveK says:

    SteveK, Evidence is all around you. Ever notice someone exaggerate a story for effect or tell a blatant lie? This is not a far-fetched idea.

    This is about as much of a non-thinking response as I could have asked for. People lie and exaggerate, therefore this evidence shows that Jesus probably didn’t resurrect. Well done.

    Be sure to pick up a copy of the book on your way out. The *evidence* shows that you are in need of it.

  82. Tom Gilson says:

    Successfully evaded? No, Ardoise, I offered to answer if you showed you seriously wanted an answer (see #58, also #69).

    Let’s look at the overall track record. I’m open to amendments on this, by the way; I’m well aware of my own weaknesses, and my tendency to see things from my own perspective, so if you think this is wrong we can work it out together. With that as a humbling disclaimer I offer this scorecard:

    Questions/issues raised by Ardoise and directly addressed by us
    – Equating God with fairies
    – “Brainwashing”
    – Christians are supposedly atheistic about other gods
    – Feeling that we have to believe
    – Accusations that Christians conduct rationalizations
    – “Religion is dangerous”
    – Quantum mechanics and classical logic
    – Religion’s lack of fit to real life
    – The likeliness of various reasons for the belief in the Resurrection

    Questions/issues raised by Ardoise and not directly addressed by us
    – Starving children in Africa
    – Amputees
    – Science’s hypothesis-testing model
    – Christians and evolution
    – Faith used to obfuscate
    – The source of morality
    – The Bible’s morality (to this I offered an answer but was not taken up on that offer)
    – “As I understand it, you’ll plough on with your religion no matter what.”

    Questions/issues raised by us for Ardoise which he/she directly addressed
    – Morality of stereotyping
    – Definitions of faith (although this answer was marred by “you’ll plough on… no matter what”).
    – Being called a fool

    Questions/issues raised by us for Ardoise, which he/she did not directly address
    – Equating God with fairies
    – “Brainwashing”
    – Which field of science, and which research published
    – Mischaracterization of faith as “belief without evidence”
    – Questions about the resurrection and more recent miracles
    – The non-observational prerequisites for observational science
    – Atheism’s lack of fit to real life
    – New Atheism’s lack of rationality
    – Evolution as a source of morality, and the supposed “simplicity” of that explanation
    – Misunderstanding why I brought up stereotyping (see #62 & #63)
    – The false dichotomy of #67 (see #69)
    – Jewish expectations concerning a Messiah
    – How could the disciples have been deceived, specifically?

    If this is even close to being accurate, your dismissive departure really distorts what happened in the overall conversation. You left a much higher proportion of unanswered questions than we did. You failed to take me up on my offer of a serious discussion of your most serious questions, instead leaving us with an accusation that we were “evading.”

  83. Fleegman says:

    @G.Rodrigues

    If eyewitness testimony is unreliable then how come do you rely on the words of the scientists? Maybe they are lying. They even have a motive — to keep their jobs.

    Do you have any concept of how silly this makes you sound? It’s hard to know where to begin, really. If you think science is about scientists running out of their labs, telling someone about something they did, and people just going “wow, amazing, let’s write it in a journal,” then you’re so wrong you’re not even wrong.

    Just so I’m clear, are you saying that eyewitness testimony is a reliable form of evidence?

    If memories are unreliable (or “so fallible” in your own words) then how do you know you are responding to the same G. Rodrigues with which you had a testy debate some time back? Maybe I am not him and just an impersonator.

    I hope for G.Rodrigues’ sake it is an impersonator, given the content of what you’re writing.

    I’ll spell out why what you’re saying is so puerile (to use a bit of your language). I don’t know I’m responding to the same person. It could be an impersonator. What has this got to do with what we’re talking about in the least?

    Ah, that is your point. All that thinking and writing is not to attain understanding of genuinely difficult questions but as some sort of cover-up operation. Honestly, are you even half-aware of just how ridiculous it all sounds?

    All that bluster, and you miss the point completely. Amazing. You’re like the pigeon playing chess by knocking over all the pieces, flying back to his friends, and declaring victory.

    The point, G.Rodrigues, is that the scholars we’re talking about start from the presupposition that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and make it fit. First of all, you can’t use the book as evidence of God’s character when your interpretation of it has been made to fit your preconceived ideas about His character. It becomes evidence of precisely nothing because it can be made to say whatever you want it to say. The fact that it takes centuries to draw out the “true meaning” (which, amazingly, aligned with their preconceived ideas about God) just goes to show the lengths people will go to to make it fit.

    At what point do they stop? They stop when the meaning that’s derived fits their preconceived ideas about God’s character. If you’re going to respond to this point, please try to respond to this point.

    Oh, and this:

    Do you even stop for a moment and think about what entails from your statements?

    x4

    It was amusing when Tom employed this rhetorical technique when I first visited this blog. Now, it’s just tiresome. Try to find some of your own material.

  84. Fleegman says:

    Hey Justin,

    It may be that in heaven, or the new creation, that sin is still a possibility, but that it is even more unappealing, to an infinite degree, than setting one’s self on fire.

    That’s fine but I don’t think that addresses my point. According to what you’re saying, we can exist in a state where we have free will, and yet don’t want to sin. So why is it necessary to have sin in the first place, given that the ability to be able to sin is part of your definition of free will?

    To me at least, it would seem that if God created us, He created us with the desire to sin. Wouldn’t that make us a flawed creation? Not only that, but He then punishes us for being true to the nature He gave us. Doesn’t this seem somewhat unjust?

    As to moral objectivity, I agree that if there is no god, that morality is merely opinion, that torturing an infant baby merely for fun, is not objectively wrong.

    Yes, I would agree with you, here, since I don’t believe in an objective morality. It is still morally wrong from a subjective stance, though.

    No society upholding murder, theft, and dishonesty as moral obligations has survived for any significant amount of time. There are a common set of moral laws extant in every society, and where moral codes differ, it is normally due to a difference of opinion as to matter of fact, nOt morality.

    I almost completely agree with you here, Justin. I would probably modify it to say that the many immoral traditions and practises, are those specifically derived from religion.

    If indeed the universe is purely deterministic, then there is no hope, no moral truth, no human rights, and no morality beyond societal opinion. As atheist Jerry Coyle says, we should live as if we have free will even if the universe is completely deterministic. I find that living a lie or illusion is not satisfying.

    That’s fine, but in the nicest possible way, when has “it’s not satisfying to me” been a yardstick for truth? You said that subjective morality is just wishful thinking. Aren’t you essentially saying the same thing, by saying that life without God isn’t a nice idea for you?

    All the best,

  85. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    Just so I’m clear, are you saying that eyewitness testimony is a reliable form of evidence?

    Just like that, with no qualifications? Yes. Please inform me, how the hundreds of scientists at the LHC can even *begin* to perform an LHC run if eyewitness testimony is not reliable? Why do you find their discoveries reliable, if what they relate, being a case of eyewitness testimony, is unreliable? How can historians do any work if eyewitness testimony is not reliable? How can you live your life if anything anyone tells you, the basic form of eyewitness testimony, is unreliable?

    What has this got to do with what we’re talking about in the least?

    Please tell me, if memories are so fallible, just like that with no qualifications, then how can you be sure of *anything* at all? How can a scientist perform any experiment if his memory of what happened a minute earlier is not reliable?

    At what point do they stop? They stop when the meaning that’s derived fits their preconceived ideas about God’s character. If you’re going to respond to this point, please try to respond to this point.

    They do *not* stop. Take Homer’s works, the Illiad and the Odyssey, which are some of the oldest survivors still in the literary western canon. Why are literary critics still hammering at them? Because literary form, being a centripetal structure of meaning, *can* be made to mean many things. This is a simple rule of close reading. With the Bible, things are even more complicated due to several other factors at work (no single human authorial voice, extended span in writing time, the progressive nature of God’s revelation, etc.).

    You can think that the Bible speaks against God’s character (this is already a mistake; God can be said to have a character only in an analogical sense), I am completely uninterested in your exegesis of it anyway, but to say that Christians have after a struggle of hundreds and hundreds of years settled on an interpretation that agrees with their preconceived ideas is wrong and preposterous on so many levels, including the *factual* one, that it is even hard to know where to begin.

    At this point, I could say that it is *you* who are force-fitting your preconceived, biased notions on Christians, and I have plenty of evidence to back me up in this thread, contrary to you that besides an historical interpretation of a contingent and small set of facts have not given any evidence. None. But if there is one thing I do not like to do is to psychologize my opponents’ intentions and elaborate vast conspiracy theories which ultimately are unfalsifiable, at any rate, unfalsifiable by *your* own criteria of what counts as evidence. So tell me Fleegman, should I accept your scientistic criteria for evidence and discard everything you said, and allow me to quote you: “You can debate it all you want, but in what sense can you arrive at an answer?” Should I view this as an indication that you only care about evidence when it suits you? That you simply do not know what you are talking about? Intellectual dishonesty? This is a genuine question, Fleegman, what should I think?

    Try to find some of your own material.

    If it works and is a perfect fit for the intended target, why change it?

    You only replied to my second post, presumably because you did not noticed the first. It would be curious to have known your answers.

  86. Justin says:

    Hey Fleegman,

    So why is it necessary to have sin in the first place, given that the ability to be able to sin is part of your definition of free will?
    To me at least, it would seem that if God created us, He created us with the desire to sin. Wouldn’t that make us a flawed creation? Not only that, but He then punishes us for being true to the nature He gave us. Doesn’t this seem somewhat unjust?

    I’m not sure that sin is necessary. We were created with certain instincts which by themselves are neither right or wrong. We have the instinct to fight, the desire to procreate, the desire to eat, etc., each of which can be exercised morally or immorally. I suppose the existence of sin, given creatures with free will, wasn’t a given, but it has happened. Adam and Eve ate the fruit, as it were.

    As far as I’m aware, the Bible doesn’t say a lot about how things operate in heaven or the new creation, I can only speculate. It may very well be that the only logical way to create “heaven” or the “new creation” was to create this existence first.

    That’s the best answer I can give to your question, which is a great question. Others might have some insight on this as well.

    It is still morally wrong from a subjective stance, though.

    This statement seems awkward, no offense intended. If something is subjective, then doesn’t that really just mean it seems wrong to you? Someone who is actually torturing the baby for fun obviously isn’t really wrong, they just have a different set of values from you. That a majority of society thinks torturing babies for fun is wrong certainly adds some force to the position insofar as making laws is concerned, but society could very well change their mind later, no?

    I almost completely agree with you here, Justin. I would probably modify it to say that the many immoral traditions and practises, are those specifically derived from religion.

    Are you referring to say, human sacrifice? Sure, some religions have had practices that others would deem immoral. We can’t lump all religion into a single bucket, however.

    The point I was driving at was that it seems clear to me that morality is objective. Much like mathematics, which are objective, were really discovered, it seems that humans have only discovered morality, not invented it based on personal preference. There are a core set of moral laws that virtually every society has had to enact or enshrine. Even within cultures that we think of as evil, for those cultures to cohere, they had to have these core moral laws in place to govern their interactions with each other, even if they were “evil” toward outsiders. It seems that these core moral values are what they are no matter what humans feel about them.

    Moral differences, in my view, are either due to differences of opinion as to matter of fact, or are on the edge of our moral understanding, much like there might be differences of opinion about certain higher mathematical issues. In India, the slaughter of cows might be outlawed or deemed immoral, and here we eat them as fast as we can. A clear case of subjective morality, right? I don’t think it’s that easy. Indians believe cows are sacred, we do not. Were we to believe that cows were sacred, we also might deem it immoral to kill them. This seems again to be a matter of difference of opinion as to fact, not morality.

    That’s fine, but in the nicest possible way, when has “it’s not satisfying to me” been a yardstick for truth? You said that subjective morality is just wishful thinking. Aren’t you essentially saying the same thing, by saying that life without God isn’t a nice idea for you?

    To put it more concretely, as I understand the atheist position, it requires us to comprehend a set of truth claims on one hand and yet live life as though we can divorce ourselves from those atheistic truth claims.

    1) Jerry Coyle has said that there is no free will. It is an illusion, but that we should simply pretend to live as if we have free will.

    2) We see the claim that morality is subjective, but when someone wrongs us, we do not act as if it is subjective. We act as if someone has truly wronged us and that they are under some obligation to share this moral view that they have done wrong. It’s simply not possible to fully live as though morality were akin to the choice between vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

    3) We see the claim that there is no ultimate meaning, but we somehow make up our own meaning and pretend that what humanity as a whole does matters, even though it will all be erased when the universe no longer supports life.

    So these are three issues where the atheist and Christian philosophies meet the practicality of living life. I prefer the philosophy that matches the way in which we actually have to live life. This is not a formal logical argument here, obviously, merely practicalities.

    Take care!

  87. JAD says:

    Ardoise @ 43 wrote:

    As a handy tool to help you look through the eyes of an atheist, every time you use the word “God” replace it with the word “fairies” instead.

    Fairies are traditionally described as tiny finite human-like creatures with magical powers. That is hardly what theists mean conceptually by the term God.

    Earlier I argued that whatever it was that caused the universe to exist was (A) eternally existing and (B) something that transcends the universe.

    It seems to me that if an atheist accepts Big Bang cosmology he/she must either accept A and B or accept the idea that the universe came into existence uncaused (and unexplained) from nothing, like Krauss apparently does. Well if you accept A and B you are accepting 2/3 of what theists mean by “God”. God is an eternally existing transcendent being. Fairies (even if they existed) are not eternal or transcendent.

    The real divide between the atheist and the theist, as I see it, is whether the eternally existing transcendent cause is a Mind or some mindless process. (For example, the laws of nature + time + chance.)

    I am skeptical that some mindless process is sufficient to explain why the universe exists and why it exists the way it does. The atheist needs to offer me more than an alternate belief here. It sort defeats the purpose if to become an atheist you must do so by faith, doesn’t it?

    I would argue that the atheist bears the burden of proof here.

  88. Fleegman says:

    @G. Rodrigues

    Please inform me, how the hundreds of scientists at the LHC can even *begin* to perform an LHC run if eyewitness testimony is not reliable?

    You realise they don’t actually look at the particle collisions with their eyes, don’t you? No, the computers and sensors record the information. When something happens that’s interesting, a team of individuals check the results. Mistakes happen in interpreting the data, because they’re human. These mistakes are corrected as people analyse the data. Repeatedly. Over and over again. The reason it’s checked, double checked, triple checked and so on? Because eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    How can historians do any work if eyewitness testimony is not reliable?

    They utilise multiple accounts and conflate the data into something consistent. The less confirming accounts they have, the less reliable the conclusion, because eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    How can you live your life if anything anyone tells you, the basic form of eyewitness testimony, is unreliable?

    You’ve never played Chinese Whispers, have you? It is unreliable, but most of the time it simply doesn’t matter. The unreliability of the information varies, of course, but you can’t rely on anything you’ve been told to be 100% accurate. You live your life by accepting this, and mitigating it in cases where it matters: by corroborating what you’re told. Before you start, I don’t go around distrusting everything someone tells me. I’m not saying I think people are continuously lying to everyone else. I’m saying in most cases it doesn’t matter, so you accept what people tell you as being accurate.

    If, however, someone told me they’d been abducted by aliens, I would think they were mistaken, unless they could provide me with something to back up their story. Even if they swore it on their life. Because eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    Please tell me, if memories are so fallible, just like that with no qualifications, then how can you be sure of *anything* at all? How can a scientist perform any experiment if his memory of what happened a minute earlier is not reliable?

    Because results from science are repeatable. If they can’t be repeated, it is assumed to be a bogus result, perhaps as a result of a misinterpretation of the data. Remember Pons and Fleischmann’s cold fusion “results” in the 80’s? They were wrong. The scientific community didn’t believe them because the results couldn’t be repeated. They tried to repeat the experiments because going on the testimony of a couple of leading electrochemists isn’t how science works.

    A fantastic example of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony just happened in front of me on the tube. A woman got up from her seat to get off, and as she was getting up, her shoulder lightly hit the railing. A man was passing at the time, and she looked up and apologised to him. If you asked her what just happened, what would she tell you?

    She would tell you, with 100% certainty, that she shouldered the bloke as he was passing because eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    Right, now that I’ve laboured the point, let’s follow her lead, get off this eyewitness testimony train, and get to the rest of your post.

    With the Bible, things are even more complicated due to several other factors at work (no single human authorial voice, extended span in writing time, the progressive nature of God’s revelation, etc.).

    And we’re back to my original question on all this: how can you use the Bible as evidence of anything when it takes centuries of study to understand the smallest parts? And then you admit that they can never say they understand them, and that the work is ongoing.

    I am completely uninterested in your exegesis of it anyway, but to say that Christians have after a struggle of hundreds and hundreds of years settled on an interpretation that agrees with their preconceived ideas is wrong and preposterous on so many levels, including the *factual* one, that it is even hard to know where to begin.

    Ok, how about this. When you read something in the Bible that suggests that God performed an immoral act, do you think of that as evidence that God might be a bit immoral, or do you think you’ve interpreted it incorrectly? Simple question, can you provide a simple answer?

    Or how about when you see what looks like a contradictory statement in the Bible. Do you think of it as evidence that the Bible isn’t perfect, or do you assume you must have interpreted it incorrectly? Again, it’s a simple question.

    Should I view this as an indication that you only care about evidence when it suits you? That you simply do not know what you are talking about? Intellectual dishonesty? This is a genuine question, Fleegman, what should I think?

    I genuinely have no idea what would satisfy you here.

    If it works and is a perfect fit for the intended target, why change it?

    Thanks for the advice.

    You only replied to my second post, presumably because you did not noticed the first. It would be curious to have known your answers.

    Ok, here goes:

    But, since I cannot prove that presumption, I’m guilty of the same thing I’m accusing you of. No?

    No.

    Ok, great…

    Can you explain to me what predictive power and usefulness of some statement has to do with its *truth*?

    Well, things can be true and yet have no predictive power or usefulness, sure. But can something be useful, have predictive power, and be false? Hmmm…

    You then go on to number theory and I accept what you’re saying. I know, right? I hope you were sitting down.

    But then you go on to say this:

    And what about historical questions? Since the question whether “Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC by a group of pro-republic senators led by Brutus” cannot be decided by recourse to empirical evidence, it cannot be decided at all?

    Wait, what? We do have empirical evidence for this in the form of historical documents. But you then lump that event in with:

    moral questions? Ethical questions? Aesthetical questions? Philosophical questions?

    which are completely different, so other than attempting a quick bait and switch, I’m not sure what you’re trying to demonstrate.

  89. Tom Gilson says:

    So then, Fleegman, it’s quite clear to you that there are conditions under which eyewitness testimony is credible: when it’s been confirmed by way of multiple accounts, for example. You leave out a lot in your analysis of how historians do that, but you get some of it, anyway.

    Now, what part of that do you think hasn’t been accomplished with the Bible, specifically the Resurrection?

    What’s “Chinese Whispers?” Is it like the Telephone Game? Ah, yes, Google helps here, and apparently it is.

    Could you do me a favor and tell me how Chinese Whispers is analogous to the New Testament accounts? Or did you just mention it here for fun? (Quick word of warning: this is not the first time I’ve seen this objection, and no, it’s not at all analogous to the NT situation. But I’ll let you try.)

    Are you beginning to understand this, yet? Your analogies need to connect to the reality of the knowledge you’re critiquing. Your complaints about eyewitness testimony are oversold; you do an inadequate job of connecting your theoretical complaints to the actual situation of the NT world, and of differentiating situations in which eyewitness testimony can be trusted and when it cannot.

    Science is a great means of acquiring knowledge about repeatable circumstances. Your example re: Pons and Fleischmann is, well, exemplary! What conclusion shall we draw from it, though? Are you saying we don’t know anything confidently unless we can repeat it? Quick, what did you do after dinner last night? Do you have to repeat it to answer?

    Are you beginning to understand this, yet? Your analogies need to connect to the reality of the knowledge you’re critiquing.

    She would tell you, with 100% certainty, that she shouldered the bloke as he was passing because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    \

    What does that have to do with the knowledge you’re critiquing? Your analogy has no connection to it. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    And we’re back to my original question on all this: how can you use the Bible as evidence of anything when it takes centuries of study to understand the smallest parts?

    Ummm… it doesn’t. (Whew, that was easy! A little too obvious for my taste, though; I like them a little more challenging than that.)

    Ok, how about this. When you read something in the Bible that suggests that God performed an immoral act, do you think of that as evidence that God might be a bit immoral, or do you think you’ve interpreted it incorrectly? Simple question, can you provide a simple answer?

    I’ll answer for myself: I wrestle with it. I worry about it. I wonder what it means. I fight with its meaning. I let it bother me. Ultimately I try to understand it within the framework of what I already know to be true, and if it can be understood that way, I accept it that way.

    Any problems with that? (Caution: before you critique understanding within the framework of what we know to be true, think through how constantly you do the same–if you’re human, that is.)

    Well, things can be true and yet have no predictive power or usefulness, sure. But can something be useful, have predictive power, and be false? Hmmm…

    Well of course it can. Sheesh. Ever study the history of science? Ever heard of Ptolemy? Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    Wait, what? We do have empirical evidence for this in the form of historical documents.

    Woo hoo! Finally! You’ve finally come to something analogous to the NT situation: we have evidence in the form of historical documents!

    Hey, guess what, G. Rodrigues? There’s hope. Maybe he is beginning to understand this after all!

  90. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    You realise they don’t actually look at the particle collisions with their eyes, don’t you? No, the computers and sensors record the information.

    These mistakes are corrected as people analyse the data. Repeatedly. Over and over again. The reason it’s checked, double checked, triple checked and so on?

    1. If eyewitness testimony is reliable why should we rely on what someone tells us they see in a computer screen?

    2. If memory is unreliable how can repeating the experiment and rechecking the data, no matter how many times, be a reliable process?

    They utilise multiple accounts and conflate the data into something consistent. The less confirming accounts they have, the less reliable the conclusion, because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    Historical documents are the written testimony of eyewitness testimony, most of the times second, third, fourth-hand testimony. So they are unreliable, no qualifications — according to you that is.

    Before you start, I don’t go around distrusting everything someone tells me. I’m not saying I think people are continuously lying to everyone else. I’m saying in most cases it doesn’t matter, so you accept what people tell you as being accurate.

    If, however, someone told me they’d been abducted by aliens, I would think they were mistaken, unless they could provide me with something to back up their story. Even if they swore it on their life. Because eyewitness testimony is unreliable. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    You seem to be saying two things:

    1. All things being equal, there are good reasons to accept people’s testimony. This is a qualification on the earlier unqualified “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”.

    2. But if someone says that “they’d been abducted by aliens”, the *reason* you invoke for not believing in them is because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    If you tell me that you would like to see some more evidence, say body marks of a strange nature, possession of strange artifacts, movies of little green men performing typically alien activities, whatever, I would understand and even agree with you. But no, the only reason you advance is “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”. But this is just begging the question against alien abduction — not that I believe in alien abduction, just making a logical point.

  91. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman (continued):

    And we’re back to my original question on all this: how can you use the Bible as evidence of anything when it takes centuries of study to understand the smallest parts?

    Centuries of study to understand the smallest parts? Salutary exaggeration?

    I did not know I was using the Bible as evidence for anything whatsoever. In fact in my discussions with you, I have used purely philosophical arguments.

    The only place I *could* or would have used the Bible in a discussion with you would be to establish the ressurection of Jesus Christ, but I do not remember discussing this specific point.

    When you read something in the Bible that suggests that God performed an immoral act, do you think of that as evidence that God might be a bit immoral, or do you think you’ve interpreted it incorrectly? Simple question, can you provide a simple answer?

    And what would be your answer to your own question?

    If I can provide a simple answer? No. The answer, for you not to misunderstand it, is a tad complicated. In part because of your own ignorance, since I would have to start to explain what sense, if any, we can attribute to the “moral character of God”.

    I genuinely have no idea what would satisfy you here.

    You made several claims about how Christians have plowed on and on to interpret the Bible until they have reached an answer that conforms to their preconceived ideas. You have presented no evidence, certainly no scientific evidence to back up your claims. You have also advanced the thesis that if a statement cannot be decided by empirical evidence and has no predictive power then, to quote you, “You can debate it all you want, but in what sense can you arrive at an answer?” And yet, here you are, debating a question that cannot be decided by empirical evidence and to which you have brought no evidence, scientific or not. So I repeat my question: how should I characterize your attitude? Disregard for evidence when it suits you? Intellectual dishonesty? Just simple plain cluelessness? I am really at a loss, so can you help me out here?

    But can something be useful, have predictive power, and be false? Hmmm…

    As Tom Gilson pointed out, how about the entire history of science as showing that something can “be useful, have predictive power, and be false”. I confess I am somewhat shocked from hearing such clueless statement from a physicist.

    You then go on to number theory and I accept what you’re saying. I know, right?

    And just to make sure we are on the same page, what am I saying, Fleegman?

    We do have empirical evidence for this in the form of historical documents.

    See previous post on the alleged reliability of historical documents.

    moral questions? Ethical questions? Aesthetical questions? Philosophical questions?

    which are completely different, so other than attempting a quick bait and switch, I’m not sure what you’re trying to demonstrate.

    You see the question marks in there? It means they are questions. Can those types of questions be answered? That is what I am asking you.

  92. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    Are you beginning to understand this, yet? Your analogies need to connect to the reality of the knowledge you’re critiquing. Your complaints about eyewitness testimony are oversold; you do an inadequate job of connecting your theoretical complaints to the actual situation of the NT world, and of differentiating situations in which eyewitness testimony can be trusted and when it cannot.

    When did I try to connect my theoretical complaints to the actual situation of the NT world? At least, in this comment thread. I don’t think I mentioned the NT at all in connection to my recent comments about eyewitness testimony. No wonder you think I’ve done an inadequate job, eh?

    However, I know you think the eyewitness testimony of the NT is, in fact, reliable, so I’ll address that in a bit.

    Are you saying we don’t know anything confidently unless we can repeat it? Quick, what did you do after dinner last night? Do you have to repeat it to answer?

    Oooooh, you snuck in that “confidently” there like a thief in the night. Yes, of course, we can be reasonable confident about what we had for dinner last night. Are you saying we can be sure? What I’ve been saying, over and over again, is that I could be mistaken, and people commonly are, even about things they feel confident about. Will you at least concede this point? And as I also said, it wouldn’t matter if I mistakenly told you I had a burger, when I actually had Shepherd’s Pie.

    I played golf at the weekend. I was really striking the ball well, in fact. It was, all in all, a very memorable game indeed. This morning, I was chatting with my mum on the phone, and told her about my great game on Sunday. After the conversation, I realised I had actually played on Saturday. Now, I play a lot of golf, and human memory being the way it is, even this close to the actual event, can get very quickly mixed up. Anything like this ever happen to you? I’d wager that is has. Human memory, Tom, is the poster child for unreliability. There have been many many studies showing this.

    She would tell you, with 100% certainty, that she shouldered the bloke as he was passing because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    What does that have to do with the knowledge you’re critiquing? Your analogy has no connection to it. Are you beginning to understand this, yet?

    Clearly you aren’t because I was specifically addressing G.Rodrigues’ point with regards to the fallibility of eyewitness testimony. I was doing the same thing with the Chinese Whispers example. I quoted G just before I said those things, so it would be obvious as to the point I was addressing. Clearly it wasn’t obvious enough. Again, I wasn’t talking about the resurrection. Would you mind not chastising me for not addressing something I wasn’t actually asked about?

    I’ll answer for myself: I wrestle with it. I worry about it. I wonder what it means. I fight with its meaning. I let it bother me. Ultimately I try to understand it within the framework of what I already know to be true, and if it can be understood that way, I accept it that way.

    And if it doesn’t? It sounds like you take things on face value when they align with your preconceived ideas, and you don’t when they don’t. That’s what I’m saying.

    Wait, what? We do have empirical evidence for this in the form of historical documents.

    Woo hoo! Finally! You’ve finally come to something analogous to the NT situation: we have evidence in the form of historical documents!

    Ok, since you are apparently unable to talk about eyewitness testimony without relating it to the resurrection (it started in this thread with you talking about memories, if I remember correctly — heh), I’ll address that in my next post.

  93. Fleegman says:

    @G.Rodrigues

    You seem to be saying two things:

    1. All things being equal, there are good reasons to accept people’s testimony. This is a qualification on the earlier unqualified “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”.

    No. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. It is unreliable to varying degrees. For example, the length of time between the experiencing of an event, and the reporting of that event. The “good reasons” of which you speak, are about mitigating, or not caring, about the accuracy of the eyewitness account. You are having an extraordinarily difficult time accepting this very simple point. I have to wonder if you are being completely honest with me about your inability to see the point I’m making.

    2. But if someone says that “they’d been abducted by aliens”, the *reason* you invoke for not believing in them is because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    Yes, of course, because as I’ve been saying over and over again, eyewitness testimony is unreliable. For what I hope is the last time: if someone tells you they saw someone that looked exactly like you on the way in to work would you believe them? Does it matter? In reality, the person they’re talking about looked completely different from you (even though you are unaware of this). This would not be surprising, since eyewitness testimony is so unreliable. Even so, you’d be ok just accepting their story, cos it has no impact on your life, and it’s more fun than being a stick in the mud and challenging them on it.

    Now, here’s another example, and see if you can apply your awesome intellect to noticing the difference between the two scenarios:

    Say a work colleague told you they saw you on their way in to work. Would you question it? They’re not lying, after all. They’re just mistaken. It’s not their fault, since they’re only human, and eyewitness testimony is unreliable. But, you have conflicting evidence that says you were no where near the route of their commute in to work.

    Can you see the difference? In both cases, they are mistaken. In the first case, it doesn’t matter. In the second, it might, because you have a reason to believe they’re wrong.

    If you tell me that you would like to see some more evidence, say body marks of a strange nature, possession of strange artifacts, movies of little green men performing typically alien activities, whatever, I would understand and even agree with you.

    I did tell you that. I said “I would think they were mistaken, unless they could provide me with something to back up their story. ” The kinds of things you mention are the kind of things that would be required to back up their story. So I guess you agree with me. Luckily, this time, I’m sitting down.

    But no, the only reason you advance is “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”. But this is just begging the question against alien abduction — not that I believe in alien abduction, just making a logical point.

    Oh well, it was nice while it lasted. Since we both agree that evidence would be required in some form other than eyewitness testimony to confirm alien abduction, how is your view on this any different from mine?

    Also, I might add that you’re not making sense, here. Even if that’s what I was saying, “eyewitness testimony is unreliable,” is not begging the question against alien abduction. Saying “that didn’t happen because aliens don’t visit us,” is begging the question against alien abduction. For someone who prides themselves on their reasoning skills, I’m surprised you would make such an elementary mistake.

    If I can provide a simple answer? No. The answer, for you not to misunderstand it, is a tad complicated. In part because of your own ignorance, since I would have to start to explain what sense, if any, we can attribute to the “moral character of God”.

    That’s ok. I didn’t really think you would give me an answer, here.

    You made several claims about how Christians have plowed on and on to interpret the Bible until they have reached an answer that conforms to their preconceived ideas. You have presented no evidence, certainly no scientific evidence to back up your claims.

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    And just to make sure we are on the same page, what am I saying, Fleegman?

    Well, I think you’re saying that things can be true and yet not useful or predictive. That’s the point I’m conceding. Although I’d like to see a material example of this.

  94. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    There are a lot of things that seem at first glance to mean something that turns out to be wrong on further examination. The sun seems to move across the sky but we can explain why that is by referring to further evidence. Why the double standard when considering the biblical text?

    Earlier you made this statement:

    The point, G.Rodrigues, is that the scholars we’re talking about start from the presupposition that the Bible is the infallible word of God, and make it fit.

    I am not clear exactly what scholars you are talking about but it seems as if you mean all Christian biblical scholars. If that is the case then please present an example of an exegesis by a biblical scholar that fits your description that has not come under criticism from their Christian colleagues.

  95. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, sorry about mixing up topics on the eyewitness thing. My bad.

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    I’m having trouble understanding what’s wrong with that, provided that the explanation is credible. As Melissa said, we all do that kind of thing all the time.

    I have a prior reason to believe that the Bible speaks the truth. Sometimes I run into a passage that seem wrong, or difficult, or confusing. If further study reveals to me a credible, sensible way in which to understand that passage that fits coherently with my overall beliefs, then my overall beliefs remain solid, and I have also learned something new to incorporate with those beliefs.

    Scientists do this all the time, by the way. So do historians, literary theorists, musicologists, grade-school teachers, and even bloggers who use noms de blog like “Fleegman.”

    If you didn’t approach knowledge this way, then your life would be hopelessly scattered. Every new piece of knowledge would have you starting all over again with all your beliefs. But I know you don’t do that. You take every new piece of knowledge and ask whether it fits into what you already considered true, and if it credibly fits into your prior knowledge/truth base, you accept it and learn from it.

    What we’re trying to do on this blog is to present new information to you that doesn’t fit into an atheistic framework, and which we think should have power to topple that framework. It would be very, very easy to say something like this, with adjustments for context of course,

    The evidence [of Fleegman’s unyielding committal to your preconceived ideas] presents itself every time Fleegman says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    I didn’t mean that so much as a personal poke at you as a demonstration that your charge against us carries no force, because your “evidence” of wrongdoing is actually evidence of normal persons’ normal way of handling new information.

    (I do think you are stuck in your preconceived ideas, but that’s a different topic.)

  96. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    I am going to start with a point in the middle of your post, because I want to get it out of the way asap.

    That’s ok. I didn’t really think you would give me an answer, here.

    I would give you an answer to the question you posed, even if the answer is not a simple one, but it is futile. It is futile, because no progress can be made on this and other questions until we agree on some more basic issues. Thus, I will let this matter drop. You can “think” whatever you want. Honestly, I do not give a damn. For someone who is quick to point out the preconceived ideas in others you sure are completely blind to your own.

    Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. It is unreliable to varying degrees. For example, the length of time between the experiencing of an event, and the reporting of that event. The “good reasons” of which you speak, are about mitigating, or not caring, about the accuracy of the eyewitness account.

    My discussion has, with the exception of a point about the interpretation of the Bible, been exclusively about philosophical questions of *method* and my mode of argumentation has been a variation of proof by contradiction. Earlier, I asked you if you knew what a proof by contradiction was and if you could recognize it. You never answered. By your answers, I suspect that you do not, thus *your* difficulty in understanding *my* points. Since you cannot understand indirect modes of argumentation, let me be more direct. There are two ways one can understand “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”. The way I am interpreting you is saying the following:

    1. Eyewitness testimony is unreliable, no qualifications, period. In the relevant cases, it does not matter, or where it does matter there are other, independent ways to corroborate it.

    What I would say about eyewitness testimony is:

    2. Eyewitness testimony is evidence, period. In some cases, it may be inaccurate, unreliable, or counter-balanced by other types of evidence, but it *is* evidence and cannot be discarded by an unqualified generalization such as “eyewitness testimony is unreliable”. Why? Because such a statement makes science, or basically any social cognitive enterprise, impossible.

    Do you stick with 1. or do you agree with 2.? Agree here means also understanding, especially the last sentence.

    Also, I might add that you’re not making sense, here. Even if that’s what I was saying, “eyewitness testimony is unreliable,” is not begging the question against alien abduction. Saying “that didn’t happen because aliens don’t visit us,” is begging the question against alien abduction.

    Context, Fleegman, context. The argument can only be understood in the whole context, where you said that for common occurrences there are mitigating factors. But what amount these mitigating factors to? To the fact that they are common occurrences — or to quote you “mitigating, or not caring, about the accuracy of the eyewitness account”. But how are we to judge what is a common occurrence? Presumably alien abduction is not one such, but why not? Given the sheer number of reports, it cannot be rarity per se. So what? Because you already are predisposed against alien abduction. Which is just begging the question against alien abduction.

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    In order for you to substantiate your claim, you have to prove that the superficial reading of the text is the actual and real reading of the text. What is the evidence for such a claim? Can there be scientific evidence for such a claim? You fail to present the required evidence and fail to see the point. The questions posed still stand, pretty much as they always were.

    Well, I think you’re saying that things can be true and yet not useful or predictive. That’s the point I’m conceding. Although I’d like to see a material example of this.

    That is only *part* of what I am saying but it is not the main point which, so it seems, you fail to grasp. As far as an example, you are the physicist here, Fleegman. You do not know of examples of useful, predictably successive theories that are false? Has the education of a physicist sunk this low?

    I also notice your silence with respect to the following points (there may be more, but these are the ones that caught my attention):

    1. Unreliability of memory entailing the unreliability of the whole scientific enterprise.

    2. Unreliability of eyewitness testimony entailing the unreliability of historical documents which in turn entails the unreliability of the whole scientific enterprise.

    3. The fact that while you judge questions that are out of the scientific purview unanswerable in the relevant sense, here you are, seriously discussing several such questions.

    4. Failure to grasp the point from the self-contradictory status of (at least) one of your claims.

    5. Failure to grasp the point from my examples related to mathematics.

    6. Whether ethical, moral or philosophical questions can be answered.

    Later edit: and let me add a seventh point to further substantiate my claims about eyewitness testimony.

    7. In post #88 you give an example of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. But what are you doing here? You are using eyewitness testimony — meaning, I should believe in *your* eyewitness testimony — to substantiate the claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    Brilliant, freakin’ brilliant.

  97. Justin says:

    Hey Fleegman,

    Just some thoughts… If eyewitness testimony is unreliable, then we discount historical writings. I don’t think this is a fair assessment of eyewitness testimony. It seems a little too absolutist. Eyewitness testimony is reliable to degrees. Generally, two eyewitnesses are better than one, three better than two. Generally, an eyewitness remembering something that happened yesterday is better than one remembering something from 50 years ago. A possible mitigation of time is the nature of the event. I definitely do not remember what I had for dinner two years ago or even a month ago, but I do remember the birth of my son two years and almost three months ago. I vividly remember my wife going into labor a little after 10:00PM CST, February 21, 2010, after we had eaten baked fish tacos from Chuy’s. I remember the doctor who gave my wife her epidural, waiting, waiting, and then my son being born around 7:00AM the next morning. I remember him weighing 7 pounds, 15.9 ounces and being 21″ long. I remember going to the hospital cafeteria and getting eggs and bacon for my wife, which she didn’t eat because she fell asleep. I remember it snowed that night and the ground was white the next morning when we took my son home from the hospital. I remember many other details I won’t retell here for obvious reasons.
    The resurrection would have been a more significant event than the routine birth of a child. So, if one is to deconstruct the New Testament accounts, we can’t reasonably do so by claiming that the events recorded were akin to one person trying to remember what they had for dinner last Thursday night. That criticism, at most, would apply to the grainy details surrounding the event, but not to the event itself (i.e. I cannot remember how much the taco dinner cost, to the penny, two years ago, but this does not mean we didn’t have tacos or that I am remembering the dinner incorrectly).
    In the New Testament, we have claims that there was more than one eyewitness. A little dating and we arrive at a date of Paul’s conversion sometime in the 30’s. At the time of Paul’s conversion, one of his occupations was to persecute Christians. For Paul to have had this occupation, there obviously had to be a large enough group of Christians to warrant such efforts, in the 30’s. I say this so that we’re not misled by claims that Christian beliefs in the resurrection were invented from whole cloth decades after Jesus’ death. Christians were already publically proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection, at the latest, within a few years of his death.
    As I mentioned above, the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah was not a fundamental belief of any Jewish sect in the first century, even the more Hellenized portions. Resurrection of the dead was a part of some Jewish belief, but that expectation was a future expectation, not something that would occur as a one-off event for one particular person then, and for the rest later. The Messiah was expected to physically overthrow the unrighteous. Jesus did not do this. The resurrection, then, cannot be explained as simply fabricating an event ex post facto to make it fit the first century Jewish expectations. And the evidence we have from Paul and the Gospels is that the disciples were, if anything, thoroughly Jewish in practice and belief. They read scripture in the synagogues, thought that Gentiles converting to Judaism needed to be circumcised, should eat certain foods, etc.

    As to aliens, were alien abductees routinely taken and jailed, hung, beaten, beheaded, crucified, or stoned for making such claims, I might take them more seriously.

  98. Jeanette says:

    I’ve been following the conversation and am finding it fascinating but I cringe at the insulting language. I understand that Fleegman doesn’t have much respect for G.Rodrigues’s opinions and vice versa, but the snide comments (from both sides) just don’t seem necessary.

    Please can you all try harder to speak nicely to each other? Follow Thumper’s mom’s advice, “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    From my reading, the differences of opinion often seem to hinge on different definitions of words. E.g. does “atheist” mean “Does not believe in any gods?” or “Does not believe in a particular god?”. Does “unreliable” mean “not completely reliable” or does it mean “cannot be relied on at all”?

    In most cases, the definition that the person means is obvious from the context. And the point they’re making becomes lost because of disagreements about word definitions rather than the concepts behind them.

    Being more careful and explicit about defining words may be helpful. I would also like to encourage you to try to accommodate the other person’s definition whenever you can or at least show you understand what they mean and give an alternate word or phrase, rather than pretending you don’t understand, which just wastes everyone’s time.

    I hope you take this the way it was intended as a friendly suggestion from an avid reader.

    Jx

  99. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    You are not taking into account that in forensic analysis, physical evidence (or lack thereof) is used in conjunction with any eyewitness evidence.

    In the case of Jesus’ [alleged] bodily resurrection (make no mistake here – this is core historical Christian belief: Jesus’ was bodily resurrected), when His apostles starting going around proclaiming this event as fact (and NT historians are in general agreement (hyper-skeptical critics notwithstanding) that this happened very early on in the rise of Christianity – months after the crucifiction):

    If the eyewitnesses were mistaken, then why did the local authorities not produce the evidence that would have stopped Christianity dead, namely the dead body of Jesus?

    If the apostles stole the body (unlikely with a trained Roman company of soldiers to guard the tomb – the apostles were not skilled swordsmen – see Luke 22:47-53, they were inept, in fact), why didn’t the Roman authorities hunt them all down like dogs and execute them? No, instead they were walking around freely in Jerusalem, proclaiming that Jesus was alive.

  100. JAD says:

    Fleegman @ 93,

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    So are Christians universally stupid? Does that mean that because I am a Christian all the decisions I have ever made have been stupid and dangerous?

    Let me share with you something that happened to me a few years ago and ask people, in their opinion, whether I made a safe and rational decision.

    I was hiking along the Tuscarawas River, which is close to where I live. Suddenly, from across the river, there was a lot of gun fire and angry shouting. Though I couldn’t see anything through the thick foliage it sounded to me like there were a lot of angry people who were not only shouting but shooting at each other. I was very seriously thinking about running back to my car and calling the police. But, then in the middle of this shooting and mayhem I heard a loud explosive BOOM!

    From that BOOM and some prior information that I had, I concluded, “Oh, it doesn’t mean what it [sounds] like it means. It actually means this.”

    What amazes me, now looking back on this incident, is that the prior information that I had was from a full year earlier and was less than a typical Bible verse in length. But from that alone I concluded that it was perfectly safe to continue my hike and that I was not going to be killed or injured by a stray bullet.

    By the way, I suspect that Americans might be able to guess what happened to me. I am curious if people from other cultural backgrounds can figure it out. The cultural context may be important here. So if you are an American and think you know give me a wink, or type “wink-wink”.

    The question then is: Did I make a rational decision?

  101. Victoria says:

    @JAD
    I know, I know! 🙂 wink wink

  102. Justin says:

    JAD, fishing with dynamite is illegal in most states.

  103. Victoria says:

    @Justin
    No – think American 19th century history

  104. G. Rodrigues says:

    @JAD:

    oink oink.

    Fishing with dynamite? Crazy americans…

  105. Jeanette says:

    Were you walking near Zoar by any chance?

  106. JAD says:

    It looks like both Victoria and Jeanette got it.

    No fair providing links! But, too late now. So if other people want to cheat rather than guess, take a look at Jeanette’s link… Yes, right across the river– obviously. Do you live in Ohio, Jeanette?

  107. Jeanette says:

    No, but like you I somehow dug it out of a dusty corner of my mind. I can’t even think where I could have heard about it. Sorry if I spoiled it with the link. I wasn’t at all sure I had the right answer.

  108. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    You should read this book before deciding on the eyewitness testimony of the gospels issue:

    Richard Bauckham’s very thoroughly researched and timely book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses:The Gospels As Eyewitness Testimony. Willian B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.

  109. Jeanette says:

    Let me try to summarize some of Fleegman’s points so far.

    (1) Nothing is completely reliable. However, the more evidence and the higher its quality, the more we can rely on it as being true. However, we should remain skeptical.

    (2) People often don’t remember events very well.

    (3) People can sincerely believe something to be true, but be mistaken. Fleegman’s example was a lady on his train who was convinced she had knocked into someone when in fact she had knocked into a railing.

    (4) Information can be lost or altered when passed from one person to another.

    I know that Fleegman is trying to build a case against the resurrection, but apart from (2), which was addressed by Justin who talked in detail about the birth of his child and showed that significant events can be recollected clearly, I’m finding myself agreeing in general terms with all these points.

  110. Fleegman says:

    Wow, lots to respond to. I wish I had time to respond to each of everyone’s points, but I’ll just have to do my best.

    @Melissa

    There are a lot of things that seem at first glance to mean something that turns out to be wrong on further examination. The sun seems to move across the sky but we can explain why that is by referring to further evidence. Why the double standard when considering the biblical text?

    If there’s a double standard at work, here, I don’t see it, I’m afraid. You’ve picked a pretty good example, though, since we both know this discovery was a problem for the Church. The response of science was to accept the evidence. The response of the Church was to suppress the evidence because it contradicted their beliefs.

    When it comes to the Sun, it either orbits the Earth, or the Earth orbits the Sun. There is a correct answer. When it comes to a Bible passage that potentially sheds light on God’s character, the “right answer,” is down to the interpretation of whomever is reading the text. What I mean by this, is that one can’t say the Bible has the answers, when an interpretation is only considered to be correct if it fits the pre-existing beliefs of the person deciding on its correctness.

    The Sun does not orbit the Earth. And it doesn’t matter how much people want it to, the evidence says otherwise.

    If that is the case then please present an example of an exegesis by a biblical scholar that fits your description that has not come under criticism from their Christian colleagues.

    I can’t, because of the very thing I’m arguing, and it sort of illustrates my point.

    @Tom

    I have a prior reason to believe that the Bible speaks the truth. Sometimes I run into a passage that seem wrong, or difficult, or confusing. If further study reveals to me a credible, sensible way in which to understand that passage that fits coherently with my overall beliefs, then my overall beliefs remain solid, and I have also learned something new to incorporate with those beliefs.

    The thing is, that’s exactly the problem I’m talking about. You start from the premise that the Bible speaks the truth, or at least you interpretation of the truth. And nothing you read therein can have an effect on your beliefs. All you do is make things you don’t initially find comfortable fit with what you already believe. It looks like the only thing your learning, is how to interpret things in such a way as to be consistent with what you already believe to be true.

    Ok, I’ve got a great question for you:

    Why do you only have difficulty with the bad stuff? What I mean by that is this: when you read a story about Jesus healing the sick, do you accept what you read, because, well, Jesus was really nice? No further interpretation required! But the story of Job requires centuries of study to work out what is actually being said, and maybe never arriving at a satisfactory answer, because it makes God look a bit like a bully.

    Why is that?

    @G.Rodrigues

    In post #88 you give an example of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. But what are you doing here? You are using eyewitness testimony — meaning, I should believe in *your* eyewitness testimony — to substantiate the claim that eyewitness testimony is unreliable.

    By George, I think he’s got it!

    @Justin

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. There are only so many hours in the day. I think we’re pretty much on the same page, here.

    A couple of things though:

    Generally, two eyewitnesses are better than one, three better than two.

    and earlier in the conversation I said: “Mistakes happen in interpreting the data, because they’re human. These mistakes are corrected as people analyse the data. Repeatedly. Over and over again. The reason it’s checked, double checked, triple checked and so on? Because eyewitness testimony is unreliable.”

    You also said:

    I don’t think this is a fair assessment of eyewitness testimony. It seems a little too absolutist. Eyewitness testimony is reliable to degrees.

    and:

    Generally, an eyewitness remembering something that happened yesterday is better than one remembering something from 50 years ago.

    and earlier in the conversation I said: “Eyewitness testimony is unreliable. It is unreliable to varying degrees. For example, the length of time between the experiencing of an event, and the reporting of that event.”

    I apologise for labouring the point, there, but G.Rodrigues has been painting a rather absolutist stance for my position on eyewitness testimony, so I wanted to make it clear what my position actually is before continuing.

    That’s a really nice story about your son’s birth. A lovely memory. You sound like a very proud dad! I’m not going to dispute any of the things you claim happened; it’s not really my place. What I will say is that I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying the fallibility of memory. It’s an absolutely fascinating subject. One thing I have learned, is that some of the strongest memories, full of things that we are the most confident about, can be filled with incorrect details, even major details. One particularly memorable (ziiing!) event in my life was about 15 years ago when I got mugged on the way back home from competing in a salsa competition early in the morning. The muggers broke my nose and smashed the side of my face in. Up until recently, I had remembered it as being the left side of my face. I say recently, because the other month I saw the medical records following the incident, and it was the right side of my face. It’s even more weird, because I now remember that at the time, I had told the police that the attacker was probably left handed because it was the right side of my face that took the brunt of his left hook. Maybe I remembered my reflection more than the reality as time went on, who knows? But I am extremely aware of how we can be fooled even by things that we are convinced we can remember in precise detail.

    As to aliens, were alien abductees routinely taken and jailed, hung, beaten, beheaded, crucified, or stoned for making such claims, I might take them more seriously.

    How about if they flew themselves into buildings for their beliefs? Would you take them more seriously, then? I don’t mean to be flippant here; I’m illustrating an important point. The strength of people’s beliefs say nothing as to the veracity of the beliefs themselves. If you asked the “abductees” if they were certain about what happened to them, they would, in almost every case, say they were completely certain about it.

    @Victoria

    You are not taking into account that in forensic analysis, physical evidence (or lack thereof) is used in conjunction with any eyewitness evidence.

    The key difference, here, is that forensic analysis leads to a result that is not influenced by the preconceptions of the investigators. They don’t investigate with the intention of making the evidence fit their preferred understanding of the events.

    I’ll address your points about the resurrection in a later post. It’s a big subject, and I have a lot to say on it, so stay tuned!

    @Jeanette

    Your points are well taken. I tend to respond in kind to a certain “tone.” Although G.Rodrigues and I enjoy a bit of banter, I’ll try to be less abrasive!

    @JAD

    The evidence presents itself every time a Christian says “oh, it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means. It actually means this,” and then goes on to explain it in a way that conforms to their belief system.

    So are Christians universally stupid? Does that mean that because I am a Christian all the decisions I have ever made have been stupid and dangerous?

    Goodness no! I don’t know how you arrived at that conclusion from what I wrote, but it’s not at all what I’m saying. I don’t think the people I’m talking with on this site are stupid. If I did, I would have left a long time ago.

  111. JAD says:

    @Jeanette
    Good deduction! I guess in that case you deserve a Sherlock Holmes detective badge.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/SHERLOCK-HOLMES-DETECTIVE-DOYLE-8-BUTTONS-BADGES-PINS-/260962733693

  112. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Have you heard of the minimal facts approach to investigating the resurrection of Jesus?

    you can find it here

  113. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    You should also take into account the fact that the overwhelming majority of ‘skeptical New Testament scholars’ (those who reject the historical Christian view of the Bible) are anti-supernaturalists. They have their presuppositions as well, and not surprisingly their conclusions are in keeping with those presuppositions.

  114. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    When it comes to the Sun, it either orbits the Earth, or the Earth orbits the Sun. There is a correct answer. When it comes to a Bible passage that potentially sheds light on God’s character, the “right answer,” is down to the interpretation of whomever is reading the text. What I mean by this, is that one can’t say the Bible has the answers, when an interpretation is only considered to be correct if it fits the pre-existing beliefs of the person deciding on its correctness.

    I’m afraid you really have no idea what you are talking about. Exegesis seeks to draw out the original meaning of the text. There is one correct answer to that. If you move to the question of what it means for me today that answer is necessarily dependent on my specific context but there wil still be a correct answer.

    I can’t, because of the very thing I’m arguing, and it sort of illustrates my point.

    I’m going to hazard a guess and say you can’t because you haven’t actually read any. That is nothing to be ashamed of, most people haven’t, but if that is the case you should not continue as if you know what you are talking about. If your point is that people disagree over these issues then I’m not sure what that is supposed to prove. Scientists disagree and critique each others work all the time. That’s one way that science can progress. Another way is that previous work is modified or overturned due to further evidence. The same things happen in biblical studies.

    One final point on this issue. When we encounter new evidence we first asses whether it fits with our other beliefs. Sometimes it does and we modify our beliefs or jettison others. Sometimes we will be unsure what the evidence means and whether it does actually contradict our original beliefs. We don’t overturn beliefs that we have good evidence for on the basis of a minor evidence that does not necessarily contradict our belief. That is how all normal people reason. Tom has already raised this but you continue to ignore it.

    Lastly and I would appreciate an answer to this question because your answer really does determine whether any discussion with you is worth pursuing. Do you really believe that only scientific questions have answers ( ie can have a correct answer). Some of your posts seem to indicate this but I’m sure I must be interpreting you wrong. (it doesn’t fit with the other evidence and I would hate to interpret you uncharitably).

  115. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, you say,

    If there’s a double standard at work, here, I don’t see it, I’m afraid. You’ve picked a pretty good example, though, since we both know this discovery was a problem for the Church. The response of science was to accept the evidence. The response of the Church was to suppress the evidence because it contradicted their beliefs.

    Perhaps. Did you know that it also contradicted the best observational science of the day? It didn’t all come together until Kepler. Did you know that the Church’s beef with Galileo had at least as much to do with politics as it did with science and faith?

    God’s character, the “right answer,” is down to the interpretation of whomever is reading the text. What I mean by this, is that one can’t say the Bible has the answers, when an interpretation is only considered to be correct if it fits the pre-existing beliefs of the person deciding on its correctness.

    This is factually wrong. This is not how Bible interpretations are determined. Simple as that. You simply have no idea how these things are battled out in journals, in conferences, around faculty tables, in books—you just don’t know.

    Additionally, though there are some issues on which the right answer is problematical to determine, these are peripheral. The major questions of the Bible can be answered to the agreement of all who look objectively at the text. So you are wrong on that count, too.

    The thing is, that’s exactly the problem I’m talking about. You start from the premise that the Bible speaks the truth, or at least you interpretation of the truth.

    Fleegman, let me ask you a question now. What do you think was the major issue between Galileo and the Church? Did what I wrote above change your view?

    Did it?

    Tell me how, please.

    Then I’ll take up further conversation with you. There’s a lot more to discuss, but it hinges a lot on this.

    Thanks.

  116. Fleegman says:

    I’m going to have to duck out of the conversation for a day or so. Got a golf competition all day tomorrow, so I won’t be able to respond until Thursday.

    Cheers for now,

  117. Jeanette says:

    I have to admit I’m not completely happy with the minimal facts approach as it leaves it open for wacky ideas like “aliens with advanced technology removed the body from the tomb and sent a humanoid robot in its place.”

    “It fits all the facts just as well as the God theory or are you unusually dogmatic about the non-existence of aliens?”

    How do I respond to this?

  118. Tom Gilson says:

    1. Aliens are an ad hoc explanation. No one has ever suggested them as an explanation for the resurrection, and no one has ever developed a theory that credibly includes aliens as part of an explanation.

    2. There is no reason to think that if they exist they have the ability to pass undetected through a tomb’s rocky walls, to spirit a dead body out undetected, and resuscitate that body.

    3. There is no independent evidence for the existence of aliens.

    4. None of those limitations apply to the theory that Jesus was raised by the power of God.

  119. Tom Gilson says:

    Enjoy the golfing, Fleegman!

  120. SteveK says:

    Just remember, Jeanette, that wacky ideas must be supported with reasons and (if available) evidence. It’s not your job to show these ideas are wacky or false. It’s the other person’s job to show you their ideas are credible, reasonable and true. What reasons could a person give you for thinking that aliens played a role in the resurrection event? Even if you grant that aliens exist, you’d still want to know why this person thinks aliens were involved rather than, say, humans.

  121. Jeanette says:

    Tom and SteveK thanks for the retorts.

    The other criticism I have heard is “If the police were faced with a similar situation today: a death, a missing body, and people adamantly claiming to have seen the person again, the police would not say ‘Oh, in that case, God must resurrected him’. They’d be ridiculed for saying it, so why is it different in the case of Jesus?”

  122. Justin says:

    Hey Jeanette,

    I think the analogy would be better if it was more than “a death”. Jesus was publically put to death in a state-sanctioned execution. I think for the analogy to work, that would have to be part of it.

    But I wonder, with all of our abilities to fake things these days (special effects, stunts, hoaxes), and the level of cinicism and distrust that pervades at least western society, whether anyone today would raise an eyebrow. It makes me think that perhaps the timing of the incarnation, in the grand scheme of things, was perfect. Just musing here…

  123. Victoria says:

    @Justin, Jeanette

    It makes me think that perhaps the timing of the incarnation, in the grand scheme of things, was perfect. Just musing here…

    Well, Paul did say in Galatians 4:4-5NASB that “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law…”

  124. Justin says:

    Victoria, I’ve read that verse at least a dozen times and now it has a bit more meaning to me!

  125. Tom Gilson says:

    Jeanette is posting from an IP address that is prominent on forum-spam databases. I was tipped off when she (he? whoever?) posted under under false and deceitful pretenses, using Holopupenko’s name, writing from an IP address he never uses, saying something he would never say, and guessing wrong on his email address.

    “Jeanette” will no longer be participating here.

  126. Fleegman says:

     @Tom

    Perhaps. Did you know that it also contradicted the best observational science of the day? It didn’t all come together until Kepler. Did you know that the Church’s beef with Galileo had at least as much to do with politics as it did with science and faith?

    There was no contradiction, as far as I can see. I agree that it wasn’t proof of a heliocentric model, but the “best observational science of the day” didn’t contradict the Copernican model, or the Tychonic system. If the Church’s beef with Galileo was as political as it was heretical, why was the trial about him holding as true the false doctrine that the Sun is the centre of the world?

    This is not how Bible interpretations are determined. Simple as that. You simply have no idea how these things are battled out in journals, in conferences, around faculty tables, in books—you just don’t know.

    I realise I’m not an expert on how Biblical interpretations are determined, but you never answered my question: why do you accept the good stuff, and research the bad stuff so it agrees with the good stuff? The are just as many places in the Bible that show God to be merciful as those that say God is vengeful with no mercy. Which is it? How do you determine which is the true character of God?

    The major questions of the Bible can be answered to the agreement of all who look objectively at the text. So you are wrong on that count, too.

    But when you say “all who look objectively,” you really mean “all who agree with my interpretations.”

    Fleegman, let me ask you a question now. What do you think was the major issue between Galileo and the Church? Did what I wrote above change your view?

    Well, the link you provided, while interesting, didn’t mention the major issue between Galileo and the Church of which you speak. I’m not aware of the political issues, so I can’t say my view has been changed, no.

  127. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman

    I realise I’m not an expert on how Biblical interpretations are determined, but you never answered my question: why do you accept the good stuff, and research the bad stuff so it agrees with the good stuff? The are just as many places in the Bible that show God to be merciful as those that say God is vengeful with no mercy. Which is it? How do you determine which is the true character of God?

    Well, why don’t you actually come up with an example, and we’ll explain it to you from within a Biblical, Christian framework. Note: this will surely contradict your atheistic and anemic concept of Who God is.
    To meet the real God will be for some the greatest joy, for others the greatest terror – Aslan is not a tame lion, you know

  128. Justin says:

    Hey Fleegman,

    Hope you shot well! I have a horrible slice with my long irons and drivers that I can’t seem to cure!

    Thanks for clarifying your stance on eyewitness accounts. I had misunderstood your position as being more absolutist as well. With respect to having strong but incorrect memories, yes, I agree this can occur. However, and not to belabor the birth of my son, but one of the reasons that I remember (I’m confident that I’m correct) that we had fish tacos is because we order them about once a month or so. Every time we order them, my wife quips that she hopes they don’t send her into labor. It’s sort of a tradition at this point.

    So, along with having to remember details about the resurrection, it’s likely that the witnesses would not have forgot about the incident, only to try and recall it decades later in order for someone to write it down. No doubt, if the resurrection occurred, the witnesses were discussing it constantly, comparing notes or memories, etc.

    So I still contend that although some of the more grainy details might have been recalled differently by different witnesses, it’s unlikely that they would have simply remembered a resurrection that did not occur. It would be like me remembering the birth of a son that I do not have. That is rather unlikely to occurr with respect to one event by multiple witnesses.

    How about if they flew themselves into buildings for their beliefs? Would you take them more seriously, then? I don’t mean to be flippant here; I’m illustrating an important point.

    Actually, yes, I would take it more seriously. That would not prevent me from concluding that they were or are in error, however.

  129. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    BTW – how was the golf tournament? I hope you had both a good time and a good game 🙂

  130. Victoria says:

    @Justin
    Just to add a point – Peter and John (and the rest of the apostles and Jesus’ followers) were proclaiming the resurrection and its implications some 50 days after the events of that Passover, and although the atheists would not take this point seriously (although Christians know it from personal and corporate experience), we cannot ignore the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Whom they received at Pentecost, and Whom Jesus promised would help them remember everything He taught them.

  131. Justin says:

    Victoria, I agree. I’m not sure that this buys us much with Fleegman at this point, however 🙂

    There are a lot of scholars that even question the words of Jesus in the NT. The Jesus Seminar comes to mind. I find their claims a little bit dubious, and missing at least one major point.

    It seems to me that if the disciples had been following Jesus for three years, they’d heard him preach more than a few times. Having listened to other speakers such as Ravi Zacharias or John Lennox, for example, you realize that two different speaking events to two different audiences have quite a bit of overlap, some of it virtually verbatum. In fact, having listened to two of John Lennox’s presentations a handful of times, I can almost recite certain points verbatum, and I’m not really trying to committ them to memory, nor is my memory especially good.

    I can imagine Peter sitting in synagogue thinking “Oy vey, here we go with the prodigal son story again….”.

  132. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, you are amazing.

    You keep harping this issue of Christians force-fitting their interpretations on the Bible. Meanwhile you force-fit your interpretation on the Galileo events, saying you saw no contradiction between Galileo’s model and the best observational science of the day, even though everyone knows that was the case, and even though I linked to a good source for you.

    You force-fit biblical interpretation into your own theory of Christianity:

    but you never answered my question: why do you accept the good stuff, and research the bad stuff so it agrees with the good stuff?

    A moment’s thought should make the answer too painfully obvious for you even to have asked it. Let me re-state your question for you: “Why do you find the stuff that’s easy to understand easy to understand, and why do you work harder on the stuff that’s harder to understand?”

    Get it now? If you weren’t so locked into your interpretation, so prone to force-fitting Christian thinking into your conception, you wouldn’t have even asked the question!

    But when you say “all who look objectively,” you really mean “all who agree with my interpretations.”

    Force-fitting. You have a preconceived, stereotyped, prejudicial, picture of biblical interpretation, and you take it that you know how it’s done when you’ve done no study on it and you have no clue what you’re talking about.

    Why don’t you look at yourself in the mirror?? You’re doing the very thing of which you accuse us!!

    The are just as many places in the Bible that show God to be merciful as those that say God is vengeful with no mercy. Which is it? How do you determine which is the true character of God?

    If I thought you wanted an answer I would supply it. But I don’t think that any more. I don’t see any evidence that you’re listening.

    (I will give you this further info on Galileo, though:

    If the Church’s beef with Galileo was as political as it was heretical, why was the trial about him holding as true the false doctrine that the Sun is the centre of the world?

    Because that’s how the politics were played out. Read here, here, and here.)

  133. Tom Gilson says:

    Justin,

    Do a little poking around on the web and you’ll find that serious scholars, believing and skeptical alike, consider the Jesus Seminar to be a whole lot better at PR than at NT scholarship.

    All,

    Recall that Israel at that time was an oral culture, in which it was typical for students to memorize their teachers’ teaching verbatim. There was nothing accidental about their knowing what Jesus said; it was quite intentional.

    Fleegman,

    Concerning your skepticism toward eyewitness testimony, first, here’s something you didn’t get wrong: you were mugged.

    To see the resurrected Jesus, or the resuscitated Lazarus, is on the same order of event. Eyewitness testimony to that kind of event is not unreliable in the same sense as what color clothes they were wearing.

    If you dispute that again now, then I accuse you of lying about all the study you’ve done about the unreliability of memory. (I’ve done some study on it too; I have an M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a field of social psych. What qualifications do you have?)

    Or maybe you’re not lying. Maybe it’s this instead: You have an opinion concerning the Bible, and you’re going to force-fit your interpretation upon it no matter what, even as you accuse Christians of having our opinion and force-fitting our interpretations upon it.

    Look in the mirror, my friend.

  134. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Reminds me of the modern Sunday School anecdote – when his teacher asked little Johnny if he had memorized the assigned Scripture passages, Johnny pointed to the flash drive on his mobile tablet 🙂

    We have lost the skill of memorization of verse, something that our ancestors did very well.

  135. Ardoise says:

    I was lurking but I have something to say on the topic of eyewitnesses.

    The police do not like eyewitnesses talking together as they contaminate each other’s accounts. In fact defense lawyers scrutinize testimonies for similarities – turns of phrase etc. – because collusion so badly undermines the strength of the evidence.

    This was demonstrated clearly on an interesting TV program I watched recently about eyewitness accounts. The program makers staged an armed robbery in front of a group of people and then had the police interview them. It was astonishing how poorly the witnesses recollected the events, even though they had perfect view of what happened. Those witnesses that were allowed to talk to each other gave no more accurate evidence than those that had been kept separate, but gave almost identical evidence to each other – i.e. they reproduced each others mistakes, even blatant mistakes. For example, one person was sure that the robbers’ getaway car had left down a certain road (and she was correct) but after speaking with another witness she changed her thoughts about it and told the police that she was “100% certain” it had gone a different road (the one that the other witness had said).

    The witnesses descriptions of the sequence of events, locations of different people and vehicles, and details of the robbers were all over the place. It was eye-opening. One person went into detail about how one of the robbers was wearing a specific kind of Ray-Ban shades. He was saying how he got a good look at the logo on the side and thought at the time that it was something important to remember. In fact, all of the robbers were wearing balaclavas. Nobody was wearing Ray-Bans and it was purely a figment of his imagination.

  136. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise:

    1. Concerning eyewitness testimony, that’s an interesting story but you haven’t begun to show how it has any relevance to the question at hand.

    2. I was really hoping that when you de-cloaked as the Romulans do, you would address this evidence of your commenting in bad faith here, specifically in distorting the record of discussion to make it appear that theists were guilty of evading.. Romulans, as you may know (Star Trek), were not famous for operating in good faith. Can you do better?

  137. Tom Gilson says:

    Let’s get this straight once and for all, okay?

    There are conditions under which eyewitness testimony is confused and unreliable.

    There are conditions under which eyewitness testimony can be trusted.

    Any blanket, unconditioned, statement that it can or cannot be trusted is wrong.

    We have ways to assess whether eyewitness testimony is reliable.

    The Bible’s record of eyewitness testimony should be treated like any other record of eyewitness testimony, to discern which of it can be trusted.

    How hard is that?

  138. Ardoise says:

    I apologize if I misrepresented your position.

    I felt frustrated because you dismissed a lot of my questions as “atheist memes” (which is fair enough – I don’t deny that’s what they are) but you didn’t provide answers. I probably raised too many topics at once.

    A lot of the questions that you say I did not address, I guess I felt were rhetorical or irrelevant.

    Are there specific questions that you’d like me to address?

  139. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you for the apology, Ardoise, though I’m not quite sure what it is what you’re apologizing for. You had falsely charged us with evading your questions. If that’s what you mean by misrepresenting our position, then I’ll accept that apology with much appreciation.

    I used the word “meme” twice concerning your statement to the effect that Christians are atheists, too, with respect with all gods but one; that was in comment 58, where I also provided an answer to that very issue. See the fourth paragraph. That was in response to one issue, not “a lot” of them. I did not dismiss the point; I did not evade it. I gave a reasoned answer, and of course I also characterized your question as a common Internet atheist meme, which it is.

    I used it yet once more later in the same comment, where I raised it as a challenge related to the earlier uses of the term. That was not a dismissal, it was a question: do you or do you not want to have a real dialogue about this?

    In comment 61 I characterized your definition of faith as being a common Internet atheist meme. That is exactly what it is. But I did not dismiss it as such, and I did not evade it. I did not apply that “meme” characterization to it until after I had delivered you a five-paragraph reasoned response.

    In comment 69 I said that you might be (option A) stereotyping me according to your atheist memes. I think my earlier uses of that term were explained well enough that you should have known I was speaking of something substantive there.

    Then in #80 you wrote,

    You successfully evaded my questions about amputees, starving children, morality that is not covered by the bible and other questions you chose to label as “atheist memes”.

    What’s funny is that everything that I labeled as an “atheist meme,” I directly answered. I did not sidestep, evade, or otherwise ignore a single one of those! Which is to say, your comment #80 was a misrepresentation; but again, it was not a misrepresentation of my position but of my actions.

    Apparently now you think a lot of these were “rhetorical or irrelevant:”

    Questions/issues raised by us for Ardoise, which he/she did not directly address
    – Equating God with fairies
    – “Brainwashing”
    – Which field of science, and which research published
    – Mischaracterization of faith as “belief without evidence”
    – Questions about the resurrection and more recent miracles
    – The non-observational prerequisites for observational science
    – Atheism’s lack of fit to real life
    – New Atheism’s lack of rationality
    – Evolution as a source of morality, and the supposed “simplicity” of that explanation
    – Misunderstanding why I brought up stereotyping (see #62 & #63)
    – The false dichotomy of #67 (see #69)
    – Jewish expectations concerning a Messiah
    – How could the disciples have been deceived, specifically?

    I disagree. None of those were rhetorical, and if they were irrelevant, blame yourself, because the majority of them were responses to topics you brought up.

  140. Fleegman says:

    @Victoria

    Golf comp was good thanks. Didn’t play so well, but the weather was good, and so was the company.

    @Tom

    Fleegman, you are amazing.

    *blush*

    You keep harping this issue of Christians force-fitting their interpretations on the Bible. Meanwhile you force-fit your interpretation on the Galileo events, saying you saw no contradiction between Galileo’s model and the best observational science of the day, even though everyone knows that was the case, and even though I linked to a good source for you.

    The link you provided explained how the telescopes of the day were diffraction limited and, therefore, he thought the stars were a lot closer than they actually are. But since I thought he went with the Copernican model based on the phases of Venus, I didn’t think it was relevant, since it didn’t contradict that model. What are you talking about? Everyone knows that was the case? What was the case? Sorry for being a big thicko, but you’re providing links to things that don’t relate to the point you’re trying to make. I’ll read your other links and see if they shine a light on the matter.

    Let me re-state your question for you: “Why do you find the stuff that’s easy to understand easy to understand, and why do you work harder on the stuff that’s harder to understand?”

    Blimey, Tom, why is it easy to understand? Because they fit your preconceived ideas, perhaps?

    If I thought you wanted an answer I would supply it. But I don’t think that any more. I don’t see any evidence that you’re listening.

    How convenient.

    There are conditions under which eyewitness testimony is confused and unreliable.

    There are conditions under which eyewitness testimony can be trusted.

    Any blanket, unconditioned, statement that it can or cannot be trusted is wrong.

    We have ways to assess whether eyewitness testimony is reliable.

    The Bible’s record of eyewitness testimony should be treated like any other record of eyewitness testimony, to discern which of it can be trusted.

    How hard is that?

    Are we even in the same conversation? My position is that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, to varying degrees. I agree with you, that there are certain conditions under which eyewitness testimony is more reliable than others. Can it ever be trusted 100%, though? I’m not sure it can.

    You say there are conditions under which it can be trusted. What are those conditions? Do you mean situations where you have corroborating eyewitness accounts, all telling similar or near identical stories? Is that enough to say “something happened” like when you helpfully informed me: “Concerning your skepticism toward eyewitness testimony, first, here’s something you didn’t get wrong: you were mugged.”

    Oh, wait, you go into it, here:

    To see the resurrected Jesus, or the resuscitated Lazarus, is on the same order of event. Eyewitness testimony to that kind of event is not unreliable in the same sense as what color clothes they were wearing.

    If you dispute that again now, then I accuse you of lying about all the study you’ve done about the unreliability of memory.

    In that case you have no problem with the statement “eyewitness testimony about the events of alien abduction is not unreliable in the same sense as to the size of the spaceships used to carry them away.”

    (I’ve done some study on it too; I have an M.S. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, a field of social psych. What qualifications do you have?)

    No qualifications, just a keen interest in the subject.

  141. Tom Gilson says:

    You asked whether there are specific questions I’d like you to address. How about this instead: jump in on the discussion, participate, and try not to mischaracterize what others do here?

    Also: if you raise a point like (for example) “faith is belief without evidence,” and when we point out that no informed Christian believes this or would agree with you, do take a moment to consider the very strong possibility that atheists’ definition of faith (or whatever) might be wrong.

    If Christianity were what Internet atheists typically describe it to be, I would reject it too.

    Actually, I think I’ll pursue this “belief without evidence” thing a bit further. I think there are many, apparently yourself included, who believe that’s what faith is. Check me if I’m wrong, but I think that means that Christianity equals “believing things that there is absolutely no reason to believe,” which further means, “being massively idiotic in what you believe.”

    So I think what your definition of faith entails is that all Christians are blithering idiots.

    My comment in #58 was intended to show that this perception or belief concerning Christians is factually wrong, because that definition of “faith” is factually wrong.

    But why was it necessary for me to say that? How likely is it, really, that all Christians are blithering idiots? Do you know any Christians who are not blithering idiots? Are you aware of any in history (James Clerk Maxwell, maybe?) who were not blithering idiots?

    You see, there’s something strangely stereotyped and almost dehumanizing about characterizing Christians as people who will believe without evidence. It’s wrong factually, and it seems to me that on a moment’s reflection you would see it defies all common sense and all human moral sense besides.

    So yes, I called it an Internet atheist meme. I stand by that. I think it’s an unthinking thing to say. It’s misinformed, it’s stereotyped, I think it’s even fair to call it bigoted. And I think that if you thought about it a moment you would say, “You know, I can’t really believe that any longer, and I reject it on both factual and moral grounds.”

  142. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    re observational evidence of the heliocentric model:
    What was lacking in Galileo’s time:
    1. a dynamical model that could account for planetary motion (and later Kepler’s laws) – that would have to wait until Newton’s day. Of course, the Ptolemaic model was purely kinematic too – it had no dynamics to speak of.
    2. What really clinched the heliocentric model was the observation of stellar parallax, and the aberration of starlight (I’ll even refer to wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_parallax).

    The phases of Venus, and the relationships between the synodic and sidereal periods of the planets were easily understood in the Copernican model. However, as we know now, Copernicus envisioned circular planetary orbits, and that model, while simpler than Ptolemy’s, could not account for the observed motions of the planets to the precision attainable in those days – so it still needed correction.

  143. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for that, Victoria.

    Fleegman, I recently supplied you with links concerning Galileo’s trial. Did you read them?

    Blimey, Tom, why is it easy to understand? Because they fit your preconceived ideas, perhaps?

    No.

    Thanks for the question.

    If you’d like to re-ask it a different way I might consider answering it more completely. For now, though, I will content myself with pointing out that your suggested answer fits nothing but your preconceived ideas, and even though I gave you ample opportunity to look in the mirror earlier, you seem uninterested in doing that.

    Alien abduction is a red herring. Several people have explained why it’s not analogous to any live issues. Here’s my contribution to that explanation. You’ve been golfing, so I’ll give you time to catch up with all that, and hopefully to recognize (as I shamelessly switch metaphors) you’re beating a dead horse.

  144. Ardoise says:

    Maybe I have exaggerated how many times you used the word “meme”. That’s how it felt anyway.

    Replacing “God” with “fairies” is not supposed to mean that the definition of a fairy is the same as the definition of a god. Not at all. The point was to get you out of your mindset. To think differently. To try and think like someone who does not believe. I presume you don’t believe in fairies. I don’t believe in God. If you replace “God” with fairies you may be able to start to see how a skeptic thinks without all the baggage that comes from the word “God”.

    To try to answer your points….

    From Wikipedia:

    Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.

    I specifically said “in the broad sense of the word”, but let’s not argue about the definition. If it wasn’t clear, the point that I was making was that you probably (I don’t want to assume) do not believe in Poseidon or Thor. They are gods, but nowadays most people don’t believe in them. One of the reasons, I’d suggest, is that we now have better (scientific) explanations for the actions of the sea and thunder. It’s understandable to me that someone seeing thunder and lightning may well think that somebody is angry. It can be a terrifying event and the noise is similar to a noise that people make when they’re angry. However, we now know it’s wrong.

    In case it’s not obvious, my argument is that the god of the bible is no different. We believe it because it seems to help us make sense of the world, in some way, but actually it’s poppycock.

    We obviously disagree on a definition of “faith”. Again, let’s not argue about the definition. I thought it was obvious, but let me put it in other words. What I’m saying is that there is no evidence to support supernatural explanations (if you believe you do have evidence then you should apply for the $1m Randi challenge) and believing in the supernatural is essentially believing something without evidence. Now, you can say that your personal experience of God is evidence for you, and that’s fine – you can believe what you like. But in terms of any real-life effects, none have ever been proven. Religious people are just as likely or unlikely to win the lottery or die of cancer as non-religious. There’s nothing different at all. Not at all. For someone who wasn’t brainwashed into thinking that there’s a God, that might be evidence that there isn’t.

    I know you probably hate it when I use the word “brainwashed” but that’s the best word to describe it. You’ve been told, for the whole of your life that god is real. Everyone you know and love believes in him. How can they all be wrong? It would take a really strong person to be able to think clearly for themselves after that experience. It seems like it’s impossible for you to see things from a skeptic’s point of view. In order to look at the evidence critically you need to be very skeptical about it. For example, rather than starting with the position that Jesus is the son of God, try starting with the position that Jesus is just a regular human and go from there.

    For you that has got to be an incredibly difficult position to hold in your head. Everything in your experience and history is screaming at you “no, no, it’s not true”. But if you want to look at things clearly you have to be skeptical. Most people are not direct descendants of God, so the likelihood is that Jesus was not either.

    If Jesus was a normal human, then what he claimed – to be the son of God – was not true. He was a joker, mad or a con-artist or perhaps a mixture. It’s not unheard of – look at any cult leader. Some of them are well-intentioned and say a lot things that make a lot of sense as well as things that don’t.

    When not talking directly about religion you are capable of thinking critically, as demonstrated by SteveK, :

    Wacky ideas must be supported with reasons and (if available) evidence. It’s not your job to show these ideas are wacky or false. It’s the other person’s job to show you their ideas are credible, reasonable and true. What reasons could a person give you for thinking that aliens played a role in the resurrection event? Even if you grant that aliens exist, you’d still want to know why this person thinks aliens were involved rather than, say, humans.

    This exact paragraph is exactly what a critical thinker would say about God. “Why do you think God was involved rather than, say, humans?”

    Justin also says:

    But I wonder, with all of our abilities to fake things these days (special effects, stunts, hoaxes), and the level of cynicism and distrust that pervades at least western society, whether anyone today would raise an eyebrow.

    There wasn’t the same level of scientific understanding – cynicism, if you prefer – in those days. People were extremely open to supernatural explanations. In fact, you could say that, contrary to what Justin suggests, it’s significantly harder to perform hoaxes now than in Jesus’ time because people are more worldy-wise, more cynical. That still doesn’t stop magicians and con-artists from tricking people however.

    Unless you can break out of your mindset of Jesus = real, God = real and look at the situation from a properly skeptical point of view, then you will never be able to see the truth. That’s why I’m trying to encourage you to use analogies and replace words. Not because I think the words mean the same, but because they don’t, but they give you an insight into a skeptical mind.

  145. SteveK says:

    Ardoise
    Regarding your TV program, in my mind it actually demonstrates that the Christian position is reasonable.

    Not having watched the show, was there any doubt in the mind of the eyewitnesses that a robbery took place (rather than friends gathering) and that a car was involved (rather than a motorcycle)? Did they get all those details correct? Did anyone disagree or change their mind later about any of this?

    People testified to have seen a crucifiction, a death and a revisiting after death. In my mind that is like testifying to the events above in your example.

  146. SteveK says:

    Ardoise

    This exact paragraph is exactly what a critical thinker would say about God. “Why do you think God was involved rather than, say, humans?”

    Why would I think that? Among other things, the historical account of the events in question.

    Regarding your wacky ideas that God wasn’t involved, if you have other testimony / evidence that suggests God wasn’t involved and that only humans were involved, please supply it so we can evaluate it.

  147. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    You’re right there was a consensus that a robbery had taken place. However the detailed sequence of events was not at all consistent – the witnesses were basically filling in gaps with something that sounded plausible.

    They also missed an incredible amount of important detail (movements of the robbers and the vehicle) that was right before their eyes. When one of the robbers pulled out a gun, while the gun was being waved around none of the witnesses really saw anything apart from the gun. They were utterly transfixed on it.

    Say Jesus wasn’t the only person crucified that day, the audience could easily be completely distracted by another crucifixion going on and not notice any shenanigans going on around Jesus’s cross.

  148. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    It’s not wacky to think that humans were involved. Humans con themselves and others, they make mistakes, they exaggerate etc. What’s wacky is to somehow jump to a supernatural explanation without any evidence.

  149. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, you’re getting nowhere.

    “Brainwashed” is a bigoted description. It assumes that I’ve never thought critically about these things. I know you probably hate it when I call you a bigot, but you’re acting like one, so there’s not much to dispute about it. And I don’t even have to assume (as you did about me) that you’ve been told these things all your life. You don’t know that; you’re assuming it on the basis of a stereotype. I don’t have to assume, as you did with me, that no one close to you disagrees with you. You don’t know that about me–that’s another stereotype.

    It is on the basis of your stereotyping behavior that I conclude you are being a bigot; for stereotyping is of the essence of bigotry.

    Replacing “God” with “fairies” does not do what you claim it does:

    The point was to get you out of your mindset. To think differently. To try and think from someone who does not believe. I presume you don’t believe in fairies. I don’t believe in God. If you replace “God” with fairies you may be able to start to see how a skeptic thinks without all the baggage that comes from the word “God”.

    Here’s why: It is possible that the word “God” is appropriate in sentences in which Christians use the word God, because it is at least broadly logically possible that Christians’ understanding of God is correct. It is not at least broadly logically possible that the word “fairies” would fit in the same sentences, e.g.“In the beginning fairies created the heavens and the earth.”

    So when you say, “replace ‘God’ with ‘fairies,'” what you’re saying is, “Why don’t you Christians recognize what blithering idiots you are, since your beliefs are no more rational than ‘fairies created the heavens and the earth.'”

    If that’s what it takes to “see things from a skeptic’s point of view,” then what I need to do is view myself as a completely mindless imbecile. Which I am not. To view myself that way would be false, and I can’t think of any good reason to make the attempt.

    But you do. What causes you to think that way? Think about it.

    (BTW, “God created the heavens and the earth” actually is a lot more rational than “fairies created the heavens and the earth.”)

    We obviously disagree on a definition of “faith”. Again, let’s not argue about the definition.

    Oh. I’m sorry. From now on I’ll agree with everything you say. That way we don’t have to argue.

    For example, rather than starting with the position that Jesus is the son of God, try starting with the position that Jesus is just a regular human and go from there.

    Fine. I’ve done that inquiry. Turns out that assumption fails to meet the test of historical evidence.

    What I’m saying is that there is no evidence to support supernatural explanations (if you believe you do have evidence then you should apply for the $1m Randi challenge) and believing in the supernatural is essentially believing something without evidence.

    Oh, for Pete’s sake, that’s outlandishly wrong. Where have you been all your life? There’s historical evidence, philosophical evidence, documentary evidence, the evidence of miracles (Randi notwithstanding). You’re just really, really uninformed on this, or else your brainwashing has blinded you to the evidence.

    Now, you can say that your personal experience of God is evidence for you, and that’s fine – you can believe what you like. But in terms of any real-life effects, none have ever been proven.

    Oh yes, I forgot to add that in addition to all the other evidence, there is also personal experience. What made you think, though, that my personal experience is my only evidence?

    “Proven”? Fine. Not proven. Just strongly established to a high level of credibility, such that it’s completely rational to take it as true.

    If you think that’s inadequate, then try to prove to me that there are other minds than yours.

    He [Jesus] was a joker, mad or a con-artist or perhaps a mixture. It’s not unheard of – look at any cult leader. Some of them are well-intentioned and say a lot things that make a lot of sense as well as things that don’t.

    Ummm… have you ever read Lewis’s Trilemma? It’s been criticized for leaving out the possibility of “legend,” but believe me, for what you’ve offered here, it’s completely valid and relevant. If you haven’t read Lewis’s Trilemma, look it up. Short answer: It’s completely irrational to think that Jesus was a joker, mad, or a con-artist. Do you want to be irrational?

    When not talking directly about religion you are capable of thinking critically, as demonstrated by SteveK, :

    Thank you for that compliment. Did you notice that there’s critical thinking going on when we criticize your inane criticisms of religion?

    There wasn’t the same level of scientific understanding – cynicism, if you prefer – in those days. People were extremely open to supernatural explanations.

    Sheesh, you’re even chauvinistic toward people you’ve never met. Do you realize that even without equations relating to entropy, or knowledge of microorganisms contributing to decomposition, people knew that dead people stay dead? They thought it was extraordinary that a dead person rose. Why? Because they knew that dead people don’t do that! Good grief, I can’t believe that wasn’t obvious to you.

    So when they saw a dead person walking again, were they open to supernatural explanations? Sure. Why? Because (a) it’s a really huge philosophical error to assume a priori that there are no explanations but natural explanations, and (b) natural explanations didn’t fit the circumstances. You would assume supernatural explanations, too, in the same circumstances, unless you were too brainwashed too break out of your acceptance of the huge philosophical error I described in (a).

    That’s why I’m trying to encourage you to use analogies and replace words. Not because I think the words mean the same, but because they don’t, but they give you an insight into a skeptical mind.

    The “insight” I’m getting is that you don’t know what you’re talking about, yet you’re acting as if you understand it so much better than I or the other theists do. That’s called ignorance parading as authority.

  150. Tom Gilson says:

    What’s wacky, Ardoise, is to think that theists jump to supernatural explanations without any evidence.

  151. Ardoise says:

    To be honest, I don’t really know what bigot means, so I’m not offended at all.

    OK, so Wikipedia is my friend:

    A person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices, especially one who exhibits intolerance or animosity toward members of a group.

    I suppose if you were painting us in a bad light, it sounds a bit like both of us. I do have strong opinions, but I’m trying to be as tolerant as possible and not show too much animosity. All I’m doing is trying to provoke thoughts. I’m not criticising YOU for believing in God. I would believe, if I had had your upbringing. (OK, I’m stereotyping, fine. Let me check: Were you brought up to believe in God or were you brought up an atheist and only in later life after examining all the evidence, did you become Christian?)

  152. Fleegman says:

    Thanks Victoria, but I’m aware of all that. I’m just confused as to what Tom is referring to when he talks about a contradiction. I mean, no one’s arguing that the Ptolemaic model could explain the phases of Venus, right? Both the Copernican and Tychonic models could explain the observations, and Galileo favoured the former. Am I missing something?

  153. SteveK says:

    Ardoise
    It’s not wacky to think that God was involved. Humans often see and perceive events clearly and often get things exactly right. (I say this only to show how weak your statement is as an argument).

    But here’s my point: What’s wacky is to somehow jump to a natural explanation when the supernatural explanation explains all the data and the natural explanation does not. You need to dismiss some of the data in order for a natural explanation to fit.

    In order to dismiss it, you need to show that the data we have is false or somehow incorrect – show that it was a friendly gathering and not a robbery, to use your TV show example. All we keep getting from you is weak statements about testimony being often weak and full of mistakes. True enough, but we both agree that testimony can also often be very strong and highly accurate.

    How will you decide if it is weak or strong, inaccurate or accurate?

  154. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    But the supernatural means that’s there’s no natural evidence for it. That could be anything: aliens, witchcraft, fairies, ghosts, black magic, the devil, goblins. Could a poltergeist have made Christ’s body move?

    A supernatural explanation essentially means “we can’t work out any natural causes”, but not being able to work something out doesn’t mean there isn’t a natural explanation. It’s far, far more likely that there’s a natural explanation as the police in “Jeanette”‘s analogy well know. And so do you, if you stop thinking nonsense!

  155. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, you’re “not criticising”? Really? What is this, then?

    Brainwashed
    Ability to think straight has been harmed
    Indoctrinated
    Accepting complete nonsense
    Having to believe it’s true
    Holding harmful beliefs
    The opposite of rational thinking
    Rationalizing
    Smoke-screens
    Obfuscating
    Rationalizing (again) no matter what
    Covering their ears and saying “Nahh nahh I can’t hear you.”
    Dangerous
    Irrational
    Inhibits learning
    Makes people do crazy things
    You’ll plough on with your religion no matter what
    Evaded my questions
    Dismissed my questions

    Quit rationalizing.

  156. Tom Gilson says:

    A supernatural explanation essentially means “we can’t work out any natural causes…”

    Ardoise, when are you going to accept that your training as an atheist has not equipped you to understand what Christians think?

    A supernatural explanation means that (a) we don’t accept the complete philosophical nonsense that says all explanations must be natural explanations, and (b) a supernatural explanation makes a whole lot of sense in the given circumstances; far better than any other explanation.

  157. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    There wasn’t the same level of scientific understanding – cynicism, if you prefer – in those days.

    I disagree. I don’t think cynicism and scientific understanding are the same, and I most assuredly did not intend cynicism to be interchangeable with “scientific understanding”.

    First century Jews knew that dead bodies didn’t rise from the grave. Even Pharasaic Jews expected the resurrection to be a future event, not something that happened to people here and there periodically. Mary and Joseph almost certainly knew what activity resulted in making a baby. When Joseph learned that Mary was with child, his instinct was to divorce her, and not because she was bearing the Son of God. First century people had to have some understanding of the scientific laws, or they simply wouldn’t have been able to differentiate a miracle from the ordinary. A virgin birth, then, simply wouldn’t have been noteworthy, nor would a resurrection.

    To paint first century Jews as unsophisticated to the point that they did not know what caused pregnancy, that dead people didn’t ordinarily rise from the grave, that water didn’t turn into wine, etc., is, to borrow Tom’s phrasing, simply a common but uncritically thought-out atheist meme (just wanted to use that word 🙂 ). In fact, this criticism is difficult to accept seriously.

    Unless you can break out of your mindset of Jesus = real, God = real and look at the situation from a properly skeptical point of view, then you will never be able to see the truth. That’s why I’m trying to encourage you to use analogies and replace words. Not because I think the words mean the same, but because they don’t, but they give you an insight into a skeptical mind.

    I believe I can look at this objectively from an independent viewpoint. As objective as a person can be, anyway. I can look at the evidence without the presumption that God or Jesus existed. However, that viewpoint must include looking at the evidence without the presumption of scientific naturalism as a starting point, too. I don’t think looking at the issue of God by replacing God with “fairy” really has any relevance, because they certainly don’t mean the same thing to me, though they might to you.

    I’d also point out that I do not believe in a “God of the gaps” that you specifically criticize. As John Lennox says, I believe in the God of the Whole Show. This God is responsible for thunder and lightening, because He does it all, so to speak.

    And lastly, it’s not quite good form to lump all first century religion into one bucket and think that by showing some religious beliefs from that period to be silly that you’ve somehow disproven all religion.

  158. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    As you said, the burden of proof is on you. Supernatural explanations are unusual (to put it mildly). Most events we see can be explained with natural explanations. If your lights flicker, it’s probably a powercut. You don’t need to reach for God to explain it.

    But I’m happy to offer some suggestions as to which assumptions might be wrong. Let’s talk about the tomb… protected by burly Romans right, so no-one could get in there? You have evidence for that? OK, so let’s say they are there. Is it possible that they could have been distracted? Been drunk? Been paid off? Been absent for a call of nature etc.

  159. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    What I’m saying is that I’m not criticizing you as a person. I’m sure you’re a nice guy. I’m deeply criticizing your ideas. I think you have very wrong assumptions.

  160. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m close to invoking #2 and #9 in the discussion policies with you, Ardoise.

    Here’s what would make the difference. Instead of thinking you know Christianity and Christians (which clearly you do not), continue the path you just started of asking questions to find out some things about who we are and what we believe.

  161. Tom Gilson says:

    Re: #161:

    Quit rationalizing. You know absolutely nothing about me except my ideas, which is what you are very, very strongly criticizing.

  162. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    Ardoise, when are you going to accept that your training as an atheist has not equipped you to understand what Christians think?

    Apologies for derailing, but restraining yourself to make the understatement of the year *must* have been very hard.

    Either that or you are under heavy sedation.

    Or I will have to invoke a supernatural cause.

  163. Ardoise says:

    OK, I’ll quit saying “brainwashing” because you clearly find it offensive. I apologize.

    Oh. I’m sorry. From now on I’ll agree with everything you say. That way we don’t have to argue.

    No, not at all! What I meant was that words have different meanings to different people, so if I use the word “faith” to mean one thing and you mean it to mean something else, it doesn’t matter. Let’s not worry about the word. It’s the ideas that we should be discussing, not definitions of words.

    There’s historical evidence, philosophical evidence, documentary evidence, the evidence of miracles (Randi notwithstanding).

    There is a perfectly natural explanation for miracles: chance. Someone always wins the lottery. And confirmation bias. You always remember the time you won, not all those times you lost.

    Why do you dismiss Randi so lightly?

    Short answer: It’s completely irrational to think that Jesus was a joker, mad, or a con-artist. Do you want to be irrational?

    Can you expand briefly on that? Why is it irrational? Most people who claim to be the son of God (and there are a LOT of them) are not.

    When they saw a dead person walking again, were they open to supernatural explanations? Sure. Why? Because (a) it’s a really huge philosophical error to assume a priori that there are no explanations but natural explanations, and (b) natural explanations didn’t fit the circumstances.

    Once you’re open and happy with a supernatural explanation, what would motivate you to look for a natural explanation? What I’m saying is when you’ve decided to believe (a) then you won’t look hard at (b).

    Have you heard of the “Canoe Man” who came back from the dead? All they found was an empty canoe. It turned out to be a life insurance con. Astonishingly even his (grown-up) children didn’t know he was alive. These things happen, especially when there’s a good reason. If the threat of crucifixion isn’t a good reason, I don’t know what is.

  164. Ardoise says:

    Ardoise, when are you going to accept that your training as an atheist has not equipped you to understand what Christians think?

    I’ve never been trained in atheism. I was just never taught Christianity.

    However, I totally accept that I cannot understand what a Christian thinks. All I can do is guess.

    What I’m trying to do is help you to see from a skeptic’s point of view and explain why I am convinced there’s no need to invoke the supernatural and that there are natural explanations. And if we don’t yet know what they are we should keep trying to work out. Otherwise we’re effectively just giving up and saying “I don’t know”. The supernatural has no more explanatory power than “I don’t know”. You can’t demonstrate it, you can’t predict anything from it. Actually, there are a lot of things that you would think would happen if there was an interventionist God – such as statistical differences between believers and non-believers – but we don’t see it. Do you have an explanation for that?

  165. SteveK says:

    Ardoise

    Is it possible that they could have been distracted? Been drunk? Been paid off? Been absent for a call of nature etc.

    More weak “arguments” without any reasoning or argument. Is there any reason or evidence that are relevant to the specific situation that support any one of these options?

    Invoking your imagination is not an argument and is not a reason in support of ANY conclusion. Your words are rationally vacuous. Do you even understand that? I’d like an answer, please.

  166. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    They are not arguments, they are questions. Can you answer them? Are any of them possible?

  167. Tom Gilson says:

    No, not at all! What I meant was that words have different meanings to different people, so if I use the word “faith” to mean one thing and you mean it to mean something else, it doesn’t matter. Let’s not worry about the word. It’s the ideas that we should be discussing, not definitions of words.

    You thought you understood what Christian faith was. I corrected your misconception. Do you accept now that if you use “faith” again in the sense that you formerly used it, you will be wrong?

    There is a perfectly natural explanation for miracles: chance. Someone always wins the lottery. And confirmation bias. You always remember the time you won, not all those times you lost.

    1. Chance is not a causal agent. Chance is the name we give to the intersection of causal streams.

    2. There are times when chance is not a good explanation: the poker player who deals herself a royal flush four hands in a row.

    3. If you think that chance is a good explanation for every unusual thing, I’d like to invite you to my next poker game. I don’t gamble, mind you; but playing against you, I wouldn’t have to be gambling. You’d think everything that happened could be explained by chance!

    On Lewis’s trilemma, see this pdf: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/philosophy/virtual_library/articles/kreeft_peter/the_divinity_of_christ.pdf, which I am told was written by Boston philosopher Peter Kreeft; and also here: http://merecslewis.blogspot.com/2010/11/lewiss-trilemma.html

    Once you’re open and happy with a supernatural explanation, what would motivate you to look for a natural explanation? What I’m saying is when you’ve decided to believe (a) then you won’t look hard at (b).

    Okay, I give up. You tell me the natural explanation for Jesus’ actually being dead (as in completely and utterly stone cold dead), and then actually being alive, as in alive enough to persuade the people he was victor forever over death, and maybe I’ll give up following Christ.

    If you think the people were conned, then you can join the parade of skeptics who have put forth all their various rationalizations for the resurrection. Feel free to suggest exactly how the con was performed, and then we’ll talk about it.

    You say you’ve never been trained in atheism. I say you’re lying. I am 100% certain you have studied atheist websites, and that’s where you’ve come up with a lot of your nonsense here.

    What I’m trying to do is help you to see from a skeptic’s point of view and explain why I am convinced there’s no need to invoke the supernatural and that there are natural explanations. And if we don’t yet know what they are we should keep trying to work out.

    From a rational point of view your skeptic’s point of view is irrational.

    Show me one good reason, please, why naturalism makes sense as an a priori view of reality.

    This isn’t one of them, by the way:

    Otherwise we’re effectively just giving up and saying “I don’t know”. The supernatural has no more explanatory power than “I don’t know”.

    “God created the heavens and the earth,” and “Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God,” both explain certain things far more completely than “duh, I don’t know how that happened.”

    You assume wrongly that explanation is synonymous with predictive power.

    Do I have an explanation for why we don’t see statistical differences between believers and non-believers? Glad you asked. I haven’t updated this page in quite some time, but it does explain why I had to lay down and die and admit that there are no such differences. Especially this failed research into the matter. Oh and this miserable outcome, and this one, too.

    You see, the reason I can’t explain why there’s no statistical difference between believers and non-believers is because it isn’t true.\

    Would you like to quit playing the superior intellect here for a change? You keep parading your ignorance as knowledge.

    By the way, you never told us in what field you are a true scientist. What have you published? Still wondering.

  168. Tom Gilson says:

    Can you answer them? Are any of them possible?

    Given what we know about Roman guards, the answer is no, none of them are possible.

    SteveK was right to caution you against invoking your imagination over questions concerning which you know nothing.

    I’m being harsh with you, Ardoise, because you’re asking for it. You’re parading ignorance as knowledge, as I have said a couple times earlier. Ignorance is no moral fault. I’m ignorant on a million times more things than I am knowledgeable on. But to pretend that one knows what one does not is to deceive, and it is morally blameworthy on anyone’s moral code.

    I’m being harsh with you because you are truly stereotyping, truly acting the bigot. That’s blameworthy on anyone’s moral code.

    I’m being harsh with you because you are trying to deceive us, saying that you are not criticizing when you are, saying you have not studied atheism when you have. That’s blameworthy on anyone’s moral code.

    I’m being harsh with you because you’re making Christians such as myself out to be unthinking, irrational morons, when in fact that is not the case. That’s intolerant and bigoted, which is blameworthy on anyone’s moral code.

    What I am trying to do is to help you understand something. You have said you want to help us understand something, and now I am trying to help you understand something: you are wrong, both factually and morally, on multiple counts. You are guilty.

    If you see that then I have a solution to that guilt for you. If you don’t see it then nothing will help you. Do you see it?

  169. SteveK says:

    You’re right, they are questions. Yes, they are possible in that there is no logical contradiction. However, the evidence does not suggest any of them are actual. Where do we go from here?

  170. Justin says:

    Ardoise, I agree with Steve. I’d like to see evidence for any of the alternative explanations you give. Simply spouting off scenarios because they are deemed to be possible isn’t an argument. You’d need evidence as to why we should take any of those over another.

    You start with the presupposition that resurrection cannot happen (which is also your conclusion), and then the explanation must be one of the things you’ve listed, because they all obey your preconceived notions of what you think is possible.

    Quite a bit of circular reasoning there.

  171. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    I’m not saying that the explanation must be one of the things I’ve listed. There are probably a million other possible natural explanations. All I’m suggesting is that it’s plausible that one of these or something similar took place. Of course I don’t have any evidence for any specific scenario, but I’m glad you agree that they are at least possible.

  172. SteveK says:

    Ardoise,

    All I’m suggesting is that it’s plausible that one of these or something similar took place.

    What is your justification for suggesting this? That’s what you have never explained. You admit that you don’t have any evidence for these specific scenarios so I’m perplexed as to why you hold on to them so tightly.

  173. Justin says:

    It’s possible I’m a brain in a vat and none of you really exist outside my imagination. I have good reasons (but not proof) to believe otherwise, but it’s possible.

  174. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    Blimey, Tom, why is it easy to understand? Because they fit your preconceived ideas, perhaps?

    Scientists spend an inordinate amount of time investigating data that is hard to understand given current scientific explanations, I guess that’s proof of … what?

  175. JAD says:

    Let me try this again. Earlier I wrote:

    Fairies are traditionally described as tiny finite human like creatures with magical powers. That is hardly what theists mean by the term God.

    Earlier I argued that whatever it was that caused the universe to exist was (A) eternally existing and (B) transcends the universe.

    It seems to me that if an atheist accepts Big Bang cosmology he/she must either accept A and B or accept the idea that the universe came into existence uncaused from nothing, like Krauss apparently does. Well if you accept A and B you are accepting 2/3 of what theists mean by “God”. God is an eternally existing transcendent being. Fairies (even if they existed) are not.

    The real divide between the atheist and the theist, as I see it, is whether the eternally existing transcendent cause is a Mind or some mindless process (For example, the laws of nature + time + chance.) I am sceptical that some mindless process is sufficient to explain why the universe exists and why it exists the way it does. The atheist needs to offer me more than an alternate belief here. It sort defeats the purpose if to become an atheist you must do so by faith, doesn’t it?

    So far none of the internet atheists who comment here have even tried to answer my question. Why is that? If atheism is more reasonable than theism shouldn’t you be able to answer my question? Or, is atheism something you believe by faith?

  176. Brap Gronk says:

    Jad, I don’t know what caused the universe to exist. I don’t know if the universe ever didn’t exist.

    Based on that would you consider me an atheist, and if so, what do I believe by faith that puzzles you?

  177. JAD says:

    Is atheism self evidently true? Can it be proven scientifically? If it can’t be and theism is a better explanation of why the universe is the way it is, why would I even want to consider atheism?

    Atheists aren’t even able to show that their belief is the better explanation.

  178. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    Alien abduction is a red herring.

    No it’s not, Tom. I’m not saying Jesus was abducted, or that he was an alien, or anything relating to the resurrection. I’m responding to your point about the reliability of eyewitnesses, specifically this bit:

    Concerning your skepticism toward eyewitness testimony, first, here’s something you didn’t get wrong: you were mugged.

    So tell me, Tom, how is it different? How is it, when thousands of people report being abducted by aliens that you cannot say the same thing? Because there’s no evidence of aliens, you say? Ok, even then, based on what you’ve said about eyewitness testimony, you would have to concede that you could say: “Well, at least we know these people were abducted. Whether it was by aliens, or by a government agency, we can’t say. But we at least know they were abducted.”

    If you cannot say this, then you will have to explain why.

  179. Ardoise says:

    @JAD
    An atheist stance is a rational position to take based on a lack of evidence for gods.

    No-one can prove anything for certain.

    You can’t prove that there aren’t invisible elephants in your bedroom. But there’s no evidence of them, so the rational position to take is that they don’t exist.

  180. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    I realise you weren’t responding to me, here, but thought I’d chime in anyway:

    Do you realize that even without equations relating to entropy, or knowledge of microorganisms contributing to decomposition, people knew that dead people stay dead? They thought it was extraordinary that a dead person rose. Why? Because they knew that dead people don’t do that! Good grief, I can’t believe that wasn’t obvious to you.

    So if it was so extraordinary, why are there so many examples of people rising from the dead in the Bible? Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t unique, in that sense. By today’s standards, rising from the dead was positively commonplace.

    3. If you think that chance is a good explanation for every unusual thing, I’d like to invite you to my next poker game. I don’t gamble, mind you; but playing against you, I wouldn’t have to be gambling. You’d think everything that happened could be explained by chance!

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the Law of Large Numbers. Extraordinarily rare events happen to people every day, when you have billions of individuals living on the same planet. How often do you hear of near death experiences, where people got incredibly lucky and survived. One survivor in an airplane crash, for example. What’s they explanation? Well, usually, unfortunately, it’s: “a miracle from God,” when, in reality, they were just really lucky.

    If you think the people were conned, then you can join the parade of skeptics who have put forth all their various rationalizations for the resurrection. Feel free to suggest exactly how the con was performed, and then we’ll talk about it.

    Does that mean that if I can’t explain to you exactly how a master magician makes the Eiffel Tower disappear in front of a group of people that you won’t believe the audience was tricked?

    “God created the heavens and the earth,” and “Jesus was raised from the dead by the power of God,” both explain certain things far more completely than “duh, I don’t know how that happened.”

    “Duh,” Tom? How would you feel if I stuck that on the front of your opinions, there?

    “I don’t know what happened,” isn’t an explanation, so you can’t really compare the statements in terms of their explanatory power. Further, your “explanation” tells us nothing. How did He do it? How did He raise Jesus from the dead? There’s no explanation, there, only an assertion.

    @SteveK

    You’re right, they are questions. Yes, they are possible in that there is no logical contradiction. However, the evidence does not suggest any of them are actual. Where do we go from here?

    Well, of course it doesn’t. The only evidence we have for the resurrection, is in the Bible, so it’s hardly going to contain evidence that it was all a big con. In fact, I would say that the Bible being the only evidence for the resurrection is good evidence against it ever happening. Didn’t anyone else think it was worth writing down at the time?

  181. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman

    So if it was so extraordinary, why are there so many examples of people rising from the dead in the Bible? Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t unique, in that sense. By today’s standards, rising from the dead was positively commonplace

    Before making such a statement, you should at least make an effort to understand the Christian teachings on resurrection in general, and the resurrection of Jesus in particular. If you actually did that, you would find that Jesus’ resurrection is indeed unique, in that He rose from the dead in a physical body, yes, but one that was not merely physical (see John 20:26-29 for example). The others were raised and had their old lives restored – Jesus resurrection is the first fruits of a completely new kind of life, never to die again (see Romans 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15, for example, as well as John 11).

    You might actually learn something if you did your research before coming up with such uninformed canards.

  182. Ardoise says:

    @Victoria
    Do you agree with Fleegman that the only evidence we have for the resurrection is in the Bible?

    And that there are no other accounts of it around the time it (supposedly) happened?

    @JAD

    Atheists aren’t even able to show that their belief is the better explanation.

    Atheism is not an explanation of anything. It is a position that people take take when they reject belief in the existence of gods.

  183. Ardoise says:

    [T]heism is a better explanation of why the universe is the way it is, why would I even want to consider atheism?

    Theism is a belief that has not been substantiated with any evidence. It has the same explanatory power as any other explanation with no evidence such as “We’re all just figments of a computer game.” or “That woman is a witch.”

    The reason you might want to consider atheism is that rejecting beliefs that aren’t supported by evidence is a more rational way of living.

    It’s perfectly fine to say “I don’t know”. No-one does. As Krauss discusses in his book, some people are trying to work out plausible explanations for how something could come out of nothing that does not require an infinite intelligent, infinitely inexplicable being.

    The theory of evolution has already explained how diverse life forms can come about without the involvement of a designer.

    “God” is really not a decent explanation of anything because it begs the question of “Who created God?”. Some theists say, “He was always there”, but if you can say that, why not just say “the universe was always there”. Adding God to the explanation does nothing except complicate it.

  184. Fleegman says:

    Hi Victoria,

    Before making such a statement, you should at least make an effort to understand the Christian teachings on resurrection in general, and the resurrection of Jesus in particular. If you actually did that, you would find that Jesus’ resurrection is indeed unique

    I was responding to the claim that “rising from the dead was extraordinary” in Biblical times, and could therefore rightly be attributed to a supernatural cause. I was pointing out that people rising from the dead wasn’t a particularly rare occurrence, after all. You essentially just agreed with me that resurrection happened to others, so how is that uninformed?

    Your claim that Jesus’ resurrection was different is another question entirely, and not one that I’m directly challenging, or even addressing. I said Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t unique “in that sense.” In other words: being resurrected wasn’t a unique event. And that’s what I said, isn’t it? Of course His was unique being the Son of God — according to scripture — but that’s not what I was referring to.

  185. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    I’m glad to see you affirm a more traditional definition of atheism. It is a faith.

    I disagree that atheism is a rational way to live. If you read many atheist philosophers, especially those from a more honest time, you’ll find that they readily admit that the ramifications of atheism don’t square with the way most people must live.

    You must pretend their is meaning.
    You pretend that there is right and wrong and that actions have moral significance.
    You live as if you really have free will.

    All of these things are consistent with theism. They are irrational under atheism.

    And no, theism does not beg the question, “who created God?”. Christians do not believe in a created God. To echo Tom, if Christians believed all of the caricatures of Christianity that atheists claim they believe, I’d reject Christianity as well. You’re swinging at windmills, Mr. Quixote.

    Insofar as we manage to recreate life in the lab, it still does not negate the conclusion that God is the uncaused cause. It will prove, however, that humans are capable of recreating life through the use of fine tuning, intelligence, and design.

    As Krauss discusses in his book, some people are trying to work out explanations for how something could come out of nothing that does not require an infinitely intelligent, infinitely inexplicable being.

    This is interesting. I have not read Krauss’ book and will not be reading it because the entire premise is based on an equivocation fallacy regarding the definition of nothing. His argument is dead on arrival. But re-read your statement. I thought science was supposed to be this rational, objective pursuit of truth, and here you claim that people are pursuing -not truth- but their own presuppositions. That isn’t science.

  186. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    I see your point regarding people being brought back to life. According to the Bible, it happened a few times over the course of a few thousand years. However, Jesus was raised to an incorruptible body that would not again die, unlike Lazarus or others who were brought back. It is splitting hairs a bit, I know.

    However, you have not really addressed any of my points at all. You are still attempting to paint first century Jews as if they did not realize that people didn’t, as a matter of ordinary course, stay dead, so far as they could tell. Jews new very well what happened to dead people, since they effectively buried their dead twice as a matter of ritual. Again, you seem to be completely avoiding the fact that if they were not familiar with this “rule”, they would never have thought the “exceptions” noteworthy. And of all the Jews that lived over the course of the Bible’s timeline, resurrection was indeed an extremely rare occurrence. When you look at the particulars of the claims, however, Jesus’ was unique, just so you know.

  187. Ardoise says:

    @Justin

    The trouble with the word “faith” is that it has multiple meanings. Atheism is not a faith in any kind of religious way, so I always try to avoid using the word faith to describe it. I prefer to say it is a position or a stance that says “there are no gods” based on the fact there is no evidence to support gods.

    You say that you disagree that atheism is a rational way to live.

    However, do you agree that it is irrational to believe in things with no real evidence? (E.g. do you agree that it is irrational to believe in invisible elephants?)

    You must pretend there is meaning.
    You pretend that there is right and wrong and that actions have moral significance.
    You live as if you really have free will.

    It might be nice if there were some objective meaning to life. But just because it would be nice does not mean that there is. Do you agree with that?

    (On the other hand, it’s also nice to be able to decide your own meaning.)

    Christians may not believe in a created God. However, it still begs the question. Anyone who is skeptical would ask that question. Saying He is an uncaused cause, just says nothing. Why can’t we simply say the existence of the universe is an uncaused cause and do away with God from the explanation?

    I thought science was supposed to be this rational, objective pursuit of truth, and here you claim that people are pursuing -not truth – but their own presuppositions. That isn’t science.

    You’re right in a way, science is based on the unprovable assumption that there are natural explanations for things. It may be unprovable, but there’s a heck of a lot evidence that it’s right. It’s also a useful assumption because it drives people to look into things, discover things and build knowledge.

  188. JAD says:

    Ardoise:

    Atheism is not an explanation of anything. It is a position that people take take when they reject belief in the existence of gods.

    Oh? Is Krauss an atheist? Is the following an explanation? (Quoted in the OP)

    Most surprising of all, combining the ideas of general relativity and quantum mechanics, we can understand how it is possible that the entire universe, matter, radiation and even space itself could arise spontaneously out of nothing, without explicit divine intervention.

    Why does Krauss feel compelled to give an explanation? Is it because he isn’t a good atheist?

  189. Ardoise says:

    @JAD

    I’m fairly sure Krauss is atheist, but you’d have to ask him what compels him.

    What he is saying in that piece you quoted is that the latest scientific theories show how it is possible for the universe to come into existence out of nothing. We do not need to reach to an infinite God to explain it.

  190. Ardoise says:

    @JAD

    Atheism is not an explanation, but a position. The position is “I don’t believe in god(s)”.

    Atheism is not an explanation for why the universe exists. It is a rejection of the explanation “God dunnit” (because that doesn’t explain anything).

    Scientists are trying to come up with natural explanations based on evidence.

  191. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    The only evidence we have for the resurrection, is in the Bible, so it’s hardly going to contain evidence that it was all a big con. In fact, I would say that the Bible being the only evidence for the resurrection is good evidence against it ever happening.

    First the objection was the reliability of eyewitness testimony. You got nowhere with that so you decided to double down on the irrationality and go “all in” with this.

    You’re saying that written testimonies (plural) *for* an event is good evidence *against* that event? The Bible is a collection of books so there is more than one source. Did you know that? Do you realize how utterly irrational this is? Please correct your thinking before you go any further – and check your meds.

    Didn’t anyone else think it was worth writing down at the time?

    So now eyewitness testimony is reliable and you would like to see more? Good to hear! Why aren’t the sources we have good enough?

    The irony is that if there were more writings, they likely would have found their way into the Bible – which means you’d have *even more* evidence against it happening.

    I suggest you look up oral tradition in the first century. Also, others did write about the events later on.

  192. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK

    Also, others did write about the events later on.

    Anything written after the Bible must be treated with skepticism as the authors will almost certainly have read the Bible.

    You’re saying that written testimonies (plural) *for* an event is good evidence *against* that event?

    No, what might be considered good evidence is that there is no contemporary historical record of Jesus. Considering the amazing things the Bible claims he did, don’t you find that a bit strange?

  193. Victoria says:

    @Ardoise #194
    Did you actually read the link that SteveK provided?

    For the record, I side with the professional New Testament scholars and historians who maintain that the New Testament provides primary historical source documents for the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth (as well as their deeper spiritual and theological significance), the start of Christianity, and the the beliefs and apostolic teachings of the 1st century Church. There are plenty of resources available for the interested person to do his/her scholarly due diligence (and you will find links to them in this blog – see Further Information).

    The Jewish authorities wanted to suppress Christianity – they certainly were not going to write much about it, and what they did write would be negative (go figure, eh?). To the Romans, Judea was a pain, and they certainly didn’t care much about some Jewish religious sect and yet another superstition, as long as it didn’t interfere with the affairs of the Empire – sheesh, Ardoise, don’t you ever spend any time doing any historical study that actually uses real scholarly works?

  194. Ardoise says:

    @Victoria

    Pliny the Younger (in 110AD) is saying that Christians meet and sing hymns to Christ. I could write the same thing. It’s not evidence for his existence though.

    Tacitus was not an eyewitness, so his information comes at least(!) second-hand. He briefly mentions Christus in a book written in 115AD – a long time after the events described. This is certainly evidence. But it isn’t exactly strong evidence.

    Many of Josephus’s writings have been tampered with and are unreliable. His Testimonium Flavianum was a complete forgery.

    The other references relate to a time long after the Bible was in circulation, and the seed of Christianity had spread. They are therefore to be treated with extreme skepticism.

  195. Justin says:

    The trouble with the word “faith” is that it has multiple meanings. Atheism is not a faith in any kind of religious way, so I always try to avoid using the word faith to describe it. I prefer to say it is a position or a stance that says “there are no gods” based on the fact there is no evidence to support gods.

    The fact is, you’ve actually demonstrated that your atheism is a faith. You continue to adhere to a list of caricatures of the Christian faith which you refuse to amend on discussion. Since these caricatures are certainly not original to you, I can only conclude that you received them from other faithful evangelical atheists.

    You say that you disagree that atheism is a rational way to live.

    However, do you agree that it is irrational to believe in things with no real evidence? (E.g. do you agree that it is irrational to believe in invisible elephants?)

    This is not a yes or no question. It depends. People rationally believe a lot of things without “proof”, which is what I suspect you are equivocating with “evidence”. There is certainly evidence for God’s existence.

    It might be nice if there were some objective meaning to life. But just because it would be nice does not mean that there is. Do you agree with that?

    I do, but I don’t believe that the universe has objective meaning because such belief is nice. This is another windmillish caricature you are arguing against.

    Christians may not believe in a created God. However, it still begs the question. Anyone who is skeptical would ask that question. Saying He is an uncaused cause, just says nothing.

    Well, it says a couple of things, actually. First, it says that you are arguing against a god I do not believe in, which becomes irrational to do once it has been explained to you (understanding, of course, that you do have your evangelical atheistic beliefs to defend). Secondly, belief in a God that is uncaused logically does away with the question of what created it. Asking what created something that has no cause is simply nonsense.

    Why can’t we simply say the existence of the universe is an uncaused cause and do away with God from the explanation?

    Because science seems to point to the conclusion that this universe is contingent. You could say that this universe, and possibly any before it, are part of a chain that have an uncaused cause. This uncaused cause is what we call God.

    You’re right in a way, science is based on the unprovable assumption that there are natural explanations for things. It may be unprovable, but there’s a heck of a lot evidence that it’s right. It’s also a useful assumption because it drives people to look into things, discover things and build knowledge.

    This missed my point. The point was that what Krauss is describing is not what science is.

  196. Fleegman says:

    @SteveK

    First the objection was the reliability of eyewitness testimony. You got nowhere with that so you decided to double down on the irrationality and go “all in” with this.

    Ummm, I got nowhere? Nowhere? Nonsense. My position on eyewitness testimony hasn’t changed, and I’ve yet to hear a decent argument against that position. I’m still waiting for Tom’s reply to my last question about it, actually.

    And just so you know, I haven’t even begun to address the eyewitness testimony in the Bible.

    The Bible is a collection of books so there is more than one source. Did you know that?

    Yep. And do you know who wrote the gospels? No?

    So now eyewitness testimony is reliable and you would like to see more? Good to hear! Why aren’t the sources we have good enough?

    I have spoken several times about the need for corroborating evidence. My position hasn’t changed. Why isn’t it good enough? I’ll give you a taster: because we don’t even know if the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, to say nothing about the “eyewitnesses” contained therein.

  197. Ardoise says:

    All I can say is thank goodness Christian standards of evidence are not applied in courts.

  198. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Do your homework – read the scholarly works of N. T. Wright, Darrell Bock, Daniel Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Gary Habermas, Michael Licona, F. F. Bruce, for starters.

    I have been a Christian for the better part of my adult life – I came to faith in Christ during my university years, at the same time I was earning my three Physics degrees. I have been studying it and its foundation for 30+ years – the written word has shown me the Living Word (aka Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour). The indwelling Holy Spirit and His written word (aka The Bible) have sustained me all these many years, challenged me, convicted me, transformed me. Its truths have shaped my intellect, my heart, my soul. Nothing can separate me from my Abba or destroy my faith and trust in Him, least of all your lame attempts to challenge Him or His Word.

    The problem is not with the documents or how they came to be – it is with your hard hearts, closed minds and intellectual arrogance – this is all stated quite plainly by the New Testament authors, notably Paul, so it comes as no surprise to me that you do not understand nor believe what we tell you – I used to be as you, until I encountered the resurrected Jesus and His claims to being Lord and Saviour in the pages of the New Testament. He showed me what my life was like, where it was going, and what He offered, and I was ready to listen.
    You can do the same, or you can remain in your unbelief and rebellion and separation from God – if that is what you want, God will grant you your wish – I doubt you will like the consequences.

  199. Ardoise says:

    @Victoria
    Were you atheist before you found your faith at university? Are your parents/family atheists?

  200. Victoria says:

    @Ardoise
    we were nominal (non-practicing) Catholics at the time – I certainly did not believe any of it, wanted nothing to do with God or religion – after all, I was going to be a scientist, right? 🙂

    Well, God had other plans for me – as a summer research intern at school, I ended up working for a physicist who was a Christian, as were his graduate students and post-docs. They showed me what real Christianity was all about. Still, it took me three years before I was ready to listen and learn. I naturally gravitated to the apologetics aspects of the Christian faith, and I spent a lot of time investigating and learning the evidentiary basis of Christianity, by reading real books by real scholars – fortunately we did not have Google back then – if you wanted to learn something, you had to do the leg-work, so to speak. So you see, Ardoise, the objections you and other skeptics raise today, I was already dealing with 30 years ago, and the scholarly Christian community has been dealing with for centuries. Those of us who know God through faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit have an assurance and confidence in Him and His Word that you don’t have, and if you continue in your current attitude, never will.

    Oh, and my parents – my mother became a Christian a couple of years after I did – my Dad much later in life (he was always a stubborn man 🙂 ) Both are now with the Lord.

  201. Fleegman says:

    @Victoria

    Thanks for reminding me how educated you are, although I’m not sure what relevance that has. It was while I was earning my three physics degrees that I went completely the other way, so…touché?

    I’m sure nothing can separate you from your belief in God. Certainly not my “lame attempts,” as you put it.

    Thank you, also, for reminding me of the “consequences” of not believing what you believe. Consequences inflicted on me for eternity by your all loving, all merciful god, presumably.

    I have been studying it and its foundation for 30+ years – the written word has shown me the Living Word

    and this:

    Those of us who know God through faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit have an assurance and confidence in Him and His Word that you don’t have

    and I’m forced to conclude that, according to what you’re saying, a belief is a prerequisite for understanding the Bible. This is what I’ve been saying all along. You “know” it’s all true, so you make it fit your beliefs. Therefore, you cannot come to God through the Bible, but must believe in it first.

    And would it surprise you to know that there are people who have studied the Quran for even longer than you have studied the Bible, and believe that it’s true. Are they wrong, and you’re right? If so, how do you now?

    I apologise if I’ve come across as a bit testy in this reply. Threats of eternal torture have that effect on me.

  202. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman,

    You are not the first atheistic physicist to frequent this blog, and not the first to have trouble discerning the difference between valid logic and fallacies. I was away all yesterday, but as I come back I need to remind you once again the alien abduction thing really is a red herring. It is not analogous to any live question here. If alien abductions are bogus, that has no bearing on the truth of the Bible, particularly the resurrection. Same if they’re real. They have no connection.

    You wrote in #180 that you disagree with me on that. You said,

    So tell me, Tom, how is it different? How is it, when thousands of people report being abducted by aliens that you cannot say the same thing? Because there’s no evidence of aliens, you say? Ok, even then, based on what you’ve said about eyewitness testimony, you would have to concede that you could say: “Well, at least we know these people were abducted. Whether it was by aliens, or by a government agency, we can’t say. But we at least know they were abducted.”

    If you cannot say this, then you will have to explain why.

    Here’s why I can credit eyewitness testimony about many things but not alien abductions:

    1. The thousands of alien abduction stories are all separate instances having to do with individuals or very small groups of persons.

    2. They do not agree sufficiently in details.

    3. There is no theoretical support behind them: we have no viable theory of alien visitors; in fact, we have strong reasons from physics to doubt their existence.

    4. There are credible alternate explanations for abduction stories.

    So whether you’re attacking the credibility of eyewitness testimony in general, or the eyewitness testimony to the resurrection in particular, you’ll find that there are ways to assess its value and come to a positive conclusion. Alien abductions have no relationship to the problem you’re trying to raise, and they’re red herrings.

  203. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    You still don’t understand, do you?
    That indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that confidence and assurance, does not come until after a person takes those first steps toward God, not before. God will even help a person along if that person is willing to listen – in fact, He goes around looking for such people, people from all over the world whose hearts are open to Him. Belief and understanding are dynamically linked together, in a sort of symbiotic relationship, and you get neither until you are ready to listen.

    You still don’t understand why Jesus resurrection is of ultimate significance, and why it changes everything, do you?
    You don’t get why this trumps all other religious traditions, do you?

    You do not understand both the kindness and severity of God, do you? (Romans 2:3-16, ) You do not acknowledge God as sovereign King and Judge of all the earth, with the rights and authority to pass perfect judgement on those who rebel against Him and reject His rightful rule. You don’t see both sides of John 3:16-18, do you?

    You don’t understand that to reject God now is to remain separated from Him forever, do you? You don’t understand that without a personal, willing choice to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, to accept His sacrificial death on your behalf is to remain dead in your sinful, rebellious state, and never learn what it is to love God and walk with Him, do you? You are basically telling God that you want nothing to do with Him, to say nothing of being adopted into His eternal family, of serving Him from a grateful and renewed heart. God will respect your free choice – when He resolves the problem of sin and evil for all eternity, He will forever separate them from His presence, including those who have willfully rejected Him. That is not a threat, but the way it has to be. Why do you think He went through so much trouble to step into human history as one of us, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to show us what life was supposed to be like in God’s kingdom, and who Himself paid the price we could not afford to pay, to redeem His fallen race?

    Ultimately, this is between you and God – we can only tell you that it is worth your while to get to know Him, that there are good reasons to trust His written Word.
    The problem is not that those reasons are inadequate or insufficient (for they are, in fact, sufficient – the fact that they are not overwhelming and overpoweringly compelling is God’s respecting of our freedom to choose Him, to be willing to step out of our comfort zones in the face of less than certainty, to go beyond where the evidence stops and continue forward to where it points, and to the One it points to) – the fault lies in us. If you don’t understand these things and they appear as foolishness to you, then you are one of those persons whom Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 and finally in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. Is that how you want to live your life, how you want to step into eternity when you die?

  204. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, this will be long but I’m trying to get caught up finally.

    First, I’m wondering about this:

    An atheist stance is a rational position to take based on a lack of evidence for gods…. But there’s no evidence of them, so the rational position to take is that they don’t exist.

    ….
    Theism is a belief that has not been substantiated with any evidence. It has the same explanatory power as any other explanation with no evidence such as “We’re all just figments of a computer game.” or “That woman is a witch.”…

    I prefer to say it is a position or a stance that says “there are no gods” based on the fact there is no evidence to support gods…. However, do you agree that it is irrational to believe in things with no real evidence?

    I know the second part of that first quote comes from an illustration, but I’m still curious (since I’ve seen other atheists say this), is it your position that there is no evidence for God?

    On a related note:

    Do you agree with Fleegman that the only evidence we have for the resurrection is in the Bible?

    And that there are no other accounts of it around the time it (supposedly) happened?

    This is hardly surprising:

    1. You will not find people saying the resurrection happened unless they believe it happened. Contemporary affirmations of the reality of the resurrection will therefore come only from believers. We have such accounts from at least the four Gospel authors, Paul, Peter, the author of Hebrews, and by strong implication also James and Jude.

    2. The vast, vast majority of written records from those days have been lost. There may well have been other accounts, now lost. In history the norm is to deal with the information one has rather than those that one does not have. (Ulysses S. Grant’s meticulous daily diaries make no mention of the Emancipation Proclamation. Does that mean it didn’t happen?)

    3. At any rate, there is also this: Josephus, writing just a few short years after Christ, testifies of his resurrection and of the continuing existence of the Christian sect. Tacitus in 116 AD wrote of Jesus’ crucifixion and a “mischievous superstition” that broke out afterward. It’s notable that although there were many Messiah-claimants in Judea around that time, all of their movements died out after their deaths–all but Jesus’, that is. (I’ll come back later to respond to your rejection of these sources.)

    Atheism is not an explanation of anything. It is a position that people take take when they reject belief in the existence of gods.

    Atheism implies and/or entails certain classes of explanations, naturalism, for example. I suppose not all atheists are philosophical naturalists, but in my experience most are. What about you?

    “God” is really not a decent explanation of anything because it begs the question of “Who created God?”. Some theists say, “He was always there”, but if you can say that, why not just say “the universe was always there”. Adding God to the explanation does nothing except complicate it.

    The question “who created God?” is frankly ignorant and you ought to be embarrassed to be parroting it. God is by definition uncreated, self-existent, timeless, eternal, and necessary. The universe is none of those things by definition.

    Now, is there something illegitimate about giving those characteristics to God? No. First, they are in the record from the start, quite amazingly so, in fact. Second, the same conclusion was reached by classical philosophers in very similar (not identical, but similar) form, based on logical reflections on reality.

    Why can’t we simply say the existence of the universe is an uncaused cause and do away with God from the explanation?

    Because the universe is not timeless and eternal by any model anyone has been able to propose. Here are a few of the problems such models have run into, very briefly:

    1. The Big Bang happened a finite time ago. Something must have caused it, unless you’re going to go the completely evidence-free route of suggesting that causation did not exist before the Big Bang.

    Let’s suppose that something had something to do with pre-existing reality in a larger physical multiverse, which I’ll call LPM:

    2. If LPM were eternal in the sense of existing for an infinite time past, it should have already burned out by now, by all physical models.

    3. If LPM were eternal in time past but its fires (speaking metaphorically of course) only started burning a finite time ago, something would have to have started them burning. If that something were purely physical, existing in time, that would be logically impossible, because any such event would logically have had to have its inception an infinite time ago, not a finite time ago. Physical events cannot wait. Effects always proceed from efficient causes without delay.

    4. Events and entities in the known universe are all contingent rather than necessary. To call any original physical event or entity necessary rather than contingent would be to take a leap of evidence-free faith.

    Continuing:

    You’re right in a way, science is based on the unprovable assumption that there are natural explanations for things. It may be unprovable, but there’s a heck of a lot evidence that it’s right. It’s also a useful assumption because it drives people to look into things, discover things and build knowledge.

    There are natural explanations for things: duh. That point isn’t at issue here, my friend.

    What he [Krauss] is saying in that piece you quoted is that the latest scientific theories show how it is possible for the universe to come into existence out of nothing. We do not need to reach to an infinite God to explain it.

    Google “Krauss review,” Ardoise. The first link you’ll get (besides the Amazon sales page) is a massive smackdown in the NY Times showing how wrong Krauss got that. I wrote a piece on Krauss myself. Funny thing—it’s the original post on this thread. Krauss equivocates on “nothing” and therefore proves himself philosophically incompetent and unqualified for the topic on which he has written.

    Anything written after the Bible must be treated with skepticism as the authors will almost certainly have read the Bible.

    Define “treated with skepticism,” and show how we or others have failed to practice it properly, please. You can be sure that what was written after the Bible has been subjected to very careful tests. Here’s a great example.

    In other words, be careful pretending you know things about history that you don’t. The Testimonium Flavium was absolutely not “a complete forgery,” as you ignorantly affirm. Tacitus and Pliny are both regarded as genuine, and Tacitus’s “third-hand” evidence is evidence as historians regard evidence.

    You’re spending too much time reading Internet atheists who by definition don’t believe in anything except that they don’t believe in something, but will believe in anything if it’s affirmed by anyone else who disbelieves in that something. You should spend more time reading historians about history.

  205. David says:

    For a universe to arise out of his kind of “nothing,” that “nothing” has to be the sort of nothing that accommodates Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It has to be the kind of nothing in which laws of physics apply, and where the potential to create matter exists. Physical laws and potentialities are not nothing.

    Indeed, anything more than a cursory glance at Krauss’ argument shows that he simply redefines what “nothing” is, and then discusses how his version of “nothing” could possibly produce something that is not included in his version of “nothing”. Which, of course, ends up being a rather trivial argument.

  206. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    You are a master at making what is written fit with what you already believe maybe that’s why you insist that is what everyone else is doing?

    and I’m forced to conclude that, according to what you’re saying, a belief is a prerequisite for understanding the Bible. This is what I’ve been saying all along. You “know” it’s all true, so you make it fit your beliefs. Therefore, you cannot come to God through the Bible, but must believe in it first.

    nothing Victoria wrote forces the conclusion that belief is a prerequisite for understanding the bible, What you quoted pointed to the fact that believers have further evidence that increases their trust in God and the scriptures that is not available to the non-believer which is a different issue altogether.

    As to knowing it’s all true so you make it fit your beliefs, that just doesn’t fit the experience of the vast majority of Christians. If a Christian claimed that their beliefs had never been altered and changed in an encounter with the bible I would be highly skeptical as to whether they were actively seeking to know God. That’s a major reason why Christians read the bible – to let it shape their beliefs and actions.

    Lastly on this point there are plenty of people who could testify that they came to God through the bible and plenty more who would tell you how the biblical text challenged their previous understanding of reality. Victoria’s point is that if you refuse to encounter God then you will likely not encounter God.

    So we are left at a bit of an impasse, in that we all read a text or view the world through a particular lens which is why I think this conversation really gets us nowhere. None of us can escape this charge. I think the important question though is what we do when we find a piece of data that doesn’t make sense given. Generally that would require us to modify our prior beliefs. Is it your contention that we don’t do this or are you arguing something else?

    Lastly while rhetorically effective (and I realise that they are used in the same way by some believers) the claim that God will be inflicting torture on unbelievers for eternity is really just an imaginative add-on to the biblical text. While the consequences of dehumanising choices are bad you can hardly blame God for a path you have freely chosen.

  207. Fleegman says:

    @Melissa

    Lastly while rhetorically effective (and I realise that they are used in the same way by some believers) the claim that God will be inflicting torture on unbelievers for eternity is really just an imaginative add-on to the biblical text. While the consequences of dehumanising choices are bad you can hardly blame God for a path you have freely chosen.

    It amazes me that you can spin this so God doesn’t get the blame for sending you to Hell. I guess His hands are tied, eh?

    Please answer this question, for me: if someone puts a gun to your head and says “give me your cash, or I’ll shoot you in the face,” do you consider that a free choice? After all, you are perfectly free to choose whether or not to hand over your wallet.

  208. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman,

    God cannot give you free will while at the same time preventing you from having free will. Regardless of your final paragraph, people do freely choose either to follow God or not to follow him. Those who choose not to associate with him will be allowed not to associate with him. And that is hell.

  209. Tom Gilson says:

    Melissa rightly said,

    As to knowing it’s all true so you make it fit your beliefs, that just doesn’t fit the experience of the vast majority of Christians. If a Christian claimed that their beliefs had never been altered and changed in an encounter with the bible I would be highly skeptical as to whether they were actively seeking to know God. That’s a major reason why Christians read the bible – to let it shape their beliefs and actions.

    In other words, one of the points you’ve been flogging here is empirically false. (What’s your position on empirical knowledge?)

  210. Fleegman says:

    @Tom,

    It is not analogous to any live question here. If alien abductions are bogus, that has no bearing on the truth of the Bible, particularly the resurrection. Same if they’re real. They have no connection.

    Again, I am still only talking about eyewitness testimony in general, and I’m still addressing the points you made about its reliability. You are putting words in my mouth, and arguing against them. What I am doing, is showing you that eyewitness testimony can’t be trusted in a vacuum. It’s a simple as that. We’ll get to the resurrection.

    1. The thousands of alien abduction stories are all separate instances having to do with individuals or very small groups of persons.

    So what? These people are convinced they were abducted. You can ask them.

    2. They do not agree sufficiently in details.

    Sufficient for you? In general? They agree in many ways, actually. How sufficiently would they have to agree to be take seriously?

    3. There is no theoretical support behind them: we have no viable theory of alien visitors; in fact, we have strong reasons from physics to doubt their existence.

    Ok, so you think it’s extremely unlikely that aliens have visited us, so you think their story is pretty incredible.

    4. There are credible alternate explanations for abduction stories.

    This is true. And it all points to one thing, and I’m so glad you’re finally conceding the point, because I was beginning to think we’d never get here.

    What you’re saying is: “Their story is too unbelievable. It needs corroborating evidence to back it up.”

    Thank you! This is exactly what I’ve been saying all along. Now we can move on to the meat of the matter: the resurrection.

    You will not find people saying the resurrection happened unless they believe it happened.

    Well, “duh,” as you like to say.

    Contemporary affirmations of the reality of the resurrection will therefore come only from believers. We have such accounts from at least the four Gospel authors, Paul, Peter, the author of Hebrews, and by strong implication also James and Jude.

    Since we’re talking about evidence, here, can we leave out the “strongly implied,” bit? Because I think “strongly inferred” might be a better description.

    Also, since you’re talking about a supposed bodily resurrection, we should really leave out Paul too, right? After all, he never specifically mentions a bodily resurrection. We can also leave out the author of Mark, since as I’m sure you’re aware, the original finished before any sightings of the resurrected Jesus. Hebrews mentions it, granted, but doesn’t mention any eyewitnesses. Was the author an eyewitness, or just telling a story? Same goes for Peter.

    As for the rest, what you have are stories about eyewitnesses. None of the gospel authors is known to have been an eyewitness. The only author who claims that is Paul, and he talks about a bright light and a voice.

    Where are your eyewitnesses?

    To hammer the point home, if I told you I flew to work like Superman, and I told you that hundreds of people witnessed it, how many eyewitnesses do you have?

    The vast, vast majority of written records from those days have been lost. There may well have been other accounts, now lost.

    Are you entering this into evidence?

    3. At any rate, there is also this: Josephus, writing just a few short years after Christ, testifies of his resurrection and of the continuing existence of the Christian sect. Tacitus in 116 AD wrote of Jesus’ crucifixion and a “mischievous superstition” that broke out afterward.

    I would hardly call fifty or sixty years “a few short years.” Something written decades later, mentioning Jesus indirectly. Well, his brother, and John. As for  TF, setting aside the issues of authenticity for now, simply talks about what Christians believe. I realise you didn’t mention this claiming you have an eyewitness, but just for the record: not an eyewitness. And nearly a century later, Tacitus mentions Jesus being crucified. Nothing about the resurrection, IIRC. Also, not an eyewitness.

    It’s notable that although there were many Messiah-claimants in Judea around that time, all of their movements died out after their deaths–all but Jesus’, that is.

    Are you saying: because people continued to believed it, it’s evidence that what they believed was true?

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the strength of someone’s beliefs, say nothing about the veracity of those beliefs.

    @Victoria

    I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to be fairly frank in my response, here; just to give you a heads up before you dive in…

    You don’t understand that to reject God now is to remain separated from Him forever, do you?

    I understand what you’re saying, I just don’t believe in God.

    …to accept His sacrificial death…

    Bear with me here, when I say that I don’t think it’s really a sacrifice if you know you’re a god, is it? I’m not being flippant, here, it’s something that’s troubled me for a long time. Where is the sacrifice? I realise you’re saying He suffered and died for our sins, but he knew, without any shadow of a doubt, that he was the son of God. That he was one with God.

    …on your behalf is to remain dead in your sinful, rebellious state, and never learn what it is to love God and walk with Him, do you? You don’t understand that without a personal, willing choice to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord…

    Is God not capable of metaphorically clicking His fingers and forgiving us? Because we have to choose to come to Him? As I said to Melissa, this is not a free choice, according to what you believe.

    It sounds like you’re saying that in order to get into Heaven, you have to accept Jesus as your saviour, because only then can you overcome sin. God can’t just forgive you, because you have to choose to come to Him. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that sin is an integral part of God’s plan. So he must be responsible for it. What you’re saying is that we deserve to be punished for something that’s not our fault.

    You are basically telling God that you want nothing to do with Him,

    Just to clarify: I don’t believe in God. I’m not telling him anything.

    He resolves the problem of sin and evil for all eternity

    As I’ve said, I would argue that if He created everything, He also created sin. In my opinion, He’s resolving a problem He created in the first place.

    He will forever separate them from His presence, including those who have willfully rejected Him.

    Once again, if what you say is true, it’s not a free choice.

    …the fault lies in us…

    If it does, it’s because He created us that way.

    Is that how you want to live your life, how you want to step into eternity when you die?

    I live this life as though it’s the only life I have, rather than waste it preparing for the next one. I don’t think this is a trial run, and it cheapens it to think that it is. In my opinion, of course.

  211. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    Regardless of your final paragraph, people do freely choose either to follow God or not to follow him. Those

    Regardless of it? The last paragraph was the whole point!

    Here it is again, if you fancy another crack at it:

    If someone puts a gun to your head and says “give me your cash, or I’ll shoot you in the face,” do you consider that a free choice?

  212. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    If someone puts a gun to your head and says “give me your cash, or I’ll shoot you in the face,” do you consider that a free choice?

    Your analogy is wrong. It would be more accurate to think in terms of the parent who tells their child not to stick a fork in the power point or they’ll get hurt (or die). Does that child have a free choice?

    It sounds like you’re saying that in order to get into Heaven, you have to accept Jesus as your saviour, because only then can you overcome sin. God can’t just forgive you, because you have to choose to come to Him. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that sin is an integral part of God’s plan. So he must be responsible for it. What you’re saying is that we deserve to be punished for something that’s not our fault.

    It might help us all if you could lay out your argument step by step because I don’t see how your conclusion follows inescapably from anything that you’re written here, or that Victoria wrote.

  213. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman,

    Can you read? You wrote,

    Again, I am still only talking about eyewitness testimony in general, and I’m still addressing the points you made about its reliability. You are putting words in my mouth, and arguing against them. What I am doing, is showing you that eyewitness testimony can’t be trusted in a vacuum. It’s a simple as that. We’ll get to the resurrection.

    But I had written,

    So whether you’re attacking the credibility of eyewitness testimony in general, or the eyewitness testimony to the resurrection in particular, you’ll find that there are ways to assess its value and come to a positive conclusion. Alien abductions have no relationship to the problem you’re trying to raise, and they’re red herrings.

    By the way, “showing … that eyewitness testimony can’t be trusted in a vacuum” has become very, very boring. I agree with you on that. But it has no relationship to any live issues under discussion. Can we move on, please? But not this, because you’re putting words in my mouth, the very thing you just finished accusing me of doing!

    What you’re saying is: “Their story is too unbelievable. It needs corroborating evidence to back it up.”

    No, what I’m saying is more thoughtful than that. It’s not just a matter of corroborating evidence. It’s about conditions in which eyewitness testimony can and cannot be trusted.

    But you’re bound and determined to say that the eyewitness testimony of the resurrection (you did get there eventually) can’t be trusted because, well, d*** it, it just can’t be trusted. You have set aside all rational considerations concerning when such testimony can and cannot be trusted. If “their story is too unbelievable” and “needs corroborating evidence to back it up,” then what you’re saying is you just won’t trust anything but the corroborating evidence. Forget that there were claims of eyewitnesses. Forget that people said they saw Jesus alive. Forget any investigation into whether they are trustworthy. Forget any analysis of the plausibility of alternate explanations. Just forget the whole thing, because their testimony means nothing because you say it means nothing.

    You’re incorrigible on this point. And irrational.

    Since we’re talking about evidence, here, can we leave out the “strongly implied,” bit? Because I think “strongly inferred” might be a better description.

    Huh?

    Also, since you’re talking about a supposed bodily resurrection, we should really leave out Paul too, right? After all, he never specifically mentions a bodily resurrection.

    Huh? Read 1 Corinthians 15. It’s all over the place there.

    We can also leave out the author of Mark, since as I’m sure you’re aware, the original finished before any sightings of the resurrected Jesus.

    Fine. As far as eyewitness reports we can leave out Mark; though there was an eyewitness account there of the empty tomb and the angels. I’ll even grant you the author of Hebrews. As for Peter, you’re wrong: 2 Peter 1:16.

    As for the rest, what you have are stories about eyewitnesses. None of the gospel authors is known to have been an eyewitness. The only author who claims that is Paul, and he talks about a bright light and a voice.

    Read 1 John 1, by the same author as the Gospel of John.

    Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.

    Read Luke 1:1-3. These are carefully researched reports from eyewitnesses. Luke is considered to be an historian of the highest rank, in view of his intimate knowledge of the geography, politics, governmental titles, and events of the day. He was not careless.

    To hammer the point home, if I told you I flew to work like Superman, and I told you that hundreds of people witnessed it, how many eyewitnesses do you have?

    Hundreds. (What’s hard about that?) Of course I’d ask you who and where they were–just as the creed of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 relates–a creed that even critical scholars like Gerd Lüdemann consider to have been circulating in Jerusalem within a few years of the events. So as in the case of your Superman claim, the eyewitnesses would be available—or not—to question.

    The vast, vast majority of written records from those days have been lost. There may well have been other accounts, now lost.

    Are you entering this into evidence?

    Heavens, no. I’m entering your ignorance of historical method and historical circumstances into evidence. You’re making unfounded claims based on the lack of evidence, which demonstrates you don’t know what you’re doing.

    I would hardly call fifty or sixty years “a few short years.” Something written decades later, mentioning Jesus indirectly.

    Historians who know what they are doing would call that a sufficiently short number of years. And at this point I’m also entering into evidence your unwillingness to read evidence for what it is. Josephus and Tacitus did not mention Jesus “indirectly.”

    You complain that Josephus is “not an eyewitness.” Well, color me stupefied over that one. You demanded corroborating evidence to back up eyewitness accounts because eyewitness accounts can’t be trusted, and when I provide it your complaint is that it’s not an eyewitness. What do you want???

    Are you saying: because people continued to believed it, it’s evidence that what they believed was true?

    Well of course I am! Can you read? Can you think??? If group A thinks a is true but changes its mind, and group B thinks b is true and continues to think b is true, which is more likely to be true, a or b? But note that there’s more to it in this case. My point is that it’s remarkable for the Christians to have continued to believe in Jesus after his death, for every other claimed Messiah’s followers gave up after their man’s death. There has to be some explanation for the difference.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the strength of someone’s beliefs, say nothing about the veracity of those beliefs.

    You’ve descended into silliness. Of course in certain circumstances what you say is true, but for people in a position to know whether or not b is true, the strength of their belief that b is true reflects the veracity of b. I believe strongly that I had cinnamon crisp cereal for breakfast. I do not believe strongly that I fasted for breakfast. Are you going to doubt that this has anything to do with the truth of what I had for breakfast?

    Fleegman, you’re trying really hard not to see what’s in front of your face. You’re make a blanket denial that the strength of a person’s belief has any relation to the truth of its belief, not recognizing that what you say there is not true of the relevant situation. You make a similar blanket denial of the veracity of eyewitness testimony. You falsely state that we have no eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus. You make false statements about Paul’s testimony, and blithely continue on with it as if you were telling the truth. You insist on corroborating evidence for eyewitness testimony, and then reject it because it’s not eyewitness testimony. You reject the consensus of scholarly opinion on that corroborating evidence. You reject what you do not understand about historical method.

    Don’t you see how irrational that is?

  214. Tom Gilson says:

    If someone puts a gun to your head and says “give me your cash, or I’ll shoot you in the face,” do you consider that a free choice?

    You’re choosing it, Fleegman.

  215. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    If someone puts a gun to your head and says “give me your cash, or I’ll shoot you in the face,” do you consider that a free choice?

    Besides being a very flawed analogy (if you don’t see why then you don’t understand Christianity) — yes, you do have a free choice. Your choice tells us what you love and value. Do you love your money, or do you love your life? Choose wisely.

  216. SteveK says:

    The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that sin is an integral part of God’s plan. So he must be responsible for it.

    In these situations I like to use the following analogy as mental Drano to help unclog irrationality and restore clear thinking. 🙂

    Fleegman: You and your wife plan to have a child. You both know with certainty that your child will choose to sin during its life and that your child will certainly die one day. Despite knowing this, you choose to have the child anyway because having children is good. Are you and your wife responsible for the sin and the death of the child? Was sin and death an integral part of your plan? Are you morally culpable for either one?

  217. SteveK says:

    Waaayyy off topic, but worth cheering about.

    Catholics to Obama: Go pound sand

    For more info: http://www.preservereligiousfreedom.org/

  218. Victoria says:

    This is rather typical of scholarly Christian thought on the nature of sin
    (excerpts from the Eerdmans’ Bible Dictionary in Logos 4 (www.logos.com)

    Sin: In essence, the failure or refusal of human beings to live the life intended for them by God their creator. The biblical terminology for sin as an act (and its commission) as well as a human condition is extensive. Among the Old Testament words are Heb. ḥāṭā˒ (verb) “miss the mark, fail” and related words, ˓āḇar “pass beyond, transgress” and related words, ˓āwōn “iniquity, perversion,” pāša˓ “revolt, transgress” and related words, šāgag̱ and šāg̱â “err, go astray,” tā˓â “err, wander,” ra˓ “evil,” and rāšā˓ “wicked, impious.” New Testament terminology includes Gk. hamartía (noun) and related words, ponērós “evil,” adikía “injustice, unrighteousness” and related words, parábasis “transgress” and related words, and anomía “lawlessness.”


    The primary lessons of the account of the fall are that, though sin is as old as mankind, it arises not from the way in which mankind was created, but from the way in which mankind exercises free will, and that sin is not simply an act, but begins with thought—specifically, thought that denies the truth of what God says and that seeks some gain for the human creature that has not been provided by God.

    The fundamental effect of sin is alienation between God and the person or society that sins (Isa. 59:2). For this reason, reconciliation between God and humanity is the heart of what is accomplished in God’s salvation of mankind. Because God is the one against whom sin is directed, he must also be—and is—the one to respond by initiating the process of reconciliation. Indeed, only God can make provision for reconciliation, but a human response to God’s actions toward reconciliation is required. This is true with regard to the sacrificial system of the Old Testament as well as to human faith in Christ that answers to the reconciliation God has brought about through Christ.
    Part of the process of God’s redemptive response and defeat of sin is his taking on the responsibility of guaranteeing that his people will live no longer in sinful patterns but will live, rather, according to his will (Jer. 31:33–34; Ezek. 11:19–20; 36:26–27).
    The eschaton will bring the final defeat of sin Sinners who do not participate in God’s redemption will be judged and punished, and their sinfulness will be excluded from the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:8). God’s people will experience a complete release from the sin that has until then remained in their lives (1 John 3:2).

    Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (952). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

    God did not create sin; He created beings who are capable of free, non-deterministic choices, actions, and thinking so that they(and we) could relate to Him in a meaningful and significant way – a genuine two-way relationship based on love between a sovereign Creator-King and His people. By giving human beings the ability to make free choices, this logically implies the potential to not choose God.

    Fleegman, you are not dealing with some abstract theology of your (or some other human thinker’s) own making here, but concrete and well-defined Christian theology, of which you might just as well admit you know next to nothing. Your idea of Christianity is some sort of caricature not fit for mature adults.

    It doesn’t matter if you like it or not (that is is your problem, not Christian theology’s): God knew that creating beings with free will could lead to the very situation we face now, so He had a plan to deal with that situation; now the choice is for us to accept God’s solution or reject it.

    Yes, God has laid His cards on the table: see Deuteronomy 30:19-20 or Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-41, for example; God is explicitly telling us that to choose Him is to choose life (the new life in Christ, to reunite with God in the relationship He intended for us all along), to disobey Him is to choose death (to remain spiritually dead, separated from God, to not have the relationship with Him that He intended you to have). As Tom said, even in the face of these options, you are still choosing to reject God’s offer, because of course, you don’t believe in Him.

  219. Fleegman says:

    @Tom

    Oooooooh, boy, this is going to be long… Ok, here goes…

    By the way, “showing … that eyewitness testimony can’t be trusted in a vacuum” has become very, very boring. I agree with you on that

    Yes, very boring. Thank you for agreeing.

    But it has no relationship to any live issues under discussion. Can we move on, please?

    Amazingly, I agree with you if and only if we’re talking about the resurrection, only probably not for the same reasons. The reliability of eyewitness testimony isn’t relevant because you don’t have any of significance.

    Before you point me at the secondhand eyewitnesses again, please answer this: do you have any first hand eyewitness testimony of the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

    No, what I’m saying is more thoughtful than that. It’s not just a matter of corroborating evidence. It’s about conditions in which eyewitness testimony can and cannot be trusted.

    We’ve been over and over this. Your position appears inconsistent. Perhaps you could briefly lay out the conditions under which you think eyewitness testimony can be trusted. One that includes “Fleegman, you were mugged” yet doesn’t include “they were abducted by something .” You have also said that the believability of the event isn’t relevant, so I don’t think you can include that in your description.

    Yes, I know it’s tedious, believe me. If you don’t want to bother, that’s fine, I just want to be arguing against your actual position on this.

    But you’re bound and determined to say that the eyewitness testimony of the resurrection (you did get there eventually) can’t be trusted because, well, d*** it, it just can’t be trusted.

    And this shows that you still don’t understand my position on eyewitness testimony. Let me know if you would like me to clarify.

    If “their story is too unbelievable” and “needs corroborating evidence to back it up,” then what you’re saying is you just won’t trust anything but the corroborating evidence.

    Nope, that’s not what I’m saying. What I believe I said was that the corroborating evidence was as weak, if not weaker, than the eyewitness testimony you’re talking about.

    Forget that there were claims of eyewitnesses. Forget that people said they saw Jesus alive. Forget any investigation into whether they are trustworthy. Forget any analysis of the plausibility of alternate explanations. Just forget the whole thing, because their testimony means nothing because you say it means nothing.

    Tom, what you have is claims that there were eyewitnesses. That’s a very different thing than eyewitnesses themselves. You have claims that people saw Jesus alive. Once again, this is a very different thing than the people themselves claiming they saw Jesus alive.

    Also, since you’re talking about a supposed bodily resurrection, we should really leave out Paul too, right? After all, he never specifically mentions a bodily resurrection.

    Huh? Read 1 Corinthians 15. It’s all over the place there.

    Yes, I have. I did. Nothing about a bodily resurrection. Yes, for sure, he talks about Jesus rising from the dead and appearing to people, but he doesn’t specify that it was bodily, as opposed to how He appeared to Paul. In fact, from verse 44 he goes on to talk specifically about the difference between mortal bodies and spiritual bodies. The body you get after you die: “it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” If he was talking about a “natural” body for the resurrected Christ, wouldn’t he have said “…but, of course, Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t spiritual, just to avoid any confusion.”

    As for Peter, you’re wrong: 2 Peter 1:16.

    Ok, let’s see: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” -2 Peter 1:16

    No mention of the resurrection. Eyewitnesses to Jesus’ majesty.

    Read 1 John 1, by the same author as the Gospel of John.

    Are they talking about the resurrection, there? It’s not obvious, to me, at least: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” -1 John 1:1

    Read Luke 1:1-3. These are carefully researched reports from eyewitnesses. Luke is considered to be an historian of the highest rank, in view of his intimate knowledge of the geography, politics, governmental titles, and events of the day. He was not careless.

    Maybe not, but he was writing about 30 years after the events supposedly happened. And, forgive me, but Luke is only one of a number of possible authors, is he not?

    So as in the case of your Superman claim, the eyewitnesses would be available—or not—to question.

    So why weren’t they interviewed?

    I’m entering your ignorance of historical method and historical circumstances into evidence. You’re making unfounded claims based on the lack of evidence, which demonstrates you don’t know what you’re doing.

    Actually, you were answering Ardoise, at the time. I’ll take the blame for that one, for jumping in on your discussion with him/her.

    Josephus and Tacitus did not mention Jesus “indirectly.”

    Look back and you’ll see that I was referring to the first two of the three mentions by Josephus. The second is most certainly indirect. In the first, he’s talking about Jesus’ brother.

    You complain that Josephus is “not an eyewitness.” Well, color me stupefied over that one.

    No, I didn’t complain. I even said “I realise you’re not saying he was an eyewitness,” I just wanted to lightheartedly state that for the record.

    You demanded corroborating evidence to back up eyewitness accounts because eyewitness accounts can’t be trusted, and when I provide it your complaint is that it’s not an eyewitness. What do you want???

    Once again, I’m complaining because the corroborating evidence is so weak. You are misrepresenting me, here. My main complaint was not that Josephus and Tacitus were not eyewitnesses. Tacitus does not mention the resurrection, and even though Josephus is clearly stating the beliefs of Christians, it’s authenticity is in question. It’s just not very impressive.

    Are you saying: because people continued to believed it, it’s evidence that what they believed was true?

    Well of course I am! Can you read? Can you think??? If group A thinks a is true but changes its mind, and group B thinks b is true and continues to think b is true, which is more likely to be true, a or b?

    Neither. You cannot say which is more likely simply based on how many people believe it, or how strongly they believe it.

    You’ve descended into silliness. Of course in certain circumstances what you say is true, but for people in a position to know whether or not b is true, the strength of their belief that b is true reflects the veracity of b.

    You have a lovely way with words. Yes, for people in a position to know whether or not b is true, that’s a different matter. But they were not in a position to know. Clearly, if sensible, your argument could be used to support the growth of Islam, something I’m sure we can both agree is not based on truth.

    I believe strongly that I had cinnamon crisp cereal for breakfast. I do not believe strongly that I fasted for breakfast. Are you going to doubt that this has anything to do with the truth of what I had for breakfast?

    Are you going to doubt that the abductees I like to speak about were abducted when they clearly believe in it very strongly. Also, as I said, when the person doing the believing is in a position to know, it makes a difference. You are clearly in a position to know what you had for breakfast.

    Fleegman, you’re trying really hard not to see what’s in front of your face. You’re make a blanket denial that the strength of a person’s belief has any relation to the truth of its belief, not recognizing that what you say there is not true of the relevant situation. You make a similar blanket denial of the veracity of eyewitness testimony.

    Again, re-read what I really think about eyewitness testimony. As I clarified to Justin way up the page, it certainly isn’t a blanket denial of its level of reliability.

    You falsely state that we have no eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Jesus.

    You have claims of eyewitnesses. As I said, this is not the same thing.

    You make false statements about Paul’s testimony

    Show me where Paul mentions a bodily resurrection, and I’ll gladly concede the point.

    …and blithely continue on with it as if you were telling the truth.

    Well, I could say the same about you, but I’m trying to be civil.

    You insist on corroborating evidence for eyewitness testimony, and then reject it because it’s not eyewitness testimony.

    Misrepresenting my position, as I’ve stated above.

  220. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman,

    I don’t think your long comment deserves any further response than this:

    Amazingly, I agree with you if and only if we’re talking about the resurrection, only probably not for the same reasons. The reliability of eyewitness testimony isn’t relevant because you don’t have any of significance.

    Before you point me at the secondhand eyewitnesses again, please answer this: do you have any first hand eyewitness testimony of the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

    Yes.

    I pointed you to firsthand eyewitnesses in my last comment to you.

    Deal with it.

    If you keep asking me to say the same things over and over and over again, I’m not playing that game with you.

    If you respond responsibly I’ll pick this up again.

  221. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Why are you here, in this blog? What do you hope to accomplish? Do you want to learn what real Christianity actually is, or not?

  222. SteveK says:

    That’s a very different thing than eyewitnesses themselves.

    What’s the problem, Fleegman? Are you against the idea of others using depositions as evidence?

  223. Victoria says:

    The key to understanding 1 Corinthians 15 is found in verses 50-58, especially 53-54:

    For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
    54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.

    New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Co 15:53–54). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

    You are making the mistake, Fleegman, of assuming that the spiritual is somehow less substantial than the natural – in fact, Paul is saying that it is far more substantial – look at the contrasting comparisons: natural is to spiritual as a seed is to the mature plant, as weakness is to power, as dishonor is to glory, as perishable is to imperishable, as mortal is to immortal.

    The creed that Paul is stating in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 is just that – all NT scholars agree that this is one of the earliest Christian creeds, based on the events of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, attested to by the His appearing to the people mentioned in vs 4-8. Only Paul’s encounter with the risen Jesus occurred after Jesus’ ascension – the other encounters before that, and Jesus took great care to make sure that the women and the apostles understood that He was not some sort of ghost, but very much alive as they were, yet much more so. The creed already affirmed Jesus’ bodily resurrection. The Greek words for ‘raised’ and resurrection in this passage are the same words used in other New Testament accounts of the resurrection miracles (as in John 11 and John 12:1 ), where it is clear that the context implies a physical body coming back to life as a physical body.

    Rather than telling us what you think Christian teaching is, why don’t you let us tell you? Maybe you will actually learn something!

  224. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    I’m not sure anyone can understand your position on eyewitnesses at this point. You’ve sped by responses to your points, brought up irrelevant points, and seem determined to drive home your case as decisive when in fact it’s not even compelling.

    1) I gave you a specific example of eyewitness testimony that is reliable.
    2) You gave a testimony that was generally reliable, albeit with one detail incorrect.
    3) You gave an example of an experiment that was performed in which I assume none of the witnesses concluded that a robbery had not even occurred.

    You’ve actually shown (whether you meant to or not) that with respect to the broad facts of an event, eyewitness testimony is fairly reliable. Whether Jesus was resurrected and appeared in the flesh clearly qualifies as a big picture type of fact.

    I can’t rationally make the leap you seem to want us to make; eyewitnesses sometimes remember some details incorrectly, ergo the resurrection didn’t happen and God doesn’t exist, how do I sign up to get my atheist card?

    Show me where Paul mentions a bodily resurrection, and I’ll gladly concede the point.

    One would be correct to assume that, when reading the New Testament, any time “resurrection” is mentioned it is in reference to a physical resurrection. Pharasaic Jews, of which Paul was one, believed that the resurrection was physical. That is what resurrection meant to them. When Paul says if Jesus wasn’t raised then we will not be raised, he’s affirming Jesus’ physical resurrection. That simply was what they believed. I would refer you to N.T. Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God which includes a 400+ page footnoted study on what resurrection meant to first century Jews and Christians. He more than makes this case. He beats it to death. There is a specific greek word – anastasis – which denotes physical resurrection. In fact, it’s part of the reason the Greeks mocked Paul. Greeks didn’t necessarily disagree with Paul that human existence continued in some form after death – they laughed at Paul in part because he was preaching a physical resurrection, and he states that this is what happened to Jesus.

    Hope this helps you better understand Paul and the New Testament.

  225. Victoria says:

    Here you go, Fleegman, for a summary of N. T. Wright’s views on resurrection.
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Resurrection.htm
    and here
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Historical_Problem.htm

  226. Victoria says:

    and here as well (NTW discusses 1 Corinthians 15 in particular)
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Early_Traditions.htm

  227. Fleegman says:

    It amazes me, it really does. Maybe it’s so confusing because you’re attributing Ardoise’s posts to me, or whatever, I don’t know. I never linked to a robbery experiment, for example.

    For whatever reason, intentional or otherwise, my position has been continuously misrepresented, and then I’m told I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s extraordinarily frustrating. For what it’s worth, I’m going to give the CliffsNotes version of my position.

    • Eyewitness testimony is unreliable to varying degrees
    • When discussing mundane things, this unreliability doesn’t matter
    • When discussing non-mundane things, eyewitness testimony needs corroboration
    • Stories about eyewitnesses, is not the same thing as eyewitness testimony

    Additionally, but not necessarily related to eyewitnesses, or the resurrection:

    • You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say, so using it as evidence of anything is questionable, at best

    Now, you may disagree with me on some, or all of these points, but that’s why we’re having a discussion, isn’t it?

    If you want to drop it, we can drop it. I don’t particularly enjoy being mocked, browbeaten, having my intelligence insulted, and threatened with Hell in every other reply, but I’m certainly finding it illuminating.

  228. Ardoise says:

    Fleegman, I don’t think your comment deserves any response. Your simplistic reliance on facts, logic, clear explanations, critical thinking and incisive analogies is preposterous on so many levels.

  229. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    So what did you think about N. T. Wright’s analysis and discussion of the doctrine of Resurrection, then?

  230. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, here’s how I read what you wrote, and what I think it actually means:

    You linked to a robbery experiment under the name Ardoise.

    You think eyewitness testimony must be corroborated by DNA analysis.

    Stories about DNA analysis are not the same as stories about Winnie the Pooh.

    You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say, so using it as evidence of anything is questionable, at best.

    And (now here’s my key point) I can make your comments here say whatever I want them to say, so using them as evidence of what you actually believe is questionable at best.

    Of course my overall point is that my last point is preposterous, as is your related point about the Bible.

  231. Tom Gilson says:

    Having said that, I can appreciate your frustration at being misrepresented and misunderstood. I hope your explanation just now succeeds in clearing things up.

    (I know, I know, I misrepresented you very badly in my prior comment, but if I communicated my point successfully then you understand the reason. If not, then my bad and I’ll try again.)

  232. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    It amazes me, it really does. Maybe it’s so confusing because you’re attributing Ardoise’s posts to me, or whatever, I don’t know. I never linked to a robbery experiment, for example.

    My mistake, for a few posts there, you and Adroise were both discussing eyewitness testimony. With respect to most of the rest of your points, I disagree 🙂

  233. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    Eyewitness testimony is unreliable to varying degrees

    Nothing controversial here, except I would change “is” to “can be”. You’re not saying much here so I fail to see the value of this statement in an argument such as the one we are having.

    • When discussing mundane things, this unreliability doesn’t matter

    I disagree. First of all, what is mundane to you may not be mundane to me. For that reason we should look at everything.

    In addition, it seems to me that non-mundane events would stick in our minds better precisely because they are so unusual and so unexpected. So my theory is that non-mundane events would be reported with a higher degree of accuracy. Haven’t checked the studies done in this area yet, but it would be interesting to see.

    Regarding the reliability of the mundane, as a matter of context, the non-mundane is surrounded by the mundane. If the reporter of the claim is unreliable with respect to the mundane things, then I see no reason to trust the accuracy of the non-mundane reports. How well they report everyday things tells us they are being careful to be accurate. That says something about the credibility of the entire report.

    • When discussing non-mundane things, eyewitness testimony needs corroboration

    We have that.

    • Stories about eyewitnesses, is not the same thing as eyewitness testimony

    True, but it’s a huge mistake to treat the former as if it cannot be trusted.

    You need reasons for distrusting either one. Your point here doesn’t tell us anything about the accuracy or truthfulness of the claims within the story, so I’d drop this as a point of argument.

    Don’t fall for the Genetic Fallacy, Fleegman.

  234. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say, so using it as evidence of anything is questionable, at best

    If that is the case then skeptics are really arguing against themselves. They object to whatever they want the Bible to say, not what it actually says, because nobody can know what it actually says. Nice.

    I hope you can see how silly this is.

  235. Ardoise says:

    Stories about eyewitnesses, is not the same thing as eyewitness testimony

    True, but it’s a huge mistake to treat the former as if it cannot be trusted.

    You need reasons for distrusting either one. Your point here doesn’t tell us anything about the accuracy or truthfulness of the claims within the story, so I’d drop this as a point of argument.

    This gets to the heart of the matter. It is the difference between a skeptical and a non-skeptical inquiry. You say you need reasons for distrusting either one. A skeptic says you need reasons for trusting either one.

    If the matter is not particularly important then there’s probably no need to take a skeptical viewpoint. But the whole of Christianity rests on the existence of Jesus Christ and is bolstered by his bodily resurrection. This is an important matter and it is worth being skeptical about it. It’s important because millions of people believe in the ideas and it has a big impact on their actions and views of the world.

    The point of using analogies is to try to help escape from the mindset that “it’s all true” and try to start from a skeptical view “it’s all a big lie”. If you do that, you’ll see that the evidence is not nearly as strong as people claim. It wouldn’t stand up in court. At all. And the claims that supernatural explanations are the simplest explanations can be seen in a different light, when you think skeptically and realize there are far more likely to be mundane and natural explanations (even if they can’t be proven).

    When you believe strongly in something, it’s hard to even try to be skeptical about it. And perhaps you may feel it’s not worth it – the benefits of your religion may seem to outweigh any benefits that you might get from being skeptical. I don’t agree, but that’s easy for me to say. I think it’s these issues where skepticism is most needed. I would also like to say is that it is possible to change beliefs and still retain your identity.

  236. Tom Gilson says:

    Speaking of being skeptical, Ardoise, you’ve been asked several times about your assertion, “I am a true scientist.” Are you? What field? Tell us about some of your research, please.

  237. Tom Gilson says:

    Also please tell us more about the social research you’ve done to support your assertions in your more recent comment. You’re making bold claims about the psychology of belief and unbelief. Have you read Hoffer on this? What about the social psychology of accepting norms or capitulating to authority? What about dissonance theory, or confirmation biases, or attribution biases? How does all that apply?

    And how do you know me, and Victoria, and Melissa, and Holopupenko, and BillT, and SteveK, and the others I’m missing, so well? How do you know we’ve never taken that skeptical stance you recommend? How do you know that some of the people here who have told you their stories about taking such a stance haven’t done so?

    Have you applied the same skepticism to your belief there is no God?

    Just wondering.

  238. Ardoise says:

    I don’t wish to reveal my identity. As I understand it, on this forum our identities can be anonymous if we like. I mean “true scientist” to mean that I don’t ascribe supernatural causes to things.

    I don’t know you that well, all I know is what you’re saying here and from that it’s fairly clear to me that you’re not looking skeptically or showing that you understand a skeptics’ point of view.

  239. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, how does your theory account for the millions upon millions who have concluded that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, when there was nothing prior in their cultures or their backgrounds that would have primed them for that belief?

    (With apologies to David Marshall, who will know what I mean by that and I think will understand why I asked the question the way I did.)

  240. Ardoise says:

    As you know, even if millions of people believe something and conclude it’s true, that does not necessarily mean it is true. The world isn’t flat.

    People have always asked questions about life and religions do purport to answer these questions. Not everyone wishes to (or knows how to) question what they’ve been told. If you’re satisfied with an explanation that the earth is flat, then why question it?

    Also science doesn’t have all the answers. So if you need an answer then religion offers one.

  241. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, when have millions of people believed the world was flat?

  242. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, by the way, for explaining that Newton, Kepler, Faraday, Maxwell, von Braun, Collins, Linnaeus… weren’t true scientists.

    Thank you also for your confidence in our sleuthing abilities, that if you told us your field of scientific expertise, we could deduce your identity.

    Thank you also for understanding that we don’t view life from a skeptic’s point of view. That is, after all, the message we’ve been trying to convey. I’m still puzzled as to why you think we’ve never done that, though, or that we’ve never been able to adopt a questioning position toward our own beliefs.

    If you’re a true scientist, you ought to base your beliefs on evidence, right?

  243. Tom Gilson says:

    One more word of thanks:

    You said “not everyone questions what they’re told.” Thank you for supplying a marvelous illustration of your own.

  244. Justin says:

    Adroise wrote:

    But the whole of Christianity rests on the existence of Jesus Christ and is bolstered by his bodily resurrection. This is an important matter and it is worth being skeptical about it. It’s important because millions of people believe in the ideas and it has a big impact on their actions and views of the world.

    I don’t disagree with this. I’m skeptical of all religions, so I’ve tried to read about the major ones, including atheism. I’ve read tons. Certainly not as much as Tom or some others that post here, but enough to come to a reasonable conclusion of my own.

    It’s not just a matter of assuming a skeptical point of view when investigating this.

    If you’re skeptical and have the belief that nothing supernatural ever happens, then your investigation never gets out of the gate. You’re wasting your time. If you approach it skeptically, with the notion that no possibility can be ruled out, then you might get somewhere, and it might not.

    As a historical matter, we’re not going to have scientific-type proof of the resurrection. We can’t repeatedly crucify Jesus in a lab beaker and watch him come back to life, and there is no mathematical formula or proof for the resurrection, which seems to be at times the minimum level of evidence atheists would be willing to accept. Historical inquiry just doesn’t work that way.

    I’d also like to add that Christianity would never have come to be without the resurrection claims. Christianity is not “bolstered” by the resurrection claims, it came to be because of the resurrection claims.

  245. Fleegman says:

    SteveK

    Fleegman,

    Nothing controversial here, except I would change “is” to “can be”.

    Fine, that’s your position, and I was stating mine. Note that there is a difference between being reliable, and being correct.

    You’re not saying much here so I fail to see the value of this statement in an argument such as the one we are having.

    The value is that I’m stating my position, because it’s been distorted so much in the recent discussion. Just because you almost agree with me, doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying. You know, common ground, and all that.

    I disagree. First of all, what is mundane to you may not be mundane to me.

    You realise these are just quick bullet points, right? Yes, of course what’s mundane to you might be non-mundane to me.

    For that reason we should look at everything.

    Except that it’s a bit silly spending your time corroborating something that’s mundane to you right? My work colleague says he saw someone on the way to work that looked like me. Ok. Great. Not going to waste time investigating. Will probably just reply with “you’re clearly mistaken since there can’t be two people this good looking in the world.” End of.

    So my theory is that non-mundane events would be reported with a higher degree of accuracy. Haven’t checked the studies done in this area yet, but it would be interesting to see.

    Yes, it’s is fascinating. Of particular interest, to me, is how memories can change with the telling, or with what people tell us about the event, and how those modifications are unknown to us. The memory appears unchanged.

    How well they report everyday things tells us they are being careful to be accurate. That says something about the credibility of the entire report.

    I don’t think being careful to be accurate is related to the ability to recall memories, is it? Or are you talking about the reliability of holy texts?

    • When discussing non-mundane things, eyewitness testimony needs corroboration

    We have that.

    Yes, so you’ve said. And as I’ve said, I don’t find it compelling. Plus, you don’t have the eyewitness testimony in the first place, so it appears to be uncompelling corroboration of eyewitness testimony that you don’t have.

    • Stories about eyewitnesses, is not the same thing as eyewitness testimony

    True, but it’s a huge mistake to treat the former as if it cannot be trusted.

    You need reasons for distrusting either one…

    Is it your position, then, that I don’t have reasons for distrusting the at best secondhand claim that people saw someone who had risen from the dead? Because I have a pretty big one, to start with.

    Victoria, thanks for the links. I’m going to have a read of those this evening.

  246. Tom Gilson says:

    That’s excellent, Justin, thanks.

  247. Tom Gilson says:

    “You don’t have the eyewitness testimony,” and “At best secondhand…” is false, Fleegman. But you keep beating it like a horse.

    Here’s a new source for you to check out in that respect: On the Authorship of the Fourth Gospel.

  248. Tom Gilson says:

    Not only that, but we have overwhelming consensus that Luke authored the third Gospel and the Acts, and that his investigative and recording skills were exemplary. Why is that suspect? What’s wrong with a historian’s methods that makes it impossible to believe him?

  249. Justin says:

    Luke, Chapter 1:

    1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

    2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

    3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

    4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

    We don’t have an eyewitness writing their own account here in Luke. We have the first century equivalent of a deposition. To my knowledge, no witnesses in court cases write their own depositions, either. Either Luke talked to multiple eyewitnesses and we have their account as accurately as Luke could manage, or Luke is lying. Because of his claim, it can only be one or the other. If you want to claim that Luke did not have access to eyewitnesses, then you’d need to present evidence of your own.

    Yes, it’s is fascinating. Of particular interest, to me, is how memories can change with the telling, or with what people tell us about the event, and how those modifications are unknown to us. The memory appears unchanged.

    From there, how do we assess whether the eyewitness testimony Luke received was remembered correctly?

    Part of the reason I remember with great certainty what we had for dinner the night my wife went into labor is because we regularly order from Chuys. Once a month, at a minimum. We both get fish tacos every time (mine with double rice and no beans). I have the order memorized. And almost every time, for the past two years, that we’ve eaten fish tacos from Chuys, my wife jokes that she hopes they don’t send her into labor again. This would be a mild form of a tradition, and it is an effective way to retain memories by keeping them fresh with the retelling. We don’t sing songs or recite creeds about fish tacos, yet a simple one line joke is sufficient to remind us, very accurately, of a trivial, insignificant historical fact.

    Your position, Fleegman, seems to be that the gospels are unreliable because they may have been written years after the resurrection. Part of this is an argument from silence, but we needn’t go there just yet. Your position might be plausible if it were the case that people experienced the resurrection, then went on about their lives for 30 years, and then were asked to recall the events for someone writing a gospel. This isn’t what happened by any stretch of the imagination. Early Christians met regularly, recited creeds, sang songs, and retold the story of the resurrection early. I simply find it incredible to believe that a few dozen cases of faulty memory recall gave rise to Christianity. Your criticism simply isn’t tenable.

  250. Victoria says:

    @Justin, Fleegman
    I’ve been reading Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (see here), and he brings up an interesting theory about the use of eyewitness testimony in the Gospels: Have you ever noticed that not every person we encounter in the Gospels is identified by name? Some are anonymous, but others are explicitly named. Well, Bauckham proposes that these named individuals’ stories represent either their actual testimony, or that these people were known individuals in the early Christian community (or both) and that their stories were well-known. I can’t do justice to his theory here, but he puts together a good case.

  251. Justin says:

    Hey Victoria,

    That book has made it onto my radar screen (I think becuase you may have mentioned it a few dozen posts earlier). I wish it was available for Kindle!

    I think that Ben Witherington makes a parallel case for some of Baukman’s conclusions in one of his books. It’s definitely on my reading list now!

    I just finished a second reading of The Resurrection of the Son of God. Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I picked up and I’m now wading through another 700+ page book – Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity by Larry Hurtado. It discusses the traditions, creeds, and worship patterns of early Christians. Will let you know how this book goes 🙂

  252. Fleegman says:

    Justin

    We don’t have an eyewitness writing their own account here in Luke. We have the first century equivalent of a deposition. To my knowledge, no witnesses in court cases write their own depositions, either.

    No, they’re not depositions, and this is crucial point. A deposition is a statement from a witness, right? It’s not a statement about there being witnesses.

    For example, a deposition says something like: “I saw him rob the store. He used a gun to threaten the cashier,” and it would be Bob’s deposition. It doesn’t look like this: “Lots of people saw him rob the store. Lots of people saw him threaten the cashier with a gun. Lots of love, The Cops.”

    Your position, Fleegman, seems to be that the gospels are unreliable because they may have been written years after the resurrection.

    May have been written years after the resurrection? You’re not even willing to give up that much ground?

    I simply find it incredible to believe that a few dozen cases of faulty memory recall gave rise to Christianity. Your criticism simply isn’t tenable.

    Yeah? Well, I simply find it incredible to believe that the ravings of a delusional man convinced people he was translating golden plates using a seer stone in the bottom of his hat and gave rise to Mormonism. And yet…

  253. Justin says:

    For example, a deposition says something like: “I saw him rob the store. He used a gun to threaten the cashier,” and it would be Bob’s deposition. It doesn’t look like this: “Lots of people saw him rob the store. Lots of people saw him threaten the cashier with a gun. Lots of love, The Cops.”

    Did you even read Luke 1? The caracature that you’re making of Luke is not correct. In fact, it’s not even intellectually honest. I posted it for you. It’s right up there. Maybe the KJV is a bit confusing. Here’s the NIV for you:

    1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled[a] among us,
    2 just as they (the things which Luke is writing about) were handed down to us (a reflexive pronoun indicating that Luke was among those to whom the stories were handed down) by those who from the first were eyewitnesses (indicating that those who told Luke saw it for themselves) and servants of the word.
    3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
    4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

    Parentheticals are mine…

    There is simply no gramatical reading of this in the English or Greek that would indicate that Luke is saying what you says he is saying (i.e. lots of people saw him do this).

    Complaining that the gospel doesn’t read like a 21st century court deposition or that it isn’t written in 1st person, or with quotations is asinine.

    Either he recorded eyewitness accoutns as he claims, or he’s lying. If you think he’s lying, put some evidence of your own on the table.

    At this point, we can’t really say anything further that hasn’t already been said.

    Yeah? Well, I simply find it incredible to believe that the ravings of a delusional man convinced people he was translating golden plates using a seer stone in the bottom of his hat and gave rise to Mormonism. And yet…

    That would be a red herring. I guess we’ll have to start specifically naming your logical fallacies now to help you along. I, too, find Mormanism incredible, but that’s 100% irrelevant to what we’re discussing, isn’t it?

  254. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Remember that the literary styles and standards in use in the 1st century AD are not the same as what we would use today.
    Do some research on ancient Greco-Roman biography and historiography before you start imposing a 21st century style on 1st century authors, OK? 🙂

    See also that Bauckham book I referred to.

  255. Fleegman says:

    Justin,

    Just so you know, I was using the example of Mormonism to highlight your argument from incredulity. That you then go ahead and accuse me of using a red herring is rather ironic.

  256. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    Please explain how under any stretch of the imagination I have used an argument from incredulity. There are specific reasons that I find Mormanism incredible, but they’re irrelevant to what we’re discussing, so I did not list them, nor do I need to list them or otherwise chase your red herring.

  257. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    Why is Mormonism a red herring?

    It doesn’t necessarily mean that Christianity started the same way, but it clearly shows that a major religion can be kick-started by a delusional con-artist and some friends.

  258. Tom Gilson says:

    Welcome back, Ardoise. I’m looking forward to your answer to my question in #243.

  259. Justin says:

    Adroise, it’s a red herring because it wasn’t the topic being discussed and it is wholly unrelated to the issue of whether Luke used eyewitness accounts. In fact, it simply has nothing to do with Christianity’s beginnings at all.

    It’s just a red herring. Something logically irrelevant designed to drag the conversation off topic. That a religion can start the way Mormonism started is irrelevant to how Christianity started.

    If you want to actually argue that Christianity was begun by a con-artist and some friends, you need to post some evidence for this claim, not present an unrelated example as evidence.

    But I can see that Fleegman’s red herring was smelly enough to drag us off course…. grrrrrr… 🙂

  260. Tom Gilson says:

    Back on course again, I hope.

    Fleegman, you seem to think that this is relevant to the Lucan account:

    For example, a deposition says something like: “I saw him rob the store. He used a gun to threaten the cashier,” and it would be Bob’s deposition. It doesn’t look like this: “Lots of people saw him rob the store. Lots of people saw him threaten the cashier with a gun. Lots of love, The Cops.”

    Would you please demonstrate for us the parallels between this and the opening verses of Luke 1?

    For the sake of context, please bear in mind that historians have repeatedly affirmed Luke’s meticulous and superbly accurate attention to detail, wherever details could be independently checked, which amounts to literally hundreds of details in Luke and Acts.

  261. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    If you’re interested in who/when/why of the flat earth belief, check out the Wikipedia article.

    I don’t really know why the question is relevant. It was just an example of a widely-held belief that turned out to be false. The point I was making (which Fleegman has also made) was that just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true.

    Just because “millions and millions” of people have concluded that Jesus rose from the dead, doesn’t make it true.

  262. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, at what point will you acknowledge that your claim of “no eyewitness accounts” has been rebutted, and I think actually refuted unless you can defeat the rebuttal? (See #249 and #250, among others.)

  263. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, please humor me a moment. What is the widely-held belief that turned out to be false, please?

  264. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    Sorry, but you’re the one claiming that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t believe in any of it. It’s not my job to prove your outlandish beliefs wrong. It’s your job to show they are right.

    Just as if I claimed that unicorns exist and speak to me, it wouldn’t be your job to prove me wrong.

    The evidence you have is far from convincing compared with the outlandishness of the claims. This is why I believe your outlandish beliefs are codswallop and that Christianity started in much the same way as Mormonism. It is clearly possible to start a religion that way and Mormonism isn’t the only example. Take any cult. Scientology etc.

  265. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    I’ll humor you, but I fail to see the point.

    The belief, I have been led to believe, was that the Earth was not spherical, but flat. From Wikipedia:

    “The paradigm of a spherical Earth was developed in Greek astronomy, beginning with Pythagoras (6th century BCE), although most Pre-Socratics retained the flat Earth model.”

  266. Tom Gilson says:

    So you take it that millions of people believed the earth was flat. Was that only the pre-Socratics?

  267. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    I don’t know. I’m not an expert on the subject. I know that when you’re standing on the Earth, it looks pretty flat (although you can sometimes see curvature if you look out to sea), but I imagine a lot of people who hadn’t given it much thought would likely assume it was flat. I expect that far more than a million children under the age of three would think that way too. What’s the relevance of all this?

  268. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    Sorry, but you’re the one claiming that God exists and Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t believe in any of it. It’s not my job to prove your outlandish beliefs wrong. It’s your job to show they are right.

    This isn’t the point, either. Again, I’m not sure you understand the difference between proof and evidence.

    What we, as Christians, can do is show you the evidence, and it is evidence. It’s not proof, as I have discussed previously.

    You can choose not to accept the evidence. That is your choice. You have no burden of proof for your decision to not accept the evidence as it is presented.

    If, however, you go further than that, and posit that Christianity started in a specific way, or that what Luke says about using eyewitnesses is false, or that the nature of the evidence is different than how it is presented, then you are making a new and different claim and you have burden of proof for your specific claim.

    An argument from incredulity, as Fleegman pointed out, is a logical fallacy, as are red herrings.

    The evidence you have is far from convincing compared with the outlandishness of the claims. This is why I believe your outlandish beliefs are codswallop and that Christianity started in much the same way as Mormonism.

    Well, that would be a logical fallacy on your part. Because X began this way, Y also began this way. That does not logically follow. You will need additional evidence to support your additional assertion. You’re willing to believe something (Christianity and Mormonism likely started in the same way) without any evidence at all. That’s irony.

    It is clearly possible to start a religion that way and Mormonism isn’t the only example. Take any cult. Scientology etc.

    And that’s still as irrelevant now as it was 20 minutes ago, and if you want to assert that Christianity was started by a con-artist and some friends, then you need to put some evidence forward. Evidence that is related to Christianity specifically, not Mormonism or Scientology.

  269. Tom Gilson says:

    On the flat earth thing, here’s the point. When you introduced the topic of the Flat Earth, you put it in context of religion and of what people not questioning what they have been told:

    People have always asked questions about life and religions do purport to answer these questions. Not everyone wishes to (or knows how to) question what they’ve been told. If you’re satisfied with an explanation that the earth is flat, then why question it?

    That of course has nothing to do with children under the age of three. They do not believe the earth is flat; they don’t know what “earth” is. They have no category for it either as flat or spherical–unless they’ve been told, and I guarantee you that there aren’t millions of one- and two-year-olds being told the earth is flat. (But if there are, would you hold them at fault for being satisfied with it?)

    So your latest answer is disingenuous at best, or more likely a complete dodge, unless you just plain forgot what you said when you first brought up the topic.

    Your answer concerning the pre-Socratics was dodgy, too. Did they accept the flat earth unquestioningly? Doesn’t a question like that expect a little much of even the best thinkers of 2500 years ago?

    But that’s not all.

    Usually when someone says what you did about millions believing the earth was flat, they’re referring to the Middle Ages before Columbus, when (as everyone knows) everyone believed the earth was flat, because the Bible said so. And those poor benighted souls accepted that, because as you so astutely pointed out, “not everyone wishes to (or knows how to) question what they’ve been told.”

    So I put the question to you, “when have millions believed the earth was flat.” You didn’t answer that question. You almost did in a way when you mentioned the pre-Socratics, but when I asked for confirmation on that, you shifted to “I don’t know… children under the age of three.”

    You wouldn’t answer my question.

    Here’s what I think was really going on. I could be wrong, but still, as they say in France, j’accuse. (I probably got that wrong. I don’t know French.)

    When you wrote what you did about millions not questioning that the earth was flat, you were referring to the millions of unquestioning religious people who were Bible-bamboozled about it in the Middle Ages.

    I asked you about it, and you looked it up and found the Wikipedia page you referred me to.

    There you found out that what you were referring to as a false belief people held to without questioning it, was a false belief you yourself had held to without questioning it. The flat-earth myth of the Middle Ages is in fact a myth of the modern era, probably invented by Washington Irving, author of the Headless Horseman story and Rip Van Winkle, in his 1828 “history” of Columbus, although there’s an earlier hint of it in one rather obscure source. (It’s something I have discussed frequently here.)

    You didn’t want to admit that you had made the very mistake you were accusing these religious people of making, so you didn’t come right out and say so.

    You also didn’t want to lie, so you sent me wandering all over the countryside, to Wikipedia and pre-Socratics and two-year-olds.

    Anyway, I think you have demonstrated the power of an anti-religious bias that allows someone like you to believe something so damning about Christians in history without even questioning it.

    That’s what I think happened. I could be wrong, but that’s what I think.

  270. Tom Gilson says:

    Justin, I like how you think—thanks again! Very good especially on the burden of proof explanation.

  271. Justin says:

    Tom,

    Thanks, but it’s taken me years to understand what other people understand in an hour or less 🙂

  272. Ardoise says:

    Where did I say “prove”? I’m not expecting you to prove anything. I’m asking for the strong and convincing evidence that corresponds with the outlandishness of your claims.

    You haven’t got it. Your evidence is largely based on hearsay and documents written years after the events described. In my eyes, that’s not exactly compelling evidence. Obviously, you think differently to me. But I think that’s because you want to believe it. I don’t know why.

    I don’t have a shred of concrete evidence that Christianity started in a similar way to Mormonism. But the fact that many religions have started that way, shows it’s quite possible. More than that, it doesn’t require any magical supernatural causes to explain it.

    It’s not a logical fallacy because I am not claiming that “because Mormonism started that way Christianity started that way”. All I’m saying is that some other major religions/cults were started by con-artists, so it is not an outrageous idea.

    I would also go so far as to suggest it is a lot less outrageous than someone coming back from the dead. There are a lot of con-artists and a lot of cults in the world.

  273. Tom Gilson says:

    Lest that be mischaracterized: there are evidence-free assertions, and this is not one of them. It is a tentative speculation based on circumstantial evidence. I think I know what what happened, and I have reasons for thinking it, but I know I might be wrong.

  274. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    Sorry to disappoint you, but I wasn’t thinking of people in the Middle Ages at all, as I had heard that’s a myth. If I’m honest, I was actually thinking of people around the time of Jesus, but after looking on Wikipedia it turns out it was even further back than that.

  275. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, could you help me understand how this earlier statement of yours,

    This is why I believe your outlandish beliefs are codswallop and that Christianity started in much the same way as Mormonism.

    goes with…

    I don’t have a shred of concrete evidence that Christianity started in a similar way to Mormonism. But the fact that many religions have started that way, shows it’s quite possible.

    It’s just really confusing to try to find out what you’re thinking.

    If you’re really making the point that Christianity could have started “that way” because Mormonism started “that way,” what do you do with all the many and huge disanalogies between the two? Or in other words, what was “that way” that is identical or analogous, and does the publicly available evidence support the analogy?

  276. Tom Gilson says:

    If I’m honest, I was actually thinking of people around the time of Jesus.

    … and children under three….

    I’d like to believe you’re telling the truth, but it’s still a challenge.

  277. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,
    Suppose my wife told me what she did that day and I wrote it down a while later just as she described it to me.

    Ought my account of the days events be thought of as inaccurate? Not without proper justification. If there are reasons to think my account is inaccurate or not trustworthy, then we could list those reasons.

    So, Fleegman, your complaint should have nothing to do with who wrote the account (genetic fallacy). Your complaint should point to reasons why this person’s testimony cannot be trusted. Can you list those reasons?

  278. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    Children under three was me thinking laterally to try to ensure that you couldn’t say “there’s never been a time”.

    I think all religions are codswallop. I think they’re all started by charlatans or mentally-disturbed people. How do you think Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, etc. were started? What is your opinion? Are we to believe that Guru Nanak was divine? That the Prophet Zoroaster was divine? Etc. If not, what?

  279. SteveK says:

    I think all religions are codswallop. I think they’re all started by charlatans or mentally-disturbed people.

    And you do this, in many cases, without any evidence. Genius!

    Read the book. It will clear your mind.

  280. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    Fine, then answer the question following that bit you quoted.

    Was the Prophet Zoroaster divine?
    Was Guru Nanak divine?

  281. Tom Gilson says:

    Well, that certainly broadens the discussion (without answering any prior objections).

    I think all religions are based broadly in man’s genuine search for God. I think they all touch on the truth, and that all but one miss the truth in serious and fatal ways, as a result of sin. I think all of this is perfectly explained in biblical Christianity.

    Now, back to business, okay?

  282. SteveK says:

    I haven’t studied either, sorry. Do you have anything that might convince me either way?

  283. Tom Gilson says:

    If the process of showing that the accounts in the NT are true requires showing that every one of the other thousands of religions is false, then you win.

    If it requires that, I hasten to emphasize. Only a fool would think it does.

    Let’s get back to business.

  284. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    Phew! Lucky you picked the right one, eh?

    You don’t think it’s funny that Muslims are thinking exactly the same thing about themselves.

    The truth is, it’s all made up. Just like your mind.

  285. Tom Gilson says:

    I mean, let’s just stipulate (grant) that religions can be started by con artists and psychos.

    Now that we’re done with that… (whew, I thought we were about to get off track there!)

    What do we do with the eyewitness accounts and the historical reportage in the NT?

  286. Tom Gilson says:

    Believe me, Ardoise, I do not think it’s funny that the Muslims are thinking exactly the same thing about themselves.

  287. Tom Gilson says:

    Let’s broaden this out a bit after all. I’ll amend an earlier statement of mine:

    I think all worldviews are based broadly in man’s genuine search for fulfillment. I think they all touch on the truth, and that all but one miss the truth in serious and fatal ways.

    Do you think you were lucky enough to pick the right one, Ardoise?

  288. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    Yes, I do think that I am lucky to not have been brought up to follow any religion. I really appreciate my life because I know it’s the only one I’ve got.

    When I do something nice for someone, I’m doing it because I’m a nice person, not so I can get into heaven. I can do what I like on a Sunday. I can blaspheme (it’s fun you should try it). I don’t have to listen to boring sermons.

    I think that thinking in terms of “sin” is a truly awful way to look at the world. One of my friends is a creationist and the negative way he talks about people (even his family) just astounds me.

    I wish you weren’t religious, but I know that it’ll take more than my feeble arguments to convince you otherwise. In fact, probably as we argue, all it does is entrench you deeper and deeper into your position.

  289. Ardoise says:

    I haven’t studied either, sorry. Do you have anything that might convince me either way?

    You’re saying that they might be divine?

  290. SteveK says:

    I don’t know anything about what they are, Ardoise.

  291. Ardoise says:

    It does not matter if you know anything about them. How many Gods are there? You believe there is only one God, am I right?

    In which case, logic (not knowledge) says these other so-called divinities are not really divine.

    So my question is: If they are not divine, but claim to be divine, what are they?

  292. Justin says:

    So my question is: If they are not divine, but claim to be divine, what are they?

    Giant, invisible, omnipotent, omniscient, omniodorous red herrings.

    Sorry, just joking. Couldn’t resist.

  293. SteveK says:

    You believe there is only one God, am I right?

    Correct.

    In which case, logic (not knowledge) says these other so-called divinities are not really divine.

    Correct.

    So my question is: If they are not divine, but claim to be divine, what are they?

    Oh, I see now. A: They would not be telling the truth. Now what does this tell us about Christianity?

  294. Tom Gilson says:

    Having done extensive background checks, including DNA analysis, family interviews, face-recognition software analysis, I have determined that no person in the entire world is me, except for possibly me.

    But since so many billions are not me, then logic says I am not me.

    You’ll hear nothing more from me, then.

    Goodbye.

    🙂

  295. Tom Gilson says:

    BTW, the real answer to your question in #293 was granted you in #283. Can we please get on with it now? What will you do with the eyewitness accounts recorded in the NT?

  296. Victoria says:

    @Ardoise

    When I do something nice for someone, I’m doing it because I’m a nice person, not so I can get into heaven. I can do what I like on a Sunday. I can blaspheme (it’s fun you should try it). I don’t have to listen to boring sermons.

    Then you truly do not understand anything about Christianity, or how and why Christians walk with God.
    Are you actually interested in learning anything about it by coming to this blog?

  297. Ardoise says:

    @Victoria
    No, I’m not massively interested in learning about Christianity. As I hinted when I joined, I think Christianity is like Fairyland, so reading detailed reports by famous fairy-scholars isn’t my top priority. But I have learnt some things from participating in this discussion, such as trying harder not to stereotype people. I still do – I’m only human – but I’m trying harder not to, as I can see it is disrespectful.

  298. SteveK says:

    But since so many billions are not me, then logic says I am not me.

    Can’t argue logically with irrationality like that 🙂

  299. Tom Gilson says:

    Yes, I do think that I am lucky to not have been brought up to follow any religion…. probably as we argue, all it does is entrench you deeper and deeper into your position.

    … spoken without a hint of irony.

    But not heard that way.

  300. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    You are real. I’m not disputing it. Try this instead: There are thousands of mentally-disturbed people around the world who claim to be Superman – after claiming to be the Son of God, it’s the second most common claim. Are any of them Superman? Your logic seems to be that yes, one and only one is telling the truth. It’s not possible they’re all bonkers.

  301. Tom Gilson says:

    You are real. I’m not disputing it. Try this instead: There are thousands of mentally-disturbed people around the world who claim to be Superman – after claiming to be the Son of God, it’s the second most common claim. Are any of them Superman? Your logic seems to be that yes, one and only one is telling the truth. It’s not possible they’re all bonkers.

    It’s quite possible your logic is bonkers. I didn’t say anything like that. What I said is that it’s possible that one of them is not bonkers. And I wasn’t talking about Superman. I was talking about the Son of God, whose claims can be verified through historical analysis.

    Now, can we get on to the business of the eyewitness accounts and historical reportage in the NT? I’m getting re-e-e-ally bored with this beating around the bush.

  302. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    You’ll have to take that up with Fleegman. I’m not even convinced that Jesus existed as the evidence is so thin on the ground (and I would have expected far more given what he supposedly did).

  303. Justin says:

    I’d like to move on, too, but I think it’s a presuppositional problem, and not one of nuanced New Testament arguments. I find the discussion of the New Testament fascinating, though. Sometimes it makes me wish I’d chosen a different profession.

    Anyway, the bad news is that even the naturalistic worldview has to deal with magic. Hawking explicitly argued for one facet of naturalistic magic in his recent book, and Krauss equivocated around the same magical claim in his book. As Adroise said, the magic involved in the naturalistic worldview entails no moral ramifications, no time committments on Sunday, and no financial obligations. The magic hidden in the naturalistic worldview can be safely ignored by all but the most philosophically interested persons by assuming that one day science will figure it out. It’s a science-of-the-gaps argument.

    Makes it hard to even get to a discussion about what the first chapter of Luke means.

  304. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, if you doubt Jesus even existed, then your claim to be a “true scientist” who deals in evidence is revealed as smoke. it’s a deception. You’re deceiving us, or else you’re deceiving yourself.

    Historians who know how to handle and assess the evidence are 100% certain he was a real historical person. That includes those who are not believers in his deity. It includes all of them except a small number who are widely regarded as fringe.

    To be skeptical about the existence of Jesus, is to admit you have no knowledge base for anything you believe about Christ, the Bible, or God.

    That’s not just me talking. Look it up–someplace other than the Internet atheist ghetto, where the fringe dangles.

    Then feel free to get back to us when you’re interested in continuing with this discussion with some actual intellectual honesty.

  305. Melissa says:

    Ardoise,

    No, I’m not massively interested in learning about Christianity. As I hinted when I joined, I think Christianity is like Fairyland, so reading detailed reports by famous fairy-scholars isn’t my top priority.

    We all know you think Christianity is like fairy land. We all know you think God is something like a fairy or an invisible elephant. You have been told that God is not like these things. He is not a being among beings therefore the type of evidence that is produced in support of God is of a different kind than what you might produce to support the existence of just another entity. You ignore that, you do not wish to inform yourself and yet you continue to attempt to foist onto us your erroneous conception of God. You say you are trying to avoid stereotyping people and yet you continue to apply a demonstrably false stereotype. In the light of your behaviour here I suggest you reconsider your self-conception as morally and rationally superior.

  306. Justin says:

    P.S. – Adroise,

    Christians don’t believe that we earn our way into heaven with good deeds. A central tenant common to all Christian denominations is that nobody is good enough on their own steam to get into heaven.

    Islam, on the other hand, thinks that one is good enough to get into heaven or bad enough to not get into heaven.

  307. SteveK says:

    I’m not even convinced that Jesus existed as the evidence is so thin on the ground (and I would have expected far more given what he supposedly did).

    Our Pastor talked indirectly about this subject one Sunday and I thought it was great. He gave examples of what we say are “great moments in history”. Life changing events involving people such as Rosa Parks, Dr. King and Lincoln. Did anyone know that “history” was being made at the time, and did people record it as if it was an event for the ages? No. It took the passage of time to turn an event into a “great moment in history”.

    Did the apostles and Mary think history was being made as they watched Jesus die on a cross? No. When Jesus returned? Possibly, but maybe not until some more time had passed so they could make sense of it all.

  308. Ardoise says:

    @Melissa
    By “fairy” I mean “imaginary”. I’ve said before that I’m not saying a fairy is the same as your conception of God.

  309. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    Events such as turning water into wine, healing people, feeding the five thousand, the people observing didn’t realize they were witnessing something historic?

    I don’t know if these are really miracles Jesus is supposed to have done, they’re just what I remember from half-listening in school assemblies, but hopefully you get my point: if miracles similar to these were performed they would surely be obviously historic at the time?

  310. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    I didn’t know that. So what does it take to get to heaven?

  311. SteveK says:

    but hopefully you get my point: if miracles similar to these were performed they would surely be obviously historic at the time?

    Hopefully you got my point: It would be thought of that way, en masse, only after some time had passed. I would not think that a miracle was an historic event for anyone but me until it later became apparent that it was also important to future generations.

  312. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    What does it take to be saved?

    Romans 10:9

    9That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

  313. Melissa says:

    Ardoise,

    I’ve said before that I’m not saying a fairy is the same as your conception of God.

    And I never said you said fairy is the same as our conception of God.

    You have previously stated that it is a bad thing not to question your own beliefs. I would agree, with the clarification that in most situations we don’t question our prior beliefs until faced with possible defeaters.

    You have numerous beliefs about Christianity. Let’s take for instance your belief that the Christian God is imaginary. When you make this claim you are making a claim about the Christian God as conceived by you (let’s call this your christian god). I agree with you that your christian god is imaginary. You have been presented with evidence in this thread that your christian god is not the Christian God and that the arguments advances against your christian god are not relevant to the Christian God. So you are aware of possible defeaters to your belief that the Christian God is imaginary and yet you don’t question those beliefs, in fact your response is that you have no intention of correcting your false beliefs.

  314. Ardoise says:

    @Melissa
    My lack of belief is not just related to your Christian God, but to all Gods. In fact, I don’t believe in anything supernatural and nothing could convince me otherwise. It’s a dead-end.

    I remember hearing someone saying that even if he saw a 50 foot Jesus roaming the Earth shooting lightning bolts from his eyes, it wouldn’t make him believe in the supernatural. He’d be trying to obtain a DNA sample. That’s what I consider to be a true scientist.

    There is no empirical evidence of anything supernatural (no-one has yet collected the $1m Randi prize). But if there were evidence of something supernatural, scientists would keep striving to understand its natural mechanism.

    It is important to question beliefs that are unhelpful in seeing and understanding reality as it is. A belief in God is an unhelpful belief because it reduces the likelihood you will look for or accept alternative explanations of reality, even if they fit the evidence better. Witness the creationists continuing to deny the theory of evolution.

  315. Fleegman says:

    Tom, I realise my points have been rebutted. I do have a life you know. That I don’t immediately respond doesn’t mean I’m conceding the point. Just that I, you know, have a life.

    Justin,

    Complaining that the gospel doesn’t read like a 21st century court deposition or that it isn’t written in 1st person, or with quotations is asinine.

    No. Calling something a deposition, when it’s nothing of the sort, and would be thrown out of court? That’s asinine. Telling me they had different standards for what they consider evidence back then gets you precisely nowhere, because that’s part of the point I’m making.

    Referring to Luke:1-4 you said:

    There is simply no gramatical reading of this in the English or Greek that would indicate that Luke is saying what you says he is saying (i.e. lots of people saw him do this).

    Well, *rolls up sleeves* let’s see shall we? Your comments in parentheses, mine in squiggly wiggly brackets:

    1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, {so Luke was a believer in these things already. Not a great start to an unbiased investigation of the facts} 
    2 just as they (the things which Luke is writing about) were handed down to us (a reflexive pronoun indicating that Luke was among those to whom the stories were handed down) {gosh, a reflexive pronoun, eh? I was wondering what “us” meant. Thanks for clearing that up} by those who from the first were eyewitnesses (indicating that those who told Luke saw it for themselves) {Bzzzzt, wrong! Thanks for playing. “Handed down from those…” This does not mean he spoke with any eyewitnesses. It means that he believes the information he’s getting originated with them, that’s all} and servants of the word.
    3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning {Well, I guess we should believe him then}, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
    4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.{It turns out that all these things I believe? Yeah, it’s all true}

    You continue:

    Either Luke talked to multiple eyewitnesses and we have their account as accurately as Luke could manage, or Luke is lying.

    Or , as I said above, he didn’t actually talk to any eyewitnesses and just believed everything he was told — and already believed. Where is the investigation? If anything, he was a glorified stenographer.

    Worst. Investigation. Ever.

    In summary: still no eyewitnesses.

    P.S. Even if he did talk directly to eyewitnesses — for the sake of argument — he didn’t question what he was being told, or whether the people telling him stuff were even in the right geographical location at the time. Why would he? He believed it all it he first place.

  316. Melissa says:

    Ardoise,

    You really don’t recognise the incoherence of your own position do you?

    You say:

    It is important to question beliefs that are unhelpful in seeing and understanding reality as it is.

    and yet you also say:

    I don’t believe in anything supernatural and nothing could convince me otherwise.

    So even if your rejection of the supernatural was unhelpful in seeing and understanding reality as it is you are not prepared to question it. Tell me, how do you know what is helpful and what isn’t?

    A belief in God is an unhelpful belief because it reduces the likelihood you will look for or accept alternative explanations of reality, even if they fit the evidence better.

    Please provide evidence that it is the belief in God that reduces the likelihood that someone will look for alternative explanations. It’s more likely that it is a result of being a person that says this is what I believe and nothing can change my mind. Just witness the eliminative materialists incoherent denial of intentionality.

    There is no empirical evidence of anything supernatural (no-one has yet collected the $1m Randi prize).

    Empirical evidence isn’t the only type of evidence.

    But if there were evidence of something supernatural, scientists would keep striving to understand its natural mechanism.

    Which is exactly what the posture is of scientists who are also Christians. That’s why Kepler could describe his work as “thinking God’s thoughts after him”.

  317. Fleegman says:

    SteveK wrote:

    Christians don’t believe that we earn our way into heaven with good deeds. A central tenant common to all Christian denominations is that nobody is good enough on their own steam to get into heaven.

    Yeah, those Jews that were exterminated? They were walking into the showers, and straight into Hell. It’s totally just, too, because they had the audacity to believe in the wrong thing.

  318. Melissa says:

    Fleegman,

    {Bzzzzt, wrong! Thanks for playing. “Handed down from those…” This does not mean he spoke with any eyewitnesses. It means that he believes the information he’s getting originated with them, that’s all}

    Umm … it says handed down by those not from those ie. Luke spoke to eye witnesses.

    P.S. Even if he did talk directly to eyewitnesses — for the sake of argument — he didn’t question what he was being told, or whether the people telling him stuff were even in the right geographical location at the time.

    and you know this how?

  319. Ardoise says:

    @Melissa
    Belief in the supernatural is essentially taking a view that it is not (and will never be) possible to find a natural explanation. (Because it is beyond the natural world).

    I reject this belief because (a) it gets you nowhere fast; (b) there’s no empirical evidence to support it; and (c) it has been shown to be false over and over again. The theory of evolution is an excellent case in point. It is also an example of where religious views hold us back. Creationists continue to deny evolution, despite overwhelming supporting evidence.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible to be both Christian and a scientist. It is possible to believe in supernatural explanations for some things and natural explanations for others. It is also possible to be atheist and say things to appease believers for political reasons. I don’t know if Kepler’s “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” was such a statement (and neither do you), but it may have been. In any case, that’s besides the point. The point is that science is about finding natural explanations supported by empirical evidence, not supernatural explanations based on funny feelings or other non-empirical evidence.

    It’s good to be skeptical of a new idea, such as evolution. Go ahead and dig out evidence that contradicts it. But there comes a time when you’ve tried and tried to do that, and all the evidence you’ve found confirms rather than contradicts the hypothesis, to admit it’s a far better explanation of the evidence than what it says in your magical book. Many (most?) Christians have now accepted that, but despite the strong evidence to the contrary, they still think their book is the infallible word of God. That’s why religion sucks.

  320. Tom Gilson says:

    Fleegman, what I was concerned about more specifically was that you kept repeating claims that had been rebutted. Sure, we all have lives, but to keep repeating something to someone who has shown that it’s wrong makes no sense. The rational thing to do is either to concede or else show why the other person really hasn’t proved you were wrong.

  321. Tom Gilson says:

    Or of couse to say, “Excuse me, I have a life, I’ll get back to you on that.” But not to just keep ploughing on repeating points that have already been rebutted.

  322. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    Is learning the full range of explanations for reality the ultimate good?

  323. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    No, definitely not! There are myriad explanations, the vast majority of which are nutty and have no empirical evidence to support them. Why waste valuable life learning about them?

    Also, the phrase “the ultimate good” seems to imply there is some objective definition of what is “good” (i.e. objective morality). I’m aware you’ve covered this topic previously, but, just for the record, my view is that there is no such thing as objective morality. (What a surprise, eh?)

  324. Tom Gilson says:

    Clarification, then: what I meant was, is learning the full range of true explanations for reality the ultimate good? “Ultimate good” does not refer to morality but to the best thing of all for humans, or perhaps that which is rightly and rationally to be desired above all else.

    So rephrased again, in your opinion is learning the complete set of true explanations for reality (or as close to that as humanly possible) the thing that is most to be desired?

  325. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    I don’t want to use your language because I find it confusing. What I think is that striving to see and accept reality as it is, rather than what you wish it were, is an excellent way to live. For me that is the definition of rational living.

  326. Tom Gilson says:

    Edit: scratch all this, it’s too complicated. See below.

    Okay, that’s fair enough. Here’s why I asked. I was trying to get to your underlying thinking in #316, where you said you rejected belief in God because there is no empirical evidence, and also because accepting God as an explanation for anything cuts off the search for real explanations. (As an aside, you seem to have cut off your own empirical methods, in your doubting the existence of Jesus. You might want to check how consistent you’re being with your own principles there.)

    So let me say what I think you’re saying, only from another angle.

    1. To disbelieve in God is important for the sake of the increase of knowledge.
    2. Thus, to risk the possibility that I am missing out on what others describe as the source of all knowledge, wisdom, love, and hope is important for the sake of the increase of knowledge.
    3. I know of no empirical information that supports the idea that God exists; but even if presented with such information I would take the risk stated in (2) and reject it.
    4. But I am convinced there is no God, so I think the risk in (2) is unreal and false.

    Is that a fair summary of your position?

  327. Tom Gilson says:

    Follow-up question:

    Do you reject the reality of God because you have empirical evidence he does not exist or because you do not have empirical evidence that he does?

  328. Tom Gilson says:

    Re-asking the question of #329, which I have struck out.

    Is it your position that whether God exists or not, the more important thing is to not let that possibility interfere with the increase of knowledge?

    (That’s how I read your comment #316.I’m checking whether I read it right.)

  329. Tom Gilson says:

    Follow-up on #327: Do you see Christianity as viewing reality the way we wish it were?

  330. Ardoise says:

    Good questions. Just to let you know, I’m in a meeting right now and will get back to you later (probably in about 5 hours’ time).

  331. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for the heads-up on that.

  332. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    Call it what you want, you would have to change the wording of Luke 1 to make it say what you are saying. A more credible approach for you would be to change your line of attack. The wording of Luke simply doesn’t give you the option of taking the stance that you have.

    “Handed down” in no way implies a middle man in the telling. If you don’t like that term, that’s fine. In the Greek it is paredosan, which simply means “delivered” or “given over”. It can mean “transmitted verbally” or “reported” as well. You can look it up, it is Strong’s G3860. None of the definitions imply a middle man.

    To have Luke say what you are contending, it would have to read:

    2 just as they were handed down to those who handed it down to us.

    That’s quite a few words you’d need to add to get it to say what you want it to say.

    As to Luke’s bias, it’s hardly conclusive, and to reject the truth of Luke because he was a believer is a form of the genetic fallacy.

    Again, if you think he is lying about talking to eyewitnesses, please show us your evidence. The wording of Luke simply doesn’t leave you with the option of claiming that there were not eyewitnesses involved. Either he talked to them, or he was lying.

    Until we get on the same page with respect to that, we really can’t proceed, unless you want to drop this and discuss something else.

  333. Tom Gilson says:

    Let me add to that if I may that I don’t recall Fleegman addressing the evidence that John’s Gospel is first-person eyewitness testimony.

  334. Victoria says:

    What Fleegman needs to do is to stop pretending that he knows anything about real New Testament historical scholarship, and actually do his homework first.

    And I don’t mean from Wiki, but from real books, by real scholars, and not just the skeptical, anti-supernaturalists ones.

    Fleegman: I’d really like to see you learn something valuable about real Christianity here, and even find your way back to a living, genuine faith and relationship with the God who loves you – that’s why this is not just a debate or a discussion for the sake of those things – there is more at stake here for you

  335. Jared C. says:

    Ardoise in his own words.

    “The truth is, it’s all made up. Just like your mind.”

    “I don’t believe in anything supernatural and nothing could convince me otherwise.”

    Who’s mind is made up?

    “There is no empirical evidence of anything supernatural (no-one has yet collected the $1m Randi prize). But if there were evidence of something supernatural, scientists would keep striving to understand its natural mechanism.”

    LOL. There’s no way to make sense out of that.

  336. Ardoise says:

    @Jared C.
    It’s very simple: I believe that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it. Everything we consider “supernatural” fits the bill – e.g. psychics, alien abductions, ghosts, exorcisms, astrology, faith healing, demonic possession and of course deities.

    Try replacing the word “supernatural” with “imaginary” in those sentences of mine you quoted and you may begin to understand my logic:

    (1) I don’t believe in anything imaginary and nothing could convince me otherwise.

    (2) If there were strong empirical evidence of something imaginary [then it would no longer be imaginary, and] scientists would strive to understand its non-imaginary mechanism.

    @Tom

    Do you reject the reality of God because you have empirical evidence he does not exist or because you do not have empirical evidence that he does?

    I reject the idea of gods because there is no empirical evidence to support their existence. The model of a world without interventionist gods fits far better than a model with them.

    To be more precise, rather than “no empirical evidence”, I actually mean insufficient evidence. For example, a claim like the resurrection has insufficient evidence to support it, not because of poor historical record-keeping (that‘s a red herring), but because something as completely unbelievable as a resurrection would require an enormous amount of high-quality evidence to support it sufficiently to be at all reliable. E.g. laboratory conditions, highly-qualified doctors, independent observers, input from magicians, multiple medical examinations, DNA testing, identifying tattoos, independently collected video evidence etc. Even then, there are probably ways that a competent magician could perform a trick. For example, even I know how to stop my pulse (squeeze a rubber ball in my armpit) and magicians often make clever use of look-a-likes, stooges and diversions.

    Is it your position that whether God exists or not, the more important thing is to not let that possibility interfere with the increase of knowledge?

    It’s not about increasing knowledge, so much as not living in a world of make-believe.

    …to risk the possibility that I am missing out on what others describe as the source of all knowledge, wisdom, love, and hope …

    Think why you reject Hinduism. It doesn’t matter to you if Hindus sincerely believe they have the source of knowledge, wisdom, love and hope. You don’t believe they’re right at all, so it’s no risk.

    Do you see Christianity as viewing reality the way we wish it were?

    Kind of, yes. I see Christianity as viewing reality the way the Bible says it is, rather than the way it actually is. When the Bible and reality disagree (for example, about the origins of man) it causes a huge controversy, a speedy reinterpretation of the infallible Bible (“ah, that bit must have been allegorical”) and off you go, continuing to believe it’s perfect, when, in fact, what you’ve really done is completely alter its meaning to fit reality. I believe this is what Fleegman was getting at when he was talking about making it say whatever you like. Obviously that was an exaggeration – you can’t make it say anything detailed, but you can change the gist completely. That is, no empirical evidence would ever make you think that the Bible might be wrong. It would always be your interpretation of the Bible that was wrong. Or do you disagree?

  337. Justin says:

    (1) I don’t believe in anything imaginary and nothing could convince me otherwise.

    (2) If there were strong empirical evidence of something imaginary [then it would no longer be imaginary, and] scientists would strive to understand its non-imaginary mechanism.

    So, by your logic, the orbit of Mercury was imaginary until 1915 when Einstein published the theory of relativity?

  338. Ardoise says:

    So, by your logic, the orbit of Mercury was imaginary until 1915 when Einstein published the theory of relativity?

    No, it was unexplained. That’s a totally different thing.

  339. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    t’s very simple: I believe that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it.

    Then yoiu can provide us with the empirical evidence for the statement “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it”. If you cannot, then by your own criteria, the statement “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it” is imaginary, in other words it is an irrational belief. Now ardoise you have two options:

    Either

    1. Give us the empirical evidence that supports your claim.

    Or

    2. Admit that by your own criteria, you are an irrational person believing in imaginary things.

    So what is it gonna be?

  340. Justin says:

    Oh, and while you’re going, I’d like empirical evidence for all of yesterday.

  341. Ardoise says:

    No. It is an axiom or definition, not a deduction.

  342. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    You are seriously claiming that yesterday was imaginary? And you cannot find any evidence that might suggest it happened?

  343. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    You are seriously claiming that yesterday was imaginary? And you cannot find any evidence that might suggest it happened?

    Not evidence that suits me, no. I mean, I can’t see yesterday anymore, my memory could be faulty, and I cannot really rely on someone who tells me that yesterday really happened, because that’s only empirical evidence of that person’s ability to speak. I certainly cannot rely on written evidence, because that’s only empirical evidence that someone can write.

    Of course I’m being sarcastic. Don’t you think your position is casting the net a little too broadly?

    As I pointed out before, all current worldviews have to contend with magic of one form or another. Hawking and Krauss have recently been trying to peddle their version of magic in the books they’ve written.

  344. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    No. It is an axiom or definition, not a deduction.

    So you do not even know the difference between an axiom or definition.

    You are an intellectual hypocrite. You demand for empirical evidence from others, but when it comes to your claims, you arbitrarily declare them “axioms” and “definitions” and neglect to even give us the least justification for them.

    But OK. If you can play the game of *arbitrarily* stipulating definitions and axioms, so can I. The statement “God exists” is either an axiom or a definition (take your pick) — I note that there are some Christians who do take this route seriously, I am not one of them. Therefore God exists. I love chopped logic, it makes things so easier!

    Oh by the way, just in case you did not notice, there are lots and lots of statements where we do not have one iota of experimental evidence and we are rationally entitled, and in many cases even *compelled*, to accept as true. So you are as a matter of *objective* fact, wrong. Want me to start giving the examples?

  345. Ardoise says:

    Right, and there’s no other evidence? You didn’t eat anything from your fridge yesterday? You didn’t change your clothes? You can’t search the internet and see yesterday’s news? Really?!

  346. Justin says:

    347.Right, and there’s no other evidence? You didn’t eat anything from your fridge yesterday? You didn’t change your clothes?

    I thought your position (and Fleegman’s) was that recollection was unreliable, so no, that doesn’t count as empircal evidence.

    You can’t search the internet and see yesterday’s news? Really?!

    Oh sure, I see some articles people claim were written yesterday, but that’s not empircal evidence that yesterday really existed. They could be in error. It’s simply evidence that they can write something and publish it online.

    Again, just making a point here, there’s no need to drag this on. If I’m sufficiently skeptical and demanding of the same evidence that you say is necessary for belief in something, then no, nothing you provide can convince me yesterday existed.

    But I’d rather not belabor this, I think I’ve made my point – I’m more interested in hearing your response to G. Rodrigues.

  347. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    Reliability is not black and white. I don’t know how many times we have to say it. Things are reliable to varying degrees.

    How reliable evidence needs to be depends on how outlandish the claim and/or how important it is to you.

  348. Ardoise says:

    @G.Rodrigues
    Yes, please give examples.

  349. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    How reliable evidence needs to be depends on how outlandish the claim and/or how important it is to you.

    Wrong again.

    How does the personal importance of some statement impinges on the quality of evidence?

    But more importantly, by neglecting to give *precise* definitions of the terms you use, you wish to slip by unnoticed while making grandiose claims. If you cannot *objectively* define, in a non question-begging way, what “outlandish” or “reliable” is, your claim is just empty verbiage.

    Equally important. The minute you say that there are degrees of reliability you have already conceded the *whole* game. Since there are degrees of reliability, reliability can only be accessed in a case by case basis which is what we have been saying all along!

  350. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Yes, please give examples.

    Theorem (Lindemann): The number pi is transcendental.
    proof: check any book on number theory.

    Theorem (Feit-Thompson): Every simple finite group of odd order is isomorphic to the cyclic group Z_p for a prime p.
    proof: I can give the reference, but the proof runs over 250 pages of difficult mathematics.

    By now, you can guess I can multiply the examples indefinitely.

    Now answer the challenges posed or shut your yapper once and for all about this matter.

  351. Justin says:

    Reliability is not black and white. I don’t know how many times we have to say it. Things are reliable to varying degrees.

    But if there’s no empirical evidence, it’s still imaginary. If memory is unreliable to degrees, even on small, trivial details, then I most certainly cannot rely on memory as evidence that yesterday happened. I need repeatable, testable evidence from a lab somewhere.

    Let’s backtrack a bit. You said:

    It’s very simple: I believe that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it.

    So, even if I can get comfortable accepting my memories as some form of evidence, unreliable as memory can be, it’s not empircal evidence, and therefore yesterday is still imaginary.

    Or are you saying that there are some things that we can know, that aren’t imaginary, without empirical evidence?

  352. SteveK says:

    Victoria,
    With the comments already so far off topic, I thought I’d share this inspirational video with you. Ryan has a heart for God and a running stride to die for. Can’t wait for London! 🙂

  353. Ardoise says:

    @G.Rodrigues
    It seems you are not able to understand the gist of what I said, so are focusing on mathematical and philosophical concepts that you are more comfortable with.

  354. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    You do not know how to answer the perfectly legitimate questions I posed. I doubt you even understand one iota of what is that I am asking. You cannot understand the self-contradictory status of your claims and run and hide behind the blatant falsehood that I am “not able to understand the gist of what I said”.

    A “true scientist”? That is definitely what you are not.

    @Justin:

    Ardoise is obviously a bit thick, so change your contention to the following:

    Q: How do you know the universe was not created 5 seconds ago with all the appearances of being 13.7 billion years old and with a complete history?

    Heck, by shaving off 13.7 billion years of the universe’s history we have made it remarkably simple and now we can appeal to Ockam’s razor.

  355. Ardoise says:

    @G.Rodrigues
    OK, prove me wrong and explain the gist of what I’m saying.

  356. Victoria says:

    @SteveK
    Thanks for that video – really something, to be able to run that fast. Looks like Ryan has taken Isaiah 40:29-31 to heart 🙂

    He gives strength to the weary
    and strengthens the powerless.
    30 Youths may faint and grow weary,
    and young men stumble and fall,
    31 but those who trust in the Lord
    will renew their strength;
    they will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary;
    they will walk and not faint.

  357. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    OK, prove me wrong and explain the gist of what I’m saying.

    You cannot understand one iota of my claims much less respond to them and then put the burden on me to prove that I misunderstood you? You really are something. Bluffing your way out of the hole of irrationality you dug for yourself.

    Your claim is that in order to rationally accept as true some statement P one must have empirical evidence for it. Otherwise, it is “imaginary”, whatever you mean by that.

    Now, answer my questions or shut your yapper, because I have proved by a deductive argument of the form of a reductio that you hold onto “imaginary” beliefs. If you cannot recognize these type of arguments, the problem is yours not mine.

  358. Ardoise says:

    Yes, I’m too thick to understand why anything you’ve said is remotely relevant to the gist of what I was saying. Having written a long post which I think makes a good case, I don’t particularly want to go off down a rabbit hole of your philosophical nonsense. I’d rather wait for people who actually understand and want to talk about the gist of what I wrote, not pick up on mathematical oddities to try and throw things off-track.

  359. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, let me recap the substance of the argument.

    You claim, as a “true scientist,” that “I believe that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it.” That’s how you stated it in #338. Elsewhere you have repeated that standard: if it’s not backed by sufficent empirical evidence, it can’t be known to be true.

    The others are challenging that statement by offering you exceptions: things you know by non-empirical means:

    In #341 G. Rodrigues asked you to show how you know that standard is true. Do you know it empirically? If not, then it’s self-defeating, for if it were true, it would be impossible (literally and totally) to know that it was true.

    Justin asked you in #342 for empirical evidence of all of yesterday. He didn’t say it, but one thing implicit in that challenge was, “what’s the empirical evidence for the reliability of human memory?” But the main gist of it, I think, is that memory itself doesn’t count as empirical evidence, since it’s private and not inter-subjective (shared between persons).

    In your #344 and #347 answers you showed that you did not understand the question. You presented some empirical evidence for something in the past, but that’s not what Justin asked you for.

    G. Rodrigues showed in #346 that “axiom or definition” was a wrong answer to his question in #341.

    You attempted in #349 to answer Justin’s question in another way, but G. Rodrigues in #351 and Justin in #353 showed that you used a faulty standard, and your attempt therefore fails.

    In #352, G. Rodrigues gave two examples of truths known to be true in non-empirical ways. This was a further move on his part to show that your standard of requiring that all truth be empirical truth is a false standard.

    In #355 you accused him of not understanding your point. But if there’s anything he did not understand about your point, it would have to be something you did not write, for his examples there directly address the point that you wrote.

    In #357 you called on G. Rodrigues to do what he had already done more than once. He had already proved that not all knowledge is empirical knowledge.

    I offer all this because of your claims that Justin and G. Rodrigues have misunderstood you in various ways. They haven’t. Your claim that all knowledge must be empirical stands refuted.

    Point of clarification: the difference between rebutted and refuted. A rebuttal is an answer offered in an attempt to prove another person wrong. A refutation is a successful rebuttal: the other person is actually proved wrong. Your point has been proved wrong.

    Point of further clarification: You claim that knowledge must be empirical to be knowledge; you are wrong.

  360. Tom Gilson says:

    Further clarification:

    You might want to do some homework on this, Ardoise. There is history here. A philosophical movement called logical positivism adopted a stance fairly close to what you are advancing here: that for any statement P, if P cannot be empirically demonstrated to be true, and if P is not a self-evident axiom, then P is meaningless.

    Logical positivism was a sickly philosophical creature from the start, and it never got any better. It was euthanized (metaphorically) about 50 years ago. One of its chief proponents, A.J. Ayers, gave it up, admitting his mistakes, saying that it had “died the death of a thousand qualifications.”

    Today no one who knows the history of the topic considers logical positivism viable. The few exceptions tend to be scientists rather than philosophers, meaning they don’t really understand this field of discussion; and they tend to be atheists holding on to it for dear life, since like you they want to be able to hold up a wall to keep out the possibility of knowledge of non-physical entities. The vast majority of knowledgeable thinkers today know that what these scientists are doing is artificially extending the respiration of a flat-lined, brain-dead epistemological patient corpse.

    Your theory of knowledge, being a near clone of LP, is equally defunct, dead, and kaputt. Sorry, but that’s a fact of intellectual history. You can look it up easily enough; search A.J. Ayers and/or positivism.

  361. Ardoise says:

    Thanks for the recap. Much appreciated.

    Christians believe there is only one God. Some Hindus believe that there are many gods. These two beliefs cannot both be true. Here is empirical evidence to support my claim.

    Memories can be tested empirically because they can be shared. We can ask ourselves or others questions, and compare our memories with other observations of events.

  362. Justin says:

    So shared memories are reliable? Like those in the Gospels?

    It seems like your position is that memories are reliable unless they relate to religion.

  363. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    (1) Things are reliable to varying degrees.
    (2) An outlandish and important event like a resurrection requires a high-level of evidence to support it. There are so many alternative, natural explanations that need to be eliminated by strong evidence. Courts don’t convict people of murder on the basis that some other people wrote about it. You need a lot more evidence. And murder is an everyday occurrence compared with a resurrection.

  364. SteveK says:

    Seems that way doesn’t it, Justin.

  365. Fleegman says:

    Just popped in to apologise for my absence today. I’ll catch up with the discussion tomorrow, and then dazzle you with my rebuttals.

    Hope you are all well,

    Fleegman

  366. Victoria says:

    Maybe Ardoise needs to do his homework on abductive reasoning and inference to the best explanation?

  367. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Hope you are all well

    Ditto for you :), from us.

  368. Ardoise says:

    @Fleegman
    Have missed you today. I could do with some moral support!

    @Victoria
    What homework do I need to do? What is this in relation to? Do you have a specific point to make?

  369. Victoria says:

    @Ardoise
    Do you know what abductive reasoning and ‘inference to the best explanation’ is?

  370. Ardoise says:

    Yes.

  371. Ardoise says:

    It’s not ‘inference to the most outlandish explanation’.

  372. Victoria says:

    Ardoise
    What are you attempting to accomplish by coming here?

  373. Ardoise says:

    I had a question at the end of my long post (#338):
    Could empirical evidence ever make you think that the Bible might be wrong? Or would you always assume that your interpretation of the Bible was wrong?

  374. Justin says:

    Adroise wrote:

    [email protected]
    (1) Things are reliable to varying degrees.

    This doesn’t get us anywhere. If you stop there with respect to a historic event, you would never know if any historical event was reliable. Right?

    (2) An outlandish and important event like a resurrection requires a high-level of evidence to support it.

    Like what? Camcorders weren’t around in the first century. Of the list of things you earlier posted that you might accept, many were impossible in that time and culture (i.e. photography, identifying tattoos were forbidden in Jewish culture, etc.). Not to mention, if Jesus had a tattoo that said “Son of God” on his upper left arm, 2,000 years later you’d still be reduced to taking Luke’s word for it.

    Asking for unrealistic evidence doesn’t accomplish anything. It only demonstrates that you are being unrealistic.

  375. Ardoise says:

    @Victoria
    Make some new friends.

  376. Victoria says:

    At the risk of being evasive, it would depend on how incontrovertible the evidence was, and exactly how it would affect our understanding of Scripture.

    Perhaps you should find some incontrovertible evidence examples first – and by incontrovertible I mean something that all New Testament professional scholars, regardless of theological persuasion, agree on.

  377. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    So your argument is that because it is not possible to have the kind of strength of evidence that I demand, I should reduce my demands? I can see what you’re saying, but unfortunately it’s misguided. The fact is that the evidence is patchy at best. It may be unfortunate that God didn’t wait till the fullness of time when techniques for collecting evidence were more reliable, but that wishful thinking doesn’t stop the evidence from being patchy at best. Rather than reducing the strength of our reliability demands, we should reduce the strength of our reliance in it.

  378. Justin says:

    So your argument is that because it is not possible to have the kind of strength of evidence that I demand, I should reduce my demands?

    I’m saying that demanding video or DNA evidence of an event that occurred in the first century is, no offense, an absurdity. I don’t think this criticism is misguided, at least with reference to the list you gave earlier. To complain that a historical event didn’t take place in your preferred spatiotemporal reference frame also seems a bit on the absurd side. Not all history can happen at once and in your back yard.

    I see no reason to reduce the reliance on the New Testament given that the resurrection is still the best explanation for the rise of Christianity. People have put together a host of alternative explanations and have actually provided arguments for them, and they all fail to account for the phenomenon. I think this abductive reasoning is stronger than the speculative, unsupported, inductive reasoning.

    If there is another explanation that accounts for the precise shape that Christianity took, given all the facts and context, then that’s fine. I just haven’t seen any compelling arguments or evidence to warrant a belief in those alternative explanations. And it’s not like no scholars have attempted to do this. Many have, and I’ve read several of them. Their arguments almost always fail to account for some facet of historical Christianity or another in major ways.

  379. Tom Gilson says:

    You see, here’s what you’re missing, Ardoise. There are facts that are known about the rise of Christianity. Some of them are known with virtual certainty. Others are less solidly assured. What Justin and others here have been referring to is that these facts call for an explanation. The Christian explanation is one of those. Other explanations have been offered, which we believe are less likely to be true than what the documents straightforwardly tell us.

    You seem to take it that no explanation is needed because there are no known facts; or that no supernatural explanation is needed because the supernatural doesn’t exist. But the first of those is just plain wrong, and the second one irrationally begs the question.

  380. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    In post #361, Tom Gilson makes the pointed that your beliefs about the need of empirical evidence to be rationally warranted in accepting have been proved false. False as in wrong, dead wrong. Your response in #363 was an equivocal: “Thanks for the recap. Much appreciated.” In #360 you say several things about my posts, among which:

    1. What I have said is irrelevant to your point.

    2. That I misunderstood your point.

    3. That I spouted “philosophical nonsense”.

    You have been proven wrong on all counts and me correct. Can I expect a retraction, or you are too proud to admit it? That is what a “true scientist” does. And just in case you are wondering, I am not trying to humiliate you or score a victory point in a debate, I am trying to teach you a lesson in *method*, in the hopes that you will sober up and actually start to think rationally, instead of spouting uncritical, unreflective nonsense that you picked up from God knows where.

    Then in #365, you go back to:

    (1) Things are reliable to varying degrees.

    Correct. But you fail to draw the consequences from this statement. If “things” (probably you mean evidence) are reliable to various degrees, their reliability can *only* be accessed on a case by case basis. I am repeating what I said earlier in #351. Rebuttal from you? None.

    (2) An outlandish and important event like a resurrection requires a high-level of evidence to support it.

    Until you define what an “outlandish” event is, or what “high-level of evidence” consists of, this is all bluster and empty wind. And you have to define these terms in a *non question-begging* way, for otherwise you are just cheating by tilting the evidence game in your favor. But once again, I am repeating what I said earlier in #351. Rebuttal from you? None.

  381. Ardoise says:

    I’m not denying there are facts and evidence. Here’s what your missing. The resurrection is definitely a simple explanation. But is it likely? Really? Really, really? This is where you have to put on your skeptical trousers.

    If we were talking about claims that Joe Schmo rose from the dead in his bedsit in Chicago, I hope you would, like me, answer “no”. Even if we didn’t have evidence for another explanation and even if it were more complicated or conniving, we’d still conclude it’s far more likely than that Joe Schmo is the Son of God.

  382. Melissa says:

    Ardoise,

    If we were talking about claims that Joe Schmo rose from the dead in his bedsit in Chicago, I hope you would, like me, answer “no”. Even if we didn’t have evidence for another explanation and even if it were more complicated or conniving, we’d still conclude it’s far more likely than that Joe Schmo is the Son of God.

    You’re right we wouldn’t take one part of the evidence (claims that Jesus rose from the dead) and conclude from that one piece of evidence that Jesus is the Son of God.

    Just so you’re clear, that is not what we do.

  383. Ardoise says:

    @GR

    Read my post #363 again. I have presented empirical evidence in support of my claim. Can I expect a retraction?

    I wrote a long post and you picked on one small (and largely irrelevant) part that is a pet topic of yours. It’s largely irrelevant if you believe the Christian God is interventionist anyway, so that presumably means there is empirically demonstrable evidence available, right?

    Please explain your point about case-by-case as I don’t understand the question.

    I can’t be bothered with definitions. Try using your mind to think.

  384. Tom Gilson says:

    RE #383,

    Ardoise,

    There is skepticism, and then there is question-begging.

    You have concluded with no examination of the evidence that skepticism demands we conclude Jesus did not rise from the dead. That is question-begging. That is evidence-free conclusion-drawing. That is irrational.

  385. Ardoise says:

    What would convince you about the claims made about Joe Schmo?

  386. Ardoise says:

    @Tom
    We’ve already agreed that contemporary evidence is thin on the ground. Drawing any conclusions from thin evidence is risky. Drawing supernatural conclusions is frankly bonkers.

  387. Tom Gilson says:

    G. Rodrigues:

    Until you define what an “outlandish” event is, or what “high-level of evidence” consists of, this is all bluster and empty wind.

    Ardoise:

    I can’t be bothered with definitions. Try using your mind to think

    Forget the word “definitions” then. What makes the Resurrection “outlandish” in context of the whole surrounding history?

    What will you do with the evidence that exists? How do you know whether it is of a sufficiently high level? What criteria will you use? Are they rational criteria? Who do you go to, to judge whether a certain event has sufficient evidence to consider it to have truly happened?

    And what is it about asking for definitions that is not a use of one’s mind to think?

    (You can thank me for not going off much more loudly about that last…)

  388. Tom Gilson says:

    1. We have not agreed that contemporary evidence is thin on the ground. That’s bonkers.

    2. To say it is bonkers to draw supernatural conclusions is to beg the question irrationally:

    *I know it wasn’t supernatural, without examining the evidence, because whatever the evidence shows, I know it wasn’t supernatural.”

    Phah! I hold your claims to be an evidence-oriented “scientist” in contempt.

    Take a good look at your irrationality and tell me why that’s not warranted. Take an even better look and decide to be rational instead.

  389. Ardoise says:

    Sorry, Tom, I didn’t mean to be rude but G.Rodrigues is incredibly rude to me.

    There is no objective level, we each decide for ourselves. I put it to you that your level is almost on the ground. Maybe mine’s in the sky.

  390. Tom Gilson says:

    He’s not being rude. He’s holding you to a standard of rationality that you refuse to accept.

  391. Ardoise says:

    Do you have anything written between 0CE and 50CE?

  392. Tom Gilson says:

    “There is no objective level”?

    That’s ignorant.

    We have ways of knowing whether certain things happened in history. Objectively.

    Your “objective level” looks to me like, “Whatever evidence there may be, I’ve made up my mind, so whatever evidence there may be it doesn’t rise to my ‘level.'”

  393. Ardoise says:

    It is true I don’t accept his standard of rationality.

  394. Ardoise says:

    Well, we disagree. There is nothing objective about history.

  395. Tom Gilson says:

    We have the statements in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff which even skeptical scholars agree originated in that verbatim form before 40 AD.

    But I suppose you’re smarter than they are, and you know that since it wasn’t written, it doesn’t count, even if it’s word-for-word what originated before 40AD. Because you know better than they do.

  396. Ardoise says:

    I explained to Justin earlier what evidence I would demand. Unfortunately it’s not available.

  397. Ardoise says:

    No, that’s fine. I’m just saying that contemporary evidence is thin on the ground.

  398. Tom Gilson says:

    Whether you accept his standard of rationality ought to depend on whether you can identify any irrationality in it.

    We have identified specific irrationalities in your position. You have done no such thing for his. You have no identified reason to reject his reasoning.

  399. Ardoise says:

    What irrationalities? I’m lost.

  400. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m done.

    Your position has been clearly identified as evidence-free question-begging, and now you resort to repeating your irrationalities.

    Repeating irrationalities does not make them rational. Repeating them in the face of rebuttals and refutations only reveals you as being heavily committed to your irrationality.

    Think about it.

  401. Tom Gilson says:

    What irrationalities? See above. I have used the terms “question-begging” and “evidence-free” more than once.

    You are more lost than you realize.

  402. Ardoise says:

    Yes and I don’t know what you mean by evidence free question begging.

  403. Ardoise says:

    As far as I’m concerned I’ve refuted all the accusations against me. What have I missed?

  404. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh, boy.

    Refuted? Did you see what I wrote earlier about the difference between rebutting and refuting?

    No, you haven’t refuted a thing.

    Do you know the definition of question-begging?

    See #386 for the rest of the answer to your question about that.

  405. Tom Gilson says:

    What you’ve missed is everything having to do with historical scholarship into the events surrounding and following the death of Christ.

    You have said that you know all you need to know about it, which is ludicrous on its face.

    You have ignored all that we have said about it, and the authoritative scholarship to which we have made reference. You haven’t even asked us to back it up with sources or references, because you don’t care, you already know that you know everything that matters. That’s ludicrous too.

    You have claimed to accept only empirical knowledge, and you have been clearly refuted on that, but you have not said word one about acknowledging the fact.

    And you say you have “refuted everything.”

    Phah!

  406. Tom Gilson says:

    Now I’m definitely done. Have a good evening. Think through what it means to live your life knowing all the answers before you examine the evidence. Think through whether you like yourself that way. I certainly wouldn’t.

  407. Ardoise says:

    1. We have not agreed that contemporary evidence is thin on the ground. That’s bonkers.

    By the fact you only listed one contemporary account, I think that’s demonstrated that point.

    2. To say it is bonkers to draw supernatural conclusions is to beg the question irrationally:

    *I know it wasn’t supernatural, without examining the evidence, because whatever the evidence shows, I know it wasn’t supernatural.”

    You misinterpreted what I said. I said it is risky to draw conclusions from thin evidence and it is bonkers to draw supernatural conclusions from thin evidence. I didn’t say anything like “without examing the evidence, whatever the evidence shows, I know it wasn’t supernatural”. My view is that supernatural phenomena – that is something that no-one has been able to reproduce in a laboratory – require far more evidence than phenomena that scientists have no problem reproducing. Do you disagree with that?

  408. SteveK says:

    But is it likely? Really? Really, really? This is where you have to put on your skeptical trousers.

    The fact that some event is highly unlikely (or highly likely) tells you nothing about the question “Did it occur in this specific situation we are discussing?”.

  409. Ardoise says:

    Oh you mean, all those scholars rigorously trying to falsify the Bible, sorry I forgot about them. In all seriousness I have addressed this in my long #338 post. It is a red herring because no historical evidence from 1900 years ago is going to live up to the kind of reliability level required to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that what is claimed was actually true. If this were another religion you would have no problem seeing it. You would have no problem saying Joseph Smith was not telling the truth about the golden plates or whatever. But here you seem to have a mental block.

  410. SteveK says:

    Well, we disagree. There is nothing objective about history.

    And from this we learn that what happened 1 second ago is not objective. Makes objective science difficult to pull off, doesn’t it?

  411. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    No, but it tells you about its likelihood.

  412. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    Yes, it does! You’ve got it! That’s why important experiments are repeated and repeated and independently verified before anyone accepts them as “fact”. Even then “facts” are open to question. There are no facts, only assumptions.

  413. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    There are no facts, only assumptions.

    Is that a fact?

  414. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Read my post #363 again. I have presented empirical evidence in support of my claim. Can I expect a retraction?

    No, because the only claim I am attacking is “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it”. You have not responded to a single point I made, not one, so I have nothing to retract. You on the other hand, who likes to advertise himself as a “true scientist” have been proven wrong. You neither retract your claims that have been proven wrong nor you engage the arguments. Then again, how could you, if you do not even so much as *understand* them?

    You are not intellectualy honest.

    I wrote a long post and you picked on one small (and largely irrelevant) part that is a pet topic of yours. It’s largely irrelevant if you believe the Christian God is interventionist anyway, so that presumably means there is empirically demonstrable evidence available, right?

    Wrong again. It is not irrelevant, because what counts as part of admissible evidence is the bone of contention.

    Please explain your point about case-by-case as I don’t understand the question.

    If you do not even understand my point, then how come you claimed it was irrelevant, a case of misunderstanding and “philosophical nonsense”?

    I can’t be bothered with definitions.

    You said the statement “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it” was an axiom or definition. Besides not even knowing the difference between a definition and an axjiom, should I conclude that you cannot even be bothered with your *own* claims?

    Do you even realize that you are reduce to spluttering complete non-sense, contradicting yourself with each post? Every time you respond, your deep-seated irrationality shows forth more and more. Do you want to wake up or stay in that zombie state forever? This does *not* mean that you accept any of our claims about Christianity, but it does mean being able to make a logical argument (which you cannot), being able to recognize one (which you cannot), think critically (which you cannot) and at least, make an effort to understand what you are talking about, especially about Christianity (which you do not). More evidence? Here is this gem from #391:

    There is no objective level, we each decide for ourselves.

    If there “is no objective level” of rationality and we each decide to ourselves, then *everything* you have said is *not* objectively rational. It only *seems* rational to you, but there is no objective way to know it, so you have just undermined everything you said. It can all be tossed away to the garbage can as the empty verbiage it really is.

    Another gem from #411:

    It is a red herring because no historical evidence from 1900 years ago is going to live up to the kind of reliability level required to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that what is claimed was actually true.

    So now you set the bar to “beyond a shadow of a doubt”? But not even empirical science proves *anything* “beyond a shadow of a doubt”, so once again, you are showing your question-begging irrationality.

    Another gem from #414:

    There are no facts, only assumptions.

    I could sift through this whole thread and gather a veritable gold collection of clueless dross.

  415. Victoria says:

    @Ardoise
    In your #338 post, you make absolutely no references to any scholarly works by anybody – in fact, I can’t seem to find any indications that you even know of any scholarly New Testament studies by any decent scholars ( skeptical or conservative ). If you can make absurd claims like “historical skepticism…Jesus never existed”, then you have demonstrated to those of us who do know what the scholarly state of the art is that you really don’t know what you are talking about.

    Are you planning on reading any of the references that we have put out there for you?

    I think Tom is right…I’m done with you too, at least until you can clearly demonstrate that you have done your homework and know something about both sides of the scholarly debates. If you are not willing to do that, then you are not discussing in good faith or intellectual honesty, and this discussion becomes pointless and fruitless.

  416. Victoria says:

    @G. Rodrigues
    You know, the more we deal with atheists and skeptics in here, the more I see just how perceptive and insightful Paul and the HS are, vis-a-vis Romans 1:18ff, 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.

    I can also see the wisdom of God in presenting Himself in such a way so that only people whose hearts and minds are really open to trusting Him at His Word will find Him and learn to love Him.

  417. Melissa says:

    @ G. Rodriguez,

    I could sift through this whole thread and gather a veritable gold collection of clueless dross.

    But shooting fish in a barrel quickly becomes rather boring.

  418. Victoria says:

    @Melissa
    Hi there, dear sister 🙂 How are you?

  419. SteveK says:

    There are no facts, only assumptions.

    You are irrational to the core. I’m done. Good luck and good bye.

  420. Melissa says:

    Hi Victoria,

    I am well, just home from running around in the rain (dropping a replacement violin rest to one daughter at school and picking up school work for the daughter that is at home with a cold) and now am going to finish up a 2000 word essay on Missional Church that’s due tomorrow.

    I completely agree with your last point although I doubt our atheist and skeptic friends will see it that way. I’ve noticed that, no matter whether you’re a believer or not, reductionist thinking, while useful for getting answers to questions of limited scope, is a real impediment to seeing reality as it is … especially when you forget that limited scope and try to plug your answers back into a complex reality.

  421. Victoria says:

    @Melissa
    Sounds like you are a busy mom and student – good for you, hon’. I had come in earlier from just running (a good 10km – it would have been nice in the rain – it’s getting hot here in Toronto 🙂 ).

    Good comment about reductionist thinking – I agree completely

  422. Ardoise says:

    G. Rodrigues
    I do not normally write like this, but for you I will make an exception:

    No, because the only claim I am attacking is “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it”.

    Clearly, you have no understanding of logic or cannot read (or more likely both). I have provided a simple example to do with the contradictory nature of one god? or multiple gods? that empirically adds support to my claim that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it. My claim therefore has some empirical support and does not contradict itself like you continue to claim. So, please retract or shut your yapper.

    You are an intellectual fraud.

    I wrote a long post and you picked on one small (and largely irrelevant) part that is a pet topic of yours. It’s largely irrelevant if you believe the Christian God is interventionist anyway, so that presumably means there is empirically demonstrable evidence available, right?

    Wrong again. It is not irrelevant, because what counts as part of admissible evidence is the bone of contention.

    Exactly as I said, you did not understand the gist of what I was saying. You only understood a detail.  You seized upon that because you assumed that the rest of the document depended on it and if you could “prove” that fact wrong the rest would fall. In fact, had you read the rest of the text and used your infinitessimal wisdom you would have realized that it did not rely on that axiom or definition. By the way, I know the difference between an axiom and a definition. It is an axiom because it is self-evident. You disagree. Well, I think you would disagree with the nose on your face. I wrote it in the form of a definition. If you can’t see that, then you are clearly not the intellectually superior logician you like to advertise yourself as.

    Please explain your point about case-by-case as I don’t understand the question.

    If you do not even understand my point, then how come you claimed it was irrelevant, a case of misunderstanding and “philosophical nonsense”?

    Another shining example of where in your haste to make snide comments you do not read properly. I never claimed this question was irrelevant, a case of misunderstanding and philosophical nonsense. However, since you came up with it, I have to admit I wouldn’t bet the other way.

    Do you even realize that you are reduce to spluttering complete non-sense, contradicting yourself with each post? Every time you respond, your deep-seated irrationality shows forth more and more. Do you want to wake up or stay in that zombie state forever? This does *not* mean that you accept any of our claims about atheism, but it does mean being able to make a logical argument (which you cannot), being able to recognize one (which you cannot), think critically (which you cannot) and at least, make an effort to understand what you are talking about, especially about atheism (which you do not).

    If there “is no objective level” of rationality and we each decide to ourselves, then *everything* you have said is *not* objectively rational. It only *seems* rational to you, but there is no objective way to know it, so you have just undermined everything you said. It can all be tossed away to the garbage can as the empty verbiage it really is.

    In what way has this undermined anything I’ve said. You are drawing a conclusion that is completely illogical and from false premises. Let me explain your mistakes in simple words that hopefully even you cannot misinterpret (a challenge, admittedly). I was talking about a level of reliability not a level of rationality. It seems that because I also mentioned rationality in the same post you conflated (that means mixed together) the two ideas. What I’m saying is that there is no objective level of reliability. It is up to the person making the call to decide what level he or she is willing to accept. That in no way undermines anything I’ve said.  Please retract.

    So now you set the bar to “beyond a shadow of a doubt”? But not even empirical science proves *anything* “beyond a shadow of a doubt”, so once again, you are showing your question-begging irrationality.

    I was wrong to say “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. I meant “beyond all reasonable doubt”. I retract it.

  423. Ardoise says:

    @All
    The Hindus and the Mormons and the Muslims are misguided, right? Think how you would go about disputing their evidence, their conclusions etc..

    Think about Joseph Smith Jr with his golden plates, detailing the ancient history of Christian American civilization, and how an angel forbade him to show them to anyone. You know it’s nonsense. How come?

  424. Fleegman says:

    Blimey, you’ve all been busy. I’m having a hard time loading the comments in any of my iPad browsers, now. The iPhone browsers all checked out at about 150 comments. Only the MPB remains totally reliable, but who knows how long that will last? I think the iPad should keep going for a bit though.

    Right, where was I? Oh, that’s right, Justin, you were castigating me for interpreting Luke in such a way that doesn’t give you even secondhand eyewitness accounts. In other words, for not interpreting it in the most favourable way for your position.

    Since giving ground is not something I think anyone here is capable of doing, I will, for the sake of moving things along, concede that you could interpret Luke in such a way that means he did talk to people who said they were eyewitnesses.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t make your position much better. How did he know they were eyewitnesses? Did he want to prove any of them weren’t eyewitnesses? Was it in his interests to do that? Come to think of it, don’t you think at least a few people would have said they were eyewitnesses just to be part of the whole thing? It’s not like Luke was doing background checks.

    I can already hear Melissa’s objection stampeding its way towards the comments section so I’ll digress and head it off at the pass:

    No, I don’t have any evidence that says he didn’t investigate these people’s claims. He’s hardly going to write “I just took their word for it,” right? But all he says is “yeah, I’m satisfied it’s all true.” See below.

    He actually says something like this: “…to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”

    Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like someone who is trying to convince someone else that what you’ve been telling them is true? It certainly reads that way to me. As I said above: “Dear Theo, All these things I told you about and believe myself? Yeah, it turns out it’s all true.”

    Of course he’s going to say he was satisfied, and careful etc. But where is the evidence that he did any investigating at all? That he says he did? We don’t even know who the author of Luke was. How do we know he was a this great investigator of history?

    If that satisfies you, that’s absolutely fine, but it doesn’t satisfy me, I’m afraid. Maybe it satisfies you because you already believe it’s true.

    Is that at least a possibility? Do you think it’s at least possible that you interpret this in a favourable light because you already believe it?

    My point still stands that you don’t have eyewitnesses, of course. Secondhand eyewitnesses at best, as I have conceded. You know, because I’m such a nice guy.

    P.S. I’ll get to John, Tom

  425. Fleegman says:

    Let me talk briefly about historical evidence, by responding to a few other things that have been said since I’ve been away.

    @Justin

    This doesn’t get us anywhere. If you stop there with respect to a historic event, you would never know if any historical event was reliable. Right?

    I’ll come back to this later in this comment, because it’s quite an important point.

    i.e. photography, identifying tattoos were forbidden in Jewish culture, etc

    I’m a bit fuzzy on the whole “which laws still apply?” thing — because it seems to be a mishmash of as hoc reasoning mixed with special pleading — but why are tattoos okay, now? The Bible isn’t too hot on them, it would seem.

    @Victoria

    Perhaps you should find some incontrovertible evidence examples first – and by incontrovertible I mean something that all New Testament professional scholars, regardless of theological persuasion, agree on.

    Victoria, are all these scholars you’re talking about — at least, the ones who agree with your interpretation — Christian?

    @Tom

    Forget the word “definitions” then. What makes the Resurrection “outlandish” in context of the whole surrounding history?

    If I may, I don’t think the resurrection was outlandish in the context of the surrounding history. It wasn’t rare, as I’ve said. Yes, you think it’s unique in its own way, but rising from the dead wasn’t. And this is why we much be even more critical of what’s in the Bible.

    What will you do with the evidence that exists? How do you know whether it is of a sufficiently high level? What criteria will you use? Are they rational criteria? Who do you go to, to judge whether a certain event has sufficient evidence to consider it to have truly happened?

    If we are willing to accept the suspension of natural law as a possibility, then we can’t be certain about anything that’s happened in history. Just like with science experiments, the only way we know what happened is if we assume that the laws of the universe a invariant.

    When they thought they’d produced cold fusion back in the eighties, does anyone think God infused their experiment just that one time, and they didn’t just get it all wrong?

    We have the statements in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff which even skeptical scholars agree originated in that verbatim form before 40 AD.

    Ok, I don’t have any problem with that. What we have here is the absolute earliest account. We have no empty tomb, and no eyewitness to a bodily resurrection. Is it really surprising that the later accounts embellish the story?

    @SteveK

    And from this we learn that what happened 1 second ago is not objective. Makes objective science difficult to pull off, doesn’t it?

    Doesn’t it make it a lot harder to determine what happened if we’re willing to accept that the laws of nature may have been broken?

  426. Fleegman says:

    Quick question:

    I’m assuming that you all believe in the virgin birth, but the evidence is thin almost to the point of being completely absent.

    Is this one of the times where you consider an event to be true because you believe you’ve established the rest of the Bible as credible, so you take that bit as credible, too?

  427. Melissa says:

    Ardoise,

    The Hindus and the Mormons and the Muslims are misguided, right? Think how you would go about disputing their evidence, their conclusions etc..

    With arguments and evidence that are relevant to their specific beliefs not a blanket dismissal of “extraordinary claims”.

  428. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Clearly, you have no understanding of logic or cannot read (or more likely both). I have provided a simple example to do with the contradictory nature of one god? or multiple gods? that empirically adds support to my claim that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it. My claim therefore has some empirical support and does not contradict itself like you continue to claim.

    Wrong again.

    Let us recall what is the claim I am attacking: “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it”. More generally, I am attacking the idea that empirical evidence, and a of a very narrow sort at that, is the only admissible evidence. Translating this into a semi-formal language it means the following: for every sentence P, if there is no empirical evidence for it, then it is “imaginary”, which I take to mean that we are not rationally warranted in accepting it.

    I also recall that no only I have *proved* that such a claim is self-contradictory (and therefore by definition of deductive proof, there can be no evidence that refutes it) and therefore false, I have also given examples that falsify it. Rebuttal from you? None. So how do you respond? “I have provided a simple example to do with the contradictory nature of one god? or multiple gods? that empirically adds support to my claim that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it.” So what you are saying is this:

    1. You have picked a specific statement “God exists”.

    2. Point to the contradictory nature of the multiple existing conceptions of God.

    3. From 2. you conclude that there is no empirical support for the statement, so it must be an imaginary statement.

    With 1. you are already in trouble, because your claim is *universally quantified* over all statements, so you are relying on induction (in the informal, not the mathematical sense) to support your claim. In view of the counter-examples I have provided it is *worthless*, because a single counter-example is enough to prove a universally quantified sentence false. 2. points to the fact that there are multiple conceptions, possibly contradictory, of God. With this much I agree. But from 2., 3. does NOT follow. Heck, 2. is not even nowhere near to the “there is no empirical support” part of your claim. So your example fails utterly to do what you claim it does.

    By the way, I know the difference between an axiom and a definition. It is an axiom because it is self-evident. You disagree. Well, I think you would disagree with the nose on your face. I wrote it in the form of a definition.

    I disagree? How do you know I disagree with “axiom because it is self-evident” as I never pronounced on the subject of what an axiom is? So you wrote “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it” as a definition. Then why did you say in #342 that “It is an axiom or definition, not a deduction”? You probably just googled the difference between a definition and an axiom, but at the time you surely did not know. Why did you said in #385 “I can’t be bothered with definitions”? The reason is simple: you are covering up nonsense with more nonsense. Also, definitions are stipulative, they explain a word by using other words, so what can you be defining with “something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it”? The only possibility is “imaginary” as related to sentences about our world. But “imaginary” *already* has an established meaning on which you rely to make up your argument, e.g. that it is a mere figment of imagination, so we are not rationally warranted in accepting it. So no you are *NOT* making a definition (and btw, no, you do not know what a definition is), you are making a definite claim about what we are rational in accepting as true. But that claim is self-contradictory, as I have *proved*. Furthermore, I already dealt with this “axiom” or “definition” move in #346. Rebuttal? None.

    If you can’t see that, then you are clearly not the intellectually superior logician you like to advertise yourself as.

    As a “true scientist” I am sure you can provide evidence in the form of quotes where I advertised myself as a logician, or even “intellectually superior logician”.

    In what way has this undermined anything I’ve said. You are drawing a conclusion that is completely illogical and from false premises.

    If you cannot recognize arguments by reductio it is your problem, not mine.

    I was talking about a level of reliability not a level of rationality. It seems that because I also mentioned rationality in the same post you conflated (that means mixed together) the two ideas. What I’m saying is that there is no objective level of reliability. It is up to the person making the call to decide what level he or she is willing to accept.

    First, I am not conflating anything. It makes perfectly good sense to say that a person is more or less rational according to whether said person evaluates the evidence available, your “level of reliability”.

    But you are wrong. Again. As a matter of objective fact. But instead of explaining where you are wrong (a futile enterprise, by now) let me employ reductio again. If there is no “objective level of reliability”, that is, it “is up to the person making the call to decide what level he or she is willing to accept”, then why are you foisting on us *your* personal “level of reliability”? After all, if the level of reliability is a subjective personal choice, then if someone decides to accept the statement “God exists” on the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit, how can you even complain about that? It is reliable for the person and that is that. But no, you make a damning judgment. You say in #391 “There is no objective level, we each decide for ourselves. I put it to you that your level is almost on the ground. Maybe mine’s in the sky”, but this only makes sense if there is an objective sense by which to determine when a level is “on the ground” and another “in the sky”, so once again you contradict yourself.

    A last word of advice. If you are addressing someone that you think has “no understanding of logic or cannot read (or more likely both)”, is “an intellectual fraud”, has “infinitessimal wisdom”, etc., it is a bit incongruous copy-pasting large chunks of what said person wrote while only changing the target. Someone might come off with the impression that you can hardly string together a coherent paragrah. Oh wait, this *is* true.

    I was wrong to say “beyond a shadow of a doubt”. I meant “beyond all reasonable doubt”. I retract it.

    You retract a single claim that costs you nothing.

    But I am done with you.

  429. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    This is becoming more and more painful to watch. When you write,

    Clearly, you have no understanding of logic or cannot read (or more likely both)

    what you are displaying is the phenomenon known as the over-confidence of the incompetent, or the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

    I know you’re likely to discount the advice I’m about to give, since it comes from someone who has a stake in showing that your logic is faulty. I don’t know how to get around that problem, but believe me, your logic is faulty.

    I suggest you go to your library and check out a good introductory book on logical reasoning. Do the exercises in it. Learn some of the principles and methods. Discover the forms of the more common fallacies. Then come back here if you like, and argue with strength against strength–the strength of skill, that is.

  430. Justin says:

    Hey Fleegman,

    My iPhone checked out, too. If I try to load the page, it just kicks me out of Safari. I want to point out the answers I’m about to give you are general. I know there’s not room to go fact by fact and reproduce all of the verses, so I will try to give you some of the flavor for how these questions might be answered for now.

    Also note that I am not a New Testament scholar. Others here might have more detail to add or might correct me on something. With that out of the way….

    How did he know they were eyewitnesses? Did he want to prove any of them weren’t eyewitnesses? Was it in his interests to do that? Come to think of it, don’t you think at least a few people would have said they were eyewitnesses just to be part of the whole thing? It’s not like Luke was doing background checks.

    I would argue the opposite. I would argue that Luke would have been uninterested in people who weren’t eyewitnesses of a certain type. We see in Acts (written by the same author as Luke) that when the disciples chose a replacement for Judas that had been with Jesus from the time he was baptized – i.e. “from the beginning”. That’s what Luke means when he says he sought eyewitnesses who had been with Jesus “from the beginning”. He wanted people who were there and saw it all. From the plural, we know he talked to multiple such eyewitnesses.

    Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like someone who is trying to convince someone else that what you’ve been telling them is true?

    Yes, it sounds like Luke is telling Theophilus about how he went about writing his account so that Theophilus would have some comfort in its accuracy.

    But where is the evidence that he did any investigating at all? That he says he did? We don’t even know who the author of Luke was. How do we know he was a this great investigator of history?

    The last statement is the easiest to answer. Luke writes in great detail, getting minute facts right that can be historically verified. For example (one of many), Luke refers to Herod as “tetrarch”. This was Herod’s actual title, and it was a non-royal position. Herod was commonly called “king” by Jews, but this wasn’t his official Roman title. Luke gets the title accurate. This is one example of hundreds.

    As to who wrote Luke, yes, it’s true the gospel is not signed and that authorship is not 100% certain. We can take clues from the writings that the author of Luke-Acts traveled with Paul. He uses “we” in several of the travel narratives. From Paul’s letters, we know who several of his travel companions were. It’s this type of cross-referencing that makes a case for Luke. However, it may have been another of Paul’s companions (Paul did visit with Jesus’ disciples for extended periods of time).

    If you want to make your case, I really reiterate Victoria and Melissa’s advice to read a sampling of scholarly books on the subject so you can see how all of these intricate connections occur.

    Is that at least a possibility? Do you think it’s at least possible that you interpret this in a favourable light because you already believe it?

    Interpretation on some of these things isn’t really as loose as you portray it. Theological matters are different than the factual claims, some of which can be verified, cross referenced, etc. Sure, I was raised in the church. But at the point I decided to seriously start studying it, I made up my mind to see what evidence both sides really had. It’s why I have books on my shelf by Crossan, Ehrman, Gerd Ludemann, etc. I read them, and none believe in the actual physical resurrection, and all three are expert New Testament scholars. They weren’t convincing because their cases either had logical holes or failed to give a credible picture of why Christianity came to be. In other words, they made some gross errors, and they present a skeptics case far better than you’re doing now (i.e. they don’t read Luke 1 incorrectly – see Ehrman).

    My point still stands that you don’t have eyewitnesses, of course.

    We don’t have an eyewitness who wrote his own gospel in first person with his picture in the back of the book jacket, no. This has been agreed to already.

    If you want to make your case credible (other than simply throwing up objection after objection), you need evidence, my friend. If you want to say Luke didn’t talk to eyewitnesses, then tell us why you think he didn’t, other than an argument from incredulity, which is all you have presented.

    I’ve helped you out. I’ve given you authors who make cases with your conclusion that have actually presented argumentation. I’d urge you to read them and their critics as well, to get a balanced picture.

    Secondhand eyewitnesses at best, as I have conceded. You know, because I’m such a nice guy.

    And as Tom pointed out, we haven’t even got to John yet 🙂

  431. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    When I talked about your infinitessimal wisdom it wasn’t a typo. It was a joke, but I apologize. I think we should try to cut all the derogatory comments. It just causes resentment and makes it harder to understand each other’s points.

    Let me summarize my understanding of where we’re at.

    Here is what I said in #338:

    I believe that something is imaginary if there’s no empirical evidence to support it.

    I am essentially defining the word “imaginary” as I see it. You may have a different definition. That’s fine, but you can’t disagree with that sentence because it is prefixed with “I believe” (unless you know what I believe better than I do).

    You can, however, criticize the logic and that is what you did. You employed a “reductio ad absurdum” argument. You claimed that there is no empirical evidence to support the belief, therefore it is itself imaginary. You also mentioned other contradictory evidence, such as “pi is transcendental”. You weren’t explicit about why that contradicts, but I assume you believe that mathematics is not empirical. That subject is controversial and that may be your view, but it is not mine (nor is it many other scientists’ view). Do you have any counter-examples outside of mathematics and logic?

    I claimed it was an axiom because my definition of what is imaginary seemed to be self-evident to me. You made it clear that it was not self-evident to you, and then went on to say something along the lines of “if we can claim that, we can claim anything as an axiom”. I actually agree with that. Axioms are, by definition, not proven. It is preferable that they are simple and not controversial, however, controversial axioms can still be useful to help us make sense of the world (and there’s nothing that I know of that is completely uncontroversial). We can discard axioms that prove to be unhelpful and gradually improve our models empirically.

    Anyway, you said that there was no empirical evidence to support my belief, so I gave an example: Christians believe (with no empirical evidence) there is exactly one God, some Hindus believe (with no empirical evidence) there are multiple gods. They can’t both be right, therefore the god(s) of at least one of them must be imaginary. This supports my claim that if there’s no empirical evidence to support a belief then it is imaginary. It is not proof, but I don’t need proof to evaporate the reductio ad absurdum argument, all I need is one example of empirical evidence that supports it, and you can no longer claim it is unsupported.

  432. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Are all the scholars who are skeptical and dismissive of the trustworthiness of the Bible anti-supernaturalists? The answer seems to be yes, for the most part).

    You might try reading James Charlesworth,
    here and Darrell Bock, here.
    Charlesworth is less conservative than Bock, gives a frank, non-partisan view of the status of New Testament historical studies.

    Have you ever taken the time to really study the arguments and evidence( historical, archaeological) that support Biblical trustworthiness?

    Yes, I side with the Christian scholars who affirm the trustworthiness of Scripture and approach its historical studies from that perspective. That does not make them any less scholarly. The big difference between the skeptics and Christian scholars is that skeptics immediately take any apparent discrepancies or problems as ‘proof’ of their anti-supernatural presuppositions, whereas the Christian scholars tend to dig deeper, and look for possible resolutions to the issues that are consistent with overall context of the rest of Scripture.

    We affirm that the Bible is God’s Word, divinely inspired, yet human authored. We affirm that it is a trustworthy source of truth about God and His dealings with humanity throughout history, and especially in the unique person and work of Jesus Christ, Who is God incarnate. We affirm that His written Word points us to the Living Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

    We affirm His virgin birth (a) because of our conviction and confidence in the Bible as God’s Word, and (b) because it makes logical sense in the light of Jesus being fully divine and fully human.

    If you don’t want to believe it, then don’t – that is your problem. Why are you trying so hard to argue against Christian Theism and its beliefs?
    I think Tom was right – trying to explain this to you has become pointless.

  433. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman

    We have the statements in 1 Corinthians 15:3ff which even skeptical scholars agree originated in that verbatim form before 40 AD.

    Ok, I don’t have any problem with that. What we have here is the absolute earliest account. We have no empty tomb, and no eyewitness to a bodily resurrection. Is it really surprising that the later accounts embellish the story?

    You still don’t get it at all!
    Did you not at least read and understand those links to N. T. Wright?

  434. SteveK says:

    You made it clear that it was not self-evident to you, and then went on to say something along the lines of “if we can claim that, we can claim anything as an axiom”. I actually agree with that.

    Axiom: God exists

    This supports my claim that if there’s no empirical evidence to support a belief then it is imaginary.

    Axiom defeated. Contradiction confirmed.

    It is preferable that they [axioms] are simple and not controversial, however, controversial axioms can still be useful to help us make sense of the world (and there’s nothing that I know of that is completely uncontroversial). We can discard axioms that prove to be unhelpful and gradually improve our models empirically.

    Axiom reinstated. God exists. Contradiction reconfirmed.

    *sigh*

  435. Fleegman says:

    Justin,

    Luke writes in great detail, getting minute facts right that can be historically verified.

    In Titanic, David Cameron gets the details exactly right. Even down to the fact that they said “hard to starboard,” and the ship goes to the left. Most people these days think he got it wrong, but they user tiller commands back then. It’s the fact that he got these kind of details right that give credibility to the belief that the Heart of the Ocean was a real diamond.

    And before you start, no I’m not making the case that Jesus’ story was set on a doomed ocean liner.

    I’m also not saying Luke wasn’t good at taking down details. I said he was a glorified stenographer, right? He just believed what everyone told him, what he already believed, and what he wanted to hear. Nuff said.

    Sure, I was raised in the church. But at the point I decided to seriously start studying it, I made up my mind to see what evidence both sides really had.

    Ok, if you say this convinced you without bias, or any desire for it to be true, I believe you. I think you came to the wrong conclusion, of course, but that’s why the debate exists.

    They weren’t convincing because their cases either had logical holes or failed to give a credible picture of why Christianity came to be. In other words, they made some gross errors, and they present a skeptics case far better than you’re doing now (i.e. they don’t read Luke 1 incorrectly – see Ehrman).

    Always good to be reminded of how badly you’re doing, thanks.

    The whole thing about not being able to explain how Christianity came to be is like the fallback position, isn’t it? You said, for example, that the arguments by these people making a much better case than me had logical holes — according to you of course — OR they couldn’t give a credible picture of why Christianity came to be, as though this means they don’t have a case.

    Personally, I think this is a non-starter, but believers cling to this as a last refuge for their claims. You would agree with me that there are many false religions in the world, right? More precisely, you would presumably believe that there are (numberOfReligionsInTheWorld – 1) false religions in the world, right?

    Now, do you think the fact that those religions exist, or began, or spread quickly, or that people have died for them has anything at all to do with whether or not those religions are based on truth?

    If you answer “no,” as I think is the honest answer, then you would surely have to concede that you can’t use the existence or growth of Christianity itself as some kind of argument that it’s true. Not without a healthy serving of special pleading, at least.

    We don’t have an eyewitness who wrote his own gospel in first person with his picture in the back of the book jacket, no. This has been agreed to already.

    Has it? I guess I was confused by the cries of “we do have eyewitnesses.” So, you don’t think that’s quite an important point in my favour?

    If you want to make your case credible (other than simply throwing up objection after objection), you need evidence, my friend.

    Well, if objections aren’t evidence for the opposing view, I think you’ve just kicked the legs out from under the entire cdesign proponentsists ID movement.

    I’ve helped you out. I’ve given you authors who make cases with your conclusion that have actually presented argumentation. I’d urge you to read them and their critics as well, to get a balanced picture.

    Helpful and condescending in the same paragraph. Impressive.

  436. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Comment editing seems to be flaky 🙂 I was editing one of my posts to add to it, but it disappeared when I tried to submit the changes.

  437. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    Nice try! An axiom can’t be used to “prove” something wrong or right.

    It’s basically a starting point (a premise) for some logical thought. We call it an axiom when we don’t have evidence, we don’t wish to provide evidence or we believe it is self-evident.

    Rather than starting with “God exists”, lets be more specific (and relevant to our conversation) and start with the axiom that “The Christian God exists”.

    Now what follows from it?

    Well, we know that the Christian God is an interventionist God. If “the Christian God exists” and “the Christian God is an interventionist God” and “God’s interventions are detectable” then we would expect to be able to detect His interventions.

    The question now is, is this a good model? Is it useful? Does it match what we see? In reality there is no concrete evidence of God’s interventions that cannot be put down to chance, errors, biased reporting, or the placebo effect. We must therefore conclude that one or more of our premises is wrong – e.g. perhaps God cunningly makes His interventions undetectable, or perhaps one or more of the other premises is wrong.

  438. Ardoise says:

    In Titanic, David Cameron gets the details exactly right.

    No wonder the UK economy is going down the drain.

  439. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman – following up on my #435 🙂

    1. Did you read the entire letter of 1 Corinthians to get the full context of what Paul wrote to that church?

    2. Do you know how, when, and from whom Paul ‘received’ the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection?

    3. Did you read about Paul’s missionary journeys to Greece in Acts 17-19?

    This is the same mistake that you made in regard to Tom’s reference to 2 Peter 1:16-21? Hint 1: in this passage, Peter is referring to Jesus’ transfiguration – did you look up those accounts in the Gospels? Did you follow the eyewitness theme of Peter through the rest of the New Testament? What else was Peter an eyewitness to? I’ll even help you connect the dots (this is Bible Study 101)…what did Peter preach on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-36) and what was the result(Acts 2:37-37)?
    Follow the threads, Fleegman – you can’t just read a couple of sentences in isolation without considering how they fit in with the rest of that person’s writings and the overall teaching of Scripture. Follow the thread of the teaching about Christ’s resurrection. Don’t rely on your own understanding p- consult some commentaries and Biblical Encyclopedias (www.bibleencyclopedia.com for example, is a good one – it is a comprehensive site, where you can search easily in both the library and Bibles).

    If you still don’t understand something, swallow your intellectual arrogance and pride and just admit it and ask us, okay?

  440. Fleegman says:

    @Victoria

    I had that problem, once. The ability to edit times out after a short while so if you haven’t refreshed the page after posting your comment, the “edit comment” link is still there, but the ability to edit is no longer there. So when you update it sort of balks and throws away the comment.

    That’s what seems to happen, anyway.

  441. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Yeah – I think I’ll go back to using notepad++ first and copy-paste from there.
    Definitely a timeout issue on the web page operation 🙂

  442. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    I’m also not saying Luke wasn’t good at taking down details. I said he was a glorified stenographer, right?

    No, you asked why we consider Luke to be a competant historian. I was giving you an answer, one of many. I’ve read historical fiction before.

    He just believed what everyone told him, what he already believed, and what he wanted to hear. Nuff said.

    He believed what everyone told him. How do you know? We have what was written, not what wasn’t written. Yours is an argument from silence here. We have no idea if Luke may have spoken with someone who had a completely different story.

    As to writing only what he wanted to hear, again, your arguments are still baseless fallacies of incredulity, none of which are new to me. Again, if you think Christianity was that kind of sham, you’d need to put up some evidence of your own.

    My belief in the reliability of the New Testament is a cumulative case. It’s not based solely on Luke being a good historical writer for his time.

    It’s based on the entire phenomenon of Christianity itself. You’ve posted argument from incredulity one after the other. None of what you’ve posted is anything more than baseless skepticism based on your presuppositions about what is physically possible. Continued argumentation along those lines isn’t going to convince me, because you still have left to explain and provide evidence for an alternative view of how Christianity came to be.

  443. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    I am essentially defining the word “imaginary” as I see it.

    Wrong. I have explained why you are not defining anything but making a very definite claim. Learn what a definition is, first.

    It is prefixed with “I believe” (unless you know what I believe better than I do).

    What you “believe” or I “believe” is irrelevant. I am asking for *rational justification* for a given belief. I have showed that you believe in a *demonstrably false* statement.

    You employed a “reductio ad absurdum” argument.

    Which stands unrefuted (did you just google for what “reductio ad absurdum” argument is?).

    You weren’t explicit about why that contradicts, but I assume you believe that mathematics is not empirical.

    Wrong. It depends on how you construe “mathematics is not empirical”. The answer, whatever it is, is also *irrelevant* to my claim.

    That subject is controversial and that may be your view, but it is not mine (nor is it many other scientists’ view).

    Wrong. There is *absolutely nothing* controversial in my claim. We are rationally compelled to believe pi is a transcendental number or in Feit-Thompson’s theorem or in an indefinite number of logical and mathematical truths because there is a deductive proof *NOT* because of any shred of empirical evidence, of which there is *none*.

    Do you have any counter-examples outside of mathematics and logic?

    Yes. Some were even mentioned in this very thread — look them up yourself.

    I claimed it was an axiom because my definition of what is imaginary seemed to be self-evident to me.

    Wrong. First, learn the difference between a definition and an axiom.

    You made it clear that it was not self-evident to you, and then went on to say something along the lines of “if we can claim that, we can claim anything as an axiom”. I actually agree with that.

    Wrong on the first sentence. It is not question of not being self-evident, it is that I proved it was false. The rest, which is part of a *different* argument is very sloppily formulated but is closer to the truth.

    I also note that in the last sentence you are saying that you can claim *anything* as an axiom. Earlier you said that an axiom is “self-evident truth”. So are you claiming that anything is a self-evident truth? Or you just forgot what you googled earlier about what an axiom is?

    We can discard axioms that prove to be unhelpful and gradually improve our models empirically.

    Wrong. So now empirical evidence allows us to discard self-evident truths? But this is again self-contradictory, as you are simply reinstating your claim as an axiom, which therefore must stand as empirically irrefutable.

    Anyway, you said that there was no empirical evidence to support my belief, so I gave an example: Christians believe (with no empirical evidence) there is exactly one God, some Hindus believe (with no empirical evidence) there are multiple gods. They can’t both be right, therefore the god(s) of at least one of them must be imaginary. This supports my claim that if there’s no empirical evidence to support a belief then it is imaginary.

    Wrong (on more than one count actually, but let that pass) and I explained why *that* is not empirical evidence for your claim, besides being riddled with logical fallacies. You merely repeat your claim without addressing what I have said.

    It is not proof, but I don’t need proof to evaporate the reductio ad absurdum argument, all I need is one example of empirical evidence that supports it, and you can no longer claim it is unsupported.

    Wrong again and I explained why.

    Heed Tom’s advice and learn some elementary logic. You are just embarrassing yourself.

  444. Justin says:

    Fleegman,

    Always good to be reminded of how badly you’re doing, thanks.

    You’re welcome.

    The whole thing about not being able to explain how Christianity came to be is like the fallback position, isn’t it?

    No, it’s pretty much my main position.

    You said, for example, that the arguments by these people making a much better case than me

    Let me try to explain to you why you’re doing so badly. None of your arguments or objections are provided with evidence. Had any of these guys I mentioned (which you’ll never read) written a book based on your objections, they’d be about two sentences long and would never be published:

    “I don’t believe this rubbish because of my presumption of naturalism, therefore it didn’t happen. I have no evidence for this or any of my objections being true, but surely it didn’t happen the way the gospel writers said.

    The End.”

    That is what every single one of your posts boils down to.

    had logical holes — according to you of course —

    Don’t take my word for it. Go educate yourself. Read Ehrman’s book and then read someone who’s critical of Ehrman. You can’t provide any evidence for your positions because you’re not familiar enough with the topic you’re debating, and it’s evident.

    OR they couldn’t give a credible picture of why Christianity came to be, as though this means they don’t have a case.

    If one explanation fits better than another, I’ll take the one that fits better.

    Personally, I think this is a non-starter,

    Ok, but it’s how historians do quite a bit of their work. They look at the evidence and the clues and then piece together what happened. You have no problem with history until something supernatural occurs, correct?

    Now, do you think the fact that those religions exist, or began, or spread quickly, or that people have died for them has anything at all to do with whether or not those religions are based on truth?

    Actually, yes I do. I think you would examine those in the same exact way you would examine Christianity, and that all of that would be among the factors one would be interested in knowing. There are other factors as well, since religions make truth claims (i.e. is that religion fundamentally self-contradictory, which some are, etc.)

  445. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    You keep saying that I need to learn logic, but you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying (I’ll try to explain what I mean, in a moment). I’m trying to use simple language, but communicating abstract ideas is never easy. Just so you know, I have been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn.

    I am unsure why you think it is so important to define the word “definition”, but please feel free to offer a suggestion.

    I agree that definitions in general are important. Usage of words varies and if one person uses a word to mean one thing and someone else uses it to mean something subtly different you can get into an unintentional conflict. It’s becoming clear that you and I have different definitions of the word “axiom”. You seem to define it in a narrow classical sense, whereas I use a more modern definition. Perhaps I learned logic more recently than you?

    This is what Wikipedia has to say about axioms:

    An axiom is a premise or starting point of reasoning. As classically conceived, an axiom is a premise so evident as to be accepted as true without controversy; it is better known and more firmly believed than the conclusion

    An axiom, as used in modern logic, is simply a premise or starting point for reasoning, without any reference to extra-mental reality,[3] and equivalent to what Aristotle calls a definition.

  446. Ardoise says:

    Sorry I forgot to explain the misunderstanding I mentioned.

    Wrong. There is *absolutely nothing* controversial in my claim. We are rationally compelled to believe pi is a transcendental number or in Feit-Thompson’s theorem or in an indefinite number of logical and mathematical truths because there is a deductive proof *NOT* because of any shred of empirical evidence, of which there is *none*.

    I am not disputing that pi is transcendental (though I have not read the proof), but if mathematics and logic are empirical (as I claim) then this is an empirical finding and does not contradict my earlier statement. That is why I said it is controversial – I wasn’t talking about the claim about pi, I was talking about the claim that logic and mathematics are/aren’t empirical.

    If you want to read more about the debate: Is logic empirical?

  447. Justin says:

    Just so you know, I have been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn.

    Let’s review some statements of yours that cause me doubt here:

    1) There are no facts, only assumptions.
    2) We call it an axiom when… we don’t wish to provide evidence…
    3) Yes and I don’t know what you mean by evidence free question begging.
    4) Christians may not believe in a created God. However, it still begs the question.

    Were you trained in eastern logic or something?

  448. Ardoise says:

    I’m aware it’s paradoxical. Don’t you love paradoxes? By the way if you can prove something is a fact then please let me know how.

    An axiom is simply a starting point for a logical analysis – read the “modern” bit of Wikipedia I quoted as it explains it well.

    In terms of question begging, I didn’t know what specifically Tom was referring to. It was ambiguous and unclear to me, as he was saying so many things and intentionally or unintentionally misunderstanding me in many different ways.

  449. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    if mathematics and logic are empirical (as I claim) then this is an empirical finding and does not contradict my earlier statement. That is why I said it is controversial – I wasn’t talking about the claim about pi, I was talking about the claim that logic and mathematics are/aren’t empirical.

    I have already explained why you are wrong. Although you seem to enjoy to repeat yourself, I do not.

    Just so you know, I have been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic, but that doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn.

    Are you pulling rank on me? You who chided me for advertising myself as “intellectually superior logician”? Not that I ever did actually, it was just a falsehood you felt free to hurl into the discussion. Are you making an appeal to the argument from authority?

    You seem to define it in a narrow classical sense, whereas I use a more modern definition. Perhaps I learned logic more recently than you?

    Sure you did.

    The quote is completely irrelevant to what I said.

    If you do not address any of my points and have nothing to add besides advertising yourself first, as a “true scientist”, and now bragging about your training “to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic” then there is nothing for me to say in response.

  450. Ardoise says:

    Are you pulling rank on me? You who chided me for advertising myself as “intellectually superior logician”? Not that I ever did actually, it was just a falsehood you felt free to hurl into the discussion. Are you making an appeal to the argument from authority?

    No, of course not and I specifically said “it doesn’t mean I have nothing to learn”.

    Advertising comes in many forms; explicit words is only one form. Your condescending tone was what I was actually referring to.

    For the record, I do not enjoy repeating myself but your blatant misunderstandings compelled me to explain again why your arguments don’t hold water. If you don’t want to explain why they do then I guess we’ll have to leave it at that.

  451. Tom Gilson says:

    Sorry, Ardoise, but I don’t for a moment believe that you came into this conversation with Quine and Putnam on your mind as support for an empirical basis of logic.

    If you had, you would have said so earlier, probably before you googled it to find out there was such a topic under debate.

    Or, if you had Reichenbach and Quine and Putnam in mind, you should have said so, in support of your contention, before all this went round and round this way. And if you had had them in mind, you would have been philosophically sophisticated enough to know that you should have brought them up earlier.

    I think you’re trying to pull a deceitful fast one, in other words; also known as one thin shade south of lying.

  452. Ardoise says:

    If we start to talk about that, it pulls us off in a completely different direction. I have a lot to say on the subject if you want to discuss it.

  453. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Even if Quine or Putnam were right, my claim remains unrefuted. Why do we accept any mathematical theorem (e.g. Lindemann’s theorem) as true? Because we have a *deductive proof* of said mathematical theorem. Is a deductive proof, empirical evidence? No.

    So let us assume that Quine’s thesis is right: basic logical principles are subject to revision by empirical data and we should accept, say quantum logic. Never mind that quantum logic, whose models are the orthomodular lattices of ćlosed subspaces of a Hilbert space, is not really a logic and has lots of problems, like lack of distributivity and an implication operator (although Megill, Pavicic and others have argued otherwise). Never mind that, as the link Ardoise provided “There are, however, few philosophers today who regard this logic as a replacement for classical logic”. Does that change the nature of my claim? Of course not, because my claim is about the *nature* of evidence and that a deductive proof is not empirical evidence. Whether we should embrace quantum logic, be constructivists, intuitionists or ultra-finitists, is *irrelevant*. Whether mathematics is empirical, in whatever sense you want to construe the term, it is *irrelevant*.

    I think you’re trying to pull a deceitful fast one, in other words; also known as one thin shade south of lying.

    Now, now, after all, Ardoise is a “true scientist” and has “been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic”.

  454. Tom Gilson says:

    The philosophical debate about quantum logic between the late 1960s and the early 1980s was generated mainly by Putnam’s claims that quantum mechanics empirically motivates introducing a new form of logic, that such an empirically founded quantum logic is the `true’ logic, and that adopting quantum logic would resolve all the paradoxes of quantum mechanics. Most of that debate focussed on the latter claim, reaching the conclusion that it was mistaken.

    http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/3380/

    (I can google too.)

  455. Tom Gilson says:

    Now, now, after all, Ardoise is a “true scientist” and has “been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic”.

    … and when (s)he brought up millions of people believing in a flat earth, (s)he was thinking of children under 3 years old.

  456. Tom Gilson says:

    In case you haven’t noticed it, Ardoise, your credibility is fading fast.

    I’m guessing one of your purposes here is to have some persuasive effect. You should take a look at what happens when your ethos fades. There’s a good source for it here.

    Generally speaking it’s more effective to be honest than to try to be impressive. Just some friendly advice.

  457. Ardoise says:

    … and when (s)he brought up millions of people believing in a flat earth, (s)he was thinking of children under 3 years old.

    Er, no I wasn’t. You were asking me you to “humor” you, clearly trying to lure me into some kind of trap. I have already said that thinking of children under 3 years old was a piece of lateral thinking to ensure that you could not claim that there’s “never been a time”, in case that was the trap you were trying to set. You still managed to convict me of the crime you wanted to, despite a complete lack of evidence. Now why does that not surprise me?

  458. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    Before I answer, let me check: the essence of your claim is that a logical deduction is not based on empirical evidence. Is that a correct representation of your position?

  459. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    Can you also give me your definition of “empirical” because it is a key concept here, and I believe we have different views of it.

  460. Fleegman says:

    Justin,

    And once again, what was an enjoyable conversation, has descended into pot shots and condescension. What a shame…

    But, if that’s how you want to play it…

    No, you asked why we consider Luke to be a competant historian. I was giving you an answer, one of many. I’ve read historical fiction before.

    Ok, and I’m unimpressed with your answer, which was “he was accurate about mundane things.” *Shrug*

    He believed what everyone told him. How do you know?

    And I tried to head this objection off at the pass, but you clearly missed it. I’ll paraphrase what I said: “I don’t have evidence that he believed everything everyone told him.” You, on the other hand, only have his word for it. The word of a believer whose every interest was in preserving the beliefs he already held. Excuse me for not being impressed, again.

    We have what was written, not what wasn’t written. Yours is an argument from silence here.

    Justin, you’re on very shaky ground, here. Do you realise how much of the Christian position is based on an arguments from silence? I’ll educate you on it, if you like, and maybe you’ll realise how you’re actually undermining your own position by objecting in this way to what I’m saying.

    We have no idea if Luke may have spoken with someone who had a completely different story.

    If he had been a higher calibre investigative historian, we might have an idea. But, no, we don’t.

    As to writing only what he wanted to hear, again, your arguments are still baseless fallacies of incredulity, none of which are new to me.

    I’m sure they’re not new to you; they just haven’t sunk in, clearly.

    Again, if you think Christianity was that kind of sham, you’d need to put up some evidence of your own.

    How about the evidence that theNumberOfReligionsInTheWorld – 1 that you agree were shams and still took hold? I suppose that’s not relevant somehow.

    My belief in the reliability of the New Testament is a cumulative case. It’s not based solely on Luke being a good historical writer for his time.

    I realise that Luke doesn’t hold together on its own merits. But thanks for conceding the point.

    It’s based on the entire phenomenon of Christianity itself. You’ve posted argument from incredulity one after the other.

    That would be you.

    None of what you’ve posted is anything more than baseless skepticism based on your presuppositions about what is physically possible.

    Even if the reports in the Bible were for mundane happenings, I would still have issue believing in them. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth. When discussing Luke’s investigation, I made no reference to the impossibility of the eyewitness claims.

    Continued argumentation along those lines isn’t going to convince me, because you still have left to explain and provide evidence for an alternative view of how Christianity came to be.

    Nothing is going to convince you, because you know it’s all true. Believe me, I’m under no illusions about that.

    No, it’s pretty much my main position.

    So your main position is that Christianity is true because Christianity exists? Wow.

    Let me try to explain to you why you’re doing so badly.

    After this last post of yours, I’m feeling a lot better about my arguments, actually. It’s obvious that you don’t have anything substantial to come back with, so you resort to attempts to undermine my qualifications to even have a discussion with you about it. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

    None of your arguments or objections are provided with evidence.

    You never addressed my comment about ID. What is their evidence but objections to evolution? If objections cannot be considered evidence, then you have to conclude that ID is completely undermined. Is that your position?

    I also notice a conspicuous silence regarding my comments on determining historical events if you include supernatural events as a possibility. I guess that’s swept under the rug, huh?

    Look, you have a book, right? It says a resurrection happened (well, lots of rising from the dead, talking snakes, talking donkeys, etc, but let’s focus on the Big One) and I’m saying that it’s unreliable, and also, by the way, people don’t rise from the dead, and snakes and donkeys don’t speak. Your objection is that I don’t have any evidence.

    What would you call billions upon billions of people not rising from the dead? Is that evidence that people don’t rise from the dead or not? In the Bible, people rise from the dead pretty casually.

    If you cannot admit, on the face of it at least, that the Bible doesn’t accurately reflect reality, then what’s the point of even discussing this?

    Had any of these guys I mentioned (which you’ll never read)…

    More presumption…

    …written a book based on your objections, they’d be about two sentences long and would never be published:

    And yours would be even shorter: “The Bible is all true.”

    That is what every single one of your posts boils down to.

    And every one of yours says “but the Bible says it, so it’s got to be true. The end.”

    Don’t take my word for it. Go educate yourself.

    Your patronising tone is becoming quite grating.

    You can’t provide any evidence for your positions because you’re not familiar enough with the topic you’re debating, and it’s evident.

    Have you been taking lessons from G.Rodrigues in condescension?

    If one explanation fits better than another, I’ll take the one that fits better.

    Somehow I doubt this.

    Ok, but it’s how historians do quite a bit of their work. They look at the evidence and the clues and then piece together what happened. You have no problem with history until something supernatural occurs, correct?

    Incorrect.

    Now, do you think the fact that those religions exist, or began, or spread quickly, or that people have died for them has anything at all to do with whether or not those religions are based on truth?

    Actually, yes I do. I think you would examine those in the same exact way you would examine Christianity, and that all of that would be among the factors one would be interested in knowing. There are other factors as well, since religions make truth claims (i.e. is that religion fundamentally self-contradictory, which some are, etc.)

    Bolding mine. And this is simply hilarious.

    Shall we leave it there? Not much point is wasting any more of each other’s time, if you’re only interested in insults and snide remarks. Personally, it doesn’t interest me much.

  461. Ardoise says:

    snakes and donkeys don’t speak

    OMG (Goodness) there are talking animals in the Bible? I really ought to read it sometime it sounds even more hilarious than I thought. Can we cede the resurrection and focus on the animals? They sound neat.

  462. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,
    What would you call all observable swans not being black? Is that evidence that swans are not black, or not? Yes. But only if you dismiss the swans others observed to be black.

  463. Victoria says:

    @Fleegman
    Do you actually know how many resurrection of the dead accounts there are in Scripture?
    (Probably not)

    Well here they are:

    by Elijah
    1 Kings 17:17-23

    by Elisha
    2 Kings 4:32-37, 2 Kings 8:1-5
    2 Kings 13:21

    Jarius’ daughter – by Jesus
    Matthew 9:18-19
    Mark 5:38-43
    Luke 8:40-56

    The widow’s son – by Jesus
    Luke 7:11-16

    Lazarus – by Jesus
    John 11

    Jesus Himself – by God/God’s authority/Spirit of God
    Matthew 28:1-20
    Mark 15:42-16:8
    Luke 24:1-53
    John 19:16-21:25

    Tabitha (aka Dorcas) by Peter
    Acts 9:36-42

    Eutychus – by Paul
    Acts 20:10-12

    That is a grand total of 9 cases
    There may have been more, but these are not documented – these are all ascribed to the power of God, either via His designated prophets, God Himself (as Jesus, God Incarnate), or again His appointed apostles. There was nothing casual about it – it happened, but rarely,
    and uniquely for Jesus Himself, as we have tried to explain to you, without much success, it seems.

    undocumented resurrections in Matthew’s gospel: the unnamed people who came out of their graves after Jesus’ death & resurrection
    Matthew 27:51-53 Suffice it to say that this passage is a puzzle – lots of interesting ideas floating around in Christian circles – we’ll find out for ourselves in God’s eternal kingdom (well, maybe not you).

    Resurrection is the promised future hope for all those God has redeemed – who are they, you ask? All those who have listened to God’s calling out to them, and sought God with an open heart and a willingness to trust Him; this will be a bodily resurrection to live in God’s eternal kingdom with Him; for those, like you, who have explicitly rejected God and want nothing to do with Him, it will be a bodily resurrection to judgement and eternal separation from Him. After all, that’s what you want, so God will give you what you’ve asked for. What kind of existence that will be exactly is another puzzle, because we are not sure how to take the metaphors that Jesus Himself, uses. It is a place to be avoided, I’m certain of that.

    You can consult that encyclopedia I referred to earlier for a full analysis of resurrection.

    You can go on all you like, Fleegman, with your opinions about Christianity and the Bible – it matters not to me anymore.
    As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord

  464. Justin says:

    Fleegman wrote:
    May 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm   Link

    Ok, and I’m unimpressed with your answer, which was “he was accurate about mundane things.” *Shrug*

    Just answering a question you raised.

    And I tried to head this objection off at the pass, but you clearly missed it. I’ll paraphrase what I said: “I don’t have evidence that he believed everything everyone told him.” You, on the other hand, only have his word for it. The word of a believer whose every interest was in preserving the beliefs he already held.

    Another genetic fallacy on your part. I’m likewise unimpressed.

    If he had been a higher calibre investigative historian, we might have an idea. But, no, we don’t.

    You’re of course correct. Every history book I have ever read always had an appendix documenting all the untrue historical assertions relating to the subject matter.

    I’m sure they’re not new to you; they just haven’t sunk in, clearly.

    I’m sure that is it.

    How about the evidence that theNumberOfReligionsInTheWorld – 1 that you agree were shams and still took hold? I suppose that’s not relevant somehow.

    No, it’s irrelevant. That would be a hasty generalization fallacy on your part. Color me unimpressed once again.

    I realise that Luke doesn’t hold together on its own merits.

    I have no problem saying that if Luke was the only extant historical writing concerning Jesus that yeah, the case for Christianity would be weaker. But that is because I’m intellectually honest. The point seems trivially obvious.

    That would be you.

    Please cite one of your arguments that is not simply a generalized objection without any specific ties to Christianity.

    Even if the reports in the Bible were for mundane happenings, I would still have issue believing in them. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t put words in my mouth.

    That is unfortunate. That rules out knowing quite a bit of classical Greek and Roman history, since many of those sources were written as late as 1,000 years after the event. Thankfully we have competent historians who exercise judgement, not hyperskepticism. I sincerely suspect some intellectual dishonesty here. I highly doubt we would find you on a Greek history blog debunking Alexander the Great.

    It’s obvious that you don’t have anything substantial to come back with, so you resort to attempts to undermine my qualifications to even have a discussion with you about it. It’s disappointing, to say the least.

    I simply don’t find your arguments compelling because they are general arguments from incredulity.

    You never addressed my comment about ID.

    Because it is a red herring. But your statements are quite telling. You accept general objections when raising them against Christianity, but reject the same exact logic (per you) when ID raises them. That tells me two things. First, you aren’t intellectually honest, and two, that you engage in selective hyperskepticism.

    I also notice a conspicuous silence regarding my comments on determining historical events if you include supernatural events as a possibility. I guess that’s swept under the rug, huh?

    This was addressed when you asked how I would treat other religions.

    Your objection is that I don’t have any evidence.

    Yes, you dance around raising alternative naturalistic explanations for the existence of Christianity, but for some reason you can’t provide any evidence for your theories.

    What would you call billions upon billions of people not rising from the dead?

    Consistent with Christian belief, I suppose.

    If you cannot admit, on the face of it at least, that the Bible doesn’t accurately reflect reality, then what’s the point of even discussing this?

    I’m starting to wonder the same.

    More presumption…

    Well, it was based on the scientific observation that you skip by the one pagers that others have posted for you. It was an inductive conclusion.

    Somehow I doubt this.

    Float an alternative theory using actual evidence and we’ll talk. Again, it’s not terribly difficult. You just have to have a great depth of knowledge of the subject so that you can make your case. Barnes and Noble’s bookshelves are filled with such arguments.

    I agree we should probably let this go. We’re equally unimpressed with each others arguments. I’ll just say that hyperskepticism, when applied consistently, ends up in self contradiction. Selective hyperskepticism, which is what you seem to embrace, is simply question begging.

  465. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Justin:

    [To Fleegman:]

    I simply don’t find your arguments compelling because they are general arguments from incredulity.

    Bingo.

    And ultimately self-defeating.

  466. SteveK says:

    Here you go Fleegman. Your argument, rephrased, also works to support ID theory 🙂

    Me: What would you call billions upon billions of living beings not being created from non-living objects? Is that evidence that living beings don’t come from non-living objects, or not? In the naturalist’s view, living beings came from non-living objects long ago, but nobody sees that happening today – ever.

    If you cannot admit, on the face of it at least, that the naturalist’s view doesn’t accurately reflect reality, then what’s the point of even discussing this?

  467. Ardoise says:

    It’s OK, I’ve found this site that gives the best bits, so I don’t have to waste time on the rest. 🙂

  468. Tom Gilson says:

    You’re a lot more fundamentalist than I could ever be, with your biblical hyper-literalism that cannot tell a figure of speech from a science text.

    You’re also judging the Bible from the least charitable possible position, i.e., not giving any room for how something might be true. That means that no matter what might be trey, you’ll find a way to make it absurdly impossible instead. So you laugh at your caricature and miss what might, after all, be true.

    That’s your choice. But laughing at truth is very dangerous. You will die from it, if you do not give it up and turn toward the truth in God.

  469. Ardoise says:

    Ironically that’s exactly what you guys do to atheist arguments.

  470. Ardoise says:

    In any case, I’m not denying there is good stuff in the Bible – e.g. secular ideas: the golden rule, tolerance, forgiveness, the importance of seeking truth – it’s just marred by contradictory statements, poorly constructed fables and religious claptrap. Aesop did a better job of it.

  471. Tom Gilson says:

    Ironically that’s exactly what you guys do to atheist arguments

    Your form of argument there is the tu quoque. It’s a deflection. You try to sidestep the force of what I have told you, the discovery of your intellectual dishonesty, by pointing at us and saying “You too. Nyaah Nyaah!”

    The morally and mentally wise response instead is to examine oneself and to see whether one is indeed committing the fault, before pointing at the other.

    If I have caricatured or misrepresented your position–especially if I have done it in such a long and systematic way as this skeptic’s annotation has done–I want you to point it out. I would be appalled to find out I had been so wrong and so dishonest as this person as been. I would want to correct myself.

    Now keep in mind, where people are in discourse and disagree, they try to find fault with the other’s positions. That’s normal. There are two ways to find fault, generally speaking. One is to take the opponent’s position for what it is and to find weaknesses in it. The other is to misunderstand the opponent’s position and find weaknesses in some straw man version of it. The second approach, if done intentionally, is intellectually dishonest.

    The line between the two approaches blurs when one person says to the other, “Your position P implies or entails Q,” and the second one says, “That’s false, and to say that I believe Q misrepresents me.” That could be a completely honest disagreement on both sides. It happens, for example, when theists say that a non-theist position has trouble with the issue of purpose and meaning in life. That’s not a caricature, it’s a difference of opinion on the Q that’s implied by your P.

    When we have those kinds of disagreements we can work them through, maybe not to the point of full agreement, but at least in an honest manner, discussing for example whether purpose needs to come from a transcendent source or not. I think that’s healthy.

    That’s what I try to do. Let me know if I need to examine myself. I’m letting you know that if you put any credence in that skeptic’s annotation, you need to recognize that it completely misunderstands the Bible, and intentionally so; and therefore it’s no help to you in your quest to understand what is true and right and worthy to be followed.

  472. Fleegman says:

    @Victoria

    Do you actually know how many resurrection of the dead accounts there are in Scripture?
(Probably not)

    Well, surprise! Yes, I was aware of the accounts you mention, which is why I mentioned them in the first place. Now, how many resurrections, on average, are there in other historical documents?

    Zero?

    So do you think that nine could be considered relatively common, in comparison to the normal number of resurrections in historical records? I think so. And that was the point I was trying to make. If the Bible treats rising from the dead as relatively commonplace, I would take issue with how reliable we can consider it as a source of real things that actually happened.

    And as you said, this isn’t including the mass resurrections mentioned in Matthew. But you did illustrate a perfect example of your reaction to things that don’t make sense in the Bible: “it doesn’t make sense, but it must make sense, so I’m sure it will do in Heaven.” Look, that’s absolutely fine, and I have no problem at all with you taking that view. The only thing I take issue with is your argument that you’re taking an objective view of what’s in the Bible. If it says all these dead people got up and walked around and appeared to loads of people, you’d think someone else would have mentioned it. Was the author of Matthew mistaken? Was he embellishing the story somewhat? Are these even options you can contemplate?

    …we’ll find out for ourselves in God’s eternal kingdom (well, maybe not you).

    Oh well, at least I’ll be in good company. I wouldn’t mind having a good old chinwag with Dawkins, or Attenborough. Sounds like an interesting way to pass the time.

    You can go on all you like, Fleegman, with your opinions about Christianity and the Bible – it matters not to me anymore.

    So what I think you’re saying is that you would rather I just accepted every single thing you said. Not much of a discussion, is it? I was under the impression that the comments section was for discussion, and not just an echo chamber.

    Further up in the comments, you gave a rather detailed description of what you believe about sin. What do you want me to say? “Ok, then?” Should I just keep quiet about the multitude of problems I have with each paragraph?

    I find it interesting that questioning a Christian’s beliefs invariably leads to this reaction: hostility, insults of one form or another, and threats of Hell.

    @SteveK

    What would you call all observable swans not being black? Is that evidence that swans are not black, or not? Yes. But only if you dismiss the swans others observed to be black.

    False analogy. Black swans, in your example, don’t require the suspension of natural law to exist. Additionally, if the only evidence for black swans came in the form of second hand or even first hand eyewitness testimony, the sensible reaction would be disbelief. I could also say you’re begging the question a bit by saying I’m dismissing “the swans,” although it might just be how you phrased it. Why assume there were black swans at all?

    @Justin

    I agree we should probably let this go.

    Happily.

  473. Tom Gilson says:

    Well, surprise! Yes, I was aware of the accounts you mention, which is why I mentioned them in the first place. Now, how many resurrections, on average, are there in historical documents?

    What does the average matter? How many Emancipation Proclamations are there, on average, in historical documents? How many Declarations of Independence? How many Magna Cartas, on average?

    And were you intending to imply that the biblical documents are not historical documents?? On what standard?

  474. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,

    False analogy. Black swans, in your example, don’t require the suspension of natural law to exist.

    Doesn’t matter. What’s being disputed is the justification behind coming to a certain conclusion.

    In my analogy, are you justified in concluding that all swans are white? If you ignored all the reports of black swan sightings around the globe, then, and only then, you would be justified in concluding that all swans are white. That’s my opinion. Am I wrong, Fleegman? I could be wrong.

    That’s what I see you doing with the resurrection event – ignoring it and instead focusing on the billions and billions of non-resurrections.

    But let me go one step further and put my argument into terms that are similar to the argument you used. See if any of this language sounds familiar.
    ….
    In certain parts of the globe, people see black swans pretty casually. Now, how many black swans, on average, are there in parts of the globe other than these places?

    Zero?

    If these places treat black swans as relatively commonplace, I would take issue with how reliable we can consider it as a source of real sightings that actually happened.
    ….
    Where have I gone wrong, Fleegman?

  475. SteveK says:

    Fleegman,
    If it helps, think of the resurrection event as an event that eyewitnesses claimed to be event that nature was responsible for. Does this change your view of the historical record and the reliability of the gospels?

  476. Fleegman says:

    SteveK,

    You haven’t gone wrong, as far as I can see. I don’t have a problem with what you’re saying when you used my voice to say:

    If these places treat black swans as relatively commonplace, I would take issue with how reliable we can consider it as a source of real sightings that actually happened.

    Well, what do you think? You could say the same about many things. There are many people in the world that would tell you it is a relatively commonplace occurrence to be taken aboard an alien spaceship and experimented on. There are many people — multiple millions, actually — who believe homeopathy is more than just water.

    As we have been discussing over and over in this thread, in order to convince someone who’s interested in more than unreliable eyewitness accounts, you need evidence to corroborate the story.

    I don’t think we disagree on that point, do we?

    Where we disagree, if I may, is that you think there is corroborating evidence for the resurrection, and I don’t. I don’t because the corroborating evidence for the resurrection is from the same book that treats rising from the dead as a relatively commonplace occurrence. This makes me doubt the reliability of the Bible as an authority on what really went on. The extra-biblical corroborating evidence is that Christianity grew really quickly. And as I have said — justifiably, I think — the fact that people believe in something, no matter how strongly, is not evidence that the belief is true.

  477. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Fleegman:

    As Justin rightly points out, your general criticisms are either self-defeating, because if followed consistently they entail throwing away vast amounts of knowledge, endangering the very possibility of science, or they are not followed consistently and then you are just question-begging. You want to debunk the gospel accounts? Fine; but you will have to get your hands dirty, sift trough a massive body of evidence and then state your case. Generalities of the sort “unreliable eyewitness accounts, you need evidence to corroborate the story” are worthless. And the basic reason is simply a matter of historical method: first, you start with the premise that eyewitness accounts are unreliable, another generality that without proper qualifications is either self-defeating or question-begging, but even if we grant you that, you seem to believe that there is no way to extract a *reliable* core of historical truth from such accounts, but *of course* we can, or better said, historians can. And they do it. Routinely. It is their job. The legendary and the factual are mixed up in all ancient history, but the former does not nullify the latter. If it did, we would know almost nothing about anything before the dawn of modernity. Are you by any chance a trained historian? And while the gospels are our main source of information, there is external corroborating evidence. Want to evaluate its force? References have been provided already.

    Please do not misunderstand me. Once again I am *not* arguing for the specific case of the resurrection. I am just making a very banal point on *method*: yours is wrong from the get go.

  478. Ardoise says:

    The world’s completely mad. People believe in all kind of supernatural, magical nonsense and spend their lives justifying the lies that they’ve been told. God is no more real than Father Christmas. Grow up.

  479. Tom Gilson says:

    If you want to see magical nonsense, just read Lawrence Krauss. See the OP.

    As for “God is no more real than Father Christmas,” your opinion is duly noted, it comes as no surprise, and I am quite sure it is wrong. I will spend as much effort here disputing it as you did establishing it.

    As for “Grow up,” well, thanks for the advice, but I don’t think rejecting reality is a good way to do that, so I’ll continue to pursue the greatness of the living God in and through my life. What greatness do you have to pursue?

  480. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Grow up.

    As a “true scientist” and someone who has “been trained to a high-level (post-graduate) in logic” (chuckle) what are you doing here, wasting your time with, according to you, delusional and infantile people? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time than throwing gratuitous insults, devoid of any content, grace or wit?

  481. Ardoise says:

    What greatness do I have to pursue? My own track, not what some dodgy book says I have to do to please the great headmaster in the sky, who is so clever that he created a whole universe, waited billions of years until man evolved, then sent himself in the guise of man to walk on water and heal a few people and then die for our “sins” (which by the way he created) and is so insanely narcissistic that if people (he created) don’t worship and believe in him he condemns them to eternity in hell (which he created). Oh but he loves those people who believe every word of his books of nonsense written thousands of years ago.

    Do you think Father Christmas is real? Do you have evidence against it? Do you need it?

  482. Ardoise says:

    Well, I quickly realized logic wasn’t going to work with you, so I wondered whether ridicule might fare better.

    It was a long-shot, I grant you. Your beliefs are so entrenched, you just cannot see the nonsensicality of it all. You have spent so much time justifying every detail, you have lost all sense of perspective.

  483. SteveK says:

    Ardoise,
    Your view of Christianity is so, so wrong. It may please you to know that ALL of us here reject and disbelieve the view of it that you hold. You haven’t found Christianity to be nonsensical because you haven’t found Christianity yet.

  484. Ardoise says:

    No, it’s because I haven’t been bashed over the head with it by all and sundry. Luckily, I live in the UK which has far fewer bible-bashers.

    Why is it so wrong? I’m talking about the gist – the big picture. Please tell me which of these are not true:

    (1) God created the whole universe.
    (2) Man didn’t arrive until billions of years after the start of the universe.
    (3) Man evolved (from microscopic life-forms).
    (4) God sent himself to Earth in the guise of man (Jesus).
    (5) Jesus walked on water.
    (6) Jesus healed a few people.
    (7) Jesus died for our sins.
    (8) God created sin.
    (9) God decrees that if people don’t believe in their hearts in Jesus (a.k.a. God) they will not be saved.
    (10) If you are not saved, you spend eternity in hell.
    (11) God created hell. (See 1)

  485. Justin says:

    (8) God created sin.

    That would be not a Christian belief.

  486. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    So who created it? (Ultimately I mean)

  487. SteveK says:

    Ardoise,

    (3) isn’t part of Christian theology and (2) isn’t explicitly taught in scripture.
    (8) is false and not part of Christian theology
    (9) Not a completely accurate statement but close enough. Also,it’s not a decree in the sense that it was an afterthought.

    I noticed you also left out these parts that would further bolster my comment:

    (12) God is insanely narcissistic
    (13) God only loves those people who believe every word of his books

    Your language is derogatory or condescending with respect to God and his sovereign will / purpose, thus you believe God is someone he is not – which is to say, this is theologically incompatible with Christianity.

    So you have several theological misconceptions, Ardoise.

  488. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    It’s funny because (2) and (3) are the only true ones of the lot. Or are you disputing them?

    Who created sin? (Ultimately I mean. If God created everything, he must have created sin, right? Or is there another creator even more powerful than God? No, this is just another blinding inconsistency that Christians like to sweep under the carpet.)

    I omitted things like “God is insanely narcissistic” because they are my judgement of the so-called facts, rather than the so-called facts.

    And I’d dispute (13). God may love me, but he’s still letting me go to hell for eternity, right? For daring to think for myself, daring to disagree with his proclamations? That’s an interesting kind of love.

  489. SteveK says:

    You’re wrong, Ardoise. Look it up. Scripture doesn’t explicitly say when (in a timeline of years) that man was created nor does it teach that man evolved from microscopic life-forms.

    I’ll let you ponder over the sin question. Your thinking is wrong. Did you see my analogy above regarding children (#218)?

  490. Ardoise says:

    @SteveK
    No, I mean those are the only two that are actually true – supported by overwhelming amounts of evidence. The rest are all made up by Christians.

    Of course scripture doesn’t say it. The people who wrote the Bible didn’t know anything about evolution or how long the universe was around. Funny that God didn’t tell them though, huh?

  491. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Well, I quickly realized logic wasn’t going to work with you, so I wondered whether ridicule might fare better.

    So you are here to pour ridicule. I already knew that, that was not my question. I also know that you are ignorant, irrational and ineducable (just sticking to the i’s). My question was, don’t you have anything better to do? Somy slightly more constructive way to spend your time? Is your life so miserable that to fill the vacuum you have to camp on a blog and spam it with your mockery and ridicule, which by the way, is completely devoid of any wit or grace?

  492. Justin says:

    So who created it? (Ultimately I mean)

    Whoever chooses of their own will to go against God’s will.

  493. Justin says:

    And I’d dispute (13). God may love me, but he’s still letting me go to hell for eternity, right? For daring to think for myself, daring to disagree with his proclamations? That’s an interesting kind of love.

    Wow, that’s not arrogant at all.

  494. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    No, I’m not here to pour ridicule. That is only the latest in a series of different approaches. I’m learning a lot from this discussion and I’ve even picked up a few things about Christianity along the way.

    @Justin
    You’re right, it’s not arrogant at all.

  495. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    No, I’m not here to pour ridicule. That is only the latest in a series of different approaches.

    Can you write two sentences without contradicting yourself?

    I’m learning a lot from this discussion and I’ve even picked up a few things about Christianity along the way.

    Wish I could say the same.

    God may love me, but he’s still letting me go to hell for eternity, right? For daring to think for myself, daring to disagree with his proclamations? That’s an interesting kind of love.

    If you disagree with God, then by definition, you do not want to be with Him. If you do not want to be with God, God is just doing what you want, since not being with God is what Hell is. So why exactly are you complaining, if God is giving *precisely* what you want?

  496. Ardoise says:

    So, God is all-powerful but will not do anything to stop me even though he knows the terrible consequence he has prepared for me. How nice. What a nice chap he is. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

    And he waited 13 billion years for us to evolve, in order to play this game with us.

    It’s nonsense, mate.

  497. Ardoise says:

    @GR
    I don’t disagree with God! I don’t believe in God. It’s like saying I disagree with Humpty Dumpty.

  498. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    For daring to think for myself, daring to disagree with his proclamations?

    So, an omnipotent God gives you freedom of choice and a way to reconcile with him, which you reject, challenging the one who created you and who knows more than you, and that’s not arrogant? Rhetorical question, no response necessary.

    So, God is all-powerful but will not do anything to stop me even though he knows the terrible consequence he has prepared for me.

    You just finished complaining that God might punish you for daring to exercise your free will, and here you are complaining that he doesn’t interfere with your free will. The only way these complaints can be reconciled is if you’re ultimately bemoaning the fact that you’re not God.

  499. Ardoise says:

    @Justin
    You say it’s rhetorical, so I won’t try to reply. Just replace “God” with “Humpty Dumpty” or “Voldemort” or “Santa” and you’ll get how bothered I am by your accusation.

    I’m not complaining that God might punish me for daring to exercise my free will. Because obviously I don’t believe a word of it.

    I’m saying that even the story about the gift of free will doesn’t make an iota of sense because if you use your free will to come to the conclusion he doesn’t exist, he’ll punish you in the worst way imaginable forever. It’s an odd way to give us a gift.

  500. Ardoise says:

    I notice you didn’t respond to the “he waited 13 billion years” part. All for us. And you accuse me of being arrogant!

  501. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    I don’t disagree with God! I don’t believe in God.

    A difference, that as far as the matter of Hell is concerned, makes no difference.

    The question is not whether you believe in God, is whether you are the sort of person that ultimately, wants to be with Him. I am making this distinction, because the only judge is God. There is a very apt quote of Augustine (that Beckett loved):

    There is one case of death-bed repentance recorded, that of the penitent thief, that none should despair; and only one that none should presume.

  502. Ardoise says:

    Hey GR did you know that Santa isn’t real? It’s just your dad dressed up. Sorry to break it to you like this, but someone had to, before you embarrass yourself further.

  503. Justin says:

    Adroise,

    You say it’s rhetorical, so I won’t try to reply. Just replace “God” with “Humpty Dumpty” or “Voldemort” or “Santa” and you’ll get how bothered I am by your accusation.

    Whether you believe these statements or not, you raise them as objections. I’m merely pointing out that your objections are curiously at odds with each other, even if you’re not concerned with their actuality.

    I’m saying that even the story about the gift of free will doesn’t make an iota of sense because if you use your free will to come to the conclusion he doesn’t exist, he’ll punish you in the worst way imaginable forever. It’s an odd way to give us a gift.

    It’s also not God punishing you. It’s your decision to reject God and go it on your own. Your insistence on seeing God’s punishment as something he’s doing to you as opposed to something you do to yourself is creating your self-contradiction. If you want nothing to do with God, he simply won’t force you. It’s sort of a caracature of the Christian faith and of God (which some Christians have unfortunately aided in perpetuating) that you’re arguing against. Can’t help you there. If you insist upon killing more windmills, we can’t stop you.

  504. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Ardoise:

    Hey GR did you know that Santa isn’t real? It’s just your dad dressed up. Sorry to break it to you like this, but someone had to, before you embarrass yourself further.

    Out of arguments, are we? Not that you ever had one.

    Since, you do not want to engage in serious debate, but as you yourself admit it, are here just to mock and derail the discussion, I am done with you. Bye.

  505. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise, you are not contributing much of anything but insults. Do you want to participate in accordance with the discussion policy? It’s your choice.

  506. Ardoise says:

    So none of you think it’s odd for God to provide one story about creation, that Christians believed for hundreds of years, only for us to find out that in reality it was a little different. You don’t think it’s odd that God would set things up with the big bang and evolution so that it took 13 billion+ years before we (the pinnacle of evolution? the species He’d been patiently waiting to appear?) appeared. You don’t think it’s odd that other animals seem to have just as much free will as us? You don’t think it’s odd that all these other religions have sprung up all over the place and have done throughout history? You don’t think it’s odd that there’s no scientfic evidence for God or any other supernatural being? You don’t think it’s possible for anyone involved with writing the Bible or commenting on the rise of Christianity to have exaggerated, made mistakes or made stuff up? You think that it’s perfectly reasonable that there was nothing written about Jesus during his life-time? You think that Mormonism is a scam, but you can’t even contemplate that Christanity might be too. Yep, you’re right I’m running out of arguments.

  507. Justin says:

    510.So none of you think it’s odd for God to provide one story about creation, that Christians believed for hundreds of years, only for us to find out that in reality it was a little different.

    I think that no matter how you view inspiration of scripture, to expect that God give man a set of scripture that contains a full and complete set of scientific theory is a bit much. But why stop there? Why not demand God that hand down the unified theory of everything to Moses on the mount?

    The age of the earth largely rose when Bishop James Ussher attempted to put a timeline together based on geneologies listed in the Old Testament. I’m not sure it’s even accurate to ascribe his view to ancient Hebrews.

  508. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    If you had but a little patience I could explain a coherent position on all these claimed oddities. If you bothered to look through this website you’d find a whole lot of discussion already here.

    Do you want to be involved in that discussion?

    Do you recognize that it’s a whole lot quicker and easier to ask all these questions than it is to answer them? (Again I remind you, though, the quickest thing is to look through the site and they’re already addressed.)

    Here’s the quick table of contents:

    So none of you think it’s odd for God to provide one story about creation, that Christians believed for hundreds of years, only for us to find out that in reality it was a little different.

    What you understand about what Christians have believed through the ages is probably highly distorted.

    You don’t think it’s odd that God would set things up with the big bang and evolution so that it took 13 billion+ years before we (the pinnacle of evolution? the species He’d been patiently waiting to appear?) appeared.

    No. See this related article.

    You don’t think it’s odd that other animals seem to have just as much free will as us?

    I think it’s odd that you would think that. The denial of human free will is not something anyone would have come up with apart from atheistic naturalism; as a theist I am quite sure we have free will in measure supreme compared to other animals.

    You don’t think it’s odd that all these other religions have sprung up all over the place and have done throughout history?

    No. The Bible deals with idolatry from the beginning.

    You don’t think it’s odd that there’s no scientfic evidence for God or any other supernatural being?

    No, in view of the way “scientific evidence” is typically defined as requiring naturalistic explanations.

    You don’t think it’s possible for anyone involved with writing the Bible or commenting on the rise of Christianity to have exaggerated, made mistakes or made stuff up?

    As for writing the Bible, we have reasons to believe God superintended it to be accurate. As for the rest, I guarantee it’s happened. I also know that there are standard methods to check into such possibilities, and to the extent it can be checked, Christianity ends up looking pretty strong.

    You think that it’s perfectly reasonable that there was nothing written about Jesus during his life-time?

    Of course. It was an oral culture. Things that might have been written could have been lost.

    You think that Mormonism is a scam, but you can’t even contemplate that Christanity might be too.

    What you think we cannot do is different from what is real. A whole lot of us thought Christianity was a scam once, and changed our minds.

    Yep, you’re right I’m running out of arguments.

    Fine. Do you want to participate according to the discussion policy?

  509. Ardoise says:

    But to purposely mislead us? To test our faith, right? To see how much poppycock He could get us to believe on faith, without evidence.

  510. Tom Gilson says:

    Ardoise,

    You’re assuming:

    a) That there is deception.

    b) That this deception is purposeful.

    c) That what Christianity affirms is poppycock.

    d) That faith is belief without evidence. (This has been explained previously. Did you notice?)

    e) That there is no evidence.

    If you are content holding those as your assumptions, be content, though I assure you they are all wrong.

    If it’s your purpose here to continue flinging these things as assumptions, without regard for the answers we’ve been offering, and without good-faith dialogue, that’s not welcome.

    For the third time: what is your choice?

  511. Ardoise says:

    Nah, I’ve had enough. Good luck with your lives as God-fearers. Maybe one day you’ll get the paradigm shift and see how much you’re rationalizing instead of explaining. Science is about explaining. It’s incredible what can be explained when you look for natural explanations. Adieu.

  512. Tom Gilson says:

    Adieu to you.

    You’re not banned, not disinvited. You’re welcome to come back, if (unlike some of your more recent comments) you come back in good faith and with a willingness to dialogue.