Fri - November 30, 2007

Sat - November 24, 2007

"Can Religion Offset the Effects of Child Poverty?" 

Can religion offset the effects of child poverty? Apparently so, at least in part. The NY Times opinion page reports a study by researchers from three major universities including Harvard, which includes this conclusion:

"Overall, we find strong evidence that youth with religiously active parents are less affected later in life by childhood disadvantage than youth whose parents did not frequently attend religious services. These buffering effects of religious organizations are most pronounced when outcomes are measured by high school graduation or non-smoking and when disadvantage is measured by family resources or maternal education, but we also find buffering effects for a number of other outcome-disadvantage pairs. We generally find much weaker buffering effects for other social organizations." 

Posted at 04:38 PM     Read More     |

Sun - November 18, 2007

Debunking the Resurrection Fable Fable 

There is a false belief out there that says the Resurrection of Jesus Christ was just a fable; I call it the Resurrection fable fable.

This fable runs like this: the early church was a community of persecuted outsiders, which grew up originally out of a group of people who had followed Jesus and had been impressed with his charismatic personality and message. When he was killed, they maintained some identity as a faith community. In order to hold on to that identity and to keep their nascent faith alive, this community gradually developed a mythology around Jesus and his early followers, including the imaginative claim that he had risen from the dead. This solidified over the years into an actual belief that he rose from the dead, a powerful belief (even though false) which so strengthened them that they continued to maintain their faith identity and ultimately to change the whole world. 

Posted at 07:53 PM     Read More     |

Wed - November 7, 2007

National Conference On Christian Apologetics 

I'm heading there Friday! It's not too late for you to register and come if you're anywhere within range of Charlotte, NC. The conference includes a Teen Track, and speakers including Chuck Colson, Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Gary Habermas, and more. 

Posted at 10:48 AM     Read More     |

Thu - November 1, 2007

Antony Flew: Converted Atheistic Philosopher 

It may be a bandwagon, but it's an important one and worth jumping on with other bloggers: the Benjamin Wiker/Antony Flew interview. Among other things, Flew, the distinguished, formerly formidable foe of all belief in God, now says,

"I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source.  The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary." 

Posted at 03:05 PM     Read More     |

Sat - October 27, 2007

Jesus' Resurrection: Too Improbable Even To Consider? 

For me and for many others, Jesus' resurrection is the best explanation for widely agreed historical facts. (William Lane Craig has argued this as clearly as anyone has.) This way of thinking involves what is known as an "inference to the best explanation" (IBE) form of argument. Without going into technical details, the validity of an IBE argument depends partly on how likely or unlikely the proposed explanation is, based on one's background information.

The shorthand way to put this is that it depends on the prior probability of the explanation: based on one's prior knowledge (background knowledge) how probable is the explanation that is being offered? The question regarding the resurrection is, what are the prior probabilities of Jesus having risen from the dead? 

Posted at 05:24 PM     Read More     |

Mon - October 15, 2007

Brian Trapp's "'Starglider' on God as Explanation" 

Some time ago Brian Trapp took a look at a great science fiction writer's view of God. I have always been an Arthur C. Clarke fan, as far back as reading short stories in Boy's Life magazine as a pre-teen. I don't think, though, that I've read The Fountains of Paradise, the book in which Clarke sets forth this view. He puts it in the voice of "Starglider," a hyper-intelligent alien computer: 

Posted at 12:06 PM     Read More     |

Mon - September 17, 2007

Does God Explain Anything At All? (Part 4) 

If what we know of God is true, then that knowledge explains much of life (ultimately, all of it). That's my thesis, in contention with doctor(logic)'s belief that there's nothing explanatory about God at all. The nub of our difference is coming clearer now. 

Posted at 10:50 AM     Read More     |

Thu - September 13, 2007

Does God Explain Anything At All? (Part 3) 

There is no denying the power of scientific explanation. How far does this power go? doctor(logic), a physicist, has worked with us to define what "explanation" means in his terms, and I'll hazard a guess that his view comes almost entirely from his scientific background. His perspective is a good representation of scientism, the view that there is either no truth or no knowledge but what can be gained or confirmed through science. In my view this is a corrosive view, not just to Christianity but to all kinds of human experience and knowledge. In the end it's self-corrosive, for it defeats itself.

Here's his statement again:

- A) An explanation must be more than a restatement of observations
- B) An explanation must be more than a reference to an explanation that we don't yet have, but hope to have in the future.
- C) Vague references to God do not qualify under (B)
- D) Predictiveness does qualify, and in fact is the only thing that does qualify (see especially here for that)
- E) Prediction has the implication that some future observations will raise your confidence in the explanation, and other future observations will lower your confidence in the application (see especially here for that)
- F) That which is not explained in this model is just unexplained; no other explanatory schema are admitted

(There's more on (F) here.) There we have it. It's time to take a close look at it. 

Posted at 03:48 PM     Read More     |

Mon - September 10, 2007

Does God Explain Anything At All? (Part 2) 

I'm continuing our pursuit of whether doctor(logic) is correct in saying that God is never a satisfactory explanation for anything we might observe. We've been working on a fair and complete statement of what constitutes explanation to doctor(logic). It's time to try to gather what we've discussed since my first try on this, and see if this covers it adequately. As in Part 1 of this series, the purpose here is not to criticize but to understand.

Update 5:30 pm: The intention here has been to write a statement of a position that we can work from; doctor(logic)'s position, that is. Based on his 4:57 pm comment on this thread, I'm editing what follows so that we have an agreed record here of his position. This post is a work in progress, pending his agreement with its content. 

Posted at 12:23 PM     Read More     |

Fri - September 7, 2007

Does God Explain Anything At All? (Part 1) 

doctor(logic) says no, God does not explain anything at all. We're going to start exploring that in a fresh way here.

I just re-read the comment thread following the post on "God of the Gaps." I haven't been much involved in that conversation, but essentially that's the position dl has been taking there, in discussion with Holopupenko and SteveK. Drawing on that and much previous experience, I'm going to try to state what dl believes explanation is, and why God doesn't qualify as one. 

Posted at 03:57 PM     Read More     |

Mon - September 3, 2007

Kill the Ump Analogy! 

Jacob Stump's umpire analogy, which he has employed here in comments and also in the article just discussed here, is mortally flawed. Angry baseball fans sometimes shout, "Kill the ump!" My tendencies are not so violent--but we can kill the umpire analogy, at least. 

Posted at 10:00 AM     Read More     |

Jacob Stump: "On the Importance of Evidence for an Emerging Faith" 

Jacob Stump, frequent commenter here, wrote "On the Importance of Evidence for an Emerging Faith" for the Open Source Theology website. We know from Jacob's contributions here that he takes a "post-structuralist" position regarding knowledge and truth, which is not far from what is commonly called a postmodern position. So I was interested to see how he would handle this topic. 

Posted at 08:55 AM     Read More     |

Wed - August 29, 2007

How Does Your Brain Actually Think? (The Argument From Reason Revisited) 

Earlier today I wrote a long "combox" comment on the Argument from Reason, which I later decided I should bring out to a more visible space.

The Argument from Reason comes in many forms, all seeking to show that naturalistic explanations for reality are inadequate, in that they don't explain human reasoning capacities very well. It's not, strictly speaking, an argument for Christian theism, but rather an attempt to show that physicalism (also known as materialism or naturalism), a major alternative to theism, doesn't really work. Physicalism is the doctrine that all life is fully explained by the operations of natural law and chance on physical matter; there is nothing extra-natural or supernatural involved. (Victor Reppert has written definitively on the history and several forms of this argument, and continues to blog on it, in two different locations.)

We're breaking into the middle of a discussion here, but I think what's here is fairly self-contained. I post this at the risk of a little confusion. doctor(logic) and Randy have already written follow-up comments to question what I wrote, and there have been answers to them, in turn, from other theists. This creates a second discussion thread on the same material. (Also potentially confusing: I've corrected the proposition numbering [P1, P2, etc.], and now it's different than in the comment I wrote this morning.) I'll just have to hope we can keep it all straight. 

Posted at 08:55 PM     Read More     |

Sat - July 14, 2007

When Can You Call It a Prayer Answer? 

In my recent story about two churches becoming united, I attributed much of what has happened to God's work. Our week-long scheduled cooperative mission came to a close a few hours ago, on just as positive a note as it has played out all week. What an experience it has been!

But "doctor(logic)," in comments following that blog entry, took exception to my belief that God was at work here. In summary, his point is that the things I (and others here) attributed to God, would have happened anyway, with or without God, and there's no rational basis for believing God intervened in any way. We who think he did are just superstitious; we're falling into a confirmation bias trap. 

Posted at 05:19 PM     Read More     |

© 2004-2006 by Tom Gilson. Permission is granted to quote up to two paragraphs of any blog entry, provided that a link back to the original is included or (in print) the website address is provided. Please email me regarding longer quotes. All other rights reserved.
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