Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the evidence for God

I want to get back to the second half of William Lane Craig’s “Theistic Critiques of Atheism,” but first I’d like to take a moment to address some comments that have been recently added to my post on “Why Vox Day Fails.” A visitor named Tony posted his concerns about the way the word “extraordinary” is used in the dictum, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” arguing that it’s more common to hear people claim that God exists, and therefore it’s not “extraordinary” to claim that He does.

My reply pointed out that the term “extraordinary” refers to the nature of the thing being claimed, not the frequency with which the claim is made. I then pointed out the sort of evidence we ought to see if there really did exist a good and almighty God Who loved us enough to die for us, e.g. He ought to show up in real life. Since He plainly does not do that, the story Christians tell about God is not consistent with the truth we actually observe in the real world.

Tony’s reply is below the fold.

I understand the context. However, if the word is used in a specialized way, and the context is a catch-phrase of any kind, it further damages the use of the language. as the meanings of words change, confusion arises. If a phrase resembles idiom, (in that the words are used repetitiously in a way that can be misunderstood, but is generally not because cultural contextual understanding) then the phrase is useless in logic since it has no absolute meaning and therefor conveys no concreteness in its own right. It becomes dogma since it has a flaw that can be pointed out, but the flaw is so minor to those who would defend it that it is dismissed as irrelevant.

Hi Tony, thanks for writing back. You needn’t worry about the language being damaged or misused here. The important point about the saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” is not some quirk of idiom or ambiguity, it’s a genuine and significant observation about discovering what the truth is. If the words themselves concern you, we can express the same idea in completely different terms, like this: whenever you tell a story, and claim that it is about the real world, we should be able to look at the real world and find that it is consistent with your story.

The problem with the Christian stories about God is that they not only fail to be consistent with the real world, they fail to be consistent with themselves. You yourself have been told some of these inconsistent and self-contradictory stories, as you share below.

So, on to answer the specific inconsistency of not appearing to every one. There really isn’t an inconsistency, merely a failure to find an explanation. The explanation comes from the old Testament. When Moses is on Sanai, he asks to see God. God tells him that he cannot show him his face since to do so would kill Moses, and of course, God still had use for him alive. So as a compromise, Moses is allowed to see the back of God. The result, as the story goes, is that Moses’s face shines so brightly afterward that the people cannot look on him and he must wear a veil. So, if God showed up in church on Sunday, believers would have to wear veils or die and become useless to God. Jesus also, in appearing to two individuals after ascension, glows brightly, blinding one of them. Again, not something everyone wants to have happen every Sunday.

Now, if you read other passages in the Bible, you will find stories going as far back as the Garden of Eden in which God shows up and speaks with men without killing or blinding them. Jacob supposedly even wrestled with God without being killed or blinded. Moses allegedly encountered God numerous times, and spoke with Him, before the “you can only see My back” incident. And Jesus, of course, was seen, heard, touched, arrested, crucified, and buried, without any of the people being killed or blinded by their interactions with him.

So you see the contradiction: on the one hand, the story claims that God cannot show up in real life without the undesirable side effect of killing and blinding those who see Him (which is a contradictory claim in itself, because how can you blind someone after you’ve killed them?). But at the same time, the stories also tell us that God can and does show up in real life without killing or blinding anyone.

We hear these stories, and we want to know whether or not they are true. Truth is consistent with itself, so what we see in real life ought to be consistent with what we hear in the stories. Since God does not show up in real life, we find that the real world is not consistent with the stories men tell about God. But how could it be, when the stories contradict each other! It cannot be true both that God can, and cannot, show up without undesirable side effects. If He can, then it is not true to claim that He cannot, and vice versa. Yet the stories present both alternatives as being equally true, and thus we know that, at the very least, we cannot trust the stories men tell us about God.

The other question is whether or not this is part of God’s ineffable plan. Chances are the answer is no, or it would be done. It is entirely consistent for God to not show up physically to almost everyone. However, he does speak to those who he feels need to hear from him directly. Just as we do not always answer demands according to our own choices, so does God. If you haven’t heard him, he doesn’t think you need to. You feelings that you deserve this to happen to you is consistent with hubris. His failure to listen or obey is entirely consistent. The first King of Israel, Saul, tried to force God to speak to, and favor him and he failed to make that happen. Just like the government has no obligation to change laws to suit you exactly, God has no need to inconsistently show up simply for your personal gratification.

You need to remember, though, that what we are dealing with here is not a God whose observed behavior is hard to understand. We’re only dealing with the stories that men tell us, and how to determine whether or not those stories are true. The stories men tell are about a God Who does show up, and Who is quite literally dying to be with us, in a personal, intimate, face-to-face relationship. Well, if those stories were true, the most fundamental and obvious consequence of their truth would be that God would show up in real life to participate in that relationship He was literally dying to establish. It’s not that human hubris is demanding that God do this or do that, we’re simply examining the claims of the story in light of the real world evidence.

Faith in the stories that men tell about God is different from faith in God. If God were to show up in real life, then we could put our faith in Him, because we would have an actual object for our faith. In His consistent and universal absence, however, the only things we have to put our faith in are the inconsistent and self-contradictory stories of men. But when you believe whatever men tell you, despite obvious internal and external contradictions in their stories, that’s not faith, it’s gullibility.

According to the Bible, there’s no such thing as a person who does not need to know that God exists, because knowing God is an essential part of salvation. Men tell us that God wants us to be saved, yet He does not give us any means of knowing Him other than to gullibly put our faith in whatever men tell us about Him. Doesn’t that sound just a bit fishy?

You’ve written more, but I’m out of time for today, so let’s pick this up again tomorrow.

 
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)
Loading...Loading...
Posted in Unapologetics. 29 Comments »

29 Responses to “Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the evidence for God”

  1. Jayman Says:

    The important point about the saying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” is not some quirk of idiom or ambiguity, it’s a genuine and significant observation about discovering what the truth is. If the words themselves concern you, we can express the same idea in completely different terms, like this: whenever you tell a story, and claim that it is about the real world, we should be able to look at the real world and find that it is consistent with your story.

    The phrase is clearly ambiguous since Vox, Tony, and yourself all understood the phrase differently. I’ve run across the same problem before.

    Truth is consistent with itself, so what we see in real life ought to be consistent with what we hear in the stories. Since God does not show up in real life, we find that the real world is not consistent with the stories men tell about God.

    48% of adult Americans claim to have personally experienced or witnessed a miracle. Thus, the Biblical notion that God intervenes in history is consistent with what we observe in real life. Moreover, at least in the case of those who have personally experienced a miracle, extraordinary evidence has been provided for this intervention.

    On the other hand, you are making an extraordinary claim when you say God never intervenes in history. In essence you are saying that 48% of Americans were mistaken, deceived, or deluded. And not just some of those people, but each and every one of them. That is an extraordinary claim and you have provided no evidence to support it, let alone extraordinary evidence. If you were to try and explain many of the miracles you would offer extraordinary explanations as well.

    In the end, if you truly only believe extraordinary claims when given extraordinary evidence, you should be non-committal on God’s intervention in history because you don’t have extraordinary evidence for or against such intervention. Since you appear to be an atheist, and not an agnostic, I question whether you truly believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  2. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    @Jayman:

    “In essence you are saying that 48% of Americans were mistaken, deceived, or deluded. And not just some of those people, but each and every one of them.”

    Whoa, whoa whoa whoa.

    You’re saying that it’s unlikely that 48% of a country made up of people like these:

    http://farm1.static.flickr.com/236/2468848922_f959e85c08.jpg?v=0

    is affected by cognitive bias? You’re saying that it’s MORE likely that a supreme being created a species, got mad at them for acting like he made them, cursed them, and then sacrificed himself to himself to allow himself to give them a chance to let themselves off the hook of a rule he created?

    Are you for real?

  3. John Morales Says:

    Jayman:

    In the end, if you truly only believe extraordinary claims when given extraordinary evidence, you should be non-committal on God’s intervention in history because you don’t have extraordinary evidence for or against such intervention.

    Really.
    So, if I were to claim that I’m a fire-breathing Dragon disguised as a puny human, you’d accept that at face value?
    And you think the Deacon should be non-commital about that claim, given his only evidence is this missive?
    Heh.

  4. Chayanov Says:

    “So, if I were to claim that I’m a fire-breathing Dragon disguised as a puny human, you’d accept that at face value?
    And you think the Deacon should be non-commital about that claim, given his only evidence is this missive?”

    Well, of course not because you’re obviously making that up. But all those other people who claimed to have observed miracles, they’re sincere about it.

    And for the sake of argument we’ll say they are sincere in their claims. But it’s still just a claim, not proof of a claim, and so, ironically, we’re back to the beginning — we need extraordinary evidence to support these claims, not just somebody’s say-so.

    If Jayman accepts as evidence nothing more than someone’s word, he must be a favorite mark of con artists.

  5. Tony Says:

    “Extraordinary claim” in following the accepted use of English states the claim to be extraordinary, not the contents. The sentiment is understandable, the language is still sloppy.

    “whenever you tell a story, and claim that it is about the real world, we should be able to look at the real world and find that it is consistent with your story.”

    Really, was that hard? It didn’t take very long to come up with either, did it? All I was saying is that it is better to select precise words with a moment’s pause, than to quickly repeat the possibly inaccurate words of others. And you did quite admirably choose the better option.

    “Now, if you read other passages in the Bible, you will find stories going as far back as the Garden of Eden in which God shows up and speaks with men without killing or blinding them. Jacob supposedly even wrestled with God without being killed or blinded. Moses allegedly encountered God numerous times, and spoke with Him, before the “you can only see My back” incident. And Jesus, of course, was seen, heard, touched, arrested, crucified, and buried, without any of the people being killed or blinded by their interactions with him.”

    Now, as far as Jacob’s wrestling, nowhere in that story does Jacob’s opponent say he is God. Nor does the passage say he is. It says Jacob wrestled with a man. Jacob then calls the place Puriel to say he has seen God and lived. No reference is made to why he claims this. Therefor the assumption is dogma based on unsupported inference and is disregarded as such.

    Other than in Eden, before the Fall of Man, which is pertinent to this exception, I know of no instance other than Sanai where the physical form of God is related to have been seen. Adam hides from God after he eats of the fruit, no mention of a face to face visitation with Adam at that time or after is evident. From this point until Moses and then afterward, no physical manifestation of God is shown to any human. A voice, a burning bush, a pillar of smoke, a column of fire, The Angel of the Lord, or some other angel are the storied representations of God.

    Not one other physical appearance is made. Ezekiel sees only the throne of God, not the occupier of the throne. Where else does God appear fully to any man or woman? Jesus on Earth, before ascension is a man. He is a representative of God, but not the actual being in original form. Jesus is an incarnation. After returning to Heaven, he appears twice more and is glowing both times. If you have verses to contradict my memory, present them. Otherwise you are referencing assumptions made by yourself and/or others. Dogma, again.

    “So you see the contradiction: on the one hand, the story claims that God cannot show up in real life without the undesirable side effect of killing and blinding those who see Him (which is a contradictory claim in itself, because how can you blind someone after you’ve killed them?)”

    Since I didn’t saying “killing and blinding” I am not the source of that contradiction. I’m not sure how seriously I should take the words of someone who cites as contradictory a phrase they themselves just made up. Unless it was intended as a self-effacing joke from the start.

    Blinded and killed would be entirely possible. Since “and” does not in itself denote respective chronology of that which it joins, it is a bit of a stretch to base a claim of contradiction on the assumption it does. Since clear language was my original point, I propose that blinded should come first in the sentence for clarity. An axe across the bridge of the nose can blind, then kill. So can drinking a lot of grain alcohol. Nuclear bombs, also.

    Anyway, you are also attempting to define the terms of a relationship to suit your arguments. Since God himself is never killed (remember: incarnation) he cannot have been dying for the relationship. You can say long distance relationships rarely work, and I would agree. It is also said that many are called but few are chosen.

    Just like dating on-line. We hope it will work, some pursue it on the belief it might. Maybe it will. Many also play the lottery with similar results and similar possibility of success. Failure to try because of a lack of evidence for guaranteed success means we would never discover whether our hopes are unfounded or not. The question is are we seeking discovery, are we seeking truth, or are we demanding it from the safety of risk-less endeavor? Again, we can look to Einstein. We would likely still be trusting in Newtonian physics if he had tried to buy his own telescopic camera and finance his own astronomical eclipse observations to “make sure” before publishing his theory of Relativity.

    And on a related point, the relationship you describe and expect from God is perhaps peppered not only with your own beliefs of what a relationship with God is, but also on the beliefs of others. I in no way claim that other people are right. I am perfectly fine with myself being wrong. I have faith and hope that I am not. I am pointing out that personal perspective is coloring the logic of your argument. It is indeed gullible to believe wholeheartedly all of the substance found in the words of others. But this means that to dis-believe based on the words of others is equally gullible. Logic has two edges. To truly attempt to grasp the sword of reason, one must be prepared to accept that there may be no handle, and that even if there is a handle, one’s grasp may not always be placed upon it. Clarity is quite painful, in my experience.

    And we are indeed questioning dealing with a god whose behavior is hard to understand, not the stories. The stories are not God. There are many debates amongst theologians as far as how “inspired” the Bible is. Is it literal or figurative, or somewhere in between? Again, this has no bearing on God, that has bearing on what individual humans believe. You seem to be basing your opinion of God on what some people believe and also on what you want to believe as the valid bar which you have set above what you are willing to accept.

    You create your own contradiction with the subtlest and most human of straw men, and my guess is that it is because you don’t want proof. I propose that you demand evidence you know that you will be unlikely to receive precisely so you don’t have to receive it. Evidence that the stories themselves show is unlikely. Yet, even the lack of support for divine visitation in the stories that you demand to be represented in the real world you disregard by claiming that you think that such visitation should be common.

    You confuse your own perspective of what should be with what is and demand that what is must conform to what you think should be to prove to you what is. How’s that for a circular argument? And furthermore, if events do happen that conform to your view of what you think is supposed to happen, they would be inconsistent which would mean that they fail the test of consistency. The straw man knocks itself down.

    You do not wish to be amongst the commoners. You wish to be the focus of the story. The hero gets to communicate with God. The extras do not. Indeed, if one assumes the stories to be true and agrees with demographers as to the population at time of most of these events, God appears to an individual or very small groups, who then claim a missive from God, to the belief or dis-belief of those who were not present. Hence one finds that persons visited or communicated with by God are extremely rare and the acceptance rate of the retelling of the extraordinary events is on par with the real world

    You ignore an almost incredibly consistent real-world manifestation of the stories where most people who follow God do not see him or hear his voice, and instead opt for the appeal to emotion that only if everyone is allowed this privilege should anyone believe the claim to be valid. By what evidence in the Bible do you base the notion that God is offering some kind of “Faith Socialism” where all people will be presented with the amount of evidence needed to guarantee their individual faith? The Bible also clearly states that Christians have no obligation to force others to believe, only to relay the information. It also states many will not believe even though they are told. And that amongst those who claim to follow God, are many who are actually following their own path and have no understanding of God. Again, the words are reflected in the real world.

    As far as I’ve read concerning this topic, you ask for evidence of consistency concerning stories and real-world happenings. I have shown this consistency quite clearly and you have thus far failed to see it.

    And yes, in case you are wondering, conversations with me are often this long, tedious, and tangent-ridden. It helps me focus on life when I pause for these conversations. This is my version of stopping to smell the roses.

  6. Jayman Says:

    ThatOtherGuy:

    You’re saying that it’s unlikely that 48% of a country made up of people like these is affected by cognitive bias?

    I accept that everyone (not just 48%) can be mistaken from time to time. What I find extraordinary is the claim that each and every one of these millions of individuals just so happened to be mistaken at the time they thought they were experiencing or witnessing a miracle and, moreover, that other witnesses of the same event were mistaken in the exact same way.

    You’re saying that it’s MORE likely that a supreme being created a species, got mad at them for acting like he made them, cursed them, and then sacrificed himself to himself to allow himself to give them a chance to let themselves off the hook of a rule he created?

    My point is that many atheists make an extraordinary claim (that they can explain every alleged miracle without resorting to the supernatural) in order to deny another extraordinary claim (that God intervenes in history) and that they accept their claim without extraordinary evidence. Such atheists don’t follow their own advice. Whether extraordinary claim A is more likely than extraordinary claim B is irrelevant because such atheists assert that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not that an extraordinary claim is merely more likely than an alternative.

  7. Jayman Says:

    John Morales:

    So, if I were to claim that I’m a fire-breathing Dragon disguised as a puny human, you’d accept that at face value?

    No, for two reasons relevant to our discussion. First, I do not subscribe to the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Second, because denying your claim does not require me to accept an alternative extraordinary claim without extraordinary evidence. On both these counts I differ from Deacon.

    And you think the Deacon should be non-commital about that claim, given his only evidence is this missive?

    Deacon needs to make up his mind regarding whether he believes that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence or not? On the one hand, he says he accepts it. On the other hand, he believes that all alleged miracles can be explained without appeals to the supernatural despite the fact that he does not have extraordinary evidence to support him in this. In order to be consistent, Deacon must either remain neutral regarding God’s interaction in history or believe that extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary evidence.

  8. Jayman Says:

    Chayanov:

    And for the sake of argument we’ll say they are sincere in their claims. But it’s still just a claim, not proof of a claim, and so, ironically, we’re back to the beginning — we need extraordinary evidence to support these claims, not just somebody’s say-so.

    Consider the first miracle mentioned in the Newsweek article I linked to in my first post:

    A decade ago, at the age of 12, Bernadette McKenzie found that she could no longer stand upright, even after three operations. She suffered from a tethered spinal cord, a rare congenital condition causing constant pain. The nuns at her school in suburban Philadelphia began a series of prayers, seeking the intercession of their deceased founder, Mother Frances de Sales Aviat, whom they regard as a saint. On the fourth day, Bernadette herself knelt by her bed, telling God that if this was to be her life she would accept it. But she wanted to know–a sign. If she were to walk again, she pleaded, let her favorite song, “Forever Young,” play next on the radio. It did. She immediately jumped up and ran downstairs to tell her family. Bernadette didn’t even notice that her physical symptoms had disappeared, something her doctors say is medically inexplicable. Her recovery is currently being evaluated by the Vatican as a possible miracle [it’s since been accepted].

    Nearly all claims ultimately rest on some form of testimony, but this one rests on the testimony of multiple people (Bernaddette, her family, the nuns, the doctor, and anyone else who knew her condition and its cure) and is medically inexplicable. Undoubtedly an extraordinary event took place (extraordinary in the sense that it is unusual or abnormal). If you believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence you only have a few options when presented with stories like this if you want to remain consistent:

    (1) You can attempt to provide an explanation that is not extraordinary (unusual, abnormal). However, this route fails to explain many alleged miracles because what happens to people like Bernadette is extraordinary.

    (2) You can investigate the story and find that the evidence is extraordinary (exceptional in quality or quantity). An atheist has presumably not found such extraordinary evidence or he would no longer be an atheist. A theist may have found extraordinary evidence.

    (3) You can remain neutral on the matter. You realize that both a natural and a supernatural explanation are extraordinary and that you do not have extraordinary evidence for either explanation. At the same time you believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Neutrality is the only way you can stay consistent. The atheist cannot choose this option without becoming an agnostic.

    (4) You can discard the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and choose between your options based on some other criteria.

    How can you be a consistent atheist and believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence? It seems to only be a belief that can logically be held by theists and agnostics.

  9. pboyfloyd Says:

    “Countless men, women and children experience the miracle of the Eucharist on a daily and weekly basis.”, says Father William A. Wright, the pastor of St. Bernadette Parish where Leonie Aviat supposedly cured that Bernadette McKenzie about twenty years ago!

    The bar is set SO low on miracles that the ‘professionals’ themselves consider it a miracle, just dishing out crackers and cheap wine!

  10. GearHedEd Says:

    Tony(?) said,

    “It is entirely consistent for God to not show up physically to almost everyone. However, he does speak to those who he feels need to hear from him directly.”

    By this knucklehead’s reasoning, atheists don’t hear from god because they don’t need to. Thanks for the permission to stay an atheist, dipshit!

  11. pboyfloyd Says:

    Duncan, how dare you disrespect Tony and Jayman’s magical thinking.

    Tony is a word magician, bickering over the vagueness of the saying, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!” to trap you into a narrower meaning.

    “.. damages the use of the language. as the meanings of words change, confusion arises.” says Tony.

    I can’t wait for the ‘Tony’ edition of the Bible! I, for one will pray morning, noon and night that such a book in ‘in the pipe, five by five’.

    If we could only cut through the confusion caused by translating Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek, then Latin then Shakespearean English to our modern day usage, we could then concentrate on whether magical thinkers have a ‘leg to stand on’

    Example:- Isaiah uses ‘morning star’ to describe Satan. John, in Revelation ‘quotes’ Jesus as describing himself as a ‘morning star!’

    If only Tony would point his big brain at this most magical of books, you know, to ‘clarify’, such a thing would be worthy of his talent!

    But alas, calloo callay!
    Don’t think I ought to pray!
    ‘Derision’ is simply Tony’s tool,
    to catch the unmagical-thinking ‘fool’.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Now, now, Jayman has presented opinions that many of us will disagree with, but he has presented them politely and with due respect. He should be responded to in kind, and encouraged to voice his opinions in this thoughtful and courteous manner. Please save the abuse for those who are openly abusive.

    His ideas, of course, are open to critique (as are mine), but I would very much welcome his continued participation.

  13. John Morales Says:

    As the Deacon said.

    Jayman, here’s some thoughts on the issues you raise – note that I’m assuming that by a miracle you mean “a sensibly perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can only be explained by divine intervention.”

    I think you’re conflating miracles with extraordinary events; clearly, the former must of necessity be the latter, but not the converse.
    What would make an event miraculous is if it (a) it’s clearly contrary to the “laws of nature” (in practice that it contradicts current scientific theories (which would make such a theory wrong)) and (b) the most parsimonious reason for that is divine intervention.

    So I consider there’re two levels of extraordinariness; first, not just that something is unexplainable, but that is is contrary to the laws of nature, and second, that the explanation is necessarily divine.

    I don’t think the example you cite (Bernadette) meets either criterion; but I grant that something like the Sun being observed to be standing still in the sky for a measurable time would meet (a), and that if it were to be repeatable upond the appropriate religous ceremony, it would meet (b) as well. So I concede under certain conditions the miracle claim could conceivably be met.

    It is the difficulty of achieving both (a) and (b) that I would describe as the requirement of extraordinary evidence. Which is my main point.

    — further notes.

    In the linked Newsweek article, which you clearly accept as substantive, it says “Miracles are found in all the world religions.”

    Parenthetically, note that since many of the world religions are clearly mutually exclusive, the claimed causal agencies are also exclusive.

    Before divine agencies can be postulated as a cause of inexplicable phenomena (the “gaps” in current knowledge), the existence of the supernatural realm and of denizens existing there must have been established – if not, then any non-established agency (e.g. highly-advanced aliens) could equally well be employed as “explanatory”.

    As James Randi’s $1M challenge has shown, when tests of the supernatural are undertaken, they’ve without exception failed to be sustaine under controlled conditions. The evidence is always anecdotal.

    In face, the existence of the supernatural has failed every scientific test; consider that The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in London in 1882.. Parapsychology today is no more advanced than then – nothing has been achieved – compare that to the progress that any reputable scientific discipline e.g. geology or chemistry (argon was discovered in that year)).

    So, claiming that supernatural denizens cause currently unexplainable events is not credible nor is it explanatory, since the supernatural is yet to be shown to exist. There’s a way to go before I even consider that claimed miracles are in any way evidence of deities.

  14. observant Says:

    Tony,
    You seem to be somewhat confused.
    God did not appear to Moses or anyone else for that matter.
    The problem is with your understanding of scripture.

    The Bible said >
    John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

    1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

    As you can see by the scripture that I provided No man has ever seen God at any time.

    Jesus is the one ,in whom men were able to see, Both in the O.T. and N.T.

  15. » Comment Promotion: Extraordinary claims and the frequency of divine intervention Evangelical Realism Says:

    […] writes: 48% of adult Americans claim to have personally experienced or witnessed a miracle. Thus, the […]

  16. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, I have made a response but it’s still awaiting moderation. I guess it’ll come through once the Deacon returns.

  17. Tony Says:

    pboyfloyd Says:

    “Example:- Isaiah uses ‘morning star’ to describe Satan. John, in Revelation ‘quotes’ Jesus as describing himself as a ‘morning star!’”
    If only Tony would point his big brain at this most magical of books, you know, to ‘clarify’, such a thing would be worthy of his talent!

    But alas, calloo callay!
    Don’t think I ought to pray!
    ‘Derision’ is simply Tony’s tool,
    to catch the unmagical-thinking ‘fool’.”

    Isaiah does not refer to Satan as the “morning star”, he says Lucifer, son of the morning, and in reality, “Lucifer” refers to the Latin term for the planet Venus, the morning star. and is a direct translation in that the original scripture uses “Helal, Son of Shahar”, which would translate to “[the planet]Venus, son of the dawn”. Theologians, such as Jerome built up this passage along with others to create the myth of Lucifer, the fallen angel who became Satan.

    As a matter of fact, I’ve used that verse to point out dogma to Christians. Because nowhere in the Bible is the story of Lucifer becoming Satan told. It doesn’t exist. However several passages like this one are ‘cited’ because they appear to fit the story. That’s not reason, that is taking an assumption and proving it retroactively using evidence that never demonstrated the assumed notion in the first place. If you look at that passage as applying to a fallen earthly king whose title happened to be Morning Star, just as the surrounding passages are messages to earthly kings, the verses fit into their context with no supernatural being having been addressed.

    Also, “satan” is not really a proper name, either. It means, loosely, one who blocks, or opposes. The word “satan” is used at various times in the original writings to describe ones who oppose, including those sent by God to oppose. Also, in Job “Satan” is found amongst God’s court and God actively speaks to him, does not appear angry with him, and God sets boundaries for his actions with no complaint from this supposed “opposite”. Again the facts do not support the dogma. You however, cite the dogma as evidence of my naivety, only succeeding in demonstrating your own.

    Here’s an idea: Do some research.

    I’m just going to dismiss the rest of your post as drivel. Me? Derisive? Yes. Arrogant, also.

  18. Tony Says:

    # GearHedEd Says:
    January 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    “It is entirely consistent for God to not show up physically to almost everyone. However, he does speak to those who he feels need to hear from him directly.”

    By this knucklehead’s reasoning, atheists don’t hear from god because they don’t need to. Thanks for the permission to stay an atheist, dipshit!”

    That would be the reasoning, yes. It’s possible you aren’t worth the effort. And you don’t require my permission to do anything. Personally, I claim no authority over you. I wasn’t even talking to you, nor aware of your existence. I’m discussing something with someone else entirely.

    However, if you find that you feel appreciative that God does not personally interfere in your affairs by forcing you to believe or follow anything, well then that’s fine. I would assume that is precisely what you want in the first place. Wish granted, so to speak.

  19. Jayman Says:

    John Morales:

    Jayman, here’s some thoughts on the issues you raise – note that I’m assuming that by a miracle you mean “a sensibly perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can only be explained by divine intervention.”

    I would define a miracle as an act of a supernatural being. It may or may not be perceived by humans at all. It may or may not appear to be natural. If the most parsimonious theory for how something happened is that a supernatural being did it, I would consider that a confirmed miracle. I would not demand that it is the only explanation because it is easy to come up with multiple explanations for nearly anything.

    I think you’re conflating miracles with extraordinary events; clearly, the former must of necessity be the latter, but not the converse.

    I’m not (intentionally) conflating the two and I’m not sure how you reached such a conclusion.

    In the linked Newsweek article, which you clearly accept as substantive, it says “Miracles are found in all the world religions.”

    Parenthetically, note that since many of the world religions are clearly mutually exclusive, the claimed causal agencies are also exclusive.

    I agree that the tenets of different religions are often mutually exclusive. Of course that would not hinder a supernatural being from acting. I initially only linked to the article to show that 48% of adult Americans claim to have experienced or witnessed a miracle. I just used the first miracle story in the article to show that extraordinary events will force you to choose between extraordinary theories and that atheists are prone to make that choice without extraordinary evidence.

    Before divine agencies can be postulated as a cause of inexplicable phenomena (the “gaps” in current knowledge), the existence of the supernatural realm and of denizens existing there must have been established – if not, then any non-established agency (e.g. highly-advanced aliens) could equally well be employed as “explanatory”.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, it would be impossible to postulate a cause for any phenomena. It sounds like you won’t believe the evidence in favor of X’s existence until the existence of X has been established. I know you use the term inexplicable phenomena but all phenomena start without an explanation.

    As James Randi’s $1M challenge has shown, when tests of the supernatural are undertaken, they’ve without exception failed to be sustaine under controlled conditions. The evidence is always anecdotal.

    According to Wikipedia he’s only tested 54 people. Also, his tests appear to be for those who claim to possess paranormal powers, which are not usually supernatural according to our definitions.

    In face, the existence of the supernatural has failed every scientific test; consider that The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in London in 1882.. Parapsychology today is no more advanced than then – nothing has been achieved – compare that to the progress that any reputable scientific discipline e.g. geology or chemistry (argon was discovered in that year)).

    Psychic abilities are not supernatural according to either of our definitions. Plus, your link was not as negative as you imply. In 1979 the majority of scientists and academics thought the study of ESP was worthwhile. The results of Ganzfeld experiments are statistically significant. Remote viewing seems to be a divisive issue, but I found the quote from Wiseman interesting. He said that remote viewing was proven according the standards of other areas of science but we should demand more evidence since it is such a revolutionary conclusion.

  20. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, thank you. I think I understand your definition of miracle.

    I’m not (intentionally) conflating the two [miracles with extraordinary events] and I’m not sure how you reached such a conclusion.

    Because the unexplained healings you refer to don’t prima facie violate natural law, which is what I defined as a miracle.
    They’re not in the same category as a resurrection or the regrowth of an amputated limb.

    Before divine agencies can be postulated as a cause of inexplicable phenomena (the “gaps” in current knowledge), the existence of the supernatural realm and of denizens existing there must have been established

    If I’m understanding you correctly, it would be impossible to postulate a cause for any phenomena.

    No, I’m saying that until natural causes are excluded, the postulation of a supernatural agency is premature and speculative.

    According to Wikipedia he’s only tested 54 people.

    I’ve been following Randi for a long time. He has preliminary tests for applicants, and these winnow out the bulk of the self-deluded. The point is that his challenge was genuine, straightforward yet never met.

    Psychic abilities are not supernatural according to either of our definitions.

    They’re putatively non-explainable under curent understanding of Nature – if the phenomena are real. Close enough for me.

    The results of Ganzfeld experiments are statistically significant.

    In the sense that they’re outliers on a probability distribution, yes. In the sense they’re replicable or convincing, no.

    To reiterate, there are two levels of necessary explanatory assumptions required before I accept miracles – (a) and (b) in my previous comment.

    Care to refer to any technology based on so-called psychic or paranormal phenomena, in rebuttal of my point that, since its inception, parapsychology has not generated any knowledge?

  21. Jayman Says:

    John Morales:

    Because the unexplained healings you refer to don’t prima facie violate natural law, which is what I defined as a miracle.

    They’re not in the same category as a resurrection or the regrowth of an amputated limb.

    In earlier posts I was saying that explanations for extraordinary events are themselves extraordinary. These explanations may involve natural or supernatural explanations, but both types are still extraordinary.

    I’ve been following Randi for a long time. He has preliminary tests for applicants, and these winnow out the bulk of the self-deluded. The point is that his challenge was genuine, straightforward yet never met.

    According to Wikipedia there have been few tests because the two parties have difficulty on agreeing on a test. The fact that 54 people failed the test is hardly proof the paranormal does not exist. Also, skeptics ignore that there may be reasons for not wanting to take the test even if one had genuine paranormal abilities. For example, if someone could teleport he could make far more than $1 million and would not want to draw attention to himself.

    They’re putatively non-explainable under curent understanding of Nature – if the phenomena are real. Close enough for me.

    I would use the term paranormal.

    Care to refer to any technology based on so-called psychic or paranormal phenomena, in rebuttal of my point that, since its inception, parapsychology has not generated any knowledge?

    I’m not knowledgeable on parapsychology. However, the two examples I noted from your own source suggest that it has at least raised questions that need to be answered.

    Out of curiosity, does the field of parapsychology study regular people or does it study people claiming to possess paranormal powers (or both)? If only, say, 1 in 1000 people could do remote viewing the overall results may be unremarkable, but the results for the one person could be extraordinary. Your source implied certain individuals were valuable enough to be hired by the military which suggests at least some individuals may be worth studying.

  22. Modusoperandi Says:

    Jayman “Out of curiosity, does the field of parapsychology study regular people or does it study people claiming to possess paranormal powers (or both)?”
    Well, if the Ghostbusters movie was any indication, they were just college kids. Also, if the Ghostbusters movie was accurate, there is a strong correlation between people with psychic powers and people that Venkman found attractive.

    “If only, say, 1 in 1000 people could do remote viewing the overall results may be unremarkable, but the results for the one person could be extraordinary.”
    Except that repeat testing shows the “one psychic” changing randomly from person to person. Today on Rationally Explained Mysteries: Temporarily psychic, or just guessed correctly the first time?

    “Your source implied certain individuals were valuable enough to be hired by the military which suggests at least some individuals may be worth studying.”
    Actually, it was more a combination of the desperate fear of a gap of any kind, including the “psychic gap”, and having more money than brains. The good news is that those pesky Russians didn’t prove any more psychic than our boys.

  23. Tacroy Says:

    Heh, this reminds me of the “remote viewing” Ingo Swann did of Jupiter. It is supposedly one of the best examples of remote viewing ever.

    It was essentially a perfect setup to test remote viewing – there’s an object floating in space that nobody’s seen without a telescope before, and we’re gonna have a probe swing by it in a couple of months. A psychic would have to actually be psychic if he properly predicted things we saw!

    Indeed, if you give the viewing a casual glance, it looks quite compelling. There’s even a list of claims Ingo made that were later verified.

    Unfortunately, if you look at it closely, a very interesting pattern arises from the statements Ingo makes. When he gives numbers, he’s not very specific about them. When he’s very specific, he doesn’t give numbers. For instance:

    “I think that it must have an extremely large hydrogen mantle. If a space probe made contact with that, it would be maybe 80,000 – 120,000 miles out from the planet surface.”

    “a … large hydrogen mantle”? What does that even mean? Hydrogen is the lightest element; of course you’ll find higher densities of it out in space around an extremely large, hydrogen-rich planet. Hell, an intelligent person in 1973 with access to a library could have calculated that Jupiter’s atmosphere would push hydrogen particles out that far – all the necessary information to derive that fact had been gathered.

    “Now I’ll go down through. It feels really good there (laughs). I said that before, didn’t I? Inside those cloud layers, those crystal layers, they look beautiful from the outside. From the inside they look like rolling gas clouds – eerie yellow light, rainbows.”

    Err, how far down did he go? Sure, there’s rainbows and pretty colors, but how about things we can measure? After all, it’s really hard work getting a probe anywhere into Jupiter, what with the gravity and the heat and everything; it’d be nice to know when we can start looking for these things he describes.

    There’s lots more one can say along those lines, but this is off-topic enough as it is. If this is the best evidence proponents of remote viewing can come up with, I’m extremely unimpressed.

  24. John Morales Says:

    Jayman, I don’t want to get into an extended dialogue, especially with the new post the Deacon has put up.

    However, this seems like an evasion:

    In earlier posts I was saying that explanations for extraordinary events are themselves extraordinary.

    You’ve changed extraordinary evidence to extraordinary explanation.

    OK, just a couple of links, should you care to peruse them:
    Randi’s Challenge
    Paranormal index

  25. pboyfloyd Says:

    Tony-baby says, “You however, cite the dogma as evidence of my naivety, only succeeding in demonstrating your own.

    Here’s an idea: Do some research.”

    I ‘cited the dogma'(as you say) as an example of how Bible passages are easily confused and confusing and how you might be the one to ‘enlighten us’ with a less confusing translation.

    I am VERY disappointed that you, with your large brain and, as you say, arrogant mind, didn’t notice my point, even though you went ahead and DID exactly that!(clear up that confusion)

    The only trouble that I see with your interpretation of Isaiah is that most Christians(check the ‘net) would rather interpret the passage aided by their Holy Spirit!(which seems to believe the Lucifer story)

    Too bad for all of us that you are so ‘clarifying’ and all, yet you are possessed by this Demon of Arrogance.

    For one thing you might have taken a second to read what I wrote instead of imagining that I was challenging you to HAVE a ‘confusion clarifying explanation’.

    And for another, what Christian would want to listen to a pompous arse telling them that the most common of some of their interpretations were mistaken?

  26. pboyfloyd Says:

    Tony, you say, “Also, in Job “Satan” is found amongst God’s court..”

    But you had just finished saying, “..“satan” is not really a proper name..”.

    But there must be some ‘method’ for this segway to the Book of Job.

    Here, although I am quite sure that you HAVE a very good reason for denying that satan is a proper name then mentioning the angel(was it?), with that EXACT name, here lies the confusion that I was mentioning ought to be cleared up by YOU for, you know, less arrogant beings, both Christian and non-believer alike!

  27. » More on the evidence regarding God Evangelical Realism Says:

    […] post, naturally, so I’m just going to hit the points I want to hilite. The first comes in this comment: I accept that everyone (not just 48%) can be mistaken from time to time. What I find extraordinary […]

  28. Tony Says:

    pboyfloyd:

    You said to clarify, gave an example, and I clarified. I clarified that the one passage is dogma. I clarified also that it is an example of dogmatic thinking in Christianity. If you take out the interpretation of the passage as being the story of Satan’s origins, the passage becomes clearer and no confusion arises at all. It fits into the context of the surrounding passages. The interpretation which originated with the theologians I mentioned is what caused the confusion, not the passage itself.

    In Job, Satan is used as a name, perhaps a title. However, the word, “satan” is also used elsewhere. The association of “satan” with the serpent in Eden, the Dragon of Revelations etc, is the problem. The idea that this is all the same being is the problem. The support is not necessarily there. Just as if Gwyneth Paltrow asks for an apple, she may mean the fruit, not her daughter. Remember, in English speaking countries we often forget that names are not random sounds, they are words that have meanings in the originating languages they come from.

    Many Christians, yes, have a serious problem in that they assume dogmas and will not listen to anything that points out that it is dogma. They do not interpret the Bible for its own sake. I doubt many even read it outside of church. There are a handful of books written by Christians who studied the bible and found out a lot of what they believed was wrong. This also is stated in the Bible as what will be.

    They believe things like America must follow God’s laws, yet a theocracy is bad. They fight the degradation of general morality and miss that in Revelations, the whole shebang is going to fall apart. They believe that to witness is to pester the heck out of everyone, when the Bible says on at least 2 occasions that either the message will be received or not, if yes, stay and nurture, if not, get up and go.

    And as far as my arrogance, I spent years being shy and accommodating. It didn’t work. I’m much happier now. Certainly more comfortable with myself. I don’t interpret and try to make it palatable. Jesus didn’t either. He spoke what was true and constantly pointed out the falsehoods bandied about as truth by the religious leaders in his community. He lost his temper more than once. He said he did not come to bring peace. He did not speak about what was comfortable, he showed no fear in rebuking people for practicing hypocrisy. I’m sure they didn’t like it.

    I’m the person who tells you what I see. You don’t have to like it. If I say something and Christians or non-Christians have a problem with my words, that is not my problem. After all, again to address clarity of language, they have the problem, I didn’t give it to them, they already had it. I’m arrogant and abrasive and at peace with myself, I have no problem with that.

  29. Tony Says:

    # observant Says:
    January 23, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    “Tony,
    You seem to be somewhat confused.
    God did not appear to Moses or anyone else for that matter.
    The problem is with your understanding of scripture.

    Ah, I missed this one. Read Exodus, end of Chapter 33. The glowing face of Moses is in Chapter 34. But, no, none has seen his face. You are correct in that aspect.