The Department of Experimental and Applied Theology

Commenter cl brings up an interesting point:

I was rereading through the thread here, and this caught my attention:

“The Inescapable Consequence is that we have no basis for our conclusions regarding God, other than to put our trust in the words, speculations, and feelings of men. This is a serious consequence, because it means so-called faith in God is really just trust in fallible men (who happen to contradict themselves, each other, and observable reality).”

I disagree and feel you’ve presented an either/or fallacy. Reasonable believers engage in a form of testing that is systematic and analogous to empiricism. When I was a kid, I performed such experiments, for example here. Mind you, this particular experiment yielded negative results. Point is, your statement claims that epistemologically, the only thing believers can do is trust the words of fallible men (and women) when at least one other option clearly exists. Such is incorrect.

I stand by my original claim, but now that cl has brought this up, I can see that I need to clarify it somewhat. I’m not saying you can’t try to obtain information about God using methods that lend some sort of empirical verifiability to the results. I’m just pointing out that such attempts will not be successful in God’s absence, and will end up reverting to whatever significance well-intentioned men inadvertently project onto them.

Theology is the most purely theoretical of all the disciplines men call “sciences.” There is no such thing as experimental or applied theology, because there’s no object in the real world to apply your experimental methods to. Cl does have a point in that it is possible to draw negative conclusions about God using an objective and unbiased observational and experimental technique. So long as God does not show up in real life, however, we cannot put our faith in Him, because He doesn’t show up to give us anything to believe in. If we do believe, the content and basis for our belief must be found in the things men say and think and feel about God. It is, and can only ever be, faith in men.

This is true even if we suppose that it might be possible to observe actual supernatural phenomena. The supernatural is defined by its violation of the normal and natural laws of cause and effect. It is effectively indistinguishable from magic, and is thus immune to the sort of investigation that discovers actual causes by tracing the natural chain of cause and effect backwards to its source. We don’t and can’t know how supernatural causes are related to observed effects, because the supernatural, by definition, lies outside the domain of scientific laws and theories.

In the quote above, cl links to a test he tried in which he asked God to fix a broken watch. The test result was that the watch was not miraculously repaired, but suppose it had been? Would this have told us anything about God? No, that would be jumping to a conclusion, because we don’t know anything about what might cause a watch to magically self-repair. We might speculate that some god or other magical spirit was the cause, but it could also be a Spontaneous Magical Entropy Reversal Field, or perhaps cl himself possesses suppressed and unsuspected magical powers. Or it might be some magical phenomenon that was entirely unknown. We do not know, and there is no objective and reliable means by which we can ever find out. By definition, that’s how the supernatural works.

People invoke “the supernatural” as a means of explaining away the lack of scientific verification for the things they want to believe. The reason science could not confirm their beliefs, they say, is because the agency they propose is “supernatural,” and the supernatural is impervious to scientific exploration. That works ok as a rationalization, but the downside is that it means that “supernatural” phenomena can never reveal any more to us than the actual, observable effects they produce. Everything behind the observable effect is just so much “magic.”

Thus, the only way we can learn anything about God, or at least anything that we could put our faith in, is if God were to show up in real life, so as to be directly observable. Ordinary scientific inferences cannot work as a source of new, reliable information about causes that do not obey fundamental naturalistic principles. We can devise tests that work negatively, so as to rule out the possibility of superstitious beliefs (or that at least demonstrate the lack of valid reasons for drawing such superstitious conclusions). But we cannot trace backwards along the chain of cause and effect if the cause supernaturally skips the chain and proceeds directly to the effect via magic.

 
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Posted in Unapologetics. 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “The Department of Experimental and Applied Theology”

  1. Brian Utterback Says:

    Interesting choice of experiments. As it happens, there has already been research into stopped watches that miraculously start up again. Uri Geller once did a routine where he asked all the people in a television audience (that is the home audience, millions strong) that had a stopped watch to go and get it and hold it tightly in their hands. He then used his psychic powers to try and start the watches again. And wonder of wonders, many of them did. It turns out that simply manipulating them will get some stopped watches to start again. And warming them in your hands will start others. Even though the “cure” was only temporary, I bet that the owners of many of the watches that started still believe in the powers of Uri Geller to this day.

  2. cl Says:

    DD,

    Thanks again for the testing of ideas. You say you stand by your original claim, but I’ve suggested that claim is founded upon a false dichotomy. Here is that claim:

    …so-called faith in God is really just trust in fallible men…

    To clarify, is there omitted scope or is this another blanket-claim about all so-called faith in God? Either way, do you still stand by it? If so, do you agree or disagree that this claim is founded upon a false dichotomy?

    Cl does have a point in that it is possible to draw negative conclusions about God using an objective and unbiased observational and experimental technique. …We can devise tests that work negatively, so as to rule out the possibility of superstitious beliefs (or that at least demonstrate the lack of valid reasons for drawing such superstitious conclusions). But we cannot trace backwards along the chain of cause and effect if the cause supernaturally skips the chain and proceeds directly to the effect via magic.

    The last sentence is true, but you’re also being flatly biased and still arguing from false opposites. First, biased: If it’s possible to deduce a negative conclusion from an experimental technique, why can’t it also be possible to deduce some positive conclusion? Second, false opposites: A positive conclusion need not constitute 100% conclusive proof to be a legitimate variable in the chain of empiricism.

    Now, if my watch had been fixed, would that have been 100% conclusive proof that the God I prayed to was real? No. But would it be a fact consistent with the idea that an all-powerful (whatever that means) being hears and responds to human prayer? Certainly, and although that’s not the only idea consistent with the fact, with all instances of such cases, the atheist or skeptic loses more ground upon which he or she might eschew any or all believers as irrational. In a similar vein, claiming someone cannot prove what they have experienced was what they think it was is not a good argument against the validity of their claim.

    So long as God does not show up in real life, however, we cannot put our faith in Him, because He doesn’t show up to give us anything to believe in. If we do believe, the content and basis for our belief must be found in the things men say and think and feel about God. It is, and can only ever be, faith in men.

    How can you stand by claims that are clearly false dichotomies? Had my watch been fixed, that would have been one bit of legitimate evidence that justifies leaving the NULL position in favor of belief in God that != “God showing up.” There can be legitimate content and basis for belief in God that != “God showing up.” It’s not an either/or contest between two false extremes of “God showing up” and “the sayings of men.” Again, reasonable believers engage in a form of testing that is systematic and analogous to empiricism, and it can yield negative, positive or NULL results. Incidentally, some people pray for healings and get them. Even if I grant what we cannot know, that God never shows up in real life, you make it appear as if the naive and unfortunate believer has only one simple-minded choice: To accept the words of men as the sole content and basis for their belief. Such could not be farther from the approach a reasonable believer takes.

    The test result was that the watch was not miraculously repaired, but suppose it had been? Would this have told us anything about God? No, that would be jumping to a conclusion, because we don’t know anything about what might cause a watch to magically self-repair.

    I agreed before this post that had my watch been fixed, such would not be conclusive, 100% certain proof that the particular God I prayed to existed. Yet you create another false dichotomy in claiming that a positive test result wouldn’t have told us anything about God. That is not accurate. It would have told us something about God in general, and it would have supported leaving the NULL position in favor of belief in a specific God to some degree. It would have also told us that phenomena consistent with the purported behavior of God exist. Per Hyman’s Categorical Imperative we now have grounds for preliminary hypotheses and further testing, if we’re coming at it from a purely scientific angle. Such is surely quantitatively “something” about God, no?

    We might speculate that some god or other magical spirit was the cause, but it could also be a Spontaneous Magical Entropy Reversal Field, or perhaps cl himself possesses suppressed and unsuspected magical powers. Or it might be some magical phenomenon that was entirely unknown. We do not know, and there is no objective and reliable means by which we can ever find out. By definition, that’s how the supernatural works.

    Sure, as jim says, you can posit anything as an explanation, but what’s the point of refuting superstition with more superstition? What’s not superstitious about you proposing a SMERF? On one hand you are denouncing people as superstitious for ascribing Bernadette’s healing to God, yet on the other hand you offer potential causes that are equally and arguably more superstitious than God?

    People invoke “the supernatural” as a means of explaining away the lack of scientific verification for the things they want to believe.

    That’s one way to look at it, and I agree that the word “supernatural” often doubles as a euphemism for ignorance. But as you did with the SMERF, people also invoke the “natural” as a means of explaining away the lack of scientific verification for the things they want to believe. How is that any different?

    And my real gripe with this particular statement is that it suggests all who believe in “the supernatural” should have scientific verification for the things they want to believe. Do you conduct a double-blind study to determine when you are hungry or when you go to the bathroom or when you want to have sex? Clearly not, you go off what you experience. Hence, categories of things exist which do not depend on empirical verification as their measure of truth. Is there a chance you could be wrong, that a neurological misfire or suppressed emotion is the true cause of the desire to eat (as opposed to actual hunger)? Certainly. Can we do a double-blind study to prove you love your mate? Sure, we can look for real-world corroboration with the idea, and we might be able to detect some changes in brain chemistry when you are with or thinking about your lover, but does that prove you actually love your other? Either way you answer seems problematic for you.

    Thus, the only way we can learn anything about God, or at least anything that we could put our faith in, is if God were to show up in real life, so as to be directly observable.

    There can be legitimate content and basis for belief in God that != “God showing up.” Although I’ve already suggested this is a false dichotomy, entertain for even a moment the idea that what the Gospel says about Jesus is true. What if God agreed with you, and so showed up? I hope you wouldn’t be so selfish as to demand that God show up to you over anyone else, right? There’s always room for doubt, DD – no matter what.

  3. pboyfloyd Says:

    “When I woke up next morning, the watch was still stopped, and I’m still not to the bottom of this God stuff.” said a young cl.

    Seems to me that cl is saying that, “See, God is testable!”, as part of a more subtle argument for God.

    But we know that every child’s prayer to ‘get out of trouble’ and such NEVER works! Yet the entire argument here, as I see it, is that this kind of prayer DOES work!

    In the ‘grand scheme of things’ it doesn’t matter if a person is temporarilly healed by causes mysterious. In the end they’re still going to die!

    These so-deemed miracles don’t so much aggrandize ‘GOD’ as they aggrandize the church itself.

  4. cl Says:

    “When I woke up next morning, the watch was still stopped, and I’m still not to the bottom of this God stuff.” said a young cl.

    Correct.

    Seems to me that cl is saying that, “See, God is testable!”, as part of a more subtle argument for God.

    Incorrect. I was thinking God was testable when my understanding of God was more like Dawkins’, and by that I mean extremely rudimentary and simplistic.

    But we know that every child’s prayer to ‘get out of trouble’ and such NEVER works!

    Come on, that’s not true and it doesn’t matter – prayer is not purported to be a magic genie that grants us whatever we want no matter what.

    Yet the entire argument here, as I see it, is that this kind of prayer DOES work!

    No, the entire argument is that I didn’t necessarily accept the negative results of the test. As I grew older and understood science and reason, I realized there were too many confounders to support the conclusion that God didn’t exist because the watch wasn’t fixed. Same if it were, too many confounders. Maybe some entity other than the one I prayed to could have fixed the watch. Or perhaps my own unknown powers of some sort. The same foolishness that applies to the person who claims they can prove God through empiricism also applies to the person who chides them for not being able to prove God through empiricism.

  5. Dominic Saltarelli Says:

    “And my real gripe with this particular statement is that it suggests all who believe in “the supernatural” should have scientific verification for the things they want to believe. Do you conduct a double-blind study to determine when you are hungry or when you go to the bathroom or when you want to have sex? Clearly not, you go off what you experience. Hence, categories of things exist which do not depend on empirical verification as their measure of truth. Is there a chance you could be wrong, that a neurological misfire or suppressed emotion is the true cause of the desire to eat (as opposed to actual hunger)?”

    Now you’re just being silly. Hunger IS the desire to eat. Hunger, love, and the desire to use the restroom are all themselves empirical observations. Now, getting into the details of *why* you’re hungry/thirsty/bloated/horny at any given time is going a step further, requiring additional empirical observations.

    I mean, really now. Just because you feel hungry doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually hungry?!?! What next, just because you can’t see anything thing doesn’t mean you can’t really see, maybe its just dark? This is comical…

  6. cl Says:

    Hunger, love, and the desire to use the restroom are all themselves empirical observations.

    I’d say you might want to be careful with that. If you call hunger an empirical observation, then surely sound, sight and hearing must also be empirical observations, right? I don’t consider hunger or love to be empirical observations of the type we need in proving a matter. We can’t show hunger or love to a reasonable observer. Although you might hear God, you can’t make me hear as you do. Although you might eat, you can’t make me feel that you’re hungry. Although someone might kiss their wife and protect her from a thug, they can’t show us that they’re truly in love. The best we can do is decide whether or not we think the available evidence justifies a particular conclusion in any given matter. And the person who decides one way is not inherently any better or more correct than the person who decides the other way.

    The desire to use the restroom might be somewhat different. Eating can be forced in the absence of hunger, and love can certainly be faked, but if someone poops or pees, I would say they’ve shown empirically that they had to poop or pee. Anyway, to split too many hairs here is to miss the point – can someone else prove to you that they are actually hungry or in love? Of course not. You can take their word for it, or not, or you can make your own best estimation on the available evidence. But asking them to conclusively prove to you whether or not they are hungry or in love is silly and mimics the folly of asking someone to prove via science that the particular God they believe in is true.

    I mean, really now. Just because you feel hungry doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually hungry?!?!

    That’s exactly correct. A whole range of impulses can be artificially generated by probing and prodding specific regions of the brain. Surely you follow neurology and brain studies at least peripherally, right? The feeling of hunger can be made to arise in a physically satiated person.

  7. SavageDragon Says:

    “A whole range of impulses can be artificially generated by probing and prodding specific regions of the brain. Surely you follow neurology and brain studies at least peripherally, right? The feeling of hunger can be made to arise in a physically satiated person.”

    I hate to take this further off topic, but you are incorrect. To follow up on Dominic’s comment: hunger is, by definition, a feeling. Any desire to consume food, artificially induced or not, counts as hunger. Whether your body actually needs the food you desire is immaterial to the question of “Are you hungry?”.

    And yes, you can’t prove to anyone else that you are actually hungry. But just because you are the only one who can make the observation does not change the fact that it is, in fact, an empirical observation (one with minimal value to anyone else).

  8. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “Now, if my watch had been fixed, would that have been 100% conclusive proof that the God I prayed to was real? No. But would it be a fact consistent with the idea that an all-powerful (whatever that means) being hears and responds to human prayer? Certainly, and although that’s not the only idea consistent with the fact, with all instances of such cases, the atheist or skeptic loses more ground upon which he or she might eschew any or all believers as irrational.”

    Odd thing to say. I would think that the fact that your god does not answer prayers that are far more dire is enough to discard this “support.”

    Sure, Yahweh’ll restart your watch, but you’d better not ask him to save your life. And if you want him to reconsider torturing you for eternity if you didn’t follow the rules correctly, yikes.

  9. pboyfloyd Says:

    cl, you say, “No, the entire argument is that I didn’t necessarily accept the negative results of the test.”

    Duncan was pointing out that miracles aren’t testable.

    You chimed in that you DID perform a test on a stopped watch, albeit with negative results.

    Now you say, “Incorrect. I was thinking God was testable..”

    But the ‘stopped watch’ anecdote was incidental to your point.

    “Point is, your statement claims … the only thing believers can do is trust the words of fallible men .. Such is incorrect.”

    Now you say, “No, the entire argument is that I didn’t necessarily accept the negative results of the test.”

    But the point of your anecdote is that you DID test God(and came to your conclusions that God really shouldn’t be tested like that).

    But your original point was that it WAS ‘do-able’, to further your main argument that, Duncan is wrong to assume that God isn’t testable, right?

  10. cl Says:

    SavageDragon,

    1) A whole range of impulses can be artificially generated by probing and prodding specific regions of the brain.

    2) The feeling of hunger can be made to arise in a physically satiated person.

    Not that any of this affects my main argument in this thread, but just out of curiosity, which of those two statements do you feel are incorrect? And where did I ever disagree with Dominic? Hunger is a feeling; I’ve not argued otherwise.

    Regardless of how we define it, I offered hunger to draw a point, that categories of things exist which do not depend on empirical verification as their measure of truth. We don’t need to prove that we are hungry or in love; we either feel it or we don’t. Nobody can prove to you that they are experiencing the sensations we describe as hunger and love. Similarly, nobody can prove to you that they are experiencing or have experienced God, and asking someone for such proof is like asking them to prove that they are hungry or in love. That’s the point of all this hunger talk, and empirical data is data we can access via the five senses. Hunger and anecdotes don’t qualify as empirical data that we can use in scientific proofs, which is the context we’re in. But let’s not get too distracted by tangents. The real question is, Do you think believers have any other possible methods of gaining information about God besides God showing up and the words of men? If yes, you agree with me. If no, you agree with DD.

    ThatOtherGuy,

    I would think that the fact that your god does not answer prayers that are far more dire is enough to discard this “support.”

    Well then there you go, you’re free to draw any conclusion you wish.

    Sure, Yahweh’ll restart your watch…

    Nobody restarted my watch.

    pboyfloyd,

    I think we need to do some rewinding. I offered the watch story in response to DD’s claim that the only epistemologies believers have are God showing up in real life vs. the words of men. I suggested that such was a false dichotomy, and added that reasonable believers engage in a form of testing that is systematic and analogous to empiricism. Whether the watch was fixed or not was never relevant to my point, which is that DD offers only two options, when more than two options exist. Regardless of its results, that I could even perform my experiment disproves DD’s claim.

    Now you say, “No, the entire argument is that I didn’t necessarily accept the negative results of the test.”

    I said that in response to the following statement of yours:

    But we know that every child’s prayer to ‘get out of trouble’ and such NEVER works! Yet the entire argument here, as I see it, is that this kind of prayer DOES work!

    Where are we talking past each other? Where am I misunderstanding you? Are you misunderstanding me?

    But your original point was that it WAS ‘do-able’, to further your main argument that, Duncan is wrong to assume that God isn’t testable, right?

    My main argument WAS NOT that DD is necessarily wrong to assume God isn’t testable. God is certainly testable, but not in a sense that is meaningful to science, not where we can point somebody to empirical data and say, “See! There’s God!” So, in that sense of the word testable, then no, God is not testable. However, through prayer, observation, meditation and other processes, reasonable believers engage in a form of “testing God” that is systematic and analogous to empiricism.

    DD claims that without God showing up, believers have nothing to form the content or basis of their belief besides the words of men. Such is a false dichotomy. My original point is and has always been that believers have more possible epistemologies than manifestations and anecdotes. Would you agree or disagree? Why?

  11. pboyfloyd Says:

    cl, you say, “My original point is and has always been that believers have more possible epistemologies than manifestations and anecdotes.”

    Anecdotes you have ‘out the ying-yang’.

    Manifestations? Seriously?

    As far as your ‘empirical-like’, “possible”, epistemologies goes, are you saying that the reason you believe is(or might be) as mysterious as you believe God to be?

    Fine, but you just come across as confused* and ‘trying-to-confuse’.

    *sagely claiming to clarify while actually mystifying with word-play, which is ‘all you’ve got’. I mean, is it possible to type the above quote WITHOUT a smirk on your lips?

  12. cl Says:

    pboyfloyd,

    As far as your ‘empirical-like’, “possible”, epistemologies goes, are you saying that the reason you believe is(or might be) as mysterious as you believe God to be? …*sagely claiming to clarify while actually mystifying with word-play, which is ‘all you’ve got’. I mean, is it possible to type the above quote WITHOUT a smirk on your lips?

    No, I’m not. My point remains the same, and I’ve restated it verbatim I don’t know how many times now. I’m sorry if you’re not grasping it, but that you’re not grasping it doesn’t give you the right to claim that I’m “mystifying with word-play.” If you’re not understanding me, or if I’m coming across unclear, why can’t you just give me the benefit of the doubt and say as much? Why do you have to rush ahead and accuse me of trying to “mystify with word-play” and “confuse?” You have no evidence, and the accusations are really annoying red herrings.

    Here’s what I’m saying, again: Believers have more criteria by which they might judge whether or not they think God exists than DD’s extreme options of God showing up in real life (manifestation), or the words of people (anecdotes). Do you agree or disagree that more than these two options exist? Do you think that all any believer has to reason with is manifestations and anecdotes? Or do you think believers might be able to obtain data about God through other means besides manifestation and anecdotes?

    That is the matter at hand, and they’re really very straight-forward questions.

  13. pboyfloyd Says:

    Okay cl. Here’s how the comments work. I say what I feel like. I happen to take the fact that this is Duncan’s blog into account when i make comments.

    You can go completely ‘rubber-room’ insane about ‘red herrings’ if you like, but I commented that I thought your ‘stopped watch’ example was a weird ‘non-example’ which you denied then admitted.(sorta)

    You’ll notice that this:-

    “cl, you say, “My original point is and has always been that believers have more possible epistemologies than manifestations and anecdotes.””

    -has NOTHING to do with ‘stopped watch tests’ deemed ‘unworthy’ by yourself. Hardly a good criterion by which ‘believers might judge etc. etc.’, nevertheless, the ONLY criterion(by which etc. etc.) you give us while at the EXACT SAME TIME taking it away.

    Still, you go ahead and reply to ‘decontextualized’ sentences or parts of my comments.

    You copy/pasted my comment, replacing this:-”Fine, but you just come across as confused* and ‘trying-to-confuse’.” with this:- “…”

    Now THAT wasn’t to ‘save some space’. THAT was to make me ‘sound’ confused(or even ‘batty’)

    Well, ‘good for you’, well done. Consider yourself disingenuous!

    But it’s up to Duncan to answer your ‘original point’. That seems to be what he likes to do.

    It’s his blog.
    It’s what he does in his blog.
    That’s good enough for me.

  14. cl Says:

    pboyfloyd,

    First let’s get the obfuscatory things out of the way:

    Consider yourself disingenuous!

    Regarding your griping about me using an ellipsis, note that the use of the ellipsis did not obscure or change your argument. It’s my right to respond to whatever part of your comment I like. I prefer omitting irrelevant parts of claims, and your opinion of me is certainly irrelevant. But I am out of line if I purposely or innocently misrepresent your position via usage of the ellipsis, which I have not. Though we’re all bound to make mistakes, as someone who calls even Dawkins on his quote mines, I can assure you that I respect my opponent’s argument enough to take caution in quoting it. And you merely presuppose that my intent was to make you look confused, when that’s not even true. Then you denounce me as disingenuous, but believe me, your arguments do not leave me so fearful that I feel the need to resort to trickery to refute them. And in the end what do you have? Denigration based on presupposition, and it’s not very persuasive.

    Now, in my opinion, the reason we’ve gotten off track comes from this comment you made February 25, 2009 at 1:46 pm:

    *sagely claiming to clarify while actually mystifying with word-play, which is ‘all you’ve got’. I mean, is it possible to type the above quote WITHOUT a smirk on your lips?

    That’s just taunting and taunting is annoying. Now, it’s true that you and I had a genuine logical disconnect, and such is bound to happen in online conversation where we lack the privileges of inflection and non-verbal communication cues. But that we had a logical disconnect is no reason get presumptuous and start denigrating. It was this denigrating of yours that prompted my strong response, which equally raised your heat level.

    …I commented that I thought your ’stopped watch’ example was a weird ‘non-example’ which you denied then admitted.(sorta)

    That’s fine, and if that’s the case, then explain yourself. Don’t get all uppity and try to tell me I’m “mystifying with word play” because that’s BS. I’m focusing on consistent, specific points. You make a claim here, so the burden of proof is on you to show, how did I both “deny” and “admit” the “stopped-watch” example? Why do you feel it’s a “non-example?” Answers to these questions will get us much farther than saying I’m “mystifying with words” and “disingenuous.” That just gets annoying because I know damn well that I’m here in good faith, and I’m not the type of person who swims in circles when I can’t get out of the water.

    “cl, you say, “My original point is and has always been that believers have more possible epistemologies than manifestations and anecdotes.””

    has NOTHING to do with ’stopped watch tests’ deemed ‘unworthy’ by yourself. Hardly a good criterion by which ‘believers might judge etc. etc.’, nevertheless, the ONLY criterion(by which etc. etc.) you give us while at the EXACT SAME TIME taking it away.

    Again, had you said that instead, I would have understood your point immediately, and this is an example of a good comment worth replying to. Notice how this comment is completely devoid of denigrating BS? At any rate, yes, the former does have something to do with the latter. I’m claiming there are more possible means on which a believer might base their conclusion than 1) manifestation, and 2) words of others. The stopped-watch test was the first example I cited of a possible means of knowing we might try other than “manifestation” and “belief in the words of others.” Does the stopped-watch test have both strengths and weaknesses? Of course. I happen to have other examples that don’t suffer from the same weaknesses the stopped-watch example suffers from. And not incidentally, as far as means of knowing go, don’t manifestations and belief in the words of others also suffer from both strengths and weaknesses? The answer is an emphatic yes, and I think we can clearly see that manifestations and words of others are “hardly good criteria” as well, right?

    So then, is DD also “giving us” manifestation and beliefs in the words of men while “at the EXACT SAME TIME taking them away?” If no, explain how such is not special pleading. If yes, it appears you affirm this part of my argument.

  15. pboyfloyd Says:

    cl, you say, “So then, is DD also “giving us” manifestation and beliefs in the words of men while “at the EXACT SAME TIME taking them away?” If no, explain how such is not special pleading.”

    Here I thought that Duncan was at least trying to dismiss supposed manifestations(lit figure on the roof etc.) and anecdotes(Gospels etc.) as failed criteria.

    What am I saying, of course for believers they’re not failed at all, are they?

    But Duncan was hardly ‘giving them’ while ‘taking them away’. In fact mentioning them in order to ‘take them away’ as acceptable standards for everyone to judge.

    Now as far as God manifesting Himself goes, I don’t think that Duncan is trying to take that away as a criterion for judging the reality of God at all, and I don’t think you do either.

    So, once again this would be, “not taking account of known information.”, a definition of the word, “disingenuous”.

    Setting up your stopped watch test as a criterion when you knew that it failed was again, “not taking account of known information” because it is NOT a standard by which anyone could judge whether God answers prayers, as you yourself admit.

    You might point out that you did say, “possibly”, but you knew that the stopped watch test was not a valid criterion for believers so that would be being disingenuous too!

    Of course I think that you were equivocating when you asked me if I thought that believers had other criteria, since, if you’re believing that the stopped watch test is STILL a standard to judge by, you’re asking me to say ‘yes’.

    I can think of plenty of ‘criteria’(using such a loose definition). e.g. Believers put food in one end and something else miraculously comes out the other end. Therefore GOD.

    The Sun rises. Therefore GOD.

    Or even Jayman’s mysterious, when he prays God tells him future events!

    Not a one good enough to be deemed a ‘criterion’ by Duncan’s standards, I’m thinking.

    Hey, cl, don’t be annoyed, it’s getting annoying!