XFiles Friday: The Ultimate Superstition

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

We come at last to the end of chapter 12, Geisler and Turek’s attempt to argue that we know Jesus really rose from the dead because a handful of men wrote a handful of books claiming that a handful of people claim to have had some kind of experience which they claimed was an encounter with a Jesus who was risen in some sense. And even though these claims have a strongly ghost-story-ish flavor, and tend to contradict one another in significant ways, we ought to believe them anyway because the men who wrote the stories mentioned the names of people and places that actually exist, which means the men are unbiased and unimpeachable witnesses.

Um, yeah. Well, anyway, we’re coming to the end of all that. G&T close with a couple cursory attempts to make Christianity sound amazingly unique.

David Hume argued that miracles cannot affirm any one religion because miracles are based on poor testimony and all religions have them. In other words, miracle claims are self canceling. Unfortunately for Hume, his objection does not describe the actual state of affairs.

First, Hume makes a hasty generalization by saying that alleged miracles from all religions are alike. As we’ve seen since chapter 9, the miracles associated with Christianity are not based on poor testimony. They are based on early, eyewitness, multiple-source testimony that is unrivaled in any other world religion. That is, no other world religion has verified miracles like those in the New Testament.

Indeed, nor does Christianity. Sure, we have early written accounts of people claiming miracles, but that’s not the same has having verified that the alleged miracles actually occurred.

We have people today claiming miracles, and agreeing with one another that yes, a real miracle did happen. Yet these miracles are not actually verified; we just have multiple people making claims. Write down these claims, and in 2,000 years, the people who read those claims will be in exactly the same position as we are in deciding whether or not such claims are justified.

But since we’re not living 2,000 years from now, let’s not wait. Let’s look at the claims people are making today, and see if the mere act of claiming a miracle is sufficient to prove that the miracle actually occurred.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 6 Comments »

Competition

Fans of the XFiles Friday series may be interested to know (if they don’t already) that the Daylight Atheism blog has started a series on Lee Stroebel’s book, The Case for a Creator. The first two posts are here and here. As is customary at Daylight Atheism, the writing is excellent (the blog posts, I mean, not the book).

Recommended reading.

 
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Posted in Recommended Reading, Science, Unapologetics. 3 Comments »

Gay Marriage

Just a short link today:

The Top Ten Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong.

 
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Micro vs. macro

As usual, I’m way behind in my comment reading (I’m up to Feb. 27th in my backlog), but I’m seeing references to micro vs. macro evolution in the comments, and since I’ve come across this sort of discussion before, I thought I might step in and clarify my point a little.

The behavior of rivers is, broadly speaking, fairly easy to explain: water flows downhill. If your specialty is the study of rivers, however, you might want to dispute the claim that all rivers work in essentially the same way. You might want to point out different mechanisms of erosion and silt deposition, and how that interacts with the river to produce variations in the rate of flow due to changes in the riverbed. You might further study how the river affects the climate, possibly inducing changes in rainfall that in turn have an impact on the water flowing into the river. And yet, when you have delved down into all the technical hydrological details, all rivers still consist of water flowing downhill.

It was in that sense that I alluded to microevolution and macroevolution being the same basic process. Evolution is a process of change in the distribution of alleles, coupled with natural variations within the pool of available alleles and with the influence of environmental conditions on the selection of which alleles, if any, come to predominate within the population. Biologists are interested in breaking down this overall process into specialized submechanisms, and studying the factors and processes that produce certain specific types of variation under certain specific sets of conditions, and yes, in that particular technical discussion, you can make a technical distinction between microevolutionary processes and macroevolutionary processes. Such distinctions are of no use to evolution-deniers, however, because even here, we’re not talking about the kind of difference that would make microevolution possible while ruling out macroevolution.

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Posted in Science. 12 Comments »

Time and Singularity

Facilis writes:

The Big Bang theory says that time, space, and matter/energy all originate in the same singularity, not that they all originate in “nothing.”
And I’ve seen several philosopher make the case that such a singularity is ontologically equivalent to nothing. You are just question begging.

Because time and the material universe had the same origin, it can truthfully be said that the universe has no “beginning,” since there was never a time when it did not exist.
“Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time,)
I think I’ll go with what the expert physicists say.

I’ll go with what the expert physicists say too. The catch is that sometimes, when writing for a non-technical audience, you have to sacrifice strict technical accuracy in favor of readability. That’s why meteorologists, despite being heliocentrists, will say, “The sun will rise at 6:52 am” instead of saying “At 6:42 am the earth will have rotated to a position relative to the sun such that a line between the sun and the eye of an observer of average height will no longer intersect the body of the earth.” Though the latter version is more technically correct, it is so needlessly complex that it actually obscures the information we’re most interested in knowing.

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Posted in Comment Rescue, Science. 8 Comments »

XFiles Friday: No stinkin’ evidence.

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

Last week, Geisler and Turek began their defense against the principle that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” They took a scattershot approach, first arguing that this was an unreasonable demand, then adopting a most peculiar definition of “extraordinary” in order to build a straw man they could easily cast down, then attempting to argue (unsuccessfully) that they did have extraordinary evidence after all.

This week, they try and turn the tables, arguing that skeptics themselves believe in extraordinary claims without having any extraordinary evidence.

We don’t need “extraordinary” evidence to believe something. Atheists affirm that from their own worldview. They believe in the Big Bang not because they have “extraordinary” evidence for it but because there is good evidence that the universe exploded into being out of nothing. Good evidence is all you need to believe something. However, atheists don’t have even good evidence for some of their own precious beliefs. For example, atheists believe in spontaneous generation and macroevolution on faith alone. We say faith alone because, as we saw in chapters 5 and 6, there’s not only little or no evidence for spontaneous generation and macroevolution, but there’s strong evidence against those possibilities.

Let’s count how many things Geisler and Turek manage to distort, misrepresent, or otherwise get wrong in these brief seven sentences.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 108 Comments »

Comments

As everyone has probably noticed by now, I am way behind on reading comments, let alone responding to and/or policing them (other than the automatic spam filters, of course). I would greatly appreciate it, therefore, if commenters would try to police themselves.

I strongly encourage the expression of sincerely-held beliefs and ideas, even if wrong, so that they may be discussed and critiqued. I strongly encourage thoughtful critiques of any and all beliefs and ideas so presented. I strongly encourage tolerance of the manner in which these ideas might be presented, since not everyone is a skillful writer (and those that are, haven’t always had their morning coffee yet).

I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

Please think before posting. My goal is to address the ideas themselves, and to demonstrate which ideas are most consistent with real-world truth. Personal attacks are a distraction (and indeed, one way to defend a weak idea is to present it as offensively as possible, in order to side-track the discussion into a mere flame war, and thus protect the bad idea from direct analysis).

It is not necessary to win any one argument. Truth is consistent with itself; the evangelical realist need only persist in directing people’s attention to the truth, and over the long term the burden of maintaining a falsehood will weigh more heavily on the untruthful person. We ought to have the confidence of our convictions, and rise above personal foibles. And if we have guests whose thinking is misguided, we should welcome and encourage them, because where else are they going to go for better guidance?

I know that I myself am not as good at that as I should be (Challenger Grim comes to mind—I really regret losing him). But I originally named this blog Evangelical Realism because I saw a need for a place where realists could reach out to the misguided, and encourage them to adopt a better world view (to borrow an oft-misused term). I want to show how the ideas of realism make more sense and are more consistent with real-world truth than fantasies, intuitions, superstitions and hearsay are, and how realism actually improves one’s quality of life.

I could do better. We all could do better. I invite everyone to join me in trying.

 
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Unintended Consequences

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, thus launching the Protestant Reformation. Originally intended to provoke improvements within the Catholic Church, this movement had unexpected consequences: a whole new form of Christianity, and a whole new basis for Christian doctrinal authority. The Protestants broke away from the Catholics, and declared that Scripture, and not any man or institution, was the sole authority for Christian faith and practice.

This, too, had unintended consequences. Because sola scriptura effectively isolated the interpretation of the Bible from the centuries of Church Tradition that had previously dictated the intended meaning of the Gospel, Protestants ended up practicing, not just the priesthood of all believers, but the virtual papacy of each individual believer. Any man could tell you that you were wrong, based on his own understanding of the Bible, but as a believer in sola scriptura, you need not listen to him. Your own understanding of God’s Word took precedence, because after all, which are you going to believe: what man tells you, or what God tells you? And this, too, had unintended consequences.

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Posted in Politics, Society. 2 Comments »

XFiles Fri–uh, Saturday…

[Sorry for the late post. I had an unplanned out-of-state trip.]

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 12.)

When a pair of Christian apologists, who believe in salvation by faith alone, get together to pen a book complaining that atheists have more faith than Christians, you can expect a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to show up in their writing. We have a good example of that as Geisler and Turek attempt to address the principle that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. First they complain that skeptics are being unreasonably demanding. Then they act like they’ve got no clue what “extraordinary” means. Then they claim that they have extraordinary evidence. Then they set unreasonably high standards of evidence for skeptics to live up to with regards to evolution. Then they mush all their confusions into one by complaining that skeptics believe the story of Alexander the Great on far less evidence than exists for the Resurrection. And then they wrap up by denying that evidence is really necessary, in Jesus’ case.

In short, the whole concept of evidence simply freaks them out.

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Posted in IDHEFTBA, Unapologetics, XFiles. 23 Comments »

Enough rope

According to cl, I’ve sabotaged my case by mentioning Joseph Smith, Benny Hinn, Uri Geller and Sylvia Browne.

See, problem is you’ve already allowed more than enough rope to hang yourself on with that statement.

The first of your three-tiered Unapologetic reminds us that “Truth is consistent with itself.” I agree that the above are charlatans, but aren’t they points in favor of the validity of the Bible, which says repeatedly that, “..false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive..? (Mark 13:21-22, Math 24:11, Math 24:24, etc.) You yourself have said, and I agreed, that truth is consistent with itself. Well, the Bible said we’d see false Christs and false prophets who performed signs to deceive, and by your own admission, when we look in the “real-world,” we find false Christs and false prophets who perform signs to deceive.

You should really quit validating scripture, you know, the irrational folks around here might not like it, and might stoop to sneering profferings about your initials because they themselves lack the ability to form a cogent argument.

From his past comments, I’d say cl is pretty sharp, so I suspect that the above is more of a facetious jab than a serious argument. Nevertheless, there are Christians who do sincerely offer this sort of reasoning as proof of the validity of the Bible, and as a refutation of skeptics. So let’s take a look at it, shall we?

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Posted in Unapologetics. 3 Comments »