Divine Intervention (2)

As we saw yesterday, if the Gospel Hypothesis were true, we ought to expect divine intervention to consist of God showing up to participate in the tangible, personal, two-way interaction that is the very definition of what He wants for us and for Himself for all eternity. Likewise, there are some highly significant and distinctive characteristics that we ought to expect to find if the Myth Hypothesis were true, especially in the area of divine intervention.

The central claim of the Myth Hypothesis is twofold: that the Christian God does not exist outside the minds and imaginations of men, and that all reports of His existence and intervention are the product of human myth-building. This premise has two direct and inevitable implications for the topic of divine intervention. First of all, if God does not exist, then obviously He can’t show up, as in the Gospel Hypothesis, to engage in any actual divine interventions. This is going to impart some distinctive and inescapable characteristics to any reports of divine activity in the real world.

But additionally, and perhaps more importantly, God’s absence is going to mean that there is no real-world resource available to contradict anyone who claims to have had some kind of special interaction with God. In other words, God’s absence will produce a kind of power vacuum to be filled by anyone with enough ambition, charisma and wit to convince other people of his or her special relationship with God. The social and political opportunities produced by God’s absence would give men a powerful incentive to become enthusiastic myth-builders.

There’s at least two posts’ worth of material in the above two points, so we’ll focus on the first aspect for now. How would God’s absence affect divine intervention? The obvious answer is that it would prevent divine intervention from occurring at all, which is true as far as it goes. Just because divine intervention does not happen in the real world, however, is no obstacle to divine intervention playing a significant role in a believer’s world view, however.

This distinction between world and worldview, which we’ve discussed before, can be used as a quick rule of thumb for distinguishing between the consequences of the Gospel Hypothesis and those of the Myth Hypothesis. When divine intervention takes place in the real world, it’s consistent with the Gospel Hypothesis, and when it takes place only in the worldview, then it’s consistent with the Myth Hypothesis.

What are the characteristics of a divine intervention which appears only in a person’s worldview then? First of all, the believer will necessarily assert that this intervention somehow took place in the real world. That’s the whole point of having a worldview: to impose one’s beliefs and values on the world around them. Despite this inevitable assertion, however, we would expect God’s absence to prevent such assertions from being true, and therefore they will only be able to take one of the following forms.

The first form is what we might call “fantasy,” i.e. the person making the assertion has simply imagined that it took place. This is the realm where we propose that something happened simply because it makes a plausible-sounding story to suggest that it might have taken place. Such territory is fertile ground for myth-building because absolutely no evidence is required—not even Scriptural evidence. The myth-builder is free to propose any scenario they wish, such as suggesting that God secretly reveals Himself to every human heart, just to satisfy some apologetic objective, as long as it can be made to sound plausibly consistent with a greater, Christian theological context.

Next, we have more direct, subjective experiences we could label “intuition,” i.e. things that happen to us in our minds and hearts through psychosocial mechanisms such as wishful thinking, group suggestion, autosuggestion, and honest misunderstanding. We humans are quite capable of using excessive introspection to tamper with our own subjective perceptions to the point that we honestly can’t tell whether we’re receiving some kind of psychic communication or whether we’re just listening to our own inner narrative. We don’t all practice this particular technique for self-deception, but we all have the capacity for doing so.

Another major form of divine “intervention” is superstition: attributing real-world phenomena to God in order to count them as instances of actual divine intervention. This one is particularly popular because it not only advances the claim of actual real-world intervention, but it also allows the believer to view otherwise mysterious and possibly worrisome phenomena as being under God’s benign control. In addition, it also has the advantage of being difficult to dislodge, since the actual explanation is apt to be technical enough or complicated enough that the casual believer will lose interest in understanding it, and will simply reject it out of boredom.

The last category we’ll call “hearsay,” incorporating both the unintentional exaggeration and misrepresentation commonly found in urban legends, and the more deliberately fraudulent stuff of hoaxes and scams. These are the stories that spread and grow not just because of the content of the claim, but because of the dramatic and engaging character of the story itself, possibly augmented by falsified testimony and evidence.

If you’ve been reading ER for a while, you’ll probably recognize this as the FISH acronym I’ve presented before: fantasy, intuition, superstition and hearsay. I’ve used this as an illustration of the human sources of information about God, but for todays post I want to point out that, again, this is not an arbitrary designation. These are the characteristics of “worldview divine intervention” that necessarily must be found if the Myth Hypothesis is true. God’s absence from real life allows for no other form of divine intervention to take place.

I’ve been working with the FISH acronym for a few years now, and I’m getting pretty confident that it covers pretty much all the different ways in which people can propose a worldview-based intervention in God’s absence. (Can you think of any that don’t fit under the heading of one or more FISH categories?) But the main point, just to reemphasize, is that these characteristics are the predictable and inevitable consequences of the Myth Hypothesis being true. And we’ll look at another class of consequences tomorrow.

 
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...Loading...
Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 51 Comments »

51 Responses to “Divine Intervention (2)”

  1. R. C. Moore Says:


    (Can you think of any that don’t fit under the heading of one or more FISH categories?)

    Yes, as I have mentioned before, heuristic knowledge (things we know are true without being told or shown evidence).

    I do not think you have clearly removed belief in God originating in this manner. For instance, a thought experiment:

    A fully human clone is awakened alone, on Mars, in a laboratory of the future. It possesses a fully developed human brain, but a brain which has never received any input (other than genetic) from any other human being. What heuristically correct knowledge will it apply in reaching conclusion about its origin and the environment around it?

    If it heuristically reaches the conclusion that the laboratory was “created” by an absent “creator”, is this the result of any processes present in the FISH acronym?

    It is not clear where heuristic knowledge comes from, AI experiments have demonstrated it cannot be arrived at through logic.

    Because the clone has incomplete knowledge, while its heuristic knowledge is correct, its conclusions are wrong. Perhaps the FISH acronym needs to be modified to include an absence of a inferred creator due to sincere incomplete knowledge.

  2. SavageDragon Says:

    It would seem that the example of incorrect conclusions due to sincere incomplete knowledge would fall under the Intuition category (an “honest misunderstanding” of the world as you know it, as opposed to, say, a person).

  3. cl Says:

    DD,

    As we saw yesterday, if the Gospel Hypothesis were true, we ought to expect divine intervention to consist of God showing up to participate in the tangible, personal, two-way interaction that is the very definition of what He wants for us and for Himself for all eternity.

    The Bible claims this will happen at the appointed time, not that it has happened. If the Bible claimed the latter, you’d have a case, but since it claims the former, your case appears undermined.

    ..perhaps more importantly, God’s absence is going to mean that there is no real-world resource available to contradict anyone who claims to have had some kind of special interaction with God.

    I agree, however – presuming God existed and the GH was true – what real world resource would you suggest to contradict anyone who claims to have had some kind of special interaction with God? Such appears to have turned the corner onto Unfalsifiability Avenue. Didn’t we beat ourselves into a brick wall trying to discuss just this for the past two months? Commenter jim posted quite the salient piece along these lines.

    The obvious answer is that it would prevent divine intervention from occurring at all, which is true as far as it goes.

    I’ve heard this argument here before, too. Is it reasonable to say you equate “divine intervention” with what I described as FR while discussing your so-called Undeniable Fact? If you’re talking FR, you’re correct and such is of no consequence to the GH. If you’re talking DM, there’s no way you could know that and such would also be of no consequence to the GH.

    Regarding FISH – yes, if there is no God, then all miracle claims fall under one or more FISH categories. Yet the existence of God is what we’re seeking to evaluate, so if you use one or more FISH categories to rebut a miracle claim, you also argue from superstition. If the event in question is unexplained and God’s existence undetermined, is not your descent into FISH as equally superstitious as the believer’s descent into claims of the supernatural? If nobody knows, the event is unexplained – and nothing more.

    R.C.,

    Pertinent points.

    Savage Dragon,

    Are you saying that intuition entails honest misunderstanding? Or that intuition can entail honest misunderstanding?

  4. R. C. Moore Says:


    The Bible claims this will happen at the appointed time, not that it has happened.

    I thought the Bible claimed is was already supposed to have happened and it didn’t.

  5. R. C. Moore Says:


    It would seem that the example of incorrect conclusions due to sincere incomplete knowledge would fall under the Intuition category (an “honest misunderstanding” of the world as you know it, as opposed to, say, a person).

    Very close, but the root term (intuition) has more to do with a guess about an outcome, so the honest misunderstanding using DD’s definition would be more like wishful thinking using the wrong facts.

    Heuristic knowledge is real knowledge, albeit incomplete. A belief in a God is completely justified using heuristics if:

    1) Your belief is not self-condictractory
    2) You are open to new information correcting/extending your belief.

    This does not imply the God exists, only that the belief is justified.

    Buddhism, per the current Dali Lama, seems to meet this criteria.

    We could not function as humans if we discarded our trust in heuristic knowledge. We would be reduced to the functionality of the better AI computer programs.

  6. cl Says:

    I thought the Bible claimed is was already supposed to have happened and it didn’t. (sic)

    I’ve read arguments from you along these lines before, and found them unconvincing. Have you added anything new yet?

  7. R. C. Moore Says:


    I’ve read arguments from you along these lines before, and found them unconvincing. Have you added anything new yet?

    No, I think I make the same argument. I can’t remember anyone refuting it, so nothing new.

    Maybe I missed the refutation?

  8. cl Says:

    If you’re still making the same argument, there’s nothing to refute. Apparently you think the book of Revelation has been fulfilled. I disagree.

  9. R. C. Moore Says:

    Maybe we are not talking about the same thing. Here is the Gospel passage I was referring to that I never saw a refutation for:


    Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

    – Matthew 24:1-34,Mark 13:1-30,Luke 21:5-32

    A very specific prediction, it gives who, what, when and where, things that could not possibly be missed.

    Claimed in the Bible, never happened.

  10. R. C. Moore Says:


    Apparently you think the book of Revelation has been fulfilled

    No, I have not read it. Would I expect it to be if I had?

  11. cl Says:

    If you’ve never read Revelation, why are you making definitive claims regarding prophecy and the Bible? Shouldn’t one read the material before they challenge it? First get acquainted with the material, then make your claims.

  12. R. C. Moore Says:


    If you’ve never read Revelation, why are you making definitive claims regarding prophecy and the Bible? Shouldn’t one read the material before they challenge it? First get acquainted with the material, then make your claims.

    Sorry. I was just trying to find an example to address your earlier statement:


    The Bible claims this will happen at the appointed time, not that it has happened. If the Bible claimed the latter, you’d have a case, but since it claims the former, your case appears undermined.

    by showing that the Gospels do contain a very specific claim that never came true.

    I did not know the discussion was restricted to Revelations, and I apologize for not being familiar with that work. I thought we were discussing specific pronouncements by divinities, in this case Jesus of Nazareth. It is my understanding (have not read it, as admitted), that the book of Revelations is not a Gospel, or the words of Jesus.

    I would still like to see this specific claim refuted, since I have posted it twice, Revelations not withstanding.

  13. cl Says:

    Your latest comment actually brings up an interesting point. I think it reinforces my claim that DD should change the name of his so-called “Gospel Hypothesis” to something else.

    I did not know the discussion was restricted to Revelations, and I apologize for not being familiar with that work. I thought we were discussing specific pronouncements by divinities, in this case Jesus of Nazareth.

    Although it’s not a synoptic gospel, Revelation does contain Jesus’ words. However, the discussion isn’t limited to Revelation, and neither should we limit it to the Gospels if we’re evaluating the God of the Bible (which is still unclear to me). I have to ask – is it fair to imply that the Gospel Hypothesis is false if we don’t take the rest of the Bible’s claims into account, when they’re all purportedly related and interdependent?

    As it seems a bit out-of-place here, I’ll devote an entire post to your claim on my own blog, if you don’t mind waiting. In fact, I’d already started when I saw your claim the first time.

    Lastly, it seems we’re on the same page re heuristics. You’re the first non-believer I’ve ever heard who conceded that belief in God can be completely justified, and I admire that more than I can express.

  14. R. C. Moore Says:


    You’re the first non-believer I’ve ever heard who conceded that belief in God can be completely justified, and I admire that more than I can express.

    Well admiration is always appreciated, but I did have a few caveats, if you remember:

    1) Your belief is not self-contradictory
    2) You are open to new information correcting/extending your belief.

    I have never seen the conditions satisfied for any specific God-claim, but I am not strict on those who wish to ignore them, as long as they do not expect me to.

  15. cl Says:

    My beliefs are not self-contradictory, and I’m always open to new information, so it seems we should be good from here on out.

  16. Arthur Says:

    I guess that takes care of this, then.

  17. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    You appear to believe that my Gospel Hypothesis is dependent in some way upon the Bible. What can I do to convince you that this is not the case, and that my Gospel Hypothesis is intended to stand on its own, as a hypothesis whose consequences can be determined reliably and analytically, and compared to real-world conditions?

  18. Deacon Duncan Says:

    R. C.

    I’m not sure I’m entirely clear on what you mean by heuristic knowledge. Your example of the clone on Mars seems to involve a fairly clear instance of attributing observable phenomena to some arbitrary, non-observable agency (thus falling under the category of superstition). Heuristics, as I understand it, has to do with learning by experience and/or by trial and error, so I’m not quite sure how to parse the concept of “heuristic knowledge,” unless it would involve God showing up to be experienced (or unless one arbitrarily attributed one’s experiences to God, thus thinking superstitiously).

  19. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    What are DM and FR?

  20. John Morales Says:

    DD,

    I’m not sure I’m entirely clear on what you mean by heuristic knowledge.

    RC wrote: “heuristic knowledge (things we know are true without being told or shown evidence)”.

    It sounds as though the term is used to refer to analytic propositions; heuristic normally has a different meaning.

  21. R. C. Moore Says:

    DD, John Morales —

    Looking at the wikipedia entry, I may be using the term “heuristic” in a highly unfamiliar way, so unfamiliar I may be way off base! I am pulling it from my AI background, and have specific references I need to look up. The wikipedia entry hints at the definition I am using in the sections on computer science and engineering.

    So let me get back to you.

    I can give the following classic example, from AI:

    If I ask you where is Lincoln buried, you will reply Springfield, Illinois. If I ask you where Lincoln’s left leg is, you will reply Springfield, Illinois.

    Why? A computer (which means logic) could never reach such a conclusion, unless the fact “Lincoln’s left leg is buried with him” has been previously established through earlier rules. But a human, without being told, or through empirical data or experimentation, just “knows” this.

    Much of human knowledge is this kind of knowledge — conclusions we reach without that any formal analysis. It is “good enough” knowledge — it may be wrong sometimes, but it is right enough times to be highly valuable.

    For many, this kind of knowledge seems obvious, like common sense, but in actuality the process is extremely complex. This may be close to what DD calls intuition, but it is not — I can code up “educated guessing” as an algorithm (expert systems do it all the time), but I cannot code up heuristic knowledge.

    My “clone” in my thought experiment, because it possesses a human brain, will “know” an enormous amount of information, even without one iota of external informational input from other humans, through heuristic knowledge. He will in fact infer a “creator” of the laboratory around him.

    Why? That is my question. I see nothing in FISH that answers that.

  22. cl Says:

    Arthur,

    I promised R.C. a full post that would address his question, so I don’t see the reason for your comment.

    DD,

    You appear to believe that my Gospel Hypothesis is dependent in some way upon the Bible.

    Isn’t it ostensibly derived from the Bible, or are you simply attacking a piecemeal God? If the former, we must attack what the Bible says God does or will do, not what we think God should do. If the latter, I’m uninterested entirely, and I submit again that you should change the name from Gospel Hypothesis to something else.

    DM/FR was originally offered in response to your so-called Undeniable Fact in our miracle discussion. It is neither undeniable nor fact to say God has never shown up in some disparate manifestation (DM) to some person or subset of people. However, it does seem both undeniable and fact to say God has not shown up in the final revelation (FR) to everyone as described in the Bible. When you say God should show up to drink beer with his buddies, such implies DM. When you say God should show up on the evening news “so we all can know,” such implies FR.

    And I submit that you should quit using the FISH acronym. It’s superstition entirely – presuming of course that the God question has not already been conclusively answered, and that the events in question are unexplainable.

    R.C.,

    Although I see where you’re going, it’s by no means failsafe. That Lincoln’s left leg is with Lincoln’s body is not necessarily true, and I can’t consider that “good enough” knowledge. It rests on too many assumptions. Is human pregnancy proof that a male penetrated a female?

  23. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Ok, I think I see where you’re coming from. What you’re referring to is the accumulated patterns of organized concepts that we derive from our past experiences. This is partly a reflection of the self-consistency of the real world we experience, and partly a reflection of the biochemical mechanisms with which we process and organize our perceptions.

    I don’t think this is a separate category of thought process from what I call fantasy, intuition, superstition and hearsay, but is rather a lower-level discussion of the architecture of perception and cognition. We know that Lincoln’s leg is buried in Springfield because we apply previously-acquired patterns such as composition (Lincoln’s leg is part of Lincoln’s body) and integrity (we expect that Lincoln’s body is as intact as any 150-ish-year-old corpse would be). That’s how we reach our conclusion, but it tells us little about the nature or quality of the conclusion itself.

    I hear people saying “intuition,” which is fairly close because intuition is largely a non-analytical pattern recognition process. But heuristic reasoning can also lead to conclusions that are purely imaginative and/or superstitious—extensions of the pattern and/or combinations with other patterns that produce results that are no longer consistent with the patterns we find in the real world. So I think what you’re talking about is more orthagonal to the kind of categories I’m looking for.

    Plus let’s face it, I like having a handy and memorable mnemonic like “FISH,” so I’m probably biased. But on the other hand, whenever I think of a possible fifth category, it usually seems to turn out to be a subset of one or more of the previous four, so I haven’t had a strong reason to move away from the FISH for now.

  24. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl,

    Isn’t [the Gospel Hypothesis] ostensibly derived from the Bible, or are you simply attacking a piecemeal God?

    Neither, of course. I am proposing a hypothesis with predictable consequences, so that we can evaluate the relative justifications for concluding whether the hypothesis is true or false in the context of the real world evidence. Do you have objections to this approach?

  25. cl Says:

    I understand, and my objections remain. You say your approach is to propose a hypothesis with predictable consequences, and that’s all fine and dandy. What I object to is your apparent refusal to admit or even entertain the idea that the consequences you say the GH logically entails are not necessarily the only consequences the GH logically entails.

    It’s like you’re saying over and over again, “God is false because God doesn’t do what I say God logically should do when I say God should logically do it,” yet the God you contest is at least more intelligent than you, if not wholly omniscient. Don’t you see a fundamental problem in human God?

    I’m not trying to be a stalwart or anything, just telling you how this looks to a reasonable believer with a working brain.

  26. Deacon Duncan Says:

    So propose something you think God would be more likely to do, if He truly desires an endless relationship with each of us, and has the power and opportunity to show up to participate in that relationship. Explain why you think that would be a more likely consequence than the ones I’m outlining. Your contributions would be entirely on-topic and welcome here.

  27. Deacon Duncan Says:

    By the way, I notice you are focusing on God’s capabilities rather than His desires. But if His capabilities are limitless, won’t His behavior be determined more by His desires than by what He can and cannot do?

  28. cl Says:

    I’m not proposing a “more likely” explanation, just that other explanations exist which are reasonable and plausible given the criteria of the hypothesis. Saying which course of action God is more likely to take seems like a fool’s errand to me.

    Still, I accept your challenge. Stay tuned, R.C.’s in line first. In the meantime, from where do you get the idea that God’s capabilities are limitless? And would you be willing to address a list of past questions of mine? Such would greatly help me formulate my formal response and better understand your position.

  29. Arthur Says:

    If it’s a fool’s errand to try to understand God’s will, then the problem is obvious: the world is (and has always been) full of people who claim to understand God’s will, and they’re all fools, unless they’re liars.

    There’s an obvious implication as well: that no actual, reliable information on God’s will is available. If there were, then we could for-really look for it. It’s not a fool’s errand to look for something that exists.

    But majority opinion, for what it’s worth, seems to pretty strongly endorse speculation about God’s will (for what that’s worth), so it must be okay for Deacon to do it. I mean, just about everybody’s doing it.

    And I don’t know about Deacon but, personally, I got the idea that the Christian God has limitless capabilities from Christians telling me so. I hear the Bible tells them so, but I can’t confirm or deny that.

  30. cl Says:

    I didn’t say it was a fool’s errand to try to understand God’s will, and I agree with you that it’s not a fool’s errand to look for something that exists. I said saying which course of action God is more likely to take seems like a fool’s errand to me.

    Your third paragraph amounts to two wrongs making a right, and I don’t buy majority opinion. Remember, the Bible says the majority are in error.

    Just out of honest curiosity and not the desire to snark, when was the last time you studied the Bible and how much of it have you read? How familiar are you with it? Have you ever read it cover-to-cover? I was actually taken aback when R.C. told me he hadn’t read Revelation, and I mean no offense to R.C. Sometimes it dawns on me that people often attempt to refute the Bible without having even studied it in its entirety in their native language, let alone the originals.

  31. R. C. Moore Says:


    Sometimes it dawns on me that people often attempt to refute the Bible without having even studied it in its entirety in their native language, let alone the originals.

    I think more knowledge is better, but I would never suggest that someone who has not read Russell’s Principles of Mathematics in not qualified to assert 2 + 2 != 5.

  32. cl Says:

    Just a bit of an oversimplification, I think. By the way, I’ve gotten some more work done on the refutation you asked for. I’m glad you stopped by, because I wanted to ask if perhaps you could clarify your position a bit more formally. I want to understand it as fully as you do.

  33. R. C. Moore Says:


    perhaps you could clarify your position a bit more formally. I want to understand it as fully as you do.

    I have no position. I have only a quote from the Bible, that very specifically claims something would happen, and places a boundary on the time frame in which it would happen.

    It did not happen.

    There are many possibilities for this. Those who chose one need to defend it.

    Does that help?

  34. Arthur Says:

    I didn’t say it was a fool’s errand to try to understand God’s will… I said saying which course of action God is more likely to take seems like a fool’s errand to me.

    Do you mean, “It seems like a fool’s errand to try to anticipate God’s next move”; or do you mean, “It seems like a fool’s errand to try to imagine how a deity might act, given that it has announced to us its greatest desire”?

    …I don’t buy majority opinion.

    I don’t normally put much stock in it either, but on this topic what else is there? The Bible? The world is full of people who claim to understand the Bible.

    …when was the last time you studied the Bible and how much of it have you read?

    cl… it’s me, Arthur. I’ve never read the Bible at all, any of it. Do you consider it to be beyond the reach of unwashed human opinion? I get the impression that Deacon has a passing familiarity with it but, by your own lights, that just means it’s no protection against the allure of fool’s errands.

  35. R. C. Moore Says:

    In the interest of full disclosure I have also never read (in translation or original language):

    Koran
    Talumud
    Bhagavad Gita
    Tao-te-ching
    Upanishads
    Veda

    so I guess I am unable to comment on their trustworthiness as documents of divine knowledge.

  36. Chigliakus Says:

    R.C.

    Probably not fair to have the Tao Te Ching on that list, I don’t recall it making any claims to divine knowledge. It’s credited to Lao Tsu which translates to something like “a wise man.” Of the self-described Taoists I know personally, only one embraces mysticism, the rest are agnostics and atheists.

  37. R. C. Moore Says:


    Probably not fair to have the Tao Te Ching on that list, I don’t recall it making any claims to divine knowledge.

    I am sure you are right. How about the I Ching then?

  38. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    You guys better get to reading the Compendium of Leprechology and Fairyology too, otherwise you’re not fit to comment on leprechauns and fairies.

  39. Chigliakus Says:

    I am sure you are right. How about the I Ching then?

    I’ve never read the I Ching, but I suspect it would qualify for your list of documents of divine knowledge. Wikipedia seems to agree with my understanding that it’s more about eastern mysticism than philosophy.

  40. cl Says:

    Man, some of you guys make atheists and skeptics look really bad, especially ThatOtherGuy’s knee-jerk vapidity. Isn’t someone who’s never read a lick of evolutionary theory unable to reliably comment on its trustworthiness as scientific fact? Answer honestly now.

    Irrational, emotionally-motivated folks tend to see things unnecessarily in black and white. When creationists concede to never having studied evolution, atheists and skeptics rightly denounce their arguments, and not without good cause. Will ostensibly rational individuals really deny that an analogous phenomena exists in the converse context? In terms of knowledge and reliability, would any of you equate the believer who’s read vociferously on evolution from Darwin to Gould to your basic biology textbook with the believer who’s never read a lick of evolutionary theory?

    Anyone is free to denounce whatever document they wish, and I would never say that one need to read an entire document to denounce it. On the other hand, if one wants their rejection of any document to stand the tests of reason, it would behoove them to familiarize themselves with the relevant material, no?

    It is entirely within reason to take an argument more seriously from someone who’s at least read the relevant source material than an argument from someone who has not.

  41. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl, I think if you re-read what the above commenters posted, you’ll see that they’re all proposing exactly the same thing you are: that their lack of study in the relevant areas leaves them unqualified (or less qualified) to comment authoritatively on those areas. The irony is that these are all areas where a lot of people take it for granted that the beliefs in question are false. If this standard is going to be used to deny that skeptics can reasonably reject the Bible, then the same standard ought to prevent Christians from pronouncing the beliefs of others as untrue. And conversely, if it’s a bit silly to say that you can’t know leprechauns and unicorns are mythical without conducting an extensive study of leprechaunology and unicornology, then it ought to be allowed that skeptics can draw similar conclusions, on a similar basis, with regards to the Bible.

  42. jim Says:

    Deacon: Not to mention that the bible isn’t actually a document, but a series of texts written and redacted through the course of hundreds of years, and which often have little to do with each other. Consider Grimms Fairy tales: If I’m commenting on the internal cohesion of ‘The Devil with Three Golden Hairs’, I don’t necessarily have to be conversant with ‘The Death of the Little Hen’, or ‘Fair Katrinelje and Pif-Paf-Poltrie’. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I don’t have to read any of it to know it’s not a compendium of Roman artillery usage and evolution. I might be wrong, but I’d bed a thousand dollars that I’m not.

  43. jim Says:

    Ugh, ‘bet’ not ‘bed’. Seems the scotch is working its magic. On the other hand, if it smelled really nice…

  44. R.C Moore Says:

    I don’t think evolution is a fair comparison — the knowledge of evolution is based on objective evidence — evidence that is the same to all observers using the same protocol, within a predetermined statistical variation.

    Because of this, I do not need to be an expert in evolution, I can trust the experts themselves, as they are in agreement.

    Religious works, since they disagree on almost everything, obviously do not fall in this category, so they make themselves open to comment by expert and novice alike.

  45. jim Says:

    ThatOtherGuy:

    I assume you’re reading the Compendium of Leprechaunology in the original Gaelic. Otherwise you’re probably getting the whole eschatology wrong, and you know what they do with those shillelaghs down in leprechaun hell, don’t you?

  46. cl Says:

    DD,

    I got the impression that Arthur and R.C. were being genuine, and that as usual, ThatOtherGuy was doing what he usually does when I’m around. No biggie, I just didn’t want to name any names. The people who aren’t making smart-ass comments should be well aware of the fact, hence unoffended.

    And you’re absolutely correct – the same standard should prevent Christians from pronouncing the beliefs of others as untrue – and such is what I was getting at with, “Isn’t someone who’s never read a lick of evolutionary theory unable to reliably comment on its trustworthiness as scientific fact?” Of course, nobody answered that question.

    To say that we can’t know leprechauns and unicorns are mythical without conducting at least a perfunctory study of leprechaunology and unicornology is rationally prudent – not silly. That people automatically assume leprechauns and unicorns are imaginary suggests they only extend their rationalism to that which they’ve pre-decided they are willing to allow as possible, and that’s a huge mistake. I say begin with as little assumptions as possible, especially when existing species of single-horned deer living today are anatomically analogous to the unicorns of lore. Now on the other hand, to insist that the unicorn is “invisible” or “pink” or “flying” seems less credible, and to say that such seems less credible is certainly no abandon of reason – unless of course we want to say puke-green elephants and lasagne trees are entirely within reason, too. Things aren’t always so black and white.

    Quite simply, condemnation without investigation is a bar to all knowledge. I ordinarily address you, DD, because as someone else mentioned earlier, you do seem to have a passing knowledge of the Bible. The credibility of those who argue a subject is directly affected by their level of exposure to arguments both for and against said subject.

  47. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Of course, this begs the question of what constitutes “at least a perfunctory study,” and whether the standards are set higher or lower depending on whether you’re fer it or agin it. But I agree in general that those with greater expertise in a given subject area usually deserve greater respect for their opinions (Moonies with doctorates in biology notwithstanding).

    That said, I’ve also seen some apologists who set inflated and/or arbitrary standards of “Bible expertise” simply as a means of creating a pretext for discrediting some skeptic, as opposed to actually addressing their points. I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an unfortunate and morally questionable practice, especially when they’re only trying to avoid questions that reflect at least a perfunctory study of the subject.

  48. Arthur Says:

    I agree that fewer assumptions are better than more assumptions, but I have to confess that, in my brain, this means the opposite of cl’s formulation: I default to disbelief in, for example, unicorns, and would require reasons to revise that position. For better or for worse, I’ve found that this is one of those things about my brain I seem unable to change, even experimentally.

    Regarding the Bible, nothing I can see of its effect on the world persuades me to revise my consideration that it’s a foundational religious text like any other, and there are many. It certainly enjoys an enormous popular bias here in the US, but as was mentioned earlier, majority opinion is no reason to buy.

  49. cl Says:

    DD,

    I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an unfortunate and morally questionable practice, especially when they’re only trying to avoid questions that reflect at least a perfunctory study of the subject.

    Indeed I would, and it looks like we’re getting to know each other a bit better. However, there’s a fine line between a Courtier’s Reply and a valid argument. In general, when arguing about religion, I see reasonable grounds to take somebody who’s read the entire Bible more seriously than somebody who has negligible to zero exposure to the Bible.

    In this regard, more than one of your commenters seem quite overconfident, but that’s just my opinion and no better than any other.

  50. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    jim:

    In gaelic?! You filthy heretic, the one true Compendium of Leprechaunology is in OLD IRISH! May a thousand shillelaghs fall on your head in Leprechaun Hell, heathen!

  51. Arthur Says:

    Saying which course of action God is more likely to take seems like a fool’s errand to me.

    Do you mean, “It seems like a fool’s errand to try to anticipate God’s next move”; or do you mean, “It seems like a fool’s errand to try to imagine how a deity might act, given that it has announced to us its greatest desire”?