A milestone

We’ve still got a lot more that could be said about the differences in consequences between the Myth Hypothesis and the Gospel Hypothesis. I thought it might be a good time, though, to take a brief breather, and survey where we’ve come from, and the course we’ve charted thus far.

I originally started this series because a number of commenters objected to my claim that it is an “Undeniable Fact” that God does not show up in real life. I could not possibly make such a claim with any intellectual honesty, some said, because such a claim would require omniscience on my part. My reply was that I was not basing my claim on a brute force approach, i.e. by personally investigating each and every claim that might constitute a genuine appearance of God. Instead, I am basing it on a more scientific approach, based on the principle that the truth is consistent with itself.

I think by this point, I am legitimately entitled to claim that I have met my burden of proof, and have established the intellectual honesty of claiming, as undeniable fact, the observation that God does not show up in real life. If He did, we would be having a very different conversation right now with respect to the consequences of the Myth Hypothesis versus the Gospel Hypothesis. Christian apologists are arguing, not just that God’s absence from real life is possible, but that we ought to expect the Gospel Hypothesis to result in an absence that is just as pervasive and undeniable as the one that would result from the Myth Hypothesis being true. Needless to say, this apologetic would be entirely counterproductive (for Christianity) if it were not true that God is as absent as any mythical being would have to be.

This discussion has also been productive because it has shown fairly clearly that Christians do indeed know that God does not show up in real life. When I first proposed that the Gospel Hypothesis implies that God would show up to participate in the relationship He had worked so hard to make possible, the Christian reaction was immediate and unmistakable. How could I know that? What made me so sure that the Gospel Hypothesis wouldn’t produce the same consequences as the Myth Hypothesis? I was just creating ad hoc “predictions” designed to make Christianity look bad! And so on and so on.

We all know, believer or unbeliever, that the Myth Hypothesis is the best predictor for the evidence that we will actually find in the real world. The immediate and primary reaction of Christians to this fact is to challenge the idea that the Gospel Hypothesis ought to produce different consequences. But the predictions of the Myth Hypothesis are only an advantage in a world where God does not show up outside the myths, beliefs, and superstitions of men, so by recognizing the need to harmonize the Gospel with the Myth Hypothesis, Christians show that they do indeed understand what kind of godless world we live in (at least as far as the Trinity is concerned).

It’s rather a dilemma for the apologist, though, because if we admit the Undeniable Fact that God does not show up in real life, then we’re faced with the Inescapable Consequence—our “faith” cannot be based on anything more than the fantasies, intuitions, superstitions and hearsay of men, and thus can never claim to rise above the level of mere gullibility. But if the apologist agrees that God should, and theoretically could be showing up in real life, as predicted by the Gospel Hypothesis, then he’s faced with the unmistakable consistency between real life and the Myth Hypothesis, and the equally unmistakable INconsistency between real life and the Gospel Hypothesis.

And, once again, this outcome is precisely the way we would expect things to turn out as a consequence of the Myth Hypothesis being true. God’s non-existence will force the real world to reflect His absence, and therefore Christian apologists will be stuck wrestling with the dilemma of either admitting that God should be showing up if the Gospel Hypothesis were true, or admitting the Undeniable Fact that He doesn’t show up. Either way, we’re left with a Christian God Who appears and speaks and acts only in the feelings and imaginations of men, as predicted by the Myth Hypothesis. If that doesn’t clue us in on the truth, then we’re just not sincerely seeking it.

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 105 Comments »

105 Responses to “A milestone”

  1. pboyfloyd Says:

    Amen.

  2. 5keptical Says:

    Congratulations on a whole series of well-reasoned essays that provide several new approaches to dealing with the godstruck.

    So when does the book come out and you get your appointment as the 6th horseman? 🙂

  3. cl Says:

    Talk about jumping the gun… (commenters above).

    It’s finals week, so I can’t really spend much time right this second, but I will submit that ~FR within the past 5,000 years or so seems an undeniable fact. However, ~DM cannot be known. It’s also fully reasonable that if God exists, perhaps God did show up universally (FR) to everyone at some point in the distant past? How could we ever know? Perhaps an event like that was the religious singularity from which all divergent creeds and ideas about God sprang. It certainly conforms to the patterns of story evolution we see in other areas of life.

    FR = Final Revelation, i.e. God manifesting to all people;
    DM = Disparate Manifestation, i.e. God manifesting to some but not others.

  4. Hunt Says:

    From a religious perspective, the most plausible hypotheses are Deism or “The God who conceals himself from us” (= “Shy God” hypothesis). Deism is not compatible with Christianity and is not subject to its many contradictions, hence the deist god is a much harder beast to take down logically — although Victor Stenger is making the attempt in his new book “Quantum God.” You can’t reconcile the Shy Christian God to the God of absolute beneficence, since he entails incomplete human knowledge of him, and yet each human is eternally responsible for recognizing his existence. This is either illogical or an immoral conundrum to face moral people with. It’s worth noting, however, that it’s wholly consistent with a capricious evil god, very much like the impression the OT God leaves in the minds of nonbelievers. I think this is one of the reasons for the longevity of the OT and the fact that it hasn’t been jettisoned by centuries of Christians. The god that is capricious, evilly playful and cruelly toying with humankind is precisely the god needed to explain his absence. This is in contrast to Jesus, of course, but Jesus is really only referenced in Christianity as someone we meet after death, or as righteous warrior at the end of the world. The God that cures cancer, makes tsunamis, and venereal diseases, is the OT god.

  5. Deacon Duncan Says:

    It’s also fully reasonable that if God exists, perhaps God did show up universally (FR) to everyone at some point in the distant past? How could we ever know? Perhaps an event like that was the religious singularity from which all divergent creeds and ideas about God sprang.

    There are two approaches we can take. We can adopt a position of strict agnosticism and say that we can never know. But why stop with such a limited declaration of agnosticism? If we’re going to be agnostics, let’s deny that it is possible to know anything about anything, since there always remains the possibility that some inscrutable and sufficiently powerful deity is magically interfering with our ability to discover the truth. If we are truly opposed to having reliable knowledge about God, that’s going to be our best bet.

    The other option would be to base our knowledge on the principle that truth is consistent with itself. Remember, though that since God is not showing up in real life now, we are not dealing with interpreting the meaning of real-life observations of God. All we are dealing with is evaluating the things men tell us about God. If these things are not consistent with themselves and with the real-world evidence, then they are not the truth. And if they are less consistent with the real-world evidence than some other hypothesis, such as the Myth Hypothesis, then the reasonable conclusion would be to reject the weaker in favor of the one that was more consistent with the evidence—if, of course, our goal really is to know the truth about God, and not just to promote some human-inspired theological agenda.

    As for jumping the gun, may I point out that my conclusions are consistent with the evidence presented thus far? I strongly suspect that the reason you have not yet told us how you reconcile the God-free real world evidence with the Gospel Hypothesis is because you do not currently have any argument to present. You are waiting for some free time in which you hope to think something up. And in the meantime you are arguing agnosticism, which (as I mentioned above) is advantageous to the Christian cause only in the case where God does indeed fail to show up in real life.

    But agnostic arguments do not apply in cases where there is a clear distinction between the consequences of the different hypotheses. Since you have yet to show that the consequences ought to be identical. “jumping the gun” would refer more appropriately to your attempts to urge agnosticism on us prematurely, not to those who comment on the evidence actually presented to date.

  6. cl Says:

    Hunt,

    Certainly a quibble or two, but I liked your comment.

    DD,

    If we’re going to be agnostics, let’s deny that it is possible to know anything about anything, since there always remains the possibility that some inscrutable and sufficiently powerful deity is magically interfering with our ability to discover the truth.

    I don’t understand this reasoning at all, and it’s actually slippery slope reasoning. This is the position that commenter jim would always attempt to tar me with, and it’s not at all where I’m going. Saying that FR may have happened in the far distant past or saying that DM may happen at anytime does not entail “that it is impossible to know anything about anything.” Saying we cannot know A or B doesn’t preclude knowledge of C-Z.

    I agree with your second paragraph completely, and a truthful discussion is what I’m here for.

    I strongly suspect that the reason you have not yet told us how you reconcile the God-free real world evidence with the Gospel Hypothesis is because you do not currently have any argument to present.

    Assume to your heart’s content, DD. Other possibilities include final exams week, being a friend and family member, and of course – life. The weather’s been nice. Plus, I don’t reconcile the real-world evidence with your personal “Gospel Hypothesis,” which is quite perfunctory and incomplete. As a serious student of the Bible for almost 20 years now, I don’t take your Gospel Hypothesis seriously at all, and I submit that very few reasoned believers will. I’ve been trying to explain why, but it doesn’t seem to change anything. You seem to want to cling to your GH with the same tenacity you mistakenly believe I pursue agnosticism and rationalization with.

    You are waiting for some free time in which you hope to think something up.

    Incorrect, and might I ask how you would know? Have you solved the infamous “Problem of Mind?” Now that would be book-worthy. I’ve already thought so much up in response to this series that it’s overwhelming, and I submit that you’ve left unanswered questions – still. The squeaky wheel gets the grease DD, and I told you I bumped you to the front of the line. Don’t worry. You’re going to see what I’ve got. You should know that a scholarly and reasoned analysis can’t be rushed. Although I must admit some of these installments seem rushed and repetitious. You can only say “God should be right here, right now” so many times.

    And in the meantime you are arguing agnosticism, which (as I mentioned above) is advantageous to the Christian cause only in the case where God does indeed fail to show up in real life.

    I’m not arguing agnosticism at all, rather basic logic. Unless we have different understandings of what it means to know something is an undeniable fact, there is no way we can know that FR never occurred – but I’ll agree it seems reasonable to say that something analogous has not occurred since we began keeping historical records. It’s also completely laughable for any person to say it’s an undeniable fact that God has never shown up to some group of people at some point in time a la disparate manifestation (DM). What you call “Undeniable Fact” is neither undeniable nor fact, and I submit that my rebuttal is both.

    But agnostic arguments do not apply in cases where there is a clear distinction between the consequences of the different hypotheses.

    I will present my own hypothesis, because as we’ll see – as Jayman and myself have been trying to explain – no offense, but your Gospel Hypothesis is cherry-picked, and you attack a piecemeal god of your own making.

  7. cl Says:

    Sorry to double-post, but pouring my morning cup of coffee this one came back to mind:

    If we’re going to be agnostics, let’s deny that it is possible to know anything about anything, since there always remains the possibility that some inscrutable and sufficiently powerful deity is magically interfering with our ability to discover the truth.

    This flippant attitude can be equally adapted to my argument: If we’re going to say “it’s undeniable fact that God has never shown up,” why not just say God is a myth? Indeed, that “it’s impossible to know anything about anything” was not where I was going – but “God doesn’t show up therefore God is myth” seems to be exactly where you’re going.

  8. pboyfloyd Says:

    “God doesn’t show up therefore God is myth” seems to be exactly where you’re going.

    By Jove, I think you’ve got it!

    (Jove doesn’t ‘show up’ either, except as the planet, but we know what THAT IS now.)

  9. R. C. Moore Says:

    “God doesn’t show up therefore God is myth” seems to be exactly where you’re going.

    I prefer “God hasn’t show up therefore God should be treated as a myth”, until evidence shows otherwise.

    I have no problem with people holding out for a God, I just object to their assertion they can discriminate between them.

  10. Arthur Says:

    cl,

    You have pointedly declined to cite the Bible as a reliable source of information on God. The closest I got to an answer (to the question of where your reliable information about God comes from) was total agnostic abdication:

    …my general position—if God exists and wrote the Bible through human hands as claimed—then the Bible’s proclamations about God are not arbitrary. If no God exists, all proclamations about God are arbitrary. If a God exists that does not communicate in any way with humans, all proclamations about God are also arbitrary.

    What might it mean, then, that you consider yourself “a serious student of the Bible for almost 20 years now”? Does it mean that, after all that time, you’re convinced that the Bible is not a reliable source of information about God (in which case, why do you keep trying to hit skeptics with it)? Or maybe you’re convinced that it is, but you’re so shy about your convictions that you’d rather just pretend to be a complete agnostic on the subject (in which case, why blame people when they assume you honestly are)?

    The question, again, for the record, is: where do you get reliable information on God? Feel free to ignore it, again.

  11. R. C. Moore Says:

    Interesting. cl lambasted those who have not deeply studied the Bible for commenting on its value as a reliable source of information, yet 20 years of diligent study moves one no closer.

    Maybe all that time I spent reading other stuff that did move me closer to reliable information was a time better spent, even if it does leave me a weakened position to argue whose non-reliable information is better.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Diligent Bible study can ultimately lead one farther from considering it a reliable source of information about God. I had over 30 years of Bible study in when I finally succumbed to the real world evidence, and the larger part of that (over 25 years) was fairly intense, faith-fueled study.

    As an example, I happened to get hold of some Seventh-Day Adventist material at a county fair one time, and reading their brochures, it struck me that they made a better case for Sabbath-keeping than I had previously considered possible. I wanted my conclusions about the Sabbath to be based on what God said rather than what man said, so I did not go ask my preacher, nor did I go to the bookstore to buy commentaries or analyses on the topic. I bought a cheap Bible and some colored markers, and went through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation highlighting and color-coding each and every verse that seemed to address the topic of Sabbath-keeping and commandments and “moral law vs. ceremonial law” and so on.

    When I was done with this part of the task, I went through the Bible again, pulling together all the color-coded verses, reviewing them in context, and analyzing and summarizing their overall message. Thus I ultimately came to the conclusion that the Adventists were mistaken, and that sabbath-keeping was not required. I also discovered the unexpected conclusion that the Ten Commandments do not exist in the original texts. The Decalogue does, but it refers to then entire ten discourses from Exodus 20 to Exodus 31, not just to the 17 commandments (grouped into 9 distinct topics) that appear in Exodus 20.

    Probably the biggest mystery to me during those years was why so few other Christians seemed interested in taking their Bible studies to similar depths. Didn’t they understand that this was God’s Word? Didn’t they realize that this was the most important body of knowledge in human possession? How could so many believers—believers—treat it so cavalierly?

    The longer I studied, though, and the more I tried to build bridges of common understanding with other Christians, the more the internal and external contradictions mounted up. What was clear and undeniably true to me would be just as obviously false to someone else, someone just as sincere and faithful as I was. I began to understand that the divisions within the Body of Christ were not just the regrettable outcome of Satan’s infernal machinations, but were the inevitable consequence of basing one’s faith on an ambiguous book and a subjective certainty that one could read it and know what it meant.

    That, unfortunately, meant that God really screwed us poor believers: the only objective resource He’d left us for our faith turns out to be unusable as an unbiased/unambiguous point of reference. The whole system was fundamentally flawed. It couldn’t work without God constantly showing up to manage and supplement it, which He clearly does not do. (Even then, I could tell that much.)

    Under the circumstances, I did the only thing a reasonable and honest person could do: I admitted that I’d been wrong about God. He wasn’t the real, loving, almighty deity I had imagined Him as being. I could make all the excuses I wanted, but I couldn’t deny the relentless self-consistency of the truth, or the systematic and universal failure of Christian theology to match that truth.

    Amazingly, what I initially perceived as being the greatest loss I had ever experienced turned out to be the greatest gain I had ever experienced. I had been wasting huge amounts of my time trying to understand a God who was mysterious precisely because He was a self-contradictory figment of human imagination. Once that burden was lifted, it was like the sun rising in my life, and the light of truth finally shining in all the dark crevices that had seemed so impenetrable before.

    And that was my real born-again experience. 😉

  13. jim Says:

    Incredibly moving story, Duncan. I can relate, especially to your last sentence.

  14. R. C. Moore Says:

    Wow, thanks for that DD.

    It sounds like you developed an incredibly well thought out protocol for determining the truth of the Bible (color-coding, summarizing etc.)

    However the test it: if someone follows your protocol exactly, do they get the same result. In your case, it sounds like you eventually realized it did not even give you the same result when repeated.

    A sure sign something is very wrong…

  15. cl Says:

    Arthur,

    I’ve not said the Bible is unreliable. That’s you putting words in my mouth. I assume you jumped to that conclusion because of the “arbitrary” thing. I’m not pretending to be a complete agnostic about anything. I do believe God exists. I blame all who assume. You ask me where to get reliable information about God. I have no idea what information about God you would consider reliable, so how could I answer? I’m not ignoring anything, it’s called difference of opinion.

    R.C.,

    I didn’t lambast anybody, don’t jump to conclusions. I did say that there’s an inverse relationship between knowledge and exposure to subject. Make your own assumptions.

    DD,

    I willing to believe that you spent 30 years studying the Bible, but if that’s the case, I’m all the more confused about this “Gospel Hypothesis” of yours. It should be accurate! The GH fails my test, and R.C.’s was a very good question. I realize you were noting that length of study is no guarantee of subject integrity – but I’m really more interested in answers to my questions – not your deconversion story. However, I did relate quite a bit to this:

    What was clear and undeniably true to me would be just as obviously false to someone else, someone just as sincere and faithful as I was.

  16. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    “I have no idea what information about God you would consider reliable, so how could I answer? I’m not ignoring anything, it’s called difference of opinion.”

    Equivocating as usual, I see. They were asking where YOU get information that YOU consider reliable, and for the umpteenth time you dodged the question. If you’re not a lawyer or a politician I’ll be shocked, the frequency with which you give non-answers and ignore questions you don’t like is astounding.

  17. cl Says:

    TOG,

    I can read. I believe Arthur is quite aware I get my information through the Bible. Is it not obvious yet that I’m getting my information about God out of the Bible? Surely y’all aren’t that slow…

    When someone doesn’t give the response your ears want to hear, such does not entail that they’ve ignored anything. Arthur asked me where I get reliable information about God, yet, I’m pretty sure Arthur doesn’t believe reliable information about God exists. So what’s the real point here?

  18. Arthur Says:

    Ah, this must be the pursuit of truth.

    One refusal to respond, three agnostic waffles, one request to hear the question again, and one nakedly deliberate misconstrual later, you elect to pretend that the answer was public knowledge all along. It might have been, at that; but I’m not sure that would make your pattern of responses look any less silly.

    Surely y’all aren’t that slow…

    Surely you don’t mean I should have assumed that you’re “getting [your] information about God out of the Bible”? After you went to such trouble to avoid citing the Bible, explicitly, as a reliable source? After you delivered such a strong and unambiguous sentiment about “all who assume”?

    So what’s the real point here?

    Well, actually, I guess the original question is hereby answered, in that inimitable cl fashion, and as far as I know that was the point. Thank you, sir, and best of luck with the finals.

  19. Deacon Duncan Says:

    If we do not observe God showing up in real life to give us a standard of comparison, how shall we assess whether or not the information we obtain from the Bible is reliable in what it tells us about God?

  20. R. C. Moore Says:


    If we do not observe God showing up in real life to give us a standard of comparison, how shall we assess whether or not the information we obtain from the Bible is reliable in what it tells us about God?

    You can’t of course. You are doomed to different answers from everyone you ask.

    I don’t mind the different answers, I really don’t. It is intellectually stimulating.

    The attitude is what I get tired of. I visit many different denominations churches, and the common denominator is that they all have is the Bible and the opinion that every one else is wrong. The self-referential reality churches exist in creates an annoying sense of self-righteousness.

  21. cl Says:

    Arthur,

    In the first link, you asked me if you could “assume that the Bible is the source of statements about God’s behavior which are not ‘arbitrary proclamations'”. It seemed to me you were asking me if the Bible amounted to arbitrary proclamations, i.e. it seemed you were asking me what you should think. How am I to know what you should think? If you wanted to know my opinion about something, ask that.

    As for your first of three agnostic waffles, I don’t know what your problem is. The following statement is not agnostic: “If God does not exist, then all proclamations about God seem arbitrary. If God exists, a subset of proclamations about God are certainly likely to be arbitrary. If that’s what you’re getting at, you’ll get no disagreement from me.” That is straight forward logic that has nothing to do with what I believe personally.

    As for your second alleged agnostic waffle, here’s what I said: “All proclamations concerning God’s behavior are arbitrary. I’m not presupposing that my information or any information is reliable. The Bible takes authority and makes certain claims about God. DD makes some distinctly different claims. Whether we vote for DD’s Gospel Hypothesis or Myth Hypothesis tells us nothing valuable about the God of the Bible.” What that means is this: in DD’s little experiment, we don’t know whether God exists or not. Therefore, all proclamations must be equally considered arbitrary, right? Meaning that we don’t give one any preference over another. When I said I’m not presupposing my or any information is reliable, I mean to say again that in this experiment, we can’t begin with the conclusion we’re trying to prove.

    As for your third, same complaint. Really, what’s the problem? Arbitrary means just-so and no inherently better than the next. If no God exists and no scriptures are inspired, then it follows that all proclamations about God are arbitrary. Yes, or no? And, if God does exist and did inspire some scripture(s), then it follows that a subset of God claims are arbitrary. Yes, or no? What of that has anything to do with agnosticism? What is it that you want to know? I’ve been complaining since the beginning of this series that DD does not attack the God of the Bible. Didn’t you catch that?

    Really, it seems this whole thing stemmed from you not catching that, and me not catching that were asking if I thought the Bible amounted to arbitrary statements. No, I do not. Nor do I think such precludes correct (true) statements elsewhere.

    DD,

    If we do not observe God showing up in real life to give us a standard of comparison, how shall we assess whether or not the information we obtain from the Bible is reliable in what it tells us about God?

    I don’t know, but if you say this precludes an argument on its behalf then you effectively guillotine your so-called Gospel Hypothesis, since you base your GH on certain parts of the Bible’s descriptions of God.

    R.C.,

    I visit many different denominations churches, and the common denominator is that they all have is the Bible and the opinion that every one else is wrong. The self-referential reality churches exist in creates an annoying sense of self-righteousness.

    I can definitely nod in agreement to that comment. I don’t spend much time in church, but when I did I would also visit different denominations to check it out. I also found the conceit you mention bothersome.

  22. Arthur Says:

    It seemed to me you were asking me if the Bible amounted to arbitrary proclamations, i.e. it seemed you were asking me what you should think. How am I to know what you should think? If you wanted to know my opinion about something, ask that.

    No, no, no, no.

    Here is where you asked to hear the question again, and here is where I gave it to you, rephrased for maximum clarity and simplicity. I would link to the part where you ignored it, but there’s nothing there. (By “ignore,” I mean “refuse to take notice of.”)

    I believe I will let my characterization of your responses as “agnostic” stand on the evidence. I should just let the whole charade stand on the evidence, but I’m annoyed.

    Talking is only as complicated as you want it to be, cl.

  23. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    If we know of no way to assess the reliability of the Bible apart from observing God in real life, then we cannot have a legitimate justification for calling the Bible reliable unless and until we can observe God showing up in the real world, correct?

  24. cl Says:

    Arthur,

    Sorry you’re annoyed. Talk a walk or something. When you wrote “one request to hear the question again” in your last tirade, why didn’t you mention that you’d clarified the question? There’s nothing in response to your clarified question because I just now saw it. In these threads, how often do I let the other person have the last word in your estimation? I believe that information about God in the Bible and elsewhere is reliable – however – if I am to know at all, I won’t know whether it is or not until I die.

    Relax a little.

    DD,

    Even though you’ve left so many of my questions unanswered, I’ll still oblige:

    If we know of no way to assess the reliability of the Bible apart from observing God in real life, then we cannot have a legitimate justification for calling the Bible reliable unless and until we can observe God showing up in the real world, correct?

    Incorrect. As I just told Arthur, we cannot know the Bible is reliable unless and until we meet God, and God turns out to be what the Bible claimed. But yes, we can have a justification for calling the Bible reliable (or unreliable) – this side of life. That justification is exactly the discussion you propose, only with the actual gospel’s hypotheses in place of your personalized Gospel Hypothesis.

  25. R. C. Moore Says:


    we cannot know the Bible is reliable unless and until we meet God

    Are you saying statements cannot be assumed false until proven otherwise?

    But if I have two conflicting statements, does not one of the have to be false?

    And does not the Bibles conflict lie in its statement God exist, and therefore we should not be waiting for him to show up to prove it?

  26. Arthur Says:

    cl,

    It would appear I made the mistake (again!) of assuming that you’ve been reading the comments you’ve been talking about. When will I learn not to assume?

  27. 5keptical Says:

    Wow….

    Pages and pages of comments for multiple postings and cl has yet to make a definitive statement about his god – what the tiniest portion of an accurate version of the gospel hypothesis might be. Cough it up cl.

    You’re all using too many words with cl. Ask a single short direct question and don’t let him weasel out of answering.

  28. cl Says:

    Bunch of babies. Cry because cl no rushie rushie… get over it. Complain at DD for not answering my questions, then learn how to ask the questions you want.

    Arthur, I didn’t see your clarification. Make your own assumptions.

    5keptical, I’m not here to preach, so save it. To me, you’re one of those people who sits on sidelines and complains. Yeah, that helps.

    R.C.,

    Are you saying statements cannot be assumed false until proven otherwise?

    When something doesn’t seem completely unreasonable, I prefer to make as few assumptions as possible.

    But if I have two conflicting statements, does not one of the have to be false?

    It would seem so.

    And does not the Bibles conflict lie in its statement God exist, and therefore we should not be waiting for him to show up to prove it?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that…

  29. Arthur Says:

    cl,

    Arthur, I didn’t see your clarification. Make your own assumptions.

    Thank you. The data are pretty consistent with the hypothesis that you sometimes like to comment on stuff you haven’t paid much attention to.

    5keptical,

    You’re all using too many words with cl. Ask a single short direct question and don’t let him weasel out of answering.

    Actually, I think this is as good as it gets. He believes what the Bible (and unnamed other sources?) say about God, but doesn’t believe there’s a good reason to.

    He tells Deacon that there are means, available to alive people, to judge the Bible’s reliability, but they await an honest inquiry, as opposed to all this useless Deaconic pretense—which would seem to confirm that cl has no reason, right now, to believe what the Bible says. He just does.

    No wonder he’s shy about coming out with it. That kind of thing could have a real subtractive effect on one’s logical, rational, truth-seeking image.

  30. R. C. Moore Says:


    And does not the Bibles conflict lie in its statement God exist, and therefore we should not be waiting for him to show up to prove it?

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by that…

    Yes, I agree, badly stated.

    If we treat the Bible as true, then the many things it says (Genesis, Noah, virgin birth … you get the picture, can only be true if there is a God (if you accept such things are impossible without a God, either because God is the primary actor or they are supernatural in nature).

    So the Bible is true if and only if God exists. No other explanation is possible.

    But God only exists in the Bible, there is no other evidence of his existence.

    So the Biblical God exists if and only if we see evidence of things described in the Bible, since we cannot see evidence of God himself.

    But those things in the Bible do not exist. No Adam and Eve. No world wide flood destroying life. No virgin births. No resurrections. And so on.

    If God exists, then the Bible is not false. But it is false.

    That is the conflict, the two things that cannot be true.

    I am not trying to prove that God does not exist. I am only pointing out that their is a conflict caused by God not showing up to give evidence, and having to then rely on the Bible as evidence of his existence.

  31. cl Says:

    Arthur,

    He believes what the Bible (and unnamed other sources?) say about God, but doesn’t believe there’s a good reason to.

    No, that’s not it. Obviously you missed the part in my last comment when I said belief can be justified. I’m not shy about anything, either – trust me. Sigh… I’m sure if I rushed my rebuttal you’d criticize that as well. In fact, let’s see if you can find something positive to say about anything related to me.

    R.C.,

    So the Bible is true if and only if God exists. No other explanation is possible.

    Well, sort of. Those particular stories you cite (and others) would seem true if and only if God exists, yet, much of scripture remains true whether God exists or not.

    But God only exists in the Bible, there is no other evidence of his existence.

    I disagree. We can’t know this, and I disagree that there is no evidence for God’s existence. Of course, this will surely entail people demanding what my evidence for God is. They’ll be disappointed when I reply that it’s the same world they live in. If they have an argument, they can answer the question of which hypothesis better explains a hole in the ground to the 1500’s observer: an alien craft, or a meteor.

    So the Biblical God exists if and only if we see evidence of things described in the Bible, since we cannot see evidence of God himself.

    I see what you’re getting at, but let me clarify – you’ll think I’m misunderstanding or taking things in a different direction but I’m not – the biblical God exists if and only if the biblical God exists. That’s it. Whether or not we see evidence has no bearing on whether or not the biblical God exists. I imagine that’s self-evident. So,

    ..those things in the Bible do not exist. No Adam and Eve. No world wide flood destroying life. No virgin births. No resurrections. And so on.

    Those things were claimed to have existed in the past, not now. Each of the things you mentioned were one-time things said to have happened in the past. The Bible doesn’t claim that we should see resurrections now, if that’s what you mean. And, trying to discuss whether virgin birth exists or has ever existed seems as destined to *never resolve* as our miracle discussion. I’m presuming you deny the Noahic flood, and I’m presuming you say Adam and Eve “didn’t happen” because of the perceived disparity between a literal parsing of Genesis and the current evolutionary paradigm?

    I am not trying to prove that God does not exist. I am only pointing out that their is a conflict caused by God not showing up to give evidence, and having to then rely on the Bible as evidence of his existence.

    I don’t agree that we have to rely on the Bible as our only or primary evidence of God’s existence.

  32. R. C. Moore Says:


    f they have an argument, they can answer the question of which hypothesis better explains a hole in the ground to the 1500’s observer: an alien craft, or a meteor.

    cl, I try to prove my points with analogies and thought experiments also, but when they do not convince, I move on. Your hole in the ground story was really unconvincing to everyone, so invoking it only implies you are trying to avoid the issue — that if the only evidence of God is that found in the Bible, and that evidence is wrong, then “Houston, we have a problem”.


    I’m presuming you deny the Noahic flood, and I’m presuming you say Adam and Eve “didn’t happen” because of the perceived disparity between a literal parsing of Genesis and the current evolutionary paradigm?

    Actually I deny them based on the overwhelming objective scientific evidence they did not occur. I have never read Genesis to note the “between a literal parsing of Genesis and the current evolutionary paradigm”


    I don’t agree that we have to rely on the Bible as our only or primary evidence of God’s existence.

    Ok, then where do I look — in a box of Cracker Jacks?

  33. cl Says:

    R.C.

    cl, I try to prove my points with analogies and thought experiments also, but when they do not convince, I move on. Your hole in the ground story was really unconvincing to everyone, so invoking it only implies you are trying to avoid the issue —

    Ahem. Enough with your “this only implies that” nonsense as I’m not trying to avoid any issue. I disagree, and you yourself agreed with me that pboyfloyd’s inadequate response didn’t answer the question of what to do in draw-type scenarios. DD chose a two-tiered approach in addressing my analogy: first he addressed it from the point-of-view of somebody who already knew about gravity, which renders it useless; second, instead of answering the question, he jumped ahead and demanded that I justify my claim that GH/MH represented a draw-type scenario – which is a claim I hadn’t made. Are you submitting that somebody else has addressed the analogy and/or answered what we are to do in the event of draw-type scenarios? If so, I missed it.

    Of course, there’s always the possibility that you’ll take this the wrong way or as “lambasting,” but again I find it odd that you haven’t even read the source material you criticize.

    Ok, then where do I look — in a box of Cracker Jacks?

    I already told you that in the second paragraph of my previous comment. Apply that to hole-in-the-ground analogy – the “hole in the ground” = “the world we live in.”

  34. R. C. Moore Says:


    pboyfloyd’s inadequate response didn’t answer the question of what to do in draw-type scenarios

    Sure, but I supplied a reasoned response. Please do not lump my thinking with yours. One big difference is that my thinking based on logic and open to change. Your thinking is based on hidden information and not open to change, because is every objection is always covered by invoking more hidden information.

    My responses are chemistry, yours are alchemy. In your world, until every single reaction is tried, it remains possible to chemically turn lead into gold. In my world, understanding the laws of physics allows me understand why this is impossible.


    Are you submitting that somebody else has addressed the analogy and/or answered what we are to do in the event of draw-type scenarios? If so, I missed it.

    So many times, I have lost count. The fact you don’t seem to have noticed should clue you into the filters you apply to every discussion you read.


    I already told you that in the second paragraph of my previous comment. Apply that to hole-in-the-ground analogy – the “hole in the ground” = “the world we live in.”

    I have told you that so far, no one finds relevance in that analogy, so it doesn’t help.

    I feel kind of sorry for you cl. At this point, the backlog of refutations you have promised is enormous, and some sort of horizon effect seems to have occurred. Perhaps you should start with a clean slate, so we can move on with the discussions?

  35. cl Says:

    R.C.,

    Stick to what you know, which doesn’t seem like much. You say I’m not open to change, but that’s a bunch of BS. Don’t comment on my world, you don’t live in it. As far as I’m concerned, keep to the arguments or keep your mouth shut. Maybe you think your response was reasoned. I didn’t. I know, I know… that makes me the bad faith idiot, right? Please.

    I have told you that so far, no one finds relevance in that analogy, so it doesn’t help.

    Yet still, the question of which position is more reasonable in the event of a draw goes unanswered.

    I feel kind of sorry for you cl.

    Do you really think I give two shits? I feel sorry for you, too, overconfident in all your arrogance and so-called expertise, but until now I never felt the need to express as much in an ostensibly rational discussion. What’s the point of discussing the men?

    Keep whining and making assumptions because what you want to see isn’t in front of you right this instant. It just marks you as the impatient irrationalist, contrary to your protestations. As I said, reasoned responses take time, and although I can’t speak for you, I do have a life besides the internet, you know.

    Go sit with 5keptical and ThatOtherGuy on the sidelines if all you’re going to do is whine, or go rejoin with jim in your silly little anti-cl soapbox at his blog.

  36. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    Some time ago, in response to your question, I said:

    I had thought it was fairly obvious that if two hypotheses produce exactly the same consequences, then it is not possible to tell which (if either) is closer to the truth. If indeed two hypotheses do lead to identical consequences, then one cannot be a “reasonable believer” in either one; the only legitimate and intellectually honest position would be frank agnosticism. That is why it is an act of desperate rationalization to try and reduce both hypotheses to a set of identical consequences: it prevents us from drawing true conclusions, which is only an advantage when the position one is defending is contradicted by the truth.

    It seems to me that that’s a fairly clear answer to the question of what we are to do when the evidence does not allow us to distinguish between two hypotheses: we are to remain agnostic towards both, because we cannot be a “reasonable believer” in either one.

    Yet you are still insisting that no one has answered you, such as your discussion above, where you say, “Are you submitting that somebody else has addressed the analogy and/or answered what we are to do in the event of draw-type scenarios? If so, I missed it.”

    Is that because you did not read my reply, or because you did not understand that it answers your question, or because of some other reason?

  37. R. C. Moore Says:

    5Keptical, ThatOtherGuy, and Jim, John Morales, and all my other friends on the sidelines —

    I have taken counter-positions to DD many times in these discussions, and have enjoyed the give and take as I have tried to defend my positions. Please continue to give me the best objections you can, as I enjoy having to defend my logic.

    When pressed, I always try to give more concrete examples, and when wrong, admit it and move on. I am not dogmatic, and do not take offense at having my inevitable biases exposed. Learning is my goal, not the rehearsing of prejudices.

    So don’t let cl put you off, with open insults and coarse language. (A slyly pointed barb, if well formed, is fine and appreciated. I have a thick skin and a great sense of humor). We can still comment intelligently and honestly about DD’s posts, and I will continue to read them diligently and put in my two cents worth, objecting when I find it necessary.

    I hope you do likewise.

  38. jim Says:

    No probs, R.C.! Enjoyed that recent thought experiment, btw.

  39. ThatOtherGuy Says:

    Wow, RC. You broke cl. I’m impressed, none of my responses got him to resort to such coarse language and clear anger. You must’ve hit a nerve or something.

  40. John Morales Says:

    RC,

    So don’t let cl put you off …

    I’m following the discussions, but don’t care to engage cl under DD’s ROE.

    I do think DD’s contrasting Myth and Gospel Hypotheses are rather a good way to objectify and quantify the discrepancy between Biblical beliefs and reality.

  41. cl Says:

    TOG,

    Clear anger? Broke? If you say so, I guess. I just wanted to see how people would react if I used the word “shit” here.

    R.C.,

    On one hand – great response – I’m glad I helped draw that out of you. On the other hand, what a joke! You come at me with insults, then get uppity when I simply send them back returned to sender.

    DD,

    Whenever there’s a comment I’ve not responded to, that’s usually a fair indication I haven’t seen it. I honestly hadn’t seen that reply of yours. Suggestion: extend recent comment display to show the last ten?

    At any rate, thank you for answering the draw question, I’ll extend your answers to the asteroid analogy – and still disagree. The very core of rationalism is to believe in that which can be supported with evidence. You yourself say that we should believe in whichever hypothesis is most supported by the evidence, right? This entails the principle that beliefs based on evidence are rationally justified, correct? If that is the case – I say in a true draw scenario, provisional belief in either hypothesis is justified – as the evidence supports both hypotheses equally. Comments?

    Morales,

    I do think DD’s contrasting Myth and Gospel Hypotheses are rather a good way to objectify and quantify the discrepancy between Biblical beliefs and reality.

    I agree. I disagree that his Gospel Hypothesis is accurate.

  42. 5keptical Says:

    R.C. you’re doing just fine in my books.

    cl must be having a laugh at how he just keeps trailing us along. Perhaps he has a side bet with someone concerning how long he can drag on a thread before actually has to say something concrete about his version of the gospel hypothesis.

    Unfortunately he’s not contributing anything new, but merely gainsaying. (I came here for an argument, but his is just contradiction! Cue cl to say…. )

  43. 5keptical Says:

    cl says:
    5keptical, I’m not here to preach, so save it. To me, you’re one of those people who sits on sidelines and complains. Yeah, that helps.

    Cl, I’ve re-written this posting a number times, but there’s few other ways to put this – you’re an intellectual coward. Just once, just for once, answer somebody’s question directly. This is not a complaint. It is a challenge. Grow a pair. Engage DD’s direct questions.

  44. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    I would say that if you have a draw scenario, where both hypotheses produce exactly the same consequences, it is a very clear and stereotypical example of rationalization to claim that you have a “legitimate basis” for concluding that one hypothesis is true and the other is false. What basis would that be, if the evidence provides no means of distinguishing which hypothesis is more consistent with the truth than the other?

    Especially when dealing with a topic where people have a strong motivation to prefer one conclusion over the other, it is highly suspicious at best to take an approach that attempts to make both hypotheses predict the same evidence, and then declaring, on the basis of that identicality, that one’s preferred conclusion has a reasonable justification. I’m sure you would see things the same way if the hypotheses dealt with something like, say, geocentrism versus heliocentrism. Do you know that there is no possible combination of perfect circles moving within perfect circles that would produce the observed movements of celestial bodies around a central earth?

  45. Arthur Says:

    Wow, all sorts of interestingness has been going on. Just for the sake of completeness, then:

    cl said,

    Obviously you missed the part in my last comment when I said belief can be justified.

    Not at all—that’s the part where I said, “[cl] tells Deacon that there are means, available to alive people, to judge the Bible’s reliability, but they await an honest inquiry, as opposed to all this useless Deaconic pretense….” You did see that, right?

    Sigh… I’m sure if I rushed my rebuttal you’d criticize that as well.

    I’m sure your position is very complex and hard to articulate, but your end of this conversation [with me] hasn’t really been about articulating the complexity of your position. You mostly declined to commit to anything that isn’t self-evident “basic logic,” which is why I’d been describing your statements as “agnostic” (would you prefer “relativist”?). When you say that “the biblical God exists if and only if the biblical God exists,” you say nothing, and you commit to nothing.

    Now that you’ve committed, don’t worry so much! You have plenty of company in your acceptance of an unsupported belief. I just have to consider the possibility that your belief funnels your “pursuit of truth” in particular directions. That would explain one or two things.

  46. R. C. Moore Says:


    Unfortunately he’s not contributing anything new, but merely gainsaying. (I came here for an argument, but his is just contradiction! Cue cl to say…. )

    Combine that with the “Dead Parrot” sketch for excuses and rationalizations and you pretty much have the whole repertoire.

  47. 5keptical Says:

    R.C.
    Oh my… the dead parrot sketch – that so works!

    “I wish to complain about this god/religion what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.”

    … and it just goes on from there. I’ll never look at one of these godbot dialogues the same way ever again.

  48. cl Says:

    5keptical,

    Whining because my rebuttal is not here when you want it to be amounts to complaining – not a challenge – and why are you telling me to answer DD directly – when I’ve already told you I’m working on my rebuttal – and (hypocritically) after this? It’s fine if you prefer to rush into your arguments – as demonstrated below – but don’t assume I should live by your rules. Should you choose, you’ll see my rebuttal when it’s ready. I told you guys I was busy, yet the assumptions and character comments continue. Fascinating, what passes for freethought these days.

    Declare the moral high ground all you want, but to me, an intellectual coward is somebody who locks horns with another, can’t take the heat, and then makes snobby judgments and character comments driven by emotion and based on faulty assumptions. Let’s see if you’re a debater of your word: You recently jumped ahead and assumed you knew something about my behavior at DA when you didn’t – yes or no? As you ask of me – answer directly please – and I’ll give you a chance to answer honestly before I provide the link.

    DD,

    I would say that if you have a draw scenario, where both hypotheses produce exactly the same consequences, it is a very clear and stereotypical example of rationalization to claim that you have a “legitimate basis” for concluding that one hypothesis is true and the other is false.

    That’s not what I’ve claimed. I’ve not said we have a legitimate basis to claim one hypothesis is true and the other false in a genuine draw. Not being rude, but you need to re-read my comment.

    Arthur,

    Thank you for yet another perfect example reminding me of the reason I don’t typically disclose my personal beliefs:

    Now that you’ve committed, don’t worry so much! You have plenty of company in your acceptance of an unsupported belief. I just have to consider the possibility that your belief funnels your “pursuit of truth” in particular directions. That would explain one or two things.

    Look how much you’ve already rushed ahead and judged me based at least in part on your experiences with other people whom you presuppose exist in the same intellectual category. In all your overconfidence, you don’t need to hear anything else – you’ve already decided that my belief is unsupported – without fully hearing what it is, without hearing my argument for reliability, and with no more than a smidgeon of inconclusive evidence which could be interpreted in a multiplicity of ways. Even demons believe in God and the reliability of the Bible! All I said is that I think the information about God in the Bible is reliable. Does that entail that I believe it or live by it? You have no way of knowing what that entails for me personally, or what my argument for reliability is. That you rush ahead and make unsupported assumptions based on such little evidence is not rational at all.

    You mostly declined to commit to anything that isn’t self-evident “basic logic,” which is why I’d been describing your statements as “agnostic” (would you prefer “relativist”?).

    I would prefer that you stop describing my statements entirely – but if that’s too much to ask – can you at least wait until I can get my rebuttal out?

    …your end of this conversation [with me] hasn’t really been about articulating the complexity of your position.

    How could it be? Is there a strategy you’d suggest for writing reasoned rebuttals while getting swarmed by pesky mosquitoes? Every character comment I have to swat down takes more words away from my rebuttal to DD, and I’m not here to deal with DD’s cheerleaders. If people want to accost me about my character or my beliefs or my unwillingness to disclose the latter or whatever else – do it on my blog – not DD’s. Wasn’t it you who suggested as much on the other thread?

    When you say that “the biblical God exists if and only if the biblical God exists,” you say nothing, and you commit to nothing.

    Show me the statement of mine you’re paraphrasing – because the quoted words you attribute to me are not mine – and nobody appreciates being misquoted. It may be that some statement I’ve typed reasonably permits your conclusion, and that’s fine – but you need to leave that up to the reader to decide – not quote me as saying something I didn’t.

  49. Arthur Says:

    Relax, cl. There’s always the possibility that we’re getting somewhere.

    Thank you for yet another perfect example reminding me of the reason I don’t typically disclose my personal beliefs…

    Don’t worry, I get it. I read your post on the subject: “sign us right up to jump around like rabid and blundering fools in the clown suit you’re offering, and maybe we can get a couple of cute pictures with the kids while we’re at it!”

    I know you’ve got strong feelings, but don’t let them get in the way of considering this: if you assert something, or challenge someone else’s assertion, based on (for example) something the Bible tells you, why on earth would folks refrain from asking you to explain (for example) your tacit assertion of the Bible’s reliability? What part of “rational” equals “never ever ask cl about his sources”?

    Look how much you’ve already rushed ahead and judged me….

    Indeed, I have rushed all the way to the conclusion that your trust is unfounded. Mostly, though, that’s because you’ve declined to explain its foundation. In fact, I’m pretty sure you agreed that it’s unfounded—“if I am to know at all, I won’t know whether [information about God in the Bible and elsewhere ] is [reliable] or not until I die.” But I await clarification.

    All I said is that I think the information about God in the Bible is reliable. Does that entail that I believe it…?

    What would it mean that you think a source of information is reliable, but that you don’t believe it? Is this conversation going to turn out to be about the definition of the word “reliable,” or “believe,” or “is”?

    You have no way of knowing… what my argument for reliability is. That you rush ahead and make unsupported assumptions based on such little evidence is not rational at all.

    Do you remember the part in your Knee Jerk Reactions where you say, “…why not just slow down, begin with a clean mental slate by abandoning all assumptions, and ask more questions?” Well, I asked you where you get reliable information about God (a question, I would say, of obvious fundamental importance), and you chose to respond with self-evident nothings, like that one you say you didn’t say. This raised at least one new question—why is cl talking like that?—and didn’t answer anything. Having tried to pursue the matter, and having offered tentative explanations for your strange responses (in the absence of any proper explanation from you), I’m now accused of prejudice. If I may steal a line: what’s the real point here?

    Show me the statement of mine you’re paraphrasing – because the quoted words you attribute to me are not mine – and nobody appreciates being misquoted.

    Here. It’s in the comment addressed to RC (you should let him know that someone else is using your nom de guerre). If you’d prefer an agnostic quote addressed to me, I feel like this “general position” statement is pretty to-the-point. Or, if you prefer, how about that “won’t know until I die” quote above?

    PS: there’s only so many times you can assume someone is a cheerleader, or an ass-kisser, or a cl-hater, before people decide you’re not being honest about your feelings toward assuming stuff.

  50. cl Says:

    What part of “rational” equals “never ever ask cl about his sources”?

    None. What part of “I’m working on my rebuttal” equals “cl’s an agnostic and/or intellectual coward?”

    ..that’s because you’ve declined to explain its foundation.

    Don’t blame me for your irrationalism!

    What would it mean that you think a source of information is reliable, but that you don’t believe it?

    Even demons believe.

    Do you remember the part in your Knee Jerk Reactions where you say, “…why not just slow down, begin with a clean mental slate by abandoning all assumptions, and ask more questions?” Well, I asked you where you get reliable information about God (a question, I would say, of obvious fundamental importance), and you chose to respond with self-evident nothings, like that one you say you didn’t say.

    I responded that I felt your question was loaded and I asked you to rephrase it. I left the discussion. You rephrased it, then assumed I chose to avoid it. I already told you that for this discussion, the Bible is my source of reliable information. Granted, I don’t know that this information is reliable – but if we’re going to create a gospel hypothesis – I assume the information is reliable in order to make my predictions. This is the same thing DD is doing. Do you have any problem with that?

    ..that one you say you didn’t say.

    You were right about that, I was wrong, and did say the words you attributed to me. So let’s revisit your original complaint:

    When you say that “the biblical God exists if and only if the biblical God exists,” you say nothing, and you commit to nothing.

    If you interpret the statement as my personal faith statement, then yes. If you interpret it in the context it was offered, you can clearly see it was not an appeal to my personal agnosticism. It was part of an extended answer to a question of R.C. Moore’s. My statement is perfectly reasonable in its original context. Now, if you’re asking me if I’m an agnostic, personally – my official position on God is that we are all agnostic – none of us can know this side of life, but any of us can choose to believe or disbelieve for a variety of reasons – some rational and reasonable – others not.

    ..there’s only so many times you can assume someone is a cheerleader, or an ass-kisser, or a cl-hater, before people decide you’re not being honest about your feelings toward assuming stuff.

    My feelings towards assumptions extend to rational discourse.