Understanding the Bible

There is probably a good year’s worth of material (at least) that we could examine to find overwhelmingly consistent examples in which the real-world evidence takes precisely the characteristics that would necessarily result from the truth of the Myth Hypothesis, and that fails to correspond to the consequences that ought to result from the truth of the Gospel Hypothesis. I think we’ve seen enough of it thus far, however, to give us a basis for beginning to approach the question of how we are to understand the Bible.

Obviously, there’s two ways we can do this: we can interpret the Bible in the light of the real-world evidence, assuming that the real-world evidence is necessarily correct, or we can interpret the evidence in the light of the Bible, assuming that the Bible is necessarily correct. The latter is sometimes called “interpreting the Bible on its own terms,” and I think it can be fairly said that this is a biased approach. The Bible makes no secret of the fact that it is written to promote belief, and to prejudice people against unbelievers (“The fool says in his heart…”). Putting the Bible ahead of the evidence means guaranteeing that you will come to some sort of Christian conclusion.

But what if we put the real-world evidence first? Is that not equally biased? Yes it is. The same principle applies equally to both. If we put the Bible first, then we are going to be biased in favor of Biblical conclusions, and if we put real-world evidence first, we’re going to be biased in favor of real-world conclusions. It’s up to us, then, to pick which bias we want to have.

To interpret the Bible in the light of the evidence, we need first of all to understand what the evidence is telling us. This is what we have been doing up to now. The real-world evidence is most consistent with the Myth Hypothesis, because the Myth Hypothesis successfully predicts the actual nature of the real-world evidence with the fewest appeals to alternative interpretations and special pleadings. In fact, it does not need to appeal to any of those special-circumstances adjustments: the consequences we find in real life are already consistent with those that would necessarily result from God’s non-existence (the Christian God’s non-existence, anyway). The Gospel Hypothesis can be made to conform to the Myth Hypothesis via alternative interpretations and special pleadings, but it’s the Myth Hypothesis that sets the standard that the Gospel Hypothesis has to live up to.

If we are going to understand the Bible in the light of the real-world evidence, therefore, the most reasonable course of action is to understand it in the light of the Myth Hypothesis. This is especially true considering that the characteristics of the Bible itself are precisely those that would necessarily result from it being written in the absence of a genuine Christian deity, as we saw earlier. It is an example of myth-building, a reflection of people’s best hopes, values, and wishes, and also of their biases, fears, and flaws. It is a commentary, not on God’s nature, but on Man’s.

Speaking as a former student of the Bible, I can say from personal experience that the Bible makes a whole lot more sense and possesses far fewer perplexities and mysteries when seen from this perspective. And indeed, most of the problems people face in understanding the Bible in Christian circles stem from trying to force everything to fit into an anachronistic, falsely homogenized theology. The average Christian, doing their daily Bible study or personal devotional, cannot help but take the words out of their historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts, despite footnotes and study aids, and repurpose them to suit a modern Christian preconception of what the Bible ought to be telling them. One need look no farther than the pro-life movement to see this dynamic in action.

Can we take the other approach? Can we make the Bible our trusted guide into “all truth,” and use the Bible as our basis for interpreting the real-world evidence? Yes and no. We can try to do that, and in so doing can give ourselves access to the accumulated, multi-millennial experience of millions of believers reconciling their faith with God’s real-world absence. But the Bible is ultimately ink on paper: it does not speak, it cannot think, it does not react to any external stimulus. What we actually end up using as our trusted guide is our own interpretation of what we think the Bible is trying to say. The Bible can give us ideas for how to rationalize our beliefs with God’s absence, but we pick, choose, and adapt those ideas according to our own personal interpretations and biases.

That’s a doubly-risky approach, because the Bible itself is a document that merely records how other men have interpreted their own beliefs and experiences. Instead of understanding the document based on the real-world evidence, then, we are adapting our interpretation of the evidence to conform to an interpretation of someone else’s interpretation, adjusted to fit our own world view. Inevitably, we end up believing whatever is right in our own eyes, because we first adopt the interpretation of Scripture that seems right in our own eyes, and then we use that interpretation to come up with a derivative interpretation of the evidence that seems right in our own eyes.

Of course, the apologist can accuse skeptics of doing the same thing, because skeptics base their interpretation of the Bible on an interpretation of the evidence. And that’s true to a certain point. The difference is that we have reliable, scientific tools for assessing which evidence-based interpretations are most consistent with the evidence. Because our interpretations must be evidence-based, we can work out what consequences would result if our interpretation were correct, and then compare those predicted consequences to the actual evidence, and see which interpretation produces consequences that are most consistent with the facts.

No such mechanism exists for theology-based interpretations of the Bible. The believer who is intellectual and/or academically inclined can appeal to grammatico-historical arguments over parsings and cultural definitions and historical allusions, and can build an interpretation that satisfies an academic expectation of “what seems right.” But the charismatic believer can just as easily claim that God has chosen the foolish things in order to shame the wise, and that the true meaning of Scripture is accessible only to those whose Spirit-filled insights allow them to unlock meanings that mere linguistics can never decipher. And given the ambiguities we encounter even when speaking our own language in our own cultural context, who could say that the charismatic is necessarily wrong?

There’s a reason why excessive study of Scripture has a marked tendency to lead the honest and intelligent believer into greater and greater agnosticism. When we reject an evidence-based interpretation of the Bible in favor of a Bible-based interpretation of the evidence, we ultimately deliver ourselves to our own ignorance as a source of knowledge. In God’s absence, we can never really be sure we know what the Bible means, and if we’re putting the Bible ahead of the evidence, if we have to know what the Bible means before we decide what the evidence means, then we really have no basis at all for what we believe. Our faith becomes something we believe for no better reason, and with no more justification, than the fact that we want to believe it.

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 38 Comments »

38 Responses to “Understanding the Bible”

  1. David D.G. Says:

    Another great post, DD. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotations, from George Bernard Shaw (possibly paraphrased, since I’m quoting from memory): “No man thinks the Bible means what it says. He is always convinced that it says what he means.”

    ~David D.G.

  2. cl Says:

    DD,

    I can say from personal experience that the Bible makes a whole lot more sense and possesses far fewer perplexities and mysteries when seen from this perspective.

    Of course, you can see that such is subjective, no?

    The difference is that we have reliable, scientific tools for assessing which evidence-based interpretations are most consistent with the evidence.

    Scientific tools to give us subjective conclusions? I’m not buying that one.

  3. R.C Moore Says:


    Scientific tools to give us subjective conclusions? I’m not buying that one.

    That is not what DD is saying. He is saying we can objectively discriminate between “good” evidence and “weak evidence”. All objective analysis of the Bible shows it to be weak evidence for any claims it makes as to God, history or science, or many other things.

  4. cl Says:

    I disagree, R.C.

    All objective analysis of the Bible shows it to be weak evidence for any claims it makes as to God, history or science, or many other things.

    I appreciate your opinion.

    DD said,

    Because our interpretations must be evidence-based, we can work out what consequences would result if our interpretation were correct, and then compare those predicted consequences to the actual evidence, and see which interpretation produces consequences that are most consistent with the facts… No such mechanism exists for theology-based interpretations of the Bible.

    That’s bunk. The believer retains the same options. The believer can just as easily concoct a hypothesis of what we should expect to find, and see if things match up. And – the believer’s ability to do so does not entail any sort of objective methodology.

  5. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl —

    If it was objective, we would not have so many different versions of Christianity who interpret Biblical information on God, history and science in opposing ways.

    I think that is rather self-evident. Are you telling me the Thirty Years war was fought over objective analysis of the Bible, like how may words a particular Greek translation had?

  6. Hunt Says:

    Our faith becomes something we believe for no better reason, and with no more justification, than the fact that we want to believe it.

    Ultimately I think this is what it comes down to. Either you find Christianity (Islam, Judaism…etc) attractive or you don’t. I’ve never met a Christian who was mentally wrestled to the ground by prevailing evidence. Some will claim to have found their conclusion unavoidable, but when questioned they always proffer the hackneyed points — cosmology, origin of morals — that others find inconclusive. Ultimately it is a preference, but an odd one, not necessarily by its claims, but by its nature — because preference is not enough. Indeed, mere preference cannot dictate belief. To me, this is one of the most profound contradictions to Christianity. By dictum a person is commanded to believe, but belief is not something a person can will, any more than they can will themselves to disbelieve something that they hold with firm conviction. The most that can be said of the TRUE Christian is that they find themselves in the lucky position of believing, period. It’s ironically amusing to hear modern Christians openly lamenting their struggles with faith, as if that is somehow permissible. Remember, Jesus said the only way to salvation was through him, that is by believing in him, not kinda-sorta believing in him. If you’re a vacillating believer who has the misfortune to find yourself on death’s edge with your faith on the wane, well, that’s just tough titty. This is the inherent immorality of the Christian proposition. Christians will counter this by saying that God is evident in the world, but God is NOT evident in the world. The existence of atheists proves this. Even if there is a single spiritually-challenged person who is denied salvation by their deficiency, it makes the point no less cogent. The only logically consistent perspective is that of Calvin and predestination; those of use to cannot bring themselves to arrive at belief are simply doomed and probably were from the start. And that kind of unfair game-rigging should raise a red flag for any person of compassion, surely any Christian.

  7. Deacon Duncan Says:

    DD said,

    Because our interpretations must be evidence-based, we can work out what consequences would result if our interpretation were correct, and then compare those predicted consequences to the actual evidence, and see which interpretation produces consequences that are most consistent with the facts… No such mechanism exists for theology-based interpretations of the Bible.

    That’s bunk. The believer retains the same options. The believer can just as easily concoct a hypothesis of what we should expect to find, and see if things match up. And – the believer’s ability to do so does not entail any sort of objective methodology.

    Well, that’s certainly easy enough to verify. If Christians have an objective and reliable means of determining which interpretation of the Bible is the factually correct interpretation (i.e. the hypothesis that is most consistent with the facts), then Christianity will have achieved, in 2,000 years, about ten times as much unanimity as science has achieved in the past 200 years. There is only one “denomination” of science. How many denominations of Christianity are there?

  8. cl Says:

    It sounds like your argument is that disagreement entails invalidity. If so, that’s a weak argument.

  9. Deacon Duncan Says:

    No, I’m simply pointing out that if, as you say, the believer possesses scientific tools for reliably determining what the factually correct interpretation of the Bible is, (i.e. the ability to build testable hypotheses that can be compared to the verifiable evidence to discover which is more consistent with the truth), then the availability of that methodology ought to produce the same result in hermeneutics as it has in geology, physics, biology, and so on.

    You mentioned at one point a “perceived disparity between a literal parsing of Genesis and the current evolutionary paradigm” as though we don’t really have any way to move beyond mere perception to an objective and verifiable conclusion regarding the factually correct interpretation of Genesis 1-10. Do you believe this is indeed the case, or do you believe that it is possible to use a scientific approach to unite on a single common understanding of what the Scripture is trying to say?

  10. cl Says:

    ..the availability of that methodology ought to produce the same result in hermeneutics as it has in geology, physics, biology, and so on.

    What result do you allude to?

    Let’s rewind a bit. In the OP, you said,

    Of course, the apologist can accuse skeptics of doing the same thing, because skeptics base their interpretation of the Bible on an interpretation of the evidence. And that’s true to a certain point. The difference is that we have reliable, scientific tools for assessing which evidence-based interpretations are most consistent with the evidence.

    What are these scientific tools, and what do you think prevents the believer from equally using them to formulate a reasoned hypothesis and checking it against real-world evidence? If you can look at the Bible and formulate a reasoned hypothesis describing what we’d expect if it were untrue, why can’t I look at the Bible and formulate an equally reasoned hypothesis describing what we’d expect if it were true?

    Why allow yourself that which you deny your opponent?

  11. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Ok, I think I see where you’ve misread me, and to be fair my discussion does fail to clarify what I’m trying to say as well as I’d like it to. So let me try again.

    What I’m referring to is the fact that skeptics base their interpretation of the Bible’s significance on an interpretation of the scientific evidence. I think the word “interpretation” is throwing you, and that you’re assuming I’m talking about “interpreting the Bible” in both cases. I’m not. I’m talking about interpreting the scientific evidence, drawing scientific conclusions, and then using the conclusions one draws from the evidence as one’s basis for approaching the interpretation of the Bible.

    The scientific approach—formulating a hypothesis, or several hypotheses, then analyzing the consequences which ought to result from each hypothesis if true, then comparing the predicted consequences to the actual consequences—is a methodology that leads to a convergence of conclusions regarding the topic of one’s research. The answers that exist in the real world will be discovered by this approach, because what we’re doing is measuring each guess about what might be true against the infallible standard of what really is true. Debates over geocentrism versus heliocentrism, for example, eventually are resolved because the evidence reflects a greater consistency with one conclusion than with the other.

    This is the result I’m alluding to when I say that applying the same sort of technique to interpretation of the Bible ought to produce the same sort of results—IF there were an objective truth there to discover. And perhaps there is. It is theoretically possible to apply this approach to understanding the Bible, and those who do, typically arrive at the same conclusions. It’s just that those of us who do apply it, consistently and without bias, have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth. In that sense, then, it remains true that this technique does not form part of the believer’s toolkit. Or at least not for long.

  12. cl Says:

    I’m talking about interpreting the scientific evidence, drawing scientific conclusions, and then using the conclusions one draws from the evidence as one’s basis for approaching the interpretation of the Bible.

    That sounds like, “Look at the evidence first, draw conclusions, then form the hypotheses.”

    ..formulating a hypothesis, or several hypotheses, then analyzing the consequences which ought to result from each hypothesis if true, then comparing the predicted consequences to the actual consequences-

    That sounds like the opposite: “Form the hypotheses first, look at the evidence, then draw conclusions.” DD, which approach are you advocating?

    ..applying the same sort of technique to interpretation of the Bible ought to produce the same sort of results—IF there were an objective truth there to discover.

    I believe that for the most part, it does – but even if I didn’t believe this – I’ve already refuted this argument, as have others. Did you equally criticize evolution before PE? Astronomy before inflation theory? Do you denounce dark matter’s plausibility on behalf of the current disagreement surrounding it? Continuing, there is still disagreement concerning how matter became mind, yet you seem to have no problem accepting that hypothesis. It still sounds to me like you’re making the argument from religious dissonance and/or holding believers to a standard you’re unwilling to hold yourself to.

    It is theoretically possible to apply this approach to understanding the Bible,

    Then, have you amended your claim that “scientific tools for assessing which evidence-based interpretations are most consistent with the evidence” don’t exist “for theology-based interpretations of the Bible?”

    It’s just that those of us who do apply it, consistently and without bias, have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth.

    Ah, I see… The tools actually do exist for either side to apply, but only the skeptics are consistent in their application and without bias – even after you said putting real-world evidence first is “equally biased,” that “the same principle applies equally to both,” and that “It’s up to us to pick which bias we want to have?” What a self-righteous joke. I say all people retain the ability to misuse the tools of empiricism and reason – not just believers.

  13. cl Says:

    UPDATE:

    I’ve now read the first 10 posts of this series and their according threads near-entirely. 7 more to go, plus whatever else comes up in the meantime…

  14. R. C. Moore Says:


    h, I see… The tools actually do exist for either side to apply, but only the skeptics are consistent in their application and without bias – even after you said putting real-world evidence first is “equally biased,” that “the same principle applies equally to both,” and that “It’s up to us to pick which bias we want to have?” What a self-righteous joke. I say all people retain the ability to misuse the tools of empiricism and reason – not just believers.

    Actually the scientific method assumes that individual observers will have biases and will sometimes misuse the tools etc.

    The incredible, wonderful strength of the scientific method is that these problems can be bounded and over time, accounted for.

    I have never heard a sermon accompanied by a P value.

  15. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    The second excerpt you quote is an explanation of how we go about interpreting the evidence as alluded to in the first excerpt you quote.

    But since you suggest that the same techniques ought to apply in the area of interpreting the Bible, and since you raise issues regarding disputes that arise as new information is discovered, let me return to the original question: does the history of Bible interpretation show the same pattern of converging knowledge over the past 2000 years as the physical sciences have shown over the past 200?

    The disputes you mention have one thing in common: they arise as new information becomes available, and scientists attempt to learn what the significance of this new information is. And then, as they review and discuss the evidence, they converge on a common, reality-based answer. We’re continually discovering new information, so there’s a continuing debate. But the end result of this debate, over time, is convergence.

    No new Scriptures have been added in nearly 2,000 years. Has Christianity achieved a comparable degree of unanimity concerning what the correct interpretation of the Bible is? Can you speak authoritatively, based on 2,000 years worth of accumulated, verified research, concerning what the correct meaning of Genesis 1-10 is?

  16. cl Says:

    Sorry DD. I’m can’t let you deflect my questions this time. Your response focuses near-exclusively on the religious dissonance argument which is only tangentially related to the discussion. Let’s stick to what’s relevant first, then I’ll gladly address your religious dissonance argument.

    You said,

    It is theoretically possible to apply this approach to understanding the Bible,

    And I asked,

    Then, have you amended your claim that “scientific tools for assessing which evidence-based interpretations are most consistent with the evidence” don’t exist “for theology-based interpretations of the Bible?”

    Also – can you either justify, amend or retract your claim that only skeptics use the scientific tools consistently without bias?

  17. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Strange, I had the distinct impression you had asked me a specific question, and I had addressed a very specific response to the question you asked. Now you accuse me of “deflecting” your questions? What should I have said then?

    As for whether I amended my claim, I believe I did write, above, that “It is theoretically possible to apply this approach to understanding the Bible, and those who do, typically arrive at the same conclusions.” And yes, that is an amended version of my original claim.

    As for the claim that only skeptics use scientific tools consistently without bias, the claim is not mine to justify, amend, or retract. As far as I can tell you are the only person to post that particular claim. My claim was that those who do apply the techniques above, and who do achieve a convergent understanding of the true significance of Scripture, are (or at least end up being) the skeptics.

    Feel free to cite evidence to the contrary, though I must caution you that a careful consideration of my claim will involve discerning the degree of relative convergence in Christian vs. skeptical understanding of the Bible.

  18. R. C. Moore Says:


    Feel free to cite evidence to the contrary

    DD, you are a truly a man of faith. You are waiting for one of the most improbable events in the history of mankind.

  19. cl Says:

    DD,

    Your comment May 26, 2009 at 5:18 am did not address the “bias” concerns from my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm, which also contained four other unrelated questions you chose not to address in your comment May 26, 2009 at 5:18 am. That was why I said you’d deflected questions in my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm. I was correct then, and I’m correct now – The four unrelated questions still remain unanswered.

    ..yes, that is an amended version of my original claim.

    So, my arguments caused you to change your original position which you now concede was wrong? Just making sure.

    As for the claim that only skeptics use scientific tools consistently without bias, the claim is not mine to justify, amend, or retract.

    Then help me out here: Of this empirically-based, scientific methodology you now (thankfully) have allowed theists permission to use, you said:

    ..those of us who do apply it, consistently and without bias, have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth.

    Those who have concluded the Bible is a man-made myth would be only skeptics, and never believers – correct? Or IOW, consistently bias-free application of said tools always leads to skepticism – correct? What’s the difference between either of those statements and “only skeptics use scientific tools consistently without bias”?

  20. Eneasz Says:

    Oh cl, one couldn’t pay for this sort of fun. Which is good, cuz I’m kinda cheap.

    So, my arguments caused you to change your original position which you now concede was wrong? Just making sure.

    I, for one, am all for conceding when I am wrong and modifying my position. Afterall, that is the essence of progress. So I’d never say that doing so is a bad thing. If you helped someone to realize a truth, they are richer for it, and you are to be commended!

    However, it doesn’t seem that this is the case in this instance. It is implicit in DD’s writings than, when properly applied, self-correcting truth-seeking will always eventually lead to rejection of biblical claims. One could gleam this from the mere fact that his is an ex-devout-christian and now an evangelican Alethean. Or from almost every post he’s made on this blog which shows, in one way or another, that examining real-world evidence without religious bias leads to skepticism. So changing the statement from (roughly) “The strongly religious do not use this technique of objective truth-seeking” to “The strongly religious do not use this technique on their own religions beliefs, and when they do they don’t stay strongly religious for very long” is merely a clarification of the obvious. It is not really a concession that one was wrong and must alter their statement, it’s an admission that one wasn’t technically completely exhaustive when speaking and should clarify for those who are hard-of-comprehending.

    Of this empirically-based, scientific methodology you now (thankfully) have allowed theists permission to use

    Ha! :) Allowed? More like “encouraged, cajoled, and pleaded” for them to use. If only theists would use this methodology when examining their own religion then everyone would be an Alethean already and we could use our mental energies in more fruitful endevours. Altho admitedly less entertaining ones.

    Those who have concluded the Bible is a man-made myth would be only skeptics, and never believers – correct?

    I dunno, you’re the christian, you tell me. Would someone who considers the Bible to be a collection of myths be considered a believer?

    Or IOW, consistently bias-free application of said tools always leads to skepticism – correct?

    I wouldn’t want to speak for DD, so I shan’t. But speaking for myself ONLY – when examining religion: yeah, duh.

    What’s the difference between either of those statements and “only skeptics use scientific tools consistently without bias”?

    The primary difference is that your statement is simply wrong. There are uncountable (metaphorically) believers who are very good scientists and use scientific tools rigorously in many fields. They contribute greatly to the advancement of science and the human body of knowledge. The only difference between them and skeptics is that they do not use these scientific tools to examine their own religious beliefs. We really wish they would.

  21. cl Says:

    Esneaz,

    Honestly, you’re not following this anywhere near as cogently as you seem to think you are.

    It is implicit in DD’s writings than, when properly applied, self-correcting truth-seeking will always eventually lead to rejection of biblical claims.

    Yes, that’s the self-righteous joke I was talking about.

    ..changing the statement from (roughly) “The strongly religious do not use this technique of objective truth-seeking” to “The strongly religious do not use this technique on their own religions beliefs, and when they do they don’t stay strongly religious for very long” is merely a clarification of the obvious. It is not really a concession that one was wrong and must alter their statement, it’s an admission that one wasn’t technically completely exhaustive when speaking and should clarify for those who are hard-of-comprehending.

    If the strongly religious use the technique at all, the first statement was wrong. And no, it’s not a clarification of the obvious – it’s a clarification of a biased opinion that arrogantly assumes self-correcting truth-seeking will always eventually lead to rejection of biblical claims. That is presumptuous, arrogant nonsense.

    If only theists would use this methodology when examining their own religion then everyone would be an Alethean already and we could use our mental energies in more fruitful endevours.

    That’s exactly the presumptuous arrogance I refer to.

    I dunno, you’re the christian, you tell me.

    Ahem, that’s a label you’ve pinned on me.

    The primary difference is that your statement is simply wrong. There are uncountable (metaphorically) believers who are very good scientists and use scientific tools rigorously in many fields. They contribute greatly to the advancement of science and the human body of knowledge. The only difference between them and skeptics is that they do not use these scientific tools to examine their own religious beliefs.

    Ah, yes… that’s a cogent argument: Speaking for “them” – some unidentified, unquantified, undocumented subset of believing scientists whom you somehow mysteriously, intuitively know apply the tools correctly in science but never to their own religion, or else they’d become skeptics.

    Do you call that rationalism? I call it presumptuous, arrogant nonsense.

  22. Eneasz Says:

    t’s a clarification of a biased opinion that … self-correcting truth-seeking will always eventually lead to rejection of biblical claims

    Yes, reality has been shown to have a damning anti-religious bias. Curses!

    I call it presumptuous, arrogant nonsense.

    Oh noes! I’ve been called presumptuous, self-righteous, and arrogant by cl! If speaking the obvious truth is presumptuous arrogance, then I confess my guilt! Take me away in manacles! I regret I have but one life to give, etc etc.

    Seriously tho, this isn’t really fair. I’ve come in late to reap all the rewards without doing any of the work. In contrast to the current meme, I hold to the position that all people are automatically entitled to some level of respect by default, and that I should treat them respectfully until they’ve done something to lose that respect. Over the past couple months RC Moore, Arthur, DD, 5keptical, and others I’m slighting by not recalling their names right now did the work of exposing cl for the silly apologist that he is. Thank you for your efforts. I hope to repay in kind next time someone of this ilk shows up and earn my keep.

    Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

  23. cl Says:

    I’ve been called presumptuous, self-righteous, and arrogant by cl!

    No, the ‘it’ in my statement referred to your claim, not you.

    Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    Today’s your day. Now, make some more presumptions and keep appealing to rationalism – like you did when you presumed you knew what nal was really talking about – when in fact you were wrong.

  24. Eneasz Says:

    I’ve been called presumptuous, self-righteous, and arrogant by cl!

    No, the ‘it’ in my statement referred to your claim, not you.

    Another shining display of apologetic stall tactics! Because obviously one can boldly make presumptous, self-righteous, and arrogant statements while themselves remaining unassuming, considerate, and humble.

  25. Arthur Says:

    …you presumed you knew what nal was really talking about – when in fact you were wrong.

    Eneasz, you have to use a lot more words in your non-omniscience caveats. “Perhaps I am mistaken” won’t suffice. Neither, for the record, will “I could certainly be wrong”; I got in trouble with that one a while back.

    Not that anything will do the trick, if you’re making an actual point that the party you’re addressing would rather ignore.

  26. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl said:


    If the strongly religious use the technique at all, the first statement was wrong. And no, it’s not a clarification of the obvious – it’s a clarification of a biased opinion that arrogantly assumes self-correcting truth-seeking will always eventually lead to rejection of biblical claims. That is presumptuous, arrogant nonsense.
    </i.

    cl is committing the logical fallacy of “Appeal to ridicule”, by calling the proposition names in place of cogent counter-example:

    From the wikipedia entry:


    Appeal to ridicule, also called the Horse Laugh[1], is a logical fallacy which presents the opponent’s argument in a way that appears ridiculous, often to the extent of creating a straw man of the actual argument.

  27. cl Says:

    Anyone here is free to justify the claim that consistently unbiased approaches to empirical inquiry always lead to skepticism. All related comments sans such justification remain red herrings.

    DD,

    Reminder: I’m still waiting for your answer to my questions May 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm, especially the last paragraph…

  28. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Your comment May 26, 2009 at 5:18 am did not address the “bias” concerns from my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm, which also contained four other unrelated questions you chose not to address in your comment May 26, 2009 at 5:18 am. That was why I said you’d deflected questions in my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm. I was correct then, and I’m correct now – The four unrelated questions still remain unanswered.

    Ah, I see. You didn’t actually ask me any questions about bias, yet you still count that as “deflecting questions” on my part. You realize that this is ad hominem rhetoric, right? Raising doubts about my sincerity and honesty in order to make your own arguments look more honorable?

    Ah well, let’s get back to dealing with the facts. Your four “unanswered” questions all have to do with scientific disputes that arise during the process of achieving a convergent answer. I addressed those objections as a group by pointing out that convergence is a process that takes time and does indeed involve debate. If you want to consider each specifically, you will find that I support the scientific process of convergence and that I also recommend withholding one’s final conclusions until the evidence clearly favors one conclusion over the others.

    I think you have mistaken my question for an attempt to use Christian disunity as a proof that Christianity is false. Go back and re-read what I wrote, though. I did not say that Christian disunity proves that Christianity is a myth. I simply pointed out that we can easily verify whether or not Christians have found an objective, scientific method that allows them all to converge on a common, singular, authoritative conclusion regarding the correct meaning of Scripture. All we have to do is check to see whether they have, in actual fact, converged on a common, objectively verified interpretation.

    To my knowledge, this has not happened, not in the past two decades, nor the past two centuries, nor the past two millennia. Now, if Christians have not yet arrived at a common, convergent and authoritative interpretation of the Bible, then it would be pointless for me to pass judgement on whether they achieved convergence through biased or unbiased application of scientific techniques. I’m not saying that only skeptics are capable of unbiased application of scientific methods. I’m simply observing that since Christians have not yet arrived at convergence, it would be meaningless for me to assert that they were biased or unbiased in getting there. They haven’t got there at all, so there is no method they used to get there.

    Now I grant you that some might argue with me personally over whether I was truly unbiased when I applied the objective and reliable techniques of knowledge acquisition to the question of God’s existence. In point of fact, I was not. I was a Christian, and I was strongly biased in favor of the conclusion that the Christian God really exists. I only overcame that bias because I admitted that it was there, and because the strength of the scientific method is that its emphasis on hypothesis and testing against the evidence is often sufficient to compensate, at least partially, for strong personal biases.

  29. cl Says:

    DD,

    I said,

    Your comment May 26, 2009 at 5:18 am did not address the “bias” concerns from my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm,

    and you said,

    You didn’t actually ask me any questions about bias, yet you still count that as “deflecting questions” on my part.

    I disagree. Let’s return to my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm:

    Ah, I see… The tools actually do exist for either side to apply, but only the skeptics are consistent in their application and without bias – even after you said putting real-world evidence first is “equally biased,” that “the same principle applies equally to both,” and that “It’s up to us to pick which bias we want to have?” (bold mine)

    How is that not a question about bias? Also, you said,

    I’m not saying that only skeptics are capable of unbiased application of scientific methods.

    I’m confused. Earlier you said,

    ..those of us who do apply it, consistently and without bias, have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth.

    Doesn’t the positive claim that those who have applied it consistently and without bias have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth entail the negative claim that all who have concluded the Bible is not a man-made myth have not applied it consistently and without bias?

    Or was that another statement my arguments have caused you to amend?

    I have more to say, but I’d like to get these two issues resolved and over with.

  30. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I disagree. Let’s return to my comment May 25, 2009 at 12:07 pm:

    Ah, I see… The tools actually do exist for either side to apply, but only the skeptics are consistent in their application and without bias – even after you said putting real-world evidence first is “equally biased,” that “the same principle applies equally to both,” and that “It’s up to us to pick which bias we want to have?” (bold mine)

    How is that not a question about bias?

    I answered that question by pointing out that we do see skeptics coming to a consistent conclusion regarding the Bible’s true significance, and by inviting you to submit evidence of Christians achieving a similar unanimity regarding the objectively verifiable “correct” interpretation of Scripture.

    Doesn’t the positive claim that those who have applied it consistently and without bias have all concluded that the Bible is a man-made myth entail the negative claim that all who have concluded the Bible is not a man-made myth have not applied it consistently and without bias?

    There’s a difference between saying “they are capable of doing it” and saying “they have done it.” Skeptics and believers are capable of interpreting the Bible in the light of verifiable evidence. Applying this technique consistently will lead to a convergence of understanding, as the real world evidence guides each inquirer closer to the objective truth. Those who still produce conflicting and mutually-contradictory interpretations of the Bible are clearly not experiencing this convergence. Hence, while they are able to apply this evidence-based technique, the results strongly suggest that they are currently choosing not to do so.

  31. cl Says:

    DD,

    1) To change this particular sub-discussion into another particular sub-discussion about Christian unanimity is to deflect the question of how my original question in this sub-discussion was not about bias.

    I answered that question by pointing out that we do see skeptics coming to a consistent conclusion regarding the Bible’s true significance, and by inviting you to submit evidence of Christians achieving a similar unanimity regarding the objectively verifiable “correct” interpretation of Scripture. (DD)

    But DD – this does not explain how my question was about something else other than bias, which was what I asked, and in fact, your response reads oddly like an invitation to prove your bias wrong. Secondly, whether or not I can demonstrate the Christian unanimity you demand has no bearing on whether or not my original question was about bias. Even so – to address your demand for unanimity – we can say the following fairly confidently: As regards the Bible, Christians believe God raised Jesus from the dead, that we will all face God one day, and that we all survive after death. Now, of course I fully expect you can find some congregation who calls themselves Christian who defers on one or more of those points, just as I’ve heard many an atheist defer from every single mainline atheist convention except lack of belief in God or gods. I would respond that such dissent proves nothing, and is irrelevant when we’re discussing whether or not my question was about bias – which it clearly was. So, unless you have an answer to that question, I submit that I was correct to say you deflected my question about bias, and when you said you weren’t aware I had asked you a question about bias – maybe you overlooked it, maybe you misread it, maybe you forgot about it, but for whatever reason – you were mistaken. I clearly showed a question about bias. Can we agree at least on that much?

    2) You said,

    Those who still produce conflicting and mutually-contradictory interpretations of the Bible are clearly not experiencing this convergence. Hence, while they are able to apply this evidence-based technique, the results strongly suggest that they are currently choosing not to do so.

    Good. While I’m glad we cleared up the bias thing, I don’t really mind that the perceived dissonance of some unspecified group of Christians is problematic for you, or that you seem to overlook obvious instances of Christian convergence of understanding. I’m just glad we’re now on the same page regarding who can use the tools consistently and without bias – and that’s anyone who uses them consistently and without bias – regardless of what they believe, right?

  32. Deacon Duncan Says:

    I’m not really interested in quibbling over which comment on which date at which time said what about which subject. Such tedious nit-picking has little point other than to create distractions and raise ad hominem objections. I’ll be happy to address any substantive contributions you might care to make, but I think I’ve indulged sufficiently in the shenanigans portion of your apologetic, so don’t expect me to waste any more time and effort on such tactics.

  33. cl Says:

    I’m not really interested in quibbling over which comment on which date at which time said what about which subject.

    That’s fine, I wasn’t either. Next time, just don’t deny that you deflected a question when you clearly did. That way, we can move on to the more substantive parts of the discussion.

  34. John Morales Says:

    [meta]

    cl, I have a comment pending moderation in the “compromise” thread, but I have posted in your blog’s response to DD.

  35. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl—

    There you go again. Sorry, not going to bite on this one. I’m perfectly fine with being slandered, so you can keep it up as long as you like. It’s simply irrelevant. My facts speak for themselves, and don’t depend on any presumed authority or credibility on my part. Anyone who wants to know the truth can check them out for themselves.

  36. John Morales Says:

    Your serenity is evident, Deacon. I consider it admirable.

  37. Christian Says:

    The bible itself tells us that scripture is not given for private interpretation, even in light of the real world. The bible must be interpreted by the bible. The bible is truth, it is correct, we must walk by faith, and not by sight.

  38. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Hello and welcome, Christian. The problem with appealing to the bible is that you necessarily must rely on your private interpretation of what the Bible meant when it said “that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (II Pet. 1:20). If that’s not reliable, you can’t be sure you’ve correctly understood its advice for how to understand the Bible. If it is reliable, though, then that contradicts the advice itself.

    Private interpretation happens whenever anybody reads the Bible, so the only way to eliminate private interpretations is for people to stop reading Scripture. Those who do read, even when they compare Scripture with Scripture, are necessarily going to follow whatever interpretation seems right in their own eyes.