An “inaccurate” question?

We’ve been having an interesting discussion about how the real-world evidence relates to the consequences that would naturally result from the Myth Hypothesis and the Gospel Hypothesis, especially with regard to the latter. One Christian objection in particular strikes me as deserving a post of its own in response. Before we look at that objection, however, let’s review what a hypothesis is and how it is used.

A hypothesis is actually quite simple: it’s a proposition that has testable consequences. In other words, to construct a valid hypothesis, all we need to do is make a declarative statement that is specific enough and self-consistent enough that an honest and objective inquirer can work out what observable consequences ought reasonably to result if the statement is true. For example, if we say “beer is an intoxicating beverage,” that statement is a valid hypothesis. Just by analyzing the sentence, we can describe the consequences we ought to see if the statement is true: we should see people get intoxicated when they drink beer, and we should measure increased levels of blood alcohol after drinking.

Notice that there is no requirement that a hypothesis describe a true condition. We can just as well state a hypothesis like “milk is an intoxicating beverage.” Once again, an analysis of the sentence is sufficient to determine what specific, observable consequences ought to result if the hypothesis is true: we should see people getting drunk on milk, and should be able to measure increased levels of blood alcohol in milk drinkers shortly after they’ve imbibed.

Not all statements make valid hypotheses, however. “Loki works in mysterious ways” is a statement that really covers just about any possible outcome. We can’t really look at, say, today’s weather report and tell whether it supports or refutes the statement that Loki works in mysterious ways. Likewise, inherently self-contradictory statements are untestable. If we say “Childless unmarried spouses have healthier children,” we’re not going to be able to describe an observable set of consequences against which we could compare the evidence.

The whole point of the hypothesis, remember, is to serve as a disciplined and objective methodology for finding the answers to factual questions. We can have an invalid hypothesis—i.e. a statement from which no meaningful and verifiable consequences can be adduced—but we cannot have an inaccurate hypothesis, because accuracy is a quality of answers and conclusions, and the hypothesis is merely a formal way of stating what the question is.

Now, once we’ve formulated our hypothesis, we can analyze it and describe the consequences that would naturally result if the hypothesis were true. This in turn allows us to compare our predicted consequences to the consequences we observe in the real world. At that point, and not before that point, we can draw conclusions as to whether or not the hypothesis describes a conclusion that is consistent with the real world truth. (For added accuracy, we can and should compare multiple hypothesis that have distinctively different consequences, in order to determine which hypothesis produces consequences that are the best fit for the objective evidence.)

My Gospel Hypothesis states, as a testable proposition, the idea that there exists an all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving Creator Who wants a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us for a time, and then die for us so that we can be together forever. This is a valid hypothesis: it does not contradict itself, and it allows us to determine, just from examining the terms of the hypothesis, what consequences would result from this hypothesis being true.

We’ve discussed at some length why the conditions specified in the Gospel Hypothesis lead naturally to the consequences I’ve described, and we’ve all agreed (even the Christians!) that real-world conditions do not match the consequences I’ve outlined. Having stated our hypothesis, worked out its observable consequences, and measured them against real-world conditions, we are now entitled to conclude that the Gospel Hypothesis does not describe a situation that is consistent with the truth.

The Christian objection at this point is revealing. The complaint is that my hypothesis is “inaccurate,” that it is “incorrect” and even “bunk.” If this were simply an admission of the conclusion that the Gospel Hypothesis describes a God Who does not actually exist, that would be a reasonable observation. But that’s not at all what this particular objection is driving at.

I have stated clearly and unequivocally, and repeated numerous times in response to allegations to the contrary, that the Gospel Hypothesis is an inquiry into real world conditions. It is specifically not, in any sense, an inquiry into what the Bible does or does not mean to say. Yet the objection to this hypothesis is that it is supposedly “incorrect” because it does not accurately present the teaching of the Bible. The teachings of the Bible aren’t even on topic for this particular question, yet the objection is raised that we must reject the hypothesis a priori, regardless of its consequences and regardless of the evidence, solely because the Bible allegedly does not teach it.

Obviously, there’s absolutely no reason why we need to care what the Bible says when the Bible is not the subject of our inquiry. There’s certainly no rule that says we can’t ask a scientific question unless we phrase the question in strictly Bible-approved terms. Such a constraint would introduce intolerable bias into our investigation, and would invalidate any conclusions we might think we were entitled to draw. This might be a desirable outcome if we knew that the facts were opposed to our beliefs, and wished to contrive a rationalization for our preconceived conclusions. Such a frankly and arbitrarily prejudicial demand, however, has no place in honest inquiry.

It’s easy to see why this objection is being raised, of course. Christians can neither deny that the evidence is inconsistent with the Gospel Hypothesis being true, nor admit that the hypothesis is false. For all their objections and protests that the Gospel Hypothesis is not what the Bible teaches, they do indeed believe in the idea of the loving, self-sacrificial Father, and don’t want to admit that real-world facts are inconsistent with the conclusion that He exists. Christians therefore have a strongly compelling motivation to find some excuse to shut down the whole inquiry, and to reject the fact-finding without ever seriously looking at the facts.

By trying to force the discussion away from a consideration of the facts and into a traditionally endless debate over what the Bible means, Christians are hoping to insulate themselves from the impact of the truth. It would be a devilishly effective strategy, were we to fall for it, because no matter what arguments or evidence we used to support our interpretation of the Bible, the Christian can always reply, “Well, that’s not how I interpret the Bible,” and walk away feeling unscathed. He doesn’t even need to explain what he thinks the correct interpretation is, he just needs to declare what it isn’t, and thus all contrary evidence is irrelevant by fiat.

Read back through the comments and see how many times Christians keep insisting that we are only allowed to talk about what the Bible does and does not say, and how many times I try to explain that we’re not investigating what the Bible says right now, and how many times Christians acknowledge that I am indeed not discussing what the Bible says and yet still insist that the discussion cannot be valid unless we drop the whole topic and talk instead about what the Bible does or does not mean to say.

As I said yesterday, it’s a transparently bogus objection. Christians don’t want to face the facts directly, and they try desperately to divert us into a subjective and futile BS session over “what the Bible means to me.” The latter discussion, being subjective, they cannot lose. The former, they cannot win. And they know it.

How can you know that I am speaking the truth, and what will be the sign of my correctness? Behold, the Christians themselves will give you a sign: they will not be able to admit that we can formulate and test a Gospel Hypothesis without reference to the Bible, and will continue to insist that our study is invalid because it compares the Gospel Hypothesis directly to the real-world facts. What is more, they will argue that our Gospel Hypothesis is somehow biased, on the grounds that it allows us to reach a fact-based conclusion that is incompatible with Christian beliefs.

When that happens, I will point out that it is actually very difficult to construct a biased hypothesis, which is why it is taking the Christians so long to come up with an alternative hypothesis that sounds impartial while still guaranteeing a predetermined Christian conclusion. (It’s doubly difficult when you realize that this hypothesis must also make God’s absence sound perfectly reasonable and explainable without admitting that there’s any undeniable absence to explain!)

Like Mark Twain used to say, tell the truth—it’s easier. My Gospel Hypothesis was very easy to come up with because I was under no obligation to try and bias it in favor of one conclusion or the other. And it’s clearly an honest and unbiased presentation of the concept of a loving, almighty Father willing and able to die for us, as one of us, so that we could enjoy a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with Him. It’s about as simple and direct a statement of the concept as you could have; you can’t rephrase it in a way that would make it less biased, because there’s no bias in it that you could remove.

So watch and see. You’d think it would be foolish of me to make such a prediction when my opponents could simply contrive not to fulfill it. But they can’t. Their actions and their rhetorical defenses are constrained by the consequences of the Myth Hypothesis. They simply have no alternative but to fulfill my prophecy. Watch and see.

 
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Posted in Evidence Against Christianity, Unapologetics. 93 Comments »

93 Responses to “An “inaccurate” question?”

  1. cl Says:

    That’s an excellent point, and one that I have been waiting some time for someone to make. (DD)

    I don’t know about Jayman and Facilis, but I am personally insulted. The above is patently false, and unless you wish to claim Dominic’s concern is not identical to Jayman’s, Facilis’ or my own, I can prove you knew the above was patently false before you typed it:

    Your methodology seems fine. The problem is that your Gospel hypothesis has only a tangential relationship to Christianity… If this Gospel hypothesis of yours were proven false it would be of no consequence to Christians. (Jayman, to DD)

    I for one applaud DD for trying to set out a consistent rubric to evaluate claims… One part where I feel he attacks a strawman is “that He could enjoy an intimate, personal relationship”…[and]…”enjoying personal time with them.” I’m not sure what he means by “personal relationship” but I’m not aware of which part in the bible says that. (Facilis, to DD)

    Where do [the scriptures] say God does show up in this life? Not to be overly fussy, but this really is a strawman argument. Unless you can show that the Bible says, “God will show his face and tangibly touch any person who repents once every few years,” or something similar, you might have an argument. As it is, this whole thing about God not showing up – which forms a major part of your unapologetic – has never been justified scripturally, as Jayman continually points out. (cl, to DD)

    We’ve consistently claimed that the God of your hypothesis is a piecemeal, strawman god, and not the one revealed in the Bible. This was our initial strawman claim from weeks 1 & 2, which you denied by denying that your Gospel Hypothesis was Christianity. Do you still hold that position? If not, what makes Dominic’s identical criticism suddenly salient?

    Again, unless you wish to claim Dominic’s concern is not identical to Jayman’s, Facilis’ or my own, the proof that you knew Dominic’s point had previously been made lies in the fact that you’ve addressed identical claims from Jayman, Facilis and myself which are all interchangeable with Dominic’s as he stated it here:

    Since the Gospel Hypothesis assumes a particular kind of God, is it not plausible that Christians are arguing that the God of your hypothesis simply isn’t the one revealed in the Bible, and that the consequences of your Gospel Hypothesis is an exercise in futility? (Dominic)

    Regardless of who they are, whether they agree with me or what they think about me, to those who’ve participated in this discussion, I find it disappointing that DD claims his Gospel Hypothesis is not Christianity when 1) he purports to refute biblical arguments; 2) the name of his hypothesis contains the word Gospel; 3) his series is named Evidence Against Christianity; 4) his stated reasoning is to piece together a reasonable picture of what the world should look like were “the Christian God” to exist in actuality; and 5) every single alternative to the Myth Hypothesis proposed thus far has been distinctly Christian. If I may further press the issue, how does DD’s claim that his Gospel Hypothesis isn’t Christianity parse against his following statements:

    ..omni-X deity Who loves us enough to become human and die for us so that He and we can enjoy an eternal personal relationship together..

    ..evidence against the Christian God..

    ..God wants [is] an eternal, loving relationship with each of us..

    ..Gospel Hypothesis, by contrast, proposes that the Christian Creator God does exist, and further, that the Christian faith originated as a result of God loving mankind enough to become human Himself, and to die for us as a cleansing sacrifice so that He could enjoy fellowship with us (and vice versa) for all eternity..

    ..willing to die on our behalf to save us from our sins..

    ..salvation and eternal personal relationship..

    Don’t these sound distinctly Christian? If DD’s Gospel Hypothesis is not Christianity, don’t you think he’s misnamed the entire series and his hypothesis? Don’t you think he should rename it as I suggested? If DD’s Gospel Hypothesis is not Christianity, why doesn’t it include descriptions of God that aren’t Christian? We hear no mention of Shiva and Vishnu. No mention of Allah. No mention of Kali. No mention of anything but a so-called Gospel Hypothesis which entails distinctly Christian pre-conceptions of God, followed by denial that said hypothesis is Christianity.

    I have a hard time believing that somebody as intelligent and articulate as DD is simply unaware of how poorly his singular hypothesis reeks of Christianity. Yet because I must continue to assume that DD argues in good faith. At this point it’s difficult to tell what’s really going on. The only thing I can currently conceive is that DD is might actually be so biased against Christianity that he cannot recognize the truth when spoken and converged upon by three people arguing Christianity.

    Hence, I can no longer take DD’s writings seriously unless he either completely strips the Christian pre-conceptions from his alternative to the Myth Hypothesis; recants his denial that the Gospel Hypothesis is Christianity; addresses all of the Christian pre-conceptions an accurate Gospel Hypothesis entails; or introduces some other hypotheses (like the one I’m currently working on).

    My challenge to a controlled, one-on-one, real-time discussion still stands, but I consider this discussion resolved. I had just gotten through DD’s eighteenth post and thread in the series when I saw this, and I’m a bit pissed I did all that work now. Then again, I learned much, and for that I thank everyone, even my detractors.

    Lastly – to DD – I submit my opinion that if you consider yourself intellectually accountable, you owe Jayman, Facilis and myself apologies and explanations.

  2. Deacon Duncan Says:

    cl —

    I think you’ve just indulged me once again by supplementing my claims with a large body of supporting evidence. All you need to do is to agree that the Gospel Hypothesis, as specified, describes a situation that is not consistent with the real-world evidence. That takes, at most, a short paragraph.

    Instead, you quote Jayman, Facilis, and yourself, doing exactly what I described: trying to make it sound like my statement of the hypothesis was wrong, rather than acknowledging that the content of the hypothesis describes a situation that is inconsistent with reality. Then you compound the confusion by trying to argue that the Gospel Hypothesis is what the Bible is teaching, and I’m just not admitting it.

    Then, despite your complaints about distractions and what-not, you go on at some length trying to make this into a personal squabble with me as the bad guy. Which is fine, I’ll happily take the role of bad guy if that’s what it takes to resolve the personal squabbles and refocus on the actual topic. I apologize to you and to Facilis and to Jayman and acknowledge my guilt.

    Shall we all agree, then, that this question is settled and we all acknowledge that the real-world evidence is inconsistent with the conclusion that there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever?

  3. 5keptical Says:

    Just when I thought cl was going to produce something…

    cl:
    but I consider this discussion resolved

    I really didn’t want to be right about cl….

  4. 5keptical Says:

    Nicely done DD, that’s check and mate (though I think cl is going to toss the board).

  5. cl Says:

    DD, I still consider this discussion resolved:

    All you need to do is to agree that the Gospel Hypothesis, as specified, describes a situation that is not consistent with the real-world evidence.

    Wasn’t such inherent in my understanding of the GH and subsequent concession that God does not show up? What does it change to offer the following tautology: “DD, your GH describes a situation that is not consistent with the real-world evidence?”

    Instead, you quote Jayman, Facilis, and yourself, doing exactly what I described: trying to make it sound like my statement of the hypothesis was wrong,

    That’s because given the assumption that your arguments are evidence against Christianity – certainly a reasonable assumption considering the title of the series – the statement of your hypothesis is wrong. The way you handled this was to deny that your so-called Gospel Hypothesis was Christianity, yet it consists exclusively of Christian pre-conceptions about God. I notice you neatly avoided dealing with those claims.

    Shall we all agree, then, that this question is settled and we all acknowledge that the real-world evidence is inconsistent with the conclusion that there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever?

    Hell no. The real-world evidence is consistent with the conclusion that some silly so-called Gospel Hypothesis you cherrypicked from the Bible is incorrect. Big deal.

    My challenge still stands. I’ll gladly keep checking back and staying on point, but what I’m not going to do is sit here and be made to look like an ass while everyone ignores the elephant in the room: You claim your GH is not Christianity, yet it is composed of distinctly Christian presuppositions. Please, answer my questions concerning your denial that the GH is Christianity.

    Lastly, may I politely suggest that you notify Jayman and Facilis of this thread, and your claim that nobody made Dominic’s point before? I’d love to see their responses.

    5keptical,

    I really didn’t want to be right about cl….

    Don’t worry, you’re not. The assumptions you constantly jump to are nothing short of amazing and betray your appeals to rationalism. That which you imply to be absent existed before you even spoke.

  6. TheOtherGuy Says:

    Daaaaamn, lookit that dodge by cl.

    Honestly, dude? Concede already. You’ve conceded in every manner except explicitly, while you continue to keep trying to bail out your sinking lifeboat. It’s getting embarassing.

  7. cl Says:

    ..you go on at some length trying to make this into a personal squabble with me as the bad guy.

    I disagree. I went on at great length explaining why your responses do not stand the tests of reason. I explicitly refrained from making my comment personal, although I complimented you twice and refrained from making assumptions other than that you must be arguing in good faith, and the real-world evidence is consistent with somebody who is possibly biased or inducting slothfully. The latter charge applies especially to your denial that the GH is Christianity.

  8. John Morales Says:

    Sigh. cl:

    [1] The real-world evidence is consistent with the conclusion that some silly so-called Gospel Hypothesis you cherrypicked from the Bible is incorrect. Big deal.

    [2] You claim your GH is not Christianity, yet it is composed of distinctly Christian presuppositions.


    “Oh what a tangled web we weave,
    When first we practise to deceive!” – Sir Walter Scott.

  9. jim Says:

    Let me try to pare this down for my own benefit, since things seem to be getting a bit convoluted here; at least to me! LOL!

    Duncan’s Gospel hypothesis is that ‘there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever’. His position is that none of this seems to line up with real world circumstances.

    Dominic’s challenge (echoed by the theists here) is that theists don’t believe Duncan’s real world expectations vis-a-vis the GH necessarily follow. It seems to me that Duncan is misinterpreting the challenge here. He seems to believe that Dominic’s argument is meant to question the Gospel hypothesis itself, when it’s actually just questioning Duncan’s take on the real world ramifications OF that hypothesis.

    Cl has interpreted this to mean that Duncan isn’t equating his GH with Christianity, when if fact Duncan is asking for a Christian revision of the GH that would better line up with reality.

    I’m not sure, but I think we have some mis-communication going on here. Either that, or I’m just screwing things up (highly possible).

  10. jim Says:

    “The real-world evidence is consistent with the conclusion that some silly so-called Gospel Hypothesis you cherrypicked from the Bible is incorrect. Big deal.”

    Now THIS statement baffles me. I think most Christians would agree that Duncan’s GH IS consistent with their beliefs, but that Duncan is simply misinterpreting the real world ramifications of that hypothesis.

  11. jim Says:

    Maybe the problem here is that cl is lumping Duncan’s real world expectations in with the hypothesis, and labeling those expectations ‘cherry picking’? Not sure.

  12. Deacon Duncan Says:

    Dominic —

    So here’s my statement and cl’s response:

    Shall we all agree, then, that this question is settled and we all acknowledge that the real-world evidence is inconsistent with the conclusion that there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever?

    Hell no. The real-world evidence is consistent with the conclusion that some silly so-called Gospel Hypothesis you cherrypicked from the Bible is incorrect. Big deal.

    Do you see what I mean about the Christian response to my Gospel Hypothesis? He can neither admit that the content of the Gospel Hypothesis is inconsistent with the facts, nor admit that he’s not admitting it. The inherent self-contradictions in Christian theology will not allow him to come to a coherent and self-consistent position on the subject. He can’t even take a consistent position on whether or not the Gospel Hypothesis does or does not present what the Bible teaches. And he’s still trying like anything to push the discussion into a personal squabble over whether or not I’m dodging some unspecified questions of his.

    So in answer to your question, yes, I’ve known for some time that an unbiased inquirer could take the Gospel Hypothesis, agree that it describes a false situation, and then suggest that some similar (but different) hypothesis might do better. I’ve been prepared for some time now to pick up the discussion at that point and move on to the next step. But I hate to leave the Christians behind, and yet it’s fairly clear they’re rather stuck on this one point. We’ll see if there’s any progress in the next few days.

  13. cl Says:

    jim,

    Cl has interpreted this to mean that Duncan isn’t equating his GH with Christianity, when if fact Duncan is asking for a Christian revision of the GH that would better line up with reality. I’m not sure, but I think we have some mis-communication going on here.

    My claim that DD isn’t equating his GH with Christianity is based on a direct concession from DD which was itself a response to claims from Jayman, Facilis and myself who all told DD his GH needed a Christian revision in the first two weeks of this discussion.

    In response to my,

    The real-world evidence is consistent with the conclusion that some silly so-called Gospel Hypothesis you cherrypicked from the Bible is incorrect. Big deal. (cl)

    ..you said,

    Now THIS statement baffles me. I think most Christians would agree that Duncan’s GH IS consistent with their beliefs, but that Duncan is simply misinterpreting the real world ramifications of that hypothesis. (jim)

    Most Christians would agree that God as described in DD’s GH is consistent with their beliefs – but most Christians would also agree that DD omits other Christian pre-conceptions which would drastically change the predictions the GH makes. If DD’s hypothesis purports to be derived from the Gospel, shouldn’t it factor in all the Gospel’s pre-conceptions about God? I think so. DD avoids this responsibility by denying that his GH is Christianity, which relieves him of the responsibility of meeting our claims head on, yet his hypothesis consists exclusively of Christian pre-conceptions about God. I find that to be highly contradictory and slippery. Don’t you?

    Maybe the problem here is that cl is lumping Duncan’s real world expectations in with the hypothesis, and labeling those expectations ‘cherry picking’? Not sure.

    The charge of cherrypicking comes from the fact that DD’s GH includes only those predictions that flow from a limited understanding of what God desires as defined by His nature.

    DD,

    He can neither admit that the content of the Gospel Hypothesis is inconsistent with the facts, nor admit that he’s not admitting it.

    False. By admitting that God does not show up, I have admitted that the content of the GH is inconsistent with the facts. That’s why I asked you of what value the tautology was.

    The inherent self-contradictions in Christian theology will not allow him to come to a coherent and self-consistent position on the subject.

    Who’s making things personal?

    He can’t even take a consistent position on whether or not the Gospel Hypothesis does or does not present what the Bible teaches.

    False. I’ve included comments in this thread that prove otherwise, and since the second week of this discussion I’ve consistently complained that your “so-called Gospel Hypothesis is no gospel hypothesis at all.” I wrote those words over 4 weeks ago! These facts directly contradict your above claim. How do you respond to this?

    And he’s still trying like anything to push the discussion into a personal squabble over whether or not I’m dodging some unspecified questions of his.

    I don’t know if you’re dodging them, ignoring them, evading them, missing them, unable to answer them, or what – but there are many unanswered questions in this thread. Just take a look and if you need any help, holler.

    We’ll see if there’s any progress in the next few days.

    Why not make progress tonight? Why not accept my challenge?

    Here is the summary of our discussion to date: After Jayman, Facilis and myself all told you that your GH did not present what the Bible teaches in the first and second weeks of this discussion, you denied that your GH was Christianity, yet it consists exclusively of Christian pre-conceptions about God. Honestly, don’t you find any of this even the least bit problematic?

  14. jim Says:

    Sorry, I just re-read Dominic’s post (was going off memory from yesterday) and indeed he IS questioning the hypothesis itself. Still, I’m not sure the hypothesis itself is what theists are questioning, but the real world, consequential spin Duncan is putting on it (one with which I agree, btw). I really don’t think many theists would question the hypothesis itself; just the interpretation of how that hypothesis works itself out in day to day reality.

  15. jim Says:

    “My claim that DD isn’t equating his GH with Christianity is based on a direct concession from DD which was itself a response to claims from Jayman, Facilis and myself who all told DD his GH needed a Christian revision in the first two weeks of this discussion.”

    Then I would suggest a Christian revision that better lines up with reality from a Christian viewpoint. Then you could compare things like real-world correspondence and internal consistency. I THINK that’s what Duncan is asking for when he says-

    “Yes, I agree that the evidence shows that the Gospel Hypothesis is inconsistent with the truth, and therefore some other hypothesis is needed.”

    It just seems to me that the discussion needs a little tightening up.

  16. cl Says:

    jim,

    Still, I’m not sure the hypothesis itself is what theists are questioning, but the real world, consequential spin Duncan is putting on it (one with which I agree, btw)

    All theists I know of who’ve been present in this discussion have questioned the hypothesis – not that God loves us so much He’d die for our sins and that God is omni-max and all that stuff – those are all things Christians should have no problem with (but again, if DD’s GH is not Christianity as he claims, why include only these distinctly Christian elements?).

    All theists I know of have also questioned the real world, consequential spin DD has put on the hypothesis as well, and again we all disagree – not that God as described would want to be present with us, because He would – but that God as described would want to be present with us right here, right now, in person.

    I really don’t think many theists would question the hypothesis itself; just the interpretation of how that hypothesis works itself out in day to day reality.

    Then just of curiosity, why do you suppose the theists who’ve been present in this discussion have unanimously questioned the hypothesis itself, as well as how the hypothesis works itself out in day to day reality?

    I THINK that’s what Duncan is asking for when he says-

    I agree. My claim is that Jayman, Facilis and myself all told DD the exact same thing in the first two weeks of this discussion, among many other things, and now DD appears to flatly pretend otherwise. I am truly confused.

    It just seems to me that the discussion needs a little tightening up.

    Understatement of the century IMO.

  17. John Morales Says:

    RC, I posted a link to hypothesis testing to indicate that, unlike logical proof, hypotheses can only be either rejected or not based on the balance of probabilities.

    Jim and others, what part of

    I have stated clearly and unequivocally, and repeated numerous times in response to allegations to the contrary, that the Gospel Hypothesis is an inquiry into real world conditions. It is specifically not, in any sense, an inquiry into what the Bible does or does not mean to say. Yet the objection to this hypothesis is that it is supposedly “incorrect” because it does not accurately present the teaching of the Bible.

    is unclear? (my bold)

  18. jim Says:

    You seem to agree that none of the actual details of the hypothesis itself have been questioned. If you wish to add nuance, such as ‘however’, or ‘except when’ or any other elements of mitigation or nuance, that’s fine. Add those to Duncan’s hypothesis in whatever way you see fit, then everybody can judge as to whether the hypothesis itself has been qualitatively changed.

  19. John Morales Says:

    Perhaps a review is in order.
    This started on Tuesday, 21 April 2009, 6:51:17 PM, when Deacon Duncan posted:
    “Ask a typical atheist why they do not believe in God, and you’ll usually hear that it’s because there is no evidence that God exists.
    […]
    I propose to address these problems by means of a simple comparison. It will be an oversimplified comparison at first, but this is not intended to be my whole case.
    […]
    For convenience, we can refer to these two alternatives as the Myth versus the Gospel. The Myth hypothesis holds that the Christian God does not exist outside the thoughts and imaginations of men, and that the popular beliefs about Him arose through common psychosocial phenomena that can be observed even today among believers. The Gospel alternative, by contrast, holds that mankind has an almighty, all-wise, objectively real Creator God Who loves us enough to become one of us and to die for us so that He could enjoy an intimate, personal relationship with each and every one of us for all eternity, as is His desire. We won’t all necessarily benefit from that desire, some say, but that is what He allegedly wants.

    What we want to do, then, is to examine each of these possibilities, and determine first of all what consequences would logically manifest in the real world if these hypotheses were true, and then secondly have a look at the real world to see which set of consequences is most consistent with the actual evidence.”

    I note that DD clearly intended this to illustrate one basis upon which (at least some) atheists to reject the Christian god, and furthermore that DD clearly based his GH on (some of) the attributes of the Biblical god-concept.

    That said, DD has specifically and explicitly defined the GH (bolded section in the quote above) and it is this that should be addressed.

    My point?
    I consider that to encumber considerations with inferences based on the origin of the argument is to commit the genetic fallacy.

  20. jim Says:

    John-

    First of all, I might change this-

    “…that the Gospel Hypothesis is an inquiry into real world conditions.”

    to this…

    ‘that my interpretation of real world conditions is an inquiry into the truth or falsity of the Gospel Hypothesis’. Seems more accurate, in my view. I might just be playing with semantics here, though. As for this-

    “It is specifically not, in any sense, an inquiry into what the Bible does or does not mean to say.”

    I have no problem with this. Regardless of whether the GH is founded in Duncan’s or anyone else’s interpretation of scripture, or whether it’s free-floating, it can be accepted, rejected or modified by any and all parties involved in the discussion, as they see fit. The only difference as I see it, is that if the hypothesis is truly free-floating, the discussion ends at the individual stances. But if the aim is simply to get the theists to say “no, we don’t agree ‘that there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever?” I can’t really see what’s been accomplished, other than perhaps a mere rhetorical victory.

  21. John Morales Says:

    Correction: in my previous post, that should read:
    … atheists claim to …

  22. jim Says:

    John-

    In other words, it seems to me the theists here could argue that they accept the GH WITH MODIFICATIONS, or simply under the aegis of a different interpretive schematic than the one implied (or the one they believe is being implied, anyhow). In any case, the real argument would have to boil down to details- correspondences, contradictions, logical coherence, etc.

  23. John Morales Says:

    Jim, good post. But it should be addressed to the Deacon. Those are all his propositions, and though I endorse them I cannot claim credit.

  24. John Morales Says:

    Jim @10:44,

    … it seems to me the theists here could argue that they accept the GH WITH MODIFICATIONS …

    I concur.

    The onus, of course, is on any such to specify the required modifications and to justify them.

    [meta]
    PS rather than CAPS, you might wish to use tags, e.g. <b>bold</b>

  25. jim Says:

    John- True, and I can’t really see that much of any of this is particularly consequential. I happen to agree that reality does NOT line up with the GH, and I also agree that the standard Christian mitigations qualitatively change a hypothesis that is a fundamental Christian doctrine. I believe the real illustrative property of the GH discussion is in revealing the inherent inconsistencies in those doctrines. When the details are actually parsed, Christianity goes down in flames… IMHO. LOL!

  26. John Morales Says:

    I can’t really see that much of any of this is particularly consequential […]

    But Jim, this is a Virtual Seminary! 🙂

  27. jim Says:

    LOL! Why does this come to mind?

    “And spotteth twice they the camels before the third
    hour. And so the Midianites went forth to Ram Gilead in Kadesh Bilgemath by Shor Ethra Regalion, to the house of Gash-Bil-Betheul-Bazda, he who brought the butter dish to Balshazar and the tent peg to the house of Rashomon, and there slew they the goats, yea, and placed they the bits in little pots. Here endeth the lesson.

    Monty Python, Meaning of Life

  28. cl Says:

    John Morales,

    ..DD clearly based his GH on (some of) the attributes of the Biblical god-concept.

    Yes, DD did base his GH on in an incomplete description of the biblical God. That’s why to date, this exercise has zero import to Christians, and Jayman, Facilis and myself have consistently claimed this since the first two weeks of this discussion.

    Question: If the series is named Evidence Against Christianity, and the positive hypothesis is named the Gospel Hypothesis, should DD be allowed to cherrypick which biblical descriptions of God he factors into his GH? I honestly don’t think so.

    The onus, of course, is on any such to specify the required modifications and to justify them.

    I’ve already accepted that responsibility, and that’s the new direction I’ve decided to head in this discussion. I’m shooting for early- to mid-next week.

    jim,

    ..if the aim is simply to get the theists to say “no, we don’t agree ‘that there exists a loving, almighty, all-wise and all-knowing Creator Who desires a genuine, personal, eternal relationship with each of us, to the point that He is willing and able to become one of us, dwell among us, and even die for us so that we can be together with Him forever?” I can’t really see what’s been accomplished, other than perhaps a mere rhetorical victory.

    ..I can’t really see that much of any of this is particularly consequential.

    I agree.

  29. Dominic Saltarelli Says:

    Ummm…. you’re welcome?

    I haven’t bee keeping up with the entire debate, so I didn’t think I’d be delivering a much needed kick in the gut to cure the constipation around here.

    But now I’m pretty sure I see where this is heading. The primary defense of religious apologetics is always intentional obfuscation. The arguments are invariably: you can’t know, gotta have faith, you can’t be sure, reason has its limits, etc…

    Now, all of this is in stark contrast to the same apologetics turning about and laying claim to capital ‘T’ Truth at other times in different circumstances: miracles are proof, the [insert holy book] is the inerrant word of God, faith is another way of *knowing*, etc…

    DD simply wants Christians themselves to propose a testable GH, bringing this contradiction in thought processes into collision with each other.

    IMO, though, he’s setting himself up for more disappointment. I’ve been down this road myself, here’s the path I took with the same intention:

    1) the apologist argues that you can’t know certain things for sure

    2) I argue then that Faith just amounts to hope, sort of like rolling the dice and hoping you get a seven, you don’t know until you see some evidence that they come up seven

    3) the apologist then disagrees and argues that Faith is a different kind of knowing, and that its not merely hope, because you can associate a degree of certainty with Faith, so you can know through Faith, just not *know* know, like you know other things, so it’s not hope, per se. Kinda like hope, but you *know*, you know? Without, you know, *knowing*.

    4) me: (gaping mawed incredulity)… Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot.

    (At which point I then understood perfectly why published atheists have complained about things like “compartmentalization” of the religious mind.)

    DD can expect to see something similar in the future. I’m not smart enough to predict exactly what will happen when these different types of knowing come into conflict when being applied to the same hypothesis, but I am predicting much entertainment for sideline viewers.

  30. cl Says:

    Dominic,

    Ummm…. you’re welcome?

    Jayman, Facilis and myself all made your claim that “the God of [DD;s] hypothesis simply isn’t the one revealed in the Bible, and that the consequences of [DD’s] Gospel Hypothesis is an exercise in futility” in the first two weeks of this discussion. DD handled our original strawman claims by denying that his GH was Christianity, while refusing to account for the fact that it entails distinctly Christian pre-conceptions about God. Why else would I say “BINGO! And as far as Christians go, that’s where this discussion ended – DD’s second post,” to your comment? Please, at least read my linked post, if not the whole thread – I’m not intending to sound snarky at all, just noting in good faith that you said you hadn’t been keeping up with the discussion entirely. I’m curious to hear your response to my linked comment.

    Jayman? Facilis? You guys out there? I’m dying to hear your responses to this latest turn of events. I asked DD to make sure both of you see this thread.

  31. R. C. Moore Says:


    That’s why to date, this exercise has zero import to Christians, and Jayman, Facilis and myself have consistently claimed this since the first two weeks of this discussion.

    Only in the sense you ignore the import. Everything DD has said maps to the subset of Christianity perfectly, it just does not map to a larger set.

    Not a singe refutation of any of DD’s point’s (including my one refutations) has been successfully achieved in all the comments (your diversions by taking things to your own blog, well shown to not state much of anything of import, notwithstanding).

    DD has been the clear winner here. Christianity is a myth presenting itself has a history.

  32. Dominic Saltarelli Says:

    cl,

    My response is that I can see why you’re frustrated. DD wasn’t reformulating the GH back when you suggested to do so because his entire purpose of going in this direction was to start falsifying any number of hypothesis regarding God by comparing them to the real world rather than Biblical accounts. This is going to sound worse than it is, but I think he’s been trying to manipulate you into placing estoppel on introducing Biblical accounts as a form of evidence. Which any Christian is loathe to do for obvious reasons.

  33. cl Says:

    R.C.,

    Everything DD has said maps to the subset of Christianity perfectly,

    No it does not, and let the record show that you make such a claim while having conceded to not having read the entire Bible.

    Not a singe refutation of any of DD’s point’s (including my one refutations) has been successfully achieved in all the comments

    I disagree.

    Dominic,

    ..I think he’s been trying to manipulate you into placing estoppel on introducing Biblical accounts as a form of evidence.

    Do you mean to say he only allows his own biblical conceptions as evidence but denies others? If so, I agree, and such is the basis of my cherrypicking claim.

    Which any Christian is loathe to do for obvious reasons.

    Can you clarify that? I didn’t follow. Did you think the original concerns from Jayman, Facilis and myself ran parallel to yours?

  34. cl Says:

    R.C.,

    And if by your “not a single refutation” claim you mean to say that nobody has shown how DD’s so-called Gospel Hypothesis does not map to the subset of Christianity perfectly, that’s because when we told DD that his GH didn’t map perfectly, he denied that his GH was Christianity!

    Sunday school level Bible knowledge of Genesis and Hebrews is sufficient to demolish DD’s Gospel Hypothesis – if it is Christianity. For example, according to the Bible, God did show up, in the very beginning. It was our sin that catalyzed God’s absence, and that God cannot dwell with sinful man sans atonement is affirmed throughout scripture, particularly in Exodus. Further, Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen.”

    God showing up right here, right now, in person, on magazine covers and on the evening news as DD claims would nullify those verses.

    Can we now finally all agree that DD’s so-called Gospel Hypothesis is no gospel hypothesis at all?

  35. Arthur Says:

    I thought you and Jayman argued that the Bible doesn’t try to account for God’s absence.

  36. Tacroy Says:

    Wait I’m confused. If “God cannot dwell with sinful man sans atonement”, does that mean that Jesus wasn’t God? Or was he not dwelling with us? Or was everyone on Earth atoned at the time, before Jesus’s death? And if Jesus’ death did not atone everyone’s sins, then what did he die for?

    And just ignoring the fact that Jesus completely contradicts the whole “he’s hiding because you guys sinned” thing, why is it that God was perfectly willing to talk to people like Moses and Job and the various kings of Israel, when He cannot dwell with them?

    And, even further than that, if God is eternal and has always been around why did He only start with a local cult in Egypt something like 5000 years ago? Why didn’t the Romans, Greeks, Minoans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians, Native Americans, Mayans and everyone else in the world know about Him?

    Even worse, why are there still any religions other than Christianity? If there’s only one God, then all those other religions and non-religious modes of thought should be obsolete – and your God should make it clear that this is the case. After all, any philosophy that does not include God, the Creator of Everything as a central portion of its doctrine clearly has a gigantic hole in it, and should fall apart with little effort – and yet there have been entire civilizations that have lived and died without ever knowing of the Christian God. He should be something as simple and basic as fire, something that anyone can come to just by thinking – and yet instead we find that cultures all over the world have their own religions, none of which are more than superficially similar to Christianity.

    The worst part of it is, why are there so many versions of Christianity? If you guys all follow the same Bible and the same God, you should be converging on the same religion. Instead, we see that Christianity splinters like a twig in a Cuisinart. If I wanted to be Christian, there’s so much I could choose from – If I don’t like that monotheism thing, I could be a South American Catholic (Mary’s nearly a part of the trinity down there, not to mention all those saints). If I think I’m better at interpreting the Bible than anyone else, I could be a Protestant. If I want to have a ton of wives, I could be a Muslim (they used to have laws to the effect of “you can have as many wives as you can support”) or a Mormon (keep in mind that they are both offshoots of Christianity). If I didn’t want to be quite so fundamentalist, I could be Lutheran – or if I didn’t like that whole “hell” thing, I could be a Universalist.

    It’s like that old joke – standards are great, because there’s so many to choose from.

  37. Dominic Saltarelli Says:

    cl,

    The point I’m trying to make is that DD has been trying to get you, in particular, to agree to a particular methodology for verifying hypothesis that specifically does not admit Biblical accounts as evidence.

    For example:
    [quote]Sunday school level Bible knowledge of Genesis and Hebrews is sufficient to demolish DD’s Gospel Hypothesis – if it is Christianity. For example, according to the Bible, God did show up, in the very beginning. It was our sin that catalyzed God’s absence, and that God cannot dwell with sinful man sans atonement is affirmed throughout scripture, particularly in Exodus. Further, Hebrews tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen.”[/quote]

    This is relying on the Bible itself as a source of evidence. If you’re trying to establish the veracity of a source, it helps to have a method for doing so that doesn’t rely upon assuming the source is automatically true. Saying that if the GH were true, then it would invalidate some passages from the Bible, and is therefore false, doesn’t really get you anywhere.

    Me pointing out the same objections you have had likely only caught notice because I’m not a Christian. If this quickly devolved into an issue of Biblical interpretation, it would never have gone past that. Past experience and history in general teaches us all that such arguments are unresolvable. If they were, Christianity’s history would be far less interesting.

    It aslo must be noted that there is no uniform Christian view regarding God. Doesn’t exist. You’ve been saying that the GH represents a strawman, but I can personally attest that it accurately represents the beliefs of at least some Christians (the ones who think God cares for them as individuals and that Jesus wasn’t just a Messiah, but was in fact God, dwelling among us). If you disagree, fine, but just bear in mind that they call themselves “Christian” as well and read the same Bible you do.

    Lastly, I said Christians are loathe to remove the Bible as a source of evidence because without the Bible, you have no Christianity, I assumed that would be obvious.

  38. John Morales Says:

    cl:

    Question: If the series is named Evidence Against Christianity, and the positive hypothesis is named the Gospel Hypothesis, should DD be allowed to cherrypick which biblical descriptions of God he factors into his GH? I honestly don’t think so.

    Since he is originator of both this process and the initial proposal of the MH and GH, I do think so. Furthermore, DD pre-emptively addressed your objection in that initial post, back in April 21:
    I propose to address these problems by means of a simple comparison. It will be an oversimplified comparison at first, but this is not intended to be my whole case. Rather, by laying out the initial comparison, and showing how the evidence really relates to the two alternatives, we will lay the groundwork for future discussions that explore variations on the two initial themes, and show how ultimately the variations merely avoid the inevitable. (my emphasis)

  39. Eneasz Says:

    Tacroy

    That was beautiful. I suspect cl’s response will be some version of this: Oh no … run!

  40. R. C. Moore Says:

    cl —

    This discussion has moved past you. While you served a useful purpose as a foil for DD’s arguments, all you have offered is:

    — A long list of logical fallacies, with you do not acknowledge or refute. (Lack of refutation always counts as a “win” in your comments, or do the rules change at your convenience?)

    An new one in your recent post, the “fallacy of necessity” (Fallacy of necessity: a degree of unwarranted necessity is placed in the conclusion based on the necessity of one or more of its premises. — Wikipedia)

    when you said:

    let the record show that you make such a claim while having conceded to not having read the entire Bible.

    — Promises of refutations in which you attempt “proof by verbosity” — a thousand words for a simple refutation, with more on the way?

    — Out of context quotation, quote mining, and the ignoring of requests to correct “the record” as you call it.

    — Ad hominem attacks, and accusing others the same, without evidently understanding the term. Those unaware of logical fallacies are doomed to repeat them, as you have demonstrated amply.

    — A demonstrated ignorance of the scientific method when you labeled prayer studies pseudoscience by definition, linking to your blog to supply the evidence, only to reveal a disturbing paranoia and self-absorption, and a complete lack of understanding in the area of experimental design.

    So, really, do as I have, acknowledge your arguments have been unconvincing, and graciously concede defeat. At some point, continuing to respond to you becomes cruel mockery.

    You may have noticed lately that a mere Monty Python quote is adequate rebuttal to your posts.

  41. cl Says:

    Tacroy,

    First off, I hope we can agree your comment has no import to the current discussion. Nonetheless…

    If “God cannot dwell with sinful man sans atonement”, does that mean that Jesus wasn’t God?

    What was Jesus besides atonement? Talk to doesn’t entail full scale manifestation.

    ..if God is eternal and has always been around why did He only start with a local cult in Egypt something like 5000 years ago? Why didn’t the Romans, Greeks, Minoans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians, Native Americans, Mayans and everyone else in the world know about Him?

    Ask someone who believes Romans, Greeks, Minoans, Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Indians, Native Americans and Mayans didn’t know about God. I don’t start with that presupposition. There is no religion higher than truth.

    If there’s only one God, then all those other religions and non-religious modes of thought should be obsolete

    I disagree. While I’m arguing one God, who said there is only one god? If God had an adversary, one would expect false religions – and that’s not to prejudge any religion as false – because if God was real, wouldn’t He also speak to each of us in a language we could understand? Again, there is no religion higher than truth, which means X is true whether found in scripture or bathroom graffiti at a coke bar.

    He should be something as simple and basic as fire, something that anyone can come to just by thinking

    Yet, atheists claim everyone did come to God just by thinking, and thank you for agreeing with one of my primary rebuttals to JS Mill, Bertrand Russell, and those who echo them – like Prof. Dawkins.

    If you guys

    Don’t point at me. I’m here to debate. I already explained to DD that I disagree with this argument from religions dissonance. Similar standards are not applied to scientists. And arguments showing convergence won’t refute that statement. There is still lack of convergence on key scientific issues, yet nobody uses such to argue that science is unsound.

    John Morales,

    Let’s say we agree DD should be allowed to call his hypothesis the Gospel Hypothesis when it does not accurately represent what the Gospel hypothesizes – what does that accomplish?

    Dominic,

    This is relying on the Bible itself as a source of evidence. If you’re trying to establish the veracity of a source, it helps to have a method for doing so that doesn’t rely upon assuming the source is automatically true. Saying that if the GH were true, then it would invalidate some passages from the Bible, and is therefore false, doesn’t really get you anywhere.

    I agree, and I understood that part of DD’s argument. But here’s the deal: we’re dealing with a source (the Bible) that claims theopneustos. As such, we must evaluate it on its own terms. This is a risky statement that would make a great quote mine to ostensibly prove my bias, but I’ll take that risk: Because the Bible claims theopneustos, if we begin by doing anything else other than assuming the Bible’s depictions of God are 100% correct, we are no longer evaluating the God the Bible describes.

    Me pointing out the same objections you have had likely only caught notice because I’m not a Christian.

    Exactly what I said to DD: “At this point it’s difficult to tell what’s really going on. The only thing I can currently conceive is that DD is might actually be so biased against Christianity that he cannot recognize the truth when spoken and converged upon by three people arguing Christianity.”

    You’ve been saying that the GH represents a strawman, but I can personally attest that it accurately represents the beliefs of at least some Christians

    It accurately represents a fraction of what most Christians believe, and you can prove your claim you know: Just produce a Christian that agrees DD’s GH accurately represents their beliefs in their entirety. So far, of three people arguing Christianity, none have. DD’s response is to imply that they are losers simply rationalizing.

    R.C.,

    Join the rest who say I’ve not came through on my promises while Part 1 of my rebuttal is up on my blog and I’ve challenged DD to a one-on-one discussion. Should I assume your subsequent comment on the subsequent thread where you bust DD’s balls overwrites this one? Lastly, if my arguments are unconvincing, why did DD agree to them when a non-Christian presented them? Let’s be real here.

  42. Tacroy Says:

    I will admit that my previous post was done in something of a rush; when you start picking at religion, it becomes clear that the idea is just fractally wrong.

    It would be inappropriate to continue this here, or even at all – I doubt I’ll get a real answer out of cl. Just look at my first paragraph, and the two sentences cl used to “respond” to it.

  43. cl Says:

    Tacroy,

    I’m as unimpressed with your argument as you are with mine, and I don’t see how denouncing arguments as ‘not real’ passes for cogency.