Book Plunge: The Demon-Haunted World

What do I think of this work of the man who brought us Cosmos? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Carl Sagan is famous for saying “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” While as a Christian I disagree with this sentiment, there is a debt of gratitude owed to Sagan as Sagan was one of those people wanting to popularize science for a non-scientific audience and open them up to scientific thinking.

I read Sagan’s book after an atheist recommended I read it in response to my suggesting he read Keener’s “Miracles.” I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw in Sagan’s work. While Sagan is definitely an atheist, one does not find the usual vitriol one has come to find in the works of the new atheists. I often had the impression that Sagan would have been the kind of atheist I could sit down and reasonably chat with concerning why I hold the position that I do.

In fact, much of what is in this book should be amenable to Christians easily and if some of it is not, that could point to a great insecurity that exists in the mind of the Christian who has that fear. Why should we who think God revealed Himself in Jesus in this world think that further study in this world will somehow disprove that truth? (And besides, if it did, we should be thankful. Who wants to go through life believing what is untrue?)

We should be applauding the work of Sagan to get science into the mainstream and support scientific research. I also wholly agree with him that our young people are not thinking enough, though that does not just extend to science, and need to have a greater education rather than just being entertained all day. I would support entirely seeing shows on TV that would grab the interest of young people so they could learn about areas such as science.

When I was in school, for instance, we would watch 3-2-1-Contact. I know several others who grew up watching people like Bill Nye, the Science Guy. While I am against just purely entertaining our children, I think there are ways we can do education that are attractive to students and make them want to learn. I know today a number of adults that still remember rules of grammar and math by thinking of old episodes of Schoolhouse Rock.

Yet there are some concerns. I think too often Sagan puts all the eggs in the science basket. Science is an important piece of the puzzle, but it can too often be made the whole deal. This could be understandable however since science was the passion of Sagan and it’s easy to see everything in light of that passion and think it is the most important.

Sagan is certainly right to go after the gullibility in our culture with pseudoscience, as he should, but when it comes to him stepping out of his field, he is too quick to also buy into gullibility. We must all check ourselves for bias and it’s too easy to think a story or claim meshes with our worldview and is therefore reliable. i will not thus comment on Sagan’s science. I am not an authority there. But there are areas I do consider myself an authority in that I think Sagan gets wrong. It is a warning to all of us.

For instance, on page 37, Sagan sees metaphysics as philosophy or as he says “Truths you could recognize just by thinking about them.” This is not an accurate description. Metaphysics is really the study of being as being. It is true to say that metaphysics has no laboratory while physics does, but this is the problem of saying that a branch of knowledge is not as valid because it does not go about the same way another one does. History has no laboratory. Mathematics has no laboratory. Literature has no laboratory, yet we would not say that those are less valid branches of knowledge. It is a mistake to see the way that science does what it does and think every other way is insufficient.

Also, Sagan makes the claim that Deuteronomy was a forgery found in the time of Josiah. Considering works have been written on Deuteronomy showing that it fits in perfectly as a Suzerain treaty which dates to the time it is traditionally thought to have been written in, this is problematic. In fact, one could hardly say it agrees with Josiah. Why would Josiah write a document that would put his kingship thus far in a bad light by showing how far he had failed?

I also think Sagan should be taken with a huge grain of salt when talking about the medieval period, especially since his main source seems to be Gibbon. (Another problematic area comes in when one would like to check Sagan’s sources. He does say what books he uses, but no page numbers are cited so one cannot know where the claims are found.) This is especially with regards to Witch Trials and the Inquisition. More modern readers would be benefited by seeing a work like Kamen’s on the Spanish Inquisition or seeing the research of James Hannam on the medieval period.

There are other areas where Sagan just gets facts wrong such as thinking the transmission of the biblical accounts would be like a telephone game (page 357) or that the Bible teaches a flat Earth (300) or claims of genocide in the Bible. (290)

Also, on page 278, Sagan thinks an infinite universe would be a problem for Christian theism. I do not see why this is. It would mean changing one’s interpretation of Genesis perhaps (Though I hold to Walton’s view so that would not be much of a problem) but from a Thomistic perspective, an eternal universe still depends on God.

Commendable in all of this also is the fact that Sagan does not deny the failures of science. Science has brought us cures for diseases, but it has also brought us weapons of mass destruction. The solution to this is not to teach more science, but rather to teach more morality. Science can be just as badly used as religion can be. One can say science works by pointing to launching a man to the moon, but one could also say it works by pointing at a missile hitting a city. A difference with religion of course is that the man who launches a missile on innocents is not violating any principles of science, but a Christian who murders an innocent man is violating a principle of Christianity.

Despite all this, I found myself rather pleased ultimately by Sagan’s work. While I do think he puts too much in the science basket, it is understandable and one would hope that today’s new atheists would learn to be a bit more like Sagan. I can thus commend this work to others in understanding the importance of science for our society.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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26 Responses to “Book Plunge: The Demon-Haunted World”

  1. Romathon Says:

    In what sense do you think Sagan puts “too much in the science basket”? You say this twice in the review, but you don’t elaborate on where you think he oversteps with his scientific thinking.

    I commend you for calling out Sagan on certain things (Such as the Bible teaching a flat earth – I think it suggests the earth is flat, but it’s never expressly stated anywhere I’ve found), but you are wrong about genocide:

    “Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Samuel 15)

    I also have a bone to pick about this passage you wrote:

    “History has no laboratory. Mathematics has no laboratory. Literature has no laboratory, yet we would not say that those are less valid branches of knowledge. It is a mistake to see the way that science does what it does and think every other way is insufficient.”

    History has lots of laboratory work, particularly dealing with forensics. Mathematics is used in almost every scientific laboratory in the world, and theoretical mathematics generally isn’t taken as fact until it has been confirmed through observation. Literature wouldn’t have a laboratory because it’s not dealing with direct observation or facts, so this is a baffling statement to me.

    You may be correct that non-scientific branches of knowledge are valid, and by extension, emotionally important facets of human experience. But according to philosophical logic, not all valid things are true.

  2. apologianick Says:

    Roma: In what sense do you think Sagan puts “too much in the science basket”? You say this twice in the review, but you don’t elaborate on where you think he oversteps with his scientific thinking.

    Reply: Well it’s been a long time since I read it, but if memory serves, it would be the usual idea I sadly see from atheists that science is the highest branch of knowledge and if something is not scientific, we should not take it seriously. I actually hold to an opposite view. Science is a more inductive way of thinking about matters and the conclusions can never be guaranteed to be absolute.

    Roma: I commend you for calling out Sagan on certain things (Such as the Bible teaching a flat earth – I think it suggests the earth is flat, but it’s never expressly stated anywhere I’ve found), but you are wrong about genocide:

    Reply: I think the Bible uses more figures of speech. People knew the Earth was round. For the medievals, this was certainly a fact as that had been known since the time of Aristotle.

    Roma: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Samuel 15)

    REply: Yes. Would you care to state how you think this is genocide?

    Roma: I also have a bone to pick about this passage you wrote:

    “History has no laboratory. Mathematics has no laboratory. Literature has no laboratory, yet we would not say that those are less valid branches of knowledge. It is a mistake to see the way that science does what it does and think every other way is insufficient.”

    History has lots of laboratory work, particularly dealing with forensics. Mathematics is used in almost every scientific laboratory in the world, and theoretical mathematics generally isn’t taken as fact until it has been confirmed through observation. Literature wouldn’t have a laboratory because it’s not dealing with direct observation or facts, so this is a baffling statement to me.

    REply: Many of these practices can be used in the laboratory, but what I’m saying is that if we want to see what happened in history, such as Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, we cannot recreate that in a lab and do an experiment. We cannot go there if we want to know if Jesus rose from the dead or if the Allies won World War II. History can make use of scientific knowledge, such as forensics, but that is a supplement. For mathematics, yes, some math is done through observation, but when you do a geometric proof, you don’t set up an experiment in a laboratory. The basic message is that these fields are not done the way science is done.

    Roma: You may be correct that non-scientific branches of knowledge are valid, and by extension, emotionally important facets of human experience. But according to philosophical logic, not all valid things are true.

    REply: And philosophical logic is not science either so that could be valid and not true, but in fact it is both. Scientism as done is in fact an insult to science. It turns science into something it was never meant to be and in the long run will hinder our knowledge greatly.

    • Romathon Says:

      Before I get started on my rebuttal, I’d like to just say I’m enjoying our talks. You are the best educated and versed theologian I’ve had the pleasure of a discussion with in a long time. Thanks for your input.

      Apologia: Science is a more inductive way of thinking about matters and the conclusions can never be guaranteed to be absolute.

      Reply: I have no idea how else you would acquire facts about the world except through observation and experimentation (ie, the scientific method). And I don’t think we can know anything absolutely, there are merely axioms we can choose to believe. Do you think we CAN know anything absolutely?

      Apologia: I think the Bible uses more figures of speech. People knew the Earth was round. For the medievals, this was certainly a fact as that had been known since the time of Aristotle.

      Reply: I’m mainly referring to the vague references of flat earth in the old testament, most of which is older than Aristotle. Regardless, I don’t think it can be easily settled. Flat earth is never explicitly stated.

      Apologia: Yes. Would you care to state how you think this is genocide?

      Reply: Don’t be coy. The dictionary definition of genocide is “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” I think killing “both man and woman, child and infant” certainly qualifies. There are multiple examples of genocide in the bible, not just this.

      Apologia: The basic message is that these fields are not done the way science is done.

      Reply: My friend, this is by far the most baffling and wrongheaded thing you have ever said in our conversations. History and mathematics are branches of science. They have all the hallmarks of scientific fields, including observation, evidence, and peer review. Just because they are not primarily conducted in laboratories doesn’t mean they are not science.

      Seriously, I’m reeling here. Where the heck do you think geometric proofs come from? They are supported by a mountain of easily verified observable evidence that anyone can do in the comfort of their own home.

      Apologia: And philosophical logic is not science either…

      Reply: Sure, I’ll go with you on this one.

      Apologia: …So that could be valid and not true, but in fact it is both.

      Reply: If you mean philosophy necessarily deals with truth, then here you are wrong. It CAN deal with truth, certainly, but I can construct valid arguments all day long that are nonsense. Philosophy, at its core, is more concerned with rational arguments than observation, which is how we connect reason with reality.

      Apologia: Scientism as done is in fact an insult to science. It turns science into something it was never meant to be and in the long run will hinder our knowledge greatly.

      Reply: I get this, I really do. There are certain very important areas of human experience that science has barely nicked the surface of, like the qualia of suffering, or religious experience, or a moral compass. We must continue to operate in these areas even though we have very little rational data about these things. But that doesn’t mean science won’t ever be able to explain these things. Once we accept certain axioms, science can tell us a lot even now, about how to live better, more moral lives.

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: Before I get started on my rebuttal, I’d like to just say I’m enjoying our talks. You are the best educated and versed theologian I’ve had the pleasure of a discussion with in a long time. Thanks for your input.

        Reply: Glad to do what I can.

        Roma: I have no idea how else you would acquire facts about the world except through observation and experimentation (ie, the scientific method).

        Reply: This is something that I see is a problem right at the start. The scientific method as we have it didn’t come into being until Francis Bacon came around, and yet who of us would say no one knew anything about the world until Bacon came? Note also experimentation was even being done in the time of Galileo.

        You’re mistaken about observation as well. Many of the great philosophers held knowledge begins with observation. Plato was the one who held to a priori beliefs in a system called rationalism. Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz continued this tradition. Augustine was also quite Platonic. Meanwhile, Aristotle was the empiricist who said knowledge comes starts with sense experience. Aquinas was his greatest student in the long run, but this also included Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Aquinas said all knowledge begins with sense experience and I agree with him. That does not mean the scientific method was going on. Right now I see what I am typing to you. I believe I am typing it. I do not do an experiment to determine that. I hold that there is a real world outside of my mind. No experiment is required. If all knowledge must be that which is verified through observation and experimentation, then I do not know how that claim about knowledge itself will be verified. (Note also, I am aware of my own internal states and feelings and I don’t know that through observation and experimentation.)

        Roma: And I don’t think we can know anything absolutely, there are merely axioms we can choose to believe. Do you think we CAN know anything absolutely?

        Reply: Yep. I think we can absolutely know the real world exists outside our minds. We can know that logic applies to reality. We can know that we exist. We can know principles of logic and mathematics.

        Roma: I’m mainly referring to the vague references of flat earth in the old testament, most of which is older than Aristotle. Regardless, I don’t think it can be easily settled. Flat earth is never explicitly stated.

        Reply: No. It’s not, and too many people don’t know how to read Scripture and read it like a modern writing rather than an ancient one.

        Roma: Don’t be coy. The dictionary definition of genocide is “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” I think killing “both man and woman, child and infant” certainly qualifies. There are multiple examples of genocide in the bible, not just this.

        Reply: But by this standard, our going after the Germans in World War 2 or dropping the bombs on Japan count as genocide. Most any act of war would be genocide. This is why I asked about the terminology. Unless you’re a total pacifist, which I think is untenable, then you have to allow some of what you call genocide. I think in this passage, you’re really missing something else which makes me think this is NOT genocide.

        Roma: My friend, this is by far the most baffling and wrongheaded thing you have ever said in our conversations. History and mathematics are branches of science.

        Reply: Actually, I don’t think this follows. Science really comes from the word scientia and refers to a body of knowledge. Science as we know it was really called natural philosophy for the longest time. History is its own science. Theology is a science then. That does not mean that each of those is dependent on natural philosophy. (Quite the reverse with theology in fact.) History dates back largely to Herodotus who was not a scientist.

        Roma: They have all the hallmarks of scientific fields, including observation, evidence, and peer review.

        Reply: They do, but those are not what make science, science. This is a fallacy of equivocation. What matters is what makes them different. Science relies on what can be repeatedly observed and tested. History can never be. It happens once. Mathematics is not tested regularly. You don’t do new experiments to determine if 2 + 2 = 4.

        Roma: Just because they are not primarily conducted in laboratories doesn’t mean they are not science. Seriously, I’m reeling here. Where the heck do you think geometric proofs come from? They are supported by a mountain of easily verified observable evidence that anyone can do in the comfort of their own home.

        Reply: Correct, and the problem is you’re thinking “Knowledge through observation = science.” It is part of modern science, but does not make up modern science.

        Roma: If you mean philosophy necessarily deals with truth, then here you are wrong. It CAN deal with truth, certainly, but I can construct valid arguments all day long that are nonsense.

        Reply: Oh correct. Philosophy can be wrong just as science can, but it’s end goal is supposed to be truth. I can redo scientific experiments that turned out to be false, but who would say science is not interested in the truth?

        Roma: Philosophy, at its core, is more concerned with rational arguments than observation, which is how we connect reason with reality.

        Reply: This is true of rationalism, but not so much of an empiricist approach. It simply goes beyond what the sciences tell us and reasons to a deeper level, such as in metaphysics and theology.

        Roma: I get this, I really do. There are certain very important areas of human experience that science has barely nicked the surface of, like the qualia of suffering, or religious experience, or a moral compass. We must continue to operate in these areas even though we have very little rational data about these things. But that doesn’t mean science won’t ever be able to explain these things. Once we accept certain axioms, science can tell us a lot even now, about how to live better, more moral lives.

        Reply: There are aspects science will never explain. The only way it can explain everything is if everything is essentially material. If it is not, then science cannot explain it. I have no reason to think that moral truths are material. Science can help us better perform moral truths and help us know our responses to them, but it cannot provide any basis for their ontology.

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: This is something that I see is a problem right at the start. The scientific method as we have it didn’t come into being until Francis Bacon came around, and yet who of us would say no one knew anything about the world until Bacon came? Note also experimentation was even being done in the time of Galileo.

        Reply: The modern scientific method, sure. But its base constituent elements, observation and experimentation, we have had since antiquity. I apologize, I should have been more specific. I will say, thus far, the scientific method is the best way we’ve discovered to acquire and analyze facts.

        Apologia: I think we can absolutely know the real world exists outside our minds. We can know that logic applies to reality. We can know that we exist. We can know principles of logic and mathematics.

        Reply: Debatable. These are axioms we take for granted, but I don’t know if we can absolutely verify them. I think there has to be some room for uncertainty, because you never know how progress might turn everything we know on its ear. Regardless, I don’t think we can settle this one – philosophers have argued this topic tirelessly. But it’s interesting to see where you stand.

        Apologia: But by this standard, our going after the Germans in World War 2 or dropping the bombs on Japan count as genocide. Most any act of war would be genocide. This is why I asked about the terminology. Unless you’re a total pacifist, which I think is untenable, then you have to allow some of what you call genocide.

        Reply: A compelling argument could be made that it was genocide, but I think the key difference is civilian death as collateral damage vs civilian death with the expressed purpose to wipe out a group of people (the Amalekites). I don’t think the children and infants could have posed any possible threat to God’s people, so why kill them? It seems unconscionably brutal.

        Apologia: I think in this passage, you’re really missing something else which makes me think this is NOT genocide.

        Reply: I’m all ears.

        Apologia: History is its own science. Theology is a science then.

        Reply: A scientific field will change its mind about something in the presense of new evidence, and will not attempt to insert a dogmatic hypothetical narrative where no evidence exists. History passes this litmus test, but theology generally does not.

        I’ll grant you, history is a soft science. We can’t go in the past and conduct experiments. But if, say, we invented a technology that allowed us to view the past, then history would revise itself. It would become a science as hard as mathematics or physics.

        Genuine question: Would theology do this? If we could go back and view the resurrection and see that it was false, would theology change? If it does change baseed on evidence, then I would argue it has science-like qualities at the very least.

        Apologia: Science relies on what can be repeatedly observed and tested. History can never be. It happens once.

        Reply: As I’ve said, history is a soft-ish science. But it still relies on evidence, creates hypotheses, and runs tests (as far as it is able) to verify ancient claims. Paleontology has similar limitations, but you don’t see any people claiming it is not a scientific field.

        Apologia: Mathematics is not tested regularly. You don’t do new experiments to determine if 2 + 2 = 4.

        Reply: Wrong. This is tested every day all over the globe. Everyone in elementary school verifies this one. You get two coins and then put two more of them together – voila, you get four. We as adults accept this as a given because we’ve already done the work of testing it over a lifetime of experimentation

        You don’t see biologists establishing the existence of DNA every time they want to do a genetic analysis, because then we’d never get any work done. It’s important for our premises to be occasionally revisted in case they’re wrong (and they sometimes are), but to say math isn’t a science because we accept some premises is ludicrous.

        Apologia: Correct, and the problem is you’re thinking “Knowledge through observation = science.” It is part of modern science, but does not make up modern science.

        Reply: I agree with you that knowledge through observation isn’t all that science is, but I’m not sure what you’re ultimately getting at.

        Apologia: I have no reason to think that moral truths are material. Science can help us better perform moral truths and help us know our responses to them, but it cannot provide any basis for their ontology.

        Reply: Ahh, now this is interesting. First, I don’t really know what a “moral truth” is in this context. Second, neuroscience and biology are starting to uncover the nature of morality, and it appears to be a completely natural, material process. If I remove a certain part of a person’s brain, they will become less moral – imaptient, angry, prone to impulse, lack empathy, etc. That tells me that morals are a physical construct of our brain. Why do you think they are not based on material nature, then?

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: Reply: The modern scientific method, sure. But its base constituent elements, observation and experimentation, we have had since antiquity. I apologize, I should have been more specific. I will say, thus far, the scientific method is the best way we’ve discovered to acquire and analyze facts.

        Reply: Not really. It depends on what kinds of facts. If you’re talking about things in the material world where repeated observation can take place, sure. Natural philosophy is the best. If you’re talking about truths of logic, math, morality, history, literature, etc., the scientific method doesn’t work nearly as well. Now I do of course hold that all knowledge begins with observation, but it does not stay there. The highest forms of knowledge go beyond that, such as metaphysics, morality, and theology.

        Roma: Debatable. These are axioms we take for granted, but I don’t know if we can absolutely verify them. I think there has to be some room for uncertainty, because you never know how progress might turn everything we know on its ear. Regardless, I don’t think we can settle this one – philosophers have argued this topic tirelessly. But it’s interesting to see where you stand.

        Reply: If the Law of non-contradiction for instance is not true, then everything and nothing is true. As for the existence of the real world, I don’t accept that that’s a question even open for debate. As soon as you get stuck with Descartes’s situation, there’s no way out of it really. Begin in idealism and you stay in idealism. Begin with realism and all is well.

        Roma: A compelling argument could be made that it was genocide, but I think the key difference is civilian death as collateral damage vs civilian death with the expressed purpose to wipe out a group of people (the Amalekites). I don’t think the children and infants could have posed any possible threat to God’s people, so why kill them? It seems unconscionably brutal.

        Reply: Do you really think the Amalekites were totally destroyed?

        Roma: I’m all ears.

        Reply: See above question.

        Roma: A scientific field will change its mind about something in the presense of new evidence, and will not attempt to insert a dogmatic hypothetical narrative where no evidence exists. History passes this litmus test, but theology generally does not.

        Reply: Actually, it does. If that were the case, you would never have had the doctrine of the Trinity. You would not have debates going on today about Open Theism either. The difference with theology is that it’s foundational on one paradigm. If you want to understand Christian theology, the starting place is usually the Bible. If you want to understand modern physics, there is no need to read Newton. You can read the latest scientific works today. Science changes when a paradigm shift takes place and it is all building on that shift. When a new paradigm comes up, all will be interpreted in that light. For instance, today, most biology is interpreted by evolution and evolution is accepted as a foundational principle of biology. Whether that’s right or wrong is not my point to discuss and I frankly don’t care. Now let’s suppose however that there was a paradigm shift and ID became the new movement. (And I do not care to discuss that either. I care not if ID is right or wrong.) All of a sudden, all the information will then be interpreted in light of the new paradigm, but until then, any evidence that comes in will be interpreted in light of evolution and not ID.

        Roma: I’ll grant you, history is a soft science. We can’t go in the past and conduct experiments. But if, say, we invented a technology that allowed us to view the past, then history would revise itself. It would become a science as hard as mathematics or physics.

        Reply: Until then, it is not, and I highly doubt time travel will ever be possible. While history is in that sense soft, it is in fact the case that we are certain about a number of things in history. Usually when I meet someone who denies Jesus ever lived for instance, I am sure I am dealing with someone who does not know history well. Also, science is quite soft too. The results are inductive and constantly open to revision. It’s one reason I don’t want to build my worldview on it.

        Genuine question: Would theology do this? If we could go back and view the resurrection and see that it was false, would theology change? If it does change baseed on evidence, then I would argue it has science-like qualities at the very least.

        Reply: If I can be shown that the resurrection did not happen, I will deconvert. Does that mean I’d abandon theism? No. I have what I think are good reasons independent of the resurrection for theism, but I would not be a follower of Christ.

        Roma: As I’ve said, history is a soft-ish science. But it still relies on evidence, creates hypotheses, and runs tests (as far as it is able) to verify ancient claims. Paleontology has similar limitations, but you don’t see any people claiming it is not a scientific field.

        Reply: I say history is scientific in that it is a body of knowledge, but paleontology runs on scientific principles that can be observed today. History has free-will humans acting so it is not as easily done. Also, what is looked for in history is different. Such things looked for in history are explanatory scope, explanatory power, evidence-based claims, and claims that avoid ad hocness as much as possible.

        Roma: Wrong. This is tested every day all over the globe. Everyone in elementary school verifies this one. You get two coins and then put two more of them together – voila, you get four. We as adults accept this as a given because we’ve already done the work of testing it over a lifetime of experimentation

        Reply: No. It is not tested. It is taught. No teacher in the classroom is hoping that 2 + 2 will still equal four or is in any doubt about it.

        Roma: You don’t see biologists establishing the existence of DNA every time they want to do a genetic analysis, because then we’d never get any work done. It’s important for our premises to be occasionally revisted in case they’re wrong (and they sometimes are), but to say math isn’t a science because we accept some premises is ludicrous.

        Reply: I did not say math isn’t a science. It certainly is. I said that math is not like modern science. You don’t do math the same way.

        Roma: I agree with you that knowledge through observation isn’t all that science is, but I’m not sure what you’re ultimately getting at.

        REply: Science is done a specific way and not all bodies of knowledge get and verify their information the same way. Even philosophy actually relies on observation, but a philosopher does not do metaphysics by doing experimentation. He does it by reasoning through the evidence. A syllogism is not made by doing experimentation but by reasoning through the evidence. Science is just fine at what it’s meant to do and study. I would not make science the way to do everything any more than I would make theological study the way. If I want to know what God has done in Christ, the Bible is a just fine place to go. If I want to know the make-up of DNA, the Bible is not the place to go to. If I want to know the make-up of DNA, I go to science. If I want to know what God has done in Christ, I do not go to science.

        Roma: Ahh, now this is interesting. First, I don’t really know what a “moral truth” is in this context. Second, neuroscience and biology are starting to uncover the nature of morality, and it appears to be a completely natural, material process. If I remove a certain part of a person’s brain, they will become less moral – imaptient, angry, prone to impulse, lack empathy, etc. That tells me that morals are a physical construct of our brain. Why do you think they are not based on material nature, then?

        Reply: No. That tells me that morality is acting through such a part of the brain. It does not mean that the moral truths themselves are dependent on the brain. For moral truths, I prefer to actually start with goodness so let’s do that. If I asked you what goodness is first off, would you say it is objective? Second, do you have a definition of it?

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: Not really. It depends on what kinds of facts. If you’re talking about things in the material world where repeated observation can take place, sure. Natural philosophy is the best. If you’re talking about truths of logic, math, morality, history, literature, etc., the scientific method doesn’t work nearly as well. Now I do of course hold that all knowledge begins with observation, but it does not stay there. The highest forms of knowledge go beyond that, such as metaphysics, morality, and theology.

        Reply: Yeah, we’re just not going to agree on this one. “Highest” does not necessarily mean more truth value. Deductive conclusions, no matter how logical, are only as good as the strength of their premises, and premises of any worth are gained from inductive reasoning.

        Apologia: If the Law of non-contradiction for instance is not true, then everything and nothing is true. As for the existence of the real world, I don’t accept that that’s a question even open for debate. As soon as you get stuck with Descartes’s situation, there’s no way out of it really. Begin in idealism and you stay in idealism. Begin with realism and all is well.

        Reply: I accept those axioms too, but they’re still assumptions. I think it is hubris to be certain you know anything about reality.

        Apologia: Do you really think the Amalekites were totally destroyed?

        Reply: Total destruction is not necessary to count as genocide. The Rwanda genocide resulted in the death of “only” 70% of the Tutsi people, and yet that’s considered genocide.

        If the Amalekites were killed, man, woman, and child, with the expressed purpose of exterminating their kind, I consider that genocide whether they were completely destroyed or not. Face it, there is genocide in the bible.

        Apologia: If you want to understand Christian theology, the starting place is usually the Bible.

        Reply: I do not consider the bible a very reputable source of facts. Theology also does fail the second part of my stated litmus, “does not insert hypothetical dogmatic narratives without evidence.” We can’t back up the supernatural parts of the bible with any modern experiments. If history doesn’t know something, scholars may pontificate about possibilities, but they don’t claim to KNOW.

        Apologia: While history is in that sense soft, it is in fact the case that we are certain about a number of things in history.

        Reply: Nothing is certain in science. We can be very very very sure, but never certain.

        Apologia: If I can be shown that the resurrection did not happen, I will deconvert. Does that mean I’d abandon theism? No. I have what I think are good reasons independent of the resurrection for theism, but I would not be a follower of Christ.

        Reply: Interesting. Thank you for an honest answer.

        Apologia: I say history is scientific in that it is a body of knowledge, but paleontology runs on scientific principles that can be observed today. History has free-will humans acting so it is not as easily done. Also, what is looked for in history is different. Such things looked for in history are explanatory scope, explanatory power, evidence-based claims, and claims that avoid ad hocness as much as possible.

        Reply: And those things, rightly, are considered less certain than facts provided by artifacts, forensics, and other physical objects.

        Apologia: No. It is not tested. It is taught. No teacher in the classroom is hoping that 2 + 2 will still equal four or is in any doubt about it.

        Reply: They’re not in any doubt because the test hasn’t failed any time that we’ve seen, but it is still a test. We don’t know with absolute certainty that it will always work, for all time, for every location in the universe. It’s “taught” merely as a practicality. We physically verify math every day, and we should not be too certain we know everything about it. People create, solve, and physically verify new math theorems every day.

        Apologia: I did not say math isn’t a science. It certainly is. I said that math is not like modern science. You don’t do math the same way.

        Reply: After further reading, there seems to be contention about this, so I’ll concede. I was thinking mostly of applied mathematics, but abstract mathematics bear more resemblance to philosophy/logic than science (although I’d debate its tangible worth, like any physically unverfiable discipline).

        Apologia: If I want to know what God has done in Christ, the Bible is a just fine place to go.

        Reply: Again, I have no reason to believe the bible is a reliable source for supernatural claims. If you’re talking about it in the context of a story, or a record of the thoughts and feelings of the day, then sure.

        Quoting myself: That tells me that morals are a physical construct of our brain. Why do you think they are not based on material nature, then?

        Apologia: No. That tells me that morality is acting through such a part of the brain.

        Reply: We’ve never seen evidence that morality exists as a force or a structure outside of a brain. It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but it is most reasonable to conclude based on the evidence that it is a construct of consciousness.

        I could just as easily claim that nausea acts through a part of the brain, and yet that would seem silly. Why should I believe morality is on some kind of pedistal?

        Apologia: For moral truths, I prefer to actually start with goodness so let’s do that. If I asked you what goodness is first off, would you say it is objective?

        Reply: Not really. I believe it’s a concept we can talk about in the abstract, and I think you would get a general idea of what constitutes “goodness” by asking a lot of people, but I doubt you would get full agreement. To say it’s objective implies that you could quantify it, and I have no idea how you would do such a thing.

        Apologia: Second, do you have a definition of it?

        Reply: Kindness? Generousity? Opposite of badness?

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: Reply: Yeah, we’re just not going to agree on this one. “Highest” does not necessarily mean more truth value. Deductive conclusions, no matter how logical, are only as good as the strength of their premises, and premises of any worth are gained from inductive reasoning.

        Reply: I don’t see how you could have more truth value. Something is either true or it isn’t. What is being asked about is how central the truth is to claims of reality. I have next to me a container that has peanuts in it. I have an idea how many are in there, but if I open it up and I see there’s more or less in there, I’m not going to think I have a serious mental problem. Meanwhile, my wife is in another room. If I go look for her and can’t find her and call my parents and ask and they say “Wife? You’ve never even got married! What are you talking about?!” and I’m convinced they’re not joking, I’m going to check myself into a mental hospital as this is more central to my worldview.

        God is the central question of any worldview. That question will influence the answer to every other question. The questions of science while important, are not as necessary.

        Roma: I accept those axioms too, but they’re still assumptions. I think it is hubris to be certain you know anything about reality.

        Reply: Why? If we have minds that can access reality, then let us use them. If you want to say we can know nothing about reality, then why are you debating me on this point? If you know nothing about it, why should I think I should agree with you?

        Roma: Total destruction is not necessary to count as genocide. The Rwanda genocide resulted in the death of “only” 70% of the Tutsi people, and yet that’s considered genocide.

        If the Amalekites were killed, man, woman, and child, with the expressed purpose of exterminating their kind, I consider that genocide whether they were completely destroyed or not. Face it, there is genocide in the bible.

        Reply: Do you know why the Amalekites were targeted?

        Roma: I do not consider the bible a very reputable source of facts. Theology also does fail the second part of my stated litmus, “does not insert hypothetical dogmatic narratives without evidence.” We can’t back up the supernatural parts of the bible with any modern experiments. If history doesn’t know something, scholars may pontificate about possibilities, but they don’t claim to KNOW.

        Reply: I consider the first point a red herring. It doesn’t matter if Christian theology is true at this point. What matters is if you want to understand it, go to the Bible. If I want to understand Islamic theology, the starting place is the Koran and later places like the Hadith and Muslim scholars. If I want to understand Mormon theology, the starting place is the BOM, Doctrines and Covenants, Book of Abraham, and Pearl of Great Price. After that, I can check with the prophets of the church and then check with Mormon scholars.

        For the second one, I do not accept a natural/supernatural distinction. I realize you are skeptical of Keener’s works, but I find myself skeptical of the skepticism. Am I to think every miracle story is a case of someone mistaken or lying or hoaxing or something of that sort? No doubt, some quite likely are, but all of them?

        Now you have also said scholars may not claim to know, but the problem is you yourself have made it clear you cannot claim to know anything about reality, so why is it that you should claim it that there can be no miracles or to have a claim that miracles have never happened? That is a claim about reality and in fact, one that CANNOT be verified.

        Roma: Nothing is certain in science. We can be very very very sure, but never certain.

        Reply: When a historian says they are certain, they mean that they can believe a claim without reasonable doubt. I am certain that Alexander conquered the world for instance. I am certain that Jesus existed.

        Roma: Interesting. Thank you for an honest answer.

        Reply: Most of my friends in this field I think would say the exact same thing. If not, then they are not being honest with the evidence.

        Roma: And those things, rightly, are considered less certain than facts provided by artifacts, forensics, and other physical objects.

        Reply: Artifacts and forensics are not facts. They are data. Facts are the interpretations we make about the data. Naturally, we use physical objects of some kind, but good scholarly research examines as much evidence as possible. We do not have immediate access to the past such as a time machine, but that does not mean it is beyond our reach. Postmodern history has been a failure.

        Roma: They’re not in any doubt because the test hasn’t failed any time that we’ve seen, but it is still a test. We don’t know with absolute certainty that it will always work, for all time, for every location in the universe. It’s “taught” merely as a practicality. We physically verify math every day, and we should not be too certain we know everything about it. People create, solve, and physically verify new math theorems every day.

        Reply: I am finding myself amazed. It looks like you want to tell man that he has no knowledge of God, but the way to do that is to say he has no knowledge of anything whatsoever. If your worldview cannot even give me the basic certainty that 2 + 2 = 4 consistently, then I wonder why I should hold on to it. I would instead hold that 2 + 2 = 4 is an eternal truth claim that has always been.

        Roma: After further reading, there seems to be contention about this, so I’ll concede. I was thinking mostly of applied mathematics, but abstract mathematics bear more resemblance to philosophy/logic than science (although I’d debate its tangible worth, like any physically unverfiable discipline).

        Reply: I cannot speak about applied mathematics just like applied physics. I made a rule for myself long ago to not speak where I have not studied. I may have opinions, but I am not an authority. That’s why I don’t debate questions of science as science. The history of science is fine. The claims of science themselves? No. I don’t speak on those.

        Roma: Again, I have no reason to believe the bible is a reliable source for supernatural claims. If you’re talking about it in the context of a story, or a record of the thoughts and feelings of the day, then sure.

        Reply: I was not speaking for you either but for me. I was speaking about how I use the Bible and how I don’t use it. Still, I do not accept the supernatural/natural distinction. It has far too many problems. I also think the Bible has shown itself to be reliable in numerous areas. Note I am pushing for reliability and not Inerrancy.

        Roma: We’ve never seen evidence that morality exists as a force or a structure outside of a brain. It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, but it is most reasonable to conclude based on the evidence that it is a construct of consciousness.

        Reply: I think we will get into this as we get into goodness. Many apologists use the argument from morality. It’s fine insofar as it goes, but I prefer the argument from goodness.

        Roma: I could just as easily claim that nausea acts through a part of the brain, and yet that would seem silly. Why should I believe morality is on some kind of pedistal?

        Reply: This will be got to with the question of goodness.

        Roma: Not really. I believe it’s a concept we can talk about in the abstract, and I think you would get a general idea of what constitutes “goodness” by asking a lot of people, but I doubt you would get full agreement. To say it’s objective implies that you could quantify it, and I have no idea how you would do such a thing.

        Reply: Even if one has no idea, that does not mean it is not the case. Some things we consider greater goods than others. If I am driving down the road and there is an obstacle suddenly that I see and I have to make a sudden turn with no real time to think it through. On the left side is a boy on a little tricycle. On the right side is a small dog. I am going to the right side. I conclude automatically that it is better to hit a dog than a child.

        But if nothing is objectively good, then why do anything whatsoever?

        Roma: Kindness? Generousity? Opposite of badness?

        Reply: Then you have fallen into the Euthyphro trap. What is piety? Well Euthy gives several pious behaviors, but he never defines piety. So let’s take the definition of goodness such as kind. Let’s see how it works.

        This pizza is good.
        It is good to love others as yourself.
        That was a good book.
        My wife is a good woman.
        God is good.

        So we say then.

        This pizza is kind.
        It is kind to love others as yourself.
        That was a kind book.
        My wife is a kind woman.
        God is kind.

        Now for some of those, the claim works just fine, but even then it doesn’t do it entirely. There is more to goodness than being kind. Let’s go with opposite of bad.

        This pizza is the opposite of bad.
        It is the opposite of bad to love others.
        That book was the opposite of bad.
        My wife is a woman who is the opposite of bad.
        God is the opposite of bad.

        Dare I say it, but this one works even less. Opposite of bad has no real content unless you know what goodness is and you could not say in reply “Good is the opposite of bad.”

        And before it’s attempted to say I have the same problem, keep in mind I do not say God is the definition of goodness. That also tells me nothing about what goodness itself is.

        This pizza is God.
        It is God to love others.
        That was a God book.
        My wife is a God woman.
        God is God.

        Those are all problematic and the last one is just a self-evident claim.

        So before discussing morality, it’s important to start with goodness. Now I’ll leave it to you if you want to try again. If not, then I can give my definition.

  3. Romathon Says:

    Apologia: I don’t see how you could have more truth value. Something is either true or it isn’t.

    Reply: Fair enough. What I meant was, you can be more or less sure of your premises. The more sure you are that they are true, the more sure you can be that the conclusion is sound. In practice, I’m not sure you can be 100% certain of any premise that relates to physical reality. At best, you can be pretty sure. Any premise that doesn’t directly relate to physical reality (like, say, “moral actions are good”) can be always true in the hypothetical, but that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with what actually exists.

    Like I’ve said, we have a fundamentally different worldview about this one. Let’s move on.

    Apologia: Why? If we have minds that can access reality, then let us use them. If you want to say we can know nothing about reality, then why are you debating me on this point? If you know nothing about it, why should I think I should agree with you?

    Reply: Since when is certainty any indication of how true something is? If anything, it may undermine your position. Read up on the Overconfidence Effect.

    My family has a history of mental illness, so I am intimately acquainted with how personal perception can be flawed. I operate under an assumption that my senses are correct, but I am never certain, and I try to test if my senses are accurate from time to time (for example, asking someone else if they perceive the same thing).

    Apologia: Do you know why the Amalekites were targeted?

    Reply: Irrelevant. I don’t care if they were the most evil people that walked the earth and completely deserved it, what happened to them was still genocide by definition. I maintain my stance: There is genocide in the bible.

    Apologia: Am I to think every miracle story is a case of someone mistaken or lying or hoaxing or something of that sort? No doubt, some quite likely are, but all of them?

    Reply: Yes, maybe. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. It has to be supported by evidence. I’ll give you an example: For thousands of years, we believed the earth was the center of the universe. We saw the stars, sun, moon, and planets moving around us. Even a child could see it, and this truth was obvious to everyone. But then Galileo came along with heliocentrism and turned the worldview upside down. It is completely counterintuitive given what the layman observes, and yet it is a model that greatly simplifies the formerly complex heavenly movements. And we’ve since confirmed it with countless other experiments, like calculating the trajectories of space probes.

    If we had a model for how divine healing worked and could replicate it, or use it to predict other related events, then I would accept it wholeheartedly. But given what we know, it’s more probable that miraculous healing is a combination of poorly understood natural mechanisms and confirmation bias. I have studied psychology and biology pretty extensively, so I have good reason to think this. Most miraculous healing claims aren’t really that outrageous from a medical standpoint – we very very rarely (if ever) hear claims of amputees getting their limbs back, for example. We might discover it’s actually due to divine intervention some day, but we don’t have sufficient evidence of that yet.

    Apologia: Now you have also said scholars may not claim to know, but the problem is you yourself have made it clear you cannot claim to know anything about reality, so why is it that you should claim it that there can be no miracles or to have a claim that miracles have never happened? That is a claim about reality and in fact, one that CANNOT be verified.

    Reply: Again, pretty sure but not certain. I don’t necessarily claim that miracles don’t or have never happened, just that the evidence isn’t there. We can’t seem to repeat a miracle in a modern controlled setting. If we could, I would treat historical miracle claims with a lot more gravitas, even if we can’t prove that they actually happened as described.

    Apologia: Artifacts and forensics are not facts. They are data.

    Reply: Correct, I didn’t say they were facts. I said they provide facts.

    Apologia: I am finding myself amazed. It looks like you want to tell man that he has no knowledge of God, but the way to do that is to say he has no knowledge of anything whatsoever. If your worldview cannot even give me the basic certainty that 2 + 2 = 4 consistently, then I wonder why I should hold on to it. I would instead hold that 2 + 2 = 4 is an eternal truth claim that has always been.

    Reply: If you wish, but this is an intellectually dishonest stance. Read up on the null hypothesis versus the research hypothesis. We can NEVER prove the research hypothesis, only support it. It just so happens that 2+2=4 is a vastly, immensely supported fact. It is not and can never be an eternal truth claim, except in the realm of pure mathematics divorced from physical reality.

    Apologia: On the left side is a boy on a little tricycle. On the right side is a small dog. I am going to the right side. I conclude automatically that it is better to hit a dog than a child.

    Reply: Then you have made the human-centric choice. Good by human standards perhaps, but good by eternal objective standards, everywhere in the universe? Eehhh.

    With the lack of other data, I would make the same choice, but it’s the result of a complex interaction between evolutionary instinct, social conditioning, and probability. I wouldn’t ever know for certain that killing the dog and sparing the child is the objectively greater good. Maybe that kid grows up to be serial killer and I’d be doing the world a favor offing him.

    Apologia: So before discussing morality, it’s important to start with goodness. Now I’ll leave it to you if you want to try again. If not, then I can give my definition.

    Reply: Give me your definition, then. I don’t know exactly where you’re going with this, but you have my attention.

    • apologianick Says:

      Roma: Fair enough. What I meant was, you can be more or less sure of your premises. The more sure you are that they are true, the more sure you can be that the conclusion is sound. In practice, I’m not sure you can be 100% certain of any premise that relates to physical reality. At best, you can be pretty sure. Any premise that doesn’t directly relate to physical reality (like, say, “moral actions are good”) can be always true in the hypothetical, but that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with what actually exists.

      Reply: I am 100% certain that the material world exists. That is a claim about physical reality and I am 100% certain of it. Therefore, one can be 100% certain of claims about physical reality. You can think I should not be, but that is different from thinking that I cannot be.

      Roma: Since when is certainty any indication of how true something is? If anything, it may undermine your position. Read up on the Overconfidence Effect. My family has a history of mental illness, so I am intimately acquainted with how personal perception can be flawed. I operate under an assumption that my senses are correct, but I am never certain, and I try to test if my senses are accurate from time to time (for example, asking someone else if they perceive the same thing).

      Reply: Check my other writings and you’ll see that my wife and I both have what could be called mental illness. We’re both Aspies. Also, certainty can be misplaced, but there are some things you should be certain of. I see you’re certain of many things when you post. This is something I find with skeptics. They usually have a selective skepticism. Now could I be overconfident. Sure. But I need a reason to think my confidence is not well-placed.

      Roma: Irrelevant. I don’t care if they were the most evil people that walked the earth and completely deserved it, what happened to them was still genocide by definition. I maintain my stance: There is genocide in the bible.

      Reply: They were not targeted for who they were. They were targeted for behavior. The Amalekites regularly tried to kill Israel. When the Israelites wandered in the desert, the Amalekites would kill off any, such as the disabled and elderly, who would lag behind. These kinds of cultures would also practice child sacrifice and ritual prostitution and had done so repeatedly. If Saul was to have a peaceful reign, he would have to deal with the Amalekites. The language of total destruction is hyperbole. It pretty much means “Go out there and kick their tails.” Usually in these situations, women and children would flee the combat area and not be part of the casualties. They were nomadic groups after all! They’d just live somewhere else.

      In fact, the hatred lasted for a long time. Even when we get to Esther, Haman is a descendant of the Amalekites and what does he want to do? Kill all the Jews! He was the first one to plan a holocaust.

      If what happened then is genocide, then the killing of Japs and Germans during World War II must be considered genocide.

      Roma: Yes, maybe. Just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. It has to be supported by evidence. I’ll give you an example: For thousands of years, we believed the earth was the center of the universe. We saw the stars, sun, moon, and planets moving around us. Even a child could see it, and this truth was obvious to everyone. But then Galileo came along with heliocentrism and turned the worldview upside down. It is completely counterintuitive given what the layman observes, and yet it is a model that greatly simplifies the formerly complex heavenly movements. And we’ve since confirmed it with countless other experiments, like calculating the trajectories of space probes. If we had a model for how divine healing worked and could replicate it, or use it to predict other related events, then I would accept it wholeheartedly. But given what we know, it’s more probable that miraculous healing is a combination of poorly understood natural mechanisms and confirmation bias. I have studied psychology and biology pretty extensively, so I have good reason to think this. Most miraculous healing claims aren’t really that outrageous from a medical standpoint – we very very rarely (if ever) hear claims of amputees getting their limbs back, for example. We might discover it’s actually due to divine intervention some day, but we don’t have sufficient evidence of that yet.

      Reply: At this point, I think credulity is being stretched. For one thing, to say it is not miraculous would be to say that there is definitely no suprahuman force out there. It seems odd to say you are not certain the material world exists, but you are very certain that nothing exists except the material world. A true skeptic once again, should be open to the claims.

      And second, of course there can be false claims, but false claims don’t disprove true claims any more than counterfeit money disproves real money. Considering many of these cases happen with prayer taking place and being instantaneous and many miracles not being psycho-somatic, I think I am entirely epistemically justified in saying some miracles are taking place. Note the position we’re in also. If all of these miracles are false, I’m still safe in my position since mine only depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If just one of these is true and there is no “natural” cause for it, then your position is in much more serious condition.

      Kind of changes who would have confirmation bias.

      Roma: Again, pretty sure but not certain. I don’t necessarily claim that miracles don’t or have never happened, just that the evidence isn’t there. We can’t seem to repeat a miracle in a modern controlled setting. If we could, I would treat historical miracle claims with a lot more gravitas, even if we can’t prove that they actually happened as described.

      Reply; By their very nature, a miracle cannot be repeated again. If there is a God, why think He’d be subject to a test like that as if He’s just part of the material universe? Once again, this is science overstepping its bounds. Now you can say you’re fairly certain, but I really see no basis for the skepticism.

      Roma: Correct, I didn’t say they were facts. I said they provide facts.

      Reply: Very well.

      Roma: If you wish, but this is an intellectually dishonest stance. Read up on the null hypothesis versus the research hypothesis. We can NEVER prove the research hypothesis, only support it. It just so happens that 2+2=4 is a vastly, immensely supported fact. It is not and can never be an eternal truth claim, except in the realm of pure mathematics divorced from physical reality.

      Reply: I disagree. I think 2 + 2 = 4 is proven because numbers by their very nature are not subject to change unlike the world of matter which is in a constant state of flux. Again, if I see all knowledge being sacrificed to hold to skepticism, then I will keep realism. This is the danger that Descartes got us into.

      Roma: Then you have made the human-centric choice. Good by human standards perhaps, but good by eternal objective standards, everywhere in the universe? Eehhh. With the lack of other data, I would make the same choice, but it’s the result of a complex interaction between evolutionary instinct, social conditioning, and probability. I wouldn’t ever know for certain that killing the dog and sparing the child is the objectively greater good. Maybe that kid grows up to be serial killer and I’d be doing the world a favor offing him.

      Reply; Even if he did grow up to be a serial killer, I’d still say it’s right to spare the boy. Why? Because the worth of human beings is not determined by what they do but who they are. Is it a human-centric choice? Yep. I’d also say it’s the right one.

      Roma: Give me your definition, then. I don’t know exactly where you’re going with this, but you have my attention.

      Reply: Let’s give it a basic start with what Aristotle said. “The good is that at which all things aim.”

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: I am 100% certain that the material world exists. That is a claim about physical reality and I am 100% certain of it. Therefore, one can be 100% certain of claims about physical reality. You can think I should not be, but that is different from thinking that I cannot be.

        Reply: Since I’m pretty sure we’re both human and subject to imperfect senses, it is a reasonable assumption to believe you cannot be certain of reality.

        Could I be wrong? Absolutely. You could be an omniscient god for all I know. But you’re probably not.

        Apologia: I see you’re certain of many things when you post. This is something I find with skeptics. They usually have a selective skepticism.

        Reply: Oh really? Don’t put words in my mouth. If I have ever said I am certain of anything, let me clear it up for you: I am not. I may use the word “certain” as shorthand in error, but I assure you I always have a shade of doubt. Feel free to call me out on it if you see me saying otherwise.

        Apologia: They were not targeted for who they were. They were targeted for behavior.

        Reply: Again, irrelevant. It’s genocide if you’re en masse killing an ethnic group, tribe, or nation, regardless of the reason for doing so.

        Plus, the passage was clear that God commanded Saul to kill them all, down to the children and infants. How could infants be culpable for the Amalekite’s behavior as a group? If their behavior was the issue, why not just kill the ones actually doing bad things? And there was no evidence in the text that the women/children escaped (in fact it suggests the contrary). You’re really reaching for straws here. I’m not trying to make a judgement call on whether it was right or wrong, but it was still genocide.

        Apologia: If what happened then is genocide, then the killing of Japs and Germans during World War II must be considered genocide.

        Reply: I think a reasonable argument could be made for that, but see my previous response about civilian death as collateral damage vs civilian death with the end goal of annihilating a group. The Allies generally didn’t go out of their way to kill civilians if there was no greater military objective.

        Apologia: At this point, I think credulity is being stretched. For one thing, to say it is not miraculous would be to say that there is definitely no suprahuman force out there. It seems odd to say you are not certain the material world exists, but you are very certain that nothing exists except the material world. A true skeptic once again, should be open to the claims.

        Reply: Stop putting words in my mouth. It’s very annoying and dishonest. I am NOT certain that superhuman or extra-material forces don’t exist, I just haven’t seen sufficient evidence of them. I am open to the claim. I think other things need to be ruled out or explored before accepting that paradigm.

        True, a skeptic will default to a conservative position when faced with a lack of evidence, but it is equally dishonest to say with certainty that something does not exist. Just like we can’t prove a research hypothesis, we also can’t prove a null hypothesis. We can only make statements based on collected data.

        Apologia: And second, of course there can be false claims, but false claims don’t disprove true claims any more than counterfeit money disproves real money.

        Reply: That’s correct, but you completely missed the point. My point was that intuitive, obvious observations (“God did it”) can be incorrect.

        Apologia: Considering many of these cases happen with prayer taking place and being instantaneous and many miracles not being psycho-somatic, I think I am entirely epistemically justified in saying some miracles are taking place.

        Reply: And I think you’re mistaken. You haven’t the steps to rule out the other options. We haven’t yet developed a “divine power” theory that makes useful predictions. If you could do either one, I would take your assertion seriously.

        Just because you don’t understand how something works doesn’t automatically mean God did it. You have to back it up with evidence. How do you know it was God and not something else? How do you know it isn’t Anubis bringing back the recently dead?

        Apologia: Note the position we’re in also. If all of these miracles are false, I’m still safe in my position since mine only depends on the resurrection of Jesus. If just one of these is true and there is no “natural” cause for it, then your position is in much more serious condition.

        Reply: I completely agree. And this is an issue with all of science: If you could show me just one pig with wings, it would throw evolution out on its ass. Show me just one miracle in a modern controlled setting and I’ll re-evaluate my stance.

        If it’s so easy to debunk my position, then just do it. What are you waiting for?

        Apologia: Kind of changes who would have confirmation bias.

        Reply: Everyone has some. We tend to see what we expect to see. You and I are no exception.

        Apologia: By their very nature, a miracle cannot be repeated again.

        Reply: I’ve never heard this rule. If God is omnipotent, couldn’t he do whatever he wants, including repeating miracles? Does this mean God could heal someone’s pneumonia but not their rheumatoid arthritis, because that would be two things? I have no idea what you mean by this statement.

        Apologia: If there is a God, why think He’d be subject to a test like that as if He’s just part of the material universe? Once again, this is science overstepping its bounds. Now you can say you’re fairly certain, but I really see no basis for the skepticism.

        Reply: I’ll repeat, skeptics will default to the conservative position when dealing with weak evidence. That doesn’t mean we think it can’t exist, just that there isn’t sufficient evidence to accept it.

        Apologia: I disagree. I think 2 + 2 = 4 is proven because numbers by their very nature are not subject to change unlike the world of matter which is in a constant state of flux. Again, if I see all knowledge being sacrificed to hold to skepticism, then I will keep realism. This is the danger that Descartes got us into.

        Reply: You’re conflating pure logic with physical reality. You can be nominally certain of the first, but not with the second. Pure logic may not have any bearing on reality, which is why we can’t implicitly trust it without the support of inductive reasoning.

        You can maintain this worldview if you want, but most scientists are skeptics, and it’s difficult to comprehend science if you don’t even seem to understand the null hypothesis. Here, read up on it if you wish: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-skepticism-reveals/

        I don’t get what the big deal is. Are you scared of not being certain of things? I promise you, it’s not a big deal. Us skeptics manage to get along just fine without certainty.

        Apologia; Even if he did grow up to be a serial killer, I’d still say it’s right to spare the boy. Why? Because the worth of human beings is not determined by what they do but who they are.

        Reply: Meaningless platitude. I would say actions contribute to who a person is.

        Apologia: Is it a human-centric choice? Yep. I’d also say it’s the right one.

        Reply: Merely your opinion. Why do you think that’s an objectively good choice? Why is the human choice implicitly the right one? What about the other intelligent species on the planet, do their rights not matter as much? Convince me.

        Apologia: Let’s give it a basic start with what Aristotle said. “The good is that at which all things aim.”

        Reply: I still have no idea where you’re going with this. You have yet to demonstrate that “goodness” is an objective construct that exists outside of a human brain.

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: Since I’m pretty sure we’re both human and subject to imperfect senses, it is a reasonable assumption to believe you cannot be certain of reality.

        Reply: It is also a false one because I am certain of the claims that I have made. Why should it be taken seriously if the only reply is “I must be lying about what I think because that would refute your claim.” You could say I’m ignorant, but I know if I am 100% certain.

        Roma: Could I be wrong? Absolutely. You could be an omniscient god for all I know. But you’re probably not.

        Reply: Knowing that the physical world exists and being certain of it does not mean one is omniscient. It just means one does not buy into Cartesian idealist thinking.

        Roma: Oh really? Don’t put words in my mouth. If I have ever said I am certain of anything, let me clear it up for you: I am not. I may use the word “certain” as shorthand in error, but I assure you I always have a shade of doubt. Feel free to call me out on it if you see me saying otherwise.

        Reply: Certainly, but when I say certain, I mean certain. I mean that I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Roma: Again, irrelevant. It’s genocide if you’re en masse killing an ethnic group, tribe, or nation, regardless of the reason for doing so.

        Reply: Was killing the Nazis in World War II an act of genocide?

        Roma: Plus, the passage was clear that God commanded Saul to kill them all, down to the children and infants. How could infants be culpable for the Amalekite’s behavior as a group? If their behavior was the issue, why not just kill the ones actually doing bad things? And there was no evidence in the text that the women/children escaped (in fact it suggests the contrary). You’re really reaching for straws here. I’m not trying to make a judgement call on whether it was right or wrong, but it was still genocide.

        Reply: Actually, no. This was the way ancients spoke. They spoke in terms of hyperbole. To say to destroy everything would mean to defeat entirely. This happens in the accounts in Joshua when a people are said to be totally destroyed and lo and behold, they show up again. The Amalekites are said to be totally destroyed and they show up again regularly in the Samuel texts. That’s the problem with taking a text like this in a wooden sense without regards for the cultural linguistic conventions.

        Roma: I think a reasonable argument could be made for that, but see my previous response about civilian death as collateral damage vs civilian death with the end goal of annihilating a group. The Allies generally didn’t go out of their way to kill civilians if there was no greater military objective.

        Reply: Irrelevant. They killed a group of people based on their behavior. Thus, killing Nazis in World War II was an act of genocide.

        Roma: Stop putting words in my mouth. It’s very annoying and dishonest. I am NOT certain that superhuman or extra-material forces don’t exist, I just haven’t seen sufficient evidence of them. I am open to the claim. I think other things need to be ruled out or explored before accepting that paradigm.

        Reply: Oh I just find it odd to think every single claim has to be wrong because it would go against a claim about reality that I doubt any evidence can even be shown for. Many of the claims in Keener after all have medical backing.

        Roma: True, a skeptic will default to a conservative position when faced with a lack of evidence, but it is equally dishonest to say with certainty that something does not exist. Just like we can’t prove a research hypothesis, we also can’t prove a null hypothesis. We can only make statements based on collected data.

        Reply: How is saying a large group of people must automatically be lying or ignorant about an experience like this a conservative position? I trust most people know when an unusual event has happened to them and it doesn’t require first-rate science to think that if you see someone healed of say, blindness, when you pray in the name of Jesus immediately, that there could be a relation between the two. When it happens on a frequent basis in these places, it is even more likely.

        Roma: That’s correct, but you completely missed the point. My point was that intuitive, obvious observations (“God did it”) can be incorrect.

        Reply: And they can be correct. You can feel free to hold off for other evidence until then, but I’ll go by what I see the evidence pointing to now. After all, to go by evidence we don’t have can be a naturalism-of-the-gaps.

        Roma: And I think you’re mistaken. You haven’t the steps to rule out the other options. We haven’t yet developed a “divine power” theory that makes useful predictions. If you could do either one, I would take your assertion seriously.

        Reply: Why should we? If these involve an omnipotent and omniscient free-will agent, how could we ever make such a prediction since we only have one case that a prediction can be made? Scientific predictions work fine when dealing with realities that are purely material. They don’t when dealing with realities that are not purely material. This is one point where science is overstepping its bounds and wanting to test what it was never meant to test.

        Roma: Just because you don’t understand how something works doesn’t automatically mean God did it. You have to back it up with evidence. How do you know it was God and not something else? How do you know it isn’t Anubis bringing back the recently dead?

        Reply: Because I have independent evidence of these claims that God exists and that He raised Jesus from the dead. If you think it’s Anubis, feel free to present the evidence why I should believe in Anubis.

        Roma: I completely agree. And this is an issue with all of science: If you could show me just one pig with wings, it would throw evolution out on its ass. Show me just one miracle in a modern controlled setting and I’ll re-evaluate my stance.

        Reply: This is again the problem. If a miracle takes place in a hospital, it’s assumed that it had to be something the doctors were doing, even if the doctors say otherwise. If it takes place outside a hospital and more on the field, then it becomes that the people just had to be ignorant of what was going on or lying or something of the sort.

        This is the kind of laboratory thinking I was speaking of earlier.

        Roma: If it’s so easy to debunk my position, then just do it. What are you waiting for?

        Reply: I think your position is a category fallacy.

        Roma: Everyone has some. We tend to see what we expect to see. You and I are no exception.

        Reply: Sure. I’ll base my claim also on having independent evidence for my position of theism. Do you have any for the negative position?

        Roma: I’ve never heard this rule. If God is omnipotent, couldn’t he do whatever he wants, including repeating miracles? Does this mean God could heal someone’s pneumonia but not their rheumatoid arthritis, because that would be two things? I have no idea what you mean by this statement.

        Reply: Oh God can do things again, but we cannot recreate the event in a lab. This also assumes that if God exists, He would want to go along with this experiment. Why should He?
        Apologia: If there is a God, why think He’d be subject to a test like that as if He’s just part of the material universe? Once again, this is science overstepping its bounds. Now you can say you’re fairly certain, but I really see no basis for the skepticism.

        Roma: I’ll repeat, skeptics will default to the conservative position when dealing with weak evidence. That doesn’t mean we think it can’t exist, just that there isn’t sufficient evidence to accept it.

        Reply: I see no reason to think Keener as weak evidence. We have personal testimony of events where we can simply give people the benefit of the doubt and we have medical backing in a number of cases. For skepticism to be true, every miracle must be explained in a naturalistic way. I’m just skeptical of such a claim.

        Roma: You’re conflating pure logic with physical reality. You can be nominally certain of the first, but not with the second. Pure logic may not have any bearing on reality, which is why we can’t implicitly trust it without the support of inductive reasoning.

        Reply: If pure logic has no bearing on reality, then we have just killed the scientific enterprise. Anything can be anything.

        Roma: You can maintain this worldview if you want, but most scientists are skeptics, and it’s difficult to comprehend science if you don’t even seem to understand the null hypothesis. Here, read up on it if you wish: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-skepticism-reveals/

        Reply: Most are skeptics? I would be interested in seeing that claim backed.

        Roma: I don’t get what the big deal is. Are you scared of not being certain of things? I promise you, it’s not a big deal. Us skeptics manage to get along just fine without certainty.

        Reply: No. I just think it’s a foolish position to take really. All men by nature desire to know, but it looks like skepticism has killed any chance of knowledge whatsoever.

        Roma: Meaningless platitude. I would say actions contribute to who a person is.

        Reply: Contribute? Yes. Define? No. For instance, does a little human baby who has not done any real actions yet have any value?

        Roma: Merely your opinion. Why do you think that’s an objectively good choice? Why is the human choice implicitly the right one? What about the other intelligent species on the planet, do their rights not matter as much? Convince me.

        Reply: Feel free to say what other intelligent species it is you’re thinking about.

        Reoma: I still have no idea where you’re going with this. You have yet to demonstrate that “goodness” is an objective construct that exists outside of a human brain.

        Reply: It doesn’t matter where I’m going at this point. All that matters is if Aristotle’s definition is valid or not.

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: It is also a false one because I am certain of the claims that I have made…

        Reply: Like I’ve said, we’re not going to agree on this. Philosophers much more intelligent than either of us have done this argument to death. Let’s move on, and if we have anything new to talk about we can revisit this later.

        Apologia: Certainly, but when I say certain, I mean certain. I mean that I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

        Reply: You are aware that “certain” and “beyond reasonable doubt” don’t mean the same thing, right? Look up the dictionary definition of “certain” and get back to me.

        Apologia: Was killing the Nazis in World War II an act of genocide?

        Reply: It meets the requirements, so sure. Yes. As I’ve said repeatedly, I personally think “genocide” requires another metric: Killing civilians with the intent of wiping out the group.

        Apologia: Actually, no. This was the way ancients spoke. They spoke in terms of hyperbole. To say to destroy everything would mean to defeat entirely. This happens in the accounts in Joshua when a people are said to be totally destroyed and lo and behold, they show up again. The Amalekites are said to be totally destroyed and they show up again regularly in the Samuel texts. That’s the problem with taking a text like this in a wooden sense without regards for the cultural linguistic conventions.

        Reply: I believe you. Conveniently, you ignored my point about God ordering Saul to murder infants, but no biggie.

        Apologia: Irrelevant. They killed a group of people based on their behavior. Thus, killing Nazis in World War II was an act of genocide.

        Reply: Sure, why not (See above).

        Apologia: Oh I just find it odd to think every single claim has to be wrong because it would go against a claim about reality that I doubt any evidence can even be shown for. Many of the claims in Keener after all have medical backing.

        Reply: I have studied medicine. It depends on what you mean by “medical backing,” but in the scientifically meaningful sense, Keener doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Maybe a foot, or a kneecap. The problem is, just documenting something isn’t enough. You need to form a hypothesis and make a testable prediction, otherwise it’s merely a curiosity of unknown cause.

        The burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim. It’s that way in law, and it’s that way in science. If you don’t have evidence, it’s fine to believe it, but don’t expect for your idea to be taken seriously.

        Apologia: How is saying a large group of people must automatically be lying or ignorant about an experience like this a conservative position?

        Reply: I didn’t say they must, but that’s my default assumption because I know from experience that most people don’t know jack about how the human body works. I know more than most, and it still feels like I know barely anything about it.

        Apologia: I trust most people know when an unusual event has happened to them and it doesn’t require first-rate science to think that if you see someone healed of say, blindness, when you pray in the name of Jesus immediately, that there could be a relation between the two.

        Reply: Again, confirmation bias. Read about it. We don’t know if those prayed-for people would have recovered just fine without prayed intervention, and we can’t know without running a study comparing it to random chance. I’ll be perfectly happy to believe it when someone runs that study.

        Apologia: And they can be correct. You can feel free to hold off for other evidence until then, but I’ll go by what I see the evidence pointing to now. After all, to go by evidence we don’t have can be a naturalism-of-the-gaps.

        Reply: What evidence? That people pray to Jesus and sometimes the sick get better? If it actually works, we still have no idea why. You have no way of knowing if God is behind it or something else. I am truly baffled why you insist there is something divine going on. Show me the evidence. If you don’t have evidence, why do you believe it? What makes you think I’d be convinced without evidence?

        Apologia: Why should we? If these involve an omnipotent and omniscient free-will agent, how could we ever make such a prediction since we only have one case that a prediction can be made? Scientific predictions work fine when dealing with realities that are purely material. They don’t when dealing with realities that are not purely material. This is one point where science is overstepping its bounds and wanting to test what it was never meant to test.

        Reply: Does he not influence the natural world, in which we can conduct science? Is God hiding from us? Does he not want us to see what he’s doing? Why won’t he cure people involved in scientific testing?

        Apologia: Because I have independent evidence of these claims that God exists and that He raised Jesus from the dead.

        Reply: To quote Carl Sagan, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If you think you can demonstrate that God exists, by all means, enlighten me.

        Apologia: This is again the problem. If a miracle takes place in a hospital, it’s assumed that it had to be something the doctors were doing, even if the doctors say otherwise. If it takes place outside a hospital and more on the field, then it becomes that the people just had to be ignorant of what was going on or lying or something of the sort.

        This is the kind of laboratory thinking I was speaking of earlier.

        Reply: If it’s a problem for you, develop a hypothesis for how prayer works and run some tests on it. Even if you do worse than than the control group (as some prayer studies have indicated), at least that shows that something interesting and unexpected is going on.

        Apologia: I think your position is a category fallacy.

        Reply: If miracles influence the physical world, then they can be studied, and they are subject to scientific inquiry. If I take you at your word, perhaps we couldn’t determine the exact cause, but we may start to see a pattern of who gets cured, and under what circumstances. I don’t think that’s a category fallacy at all.

        Apologia: Sure. I’ll base my claim also on having independent evidence for my position of theism. Do you have any for the negative position?

        Reply: Negative position of what? Theism? What exactly would the negative position look like? People saying “No, God doesn’t exist!”? (Do you mean null hypothesis? All kidding aside, I don’t know what you’re talking about).

        Apologia: Oh God can do things again, but we cannot recreate the event in a lab.

        Reply: WE can’t, but are you suggesting God can’t recreate the event in a lab? Or that he just chooses not to? Why? Does he just hate us looking at his handiwork?

        Seriously, if we get a bunch of sick people together and pray over them, God should think about saving at least some of them or else he’s probably a meanie.

        Apologia: This also assumes that if God exists, He would want to go along with this experiment. Why should He?

        Reply: Because he gets to save seriously ill Christian believers? Because otherwise they’re going to die or have complications? Because maybe he actually wants man to understand his will and his powers? All of those answers seem really sensible to me.

        Apologia: If there is a God, why think He’d be subject to a test like that as if He’s just part of the material universe? Once again, this is science overstepping its bounds. Now you can say you’re fairly certain, but I really see no basis for the skepticism.

        Reply: He might not be, but if he is behind miraculous healing, then the result of his actions are seen in the physical world. Therefore, at least that is subject to study.

        Apologia: I see no reason to think Keener as weak evidence.

        Reply: Because you’re not a scientist and appear to have a weak grasp on how science works.

        Apologia: We have personal testimony of events where we can simply give people the benefit of the doubt and we have medical backing in a number of cases. For skepticism to be true, every miracle must be explained in a naturalistic way. I’m just skeptical of such a claim.

        Reply: Oh, this is fun! I want to try. “We have personal testimony of rainbows being caused by God where we can simply give people the benefit of the doubt and we have weather report backing in a number of cases. For skepticism to be true, every rainbow must be explained in a naturalistic way. I’m just skeptical of such a claim.”

        Apologia: If pure logic has no bearing on reality, then we have just killed the scientific enterprise. Anything can be anything.

        Reply: Logic is a symbol of physical reality, not physical reality itself. If it were, it would always correlate 100%. But physical reality is more complex than we can reasonably control for, so we do the best we can with symbols, probability, and generalities. So far, we’re doing pretty good given this limitation.

        Apologia: Most are skeptics? I would be interested in seeing that claim backed.

        Reply: Okay, you got me, they haven’t actually done that study. But I will say that most of the famous scientists are known empiricists, like Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and Alan Turing. Even if the scientists themselves aren’t skeptics, they must employ skeptic methodology to do their job. I’ll quote the Science Daily here: “It is a fundamental requirement of scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.”

        Apologia: No. I just think it’s a foolish position to take really. All men by nature desire to know, but it looks like skepticism has killed any chance of knowledge whatsoever.

        Reply: It really hasn’t. Again, you’re making presumptions. Us skeptics can be pretty sure about stuff and get along in the world without certainty, and I would still call what we think we know “knowledge” in the functional sense.

        Apologia: Contribute? Yes. Define? No. For instance, does a little human baby who has not done any real actions yet have any value?

        Reply: What kind of value? He might become a productive member of society some day, I guess. He might grow up to have complex emotions and have an interesting inner life. So I find the potential of that future valuable. Does a baby have any immediate value, except emotionally to his parents? I would argue no.

        Apologia: Feel free to say what other intelligent species it is you’re thinking about.

        Reply: There are probably many more, but I’ll start with the ones where there is a large scientific consensus verifying a complex emotional social structure: Non-human apes, dolphins, and elephants. I would say their right to life matters equally to that of a human’s.

        Now stop dawdling: Why do you think saving the boy and killing the dog is the objectively good choice?

        Apologia: It doesn’t matter where I’m going at this point. All that matters is if Aristotle’s definition is valid or not.

        Reply: It absolutely does matter. Stop jerking me around and demonstrate that “goodness” is an construct that exists outside of a human brain. Go with Aristotle’s definition if it helps you make your point.

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: You are aware that “certain” and “beyond reasonable doubt” don’t mean the same thing, right? Look up the dictionary definition of “certain” and get back to me.

        Reply: Oh sure, but I also am beginning this from the position of a common sense realist. That’s why it’s much easier to speak of certainty. It looks like you’re coming from a more Cartesian position, to which I think Descartes pretty much screwed up modern philosophy from his time onward.

        Roma: It meets the requirements, so sure. Yes. As I’ve said repeatedly, I personally think “genocide” requires another metric: Killing civilians with the intent of wiping out the group.

        Reply: Well we have no indication in the text that civilians were killed. Most of them would have fled before the combat started as it was known that Israel was coming. Second, the group wasn’t wiped out. They show up repeatedly again and again. It’s hyperbolic language that the ancients used. We today would say it’s trash talk.

        Roma: I believe you. Conveniently, you ignored my point about God ordering Saul to murder infants, but no biggie.

        Reply: That would be included in it. The command to destroy everything would mention everyone. Most mothers would flee with their infants. If they did not, then they were responsible as well. Note also that Israel was condemned however when it did act brutally in war. The accounts of kings ripping open pregnant women is condemned for Israel.

        Roma: I have studied medicine. It depends on what you mean by “medical backing,” but in the scientifically meaningful sense, Keener doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Maybe a foot, or a kneecap. The problem is, just documenting something isn’t enough. You need to form a hypothesis and make a testable prediction, otherwise it’s merely a curiosity of unknown cause.

        Reply; These things could not be done. Suppose someone is healed of blindness. What are we to do? Are we to blind them again just to see if it will happen again? I am of the opinion that most people can tell when they’ve been blind and when they recover from it and can also tell you if prayer was going on at the time and specifically, prayer in the name of Jesus. The problem is treating the actions of a free-will agent like any other hypothesis where God is obligated to perform a certain way at a certain time. Why should He be?

        Roma: The burden of proof is on the person making the positive claim. It’s that way in law, and it’s that way in science. If you don’t have evidence, it’s fine to believe it, but don’t expect for your idea to be taken seriously.

        Reply: The evidence is there. It’s giving the common person the benefit of the doubt that they can recognize when something has happened to them. It is the interpretation of the event that is the difficulty. I have no problem thinking that if the name of Jesus is regularly used in prayer and something happens, that there is quite likely a connection. If you want to offer a better suggestion, go ahead, but I hope it would have some evidence for it.

        Roma: I didn’t say they must, but that’s my default assumption because I know from experience that most people don’t know jack about how the human body works. I know more than most, and it still feels like I know barely anything about it.

        Reply: Not knowing how the human body works is irrelevant to knowing that you were blind once for all your life and now you see. Furthermore, what about people who do know how the human body works, such as doctors who do attest that these are miracles? Also, in many of these third world countries, they know about such realities as snake bites and such and they know when something works and when it doesn’t even if they don’t understand how.

        I have no reason to assume the common man who is simply stating what happened to him must be lying or ignorant.

        Roma: Again, confirmation bias. Read about it. We don’t know if those prayed-for people would have recovered just fine without prayed intervention, and we can’t know without running a study comparing it to random chance. I’ll be perfectly happy to believe it when someone runs that study.

        Reply: This again assumes a stance about miracles that I have no reason to assume. Now you can say confirmation bias all you want to, but that works both ways. The difference is that this is something that Keener points out is happening repeatedly. Those were also just the miracles he published. There are many many more, including several resurrections. (And I don’t think cases of people recovering from death are common)

        Roma: What evidence? That people pray to Jesus and sometimes the sick get better? If it actually works, we still have no idea why. You have no way of knowing if God is behind it or something else. I am truly baffled why you insist there is something divine going on. Show me the evidence. If you don’t have evidence, why do you believe it? What makes you think I’d be convinced without evidence?

        Reply: That the two happen regularly does indicate it’s quite likely there is a relation. Knowing how it is done is irrelevant to knowing that it is done. If it’s done regularly with prayer to Jesus instead of anyone else, then I think it’s a safe bet to think that it is God behind it.

        Roma: Does he not influence the natural world, in which we can conduct science? Is God hiding from us? Does he not want us to see what he’s doing? Why won’t he cure people involved in scientific testing?

        Reply: Again, why should He? Also, I think this is an enlightenment view of the natural world and of miracles. It has zip to do with the classical view that I hold to. I also do not contend that God is hiding from us. It is we who are hiding from Him.

        Roma: To quote Carl Sagan, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. If you think you can demonstrate that God exists, by all means, enlighten me.

        Reply: Well let’s start with what Sagan said. Why should my claim be the extraordinary one? Who decided that? Most people who have ever lived and most societies that have ever been have been theistic. Why should our claim be the extraordinary one? Why not say atheism is the extraordinary claim? Furthermore, how do you recognize extraordinary evidence? Does it glow. This is just a dictum that is entirely too subjective and arbitrary.

        Roma: If it’s a problem for you, develop a hypothesis for how prayer works and run some tests on it. Even if you do worse than than the control group (as some prayer studies have indicated), at least that shows that something interesting and unexpected is going on.

        Reply: Oh it’s not a problem for me. I think the evidence is convincing enough as it is that miracles are happening. As for prayer control groups, again, I do not support that because I do not think that is the way God and prayer work. You still have the same assumption that if God exists, He is a being who must reply X way to Y prayers from Z people.

        Roma: If miracles influence the physical world, then they can be studied, and they are subject to scientific inquiry. If I take you at your word, perhaps we couldn’t determine the exact cause, but we may start to see a pattern of who gets cured, and under what circumstances. I don’t think that’s a category fallacy at all.

        Reply: The fallacy is that if the effect is material, the cause must be material as well and respond to a material study. That is the problem. Again, why should I think that this is a valid approach?

        Roma: Negative position of what? Theism? What exactly would the negative position look like? People saying “No, God doesn’t exist!”? (Do you mean null hypothesis? All kidding aside, I don’t know what you’re talking about).

        Reply: Theism is the claim that God exists. Atheism is the claim otherwise. It is not the claim of lacking God belief as many atheists have falsely said, but rather the claim that there is no being that can be called God properly. Do you have any evidence that there is no God?

        Roma: WE can’t, but are you suggesting God can’t recreate the event in a lab? Or that he just chooses not to? Why? Does he just hate us looking at his handiwork?

        Reply: Why should He?

        Roma: Seriously, if we get a bunch of sick people together and pray over them, God should think about saving at least some of them or else he’s probably a meanie.

        Reply: Why? Furthermore, this could just as easily be chalked up as a placebo effect. It assumes that we know that if God exists, He would want to heal these people for X reasons just as much as we want to see them healed. Why? Why assume there is no good reason for someone going through a sickness at a certain time that we don’t understand? This is just having some good intellectual humility.

        Roma: Because he gets to save seriously ill Christian believers? Because otherwise they’re going to die or have complications? Because maybe he actually wants man to understand his will and his powers? All of those answers seem really sensible to me.

        Reply: Or perhaps it’s time for some seriously ill Christian believers to enter into His presence. Death is not the worst thing in our worldview after all. As for understanding His will and powers, this would actually I think leave us with more confusion. If not everyone is healed, why not? If everyone is healed, why not everyone in every case?

        There are much better ways to study theology than with a test that we have no reason to think will work anyway.

        Roma: He might not be, but if he is behind miraculous healing, then the result of his actions are seen in the physical world. Therefore, at least that is subject to study.

        Reply: Oh it is, and the best way is to study the before and after of these claims, particularly the ones that have medical documentation from doctors who do know the human body well. Again, I’m not going to take the position of assuming everyone that thinks a miracle occurred has to be ignorant in some way.

        Roma: Because you’re not a scientist and appear to have a weak grasp on how science works.

        Reply: No. It’s because the work is not a scientific one but a historical one and I do study history and know how that works. Why should anyone think a miracle is anti-science? People who believe in miracles do science the exact same way as people who don’t.

        Roma: Oh, this is fun! I want to try. “We have personal testimony of rainbows being caused by God where we can simply give people the benefit of the doubt and we have weather report backing in a number of cases. For skepticism to be true, every rainbow must be explained in a naturalistic way. I’m just skeptical of such a claim.”

        Reply: And today, we have a naturalistic explanation, but was it ever the case that people were trying to explain rainbows and then said “Hey. Let’s make a god to explain them!” No. People were already theists and fit in the event in their system. Now when you find a naturalistic explanation for all of these events that we know if true defy science, then I’ll be able to listen, but until then, I’m going to go with where I see the evidence leading. Again, I have no presupposition to think the common man is lying or ignorant about what is happening to him. Perhaps he is wrong about the interpretation, but I doubt he is about the event.

        Roma: Logic is a symbol of physical reality, not physical reality itself. If it were, it would always correlate 100%. But physical reality is more complex than we can reasonably control for, so we do the best we can with symbols, probability, and generalities. So far, we’re doing pretty good given this limitation.

        Reply: Who is saying logic is physical reality? Of course it isn’t, but I don’t see the point dealt with. If logic does not always stand, there can be no science.

        Roma: Okay, you got me, they haven’t actually done that study. But I will say that most of the famous scientists are known empiricists, like Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, and Alan Turing. Even if the scientists themselves aren’t skeptics, they must employ skeptic methodology to do their job. I’ll quote the Science Daily here: “It is a fundamental requirement of scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.”

        Reply: How does that equate to skepticism? I’m an empiricist. All Thomists are empiricists. I do not think that there are any a priori ideas. Note also the one who came up with the scientific method as we use it today was himself a Christian. The great scientists that brought about what we have today were Christian. Science was being done throughout the medieval period. Many times, their answers were wrong, but their answers were not “God did it!”

        Roma: It really hasn’t. Again, you’re making presumptions. Us skeptics can be pretty sure about stuff and get along in the world without certainty, and I would still call what we think we know “knowledge” in the functional sense.

        Reply: And those of us who are common sense realists have gotten along well and we never have to wonder about if we’re really seeing the world or not. We just take it for granted. THere’s no reason to think we’re in the Matrix or something of that sort. We don’t just claim knowledge in a functional sense but in a real sense.

        Roma: What kind of value? He might become a productive member of society some day, I guess. He might grow up to have complex emotions and have an interesting inner life. So I find the potential of that future valuable. Does a baby have any immediate value, except emotionally to his parents? I would argue no.

        Reply: So then you think it would be okay for us to kill a baby like that then since they have no value?

        Roma: There are probably many more, but I’ll start with the ones where there is a large scientific consensus verifying a complex emotional social structure: Non-human apes, dolphins, and elephants. I would say their right to life matters equally to that of a human’s.

        Reply: I do not see evidence that these creatures think abstractly like we do. We don’t have apes, dolphins, and elephants who are philosophers, scientists, historians, etc. We have a difference not in degree but in kind. That having been said, I as a strong Christian do oppose killing these creatures for the sake of killing them or even to get goods from them, say ivory from the tusks of elephants.

        Roma: Now stop dawdling: Why do you think saving the boy and killing the dog is the objectively good choice?

        Reply: In my system, the boy is in the image of God and holds a unique position in the universe. Not all life is equal.

        Roma: It absolutely does matter. Stop jerking me around and demonstrate that “goodness” is an construct that exists outside of a human brain. Go with Aristotle’s definition if it helps you make your point.

        Reply; Actually it doesn’t matter. When I’m simply defining a term, then the goal should rest at defining it, unless one is concerned about where the definition will lead. All things aim at perfection of some sort. This is not in the sense of the perfection of God, we do not aim to be deity. (Well some do) It means that all things aim simply to be.

        As for perfection, perfection is desirable to all because what is good is that which is desired for some reason. The only way anyone can desire anything is if they say that there is some good to it. Now it’s the case then that either there is a good and some activities are worth doing and help us attain being, or there is not a good and we’re all just fooling ourselves and nothing is truly worth doing. It’s all subjective preference and there is no real right or wrong.

        I think I’ll go with the former, a position that most every philosopher in the history of the world has held as well as every society. Moral relativism has never worked and never will work.

      • Romathon Says:

        I’ll start by saying that I think we’ve run certain parts of our conversation into the dirt and we’re starting to go in circles. I don’t know what arguments would convince you of my view and vice-versa. I’m going to skip the topics that I think we have exhausted, but I’ll revisit them if you want.

        Apologia: Well we have no indication in the text that civilians were killed.

        Reply: “And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. (1 Samuel 15:8).” Unless this is also hyperbolic language? How would you know the difference between this and if they really meant that they killed them all? Would it be super-duper hyperbolic?

        Apologia: Second, the group wasn’t wiped out. They show up repeatedly again and again. It’s hyperbolic language that the ancients used. We today would say it’s trash talk.

        Reply: Being completely wiped out is not a requirement of genocide by anyone’s standards (except apparently yours). Even if you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge this example, there are other genocide events in the bible. What about when God killed every human on earth except for Noah and his family?

        Quoting myself: You need to form a hypothesis and make a testable prediction, otherwise it’s merely a curiosity of unknown cause.

        Apologia: These things could not be done.

        Reply: Then congratulations! You know why I’m not convinced.

        Apologia: The problem is treating the actions of a free-will agent like any other hypothesis where God is obligated to perform a certain way at a certain time. Why should He be?

        Reply: And yet we have fields of science that study free agents, like psychology and sociology. Nobody is ever “obligated” to behave a certain way, we merely observe what they do and create testable predictions. Either God is predictable to some extent, and therefore we can study his actions, or else he is completely random, and he is indistinguishable from the background noise of the universe. You can’t have it both ways.

        Apologia: The evidence is there. It’s giving the common person the benefit of the doubt that they can recognize when something has happened to them. It is the interpretation of the event that is the difficulty.

        Reply: I agree with this line of reasoning. I trust that someone knows if they can suddenly see again, and I may take for granted they’re not lying. But I’d question if they know WHY it happened (ie, “the interpretation of the event”).

        Apologia: If you want to offer a better suggestion, go ahead, but I hope it would have some evidence for it.

        Reply: I don’t offhand. The research hasn’t been done to my satisfaction, and I would love to see more done in this field, either to verify it or further debunk it. Either way I would be happy. The difference is I’m not stating a positive claim and expecting other people to believe me. You have the burden of proof. That’s how positive claims work. Ball is in your court.

        Apologia: I also do not contend that God is hiding from us. It is we who are hiding from Him.

        Reply: Do tell. Why are mere mortals able to hide from God, a completely omniscient, omnipotent deity?

        Apologia: Well let’s start with what Sagan said. Why should my claim be the extraordinary one? Who decided that? Most people who have ever lived and most societies that have ever been have been theistic. Why should our claim be the extraordinary one? Why not say atheism is the extraordinary claim? Furthermore, how do you recognize extraordinary evidence? Does it glow. This is just a dictum that is entirely too subjective and arbitrary.

        Reply: You made me smile with “Does it glow.” You seem to have a sense of humor after all.

        Again, just because a lot of people believe something doesn’t make it true. There are over a billion Hindus on earth, do you think their beliefs correct?

        Extraordinary evidence would constitute a lot of data, organized, logical, vast in scope, connects to and supports other fields of knowledge, and creates a basis for testable predictions. Evolution has passed this level of scrutiny, for example. Evolution was an extraordinary claim in its time, and it required extraordinary evidence to convince us that it was probably right. Divine healing is an extraordinary claim, and also requires extraordinary evidence.

        Apologia: You still have the same assumption that if God exists, He is a being who must reply X way to Y prayers from Z people.

        Reply: No, that is not my assumption. Once again you appear not to grasp some very fundamental research concepts (in this case, statistics).

        Apologia: The fallacy is that if the effect is material, the cause must be material as well and respond to a material study.

        Reply: I have never stated that God is material. But because his actions affect the material world, we can study that. Who knows, maybe by doing so we would discover that God is in fact part of the material universe, just beyond our current level of technology to detect him.

        Apologia: Theism is the claim that God exists. Atheism is the claim otherwise. It is not the claim of lacking God belief as many atheists have falsely said, but rather the claim that there is no being that can be called God properly. Do you have any evidence that there is no God?

        Reply: Again, I don’t have the burden of proof. Not my problem. Also, I don’t claim that God can’t exist, that would make me a Gnostic. I’m an Agnostic Atheist, and also a skeptic, because I think that is the most intellectually honest stance for an atheist.

        Apologia: There are much better ways to study theology than with a test that we have no reason to think will work anyway.

        Reply: How? I’m all ears. (PS, I don’t think there’s any reason out of hand that such a study couldn’t work).

        Apologia: Why should anyone think a miracle is anti-science?

        Reply: It’s not exactly, it’s just an unsupported hypothesis. I get annoyed when you keep claiming it’s the most likely explanation with very skimpy evidence.

        Apologia: People who believe in miracles do science the exact same way as people who don’t.

        Reply: And I would be fascinated if they could actually support their claims.

        Apologia: How does that equate to skepticism?

        Reply: Empiricism and skepticism are closely related. In my opinion, a skeptic is merely an empiricist that has reached the end of a logical inquiry: If you can analyze empirical sense data, you must also analyze if your senses are gathering that information correctly…
        Wait. Haven’t we already done this subject to death? Never mind.

        Apologia: So then you think it would be okay for us to kill a baby like that then since they have no value?

        Reply: Yes. Bear in mind, you didn’t ask me if I would, just if I think it could be morally acceptable in some circumstances.

        Apologia: I do not see evidence that these creatures think abstractly like we do. We don’t have apes, dolphins, and elephants who are philosophers, scientists, historians, etc.

        Reply: I didn’t say they did, and I don’t see why that necessarily matters. If an adult human isn’t a philosopher, scientist, or historian, are they also automatically dispensable?

        Apologia: In my system, the boy is in the image of God and holds a unique position in the universe. Not all life is equal.

        Reply: I don’t think all life is equal, but I realize that’s only my judgement based on human-centric values. In the grand scheme of the universe, a human is as equally tiny and unimportant as a smallpox virus. Why do you think I should believe the way you do? Can you convince me that you are objectively correct?

        Apologia; Actually it doesn’t matter. When I’m simply defining a term, then the goal should rest at defining it, unless one is concerned about where the definition will lead. All things aim at perfection of some sort. This is not in the sense of the perfection of God, we do not aim to be deity. (Well some do) It means that all things aim simply to be.

        As for perfection, perfection is desirable to all because what is good is that which is desired for some reason. The only way anyone can desire anything is if they say that there is some good to it. Now it’s the case then that either there is a good and some activities are worth doing and help us attain being, or there is not a good and we’re all just fooling ourselves and nothing is truly worth doing. It’s all subjective preference and there is no real right or wrong.

        I think I’ll go with the former, a position that most every philosopher in the history of the world has held as well as every society. Moral relativism has never worked and never will work.

        Reply: Can you spell this out for me more clearly, maybe with an example? I want to be sure I understanding you correctly before supplying a rebuttal.

        Apologia: Moral relativism has never worked and never will work.

        Reply: Morality isn’t relative, because we are all bound to physical bodies that experience pleasure and pain in predictable ways, but it’s not totally objective either. There are a vast range of possible options, and it’s still only in respect to what humans want and value. I think it can be essentially boiled down to two maxims: Do unto others as you would like to be treated, and the more empathetic form, do unto others as they would like to be treated.

      • apologianick Says:

        Well since you think some of our conversations have been run into the ground and we don’t know what will convince the other, I’ll tell you what will convince me and you can tell me what would convince you and we can decide how to proceed from there.

        For me, a better explanation for the rise of Christianity needs to be given that explains the data better than the explanation that Jesus was raised from the dead.

        Feel free to tell me what it would take to convince you.

      • Romathon Says:

        What’s the book you or David Marshall recommended regarding the new testament? Was it Jesus and the Eyewitnesses? I’d like to read over the gospels again with some experienced theological perspective as my guide.

        I think I would be reasonably convinced by two things: Verify remarkable healing, and that the gospels are both plausible and timely. It still wouldn’t directly address the existance of God, but it would be a good start.

        On the first: I would like for us to exhaustively study remarkable healing. If, for example, we could see the moment a miracle happened in the human body, and it defied known laws of entropy or conservation of matter. Or if we saw remarkable healing only occurred on a discriminate basis, maybe based on what that person goes on to do in the world – anything that could suggest an intelligent agency. If we found a study methology that worked and would allow us to see if intercessory prayer is effective or not. I think there are thousands of things we could try that would sway my opinion, and honestly, I just don’t think the body of data is large enough to draw firm conclusions one way or the other. My skepticism naturally lands me in the “not convinced” camp. If miracles could be supported in the modern day, I would extend credibility to claims in the past.

        As for the gospels, I need reasonable evidence that at least one of the gospels was written during or very shortly after Jesus’s resurrection. Most place the earliest date at twelve years. The very earliest timeline I’ve heard for the gospel of Mark was three years after the resurrection, which is still too long of a gap for me. Three years is a very long time for memories to fade or warp to fit a particular narrative, especially if they’re being repeatedly accessed (contrary to intuition, neuroscience has taught us that memories that are frequently referenced are less reliable than memories that are rarely referenced). If someone could supply a closer date with evidence, I think that would be compelling.

        Generally speaking, I don’t think the gospels are wholesale forgeries. They might be of-the-day “fan fiction” of Jesus, but given what I currently know, I think the language and details of the gospels put them in the right place and time period.

        Apologia: For me, a better explanation for the rise of Christianity needs to be given that explains the data better than the explanation that Jesus was raised from the dead.

        Reply: We’ve already had this out in the Cold-Case review thread. I wish I could give you my lifetime of experience in psychology, the persistence of ideas, memes, and neuroscience of religious experience, because in the light of that knowledge, Christianity doesn’t seem very extraordinary.

        For that matter, I wish I could get your experience with history and theology. I think your views would become infinitely more undestandable if I could simply see into your head.

      • apologianick Says:

        I could see if David Marshall would like to come here also. Chances are, the book was “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham.

        I think part of the problem is you’re running on a lot of modern assumptions about memory and oral tradition. If anyone, like Bart Ehrman, ever told you oral tradition is like the telephone game, someone misled you. It’s not like that at all. Oral tradition was controlled by groups and while there could be variation in minor details, the main idea stays the same.

        An analogy I use of telling a story orally is like this. If Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my house, my parents, who are not apologists but interested in what their son does, will want to hear the story, so I’ll tell them what happened, but I won’t tell everything. Some things wouldn’t make sense. (If you’re a scientist, you know this. You would not explain evolution to an 8 year-old the same way you would to a 35 year-old or the same way you would to a class of college students getting their entry.) Next, I’ll call my father-in-law and other friends who are apologists and they will get much more detail. All stories will be true, but details will change.

        Also in the ancient world, the oral tradition was much more valuable than the written word. Ask someone 40+ years later if they want to read an account of an eyewitness or talk to an eyewitness and they’ll always choose the latter. For the most part, we still do this today. My uncle lives next door to me and fought in World War II. If I want to hear something about the war, I would much rather talk to him than to read a book about it.

        Some excellent works on oral tradition would be Jesus Remembered by James Dunn, The Lost World of Scripture by Walton and Sandy, and Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey. Not all of these deal exclusively with oral tradition, but you’ll find it in there.

        The earliest date given of Mark is around the early 40’s and that’s actually by a skeptic. His name is John Crossley. Most scholars don’t go that far and the liberal dating is around 70 A.D.

        It’s quite odd to reject the Gospels after that time frame because if we rejected a historical account in the ancient world because it wasn’t written within five years, pretty much everything we know through written accounts could fit on an index card. Our earliest biographies of Alexander the Great come 400+ years later and they’re still considered reliable.

        It could be good to study ancient historiography as well then and the only way you get the understanding some of us have is just through the reading, and the reading of both sides which we do. There are no shortcuts.

        As for healing, one way you might want to do this if you ever have the chance is just go to the third world and talk to people, which I’d like to do as well. Even in China I’ve been told that something amazing can often happen when a conversion takes place. David Marshall has traveled around the world and if he comes, I’m sure he can give several stories.

        And as for the rise of the church, I haven’t seen a convincing explanation. Most people try to compare it with Mormonism or Islam without really taking note of the differences.

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: I think part of the problem is you’re running on a lot of modern assumptions about memory and oral tradition. If anyone, like Bart Ehrman, ever told you oral tradition is like the telephone game, someone misled you. It’s not like that at all. Oral tradition was controlled by groups and while there could be variation in minor details, the main idea stays the same.

        Reply: This is yet another thing we’ve discussed in the Cold-Case thread. First, I don’t think all oral tradition is this way. Second, I disagree. Sung and metered oral tradition is fairly stable, but the “gossip” type stuff changes a lot. Just look at how the values of the church changed from century to century, or how many branches there are to accomodate all those varaitions. The only reason it’s even remotely consistent is because it was written down (in the Bible).

        Apologia: My uncle lives next door to me and fought in World War II. If I want to hear something about the war, I would much rather talk to him than to read a book about it.

        Reply: As would I, but firsthand accounts often get things wrong, and it’s good to acknowledge this fact. Semi-famous example: When Art Spiegelman interviewed his father Vladik who survived Auschwitz, Vladik gave an impossible timeline of events (too many accounted-for months given the time he was there) and he disputed significant details, like the band at the entrance of the camp – something nearly all the other first-hand accounts mention, but Vladik actively denies ever seeing.

        Was Vladik lying? Almost certainly not. But it goes to show that human memory and attention is far from perfect.

        Apologia: Some excellent works on oral tradition would be Jesus Remembered by James Dunn, The Lost World of Scripture by Walton and Sandy, and Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey. Not all of these deal exclusively with oral tradition, but you’ll find it in there.

        Reply: I’ll look into these, thanks.

        Apologia: It’s quite odd to reject the Gospels after that time frame because if we rejected a historical account in the ancient world because it wasn’t written within five years, pretty much everything we know through written accounts could fit on an index card. Our earliest biographies of Alexander the Great come 400+ years later and they’re still considered reliable.

        Reply: There’s a big difference. The Gospels have some extremely bold claims about the nature of reality and the events therein happened on a pretty small scale. While I would consider the broad strokes of “relgious man Jesus died on the cross” reliable, I don’t trust that anyone could have faithfully recorded Jesus’s complex teachings many years after the fact without injecting their own bias.

        Meanwhile, even if the actual man “Alexander the Great” didn’t exist, we have a lot of evidence that SOMEONE conquered half the known world, and given that most sources attribute it to this guy, it seems a logical conclusion that he did just that. He violates no known physical laws to accomplish this feat, either.

        Apologia: As for healing, one way you might want to do this if you ever have the chance is just go to the third world and talk to people, which I’d like to do as well. Even in China I’ve been told that something amazing can often happen when a conversion takes place. David Marshall has traveled around the world and if he comes, I’m sure he can give several stories.

        Reply: This may surprise you, but I have done this in central america. I too have stories. I was interested, intrigued, but not convinced. There’s a big difference between hearing an account and actually seeing that data. While ancient cultures have a lot of very important, accurate, specialized knowledge about the world, they also tend to be unscientific and superstitious. Like us, they tend to see what they want to see.

        Apologia: And as for the rise of the church, I haven’t seen a convincing explanation. Most people try to compare it with Mormonism or Islam without really taking note of the differences.

        Reply: I do agree that the origins of Christianity are kind of special, especially with how well preserved the (probable) first hand accounts are. There are other religions that are comparible, but it is the oldest with such a large breadth and scope.

        And I don’t think that fact necessarily makes Christianity true, or even that good as a religion. Religions persist for of all sorts of reasons. Because a particular idea is topical through many ages, or certain practices help people live better lives… or because people will believe really incredulous claims because of how old and thorough the first-hand accounts are.

        Again, we just have a fundamental difference in our worldview on this. My experience in neuroscience and psychology means I just can’t take first-hand accounts that seriously. I’ve seen memory and confidence fail so often, sometimes catasrophically. I may use a first-hand account as a means of finding a starting place for my own research, and I may take it for granted if it seems plausible in the absence of further evidence, but that’s it.

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma: This is yet another thing we’ve discussed in the Cold-Case thread. First, I don’t think all oral tradition is this way.

        Reply: You may certainly think this, but in the case of oral societies such as in the Middle East, why should I agree to that when I have the work of scholars like Dunn, Bauckham, Bailey, and Sandy that say otherwise?

        Roma: Second, I disagree. Sung and metered oral tradition is fairly stable, but the “gossip” type stuff changes a lot.

        Reply: Actually, it doesn’t. There may be minor variations, but the gist of the story is to always stay the same. The story would say Jesus was crucified for instance. It would not be changed to say Jesus was beheaded. (And in fact, that was a change they would have loved to have made since beheading was honorable and crucifixion was shameful.) Again, I need some scholarly sources on this one.

        Roma: Just look at how the values of the church changed from century to century, or how many branches there are to accomodate all those varaitions. The only reason it’s even remotely consistent is because it was written down (in the Bible).

        Reply; Actually, the values of the church were quite stable early on and the essentials have always been the same, although there was certainly development. It’s not as if the Nicene Creed was written immediately after the resurrection. The beliefs can in fact remain consistent without a written source, as they could in most other religions. Most religions were not religions of the book as Judaism and Christianity were and are. For oral tradition to change drastically the historical core of an event takes generations at least. By that time indeed, the Bible had already been written.

        Roma: As would I, but firsthand accounts often get things wrong, and it’s good to acknowledge this fact. Semi-famous example: When Art Spiegelman interviewed his father Vladik who survived Auschwitz, Vladik gave an impossible timeline of events (too many accounted-for months given the time he was there) and he disputed significant details, like the band at the entrance of the camp – something nearly all the other first-hand accounts mention, but Vladik actively denies ever seeing. Was Vladik lying? Almost certainly not. But it goes to show that human memory and attention is far from perfect.

        Reply: Oh they are, but here’s the kicker. Vladik could be wrong on secondary details. Sure. But do we think he’d be wrong about ever being in the prison camp to begin with? If you ask me to describe my wedding from memory, I will get some details wrong. If I get the detail wrong that I even got married, that’s a huge problem and I need to go to a mental hospital. Note also that you’re talking about a modern person in modern times. After the Printing Press, everything changes and we no longer use our memories the way the ancients did.

        Roma: I’ll look into these, thanks.

        REply: Excellent. Though I haven’t read it, my ministry partner would also recommend “Wax Tablets of the Mind.”

        Roma: There’s a big difference. The Gospels have some extremely bold claims about the nature of reality and the events therein happened on a pretty small scale.

        Reply: And the biographies of Alexander the Great don’t? Both of them for instance claim that Alexander was born of a virgin. They also talk about a man who conquered the world at the age of 30 or so. That’s a quite bold claim about reality. Furthermore, even scholars who disagree with miracles see the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies, which shows they were a serious attempt at history and as containing highly reliable information about the life of Christ.

        Roma: While I would consider the broad strokes of “relgious man Jesus died on the cross” reliable, I don’t trust that anyone could have faithfully recorded Jesus’s complex teachings many years after the fact without injecting their own bias.

        Reply: It would be interesting to know who because much of what Jesus said in fact was of no relevance to the early church. You never see Jesus speaking about if circumcision is necessary or not, but that sure concerned the early church. You never see Jesus talking about meat offered to idols, but that concerned the early church. You see Jesus referring to Himself regularly as the Son of Man, but the early church didn’t do that.

        As for the teachings, Jesus was surely like other teachers in that He used the same lessons repeatedly. As someone ordained myself, when I speak at a new church, I have a favorite message that I use. Is it given verbatim? No. It is not. It is told with minor variations every time, but it is the same message. I find it extremely doubtful that the Sermon on the Mount or any parable was given only once. The repetition would lead to improved memory.

        And as for bias, the ancients saw bias as a + actually. If you did not have bias, you did not care what you were writing about. Every historian writes with a bias and arranges information according to what they want to present, but that bias can also mean they will seek to get the facts as right as possible, especially considering how important the writers of the Gospels saw the material. (And for the record, I am not claiming Inerrancy at this point nor will I defend it. General reliability is all I care about for now.)

        Roma: Meanwhile, even if the actual man “Alexander the Great” didn’t exist, we have a lot of evidence that SOMEONE conquered half the known world, and given that most sources attribute it to this guy, it seems a logical conclusion that he did just that. He violates no known physical laws to accomplish this feat, either.

        Reply: To be clear on this matter, do you hold that Jesus most certainly existed or not?

        Roma: This may surprise you, but I have done this in central america. I too have stories. I was interested, intrigued, but not convinced. There’s a big difference between hearing an account and actually seeing that data. While ancient cultures have a lot of very important, accurate, specialized knowledge about the world, they also tend to be unscientific and superstitious. Like us, they tend to see what they want to see.

        Reply: Then that sword cuts both ways. If you want to see naturalistic explanations, you will see naturalistic explanations and then it becomes “Why should those be given the benefit of the doubt.” Furthermore, what of people who do see such things? I find it problematic that human testimony is not allowed, but if you saw this yourself and became convinced, the most you could give most likely would be human testimony and that would be dismissed. If we had a few isolated incidents, I make be likely to think people are that foolish. The greater the number, the more I doubt that.

        As for people being superstitious, I also think this is a misnomer about the ancient mindset. They also sought to explain things without miracles and people like Lucian made it a point to out miracle workers. Of course you had people who were gullible, but you still have that in a scientific age. The horoscopes, last I checked, are still printed in newspapers.

        Roma: I do agree that the origins of Christianity are kind of special, especially with how well preserved the (probable) first hand accounts are. There are other religions that are comparible, but it is the oldest with such a large breadth and scope. And I don’t think that fact necessarily makes Christianity true, or even that good as a religion. Religions persist for of all sorts of reasons. Because a particular idea is topical through many ages, or certain practices help people live better lives… or because people will believe really incredulous claims because of how old and thorough the first-hand accounts are.

        Reply; None of these work. The beliefs of the pagans were helping them live just fine. They were not wallowing in misery nor were they overly concerned that a deity had forgiven their sins. Most were interested in living the good life. The story of Christianity would not be liked either. A king who was crucified? No one wanted that. If they did like it, they would just say “It’s a good story” but would have no reason to commit their lives to it. The Christians would also be seen as deviants in their society. They were excluding the other deities in their lives and going against the social grain of society. They would only earn shame, ostracism, and at times, physical persecution.

        What benefit was there then to being a Christian? Why become one?

        Roma: Again, we just have a fundamental difference in our worldview on this. My experience in neuroscience and psychology means I just can’t take first-hand accounts that seriously. I’ve seen memory and confidence fail so often, sometimes catasrophically. I may use a first-hand account as a means of finding a starting place for my own research, and I may take it for granted if it seems plausible in the absence of further evidence, but that’s it.

        Reply: Today, that would be true, but again, we live after the Printing Press. We live in the time of the Gutenberg Galaxy. In the Middle East, memory is still highly prized. It’s not uncommon to find a Muslim who has memorized the Koran. In the time of Christ, a rabbi could have memorized the Old Testament. The Rhapsodies memorized the writings of Homer and performed them.

        I think at this point, the advice of C.S. Lewis would work well. Look at the older works as well. Our modern age has its own blinders on and reading another age can point us to those blinders.

      • Romathon Says:

        Apologia: Actually, it doesn’t. There may be minor variations, but the gist of the story is to always stay the same. The story would say Jesus was crucified for instance. It would not be changed to say Jesus was beheaded. (And in fact, that was a change they would have loved to have made since beheading was honorable and crucifixion was shameful.) Again, I need some scholarly sources on this one.

        Reply: Sure. Here’s an anthropology professor talking about pre-literate society oral tradition in an affidavit regarding the Kennewick man: http://www.friendsofpast.org/kennewick-man/court/affidavits/oral-tradition-5.html

        Also this: http://web.uvic.ca/vv/stolo/Hoffman,%20reliability%20and%20validity%20in%20oral%20hist.pdf

        The second one I find particularly interesting. It clarifies the difference between memory reliability vs memory validity, which I hadn’t really thought about before. While the experiment demonstrates a high degree of memory reliability, there are several confounding factors:

        1. Reliable is not the same as valid. While the two interviews were very similar, drift still happened, and there’s no telling what in the first interview was wrong to begin with. Without a supporting document to suss out what’s what, we wouldn’t have any idea which parts of the testimony are likely to be accurate.
        2. It is the person’s personal sensory information. It seems that memories based on emotional and visual cues are much easier to retain. Meaning, it might not transmit to another person very well.
        3. This person explicitly avoided bringing up the testimony in between the two interviews to avoid contaminating the memories.
        4. While a single person’s recollection may be pretty reliable, they may not be consistent with anyone else’s interpretation of events.

        Basically these two sources seem to point to the idea that oral history is useful, but corroborating documents and archaeological evidence are essential to support their claims. After a certain period of time, the factual content of a story is probably minimal. Cold-Case Christianity also supported the idea that it’s important to get a statement of someone’s first impressions of an event before they’ve had time to cull or harmonize their memories to fit with other people’s interpretations. You’d have a better shot of getting an interpretation closer to the event if it was written down as opposed to orally retold for several decades.

        Honestly, I’d like to see more study done on this topic. It’s hard to find sources because not a lot of experiments about this kind of extremely long-term memory retention have been done. It might be interesting to see if there are non-mnemonic ways of storing highly accurate memories that don’t drift. I’ll check out the books you recommended.

        Apologia: Note also that you’re talking about a modern person in modern times. After the Printing Press, everything changes and we no longer use our memories the way the ancients did.

        Reply: If you mean preliterate societies, there are plenty that we are able to study in the modern day. Polynesia is a famous sample group, but their stable oral traditions rely on mnemonics.

        If you mean that we are able to study none of the modern human race because they’re all contaminated by literacy, you need to give some evidence that somehow our brains or the memory devices we used were somehow different hundreds of years ago, otherwise I have no idea how you’d make that means of comparison. Just because ancient people asserted that oral traditions were “better” does not necessarily make them more accurate than a written document.

        Quoting myself: There’s a big difference. The Gospels have some extremely bold claims about the nature of reality and the events therein happened on a pretty small scale.

        Apologia: And the biographies of Alexander the Great don’t? Both of them for instance claim that Alexander was born of a virgin. They also talk about a man who conquered the world at the age of 30 or so.

        Reply: Virgin birth is extremely rare, but not counter to known biological mechanisms. Women can get pregnant without penetrative sex. Conquering the world at age 30 also is rare and incredible but not unbelievable (Personally, I suspect the virgin birth was made up due to the mythical connotations as such).

        These are both astronomically more credible claims than miracles or the existence of God.

        Apologia: Furthermore, even scholars who disagree with miracles see the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies, which shows they were a serious attempt at history and as containing highly reliable information about the life of Christ.

        Reply: Sure, I agree (Maybe I’d dispute the word “highly”).

        Apologia: To be clear on this matter, do you hold that Jesus most certainly existed or not?

        Reply: Sure, probably. I have no idea how much of the gospels are true, but I’m pretty sure a religious man named Jesus got crucified, given that it’s backed up by other sources.

        Apologia: Then that sword cuts both ways. If you want to see naturalistic explanations, you will see naturalistic explanations and then it becomes “Why should those be given the benefit of the doubt.”

        Reply: Yep, that’s true. I recognize that bias in myself and strive to be open-minded. I may require a fairly high level of proof by your standards, but unlike many of my fellow atheists, I haven’t written off miracles as being impossible or worthy of derision.

        Apologia: Furthermore, what of people who do see such things? I find it problematic that human testimony is not allowed, but if you saw this yourself and became convinced, the most you could give most likely would be human testimony and that would be dismissed.

        Reply: Personally, I think they would be quite right and intelligent to dismiss me. I have seen plenty of things in my lifetime that are mysterious, but I know the onus is on me to support my claim. If my position is correct and I am determined to demonstrate it, I can endeavor to find evidence and convince other people to study it with me.

        Apologia: If we had a few isolated incidents, I make be likely to think people are that foolish. The greater the number, the more I doubt that.

        Reply: This is getting dangerously close to argumentum ad populum, and you’ve used this fallacy many times in our conversations. Perhaps you’d like to use a better argument in the future.

        Apologia: None of these work. The beliefs of the pagans were helping them live just fine. They were not wallowing in misery nor were they overly concerned that a deity had forgiven their sins. Most were interested in living the good life. The story of Christianity would not be liked either. A king who was crucified? No one wanted that. If they did like it, they would just say “It’s a good story” but would have no reason to commit their lives to it. The Christians would also be seen as deviants in their society. They were excluding the other deities in their lives and going against the social grain of society. They would only earn shame, ostracism, and at times, physical persecution.

        What benefit was there then to being a Christian? Why become one?

        Reply: This is a weird argument. Why do people practice any against-the-grain religion? Being a Satanist in the American south can be extremely dangerous and isolating. Same with Islam in this current political climate, and yet people convert to it every day. What’s the benefit? Why become one?

        I don’t know the answer, but people convert to fringe religions regardless of personal hardship all the time.

        Apologia: It’s not uncommon to find a Muslim who has memorized the Koran. In the time of Christ, a rabbi could have memorized the Old Testament. The Rhapsodies memorized the writings of Homer and performed them.

        Reply: Yeah, imagine that. They were memorizing a text, something they could refer back to, fact check, and ensure that their memory isn’t drifting over time.

        I’m not attempting to argue that people can’t or weren’t ever able to memorize things. Just that they don’t tend to transmit accurately through long periods of time or over generations without shifting.

      • apologianick Says:

        Roma:
        Reply: Sure. Here’s an anthropology professor talking about pre-literate society oral tradition in an affidavit regarding the Kennewick man: http://www.friendsofpast.org/kennewick-man/court/affidavits/oral-tradition-5.html

        REply: I don’t have much problem. He states that the accounts do not often last past 1,000 years. In the ancient world, if you want to eliminate the biographies of Jesus because they’re late, you must eliminate most every other biography out there on the same standards, including those of Plutarch. That’s an awfully steep price to pay just to deal with one group. Also, I don’t take the comparison to modern events seriously. Keep in mind however that one might misconstrue details about a car crash. They will quite likely not misconstrue that there was one.

        Roma: Also this: http://web.uvic.ca/vv/stolo/Hoffman,%20reliability%20and%20validity%20in%20oral%20hist.pdf

        Reply: My problem with this is that it takes place after the Printing Press. When texts become readily available, memory changes because people no longer need to memorize anything. Books are readily accessible with the information and they can pull it off of the shelves at that point.

        Roma: The second one I find particularly interesting. It clarifies the difference between memory reliability vs memory validity, which I hadn’t really thought about before. While the experiment demonstrates a high degree of memory reliability, there are several confounding factors:

        1. Reliable is not the same as valid. While the two interviews were very similar, drift still happened, and there’s no telling what in the first interview was wrong to begin with. Without a supporting document to suss out what’s what, we wouldn’t have any idea which parts of the testimony are likely to be accurate.

        Reply: The problem again is that of the time. We consider the biographies of Alexander the Great to be reliable and they’re 400+ years later. Plutarch’s writings are often just as late. Honestly by comparison, the Gospels are written within an incredibly short time. The earliest Christian tradition we have dates to at the most five years later, which is just a blink, and this is a tradition that affirms all the details used to show Jesus rose from the dead.

        Roma: 2. It is the person’s personal sensory information. It seems that memories based on emotional and visual cues are much easier to retain. Meaning, it might not transmit to another person very well.

        Reply; This would certainly fit with the appearances of the risen Jesus. Those would be easy to retain in memory due to their unique nature.

        Roma: 3. This person explicitly avoided bringing up the testimony in between the two interviews to avoid contaminating the memories.
        4. While a single person’s recollection may be pretty reliable, they may not be consistent with anyone else’s interpretation of events.

        Reply: This is also a difference with oral cultures. Oral cultures do not rely on the memory of a single person. They rely on the memory of a group and the group acts as a fact-checking unit. There are always people held in higher esteem for their memorization who maintain the tradition well and if anyone steps out of line with it, it is known.

        Roma: Basically these two sources seem to point to the idea that oral history is useful, but corroborating documents and archaeological evidence are essential to support their claims. After a certain period of time, the factual content of a story is probably minimal. Cold-Case Christianity also supported the idea that it’s important to get a statement of someone’s first impressions of an event before they’ve had time to cull or harmonize their memories to fit with other people’s interpretations. You’d have a better shot of getting an interpretation closer to the event if it was written down as opposed to orally retold for several decades.

        Reply; What would need to be shown is that the oral tradition is substantially different from what we have, but once you have to do that for the Gospels, it must be done for Plutarch, Thucydides, Herodotus, etc. How much ancient history is willing to be thrown out just because of the nature of the Gospels which are far better historically than many other sources?

        Roma: Honestly, I’d like to see more study done on this topic. It’s hard to find sources because not a lot of experiments about this kind of extremely long-term memory retention have been done. It might be interesting to see if there are non-mnemonic ways of storing highly accurate memories that don’t drift. I’ll check out the books you recommended.

        Reply: Yes. The mistake we make is assuming people were just like us. We value a text. They valued a text. We have memories that last so long. Their memories lasted so long. They’re not really like us. There are still oral cultures today that have the same standard.

        Roma: If you mean preliterate societies, there are plenty that we are able to study in the modern day. Polynesia is a famous sample group, but their stable oral traditions rely on mnemonics.

        Reply; Yes, and so did Jesus’s. Jesus used puns and short little pithy sayings. Imagine just hearing the Prodigal Son story for the first time. Even in our literate society, we might not remember every word, but we can still tell the story. That’s why you can tell a joke well after hearing it once. Jesus was a speaker who traveled and I have no reason to doubt gave the same message more than once to different audiences. That would build in memory over time.

        Roma: If you mean that we are able to study none of the modern human race because they’re all contaminated by literacy, you need to give some evidence that somehow our brains or the memory devices we used were somehow different hundreds of years ago, otherwise I have no idea how you’d make that means of comparison. Just because ancient people asserted that oral traditions were “better” does not necessarily make them more accurate than a written document.

        Reply: The evidence is found in the works that I recommended mainly. Socrates for instance has a role in a Platonic dialogue describing two gods talking. One says he’s invented a tool to help with memorizing called writing. The other god calls him an idiot and says that once humans write things down, they would not have a reason to remember and more. The advice would help with forgetting. Walton and Sandy have many quotes about how teachers in fact didn’t like to write their works down for fear of being misunderstood in them. Papias said he much more preferred a living voice than a written document.

        Roma: Virgin birth is extremely rare, but not counter to known biological mechanisms. Women can get pregnant without penetrative sex. Conquering the world at age 30 also is rare and incredible but not unbelievable (Personally, I suspect the virgin birth was made up due to the mythical connotations as such).

        REply: Not Alex’s virgin birth. That was brought about by the gods. Keep in mind to fairly investigate miracles, one cannot start out by saying “Miracles have never happened.” If you’re going to check a claim in history, there needs to be some level of evidence at which you can say “Alright. The ancients seem to have a powerful case here.”

        Roma: These are both astronomically more credible claims than miracles or the existence of God.

        Reply; Why should I think that? That works fine on an atheistic worldview, but on my worldview, the non-reality of miracles and the non-existence of God are astronomically unlikely. Why should your worldview be given the benefit of the doubt instead of mine?

        Roma: Sure, probably. I have no idea how much of the gospels are true, but I’m pretty sure a religious man named Jesus got crucified, given that it’s backed up by other sources.

        Reply: Good because frankly, I cannot take someone seriously if they deny that Jesus existed.

        Roma: Yep, that’s true. I recognize that bias in myself and strive to be open-minded. I may require a fairly high level of proof by your standards, but unlike many of my fellow atheists, I haven’t written off miracles as being impossible or worthy of derision.

        Reply; I would hope not, but let’s suppose this situation. Let’s suppose God did miracles in the past to verify Christianity, and then decided to stop doing them as some cessationists hold to be true. Does that mean we can never have a reasonable belief about miracles in the past? Note that all the standards used to determine the reliability of a historical claim in the Gospels works with miracles. We even have extra-biblical sources saying Jesus did miracles.

        Roma: Personally, I think they would be quite right and intelligent to dismiss me. I have seen plenty of things in my lifetime that are mysterious, but I know the onus is on me to support my claim. If my position is correct and I am determined to demonstrate it, I can endeavor to find evidence and convince other people to study it with me.

        REply: Oh I understand skepticism, but there is unreasonable skepticism. I find there is a lack of openness too often. Lydia McGrew just wrote an excellent article on this if you’re interested.

        Roma: This is getting dangerously close to argumentum ad populum, and you’ve used this fallacy many times in our conversations. Perhaps you’d like to use a better argument in the future.

        Reply: Actually, it’s not. It’s saying that I find it incredible to think that everyone out there is lying or mistaken when we trust them on so many other claims, claims that could even land someone on death row.

        Roma: This is a weird argument. Why do people practice any against-the-grain religion? Being a Satanist in the American south can be extremely dangerous and isolating. Same with Islam in this current political climate, and yet people convert to it every day. What’s the benefit? Why become one?

        REply: There are a number of reasons. In American society, it can be cool and trendy for some to stand out. It is good to stick it to the man and such. Individualism is prized. In Islam, there can also be that tendency and heck, Muslims are often catered to today over here. We’re told to be tolerant and understanding. In the Middle East, being a Muslim helps you survive and being a Christian can get you killed.

        Originally with Islam, to become a Muslim, you got the big three that people want. You got power, you got sex, and you got wealth. For Christianity, you got nothing. You were ostracized by your culture and individualism itself was deviant. (Again, the problem is comparing it to our modern culture. The two are not similar enough.)

        Roma: I don’t know the answer, but people convert to fringe religions regardless of personal hardship all the time.

        REply: Christianity would only provide more hardship. The mystery religions could provide great relief.

        Roma: Yeah, imagine that. They were memorizing a text, something they could refer back to, fact check, and ensure that their memory isn’t drifting over time.

        REply; Not really. If anything, the text was checked by the oral tradition instead of the other way around. The text could be changed as well and was not considered as stable. Many of the Rhapsodies could likely not read. Consider reading Ion in the Platonic Dialogues.

        I’m not attempting to argue that people can’t or weren’t ever able to memorize things. Just that they don’t tend to transmit accurately through long periods of time or over generations without shifting.

      • Romathon Says:

        As I was writing my response, I found myself making familiar arguments yet again. Going in circles is easy when you have two very stubborn points of view, eh?

        My friend, I find you fascinating and intelligent, and I don’t understand you. I’ll put your recommendations on my reading list and maybe we’ll cross paths again when we have more to discuss.

        Apologia: Lydia McGrew just wrote an excellent article on this if you’re interested.

        Reply: Yes please, if you don’t mind.

        Thanks for all your time. 🙂

      • apologianick Says:

        http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/05/there_are_no_slippery_prior_pr.html#comment-292343

        Feel free to keep following my blog and the best place for debate is really still TheologyWeb.com.

  4. tbcgen0 Says:

    I won’t bother touching much of the mountain of text above…. But I’ve been reading some of the novel you two got into between Cold Case Christianity reviews and this. Just a link to some writing I found that covers one of the topics discussed above.

    Roma, you spoke about genocide in the Bible. I’m assuming there’s a presupposition there which means the Bible is inherently wrong because the killing of the people and the children.

    You also previously said you like WLC’s writing as opposed to his debating demeanor. I think this might be right at home for you, then. This is a link to an article about the slaughter of the canaanites and about the killing in the Bible. It’s a very good read.

    Just wanted to drop by with that, if either of you are still around.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

    • Romathon Says:

      Hi tbcgen, thanks for the read! I admit I am personally horrified by that logical deduction, but it’s interesting to read it all laid out so clearly.

      I didn’t mean to make any claims on the issue of whether genocide is wrong or not, just that genocide is in the bible. I argue it is, because it meets the dictionary definition of the word: “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.”

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