Posts Tagged ‘Richard Carrier’

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 15

February 19, 2014

Does naturalism have a good basis for a moral theory? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing with our look at Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier. Right now, we’re discussing moral theory. Again, I only wish to bring out a few highlights from the chapter of points that I find problematic.

On page 317, Carrier claims that homosexual sex on J.P. Moreland’s view is immoral when supposedly in reality, it harms no one and if you repress your desires, well that does lead to harm. (This would be news to several Christians I know who live happy lives despite having homosexual attractions they don’t act on. It would also be the same for those with heterosexual attractions they don’t act on.) Amusingly, on the same page he describes unsafe sex as risky behavior stating that immoral behavior is risky.

For the first part, I want to note immediately that Gatean Dugas is unavailable for comment. It is hard to have read a book like “And The Band Played On” about the spread of the AIDS epidemic in America (Note originaly it was called GRID, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) and not see that the behavior is risky. In fact, it is inherently risky. Homosexuals like Larry Kramer wrote about the problems in the homosexual community and others realized that the bathhouse culture opened itself up for numerous risks as most people did not follow “safe” procedures. If you go to the CDC web site today and look up STD’s, you’ll even find specific statements about homosexual sex.

By the way, if anyone wants to think my source for “And The Band Played On” is a homophobic bigot, keep in mind that Randy Stilts who wrote the book was himself a homosexual who died of AIDS.

Yet I also can’t wonder if it’s possible for sex to be risky even if all the “safe” procedures were followed. Could it be that cheap casual sex is also just as risky? Could there not be several psychological reasons for thinking that? For those who are interested in hearing such reasons, I recommend listening to my interview with Freda Bush on the hook-up culture available here.

Now I do agree with Carrier of course that immorality is bad for you, yet it is interesting to hear him say about people who are bad will live with some debilitating factor such as chronic anger or depression. He writes of how they will try to replace the hole in their lives with luxuries, distractions, etc. It will never be enough. The pleasures will be fleeting and they will never know the genuine happiness Carrier speaks of.

At this point, I’m surprised there isn’t an altar call in the book.

Now I do think of course that God has made us for Him, but I would say do not come to God because He will make you happy, though He will in the long-run to be sure. Come to Him because He is true. If you want a religion to bring you comfort and joy, well Christianity offers that, but it definitely promises suffering as well. What Christianity will also say is it is rooted in a historical reality.

So how does a naturalist account for value? (A term I would prefer not to use.) Carrier says “We merely place the highest authority, not the sole authority, in the findings of science.”

This is like the problem I expressed earlier about having a metal detector on the beach and not being able to find paper. What if these questions are not answered by science? If they are not, then science might be able to supplant another field, but it cannot do the work of that other field.

We are told that one could demonstrate that something is a good value for humans and therefore all ought to seek it since all human beings desire happiness. Why yes they do, but I find Carrier seems to have great faith in humanity and after the 20th century, I don’t share that great faith.

It would be great to say that if we all knew the facts, then we would know that these are good and we would all seek one another’s happiness, but does anyone really think that we would? Why should we? We in fact each know that most of the time, if it comes to choosing happiness, we choose our own over everyone else’s.

One of the great lessons learned in marriage is how you have to consistently sacrifice your happiness for someone else. Both persons in a marriage are expected to put the other one first. A husband might want to save up to buy himself something really nice, but he knows he needs to take his wife out to dinner. He might want to stay home and watch the game on TV, but she wants an evening on the town, so off he goes. A wife meanwhile might want to just stay home and watch TV, but she knows she needs to do the housework for her husband. She might not be exactly “in the mood” that evening, but she knows her husband desires sexual intimacy with her and so gives it. Both learn to sacrifice their good for that of the other, but it takes work.

I would furthermore love to see how Carrier would plan on sharing this insight with people in the Muslim community for instance. What happens if he meets any people who do not accept the findings of science supposedly? What does he do then?

Please note also that in all of this, there has not yet been a definition given of “good.”

When it comes to human nature, on page 328 we are told “it is obvious that in order to be called a ‘human’ one must possess certain qualities, therefore a ‘human nature’ exists. Q.E.D.”

Well sure, if you want to be included in group X, you must possess all the qualities of group X. Lions, tigers, and our little pet Shiro are all quite different, but somehow, all belong in the category of cat.

And humans are quite different. We have different races to us. We have different sizes. We have different personalities. We have different shapes. We have different sexes. Yet all of us possess this human nature.

The problem with Carrier’s position is that he states that we all have to possess these qualities. What qualities are they?

Your guess is as good as mine. They’re never listed. I suppose we have to take their existence by faith.

Now as a Christian, I would point out that we all have the image of God. We are endowed with rationality and the ability to choose the good and reject the evil. We could try to point to physical characteristics to establish our common bond, but they’re vastly different. We can’t even point to the 46 chromosomes in DNA since some people actually have a minutely different number. Those who have the 46 all have them quite differently.

Yet here’s a problem then. If we have no clear idea in naturalism of what these traits are, how can we say that we are all human? Could some not say others are not human? (This was done in Nazi Germany and is done today in the abortion industry.) Could that not in fact give us an excuse to exterminate those that do not fit the bill?

And if we value equality so much, then how is it that we can have a basis for equality in our society if in fact there is nothing that is truly equal about us?

Oh. Speaking of abortions, perhaps some readers would like this quote on page 329.

“And a newborn baby, deserving even greater compassion and respect, has more value than any animal on Earth, with the possible exception of adult apes or dolphins (or, perhaps, elephants.)”

So this newborn baby would possess this human nature, but apparently their human nature is not as special as elephant or dolphin nature. What exactly makes it less special? Who knows! If you think I’m not representing this fairly, just look at what is on the next page when Carrier speaks about Koko, the gorilla who supposedly understands much sign language.

“If in a dire circumstance I had to choose between saving Koko and saving a newborn human baby, it would be hard to justify saving the baby–only the baby’s value to someone else, and it’s potential to develop into a fully-effective human being, would weigh against Koko.”

Here we see where the problem will come from. How will Carrier determine what a fully-effective human being is? Recently, Boghossian has written about faith being seen as a contagion and how it needs to be listed as a mental condition. What would stop Carrier from seeing people of faith the same way as people carrying a disease and thus not being “fully-effective human beings.”?

We have a position similar to that of Animal Farm. All humans are equal, but some are more equal than others!

Carrier goes on to say that “The loss of a human being is a truly profound loss to the entire universe, and the development of a human mind is the greatest, most marvelous thing the universe may ever realize. But more importantly, each human shares our awareness of being, our understanding, our capacity for perceiving happiness and agreeing to help each other achieve it.”

Keep in mind that on page 259, Carrier said

“it is theism that often encourages arrogance, making man the center of the universe, exaggerating his importance in the grand scheme of things.”

Looks to me like atheism is doing a good job of it as well.

So which is it? Is it that theism is wrong when it does this but atheism is not when it does the exact same thing?

Carrier’s great faith however in humanity comes out even more on page 336.

“We tell the Nazis that his beliefs, like that Jews are not human beings and that they are plotting to take over the world, are factually false, and therefore his morals regarding Jews are in error. We also tell the Nazi that even if his belief that Jews are not human beings were true, it does not logically follow that their lives have no value, since nonhumans (even nonliving things) can have value and the special value assigned to human beings is not based on their species but on qualities they can in principle share with other species and that, as a matter of fact, Nazis clearly share with Jews, even if Jews really were a distinct species.”

Geez. I wonder why we didn’t try that! It’s all so simple! Just sit down and explain to Hitler the error of his ways and before too long, the Nazis will be out there turning their guns and tanks into plowshares and attending Bar Mitzvahs with their new friends!

Next we come to the topic of defining good and evil! It’s about time! So I got to this section eagerly looking forward to what was to be said.

I was disappointed. I was told that evil is a word used to refer to anything causing injury or harm. The good is the opposite.

This kind of definition would require much qualification.

The police officer no doubt harms the criminal when he puts a bullet through his skull, but many of us would recognize situations where this is justifiable, save for the most staunch pacifist out there.

The refrigeration industry in American history brought great harm to the ice industry. Several people in that business lost their jobs. We could say the same about what the automobile industry did to the horse industry. This caused harm. A surgeon will cause harm to his patient. (As one who went through Scoliosis surgery, I can assure you it does not feel pleasant!)

Further, some things we can think are beneficial are not. The example that springs readily to mind is the boy who decides to help a butterfly escape from its container by poking a hole in it with a pencil. The boy doesn’t know that the butterfly needing to break out assures it gets the strength this way to survive. By helping it, the boy has killed it. We can also picture giving a lollipop to a small child, an otherwise benign act (Except perhaps to a dentist), not realizing that the child is a diabetic.

And we could ask about helping people, helping them to what and to what end? What is the ultimate one good at the end? Is it happiness? If so, does this not imply a teleology, the very thing that Carrier’s system goes against since that is a principle of intelligent design from the outside? (Note by intelligent design, I do not mean in the mechanistic sense as in the modern ID movement).

Carrier also says that something would be good or evil regardless of what a society says, but that good and evil are defined by human convention. How could this work? What happens if two societies disagree? Who decides which one is right? How is this decided? We can say “We use science to determine this!” Let’s suppose the other society does not think science is the way to determine this. Why should the society that thinks otherwise automatically have to give in to the position that most Westerners hold to?

Finally, I wish to comment on the views of Jesus that Carrier presents. Carrier says that Jesus would have people rob and beat us. (Matthew 5:38-42). This is a common view of the turning of the other cheek, but it is false. The position described is a slap of the face which would not be a brutal attack, but would be an insult. It would also take place privately. Jesus is telling us then that in the private sphere, don’t try to outdo someone on insults and one-up them. Instead, leave the vengeance to God. Trying to outdo them only increases the cycle of evil. Of course, this does not apply in the public sphere where one’s honor would be at stake and it does not apply in the case of an actual attack.

He also says that we should forgive a criminal 539 times. (I have never read that number in the Gospels in the parable of the unforgiving servant.) To this we ask, why shouldn’t we? If someone comes and asks forgiveness, release them from the debt. This does not mean there are never any consequences, but it means you do not hold a grudge.

Finally, he points to Jesus telling the rich young man to sell all he has and give to the poor. Indeed, he did, because this rich young man placed all his joy in his riches. It was what was separating him from eternal life. For several of us, it could be something else entirely.

Carrier says Jesus holds these to be moral positions and says “But we hold that these are at best supermoral, and that it is immoral to expect such behavior from anyone.” Earlier he says “Evangelical Christians like Moreland would have us believe that early-term abortion or homosexual sex are immoral. But we hold they are not.”

So again we have the problem. Carrier’s view will say “We hold this and we are the enlightened ones.” Again, why should I agree with him? I already see that he can determine degrees of value for human beings so why think that more and more he will not choose to value those who are more like him than anyone else?

In fact, it’s human nature for us to tend to do that as I dare say we all to some extent do that. Carrier seems to have great faith in the goodness of humanity. I don’t see that on the evening news. I instead have great evidence that humanity has great potential to do evil and we willingly use that potential every day. I do not see our problem as simple ignorance of facts. Our problem is as Scripture says, our hearts. They are wicked.

Perhaps the prophets are right. What we need is not just new knowledge, which is good, but new hearts.

And somehow, I think you need God for that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 14

February 18, 2014

How does Secular Humanism compare to Christian theism on morality? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing our look at Richard Carrier’s book “Sense and Goodness Without God.” Any book wanting to give a full view of atheism will have to cover morality, especially one that claims to have goodness without God. So today we’re going to be looking at those sections.

Much of this section has Carrier critiquing J.P. Moreland, to which I doubt Moreland is paying attention. Why should he? There are several ins and outs that I have no desire to get into, but I do want to get into some broader overlapping concerns.

Let’s start also with dealing with a common misunderstanding. No one is saying atheists cannot be good people. No one is saying you have to believe in God to be a good person. No one is saying you have to know that God exists to know the difference between right and wrong. These are common objections brought forward against the moral arguments that I have never heard any defender of such arguments use.

The moral argument instead argues that if there is no God, there is no foundation for moral truth claims. Now this argument is either right or wrong, but let us please be clear on what the argument is. This is not about any one person’s morality.

To begin with, on the Biblical front, it is amazing that the writer who spoke about using the principle of charity wants so much to speak about ideas in the Bible that he thinks are abhorrent, which is the usual argument from outrage. “God does something I don’t like, therefore He’s not real.” There is never an attempt to look at the culture and social context and see what is going on. “Well I don’t need to do that! It’s just obvious it’s wrong!” If you’re sure your case is right, you should have no hesitancy to look at further arguments. After all, suppose you met someone who said “I don’t need to look at evolutionary theory! It’s just obviously wrong!” Such a person would be seen as close-minded.

I suspect the major difference is that one area is science and one area isn’t. This could be a shock to some readers, but you can actually know things apart from the sciences. Yeah. Simply amazing thought isn’t it?

So what are some objections?

The first is picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Now why was this punishable? The reason is that the Law had already been stipulated. If you work on the Sabbath, you are to die. Israel had already agreed to this Law. This man doing this was in fact acting in defiance of the covenant and acting in such a way in a society built around the covenant was in fact an act of treason and if left unchecked, would lead to disaster for the whole community as the patron, YHWH in this case, would withdraw His blessings.

Also included is profanity as a cause of execution, yet the passage cited is not about profanity but about blasphemy. Carrier might think it odd to execute someone for words, but even in our society today, if you even made a joke that hinted at killing the president, the Secret Service would be knocking on your door before too long.

Blasphemy in this case again involves a severe treasonous offense against the good of the community.

Carrier also says Jesus is never said to have laughed. Apparently, this is a good argument against Jesus laughing. In other news, Jesus is never said to have used the bathroom, so obviously, Jesus never had to go to the bathroom. There is a reason arguments from silence are weak.

Finally, Jesus was apparently not a peace-loving man due to Matthew 10:33-36 and not restraining Himself from violence in the marketplace.

“33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”

Carrier ignores that the passage is about what it means to be a follower of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is to be your first priority and if you accept the message of Jesus and your family doesn’t, you will be on the outs with your family. This is not saying Jesus supports this. It is not saying He endorses it. It is not saying He desires family division. It is a simple reality of the statement.

As for Jesus’s cleansing of the temple, this is an action that would have been understood by His contemporaries as a judgment on the temple. It also would have involved the wrongful use of the temple which was the sacred space of YHWH.

On page 303 Carrier also speaks about how moral our society is.

“In fact, when we look objectively at history, Americans are more moral as a society today than any society at any time ever in human history, apart from our free democratic cousins around the world, who tend to be far less religious than we, yet somehow enjoy far lower rates of crime, and sometime even greater economic equity and social justice, contrary to the very thesis Moreland is defending. But focusing solely on America, what do we really see? We see an amazingly progressive culture that has crawled out of an age of violent expansion and bigotry, and is starting to show incredible promise as an enlightened society.”

Try to watch the evening news tonight and keep this in mind.

Yes. Our society is so much moral. So how many school shootings did we have fifty years ago? How many cases of single mothers did we have? How high was the divorce rate? How many STDs were going around? How many people were living in poverty? How many murders were taking place?

As for these other places, David Marshall has done some excellent looking into the topic especially since he has debated Phil Zuckerman on this. I was thinking of linking to one article, but since there are several, I will include a link to the search I did for Zuckerman that you can peruse here.

One aspect to be considered is one should compare the societies not with others, but with themselves. How do they look by that comparison? How do Sweden and Denmark look compared to where they were, say, thirty years ago. How will they look thirty years from now?

Too often, we make long-term conclusions on short-term data. We take a little bit and look at how things work in the short-term and say “See! It will be fine in the long-term.” It doesn’t follow. Many ideas we need at least a generation to test their effects.

So for now, that will be it and keep in mind, we are coming into the final stretch of this book and already, I have another project in the works that I shared with my pastor as well who is quite excited about it. Be prepared!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 13

February 11, 2014

What is one of the worst arguments you will ever read? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we continue our look at Richard Carrier’s book, we will come to what I think has to be one of the worst arguments out there for atheism. As one of my friends told me when I shared this argument “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”

On page 273, Carrier says “Since there is no observable divine hand in nature as a causal process, it is reasonable to conclude that there is no divine hand. After all, that there are no blue monkeys flying out of my butt is sufficient reason to believe there are no such creatures, and so it is with anything else.”

Yes. That is an actual quote.

Question. Does anyone want to live in a world where the only things that exist are things that are flying out of Richard Carrier’s butt?

I don’t think so.

It’s hard to believe that this is being used as an argument but alas, it is.

Carrier goes on on the next page to give more of his favorite argument style which is “I would not create a universe this way. Surely an all-knowing God would also not create the universe this way. Therefore, an all-knowing God did not create the universe.” This argument will work if you assume Carrier is a person of supreme intelligence who’s highly capable of creating universes on his own. Other than that, it’s not impressive at all.

Carrier also says he would make it a law of the universe that if you did good, you got rewarded and things went better and if you did evil, you suffered. This sounds good at the start, but now we have a problem. We are usually told that atheists condemn Christianity because you are rewarded for being good. Why would Carrier’s universe not be any different?

Let’s consider two situations. Person A is a Christian in this universe and person B is a person who is an atheist in Carrier’s universe.

A: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want to have a good reward in Heaven after all!

B: Sure. I’ll help that little old lady across the street. I want the universe to be good to me after all!

What we could start asking ourselves at this point is either person really doing good? Does either person really care about the little old lady, or is each one of them merely looking out for their own self-interests? If that is the case, then are they really doing a good activity?

Now to be sure, I think we should be doing good activities even if we don’t always have good motives. Many of the times we do the good even if we don’t want to or don’t feel like it because we know that that will eventually help us build up the good attitudes that we ought to have.

Carrier’s universe is one where anyone could see results in this life for doing good deeds. Thus, the majority of people would be doing good deeds simply for the benefit of getting ahead. Everyone would be acting out of self-interest instead of focus on others. In what way would we consider this a good universe? Do you want to live in a universe where people help you because they think it is just the right thing to do and that your cause is a good one, or do you want to live in one where your being helped is a means to someone else’s desires being fulfilled? In some ways, we could say that you are being treated as if you were being raped.

In fact, Lewis long ago in the Problem of Pain wrote about what kind of chaos we would live in in a world where people could not do evil. I suspect he would have something similar to say about the universe of Carrier.

Carrier also says God cannot blame him for being an unbeliever if millions of Jews got to see miracles all the time and Carrier never gets to. Yet I wonder where did millions of Jews get to see this all the time? We only know of three periods in Israel’s history according to Scripture where miracles were abundant.

The first was the Exodus.

The second was the time of Elijah and Elisha.

The third was the time of Christ and the apostolic age.

Want to guess what the mindset of most of the people was in these times?

If you guessed, unbelief, move to the head of the class.

And keep in mind, most atheists when given any evidence of a miracle will just dismiss it. Even Peter Boghossian in his book says that if all the stars in the sky spelled out a message from God and everyone else saw it in their own language, that MIGHT be suggestive. He could still be experiencing a delusion.

If Carrier does not want to believe in Christianity, he will more than readily find any excuse.

And as most of us know when confronted with excuses, they don’t convince.

Carrier also says a perfect being would not create an imperfect universe.

Why?

Seriously. Why?

To begin with, can a universe be perfect? Especially since in an Aristotlean sense, matter is always in a state of flux and thus, always has potential, and thus, can always change. That which is perfect cannot change can it?

Of course, this could be a problem for Carrier since he never defines perfect. As it stands, I have long argued that in fact God created the universe imperfect because He knew that man would fall so why create it perfect from the get-go?

On page 280, we start getting into one of the biggest problems I have with pop Christianity today. That is the idea that God is supposed to be your bud, your pal.

No. No He’s not.

He’s supposed to be your Lord and King. We have too often made a kind of “Buddy Jesus” which has not built us up any in discipleship, but rather lowered God down. It is this kind of belief system that makes so many of us treat God so lightly instead of with reverence and awe.

Carrier does say on 281 that if his children asked him to butt out, he would.

Well God is doing for Carrier exactly the same thing. If Carrier doesn’t want God to be a part of his life and will argue against him, he’ll get what he wants. I also suspect that’s why miracles don’t get as much attention here in America as they do elsewhere. We’ve asked God to butt out.

I also wish to point out that on page 282, we are told that if anything needs ridiculous contrivances to defend it, it is not likely to be true.

These are ridiculous contrivances like the argument from flying monkeys and the argument from big boobs. Carrier actually made an argument against God based on women having large breasts? Yes he did. If you need to see that, just look here.

I contend that because of this, atheism is not likely to be true.

So we end this chapter with Carrier asking that if his presentation has not been convincing, what would be?

Well for starters, a detailed refutation of all the theistic arguments and why they fail and then a better explanation for the existing of the universe.

As it stands, in all of this chapter, not once are theistic arguments argued with. Not once.

So when we continue this series again, we’ll be looking at morality.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 12

February 4, 2014

Does Carrier give us any good reasons to be godless? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through Carrier’s book, but it’s time to continue. This time, we’re going to at least start a look at his reasons to be godless. Carrier starts off with his conclusion that God doesn’t exist based on years of study and investigation and examining all the evidence of every argument presented in its defense.

All of them? Every single piece of evidence for every single argument?

So that means that for proponents of Intelligent Design, for instance, Carrier has read every book, every article, and heard every lecture on the topic?

That for Craig’s Kalam argument, Carrier has also done the same with that one?

For Aquinas’s five ways, that Carrier has read every book and philosophical treatise on the topic?

Well aside from this unbelievable claim right at the start, I can inform you I went into this chapter eager to receive a good argument against the positions that I normally use. So therefore I set out to find a refutation in there against the five ways of Aquinas.

Which weren’t covered….

Well, maybe those just aren’t commonly used as much! Let’s look at the argument that Bill Craig uses, the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Which also isn’t covered….

Could it be he deals with the ontological argument? I don’t like that argument, but Plantinga and Craig both like it. I think it’s fallacious, but it’s an important one that philosophers have had something to say about. Surely that’s there.

And no, it isn’t….

Well definitely the argument from morality! He has a chapter on morality later on. Surely there’s an argument at least here.

And again, there’s nothing….

I consider it quite important that a chapter claiming to show that there is no God at all does not argue with any of the arguments put forward. It’s just a statement of faith.

Would anyone find it convincing if I wrote a book and said “Some people make strong arguments that God doesn’t exist. Reality is, He does. I know this because I studied every argument against His existence and every piece of evidence used and found them all lacking.”

If you were convinced by that, shame on you.

On page 254, we also have a howler with him talking about religious claims and saying that they all believe love has something to do with the meaning of life. “On virtually everything else they disagree–so virtually everything else is probably false.”

It’s because of statements like this that philosophers everywhere should cringe when Carrier describes himself as one.

For instance, classical Buddhism is atheistic. Christianity is theistic. Since virtually everything else is probably false aside from love, we can assume theism is false, but we can also assume that atheism is false.

Islam says that you should kill the infidels wherever you find them. Christianity says you should love your enemies and forgive them. Neither of these have to do with the meaning of life, so both of these claims are probably false.

We don’t even have to stay there. Let’s go to worldviews.

Christianity and atheism both agree that there is a material world, but on everything else they disagree, so every other position is probably false. Therefore, again, atheism and theism are both false by Carrier’s argument.

More examples could surely be given.

On pages 254-5, we are told that atheism is simply a way of saying you lack God belief, but this does not work. Let’s consider for the sake of argument that God does exist. (Yes. Atheists reading this blog please try this thought experiment.)

By this standard, theism is true.

Now if atheism is lacking God-belief, then well, there are still atheists out there.

But in Greek, the a in front of a word is the negation of it.

Therefore, theism and atheism can be both be true. One claim and its contradiction are both true. In order to hold Carrier’s view, you have to deny the Law of Noncontradiction then.

Also, quite problematic is that the atheist is then seeking to make a statement not about reality but about their personal beliefs. If that’s all it is, why should I care? This atheism cannot be refuted because after all, you cannot refute one’s psychology in this sense. If I come to you and I say “I’m depressed today,” you can’t say “No you’re not! You feel great!” You don’t argue against the feeling. You argue against why I feel that way.

Yet despite this claim, Carrier does say he denies the existence of God as on this page he has the argument of “believers deny the existence of hundreds of gods. I just go one god further.”

“Gentlemen of the jury! You believe several persons in this room did not commit the murder. I just ask that you look at my client and go one person further!”

I happen to look at Carrier’s work and realize he rejects many views of atheistic cosmology. Unlike him, I just go one view further.

The same applies to views of atheistic morality.

On 257 Carrier says that there is no reason to think that God would need billions of years and trillions of galaxies to work his purpose, but that is what we’d expect in a godless universe.

How can we make this comparison though? We have no other universes we know of that we can compare to to say this is the kind of universe a god would create and this isn’t one? This is the way a universe will naturally run and this is an example of a universe that did not naturally run! The only way a comparative statement can be made is if there are two things to compare, and there aren’t.

On this page also, we see him argue that if he was God, he would give clear evidence, and yet he doesn’t see that, and since Carrier could not be better intentioned than God, then it follows that God does not exist.

There’s something amusing about making an argument against God based on what you’d do.

Let’s look at this claim of clear evidence.

There are many claims that we often think are quite clear and some people still deny. I think it’s clear that the material world exists. Some people deny it. Most of us would say it’s clear that other minds exist, but yet Solipsists exist. I would say it’s clear that it’s wrong to torture babies for fun, but yet moral relativists exist. Carrier and I would both agree that truth exists, but yet so do postmoderns who deny objective moral truths exist.

Basically, there are arguments to believe anything and while some people want to believe in God for emotional reasons, there are also emotional reasons some would have for not believing in God, such as anger at growing up in a highly fundamentalist home, personal evil in one’s life, or not wanting to believe in God so you can keep having sex with your girlfriend.

Now we’ll move on to some of Carrier’s complaints about religious texts, starting with the Bible, which is the only one we’ll cover. Leave it to others to defend their holy books.

We’ll start with Deut. 13:6-11. (Carrier mistakenly says it’s only 8-10)

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

Carrier might want to know we still treat treason seriously in this country. In Israelite society, they did too. They were under a covenant relationship with YHWH and to have someone come and move them away from that relationship would spell disaster for the populace. (As we see in their judgment later on.) Carrier will need to say more than “I don’t like this.”

“The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.”

This is Psalm 14:1 and yet Carrier does not consider that this is hyperbole. (Keep in mind at the beginning of the book, Carrier said you should read his own works with charity. Apparently, you are to do as he says, not as he does.) Had Carrier read the Psalm, he would have known that the Psalmist was not just describing atheists, but he was describing EVERYONE! He was saying all are corrupt and none do good. This is the way that Jews often thought. We can do the same when we get depressed and think about our problems and say things like “No one cares about me.”

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

This is one of the most often quoted passages by atheists and one misunderstood. It occurs to no one apparently that Jesus’s own followers had families whom they loved and according to Paul in 1 Cor. 9, many apostles took their wives with them on their journey.

So what is being said? It is a comparative statement. Your family is certainly a great and important reality in your life, but if you put it above the Kingdom of God, you are not going to be worthy of the Kingdom. The Kingdom must be your first priority.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18.

“49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49-50.

What of it? God is a God who judges. (Note I do of course contest that Mark 16:16 was part of the original writing) For Carrier to show that it is wrong for God to do this, he will need a better argument than “I don’t like it.”

Carrier goes on to state that since there is a threat delivered, it must be a wicked belief, because threats are the hallmark of a wicked creed. I suppose we must say the military has a wicked creed when they deliver a deadline to an enemy. A parent must have a wicked creed when they tell a child they will be spanked if they do something. Police must have a wicked creed if they warn someone about the consequences of their actions under the law.

Carrier says that Christianity started to flourish in 313 A.D. after the Edict of Milan. I would like to know how it even got to that point. It’s quite interesting to hear that Christianity was one of the most intolerant religions in history.

Why does Carrier say that? Because Christians denied the existence of the Roman gods and said there was only one God and he had revealed Himself in Christ. In other words, the Christians were killed for being intolerant.

It’s quite amusing isn’t it to read about people killing other people because those killed were not being tolerant….

Rome itself obviously was not tolerant since they could not handle dissent. (Where would Carrier find himself in Rome since he denies the existence of all gods? Would he be suddenly complaining that the Romans weren’t intolerant.) Yet Carrier sees Rome killing the Christians and decides that the Christians brought it upon themselves. It never seems to occur to him that maybe the people who were doing the killing were not the tolerant ones.

And Rome would have no problem with other gods, provided you included them in the Roman pantheon and still did your service to the emperor. Step outside of that and all of a sudden, you are not going to be tolerated. As has been said before, tolerance is always a one-way street.

Carrier says on page 266 that salvation belongs only to those who have faith in Christ is the very heart of New Testament teaching.)

Don’t get me wrong on this. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is indeed an important teaching, but it is not the heart of the NT. It is a result of another teaching. That is the teaching that Jesus is the resurrected king of this universe. Trusting in Him for salvation is a result of having that prior belief. Does Carrier really know the NT he claims to critique?

Well that’s enough for now. Next time we’ll look further at Carrier’s reasons to be godless.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 11

January 15, 2014

Can a compelling case be made for prophecy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not a fan of prophecy ministries.

Really. I’m not.

My position as I have said is a Preterist of the orthodox variety which I have defended here and my reasons for Preterism itself can be found here.

So when I see many prophecy ministries that focus on what is going on in Israel today and who is the next target to be the antichrist, I really can’t take them seriously at all. So many prophecy books will be gathering dust in the back of Christian bookstores soon, but their writers have already cashed in and will write again on the next topic.

For all these prophecy experts, it’d be nice to see them get something right.

So when Carrier critiques prophecy, in many cases, I agree. Yet not in all. I do admit the Bible contains prophecy, though I don’t think it necessarily had the distant distant future in mind. I do think the coming of Christ was prophesied and Jesus is a fulfillment of the Scriptures. Yet I try to be very conservative with that.

One point Carrier brings out I find quite odd is the idea of selection bias. Maybe the Jews just chose those books that happened to have fulfilled prophecies in them and threw away the ones that didn’t.

This is a proposition without evidence. If Carrier wants to say this is a possibility, well that’s fine, but do we have any evidence this possibility took place? Besides, if the Jews were wanting to improve their image, they could do any number of things, such as write a detailed prophecy after the fact. (And to be fair, many think that happened in a book like Daniel) They could also clean up their own image in their sacred books. Why would someone have sacred books that regularly recorded their own failures if they were trying to make themselves look good?

Now Carrier says one of the best cited prophecies is the destruction of Tyre prophesied in Ezekiel. Now it could be, but I honestly rarely see this one used. I suppose most Christians would instead look at prophecy fulfillment in the life of Jesus.

Carrier tells us Ezekiel was likely producing propaganda to get on the good side of Nebuchadnezzar. Does he have evidence of this? Does he really think King Nebby was going to be paying attention to a lone priest out in the area preaching to the people? Carrier also tells us that Ezekiel could likely have intelligence about the king’s plans to attack Tyre. These are a lot of coulds, but there is no evidence given for them.

Note also that in Ezekiel 26:3 we are told that many nations will rise up against Tyre. Babylon is just one nation and is just the start. Babylon wore Tyre down a good deal, but did not conquer, hence Ezekiel 29:18. Babylon did a lot of work, but got no reward. The final victory would not be theirs. (And by the way, if this prophecy was shown to be wrong supposedly in the book, wouldn’t this one have been retracted per Carrier’s theory?)

Instead, who did destroy the city? Alexander the Great, and did so with the people of many nations in his army. Of course, Tyre did become something again later on, but did not reach its past glory that it had. The prophecy has language of hyperbole to be sure, and part of the problem with many people reading texts like this, atheists and Christians both, is a wooden literalism. The irony is that atheists often condemn Christians for this and then do the exact same thing.

Now if I was to point to a prophecy, I’d point to Daniel 9 and Matthew 24. For those interested in those prophecies, I highly recommend The Preterist Podcast by my good friend DeeDee Warren. You will find the most extensive look at Matthew 24 there and Daniel 9 is her next project.

Next time we discuss matters, it will be Carrier’s case for atheism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 10

January 14, 2014

Why do I not buy Carrier’s “refutation” of the resurrection story? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As we continue through Richard Carrier’s “Sense and Goodness Without God” we come to a favorite piece of mine. In this, Carrier compares the evidence for the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar to that of the evidence for the resurrection.

Now to be sure, I am not making any claim about the quality of the evidence for Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 B.C. I am simply looking at Carrier’s argument to see if it holds up or not and I contend that it does not.

So what are the points? Carrier’s first is that this event is a physical necessity. Rome’s history would not go as it had without it. Yet is this the case? Caesar did have to move his troops into Italy of course, but did he have to cross the Rubicon? We can say that would be the most convenient way to do so, but it was not the only way that it could have happened.

Carrier says all that is needed to explain Christianity is a belief, but this is not the case. Of course one would need to believe in a resurrection, but what events would have to happen for there to be a belief in the resurrection?

First, you would need a historical Jesus, which Carrier does not accept

Second, you need to have it known that he died.

Third, you need something to explain that this death was not the end.

This isn’t even counting all the social factors that go into play with Christianity.

The next piece Carrier points to is physical evidence. To begin with, what kind of physical evidence does Carrier want to see? He really thinks the evidence for a crucified Jew in Palestine should be compared to that of a major event by Julius Caesar?

Well actually, we do have some physical evidence. We do in fact have documents. We have the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, Acts, and of course the rest of the New Testament. We also have writings outside of the NT such as Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius, etc.

We also have the claim that the tomb was empty, which would be a physical claim that could be checked, and the claim that one could talk to eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the risen Jesus. Carrier also says it has been proven the Shroud of Turin is a forgery. Unfortunately, he does not say by who or when this was done. Perhaps he wants me to take it by faith.

Carrier also says we have unbiased or counterbiased corroboration for Caesar. Well not really. His enemies could attest to this in fact to show that Caesar was a threat. It is also interesting that Carrier says we have unbiased sources when he says his friends wrote about it. How are those unbiased?

Yet what does he expect for the resurrection? Obviously, if someone believes Jesus was raised, then they are going to be biased. Who will write a testimony saying Jesus was raised and still reject Christianity in Jesus’s day? (I say then because today, Pinchas Lapides is a Jew who holds that Jesus was raised but does not believe He was the Messiah.)

On the other hand, if someone writes against the resurrection, we can just as well say they are biased. The resurrection would focus on the claims Jesus made for Himself so you could not approach the subject or speak about it without some bias.

The fourth one is my favorite. In this, Carrier says the crossing of the Rubicon appears in almost every history of the age, and this is by the most prominent scholars. Who are these guys? Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, and Plutarch.

What about the resurrection? It’s not mentioned until two to three centuries later. There’s also the point that the ones who wrote about the Rubicon were quite scholarly and show a wide range of reading and citation of sources, whereas the historians of Christianity in the first century did not.

Yes. Paul was definitely a slouch in scholarship. Only trained under the best of his time and his writing shows a great skill in Greco-Roman rhetoric and argumentation.

Also, the Gospels do cite eyewitnesses in their own way. For an example, in Mark’s Gospel, Peter is the first and last disciple mentioned. What’s the point of this? It shows it’s an inclusio account whereby Peter is thus known to be the source. Aspects like this can be found in “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham.

But what’s most interesting about this is the fact of every scholar of the age. Let’s use a site like this.

Here we find Suetonius was born in 71 A.D. At the start, this puts us at 120 years+. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Suetonius waits until he’s 30 to begin writing. That would mean this reliable account is 150+ years later.

Appian?

He was born in 95 A.D. That puts us at 144 years+. Let’s suppose he waited until the age of 30, and it’s more likely he waited until later. If we give 30, then that means he wrote 174+ years later.

Cassius Dio? He was born in 164. This puts at at 213 years+. He started writing the Roman Histories at the earliest in 211. That puts us at 260 years+.

Someone had said something about the accounts of the resurrection being two to three centuries later….

But strangely enough, Cassius Dio two to three centuries later is okay.

Plutarch would be the earliest being born in 46 A.D., but this puts us at 95 years+ and if he waits till thirty, well that’s 125 years+.

That means not ONE of these sources could have talked to an eyewitness of the event. Not one of them was a contemporary of Caesar either. Not one of them would have been a firsthand account.

And yet they’re all accepted.

And you know what? I have no problem with that. That’s the way ancient history is done, but when Carrier gives these names, he doesn’t tell the audience when these people lived and wrote. It’s a double-standard.

The final piece of evidence is that apparently, we have Caesar’s own words. Unfortunately, we have no such statement of “I crossed the Rubicon” or “I crossed the river” that I know of in relation to this event. So how do we have Caesar’s own words?

Carrier then says we don’t have any writings of Jesus. This is true. We also don’t have writings of Socrates. As is pointed out in “The Lost World of Scripture” most teachers did not write out their works. Instead, they left it to their disciples. Most teachers also did not care for writing their works since they feared their works could be misunderstood. For those interested in where to find information on this, see here and here.

Carrier also says the names of the Gospels were applied later and on questionable grounds. What were these grounds? Well he doesn’t tell us. Here you can listen to Tim McGrew answering this question and if one is interested in charges of forgery, go here.

Carrier also says Paul saw Jesus in a vision. Evidence of this given? None. Of course, if Jesus did not rise, it would have to be a vision, but what if He did rise? And further, did Paul really think He had just had a vision, or did he think that Jesus physically appeared to him?

In the end, I conclude that Carrier’s argument is just based on false assumptions all throughout and at times, not entirely honest.

We’ll wrap up on history next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 9

January 10, 2014

Can miracles work with the historical method? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re going to return today to our look at Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God. This one will largely focus on history.

Carrier chooses to look at a number of miracles. The first is the rain of Marcus Aurelius. Let’s look at some statements.

Carrier says it is incredible that there would be Christians in the army, let alone an entire legion of them, but saying something is incredible is not the same as showing that it is. In fact, we do have testimony from church history of Christians in the army.

Let’s start with Eusebius.

8. This persecution began with the brethren in the army. But as if without sensibility, we were not eager to make the Deity favorable and propitious; and some, like atheists, thought that our affairs were unheeded and ungoverned; and thus we added one wickedness to another.
324
And those esteemed our shepherds, casting aside the bond of piety, were excited to conflicts with one another, and did nothing else than heap up strifes and threats and jealousy and enmity and hatred toward each other, like tyrants eagerly endeavoring to assert their power. Then, truly, according to the word of Jeremiah, “The Lord in his wrath darkened the daughter of Zion, and cast down the glory of Israel from heaven to earth, and remembered not his foot-stool in the day of his anger. The Lord also overwhelmed all the beautiful things of Israel, and threw down all his strongholds.”

Here we have testimony from Eusebius that there were in fact Christians in the army.

We can go further here.

Others passed through different conflicts. Thus one, while those around pressed him on by force and dragged him to the abominable and impure sacrifices, was dismissed as if he had sacrificed, though he had not. Another, though he had not approached at all, nor touched any polluted thing, when others said that he had sacrificed, went away, bearing the accusation in silence.

Now the situation in all of this is that the Roman army was running out of water and needed the rain in the face of the enemy and the Christians prayed causing rain to come and a storm routed out the enemy. There is no reason to question the rain and storm came. There is a monument depicting that that is soon after the event by the emperor himself. Christians at the time said a Christian legion prayed. Others said it was Egyptian magic.

Which is it? I couldn’t tell you honestly. I wouldn’t even rule out magic if you could show some evidence for it. Is it any shock though that the emperor would attribute it to Jupiter? The emperor is going to defend his honor and he has the power to shape the story the way he thinks it should be shaped as well. Will he go with a belief with honor or a belief with dishonor?

Also discussed is the healing of Vespasian. Again, I have no problem with saying this healing could happen. Yet there is a problem here. The healing took place in Alexandria where Vespasian healed a blind man by spitting on his eyes. What is not mentioned normally is that even the doctors were not convinced the man who was healed was fully blind. Also, the healing took place in Alexandria whose patron deity was Serapis. Wanna guess what one of the first cities was to endorse Vespasian on the throne? If you guessed Alexandria, give yourself bonus points. They had something to gain from this.

Moving on, when we get to Carrier on historical methodology, I do agree with much of what Carrier says. He starts with textual analysis making sure the document is handed down accurately. I agree. He also says this on page 237.

We must ascertain what the author meant, which requires a thorough understanding of the language as it was spoken and written in that time and place, as well as a thorough grasp of the historical, cultural, political, social, and religious context in which it was written, since all of this would be on the mind of both author and reader, and would illuminate, motivate, or affect what was written.

I find this highly agreeable. I just wish Carrier would do this. As we see later on when we see his view on certain biblical passages, he doesn’t. In fact, this is advice I would give to atheists wanting to understand the text, and of course to Christians. Both groups consist of fundamentalists who too often read a modern American context onto the text.

The second recommendation of Carrier is

always ask for the primary sources of a claim you find incredible. Many modern scholars will still get details wrong or omit important context or simply lie.

I would hesitate to say a modern scholar is lying. One needs really good evidence to make an accusation of moral turpitude. It’s important to also realize that sharing information that is false is not the same as lying. Sharing information as true you KNOW to be false is lying. I also would disagree at the start. Don’t ask for primary sources on claims you find incredible. Ask for primary sources on any historical claim!

Carrier also says the historian must try to gather all the evidence and not just rely on one item. I agree. Of course, one could never truly say they’ve examined ALL the evidence, but one must try to find as much as they can.

Carrier also gives characteristics of a good explanation.

First, it has explanatory scope. It explains more facts than other explanations. I have no problem with this.

Second, explanatory power. This means the explanation will make the facts more likely than any other.

Third is plausibility. It is historically reasonable that such a thing happened, which Carrier wishes to add even if it was improbable.

Fourth is ad hocness. It will rely on fewer undemonstrated sources. Most theories will have some aspects that are ad hoc, but not entirely. The fewer, the better.

Fifth, it fits the evidence. It will not contradict other facts that we know about the event and the context.

I have no problem with these.

Next time, we’ll get to see some of this at work as Carrier deals with the claim that the resurrection has more evidence than the crossing of the Rubicon. It is my plan to finish this chapter on that and move on then, but it is a lengthy section so I will save it for the next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God: Part 8

January 1, 2014

Is there a place for the paranormal? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re returning now to Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier. I’m skipping over a couple of chapters because there’s not much I really want to cover in them other than some minor details. I’d just say on the chapter of reason that I trust in reason because of a good Thomistic common sense realism.

I use paranormal in the opening line because that is the term Carrier uses, but it is not a term I prefer to use. I do not even prefer to use supernatural. I go by the terms suprahuman and supranatural instead. To say supernatural often implies that nature is just fine on its own and needs no deity sustaining it. This is a point that I disagree with so why should I use a term that automatically grants credence to a position I find highly questionable?

As we go through the chapter, on page 213, Carrier says that there is an approach that bypasses science altogether by pointing to a superior metaphysics and going under the name of first philosophy. Carrier is never clear on what this is. Does he mean all of metaphysics in general? This is the only conclusion I can reach. If so, there is a great problem here as metaphysics is never defined.

As one who has studied metaphysics, I often find this to be the case. People dispute metaphysics, but they don’t really know what it is. Metaphysics is simply the study of being as being. This does not go against science as the sciences often study being in a certain condition. Physics studies material being in motion. Angelology would study angelic being. Biology would study material living being. Astronomy studies being in space. Zoology studies animal beings. We could go on and on.

Interestingly, Carrier places metaphysics dead last, but on what authority? Why should I accept that? Am I to think studying the nature of being itself is dead last in understand the nature of truth, that is, in understanding that which is? It looks like knowing what “is” would come first.

The first method of finding truth that Carrier speaks about is, SHOCK, the scientific method. Now as readers know, I am not opposed to science, but I am opposed to a scientism approach that places the natural sciences as the best means of determining truth. Now if everything is purely matter and there are no essences to things, then this would follow, but that is the very aspect under question.

On page 215, Carrier says

“But htis is another strength of science: science is not only about testing facts for truth, but testing methods for accuracy. And thus science is the only endeavor we have that is constantly devoted to finding the best means of ascertaining the truth. This is one of the reasons why science is so successful, and its results so authoritative. Yet metaphysics has no room for means of testing different methods for accuracy, and if it ever started producing surprising predictive successes, it would become science.”

The problem I see here is yes, metaphysics is not done the same way the natural sciences are. So what? The whole idea starts off presuming the natural sciences are the best way to know something. Yet the natural sciences are more inductive than deductive while metaphysical arguments are designed to be more deductive. The conclusions are to be known with certainty. Metaphysical arguments also do for most of us start with sense experience and what we see.

Yes, science is successful, but as has been pointed out earlier with using the analogy of Feser, a metal detector is the best tool for finding metal objects at the beach, but that does not mean that the only objects to be found are metal objects. Science is the best tool for finding truths about nature, but that does not mean those are the only truths to be found.

On the next page he says

“And science does not simply undergo any arbitrary change, as religious ideology or clothing fashions do, nor does it hold out long against contrary evidence, asserting that the facts must surely be wrong if they do not fit the going dogma.”

Now this is interesting since any changes that were made would not be arbitrary. I am not Catholic, but it isn’t as if the Pope woke up one morning and said “What a beautiful day. I think I’ll declare the perpetual virginity of Mary.” There were historical debates and discussions. I do not think the perpetual virginity claim is true, but it did not just happen arbitrarily. The same with fashion tastes. People change tastes in fashion for a reason.

Yet the great danger in Carrier’s statement for him is that the sword cuts both ways. For me, for instance, if macroevolution is true, cool. I’m fine with that. What happens to the atheist position if macroevolution is not true? I do not doubt there will still be atheists, but an extremely important beliefs of theirs being gone would cause some doubt I suspect.

Another example is the case of miracles. Let’s take a work like Keener’s book “Miracles.” Let’s suppose it has 500 miracles in it. I haven’t counted. Let’s suppose only 50 of those are shown to be real honest miracles. Okay. I’m disappointed some, but hey, I have 50 miracles right here. My worldview is still fine. I have evidence of miracles which backs Jesus rising from the dead.

What about the atheistic worldview? Can the atheist say the same if he has to admit that there is no known natural explanation for what happened and that the event did indeed happen? He can say “Well we’ll find a natural reason.” He’s entirely allowed to do such, but if he is assuming there has to be one, is he not then using a naturalism-of-the-gaps? Could it not be that just as much, the fact of a miracle must be wrong if it does not fit the dogma?

And no, I am not going to deny that too many Christians think this way as well. There are too many Christians who stick their heads in the sand and don’t even bother to interact with different evidence. This is what I call the escapist mentality.

Before moving on, it’s worth noting that Carrier says on page 217 that metaphysics sets the lowest bar for credibility, but yet has not defined metaphysics once.

Carrier says that if faith is placed before truth, it will lead to conflict. With this, I agree. Everyone should. Truth must be paramount. Yet Carrier goes on to say that if faith is what someone has because something is true, then science becomes the one true faith.

Why should I think this?

I believe several claims that are not established by science and act on them. I believe in the laws of logic. I believe in rules of mathematics. I believe that there is a world outside my mind. I believe propositions about morality and beauty. Can there be knowledge outside of the natural sciences? Yes there can be. If so, why think the scientific method is the best method?

Before moving on, once again on page 219, metaphysics is denigrated and once again, it is not defined. The same happens on page 221.

Carrier then goes on to talk about how science was in the medieval period. Yet this is not an accurate history at all. I would like to know his sources, but unfortunately, he never gives them. I will instead give some counter sources. First off is my interview with James Hannam on this topic that can be found here. Atheists can also consider the work of Tim O’Neill, an atheist himself who disputes this dark ages claim. An example can be found in his look at Hannam’s book here. In fact, he has a graph there that is common on the internet that is supposed to show the lack of scientific endeavors in the period and refers to it as “The Stupidest Thing on the Internet Ever.”

And once again, worth noting, is that on page 222, again metaphysics is secondary to science, but again, no definition.

On page 223, Carrier asks why it is God supposedly packed up his bags and stopped doing miracles when he had supposedly been doing them in abundance.

Well first, there has never been a period of abundant miracles.

“Wait! Don’t you believe in the Bible?”

Yes. Yes I do. And the miracles are actually sparse in it as well. There are three times where miracles become more abundant but they never reach the kind of idea Carrier has. Those are the time of the Exodus wandering, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Jesus and the apostles.

Yet miracles have not ceased. Indeed, Keener indicated earlier has made a strong case they are still ongoing. You can find my review of his book here and listen to the interview that I did with him here.

Carrier expects a world where guns turn into flowers and churches are protected by mysterious energy fields. Why should we expect any of this? Because God exists and can work miracles, He should work miracles in the way we think He should? Why?

Much has been said today, but there is more coming on history. I prefer to save that for a fuller approach and will do that next time I blog on Carrier’s book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 7

December 20, 2013

How is it that we got here? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’re continuing our look again into Carrier’s book (Henceforth abbreviated SGWG), but I’m almost done with another book I’m reading so expect that there could be a review of that next week and then surely some sort of post on Christmas Eve. This review will overall be completed. There are a lot of arguments I want to get to.

Now this chapter we’re going to be talking largely about evolution. I’ll be upfront and state my opinion on evolution.

I don’t care.

Really. That’s it. I’m not a scientist so the question doesn’t make much difference to me. It doesn’t affect my interpretation of Genesis since I go with a John Walton view. I know there are arguments that are put forward by scientists and they are highly persuasive. On the other hand, I know there are still hard questions for the theory in particular circumstances.

That last part does not mean the theory is false. Every view that is true has hard questions with it. That does not surprise me. What I wish to stress however is that I am not a scientist so I cannot answer the question either way. If I said “The evidence supports evolution”, I could not name you that evidence. I could not defend it either. If I said “The evidence does not support evolution”, I could not name you that evidence and I could not defend it. I’m fine with that.

If I woke up tomorrow and saw the headlines “Even the SBC now has admitted that Macroevolution is a fact” I would simply go about my day. It really wouldn’t matter. On the other hand, if I saw “Scientists admit macroevolutionary theory false”, I would have the same reaction.

So when we get to the science as science, I will not be saying anything. I have long said that people like Richard Dawkins and others who do not understand biblical studies should not be commenting on them as if they are authorities. I plan to follow my own advice.

So right at the start, Carrier tells us that “The universe is so vast, it was inevitable that something like us would be one of its byproducts somewhere.”

Really?

Why should I think this? Really?

On the one hand, Carrier has argued about what a waste this universe is and all the empty space and even how dangerous it is, and then on this side, he’s telling us that surely we would show up somewhere. If this universe is the way he says it is elsewhere, I would think we wouldn’t show up somewhere. We’d have no chance. Is the universe friendly to life or is it not? I can’t tell you which it is, but I can tell you it’s not both.

Besides, this kind of approach would mean you could justify anything ultimately. “Well guys, I know I got a perfect hand in that game of Bridge, but you know, in a universe so vast, it was inevitable. Guess I just got to be the lucky one.”

In fact, Carrier tells us that if conscious beings can exist once in a million galaxies, there would be thousands of such civilizations in the universe.

Now there could be life out there of course, but we have no evidence of it. It’s hard to start talking about probabilities in that case. Saying if they could doesn’t even mean that they do and again, what kind of universe do we live in?

So as we go on, we find in the final paragraph on page 165, the reasoning found here. I will be paraphrasing.

Simple life stands a good a chance of being all over a galaxy like ours.
Galaxies have billions of stars.
This means millions of star systems.
Even life arising in one in one million such systems means thousands of planets in our galaxy alone have life.
Sentient life is rare and improbable, but the universe is that amazingly old and big.
Amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time.
Therefore, we are a natural product.

The end conclusion does not follow. Neither does the next one.

A divine engineer would have no reason to make a trillion useless galaxies just for us.

Let’s look at the first case. It’s simply speculation built on speculation. Thousands of planets in our galaxy have life? We don’t know of a single one that does other than our own. Why should we build a foundation on a speculation that we have no evidence for and plenty of evidence against?

Furthermore, if amazingly improbable things are sure to happen all the time, then it would seem we also have a case for a miracle. Why not believe someone was suddenly healed of a disease like cancer or blindness or even raised from the dead? Amazingly improbable things happen ALL THE TIME!

How also does it follow we are a natural product? I can’t help but notice how Lewis said the atheist stacks the deck with cosmological questions like this. If there is life everywhere in the universe, well see, life isn’t so special. You don’t need a creator for that. If there is life only one place in the universe, well see, the creator would not make a waste like that!

So if life is everywhere, there is no God.
If life is only in one place, there is no God.

Heads they win. Tails we lose.

The problem is this is built on knowledge we do not have access to. Carrier tells us a divine engineer would have no reason. Really? How does he know this? Can he demonstrate. The most he can say is “I can think of no such reason.” Well perhaps you can’t. Perhaps I can’t. So what? That means there is no such reason?

As we move on, Carrier tells us that we should suspect metaphysical naturalism. Why? First off, natural explanations have turned out to be true for everything so far without exception.

Except for those questions that have not been answered and those questions that don’t fit into the worldview. So and so was suddenly healed of blindness? Well there has to be a natural explanation because we know miracles can’t happen. Therefore, the natural explanation is true. Jesus rose from the dead? There can’t be a miraculous explanation, therefore there has to be a natural one. The existence of existence? Existence must somehow be a natural phenomenon.

It doesn’t surprise me that there are many so-called natural explanations for what we see out there. Nor should it surprise any Christian. Yet if you say “Natural explanations are the only explanations that count”, don’t be surprised if everything becomes explained with such explanations and everything that doesn’t fit is “explained away.” I only would like to see the natural explanations for events like the life and resurrection of Jesus and the existence of existence itself.

Carrier on page 167 starts a paragraph talking about chemicals coming together to form proteins and it is more than reasonable to conclude that these all came together on a spot like Earth and certainly at least one will produce a protein that can reproduce itself. Most important is how he begins this paragraph. “Consequently, though we lack access to the facts we need in order to know just what happened on Earth four billion years ago….”

Let us not let a little thing like not knowing the facts keep us from making claims on a grand scale.

I only look at the paragraph and think “Why is this reasonable? Because this fits in with naturalism and naturalism alone is reasonable?” I am given no reason to think such and I certainly do not think it reasonable to make a conclusion when we do not have access to the facts.

But friends, the best is yet to come.

Years ago, I heard Richard Dawkins speak at Queens university in Charlotte and he was asked what the worst theistic argument he had ever come across was. He replied that it was the banana argument of Ray Comfort.

I have to agree.

And as I shared this upcoming argument with a friend of mine, he told me “We have found the banana argument of atheism.”

Yes. This is Carrier’s argument starting on page 171. I am quoting it in full so that you can look it up and see that, yes, he does make this argument.

“For example, nipples on men serve no function whatever, but are the inevitable byproduct of a procedure for developing men differently from women that is imperfectly carried out. Evolution explains why, in contrast, female breasts do not need to be large, or prominent at all—as instruments for nursing, small breasts are just as effective, while large breasts create increased strain on a woman’s back and increased risk of injury and lethal malfunctions like cancer.

The only physiological reason for large breasts is the same as for other insufficient methods of sexual competition, from the peacock’s feathers to the baboon’s inflamed butt: their size serves to compete with other women in attracting men. Otherwise, they are a liability, and a needless waste of energy–although, in the rude way nature works, that is their point; to advertise to men “Hey, this woman is so healthy she can waste energy on these risky things, aren’t they pretty?” What possible use such an insufficient tactic would have in the hands of an intelligent engineer is hard to fathom–especially an engineer whose only purported purpose for sex was procreation, not lust or entertainment. Wouldn’t making men attracted to, say, intelligence, or beautiful eyes, have been enough—even better—without all the danger and headache?” (p. 171-172 Italics his.)

Yes people. It really is in there. If you don’t think so, go and look yourself.

Let’s start with something in there. The only purported purpose of sex is procreation?

There’s this book in my Bible called Song of Songs. I don’t see them talking about making babies in that one. I see them talking about raw passion for one another. Christians do see making babies as A purpose of sex, but not the only purpose. Even the staunchest Catholic who is the most opposed to any contraception would not say making babies is the only purpose of sex.

Now of course, we do say there are misuses of sex, but one great purpose is to unite the husband and wife in a bond of love. It’s not an accident that lovemaking carries with it great emotional passion and great expressions of love come out at that time. Sex as intended drives a husband and wife together. It drives the man to love the wife as Christ loved the church and it drives the woman to learn to open herself up to the man and to trust him.

I wonder where on Earth the idea came to Carrier that God intended it only for procreation. I don’t see that at all in Scripture. (Of course, some church fathers held to such a view, but you will not find it today. Perhaps Carrier should read some books on sexuality written by Christian counselors.)

But now, let’s look at the claim itself.

First, I would really like to see Carrier walk into a place like a bar and start sharing this kind of view.

“Well gentlemen, I want to talk to you about why you should be atheists and think that there is no God. For instance, look at that woman over there with really big breasts. Do you think a loving God would allow her to waste her energy on those? No. He would make them only fit the job they’re meant to do and make you more attracted to other aspects of her.”

I strongly suspect most men in the audience are looking at the woman and thinking instead they see a darn good reason to believe God does exist.

It is incredible to fathom that someone could write those pages in a book and think that that is making an argument in favor of atheism.

Of course, there is no doubt many men find such attractive. Yet how is this supposed to show a problem with the way God made women? Could not God have made women that way to attract a mate? Contrary also to Carrier, men are attracted to other aspects as well such as eyes and intelligence.

I strongly suspect we’re seeing more a kind of fundamentalism Carrier encountered that he has imbibed himself rather than any real biblical position he’s interacting with.

And the scary thing is this isn’t even the worst argument in the book. That’s to come later.

When we return to this book again, we’ll be discussing the nature of reason.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Sense and Goodness Without God Part 6

December 18, 2013

Is there anything to reports of NDEs? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’m not going to get too much into the mind-body subject of this chapter, but I wish to comment on one aspect of it that I think is highly lacking and that is Carrier’s treatment of NDE’s, otherwise known as Near-Death Experiences.

Near-Death Experiences are experiences where the person is on the verge of death (Or in some cases now is actually dead) and they have some sort of experience where they have a separation from their body and give an account of what happened to them when they were dead. Naturally, they do return to their body or else we’d never hear about it.

Now there are some NDEs that we cannot really do anything with in the area of verification. If you die and claim you went to Heaven and met your grandmother there or talked to God or saw an angel, I cannot verify that. It could have happened, but we cannot verify that it happened.

But let’s suppose you die and while apart from your body, you see events that take place. You see meals that your family is making in your absence. You see car accidents that take place. You hear comments that are made in the waiting room.

Also important with such events is that the person is spoken to as soon as possible about what happened. This is one reason among several others that I’m skeptical about the account in “Heaven is for Real”. The account of what happened came much later and very little of it has any verification and as a Christian, I think much of it contradicts Scripture.

In this chapter, Carrier will speak of both NDE’s and OBE’s, but for our purposes, what unites them is the same. A person sees something when we have no reason to think that they would be capable of seeing anything else. (If you’re under anesthesia in the hospital, it’s quite certain you’re not seeing anything for instance.)

On page 155 he writes “Many fanciful legends have grown up boasting of amazing proofs that a particular OBE was genuine, but they have always dissolved under scrutiny; investigations turn up no corroboration for any of the story’s details, or often uncover evidence that flatly contradicts it.”

Little problem here. Not one such case is mentioned. When looking at recommended reading, I see nothing that in fact records accounts that are favorable towards NDEs. You won’t find, for instance, Michael Sabom’s work on this topic. You also won’t find Habermas and Moreland on this topic, and surely Carrier knows of this since he interacts with Moreland some in this book.

What accounts do we have? Those interested in more are free to read Sabom’s book as well as Habermas and Moreland’s. You can also find interviews of Habermas. One of him on the Sci Phi show in two parts. Here is part 1 and part 2. Also in parts one and two are him at the Veritas forum. You can listen again to part 1 and part 2.

Those interested in a debate can hear the debate he had with Keith Augustine in three parts. part 1, part 2, and part 3.

One caseI think worth mentioning right off is the story of Pam Reynolds, who gave an account of what she saw while she was dead in a sort of standstill operation. She gave a highly detailed account of various things she saw when she definitely had no way of seeing them.

My biggest problem with what I saw here was that once again, there was the sound of one-hand clapping. We are told to value evidence, but only one side of the story was given in the case of NDEs. Evidential NDEs were not presented. Again, the recommended works are highly lacking. No doubt there are several fake accounts out there, but it takes more to say all of them are fake.

Next time we will look at the question of how we got here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters