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James Barr on harmonization of the Bible

August 31, 2011 Leave a comment

If two passages in the gospels describe in different terms what seems to be the same incident, they are harmonized in the conservative literature. The most common way to do this is to add the two together, so that what one says compliments what the other says. Certainly it is admitted that one evangelist has seen things or described things rather differently than the another, just as two persons who witness a road accident will describe it differently. But they cannot be in real contradiction, they cannot be saying different things that cannot be reconciled. The most striking example is the famous incident of the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. In the synoptic gospels this is narrated at the very end of the ministry of Jesus, at the beginning of passion week (Matt. 21:10-17; Mark 11. 15-19; Luke 19. 45-48), while John has it right at the beginning of the ministry (John 2. 13-17). The New Bible Commentary Revised (on Mark, C.E Graham Swift, p. 875b) gives us the simple but ludicrous harmonization: ‘By far the most satisfactory solution is that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice.’ Why not? By the same account, why should the ascension of Jesus to heaven not have taken place twice? This would successfully harmonize the facts that according to Luke 25.51, the ascension appears to have taken place on the same day as the resurrection, while Acts 1 expressly makes it about forty days later. Jesus was carried up to heaven, but later returned, appeared and spoke with his disciples for forty days, and then finally ascended again. Why not?… The commentator then, typically of conservative interpretation, abandons the literal sense as soon as it would imply error or disagreement in the Bible; he achieves harmonization by taking the Acts account literally in this respect (i.e. in respect of the time of events) and holding that the  Luke account is telescoped or otherwise imprecise. Multiple ascensions form a different method of harmonization: in this case one has the advantage that both narratives, that in Luke and that in Acts, can be taken literally. In either case what never enters the head of the conservative interpreter is that there was no certain knowledge of the temporal sequence, or that quite contradictory accounts existed, or that some source represented the events in such a way not because that was the way it happened but because that was important for the theological message of that particular source. Harmonization through the production of multiple events is the most thoroughly laughable of all devices of interpretation. (Barr, Fundamentalism, pp. 56-7, 1977)

Barr J. (1977). Fundamentalism. Tottenham Road, London. SCM Press Ltd. pp. 56-7.

Categories: Quotes

John Dominic Crossan on finding the historical Jesus

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Is an understanding of the historical Jesus of any permanent relevance to Christianity itself? Is it all simply interesting historical background but quite irrelevant to faith itself? Is any historical reconstruction, and not just the preceding one, of any importance ever?

By historical study I mean analysis whose theories and methods, evidence and arguments, results and conclusions are open, in principle and practice, to any human observer, any disciplined investigator, and self-conscious and self-critical student. Abstracting, then, from my own or anyone else’s analysis, is such work mere background scenery, mere optional detail, or is it part and parcel of the whole? Granted, of course, that the historical Jesus is always an interpretive construct of its own time and place but open to all of that time and place, is such a construct always in dialectical tension with itself? (Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, p. 199, 1994)

Crossan J D. (1994).  Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. New York, New York.  Harper Collins. pp. 199.

Categories: The Bible

Meta problems with minimal facts

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I was going to do a post discussing my personal thoughts relating to Habermas and Licona’s “minimal facts” approach, but upon re-reading Martin’s objections to the full list of 12 “minimal facts” Habermas has previously used (the authors only use 4 of those in this book), having agreed with his objections, and having referred you to them, I believe they are sufficient for my purposes here.

What I did want to do is a very basic treatise on, which isn’t mentioned in Martin’s book, are the meta problems I see with the authors “historical” approach to establishing (a) the supernatural, and by extension (b) the resurrection of Jesus via these minimal facts (obviously I’m not addressing all problems related to them, as I’d be going for days, simply those related to the problem below):

Testimony is never sufficient to establish a supernatural event or miracle

Firstly, what are Habermas and Licona’s “minimal facts”?

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion- p48
  2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them- 49
  3. The church persecutor Paul, was suddenly changed-64
  4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed-67

The problem with using personal testimony to establish a miracle or supernatural event, lies in the fact that, if we allowed this, as an acceptable standard, we would then be required to accept all kinds of conflicting/contradictory reports, and supernatural claims. If we allow testimonial evidence to be sufficient to establish the above facts, but not the claims of other religious, or cultish sects, we are guilty of special pleading. Logic begs us consider a reliable method of detection.

If we restrict this, for our purposes, simply to religious claims (and not UFO or Elvis sightings which while not necessarily supernatural, are still extraordinary), I believe the first place we need to start, is revelation. Paul’s, James’ and the disciples supposed experiences and testimonies are used as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus (re: Habermas and Licona The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, pp48-67), presumably based on some form of revelation from God or personal experience.

I agree with Kai Nielsen (see Atheism and Philosophy, pp84-5, 2005) and Norman L. Geisler (see Christian Apologetics, p77, 1976 )  that we may not be able to discount someones revelatory experiences (as revelation is necessarily first person), there is however,  no reason for us to accept the exceptional as true, based solely on their word. As Geisler puts it, the experience may be enough to attest to the truth of that experience for that person, however

“truth finds its source in experience, but not its substantiation” (Geisler, Christian Apologetics, p77, 1976)

Habermas and Licona admit that natural explanations are preferable to supernatural explanations (p82), we must then consider Ehrman who has noted that due to the very improbable nature of miracles (by definition they are the least probable explanation), no matter how improbable the natural explanation for a supernatural event it is always more probable than a miraculous one (re: supernatural event) (for more see Ehrman’s book, Jesus, Interrupted, pp-171-9, 2009).  With that in mind, Richard Carrier explains in his book Sense and Goodness without God, that we can generally rely on testimony, but when we come across a single unexamined experience that runs counter to what is scientifically and logically well-proven we have good reason to reject that experience in favour of more trustworthy and analyzed explanations (p55). Habermas and Licona ostensibly agree with Carrier on p137 when they admit that science has indeed demonstrated that people do not rise from the dead:

“what science has shown is that a person does not rise from the dead by natural causes.”

The authors concede that the biblical testimony they offer in their “minimal facts” is counter to what is “scientifically well-proven”, hence making it subject to immediate skepticism, however they add:

“But this does not apply to Jesus’ resurrection since we are not claiming that Jesus came back to life naturally. The writers of the New Testament asserted that it was God who raised Jesus from the dead.” (Habermas & Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p-137, 2004)

Does this objection help them though? Now they’ve entered the realm of circularity, as they have made no effort thus far to demonstrate the existence of a god or god’s, which begs the question: is the resurrection evidence for God, or is God evidence for the resurrection? How can they simple assume the Christian God into the equation, without first, demonstrating the existence of such an entity,  that this being would want to bring about Jesus’ resurrection, and indeed, how it did so?

Carrier offers us a natural explanation for the rise of early Christianity: all we would need,  is the belief that the resurrection occurred:

“There is nothing that an actual resurrection would have caused that could not have been caused by a mere belief in that resurrection.” (Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God, 242, 2005)

A Christian may still claim a naturalistic bias (which would be ad hominem), however we see that even in the historical method, testimony is not considered to be very reliable in setting up any historical claims, natural or otherwise, in the sense that, it is the least reliable piece of evidence we can gather, Carrier outlines categories of evidence:

First, what I call “physical-historical necessity.”
Second, direct physical evidence.
Third, unbiased or counterbiased corroboration.
Fourth, credible critical accounts by known scholars from the period.
Fifth, an eyewitness account.” (Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God, p242, 2005)

As we see, testimony begins at third on this list! Even if we deemed testimony to be worthy of demonstrating the supernatural or the miraculous resurrection of Jesus, Habermas and Licona still have to explain how they’re doing it, with the very worst of evidence! They concede that the historical method is not relevant to their case on p135 when they mention that the historian may not actually be able to detect that the resurrection of Jesus occurred since he is

“unable to detect God’s actions with the tools of his trade.” (Habermas & Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, p-135, 2004)

Implying as I’ve stated previously that they must engage in theology/apologetics to discover it, which makes it not a historical search anymore, but rather a confirmation of previously held ideas and beliefs, this may explain why they allow the abundant use of testimony to establish the supernatural.

Continuing, not only is testimony by itself horrible evidence to set up the resurrection, we then have problems with the testimony given in the Bible. For a meta discussion on the Bible’s reliability we turn to Ehrman, again from his book; Jesus, Interrupted (see also Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, ppX-XIV, 1994 for a similar diatribe), who states that we don’t have any autographs of any books of the Bible, only copies written centuries later, all of which have been tampered with and many of them are pseudonymous (e.g written in the name of an Apostle by someone else) (pp12-3). No biblical authors were Jesus contemporaries (the Gospels,were written decades later by unknown authors) (p12), and in the case of Paul, whose testimony is integral to Habermas and Licona’s “minimal facts” effort, did not even meet Jesus in person, only 7 of his 13 letters are considered to be authentic, Acts (the story of the Disciples lives after Jesus execution) is considered to be written around 85-90 C.E, about 25 years after Paul’s death, which makes information about him less than reliable and the Pauline Corpus itself is filled with discrepancies (pp53-6) (for a full elaboration see pp63-70). This is why I charge the authors here with attempting to sneak in inerrancy. They address very few, to none of these concerns within biblical scholarship, they simply assume the Bible as true, or that scholarship is on their side (see Martin’s, The Case Against Christianity, pp88-9, 1991, for more on this).

Christians might chime in that we have corroborating evidence of Paul’s and James’ conversions, and the disciples experiences, which might increase the probability of the resurrection, but it seems to me, confirmation of Paul’s, James and the disciples experiences, via testimony, by the Apostolic fathers and extrabiblical sources (assuming, rather generously their reliability) decades or even hundreds of years later, helps us little, and is circular, given that testimony itself is the very issue at hand.

Finally I want to talk about special pleading, which I believe Habermas and Licona are engaging in, in their defense of the resurrection via testimony. Throughout history there have been other miracle claims by other religions and cultish sects; Apollonius of Tyana, whose miracles, healings, casting out of demons, resurrection (and reappearance to his disciples) are all reported by Philostratus via oral tradition, and Apollonius’ closest disciple Damis in his diary (Price, The Case Against the Case for Christ, pp154-6, 2010). We have the charismatic messiah Sabbatai Sevi, in the 17th century, of whom “contemporary records, rumours and reports survive” (which is all better evidence than that for Jesus’ resurrection). (Price, The Case Against the Case for Christ, p155, 2010). As Price continues, there are also the dying and rising god religions of Baal, Osiris and Tammuz whose rituals and followers are attested to in the Bible itself (see Price, The Case Against the Case for Christ, p157, 2010, for the full details).

There are more examples, Richard Carrier, again in his book Sense and Goodness without God discusses the pagan god Asclepius who has surviving “testimonies to his influence and healing power throughout the classical age are common enough to fill a two-volume book.” We have first hand testimony to his miracles by those healed at his temples, which continues on for centuries (from 4th century B.C.E to 3rd century C.E), going all over the mediterranean. (Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God, p233, 2005). There is the emperor Vespasian who was thought to have cured the blind and lame, and statues with healing powers were common attractions for the sick people of this era (p233). Lunar eclipses were thought to be a monster devouring the moon, or witches using diabolical spells, so when an eclipse occurred people would bang pots and blow horns, to scare away the demons. The list goes on, Proteus Peregrinus (who resurrected), Alexander of Abonuteichos etc all attested to by testimony! When Habermas and Licona dismiss other accounts of religious or cultish miracle workers and sects which are attested to via testimony as they do implicitly (as they are Christians making a case for Jesus’ resurrection) and explicitly (on pp92,142) they are engaging in special pleading.

Conclusion

The fact that believers believed in their religious experiences is no more to the point than any other believer believing in the truth of their deity and experiences, or for that matter, me attempting to justify my atheism because I “feel that it’s true”, or  because  “I don’t have experiences of a god or gods”.

We see that establishing the supernatural via testimony is impossible as it would force us, if we wished to avoid special pleading, to accept all claims given by testimony. We see that even if one doesn’t accept this, we still can’t use testimony that is contrary to established scientific and logically well-proven data. Even if one doesn’t accept this,  by the authors own admission natural explanations are more preferrable to supernatural ones , we see that miracles by their definition are the least likely events to happen, and that any natural explanation is prima facie more probable than a supernatural one, hence a fallible human belief in the resurrection as opposed to an actual resurrection is far more likely. Still, if one doesn’t accept this either, we see that testimony itself is the worst kind of evidence we can have to establish a natural event, hence it would almost certainly be insufficient to establish the supernatural. Still oh obstinate one, if you do not accept that, there is the unreliability of the Biblical account of the resurrection and the resulting testimony and subsequent confirmation by extrabiblical sources (re: decades to hundreds of years later, which Habermas and Licona don’t accept for other supernatural claims).  Again even, if by some insane chance, you accept none of the above, we see that other religious and cult leaders death, resurrection and miracles are established by testimony, viz our first point, if we wish to avoid special pleading we have to accept these as true, if we’re going to accept the resurrection.

From this do I conclude that Jesus was in fact not raised from the dead? Well, no, I don’t make such a claim, only that the evidence I’ve been presented with thus far, is unconvincing to me. I’m a fallabilst, I could be wrong, and I don’t go so far as to say what I’ve written here is complete, I’m sure there are many logical and factual errors, as well as much more that could be said on the subject. But hopefully this investigation gives you some insight into why I don’t accept, at the very least, Habermas and Licona’s portrayal of the events.

References

Carrier R. (2005).  Sense and Goodness without God. Bloomington, Indiana. Arthur House. pp-55,233,242.

Crossan J D. (1994).  Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. New York, New York.  Harper Collins. ppX-XIV.

Ehrman B. (2009). Jesus, Interrupted, New York, New York. Harper-Collins Publishing. pp-12-3,53-6,63-70,171-9.

Geisler N L. (1976).  Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Baker Book House Company. p- 177.

Habermas G R., Licona M R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kregel Publications. pp-48-9,64-7,82,135,137.

Martin M. (1991). The Case Against Christianity. Philadelphia. Temple University Press. pp-88-9.

Nielsen K. (2005). Atheism and Philosophy. Amherst, New York. Prometheus Books. pp-84-5.

Price R M. (2010). The Case Against the Case for Christ. Cranford, New Jersey. American Atheist Press. pp-154-7.

Categories: Apologetics, The Bible

Notes On ‘Trick Or Treatment’- Chapter 3- Homeopathy by Ernst & Singh.

August 25, 2011 4 comments

Sorry for the length between posts on my look at this book, they’re involved and I’ve had my head in other things. This week we investigate homeopathy and its efficacy.

Definition

“A system of treating illness based on the premise that like cures like. The homeopath treats symptoms by administering minute or non-existent doses of a substance which in large amounts produces the same symptoms in healthy individuals. Homeopaths focus on treating patients as individuals and claim to be able to treat virtually any ailment, from colds to heart disease.” (Ernst & Singh, p92, 2008)

Homeopathy, according to Ernst and Singh has gained huge popular status in the last couple of decades (p93), and they suggest that from this a kind of argument from popularity is occurring whereby people use (and promote) it simply because it is popular.

The authors trace the beginnings of homeopathy to Samuel Hahnemann who used a Malaria treatment, as a cure all tonic, working under the assumption “if I take something that cures me of illness it will make me feel even better if I’m not sick”. This, however made his health decrease, moreover, it led him to experience some of the symptoms of Malaria. This gave a Hahnemann a thought, that what if he experimented with other treatments to see if he got the same results? He did, and he did.  He, by reversing the logic of his experiments came up with an ultimate principle: “that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms”. (pg95) This bizarrely led Hahnemann to the conclusion that he could improve remedies by diluting them (to this day it still remains a mystery why he came to this conclusion).

Hahnemann was not without his merits, he tested his hypothesis on others, administering daily doses (in an experimental procedure he called “provings”) to several healthy people, who were asked to keep detailed diaries of their symptoms. This gave Hahnemann some figures with which to work from, he argued that the identical remedy given to a sick person could relieve the same symptoms (p96).

Homeopathic procedure
This is where it gets interesting, and well, bizarre (more so?), Ernst and Singh explain the procedure to accrue homeopathic remedies:

“If a plant is to be used as the basis of a homeopathic remedy, then the preparation process begins by allowing it to sit in a sealed jar of solvent, which then dissolves some of the plant’s molecules. The solvent can be either water or alcohol, but for the ease of explanation we will assume it is water…After several weeks the solid material is removed- the remaining water with its dissolved ingredients is called the mother tincture.

The mother tincture is then diluted, which might involve one part of it being dissolved in nine parts water, thereby diluting it by a factor of ten. This is called a 1X remedy, the X being the Roman numeral for 10. After the dilution, the mixture is vigorously shaken, which completes the potentization process. Taking one part of the 1X remedy, dissolving it in nine parts water and shaking again leads to a 2X remedy. Further dilution and potentization leads to 3X, 4X, 5X and even weaker solutions- remember that Hahnemann believed that weaker solutions led to stronger remedies.” (Ernst & Singh, p97, 2008)

There was a reason I put such a long quote up, I want you, the reader, to fully appreciate just what homeopathy is and what it sells you (at a high premium). Ernst and Sing accentuate their point:

“A 4X remedy, for instance means that the mother tincture was diluted by a factor of 10 (1X), then again by a factor of 10 (2X), then again by a factor of 10 (4X), and then again by a factor of 10 (4X). This leads to dilution by factor of 10x10x10x10, which is equal to 10,000… homeopathic pharmacists will usually dissolve one part of the mother tincture in 99 parts of water, thereby diluting by a factor of 100. This is called 1C remedy, C being the Roman numeral for 100. Repeatedly dissolving by a factor of 100 leads to 2C, 3C, 4C and eventually to ultra-dilute solutions.

For example, homeopathic solutions of 30C are common, which means that the original ingredient has been diluted 30 times by a factor of 100 each time. Therefore the original substance has been diluted by a factor of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,0000,000,000,000,000. This string of naughts may not mean much, but bear in mind that one gram of the mother tincture contains less than 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules… The bottom line is that this level of dilution is so extreme that the resulting solution is unlikely to contain a single molecule of the original ingredient (emphasis added). In fact the chance of having one molecule of the active ingredient in the final 30C remedy is one in a billion, billion, billion, billion. In other words a 30C remedy is almost certain to contain nothing more than water. (emphasis added)” (Ernst & Singh, p98-9, 2008)

Again, sorry for the long quotes but for me personally that should be the end of this post, what more do you need to know about homeopathy?

Ernst and Singh continue mentioning that some homeopathic pharmacists stock 100,000C remedies which means they’ve diluted 30C remedies “already devoid of any active ingredient” further by a factor of 100, another 99,970 times, this costs money, upwards of 1,000 pounds! (p100)

Obviously from a scientific perspective there is no reason a homeopathic remedy should work (apart from the placebo effect). There are some ad hoc theories given by homeopaths to describe how it works: some suggest that the remedies have a “memory” of the original ingredient (p100), Hahnemann proposed that a “vital force”, something close to a spirit, determined a persons well being (p105), they have also been known to hold a pendulum over a shortlist of possible remedies to determine which one to use (p104) . The authors continue explaining just what homeopathic remedies have been suggested to be effective on: diarrhoea, coughs, headaches, to arthritis, diabetes and asthma, from bruises and colds to cancer and Parkinson’s disease (pg100).

Both DARPA (U.S Defense force), scientific studies and even James Randi have tested the efficacy of homeopathy, with no positive results. In 1999 Dr Andrew Vickers meta-analysed 120 research papers on homeopathy and found no reproducible effect (p125). In fact James Randi is still offering his $1million dollar prize to anyone who can demonstrate its efficacy, no-one has. Randi also ingested sixty-four times the dosage of a homeopathic sleeping remedy before a meeting of the U.S congress and “didn’t even feel drowsy.” (p126)

Conclusion
If you want to drink water please use filtered bottled water, if you want to get medical treatment, see your doctor!

Reference
Ernst E., Singh,. S. (2008). Trick Or Treatment. New York, New York. W.W Norton & Company. Pp- 93,93,95,96,97,98,99,100,104,105,125,126.

Categories: Science

Loftier musings on some of the problems with the minimal facts approach

August 23, 2011 4 comments

Reading through Habermas and Licona’s The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,  I’m struck by their interesting argument via “minimal facts”, I’m not a complete illiterate, so I’ve heard of this argument before (for skeptical objections see Michael Martin’s The Case Against Christianity pp87-100), and have seen it proposed in several different forms (Craig uses a similar formula to defend the empty tomb- for skeptical objections see Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder’s edited The Empty Tomb), the one presented in this book they call “4 + 1″ as in there are 4 facts they consider to be well attested by biblical scholarship and 1 less so, but still very well attested, that establish the resurrection of Jesus.

The main problem it seems to me, and I’m making an assumption here I know, but the authors think they’re making a case, possibly the best and only case for a supernatural event ever, right? If they are or not it’s not integral, my point is;

do they really think minimal facts are appropriate to establish evidence for a supernatural event?

It seems to me “minimal facts” shoots itself in the foot before it even begins. We don’t ask for minimal facts for natural events (re: physics, cosmology, biology etc), why would we do so when establishing the existence of  an all-powerful deity who can… (insert all it’s powers and abilities suitable to your religious faith here).

Now some theists may be thinking that I’m biased, basing my critique of “minimal facts” theory on ECREE, which I’m not, necessarily, whether you subscribe to ECREE or not, surely you agree that a supernatural event, any supernatural event, bears a heavy burden of proof, that requires solid, reliable and presumably a lot of evidence to corroborate it. Are “minimal facts” going to get the job done (I would ask you if “minimal facts” would convince you of someone elses religious truth)?

I’m planning on doing a proper discussion of their work eventually, I promise. I’ve got some stuff down as a response to their 4 facts, I need more space than I have here to present my objections though, so you’ll have to wait just a little while.

Bias

August 23, 2011 1 comment

I’m currently reading Habermas and Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and immediately I’m confused about whether I’m reading apologetics or history:

At some point in the Christian walk, many believers ask some difficult questions: Is Christianity really true? Are there any good reasons to know which religion is true? Could it be that God does not really exist?” (Habermas & Licona, p-13, 2004)

This seems like circular reasoning to me, they’re assuming the very conclusion they’re attempting to show. They’re not investigating whether the resurrection of Jesus occurred and if there’s evidence to support it, they’re already there, its just a matter of ticking the boxes now.

Am I to assume when reading this book that they’re doing apologetics, bracketed around some genuine historical research? How am I to know which is which? Sure there are historical elements to their book, but it seems from the outset, they’re supporting inerrancy (they admit on p44 that the Bible is “inspired” and trustworthy” and on p45 that the Bible tells them to believe in Jesus’ resurrection to gain eternal life), however much they’re denying that’s what they’re doing:

“We cannot tell you we looked at the evidence without presuppositions or bias. Facing issues of this magnitude, it’s  unreasonable to think that anyone comes to the investigation with no personal hopes or preexisting beliefs.” (Habermas & Licona, p-13, 2004)

This appears to be simply a smoke screen, they’re attempting to demonstrate that even I (and you) have presuppositions (which of course we do), but are all presuppositions created equally? Are my presuppositions, whatever they may be, on par with being committed to inerrancy? I find that hard to swallow. As we see later on:

“The Christian has the Holy Spirit who testifies to her that Christianity is true and that she belongs to God. The historical certainty we have of Jesus’ resurrection only re-inforces that God’s Spirit has indeed spoken to us.” (Habermas & Licona, p-33, 2004)

Again, circular; the word of God is true, because God told them, then the evidence also supports the inerrancy of God’s word? I’m not sure where to get off of this dizzying ride. They’re trying to bring in believers by showing them that they’re good Christians who believe in the word of God, but they also realise they’ve got a job to do in presenting the facts.

I have to conclude that much of what I’m reading is simply designed to curry favour with believers, to reinforce their faith, which makes the authors historical research suspect at the very beginning.

Of course it would simply be ad hominem to disregard their arguments without addressing them, but this kind of behaviour is exactly why Christian biblical scholarship is so hard to take seriously. It’s the same with Strobel’s book The Case for Christ: so much in that book  is circular, uncritical acceptance of biblical inerrancy it’s difficult to take much, if any of it seriously (see Robert M. Price’s review in his book The Case Against the Case for Christ to see what I’m talking about).

I don’t want it to seem all doom and gloom though, I actually care about whether these authors have anything (reliable?) to say, I do have a modicum of respect for them (Licona in particular), and I’m sure they’re just peaches in real life.

I shall continue to read and ponder on the mysteries of the Christian faith…

Reference

Habermas G R., Licona M R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kregel Publications. P-13,44,45,33.

Categories: Apologetics, The Bible

Loftier musings on (my) atheism/atheists..

August 21, 2011 1 comment

When discussing pseudoscience and illogical thought I should probably do so in the larger sense, not keeping it specifically related to atheism, as I’m on shaky ground when I talk about atheists and what they believe as a collective, and, granted, these concepts generally apply to most people. I’m going to however, attempt to have a dummy spit at atheists.

It is important to note, that atheism, and being an atheist, does not necessarily enail that you are logical, scientific, apply appropriate skepticism or can’t be duped by unsubstantiated nonsense. What pitfalls I see some atheists falling into is that of conspiracy theories (caused by confirmation bias, selectivity of evidence) and sometimes alternative medicine etc.

This is disappointing, but to my theist readers I’d have you know, I would and do go after atheists for their conspiracy theory nonsense (and faulty reasoning in general), perhaps even more so and with greater ridicule than my theist counterparts (in fact that feels like I all I do these days).

Why? I personally want my atheism to be a result, not a method, based on my search of the evidence/arguments, viewed in the light, and application of, science, reason, logic etc (my method is methodological naturalism?). I (try to) use applied skepticism (as opposed to skepticism as a worldview), I evaluate arguments and evidence, for all the things I accept (and things I don’t), within reason of course. It irks me when others don’t, theist and atheist alike.

9/11 truthers, anti-vaxxers, Obama birthers, homeopathy and alternative medicine proponents, Zeitgeist movie promoters, world government (run by the Jewish folk of course) conspiracy theorists (etc), I hang my head in shame. Of course I remind myself that there’s nothing in atheism that says an atheist should be immune to woo, but, if the “Gnu Atheism” (re: the popularisation of atheism; which isn’t to say I agree with all of the “Gnu Atheist” positions on matters of religion, and certainly not so on matters of politics) has done anything, it’s promoted a skeptical outlook, that values standards of evidence, confirmation, verification, reason, secularism, a refusal to accept religious authority (applied, prescriptive traits as opposed to absolute worldviews). And you certainly see many of the aforementioned credulous atheists have (selectively) read “Gnu Atheist” text, as they seem to mistake an appropriate ridicule of certain religious notions (while still respecting the individual), as the main point and message and missing the fact that the authors are also pushing for Enlightenment and naturalistic principles (see Victor Stenger’s book, The New Atheism pp-11-17,  and Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, Paperback Edition pp-13-30 for some of that message). You end up having angry people, however justifiably so, with a basic understanding of their worldview but not enough of their epistemology worked out, that they can’t avoid, well, boulderdash.

It might be worth mentioning something about epistemology and how one can go about discerning truth from falsity, but I fear that’s a long and involved post, perhaps I’ll get started on that?

Categories: Atheism, Science, Secular

Michael Martin on God’s existence making miracles more likely

August 21, 2011 1 comment

This relates to this post.

“What sore of evidence would make it probable that God, rather than some other supernatural being, was the cause of the Resurrection? It has been argued that at the very least one would have to show  that the Resurrection fitted into a larger pattern of events that revealed God’s purposes. [62]… But what sort of pattern would this be? Presumably it would involve other miraculous events that God brought about. If one had evidence of Miracle1, Miracle2, Miracle3 and so on, and evidence of the Resurrection, one might be able to discern a pattern and infer from it a divine purpose that would indicate that God was behind the Resurrection.

However this implication is damaging to Christianity… The historical reliability of reports of the other miraculous events reported in the Scriptures is no better and is often worse than the evidence for the resurrection. In these accounts of the Resurrection, there are inconsistencies, lack of eye-witness testimony, second and third-hand reporting, failure of independent confirmation and questions about reliability of witnesses… There is then a serious obstacle in concluding that Jesus was restored to life and that this was a miracle.” (Martin, The Case Against Christianity, p-98, 1991)

Martin M. (1991). The Case Against Christianity. Philadelphia. Temple University Press. P-98

Categories: Atheism, Quotes

Ken Miller on Darwinism

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

The truth is that evolution, however persuasive, is a biological theory fashioned to explain descent with modification. By what logic could anyone pretend that principles found to apply to biological systems must also apply to social organizations, societies or nations? Economic theorists may derive colorful analogies, insight and even inspiration from evolution, but to prove the validity of economic theories by mere reference to evolution, a biological theory, seems to me to be stretching Darwin’s good work too far. (Miller, pg175, 1999)

Miller K., (1999). Finding Darwin’s God. New York, New York. Harper Collins  Books. Pg-175.

Categories: Science

Articles

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Sorry guys, a little lazy this week, little to no annotation :(

Theosophy

An interesting article, the author actually makes a point I made in my last articles blog about a person holding a position (or worldview in the case of this blog) being the first to define that for themselves, I totally agree with that. The problem is, they immediately go and contradict that, when discussing atheism here. They attempt to tell us, what atheism means and why, uh, sorry, what? After the speech the author gives in the blog directly before, we then get this? I do actually happen to agree with much of his post though (except for the ridiculous crap at the bottom of the post),  the problem is we would both make the same point from opposite sides. They would say “atheism says nothing so atheists believe and stand for nothing“, whereas an atheist would say “atheism says nothing, but it’s not supposed to, secular humanism, naturalism these are (atheistic) worldviews, which say a lot!

Charming

The war continues.

Only if you’re committed to inerrancy.

News

Categories: Articles
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