Saturday, December 31, 2005

The confutation of atheism-2

“When you reject stories about greek gods impregnating woman, but you accept stories about Hebrew god's impregnating women, is this just your methodological naturalism rearing it's ugly head? Or is it because you have rules of historiography from your world-view through which you interpret evidence?”

Your strained attempt at a parallel between the virgin birth and Greek mythology is disanalogous since, in Greek mythology, impregnation takes the form of sexual intercourse, which is totally absent from the account of the virgin birth.

If you’re looking for rough parallels to the virgin birth, the place to look is not in Greek mythology, but in other Biblical examples of miraculous conceptions (Isaac, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist), as well as passages describing the descent of the Shekinah upon the tabernacle (Exod 4:35), and the eschatological visitation of the Spirit to quicken the barren land (Isa 32:15).

So the virgin birth moves in a completely different universe of discourse than Greek mythology.

“I'm sorry to hear that you think seeing is believing. Personally, I do a lot of investigation to make sure I don't get tricked into believing something that isn't true.”

This is a classic illustration of secular fideism. Even if you were to personally witness a miracle, you would continue to deny the existence of God, following the motto Groucho Marx: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes!”

“The only proof I need to establish the possibility that people can rise from the dead is a single confirmed sighting. We aren't that different after all.”

Notice, once again, that our atheist has tacitly conceded that we don’t need parallel cases to establish the Resurrection.

The resurrection of Christ is confirmed by multiple-attestation.

“All attempts to learn what really happened by using historical documents, is historical reconstruction.”

Once more, this assumes that the Gospels don’t tell us what “really” happened.

The only reason you’ve given for disbelieving the Resurrection is your “principle of uniformity”—a principle which you’ve had to recant.

“I didn't think I needed to clarify that because uniformity of physical laws makes miracles impossible, Christianity, a religion based on a miracle, is refuted. Unless you have some sort of evidence that miracles are consistent with uniformitarianism?”

Now you’re resorting to truth by definition. If you define the principle of uniformity as a closed causal system, then, by definition, you’ve excluded the miraculous.

But that’s a tautology, not an argument, and a very self-serving tautology at that.

You, however, have also defined the principle of uniformity as meaning that the past resembles the present.

Yet as Jason and I have already pointed out, a Christian could accept that definition, but reject your conclusion. For a Christian can believe that miracles continue to happen in the present as well as the past. They happen throughout the course of recorded history.

When cornered, you play hopscotch with your own definition.

“Really? How could uniformitarianism be squared with the occurance of miracles? By arguing that the physical laws sometimes break down on their own and permit miracles?”

This is warmed over Hume. Natural law is not a Biblical category. Christians believe in ordinary providence (e.g. Gen 8:22), but that allows for the miraculous.

You are acting as though the universe is a box, so that nothing can enter or leave without tearing open the box.

But Christians don’t operate with such a crude, primitive conception of the universe.

Again, if you redefine the principle of uniformity as a closed system of cause and effect, you thereby exclude the miraculous, but this confuses a semantic ploy with a reasoned argument.

“How could you dare say such a thing without backing it up? Give me your best evidence of modern-day miracles. I will accept even just a single authenticated case. I'll put my automatic rejection of miracles on hold and just see if your best evidence can stand the test of scrutiny. I promise not to make use of my uniformitarian principle in my entire evaluation of your best proof for modern miracle. Deal?”

Of course, the escape clause is “authenticated.” This is a value-laden judgment.

I’ll just give three examples that come immediately to mind, two of which come from my own family history.

1.My mother is 87. She has macular degeneration. She has had macular degeneration for over 20 years, yet her eyesight is as good as mine (I’m 46).

She began going blind early in the progression of the disease. After visiting her ophthalmologist, she prayed about the matter. When she saw him the next time, her eyes had gotten better rather than that worse. Her ophthalmologist was stumped. He had no scientific explanation for the reversal. I take that to be an answer to prayer.

2.At one time her sister was in a doctoral program at the University of London. Her advisor was a misogynist. He was making it impossible for her to complete her degree.

When her sister came to visit us, she asked my mother to pray about the matter. We formed a circle and my mother prayed that the Lord would remove the obstacle.

The next day her advisor dropped dead of a heart attack, and my aunt was assigned a new advisor—a woman. I take that to be an answer to prayer.

3. John Ruskin records the following anecdote in his autobiography:

“Before her illness took its final form—before, indeed, I believe it had at all declared itself—my aunt dreamed one of her foresight dreams, simple and plain enough for anyone’s interpretation; that she was approaching the ford of a dark river, alone, when little Jessie came running up behind her, and passed her, and went through first. Then she passed through herself, and looking back from the other side, saw her old Mause approaching from the distance to the bank of the stream. And so it was, that Jessie, immediately afterwards, sickened rapidly and died; and a few months, or it might be nearly a year afterwards, my aunt died of decline; and Mause, some two or three years later, having no care after he mistress and Jessie were gone, but when she might go to them,” Praeterita (Oxford 197 , 61).

At the time Ruskin wrote his memoirs, he was an apostate. Hence, he had no religious incentive to credit his aunt with heavenly premonitions.

“I don't have to. If I DON'T abide by the ‘present is key to the past’ principle, then there is no more criteria for weeding out embellishments and factual errors. Jesus clapped his hands and made the birds fly away, eh? Well, that sure doesn't square with my experience of the past, then again, whether it square with my past experience is irrelevant."

“That's what I'd have to say under your criticism of me. How then could I ever distinguish truth from error in history books?”

All you’ve done here is to reiterate your original fallacy. This is a leap of faith—what George Santayana, your fellow atheist, dubbed animal faith.

It is irrational to reject a position just because you don’t like the consequences of the position if true. That does nothing to falsify the position or verify the opposing position.

There is no a priori reason why our historical knowledge might not be severely circumscribed—especially if we are merely animals whose cognitive abilities are adapted to bare survival.

The Christian also believes in historical continuities, but that is grounded in the promise and providence of God, whereas your own position is simply groundless.

“The fact nature exhibits a uniform order, and I've never seen a single exception to it, and the fact that seeing an exception to uniform physical laws seems to be a silly premise.”

Our only evidence for the uniformity of natural law consists in the testimonial evidence of those who went before us. But the historical record includes a great deal of testimonial evidence to the occurrence of miracles. You cannot have the witness to one without the witness to the other.

So your appeal is either viciously circular or else selectively lop-sided. Talk about special pleading!

“Should I always be open to the possibility that a pink-elephant may one day float out of the sky and give me a used pair of shoes? After all, just because it hasn't happened in the past....yada yada yada.”

The constant resort to silly, artificial examples affords no counterexample to serious reports of serious miracles.

“Ah, so the gospels are NOT promoting the cause of Jesus?

from dictionary.com, for your convenience:

The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.

Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause: wartime propaganda.

how can you say the gospels, for example, are NOT "propaganda". Are they not material disseminted by the advocates of a doctrine or cause?”

You are equivocating and prevaricating. “Propaganda” is a word with both a neutral and a negative connotation.

Wartime propaganda is often deliberate misinformation to deceive the enemy.

Yes, the gospels are promoting the cause of Jesus. That doesn’t cast any doubt on their veracity unless, according to your journalistic standards, a news reporter is only believable if he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

“Sure, so do you think any extra-biblical reports of miracles in ancient religious literature are reliable?”

I don’t generalize. One has to judge on a case-by-case basis. Not all reports of extraordinary events are reliable, just as not all reports of ordinary events are reliable. The rules of evidence are the same for both.

“That's funny, i could have swore that I explained my acceptance of the principle of uniformity, several times, with nobody who denied that principle being able to tell me why they deny the existence of flying pigs.”

To concoct a ridiculous example as a special case excluded under a covering law does nothing to establish the general principle.

“This is twice now, at least, that you have merely asserted that I give no evidence. You wouldn't be convinced if I said ‘but you give no evidence for your view’, why then are you throwing this provocative language out at me?”

You came over to a Christian discussion board to challenge our faith. In so doing you assume some burden of proof. Otherwise, all you’ve done is to say that you don’t believe because you don’t believe.

Judging us by your slanted rules of evidence without giving us evidence for your rules is not a rational way to make a case for your own position or oppose ours.

“Also, you should have already guessed that I, an atheist, would agree that the cogency of that historical rule is quite independent of whether it happens to exclude the divine.”

Why should I have guessed from your identity as an atheist that you’d agree that the cogency of the historical rule independent of its atheistic ramifications?

If, by your own confession, your atheistic identity should lead me to deduce your position regarding the rule in question, then your agreement with the rule in question is clearly implicated in its atheistic ramifications.

The “principle of uniformity” is self-refuting. For if we already knew that historical causation was uniform, then we wouldn’t need to impose this heuristic methodological axiom on the data. The introduction of this principle assumes that we don’t know that to be the case. But in that event, the principle is underdetermined by the evidence and thereby lacking in evidentiary warrant. Methodological naturalism is not derived from the evidence of history, but functions as a filter to screen out unwelcome evidence. All that “scepticdude” ever does is to cite the principle of uniformity to justify his criterion—which is viciously circular.

“My imposition of that axiom upon the evidence is not because I forgot that historical causation is uniform, but is only for YOUR benefit in knowing why i believe what I believe. But by myself, I do not apply this rule to historical sources much like you'd apply a ruler to paper to see how long 2 inches is.”

“You are right, we ATHEISTS don't need to impose that axiom, we only do it when Christians ask us why we reject miracles. When we aren't talking to you, we impose nothing more on historical books than anybody else. We all have inevitable bias, which cannot be snuffed out completely.”

Our atheist is substituting a disguised description for an explanation. Why doesn’t he believe in miracles? Because of the principle of uniformity.

And what does the principle of uniformity amount to? “Because I first assume uniform order in historical causation.”

All he’s done here is to repackage his original rejection. He appears to be giving a reason for his rejection of miracles, but when you unpack his reason, it comes down to the presumptive principle that the uniformity of historical causation doesn’t allow for miracles.

Why does he reject miracles? Because he “assumes” a causal model in which there’s no room for miracles. But this is just a circumlocution for saying that he doesn’t believe in miracles because he doesn’t believe that miracles ever occur.

Notice how that sidesteps the question of why he assumes the principle of uniformity in the first place. He defines uniformity by the absence of miracles.

So he hasn’t, in fact, given us a reason for his rejection. All he’s done is to paraphrase his original rejection. He’s done nothing at all to move the ball forward. The real question remains unanswered.

Moving along:

“Yes it is. It is the result of seeing the same result over and over and over and over, otherwise known as uniformity, which becomes methodological naturalism.”

Here he seems to be giving a reason for why he believes in the principle of uniformity, but this, too, is deceptive.

To begin with, he’s failing to distinguish between personal and impersonal causation. Impersonal causation has reference to the cyclical processes of nature. For example, once a man impregnates a woman, that sets an automatic process in motion. A process which is repeated over and over again in the course of human history.

However, whether or when a particular man impregnates a particular woman is not, of itself, a cyclical or automatic process. If he does so, certain things will follow, but it is not certain that he will do so, or at what time.

Now, the Resurrection is a case of personal causation. God the Father raises his Incarnate Son from the dead. This has nothing to do with the regularities of nature.

And even if natural law were in play, if our belief in natural law is based on seeing the same results time and again, then natural law is descriptive rather than prescriptive since it is based on observation of the way things usually work. It doesn’t dictate to reality what reality is permitted to do.

However, “methodological” naturalism is prescriptive and stipulative. For a detailed analysis of methodological naturalism, cf.

www.arn.org/docs/odesign/...nat181.htm

www.arn.org/docs/odesign/...nat182.htm

Continuing:

“Any rule which helps you refute the possibility that a crayon talked to you, is a good rule, amen? Or, would you rather not have that rule and just evaluate the evidence itself? ha ha ha, crayons talking? How silly....oh wait...I only say "silly" because I first assume uniform order in historical causation.”

For the umpteenth time he gives us an ersatz example of a miracle, as if that’s comparable to a biblical miracle like the Resurrection.

In the nature of the case, there’s no evidence for an ersatz miracle, and you can make it as silly as you please.

How is that the least bit relevant to the Resurrection, which is neither silly, nor bereft of evidence?

Proceeding along:

“You are just preaching to the choir. I came here of my own freewill and laid out my main presuppositions on the table and gave arguments for why I believe them. You are just using provocative language because you failed miserably to refute the very rule that protects you from believing everything you hear as soon as you hear it.”

What he did was to lay out his presuppositions and then offer circular arguments for why he believes in them.

At one level there was nothing to refute because he never gave a non-circular, non-question-begging argument for what he believes. All he did was to make baseless claims and groundless assertions for what he believes.

Finally:

“Fallacy of confusion, I couldn't possibly do as you say I do, because the principle of uniformity IS my criter [ion].”

So, when push comes to shove, he is unable to justify his criterion. By his own admission, he can give no reason why he should believe it or we should believe it. So what is there to refute?

By contrast, we can certainly gives reasons for what we believe. Indeed, this all got started because Jason was discussing messianic prophecy in relation to the nativity of Christ.

Likewise, there’s no dearth of reasons for believing in God. But why should we have to reinvent the wheel each time when the arguments are only a mouse-click away? Cf.

www.homestead.com/philofr...ments.html

It is not our duty to do an unbeliever’s reading and research for him. If an unbeliever can study liberal attacks on the veracity of Scripture, he can just as well study the many essays, articles, commentaries, and monographs which rebut the liberal attacks on Scripture.

It is not as if these objections have never been broached before, or answered before. These are oft-answered stock objections. An honest unbeliever would at least acquaint himself with the answers, and if he finds them unsatisfactory, explain why.

Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience. A very genealogically conscious audience.

They could read 1 Kings just as well as our atheist. Indeed, they could read it in the original. They knew their way around the OT genealogies. This was, after all, a tribal society and covenant community based on God’s covenant to Abraham and his seed, as well as a dynastic priesthood. They hated Herod because Herod was a usurper—an Idumean, which made him an Edomite, which made him kin to Esau, the outcast. They were looking forward to a restoration of the Davidic kingship.

Matthew is making use of a literary convention known as gematria. The numerological arrangement of genealogies goes all the way back to Genesis, where you have ten generations from Adam to Noah (Gen 5), and ten generations from Shem to Abraham (Gen 11), as well as ten generations from Perez to David (Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chron 2:5,9-15). For a numerological arrangement based on multiples of seven, cf. Gen 46:8-27.

The obvious way to achieve numerical symmetry is to skip over various descendents. Indeed, if you think about it, gaps are the rule rather than the exception.

The stereotypical formula is: A begat B, B begat C, C begat D, and so on. Notice the singular form. But most fathers in fact had more than one son.

In Scripture, there’s a principle of theological legitimacy as well as genetic legitimacy. An apostate son is not a legitimate heir. His name and progeny may disappear from the family tree (e.g. Dan; Cain). The firstborn may be mentioned, but sometimes Scripture overrides primogeniture in favor of a younger son.

Driving the numerology is an overruling concern with tracing out the lineage of the seed of promise. Cf. “Seed,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, T. Alexander & B. Rosner, eds. (IVP 2000), 769-774.

So the messianic motif is driving the numerology. As such, Matthew’s practice is sanctioned by venerable Biblical precedent.

6 comments:

  1. e202:
    “When you reject stories about greek gods impregnating woman, but you accept stories about Hebrew god's impregnating women, is this just your methodological naturalism rearing it's ugly head? Or is it because you have rules of historiography from your world-view through which you interpret evidence?”

    Your strained attempt at a parallel between the virgin birth and Greek mythology is disanalogous since, in Greek mythology, impregnation takes the form of sexual intercourse, which is totally absent from the account of the virgin birth.

    e202:
    My point was your rejection of certain miracle claims in ancient literature, and had nothing to do with how closely the details of the Christian virgin-birth story parallel other divine-birth stories. in spite of this irrelevancy, you also commit the no-true-scottsman fallacy, by trying to get rid of the similarities via the citation of different details. By your logic, if two trucks have different sets of tires, are colored differently, one is stick, the other automatic, one is 4x4, the other not, and one has tinted windows, while the other doesn't, then they must not be the same make and model. ridiculous. We learn from your mistake then that the general similarities require explanation if we allege that both items are originate from entirely different points, and that citation of differences in various details does NOT "outweigh" the similarities.

    If you’re looking for rough parallels to the virgin birth, the place to look is not in Greek mythology, but in other Biblical examples of miraculous conceptions (Isaac, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist), as well as passages describing the descent of the Shekinah upon the tabernacle (Exod 4:35), and the eschatological visitation of the Spirit to quicken the barren land (Isa 32:15). So the virgin birth moves in a completely different universe of discourse than Greek mythology.


    e202:
    You must then think that the first post-apostolic Christian apologist was about as aware of his surroundings as a rock. I'll gladly take the apologetic evidences of a 2nd century Greek Christian apologist, over yours, on the subject of whether Jesus has any equal parallels with the pagan gods. For while he used the parallels to make Jesus more familier and pallatable to his greek audience, you must rekon with how utterly foolish his argument would have been, if the greek gods and the gospel descriptions of Jesus move in different universes.

    ***begin quote***
    And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, WE PROPOUND NOTHING DIFFERENT from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Aesculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, LIKE HER, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf YOU PRODUCE SOME ONE WHO SWEARS HE HAS SEEN THE BURNING CAESAR RISE TO HEAVEN from the funeral pyre?

    And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for ALL RECKON IT AN HONORABLE THING TO IMITATE THE GODS. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, WAS BOTH A PARRICIDE AND THE SON OF A PARRICIDE, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions.

    But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things.

    And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.
    Chapter XXII.-Analogies to the Sonship of Christ.
    Moreover, the Son of God called Jesus, even if only a man by ordinary generation, yet, on account of His wisdom, is worthy to be called the Son of God; for all writers call God the Father of men and gods. And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God. But if any one objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours, who suffered as we have now enumerated. For their sufferings at death are recorded to have been not all alike, but diverse; so that not even by the peculiarity of His sufferings does He seem to be inferior to them; but, on the contrary, as we promised in the preceding part of this discourse, we will now prove Him superior-or rather have already proved Him to be so-for the superior is revealed by His actions. And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Aesculapius.
    Justin Martyr, First Apology,
    Chapter XXI.-Analogies to the History of Christ.
    ***end quote***

    When Justin appeals to the retroactive demon-activity who imitated Jesus' attribute before Jesus was born, this is a very desperate attempt to try and justify why the greek gods look and sound so much like Jesus, and in this way he pretty much seals the coffin lid on top of modern apologetic claims that the parallels between Jesus and earlier greek gods are not significant enough to merit serious consideration.

    “I'm sorry to hear that you think seeing is believing. Personally, I do a lot of investigation to make sure I don't get tricked into believing something that isn't true.”

    This is a classic illustration of secular fideism. Even if you were to personally witness a miracle, you would continue to deny the existence of God, following the motto Groucho Marx: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes!”

    E202:
    What's wrong with making sure that my eyes haven't decieved me, except that such a test makes it harder on miracle-workers to dazzle me? If you saw somebody walk on water, would you immediately believe they had supernatural power, or would you investigate for possible hidden props intended to decieve the eyes?

    “The only proof I need to establish the possibility that people can rise from the dead is a single confirmed sighting. We aren't that different after all.”

    Notice, once again, that our atheist has tacitly conceded that we don’t need parallel cases to establish the Resurrection.

    e202:
    The only reason I said "cases" plural, in the past, was because as a skeptic, I naturally wish to make sure that my acceptence of an alledged event is based upon as much data as possible. For even if you were to come up with a modern-day miracle report that I couldn't explain away naturalistically, that STILL doesn't suddenly mean that miracles are true or possible. But since you chose to mention how just one confirmed instance is enough to convince you, I freely chose to back off my criteria of plural "cases", to make your defeat even more graphic by offering to accept just a single case. When you are in the mood to actually start giving evidence of miracles instead of complaining about my world-view, I'll be right there to analyse everything you have to say.

    The resurrection of Christ is confirmed by multiple-attestation.

    e202:
    I guess you only offer unsupported assertions because you said that in a form that Jason E said was primarily for the benefit of Christians. However, you wouldn't find "the objectivity of Hume's miracle rebuttals stands firm" very convining, so neither do I accept your similarly unsupported preaching "the resurrection of Christ is confirmed by multiple-attestation."

    Perhaps that benefits the believers to talk like that, but all you are doing for me is reminding me that you forgot how I prioritize the uniformity of the physical laws over eyewitness testimony.

    That's exactly right. If 6,000 people swore on a stack of bibles that they saw someone walking on water, I would rest upon the confirmed physical laws to laugh in their faces.

    Am I wrong for using uniformity of physical laws to discount thousands of eyewitnesses to a single event which they further interpret as a miracle? Why? Isn't eyewitness testimony more prone to false reporting and prone to complex problems such as group-think and cognitive dissonance, than is, say, the unanimous consent of the scientific community that earth's gravity affects all material objects? WHo among the two groups, has more probability of being wrong?

    Should we also look through history to see how many times the scientific method has resulted in incorrect results and how many times people misinterpreted some event as a miracle?

    “All attempts to learn what really happened by using historical documents, is historical reconstruction.”

    Once more, this assumes that the Gospels don’t tell us what “really” happened.

    e202:
    No historian on earth automatically believes everything he sees written in an ancient religious propaganda, outside the bible. Therefore, you either need to argue that the bible deserves to be trusted far more so than other similar religious docuents, or you need to admit that you are cornered when asked to produce a single example of extra-biblical religious propaganda which you trust to tell the facts only, no embellishments or errors. You dance around my request that you name this extra-biblical source you trust like the bible, because the fact is that you dismiss the full facticity of ALL non-biblical ancient religious propaganda, which then makes your acceptance of the bible look like a child's game of playing favorites, also known special pleading. That will stand against you until the day you decide to actually provide evidence that people should trust the bible more than the non-biblical ancient religious literature which you summarily reject from the "report-the-facts-only" category.

    Again, what evidence do you use to support your premise that the New Testament, for example, is completely historically trustworthy, while you deny this high trust to every other non-biblical ancient religious document? Can you answer that directly by actually giving said evidence? I'm betting you can't. Prove me wrong.

    The only reason you’ve given for disbelieving the Resurrection is your “principle of uniformity”—a principle which you’ve had to recant.

    E202:
    I never recanted it, I only temporarily and volutarily chose not to cite it as a reason to doubt any miracle evidence you have, to demonstrate that even without this major non-theistic assumption, your evidence for miracles cannot stand the test of scrutiny.

    “I didn't think I needed to clarify that because uniformity of physical laws makes miracles impossible, Christianity, a religion based on a miracle, is refuted. Unless you have some sort of evidence that miracles are consistent with uniformitarianism?”

    Now you’re resorting to truth by definition. If you define the principle of uniformity as a closed causal system, then, by definition, you’ve excluded the miraculous.

    But that’s a tautology, not an argument, and a very self-serving tautology at that.

    e202:
    But you haven't demonstrated how my belief that the causal system is closed, is any less warranted by the evidence, than is your automatic rejection of talking crayons from the causal system. Try again.


    You, however, have also defined the principle of uniformity as meaning that the past resembles the present.
    Yet as Jason and I have already pointed out, a Christian could accept that definition, but reject your conclusion. For a Christian can believe that miracles continue to happen in the present as well as the past. They happen throughout the course of recorded history.
    When cornered, you play hopscotch with your own definition.

    e202:
    I fail to see how noting that a Christian can believe in uniformitarianism, by including miracles, and thus causing them to differ radically from atheist uniformitarianism, somehow shows that i am playing hopscotch with my own definition. Ok, so Christians can define the uniformity of the past in a way that they wish, and thus may choose to admit to believing in "uniformity", without necessarily telling the hearers that their sort is quite different from atheist uniformity. Big Deal! How does that threaten the atheist version in the least?

    What would you prove?


    “Really? How could uniformitarianism be squared with the occurance of miracles? By arguing that the physical laws sometimes break down on their own and permit miracles?”

    This is warmed over Hume. Natural law is not a Biblical category. Christians believe in ordinary providence (e.g. Gen 8:22), but that allows for the miraculous.

    You are acting as though the universe is a box, so that nothing can enter or leave without tearing open the box.

    e202:
    yes, that's because any such idea as "outside the universe" sounds like utter nonsense to me. Don't you mean "everything that exists" when you say "universe"? If so, then logically there CAN't be anything outside the realm of existing things to enter that box. But if not, where is your proof that "universe" doesn't refer to all existing things? What then.....will you tell me you believe that certain things exist outside the realm of all existing things? Please justify your seemingly arbitrary limitation upon a word that is supposed to refer to ALL because it starts with "UNI". I've got space, matter, time and energy, and it's the universe. If you got something more than these things, please give your evidence of it.


    But Christians don’t operate with such a crude, primitive conception of the universe.

    e202:
    Why are you wasting my time telling me that I and the Christians disagree on the definition of the universe? Did you think you were benefiting somebody with this?


    Again, if you redefine the principle of uniformity as a closed system of cause and effect, you thereby exclude the miraculous, but this confuses a semantic ploy with a reasoned argument.


    E202:
    what makes you think that the atheist understanding of the word "universe" is a REdefinition? I used the dictionary for my definition of the universe, how about you?

    2 entries found for universe.
    u·ni·verse ( P ) Pronunciation Key (yn-vûrs)
    n.
    All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole.

    The earth together with all its inhabitants and created things.
    The human race.
    The sphere or realm in which something exists or takes place. (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=universe)

    When you are in the mood to give evidence that there is any such thing as "outside" the realm of "all matter and energy", let me know.

    “How could you dare say such a thing without backing it up? Give me your best evidence of modern-day miracles. I will accept even just a single authenticated case. I'll put my automatic rejection of miracles on hold and just see if your best evidence can stand the test of scrutiny. I promise not to make use of my uniformitarian principle in my entire evaluation of your best proof for modern miracle. Deal?”

    Of course, the escape clause is “authenticated.” This is a value-laden judgment.

    e202:
    A value-laden judgement that I promised to not make using my presupposition of automatically rejecting miracles based on the uniformity of history as I see it. You wanna try again?

    I’ll just give three examples that come immediately to mind, two of which come from my own family history.

    1.My mother is 87. She has macular degeneration. She has had macular degeneration for over 20 years, yet her eyesight is as good as mine (I’m 46).

    She began going blind early in the progression of the disease. After visiting her ophthalmologist, she prayed about the matter. When she saw him the next time, her eyes had gotten better rather than that worse. Her ophthalmologist was stumped. He had no scientific explanation for the reversal. I take that to be an answer to prayer.

    e202:
    First, what is your advice to people who ask you whether they should believe a miracle report from a personal family situation reported by somebody else to them over the internet? Would you say that sounds like enough data to make a sound scholarly conclusion as to whether the report was true or not? Or would you say that any conclusion on whether it really happened as they said would be premature without more evidence than just their word?

    Second, will you accept my own testimony that miracles can't happen, or will you insist that evaluation of my claim calls for looking at more evidence than simply my personal testimony?

    THird, I think it's extremely stupid for modern medical science to assume that they know everything about the natural possibilities of the human body. How about you? As such, I am NOT prepared to rule out a natural cause merely because current medical science cannot figure out how the human body healed itself. Now, do you have evidence that modern medical science has plumbed the absolute limitations of the body's natural ability to heal itself? Or does there exist the possibility that the human body can do things naturally that modern medical science cannot currently explain?

    Fourth, I accept your testimony as proof that miracles do indeed happen and so, atheism is surely wrong!

    See anything wrong with suddenly agreeing to a miracle testimony found on the internet?

    2.At one time her sister was in a doctoral program at the University of London. Her advisor was a misogynist. He was making it impossible for her to complete her degree.
    When her sister came to visit us, she asked my mother to pray about the matter. We formed a circle and my mother prayed that the Lord would remove the obstacle.
    The next day her advisor dropped dead of a heart attack, and my aunt was assigned a new advisor—a woman. I take that to be an answer to prayer.

    e202:
    I hoped to find a $20 bill on the ground one day last year when i was without work and hungry. Lo and behold....I found a $20 bill that very same day in the parking lot of the labor union downtown.

    Do you conclude that the atheist mind has the ability to create material objects via sheer wishful thinking? Or are you slow to discount the possibility of conicidence?

    My proof that your #2 miracle was only coincidence then, would be to ask you how many times you prayed for something and DIDN'T get it. If you hear an atheist say she hoped to get A, B and C, and hasn't yet, you'd probably tell her that's because simple hope or wishful thinking, has no power to bring about it's own result, and that if she HAD gotten her wishes, that would never prove that her hopes had some sort of power by themselves outside his body.

    If the atheist must deal with the sad news that she often doesn't find fulfillment of things he hopes for, because hope doesn't have any power outside the human mind....

    ....then YOU must also be open to the possibility that your failure to get what you pray for, may also be accounted for by supposing prayer also doesn't have any power outside the human mind.

    In both cases, the actual getting what you want doesn't refute the theory that hope and prayer never cause anything by themselves. The only way you could refute this is to argue against the possibility that your aunt experienced a coincidence, no different than my finding $20 on the ground just like I had hoped that same day i would, when i needed it most.

    Yeah, i'd like to see you argue against it being a conicidence. Surely you agree that life is full of coincidences which have no deeper significance that statistical certainty? Have you ever found yourself waiting at a red light directly parallel to somebody else in the lane next to you, who is driving your exact make and model and color of car/truck?

    Wow, god must be trying to tell you something at the intersection, eh? Maybe, that your make and model of car, isn't the only one in the world?

    Sure, god doesn't always answer prayer the way you'd like, but then again, which hypothesis involves the least difficulties, so that we may know which one is probably more true (occam's razor)? God doesn't always answer prayer the way we want him to, or coincidence? Now don't waste my time saying that the least complex solutions aren't always the correction solutions. We are dealing with probabilities, not possibilities, when we reconstruct history...so until such a time as you have solid evidence to support your interpretation of your family's healing experiences, the simplest solution, apart from good evidence supporting a more complex explanation being better, must carry the day. I never said the simplest solution is always the correct one so don't misconstrue my words to mean such.

    3. John Ruskin records the following anecdote in his autobiography:
    “Before her illness took its final form—before, indeed, I believe it had at all declared itself—my aunt dreamed one of her foresight dreams, simple and plain enough for anyone’s interpretation; that she was approaching the ford of a dark river, alone, when little Jessie came running up behind her, and passed her, and went through first. Then she passed through herself, and looking back from the other side, saw her old Mause approaching from the distance to the bank of the stream. And so it was, that Jessie, immediately afterwards, sickened rapidly and died; and a few months, or it might be nearly a year afterwards, my aunt died of decline; and Mause, some two or three years later, having no care after he mistress and Jessie were gone, but when she might go to them,” Praeterita (Oxford 197 , 61).

    At the time Ruskin wrote his memoirs, he was an apostate. Hence, he had no religious incentive to credit his aunt with heavenly premonitions.

    e202:
    I believe it, so miracles must be possible after all!

    See anything wrong with that? Maybe that it's just a tad premature? Maybe because no self-respecting investigator will accept anecdotal evidence as successfuly refuting his personal world-view?

    “I don't have to. If I DON'T abide by the ‘present is key to the past’ principle, then there is no more criteria for weeding out embellishments and factual errors. Jesus clapped his hands and made the birds fly away, eh? Well, that sure doesn't square with my experience of the past, then again, whether it square with my past experience is irrelevant."

    “That's what I'd have to say under your criticism of me. How then could I ever distinguish truth from error in history books?”

    All you’ve done here is to reiterate your original fallacy. This is a leap of faith—what George Santayana, your fellow atheist, dubbed animal faith.

    It is irrational to reject a position just because you don’t like the consequences of the position if true. That does nothing to falsify the position or verify the opposing position.

    e202:
    And here you committ the popular apologist-error of saying that I reject certain evidence because I don't "like" it. Sorry, i do no such thing. I reject evidence if it is either insufficient or else contradictory. Whether I "like" the evidence or not, is irrelevant. Unless you are willing to say that you too reject evidence that you don't "like"? If so, then your response is pointless, EVERYBODY rejects evidence that they don't "like", in the sense that you will admit you do.


    There is no a priori reason why our historical knowledge might not be severely circumscribed—especially if we are merely animals whose cognitive abilities are adapted to bare survival. The Christian also believes in historical continuities, but that is grounded in the promise and providence of God, whereas your own position is simply groundless.

    e202:
    You yourself, in your hasty rejection of my "talking-crayon" analogy, contradict your above response, since by denying the possibility of talking crayons, you have denied all possibility of them ever being proved to you at any time, and this means you think historical causation is too uniform to allow the possibility of such things. Are you therefore subjecting yourself now to the very criticism of being "self-serving" which you throw at me? As a skeptic, I doubt it.


    “The fact nature exhibits a uniform order, and I've never seen a single exception to it, and the fact that seeing an exception to uniform physical laws seems to be a silly premise.”

    Our only evidence for the uniformity of natural law consists in the testimonial evidence of those who went before us.

    e202:
    False, our own life experience also tells us what is more likely true and what is more likely false. Whether it's always right or not is irrelevant to my point that past testimony from those who went before us is NOT the only source of information we have on the subject of uniformity of natural law.


    But the historical record includes a great deal of testimonial evidence to the occurrence of miracles. You cannot have the witness to one without the witness to the other.
    So your appeal is either viciously circular or else selectively lop-sided. Talk about special pleading!

    e202:
    I committ no special pleading, I depend primarily on my own personal experience of life to decide whether some report of an event is more probably true or more likely false. Aside from disrupting the concerns of christian apologists, I see no proof that my dependence upon my own knowledge of life is too biased to be objective. I also don't believe in tooth-fairies, or flying pigs, so how do you think I got that far, if the way i personally investigate allegations is not objective enough?

    So far, "but your methodology excludes miracles!" seems to be your strongest point. When you decide to actually give real evidence that my historical uniformity rule does more harm than simply putting me at disagreement with you on miracles, I'll be there to read it.

    “Should I always be open to the possibility that a pink-elephant may one day float out of the sky and give me a used pair of shoes? After all, just because it hasn't happened in the past....yada yada yada.”

    The constant resort to silly, artificial examples affords no counterexample to serious reports of serious miracles.

    e202:
    Silly? Artificial? Sure sounds like you only label my pink elephant analogy with those words because you are relying on the uniform absence of such monsters from your personal past experience of life. If not, then how exactly did you come to know that such things as flying elephants are indeed safely presumed to be "silly" and "artificial"?


    “Ah, so the gospels are NOT promoting the cause of Jesus?
    from dictionary.com, for your convenience:
    The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.
    Material disseminated by the advocates or opponents of a doctrine or cause: wartime propaganda.
    how can you say the gospels, for example, are NOT "propaganda". Are they not material disseminted by the advocates of a doctrine or cause?”

    You are equivocating and prevaricating. “Propaganda” is a word with both a neutral and a negative connotation.

    Wartime propaganda is often deliberate misinformation to deceive the enemy.

    Yes, the gospels are promoting the cause of Jesus. That doesn’t cast any doubt on their veracity unless, according to your journalistic standards, a news reporter is only believable if he doesn’t believe what he’s saying.

    e202:
    what then have you proven I did wrong, since you agree that the gospels are promoting the cause of Jesus (i.e., propadanda)? Just because I also doubt their veracity doesn't mean I'm wrong to refer to them as promoting the cause of Jesus.


    “Sure, so do you think any extra-biblical reports of miracles in ancient religious literature are reliable?”

    I don’t generalize. One has to judge on a case-by-case basis. Not all reports of extraordinary events are reliable, just as not all reports of ordinary events are reliable. The rules of evidence are the same for both.

    e202:
    How does my question ask you to generalize? You surely think the NT miracle reports are reliable, do you thus think that the question "do you accept miracle reports in the New Testament as reliable" thus is asking you to generalize?


    “That's funny, i could have swore that I explained my acceptance of the principle of uniformity, several times, with nobody who denied that principle being able to tell me why they deny the existence of flying pigs.”

    To concoct a ridiculous example as a special case excluded under a covering law does nothing to establish the general principle.

    e202:
    Again, you call flying pigs "ridiculous". Is this because of your prior committment to the uniformity of historical causation, which you are keeping secret from us? Or do you deny the existence of flying pigs only because you've never seen evidence of them? If because you never saw evidence of them, and you think you are thus justified to disbelieve on the basis of a lack of evidence, then you are hypocritical IF you say atheists are not justified to disbelieve in God merely via lack of evidence. You disbelieve all sorts of claims because of a lack of evidence, therefore don't expect from us more than you expect of yourself.

    “This is twice now, at least, that you have merely asserted that I give no evidence. You wouldn't be convinced if I said ‘but you give no evidence for your view’, why then are you throwing this provocative language out at me?”

    You came over to a Christian discussion board to challenge our faith. In so doing you assume some burden of proof. Otherwise, all you’ve done is to say that you don’t believe because you don’t believe.
    Judging us by your slanted rules of evidence without giving us evidence for your rules is not a rational way to make a case for your own position or oppose ours.

    e202:
    I could level the same provacative langauge at you too. Gee Steve, judging by your slanted rules of evidence without giving us evidence for your rules is not a rational way for you to make a case for your own position or to oppose mine,now is it?

    See? Now then, how interested are you in answering such flaming language which ANYBODY can throw at anybody else regardless of whether it has the least amount of truth to it whatsoever? Will you answer "but I HAVE given you evidence"? Well gee, I can say "but I HAVE given you evidence" too. Are you thus convinced that I do have evidence, because I can assert without proof too?

    Assuming you don't want your competition to think you operate more on dogma and less on evidence, you should really lay off your quaint confident retorts that the guy you are debating has given you no evidence, unless you support that allegation with at least one example.

    “Also, you should have already guessed that I, an atheist, would agree that the cogency of that historical rule is quite independent of whether it happens to exclude the divine.”

    Why should I have guessed from your identity as an atheist that you’d agree that the cogency of the historical rule independent of its atheistic ramifications?

    e202:
    For the same reason you'd expect atheist to guess that YOU would agree that the cogency of a historical rule is independent of it's theistic ramifications.

    If, by your own confession, your atheistic identity should lead me to deduce your position regarding the rule in question, then your agreement with the rule in question is clearly implicated in its atheistic ramifications.

    “My imposition of that axiom upon the evidence is not because I forgot that historical causation is uniform, but is only for YOUR benefit in knowing why i believe what I believe. But by myself, I do not apply this rule to historical sources much like you'd apply a ruler to paper to see how long 2 inches is.”

    “You are right, we ATHEISTS don't need to impose that axiom, we only do it when Christians ask us why we reject miracles. When we aren't talking to you, we impose nothing more on historical books than anybody else. We all have inevitable bias, which cannot be snuffed out completely.”

    Our atheist is substituting a disguised description for an explanation. Why doesn’t he believe in miracles? Because of the principle of uniformity.

    And what does the principle of uniformity amount to? “Because I first assume uniform order in historical causation.”

    e202:
    wrong, the next question is not the one that completes the circular thinking, "And what does the principle of uniformity amount to?"...but is rather...."and what evidence is there for historical uniformity?", to which I answer "have you ever jumped up and then remained suspended in the air without knowing how you are defeating gravity? Talk to me about the fallacy of the uniformity principle the next time you discover any exceptions to it. Until that day, I may safely assume that kids bouncing balls in china discover that gravity affects them the same way as it affects my children in America who also bounce balls."

    You may think my automatic exclusion of disproofs of absolute uniformity shows I'm begging the question, but as I pointed out earlier, even YOU place limits on what can be proved from history, as proven from your immediate negative response to my talking-crayon and flying-elephant analogies as "ersatz" and "the constant resort to silly, artificial examples". Doesn't your negativity and mockery of my anaologies as being "silly" demonstrate that you are NOT open to the evidence that they occur? Now if you reply "ok, so show me evidence of a talking-crayon", and that is supposed to mean that you ARE open to evaluating evidence objectively, then why don't you accept "ok, so show me a miracle" as proof that atheists are just as open to proof contrary to their position as you, in spite of their past mockery of the possibility of such proofs actually existing, such as you do in calling my analogies "silly"?

    All he’s done here is to repackage his original rejection. He appears to be giving a reason for his rejection of miracles, but when you unpack his reason, it comes down to the presumptive principle that the uniformity of historical causation doesn’t allow for miracles.

    e202:
    I've never seen a bad naturalistic explanation for any alleged miracle, that's why I refuse to include miracles as part of true history. When you come up with the kind of miracle evidence that I cannot find a naturalistic explanation for, NOW you are talking the possibility of miracles. As I said before, and as i prove below, I CAN evaluate supposed miracle-evidence on the basis of the allegations and circumstances themselves, and not just splatter "uniformity doesn't allow this" all over the face of it. As such, you need to acknowledge that your own citation of miracles in response to my request means you do believe there's a chance I can so evaluate. I sure hope you have a long and distinguished list of miracle evidences.


    Why does he reject miracles? Because he “assumes” a causal model in which there’s no room for miracles. But this is just a circumlocution for saying that he doesn’t believe in miracles because he doesn’t believe that miracles ever occur.
    Notice how that sidesteps the question of why he assumes the principle of uniformity in the first place. He defines uniformity by the absence of miracles.

    So he hasn’t, in fact, given us a reason for his rejection. All he’s done is to paraphrase his original rejection. He’s done nothing at all to move the ball forward. The real question remains unanswered.

    e202:
    What evidence would you accept that history is indeed uniform, so that I will know what exactly will convince you? Or, do you have no idea what sort of evidence would convince you, which means your own position is not falsifiable and thus not based on evidence?


    “Yes it is. It is the result of seeing the same result over and over and over and over, otherwise known as uniformity, which becomes methodological naturalism.”

    Here he seems to be giving a reason for why he believes in the principle of uniformity, but this, too, is deceptive.

    To begin with, he’s failing to distinguish between personal and impersonal causation. Impersonal causation has reference to the cyclical processes of nature. For example, once a man impregnates a woman, that sets an automatic process in motion. A process which is repeated over and over again in the course of human history.

    However, whether or when a particular man impregnates a particular woman is not, of itself, a cyclical or automatic process. If he does so, certain things will follow, but it is not certain that he will do so, or at what time.

    Now, the Resurrection is a case of personal causation. God the Father raises his Incarnate Son from the dead. This has nothing to do with the regularities of nature.

    e202:
    I fail to see how my failure to distinguish personal causation from impersonal causation, somehow refutes my general observation of seeing the same result over and over. I don't care if a tree falls off a mountain because the wind blew it off (cyclical process of nature, impersonal causation) or because you cut it off (personal causation), the distinction between personal causation and impersonal causation doesn't threaten my reliance upon the uniformity of the applicable natural law (i.e., gravity still exerts a force on the tree after it, for whatever reason, detaches from the mountain.


    And even if natural law were in play, if our belief in natural law is based on seeing the same results time and again, then natural law is descriptive rather than prescriptive since it is based on observation of the way things usually work. It doesn’t dictate to reality what reality is permitted to do.

    e202:
    Yeah, ok....so if I notice that brick always falls to the ground when I let go of it outside my window, even if i should perform the feat 10,000 times and get the same result each time, I would be wrong to conclude it's impossible for the brick to possibly just remain floating in the air one of the times I let it go, after all, "natural law is descriptive rather than prescriptive since it is based on observation of the way things usually work. It doesn’t dictate to reality what reality is permitted to do."


    That's just too funny.

    By the way, since I can never tell the universe what to do, and it is in fact an open system (according to you), and thus not guaranteed to work the same way as it has in the past, what are the chances that you will stand under that brick while I let it go, in order to show everybody on the street how utterly fallacious the atheist version of the principle of uniformity really is?

    Naw, you are just as confident in the uniformity of natural law as any atheist, at least when it comes to standing under bricks that people are releasing above your head. You live by that principle everyday and only choose to controvert it in philosophical discourse because it actually can be used to threaten the very book and faith you have staked you whole life and entire reputation on.

    However, “methodological” naturalism is prescriptive and stipulative. For a detailed analysis of methodological naturalism, cf.

    www.arn.org/docs/odesign/...nat181.htm

    www.arn.org/docs/odesign/...nat182.htm


    E202:
    Your
    Also, going back to what you said earlier (And even if natural law were in play, if our belief in natural law is based on seeing the same results time and again, then natural law is descriptive rather than prescriptive since it is based on observation of the way things usually work.)

    ...your distinction between prescriptive and descriptive is necessarily false, since it would be logically impossible to have a natural law that is only descriptive and not prescriptive. For example, how can the natural law "gravity affects al material objects on the face of the earth" be ONLY descripive, without such description logically necessitating a PREscription (i.e., it always works that way, or, no material object is an exception)?

    A law that is ONLY descriptive, such as "every material objective I've ever seen is affected by gravity", because it doesn't prescribe what can and cannot happen, is NOT then a "law", because a "law" describes how things DO operate, all the time, and doesn't fail to be a law simply because it cannot be backed by confirmed observations of all instances of it's applicability in the universe. That is why scientists say they will revise the natural laws when they find any confirmed exceptions to them. They would need revision, because after all, a law states what can or can't happen, which then speaks to every instance of the phenomena, not just the instances that passed the right tests in a laboratory.


    Continuing:

    “Any rule which helps you refute the possibility that a crayon talked to you, is a good rule, amen? Or, would you rather not have that rule and just evaluate the evidence itself? ha ha ha, crayons talking? How silly....oh wait...I only say "silly" because I first assume uniform order in historical causation.”

    For the umpteenth time he gives us an ersatz example of a miracle, as if that’s comparable to a biblical miracle like the Resurrection.

    In the nature of the case, there’s no evidence for an ersatz miracle, and you can make it as silly as you please.


    e202:
    Since it is your opinion that talking crayons are not parallel to resurrecting men, I will challenge you on that.

    What do you mean that "in the nature of the case".....there's no evidence for talking crayons? Isn't that exactly how I argue against biblical miracles? Why then are you condeming my reasoning to that end, when you use the exact same reasoning (i.e., there's no evidence, ) to deny the possibility of talking crayons?

    Does your use of my exact same reasoning then suggest that you don't really think that the excuse 'there's no evidence' is really that fallacious after all? Or did you screw up royally just now?


    How is that the least bit relevant to the Resurrection, which is neither silly, nor bereft of evidence?

    e202:
    You are talking to an atheist, who is absolutely against miracles as you know from our previous exchanges, and you don't understand how I can equate Jesus' resurrection with something that is "silly"?

    Since you obviously know that I would claim the resurrection of Jesus is silly AND befect of all evidence, you are obviously talking more to the Christian readers than you are to the person whose presuppositions you should be able to anticipate.


    Proceeding along:

    “You are just preaching to the choir. I came here of my own freewill and laid out my main presuppositions on the table and gave arguments for why I believe them. You are just using provocative language because you failed miserably to refute the very rule that protects you from believing everything you hear as soon as you hear it.”

    What he did was to lay out his presuppositions and then offer circular arguments for why he believes in them.

    At one level there was nothing to refute because he never gave a non-circular, non-question-begging argument for what he believes. All he did was to make baseless claims and groundless assertions for what he believes.


    e202:
    like I said, preaching to the choir. I could also likewise preach to a bunch of singing atheists, using your exact words, but you will not find me acting that irresponsible. Ironically, when you said I gave baseless assertions, you didn't support that point, making the comment itself a baseless assertion. You can respond that you supported it in previous posts, well then by that standard, I can defend myself from the charge with the same excuse, that I did NOT give baseless claims, but supported my arguments in previous posts. You aren't convinced when i refute with a reference to what I did in the past, and I'm not convinced when you do the same, so for the umpteenth time, do you think you can lay off the preaching and not make point against me unless you are willing to back it up?


    Finally:

    “Fallacy of confusion, I couldn't possibly do as you say I do, because the principle of uniformity IS my criter [ion].”

    So, when push comes to shove, he is unable to justify his criterion.


    e202:
    Where did I ever say that I couldn't justify my criterion, simply because the principle of uniformity IS my criterion? I have no problem with the idea that one's criteria need to be justified, which is indeed the crux of our entire debate; whose criteria of historicity is more objective, yours or mine?

    so I find you are reading way too much into that comment of mine.



    By his own admission, he can give no reason why he should believe it or we should believe it. So what is there to refute?


    e202:
    I never made such an admission, here you are talking mostly for the Christian readers and not me. Maybe you shouldn't be so concerned to teach the sheep how to avoid the devil, that you forget what the devil actually said or is doing?


    By contrast, we can certainly gives reasons for what we believe. Indeed, this all got started because Jason was discussing messianic prophecy in relation to the nativity of Christ.

    Likewise, there’s no dearth of reasons for believing in God. But why should we have to reinvent the wheel each time when the arguments are only a mouse-click away? Cf.

    www.homestead.com/philofr...ments.html

    e202:
    Well gee, infidels.org is just a mouseclick away, so why should I re-invent the wheel with you? Do you ever show up on atheist message forums?


    It is not our duty to do an unbeliever’s reading and research for him. If an unbeliever can study liberal attacks on the veracity of Scripture, he can just as well study the many essays, articles, commentaries, and monographs which rebut the liberal attacks on Scripture.

    e202:
    It is not our duty to do a believer’s reading and research for him. If a believer can study conservative attacks on the non-inerrancy of Scripture, he can just as well study the many essays, articles, commentaries, and monographs which rebut the non-inerrancy attacks on Scripture.


    It is not as if these objections have never been broached before, or answered before. These are oft-answered stock objections. An honest unbeliever would at least acquaint himself with the answers, and if he finds them unsatisfactory, explain why.

    e202:
    And there's the ad hominem again! But anyway, your words are just as meaningless to me as they are when throw back at you:

    It is not as if these objections have never been broached before, or answered before. These are oft-answered stock objections. An honest believer would at least acquaint himself with the answers, and if he finds them unsatisfactory, explain why.

    Gee, are you suddenly convinced now that you are dishonest and haven't at least acquainted yourself with the answers? Please explain why your logic always sucks when it is applied to other equal situations of people asserting at others.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Steve,

    Are there any books on logic and/or logical fallacies you might recommend Christians to study to better understand how to grapple with arguments, how arguments are constructed, what arguments are based upon, etc.? Would really appreciate it. :-)

    Cool, thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  3. dave wave, the formatting you've used, especially for such a long and involved response, is difficult to follow. It doesn't help that you've seemed to left out necessary quotation marks here and there as well. I mean, introducing Steve's quotes with "e202:" and then following with your own response introduced with "e202:" alone makes this blog reader feel like he's having to work too hard to read a blog comment.

    1 Corinthians 2:14, on another subject, is a good verse to ponder.

    Also, Steve's response to you in the Matthew 1 challenge on the NTRMin forum was rather well-stated. For the record.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dave Wave,

    As one of the contributors to this blog, I will happily give you a long leash in the comments section.

    However, given the length of your comments I would suggest that you use your blogger ID and construct a blog for lengthier comments such as this and invite us to respond back and forth on our respective blogs. This is the way most do this. The comments section is not a discussion board. The length of your reply is not as much an issue as is the way you formatted it.

    Alternatively, you may avail yourself of the hypertext tags above. The second will enable italics and is ideal for quoting others. Be sure to close your instances of HTML tags. If you are unfamilar with HTML tagging I suggest you find a quick primer on opening and closing HTML tags. This will make your writing easier to follow.

    When Justin appeals to the retroactive demon-activity who imitated Jesus' attribute before Jesus was born, this is a very desperate attempt to try and justify why the greek gods look and sound so much like Jesus, and in this way he pretty much seals the coffin lid on top of modern apologetic claims that the parallels between Jesus and earlier greek gods are not significant enough to merit serious consideration.

    Justin offers them as examples of false records, myths of demons not as equal parallels. He does not offer them to say “Look, this is why you should believe in Christ,” as if Jupiter is a type of the biblical God, he offers them saying, “We acknowledge that there a some parallels, but they are demonic in origin and denigrate the truth.” As such the argument is comparison by way of contrast.

    There is a difference in the way Justin cites them and the way you cite them. There is also a difference in the way Celsus, for example, cites them. He engages in comparative mythology at some points himself. The tendency of the early pagan critics was to cite them as disanalogous, not analogous, and the Christians that cited them as falsely analogical; they did not cite them as geneaological. They are cited as comparisons for the sake of contrast.

    In contrast, modern comparative mythologists allege not that they are analogical but that they are genealogical. In order for a parallel to be valid, it has to genealogical, not simply analogical.

    From Metzger: “Even when the parallels are actual and not imaginary, their significance for purposes of comparison will depend upon whether they are genealogical and not merely analogical parallels. That is to say, one must inquire whether the similarities have arisen from more or less equal religious experience, due to equality of what may be called psychic pitch and equality of outward conditions, or whether they are due to borrowing one from the other. Interesting as the parallels are which Sir James G. Frazercollected from the four corners of the earth in his monumental work, The Golden Bough, by no means all of them are to be regarded as the result of demonstrable borrowing. In seeking connections it is not enough (as F. C.Conybeare pointed out) “for one agent or institution or belief merely to remind us of another. Before we assert literary or traditional connection
    between similar elements in story and myth, we must satisfy ourselves that such communication was possible.”

    It is a fact that in various spheres close similarities even in phraseology have been discovered which are related to each other by nothing more direct than analogy. For example, in a letter published in The (London) Times at the end of July, 1938, the late Professor Harold Temperley pointed out two quite remarkable parallels between speeches made by Canning in 1823 and 1826 and their modem counterparts in Neville Chamberlain’s utterances on July 26, 1938. In a subsequent letter, the Prime Minister disclaimed having previously read either of Canning’s speeches, and concluded that the parallels “indicate simply the continuity of English thought in somewhat similar circumstances, even after an interval of more than a hundred years.”

    Or, to take an example from ancient times, a close parallel to the docetism expressed in the apocryphal Acts of John has been discovered in Ovid’s Fasti. It would be vain, however, to imagine that Greek Christian writers were indebted to Ovid for their docetic interpretation of Christ’s sufferings. So too, as Toynbee points out in his Study of History, the uniformity of human nature sometimes produces strikingly similar results in similar situations where there can be no suspicion of any historical bridge by which the tradition could have been mediated from one culture to the other.

    Even if the parallels are genealogical, you have to be able to prove they moved in a particular direction. You need to prove, not assume, that Christians borrowed from the pagans and not vice versa, and you need to come up with a reasonable argument that Jews would be easily persuaded to borrow from those pagan myths, when the evidence is to the contrary. Why would a Jew, whom the pagans of the 2nd century tell us were renown for their separatism, find a myth constructed from Greco-Roman pagan myths persuasive?


    See Metzger, M. “Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Christianity,” Historical & Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, & Christian
    (Eerdmans 1968), 1-24

    Celsus himself cited the myths of Danae and Antiope is parallels from which he alleges the Christians copied their virgin birth story. Yet in both of those, Zeus impregnates the ladies through sex, so we do not have a virgin birth, because the women who give birth are not virgins. So, Celsus has made an invalid parallel.

    Those who pilfer the pagan myths for such parallels need to look to the most obvious place first: the Old Testament. They would save themselves much time. Of course, this might mean actually dealing with the text of the Bible fairly. God forbid you make that attempt. The virgin birth is the climax of several types: Seth, Isaac, Moses, Samson, Samuel, John the Baptist. That is the universe of discourse in which the narrative of the virgin birth moves.


    Additionally, basing your assertions on the priniciple of uniformity in historiography requires a supporting argument.

    You are basing your use of the principle on highly disputed grounds. Historiography is a highly fragmented discipline.

    Structural determinism is only one principle in historiography. There is another: liberty and contingency, the idea that it is uniformly true that we should expect the unexpected. I have a decree in history, and I still remember my professors'lectures on this idea. The classic charge is that structural determinism tends to make for error laden explanation, particularly at the macro-level, a tendency toward single factor explanations, and a tendency toward ignoring the multiplicity of possible pathways by which an explanation may be reached. These obscure and do not illuminate the events under study.

    This is not a position held exclusively by Christians or theists. A Christian can argue his position on the basis of this principle of contingency without appeal to his own worldview and as means to justify his inclusion of the miraculous. One need simply hold the principle of contingency over the principle of uniformity, look over the textual data, the character of the witnesses, et. al., and judge the material reliable.

    Low probability does not rule out contingent explanations. I believe it was Whaley that argued that if we make the principle of uniformity stipulative we end up excluding many historical events including those surrounding Napolean. History does not depend on repeatability. It depends on testimony.

    The odds of being dealt a 13-card suit in Bridge is 1 in 159,000,000,000; if we have several witnesses of high character who record this event at the level of the resurrection, should it be believed or rejected on the basis of probability? It happened. Probability is not a reason to reject it having happened if the testimony is reliable.

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  5. What does the doctrine of common grace have to say regarding, for instance, the Olympian pantheon? I just ask because it seems too dismissive of the value in such works as the Homeric epics to say they were inspired by demonic activity or imitation.

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  6. The readers should recognize by now that Dave Wave is a poor writer, and that he often is incoherent and inconsistent. If you show him to be wrong on a subject, he'll change his argument in the middle of the discussion or say that he accepts your refutation, but only for the sake of argument. He'll claim at one point that he needs evidence for a resurrection other than Jesus' resurrection before he can consider the possibility that Jesus rose from the dead. But when you explain to Dave that we would never be able to prove the first resurrection if every resurrection claim needs a prior example before being considered, he changes his approach. He doesn't admit that he was wrong. Instead, he claims that he's willing to accept your approach, but only for the sake of argument. Or he'll act as if his new position is what he's been arguing all along. In other words, instead of admitting that he was wrong, he adopts his opponent's position and claims that he's only doing it for the sake of argument, or he changes his argument without admitting the change.

    Despite the incoherence and inconsistency of so much of what Dave writes, he does occasionally say something that's clear and so easily refuted as to not allow him much room for revision. In his reply to Steve Hays in this thread, Dave wrote:

    "I've never seen a bad naturalistic explanation for any alleged miracle, that's why I refuse to include miracles as part of true history. When you come up with the kind of miracle evidence that I cannot find a naturalistic explanation for, NOW you are talking the possibility of miracles."

    Notice the multiple flaws in Dave's reasoning. The fact that a naturalistic explanation is possible doesn't make it the best explanation. According to Dave's logic, we would still be justified in rejecting the resurrection of Jesus even if we had multiple video tapes of the event and thousands of eyewitness accounts. After all, it's possible to come up with naturalistic explanations of such evidence. Maybe all of the video tapes were altered by some means that we don't know how to detect. And maybe all of the eyewitnesses were hallucinating. Therefore, since a naturalistic explanation is possible, we're justified in dismissing multiple video tapes and thousands of eyewitnesses.

    The readers should know, also, that Dave Wave's latest arguments in this thread are largely repetitions of what he argued earlier. He was refuted in the earlier discussions, but he keeps repeating himself over and over.

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