Brother Danny said:
“Isn't this really about Hume's PoI, which clearly divides believers, of all stripes, in a supernatural ontology from materialists/naturalists? The uniformity of nature (UN) and the openness to scientific examination of alleged violations is the crux of my position, but I can't speak for John.”
“I haven't read the other posts by fellow triabloguers, but let me systematically categorize "ancient superstitions" versus "modern superstitions". Do we agree that scientific knowledge usurps superstition?”
No, we don’t agree to that.
i) Not all scientific theorizing counts as scientific knowledge.
ii) It’s true that science can undermine superstition, and that’s a good thing.
iii) The uniformity of nature is a metaphysical axiom, not a scientific discovery.
iv) There is, in Danny’s discussion, a systematic equivocation over the definition of “superstition.”
Does “superstition” mean (a) irrational belief, or (b) religious belief?
v) Science is not opposed to religious belief, per se.
vi) Science can also swap out an ancient superstition with a modern superstition, viz. ufology.
vii) To take another example, it’s obvious that Darwinism is far more than a scientific theory for many unbelievers. They have a deep emotional investment in evolution. It has become their alternative to a Christian worldview. That’s why they brook no dissent. That’s why they blacklist anyone within the scientific community who expresses doubt over evolution.
It has become a modern superstition.
“Do we agree that someone who subscribes to the UN and does not believe any event cannot be explained via naturalism is antithetical to superstition?”
This is antithetical to “superstition” as religious belief (a tendentious definition), but it is not antithetical to “superstition” as irrational belief.
“Good. Now, I would simply argue that proposed ‘holes’ in the UN can either be patched via the natural worldview or via any of the various supernatural ontologies.”
If Danny is admitting that there are gaps in the uniformity of nature, then the dogma of UN is underdetermined by the evidence.
“We should make a line of demarcation there. If you agree, then we must agree that categorically speaking, the number of ancient peoples with a strictly natural worldview, who subscribed to the UN, was incomparably small relative to today. Therefore, the number of peoples across the line, who subscribed to one of the many pseudo-explanations of myth, lore, and miracles to plug in the holes of their knowledge, [qualified that we're talking about myth and lore that incorporate gods, supernatural entities and events, etc.] were hugely disproportionate to today. Simply put, then number of materialists/skeptics then, compared to now, is pitifully insignificant.”
“The schools of the Cynics and Skeptics made up what fraction of the world at the time? The disproportionate writings we have from them are representative not of their size, but of their historical place within the "ancient enlightenment" of Greece, and the abundant literature poured out at the time (relatively speaking) from all schools of thought there. As a proportion of the worlds' population, these schools were insignificant.”
“ Therefore, probabilistically speaking, John is justified in saying that the category of "ancient peoples" is not fallaciously equated with "superstitious" peoples.”
i) Danny is equating superstition with religiosity or belief in the supernatural.
That definition is invidious and prejudicial. All he’s done is to beg the question in his favor through the semantic ploy of truth by definition.
ii) We also need to distinguish between general belief in the supernatural, and the specific identification of the supernatural.
The specific identification of what constitutes the supernatural is often culture-bound. Cultural tradition supplies the interpretive categories.
But it doesn’t follow from this that belief in the supernatural is culture-bound. Historically, belief in the supernatural is a cultural universal.
iii) Secularism is also a consequence of social conditioning.
iv) At the same time, all that modernity is done is to replace one form of superstition or religiosity with another.
A postchristian culture isn’t any less religious or superstitious than a prechristian culture.
Rather, a postchristian culture will either substitute a secular superstition like ufology and metaphysical naturalism or else revert to an ancient superstition like the occult.
Belief in the supernatural either remains intact, but is merely relocated, or else it’s transvaluated into a secular surrogate.
“You proceed to examine ancient beliefs and disregard them on the basis that they are ancient. John disregards superstition, characterized by a supernatural ontology and disbelief in the UN. Obviously, the bedrock of the UN is the foundation for materialism, so I don't see how you can justify calling people who subscribe to it ‘superstitious’. By default, it would seem, people who disregard miracles and agree to the UN are non-superstitious.”
Because this trades on the equivocal usage of “superstition.”
“The same goes with skeptics. If they require evidence to believe that the UN is violated, doesn't that make them the opposite of gullible, naive, or superstitious? Isn't that where the term "enlightenment" and the phrase "the age of reason" come in: where superstition is abandoned?”
This is a classic example of a blinkered outlook. Notice where he places the burden of proof.
He takes the uniformity of nature as a given, so that the onus is on the Christian to proven an exception or “violation.”
But there is no evidence for the uniformity of nature. There is only evidence for the regularity of nature.
There could never be evidence for the uniformity of nature since that is a universal claim which is vastly underdetermined by our sampling base. Induction alone cannot possibly justify the uniformity of nature.
At most, there would only be evidence that things have always happened the same way as long as earthlings have been observers.
Unfortunately for Hume and his epigones, the same historical testimony to the ordinary course of nature also includes testimony to the miraculous.
Indeed, this is so pervasive that unbelievers must summarily dismiss their testimony by branding it as “superstition.”
But if those who lived before the glorious age of reason are unreliable witnesses to the miraculous, then pre-enlightenment observers are also unreliable witnesses to the “uniformity” of nature throughout the preceding millennia.
“And the average American scientific illiterate today, compared to 2000 years ago, is still extremely less superstitious, in that they at least almost universally acknowledge the UN, excepting only miracles done by their preferred god.”
Aside from Danny’s ubiquitous equivocation, why does he assert that we limit miracles to our own religion?
i) To begin with, Christians believe in the dark side. In the reality of witchcraft.
ii) Most religions never lay claim to miraculous attestation in the first place.
“The good news is that the number of gods has shrunk, leaving less "alternative explanations" for our gaps in knowledge and proposed violations of the UN. As silly as people are today, with 60% believing in ESP and 32% in lucky numbers, compare that to the ancient world's various superstitions, or even our modern-day third-world countries, and what would we see, percentage-wise?”
This assumes, without benefit of argument, that belief in the paranormal is inherently superstitious.
But the parapsychological literature cannot be disqualified with a wave of the hand. Not everyone involved in this line of research is a quack or dupe. And some case-studies are more impressive than others. Just consult some of the standard literature on the topic, viz.
Bartholomew, D. Uncertain Belief (Clarendon 1996)
Braude, S. Immortal Remains (Rowman & Littlefield 2003)
Montefiore, H. The Paranormal: A Bishop Investigates (Upfront Publishing 2002).
John W. Loftus said:
“No, No, No. One main point from what I wrote is that since these Ephesians were totally convinced in Artemis WITHOUT evidence, then whether they believed Paul or not would not depend on evidence either. “
i) A nonsequitur. Given the force of social conditioning and the fear of being ostracized, they would need a reason to convert.
ii) And the fact that they had no evidence for their hereditary pagan faith does not imply that they were also given no reason to believe the Gospel.
“So the fact that the gospel spread in the Roman world among THE MASSES (or specifically the Ephesian area) doesn't show anything about the evidence there might have been for the gospel. Miller does not/cannot refute this point since I quote from the Bible itself. (Look also at Acts 17:22-23 where the KJV uses the word ‘superstitious’).”
i) The Christian faith has always been an apologetic faith. Just read F.F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Eerdmans 1984).
ii) By “superstitious,” Luke means idolatrous.
“On the contrary, since we are all children of our times, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Paul himself was a child of his times and believed a wonderful story based upon a vision he saw.”
i) Yes, the Bible writers were children of their times. They were products of their social conditioning.
But God is responsible for their social conditioning. That is why the Jews were called upon to separate themselves from the idolatries and immoralities of their pagan neighbors.
ii) Loftus begs the question by assuming that there’s no such thing as revelation or providence.
iii) Paul revised his views on the basis of new information. That’s rational, not irrational. And besides the vision, he appeals to other supporting evidence, viz. prophetic fulfillment, eyewitnesses.
“Now I know that I can prove none of this”
“Just like you cannot prove the opposite.”
A tendentious claim.
“But it leaves room for doubt, such that if you were a juror judging the case it would be enough to cause "reasonable doubt" like it does with me.”
Whether the Christian faith is doubtful or not depends on one’s theology and epistemology.
For my part I regard saving faith as a mode of knowledge, not defeasible belief.