Friday, September 29, 2006

Explanation & explanandum

SH: Since a naturalistic alternative which is devoid of any positive evidence whatsoever is still more plausible than a supernatural/miraculous explanation.

JC: That's not my view. Can you quote me where I said that?


1.To begin with, this is not all about you. This is part of an ongoing thread which began when Gene rightly criticized the methodology of the contributors to The Empty Tomb.

BTW, Stephen Davis has since leveled the identical criticism. Great minds think alike.

At that point you jumped into the fray. So much of what I say is generally targeting TET, since that was the original point of reference.

2.Oh, and it is your view. This is not what you say your view is. You’ll deny it. You’ll say there is positive evidence for the alternatives.

But I’ve already been over that ground with you. So I’m moving ahead.

SH: Without affirming or denying the metaphysical status of the miraculous, it will deny that a miracle can ever be verified, either (i) because, “by definition,” a scientific and/or historical explanation can only appeal to a naturalistic explanation by assuming the uniformity of nature as a closed system, or (ii) because a miracle is always so inherently and highly improbable that not amount of evidence can ever meet the threshold of justified belief.

JC: That's not my view either. So your first to points used to explain my original claim in fact don't explain my claim at all.


1.Once again, this is not all about you. It’s the way the objection is generally framed by folks like Bart Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar, the contributors to TET, and so on.

2.But, once again, it is also your own view. You may deny it, but by your own admission, from past discussion, you stack the deck by creating a huge presumption against the miraculous. And, again, what is driving that, by your own admission, is your prior commitment to naturalism.

Oh, you may say, as a throwaway argument, that your commitment to naturalism is not unconditional, but as a practical matter, it clearly is.

SH: Alternative explanations enjoy an independent probability value.

JC: You can set them up that way if you like for the purpose of discussion. If you don't like that assumption you don't need to hold to it.

SH: This is not “my” assumption. This is the assumption of the opposing position, as I’ve established in previous discussion.

SH: Contradictory explanations can be bundled together to count against the phenomenon they dispute.

JC: Finally one thing described accurately. This is what Holding is doing. This is what the book The Empty Tomb does.

SH: Okay, so by your own admission, TET supplies a point of reference. It’s not all about you.

SH: Apropos (4), contradictory explanations acquire a cumulative probability value that outweighs the singular claim they oppose.

JC: This again has nothing to do with what I said.

SH: Actually, it has everything to do with what you said. You suffer from a couple of basic failings in these exchanges:

1.You act as if anything I now say is limited to the very last thing you said, so that we’re starting from scratch with every pair of exchanges.

I don’t compartmentalize my replies in that way. I take into account everything we’ve both said up to and including your last reply—not to mention many of your past exchanges with Jason.

2.Another problem is that you confuse a denial with a disproof. The fact that you may deny a position I attribute to you or others doesn’t amount to a disproof of the attribution.

You’ve denied various attributions in the course of this thread, but then I proceed to show how the attributions stick—your protestations notwithstanding.

SH: All this is quite disanalogous with a biblical harmonization:

JC: Probably because it has little to do with my claim. Only 4 is accurate and it turns out 4 is exactly what Holding is doing. So how is my example "disanalagous"?

SH: I detailed the way in which it’s disanalogous in what follows. Apparently, you don’t read through a rejoinder from start to finish before you respond.

SH: There should be some positive evidence in favor of the proposed harmonization for it to enjoy any positive epistemic warrant.

JC: Better tell Holding to knock it off with his alternative explanations to biblical problems.


1.Holding is your choice, not mine. He’s not my yardstick. Someone like Blomberg would be better example of the harmonistic method.

If you want to attack Holding’s harmonistic method, you are welcome to go back to DC and do a post on that very topic, then get into a debate with Holding.

That’s not what I’m here for.

I’m discussing the issue at a higher level of generality. Your own example from Holding is just as illustration of a much broader set of phenomena involving the harmonistic principle.

2.As I said before, there is more at issue than that particular example. The thread goes back to the methodology of TET.

3.I also doubt that Holding would say his alternatives are devoid of positive evidence. But that’s between you and him.

SH: At the same time, I can field your hypothetical objection with another hypothetical explanation. Even if my explanation may lack any positive warrant, it answers your objection on its own level. My conjecture is just as good as yours.

JC: Sounds like you're saying I can offer hypotheticals to Holding and my conjecture would be as good as his.


1.I’m not saying anything about Holding. You are.

2.As I made clear in dealing with your fellow Debunkers, if an unbeliever can raise a hypothetical objection to the logistics of a given Biblical claim, then it is sufficient for the Christian to proffer a hypothetical solution.

SH: Even in case of 2, it should make use of known possibilities.

JC: Holding doesn't.


1.Holding is your obsession, not mine.

2.However, in the example you gave, he was appealing to known possibilities.

SH: The probability of a proposed harmonization is also dependent, at least in part, on the veracity (rather than falsity) of the underlying phenomenon.

Given that x is a true statement, or given that x really happened, or given that both x and y are true, then there must be some correct explanation for the apparent discrepancy, whether or not it’s available to us.

JC: Obviously Holding's critics do not take it as a given that X is a true statement if X is some of those statements in the Bible we're referring to.

SH: Except that if you’re accusing Christians of inconsistency (a double standard), then that’s in the nature of an internal critique. And when you mount an internal critique, you assume the viewpoint of the opposing position (in this case the Christian) for the sake of argument.

SH: In this case, the probability of the explanation is derivative of the phenomenon it explains, although it may or may not enjoy a measure of direct evidence as well.

JC: Not qute sure what you're talking about here. I think you're saying that since the Bible is true this factors in to the probability of biblical contradiction explanations. They carry more weight because their must be an explanation. I don't think so.

SH: You don’t think so on what grounds? An internal critique? Or an external critique?

SH: By contrast, alternatives to the Resurrection assume the falsity of the Resurrection, and are treated as though they enjoy some independent level of probability due to the metaphysical or methodological assumption that any explanation, however improbable, is more probable than an impossible explanation (i.e. miraculous/supernatural).

JC: This is absolutely false.

SH: Oh contraire. This is absolutely true, and I’ve argued that very point in the course of this thread. Anyone is free to go back through the archives.

SH: Apropos (5), there is a difference between saying that (i) alternative explanations of the same phenomenon all count in favor of the same phenomenon, and saying that (ii) alternative explanations all count against another opposing explanation.

JC: You bet there is. One is an explanation to show that what Christians think is true. The other is an explanation to show that what skeptics think is true.

SH: The function of a harmonization is not to show that the phenomenon is true, but rather, to show that the phenomenon isn’t false.

JC: I mantain a consistent standard. I have no problem with Holding offering multiple mutually exclusive explanations. You are a Christian so you engage in special pleading. One standard for skeptics, another for you.

SH: You continue to confuse the relationship between various explanations, on the one hand, with the relationship between explanations and the phenomenon they purport to explain, on the other hand.

Sorry you lack the mental clarity to extricate yourself from this elementary level-confusion, even after it’s drawn to your attention.

SH: Comparing one explanation with another, or with a set of explanations, is different from comparing an explanation or set of explanations with the phenomenon it purports to explain.

JC: OK. Who is comparing an explanation or set of explanations with the phenomenon the explanation purports to explain? What does that even mean? Do you even know what you are saying?

SH: Sorry you can’t keep track of your own argument. According to the way in which you yourself have framed the argument in the course of this thread, the phenomenon would be something like the Resurrection or a Bible quote.

An explanation would be a way of harmonizing that phenomenon with some alleged contradiction or else an alternative theory of what “really” happened.

JC: I'm comparing a set of explanations to a single opposing explanation in both cases.

SH: No, you’re substituting a set of mutually exclusive hypotheticals for the thing to be explained.

You really need to learn the elementary and elemental distinction between an explanation and the explanandum (that which is to be explained).

JC: I'm saying it's perfectly fine for a Christian to offer a set of explanations for a biblical contradiction.

SH: Actually, it’s not perfectly fine without further qualification, as I stated before.

JC: But since that's true for Christians (in my world) it must be true for skeptics as well. Logic doesn't have one rule for Christians and another for skeptics. If it is fine for you then it is fine for me. I can offer a set of explanations to the opposing single Christian explanation for the resurrection event. Either have your cake or eat it.

SH: A fallacious analogy since your parallel is predicated on a false premise. I presented a carefully caveated statement of what counts as a valid harmonization or alternative explanation, including the limits to such a procedure.

You, in turn, drop all the caveats, then accuse me of special pleading or a double standard. This is a straw man argument.

You can only fabricate your artificial analogy by stripping away my qualifications. Your characterization of my argument is a demonstrable caricature, and a childish one at that.

Is the problem that you lack the intellectual aptitude to keep more than one idea in your head at a time?

All you’ve succeeded in showing is that you can’t interact with a sophisticated argument.

And as far as confectionary metaphors are concerned, it’s quite possible in my world as well as yours to have my cake and eat it to. I can eat half of it now, and save the other half for later.

Not only is that possible, but it’s better for the waistline.


  1. Once again, this is not all about you. It’s the way the objection is generally framed by folks like Bart Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar, the contributors to TET, and so on.

    What do you mean it's not about me? I posted a comment in a thread and you started your own thread to refute it. Of course you don't have to start threads about me. You can talk about Bart Ehrman or whoever you want. But if you are going to attempt to respond to my comments you need to respond to my comments and represent them fairly. Don't pretend to respond to me, then when called on it say "I'm just responding to Bart Ehrman." That's a cop out.

    Your claim that in fact my view is the same as Ehrmans is easy to say but hard to prove. Back it up. Use my words and show that this is my view. Your assertion that this is my view is again a cop out.

    I’m not saying anything about Holding. You are.

    Now you don't want to talk about Holding. Again, I made a brief comment about Holding and how if we use your standard Holding is wrong for refuting Bible contradictions in the manner that he does. You start a whole thread and start debating it. When I show that you haven't absolved Holding you want to say that Holding is irrelevant and not the issue. But Holding is the subject of the thread I started which you are trying to refute. If you agree with me that he violates your standard, then why start a thread in refutation of me? Just say that you agree with me and move on. Instead you feign refutation, then when called on it you try act like you're not trying to refute. If you weren't trying to refute you wouldn't have started the thread.

    You don’t think so on what grounds?

    On the grounds that I don't accept the question begging assumption that the Bible is true.

    Sorry you can’t keep track of your own argument. According to the way in which you yourself have framed the argument in the course of this thread, the phenomenon would be something like the Resurrection or a Bible quote.

    An explanation would be a way of harmonizing that phenomenon with some alleged contradiction or else an alternative theory of what “really” happened.

    However you want to describe the various elements of the analogy, I'm treating both the explanations (multiple explanations for the resurrection or the bible contradiction) and the phenomenon to be explained (a claim of a bible contradiction or a claim of a miraculous resurrection) the same. You say there's a difference between these things. Fine. So what? There's a difference between cats and dogs but this has nothing to do with my argument. You need to show not only that there is a difference, but there is a difference of relevance that shows these situations to be "disanalagous" (if that's a word).

  2. On the grounds that I don't accept the question begging assumption that the Bible is true.

    You ran out of gas a long, long time ago on this issue. You don't accept this assertion. Thank you for admitting that you begin from a posture of unbelief.

    You do accept the question begging assertion that naturalism is true. You deny this charge by way of semantic games, but when pressed to the wall, you display that you functionally prefer naturalism to any other explanation. You say you are "neutral" but if you were neutral, you wouldn't demonstrate by your actions and assertions that you begin from a posture of unbelief. Neutrality is, in point of fact, impossible. It's a pity you can't follow your own arguments.
    You're trapped in the box called "apostasy" and you're too blind to see it. I've told you before that if you really wanted to understand, you'd repent of your sins and cast yourself on God's mercy and truly empty out your soul before Him.

    The situations are disanalogous in that when you object to the resolution of an alleged contradiction in Scripture you're the one that commits an elementary level confusion when you compare this to explanations for the Resurrection. This has been explained to you repeatedly, and this is the same explanation you will get not only from Steve and me, but from a more liberal scholar like Davis. So, our objections to TET are not generated by a precommitment to inerrancy; rather our objections are based on the logical flaws to your reasoning and that of the writers of ET.

    One more time to review.

    With respect to the Resurrection, we are told that the Resurrection is false because of the alleged contradictions in the pertinent texts. Yet we are told that we should reject the Resurrection because of what the writers of TET say, even though all their theories contradict each other and discount all or some of the evidence at hand.

    Now, Christians might disagree on the order of events as they occurred, but they do agree on the veracity of the text itself, and the Resurrection is the only explanation of the events for which one can make a consistent positive case and account for all the information at hand. What's more, we don't accept such absurb conclusions as the writers of TET that if one angel was in one account and two in the other that the accounts are contradictory. That's absurd on its face.

    The writers of TET, with you as their staunch defender, have stated that the allegedly cumulative evidence of not only multiple paths to the same event (or rather non-event) but different explanations of different events, which are contradictory to each other too boot and which exclude or, most, or at least some of the extant evidence are somehow more credible than the one explanation of the event which happens to be the only one that accounts for all the evidence at hand, and is the very thing the text itself explains.

    So, this isn't a case for atheist of merely positing various paths to the same event, in your case the non-truth of the Resurrection, but of making a positive case for their alternative theories based on the evidence at hand. That is not the same as making a positive case for the Resurrection based on the resurrection at hand but differing on the exact order of what happened. Why? Because the writers of TET and you by your support of them are not merely arguing that the Resurrection did not occur. They are making a positive case that something else occurred and making a case for that based on the evidence at hand--some or all of which they rule out. So, you not only have a set of mutually contraditory theories, but they are also theories that, unlike the one that all the evidence taken together affirms (the Resurrection) discounts and/or contradicts some of the evidence at hand. Ergo, no matter how you add the relative probability of them together, any comparison you make is specious, because these explanations are not on an epistemic par with the Resurrection at all, not individually, and not cumulatively.

    As to the principle of harmonization itself. To begin with, I suspect that your desire to invoke Holding is a ploy for you to avoid having to talk about your own inepitude in the past. That said, let's take a look at the principle of harmonization.

    Even if 2 commentators differ over the exact resolution of an alleged contradiction, there are some elementary distinctions to be made:

    a. Differing on the path to the same conclusion with respect to what a particular text says can be the result of a number of factors, including a copyist error in the original about which one commentator knows or prefers over another. In addition, there is often too little text chasing a particular issue, so there is little with which they have to work from the beginning. Ergo, they may need to speculate.

    b. These commentators are still trying to account for all the available evidence.

    c. The atheologist, in contrast, begins from a posture of unbelief and will do whatever s/he can to assert "contradiction!" What's more, they will discount all or some of the evidence at hand. This is exactly what the authors of TET did.

    d. To take a concrete example, let's designate Commentators 1 - 3. (C1 - C3) C1 and 2 are Christians. C3 is a typical atheist. AC will be the designation for our alleged contradiction.

    C1 and C2 differ over the precise path to resolve AC. Yet they will both conclude the veracity of AC after an attempt at harmonization.

    C3 will look at their conflicting stories and say that this proves AC.

    However, a difference over a conflicting path for C1 and C2 is a manner of their method or the amount or type of speculation involved. Yet they agree AC occurred because there is no positive case for C3's assertion of AC, and there is thus no reason to, given a harmonization, discount the text. What's more C1 and C2's explanation does account for all the information that C1, C2, and C3 have available. C3 discounts part or all or contradicts some of that same information. Ergo, C3's conclusion is not on epistemic par with the conclusions of C1 and C2.

    C3 then appeals to the speculative nature of their (C1 and C2's) resolution, as if that makes them false; yet he then accepts the speculations of say, Richard Carrier in TET or speculates himself with respect to his own assertions about AC. So, it's not C1 and C2 who are using a double standard, but C3.

  3. Robin of the Hood10/01/2006 8:22 AM

    I've told you before that if you really wanted to understand, you'd repent of your sins and cast yourself on God's mercy and truly empty out your soul before Him.

    If you really wanted to understand, you'd not say something so asinine as this.

  4. If you really wanted to understand, you'd not say something so asinine as this.

    The cross is folly to those who are fools.