Saturday, June 07, 2008

When covenant kids go bad

[Josh S, channeling Michael Spencer] “In addition to having no idea how much thinking goes on among BHT fellows…”

It’s a well-kept secret.

“Mr. Hays clearly doesn’t know much about the drinking habits of the patrons of this establishment.”

Of course, this betrays the real reason that Josh squandered his patrimony for the fleshpots of Augsburg.

It’s little missteps atop the slippery slope that make the fatal descent unstoppable. Such as substituting Demon Rum for grape juice in the Lord’s Supper.

Having caved into his baser instincts, Josh had a choice. Mormonism would indulge his low, carnal appetites, but it frowns on firewater. Catholicism would accommodate his hankering for hooch and cussin' a blue streak, but it suffers from too many sexual hang-ups. (Well, at least on paper. In practice...)

It was in the bacchanalian revelries of Lutheran Scholasticism that our young debauchee found the perfect compromise.

I have a friend who works undercover infiltrating Black Masses. He once wore a wire to a Lutheran worship service. You wouldn’t believe what he caught on tape. Organ music. Hymns of human invention. A choir in the background. It’s enough to make Bonnie Prince Charlie roll over in his grave!

And things went bad to worse when Josh became ensnared in the lubricious tentacles of the BHT.

But there’s still time for Josh to reform his wastrel ways and return to the truth faith once delivered. As a covenant child, we remain confident that our backslidden brother will reverse course before he tumbles headlong into the bowels of perdition.

Come, back, Josh. Mother PCA will welcome you back into the fold. All you have to do is pray three John Pipers, reconsecrate your life to the Auchensaugh Renovation, and make an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Robert Louis Dabney.

Come out from among the BHT and be ye separate!

“I would say pray for him, but that would make baby Jesus cry.”

This is proof positive that Lutherans are heretics. As every well catechized Christian should know, the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

Calvinism vs. Arminianism

Below are all the links to the massive debate between Calvinism and Arminianism that took place between (mainly) Victor Reppert, Steve Hays, Paul Manata, and Dominic Bnonn Tennant. This post will function as a (almost) one-stop shop for seeing anti-Calvinist arguments, and rebuttals to those arguments. Our opponent, Victor Reppert, has a PhD in philosophy and so makes for an ideal representative of the philosophical arguments Arminians use against Calvinists. In other words, this is no hand-picked opponent. Furthermore, the reader will notice that this debate covers much more ground than philosophical arguments against Calvinism. What began as a moral argument against Calvinism broke off into discussions on: Universalism, Hell, God's attributes, inerrancy, Frankfurt-Counter examples, compatibilism, libertarianism, exegesis of Scripture, theological presuppositions, and much more. This means that many arguments a Calvinist might run into are dealt with and addressed here. At the end, Reppert's last post shows the tremendously scaled down nature of his argument. He all but admits that there is no good argument against Calvinism that does not presuppose the falsity of key Calvinist tenants. He all but admits that the Calvinist can answer the strongest charge leveled against them by other Christians: the problem of evil.

I have a ranged the below in as coherent a list as I could. The debate was highly informal, and thus there are many skips to other subjects. Frequently the reader will note that Reppert never comes back to offer a surrejoinder to our rejoinders. Some "chapters" have many posts grouped together. This is because I felt that they revolved around a central theme and so I thought it would be better to include them all in one "chapter."

I think both Calvinists and Arminians can make use of this "debate." This "debate" will also be helpful generally. Many atheists raise PoE objections to Christianity that are dealt with and answered here. The Calvinist reader can employ the theodicies used here for purposes beyond the Calvinist/Arminian debate. So this "debate" should have a wider appeal and profit.

Steve Hays: Calvinist
Paul Manata: Calvinist
Victor Reppert: Arminian
Dominic Bnonn Tennant: Calvinist

1. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Dominic Bnonn Tennant

2. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

3. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

4. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Paul Manata

5. Paul Manata

6. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

7. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

8. Victor Reppert (see second comment down from top) / Paul Manata / Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

9. Victor Reppert / Dominic Bnonn Tennant / Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

10. Steve Hays

11. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata / Dominic Bnonn Tennant

12. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

13. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

14. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

15. Steve Hays

16. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata / Steve Hays (top of post) / Paul Manata

17. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays (bottom of post) / Paul Manata

18. Steve Hays / Steve Hays

19. Steve Hays

20. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays

21. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Paul Manata

22. Paul Manata / Victor Reppert

23. Victor Reppert (see 4th comment down from top) / Steve Hays

24. Paul Manata

25. Paul Manata / Victor Reppert (see 2nd comment down from top) / Paul Manata / Victor Reppert / Paul Manata / Paul Manata / Paul Manata

26. Steve Hays

27. Paul Manata

28. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Paul Manata

29. Paul Manata

30. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Paul Manata

31. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata / Paul Manata

32. Steve Hays

33. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays

34. Victor Reppert / Paul Manata

35. Victor Reppert / Steve Hays / Paul Manata (see comments section of Victor's post)

36. Paul Manata

37. Victor Reppert / (See that comment section for responses by myself and some other Calvinists.)

38. Victor Reppert / (See that comment section for responses by Hays, myself, and other Calvinists.)

39. Victor Reppert

"What Protestants & Catholics Can Learn From Each Other"

I just ran across a DVD entitled "Common Ground: What Protestants & Catholics Can Learn From Each Other."

Lest anyone think I'm deficient in my ecumenical sympathies, I'd be the first to admit that Catholics and Protestants have a lot to learn from each other. We just need to be good listeners, that's all.

In particular, Catholics can learn that we're right while we can learn that they're wrong.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Strawfoot-in-mouth disease

“I still stand by it and still feel that it is entirely appropriate. For the early Christians who lived near a pre-conversion Paul whose families were indeed being murdered and torn asunder by the, (at the time) Christian-hating Saul I would say the same thing. Christ Himself prayed, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ If He, HE could pray that, I truly cannot fathom any excuse we could have for not praying for our enemies. It is easy to pray for people who are like you, but it is another thing entirely to pray for someone who isn’t like you – or even flatly opposed to you."

A couple of basic problems:

i) Did Christ ever say that? The problem is that the MSS evidence is stacked against the authenticity of Lk 23:34. So if Strawfoot is invoking the authority of Christ for his position, shouldn’t he make a minimal effort to evaluate the textual authenticity of his prooftext?

I pointed this out in my initial reply. What is Strawfoot’s response? To blow right past it.

So what does his faith rest on? Make-believe? Scribal interpolations attributed to Jesus? Does Strawfoot also take up snakes and drink poison?

What about visions of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich? Or splinters of the True Cross?

ii) How did he get from early Christian martyrs who prayed for their executioners to Ted Kennedy? I missed the transitional argument. Where’s the parallel?

Remember, this is his own analogy. How does he plan to complete the comparison? Is he saying that Ted Kennedy is a 21C version of Nero? In what respect?

“If praying for my ideological/personal/physical enemies forever excludes me from the TR club and makes me an insipid lunkhead then so be it.”

What, exactly, is Strawfoot’s problem? Did I say we shouldn’t pray for our personal enemies? Didn’t I specifically identify the enemies in Mt 5:44 as personal and/or political enemies? If Kennedy filled that job description, then—in principle—it would be our duty to pray for him. (Mind you, the Federal gov’t has something like 3.6 million employees.)

Is Strawfoot too illiterate to read what I wrote? Is he too blinded by personal animus to pay attention? Or is he simply dissembling?

What about “ideological” enemies? Is Mt 5:44 referring to “ideological” enemies? Can Strawfoot sustain that identification from the context? Does he even try to exegete his prooftext?

If he doesn’t care what the Bible really means, why go through the motions of quoting Scripture? Why not drive a hybrid car, practice Yoga, and visualize world peace?

Incidentally, just how many Senators, judges, governors, Congressmen, et al. is Strawfoot actually praying for on a regular basis? How often did he pray for Ted Kennedy before news of his brain cancer hit the airwaves?

“I can see no other healthy response. Until your faith has been tested in the area of praying for someone who means you harm then you can’t know how it feels.”

I take it that Strawfoot has extensive personal experience praying for government officials who’ve persecuted him for his faith and murdered various members of his family. Perhaps he’d like to share some personal anecdotes for our inspiration and edification as we brace ourselves for Kennedy’s national inquisition. Only when Ted Kennedy takes away their frappuccinos will the Tavernistas know what it feels like to pray for a mortal enemy.

“RE: BBB-ers: I hope and even pray that they are true brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to think they don’t mean to send ill-will to non TR Christians – even if I’d be reluctant to flip up their coat-tails looking for the ‘yellow stripe’ of God’s elect for fear of a Truly Reformed right hook.”

Did I ever frame the discussion in terms of who was or was not truly Reformed? No. Because Strawfoot can’t defend his position from Scripture, he takes refuge in these cutesy diversionary tactics.

“(For which I would have a split second to decide to dodge the punch, punch back, or turn the other cheek. All of these being responses that would probably get me in further trouble within the TR fortress.)”

But he’s not turning the other cheek, is he?

“So I can deduce from this that so and so isn’t worth praying for and there is no hope.”

Did I ever frame the issue in terms of who is “worth” praying for? No. Strawfoot covers his retreat in a trail of falsehoods. Piety never looked so like charlatanry.

The Head's Bored Tavern

Since the fine folks over at BHT have suffered a complete meltdown (despite what you’re thinking, this happened years ago—the effects are merely continuing through today) and do not allow thinking on their blog, it is rather fun to argue with them. It’s not much unlike discussing anything with any other liberal. You give them a fact and they emote. You give them reason, they whine. I did honestly try to see things from their point of view, but I just couldn’t get my head that far up my rectum.

Steve and I have offered several posts on prayer since Ted Kennedy was touched by an angel. We’ve actually put forth exegesis of Scripture as well as logical arguments using propositions. The response that BHT has given us is less than underwhelming.

In comments on this post, Randy McRoberts of the BHT said:

The thing is, Peter, that you don't realize that arguments don't always matter. It's character and integrity and love that matter more. You can win arguments all day long against me. So what? You can speak with the tongue of men and angels, too, for all I care.

I don't care to mount an argument. That's not what I'm all about. If it works for you, have a ball with it. Don't expect most people to care a whole lot. You might win the argument, but it's an empty win.
Think about that for a moment. Randy has admitted that he doesn’t care about thinking, about intellectual consistency, about truth. It’s all about “character and integrity and love” not whether or not you’re actually, you know, correct and all. Mormons probably feel the same way, and I have to say they're a heck of a lot nicer than the BHT folks are.

Reality has this weird property though. It’s real. It doesn’t change because you’re a nice person. It doesn’t change because you feel warm fuzzies.

So I responded with the following parable:

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Randy. Randy loved everyone and everything as much as possible. If his cruel, cold-hearted Dad was about to crush a spider, Randy would rescue the spider and lovingly toss it outdoors where it had a chance to live.

One day, an early spring day, Randy was walking down the sidewalk with his evil father when they saw a baby bird lying on the ground. It had obviously fallen from its nest.

"Leave it," the wicked adult said. "It's mother will come for it."

But that was unacceptable for Randy, who loved the poor little bird. So when the demon-in-human-form wasn't looking, Randy scooped up the baby bird and put it in his pocket.

When they got home, Randy rushed straight to his room. He took out the bird and placed it in an old shoe box. The bird chirped because it was very hungry. So Randy decided to feed the bird.

He asked his less-wicked-but-still-not-quite-loving-because-she-was-a-Presbyterian mother what baby birds ate. She said they ate worms. But Randy knew that couldn't be the case--worms were icky little creatures (that still deserved to live, mind you--that was why Randy would rescue them before his diabolical father went fishing).

There was a better solution. Randy liked Butterfinger candybars and Dr Pepper to wash them down with. They were his favorite treats. Because he loved the bird so much, Randy shared his favorite things with the bird.

The next morning he awoke to find a very dead bird in the shoe box. Because, you see, poor Randy never grasped the concept that love without knowledge is dangerous. If you love someone or something but you have no clue what they need then you will not be able to satisfy their needs and your love will condemn them to death.

Sadly, this episode did not teach Randy his lesson. Later, he would grow up to believe that it did not matter if a sinner was hell-bound. The important thing was the love them, not to argue with them. The important thing was to make sure the had a sugar buzz before they spent eternity in hell.

And as a result, Randy decided to attack those who were trying to rescue sinners by calling those apologists intellectual elitists in a Big-Brained Blog. And lo, he felt good about himself, and those who were hell-bound enjoyed his taunts. And merrily they continued on the path to destruction.

At least on the day of judgment Randy can say, "I loved everyone I ever put in hell, unlike those bastards at Triablogue who actually convinced a few sinners to change direction by using arguments."
Naturally, Randy didn’t bother to respond to this here on the T-Blog because he’s a coward and knows he’d get shredded. Instead, he retreated to the BHT (where comments are not allowed because Groupthink must prevail) and whined:

This is a response to a comment I made over there. (Should have known better.) See? I have love, but no knowledge. I’m putting people in hell by loving them. I don’t know what birds eat. I’m attacking those who rescue sinners by arguing with them. I feel good about myself for all this. I’ve learned a lot about myself today.

I don’t think it would take more than about three verses of “Just As I Am” to get me down front. I feel so bad about myself for feeling so good about myself.

Oh, yeah. In another comment I learned that for me to say that there are other ways to converse without putting forth an argument is “in itself an argument”. Now, that’s heavy. I’m not sure I get it, since I’m not intellectual at all.
Well it is obvious that Randy is no intellectual since he cannot grasp a simple parable. Instead, he thinks he needs to read everything literally. Frankly, I would be ashamed to speak in public if I was as dumb as Randy brags about being.

But to clear up the record, when Randy says “I have love, but no knowledge” he is wrong. He has just as much love as he has knowledge: none.

I, for one, have never read a loving remark from Randy about me. No, I just get his hate poured out upon me. (These are the same people who complain about us when we debate Arminians because “we should treat brothers in Christ better than non-believers” yet they have no qualms treating the “TR”, as they call us, as badly as possible. Then again, you shouldn’t expect consistency from those who hate intelligence in the first place.)

Secondly, I wouldn’t say that Randy is attacking apologists by arguing with us because nothing Randy’s ever said could be misconstrued as an argument.

Naturally, the other bored skulls acted shocked by what went on. For instance, JS Bangs said:

Wow. I mean, wow.
To which I respond: “Like totally! I mean, TOTALLY!

Bangs continued:

What exactly gave any of them the impression that we don’t care about the salvation of the lost?
The fact that you’re not trying to convince the lost they’re on the wrong path is a great indication that you don’t care where they’re headed. Then again, I use logic.

The fact that several people admitted they had trouble grokking the concept of Hell?
Well, it is kinda hard to see how someone not going to Hell needs to worry about going to Hell. Then again, I use logic.

Or the fact that we actually pray for the unsaved?
Except I don’t believe you. You claim to pray for the unsaved, yet you do everything in your power to impede those who are seeking the unsaved. What exactly do you pray regarding the unsaved? And frankly a general prayer “Lord save the unsaved” is no substitute for genuine prayer either. Then again, I use logic.

I have zero interest in reading any TR blogs, so I honestly don’t know what they’re trying to say.
And this, of course, is the first sign that you’re dealing with a moron. Ask questions, and then say, “I’m not going to listen to the answer.” This works when you’re three years old, but we expect more from adults. Then again, I use logic.

Not content to leave it at that, Strawfoot said:

Is he actually saying that he and his BBB fellows have actually talked people into becoming Christians?
Yes, I am.

WHAT?! How can this be? Well, Strawfoot, it’s really quite simple if you actually cared about what the wicked TRs believed (which you don’t, cuz God forbid you’d actually have to talk with one!). God uses…are you ready for this now?...MEANS to enact His will.

I know, revolutionary concept. Not found in any Reformed literature except for all of it.

And since I get e-mails sent to me, I know that there do indeed exist people who’ve been convinced of the truth of Christianity by way of some of the arguments that I’ve presented. God’s used me to bring some to Himself, and I am honored to be of use to Him.

The BHT is a great example of what happens when Politically Correct thinking runs amok. They preach tolerance by being intolerant of everyone who disagrees with them. They teach that love is most important by being as unloving as possible toward other Christians. They think that something’s wrong with you if you use the brain God gave you.

Frankly, if their version of Christianity was true, I’d be an atheist. And that’s something that Randy and other BHTers don’t get. They think that everyone is as emotive as they are and that no one cares about thinking correctly. But I do. My mere existence refutes their notion that everyone agrees with them. I do enjoy thinking, I am intellectually oriented, I do study, I do use my brain. And because of that, I can actually interact with the atheists in our world who are likewise intellectually oriented.

That’s something that none of Randy’s self-serving emotive bleating will ever be able to accomplish.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Praying for others

What, exactly, does it mean to pray for others? What do we do when we do that? How do we go about praying for others?

Doesn’t even need to be for others. Could be for anything. I just use that as an example.

I’m not sure that all Christian have the same concept of petitionary prayer in this regard. For example, worship services in different denominations often have a period of public prayer. And the way this is done can condition one’s private prayer life as well. Form your concept of how to pray.

For example, public prayer tends to have the following elements. And, in my experience, there’s not much variation from one denomination to another.

There’s a prayer for officials, which is limited to the executive branch. A prayer for the president, governor, and mayor.

There will also be a generic prayer for current events, which is topical. It may be for our soldiers. Or some humanitarian crisis.

After this it shifts to specific prays for the needs of various congregants and their family or friends. That’s the general pattern.

Up to a point, there’s nothing wrong with this. Public prayer is bound to be a bit more generic than private prayer.

However, it can foster the impression that prayer is the same thing as “saying your prayers.” Running your through thumb down a checklist.

Indeed, I suspect for some churchgoers, that’s it. They’ve had their weekly allotment of prayer when they go to church on Sunday.

There are also Christians in the liturgical tradition who have their own prayer books. Their private devotional life consists of reciting prayers from their prayer books.

Once again, this tends to reduce your prayer life to “saying your prayers.” Checklist piety. Perfunctory prayer.

Did you pray for “What’s-his-name?” “Let me go back through my calendar. Yes, four years ago, on such-and-such date, I said a prayer for What’s-his-name.”

Now let’s take a different example. Suppose I have a grown son. I raised him in the faith, but he’s drifted from the faith.

Will I pray for him personally? Of course! Will I pray for his restoration just once, then put a checkmark by his name and move on to other prayer requests? Of course not!

How long will I pray for him? As long as it takes. If he returns to the faith before I die, then, at that point, and only at that point, will I cease to pray for his restoration.

And if I die before he returns to the faith, then death will terminate my prayers on his behalf. But I’ll pray for him everyday, as long as he strays.

Let’s take another example. A friend will be interviewing for a job next Wednesday. How do I pray for him?

Well, it’s easy to say when I’ll stop praying for him. When I find out whether or not he got the job.

Before then, I might pray for him everyday in advance of his interview. Or maybe the night before.

I think it makes sense to pray for something or someone as long as it’s relevant to pray for something or someone. Circumstances often have a way of answering our prayers one way or the other. Some prayers have an expiration date, but we continue to pray up to the expiration date.

Sometimes we know the expiration date, and other times we don’t. We simply pray until circumstances moot the need to pray any longer.

We either pray until we get what we ask for, or God, through providential circumstances, makes it clear that we’re not going to get what we ask for. That’s how David prayed for his unborn son (2 Sam 12:15-23). That’s how prayer is modeled in the parables of the importunate widow (Lk 18:1-8) and the friend at midnight (Lk 11:5-8).

If that’s your idea of prayer, then prayer will be intensive rather than extensive. If you pray for certain things on a regular basis, then you can only pray for so many things on a regular basis.

As time goes by, there will be a certain amount of turnover. Some prayer requests will be short-term prayer requests. But some things you’ll pray about for years on end. Some things you’ll pray about until the day you die.

You pray until you get an answer, one way or the other, and that limits the number of things you can pray about. It isn’t a brand new menu every week. It isn’t, “How fast can I get through the old list and begin a new list?”

And prayer isn’t just a way of life. Some petitions may involve you in a lifelong commitment. You don’t know, when you embark, how long the journey will last. Not just a lifetime of prayer, but praying the same prayer for a lifetime—if need be. That persistence, that fidelity, that single-mindedness, is part our pilgrimage. We walk as we pray and we pray as we walk.

And this is one reason the church is a body rather than a clone. Everyone doesn’t have to pray for the same thing. There are individuals for whom we’re individually accountable. Individuals whom God brought into our lives. Like the good shepherd, who searches for a lost sheep, our efforts may be directed at the few rather than the many.

"Talking plants"

Before plunging into the latest round of controversy, I’d like to make a general observation. The psychology of the militant atheist is very odd. You’d think from his vehemence that a militant atheist had a personal stake in the outcome.

Yet a militant atheist is like a volunteer at Auschwitz. He volunteers to build the death camp. Volunteers to string the barbed wire. Volunteers to patrol the fence. Volunteers to stand in line for the gas chambers. Snitches on prisoners who try to stage an escape.

Because, when you get right down to it, secularism, naturalism, materialism, humanism, atheism, &c. are just different labels for a concentration camp. The militant atheist is filling time and killing time while he’s waiting to die. Every militant atheist is a death row inmate. And he defends the system to the death.

Oh, yes, he may play little games to make life “meaningful” in the death camp. Put on vaudeville shows to entertain the captives.

The devil is the commandant of the secular death camp, and he has an easy assignment. His prisoners are so loyal to him—it’s touching, really. He needs no bullets to keep them in check. The prisoners are the prison guards. They police themselves.

Such camaraderie! So dutiful to their suicide pact: “I’ll shoot you in the back of the head if you shoot me in the back of the head!”


“I’ve noticed that whenever you are in a debate and you don’t feel like answering a question, you assign people a reading assignment.”

Rintintin didn’t ask a question. He made an ignorant assertion. Pity you can’t read.

In addition, I already racked up quite a page count in response to him. So, yes, sometimes I save time by referring my opponent to preexisting literature. I don’t have to repeat myself every time or prove everything from scratch.

“Nor should anybody be expected to keep up with the writings of obscure apologists.”

If they’re going to post comments at a Christian blog and make sweeping, public assertions about Christian metaphysics, then, yes, they should acquaint themselves with the relevant literature.

“The fact that in place of providing a rationally sound, self-supporting counterargument in your reply, you give your opponent a reading assignment, seems to suggest that there is no such sound counterargument in existence.”

I see. Do you apply that to Richard Dawkins’ reading assignment?

Or Christopher Hitchens’ reading assignment?

“If you were really interested in truth, perhaps you would try to be a bit more helpful in your reply – maybe showing your opponent where he had gone wrong, maybe calmly and politely guiding him to some sources that you found informative.”

Since you’ve already said that “theology generally does not correspond to reality,” and since you also said that a reading assignment is a substitute for a sound counterargument, your solicitations are obviously insincere.

But because you ask, however disingenuously, here are some resources to guide you through the field of modal metaphysics (with special reference to theism):

A. Pruss, The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment

R. Davis, The Metaphysics of Theism & Modality

Now that I’ve called your bluff, what’s your next move?

“So what? One can’t observe an algorithm, either, and yet it is perfectly consistent with metaphysical naturalism to affirm that things like that exist.”

Whether or not it’s “consistent with metaphysical naturalism” is irrelevant to rintintin’s original statement. He was appealing to pure empiricism.

“We use abstract concepts to describe material processes or epiphenomenal aspects of the material world.”

Epiphenomenalism is an unstable, compromise position—one of the many failed attempts to make materialism do the work of dualism:

Moreover, I’m not talking about abstract “concepts,” but abstract “objects.”

“That is another thing entirely from belief in supernatural entities.”

It’s not “another thing entirely” with reference to empiricism. Moreover, there’s a relationship between abstract objects and the supernatural mind of God (back to modal metaphysics).

“Again, this is an arrogant assumption that rintintin hasn’t heard theists recite their apologetic claims.”

If rintintin knows his way around the standard apologetic literature, then he does a wonderful impersonation of someone who’s never read it.

“Sure, but the processes of the mind are governed by physical laws.”

It is? That merely begs the question in favor of physicalism.

“The physical components of those processes can be taken apart and investigated, if one chose to do so.”

Really? I had a dream last night. Dissect my brain and describe what I dreamt.

“Yeah, I guess it would simply be a ‘jejune interpretation’ to read this as a conversation with a serpent.”

Actually, it would be a “jejune interpretation.” For one thing, you’re using an English translation. Gen 3 was written in Hebrew, not English. While the semantic domain of each word overlaps, they don’t coincide. As Hamilton points out in his standard commentary on Genesis (1:187), the Hebrew word is associated another Hebrew word for divination. For casting spells.

So the narrator doesn’t call the tempter a “snake.” He calls it a nahas—using a polysemantic Hebrew word. Moreover, the text needs to be read intertextually. The Pentateuch is a literary unit, and this scene will foreshadow other themes and events, such as the Balaam cycle (the imprecatory motif) as well as Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh and the Egyptian magicians (the ophiomantic motif).

“Therefore, your imputation of ignorance to your opponent makes little sense, as it is okay to be ‘ignorant’ of a [expletive deleted] discipline like theology.”

It’s not okay to be ignorant of an [expletive deleted] discipline like theology if you’re going to post comments about Christian theology at a Christian blog. When you do that you assume the burden of knowing what you’re talking about.

“In any case, merely pointing out the existence of these three categories does nothing to answer rintintin’s question. If your sink needs fixing, you could theoretically construct a coherent supernatural explanation as to why that is the case.”

Christian theology doesn’t require a supernatural explanation for a clogged sink. Providential processes will suffice.

“Only if by ‘self-reinforcing ignorance’ you mean ‘accurate truth.’ There is no place in the synoptic gospels where there is presented a handy rule of thumb for distinguishing between natural illnesses and demonic illness. If there is one, present it. Moreover, there is no place where an illness presented that is explicitly described as having non-demonic causes (of course, in the absence of such a statement, the first-century reader’s imagination would naturally gravitate towards the demonic-possession theory of illness).”

This is a fallacy of question-framing. LYOSHA07 tries to rig the issue by insisting on a criterion to distinguish demonic illness from natural illness. But rintintin was claiming that Bible writers indiscriminately attribute illness to possession. That’s demonstrably false. And we don’t have to show *how* they distinguished one from the other to show *that* they did.

“The demonic possession theory of mental illness is not a good theory because it has been shown to be lacking such evidence and has had virtually no explanatory power in the history of modern science.”

All you’ve done here is to assert your personal opinion.

“If you can provide evidence of such a phenomenon.”

I did.

“I won’t comment on the claims of this person, but I do find it amusing that a creationist like yourself would make common cause with advocates of the paranormal in order to prove the innate bias of the scientific establishment.”

You find it “amusing” because you can’t refute it. So you can only fall back on this lame dismissal.

The existence of various paranormal phenomena is consistent with the Christian worldview. Nothing incongruous in my citation.

“Your second link is difficult to access, btw.”

Works fine for me. But if your having difficulties, Google the citation for yourself:

“The Possession Syndrome in Hong Kong and Catholic Cultures,” P. M. Yap.

“What is your point here – is it to say that abstract objects cannot be falsified, or to make an analogy between god and a possible world? I must confess I don’t understand your objection at all.”

Pretty obvious. Rintintin said, “Do you know of any observation that would prove God wrong? ie falsify him?”

Abstract objects can’t be falsified by observation since abstract objects are unobservable. That’s one of the properties of being an abstract object. They subsist outside of time and space. Hence, they’re supersensible.

And, yes, there’s an analogy between God and abstract objects. Abstract objects are constituted by the divine mind.

“(But I am also pretty confident that whatever it is, it is probably a stupid red herring, given the author). Some abstract objects are potentially falsifiable. For example, the general theory of relativity could be theoretically falsified if we observed an object moving faster than the speed of light. Of course, it is true that there is little that could theoretically falsify a God – just as there is almost nothing we can do to falsify the existence of a celestial teapot orbiting the sun between the Earth and Mars.”

For someone who attributes stupidity to your opponents, you don’t help yourself with these grossly ignorant statements. The theory of relativity is not an abstract object. It’s a falsifiable theory about a contingent state of affairs.

Like rintintin, you suffer from self-reinforcing ignorance. Because you’ve already decided, absent study, that modal metaphysics deals with an “imaginary subject,” you proceed to make grossly ignorant statements about abstract objects—since you can’t be bothered to acquaint yourself with the subject you presume to dismiss. A vicious circle of prejudice.

“The Bible does deny second causes for the creation of man, especially evolution by natural selection.”

Now you’re substituting your own claim for rintintin’s claim. In fact, you do this throughout your response to me. You defend rintintin by improving on his original answers. And you improve on his original answers by simply swapping out his answers and swapping in your own. Of course, that’s a backdoor admission that he lost the original argument, so you need to roll out a whole new battery of arguments.

The question at issue is not whether the Bible attributes some events to primary causality. That’s your bait-and-switch.

The question, rather, is whether Bible writers assumed that God was the direct cause of everything that happens, such that, as soon as we discover a natural mechanism, that’s one less thing for God to do. This is a popular, atheological caricature of Christian theism which bears no resemblance to the Bible itself.

“The entire thesis of the ‘intelligent design’ movement is that at some point God must have stepped in and instantaneously provided the necessary design.”

Feel free to produce some verbatim quotes from Behe or Dembski to document that claim.

“In that sense, you do indeed adhere to a ‘God of the gaps’ theory, because you insist that some things cannot be explained by natural processes and require supernatural assistance. It is not ‘self-reinforcing ignorance of Christian theology’ to point this out this, Steve. Control your mouth and actually try to think before you ramble.”

You continue to display your self-reinforcing ignorance of Christian theology. God doesn’t perform miracles because it’s “required.” God didn’t make man in a single day because it’s “required.”

What you’re doing is to superimpose a mechanistic framework on the Bible which the Bible would reject out of hand, then claim that God’s only role is to putty the gaps in the machinery. That doesn’t reflect the viewpoint of Scripture. That’s a semi-deistic, Newtonian, clockwork universe. LYOSHA07, Control your mouth and actually try to think before you ramble.

“Is this supposed to be a reply to Rintintin’s statement? What part of the text of the flood story in Genesis has he not interpreted correctly? The fact that the flood was worldwide?”

He made no attempt to show that the flood was global according to Genesis. And there are commentators like Walton and Youngblood who favor the local interpretation. Before he attacks the flood account as unscientific, he needs to exegete the flood account.

“So it would be false to say that biological speciation hasn’t occurred within human memory.”

I didn’t say if it was or wasn’t. Try to pay attention. Rather, I pointed out that the definition is equivocal, and, furthermore, that Scripture doesn’t use that category in the first place.

“Are we supposed to take your last assertion as truth just because Alvin Plantinga said so?…Your point is by no means proved just because one philosopher says so.”

A straw man argument. I didn’t appeal to Plantinga’s say-so. This wasn’t an appeal to authority. Rather, I referred to his argumentation. Here’s some “helpful guidance” for you:

Warrant and Proper Function (1993)

“Reply to Beilby’s Cohorts,” Naturalism Defeated? (2002)

Knowledge of God (2008)

“I’m dying to see where in the God Delusion Dawkins makes these “skeptical claims” (whatever that means).”

If you’re “dying to see” where he says it, then what’s keeping you? His book isn’t classified, is it? Here’s a novel idea: why don’t you trying reading it? The pages in question are: 88-90,369-73.

“Dawkins, and most evolutionary biologists, would say that reason oriented towards the truth would be a reproductively successful adaptation.”

What makes you think that reason confers a survival advantage? Cockroaches seem to reproduce pretty successfully without any marked ability in chess or quantum geometry. Are cockroaches an endangered species?

“The senses enhance an individual’s likelihood to reproduce successfully, and generally speaking, the better they are, the more the chance of successful reproduction.”

That’s irrelevant to rintintin’s original claim that the senses are “trustworthy.”

“Why can’t the Christian God be eliminated by a process of elimination, while others can?”

As if Christian apologetics has never dealt with that challenge.

“The burden of proof is on you to show that the Christian god is any less ridiculous than anything else.”

The burden of proof is on you to show that atheism is any less ridiculous than anything else.

“Moreover, your proposed methodology assumes that the human imagination is capable of understanding every possible supernatural state of affairs.”

Actually, it doesn’t—but even if it did, you’re blanket denial is the logical converse of that assumption, so you’re in the same boat.

“And where is your evidence for your beliefs, Steve? The resurrection, presumably?”

My evidence is far broader than the Resurrection.

“However, for you to ask the question, ‘where is your evidence’, is to demand an evidentialist apologetic approach – which you deny for your own theology (probably because the evidence is too weak to justify an evidentialist approach). Why the double standard, Steve?”

Now you’re committing a klutzy blunder by confusing “evidence” with a particular school of apologetics that happens to label itself by using that word.

“Why can’t you just take it as a presupposition that the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, and argue between competing worldviews?”

Comparing God to the Flying Spaghetti Monster is an argument from analogy minus the argument. Where’s your supporting argument?

You’re also advertising your ignorance of presuppositional apologetics. Try reading the standard expositions by Bahnsen and Frame.

“Gen 3 does refer to a talking snake. The story purportedly explains why snakes slither on their bellies. Hence the snake in the Genesis story is best understood as being the ancestor of all living snakes.”

I assume you’re alluding to Gen 3:14. However, as Walton explains in his commentary, that’s not what’s in view. It’s a formulaic curse. The distinction is between a snake, like a cobra, which is positioned to strike, and a snake which is crawling on the ground. So, no, this is not an etiological fable about how snakes lost their legs.

And I’d add that this combines the ophiomantic motif with the imprecatory motif. These are Pentateuchal themes, and you need to interpret any particular verse with its intertextual parallels in mind.

“If there is a difference of testimony between modern observers and Bronze Age observers, then the best course to take it to believe the course of events that is most likely, given what we can observe about natural laws.”

Ancient peoples were very observant of natural cycles. Their lives were regulated by the rhythms of nature—far more so than modern urbanites, who are insulated from the natural world by their artificial habitats.

“In that case, the chances that the author in Genesis was repeating a myth is much more likely than the chances that snakes actually were able to speak in the past.”

The truth of Gen 3 isn’t predicated on whether something is likely to happen. We're not talking about a naturally occurring event—like the transit of Venus.

“It is pretty clear that the snake/serpent (it makes no difference what term you use in English because they are synonyms in our language) in Genesis was understood as being the ancestor of all biological snakes/serpents in existence.”

Only on your misinterpretation of 3:14.

“The fact that the Hebrew word for snake/serpent has some connotations does not imply that the Hebrews distinguished between mere biological snakes and “numinous beings like snake-gods”, but that the Hebrews viewed snakes as having certain supernatural powers (the same goes for medieval Europe; most pre-scientific societies attributed supernatural powers to animals, and many animals were deified).”

Ancient idolatry, ophiolatry, ophiomancy, and demonology were subtler than that. Take the Egyptian snake-cult. The uraeus in Pharaoh’s crown was an emblem of an Egyptian deity. An Egyptian wouldn’t equate the emblem with the deity itself. And an Egyptian wouldn’t equate a cobra with the deity itself. Rather, it involves the principle of representation and sympathetic magic—where one thing stands for another, and can act through another.

“What you mean by ‘Christian theology’, of course, is nothing more than the speculations, elaborations, harmonies, and interpretations of people centuries or millennia removed from the Biblical texts.”

The doctrine of providence comes straight from the Bible.

“Of course, these ‘elementary distinctions’ that you propose Rintintin acquaint himself with has nothing directly to do with his simple observation and is an irrelevant red herring.”

To the contrary, they’re directly germane to the point at issue. In his ignorance of Scripture and Christian theology, rintintin acts as if the extraordinary were the norm in the Biblical outlook. But Bible writers expected a measure of predictability and uniformity (e.g. Gen 8:22; Eccl 1:1-10).

At the same time, it’s absurd to speak of God “breaking physical laws.” God is the homeowner, not the house burglar. He isn’t breaking into his own home when he comes in through the front door (or the back door). He made the house. The doors. The windows. He has the key to every room.

“The ‘doctrine of providence’ has no power to provide such a ‘principled basis’, since it is faith-based.”

All you’ve done here is to tacitly and tendentiously oppose faith to reason.

“If atheists cannot presume anything at the future, then theists can only presume to offer an answer once they have some proof.”

Like rintintin, you speak in a vacuum, as if Christianity hasn’t been making a case for itself for centuries, marshalling arguments from many lines of evidence.

“Of course, Steve! All things being equal, if an event can be explained by a supernatural phenomenon or a natural phenomenon, it is much more probably that the natural explanation is true.”

You equivocate by committing a level-confusion. There’s a difference between a natural cause for x and naturalism as a worldview.

On a final note, if you plan to reply, I’d advise you to drop the obscenities: otherwise, you will be deleted.


“That same serpent was cursed to ‘go on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life’."

I already addressed that verse in my response to LYOSHA07.

“The context in Genesis is that all the ‘beasts of the field were created in a single 24-hour earth-day and they were all called GOOD,’ and just two chapters later the serpent is called a ‘beast of the field’ as well, so I assume it was created GOOD with all the other beasts of the field. __The verse in which the serpent is called a beast of the field states that the serpent was ‘the wisest (or shrewdest) beast of the field that the Lord God had created’…The context in Genesis is of the ‘wisest beast of the field’ that was also ‘created GOOD’ along with all the other ‘beasts of the field’."

i) As Sailhamer points out in his commentary, the syntactical construction can either be comparative (which would identify the serpent among the beasts of the field), or partitive (which would differentiate the serpent from the beasts of the field). Sailhamer favors the partitive rendering.

ii) And as a matter of narrative theology, the fact that the “Serpent” tempts Eve to disobey the divine prohibition, and is subsequently cursed by God for tempting her to disobey his prohibition, clearly indicates that the “Serpent” (whatever his true identity) isn’t morally good at the time of the temptation.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Talking Snakes, Talking Plants, And Biblically Illiterate Skeptics

Since so many unthoughtful unbelievers keep objecting to "talking snakes and plants" in the Bible, I want to repost some of my comments on the subject from another thread. These comments were written in response to Lyosha07:

You write:

"Even so, there is nothing within the text of the Bible that shows it to be the case, much less within the relevant Genesis story."

If an unbeliever asserts that Genesis 3 refers to a "talking snake", with the modern definition of "snake" in mind, then the burden of proof is on his shoulders. If the text is inconclusive, or if it implies that the creature was something other than a modern snake when it spoke, then the unbeliever's argument can't be sustained.

You write:

"As for the plants, I am assuming that rintintin was referring to Jesus' cursing of the fig tree (and imputing to a tree anthropomorphic powers), but I could be mistaken."

Aside from the fact that "plant" isn't the most natural way of referring to a tree in the English language, the fig tree in the passage you're referring to doesn't speak. Why should we conclude that there are "talking plants" in the Bible on the basis of that passage?

You write:

"Gen 3 does refer to a talking snake. The story purportedly explains why snakes slither on their bellies. Hence the snake in the Genesis story is best understood as being the ancestor of all living snakes."

Its similarity to modern snakes was a result of the fall, so you can't assume that it was comparable to a modern snake before the fall, when the speaking occurred.

You write:

"If there is a difference of testimony between modern observers and Bronze Age observers, then the best course to take it to believe the course of events that is most likely, given what we can observe about natural laws. In that case, the chances that the author in Genesis was repeating a myth is much more likely than the chances that snakes actually were able to speak in the past."

There are a lot of factors involved other than the ones you're referring to. We have evidence for the Divine inspiration of the Bible, including Genesis, evidence that we've discussed in many places on this blog and elsewhere. We have much more than the general reliability of "Bronze Age observers" to go by. And the observations of "modern observers" could only tell us what normally occurs with modern snakes. They can't tell us that the modern snake is the same as the pre-fall creature in Genesis 3, nor can they tell us whether a supernatural agent spoke through such a creature in the past. Nothing in Genesis 3 suggests that modern snakes have a natural ability to speak human language. The fact that you raised this objection to begin with is bad enough. The fact that you keep repeating it and trying to defend it, after being corrected repeatedly, is even worse.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Darwin's lap dog

Over at Alan’s fine blog, I’ve been debating on and off with a Darwinian. Here, for what it’s worth, is my side of the exchange:

steve said...
rintintin said...

“Maybe the supernatural effector wouldn't even need to be a deity, since we don't actually know anything about the possibilities that exist in the supernatural world.”

You’ve obviously not done any reading in theistic modal metaphysics.

“It's interesting what you are willing to attribute to supernaturalism given that we don't know if a supernatural realm even exists. the natural realm can be observed by simply looking out the window.”

Really? Can one observe abstract objects by simply looking out the window? Can one observe consciousness by simply looking out the window?

“Would it not be an idea to show that the supernatural exists before claiming what it can and can't do?”

Would it not be an idea for Rintintin to acquaint himself with some of the standard apologetic literature which does that very thing.

“If the supernatural can come and act in our world, how does it bridge the gap between natural and supernatural - can I observe this taking place? Whereabouts does it happen?”

One can observe supernatural effects, just as one can observe mental effects, although neither the mind nor the supernatural is directly observable.

“Your variant of supernaturalism includes talking snakes and plants, neither of which possess the cognitive ability or anatomy to talk - is there any reason I should take this viewpoint any more seriously than I do Scientology's ludicrous tales?”

You might try to properly exegete the Biblical verses your alluding to. Otherwise, is there any reason I should take your jejune interpretations any more seriously than I do Scientology’s ludicrous tales?

“Uhoh. How can one utilise things like logic as a tool if the world potentially will not behave in a logical fashion 10 minutes from now dependent on the whim of a God, especially as you have no means of knowing when it will change or how often it has changed in the past (there is no guarantee he will give warning when observed laws will be subject to change).”

If you want to play that card, then you have no means of knowing that you’re not a brain in a vat.

“Under your worldview, you can't realistically make the assumption that things will not be radically different 5 minutes from now, since they apparently have been countless times since the Earth's conception.”

What specific, global examples do you have in mind?

“The same process you use when you try and fix your sink. You don't resort to supernatural guesswork to try and fix the sink, since any and all logically coherent supernatural 'explanations' could describe why the sink is blocked without actually helping solve the problem.”

Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence. You suffer from the typical, self-reinforcing ignorance of the unbeliever. Try to learn something about Christian theology before you go tilting at windmills.

“So where do we stop with naturalism and start with supernaturalism? Demonic possession used to be attributed as the cause of mental illness, and is in line with biblical thought (Jesus cures many people of such afflictions).”

More of your self-reinforcing ignorance. The synoptic Gospels distinguish between natural illness and demonic illness.

“Can I shout 'viewpoint discrimination' if psychiatric journals won't allow me to publish my demonic theory of mental illness?”

Yes, that’s an excellent example of viewpoint discrimination. All your doing is to offer intellectual snobbery in lieu of serious argument.

To take one counterexample:

“I’ve had similar experiences with mental health professionals, including MAs, PhDs, and MDs. I’ve come to know quite a few members of that community since writing my book on multiple personality. Once it became know that I’d done extensive and open-minded research in parapsychology, many started confiding to me apparent psychic episodes involving their patients. They also made it very clear that these conversations needed to remind confidential…They were simply unwilling to risk possible ridicule and ostracism by revealing their experiences to their colleagues,” S. Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady (U of Chicago Press, 2007), xviii.

Here’s another:

“As for the secondary properties of natural objects, you don't object to things like protons being used in MRI scans, so again where do you draw a distinction between what counts as acceptable use and what doesn't?”

Alan didn’t say he objected to the human use of these secondary properties. He simply pointed out the potential limitations of that application. And when Alan draws a distinction between a rooster and a Rolex, that’s a good place to start.

“Do you know of any observation that would prove God wrong? ie falsify him? i know of things that would falsify common descent, but i can't think of any for God.”

Do you know of any observation that would falsify an abstract object like a possible world?

“Supernaturalism is used largely as 'God of the gaps' or some kind of default setting eg 'there is no known natural explanation, therefore it must be a supernatural force', yet no evidence has been provided to support that claim.”

You continue to illustrate your self-reinforcing ignorance of Christian theology. The Bible doesn’t deny second causes.

“God is not part of science, but what he is purported to have done is - a global flood is a testable proposition.”

It would behoove you to exegete a text before you try to debunk it.
Thu May 01, 08:15:00 PM CDT

steve said...
Rintintin said...

“You are aware that speciation has been observed repeatedly both in a lab and in nature, without any observed instance of a designer at hand if that's what you're meaning by 'origin of species'?”

Two points of clarification:

i) Mark Ridley, in his standard textbook on Evolution, lists five different definitions of species (biological, ecological, phenetic, phylogenetic, typological).

So it’s easy to equivocate over examples of speciation.

ii) The Bible doesn’t operate with the fundamental unit of a species, but with the fundamental unit of a natural kind. So speciation, per se, wouldn’t contradict Scripture.
Fri May 02, 07:59:00 AM CDT

steve said...
Rintintin said...

“1. That's just an assertion. I simply state 'supernaturalism is false' - where does that get us?”

I assume Alan is alluding to the vicissitudes of evolutionary psychology. Plantinga has argued at length that evolutionary psychology undermines rationality. And Dawkins, in The God Delusion, made equally sceptical claims. Hence, naturalism commits intellectual suicide.

“2. If potentially we can't trust our faculties then how are we to assume the theist is capable of accurately of apprehending theistic truths (whether from the bible, or in the ability to formulate a first principle that he or she regards as self-evident on the basis of possibly faulty senses)?”

Once again, I assume that Alan’s scepticism was directed at evolutionary psychology.

But what do you think the senses are for? As a naturalist, you can’t invoke a teleological explanation. So, for you, the senses have no function, do they?

“3. Even if we accept that we have to revert to supernaturalism, we're still no closer to affirming it as the Christian God.”

It’s a stepwise argument. Arrive at the Christian God by process of elimination.

“Is there any way either of us could distinguish it from a natural cause?”

Depends on what sort of examples your looking for. What about a miraculous answer to prayer?

“1. but I can just choose a logically consistent version of theism at random, make things up and claim they are accounted for by the miracles my God can perform.”

And where’s your supporting evidence?

“I'm also not analysing it from naturalistic presupps - I'm anazlyzing from the point of observation. We observe that snakes do not talk. We observe that they don't have the anatomy to talk.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Gen 3 refers to a talking snake, men and women living back in the Bronze Age didn’t observe talking snakes either. So it’s not as if you’re experience is any different from theirs on that score.

“Serpents generally refer to snakes in symbolic literature.”

Not true. They can also refer to numinous beings like snake-gods.

More to the point, you’re trading on the meaning of the English word. But the Hebrew word has its own set of connotations.

I’d add that M. Scot Peck reports a case of possession in which the subject assumed a serpentine appearance. Cf. Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrists Personal accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption.

“So you advocate that the miraculous/supernatural can and does occur in our world, thus breaking some physical laws potentially without forewarning.”

Christian theology has a doctrine of providence. It would really behoove you to master these elementary distinctions.

“I have no reason to accept that this will not be the case 10 minutes from now, you do.”

Actually, you have no good reason to presume that since—as Hume pointed out long ago, it’s fallacious to infer the future from the past. Absent a doctrine of providence, you have no principled basis for your confidence in inductive logic.

“Furthermore, in previous examples I've given you such as the Tiktaalik find, which relied on the accuracy of the premises (including radioactive dating) to come up with a fossil in the expected location, with the expected morphoogy, how can you explain this?”

I believe that Jonathan Wells has discussed that, if you Google the search terms.

You’re also missing the point of Alan’s allusion to Gee’s Deep Time. Have you ever read Gee?

“1. You still haven't provided evidence for your claim even if there is no known natural explanation - god of the Gaps.”

And your alternative is naturalism of the gaps.

“A simple outline of the scientific method is: 1. Observe some aspect of the universe.”

How do you know that what an evolutionary brain observes is correspondent with the real world?

“1. our observation - chimps and humans both have a non-functional Vit C gene and evidence of a chromosomal fusion that is identical to 2 chimp chromosomes.”

In the Design of Life, Dembski and Wells discuss this sort of genetic evidence for common descent.
Tue May 06, 07:17:00 PM CDT

steve said...
Rintintin said...

“It seems an odd argument this one (from my perspective anyway) since evolution is related to the environment we are in.”

Since my argument is predicated, ex hypothesi, on evolutionary psychology, it’s hardly odd from your perspective. Rather, it takes your perspective as the starting point.

Likewise, when I cited Dawkins, I was hardly speaking from my own perspective. You have a bad habit of glossing over inconvenient evidence.

“So if we are a product of evolution, and we are still alive (I take the fact that we all exist as being axiomatic), then presumably its because our senses are capable of telling us with a decent degree of surety about what is going on with our environment.”

i) Given the widespread phenomenon of mass extinction posited by evolution, the kill curve is hardly conducive to your confidence in the reliability of our senses.

ii) You’re also missing the point. I said that evolutionary psychology undermines rationality. That doesn’t necessarily mean it undermines survival. Organisms like cockroaches survive very nicely without a high IQ or true beliefs.

iii) Finally, since methodological naturalism banishes teleological explanation, it disallows your appeal to properly functioning senses (“geared to perceive our environment properly”). Under naturalistic evolution, the senses aren’t geared to do anything. You’re smuggling directionality into an aimless process.

Like unbelievers generally, you take a lot of common sense things for granted that are excluded by your secular outlook if you applied it more consistently.

“Let’s say for the sake of argument God exists. Are everyone's respective senses now infallible? I think we'd have to say no. I am short sighted for example. People mishear, misread and misinterpret things all the time. Some people have particular senses completely absent such as deaf and blind people, so are more limited in what they can perceive.”

Once again, my objection wasn’t limited to the fact that naturalism undermines the reliability of the senses. It also undermines the reliability of reason. For example:

“Let’s take it further - some people are mentally incapable of accurately perceiving the world accurately. Before we make any decisions we have to work out that we are not like this. So we assume the reliability of our senses has allowed us to make the correct observation about the state of the world (ie that we are not insane/mentally impaired and therefore we can be confident our belief in god is not the result of some sensory fault).”

i) How would you “work out” that you’re not insane? If you were insane, would you be in any position to evaluate your sanity?

ii) What makes you think that belief in God is contingent on the reliability of the senses?

“So we're both having to assume our senses work and have made accurate observations prior to making any choices regarding the supernatural.”

Which theistic proofs depend on the reliability of the senses? Or accurate observation? Not the a priori proofs. And even the a posteriori proofs operate at a higher order of abstraction. You could retool the theistic proofs to apply to the Matrix.

“On this point, Rho is quite fond of telling us how fallible our senses are (generally when a fact or observation is presented that contradicts his belief, the fact is automatically presumed to be wrong by default)”

Well, Alan can speak for himself, but I think he’s speaking about theories rather than observations.

“And he is (obviously) a theist - so even people who believe in God don't seem to think they are up to much. Any particular reason God has given us senses that aren't up to scratch?”

Setting aside your caricature of the opposing position, there’s a fundamental difference between a sensory organ that can malfunction because it was designed to perform a function in the first place, and an organ that has no intended purpose. Reliability is a teleological concept. Eliminate the principle of design, and you don’t have an organ that’s more or less reliable; rather, you can’t even invoke that category. There is no standard.

Once again, you haven’t begun to think through the radically sceptical implications of your naturalistic worldview.

“This would require knowledge of every possible deity, even ones not yet 'discovered'.”

You’re resorting to a double standard which you would never apply to medical science or forensics, &c.

Must a diagnostician eliminate every conceivable illness to treat the patient? Must a homicide detective eliminate every conceivable suspect? Maybe Extraterrestrials murdered Nicole Simpson. Maybe one-armed Gypsies murdered Nicole Simpson.

All you’ve done is to rig the burden of proof.

“I would argue that would depend on what was prayed for. Some people say that, for example, a relative recovering from cancer is a miracle. I would argue that its not. it's certainly unlikely (depending on the cancer) - i would be more convinced of a miracle if everyone who had cancer recovered. I would not be able to offer an explanation other than the supernatural for why millions of people suddenly recovered from cancer all at once.”

You’re demanding a level of proof for the supernatural that you’d never demand for anything else. This is special pleading.

That’s irrational. The question is the best explanation, given the evidence. And the fact that someone else isn’t miraculously healed hardly counts as evidence that the individual who was healed wasn’t miraculously healed. How do you arrive at such a non sequitur?

Prayer doesn’t have uniform effects. God is not a machine. God is a person. As such, he exercises personal discretion.

Suppose, in a botched robbery, the robbers take everyone hostage. Suppose I’m a rich man. My daughter is one of the hostages. I pull strings. Go outside official channels.

I manage to get my daughter released. Would the special intervention be more convincing if all the hostages were released? No, that’s irrelevant. If anything, the fact that only one hostage was released is suspicious. The fix was in—in that particular case.

“That’s fairly easy - just write down that my deity spoke to me and what he told me. There's no obvious way to disprove this.”

I didn’t ask you if you could make an unfalsifiable claim. I asked you for your supporting evidence.

“Casinos and bookkeepers make vast amounts of money from people who believed that things were going to be radically different for them the next time.”

You don’t seem to know either side of the argument. You don’t know Christian theology or secular philosophy. For example:

“I couldnt really find anything relating directly to Well's opinion on Tiktaalik.”

For starters:

“Either way, I'd still like to know why Rho claims expertise allowing him to dismiss any methodology he disagrees with, or why he treats essentially identical scenarios differently.”

Alan can speak for himself. However, Darwinians write a lot of books for mass consumption. If you think the layman isn‘t competent to form an educated opinion, then he should disregard the arguments for evolution presented by popularizers like Gould, Dawkins, Mayr, &c. And, by your logic, we should stop teaching evolution in the public school since most students are incompetent to evaluate the evidence. Are you a closet creationist?

“Last time this came up, Rho attempted to pass it off as some kind of conspiracy where the establishment had pressured Gee to say evolution is true. Even though he apparently says it in his book in the first place, and he is actually a member of 'the establishment' since he's an editor for Nature journal.”

Since you seem to have a problem grasping the basic principles of argumentation, allow me to walk you through the basics. In a standard debate, it is considered a coup if you can quote someone on the other side making a concession. For example, if you told me that Noam Chomsky opposes the Iraq war, that wouldn’t come as a surprise. But if you found out that Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz is now of the opinion that the Iraq war was a mistake, that would be more impressive precisely because it comes from an unexpected source.

No one is claiming that Gee denies evolution. To the contrary, the fact that he’s an avowed Darwinian is what makes his sceptical admissions so telling. That’s the point. Get it?

“Actually, its not. if there's a gap, there's a gap.”

If you don’t have a problem with gaps, why do you dismiss ID as God-of-the-gaps?

Anyway, that still reflects an ignorant grasp of Christian theology. It’s not as though OT Jews thought that God sent rain directly, and if they discovered that rain came from clouds, they ceased to believe in God. It’s not as though OT Jews thought that God sent disease directly, and if they discovered that disease came from rats or fleas, they lost their faith God.

In fact, OT Jews drew no such dichotomy. On the one hand, they believed that God was ultimately responsible for various plagues and illnesses. On the other hand, they had also had quarantine laws to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. So they understood that human beings could be infectious agents (carriers). They didn’t think that God was directly and solely responsible for illness.

Germ theory wouldn’t fill a gap previously occupied by God. God isn’t ousted by the introduction of second causes.

The God-of-the-gaps is a historical fiction popularized by 19C unbelievers like Draper and Alexander White. This literary tradition is then handed down like unquestioned dogma.

“I don't have the book, but I couldnt seem to find any detailed discussion of this by them on Google either. Do you have a link you could point me towards?”

There’s no substitute for reading their book. You don’t have to, of course. My point is that you’re raising objections to ID theory which they’ve already addressed.

“This is a good example to highlight some more of ID's problems though.”

I’m not here to rubberstamp every turn and twist of ID theory. It’s a loose coalition.

“They have no consistent opinion on common ancestry.”

Why should they?

“So he seems to be saying that it is an acceptable conclusion, until you invoke the supernatural.”

There is nothing in what he said to justify you twisted interpretation. Rather, he’s saying that evolution is driven at least as much by metascientific considerations (“materialism”) as it is by scientific evidence.

“To do this would mean we can now let a whole host of supernatural ideas into play for any scientific discipline, from God to astrology to invisible pixies - you name it, it's fair game.”

That’s only fair game if there’s equal evidence for all supernatural claims.

“Therefore, If I want to be an ID proponent, which scenario am I supposed to accept here, since they can't all be right? there's a lot of data relating to the issue of common ancestry - why can't they come to a consensus either way?”

If you’re asking a sincere question, then the answer is to read their books. If you want to know why they can’t come to a consensus, read Behe in favor of common ancestry, then read Dembski and Wells in opposition to common ancestry.

“ID is very vague - it can mean a descent from biblical 'kinds'.”

ID doesn’t address biblical “kinds.” It doesn’t address biblical anything.

“(it is never clear exactly where the distinct boundary between kinds is)”

You could say the same thing about the biological concept of species.

“Again, which one am supposed to choose here? What tests could they propose that would give me an idea of which is correct?”

The fact that you have to ask these questions suggest to me that you haven’t read their books. Isn’t it disingenuous to ask questions when you ignore the answers by ignoring the relevant literature?

“It seems so far that they are content to wait for real scientists to do the work.”

It seems so far that are you content to wait for hostile popularizers to do your reading for you.

“Those people were probably no less intelligent or reliable than you or me.”

Since the article doesn’t say who the volunteers were, I couldn’t say one way or the other.

“Their senses failed them pretty spectacularly I'm sure you'd agree?”

No, I wouldn’t agree. How is the implantation of false memories through hypnosis related to the reliability of the senses? They didn’t misperceive something they heard or saw. It’s purely psychological.

“I'd also use an example from your own posts - almost all the world's scientists accept evolution as being a fact of nature.”

Consensus is not a scientific argument:

“So, if I assume your worldview for the sake of making the point, thats a lot of people who's senses have apparently failed them completely, leading to many (but not all) to reject the literal 'truth' of the Genesis story/bible.”

I didn’t see the creation of the universe. And I don’t know of any scientist who did. You attribute remarkable longevity to the average physicist or Darwinian. Do you think that Ed Witten is 15 billions years old? He’s wonderfully well preserved for his age. Does he drink a lot of prune juice?

“Why we only find certain species in certain regions, even though there are multiple environs that would support them (eg you dont find polar bears in both the arctic and antarctic)?”

Why do you think that’s inconsistent with creationism? Does Gen 1 encourage us to find polar bears in both the arctic and Antarctic?

“Why, despite some weird and wonderful creatures existing, winged vertebrates always have 4 limbs, with the front limbs forming the wings? why no six-limbed winged vertebrates? In fact why no six-limbed vertebrates period? Why such strict adherence to that plan to the point biologists etc can predict what fossils and so on will look like before they find them?”

Why do you think that’s inconsistent with creationism? Would six-limbs be an improvement?

“Why are some animals more similar to others (eg chimps are more similar to us than cats are, but cats are more similar to both than lizards)?”

Why are some vehicles more similar to others (e.g. SUVs are more similar to pickup trucks than sports cars are, but sports cars are more similar to both than bicycles)?

“And why do these similarities and differences arrange into hierarchies just like any geneaology does (eg a family tree)?”

And why does a deck of cards arrange itself into hierarchical suits?

“Evolutionary theory can explain all this very comfortably. how does creationism explain it ('God just wants it that way' doesn't really tell me anything about why he wants that way, or how he went about it)?”

“Detroit just wants it that way” doesn't really tell me anything about why Detroit wants that way, or how Detroit went about it.

Dropping the metaphors, there are several problems with your appeal to the hierarchical organization of life:

i) As Futuyma defines it, “there has been an increase in the maximal level of hierarchical organization during the history of life, whereby entities have emerged that consist of functionally integrated associations of lower-level individuals.”

The problem with this definition is that concepts like hierarchy, organization, system, functionality, maximality, and integration, are teleological categories. Part/whole, means/ends principles.

Yet methodological naturalism disallows teleological explanations in the natural sciences. Hence, if the natural order is hierarchical, that would be evidence, not for naturalistic evolution, but intelligent design or divine creation.

ii) The hierarchy is an artifact of what evolutionary classification scheme you employ. As one Darwinian explains, in a standard textbook, “It is less obvious whether a phenetic classification has to be hierarchical. Nature presents us with an infinity of phenetic patterns. Some indeed are nested hierarchies, but others are overlapping hierarchies or non-hierarchical networks. If we aim at a phenetic classification, we have no strong reason to classify hierarchically,” M. Ridley, Evolution (3rd ed.), 487.

iii) In fact, as Ridley goes on to admit, the hierarchical arrangement is actually an evolutionary assumption rather than an independent line of evidence for evolution: “Biological classifications are hierarchical because evolution has produced a tree-like, diverging, hierarchical pattern of similarities among living things,” ibid. 487.

iv) Henry Gee, In Search of Deep Time, documents the degree to which these classification systems are highly subjective.

v) Kurt Wise has offered an alternative interpretation of the hierarchical organization of life from a creationist viewpoint. Cf. Faith, Form, & Time; “The Origin of Life’s Major Groups,” The Creation Hypothesis.

“Besides, many evolutionary events are repeatable, since convergent evolution exists (and has been observed in the short term eg in bacteria, or chiclid fish)”

Are you distinguishing between microevolution and macroevolution?

“As for falsification - the makeup of our heritable material and its being universal to all living organisms was discovered via a prediction based on assumption of common ancestry.”

Is that a prediction or retrodiction? Where did Darwin predict universal DNA? Give us the citation from his works.

“Hence why we can find things like Tiktaalik exactly where we predict.”

Give us the earliest citation in which the discovery of Tiktaalik was predicted. How specific was this prediction? I’m curious to see you furnish the details.

BTW, how do you distinguish between an evolutionary intermediate and an ecological intermediate?

“Another problem for ID is that things like the 'cdesign proponentsists' fiasco and Philip Johnson's quotes make it so easy to expose their motives as well. For some reason they just cannot stop making it obvious what they're up to.”

What makes you think that all ID theorists have the same motives? Johnson likes to quote some juicy admissions by Lewontin. Should we extrapolate from Lewontin to all Darwinians?

“It may well turn out that science can't explain everything we want to - especially if it turns out there is a supernatural realm. But it's hard to argue that it has a habit of delivering the goods in terms of verified predictions, whether that be fossils, medicines, genetic code or whatever.”

The secular establishment doesn’t have a monopoly on science.

“Most people will accept most science without a second thought, but once it starts telling them what they don't want to hear, suddenly science can't cut it anymore - they never assume its because what theyve decided to believe might be deficient.”

Science is not an ideologically neutral field. It’s been politicized. Just look at how Richard Dawkins uses science as to defoliate religion from the public square.

Likewise, methodological naturalism assumes that the only correct, “scientific” explanation is a naturalistic explanation. So it begs the question.

“Under the terms you've restricted evolutionary study with, you have to also drop a whole load of other science with no bearing on religion to keep consistent”

If it had “no bearing on religion,” there would be no need to “drop it” for consistency’s sake. You’re not making any sense.

If, for example, creation ex nihilo is true, then that may have some radical implications for science. If methodological naturalism refuses to take that into account, then science will be seriously off the mark.

In what sense do I accept science?

i) I accept science when science deals with natural cycles. It’s good at that sort of thing. I don’t assume that science has any particular competence at reconstructing the origin of the natural cycles. But given the natural cycles, once they’re in place, the study and manipulation of these periodic processes is very useful.

ii) I don’t accept that science tells me anything about what the world is really like. Science is dependent on observation. And scientific theories are often several steps removed from direct observation.

But there’s a gap between appearance and reality. Science does nothing to close that gap, or even to narrow that gap. All science can do is to chart correlations between appearances.

“Furthermore, since your worldview involves the assumption of its truth as a starting point, with any contradictory observation of any sort being wrong by default, it's impossible to reach any other conclusion than the one you started with whether it is correct or not. How does that lead to the truth?”

No, not whether it’s correct or not.

I’d add that secularism doesn’t even have room for truth. It went from naturalized epistemology to evolutionary epistemology to eliminative materialism. If there are no beliefs, then there are no true beliefs.

“The problem with the defeaters you've offered up is that you'd have to admit that you've answered a fair few of my questions on biology before with 'God just did it that way' - well thats great, but that doesn't really explain to me why or how he did it.”

That’s often the case with personal agency. We don’t know why or how Stonehenge was built. Should we therefore assume it’s a natural object unless and until we can say why and how human beings built it?

For a secularist, you have this oddly anthropomorphic notion that the universe should be transparent to your understanding.

“It’s hard to argue that atheists who are a tiny minority (about 1.5-2%) have any real political power. Why would anyone pander to such a tiny voting bloc?”

They exert political power out of proportion to their numbers because they resort to the state and federal courts to subvert popular sovereignty. Are you so ignorant of the political landscape that you’ve never observed that tactic at work?
Fri May 16, 10:07:00 AM CDT

steve said...
Rintintin said...

“Haven't read much Dawkins I'm afraid, so you'll have to expand a little on this.”

In the God Delusion, Dawkins talks about how our brains construct reality.

“I hate to be the one to break it to you, but even if God exists, things die…This is a really odd argument to use to try and refute evolution/naturalism since the exact same thing applies if God exists.”

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you can’t follow your own argument. Since you can’t keep track of your own argument, let me remind you. You originally argued that our survival was evidence that our senses are reliable, for if our senses were unreliable, we would not have survived.

That was the point at which I introduced the obvious counterexample of mass extinction—a common phenomenon according to evolutionary biology.

I didn’t use that example to refute evolution. To the contrary, my example was predicated, ex hypothesi, on the evolutionary narrative. I used that example to refute *your* argument. It wouldn’t hurt you to remember your own argument. Is that too much to ask?

“NS is non-random though, and is linked to the environment - you seem to be arguing against something that is not evolution ie a situation where the environment has no bearing on biological structures.”

It doesn’t matter whether you say it’s random or non-random or evolutionary or non-evolutionary, methodological naturalism still prevents you from invoking teleological categories like the reliability of the senses. If you’re going to appeal to the reliability of the senses, then you’ll have to ditch naturalistic evolution.

And I’d add that Darwinians do argue for the reliability of the senses on evolutionary grounds, as an adaptive survival advantage. But in so doing, they transgress their methodological strictures.

“Ironic that you ask for consistency given argument (i) above, as well as several of your arguments below where you jump back and forth between opposing views for no obvious reason.”

I guess no one every acquainted you with the distinction between an internal critique and an external critique. An internal critique is where I argue with an opponent on his own grounds. Argument (i) above is a case in point. That doesn’t commit me to your assumptions. I simply trace out the implications of your position for the sake of argument.

That’s different from an external critique, where I argue on my own grounds. This is a pretty elementary distinction.

“So theism is as likely to be true as being in the Matrix? Are you arguing for or against theism here?”

Once again, you miss the point. The fact that appearances are deceptive in the Matrix doesn’t mean that there is no reality in the Matrix. The Matrix presupposes an underlying reality. A distinction between the computer-generated illusion and the objective reality of the computers generating the virtual illusion.

Likewise, even if, ex hypothesi, our sensory input was systematically delusive, that wouldn’t invalidate the theistic proofs. There would still be a reality behind the delusive appearances.

And, again, I didn’t say that the actual relation between appearance and reality is analogous to the Matrix. I merely used that as a limiting case. I was answering you on your own grounds.

You really need to acquire some elementary sophistication in the art of argumentation.

“But theories are arrived at by observation in the first place.”

They take their point of departure from observation. But they depart from observation. They are often several steps removed from direct observation. Take theoretical physics.

“Again it is ironic you complain about a caricature of the opposing viewpoint, yet later go on to outline some paranoid fantasy about how atheists are running the country and operating some shady cabal behind the scenes of science.”

I didn’t say anything about a “shady cabal behind the scenes.” Can you quote me to that effect? No you can’t. You’re not even attempting to be honest.

What I said is that we have judges who subvert the democratic process. Did I say this happens behind the scenes? No.

Likewise, did I say atheists were “running the country”? No, I said they were exert disproportionate influence. You’re the one who’s acting paranoid when you feel the need to misrepresent what I actually said, turning it into a cartoon version to suit your agenda.

“Anyway, we saw examples where organs of people who could see, hear, and who weren't insane etc being unable to tell them about reality. Why would a designer design organs for perfectly healthy people that can't perform their function properly, to the point where psychologists are arguing for the unreliability of witness testimony?”

i) To begin with, you forfeit the right to use that argument. You’re committed to methodological naturalism. As such, you cannot evoke teleological explanations in natural science.

What you are doing here is to cite examples of faulty design: design defects. That would be an example of dysteleology. But dysteleology presupposes teleology. So methological naturalism disallows you from identifying examples of faulty design in nature. You’re not entitled to say that a particular organ is malfunctioning since you’re not entitled to say that it has a particular function to perform in the first place. If naturalistic evolution is true, then eyes and ears and fingers and brains and hearts and lungs have nothing they’re supposed to do. There’s no task they’re supposed to perform. No assigned role to play.

That’s a goal-oriented perspective which has no place in naturalistic evolution or methodological naturalism.

You keep fudging. That’s because you’re an unbeliever living in God’s universe. So you can’t help using God-talk.

ii) Also, like a lot of unbelievers, you don’t know much about Christian theology. Christian theology is about more than divine creation. It also has a doctrine of the Fall. The world as we see it today isn’t morally or physically pristine.

“You got upset before when I joked at the idea for the demon theory of psychology, now you are saying it's a double standard that I don't let the supernatural, allowances for people's personal beliefs or absurd ideas into forensics or medicine. Make up your mind one way or the other.”

Once again, you managed to miss the boat. Possession is valid category in psychology. I gave a quote by Stephen Braude, which plainly went right over your head, and I also cited an online article, published in a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, which were you were obviously too lazy to read.

“But you're making claims for the supernatural as relates to biology/cosmology of a level that you'd never claim for anything else.”

Such as what? Give me some examples.

“And demanding those particular branches of science make special allowances for your personal beliefs”

All you’ve done here is to beg the question. Who gets to define science in the first place? You think the atheists get to define science, and then the Christians have to ask for special allowances? The way you frame the issue betrays your own tendentious bias.

“I can pick examples of one-offs for anything and say 'look, miracle' when there's nothing particularly unusual going on in the bigger picture.”

Now you’re being illogical. Something unusual doesn’t have to be going on in the bigger picture for something inexplicable to be going on in the little picture.

“But anyway, I refer to my previous point, where I was simply answering what would convince me of a miracle.”

I’ll grant you that given your illogical burden of proof, no amount of evidence will convince an irrational unbeliever like yourself.

“Then people assume it to be factual (scientology being a great modern day example of this, which I'm sure we can both agree is false)?”

If, as you correctly state, we both agree that scientology is false, then people don’t assume it to be factual. Some do and some don’t. So you’re example proves nothing one way or the other.

“Yet on the other pointing to a man who explicitly states he supports the core ideas of evolution but takes issue with some of the finer details.”

No, Gee’s thesis is more radical than that. Given that fossil finds are separated by vast intervals of time, it’s impossible to sequence them.

“But as he's been told hundreds of times, all science works this way. Why single out biology/cosmology?”

Because science is a big field and he’s taken a special interest in evolutionary biology. Cosmology is of interest as well to the degree that it has apologetic potential (e.g. the fine-tuning argument).

“He's also been asked for his alternative supernatural methodology and has remained silent on the matter for a number of years now. Why is this?”

To begin with, Johnson is a popularizer, not a high-level theorist. And he probably doesn’t want to get bogged down in the religious angle. You don’t have to come up with an alternative to point out the flaws in the reigning paradigm. That’s a separate issue.

“And what constitutes 'evidence' for the supernatural?”

Why don’t you read a few standard titles in the field of philosophical theology and Christian apologetics? It’s not as if no one has ever attempted to answer that question before.

“Except it kind of does, since the designer has to be supernatural (ID 'theory' states that not only aspects of biology, but also cosmology are best explained by design (ie fine tuning of the universe) - since something that is a part of nature couldn't design nature (as it would have to exist prior to nature existing), then we have to go to the supernatural). The biblical God is a supernatural intelligent designer you'd agree?”

Now you’re committing a level-confusion. To say the biblical God is supernatural is not to say that a supernatural creator or designer is the Biblical God. And it also doesn’t mean that ID-theory operates with the Biblical category of natural kinds. ID-theory operates at a more abstract level than that.

You’re like someone who walks into an automated factory, doesn’t see any engineers on the floor, and therefore denies that anyone designed the factory in the first place. After all, robots seem to be doing all the work. Who needs humans to get the ball rolling?

“Except, as I said to Rho, I'm arguing for a view of the world where I expect boundaries between living organisms to be fuzzy as opposed to distinct.”

Even that YEC makes allowance for microevolution as well as speciation (depending on how you define it), while ID-theory is compatible with theistic evolution.

“To set up a methodologically reliable study they would not have chosen people who were certifiably insane for example.”

Now you’re moving the goalpost from “as intelligent and reliable” to “not certifiably insane.”

“Right, but the brain plays a pretty critical role in perception, controls the sensory organs and integrates the inputs from said organs.”

False, implanted memories aren’t based on misperception. No perception was involved. You cited an example to prove something it doesn’t prove. Now you resort to special pleading to shore up your faulty example.

“I was showing how large numbers of people (in Rho's view) can become convinced of something that is (he claims) not true.”

Like the global warming scam?

“I don't - i'm asking how a YEC model, such as the one Rho subscribes to (you may also, I have no idea what precisely it is you believe), would explain it. I don't mean tell me it actually happened, I mean explain why or how it happened. What is the reason the creator doesn't put these animals in places they'd be well suited to?”

Gen 1 doesn’t give us a map of primeval world. You’re making assumptions on which the text of Scripture is silent. Assumptions about primeval climate, biodiversity, biodistribution, topography, &c.

For example, Gen 1 doesn’t imply that God even made polar bears. Rather, he made natural kinds, including bears. Creationism is not opposed to adaptive variation. God didn’t create every subspecies of bear by direct fiat. You’re not going to get that from Gen 1.

Moreover, animals don’t have to be created in situ to be there at a later date. Some animals can cross natural barriers. Other animals are introduced into a foreign habitat by sailors.

“And yes in some cases to the 2nd part - quadripedalism is far more beneficial in a lot of environments and having a solid base for walking/running would be exceptionally beneficial (eg it provides more stability than bipedalism), so being able to both fly and having the advantage of four unlimbed wings (birds and bats occasionally walk/run after all) would be tremendous.”

No, there’s a tradeoff between specialization and general utility. A limb that’s more efficient for ground locomotion is less efficient for airborne locomotion. That’s why there’s no such thing as optimal design.

If you have six limbs rather than four, then you have to divert more energy and muscle mass to six limbs. Isn’t there a reason why organisms with more than four limbs tend to be aquatic or insectile? Beyond a certain weight, it’s not cost-effective to have more than four limbs.

But if you think you can come up with a better design, by all means do so. Produce a working model. Create a bird with two wings and four feet. Take it out for a test flight. Let’s see your new-and-improved model in action. Stick your neck out. Do the legwork.

“Which is why im asking them to stick their neck out and make a positive prediction, rather than letting actual scientists do all the leg work…Evolution can actually EXPLAIN it, since vertebrates don't have the body plan to support the addition of a 3rd pair of limbs.”

That’s not a prediction. That’s a retrodiction.

“This fits with evolution, as processes can only build on what is already there, and cannot make giant sudden leaps to entirely rearrange developmental processes to accomodate such things (eg like a horse with wings).”

A winged horse wouldn’t be a horse. A horse is too heavy to fly. You’re equivocating.

“Noone is telling me Detroit designed some/all life though. They are telling me God/the designer did. If i wanted opinions of the people of Detroit in I could even jump on a plane myself and go and ask them why they wanted to do what they did, or read a poll that someone had conducted. I couldn't do the same for God/the designer. I don't even see what point you are trying to make here.”

Do you need to hop on a plane and interview the engineers to know their cars were designed by automotive engineers? No. It’s a non-sequitur to say you don’t know something is designed unless you know who or why or how it was designed.

“All of these can also be emergent properties as well as teleological ones.”

i) In that event, you’re admitting that evolution and creationism and/or ID-theory are empirically equivalent. So the scientific evidence doesn’t favor one over the other.

ii) Futuyma didn’t merely say they were emergent properties. He used teleological categories to explicate the nature of their emergence. Teleology and emergence are not synonymous concepts.

“But Ridley also offers several criticisms of phenetic classification over those pages.”

Which is one of those internecine debates in evolution.

“The idea that evolution would generate hierarchies isn't an assumption, since evolution is a known biological process that creates hierarchies (since it is a branching process as well as conforming to Markovian mathematics, which produces hierarchies with branching processes).”

All you’re doing here is to beg the question in favor of macroevolution. And you might want to read Fred Hoyle’s book on the Mathematics of Evolution.

“Linnaeus also predated Darwin by about 100 years, so couldnt possibly have come up with the hierarchical system to fit around evolutionary assumptions.”

That’s a description, not a prediction—based on ascending levels of abstraction. A snake is a subset of reptilian animals, which is a subset of animate objects, which is a subset of material objects, &c. It’s easy to classify objects hierarchically from infimae species to universals.

“This would be the same Kurt Wise who said even if all the evidence pointed in the opposite direction of creationism, he'd still be a creationist in spite of it. I wonder what other conclusion he was likely to reach based on that starting assumption?”

This would be the same Dawkins who said even if there were no actual evidence in favor of Darwinian theory, we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories. I wonder what other conclusion he was likely to reach based on that starting assumption?

“In these particular examples I'm dealing with microevolution.”

Evidence of microevolution is not evidence contrary to creationism, much less ID-theory. ID-theory is open to macroevolution.

You continually conflate different positions and then act as if evidence contrary to one is also at odds with another. In this case you’ve succeeded in producing evidence consistent with each of the opposing positions. Are you even attempting to be honest?

“However, I'm always curious to know the view of creationists as to why God put a limit on how much his creatures would be capable of adapting to their environs, and where exactly this limit is?”

i) Are you sorry you can’t mutate into a salamander?

ii) Where, exactly, do you draw the line between purple and red?

iii) The basic issue between creationism and evolution is the grand evolutionary narrative. That’s what creationism rejects. Two opposing narratives.

“I actually referred to the make-up of the material we all possess (the code) as opposed to DNA itself being an evolutionary prediction, but__1) It doesn't necessarily predict DNA - it predicts a common heritable material, but there was no reason it had to be DNA._2) every time we find a new organism, it's a test of that prediction, since there's no reason they should have to share their heritable material if they are not related.”

i) You’re backdating Darwin’s prediction with a very anachronistic gloss. Classic retrodiction.

ii) You also equivocate on what it means to be “related.”

“The idea of the universal/near universal genetic code was based on the assumption of common ancestry for many years prior to this.”

That’s a disguised description masquerading as a prediction.

“So their findings confirm earlier predictions, as well as making another prediction that their findings will be universal/virtually universal based on evolutionary assumptions. This has since withstood every test it has been subjected to thus far.”

Now you’re playing a shell game. What has stood the test of time? Common descent? Or DNA?

“The fact that those two examples are far from the only ones (a quick hunt on google can dig them up easy enough), and let's be realistic, the DI are advocating the use of a textbook that says 'cdesign proponentsists' plus every previous 'creationist' in the older version switched for a 'design proponent' in the newer ones with no other changes. What other conclusion would anyone reach from that?”

If you were honest, you’d reach the conclusion that ID proponents range along a continuum:

YEC>OEC>theistic evolution>agnosticism

For you to treat every ID proponent as a front man for creationism is demonstrably false.

“But they did it by playing by the rules of methodological naturalism.”

Nature doesn’t follow our rules. Our rules ought to follow nature. That’s your problem.

Folks like Rupert Sheldrake study natural phenomena which the scientific establishment ignores because some natural phenomena refuse to play by the rules.

“It doesn't - I outlined before that it doesn't provide any barrier a priori to the supernatural.”

By definition, methodological naturalism erects an a priori barrier to the supernatural.

“But as soon as we come to the testable prediction stage supernaturalism hits a sticking point, since anything can be attributed to 'magic man did it'.”

You’re imprisoned within your self-reinforcing prejudice. Because you don’t believe in God, you can never bring yourself to honestly and accurately state the opposing position. And I don’t expect that I’ll be able to pierce through all your layers of protective prejudice. This is for the benefit of other readers.

“Magic man” is not the alternative. The alternative is intelligent agency. Unlike inanimate forces, intelligent agents can exercise rational discretion. As such, they lack the absolute predictability of a machine.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean that anything goes. We’re talking about a rational agent. The principle of sufficient reason.

“However, there's no reason Meth. Nat couldn't have supported for example a young earth/global flood hypothesis if such evidence existed. Unfortunately for those views, it didn't.”

i) That’s palpably false. For example, you can’t reduce Gen 1-2 to nothing but second causes. The role of divine agency is explicit and ineluctable.

ii) In addition, there are situations in which the same effect might have more than one possible cause. The evidence doesn’t always single out a unique cause.

“If science as it is now bothers creationists and IDists so much, why are they desperate to have their ideas recognised as scientific? Why don't they just come up with the supernatural methodology they keep talking about.”

i) What “supernatural methodology” is David Berlinski always talking about?

ii) I thought Dembski’s primary objective was to come up with rigorous criteria to identify the presence, or absence, of design in nature. It doesn’t prejudge the methodology one way or the other.

“I am making sense - the demands can be phrased roughly like this:__1. Person X believes religious/supernatural story A to be true or has personal belief B_2. Science presents evidence to the contrary.”

Of course, the minor premise (2) simply begs the question.

“So science has to drop the usual rules it plays by to make special allowances for religious claims/individual beliefs?”

Science shouldn’t be inventing prejudicial rules about what’s possible or not in the natural world. That isn’t based on observation. That’s in advance of observation. A filter on observation—to screen out evidence of the supernatural.

“Basically, whatever lots of people believe, we should make allowances for it?”

A straw man argument.

“Isn't this why Galileo got put under house arrest, since empirical evidence went against baseless popular belief.”

Methodological naturalism is not an empirical principle.

“I don't see any reason why we can't expect to see this type of special creation again if it is indeed true.”

Because, according to Gen 1, special creation doesn’t recur at a later date.

“First of all, science doesnt really work on the basis of 'what Steve from an internet blog is willing to accept'.”

First of all, reality doesn’t really work on the basis of 'what methological naturalism is willing to accept'.”

“Second where are you positing the 'origin' of any of these 'cycles'?”

Creation ex nihilo.

“Most of the science you would be willing to accept will certainly involve a lot of indirect observation.”

It would behoove you to acquire a modicum of philosophical sophistication. I’m discussing indirect realism, which is a standard theory of perception. Empirical science is no better than your theory of perception.

Scientific success doesn’t depend on scientific realism. It only depends on a systematic correlation between appearance and reality.

“So if a judge stood up and said 'I assume you are guilty' before the start of a trial, what other conclusion would he come to whether the defendant was or not?”

That’s only as good as your metaphor. And even a judicial proceeding takes some things for granted, such as the rules of evidence. Evidence is theory-laden. Without a worldview, nothing counts as evidence.

Some worldviews have more explanatory power than others. That’s the sense in which the Christian worldview is presupposed. Not an arbitrary postulate—but a self-confirming axiom.

“Maybe we shouldn't assume anything until we can provide evidence either way.”

If you can’t assume anything, then nothing could ever count as evidence that Stonehenge was designed. You’re operating with a suicidal, bootstrapping empiricism.

“Naturalism has a track record of providing acceptable and useful explanations.”

i) “True” and “useful” are two different things. Lies can be useful.

ii) You are also confounding natural causes with a naturalistic philosophy. Those are not convertible propositions.

“Anyway, I keep asking, not even for an explanation, but a hypothesis that I could test even if it turns out to be wrong. Or provide me with an example where an appeal to the supernatural has come up with a new technology or a groundbreaking discovery. it surely shouldn't be difficult if the approach is as productive as people seem to think.”

One of your problems is a persistent inability to distinguish the distinguishable. Supernaturalism and ID-theory are not interchangeable. You’re welcome to judge ID-theory by the usual scientific criteria.

But supernaturalism is not a scientific hypothesis. Many truths involve personal agents. Many truths involve historical or anecdotal evidence.

It’s a category mistake to say that something is only true or credible if it has a technological track record. That’s only applicable to the way we harness the inanimate forces of nature. That is inapplicable to personal agency. Mental causation.

“It's because of atheists that gay people find it difficult or impossible in many states to get married or adopt?”

Why do you, as secular biologist, think that homosexuals should have a right to marry each other or adopt kids? You didn’t get that from evolutionary biology.

What’s the survival advantage of homosexuality? Shouldn’t natural selection weed out homosexuals?

Homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt children. And you have no moral or scientific basis to believe otherwise.

“The general attitude of the US populace towards atheists is not particularly pleasant - just look at Ben Stein's movie comparing science and atheism to the Nazis.”

Isn’t that a gross overstatement on your part? He wasn’t talking about science in general. Rather, didn’t he draw a connection between Darwinism, social Darwinism, and National Socialism? And isn’t that a historically well-attested connection?

“You are aware that the head of your country professes to be a born-again Christian and that there are no known atheists holding a high ranking political position?”

Sounds good to me. I was a Huckabee supporter.

“I'm sure you're aware some states (eg Tennessee and Texas) have laws that make it illegal for an atheist to hold political office, despite this being against the terms of the US constitution?”

It would be unconstitutional if we were talking about Federal officeholders, not about state or local officials.

“Also, by appealing to popular sovereignty, you are again basically saying pretty much anything should be decided on the basis of enough people believing it, no matter how ridiculous. Past examples such as that of Galileo show the flaw with this approach.”

I didn’t *appeal* to popular sovereignty. I didn’t say if that was good or bad. Once again, you lack the mental discipline to follow your own argument.

I was answering you on your own grounds. To remind you of your own argument, since you can’t keep track of what you say, you originally said:

“It’s hard to argue that atheists who are a tiny minority (about 1.5-2%) have any real political power. Why would anyone pander to such a tiny voting bloc?”

I answered your rhetorical question by explaining to you that “They exert political power out of proportion to their numbers because they resort to the state and federal courts to subvert popular sovereignty.”

Whether or not popular sovereignty is a good thing is irrelevant to the issue you raised.

At the same time, when opponents of ID-theory rush to the courts to ban ID-theory from the public school curriculum, they take science out of the hands of scientists and put it in the hands of judges. Rather than the Church, the judiciary now becomes the arbiter of science.
Mon Jun 02, 06:42:00 PM CDT