Saturday, November 07, 2009

Jared Compton On Luke's Census

Jared Compton recently wrote an article that outlines much of the data relevant to the historicity of the census of Luke 2. If I'm reading Compton correctly, I agree with him about the best explanation for Quirinius' role in the census (namely, that he was involved in the earlier census in a different governmental role). I would avoid some of Compton's overly vague language that makes his position seem weaker than it actually is ("not impossible", etc.), but he seems to generally be headed in the same direction as I would take the issue.

Unfortunately, he makes reference to the material of Jerry Vardaman without mentioning some of the most significant problems with Vardaman's claims. See here.

Compton doesn't discuss some of the most significant data we have, the earliest reactions to Luke's account by Christian and non-Christian sources. I wrote a six-part series on that evidence a couple of years ago. You can access it here.

See, also, Chris Price's material on the census at the CADRE Comments blog. Put the word "census" in the search engine at the top of the screen. For example, here's an article from earlier this year on the subject of whether Luke actually says that the census required Joseph to return to the place of his ancestry.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fort Hood's 9/11

From Ralph Peters.

Did God intend the Fall?

One of the peculiarities of the Arminian/Calvinist debate is that you actually have some Arminian epologists who indignantly deny that God intended the Fall–or its sinful aftermath.

At one level, I appreciate the Arminian dilemma. If, on the one hand, the Arminian admits that God intended the Fall (or other sins), then he also has to admit that God foreintended the Fall.

But once you travel that far down the road, it’s very hard to slam on the brakes before your logical destination. How, on the one hand, can you affirm that God foreintended the fall while, on the other hand, you vehemently deny that God foreordained the Fall? How thin can you split hairs?

The popular appeal of Arminianism lies in its shallow, maudlin charm. Yet it’s quite challenging for the Arminian to brandish his grandiloquent vituperation against a foreordinate fall if his own position commits him to a foreintentional fall.

Moreover, you only have to combine two axiomatic Arminian beliefs to generate this dilemma:

i) God foreknew the fall
ii) God’s creative fiat was a necessary precondition of the fall

If the outcome was both foreseeable and avoidable, then God foreintended the outcome.

The outcome was foreseeable. Yet it was also voluntary inasmuch as God had the option of creating a world with that outcome, creating a world without that outcome, or creating no world at all. I mean, doesn’t God have the freedom to do otherwise?

Wild Pacific

One of the stock objections to a global flood is the logistical question of how the surviving animals repopulated isolated pockets of the planet. Did angels provide the transportation?

Last night as I was channel-surfing I ran across an Animal Planet miniseries entitled “Wild Pacific.” I didn’t watch the whole episode, but it dealt with the logistical issue of how geographically isolated islands acquired their fauna and flora. It wasn’t indigenous to the islands. So how did the plants and animals get there?

This, of course, is parallel to the same question which the young-earth creationist and flood-geologist is called upon to answer.

Animal Planet, being atheistic, has to explain this phenomenon by random, naturalistic mechanisms. A number of the explanations were sheer speculation. And, by the narrator’s admission, a number of the explanations were highly improbable. A lucky fluke.

My immediate point is not to take issue with the show’s explanations. Christians don’t automatically discount natural factors. To the contrary, we subscribe to a robust doctrine providential second-causes. We also don’t object to the idea that a geographically isolated species might develop specialized adaptations. And some of the explanations were reasonable enough. But I’d just note two things:

i) Some of these mundane explanations are also available to the young-earth creationist or flood-geologist.

ii) Moreover, if a flood-geologist or young-earth creationist were to indulge in the amount of sheer conjecture, not to mention the statistical improbability of such fortuitous, yet coincidental developments, he’d be subjected to no end of scorn by secular scientists who’d be quick to gleefully pounce on his “magical,” “faith-based” outlook.

I’m not attempting to make a case for a global flood right now. I was just struck by the unintentional irony of the show.

Jihad at Fort Hood

Report from Robert Spencer.

"Refutation of James White"

I’ve been asked to comment on a "refutation" of James White by Wes:

“Middle Knowledge (and William Lane Craig in particular) does not teach that God's soverignty is trumped or determined by man's free will or by God's Middle Knowledge of man's free will.”

i) It’s hardly sufficient to merely deny the charge. In order to show that White misrepresents Molinism, Wes needs to quote something from White, then compare and contrast that with excerpts from representative Molinists.

ii) In addition, the charge is ambiguous. There’s an obvious potential difference between what people claim to believe, and what their position may actually entail. Mormons claim to be Christians. That doesn’t make it so.

Likewise, since Craig is a Molinist, he’s not going to characterize his own position in the same invidious fashion that White does. But that, of itself, doesn’t mean White’s characterization is inaccurate.

“Does God really ‘look down the cooridors of time’ (common objection by reformed crowd) or is his knowledge of counterfactuals properly basic (as WLC, Flint, and I argue)?”

i) God’s knowledge of counterfactuals is “properly basic”? In my understanding, proper basicality is a thesis, not about what we know, but about certain beliefs which enjoy prima facie justification, but are potentially defeasible. A properly basic belief can be justified even if the belief is mistaken.

Is Wes claiming that God is merely warranted in what he believes about counterfactuals, even though his properly basic believes may in fact be mistaken?

ii) Moreover, Wes needs to do more than merely stipulate that God’s knowledge of counterfactuals is properly basic. If he’s going to disprove White’s contention, then he needs to at least summarize the arguments by Craig, and Flint.

“Molinism is held to naturally according to Flint and Curt Daniel of Faith Bible Church in his series ‘History and Theology of Calvinism’, particularly his lecture on Foreknowledge. To say that ‘no one comes to the doctrine of middle knowledge on their own’ is patently false as I know a number of people (including myself) who held that very idea long before stumbling across any formal presentation of Molinism.”

Once again, it’s hardly sufficient to claim that Molinism is “held to naturally.” Wes would need to document that tendentious claim.

“It is disingenuous to claim that Molinism is a philosophy whereas causal determinism isn't.”

Is White beginning with the concept of causal determinism? Or does he begin with Biblical doctrines like predestination and (meticulous) providence–then consider the necessary preconditions for these to be true?

“Attempts to claim the Biblical high ground on an issue Scripture does not address directly (in philsophical terms) but assumes man's libertarian freedom and God's sovereignty are somehow able to co-exist.”

Notice that Wes is assuming what he needs to prove.

“It is misleading to mock the ‘best of all possible worlds’ position WLC postulates as true as a result of Middle Knowledge as if it were.”

So what makes it misleading?

“You misrepresent Molinism as a doctrine wholly based on the freedom of man's will.”

Does he? Molinism tries to carve out room for man’s libertarian freedom. So God’s sovereignty has to be reformulated consistent with the a priori of man’s libertarian freedom. The axiomatic status of man’s libertarian freedom delimits the boundaries of divine sovereignty. Classic case of the tail wagging the God.

“You claim it is not obtained naturally. I held to it naturally, and many people I know held to it naturally as well. While this is an unverifiable assertion, it does serve as an initial experiential refutation of your brazen, sweeping, statement.”

How can an admittedly “unverifiable assertion” successfully “refute” anything?

“This calls into question your commitment to accurately presenting the Molinist case since it clearly shows your presupposed bias.”

Is Wes free of presupposed bias?

“You gloss over and barely mention the counterfactuals found throughout Scripture.”

That charge is highly ironic coming from a guy who accuses White of misrepresenting Craig’s position. Craig doesn’t infer middle knowledge from counterfactual knowledge. Indeed, Craig explicitly rejects that inference:

“I think it is plain, then, that the God of the Bible exhibits counterfactual knowledge…Unfortunately, this does not answer the question of whether God has middle knowledge. For the scriptural passages show only that God possesses counterfactual knowledge, and, as I have said, until modern times all theologians agreed that God possesses counterfactual knowledge. The dispute among them concerned when in logical order of things this knowledge comes: is it before or after the divine decree. Since Scripture does not reflect upon this question, no amount of proof-texting can prove that God’s counterfactual knowledge is possessed logically prior to his creative decree. This is a matter for theological-philosophical reflection, not biblical exegesis. Thus, while it is clearly unbiblical to deny that God has simple foreknowledge and even counterfactual knowledge, those who deny middle knowledge cannot be accused of being unbiblical” J. Beilby & P. Eddy ed., Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (IVP 2001), 124-25.

Continuing with Wes:

“You fail to mention how Molinism upholds sovereignty while still allowing for such fundamental Christian principles like answered prayer and moral obligation and responsibility.”

The question at issue isn’t merely what Molinism claims for itself, but whether it can make good on its claims. Is it a successful compromise? Does it succeed even on its own terms? Does it solve the problem it posed for itself?

“You seem to think that just because we refuse to arrogantly claim Cartesian certitude on such a tertary doctrine (as I would argue causal determinism is) at best is a sign of weakness rather than humility.”

Instead of casting the issue in terms of causal determinism, let’s just ask whether Molinism is consistent with the Biblical witness regarding the range and nature of God’s knowledge, predestination, and providence.

“You mock the humble assertion Craig puts forth that Molinism provides greater explanatory power while avoiding pitfalls to competing philosophical systems such as causal determinism.”

I thought Wes was offering a refutation of White. How does this count as a refutation?

“You fail to understand that Molinism is equally concerned with the Soverignty of God and the libertarian freedom of man.”

The “concerns” of Molinism are secondary. The success of Molinism is the main issue.

If, however, Molinism suffers from a misguided concern for man’s libertarian freedom, then that will skew the question, as well as the answer.

“You confuze the libertarian or creaturly freedom given to men with a Pelegian idea of complete autonomy. You do disservice even to Arminism in this regard.”

An allegation in search of an argument. Wes accuses White of confusing the two, but where’s the supporting argument?

“You presuppose at the outset that Molinism has, as it's goal, the chipping away of God's sovereignty. Quite the opposite is true.”

How is the opposite true? If de Molina’s concern was to uphold the sovereignty of God, then he could have dispensed with middle knowledge entirely and stuck with Thomism or Augustinianism.

“You do not address he primary reason people like myself, Craig, Plantinga, Ware, etc. hold to this rich doctrine which is it's satisfactory answer to the question of evil.”

Since Wes doesn’t lay out the primary reason why it’s a satisfactory answer to the problem of evil, what is there for White to address?

“You characterize Molinism as a reaction to the Reformation which you seem to presuppose is wholly right and fail to comprehend that while Molinism may be reactionary in part, it's claims still need to be addressed.”

Wes isn’t giving us any reason to address its claims since all he’s giving us are tendentious claims.

“You presuppose that, in order for God to be sovereign he needs to exert causal control (something you clearly state in the 2nd half of your presentation) over everything he creates.”

Notice that Wes doesn’t present a counterargument.

“Ironically you laugh off the notion that your position turns humans into robots and you somehow try to implicate Molinism by a flawed assertion that God's knowledge of our free actions is based on a mechanistic (as opposed to volitionally free) response to any set of circumstances.”

Does White have a “mechanistic” theory of causation?

“You also presuppose that Causal Determinism is clearly stated in Scripture.”

“Clearly stated” or logically implicit?

“This is not a settled issue and any Cartesian claims of ‘thus sayeth the Lord’ either elevate you to the position of a prophet or.”

Then why did Wes cite the counterfactual statements in Scripture? Isn’t that a “thus saith the Lord” appeal?

“You apparently lack the categories of thought required to accurately discuss such concepts as ‘logically possible worlds.’”

Wes apparently lacks the categories of thought required to mount an actual argument.

“You misrepresent the possible worlds section of Craig's book by presupposing that the limiting factor is man's free choices rather than God's character.”

Didn’t Craig say “the counterfactuals which are true at that moment thus serve to delimit the range of possible world to worlds feasible for God,” ibid. 222?

So don’t the counterfactuals of freedom (i.e. man’s free choices) function as a limiting factor on God’s field of action?

“You portray Craig's tantalizing tidbits of ‘best of all possible worlds’ as though it were of paramount importance to Molinism rather than what it is, Craig's musings at the end of his book in response to an objection.”

Does this mean that Wes is distancing himself from Craig’s position?

“You don't name your bias and you arrogantly assume it is ‘Biblical’ and fail to mention its wholly philosophical/Stoic nature.”

i) Once more, that’s highly ironic for someone who accuses White of misrepresenting the other side. White’s Calvinism is not a state secret. He wears this on his sleeve.

ii) And White doesn’t merely “assume” that Calvinism is Biblical. He’s made a detailed, exegetical case for his position in many different venues.

iii) Moreover, the genetic fallacy cuts both ways. Should we dismiss Molinism out of hand due to its wholly Jesuit nature?

“You make the same mistake Greg Boyd does in thinking that anything foreknown by God would necessarily entail causal degree.”

And how is that a mistake? Where is the supporting argument?

“In this respect you completely ignore one of the primary objections to complete soverignty and foreknowledge Molinism attempts to address.”

i) Which is what?

ii) Moreover, what Molinism “attempts” is not the issue. You can attempt to win the Boston Marathon. You can also come in dead last.

“You make the statement that God's knowledge is based on his decree.”

And where’s the counterargument?

“You arn't honest in citing your bias on the off chance that anyone in attendance wanted to compare your phi.”

Indeed, James White is notorious for concealing his Calvinism. It would take a private eye to uncover the fact that White is a closet Calvinist rather than a protégé of Norm Geisler or Dave Hunt.

Thankfully, Wes has outed White for all the world to see. White can no longer masquerade as a militant Arminian.

Just between you, me, and the fly on the wall, I've also heard unconfirmed rumors that White may be a crypto-Baptist!

“You presuppose causal determinism to be the golden standard everything else, including competing philosophies like Molinism, must measure up to.”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this is even accurate, where’s the rebuttal?

“What was the real objective of your presentation? Was it to adequately explain Middle Knowledge or was it to merely defend Calvinism/your particular view of causal determinism?”

False dichotomy.

“If it was to truly explain accurately Middle Knowledge, why did you limit yourself to one book (not even one author) written 9 years ago and fail to mention all the other people and material that also defends the doctrine of Middle Knowledge?”

Does this mean there are competing versions of Molinism? If so, then how can Wes make blanket statements about Molinism? If not, how is this even germane?

“Why do you act as if Middle Knowledge is merely a philosophical position while presupposing your stance on causal determinism isn't?”

Why does Wes hurl questions, assertions, and allegations in lieu of suitable documentation or argumentation?

“Why do you superimpose your presuppositions of total depravity and causal determinism onto Middle Knowledge and then mock Middle Knowledge when it doesn't match your presuppositions?”

Craig, Flint, and de Molina all believe in the Fall, do they not? So Molinism must factor in the noetic effects of original sin. It’s dealing with a possible fallen worlds, not possible unfallen worlds.

“If you truly intended to accurately explain Middle Knowledge it would seem that you would try (insofar as humanly possible) not to drag your presuppositions and biases into the discussion before bashing it.”

Have you ever noticed how often those who rail against the perceived bias of their opponents are oddly blind to their own blatant bias?

“To do otherwise makes it seem like you are intentionally creating straw men that are then easily knocked down by your presuppositions.”

From start to finish, this tirade by Wes is 10 parts assertion and accusation to zero parts reasoned argument or documentary evidence.

Tertullian On The Historical Shallowness Of Catholic Mariology

Yesterday, I linked to a collection of articles that document widespread absence and contradictions of the Catholic view of Mary in early church history. Below are some examples taken from Tertullian. Regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions on every issue, he does reflect the shallow roots of the Catholic view of Mary, in contrast to the deeper roots of an Evangelical view of her.

Since Catholics often cite the concept that nothing is impossible with God when arguing for their beliefs about Mary (it's not impossible for God to preserve her from sin, to assume her bodily into Heaven, etc.), Tertullian's comments on the abuse of that concept bear repeating:

"Well, but 'with God nothing is impossible.' True enough; who can be ignorant of it? Who also can be unaware that 'the things which are impossible with men are possible with God?' 'The foolish things also of the world hath God chosen to confound the things which are wise.' We have read it all. Therefore, they argue, it was not difficult for God to make Himself both a Father and a Son, contrary to the condition of things among men. For a barren woman to have a child against nature was no difficulty with God; nor was it for a virgin to conceive. Of course nothing is 'too hard for the Lord.' But if we choose to apply this principle so extravagantly and harshly in our capricious imaginations, we may then make out God to have done anything we please, on the ground that it was not impossible for Him to do it. We must not, however, because He is able to do all things suppose that He has actually done what He has not done. But we must inquire whether He has really done it. God could, if He had liked, have furnished man with wings to fly with, just as He gave wings to kites. We must not, however, run to the conclusion that He did this because He was able to do it." (Against Praxeas, 10)

Catholicism makes claims about Mary's status such as:

"Mary has by grace been exalted above all angels and men to a place second only to her Son, as the most holy mother of God who was involved in the mysteries of Christ: she is rightly honored by a special cult in the Church." (Second Vatican Council, "Dogmatic Constitution On The Church", no. 66)

No such assessment of Mary is found in Tertullian, but he does write of angels:

"Respecting, then, this frail and poor, worthless body, which they do not indeed hesitate to call evil, even if it had been the work of angels, as Menander and Marcus are pleased to think, or the formation of some fiery being, an angel, as Apelles teaches, it would be quite enough for securing respect for the body, that it had the support and protection of even a secondary deity. The angels, we know, rank next to God." (On The Resurrection Of The Flesh, 5)

Tertullian apparently didn't believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary. He writes that Jesus' brothers were "really" his brothers, his "blood-relationship" (Against Marcion, 4:19). Elsewhere, Tertullian comments:

"Behold, there immediately present themselves to us, on the threshold as it were, the two priestesses of Christian sanctity, Monogamy and Continence: one modest, in Zechariah the priest; one absolute, in John the forerunner: one appeasing God; one preaching Christ: one proclaiming a perfect priest; one exhibiting 'more than a prophet,' - him, namely, who has not only preached or personally pointed out, but even baptized Christ. For who was more worthily to perform the initiatory rite on the body of the Lord, than flesh similar in kind to that which conceived and gave birth to that body? And indeed it was a virgin, about to marry once for all after her delivery, who gave birth to Christ, in order that each title of sanctity might be fulfilled in Christ's parentage, by means of a mother who was both virgin, and wife of one husband." (On Monogamy, 8)

He says that Mary is representative of both ideals, monogamy and continence. She represented virginity for a while, then represented monogamy within marriage. The latter seems to replace the former, as something distinct from it, which is a denial of the perpetual virginity doctrine.

He mentions some of the sins he thinks Mary committed in the context of Matthew 12:46-50, and he goes on to interpret Luke 11:27-28. Notice that he makes such comments in the same treatise in which he refers to Mary as a second Eve. Unlike Roman Catholics, Tertullian didn't associate the concept of a second Eve with concepts like lifelong sinlessness:

"First of all, nobody would have told Him that His mother and brethren were standing outside [Matthew 12:46-50], if he were not certain both that He had a mother and brethren, and that they were the very persons whom he was then announcing,--who had either been known to him before, or were then and there discovered by him; although heretics have removed this passage from the gospel, because those who were admiring His doctrine said that His supposed father, Joseph the carpenter, and His mother Mary, and His brethren, and His sisters, were very well known to them....But there is some ground for thinking that Christ's answer denies His mother and brethren for the present, as even Apelles might learn. 'The Lord's brethren had not yet believed in Him.' So is it contained in the Gospel which was published before Marcion's time; whilst there is at the same time a want of evidence of His mother's adherence to Him, although the Marthas and the other Marys were in constant attendance on Him. In this very passage indeed, their unbelief is evident. Jesus was teaching the way of life, preaching the kingdom of God and actively engaged in healing infirmities of body and soul; but all the while, whilst strangers were intent on Him, His very nearest relatives were absent. By and by they turn up, and keep outside; but they do not go in, because, forsooth, they set small store on that which was doing within; nor do they even wait, as if they had something which they could contribute more necessary than that which He was so earnestly doing; but they prefer to interrupt Him, and wish to call Him away from His great work. Now, I ask you, Apelles, or will you Marcion, please to tell me, if you happened to be at a stage play, or had laid a wager on a foot race or a chariot race, and were called away by such a message, would you not have exclaimed, 'What are mother and brothers to me?' And did not Christ, whilst preaching and manifesting God, fulfilling the law and the prophets, and scattering the darkness of the long preceding age, justly employ this same form of words, in order to strike the unbelief of those who stood outside, or to shake off the importunity of those who would call Him away from His work? If, however, He had meant to deny His own nativity, He would have found place, time, and means for expressing Himself very differently, and not in words which might be uttered by one who had both a mother and brothers. When denying one's parents in indignation, one does not deny their existence, but censures their faults. Besides, He gave Others the preference; and since He shows their title to this favour--even because they listened to the word of God--He points out in what sense He denied His mother and His brethren. For in whatever sense He adopted as His own those who adhered to Him, in that did He deny as His those who kept aloof from Him. Christ also is wont to do to the utmost that which He enjoins on others. How strange, then, would it certainly have been, if, while he was teaching others not to esteem mother, or father, or brothers, as highly as the word of God, He were Himself to leave the word of God as soon as His mother and brethren were announced to Him! He denied His parents, then, in the sense in which He has taught us to deny ours--for God's work. But there is also another view of the case: in the abjured mother there is a figure of the synagogue, as well as of the Jews in the unbelieving brethren. In their person Israel remained outside, whilst the new disciples who kept close to Christ within, hearing and believing, represented the Church, which He called mother in a preferable sense and a worthier brotherhood, with the repudiation of the carnal relationship. It was in just the same sense, indeed, that He also replied to that exclamation of a certain woman [Luke 11:27-28], not denying His mother's 'womb and paps,' but designating those as more 'blessed who hear the word of God.'...For it was while Eve was yet a virgin, that the ensnaring word had crept into her ear which was to build the edifice of death. Into a virgin's soul, in like manner, must be introduced that Word of God which was to raise the fabric of life; so that what had been reduced to ruin by this sex, might by the selfsame sex be recovered to salvation. As Eve had believed the serpent, so Mary believed the angel. The delinquency which the one occasioned by believing, the other by believing effaced. But (it will be said) Eve did not at the devil's word conceive in her womb. Well, she at all events conceived; for the devil's word afterwards became as seed to her that she should conceive as an outcast, and bring forth in sorrow. Indeed she gave birth to a fratricidal devil; whilst Mary, on the contrary, bare one who was one day to secure salvation to Israel, His own brother after the flesh, and the murderer of Himself. God therefore sent down into the virgin's womb His Word, as the good Brother, who should blot out the memory of the evil brother." (On The Flesh Of Christ, 7, 17)

"For to the Son of God alone was it reserved to persevere to the last without sin." (The Prescription Against Heretics, 3)

"The Lord knew Himself to be the only guiltless One, and so He teaches that we beg 'to have our debts remitted us.'" (On Prayer, 7)

Not only does Tertullian never encourage prayers to Mary, but as you go through his treatise on prayer, you see that he repeatedly makes comments that seem to exclude prayers to anybody other than God. He explains that prayer is a sacrifice to God, which would exclude praying to anybody else:

"We are the true adorers and the true priests, who, praying in spirit, sacrifice, in spirit, prayer,-a victim proper and acceptable to God, which assuredly He has required, which He has looked forward to for Himself! This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love, we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and hymns, unto God's altar, to obtain for us all things from God." (On Prayer, 28)

Tertullian seems to have been part of the ante-Nicene consensus against the veneration of images, which means that he wouldn't have agreed with the Roman Catholic practice of venerating images of Mary.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Historical Popularity Of The Roman Catholic View Of Mary

The issue of the popularity of the Roman Catholic view of Mary came up in another thread. There was widespread opposition to the Catholic view of Mary in early post-apostolic church history. The Catholic view of her, in its entirety, isn't found in any extant document of the earliest centuries, despite agreement with some aspects of the Catholic view among some sources. I have several articles on early Christian views of Mary here. We've discussed the mother of God issue in the comments section of the thread here.

Concerning the Protestant reformers, it's true that some of the early Protestants, such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, held a much higher view of Mary than most Protestants do today. But the extent and significance of that early Protestant agreement with the Roman Catholic view of Mary is often misrepresented.

The Catholic Marian scholar Michael O'Carroll notes that Martin Luther was "not wholly consistent" in his beliefs about Mary (Theotokos [Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1988], p. 227). O'Carroll writes that Luther "underwent a certain development in his ideas, and we must not forget that, up to his middle thirties, he had accepted - though with some questioning - traditional Catholic ideas and practice in this area" (p. 227). Though Luther was "emphatic on the divine motherhood" and "true to Catholic tradition on the virginity" (p. 227), for example, he also "talked of the danger of making Mary into an idol, even a 'goddess.' The 'papists' have done so....Of the feast of the Assumption, he had said: 'The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry, and without foundation in the Scriptures.' He even said that he would keep the Visitation to 'remind us that the [Papists] taught us apostasy.' The Salve Regina, Europe's most powerful Marian hymn, he dismissed. It said too much." (p. 228) However, O'Carroll gives examples of other comments Luther made that were more positive toward Roman Catholic Marian beliefs, sometimes in a seemingly inconsistent manner.

O'Carroll says much the same about Ulrich Zwingli (p. 378). Like Luther, he seems to have accepted most of the view of Mary that was popular in his day, and he seems to have been inconsistent. Despite some positive comments about popular Roman Catholic Marian belief, Zwingli also "was against all invocation of Mary. He denied, on the Reformation principle of sola gracia, all merit on Mary's part and any power of mediation or intercession on our behalf. He waged war on all images." (p. 378)

O'Carroll describes John Calvin's view as much closer to that of modern Protestants. Calvin condemns the "gross and abominable superstitions" in the Roman Catholic view of Mary (p. 94). He comments that "their insane raving went so far that they just about stripped Christ and adorned her with the spoils" (p. 94). Calvin wrote, "It is they who do Mary a cruel injury when they snatch from God what belongs to him, that they may deform her with false praise." (p. 94) He criticizes Marian relics, and he "held that Mary was the Mother of God...Yet he scarcely used the title Mother of God and, in a letter to the Calvinist community of London, he discouraged its use. 'To speak of the Mother of God instead of the Virgin Mary can only serve to harden the ignorant in their superstition.'" (p. 94) Calvin "rejects totally the Immaculate Conception (qv) as he does the Assumption (qv). He thought that the latter feast had one advantage - Catholics thinking that Mary had been assumed bodily could not worship her relics....Invocation of Mary he forbids....He brands all invocation of the Virgin execrable blasphemy. He attacks, too, holy images of any kind, therefore of Our Lady, calling them idols" (pp. 94-95). Calvin believed that "Mary will take her revenge, on the last day, on those of whom she is the 'mortal enemy', the Papists" (p. 94).

Arminians on the run

It's instructive to watch Arminians who flee from the implications of their own position:

steve said...
Robert said...

“Reprobates in the calvinist system are the majority of the human race…”

Let’s see Robert actually document that allegation.

“By Hays’ own definition of love then, God cannot and does not love the reprobates.”

I don’t have to be a Calvinist to deny that God loves those he damns. Take Arminianism.

i) According to Arminianism, God foreknew the outcome if he made certain people. Yet he went ahead and made them even though he knew full well that they would spend eternity in hell. God didn’t have to make them at all. He could have spared them that hellish fate.

In that case, God never intended to save them. Indeed, God intended to damn them. That was God’s intention all along. He created them with that outcome in mind.

ii) Moreover, Robert ascribes libertarian freedom to human agents. He defines this as the freedom to do otherwise, which he cashes out in terms of alternate possibilities.

On that model, every hellbound individual has a heavenbound counterpart in another possible world. Yet Robert’s God didn’t instantiate the possible world in which the same individual freely believes in Jesus and goes to heaven when he dies. Instead, Robert’s God instantiates a world in which the individual will spend eternity in hell even though there’s a possible world (alternate possibilities, remember) in which his counterpart would have Gone to heaven had God instantiated that alternative outcome instead.

Therefore, even if we play along with Arminian assumptions, God didn’t act in the best interests of the damned. He could easily have saved them, but he didn’t. Therefore, by Robert’s logic, God hates the damned. There was never a time when Robert’s God didn’t hate the damned. When he didn’t mean them harm. Irreparable harm.

So Arminians like Robert can **talk about** the “intrinsic” value of people” and “love”, but keep in mind God’s treatment of the damned when you hear him talking about the problem of evil.

“Most people understand that coercing others to do things is infringing on them as persons.”

Aside from the fact that there’s nothing coercive about predestination, I take it that if Robert had a suicidal son pointing a gun to his head, Robert wouldn’t even try to take the gun away from him–since physical restraint is coercive. Mustn’t infringe on the personhood of his son. Instead, Robert would stand there and let his son “freely” pull the trigger out of respect to his (late) son’s autonomy. Arminian “love” is a beautiful thing, is it not?

“Now I find this interesting because in providing his definition of the meaning of love, Steve Hays unwittingly shows that the God of Calvin-ism hates most of the human race (i.e. the ‘reprobates’).”

That’s inept on two grounds:

i) It’s simple-minded to act as though love and hate are the only available attitudes.

ii) Robert hasn’t shown that, on my view, or the view of Calvinism generally, the reprobate outnumber the elect.

“First Hays admits that in Calvinism God does not love those he damns.”

True. Damnation is not a loving act. It expresses justice rather than mercy.

“I thought that everybody knew that the Arminian believes that God so loved the WORLD (which refers to a group of human persons including both those who eventually come to saving faith as well as persons who never end up as believers) that He gave His Son, Jesus for **that** World/that group of human persons?”

Except that Arminianism is incoherent, for reasons I gave. It can’t make that claim consistent with some of its other precommitments.

“According to Arminian thinking, the greatest good, the best possible thing that can happen to a human person is to have their sins forgiven, to be reconciled with God and to be in a saving and personal relationship with God in which the person freely loves, trusts and worships the one true God. According to Arminian thinking if that is the best thing that can happen to a person, then if God truly desires **that** for every person and takes actual concrete steps towards that, then God would have every human persons best interests in mind!”

But for reasons I gave, the God of Arminian theism doesn’t act in everyone’s best interests. So Arminianism can’t make good on its philanthropic claims.

“But God does something **much greater** than that, he provides Christ as an atonement for all. God cannot give you a better or greater gift than that.”

To the contrary, even the God of Arminianism can do better than to provide a largely ineffectual atonement.

“This means that the Arminian believes that God sincerely desires the salvation of all and so provides Christ as an atonement for all.”

If God foreknows that by creating Judas (to take one example), God will have to damn Judas, yet God creates him anyway, then God didn’t sincerely desire the best for Judas. I’m simply arguing from Arminian premises.

“The apostle Paul understood this point…”

Rattling off Arminian prooftexts is irrelevant unless Arminianism can integrate its prooftexts into an internally consistent belief-system.

“Where it is not true and is outright misleading and again a misrepresentation is that Hays speaks of God making people a certain way.”

That was no part of my argument. Is Robert obtuse?

“The Arminian believes that God does not make people into believers or unbelievers.”

Which dovetails with my argument.

“Instead he develops and carries out a plan of salvation that involves providing Jesus as an atonement for the World and then saving those who freely choose to trust Him for their salvation. Put another way, in the Arminian view it is not God alone making someone into a believer or unbeliever, but is God desiring for all to be saved and yet making salvation conditional upon a freely chosen trust by the individual (those who freely choose to trust will be saved; those who freely choose not to trust will not be saved).”

And God foreknows which individual will or won’t meet the conditions. Yet he populates the world with many hellbound unbelievers–although it lay within his power to spare them that fate.

“Furthermore for the non-Calvinist it is not an issue of God **overpowering the will of people** and forcing them to be saved.”

Once again, that’s irrelevant to my argument. Is Robert too slow on the uptake to follow the argument?

“Hays implies here that **whatever God foreknows he intends**”

Once again, that’s not my argument. Is Robert really that dense?

To repeat what I actually said: If God foreknows the outcome in case he does A, and if God does A, then God intended that outcome.

If God foreknew the outcome, and he was in a position to prevent the outcome, but went ahead and make a world with that foreseen outcome, then the outcome is not an unintended consequence of his action. To the contrary, he foreintended that exact result.

All this follows from Arminian premises.

“In calvinism God is only able to foreknow something because he ordained it.”

My argument wasn’t predicated on Reformed assumptions. Why is Robert unable to follow a straightforward argument from Arminian assumptions?

“Apparently Hays has forgotten some things here in this statement. First of all, again, under Arminian premises God does not make people into reprobates or hell bound persons (though that is true in calvinism).”

If he makes them with that foreknown fate in mind, then, yes, he makes hellbound persons.

“If God only allows believers to exist (in God’s design two human parents produce a human child, so if you are going to eliminate all unbelievers from ever existing then no one would have any unbelieving parents or anyone in their line who was an unbeliever, so those born of non-believing parents or biological descendants would never live; I wouldn’t be here and neither would Hays.”

So Robert is saying that God sacrifices unbelievers for the sake of believers. In that event, God is not acting in the best interests of the unbelievers. Rather, they exist for the benefit of the believers. So much for universal love!

“I agree with Plantinga that a world where there is an incarnation and an atonement is a better world than a lot of other worlds).”

That sidesteps the question of whether such a world is the most loving arrangement for all concerned.

“A world where no unbelievers are present may be the desire of atheists (they talk about ‘why didn’t’ God create a world where there is no evil . . .’) and calvinists such as Hays who want to argue against Arminians or even Universalists who ignore all the biblical evidence of the reality and consequences of unbelief”

Once more, intoning Arminian prooftexts is irrelevant to whether Arminianism has a coherent position.

“The Arminian view in contrast says that God’s plan of salvation is aimed at all, God intends for all to be saved though some will freely choose to reject God’s plan of salvation.”

If God foreknew that by creating Judas, he would also send Judas to hell, then God has no intention of saving Judas.

“’He created them with that outcome in mind.’? Again, this is strict calvinism and specifically Hays’ perverse brand.”

So, according to Robert, although God foreknew the outcome, God did not have that outcome in mind. God foreknew the outcome, yet his mind was a blank slate. Is that it? Robert’s very objections corroborate the incoherence of Arminian theology.

“Hays wants us to believe that the God of the bible does that, completely going against explicit statements in the bible that God loves all, desires the salvation of all, provides Christ for all as an atonement for all, etc.”

Quoting chapter and verse is wholly irrelevant to whether Arminianism has a consistent position. Why does Robert suffer from this persistent mental block?

“In Hays’ thinking God may **intend for people to go to hell** before they are born before they do anything or are given any opportunity to be saved, BUT THIS IS NOT ARMINIAN.”

If God foreknew that by making Judas, Judas would spend eternity in hell, then, yes, God intended that outcome, Indeed, foreintended that outcome. Does Robert imagine that God didn’t intend the consequences of his own actions?

“Wait a minute, for each world there is another counterpart world that actually exists?”

I didn’t say that, did I? To repeat what I actually said, if you define libertarian freedom as the freedom to do otherwise, and if you unpack that concept in terms of alternate possibilities, then there’s a possible world (or world-segment) that corresponds to each alternative choice. There’s a possible world in which Judas betrays Christ, and another possible world in which Judas is faithful to Christ.

That is what it means to “have done otherwise.” There’s a possible world which your counterpart exercised the other option.

“Hays is again trying to impute to me views and beliefs that I do not hold. I do not agree with Lewis that there are all these actually existing possible worlds besides the actual world that we are in.”

Irrelevant. My argument doesn’t turn on “actual” possible worlds–in the sense of concrete, spatiotemporal worlds. My argument works just as well if possible worlds are abstract objects.

But if Robert believes in the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. the principle of alternate possibilities), then there are alternate timelines in which an agent took the other fork in the road.

So, even on libertarian assumptions, God was free to create the heavenbound counterpart of Judas, rather than the hellbound Judas. And that would not infringe on the libertarian freedom of the human agent.

“I instead posit one actual world…”

But the freedom to do otherwise goes beyond actuality. It requires two or more live, hypothetical possibilities.

“In calvinism God ‘could easily have saved them’ because it is merely an exercise of his omnipotent power that saves people.”

Irrelevant. Since I’m not the one who’s positing God’s universal love, that’s not a problem for my position. It is a problem for Arminianism unless it can make good on its philanthropic claims.

“And in fact this becomes a nasty question for calvinists like Hays: if salvation is monergistic as you believe and involves God overpowering the will of the sinner and saving him, thus involving a mere exercise of God’s omnipotence, then God could easily save all people, so why doesn’t he?”

I already answered that question when Reppert asked me. Pay attention.

Mother of God or Mother Goddess?

steve said...
Peter Sean Bradley said...

“Catholics can't be ‘guilty’ of idolatry because (a) they give exclusive devotion to God as God and (b) know that Mary is not God. Shouldn't that end the discussion right there?”

No, that doesn’t end the discussion. Their devotion to Mary competes with their devotion to God.

“Yes, true, exactly. This is the point.”

No, that’s not the point–for reasons I give. The distinction is inconsequential.

“’Veneration’ means, inter alia, ‘respect’ or ‘honor.’ We ‘venerate’ our parents in some sense, but not in the same sense that we ‘venerate’ God. Yet, no one accuses people who honor their parents as being crypto-idolators.”

Since Catholics don’t venerate their parents the way they venerate Mary, your comparison is fatally equivocal.

Moreover, it’s quite possible for someone to idolize one or both parents.

“But in Viking ‘theology,’ if there was any such thing, Thor was as "divine" as it got.”

Which is irrelevant to the question of idolatry.

“On the other hand, because of about 2,000 of Christian theology, which is to say Catholic theology, no one says that Mary is consubstantial with the Trinity. Mary is a created being. End of story. Hence, the comparison to Thor is inapposite.”

You don’t know how to follow an argument. My argument didn’t turn on Mary’s consubstantiality with the Trinity. To the contrary, my argument made explicit allowance for such distinctions. Hence, your reply doesn’t leave a dent in my actual argument.

“But the Satan worshipper rejects the true good of God for the false good of Satan.”

Once again, you don’t know how to follow an argument. All you’ve done is to restate a premise of my argument, which does nothing to invalidate the conclusion.

“Catholics do not deny God any such honor by according Mary a position of the highest respect and describe her as God's greatest creation.”

Once more, you miss the point. Is there something about Catholicism that conditions you to suffer from this mental block?

Did my argument turn on equating Mary with God? No. The point of my argument was just the opposite. Try to get past your intellectual impediments so that you can engage the actual argument.

“First, do these ‘gods’ actually exist, and, if they do, are they actually demonic entities.”

Idolatry doesn’t depend on whether the idolatrous object is real or fictional. As long as the idolater believes it to be real, that’s sufficient. The ontological status of the object is irrelevant to the psychological state of an idolater.

“Second, doesn't this beg the question. I haven't heard any definition of ‘worship’…”

As usual, you’re unable to follow the argument. Is there something about Catholicism that conditions you so be so persistently uncomprehending?

I was simply responding to a Catholic argument with a counterargument. I haven’t, as of yet, tried to show that Marian devotion is idolatrous. Rather, I was clearing away some bad Catholic arguments against the possibility that Marian devotion is idolatrous.

“The bible teaches that Mary was to be called ‘blessed’ by all geneations. Where do Protestants follow this Biblical injunction?”

i) Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah. See how easy that is?

ii) At this same time, this is a prediction, not an injunction.

“Are Protestants unbiblical for the way that they take Mary out once a year for Christmas, but for the rest of the year treat her as the embarrassing unmarried daughter who has to be kept out of sight.”

Since the Bible doesn’t enjoin us to “venerate” Mary in the way that Catholics do, the fact that we refrain from so doing is hardly “unbiblical.”

“No, she is the ‘functional equivalent’ of the Mother of God as defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431.”

And you honor her and pray to her the way pagans honor and pray to mother goddesses.

“How should the Mother of God be venerated?”

Mary should be honored in the same way the Bible honors her. No more and no less.

“Instead of assuming that the present Protestant approach to Mary - which was not shared by Calvin or Luther and is a minority position held by a small number of the total Christians who have ever lived for a comparatively brief time - is normal, perhaps Protestants would benefit by providing an apologia of their position.”

The church began with just 120 members in a private home. It was a miniscule sect within Judaism. By your yardstick, we should be reject the Messiahship of Jesus since that was a fringe position within mainstream Judaism.

“Here is what I see as a weird disconnect in this discussion - it seems that none of the Protestants interlocutors have engaged with who Mary is. Isn't it the case that before anyone can discuss whether Catholic devotions are ‘excessive’ they first have to answer the question of who Mary is?”

For an answer, try Who Is My Mother?: The Role and Status of the Mother of Jesus
~ Eric D. Svendsen.

“Further, Protestants should be willing to ask themselves whether they are being biblical in their Mariophobia.”

Further, Catholics should be willing to ask themselves whether they are being biblical in their Mariolatry.

“Lastly, what is ‘worship’? Does the Mormon approach to Jesus constitute ‘worship’ in a ‘biblical’ sense?”

It constitutes idolatry. Idolatry is a subset of worship: false worship. Mormonism is polytheistic. Mormon Christology is unscriptural.

“Presumably, everyone would agree that God's ability to sort and direct prayers to the correct saints would not be above His pay grade.”

Millions of daily prayers are directed to Mary. For God to redirect millions of daily prayers to Mary does nothing to solve the problem of how a finite human mind can process millions of prayers per day.

“If necessary I can supply the citations to Aquinas that back up what I'm indicating.”

Quoting one man’s opinion to prop up your opinion is not an argument. Aquinas is not a prophet.

“Obviously, that is a naked assertion, rather than an argument or an offer of empirical proof.”

i) I was responding to your naked assertion (clothed as a rhetorical question) that this “should end the discussion right there.”

ii) And empiricism is irrelevant. Idolatry is not simply a sense datum.

“It is, in essence, a statement of Steve’s belief about Catholics, rather than a statement of Catholic belief, which is why I have repeatedly questioned the ability of third parties to read the hearts and souls of others.”

i) “Empiricism” is not about reading hearts and souls. You don’t grasp the significance of the words and concepts you intone.

ii) Naturally we’d expect idolaters to deny that they are idolaters. So what? Suppose a Catholic were an idolater. Would he admit it?

Spiritual self-delusion is blind to the reality of its delusive thoughts and actions.

“If a person can’t read the soul of another, than comments like this constitute the sin of ‘detraction’ and unchristian conduct.”

We can judge idolatry by the x-ray vision of Scripture.

“For example, ought a husband to have a devotion to his wife?”

The marital analogy is only as good as the Marian analogue. But to play along with your analogy, there’s a reason OT Jews were forbidden to marry pagan women. Their heathen wives would lead them into idolatry. So thanks for bringing that up. It nicely underscores my point.

“It is not the case that devotion to Mary competes with devotion to God inasmuch as Mary is ordered to God.”

You’re citing one Catholic dogma to prop up another Catholic dogma. Viciously circular.

“I reiterate something that no one wants to deal with – Mary was the Mother of God.”

I reiterate something that no Catholic wants to deal with – God was the Father of Mary.

“The point that I made previously, which has been ignored, is that honor is relative to the person.”

And, for that reason, Catholics dishonor Mary.

“So, I ask again, what is the honor that is appropriate to the Mother of God?”

Answer: “While he [Jesus] was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mt 12:47-50).

“On the contrary, your argument has asserted that Catholics worship Mary as if she were God.”

Now you’re equivocating. I never said Catholics actually view Mary as a goddess. Rather, she’s the functional equivalent of a patron goddess. They pay lip-service to her humanity while elevating her to the practical status of a mother goddess.

The way of Roman might pray to Juno to placate the wrath of Mars. Since Mars is her son, his mother has leverage.

“Look, my point about the ordering of creation to God is not ‘rocket science.’ It has been around for millennia of orthodox Christian theology and is, you know, in the Bible.”

What you need to show is that Catholic Marian devotion is, you know, in the Bible. Your fallback appeal to Aquinas is a tacit admission that Catholic Marian devotion is not, you know, in the Bible.

“Do we agree with that. If so, doesn’t that make some different when you offer up wood nymphs as an example of idolatry, and then I respond that Mary is ordered to God.”

Crickets are also “ordered to God.” Do you pray to crickets?

“What about “MOTHER OF GOD”!!!!! makes you think that any of your analogies make sense?”

I realize it’s hard for you to break through your Pavlovian Catholic conditioning, but the analogies illustrate the point that an idolater doesn’t have to think the idolatrous object has the attributes of the Trinity to be an idolater.

“And that’s all there is to it?”

I responded to you on your own terms. You said, “The bible teaches that Mary was to be called ‘blessed’ by all geneations. Where do Protestants follow this Biblical injunction?”

My answer is directly responsive to your chosen framework.

“Her fiat meant nothing?”

Of course, that’s another bit of Catholic dogma rearing its ugly head. It’s not as if the angel Gabriel was bargaining with Mary. This was not a negotiation of terms. Rather, it was a formal announcement of God’s prior decision.

“And then her relationship with the Son of God ended?”

Once a mother, always a mother. But precisely because he is the Son of God, Mary has no special leverage. She’s the creature–he’s the Creator.

“What a cruel, cold, inhuman, heartless picture of our Savior you ascribe to.”

What a childish picture of our Savior you ascribe to.

“Hmmm….if it was a prediction it would seem that only one group matches this prophecy and it isn’t evangelical Christians. Shouldn’t that be a concern?”

To the contrary, evangelicals fulfill the prediction by honoring the terms of the prediction, whereas Catholics dishonor the name and memory of Mary by their sacrilegious impieties.

“So, how about repeating what the angel said to Mary – ‘Hail, Mary, full of grace, blessed art thou amongst women….’”

I’d be happy to repeat what the angel said if that’s what he said. Unfortunately for Catholics, Gabriel didn’t say that. The Greek word doesn’t mean “full of grace.” That’s a traditional mistranslation. In Greek, Mary is the object of divine favor, not the source of divine grace. That’s also clear from the context.

So, yes, I can agree with everything Gabriel actually said. Mary was the object of divine favor. And Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Messiah.

“Also, you might want to say ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.’”

And why would I want to say that? Does the Bible ever instruct me to say that?

“I mean, what could it hurt inasmuch as it is all orthodox Christian belief recognized by the Orthodox, Coptic, Nestorian, Jacobite and every other Christian church that existed prior to 1517.”

i) Actually, to utter an idolatrous prayer on my deathbed wouldn’t be a very propitious way of preparing to meet my Maker. Indeed, that could be quite harmful to my immortal soul.

ii) I’d add that Scripture never put much stock in the wisdom of the majority. Baal-worshipers outnumbered true believers in the time of Elijah. Pagans outnumbered Christians in the 1C.

iii) And to say it’s “orthodox” belief assumes what you need to prove. More to the point, is it Scriptural?

“You’re simply begging the question. You’re telling me that idolatry is false ‘worship’ but I’m asking whether Mormons ‘worship’ Jesus in the first place.”

Mormonism is irrelevant to my argument. That’s your hobbyhorse, not mine.

For the record, Mormons worship as false Jesus as if he were the true Jesus. That’s a form of idolatry. Idolatry takes many different forms. Mariology is another case in point.

“Is it worship when Mormons don’t pray to Jesus as the object of their prayers, but only pray to the Father?”

Since Mormons have a false doctrine of Jesus and a false doctrine of God, they are idolaters on both counts. To worship a false concept of God is a form of idolatry.

“I said no, and I said that the problem with this is that it treats the Creator as a creature, which was the heresy of Arianism.”

And Catholics treat the creature (Mary) as if she were the Creator, which is the heresy of idolatry.

“OK, so you’re saying that 'With God all things are NOT possible.'”

Unless you think Mary is a goddess, prooftexts for divine omnipotence are hardly prooftexts for Marian omniscience. The issue is not what is possible for the omnipotent Creator, but what is possible for a finite creature. The fact that you conflate the two nicely illustrates the way in which your Marian devotion is interchangeable with idolatry. Thanks for the confirmation.

“Well, yes it is if I am saying that a view is well-recognized as orthodox Christian belief, as opposed to a new-fangled innovation and the person lived in the 13th Century is recognized by all Christians as a fundamental shaper of Christian thought. But I guess it would be better to defer to ‘steve’ then to Aquinas about such matters.”

An elementary question which intelligent men to ask in such situations is whether the speaker is in a position to know what he’s talking about.

Aquinas was a brilliant man, but he was just a mortal like you and me. He knew nothing about the afterlife than what is revealed to us in the Scriptures. He didn’t die and return from the dead to tell us what he saw.

So, no, Aquinas knew no more about the Beatific Vision, or the postmortem activities of the saints, or their enhanced aptitudes, than Dr. Seuss.

But, as with so many other Catholics, you’re like a character in a novel of manners–where artificial rules of aristocratic etiquette are elevated to laws of nature.

“Of course, the circumlocution of ‘Mother of the Messiah’…”

“Mother of the Messiah” is no more circumlocutionary than “Mother of God.” They are syntactically equivalent (unless you think the anarthrous construction is highly significant.)

Red pill-poppers and blue pill-poppers

Various SF films and TV shows (i.e. Harsh Realm, Total Recall, The Matrix) deal with the theme of characters that are trapped inside a virtual world.

Some characters have no awareness of the simulation. For them, virtual reality is reality. Other characters discern a larger reality behind the simulation.

So you have to types of characters: red pill-poppers and blue pill-poppers.

Blue pill-poppers deny the existence of a computer programmer. They point to “reality” and ask, “Show me the programmer? We can’t see him. We can’t find him.”

Red pill-poppers say that question misses the point. If the programmer exists, then he exists outside the program. In that sense, he’s absent from the program he designed. At most, he could write himself into the program as a virtual character.

But in another sense, the programmer is a ubiquitous. He designed the simulation. Activated the simulation. Although the programmer is intangible, your every tangible experience is the end-result of his design.

So he’s both absent from the program and omnipresent. Even if you never see him, he’s “there” in the sense that his program is there. He’s behind every simulated detail of the program you inhabit.

Empirical evidence for God

I was asked to the following question: "If you were in a debate with an atheist and he asked you to give empirical evidence for God, what would you say?"

To which I answered:

I’d make a couple of preliminary observations before I tried to answer that question:

1.We need to clarify our expectations, and have reasonable expectations. It might obvious to some that if God exists, then his existence should be easy to prove. After all, if he exists, then shouldn’t that be fairly evident or conspicuous? He’s the source of everything else. The biggest fact of all.

However, there’s a paradox in proving God’s existence. Normally, when we try to prove that something exists, we use one thing to prove another. We take for granted the existence of something else, something related, and use that as a launch pad.

For example, we use time and consciousness as background conditions to prove other things. If, however, you were asked to prove the existence of time or consciousness itself, you might be stumped. It’s hard to come up with a non-circular argument for the existence of a background condition. Precisely because time and consciousness are so fundamental, they are resistant to direct demonstration. It’s hard to get “behind” them.

Because we see with our eyes, we never see our eyes. Not directly.

2.The answer to your question also turns, in part, on the precise form of the question or the implied audience. Is the question what empirical evidence would you cite to undergird your own belief in God? Or is it what empirical evidence would you cite for the benefit of someone who is not already a believer?

If, for example, you’re speaking for yourself, then depending the specifics of your religious experience, certain empirical evidence might dovetail with the argument from religious experience. For example, the argument from miracles could also count as empirical evidence in case you or someone you trusted had had a fairly unmistakable experience of God’s miraculous involvement in your life or his.

If, on the other hand, the answer is directed at outsiders, you might appeal to something more public.

3.Depending on how you define empirical evidence:

i) Among formal theistic proofs, I think the teleological argument has the most general appeal. And, as you know, there are different versions.

ii) If you regard testimonial evidence as an oblique form of empirical evidence (i.e. testimony to an empirical event), then the argument from miracles is also in play (although it needs to be carefully qualified).

iii) The argument from religious experience can also have a lot of popular appeal.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Fiscal or Social?

One of the refrains that leftist newscasters (but I repeat myself) oft repeat is that the Republican Party is in trouble because it embraces its radical right wing kook fringe. The premise is that if the GOP would just get rid of social conservatives and focus only on maintaining fiscal conservatives, the GOP would win elections again.

Given that this advice comes from leftists, conservatives already ought to reject it (since when does the opposition really care about helping their enemy win elections?). However, since there is a libertarian wing that is fiscally conservative while socially liberal, they echo these claims too.

That’s why examining the recent initiatives in California and Maine are so important. In California, the courts ruled that gay marriage should be allowed because there was nothing in the state constitution to deny it. So social conservatives passed a constitutional amendment to outlaw it. Even though Obama carried the state by a wide margin, gay marriage failed.

Ditto in Maine, where the only distinction is that the legislature passed the law instead of the courts ruling it. Still, it was not put to a popular vote, and once it was…gay marriage was defeated. In fact, in every state (31 total) where gay marriage has been put to a vote, it has been defeated.

And more importantly, in the California election, the initiative came at the same time as the presidential election. Which means there were a lot of people casting a vote for Obama and Proposition 8 at the same time. In Maine, homosexual activists were quite vocal in trying to keep the law the legislature had passed, yet they failed too.

Because of libertarians, we know that one can be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But voting evidence indicates there are also a sizeable number who are fiscally liberal while remaining socially conservative. This is why California and Maine could vote for a liberal president and still vote against gay marriage.

If the GOP wants to win elections, they have to stop nominating “moderate” candidates and return to their socially conservative base. The public consistently votes for socially conservative initiatives even in liberal states. This means liberals must rely on the courts to impose their agenda, because they lack popular support.

Why anyone would consider socially conservative voters to be a weak-point in their party can only be explained by willful blindness.

Is justification synergistic?

Francis Beckwith tried to argue that justification is synergistic. Here’s what one commenter had to say about his efforts:

Bryan said...

Hi Frank,_I think what you have done here is actually proven monergism with your analogy.

Let me explain. I think you are doing what my old OT professor, Pete Enns, did with the incarnational analogy to Scripture. You seem to be confusing the idea that because Christ is fully human and fully divine with the idea that His human and divine natures are equal in power and control of one another. That of course would be heretical, as the finite human nature does not have equal control over the infinite divine nature.

In other words, Christ is non posse pecare because, although He is able to be tempted in His human nature, His divine nature keeps His human nature in "check," since God cannot sin. The same goes for Scripture. Although men are able to express themselves and their opinions, they cannot do so to the point of theological and ethical error, so that the human will is controlled and limited by the divine will. In other words, the human will does whatever the divine wills it to do. It functions no further than the boundaries which are set for it by the divine will. This, therefore, means in your analogy that the human decision is only a response to the divine will, and cannot do otherwise than that which God has willed it to do.

So the human nature of Christ is controlled by the divine nature, the human nature of Scripture is controlled by the divine will, and the human will in salvation is controlled by the divine will.

Hence, any system of merit based upon the idea that a person joins with God to perform a task in synergism must include a human act that can act in favor of God or against Him; but this would be to deflate your analogy. If the person's salvific actions are only a response to, or set within, the boundaries of God's will, then no salvific act can be attributed to the human element at all; and thus, Roman Catholicism would be refuted.

Do you resolve this problem in some other way?

Is religion maladaptive?


“Your premise is wrong. While true beliefs are generally adaptive and false beliefs are generally maladaptive, this is not a necessary connection.”

My premise wasn’t predicated on a necessary connection. Rather, if, according to the Darwininan, misbeliefs are maladaptive, and if, according to the Darwinian, the majority of human hominids suffer from a misbelief in the supernatural, then natural selection is an unreliable belief-forming mechanism. On this view, misbeliefs are not the exception to the rule. Rather, they are dominant.

“Based on the major suppositions of EP and evolutionary biology generally, it isn't the truth or falsity that evolution cares about…”

I never said evolution “cares” about anything. By definition, naturalistic evolution (which is the thesis under review) is indifferent.

“…it is whether the belief promotes the fitness of the individual who holds that belief.”

The question is whether true beliefs promote survival. Darwinians typically argue that they do.

“Your best bet for criticizing evolutionary approaches to understanding religion would be to emphasize the dearth of empirical work on how religious beliefs promotes the fitness of the individual. And not the direct you're currently taking.”

I don’t have to critique evolutionary psychology by documenting (if possible) that religious beliefs are adaptive.

It’s quite sufficient to note a dilemma in the Darwinian argument against religion. If misbeliefs are generally maladaptive, yet most human primates hold false beliefs about the supernatural, then natural selection is selecting for misbeliefs. And doing so on a massive scale. So how did we survive our maladaptive religious beliefs?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Another Darwinian bites the dust


Ach so. I suppose I'll take your words for that and be done with it. :)

Needless to say, however, I think that despite the inflammatory language I find it difficult to imagine a valid refutation to most of his statements, since they are, stripped of fighting words, thoroughly unconroversial.


If you can't imagine a valid refutation, that means you've only been reading one side of the argument. What intelligent design theorists have you read?


I didn't say you'd agree with them. I was responding to your claim that you can't "imagine valid refutations" to the canned objections raised by Boris. And, thus far, you've just treated us to to some rhetorical finery.

Jorgon Gorgon said...

“Indeed. But the problem with intelligent design is that all of its basic principles (appearance of desing, irreducible complexity, specified complexity) are artifacts of observation and knowledge about the system and are not inherent to the system (despite Dembski's attempts to formalize them, a mathematical in-joke by now). Hnece, no specific claims are made beyond ‘It looks like it has been designed, from our current vantage point; and we cannot imagine how in Hell it has been designed (again, with our current knowledge)’.”

All scientific theories are theories of appearances. Theories based on how things appear to our senses. You can never get beyond the perception of the observer to the raw datum as it exists apart from our perception. The scientist is, himself, a percipient. At most, science can uncover deeper layers of phenomena. Higher and lower scales of magnification. Chemical analysis. Correlations between one event and another. But that will always come down to how the evidence appears to the sensory-processing system of the outside observer. There is always a gap between the distal stimulus and the proximal stimulus.

“Of course, evolutionary biologists are in a privileged position, in a sense: we do not have to show that a specific system evolved in a specific way, we only have to present a plausible pathway in which evolution acted upon by natural selection.”

Of course, that’s viciously circular. Unless you already know that evolution is true, then you can’t take for granted that there is an evolutionary pathway in the first place. If you can’t show it, then you don’t know. Your theory should only be as specific as the level of your evidence.

“The emergence of specific features at specific times in geological record, for example.”

i) You’d need to have a continuous series of fossils to draw that conclusion. The fact (assuming it is a fact) that you can discover a datable fossil remnant with specific features hardly means said feature emerged at around the time that organism happened to be fossilized. Even if you can date an isolated fossil, this doesn’t tell you at what point the specific trait emerged (assuming it did); rather, it just tells you that, as of that date, that organism had said trait.

ii) Moreover, the emergence of specific features doesn’t begin to prove macroevolution or common descent. You’re equivocating.

“Or--a major prediction of evolutionary theory--the presence of exapted traits, as well as in general the evidence of blind tinkering (the construction of mammalian eye? giraffe's laryngeal nerve?).”

If you think that’s a design flaw, give us a working model of a superior design. And test it in a real world setting. Show us how your new and improved design confers a survival advantage on the organism in its natural environment.


"Oh, and on Boris: it appears to me (and I cannot test the appearances since the original posts have been removed! :) that you are quibbling between metaphysics and epistemology: while methodological naturalism is indeed a principle in the latter sense, it is not metaphysical at all. In fact, many of my acquaintances have no problem pursuing methodological naturalism in their work (laudable!) while holding all sorts of wacky metaphysical beliefs outside of it (pointless, but often quite lovable)."

There is no presumption in favor of methodological naturalism unless you presume metaphysical naturalism. Unless reality is like what metaphysical naturalism postulates, there's no prior reason to apply the interpretive grid of methodological naturalism to our scientific or historical investigations. The only reason to limit ourselves to this restrictive methodology is in case we already expect reality to be purely naturalistic in its causes and effects.

Therefore, methodological naturalism is a disguised version of metaphysical naturalism. It's a question-begging filter which screens out any and all supernatural explanations in advance of the evidence.


“And Steve...what can I say? I am embarrassed to have to respond.”

Given the inadequacy of your response, your embarrassment is justified. .

“Just a couple of notes: we knew that evolution (in the sense of change of living forms through time) was true long before Darwin.”

Of course, that’s a bait-and-switch tactic. “Evolution” in that generic sense is hardly synonymous with macroevolution or common descent.

“Oh, and the classic trick of demanding an unrealistic level of evidence from evolutionary theory.”

It’s unrealistic to demand evidence specific to the specificity of the theory? How is that unrealistic?

If you lack specific evidence to corroborate specific claims of your theory, then your theoretical belief is evidentially unwarranted. All you’ve given us is your imaginary narrative.

“While settling for no evidence whatsoever to support one's own view is noted, and laughed at.”

You haven’t begun to show that my own view has no supporting evidence. Try to present an actual argument the next time around. Mere assertions pull no weight.

Feel free to keep laughing in your padded cell.


“Um, human eye can be easily redesigned to get rid of a blind spot.”

If that’s easy to do, then do it. Show us your working model. Show us your model in action.

Show how that’s an improvement. Show how you can make that adjustment while leaving everything else intact.

“Our spines, to use another immediate example, are engineered for quadrupeds, not so well for bipeds. These are elementary anatomical facts.”

You haven’t given us any elementary fact. You’ve given us elementary assertions masquerading as facts. Asserting X to be a fact does not a fact make. A factual assertion is not a fact.

Jorgon Gorgon said...

"And giraffe's laryngeal nerve does not have to traverse its neck multiple times."

How is that a design flaw? Is redundancy a design flaw? Is that your point? If so, how is redundancy a design flaw? If not, then what's your point?

BTW, according to you, the giraffe has been around for millions of years. It's managed to survive in a harsh, competitive, unforgiving environment. So why do you think the giraffe is poorly designed? Poorly designed in relation to what? Its ecological niche?

Jorgon Gorgon said...

“Your usage of the term ‘macroevolution’ with the connotation that it is somehow a qualitatively different process than ‘micro’ is duly noted and again, laughed at.”

i) “Laughed at” is not an argument. Is “laughed at” your idea of scientific evidence? If so, that would certainly explain what you’re prepared to believe.

ii) You’re free to disregard the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution, but you still need to furnish evidence commensurate with the specificity of your theory. If you believe in macroevolution, then you need to furnish specific evidence–on a case-by-case basis.

If you can’t furnish specific evidence, then your theory is based on something other than real evidence. What would that be? Secular dogma? Do you use methodological naturalism to putty in the evidentiary gaps in your theory?

“Your incredulity at the idea of common descent is also noted.”

In my response to you, I haven’t staked out a position one way or the other. I’ve merely noted your threadbare assertions and slippery equivocations.

“Your lack of response to my engineering questions is again not unexpected.”

Lack of response? In fact, I have responded. Where’s your counterargument?

“I suppose next you'll express doubts at radiometric dating systems, and we can go from there to cosmological time scales.”

Actually, you’re the one who’s changing the subject, not me. Shall we take that as a tacit admission that you couldn’t back up your previous claims?

“Octopuses, for example, have no blind spot. it is strictly a function of mammalian eyes.”

i) Of course, aquatic organisms function in a very different environment than mammalian land animals. The challenges are hardly comparable.

ii) Moreover, their eyes are not discrete organs which you can isolate from the overall requirements of their octopoid systems. Different designs have trade-offs. You may have to trade down in one department to trade up in another.

It’s simple-minded to focus on one organ or body part to the exclusion of the overall design. An engineer has to balance out all the competing variables.

iii) Show us a working model of how you’d adapt an octopoid eye to a human body. What corresponding adjustments would be required to pull that off? How would that improve on human vision, in our non-aquatic environment? How would that confer a survival advantage on human beings?

“You do realize that organs of vision evolved on multiple occasions and did so in different ways, thoroughly consistent with the blind process tinkering with pre-existing structures under environmental pressures?”

Actually, your faith in the miraculous ability of a blind process to independently hit upon so many feasible solutions is a tribute to your secular credulity.


“I realize that from what appears to be your point of view, all scientists are insane, but it is refreshing to hear it expressed so clearly.”

Sorry to disillusion you, but you don’t speak for all scientists–even if it seems that way from your padded cell.

“By the way, you do realize that Behe subscribes to common descent as well?”

Oh dear. Jorgon, Jorgon: you do realize that in my response to you, I haven’t expressed a personal opinion about intelligent design theory or macroevolution or common descent.

Thus far I’ve confined myself to shooting down your lame objections and tendentious assertions.

One of your many problems is an inability to listen. You assume you already know what your opponent is going to say, so treat us to your canned objections and your rote assertions.

And if I don’t play the typecast role you’ve assigned to me, then you’re at a loss.

You’ve dutifully copied down the little zingers from Stenger, Dawkins, & Dennett. You have all those zippy one-liners alphabetically indexed in your Rolodex of cue cards.

But as soon as you bump into a Christian who doesn’t play into your Hollywood narrative of the gap-toothed fundy, you have nothing in reserve.

And you’re doing no better on the historical Jesus. Trying to bluff your way through the debate doesn’t win you any chips here. You actually have to present real honest-to-goodness arguments.

And, yes, I’m aware of Behe’s arguments for common descent. I’m also aware of the counterarguments.


“Who said anything about redundancy?”

If the RLN doubles back rather than taking the most direct route, then why do you object to “redundancy” to characterize this feature?

And I ask, once again, how is redundancy a design flaw? For example, redundancy can sometimes preserve function or partial function in case of injury.

“It is a single nerve…”

Actually, from what I’ve read, the RLN has branches.

“It is not redundant, but only to be expected ifthe giraffe's ancestors had shorter necks. Capiche?”

Several problems with that assertion:

i) You dismissed intelligent design arguments as God-of-the-gap arguments. However, if that’s the case, then design flaw arguments are Godless-of-the-gap arguments. If you can’t explain the purpose of “suboptimal adaptations,” you fall back on blind evolutionary mechanisms. So your objection is simply the reverse of what you fault in ID-theory. But if appeal to intelligent teleology is a “cop-out” or “science-stopper,” then appeal to blind dysteleology is likewise a “cop-out” or “science-stopper.”

ii) The giraffe has a highly specialized circulatory system. You need to explain how a blind evolutionary process could synchronize the fortuitous emergence of these interdependent adaptations.

iii) But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the modern giraffe did “evolve” from ancestors with shorter necks. How would that disapprove intelligent design?

Dog breeders cultivate different subspecies of dogs with a variety of specialized features.

“As far as laughter is concerned: when one exhibits ignorance of itroductory biology while thinking that they may make protentious pronouncements on much more advanced subjects, laughter is the only answer. (BTW, I laugh at myself all the time: try it, it may turn out to be beneficial...:))”

It’s true that your ignorance of introductory biology makes you a laughingstock. That’s one thing we agree with on.

“Lo and behold! Steve takes a small albeit unwitting step towards understanding how evolution actually works. Will he realize this momentous breakthrough? I doubt it, but anything is possible.”

You’re dodging the issue, even though you were the one who choose to introduce that issue. I’m still waiting for you to furnish a working model of a functional human eye with octopoid improvements.

“Meanwhile, a hypothetical designer is not limited by preexisting structures, of course.”

i) You’re the one who cited the octopoid eye as your point of reference. Therefore, the onus lies on you to present a detailed physiological explanation of how you’d combine features of the octopoid eye with features of the human eye to produce a more optimal design.

ii) Use of preexisting structures is a mark of simplicity and efficiency.

“I wish I could apologize for my laughter; but no matter, no matter.”

No need to apologize. A buffoon like you makes an excellent foil. You’re like a clown we hire to entertain little tikes at the birthday party.


“Oh boy. Are you really trying to tell me that you do not see how a single nerve from larynx traversing the length of the neck, looping around the aorta and traversing the length of the neck again on its return path to the brain has nothing to do with redundancy (where is the backup system, my friend?)?”

i) You have a simple-minded grasp of redundancy. For example:

ii) Since a giraffe is a unified organism with a set of functionally integrated subsystems, you must detail how, exactly (and I do mean “exactly”) you could reroute the RLN without disrupting the delicate balance. Optimality is a property of the entire organism, in relation to its ecological niche, and not an isolated organ or body party.

BTW, you’re not my friend.

“Oh boy. I apologize.”

You have a lot to apologize for. Don’t stop now.

“I thought I was conversing with people with at least a freshman level understanding of basic biology; my mistake.”

Since I never mistook you for someone with at least a freshmen level understanding of basic biology, I’m unapologetic.

“BTW, regarding your earlier confusion between methodological and metaphysical naturalism: do not fall into Johnson's rhetorical cesspit: they are two different devices entailing quite different committments. I know of plenty people who are methodologically quite naturalistic (perhaps even more orthodox than me in that sense) while holding all sorts of metaphysically non-naturalistic beliefs: Miller, Gilberson, Collins, Abdus Salam (!) spring to mind instantly.”

I spelled out why your makeshift dichotomy is unstable. Methodological naturalism logically collapses into metaphysical naturalism. I gave reasons. You offer no counterargument.

Instead, you resort to biographical anecdotes. But what some people happen to believe is irrelevant. Name-dropping is not an argument. Collecting opinions is no substitute for reasoned argument.


“Steve: your claim that methodological naturalism is unstable is belied by many practitioners that use it without a problem.”

I give arguments, you give anecdotes. Needless to say, citing biographical vignettes doesn’t go an inch towards disproving my argument. You’re an irrationalist posing as a rationalist.

“(Your claim is akin to a crank-point from John Baez's list: 5 points for every mention of the sueriority of a thought experiment that contradicts well-observed empirical observation).”

That’s such a stupid comparison. There’s no analogy between the metaphysical/methodological dichotomy and the thought-experimental/empirical-experimental dichotomy.

Your anecdotes about methodological naturalists don’t count as observational facts about the concept of methodological naturalism. Rather, that merely tells us something about the mental state of the methodological naturalist. His opinions. That’s irrelevant to whether their opinions are true or false.

The truth or falsity of the metaphysical/methodological dichotomy is a logical issue, not a psychological or empirical issue. Are you too dense to figure that out?

“My grasp of redundancy may or may not be simplistic, but a single system is not redundant in any sense without another system fulfilling the same/similar task. Your apparent inability to grasp it does not bode well for future discussion.”

It’s redundant in the sense I gave. See the link.

“It could, easily, go directly from the brain to larynx.”

You say it but you don’t show it. Asserting something to be the case is not an argument, especially when you’re making counterfactual claims about optimal bioengineering. A real engineer needs to demonstrate his claims, not make promissory assertions about what’s allegedly easy to do.

You act as if we were dealing with an isolated system. What corresponding changes would be required to implement that particular change? Do you have any idea? We’re waiting to see your schematics.

“BTW, I assume you may be aware that the giraffe's engineering is quite faulty, for old specimen in any case: often they are not able to get up after drinking and die.”

Another stupid statement. It reflects your chronic inability to keep more than one idea in your head at a time.

Specialization has advantages and disadvantages. Which is a better design: A leopard, a tiger, or a cheetah?

There is no uniform answer to that question. A cheetah sacrifices power and claws for sheer speed. Speed is advantageous. But it comes at a cost.

A leopard is more flexible. More powerful than a cheetah. Can climb better than a lion or cheetah.

On the other hand, it lacks the power of a lion, or the speed of a cheetah.

What is a survival advantage in one situation, one environment, one ecological niche, may be disadvantageous in another environment.

Optimality is relative to other considerations. A cost/benefit ratio. There are tradeoffs to being a giraffe. Better in some ways, worse in others.

[JG] “What's more, your requirements of specificity are a classic ID/creationist canard: a demand for 100% specific and proven pathway/method/system from an opponent while themselves providing nothing but vague generalities (in fact, s vague as to be useless, as with IC, for example.”

Even if ID theory were guilty of the inadequacies you allege, shifting the blame to the inadequacies of the opposing position does nothing whatsoever to rectify the inadequacies of your own position. That’s just a diversionary tactic on the part of somebody who can’t back up his sweeping claims with comparable evidence.

“In fact, I am under no obligation to demonstrate anything to you that you cannot fiind out by perusing your local college library. Would you like a reading list? It can be provided, upon request. If you raised any interestig points, I would be happy to engage in a thoughtful dialogue (contrary to what you may believe, my training in relevant disciplines is quite real.”

Flaunting your epaulets like the head of a banana republic is no substitute for putting hard evidence on the table or presenting a counterargument.

I’ve been answering you on your own terms. When I do so, you respond with an abundance of bluster and schoolboy fallacies.

“Instead, you repeat well-worn non-points from Dembski et al, without betraying any knowledge of the current state of research in real biology.”

Once again, you have no argument. You talk about knowledge without putting the relevant knowledge on display. Stalling for time.

“I must say, I have not had this much fun since watching A fock of Dodos...”

There’s nothing behind your façade. It’s just a cardboard wall. Once we punch a hole in your facade, there’s nothing but air on the other side.

You’re long on scientific rhetoric, but short on scientific evidence.

Jorgon Gorgon said:

Um, human eye can be easily redesigned to get rid of a blind spot.

Are you referring to the optic disc of the retina? If so, how do you propose to redesign the optic disc in order to get rid of this blind spot without adversely affecting the physiology of vision?

And giraffe's laryngeal nerve does not have to traverse its neck multiple times. (Vagus nerve has the same problem).

Specifically, what do you find problematic about how the vagus nerve innervates the human body? For one thing, it's responsible for significant parasympathetic functions which would not be possible if it didn't innervate the human body in the manner it does.

Our spines, to use another immediate example, are engineered for quadrupeds, not so well for bipeds. These are elementary anatomical facts.

You can't simply take the spine in isolation and make such a sweeping claim.

What specifically is it about the human vertebral column that you believe to be poorly engineered for bipedal motion over and against quadrupedal motion?

How do you explain other skeletal features such as the clavicle which serves as a strut and keeps the humerus away from the thorax and allows it the range of motion it has (and which, as you'd claim, is one reason we're not quadrupeds)?

Not to mention that if you were to do away with the clavicle, then you'd have other problems such as deep inspiration because it wouldn't be possible for humans to elevate their ribs.

And we've said nothing of other anatomical features such as the various muscle attachments that are involved in bipedal motion.

Jorgon Gorgon said:

Mammalian eye is designed as a reflector. It did not have to be. Had it been designed by an intelligent and logical engineer, it most likely would have been a refractor. The fact that I cannot think of specific details of its design means nothing: I assume that such a designer would have much more advanced tools than any of us do. All I can concentrate on is function; and for a given function, better designs are possible.

Of course that assumes an "intelligent and logical" designer. It could have been Arioch the Duke of Chaos, and often it seems that way.

1. I don't know if this is what you're assuming but I'm not arguing for intelligent design. Rather, I'm simply asking you to make good on the claims you've made. If you claim x, then specify how claim x would work. And, yes, it does mean "something" if you can't make good on your claim.

2. You're simply wrong to say that the eye is designed as a reflector and not a refractor. How do you explain the refractive media of the eye: the cornea, aqueous humor, lens, and vitreous humor?

And I thought you understood "introductory biology" since you were the one who said the following:

As far as laughter is concerned: when one exhibits ignorance of itroductory biology while thinking that they may make protentious pronouncements on much more advanced subjects, laughter is the only answer.