JD WALTERS SAID:
“I've already argued for the disanalogy between things like dreams and perceptual illusions and the wholesale falsification of an entire history of the world. You haven't done anything to convince me those are anything alike.”
i) It’s not my responsibility to convince you.
ii) You attempted to draw an analogy by claiming that if a misperception comes naturally to us, then it isn’t deceptive.
But to say we naturally misperceive reality in various situations is a paradigm-case of deceptive appearances. For the deceptive appearance is built right into the experience. And since God is ultimately responsible for our sensory equipment as well as our natural environment, I don’t see that you can absolve God of the charge.
Mind you, I don’t think “deception” (with its prejudicial connotations) is the best term to use. But since that’s the term which critics of YEC are wont to use, I use it in my counterexamples.
“As I explained in my last comment, this takes a very narrow view of what the physical effects of this miracle would be. I would add, though, that, given the way we experience the uniformity of nature, the physical effects would and should be considered prima facie evidence for a natural origin. In our everyday experience, as well as in science, there is a presumption in favor of natural processes being at work, which presumption you demonstrate whenever you absent-mindedly walk over a bridge, confident it won't vanish in thin air, to take just one example. And how many times has that presumption misled you?”
But as I pointed out, there can be miracles of providential timing or answered prayer which which merge into the appearance of uniformity, even though the precipitating factor is supernatural rather than natural.
“I couldn't disagree more. If they don't obey the same rules, if physical evidence does not in some way constrain the plausibility of the stories we tell about the world, then each man, or at least each philosophical school, is indeed an island, shouting out to the inhabitants of other islands but with no way to convince the other that theirs is better.”
i) Now you’re confusing the interpretation of a story with the plausibility of a story. But those are hardly equivalent. The correct interpretation of Dante or Alice in Wonderland doesn’t turn on the plausibility of their fantasy worlds.
ii) Moreover, I didn’t refer to stories “we” tell about the world, but a story which the Creator of the world told us.
“I've noted that some times you appear perilously close to a sort of postmodernism, Steve, when you've exonerated various kinds of idealism, for example, by assuring commentators that they have indeed taken all the physical evidence into account. Well if that's where epistemic duties stop with respect to worldviews, simply to tell a story that takes all the physical evidence into account, then absent internal contradictions there is no way to adjudicate between them.”
I didn’t say that’s where epistemic duties stop. Rather, I made the obvious statement that Berkeleyan idealism, like brain-in-vat scenarios, is highly resistant to direct refutation. If you have an argument to the contrary, be my guest.
“I hope you're including general revelation in there, but in this case we DO know, from the Bible, the Christian theological tradition, and from science at what point in the cycle it started: at the absolute beginning, with the primordial raw material. God didn't start any cycle in the middle, with past histories, developed structures, and organisms who had already lived and died already in place. He started from scratch.”
General revelation can’t tell us at what point in the cycle God instantiated the world, for general revelation presupposes the existence of the world as its reference point. Appearances can’t tell you at what point in the cycle the cycle was instantiated, for if the cycle was instantiated at a later point in the cycle, the early phase would be folded into the appearance of the later phase.
If my battery dies, and I reset my watch, I set my watch for the current time. Does that mean you can look at my watch and then extrapolate back in time from the current time on the readout to minutes and hours before I reset my watch? No. Once I set my watch you can’t tell when I set it. You could try to extrapolate backwards for however many minutes or hours or days or years. But that would be inaccurate. It didn’t have to be ticking off the minutes and hours for all those years to reach the current readout.
“Again, keep in mind the totality of the physical evidence.”
The totality of the physical evidence is irrelevant. An angel or demon is not a physical agent. An angelic/demonic cause is not a physical cause. It can have physical effects, but you can’t trace the effect back to the cause by physical evidence alone.
It’s not like reconstructing an accident from a hanger with shrapnel from an airplane, plus the flight recorder. Based on physical evidence, you may be able to piece together the cause because the cause is physical (e.g. mechanical error, pilot error, a bomb). But in the case of supernatural causes, the ultimate cause falls outside the scope of empirical investigation.
“Angels and demons make contributions to this world. They do not go around rewriting history and seamlessly transforming vast sections of the natural world.”
No one said they rewrite history, but you also need to explain how you can quantify their contribution to events.
“The principle of these miracles is 'change to a course of nature already established.'”
Actually, the course of nature begins with a miracle (e.g. Fiat lux!).
“Again, you're not looking at the totality of empirical evidence. Looking at a teenager would not be gathering all the empirical evidence relevant to determining whether that birth was going to happen anyway or whether he is an answer to prayer. One would have to ask the parents, consult their medical histories, etc.”
How would their medical histories tell you that he owed his birth to answered prayer? Is that on the medical chart?
You could ask his parents of their still alive. But what about a 100 years later?
“And absent the rest of that evidence, it is a perfectly proper conclusion that the teenager is naturally born.”
Why? Why should we presume that answered prayer, or miraculous timing, is not a factor in many outcomes? Why should we presume one way or the other? Answered prayer has a chain-effect. He may have been “naturally born” because his mother owns her own birth to answered prayer.
“I can't live my life attempting to constantly hold in my mind the awareness that anyone around me could have been born as an answer to prayer.”
Why not? If you know that may be true in some instances, but not others, why affix a presumption in either direction? Why do you feel so threatened by the idea that any particular event may own its occurrence to at least one supernatural factor further upstream? It would be ignorant to either rule that out or rule that in. It’s just something that every Christian should make allowance for. And thankfully so.
“There proper presumption is that natural processes are at work.”
One of your problems is a false dichotomy. In my example, we’re not talking about a Virgin Birth. And even the Virgin Birth included some natural processes. Gestation in the womb. Natural birth.
Jesus didn’t pop into existence as an adult male. So you can also have a confluence of natural and supernatural factors.
“And I'm puzzled by your fanatical need to give an ad hoc, 'hey, anything goes when God's involved, right?' desperate defense of a view (mature creationism) that only developed in response to accumulating scientific evidence against YEC, and which is rejected by most Christian scientists and theologians.”
Actually, I haven’t been defending mature creation. Rather, I’ve been responding to a stock objection to mature creation. Indeed, your objections cut far deeper than mature creation. And that’s a problem in its own right.
My bigger problem is your insistent need to draw a bright line between natural and supernatural causes, create a general presumption against miracles, and make as little allowance for miracles as you can get away with while maintaining a pious veneer of orthodoxy. Why should we be so hell-bent (pun intended) on demarcating just where supernatural causes leave off and natural causes take over?
“But that distinction IS important to science, and to everyday life. Like I said, we go about our daily lives with a very proper presumption that things will unfold according to natural processes.”
We do? Speak for yourself. To recur to an earlier illustration of mine, if I have a sick friend, I pray for him and I take him to the doctor. I don’t presume that medicine will do the trick, and I don’t presume that prayer will do the trick. I do both because I don’t know how God plans to handle the situation, but I know that God may either employ natural means or bypass natural means. I don’t second-guess God’s methods in any given case.
Do you think I should take my friend to the doctor rather than pray for him? Are those mutually exclusive responses?
“Similarly, I can't perform an experiment to verify a theory unless I assume that God won't intervene at just that moment to throw my results off.”
If God miraculously healed a friend who was suffering from terminal cancer, would that “throw your results off?” And which would you rather have: a dead friend, but save your results, or save your friend even it interfered with your controlled experiment?
“How many miracles do you know of that took place in the laboratory and resulted in a different statement of a general regularity of nature as a result?”
It doesn’t have to be a miracle that took place in the lab to be a miracle that impacted the experimental results. There could be a miracle a 100 years before, like an answer to prayer, which through a convoluted chain of events is a necessary precondition for the success of the experiment.
Take forensics. Maybe the criminologist needs an adequate sample. And maybe, due to a complex chain of events, that sample would not be available if something else hadn’t happened, or happened a little differently–years before.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
“Augustine, Calvin and many others understood this.”
I don’t turn to them for exegesis.
“God said, 'let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them be signs to indicate seasons and days and years.'" (Genesis 1:14)”
Cute, but disingenuous:
i) You reject the literal interpretation of Gen 1:14. So was this merely a tu quoque?
ii) From your scientific perspective, moreover, you don’t think our sun exists merely to make ancient Jewish calendars possible. Presumably, you think it exists to make life possible on earth, viz. heat, photosynthesis.
iii) Furthermore, ancient Jews were certainly aware of other solar properties. A source of warmth. Agricultural cycles. And so on.
iv) Finally, Gen 1:14 is not a measurement of absolute chronology, but relative chronology (i.e. setting dates for Jewish festivals).
“The real issue is how revelation and reason intersect.”
Revelation is the revelation of divine reason.
“And to say baldly that I 'side with Troeltsch' without including the very important qualification that I gave in the last post is disingenuous. My principle of analogy and Troeltsch's are quite different, because mine includes the possibility of miracles in the present, and by extension also the past.”
Your acceptance of miracles is so token, grudging, and minimalistic that I don’t see much difference.
“We're not talking about physics here. We're talking about history.”
And historical causation includes supernatural agents, miraculous factors, &c.
“Well by your own admission God works in different ways at different times. Some miracles are miracles of timing and coincidence, in which case a scientist could follow the chain of events from some previous configuration to the point where it constitutes the answer to your prayer.”
He doesn’t have access to my silent prayer. And he lacks direct access to the mind of God.
“The scientist will still be able to say that nature went one way for a while, and then due to an external influence went another way.”
Miraculous effects can be imperceptible in relation to natural effects. The nail looks the same on either explanation. You have to know how the outcome was initiated.
“Nice. Tell that to the Egyptian priests, who when God performed a sign they were unable to perform, they told Pharaoh, ‘It is the finger of God!’ Precisely because it was something they couldn't do on their own.”
It would facilitate discussion of you could refrain from demagoguery. In context, I used the example of a miracle from the past in relation to a present event, 100 years later. That’s hardly comparable to living witnesses, or a written, interpretive record of the event.
“Again, I think by 'physically untraceable' you have in mind a very small subset of the relevant evidence.”
I have in mind the key factors which elude physical evidence. But you’re also skewing the issue:
i) The question at issue is not whether the affected parties can rightly infer a miracle. The question at issue is also not whether a later investigator may sometimes have sufficient evidence to rightly infer a miracle.
ii) Rather, the question is your general presumption that in the absence of fortuitously preserved evidence, we should default to a naturalistic explanation.
iii) In addition, there’s a difference between evidence to rule out a miracle and evidence to rule in a miracle. There can often be evidence to infer a miracle. But I don’t see how you can ever exclude miraculous factors when these factors could be located anywhere up the chain of events.