Monday, July 16, 2018

Gary, I have Figured Out Your Problem: Well, One Of Them

Gary wrote a post about his poor feels.  In the post, he attributes something I wrote to “James, conservative Christian.”  Then, he swings for the fences and says he thinks that I’m actually JP Holding.


First, what did Gary quote me as saying?  I’m glad you asked.  Gary had said: “Ask Jesus to levitate my coffee table three feet off the ground for three minutes and I will believe.”  To which I responded:
Why would something that Derren Brown can emulate be enough to convince you that Jesus is Lord?

This inadvertently exposes a fundamental problem for you. You hate God so much that you don't even know what would count as evidence. You pretend that it wouldn't take much evidence to convince you, but what you ask for is a magic trick. And not only that, but one that can be performed by dozens of people in ways you would never be able to catch. Penn & Teller could perform a levitating table trick for you right now and you wouldn't be able to tell how they did it. Does that count as evidence they are divine? Of course not.

So when you say that's what it would take for you to believe Jesus, you obviously lie. Why?

I mean that seriously. Ask yourself. Why is it you insist on giving trials that would not prove the thing you're requesting in the first place? Were you really blinded to it? If so, what would be sufficient to blind you to how obvious this is? Perhaps a sin nature at enmity with God?
Gary is upset that I pointed out that he hates God.  He even bolded and italicized that sentence when he quoted it (without saying “emphasis added” or anything like that, since I didn’t bold or italicize it myself).  Gary then said: “Good grief.  This guy knows nothing about me but decides after a very brief conversation that the reason for my deconversion was that I hate God.”

Actually, I know more about Gary than he might think, such as that he’s been going around whining on several people’s blogs since early July trying to pick fights with theists.  But whatever, that’s par for the course for atheists who have nothing better to do with their life.  Also, I stated my reasons for making the statement.  Gary gave us a very obvious lie.  Why?  What could explain that?  Well, hatred of God certainly fits the bill.  Either way, Gary still didn't give a counter reason for why he gave such an obvious lie.

In the comments on his blog, Gary accuses me of being JP Holding by saying: “After receiving a few nasty, personally demeaning responses to my comments on Triablogue, I started to recognize the handiwork of JP Holding. Isn’t he one of the owners of Triablogue? His primary strategy on every blog in which he is involved is to personally attack and demean the skeptic to shut them up. His minions follow suit in the personal attacks.”

I asked JP Holding if I was permitted to confirm he was an owner of Triablogue now that the great Gary had figured it out, and he said "Only if you call me Patrick Chan."  So, there is that.

But personally, I don’t know how it’s demeaning to ask Gary to be consistent.  Well, actually given the impossible “standards” he uses, I suppose it would be demeaning to hold someone to them. I still find it funny that Gary thinks that I’m JP Holding though.  This gives me even further reason not to take anything Gary says seriously.

But I will.  See, I’ve actually taken Gary seriously throughout.  More seriously than Gary does, as a matter of fact.

How can I say that?  Because I insist that if Gary uses a standard that he USES that standard.  The end of the very first thing I said to him in my first response was: “If you plan on going that route, you're going to have to apply it to your own view too. Unless you don't care about consistency. But if that's the case, I don't care about what you have to say.”

And see, that still stands.  If Gary doesn’t apply his own rhetoric to his own position, then clearly what he says doesn’t have any substance.  I respect Gary too much to pretend that his non-responses are actually responses when he clearly doesn’t believe they are responses.

But let us look at what Gary has yet to actually respond to, and this is just in what I’ve presented to him.  I am persistent and have no problem pointing it out:

Gary wrote:
Just because a lot of people believe something...doesn't mean it is true.

The reality is, people had evidence for geocentrism, starting with what they observed with their own senses. They had reason to suspect the Earth was stationary because anyone could put a drop of water on the side of a top and give it a twirl and watch the water go flying off on a tangent line to the rotation of the top, so if the Earth was spinning that would mean we ought to go flying off its surface too.

The fact is, no matter what foolish theory you decide to pick throughout history, it was always believed because of the evidence, not due to the lack of the evidence. And the only reason that anyone ever changed their mind on a topic was when a paradigm-shift happened.

Newtonian physics could not explain the orbit of Mercury, and it took Einstein thinking outside the box to explain it better. Even then, we know for a fact that many of our current theories are still flawed because there are fundamental contradictions between relativity and quantum mechanics. In a decade, people could view something like string theory in the same way we currently view phlogiston.

So what you're really trying to say is "Just because a lot of people have evidence for something...doesn't mean it is true." Because what you're attacking is not the belief, but instead the evidence provided for the belief.

If you plan on going that route, you're going to have to apply it to your own view too. Unless you don't care about consistency. But if that's the case, I don't care about what you have to say.

Gary wrote:
As mammals we are "herd animals" and herds operate best (and are more likely to pass on their genetic material) when the herd establishes rules for the herd that are also beneficial to the individuals in the herd.

Except clearly our view of morality do NOT operate in such a manner; they operate in opposition to this. We have compassion on the weak and sick--which not only is not Darwinian, but it actually undermines Darwinism by increasing the ability of non-ideal genetics to get passed on.

But if you really hold to Darwinism, I think you're facing a bigger problem. Atheists are a very, very small subset of people who exist. Something like 4% worldwide, according to Dawkins. I'll be generous and say 10% of the population is atheist. That means that 90% of people hold to some kind of deity.

According to Darwinistic reasoning, the only way to get to this level of disparity is if atheism harms evolution. There is some survivability advantage to believing in a God (of whatever kind) that doesn't attain for atheists.

But I'm quite sure you believe it is a *FACT* that there is no God, so you're left with a dilemma. Darwinism is selecting for something that is false. That which is NOT TRUE provides a better survivability rate than the truth does. Which is problematic on the face of it, but gets worse when you realize that EVERYTHING you think and reason about is the result of evolution, in your view, and if evolution does not select for truth then you have no basis to trust any of your beliefs whatsoever.

"If two billion people always pray to Jesus when they are ill, then statistics tells us that there are going to be millions of instances in which the person recovers from that illness shortly after praying to Jesus. It's just basic math, folks."

And how are you going to establish what the baseline "random" recoveries should be? What if the reason the common cold isn't fatal more frequently is because Christians pray? Does this even enter into your mind to think on? Of course not, because you have a drum to pound and you're going to pound it.

You've mentioned several times that the rate of miraculous healing between atheists, Muslims, Hindus, etc. is all the same, but this conveniently overlooks the fact that Christians do not pray ONLY for Christians, but also for non-Christians. Indeed, sometimes we pray more for non-believers than we do for believers, because we know that if a believer dies he or she is going to heaven whereas the non-believer will go to hell. It is far more important to pray for the non-believer's recovery than the believer's. But again, it doesn't even enter into your mind to think about that aspect.

Expand your horizons. The box you inhabit is far too small.

"If the overwhelming majority of experts on an issue find out they are wrong and change their position then we non-experts should follow suit."

Except, as Thomas Kuhn pointed out, scientists don't change their position even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They just die while the new generation doesn't believe what the old one did.

That's how scientific consensus changes through time.

Since you brought up the fact that we should listen to experts, Gary, how are you an expert in anything you're talking about. This includes the "consensus of NT scholarship"--are you an expert in NT scholarship? Note, I'm not asking if you're an expert in the NT (that comes later) but if you are an expert in what constitutes genuine NT scholarship. What is your degree in? Prove your credentials.

This isn't my standard, it's yours. Until you live by your own standard, kindly shut up.

And only after all of this was ignored did I finally say:
Oh so now you're an expert in defining the "scientific community" too, eh? What are your credentials, Garebear? A PhD in Google-Fu? What fields are you an expert in? Who did you study under? What makes your words of whizzdumb so important that anyone should listen to you?

You're a gasbag of randomly arranged atomic particles that somehow has self-awareness but which will pass into nothing the instant you die. This isn't what I believe--it's what you believe.

So why should anyone care about one word you've said? C'mon. Put up your dukes or hightail it out of here like the inconsistent coward you are.

At this point, Gary said (to another atheist responding): “Hi Lehman. My interest in this conversation is waning. If you feel like it, take over, my non-supernaturalist brother! You are more than capable of dealing with this set of supernaturalists.”

To which, I said: “I suspect it's pretty hard to stay interested when people keep pointing out how you're not following your own standards.  Gary still hasn't given his credentials either, so I'm assuming he has none.”

Now Gary, you can retreat to your own blog and misidentify me and whine and complain all you want, but really all your screeching is doing is demonstrating that you don’t have a leg to stand on.  You ignored everything of substance brought against your position, shifted the goalposts, pretended that we haven’t already presented counter arguments to your own position, and lied repeatedly throughout our interaction.  You got mad at me because I saw through it and refused to play along with you and insisted you use your own standards.

You made the rules, Gary.  I’m enforcing your own standards against you.

If you don’t like it, perhaps you should get better standards.


  1. Reposted from the other thread, because I think it's relevant:
    I think the really funny part is that he took something I wrote, attributed it to James McCloud (at least, I assume that's who he meant by "James, conservative Christian"), thought that I was JP Holding, and STILL expects us to take him seriously when he questions who wrote the Gospels.

    1. It is funnt that anyone can think I am truly a conservative Christian. In a sense I am - I generally go with what the Bible says if my scientific predispositions dont tell me otherwise.

      Just for the record, I am conservative in the following sense:

      1. I believe God exists, he is sovereign, sin is real even if we have no physical instruments to test it in a lab (I reject scientism).

      2. I believe Jesus rose from the dead because I am not a naturalist. I in fact find naturalism in some sense idiotic because it basically argued from absence of evidence.

      3. I believe in the miracles, heaven and hell, and the Christian character of God to be real.

      4. I believe the Bible is supremely authoritative in defining Christian faith and universal morals.

      But I am not conservative by any stretch of the imagination on the following critical points:

      1. I dont have dogmatic beliefs on the exact nature of the inerrancy of scripture.

      2. As someone trained in physics, I am heavily biased towards scientific arguments (with all its assumptions), and hold to the scientific estimation of 13.75 billion years as the age of the universe.

      3. I accept evolution as a valid theory. I dont go ahead and try to rationalise this evolution to be theistic or anything else. Frankly I think such a thing cannot be known, but I may be wrong.

      4. I am not affiliated to any church denomination which means some of my understanding of Christian doctrines are likely to be pretty off by conservative standards. (even the non-scientific ones).

      5. I hold my faith dear to me, but I also am open to disbelieving in God or Jesus if sufficient non-emotional, factual reasons arises in my lifetime. And I honestly desire to fairly assess those reasons. Each of my 4 conservative points are subject to correction with appropriate evidence - not lack of evidence, but positive evidence against them.

      I am hardly a conservative Christian in the way the category is understood.

    2. Interesting, James. I would hold to all of your first four points, of course, but in your second list I only outright disagree with point 1, since I do believe in inerrancy (although I think most people don't interpret Scripture correctly, so there is that).

      As far as the age of the universe, I don't believe time has any objective meaning, and I also think it requires a subject within time for time to have any meaning at all, so I actually think the age of the universe isn't a valid scientific question and didn't actually exist until Adam anyway. LOL. That said, I would stipulate that if we assumed an Earth-bound frame of reference and pretended that time had meaning when it didn't and imagined running it backwards, I have no problem saying the universe is around 14 billion years old from that perspective. (Again, I just hold that that perspective is a dumb perspective to hold to given we know for a fact that time is relative. Why, then, do we privilege a frame of reference--Earth-bound human beings--that's only existed for about 0.002% of the amount of time that frame of reference claims anything has existed?)

      Regarding evolution, I am also an evolutionist, but I'm non- (and even anti-) Darwinian. I find a lot of Sheldrake's views on morphic resonance to be persuasive, and couple it with my view of quantum mechanics to instantiate variation within morphic fields as the impetus for evolution, and all of it is ultimately governed by my view of the sovereignty of God. I believe Darwinism's Achilles heel is convergent evolution, but that morphic fields perfectly explain why that happens.

      In a similar vein, I'm actually close to thinking the universe is really a simulation. (I should clarify that I don't believe the soul is material, and therefore has existence apart from any kind of simulated reality that we perceive around us--also, when I say "simulation" don't think of computers other than as an analogy.)

      In any case, given all that, I don't think I fit the classical "conservative Christian" label either.

      But I also don't care :-D

    3. >>>In any case, given all that, I don't think I fit the classical "conservative Christian" label either.

      Probably not. lol

  2. Superb. Attention to detail, Mr. Pike - I like it.

    Gary was hopelessly out of his depth. This blog is not the place to spout your outdated atheistic talking points. Save it for the safety of your echo chamber. You'll get mauled in here.

    1. Agreed, and this is just the material *I* was involved with that he ignored. He also ignored virtually everything James McCloud wrote, nearly all of Epistle of Dude, all of Steve's points, every single thing Jason Engwer wrote. Oh, but he did half-respond to a single point Reformed Apologist made and then promptly ignored the response RA had which demonstrated Gary's original response was ludicrous. So there is that.

    2. I noticed. He ignored me on a point on miracles, too. But I came in late and should be last in the queue :)

  3. I think this is a good place to summarise my impressions on Gary.

    In a sense I can relate to his apostasy and his behavior because I was momentarily an apostate about couple of years ago, and I had similar animosity towards God that many people have sensed with Gary. It is funny that before my apostasy I was actually a lay apologist for a decade. What brought me back is when a Catholic friend confronted me, and questioned the intellectual basis of my objections - and while I rebelled, like Gary does, at the idea that I was not fairly assessing evidence or my own assumptions, I finally realised that my doubts were fuelled by my emotions and resentments, and not any new intellectual argument against the existence of God.

    As an apologist, I already knew the rebuttal to the arguments I was using (so my friend did not inform me on those rebuttals), and previously I had found that those rebuttals were satisfying intellectually - so what happened? How did my perspective change? How did my worldview change and I became hostile to this notion of God? How did I, a previously devout Christian, became one of the "haters of God" (Rom 1:30)?

    Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that all atheists have emotional issues that drive them away from God (quite a few like Michael Shermer do, as he confessed in one of the debates, but some atheists are honestly, intellectually not convinced) - but that usually that is one of the strong reasons why many Christians, and in general, many people begin to question their faith or a belief in God and eventually dismiss it. The problem of evil, for example, has a very heavy emotional effect on people.

    Coming back to Gary - the science-oriented guy inside me is urging to provide reasons and justify why I think Gary is a heavily prejudiced, close-minded, ignorant, bitter(?), double-standard using atheist who is really not interested in an intellectual dialogue where facts and arguments shape the discussion. Without these reasons my analysis on Gary would be ad hominem, but back by those reasons, my analysis are my honest observations.

    1. >>>Also, I stated my reasons for making the statement. Gary gave us a very obvious lie. Why? What could explain that? Well, hatred of God certainly fits the bill.

      I agree, but I also think he is utterly dishonest to suggest that lame test because the nature and the justification of his demand is arbitrary - and it will be arbitrary untill he figures out a way ruling out all the other explanations other could theoretically explain the levitation of the coffee cup.

      Gary says in his blog: If Jesus can raise himself from the dead, he can raise my coffee table three feet off of the floor for three minutes. I guarantee that I will be a faithful believer if he levitates my coffee table .
      But such a guarantee is meaningless, as without a method of evaluation to rule out the non-Jesus explanation, all Gary would be proving is his gullibility and arbitrariness in accepting anything just on a whim (the whim being his arbitrary standard of not evaluating other reasons).

      How is that intelligent? How is that intellectually honest? Why, if such arbitrary standards are sufficient for him and reasonable for him, does he object to other Christians accepting other reasons (such as argument for resurrection, etc)? According to him, they cannot justify their views - but neither can he, nor does he want to justify it (he guarantees that he would not even explore other explanations, which is the only conclusion one can draw) --- but SOMEHOW that would still make his assessment true and his belief valid, reasonable, acceptable? How is this not double-standards?

      Gary further went on to demonstrate that he is not even interested in figuring out a method of evaluating the validity of Jesus explanations from non-Jesus explanations when he repeated a similar argument after being pointed to the above. He said: "When Jesus puts back together the thousands of pieces of tissue of a victim of a bombing, or reattaches the head of someone who has been decapitated, or reattaches a severed leg from an amputee, you will have my full attention."

      But what is the meaning of this full attention with respect to believing in Jesus, if you havent ruled out other explanations?Nothing. This only indicates that he is not interested in an intellectual dialogue where he is required to evaluate his views just as he expects his opponents to evaluate theirs. Without a qualifying rebuttal, and yet with the persistence of this category of argument - this conclusion is inescapable.


      Jason Enqwer also noticed this. He records:

      START <<" Gary out of one side of his mouth:

      "Some of the miracle claims are just downright stupid. Any educated Christian with a college degree should be embarrassed that Keener included these claims in his book. One such claim is that a woman who had previously undergone a complete hysterectomy prayed to Jesus for a child and nine months later she delivered a healthy child. If that story is true, that is more miraculous than the virginal conception of Jesus!"

      Out of the other:

      "When Jesus puts back together the thousands of pieces of tissue of a victim of a bombing, or reattaches the head of someone who has been decapitated, or reattaches a severed leg from an amputee, you will have my full attention. Until then, since prior investigations of 'miracle' healings have demonstrated that there is always a possible (and more probable) naturalistic explanation (such as the previous chemo and radiation treatment finally kicked in), I'm not buying your magic tales."

      So, Gary apparently wants Jesus to produce miracles that he's already dismissed as "downright stupid" in principle.">> END

    2. Gary is also a close-minded person who is ignorant on the scientific method. For example he claimed that there was a consensus on heliocentricism. I corrected him that no such consensus exists, and I provided physics reasons for it. I also informed him that there are no fixed frames of reference, and that the problem with the older geocentric model was not that earth was assumed to be at the centre but that earth was assumed to be permanently fixed (inertial) at the centre.
      The problem with that belief is that it does not work in physics. Therefore how can there be a consensus on heliocentricism when no scientist considers Sun fixed at a point in the universe?

      He ignored this correction, and regurgitated the nonsense that heliocentricism was a consensus. This demonstrates that he is not open to scientific corrections either.

      I will reproduce Gary's quote and my reply to him, and then comment on it:

      Gary said in one of his comments: You are living in a world of fantasy. I'm sorry to tell you, "Dude", but Never Never Land does not exist. Come out of the darkness of ancient superstitions and into the light of reason and science.

      I replied: We are well within the bounds of reason and science - UNLESS YOU CAN DEMONSTRATE the impossibility of miracles happening or God existing. We dont need tired fallacious arguments from absence of evidence or arguments from ignorance - but an intellectually worthy proof by way of a mathematical theorem or a scientific law that states that non-material life-forms/or anything simply cannot exist. The demand is not necessarily of a physical proof, but a scientific theoretical reasons why such things are impossible.

      When you do that Gary, you will have our attention too. If you think we are to simply take you on your word that naturalism is true - without positive evidence (even if theoretical scientific principle) for that case - not rhetoric but evidence or a physics law - you are deluding yourself.
      (Few clarifications/words added for further clarity).

      Here are my general comments on Gary's assertion and those who use such reasoning: If naturalism is true, it implies that the scientific method is the only method to discover truths/facts - or at least the chief method. That would imply that those arguing from that perspective must give us reasons backed by sound scientific laws that provide a proof for naturalism, or that negate the possibility of life-forms outside of the material (and energy inhabitated) world.

      If someone objects to this demand and tries to assert that proving a negative is not possible, that person must brush up on the history of science. For example, the Michelson-Morley experiment proved the non-existence of aether. They gave positive evidence as to why there is no medium such as aether. There are other similar examples in which principles are known to limit a phenomena or even disprove a result. To be consistent with the naturalistic worldview, unless Gary and his folks can demonstrate that there is no possibility of the supernatural - I dont see how they can say with certainty that supernatural forces are impossible or that to believe in them is fantasy.

      Even science, the premium method of material investigation, does not work that way. No one accused Einstein's Relativity as being fanciful before it's experimental validation in 1919! Sure there was German propaganda in the 20s, but that proliferated even after the evidence was supplied. Similarly, most physicists dont call string theory fanciful because it is not shown to be true. (The only objection that some physicists have with ST is that it is given too much focus to the detriment of other equally unproven models).

    3. Another reason I am not convinced with empty claims like that of Gary above is that the scientific method by definition cannot be employed to research the supernatural without the supernatural interacting with energy and matter. Even with the Michelson-Morley experiment, to prove the non-existence of aether they had the reference measurement of the speed of light. Since the scientific method is designed to evaluate only energy-matter interactions in all its forms (theoretically), it could be employed in this experiment as light is energy. But where is such a referent for analysing the supernatural within this method?

      Therefore, if the premium method of investigation of naturalism is methodologically incapable of analysing supernaturalism - what evidential case do the naturalist have?

      To be sure, personally I dont take an offence at an atheist not believing in God because of "lack of physical evidence" - (I think they are misguided to misapply the scientific method in a category it is not by definition created to analyse, and I feel they have a worldview problem, but thats fine) - I still can respectfully disagree with them - however I do object to some of the cocky atheists like Gary who then turn around and tell us, without any evidence to back what they say, that believing in God is superstition. The cocky atheist does not realise that he is essentially asking me to belief his opinions. But how would that be intelligent without evidence?

      Lastly, here is yet another evidence to support my conclusion (if the above was oddly insufficient) that Gary is closeminded and highly prejudiced. I will reproduce my final comments in that thread (and my comments are final because of the following):


      You make comments and then you ignore the replies. By ignore I dont simply mean you dont reply, but that in your next reply you dont factor the rebuttal provided for your previous reply nor do you tell us why.

      That would qualify you as a troll.

      While I can understand that there are many people who are writing to Gary there, and it may be difficult to address many people together. I can even be charitable and assume Gary wanted to reply but did not have the time. However - such a charitable assumption is unhelpful in Gary's case as he simply ignores arguments that rebut his views, and continues to argue the same rebutted arguments without rebutting the rebuttals. I cannot imagine a clearer indication of being close-minded and prejudiced.

      In summary, communicating with such a close-minded individual like Gary was a colossal waste of my time, and it had little to do with our disagreements.

    4. I said: "To be consistent with the naturalistic worldview, unless Gary and his folks can demonstrate that there is no possibility of the supernatural - I dont see how they can say with certainty that supernatural forces are impossible or that to believe in them is fantasy."

      What I meant was the following:

      To be consistent with the naturalistic worldview, where the scientific method, and the scientific law, is the chief/sole arbitrator of truth/facts - unless Gary and his folks can demonstrate that there is no possibility of the supernatural - I dont see how they can say with certainty that supernatural forces are impossible or that to believe in them is fantasy.