Saturday, December 04, 2010

An invincible hope

A wonderful sermon from Tom Schreiner:

Lusting in your heart

Thumbing through D. A. Carson’s revised commentary on Matthew, I ran across this interpretation of the famous verse in 5:28:

Klaus Haacker (“Der Rechtsatz Jesu zum Thema Ehebruch,” BZ 21 [1977]: 113-16) has convincingly argued that the second auten (“[committed adultery] with her”) is contrary to the common interpretation of this verse. In Greek it is unnecessary, especially if the sin is entirely the man’s. But it is explainable if pros to epithymesai auten, commonly understood to mean “with a view to lusting for her,” is translated “so as to get her to lust” The evidence for this interpretation is strong (see Notes). The man is therefore looking at the woman with a view to enticing her to lust.
If Haacker (see above) is right in his contention that the second auten is unnecessary on the customary reading of this verse, the problem is resolved if the first auten within the expression pros to epithymesai auten functions as the accusative of reference (i.e., the quasisubject) of the infinite (as in the equivalent construction in Lk 18:1) to generate the translation “so that she lusts,” 184-85.

If the alternative rendering (“get her to lust after him”) is correct, then I take this to mean that what 5:28 really forbids is seduction, viz. a man seducing a woman. As such, the prohibition would presumably apply to both premarital and extramarital sex–since OT law condemned each form of immorality, although adultery was the graver offense. 

Taking science on faith

Paul Davies argues that "[science's] claim to be free of faith is manifestly bogus."

Several well-known scientists respond critically to his article, with varying degrees of rationality (e.g. Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Lee Smolin, Alan Sokal).

Davies' rejoinder closes out the debate.

BTW, Vern Poythress discusses this point about universal, immutable scientific and mathematical laws (as well as more) in the first chapter of his book Redeeming Science (PDF).

Catholic kuru

David H. said:
For example, when Jesus says truly truly anywhere in scripture he is always saying something non-metaphorical and he is putting extra emphasis on the words.

Also, he uses the word for "chew" or "gnaw" so there could have been no confusion by the Jews that he was only speaking of sacrificial language. The canibalistic language was what was offensive and this is clear in the context. And that is the where I will stand by what I said about torturing the text to make it say something other than what it is saying. Jesus verily verily or truly truly language never allows ambiguity in scripture. . . .

So please tell me why he would emphasize, with a truly truly, that his flesh was TRUE food and his bloood TRUE drink? This was the point I was trying make (which was, I admit, sloppy).

Jesus was not prone to Clintonisms. He said "true" because he meant "true". I cannot see how [John 6] verse 55 can mean anything other than what it is actually saying. Jesus leaves no doubt by saying truly truly and true. He is making himself very clear. Any other explanation is simply eisegesis.
According to eMedicine, kuru ("the shakes") is a prion disease transmitted by endocannibalism. It is characterized by a relentless progression of neurological symptoms through well-defined clinical stages:
  1. During the first stage, which is known as the ambulant stage, general coordination begins to deteriorate. The patient may experience symptoms such as an unsteady gait, shaking or shivering, slurred speech, and twitching eyes. In general, failing coordination begins in the feet, legs, and hands, and slowly moves upward.

  2. The second stage of kuru disease, which is known as the sedentary stage, is defined by a worsening of stage one symptoms that prevent the patient from walking without support, ataxia, or loss of muscle coordination and severe muscle jerking. Additionally, a new set of symptoms begins including depression, fits of laughter, and deteriorating mental capacity.

  3. The third stage is the terminal stage. At this point the symptoms include an inability to sit upright without support, fecal and urinary incontinence, trouble swallowing, and eventually coma followed by death. Death typically follows a clinical course of 4 months to 2 years with most patients dying within one year of symptom onset. Kuru is invariably fatal.
Kuru was first witnessed in the 1900s among members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. Kuru was spread by the endocannibalistic funeral practices of the Fore. Family members were ritualistically cooked and eaten following their death. When first investigated in 1957, kuru was found to be present in epidemic proportions with approximately 1000 associated deaths in the first five years of observation, 1957-1961. The total number of kuru cases from 1957-2004 exceeded 2700 with more than 200 dying of the disease every year in the late 1950s.

The prohibition of cannibalism in the 1950s led to the decline in the epidemic in Papua New Guinea. Numbers fell to approximately six per year in the early 1990s and between one and two cases per year in late 1990s with only 11 cases identified from July 1996 through June 2004. More recently, kuru-related deaths declined to only two from 2003-2008.

These statistics are for the Papua New Guinea populace. But it appears the disease is far from being eradicated globally. It has apparently persisted in large numbers into the present century primarily because of the cannabilistic practices among a religious cult originating in the central-western region of the Italian peninsula in and among a polis situated on the Tiber River.


Friday, December 03, 2010

The Upper Womb

steve hays said,

December 1, 2010 at 4:35 pm
David H. said,
This is exactly the argument Catholics, I believe accurately, make regarding the Sacraments and the Protestant allergy towards recognizing (throughout scripture) God using the ordinary to effect the supernatural – rocks, mud and spit, bronze snakes, water, bread and wine. Only in Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) is there a completely robust and full sense of God’s ordinary providence.”
Except that every rock is not the miraculous water fountain in the wilderness, every artistic snake is not a miraculous cure for snakebite. Most of the time, a rock is just a rock. Most of the time, a snake is not a type of Christ.
Sure, when God specifically assigns a particular blessing or emblematic import to physical objects and rituals, then Protestants have no problem with that connection.
This, however, fails to raise any presumption that a suggestive cloud formation is really an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
And it’s not as if Catholics assume that every piece of bread is sacramental. They don’t assume that cinnamon rolls from the bakery are really the True Body of Christ–appearances notwithstanding.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Alien life?

Physicist Rob Sheldon comments on the recently heralded "arsenic-based life" discovered in Mono Lake, California.

HT: Steve.

Update: Nature has a pretty good summary of the discovery.

The paper will be published by Science.

UNCG Outreach Report 12-2-2010

Introduction: Today's outreach lasted about 2.5 hours and consisted of both open-air preaching and one-on-one evangelism. During some of the one-on-one conversations I noticed a few people standing around to eavesdrop in on the conversations. These conversations focused on sin, righteousness, judgment, truth, the gospel, various worldviews, what is tolerance, etc. I tried to focus my open-air preaching on exalting Christ and proclaiming Him as the only solution for people's sin problem and intellectual problems. As expected, there was some mockery from some unbelievers walking by and yelling nonsensical things. However, I was surprised to have no hecklers given the fact that while it was a little chilly, the weather was pretty nice earlier in the afternoon. Nevertheless, many people stopped and stood around to listen to the open air preaching.

Our Question of the Day was:
What must a person do to be reconciled to God?
I was encouraged to hear several people answer this question correctly and as usual, it led to many great conversations having to do with the things of God and the gospel. However, as usual, we found that most people answered with a view of God akin to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and/or they didn't care either way. I've found that some people simply try to avoid me after I've already done open-air preaching. I work on being especially loving and compassionate in my open-air preaching, but I never shy away from preaching the whole counsel of God, especially when it comes to sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. After preaching, I had some friendly conversations with a few folks who were standing around in the area and only one of them refused to take a business-sized tract with our church contact information on it.

Two Agnostics

I saw two people with piercings, tattoos, and frankly, I couldn't tell whether one of them was a male or female (I'm not trying to be offensive whatsoever, just stating the facts). I hate it when I'm in that situation because I don't know whether to call them "sir" or "ma'am". I wonder if they care about that too? I've often wondered if they would get offended if I called them "sir" and they were a "ma'am" and I then asked, "Why are you offended at me calling you by the wrong gender when I can't tell what gender you are?" Oh well, I digress.

I courteously approached the one that I could discern was a man and asked him what he thought of my preaching and he said, "You're wasting your time on me, you can say whatever you want and you're not going to change my mind." I said, "You're right, I can't change your mind, and thankfully, that's not my job; but I would like to ask you one question: Why do you reject the gospel?"

He and his friend both responded that they were agnostic and that they thought its impossible to know which religion, if any, is true since all religions claim to have the truth but all their truth claims are mutually exclusive and contradictory. In light of that I then asked, "Given what you've said, do you believe that God could reveal some things to people in such that they could know them for certain?" His friend said yes, he said no. So I asked him, "Do you know that for certain?" He seemed to get confused, so I asked him this, "Do you believe that you are certain that you can't know any religious truth for certain?" He didn't seem to get it, so I asked it again, and the third time he seemed to understand what I was getting at as I could tell by his body language that he felt like he was being intellectually backed into a corner, so I then said, "Dude, I'm not trying to purposefully trip you up, but I'm demonstrating that if you don't believe in the God of Scripture and you reject the gospel, you really have no grounds for knowing anything at all because when you reject the gospel, you are left with futile thinking." I then gave other examples from logic, morality, science, etc. I then attempted to tactfully explain that he lives like he knows he's living in God's world (i.e., depends upon logic, uniformity of nature, moral absolutes, absolute truth, etc.) yet takes all these good gifts that God has given him for granted, is ungrateful for all these good things that have been freely given to him and that this is another manifestation of his sin. It was then that he said, "Yeah, but didn't men write the Bible?" and I said, "Yes, but we believe in dual authorship, for the Bible says that men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). If you reject the Bible simply because it was written by men then you would have to reject any other writing produced by men and you'd have to reject your own arguments against the Bible because they were produced by you, a man. If the criteria for rejecting the Bible is that any religious document can't be true simply because it has been produced by men, then that's a self-defeating argument." I then briefly gave testimony of my conversion from atheism to Christ and he responded with "You're not changing my mind" and then he started calmly walking away. I then said, "I know, but I know the One who can, for He changed mine 15 years ago." I thanked him for his time and told him that I appreciated him listening to me even though he really didn't want to.

Namby-Pamby Preaching

When finishing up for the day, I was walking back to the car, I saw a guy who was standing around listening to my preaching and I asked him, "What did you think of my preaching today?"

He said that he was a Christian and attends a gospel-preaching church, but he was concerned that my preaching was driving the students away instead of reaching them. He said, "I would characterize you as a Hell-fire preacher." I said, "Thanks, John the Baptist and Jesus were too!" I then asked him, "Since you think the message is driving people away, what do you think I should say to get these people to think about the judgment that awaits them should they fail to repent?" He said, "Good question, I hadn't really thought about it like that." I then asked, "Where in the pages of the New Testament do you find Jesus or the Apostles telling people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives?" He then admitted that he couldn't think of anywhere that Jesus or the Apostles told lost sinners that. I then said, "What was the basic message that Jesus and the Apostles preached to lost people?" He didn't really know what to say so I said, "Dude, the preaching in the New Testament was repent of your sins and turn to Christ or perish. That's the basic gospel message of the New Testament."

I then explained that many churches today are filled with preachers that tell the people what they want to hear instead of what they really need to hear and that this was prophesied by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. I graciously explained to him that his statements to me are to some degree, a reflection of that. He appreciated my comments, and I encouraged him to re-read the book of Acts to get an idea of how the apostles preached to lost people.

IN CONCLUSION, I think that evangelical churches are confusing Biblical meekness with political correctness and removing the offense of the cross in the process. Woe to us. May we repent and return from our pandering to the philosophy of the age through our fear of man and preach the word, whether it's convenient or inconvenient, with great patience and instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).

Prophetic fulfillment and "failure"

Robert Chisholm has published an article on the nature of prophetic fulfillment (which is available online). To a great extent he's building on the work of Richard Pratt. I don't agree with everything Chisholm says in the article, but he draws some valid and important distinctions which often get lost sight of in discussions of Bible prophecy.
********************************* Two types of discourse are prominent in prophetic speech. The prophets utilize a combination of expository and hortatory discourse (traditionally referred to as “forthtelling”) to accuse their listeners of covenantal violations and to exhort them to change their behavior. They also employ predictive discourse (“foretelling”) to support their accusations and appeals. Though the basic categories of forth telling and foretelling have long been recognized, their relationship has not always been fully understood or appreciated. To appreciate how these discourse types contribute to prophetic speech, one must examine their language function.5 Expository-hortatory discourse has evaluative and dynamic functions. According to Macky, evaluative speech expresses the speaker’s “judgment on the quality of something,” while dynamic speech is “intended to change hearers personally.” As Macky observes, the latter can be affective (“aimed at arousing emotions”), pedagogical (“intended to illuminate darkness”), or transforming (“intended to change hearers’ attitudes, values and commitments, often by first arousing emotion and illuminating the darkness”).6 Predictive discourse can be performative or dynamic in function. Macky explains that performative language “performs some non-linguistic act, such as a judge decreeing, ‘The defendant is acquitted.’”7 Predictive discourse is performative when it announces God’s intentions unconditionally, for the prophecy sets in motion a series of events that leads to its fulfillment.8 Some popular views of prophecy, as well as some higher-critical approaches, assume that all or most predictions (at least those not marked by “if” or the like) are unconditional and therefore performative. However, an examination of the evidence suggests that prophetic predictive discourse is often (usually?) dynamic. It announces God’s intentions conditionally and is intended to motivate a positive response to the expository-hortatory discourse it typically accompanies. In this case, the prophecy’s predictive element is designed to prevent (in the case of a judgment announcement) or facilitate (in the case of a salvation announcement) its fulfillment. Clendenen argues that the hortatory dimension is foundational. He asserts, “prophetic books are by nature hortatory.” Salvation oracles present “incentives motivating” change, while judgment oracles present “the deterrents to refusing the change.”9 He adds: Recognizing the nature of the prophetic books as coherent behavioral exhortation, that is, hortatory discourse, has important implications. In such discourses the most prominent element is naturally the behavioral change or changes being advocated. All the other elements in the discourse must relate to one or more of the commands or exhortations, and it would be a misuse of Scripture to listen to only one of the supplementary elements, such as predictive prophecy, without relating it to the central message of the book.10 1. Recognizing the principle of contingency. As noted above, God sometimes makes unconditional pronouncements about the future, but often his statements of intention are conditional. Sometimes conditions are explicitly stated (e.g. Isa 1:19–20), but more often they are unstated and implicit.11 Jeremiah 18 is a foundational text in this regard. The Lord sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house for an object lesson (vv. 1–2). As the potter shaped his pot according to a specific design, the clay was not pliable, so the potter reshaped it into a different type of pot (vv. 3–4). Just as the potter improvised his design for the uncooperative clay, so the Lord could change his plans for Israel (vv. 5–6). If the Lord intends to destroy a nation, but it repents when warned of impending doom, the Lord will relent from sending judgment (vv. 7–8). Conversely, if the Lord intends to bless a nation, but it rebels, the Lord will alter his plan and withhold blessing (vv. 9–10). God announces his intentions, but a nation’s response can and often does impact God’s decision as to what will actually take place.12 Pratt writes: “The universal perspective of Jer 18:1–12 strongly suggests that all unqualified predictions were subject to implicit conditions. Sincere repentance had the potential of affecting every unqualified prophecy of judgment. Flagrant disobedience had the potential of negating every unqualified prophecy of prosperity.”13 Pratt’s references to Joel and Jonah are quite appropriate, for both of these prophets support the basic principle expressed in Jeremiah 18. Joel urged the people to repent of their sins, reminding them that God is characteristically “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (2:13a; niv). Because of his merciful character he typically relents from sending punishment (2:13b). The Book of Jonah illustrates this. Jonah announced that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days (3:4). Uncertain if the message was unconditional or not (3:9), the king and the entire city repented. After all, the inclusion of a time limit might imply a window of opportunity for repentance. Sure enough, Nineveh’s response prompted God to withhold the threatened judgment. Jonah explained this was why he had refused to go to Nineveh in the first place. He knew God is merciful and characteristically relents from sending judgment when people repent of their sin (4:2). Two other classic texts depicting God relenting from judgment are Exod 32:9–14 and Num 14:11–20, where God announces his intention to destroy disobedient Israel and to start over with Moses. Moses interceded for the people, prompting God to relent. Later biblical commentary on the incidents supports the idea that Moses convinced God not to destroy the people (see Deut 9:13–20, 25–29; Ps 106:19–23). In Ps 106:23, Moses the intercessor is compared to one “standing in the gap.” In Ezek 22:30, the Lord uses this same expression when he says: “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land, so I would not have to destroy it; but I found none” (niv). It seems apparent that if an intercessor like Moses had emerged, the Lord would have relented from his announced intention and would not have poured his anger out on the people (v. 31). Judgment was his consequent will; his antecedent will was that his people obey and live (Ezek 33:11). Perhaps the clearest example of God’s relenting from a conditional announcement of judgment is found in Mic 3:12. The prophet announces Zion will be leveled as a result of her leaders’ sins (vv. 1–11). As we know from Jer 26:18–19, King Hezekiah and the people understood this as a prophecy of imminent doom, undoubtedly at the hands of the Assyrian army (cf. Isa 36–37). But the statement must not be read as unconditional. In Jer 26:17–19, we discover that Micah’s warning prompted Hezekiah to repent, which in turn prompted the Lord to relent from sending the threatened judgment. On the basis of this later reflection on Micah’s prophecy, we can confidently affirm that the prophecy in its original setting was dynamic in function (reflecting God’s consequent will) and designed to prompt repentance (God’s antecedent will). Though the prophecy was retained in Micah’s anthology, the judgment was averted.18 In addition to the passages cited above, all of which refer to the Lord relenting, the principle of contingency in prophecy is evident in texts where God uses the word yl"Wa, “maybe, perhaps,” as he commissions his prophets. In Jer 26:3 (dated to 609 bc; cf. v. 1), the Lord commissions Jeremiah to preach in the temple courtyard and then declares: “Perhaps (yl"Wa) they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent (niphal of µj"n;) and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done” (niv). The Lord makes a similar statement (dated to 605 bc; cf. Jer 36:1) in Jer 36:3 (cf. v. 7). In Ezek 12:3, the Lord instructs the prophet to perform an object lesson and then declares: “Perhaps (yl"Wa) they will understand, though they are a rebellious house” (niv). These statements highlight the role of human responsibility in the outworking of the divine plan and suggest that the fulfillment of certain prophecies was contingent upon human response. Contingency is also apparent in Jer 34:2–5, where the prophet juxtaposes two seemingly contradictory predictions about Zedekiah. Though no conditional sentence appears, the prophet juxtaposes the options that lie before the king, beginning with God’s consequent will (judgment) followed by his antecedent will (mercy). This interpretation is verified by Jer 38:17–18, where the king’s options are presented in the form of conditional sentences.;col1

Read Greek like a scholar, scholar

Source: Michael Bird.

Intellectually-challenged infidelity

DrAvalos1110 Yesterday 05:50 AM

He claims he did nothing wrong. The fact that the philosophers he contacted asked him to remove their comments itself is evidence that they did not think what he did was right. 

Since Avalos is too muddled-headed to grasp the salient distinction, I guess we'll have to explain it to him. Manata didn't ask them for advice on ethics, but logic. He didn't ask them to assess the ethical quality of Hector's argument, but the logical quality of Hector's argument.

The question at issue wasn't who is morally right, but whether Hector's argument for moral relativism logically sound. Was his formulation fallacious? That's the only question that Manata ran by the philosophers.

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Actor-entertainer Steve Martin has kept his personal beliefs pretty much to himself, but this rendition of an "atheist" bluegrass "gospel" song is a hoot:

Canonics & Catholicism

Here are some comments I left over at Green Baggins:

steve hays said,

November 29, 2010 at 7:38 am
Bryan Cross said,
So that leaves you in Sproul’s position, unless you want to appeal to an internal witness in your heart regarding each book of the [Protestant] canon.”
Notice how Bryan repeats the same falsehood. Bryan doesn’t try to argue in good faith.
Let’s take a couple of obvious counterexamples. Other examples are more subtle, but we’re start with these to illustrate the point:
Luke and Acts form a literary unit. They are mutually attesting. It would be utterly artificial to treat Luke and Acts in isolation as canonical candidates. Either both are canonical, or neither is.
Same thing with the Pentateuch. That’s a literary unit. The books are internally related to each other through a continuous narrative. Likewise, Genesis foreshadows various developments in subsequent books of the Pentateuch while subsequent books build on, presuppose, and refer back to, Genesis and other (earlier) parts of the Pentateuchal narrative.
These books are not discrete, self-contained units. One could cite many other examples of the weave and cross-weave of Scripture.
But Bryan doesn’t care. Bryan refuses to deal with that. He studiously ignores counterevidence. He resorts to crude, deceptive all-or-nothing arguments, when that’s simply untrue.

Fairy tale castle Catholicism

john said...

John I wholeheartedly agree with this particular Catholic and he nails one difference between "Cradle Catholics" and Converts to Rome. I grew up in a Catholic City and in a Catholic Family. You will find no such "Romantic Nostalgia" in either of them or in any run-of-the-mill-average Catholic. Real Catholicism on the ground is nothing like what "Catholic Answers" or the "Called To Communion" crowd espouse. These are the same folks who call the everyday real Catholics "cafeteria Catholics". But they forget that if these "real world Catholics" follow the advice of the Converts; CTC, Catholic Answers, Catholic apologists etc and leave the Catholic Church then most Parishes would have to close because funds would dry up. Most Catholics I know disagree with and don't believe one or more Catholic Dogmas, few I knew believe in Papal Infallibility, many don't believe in Purgatory or Indulgences and a good many are in reality Evangelical Christians.

11:20 AM, DECEMBER 01, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Atheism of the gaps

Darwinians habitually brand intelligent design theory as a “God-of-the-gaps” argument. On that characterization, we can already explain most things naturalistically. Intelligent design theory tries to find room for God in the residual blanks that have yet to be explained naturalistically.

Of course, that way of casting the issue tries to shift the burden of proof onto the intelligent design theory. Compared to the Darwinian naturalist, the intelligent design theorist labors under a handicap.

Yet remember Richard Dawkins’ now-classic, naturalistic definition of biology:

Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.    The Blind Watchmaker  (1996)  p.1

But in that event, it’s the Darwinian naturalist who operates at a disadvantage. He must overcome the prima facie appearance of design. The onus lies on him to surmount the presumption of purpose. So it’s actually the theory of naturalistic evolution that’s laboring to create or exploit gaps in the phenomenal telos of nature to make room for purely naturalistic explanations. 

Web of deception

Hector Avalos has made an issue of full disclosure. Yet when I mouse over to, I can’t help noticing that some of the contributors go by names like Atheist Tooth Fairy, ChuckyJesus666, darklady, Discordia, eveningmeadows, exfundy, GodlessGrrl, MtlRedAtheist, Psy-Cop, Simplex Munditiis, and Xrayman–to name a few.

If I didn’t know better, I’d almost suspect that they were trying to conceal their true identity. Yet I know from ethicist Hector Avalos that this would implicate them in a web of deception. So these must be their birth names. 

Full disclosure

Born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, in 1958, Avalos attended the Church of God, a Pentecostal church. He said as a child he had powerful "spiritual experiences," which he now says were caused by socio-psychological factors.
Avalos moved to Glendale, Ariz., to live with his grandmother when he was 7 years old. He became a child preacher, speaking about God before congregations of hundreds of people.
"We talked about sin and salvation," Avalos said. "That you needed to be saved because Jesus died for your sins, and it will help you transform your life. We were against abortion. We were against pre-marital sex. We were against homosexuality. We were against rock 'n' roll."

Question: When Hector applied to Harvard, did he, in the interests of full disclosure, put that on his application form? Did he inform the Admissions Office about his career as a Pentecostal boy preacher who used to denounce homosexuality, premarital sex, abortion, and rock music? Or did he withhold that type of information? Somehow I doubt that's the kind of thing he'd include in his college resume. But he's welcome to prove me wrong. After all, I'm sure he didn't apply under false pretenses, right? 

Hector Avalos: Fundy, Angry, Militant Atheism Gone Wild

Hector Avalos is mad that an "utter amateur" like myself argued him down over the issue of relativism vs. realism. To someone with a degree from Haaaavad, that's a rough pill to swallow. I think they promise you that if you graduate from Haaavaad, you will never lose an argument to an "utter amateur," and so Hector is fuming. Here's my arguments against him. and here:

Notice, despite the bloviating, there's not been any substantive response to the arguments I presented him. So his claim that I "couldn't beat him in an argument, so I had to go call the experts [to say essentially what I had already said, mind you]" is false. Hector is resorting to lies and deception.

Now, Hector is trying to pretend that I misrepresented his arguments and that is the only way some of the world's top ethicists could dismiss it. Okay, let him put his money where his mouth is. Why doesn't he get the same ethics profs I emailed to offer their take on his argument for relativism and, after getting their permission of course!, post their comments on his blog. Seems to be an easy way to settle matters.

In any case, I have no idea why Hector gives people such a bad impression of professional academics. He's imputing dishonesty to them all by claiming that they would rebuke his poor argument in private but prais it in public. It's unethical to call people hypocrites with no evidence.

Hector's latest response is an exercise in more digging of his own grave. He should have let sleeping dogs lie. Now he's brought to everyone's attention again the fact that not only was he bested by an amateur, some of the world's most knowledgeable ethicists scoffed at his argument. Those are the factors that Hector, alleged intellectual that he is, should be most concerned with. He needs to worry about his poor argument and his contribution to false ideas. Isn't that what he got his colleague, Guillermo Gonzalez, denied tenure for? Hector's the I.D. theorist of the world of ethicists.

His latest post is self-incriminating and also deceptive:

HECTOR: "What he did wrong was to ask for their comments under false pretenses. He intended to post their comments all along, but he did not tell them that he was going to do that."

I appreciate the massive credit he gives me to know the field well enough to know, in advance, that the philosopher's would all find Hector's argument laughable---the realists and the relativists, the atheists and the Christians, all of them I knew, in advance, would pan Hector's argument. What explains my predictive abilities in a field I am not an expert in? How could I know the non-cognitivists, the relativists, and the atheistic ethical naturalists would all scoff at Hector's argument? How could he not know that, since he apparently thought his argument worthy of public consumption? Would he have made his argument if he knew in advance what some of the world's best ethicists would say about it? No. So apparently this is a tacit admission to my knowledge of the field over against his.

HECTOR: So, by August 6, Manata was probably frustrated by the fact that he could not find a way out of the circular nature of his ethics, and so he ran to these philosophers for help. They actually did not help him. Some told him to stop doing what he was doing.

Apart from the speculation, this is another lie. No one "told me to stop." All of the philosophers laughed at Hector's "circular nature argument for relativism." So Hector has now taken to lying to defend a post where he lied about me lying.

HECTOR: "He claims he did nothing wrong. The fact that the philosophers he contacted asked him to remove their comments itself is evidence that they did not think what he did was right."

This is false; or at least misleading, and so deceptive (!) on Hector's end. Only two contacted me, though Hector no doubt contacted more than two. Furthermore, one of the two, did not even ask me to remove the post, I did that on my own accord. Only one person asked me to remove his quote, and he said that I had "failed to protect [his] identity." I assume he wouldn't have cared if the post didn't tie him to it. So what of the other 7 or so other philosophers? Why didn't they contact me? Perhaps they didn't care, and what they said in private they would say in public? Perhaps they didn't think anything unethical was done? How does Hector account for the majority of philosopher's he contacted me not even bothering to say a word about it? Moreover, one of the philosophers who I had some extended discussion with afterward thought Hector Avalos was unethical because of his dismissing my arguments by saying, with a English accent no doubt, "You, sir, are not an expert, but a complete and utter amateur, and thus your writings are rubbish." In the interest of full disclosure, for Hector's sake, that quote was not really from Hector, that was a satirical paraphrase.

The angry atheist syndrome

Responses to Hector Avalos:

In Which I Respond, For the Last Time, to Hector Avalos

Quartz Hill School of Theology

Debunking Christianity Caught in a Web of Dissimulation: How to Fight Cyber-Pansies and Win

Hector Avalos has chimed in again:

By now, many of our perceptive DC commentators have rightly seen through the tortured excuses provided for Manata’s ethical behavior.

What is this really about? This is a massive diversionary tactic. Manata wrote a critique of Hector’s argument for moral relativism. Hector discounted Manta’s critique because Manata is not an “expert” in the field.

So Manata then answered Hector on his own terms by running Hector’s argument by some philosophers who are experts in the field.

When, to a man, they panned Hector’s argument, he felt the urgent need to do something to salvage his reputation. So he’s trying to change the subject. Deflect attention away from his intellectual performance by talking about Manata’s ethical performance.

So this is just a decoy to throw folks off the scent. It’s a backdoor admission that he lost the argument. Manata called his bluff, and Avalos left the table penniless.

He claims he did nothing wrong. The fact that the philosophers he contacted asked him to remove their comments itself is evidence that they did not think what he did was right. 

This is a classic bait-and-switch tactic. It isn’t true to the way in which Avalos originally set up the issue. This is what he originally said, in the very same post:

The first one is easy to refute because Triablogue just doesn’t seem to understand even the basics of relativist ethics. Moral relativism does not deny that logic operates once you have accepted the basic premises of your ethics. Moral relativism affirms that while the initial premises of any ethical system cannot be established by absolute rationales, one can still evaluate whether an ethical system is logically following the initial premises one affirms.
My complaint is not so much whether Triablogue is morally wrong or not but whether they are FACTUALLY AND LOGICALLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR CLAIMS…In that sense, it is wrong for Triablogue to claim that they represent honesty if their definition of honesty entails telling people how they will use e-mails on their blogs. If honesty means that you represent yourself factually to someone from whom you are trying to extract an opinion, then we can certainly say that Triablogue did not act in accordance WITH THEIR DEFINITION OF HONESTY.

Assuming, for the same of argument, that the philosophers whom Manata contacted didn’t think what he did was right, that’s completely irrelevant to the way in which Avalos himself framed the issue.

For the issue is not whether Manata’s actions were consistent with their ethical premises, but if his actions were consistent with his own ethical premises. Yet Avalos isn’t even pretending to evaluate Manata’s conduct “in accordance with” his code of conduct.

Ironically, Hector’s attack is self-criminating, for Hector’s attack contradicts the terms very own his definition of moral relativism. Therefore, by his own yardstick, Hector has acted unethically towards Manata.

What he did wrong was to ask for their comments under false pretenses. He intended to post their comments all along, but he did not tell them that he was going to do that. 

That accusation raises several issues:

i) If I don’t tell someone what I’m going to do with his comments, how does that amount to soliciting his comments under false pretenses?

If I identified myself as someone I’m not, or if I said I was going to do one thing with his comments when I intended to do something else, that would be a false representation. But Manata didn’t do that.

Suppose I go to a jewelry store and ask the jeweler about different bracelets. Suppose I plan to buy a bracelet for my girlfriend, but I don’t tell the jeweler what my plans are. In what sense have I acted under false pretenses?

ii) Likewise, in what sense is it wrong for me to buy a bracelet without telling the jeweler what I’m going to do with it? Is it morally incumbent on me to make a full disclosure of my ulterior intentions before I ask the jeweler for advice?

iii) Notice that Avalos is accusing Manata of wrongdoing (“What he did wrong was to…”). Yet Avalos originally said: “My complaint is not so much whether Triablogue is morally wrong or not but whether they are FACTUALLY AND LOGICALLY CONSISTENT WITH THEIR CLAIMS.

iv) “Wrong” by whose standards? By Hector’s standards? But he’s a moral relativist. So he can’t impose his standards on a second parties. His standards are relative to his ethical premises, not to Manata’s ethical premises.

Note that even in the e-mail he says he sent them, he mentions nothing about Triablogue or his intentions to post their comments.

That’s a revealing glimpse into Hector’s mindset. The police-state mentality of a totalitarian academic. According to him, a student is not allowed to ask a question unless he submits a list of all his known associates, so that Avalos can perform a background check. What Manta did wrong was to solicit their opinion of an argument without first giving them the names and addresses of his beer buddies, relatives, intramural teammates, coworkers, ex-girlfriends, kindergarten classmates, &c.

You see, Avalos believes in profiling students, to check against his No Fly List. Never take a question from a student with the “wrong” associates. One wonders what he does with Christian students, or Republican students, or Libertarian students, or other unsavory types of that ilk.

Manata gave them the false impression that their comments were meant to help him with a student project not with a blog “debate” into which they were going to be dragged.

i) There is nothing in his email to convey that impression. He identifies himself as a college student and philosophy major who takes an interest in ethics and metaethics. He’s read some of their books and articles.

If you’re contacting a professional ethicist, that’s a perfectly natural way to introduce yourself.

ii) Moreover, he didn’t ask them any personal questions. Rather, he asked them to comment on whether or not they thought Hector’s “tautological” argument for moral relativism was logically sound.

Manata and his comrades are simply amateurish and juvenile nuisances in the blogosphere. They can blog all they want, but it is different when they start taking the time of professional colleagues to settle arguments that they cannot handle by themselves, especially when they do so under false pretenses or without full disclosure.

From what I can tell, Avalos diverts a lot of his time to extracurricular activities. Like trying to deny tenure to a distinguished astronomer. Or acting as a campaign consultant to Barack Obama. Or writing op-eds. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Disenchanted Naturalist's Guide to Reality

"The Disenchanted Naturalist's Guide to Reality" by Alex Rosenberg.


Although concealment and deception sometimes overlap, they are not interchangeable. Concealment is not inherently deceptive. If I position a flowerpot on a counter to conceal a stain on the wall, that’s not ipso facto deceptive. 

By the same token, while withholding information is sometimes a form of concealment, that’s not intrinsically the case.

Suppose I go to a restaurant. I order the short rib rather than the catfish because I’m allergic to seafood. If I don’t tell the waiter why I ordered the short rib, is that concealment?

Likewise, suppose I go to the hardware store to buy something for a project I’m working on. I ask the employee for advice. Suppose I don’t tell him why I want the materials. I don’t explain what I plan to do with them. Is that concealment?

We withhold information all the time. There’s no general obligation to spell out our intentions. You’d have to have a police-state mentality to think everyone ought to explain his actions or divulge his motives. (Of course, many liberals do have a police-state mentality.)

One basic job of an ethicist is to draw these elementary distinctions. To present hypothetical cases which illustrate these distinctions. To attempt to delineate when withholding information is licit or illicit.

I see a lot of grandstanding about ethics by Hector Avalos and his ilk. But there’s no real concern for ethics, for if he really cared about ethics, he’d make a good faith effort to draw basic ethical distinctions. Indeed, to draw subtle ethical distinctions. But for all the ostentatious moralizing, no such effort is put forward. It’s just for show. 

Ethics in a fallen world

I think Manata was well aware that if he'd been forthright about his goals and motives, he would have received different responses. Hence, the deception. He wanted to take a shot at Avalos, and he concealed that fact from those asked to comment. One wonders if this is consistent with Christian principles.

1. Deception and concealment are not interchangeable concepts. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes not.

2. Suppose Manata was deceptive? Is that wrong? But Avalos is a moral relativist.

3. Suppose (arguendo) that it's wrong on Christian principles. But since when do infidels want Christians to behave like Christians? Don't they constantly inveigh against Christian morality?