Why don’t skeptics apply their standards of evidence to themselves?

We had a spirited debate on miracles in a previous thread. And during that debate, I noted how even in cases where all the evidence is against naturalistic explanations, skeptics simply cannot entertain a supernatural explanation instead. They just have to hold that there is a naturalistic one, despite the evidence.

The very definition of blind faith.

In reply, “Tom Joad” said:

To that, I would just say that you would expect there to be a natural explanation for unexpected events, or ‘miracles.’ In the absence of an obvious explanation, it would be a fantastically interesting process to find out what the actual cause was.

Since the comments in the previous thread have now closed automatically, let me pick up the conversation here.

Why is Tom applying such a different standard to himself as he’d apply to religious people? And why does this seem to happen so frequently with skeptics?

For example, skeptics often take issue with phenomena like “speaking in tongues” and “faith healings” and the like—which you’ll find in many happy-clappy churches, particularly in America.

They point out that these phenomena can be reproduced in non-religious settings, as well as in competing religious settings (Hinduism for example). Moreover, they can be thoroughly explained by neurology, and therefore a supernatural explanation is at best superfluous.

So they criticize Christians who believe that these events are “works of the Spirit” on two grounds: firstly, all the evidence points to a naturalistic explanation; secondly, the Christian’s supernaturalistic explanation is too exclusive to account for all the instances of this phenomenon.

Thus skeptics hold that it is irrational to favor a supernatural explanation over a natural one here.

But now compare this to Tom’s comments about miracles, and notice the double standard.

When it comes to a situation where the roles are reversed and all the evidence points to a supernatural explanation, while a naturalistic one is untenable, he seems to think that it is not only rational, but entirely reasonable to believe there still is a naturalistic explanation.

And he goes on to make some comments about the supposedly unreasonable nature of faith, inasmuch as if some particular miracle is discredited, “for 99% of Christians, this disproof of a supposed miracle would do nothing to dissuade their faith.” The implication, of course, being that a discredited miracle ought to give Christians occasion to reevaluate their faith.

But why? Notice again the double standard. Imagine if some element of evolution were discredited—indeed, this happens all the time as part of the scientific process. Does Tom think these occasions should cause him to reevaluate his belief in evolution? Are they likely to dissuade him from from that belief?

Of course not.

So why expect that of Christians? Since the faith of 99% of Christians doesn’t rest on some random miracle, but on a wide variety of evidences, it would be quite unreasonable to think that discrediting a random miracle would have any effect whatsoever on their faith.

Why do skeptics have such a hard time applying the same standards of evidence to themselves as they think are reasonable for Christians? I don’t know. Perhaps some skeptics could enlighten me in the comments.

88 replies
« Older Comments
  1. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    I’ll just play your game Bnonn, a la miracles. Since it fits my world view, what basis do I have NOT to believe it?

    Your inability to understand why atheism is not a belief, or the beginning of a world view, is beyond my comprehension.

  2. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Tom,

    Asserting the premise is weak is a weak argument.

    I agree with you that you don’t need to believe in God or not in order to have a discussion on morality.
    Thats why I think there are other arguments for considering homosexuality wrong that don’t refer to God. (i.e. like pure self-interest for one. Like the public health and safety for another. I’ll leave it for someone else to argue these, and wait to see if they are good arguments.) Nevertheless, the argument ‘if God exists and made sex sacred then homosexuality is wrong’ is sound. And the argument put forward by Craig that even if homosexuality is a compulsion in the genes it would still be wrong, is good and remains un-refuted.

  3. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    The first thing you learn when you study worldview is that everyone has one.
    I think its fair to say that if your worldview doesn’t include some idea of God actually existing, then it is atheistic.
    But to have no belief in God, especially when confronted with the idea of God, is dismally dim-witted. It would require drawing a cognitive blank every time the deity was mentioned. For those who engage in these type of discussions, its patently dishonest to insist that atheism is no belief in God and they are atheists.
    Much better this person say they aren’t sure but holds to atheism (the belief that there is no God) lightly as a working hypothesis.
    Then I think he or she has got to open to miracles, especially in the absence of any over-powering argument for God not existing or the impossibility of miracles.

  4. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Yes, I have a world view, and it does not include God, because I do not believe in Him. I have already argued this point with Bnonn. It is atheistic, yes, but that is not what defines it. You find this hard to grasp because God defines your world view (ironic, given He is not of this world).

    ‘But to have no belief in God, especially when confronted with the idea of God, is dismally dim-witted. It would require drawing a cognitive blank every time the deity was mentioned’

    Really? I don’t agree at all. If I tell you about Thor, and you have no belief in him, are you therefore dimwitted? I don’t think so. And why would it requre drawing a cognitive blank? Not believing in the existence of something, and not understanding something, are two different things entirely. I understand the concept of Santa Claus, and my understanding informs my non-belief.

  5. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Oh, I’m sure you can see exactly why it makes him a bigot, what you mean is that you don’t accept my premise.

    1 – Being gay is a characteristic over which an individual has no control
    2 – Homosexuality is not positively correlated with being evil

    Try replacing ‘gay’ with ‘black’ or ‘woman.’ These are, equally, randomly assigned characteristics. ‘Blackness should be resisted and avoided, we as a church can help a person become more white.’

    I’ll google for you mate. big·ot (b g t). n. One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

    Craig is INTOLERANT of homosexuality. Do you agree? Yes, I’m sure you do agree. The premise of that intolerance is your religion, which is rejected by a large majority of the world.

    ‘1. Is it objectively true that God is patently immoral, or is it just your opinion? If the latter, why are you trying to impose your opinion on us? If the former, what makes God immoral?’

    Again you misquote me. With respect to homosexuality, was my point, which God evidently imposes on some of the people he ‘creates’ and then consigns them to a a life of misery with respect to relationships, sex, and social acceptance. Maybe we just agree on exactly how an omniscient being should behave, but its obvious to me at least that creating and then punishing homosexuality would be immoral.

    You can verify this view of mine by walking into a shopping mall in new zealand with a sign saying ‘being gay is wrong.’ I invite you to give it a try. Or are you waiting for a more receptive audience who should reach your enlightened stance first?

    2. If, for the sake of argument, God exists and homosexuality is wrong, then in what sense are we deceiving ourselves when we think that this framework can be imposed on other people? Would it not be you who was deceived, while we had a fairly good understanding of things?

    Haha… that is a useless statement.

    The problem for each of you on this website is that you must have a tiny little voice in the back of your minds saying ‘is it REALLY evil to be gay? is God REALLY there? does any of this make ANY sense at all?’ How do you get that little voice to be quiet? I’m not being antagonistic, I’m genuinely interested in how you deal with these mixed messages – love people, but criticise them for things they cannot change…. etc etc.

  6. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

     Stu, I don’t want to derail the discussion, but just something to think about:

    Insofar as homosexuality is construed as a desire for
    same-gender-nookie, even if this desire is genetic, it would still be
    wrong

    I’m not sure this is true. Wouldn’t this kind of desire be equivalent to temptation? One can desire something sinful without actually sinning—after all, Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.

  7. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Tom, 

    You say, “[My worldview] is atheistic, yes, but that is not what defines it.”

    If its atheistic, this is part of your worldview. You mean to say its not the main thing for you? Thats ok. But it is the main thing that this argument in this debate comes down to. 

    You say, “If I tell you about Thor, and you have no belief in him, are you therefore dimwitted? I don’t think so.” Of course I would be dim-witted if I had no belief in Thor were you just finished telling me about Thor, as so many non-believers (like C. Hitchens for instance) claim atheism should be rendered – as “no belief”. To have no opinion, no thoughts whatsoever, not even that they are unsure what to believe regarding Thor (or regarding God, or anything else), is the height of cognitive disfunction. 

    You say, “The premise of that intolerance is your religion, which is rejected by a large majority of the world.”

    If this is meant to be point against something, its clearly fallacious reasoning (i.e. argumentum ad populum). If its not meant to be a point against something, then its just an irrelevant slur.

    (1) Premise. Being gay is a characteristic over which an individual has no control. 

    (I don’t full-heartedly accept this. But I’ll grant it for arguments sake.)

    (2) Premise. Homosexuality is not positively correlated with being evil. 

    This premise is ambiguous. If you take “homosexuality” to be a genetically predisposed _desire_ then I can agree with the premise. Because God judges the acts, or what we do with that desire, to be good or evil. If you take “homosexuality” here to be the orientation of someone who has same-gender sexual encounters, then I disagree with the premise. Because this _is_ correlated with being evil. God says.

    If this makes me a bigot, then so be it. But then you’re a bigot against Craig for holding this view. 

    You say, “God evidently imposes on some of the people he ‘creates’ and then consigns them to a a [sic] life of misery with respect to relationships, sex, and social acceptance. Maybe we just agree [disagree?] on exactly how an omniscient [you mean to say ombibenevolent?] being should behave…”

    God doesn’t consign anyone to a life of misery with respects to [fill in the black]. He consigns everyone to a life where, without his grace, misery is inevitable. Those with homosexual desire need grace just as much as those with heterosexual desire who are called not to get married. Chastity is a discipline that God can help with, and whether homosexuality is nurture or nature it is something that God can change. 

    You say, “Haha… that is a useless statement.”

    No, it’s a perfectly rational argument. If God exists and has made sex sacred, those who disagree are wrong, and those who agree are right. The point is you can’t defeat the argument without disagreeing with one of the premises; either (1) God exists), or (2) acting on homosexual desire is despoiling something sacred.

  8. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Tom, I don’t mean to call you names, but this is just obtuse:

    Try replacing ‘gay’ with ‘black’ or ‘woman.’ These are, equally, randomly assigned characteristics. ‘Blackness should be resisted and avoided, we as a church can help a person become more white.’

    I’m not taking a position on whether homosexual orientation is sinful. I’m provisionally of the opinion that it is not.

    I am taking the position that homosexual activity is sinful. Ie, homosexual lust, homosexual intercourse, etc.

    Now, if churches try to help people be “less gay”, I would take that to mean they help them to avoid homosexual activities. Perhaps some churches believe you can “pray the gay away”—that, in my opinion, is very sad. I think it does a lot of harm to homosexual Christians, who are as dismayed at the prospect and the ignorance behind it as a black might be if a church suggested praying his skin color away.

    That said, please don’t impute the ignorance and (let’s be frank) obnoxious idiocy of some Christians to Christians generally. Just because some Christians have a bee in their bonnets about homosexuality doesn’t mean we all do.

    But the lack of stinging insects in my headwear doesn’t mean I don’t believe homosexual acts are wrong. If God exists, then they are.

    I’ll google for you mate. big·ot (b g t). n. One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.

    All right. Can I ask you a question?

    Have you, or have you not, displayed in this very thread a strong intolerance for Christian attitudes toward homosexuality, and a strong partiality for your own “group” (ie, people who accept homosexuality)?

    If not, then what is your argument with us?

    If so, then what is your problem with bigotry?

    Maybe we just agree [sic] on exactly how an omniscient being should behave, but its obvious to me at least that creating and then punishing homosexuality would be immoral.

    If it is obvious, it ought to be easy to explain. Why would God be immoral to create someone with homosexual tendencies, and then punish him if he committed homosexual acts? What moral principle is God violating by doing this?

    You’re making an internal critique of Christianity here. You’re saying, in effect, that if Christianity is true, then God is immoral. So you are claiming that there’s an internal contradiction in Christianity, because obviously Christianity claims not only that God is moral, but that he is morality.

    You need to actually argue for this alleged contradiction. Simply saying “It’s obvious to me” fails completely to make any traction. It’s equally obvious to me that he is not. But at least I can argue for that position if prompted (the burden of proof isn’t on me though).

    You can verify this view of mine by walking into a shopping mall in new zealand with a sign saying ‘being gay is wrong.’

    Are you saying that what is moral is simply what most people in a given society accept at a given time? Well in that case, pedophilia was moral in ancient Greece. Sacrificing your children was moral in ancient Persia. Stoning a woman who commits adultery is moral in modern Pakistan.

    The problem for each of you on this website is that you must have a tiny little voice in the back of your minds saying ‘is it REALLY evil to be gay? is God REALLY there? does any of this make ANY sense at all?’ How do you get that little voice to be quiet? I’m not being antagonistic, I’m genuinely interested in how you deal with these mixed messages – love people, but criticise them for things they cannot change…. etc etc.

    Well, it’s funny actually, because I can turn that question around on you. And I can do it with the full weight of my own experience as an atheist behind me. Because when I was an atheist, I had a little voice in the back of my mind saying,

    “Does God REALLY not exist? Is it REALLY okay to do these things you’re doing? Does the world REALLY make sense without a designer to who made it sensible?”

    So I’m equally curious about how you get this little voice to be quiet. I found the way to do it was to lose myself in reasonably debauched activities. But that only worked for so long before I became depressed and disillusioned. Like drugs, sin never satisfies.

  9. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    Bnonn,

    I am going to read that you have conceded the points that we were discussing earlier.

  10. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut…actually I just forgot :P

    Okay, so we can work with this. What would you expect would be the measurable effects of developing a relationship and reliance upon god? We can then do a study and compare these effects with people who pray within other religions, and with people who meditate etc. So, what would you say are the measurable effects of praying to the christian god?

    Can you give me a reason to think we should predict distinctly different but uniform results for Christians?

    And could you then suggest a way to test this hypothesis with some degree of statistical confidence that would yield a conclusion about Christian prayer that isn’t completely open to interpretation?

    Like the evidence for reincarnation, yes?

    Let’s assume the evidence for reincarnation is very strong. That would be a huge problem for your worldview, but no problem at all for mine. After all, Christianity has a great deal of explanatory power with regard to supernatural phenomena. The appearance of reincarnation does not imply the reality of reincarnation—only the reality of something supernatural.

    (On the other hand, religions which incorporate reincarnation don’t have sufficient explanatory power to accommodate the evidence for Christianity, nor to capably deal with Christian arguments like the moral argument, the cosmological argument etc.)

    If you think the evidence for reincarnation is good, you should give up your naturalistic view of the world. If you think it’s not, why bring it up at all?

    Well, True knowledge. Knowledge which accurately reflects the Real World. And if one has True knowledge about the Real World then one should be able to predict things. Like salvation as you point out. If your worldview is True then you should be correct that there is an afterlife. Unfortunately though, the purported afterlife is shielded from objective observation. It’s conveniently unfalsifiable And it had to be, for if wasn’t it would be proven false and religion would have to drop it.

    So much the worse for your own worldview then, since evolution does not select for True knowledge, but merely survival.

    Btw, why the snark about undetectability? What reason do you have to think that every facet of reality is detectable? If we didn’t develop the senses to detect it, how could we even speculate about it unless it interacts with something we can sense?

    This is completely incorrect. We would easily be able to tell the difference. One only needs to pray to ‘the universe’ or grass or plato and receive no supernatural happening to tell the difference.

    Why think there is no natural explanation for that too?

    I…….all I can do is marvel at the ignorance of your statement about poor evidence, Bnonn.

    And all I can do is marvel at your ignorance. But I’m not here for an argument about evolution. I really don’t mind if you think I’m ignorant or not. There are deeper issues to explore.

    For your first question, presumably you believe that you know that the world exists independent of you. But how do you know? What did you use to determine this? Whatever you used – it doesn’t matter what – how do you know that it is not just a phantasm of your own self? Answer: you can’t. You can’t know the answer to this question any more than anyone else can!

    Lol, dude, that’s all irrelevant. You asked for knowledge that can’t be tested empirically. Well here it is—and it’s not some trivial proposition that has no bearing on your worldview. Quite the opposite.

    Your entire “falsifiable” worldview rests on unfalsifiable assumptions. How embarrassing.

  11. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    “Can you give me a reason to think we should predict distinctly different but uniform results for Christians?”
    Lol. So now you’re suggesting that praying to god in order to develop a relationship and reliance upon him yields no measurable results at all – not even self-reporting results (which could be compared to other religions). And you wonder why people don’t take christianity seriously?

    “Let’s assume the evidence for reincarnation is very strong. That would be a huge problem for your worldview, but no problem at all for mine.”

    If it were very strong, then yes. But it is not. I was pointing out that the evidence for reincarnation is as good as the evidence for your miracles. It is not a problem for my worldview that reincarnation is ‘evidenced’ any more than it is a problem that christian miracles are ‘evidenced’. In fact, that there is similar evidence for both goes a long way to proving that my worldview is correct in that religious people have ridiculous and contradictory standards of evidence.

    “(On the other hand, religions which incorporate reincarnation don’t
    have sufficient explanatory power to accommodate the evidence for
    Christianity, nor to capably deal with Christian arguments like the
    moral argument, the cosmological argument etc.)”

    This comment is just so self-centred. It reminds me how religion is so reliant upon a lack of perspective. Do you honestly not think that if you were born somewhere like Iran that you would hold very different but equally bigoted views? And if you respond to this question, do you think that a Muslim from Iran would not respond with something any less convincing to him?

    “Btw, why the snark about undetectability? What reason do you have to
    think that every facet of reality is detectable? If we didn’t develop
    the senses to detect it, how could we even speculate about it unless it interacts with something we can sense?”

    Your position is contradictory. You ask why every facet of reality should be detectable. Well, if an aspect of reality was not detectable, how the hell do you know to ask about it?! And so, since you clearly believe that we DO have the senses to arrive at christianity, you should be able to point, falsifiably, at that evidence. But you can’t because that evidence is not evidence – it is not a part of reality, it is a part of bias.


    “If miracles occurred reliably when praying to God, that would not falsify atheism. Rather, atheists would take this as evidence of some natural ability we have to cause seemingly supernatural events, which is triggered in certain conditions.”

    “This is completely incorrect. We would easily be able to tell the
    difference. One only needs to pray to ‘the universe’ or grass or plato
    and receive no supernatural happening to tell the difference.”

    “Why think there is no natural explanation for that too?”

    I think you’re confused here. If the christian god was real then praying to him would be measurably different to praying to any god which was not real.

    ——————

    How about your knowledge that a world exists independently of you?
    “For your first question, presumably you believe that you know that the
    world exists independent of you. But how do you know? What did you use
    to determine this? Whatever you used – it doesn’t matter what – how do
    you know that it is not just a phantasm of your own self? Answer: you
    can’t. You can’t know the answer to this question any more than anyone
    else can!”

    “Lol, dude, that’s all irrelevant. You asked for knowledge that can’t be
    tested empirically. Well here it is—and it’s not some trivial
    proposition that has no bearing on your worldview. Quite the opposite.”

    No it’s very relevant. Your statement is not knowledge, and should have no bearing on anyone’s worldview because the question itself is self-contradictory*.
    You are claiming knowledge that there is a world independent of you, and when I ask how you know you avoid the question because you know that will lead you to contradict yourself. The question to begin with is casting doubt on the information that comes to our senses that we have, and yet you obviously use some sense(s) to determine that the world exists independent of you. Well, what is special about the sense that tells you that the world is real such that it is not subject to the question?
    QED!

    * The question is self-contradictory because the question itself should be doubted as being real. If I can’t trust my five senses why on earth can I trust that question?!

     

  12. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut…

    Lol. So now you’re suggesting that praying to god in order to develop a relationship and reliance upon him yields no measurable results at all – not even self-reporting results (which could be compared to other religions).

    You’re just putting words in my mouth. I never said this—what I asked was for you to identify what these results should be, and suggest an experiment to falsify them. I’m not doing all your work for you buddy.

    And you wonder why people don’t take christianity seriously?

    Interesting side-note: most of the people who don’t take Christianity seriously are people who are either poorly educated about Christianity, or poor thinkers in general. But when you look at fields like philosophy, where you have to be a good thinker to compete, Christianity is taken very seriously indeed.

    I was pointing out that the evidence for reincarnation is as good as the evidence for your miracles.

    Since you haven’t fairly evaluated the evidence for Christian miracles, that’s just an unfounded assumption on your part. Replacing facts with prejudiced just-so stories isn’t the way to advance the debate.

    Do you honestly not think that if you were born somewhere like Iran that you would hold very different but equally bigoted views? And if you respond to this question, do you think that a Muslim from Iran would not respond with something any less convincing to him?

    Do you honestly not think that you would would hold very different but equally bigoted views as well? Even ignoring the massive disanalogies between living in Iran and living in New Zealand, what exactly is this hypothetical scenario supposed to prove?

    Your position is contradictory. You ask why every facet of reality should be detectable. Well, if an aspect of reality was not detectable, how the hell do you know to ask about it?!

    I don’t think you’ve understood my comment. I am making the point that under your own worldview you have no reason to think that reality extends only as far as our senses can detect. We’re no more justified in thinking that matter-energy in spacetime is all there is to the universe than we would have been a couple of hundred years ago to think that the electromagnetic spectrum began at red and ended at violet.

    So your insistence that reality extends only to the testable is simply misguided. Why think that? What possible reason is there?

    I think you’re confused here. If the christian god was real then praying to him would be measurably different to praying to any god which was not real.

    Sure. But that doesn’t mean people wouldn’t look for naturalistic answers instead.

    No it’s very relevant. Your statement is not knowledge

    Hang on, are you saying that I don’t know an external world exists? That our belief in an external world doesn’t constitute knowledge?

  13. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    Bnonn,

    You are the one who claims that the christian god is real, and you are the one who claims that praying to him ‘works’. (I can’t say what the results of praying should be since I don’t know, I’m not a christian.) Now you simply need to show that it works.

    I think you’ll find that the more intelligent a person is within modern Western society the less likely they are to be religious. Religion is taken more seriously in philosophy than many other fields because philosophy is so removed from evidences.

    You think that I haven’t fairly evaluated the evidence for christian miracles. Well, firstly I have, but how are you different from any other religious position? You will keep telling me to go back to re-evaluate until I come up with the answer you want.

    “Do you honestly not think that you would would hold very
    different but equally bigoted views as well?”

    I don’t think that my views are bigoted because my views are based upon evidence – something which I am asking for but which you seem unable, and unwilling to demonstrate.


    I think you’re confused here. If the christian god was real
    then praying to him would be measurably different to praying to any god
    which was not real.”

    “Sure. But that doesn’t mean people wouldn’t look for naturalistic answers instead.”

    Maybe, but if you could show that praying to the christian god yielded actual results, that would go a long way to vindicating your worldview. The fact that you are so evasive about even trying suggests to me that you can see the writing on the wall.

    “Hang on, are you saying that I don’t know an external world exists? That our belief in an external world doesn’t constitute knowledge?”

    Yes. Whatever method you claim you use to determine that there really IS an external world could just as easily be internal delusions. The only sensible conclusion is to realize that the term ‘real’ refers to that which we sense.

  14. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut, sorry for the slow reply.

    You are the one who claims that the christian god is real, and you are the one who claims that praying to him ‘works’. (I can’t say what the results of praying should be since I don’t know, I’m not a christian.) Now you simply need to show that it works.

    Could you quote me? Where I have said “prayer works”? To the best of my knowledge I have explicitly distanced myself from viewing prayer as a “causal tool” for achieving pragmatic outcomes. Rather, prayer is a means of monologuing with God, just as the Bible is a means of God monologuing with us. So prayer builds our relationship with God—but I have no idea how you might go about measuring such a thing; nor whether there is any way to distinguish scientifically between the relationship a Christian builds with God, and the relationship a Hindu, say, builds with Krishna.

    You’re the one claiming that Christian prayer must have some kind of unique and empirically verifiable effect. Not me. So the burden of testing for and proving or falsifying that effect is hardly mine to take up, is it?

    I think you’ll find that the more intelligent a person is within modern Western society the less likely they are to be religious.

    I think that would depend very greatly on how you measured intelligence. If you simply mean the more educated someone is, well that’s hardly very telling given the secular bias of our education system. On the other hand, if you’re measuring how good people are at thinking through issues, it seems that most of the best thinkers are at least sympathetic to theism, if not theists themselves. This is simply because as you get better at working through the various reasons to believe in Christianity and to doubt the tenability of a thoroughgoing naturalism, the more obvious it is that there are good reasons to believe in Christianity, and good reasons to doubt the tenability of naturalism.

    Religion is taken more seriously in philosophy than many other fields because philosophy is so removed from evidences.

    Unfortunately, it’s actually the other way around. Philosophy is the most intimately connected with evidences. Sadly, since scientists are not taught the foundations of science (ie, the philosophy of science), they don’t realize that evidence ultimately comes down not to empirical data, but to philosophical axioms and reasoning.

    I don’t think that my views are bigoted because my views are based upon evidence – something which I am asking for but which you seem unable, and unwilling to demonstrate.

    Even if you understood what evidence was, which I’m afraid you don’t, the definition of bigotry does not include reference to the reasons one has for holding one’s views. By your own definition, you are a bigot. You’d have to come up with a new definition of bigotry to avoid that commonsense conclusion.

    Maybe, but if you could show that praying to the christian god yielded actual results, that would go a long way to vindicating your worldview. The fact that you are so evasive about even trying suggests to me that you can see the writing on the wall.

    Lol, how many times do I have to say that I don’t think prayer is an apologetic tool?

    With all the other very powerful evidences for Christianity, why would I need to resort to something as open to interpretation and dispute as prayer?

    Whatever method you claim you use to determine that there really IS an external world could just as easily be internal delusions. The only sensible conclusion is to realize that the term ‘real’ refers to that which we sense.

    Well, that’s a fairly damning position to take. If you seriously think there is no warrant for believing in an external world, then you have no warrant for believing you’re not just having a “conversation” with a figment of your imagination right now. Maybe you’re just a crazy person in a rubber room. If you doubt that your senses convey veridical information about an external world, why trust that they convey veridical information at all? Where’s your warrant for that?

    I can’t see how you could possibly sustain any kind of empiricism when your foundational beliefs about your senses completely undermine empiricism.

  15. Al
    Al says:

    Just had a look in here again, and can’t help adding my 2 cents worth.  I might have said something like this before, but anyway, here goes:  it seems to me that if we can think of an example of a miracle that has never occurred and could easily thus be considered impossible, then there’s no need to think any marvellous event is more likely to be a miracle than have a natural explanation.  Here are examples of miracles that I think it is reasonable to consider impossible – simply because if they had ever occurred we would have heard about them, documented in the bible or otherwise: A person who fell into a large industrial tree chipper and came out the other end as nothing but a large puddle of mince meat, then was restored to his original state after Christians prayed over the remains.  It doesn’t have to be so dramatic, e.g. someone whose head was chopped cleanly off by a guillotine, then was restored.  Or even just someone whose arm was burnt to the bone, and had the arm restored to its original state. 
    The simple fact is that none of these things ever happen.  The only miracles we see are things where the original state could be disputed anyway, e.g. Benny Hinn’s favorite, people who couldn’t walk can suddenly jump around the stage.  Or e.g. people who had cancer, are miraculously cured (but only before they die, not after, and we’ll never know what was really wrong internally anyway)  Why not fix an external cancer, e.g. a melanoma which had already eaten away the entire nose, lips, and tongue?
    So, I don’t find miracles which purport to be a cure of something internal, without the outward proof of visible damage, to be at all persuasive.  And if the sort of big miracles (at a human level) such as I’ve described never occur, we can take it that they are impossible, and we have no reason to think the small miracles are really miracles at all.

  16. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Er, Keener documents corroborated cases of people being resurrected. In fact, miracles in which people come back from the dead seem to be relatively common. Keener himself, if I recall correctly, personally knows someone whose daughter was resuscitated after being dead (ie, not breathing) for three hours.

    So your claim that these things just don’t happen is simply bogus.

  17. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    So your opinion is a miracle is actually impossible, if you’ve never seen or heard anything like that happening?
    I’d like to see an argument for that.

    In contradistinction to you I think the little miracles we see and hear about are justifiably attributed to God because of the credible evidence there is for the bigger miracles that occur. An example of one such miracle would be the historical credentials for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead after Roman torture and crucifixion.

  18. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    Bnonn,

    “…but I have no idea how you might go about measuring such a thing; nor
    whether there is any way to distinguish scientifically between the
    relationship a Christian builds with God, and the relationship a Hindu,
    say, builds with Krishna.”

    Thanks for agreeing with my point. That praying to the christian god is no more or less meaningful that praying to any other. This is very good evidence for the view that all gods are unreal.

    “Sadly, since scientists are not taught the foundations of science (ie,
    the philosophy of science), they don’t realize that evidence ultimately
    comes down not to empirical data, but to philosophical axioms and
    reasoning.”

    I don’t understand. How would changing one’s axioms make an impact on the mass of the oxygen atom, or the process of photosynthesis, or the laws of gravity? You have it completely backwards – observations lead to worldviews, and as you have showed above, you have no reputable observations which would lead to your worldview. It is one of wishful thinking!

    “Well, that’s a fairly damning position to take. If you seriously think
    there is no warrant for believing in an external world, then you have no
    warrant for believing you’re not just having a “conversation” with a
    figment of your imagination right now.”

    Nice try – to turn this on it’s head, but no cigar. YOU asked how I could trust what I sense when you asked: “How about your knowledge that a world exists independently of you?” But your question is doomed to be self-undermining since it itself can only be informed by what you sense. My response is merely to say that what I perceive is the only ‘real’ that I can ever know.

    Now, presumably you have some earth-shattering way of knowing that there is a world external to yourself, and you are going to have to share unless, as I suspect, you are one of those people that merely tries to bring others’ worldviews down to the level of their own by asking attention-diverting and meaningless questions.

  19. Al
    Al says:

    Sorry Stuart, but your reply is as inadequate as Bnonn’s.  I’ve read, and can easily believe, that hanging by one’s hands can be a very prolonged means of reaching a state of death, and I’ve no doubt that a lot of people have been eventually removed from a cross without yet being dead.  Why should some holes in hands and feet, and maybe a couple of broken legs, be considered adequate proof of death?   My point is still that there are no clearly incontrovertible miracles, so yes, my opinion is that they are impossible, and why shouldn’t it (my opinion) be such, if a natural explanation is always possible?

  20. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Its probably not going to be fruitful arguing with some one who genuinely believes that just because he or she hasn’t seen or heard anything like it, then that thing doesn’t exist. Neither, in other words (your words), if that person believes that if there are no clearly incontrovertible miracles that they are actually impossible. This is a mere assertion which remains un-argued for – and no wonder, because it’s absurd. The respectable position would be to say that they are possible, but no instance has yet been able to convince you. But I guess the internet affords the blessing of anonymity so people can be free to advocate the absurd and feel they get away it.
    You say you have no doubt that a lot of people have been eventually removed from a cross without being dead. Why do you not doubt this? For one thing, in all of history, we know of one person who survived crucifixion. Josephus tells us of one person who was taken off a cross and given Rome’s best medical treatment. Not long after, even with “Rome’s best” he died anyway from the effects.
    For another thing, the fact is crucifixion doesn’t just put some holes in your hands and feet. It puts your body in a position that forces you push up on your feet to exhale, while your blood oxygen levels falls and the blood carbon dioxide levels rise. While the heart beats faster and faster to get oxygen to atrophied muscles, it places more an more demand on the lungs which are unable to provide that oxygen. Consequently they fill with fluid, further decreasing oxygen to the muscles, with the blood loss cause hyperventilation, and the heart to fail. Within a period of hours you either suffocate or in some cases your heart can burst (Cardiac Rupture). What can prolong this inevitable conclusion (in some recorded instances up to nine days) is a seat on the vertical beam which could allow the victim to partially sit and bear weight on the buttocks so he could breath. Breaking the legs would deprive the victim of a means to stand and therefore breathe, and thus kill the victim in a few minutes.
    And yet another consideration. Even if Jesus did bodily survive crucifixion, he certainly wouldn’t be able to unroll himself from the grave clothes, roll away a stone from the tomb, stumble through Jerusalem to his disciples’ house, and inspire them to believe he was the Lord and God of them (a fact they were willing to lay their lives down for). They would tell Jesus he was dying and in desperate need of doctor (which, Josephus tells us, the very best of Rome’s doctors could not help). This historical hypothesis is probably just, if not more, miraculous as a genuine resurrection from the dead.
    The resurrection of Jesus, upon a little genuine study, is an example of a clear and incontrovertible miracle. Given God has worked miracles in the past, theres no good reason to not believe he can also work miracles in the present.

  21. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut…

    Thanks for agreeing with my point. That praying to the christian god is no more or less meaningful that praying to any other.

    Are you deliberately trying to bait and switch? I never used the term “meaningful”. If, in fact, the Christian God exists, then obviously praying to him is more meaningful than praying to a false god, even if there is no empirically verifiable difference in this life.

    This is very good evidence for the view that all gods are unreal.

    That’s just an assertion in search of an argument. In fact, since I’ve denied that prayer has much apologetic value, by simple symmetry it also doesn’t have much value as evidence against Christianity. So at best this statement of yours is just a non-sequitur.

    I don’t understand.

    Indeed. But this is not the place to educate you on basic philosophy.

    you have no reputable observations which would lead to your worldview. It is one of wishful thinking!

    You are very much coming across as not arguing in good faith. How does my conceding that prayer cannot be subjected to the scientific method equate
    to having no reputable observations? Keener documents many reputable
    observations. As does history (the resurrection being at heart a historical
    claim).

    Mind you, it’s not as if having “reputable observations” is a requirement
    for knowing something. So that’s just yet another tendentious assumption
    you’ve smuggled in.

    But your question is doomed to be self-undermining since it
    itself can only be informed by what you sense.

    You’re speaking as if I really exist, which is weird considering your
    worldview doesn’t warrant you to believe that.

    Now, presumably you have some earth-shattering way of knowing
    that there is a world external to yourself, and you are going to have to
    share

    Weren’t you the one who said you’d studied epistemology? Why should I
    educate you on basic issues that have been discussed by philosophers for
    centuries—and particularly well in the past decades? Go read
    Plantinga.

  22. Al
    Al says:

    Just a couple more points about why I am not interested in crucifixion when discussing miracles.  I looked up your Josephus reference and apparently it was of 3 people, two of whom died, and one of whom survived.  Also there are apparently instances of people surviving up to nine days on the cross.  I note Jesus’ legs weren’t broken either.  And of course, your second consideration requires belief that there was no outside help to get him out of the tomb.  Too many ifs and buts, unless you’re prepared to take everything at face value. 

    What I am interested in, however, are your thoughts on why there are no modern-day healings of significant injuries in cases of genuine need.  Again, I come back to major burn injuries, or amputation injuries.  What about children who are badly burned in a fire?  There are just no examples of this sort of real healing.  It’s just not possible.  But a miracle is just a miracle.  A major healing should be just as straightforward and commonplace as a Benny Hinn leg lengthening.  This whole thing of allowing some miracles but not others just doesn’t “pass the smell test”. 

    (Also, to address your first point, where you are simply arguing on the basis of semantics seems to me to be gratuitous and unhelpful.  I don’t believe anything can travel faster than the speed of light either, or that people could ever travel backwards in time.  But that’s a belief based on the accumulated knowledge of much wiser men than me, and one that could be changed by future evidence:  You would be bound to call such beliefs absurd also, if you believe in miracles. 

    And finally, the supposed anonymity of the internet has nothing to do with the way I phrase my comments.  I try to be polite, which is more than I’ve seen sometimes even in this forum.  I’m sure you know my email address, and I’d be perfectly happy to say hello face-to-face over a coffee if you wanted to meet this idiot with such absurd attitudes.  I’m in Auckland.  (Unfortunately, I have a rather abrupt and abrasive style of writing, I’m told, so I won’t blame you if you don’t want to take up the offer.))

  23. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I’m not convinced there are no modern day major healings, nor indeed that they are incredibly rare. In my acquaintance I know of some astounding miracle stories that would pass any reasonable standard of evidence. These type of things are about if you care to start looking. Neither do I accept that notion that healings have to be outwardly apparent. Catastrophic internal physiological illness or injury being healed is just as miraculous and any outward sign.
    There could be a whole host of reasons why God would keep certain injuries from being miraculously healed. Here are a couple of possibilities. For instance, doing so consistently would create a haunted world, where we wouldn’t have the good of medical science nor the motivation to seek after it. For instance, doing so would deprive people of the chance to develop perseverance and godly character, while they trust him through their suffering, or even come to know him because of their suffering. For instance, perhaps God does not heal many amputees so we are pushed to develop all kinds of medical technology which would lead to all kinds of breakthroughs for the good of everyone. As you can see, there could be manifold reasons. Its important to understand that God’s purpose for this life is not the complete elimination of suffering, and neither is it to make himself and his working so apparent it is coercive to those whose heart is fixed on being rebellious. Rather, it is to bring as many people as he can into a trusting relationship with him, and to that ends he provides enough evidence to reasonably go on, but not enough to compel anyone who would rather go his own way. In this I agree with Pascal.
    “Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”
    I heard Sean McDowell say something really wise. “The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.” By this he explained that even if God were to confirm his existence to us in a miraculous way, we would in all likelihood continue to obstinately disbelieve or be skeptical. Israel, newly freed from Egyptian slavery and witnesses to some of the most miraculous signs in all of history, were soon afterwards worshiping a golden calf fashioned by their own hands, and rebelling again and again while wandering in the desert. Witnessing miracles would be a fine thing, but such a thing does not inspire the kind of faith that leads human hearts to genuine conversion.
    It seems to me that this same hardness of heart is apparent in your responses. For instance, instead of being open to being proved wrong (possibly in the course of your own investigations, or possibly by being confronted with some occurrence you couldn’t explain naturally that took place in a context charged with religious significance, or in the situation above where you dismiss the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus with these extremely poor, half-hearted objections when this represents a very good case study to defeat your position that the miraculous is impossible and does not occur), you instead make this sweeping and yet-to-be-argued-for philosophical proclamation that miracles are impossible, and moreover discount all the accounts of internal maladies being healed which are just as miraculous. That is not the procedure of someone who is being altogether open, honest and genuine. Now perhaps I misunderstand you. But when you say things like “Its just not possible” simply on the basis that you haven’t heard or seen anything like it, you are begging the question (or reasoning in a circle: i.e. fallaciously) and that is not complementary to your faculty of testing (as you say) by “smell”, nor provide sufficient evidence of you trying your best to be objective on the matter.
    Regarding Jesus, now you want to conjoin the apparent death hypothesis with the stolen-body hypothesis? We don’t have to take the evidence for the resurrection hypothesis at face value. We have to subject it to the same criteria that we use to evaluate your preferred explanation (if indeed that is your preferred explanation). In evaluation this explanation chiefly lacks explanatory scope and explanatory power.

  24. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    Er, Keener documents corroborated cases of people being resurrected. In fact, miracles in which people come back from the dead seem to be relatively common. Keener himself, if I recall correctly, personally knows someone whose daughter was resuscitated after being dead (ie, not breathing) for three hours.
    So your claim that these things just don’t happen is simply bogus.’

    Hahaaaaaaaaa, oh man… This is Al’s point I think. It’s ‘relatively common’ that people come back from the dead… really? What did they have to say about heaven and hell (or maybe purgatory??) then? If you honestly believe they died and were resurrected, Bnonn, then surely we can now know what heaven and/or hell is like? I have a friend who can hold is breathe for 4 minutes underwater, essentially by slowing his hearth rate. I’ve observed this. It never occurred to me that this is probably a miracle! Maybe he dies under water…

    Putting aside this completely ridiculous comment from you Bnonn, you have already conceded that there is simply no way to tie ‘someones daughter being resuscitated’ to proof of God’s existence. Hell you can’t even relate the two things, unless you are already anticipating the causation you’re hoping for. This sounds an awful lot like wishful thinking to me.

  25. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Tom, if your friend could hold his breath for three hours, that would be fairly miraculous. If he could hold his breath while stopping his heart too, that would be quite something.

    As regards causation, well if you knew your Hume you’d know you’re in the same boat, so it seems like you’re proving just a bit too much there.

  26. Al
    Al says:

    Hi
    Stuart,

    Thanks
    for this discussion.   I think this may
    be my last reply on this subject (because in some senses you’re right that it’s
    fruitless, although for me I’d have to say it’s not, since it helps to clarify
    my own thoughts), so I’ll leave it to you after this to “wrap up for the
    defence” if you wish. 

    You
    imply that if I looked around I’d find the sort of major healings of
    externally-visible injuries I haven’t yet seen. How would I do that? Would you
    care to suggest a church in Auckland which I might try?

    I see a
    certain rough parallel here between global warming and internal/external types
    of miracle healings. In a world which was not showing signs of global warming,
    one would expect a roughly even number, say per decade, of cold records and hot
    records being broken globally. Indeed this was roughly the case for many
    decades prior to the 1960s. Since that time, there has been an increasingly
    higher number of warming records decade-upon-decade broken than cold records.
    This is reasonably considered as strong evidence of global warming (and this
    trend is accelerating, by the way, so that now we’re getting to the point of
    approximately twice as many hot records being broken as cold records).

    Analogously,
    in a world in which miracles existed, I think (and I think you should agree) that one
    could expect to see a roughly equal proportion of spectacular, indisputable vs.
    disputable miracles occurring. This seems a natural expectation to me because
    to an omnipotent God, no miracle is more difficult than any other, and miracles
    would exist on a continuum from mundane to spectacular as the need arose. What
    we actually see, as far as I can tell, is a world in which all miracles are
    only of the disputable kind. Surely a strong bias one way or the other must
    raise warning flags.  I think the obvious
    answer is the following: not just a strong bias towards disputable miracles, but in fact all
    miracles being of the disputable sort, is compelling evidence against miracles. 

    Your
    reasons in para 2 for our not seeing compelling healing miracles today, which could be an
    answer to the above, don’t ring true to me. The Bible contains examples of the
    big miracles, I gather, such as stopping the rotation of the Sun around the
    Earth (sic) for a few hours for Joshua or someone [Did I get that right?  I haven’t looked it up].  Now the big miracles have totally stopped.  A prescient God would hardly have performed
    these prior to 2000 years ago and then decided to discontinue them because he found
    that people’s response to them was not the desired one.  He would have known exactly what the response
    would be, and have either no reason to start performing them, or no reason to
    stop them.    And as for “depriv[ing] people of the chance to develop perseverance and godly character”, tell that to the girls whose lives are ruined by acid attacks by psychopaths, or the slaves who had one foot cut off so that they couldn’t run away from their place of slavery.

  27. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

     Bnonn,

    “Are you deliberately trying to bait and switch? I never used the term
    “meaningful”. If, in fact, the Christian God exists, then obviously
    praying to him is more meaningful than praying to a false god, even if
    there is no empirically verifiable difference in this life.”

    Okay, how is it more meaningful? What does this look like?

    “Sadly, since scientists are not taught the foundations of science (ie,
    the philosophy of science), they don’t realize that evidence ultimately
    comes down not to empirical data, but to philosophical axioms and
    reasoning.”

    “I don’t understand. How would changing one’s axioms make an impact on
    the mass of the oxygen atom, or the process of photosynthesis, or the
    laws of gravity? You have it completely backwards – observations lead to
    worldviews..”

    So you agree with me, you have it backwards. If not, please show me how philosophical axioms change the mass of the oxygen atom. I can see, though, how a person who wants to believe nonsense like homeopathy or water divining or the power of prayer would claim that evidence doesn’t come down to empirical data, because there IS no reasonable evidence!

    “But your question is doomed to be self-undermining since it
    itself can only be informed by what you sense.”

    “You’re speaking as if I really exist, which is weird considering your
    worldview doesn’t warrant you to believe that.”

    You clearly still do not understand my answer. I trust my senses because not trusting them is self-undermining. What sense could I trust that tells me not to trust my senses!?
    You ask a question as though it somehow shatters my worldview, but your question doesn’t even make sense, which again leads us to….

    “Now, presumably you have some earth-shattering way of knowing
    that there is a world external to yourself, and you are going to have to
    share ”

    Which you don’t answer because you know that your question is nonsense. Any sense you might have of knowing that there is an external world is subject to your question.

    Therefore, ‘knowing’ that there is a world external to one’s self is not knowledge. Exactly because it is unfalsifiable.

  28. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    ‘Tom, if your friend could hold his breath for three hours, that would be fairly miraculous. If he could hold his breath while stopping his heart too, that would be quite something.’
     
    Agreed, but I would still not be credulous enough to think that God had anything to do with it. It seems to me that if I wrote about Fabian holding his breath for 3 hours, stopping his heart, and then popping up out of the water (and walking on it – why not?) you and people like you would assign it as a miracle from God, which is – there’s no other word for it – infantile.
     
    Firstly, it would take hugely compelling evidence to persuade anyone that this could be done. Secondly, if it was actually documented and proven, i dare say there would be a bit more interest in it from the scientific community and the media. You say that it’s ‘relatively common’ that people are brought back from the dead. It’s simply not true that it’s relatively common. And thirdly, putting aside your pseudo-intellectual answers, and putting aside the first two massive leaps required, there is simply no possible way to demonstrate that these completely random and amoral ‘miracles’ are a function of God’s invervention.

    You can dance around it all you like, but it’s just a complete non-starter for an apologetic, given how little weight you are willing to put on being disproven, and how weak the argument for miracles is in the first place.
     
     

  29. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    Tom Joad,

    If something really amazing happens, and it can’t be explained naturally, and it takes place in a context charged with religious significance, its not silly or infantile to say God did it. Its wholly sensible. i.e. God raised Jesus from the dead. Firstly, – on the contrary to your first point – it has pursueded millions upon millions. Secondly, – on the contrary to your second point – it has attracted significant media attention. Thirdly, – in partial agreement and partial disagreement with your third point – though there is no way to prove God’s intervention in said marvelous happening, there is a way to show that God’s intervention is the best explanation.
    And while something like the resurrection of Jesus gives us a good reason for thinking God exists, i.e. the argument _from_ miracles, the argument _for_ miracles goes something likes this;
    1) (Premise) If God exist, then miracles are possible.
    2) (Premise) God exists.
    3) Therefore, miracles are possible.

    This is the argument for miracles. I think thats a pretty strong argument. Which premise do think is false?

  30. Stuart McEwing
    Stuart McEwing says:

    I don’t understand why an “externally visible” miracle should be preferred over an internal malady that has been healed. Both are as miraculous. And both would rely on the testimonials of the people involved.
    I could introduce you to a man who had most of his stomach removed – due to cancer I think, who was expected to die accordingly, but had it replaced miraculously during a two hour prayer meeting that spontaneously erupted especially for him. Email me and I will email you his name, and you can can google his story – I’ve seen it on the net before. If you’re truly interested I can contact him and confirm where he will be, since he travels some. He would usually attend my church, Encounter Christian Centre in Avondale, and was in town last week so he probably will be there again this week, so I may be able to meet you and introduce you to him.
    With respect to your global warming analogy, (given its truth of global warming and God’s existence) comparing the expectation of record highs with the expectation of indisputable (by which I take it you mean outwardly visible) miracles occurring, I consider poor comparison. Were God something like an impersonal and mindless being, then perhaps the correspondence of the two would be fair. But God, as I pointed out in my last response, has more to consider when it comes to the performance of said indisputable (outwardly visible and internally apparent) miracles than just the difficulty and the need. If it was just these factors he had to consider, then maybe your predictions would be right. But he also has to consider a whole host of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (in other words, future contingent propositions in the subjunctive mood – this knowledge you affirm a prescient God is capable of) for every individual possible miracle. In other words, the long-ranging effects of a possible miracle we just are not privy to (due to the limited epistemological position in time and geographical location we inhabit).
    With respect to the possible reason that God would refrain from healing someone I offered, namely “that healing them would deprive them of the opportunity to develop perseverance and godly character”, you say that doesn’t work because that reason doesn’t apply to all people. But my point is that that reason could apply to some people. Theres no reason to think that one needs one reason for all circumstances. God may have a variety of reasons, where each reason applies to a different set of situations.
    You mention the long day of Joshua as an example of a big miracle. Funny you should count it as one, for the miracle here is not that the earth stopped rotating as we modern people understand the text to say, nor that what we call a solar eclipse occurred, as the contemporaneous audience of that type of ancient text understood it to mean, but that God providentially arranged for the battle to take place at that precise time. But with respect to your point about the big and obvious miracles of the bible ceasing, its important to understand the reason for miracles. Its not something God does just for the hang of it, but usually to confirm new revelation to a people. i.e. big miracles characterized Moses’ ministry because God was confirming what we call the Law to nation of Israel. i.e. big miracles characterized Jesus’ ministry because God was confirming the revelation that he was bringing, namely that in him the kingdom of God had come and he was establishing that kingdom, and through him grace from the Law was available. And that is why the more obvious big miracles usually happen in far off countries – because those places are the front-lines of evangelism where the revelation of Jesus and the kingdom of God is new.

  31. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut, this will be my last reply as there seems little point in continuing this discussion I’m afraid.

    Okay, how is it more meaningful? What does this look like?

    Obviously because the prayers are directed to a God who can actually answer them, and are forming a relationship with a God who actually exists and will be worshiped “face to face” in the next life.

    So you agree with me, you have it backwards. If not, please show me how philosophical axioms change the mass of the oxygen atom.

    I don’t need to play along with your silly examples dude. If you know about the philosophy of science, then you know that science is founded on unprovable assumptions such as those I’ve mentioned before (regularity etc). If you don’t, then you’re not in a position to be making such condescending remarks.

    I can see, though, how a person who wants to believe nonsense like homeopathy or water divining or the power of prayer would claim that evidence doesn’t come down to empirical data, because there IS no reasonable evidence!

    Sorry, the evidence for Christianity doesn’t disappear just because you’ve redefined the word to suit your purposes. Verificationalism died a long time ago. The fact that you’re clinging to it indicates either that you’re ignorant or that you’re stupid. Either way, that’s not much a position to start a fight from.

    You clearly still do not understand my answer. I trust my senses because not trusting them is self-undermining. What sense could I trust that tells me not to trust my senses!?

    You don’t need to base your doubt on sensory input. Simply on modal logic.

    In any case, the question is whether you have warrant for believing in an external world. You have claimed that you don’t. But that’s solipsism. Why should I bother arguing with a solipsist? It’s like arguing with a mental patient.

    Therefore, ‘knowing’ that there is a world external to one’s self is not knowledge. Exactly because it is unfalsifiable.

    You need to read up on the history of verificationalism. Watching you repeat self-refuting nonsense is just embarrassing for both of us.

  32. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

    Bnonn,

    “Obviously because the prayers are directed to a God who can actually answer them”

    This should be easily verifiable. If it is not random noise, of course, which it is.

    “If you know about the philosophy of science, then you know that science is founded on unprovable assumptions”

    No it is not. Those ‘assumptions’ are proven time and time again by observation.
    It is religious beliefs, such as the ones you continually advocate here which are unprovable! Unverifiable in fact! I would like to see you show that falsification is dead. Since you have failed at the whole external-world question, perhaps you could try come up with an unfalsifiable claim which you can show is true, or false.

    “In any case, the question is whether you have warrant for believing in
    an external world. You have claimed that you don’t. But that’s
    solipsism. Why should I bother arguing with a solipsist? It’s like
    arguing with a mental patient.”

    I have not claimed that at all. I have stated that the question of whether I can trust my senses or not is not is an unfalsifiable question. As such it is self-contradictory to believe it to be true or false.

    You should try arguing with someone who has to deny most of observable reality to believe what they want to!

  33. D Bnonn Tennant
    D Bnonn Tennant says:

    Peanut, sorry, I just don’t want these sorts of comments to stand without pointing out their fallaciousness for our readers.

    This should be easily verifiable.

    It is, but not in this life. This isn’t rocket surgery, so why you’re still having trouble with it baffles me.

    No it is not. Those ‘assumptions’ are proven time and time again by observation.

    How do you prove the regularity of nature by repeated observation? To say that the future will be like the past because we have previously observed it being like the past is a classic exercise in question-begging. You simply have to assume that your induction is valid. There is no empirical basis for it whatsoever. How could you not know this?

    It is religious beliefs, such as the ones you continually advocate here which are unprovable!

    Unless you’re referring to epistemic certainty (which science does not enjoy either!) this is simply false, and either you know that, or you’re so ignorant that you’re not in a position to be making such claims. Either way it reflects pretty poorly on you.

    I have not claimed that at all. I have stated that the question of
    whether I can trust my senses or not is not is an unfalsifiable
    question. As such it is self-contradictory to believe it to be true or
    false.

    Lol, okay then. And you call Christians irrational…

  34. Peanutaxis
    Peanutaxis says:

     Bnonn,

    “How do you prove the regularity of nature by repeated observation? To say that the future will be like the past because we have previously
    observed it being like the past is a classic exercise in
    question-begging. You simply have to assume that your induction is valid. There is no empirical basis for it whatsoever.”

    I don’t understand these comments. Firstly, calling basically all of science question-begging makes you look a little crazy don’t you think? Induction is horrendously true, we all use it all of the time, it works insanely well, and there is so much empirical evidence for induction that it’s just not funnny!
    I think that the regularity of nature is proven by observation because we have nothing else but observation.

    How do you prove logic without examples?

    “Unless you’re referring to epistemic certainty (which science does not enjoy either!) this is simply false”

    Hehe, I’m certain that there are arguments for religious beliefs, but claiming that they are provable seems a little much even for you!

    “Lol, okay then. And you call Christians irrational…”

    It is the most natural (and rational) thing in the world to ignore unfalsifiable statements, because they have no evidence either way….by definition!

  35. Tom Joad
    Tom Joad says:

    “Obviously because the prayers are directed to a God who can actually answer them” – Bnonn

    ‘This should be easily verifiable. If it is not random noise, of course, which it is.’ – Peanut

    ‘It is, but not in this life.’ – Bnonn

    Wait…. what??? The fact that god answers Prayers is ONLY verifiable after you’re dead? What an arrogant statement, and what a ridiculous form of argument. How can you possibly claim to know with any certainty what happens when we die, never mind thinking your casual claims have any weight in this argument? You have already conceded you know absolutely no details regarding heaven – whatsoever.

    What is the purpose of prayer if god doesn’t respond in this life? At the absolute minimum, you are conceding here that god’s response to prayer is so vague and uncertain as to be useless in any rational argument from the point of view of an apologetic tryin to sway a non-believer. If I don’t believe in god, and you suggest I pray and consider it, and the outcome of that prayer can only be ‘verified’ after I die, then you will, I am sure, see that it is completely useless as a mechanism of pursuasion re: god’s (non) existence.

    Interestingly, since this discussion quietened down, Fabrice Muamba ‘died’ for 78 minutes on a football field in the UK. He was resuscitated (thank you, medical staff and quick thinking off-duty doctor), but despite the fact he was clinically dead, he was unable to tell us anything about the afterlife or god. THIS POINT IS QUITE IMPORTANT!!

    And I haven’t heard you claiming that this was a miracle…. surely this counts as a miracle? Next time, let us experiment – when a football has a cardiac arrest, let’s just pray for him and monitor his progress, see how useful god is then.

  36. Al
    Al says:

     Hi Stuart,
    Yes, I’d be interested in hearing a little more about the “stomach replacement” case.   However, I don’t know your email address – where do we go from here?
    Al
    .

« Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *