Separating Fact From Fiction: How Does Christianity Fare?

when you throw your net into a sea of truth, what do you get? do you get Christianity?How do you separate fact from fiction? What procedure do you go through when confronted with a truth claim? This procedure should be practical rather than cumbersome, and it must be objective and fair rather than being biased toward a particular worldview. The goal should be finding the truth, not supporting a predefined conclusion.

I’ll go first. I only have two principles.

  • Accept the scientific and historical consensus, where there is one. In fields where there’s a high barrier to entry (becoming a physicist, for example), a layman is unqualified to evaluate evidence in that field and must rely on experts. That doesn’t mean that the experts are right, but the consensus is the best provisional approximation of the truth that we have at the moment.
  • Use the Principle of Analogy. This is the common-sense observation that we have much experience already with things that really exist (rocks, planets) and things that don’t (unicorns, legends). Let’s use this experience to find the best fit for any new claims. (I discussed the Principle of Analogy in detail here.)

Let’s take this procedure for a test drive with 15 categories of claims. (As we go through these, see what your procedure would make of them.)

Mythical animals such as unicorns, fairies, and leprechauns: fiction. Science tells us that these don’t exist and that there is no precedent for the magical powers attributed to some of these animals.

Animal surprises like the coelacanth, gorilla, Komodo dragon, and okapi: fact. Conclusive evidence for these animals was discovered only in the twentieth century.

Cryptozoological claims such as the Loch Ness Monster, Yeti, and Bigfoot: fiction. Science says that the arguments for these animals are insufficient. However, since these are (typically) claimed to have no special powers, there is a chance that evidence simply hasn’t been found. Science has been surprised before by new animals.

Curious life forms like the giraffe, blue whale, bacteria, volcanic vent life, and carnivorous plants: fact. Science tells us that they exist, even if we haven’t seen any personally.

Mythology like the Iliad, Gilgamesh, and Beowulf: fiction. Myths are sacred narratives that explain some aspect of reality (for example, the myth of Prometheus explains why we have fire and the Genesis creation myth explains where everything came from). History notes many examples of supernatural tales like these for which there is no evidence.

Legends like Merlin, Lady Godiva, and the Choking Doberman urban legend: fiction. Though they can include miracles, legends are otherwise plausible events that (unlike myths) are grounded in history. History tells us that there is insufficient evidence.

History like Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar: fact. These generals won some remarkable battles. Though supernatural stories arose around these men (not surprising in a pre-scientific culture), history rejects the supernatural elements.

Fiction like The Wizard of Oz and Harry Potter: fiction (obviously). Most are clearly labeled as fiction, though the label is occasional lost or ignored—Orson Welles’ Halloween, 1938 War of the Worlds radiocast is a famous example.

Individual claims of supernatural events like miracles, ghosts, and demonic possession: fiction. Though these are widespread and customized to each culture, history and science reject these for lack of evidence.

Individual claims of extraterrestrials like seeing a UFO or an alien encounters: fiction. Like claims for cryptids, these don’t rely on the supernatural, but science has insufficient evidence to conclude that they exist, particularly when other explanations (hoaxes, misidentification, etc.) are available. “But no one has debunked case X!” may be true but is hardly proof of an alien claim.

Pseudoscience like ESP; telepathy; Ouija boards; Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and other predictors of the future; and speaking to the dead: fiction. Insufficient evidence.

Fringe medicine like homeopathy, crystals, and Kinoki foot pads: fiction. With the stakes so high, fringe medical claims are common, whether by charlatans or people who honestly think they’ve found a new cure. But when alternative medicine provides the evidence that it works, it’s simply called “medicine.”

Science like black holes, undersea volcanoes, planets around distant stars, quantum physics, and the Big Bang: fact. Science has a remarkable track record, though, as stated above, its claims are provisional.

Conspiracy theories like the moon hoax or 9/11 as an inside job: fiction. Some conspiracies are accurate history, but many, like these examples, do not have the evidence.

Books from the other guy’s religion like Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology, Christian Science, and Mormonism: fiction. Historians discard the supernatural. That supernatural claims were made is often history, of course, but not that the claims are accurate.

That’s 15 categories, some of which are fact and some fiction. What are your criteria for separating fact from fiction, and what do they make of these examples?

The challenge for the Christian is to have an objective list with no “except for my religion” caveats. When Christians throw their net of truth into the water, a winnowing procedure that’s fine-meshed will pull up Christianity but also a lot of other religions. A procedure that’s coarser (like mine) will reject all religions.

What objective procedure can Christians have that will show Christianity as the only valid religion? I can imagine none.

Very few established institutions, governments and constitutions …
are ever destroyed by their enemies
until they have been corrupted and weakened
by their friends.
— Walter Lippman

Photo credit: Hasin Hayder

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Larry Smith

    Since it is impossible to reproduce a miracle from the past in a laboratory, it is illogical for you to claim that since a miracle from the past cannot be proven, therefor we must not believe in miracle.

    The Big Bang is not a fact. You’ve been deceived. Why do you think men like Hoyle came up with the steady state theory? Because at that time, nearly all scientists knew that the big bang was unproven. It is still unproven. Red shift alone proves it is false. Hubble knew this. Hubble stated that red shift puts the Milky Way right smack dab in the middle of the entire universe. That’s why he made up the big bang theory – he actually said that he could not accept the FACT (as he stated it) that the earth is at or near the center of the universe.

    I wonder how many creation science books you’ve read as opposed to the number of evolutionary textbooks you’ve read. For almost all evolutionists, they’ve read absolutely zero creation books.

    Do yourself a favor and visit evolutionfacts.com. Then, visit nwcreation.net’s video page and learn the truth about creation.

    Good day.

    • MNb

      “Since it is ….”
      Non sequitur. Do yourself a favour and read David Hume’s On Miracles.

      “The Big Bang is not a fact.”
      No, and that you were born out of your mother isn’t either.

      Fact: the Universe expands and almost all galaxies move away from each other.
      Fact: the first model of the expanding Universe, derived from General Relativity, predicted this:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_background_radiation

      Only possible conclusion: Big Bang.

      “I wonder how many creation science books you have read”

      None. They are a waste of money. I am familiar with the websites of many creationists though: Ken Ham, the IDiots from Seattle, Cornelius Hunter, David Rives, a few Dutchies.

      Your first link produces this:

      “Science tells us that some of these clusters—with their stars—are moving so rapidly, together, in a certain direction that it should be impossible for them to remain together if the universe were very old.”
      No source – and the owner of the site can’t provide one, because this is simply a lie. Science – specifically physics – doesn’t tell us such a thing. This shows why I don’t spend money at creacrap. It usually takes me only a few second to find such blatant falsehoods.

      That Thomas Kindell has in his biography “He has received advanced training in scientific creationism”
      Creationism isn’t science by definition. So this is another lie.

      “through the Graduate School of the Institute for Creation Research.”
      ICR is not a scientific institute, thus confirming the previous lie. Kindell admits to have studied things that have exactly zero to do with biology and physics. My compliment for being honest this time, but that disqualifies him totally for anything he says about the Big Bang and evolution.

      Now the video. It already lies before Kindell starts talking. Evolution is not anymore a religion as gravity and electricity are. It’s a scientific concept, used to explain a wide variety of empirical data.
      Then Kindell lies about the Hawking movie. It does not say Hawking’s first marriage failed because of religion.
      Next thing is that Kindell deliberately and dishonestly doesn’t mention that other physicists have challenged Hawking’s views for several years
      now.
      Immediately after this Kindell says that philosophy (“using syllogisms”) can defeat scientific views. Either his grade is worth nothing because he hasn’t understood Descartes or he is lying again. He uses it to poison the well when talks about Hawking’s iconic stature. No single physicist accepts Hawking’s conclusions just because Hawking.

      I promised myself to watch 10 minutes, but already in the fourth minute Kindell has violated his own 9th Commandment so often that the rest of the video can only be more crap.

      Next lie: “somehow that makes it fact and true in science.”

      Next lie: “Argumentum ad authority”. That applies to one single individu. Scientific consensus is the result of many individual experts, who are actually totally OK with anyone also becoming one, who routinely challenge each others views, agreeing with each other because they use a method that has demonstrated its reliability and credibility over and over again. Kindell is not an expert on what he disputes.
      Question: you have a leak in your kitchen. The consensus of plumbers says you should do X. Some ignorant fool says you should do Y. To whom are you going to listen? Kindell wants you to choose the latter.

      “Saying that something came from nothing doesn’t make it so.” Yeah – that’s exactly what creationism says (god created something from nothing by saying “Let there be ….”). Physics, incuding the Big Bang doesn’t necessarily say it.

      That quote Kindell provides around 6:00 is based on Hume’s On Miracles. A “philosopher” who doesn’t understand that point is not worth his money.

      Next lie: the scientific commitment is religious. It isn’t. It’s a methodological commitment. When doing science you ignore an eventual immaterial reality, exactly because science can’t say anything about it. Kindell just said that before this lie, thus just making it more blatant.

      Phew, only three minutes to go.

      Yeah, then Kindell says something that’s correct. “The theory that covers the data best, that has the least problems is the most likely to be true.” Combined with “science cannot disprove god”, just a minute before, this confirms Lewontin’s quote. The biggest problem with creationism is exactly that “science cannot (dis)prove god”. So again Kindell himself increases his lie.

      “Materialism doesn’t work.”
      No, apparently it’s by divine intervention that I can watch Kindell’s creacrap on my monitor.

      And immediately he commits the logical fallacy of God of the Gaps: “science (he calls it materialism) can’t explain, hence a creator”. So he’s also a hypocrite.

      Next lie: Evolution Theory was developed to push creationism out of competition. Nope. Creationism a la Kindell’s was developed after Darwin had published his Origin of Species. Not to mention that theistic evolution is totally a thing. That’s how christians like Francis Collins and Kenneth Miller can be eminent evolutionary biologists.

      Next lie: “they have defined science nowadays ….” Nope. They did 200+ years ago, after Hume’s On Miracles. If Kindell were a philosopher he should know that.

      Next lie: “the creator is eliminated by decree.” Nope. Science says nothing about immaterial entities like creators.

      Last lie I listened to: “regarding our origin there really are only two possibilities.” Kindell doesn’t know that. In fact a common, but unjustified complaint by creationists is that “science always changes”, meaning that there are many scientific possibilities, also regarding our origin.

      I doubt if even diehard creacrappers like Ken Ham, David Rives and the IDiots from Seattle can produce so many lies in just ten minutes as Kindell does.

      “learn the truth about creation”
      The truth about creationism is that it’s one big lie.

      Good day.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        That’s a long comment. Just putting in 10 minutes on the speed bag to stay in shape? Good for you.

        • MNb

          The video has a pause button ….
          Now imagine how long my comment would have been if I’d sat through the entire thing.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Since it is impossible to reproduce a miracle from the past in a laboratory, it is illogical for you to claim that since a miracle from the past cannot be proven, therefor we must not believe in miracle.

      I don’t demand proof; I only demand good evidence for an argument.

      The Big Bang is not a fact. You’ve been deceived.

      No, the Big Bang is a scientific theory (that is: an explanation), and it happens to be the scientific consensus. Give me an argument for how a layman like me can reject the consensus in a scientific field of which I’m not a part.

      I wonder how many creation science books you’ve read as opposed to the number of evolutionary textbooks you’ve read. For almost all evolutionists, they’ve read absolutely zero creation books.

      Do yourself a favor and visit evolutionfacts.com. Then, visit nwcreation.net’s video page and learn the truth about creation.

      I attend CAPS Creationist events in the Seattle area regularly! I’m quite well versed in Creationist dogma, thanks.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X