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The ONE Bias That Cripples Every Christian Apologetic Argument

Every apologetic argument? Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But if not universal, it’s nearly so. The bias is this: Christians want to interpret or spin the facts to support their preconception. Instead of following the facts where they lead, Christians would prefer to select and interpret them to show how they can still justify their worldview. They don’t want to follow the evidence where it leads; they want to stay put and shore up their position with sand bags.

Consider these examples

  • Are we talking about the good and bad that happens in life? They’ll tell you how the good in the world points to God’s love or God’s perfect design, but don’t blame the bad on God. That’s from Man’s fallen nature.
  • Are we talking about the reliability of the New Testament? They’ll show you how their preconceptions can be maintained by reinterpreting the dating evidence to support an early date for the gospel of Mark.
  • Are we talking about the Amalekite genocide in 1 Sam. 15? They’ll want to take this one slowly, to show that the plain interpretation is wrong or that God must’ve had reasons that we are simply unable to understand.
  • Are we talking about God’s not lifting a finger when a tornado destroyed a church in Wisconsin? They’ll ignore the church and focus instead on the three crosses that were left standing. About that, the pastor said, “It has been a powerful sign, and it speaks volumes to us about the presence of Christ among us.”
  • Are we talking about gay marriage? They’ll tell you how Leviticus is plainly against homosexuality even though the sacrifice of Jesus dismissed the other ritual abominations (kosher foods, animal sacrifices, mixing fabrics).
  • Are we talking about morality? They’ll tell you how morals are unchanging and universal, and they’ll handwave away God’s support of slavery and genocide in the Old Testament.
  • Are we talking about Bible prophecy? They’ll ignore how they would reject popular Bible prophecies if they came from any religion but their own.
  • Are we talking about the value of science? The Creationist will emphasize the consensus view in the area of cosmology (“The Big Bang points to a beginning!”) but dismiss it in the area of biology (“Evolution argues, ‘from goo to you via the zoo’!”).
  • Are we talking about the age of the earth? The Young Earth Creationist will tell you how radioisotope data is flawed and rock strata can be interpreted to show that Noah’s Flood happened.

Special pleading vs. following the evidence

This is just special pleading—having a high bar for evidence from the other guy’s religion but a lower one for evidence from your religion. And if you want to argue that the Christian god could exist, don’t bother. I grant that. What I want is positive, compelling evidence for your position.

I’ve heard these arguments called “zombie arguments” because, after you kill them, they just pop back up again. They’re not defeated by reason because they weren’t created by reason.

The problem, of course, is that no open-minded person interested in the truth comes at the question with a bias that they’re trying to support. Rather, they set their beliefs and assumptions aside and go where the facts lead. Whether they like the consequences of that conclusion or not is irrelevant. The solution is easy: go with the flow. Follow the facts where they point, and the problems answer themselves.

Christians, be honest with yourselves. If your worldview is nonnegotiable, admit it—to yourself at least. In this one area of life, you don’t much care what the evidence says. But since you didn’t come to faith by evidence, don’t expect that evidence to convince someone else.

Or, if this is precisely what you don’t want to do, approach discussions or new ideas openly. Don’t be quick to rearrange or reinterpret the facts to show how your presupposition could still be true. Be aware of this potential bias in your own thinking and ensure that you follow the facts.

Photo credit: lintmachine

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    “And if you want to argue that the Christian god could exist, don’t bother. I grant that.”

    But I don’t!

    No entity can have >1 ultimate characteristic, and the Christian god is claimed to have 4: omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. It is trivial to pit any of these against any of the others, at which point 1 of them must lose, so it wasn’t as “omni” as claimed.

    Indeed, if you look at the old riddle “Can God make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it?”, you see that any 1 ultimate characteristic can be pitted against itself and must therefore lose, so in the final analysis, you can’t have even 1 ultimate characteristic, ergo the Christian God is quadruply impossible.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      My favourite philosophical conundrum is: “Can God make a rock so heavy that hitting His head with it would explain the change in personality He underwent between the Old Testament and the New Testament?”
      .
      I think the issue here is over what he means by “could exist.” As in, could conceivably exist vs. could exist in the world we inhabit with the evidence we have at hand.

      • RichardSRussell

        I love your conundrum!

        Re what the issue really is, I make the stronger of the 2 cases — that the God described by Christians cannot conceivably exist. That necessarily includes (as a subset) the 2nd category, that the evidence does snot support the existence of such a creature.

      • The Other Weirdo

        I am not sure there was any change in personality between the OT and the NT, and if there was, it’s not a positive change. In the OT, God would smite his followers, either with his own powers(using natural events, natch) or by recruiting nearby tribes, or he would smite the nearby tribes by inciting his followers to genocide. The death toll is quite high in the OT.

        However, in the OT, once dead, you stayed dead. Sure, there was the iniquity of the fathers and all that jazz, but dead was dead.

        The NT, however, presents us a whole new horror: hell. Not only are you dead, potentially murdered by God’s own followers for inscrutable reasons of their own, but now you get judged and potentially sent to eternal, brutal torture for thought-crimes. And on top of that, he still incites his followers to kill those they don’t like.

        So, really, if there was a personality change, it wasn’t for the better.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          God also changed his mind about divorce and many other things.

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

          Or, at least words were placed in the mouth of God’s surrogate, in a story. Maybe Yahweh is up there right now, fuming at the mischaracterization.

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

        You risk getting that observation used at the bottom of one of my posts.

        Fair warning …

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Feel free.

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

          :-)

    • Dan F.

      oy. ::bangs head against desk::

      let’s see if we can find someone who can solve your “riddle”

      ::insert first year philosophy student here, raises hand::

      I know, I know! The possibility of wording a question so it can’t have a logical answer means the question itself was invalid and therefore pointless. Let’s go have some beer.

      Also, Bob, I haven’t had a chance to read your argument about abortion and personhood yet (it’s been that kind of summer) but I haven’t forgotten.

      • RichardSRussell

        It isn’t the question that was pointless, it was the ludicrously contradictory premise to which the question merely points out the inherent logical flaw. But the part about the beer? I like your line of thinking.

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

        Some apologists sidestep by saying that God can only do things that are logically possible. Works for me. But then, of course, that puts logic outside of God. God is bound by logic. This brings down the Transcendental Argument when apologists admit that logic isn’t here because God invented it (or that logic isn’t the way it is because of God’s choice).

        • MNb

          The Eutyphro dilemma has a far more general meaning than I realized only a few months ago.

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

          Intriguing. Expand on that, if you have time.

          The only interesting thing I hear lately is apologists trying to argue that it’s a false dilemma, and that morality is part of God’s nature (and therefore not external) and also fixed (and therefore not arbitrary). Seems like tap dancing to me.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          But then, of course, that puts logic outside of God. God is bound by logic.

          The Christian God seems bound by other things as well. For example, this whole thing about making a human sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind. Most of us today would reject the idea of human sacrifice, but apparently God was down with it. But then, who set up the rules? Who said, ‘this is what You must do to atone for the sins of mankind.’ Couldn’t God just snap his fingers and free us all from the consequences of our sins? Who makes these rules that God must follow?

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

          God has no problem just forgiving.

          “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” — Jer. 31:33–4

        • Ron

          “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Heb. 9:22

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FNafU1DQVhE

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

          Dang! And I thought that the Bible was unambiguous.

        • Dan F.

          in a language universe where “big”, “matter”, “lift”, “heavy”, “omnipotent” etc. have certain meanings writing an invalid form of a question doesn’t have any connection to reality.

          If I rephrase the question: “Can God be so omnipotent that he can’t be omnipotent” you start to see the issue. To be even more precise the question asks “Can X be so A that it’s not A?” to which the the answer is generally laughter at the silly word game joke since A cannot ever be not A (logically speaking).

          It doesn’t even need an apologetic response and any apologist that tries to take the question seriously needs their apologist card revoked.

  • Scott__F

    The best approach to bias is to state your hypothesis and then… set out to disprove it. Perfect? No. But confirmation bias is a killer and any practice that moves against it is a plus.

  • R Vogel

    ‘But since you didn’t come to faith by evidence, don’t expect that evidence to convince someone else.’
    This is beautifully put and I wish more religious people would honestly acknowledge this. Those who truly had a religious experience which brought them to the faith would not shy away from it, I believe. Having been raised in an evangelical church, however, I can tell you that many of those who grew up in the church never had a true ‘religious experience’ that led to their conversion. They simply believe what they were raised to believe. They can’t admit that because it sounds ridiculous, so they have to construct some sort of rational argument (so they think) that can justify their belief (at least in their own minds). It is self preservation plain and simple.
    The only thing I wish you would do is qualify your terms a little better. All of those who call themselves Christians are not hostile to science, are not against homosexuality or gay marriage, and are not biblical fundamentalists seeking to establish a theocracy. (just check out the Progressive Christian channel on this site) In fact, I daresay the vast majority are not. There is a radical and vocal minority, encourage and given a voice by certain political parties for their own purposes, that should be identified and marginalized as such. By using too broad of a brush I fear you, instead, marginalize your own very good arguments, and make those who call themselves Christian who are not reflective of those things cited above feel like they are being painted with the same brush.

    • Greg G.

      All of those who call themselves Christians are not hostile to science, are not against homosexuality or gay marriage, and are not biblical fundamentalists seeking to establish a theocracy. (just check out the Progressive Christian channel on this site) In fact, I daresay the vast majority are not.

      77% of the US profess to be Christian. 46% profess to believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. So the 40% of the Christians who are not hostile to science are your vast majority?

      • MNb

        There are more countries in the world than the USA. Your country is quite exceptional with that 46%. The Netherlands only has 14% atheists and 14% agnosts. Still the vast majority of the Dutch is convinced that the Earth is 4,7 billion years old.

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

          “exceptional”? Maybe “embarrassing” is more apt.

      • R Vogel

        If you would provide a citation for your statistics, I would be happy to review them. I did qualify my statement, so I have no problem being incorrect in my assessment, but 46% seems like a high number.
        I think you are making a bit of a leap, however, in assuming everyone who may answer a poll question that they believe the earth to be less than 10k is hostile to science. I have seen polls that show huge percentages of people polled cannot find the Pacific Ocean on a map, even though they were all taught it in school. This makes them ignorant, not hostile to geography. I have had many discussions where someone has taken this position and when I have challenged them they back down, retreating into ignorance with a statement like “I don’t really know, that’s what I heard.” Sure, I periodically run into some nut who tries to bring up some pseudo-scientific ‘proof’ at which point I end the conversation. There is little point in arguing with a fool.

        • Ron

          Religious Differences on the Question of Evolution

          Accept Evolution (US – 48%)
          Buddhist – 81
          Hindu – 80
          Jewish – 77
          Unaffiliated – 72
          Catholic – 58
          Orthodox – 54
          Mainline Protestant – 51
          Muslim – 45
          Black Protestant – 38
          Evangelical – 24
          Mormon – 22
          Jehovah’s Witness – 8

        • R Vogel

          That’s a really interesting graph, thanks for sharing. It is not about the original point, but it is informative nonetheless. I am less surprised when the topic is evolution versus the age of the earth, even though they are obviously linked, since many would view it as a more direct attack on their place in the universe. I would also like to have seen if asking the question in the corollary, i.e. Divine creation is the best explanation….if the answers would be different.
          So a slight majority of Catholics, Orthodox and Mainline Protestant accept evolution, and as expected a paltry amount of Evangelicals. Still it is depressingly low overall. Hopefully the next time they do this survey it will be better – look how much opinion change regarding gay marriage in such a short time!
          Isn’t it interesting that 9% of people who describe themselves as Atheist answered in the negative? I want to hear what those people think!

        • Ron

          I agree that the survey doesn’t reveal how many believe in YEC, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that Christians who don’t accept evolution probably believe in the literal creation account — especially those belonging to denominations that subscribe to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. The table on page 101 of the pdf also reveals those who attend weekly or more, feel religion is very important, pray at least daily and possess absolute beliefs in a personal God are more likely to reject evolution than all others.

          I’m not surprised that 9% of the self-described atheists answered in the negative given that:

          - 15% believe in a God or universal spirit (p. 30)
          - 6% expressed belief in a personal God (p. 31)
          - 3% believe [holy book] is the literal word of God (p. 35)
          - 13% believe in an afterlife (p. 36)
          - 12% believe in heaven (p. 37)
          - 10% believe in hell (p. 37)
          - 21% believe in miracles (p 39)
          - 14% believe in angels and demons (p. 39)
          - 12% pray regularly (p. 49)

          Why? People in doubt will often continue going through the motions to regain their faith (see Mother Theressa). Some non-believers claim they wish they had faith (see S. E. Cupp). Some are confused about their belief systems. Some go to church due to social pressure. And others like to lie on surveys.

          Also the question asked (Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth) is poorly worded. Those who believe in evolution through intelligent design may have felt it was an either/or question, while others may have perceived it as another attempt to conflate Abiogenesis with Evolution.

        • R Vogel

          Wow, a larger percentage of atheists believe in G*d then there are atheists in the country!

          So this was part of my original point. If a person who believes in G*d can mark themselves as an atheist, for the many reasons you mentioned, then it is hard to accept much about how people report their own beliefs. Many people will say they believe something, but that doesn’t mean they actually do. The best test is how strongly will they try to defend it. I will use my lovely wife as an example. She has absolutely no interest in science or philosophy. If you asked her is she believes in evolution she would say no. If you pressed her, she would back-track and say she doesn’t really know. She wouldn’t construct a bunch of cockamamie arguments to try and ‘prove’ creationism. She is not hostile to science, she just doesn’t care, so she is largely ignorant of it and if asked she will naturally fall back on tradition.

        • Greg G.

          Sure, I got those statistics from a link in Hemant’s preceding post to this one.

          http://www.bibviz.com

          That site references a 2012 Gallup poll. This is consistent with all the polls I’ve seen the past 20 years.

          If you point out the Pacific Ocean to the geographically ignorant, they will seldom argue. If you try to show the scientific evidence for an old earth to someone who thinks it’s it’s less than 10k years old, they will argue tooth and nail. They don’t argue against the science because of their ignorance, which may or may not be the case, but they argue against the science for religious reasons only. I recall a preacher’s kid arguing against evolution in middle school science class in the late 1960s. He had been interested in science before that point. Now that I think about it, he was one of the better students through 8th grade but took no advanced classes in high school except for Algebra I.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Even worse; that ~46% of the population who are Young Earth Creationists are so because of the influence of religion. It is most certainly not just a coincidence.

      • Jason Wexler

        It has been a few years since I looked up this data, but when I was doing it more frequently I remember that the 77% figure was the value cited for surveys in the 1970′s and 80′s. The last survey data I saw again about 4 years ago, said 68% of Americans identify as explicitly religious (which includes not just all varieties of Christians, but Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Neo-Pagans and assorted others). This would be consistent with last years oft trumpeted statistic of 30+% of Americans describing as “Nones”, including almost 7% of America being Atheist. The 46% young earth creationist is however consistent with the data as I last saw it reported, but that means young earth creationists outnumber pro-science Christians by nearly 2 to 1, if the updated data for religious belief I just gave is accurate.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Jason

          The 77% figure comes from the http://www.gallup.com/poll/159548/identify-christian.aspx poll performed last December. It’s a percentage point less than the year before. It includes Protestants, Catholics and Mormons.

          Many Christians pat themselves on the back by calling themselves “mainstream” without realizing that they are in the minority. They are still holding an irrational belief system. Synthesizing a religion based on undisprovability with no valid or unambiguous evidence in its favor is still in Crazytown.

        • Jason Wexler

          Thank you for that, in addition to that data I did just do another brief search, and found that different surveying groups get different answers, ranging from 60% to 80% self identified Christian. I was tending to follow a “news source” which accepted a lower value. The two main researchers in American religious demography Gallup and Pew both come up with the same 77% figure you cited, so I stand corrected.

        • Greg G.

          I forgot to add that the 46% creationist figure comes from a separate Gallup poll done earlier in 2012. I’d like to post the link but copy and paste is being problematic on this device today.

        • Jason Wexler

          That piece of data is consistent with other claims of a similar nature I have seen and is easily found if I or others is interested, so full citation is unnecessary, but thank you for being thorough.

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

      Yes, good point. Too often I’ll use “Christian” when I should remember that not all Christians believe that particular thing.

    • RichardSRussell

      “I can tell you that many of those who grew up in the church never had a true ‘religious experience’ that led to their conversion. They simply believe what they were raised to believe.”

      In fact, this very dichotomy was the cause of (yet another) schism in some early Protestant church in America. (I forget exactly which, but they were all schisming over something or other.) The church was founded on the basis that each congregant had to have had a “born again” experience to be saved. Then along came their offspring, who had not had such an experience personally but had been raised by parents who had in a church that valued such experiences. Should they count? Should they be confirmed in the congregation? Not surprisingly, “God” told some of the congregants one thing and some of them the exact opposite, and *hey presto* another schism.

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

        This sounds a bit like the early days of the Pentecostal church. They had lots of nutty experiences: speaking in tongues, translating said crazy speech, rolling on the floor, etc.

        Which ones were authentic? Which ones were mandatory? I don’t know about schisms, but this was a popular topic.

        • R Vogel

          Not just the ‘early days’ The church I was raised in has an unspoken ‘requirement’ that you ‘speak in tongues’ They would not say it directly, but if you didn’t it they were skeptical whether or not you were truly ‘saved.’ The result…people faked it in order to be accepted into the club. As Richard said above, there is no real way to test the authenticity of a ‘spritiual’ manifestation, so it was easy to fake. But of course, they demanded it double from those behind them. This is the problem of institutionalizing religion. There is a quote that is escaping me at the moment, but it in essence says that it is often the case that people more rigorously defend positions in which they have lost conviction.
          As an aside I think there is the same risk in institutions in general, atheism included. There are many poor arguments bandied about that seem to reach the level the dogma (the rock too big to lift for instance). This isn’t so much an issue for the true thinkers, but more for the growing group of casual observers who seem mainly drawn to atheism as a foil against Christianity. (Believe me, I understand the desire) An argument is either good or bad, whether it supports your position is irrelevant. I really enjoy your blog, Bob, because you seem to take pains to avoid these.

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

          Thanks for the anecdote. When I spoke of the early days, I was saying that there was some debate (if I recall correctly) about which manifestations were truly gifts. Tongues is populary seen as one of those gifts, while translating the “prophecy” is not as mandatory. (As I understand it.)

          I agree that people often double down when they should just fold and walk away.

  • avalon

    “since you didn’t come to faith by evidence, don’t expect that evidence to convince someone else.”

    Religious belief is like a love affair with the idea of God/Jesus. They’re so attached to the idea they’ll make any excuse to keep it alive. Like a spouse who is being cheated on, they’re always the last to know and accept the truth.

    • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

      Not only is it like a love affair, many Christians speak of their “relationship with Jesus” and claim not to have a “religion”, but only this. I say to that: it’s an abusive relationship. “I love you, why do you make me hurt you?” is an apt summary of the attitude they present God as taking, obviously not in such words. To drive the love affair part home, many saints spoke of their visions in terms of a nature very near to sexual, even of pseudo-orgasmic rapture. Especially telling given they were celibate.

    • MNb

      Now if they only would get rid of philosophy of religion – if people like Craig, Plantinga and Swinburne would quit their jobs and began doing something useful.
      I don’t have any problem with theists a la Kierkegaard. My female counterpart is one. She’s a muslima. Once she summarized the entire subject brilliantly: “so it’s all about having an answer ready”.

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

        Is there an equivalent of “don’t be unequally yoked” in Islam? If you lived in a stricter Muslim environment, would you be a problem for her?

  • Jakeithus

    “The problem, of course, is that no open-minded person interested in the
    truth comes at the question with a bias that they’re trying to support.
    Rather, they set their beliefs and assumptions aside and go where the
    facts lead”

    I think the problem here is that no one comes at a question free from bias and presuppositions that cloud the way they interpret facts and approach the issue to begin with. It’s why I’m firmly of the belief that reason and argument is not in itself enough to point to any one worldview as the correct one.

    It’s easier to have discussions when you understand the evidence that you yourself put forward is not seen the same way by everyone. It lessens the frustration that results from hitting a reason brick wall to understand the importance of other factors.

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

      Yes, we all have our biases. Still, I think there’s a fundamental difference between being convinceable that we’re wrong (even though we may not go to the new thinking happily or even go without a fight) and the person who’s unconvinceable with evidence of any kind.

      • Jason

        I agree, Bob, believing that a dead person came back to life (not one you actually saw die and come back, but one you read/heard about) is a pretty serious assumption, arguably more debilitating than most of our everyday assumptions.

        Still, surely you agree that the problem is that fundamentalists don’t see their own assumptions. In other words, it’s not as if they admit to the assumptions and then argue they are right. I agree with Socrates: no one knowingly does wrong (a bit different but I think it applies here). They simply see the whole situation in a completely different light. Do you agree? If so, I wonder what type of apologetic you think is best taken up by non-believers. Are we trying to actually convince believers or simply make fun of them?

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

          Rationalization (which is the real problem here, IMO) is justified in some cases. If X and Y contradict but you know without doubt that X is true, then it makes sense to find a way (even a nutty one) to rationalize Y to fit with the fact of X.

          This rationalizing is what I see them doing. The problem is, they are not entitled to their presupposition that God exists.

          I suppose you’re right that they don’t feel guilty when they do this because they know they’re being deceptive or duplicitous. But this is rather apparent when they consider the approach they use for something they want to be true (Jesus resurrected, for example) and something they don’t want to be true (Mohammed rode to heaven on a winged horse, for example). For the latter, they’re as skeptical as any atheist.

          (I don’t know if that addresses your points or not …)

        • Jason

          Yes, that addresses my point in general. It’s just so hard to argue degrees of rationalization. I’m wondering about apologetic strategy.

        • Jakeithus

          Jason, as a believer (thought hardly a fundamentalist), maybe I can provide some advice. I’m not sure it’s every really possible to argue someone out of their assumptions and into your own. All you can ever really do is provide a consistent and logical explanation for why you personally believe what you do. Assumptions will change based on factors like relationship, personal experience, etc.

          Making fun of someone in this area is a good way to turn people off from seeing things from your perspective. Approach it the way you yourself would like to be treated. I’m relatively intelligent, I know the arguments, I still don’t agree; knowing that, you might need other ways to convince me the benefit of your position. I know it’s how I approach my own life.

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

          My main issue is Christians applying inconsistent standards. For a truth claim from a non-Christian, they’re as skeptical as I am. Not closed-minded, of course, just skeptical. But then different rules apply for Christian claims.

        • Jakeithus

          I admit, it can be difficult to apply consistent standards to all claims and evidence, although I know there are claims made by Christians that I am plenty skeptical of, and truth claims from other religions that I’m willing to accept as possible.

          We’re all skeptical of claims that go against our preconceived ideas about the way the world works. The way to remove this skepticism isn’t simply through argument; that’s not the way human beings work. This can be applied to both Christian and non-religious apologetics.

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

          Is “follow the evidence where it leads” insufficient? Or are you simply saying that fallible, error-prone humans can’t adhere to this rule?

        • Jakeithus

          What I’m probably saying is “follow the evidence where it leads” is good in theory, but in reality we either have evidence that leads to 2 different conclusions depending on how one interprets it, or else it leads us to a position that is an untenable stopping point, requiring us to take a step beyond in order to function effectively.

      • Jakeithus

        I agree that there is a difference between people who are willing to change their position based on arguments, and those who will not. I suspect that we may disagree on which people fall into which camp.

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

          Perhaps. I can only speak for myself with confidence: I’d be happy to change my mind and accept that God exists. I’m just waiting for the evidence.

        • Jakeithus

          Glad to hear it, I strive to be open minded myself, and I think it leads to positive outcomes when that is the case. I’m willing to adjust my worldview if new information and arguments can lead to a better explanation of reality, I just haven’t been convinced by an alternative position. Maybe one day.

  • smrnda

    I heard a Christian once say of Pascal’s Wager “it’s not supposed to convince any naysayers, it’s about why I won’t give up believing now that I already believe.” I’m thinking that’s the type of honesty you wish you heard more often.

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

      Yes, it would be refreshing to hear more of that!

      • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

        I was once congratulated for my honesty in admitting that even were Christianity proven absolutely true, I still wouldn’t worship its god. This honesty does not seem unusual among atheists however-I’ve heard about many others saying the same thing.

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

          And how could we know that it was a supernatural god rather than super-smart aliens? Beyond a certain point, they’re indistinguishable.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Good point-Clarke’s Third Law, and all that. Naturally many believers in ancient aliens argue exactly that-according to them all myths are based on human interpretations of their encounters with powerful aliens long ago. Strangely at the same time some claim to be Christians as well, which I fail to understand (not that there aren’t many things in ancient alien theories which fail at logic). The Raelians are more consistent at least, being atheists.

        • MNb

          I don’t know if you have answered the previous time I addressed this. It was that in that case I would not have any problem to worship those super-smart aliens.

        • MNb

          I think your phrasing is unfortunate. If I would convert, ie get convinced that there is a god, I certainly would not convert to any abrahamistic brand.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Nor would I-that was my point.

        • R Vogel

          That’s the rub. There is no proof. Nor can there be. It is nonsense to even use the word ‘proof’ in that context. How could one go about proving that a reality exists beyond the one we experience? So what you would or would not do is irrelevant. It’s like debating what you would say to the current king of france or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I guess you could say the only proof would be if you died and found yourself ‘standing’ in front of said deity, and you have no idea what you would do in that case. And if it happened to be the G*d of the that particular brand of Christianity it would be too late anyway! :)

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

          Too late for what? In that (embarrassing) situation, I would note that I actually used God’s gift of the human brain. I didn’t check it at the door. I didn’t believe pleasing arguments but rather tested them.

          If that infuriates God for some bizarre reason, then he’s an irrational SOB.

        • http://avoiceinthewilderness-mcc1789.blogspot.com/ Michael

          True, it would be difficult, next to impossible.

        • Greg G.

          If I ever stood before a deity, I know what I would say: “Oops!”

  • Hidai
  • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

    Hello Bob, your arguments are mostly valid against conservative Evangelicals, but not against more sophisticated believers.

    For me faith means hoping in the midst of insufficient evidence.

    You can call this illusory but you cannot prove it either, as I’m explaining at length in my blog.

    I agree with you that it is shameful that so many conservative Christians still believe in divinely ordered genocides. (who actually were mythological stories).

    All the evil you mentioned can be largely redeemed in an afterlife, therefore it cannot be used as a strong argument against the Christian faith.

    The bias of militant atheists is to mostly things the bad religious movements without considering the good ones, which have a positive impact on society.

    Lovely greetings from Germany
    Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

    • Kodie

      All the evil you mentioned can be largely redeemed in an afterlife,
      therefore it cannot be used as a strong argument against the Christian
      faith.

      Just sweep it under the carpet, so to speak.

      • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

        Hello Kodie, since evil is utilized as a positive argument against the truth of theism, it is the atheist who has the burden of proof to show that there is no way the theist can account for it.

        Whilst they are not perfect, I believe Christians do dispose of solutions to the problem of evil, pain and suffering.

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

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

          The Christian is making the argument (the most remarkable one possible, as it turns out), so the Christian has the burden of proof.

          I’ve heard well-known apologists explain how they want to dump the burden of proof on the atheist. It’s almost like telling the world about their lord and savior is, y’know, a burden.

          Weird.

        • TheLump

          Incorrect. You must show that your beliefs are true for it to even exist.

        • MNb

          No, Lothar is correct. We have to show that there is no way the theist can account for the problem of evil etc.
          First of all all the solutions as proposed by christians are fundamentally flawed.
          Second I’d like to point out that according to many atheist philosophers the problem of evil etc. increases the probability of atheism and decreases the probability of theism. Personally I’m not sure of this but it is a point that apologists have to address if they want to maintain the credibility of their belief system.
          Third other atheists point out that the problem of evil etc. is not so much that it exists, but the vast amount of it. An omni-everything god could have done a lot more to reduce it. More than 2 years ago god could have send a collective nightmare to those Japanese victims, giving them the choice to run or to stay. Thus free will would not have been affected, rather on the contrary. Obviously this never has happened.
          Fourth the problem of evil etc. only applies to omni-everything gods. It’s not a problem for hindu’s or pastafarians.
          Fifth I still have to meet the first abrahamist who reconverts because of the problem of evil (though many have deconverted). This affirms BobS’ point – apologetics is biased.

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

          We have to show that there is no way the theist can account for the problem of evil etc.

          We have to? You disagree that the Christian has the burden of proof?

          I’m happy to respond to Sohn’s challenge, but if I fail, that doesn’t mean that atheism is wrong. The Christian still has to carry the burden of proof for his enormous, incredible claim.

          Third other atheists point out that the problem of evil etc. is not so much that it exists, but the vast amount of it.

          The Christian handwaves how misery can cause good. Sure, someone going through a dark period can come out a stronger, better person. But take Bambi slowly dying in the forest. What possible good is there in that? Or natural disasters—if God is trying to take out a handful of bad people, is his scalpel that dull that he must kill hundreds of thousands of innocents as well?

          And then the idea that God killing someone so the rest of us can figure out compassion is contemptible.

          Fourth the problem of evil etc. only applies to omni-everything gods. It’s not a problem for hindu’s or pastafarians.

          Or, indeed, for some of the other flavors of early Christianity! The Marcionite and Gnostic Christians had no problem of evil.

        • Kodie

          Your account for it was it can be redeemed in the afterlife. Sure, that does sound like what a theist would say, but it’s not what I would call a real answer. Take this big problem we have believing in your god and hide it in your magic inaccessible closet.

          Very sophisticated and not biased even a little bit. /sarcasm

        • busterggi

          “Whilst they are not perfect, I believe Christians do dispose of solutions to the problem of evil, pain and suffering.”

          You mean they blame them on Satan whose existance is equally not proven. Unacceptable.

        • Greg G.

          Greetings Lothars Sohn

          The Problem of Evil is older than Christianity. It doesn’t proves there is no god by showing that there is no being that is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. If a being lacks either of those qualities, why call it a god? Theists duck this. WLCraig, with multiple degrees and at least one doctorate, has to misstate it to argue against it. Apologists don’t argue against it honestly.

          An omnipotent being could achieve any desired outcome by any means. This means suffering is unnecessary as omnipotence could achieve an end with or without suffering. There is suffering. If there is an omnipotence, it chooses for there to be unnecessary suffering. That is sadistic, a quality inconsistent with omnibenevolence.

          If there is an omnibenevolence, then it is incapable of preventing suffering.

          The idea that good can come from suffering is a failed excuse. An omnipotence could accomplish the good without the suffering so the end doesn’t justify the means.

          Why live your life hoping to spend eternity with an entity that chooses there to be suffering, is incapable of preventing it, or both?

          If the Problem of Evil doesn’t keep a theist up at night, the theist hasn’t yet understood the problem.

          The existence of suffering proves there is no being that is

        • Greg G.

          Please ignore that last sentence fragment. My smart phone browser was having problems moving around so I couldn’t get to it to delete it.

      • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

        Moreover, as I showed in a recent post, materialist cannot account for the existence of moral facts in a meaningful way.

        Cheers and have a nice night or day (I’m living in Germany).

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        • MNb

          That’s only because you don’t understand the difference between a fact and a value. Materialists perfectly understand why the homo sapiens has developed moral values. My compatriot Frans de Waal has done a lot of excellent research on this. If you call this meaningful is …. meaningless.
          It’s wishful thinking that values “have to come from somewhere”. In the end your argument isn’t any better than Turek’s argument from morality.

        • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

          But in a world of facts, VALUES cannot exist.

          Or if you believe in the moral values I’ve mentioned, you’re no longer a materialist.

          If you disagree, I’d like to see the molecules to which the value: “rape is wrong” are IDENTICAL to.

          And thanks for the ad-hominem.

          I don’t care to be the most sophisticated thinker in the world, if I’m not loving in my human relationships, this means nothing.

          “Frans de Waal” has showed (among other) that our moral decisions stem from feelings and intuitions in the primate brain.

          Het is zehr belangrijk, maar it does not show us what a moral value is.

          Basically, there are two possibilities:

          1) everything real is made up of matter

          2) there are other things as real

          If you believe 1), you ought to be able showing what are the molecules which make up the value “rape is wrong.”

          Please, don’t see any kind of hostility against you in my comment.

          Debatte en discussie sinn belangrijk :=)

          Please, pardon my poor Dutch attempts ;-)

          Beste groete uit Duitsland

          Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
          http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        • GubbaBumpkin

          If you believe 1), you ought to be able showing what are the molecules which make up the value “rape is wrong.”

          We’ll wait here while you go away and read up on reification.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          But in a world of facts, VALUES cannot exist

          WTF? That needs explaining. (Actually, it need retraction, but you can start with the explanation.)

          .

          If morality is is objective, why is it that our moral codes are so obviously anthropocentric? Is it wrong if a Coridromius tahitiensis (obscure insect whose mating procedure involves traumatic insemination) rapes another? Would our ideas of how to morally treat others of our own species differ if we were not social primates?

        • Ron

          “But in a world of facts, VALUES cannot exist.”

          Sam Harris defines values as “facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.” This provides us with an empirical framework to test truth claims about morality.

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

          I would also challenge Lothars Sohn to show us the dictionary definition of “value” that supports this.

          “Value” is just a word. It means what we say that it means, and the dictionary is a good place to find that consensus.

        • Ron

          I’m assuming he’s arguing the “is/ought” problem.

          “Value” means relative worth or merit, and our selfish will to survive* (our highest value) makes morality (standards of conduct) a practical necessity.

          * For those who aren’t suffering from severe depressions or mental illness.

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

          I’m assuming he’s arguing the “is/ought” problem.

          I agree that an “is” won’t get you to an objective “ought.” But why imagine that objective oughts exist?

        • Ron

          That depends on which definition of objective you’re referring to. If you mean existing independent of a conscious mind, then I would agree. But if you mean goal-directed values (as I described one post earlier) then I would disagree.

          However, having re-read his comment more carefully, I now realize that he was arguing against physicalism by asking to be shown the molecules which make up the value “rape is wrong.” To me this is akin to asking which electromagnetic fields constitute the “Documents” folder on your hard drive. Neuroscience simply hasn’t advanced to the stage where we can pinpoint the exact location of our memories — yet. And “rape is wrong” isn’t a thing in itself anyways; rather, it’s a description of the unpleasant biochemical state induced by forced sexual relations.

          As to his second point, the onus remains with him to demonstrate how non-material things can exist independent of human consciousness.

          What are your thoughts?

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

          Right, I was referring to “objective” as in “true whether there are people here to appreciate it or not.” (I suppose in this case, “it’s nice to help little old ladies across the street” would be true even if there were not people, ladies, or streets.)

          Your hard drive example is like the stereotypical high school nerd who analyzes his physical reaction when he’s near this one girl—elevated heart rate, palms damp, etc. But the more useful analysis is when his friend says, “Dude, you’re in love!”

          As for material/non-material things, I remember learning about abstract vs. concrete nouns a bazillion years ago in school. That “good” or “evil” or “morality” aren’t concrete isn’t especially surprising. There must be thousands of such words—courage, fury, obsequiousness, blather.

        • Ron

          Ok, thanks! I think we’re on the same page. And I too seem to recall learning the same lessons when I went to school. Perhaps these concepts are no longer taught in public schools. Or perhaps it reflects the outcome of being home-schooled. Either way, it’s a crying shame.

        • Kodie

          You are exposing all your bias.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          “Moral facts” – I presume you mean objective morality. First I would ask you to establish that such a thing exists. I consider “moral facts” to be a category error; there are “moral values” but “not moral facts.” From past posts, I believe Mr. Seidensticker agrees with my stance. It will do you no good to appeal to one unproveable concept as evidence for another.

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

          That’s right. I have yet to hear any non-embarrassing explanation for why objective moral truths exist and that we can access them.

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

          You don’t need to point to moral truths. Courage is also not material. Nor purple or enthusiasm.

          This is just the distinction between concrete nouns (car) and abstract nouns (courage).

          Now that we’re on the same page, does your thinking say anything interesting about morality?

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

      your arguments are mostly valid against conservative Evangelicals, but not against more sophisticated believers.

      To some extent, I agree. When I attack some literal interpretation of the Bible (Noah’s flood or Garden of Eden, for example), a Christian who rejects a literal interpretation is immune from that attack. But many of my posts are more general. Are you saying that none of my posts respond to your brand of Christianity?

      If you have pro-Christian arguments that you find especially powerful, let me know. If I haven’t yet addressed them, perhaps I will.

      For me faith means hoping in the midst of insufficient evidence.

      Yes, and that’s my concern. If you believe in something, not because of evidence but only because of faith, why believe in that thing?

      You can call this illusory but you cannot prove it either

      If you’re saying that I don’t prove that God doesn’t exist, I agree. (Some particular definitions of God may be a different story.) But that’s not how reason works. We don’t believe in stuff until that belief is proven to be wrong. Rather, we start with the null hypothesis (in this case: the supernatural doesn’t exist) and then go from there. If there’s compelling evidence, great! The evidence argues that the supernatural exists. But if the evidence is insufficient to carry that immense claim, then we’re obliged to reject it.

      All the evil you mentioned can be largely redeemed in an afterlife

      What afterlife? Show me that it exists and then throw it into the conversation. Until then, it’s just a bizarre, groundless fantasy.

      The bias of militant atheists is to mostly things the bad religious movements without considering the good ones, which have a positive impact on society.

      I doubt that we’d have much disagreement over any clearly evidenced claim about the benefits of religion. Now that we’re on the same page, I’d prefer to talk about how Christianity’s foundation is flawed and Christian excesses within society (mostly American society).

      Lovely greetings from Germany

      Much appreciated!

      • http://lotharson.wordpress.com/ Lothars Sohn

        Hello, my time is limited right now.

        There areroughly three positions:

        a) it is extremely unlikely that God exists

        b) it is extremely likely that God exists

        c) we don’t know this likehood

        If someone in position c) start believing in a) due to evil, my response could lead her to reconsider her decision.

        A good positive argument for atheism should look like that:

        - theism is assumed-

        – logical consequences are drawn and facts observed

        - an inconsistency with theism is found

        I cannot argue for God’s existence, but on my blog I provide arguments against reductive materialism.

        Lovely greetings from Germany
        Liebe Grüße aus Deutschland

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son
        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

        • MNb

          Does this apply to square circles as well? Or would you say that we can be absolutely sure (in one meaning or another) that square circles don’t exist?
          The reason I ask is because I think a non-material god falls in the same category as the square circle.

          “I grant that.”
          Here I disagree with BobS. I don’t grant that and give myself a 7 on the scale of Dawkins. If I can justify it is of course another matter and doesn’t have much to do with this article.

          In general I agree that BobS like most American atheist bloggers doesn’t pay enough attention to sophisticated believers.
          You’re not particularly sophisticated though. You still have to learn the difference between a fact and a value. Your argument against reductive materialism (btw “reductive” seems superfluous to me) thus fails.

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

          I don’t grant that

          I grant it mostly to pursue lower-hanging fruit.

          In general I agree that BobS like most American atheist bloggers doesn’t pay enough attention to sophisticated believers.

          Quite possibly true. Everyone: feel free to point out strong Christian apologetics that I haven’t touched on. I’m happy to broaden my horizons.

        • Greg G.

          Strong Christian apologetics is weak Christian apologetics run through a thesaurus. It makes the equivocation harder to spot.

        • Shane

          I don’t even…. what? I read your article on ‘reductive materialism.’ What?

        • Kodie

          I cannot argue for God’s existence, but

          No, you can’t. None of you can.

          on my blog I provide arguments against reductive materialism.

          Strawman, hand-waving, and ignorance. Atheism is not a positive claim. You are defending your beliefs, which you cannot argue for, then why do you have them? They actually make more sense to you than reality? You make the claim that science has never given an adequate answer to morality. They have and you just ignore it because of your giant bias.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          A good positive argument for atheism should look like that:
          - theism is assumed-
          – logical consequences are drawn and facts observed

          The logical consequences depend upon which God is assumed to exist. While theism in general cannot be formally disproven, the Christian God almost certainly does not exist.

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

          There areroughly three positions:
          a) it is extremely unlikely that God exists
          b) it is extremely likely that God exists
          c) we don’t know this likehood
          If someone in position c) start believing in a) due to evil, my response could lead her to reconsider her decision.

          Why? Because an omniscient god could have his reasons? Sure, but where’s the evidence for that? Given none, that possibility is off the table.

          A good positive argument for atheism should look like that:
          - theism is assumed-

          Nope. The null hypothesis is that the incredible claim that God created the universe is false. The burden of proof is on your broad shoulders.

          I cannot argue for God’s existence

          So then aren’t you throwing in the towel?

      • R Vogel

        Yes, and that’s my concern. If you believe in something, not because of evidence but only because of faith, why believe in that thing?

        This is interesting. So are you most concerned about the poor (and I would hold impossible) arguments trying to convince you there is a G*d, or the belief itself? Isn’t why he believes it his business as long as he is not (1) trying to convince you to believe it and/or (2) using that belief as the basis for other arguments (such as those against marriage inclusion)? He clearly gets something out of it, even if it is only psychological, so his justification is his own. Some people really believe their dog loves them and that makes them happy. Why should I be bothered with that as long as they are not trying to convince me that their dog loves me too! ;p

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

          What I find interesting is a Christian who wants to discuss things in the domain of reason and science. Imagine if they said, “Hey, I just believe on faith, OK? Leave me alone.” That’d be fine with me. But that’s not their position.

          And, as you note, moving from a Christian belief into public policy also annoys me—prayer in the city council meeting, Creationism in the public school science classroom, “In God We Trust” as the motto, Christian arguments against stem cell research, and so on. If they just believed and did their Christian thing and they respected the First Amendment, that’d be great.

        • R Vogel

          Wouldn’t it, though? Totally agree. Thanks for the blog, btw – I really enjoy it.

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

          :-)

    • Ron

      “For me faith means hoping in the midst of insufficient evidence.”

      Faith and hope are not synonymous. Faith is an epistemic claim, i.e. a claim to knowledge (usually via divine revelation), whereas hope is a wish or desire for something to be true.

      Properly restated, what you’re saying is:

      For me knowledge means wishing in the midst of insufficient evidence.

    • busterggi

      So you choose to believe the cherries you find sweet but reject those you find sour. Not really all that different from fundies who just say all the cherries are sweet – if you understand how they’re supposed to taste.

  • MNb

    “Instead of following the facts where they lead”
    What’s really amazing is that they still claim to follow the facts where they lead. Humans don’t have limits when it comes to self-deception.

    “no open-minded person interested in the truth comes at the question with a bias that they’re trying to support”
    Addition: point this out to the apologist and he/she will answer that open-minded persons don’t exist. We atheists come at that question with a bias too – it’s just the opposite bias. Sometimes my mind gets boggled.

    “Christians, be honest with yourselves.”
    In even more polite words than yours Herman Philipse has made clear why they can’t. They need the success of science to back up their views, even it’s only the philosophical foundation of science.
    Sure some argue that “there are other ways of knowledge”. They never specify though how we can check if that knowledge is correct, so it’s obvious to anyone, including the vast majority of believers, that the scientific way (assuming that there actually are other ways, which I dispute) is the superior one. They don’t like it (that’s why we sometimes can enjoy attacks on methodological naturalism) but sooner or later have to use it. Even a mad hatter like Ken Ham understands this.
    Believers need to jump the scientific bandwagon to maintain credibility for their belief system, even if they don’t want to deep in their hearts.

  • Malcolm Reynolds

    Good grief, I was going to point counter-point Lothars post below, but after reading some of his replies I’ve thought better. There’s so much faulty logic and a complete lack of deductive reasoning it would be pointless(unless I want to argue in circles). The thought processes, or lack thereof, presented as argument or validation of the beliefs of the devout are patently absurd, and maddening. This is why for the most part that I refrain from entering into discussions with believers, because you can not win, even when you do. So I mostly just join in and pile on with my fellow atheists, and point and laugh. It really is a pity though because I enjoy a good debate, but finding and engaging in a cogent conversation with the religious is about as likely as finding “god” himself.

  • Buckley

    I have had a discussion with Fundies in the past that revolves around the All-Powerful God idea. Once you get them to agree to the idea that god is all powerful and that human can never truly know the divine on earth, you being the Evolution-Creation debate. In other words, if god is all-powerful, couldn’t he have established or “created” evolution? The cracks begin to appear and you’ve found an opening.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      The other omni-properties come into play then. An all-powerful God who used evolution to create puts His omni-benevolence into question, because evolution has involved a lot of suffering and death.

      • Buckley

        Yes I agree, but I like to get them into a trap for which most people then have to think and not easily dismiss. It’s the same when talking about homosexuality, once you get them to admit that their beliefs establish that god created homosexuals then you have an opening the question their other beliefs. I usually start with Creation and Homosexuals with Fundies because it’s usually the ones they are ready to talk about.

      • R Vogel

        Problem of evil is always a problem whether evolution is part of the process or not, but they would never assert that G*d did use evolution, only that he could.

    • R Vogel

      Fundies! I love it!!

    • R Vogel

      This isn’t going to work with a Fundamentalist, though, because they will say that of course he ‘could’ have, but the Bible says……The problem with arguing with a Fundamentalist is that the Bible, or their interpretation of it (which you will never get them to admit) is the first premise. If you don’t accept that then there is no basis for a discussion, because it will always come back to it. Save time – go argue with your dog!

      • Buckley

        True, my dog is a lot more interesting.

  • Rick

    So you are saying atheists are not guilty of this ONE bias? I’m not saying I’m buying your spin on the Christian positions above, nor am I conceding they are representative of the most commonly held theology. But you are definitely a pot calling the kettle black on this one. Here are some atheist biases:

    We’ve never seen proof that only science reveals truth, but we PUT OUR TRUST in the discipline of science to reveal all.

    We’ve never seen matter come into being but because matter is here and we see it now, and since we also refuse to consider the possibility of a creator of matter, we BELIEVE that naturalistic forces must have caused all we see.

    We’ve never seen order come from disorder (waves on the beach don’t count here, BTW, because we have an understood repetitive process we have observed to work there) but we BELIEVE that mutation and natural selection COULD have accomplished it.

    We’ve never actually seen any examples of increasing evolution complexity, but we BELIEVE it to be true.

    We also BELIEVE that all the order we see in the universe in terms of galaxies and orbital systems was a complete accident of chance. Every time. Everywhere. Really. Just ’cause.

    I think I will choose to place trust in an orderly creator instead.

    You want to be the kettle, or the pot?

    • Nemo

      How exactly are galaxies orderly? Even as we speak, the universe is flying apart in such a way that will eventually cause a heat death. But some galaxies don’t, and instead collide into each other, as our own Milky Way will one day do with the Andromeda. Stars become so massive that they collapse on themselves and destroy everything that comes near them. And, there’s a force called dark energy which could theoretically unravel every particle in the universe. Sounds chaotic to me.

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

        And when we imagine the universe trillions of years hence in the heat death that you imagine, there’s not much order there. Thermodynamic decline ain’t pretty.

        • Rick

          But yet we see a habitable corner. Perhaps the only one in the existing universe. As said above, how lucky!

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

          When you look at the wasteland that God created, it sure doesn’t look like it was created for us. 3° K and a vacuum isn’t the image of Paradise that pops to mind for me.

        • RichardSRussell

          Life would hardly arise in an UNinhabitable corner, now would it? Instead it shows up exactly where you’d expect it to be. Lucky? Nah, lucky would be if it sprang up spontaneously on the surface of the Sun. Followed almost immediately thereafter by unlucky.

    • Ron

      Which orderly creator are you referring to, Rick? Plus, why is there only one? Why can’t there be two or more creators? And by what method did you come to this conclusion?

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

        I favor deities made from noodles …

        • Rick

          Another meaningful deep thought.

    • MNb

      “So you are saying …”
      No, no single atheist I ever met is saying this. That’s a nice combination of a tu quoque and a strawman you pull off.

      “we PUT OUR TRUST in the discipline of science ….”
      So do you when using the internet or when visiting a doctor.
      Btw truth in science is not the same as truth in a belief system.

      “We’ve never seen matter come into being”
      Actually we have: electron/positron creation.

      “we BELIEVE that naturalistic forces must have caused all we see.”
      Besides the fact that modern physics is probabilistic and not causal I’d like to point out that supernatural entities are by definition not testable. What’s more – this assumption (not the same as a belief) has had enormous consequences the last 200 years, more than any belief system can claim.

      “We’ve never seen order come from disorder”
      How do you quantify order and disorder? By means of entropy? Then I’ll tell you a secret. In your refrigerator comes order from disorder.

      “We’ve never actually seen any examples of increasing evolution complexity”
      Again, how do you quantify complexity? If it’s in the usual vague creationist way I can answer this question positively. Just google speciation.

      “all the order we see in the universe in terms of galaxies and orbital systems was a complete accident of chance.”
      Again you have to quantify order. In general we understand orbital systems pretty well thanks to modern physics.
      You’re just another ignorant.

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

        Then I’ll tell you a secret. In your refrigerator comes order from disorder.

        Oh, now that was just mean. Next you’re going to tell him there’s no Santa??

        • Rick

          Burst that bubble, didn’t we?

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

          Since you say you had no idea what MNb was talking about, I doubt we’re on the same page.

      • Rick

        See HELP response to Bob. You’re talking about a different category.

        Speciation is universally a mixing of existing characteristics, not a creation of new information.

        Refrigerator entropy? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Strawman? I’m paraphrasing what I see on this site.

        Electron / positron? Nah. That’s a physical thing that happens from matter alreay dhers. I’m talking about original matter from non-matter. You’re baking cookies.

        Isn’t it just so lucky we happen to be in a corner of habitable order amidst all the chaos we do see and which is so prevalent? Won the lottery again! Understanding some things about order isn’t the same as being able to explain how it came about.

        “You’re just another ignorant.” Perhaps, but I know a complete sentence when I see it. That one doesn’t compute.

        • Kodie

          Isn’t it just so lucky we happen to be in a corner of habitable order amidst all the chaos we do see and which is so prevalent?

          Where else would we be?

          You demonstrate your bias for sorting celestial bodies into habitable and uninhabitable as a primary aspect and no other qualities matter for uncommonness. If a planet can support life, life may arise, and I don’t see how it wouldn’t speciate if it did. You think one special planet was created in the whole universe, like god is a farmer, this is where he decided to plant humans. That’s a really weird assumption. I’m sure there are places in your back yard you can’t get grass to grow and other places that would flourish with weeds if you didn’t keep after them. It’s not even. Why would you think god would make a single planet (that we currently know of), that is the only home of life? He is omnipotent?

          Why is there even a rest of the universe? Does the earth, strictly speaking, need all those other things in the vaaaaaaaaast, unknowable, unseeable, uninhabited and uninhabitable universe that you are assuming, to be in a proper position to support life? Couldn’t god just make it a little smaller?

          Statistically, if you take a handful of gray pebbles and throw them, they will each land somewhere. The spread might look random to you. Pick them up and color one green. Throw them again and see where the green one landed, disregard all the other ones. Draw a circle around the green one and designate this the correct place for the green rock to land. Pick them up again and throw them again 10 times. How many times does the green pebble land inside your circle? Probably just the one time, but it did happen. You are leaping to the conclusion that god threw all the pebbles, then picked up the green one and moved it to the circle, essentially.

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

          You’re talking about a different category.

          I think what you mean to say is, “I changed what I was talking about midstream and am hoping that no one notices that my first challenge was poorly constructed. Oops.”

          Speciation is universally a mixing of existing characteristics, not a creation of new information.

          How can there be a new species without new information?

        • MNb

          “”That’s a physical thing that happens from matter alreay there.”
          The Casimier effect, ignorant.

          “Refrigerator entropy? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
          That doesn’t surprise me. Elementary college physics is too hard to grasp for you. Hint: Wikipedia has some fairly good stuff on this subject. I can judge that as a teacher physics.

          “Isn’t it just so lucky we happen to be in a corner of habitable order amidst all the chaos we do see and which is so prevalent?”
          There are precious few theists who don’t fall back on teleology. We happen to be here exactly because this corner is habitable.
          You still haven’t told us how to quantify order and complexity. Of course you won’t, because then it would be clear that you are incoherent.

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

          We happen to be here exactly because this
          corner is habitable.

          “What?? You mean this hole wasn’t sculpted with me in mind?”

          – Mr. Puddle.

        • mikmik

          I’m talking about original matter from non-matter.

          Hawking radiation. Hey, where did God come from? Always existed? So did the oscillating universe!

          Isn’t it just so lucky we happen to be in a corner of habitable order amidst all the chaos we do see and which is so prevalent? Won the lottery again!

          The whole universe is habitable. Give it some time. Our little corner of the universe is the same as every other corner. It is inhabited by galaxy clusters, galaxies, stars, and planetary systems. Don’t forget that any culture, or life form, that has come before us is so fucking far advanced that they operate on a level of knowledge so far above us that we don’t have the technology to detect them – and that’s not even considering special relativity constraints.
          In fact, PROVE It, that we are the only life in the universe. You cannot, because at the least, we can only see 46 billion light years in any direction, but the universe is actually 14 trillion times as big. In other words, even if we are the only technological life form in the observable universe, this still only covers .00000000000007th of the universe – minimum.

          We haven’t the slightest clue if we are the only place that has life.

          But so what? We only can tell that it took a long time for US to develop. What if we wait another 100 billion years, or so, and then see if we are the only life.

          Then, let’s talk about the percentage of space that classical matter comprises. 4.6%.

          Now, please tell me what you mean by ‘chaotic.’ Keep in mind this:

          http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=473258

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

      We’ve never seen proof that only science reveals truth, but we PUT OUR TRUST in the discipline of science to reveal all.

      And no one’s holding their breath. Such proof will never come.

      Science delivers. Is it not worthy of trust?

      We’ve never seen matter come into being but because matter is here and we see it now, and since we also refuse to consider the possibility of a creator of matter, we BELIEVE that naturalistic forces must have caused all we see.

      As I’ve made clear, I’m happy to consider the possibility of a Creator. No closed-mindedness here. And I would hope that voluminous scientific evidence of a Creator’s existence would cause any scientist to take note.

      In the last couple of millennia, there have been countless supernatural explanations overturned. By contrast, there have been zero supposedly natural explanations that we’ve realized must be replaced by a supernatural explanation. The trend is pretty clear. Sounds like trust is justified yet again.

      We’ve never seen order come from disorder (waves on the beach don’t count here, BTW, because we have an understood repetitive process we have observed to work there) but we BELIEVE that mutation and natural selection COULD have accomplished it.

      We see order come from disorder all the time. Are you not paying attention? Here’s a little homework for you: make a saturated sugar solution, then pour the syrup into a glass or bowl. Let the water evaporate and create sugar crystals. Look at the crystals under a microscope, and you’ll see order from disorder. QED.

      You’ve probably assigned this very experiment yourself. Perhaps you’re forgetful?

      We’ve never actually seen any examples of increasing evolution complexity, but we BELIEVE it to be true.

      Just on faith? No evidence to support this nutty evolution idea?

      Another homework assignment: try your slam-dunk arguments against evolution on a professor with a doctorate in biology. Tell me how it goes in deconverting him from his Darwinian delusion.

      You want to be the kettle, or the pot?

      I’m missing the parallels. I think in the analogy, both the pot and the kettle are black.

      • Rick

        Crystals are like waves. No intelligence required. What I’m looking for is more like “HELP” written on a beach with stones. Unmistakable. You’ve got nothing with your homework. QED nada.

        Science is worthy of some trust, sure, but it is fallible. There are other forms of truth worth thinking about.

        • Kodie

          Right, bias.

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

          Let’s recap. You said “We’ve never seen order come from disorder.” I showed you just one example, that of crystals. MNb gave another example: a heat pump. Primed with these, I’m sure any of us can think of lots more.

          What I’m looking for is more like “HELP” written on a beach with stones.

          Then I guess you shoulda asked for that.

          You said that we never, ever, see order come from disorder. And you were wrong. Before you change the subject and do your little victory dance with “Unmistakable. You’ve got nothing with your homework. QED nada,” you need to first acknowledge your error. Then let’s see what justification you have for your victory dance.

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

          Science is worthy of some trust, sure, but it is fallible. There are other forms of truth worth thinking about.

          Uh, yes, it’s fallible. Show me what’s better.

        • MNb

          “What I’m looking for is more like “HELP” written on a beach with stones.”
          So am I. And if conclusively has been shown that no human being was involved I will consider divine intervention (I’d rather rephrase this in statistical terms, but for the moment your example will do). Then I’d like to know how an immaterial being like your god managed to arrange those very material stones in such a wonderful way. You see, according to modern physics the chance that this happens is extremely unlikely (remember: modern physics is all about probability, of which causality is just an extreme variation, namely with correlation 1).
          On a quantum level though probability distributions are quite different. And if one thing is sure then it is that at the Big Bang and a short time afterwards quantum effects played the major role.
          HELP written on a beach with stones is rather evidence for your creationism, not for my scientismism. No, you don’t recognize a complete sentence when you see it.

    • RichardSRussell

      “We’ve never seen proof that only science reveals truth, but we PUT OUR TRUST in the discipline of science to reveal all.”

      The fundamental rule of analysis is always to ask “Compared to what?”

      Compared to religion? Ha!

      Religion’s unbroken record of failure:

      Name one scientific principle revealed thru prayer.
      Name one medical cure discovered by reading the Bible.
      Name one work of literature translated from tongue-speakers.
      Name one catastrophe averted by a holy amulet.
      Name one amputee healed by a miracle.
      Name one mountain — or even one grain of sand — moved by faith.

      All these claims of religion — all of them, 100% — have been failures.
      Each time. Every time. All the time.
      Those who made the claims were either deluded fools or outright liars.
      Religion is beyond worthless and well into outright harmful.

      If you knew of a horse which had lost its previous 999 races, would you still bet on it for #1000?

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

        Yeah, but what about all the fulfilled prophecies?!

        Oh, no–wait a minute

    • fsda

      Thank you for demonstrating your absolute ignorance of reality. It is no wonder you believe in magic.

  • Sophia Sadek

    When you start to look into the various debates within Christianity over which tradition is orthodox and which not, then things get even worse. Wars have been fought over petting squabbles about doctrinal issues that seem rather absurd to the outsider. Free Church advocates, for example, reject the Gnostic tradition as being too elitist. If they went to the trouble of actually studying what the Gnostics studied, they would not be so quick to dismiss that much maligned sect.

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

      I don’t have any more use for Gnostic Christianity than the kinds that are popular today, but one thing I will say in its favor is that it nicely dispenses with the Problem of Evil. (The crazy world that we live in, according to Gnostic Christians, wasn’t made by the Good Guy.)

      • Sophia Sadek

        I suspect that the Gnostics would not have treated Galileo as poorly as did the orthodox. On the other hand, they would never have been in a position to condemn. After thinking about the Free Church position on the Gnositcs, I realized that it was rather elitist of them to so quickly dismiss the Gnosiics as elitist.

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