William Lane Craig Replies to My Attack on Faith Statements (3 of 3)

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William Lane Craig (WLC) has responded to my attack on faith statements (or “doctrinal statements”) in “A Call for Honesty in Christian Scholarship.” Begin with part 1 here.

Let’s conclude our response to WLC.

Bias? That’s not a problem. We’re all biased!

WLC has an interesting response to the problem of bias.

Finally, and most importantly, the allegation of bias is ultimately irrelevant. . . . Every historian approaches a topic with his biases and point of view. . . . As the history is supported by the weight of the evidence, the historian’s personal biases become irrelevant.

This is the “So what if I’m biased? Everyone’s biased!” argument. I guess I’m old-fashioned on this subject, because I’d like to think that bias isn’t binary (you’re biased or you’re not) but is measured on a scale, and we can and should strive to be as unbiased as possible.

The point can be generalized. We all have our biases, including atheists. (If Christian scholars need to attach a disclaimer to their work, so do atheists!)

When I subordinate myself to an unchanging statement, I’ll do just that. Until then, I’m free to reach any conclusion the evidence leads me to, and I only have fear of embarrassment keeping me from changing. No job rides on this. The situation for the professional Christian scholar is quite different.

I agree with WLC on a point

WLC does make one important point, so let me take the opportunity to clarify my position. WLC said:

But our work is to be judged by the soundness of our arguments, not by our biases. So you’ll never find me dismissing the work of an atheist philosopher on the grounds that he is biased, even though it may be blatantly obvious. Rather I seek to expose the fallacy in his reasoning or the false or unjustified premiss in his argument.

So the answer to your question, How do we know if the work of a Christian scholar is to be trusted? is easy: you assess it by the arguments and evidence he offers in support of his conclusions. Ultimately, that’s all that matters.

Yes, it would be an ad hominem fallacy to reject the work out of hand solely because it came from a Christian scholar. “That article came from a Christian scholar bound by a doctrinal statement; therefore, it’s crap” would be an example of this error.

Here’s what I’m saying.

1. Christian institutions do themselves no favors with doctrinal statements because they put a cloud of doubt over their scholars’ work. Signing such a statement binds the scholars to never reach a contrary conclusion on any of its points of dogma. They can never agree with one of those points without our dismissing the work as an inevitable conclusion rather than the result of honest research. It’s a disservice to the scholars, and it’s a disservice to their work.

2. WLC is right that I can analyze the arguments in an article and judge for myself, but this is my only option. I can’t accept or reject the conclusion without that analysis because the doctrinal statement means the author has no inherent reputation.

3. Nonexpert readers will often be unable to do the analysis. Let me illustrate with an example. I recently had lunch with three Christians from the local Reasons to Believe chapter (RTB is an old-earth Creationist group). We were talking about whether Daniel accurately prophesied Jesus (it didn’t). I summarized the evidence that Daniel was written in the 160s BCE. One of my antagonists replied that that was impossible since the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written around 300 BCE. How could Daniel have been written in the 160s if it was included in the Septuagint? The answer, which I had to research afterwards to find out, is that only the Pentateuch (the first five books) were included in the original Septuagint.

Expert readers might be able to provide the devil’s advocate challenges to test the work, as WLC suggests, but not all readers are experts. WLC’s response becomes, “So you think that their conclusion is flawed? Prove it!” but that’s an unreasonable burden on the reader and a handicap to the author’s reputation.

4. This option isn’t available beyond a single paper. Take this recent headline as an example: “12 Historical Facts About The Resurrection Of Jesus Most Scholars Agree Upon.” Are these “scholars” bound by doctrinal statements? WLC’s solution would be to just read their work and evaluate it, but that’s not available to us when there’s an appeal to the consensus of an entire discipline as in this case. If these scholars are constrained in their work, this statement about consensus is meaningless.

Academic freedom at a Christian college

WLC brings up Ivy League schools as exemplars but never addresses the elephant in the room: that they don’t use doctrinal statements. Indeed, they are world class institutions because they don’t use them. Doctrinal statements are incompatible with free inquiry.

WLC is a professor at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, and Talbot gets its accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). This makes Talbot answerable to the ATS policy guidelines on “Academic Freedom and Tenure.” While this policy accepts doctrinal statements (“specific confessional adherence”), it also demands, “No confessional standard obviates the requirement for responsible liberty of conscience in the Jewish or the Christian community or the practice of the highest ideals of academic freedom.”

It also requires tenure. “The provision for appointment on indefinite tenure is one way in which institutions safeguard their faculties’ freedom to teach, to inquire, and to organize their academic programs. It is not intended to confer personal privilege.”

Given that this is an accreditation association for theology schools, there are presumably interpretations or loopholes that allow binding doctrinal statements. Nevertheless, this is a lot more respect for academic freedom than WLC seemed interested in defending or even acknowledging.

Conclusion

Freedom to change one’s mind is an essential right in any institution. It’s a foundational concept in the academic freedom that reigns in the Ivy League colleges that WLC himself points to with admiration.

WLC’s unhelpful response is to say that it doesn’t bother him that there are constraints. They don’t get in his way. He doesn’t need to change his mind. But if they hobble your life . . . well then it sucks to be you.

I can perhaps see WLC’s position. He is part of a church in which a perfect God made a clear statement of his unchanging rules that unaccountably is so ambiguous that new Christian denominations are splintering off at a rate of two per day. The doctrinal statement could be his finger in the dike, though that’s a futile gesture when he wants to simultaneously carve out a safe space for Christian thought while polishing Christianity’s image as a field able to hold its own in the marketplace of ideas.

He can’t have both.

The Bible:
The Goatherder’s Guide to the Universe
Seth Andrews

 Image credit: Greger Ravik, flickr, CC

 

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  • rubaxter

    I would have been most surprised that his “As the history is supported by the weight of the evidence, the historian’s personal biases become irrelevant.” didn’t cause his fingers to drop off at the first knuckles or make his tongue swell in his mouth and choke him.

    His facts are actually factoids, they are irrelevant, and his arguments merely rhetorical ‘fling it against the wall and see what sticks’.

    • Kevin K

      Well, and the conclusions he reaches from his “facts” are often in direct contradiction to the conclusions reached by the originators. Guth-Valenkin being the most-notable atheists who have told Craig (in vain) to stop portraying their work as being supportive of the notion of a creative deity.

  • Tony D’Arcy

    WLC “biased” ? Surely not ? He’s been touched by the Holy Ghost.

    • Kevin K

      I thought they covered up that statue.

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

      He’s been touched by the Holy Ghost.

      I hope he filed charges.

      • Herald Newman

        WLC is too afraid to come forward with his allegations, under fears of slut shaming and calls of “fake news”.

      • al kimeea

        heh, please show us on this doll…

    • Ignorant Amos

      Oh he’s definitely touched alright.

      Another way to say that someone is not quite “right” in the head. Usually accompanied by a knowing look and a nod along with the hand lightly tapped to the forehead.

      https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=touched

  • Joe

    Before visiting atheist/skeptical blogs I always assumed we were biased towards reality.

    • Chuck Johnson

      Small children are biased towards a simple reality.
      Their upbringing teaches them the more complicated realities that the grownups have invented.
      These more complicated realities contain plenty of room for error, ignorance and dishonesty.

    • RichardSRussell

      Atheists and skeptics who take the time to identify themselves as such and offer up blogs on those topics probably are biased toward reality. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that all atheists are so inclined. “Atheism” simply means without (“a-“) god (“theos”) belief (“-ism”). It says nothing at all about how that condition arose. The largest group of atheists in the world are about a billion Chinese, whose atheism is of the “naive” kind — due solely to never having been exposed to the concept of deities. It hardly makes them hard-headed skeptics, as most of them subscribe to ancestor veneration, numerology, traditional Chinese “medicine”, feng shui, chakra belief, and a host of other irrational ideas.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Many years ago there was an atheist who was right into the UFO phenomenon. That was on the Dawkins site btw.

        Like ya say, atheism means just one thing and it’s that one thing, and only that one thing, that all atheists have in common. Otherwise, we are as different as finger prints.

        That’s not to say that many of us have similar thoughts on many subjects as ya well know.

        ETA: sentence

  • Otto

    Yes everyone has biases… we all have biases and we often unconsciously work hard at keeping them, though at some point when we face our own bias consciously we end up rejecting our preconceived notions, and when that happens we should be happy we did. Faith statements are external informed rules to hammer our bias into stone, that is completely different than admitting we are human and therefore have bias!. It is that type of bullshit reasoning that lead me out of Christianity (in this case equivocation). When I would get the kind of answer to my questions that WLC used here I knew there was a problem with them, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. WLC and his ilk know what they are doing and use the ignorance of their audience against them, I think if there is anything about my Christian education that infuriates me… it’s that.

    • Michael Neville

      The faith statements require bias and if that bias is rejected for whatever reason then the honest scholar no longer has a job. WLC thinks this is a good thing.

      • Otto

        The jackass takes a flaw and uses it as camouflage.

        • TheNuszAbides

          one man’s bug is another jackassman’s feature.

  • Kevin K

    I wonder what Craig thinks of this…tenured professor forced out of a Christian college teaching position for saying that Christians and Muslims worship the same god.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-firing-reversal-20160206-story.html

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

      And that’s at Wheaton, WLC’s alma mater.

      So much for academic freedom.

      • Kevin K

        I don’t recall Craig defending this professor…funny that…

  • Paul

    “I’m free to reach any conclusion the evidence leads me to”

    No, you’re not, Bob. You’ve set up road blocks. Road blocks like “The natural trumps the supernatural.” That’s not following the evidence where it leads. That’s you telling the evidence where you want to go. If you start with a presupposition of naturalism, you’re only going to reach a naturalistic conclusion. “The natural trumps the supernatural” has become one of your doctrinal statements. It’s time for you to take that roadblock down. Only you can take it down, because you’re the one that put it there.
    You’ve also said on occasion that you need to follow the majority scientific opinion. That’s not following the evidence where it leads either. That’s letting other people tell you where to go. Try evaluating arguments on both sides.

    • Greg G.

      There is no presupposition of naturalism. We can only investigate things that can be detected, that is, evidence. If there are gods affecting the universe, there is no real reason we could not detect those effects.

      If there was evidence for a god, then you would accept naturalism and we would accept that there was a god. Wind and lightning were once considered evidence for gods but now we know they are natural events. You presuppose supernaturalism because you need an excuse to believe in God without evidence.

      • Paul

        “…you need an excuse to believe in God without evidence.”

        Without evidence? EVERYTHING is evidence. If I see ripples in the sand on the beach, I can safely conclude it was done by natural processes. If I walk further down the beach and find the phrase “John loves Mary” etched into the sand, I can safely conclude it was the result of an intelligence and not the work of natural processes like the wind and the waves. People can recognize design when the see it – unless they presuppose naturalism.

        • Greg G.

          You have to presuppose supernaturalism to call everything “design”.

        • Paul

          Did I call “everything” design? No, I called everything evidence. Then I explained the difference between natural causes and intelligent causes. Try reading my statements more closely.

        • MNb

          Intelligent causes perfectly can belong to our natural reality. Your very own comments are a perfect example of it.
          Paul: natural.
          Paul’s computer: natural.
          Internet: natural.
          This blog designed by Disqus and moderated by BobS: natural.
          The transport to my computer: natural.
          The pixels that form your comment: natural.

        • Joe

          Can you give me an example of something that is designed vs something “natural”?

        • Michael Neville

          But intelligence is natural, so an intelligent cause is a natural cause. If I see “John loves Mary” written in the sand I assume that the highest probability is that it was written by John, the next highest probability is that it was written by someone who knows John and Mary, and there’s a small probability that it was written by someone just for grins and giggles. That it was written by a supernatural critter is not one of the reasonable choices since I have no reason to believe that supernatural critters exist.

        • Ficino

          Really it was written by the Unmoved Mover, whose intention controls every string of causal agents. The Unmoved Mover keeps very close tabs on human erotic stuff.

          /S

        • Michael Neville

          Does the Unmoved Mover have a long white beard, helps people find their car keys, decides which football teams win games and, obviously, has an unhealthy obsession with sex?

        • Ignorant Amos

          …decides which football teams win games…

          Cunt wasn’t there last weekend…my team was beaten at home 2-0 by the winning team, in a league game not seen since 1926….prayers are fucked up a bit….unless Hamilton Accie’s reached a tipping point….whata loada shite.

        • Michael Neville

          But he did decide which team won the game and it wasn’t yours.

        • Ignorant Amos

          My point being that there are a hell of a lot more Glasgow Rangers supporters throughout the world…even if a fraction of them prayed, they still eclipse the number of Hamilton Academical supporters, yet the power of prayer didn’t work. Maybe the one atheist in the stand fucked us over….but wait a wee minute…sometimes we win, in fact, we win more than any other club in the world…so that can’t be it. Mysterious ways indeed.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangers_F.C.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rangers_F.C._supporters

        • Lark62

          The Unmoved Mover created about 2,000,000,000 galaxies, each with about 100,000,000 to 600,000,000 stars. And yet the mostest important thing evar is what one podunk species on one podunk planet in one podunk galaxy does with it’s genitalia.

          Yep. That makes perfect sense.

        • MNb

          “decides which football teams win games ”
          Listen to the Wise Words of the Late Dutch Messias from Barcelona, ye heretic. He was the one and only JC.

          https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-a0E4HkXbWNo/Vxpr1FXps6I/AAAAAAAA8dw/GmIuCc_AmG8a8RkuOXRF0mBHCLgnGLlOwCLcB/s1600/frases%2Bcelebres%2Bateismo%2Bcristianos%2Bdios%2Bjesus%2Breligion%2Bnoe%2Bmolina%2Bjohan%2Bcruyff%2Bfutbol%2Bmundial%2Bholanda%2Bdeporte%2Bcita.jpg

          Let’s face it – Jesus Christ was good, but he was no Johan Cruijff.

        • Rudy R

          What’s an intelligent cause?

        • Greg G.

          It follows from your premise. If the universe is intelligently designed, then everything in it is intelligently designed.

          Not everything that looks like intelligent design is intelligent design.

          Here is Saturn:
          http://spaceflightinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/W00077250-234_coul_hi_web.jpg

          This link shows it in motion:

          https://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/4up9cw/saturns_hexagon_in_motion/

        • Michael Neville

          The hexagon at Saturn’s south pole is quite regular. I wonder why Paul’s god designed it.

        • TheNuszAbides

          just connecting points after another orgy of Cosmic Spirograph.

          https://www.pinterest.com.au/explore/spirograph-art/

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

          People can recognize design when the see it

          Design? What do you have in mind?

          Is this just Paley’s watch argument?

        • MNb

          “EVERYTHING is evidence.”
          Exactly. And as long EVERYTHING can be evidence for your god NOTHING is.

          “I can safely conclude”
          What’s your method?

          “it was the result of an intelligence”
          An intelligence belonging to our natural reality. Because we have a reliable method that has yielded tangible results that justifies this conclusion.

          “People can recognize design when the see it – unless they presuppose naturalism”
          Methodological naturalism totally allows design. See the ripples in the sand and “John loves Mary” mentioned by yourself.
          Dualism – the presupposition that supernatural explanations is possible allows EVERYTHING and hence NOTHING.
          Philosophical naturalism concludes from this painful fact (for you) and from the observation that you don’t have a method that the concept of a supernatural reality belongs in the dustbin.

        • im-skeptical

          EVERYTHING is evidence.

          – I couldn’t agree more. It’s a shame that you can’t examine ALL the evidence, and evaluate it objectively, without presupposing theism.

        • Joe

          People can recognize design when the see it – unless they presuppose naturalism.

          Yes we can. So, what is the equivalent to “John loves Mary” in terms of evidence for God?

        • Max Doubt

          “Yes we can. So, what is the equivalent to “John loves Mary” in terms of evidence for God?”

          The little thing in the middle of this intelligently designed sand sculpture is a five inch long puffer fish. That fish made the sculpture. Took him about a week. The person in the photo is just an observer. Probably some sort of scientist by profession.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4d4641097f4bd1cfa1b6be706c10048dfc83e4d2a4f38fa09122cc0d5d35bb31.jpg

        • eric

          You might want to look up this thing called “archaeology.” Scientists deal with the question of whether something they’re looking at might be designed or not all the time. They don’t presuppose either a natural explanation (‘it’s just a rock’) or a design one (‘it’s a hand axe’). Rather, they look at the evidence and present their findings.

          What they don’t do, however, is take the bible as incrontrovertible evidence. They treat it like any other old book purporting supernatural things.

        • Halbe

          Ýes, there’s a lot of design in nature. It is the result of a slow but very effective natural design process called evolution.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Nope. People can recognize COMPLEXITY…which DOESN’T require ‘design’, just change and a selection mechanism, the latter being surviving long enough to breed.

        • Tommy

          You guys are fantastic!

        • Otto

          We can recognize design vs non-design by comparing the two…but in your view everything is designed…so then the question is how did you determine that if there is no comparison you can make. The ripples in the sand would ALSO be designed.

    • MNb

      “If you start with a presupposition of naturalism, you’re only going to reach a naturalistic conclusion.”
      Correct. This is what science does. This is called methodological naturalism. You should thank it every time you turn on your computer and post something on internet.

      “It’s time for you to take that roadblock down. Only you can take it down, because you’re the one that put it there.”
      Alas, no. You want to presuppose that supernatural conclusions are possible. You have to develop a reliable method that yields tangible results. You need to make clear how you’re going to separate correct conclusions about the supernatural from incorrect ones. And if you are going to use observations of our natural reality (what Greg G underneath calls “evidence”) you are the one who must show how the salto mortale towards conclusions about the supernatural are justified.
      The simple fact that you try to shift this burden upon unbelievers tells us that you don’t have such a method and justification. We don’t have any reason to accept your conclusions – the first one being that “a supernatural reality” is a meaningful concept.

      In short: back up or shut up.

    • RichardSRussell

      More precisely, Bob is free to reach any conclusion he prefers, evidence or not. It’s just that he prefers to accept conclusions based on evidence, because those are the most reliable guide to how things really work.

      You too are free to reach any conclusion you prefer (ain’t it grand living in a free country?), and if you prefer to reach ones that presuppose supernaturalism, why, go right ahead! But I’d advise you not to try that technique for crossing a busy highway while blindfolded. That old “reliability” thing, you know.

    • Joe

      What is the supernatural?

      • Robert Templeton

        That which cannot exist in our reality. They don’t get it. If it happens in this universe, it is, by definition, natural.

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

      No, you’re not, Bob. You’ve set up road blocks. Road blocks like “The natural trumps the supernatural.” That’s not following the evidence where it leads.

      Say you flip a coin a thousand times and it comes up heads every time. After 10 times, the idea came into your head that this is a biased coin (maybe it has two heads), and that hypothesis seemed more and more confirmed as you kept flipping.

      Now it’s time to flip time #1001. What do you think will come up? Is using prior experience valid in predicting future outcomes?

      And if you think it’s likely that it’ll be heads yet again, what do you think about the fact that every explanation that we’ve gotten widespread agreement on (across cultures and religions, backed up with evidence) has been a natural explanation? Would it then be fair to develop the hypothesis “the natural explanation trumps the supernatural one”?

      That’s you telling the evidence where you want to go. If you start with a presupposition of naturalism, you’re only going to reach a naturalistic conclusion.

      You think it’ll be heads on time #1001, but maybe it comes up tails. You don’t ignore that evidence; you need to work it into your hypothesis of the fairness of the coin.

      Just to be clear, “presupposition of naturalism” in my case simply means that I expect things will have a natural explanation. Maybe they won’t—I’m open to that.

      And you seem to suggest that I have a presupposition of naturalism as if you don’t. When you hear of a Hindu statue supernaturally drinking milk (this was a story from about 10 years ago), do you figure that Hindu gods and natural explanation(s) are, at the outset, equally likely?

      You’ve also said on occasion that you need to follow the majority scientific opinion. That’s not following the evidence where it leads either.

      Now you’ve changed subjects.

      Help me understand how things are done. Fill in the blank: “I will reject the scientific consensus in a field of which I am not an expert because ___.”

      • Ignorant Amos

        Is using prior experience valid in predicting future outcomes?

        I’m reminded of this o/p….

        Reasonable Expectations Based on Prior Evidence

        http://quinesqueue.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/reasonable-expectations-based-on-prior.html

      • Paul

        I’ll address the second part first it will be shorter:

        “Now you’ve changed subjects.”

        No, I didn’t. I listed 2 ways in which you were not following the evidence where it leads. I thought that was apparent from the statement: “That’s not following the evidence where it leads either.”

        “Help me understand how things are done. Fill in the blank: “I will reject the scientific consensus in a field of which I am not an expert ___.””

        1) When their conclusions don’t follow from the premises.
        2) When they don’t back up there hypotheses with evidence.

        3) When they claim they have evidence, is that really the best explanation for the evidence? If not, I’ll reject it.

        Drawing on your coin flip analogy:

        If all you observed was canines producing canines, why would you think that canines produced something different in the past?
        If all you observed was felines producing felines, why would you think that felines produced something different in the past?
        If all you observed was equines producing equines, why would you think that equines produced something different in the past?
        Would the answer be “Because the majority of scientists said so.”?

        “Just to be clear, “presupposition of naturalism” in my case simply means that I expect things will have a natural explanation.”

        Has a natural cause ever produced specified complex information? Take SETI for example. How would scientists distinguish between signals from an intelligent source (perhaps alien life forms) and signals from a natural source?

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

          “Help me understand how things are done. Fill in the blank: “I will reject the scientific consensus in a field of which I am not an expert ___.””
          1) When their conclusions don’t follow from the premises.
          2) When they don’t back up there hypotheses with evidence.
          3) When they claim they have evidence, is that really the best explanation for the evidence? If not, I’ll reject it.

          So the experts (to whom these ideas aren’t foreign) think that the consensus abides by these rules but you judge them to be wrong. You’re kind of Judge of All Science, aren’t you?

          Have a little humility.

          If all you observed was canines producing canines, why would you think that canines produced something different in the past?

          Children aren’t identical to their parents. Given time, that change might be significant.

          You do understand, I hope, that to see speciation in an animal usually takes a very long time. “I never observe anything but something in the canine family” isn’t saying anything surprising from a biology standpoint.

          Would the answer be “Because the majority of scientists said so.”?

          You’re really having a hard time with the “you’re not an expert” part, aren’t you?

          Has a natural cause ever produced specified complex information?

          Has a mind ever existed outside of a physical brain?

        • Paul

          I’m not the judge of all science. But I can determine if an argument is valid and sound. Their conclusion may be correct, but if they don’t follow from the premises it’s a bad argument.

          “…Given time, that change might be significant”

          So your argument rests on speculation? If human DNA contains information on how to build arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc… when would it ever get the information to produce something completely different? I’m not talking about mutations that would produce faulty version of arms, legs, etc…, but something entirely new that wasn’t in the DNA to begin with.

          “..speciation in an animal usually takes a very long time.”

          I don’t know about “usually”, but speciation has been observed – one of the requirements of the scientific method. And species have only been observed within the same kind of animal. Wolves, dogs, dingos, coyotes, etc. are species within the canine kind. Yes, it’s not surprising from a biology standpoint. But the majority of scientists want me to think that something extraordinary happened in the past – that something canine-like-but-not-entirely-canine gave rise to the canines. Then ultimately go back to a single common ancestor – some kind of single-celled organism. In order for something to be scientific, it has to be testable and repeatable. Has there been an experiment performed over millions of years that tested and reproduced this amoeba-to-man evolution hypothesis?

          “Has a mind ever existed outside of a physical brain?”

          Have natural causes ever produced anything immaterial? If matter is all that there is, where did the laws of logic come from? They don’t physically exist.
          Do you know whether or not that natural causes ultimately produced your brain in the first place? If so, how would you know?

        • MNb

          The laws of logic are part of our natural reality. You yet have to show that they can be part of a supernatural reality. The hundreds of gods and the thousands of christian religions suggest otherwise.

          Do you know whether or not that supernatural causes ultimately produced your brain in the first place? If so, how would you know? What is your method? What were the means used and the procedures followed?

          Science – ie methodological naturalism – at least partly can answer these questions. You only have “goddiddid”.

        • Max Doubt

          “I’m not the judge of all science. But I can determine if an argument is valid and sound.”

          You can determine that by what method? It seems like incredulity is your go-to tool for that. Incredulity has not been shown to be a reliable method for explaining what we observe about the universe, so we reject your use of it as a reasonable tool for determining if something is valid and sound.

          “I’m not talking about mutations that would produce faulty version of arms, legs, etc…, but something entirely new that wasn’t in the DNA to begin with.”

          We’re talking about mutations that would produce improved version of arms, legs, etc.

          “But the majority of scientists want me to think that something extraordinary happened in the past – that something canine-like-but-not-entirely-canine gave rise to the canines.”

          Other than relying on your incredulity, how have you determined that persistent changes accumulated over millions of generations can’t get you from something canine-like-but-not-entirely-canine to canine? What method have you used to conclude that billions of tiny changes must somehow be constrained to prevent a “kind” from eventually evolving into another “kind”?

          “Then ultimately go back to a single common ancestor – some kind of single-celled organism. In order for something to be scientific, it has to be testable and repeatable.”

          The tests and repetition have been done. Earth is the Petri dish. Some heat here, some water there, environmental pressures, land masses that connect one place and detach somewhere else… The experiments are endless and the results are everywhere. You may not consider the analyses valid, but if you want to hover over the experiments from outset to conclusion, you’re demanding adherence to a process that you’re wholly unwilling to apply to any alternative explanations. If the experiments fail to give us consistent, predictable results – and they don’t fail to do that – at the very most all you can say is you don’t know.

          “Has there been an experiment performed over millions of years that tested and reproduced this amoeba-to-man evolution hypothesis?”

          Yes, the experiments have been going on since the earliest life we know of. Given the time frame required to perform them, obviously humans haven’t been hands-on involved throughout. We have, however, objectively analyzed the results of billions of these experiments. We make predictions based on the findings, then we compare those to the results of the next experiment. When the predictions from the former align with the results of the latter, we have sound reason to accept that the tentative conclusions are valid. It’s a process that provides consistent non-conflicting explanations. Simply speaking, it works. On the other hand, constructing explanations for how the universe works based on guesses, incredulity, ignorance, faith, and a belief in magic doesn’t work.

          “Have natural causes ever produced anything immaterial? If matter is all that there is, where did the laws of logic come from? They don’t physically exist.”

          Type a few lines into your word processor. Don’t save. Turn off your computer.

          “Do you know whether or not that natural causes ultimately produced your brain in the first place? If so, how would you know?”

          We have good reason to accept that as a tentative explanation, sure. The process we employ to reach that conclusion is shown time after time after time to be a reliable method. If you have an alternative explanation that takes into account all the data we have and neglects none of it, you are free to write up your paper and present it for review. So far nobody has been able to work the magic of a god into a reasonable explanation. Ever.

        • Greg G.

          I’m not talking about mutations that would produce faulty version of arms, legs, etc…, but something entirely new that wasn’t in the DNA to begin with.

          This is the silliness you get from creationist material. A common mutation is gene duplication. It doesn’t necessarily do any harm. But then one of the copies can have slight mutations that are either more or less sensitive. Depending on the environment, this could be a benefit over the original allele so the carriers of the new version survive and reproduce more than those without it. It could be something that makes a heavier coat of fur. If the carrier is in a cooler region, its range is expanded but the same mutation in the tropics might be detrimental. A different line from the one with the original duplication might have a mutation that thins out the fur so it is beneficial in the tropics.

          There are four major structures to proteins with the differences being on the outer regions so the proteins have different effects. This is how plant proteins, which can be produced cheaply, can be modified into hormones for humans.

          So lots of minor changes to a few basic proteins over a few billion years can account for the diversity we see in nature.

          You should be ashamed of yourself for having listened to creationists.

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

          I’m not the judge of all science. But I can determine if an argument is valid and sound.

          And I’m still hung up on you, a non-biologist, telling the entire community of biologists that they’ve gotten it wrong. Someone who does this has a little too grand a view of their own capabilities. Maybe you forgot to take your humility pill this morning.

          So your argument rests on speculation?

          I’m gently trying to coax you into accepting the basics of evolution–y’know the consensus view of all biologists? No, not speculation.

          If human DNA contains information on how to build arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc… whe n would it ever get the information to produce something completely different?

          Is it your proposal that we go back to the first page of the biology textbook and debate it from there? Dude, there’s a consensus view in a field that you don’t understand. When you say, “I don’t understand how you think X happens,” well, duh. You don’t understand. Get that doctorate in biology, and I’ll have some respect for your contrary opinion. Right now, you’re simply expressing the ignorance of the outsider. There’s nothing wrong with that—we all have to start somewhere, and I’m in the same boat—but proclaiming grand conclusions based on your ignorance is (how shall I put this?) stupid.

          I don’t know about “usually”, but speciation has been observed – one of the requirements of the scientific method. And species have only been observed within the same kind of animal.

          What the hell does “kind” mean? Biology has a series of categories—species, genus, family, order, class, phylum. Use one of the big boy words, OK. Baraminology is just pretend.

          Are you saying that new species have been observed but you want to see a new genus or family? That can be arranged, but you’ll need to spend millennia on this project.

          Wolves, dogs, dingos, coyotes, etc. are species within the canine kind. Yes, it’s not surpris ing from a biology standpoint. But the majority of scientists want me to think that something extraordinary happened in the past – that something canine-like-but-not-entirely-canine gave rise to the canines.

          I’m not following. You’re OK with mutation and selection producing new species, but the idea of letting that run its course over very long periods of time and producing greater change sounds ridiculous to you?

          Then ultimately go back to a single common ancestor – some kind of single-celled organism.

          You’ve read anything by Michael Behe? He accepts common descent.

          In order for something to be scientific, it has to be testable and repeatable. Has there been an experiment performed over millions of years that tested and reproduced this amoeba-to-man evolution hypothesis?

          “I’m a little skeptical about this accretion disk theory. I want to see another solar system with earth get formed. I’ve got 4.6 billion years—go.”

          Have natural causes ever produced anything immaterial?

          You mean something immaterial like courage and vigor? These are what we call “abstract nouns,” and there are lots of them.

          If matter is all that there is, where did the laws of logic come from?

          I’ve written about the Transcendental Argument, if that’s what you’re asking about.

        • MNb

          “But I can determine if an argument is valid and sound.”
          If you could you would not talk about specified complex information.
          Or can you tell the difference between specified and unspecified information?
          Can you tell the difference between complex and non-complex information?
          How do you determine the difference when some piece of information is presented to you?

        • Michael Neville

          If matter is all that there is, where did the laws of logic come from?

          From people thinking about how best to achieve some sort of truth and testing arguments for validity.

          Formal logic was invented independently by the Greeks, the Chinese and the Sanskriti Indians. These logical systems differ but all are sound, i.e. no deduction goes from true premises to a false conclusion. The Greek system is what Westerners are most familiar with and that system has the Laws of Logic™. These aren’t actually scientific laws, like the law of gravity or the law of ideal gasses, rather they are axioms, statements which are considered true but aren’t proven. These axioms are: (1) the Law of Identity, viz: A=A or A equals A; (b) the Law of Contradiction (also confusingly called the Law of Non-contradiction), viz: A≠~A or A does not equal not-A; and (iii) the Law of the Excluded Middle, viz, A∨~A or either A or not-A. Now if you can show how anything supernatural is needed for these three axioms to be devised then you will have revolutionized philosophical logic.

        • Otto

          The fact that you don’t know the answer to certain questions doesn’t make your overall conclusion logical. How in the world can you justify questioning where logic comes from and then use a logical fallacy to justify your position on the supernatural?

        • Michael Neville

          As a corollary to that, the fact that I don’t understand X means simply that I don’t understand X. It has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of X.

        • TheNuszAbides

          and it sure as death’n’taxes doesn’t establish when/where anyone is therefore obligated to “have faith.”

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “If human DNA contains information on how to build arms, legs, eyes, ears, etc… when would it ever get the information to produce something completely different?”

          That’s the MUTATION part of evolution…the other is Natural Selection, by which a particular mutation either makes the organism MORE fit to reproduce, and thus to pass on the trait, or less fit to reproduce, eventually reducing if not eliminating the trait.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          ” If matter is all that there is, where did the laws of logic come from? They don’t physically exist.”

          Laws of logic are DEscriptive, not PREscriptive…so they’re just a codification of analysis of observations. No supernatural ANYTHING required.

        • al kimeea

          “I’m not talking about mutations that would produce faulty version of
          arms, legs, etc…, but something entirely new that wasn’t in the DNA to
          begin with.”

          This assumes all mutations are of the scary monsters and super freaks variety. Fossils and DNA show us we were fish that mutated arms and legs. Mammals like us also have a common ancestor that survived when the big Dinos did not (in general) and filled the niche. Apes like us also have a common ancestor that filled a niche. There is all kinds of evidence to support this, or we go with… the Bible. We’re still waiting on evidence to support IT and as a metaphor it is still useless.

          Logic? Why is it so hard to accept that long ago, one of us figured it out? Many of us are very obviously quite creative and it has been that way for some time.

        • Max Doubt

          “Many of us are very obviously quite creative and it has been that way for some time.”

          Since the very beginning. About 6000 years ago. 😉

        • MNb

          If all you observed is micro-stepping, why would you think that macro-stepping is possible?

          Stairs don’t exist.

          https://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/the-scientific-case-against-stairs/

        • TheNuszAbides

          or, stairs exist but all stairways are endless.

        • MNb

          “Has a natural cause ever produced specified complex information?”
          Yes.
          Like you when you typed your comment.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          – We notice dogs share certain characteristics, some to a greater degree
          – Based on that, it’s reasonable to assume such characteristics have been around longer
          – archaeological evidence also shows that such features existed in the past in animals that were NOT modern dogs / wolves / etc
          – SOME of the characteristics are shared with other species with which modern dogs are not interfertile.
          – Hence, it’s reasonable to assume a proto-animal that had such common features, which later, via time and mutation, became the animals we see today.

          This works in the same way we know Pluto’s orbital period even though we haven’t known about it long enough for Pluto to have completed a single orbit yet.

          It’s called projecting from the evidence, subject to statistics.

          Show me ANYPLACE in the ‘bible’ where anything supernatural can be analyzed or an inference tree constructed in such a fashion that is falsifiable and gives predictive power.

    • Max Doubt

      “That’s not following the evidence where it leads either. That’s letting other people tell you where to go. Try evaluating arguments on both sides.”

      Unfortunately for those who believe gods exist, there’s a big ol’ monkey wrench in their works. You see, when put to an objective analysis, there is nothing the god you imagine can do out here in the real world that I can’t do, too. And there are several things I can do, objectively, demonstrably, that the god you imagine can’t. So here I am, more powerful than your god. Even if you could demonstrate objectively that a god exists, it can’t even change the course of nature like I can. What good is it?

    • Lark.62

      Since there is no evidence whatsoever for the supernatural, following evidence = concluding there is no supernatural.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Show me something supernatural, repeatable, and unexplainable, before you claim that as a disqualifier.

      I’ll wait.

      • Max Doubt

        “I’ll wait.”

        I’m going to stick my neck out here and guess it’ll be quite a long time before it happens. Here. Smoke some of this. It’ll help fill the time.

    • al kimeea

      another arrow in the knee of irony

    • TheNuszAbides

      Try evaluating arguments on both sides.

      helping to boost the demand for ironymeters, I see.

  • Ignorant Amos

    One of my antagonists replied that that was impossible since the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written around 300 BCE. How could Daniel have been written in the 160s if it was included in the Septuagint? The answer, which I had to research afterwards to find out, is that only the Pentateuch (the first five books) were included in the original Septuagint.

    The Septuagint translation was started by Ptolemy II for the library in Alexandria circa 300 BCE, but it wasn’t completed in the manner we recognise it today until 130 BCE…plenty of time for Daniel to be included. Do these Christian types think that those scholars who posit a 160 BCE authorship of Daniel, are just like theologians and pulling their data from outta their arse?

  • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

    Re the Septuagint: This is one of those arguments that is interesting, but ultimately causes more problems for Christians who have a simple idea of inerrancy than it does for unbelievers.
    Daniel itself is odd in being partially written in Hebrew and partially in Aramaic.
    But the Septuagint text has significant additions (massive prayers added to chapter 3, for example) and differences from the Hebrew/Aramaic. Which is “right”?

    From the NET Bible notes on chapter 4:

    In general, the LXX of chapters 4-6 is very different from the MT, so much so that the following notes will call attention only to selected readings. … There is a growing trend in modern scholarship to take the LXX of chapters 4-6 much more seriously than was the case in most earlier text-critical studies that considered this issue.

    This debate becomes more relevant when one considers that the New Testament is written in Greek. Which OT texts did they consider authoritative, and why?

    • Greg G.

      Matthew 13:14b-15 and Acts 28:26b-27 is the longest verbatim match (47 words, 235 letters; second longest is 33 words, 171 letters) in the morphological Greek New Testament and happens to be the longest and second longest verbatim matches with the Septuagint, as both omit a redundant word in Isaiah 6:9-10 LXX.

      Luke 4:18-19 has Jesus walking into a synagogue in Nazareth and reading Isaiah 61:1-2 that has “recovering sight for the blind” which is only in the Septuagint version of Isaiah.

      There are also matches in the Epistles with the LXX.

      IIRC, well over half of the OT quotes in the NT show a greater affinity to the LXX than to the Hebrew.

      Paul’s theology of the crucifixion appears to be dependent on the LXX as seen in Galatians 3:6-14 where Deuteronomy uses the word for “tree” in the Hebrew while the LXX uses a word that can mean “tree”, “wood”, or “cross” and Paul uses the latter..

      • Tommy

        Stauros means pole or stake rather than a cross (two intersecting beams) am I right?

        • Greg G.

          Stauros means pole or stake rather than a cross (two intersecting beams) am I right?

          Yes, that is my understanding but that is not the word in Galatians/Deuteronomy. The word translated “tree” comes from the Greek word ξύλον (xylon) in Galatians 3:13 and in LXX Septuagint Deuteronomy 21:23. It can mean “tree” or “wood” and is sometimes translated as “cross”, as in 1 Peter 2:24. Translators will use “tree” in Galatians 3:13 because it is quoting Deuteronomy and translators prefer to go back to the Hebrew version which does use the Hebrew word for “tree”.

          I think Paul made up the crucifixion part of the story and the other apostles rejected it. I gave an explanation at http://disq.us/p/1o3cr9b